Happy Spring! The earth laughs in flowers!

Since it’s the first day of spring today, I thought it’d be the perfect occasion to have a blog post with tons of flower photos.  Last Easter my mum came to visit me in The Netherlands and Keukenhof was on the top of the places-to-visit list.

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Keukenhof basically translates to kitchen (keuken) and “garden” (hof), and in 15C it used to be countess Jacoba van Beiren’s garden for growing herbs, while her nearby castle was used as a hunt lodge.  Today Keukenhof is a grand flower exhibition full of tulips, hyacinths and narcissi, etc.  Just imagine flower galore.

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You might be thinking that it’s bit touristy to visit a tulip garden in Holland, but being there twice myself I must say I really enjoyed it both times.  The first time I was there I visited as a tourist and I was just so blown away – Picture-perfect Holland with windmills overlooking stretches of colourful flower fields in full bloom.  Indeed, I loved it as a tourist.  The second time I was there I was more of a local expat, still loved it.  But this time besides enjoying the sheer beauty of the flowers, what I enjoyed even more was the variety.  Young tourist-me just found all the flowers beautiful, but “seasoned” local expat me realized that some of the tulips were “artisan” tulips that were quite rare and were not everyday tulips that you’d come across at the local supermarket or Saturday flower market.

More photos below the cut.

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Colours of Spring

Living in The Netherlands fresh tulips are easy to come by.  I live in Utrecht, and every Saturday at the Janskerkhof square there is a flower market (Bloemenmarkt) to buy bouquets, potted plants of different sizes, garden plants and bulbs at cheap to reasonable prices.  This weekend for 5 euros I bought 3 fresh bouquets with a small bunch of narcissus flowers on the side.

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I’m always amazed at how a simple addition like a fresh bouquet can liven up the atmosphere of a room so much.  These vibrant colours are much needed especially when winter still seems to be clinging on…

 

December frenzy!

What have I been up to so far in December?  A big highlight was visiting Oslo, Norway for a weekend, which was awesome btw.  A small highlight was being commissioned to make some Christmas decorations.  And finally, a SUPER highlight that is yet to happen is that I’m flying home for Christmas next week!

Rather than putting up Christmas lights, I like to light up candles around the apartment. With the left over glass balls that I had initially used for making hanging terrariums I decided to turn them into these Christmas decorations… I think they would look gorgeous if you hang them up by the window.

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What & where to eat in Copenhagen, Denmark

The last week I’ve been watching the Swedish crime drama series “The Bridge”.  It’s really suspenseful, and at the start of each season the place of crime begins at the Øresund Bridge, which connects Copenhagen, Denmark to Malmö.

Nyhavn Copenhagen

My boyfriend took this picture on a more recent trip in 2015.

Anyway, watching this series made me think of Copenhagen, one of my favourite places to visit, and today I’m going to share with you some really nice places to eat/dine at, which were

Recommended by Danish locals:

I was visiting Denmark for work, and later in the weekend I went to Copenhagen for a short weekend to see my friend Siri in May 2013.  Siri was basically our food guide and took us to places where she usually ate with her friends.

The first place she took us to was:

1. Torvehallerne food hall for smørrebrød

Torvehallerne is a food hall in pretty central Copenhagen, and it has over 60 stalls with a variety of everything delicious you can imagine – meat, dairy, produce, pastries!  Honestly it is a food paradise for feasting your eyes and stomach.

For us it was lunch time and Siri recommended that we try smørrebrød, because they are traditionally Danish.  You can kind of describe them as “open sandwiches” with rye bread and toppings like roast beef, fried onions, eggs, prawn, pickled herring, etc.  So delicious and I’d only I had a bigger stomach to try all the different varieties of toppings.

Torvehallerne Copenhagen Smørrebrød

Having smørrebrød at the Torvehallerne food hall in Copenhagen

After some sightseeing around  the city we stopped at:

 2. Lagkagehuset for coffee & Danish pastries

Lagerhuset is a coffee/pastry chain that you will come across many times in the city.  You can get coffee, bread, sandwiches & salads, and oh my gosh, all these pastries!!  My favourite was the spandauer, which is a classic flaky, crispy and fluffy Danish pastry with a soft center filled with (I think the one I had was a custard filling), then drizzled with icing and some almond shavings.  Sorry I forgot to take photos, but seriously just go there to treat yourself.

Lagkaghuset Coffee Pastry Shop

In the afternoon we popped into a pub to catch up over drinks.  When I’m travelling abroad, I usually like to try the local craft beers.  Siri recommended:

3. Fynsk Forår 

I’m not a beer expert, but I found this  white beer very enjoyable.  It was light, and had a nice, subtle flowery-scent to it.  I think the pub we went to was Ølbaren on Elmegade.  I could be wrong, but I quickly looked it up again and apparently it is recommended for their wide range of beer selection.  Whether or not it is the actually the small cozy place I visited it sounds worth a visit.  Before leaving Copenhagen, I picked up a big bottle of the Fynsk Forår at the supermarket as a souvenir 🙂

Fynsk Forår

4.  Mother for great pizzas

Finally for dinner Siri recommended us this Italian restaurant, Mother, in the meatpacking district, for their amazing pizzas.  It is a very popular place and we were tipped off to make a reservation.

I must guiltily admit that although we had made a reservation we ended up not going there … I just remember not feeling up for pizza after all that evening and just wandered off to another restaurant in the meatpacking district, which by the way had tons of hip and trendy restaurants & bars.  The other restaurant that we went too (forgot the name) was also very good and served great organic dishes and beers.

Besides these places I would also recommend going for brunch because Scandinavians are great brunch enthusiasts!  I really enjoyed Copenhagen and I look forward to visiting in the near future.  I keep praising the food I had in Copenhagen, but truly I believe Nordic cuisine in general should deserve even more credit.  From my experience,  Nordic cuisine really embraces fresh, organic, and local, and for me that’s how I like my food to be.

Easy bake in the evening for easy mornings

Now that it’s colder and getting light out much later, I have such a hard time getting up in the mornings.  I have to recite motivational speeches to myself to get out of bed.  In order to ration on that extra 5 minutes for snoozing rather than preparing breakfast in the morning, breakfast for me must be prepared beforehand.  My solution to that is baking muffins in the easiest way as possible.

Rather than baking from scratch, I have opted out for making muffins out of a box.  Usually I would feel guilty for doing this, but this is comfort food and not meant to be artisan forest fruit muffins.  And who said Easy Bake is only for kids?!  (Sweet memories of my one-light-bulb oven!!)  

The nice thing about store-bought basic muffin mix is that the batter is so easy to make… you don’t have to collect all different kinds of ingredients.  The box I bought only required adding eggs.  To make things more interesting, I added a handful of frozen forest fruit berries into the batter.  Instead of adding berries, perhaps chocolate chips would make another yummy alternative. Scooped the batter into the muffin form, stick ’em into the oven and voila!  An easy effortless way of baking in the evening that rewards even a lazy non-morning person like me with breakfast for an easy morning.

S is for Sundays and Succulents – Hanging Terrarium Pt. 2

I’ve received quite some interest for my last post on making DIY hanging terrariums on my last post, and today I will be sharing with you some tips on making them.

2 Tips for making a hanging/floating terrarium with succulents – the do’s and don’ts

These hanging terrariums are very popular, no doubt because they look so elegant and adds such a nice touch as a simple decor to your home.

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My DIY hanging terrarium with succulents and cacti.

There are tons of DIY blogs and websites offering tutorials on how to make them, but today I want to highlight 2 do’s & don’ts that will save you from running into the same mishaps that I had.

Okay, to cover the basics, most tutorials will tell you to first fill the glass ball with a bottom layer of pebbles (for drainage), then some active charcoal (to keep whatever moisture contained in the ball “clean”), and finally another layer of cactus soil to actually plant the succulents.

Pretty simple right?  I thought so as well and before I know it I was at the gardening centre buying all different kinds of succulents and cacti.  I don’t know if you saw this coming but when I returned home I realized all of my newly bought succulents were too big for the glass balls.  The opening of the glass balls were too small for me to even fit the succulent inside their supposed home.  Therefore,

#1 Do! – Make sure the tenant fits the home!

When you go succulent shopping, making sure you bring the actual terrarium (glass ball) with you! This way you make sure the succulent will fit through the opening of the glass ball.

Hanging Terrarium with Cactus

This one is my favourite one. A happy cacti couple lives here.

#2 Don’t! – Go easy on the soil. 

Of course you need soil layer, but actually from experience I would use the existing soil that comes with the store-bought succulent plant (unlike most tutorials that suggest first preparing a soil bed in the glass ball).  After the succulent is inside the glass ball, THEN I would add extra soil to fill up the extra space around it to secure the succulent so it doesn’t wobble around.  If you do decide to have soil bed, don’t over do it!  Otherwise you always end up with too much (soil bed + existing soil from the succulent) and there is not enough height left over for the succulent itself to grow upwards.

I think what’s most elegant about these hanging terrariums is that there is a lot of air, light and space.  The DIY hanging terrariums I have made so far could really have improved on these 3 aspects… but hey, I had to learn from trial and error and that’s how I found about the do’s and don’ts that I’m sharing with you today.

Hanging Terrarium with a Succulent

Make sure there is enough space for the succulent to grow!

What do you think? What was your experience like making hanging these hanging terrariums?

** If you are interested in making these hanging terrariums, I have a lot of these glass globes leftover for sale. You can leave me a message in the contact page to enquire about purchasing them!

Dreaming of warmer days in Nicosia, Cyprus

Wind, rain, cold, repeat… This is November sweater weather.  Winter is not even here yet but I can only dream of warmer and sunny days.

I took this photo in Nicosia, Cyprus in September.  Nicosia being the capital city of Cyprus, is also the last “divided capital”.  The southern part is of the Republic of Cyprus and the northern part is Turkish.  There is a checkpoint for border crossing where visitors have to show their passports.  This photo was taken on the northern side of Nicosia.  I miss the colours and the sun!  Wish I could just jump into the picture and have a drink on the terrace.

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