Viewing: fall

Autumn in Westerpark

Temperatures in the low single digits, days that aren’t just gray but also dark and gloomy, and sunsets that come all too soon at 4:30 in the afternoon. Winter is coming? Nope, it looks like winter is here.

And just when I started running, too. I started a couch to 10k running program with the hope that it would be kinder to my body than the HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workouts I loved before I got pregnant. I only managed it twice a week, and my current level of fitness requires a lot more walking and jogging than actual running, but I was really starting to get into it.

I found pushing my body into motion in the crisp autumn air to be calming and therapeutic. Clearing my mind with exercise became even more important last week, to break the cycle of frustration, outrage, helplessness and sorrow that arose from being glued to the news of Typhoon Yolanda’s aftermath.

Whenever I would reach a saturation point, I would unplug, get moving, recharge. And one unusually sunny morning, I took the camera with me to document the last of these fleeting autumn colors.

Amsterdam Westerpark autumn sunshine

Amsterdam Westerpark autumn leaves turning

These gorgeous yellows won’t last for long, and I want to hug them to myself for just a little while longer. The elm tree outside our window is already bare.

Amsterdam Westerpark autumn red and yellow leaves

Amsterdam Westerpark autumn yellow leaves

I just need to hang on for a few more weeks until we go home for our annual dose of sunshine.

Amsterdam Westerpark autumn trees

Till then, I need to find things to embrace about winter, and say my farewells to fall. Goodbye, autumn! You were short, but you tried your best to blaze bright and beautiful when you could. See you next year.

Fall colors on Instagram

Can you tell I really didn’t want to leave Greece behind? All those blog posts were my way of coping with the end of summer and of our Greek adventures. But fall is, and has been for some time now, really and truly here.

Much as I love summer, fall has its own pleasures. Those first few days of a change in the air, that crisp, cold summer air that made me want to breathe in deep lungfuls of it. Leather jackets and long knit cardigans, not to mention the dark tights that are so flattering to short, curvy ladies such as yours truly. Evenings with warm bubble baths, fluffy bathrobes, and full-bodied, smoky red wine.

And of course, the colors, which I’ve been documenting on Instagram.

Amsterdam fall on Instagram

There are not a lot of striking fall colors in Amsterdam, which makes the beautiful bright yellow of the elms so special. Amsterdam is filled with elm trees, particularly lining canals like ours. Seeing the yellow of fall reminds me of this same time last year, when we first fell in love with our home and our neighborhood.

Gray is another Amsterdam fall color—and much as I love gray, seeing it everywhere for weeks is not fun. It’s not the deep, velvety gray of gathering storm clouds, it’s just a sullen, flat gray, endless and kind of depressing. Ugh. On to happier thoughts.

I’ve come to associate fall with a time to buckle down and get to work. With the weather forcing lots of indoor time, it’s a season for starting creative projects, looking inward and focusing on home and family. This fall, I’ve taken up Dutch language classes again and signed up for a couple of cool classes on Skillshare.

I’m also working on plans for this blog, so stay tuned. And if you haven’t yet, come follow me on Instagram for more fall colors and other bits of everyday life in Amsterdam.

Maternity style: Fall colors

I really regretted not taking more pictures outdoors last fall. So this year, I’ve made more of an effort. Amsterdam doesn’t have a whole kaleidoscope of autumn colors, but what it does have is this glorious yellow that’s everywhere at this time of year. I wish I knew what these trees were called!

I love looking out the window—or down at my feet, if I’m out—and seeing these rich shades of yellow. They’re a much-needed burst of happy brightness against Amsterdam’s persistent gray.

Fall colors are also seeping into my wardrobe—like this burgundy, tan and blue-gray outfit I wore to take visiting friends out to lunch last Sunday. I’m happy to say that all this stuff is still non-maternity! The striped t-shirt is from Uniqlo, the mullet skirt is from Forever 21, and the gold flats are from Jonak, a French shoe brand that I fell in love with on a trip to Paris last year. The burgundy tights are from American Apparel; one of the surprising advantages of being a short girl who wears a large size is that all of my regular tights are so long on me that they go up and over the baby bump. Yay.

And the knit turban… well, I made that myself! I saw a similar knotted headband being sold at the Westerpark Sunday Market for a whopping €42. It came with this whole song and dance about being handmade from 100% alpaca by grannies from Belgium. Okaaayyyy.

Using this super easy tutorial from Craft Snob, I made my own version for just €3.25 (the cost of half a ball of yarn). And it’s got its own exotic song and dance too. After all, it’s handmade from 100% Icelandic sheep’s wool by an expecting mother from the Third World. Beat that!

A Feast of Ice & Fire

Do you love Game of Thrones? Marlon and I are huge fans! We’ve read all of the books in George R.R. Martin’s epic A Song of Ice & Fire series and we love the HBO show. So when we saw this at the American Book Center, we simply could. Not. Resist.

Chelsea Monroe-Cassel and Sariann Lehrer wrote A Feast of Ice & Fire: The Official Companion Cookbook after the fan response to Inn at the Crossroads, their food blog inspired by the quasi-medieval fantasy series. If you’ve waded through George R.R. Martin’s dense, rich fiction, you will have drooled over the vivid descriptions of sumptuous banquets at King’s Landing, fireside dinners in the frozen North, and more.

By delving into medieval, Roman and Elizabethan cooking, these two dedicated foodies and fangirls turned the meals of fictional Westeros into reality, giving culinary life to the favorite meals of favorite characters (Sam and his pork pies! Sansa and her lemon cakes!).

Recipes are listed by region (The Wall, North, South, King’s Landing, Dorne and Across the Narrow Sea), and are preceded by excerpts from the books in which they were first featured. What could be better than a delicious dish with a good story behind it?

Last Sunday, we had our friends Victor and Selen over for dinner. They’re foodies who also follow the Game of Thrones series on HBO, so it was a perfect opportunity to try a few recipes from our new cookbook! See if you can find the inspirations for some of these dishes in the upcoming season of “Game of Thrones” on the best satellite TV.

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Knit it: Chunky ribbed cowl

This time last year, I was running around like a headless chicken. If I wasn’t traveling, I had some kind of class or activity on an almost-daily basis: watercolor, sewing, Dutch, a blogging e-course. This autumn, I’ve made a conscious decision to cut down on activity and slow down. With a baby on the horizon, I know our quiet nights and lazy weekends at home are numbered, and I want to enjoy them while they last.

So, while Marlon putters around the kitchen or bonds with his Playstation after work, I blog, surf, read… or knit. One of the easy knitting projects I finished this week is a chunky ribbed cowl in electric blue alpaca wool, based on this pattern from Knit & Bake.

To be honest, it was supposed to be for me, but it didn’t quite turn out the way I wanted it to! I’m still a knitting newbie, so I’m awful at estimating gauge (yarn weight vs needle size) and all that. In fact, if you look closely, it’s pretty hairy from all the times I found myself stuck and bewildered, and just had to unpick and redo it.

Thankfully, Marlon was happy to have it. He says it’s soft and cozy, and keeps the wind out while he’s cycling. Yay for low-maintenance husbands!

Maternity style: The jeans experiment

I’m not a jeans kinda gal. I would wear dresses all year round if I could; it’s only when I need to brave crappy weather that I squirm into a pair of jeans.

With a wool coat or leather jacket, knit scarf and boots, jeans are part of what I call my “Dutch girl uniform”—a tried-and-tested getup inspired by the vast majority of Dutch girls who dress sensibly (if a bit all the same) for crappy weather. Though I never look quite like a Dutch girl in said uniform, I don’t feel quite like myself in jeans either.

Friends who know me well laughed when I bought my first pair of maternity jeans at Week 14. “You actually bought jeans?” one said with a friendly kind of snort. “I never see you in jeans!” Indeed. So I didn’t quite know what to do with the jeans until last week, Week 17. Dropping temperatures and a growing belly prompted me to finally take them out of my closet for a spin.

These jeans are from Mamalicious, a Danish maternity wear brand available in the UK and Western Europe. They have a dark rinse and a low rise, a bit of stretch, one button and no zipper, and a stretchy navy blue waistband that comes up high over the belly and feels nice and thick. As with all European pants, a good six inches had to come off the hems, a feat I accomplished myself with the help of this fantastic tutorial.

I seem to have been in a black-and-white graphic tee mood last week! To watercolor class, I wore the jeans with a gray wool blazer from Uniqlo, “I don’t speak Icelandic” tee from Dogma in Reyjkavik, fuschia suede hobo bag from a shop off the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, silver necklace from Topshop, and gray studded Balmain brogues.

To meet my neighbor Giova for coffee, I wore them with my sister’s black leather jacket from Lindex (size Small, yay! This didn’t fit me last year!), Audrey Hepburn graphic tee from a pop-up flea market in Cologne, and neon flats from Landmark, my Manila bargain mecca.

After test-driving these jeans, I think I’ll put them back into the closet for now. I have no complaints about how comfortable they are, but I’m just not used to such a low rise—I kept worrying that they were going to slide off! Maybe they need more of a belly to cling on to… and maybe this autumn weather will let me get away with dresses, tights and leggings for a little while longer.

Little red sparkling hood

The color red seems to be everywhere these days. It’s taking over buildings and apartments…

… and popping out of bushes. I didn’t realize so many of the trees and plants I see around me everyday would suddenly produce these bright red berries come fall. Yes, I’m a fall newbie.

All this red percolating in my subconscious came to a boil one afternoon after watercolor class. As I was walking through the centre of Haarlem, I was drawn to another jolt of red—this time in the form of a big SALE sign at WE, a local high street chain. Inside, I found this red dress with a skinny belt and promptly realized: I don’t own a single article of red clothing!

With 50% off everything in the store, it was easy to remedy the situation. So now I have a red dress.

I remember reading somewhere that red and leopard print go together, so it seems my leopard print flats have found a new playmate. But so far my favorite way to wear bright red has been with gray. I’ve worn it with my gray wool blazer from Uniqlo (above) to go to my weekly ladies’ lunch, and with a gray fluffy angora cardigan for a Sunday visit to the zoo. 
I’ve also found a new use for the bronze beaded fascinator I like to wear with this dress. It turns out a headband is perfect for keeping the hood of my rain jacket in place when it’s too windy for an umbrella. 

I got a few odd looks on the street, but I shrugged them off. Sparkling in the rain is worth it!

Fall uniform

If I hadn’t moved to Amsterdam, I would never have realized that I had a raincoat-shaped hole in my wardrobe. After getting soaked in the rain one stormy August night and getting sick the week following that, I decided that “summer” was as good a time as any to buy a rain jacket. 
The most important criteria: it had to have a hood, be waterproof, and cover my legs at least partially. It took a couple of afternoons combing the shops, I found this navy blue McG rain jacket at De Bijenkorf. I chose it for the semi-tailored preppy feel, as well as for the soft jersey lining and the cute little grosgrain belt that ties in a bow at my waist. I spent more on it than I had hoped to, but I felt better forking over the moolah knowing I’d get lots of wear out of this jacket. 
And I was right. This jacket already feels like a uniform, with all the rain we’ve had here. Although I must say I felt slightly odd wearing it out for the first time. It just didn’t seem very… well, very me. Even Marlon gave a thoughtful hmmm the first time he saw me in it. 

This is my template outfit these days. I’ve gotten used to the rain jacket; I figure feeling “slightly odd” is a million times better than feeling downright cold, wet and miserable. Now that the temperature is on a steady downward trend, I’ve replaced my usual black stretchy cotton leggings with fleece leggings from HEMA, which feel awesome—like my legs are getting a nice warm hug.

The other part of my fall uniform is these brogue-slash-granny boots I scored on my day trip to Maastricht. They reminded me of the brown granny boots I used to own, which my mom brought back from Europe in the heyday of grunge. Ah, the Nineties.

Except my old granny boots didn’t have the brogue-ish look of this pair, nor did they have this combination of black, brown and gray leather. Now resisting a pair of boots is always hard for me. But boots that go with everything? Oh hell yes.
Besides, it’s fall. Lots of rain, getting cold and all that. I’m just being practical. Right?