In Defense of the (Holiday) I Love

Valentines Day is the least popular holiday to publicly like. Sure, celebrate in private if you must- but for the sake of everyone around you, opt for a cynical and eye-rolling attitude of February 14.

The thing is... I LOVE this day. And this isn't coming from a girl who has spent her life showered with chocolates and serenades by suitors every Valentines. It's from a dorky girl who never had a boyfriend and now is thankful for a quiet pub dinner out with her husband to celebrate.

But the reason I love Valentine's Day is that is pushes me to say how much I love people around me. My husband, my kids, my friends.... and no matter how that is displayed (from cards to cupcakes), it feels good to indulge in the sweetness of caring- and being cared for- by others around you. 

My parents always included us in their Valetines Day celebrations... from my mom's heart shaped meatloaf to my dad buying all of his daughters flowers. We were included and felt so loved. I love sharing that inclusion with our kids now, too.

So I say... bring on the red velvet cake and chocolates. I'm happy to spend the day with a shower of glitter and cheesiness enjoying the people I love.

And you know... a few flowers around the house don't hurt either. Even if you *cough* might have bought them for yourself. 

Happy Valentine's Day! I love this blogging community and the friends I've made through being here. I hope you all feel valued and appreciated today!



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on February 14, 2017 and filed under holiday, kids, life, love, home, england.

My Dallas | Del's Charcoal Burgers

The list of places we "must" eat at when we visit the States has, over the years, dwindled. The few places that remain are the places that ooze Americana and , to us, can't be replicated wherever else we may travel around the world. This list includes great Tex-Mex, old-fashioned cake donuts, and greasy drive-ins with chili dogs, tater tots and homemade root beer.

And when I'm in Dallas, my favorite spot to get classic burgers and frosty mugs of root beer is definitely Del's. 

Del's is about ten minutes away from my parents and near to the church I grew up going to. With its ancient Texas decor and setting in downtown Richardson, it feels so much like my childhood. Going to eat there is more than just a guilty pleasure- it's a trip down memory lane.

Plus, the prices are a little out-dated- so you'll feel like you really might be eating in the early 90's.

Don't try and make this experience more than it needs to be- stick to the classics like chili dogs, grilled cheese, onion rings and the like.

And I can never resist any place that makes their own root beer... especially when you can make it a root beer float with Blue Bell vanilla ice cream for $2.45.

Hop on over to Del's and you'll get a taste of one of my favourite Dallas bites!

Del's Charcoal Burgers | 110 S McKinney St, Richardson, TX 75081



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on January 27, 2017 and filed under kids, life, eat, drink, dallas.

Pack your bags: Denver, Colorado

If you ever want to quickly educate your urban-raised, public transport-riding children on what life in America with a car is really like, strap them in car seats and keep them in the car for 15 hours as you drive from Dallas to Denver.

You'll most likely experience some screaming, chants of "Get me outta here!" and slow- rising mountains of trash from snack wrappers that you would have never dreamed possible... 

But there are perks to such extreme trips- like stopping along the way in cute towns, having Chick-fil-A more often than appropriate to admit and saving the $$$$ that it would have cost you to fly.

We spent a bit over a week in Denver with Tyler's sister and family for New Years. While, as you know, much of the time you have with family is predestined and arranged long before your arrival- we did manage to sneak a few extras into the week and get a really good feel for the city. 

A big thanks to everyone who kindly suggested places to go/see/try while we were in town. And thanks for the kind welcome to Denver- it's a great place and we love it more every time we are there.


DENVER BISCUIT COMPANY  | This spot was recommended by SO many people that we couldn't ignore it. Thank goodness we went, because it lived up to everything we had heard. Try the Franklin for our favourite: fried chicken, bacon and gravy on an enormous biscuit. If you order one of their cinnamon rolls to start (because you really should), you can easily share the sandwich between two of you. But I won't judge you if you each want your own.

 

VOODOO DOUGHNUTS | This "eclectic" donut shop hails from Portland, but their location in Denver seems to share the same magic. Open 24/7- Voodoo succeeds at making really great classic donuts (the chocolate glazed is outstanding) and some quirky new options. This shop should be rated PG-13, so just know that with young kids you'll either get some questions or you can leave them in the car with dad when you run in.... which may work best as parking is non-existent around the shop.

CART DRIVER | Head to this cool spot for really good pizza. Thin crust, a healthy mix of normal toppings with hip toppings like kale and it's friends. Booths are tiny, so best for date night or lunch with one (maybe two) smaller kid(s). Dress hip here. Even though it's relaxed, the crowd is cool.
 

TABLES | We went to an adults-only dinner here one evening and it was really great. This place marries all the qualities you want in a night out: cosy interiors, a menu that uses approachable ingredients to do yummy new things and a kind wait staff. The food was delicious (goat cheese, apple & fennel salad) and don't miss the skillet cinnamon roll with ice cream for dessert. Oof!
 

ACE | Ping pong tables. Great Asian food. Cool decor. Family friendly, but best for suited for tinier tots at lunch or early dinner. The name sums it up- all around Ace.
 

STEUBENS | This is the sister restaurant to Ace and while the menu and decor are different- you'll find a familiar coolness that runs between both places. The menu at Steubens is all around solid: fresh sandwiches, smart salads, soups,  fish and daily specials that will pique your interest. The bar is pretty, too. We went for lunch and the Philly cheesesteak was enormous and everything I wanted. Also, you'll find no finer a kids meal in all the land than at both Ace or Steubens.

LINGER | The first thing you should know (and that people will tell you) is that Linger is on the site of an old mortuary. The next thing you need to know is that it's really good. We went here as a group and each ordered a couple of items to share with the table, as the menu lends itself to smaller tapas-sized plates from a variety of categories and flavours. The food is delicious, the experience is unique and the view of Denver from the rooftop is perfect. A fun date spot or place to go with a small group. Reservations recommended.
 

SNOOZE | While the lines can be seriously awful for a table, the menu is really fanstastic for breakfast. With great eggs and creative pancakes (pineapple upside down, please) and mugs of coffee- you'll be happy you stuck out with the wait once you have a seat!

BROWN PALACE AFTERNOON TEA | When we are back in the States, somehow afternoon tea often ends up being on the itinerary. Fine by me! But to be candid, most of them are... well, rubbish. I wasn't expecting much from this afternoon out- besides good company- but was really pleased with the tea. The hotel is a historic gem in Downtown Denver and the afternoon tea is actually like one you might have in England. The tea blends are strong, the scones are the right crumble and, if you ask, you can even get a second plate of sandwiches when you finish the first.

LITTLE MAN ICE CREAM | While the line can be daunting, trust that it exists for a good reason. The portions are small, so a single will be surprisingly huge. Solid standby flavours like salted Oreo aren't too be missed,   But don't shy away from the seasonal gems like the summery Peach Cobbler.


Reader Recommendations 

While we didn't get to try all the great places you'd told us about, here are a few that sounded especially tasty. 

@lhwellsy: "...eat at Cho 77! My fav!"

@dirtymartinidiaries: "As a born and raised Boulder girl, one of my favourite foods on the planet is the breakfast burrito from any of the Santiago's mexi restaurants. Their chain started in my town and they are heaven on earth."

@rs_wing: "Breckinridge Brewery is a really neat atmosphere and friendly with children. The one in Littleton is farm style with a huge fire pit, bocce ball, horseshoes...  I always get the fried chicken salad and the apple pie skillet for dessert."

@katiekloberdanz: "I have tons! ... Snooze for pancakes, Voodoo Donuts, Benny's for green chile rellanos, Lola for tableside guac..."



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on January 11, 2017 and filed under denver, travel, life, love, eat, drink.

Virtuous (and easy) Leftover Turkey & Barley Soup

There's a common consensus that turkey leftovers are one of the greatest gifts of the holiday season. To be honest, I'm very happy to have one big plate of Christmas dinner and wait until the next year. (Leftover pies, however, are different.)

I like to use our leftovers to make something that feels a bit different... but doesn't require another trip to the grocery store.

After Thanksgiving, my mom & I put together this light soup that only required what we had on hand. The overall effort was minimal and the end result was really tasty. Plus, the barley seems to add a new texture and taste that shifts the dish from feeling like a recycled Christmas dinner... even if that is exactly what it is.

This recipe teams up with Denby's Invention Test to win some Denby cookware and product (!!!), so consider this one-pot recipe my official "Inventions Test" challenge recipe using my Christmas left-overs.


TURKEY & BARLEY SOUP

Serves 6

- 2 cups leftover turkey (or chicken), chopped or shredded
- 1 diced onion
- 5 large carrots, roughly chopped
- 3 parsnips, roughly chopped
- 5 celery stalks, chopped
- 1/2 cup leftover gravy, chicken stock
- 1/2 cup pearl barley
- marjoram
- thyme
- basil (dried)
- salt & pepper
-1 T gravy granules, *optional

In a large pot, cook onion in some butter or oil. 

When the onions are translucent, add carrots, parsnips, & celery

Cover with lid and let cook for 5-6 minutes until softened.

Add turkey and stir.

Add leftover gravy, if you have it to the pan. Add 1L of water. (If you don't have gravy, add stock or cube here and top up with water.)

Add pearl barley and let simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Before serving when I didn't have leftover gravy, I sprinkled some gravy granules in the soup to up the flavour a bit and it was really nice. You won't need too much though, just one tablespoon should do the trick!

Serve with crusty bread and butter.


We don't have a microwave, so I really rely on these cast-iron pots to move things to/from the oven to table- as they heat up really quickly and keep the food really hot once it's on the table. I used a piece from Denby's cast-iron range that I use for easy weeknight meals or fancier, slow-cooked recipes. I find it easy to work with and difficult to let me make mistakes. ;) 

If you're up for a chance to win some Denby product (and some friendly competition!), head to @DenbyPottery on Instagram or Facebook and take part in the "Invention Test" by sharing your one-pot recipe ideas using #DenbyCastIron and #DenbyOvenware. 


Looking for more ideas for dinner? Check out some of my most popular recipes: 

Honey Pecan Salmon | Champagne Risotto | Garlicky Mushroom Bruschetta



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy
*this post is sponsored by Denby, but recipe and opinions are original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on December 24, 2016 and filed under eat, holiday, life, love, recipe, sponsored.

"Nollaig Shona" from Galway, Ireland

No matter where you're from, Christmas just feels especially right there. I have grand visions of Dallas at Christmastime in a way that makes no logical sense-as we didn't have snow, cultured outings to make annual traditions of like the Rockettes, or any distinguishing factor besides it being home. (And as they say, there's no place like it at the holidays.) 

But sometimes you stumble upon a place that feels perfect- like you've walked into a real Christmas card. And while it may not be your home, it's easy to imagine why someone would be proud to call it theirs.  

That's how I felt when we arrived in the cheerful coastal Irish town of Galway a few weeks ago. The brightly coloured houses all sparked with Christmas cheer as shop owners mingled outside chatting to each other and hung decorations and painted Christmas scenes on the glass panes of their windows.

Sparkly lights twinkled "Nollaig Shona" across the street- wishing those who walked below a Merry Christmas in Gaelic.

So while I'm not sending out Christmas cards this year- I hope you can enjoy this Christmas card-esque view of this special town.

Find more of my posts on Ireland here.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on December 22, 2016 and filed under travel, ireland, holiday, Christmas, love, life.