May 31, 2012

Happy Birthday Christian!

Today is Christian’s birthday!! I love birthdays, he could care less. But despite this, I know he secretly likes atleast a bit of a birthday fuss :).

Last year we spent his birthday Greek-island hopping in the Cyclades. My best friend Smitty managed to find a local bakery in Naxos who made him a delicious chocolate birthday cake (she did this between cocktails and laying out on the beach and it was completely her idea…gotta love her!). Once we boarded the boat from Naxos to Santorini, we lit the candles and sung him (strangers joined in too!) a little song—he loved it—and confessed he’d never had a birthday cake before! I’m pretty sure it was one of his favorite birthdays.

This year we’ll be celebrating in Amsterdam instead—I’ve planned a full date-night and have a gift in my purse that I know he’s gonna love :).

Happy Birthday, lovebug! And Happy Birthday to Christian’s twinnie Francois too :).

What’s the best birthday you’ve ever had?

May 30, 2012

Hills & Villages of Tuscany

Of the places I’ve been to since I moved to Amsterdam almost 4 years ago, Italy most certainly takes the cake on the most visited. Budget flights and sweet opportunities always meant jetsetting off to Italy was a great idea—weekends in Venice with Christian then with my mom, renting a villa in Tuscany with Christian’s friends, spending 10 days all over Italy with my best friend and revisiting Cinque Terre twice in one summer. So it was no surprise that when my parents said they wanted to relax, drink wine and visit medieval villages, I had one place in mind: TUSCANY! Once we arrived my dad said he already loved it (although I’m sure the roadside stop for a coffee and him receiving a rich chocolatey-espresso-whipped cream cup of deliciousness instead could have done the trick too…or maybe it was the fresh ham-cheese-focaccia panini…then he ordered a second panini!). About a 2 hour drive south of Pisa, we zigzagged our way through old country roads and vineyards to a villa we rented for the week—Casa Bella. It was a beautiful brick abode with a pool overlooking a vineyard--we couldn’t believe our eyes when we arrived, it was gorgeous! But more on the villa later.

The best way to see Tuscany is to rent a car and just drive in any direction—everything is beautiful in Tuscany. After my mom whipped up breakfast from the local market, we hit the road towards San Gimignano and Volterra. Both places were exactly what my mom wanted—medieval walkways and churches, old town squares and breathtaking scenery in every direction. Although it was the drive between San Gimignano and Volterra that had us pulling over every 5 minutes for a photo-op! For 3 days we piled in the car and whirled around the area, passing through the green hills of Montalcino, admiring the cypress-tree lined hills between Asciano and Siena, finding what-seemed-to-be the hidden abbey of San Galgano and stopping for lunches of cacio e pepe (spaghetti with cheese and pepper), bruschetta, tagliatelle con verdure verdi (tagliatelle with fresh vegetables) and trofie con pancetta e carciofi (trofie with pancetta and artichokes). As if we didn’t have enough delicious food from our explorations around Tuscany, it seemed too good to be true when the owners of the villa dropped off a big homemade bowl of Tiramisu that night…well played Italians, well played!


{San Gimignano}
Italy-6548_thumb[2]Italy-6567_thumb[2]Italy-6580_thumb[2] Italy-6611_thumb[2]

{Hills between San Gimignano & Volterra}
{Abbey of San Galgano}

May 25, 2012

Favorite iPhone Pics: France & Italy with my parents

After two amazing weeks with my parents visiting from California and now a scorching hot week of sunshine here in Holland, I am one smitten girl. Although, I am pretty bummed that my parents left, but I’m sure that the upcoming three-day weekend here in Holland AND subsequent forecast for gorgeous weather will cure me (which will kick-off my favorite Amsterdam pastime—sitting on the canals and enjoying the city!).

My parents' first few days were spent lounging around our apartment in Amsterdam, before we, plus Christian and his dad, took off for a 10-day adventure around Normandy and Tuscany (with little bits of Paris and Rome too!). 

Needless to say I have tons of pictures to share from both my camera and handy-dandy iPhone. Here are some of my favorite iPhone pics from our trip! Plenty more will come soon :)

Hope you have an excellent weekend! I’ll be spending as much time outside as humanly possible :)

A perfect view in Arromanches-les-Bains, Normandy. After my best friend and I went to Sicily, we now have a thing for benches with beautiful views :).
My mom enjoying her favorite bottle of wine on Mother’s Day on our balcony in Paris.
My dad and I got a box of macaroons at the Louvre and just as I was raving about how delicious they were, a pigeon jumped on the table and sent my last one flying to its’ death! My dad started cracking up…:-/
A stroll by the Eiffel.
 Feasting our eyes on our gorgeous villa in Tuscany after just arriving! Yes that pool overlooks a vineyard, people! My mom found this gem :).
Abbey of San Galgano, hidden in Tuscany.
An incredible view over Tuscany from San Gimignano.
A cheery calzone from a delicious pizzeria down the street from the villa :).
Sistine Chapel, Roma!
My dad’s a happy camper with a heaping bowl of gelato AND an Italian cappuccino in Rome.
{My Awesome Parents!! My dad enjoying a coffee in Normandy and my mom all giddy at a bar in Amsterdam with a canal-view. I miss ‘em even more even though they were just here.}

May 21, 2012

World Cup Summer

In just a few weeks, the European Cup will kick off from Poland and the Ukraine. It's gonna be absolute madness! In 2010, the Dutch team made it all the way to the FINAL. The entire summer was one I'll never forget--plenty of victories, seas of orange (the color of the Dutch team) football fans (ya that's soccer to us Americans) and outdoor celebrations under blue-skies followed by watching the game on huge screens strewn throughout the city. After-game festivities almost always included dangling our feet over the canal and enjoying the late summer nights :).

Actually the weekend of the final game, Christian and I were supposed to go to Edinburgh, Scotland. But after we checked in and started walking to the gate, we saw that every Easy Jet flight was 4+ hours delayed and we didn't want to take any chances with missing the game on Sunday when we returned (although our flight would have arrived a few hours before the start of the game). So we looked at eachother, gave that unsure look, ripped up our boarding passes and went right back home--World Cup weekend it was!!! Edinburgh can wait ;).

The atmosphere in Amsterdam that summer was indescribable and I cannot wait to watch every European Cup game possible this summer--bring it on European Cup Summer!!
{At Schiphol ripping up our boarding passes to Edinburgh! We didn't want to miss the World Cup Finale Weekend in Amsterdam...Edinburgh can wait!}