Posts filed under kids in london

Country BBQ (English Style)

IMG_1571.JPG

School is out! At last, Viola is finished with her school year. I can’t believe she is through Reception. (Our version of “kindergarten” that they start at 4.)

She finished school last Friday and then Saturday we got to celebrate the summer kick-off with a day at a barbecue at our friend’s lovely house in Oxfordshire.

Now first things first: a “BBQ” can be confusing. When we first moved to England, we got invited to a barbecue and I was like like: “OH BABY! YES! Finally!” I showed up to the barbecue salivating over the idea of brisket, spicy polish sausages, ribs, and was completely shocked to find burgers. I soon realised that when someone barbecues here, it simply means “grill out.” So if you’re a new expat, you’ve been warned and you can adjust your expectations accordingly. 

IMG_3088.JPG

But luckily, my expectations were in line for this party... and I knew that a day our in Oxfordshire at our friends house would be nothing short of lovely.

IMG_3087.JPG

And it was! Especially with seven black lab puppies to cuddle. My kids were smitten, and so was I as I watched them lug the sleepy little puppies around. It was so cute!

IMG_3082.JPG
IMG_3083.JPG
IMG_3084.JPG

Also, Edie decided it was her day to start really walking- so she got her first real steps in that day and it was hilariously cute watching her big thighs waddle around and plop in the grass. 

IMG_3086.JPG

The day was so fun. We left around 5:30, stopped at McDonalds on the highway and let the kids get Happy Meals... which, to our dismay and relief, they really only wanted for the toy.  

I’m not really sure what my kids will remember of days like this, but I’m hopeful they stack up as a hazy collection of imperfect days made up of lots of happy memories. Because as crazy as they may feel at times in the moment, I know that’s what they actually are!

IMG_3085.JPG


*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Little London | 5 Places to Splash & Cool Off Around London

I grew up in Texas with a pool. I could swim from one end to the other by the time I was three. 

However, my children live in London. The closest thing they have to a pool is a bathtub, and they still love their floaties very, very much. (And so do I.)

Another thing that is different than my Texas upbringing is the lack of air conditioning. When it gets hot, it gets HOT like its so gloriously been the last stretch of weeks here in Britain. While we don't have access to a pool, there are some great spots around London... most come with a view and even better- most don't cost a dime.

IMG_6836.JPG

And if you're going to get familiar with this scene, you'll need to adopt the term "lido" into your vocabulary. Swap out "swimmin' hole" or whatever you called it back home and opt for this posh and very English term ("LIE-DOH"). It means an open-air swimming pool or bathing beach.

(Go on and drop that term to a local and feel very cool.)


DIANA MEMORIAL FOUNTAIN | This fabulous memorial is a giant water feature near the Serpentine. Kids can wander the circular water feature and play in the rapids. It can be a bit treacherous for tiny ones in spots, so plan to wear shots to escort them through those spots. 

*I just checked the website and it says that it asks people not to walk on the memorial... but I assure you that hundreds do this daily anyway and they have staff to supervise?

IMG_6834.JPG

 

THE V&A MUSEUM | In between the museum and the cafe of the V&A, there's a little pond/pool area. It's a bit deeper than your ankles and has a few fountains dotted around the side. In the hot days, you'll find kids splashing and playing in their diapers and underwear here. It's a great spot, as the cafe is just to your side to make it an easy spot to spend a few hours in... and with water so shallow you don't have to continuously fret about drowning. I would say that, as this is primarily a museum, make sure your children are changed and dry before re-entering the museum to avoid making a mess! It would be very uncool of you. 

 

RAVENSCOURT PARK LIDO | This is a neighbourhood gem in Shepherds Bush. Set in the back of a grand Victorian park, this lido is perfect for little kids (not too deep!) and is sandwiched between a playground and a sand pit. Just outside the lido gates, you'll find the massive park to enjoy and explore. 

 

KENSINGTON MEMORIAL | If you're looking for a splash pad, this is a great place to go. It's tucked back in Notting Hill in the neighbourhood that was devastated by the Grenfell Tower tragedy. It's very local and feels like a little trip back through time when you enter by it's tiny snack shack. When the kids are tired, they can play on the playgrounds just outside the gate with areas perfecter big kids (zipline and giant climbing frame) and a for littles  (smaller climbing frame and sand).

IMG_6835.JPG

 

DESIGN MUSEUM | Just off Kensington High Street, the new Design Museum is a very cool (free!) museum. Just outside that very cool museum, there are some fun fountains that they allow kids to play in. It's not very crowded and makes for an easy stopping point near Holland Park or running errands on Kensington High Street.

 


 

Though I've never tried them myself,

my very normal & cool friends like these places, too:

SERPENTINE LIDO (HYDE PARK )

LONDON FIELDS LIDO (EAST LONDON)

 PARLIAMENT HILL LIDO (HAMPSTEAD HEATH)

 


 

FIND MORE FUN THINGS TO DO WITH KIDS IN LONDON HERE.

 



 

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

 

Little London | Thames Path in Richmond

 

I often get parents of small kids over for a visit, and they gush about how they wish they could have their kids grow up here. YES. It has some amazing advantages: culture, history, cool accents. I love the childhood my children have most every day of the week, but I also feel like I always need to be honest. (Because trust me, I glazed over city living with kids for a long time... before I actually lived with kids in a city.) The fact of the matter is that living in a major city with a young family comes with some huge downfalls: no space (seriously, like ever), long journeys of schlepping in bad weather or on crowded transport, somewhat difficult social boundaries to break through. 

We have been really lucky and are so grateful for our little life here. We have all our needs met... and beyond! 

But last summer, we were feeling a bit claustrophobic. Tyler finally broke down, jumped through the hoops to get his UK license and we added a (very used! very cheap!) car to our family after 7 years of living without it. We hardly use it still walk and scoot most places during the week. But on the weekend, we get a little crazy and get the itch to get out of town with the kids and give them room to explore.


THAMES PATH RICHMOND

For Edie's birthday, we wanted to do something simple. Since those first few birthdays are really for the parents, these parents decided that the best thing for us was to go easy on ourselves. So, when an extravagant party isn't an option, hanging out in a pretty place is the next best thing because it still feel really special.

We headed to Richmond, parked the car, unloaded the kids and went down towards the river. Along the Thames there is the cutest little river walk- which is just a small part of the the Thames Path National trail that stretches 180 miles from Greenwich to north of Oxford.

09E77EC3-5828-4060-9AC1-06789292701D.jpeg
ACE431E4-04A5-40B7-930C-12BFBD95A209.jpeg

The place we went to stretches between Richmond and Hampton Court and comes complete with boat & bike rentals, cafes with people dotted around the tables, grassy areas with people napping or lounging together, and cute little bunting to guide you along the way. We LOVED it!

1CED4285-E5F9-4E53-A66B-C8FD664D99D8.jpeg
29618775-6321-457E-B764-D690C89107FE.jpeg

 

We found a little spot, tossed down our picnic blanket, lit a candle on a cupcake and sang happy birthday to sweet Edie.

After they gobbled down the icing and abandoned the cake part of the cupcakes, we watched Harrison scoot up and down a long ramp until we could no longer stand the heat.

 

347C1795-7938-45F5-8083-2E408EB6E88B.jpeg
990D0C27-0050-44D5-B039-D924406DE474.jpeg
F87E2811-6E58-480F-9172-BB385752937C.jpeg

 

It was a perfect little escape from the crammed city routine we often do, and I can't wait to go back and do more picnics... and, when Tyler's feeling up for some arm work, going in one of the row boats. 

 

AB919FFD-D71C-47D7-B0FA-1F4B2D15749C.jpeg
320E1C10-E8DD-40FC-8F6E-EFC52218D89D.jpeg
5E4CCFE8-6DA3-4C5A-B073-A077A594EEE0.jpeg

 

You can easily reach Richmond by car or public transport (trains from Waterloo into Richmond or the district line to Richmond). There was some nice detailed instructions on this site. But basically, just get to the High Street in Richmond, and you're just a street or two away.

 

B214ABA3-4CBF-4B74-8BE3-FA4C31AB91F9.jpeg
C0D88937-5140-4564-A356-B5E0B7339EEB.jpeg

 

This is a great day out and makes those tough stretches of being in London with kids feel less stressful and so, so lovely!

 

LOOKING FOR MORE ABOUT LONDON WITH LITTLE KIDS? CHECK HERE.

 



 

*images original to aspiring kennedy

 

Little London | The UK School Year

It’s creeping towards the end of July and I’ve spent the evening responding to PTA meeting emails and making a list of what items I need to bring for Viola’s last day of school festivities tomorrow. 

Wait, it’s the end of July and we still have one day to go? What the actual heck?

IMG_9673.JPG

The English school calendar is comprised of three terms (autumn, spring & summer). Each term is 13 weeks long and has a one-week break in the middle of it. This is called, unsurprisingly, “half-term.” The autumn term ends at Christmas, where you get a 2-3 week break. The spring term ends at Easter, where you get a 2-3 week break, and the summer term ends in late July where you start your summer. Does that makes sense?

Here it feels so normal to still be in the wind-down to school, but when I FaceTime family back home who are lounging around the house on a Wednesday or see the swim parties and late nights kids are having in the States- it reminds me of how DIFFERENT the school schedule is between where I grew up and where my kids are growing up.

For me, summer was 3 months that seemed to have no end or horizon- just an abyss of endless time that gave kids the chance to truly transform and dissolve from the confines of the previous school year. Do you remember as a kid coming back to school in August and seeing someone that had really, really changed into an almost unrecognisable version of who they were in May? 

Well, here it’s a six week leap from the end of July through the start of September. August truly is the untouchable month where families flee Britain and head to sunny spots around the continent. It’s less of a time to dork around with your neighbours and stay up late riding back and playing flashlight tag as it is to go to your grandparents house in Cornwall or France. It’s less back-to-back weeks stuffed with driving to your grandparents, Disney trips, and summer camps and -instead- more camper trips to the beach and longer-term vacation rentals somewhere far away. 

IMG_0441.JPG

The thing about it is that it’s just short enough that parents can take the time off, too, for the most part. It’s a big family time- but the length of it seems to allow for one big trip rather than the sporadic and endless activities we have in the states over 3 months. I remember forecasting my summers in weeks: The first week we are here with my grandparents, the next week I go to camp, then I’m at home for the week and it’s my dads birthday, then we have our family vacation, then we come back to Dallas for (insert school-forced choir/band/drama “camp,” and then school starts. Is that still more or less how it happens?

To be honest, I’m not entirely sold on the English system entirely because I really loved my childhood summers… but it’s where we are and the amazing school we are in makes it so worth it, so we are keeping on and carrying on the best that we can to acclimate to sports days, summer school fairs & all-school performances rolling on through June and July. (Luckily, it's all be a lot of fun!)

IMG_9676.JPG

 

 

And while we are on the topic…. Go ahead and list the summer you came back to school with the biggest transformation. Mine was, in my 7th grade opinion, definitely when I arrived back with braces and my ears pierced. I truly wondered if people would be able to recognise me. Ha!

 


Find more of our life with kids in London here.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

My London | Highlights of the Natural History Museum

IMG_0619.JPG

In conjunction with my other post on The British Museum, I've decided to walk you through the best of London's museums and create an easy to follow series to help your trip planning. The next up is another of London's greatest museums: The Natural History Museum!

Not only is the Natural History Museum pretty to look at on the outside- decked out in its Victorian splendour- but it is also a treasure chest inside. The Natural History Museum is home to over 80 million specimens and has 36 free galleries. As almost all museums in England are, admission is free. No pressure to see it all or get your money’s worth- you really can browse and visit as you enjoy… or just go in to have a reasonably priced cup of coffee in a fabulous setting. (I do that often!)

Since this is such a great spot to take children in London, I wanted to make sure it made my new series of museum guides in London. It’s definitely the museum that my children know the best, and it is a place that I’m sure many people have special childhood memories. (Any of you have any you’d like to share?) 

IMG_9977.jpg

THE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM


IMG_0628.JPG

THE BLUE WHALE | When you walk into the Natural History Museum, there is a huge Blue Whale exhibit in Hintze Hall to greet visitors. It is a massive skeleton that hangs from the ceiling, and it is incredible.

Some fast facts about the Blue Whale: The blue whale is the largest animal to have ever lived. With each gulp, it can take in up to 457,000 calories. They can weigh up to 180 tonnes, making them heavier than even the largest dinosaurs. The Museum’s Blue Whale is 25 metres long- thats 75 feet, American friends. You won’t want to miss this exhibit and as big as it is, I don't think you will!

WHERE TO FIND IT | Blue Zone, nearest entrance is the main entrance off Cromwell Road.


IMG_0242.jpg

DINOSAURS | The Natural History Museum’s dinosaurs are world-famous. This exhibit includes the first-ever fossils found from a Tyrannosaurus Rex, the skull of a Triceratops, and the Baryonx. With all the dinosaurs around, this is hugely kid-friendly. Stop at this exhibit to learn more about these prehistoric giants and why they died out.

WHERE TO FIND IT | Blue Zone on the Ground Floor, next to the Hintze Hall.


IMG_0104.jpg

MAMMALS | This exhibit has cases and cases of mammals and it is truly fascinating to see the diversity of it all! Some of the highlights of this exhibit include pandas, bears, horses, big cats and dogs, and the extinct Diprotodon from Australia. The exhibit compares them to humans and shows you how truly diverse life is!

WHERE TO FIND IT | Blue Zone, nearest entrance is Cromwell Road.


IMG_0617.JPG

BIRDS | This section is both incredible and a bit creepy. All of these birds are pinned down so that you can see the anatomy of their wings and bodies, as well as the way that their feathers have grown. My favorite is the hummingbird cabinet. It is literally an array of hundreds of hummingbirds. The Birds exhibit also includes cases of the extinct Dodo Bird, blackbirds, storm petrels, passenger pigeons, and a selection of eggs from the giant elephant bird.

WHERE TO FIND IT | Green Zone, the nearest entrance is the Cromwell Road.


IMG_0630.JPG

CREEPY CRAWLIES | This exhibit lives up to its name; it is full of creepy things that crawl! The exhibit includes a live ant colony, a life-size model of a termite mound, an interactive game to build a spider, a cabinet of crustaceans, and more locusts, scorpions, termites, and thousands more Your kids will love it! Try not to hurry past, as it really is a fascinating exhibit!

WHERE TO FIND IT | Green Zone, nearest entrance is Cromwell Road.


HUMAN BIOLOGY | If you’ve had enough of all the animals and other mammals, this gallery is a huge resource to find out more about your own body. From learning about how hormones affect our body to how our brain and organs work together, this gallery is incredible. Be sure to see the giant cell model and the specimen of DNA.

WHERE TO FIND IT | Blue Zone, nearest entrance is Cromwell Road.


IMG_0608.JPG

DARWIN CENTRE'S COCOON | This centre is super unique because you can see the museum’s scientists in action behind glass walls. It also takes you through how scientists collect and care for all of their specimens. Exhibits include specimens of beetles, butterflies, plants, tarantulas, and herbs. It opened in 2009, so it’s pretty new. Definitely worth checking out!

WHERE TO FIND IT | Darwin Centre in the Orange Zone, nearest entrance is Cromwell Road.


FUN EVENTS | The museum holds fun events, including a nighttime event called “DinoSnore”, where kids aged 7-11 can participate in a night of making dinosaur T-shirts, explore a torch-lit trail, and attend a science show put on by a Museum scientist. They do activities until midnight and then set up a sleeping area. Breakfast is served in the morning before they leave. Bookings are required. See their website for more details.

The museum also holds an “Airbnb Base Camp”, which is another nighttime event for kids with a special area for sleepovers in the Museum. The sleeping area is next to a 1,300 year old Sequoia tree, overlooking the Blue Whale exhibit.

In addition to all of this, there are movie nights, “DinoSnore” for adults, crime scene live events, and other activities for the night, where you can see the museum’s exhibits come alive from a new perspective.


IMG_0051 (1).jpg

COFFEE | And of course, no trip out in London is complete without a stop for a coffee and a pastry. They have some good cafes and bookshops- my favorite is the T. Rex Grill (they have cheap kids meals and very decent adult food), The Coffee House, and the Central Cafe! 


IMG_0031 (1).jpg

ADDRESS & HELPFUL TIPS | Cromwell Rd, Kensington, London SW7 5BD

Open Everyday, 10:00 - 17:50

Tube Station: South Kensington (Circle & District Line + Piccadilly Line)

There are three entrances: Cromwell Road, Queen’s Gate, and Exhibition Road. However, be warned: the main entrance on Cromwell Road has crazy long lines (especially on weekends) so skip the long queue and go around the corner on Exhibition Road for a shorter line and a faster entrance. Queen’s Gate is also good, but can be periodically closed.

I hope you enjoy your visit to the Natural History Museum! Find more of my favorite London highlights here. 

last picture.jpg

A Nutcracker and a Ballbuster

I’ve been trying *hard* to be chill lately around the kids. In the midst of seemingly endless “not right now”s and discipline, I feel like my interactions are less warm with my kids than I’d have ever imagined.

If you would have asked me what kind of mom I’d like to be, before having kids, I would have definitely used “fun” as one of the descriptors.

And I AM fun. I’m a fun friend, a fun colleague, a fun director, a fun teacher.... but I realised that I’m just not really fun at home anymore. I’m doing dishes. I’m getting people dressed. I’m looking for my keys. I am... well, I’m whatever. What I realised was: despite all the other stuff, I was mainly just missing the good parts.

So I’ve been doing my best to ease up a bit. To slow down and stop the stroller when Harrison babbles at me as I walk. To chill about our room being a hot mess. To give more hugs than directions. 

And this week, this endeavour manifested into to having more parties.

It started rather innocently when I asked Viola if she’d like to have some friends over and the conversation evolved into a tea party. “A Christmas tea party... but with hot chocolate instead of tea.”

I loved the idea and she whipped up some homemade invitations to bring to her friends for the occasion.

I went to the store and bought a bunch of generic biscuits, two boxes of grocery store mince pies, fruit & a £2 Cadbury Yule log.

IMG-4410.JPG
IMG-4413.JPG

The occasion seemed to call for my nice china, and decorated it with various random bits like crackers, napkins & plastic forks from HEMA & TIGER. (My two fave party good stores- now both on Tottenham Court Road just by my work!)

IMG-4414.JPG
IMG-4415.JPG

Biscuiteers had sent over some pretty Nutcracker Biscuits & chocolates from their Christmas range. My newest party trick is to stack up any simple, store-bought biscuits and place some of those beauties among them because it looked so fantastic and was so easy!

IMG-4418.JPG
IMG-4417.JPG
IMG-4411.JPG
IMG-4412.JPG

The evening was so sweet. The kids walked in from the cold after school and started squealing. They ripped open the crackers, dumped sprinkles over the marshmallows on their hot chocolate and giggled and sang the songs from their Nativity play.

It was easy to do, cheap to put together- but man, so worth it for that little shy girl’s face to light up like that.

IMG-4408.JPG


*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on December 18, 2017 and filed under kids in london, eat, holiday, kids.