Another Day. Another Knight.

These days, we don't really buy souvenirs. We spend most of our money when traveling on food.... but don't be fooled. Even after the amazing food we at in Florence this week, this belly isn't all gelato and pasta.

To echo a long ago announcement on Aspiring Kennedy, "BIMBO A BORDO!" 

We are thrilled to be having another baby this summer. What a gift... and phew, it takes all my courage to be pregnant. We are thankful for a healthy baby, and excited that we only have a few months left to go.

Thanks for joining us (again!) on this life-changing journey... and feel free to cast your vote below on what you think the sex will be. We just found out today, and I can't wait to tell you that it's another.....



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on March 27, 2017 and filed under kids, babies kennedy, family.

Tuesdays with Tyler | A Day in the Cotswolds

This season of life isn't one that leans itself to exotic getaways for long periods of time. Okay, I say that with full acknowledgement of our trip to Hawaii in January-  but let's be honest, those trips that used to be logistical breezes are now achingly painful to execute. You can only do them for big occasions, like, you know, celebrating ten years of marriage.

However, old habits die hard. When we have the chance, Tyler & I love to sneak away for a little of grown up time. Whether it's as simple as going to buy sour cream at Tesco or big like a day out in another town, we connect best when we are on an adventure. 

This week we had the chance to train 1.5 hours out of London to the Cotswolds for a meeting. We would only be there for 3ish hours, but we went for it.

The train ride was quiet. We got coffee from our old favourite in Paddington Station before we left. I slept like an old lady on his shoulder. We sat in the Quiet Carriage as respected fellow passengers, rather than obnoxious child-carrying rejects. 

When we got to Moreton-in-Marsh, it was (to our delight) Market Day. It was a sleepy little market day- full of produce and grey hair. We got paninis at a little tea room called Martha's and took them outside to eat on the WWII monument in the middle of the square.

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No plans were made for the day. We just planned to relax and enjoy what we stumbled upon. After lunch, we headed to the office where we had our meeting, and when it was finished headed to the pub for some fries, drinks & a view of the fire before our train back.

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On the way home, we ate snacks, talked about plans we hope that could come to fruition, got annoyed at each other when we had differing views and then cosied up to each other to listen to music for the remainder of the ride home. I loved it and I hope we always can squeeze in impromptu days with Tyler to reconnect... no matter how crazy life may be. 


Just so it is actually said and doesn't just rest in my head where I assume everyone agrees.... Life in pretty places can often seem perfect. The pictures bring gorgeous moments together in a way that seem less mundane than elsewhere. Well, let me remind you... life isn't perfect even in pretty places.

No matter where you go, life is still just life. It's still made up of normal people doing normal things. Don't chase the illusion of getting somewhere for life to begin being good... it starts here. Wherever you're at. Take it from me, I've been to so many of those jaw-dropping sites. Until you can love and appreciate people around you in the mundane,  you won't enjoy them in a prettier place. And if you love them there, you'll have an adventure with them wherever life brings you.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy 

Posted on March 17, 2017 and filed under tyler, get out of town, marriage.

What I Can Tell You If You're Going to Have a Boy

When I was pregnant with Harrison, we found out fairly early that we were having a boy. Our first response was a bit.... meh. Now don't get me wrong, we were so thankful for a healthy baby- we weren't going to be picky.

But I think somewhere the idea of another girl felt easy and, if I'm honest, like the completion to the broken idea of having two girls. Boys felt loud and foreign and grubby and crazy. We were a calm little family, and a boy wasn't really our scene.

Yet there he was. Sprawled out in my sonogram in all his boyish splendour. There was absolutely no mistake that we had a boy headed our way, and all we could do was embrace it!

Well, I'm rounding two years of life with this little guy and I must say: thank goodness I didn't have a say in choosing our children. God has given us the exact children we needed when we needed them.... both in Viola's easy nature and Harrison's larger than life personality.

So for all of you moms of little girls who watch in disbelief/horror as you attend play dates with friends who have boys- I have to tell you something. Boys are a different world. They ARE loud and foreign and grubby and crazy... but they're also sweet and intense and loving in a way that is so delightfully unique.

Yes, I feel like having a little boy is harder than having a little girl. Maybe it's just my two- but Harrison wears me out in a non-stop way that Viola never did... or does.

It's hard to imagine having a boy if you're currently residing in girl land... but I can promise you, don't sweat it. You're going to fall hard for that little squish before too long and their presence in your family will add depth and a new perspective you will grow to love.

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Will I say that boys love their mamas more than their daughters do? Never. The love between my daughter and me is one of the best gifts of my life. But oh man, the love is different from a boy. And it's good. 

So get ready for messy hair, stains on your clothes, less makeup on your face and more annoyed looks from strangers in public when your boy is loud and wriggly... but be ready for a whole lot of good, too. 



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on March 16, 2017 and filed under kids, family.

My London | The Wallace Collection

I spend a lot of time in museums. A lot. If you've followed this blog for any amount of time, this won't be much of a surprise. My work puts me in museums regularly, my masters degree focused on the digitisation of cultural heritage, and I am the first to hide out with my kids in the Natural History Museum or V&A with my kids in the dreary cold months of winter.

But, as we do with all things, I get in ruts. So much so that I had never been to the famed Wallace Collection in Central London until last week. Thankfully, an odd gap of time opened up on my way to coffee with a friend and I landed right at the doorstep of the museum with time to kill... without a child on me. I could browse and linger at my leisure!


THE WALLACE COLLECTION 

Many Americans that I first met upon moving to London insisted that I join the AWC- American Women's Club. Since I had friends from Oxford now living in London and a handful of friends I had met through blogging, I never joined, but I still think for many American women are new to London- especially those who have moved here to support the career of their husband- it can be a great way to feel less lonely in those early days.

They do a variety of things each month, but I do feel like I often hear of visits to the Wallace Collection. Which make sense, because it's a bit of a posh museum... and they are a pretty posh collection of ladies.

As I walked through the doors (for free! London museums are the best!), I felt relaxed with the quiet entrance and quiet halls. The mansion is delicately filled with gorgeous treasures- from armour to Dutch paintings and fine French furniture. If I had to compare the Museum to another in London, it would be difficult because it's just so different. However, I did feel a bit like I was back in Le Musée Carnavalet in Paris. 

The halls, on a Thursday afternoon in March- were fairly empty except for a scattering of retirees and well-heeled tourists. 

After a quick spin through the ground floor, I followed the signs upstairs promising Dutch paintings. (An area that I'm not well-versed in, but repeatedly drawn to when in an art gallery.) I'm glad I went upwards... because the first floor is where the visit gets really exceptional, as each room is covered in gorgeously bright silk wall coverings and indulgently scattered paintings.

After you get satisfied from your fill of art and artifacts, head to the airy atrium restaurant in the middle of the property. Whether you're there for coffee or a multi-course lunch- you'll find yourself in good company with fresh salads, hot menu items and yummy cakes arranged temptingly along the bar. 

I definitely hope to come back with more time to spend there. Who knows, maybe next time I'll bring the kids, too. Or you know... maybe not. I may keep this place to myself for a while.

The Wallace Collection | Hertford House, Manchester Square, W1U 3BN. Open every day, 10am - 5pm.


Looking for more on London? Find my previous posts to London here or check out my Travel Guide.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on March 7, 2017 and filed under london, my london favourites, my london.

Books Your Toddler Will Love... And You'll Love to Read

When I was pregnant with our girls, I bought so many of M. Slaseks' books. Their nursery was filled with his gorgeous books, This is London, This is Paris, This is Venice and so on. I dreamt of reading them to our kids and them falling in love with the mundane facts of cities and the quirky illustrations on each page.

Fast forward four years and our collections of books looks much different than it did when it started. First of all, our books aren't held on shelves and in pretty nooks like delicate treasures. Instead they look more like buried treasure recently uncovered by pirates. We have a giant trunk overflowing with books and the kids cycle through each on with amazing consistency.

Not all books are great. In fact, I definitely play favorites when it comes time to snuggle in with books. I thought I'd save any of you new mothers some money and point you to the best books for babies and toddlers... and books that won't make you want to gauge your eyes out either. Books that are written by people I'm pretty sure I'd enjoy hanging out with in real life.... or maybe I wouldn't. Either way, these are great books that you should add to your child's nursery.


THE GRUFFALO | A British classic that is slowly getting its way into the States. It's so good and the follow up, The Gruffalo's Child, is a good addition to the story.

MONKEY PUZZLE | While we are on the note of The Gruffalo, let's just add in any book by Julia Donaldson. There are quite a few, but this one never seems to get old and kids love to laugh throughout it at all the animals. (Note: while the title on our side of the pond is "Monkey Puzzle," in the States, it's called "Where's My Mom?" Why the change? Who knows.)

ELMER | Oh Elmer, the sweet patchwork elephant. This book is a sweet story about an elephant who is born different than the rest of his herd and we love it so much we even have a plush animal of Elmer, too.

THIS IS NOT MY HAT | We loooove this book- equally for its quirky plot line and cool illustrations. This is a dad favourite at bedtime, for sure. In fact, anything by Jon Klassen seems to be one of his favourites.

PEEPO | This peek-a-boo style book is gorgeous. It features a baby's day in 1940's England. The drawings are nostalgic and detailed and the rhyming is fun to read aloud. We love this book and both kids still love to shout "PEEPO!" as we turn the pages to see what the baby has seen at each part of his day. A very sweet read and would make a great gift.

THE TIGER WHO CAME TO TEA | If you want a fun book with a very English feel, this book is what you need... from tea time sweets, a very English flat shown for the home, to an ending of a dinner of sausages & ice cream. And of course, a friendly tiger who stops by unannounced. 

BARNYARD DANCE | I think this was he very first baby book we ever received- and it came from a friend with a toddler, so she knew what she was doing. Anything by Sandra Boynton is gonna be great. Fun rhymes with silly animals-it's a good time.

BUSY BEAR | Good old Busy Bear. These books are perfect for toddlers, as each page has something they can spin, lift, push or slide. The books are cheap and one of my favourite gifts to get for a baby on their first birthday.

WENDY & THE WALLPAPER CAT | The V&A publishes their own children's books and this is one of my favourites. It has a cute story of a little girl facing bedtime trouble with a backdrop of gorgeous wallpapers. The wallpapers in the book are all patterns from the archives at the V&A and gorgeous.

I AM A BUNNY | This is currently Harrison's favourite book. He brings it around the house with him, tosses it on my lap and yells "Bunny!" I equally love this book- it's beautifully illustrated and gives a good overview of the changes between seasons. Definitely a classic you should have in your child's library.

THE MARVELLOUS SQUISHY ITTY BITTY | This is a book that Viola loved when she was about to turn three. It's got a quirky story about a little girl running around her (French) town looking for a gift for her mom. The drawings are cool and you'll like reading it, too. (Another title change for our American friends -- "The Wonderful Fluffy Little Squishy." I don't like that quite as much, but what can you do?)

IS YOUR MAMA A LLAMA | This silly book about baby animals is catchy and you'll find yourself quoting it back to yourself long after your child has stopped reading it. It's a classic and you'll enjoy reading it with your kids... especially, if/when they go through an animal obsession as it teaches them some less common animals than most books featuring the same lineup of barnyard animals.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on February 27, 2017 and filed under kids, shopping, everyday living, family.

Four.

Four? Really?! Four! 

It feels like yesterday Tyler & I were living life just the two of us... and then, I look at us and we look older. Tired. With unexpected wrinkles. And kids! Not just babies... but real full-blown kids.

And so, today marks the day our journey into parenthood began. Not the most glamorous of arrivals into this new chapter of life... in fact, more of a crash landing, if I'm being honest. But we survived... and, sweet Viola, you did, too.

You've been nothing short of a joy to watch grow from a tiny (and I mean tiny!) baby into a little girl. You're soft spoken and gentle, and most people never get more than a cheeky glance from you... but the backstage crew to your little show gets to see the silly and sweet little girl that you are.

You're delicate and almost nymph-like in the way you quietly slide in and out of settings. You're definitely the best hider of anyone I've ever met. Anyone in our family will agree that this may be your best talent.

You came out a cuddler and you still love to tiptoe to our bed at night and snuggle in beside me. Just this morning, you asked me to come hold your hand and cuddle "for just a little bit more" as I got dressed for the day. And so, I skipped putting on my makeup and climbed into bed to snuggle with you instead. 

I love you and am so proud to say I'm your mother. I'll never forget the first time I saw you and, literally, gasped and sobbed at how cute you were. In the midst of something so sad and so hard, there you were. I couldn't even understand how God had brought himself to share something so precious with us.

And I still feel the same way about you, sweet Viola. Happy Birthday, Baby A.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on February 23, 2017 and filed under kids, family.

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, family, marriage.

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 eat, dallas, travel.

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, drink, eat, pack your bags.

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, recipe.

"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, get out of town.

Peggy Porschen | A Piece of Cake

I toyed with the idea of hosting a Christmas party for our friends, but it started getting complicated and ended up feeling like showing up would be more a gift my friends gave me rather than a night to take care of them. So I scratched it, and instead ended up with a few solo dates with friends to celebrate Christmas with them before the big day.

Instead of gifts, they've ended up being dates with friends (or couples we love), and I have to say- I think this may become a new tradition. Because who wouldn't rather have a sweet afternoon with a friend instead of another candle? 

For my date with Amber, we wanted to do something pretty that we normally can't do with little ones in tow. So we headed for Chelsea in an uber- which normally takes way too long to reach via public transport with strollers- and went straight to the pink mecca of sweets, Peggy Porschen.

We ordered a round of cupcakes (salted caramel which has a caramel filling that's rich like Christmas toffee), an unrealistically perfect wedge of Victoria Sponge, jasmine tea & the cutest cappuccino this side of Buckingham Palace.

The place is sweet and tiny- definitely not one you can always count on getting a table at. (It's constantly flowing with well-heeled Instagrammers and their obliging boyfriends.) If the weather is nice, you can also grab a cosy table outside offering a view of one of the prettiest corners in London.

After we went to Peggy Porschen, we walked to Sloane Square- about ten minutes away- and then down the Kings Road. We listened to the Salvation Army band playing outside Peter Jones, tried on shoes on sale at half-price in LK Bennett, peeked at the glam crowd in The Ivy, and eventually ended up in a nail salon getting pedicures.

Soon after, the clock struck midnight (or 6:00pm) and we had to dash home back to life as we knew it.

We hugged each other goodbye, wished each other Merry Christmas and thanked each other for being a great friend to the other in the past year- which really is the most precious gift someone can give.

It really must mean I'm getting older and more boring when I can't think of anything I "want" for Christmas... but on nights like that, I realise I have more than I need.

Peggy Porschen | 116 Ebury St, Belgravia, London SWIW 9QQ


It's hard not to be in a place like Peggy Porschen and not get sweeped up in the Candyland cuteness! Here are a few items inspired by our day out.
 

One | TWO | THREE | FOUR | FIVE | SIX | SEVEN | EIGHT | NINE | TEN



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Anthropologie Gift Guide 2016

For me, there's an undeniable nostalgia and excitement that comes from walking into a mall at Christmas time with a list of presents to buy. I remember as a kid, we would all head to the mall and split up in groups to take care of finding everything on our list. I'd always have to be talked down from buying my mom a bejewelled brooch from the ladies section of Dillard's- thanks, dad- and would spend a while wandering around until I found a less obnoxious alternative. After a successful find, our little group would run bags out to the car and throw blankets over them to keep them hidden.

Running around together with Christmas carols playing, sales clerks in Santa Hats and the endless lines for Santa and Starbucks wrapping down the halls- it all added up to a moment that really only came at Christmas and signalled that we were just a few days away from Christmas!

While I love dashing around the high street in England for shopping these days, I loved going up to Brent Cross and wandering around inside the cosy mall in its Christmas hustle. It just felt like how Christmas should be.

I went up to see the new Anthropologie that opened this month. Needless to say, the combo of Anthropologie styling and holiday decor made it feel like I'd walked on to a movie set. (How do they always do that?)

They asked me to pick my ten favourite items for holidays gifts… which was no hard task! The only hard part was trying to find gifts for people other than myself. :)

ONE  | TWO | THREE | FOUR | FIVE | SIX | SEVEN | EIGHT | NINE | TEN

But really, this was the tip of the iceberg of what they have in store. While online might save time, you really need to make a day out of it and head to Brent Cross for a real Christmas shopping day.


Do you have fun memories of Christmas shopping? Or better yet- have you ever been a crazy Black Friday shopper? (I haven't ever been in person- just online!)



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on December 5, 2016 and filed under shopping, holiday, home style.

A Field Guide to British Christmas Dining

If you're new to England this Christmas, have found yourself visiting family in the U.K. or are simply looking to decode some terms from your favourite British Christmas movies, use this handy guide to help you navigate your way around the Christmas dinner table like a local.

1. CHRISTMAS PUDDING | The Christmas Pudding is the queen of all Christmas desserts- though, confusing to Americans- it's not a "pudding" like you may think of in all it's Bill Cosby-piano-playing glory. Pudding refers to dessert here, so this is a cake that has dried fruits and is soaked for months in booze. It is covered in some sort of cream and then, for dramatic effect, lit on fire when served. 

2. MINCE PIE | A Mince Pie. Not a "Mince Meat Pie," because meat in this pie is disgusting. Even if my Southern grandfather may have loved it- something about the idea of meat in a pie always made me gag. Now that I eat (too regularly) the real mince pies, the idea of meat in it really makes me shudder. A classic mince pie is nearly bite-size and full of dried fruits and spices. They're best served warm, in quantity of 2-3, and alongside a big mug of tea. These appear in every store in late October, are eaten by the millions in the lead up to and on Christmas, and then magically disappear from existence by the start of the New Year. 

3. BRANDY BUTTER
 | This is the aforementioned cream that is poured on top of Christmas puddings- but, as the name may imply, has brandy worked into it. Typically, the final product is served alongside a glass of brandy. 

4. TRIFLE | There isn't one specific recipe for a trifle, but assume it will come from a general pool of ingredients including: fruit, whipped cream, jell-o (or "jelly" as it's called here) sponge fingers and sherry. Imagine it layered up in bright layers and served in a big glass bowl to show off each layer.

5. GOOSE-FAT POTATOES | While much of the British Christmas dinner seems similar to a US Thanksgiving- they skip mashed potatoes and roast theirs in chunks in a pool of goose-fat. The result is a crunchy, golden potato that resembles a hoof more than a vegetable. It's the perfect consistency for absorbing gravy.

6. PIGS IN A BLANKET | These aren't the same crescent roll stuffed hot dogs you might be thinking of... but they are slightly similar. Small sausages ("chipolatas") are wrapped in bacon ("streaky"- just like us Americans like it) and roasted. These are served alongside the turkey to add saltiness to, what some consider, a bland meat. These are often also served as nibbles in the holiday season.

7. WASSAIL | This warm holiday beverage can either be alcoholic or non-alcoholic. The non-alcoholic will typically be a version similar to our cider. (Though ordering a "cider" will get you a cold, alcoholic beverage- so beware!) It can also be mulled wine which is wine that is cooked over the stove and, often, has fruits, cinnamon sticks and other spices added to it. It's for sale in most pubs and passed at most holiday events.

8. CHRISTMAS CRACKER | This isn't a pretty tin of saltines that is passed around- a Christmas cracker will sit on the the place setting of each guest. At some point in the meal (often debated as when the official time is- though I prefer sometime around the arrival of the main course!), these will be cracked with a loud bang, and everyone will then rifle through the insides of their cracker and share their findings with the table. The standard lineup of contents include: a paper crown (mandatory to wear), a silly joke that everyone loves to groan at, and a cheap toy or gift.

9. BREAD SAUCE | This is a sauce not for bread- but made of bread. It's really thick and clumpy, but it actually goes really well with roast chicken or turkey. Combined with cranberry sauce- it's definitely worth trying.


After you've made it through the meal, pat yourself on the back and get ready to cozy in for the Queen's Christmas address which broadcast every year on Christmas Day. The Queen will discuss the year gone by and it, somehow, makes the day feel perfect. (Even if you do quietly chat through the whole thing with your sister.)


Spending the holidays in England? Find my travel guide to London here and my guide to London with kids at Christmas here.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on December 1, 2016 and filed under eat, drink, holiday, london, life as an expat.

Little London | Christmas (with Kids!) in London

In travel consults, I'm often asked if coming to Europe at Christmas is a bad idea. My answer is- most always- not at all! Christmas in Europe feels so magical. You simply can't beat the charm of a German Christmas market, sipping chocolat chair from a tiny cafe after shopping in Paris, or being absorbed into the grandeur of a carol service held in a candle-lit Westminster Abbey.

While so many destinations in Europe are steeped in various traditions, I'm biased to the way that London celebrates Christmas. It's a style that would make Dickens proud and Hugh Grant smile. In a big way, the city embraces the "festive season" and splashes out weeks of fun, holiday events full of the quirky items you've heard of in movies and books: mince pies served with mulled wine, nativity plays, potatoes roasted in goose fat, Santa's Grotto, and of course- the Christmas pudding.


You'll find no other time of the year to have so many great options for kids, either. Days out for families are all just waiting to be enjoyed during the run up to Christmas. I've put together a list of my favourites- the ones we share with our own kids and make into a yearly tradition.

CHRISTMAS TREE LIGHTING CEREMONIES | Each year, the major areas of town will have tree lighting ceremonies in early November to kick off the season. The bigger areas will often have celebrity performances and tons of festive fun. The largest ones are typically around Oxford Circus and Regent Street.


HYDE PARK WINTER WONDERLAND | This is our family's favourite Christmas tradition- Tyler & I have gone every year since we moved to England! Set up in Hyde Park (on the East side- between Hyde Park Corner & Marble Arch), is Winter Wonderland. Think of a State Fair and a German Christmas market having a baby. A really big baby. Entrance is free, but rides aren't. (You pay with tokens purchased in endless kiosks in the park.) Food is paid for in cash and most stalls now accept credit cards.

Come early in the day with kids to avoid the really long lines... and come hungry! There are so many great stalls and things to do- you're going to be glad you have room to eat.


FESTIVE AFTERNOON TEAS | At Christmas, tea rooms around London will swap out their regular afternoon tea menus for a Festive Tea. These teas are afternoon teas with a Christmas twist. Expect to get all the standard items like tea, scones and sandwiches:.. just with some seasonal items tucked in to the menu: turkey and cranberry sandwiches, mince pies and miniature Christmas puddings... and most will have a sweet children's version, too.

This is one of my favourite things to do in London with a little girl at Christmas, as it typically involves dressing up and strolling through picturesque streets for window shopping when you've finished.

CAROL SERVICE AT WESTMINSTER ABBEY | In the Advent Season, most of the churches will have carol services. We like to take guests to Westminster Abbey for their big one on Christmas Eve when we can get tickets. The service on the 24th is ticketed so you'll need to get tickets in advance. Tickets are free, but allocated in advance.

However, they have a few other services which do not require tickets. The full schedule can be found here on the Abbey's website.

ICE SKATING AT THE NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM | This is a great example of how doing something ordinary can become cooler when it's in a pretty place. Book tickets for ice skating in the courtyard of the Natural History Museum and you'll not only have fun- but some gorgeous photos to look back on.

You don't need to be a good skater to skate- most people there won't be! For the little ones, there are helpful little penguin/standers to push along!

SANTA'S GROTTO AT HARRODS | Again, this needs to be booked- but you can book a special trip to see Santa. When you enter, Santa will be waiting for your child(ren) and will speak to him by name. As they wait to see Santa, the children get to play games and explore his "workshop." It's really sweet and feels very fancy! See our visit here from last year. 

CHRISTMAS CAROLS AT TRAFALGAR SQUARE | This is a great free option for families on a nice day. Throughout the month, various groups and charities will sing carols in Trafalgar Square throughout the day. Take a seat on the steps in front of the National Gallery and enjoy the sounds of Christmas and Big Ben in the backdrop. It's best to bring a warm drink and some mince pies with you, too!


Looking for more ideas of what to do in London? Find my travel guide here or book a travel consult.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy
 

Take Your Kew | Our Day Out with Fiat

When I shared about our day out with Fiat, I realized that I actually didn’t really share anything that we did on that day. I mean, in broad strokes, yes… but the actual details of the day were washed over by the bliss of having our own car to get around.

So how about this time around, I give you a bit more detail so that you can craft your own day out in at Kew Gardens, too. (Because I lived here for 6+ years without going, and no one else should wait that long.) We were lucky enough to go with friends who are annual pass holders, so they took us straight to the good stuff. I’ll try to be that friend for you, too, and get you right to what you want to know.


A DAY OUT AT KEW GARDENS | What to expect

 

ALL-NATURAL EATING | If you’re going to head out to Kew, I’d recommend eating there, too. There are so many food options on-site, that you can really make a day of it and have lunch there. We opted for lunch in the Orangery and were so pleased with the gorgeous food being served there. It was hard to resist getting one of everything!

If you’re on a budget or restricted by dietary issues, you could also pack a picnic and sprawl out somewhere on the grass or under a tree, too. Heck, if the weather is nice- it may just be the perfect space to plop your kids with their food and not worry about crumbs and spills.

If nothing else, just promise me that you’ll get a slice of cake and a hot beverage and sit somewhere for a while with a view. You’ll inevitably have some curious things wander your way… whether it is a proud peacock who struts over your way or a over-the-top Englishman decked out in tweed and wellies feeling just as smug.

BEE ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE | You definitely don’t want to miss the Hive when you visit Kew. This is an enormous modern structure that was built to mimic a real-life bee hive. The sounds are supposedly based off what a real hive would sound like, if you were a bee. Standing in the middle of it and looking up and down feels amazing. (And I promise, your kids will think it is very cool.)

 

GO GREEN | You’ll definitely want to stop and visit the greenhouses along the property when you visit Kew. Trust me.

Not only are the muggy interiors a nice relief from the chilly weather, but the insides are just stunning. With tropical plants growing up and down the interiors of these historic greenhouses, you can actually visualize what so many of the spices that we daily use start as… and get an aerial view of the greenhouse when venture up the wrought-iron stair cases.


So there you have it… a day out at Kew Gardens. Expect a posh-but-curious crowd and plenty to keep you entertained along the way. I guess you could say the same thing about our ride, too. Getting to check out the Fiat 500 Lounge was seemingly straightforward, but each time we hopped back in the car- we seemed to find something else we liked about it. Whether it was being able to sync our phones up to the Bluetooth in under 30 seconds (seriously- is it ever that easy? Not for me!), quickly folding the rear seats down when we needed to run car seats between our friends house and ours, or just the unexpected amount of leg room we had in the front!

Our friend Reuben expected to feel crammed in the front, but even he was pleasantly surprised by how roomy it was when he drove it! 

So all in all… well, it was a day that packed a punch. It might haves seemed small and insignificant to zoom out of the ordinary weekend routine with Fiat, but it ended up being such a great day. I guess it all comes back to the old adage that good things really do come in small packages.

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*images original to Aspiring Kennedy
*this post was sponsored by Fiat

Posted on November 24, 2016 and filed under friends, get out of town.

My Notting Hill | Continental Pantry

I used to look for quiet, independent places to work when we lived off Westbourne Grove in Notting Hill. I searched for that magic Bermuda Triangle of productivity where good food, quietness and wifi magically aligned.

I'm sad to say that I could never quite find the right space just out the steps of our flat... until now, when, of course, we no longer live there.

At Continental Pantry, you'll find a small (but mighty!) menu offering light breakfast and lunch items. Don't expect heavy cooked options- no eggs or pancakes- but lighter choices like yogurt, homemade granola and berries or avocado toast buried under tomatoes.

The coffee is good and the quiet room in the back is surprisingly sunlit and very well designed.

The front of the store has dry goods from all over, you guessed it, "the continent." French mustards, Italian meats, and all the other essentials you may need.

And luckily, it's next door to my favourite chocolate shop in London/the galaxy, MELT... so not only can you get a great space for working or meeting a friend, but you've also got the perfect route for picking up one of their popcorn bars (incredible!) on your way home. That may not contribute to the end-goal of productivity... but surely, it can't hurt?

Continental Pantry | 57 Ledbury Road, Notting Hill, W11 2AA


Find all of my favourite places in Notting Hill in my travel guide to the neighbourhood here



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

A Day (& Some Knights) With Fiat

Having a family in London gives us access to so many wonderful things-  world class museums, some of the finest eateries, and endless opportunities to experience major events in person (Wimbledon, the Olympics, the Royal Wedding, etc.). Sometimes I think about the things my kids have seen or do on a normal basis, and it blows my mind a bit. What seemed foreign and exotic to me at 25 is everyday life for them before they’ve even started school. London is an incredible place to have a young family in so many ways.

But the truth is, life in the city with kids is also physical in a way that I can’t explain. Every outing comes with the challenge of physically getting us there. Each fun weekend plan comes with nearly equal parts of transport to get us there- which normally results in a cocktail of buses, trains and ubers that is pretty exhausting.

We are finally at the point in life when we crave to get out of the city in free time- hoping for some space to run free and explore with the kids. Just at the same point in time that we’ve been seriously talking about getting a car, Fiat offered us one of their iconic Fiat 500 series cars to drive for a day. We, in all our middle-aged-yuppie delight jumped at the opportunity faster than you can say “Organic flat white” and started scheming up how we would spend our day gliding around without fussy bus drivers or uber drivers crunching on potato chips as they drive you.

We opted for heading to Kew Gardens- which, until this moment, had felt like too much of a hassle. Google Maps has it as an hour away from our home by public transport… or a measly 20 minutes by car!

When our car was dropped off, we all stared out the window at it non-stop. I could hardly get the kids dressed, but finally- we had all our clothes on, tossed some diapers and snacks in a bag, tossed our stroller in the boot (read: “trunk, ” if you’re American) and cheered as our friends pulled up to join us on our day out to Kew.

And then from there? Well, I wish I could give you a monumental break-down of the journey there. but the truth Is, it was just really easy. The kids chattered and sang in the back, I navigated and played DJ, and Tyler drove.

Because we had a car, we suddenly had the best of both worlds- access to an amazing city without the standard hassle of doing them. Plus, when you’re in a cool car like a Fiat 500- getting there becomes a fun part of the adventure, too.

It was tiny enough to squeeze into a small parking space on our street, and yet roomy enough to fit in two car seats and a stroller. Oh, and you can get an automatic car… which is really handy if you’re an American and/or need a free hand for trivial things like passing juice bottles back to kids in the back. It was the perfect fit for our family to get out and go.

And while it may not have broken our backs to get out to do something fun this time, it may have just been the final straw to break the proverbial camel’s back and push us into finally getting a car! (Because let’s be honest…. Going out with kids has enough challenges and it’s nice to take a shortcut when you can!) 

Looking for an escape from the urban burden of public transportation? Check out the Fiat 500 line here!



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy
*this post was sponsored by Fiat

 

Posted on November 18, 2016 and filed under get out of town.