le vendredi noir

Since Britain doesn't really have Thanksgiving
(I know, shocker, right?)...
there isn't really a "Black Friday" to follow.

Except if you have access to 
ye olde world wide web
and can shop the sales
from your nifty computers.

I, honestly, haven't thought
for a second
about Christmas gifts this year.

I don't know what I really want
nor do I have any clue
what I want to give to people.

But man...
with deals like today,
it's hard not to get cracking.

Even if there wasn't an ocean
separating me from the shopping madness,
I would never head out to shop today.

But browsing online...
at home...
looking all terrible and bloated
after our Thanksgiving dinner last night?

Well, sure.

I'll play the Christmas elf
and share some of the sales I'm most excited about:

( 75% on selected items like my Logan Square diaper bag- $129!)

(25% everything + 7AM door busters. Use code: GOBBLE)
You can also find an amazing Black Friday list of handmade retailers here on their blog.

(Free shipping on tons of flash sales. I bought these baby tights for $10)

(Pretty much 10%- No codes needed!)

( 30% | use code: HOLIDAY)

(I'm a sucker for cheap DVDs.)

What about you?

Do you brave the madness of shopping on Black Friday
and I guess, contribute to it, also?

Or do you hang around home
and play your odds with what's available online?

a good year: my addiction to wine.

The holidays are the perfect time
for writing cards expressing sentiment,
picking out the perfect gift for your loved ones,
baking a beloved family recipe...  
and, of course, wine.

image via

Whether it's mulled wine in a Christmas market,
sparkling wine toasting to the year at close, or
for many people, as the cure for too much time 
spent up close & personal
with relatives you'd rather not be related to...

But this year,
can I suggest it 
as the antidote for 
a humbug holiday attire instead?

because that's exactly 
what I'm about to do.

My crush on this wine-stained obsession
started when I bought (via ebay)
my first pair of Lanvin flats.

Since then,
it seems to be popping out at me
at every flick of the magazine page.

It just seems perfect for this time of year...
paired with glittery gold accents
or muted with a toned-down olive or camel,
it's just a good staple to have in your closet
for the winter months ahead.

Before your head starts to get fuzzy
from all this wine babble,
let me just leave it with some quick pics.

... and I'll finish my Ocado food order 
for our Thanksgiving lunch tomorrow.

An Irish Apology.

Last year, 
I wrote a post
about how I didn't
love the city of Dublin.

The responses were varied.

Some of you agreed.

Some of you though I was crazy.

Last week, I went back
and I looked back through the comments
to find some recommendations
that you offered as highlights 
for my next stay in Dublin.

And, woah. 

You delivered.

First recommendation: The Bank for Dinner. Very cool place. So cool, we couldn't get a table. Next time!

So, Dublin,
I'm coming back to you.

With my hands over my heart,
pleading on my knees,
and my belly a little chubbier
after discovering some of the gems
of your fair city.

here are some new stops to add to the list
to create an awesome time of your own 
when you find yourself in Dublin.

*   *   *

Fallon & Byrne

After reading a comment recommending 
this stop for eats,
I was keen to keep my eye out for it.

Luckily, I didn't have to strain my eyes too hard...
as it was next to our hotel.

The first night we had dinner in the restaurant upstairs.


Tyler left with the baby a few minutes early
as I settled up the bill and ordered a coffee.

The amazingly sweet waitress 
talked me into embracing the moment alone
and trying their signature dessert, 
the Knickerbocker Glory.

Imagine a big sundae glass layered with
berries, ice cream, cheesecake, whipped cream, & digestive cookie crumble.


I also loved their take away coffee bar.

The week I was there, they were donating all sales
to the relief of the Philippines. 

After watching a few hours of coverage on it the night before,
that got big points from me.

And the flourless chocolate cake didn't hurt either.

Check them out here.

*   *   *

Central Hotel

This hotel is in a great location.

Not only is it a stone's throw from Fallon & Byrne,
but it sits just a few steps from everywhere you want to see
during your time in Dublin.

(Trust me, it's a decent place.)

The rooms aren't anything fancy,
but the prices are great,
the staff was really kind & gracious,,
the location is great,
and it will more than get the job done.

Check it out here.

*  *  *


All over Ireland, 
you'll see small shops
boasting that they sell Bewley's Coffee.

Go straight to the source
in the middle of bustling Grafton Street
while you're in town for a classic cup
and a great view.

Potato & Bacon soup with brown bread.... when in Rome.

Whether you eat inside
or score one of the balcony seats
on a nice day,
it's a stop that,
with it's stained-glass windows & constant buzz-
 will add a little character to your day
without stripping your wallet.

*   *   *

Brown Thomas

I think there is something 
really special about visiting 
the main department store of a city.

Not just one that is part of a chain,
but one that stands alone
as an icon for the city's style.

In Paris, you visit Printemps or Galleries LaFayette.
In London, Liberty or Harvey Nichols.
In New York, Henri Bendel or Barney's.
In Dallas, you go to the first Neiman's downtown.

And in Dublin,
you visit

The windows are gorgeous,
the departments are curated perfectly,
and the prices...
well, they're high.

(It's fancy!)

But it's worth stopping through
and buying something pretty for yourself.

Even if it's something on the smaller side,
like a pretty candle.

*   *   *

So thanks for the help, amigos.

It made my four nights in Dublin
all the better
with your suggestions and guidance.

And now,
I only feel it right to conclude 
with one more round of your suggestions
on the best Dublin stops...

I can only guess how great
 it will make next time like.

*all photos original to Aspiring Kennedy

Write It Down.

I enjoy writing.


I can think clearer and articulate how I feel
by writing my thoughts down.

Journaling has always been a huge part
of all of my travels.

If you looked in my closet 
at my parents house,
you would find endless journals
half-filled with pages of my travels.

School trips, mission trips, family trips...
They would become immortalized by pen.

It seemed an injustice to the experience (and expense!)
to do anything but that...
As if it was wasteful to forget one day.

And I guess I still feel that way...

I love taking notes, pictures, 
writing favorite spots
we discovered down along the way
to show an odd form of thankfulness for the experience...

That's why this blog is so full of things, I suppose.

If someone can benefit from the experience I had,
it makes it live on and have a deeper worth.

But beyond the journaling & blogging,
I also love writing postcards.

I send them to the littles in my life that are special to us...
And, now that they've received them for a few years and the excitement has worn off a bit,
I get to write them to a new friend who needs them.

And that just makes the experience of going places,
even amazing places,
all the better.

Postcards? Pictures? Videos?

How do you savor your travel experiences?

* * *

I just walked in the door from two weeks 
moving around England, Scotland, Wales & Ireland...
capped off by a weekend in Barcelona.

(If that's new news, jump on the Aspiring Kennedy Instagram train for immediate gratification.)

More on those later
-as my immediate priority after a 4am taxi is a nap-
but for now,
check out two other places (on-line) 
that you can find me at recently.

Pack Your Bags: The Lakes District (England)

I've blogged about the Lakes District before
(and the previous post may even have more information),
but I always feel the need to add the new places
that I discover upon my return to familiar sites.

So here a few extra glorious stops 
for you to make
if (and when!) you find yourself
in the glorious Lakes District in England.

... and some selfies of myself + Viola.

(I'm sorry and you're welcome.)

*  *  *

After skipping this stop 
over the previous years,
I finally decided to give this stop a chance.

Woah baby,
this was way cuter than I imagined.

If you have a kids
-or fond childhood memories involving Peter Rabbit-
make this stop
when you go to Windermere.

(And, if you're in the lakes, you should go to Windermere.)

There are gorgeous "It's a Small World" like scenes
for each of the stories by Beatrix Potter,
sans the boat ride, unfortunately.

Complete with a stop by Mr. MacGregor's garden,
tea + cakes at the cafe downstairs,
and a knit hat complete with bunny ears from the children's shop-
this was a fun way to spend the afternoon.

{Editor's Note: You don't need to pay to enter the cafe or gift shops.}

Admission for adults: £7

*  *  *

When you're in Windermere,

It's completely cozy
and ticks all the boxes 
your mind will have 
for the stereotypical British pub.

*  *  *

The birthplace of gingerbread
is a tiny shop near the church in Grasmere...
and the women working in the closet-sized shop
wear old-fashioned aprons & bonnets.

You may be a bit surprised at the biscuit-like
(read: "cookie-like" if in America)
consistency of this forerunner
to Starbucks gingerbread loaf.

Oh, and get some homemade fudge while you're there.

I mean, you might as well.

Then take the spoils of your visit
and wander lonely like a cloud
through the church cemetery
and pay your respects to the Wordsworth family.

*  *  *

I always stay at the Ambleside Central Hotel in, well, Ambleside...
but last year, we detoured and stayed at the Red Lion in Grasmere.

Also a good option! Less to choose from at night for dinner
since the town is much smaller,
but the hotel was super cute & cozy.

*  *  *

For more of my favorite stops in the Lakes District,
hop back to my earlier post 
for fun places like Beatrix Potter's home, Hilltop Farm,
my favorite place for breakfast, The Apple Pie Bakery,
and Wordsworth's home, Dove Cottage
and more here.

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Pack Your Bags: York, England

You've probably seen on Instagram 
that I'm on a fast & furious trip
around the UK (and soon-to-be Ireland).

While this is all fresh on my brain, 
I'm going to spend the next few days
spitting out pics & information
on new places that I'm discovering
so that, someday, you'll have some good options
for when you start planning a trip of your own.


What the US feels towards the North vs South
is similar to how the UK feels 
towards their North vs South...
except flipped.

The South of England is, stereotypically,
harsher, busier, ritzier, more educated... and snobbier.

The North of England is, stereotypically,
easy going, slow paced, cheaper, less intelligent.... and nicer.

Obviously, these are stereotypes
and you can meet both types
in either place.


There is something to be said for the 
kind attitudes 
and the cheap meals
and the crazy Billy-Elliot-esque vocabulary
that you start to experience 
once you roll up into the upper area of ole Blighty.

All of that to say,
I love when I find myself up north.

Especially if that means I'm in York.

York is a small town
(compared to the other "big" English cities),
but it has loads for tourists to enjoy.

I love these things:

Obviously, this church is a headliner
for most people's visit to York.

It's massive and it's stunning.

Go at 5:15pm for the daily evensong service
to get in and enjoy the church for free.

(You'll also hear some amazing choir singing in the 45 minute service-
but go 15 minutes early to snag a seat up close to the action.)

*  *  *

Yorkshire Pudding

I love nothing more than eating something
in it's birthplace.

While of Britain enjoys a Yorkshire pudding,
I've never seen them as big as they are in York.

{Editor's Note: A yorkshire pudding is not sweet. 
It's a savory bread-cup that is a perfect bowl shape 
for gravy on top of your roast meat & vegetables. 
Imagine a breadbowl... but less soggy.}

If you can get to a pub for a proper Sunday roast,
York makes it easy with two options 
that are centrally located and open daily:

Don't blow the chance to try this in person...

*  *  *

If you want tea
and you want to be fancy,
go to Betty's.

This gorgeous tea room & shop
give all the service and ambiance
you could ever hope for
in an English tea room.

This opulent surrounding
could hold its own 
around any fine establishment 
from the South.

*  *  *

I found myself eating cake & tea
in a places called, none other than, 

The downstairs is a teddy bear shop
and, up some narrow & windy stairs,
is a small tea shop + cafe.

It's not entirely impressive,
but the very top floor
has a great view overlooking the York Minster...
and you can get any cake + tea for £3.80

The carrot is awesome. 

I'd go back- baby or not.

{Though, admittedly, better with baby.}

*  *  *

sometimes it's fun to fall headfirst into a tourist trap... especially when you said trap lets you hold an owl.

If you go to York,
the other main tourist attractions you need to see are
(as in "Bloody Shambles")
and the Medieval Wall around the city.

Both are free to access, btw.

The Shambles are a tiny street of crooked buildings
and exposed-beam architecture
that draw your mind back hundreds of years.

The walk around the city walls offers gorgeous views
and a fun activity for an afternoon. 

*  *  *

And if you want to shop somewhere really neat?

Stop in the store,  The Imaginarium.

With curious objects, a luxe finish out, 
and friendly young men in dapper clothes attending you,
you'll find it hard to not walk away with something pretty in your hand.


Ah, I can't wait for you to experience York. 

Let me know if there are any favorites you have
from past trips there 
that I can try out 
the next time I find myself there!

*all images original to Aspiring Kennedy

In The Houzz (Sabrina + Sasha)

Since I have been so bored lately
and wihout much to do
(read: complete sarcasm),
I decided to take on a new role
as the London contributor for Houzz.

(I'll sleep when I'm dead.)

As the contributor,
I get to take a peek in people's houses 
and see what their lives are like...
and then I shoot them
-the houses, not the people-
and write about them for all the world to see
on Houzz's lovely site.

The first home that I had the privilege to feature
was the new digs of a sweet couple that I met
at the "7th of July" block party this summer.

The couple lives next to my friend, Lolly...
and I walked away from meeting them
and seeing their new home with stars in my eyes.

Sasha (Russian) + Sabrina (Canadian-American)
are two attorneys who are starting their lives together
in a really cute mews flat in South Kensington.

Not only are they attractive smarties (both are attorneys)
and their home ridiculously well curated,
but they are genuinely nice people, too.

Check out more snaps from their home tour here.

(And, okay, fine... if you wanted to leave a nice comment encouraging them
it probably wouldn't be a bad thing.)

*photography by Lauren Bryan Knight for Houzz

Pretty Cookies? London Bloggers? Me? You!

I'm happy to finally announce that there will be
a London Blogger Meetup.


To get this sort of thing planned
and hosted at an amazing place, 
well- it's nothing short of a Christmas miracle.

I'm smitten to have Biscuiteers oblige to host 
our fun crew for a night out
at their *gorgeous* Notting Hill Boutique
for a night of Christmas fun.

So if you have a blog, read blogs, like blogs, 
or just think that being a Christmas party in London
would help fulfill all your Love Actually fantasies...
and you're up for an amazing night 
getting to ice pretty cookies, 
chat with sweet girls & sip some fizz, 
 we want you there!

Since the boutique is small,
it's a first-come-first-served operation
for the first people who sign up.

The icing classes are normally £78 per person,
but you'll get to experience that
-plus cookies to nibble & yummies to sip-
for only £35.

{This truly is the best time of the year.}

Snag your spot now
and plan to spend the night making new friends.

Oh, and don't worry about feeling awkward. 
Everyone always kind of starts out that way...
 including me!

*image via

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