Friday, December 30, 2011

Like it's 2011

For the past few years I have spent New Years eve with my besties, at my house, sipping champagne, playing with puppies and eating fondue. There may have been some debauchery mixed in, but for the most part we have behaved well enough. This year it's a little different as I will be ringing in the new year with different friends, in a different country and it will be decidedly PG to protect the innocent (children shall be present). Worry not my dear friends because while I will be on my best behavior I will of course still be sipping on champagne so we shall maintain some normalcy. I have however decided that even though I may not be able to feast on my fondue this year I can to share my secret (well not so secret, but I like to think so) cheese fondue recipe. Hopefully you will indulge in it's cheesy deliciousness in my absence. The pancetta truly makes the fondue amazing and I highly recommend having fennel with it. The flavors together are simply fantastic. I would also follow this up with this chocolate fondue. It is simply the best recipe (not to mention ridiculously easy). You can leave out the brandy if you wish, but I am sure you have guessed by now that I have not tried it that way. Ha!

Happy New Years and see you in 2012!

If you must have clouds hopefully you get some rainbows too

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Bag lady

I love bags. Handbags, luggage, purses, clutches, coin purses, and more. If you can put something in it and head out the door, I want it. So the first time OpenSky offered this Vine Street Market linen bag I wanted it so bad I put it in my cart and came very close to hitting the purchase button. Unfortunately I was trying to save money at the time and eventually talked myself out of purchasing it. I just couldn't justify the cost of another bag at the time. Then the bag came around again on OpenSky and I caved big time. I am a shopping binger when I am on a money diet. I hold back on buying anything at all, then one day something pulls you into a frenzy and you shop as if you are never going to shop again and then go into a shame spiral of oh my I can't believe I spent money on that thing. It was something like that, but I LOVE my bag. This is the most useful bag I have purchased quite possibly ever. It's a beach bag, a grocery bag, a purse, a flight carry on, a market bag, a diaper bag (haven't tried that, but I can imagine) and best of all it can be shoved in your purse in a ball to be pulled out when you need it. I have taken it everywhere with me here in Europe and plan to do the same back in the states next week. Love it!

Buy one. You won't regret it.

Me sans shame spiral.

They come in other colors and fabrics too! This is just a sampling.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

But Seriously

After two days of Christmas I am a little tired. I am not completely sure how they do it here with two large dinners in as many days. I must say it's actually nice to have a normal day around here, but then we had the added bonus of needing to buy a new car today (Currently we are semi car less since the current car sold much quicker than we thought). Never a boring day here in the Netherlands.

I did however get around to downloading all the photos from Christmas and put away the gifts (Hunter boots and some much coveted wine glasses!). Checking out the pictures have resulted in me reliving the awesome meals from the last few days. I am getting hungry all over again. You would think I have had enough after two days of food (and you would think I would get over the two days of Christmas, but seriously it just boggles my mind). I hope your Christmas (or multiple Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or whatever the heck you celebrate) was fabulous. Did you get something good?

This was a cook your own dinner (Gourmet) and
was super fun for the kids and me!
So if you burn it or under cook it, you only have yourself to blame!
The only thing I need for dinner.
Saying hi to my parents. My dad said that everything must be ok, because I have wine. So true.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Second day of Christmas

Seriously this is a real thing in the Netherlands. When I ask why they have two days of Christmas, no seems to know, but it's a day off work so everyone just goes with it. You don't get more presents though (bummer) just another day to hang out with your family.

So today is another day with another big family dinner. Being such I thought today's post would be all about cocktails as they tend to help make the day go by easier. You may not be needing these today (like me), but you may want to try them for New Years Eve. It's fun to try something new or old every now and again, you never know if you are going to find your next go to drink.

The classic Champagne Cocktail. Yummy and simple.
This is called the Ninth Night and I must say will be made today. Delicious.
The link above is a jerk. Here is the recipe:

The Ninth Night
2 oz. SKYY Infusions Citrus
1 oz. Triple Sec
1 oz. white cranberry juice
Lemon-lime soda
Lime juice

Combine SKYY Infusions Citrus, Triple Sec, and cranberry juice in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into tall rocks glass with fresh ice. Top with soda and lots of fresh lime juice. Garnish with blue ribbon around the glass.

Read more: Holiday Drink Recipes - Christmas Drink Recipes - Cocktail Recipes - Marie Claire 
The Red Hot Chocolate. I don't know why, but I really want this now.

Cheers to another day of Christmas. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays

Get your man candy on (Ryan Gosling) with a dash of Eva Mendes and Jim Carey set to the Night Before Christmas. Enjoy!

*There are some naughty words in case you need to know.

Have a Merry Christmas and/or great weekend!


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Because I'm fancy like that

Yesterday involved a trip to Hanos which is pretty much what you would get if Costco and Whole Foods had a baby. This place is amazing. I could and did spend hours there. They have a super large wine selection, a regulated refrigerated cheese section (As in you walk in to a not to cold and not to warm room filled with cheese) which is next to the meat section (and also has it's own seafood area with live lobster and crab) and then you can walk to the colder section with fruit and vegetables. After you have had your fill of those areas you can then explore the rest of the store that includes a dessert area, wine glass section, kitchen gadgets and dried/canned items. Hands down one of my favorite stores ever.

During this particular adventure I took it upon myself to replenish our champagne and wine collection that has been recently depleted (I am not saying by who). I had the most wonderful time with Franz (wine guy) who assisted me with most of the wine choices since I am not terribly familiar with most of the labels here in Europe (this is due to the super large 'New World'* selections that we have in the US, compared to the selection from the rest of the world). I could barely wait to get home and open up a bottle, he made them all sound so yummy! I also may have traveled over to the sweets department to buy a snowman bigger than my head, made entirely of chocolate. I shall name him Clark. He is awesome.

There were tons of other purchases, but none quick as exciting as chocolate and wine. The perfect holiday treat.

Mumm wrapped in a lovely sarcophagus with charms.
Doesn't your champagne have this too? No? Sad.
My Vueve comes with it's own insulated shopping bag.
Because I'm fancy like that.
Magical snowman of chocolate.
Because I'm gluttonous like that.
Spoonful of chocolate for friends and family.
Because I want everyone to enjoy THE best cup of chocolate.

*Franz used this descriptions for American wine and I had to repeat it, because it made me laugh in the store. He didn't find it as amusing as I did.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

To Market, To Market

There are fabulous little markets all over the Netherlands that sell pretty much everything. Booths full of clothes, fruit & veggies, meat, seafood, flowers, nuts and fabrics as far as the eye can see (well depending on how large your local market is). These are great fun to go to, even if you don't need anything. The people are nice and it gets me out of the house for some fresh air and a nice brisk walk, which trust me I need. Visiting these markets definitely make me miss walking through Pike Place Market in Seattle, but I can at least look forward to finding some great markets in California in the new year.

I actually did purchase some of these red winter berries.
They are so bright and pretty.
Fresh greens to add to the house (This is an easy addition if you are like us and have a
fake tree, but want to have the real tree scent in the house).
Yummy nuts and candies for Christmas!

There is enough faux fur here to make vests for the entire Kardashian clan.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas music. Are we done yet?

Almost. I promise.

If you are like me Christmas music can only go on so long before you want to burn the stereo from the constant repeat of songs. I get it. So guess what I am going to do today? That's right share the Christmas songs that I really enjoy this year or the ones that I don't want to burn. You may want to burn them, but I leave that up to you. In the meantime totally check them out before judging. Also they are on Spotify which is fun. We can totally share music (kinda) and not get arrested. Yay!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Better than Bestest

Well the weekend is over and all things considered it was pretty fantastic. On Saturday Amsterdam turned out to be a little soggy so we did our holiday shopping in 's-Hertogenbosch (known as Den Bosch) and had a great time. The weather was sunny there and we got the vast majority of the gifts taken care of. Yay.

Den Bosch is a village about 20 minutes away from where we are in Eindhoven and is among one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands. The streets are full of old building with tons of charm and best of all they are known for a dessert called Bossche Bol. A Bossche Bol is a creme puff on steroids with extra deliciousness. It was soooo good that when they arrived I told the BF I am glad we ordered two (I originally thought it was too big for just one person, but he told me I would want my own), because one bite in and there was no way I was sharing.

The weekend wrapped up with me in bed (today as well) with the flu, but my sickness lead me to finding out the greatest thing to happen to me TV wise since I set foot in this foreign country without easy access to my favorite shows going on in the states. The Walking Dead, season two is on Foxlife here in the Netherlands and I caught it at the next episode where I left off at last month. Fate I tell ya. Changed my attitude immediately.

Then as a super cherry on top I found these and these on the Internet. Gentlemen can now get in on the pajama jean band wagon via pants from the 90's. Maybe not the hottest thing ever, but totally funny. They are appropriately priced at $12.95, but seem to be back ordered. Total bummer since they would make great gag gifts.

Tomorrow hopefully I will be out of bed and stuff.

Ignore the hat hair and check out the size of that deliciousness! Jan de Groot

This is the inside of the ball, yum yum.

The cutest little building sandwiched in-between two big buildings in Den Bosch.
Oh and they sell chocolate.
Yes that is a Unicorn. He is sitting on top of a pharmacy entrance in Den Bosch.
I would like this on my next house.
I just loved this look and think it's so pretty.
They used this on each of the tables outside of a restaurant in Den Bosch.

Friday, December 16, 2011

I amsterdam

Bike Garage in Amsterdam

Yup that's me. Heading into the city tomorrow to see what kind of trouble I can get into. I am sure there is plenty to be had. It's the holiday season so it should be nice to walk around the city a bit. Let's hope the rain stops prior to tomorrow, but if not I should be just fine. I lived in Seattle for the last 13 years. I know a thing or two about rain.

This has been a week filled with numbers and spreadsheets. Yuck. For a girl that hates math (or actually doesn't do math well) I sure am good at expense sheets. It's odd really, but it keeps me busy. That is it keeps me busy when I am not stalking people on twitter or shopping online or watching Dutch soap opera's (That's right J, beat that. I just upped your GH without even producing a Franco). So here are some of my highlights this week.

Lilo's Playboy issue. I wish this was a joke. She looks pretty in it, but it's just sad. Who knows maybe this will lead her down the path of a new sober life that will get her get a new weave that doesn't look so icky.

The Bloggess teaches us all about how keeping the magic of Santa alive for your children mathematically is not a lie.

Barbara Walter's may have had an emotional break. When you have Katy Perry (her album came out last year), the Kardashians (Really? No really WTF?) and Donald (taking a turn on the crazy) Trump on your list of the 10 most fascinating people of the year you need to get out more. Seriously I can't be the only one who laughed when they saw this, thinking it was a prank. Update - I was not. The Bloggess agrees.

Jimmy Kimmel has helped squash the Christmas spirit for children across the US.

And that's your Friday!! One week left until Christmas. OYE!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

I want to go to there

Shopping in Europe is different than in the US. I am not talking clothes shopping, but everyday shopping. There is not that one stop shop (or at least close to one shop stop as it can be) over here, more directly there is not a Target. It's sad for people to be deprived of the most fabulous shop on the planet, but what's hard is trying to explain to people that have never been there what it is. I like to say it's the everything I need and everything I think I need, but don't need store. Seriously what store can you pick up your milk, an Issac Mizrahi dress, blender and toilet paper all in one? You can't think of one, I know it. Then there is the sneaky part of Target. You know the one. It's where you walk in the store to get a toothbrush, toothpaste and tissues. $150 later you leave with some awesome things that were only $4.88 so you bought 7 of them (at that price you should have bought 20, but you have restraint, duh). Then you get home go through your purchases and wonder how in the world you spent $150. Target I miss you and your frivolous products that adorn my house.

The holiday time this has really hit home because Target is one of the best places to get wrapping paper, decorations, fun holiday kid clothes and cool things for around the house that you can't just find anywhere else. This year I was asked to make the centerpiece for the Christmas dinner here in the Netherlands (which is fun!), but after going to 5 different shops to get most of the items that I need, I realized that Target would have had everything I needed and more (not to mention about $20 cheaper). So Target this post is for you, Europe needs you to build. If you build it they will come, I promise. Those of you in the US, hug your Target person this holiday (What? You don't have a Target person? Weird.) and throw that super awesome towel warmer in your cart for me. I will be home soon!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Spoonful of Heaven

It's Christmas time and cookies, candies, pies and overindulgence abound. I'm on board. I have no problem shoving cookies and whatever other goodies they have here in the Netherlands in my face, but my true indulgence is hot chocolate. I am not talking that Swiss Miss crap you have in your cupboard, but milk stirred with delicious chocolate on the stove until it makes a hot and creamy chocolaty drink that boarders on full on chocolate bar in a mug.

Lucky me the other day I was given a chocolate gift called a Spoonful of Chocolate. It was the perfect cup of chocolate. It's a good thing that I didn't have another, because I would have had that immediately after the first one. It was that good. It is essentially just a high quality piece of dark or milk chocolate on a stick that melts into warm milk, but it's just so amazing and one of those things that I wish I had tried sooner. I immediately did some research and this amazing stick is strictly in NL right now, but have no fear there are a few options for those stateside.

There are lots of different ones out there, but quality in your chocolate makes for a rich and satisfying drink. There are several cheaper versions, but the Eclat chocolate on a stick would be my choice for purchase. While I have not had the stick from them I have had the chocolate before and I do approve. Now if you have a bit more time on your hands you can make them yourself. This recipe on the King Arthur Flour site for chocolate blocks looks delicious. The reviews are great and quite a few bloggers and test kitchens have given it the thumbs up too. I plan on trying these out this week. I think I might make this homemade marshmallow recipe then skewer them together to give as little gifts. Yum! Oh and if you make your own make sure to use good chocolate (really this will make the difference!).


Spoonful of Chocolate! Yum.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Running for your life

So it has been documented here that I do love the zombies. I've had a border line obsession with them for at least 10+ years, but it wasn't until I started working with my former boss that it went nuts. Needless to say I still am enamored by zombies and totally pissed that I packed my zombie t-shirt and most likely won't see it until Spring.

Cafe Press and totally worth the cost.

Awesome right?

Patrolling the Internet the other day I came across a zombie game that I think I may just have to pre-order. Is it insane? Yes. Will it make my butt look good? Actually it just might. The people behind this game are brilliant if only because this may be the only way to get me to run and be in shape and stuff. Who knew? and you can save 40% by pre-ordering. A better butt and 40% off, woo hoo Tuesday.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Wrapping presents and kitties

This weekend had a lovely mix of laziness and fun. Saturday we went to the Dusseldorf Christmas market where I sampled the traditional sausages and glühwein. Both were delicious. Purchases were slim from the market, but I did get a few things to put in stockings! Beside the market there were tons of shops. Everything from high end luxury to H&M had their doors wide open for the droves of people to shop their faces off until 7pm or some even later. I know most of you don't understand the huge deal that this was, because living in America we have the luxury of shops open at least that late (if not later) every day of the week normally and then during the holiday season some shops barely close before they open again. Here in Europe shops close at 5pm or 6pm most nights and have maybe one night that they are open until 7pm. So you can imagine the frenzy of 'late' night shopping near the market. It was nuts, but fun.

So now that I have presents the next step is wrapping. I used to be awful at it until a few years ago I came across this tutorial that really helped make my presents look so much better. I know this is super basic, but seriously it helped. Now I am much better.

I still lose my creativity about halfway through and then just start using stick on bows, but the first half are spectacular (or at least prettier).

When I was trying to find this video on YouTube I came across this and had to share. Flippycat as he is known has a whole series of videos with him, most including dominoes.

Then I found out Fippycat passed away. RIP Flippycat.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Glühwein & Awesome Gifts

So this weekend we are heading out to Germany to enjoy the Christmas market and to hopefully get some unique gifts. Oh and some glühwein. How else am I supposed to stay warm and cozy other than consuming a few hot cups of deliciously spiced wine? Exactly.

One of the things I do try and do each year at Christmas is to buy unique, handmade and interesting gifts. Things that are not necessarily available everywhere. This is part of the reason I am so excited to go to the market this weekend since that is the main draw. Well that and the glühwein and the sausage (totally can't forget that). So in that spirit I have combed through Etsy (as much as one can before they start making way too many self purchases) and just a few other sites to present a few fun ideas for gifts this season. So bundle up, make some glühwein (the recipe in the link says brandy optional, however it is not optional as far as I am concerned. Add it you will not be sorry. Promise) and check out some of the highlights of my gift romp through the Internet.

I love this! Plummy Wine Cork Wreath, Etsy
I know what you are thinking. You think you could make this. You totally could, but it would take some work, because this did not happen overnight. Besides drinking a TON of wine (Which I know for most of you is fine, but it needs to be bottle not box), there is a cleaning of the cork (which can be tricky) and then putting it all together which may  look easy, but I am sure is a lot harder that you think. So if you really have that much time to do that feel free, but I think I prefer to purchase this one. I think it would be the perfect gift for a wine lover or a non-traditionalist to add a small bit of the holiday without all the fuss.

Vintage Vanity Tray, Etsy
So while this may not be the exact style that you want for a gift, just by searching vanity tray on Etsy you come up with thousands of them. Glass, silver, porcelain, wood, the list goes on. These are great gifts (new or vintage) because they can be used for so many things. It could be on the bar for the bottles, in the kitchen for your spices, in the bathroom for perfumes or on the dresser for your jewelry. I have so many place this could go I might by one for myself. I have at least three people that I know that would love this or something similar.

How cool are these? Wooden Candle Holders, Etsy
Candles and candle holders are always great neutral gifts and these are just the right kind of interesting and different that I love. You could give them together or separate or who knows maybe even keep them for yourself! I would gift these to a nature lover or to anyone whose decor could use a little rustic addition.

14K Yellow Gold Branch ring, Olive Bungalow
I love these so much I am afraid to purchase it because it won't go to the intended recipient because I will keep for myself! This whole site has some incredibly interesting jewelry and is definitely worth the look around.

Wine Hurricane, Napa Style

I have been coveting these bottles for years and can imagine them adorning any one's mantle, front door or backyard. They range in price depending on size, but really are a fun and unexpected gift.

Happy shopping and let me know if you have a perfectly unique gift or web shop that you would like to share with me. I am always looking for new ideas and places to find them.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Reading YA doesn't make you dumb

I have always loved to read. ALWAYS. Ever since I could put two words together I have had a book next to my bed, in my purse and around the house. There are some books that I pick up and can't put down. You know the ones that you stay up until 4am in the morning in the middle of the week to finish. Then there are the ones that take forever to get past page 15.

The last book I couldn't put down was, The Help. It was a great read AND a good movie. But before that is was the Twilight series (I'm not even going to link to it because if you don't know what it is you seriously need to take off your pajama jeans and leave the house). I read through all four of the not so small books in a matter of days, during a work week. Yeah it was that captivating. Was it unsurpassed literature? No. Was it fun to read and did it make me want to keep turning the page? Yes.

I read everything and anything. I have fantasy, science, non-fiction, classics, popular fiction, historical fiction and even a few romance novels. I would read the phone book if that was all that was left. I had a whole stack of books that I have been trying to get through for the last few months resulting in me not allowing myself to buy any more books until the stack was completed. Since I have been only working part time-ish of late, I have had plenty of time to get my read on and finish that stack. So much so I found myself sitting at the airport last week with no paper books or virtual books to read in the Netherlands, but didn't know what I should get first. I wandered around the airport book store to get some ideas and decided on a lark to buy a young adult book, The Hunger Games that everyone is talking about.

I was a little embarrassed to purchases this since it was in the young adult section and I think it's safe to say I am no longer a young adult, but then I thought about all the crazy Twilight mom's out there and made the decision to not care what anyone else thought. Needless to say I read it all on the plane and then downloaded the other two books of the series onto my iPad upon arrival and I am just about done with the last one. Young adult books are fun to read and way better then when I was actually a young adult. (Well to be perfectly honest I was reading adult books when I was a young adult because all the YA books back then were so cheesy and I had already read them when I was under 12). So why the embarrassment over a book? Just because I am not reading the Steve Jobs (and seriously the cover of the book is starting to skeeve me out) or Walden (which I read years ago, but really wanted out about halfway through) doesn't make me any less aware of the world and who knows maybe I will end up reading them (again), but maybe I won't. That doesn't make me dumb. 

So where is this post going? Well I suggest reading the Hunger Games and to never feel stupid because you enjoy a book regardless of the genre. My guess is if there is a person looking down on you over your choice of book they are seriously depleting themselves of some good entertainment. Oh and my next book up is The Royal Stuarts (I have a serious addiction to the royals of Scotland and England), but that doesn't mean I am done with YA, Spoiled by the Fug Girls is on the list too!

Anyone have any suggestions for other books? I am needing to build up my stack again...

Monday, December 5, 2011

Jet Lagggggged & Whoopie Pies

So I have learned a valuable lesson in flying. I am just not able to fly to Europe and then go right into life without a wee little break in-between (like say a whole day to sleep and get acclimated). I landed on Friday and then we immediately started the weekend with kids, Sinterklaas and family. Usually no big deal, but let's just say this resulted with me on Sunday not being able to get out of bed or function in any useful way. Lesson learned and noted.

In other news I made these fantastic little pumpkin whoopie pies, from One Ordinary Day for Thanksgiving and failed to take any pictures of the final product. I was in the process of packing so it's a miracle they even were done, but oh my they were worth it! My friend Sabrina told me she doesn't really like pumpkin deserts, but I asked her to just take a bite and then she declared them delicious and wanted the recipe. My brother had an untold amount of them (he's 19 and a huge pumpkin pie fan so it wasn't a big shocker, but still it's good to know they don't suck) and my sister and mom were telling me how yummy they were too. So if you want something a little more unique to bring to holiday parties or dinners these are fun, portable and easy to do. They are even a great thing for kids to be a part of (especially the filling part. Messy, but totally fun).

I also really, really want to try this Creme Brûlée French Toast from smitten kitchen (not to mention about 800 other items). I found this on Pinterest which you all should get on if you haven't yet.

And in shameless family promotion, my mother is starting a a new business making baby shoes. Baby shoes you say, yes baby shoes. She is working on an Etsy site and I will of course pimp the heck out of it when it's up (not just because she is my mother, but these are amazing shoes and she is my mother), but in the meantime here is just a small sampling of what she offers. If you are interested in getting any shoes prior to the shop opening (ETA is still TBD) please feel free to email me and I will hook you up with her. She has been selling these like hotcakes so I am pretty sure it's not just me that thinks these are pretty cute and fantastic baby gifts!

Are they not super adorable?

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