Emotion, Food, Life, Travel

I see England, I see France

I’ve been traveling so much these days! It’s great, it really is, but it’s also nice to have weekend at ‘home’ (home being Amsterdam.) Over the past month I’ve spent weekends in London, Disley, Oxford, Düsseldorf/Bonn and Maastricht, in England, Germany and the Netherlands, respectively.

And I fully understand the benefits of a backpackers backpack now. However, I have a laptop with me, so I have this little rolling suitcase/laptop case. It is really great, but not fun when in a rush or when walking on cobblestone! (Note: when walking on cobblestone, I usually pick it up, hence the annoyance.)

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The brand, London Fog, is so fitting for me, since I’m a proclaimed Anglophile (who isn’t though?). It has “Big Ben” on every zipper ;). When I was buying it, it was next to a Parisian brand that had Eiffel Towers all over it. These brands know who their target markets well, that’s for sure.

So anyway, each weekend I bring like, 1.5-2 outfits, because that’s all I can fit with all the other stuff I’m bringing – journals, laptop, sometimes work stuff. I just have to get creative with my clothes, trying to make them look like I wasn’t wearing it the day before, or sleeping in it.

When I went to London a few weeks ago, I had breakfast with a blogger friend of mine, Sara, from realfunfood.com. I’ve always loved reading her blogs, because I feel like they’re perfectly catered towards me – a young female living in London and likes cooking and fitness and other geeky things. So it was very cool to meet up with her! It was tough picking a restaurant out of all the wonderful options, but we picked one called the Electric Diner in Notting Hill. The restaurant looked super cool and the location was great. I love Notting Hill and I don’t think I could ever get bored wondering through Portobello Market, which we did after breakfast!

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Photo courtesy of Sara at realfunfood.com. 😉

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Then I had to rush to the show Les Miserables, which was unsurprisingly fantastic. The only unfortunate thing is that I’ve been exposed to the story so many times now, I think the emotional effect it should have on me is waning…. it’s unfortunate, so (once I finish the book!) I’ll take a break from it for a while. It’s the same concern I had about Harry Potter, haha.

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Who wants one?:

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Is it just me or did they crop the photo on that bag really poorly?

And then I walked to South Bank to meet my friends for dinner and I unexpectedly and delightfully came across Trafalgar’s Square, which was as beautiful as it’s ever been, give or take a couple more blue rooster statues.

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Kim, Warwick Davis was inside this building, below. I’m pretty sure that was his last day of the show, too. (I should specify, the building with the “Spamelot” sign, not the old green taxi station.)

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Looking at the photo below, it’s taking my breath away even now, if that tells you how beautiful the view was in person.

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Right around where I was meeting my friends for dinner, I passed by this outdoor food market, that served hot meals from all ethnicities. It smelled amazing. You have no idea. I told myself that next time I was in London I was definitely getting food from there! However, I was in London the very next weekend, but didn’t make it out there. But NEXT time I’m in London, I really will. For sure.

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And here’s my friend Seb’s photo of the restaurant we went to. By the time I got there it was dark… because I went to the wrong Wahaca! There are two in South Bank! I definitely recommend going to Wahaca, but make sure you know which one you’re going to. I felt so stupid, because I’d given them the address of the right Wahaca myself, and then I went to the wrong one. That’s what happens when you rely too much on the internet and then you unexpectedly don’t have it anymore…

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And for those fans of Pride & Prejudice, I definitely recommend going to Disley, a little town near Manchester. It’s got the Pemberley Estate from the BBC mini series of Pride & Prejudice! I was sooo excited to go, pretending I was Elizabeth Bennet instead of Elizabeth Berens, taking a turn around the gardens at Pemberley.

And I can’t let this irony slip past you: I, Elizabeth, walked out of the courtyard at Pemberley to be unexpectedly greeted by Mr. Darcy himself, soaking white shirt and all.

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The very next weekend, I returned to England to visit my friend in Oxford! She’s just started there 3 weeks before my visit, so it was all new and exciting and surreal. Though, to be honest, I don’t think the omg-is-this-really-my-life-I-go-to-bloody-Oxford feeling will ever fully go away.

I’m seriously seeing Swatches everywhere now. Every airport has them, every flea market! I got one for Sara from an Amsterdam flea market and I remember thinking, “Omg, it’s so lucky this flea market has them!”

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There’s a cool covered market in Oxford. It’s got higher end goods, like boots and vintage clothing, along with product, meats, cafes and lots of cool trinkets. I was in the market for boots, so I went into many of the boot shops, but none of the sales people paid much attention to me. I felt a bit like Julie Roberts in Pretty Woman when she tries to buy nice clothes while wearing her hooker clothing. Haha, no, I was normally dressed, but still not looking the part, I guess. I scoffed a bit at them, but then I looked at the price, cringed, and walked out. So it goes.

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And now ladies and gentlemen, Oxford:

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Did anyone recognize some Harry Potter locations? Yepp, that’s right – the staircase to the great hall, the room they had Yule Ball dance lessons and the courtyard where Draco turns into a ferret – all at Oxford. There was also the Restricted section of the library, but you had to pay for a tour and we didn’t have that much time.

Then we were a bit peckish so we got scones and tea! Of course they were good, but they still don’t match the scones I had at the YHA St. Pancras Hostel!

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After tea time, we decided it was time for another kind of drink, so we headed to the Eagle and Child, a bar famously frequented by J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.

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They even had board games!

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And though the menu at Eagle and Child had delicious-looking British grub, we weren’t too hungry, so we decided we’d have a night in with pizza, beer and the IT Crowd. I’ve been living on my own for a while, and despite being in Oxford, England, I was really wanting a girl’s night in with my friend. And anyway, the night before, we’d gone to Formal and out to several bars (including one in an old church with very high gothic ceilings!)

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I had to leave the next day because I was also spending a day in London! I met up with a fellow MSU graduate for drinks and also with Sara again! Her boyfriend, also American, met up with us too. First we went to this very cool art deco 1920’s speakeasy-style bar. I definitely want to go back there someday too. Then we went into Chinatown for dinner and little fish-shaped desserts! I had such a great time!

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And then I found out Dan Radcliffe had a stage show in London. :O Gaaah, maybe next time I’m in London.

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Oh, and if you’re wondering about the “I see France” part of my blog title, I’m headed to Paris for a trade show in a couple weeks, for work! I’m meeting up with my friend and colleague from work there too! I can’t wait!

Cheers!

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Food, Life, Travel

A non-cynical view of living alone in a foreign country

So I’m living alone in a foreign country. People ask me, “Have you made any friends?” My answer is a lame-o “eeeh, not really?” I answer almost like a question, as if there’s room for debate whether I’ve made friends. But the truth is, I haven’t. Of course it would be nice to make friends, but I don’t feel at a huge loss. Here’s why:

I’ve always wanted to read more, blog more, write in my diary more, cook more, sketch more. I’ve also got several European friends that I’ve made weekend plans with. I’ve been able to do these things, living on my own. I’ve been able to wander the streets of Amsterdam, going where I like, popping into shops and stopping for photos whenever I want. It’s true, I could do all that with a buddy, but there’s definitely a freedom that comes with exploring on your own too.

After a long hiatus, I’ve picked up Les Miserables again. I started reading it after the movie came out A YEAR AGO. To give me some credit, I stopped reading it in February when I got very busy. Marius was on his way to the barricade for nearly 8 months!

Almost done-ish!

Almost done-ish!

I was excited to hear that my friend Simone also loves the author Bill Bryson, who wrote my favorite non-fiction book, Mother Tongue: English And How It Got That Way. Bill Bryson writes with strong wit and light-hearted sarcasm. I thoroughly regret not bringing it with me, especially now that Simone’s lent me two of her Bill Bryson books, his memoir, The Thunderbolt Kid, and his novel about traveling the U.S., The Lost Continent, I wish I could have lent her my book.

Mother Tongue cover    

Just look at this jolly guy. If he were a professor, I’d audit his class for sure. (I just googled, “Is Bill Bryson a professor?”; it doesn’t look like he is.)

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I’ve only sketched a little bit, to be honest. I’d like to paint a typographic piece of my address here. My sister, Kim, did one of her address in Los Angeles, and it looked so cool! I’ve got the design, I just need to buy the painting supplies! I’d also like to paint my bike basket!

Some of you who know me may know that I LOVE persimmon fruit. So you may know how thrilled I was about the “recall” persimmons at the flea market yesterday – cheap overripe persimmons! So today I made persimmon bread! Or more like persimmon bread pudding, because I didn’t add nearly enough flour and it doesn’t hold together at all and is very moist. But that’s kind how I prefer it to be honest… But for my failed bread, I also deserve some credit – I have no measuring cups or measuring spoons!

Juicy persimmons before adding them to the flour mixture.

Juicy persimmons before adding them to the flour mixture.

It’s hard not buying too much food for one person. I went to the flea market to do most of my grocery shopping and some people gave me odd looks when I’d ask for a 25 kg of dried berries, or the smallest piece of salmon available. But seriously that piece of salmon better be good because I spent €4,20 on it!

So some people don’t like to drink on their own. I, too, once thought this an odd solitary activity. But since living on my own, I now totally understand it. It’s still a nice relaxing accompaniment to evening reading, and honestly, a good stress reliever after a hard day of work. Of course, I don’t waste my money on the good stuff. I bought pretty bad wine for €3-something before, and this time, I found some for €2,49! I’ll let you know how it is.

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And I’ve visited a friend in Maastricht and a friend has visited me here. I have several trips planned in the future – two to England and one to Germany/Austria , and I hope to add a few more trips to the list! I’m so ecstatically thrilled about all of them I can’t even say. I still can’t believe my life has brought me here. I think I could live here 10 years and still be amazed.

Having said all that, I totally just joined several groups on MeetUp.com.

I’ll leave you with two more things: Firstly this Turkish Döner Pizza is absolutely spectacularly delicious. I think they’re popular throughout Europe, but I can’t verify that myself. However, if you come across one and you happen to be hungry, yes, it’s a good good choice.

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And then this: I don’t know much about rowing, so I don’t know whether curvy canals are good or bad for the sport, but at least it’s a beautiful view.

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Food, Life, Travel

Eet smakelijk! – Eating in Amsterdam.

I feel like Harry Potter in Prisoner of Azkaban when we as staying in Diagon Alley for two weeks by himself, and loving it! It’s been two weeks since I moved to Amsterdam, and I’ve loved every minute.

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When I was moving, people asked me if I was nervous about moving to a new culture. No, actually, I wasn’t. I’ve been to Europe a few times, lived in London for a bit, and have been to Amsterdam twice, so it wasn’t too unfamiliar to me. I think I’m kind of adaptable, anyway, wanting only a few essential comforts – as long as I can get a decent jar of peanut butter, I’ll be just fine. 😛

Speaking of peanut butter. I’ve tried three different brands already:

Calvé peanut butter was very good – slightly gritty and not too sweet.
Dirk van den Broek’s house brand of peanut butter, was very delicious, though extremely addictive for me. I suspect they got some extra ingredients from the coffee shop next door.
I just bought Albert Heijn’s ‘Excellent brand (compare with Meijer ‘Naturals‘, lol) of hazelnut peanut butter – with candied hazelnuts!

Hazelnut Peanut Butter

Hazelnut Peanut Butter

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I mean, just look at that.

Quite delicious. Though it doesn’t go so well in what I THOUGHT would be normal yoghurt… but turned out to be buttermilk yoghurt. I mean, what are those specks?

Buttermilk Yoghurt

Buttermilk Yoghurt

I’m eating a lot more meat than I ever did back in the States. The staples of a Dutch diet seem to be dairy, bread and meat. And you can’t forget the appelstroop! (Appelstroop = apple syrup)

Here’s me constructing a sandwich, with all the goods:

(If the animated GIF doesn’t work, click here.)

Making a Dutch sandwich: brown bread, two kinds of liverwurst, appelstroop, tomatoes, cucumbers & young cheese!

Every country seems to have their form of pancakes, and the Dutch are no exception. They have Pannenkoeken (large, very thin pancakes with sweet or savory toppings) and Poffertjes (little bite-size pancakes with powdered sugar)

Poffertjes

Poffertjes

Poffertjes & Kaffee

Poffertjes & Kaffee

As I was riding by one of the fancier food markets (Marqt), I noticed they were giving out samples! Of course I stopped by and met a nice woman who started this business of making food out of local hunted meat. These were her croquettes made from goose meat. I could taste about as much meat as you can see in the photo below. 😉 But they were delicious! This croquette in my hand costs about €1 in the store though… so, I’m sorry, but I wouldn’t buy it on my own, no matter how delicious!

Kroket or croquette

Kroket or croquette

More photos to come soon! Next I’ll tell you about the parks near me and how beautiful it is riding through Amsterdam!

Bedankt! Tot ziens,
Beth

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Food

Winter Squash, how I will miss thee.

Winter only has a few things going for it – Holidays and a valid excuse to stay inside being high on the list – and it’s also got Winter Squash! A collection of vegetables perfect for savory, for sweet, for breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert! But even as I’m enjoying strawberries, corn-on-the-cobb and Corona’s on my back patio, I miss the abundance and rich flavor of in-season Winter Squash.

Dear Winter Squash, our inevitable separation looms!

I got Spaghetti Squash last week and cooked up the same meal with them every time, because it was just that delicious! (and my pantry isn’t very diverse.)

Spaghetti Squash with Homemade Marinara Sauce & Parmesan Cheese

Spaghetti Squash with Homemade Marinara Sauce & Parmesan Cheese

I used homemade pizza sauce that my friend Kelsey made. It was so delicious, but I have no idea what she put in it. If she shares her super-secret-special-Kelsey recipe, I’ll let you know!

Kelsey's Homemade Pizza Sauce

Kelsey’s Homemade Pizza Sauce

Spaghetti Squash with Homemade Marinara Sauce & Parmesan Cheese

Spaghetti Squash with Homemade Marinara Sauce & Parmesan Cheese

Spaghetti Squash with Chicken, Spinach & Homemade Marinara Sauce

Spaghetti Squash with Homemade Marinara Sauce & Parmesan Cheese

Winter Squashes are more than tasty, they’re economical and extremely healthy! They’re about $1-2 each and they feed a few people at least! Different Winter Squashes are high in beta-carotene, vitamins A & C, complex carbohydrates, fiber potassium, etc, etc, etc.

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Food, Life, Travel

Amsterdam + Bruges + Food + Friends = totaal koel weekend

For my job, we travel occasionally. I work in marketing but I work with lots of sales representatives, who mainly do the traveling. But for the big industry tradeshows, it’s important having the marketing team join them, to meet business partners, to be more connected to the industry, etc.

Which is amazing for myself. I never dreamed of having a job that brought me to The Netherlands! At least this early in my career! I never thought I’d even go to The Netherlands!

This was my second year going on this work trip. It’s great, because all our meals are expensed, and the restaurants we go to are vastly more expensive than what I’d pay for traveling on my own!

This is a journey of the food I ate: “Smakeleijk eet”, as they say in Dutch!

On the first night, a co-worker and I went out to eat, and when asked what I wanted to eat, I said “Something different and unique.” Somehow, I found myself eating pizza, though at an admittedly fancy Italian restaurant. But even the proscuitto on it didn’t liven up this relatively boring meal. AND I couldn’t take the left overs with me, which I love doing.

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I love traditional Dutch breakfast. I love it more than North American breakfast. Even than English breakfast! I love meats and good cheeses and eggs with tomatoes and cucumbers, and of course the sweet jam or Appelstroop (apple syrup, a staple in Holland!). The hotel I stayed at this year even had smoked salmon in the breakfast buffet!

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They also had this wrapped sausage thing, which I found tasty, but didn’t know what it was. I just found out that it’s raw beef sausage. Yum? But actually, it was seriously really great. I wonder if I can find it in the States?

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The presentation of coffee and tea is way more impressive than in the States. At really nice places in the States, the presentation for these drinks can be nice, but in many places in Europe, any standard restaurant makes ordering coffee or tea a nice little experience, with a little Biscoff cookie or other treat! I miss that when return to the States!

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Dutch Stroopwafels (syrup waffles): the simple placement of syrup inside thin slices of waffle – a food originally made for the poor – is quite likely the best gosh darn treat I’ve ever and will ever taste in my life. It’s fantastically delicious! (Fresh or packaged!) I ate so many of these while I was there!

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Cadbury, and other chocolate companies sell what’s called “drinking chocolate” which I’m sure is beyond amazing. But that’s still just measly powdered chocolate. This, below, was a chunk of chocolate that you stir into a cup of hot milk. And you get extra chocolate treats on the side. It’s not, but it’s almost too much.

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Below is a delicious “Dutch Coffee” which involves coffee, a Dutch liqueur and I think someone said something about egg?? I forget, but it was WONDERFUL. I tried looking it up, but Googling “Dutch coffee” brings up mainly “Dutch coffee shop” results.

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Below is a delicious mint pea soup that I got at the restaurant connected to my hostel, St. Christopher’s in Bruges. (Stay there if you go to Bruges! It was great!)

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When I bought this salami panini, I was regretting getting something so simple on my first night in Bruges, but it was quite literally melt-in-your-mouth delicious. I was also sure that I’d only eat half of it, but to my astonishment, I ate that gosh darn entire sandwich.

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And after the sandwich, I still had room for this Belgian Waffle! I’m not huge on too much sweet, so I told him to put less chocolate on it than normal. He acted as if it was blasphemous, but obliged. “But it’s Belgian Chocolate!” I had pistachio ice cream, because I’d deluded myself into thinking it would be less sweet than other flavors, like chocolate.
It was quite good, but, as you might have guessed, very sweet for me. I only ate half and then, sadly, chucked it.

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