This is my first Thanksgiving that I’m not spending at home with my parents, so I’m feeling especially reminiscent of our celebrations. Thinking about our kitchen island counter top loaded with food – both the Thanksgiving classics as well as a good amount of Chinese food cooked up by my mom (“need more vegetables!”) and brought along by our guests. Thinking about the kids that come every year, whom I only see once a year, and how different they look every time we sit around the table. We’ve all grown up since our first Thanksgiving dinner all together. Thinking about laughing until my sides hurt over absolutely nothing at all with my crazy cousins and friends, and of “pumpkin gooey butter cakes”, and of board games and long conversations. And thinking about it all, I am happy.

This year, I’m spending the first half of Thanksgiving in Amsterdam with Hunter. And even though we had our big celebration last Thursday, today is special for us because it’s our first holiday together! For the first time, we’re with each other instead of at our respective parents’ homes and even though it’s a little bittersweet, I think it’s a big moment, something really memorable. This evening, I fly out to Edinburgh for the beginning of an adventurous weekend amongst medieval castles and craggy moors (!!). All in all, a wonderful day, a wonderful life, and I am so thankful. And I am happy :).

And to you –
thanksgivingcard

I really don’t know how, but for the past couple of months I was convinced that Thanksgiving was actually last Thursday… I wrote it down and decorated the page in my planner and everything! Funny thing was, Hunter thought it was last Thursday too. And so we made all of our extravagant plans for last week… set a menu for our Thanksgiving dinner, went grocery shopping for ingredients, struggled hardcore to obtain a turkey in Amsterdam (apparently the Dutch don’t really eat turkey), invited some friends over… whoops!

Turns out, our friends had never celebrated American Thanksgiving before, and it ended up being a huge success! Of course Thanksgiving is the one time a year where I really gorge myself on food, and this year was no exception. We spent close to seven(?) hours in the kitchen and cooked up plates and plates of food (look out for a Thanksgiving food post!); we finished preparing our meal with barely enough time to spare before people were supposed to arrive.

And that’s when I realized – I hadn’t made any kind of decorations!! Even though the food was definitely the main event, I thought it would be nice if we tried to make the apartment just a little festive, and so I quickly put together something to add a touch of Thanksgiving color to our walls. This is what I ended up with –

photo

Okay so it’s not the most elaborate thing, and it kind of looks like I made it in about five minutes. But that’s because I did. I basically just drew the first things that popped into my head when I thought “Thanksgiving”, roughly cut them out, stuck them down to red/orange/yellow paper, and cut those shapes out. Stuck them to the wall by the table where we laid out all our food, and voila! Effective, “minimal” decoration.

FALL LEAVES PDF DOWNLOAD HERE.

^Recreate the look (but better…) with these fall leaf cut-outs! Just print a couple of sheets, cut the leaves out, glue to colored paper and you have your own easy decorations! Stick them to the wall, hang them in your window, use them as name place cards, lay them on your table, the possibilities go on. And it really will take you no time at all.

panpizzas

Hunter and I don’t have an oven in our little Amsterdam apartment. We don’t. Have. An oven. It’s been a little (or a lot) sad missing out on all the fall baking this year (pumpkin/apple spice EVERYTHING!), but of course our limitation hasn’t stopped us from some fun stove-top experimentation!

Here’s a classic – homemade pizzas… in a pan! It’s ridiculously fast, easy, and so satisfying. Plus, it has way less fat than delivery pizzas so you don’t even have to feel bad eating an extra slice, or two, or three… ;)

All the ingredients we used were really fresh, and the flavors were outstanding together. The crust, made of only two ingredients, isn’t exactly like pizza crust, but it works and I think it ends up being pretty delicious. This is a great recipe to try if you’re really craving pizza and…
(a) don’t have an oven
(b) aren’t patient enough to wait for delivery
(c) want to cut out the extra fat
(d) have fun experimenting with flavors
(e) any combination of the above!

recipe

Ingredients: 4 cups flour + extra on hand, 2 cups water, 1 tbsp EVOO, pizza toppings! (that’s right, it’s THAT simple)
For pizza toppings, you can really use whatever you want – get creative – but here’s what we did (measurements are estimates):
pizza 1 - 3 tbsp pesto (ours was freshly made, leftover from Hunter’s birthday), 1/2 cup mini cooked shrimp, 1/2 clove minced garlic, a good handful sauteed sliced mushrooms, freshly shaved parmesan cheese
pizza 2 - 4 sauteed and slightly smashed anchovies, 1 large tbsp chopped capers, 1 sliced roasted red pepper, 1 tbsp olive oil, 1/2 clove minced garlic, 1/4 cup (palmful) chopped parsley, freshly shaved parmesan cheese
pizza 3 - 3/4 cup tomato puree, handful of fresh basil, freshly shaved parmesan cheese, generous amount of red pepper flakes

  1. Prepare all pizza toppings and set aside.
  2. Mix together flour and water, then knead (HARD) for several minutes on a well-floured surface. You want to get a pizza-dough-like consistency; if it’s too soft/sticky, add more flour. No need to let the dough rest when it’s done.
  3. Divide mixture into three even balls.
  4. Working with one ball at a time, flatten and stretch out with your hands (optional: spin it like pizza dough!) and place in heated pan drizzled with some olive oil.
  5. Continue to stretch pizza dough in pan, if necessary, to create desired shape.
  6. Flip dough when bottom is slightly browned (about 3-4 minutes).
  7. Top your pizza dough while it’s still in the pan! Continue to cook for another couple of minutes, or until the bottom is slightly browned.
  8. Your pizza is ready! Plate and EAT, or start on the next one!

Recipe yields three pizzas.

I promise these are so good.

Leftover avocado from Hunter’s birthday foods + spending most of the day without protein before a much-needed grocery store run = this super easy and yummy (if not a little excessive) snack!

avocado eggs

recipe

Ingredients: 1/2 ripe avocado, 1/2 tomato, 1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro (a palmful), juice of 1/2 lime, 2 eggs, salt & pepper to taste

  1. Chop tomato and avocado into small pieces.
  2. Mix with cilantro and lime juice.
  3. Beat and scramble up eggs with salt and pepper.
  4. Combine everything and enjoy!

hunter birthday
Sooo as a follow up to this post, everything ended up going really well! Granted, temporarily living in a foreign country makes it more difficult to find the things you want (why can’t I find nearby Target/Michael’s equivalents?!), but I made do with what I could scrounge up. And judging by Hunter’s reactions as he came home to my work, I did well.

decorations

First, balloons! I originally intended to hang them all on my homemade decorative garlands and along the top of our curtain rod, but they looked so fun taking up the floor of the apartment after I blew them up, that I decided to just leave a bunch there. Entertainment for days, lemme tell you. Then I strung four garlands (complete with ribbon and balloon additions) along the ceiling with a “Happy Birthday” sign in front to greet Hunter as he walked through the door. Along our back curtains, I hung a bunch of pictures I had printed out, taped to colored papers and held up with ribbon. Finally, his “card” was drawn/written on a single balloon and hung from the ceiling by a ribbon right by the door, so it was the very first thing he would see.

food

Hunter is, of course, an awesome chef, and he’s always spoiling me with fun foods. So for his birthday, I thought I would turn the tables and spoil him! I had a lot of ideas for his dinner, ranging from a multi-course Asian-inspired dining experience, to preparing something fancy, to just whipping up some of his favorites, but I ended up… with kind of a random mash-up of things. Again, it was hard to find a lot of things that I would have needed for some of my ideas (darn Dutch grocery stores!), so I stuck with basic, manageable, but still fun foods. And I did like the idea of a multi-course meal, but with no oven and only two burners on our “stove”, executing that (aka having all the food done on time, but still hot) would be hard. So I ended up setting a table with small plates on tiered levels of plates and cups. Presentation on a budget! The foods –

  1. guacamole/tomato/cilantro salad tossed with lime vinaigratte
  2. salad with parm, croutons, and homemade anchovy caesar dressing
  3. buttered pork chop atop sweet mashed squash
  4. mushroom bacon risotto
  5. pesto pine nut green beans
  6. bacon wrapped dates
  7. pork scallion meatballs with a syrupy and complex soy glaze.

Super yummy!
And of course, started his day off with breakfast in bed – “mimosas” made with sparkling cider, orange juice, and strawberry slices; toasted sesame bagels with lox, cream cheese, and dill; scrambled eggs with salmon and onions; and sliced strawberries. Nom nom.

prezzies

Last but not least, presents! Of course, the whole day was sort of my main present to him. I spent a lot of time in the kitchen preparing everything! Not to mention hours on the tedious tasks of cutting paper, ripping tape, and putting together the garlands. BUT, then I found this relatively inexpensive and perfectly compact waffle maker with great reviews. Hunter and I have been in LOVE with waffles ever since our trip to Belgium where we went kind of crazy overboard eating them… (seriously, they’re unlike anything else you’ve ever tasted). I thought this gift would be a fun reminder of a fantastic trip, as well as a way to recreate the Belgium liege waffles at home!

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These easy-to-make garlands are cute and super customizable for any kind of event you’re having! I made some for Hunter’s birthday, which passed a couple of days ago, and they had a big effect on how our little apartment space looked.

how to:

  1. Decide on a color scheme and pick out some fun papers (ribbons, balloons, and other fun pieces can be included too). I used stiff, matte construction paper in blues and greens and some patterned wrapping paper in neutrals.
  2. Cut papers into (somewhat) uniform triangular shapes. (Hint: It really doesn’t matter if they’re perfect; once they’re all hanging, it’s pretty hard to see any wobbly cuts.)
  3. Measure out long strands of something study to hold up your garlands. I used common kitchen twine.
  4. Tape your paper triangles to the twine. I attached a piece of tape to the top (flat part) of my triangle, then pressed it around the section of twine and to the other side of the paper. Super secure!
  5. Continue taping your triangles along your twine in whatever color order you want until the whole thing is covered and looking beautiful!
  6. Optional: Leave some spaces throughout the garland to tie on ribbons or balloons.
  7. Hang and enjoy!

I’m currently re-reading a few papers that I wrote in college, and am (really surprisingly) impressed that they actually sound coherent, somewhat insightful, and somewhat intelligent. Considering that my paper-writing memories are overwhelmingly of late-night scrambles to pull scattered thoughts together, I really am clueless as to how I pulled some of these off.

After rediscovering and rewatching this video a couple of times this year, I’m thoroughly convinced that I want a yorkipoo as my first pup. SO CUTE WAH.

I fried part of my hair the other day (as well as killed my straightener, dumb faulty voltage converter) and it’s really, really upsetting. I have resorted to doing my hair like this every day to avoid touching the frizzy bit.

Poor, poor Northwestern football.

Hunter has been accepted into Michigan medical school!!! We also won a beer pong tournament last week. I hit three last cups, including the last last cup. Good news all around :P.

I’ve been working on a total re-design of this blog because I’m already bored with how it looks. Stay tuned, and excuse the website construction messiness that is about to ensue.

I’ve now been in Amsterdam nearly two months, and today is the first day that I’ve made it to a coffee shop to get some work done. Partly because of laziness, I think, but mostly because I’ve been trying so so hard to get into the good habit of being able to be productive at home (which, in this case, is our tiny/cozy little apartment on the canal). Well it’s been two months and that hasn’t worked out at all.

Couldn’t even be “productive” enough to post new things here.

But! Now I’m currently sitting in one of the many Coffee @ Company ‘s there are sprinkled around this city (is that right) and it’s a real coffee shop as opposed to an “Amsterdam coffee shop” (heh) and I ordered an iced Americano “with some room for milk” because that’s how I did it at Starbucks back home and… it’s so cute!! A couple sips later and I’m in love.

photo

I’m not a coffee drinker at all. I actually really don’t like the taste. Especially the aftertaste. I don’t like that it sometimes makes me feel nauseous. But this is good stuff.

Hunter’s 23rd birthday is coming up in exactly two weeks and I’ve been deviously and very secretly planning what I want to do for him for the past few days and it’s been so much fun. I’m entirely way too excited, but also am not really sure I can actually pull off what I want to do… So. It’ll either be grand and amazing (decorations, food, presents, the whole package, all impeccably executed) orrrr it’ll be disaster. In any case, I’m sure he’s going to love it and I’m having the best time.

I FaceTimed my mom yesterday too, and she told me that my parents might have something coming this way for him too, if everything works out. Made me smile :). (Hunter, if you’re reading this, pretend like you didn’t.)

Okay since I’m supposed to be using this time/internet/caffeine in the name of productivity, I’m signing off now. Will leave you with this: http://www.demilked.com/men-and-cats-similar-poses/

 

Hunter and I had been long distance for quite some time, and hadn’t had much opportunity to celebrate anniversaries, holidays, birthdays together. So, when our 30 month anniversary rolled around, we thought we’d make it an occasion because why not :). Well, I made him a card. (A nice card, okay.) And I had a small concept gift for him. But, in true Hunter fashion, he completely blew me away. After kicking me out of the apartment for an hour or so, he came to fetch me dressed in his suit, a rose in his hand for me, and led me to this beautiful set-up of a private wine bar. Bottles of pinot noir, savignon blanc. Bread, freshly-made pesto, pears, brie, parmesan, olives, dates, green apple, raspberries, and two grades of dark chocolate. Beautiful.
anniversary wine bar

No doubt a corollary to the fact that Hunter and I are celebrated an anniversary just around the corner, I’ve been injected with some kind of crafting frenzy. I’ve all these ideas swimming through my head of the best/most fantastic/cutest/most aesthetically pleasing things to make and it’s a bummer that I don’t have all the resources here to do everything how I imagine. One day, when I have lots of money, I’m going to have a really fun crafting cabinet full of papers and ribbons and supplies. (Along with my super fun baking cabinet, of course.) For now… I’ll make do with a few things that I picked up today from a little owned-and-run-by-an-old-lady crafting store not so far from me and stay inspired for the future.