Hot Dutch summer

As I write this I’m sweating it out in my living room while a fan blasts me with warm air and flies dash wildly above my head – a side effect of having all the windows open. The thermostat reads 29. TWENTY NINE!
But I’m not about to complain. Except all of last night as I lay awake, tossing and turning and sweating out all of the water in my body. Warmth and sunshine aren’t a given in the Dutch summer, and so I’m doing my best to enjoy this current heatwave. Having Syd over this weekend meant just that: summertime enjoyment.

We lounged in the Paleistuin …

summer, netherlands

And picnicked in the Haagse Bos. Much cheese was consumed.

summer, netherlands

Courtesy of Syd’s instagram!

We wandered beautiful Leiden

netherlands, summer

And admired the view from the Burcht while enjoying copious amounts of fresh strawberries. Also – while sweating profusely!

netherlands, summer

There were drinks on the beach at sunset.

summer, netherlands

100% stolen from Syd

And snacks on terraces across the country!

summer, netherlands

Kaas stengels – deep fried cheese – in Amsterdam.

summer, netherlands

Fries & deep-fried goat cheese kroket in Delft

We spent a sunny day in Amsterdam, wandering the lovely old streets and picnicking (yes) in Vondel park. Syd just put up pictures of our day there and they are stunning, so check those out!

Syd also taught me some of her VSCO iPhone photography tips. Needless to say I went wild.

summer, netherlands

summer, netherlands

summer, netherlands

On Monday the weather dropped a bit and it actually rained! But that wasn’t about to stop us from getting out and enjoying this beautiful country. We ended up in Delft for the afternoon, dancing in the rain and laughing out on a heated terrace.

summer, netherlands

summer, netherlands

summer, netherlands

How could you not laugh with this one?!

Clearly, summer in the Netherlands is hard. All those terraces and canals and fresh fruit from the market and deep fried everything …

It was a wonderful (if too short!) visit and I’m so grateful to have friends and family willing and able to come over here to visit me. If you’re interested in making the trip, definitely ask Syd for her review of her stay with me – points off for navigational skills but I’d like to think I make up for it in eating capability and enthusiasm!

Deliciousness & sisterly bonding, Antwerp

So … no big deal or anything, but …
Pieter and I have an apartment!!!!

If you’ve been following for a little while, you’ll know that we’ve been looking for approximately forever five months.
The contract isn’t signed but some sort of contract of our intention to rent has been signed and so I feel fairly confident in sharing the news. (Please don’t let this come back to bite me in the butt!)

When I last left off, my sister was visiting and we were frolicking around the Netherlands and generally eating everything.
One day we got up bright & early and headed off to Antwerp for a day trip. Antwerp is less than 2 hours away from The Hague, and is a beautiful, bustling, and welcoming city.

Plus I kind of know my way around, which always appeases the big sister in me.

Another major plus: my beautiful friend Marjolein works there!

We met up at Escobar for a catch-up and some delicious and healthy lunch.

antwerp, escobar

Starting with frothy cappuccino …
And then moving on to an incredible plate of food!

antwerp, escobar

Oh my goodness, where to start? This was homemade nut bread with a fantastic hummus and all manner of lovely and colourful sprouts and veggies. This place really takes sandwiches to the next level in my opinion. Marjolein and her coworkers often eat there … and as usual, the locals know best! The café is owned and run by a husband & wife team, and you can see their love for what they do throughout the place. It’s a wonderfully friendly atmosphere.
Escobar is very close to the Meir (the big shopping street), so if you’re in the area and in the mood for something a bit out of the ordinary, definitely check it out – and make sure you look at the specials board.

After lunch Marjolein had to get back to the office, but we still had the whole day to enjoy. After a bit of shopping, it was time for a pick-me-up: the Chocolate Line. (I’m truly a creature of habit.)

chocolate line, antwerp

As usual, the chocolates were amazing. And so was the city.

antwerp, belgium

antwerp, belgium

When we were feeling a bit peckish, we walked a little ways out to the water for some excellent fries with Belgian mayonnaise … (don’t tell the Dutch but Belgian mayonnaise is much more delicious than Dutch mayonnaise)

This was my reward …

antwerp, belgium

Sisterly love at its finest.
In spite of my reservations before Evelyne arrived, it was a wonderful week and it flew by much too quickly! Fortunately I’m being spoiled this summer and have now been loving showing Sydney around my neck of the woods.
Syd is an amazing photographer, so check out her blog if you want to see The Hague, Leiden and Amsterdam in their true glory! Then keep following because she’ll be checking out Brussels, Paris, Cologne, Berlin, and Copenhagen next!

Happy Monday!

A week of sisterly bonding & tasty treats

I am a terrible blogger! I’m sorry for being so MIA. Again.

My little sister Evelyne spent last week here in the Netherlands with us, and while I took tons of pictures (mostly on my phone I’m afraid), I didn’t really have the time to focus on getting any posts up. This week I’m playing serious catch-up with work before my gorgeous and hilarious friend Sydney arrives tomorrow! So basically: excuses excuses.

It was great having my sister here. When we were younger we did NOT get along – at all – and spent a lot of time fighting. (I believe I once threw a plastic Lion King toy at her and got into serious trouble for it, in fact!) I had no idea how this week would go, but it all went surprisingly smoothly! Even Evelyne agrees.
In her week here, I tried to show her all of my favourite places (and foods – ahem), and I thought I’d share those things here as well!
(Of course a lot of these things I’ve mentioned several times before – I’m a creature of habit – but can one ever really get sick of Amsterdam, or the beach?)

This post is a bit all over the place and in no chronological order, but I hope it gives you an idea of our week!

On Evelyne’s very first night in the Netherlands, she came with me for an apartment viewing (yep – still looking!) in Utrecht.

utrecht, expat

utrecht, expat

utrecht, expat

expat, utrecht

While the viewing came with lots of mixed feelings and emotions – and we ultimately turned the apartment down – it was still a pleasure to show my little sister the absolutely gorgeous city I hope I will one day live in!
The next evening I left her in The Hague while I went to look at another apartment.
More emotions and mixed feelings. It didn’t help that it was pouring and that I then missed not one but two trains!

expat, utrecht

I came home in the foulest of moods! The wonderful thing about sisterly love is that you can tell each other that you’re being crazy and to calm the %#!& down when need be. A few snacks later and I was back to my usual cheery disposition. The rest of the week was spent without any further apartment viewings, thank goodness.

I showed her my beautiful city in all of its glory. We checked out the Prison Gate Museum – a fun, short little tour, perfect for a rainy morning.
We took a walk in the Haagse Bos.
We spent a lovely sunny afternoon in Scheveningen, hanging out at one of the clubs on the beach and sippin’ on Diet Cokes while snacking on deep-fried shrimp. As you do.

scheveningen, beach club

I may or may not have wildly misinterpreted the weather report and insisted Evelyne bring not only a sweater, but also a jacket …
She teased me relentlessly about this for the rest of the trip. Ah, sisterly love!

scheveningen, beach club

So very very cold!

scheveningen, beach club

We had pho at Ngon, a Vietnamese place I often pass by but had never tried. The food was delicious, and the service really nice as well. Coming from Toronto where you can have a bowl of vegetarian pho for something like 5 dollars, the prices seemed a bit steep – but compared to other restaurants, they were more than fair. Plus the portions were enormous! And they have a lovely backyard terrace we took advantage of. Definitely recommended if you’re in the area!

den haag, ngon

Yes please!

I of course took her to Amsterdam, where I showed her my favourite area – the Jordaan – before taking her to the Anne Frank House (her request), a decidedly inspiring visit well worth the hour + wait in the rain.

amsterdam, expat

Of course, a stop at Jordino was made.

amsterdam, jordino

We had lunch at Tazzina. Two words: om nom.

amsterdam, tazzina

amsterdam, tazzina

We took countless selfies.

IMG_3555

IMG_3558

And we also took a little day trip to Leiden and another to Antwerp, so that Evelyne could visit Belgium and try all of the amazing chocolate there too! But right now I really need to get to work, so that will be for my next post.

Happy almost weekend everyone! For those of you in the Netherlands … it’s going to be a scorcher!

Greek cuttlefish with spinach and tomatoes

When I first proclaimed that I was going to try to eat a bit more healthily, I fully intended to revert back to my more gluttonous ways as soon as my pants fit again. (Admittedly I don’t learn from my mistakes very easily!)
Suddenly it’s one month later and not only have I somehow miraculously stuck to my healthier habits … I’m also fitting into things I’d – ahem – previously given up on! And, as a major fringe benefit, I’ve been a lot more adventurous in the kitchen as of late and have been discovering new favourites.

One of those favourites is cuttlefish. It feels like a luxury, and yet it’s surprisingly affordable. Pieter and I made stuffed cuttlefish a few weeks ago, which sparked my craving, but while delicious they were definitely a bit of a hassle. For a weeknight delight, give this Greek cuttlefish option a go. It’s light, hearty and delicious – not to mention super easy!

Note: I use the term ‘Greek’ loosely! It’s basically a mix between a Greek dish of cuttlefish and spinach and a shrimp saganaki – and likely turned totally un-Greek with the addition of the bay leaf though I’m not all that well-versed in Greek cuisine. Please be gentle with me, culinary Greek gods/goddesses!

For two, you will need:

15-30 ml olive oil, for frying
1 yellow onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 glass white wine
100-200 ml water (depending on how sauce-y you like it)
about 350-400 grams canned diced tomatoes
2 cuttlefish
as much fresh spinach as you like
2-3 fresh tomatoes, de-seeded and coarsely chopped
1 bay leaf

Optional:

cayenne/chili pepper
feta, for crumbling
a few handfuls of shrimp, for extra heartiness
fresh dill*

*I hate fresh dill. I don’t know why, but I do. If you like it, I suspect it brings a little somethin’ somethin’ to the dish!

Ok, let’s go!

First, make sure you don’t have any organs inside your fish. My fishmonger had removed the ink and everything but there were still a few squishy bits to take care of. I tried being precious about it and using a knife but, honestly: just get in there with your hands. It’s so much easier! You can use the tentacles in this dish as well, but I personally am not crazy about the texture. Your call.

greek cuttlefish

Once that’s done, heat about 15 ml of oil on a medium flame and add your diced onion, seasoning as you please. Stir until translucent, then add the garlic and sauté another 30-45 seconds. Remove from the pan. Add a bit more oil to your pan (depending on the quality of your pan – cough cough Ikea) and increase the heat to medium-high. Pop your cuttlefish into the pan and sear for about 2 to 3 minutes per side. It doesn’t get super brown but do look for a little bit of colour.

As soon as you see a bit of golden colour on both sides, add your onions and garlic back to the pan along with the wine – let it come to a simmer, and be sure to gently scrape the bottom of the pan to get all of those delicious bits of flavour. Take the opportunity to season as you like and, after about a minute, go ahead and toss your fresh and canned tomatoes, water and bay leaf right in there. Let everything come to a simmer, then cover – and walk away!

greek cuttlefish

greek cuttlefish

(I know what you’re thinking: that’s a lot of sauce! And indeed it is. But trust me, you’re going to want it. Plus you’ll be adding in all that spinach in a moment.)

Roughly 40-45 minutes later, uncover the pan and let simmer another few minutes if you like, just to thicken the sauce. Finally, toss in your spinach – as soon as it’s wilted, you’re done!
I also like to add in some shrimp. Pan fry it separately (or even with your onion & garlic), and then add it back in at the very end so that it doesn’t get too chewy.

greek cuttlefish

I serve this dish with a delicious sprinkle of feta on top and some homemade flatbread (this recipe is amazing by the way) on the side for sauce-moppin’.

greek cuttlefish

It may not be pretty or elegant when the juices are running down your hands and into your elbow creases, but it sure is worth it!

Nature girl & other expat tales

So my cautious optimism last week didn’t quite translate into more regular posting. Ahem.
I’ve been just dreadful about bringing my camera anywhere (which implies I’ve been places when, actually, that’s not so much the case!) and any form of blog planning has flown out the window!

Therefore, this morning I bring you … a little bit of everything!

1. Ever since I swore to eat more healthily last month, I’ve also been trying to make it a point to generally move more – and this has resulted in me rediscovering my love for the Haagse Bos.

haagse bos, expat

haagse bos, expat

Lately I’ve been finding myself craving the great outdoors in general (see last week’s post!). I’ve actually noticed that, the longer I live in the Netherlands, the more into nature I become. Which is strange because in Canada there are so many beautiful areas to see! And yet, until I moved here I was strictly an air conditioning kind of girl, and the thought of sitting out on a terrace in less than perfect weather would never have crossed my mind. Someone would ask me if I’d like to go on a hike and I’d have to force myself not to ask, ‘Why?’
Now I find myself going out for walks on my lunch breaks and working next to an open window. Madness!

haagse bos, expat

haagse bos, den haag

2. In other, decidedly more exciting news … Pieter was sworn into the court on Friday! He wore the black gown and everything. He actually has his first court proceeding next Monday. There was a ceremony, followed by drinks and snacks (of the deep fried variety) out on a terrace. In typical Dutch fashion, when it started to rain hardly anybody took cover, even though the entire café has also been rented out. Meanwhile I lamented my immediately ruined hair …

3. Housing.
It is the worst.

I can’t believe some of the things I’ve seen throughout this search. There was a literal cave for rent at the very modest (note the sarcasm) price of 1200 euros – excluding all utilities. I’m talking domed stone ceilings under which there is no way anyone over 6 feet tall could stand. With no windows.

Then there’s the enraging and yet necessary communication necessary with agents. The estimate they give you for the cost of utilities suddenly doubles when you follow up on the viewing; they put up a perfect apartment online but won’t let anybody see it until next month; and sometimes they just don’t show up!

There’s a small glimmer of hope as I write this … but I don’t dare elaborate in case I jinx it! Utrecht – so beautiful and yet so cruel.

4. We booked tickets to Toronto for the end of the summer! I can’t wait!

5. I have tons to do for work this week so I better get to it. Thank you for bearing with my less-than-inspired post this morning … I hope your week is off to a great start and that you had a super exciting, totally blog-worthy weekend!