Back in Seattle for a Moment

I am back in Seattle for vacation and to see my family. March 1st I celebrated my 1-year anniversary of living in the Netherlands. Ironically though I was actually in Belgium at the time. A whole year has gone by since I packed up my life, quit my job and gave up my cute apartment. And, I couldn't be happier.

I think I take it for granted how big a move that truly was. I was just ready and I just did it. Sure I debated about leaving my elderly father but I also had this profound neon marquee shining brightly that said "If not now, then when?". I took the leap and I tried to trust that the net will appear.

So here I am a years worth of move behind me and I can honestly say that this has been the ultimate game-changer. I've had to adapt to another culture, learn another language and as a result a whole nother way of thinking that goes with it. But it is truly mind-expanding and life-changing.

If you ever get a chance to move to another place, do it. It can very well take you to something that you never even dreamed of.

Roadmaps and Where has the Time Gone?

I can NOT believe that it is already the 20th of January. It seems like this month has just about flown by. I've been busy writing new articles and am excited that my first one for Livestrong.com is finally up. It's all about low-carb pasta.

I am also happy to say that the month is not over and I have already manifested 1 of my goals for the year. To travel more! I'm heading to Brussels on Valentines Day for 2 weeks of fun, beer, chocolate, culture and puppy sitting. I'm planning to document my journey through food and markets so will be posting pictures here and writing about my adventures.

And speaking of goals. I bought this fabulous 2014 workbook to Create Your Amazing Year by Leonie Dawson. I'm having so much fun with it (and already manifested something fabulous!) that I became an affiliate for the product. Here's a photo of it:

It really helps you to define your goals and lay them out all in one place. Sort of like a Road Map. If you are interested in ordering it, I'd LOVE if you used this link: Workbook.

Best Wishes for a fabulous rest of January!

Much Love,

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Recipe Love: Challah Bread (or a Giant Loaf of Love)

I adore baking bread and am always amazed that with a few simple ingredients, you can go from something that resembles paste to creating something so utterly delicious. Kneading dough is also the perfect way to get out your aggressions, though not that I have any.

Growing up in my predominantly Jewish neighborhood in Miami, one bread favorite was always Challah. It’s essentially bread rich with eggs and served at high holidays. Though to me, it’s perfect anytime of year. It’s also the first bread that I learned to bake. I let it rise twice for long periods of time which yields fluffier dough. It also turns out a gigantic loaf of bread. My finished bread (pictured below) measured in at a whopping 15” x 7”. You may want to divide this up into two smaller loaves. I used a 3-strand braiding technique, much like braiding hair but this type of loaf also turns out really pretty when using a 5 or 6 stranded braiding technique. Artisan Bread Baking has excellent tutorials on bread braiding techniques. Hope you enjoy making this as much as I do!  Enjoy.

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Challah Bread

1 ¼ c warm water (295 ml)

1 yeast packet (1 ½ t or 9g)

2 Tbl. Honey (about 40 ml)

2 Tbl. Sunflower oil (about 40 ml)

2 eggs

1 t salt

4 cups all-purpose flour (500g) (plus more for kneading and dusting)

1 egg white + ½ t water for egg wash

 

Pour yeast into a bowl. Add warm water (110 F / 45 c) and honey. Sir and allow to sit for 10 minutes, until the mixture becomes frothy.

Add oil, eggs and salt and blend well. Gradually stir in the flour a little at a time until incorporated.

Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead, incorporating more dough as necessary. Knead dough until it is no longer sticky and is quite elastic - usually around 10 minutes.

Put the dough into an oiled bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Place the bowl in a warm, dry place and let sit until it has risen double in size, about 1 1/2 hours.

Punch dough down and knead slightly to release any air. Divide the dough into 3 pieces and roll each piece out into a snake shape.

To braid the 3 stranded method: Place each piece along side one another, folding the right piece over to the left and the left piece over to the right at the top (photo 1). Lift up the center piece and bring the left piece over to the right to start braiding as though braiding hair. Keep braiding until you reach the end. Tuck the left piece over the right and the right piece over the left as in the beginning.

Place the braided bread onto an oiled baking sheet. Cover with the damp cloth and let sit for a ½ hour until risen. (* This second rising really adds dimension, air and girth to the loaf)

Create the egg wash by mixing a teaspoon of water with an egg yolk. Brush onto the bread making sure to reach the crevices. (* You can also use an egg yolk mixed with water for the wash. It creates a darker, more golden crust. I personally just prefer the egg white)

Bake the loaf in a 375F (190c) preheated oven for about 40 minutes until golden brown. When it is fully cooked, the loaf should sound hollow when tapped. Allow to cool before serving.

Introducing, A Delicious Life; my new lifestyle blog

Happy New Year!

I had decided that for 2014 I wanted to relaunch my blog and get away from focusing on my life as an Expat and more onto adding fun and sparkle to my life. So I came up with "Project Fabulous" a sort of challenge / make-over journey to upgrade my life. At first it sounded like an amazing way to keep me accountable and to follow through. Then this morning, I woke up in a dire panic. It no longer sounded fun, but in fact kind of dreadful and a bit like adding another "chore" to my life. Wasn't the idea of refocusing my blog supposed to be fun? A way to make everyday a bit more magical?

So, I introduce "A Delicious Life". This will instead be a fun, carefree journey to make my life more inspired, more playful and all around more yummy. And hopefully add some fun new ideas to your life as well. The title is a play on words on going through life with the name "Candi" combined with living in the Netherlands and the love of the Dutch word "lekker" which means "tasty" or "delicious". Lekker is probably one of the most used words in the Dutch language (which I'm currently studying) and can be used in any context from a meal being "lekker" to "lekker weer" (delicious weather). So why not make every day more delicious? That definitely sounds fun to me!

In addition to being a food writer and finishing up my first novel, I love to cook, bake bread, entertain, knit sweaters, make clothes and drink wine. So this blog will be a little bit of everything- bits and pieces that add up to one delicious life.

Thank you so much for reading and I hope you tune in and come along on this journey. Best wishes for a fabulous 2014!

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Rediscovering Fabulous

The other day I had a thought that has been nagging me ever since. As I typed a user name into a website, it dawned on me. For as long as I can remember, my username has been "fabulouscandiland". I've used this since I got my first email address back in 1997 from Yahoo and have been using it ever since. The problem is that though I type "fabulous" countless times a day, I feel anything but.

In my 20's I went to fashion school and then spent my evenings getting paid to dance in the hottest clubs in Miami Beach. I'd spend hours making glamorous costumes that I got to strut on stage, on tables, on bars- any surface would do to showcase my fabulous creations.

Later on I moved to LA where I was known for outlaw, impromptu fashion shows and throwing innovative  soirees at my pad- most notable one called 'Fidel Navidad'- a Cuban Paramilitary Christmas Party. Guests drank mojitos while salsa dancing and I wore a slinky Latin-inspired cocktail dress that I made that afternoon and my boyfriend at the time dressed as Fidel Castro.

Then I spent 3 years traveling the world teaching others to throw fabulous parties all while dressing up, getting inspired, living glamorously and seeing the world.

But now I find myself living in a small village in the north of the Netherlands, working at home and sporting jeans and a ponytail day after day. What happened to fabulous?

To me fabulous has always been more than just an outfit, or a look or an adjective. But rather, "fabulous" is a way of life. Waking up each day excited about what you are going to discover, taking the time to look good (and feel good), having fun get-togethers that you come away from feeling invigorated. Finding the beauty in the everyday. It's not becoming complacent and God forbid, ordinary.

Though I did take a huge plunge this year and moved across the world, I seem to have lost my sparkle. I'm spending most of my time writing about food and wine and learning Dutch that I am forgetting to play, to dress up, to discover. I'm completely not living glamour in the everyday.

I'm taking this as a wake-up call and a new focus for 2014- rediscovering (and reclaiming) Fabulous.

Sharp Knives Make For Better Cooking

As someone who seems to be always chopping something to cook, I was looking around for a way to easily sharpen my favorite knife. The fabulous Food Republic site posted an article using the bottom of a ceramic coffee mug to create a qucickly sharpened knife. Simply turn the mug over onto your kitchen counter. Holding your knife at a 30 degree angle, place the blade against the small ring of bare ceramic and pull your knife down running the edge against the ring. Do this a few times on each side. I tried it! Low and behold- it works wonders! Happy Chopping!

Exploring the Netherlands: South Limburg

I took a weekend off from my daily life of Dutch school and food writing and my boyfriend and I headed to the Southern part of the Netherlands. We picked out our mini-vacantie spot funny enough based on hotel availability from a discounted hotel offer we bought at one of the local stores. Being a Virgo and a planner, this was the first time I really ever took off for a destination not knowing much about it or planning eons in advance. But the province of Limburg exceeding any non-expectations I had. In an otherwise flat country, this region features rolling hills amongst an endless array of beautiful greenery , old castles and forts, rivers and lakes. We even stopped into Belgium and went to "Drielandedpunt"- the point where the Netherlands meets Germany and Belgium. I definitely plan on exploring this region more in depth especially Valkenburg- a beautiful old city that features castles, forts, caves and a charming old shopping district with terrace after terrace of glorious restaurants.

The rolling hills of Limburg, the Netherlands. 

The rolling hills of Limburg, the Netherlands. 

Drielandedpunt where the Netherlands meets Germany and Belgium.  

Drielandedpunt where the Netherlands meets Germany and Belgium.  

A castle in Limburg. 

A castle in Limburg. 

The beautiful town of Valkenburg.  

The beautiful town of Valkenburg.  

Extraordinary Busyness and a Change in Focus

Hello Love!

Wow, it has been a while! I have been missing my blog and writing posts. I finally started Dutch school in early August. I had an intense month of daily Dutch classes where I happily learned more to say than "Roken is dodelijk" and "Ik ben Candi". I also learned a ton about sentence structure and writing Dutch though sadly my dreams of composing anything other that a grocery shopping list in het Naderlands, have been madly dashed!

Going back to school also coincided with a brand spankin' new food writing gig for such sites as ehow and Global Post. Though the research has been delicious, I went from all the free time in the world to having barely any.

My Birthday was September 11th. My first Birthday officially living in the Netherlands. It was chock full of fun including a party in a tent and loads of great presents. I am so grateful! 

So with the start of my new year, I have decided to upgrade my life in many ways. For starters, I dyed my hair (pictures soon to follow), bought new clothes, finished my studio and have made a few incredible new friends.

I have also decided that though I know I am an American in the Netherlands, and that I will always be an "Expat", I just no longer want to be an outsider. Yes, this chick from Miami has decided to embrace Dutch life. Hence the change in focus of my life and of this blog. And that is one of the main reasons I haven't written of late. I started this blog as an adventure in being an American in another land. Then realized that as long as I keep writing like an Expat, I'll forever remain an outsider.  

I'm still on the fence of what fully I want to focus this blog on. I may just stay true to myself and post about my colorful life. Either way, I truly hope you will tune in. All 3 of you! 

 

MIA and Things I Love

I realized yesterday that it has been eons since I wrote a blog post. This month my goal was to finally finish my novel but life got in the way in the form of nursing an injured boyfriend, painting my studio, registering for school and working on a way to finally get paid to write. So my novel has taken to the back burner. Isn't it interesting that sometimes the most important things in our lives have a way of getting put on hold?

I did get to register for what I am calling "Dutch School" and am anxiously awaiting starting on August 12th. Dutch is a difficult language and though I am understanding more and more each day, I have still yet to grasp the grammar portion of the program. So I am very much looking forward to having the language broken down and demystified and learning more than "Ik ben Candi" (I am Candi) or "Rooken is dodelijk" (Smoking is deadly...)

In other news, my studio is finished and I am over the moon about finally having my own space to write and create. I'll post pictures as I finish with the decor but here is one of my favorite aspects of the space- the view.

 

View of cornfields from my Studio. Netherlands, 2013

View of cornfields from my Studio. Netherlands, 2013

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To get back onto my Gratitude bandwagon, here are a few things I am loving right now: * getting caught in a torrential downpour while out jogging and getting to cross off something from my Life List- #45 run and play in the rain without worrying about getting my hair wet. (Never-mind that I still have about 90 other things on the list, often its the simple things in life you should be grateful for) * watermelon * realizing that over the course of a year, I've lost 30 pounds * buying new clothing because of the weight-loss = priceless * photos of my 88 year old Dad still vibrant as ever- thank you!

 

My Dad and Brother- Seattle, July 2013

My Dad and Brother- Seattle, July 2013

It's Official - I'm Official!

Today is my 4 month Anniversary of living in the Netherlands and I am happy to say that I finally received my Residence Permit! I am now Official. The whole process was pretty painless and I am now good to go until 2018. Now, if learning Dutch were so easy.

My Dutch Residence Permit

My Dutch Residence Permit

Exploring the Netherlands: Amsterdam

Two weekends ago I headed to Amsterdam on a little solo adventure. I had been to this fabulous city before (as well as many hours logged at the Airport) but this was the first time since living here that I boarded a train alone for a mini-vacation.

As an Expat and writer who spends most of my time at home alone, I was really longing to make some new friends. One day I stumbled upon this blog written by another American living in the Netherlands.  Along with her friend, she started an Expat Bloggers Brunch- a group that meets once a month to exchange ideas and generally muss about Expat life in the Netherlands. I got bold and emailed her and invited myself to the gathering.

I am SO glad that I went! It was an amazing experience to meet other Expats who were writers, living in Holland (usually with Dutch boyfriends or husbands) and realize I am not alone.  It was such an inspiring experience, and I truly look forward to cultivating friendships with these fabulous ladies. If you are interested, listed below are their blogs:

Lily Wanderlust, A Georgia Peach, Poppies and Ice Cream, Dutch Tales, HollanDaze, Christa Cordova, Pick the Wild Card, and Awesome Amsterdam.

Canal in Amsterdam, May 2013.

Canal in Amsterdam, May 2013.

Expat Bloggers Brunch in Amsterdam

Expat Bloggers Brunch in Amsterdam

Cheese Shop in Amsterdam.

Cheese Shop in Amsterdam.

Flowers in Amsterdam.

Flowers in Amsterdam.

Exploring the Netherlands: Keukenhof

Last week we ventured off on a little road trip to the Keukenhof. This majestic garden features the most glorious flowers ever. Seriously. In every color of the rainbow, the garden showcased flowers ranging from tulips to lilies to narcissus and even somehow managed to make carnations seem alluring. 

I live in the Northern part of Holland so it was about a 2 and a half hour drive to Lisse all along the way we past fields and fields of colorful tulips in rows as far as the eye can see. I had seen these images featured on postcards but to see it in person was truly something.

We stayed the night on the North Sea (about 15 miles from Lisse) at a beautiful old Hotel- Hotel van Oranje. It was truly a charming little getaway!

(**Please Note that the below photos have not been retouched or enhanced at all, these are actually the colors! Amazing, I know!)

If only my home garden was this fabulous!

If only my home garden was this fabulous!

My favorite colour of tulips.

My favorite colour of tulips.

Me, in a field of tulips.

Me, in a field of tulips.

More glorious flowers...

More glorious flowers...

Queen's Day and an Afternoon in Germany

A few days ago was Queen’s Day and the crowning of the new King. At first I was really excited to be here for the festivities as not everyday you live in a Country where there’s a changing of the guard and a new King (and Queen) is crowned. Especially as an American.  But, we live quite far from Amsterdam where the main festivities were taking place and the idea of hanging out with a million people all day to catch a glimpse of something that you could easily see on TV in the end, didn’t sound very enticing to me. So, instead, we decided to eschew the goings on and head to Germany for the day.

Now you may be thinking why would I give up a once in a lifetime opportunity to party with the masses and celebrate the Royal event? I’m not really sure except that I live really close to the German border and having never been in Germany before I took this opportunity to add another country visited to my list. Plus, I had always wanted     “ to have a beer in Germany” on my bucket list and this gave me a chance to cross it off.

We spent the day in Leer on the River Ems- a really quaint little town about 30 minutes from our house. While walking in the main shopping district I stumbled upon an Asian market. There this American girl in Germany for the Dutch Queen’s Day managed to secure her favorite Miami childhood snack of plantain chips made in Ecuador. How positively International.

And, I got to have my beer in Germany ironically at an American themed restaurant called Hollywood’s.

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For the Love of Pizza

I love to cook and of course adore to eat. One of my favorite foods is Pizza. I once spent a gluttonous 30 days eating my Pizza way through the Mediterranean. I’ve had pizza in Rome, the famed Pizza in Naples and a surprisingly fabulous pizza in Dubrovnik. Though the journey was tantalizing, I must admit that I gained so much weight on that venture that when I returned home to the States my father said to me “You look great but I’ve never seen you with a pot-belly.” Thanks Dad.

So now I reserve pizza for special occasions. I’ve spent the last year on a weight-loss kick and am now happily and healthily down 30 pounds (almost 14 kilos!). Thanks Weight Watchers.

Last night we had my boyfriend’s daughters over for pizza. I made the dough in the afternoon and let it sit then using a pizza stone in the oven, cooked it to delicious perfection.

The recipe is incredibly easy. I really suggest using a pizza stone for the best results.

1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast

1 cup warm water (235 mil)

1 tablespoon white sugar

1 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

3 cups (410 mil) flour, plus more for kneading

Place the yeast in a large mixing bowl. Add warm water and sugar and let sit for about 10 minutes. The mixture should become frothy.

Add olive oil and salt and mix. Gradually add in the flour about a cup at a time stirring to incorporate. Once the mixture starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl, take out and turn onto a floured surface, adding more flour as necessary. Knead 10 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic. Place dough into a large oiled bowl and cover with a damp kitchen towel. Let sit in a warm place until risen and doubled in size, about 1 hour.

When you are ready to make pizza, place the stone into the oven and turn on to the highest setting- about 450-500 degrees F or 250 C.  Let heat about 15 minutes while you make your pizzas.

I’ve found that making smaller pizzas with less sauce and not a ton of toppings work best when using the stone. Top with your favorite ingredients and then slowly slide onto the stone. Bake until crust is golden brown and cheese is melted. Enjoy!

Pizza Love in the Netherlands

Pizza Love in the Netherlands

Adventures in Immigration

And, the Immigration process has finally begun! Thursday the 4th found my boyfriend and I trotting all over the Netherlands, paperwork in tow embarking on my journey of Going Dutch. First stop was Amsterdam and the American Consulate where I had to hold up my right hand and swear to a complete stranger that I am now not married, nor have I ever been. Visions of crazy Vegas vacations past floated through my mind and I thank the Universe that on one of those booze-filled jaunts, I never mistakenly said “I do” under the influence.

We then headed to the IND- the office of the Dutch Immigration. We met with a really nice intake worker who took all our paperwork and got the whole process started. I was incredibly nervous for some reason, though honestly have nothing to hide. Though my grandparents had come to America through Ellis Island, I have never been an immigrant before.  What if for some reason, this doesn’t work out and I’m not allowed to stay here? I’m putting these thoughts aside and focusing on the positive. Of course the Dutch government wants me here- I’m fun! I’m also in love with one of their citizens. They have to let me stay. Right?

I received a letter over the weekend stating that I should have a decision from them by July 4th. I’m taking this as a good sign as it’s the American Independence Day.

The next step in this journey to Integration is waiting for the City Hall in the next village over to receive my paperwork and issue me a BSN number. This is the equivalent to an American Social Security number and with this I can finally enroll in school as well as get Health insurance. I can even open a bank account. I’ll finally be a real person again.

In the meantime, I wait.

The 14,000 Word Writing Journey

In a bout of optimism, I have signed on to a writer's camp for the month of April. Needing a good kick to my writer's booty, I have vowed to complete 14,000 on my novel Out & About- my memoir about my time working on cruise ships. Today is the first day of this new writing adventure. I'm happy to report that it is mid-afternoon and I have already completed 1,152 words today. Here's hoping the rest of the journey is just as productive. Wish me Luck!