Posts filed under what to pack

Pack Your Bags | Belfast (with Kids!)

If you’re looking for a fun place to get away to- and not have a ton of hassle- I’d like to suggest Belfast. It’s often forgotten, but with easy and frequent flights from London airports- it makes for a fun weekend getaway. And since the tickets are cheap and flights are short- it’s especially great to bring the kids along, too. 

Here’s my quick and easy guide for a great weekend in Northern Ireland’s famous capital city, Belfast.


WHERE TO STAY

THE FITZWILLIAM BELFAST | This hotel is gorgeous and has a great location in downtown Belfast. We’ve stayed in other places in recent years, but have made this our official favourite in the city. It’s just so nice and so well priced. Annnnnd, for any Game of Thrones fans, it’s where the cast and crew was living for a few months this fall. (And we got to share the lift with several of them!) If you’re going with kids, it’s worth it to upgrade to a larger room or suite for the extra space. You can also book an adjoining room here. Breakfast is fantastic, and staff is lovely.

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WHAT TO DO

TITANIC MUSEUM | You can’t go to Belfast and skip a visit to the Titanic Museum. Situated on the site of the original shipyard where the Titanic was built, the Titanic offers an amazing view of the history of chipmaking in Belfast, the actual building of the Titanic, and the heartbreaking single voyage of the ship. The cafes on-site are really nice and the whole experience is very kid-friendly. (And if you don’t have kids, even better. Ha! You may be able to glean more information than we can.) Either way you do it, it’s pretty much a must-do when you’re in the city.

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ST. GEORGE'S MARKET | Every town needs a great food market, and Belfast isn’t an exception. St. George’s Market is open over the weekend and offers food stalls, eats and the occasional live music performance from musicians. It’s indoors, so it’s a place you can go and not worry about it getting rained out in bad weather. Plus, it’s located in downtown, so it’s an easy walk from everything.

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THE GIANT'S CAUSEWAY | So this place isn’t exactly a playground or theme park, but it’s great for kids in the fact that they can roam/explore and you won’t be too nervous for their safety. The rocks are like little steps and easy to help them navigate by holding their hands. The coast is there, but it’s so far out that they can’t run there too quickly without you noticing. The visitor’s centre has some nice children activities and, when all else fails while you’re teaching them of the folklore surround Finn McCool, there are sheep that graze along the fences of the property. Voila. All you really need for a fun day out. 

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The Giant's Causeway is about an hour and ten minutes from Belfast. It’s an easy drive, but you will need a car. 

BUSHMILL'S INN | While you’re out at the Giants Causeway, plan to stop for lunch at the famous Bushmills Inn. With cosy nooks and hearty food, it’s a great stop. The inn may look tiny off the main road in Bushmills, but when you wander back- you’ll see how expansive the site really is. Also, if you go on a Sunday- you’ll be there for their legendary roast. It’s served on a buffet… and MASSIVE. Your plates will be piled higher than Christmas dinner. It’s insane and so, so good.

BELFAST CHRISTMAS MARKET | Each year, we end up being there at the start of the Christmas market, so for us, Belfast has a great holiday feel to it. With windy weather and dark days, the Christmas market is a great way to end the day for our little family. I mean, any time I can feed my family without going to a sit-down dinner is a win. Plus, it’s so cheap. Definitely recommend going, if you can!

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WHERE TO EAT

MADE IN BELFAST | This is our favourite place to eat in Belfast. We typically try to sneak away from the hotel (if we have our au pair) for date here, but if that’s not possible, we bring the kids for a lunch time meal. The interiors and locally-sourced menu make if too good a spot to miss. We go to the City Hall location, as it’s the closest to our hotel. Reservations needed,.

FRATELLI | This is a great Italian restaurant dishing up massive bowls of pasta and warm Italian dishes. It would work great for adults only or for the family. It’s got a big dining room, but I’d still recommend booking a table due to it’s popularity. For a rainy day in Northern Ireland, this place is not only warm and cosy… but super tasty. 

What a fun city! We are already planning a return visit in April, and I’m excited to see the city in springtime. Maybe next time, we won’t have to be so bundled up.

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(These coats are all Boden - one of the best British brands out there. Our family is perpetually wearing Boden because everything looks great, can stand up to the crazy weather and stands the test of time between kids.)

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


Looking for things to do in the rest of Ireland? Check out my guides to Dublin and Ireland.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

My On-The-Go Beauty Routine

Growing up, my mom always did her makeup in the car. I can imagine her in the passenger seat doing her makeup at the stoplights on the way to church a hundred times over. I always thought that’s just what moms did… and then when I got older and would toss on some makeup at every red light, my friends would laugh. I soon realised this as quirk that I had inherited from growing up with my mom, and, naturally, carried on with the oddity as second nature.

But now that I’m a mom, I totally get it. Who has time to do their makeup when you are getting kids ready, too? It’s just nuts, so doing my makeup on the fly makes perfect sense for me now.

Since I never have time to actually do my makeup at home, I do it en route. On the tube. In an uber. At my desk when I arrive. It takes 5 minutes, but it is something I just like to make sure that I do at some point before the day kicks off officially. It makes me feel better, and, with my squinty eyes, makes me look awake.

I keep it all in a little pouch that travels between various totes and bags I use, but inside are the staples that I use on a daily basis for my makeup. Curious to take a peek inside? I always am! I love finding new beauty items and tricks of my friends or bloggers I follow, so I hope that you may find something in my routine that can help you!

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I thought it would be easiest to give a brief explanation for each of the items I use so that you can know just what makes it extra special… or, for a few of them, what makes them not very special. Ha! 

BEAUTY PRODUCTS:

JIGSAW LEATHER POUCH: I searched high & low for a pretty, sleek makeup bag that could travel with me. Everything I found was either covered in stupid phrases like “Born Fabulous” written in glitter or super chic and entirely out of my price range. I had nearly given up until I stumbled upon these PERFECT bags from Jigsaw. I’m pretty sure they are sold as little clutches, but I love using mine for my makeup. I also have a smaller plain black leather version of this that I use for my cards. Getting them both for under £80 was a great value, and I seriously still love them every time I see them. They were *just* what I was needing.

FACE

NARS BLUSH, DEEP THROAT:  After many years of resisting blush, I finally caved about a year ago. Why had I hated this idea so much? Not sure, but a little bit of pink helps me out a lot and gives my face a bit of definition that I enjoy.

LAURA MERCIER BLUSH BRUSH: I’m not sure if this is technically a blush brush? I bought it years ago, and can’t remember what the name of it is… but it works great and is small without being too dinky. (You need a hefty brush for blush, in my humble opinion.) I don’t see the one I have, but this one they sell now is pretty close.

EYES

YSL TOUCHE ÉCLATIn my twenties, I had some older lady that did our company’s PR. I remember one day talking about how much I loved the smell of YSL mascara, and she mentioned that she lived by Touche Éclat. I replied I didn’t know what that was and she nearly died. Ha! Its been nearly a decade and still remember the horror in her eyes. Well, ten years later and I get why she loved it. It hides dark circles and brightens up your eyes really well.

MASCARA: This mascara is just a basic L'Oreal purchase from Boots, and I, honestly, think most mascara is the same as any other. I do like this one because one side of it has a magnified mirror which makes it easy to do on the fly. But if I have my pick (and pocket money to spare), I always go with YSL mascara. It’s sooooo good. (And smells divine!)

LAURA MERCIER EYE PALETTE: I love Laura Mercier, and have worn it since I was 15…. Which probably makes me an old lady. I don’t know, but she just makes some really smart products. I really like her eye shadow palettes because the colours are all so useable. I also use these colours for my eyebrows sometimes, too.

EYELINER: I think most stick eyeliners are the same, and the particular one I’m using now is no exception. The only reason I won’t recommend it is because the lid will absolutely NOT stay on and every time I go to grab it, it has a broken tip. I have used this Chanel one before and it was consistently good.

BOURJOIS EYEBROW PALETTE: To be honest, I accidentally bought the blonde kit when I grabbed this, but it actually kinda works on days when I want to play down my makeup, and I love the little waxy stuff to keep my brows in place. Plus, the under-brow highlighter looks so good!

LIPS

NIVEA TINTED CHAPSTICK: This chapstick makes my lips feel great and has a pretty pearly colour to it. It has been part of my makeup bag for years because it can dress me up a bit even if it's the only item I get put on.

LOREAL LIP GLOSS: This colour is so simple and pretty, plus it smells good and the applicator is funky and fun to use. Another item that I’ve used for a few years now.

BOURJOIS RED VELVET LIPSTAIN: When I just can’t get it together, this red lipstick can help my disheveled state look intentional. I get loads of compliments on it and it lasts for hours and hours, which means I can put it on and totally forget about it.

MISCELLANEOUS

NEALS YARD TIRED EYES & LIPS SERUM: My friend, Vanessa, gave this to me as a baby gift after Edie was born, and I really like it. Plus, it’s organic and nasty-free… which is becoming increasingly important to me.

LAURA MERCIER TWEEZERS: I love, love, love these tweezers. The little round part makes the grip so good, and if I ever loan them out to anyone, I watch them like a hawk to make sure I get them back. They are SO good. I’m not sure if it’s the angled tip, the rounded pincher part, or the hefty weight of them- but together they make a force that not even the most illusive of tiny eyebrows can hide from.

FLOSS: I try to keep floss around for boring taxi rides and random bits of time where I have nothing better to do when I’m out. Ha! It’s the only time it’ll get done… but don’t worry, I try to do it when no one else is around. 



Posted on November 27, 2017 and filed under shopping, what to pack.

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.

PACK YOUR BAGS | An NHS Maternity Ward!

A few weeks ago, I started this post, planning to share it long before our new little lady made her entrance... but life had other plans! Here's a peak into my pre-Edie state of mind- and a few tips about what to bring to an NHS maternity ward.


Well, the time has come… I’ve officially hit the state of pregnancy where I feel compelled to bring my notes everywhere I go (a weird NHS thing I’m going to explain in an upcoming vlog!), plan a childcare schedule with friends in those “just in case she comes early” scenarios, actually put together the baby crib by our bed… and pack my bag for the hospital. At 36 weeks, my stomach feels more like I swallowed a squirrel with peg legs than the sweet bumps and flutters that once tapped around inside me. You can easily identify body parts: foot! bottom! back! The time is coming near, and I gotta get my act together.

So first things first… when you are headed to your third trip to the hospital, I’ve learned to focus more on what I’ll enjoy having post-hospital trip rather than those few days in there. You see, the first time around- I was shelling out cash on items that would be useful for those few days in the hospital without much care to beyond those walls. A cute hospital gown, fancy coming-home outfits that I paid way too much for, nice slippers to waddle around the hospital in, etc. This time, I’m putting that money into items that I can enjoy long after I get out of the hospital. So here we go… what’s going in my hospital bag to have a baby through the NHS in London.

I’m working alongside WAREMAKERS for this piece, as their very cool artisan-led company inspired me into putting this kind of post together. After all, there are tons of places I could go with gorgeous handmade-items… but something felt especially right about walking into the unknown of the birth of a baby as a big adventure. So while it’s just a London hospital, I always feel like I’m going into uncharted territory. 

If you’re looking to support a great company with a great mission, and hey- actually fantastic looking items!- WAREMAKERS is going to be right up your picturesque European alley. It took me one glance at their site to get their mission, love their cool aesthetic and become a big fan of the artists and brands they bring together. I have a feeling you’ll love what they are doing, too. (Especially, if you’re like me and have a weak spot for those If-George-Clooney-were-a-bag leather bags that just get better with age that you know will be with you on holidays for years to come.)


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HOSPITAL BAG | I think for my first delivery, I literally rolled into the hospital with my things in plastic shopping bags. Ha! But as you know, third times a charm or however the saying goes. I actually didn’t have a good overnight bag (all of ours seem to be enormous roller suitcases), so this time I got an actual bag to take with me. The bag is from La Portegna  which is an incredible brand handmade in Spain- but also with a store here in Marylebone! I’m excited to remember this as “my hospital bag,” but really excited to take it with me on other adventures outside of London, too. (Also, check out their company history for the wildest inspiration you’ve ever heard of. Spoiler: It involves an exotic gift from Hemingway.)

ROBE | I like having a robe to wear in the hospital, it kind of allows for covering up all the lumps and craziness happening underneath it… especially when you have friends come by to meet your baby. It somehow adds a bit more dignity to the moment… but I always buy a cheap robe that I won’t fall in love with for ever. This is for two reasons. First, they’re going to get trashed with so many… fluids. Sorry if that’s gross, but it’s true. Secondly, I always buy up a size or two, since I’ll be wearing it in weird-post-baby-still-have-a-bump time. I bought a cute, soft-touch robe here for £10… plus, it has a cute pattern to help create a diversion from my post-delivery stupor.

SLIPPERS | Speaking of slippers, I’m still buying some. Just some really cheap ones I can throw away the second I walk out of that hospital. You see, having an NHS baby means you share recovery rooms… and bathrooms. And I have to say, the bathroom I had after Harrison was born kind of traumatised me. Not because they weren’t clean and kept up… but maybe, the potpourri of 8-10 post-delivery women and all their output was too much. So slippers are needed to go around in the hospital, but I want nothing to do with taking anything that has touched those floors back into my home. Again, I buy cheap and simple ones like these.

SOCKS | While I do want to throw away the hospital slippers as soon as possible, I do think it’s nice to have splurge on some pretty socks to keep your feet covered while sitting around with a new baby/random hospital staff/etc, so this time I’ve got a hand-knit pair of wool socks from the English designer, Jules Hogan. (I actually think for what they are, they’re worth every penny. I can’t wait to take them to Iceland, too.) So yes, skimp on slippers, but spend on some socks that you’ll love to wear during your stay.

PAJAMAS | Now, I have to have a caesarean because of previous deliveries, so I’ll actually be given a gown to wear from the hospital, but if you are having a straight-forward delivery… you deliver in your own clothes! My friends have given birth in their husbands XXL t-shirts or bras… Obviously, these are clothes that they plan to get destroyed, so if you want to buy anything new- go cheap. (I typically do a Primark run before the hospital to get all of my hospital loungewear.) Again, don’t forget to buy up a size or two from your pre-baby size. You’ll be in weird territory between maternity and regular clothes for a few days, so some cheap items that you can easily loose after are nice.

BABY (HEAD) GEAR | I’m not sure why, but this surprised me the most: a hat for my baby. I suppose that because all US- born babies get the traditional striped-hat, I was expected the same when I gave birth here. But, no. You bring your own baby hat into the delivery room.  So yes, finding a cute hat is on my mind… and harder than you think. So many are enormous and I really want a small stretchy, jersey-like one. In the meantime, I've settled for these  but am still on the search via Etsy for something handmade. (Recommendations/hand-me-downs welcome.) We used a really sweet one of Tyler’s when he was a baby for when Harrison was born, but I’d like something a bit less boyish for this little girl. First-world problems, I know.

Do you need anything else for right after they are born? They do wrap them up in a little plain white blanket/towel after delivery- but you’ll need your own swaddles and clothes for them as soon as… well, you want them dressed. 

*Since I’ve had some crazy deliveries, can anyone else weigh in on what a “regular” delivery would call for? Do you give them their first diaper/nappie? The hospital has always put that on them for us after weighing/checking them… and they even put clothes on the girls in the NICU, which was sweet, but I know not standard. Any of your experiences would be so great to hear below in the comments!

Also, is now a good time to tell you- they don’t bathe your babies after delivery. They wipe them off (mostly) and then hand them over. They say all the gunk is really good for them, and that their skin will absorb it. (Which, I have to say- has been true of my babies… and neither really had cradle cap badly. Maybe God does know what he is doing afterall! Hey!) Did I read somewhere recently where this is becoming more common in the US, too?

NURSING BRAS & TANKS | First of all, I need to say: Welcome to the next year of your life. Go ahead and splurge on these, friends. They’re going to be on your body forever and ever from this point on. Want a tattoo? Maybe do a test run and see how you like wearing the same thing everyday (like a nursing bra!) for a year to see how you like the idea of permanency on your body. Also, the longer the nursing tank the better. These are pretty good and long!

ENTERTAINMENT | Maybe you get cable in American hospitals, but after you deliver in the NHS- you’re in a shared room with curtains separating you from other new moms. It’s a free system, so I can’t complain… but you can get real bored real quick. It’s good to bring your own forms of entertainment. Some people may brings books and small hobbies like knitting, but I’m planning on vegging out completely. I’ve already started downloading movies on my Netflix app and can’t wait to pop in my headphones and zone out. (These are things moms dream of when they have impending hospital stays, amiright?.) This amazing earbud case from the Danish company, Ham/Lerche, is so cool. This simple leather pouch keeps the tangled web of earphone tragedy from happening in my bag. Plus, it’s really nice leather that just looks cooler and cooler the longer it is around. 

On this note, don’t forget chargers of any sort that you may need…. And maybe bring a portable/battery one, if you have it? That way, if you get stuck in some random room waiting for a while, you aren’t stuck without an outlet? (Not sure this has ever happened to me before, but I’ll probably toss mine in this time just in case.)

WATER BOTTLE | I have to admit, I’m a bit jealous of the hospital swag that my friends/sisters get when they have a US-born baby… especially in the form of those giant water bottles., In the early days of nursing, when you have that obscene thirst dry up your entire body as you nurse, I always think of how nice it would be to have 835 oz of ice water next to me. But we don’t get them in the UK, and we don’t even have ice… so, you know, whatever. I have purchased a water bottle or two with each kid, and leave them upstairs and downstairs so that wherever I find myself perched- I have water nearby. Bring one to the hospital, because they’ll just bring by small jugs of water and styrofoam cups for you at random.

DISPOSABLES | If you thought the above text was glamorous, just wait until we dive in here. At a NHS hospital, you bring your own party favours… as in, your own breast pads, pads/diapers, underwear (in my case, the higher the better to avoid contact with the incision), and any other type of disposable item you may also end up needing to use at home- you bring of your own to the hospital, too. 

Oh, and of course- that doesn’t just stop for you. Don’t forget your baby! They’ll need newborn diapers and cotton balls/wipes. Just make it easy and do one giant shop for it all and have it delivered to your house around 34 weeks. I also buy all the baby shampoo, nappie cream, etc at this point, too.

REGULAR PACKING ITEMS | Now that you have all the other stuff you’ll have to have, don’t forget to pack the regular items that you’d spend the night away from home with: clothes (to come home in), toiletries, makeup, etc. I had my entire bag packed and then realised I hadn’t actually packed any clothes to come home in or my toothbrush. And on that note, don’t let your husband forget to pack those kind of items, too. They don’t offer beds to them, but they can sleep in the chairs, if they want… and most new dads do want to stick around and see the baby, I’ve learned. Better to have a few items to make their life better, too, with fresh contact solution, a toothbrush and a fresh shirt or two!

I am packing all of my essential makeup items (waterproof mascara, French face cream, toothbrush, deodorant, lipgloss that never goes away) in this pretty French linen pouch from Catherine Dang. I’ve been looking for a simple pouch to put in my backpack/travel bag for ages, and this is honestly such a great find: no obnoxious glitter words on top, great design with French linen and the perfect size for stashing in a slightly larger bag, and- to be candid- a much better price than the comparable “designer” ones I found with a similarly pretty aesthetic. 


There we go. I feel like that is a pretty honest breakdown of all the “essentials.” Having a baby is cute and amazing… but it’s not always glamourous. (Though, Tyler did used to work for a Dallas-based hospital system that served champagne & lobster to new mothers in their maternity unit, so maybe it actually IS in the US suburbs or in private healthcare!) I’m sure a few more items will make their way into my bag before we leave, but I’m not sure Nutrigrain bars and outdated bags of Cadbury eggs from Easter should make the official list.

I’m really grateful though for the opportunity have such amazing (and kind!) doctors take care of us. What we have learned is: if you have a straightforward pregnancy, you’ll find no frills care without a lot of handholding… because they know that this is a really natural process and the general checkpoints along the way will get you to having a healthy baby. But for people that need help and hand-holding (Hi!I I’m Lauren, and I’m traumatised by delivery!), you’ll get the help and care you need. Being a “bells & whistles” case is never the situation you want to find yourself in, but I can tell you- when you’re there, we’ve found that the staff will be some of the most attentive and gracious people. 

For more information, you can find a list that the NHS has provided on what to pack for you hospital bag here on their official site



*Images original to Aspiring Kennedy.

*This post was made in part by sponsorship from Waremakers.

Summer Shoes for Europe

One of the things I get asked ALL THE TIME is… “What kind of shoes should I buy/pack/bring for our trip to Europe?” It’s a loaded question, as there are so many good options, but I think the main thing people want to avoid is bringing a bad options. (Which there are infinitely more of!) So I think it’s a fair question and a good topic to address. What DO you wear for shoes when traveling?

I used to have a hard stance that you want to look as much like a local as possible… but I’ve softened my views a bit. For the main reason, you aren’t experiencing Europe like a local! Most people are walking way more than most of people who live here do in a day. You need your feet to be really comfortable in a way that those of us who live here do not. Plus, when the rain comes… you keep going. Most of us will tuck back into our offices or homes. I’ve come to be sympathetic for people trying to look local… but having to be on their feet for hours longer than we are.

Plus, I’ve realised that looking like a tourist isn’t the worst thing in the world… as long as you look like a smart one. Those people who try to wear “normal” items that aren’t practical for city life look much more ridiculous. (I’m thinking of you American girl, limping through the street in huge heels that you have never worn for more than 50 feet to and from Valet Parking.) So be a tourist… just be a cool one. In fact, cool tourists are kind of the funnest people to be around anyway.

So I’ve come up with a little round-up of shoes I would REALLY wear here in the summer. Shoes that are comfortable for walking, shoes that won’t slide on and off all day… because that’s annoying not only for you but people you’re walking with. (Experience talking!) These shoes are shoes that aren’t all gladiators and strappy ankle sandals, because… well, it’s a bit colder here. Even in the summer. So while you may have some nice days and some glorious afternoons, you’ll probably still find yourself needing shoes that get you through a morning drizzle or cloudy day.

And if you’re looking for nice shoes that you can walk to dinner and a show in? Well, I’ve tried to find some that will go the distance for you. They’ll get you there without tears, or snapping your ankle in half. (At least, that was the goal.)



*image original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on April 28, 2017 and filed under shopping, what to pack.

Buy It In Blighty: British Souvenirs

If we ever moved back to the States, there would be a long list of things I would miss about daily life here. Beyond the relationships and meaningful things, I would also grieve the lack of access to some of my favorite things that are only found here. 

Some are the fancy items that you find in specialty shops (like Floris Perfume... swoon), others are just practical items that are made better (Primark tights!), while the rest... well, they're just things I think make for great gifts to remember your time in Britain.


1. ANTIQUE SILVER: What kind of Notting Hill resident would I be if I didn't put this on the top of my list? Between my love for entertaining and my passion for a good bargain, I think it is so fun to scour the market stalls of Portobello Road on Saturday mornings for treasure. (Open every Saturday. Go before 11am to avoid the really terrible crowds.) I also find some great serving pieces and home items in the charity shops here- some of our favorite things have been £0.50 off the dusty shelf of an Oxfam store.

2. TIGHTS: I can't explain the different in the tights here vs the US. The quality, even among the cheap brands, is just so much better. And the price? SO MUCH CHEAPER. I get mine from Primark. I can get a couple of pairs for £2 each and wear them for months on end without snagging or runs. Marks and Spencer also has great tights for around £2.50 each. They are so much thicker-yet-stretchy than you find in the States. My family always requests that I buy them several pairs each year.

3. TEA: Tea in the States is so expensive compare to Britain... and even the basic store brands here are going to be as good (if not better) than most of the blends you'll find in the US. We like M&S Gold for a great everyday tea... I think it's around £5 for 80 bags. Yorkshire Gold, PG Tips, or Twinings are all good buys that you can find anywhere. (And I know there is Twinings in the States, but each of the teas are blended different for the US markets even though they are called the same.)

4. SMYTHSON: You can buy Smythson around the world, but there is something especially neat about going to their shop on Bond Street. You'll feel posh toting that little blue bag around Mayfair with you, and the goodies inside will become a keepsake for years to come. Whether it's stationery or a chic travel wallet, the look is timeless.

5. BRITISH MAGAZINES: When I would travel here before we moved over, I loved reading the newspapers and magazines in Britain. Something about them was so funny and different to me... It's definitely culturally enriching to read the vocabulary and social commentary within one. 

6. LIBERTY LONDON: This department store is not only special to visit because of the gorgeous building that it is located in off Regent Street, but the famous floral prints that made it famous make for a great souvenir that is perfectly London. They have a variety of items available in an assortment of their most popular prints- trays, tea cups, home goods, aprons, etc. Or, of course, you can go to their fabric hall and have some yards cut of their famous prints to do something extra special with when you get home.

7. LEMON CURD: While Britain does make amazing jams, I think good lemon curd is really hard to find back in the US. It never seems to have the same pucker that UK curd has. (Which, in my opinion, is the best part.) Plus, it's ridiculously cheap here. You can buy a pretty jar at one of the fancy department stores like Harrods or Fortnum & Mason as a gift, or stock up for yourself at any grocery store.

8. TATLER: Again, another British magazine that is so awesomely British. Grab a copy for the train or plane... I have a feeling you'll have a hard time tossing it out even after it's been read and out of date. (I always do, at least.)

9. FLORIS LONDON: Floris is the oldest private perfumer in Britain. Their shop in Mayfair has mixed custom scents for the Royal household for generations, and their celebrity list is too long to count. You can either go in and buy one of their scents off the shelf, or pay to have a custom scent blended for you. (Fancy, right?)

10. COOKBOOKS: If people talk about bad food in Britain, I typically just assume they haven't actually been here in twenty years... or wouldn't be able to find good food where they live either. Great food is EVERYWHERE in Britain. There are some amazing chefs here with great work- Jamie Oliver, Yotam Ottolenghi, Nigella Lawson, Mary Berry... etc. I live just around the corner from Ottolenghi in Notting Hill, so I'm especially keen for the Jerusalem cookbook he created. (Plus, the UK cover is different than the US, so it makes for a fun souvenir.)

11. CATH KIDSTON: This British brand is a stop that I frequent when I need a gift for my nieces or nephews. With adorable prints and sweet items, I can always find a reasonably priced item that totally hits the spot. (Plus, they are a large brand here, so it is easy to find them dotted around town.)

 


 

So there you have it: those are some of my favorite things to enjoy or to share from England. What would you put on your list to pick up here during your stay?

 



 

 

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

 

 

Posted on April 28, 2015 and filed under london, shopping, travel, what to pack.

Gladiator Wars

In my closet there are a squillion pairs of ballet flats and booties. (Realistically, about 13 pairs.) However, you'll only find one pair of sandals because, if I'm honest, I typically can use the same pair for an entire summer before they wear out. Thank you, English weather.

However, this year- we have had great weather. And by great, I mean, soul-lifting, shirt-peeling, blazing sunshine! The best news is: it's supposed to be like this for months. I can hardly wipe the smile from my face. (Please, England, don't blow this!) If you have plans to be in the UK this summer/spring- the forecast is looking great.

Last week, my tried & true pair of gladiators started to fall apart. The sole is becoming separated from the shoe and, while I picked up some super glue to hold it together in the interim... I have a feeling it's time for a new pair. After all, these were only $19 at Nordstrom Rack almost two years ago. They've served good time.

I've been doing some sole-searching while I try to find some replacements... and I have to say: I may have to get crazy and get two pairs this year. One with some sparkle, and another pair that is simple and neutral. I can't decide... and have decided I don't really want to since my feet will most likely be the part of my post-baby body I'll be wanting to draw attention to this summer.

 

gladiator sandals aspiring kennedy fashion.jpg

            SPARKLY : one | two | three | four | five    |    SIMPLE: six | seven | eight | nine | ten  

 

Which way do you lean? A little bit of flash? No-nonsense? Or a good dose of both? Either way, in my opinion, it's hard to loose.



 

*image orignal to Aspiring Kennedy

 

 

 

Posted on April 20, 2015 and filed under shopping, what to pack.

Souvenirs De France

When I'm with guests traveling from the US, a big question that I get asked is: "What are the best souvenirs to buy when you're here?" So I figured it would be fun to share a few of my favorite things to bring back with me when I travel from various places.

To be honest, some of these are obvious while others are hidden gems. And then the rest? Well, they're everyday items that we've somehow got hooked on when traveling that we love to enjoy in our everyday back home when we're lucky enough to have them.

First up... Souvenirs de France, complete with a pretty visual and a reason why each makes it to my suitcase, when possible.

 

1. MONOPRIX BABY CLOTHES | While it may be on par with Marks & Spencers or Target, Monoprix is probably my favorite stop in France. Their baby clothes are gorgeous, and if you're lucky enough to travel during the sale time? Jackpot. My French friend told me that a director from Bonpoint had taken over their children's line and that is why it is so gorgeous. Fact? Fiction? Either way, most of my favorite pieces in Viola's wardrobe are from their end of season sales.

2.  MACARONS | As cliche as it may be to put this on your list, we all know they're going to be purchased and brought back from someone. The two heavy hitters are Ladurée and Pierre Hermé. Either way, you're in good hands.

3. GROCERIES | As silly as it may sound, we have a few items that we love to get in Paris- especially at Monoprix. Green curry paste, granola with dark chocolate, sirop de fraise to make sparkling water feel very fancy,  and of course chocolate-covered waffles.

4. FRAGONARD | This French perfumer has it's main studio in a charming hillside town of Eze in Provence. Luckily, you don't have to go to Southern France to get access to their goodies. (Just you know... across the ocean to various other parts of France.) I can never resist getting a souvenir from here- especially the candles. They have a Brioche candle that burns in our kitchen. It is one of my favorite gifts to give friends. They also have adorable items for sale like hand-embroidered pillows and shirts. 

5. TABLE LINENS | Is this one kind of random? Maybe, but whenever we are at a market, I find myself drawn to thumbing through the stacks of table clothes for sale. Maybe it's because they are classic and simple... maybe its because they are so cheap (typically around €7-10).... Either way, these are another great gift to bring back for yourself or someone else.

6. TEA | Tea? The girl from England is recommending you buy tea in France? Yes, but let me explain. France has great teas. I love Ladurée's almond tea, and pretty much any Kusmi Tea. (I like the Anastasia blend.) They're quite a bit more than you would pay in England, but they are crazy blends and a bit more of a specialty item.

7. BIODERMA | I use this everyday. It feels like water and it removes makeup like none other. Every French woman I know loves and uses it. Luckily, Amazon now makes it accessible to the US & UK... but you can get it for about half the price in a French pharmacy. Stock up... and send me some!

8. ANTIQUE BOOKS | The book stalls along the Seine have some of the prettiest treasures in them. They pack great, they are cheap (if you shop around) and, I think, they make for sweet gifts for friends.

9. MONOPRIX CLOTHES | Okay, okay... one more thing from Monoprix: clothes for us! I can't say that 100% of their store is a hit, but they do some great classic pieces at great prices. Anything chambray that I have is from here, as well as some of my favorite coats and skirts. The guys line is significantly smaller than the women's line, but Tyler has a few favorites from there, too.

10. APILCO | I registered for Apilco dishes from Williams-Sonoma when I was getting married. Thank goodness people gifted them to us, because there is NO WAY I would ever shell out the dough for them on my own. (So expensive!) I found a store in Paris though, La Vaissellerie- just off St. Paul metro in the Marais- that sells the entire line for a fraction of the price. We bought bowls and plates for €3-4 each. They have multiple locations around Paris.

11. MAILLE MUSTARD | Everything is better with this on it. I have a hard time thinking of a meal in France that I don't put this on. (Okay, fine, breakfast... but otherwise, it has to be on the table.) I can get it here, but not as cheap as there. You can get a huge jar of this heavenly concoction that makes your nose run in just the way for only €2.50. Yum.

 

 


 

What would you fill up your suitcase with? Anything I'm missing that I need to know about? Educate us!

 

*image original Aspiring Kennedy

 

 

Risked It. Worth It.

This week in London has been amazing- no classes (reading week!), sunshine and warm(er) temps, and getting to spend time with friends & family. 

And the best part of this week? We are headed to Paris on Friday morning for a long weekend for Viola's birthday- because what says "Happy 2nd Birthday!" like one more Disney run before your annual passes expire? We can't think of one.

So off to Paris we go. I'm writing down our packing list now. (Nespresso pods for AirBnB apartment, continental hair straightener, Minnie Mouse ears, etc.) And I'm tossing in the fabulous new boots that I recently got... my favorites are getting worn in the soles and these back-ups were a faster option than tracking down a cobbler.

£45! Free shipping! Free returns! Black, brown or grey- they match everything. Won't hurt my feelings to get them a little messy and actually wear them. I love you ASOS.

 

Check out the Risked It Boot on ASOS now. They're (almost) too good to be true. 


 

FOLLOW ASPIRING KENNEDY ON BLOGLOVIN

 

 

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on February 18, 2015 and filed under shopping, everyday living, what to pack.

The Right Shoes for Europe.

Working with peoples' travels typically brings up many of the same things... affordable hotels, restaurants that are family friendly, airport transfers, etc. But one thing that always gets brought up is packing. What do we wear? What kind of coat is right for the specific season? And, of course, what shoes should I wear?

I'll give it to them. It's an important question. As many of us know, shoes can make or break your day when traveling. I typically wear flats that I've broken in ahead of time. You don't want those blisters arriving the first day of your trip when you have miles of walking awaiting you. Ouch.

And you want to look good in your pictures, too. I get it. Here are a some shoes that I love and that would make Londoners give you the nod of footwear approval. (Plus, they work year-round here for keeping your feet dry.)

ONE  |  TWO  |  THREE  |  FOUR  |  FIVE  |  SIX |  SEVEN

 

And since the underlying issue of looking "not like an American" is typically tied to these questions, here are my two main tips for looking a bit more local: Don't wear rain boots. (Sorry, but Brits only wear these out in the country when the weather actually demands in- never in the city.) Secondly, and this may hurt American friends, but the tall riding boots you got for Christmas aren't really common here either. Though I will say: if you've broken in a good pair that you love, who cares. Wear them, love them, and take all the pictures you want feeling cute in them. (At the end of the day, the only person that needs to care is you!)

Here's the other important thing to remember when packing for traveling in Europe: while you want to blend in, realize that, as a tourist, you'll be out and walking much more than locals will be in the day. You need to be more comfortable- because while we walk to the tube and to work/school, you'll be clocking miles as you explore the city. Dress comfortable. Pack an umbrella, wear waterproof jackets if you're out all day.... because the only thing worse than "looking like a tourist" is to find yourself out all day soaked, limping with a bloody blister and feeling generally miserable. 

 

 

*image original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on February 2, 2015 and filed under shopping, travel, what to pack.

Summer Style.



There's a part of me that loves to reinvent my look...

but as much as I may want to try new styles,

I can not stop myself from buying shirt dresses.


It's definitely a sickness.


While I get tired of my repeat purchases,

I feel great every time I wear them.


They look cleaned up for work.

They look casual for play.

They play well at brunch.

They wear well around town.


Wear them with tights and ballet flats,

or wear them with sandals and a summer scarf.


 

Oh, and overshare alert- but they are nursing friendly, too.

 

They just fit every day of my life perfectly...

As well as my pastry-engorged tummy.

 

Go on, get you one and tell me if you're not a believer.

(Also, GAP is 40% off everything through today. Hooray!)

 

 

 

Happy Memorial Day, friends.

I hope you pause today to think of those who have defended our freedom

and their loved ones who have supported them in their service.

 

 

*photos original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on May 26, 2014 and filed under fashion, what to pack.

Skin Deep | Elizabeth's Daughter

I'm starting a little three part series

on skincare and face products.

 

Let's call it Skin Deep, shall we?

 

I'll be honest...

up until this past year,

I hardly every even took off my makeup 

before going to bed.

 

I know, right, I'm disgusting.

 

 I'd wash my face on a recreational basis only

when I was bored

or primping for a party or event.

 

Otherwise.... couldn't be bothered.

 

And then... well, motherhood/baby loss/age

kicked me in the butt.

 

I stood in front of a mirror this fall

and couldn't believe how much OLDER I looked.

 

I was aging faster than Mel Gibson

after he pops out of the freezer in Forever Young.

 

It was insult to injury.

 

I hardly recognized myself...

and I decided to start trying to do a bit more

to slow down the process.

 

I chunked down some cash on products

and have been spending the last few months

seeing which is the best fit for my skin.

 

I figured it was time to share what I've learned with you...

just in case you wake up one day and find the same surprise

awaiting you in the bathroom mirror.

 


 

ELIZABETH'S DAUGHTER

 

I honestly wasn't familiar with this Brit-based line until trying it....

I really like it!

 

I got the travel kit

that includes the facial gel cleanser, purifying mask and daily moisturizer.

elizabeths_daughter_travel_set_aspiringkennedy

I can't say that the products are anything magical 

when you first use them,

but they are a solid daily lineup

that will eventually leave your skin healthy.

 

(Which is the goal, right?)

 

I've used them for several weeks now

and my skin is smooth and my complexion is clear.

elizabeths_daughter_purifying_mask_aspiringkennedy

 

The moisturizer is nourishing without making me breakout...

and the mask is a nice treat to use every few days.

 

elizabeths_daughter_gel_cleanser_aspiringkennedy

 

My face has felt really nice using this trio for the past few months.

 

What else I like about the brand?

It's void of the crap. No harsh chemicals in these.

 

It's packed with vitamins and natural elements

to brighten your face and keep it healthy.

 

It's affordable! The gel cleanser is only £12.

 

So there you have it...

Check out Elizabeth's Daughter for yourself.

 

(I think you'll like it, too.)

 

 

 

 

*photography by Noah Darnell

*products c/o Elizabeth's Daugther

 

 

 

Posted on April 29, 2014 and filed under beauty, what to pack.

Packing for Paris

Today we are off to Paris with our dear friends, Anthony & Kellee....{Kellee is the one I surprised last year the week she was due in Dallas, remember?} They have been here with us in London for several days, and we have been having the BEST time. {It's great to be reunited with good friends, isn't it?} After taking London by storm, this party is moving east. We are headed out on the Eurostar to introduce our friends to Paris.

While my bags are packed with my closet's finest....here's one ensemble that I can only dream of packing.

malachite rolex | asos lychee flats | dorothy perkins blazer | h&m dress | ysl lipstick

This look is just right for Paris in October, n'est pas? Something about it just screams:  parfume, peonies, & patisseries.

{ Sigh. }

Oh well. If I can't take take the designer closet, I suppose four days in Paris with my love and our best friends will just have to suffice. {ha!}

If you could be anywhere with anyone, what scenario would you choose for this weekend?

Posted on October 14, 2011 and filed under what to pack, paris.