Monday, January 22, 2018

My New York Trip

Last week was a real bucket list moment for me. I finally hopped on a plane and went to the city of all cities: New York. Visiting the Big Apple has always been a dream of mine and I still can't believe that I actually went there and saw the city that never sleeps in action.

Since I had never been there before I wanted enough time to see all the sights. I ended up being there for 9 days (including travel) and it was enough for all the things that I wanted to see and do (see my NYC prep post here). I will write a New York City guide soon with all the do's and don'ts and handy tips for when you are planning a trip to NYC, this post will be my personal experience and will have lots -and I mean lots- of pictures, since the city is so photogenic. Ughh please bring me back! -I have actually already looked up flights and stuff. The post NYC blues are real.

Day 1
A day of flying and travelling to the Big Apple. I was very nervous because this was my first long flight plus the fact that I was all by myself making the biggest trip of my life yet. I basically spent all the hours watching 'Friends' and other films and the time went fast. We landed in JFK within no time and although we had a few hours of delay -they found out the breaks didn't work just as we were about to go up in the air- I still felt quite okay. Customs went smoothly and after collecting my suitcase -does anyone else gets paranoid as well that your suitcase won't show up?- I hopped into a shuttle bus to my hotel on the Upper West Side. All I did was check-in, unpack my suitcase, showering and immediately went for a well-deserved nap.

Day 2
Normally I am not the kind of person that wakes up early. I can sleep for hours and hours, but my body decided to wake me up at 4AM and there was no way it was going back to sleep. Gotta love jetlag. I started my day bright and early at Top of the Rock and boy it was quiet at that time of the day. Perfect for those Instagram shots and since the weather was sunny I had the most amazing view of Manhattan. After those views I went to the hotel were Serena and her family lived in Gossip Girl -I was really fangirling there- and took some snaps at Radio City Music Hall and Times Square. I then ate the most amazing blueberry pancakes at IHOP and continued my sightseeing tour with the Flatiron Building, Grand Central Station, NY Public Library, Carnegie Hall and Columbia University.

Day 3
That day I woke up at 5AM -a bit of improvement- and had a lovely breakfast at Citizens of Chelsea before I headed to the Empire State Building. It was a cloudy and grey day but the views from there were still spectacular. I then went on to Brooklyn where I had an oatmeal bowl at Stonefruit Espresso + Kitchen and spent the rest of my afternoon in Target. There is a huge Target near Barclays Centre and oh my god, it's bloody amazing. As a European gal who has always heard of Target it was quite the experience and it's safe to say I spend way too many dollars in there. I dropped of all my stuff at the hotel, had a quick nap -because you know, shopping is hard- and headed to the Empire State Building again to see it at night time. Manhattan looks even more mesmerizing at this time of day. All the lights sparkle and it's very surreal to have a look at the city this way. Definitely one of my favourite moments of the trip. Despite almost losing my phone because of the wind.

Day 4
To start of my day I ate some cookie dough -yes you are reading that right- pancakes and a cotton candy milkshake at Big Daddy's. A heavy breakfast, but I thought when I eat at Big Daddy's I need to pick all the good things. I walked all the way to the other side of Central Park to go and have a look at The Met. Every Gossip Girl fan must know that those steps are sacred and I loved walking up the steps to have a look at some art. I probably spent about 2 hours in there before I walked outside again and it was raining like crazy. After hunting down an umbrella at H&M, I shopped some candy at Dylan's Candy Store and bought my own Sprinkles Cupcake at the pink ATM machine. In the evening I met up with a friend and went to Ellen's Stardust Diner. A cheesy, touristy diner where the staff sings. We had to wait outside for 45 minutes, but I think it was totally worth it. They can all sing so well and it wouldn't surprise me if they ended up in a Broadway show.

Day 5
On Saturday I had a yummy breakfast at Maman before walking to the 9/11 memorial and museum. The museum to me was a sad and emotional experience since you hear all the personal stories from people who have lost someone and from the police and fire department as well. It's one of the things I really recommend seeing if you ever go to New York. After my visit I walked around a bit before hopping on a boat to Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. It was a cold day and I was not prepared for that -the day before it was 15°C and now -8°C- I loved seeing everything though. Especially on Ellis Island you have the most amazing view of the city skyline and I actually sat there near the water and took it all in. I ended the day with some Chipotle and Netflix. American Netflix is sooo good. We need those Disney Channel movies here ASAP!

Day 6
Another sunny, cold day in New York City! I had some pancakes at The Wild Son in Meatpacking District and visited the 'Friends' building -again fangirl moment- and Carrie's house from 'Sex & the City'. I also walked a bit on The High Line, which I think will be beautiful in the summer time. This was also my food day as I bought a cupcake at Magnolia Bakery, some cookie dough at Do, a green croissant at Moonhouse Bakery and a rose donut at Doughnut Plant. The statue in Washington Square Park was also a ‘Friends’ moment for me as they show it so many times in the show. I also visited the Glossier store and may have bought a few bits and pieces. I will talk about that experience in another post. But yeah, mainly did a lot of walking in Chinatown, Nolita and East Village and ate a lot. What a perfect day!

Day 7
So this is the day where I met a celebrity. I kind of hoped beforehand that I would bump into someone and on that particular morning I did. I was just casually walking down the street when I see this guy walking towards me. One look at his face and hair and I was like OMG THAT’S COLE SPROUSE! All my 'Riverdale' and 'Sweet Life' dreams came true. No, I didn't talk to him, ask him for a photo or chased him down the street. -although that did pop into my head for a sec- He seemed to be in a rush -he was on Jimmy Fallon that evening, so it must have been him- and I freaked out by myself on the street. 
Enough fangirling and back to my NYC day where I picked up a tea from Happy Bones in Nolita and took the subway to the American Museum of National History. A true film moment for me again since 'Night at the Museum' was filmed here. The museum was nice but more oriented for kids. I walked around, used their restroom -like you do- and went to Brooklyn for a rainbow bagel. This was such a hype years ago, but I felt like I still had to do it. I also walked around Dumbo and went to Manhattan with a walk across Brooklyn Bridge. The views from there are amazing. Another pinch me, I'm in New York moment.

Day 8
My last full day in the city started with an acai bowl at The Butcher's Daughter. I feel this café is a must when visiting New York and I did like the interior and vibe there. To finish it off I ordered a chai matcha latte at Cha Cha Matcha -another NYC classic- and walked around Nolita. Now that bowl that I had earlier was delicious but not very filling so I had a burger at By Chloe. I wanted to go here a couple days earlier but it was so busy that I decided to eat there earlier in the day –to avoid the crowds-. The burger, fries and beet ketchup were good, but not as good as the Vegan Junk Food Bar in Amsterdam. I spent my whole afternoon being lost in Sephora and Target on 34th street and took a Shake Shack takeaway back to my hotel. Eating those cheesy fries while watching Camp Rock, Lemonade Mouth, Princess Protection Program and Starstruck.

Day 9
A sad day for me since I was finally getting used to the New York City life. I wanted to eat at Jack's Wife Freda, but they had a problem with the water so I ended up not eating breakfast because I was worried I wouldn't have enough time for all the other things I wanted to do. I took the subway to 34th street again, because my sister wanted a few more bits from Sephora -am I not the sweetest sister in the world?-. I walked all the way over to Central Park from 34th and had one last look at Times Square. I then finally had my first bite of food (a bagel) that day at Woops! on the Upper East Side. I also had a red velvet macaron -because why the heck not- and an almond chai latte. With my drink I walked through Central Park and as the snow drizzled down it really started to sink in that I absolutely bloody love this city and I don't want to leave. To complete the New York vibes I bought a hot dog and pretzel from a food cart and walked through Central Park towards my hotel. There was a Pressed Juicery near my hotel so I also picked up two healthy juices, since I basically only ate pancakes and Shake Shack takeaways that week. Save to say they tasted pretty good. The shuttle bus was right on time to pick me up and drop me off at JFK. A quick change to some comfier clothes, some Dunkin Donuts and a Jamba Juice later I was all boarded and ready to head back to Amsterdam. 

As I'm writing this post I can't help but smile over all the things that I have done in New York. At first I had to adjust and the surreal feeling just wouldn't go away, but once I felt more at ease I fell in love with everything the city has to offer. I really want to come back around September/October since it will be a bit warmer and the whole pumpkin pie Halloween festivities are going on. New York you have been amazing and I can't wait to return!

Have you ever been to New York? What is your favourite thing about the city?

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Amsterdam Food Hotspot: Vegan Junk Food Bar

I love me a burger and fries. Shake Shack is my bae -do we still use that word in 2018? I don't know but it fits in this particular situation- and whenever I go out for dinner I usually end up in a burger place -or sushi, looooove sushi-. I am all about trying new things and when I heard there was a vegan burger place in town I was all for that. I am not vegan but do like to whack out my vegan cooking skills from time to time and trying out vegan burgers and Dutch 'bitterballen' was something I just had to do.

Vegan Junk Food Bar is quite new to Amsterdam and already has two locations: a small burger bar near 'Vondelpark' and a proper restaurant in the neighbourhood 'De Pijp'. Due to a mix up I went to the restaurant and my friend was at the burger bar. So I hopped on a tram to go and meet her. I think I recommend the place in De Pijp, just for the fact it's a bit bigger. The burger bar was very light though so better for photos. It's just whatever you fancy really.

I ordered the normal VJFB burger and my friend had the double burger. The normal burger consists of: plant-based beef, cheddar, lettuce, tomato, red, spring & fried onion mix, pickles and VJFB sauce. The double has an extra patty, jalapeños and fried onion rings. With that, we also ordered Parm Á San and Truffle fries and some Amsterdam Bitterballen. The food came fast and I have to say it was so freaking good! The burgers by itself looked totally Instagrammable and tasted even more amazing. The fries were to die for and the bitterballen actually tasted almost the same as the real deal. I have had some vegan burgers before -even tried to make one myself- but I have never tasted something like this. I think even a meat lover will like this place and that is saying something. 

A lot of people still think of vegan food as boring and I love that the Vegan Junk Food Bar is kicking ass to prove the opposite. Safe to say it was one of the best burgers I've ever had in my life. The sauce, lettuce and everything worked so well together. The only downside is that it's a bit pricier than your usual Shake Shack combo, but hey it's all worth it knowing that you are eating all the plant based goodness!

Have you ever tried a vegan burger? What are your thoughts on them?

Friday, January 12, 2018

My New York Prep (+ map with all the NYC hotspots!)

Visiting New York City has always been a huge dream of mine. Ever since I saw the city in 'Friends' and 'Gossip Girl' I just knew I had to go there one day. The sky high buildings, city lights and crazy American foods just call my name and I am very happy to announce that I am hopping on a plane this week to finally cross the adventure of my bucket list.

When you are reading this I will be there already and I am hopefully having the time of my life, eating all the American rainbow pancakes and taking the most amazing photos of the city sky line (follow me on Instagram to have a peek into my NYC life). For now I am still at home typing this post and I want to share my New York preparation with you. I have been browsing Instagram for months trying to find the good food spots and I think I have found all the places that you have to visit when you go to the Big Apple. I actually found way too many places so you will have to narrow it down yourself, but I still think it's good to have a handy map with all the bits and bops that you need to see. Once I have been there I will update the map and tell you what's hot and what's not. Do keep in mind that I've actually never been to these places before. This is just all the Instagram photos and YouTube vlog stalking and what people told me is a must-see.

Bit of info about the map
Knife and Fork: Brunch
Burger: Dinner
Ice cream cone: All the sweets in the world (including cakes and yup, ice cream)
Coffee: Kind of speaks for itself but includes juice bars and freak shakes too
Camera: The things you have to visit once in New York and the prettiest places for photos
Coat hanger: Shop till you drop

Hope this is helpful for when one of you gals and guys go on a trip to 'the city that never sleeps'. New York is so big and it can be quite overwhelming, so I hope the map will be useful!

XOXO Gossip Girl Marjolein I had to do it sorry

Sunday, January 7, 2018

White Chocolate, Orange & Cranberry Cake

Although the month of stuffing your face with chocolate and mince pies is over that doesn't mean I won't share delicious baking recipes on the blog. I made this cake for Christmas at my mums and it's the best one I ever made. It took me quite a while baking all the sponges and layering the final cake with a perfect, neat coat of icing, but I was so happy when I saw the way it turned out.

It's supposed to be a snazzy Christmas cake, but I think it could be a summer cake too. You can mix up the cranberries in the recipe for raspberries to make it even more summery. Everyone at our Christmas dinner loved the cake and I was so proud when I put the last pieces of decoration on top. I got this recipe from BBC Good Food, with a bit of my own adjustments. Hope you will love it as much as I do!

What do you need?
The cake
300g salted butter, chopped + extra for the tins
200g white chocolate, broken into small pieces
500g plain flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
500g white caster sugar
300ml natural yogurt
4 tsp vanilla extract
1 large orange, zested and juiced
6 large eggs
4 tbsp milk

The compote
200g cranberries
150g white caster sugar

The icing
200g white chocolate, broken into small pieces
500g salted butter, softened
650g icing sugar
280g cream cheese

The decoration
Meringue kisses (check out this recipe here)
Christmas chocolate
Cake decoration (the gold ones are from Dr. Oetker)

Oven: 180C/160C fan/gas 4

How long will this take me: With all the baking, waiting and decorating I would say 4/5 hours. Unless you are a Bake Off queen, then you will do this in no-time!

Line your two 20cm cake tins with baking parchments and grease the sides with butter. Melt 150g butter with 100g of white chocolate au bain-marie and stir until completely melted.

Whilst that is melting, measure 250g flour, 2 tsp baking powder, ½ tsp bicarb soda and 250g sugar in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle and add 150g yogurt, 2 tsp vanilla extract, half the orange zest and juice, 3 eggs and 2 tbsp milk. Mix everything together with a whisk and stir in the melted butter and chocolate.

When your mixture is smooth, divide it between the two cake tins and bake them in the oven, on the middle shelf, for 20-25 minutes. Push a skewer into the cakes to check if they are done -it should come out clean-. Our oven is really tiny so I baked them one at a time, which is probably why it took me so damn long to make.

Let the cakes cool in their tins for 5 minutes and then transfer them to a cooling rack. Clean the tins and repeat the steps for the cake batter to make two more sponges. I actually made the cakes two days before Christmas and wrapped them in a good layer of cling foil and it worked perfectly fine.

To make the compote, simmer the cranberries and sugar in a small pan for 4-5 minutes until jammy. Turn of the heat and let it cool down. I also made the compote beforehand and it honestly saved me so much time.

To make the icing, melt the white chocolate, in the microwave or au bain-marie, and set aside to cool a little. Mash the soft butter and icing sugar together and beat smooth and fluffy with a mixer. Add the white chocolate and cream cheese and keep on mixing until smooth. This recipe actually makes A LOT of icing.

To assemble the cake, place one sponge on a cake board and place the other sponges on top with a little icing and the cranberry compote in between each sponge. Use the sponge with the neatest edge, flipped upside down, on top to give the cake a good shape. (never knew this, such a good tip).

Pile about half the remaining icing on top of the cake and use a palette knife to spread it thinly over the top and down the sides of the cake. This will be the crumb coat, it catches any crumbs, making sure the final layer looks clean and professional -which is what you want-. Put the cake in the fridge for about 10-20 minutes to chill. Then add the final layer of icing.

You can decorate the cake however you like. I decide to mimic the photo from the recipe a bit and it turned out pretty good if I say so myself.  It's hands down the prettiest cake I have ever made and I loved making the last layer of icing so perfect and pretty. Can't wait to make more layer cakes soon!

What is your favourite baking recipe?

Monday, January 1, 2018

Dear 2018,

Bye sh*tty 2017 and hello brand new 2018! I want to wish you a happy New Year full of travels, happiness and exciting beginnings. I hope you all had a wonderful evening with friends and family, ate way too much food -we eat 'oliebollen' here, it's a Dutch tradition and the English translation is literally 'oil balls', it's greasy, covered in powdered sugar and the best thing to stuff your face with on New Year’s Eve- and are ready to start the year fresh.
Last year I made a similar post -I kind of do them each year and I like to look back on all the happy things I did and make some resolutions too- and this year I am going to make it a bit more structured and not make this into a super long ramble because nobody has time for that. Let's start with a throwback to my happy moments in 2017 -to make it a bit more positive- and then make some goals for the New Year.

When it comes to travel I must say 2017 has been my best year yet. I made quite a few trips in those twelve months and although five of them were to my favourite city London I am still excited about the fact that I went. I also travelled to Turkey, Copenhagen, Malmö, Antwerp and Barcelona and especially Barcelona stole my heart. That city is drop dead gorgeous and in Ed Sheeran's words: I really felt the summer breeze in Barcelona.

2017 has become the year where I finally finished my thesis. I was so happy when I got the e-mail that I passed and after my presentation I was over the moon. It has been a very long chapter of my uni career and I am happy that I can leave it all behind me. I just need to finish a few assignments and then I officially have my bachelor degree. Woohoo!

If there is one thing I learned last year is that I need to choose me a lot more. I feel that we are so busy trying to please other people, saying yes to things we actually don't want to do and care about what other people think of our life.
Also every person has their own journey. Because of social media we are confronted with everyone’s perfect lives and it doesn't matter that you are still at uni, single and working a crappy job that in no way can afford your designer bag dreams. You will get there in the end and that's all that matters.

For 2018 I hope to travel a lot more. I am starting off with a trip to New York that will take place next week. The Big Apple has always been a dream of mine since I was about twelve years old. Seeing it in Friends, Gossip Girl and so many Hollywood films I always wondered how those city lights would be in real life and now I am finally going to experience it. I will be there for a week and I will be going solo. Prepare yourself for a vlog -yes I am going to whack out my vlogging camera aka iPhone- full of pancakes, Target shopping’s and Gossip Girl references. Other places that I want to visit this year: Stockholm, Italy, Manchester, Greece and maybe Paris. Ooh and winning the lottery to afford all these trips would be aaamazing too.
In December I did #blogmas and it made me all excited about blogging again. I have mentioned before that I keep falling in and out of love with blogging and vlogging, but I want to be more creative and consistent with my content. I also want to be a bigger part of the communities. If you keep sending content out into the world, you can't expect people to read it and comment if you don't do it back.
Another exciting thing that will happen in 2018 -at least I think it is- is moving out. I have lived at home for all my life. Mainly because Amsterdam is hella expensive, the train station is five minutes away and I have a good relationship with my mum and stepdad. Although I do like it at home it's time to spread my wings and fly. -who else thinks of Little Mix when they hear this? Or is it just me?- 

I am very excited to see where 2018 takes me and I can't wait to look back on this post next year and see if all these things came true. Hope you have a fab day today -hopefully without a hangover- and I'll speak to you soon! Also follow me on Instagram if you want to see my New York stories right as they happen!

X Marjolein

What are your resolutions for the new year?

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