{Back From Barcelona}

We spent the long Easter weekend (we got Friday + Monday off & I took Tuesday off, too!) in Barcelona with my Mama. We met up with Nicole every day, enjoyed disgusting amounts of tapas and sangria, soaked up the sunshine (albeit a little chilly at times) and saw some incredible sights. It was a trip I will never ever forget. Having so much one on one time with my Mom is so special and I am cherishing every moment. I am not rushing to upload photos and blog this week as I am trying to soak up her last few days in Amsterdam. She takes off Monday, so I hope you guys can hang tight until early next week when I’ll be back with photos from Barcelona (and I still have some from Edinburgh and St. Andrews to blog – I’m so far behind!). Here are some iPhone photos in the meantime! Have a great rest of the week 🙂
 *last three photos by Nicole!

{50 Tulips}

This weekend we spent nearly the entire two days cleaning our apartment top to bottom in preparation for my Mom’s arrival! When we were almost done I looked around and thought something was missing. Some fresh flowers! I decided I couldn’t think of a better way to make my mom feel welcome in our place than with fresh Holland tulips. Luckily we live ridiculously close to the famous floating flower market in Amsterdam, so we hopped on over and picked up 50 tulips for €12.50! The bunch was so huge we now have tulips scattered throughout every room in our apartment. It’s so lovely! I’d say that was money well spent.
{Photos © Liz Denfeld Photography}

{Happy Friday!}

Happy, happy Friday! I am so excited it’s the weekend! It’s supposed to be a rainy one here in Amsterdam, but that’s okay because I’ve got lots to do inside in anticipation for my Mom’s arrival on MONDAY. I can hardly believe I’ll be greeting her at the airport so soon! We are going to have such an amazing time. She’ll be here for two weeks, and next weekend we’re jetting off to Barcelona for the long Easter weekend.
Hopefully I can find some time for something other than cleaning. If I had it my way this weekend I would…
+stay in for friday date night. make this cocktail and watch The Descendants .
+buy fresh flowers from our neighborhood market
+check out the COS store in the 9 Streets 
+browse all the colorful goodies at Kitsch Kitchen 
+make something yummy for breakfast. Maybe this

{Berlin: Part II}

I’ve taken a different approach with these Berlin posts than I have with past travel posts. I’ve gone into more detail into places we stayed, things we saw and places we ate. Do you like this format? Or are you in it more for the picture? Just curious 🙂

Where We Stayed (Night 2 & 3): 
The Westin Grand Berlin: We liked the location of the Westin better than the COSMO, but much preferred the COSMO’s modern design. The Westin was clean, the bed was super comfy (they have those “Heavenly Beds”… amazing) and the lobby was really pretty in a more traditional way. It was also 100 EUR/night, which we thought was more than fair for our experience!

What We Saw (Day 2 & 3):

Mauerpark Flea Market: We woke up early Sunday morning on a mission. Per Ashley’s suggestion, we were headed to the Mauerpark Flea Market, and hopefully before the crowds were too heavy and the goods were picked over. We weren’t looking for anything in particular, just wanted to browse and walk around a bit. It was fun to look at all the trinkets and treasures and wander around with a cup of coffee in hand. Sadly, it didn’t take long for us to feel unbearably cold, so we had to cut our trip a little short and head somewhere to warm up. But, and I know I’ve said this a lot, I can imagine that in the spring and summer this would be such a fun spot to spend a Sunday morning strolling around.
TV Tower: This is one of Berlin’s biggest tourist attractions, with over 1.2 million visitors a year. We really wanted to go up the tower for the magnificent view of the city, but there was an hour wait when we tried so we had to pass. 
Altes Museum: A gorgeous museum in the area of Berlin known as “Museum Island”. We didn’t go inside – but the sight from the outside was impressive enough!

The Berlin Cathedral: The Cathedral sees thousands of visitors a year and is the largest church in the city.

The Reichstag

Brandenburg Gate: This is one of the city’s most well-known landmarks. It has a long history in the city, having been built between 1778 and 1779. The Berlin Wall went up in 1961 right near the Brandenburg Gate, forcing it to become known as a symbol of Germany’s division. The now bustling Pariser Platz, on the East-Berlin side, was completely desolate and the west side was expansive forest, guarded heavily by military. Seeing this gate was incredibly powerful and personal to me as my mom has told me stories of how her and my dad (who escaped from communist Romania in the 80s) used to sit on the East side of the gate, looking out toward the other side – towards freedom – and wishing so badly they could find a way to get across. I sent her a photo of me and my cousin in front of the gate and she emailed me back that day with this message:

“35 years ago I was standing on the other side of the gate, yearning to cross to the other side, thinking that will never happen. Seeing you criss-crossing the globe I celebrate the decision we made! I’m happy that you will never experience the feeling of frustration we felt. I love you,and so good to see you with Julie!”

It seriously brings tears to my eyes every time I read it.  When the wall fell in 1989, people flocked to the reopened Brandenburg Gate to celebrate. 

More Tiergarten Park:
Checkpoint Charlie: “Checkpoint Charlie was the best known border-crossing of Cold War days. The sign, which became a symbol of the division of Cold War Berlin and read like a dire warning to those about to venture beyond the Wall – YOU ARE NOW LEAVING THE AMERICAN SECTOR – in English, Russian, French and German – stood here. Today, it’s an iconic marker of territorial boundary and political division. Until the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, it signified the border between West and East, Capitalism and Communism, freedom and confinement.” – source

This piece of the Berlin wall was sitting right outside the Westin’s entrance:

East Side Gallery: “The Berlin Wall East Side Gallery is a 1.3km-long section of the wall near the center of Berlin. Approximately 106 paintings by artists from all over the world cover this memorial for freedom and make it the largest open air gallery in the world.” – source

View of the Oberbaum Bridge from the East Side Gallery:

Where We Ate:
Oliv Cafe: Max Wanger happened to be in Berlin the same week we were and he turned us in the direction (via social media) of this cute cafe. Corey and I sat here and enjoyed a heaping bowl of soup, a couple mint teas and a piece of cheesecake while we attempted to warm up after our last bit of sightseeing in Berlin. We really loved the ambiance and the food. If we lived there I could see myself spending a lot of time there on the weekends! It’s right by Alexanderplatz. 

Barcomi’s: When we read this deli and coffee bar was run by a Seattleite we knew we had to go. Yes, we’re American, and maybe we should’ve be trying places that were a bit more German, but sometimes we just miss home. I’m glad we gave this place a try. It was decidedly un-American. Everyone around us seemed to be a local and the place was buzzing – full to the brim. We thoroughly enjoyed our mediterranean plate filled with buffalo mozzarella, prosciutto, rucola, sundried tomatoes and much more. And Corey downed his sandwhich so fast I couldn’t even tell you what it was! 

{Christmas Snaps Part II}

As I mentioned Monday, we spend Christmas Eve with my side of the family. We decided not to do any gifts this Christmas as a lot of us flew in from different parts of the country (or the world!), and we figured time together would be the best gift we could get each other, anyway. We haven’t had a complete holiday, with everyone in one place, in a few years, so it made me ridiculously happy to fly back to Portland and get to experience that this year. The night was pretty low key. We ate a delicious meal, enjoyed wine and cocktails, and loved on Oscar, my sister Cristina’s new pup who she rescued few months ago. Then, we ended the night with a friendly game of poker (I actually didn’t participate, I was recovering from my food coma on the couch!)!

{Photos © Liz Denfeld Photography}

Christmas Snaps Part I: Emma’s First Christmas

Every year we spend Christmas Eve with my side of the family and Christmas Day with Corey’s side of the family, and this year was no exception. Christmas morning we woke up bright and early and headed (5 minutes) up the rode to Corey’s parent’s house. It was a very exciting Christmas because our niece Emma was in town from Chicago – and it was her first! She’s 10 months old, and as you’ll see from the photos, she really stole the show. I mean how could she not? She is beyond adorable. I would just sit and stare at her, smiling so much from every move and sound she made, my cheeks started to hurt! It was so special to be able to experience her first Christmas with her. Later that same day we went back to my Mom’s house to open our gifts to each other. Corey did really, really well (he stalked my Pinterst board like a good husband!) and got me some amazing gifts, including these gorgeous earrings, this beautiful J.Crew sequin sweater and noise-canceling headphones! It was a very merry Christmas for us! Hope it was for you as well!

{Photos © Liz Denfeld Photography}

Weekend Recap

This weekend I…

…Watched the Ducks (my alma mater) win the Pac-12 championship game at Spirit of 77.

…Had a day of pampering on Saturday… Got my eyebrows waxed, got a mani/pedi and a spray tan. I feel like a new woman!

…Had a fun girls night out (in my new leather jacket – thanks, Mama!). A group of us went to a new restaurant in the Pearl, Oven and Shaker, and then made our rounds to some familiar local jaunts (Vault Martini Bar and Brix Tavern). It had been too long since I had a good ‘ol ladies night!

…Did some Christmas shopping with my mother-in-law. I can’t believe I’ll be turning around two weeks after I land in Amsterdam to come right back here for the holidays! I know it’ll be worth it, but I’m not looking forward to all the plane travel!

…Had a great Sunday night family dinner at my in-laws. But we missed husband mucho.

I am having such a great time at home, but I have to say that I am super excited to get back to Amsterdam so I can really start celebrating Christmas! All the tweets about Christmas tree decorating and holiday crafts are making me so jealous! Hope everyone had a fun and festive weekend!

Thoughts on Home

Being home without Corey has been interesting. Home, in general, has become an interesting concept since moving across the world. I am constantly saying things like “There’s no place like home,” which I truly believe. But more and more I am questioning what “home” even means? It’s a familiar face. Familiar places. It’s chock full of memories, down every street, every pot hole, every coffee shop and restaurant. But all these things without the one you love… They just don’t feel complete. 

When I’m away from Portland I miss my mom and my sisters dearly. I miss our old neighborhoods and favorite restaurants. Sometimes I long for those familiar faces and places. But here I am in Portland missing my husband, and it’s a different kind of longing. It’s more like an ache. It actually hurts to be away from him. While this really stinks right now, in the last few days I’ve realized how thankful I am to have a love like this. That even after more than four years together I still cry when I’m away from him, my heart still hurts when we’re not together. I really hope we love each other this deeply and miss each other this much forever and ever. Because as much as it hurts to be away from him, I think it would be much more tragic if I didn’t miss him at all. 


Sorry for the blog silence last week. Apparently I decided I was going to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday and take Thursday and Friday off from blogging. But in all seriousness, life got in the way and blogging fell off the to-do list. If you follow me on Twitter, you already know that on Friday I flew in to Portland and surprised my mom! I’m here for work for a couple weeks. It was such a last-minute trip that I decided I would just surprise my family. It’s been super fun to just show up at the door at my in-laws house, my mom’s house and my aunt’s house. The reactions have been across the board (from tears to screaming to no speech at all) and so fun to watch. So forgive me if blogging is a little slow while I’m here. Just trying to soak it all in and enjoy it! Hope you all had an amazing Thanksgiving! 

Caught this view of Mt. St. Helens from the plane on Friday. Absolutely stunning!

Thankful Thursday

Thankful Thursday

Last November I took some time each Thursday to record some things (big or small) that I was feeling especially thankful for. Thought I’d pick it up again this year. If you feel like joining, leave a link in the comments to your Thankful Thursday list!

Today I’m feeling extra thankful for…

…hats, scarves and gloves. I never really needed them before like I do now. It literally hurts to ride my bike without these essentials!

…our Nespresso machine. It makes a perfectly frothy cappuccino for me each morning (and sometimes evening).

…those hugs that end with an extra tight squeeze (thank you, husband).

…my Mama. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about how lucky I am to have her. She has braved so much raising me and my sisters and has taught me how to be a strong, independent woman.

…a pup who acts like his entire life has been made just by me walking in the door.

…some awesome plans to keep us distracted next week during our first Thanksgiving away from home 🙁

…blog friends. I’m so looking forward to a fun girls dinner with these lovely ladies.

…an unexpected “I love you” text. Nothing makes me smile bigger.

…Skype. I couldn’t survive living in Amsterdam without it. 

…nights Corey’s not in class. It’s too quiet around the apartment when he’s gone.  

a great book. I’m 75 pages in and completely entranced.

…genuine laughter. 

{card by Rifle Paper Co.}