Posts filed under friends

Pack Your Bags | WILDE in Dublin

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I met my friend, Orlagh, a few years ago at a press breakfast when we were both huge and pregnant with little boys. She was so nice and we just kinda clicked. We’ve kept up with various meet ups, but when she moved back to her home of Ireland last year… well, I was a bit sad. (How many times have I complained about friends moving away from London on this blog? Only 357? Okay!)

Anyway, I’ve changed my mind that her being gone is bad now that I realise I have a friend to hang out with in Dublin. And not only a friend- Orlagh is super hip and just…. the nicest. (Also, how many times have I waxed poetically about my love for nice people on this blog? Only a million? Great. It’s true- I love sweet people.) She held Edie so I could eat and just loved on her as if she were family. 

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Orlagh met me for lunch at WILDE and it was such a dream. The restaurant is bright and airy with pretty pink throws on the backs of chairs. There’s greenery hanging over you and crawling up the walls, and I have to say- the surrounding tables of Dublin’s finest femmes make it a gorgeous place to be!

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We had lunch and before I even tasted a bite, I knew I’d still come back again. The staff were SO sweet and every time our waiter came to the table, he chatted to Edith (calling her by name) and speaking to her as if she would actually place an order, too. Ha! They were all so sweet.

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(For those that have asked about my shirt, yes! It is a nursing shirt, and yes- it is fantastic. It’s so not frumpy and I wish they had a million colours of it. Plus, its only £32.)

But luckily for me, the food was KILLER. I had a chestnut and apple soup (this girl can never resist chestnut soup in the winter) and the most perfect salad of all times: rocket (or “arugula,” if you’re in the US), fresh figs, goats cheese, beetroot, truffle oil… and maybe some kind of nut? Hazelnut? I can’t remember. I’m pretty sure I blacked out. They whipped me up a little pear and almond mocktail that was so refreshing and light. The whole experience felt exactly like you’d hope a girls lunch would feel. I think WILDE is one of the best lunch spots in Dublin, especially if you’re with someone fun.

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Orlagh is just one of those people who has sincerity washing over her words and her actions are intentional. (Example: I asked when she’d be in London next, and basically she just said she doesn't socialise when she’s there because she needs to keep her trips as short as possible to get home to her kids. Respect.) She makes motherhood look so stylish and I have no doubt that you’ll feel the same way if you follow her on Instagram, @theminipost…. She’s the coolest.

There were so many desserts that I really wanted to try, but I had to peace out and leave on a high note of a well-behaved baby. But next time! And thank goodness I’ll have a sweet friend there to meet me when I go. 


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WILDE RESTAURANT | Harry Street, Dublin 2, D02 CH66


Find more of my Dublin favourites in my travel guide or book a travel consult for personalised help for your upcoming travels.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on November 29, 2017 and filed under ireland, friends, eat, pack your bags.

Forcing American Baby Showers on British Friends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Peggy Porschen | A Piece of Cake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Little London | Kew Gardens

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

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


A DAY OUT AT KEW GARDENS | What to expect

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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


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

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

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

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

One Day + One Knight in Paris

This is a post about a trip to Paris... but don't be expecting a ton of tips and tricks. This one was quick and dirty with only time for the essentials- pastries, driving by the Eiffel Tower and going to a rock concert. But that's enough for now, just keep reading for all the random fun.


On Saturday, I woke up to the smell of hot croissants baking in the oven and the sound of Viola dragging her baby doll up the stairs to wake me up. The rain was totally dumping on the roof above our room and it felt so nice to have no huge rush to hop out of bed.

We got dressed and headed to a birthday party for one of our family's favourite little girls. To say it was gorgeous was an understatement. You've probably heard me say it before after my baby showers (first & second) she hosted or her wedding in Hawaii- but my friend, Amber, can host a party like nobody's business.

Every gorgeous detail was thought of, in true Amber style.

I guzzled down a huge mug of coffee, one of her homemade cinnamon rolls, a fruit kebab...ok, fine and part of a bagel, kissed my crew goodbye and headed to St Pancras for the Eurostar.

2.5 hours later, I rolled into Paris, slapped on my favourite red lipstick and headed straight for the Champs-Élysées. 

I, fortunately, was dropped off on the corner by Monoprix who was, fortunately, having a sale. I ran in, surveyed the scene and ran out with a few pieces that are going to get worn really hard this winter.

Then I ran across the street to Laduree where I met a group of my students who had arrived in Paris earlier that morning. We got a table and I ordered us a bunch of desserts and drinks. When a giant silver tray arrived with plates of miniature art pieces arrived, we all felt so excited.... We were in Paris! On the Champs-Élysées! Eating the prettiest food!

When we finished, we walked up to Salle Pleyel where the Panic at the Disco concert was opening its doors. One of my best childhood friends happens to be married to the band's guitarist, Kenny, and they graciously got my students great tickets to the show... AND sweet Kenny chatted with them, was hilarious with them and... even made an amazing boomerang with us. Ha!

With everyone happy and in their seats, I said goodbye and rushed to find a cab. I asked the driver to pass the Eiffel Tower on the way to the station. Well, it wasn't exactly on the way, but I was fine with that. And it was totally worth the detour.

Then, we stopped in front of Gare du Nord with enough time for me to run into McDonalds (no regrets), buy my obligatory box of Fauchon biscuits from duty free and get on the train back to London.

It's one of those days that seems a bit crazy and at the risk of falling apart when one thing goes awry.... but in those glorious moments when everything goes smooth, man.... you're so glad you did it.

Looking for more Paris posts? Find my Paris posts here, as well as my comprehensive guide to Paris here.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on November 14, 2016 and filed under france, paris, friends, get out of town.

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 Notting Hill | Fabrique on Portobello Road

I got a chance to spend the morning in Notting Hill this week. It had been a while since I'd been there and even longer since I saw my friend, Amber. We met up for a quick breakfast in those precious hours when children's school hours align and it was perfect.

Notting Hill turned up the charm with bright sunshine and its sidewalk's endless catwalk of well-heeled residents. People chatted over posh breakfasts on cafe tables in the sun, walked tiny dogs while chatting on their cell-phones, tucked small present-like parcels of food into shopping bags and just embraced all the pretty yuppie stereotypes one might have for this London neighbourhood.

Now that we are gone from Notting Hill, I'm relying on Amber to keep me up to speed with what is new there. And luckily, she didn't let me down. She trailed me along Portobello Road to the tiny cafe, Fabrique.

This bakery/cafe offers fresh baked loaves of bread and various sweet offerings... but don't get distracted by the offerings and get their cinnamon roll.

Not the vanilla-sugar dusted one. The standard. I thought I knew better and ordered the vanilla, but Amber ordered the original "just so I could try it, too." After all, that's what friends are for, right?

Initially- I thought the space was cute but that these famed cinnamon buns looked dry. The good news: after a few nibbles in, I realised what a moist little treat it was! (Also- apologies to everyone who hates the word "moist." I do, too, but couldn't find a suitable alternate when describing this. Ha!)

The lattes are good, but having them served in a crystal tumbler makes them taste even better. Don't fight that truth, it's science.

Hit up Fabrique when you head to Notting Hill. Its placement on Portobello Road makes it an easy stop on your visit to the Saturday market.

Fabrique12 Portobello Road, London, W11 1LA


Headed to Notting Hill? Find all my favorites here in my travel guide or search #aspiringlondon on Instagram.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

A Quick Getaway to... 2011

I started my blog in 2010 when I was working in Dallas, and my friends pulled me into this weird/new/online world of blogging- but it wasn't until we moved to Oxford that my blog shifted into the style and feel of what it is today.

When we lived there, I would write (with fresher eyes than I have today) about all the cute and quirky things that we were experiencing together. We lived on a shoestring budget, so everything from booking the cheapest tickets RyanAir could offer (even if we didn't know where that destination was without googling it!) to shopping in "old" produce sections of the market stalls for dinner was a daily adventure.

And while I think that was what gave me something to talk about it- the real fun of our first years here was because of Oxford. While life would seem very normal at times, we would also find ourselves in some of the most gorgeous places with such extra people. The dinners on long wooden benches with the paintings of prime ministers and authors hanging over head, the end of term balls held in quadrangles with Alice in Wonderland-esque fantasy all around us (hookah tents! hot air balloons! servers spray-painted from head to toe in golden glitter passing around trays of drinks & food!)

When our time there ended, our amazing group of friends dispersed to the far corners of the world to do really amazing and great things. We are so proud of them, but oof! We miss those moments when we all were carelessly running around Oxford as kings.

Tyler's class just had his 5 year reunion (you may have seen in on Instagram), and I had been so busy that I hadn't put much thought into what the weekend was going to be like before we went. But when we got there and walked into the quadrangle of Christ Church, time seemed to flip back seamlessly into life back when we lived there. We saw so many of those faces- I can't tell you how much of a homecoming it felt like for all of us!

There really is a special magic to old friendships- friendships that love and get you, regardless of how big or small life may have made you. You just can't make old friends. (And you sure can't beat a place like the old dining halls of Oxford to catch up with them!)


Find more of our Oxford days here and my city guide to Oxford here.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

My London | Duke's Posh Picnic by Buckingham Palace

 

I was looking for a fun day out for my friend, Amber, before she had her baby girl. Since it wasn't her first baby, we agreed that she wasn't in need of swaddling muslins, bottles or diapers... but probably could go for a little "me" time before the baby arrived.

We were stuck in between doing another afternoon tea (not complaining! just wanting to shake things up a bit!) and jaunting away for the day somewhere fabulous (felt like so much effort!)... in the midst of this planning pergatory, I heard about Dukes Hotel's Picnic in the Park and knew it would be perfect.

 

Why, you may ask, did I think a picnic would be a good fit? I'll keep it simple with some bullet points.

 

WHY WE SAID 'YES' TO DUKES PICNIC IN THE PARK:

1. It was a luxury meal that we didn't have to make or prepare.

2. It came in an adorable stripey hamper and was served to us by a butler.

3. It only costs £35 per person, so it wouldn't break the bank.

4. We could sit alongside Buckingham Palace as we ate... which, if we are honest, is as close are we will be getting to lunching with Lizzy anytime soon.

 

And did the outing living up to our experience? YES. It was such a refreshing day out for both us doing something easy while feeling very extraordinary!

Our butler was so sweet and very attentive. He met us at the hotel when we arrived and walked us to the park.

When we got to Green Park, he let us choose where we wanted to set up camp, laid out everything for us, poured our drinks and then left his number for us to call should we need anything. He came back every so often to check on us and bring us sill things that we requested.

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The actual picnic itself was really good- light and fresh. As all picnic food can be, it was a bit messy by the time it made it across the park and out of saran wrap. But we quickly fluffed everything up with a fork though and tidied it up to restore it back to its full potential. The cous cous salad and piri piri chicken skewers were exceptionally tasty.

And there's no better way to celebrate an upcoming birth than with some baby-friendly fizz!

 

As we lounged around Green Park like we were Roman nobility, people kept strolling by and gawking at us like we were pretty fancy. (Which made us giggle a lot.) By having a butler serve you a picnic does get a bit more attention than our normal picnic spread of M&S sandwiches, juice boxes and plastic hummus cartons.

 

 

This posh picnic in the park from Duke's Hotel in Mayfair is a definite winner for an exciting London experience. I'd recommend it to anyone- tourist or local alike. It's a fun and tasty option for enjoying the city in a really special way!

 

DUKES MAYFAIR | St James Place, London SW1A 1NY.  +44 (0)207 491 4840



 

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

*our picnic was complimentary. review is my own.

 

A Girls Weekend in Germany and Hero's Welcome (Nearly) Home.

 

You might have seen on Instagram and Snapchat that I flew up to Germany last week. I flew up with my friend, Amber, to see our friend, Emily, on her way home from serving as a doctor in Afghanistan for the past six months with the Air Force.

Emily and I became friends a couple of years ago. We both experienced big life shocks near the same time, and, as life has a funny way of doing, became friends as we muddled through the grief process. And when she was deployed to serve six months in the Middle East, requiring her to leave her husband and 16 month old daughter behind in Texas, she found herself facing another one of life's toughest challenges.

During her time overseas, there was a little WhatsApp chat between her, Amber, Amanda Marshall and myself. We're all moms, all Americans and were all connected to eachother through blogging over the past few years. Since we are in the closest timezones to where she was stationed, we got to chat throughout the days she was away from home. We'd chat about big stuff like parenting, little stuff like nursing bras and military food, and all the moments in-between.

Even though we got a first-hand account of the her life on a base in a war zone, I'm not sure that I still could ever fullywrap my head around the experience. But even though it may be hard to imagine life in the desert surrounded by soldiers and performing medical evacuations for wounded soldiers- I do know what it feels like to have days pass by without being with your daughter. That I do get. I know how it feels to walk around, looking like a normal person, but feeling confident that- somehow- a significantly large piece of your heart has, in fact, broken off.

So, after months of being stranded in the abyss of overseas duty, the end of her deployment came into sight- and we decided to meet her at the finish line. On her way home from Afghanistan to Texas, she stopped through Germany for a few days and we didn't want to miss it.

Amber & I flew out to Frankfurt early on Friday. We hopped on a train, devoured apple turnovers, and headed to Kaiserslautern.

An hour and a half later, we reached the tiny town near Ramstein Air Force base where we hopped out of the taxi, heard a friendly, "Hey!" and turned around to find Emily running towards us with the biggest smile.

We met at a tiny hotel and spent the next 24 hours in all the girly splendor you might imagine: giant meals, chocolate truffles, long talks over coffee, shopping in a flea market and the like.

KEEP UP WITH MORE OF THE FUN ON SNAPCHAT. Username: aspiringkennedy

 

At dinner that night, we got to eat with the rest of the doctors that Emily had worked with in Afghanistan. They were all married, and (all but one) fathers of small children. Getting to sit at the table with them as they ate one of their first decent meals in six months was an honor. The smiles at that table as they cut into giant steaks, cheers-ed eachother with enormous steins of beer and talked of their familes back home was an incredible experience. There was so much JOY. The only way I can explain it is to the feeling you have at a wedding or when a baby is born. I, honestly, felt undeserving to be sitting with them at that table with them in that special moment.

I know there are so many things that I will remember from Emily's deployment. But I think that the most significant thing that I've taken from her experience is that each soldier that goes off to fight doesn't go alone. The sacrifice of military service doesn't stop at the soldier- but there is a huge ripple effect for deployment. Just leaving my kids for the night took a ton of planning, caused me a lot of angst and took hustle to pull off. What these families have to do- both logistically and emotionally- is a lot tougher than I ever expected.

As we said goodbye on Saturday, there were tears. Of relief that this was over. Of sadness for time lost. Of thankfulness. And yet, smiling through it all in anticipation. In the midst of it all, I clicked out my phone and took a picture. This last moment of sadness after such a long time deserved to be documented. Today was the last day of tears! Tomorrow, she would be home. (And she is! And the video she posted seeing Nick & Lyla gave me goosebumps and made me cry like a baby.)

Thank you Emily. And thank you to all the others who serve by quietly keep life together while your loved one is gone fighting. Your support is invaluable and, often, overlooked. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

 



 

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

 

 

Posted on May 10, 2016 and filed under travel, friends, germany.

Bonfire Night | I (Cake) You.

For all of you non-Brits, Bonfire Night is a holiday that celebrates Guy Fawkes foiled attempt to blow up parliament that is observed every year on the 5th of November.  The typical celebration involves fireworks and a bonfire- earning it the nickname "Bonfire Night." 

Since the actual holiday fell in the middle of the week, we saved any and all acknowledgment of it until the weekend. Many of the big fireworks shows in the city were moved to the weekend, too, so we didn't feel too bad to wait out the fun.

When Saturday arrived, I cracked into my vault of Texas goods and started a pot of chili and some cornbread. While the celebration may be entirely British, my Texan-self knows no other way to entertain in the fall without it. 

But if you're going to pull out the good stuff for your guests, you can't stop there. I needed something good to make for dessert... but something easy since Harrison's nap was guaranteed to last about 10 more minutes.

I preheated the oven and got the assistance of a capable sous chef (Viola) to help me make the coffee cake that Betty Crocker sent me to try as a part of their #icakeyou campaign. Something about the combination of cake + coffee sounded perfect for a cozy Autumn night in.

So we followed the (simple!) instructions on the box and five minutes later, it was in the oven.

By the time the oven buzzer rang, it was smelling SO good in our house that I was regretting not making cupcakes so that I could have snuck one for a pre-lunch appetizer. Oh well. 

Then the fun started- putting it together.



I added some chocolate sprinkles to give it a bit of a mocha taste like this one, but next time- I'm going all in and adding chocolate chips to the batter. No need to skimp when you're #cookingwithbetty. :)

Can I just be honest with you. I love boxed cake mixes. I can make something really tasty and really simple. Traditional cake recipes make me sweat with all the creaming and folding and beating... and I always seem to end up with a mediocre end to my effort. I have no qualms about boxed cake mixes... and neither do my guests. It's a major upgrade from the brick-like alternative I've probably served them in the past.

My friend, Amber, came over with her daughter to join us for the night. Her husband had been away on business for a few days. She definitely deserved a giant slice for the week she had put in. It was so nice to have the girls play together while we spent the evening chatting and chowing down... and playing referee to their attempts to grab chunks of the cake. 

We perched on the back of our couch and watched the nearby fireworks that evening. After the kids fell asleep, we dug out some vanilla ice cream to go on top of our second round of cake while watching Friday Night Lights. We lit the fireplace and pretended that was our Bonfire.

 

Our Guy Fawkes Night was just perfect- celebrating with friends and enjoying the coziness of indoors. Maybe next year, we'll feel brave enough to wade out to Battersea for fireworks... but I doubt it. :)

 

*  *  *

 

How do you celebrate Guy Fawkes? Inform the ignorant American, is there a traditional food to eat on Bonfire Night? (If not, can I recommend homemade chili and giant hunks of coffee cake. I'd like to make that a tradition.)

 



 

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

*this post was sponsored by Betty Crocker. Professions of cake fondness are my own.

 

Posted on November 7, 2015 and filed under eat, holiday, friends.

Pancake Day! ... ?

Here in England, "Pancake Day" is a thing. Our first year here, I was really confused by it. It seemed to come and go without me really know what was going on, but as the years have passed, I've gathered a bit knowledge of what the day.

Here's the short version to catch anyone else up to speed that may be in the dark: Pancake Day is a part of "Shrove Tuesday," the day before Ash Wednesday. Feel free to correct me if I'm mistaken, but this has evolved from a Catholic tradition of enjoying a last bit of indulgence before Lent. Apparently, pancakes are the way to celebrate a last hoorah at indulgence, but I'm willing to suggest some other of my favorite carbs in case anyone is listening. In Britain, the pancakes are typically eaten covered in sugar and lemon. 

 

But until then, pancakes it is! While I'm still a novice to the holiday, I'm also an easy sell for a reason to make pancakes and have friends over. As "pancakes" here are so thin, I figured I'd go completely into the crepe scene and try my first dabble at crepe making. Luckily, just as I was really starting to dread my skills with a crepe maker, Grace showed up and told me that she used to work in a crepe shop. Task reassigned... and she did great! It's harder than it looks.

 

 

While she may claim they weren't her prettiest work, I say who cares if they are decked out in Nutella, Speculoos, strawberries, coconut, almonds, whipped cream and pretty much anything else we could come up?

 

 

And let me tell you... the bit of indulgence was worth it. Crêpes shouldn't just be saved for France, when they are so easy and cheap to make at home. It was also a good reminder of Lent's arrival. Will you be giving up anything? I'm not Catholic, but am Christian and I need some structured discipline in my life. Thinking through what could be a good construct of my time for 40 days. 

 


 

Thanks to Debenhams for sending over some of the goodies that made this fun morning with my friends possible. I made the guests all take one of the items home with them as party favors. ;)

 

CARAFE  |  BREVILLE CREPE MAKER  |  MATTHEW WILLIAMSON PLATES  |  LAZY SUSAN 

MARBLE CUTTING BOARD  |  BLUEVILLE STRIPED DRESS  |  BLUEZOO MARY JANES 

 

 

*all images original to Aspiring Kennedy and her poorly lit and dark kitchen.

 

Posted on February 12, 2015 and filed under holiday, eat, friends, life as an expat, london.