August 30, 2011

Inspiration

That was the title of the email my sister sent me today with the clip to the documentary trailer in this blog post.

Her email said this.

"So Superman (her fiance) sent this to me. It made me realize that if we ever feel like we are having a tough day or feel as though life is unfair we need to open up this movie clip and watch it."


I thought what could it be? I rarely get emails like this from Wonder Woman, and I was so surprised at what I found through my tears.  Only a few minutes had me feeling so many emotions.


Sadness, shame - but the most beautiful emotion and part of this story is the adoration I felt for Vertus.


A man who underwent horrible atrocities, as a child, in the part of the nation that I am from and his beautiful, unbelievable capacity to forgive.    



It's a reminder that forgiveness truly is the ultimate example of human love and strength.
Also a reminder that America the Beautiful has some very ugly scars.  Scars that we must never forget so that things like what happened to Vertus never happen again.

August 27, 2011

Visiting Amsterdam? You Must Eat Lunch or Dinner Here!


There are many things that are delicious on the Dutch culinary scene - mint tea, stroopwafels, a fresh Heineken, oliebollen, and poffertjes are all must try's if you are visiting the land of wooden shoes and windmills.

However, I never thought the day would come that I recommend you try a hamburger in The Netherlands.

Why my disdain for dutch burgers you ask?

Dutch hamburgers, for the most part, taste funny to my American angus-hormone juiced up-beef loving taste buds. I don't know what it is - maybe we just do burgers exceptionally well in the U.S. of A. - but the hamburgers here in Holland just aren't right.

I felt very strongly about my anti-hamburger ordering stance...that was until while at a yoga competition, we stumbled upon one of the most amazing hamburger joints I have ever been to anywhere on this planet- and it is in, gasp, Amsterdam.

(If you can't tell by now how much I love hamburgers/meat in general, the shame I felt walking into a yoga competition with slaughtered cow juices on my conscious did not outweigh the need to eat that burger - hence why i will never become a vegetarian)

The name of this beefy heaven (no-not Alexander Skarsgard's home, although also a beefy heaven)..



The Burger Bar has two locations in the heart of Amsterdam, has been open since 2007 and is already  in the process of opening their third location!  If that doesn't attest to this restaurants awesomeness - read further.

This burger joint offers fresh, juicy, mouth watering, made to order burgers with incredible toppings (also always fresh) at unbeatable prices.  A 200 gram burger is more than enough to fill you for lunch or dinner and will only cost you 4.95 to 9.95 Euros, depending on your beef.  

Every euro is worth it, I promise.

In fact, we've taken several vistors from Chez' Shera and Slim there for lunch when gallivanting around Amsterdam.


At the Burger Bar you frst pick your type of beef - Irish Beef, U.S. Black Angus, Philly Steak (a new choice!) or Wagyu (Kobe) Beef and size of burger. That is some seriously awesome cow selection folks. I personally would recommend the Angus or Kobe - you won't be disappointed.  



I always go with the smallest size - 200gram (.44 of a lb.) and am stuffed when we leave.  However you big burger eating types can get a 270gram burger (.6 of a lb.)

Then, choose the temperature of meat and the type of fresh bun you would like (Sesame, Brown/Brun, or Italian), they have real bread at the Burger Bar - not just some yeasty wimpy sandwich caps.

Finally name your toppings - and they have a ton, each burger comes automatically with lettuce, tomato, pickle and the homemade super delicious sauce. 

 However, if you want a more fancy schmancy burger you can choose:
  • Bacon
  • Chedder Cheese
  • Goat Cheese
  • Blue Cheese
  • Grilled Onions
  • Grilled Mushrooms
  • Avocado 
  • Fried Egg

To top your meaty creation.

Not a meat eater? No worries! They have an incredible fresh portobello "burger" option as well.

I mean just look at these delicious pictures from our recent trip to the Burger Bar.

Slim's with bacon (have I mentioned how much he loves pork?)


Our friends with bacon and a slab of goat cheese...

Or  my burger choice with grilled onions and mushrooms to get your taste-buds watering...




The Fries are Fresh Home-made Belgium Fries.  Belgium fries = double fried = amazingly good.  You could share a 2.20 Euro order between two people and have way more than enough.

Make sure to try at least 2 of their 10 different fry sauces, sharing is caring!

For 8 - 10 Euros you can have a seriously delicious meal right in the heart of the city of sin.

Slim approved so it's sure not to disappoint.

Happy Eats!

August 25, 2011

Ikea-land - A Picture Story

There are many blissful moments as a newlywed - in fact I really love being Slims new wife.  It is the most favorite experience of my life. However, as newlyweds you have to sort out things when you are cohabiting.

One little sorting out discussion we've gotten into in our "honeymoon phase" is just how much closet space is necessary for a woman's wardrobe in a shared closet.

So, to end the disagreement and save my beautiful summer dresses from being shut away all winter in a dark, desolate, scary box - I decided to head here yesterday...

Slim and I  aren't sure how long we will be here in Holland, we don't want to spend a lot of money, and my arms will fall off if I try to carry something on public transit over 14 kilos (30 lbs).

Accordingly, after emailing back and forth Slim and I decided I would pick up one of these ...

The 30 Euro Bodo Disagreement Mediator

Plus, a pretty curtain for the front and whatever other goodies I thought we needed (hot dog!) while on my adventure today.

So I hoped on one of these...
Apparently I was one of the few, the proud, the Wednesday Ikea shoppers


And had a little of this processed, Swedish, goodness when I got there (shopping fuel - of course).
Why do I love meatballs so unnaturally much? Why in the Netherlands is Mayo and not Ketchup called fry sauce?
Did I eat it all? A lady never tells.

Then I wandered around the "Room Set-ups" for a while, this is what a "lady of leisure" does folks. 

I saw some really cute room "set-ups" and ideas I would love to implement when we have a house or apartment all our own that is not furnished in a tulip couch and orange curtains.
(photos of our own home furnishings to follow in a later post.
For now I'll leave you waiting for those with baited breath)

They had warm, inviting Pretend Living Rooms  at Ikea ...


What pretty lighting and storage around the TV

Pretty Kitchens...

Stainless and black cabinets? Yes Please!
Most of all I yearned to have bookshelves like these in a den of my very own one day...


Instead I settled for some picture frames, a new plate drying rack, towels, toothbrush holders, thongs for turning meat, a kitchen chopper and one of these...

That right there is a electronic meat thermometer - be still my beating heart and future pork roasts.

(Insert "you know you're getting old when..." comment here).

Unfortunately, although the website said they had the aforementioned item we wanted, Ikea Delft in fact did not.  They won't have this item in until at least Monday.  Additionally, apparently I can't call in and request home delivery for some reason I have to physically go in and tell them I want home delivery?

Wonderful (with sarcasm).
 
Good thing I forgot an item at the cash register in all my meatball excitement and have to go back to Ikea to retrieve it (after calling Ikea on a 1-900 number and waiting on hold for 5 minutes.  More on Dutch customer service and the use of 1-900/10cent a minute+normal phone charge calls later).

I will probably have to go back on a weekend next time - because I only have one more weekday of being a "lady of leisure" left - le sigh.  

The up side - that means I get to use Slim's muscles to carry more than 14 kilos of furniture, oh yeah!


August 23, 2011

European Style: Tall for Fall - Leather Boots

While I wouldn't say the Netherlands is the trend capital of the world, there are definitely some style trends the Dutch Ladies rock out well.  One is the tall boot.

If you haven't noticed from my other posts it rains a lot in Holland.  A whole heck of a lot.

So in addition to dressing with style one must really take practicality into account (I'm talking style beyond my bright red Goretex rain jacket - I may never remedy that style no-no while in Holland, it's too wet and unpredictable here).

One way to style up a cold rainy day is through wearing high leather boots - and they are not scarce on the Dutch streets.

The Dutch Women wear tall boots in every color or style you could imagine and in every season.

Why - because they are practical and oh so cute.

They can dress up casual jeans or leggins outfit


Dress down a cute skirt or dress.

(I am loving the leg warmers under this pair)

They provide warmth on chilly fall or winter days.
Source: glamour.com via Shera on Pinterest


Most importantly, they keep your feet dry! Leather is amazing like that.

I have a go to pair of Steve Madden Frannk Riding boots in black and brown that I sport almost daily as the warmish summer turn into cool fall days.

Source: m.dsw.com via Shera on Pinterest


I need to add to my collection - I'm thinking a grey pair - and there are definetly some new fall styles I am really loving.

The go-to Steve Maddens with a wedge for a dressier look.

This Frey Paige boot is a great take on the classic rider





These over the knee grey Dolce Vita boots are also great.



Or maybe this Fergie Limit boot from Nordstrom with a cute heel.
What tall boots are you feigning over to keep your feet warm this fall? 


August 22, 2011

Fakey-Fancy- Schmancy: Blueberry Oat Scottish Scones

It's just another manic Monday and guess what I have for all of you in bloggy land? 

Another food post!

A food post, you ask, isn't this a travel blog?

Yes, yes - it's a travel blog, but because for the next week I am a "lady of leisure" (as Slim says) -  there is a whole heck of a lot of staying in my jammies all day and baking/cooking going on at Chez Shera and Slim.

Let me tell ya' this lady of leisure stuff is go-oo-ood and I could really get used to it - however, in an effort to not drive Slim crazy I've gotta work my brain cells more than watching the Dog Whisper (with Dutch closed captions).

While this is sure to happen next week in my new job - that is NEXT week, so for this week lets get down to the good stuff - the food.  Cause I love to eat.

I asked Slim yesterday what he wanted me to bake because I was in the baking mood.  He replied with "those scones."  I thought what a great idea, I too love "those scones."

A year ago if you told me I would be capable of making "those scones" I would scoff at you, because I am a woman who just a few months ago had to google "How to Boil an Egg" (no kidding).

Baking scones sounds hard and scary, and definitely not something I could do with my limited skill set.

Ah contraire!

Do you know what I love about scones?

They sound real fancy and taste delicious with a cup of coffee or tea (the hearty oats, the sweet blueberries, the dry but doughy feel as they go down your throat that makes you want to scarf them down so fast you get hickups) - but they are "I swear" the easiest pastry to make.

"Those scones" - are actually Scottish Blueberry Oat Scones (a little adaption from a recipe I found out on the web) and are super easy, quick and not scary to make!  In fact, they are so popular with Slim, his colleagues, and our friends that this is probably the 6th time this summer I've whipped up a batch.


Fakey-Fancy-Schmancy: Blueberry Oat Scottish Scones
 Yield: 16
Calories: 160
 
Ingredients
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup white sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup frozen blueberries
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup milk
Directions
  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees Celsius). 
  2. Lightly grease a baking sheet with cooking spray.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, salt, and frozen blueberries. Make a well in the center of the "dry mixture" ingredients. 
  4. In a small bowl, beat the egg until frothy, and then stir in the melted butter and milk. 
  5. Pour the "wet mixture"into the well, and mix all ingredients together to create a soft dough. 
  6. Pat the dough into two 1/2 inch thick "tube shaped" shapes. Place both tubes on the prepared baking sheet.
  7. Score (make lines but don't cut all the way through) 8 triangle wedges into each "tube" of dough.
  8. Bake the tubes 15 minutes in the preheated oven, until the tubes have risen and browned. 
  9. Split the wedges all the way through, and serve warm (with butter!). 
Action Shots
(Note: the action shots are few and far between for this recipe.  I thought my camera battery was charged after our Turkey trip, but alas I was wrong) 
The "dry ingredient" bowl.  
Using frozen blueberries helps keep the scones together during the baking by giving extra hold to the dough.  Fresh would work but would turn your scones blue (believe me I tried - although the smurf colored scones taste just as delicious they don't look as fancy schmancy).
Don't like blueberries? 
 You can sub them out with any kind of dried fruit (raisins, cranberries) or frozen fruit (strawberries, raspberries, mango) - I wonder how chocolate would work?
The "well" means just make a little indentation in the middle of all that dry goodness.
 Then after making the well combine the milk and butter with the "frothy egg" below, and pour the wet mix in the well.

I don't really know what a "frothy egg" is supposed to look like but this is what mine looked like.

Then mix it all up with a big wooden spoon and your hands.  
Seriously, I just mush everything around with my hands (after vigorously washing them) to make sure the moisture in the mixture is evenly distributed.

These little gems only take 15 minutes to bake!

They are hardy and delicious - Slim approved.

We love eating them with a little slice of real butter and a piping hot cup of Joe.

Now you too can impress all your friends by serving for brunch or bringing in into the office your "fancy schmancy" scones.  I promise I won't tell if you won't - how easy and quick they were to make.

Dang that's Good Grade: 5 out of 5

August 19, 2011

How Much to Tip When you Travel?


I came across this great post on Mint.com, a money managing website, last night and had to share it with you all.  It addresses something I find my self asking over and over as I travel the globe . . . 

How much do I tip for good service?

While in Turkey last week my sister and I felt clueless on what amount was appropriate to show our appreciation for waiters, taxi/shuttle drivers, Turkish bath attendants and hotel house keeping.  

We didn't want to be "those foreigners" not respecting the tipping customs of the nations we were guests of - but didn't want to be "those foreigners" who were tipping ridiculously too much because service was included or tips weren't expected.

I was especially concerned having previously worked in the service industry, and understanding that tips are the lifeblood of a waitress/waiter or bartender in the U.S. with an hourly wage of only $2.30.  

I don't just run into this conundrum when I am out trekking the world - but I have the same problem when I visit home, back in the good ole' U.S.A. for any setting outside of a restaurant.

No worries - this guide addressees several industry standards in the U.S. a the bottom of the graphic!



(For a larger version of the image visit mint.com - here)

It's good to know that in the future I'll have a go to guide for pesky tipping questions! 

Do you all agree on Mint.com's suggestions?  
Are there any modifications you suggest?


August 18, 2011

Delicious Desserts - Easy, Fast - No-Bake Peanut Butter, Chocolate & Coconut Cookies

What better way to follow up a Health on the Go post you ask? 
Why with a chocolaty Delicious Desserts post of course!

This past week while I was on vacation, Slim accidentally bought too many packages of rolled oats for his breakfast cereal topping.

Unfortunately, we have seriously limited cabinet space in our apartment so I knew I had to bake something with the extra oats.  I also knew our good friends birthday was coming up, plus I needed some chocolate added into my daily nutritional intake (who doesn't?) - so I decided to make no bake cookies today!

They were so fast, easy, and delicious to "bake" (as well as eat).  

Although, these cookies are packed with healthy things like oats and natural peanut butter, they also have 2 cups of sugar, milk, and a stick of butter in their ingredient line up - so at about 100 calories a pop -  portion control is key with enjoying these bad boys (you can also limit how many you eat by sharing your love of these cookies with others - I promise if they love peanut butter they will love these cookies).

No-Bake Chocolate, Peanut Butter, & Coconut Cookies



Ingredients

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup baking cocoa powder
1 stick butter (113 grams)
1/2 cup milk (2 percent is fine)
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup of unsweetened coconut ( this is optional - you can also use sweetened)
3 cups oatmeal (quick cooking for softer cookies or rolled old fashioned for chewier, I used old fashioned oats)
1/2 cup natural peanut butter 
Wax Paper
Cookie Sheet

Directions
  • Combine sugar, cocoa, butter and milk in a medium sized saucepan.
  • On medium heat, melt the mixture and bring to a boil for one full minute.
  • Remove sauce pan from heat.
  • Immediately stir in peanut butter, optional coconut, vanilla, and oatmeal.
  • Drop by the spoonful onto a cookie sheet (that has been covered in wax paper). 
  • Let cool for at least 30 minutes.
  • Try not to eat the whole batch in one sitting (this is probably the hardest part of the recipe)

Trouble Shooting Tips

  • Using natural peanut butter makes these cookies healthier than if you use processed peanut butter - however, either works.  I didn't feel using natural retracted from the taste because there is already lots of sugar the recipe.  Also, either chunky or creamy can be used - I used creamy.

 
  • Cut up the butter into smaller pieces to allow it to melt easier in your sauce pan.
  • Using only medium heat  is really important - high heat = stinky, burning sugar.  Also, stir occasionally while it is melting to ensure evenness.
  • Stick your head over the mixture while it is melting and inhale that buttery, sugary, chocolatey goodness. 

  • Dump all that oat-y/pea-nutty/coco-nutty goodness into the melty mixture - Immediately!  If not you'll have seriously unevenly distributed ingredients in your cookies.



Viola!

(sorry for the dark pictures, I accidentally left my outside UV filter on my camera - novice error!)

You can find these ingredients in most grocery stores around the world, if not check out your local expat shop!
Slim is going to eat these up (if there are any left by the time he gets home).

August 16, 2011

Health on the Go - Running Pacing

I am back from my trip to Istanbul, Turkey and both my sister and I are super impressed with the beauty, bustle and experiences of the country! The people are wonderful and warm just like the weather.  The buildings were breath taking and it was a really economical place to visit.

I was so impressed that I've decided to dedicate several posts in the month of September to the trip - with tips and itineraries for any of you who may be interested in visiting.

But for now - I am back, and it's actually a beautiful sunny day in Holland!  I can't wait to hit the road for a run to work out these wobbly travel legs. 

I first fell in love with running after high-school after the end of my organized sport participation forced me to find a way to stay healthy.

My love was rekindled as I started traveling around the world to visit places and to work.  Running is such a great way to see cities when you are traveling and is a sport you can do in almost any place around the world!  It also is a cheap and easy to supply sport. All you need is your shoes, a watch, socks, a shirt, a sports bra (for the ladies), running shorts and maybe some jams for the road.


One way I keep motivated to run is to sign up for races periodically throughout the year.

This fall I'll be running the Amsterdam Half Marathon in October.  I've done countless 5K's, 10K's, and half-marathon's to stay motivated- and last year I completed my first full marathon.  It was a really amazing and crazy experience!


I'll post my running "trial and error" tips and suggestions as this fall's race approaches - for newbie runners and those who are thinking about starting up. I would also love to hear tips and pointers from any of you who are veteran runners!

Today's Tip
Pacing

Pacing is a really important aspect of running especially during long races and in training.

If you are just starting out I suggest just setting a time for your overall run - 10 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes and take a watch with you for the run.  When you get halfway in time out, do a loop back or retrace your steps if you are unfamiliar with the location.  When you get done note exactly how long you ran.

When you get home map out your route on Google Maps using the "Walking" option to determine your distance.

Then plug your distance and your overall time into a pace calculator. Cool Running's has a great calculator that lets you determine how long or how far you went on your runs and calculates the speed you're moving.



This lets you know your "base pace" - where you are starting out as a new runner.

After determining your "base pace" -  set a goal pace for your future runs or for an upcoming race.  As you are training try to reach that pace, even if it is only for a few minutes each run. Eventually, before you know it you will be adding speed to your pace and achieving little goals. 

Remember though - be patient with yourself ... slow and steady wins the race :)

The more you run the more capable you will become at understanding what your body can take and what it can't.  This was never more clear to me than during the training for my marathon and the race itself.  Starting out too hard can mean not finishing the race, having one heck of a painful training run or even in the worse case scenario suffering an injury.

I run for stress relief and fun so a 9:30 - 10:00 minute pace is usually my goal for longer runs. 

In future posts I'll tell you which equipment, outside of the Cool Running's website and a watch, I love to use to keep track of my pace while running.  I'm sure today's pace is going to be no bueno after all this traveling and baklava eating. 

Now if I could only find my running shoes in this suitcase unpacking debacle.....

August 4, 2011

Luxe City Guides & Sorry for the Interruption!

Sorry for the long break in posting!  I was taking a massive two day exam and it crept up on me before I knew it.  So unfortunately the hours I usually spent enjoying blog posting got substituted with torturous studying.

Here's a crazy time photo of me my mom took incognito while I was studying that attests to the insanity in my life during the past few weeks.
Zombie face?

After the exam one of my sisters texted me saying she was so glad she could get  her non-"crazy haired red eyed" sister back.

But, as Slim says, "No Worries" I'm back in action with lots of upcoming travel goodies!

After some long deliberation, and after reading all your great suggestions - my sister and I decided we both must make it to Barcelona at some point in our lives, but for our August trip we are going to take on Istanbul, Turkey!

We are both really excited - and the trip's happening during Ramadan so our adventures should be chock full of post sunset festival celebrations (and word on the street is we will be getting lots of pre-sunrise drumming - so much for holiday sleep ins).

Do any of you have "must have" suggestions for Istanbul? Must sees, eats, or greats?

I read recently on a blog that these Luxe city guides are pretty awesome. Wonderful pointers, lots of wit and sass, not to mention they fit in your purse.  That's the kind of guide I love - so I ordered one. :)


At only 9.99 why wouldn't it make sense to grab one for your next trip?
They have guides for a ton of major cities around the world. 

Do any of you readers have a go to guide and if so where are you taking it this  summer?