{Case of the Mondays + Vlog?}

I’m in the mother of all bad moods today, so I’m not much for words. Thought I’d leave you with another favorite photo from Italy and a question. I’ve had a few requests for a vlog (video blog if you’re not up with the lingo :)… I think vlogs are really cute, when I’m not the one vlogging. But if that’s what ya’ll want, then what can I say? I’m a people pleaser. I figured I’d go the standard route and let you guys ask some questions in the comments (I wanted to keep the comments private, but I couldn’t figure out how to do that…) and I can answer them in a vlog! What do you think? Ask away if you’d like! Feel free to email me questions as well: exploredreamdiscoverblog {at} gmail.com
{Photo ©  Liz Denfeld}

{On the Way to St. Andrews}

Well, I’ve finally somewhat recovered from my way-too-fun birthday/Queen’s day weekend! Corey spoiled me rotten and I celebrated with great friends who made me feel extra special. I really couldn’t have asked for anything more. I’ll recap with photos soon!

For now, I want to finally post some more of my Scotland photos! This was the first trip where we wholeheartedly agreed that we hadn’t seen enough of the country and we had to return in the future. Scotland is a ridiculously gorgeous place!

One of the days we were in Scotland we spent taking a day trip to St. Andrews. On our way from Edinburgh to St. Andrews we made a couple of scenic stops along the way:

First we stopped to admire the iconic Forth Rail & Forth Road Bridges.
Then we happened upon this gorgeous viewpoint:
Then we drove through the Kingdom of Fife and stopped at a few cute fishing towns. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the name of them now, but we took this tour where you can see our entire itinerary if you’re interested. I am not necessarily recommending the company (our driver/tour guide was awful) but the sites along the way were definitely beautiful!
{Photos ©  Liz Denfeld}

{4 Reasons I’m Really Excited for The Weekend}

Happy Friday everyone! I am very excited for this weekend for a multitude of reasons…
#1 We get Henry back today! If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you know he’s been gone at a doggy training camp for three weeks. That’s a really long time to be without your child – errr, I mean dog  🙂  – I can’t wait to be reunited with him!
#2 I’m getting my hair done tonight! This is kind of a silly reason to be excited for the weekend – but it’s been 4+ months and my hair is in desperate need of some TLC. It’s the first time I’ll be trying out a Dutch salon, but fellow expat bloggers Jeanelle and Ellen both approve of my new stylist – Walter – so I’m feeling pretty confident!
#3 It’s my birthday on Sunday! I’ll be celebrating my 26thon a very special (and wild!) holiday here in the Netherlands called Queen’s Night. We’re having some friends over for drinks before we head out on the town to celebrate both my birthday and the Queen’s birthday!
#4 It’s a three day weekend! Wahoo! Queen’s Day falls on a Monday this year so we get the day off work. Now, how anyone makes it into work on Tuesday I’m really not sure! On Queen’s Day, the day after Queen’s Night, all the Dutch people deck themselves out in orange and party all day long. I’ve heard it’s quite the ordeal and I’m excited to finally experience it for myself.
I’m looking forward to a fun and exciting weekend! What are you up to? I’d love to know!

I’m linking up with Ellen from Company of Clever today!
{Queen’s Day photo by Merlijn Hoek, all other photos ©  Liz Denfeld}

{Recent Reads: Part II}

If you’re anything like me, you’re always on the hunt for a good book. I’m constantly asking friends, family + coworkers for reading recommendations. As I mentioned in mylast “Recent Reads” post, with two hours of commuting a day I’ve been reading a ton more than I did when we lived in Portland. I thought I’d share some of the books I’ve read since my last post and also tell you about my new favorite site (nerd alert!) Goodreads. It’s an amazing site where you can rate books you’ve read, keep a list of what you want to read (and even put them in order!) and keep friends up-to-date on what book you’ve currently got your nose in 🙂 I highly recommend the site!
So, here are a few books I’ve devoured recently:
The Guernsey Literary & PotatoPeel Pie Society: Longest, weirdest name for a book, right? While the title doesn’t scream “Read me!”, I couldn’t recommend this one enough. It’s unlike most novels in that the entirety of it is written as a series of letters. I didn’t think I would be into it, but I was pleasantly surprised that I actually loved the style of the book – it worked perfectly for the plot. It’s set in post World War II London & Guernsey (one of the Channel Islands, now of course on my travel list!). The story is a little complicated to explain, so hop on over to Amazon if you want a detailed plot description. I’ll just say that I highly recommend this read!
Lunch in Paris: This book really surprised me. It started out as an enchanting non-fiction story of romance and food set in Paris. It had my mouth watering, ready to pack my bags for a trip to Paris (luckily we already had one planned). As the book goes on it becomes much less a love story and much more about life as an American expat in France. I related so much to this book and found myself constantly nodding at all of the author’s observations, frustrations and experiences living abroad. A huge added bonus is the book is filled with recipes inspired by the author’s years in Paris – I have about 15 I’m planning on making! Definitely another great book to add to your list.
Heaven is Here: Do you all read the blog Nie Nie Dialogues? It’s a hugely popular blog I’m sure many of you know. I am not a die-hard reader, but like to keep up on posts every few weeks. Stephanie Nielsen (the blog’s author) and her husband survived a horrific plane crash in 2008 and this book is all about her life before the accident and how her family, friends and faith got her through the toughest times in her life as she struggled to recover after it (80% of her body was severely burned). It’s a heart-wrenching story, much of which I read with my mouth wide open in awe. I felt so inspired and grateful for life as I read each page. It was a great read and one that reminds you to cherish each day – each mundane task – a lesson always worth revisiting.
The Bungalow: I read this book a couple of months ago while winter was raging in Amsterdam and all the canals were frozen over. I had heard about the book because I follow the author, Sarah Jio, on Twitter and decided to read the synopsis. The second I saw it was set on the island of Bora Bora I decided to give it a try – I was dreaming of a book to help me escape the bitter chill outside! It’s a story set in 1942 about Anne Calloway and what happens when she leaves behind her brand new fiancé to serve in the Army Nurse Corps on the island of Bora-Bora. It’s a love story and a mystery. A super enjoyable read that will whisk you away to the South Pacific.
So, that’s it for now. I have four more to tell you about soon. If you want to keep up on what I’m reading – feel free to check out my Goodreads page!

{Pinch Me, I’m in Paris!}

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned about life abroad is that it is just that… It’s still life.
Work is busy, your husband gets stressed juggling work, school & you, your house is a mess, you are too tired after a long day to figure out what to cook for dinner… 
On Friday night last week I was feeling so mentally, emotionally and physically drained from a long work week and from saying bye to my Mom, I was almost feeling sorry for myself that we had planned yet another weekend away. 
But then I realized we’re going to Paris. And in the wise words of Audrey Hepburn: Paris is always a good idea.
So in my exhausted and disheveled state of mind, I packed a bag and got ready for a weekend jaunt to the city of lights.

The second we touched down I got giddy butterflies. Sure I had to wake up at 4:45 and I needed a cappuccino stat, but we were in PARIS! As we walked up the stairs of the Metro to street level, my eyes met the gorgeous quintessential Parisian architecture I hadn’t realized I missed until right that second. I spent the weekend in awe of the charmed life we live. What amazing memories I am making with my husband. We will surely look back on this time in our lives and remember it as some of our best years and times together.

Here are some iPhone photos from our weekend. As for the “real” photos? Well, they’ll have to get in line behind St. Andrews, more Edinburgh, Barcelona, Amsterdam with my Mama and the Keukenhof Garden 🙂 Will I ever catch up? Stick around and watch me try!

Hope you all had a fantastic weekend!!
Have you all been to Versailles? Holy smokes. Absolutely breathtaking. Words and photos really can’t do this place justice. You just have to go and see it for yourself – incredible!! We will definitely be back.

{Photos by Liz Denfeld}

{Welcome Story of My Life Readers!}

Just thought I’d extend a warm welcome to any new lovelies hopping over from Jenni’s amazing blog, Story of My Life. I thought I should give a proper introduction so you know what my little blog is all about! If you want to know more about us, check out my “About Me” page & the links for our wedding, engagement photos and proposal story on the right hand side of the page. 
And if you still want more, I’m kind of a social media addict, so you’re in luck. You can find me on:

Thanks for stopping by!
{wedding photo by Jill Thomas, all other photos © Liz Denfeld Photography}

{Guest Blogger: Mike + Jess in Malta}

I was so pleased to be asked by Liz to guest post on her blog while she and Corey are in Seville (Seville!). I’m Jess, one half of mike-jess.com, a blog I share with my partner, Mike, and our two pups, where we document our life abroad in Malta.

If you’ve never heard of Malta, you aren’t alone. Malta is a little island in the middle of the Mediterranean, measuring only 121 square miles/316 square kilometers, with a population of just over 400,000. Situated between Italy and North Africa, Malta is a unique blend of both cultures. And it’s not all sun and sand here. With a history of settlement predating the pyramids in Giza, we are spoiled with endless opportunities to learn and explore. Since moving here in 2010 Mike and I have been soaking it all up, offering advice to fellow expats and visitors, and sharing photos of our experiences along the way.

Some of our favourite things about this little island:

i study art history and malta is the perfect place to do it

enough said

a burst of colour and energy in the middle of winter, carnival is traditionally how the maltese let loose before Lent
the view of valletta‘s skyline (the capital city, a unesco world heritage site). this view still gives me butterflies.

from poking around little fishing villages to hiking along malta’s cliffs and rocky shores, there’s always something unexpected to discover

this is where malta’s italian heritage really shines through. feast (or festa, in maltese) is really code word for party.

at most feasts there are fireworks before, during, and after. in the summer this means there are usually fireworks every night. and sometimes even during the day! in april malta also plays host to an international fireworks festival. last year we missed it because we were traveling through the greek mountains and going to london for the royal wedding, but we are super excited to catch it this year.

a former british colony, cuisine in malta is a curious mix of italian, british, and north african. plus we get fresh, local produce all year long – a novelty, for us canadians. citrus season in january? yes, please. and don’t even get me started on maltese bread or ravioli.

ancient neolithic temples and hypogeums, medieval walled cities, roman houses, baroque churches, impressive fortifications, malta has it all. some of our favourite historic sites include the walled cities of valletta, mdina and birgu, as well as the Hal Salfieni Hypogeum and Hagar Qim temple.
brightly coloured fishing boats called luzzus pull right up to the market to unload their goods at this seaside market in the village of marsaxlokk (pronounced mar-sa-shlock). when you order seafood in marsaxlokk’s restaurants sometimes you are even lucky enough to have to wait until it comes off the boat. now that’s fresh.
mike’s a sports guy (that’s him rock climbing) and he’s loved taking advantage of being able to do outdoor activities in malta all year long. again, a big novelty for us canadians. and what better way to take advantage of malta’s balmy weather? windsurfing, sailing, kayaking, diving, snorkelling, hiking, and of course malta’s favourite team sports – football (soccer, for us north americans) and water polo, are just a few activities for athletes to take up here.
summer is a magical time in malta. big-name outdoor concerts (like the isle of MTV), DJs spinning at open-air clubs, wine and beer festivals, feasts, fairs, seaside bbqs, sunset picnics, hot beaches and warm seas. absolute perfection.
while we’ve certainly felt the european cold snap in malta this winter, we are normally lucky to have very mild winters and hot, dry summers. in malta it doesn’t rain a drop from may until september, and we like it that way.

We also love that living in Malta allows us to travel more affordably and more often. During our first (whirlwind) year in Malta we were able to visit 11 countries and 19 cities (biggest lesson – pack light). We also bought our first car, got our dogs their own passports (for real), and just finished filming an episode of House Hunters International. Please, somebody pinch me.

But, as Liz knows, moving abroad is not all picture-perfect. And we have our (short) list of complaints and challenges. Making friends while working from home, language barriers, strange shop hours, walking on cobblestone in heels (not happening), smoking in public places, lack of dog friendly spaces, renting property, no good dill pickles, crazy driving. Life abroad is still life, and it has its ups and downs. But would we trade it for anything? Not a chance.

For a better look at life in Malta and our travels, follow along on our adventure at mike-jess.com.

{Guest Blogging on La Mia Vita}

Hey everyone! We’re back from Berlin! It was an amazing trip, but we are absolutely and utterly exhausted. Tonight was my cousin Julie’s last night in Europe. She spent it here with us in Amsterdam and is heading back home to Portland tomorrow. We’re definitely sad to see her go – it’s been so comforting and fun having family to hang out with. I’ll be back tomorrow with part one of our Berlin photos, but for now I wanted to let you know that I’m over on La Mia Vita today guest blogging for Nicole. She just moved to Barcelona!! Pretty awesome, right? Head on over to read about Corey and I’s greatest adventure to date… I bet you can’t guess what it is… 😉

{Thoughts on Blogging & Such}

I’ve been thinking a lot this week. About everything, but mostly about blogging. Sometimes I am totally feeling social media and the blogosphere and all that. I feel so incredibly inspired by everything I see and read, and I feel proud to be part of such an amazing and supportive community. Other days I wonder why I blog and I feel kind of like a weirdo for doing it. I get insecure when I think about people in my life who might come here and read my blog and think it’s stupid, think I’m too positive, think I’m bragging, think I’m ugly or dumb or can’t write. I think all of these terrible things. Sometimes I desperately want to put more time and effort into this blog – have more sponsors, more followers, more comments. And then other times I wonder why the hell I even care about that stuff? Who cares how many visits I get? Why am I blogging anyway? It’s a question I am seriously thinking about. To be honest, I don’t get very deep on my blog. I am a very thoughtful and inquisitive person, but I stay pretty surface level around here. There are lots of reasons for that. For one, I don’t know who’s out there reading this blog so it can be super intimidating (and frankly a little strange) to bare my soul to all of you. And on the other hand, I can’t stop thinking about how more often than not when I tell people I know in “real life” I write a blog, I just get really weird stares and questions wondering why I would put my life on the internet. It is pretty weird if you think about it, right? But most days I know why. It’s because I read all these blogs that give me such great ideas for anything and everything (dinner, crafts, gifts, you name it!), I read blogs about people who make me want to be a better wife, sister and daughter, I read blogs that remind me to be thankful for everything I have and everything I experience in life. I want to be one of those blogs for my readers. I want you all to come here and to feel good and happy and inspired and feel like if you have a dream then you should go out and get after it. I never, ever want anyone to come here and read what I write and think I’m just bragging or that I think I am the coolest person ever who cooks and bakes and takes photos and has an amazing husband and perfect little life. Yeah, right. NOBODY is perfect. I wear ugly things, lose my temper, feel depressed some days and wonder why anyone would ever look up to me. But this blog helps me find the good in my life, in myself and in the world. I don’t want to come here and post about how mad or sad I feel about some things because who’s that going to help? Not me and not you. I actually have no idea where I’m going with this. This week was just one of those weeks where I was feeling a little more reclusive and private and didn’t feel like posting much. But I wanted to come here and “talk” to you in a sort of stream of consciousness. I just wanted to be real and to let you in on a few things that were going on in my head. I don’t know where I want this blog to go or what I really want the purpose of it to be. But as long as I am inspiring you and as long as I’m having fun then I’m going to keep at it. I appreciate every single one of you for coming here to see what I post and I love hearing from you guys. Sorry for the rambling today. I hope at least one person will read this and relate to my random thoughts 🙂

We’re off to Berlin tomorrow so I’ve got to go pack and clean (the not-so-glamorous part of traveling!). Hope you all are having a wonderful week. 

And what’s a post without a photo? I snapped this one a couple weekends ago on an evening walk in Amsterdam.