{On Amsterdam.}

The time has come. I knew it would, and I’m actually surprised it took this long… I miss Amsterdam… Real bad. This week it has hit me like a ton of bricks and I must admit tears may have been shed. It’s not that I don’t absolutely love our life here in Portland, but truth be told I think I’m finally just now coming to terms with the huge changes that have happened in our lives the last 5 months. It all happened so fast it felt like we were just riding the wave of excitement. The dust is settling now and I’m looking around and realizing how much has changed. And it’s taking me a second to gather my thoughts and feelings and emotions on how I feel about it all. 

I mean, obviously I’m happy. I’m overjoyed to be home in Portland, thrilled to be in the same city with (most of) our families, and I’m ecstatic to be expecting our first baby (p.s. it’s a girl!). But part of me is mourning the loss of life in Europe. Of everything from being in this little bubble of life with Corey – just me and him figuring out a new continent with no friends or family – to hopping on planes and trains and traveling to some of my most favorite places in the world. I miss little things like fresh squeezed orange juice in every shop and market, I miss big things like the sheer gorgeousness of Amsterdam – where every corner you turn around is more picturesque and truly breathtaking than the last. I miss our apartment and I miss Christmas time in Europe. I miss walking and biking everywhere (yes, even in the cold!). I miss Sunday brunch at Le Pain Quotidien. I miss the great friends we made (and not knowing when I’ll see each of them again is heartbreaking). I’m a nostalgic person in general, and I tend to romanticize the past and long for the future. It’s something I’m very aware of – and even when I would sob for Portland while I sat in our living room in Amsterdam I KNEW that the second we returned here I would be sobbing for Amsterdam. And here I am. Doing just that. 

The most comforting thing that comes to mind is this… Well, there are two things. One, we can always go back. And we will. Our dream is to return when our children (God willing) are school age so they can live and breathe the incredible culture in Europe. But more importantly, this saying: Don’t be sad it’s over, be glad it happened. I’m trying to change my perspective and instead of mourning the fact that we’re not there anymore and we are moving on with our lives in so many ways –celebrate the fact that we were so incredibly lucky to have had this opportunity to live abroad, grow so close, learn so much and make some of the most amazing memories of our lives. 

You’ll always have a piece of our hearts, Amsterdam…
{Photo © Liz Denfeld Photography}

{April in Paris}

Well hello there blog land. Per usual I popped in quickly and then didn’t make a return anytime soon. Oops! I always have the best of intentions to give this space attention, but somehow it always gets pushed to the bottom of the neverending to-do list. If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter you already know that we bought a house (more on that later)! And that’s what’s been taking up all of our time on evenings and weekends. We’ve also taken a few fun trips to Los Angeles (to meet my adorable new nephew) and to Vancouver, B.C. (you know, because we were really missing using our passports!). I have so many photos from the past months and even year to share and I fully plan on getting them up here!
I’ll start by looking back on an amazing trip I took to Paris back in April. I got a call from one of my best friends at the beginning of the month telling me she will most likely be coming out to Amsterdam and Paris for work (we work at the same company, score!) and would I be interested in joining her in Paris? I mean, you just don’t say no to that! So even though we had just gotten back from South Africa and had many more trips planned that spring, I booked a train ticket to Paris for a weekend away with one of my dearest friends. We had an absolutely incredible time touring the city, eating delicious food and catching up after being oceans apart for far too long. These are memories I will cherish forever and ever.
A few highlights from our trip:
-Hot chocolate at Angelina — how did it take me four visits to Paris before I made it here? You can’t miss it if you’re planning a trip!
-Brunch at Cafe de Flore – a Parisian institution. Amazing people watching!
-Dinner at Le Coupe Chou (not pictured, but trust me it’s incredible!)
-And of course, pink champage and sweet treats at Laduree – as girly as it gets!

{Photos © Liz Denfeld Photography}

{Birthday Weekend in San Sebastian}

First off, hello! Long time no… blog? This weekend, a good friend of mine asked me if I stopped blogging. I took a quick glance at my blog and realized why. No updates in 20 days, and spam comments running rampant on all my recent posts. Oy vey! The good news is, no, I haven’t stopped blogging – not intentionally anyways. Life has just been really nuts these days (although it feels like this is just status quo now…) with work and visitors and weekends away. I’ve been too busy living life to blog about life, which I guess is a good thing! But the truth is, I really and truly miss blogging and I hope to get back to posting more regularly soon…

I have so many posts to catch up on, but for now I just wanted to share some iphone snaps from our awesome time in San Sebastian this past weekend. We were there for my birthday and it was so incredibly special, fun and delicious (because we stuffed ourselves silly with pinxtos and rioja!). 

P.S. For those of you who’ve asked about what iPhone apps I use to edit my photos – I primarily use Camera+ and Instagram, but for the photos below I used a new-to-me app that is quickly become my favorite called PicTapGo. I highly recommend it! Hope this is helpful 🙂

{Madrid: Around Town}

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When we moved to Europe we made a huge list of cities we wanted to visit while we were living abroad. The list was long. Way too long to accomplish seeing all these beautiful places in two years. We’ve put a dang good dent in those cities, but there are still many on our list. One that wasn’t on our list? Madrid.
To be honest, as an American, you hear way more about Barcelona than you do about Madrid. And I remember a year and a half ago when we researched Madrid for a quick weekend away, we realized there really weren’t any notable sites we felt like we had to see, so we scratched it off our list.
Well, then Nicole moved to Madrid and she raved about how incredible it was – even saying it was more amazing than Barcelona. I trust that girl’s opinion, so a few months after she moved Corey and I booked a quick weekend visit. I am so glad we did. Madrid isn’t about any specific sites, it’s just about being a big beautiful city packed with charm, beautiful architecture and really good Italian food (What! I know, strange, but true.). We so enjoyed our weekend in Madrid and only wished it would’ve been a teensy bit warmer (but when do we not wish that?!). Hanging out with Nicole is always such a treat! And what’s not to love about having a personal city guide?! She showed us all the best parts of her new home. Here are some snaps from all around town. I hope they give you an idea of just how gorgeous Madrid is!
P.S. A few travel tips below the photos if you’re looking for Madrid suggestions 🙂
 {If you find yourself in Madrid – here are a few places we suggest you don’t miss (many pictured above!): Retiro Park, Mercado de San Miguel, Chocolateria San Gines (for the most amazing churros – be prepared to wait in line), Plaza de Oriente, al fresco lunch at Cafe de Oriente, Plaza Mayor, Vertical Garden at CaixaForum followed by coffee and a treat at the Vertical Cafe, Templo de Debod, and my biggest tip of all (thanks to Nicole), dinner at Piccolo Diavolo – get the pasta with pear and ricotta. I know it sounds crazy, and we were totally skeptical, but Nicole convinced us it was the best thing she’s ever eaten, and goodness was she right. We returned the next night to have that dish!}
{We stayed here. We found the location to be great, the price to be fantastic, and the place was comfortable and cute}

{High Tea}

\\ high tea \\
n. Chiefly British
A fairly substantial meal that includes tea and is served in the late afternoon or early evening.
——
High tea happens to be one of my favorite things about Europe. It’s a concept I know exists in the U.S., but nobody really practices. But in England it’s, like, a totally real thing. People really do drink that much tea and eat cute little sandwiches and a good helping of cake. Can you imagine a more wonderful way to spend an afternoon than by sipping tea out of perfect vintage china teacups, nibbling on tasty puff pastries and sandwiches, and devouring five pieces of cake? Well, that’s exactly what my good friend Jeanelle and I did on New Years Eve day. It was wonderfully girly and the perfect way to catch up after both of our Swiss Christmases. Ah, we live a charmed life (when we’re not getting stuck on Dutch trains and commuting 2-3 hours a day… but we’ll forget about that for a second!). My goal is to make it to the Orangery in London next time we’re there (who knows when that will be – but it’s only a 50 minute flight, so I’d say sooner than later! Plus, I need to meet these girls when they get here!). It looks right up my alley.

Have any of you experienced high tea? Do you love it? Clearly I do 😉

P.S. Jeanelle and I had high tea at this most adorable place in The Hague – Bloem. We highly recommend it!



{Photos © Liz Denfeld Photography}

{Winter Weather}

Yesterday I finished reading Luisa Weiss’s “My BerlinKitchen”. I loved the book for so many reasons – for inspiring me to cook more, for making me long for a trip to Paris, New York, Berlin and Italy, but most of all for how much I could relate to her writing. One passage in the entire book really stuck with me, as I happen to be in the middle of one of these merciless winters she writes of – just not in Berlin, but in Amsterdam instead.
It’s not that it’s particularly cold here – although for me it is! – but it’s more that the sun rarely shines. The darkness feels never-ending, waking up in pitch black, leaving the office in pitch-black. And don’t even get me started on how one single snowflake sends the Dutch train system into a tizzy. There will barely be a dusting on the ground and trains get canceled left and right, leaving us stranded in the cold. Winters in Amsterdam are bleak and I feel like I’m on the verge of a meltdown – I need some sun, stat!
Truth be told – Holland is stunning in the snow. And even though I am already tired of it and hoping it doesn’t make any more appearances this winter, I am trying to focus on that beauty instead of the annoyance it causes. Here are a few iPhone photos from this winter in Amsterdam so far. Hopefully I won’t have anymore snow photos to share with you anytime soon 😉

{Three Things}

Happy, happy Friday! 
I’ve got three things for you today…

First… Hop on over to Aspiring Kennedy to see the maternity photos I took for Lauren and her hubby, Tyler! She is seriously glowing and they were so much fun to take pictures of.
Second.. We’re off to Madrid for the weekend to hang out with Nicole, drink sangria and check out the city! I’m losing count of how many cities Nicole and I have met up in… San Francisco, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Seville…Now we’re adding Madrid – it’s going to be a great weekend! I’ll be Instagraming my little heart out – so follow me there if you’d like to see what we’re up to 🙂
Lastly.. I have spots for sponsorship opening up. Shoot me an email if you’re interested, I’d love to have you! exploredreamdiscoverblog {at} gmail.com
Have a great weekend!

{Champery, Switzerland}

Champery is a small village that was located a 10-minute tram ride from the town we were staying in. It’s the quintessential Swiss ski resort town I had always imagined in my head. All the stores and restaurants with views of the Alps, everything made of wood with Swiss flags swaying every way you turned. On Christmas Eve we were feeling antsy to get out of the house so we decided to make the short trip over to walk around, ride the gondola up the mountain, have some hot chocolate, and ultimately have dinner at a cozy restaurant back in the town center. It was incredible to climb up the mountain in the gondola and come face-to-face with the peaks we had been staring up at for days from the window of our chalet. It was windy when we were up there, but it was so breathtaking we didn’t even care! We missed our families so much that day, but experiencing this awe-inspiring sunset together on top of the world definitely made us feel a little better!
 {Photos © Liz Denfeld Photography}

{This Weekend…}

It was so much fun to head to London for the weekend to celebrate Lauren and her twin girls!
We had a bumpy start on Friday night.. But all was well by Saturday morning.
It was a pretty low key weekend filled with girly chats and brunch dates. My idea of perfect!
I even got to take some photos for Lauren and her hubby to mark this special time in their lives. I can’t wait to share! 
Sadly, I’m still sick, so I’m back to bed today. Learned my lesson last week that I won’t get better unless I rest, so I’m making that a priority!
What did you do this weekend? Anything fun? Hope you have a wonderful Monday!

{Our Swiss Chalet}

Staying in a Swiss chalet was very much like my dream of staying in a Tuscan villa. So cliché, yet so necessary. When Corey and I realized we wouldn’t be making it home for Christmas we knew we had to go somewhere super awesome to help temper the sting. And we couldn’t have picked a better place to spend a week relaxing. We were in the most beautiful, tiny Swiss Alp town of Val d’illiez. There’s not much to do there except stare at the gorgeous mountains and cuddle up by the fire. Exactly what we had in mind! I started every day with a bubble bath (pure heaven!) and ended each one with a glass of wine, a cozy fire and a Christmas movie. The only thing missing was our little Henry. There will be many more posts about our trip to Switzerland to come… For now, here are a few photos from our dream Swiss chalet
 {Photos © Liz Denfeld Photography}