Posts filed under everyday living

A Dirty Secret... and Other Confessions of 2 Weeks Alone at Home

A few weeks ago, after our great trip to Italy, Tyler promptly packed up and had to leave for over two weeks in Iceland. I was at home with the kids and feeling a bit daunted by the idea. But you know what, after a few days, it didn’t feel so overwhelming and we were all kind of in a little routine. And, I can’t believe it, but we were actually having fun! (Is that what it feels like to be moving out of the trenches of small children? If so, it’s all I hoped it could be!)

So here’s the point where I let you in on a private little nuance of our marriage: I don’t do laundry. It’s not because “I DO NOT DO LAUNDRY,” but it just kind of ended up being a division of labour we did when we were just married and have kept to it. We both have things we routinely tackle, and laundry is not on my radar. At all. Well, at least the cleaning of it. I’m very good at making things dirty. 

While he was away, the culmination of a month’s worth of summer clothes from holiday and the start of school collided. Laundry had to be done. And I was in that groove of being alone with the kids, so I decided to start my first load of laundry in our washing machine.

It was actually super simple. In fact, it was so simple, I went a little crazy. I did load after load- kinda feeling awesome as I got through another batch and put all the pieces away…. Except I wasn’t love the quality of the laundry.

Now laundry here in England is just different. We have one small machine that does both washing and drying. We don’t enjoy the luxurious fluff cycle that makes clothes super warm and wrinkle-free. We, more or less, have to hang every item on a giant old Victorian rack that hangs above our bathtub for at least half a day to get it fully dry. So I’m used to a bit of wrinkles, crunchiness to our clothes. It’s just the difference between what clothes feel like when I wash them in the US and when I wash them here.

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But these clothes just seemed dingy. They smelled amazing but they didn’t seem to get washed better.

I spot treated some. I opted to put the detergent straight on the clothes. I kept washing and resigned the situation to just a small tariff to life in London.

Well, Tyler got home and life returned to normal, but I was still keen to keep the laundry moving through the house at a rate that would impress the Swiss military. 

One day as I sat perched on the little stairs leading down into the laundry room/tiny cupboard that is built out from the house- I moaned to Tyler that Viola’s school socks were still so gross looking and so dingy. He just shrugged it off and kept hanging up the recently washed items.

Then I asked him if he had a trick for keeping the detergent from building up in the dispenser. He replied, well it won’t ever do that because it’s the pods.

The pods? No, I was using the liquid detergent and I held up the bottle.

He looked at me with confusion. Then he explained to me that I was holding fabric softener. 

And then I explained to him that I had been washing every single load with fabric softener for the past two weeks because that was what I thought was detergent… along with an extra cup of the other brand of fabric softener. And in that moment, all the lovely smelly, dingy clothes that I had been folding and smugly putting away suddenly made so much more sense. (In my defence, Tyler agrees that it is really poorly marked on the outside and is pretty confusing. It says very small on the back that it is fabric softener, but you have to be looking for it.)

I tossed everything back in the wash, tucked a pod at the bottom and restarted the load and haven’t stopped rolling my eyes at myself since. But hopefully, it makes you laugh and realise that each and every one of you is probably better at laundry than I am.. and to let you know that the reason I haven’t posted in a while is because I’ve been so busy doing domestic skills at low-caliber.

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Anyone else have a great story of totally missing the mark like this? I’m really hoping to get some other votes of over-confidence here, so I’m gonna make this a competition. The winner of the funniest story gets a $10 Starbucks gift card. (I’ll award it on Friday.) 

Don’t leave me out to dry (pun intended) on this one….



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Chicken Pox with Kids | A Memoir

The other week, I posted what I will fondly call “The Instagram Heard Round The World.” Okay, not really-but it did get a huge reaction. It was a post about my girls having chicken pox recently in our house.

While many of us have memories of having chicken pox, most of my readers and friends in the US now vaccinate their children against it. So it’s a bit of a thing lost to the past. Well, amigos, I’m here to tell you, the chicken pox is alive in well here in England where it is not included in the regular vaccine schedule for children and still a regular part of growing up here. (Just if you are curious- yes, we vaccinate! And yes, I think it’s very important to vaccinate!)

Viola woke up in spots one sunny Monday morning… the day that Tyler left town for a trip to Serbia. Wheee. I was a bit nervous of the days ahead, but her case actually was really mild and she really only had about 100+ spots throughout her case of it. She wasn’t super itchy and enjoyed the extra time off school (It came conveniently after a bank holiday.) We spent the week playing around the house, sneaking out early in cabs to play in parks and fountains before they got crowded and dotting calamine on her while counting her spots.

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It was no big deal. Chicken pox is kinda fun, I thought.

Then on Saturday, Edie woke up with a couple of bumps on her head just as we were setting up for Harrison’s birthday party. I texted our guests to warn them that I thought she *might* have it, and carried on getting things ready. My parents arrived just in time to have the party (en route for a trip to Africa), and more spots appeared. She wasn’t miserable, so I was thinking we were going to have another mild case to muddle through and kept checking Harrison for any signs of bumps. 

The next day, Edie had a good run of the pox. They were all over her chest and spotted around her head. I kept saying that I wasn’t sure if she had enough to get a “good case” of it, to insure she had immunity. (I had read and heard that if you don’t get enough, you can get it again later? Who knows.) Well, don’t worry- by the end of the second day, the poor baby was popping them out faster than a Kardashian can with Instagrams. When she woke up on Monday, she was totally covered. It was actually really horrible looking.

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She would use her little baby hands to rub her head and try to itch the pox there. It was like watching a teddy bear try to rub his head- the saddest and cutest thing you’ve ever seen.

On Tuesday, some of the spots were getting red and warm. After googling a bit, I decided to take her to the doctor to make sure they weren’t infected. (Thanks, Google, for freaking me out!) My doctor was full, so they told me to take her to the A&E (our version of the ER) since she was still little.

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At the hospital, we were whisked into a private room to avoid getting anyone else exposed and had some lovely doctors come check on her. She was fine, just had a nasty case of it and we were sent home to watch things in case they progressed. Luckily, they didn’t, but I was due to travel to Paris that night and decided to stay home with her instead. But what’s a girl to do when her baby looks like a raspberry muffin? Tyler took over for me and led our group there for the weekend while I stayed home with  the kids.  (Ouch, that was probably the toughest bit of going through the chicken pox for me, if I’m honest.)

But the days rolled on. The pox turned to scabs, we ventured out in public and freaked people out with our polka-dot baby, but were happy to finally get some fresh air and be able to get out of the house together after a few weeks stuck inside.

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It’s now been three weeks since she got it, so Harrison has somehow now not caught it from either sister… and resisted getting it last spring when he played with his two very infected friends. (I was hoping to get them through it before the baby arrived, to no luck.) Perhaps he’s one of those strange/lucky people who are immune to it? I don’t know… but I’m grateful they are done with it! Phew. 

Go hug your moms and tell them thank you for the oatmeal baths, the popsicles in your undies and their long days spent at home if/when you had it. They were showing big love for your little self!

Posted on June 18, 2018 and filed under family, kids, everyday living.

On Fancy Breakfasts and Unzipped Dresses

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This morning I went to a gorgeous brunch for the debut of a sweet new children’s clothing range from the British high street fixture, White Stuff

It was being held in one of London’s prettiest venues (Spring at Somerset House), and I rallied for the early morning alarm time to get kids ready for the day before running out, too.

Well the event did not disappoint. The place was perfect, the new line was well-designed and at an approachable price point (my fav combo), and the company was so lovely. 

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As the morning kicked off and people arrived, a few of us grazed the racks to get a peek of the new collection, snapped pics of the restaurant in its morning stillness, and sipped on juice so fresh & virtuous it would have made Gwyneth Paltrow proud.

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Before we were seated to eat, I passed a server and she glanced at me and then squinted at me with a bit of a strangeness to it. Then she leaned in and said, “Um, I’m sorry, but your dress is unhooked at the collar.”

Haha- whoops. Since it has an open back, it basically means my navy bra was flowing and showing as I walked around. Im not really sure when it happened- maybe when I took off my coat? But I was so grateful that she pushed through feeling weird, telling me and, even more impressive, actually doing the clasp for me to make sure it was fixed.

Oh man. That would have horrified me a few years ago... but these days, nah. Maybe that’s just what maturity does for you. And if that’s the case, I’m gonna have the best time at parties in my older years because I have a feeling a few more decades of perspective will only make me care less and less about little things like that.

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What’s your normal response to seeing something awkward like that? Food in a colleague’s teeth after lunch? A chunk of fuzz placed prominently on the bum of your uncle’s trousers? A random clump of hair that’s flopping out of place in a way you know a friend didn’t intend?

Honestly, I’m probably fifty/fifty.... Always trying to determine the greater good of wanting to be helpful but not embarrass someone while doing it. 

What about you? What’s your standard response in those moments? Have you had anyone save you in a helpful way that you’d like to share?


In case you're more interested in dressing your little ones than dressing half-dressed mums at work events (ha!),

check out the sweet new Stuff & Wonder range from White Stuff.


 

Find other great London spots to eat here in my London travel guide.

 



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

On the Kindness of Strangers

Recently, I read (somewhere where I can’t remember) that you can’t be both wise and young. If you’re young, you don’t have the life experience to be wise. Wisdom only comes with age. Thinking you know it all at a young age leads to cynicism- which isn’t wisdom at all. In fact, the piece said, cynical people are actually fools.

Here’s a confession: I have a tendency to be cynical. It’s a gross attribute I’ve acquired in adulthood and I really dislike it about myself. I can’t tell if it’s from moving to Britain where cynicism runs as wide as the Thames or the parting gift I took with me from my first job... but it doesn’t really matter where it came from, it’s my own problem.

Today, I was in the tube home, trekking across London with a heavy baby and groceries. She was waking up and fussy, and it wasn’t a dream scenario. I started to get grumbly about the situation, and decided to try and refocus on what was making today good... rather than mentally jumping down the Rabbit Hole of frustration.

So I started thinking about all the kind people that had gone out of there way today- for my benefit. The nice man on the tube that moved away from the wall so I could set down my bags and lean against it. The sweet lady who offered to help me if I  needed anything as Edie got upset. The nice girl who helped me check out at Marks & Spencer. I realised I’d not grabbed a bottle of water for the journey home and she ran across the store for me to get it. The handsome husband of mine who picked me up from the tube station because it was really cold out.

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Okay, so no grand gestures- but the coziness of the collective people doing small things for others. And me getting to the recipient of their kindness. It was just a nice reminder that what we focus on is, often, our choice. 

Things are tough. I know they are, you know they are... but things (and people) can also be really good. And I’m trying to find the joy in that rather than the shortcomings of the people and things around me.

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Do you have any good practices for choosing joy in your daily routine? I’d love to hear them, if so. I think it’s something we (read: I) could use a lot more of!



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on November 17, 2017 and filed under everyday living.

What I (Actually) Wore

A few years ago, I read an article that discussed how highly successful people repeated the same basic behaviours in every day situations in order to save their time and eliminate the need for making a decision. This might be eating the exact same thing for breakfast and lunch everyday to reduce the amount of time choosing what sounds good or where you can get to in the timeframe available. It also was present in the things that they liked to enjoy for entertainment- no skipping around and wasting leisure time. Have your show/sport/hobby and commit to it.

But the area that stood out to me was that they wore the same thing everyday. Brilliant minds like Mark Zuckerburg, Steve Jobs, Queen Elizabeth, they all stick to one look that suits them and keeps life fuss free. 

When I read the article, Harrison was tiny and I was still in denial that I could actually have a healthy marriage, raise little kids, work, be involved with church, maintain a social life and look awesome while doing it.

Ha. Zuckerburg, you only wish you had it so easy. (Joking, joking.)

I started dreading finding clothes to wear because it just felt like SUCH a hassle everyday. When I read that article, the idea of a uniform really appealed to me. Taking that internal battle away from me seemed like a brilliant option for the stage of life I was in, and, slowly, I filtered out my closest to an easy arsenal of similar styles. 

The thing is, I’m at an age where I know what looks best on me and what works for all the various roles that I have to play. While I do look great in heels, they just don’t transcend from office to school-pick up to running to the store for butter. I love cute empire-waisted dresses, but attempting to feed a baby on a train in one of those may get you arrested. But I can cross over between most of those moments in my day in black skinny jeans, nice flats, a solid knit shirt and my favourite long-lasting red lipstick.

And so I present to you- my uniform. I hesitate to say “capsule wardrobe” because, the truth is, I have a closet busting with the stuff. But the style is, for the most part, the same. I do have some other items tucked away in there for special occasions… but for the most part, I’ve narrowed down what works for me at this point in my life. (And I love not doubting myself when I get dressed!)

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

BLACK SKINNY JEANS | I have several pairs of black skinny jeans. I have a couple from Primark (my first pair from here is what got me into black skinny jeans!), but my favourite for work and social events are the Grace from ALLSAINTS. They’re £98, so not cheap- but definitely a better deal than many others. And I don’t worry about them not being available from season to season.

LONG COATS | The mixture between fitting my body and being what Parisian women wear make this my favourite type of coat. I have black, navy, chocolate & camel. I can dress them up or down, and they cover my bum… which is, obviously, the most important reason I wear them.

LONG TANKS | Speaking of covering my bum, I wear long tanks under every single shirt. I can’t imagine the day when these are no longer in my repitore…. But with little kids pulling on me, writing on white boards and nursing babies, this is the easiest way to cover my tummy up until I can get back to the gym… when I’m in my forties. (You’re welcome, general public.)

SHOES | I have really dialed down my shoe game, but it makes it easy to pick what to wear based on where I’m going? Night out? Tan suede Miu Miu pumps. Work or social event: wine Lanvin flats or Pretty Ballerina leopard flats. Park with kids? Slip-on converse. Work travel? Suede ankle boots or fancy trainers.

SOLID TOPS | I wear solid, long-sleeved shirts over my tanks. My torso is exceptionally long, so I really love the soft, solid bamboo range that PIKO makes. I also wear black & white stripes.

SWEATERS | Who can resist a good jumper? (Read: “sweater”) Not this girl. I like the solid colours with subtle patterns in the weaving, I like them oversized, I also like them short with a button-down underneath them.

SCARF | I always have a scarf on me or in my bag. I like a bluish-grey one I bought years ago (like this), my leopard one that matches everything (like this) or my camel coloured one that has a hole from a moth that desperately needs replacing. Between London, Paris & Scotland- I always seem to need one, and it makes feeding in public so discreet. It’s all I’ve ever used and works like a charm. My favourite are big, lightweight ones that can wrap around.

MAKEUP | I’ve actually got a post coming about what I keep in my makeup bag, but the main thing for me is black eyeliner, mascara & something for my lips. If I’m feeling low-key, I wear this from L’Oreal, if I’m feeling professional I wear this long-lasting mauve from MAC, and if I’m feeling particularly fancy or grotty- red lipstick. Forget under-eye concealer, that stuff covers exhaustion better than anything I know.


So there you have it. My basic wardrobe essentials. Do you feel like you have your look narrowed down, or do you still like exploring and changing your looks? If you do, come find me in a few years when life slows down and get me up to speed with what’s new. Ha!



Posted on November 6, 2017 and filed under shopping, everyday living, what to pack.

Having an Au Pair - A Vlog!

Well, here we go. Life and work have officially merged with the start of a new semester. I make a weekly grocery order that coordinates with a color-coordinated google doc of our weekly schedule with everyone person in a different colour, where they will be doing what at what hour, and then all the meals we will eat for the day prescribed days in advance. 

I wake up, read the sheet like a script and go!

Tyler and I are juggling a busy schedule and trying to keep things as normal and steady as we can at home for the kids. 

It’s not easy, but we’re doing it.

As I mentioned earlier, we have an au pair who helps keep us functioning in those moments when our schedules totally clash or there’s not a way for either of us to be at home. We do our best to take and pickup Viola from school and have one of us at home with Harrison as much as we can during the day, but… we both work and that’s not always something that we can pull off.

Luckily, we have a sweet au pair that is kind and so helpful! Since so many of my friends were so new to the idea of an au pair (and hey, I was, too, before we hired one!), I thought it would be helpful to do a vlog where I could answer questions people may have about the whole process. People submitted some great questions and I’ve got the final video now up. Be warned: It’s not one of my shorter videos… but then again, there were a lot of questions people asked! The questions ranged from standard “Do you have to cook for them?” all the way to “Can I walk around naked if they live with us?” Ha! And I get vomited on in the video, so, you know… it just took some time to get all the essential moments in the final cut,

Anyway, you can check it out below. (Or here, if you’re on a device that won’t show the video directly.)

AUPAIRWORLD.COM | This is the website we found our au pair through. It takes time, but you can avoid agency fees by interviewing and contacting candidates yourself. (Image e-harmony… but for au pairs and families. You shop their profiles, they shop yours.)

AUPAIRAMERICA.COM | If you live in the US, this is a reputable company that can help connect you to potential au pairs and offer additional services to make the process easier.


Did you like the baby vomit? No homemade video is complete without some. (That’s what I’m telling myself, at least.) Still feeling curious? Please leave any other comments or questions below and I’ll do my best to follow up in the comments!


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*images and video original to Aspiring Kennedy

(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

 

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.

Just Another Manic (and Pretty) Monday

Hello from a big bed at 2:19 in the afternoon. Harrison had a weird virus where he had a fever for five days... and then graciously passed it along to his sister. I had high hopes it would be chicken pox, because the timing would be pretty easy and it had been circling our church. But alas, we just got the nasties and have been, more or less, staying inside for the past two weeks.

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C'est la vie! It could be worse, and, if I'm honest, it has perks. Like not wearing real clothes. Or watching so, so many movies. Or not wearing real clothes. Wait, did I say that already?

After a harsh early wake-up this morning, I was feeling snappy where I begrudgingly picked up the house in a fury. (Sorry, Ty, you really are the wind beneath my wings.) But after a few hours out of the house for a coffee date and peek at the Lulu & Nat pop-up, life actually seems pretty sweet. Perspective, people. It's a gracious gift from God.

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I came home to a clean house where the kids are happy, they have food and I have a nice man repeatedly putting up with my floundering through motherhood.

Just this morning, my friend Amber & I were talking about how we once judged moms for "letting themselves go" when they had kids... and how we realise now, it's not letting themselves go. It's, simply, letting go. Knowing that every moment isn't going to be perfect, and you can't keep it all perfect all the time.

So maybe today you feel like one area of life isn't as pretty as it maybe once was or your friend makes it seem. It could be your squidgy body, your dirty house that always seems chaotic because it is, or the pathetic count of unread text messages that remind you of how your disconnected social life is, or that you haven't had a conversation with your husband that didn't revolve around kids, housework or what to watch on Netflix in ages.

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Just know... you're not alone. And that what you're doing is worth it. Those opportunities can (and, I really think will) come back. It just won't be for a while. Just take a deep breath, let go, and make a conscious trade off for living in the crazy, physical today of raising little kids.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on April 25, 2017 and filed under kids, everyday living, home style.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

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

Free Tutorial | The Perfect English Scones

This week, all of my students came over to our house for a special guest lecturer: Geraldine. Now, you may not know Geraldine- but for those of us that are lucky enough to know her, you'll know she is an amazing organiser... and a willing partaker in sweets.

Many of my favourite memories with her involve wandering the streets of Italy in search of a(nother) cup of gelato or eating her pavlova in the garden after Sunday lunch, but... my favourite memory has to be one rainy day when Viola was tiny. Geraldine had invited me over and we both arrived to her house a bit drippy from the rain. As I peeled off wet layers off us and sat Viola on the carpet to play, Geraldine walked in from the kitchen with a small mountain of hot scones, mugs of tea and small bowls of clotted cream and jam. It was a simple moment that was so lovely and warm.

And now, I force her to recreate it for my students. That'll teach her to be less charming. Ha! :)

The day was perfect- her in her Cath Kidston apron and matching oven mitt, her cute authoritative statements on scones as someone from Cornwall ("scone" as in gone, and not "scone" as in stone), and watching her wander from group to group helping them roll out the dough to the perfect height before cutting.

And whaddaya know? The scones came out perfect- just like they do every time.

And Geraldine had Viola and Harrison following her every move... just like they do every time, too.

If you're looking for a classic -and simple!- scone recipe, here's Geraldine's recipe. What my students pay for in credit hours, you get for free. (Just pay me back in an invite when you make them, please?)


Scones

Ingredients: 

  • 225 g/8 oz of self-raising flour

  • pinch of salt

  • 55 g/2 oz butter

  • 25 g/1 oz caster sugar (or standard white sugar in U.S.)

  • 150 ml/5fl oz milk

  • milk to glaze

Method: 

  • Heat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7. Lightly grease a baking sheet.

  • Mix together the flour and salt and rub in the butter.

  • Stir in the Sugar and then the milk to get a soft dough.

  • Turn on to a floured work surface and knead very lightly. Pat out to a round 2cm/0.75in thick. Use a 5cm/2in cutter to stamp out rounds and place on a baking sheet. Lightly knead together the rest of the dough and stamp out more scones to use it all up. 

  • Brush the tops of the scones with milk.

  • Bake for 12-15 minutes until well risen and golden.

  • Cool on a wire rack and serve with butter and good Jam and maybe some clotted cream. 




*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

My London | Falling for St. James

I'm not sure what it is about fall in England, but it just feels so homey and .... mine. Maybe it's because it's a city that is shared it hoards of tourist for so much of the year, that these quiet months in between make it feel like you have it all to yourself.

Or maybe it's because we first moved to England at this time of year, and it all feels so nostalgic and sweet.

Whatever it is... I love it. I love the coats. I love the long dinners in pubs. I love the mugs of hot tea that suddenly feel imperative throughout the day. I love it!

On Saturday, we left Parliament where our group was touring and headed home via St James Park. After realising we hadn't had lunch yet, we grabbed a couple of sandwiches and bags of chips/crisps from the snack stand and headed to have an impromptu picnic.

We rented two of the iconic green & white striped chairs (for the first time ever, actually!) and had an hour of just enjoying the break together. To our surprise, the chairs were really inexpensive to rent- only £1.60 an hour. Worth every penny!

 

With Hyde Park and Regents Park being so BIG, I often forget what great spots St James and Green Park are. Both are the perfect little retreats for a quick break on a busy day in the city.

 

But the best part of the day was definitely when I was looking back through my phone of the pictures we took. Apparently, monkey see, monkey do! Viola & Harrison are taking the Knight kissing pics to the next level. Ha!

 

Find all my favourite places in London in my travel guide here.

And if you want to dress for fall like a Brit, here are some pieces that work for cosy days wandering in small villages or a crisp mornings shopping in South Kensington : 



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Weak-Night Cooking

One of our friends recently joked that I don't cook... I was a bit confused. What? Me? When I'm busy with a semester, I am eating out a lot because, well, I have to eat out. I'm just not home very often. When life is a bit slower, I love to try new things and scour magazines for new ideas. Not only do I enjoy it, but let's be honest- it's way cheaper and healthier than eating out all the time. And with little kids, it's way less hassle.

But....  right now it is not slow. We are in the first bit of a new semester and dinners at home are the last thing on my list of a million things to do each day. The only problem is... it's the first thing anyone else asks me when I get home. "What's for dinner?!"

I do a few things to keep afloat in these moments. Hopefully, I'll share my moves with you and you, in return, can give me some winning-no-brain-required-recipes!

1. WRITE IT DOWN | This one is so obvious... but only if you're actually doing it. Otherwise, you think you it doesn't make a difference. It does! I plan out every meal my family eats for the week on Sunday night. So boring, but so necessary. I meal plan and then I order it all on Ocado. (I'm a big fan of Ocado.)

I used to love wandering through the grocery stores here. Well, actually, I still do. I just have other things to do, so the last thing I want to do is run out to Tesco at 6:15 to buy French mustard or whatever other random ingredient I don't have. I schedule my delivery slot (always on Wednesday, because it's free that day) and have it all there and ready to cook when I walk in the door.

2. STICK WITH WHAT WORKS | Trying new things is so fun, and way easier the more you've cooked. With that said, when I'm busy- we are sticking to a shortlist of 10-15 things. I cook things that I'm very comfortable with and don't expend mental energy on daunting steps like braising and pickling. (I know my limits.)

3, TWICE IS NICE | My poor mother. I used to not eat leftovers. Gross. I only wanted "fresh food." These days, I live off of them. When I cook, I plan for the meal to feed us twice for dinner... or at least dinne + two days of lunches for whoever is home. There is little better than eating a delicious homemade meal... that you didn't actually have to spend anytime on.

4. SHARE THE LOVE | Sure life is busy, but if I'm meal planning- I try to plan to have guests over to share it with us. Or, I make extra and give it to our neighbors. (We know them, it's not creepy.)  I'm not making individual filets, so the extra price is nominal and the gesture is always so appreciated. I think that it's easy for us to feel self-centered when life gets hectic. It's a good push for me to think outward when what I really want to do is be inward. (It's so hard, isn't it?!)

5. FREEZE OUT | And for nights when you get home and everyone meets you at the door with gum in their hair and crying? Drag that bag of frozen chicken fingers out of the bottom drawer of the freezer, hold you head high knowing that you do the best you can.... and get out the peanut butter to start getting that gum out.

A few of my weekly recipes are from the links below. I'd love for you to post up your favorites, too!

 

-Creamy Feta Chicken with Peppers & Rice (A Diary of Lovely)

- Chicken Stew with Biscuits (Ina Garten)

- Honey Pecan Salmon (Aspiring Kennedy)

 




 

*images by noah darnell original to aspiring kennedy

 

Posted on September 26, 2016 and filed under eat, recipe, everyday living, work life.

iPhone (un)Operating System

Half-way through our trip to Italy, my phone stopped working. It wouldn't read the touch sensor for a day or so at a time- making it impossible to get into. I put up with it for a few more weeks (because I didn't have time to send it in to get repaired), and now I'm a month into a phoneless life and I have to say.... it is so nice.

While I wait, I have a £5 mobile phone. The tiny screen has a call log, contacts book, settings and game (singular- just one pathetic little game). It's so basic, and it has been a welcome detox from mindlessly scrolling social media and updating my inbox.

 

And all those helpful little apps? Whadday know- I can still login to my bank on my laptop and get everything done that I need as well as all the various functions that I spend clicking away at on my phone.

The only downside is that I never have a camera with me without my iPhone. I missed Viola's first day of school. I look at Harry's golden curls in the afternoon sunlight and realize that I only have my memories from sitting on the couch together, rather than a photo burst of them. So you know... pros and cons.

 

It's a real struggle to stay present- especially in the presence with my kids. In those quiet moments of sitting around the kitchen table or as they tinker with toys, I find myself constantly flicking back and forth between them and my phone.

I have the new iPhone 7 headed my way by the end of the month, and I'm already cringing at the bad habits that I'll fall back into.

How do you keep a safe distance from your phone usesage? My friend recommend the MOMENT app, which was a embarrassing yet needed look at how much I'm on my phone each day. (Or you could always go cold turkey and swap out for a basic cell phone. It's like a crash diet, and I have a feeling you may totally love it, too.)

 



 

*images by Ashel Parsons for Aspiring Kennedy

 

 

Posted on September 19, 2016 and filed under kids, iceland, travel, everyday living.

Under The Tuscan Sun... and Just By The Olive Trees

When I was 19, I spent a semester in Italy. Just outside of Florence on a hillside of a sleepy suburb in a 15th century villa. In this villa, we had class, we had little Italian women cook for us and we stayed up way too long every night. I'm not sure anyone can spend three months at that villa and not have those moments stay with them forever. There really is something magical about "the villa," and I am so glad that I got to share it with my family this summer.

While we were there, my friend Grant snapped some pictures of us around the house. He, literally, took out his camera and starting clicking away after breakfast one day. (And from the lack of Tyler and/or group photos, you'll see that it was so casual that he went in to change out the laundry about two minutes into taking pictures and we had given up by the time he had come back out.)

I have to say, I love them. Not just because I can now appreciate the gift of having us all four in the same photo... but especially so because they're a reminder of a normal day that made up this gorgeous holiday.

There are so many memories that I have from the villa- visiting with my family in high school, arriving with my best friend and a huge suitcase to live out of for the spring whilst in college, saying goodnight to friends in the driveway during the summers in college, eating lunch with Tyler as newlyweds in the dining room, laughing on the terrace with Oxford friends after graduation, and now... well, with my sweet babies toddling around the yard.

 

I love Florence and the lifelong friends that we have there... and, well, now I have some pictures to add to the others we already love from this same special place.

 



 

*images by Grant Schol

 

Posted on September 9, 2016 and filed under italy, kids, family, everyday living, florence.

All is Wright With The World.

 

I often hear bloggers say that "blogging is dead." With social media offering so much variety, people feel that blogs are a dying art. Maybe that's true, but I think we (as bloggers) can't lay all the blame on social media's popularity. I think part of it comes with how bloggers have changed since their starting days.

And so, maybe blogging is dying. Maybe it isn't. But I want to post a post that feels like one I might have posted a few years back.... back before things were so glossy and blog posts all seemed perfect. It isn't part of a series. It isn't sponsored. It has no purpose other than sharing a small part of my day that was great.

And by great, I mean.... fresh-warm-baked-foccacia-the-size-of-small-tires great.

 

 

I bought this little packet on Ocado (delivered groceries! 0.99!) because it had great reviews. To be honest, I wondered if I would ever get around to actually making it because, well, it seemed ambitious even if it was a mix.

 

 

But Tyler got up with the kids this morning letting me sleep for 12 hours in the first time in.... I honestly don't know. I woke up and felt like I could do something miraculous.... And since I'm in no shape for a physical endeavor, I opted for baking. It ended up being so fun and rewarding. Thank you, Wrights Baking, for making me feel like a winner today.

 

 

It was just the right amount of easy + homemaker to make me super satisified..... and the whole process turned out three pans of foccacia bread. So, yeah, we can say the return on investment was high.

 

 

Honestly, I have no idea why I am even posting this... is it really noteworthy to remember making bread from a mix? Not really, but here's the truth: a lot of days we are just hustling to keep it all together. So, when a day comes along, where I feel totally rested, my kids are being great and I actually suceed at a culinary attempt- I guess it feels like a bigger deal than it is.

 

 

So here's to celebrating the little things... and little ones, too. In the midst of craziness, I need to remember to celebrate them, too!

 



 

*images original to aspiring kennedy

 

Posted on August 2, 2016 and filed under eat, kids, everyday living, home style.

Our Home | Smart Spaces & Uncommon Goods

 

Every night, Tyler and I climb into bed and sigh... "I LOVE OUR NEW HOUSE." It's true. I can't believe how much our quality of life has improved with a bit more space. The exta two stops on the Central Line are worth it. While I thought I would forever leave a piece of me in Notting Hill, I can confidently say.... I did not. It's all here with me in our new house, and both me and my in-tact heart couldn't be happier.

There's a huge long story about our house and how we found it, but... I'll save that for another day with a bigger selection of pictures to show you. I was prompted by a really neat company, Uncommon Goods, to share a few peeks out our home. Uncommon Goods has really quirky and unique gifts and, well, uncommon items. But what I really like about them is that they have a great ethos- supporting fair employee wages and benefits and also donating a portion of their sales to your choice of charities. Cool, right? (Plus, I also kinda love their selection of personalized gifts for anniversaries. You'll see what I mean!)

So today, I'm sharing a share a few peeks at our new digs and some of the special things inside them that make it feel ours. So while it's not an entire home tour, how about this.... a handul of little nooks and things that I love in our new home.

 


 

EN-SUITE BATHROOM

I've always rolled my eyes at people's obsessions with "en-suite" bathrooms on the home shows here. I mean, is it really so hard to leave your bedroom to use the bathroom? Well, we lucked out with one here. I can't tell you the gift that having an exta bathroom has given to our marriage. We have never lived in a place with more than one tiny bathroom. It's even converted me to love showers more than baths, which has never been the case until this glorious little nook of hygiene appeared.

 

 

OLD-FASHIONED FOOTED TUB

Okay, I do prefer the shower on the daily routine... BUT, when I can score an hour to sit in this bobsled-esque tub downstairs, I feel like the luckiest woman alive. Toss in some rosewater and powdered milk and it's a dreamiest, steamiest milk bath there is. (Warning: All guests of our home will have a rose milk bath forced upon them. It's my new love language.)

Plus, bathing the kids in it everynight is one of the prettiest and calmest times of my day.

 

 

THE GARDEN

It may be the size of a pickup truck, but the mental freedom that arrives with being about to go outside without getting everyone dressed and pushed out a park? AMAZING. I sit out there sans decent clothing with a popsicle and music blaring as much as possible.

My kids are quickly learning from my example, too.

chairs, amazon

 

 

THE PLAYROOM

Some might call this an office. Others might call it a small bedroom. We call it the playroom. It could have been Harrison's room, but we decided to keep the kids in the same space... and, more importantly, their toys in another (enclosed/hideable) space. Harrison wakes up early, so each morning I haul him there, coffee in hand, and perch on the sofa while he plays. On the wall are pictures from places we have lived and loved. The pillows follow suit with a Union Jack and two embroidered State pillows that I really love. (Again, Uncommon Goods!)

couch, ASDA | throw, peacock alley | state cushions, uncommon goods

 

 

ALL AROUND THE TABLE

I think the thing that I was the MOST excited about after we signed for this house was the dining room. You see, we have been living with small dinettes shoved into our living rooms as "breakfast nooks" for the past 5 years. They were awkward and the proximity of baby food debris to the living space was always a messy chore. Now, the mess is still there- but just, you know, in a place where it should be.

In the midst of being overwhelmed with the prices of dining tables, I stumbled upon a carpenter in Cambridge who had some great tables on sale. I even picked out the Farrow & Ball paint color and had him deliver it to me for £300. Can you believe that? It's perfect for the space. The chairs I got from Amazon, 8 of them for £140, but they seem to be a tiny bit higher priced for the US.

I didn't have any dishes here (they had always been provided in our past rentals), so I ordered a basic white set for 8 people from Gilt for only $120 (including international shipping). I think they fill out the room in a really easy way.

table, the farmhouse workshop | chairs, amazon | vase, west elm | dishes, gilt group | wall art, monoqi

 

OPEN SHELVES IN THE KITCHEN

I'm not sure why it is so gratifying to be able to see your dry goods lined up on a shelf... but, what can I say? It is. Call me a cliche, but a happy one. It feels so nice to see the staples right there without having to dig around in the back of our cabinets.

glasses, bodum | bird vase, uncommon goods

 

*       *       *

 

To be honest, as I've been writing this, I've been thinking of so many other things that I could put on this list... but I'm gonna stop here. I'm gonna quit while I'm ahead. Except for this one little tiny PSA: If you're living in a TINY urban space (especially with kids or pets) and it's making you crazy, consider moving out just a bit. We are 10 minutes from the door of our old flat, and, yet, our world is so changed. I still feel totally connected to the heart of London, and, in some ways, even more so.

 

Our neighbors came and introduced themselves, we can actually get into great schools and the list goes on.... I encourage you to let loose of the idea of what you address you think you need to really experience "London" and see what you might get in return!

 



 

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

*this post was sponsored by Uncommon Goods.

 

 

Posted on July 6, 2016 and filed under everyday living, home style, shopping.

Summer Recipe | Garlicky Mushroom Bruschetta

 

I'm trying hard to do a few things different to capitalize on this summer. First, eat as many meals I can outdoors. After a long winter, I crave sunny days outside eating on a patio. My recent attitude is that if it is even the slightest bit of a nice day- the table and chairs get shoved outside and so does mealtime.

The second thing that I am trying to do is put less meat on our weekly rotation. No huge reasons for that other than looking for light options that bring a bit of variance to what we eat while keeping grocery bills down.

Summer seems like a great time to bring in other forms of non-meat substance into mealtime. I've been tossing chickpeas into salads, slathering nut butters on pretty much every breakfast item I can think of and now have begun to foray into mushrooms. They're so affordable, so healthy (1 of your 5 a day!), versatile enough to be added to a slew of recipes that I already make... and they soak up flavor like a boss. :)

For a little afternoon tea out in the park with my friend, Camille, I made a really delicious mushroom bruschetta in lieu of the standard soggy sandwich selections. The combination of flavors was totally kicking- think garlic, lemon and lots of fresh parsley. Perfect for summer. (I got the idea from this site, Just Add Mushrooms, which, as the name implies, is a pretty great starting point for mushroom-centric recipes.)

 

And the verdict? Well, we ate every last bit of them in an embarassing amount of time.... so I guess that means we liked them. The contrast of the crunchy sourdough with the sautéed mushrooms on top was just lovely, and it's going to be something that I recreate throughout the summer as it was so affordable and so cheap. And in the spirit of summer outdoor dining, I'm sharing the recipe below. Enjoy!

 


GARLICKY MUSHROOM BRUSCHETTA

SERVES 4 | Prep & Cook Time: 10 Minutes

 

INGREDIENTS

Brown & white button mushrooms (200gm packets of each)

1 lemon

A small handful of flat-leaf parsley (fresh or frozen)

Minced garlic (3 cloves or 1 tablespoon of jarred garlic)

1 loaf of fresh sourdough bread, sliced

Olive oil

Salt & pepper

 

METHOD

Chop your mushrooms up. This doesn't need to be exact, but I'd recommend smaller pieces if you're cooking with children in mind.

Put some olive oil in your pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and mushrooms. Sautee for about 5 minutes until the mushrooms are soft and have browned.

 

While your mushrooms are cooking, toss your bread into the oven for a couple of minutes. Don't leave them too long, because you won't want them too crunchy. Just a nice, golden toast for added contrast in texture.

 Squeeze half of your lemon over the mushrooms. Add the parlsey in. Sprinkle with salt & pepper.

With the remaining half of your lemon, slice a few pieces and lay them over the mixture while it rest. This will just give them an extra little kick of flavor.

 

 

And after that? Well you're done. You can either pack these up and take them out for a picnic or pile the mushrooms on your hot toast and eat them right away. You really can't go wrong.


 

Thanks for everyone's suggestions on Instagram for good (and mayo-less) picnic recipes. The next item that is on my mind is roasted veggies tossed with quinoa, olive oil & lemon- what a great idea! What's your go-to picnic item?

 

Looking for more ideas on how to bring mushrooms to your summer party? Follow along with the #MTMSummer campaign on Twitter and Facebook for recipes and seasonal inspiration.

 


FOLLOW ASPIRING KENNEDY ON BLOGLOVIN


 

 

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

*this post was sponsored by Just Add Mushrooms. opinions, photography and recipe are my own.

 

 

Posted on June 6, 2016 and filed under eat, recipe, everyday living.