A Pit Stop in Trieste, Italy

While planning our trip to Slovenia, Kai and I realized that flights from Amsterdam into Ljubljana were quite pricy. Like, €260 each pricy, which was a bit more than we were hoping to spend on a long weekend trip in Europe. As our ultimate destination was Lake Bled, we knew we would have to rent a car anyways, as there are no airports in the close vicinity of the lake. So when we found €80 return trip tickets to Venice, which is only a 2.5 hr drive from Ljubljana, we quickly got excited about saving some money and also spending some time in Italy! Kai and I had both been to Venice before, and so we decided to do a pit stop a bit closer to Slovenia in Trieste, Italy. We flew into Venice late on a Wednesday night, slept at a cheap and cheerful airport hotel, took advantage of the free breakfast the next morning (ohh how my heart loves a good Italian breakfast of meats, cheeses, crusty bread, and espresso!) and hit the road early enough to arrive in Trieste by lunch time.  Continue reading

A Weekend in Berlin, Part 2

So let me tell you about my party experience in Berlin. Amie and I have caused midnight mayhem in many European cities. We’ve had crazy nights out in Lisbon, Istanbul, Paris, and Amsterdam, just to name a few. But we knew Berlin would be something else. In the 90’s, all of the best parties in Berlin were nomadic – thousands upon thousands had fled Berlin to escape the firm grip of communism, leaving behind empty houses and abandoned industrial buildings. When the Berlin Wall fell, Berliner’s rejoiced, and the once abandoned homes and buildings became a backdrop for the city’s triumphant party scene. Twenty years later, Berlin’s once elusive nightlife is now a permanent fixture in the city’s global persona. Iconic night clubs such as Berghain and Sisyphos draw party-goers from around the globe, while trendy cocktail bars such as Neue Odessa and Green Door serve distinguished cocktails for locals and tourists alike.IMG_2291To say that Amie and I were excited to experience Berlin’s nightlife would be a vast understatement. We’d intentionally enjoyed a week of rest and relaxation in Italy, recharging before an epic long weekend in Berlin. As mentioned in my last post, Amie and I kicked off our Friday evening at Txokoa, where we sipped monstrous G&Ts and enjoyed a rich dinner. Continue reading

St. Tropez, Part 2

My gosh it is hot out today. The weather in Amsterdam is quite smoldering, and although we have air conditioning and heaps of sunlight pouring into the office, I can’t help look out the window and lament sitting at my desk, because, damn the sun looks fantastic out there! This hot weather is reminiscent of St. Tropez, minus the pool, beach, and fancy-pants room service.IMG_7537 Day 1 in St. Tropez was filled with excitement and formal activities, but day two was completely unplanned and laid back. Continue reading

Cookie Party

Note: Wrote this yesterday, forgot to hit publish! So . . . .

Merry (belated) Christmas blog friends!! I hope you’re all celebrating, eating, and enjoying the company of loved ones today. I’m currently sitting at the kitchen table in my parent’s house, drinking a Blue Moon and savoring the taste of home. Guests will be here any minute, and I’m surrounded by platters of Italian appetizers. But before I run away to change out of my slippers and put on my green suede heels, I wanted to share a few photos of an early Christmas celebration in Amsterdam. Last week I had a handful of awesome ladies over to decorate Christmas cookies.

IMG_4869Typically, I decorate Christmas cookies with my good friend Bex. But as Bex moved to San Fran at the end of the summer, I was shy a cookie partner in crime. So I invited friends from work and beyond over for an evening of mulled wine, sprinkles, frosting, and cookie fun-times.  Continue reading

Easter Sunday

I have more London adventures to share, but before the holiday has completely escaped us, I thought I would post a timely Easter quickie. For Easter Sunday, B and I had planned on heading up to Leicester to visit B’s grandparents. Originally, we were going to stay with them for a few nights, but they were both feeling really under the weather. We still managed to stop by for a few hours to say hello, but accommodation wise, we had to do a bit of last minute reshuffling. Luckily, we were able to make the best of the situation and checked ourselves in to a swanky, countryside spa for Easter

IMG_5828But before any of that happened, we found ourselves in Leicester city center, waiting at the train station – where we saw the most un-Easter Sunday sign ever!IMG_5833We ate Easter breakfast in the car. We had the most British, Easter fare the grocery store had to offer – Scotch eggs and Cadbury chocolate! This was my first Scotch egg, and I am ashamed to admit that I most certainly will have another. Is it wrong that I want to try ketchup with a Scotch egg?
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Quite a few of B’s family members live in Leicester, so we also paid a Sunday visit to his aunt and uncle. Here I was introduced to his cousin’s bunny, Itchy. 
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Another first on Easter – the first time I have held a rabbit! I’m sure you’ve noticed my recent pet-envy posts. Kittens, puppies. . . Now I want a little fluff bunny as well!IMG_5843After a short visit to B’s grandparents, we had finished the family-homage. It was time to check in to our spa-hotel! We spend so much time in Amsterdam, and had enjoyed most of the long weekend roaming the city of London – it was a nice change of pace to visit a private hideaway in the countryside.
IMG_5848Our room was modest but cute. The most appreciated feature was the absolute quiet drifting in through the sunny window. IMG_5852Not long after our arrival we changed into our fluffy robes and slippers and went to find the spa. IMG_5862 IMG_5864 IMG_5873


IMG_5900 IMG_5887The facilities were tranquil and quiet. Apparently no one else wants to go to the spa on Easter! We had steam rooms, saunas, whirlpools, and a huge swimming pool all to ourselves. 
IMG_5904 IMG_5906My favorite spa-feature was the huge ceramic bear head mounted on the wall. Every so often a gush of ice would slosh from his mouth! There were then big wooden buckets and spoons you could then use to stoke the thermostat in the sauna with. Bliss. IMG_5910 IMG_5912 IMG_5917 IMG_5918We floated around for several hours, hopping from steam room to plunge pool to sauna and back!IMG_5957We left completely relaxed, ready for an Easter supper, featuring whatever room service had to offer!IMG_5898In the next photo, you will notice B’s guilty face. This is because the room service menu kind of sucked. Pizza, prawns, meat pies? Not for us. We’d had way too much pizza over the past 48 hours! So instead, we opted to get some take away. And not just take away from one place. We really couldn’t decide. B wanted Chinese and I wanted Indian, so we treated ourselves to both. It was Easter dinner, after all!IMG_5963IMG_5961So we feasted on naan and curry and sweet and sour chicken, all whilst watching an episode of The Walking Dead. 
IMG_5965While our Easter didn’t consist of the traditional Sunday mass, Easter egg hunt, and family dinner, it was surly an Easter to be remembered! Scotch eggs, bunnies, pools, and naan? A girl could get used to this! x

Homemade Christmas Ornaments

Once a year, I head over to my Grandparent’s house to construct Christmas gifts with my Gran. We both have a love for homemade goodies, and my grandmother is the Queen of Craft. She has an endless den of craft supplies, dedicated to ribbons, buttons, and bows. String, yarn, and dough. Clips, pins, needles and thread. You name it, she has it and then some! This year we decided to make salt-dough ornaments, inspired by this post.

We first whipped up the dough, which was very easy to make and only comprised of three ingredients – water, flour and salt.

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To make the dough, mix 1 cup of salt together with 2 cups of flour, and then slowly stir in 1 cup of water. If your Mum ever made you Playdough as a kid, this should seem eerily familiar!

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We used my Grandma’s awesome, retro Kitchen Aid, but you could always just mix the dough in a big bowl with a spoon or your hands.

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Once you have a big clump of dough, spread it out between two sheets of parchment paper.

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For this project, you will also need a straw, a rolling pin, stamps, ink, cookie cutters, and a baking sheet to pile everything onto when you’re done. You’ll also need some string or ribbon for the final touches later.

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Roll out your dough with the rolling pin between the two sheets of parchment paper. It should be about 1/3 inch thick. Make sure the rolled dough is the same thickness throughout, as you want it to cook evenly.

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Once you have a big sheet of rolled dough, dip your stamps in the ink and get decorating!

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I had santa stamps, Christmas lights, and Christmas trees. I also had some cute mini cookie cutters to play with.

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Once you have stamped the dough, center the stamp with your cookie cutter to cut out the shape. It’s better to stamp before cutting, as you can then be sure your stamp is centered.

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If you don’t have a cookie cutter, you can use the top side of a glass or can to cut out your shape.

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While rummaging through my Gramma’s supplies, I found a small lace doily and got creative! Instead of stamping, I rolled this pattern onto the dough for a textured ornament.

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Once you have all your ornaments inked and cut, use the straw to poke a little hole in the top of each dough ornament.

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Then, transfer them onto your baking tray. I used a mini spatula (yes, my Gran really does have everything!)

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Once you have them on the baking tray, they’re ready for the oven.

IMG_0398They need to cook at 250 for about 3 hours. I placed them on wax paper, but they stuck a bit once cooked. Next time around I will use baking spray instead of parchment paper.

IMG_0399Slide them into the oven where they will hang for a few hours. If they start to brown around the edges, they’ve finished and you can take them out.

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Once they’re done, give them a bit of time to cool off. I’ve they’ve puffed up a bit, you can press them gently down with your fingers or the back side of your spatula.

IMG_0417Once they’ve cooled, you’re ready to string! You can use ribbon, yard, twine – whatever you have laying around. Thread your string through the top hole and tie a little loop. Now they’re ready to be gifted or hung on the tree!

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I made ornaments for everyone in my family, and will be tying them to little bags of stroop waffles that I’ve brought over from the Netherlands.

IMG_0459 IMG_0454They make an adorable holiday gift, and can be appreciated on a Christmas tree for years to come!

Maine Winter Wonderland

I’ve gone quiet for the past few days, as I’ve been traveling from Holland to Maine. I’m now stateside, ready to spend the holidays with some of my favorite people. The past Saturday, Sunday, and Monday have been a whirl of time travel and love. Family and frieds have been rightly hogging my time, so I’m sorry if I have been a bit neglectful!

Since I’ve arrived in Maine, it’s been snowing non-stop. My parents live in the countryside, which is a wonderful change from the hustle and bustle of living smack in the center of Amsterdam. I’ve spent my mornings sipping tea, watching the snow fall, and snapping shots of the quiet winter wonderland outside.

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Ray Lamontagne (who is also from Maine!) has a beautiful song called Winter Birds. I can’t stop humming this song as I watch all of the beautiful cardinals and blue jays peck away at my Dad’s feeders.

IMG_0006Moments after I took this photo, all of the birds suddenly fluttered away, and a huge flock of turkeys trumped along.

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I put on a pair of my Bean boots and popped outside, but the massive group of turkeys were gone.

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So I took a few more snowy shots from outdoors, before slipping back inside for a big mug of hot cocoa!IMG_0070IMG_0080It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas!!

180 Christmas Party

When you work in advertising, drinking, dancing and drunken drollery are part and parcel of the job. It’s perfectly acceptable to crack open a beer at your desk on a Friday afternoon, and there are always more than a handfull of people going over to the pub after work. But twice a year, 180 goes all out. Once in December before the holidays, and again in April for Queen’s Day. Work hard, play hard, right?

This past Wednesday was said 180 Christmas party – a crazy open bar bash, where we all got sloshed and danced until they kicked us out. The theme was A Night At the Movies, and the evening was a blur of babes, balloons, and boozy funtimes.

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People really got into the theme, and there were some great costumes at the party!

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Some of the folks on my team decided to go as the cast of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. A scandalous undertaking! I was Magenta, my colleague Cecile was Columbia, and Jim was Riff Raff. Andrew (my boss!!) took one for the team and went as Frank. He definitely had the best (and most revealing!) costume of the night.
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The funtimes continued as we discovered some random props lying around.
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And proceeded to have a full on photo shoot!180 Xmas 2012_376

In the other room, the band raged on. Dean was a silent movie.

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And Rachel was a black and white one!!

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Towards the end of the night, things started to get a little crazy.

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And the dance party turned into a drunken karaoke party!

180 Xmas 2012_463Eventually the lights came on and we were kicked out. Another successful 180 Christmas party!

Christmas Cookies

Last night, lady Bex and I had our anual Christmas cookie baking date. We started the tradition last year when we accidentally drank too much prosecco and made an awesomely-impressive, impromptu gingerbread house. This year, we decided to be a bit more official with our holiday baking. We pre-bought decorations, rolled out several batches of gingerbread, and stocked up on sweet liquors. I biked to hers after work, balancing bags of baking goodies. Upon opening the door to her flat, I was greeted by delightful Christmas tunes and the sweet, sweet smell of warm gingerbread, fresh out of the oven.

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Bex had already started baking our cookie-castles, using a homemade template to get the house dimensions just right! You can find Martha Stewart’s template here, which makes a cute little gingerbread house with a tall slanted roof. IMG_1406IMG_1407It was torture not to bite into the freshly baked gingerbread, but we tempered our cravings by snacking on gumdrop buttons and little Dutch cookies, while sipping warm Christmas-y cordials. Bex created a fabulous festive drink, consisting of warm ginger beer, cinnamon sticks, and a splash of brandy. Delicious and deadly.

IMG_1455We waited patiently for our gingerbread walls to bake, decorating little Christmas cookies in the meantime.

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I’m pretty sure we baked enough cookies to last us right up ’till Christmas!!

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After a bit of frosting practice on the Christmas cookies, it was time to move on to the houses!

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We neatly mapped out windows, shingles, and shutters, creating tall crooked houses in true Dutch style.

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In total we created two Dutch houses, one gingerbread cottage, and dozens of mini Christmas cookies!

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Our proud creations were a tad slanted, but awfully delicious!IMG_1491

If you’re looking for a great gingerbread recipe, you can check out Bex’s blog here. I’m sure she will shortly be posting our awesomely-fun gingerbread baking adventures as well! x

Thanksgiving Food Baby

I’ve spent the better half of today moaning and groaning because I am still full from last night’s glorious Thanksgiving feast. I had to work on Thanksgiving day, but that didn’t stop me from inviting over a ton of friends for dinner, roasting a turkey and of course baking pie. Lots and lots of pie.

Here are a few food snaps from the evening.

If you’re short on time, a cheese platter is a yummy, low-maintenance appetizer. Buy a few varieties of artisan cheese, a nice cut of smoked meat, whole grain bread, and pepper up your condiment of choice with some fresh herbs. Throw everything on an oversized cutting board and serve.

Zoe brought this amazing salad, which was one of my favorite dishes of the evening! Light greens, pistachios, cranberries, and pears, splashed with a bit of shallot dressing. This salad was Thanksgiving-heaven in a bowl!! 

Bex made these gorgeous roasted veggies – seasoned beets, carrots, and pumpkin. Mmm!! 

Have you ever cooked your Thanksgiving turkey in a slow cooker? This is the second year in a row I have thrown the bird in the crock pot. Along with your turkey, add some stock, olive oil, salt, pepper, and fresh herbs. Then simply turn your crock pot on and let ‘er cook! I love walking in the door at the end of a long work day, greeted by the nostalgic smell of Thanksgiving! Best part? I didn’t even have to carve the turkey. After a long day in the slow cooker, the meat literally slides off the bones.

In addition to turkey, veggies, and salad, we also had corn muffins, mashed potatoes, stuffing, amazing homemade cranberry sauce, and of course gravy! We washed it all down with mulled wine and key lime pie.

As the Dutch would say – uitbuiken!!