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.

unnamed-3.jpg
unnamed-4.jpg

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.

unnamed-6.jpg

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 life, love, england, tyler.

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.

unnamed-2.jpg

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, life, love.

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, beauty, eat.

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, life, love, shopping.

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 love, life, kids, home, viola.