Tuesday, September 17, 2013

[Video] Road Trip in Iceland

Everyone has travel dreams. Luckily, I know a lot of great adventurers and get to live vicariously through their travels.

This summer, my friends and fellow expat bloggers Rachel  and Emma trekked around Iceland with their partners Christian and Dennis for one wild ride!

After hearing about their trip (and watching the video below) I'm definitely yearning for a camping/road trip through Iceland's rugged country side. But that will have to wait until another summer comes around. What a fascinating, unique landscape and you know I love some midnight sun

You've got to check out this video of their Iceland adventure!

Don't forget to check out their blogs Let's be Adventurers and Voyages of Discovery for more,
Happy Travel Tuesday! 

Friday, September 13, 2013

September Photo a Day Challenge | Part One

Australian blogger FatMumSlim organizes the photo a day challenge and thought it would be fun to participate in another round  (see the MarchPhotoADay project here)

Here's part one of my September photo a day challenge. I'll be sharing my photos here and posting a few on instagram too. Follow along with me (@lilywanderlust and #fmsphotoaday) or better yet, join us!

Day 1 Together brushes and ink | Day 2 My name begins with... | Day 3 Lines sun salutations
Day 4 Alone yoga is my solitude | Day 5 Here forever reflections | Day 6 Getting ready
Day 7 White  in the kitchen | Day 8 Made by me I love berry picking | Day 9 On the wall vintage bits
 Day 10 Sweet crumb cake | Day 11 What you did today market shopping | Day 12 Shadow biking home

The aesthetics of daily life fascinate me and luckily, Amsterdam's cityscape provides an outstanding backdrop. It's so tempting to snap scenic bits of the city all the time but this project brings the focus to unexpected prompts creating a new source of daily inspirations.

If you're also a fan then check out this instagram documentary or have a look at my page (@lilywanderlust). If you joining along, leave your details in the comments below, I'd love to see 'a photo a day' from others! Happy photo snapping!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Weekend Wanderings: Berry Picking in the Utrechtse Heuvelrug

Now that autumn is on the horizon, we're rounding out towards the end of berry season. This may surprise you but last week, I spent an evening 'urban foraging' with a pal here in Amsterdam and picked nearly a kilo of fresh blackberries! Most of them have now been devoured, plopped on top of ice cream or Greek yogurt, whipped into smoothies or frozen for later use. I'm thinking of making these muffins with the extra blackberries, so many delicious possibilities!

Knowing my fondness for picking fruit, my Dutchman took us for a surprise day trip  in the nearby province of Utrecht. Our Saturday began with a visit to Huis Doorn, the estate of the German Keizer Willem II where he lived and eventually died, in exile, after WWI. We were especially curious to check out the historic property after our recent visit to Berlin.

After a (very long, very detailed) tour of the estate, my brain was begining to melt from two hours of listening to Dutch. We both needed some fresh air headed to the Utrechtse Heuvelrug, a ridge of hills and forests spanning 6,000 hectors...and just happens to have a lot of blackberries too!


We wandered up and down the hills (yes, actual hills!) in and out of oak and pine trees with out anyone else in sight. I love the quiet serenity of being in the woods, its a nice break from dodging tourists on my bike in Amsterdam's buzzing city center (ha!). My soul needs to be near a city, isolation is not for me, but maybe my spirit would be keen on country life if my sweet chicken Tallulah could join me here in Holland! September has only just arrived and thankfully, the change in season (and much cooler weather) hasn't banished green leaves quite yet.

Drizzly weather enhanced the forest's rustic smell.
Don't you love the smell of rain? It's soothing, fresh and earthy.

Blackberries are my favorite berries of all and such a tasty snack. It's a lot more fun to pick them for free versus shelling out cash for over prices berries at the grocery store! Continuing with our recent berry picking trend, we plucked a lot of bramen along the way! My Dutchman was really getting into the flow of seeking out big, juicy berries, despite the prickly brambles. Eventually, we sought out a perfect sunny spot that seemed virtually untouched by other foragers and made away with almost another kilo of fresh, yummy berries. 

While living in the Chicago area as a little kid we had a sizable raspberry and blackberry bramble in the back yard and I remember picking and munching berries all summer. The thing is, I enjoy eating the fruits of my labor while picking so, I usually end up with very purple fingers, a full belly and a half empty fruit basket. Oops. All in a delicious days work!

Do you also enjoy picking your own fruit? Last autumn, a few of us went apple picking too!
If you have any suggestions for nice spots for urban foraging or zelf plukken here in please share them! 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Friday Link List: French Pharmacy Products

Remember this spring, when I headed to Paris for a long weekend with one of my best friends from Florida? If not, go on and read more about our trip here!

Inevitably, we popped into a few French pharmacies to purse their goods so here's a two-for-one post covering a little flashback to our long weekend in Paris and a Friday Link List with a French twist.

It's always entertaining to sort through shops in other countries. My personal favorites are grocery stores, markets and pharmacies. You can always find something interesting, whether it's an odd product or a foreign twist on things you like back home. Despite not exactly comprehending the text, we still had fun smelling all the fancy soaps. Oh, so many good smells!

I'm not a huge beauty product girl, gimme some moisturizer and bronzer and I'm good to go, but, I am a sucker for nice design anything with apricot or lavender. So when I stumbled upon apricot + basil goodies my heart swelled and subsequently, so did my backpack. 

I walked away from the pharmacy with a hefty bag of goodies and had to lug it all way home. But our bathroom and newly-renovated kitchen both smell fresh like basil and green tea and lavender and that's a good thing, in my book. Here are a few of my favorites...

Bioderma Crealine H2o There's a reason this stuff is all the rage. My skin is so happy now and a a few people have even complimented that it looked "radiant" (Now, I'm blushing) Go and get this, seriously.

Caudalie is a brand of paraben free cosmetics and their bronzer is my new favorite! 

Green tea bar soap from Roger & Gallet is also sold in Amsterdam but more just more fun to buy in Paris, of course. 

Apricot + Basil soap from Le Petit Marseillais. You guys, this stuff smells so amazing that my supply has already run out! I'm pretty pleased with their henna shampoo too which was a complete impulse but it actually works. 

Do you have any favorite foreign beauty products? Share them in the comments below!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Oatmeal Yogurt Banana Bread Muffins

After a long drive back from Berlin and a detour through the most adorable German village, we returned to Amsterdam to a practically bare kitchen...or so I thought.

In effort to use up only what we had in the pantry, I was inspired to whip up some muffins without needing a trip to the grocery store. That's my money saving tip for solving the lack of a full time job post vacation baking experiment.

A handful of overripe bananas in the 'fridge basically always means one thing to me...
Bake banana bread muffins!

Out of flour? Make some with oatmeal!
Not enough butter? Use sun flour oil, creme fraise and some yogurt.
Don't have baking powder? Substitute with a little extra baking soda.

I used this recipe from the Honest Fare blog which was found courtesy of simple ingredient search "yogurt olive oil oatmeal banana muffins" Yup. It was easy.

Side note: I discovered Honest Fare is written by a co-founder of La Empanada, one of my favorite food trucks back home in Orlando. I've been quite homesick for Florida lately and missing old favorites like eating at the empanada food truck with my friends back home. Apparently, the internet is a small world too.

Anyway, these muffins were pretty simple to make, as muffins usually are. For me, baking is soothing and creative hobby made even better by eating what you make once the timer goes off.

Naturally, I ate one fresh out of the oven. Later, I had one for dessert with yogurt on top.
The next morning, I had another one for breakfast with a peach smoothie. Yum. 

The original recipe was slightly altered because hey, sometimes you're too broke or lazy get dressed and head to the market. All the better reason to substitute and use what ya' got. Done and done! I think these could have used a bit more flour and my batch of muffins definitely wilted (maybe because my baking power-baking soda substitution was off?) but they still were tasty!

Added 1/4 cup creme fraise + 1 tsp. ginger honey + 2 tsp vanilla extract, because well, why not?
Substituted nutmeg for pumpkin pie spice
Once cooled, add a topping of Greek yogurt, fresh fruit and honey

Happy baking!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Blogtember: An Imaginary Three Month Break

I'm joining in with Blogtember, a series of blog topics to write about throughout the month hosted by Jenni, the blogger at Story of My Life. Today's prompt hits so close to home because I'm always up for a new adventure! 

If you could take three months off from your current life and do anything in the world, what would you do?

When moving to Amsterdam I thought traveling all over Europe would happen with ease. Of course, I still travel, but as it turned out, my life abroad wasn't as glamorous as expected. Luckily, Amsterdam is an amazing city and I've had the change to explore every corner since lot of this past year was either a struggle for free time or funds to support the wild adventures I'd imagined. Here's a peak into my current travel wish list...

It's always been a goal of mine to pack my bags for a tropical location and spend some time relaxing, learning and working on my yoga practice. A month traveling and doing yoga in Hawaii, Thailand or Mexico? Yes please.
The Wanderlust Festival is something similar combining yoga, nature and music. Sign me up!


This summer, I really wanted to take a trip to see the bright blue waters of Formentera or head back to Greece for some island hopping. Exploring hidden beaches and spending days in the sunshine seems like a dream!
(We went took a road trip to Berlin instead!)


Living abroad understandably makes you see home from a new perspective. Looking from abroad, traveling through seems even more USA interesting. I'd love to spend some quality time on a road trip with friends and make our way from East to West. New Orleans, Nashville, Austin, The Grand Canyon, San Francisco and so many places in between! Exploring small towns and big cities in my own country would be great especially with a genuine American road trip.


I can't even begin to say how often travel has been on my mind lately. My heart is always consumed with wanderlust but I've been feeling more and more restless here in Amsterdam. This past year and a half of settling back into my Amsterdam life has been one of the most adventurous, emotionally consuming periods of my life. Considering I've turned 27, these struggles aren't surprising and undoubtedly, similar frustrations are reflected amongst my peers around the world. It's tough finding a balance between figuring out who you are, where you fit and what to do with your career while attempting to put roots down in a foreign country, adapting to a different culture, language, a multicultural relationship and flow of daily life is a very challenging adventure! This chapter of my life has been fun, but also exhausting and sometimes I dream of grabbing my backpack and heading somewhere different (and warm) to fill my soul with new experiences.

Maybe this is the universe telling me I should?

Where would you go with three months off and unlimited funds?
My Amsterdam pal Rachel is taking a 6 month around the world trip later this year!
Check out her blog to follow along with her adventures!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Blogtember: Describe Where You're From

I'm joining in with Blogtember a series of blog topics to write about throughout the month hosted by Jenni, the blogger at Story of My Life. It's been a while since I participated in a blog project. I'm feeling up for a challenge these days and curious for new inspirations. Since there are a lot of prompts and I'm already a wordy person I'm giving myself 30 minutes to write each post so please excuse any rambling. Here we go! 

Describe where or what you come from. 
The people, the places, and/or the factors that make up who you are.

The first thing that comes to mind when thinking of where I'm from isn't necessarily a person or place, but a feeling. The feeling of sun warming you, through skin and bones. The feeling of a cool, dewy morning before the sun takes over. The feeling of walking outside already begin to melt. The feeling of sunshine beating down on my tan skin. The feeling of warm, breezy evenings scented with orange blossoms. Like many others, sunshine really does affect my mood but I love the sun and can hardly remember complaining about the ongoing warm weather. I feel almost synchronized with everything the sun represents, summer is my favorite season, I'm a glass half full optimist who thrives on positivity and shares it daily with others. I love waking up to greet a bright, blue skied morning.

Thinking more about of my life in Florida, brings me so much warmth, not just in reference to the weather but of course, more importantly the care of my family and close friends. I had a support system like no other and was surrounded by loving, positive and inspiring people who no doubt have shaped the person and friend I am today.  I miss them, and that magical sunshine, desperately.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Around Berlin: Abandoned Ice Factory in Kreuzberg

Earlier in August, my Dutchman and I took a road trip from Amsterdam to Berlin.
Berlin isn't a "beautiful" city but if you like history there's no denying Berlin's role in shaping the last century and subsequently, it's absolutely fascinating. History is literally around every single corner. Plus, I like any place where wacky and weird is celebrated and Berlin's alternative vibe seems less untouched that it's comparative counterparts like Amsterdam and Paris.

During our long-weekend in Berlin, I wanted to wander the Kreuzberg area which is known as the ultimate alternative spot of the already very alternative city. Think funky cafes, abandoned urban architecture and counterculture squats and so on. But since we did this trip 'spontaneously' the day got away from us and we ended up drinking margaritas all night instead of continuing our urban exploring. No complaints there!

First things first, we checked out the East Side Gallery. It was okay we got bored after 10 minutes so, we stopped for a drink at Yaam, a 'beachy' Rasta inspired bar along the Spree River and just next to the outdoor gallery. Yaam had nice views which would have been better warm, sunny day. I think we had more fun talking religion, politics and whatever else with a somewhat intoxicated but very well versed guy from the Congo in the adjacent park. Now that was interesting. 

East Side Gallery 

Our first stop during our wander through Kreuzberg was a graffiti covered, abandoned factory which we spotted from the metro upon our arrival to this side of town. We wandered along the river Spree, through a patch of woods which was covered in rubbish and rats and stunk of urine, giving us some insight for what was ahead. What exactly was that you ask? Well, a squatters 'village' of tents and teepees and a sign declaring the one and only community rule: "No public masturbation." Good to know. Needless to say, we made out way past the not so friendly, tattooed campers/squatters quite quickly as they clearly weren't welcoming or interested in giving us some background info on the building. In fact, I felt really awkward wandering through what was basically someone's 'living room' like a wide eyed tourist. Technically this was public property but we definitely didn't fit in, good thing curiosity got the best of us. 

Moving on, we headed straight into the aforementioned abandoned factory and were in awe that a building which somehow survived two world wars has been left in such disrepair. Later, we learned from a local that this was in fact an Eisfabriek dating back to 1914! The building was still in use into the 1990's.

Obviously, we headed inside to explore. There were remnants of old machinery in place, absolutely saturated in graffiti, and it was fascinating peak around. Have a look for yourself...

After carefully circling in and out of the massive halls, up and down the rickety stairs (while snapping a ton of photos) we found the rooftop which was filled with a variety of hipster groups with an expected arrogance. In one corner, guys with bikini tops and animal masks were getting a party started, across from them a photo shoot was taking place, further along a few kids were having a blast propelling rocks off the roof. We settled in the fourth corner to take in a view of the river and the Berlin Tower in the distance.

Given the rooftop views, I can understand see why someone would want to hang out here or even take over the property. It's a prime location along the river, in an alternative but up and coming area of town. I just wish they'd preserve the heritage of this old building and keep some of the city's history alive. Coming from a place like Orlando where basically nothing is more than 30 years old I can't stress enough the importance of utilizing a city's history to encompass growing in a new direction.  If you're Berlin, definitely check it out while you can, who knows when the Eisfabriek will be turned into something else with far less character. 

Still curious? Read more about the abandoned Eisfabriek here and here.