Posts filed under england

Get Out of Town | A Sunday Roast in the Cotswolds

There are some days when the routine of things just makes you feel a bit itchy. Or maybe it’s the appearance of a guest that gives you the motivation to do something a bit beyond ordinary.

Whatever the reason, we felt that urge on Sunday after church. We hopped in the car to head home and decided to hop on the motorway and head out an hour to a tiny pub we love in the Cotswolds.

If you arrive to Beckley (snuggled nearly to Oxford), you’ll find a few streets of dream-like cottages and homes lining its few streets.

Along the main road sits the Abingdon Arms, a pretty pub that was nearly forced to close in 2016. Luckily, the community residents saved it and have turned it into a treasure within the local area.

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With a sprawling garden with grassy areas for kids to explore and enjoy in the winter (complete with fairy doors hidden on the bottom of tree trunks), it’s a total win for a day of great weather lounging in the sun.

But on dark weekends in January, I’ll gladly say it’s still worth the trek for its cosy tables piled up with Sunday roasts because their beef roasts really are the best I’ve ever had.

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My cousin, Austin, is in London for the week so we did our best to set him up for the experience. He imagined it to be like an American pot roast kinda situation walking into the place. Though a roast dinner will vary from what mama made back home (most notably for me, with Yorkshire puddings in lieu of yeast rolls), he likened the afternoon and meal to a warm home-like feel. Though not like my home because I can’t make gravy that good. 

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I forgot to take a picture of the massive plate of “veg” that came alongside this one. Buttered peas, roasted parsnips and carrots.... mmm.

Also, look at Edie! She’s grown so much and is the best little girl. I think I must kiss and call her “the sweetest little lamb” approximately a hundred times each day. I’m smitten with her. 

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So is her dad.... which is nice because they basically share the same face.

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So here you go. One of my favourite little hideaways. I promise if you take a trip out there from London, you won’t be disappointed. Just make sure you call ahead to book a table so you aren’t broken-hearted when you arrive.

The Abingdon Arms | High Street, Beckley OX3 9UU

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Find the rest of my favourite places outside of London on my guide to England here.

Or come along on our getaway to the charming New Forest.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on January 19, 2018 and filed under eat, england, get out of town, day trips.

Bath with Coffee: Mokoko Coffee

Last week, I took a group to Bath for the day. This little town is definitely one of my very favourite day-trips from London. It’s three hours away, so it’s definitely a bit further than I’d like- but if you aren’t up for driving, a train can be an easy way to get there mindlessly.

But I wasn’t going mindlessly, I was planning a class, chatting with students and taking care of a baby on our coach trip there. When we got there, the combination of a long bus trip and early AM start had me sliding into that blur of fatigue. Luckily, our first stop (the Roman baths) was within reach of some coffee. Some might fine coffee, at that. 

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MOKOKO, BATH

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This coffee shop sits just in the Abbey courtyard in Bath- giving it prime real-estate by the city’s two largest attractions: The Roman Baths & the Bath Abbey. Mokoko is, originally, a Bristol-bron shop, but has grown into Bath. 

Expect expertly-made coffee… with all the hipster trimmings. An oat-milk flat white, you say? No worries. They’ve got you covered. (I jest, but that was actually my order. Ha! Takes one to know one, I guess.)

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But what good is cool, delicious coffee if it goes unmatched with something delicious to eat? Good question. Luckily, Mokoko has window(s) full of homemade cakes arranged very alluringly. Try their Hummingbird Cake. It’s just so dang good. Or just go ahead and try them all. You probably won’t regret it.

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But you may regret not snagging one of the picnic tables outside on a sunny day. What a place to sip some coffee, eat some cake, and smooch your baby. Lucky me!

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MOKOKO | 7 Dorchester St, Bath BA1 1SS, UK

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*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on October 6, 2017 and filed under day trips, england, eat, drink, travel.

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.

10 Good Places To Eat in Covent Garden

Since Covent Garden is such a great central spot in many London trips, I thought it might be helpful to put together a list of my favourite places to eat there. After all, there is no more helpful recommendation than one from someone who has actually been there approximately a gazillion times. Luckily for us all, I spend endless hours of my life right there- eating and shopping. As anyone who has been can tell you- you won't be short on options there. But it can be a bit overwhelming... so I've tried to make it easy on you. 

If you're planning a trip to London, find more of my favourite London places in my guides to London & Notting Hill


10 GREAT EATS IN COVENT GARDEN

FLAT IRON | Flat Iron has three locations, and this one just between the Covered Market and Trafalgar Square is the largest. The food is insanely good. (Which is steak, in case the name didn't give it away.) And while the atmosphere is cool and the food is too notch- you'll walk out feeling a bit stunned at how inexpensive the whole experience is. The one caveat: none of the locations take reservations. Your best bet is to go early to get as far ahead in the queue as possible... or plan to put your name on the list and keep yourself entertained elsewhere for a good hour or more while you wait for a table.

DISHOOM | Most Londoners will point you to Dishoom, if you're looking for great Indian food. Not only is the decor very cool, the central setting in Covent Garden ideal for easy access, their famous "Naughty Chai," and outstanding food keep pushing Dishoom into the limelight. On the weekend, opt for something a bit different and head their for one of London's favourite brunches. Think Naan stuffed with bacon, eggs, coriander (read: "cilantro" if you're in the US) and cream cheese.

Photo courtesy of @jeradmichael

Photo courtesy of @jeradmichael

BATTERSEA PIE STATION | I absolutely love pie & mash. While it feels perfectly British, anyone that has a bite totally connects to the concept and taste. I mean, come on: pie crust, tasty fillings, mashed potatoes and gravy? What's hard to like about that? This tiny shop on the basement floor of the covered market puts new meaning to the phrase "Pie Hole." And since I like to give unsolicited advice: my favourite is the goats cheese & sweet potato pie. 

BALTHAZAR CAFE | While many people will know that this is the result of NYC's success in he Balthazar concept, London has still rejoiced with its arrival. To be honest, the actual restaurant always leaves me a bit... meh. (The New York one, too.) But I have serious respect for their neighbouring, tiny cafe that sells incredibly authentic French items. Sandwiches, decadent desserts and casually perfect Viennosserie items. They also have a full coffee/espresso range, so please opt for this quiet stop before wandering into the Starbucks next door.

HOMESLICE IN NEALS YARD | Situated in one of the most photographed corners of London, Neals Yard, Homeslice serves up some killer pizza. Huge slices covered in a variety of toppings (from common to cool. Kale, anyone?) It's a tiny shop, but the real score is getting to sit outside on a tiny perch to enjoy the setting and people watching.

MEATMARKET | While I'm a fan of the obvious "American" approved burger joints crowning Covent Garden, I actually really like MEATMarket. While centrally located by the Covered Market, this in-the-know "dive" has a discreet sitting a level above the hustle and bustle below. This isn't a place you can be healthy, but if you're looking for something good, greasy and guy-approved- head here.

FABRIQUE BAKERY | If you're looking for coffee and a Swedish roll, which I assume most of us are, there's no finer place to get one than Fabrique. (I've blogged about the Notting Hill location before here.)

ROSEWOOD HOTEL | This may technically be across the road from "Covent Garden," but since it's so close and so wonderful- it's making the list. I love meeting friends for tea or a drink here. Whether it's their classy lunch served in the mirror room or an afterword meet up in the very cool Scarves Bar- I'm never disappointed when I venture to this palatial hotel.

MILK TRAIN | Soft serve ice cream that is covered in an endless offering of toppings and nestled in a cloud of brightly-hued candy floss (US read: "cotton candy"). The line can be long, so maybe not best the easiest place to stand around if little ones are in tow.

Photo courtesy of @media_candy

Photo courtesy of @media_candy

CICCHETTI | This restaurant is not only decorated like a gorgeous Mediterranean jewel,  but the food and experience reinforce the feeling. With small, shareable plates of authentic Italian cuisine- this is a great date spot that will both introduce you to amazing new flavours... and still offer a huge range of familiar favourites.  Service is slick and attentive. Make sure you get the full experience and get an espresso or milliner macchiato before you get the bill. Reservations recommended for dinner.

DELAUNAY COUNTER | As the little brother to the glamorous Viennese cafe, The Delaunay, situated next door, this more casual concept might almost fool you into thinking it's somehow less special. But with affordable daily specials like weiner schnitzel, fresh bakery goods like pretzels and Sacher tortes, and cosy warm drinks- you'll soon realise that the Delaunay Counter is one of the gems of Covent Garden. 


Any other Covent Garden classics that you want to add to this list? You can also find a few more area favourites on my Instagram with the hashtag #AspiringLondon.



Posted on May 11, 2017 and filed under eat, england, drink, london, notting hill.

My Notting Hill | Granger & Co.

While this place may be listed in *both* my London and Notting Hill guides, I figured I should respect the old adage that "A picture is worth a thousand words" and give a full, photographed post on Notting Hill's hippest and most delicious breakfast spot, Granger & Co.


Granger & Co. 

When we were viewing flats for our first move to Notting Hill, the estate agent was bragging that the flat we were interested was just around the corner from... well, I didn't know the name he was talking about, but it seemed like a brunch place that was really popular.

Fast-forward a few years and I've got a new baby and family in town visiting us. We want to eat breakfast and head out to... well, who cares. Maybe that place out the front door that is supposed to be so popular? We went, we got a table and we totally flipped out when we ate our food because it was so good. I felt a bit foolish that I had waited so long to try this place (that we realised was called "Granger & Co.") that had a constant queue out the front door.

Now days, it's one of those places Tyler & I go for sweet memories and great food. We meet friends traveling to London there, we took Harrison there during his first week of life, and now we have weekly morning dates there. 

So while it serves up on sentiment for us, it also makes for a killer meal. (And let's be honest, that's what you really want to care about.)

Without further ado, I present everything you need to know before eating at Granger & Co. 


A Local's Guide to Granger & Co. 

1. The ricotta hot cakes with bananas are the most popular dish. (And rightly so, they are insane.) They're as puffy as clouds, covered in a generous pat of honeycomb butter and served with banana & warm syrup.

2. You're also gonna want to get the sweetcorn fritters. With a side of avocado salsa- think chunky guacamole. Don't skip on this. It's important.

3. Get half orders of each of the above! It's not listed on the menu, but it's a local secret. This way, you can also share a raspberry muffin, an acai bowl or a side of their world-famous scrambled eggs. You'll never taste anything fluffier. 

4. Granger & Co. is Bill Granger's restaurant. Bill is from Australia and Australia makes good flat whites. What does all of this mean? Get a flat white and get a great cup of coffee.

 

 

5. If you have little ones, order one of their adorable babyccinos (foamed milk with cocoa powder on top) and a few chocolate chips on the side.

6. Go before 9am... or be prepared to wait. Again, this is not a "just in case," this is an absolute fact. The lines on the weekend are weep-worthy. Plan ahead if you have plans to go the Saturday market on Portobello Road.

7. If you're not up for the wait, you can go up to the bar and order a coffee and grab a pastry for the road. Service is fast & friendly... and you'll have one of the best cups of coffee in the neighbourhood. (Their flat white is only £2.80!) 

8. There are now three locations- Notting Hill (on the famous Westbourne Grove), Kings Cross and Clerkenwell. All three are exceptionally tasty, and the latter two are often less of a scene than the overly popular Notting Hill location.  (Though you'll only catch me taking baby bump pics outside our old flat if you come to the Notting Hill location.) 

Granger & Co. | 175 Westbourne Grove, Notting Hill, London W11 2SB. Open 7AM-12AM.


Find all of my favourite places to eat and shop in Notting Hill in my Travel Guide to the neighbourhood.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on April 7, 2017 and filed under eat, drink, england, london, notting hill.