Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Time Fondue Extravaganza

Christmas has come and gone and since I lack any type of religious association, Chrismas is just another great day for me to spend eating yummy food and drinking lots of wine and snacking on cookies in between. Living in Amsterdam hasn't really changed that, except now I have new Dutch friends and my host family to celebrate with. My mom came to visit for the day (the call it 'first Christmas day' here) and together with my host family we enjoyed a relaxing day and food filled evening.

Libby stayed over for Christmas eve, and since practically everything was closed it seemed like a great opportunity to get Japanese noodle bowls and video chat with out families. Yes, Libby is holding the OPRAH magazine I had specially imported via my mother. Libby loves Ellen and freaked out when we saw it for sale at the American book store for something like 10 euros.

The next morning we had a white Christmas! No joke, this hasn't happened for a few decades here in Amsterdam so it was pretty special. The snow is really tiny, but I promise, it really happened.

We looked pretty dorky running around trying to get pictures of the snow flurries before the melted a few hours later. But, I used this time to get a nice Christmas bakfiets photo. And the answer to your question is yes, I wore the silly antlers most of the day. (Thanks Libby!)

And now the food...

We made a really deeeelish fondue dinner.


A light salad with honey mustard dressing (I made the dressing from scratch! Super easy: 1 tbs. of the following: mustard, mayo, honey, 4 tbs. olive oil, squeeze of lemon juice, salt and pepper).

Mom brought my all time favorite almond cake and a huge plate of cookies all the way from Florida. I also made a fruit parfait for dessert so, there was no shortage of sugar or cheese on Christmas for this family.

All I can say is: CHRISTMAS FOOD COMA!!!!! Yummm.

Dutch of the Day: Celebrate = Vieren

Friday, December 25, 2009

Charles Dickens Time Warp

Last week I attended what may have been the most random but equally entertaining event of the year...The Dicken's Festival! It takes place in the little city of Deventer, in the eastern side of the Netherlands. And once a year they deck the halls, literally, turning the town into an 1800's Charles Dickens inspirited wonderland! Everyone follows a strict Dickens theme, including different popular characters from his books. Naturally, there were lots of orphaned children running around with pick pockets and carolers.

Adding to the fairytale landscape was lots of snow! 
Ellen and I headed out early, and if you've read this entry
you're already aware that our return trip was quite a fiasco.

The festival leads you through portion of the city center which I'm guessing this is the very historical looking section and visitors wander the streets of 'Old England'. 
Shops are set up with the Dickens theme as well, everyone plays along! Even the guy selling frozen beer slushies had a British accent.

It almost felt weird not to be wearing an Empire waisted dress or petticoat, but unfortunately I lack in a collection of Victorian themed outfits. 
So, this cardboard cutout was the closest I could get...

Some other highlights of the day...

Snowy Christmas trees and lots of top hats

Living statues!


Orphans, lots of orphans. 
Some of the kids really got into their roles, 
like the ones in the chain gang who haggled people in the streets.

Carolers...They were everywhere! 
The cutest part was when they'd sing songs in a Dutch/British accent like,
 "Valking in a vintner vonder landt," Ha!

A variety of Oliver Twist characters...

Hot, fresh waffles with cherries...

How cool are these old fashioned bicycles!? 
I felt it was my destiny to ride of these when I first saw this one sitting all alone...

So, naturally, I bombarded the bicycle troop and chased them taking pictures...

Until one guy was so entertained by my desperation that he let me hop on!

I was about 9 or 10 feet high on that thing. And, it makes the bakfiets seem so easy! But, I did it! I got to ride the cool old-fashioned bicycle! Now, I just need someone to give me unicycle lessons and I'll have sufficiently completed mastering bicking skills.

Overall, it was a frozen and delightfully fun trip!

Dutch of the Day: Festival = Festijn

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Snow Is Here!

...And it's causing a lot of drama apparently. I had the honor of being caught it part of a cross crountry massive transport shutdown over the weekend. 
First, Ellen and I visited the Dickens Festival in Deventer, about 90 minutes east of Amsterdam. 
It was a lovely time, pretty snow, and lots of tea to keep warm. On the way back, a 90 minute trip turned into five (yes, FIVE) hours of crazy train hopping and knocking people over to get on the only way out. It was pure chaos! 

We don't really have snow issues in Florida so, despite the crazy day it was still a bit entertaining. Fortunately, we had internet on our phones and we could check to see which, if any, trains were still running. At one point, so many people were crowded at the station they opened up a train just for people to sit in. What I head on the weather forecast was about 10cm of snow...and it caused all of these issues, I can't believe it.

Our plan was to just keep running for the next train that was heading somewhat back towards Amsterdam. We finally made it back to Leiden after four hours 
and then I experienced a Christmas miracle! 
We were waiting for a different train to take me close enough so I could take a bus into Amsterdam. But, for some reason they (finally) opened the tracks and added an extra train that was heading to the airport and Amsterdam Central. YAY!
 I leapt down the stairs, and dashed around to the other side of the station and made it on the train! Then, about twice as long as it usually takes, I got home to Amsterdam. Hearing "Amsterdam Centraal" over the loudspeaker never sounded better! I can't even imagine what people went though at Schipol Airport, that must have been even more insane.

So, I can check crazy winter travel dilemmas off my list now. And no matter how much drama the weather caused, snow is still pretty to look at. Here are some pictures I snapped along the way...

View from my 8am it's still dark!

Snow covered bikes...

Ellen standing in the snow on my street...9am and it's still dark! Geez.

Ellen and I on a snowy day in Deventer, just before the crazy train dilemma began

Dutch of the Day: Snow = Sneeuw

Corn, Glorious Corn!

Before I moved across an ocean to an ice cold winter in Amsterdam,
 I enjoyed the leisure of daily sunshine (and extreme humidity) in Florida.

Knowing the sunshine would be something I'd miss dearly, and everything that comes with it (sundresses!!!), no matter how sticky and gross it can be! 
Just before I moved, a few of us visited Long & Scotts Farm in Zellwood, Florida for their annual GIANT corn maze. It was quite a fun, silly experience! 
And now that I'm stuck in the cold and having visions of sundresses, beach weather and summer time, I remembered that with the chaos of moving I completely forgot to post about the corn adventure. So, here you go a few months late but sunny and fun none the less.

Waiting in line for the corn maze to start

Corn labyrinth? Yes, please!

They create a different theme each year, 
it's a pretty serious corn maze experience!

Embarking on the corn adventure

It was the most perfect, sunny autumn day

After wandering the maze, Jolie and I enjoying a piece of delicious, fresh corn, yumm. 
Let me tell you, after walking though a corn field for so long,
 all you want to do is tear into a pice of hot, buttery corn. 
We did just that and got the last two pieces! 
(I was actually a bit worried that someone would jump us due to the last minute corn shortage.)

This was such a fun day and a great memory to have with two of my best friends 
before embarking on a new adventure here in Amsterdam!

Dutch of the Day: Corn = Mais

Monday, December 21, 2009

delete Winter Treats: Appletaart & Verse Muntthee

Verse Muntthee

Appeltaart met slagroom

Dutch of the Day: Whipped Cream = Slagroom

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Mijn Kerstboom

IT WAS ZERO DEGREES CELSIUS TODAY! Yes, I understand that is actually 32 °F but I could see my breath as I was panting on the bakfiets and lets just say this has been a day of shocking revelations. I had my first real taste of ice cold today. This sudden snap to bone chilling cold is making me worried about the rest of winter time. I don't think all the oliebollen in Amsterdam could prepare me for numb fingers, toes, legs, cheeks... Right now, the weather change is still appealing to me, having spent so many winters in Florida... but today I had a cold snap (ha!) reality check that I better bundle up and get serious because the cold is here to stay for a few more months. By the time March rolls around, I'll probably be whining and begging for Florida's ridiculously hot and sticky weather. I guess only time will tell how I survive Amsterdam's winter but it will definitely include as much hot chocolate as possible!

Tonight I had a dark, cold bike ride across the city and my fingers were completely numb so, I guess it's time to invest in real gloves not just the super cheep ones from h&m. I swear, my legs didn't thaw out for a good 10 minutes after I was back in the warmth of the house. But, I have combated my potential for catching the swine/mexican/h1n1 flu by getting the shot...which also came with a free apple and orange! Yum! Then I made lasagna and garlic bread, which will probably become a staple dish because its a hit with everyone here. (I mean, anyone who doesn't like lasagna or garlic bread probably has some deep issues to work out). I just did a basic lasagna with zucchini, spinach and red peppers but my confidence with this dish has inspired some upcoming new flavor experiments.

Since winter is well on its way and thus, the holiday season, I couldn't resist having a little christmas tree ('kerstboom') of my own! I don't even know what the religious affiliation is with these things (that's not really my interest) but they're just downright pretty to look at and fun to set up! So, I hopped on the bakfiets in search of a tiny tree to decorate.

And here it is, fitting perfectly in the bakfiets.

Decorations followed and included of course lights and little ornaments but the best thing to put on a christmas tree are these apple cinnamon 'cookies' that my mom makes! I will get the recipe and post it soon.

Now my room smells like apple cinnamon delight!

Dutch of the Day: Kerstboom = Christmas Tree

Winter Treats: Stroopwafflen

Stroopwafflen are a personal in top 10 foods I love of all time. So, naturally they make my winter survival list. Put caramel syrup between two thin waffle cookies and you've got a real treasure! I've been addicted for a while and just can't get enough. Fortunately, you can get them fresh in the markets all year long but again, cold weather + warm sweet food just can't be beat!

They're prefect with a cup of tea. The trick is to put the stroopwaffle on top of the cup for just long enough to warm it...but watch out because if it's there for too long then it will collapse into the tea!

Dutch of the Day: Tea = Thee

Winter Treats: Oliebollen Obsession

It's the middle of December and it's cold here, thats for sure. But, there are a variety of ways to survive this climate including but not limited too cute winter accessories like hats, boots, scarves, coats...They're are all necessary so why not make the best of it and do some shopping! Aside from layering for warmth, I find food to be an especially crucial part of winter survival. So, if you need to add a permanent layer of fat to keep warm, I've got a great suggestion; fried sugary dough!

There are so many yummy foods that are amplified by the weather, like soup and hot cocoa. But, in Holland they take it to another level...OLIEBOLLEN! Yummmm. Oliebollen ('oil balls') are delicious balls of dough with raisons, apples, bananas, etc, fried and sprinkled with powdered sugar. WOW. They're served fresh and hot and most importantly for me, they're inexpensive, usually less than 1€. And be sure not to confuse oliebollen with the snack bitterballen which are fried meat balls with mustard (no thanks!).

In the winter, lots of spots have oliebollen carts set up and the bright lights are the first sign that an oliebollen is on the it's way to you.

I recently got my mom hooked on these things. Which isn't at all surprising because they're great! Imagine the consistency of a doughnut or funnel cake but in a ball with raisons and powdered sugar! Deeeelish!

But, watch out because the powdered sugar can cause quite a mess.

My favorite are the ones with apple, banana or raisons.

More winter time treats coming soon!

Dutch of the Day: Scarf = Sjaal

Winter Day in Den Haag

My mom came to visit this weekend, so I went over to the Hague for a fun day of winter shopping and yummy food. Ellen also met up with us and we celebrated her job promotion (Congrats, Ellen!)

I had a huge concern for winter before my arrival but now, I love this season!
Florida is just so hot (yes, its nice sometimes but also very sticky/sweaty!) and the seasons don't really change. Sure, I'll probably be dying for Florida weather by the time March rolls around but for now, I like the crisp air and cute winter accessories.

Actually, I thought it was really 'warm' yesterday and then noticed it was only 7 °C! Now that acclimation to winter weather has taken place, I can look forward to summer heat in six months like everyone else here.

Pretty lights in Den Haag

We did some shopping and I got a great bell for the the new bike that I'm getting soon (thanks mom!). After wandering around we found Ellen and picked a really cute place for dinner. The relaxing atmosphere of restaurant was overshadowed by the sour attitude of the server, but the food was really yummy!

The meal started out with fresh, warm pumpkin bread that came with
sun dried tomatoes (yum), butter and garlic mayo (ew).

I have tried and tried again but I just can't get into mayo... on anything! To ruin fries with such a topping should be a crime offense but instead, its an obsession over here!
I'll stick with pindasaus (peanut sauce) or ketchup.

The veggie curry I had was spicy and so good!

A warm meal on a cold night with the best mom ever! Who could ask for more?

Dutch of the Day: Yummy = Lekker