Posts filed under work life

My Paris | A Private Tour of Versailles

 

You know that feeling you have when you're traveling and you stumble across some place new... there's a sense of excitement that pulses through you and, if you're like me, you feel like you need to start running, or finding the best restaurant or peeking into real estate offices to begin your new life here.

I love that feeling, and it wasn't until I found myself wandering through the city of Versailles last week that I felt it again for the first time in a long time. To my surprise, the feeling came back and I realised how long it had been since I felt this incredible feeling of the unknown. Most of the places we go to are familiar... like the feeling of seeing an old friend. It's a happy feeling, but a very comfortable feeling.

Anyway, I was in Versailles and we ended up walking 10 minutes past the Chateau and into the heart of town. There was a huge daily market and gorgeous cafes and streets. I couldn't believe I had been to this town so many times and, yet, actually had never seen the cute town here.

But I didn't realise the new view of Versailles had only just begun...

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VISITE PRESTIGE | VERSAILLE'S PRIVATE TOUR OF THE KING & QUEENS APARTMENTS

Okay, so there's a visit to Versailles and then there is THIS VISIT. I was traveling with a private group of clients and they jumped at the opportunity to splurge when I suggested this private tour of the king and queen's private apartments inside Versailles. I had never been on it before, but knew that a guided tour was a must- as the standard lines are just horrific; however, I had my socks officially knocked off by this incredible experience.

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The tour consisted of a private tour through the closed doors of Versailles. We had a docent walk through with us and a second person who carried the ancient keys to unlock the doors and open the shutters inside these dark, closed-off rooms.

You're walked into Marie Antoinette's bedroom where she would hang out with her friends during the day getting dressed and relaxing in between court appearances, you see the bathroom of Louis XIV and the spot where he took his baths and had his face shaved every morning. You see the fluffy bed inside Madame du Barry's apartments... whee the king would come down to visit his beloved mistress. 

You sit in the private opera house to discuss details with the guide, you wander around hidden stair cases and dawdle through empty corridors. 

You are lead and given access to places that you can only imagine. Away from the hustle and formality of the state rooms where events were held, you get to wander through the quiet spaces where they actually lived the meaningful moments of their lives.

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Meanwhile, we never saw another human during the entire two hour tour. We almost began to see the palace as our own... until it ended and found ourselves in the middle of the hoards of tourists. We quickly felt ruined by our incredibly posh beginning so rushed through to the gardens.

Oh man, what an experience. Definitely not the cheapest way to visit Versailles (the tour is €1000 and can include up to 20 guests); however, for a special occasion or a larger group it is an incredible opportunity to see Versailles in such a special way.

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And if you don't get that butterfly-travel-excitment from this day out in Versailles, well, I don't know what to tell you. 

 


Looking for help on a day-trip to Versailles from Paris? I've made it easy in my Daytrip to Versailles post here. Find more of my Paris favourites in my travel guide to Paris.

 



 

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

 

Posted on August 1, 2018 and filed under day trips, france, my paris, paris, travel, work life, work.

My London | The Highlights of the British Museum

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Do you remember the excitement of being in school and going on a field trip? You would trek out on adventures with your teacher, classmates and obliging volunteer parents to see some treasure of your local area. (Mine included the Fort Worth Stockyards and Kodak Film Processing Center. Whee!) Well, today I’m whisking you away on a field trip. We are leaving our normal everyday setting here on Aspiring Kennedy of children, English clothes and cakes and delving straight into the wondrous place that is the British Museum.

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I realized the other day that I’ve never actually posted about the British Museum on my blog, which is weird as I have spent so much time there over the past years. It’s located within a minute from my office, I was there all the time for my masters degree, and both Tyler & I teach in it now for various courses. And yet, the only things I ever really post are glimpses of it as I walk to and from work. I suppose the truth is: even though I may sound like a British Museum know-it- all, the more I’m there the more I realise how little I actually do know. There’s so much to learn!

But for most people coming to visit the world’s second public museum (the first was the Ashmolean in Oxford, just in case you ever need it for a pub quiz), I can guide you around the highlights of the British Museum.. and to make it easy to swallow, you’ll only have to read 2-3 sentences about each of the items.

If you’re looking to find the best things to see at the British Museum, well, wait no longer. During a snowy day last week, I ran in between lecturing and picking up Viola from school for a special whirlwind tour to show you the things that I think you’ll like best. Admission is free for all and you can view all ten departments and collections upon walking through those glorious and massive doors.


THE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE BRITISH MUSEUM

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PARTHENON FRIEZES | Also known as the controversial “Elgin Marbles.” Only half of the sculptures of the Parthenon still survive and London actually holds the majority of them in the British Museum, some lay on the bottom of the Mediterranean sea being lost in transport, and the rest remain in Athens. Who is the rightful owner has been a topic of debate for a long time, but regardless of where you think they belong- they currently have UK citizenship.

WHERE TO FIND IT | Greece: Parthenon, Room 18, Ground Floor


ASSYRIAN SCULPTURE AND BALAWAT GATES | These large winged human-headed lion sculptures guarded the entrance to the royal palace of King Ashurbanipal II. Not only do they look cool and feel like walking onto a movie set, they also hold Biblical significance when you realize that Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego would have sat on them as they waited for their turn to see the king; in fact, if you look closely on the right hand side, you’ll see where people carved a small game to play as they waited.

WHERE TO FIND IT | Assyria, Room 6, Ground Floor

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ROSETTA STONE | This stone allowed us to decipher Egyptian writings for the very first time- though I still prefer to enjoy Billy Crystal’s theory about hieroglyphics actually just being a cartoon of a cat named “Sphynxy” in When Harry Met Sally. This famous rock wasn’t always placed behind a glass case-- it used to be uncovered in the museum, where visitors could touch and trace the writings on the stone. (If you’re finding yourself longing to touch and feel the stone, wander to the hall of replicas where they have a life- sized one you can touch.)

WHERE TO FIND IT | Egypt, Egyptian sculptures, Room 4, Ground Floor


SUTTON HOO | A woman named Mrs. Edith Pretty asked an archaeologist to come explore a large burial mound on her property. What he found was incredible: an imprint of a 27-metre long ship and a burial chamber with treasures inside. This elaborate discovery probably once belonged to a king, though to be accurate the mystery still remains today about who exactly he was.

WHERE TO FIND IT | Europe: The Sir Paul and Lady Ruddock Gallery, Room 41, First Floor

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BASALT STATUE | This colossal statue, perhaps better known as one of the statues from Easter Island, is known as Hakananai’a, or “Stolen and hidden friend”. It represents an ancestral figure, probably to express ideas about leadership and authority. It also reminds me of Night At The Museum: “Me want gum-gum dumb-dumb.”

WHERE TO FIND IT | Africa, Room 24, Ground Floor

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PHARMACOPOEIA | This item may not be one of the most famous you’ll read about in most guides- but I can’t help but include it here. In this installation in the British Museum, titled “Cradle to Grave,” shows the medicine and pills that the average person takes over the course of their lifetime. The research is staggering...over 14,000 drugs are prescribed to a human in their lifetime (in the UK). It said that we spend more money on treating indigestion than cancer. This fascinating installation compares how different cultures treat illness and is well worth the read.

WHERE TO FIND IT | Themes: The Wellcome Trust Gallery, Room 24, Ground Floor


MUMMIES | The British Museum holds the largest collection of Egyptian objects besides Egypt-- including mummies! The Museum holds over 120 human mummies in their collection, and over 80 of them are from Egypt. A favorite of mine is the Gebelein Man B, who was preserved in the sand and is shrunken with skin and hair still persevered after thousands of years… and no doubt a chilling reminder of our own mortality.

WHERE TO FIND IT | Ancient Egypt: Egyptian Death and Afterlife in Roxie Walker Galleries, Room 62-63, First Floor


Of course... no visit would be complete without a sweet treat from the café in the Great Court. (Highly recommend those raspberry + white chocolate muffin.)

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If you’re traveling to London and would like to book a private tour with Tyler, he offers a fantastic “The History of the Bible though the British Museum” tour. He’s going to maybe kill me for posting that since he mainly only does them for my private clients, but I think they’re too good to miss!

Find more of my favourite spaces and places in London in my travel guide.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

(Little Kids + Working Moms) x Being an Expat = Complicated

As a mom, I’ve learned that the issue of childcare is a tricky one. So many factors are involved in finding someone to replace your role as mom- even if it’s just for a short time while you get errands run. This list of factors mainly includes (but is not limited to): income (because we all have different budgets and can’t all spend the same on childcare), distance (do you live near people you trust, or are you in a place away from trusted resources?), time (are you looking for something consistent or do you need random hours here and there?), trust (how do you know that the person watching your child(ren) isn’t crazy… and are they actually enriching your children’s lives/minds or merely keeping them alive until you return).

Living away from family, we have really battled with finding people to care for our children. Whether it’s just for a night for us to get a night away together or for something more steady during work hours- we’ve tried a bit of everything possible. Our work is a bit too sporadic to plan for a full-time help at scheduled hours… but when we need someone for work, we need someone who can pretty much dedicate their full attention to us…. But only for a few months. 

While the idea of family is sooooo appealing, we live an ocean away from anyone that we are related to. (With the exception of my aunt/uncle this summer… they have been SO wonderful to have in town with us to help in mundane moments and bigger ones like having a baby early!)

When I first heard about an au pair, I chalked it up to unrealistic for us. Full-time nannies are trop cher, and we don’t make enough to, essentially, pay their salary. I filed it away, and then when an ex-student approached me about coming to work with us in Paris after she had returned from a year in Australia (as an au pair for a family there), I started to ask her a bit about the basic format. When she told me how it all worked, my mind was blown. It actually was something we could do/afford… and seemed like the perfect fit for us.

After a year and a half of having an au pair, I have to say: it totally suits our family. Having someone live with us, be like family to us, and help watch our kids in random hours/spurts is just what we were needing… without really knowing was possible. 

Now, I'll be honest: we have been SPOILED with the absolute best au pairs. We have had people that have become family members to us, so having them share in daily life with us was never awkward or weird. The toughest part of them living was us was only when they had to leave. (PS. If you're reading this Cami, come back!!)

So I thought that maybe I’d do a vlog where I talk about what having an au pair is like… because maybe, just maybe, it could open up some options for your family, too. And maybe, just maybe, you’re currently as clueless about au pairs as I once was. Yes? Well then, ask away! I’ve got my own experience of two au pairs- with a new one arriving soon! Plus, I’ve asked a few friends to weigh in when there’s a question that I can’t answer. 

Ask away- from the basic (where do you even find someone to be an au pair?) to the more tense (what if your au pair has gross living habits- like leaving hair in the shower drain or has the smell of rot perfuming their room?) I kind of can’t wait to read these, by the way!


Hopefully this helps you if you’re at the point of breaking in trying to juggle it all.. and gives you an option that works great for your family.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

 

Weak-Night Cooking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

- Chicken Stew with Biscuits (Ina Garten)

- Honey Pecan Salmon (Aspiring Kennedy)

 




 

*images by noah darnell original to aspiring kennedy

 

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

Paris | Week 1

Our first week in Paris is in the books. Our students are here, we are settled in our new/temporary apartment, and life is rolling on. In the midst of work and family life, we are dutifully shoveling brioche down our throats as much as possible. 

And Tyler and I have even been able to spend some nice time together in the midst of it all. Wandering along the Seine in the middle of day together, we'll find ourselves hugging the other and savoring the sweet moments alone in a city we love. What adventures the two of us have had!

Yesterday, we had a choux pastry cooking class at La Cuisine Paris. In the midst of an amazing time making eclairs, we looked out and sad the biggest, chunkiest snow falling out the window over the Seine and Ile St. Louis. Considering I nearly left the house in a JCrew t-shirt two hours before, I can only explain the change in weather as: "bizarre."


One of my former students that we love has come to stay with us this spring. She's helping with the kids during the day, and it's been so nice. Plus, it has been so fun to have another girl around the house to watch Fuller House with each night and laugh at hilarious SNL skits. (How had I never seen this Kristin Wig one? I live under a rock, I tell you.)

Plus, she lets me force her into taking pictures pretending to be a Joni Mitchell album cover. Complete with a napkin cigarette. I'm never letting her leave us. 

Last night after the kids went bed, Tyler & I snuck out for a little dinner out at our favorite place. Sadly, the place has become so... not charming. It was sad to come back to "our" place to see it was so full of tourists. The food was really blah and the service was terrible. All night, we sat there hoping to get a glimpse of the place we once loved with the arrival of a perfect dish to our table or a conversation with a charming waiter that would rekindle the flame... but it never happened. It was like waiting for an old friend to show up in a crowd, but you never recognize the familiar face you are hoping to see. We walked out of there and walked home a bit sad at the reality that our history of dates there was at an end... but with the determination to find a new place that would be our "new" spot. 

It reminded me how fast these cities can change... recommendations and advice for travel has such a short shelf life. With that in mind, I'm working hard to update and add some really good new places for the Paris travel guide, so that the places I recommend can lead you to places that will help you make great memories. Rather than just "meh" ones like we experienced last night.

So... we are officially back on the market. We are looking for our Parisian soulmate- in the form of a cozy restaurant- that we can have a serious fling with over the months come. Anyone want to play matchmaker for us? What's a great date spot we should try in Paris!




*images original to aspiring kennedy


Posted on March 3, 2016 and filed under paris, france, travel, work life.

Hats Off | Graduation Day!

 

Last week, I graduated from Kings College London with a Masters in Digital Humanities.

We hopped in a black cab and headed to the Barbican Centre early on Tuesday morning. After getting stuck in some killer city traffic, I dashed in minutes before registration closed, got fitted in my Ede & Ravenscroft robe, grabbed a program and headed in to the main hall for my seat. 

The ceremony was awesome in the no-nonsense way that herded us through like cattle but also had some undeniably cool elements such as an amazing trumpeter and organist, the Duke of Wellington presenting our diplomas to us, and finishing with a rousing version of "God Save the Queen."

But let's be honest, what made the day really special was the spread of food and drinks they had for us in the atrium afterwards.

Joking, joking... Despite the fact that those pumpkin and ricotta tarts were delicious.

I'm not sure I'll remember much about the day I graduated with my masters beyond the few glimpses I have of looking across the auditorium and seeing Tyler holding Harrison, who was mastering his clapping game at the sound of every name that was announced and Viola being good by keeping quiet as she crawled around by my parents' legs.

I mean, I don't want to cheapen the pursuit of learning or the accomplishment of getting a Masters. I feel so lucky and so supported to have done this at the stage of life I (read: we) are in. I'm thankful that I got to study this subject at one of the best places in the world there is for it... but man, I'm also glad to get to share life with such nice people!

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If you're curious about Digital Humanities or the degree that I did- you can check out Kings College London MA in Digital Humanities page or this snazzy new video featuring some of my favorite classmates/professors!

 




*images original to Aspiring Kennedy


Posted on February 1, 2016 and filed under everyday living, work life.

Guilt-Free Dining.

I'd love to pretend that Tyler & I live in perfect harmony. While we do function well with very full lives, we also can feel really burdened by it after a while. It typically takes a few tears (from me), a babysitter and a dinner out to help us get back on the same page. We get there, but it's not always without some tension.

As embarrassed as I am to admit it, but I'm totally a scorekeeper in this area. Obnoxious phrases like "You got to do (fill in the blank), and I haven't gotten to do (fill in the blank)." or "I've been at home for X amount of days, it's your turn" unfortunately come out of my mouth far too often. 

Tyler, knowing that I was feeling some stress, hired our nanny for the entire day today so that I could catch up on the loose ends that were driving me nuts. (He's so nice, guys.) Before I headed to the office, I had a meeting scheduled.... but it fell through at the last minute. I was left across town with an hour hole in my schedule. I started to scurry to try to fill it to maximize the day, and then I decided to just enjoy it.

Instead of clawing my way into some free time, here it fell on my lap. Rather than making it into a bit of hurried time, I'm just chilling with a bowl of porridge at Bill's and mindlessly clearing my camera roll with the awesome new app KEEPERS. (This app is changing my life- you have to try it if you're like me and have 15 versions of every photo eating up your memory.) 

It may be the least exotic way to spend some time alone... but it feels good. After all, feeling a little less crazy may be the biggest accomplishment that I could achieve today. 

And just as I got the end of writing all of that, an email dropped in my inbox. Official word that I was awarded my masters... with merit. Totally bragging, but man..... adding a masters to our lives last year wasn't without a bunch of hustle. How awesome that we survived it. Phew! Tyler and I should both walk across the stage, because I could not have earned it without him. What a perfect moment of validation for the quiet hours of work that can often feel like they are meaningless.

Happy Friday! I hope yours is as good as mine!

xo - Lauren

 




*image orignal to aspiring kennedy


Posted on December 4, 2015 and filed under everyday living, work life, marriage.

How Does She Do It All? (She Don't.)

A few years ago, I had a huge girl crush on a blogger who was effortlessly beautiful. Not only was she stunning, but she also had a gorgeous home, a fleet of model children and a successful business of her own. I would follow her daily happenings with awe. While my day's accomplishments had been a Tesco run with fuzzy hair and consuming half a pack of Custard Creams for breakfast. Watching her left me feeling like a chubby freshman sitting on the bleachers of life while this sexy senior paraded by on the shoulders of the football team.

Then, as life does, we got shoved together to work on a project. I was so excited. We met and she was charming. In fact, everything about her life was even cooler in person. Instagram filters hadn't made things look better than real life. Her real life was actually absurdly cool.

BUT.... when we were together, there was a mention of a nanny. One that worked full-time at their house and I was shocked.

I wasn't shocked that they had a nanny, but I was shocked that in such detailed documentation of their life, it had never been mentioned. In this "intimate" window to their daily lives, this extra person had never been mentioned, included in photos or discussed. Suddenly, the invisible cloud of "less-than-you" was lifted from it's perch over me and a new feeling of "more-tied-up-than-you" settled.

You see, it wasn't that a beautiful life isn't possible. I just think, with tiny kids, it's not really possible to do alone. Maybe you're some amazing superhero that can make do it all... but I'm not. And there was something freeing for me when I learned that it took another woman an entire work week to help sustain the gorgeous life they were living. Someone else was making breakfast, sorting socks, prepping dinner, buying Christmas presents. Someone else was doing all the grubby things that get in the way of me taking time to get cleaned up, feel inspired and with enough energy to be charming. 

And that's fine. In fact, that's awesome. Lucky her! Isn't that combination of gorgeous personal life/successful career the dream so many have?

It's been a few years, I still think about that moment when I realized they had a nanny a lot. For a while, Viola came everywhere with me for work. She was little. It was easy, but now she's bigger and Harrison is here. It's just not possible for Tyler & I to both work with our kids around, so we have someone that has been helping out a couple of days each week to make it happen.

It frees me up to do my job better, and I come home without looming to-do's waiting for me to tackle once the kids go to sleep. Now that my semester is coming to a close and our need for a nanny goes away for a while, life can go back to a less-organized version of itself One that involves lazier mornings, bigger laundry piles, daily Peppa Pig... and big cuddly piles of us around the house all day every day. Because that's all I'm capable of doing by myself, if I'm being honest.

Anyway, the point of all this? I don't know. I guess I just feel that this space can look pretty really easily, and that's not fair. Sometimes we forget what we edit out and we underestimate how people can perceive the lives we live. I just don't want to be someone that makes other people doubt themselves, because the truth is- I don't think we can have it all. I can't have a career and be with my kids all the time. And that's fine. Life is full of give and take. So yes, some days I get to dress up in clothes that are (nearly) clean and be free from the mundane tasks that can accompany being at home with kids. But it's only because someone else is supporting me to do so by picking up my slack on the home front.

So that's the deal. For some reason, I like being candid with you guys when I can about how life works for us. And because I never want to make anyone feel bad... especially for something that isn't even true!

 *  *  *  *  *

On that note... Hiring people to help with kids is a strange thing that I'm learning about as we go. Has anyone else been down this path before? I'd love to hear your thoughts on it. Wisdom is needed/appreciated- thank you in advance for sharing your experiences below.

 



 

 

*image by Ashel Parsons for Aspiring Kennedy

Jumps and Leaps... and Life in Between.

 

This the first blog entry that I have written in a month. A month! At first, I was too busy to care. Then I was stressed because I hadn't blogged, but didn't have time with finishing my dissertation and starting my fall semester for work. After that, I forgot that I hadn't blogged and got addicted to Snapchat (@aspiringkennedy). And then I got to a moment of rest, I started to wonder if I actually wanted to just walk away from blogging completely. I had lived an entire month without it and... and? Well, life was the same.

But here I am. Back! Tyler says that starting a blog is like asking for a puppy for Christmas. You think it's all fun and cute... but eventually the newness wears off and the day-to-day responsibility sets in. Ha! But it is kind of true. I have been blogging for five years. While my life is not really tied to my blogging identity (promise!), it does have a lot of big moments of my life recorded here. And it's introduced me to you guys, too.

I can live without blogging, but there are some big values that I see that come from it. Tucking my memories away somewhere other than my brain. Articulating what is good and bad and sweet and hard about the stages of life you are in at the moment. Connecting with other people that can weigh in and cheer you on or give you new perspective or, in small doses, critique you when you may need it.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is.... Blogging is still something I want to invest my time in for now.

While I may not be going anywhere, I have been LOTS OF PLACES over the past four weeks. Life has been full. Every night I lay in bed and feel like I somehow did it. I got my booty kicked all day from start to finish trying to juggle it all... but it happened. 

Jet lag from the US. Upper respiratory infections. Twice. Iceland sans Tyler, but with the help of my sister, Brooke. Finishing my dissertation while traveling in Iceland. Returning to London to teach/direct my semester. 

Which is where I'm at now. Working most days. Being with the kids the moments in between classes and museums. It's all good. It's busy, but it's life. So many of us are feeling something similar- aren't we? It may not be the constant hustle between different locations like me, but your roles in life tear you into a squillion places and pieces, too.

So cheers to us, people. We are doing it. Keeping up with the hustle. Doing good. Pouring ourselves out for something bigger than us. While not always be glamorous (please- don't be fooled by IG. I cleaned toddler poop off my favorite duvet tonight. Gagging/weeping all in the same breath.), the things that we're investing in are worth the endless drain of our time and attention.

Keep up the good work. Get distracted by the busy times in life and forget about the online games... just you know, remember to come back to us when you can. ;)

 



 

 

 

*photography by Ashel Parsons... who is just as kind and sweet as she is talented.

 

Posted on September 23, 2015 and filed under iceland, kids, everyday living, work life.

What Going Back To School Taught Me.

Today was my last day of classes as a student. The last day! I'll have six weeks of papers and finals ahead, and then spend the summer writing my dissertation... but today, at 4:00pm. my French class finished and my time to sit in a desk as a student came to an end. I can't believe how quickly it went when I look back, but at the same times- there have been a lot of mornings when I heard my alarm go off and I had to drag myself out of bed to face the day ahead.

In some ways- it hasn't been that bad. For starters Masters in the UK are only one year. This means two terms with eleven weeks of class each, and now I have until September to crank out a dissertation. (And baby?)

But in other ways, it's been really hard. Work! School! Toddler! Commuting on the Central Line everyday while pregnant! To be honest, it feels like a party day for me today thinking that I can do the rest of my papers and writing at my schedule and at my home.

After being "out" and in the "real world" for almost a decade, I realized few things upon returning to school. So here are a few things I'll always remember about going back to school at the ripe age of 30. (Or maybe I won't, so it makes it a good idea to write them down here.)

 

WHAT I WAS REALLY TAUGHT GOING BACK TO SCHOOL At Thirty.

 

1. I cared a lot more... AND a whole lot LESS.

At this stage of life, I'm here to get a degree. Not be homecoming queen... which lets be honest, I never was before either so it does help with expectations. I want to do good, and at the same time- I'm way less worried about school than I was before. In my time between graduating college and getting my masters, I've grown up a lot. I know why I'm getting a degree, and I know that regardless of how the year ends up- my life is on track. The emotional game of it is gone.

 

2. YOUR PROFESSORS ARE NORMAL PEOPLE, TOO. (AND THEY'LL LOVE YOU!)

When I did my undergraduate, I elevated professors in my mind to this untouchable level. They knew everything, they thought I was stupid and my questions were a waste of their time to do more important things. But now? Well, I guess I just know too many people that are teachers... and, more importantly, I became one myself. I've realized teachers aren't necessarily experts, but mainly just passionate about particular subjects. (And sometimes, they just got assigned to a particular module and are hacking through it... just like you.) This makes me want to engage with classroom discussions, takes the pressure off assignments (just do what the assignment asks and stop making it a head game. It actually isn't that hard!) and if you ask for help- most of them would love to offer it.

Another thing is... being a bit older makes me feel more inclined to chat with professors at times than your classmates. They'll remind you of your friends and colleagues... because, many of them will be around the similar ages. And the good news? They'll see you that way, too.

 

3. BEING 30 SOUNDS REALLY OLD TO PEOPLE IN THEIR 20's

I didn't walk into class the first semester and announce that I was married, a mom and pregnant... because that would be awkward. I just kind of did my thing. In fact, I just had fun with people in class and as I got to know them dropped in bits about my life as they came up. The moments when they realized I was older than they were by about five years, and married... and had a baby... and was pregnant, it was awesome. The look of shock and horror thrilled me every time. They genuinely felt bad for me and it genuinely made me laugh. I would have never been able to convince my 23 year old self how great life would be at 30... so I get it.

 

4. YOU WILL WORK SMARTER THAN YOU EVER DID BEFORE.

If you've ever had a crazy job or boss who demands last minute projects be assembled within an evening, all I can say is that a class assignment that has clear, written expectations and a deadline that is weeks out will seem like a luxury. You'll ask the questions you need answered so that you can produce the work you need- rather than remaining silent like you may have when the phrase "Any questions?" was offered in years past. You'll realize the value of your time in a new perspective, and you'll have become a squillion times more efficient.

 

 

5. EVERYONE WILL LOVE YOU... While SIMULTANEOUSLY NOT Actually CARE ABOUT YOU.

You'll get along with everyone, because you live above the drama. You won't have the time to be tooling around for hours before and after class, so you won't be as bonded or have the chance to have conflict. You'll just be the nice person that floats in and out of class, has their act together because you're there to learn and not socialize... and just generally get on with everyone. Though don't expect them inviting you to hang out on the weekends once they find out that you're a mom.

 


I left school today feeling that weird "Last Day of School" feeling that I hadn't felt in ten years. I forgot how excited, relieved, and sad you can feel at the same time on that day. All my friends awkwardly said goodbye with finger-crossed promises that we'd meet up at some point over the months ahead as we write our dissertations. It was one of those moments when everything was still normal and the same... but you knew was about to be over for good. There won't be a "next year" or a time when we'll all be in the same space together again. This was it. And maybe it was because I'm thirty and have lived a bit more of life at this point and have learned just how special those moments and friends end up become to you in life, but it made me a bit sappy.


I'm so thankful for the chance I got to get my Masters. It really was a dream come true, and I'm thankful to my teachers who were just SO kind. My classmates for teaching me how to do all the tech stuff I feel incompetent to do... but mainly for Tyler for not only putting up with me during this C.R.A.Z.Y. year, but championing me through it. (The man greeted me with bubbles to celebrate tonight- what a guy!)




 

FOLLOW ASPIRING KENNEDY ON BLOGLOVIN'

 

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

 

 

Posted on March 27, 2015 and filed under everyday living, work life.

Why Are Travel Consults Are A Thing.

I wrote a really long post about why I started doing travel consults and why I do them. But then I re-read it, and it was boring and the word "I" occurred way more than I liked. So I erased and thought I would try again with a bit more basic approach.


WHAT ARE TRAVEL CONSULTS?

I offer travel consults for people traveling to Europe. While I don't know everything about Europe, I do live in Europe and book/lead travel for small to large sized groups for a career. I'm experienced to discuss the subject and I'm passionate about making trips great. 

Most of my travel consult services are conducted via Skype or FaceTime. These are in 45 minute or 75 minutes sessions. Typically, clients will send me an outline of their trip before the call- dates, places they want to go, questions they have, and expectations in store. From there, we schedule a call and I do a little homework to get ready for the call.

On the call, we discuss their trip- tailored to what they need and want. We work through the logistics of traveling between destinations, we plan out which sites makes sense to see on which days, of course, work in all the extra details that make a trip magical- special spots you can't find in a guide book, memorable meals, taxi companies that are the cheapest, and the like. 

 

WHAT GOOD ARE THEY?

I won't pretend that you need me involved in your trip to have a great time in Europe. This place is amazing, and I would never say that I'm any part of that magic. However, Europe can also be a very frustrating place- especially for Americans who come from a very different background and have spent thousands of dollars to be here. I've learned that having someone that can both be your advocate while also serving as a liaison to a new culture is an invaluable asset. I love getting to be that person for my students and clients- the person that gets where they come from and also helps them see things they didn't know existed.

Plus, who else can help you skip lines at the Louvre and save you £15 on getting into Westminster Abbey? Only someone who has been to these sites so many times, they know how to get the best experience from a huge variety of sites. Local and industry tips like that make a huge difference when you only have a few days to see a city.

 

WHY DO I DO THEM?

It is really awesome to use the knowledge that I have gained both professionally and personally to help people experience Europe in the best possible way. To be able to tailor a trip for someone to make it fit their hopes is awesome. Plus, a lot of the information you'll get online is generic, touristy and ... fine. You'll have a great time if you stick to the run-of-the-mill places you hear about from friends who have spent a few days here or TripAdvisor. However, you'll really get to see a special side of Europe if we work together- you'll find all the small spots that make Europe really unique while getting to see the landmarks that made it famous. 

And... let's be honest: I was getting worn out from writing so many emails to random friends and family of readers that were heading this way. It took hours of my life and I really had no connection to them at all. Now I can spend more time on less people. And that's why I've priced the consults the way I did- low enough where anyone can afford them... but also at a point where only people who are serious will book.

 


 

My March schedule is nearly FULL as people get ready for spring and summer travel, but there are still a few slots available for end of March and April. Please, contact me sooner rather than later! Some of the things you'll want to do when in Europe need to be booked sooner rather than later- so don't wait. Seriously, you know the phrase "A stitch in time saves nine?" Well, this is similar... just more like "A travel consult in time saves you fights and tears when you've showed up to Versailles with a four hour line."

 

Contact me at lauren@aspiringkennedy.com and we can see if a travel consult will be a good fit for your trip. I'll be honest if I think it would or wouldn't be- I'm not always fit for the trip you have planned.

 


 

 

*image original to Aspiring Kennedy

 

Parisian Mini-Break

Photo 11-05-2017, 20 08 53.jpg

 

This weekend my students have a long weekend to travel. When we first started this study abroad gig, we always would travel when they did. The first year, we booked the cheapest flights we could find on RyanAir the night before and ended up in the Canary Islands. The next year, Tyler & I each planned surprise trips for each other (his surprise was a Bavarian trip through the Romantic Road and mine was a relaxing getaway to the Italian Lakes). 

And since then... we have used the time off during the semester to relax. 

But this year, I need to get to Paris to sort out housing for our spring semester there so I'm dragging them there with me for a couple of nights. 

Can you believe it, but I used to say I was "over Paris." When everyone else seemed to be obsessed with it, I scoffed and said it wasn't really for me. But with working there over the past few years, I've not only come to appreciate it... but I love it. 

Perhaps its not the most original things to say you love Paris- but I love it in the way that you do that girl you went to college with that you hated your freshman year. Everyone else raved about her and how great she was... but you couldn't see it. Then you get forced to work with her on project, and by the time its over- you've got a new best friend.

So that's me and Paris. We knew each other, but we weren't friends. Now days- we're in it for the long haul.

Also, while I'm thinking about it... I've been scouring AirBnB for apartments this week. There are so many good ones out there are great prices. Here are a few gorgeous ones that I'd recommend as great spots to stay in the City of Lights.

 


FOLLOW ASPIRING KENNEDY ON BLOGLOVIN


 

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

 

Posted on January 20, 2015 and filed under paris, work life.

Feels Like The First Time.

 

Of all the towns in England, Oxford has my heart. It's the first "home" that we had when we moved overseas and it stole our hearts in a big way. Maybe it was the gorgeous dreaming spires or maybe it was the enchanting balls we attended as students, but either way- we fell hard for the tiny town that blooms such great minds.

Every time we take student groups there, I have to try hard to be cool. The truth is: I'm bouncing with excitement to show them such a special place. Oxford! It's one a kind. It's the stomping grounds of so many great minds, and I've yet to meet someone who lived there who hasn't been as enchanted by this small town like we were.

I have so many memories of it throughout the year: in the sunshine of the summer, in the snow at Christmas, in the dark nights of fall where the crunchy leaves kept you company on the way home. But the most memories I have from Oxford? Are lonely rainy days when I would wander the town by myself looking for adventures and cheap thrills. (Literally, we were so broke as students.) So when we returned this fall and the day turned soggy on us, it was a little disappointing... and a little welcoming.  Felt like being back, as residents of that magical little world.

Here's a little peek behind the scenes of what my daily life looks like on the job. (Thanks to my good friend, Noah, for snapping up some cute pictures of us during the day.)

 

Is there a time of your life that you wish you could magically go back to? A place that existed for a season, but just isn't what it was now. For us, it would be Oxford complete with all the friends that made it that time so sweet. While it's always fun to visit, we know it wouldn't be the same to live there again... because it's actually the people that were there that made it the time it was. But, sigh, we'll hold those days close to our heart.

 


 

Visiting Oxford? Check out my Oxford page for all of our favorite places to be and eat. You won't be disappointed!

 

 

*images by Noah Darnell for Aspiring Kennedy

 

Over The Rivers and Through The Woods.

This morning, we are leaving for our annual twelve day tour around the UK & Ireland. It's the standard end-of-semester trip that we take my students on, and it's always so much fun. (How could it not be though, right?) While it's a lot of work, I'll have Tyler there to be an extra set of hands... thus confirming that if he ever gets an office job, I'll be devastated.

We'll be going up through the Lake District, York, Edinburgh, Stirling, St. Andrews and over to Belfast, Giants Causeway (see gorgeous image below!), Dublin, and the Cliffs of Moher. Oh man. It's going to be a busy two weeks!

giants causeway northern ireland

I've never been to Belfast- or Northern Ireland, for that matter- and I'm so excited. First to see this place that I've heard so much about from Megan and Stephen, and second because... well it's another country to add to my list!

We've got big plans for the Christmas Market and the Titanic Museum... but let's get serious: I'm gonna need some good recommendations for where to eat. Go ahead and drop your favorites down below. Much appreciated, love.

 

 

*image via

Commute To Boot.

My life has recently been changed. One of the big reasons we wanted to move was to reduce commute times. Our old flat was tucked way back in Notting Hill, which made it really charming... and really inaccessible. I had to give myself a full hour to get to school and work, because it was a chain of bus + train + bus. 

In our new flat, I can walk out the door thirty minutes before and still have time to run by Starbucks before class. It's so funny, but to have that extra time back makes life so much better than I could have guessed. It is such a luxury to be less rushed to get to where I need to be and be less exhausted at the end of the day.

While my day is shorter, I'm still crammed in to the Central Line along with all the silent minions moving to and from work during rush hour. It's such a funny culture, especially here in London. My favorite part is definitely how quiet everyone is. If you've got to go to work, at least you have a common area of respected hush as you make your way there.

Plus, I always love to sneak a peek at the funky socks the British businessmen around me have on. I think it's where they let out their naughty sides.

Do you commute? How long does it take you door to door? And what do you do to pass the time? Are you a reader, iPhone gamer, starer, sleeper? 

 

 

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

 

Back to Cool... Or Not.

 

I definitely was not cool in high school. On the flip side, I wasn't really uncool either. I was just... there. Having a great time with my friends. We were all generally well-liked by everyone and, yet, totally ignored by guys. (You know what I mean?) Everyone else was going on dates while we were hiding in the bushes throwing M&Ms at cars that drove by (rebels!) and dressing up in old ball gowns to go to grocery store at midnight. 

And while I was sitting blissfully in the kingdom of "Let's Just Be Friends," I also wore a uniform. Every day for twelve years, I slapped on an oxford button-up and a plaid skirt. I loved it, but it made me really pent-up to get to college and wear "real" clothes to classes. Jeans! Dresses! Open toed shoes?! My seventeen year-old self could hardly imagine.

The summer before college, I spent all the income from my summer job to stock up on A&F tees, embellished skirts from Express and Reef sandals. I was totally just a laid-back girl channeling those coastal vibes... complete with a Quicksilver bumper sticker on my car. 

I can't even type that out without cackling. What? Quicksilver? I had (and to this day, have not) EVER surfed in my life. I blame the movie Blue Crush for influencing me way too heavily at way too impressionable of an age.

Now that I've reached the point of proving that I have absolutely no business or authority on style... I present to you a style board for the classroom. Maybe it's how I see myself dressing these days. Maybe it's how I wish I dressed. Or maybe I'm just floating somewhere back in that not-cool... but not-uncool territory again. And if so? Fine. I do well there. Those are my people.

 

ONE. Warby Parker | TWO Halogen  | THREE. Marc Jacobs | FOUR. Kate Spade | FIVE. Graphic Image | SIX. Gap | SEVEN. Kiehls | EIGHT. Kate Spade | NINE. Sam Edelman 

 

 

 

*image original to Aspiring Kennedy

*affiliate links are used in the post. opinions are my own.

Posted on September 23, 2014 and filed under school, fashion, work life, everyday living.

School Days.


 

If I were a cool blogger, I might have been clever and titled this blog post "School Daze" to go with the craziness of the long days I've been having this week... but that felt cheesy, so I couldn't. Plus, I'm not a cool blogger. Either way, I'm sure you can get the idea. (If you didn't see the post I wrote announcing I started a Masters, go on and read it here. For some weird reason, it's not showing on the main page. Sorry!)

Thanks for all the kind words. I'm actually really excited to be getting my masters. Maybe I'm just a dork, but I feel like learning is one of the most luxurious positions that one can find themselves in. My job as a student is to be taught amazing information by world-class leaders in their field. Maybe that's not the same perspective I had when I was in college... but what can I say? I'm older and wiser... and probably a bit more boring these days.  

 

A few highlights from the past few days...

1. Student prices. I have a student card. All of the sudden, I get 10% off everywhere I go. And the prices in the coffee shops and cafes on campus? £1.10 for coffee! Sandwiches for £1.50! Amazing.

2. It was time to swap out my computer at work. I now have a pretty new Mac sitting on my office desk. It's gorgeous. Doesn't a new computer make you feel, though just momentarily, really productive and excited?

3. In the weirdest turn of events, I've actually been able to meet blog friends and readers through joining the tiny program. I think it's pretty cool that people who enjoy being silly over trivial things like blogging can also do serious stuff, too. High five, blog world. 

4. Also, the image above is from this Buzzfeed article. I can't tell if it's mocking college students or being serious. Either way, I'm guilty for owning way too many of these pieces. 

5. After a long summer of floating around, Tyler & I are operating on a really tight schedule. (We have no other choice, if we want to both work, have a kid and do school.) While it's a bit a hassle to have your schedule so locked down, it's actually really freeing, too. Everything is jotted out and the day is planned the night before. 


Has your world changed since school started back up? Is your house quieter? Are your days longer now that you're back in school? Are you back to work as a teacher? Or are you clocking the same routine year-round?

 

 

Posted on September 17, 2014 and filed under london, school, everyday living, work life.

Saying "Yes" So You Can Say "No."

 

Getting to work with college students is awesome.

Their enthusiasm keeps me fresh,

their cheapness reminds me how little I actually need to spend...

and they always teach me cool stuff about the internet.

 

They seemingly always have big plans for the future,

like all young people should have for their lives.

 

It's good to think big,

it's how you get to great places.

 

But like I finding myself telling them often,

people never find themselves in extraordinary circumstances by luck.

 

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But there's a difference in dreaming big on where you'll end up

and on being naive about where you should start.

 

Let me explain:

In order to get to great spots,

you'll have to succumb to a level of crap + learning before.

 

It's sad, it's terrible... and I hate to tell you that it's true.

 

But I can also tell you that'll you be better for it.

 

You take on projects just for the sake of experience

you won't get compensated in a way that seems adequate for the amount of work you do,

you'll spend thousands an extra degree just to get hired,

and, at many times, you won't get the credit that you might deserve.

 

You'll say "yes" to doing things that you won't like

for the sake of adding it to your resume and skill set.

 

Great things take journeys to achieve,

and the road to hard work

takes equal parts scrappiness + big thinking.

 

So be open to saying "Yes!" to hard work, random jobs, all types of experience...

Because if you're waiting around for a job

that keeps you away from sweating the small stuff...

how will you ever be able to prove you can handle actual problems?

 

Even the best jobs are mainly made up of unglamorous, mundane moments...

speaking from the lady who is about to spend thirty minutes on hold with the bank

as she assembles sack lunches for tomorrow's day trip.

 

It's great to look down the road and see jobs you admire,

but remember the journey that got that person to where you went.

 

For me, it was cookie decorating, awkwardly cold-calling, long hours setting up trade show booths and using all my mental copy-writing a press release that wasn't terrible.

 

None of which was entirely awesome,

but that's okay...

because now it feels even better to work hard in a job that I love.

 

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Keep yourself open to working hard and new things...

so that, sometime down the road, you can start saying "No"

to the things you don't want because those better options have opened up to you.


Don't let your youth hold you back,

don't feel sorry for yourself for paying your dues.


Use the optimism and the endless energy that the rest of us envy

to push yourself harder than you want...


it's never easier than where you are now to get ahead.


Small choices you make now

have BIG impact later.


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So go on, all you young whipper-snappers,

get your hands dirty in some unglamorous job

and work so hard that you can really do what you want

when you're done.

 

I promise,

you'll never  look back and regret it...

you'll only come to regret not trying harder

when it really mattered.

 

xo-

another dreamer

 

Posted on April 3, 2014 and filed under life, work life.