Monday, October 28, 2013

[Snapshots] Summer boating in Amsterdam

We're experiencing some very crazy winds here in Amsterdam, blowing up to 70 miles an hour and tress collapsing all around the centre. You know things are really getting stirred up when even Vondelpark is closed! Since the fire department has advised everyone to stay inside, I'm snuggled up with a cup of tea, sitting by the window watching as golden leaves get whipped off the branches and flipping through the hundreds of pictures just waiting to be edited. Mornings like this make autumn even more cosy and now is the perfect time to reflect on sunnier times this summer.

After finally going through a few more rounds of pictures from the dozens of boat rides we took this past summer it seemed time to share them, better late than never... My, how time flies!

Oh, nostalgia. Reflecting is also a reminder of how quickly time passes, especially the fun parts! Living the 'expat life' your paths constantly cross as chapters open and close so quickly. It's crazy to think Rachel and Christian are already on their way to wed in Mexico when seems like just yesterday we were all floating the canals with a glass of wine and the occasional kazoo in hand!

I've said it once and I'll say it again, there are so many great ways to explore Amsterdam, by foot, by bike and most distinctively, by boat! My Dutchman and I first bonded over boating and have enjoyed so many fun boat rides together in the last few years. From cruising the historic canals to floating down the Amstel River, through the countryside or heading to the IJmeer or taking the adventure out to Amsterdam's Nieuwemeer...

At this point, I'm not sure if I've seen more of the city by bicycle or from the water! Either way, exploring by boat is truly a unique way to view Amsterdam and there are so many hilarious memories that go along with enjoying life on the water.

Goodbye summer sun, hello golden autumn. Now I'm off to filter through the next hundred photos snapped during our more recent (windier) autumn boat rides. Tot ziens!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Autumn at the orchard + Apple Speculaas Muffins

Autumn's arrival means it's apple picking season once again!

This time around, my good friend Annelies was an enthusiastic companion, so we set off on a misty Friday morning and headed to De Olmenhorst orchard. Apples and pears for miles! Thanks to the foggy weather, we practically had the entire apple orchard to ourselves for appel plukken, what fun!

This family orchard has been around for 150 years and now has more than 40,000 apple trees all grown organically. If you're in Holland, keep an eye out for De Olmenhorst apple or pear juice at a cafe or grocery store, it is so delicious!

This afternoon was a fun wall to officially welcome fall! A change in seasons always stirs up a bit of restlessness in my spirit. Autumn is a cosy break from summer's buzz but just the thought of a dark, cold winter approaching shivers my spine.

Actually, this apple picking afternoon with Annelies also reminded me how much changes in a year. Last year, our lovely group of American expat friends visited the orchard together on a clear, sunny day. This season, nearly all of them have since then returned to the States. This expat life is a weird world, an endless cycle of intriguing 'hellos' and such bitter sweet 'goodbyes.' You build strong bonds quickly but also learn how to detach as well. There's a strong need for acceptance, that life never stops moving and friendships and memories are woven in-between two randomly crossing paths. It's an emotional roller coaster from time to time, filled with so many lucky adventures in between.

After successfully bagging more than enough Elstar apples, we headed back home to do what other than bake some muffins. As expected, they were tasty and about two dozen of them have already disappeared thanks to my Dutchman. We used this muffin recipe and simply switched blueberries for apples while also adding an extra dose of Dutch speculaas spices.
So, let's simply call these Apple Speculaas Muffins, ok?

In fact, I think I'll make another batch for this weekend. Or maybe some apple crumble?
Baking is best way to warm up a grey, drizzly morning in Holland... yum! 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Lemon Blueberry Muffins with Cinnamon Crumble

Lemon. Blueberry. Cinnamon crumble. What's not to like?

Over the course of this year, I worked full time between three jobs. Meaning at times six (or occasionally more!) days a week. It was exhausting, in so many ways, and the most frustrating part is that somehow I'm still broke. But hey, that's the price to pay for living in such a magical city as Amsterdam. With both mental and emotional exhaustion on the brink, I cut back to part time hours this summer and headed full force into the hardest job of all... looking for a new one!

While expecting an even tighter part-time working budget, I also really looked forward to filling my spare time with (low cost) creative projects. With a little extra spare time, I expected to be blogging more, crafting more, exploring more, but as it turned out this path lead me back into the kitchen.
No surprise there, since my Dutchman fantastically remodeled the space into a cosy, bakers dream.

Baking and watercolor painting have been two happy activities that seemed to calm the onslaught of nerves and migraines brought on by sending dozens of job applications and throwing myself wholeheartedly into multiple interviews which so far, have been sadly unsuccessful. If seasons changing wasn't a good enough excuse to bake, having your dreams crushed on a weekly basis is practically the perfect time for baking muffins. Baking relieves my stress and hey, eating does too.

I'll just cut to the chase and say that these muffins were delicious.
I paired them with a breakfast smoothie of freshly picked blackberries, a very good call. They're probably one of the best batch of muffins I've made recently and the dozen shared at a friend's birthday party were devoured in minutes! 

Want my advice? Lemon Blueberry Muffins are sure to make you happy, so make an extra batch of muffins to share because muffins make your friends happy too. Especially remember to share them anyone else who feels down on their luck. And don't forget the cinnamon crumble, that's the stuff smiles are made of.

Find the recipe here and yes, frozen blueberries work just fine.

Eet smaakelijk! 

PS. If you're in a serious baking mood why not try one of these muffin varieties...