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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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