San Sebastian, Spain with the Girls!

Gosh, I am so behind on blogging. My next post will be a short and sweet restaurant review, but this San Sebastian post took AGES to get live because there were SO MANY PHOTOS to go through! I really need to stick to just 5-10 photos per post, because picking my favorites and editing through everything can be overwhelming! That said, I am happy to finally tell you all about my trip to San Sebastian with Amie, Jess, and Jess (yes, TWO Jess’s on our trip – double the Jess fun!)
IMG_0753As the girls were already planning on coming to Amsterdam at the end of April for King’s Day, we decided to tack a mini sun-holiday on to the end of their European visit. We picked a spot in Northern Spain that had ample sunshine, but during our stay the temperature hovered in the mid 60’s, which was wonderful for strolling around sans coat, but it didn’t really satisfy our desire for a beachy holiday (although there were many brave souls in minimal clothing lounging by the sea!) That said, we were more interested in pintxos, sangria, and sightseeing anyways, and fell blissfully in love with our flat that overlooked the sea! And I mean, LOOK at that view (above) from our balcony! Continue reading

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The Other Portland, Oregon

As I hail from Vacationland (aka Maine), the word Portland immediately conjures thoughts of a quaint harbor city with numerous lighthouses, delicious clam chowder, quaint cobblestone streets, sunshine, lobster, boutique shops, heaps of snow, and buckets upon buckets of oysters. I’ve shared many blog posts featuring my beloved Portland, Maine (here, here, and a beautiful summertime post here) but I’ve never ventured across the country (3,186 miles to be exact) to visit the other Portland. Apparently, over there they all have beards, eat a lot of kale, and like to bike everywhere. There are feminist bookstores, kitsch doughnut shops, lots of flannel, and microbreweries on almost every block (or so I’ve learned from the show Portlandia). So last week, when work shipped me off to Portland, Oregon for eight days, I was excited to see if all the other Portland-hype was true (and eat a lot of doughnuts). StreetAs I’ve never been to Portland (Oregon) I reached out to a few friends from the area for recommendations. Slowly, I compiled a noteworthy Portland bucket-list that included everything from eating sustainable sushi to visiting the world’s largest independent bookstore. I arrived in Portland on a Sunday afternoon, and went for a long run to get acclimated with the city.  Continue reading

Southend-on-Sea

Nat is one of my awesome UK girlfriends. I’ve told you about her previously, when we popped into Granger & Co and caught up over scrambled eggs and strong coffee. She’s a doll who has been a good a friend since we both worked at a summer camp in Maine, way back in the day! As she now lives in the UK, I wanted to squeeze in some Nat time on my most recent London trip. Turns out, Nat had a rental car for a few days over the long holiday weekend, so we booked in a mini road trip to the seaside.

When I go to London, I rarely escape. I love eating out, fancy cocktail bars, a billion shopping options, and of course soaking up as much friend time as humanly possible. I’ve never really ventured outside of London to see the likes of Windsor or St Albans, both of which are on my bucket list. This time around, Nat suggested we head over to Southend-on-Sea, an adorable seaside town in Essex, England. It’s a short drive east from central London, and boasts of the longest ‘leisure’ pier in the world. IMG_6604The sky was grey, which in my opinion only made the day more beautiful – I LOVE taking photos when the sky is overcast. Also, turns out there was a big motorcycle convention in the Southend that day, which meant lots of big burly men walking around in leather (and women too!) and loud motorbikes screaming in every direction.  Continue reading

Paris Part 2

I could spend hours just gazing up at the Parisian architecture. The contrast of dark, curved window balustrades against light-washed stone is not only romantic, but mesmerizing. I can now say from experience that waking up on the other side of a beautiful Parisian facade is equally charming.IMG_1018 copyWe stayed in the 16th, and although our flat was small, it had some stunning views.
IMG_1034IMG_1020Waking up to warm blue skies was a delight, but paled in comparison to our crystal clear view of the Eiffel Tower. Good morning Paris!! When you have a view like this outside your window, you get dressed FAST. Watching the city is beautiful, but such a tease. B and I threw on clothes quick and hit the streets of Paris bright and early, eager to explore and discover a new city.IMG_1177The sunshine was on full force, and all of the trees were in bloom. Although our visit was in early March, the temperature was in the mid-60’s and we ended up carrying our jackets around most of the time. So much for the hats and scarves I packed!
IMG_1184IMG_1074IMG_1066IMG_1067Our first stop of the day was Les Puces de Saint-Ouen – the world’s biggest flea market. IMG_1059After an evening of cabs, we decided to brave the metro, which turned out to be quite underwhelming. It wasn’t packed, the trains ran regularly, and we quickly made a game of trying to guess the pronunciation of each stop before it was officially announced over the train’s speaker. We lost almost every time!

When we arrived at the market, we were greeted by miles of century-old knick-knacks. Stalls and long alleyways were lined with treasures and junk – old postcards, vintage linens, crystal decanters, fur coats, and broken cameras. Couches, dolls, doilies, and shawls. Les Puces de Saint-Ouen is a hoarder’s heaven. It’s like a massive French yard sale  – and it’s one of my new favorite places.
IMG_1049IMG_1058We were a bit intimidated at first, but once we got bartering, we found it hard to stop. Everything is for sale, and all of the prices are negotiable. Aim low, bargain hard, and you can leave with some lovely treasures.
IMG_1055IMG_1050B and I scooped up a vintage cake knife for our wedding, and a glass candy dish for our home. I also bought a wool kilt and a leather fanny pack. IMG_1096Soon our pocket cash ran out and it was time to head back into central Paris. IMG_1085IMG_1103IMG_1104 IMG_1116 IMG_1110 IMG_1108We strolled around until hunger hit, and we then went in search of falafel. A friend had recommended L’As Du Fallafel, where the crispy garlic chickpea fritters, creamy hummus, and fried eggplant have a deliciously awesome reputation. IMG_1133You can sit in or take away, but take away seemed to be the more popular option.Paris LinesDespite the long line leading up to the window, we only waited about fifteen minutes before being served. Before you hop in line, make sure to go into the store and pay first. You’ll be given a receipt, and then directed into the line outside. We saw a few people get turned away at the window, after waiting in line for some time, because they hadn’t yet paid inside. So remember to pay inside first!IMG_1148Which is dangerous, as the shelves are stacked with delicious looking treats.Paris TreatsIMG_1144We debated finding a park bench or grassy area to plop down on, but in the end we really couldn’t wait, and dug into our Middle Eastern bounty right there on the sidewalk.  Paris FalafelIt was delicious. The falafel were crisp and gently seasoned. The hummus was creamy and the harissa had just the right amount of spice. Underneath it all was a light and crunchy bed of slaw, rounding out the meal in a way that almost made you feel healthy. Almost.

After eating a falafel the size of my head, it was time for more walking. IMG_1070I think the neighborhood area of Le Marais was my favorite in Paris. There were beautiful buildings, but also a unique blend of art and culture. I would compare this neighborhood to Shoreditch in London, or maybe even de Pijp in Amsterdam. Most cities have one – a lovely-artsy neighborhood with hip shops, interesting street art, and interesting galleries. Just the kind of place you want to spend a weekend, or grab a coffee in the sun with girlfriends. IMG_1162 IMG_1163B took this next photo – I have to say, he somehow manages to always get the best one in the bunch!IMG_1169IMG_1186We curved in and out of shaded streets, and even debated an ice cream cone. At one point we even got lost-lost, which was actually kind of fun – not knowing where we were, or really caring, in Paris.IMG_1187We were disoriented for maybe ten minutes, before hitting La Seine. We watched boats pass by, and I swear to you, I waved at every single one. Paris has this funny effect on me. . . where I want to smoke a sexy cigarette or dance in the streets to the buskers. Paris makes me feel carefree. Or maybe it’s just the first warm, sunny day of spring ;)IMG_1193That’s enough Paris for one evening. I have two more Paris updates to share, but you’ll have to wait another day or two for the next installment ;) Until then!

xo ali

High Tea, Amsterdam

Have you ever read my first blog post? It was about High Tea. B had borrowed his company’s camera for the weekend, and we took it on a walk across town for an afternoon tea date. We took turns taking photos during our meal, comparing contrast, lighting, and composition. When I got home, I wanted to share the photos with my family and friends back home, but instead of writing one e-mail to my mom, one to my sisters, and another to my girlfriends, I decided to put everything online, in one place. Henceforth, Pressed Words was born.

A year and a half later and I’m still doing the same thing. Walking around Amsterdam, taking photos, going on dates with B, and sharing the stories with you. I even still love the occasional high tea, which is what I wanted to tell you about today.

B and I have walked by The London Brasserie in Amsterdam a billion times. It’s on the corner of our neighbourhood, and the British themed menu always catches B’s eye as we pass by. In true UK fashion, they offer a high tea, which I thought would be a nice treat for Valentine’s Day. Leave it to me to spread one day of soppy love out over the whole weekend ;) On Friday night B and I ate ribs and drank wine at Cafe de Pijp, on Saturday night we camped out in the living room and watched movies, and on Sunday, we drank tea. IMG_0205The afternoon started with a walk around town. I wanted to get this photo (do you recognize it?!) of my favorite houses in Amsterdam, to update my blog header – coming soon :)

All of the flowers are slowly creeping out of the ground. It feels oddly early, but at the same time, we didn’t get any snow this winter, and really didn’t have any deep-freeze chills. So I’m not surprised spring is starting early, as we never really had a proper winter. It’s fairly easy for the flowers to pop out of the ground, considering it never froze!IMG_0179We took advantage of the sun’s presence and curved up and around the canals, walking, and counting down the minutes to our high-tea reservation. IMG_0184IMG_0227I know this is not a fashion blog, but aren’t these knee socks the cutest? I did a lot of Topshop-shopping in Edinburgh last week, and I stocked (socked, ha) up on adorable, probably-meant-for-teenager clothing.

* Socks are Top Shop, boots are Frye, jacket is United Colors of Benentton, and bag is Kate Spade*
IMG_0231We arrived for our high tea looking fancy and a tad early. In fact, we were the first ones there!IMG_0232Which was a-ok with us, because we had the whole dinning room and wait staff to ourselves ;) IMG_0247IMG_0240There were red roses and teacups on all the tables, and my date was looking very dapper! IMG_0243To get started, were given a hot pot of water and a box of assorted organic teas. IMG_0241IMG_0235I’m a huge tea junkie, especially on the weekends, so I loved the unlimited tea offered with the meal. I think I tried green tea, darjeeling, organic English breakfast, and earl grey. A very cliche and delicious assortment.IMG_0248And then the goodies started flowing.IMG_0252Sandwiches and scones. . . IMG_0254. . . . homemade whipped butter. And a whole plate of sweets! IMG_0267We took turns, going one for one on the sandwiches and pastries.  IMG_0270And by the end, we had managed to clear three tiers of savouries and sweets :)

There are so many great high tea spots in Amsterdam, and I’ve only just begun to  sample what’s out there. To be honest, I think I preferred Grand Cafe Fossa – my first blog post / Amsterdam high tea experience. Grand Cafe Fossa was located on a huge house boat and the high tea came with a glass of prosecco ;) More my style! That said, the treats and confections at the London Brasserie we’re fantastic, so my sweet-tooth might beg to differ!

I’m going to keep sampling different high tea spots around Amsterdam and will report back. I’m committed to finding just the right high tea, and will not stop sipping, nibbling, and cake eating until I do!

xo Ali

 

Easy Green Halloween Pasta

One of my very first blog posts was about The End is Near Halloween party. Last year around this time, B and I went to my friend Melissa’s for the evening, got all spooked up, and then hit the town for a night of monster mashing. But before that, Melissa served a deliciously-squeemish green pasta dinner, one I have been wanting to recreate all year! So today, in lieu of the upcoming spook-holiday, I give you Easy Green Halloween Pasta!IMG_4672 copyEw, I know, right?! It’s scary easy to make. You only need three ingredients, one of them being water which doesn’t even count. IMG_4606To get started, grab a box of plane jane pasta. You could use a fancy pasta like rotini or ziti, but I find that spaghetti looks the most creepy-crawly when colored green! For every one pound of pasta, you’ll need 5 quarts of water. Fill up your pot and then add in two good tablespoons of green dye. Now is a good time to salt the water as well ;) For taste of course!IMG_4623The more food dye you add, the darker the pasta will become. IMG_4624Now, I have an induction stove top which means my water boils in less than 30 seconds. So I threw my pasta into the pot right away no harm down. However, if you have a gas or electric cooker, you will want to wait for you water to boil before adding the spaghetti – just like any other pasta night.
IMG_4627Bring the water in your pot to a boil and then add the pasta. Be sure to give it a good stir in the first minute or two so your spaghetti strands don’t stick together.IMG_4645Follow your package directions for cook time. When it’s done, take it out of the pot, strain it, and then keep it in the colander. IMG_4657Now, you could eat your pasta like this – a solid, minty green color throughout. OR, you could add in another dab of green food dye, highlighting strands and pasta curls in a squeamish fashion.
IMG_4666Transfer the spaghetti to your plate and top it off however you like.IMG_4672The dye doesn’t influence the taste, so you can serve your green pasta like ‘normal’. I whipped up a quick marinara sauce, as a thick, blood red topping seemed quite fitting for Halloween pasta. IMG_4674IMG_4682I used some sliced olives and little meatballs to make  B a spaghetti monster plate. This is obviously the more kid-friendly version!IMG_4676Or you could be more mature, and serve it with some fresh basil and parmesan cheese, whichever you prefer.IMG_4688Either way, your green pasta will steal the show – a quick, easy and fun halloween dinner!  Like the skeleton says before dinner. . . . Bone appetit!

 

Flowers For You

Maybe no one has told you this in a while, but thank you. You are appreciated. You efforts make a difference. You make people smile. You’re valued. You are unique. You look great, is that a new dress?

Sometimes, I feel the art of saying thank you or paying a compliment is lost. We spend so much time absorbed in our own personal crap that we don’t take a moment to look around and thank others who make our day a little bit better. I’m often guilty of this myself. So before I tell you my story, here are some flowers for you, just to say thanks:

Today was a shitty day. I’m not feeling particularly inspired by work at the moment and I am spending long hours in the office. This evening, after spending 15 consecutive hours at work, I walked home. I wandered along the canals and watched the boats float by.

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I tried to shake my sub-par day but I had this knot in my chest that was probably going to come out in the form of an ice-cream pity party at midnight (not that I particularly mind these).

And then I saw it. A single rose, laying on the ground. If you follow me on instagram, you will know I was wearing a bright coral dress today. This rose appeared to be cut from the same fabric as my dress, matching perfectly. I couldn’t believe this rose had fallen into my path on accident, especially so late at night. So I picked it up and continued walking, admiring that it did not yet appear to droop in any way. And then, not even 15 steps later, I saw another perfect rose on the ground. I hesitated before picking this one up. I started to think it might actually have been placed there for a reason – as a guide to a late-night affair or some sort of weird social experiment. But there were no other people around, only me and the street lights. So I unabashedly scooped up this rose as well.

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I smiled the whole way home. Maybe someone dropped these roses on accident, or maybe someone put them there, hoping they would be found. Either way, they made my crummy night 12 shades brighter. So in the spirit of making others happy, I wanted to pay you a compliment. Thank you for reading my blog, thank you for stopping by. I hope you have a fantastic evening (or morning or afternoon, pending your timezone) and that you know you are appreciated :)

 

*While most of the photos on Pressed Words are my own, this post featured some of my recent favs from Pinterest.

Animal Collective

As much as I whine about being so busy with work, there are some definite perks to a job in advertising. And the countless connections with production houses, publishers, and music groups is top of the list. Over the past few years I’ve been on the guest list for some sweet musical gigs – Gotye, Maria Mena, Crystal Fighters. . . . and tonight, I was lucky enough to add Animal Collective to my freebie-portfolio. It’s rare that B and I get all dolled up on a Monday night, so we snapped a few iPhotos of the evening.

I probably wouldn’t have paid to see Animal Collective, in fact, the first two songs they sang kind of reminded me of this. But I love to dance, and people watch, and spend time with B, so we made the most of the evening and gigged our little hearts out. Happy Monday & thanks 180 for hooking me up with the tix!

Cous Cous Club Amsterdam

The other night, B and I stumbled upon an elite club. Welcome to Cous Cous Club.

IMG_7742The first rule of Cous Cous Club is: you do not talk about Cous Cous Club. Lucky for you, I plan on narrating primarily with pictures.

Cous Cous Club is a hidden gem, located on the Ceintuurbaan in Amsterdam. Last weekend, while on a little stroll with Shawn, we accidentally stumbled by the ‘club’ and were intrigued by both the name and the lively looking crowed inside. Cous Cous club was immediately added to my restaurant bucket list. It was bustling, cute, and intimate. A perfect date night setting.
IMG_7784And so come date night I surprised B with my new discovery! B was looking handsome and dapper as always :)IMG_7744When you arrive, the server will bring icy cold mint water to your table, along with a very simple menu. There are three entrées to choose from. Cous cous with vegetables. Cous cous with vegetables and lamb sausages. And cous cous with vegetables, lamb sausage, merguez, and hearty lamb stew. Yum. Double Yum. And triple yum!IMG_7748The restaurant itself is eclectic and bright. Fresh flowers, stained glass, big drapes, and an elegant chandelier blend surprisingly well with the hodgepodge of  literature scattered throughout the room – leaving you wondering . . . am I at a book club, or a cous cous club? IMG_7759IMG_7756We waited patiently for our food to arrive, and ohh boy was it worth the wait!IMG_7753IMG_7758We went for the Royal and the Maison – the first and second biggest dishes on the menu!
IMG_7761The vegetables were fresh and well prepared, and the chickpeas were hearty and filling – you could tell they’ve never lived in a can! And the cous cous? Mmmm mmm!IMG_7764Of course B went for the super meaty dish, and he was pleasantly surprised as well. The sausages and merguez were cooked to perfection, and the stew was our favorite! IMG_7765 IMG_7771We ordered a creamy lentil sauce to accompany the meal, which I would recommend, as the chickpeas and cous cous might be a bit bland without it.IMG_7772It was a nice surprise to find another cute and delicious restaurant nestled right in our neighborhood!IMG_7774We finished our meal with a mint tea and a coffee. The desserts looks fabulous as well, but we were both stuffed to the brim!!IMG_7777I would definitely come back again – the portions were huge, well priced, and deliciously cooked. B might take a miss, as he’s more of a meat and potatoes kinda guy, and he was a bit overwhelmed by the amount of vegetables on his plate! That’s fine, because as we were headed out, I also noticed they serve cocktails. Girls night, anyone?! :)IMG_7785Oh, and on the way home we saw this RIDICULOUS car. I absolutely love pickles and am ashamed to admit that I go through at least a jar a week. This pickle truck was probably the most glorious / humorous / wonderful vehicle I have seen in all my life. Thank you pickle car, for being the cherry on top of a wonderful date night!IMG_7738If you fancy a meal at Cous Cous Club, you can find all of their info here. They’re located at Ceintuurbaan 346, 1072 GP, Amsterdam. The number is 020-6733539 & I highly recommend a reservation if you visit on a Friday or Saturday night. Bon appetit! x