Amsterdam, Holland Day #2

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Woohoo! Amsterdam day two! Thankful that we had gone to bed early, the next morning Ben and I were able to wake up a bit after the sunrise to a beautiful – and cold – day. The heat in the Airbnb was not working and although I had slept in layers of the warmest clothes I had brought (which were not many because weather.com lied to me about the temperatures!) I was still shivering as I went down to the kitchen to make a quick breakfast.

Note: All Airbnbs are different and some are definitely better than others. Ours looked great online and the reviews were pretty standard, but overall I was unimpressed with where we were staying. The house was colder than it was outside and it wasn’t particularly clean and though the reason I had booked it was access to the kitchen, upon my arrival the owner of the house greeted us by saying that the kitchen had limited use and that we couldn’t use most of the appliances etc. Not very friendly and not too welcoming… but we had a nice balcony at least! I digress…

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After breakfast, Ben and I got on the tram from Dieman into the main city of Amsterdam, making a quick stop at a coffee shop on our way to Vondel Park. The park was incredibly gorgeous and it was the first time I could actually see signs of spring!

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The flowers in London had not yet bloomed so Vondel Park’s brilliant display of purple and yellow blossoms was a welcome reminder that my favorite (warm!!) seasons were on their way. We spent a few hours in the park exploring and bird watching… still in awe and wondering if the birds we saw were really exotic birds or just seemed like it to our untrained birder eyes.

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I had still not recovered from the traumatizing cold night and as we wandered towards the museum quarter I decided that I wanted to buy another layer to wear under my sweater, long sleeve shirt, tank top and winter coat… I ended up buying a white leather jacket that I’m in love with and have worn a ton ever since this trip. Things happen for a reason guys! (They finally fixed the heat during the day.)

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Right by the mall was of course, the Rijksmuseum, our next stop. It has impressive stained glass windows, an incredibly vast collection of Dutch art – think Rembrandt – and also the largest public art history library in the Netherlands.

We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the canals until sunset, stopping for lunch in the “French Quarter” which reminded me a lot of NOLA. There were tons of cute little restaurants to choose from and we were craving Italian food so we chose the closest one. It was delicious! After lunch we tried to keep walking off the pasta and beer until deciding to take the tram back to our Airbnb to rest up for the long night ahead of us – tackling the Red Light District.

We napped and changed and then made dinner with the ingredients we had bought at HEMA the day before (under the watchful eye of the strange Airbnb owner who was paranoid that we were going to steal her food).

Overall, the Red Light District is just as wild as it is hyped up to be. (We were both so shell shocked neither of us took any pictures!) I quickly learned that it was called the “Red Light” district because of the red lights that were on the doors of prostitutes. Down the alleyways there are doors lined up on both sides of the street with their edges illuminated in red, and the middle a clear glass door. There was one prostitute standing scantily clothed in each door and over 100 in total per street. As you can imagine, the roads were full of leering men trying to negotiate prices and tourists wondering if this was possibly real life.

I had so many different feelings from seeing this on multiple streets and thought up a million questions of things that I wanted to clear up with these women about why they got into this line of work and what the day to day was like. It was just entirely mind blowing that a place like this would exist where this is something that is regularly accepted.

We kept walking through the Red Light District passing shops and shows for everything imaginable. There were lines out the door for “Live Sex Shows” and people on the street asking us if we “wanted cocaine, si si?” We walked back down the canal and settled into a regular pub to collect our thoughts before figuring out our next move.

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Our next move turned out to be two more pubs and then the admittedly cheesily named “Club Smokey” which was your general nightclub with two floors of dance areas, your typical European DJ who plays American ‘90’s music like it’s still popular and also a connected outdoor area where all kinds of smoking was allowed. Not the worst way to wrap up our second day!

Another super nice thing about Amsterdam is that the tram runs 24/7 and you can buy 24 or 48 hour passes so that you don’t need to stress about communicating with a conductor in Dutch to purchase a ticket each time you need to hop on the tram to get somewhere. This definitely came in handy getting back to our Airbnb at an ungodly hour of the night!

Stay Classy! xx

 

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Cinnamon Sugar Crackle Cookies

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It seems to be a proven fact that whenever I get stressed I quickly gravitate to the kitchen. Making something cute and delicious out of just a few ingredients is a sort of catharsis for me and it gets me out of reality for a while. Not to mention, munching on the delicious yield is something that I totally look forward to! I am currently in the process of cleaning out the last of my kitchen ingredients as my time in London comes to a close and I head off to Italy next week. Cue these cookies as well as rice pudding and crepes that I’ve scheduled time to make these next few days 😉

These cookies are the perfect snackable treat. They’re small yet delicious and full of powerfully yummy cinnamon sugar. Again, my flat has come equipped with barely any kitchen appliances (so I creamed and mixed all of this by hand!) but by all means, if you have access to the wonderful invention that is a mixer, I urge you to take advantage of it!

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Let’s Get Started:

1 cup sugar
½ cup butter
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ cups flour
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
cinnamon sugar

Let’s Get Cookin’:

In a medium sized bowl, cream together sugar and butter; beat in egg and vanilla. Combine flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt. Add to butter mixture. Blend well. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or until firm enough to roll into little balls (took the full 2 hours for me!). Shape dough into small balls, about ¾ inch in diameter. Roll in cinnamon sugar. Place cookies 1 inch apart on lightly greased cookie sheets or parchment paper. Bake at 350* for 10 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. Cool on pans and then remove. Enjoy!

Let’s Get Creative:

Yum! These cookies are simply perfect on their own, but there are definitely ways to spice them up a bit more. One idea is to add some crushed nuts to the dough. You could also add some raisons, thinly sliced, to make a cinnamon raison cookie dough mix. Raid your kitchen cabinets and see what ingredients you have lying around, these cookies are the perfect base with which to get creative!

Enjoy & Stay Classy! xx

Cafe Koosje – A Restaurant Review

Café Koosje – Plantage Middenlaan 37, 1018 DB Amsterdam, Netherlands 4-17 Pounds

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Café Koosje is just a few stops on the tram from the town of Dieman, halfway into the main city of Amsterdam. Located in a quaint residential area full of coffee shops, places to brunch and niche boutiques and shops, Café Koosje has proven to attract a diverse array of customers from all throughout the neighbouring areas.

Featuring a lovely terrace, Café Koosje has become the place for people to see and be seen in this stylish neighbourhood. It prides itself in celebrity customers from TV shows popular in the area and the regular customer base is well dressed and comes with an appetite.

The café’s interior features a standard oak bar, which matches the wood of the walls and doorways. From here the café expands further back with traditional Netherlands artwork and flyers for events in the arts in the area. It is without a doubt the place to be for the artistic and creative soul.

Starting out as spontaneous culinary venture in 2001, it did not take long for Café Koosje to earn her place as a neighbourhood favourite among both the chic young and old crowds. With vast menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as a fully stocked bar, there is not much that Café Koosje leaves its customers wanting for. It provides simple menu options but transforms them into masterpieces that will make your mouth water for weeks after in its traditional Dutch kitchen.

As I mentioned, the menu did not feature any particularly fancy dishes. There for brunch, I was drawn to the Warm Goat Cheese Sandwich with Spinach, Walnut Pesto and Honey as well as the Traditional Dutch Pancake. It was only a natural reaction for me to order both.

Following the old motto, my first bite of food was the dessert pancake topped with homemade crème fraiche. Oh boy. Simple menu options mean nothing when the ingredients they are made from are locally sourced and made to perfection. This “Traditional Dutch Pancake” was so much more than a thinned out pancake or the “XXL” crepe I was expecting to appear in front of me. The cinnamon sweetness of the dough simply leapt off the plate into my mouth forkful after forkful. Compared to the regular sweet crepe dough I had tried in Paris and made in my own kitchen, this dough had a kick that put it on another level entirely. And, of course, you can never go wrong with a few dollops of fresh whipped cream.

After devouring the pancake, I still had more than enough of an appetite to try the Warm Goat Cheese Sandwich. The bread was incredibly thick whole grain with seeds and dried berries and made the sandwich seem quite large. After one bite it was clear that the Dutch understood my insatiable appetite for delicious healthy food. The warm goat cheese danced with the walnut pesto on a bed of spinach in my mouth. The flavour that made this dish more than just a sandwich was the mixture of the warm goat cheese and the walnut. It added just the right amount of sweet to the savoury, and boy do I wish I could go back every week.

Enjoy & Stay Classy! xx

Amsterdam, Holland Day #1

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Something I’ve learned these past few months in Europe is that the cheapest way to travel is never going to be the easiest. At this point I have done just about every form of transportation – plane, bus, train, ferry – and when you include 2+ hours getting to a station or airport with the actual journey time, the cheapest travel might not necessarily be the best option in the end. This weekend I pushed my luck by booking a super cheap round trip ticket from London to Amsterdam and back, an 11 hour ride there and a 13 hour ride back. My reasoning behind this was that this would be $200+ cheaper than taking a train, ferry or flying. I thought that because it was overnight I would be able to sleep through most of it (not true). I was also sick of flying Ryanair.

In the end, I slept about 3 hours on the ride over. As the sunrise began outside (9 hours into the trip) I realized that we had reached Holland and became fascinated with the different language that was appearing on the buildings and signs that we were passing by. I caught a few glimpses of canals and realized that there was no way my body was going to let me sleep until we reached the city.

The bus pulled into Duivendrecht at 5:30 a.m. Ben and I spent a good half hour freezing outside waiting in line to buy train tickets only to find out that the machine was only accepting coins and the tickets were not working to get into the station. We eventually were able to get service on our phones and found out that the Airbnb we were staying at was just a 9 minute car ride away. Switching gears we found a cab, got to the house and took a much needed nap.

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We started our day a few hours later, hungry, and took the tram to Café Koosje (Restaurant Review Coming Up Next!). I had an amazing sandwich with melted goat cheese, walnuts and spinach that made me immediately fall in love with Dutch cooking and Amsterdam. (The quickest way to the heart is through the stomach, right?) Ben and I shared a “Dutch pancake” which is the code phrase for… crepe! It was huge and delicious with Nutella and strawberries. The dough was what made it so great – infused with cinnamon – which was a pleasant change to the standard sweet crepe. (Will definitely try this when I make crepes this week!)

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Next we were eager to just get into the main city, despite the freezing temperature outside (what happened to the weather report that said it would be low 50’s??). Three things about Amsterdam became immediately clear after walking around the main area for an afternoon. 1. This city is made for people who love to bike. 2. The magic of the city lies in the canals. 3. The overall vibe of the city can be explained by the number of coffee shops that appear on each street.

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The museum area of the city (with the iconic I AMsterdam logo sign in the main square) was blocks of the most popular art museums. Our first stop was the Van Gogh Museum which featured so many of his works that I had no idea he had created. I personally fell in love with his masterpieces that he made during the time he spent in Paris. Some of them had Matisse-esq elements, which may have something to do with my bias!

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Next stop was a nearby coffee shop and lunch at “Pancake House.” The coffee shops were incredibly zen and encouraged the same intellectual exchange that traditional American coffee shops meant to inspire (like the traditional hipster spots in the Village, not Starbucks and Dunkin…) even though the goods they were selling were a bit stronger than the traditional caffeine.

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Our second (and third) pancakes of the day were just as delicious as usual. We shared a “Pizza Pancake” and an “Apple Cinnamon Pancake” (both of which were disguised as crepes) and filled us up for the rest of the afternoon. We took the tram back to the Airbnb – the tram system is amazing and super easy and clean! I really want to check it out in San Francisco now – but first stopped at a HEMA, local grocery store, (fun fact: the Dutch word for “store” is “winkle”) to get some groceries for the next few days.

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And then, in the city with arguably the craziest nightlife in the world, we finally succumbed to the exhaustion that we had accumulated from the bus ride, watched the first few episodes of the new season of House of Cards and went to bed.

Stay Classy! xx

Root For Your Favorite NCAA Team With Jamberry!

Jamberry BBall

The 2016 NCAA Championships are coming to a close! Last night UNC beat Syracuse and Villanova crushed Oklahoma. Out of my bracket, I’ve only got UNC still standing – but hey, they could be the winners of the whole tournament which would be awesome for me! 😉

The March Madness tournament flew by for me this year as I am in London and there is virtually no way to watch the games. The British are super into football (aka soccer) and rugby and that’s about it when it comes to sports. I was able to watch the Superbowl back in February, but for some reason basketball has just not caught on here!

The bracket that I made predicted a Duke and UNC championship, and I’m just glad that I got half of that right! I’ll be rooting for UNC in the final March Madness game and even have the nail wraps to show my team spirit!

JamberJamberry came out with a huge (and adorable) new collection of university nail wraps this winter. Even though my actual university (Fordham) is not on the list (yet!!) I’m excited to wear these cute UNC nail wraps in the next few weeks. I love the zig zag and polka dot blue and white patterns and that Jamberry is getting creative with them beyond just a traditional school logo! The nail wraps will be on sale long after the championship game, so you can totally keep supporting your team (or school) all throughout the summer.

Stay Classy! xx (& Go UNC!)