To A Tea | Number Sixteen

If you’ve read this blog for anytime, you’ll have heard about my friend, Amber. We’ve been friends for a long time during our London adventure- through good times and bad. She held my baby shower for me. My sisters came and crashed at her flat when the girls were born. We flew to Hawaii to be in her wedding with her Tyler. (Makes it easier when your friends have the same husband name as yours, doesn’t it?) We have been through a lot over the past years… and one of the ways we have stay close is, well, constantly rotating being pregnant between us! 

Each time we have a baby to celebrate, we do it in style. Whether its a traditional baby shower, a girls day trip to Paris, a posh picnic in the park…. We do what we can stop and celebrate the moment together. 

For this sweet baby, Amber booked us a girls day out in London. First up: massages in Mayfair at Illuminata. We had lush massages there and then cruised on to our afternoon tea at a place I had been dying to try- Number Sixteen Hotel in South Kensington. I had mentioned it ages ago, and as good friends do, she made a mental note and made it happen for a special day out. 


NUMBER SIXTEEN HOTEL

To start, I should say that this hotel is owned by the same group (Firmdale Hotels) that owns Ham Yard Hotel, which I blogged about previously, I feel like the branding of the group definitely overlaps between properties, but are both independently worth trying for their own merit. The price point and setting at both feels relaxed and cool… with a great sense of design. 

As you may quickly note, the two wow factors of afternoon tea at Number Sixteen Hotel are the garden and the price. The gorgeous garden is intimate and a plush oasis in Central London. There are very few tables, so be prepared to wait if the person seated at the table in the booking decides to perch. (We waited for 45 minutes to be seated from our booking time, as the person at our table decided to put in her headphones and pull out her laptop. Yuck.)

The garden has a small water feature that runs through the back half of it, a coveted gazebo at the far end, sparsely dotted with small tables throughout it, and a seemingly endless green background of pretty plants and flowers.

If the weather turns soggy, there is a small airy dining room (The Orangery) just off the garden where the tea service continues. While it doesn’t have the draw that the garden has, it’s definitely still a lovely backup.

When your tea arrives, expect the classic three-tiered offerings: sandwiches on bottom, scones (plain & fruited) with cream and jam in the middle, and a variety of homemade cakes and sweets crowing the top. There is a small, basic selection of teas to choose from- afternoon blend, earl grey, etc- to choose from included in the price, or you can upgrade to a more extensive list for a few pounds more. Find the full afternoon menu for the Number Sixteen Hotel here.

While the food and setting is ideal, the price really makes it the perfect moment- £29 for the summer Grayson Perry themed afternoon tea, and £22 for the standard afternoon tea tea resumes after September 10. It’s a price that is hard to beat in Central London.

To book your own table, book through the booking form on their website or contact the hotel directly at +44 (0) 20 7589 5232


NUMBER SIXTEEN | 16 Sumner Place, London SW7 3EG | sixteen@firmdale.com 




*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

To A Tea | The Wind in the Willows at Haymarket Hotel

My mother-in-law has come to visit us in London each time we’ve had a baby… and this time was no exception. And each time she has come to visit after a baby has been born, we have celebrated with afternoon tea. In fact, we went to Fortnum & Mason when Viola was just a few days old. It was one of her very first times out of the house and I remember feeling like the whole experience was a bit of an out of body experience. When Harrison was born, we ventured to Sanderson’s Hotel in Marylebone for the Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea. It was adorable, but I think I spent the majority of our time there swatting VIola’s hand away from the music box stacked with sugar cubes. Ha!

And for Edie’s birth? Well, I had my site’s set on trying the special Wind in the Willow’s afternoon tea at the Haymarket Hotel just off Trafalgar Square. Now, if I’m honest, I knew slightly what to expect. After all, the Haymarket Hotel is another Firmdale Hotel- like Ham Yard and Number Sixteen. I was expecting a similar experience and taste to the other two previous teas… and I was right. But luckily, I really enjoy those places because this was just as good.

And if you remember my posts about those two, you may remember- I really love the price. At £24 per person, this was a special day out in Central London without spending a small fortune. At the moment, Haymarket is offering a special twist to their regular afternoon tea that I couldn’t wait to try- The Wind in the Willows afternoon tea.  This special offering runs through the 9th of September in honour of the new musical adaptation of the book by Julian Fellows to arrive in the West End. After that, the darling decorated biscuits and darjeeling cupcakes that are inspired by Ratty’s picnic will go away and the afternoon tea will return to it’s standard items.

The afternoon tea is held in the hotel's restaurant, Brumus. While we were seated by the window (per my request), the awning outside was pulled and made our table have some seriously blue tinged lighting… it didn’t bother us at the moment, but my pictures are pretty dismal from the off lighting. Luckily, I was grabbing a few moments on video here and there, so I’ve got a short little video of our day below to share.

It was a sweet day, and I’m so thankful for these moments and memories we have made to mark the birth of our London babies with such a simple- yet sweet- little tradition.

P.S. If you’re wildly observant, you may notice that the kids are dressed a bit like the book? Well, you’d be right. Boden has just launched a Wind in the Willows series, which was serendipitous timing, as they sent some pieces over for the kids that same week. Can you believe it? Lucky them! (No adult clothes from the series, sadly!) But I think they look pretty cute. Find the collection here if you’re in the UK. Or if you’re in the US, find the best selection of Boden I know of here.



HAYMARKET HOTEL | 1 Suffolk Pl, London SW1Y 4HX | +44 20 7470 4000




*images and video original to Aspiring Kennedy

Hampstead | A Local's Neighborhood Guide

I’ll be honest- I don’t know Hampstead very well. I have had a few friends live there over the past few years in London, but it’s always *just* far enough out of my way that I don’t go there just for fun. And I got lost there at 35 weeks pregnant with twins.. which doesn’t sound terrible, unless you know how HILLY the neighbourhood is. It was an hour of my life that I’ll never get back… but the effort/calories burned that day may have helped me get back into my regular jeans a few weeks earlier than expected.

Fortunately, it’s not up to me to give you this area guide. Melissa has lived there for several years and has made her home there with her English husband and their two sons. Melissa is a cool, smart lady with an impressive corporate career. She’s got great taste and a friendly smile that make her easy to talk to and a fast friend. Enjoy taking a spin around one of London’s prettiest and most loved hoods with Melissa. Welcome to Hampstead!


Hampstead, NW3

1. TELL US ABOUT YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD.

Imagine a delightful little English village complete with cobbled alleys, stone churches and heaps of willowy trees. Now plonk it down 10 minutes outside the centre of London and you’ve found yourself in Hampstead! Most famous for its rich history and ancient woodlands (called the Heath), Hampstead is a modern neighbourhood with great pubs, cafes and shopping. I really believe you have to experience its charm for yourself in order to wholly translate the unique feel of this area. Hampstead is also a hotbed for a lot of great private and state schools.

2. ON A SCALE FROM 1-10, HOW CONNECTED WOULD YOU SAY WHERE YOU LIVE IS? WHAT ARE THE MAJOR LINES THAT RUN TO/FROM YOU?

Even though it has an English countryside vibe Hampstead is really connected so I’d give it an 8. We are in Zone 2 and I can get to places like Kings Cross, Reagents Park and Leicester Square in 10 minutes. We’ve got two tube lines, the overground and buses. The Hampstead stop on the Northern line puts you right smack centre in the village. The jubilee line to Swiss Cottage is just a short walk away and the Hampstead Heath overground stop puts you right at the bottom of the Heath near the duck ponds.

 

3. IN A DREAM WORLD, WHAT WOULD BE THE PERFECT STREET OR AREA TO LIVE IN WITHIN YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD? WHY?

Even after living in this area for 7 years, I still love to get lost with the kids in Hampstead’s little nooks. We find beautiful new alleys that would be a dream to live on all the time! My favourite is Downshire Hill for its beautiful single-family homes with huge yards. I also love the 5 story Georgian townhouses on Church Row and the terraced houses with brightly coloured doors on Flask Walk.

4. ON A SCALE FROM 1-10, HOW WOULD YOU SAY THE VALUE FOR SQUARE FOOTAGE IS? DO YOU PAY A PREMIUM FOR WHERE YOU LIVE OR WOULD YOU SAY IT IS A BETTER VALUE THAN OTHER AREAS IN LONDON?

All the greenery and brick mansions in Hampstead definitely come with a premium price tag; I’d say a 5. Hampstead is one of the most expensive areas to live in London just behind Kensington and Westminster. However, the house prices are consistently rising so it’s a good investment if you are buying. We bought our 4-story maisonette (fixer upper!) four years ago and it’s still rising even after Brexit! I’m sure the great schools in the area have something to do with this. I also think the slower pace, sense of community and lush greenery in Hampstead really give back to your well-being and overall sanity living with a young family in a big city.

5. WHAT IS THE GENERAL VIBE OF THE NEIGHBOURHOOD? GIVE US THREE TYPES OF PEOPLE WE MEET SEE ON YOUR HIGH STREET?

Hampstead is very quiet with a bohemian and creative flair. The three type of people you will meet on Hampstead are celebrities, Hampstonians and young families. I think celebs like it here because they aren’t bothered by anyone. I’m always running into Josh Hartnett, Ricky Gervais and Isla Fisher. Hampstonians are the locals, born and raised in Hampstead. I think it says a lot that they send their children to the same schools they attended, which is hard to find in a transient place like London. Mostly, you will find families in Hampstead. We’ve got a solid expat community from all over the world but definitely a lot of Frenchies and Americans.

6. WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE TO GET COFFEE IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD?

You definitely have plenty of options for a nice cuppa. My favourite is Melrose & Morgan because I’ve gotten to know the staff well and they have picnic tables big enough for lots of moms and buggies to crowd around. On weekends the whole family heads to a casual little café called Mani’s for a well-priced full English breakfast and Monmouth Coffee. There are two more traditional spots for coffee in Hampstead called The Coffee Cup and Louis. The Coffee Cup is a Hampstead institution and Louis is a cool Hungarian bakery and tea room with the most delicious cakes.

7. WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE TO GET DINNER IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD?

My husband and I had our first date in Hampstead so we like to relive the night! If you drink or eat at one place in Hampstead, it must be The Holly Bush. Full of charm, fireplaces and dark panelled walls, it is supposedly one of the oldest pubs in Hampstead and it certainly is my favourite in all of London. 28 Church Row is also a favourite. It’s a small romantic spot nestled in a cellar complete with brilliant tapas and wine. La Cage Imaginaire is cute too.

8. HOW WOULD YOU SPEND A SATURDAY IN HAMPSTEAD AS A LOCAL?

Our Saturday routine is as follows: First up we head to a farmers' market that is just next to our house for coffee, produce and weekend treats. We usually meet up with friends for a nice pub lunch at either the Wells Tavern or the Freemasons Arms (also really great spots for dinner!). We walk off our lunch on the Heath, usually starting behind the Wells Tavern and then walking up to Kenwood House. In the evenings we catch a film on the comfy red couches at the Everyman Cinema

9. HOW MUCH WOULD AN UBER TO OXFORD CIRCUS COST YOU? (APPROXIMATELY)

£10-13 -- but I usually just take the tube as it’s only 20 minutes. 


Looking for the right London neighbourhood for you? Check out my other neighbourhood guides: 

SHEPHERD'S BUSH | CHELSEA | DULWICH



*images courtesy of Melissa Reeve

Dulwich | A Local's Neighbourhood Guide

I met Bethie a few years ago through a Babyccino event that she was hosting. We had a few mutual friends, but now those have all moved away/drifted apart… and Bethie is one of the friends I’ve stayed in touch with. Bethie is fun, always laughing (even at my bad jokes!), empathetic, and a mover/shaker. She’s got ideas and ambitions constantly coming to her brain… and you’ll never think of her as a boring friend, I promise. She lives in Dulwich with her fantastically smart family and her love for their life there oozes out in every little post/conversation. Just read on, you’ll see what I mean. Thanks, Bethie, for contributing to this neighbourhood series and sharing a look into your sweet little life in Dulwich.


Dulwich Village, SE21

1. Tell us about your neighbourhood.

When were first moving to London from Washington, DC, we had our hearts set on living in Hampstead Heath, but we weren’t thrilled with what we could afford there. We ended up in South London where we eventually discovered Dulwich. The moment we stepped foot here, we knew we had found our future home. It is no coincidence that Dulwich is sometimes referred to as, “the Hampstead of the south”! With the quaint, villagey feel, amazing houses, yummy restaurants, and the gorgeous Dulwich Park, it certainly lives up to its reputation. 

2. On a 1-10, how connected would you say where you live is? What are the major lines that run to/from you?

There are advantages and disadvantages of being well connected in London. When we lived in Clapham (which I would give a 10 in terms of connectivity), we would cram ourselves onto hot, busy tube trains, only to emerge onto busy streets, teeming with people. It was fun at first, but it has really helped us to appreciate being a bit less connected here in Dulwich. It is much quieter here, with very few tourists which really helps add to the great community feel we love about living here. 

There are loads of bus lines to take you to better connected areas, and train lines to get you to London Bridge and Victoria (via North Dulwich, East Dulwich, and West Dulwich stations), and nearby Denmark Hill station to gets you to East London. Many people here have cars, but we love to bike everywhere and I can’t imagine a lovelier way to commute. My six-year-old rides her bike to and from school through past the gardens and lake in beautiful Dulwich Park and our au pair and I ride with my three-year-old on the back of our bikes. My husband works near Tower Bridge and it takes him 25 minutes to ride his bike to work each day. It takes 5-10 minutes to bike to a train station to take me into town, and a variety of beautiful local parks are also only a short ride away. However, when it comes down to it, there are definitely better neighbourhoods to consider if you plan to spend a lot of time in central London. I would rate Dulwich a 5 in terms of connectivity. 

3. In a dream world, what would be the perfect street or area to live in within your neighbourhood? Why?

Dulwich Village isn’t very big. Most everything there is to see here (shops, restaurants, The Dulwich Picture Gallery, and Dulwich Park) are all located on the main street. Also lining this main street are some absolutely incredible houses. They have grand entrances with unbelievable gardens out back. I can tell you about these gardens because every summer a few of them open them up for villagers to come explore! They have live music, sell tea and cakes, and usually raise some decent money for a local charity. The gardens are absolutely bonkers and are filled with beautifully manicured lawns, incredible flowers, ponds, fountains, trellises, paths, and staircases. Villagers bring picnics and camp out for hours on end. Given the amazing gardens, I can imagine the inside of these houses would be equally impressive. I would have to say that living in one of these houses right in the middle of the village would be pretty dreamy!

4. On a 1-10, how would you say the value for square footage is? Do a pay a premium for where you live or would you say it’s a better value than other areas in London?

People don’t move to Dulwich because it is affordable; people move here for the incredible schools, the park, and the lovely village. That being said, South London is, in general, much cheaper than Central or North London. Purchasing a four-bedroom house next to Hampstead Heath would run you many millions of pounds, but here in “the Hampstead of the south” you can find houses closer to 1 million pounds. It is still a lot of money, but it is a bit more accessible. 

I would rate affordability in Dulwich about a 4. There are definitely cheaper areas, and you do pay a bit of a premium here, but in comparison to other highly desirable neighbourhoods, it is definitely more affordable. 

5. What’s the general vibe of the neighbourhood? Give us three people we might see on your high street?

As a Seattle girl, I really appreciate the more laid back vibe of South London. While many people here are very stylish, it is rare to see anyone with a Gucci bag or Jimmy Choo shoes. You are more likely to notice people wearing a lovely jumper from a local shop, or a fun dress from Zara. If you show up on the school run in trainers and a dirty t-shirt or heels and a suit, you won’t get much of a look either way. 

There is a very friendly vibe here as everyone presumes that everyone else lives in the village. You are bound to have children at the same school, or will run into each other again at The Dog (our local pub that has just undergone a gorgeous renovation!) so you might as well be friendly! You also see a lot of familiar faces around here. It is rare to run errands and not run into someone you know. Even shopkeepers and local wait staff will stop and stay hello if they see us. We even know some of them by name (a special shoutout to Lucy at our favourite Italian restaurant who always gives snuggles to the kids!). 

Three people you might see on our high street would be a mum and baby on their way to meet a friend for coffee, a dog walker on their way to the park with a handful of leashes, and a kid on a scooter. (There are loads of (amazing) schools in Dulwich and so you see kids everywhere!!)

6. What’s your favourite place to get coffee in your neighbourhood?

Often after the school run, there is a group of parents that will go and get a coffee together before starting their days. The group usually includes a stay-at-home dad, a graphic designer, a very famous artist (!), and me! We often have a few others join in as well. While there are quite a few places to stop and get a good coffee around here, we often find ourselves at Christopher’s Bakery (where I often grab some fresh bread for dinner). Gail’s Bakery is also a favourite, but it is usually so crowded in the mornings that I usually only go there in the afternoons. A short bike ride from the village over to East Dulwich and you have even more options such as the hipster mecca of Brickhouse Bread, and the newly opened Greek cafe, Kanella, who make the best matcha latte!

7. What’s your favourite place to eat dinner in your neighbourhood?

While there are loads of restaurants to choose from in East Dulwich (like Japanese food and cocktails from Yama Momo, or the best ever burger from Meat Liquor) our favourite local restaurant is definitely Rocca in Dulwich Village. Not only is the food delicious (try the carbonara!!) and the staff super kid friendly, it is also surprisingly affordable! 

8. Best pub?

There is only one pub in the village and it has only just reopened after a nearly three year renovation. You will always see people sitting out front having a pint, and the garden is perfect for families to let their kids run in. However, as it has been closed for ages, we have spent a lot of time in East Dulwich pubs. I recently discovered The Cherry Tree which is located right across from the East Dulwich station and it is my new favourite local pub. It is a bit off the main high street so tends to be less crowded, yet it still has great food, a beautiful interior, and a lovely garden out back. (Added bonus is that my band, Wilford Social, plays there once a month! Come say hi!)

9. Best way to spend a Saturday in Dulwich Village as a local?

Hands down, the best way to spend a Saturday in Dulwich is in the park. Everyone is there with their families and there is plenty of space to spread out with a picnic, or enjoy food from the cafe. The kids love the play area, and you are bound to run into people you know there which is always fun. I also like to participate in the Park Run on Saturday mornings in Dulwich Park where you join a hundred or so other runners for a free timed 5K.

10. How much would an Uber to Oxford Circus cost you (approximately)?

£20

11. What are three great schools in your neighbourhood? Are they State or Fee Paying?

Dulwich is known for its schools. There is Dulwich College (founded in 1619) which is a boarding and day school for boys, James Allen’s Girls’ School which is ranked in the top ten of UK secondary schools, and Alleyn’s which is one of the country’s leading co-ed day schools. All of the aforementioned schools are fee paying, but we also have very highly ranked state schools as well. We are really lucky here and definitely spoiled for choice in terms of schools!


Looking for the perfect London neighbourhood for you? Check out my previous guides to Shepherds Bush and Chelsea


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Outlander + My 5 Favourite Castles in Scotland

I had planned to get my nails done before having Edie, but, alas, she came early and so me and my overgrown hooves had to deal with not looking their best during her first few weeks of life. Fast-forward one month and I managed to sneak away for a trip to the cheapest nail salon in our neighbourhood to finally get my nails done. Since I was wedging this between a trip to the fabric shop and Tyler taking the kids to the park, I didn’t have an appointment. When I walked in, they told me it would be 20 minutes before they could help me, and I gladly parked it until it was my turn.

With my phone dead and nothing else to do, I glanced around to find something to read. All of the magazines were at least a year old- literally, the newest featuring Princess Charlotte’s first birthday, but I found a copy of a DEPARTURES magazine that wasn’t entirely from another century. I grabbed it and spent the next hour absorbing every single letter within that tattered and faded issue. I skimmed ads for luxury cruises, read about trends in Shanghai’s food scene… and, eventually, landed on an article where an editor journeys around Scotland to trace the steps of the scenes from the show, Outlander. A show that I had previously assumed to be included motorcycles and ponytailed men in chunky metal-toed boots. (Why you ask? I honestly have no clue. Was there some old TNT series that had a similar name and premise? I digress.)

To my surprise, the editor’s description of Outlander totally captivated me (historical fiction + art-like costumes) and I can’t wait to submerse myself in it as soon as possible. On top of the fact that the plot sounds incredible, I have to say: I was mostly excited to read about all the Scottish settings that the show features…. Many of which I have been this summer.

One of the places the editor talks about is the town of Falkland- where I just so happened to spend the morning a few weeks ago. It’s one of the cutest little towns that I’ve been to in Scotland, complete with a palace, an antique shop full of affordable treasures and a small handful of cafes and pubs to keep you fed during your day there. It’s charming, and after being quite taken with Falkland after my day there, I included it on my list of “5 Scottish Castles to See.” 

Take a quick look at my latest video where I walk through (literally) the 5 castles that I recommend to see when you’re in Scotland. You’ll also get a glimpse of some pretty scenery and an abandoned castle below. The great news for you is that, if you do find yourself in another castle in Scotland, chances are it’s going to be pretty great, too.

Now, can any of you that have seen Outlander weigh in below on whether or not I should watch this show? Win me over, please. I’m really hoping this can be a new favourite. And do guys like it, too?. Hopefully, I can get Tyler interested, too!



Find more of my favourite places in Scotland here in my travel guide.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on August 10, 2017 and filed under scotland, get out of town.

Edie | One Month + An Official Welcome

One month old! Time flies when you’re… wiping buns. It’s been a great month. Edie is such a dream, and I just can’t stop kissing her… and, at times, also forgetting she is now part of our family. (Phrases like “Oh wait! Don’t forget the baby!” as we start to walk out the door to go somewhere seem far too common.)

I’ve shared this on my Facebook page, but in case you missed it- here’s a little video of Edie's arrival. I always feel like a huge dork getting out my camera to record moments that seem mundane… but I’m so glad I took the time to save a few of these. When they are knit together in this video, it makes a really special memory. I already love watching it and know that it will become something that makes me so teary in the yard to come.

Life is sweet with three. Granted- it’s crazy and unglamorous and what have you, but I can’t tell you how comfortable and cozy it feels to have a family of five.

Trying hard to our feet under us in a routine... but also, trying to enjoy the days of just being together and rolling with the days as they come.)  The kids have been so sweet with her, but the lack of a normal schedule, endless visitors and us being distracted is finally starting to show. Any advice on how to manage with the early days of adding a new baby to your family routines?



*images and video original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on August 9, 2017 and filed under babies, babies kennedy, home, kids, life, pregnancy.

(Little Kids + Working Moms) x Being an Expat = Complicated

As a mom, I’ve learned that the issue of childcare is a tricky one. So many factors are involved in finding someone to replace your role as mom- even if it’s just for a short time while you get errands run. This list of factors mainly includes (but is not limited to): income (because we all have different budgets and can’t all spend the same on childcare), distance (do you live near people you trust, or are you in a place away from trusted resources?), time (are you looking for something consistent or do you need random hours here and there?), trust (how do you know that the person watching your child(ren) isn’t crazy… and are they actually enriching your children’s lives/minds or merely keeping them alive until you return).

Living away from family, we have really battled with finding people to care for our children. Whether it’s just for a night for us to get a night away together or for something more steady during work hours- we’ve tried a bit of everything possible. Our work is a bit too sporadic to plan for a full-time help at scheduled hours… but when we need someone for work, we need someone who can pretty much dedicate their full attention to us…. But only for a few months. 

While the idea of family is sooooo appealing, we live an ocean away from anyone that we are related to. (With the exception of my aunt/uncle this summer… they have been SO wonderful to have in town with us to help in mundane moments and bigger ones like having a baby early!)

When I first heard about an au pair, I chalked it up to unrealistic for us. Full-time nannies are trop cher, and we don’t make enough to, essentially, pay their salary. I filed it away, and then when an ex-student approached me about coming to work with us in Paris after she had returned from a year in Australia (as an au pair for a family there), I started to ask her a bit about the basic format. When she told me how it all worked, my mind was blown. It actually was something we could do/afford… and seemed like the perfect fit for us.

After a year and a half of having an au pair, I have to say: it totally suits our family. Having someone live with us, be like family to us, and help watch our kids in random hours/spurts is just what we were needing… without really knowing was possible. 

Now, I'll be honest: we have been SPOILED with the absolute best au pairs. We have had people that have become family members to us, so having them share in daily life with us was never awkward or weird. The toughest part of them living was us was only when they had to leave. (PS. If you're reading this Cami, come back!!)

So I thought that maybe I’d do a vlog where I talk about what having an au pair is like… because maybe, just maybe, it could open up some options for your family, too. And maybe, just maybe, you’re currently as clueless about au pairs as I once was. Yes? Well then, ask away! I’ve got my own experience of two au pairs- with a new one arriving soon! Plus, I’ve asked a few friends to weigh in when there’s a question that I can’t answer. 

Ask away- from the basic (where do you even find someone to be an au pair?) to the more tense (what if your au pair has gross living habits- like leaving hair in the shower drain or has the smell of rot perfuming their room?) I kind of can’t wait to read these, by the way!


Hopefully this helps you if you’re at the point of breaking in trying to juggle it all.. and gives you an option that works great for your family.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

 

Chelsea | A Local's Neighbourhood Guide

Following on as the first contributor to my new neighbourhood series is my friend Regina. Regina is part of the expat circle here, but not in the normal way- she’s actually Danish, married to an Aussie, previously living in NYC and now raising her three little babes here in London. As all Scandinavians seem to be, she’s stunning and she writes/cooks healthy food that even gets me (the biggest sweet tooth ever) hungry for virtuous dishes dressed with tahini and sprinkled with quinoa. Best of all… she’s incredibly kind. She lives in Chelsea, and she’s generously spared a portion of her rare free time not taking care of little babies to share a glimpse of her life in Chelsea here with us. 


Chelsea, SW3

1. Tell us about your neighbourhood.

Chelsea is beautiful and full of white Victorian houses. Historically known as a village and the centre for alternative culture in the 60s, Chelsea was once London’s bohemian quarter, full of artists, writers and musicians. It’s pretty well gentrified now, but in certain areas the bohemia vibe still exists. Once frequented by the likes of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and London’s bohemia, Chelsea is now home to a lot of expats and holds the largest communities of Americans living outside of the United States.

2. ON A SCALE FROM 1-10, HOW CONNECTED WOULD YOU SAY WHERE YOU LIVE IS? WHAT ARE THE MAJOR LINES THAT RUN TO/FROM YOU?

Pretty connected. It's a mile or a mile and a half to four different tube stations: South Kensington, Earls Court, Fulham Broadway and Sloane Square. Between all of them you can get pretty much anywhere.

3. IN A DREAM WORLD, WHAT WOULD BE THE PERFECT STREET OR AREA TO LIVE IN WITHIN YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD? WHY?

It's hard to narrow that down to a specific street… I really like our street, and the nearby streets around our current flat (just in between Fulham Road and Kings Road in the west end of Chelsea), and a lot of them open up to hidden-away private gardens, which would be such a dream so my kids could run wiiild all day.

4. ON A SCALE FROM 1-10, HOW WOULD YOU SAY THE VALUE FOR SQUARE FOOTAGE IS? DO YOU PAY A PREMIUM FOR WHERE YOU LIVE OR WOULD YOU SAY IT IS A BETTER VALUE THAN OTHER AREAS IN LONDON?

Chelsea definitely isn’t a bargain to live in (sadly). In other words, you do pay premium to live here and even just south of the river in Battersea, you get much better value for your money. 

5. WHAT IS THE GENERAL VIBE OF THE NEIGHBOURHOOD? GIVE US THREE TYPES OF PEOPLE WE MEET SEE ON YOUR HIGH STREET?

It is full of gorgeous streets with white houses and hidden-away private gardens you'd never know about unless you live here. Although the main streets gets busy, it's not super busy or all that touristy, and I love the village-y vibe you get as soon as you go one street away from the main shopping streets. You'll see the mother getting her kids to school, black shades, coffee in hand and in her athleisure wear (obviously, duh), celebrities getting their morning coffee (or international expat guy in a nice suit on his way to/from work), and the beautifully glamorous elderly lady who has lived here long before it was a cool place to live and who go buy a real newspaper and a fresh loaf of baguette at the local bakery every morning.

6. WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE TO GET COFFEE IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD?

The very BEST coffee I’ve had around here is Tomtom Coffee House, which is actually technically in Belgravia (but a short walk from Sloane Square).  Much closer to our end of Chelsea is the espresso canteen, A Wanted Man, which has a great vibe and good breakfast menu too. And theres a brow bar upstairs - win? Last spot I’ll mention is Muni Coffee Co. on Fulham road, which is a fusion of Fillipino-European influences with a mission to bring coffee beans from the Philippines back into the speciality coffee industry. Read more about their story on their website

7. WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE TO GET DINNER IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD? 

For a fun night out with friends, Kurobuta on King's Road is one of our absolute favourites, and is a fusion of Japanese cuisine. But if it looks more like a intimate dinner just me and my husband, I'd go to Bandol, a beautiful French restaurant with the flavours and style of south France and delicious sharing plates and, of course, a great wine list! They have a great selection of vegetarian dishes too, which I love.

8. HOW WOULD YOU SPEND A SATURDAY IN CHELSEA AS A LOCAL?

It would look like breakfast at Beaufort House or Ivy Chelsea Garden with the kids, followed by a walk up to Duke of York Square Market. This market is full of amazing food stalls with a great variety of cuisines. From oysters + bubbles, to vegan burgers (my fave!), and of course delicious sweets, this market is so fun and is surrounded by good shopping (always a win). After that we'd stop in at one of our local pubs for a drink. The Sporting Page, Bluebird Terrace & GOAT are a few favourites and all have great outdoor seating, which is amazing during the summer. Then it would end either with a date night out, or a night in where we’d cook something together, in between running back and forth to convince our kids to stay in bed, of course. 

9. HOW MUCH WOULD AN UBER TO OXFORD CIRCUS COST YOU? (APPROXIMATELY)

Around £20.


Trying to find the right London neighbourhood for you? Check out my previous neighbourhood guide to Shepherds Bush.



*images courtesy of Regina Barker

PACK YOUR BAGS | An NHS Maternity Ward!

A few weeks ago, I started this post, planning to share it long before our new little lady made her entrance... but life had other plans! Here's a peak into my pre-Edie state of mind- and a few tips about what to bring to an NHS maternity ward.


Well, the time has come… I’ve officially hit the state of pregnancy where I feel compelled to bring my notes everywhere I go (a weird NHS thing I’m going to explain in an upcoming vlog!), plan a childcare schedule with friends in those “just in case she comes early” scenarios, actually put together the baby crib by our bed… and pack my bag for the hospital. At 36 weeks, my stomach feels more like I swallowed a squirrel with peg legs than the sweet bumps and flutters that once tapped around inside me. You can easily identify body parts: foot! bottom! back! The time is coming near, and I gotta get my act together.

So first things first… when you are headed to your third trip to the hospital, I’ve learned to focus more on what I’ll enjoy having post-hospital trip rather than those few days in there. You see, the first time around- I was shelling out cash on items that would be useful for those few days in the hospital without much care to beyond those walls. A cute hospital gown, fancy coming-home outfits that I paid way too much for, nice slippers to waddle around the hospital in, etc. This time, I’m putting that money into items that I can enjoy long after I get out of the hospital. So here we go… what’s going in my hospital bag to have a baby through the NHS in London.

I’m working alongside WAREMAKERS for this piece, as their very cool artisan-led company inspired me into putting this kind of post together. After all, there are tons of places I could go with gorgeous handmade-items… but something felt especially right about walking into the unknown of the birth of a baby as a big adventure. So while it’s just a London hospital, I always feel like I’m going into uncharted territory. 

If you’re looking to support a great company with a great mission, and hey- actually fantastic looking items!- WAREMAKERS is going to be right up your picturesque European alley. It took me one glance at their site to get their mission, love their cool aesthetic and become a big fan of the artists and brands they bring together. I have a feeling you’ll love what they are doing, too. (Especially, if you’re like me and have a weak spot for those If-George-Clooney-were-a-bag leather bags that just get better with age that you know will be with you on holidays for years to come.)


ONE | TWO | THREE | FOUR | FIVE | SIX | SEVEN | EIGHT | NINE | Ten | eleven

HOSPITAL BAG | I think for my first delivery, I literally rolled into the hospital with my things in plastic shopping bags. Ha! But as you know, third times a charm or however the saying goes. I actually didn’t have a good overnight bag (all of ours seem to be enormous roller suitcases), so this time I got an actual bag to take with me. The bag is from La Portegna  which is an incredible brand handmade in Spain- but also with a store here in Marylebone! I’m excited to remember this as “my hospital bag,” but really excited to take it with me on other adventures outside of London, too. (Also, check out their company history for the wildest inspiration you’ve ever heard of. Spoiler: It involves an exotic gift from Hemingway.)

ROBE | I like having a robe to wear in the hospital, it kind of allows for covering up all the lumps and craziness happening underneath it… especially when you have friends come by to meet your baby. It somehow adds a bit more dignity to the moment… but I always buy a cheap robe that I won’t fall in love with for ever. This is for two reasons. First, they’re going to get trashed with so many… fluids. Sorry if that’s gross, but it’s true. Secondly, I always buy up a size or two, since I’ll be wearing it in weird-post-baby-still-have-a-bump time. I bought a cute, soft-touch robe here for £10… plus, it has a cute pattern to help create a diversion from my post-delivery stupor.

SLIPPERS | Speaking of slippers, I’m still buying some. Just some really cheap ones I can throw away the second I walk out of that hospital. You see, having an NHS baby means you share recovery rooms… and bathrooms. And I have to say, the bathroom I had after Harrison was born kind of traumatised me. Not because they weren’t clean and kept up… but maybe, the potpourri of 8-10 post-delivery women and all their output was too much. So slippers are needed to go around in the hospital, but I want nothing to do with taking anything that has touched those floors back into my home. Again, I buy cheap and simple ones like these.

SOCKS | While I do want to throw away the hospital slippers as soon as possible, I do think it’s nice to have splurge on some pretty socks to keep your feet covered while sitting around with a new baby/random hospital staff/etc, so this time I’ve got a hand-knit pair of wool socks from the English designer, Jules Hogan. (I actually think for what they are, they’re worth every penny. I can’t wait to take them to Iceland, too.) So yes, skimp on slippers, but spend on some socks that you’ll love to wear during your stay.

PAJAMAS | Now, I have to have a caesarean because of previous deliveries, so I’ll actually be given a gown to wear from the hospital, but if you are having a straight-forward delivery… you deliver in your own clothes! My friends have given birth in their husbands XXL t-shirts or bras… Obviously, these are clothes that they plan to get destroyed, so if you want to buy anything new- go cheap. (I typically do a Primark run before the hospital to get all of my hospital loungewear.) Again, don’t forget to buy up a size or two from your pre-baby size. You’ll be in weird territory between maternity and regular clothes for a few days, so some cheap items that you can easily loose after are nice.

BABY (HEAD) GEAR | I’m not sure why, but this surprised me the most: a hat for my baby. I suppose that because all US- born babies get the traditional striped-hat, I was expected the same when I gave birth here. But, no. You bring your own baby hat into the delivery room.  So yes, finding a cute hat is on my mind… and harder than you think. So many are enormous and I really want a small stretchy, jersey-like one. In the meantime, I've settled for these  but am still on the search via Etsy for something handmade. (Recommendations/hand-me-downs welcome.) We used a really sweet one of Tyler’s when he was a baby for when Harrison was born, but I’d like something a bit less boyish for this little girl. First-world problems, I know.

Do you need anything else for right after they are born? They do wrap them up in a little plain white blanket/towel after delivery- but you’ll need your own swaddles and clothes for them as soon as… well, you want them dressed. 

*Since I’ve had some crazy deliveries, can anyone else weigh in on what a “regular” delivery would call for? Do you give them their first diaper/nappie? The hospital has always put that on them for us after weighing/checking them… and they even put clothes on the girls in the NICU, which was sweet, but I know not standard. Any of your experiences would be so great to hear below in the comments!

Also, is now a good time to tell you- they don’t bathe your babies after delivery. They wipe them off (mostly) and then hand them over. They say all the gunk is really good for them, and that their skin will absorb it. (Which, I have to say- has been true of my babies… and neither really had cradle cap badly. Maybe God does know what he is doing afterall! Hey!) Did I read somewhere recently where this is becoming more common in the US, too?

NURSING BRAS & TANKS | First of all, I need to say: Welcome to the next year of your life. Go ahead and splurge on these, friends. They’re going to be on your body forever and ever from this point on. Want a tattoo? Maybe do a test run and see how you like wearing the same thing everyday (like a nursing bra!) for a year to see how you like the idea of permanency on your body. Also, the longer the nursing tank the better. These are pretty good and long!

ENTERTAINMENT | Maybe you get cable in American hospitals, but after you deliver in the NHS- you’re in a shared room with curtains separating you from other new moms. It’s a free system, so I can’t complain… but you can get real bored real quick. It’s good to bring your own forms of entertainment. Some people may brings books and small hobbies like knitting, but I’m planning on vegging out completely. I’ve already started downloading movies on my Netflix app and can’t wait to pop in my headphones and zone out. (These are things moms dream of when they have impending hospital stays, amiright?.) This amazing earbud case from the Danish company, Ham/Lerche, is so cool. This simple leather pouch keeps the tangled web of earphone tragedy from happening in my bag. Plus, it’s really nice leather that just looks cooler and cooler the longer it is around. 

On this note, don’t forget chargers of any sort that you may need…. And maybe bring a portable/battery one, if you have it? That way, if you get stuck in some random room waiting for a while, you aren’t stuck without an outlet? (Not sure this has ever happened to me before, but I’ll probably toss mine in this time just in case.)

WATER BOTTLE | I have to admit, I’m a bit jealous of the hospital swag that my friends/sisters get when they have a US-born baby… especially in the form of those giant water bottles., In the early days of nursing, when you have that obscene thirst dry up your entire body as you nurse, I always think of how nice it would be to have 835 oz of ice water next to me. But we don’t get them in the UK, and we don’t even have ice… so, you know, whatever. I have purchased a water bottle or two with each kid, and leave them upstairs and downstairs so that wherever I find myself perched- I have water nearby. Bring one to the hospital, because they’ll just bring by small jugs of water and styrofoam cups for you at random.

DISPOSABLES | If you thought the above text was glamorous, just wait until we dive in here. At a NHS hospital, you bring your own party favours… as in, your own breast pads, pads/diapers, underwear (in my case, the higher the better to avoid contact with the incision), and any other type of disposable item you may also end up needing to use at home- you bring of your own to the hospital, too. 

Oh, and of course- that doesn’t just stop for you. Don’t forget your baby! They’ll need newborn diapers and cotton balls/wipes. Just make it easy and do one giant shop for it all and have it delivered to your house around 34 weeks. I also buy all the baby shampoo, nappie cream, etc at this point, too.

REGULAR PACKING ITEMS | Now that you have all the other stuff you’ll have to have, don’t forget to pack the regular items that you’d spend the night away from home with: clothes (to come home in), toiletries, makeup, etc. I had my entire bag packed and then realised I hadn’t actually packed any clothes to come home in or my toothbrush. And on that note, don’t let your husband forget to pack those kind of items, too. They don’t offer beds to them, but they can sleep in the chairs, if they want… and most new dads do want to stick around and see the baby, I’ve learned. Better to have a few items to make their life better, too, with fresh contact solution, a toothbrush and a fresh shirt or two!

I am packing all of my essential makeup items (waterproof mascara, French face cream, toothbrush, deodorant, lipgloss that never goes away) in this pretty French linen pouch from Catherine Dang. I’ve been looking for a simple pouch to put in my backpack/travel bag for ages, and this is honestly such a great find: no obnoxious glitter words on top, great design with French linen and the perfect size for stashing in a slightly larger bag, and- to be candid- a much better price than the comparable “designer” ones I found with a similarly pretty aesthetic. 


There we go. I feel like that is a pretty honest breakdown of all the “essentials.” Having a baby is cute and amazing… but it’s not always glamourous. (Though, Tyler did used to work for a Dallas-based hospital system that served champagne & lobster to new mothers in their maternity unit, so maybe it actually IS in the US suburbs or in private healthcare!) I’m sure a few more items will make their way into my bag before we leave, but I’m not sure Nutrigrain bars and outdated bags of Cadbury eggs from Easter should make the official list.

I’m really grateful though for the opportunity have such amazing (and kind!) doctors take care of us. What we have learned is: if you have a straightforward pregnancy, you’ll find no frills care without a lot of handholding… because they know that this is a really natural process and the general checkpoints along the way will get you to having a healthy baby. But for people that need help and hand-holding (Hi!I I’m Lauren, and I’m traumatised by delivery!), you’ll get the help and care you need. Being a “bells & whistles” case is never the situation you want to find yourself in, but I can tell you- when you’re there, we’ve found that the staff will be some of the most attentive and gracious people. 

For more information, you can find a list that the NHS has provided on what to pack for you hospital bag here on their official site



*Images original to Aspiring Kennedy.

*This post was made in part by sponsorship from Waremakers.

St. Andrews | Balgove Larder

Hello from baby land! I'm sharing a few posts that I wrote this summer, but thought I'd save for a rainy day... and by "rainy day," I obviously meant a day where I'm hanging out with little kids and family rather than blogging. So while we do our newly-expanded-family-thing, here's a taste of a great day from earlier this summer.


I was walking through St. Andrews today and came to the realisation that, since we first started coming here seven years ago, either I've become more refined or the town has become a bit more posh.

The places we always used to go are still around but look a bit (cough) dated. And now, there are new spots that have captured my attention... luckily, these spots are bit more polished than my first round of picks and, if I'm honest, make a much higher grade of food.

For example, Balgove Larder. This farmshop + Cafe + Steak Barn make for a great foodie destination throughout the day. 


BALGOVE LARDER

While the evening and lunch are popular for the tasty Steak Barn, the morning has a bright breakfast being served in the farmshop cafe.  

This morning, I headed to Balgove (located a bit down the road from the Old Course Hotel) for breakfast. I got there around 10, and snagged a table along the counter by the window.

What makes Balgove a special stop is that the food is either grown on-site or sourced locally. And while it's perfectly pure in many respects, it's not obscenely priced.

A FEW THINGS TO TRY...

One of their (four types of!) homemade scones. These are served fresh and warm from the oven when ordered. Choose from plain, fruit, cheddar or cherry. These are one of the most popular items coming out of the kitchen, and they're worth trying!

The homemade granola served with local yoghurt and fresh fruit.

A bunch of flowers from their flower stand to take home with you when your tummy can't fit anymore in it.


To be honest, everything is pretty great at Balgove. I'm not sure you'll go wrong with anything off their well-groomed menu, so feel confident that what you're ordering is going to taste great... and treat your body kindly.

BALGOVE LARDER | Balgove Farmhouse, Strathtyrum Farm, St Andrews KY16 9SF, UK | Open 9AM-5PM


Looking for more of my favourite places in Scotland? Check out my posts here and my Scotland travel guide for more.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on July 24, 2017 and filed under eat, scotland, get out of town.

Shepherds Bush | A Local's Neighbourhood Guide

When you’re moving to London (or around London), it’s hard to know where you should go. If you’re not from the area, you really don’t know what you’re getting yourself into when you jump into a lease to a new neighbourhood. As many Americans do, we started looking in the familiar sounding South Kensington and Notting Hill when we arrived… but have now moved on to more obscure-sounding pastures after finding ourselves with a bit more lay of the proverbial land here in London.

I often get asked by future residents about what areas work best and for what reasons- and while I know from my own experience, I thought it might be helpful for people to hear from locals in those areas. There’s no better way to hear about what life is like in a particular areas.

So here we go, I’m kicking it off with a little guide to our home here in West London, Shepherds Bush. Follow along with the series to hear from some very cool (and very normal) friends of mine as we share our little views of London living with you.


SHEPHERDS BUSH | W12

1. TELL US ABOUT YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD.

I live in Shepherds Bush, which is in West London. While sits next to Notting Hill and Holland Park, it’s a bit grittier and less glossy than the others. It was the home of the BBC for decades and the impact on the neighbourhood is that the production team that lived nearby gave it a cool, smart artistic feel… yet it is blended well with endless other ethnicities beyond British. (It actually has more people fro more places than another other neighbourhood in London!) There are fantastic State schools (free!), there are great local churches, and there is the largest shopping mall in Europe here, too. I will say, it’s not a great kept secret. The fact that there are great state schools and affordable housing are making it boom quickly. 

2. ON A SCALE FROM 1-10, HOW CONNECTED WOULD YOU SAY WHERE YOU LIVE IS? WHAT ARE THE MAJOR LINES THAT RUN TO/FROM YOU?

I’d give where we live an 8, because we are close to both the Central Line and the Hammersmith & City line. However, further west in the neighbourhood is a bit more remote from the tube stations. If you live deeper in the neighbourhood, you’ll likely hop a bus a few stops to get into the tube stations.

3. IN A DREAM WORLD, WHAT WOULD BE THE PERFECT STREET OR AREA TO LIVE IN WITHIN YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD? WHY?

I think I’d opt for the pretty Easter egg coloured houses along Wingate Street in Brackenbury Village (because you’d also get into Brackenbury Primary) or somewhere just off the playground from St. Stephens to get into the catchment from there and be really close to the underground connections.

4. ON A SCALE FROM 1-10, HOW WOULD YOU SAY THE VALUE FOR SQUARE FOOTAGE IS? DO YOU PAY A PREMIUM FOR WHERE YOU LIVE OR WOULD YOU SAY IT IS A BETTER VALUE THAN OTHER AREAS IN LONDON?

Compared to Notting Hill (where we were before), I’d give is a 7/8. It’s going up quickly, even from when we moved here a year ago…. But still- we have a house for about 20% more than we paid for a TINY two bedroom in Notting Hill. And it’s a 7-8 minute uber ride away from that house.

5. WHAT IS THE GENERAL VIBE OF THE NEIGHBOURHOOD? GIVE US THREE TYPES OF PEOPLE WE MEET SEE ON YOUR HIGH STREET?

Oh man, if you come to the W12- get ready to rub elbows with all walks of life. Three people that I saw today: 1. A fit Austrian mum headed to the pool with her kids in their Jaguar station wagon. 2. The manager of the local Syrian bakery we go to for pizzas. 3. Our older neighbours who have lived on this street for about 20 years who stopped by to meet our new baby on their way out to get groceries.

6. WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE TO GET COFFEE IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD?

This used to be a dismal answer… but it’s getting a bit better. Swallow Coffee just opened on the Goldhawk Road. Proud Mary’s is a local favourite…. And to be honest, that’s about it. We need better coffee shops in the area. I typically head to somewhere generic like Starbucks or Costa if I need to get some work done in a coffee shop around here.

7. WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE TO GET DINNER IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD?

We love Thai food at the Crown & Sceptre pub, curry from Nepalese Tandoori or, our staple, is Damascene food from Ayam Zaman. We go there at least once a week and the staff treat us like family.

8. HOW WOULD YOU SPEND A SATURDAY IN SHEPHERDS BUSH AS A LOCAL?

Ravenscourt Park is a gem of the area. We go there a ton as a family, get ice cream at Bears, or head to Westfield for some shopping. Tyler may catch a match at the QPR stadium or we may go to friends homes for lunch/dinner. (Remember- we have more square footage here in W12! We can actually have friends over and enjoy it!)

9. HOW MUCH WOULD AN UBER TO OXFORD CIRCUS COST YOU? (APPROXIMATELY)

£10-13


Looking for the perfect London neighbourhood for you? Keep an eye out for other neighbourhood guides... coming soon! 



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

A Tiny Surprise | Meet Edie.

Much to our surprise and delight, and nearly a month before her due date, we welcomed our daughter- Edith Brooke Knight- into the world on Sunday evening. 

What started as a weekend date night to celebrate an anniversary with friends and eat some pizza by the river, turned into timing contractions and coming in- "just in case" to the hospital that evening (with the hospital bag I had randomly and obsessively packed earlier that afternoon). Going into the hospital for a quick check then turned into 20 hours of contractions and, finally, an emergency caesarean when I finally started to dialate and she decided to start coming. 

Since all of this ended up happening before 37 weeks, the doctors wanted to hold off on delivery for as long as possible to allow her lungs to develop before they got her out. Luckily, steroid injections and slow-playing everything resulted in her needing no extra breathing support when she was born.... which made every single miserable contraction in the meantime worth it.

It was long, it was sudden, it was scary and also- it was totally fine and happy... but I think most people would look back on their deliveries with some same words. 

Either way, we're praising God that she's here and she's ours to keep.

Welcome, sweet Edie. 

 

Edith Brooke Knight | 9 July. 2017 | 17:24 | 6.46 lbs


Since we weren't planning on having a baby here so soon, life was moving on as normal the past few days. So much so, I made a video about what it's like to have a baby on the NHS in London on my last visit to have a regular appointment. Take a peek and you'll get a small glimpse into what the last 72 hours have been like for our family here at UCLH in London.

 



 

*images and video original to Aspiring Kennedy

 

Posted on July 11, 2017 and filed under babies, babies kennedy, kids, family.

My Notting Hill | Farm Girl Cafe

For a while, I've been waiting to try the infamous (or shall I say, "in(stagram)famous") rose latte from Farm Girl on Notting Hill's Portobello Road. But let's be honest: this place is made for women and it was going to be a hard sell to drag Tyler and company out to a place that serves health food and girly drinks when places like Granger & Co. are so nearby.

When my sweet friend, Georgie, recommended it for the place for a meeting- I jumped at the chance.

We had such a nice morning- clear skies, early enough to avoid waiting for a coveted table in the garden and great chat. (Though to be fair, she's so funny you don't need a great setting to enjoy an hour with her. She is a guaranteed treat for a great conversation!) The experience was overall really lovely, but I thought I'd give a quick review in case you want to go, too.


Farm Girl Cafe

Tucked in discreetly off Portobello's most popular row of coloured houses, you'll find Farm Girl Cafe. It's pretty vine-covered entrance make the walk-up appeal really enchanting. Seating is airy and pretty- regardless of if you sit inside or out. (Though it was gorgeous when we were there, so I opted for a pretty seat outside.)

The menu is healthy- think açai bowls, buckwheat pancakes, vegan donuts and avocado toast. It's more or less like you've been transplanted to L.A. for brunch. The prices are a bit steep (I think my açai Bowl was £12 by the time I added on granola?), but with people constantly moving in and out of the cafe- they don't need to worry about if people will pay.

The showstoppers are the quirky drinks the make at the bar... rose lattes dusted in dried rose petals, the bright blue butterfly matcha or the red hibiscus matcha. We opted to try the rose lattes, and, well, it tastes like rose water in your coffee. Not sure if I'd reorder it, to be honest, but it was fun to try and pretty to look at.

The food was good- my bowl was refreshing and massive. The buckwheat pancakes with coconut yoghurt and strawberries a hit... but the £3 vegan donut was a bit sad and a reminder as to my fervour for "real" American donuts. 

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The service was a mix of really sweet and really, gulp, salty. Trying to ask the barista where the bathroom was felt like asking Regina George for a ride home from school, but our server was really sweet and the overall vibe felt friendly.

All in all- I'd recommend Farm Girl. It's pretty, the food is nice and the pretty setting is hard to beat. Feel free to add it to your day in Notting Hill... just go early to get a good table without a wait, as tables are first come, first served.


Farm Girl Cafe | 59A Portobello Rd, London W11 3DB, UK 


Find more of the best places to eat in Notting Hill here on my guide, or search my dedicated series My Notting Hill for full posts on what's great in this special area of London.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Did Somebody Say... McDonalds?

This week has been a long week. The temperatures here are really warm… and while this may be a land of many charms, it does not have air conditioning like Americans are used to. It’s our eighth summer here, and still- it just feels suffocating for a few of the weeks of the year.

Anyway, it’s been a hot, long week home with the kids feeling so big and tired. And when it’s hot and you don’t have a car, getting out of the house this pregnant requires long, sizzling walks on pavement while you collect sweat on your body in places you can’t even mention. Beyond that, it’s been busy with big and little things filling up the days… and I’m sitting here at the edge of the weekend without much relief in site. (You know what I mean? The days are just kinda bleeding together and Saturday might as well be Tuesday.) 

In the midst of long morning of crying and fighting and picking up a million toys, I was just totally over the idea of going downstairs and staring in the fridge to conjure lunch. So I pulled out my phone and scrolled Uber Eats, knowing I wouldn’t actually end up buying anything off there because it would be a waste of money to spend that much money on a lunch for kids and myself.

But then, whaddaya know… the first option that appeared: McDonalds.

Now people, I don’t have a car. We don’t do drive through… because they don’t have it, and, well, we don’t have a car. I pretty much make everything from scratch that we eat. But just as the American in me would really love to crank her air conditioning down to a cool 65 right now, that same person sure did order 2 happy meals, a cheeseburger and French fries to be sent to her house with the enthusiasm of an American mom from the midwest on Black Friday when those Kohl’s doors open at 4am. Yeehaw.

And 23 minutes later, a knock on my door came and lunch was delivered. (To be honest, they forgot my fries- but I mooched from the kids and no one was the wiser.)

It might be one of the best £10 I’ve spent in a long time.

Now, if only Chick-fil-A would arrive in London… I would be able to merge all the great things into one life.

As we sat there- moods beginning to lift and a calm quiet wafting through the house like a sweet perfume, Viola randomly said: Harry, do you know that there is nothing you can ever do to make mommy stop loving you? Nothing!

Ahh… they don’t think I’m a mean, four-headed dragon, after all. Well, at least, not all the time.

And here’s to anyone else out there, who knows that while half of your friends may be horrified that you fed your kids McDonalds- your entire self can rest assured that occasionally giving your kids French fries and a dubious hamburger is actually a really great thing for everyone involved. Keep truckin’ ladies. This biz is hard work! I got your back.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on July 9, 2017 and filed under kids, family, everyday living.

Forcing American Baby Showers on British Friends

Well, I started to blog about how I was forcing baby showers on my British friends. This is, for the most part, true. Over the past few years, they have awkwardly shuffled away from the idea of any hoopla before a baby arrives… they claim it’s just not done, and, when I’ve dug a bit deeper, they claim it’s bad luck! Well, amigos… all I can say is, thank goodness I don’t believe in superstition because otherwise, I would be a bit freaked out. As an American, the idea of celebrating an-almost-there-mom is one of the sweetest things- just a pause before the baby arrives to enjoy the anticipation and hope of that sweet little life that will soon be here. Plus, when you’re pregnant- you can eat tons of cake at a party like that and not feel guilty for the baby weight you’re still wearing. (See what I mean- It’s definitely more fun on this side of the due date.)

I have four friends in my group of friends that are pregnant at the same time as me- in the same social circle! That may feel normal for you guys in the States, but here in London that seems massive to me. People have less kids, they have them later and they hardly seem to overlap… but here we all are… all waddling around with baby girls!

Since this is almost as rare of an occurrence as Viola & Prince George having playdates (which you know, is pretty rare), I thought it was reason to celebrate. And by celebrate I mean, sit in the garden on a sunny day, eat pretty food, and talk without kids around. It was lovely.

The lunch was simple and light- since it has been so roasting hot this week in London. We had Greek chicken with roasted potatoes & green beans smothered with tzaziki sauce, mediterranean orzo (inspired by Bridget’s recipe), watermelon dotted with mint, and huge bowls stacked high with Eton Mess.  

It was definitely a day that called for my prettiest dishes- my Burleigh Blue Regal Peacock place settings. If you’ve been over to my house, you probably have heard me wax on about how special this company is, how they hand-make every single piece, and how they are last-standing pottery company in Britain to employ this painstaking method of artisan quality. But honestly, they make me happy every single day when I use them.

I mean really, Eton Mess in any other bowl would just look… uninspired. Put it in a gorgeous dish like that, and, voila! You’ve got yourself a gorgeous day with the ladies in the garden. (For those that are infinitely cooler than me, check out their new Black Regal Peacock. It’s edgy and cool and all my hip friends make it look so much cooler than I can. It’s amazing.)

When the shade finally arrived, we had fresh mint tea (my favourite!) and chocolates… because, chocolates with tea/coffee are kind of essential.

The afternoon was lovely, and we all ate until our stomachs filled our throats- which, at this stage, of pregnancy isn’t too hard to do.

And just as soon as I thought I had pushed my American-self on them, they surprised me with a gorgeous evening celebrating our new baby girl just a few days later. I’m not going to lie- sitting there in that room, surrounded by so many Brits who were going out of their comfort zone to love me and our baby- well, it made me emotional. These friends have been through all my baby deliveries with me, and they graciously walk beside me as I fumble through motherhood, and I’m just so so grateful. So yeah, I may have pushed baby showers on my British friends, but they gave me back great friendship, unending prayer, and a blind eye to my obnoxious Americanisms. I’m so grateful!

(As a tiny post script for my own memory- one of my friends from the party is actually at the hospital now delivering her baby! Exciting times… especially, as that means the baby dominos are starting to fall… and I’m the next one in line!)



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

St. Andrews | Afternoon Tea at The Old Course Hotel

On my last work trip before this baby arrives, I headed up the East Coast of Scotland for a long weekend trip to St. Andrews and beyond. While we were headed to some lovely sites outside of St. Andrews, I have to be honest; I was the most excited about this portion of the trip. I absolutely love St. Andrews, and have gone through silly trains of thought that have nearly made me relocate there just for the sheer pleasure of residing in that sweet coastal town in Scotland. (Okay, Tyler wouldn’t really ever let this happen… but if I weren’t married to him, who knows where I’d be.)

Since the group that I’m with is all females, we opted to have afternoon tea at the Old Course Hotel with them. At £20 per person, this is one of the most reasonably priced teas that I know of… and it’s setting in the airy conservatory along the golf course with the sea alongside it is just, well, perfect.

The conservatory is slightly ethereal and the crisp design of the space makes it feel extra special. The actual afternoon tea is really yummy, too. Warm scones, fresh jam, homemade cakes and pastries crowning the plates of little sandwiches just feels perfect. The hotel also boasts some great teas to choose from, too. 

After the tea, my colleague and I tucked into the hotel’s incredible Kohler Spa. Ever since staying at the hotel when I was first pregnant with the twins, I’ve been dreaming of trying out the spa. (It was fully booked when we stayed at the hotel!) So a week in advance, I called in and got us treatments booked for after our afternoon tea. 

The spa experience there was all I hoped it would be- with Kohler owning the hotel, the water fixtures are impeccable. Every aspect is perfectly done- because they have such great water fixtures. Expect fantastic showers, expansive pools and steam rooms, a rooftop hot tub overlooking the golf course and relaxation rooms to sit in all along the way

I had the NEOM pregnancy treatment.  It was a massage + body scrub for 80 minutes. It was only £90, which felt like a steal compared to the prices for luxury hotels in London. The treatment was lovely, and is something I’d definitely recommend to all my pregnant friends. (Find their complete listing of services and treatments here).

After my session, they brought me into the Deep Relaxation Room and tucked me in (literally) on a little reclining chair with a cosy blanket, got me a drink and some nibbles and left me to it. I spent another two hours in the spa- relaxing there, taking a long shower and lingering doing extraneous grooming that I never have time to do at home (like shape my eyebrows and shave above my knee). It was glorious and I felt entirely unrushed. It was how all spa treatments should be, in my opinion.

So while the spa at the Old Course Hotel in St. Andrews is one that is a bit too far away for me to enjoy on a regular basis, I can definitely say that it is completely worth visiting when you make it to St. Andrews. Not only was it one of the best pregnancy massages I’ve had, the entire spa experience made it feel even more enjoyable.


A FEW TIPS 

Book in advance of your stay to avoid disappointment. You can email to book at reservations@oldcoursehotel.co.uk

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Bring a swimsuit. The spa has so many great rooms, pools, sauna/steamroom- you really miss out if you don’t have a swimsuit to enjoy them.

 

Give yourself a good buffer of time before and after your treatment. You’re going to want to enjoy the spa for all it has to offer.


Pregnant and feeling like you need a spa break? (You probably do!) Find my reviews of other great UK spas here:

FOUR SEASONS  |  BAGLIONI HOTEL  |  COWSHED SPA  |  ROSEWOOD LONDON


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*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Overnight Train to Scotland (A Vlog!)

It’s been a long time since I did a vlog… like maybe 3 years, but for some reason, I’ve been in the mood lately to switch gears a bit and add this format to my site. I think because I’m starting to love the idea of falling down the rabbit hole of Youtube channels, it feels right to join the fun.

And besides, I thought for certain things/topics- well, it’s really just a more effective format of communicating.

So a few weeks back, I headed up to Scotland on the Caledonian Sleeper train. It runs nightly from Euston Station to Scotland. It leaves late (like midnight!) and gets in early (like 7am!), so you really have full days wherever you are coming/going from to enjoy without loosing much to travel.

I’ve taken it a few times before, and I’ve always liked it…. And I thought, since so many people seem to want to know what the easiest way to get to Scotland is from London, it may help to just show you what way I prefer. While I’ve done the others (drive, fly, train) many times before… and, to be honest, will continue to do in the future, I can’t help but prefer the sleeper train over the rest. It feels nostalgic and efficient to me… and when I’m not with my tiny kids, it’s the best way for me to get to Scotland.

So without further adieu, my vlog of my overnight sleeper over-party-for-one on the Caledonian Sleeper train. Enjoy!

And make sure to subscribe to my Youtube channel so you don’t miss any of my upcoming adventures. (Hmmm… maybe my “nesting” phase involves creating new blog projects, because I’ve been lining up so many of these for the weeks to come. Don’t miss out on what’s in store!)

Have you traveled between Scotland and London? How did you get there? Weigh in with your experience below and share what you liked/disliked about how you traveled. It’s always so helpful to share your experience, so please do!


Find more of my posts on traveling to Scotland here, and check out my full travel guides to Scotland & Edinburgh.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Pack Your Bags | Isle of Skye

Back in the day, you’d often find the two of us on the Isle of Skye each summer. In the days before kids, we would find ourselves enjoying the long summer days up on the Western coast of Scotland… and, to be honest, we made some really sweet memories. It’s been a few years since we made it up there- but this summer, we came back up for a few days to help with one of our student groups and we got to see just how special this place is with fresh eyes again.

The Isle of Skye isn’t the easiest place to get to if you visit Great Britain. For example. It’s not an easy day-trip from a major city… you’d need at least 4-5 days, in my opinion, to get up there and really make it worth your time. It may not be the best trip for a first-time visitor to the UK, but if you’re a repeat visitor looking for a way to experience this gorgeous country a bit deeper- this may be the perfect spot.


HOW TO GET THERE?

INVERNESS TO KYLE OF LOCHALSH |  The easiest city to use as your base for a trip to the Isle of Skye is Inverness. You could fly easily from London or take the cool Caledonian Sleeper to Inverness. From there, you’ll want to rent a car. (Luckily, there is a Hertz just outside the main train station or rental agencies at the airport to make this breezy.) Now, I don’t normally recommend renting a car if you visit Britain- as trains/public transport are so good- but this is area of the country that just can’t be done without one. The good news is: the roads are so empty, you’ll not feel overly stressed if you are used to US driving.

This route will take you by the famous Eilean Donan Castle that sprawls out over the gorgeous loch. You’ll be able to stop here and see the famous castle that has been pinned over and over again on Pinterest in person. Along the way, you’ll also get to enjoy the scenic lochs. Stop by Fort Augustus for a ride on Loch Ness to spot Nessie, too. If you take this way to Skye, you’ll be able to cross the bridge from the mainland to the southern part of Skye and then drive up.

 -  or  -

FORT WILLIAM & THE JACOBITE TRAIN | If you have a Harry Potter fan in your house, this is the option for you. First, take the overnight train to Fort William… or you can go during the daytime via a bit of a longer route. This tiny town has a cute high street tucked with small eateries and charity shops, but the main draw is the Jacobite steam train that departs every morning. This train, often referred to as the “Harry Potter” train, will chug you up along a scenic route to the coastal town of Mailleg. You’ll cross over the Glenfinnan Aquaduct (from the HP series), and land in Mailleg where you can eat lunch before hopping the short ferry to Armadale, Isle of Skye. 

Once you arrive, you’ll need to coordinate getting a rental car to meet you in Armadale. There are local “car hire agencies” that offer this service, and make it easy for you to arrive by ferry and leave with a newly rented car.


Once you arrive, you’ll have one of the most stunning landscapes to explore. (Find ideas on where to go on my previous Skye posts or my travel guide.) When you’ve had your fill of roaming in the wilderness, taking photos of hairy coos and cuddly lambs along the roadside, and stopping to climb along waterfalls- you can either relax at a country hotel (like the Flodigarry Hotel, where we stayed) or head into the main town of Portree for some socialising. 

The summers on Skye are magical, but be sure that you book early if you plan to visit. (Seriously, at least six months or you’ll find yourself scrambling for something decent.) 


If you're looking for more posts on the Isle of Skye, look here, or find more in my travel guides to the Isle of Skye and Scotland. Or take a trip through our Instagrams under my hashtag #KnightsSkye


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*images original to Aspiring Kennedy