Saturday, August 31, 2013

Labor Day Dishes to Share- Asian Noodles & Appetizers

Happy Labor Day Weekend! The official end of the American summer is here. It seems everyone has deserted town for that last three day getaway before fall.  We love staying in town on those weekends and enjoying the extra time for gatherings with friends and family.

Thank you Jen for this fab plate!

I'm not a big entertainer, but I have found having a small repetoire of go to dishes takes the stress out of it. If I am hosting here or bringing a dish to a party I usually do an appetizer plate with olives, herbed salami, honeyed goat cheese, rosemary crackers, and grapes or figs, depending on what's in season. I'm all about it being pretty and I have a beautiful plate from my friend Jen that I love to use for this. I also like tiny ramekins to hold the items and cute cheese knives.

 One of my best go to side dishes for get togethers is an Asian noodle salad. I have been meaning to share this for a while per a few requests. This is my Aunt Wendy's recipe and she and my grandmother love entertaining big groups. Some of her and grandmother's recipes serve 100! No one goes away hungry from a Fleming gathering! Everyone loves this and even my friends call this Aunt Wendy's noodles.

The great thing about this salad is it's easily doubled and tripled. I keep the ingredients on hand most of the time. The only thing fresh it needs is cilantro. In it's basic form it feeds up to 10. Wonderful to bring to a big gathering if you double it.  I thought this would be a good one for Labor Day should you need a dish to bring along...

Asian Noodle Salad

1/2 C cooking oil (I use canola or any basic oil.)

6 T sesame oil  (Try to get toasted if you can.)

1/2- 1 tsp. crushed red pepper

Stir these 3 items over medium heat for a minute or so. Off the heat and add:

6 T honey

1/4 C soy sauce

2 tsp. salt

Put mixture aside. Cook 1 pound angel hair pasta, drain, toss with oil mixture. Ideally, let refrigerate overnight or cool for a while then add just before serving:

1/2 C chopped peanuts

1/4 C chopped fresh cilantro leaves

2 T toasted sesame seeds

This dish can be changed to your tastes. My aunt also adds green onions and about a teaspoon more of pepper than I do which makes it a lot spicier.

I guarantee you will have a lot of fans for this dish!

 Wherever you are, I wish you a beautiful last summer weekend!

Thanks for reading!


Thanks Aunt Wendy for the recipe! xxoo

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Shop Talk- The Small Motorcycle Jacket

Kate of course.

Have I said this before? I just adore fall! The weather, back to school and the rebooting of the home and getting closets refreshed too. Now that I have a bit of freedom again I had a chance to shop a bit.  I'm not keen on buying a lot of  new fall clothes when it still feels like summer, but I like to peruse the offerings! I think it pays to wait to buy things in October or even November when we start to really need them and they are often discounted by then. In the back to school spirit though, and after purging the closets, I like to get one or two new things that will work for fall. 

Something that's been on my radar for is a motorcycle jacket. One benefit to suffering the chilly  summer weather on our Europe trip was the chance to see the stylish European gals in their cold weather clothes. It seemed all the cute girls (I still want to look like a cute girl), had fitted motorcycle jackets and were just very cool. I loved how stylish this gal in London above was and the mom in Amsterdam below.

Copenhagen Cycle Chic

My first reaction to leather jackets is been there, done that.  Having worn one a few years ago, okay um, maybe decades, not so appealing. However, many of these new style jackets are not leather, in fact many are polyurethane of some sort mixed with stretch material often on the arms and sides. It makes for a chic fitted and more moveable look. You cannot tell either until you look at the price tag. Seriously, they feel and look quite real. They are much less expensive and best part to me, vegan! Wearing a big piece of leather is almost kind of creepy to me now. So when someone sniffs and asks is that real leather, you can put on a shocked face and say,"Oh no, it's vegan. I wouldn't dream of wearing leather!" :D

Hate selfies and not good at them, but here's what I found:

Trying this simpler style with a longer shirt under and distressed jeans. These jeans are Rich and Skinny brand (don't I wish) and they have been my faves all summer. Super comfy.

A tan version. This one has more pockets and details- also zip sleeves that can be cuffed back. 

 Adding boots and scarves to see if this will work for winter as well.

The good news in the shopping department is that if you get out there now, there's some darling offerings for pretty good prices. A pal and I ran across these jackets at TJ Maxx this week, and also spotted a some at Nordstrom and just about everywhere. At these prices, $39 for the black and $49 for the tan, I may keep both and  give my wardrobe a little more rock n'roll for fall. At my age, it could be better than botox. (And no I haven't gone that route yet!! Two years away from 50 and still holding out.) 

Dress like you have some style mojo, have a fabulous haircut and color and it will do more for you than all the fillers out there. You know? At least that's what I have seen of the women I admire.

What's your thoughts on these little jackets? A fan or not? And what about, "pleather" or whatever they are calling the new vegan versions of these?

To get you inspired. . .

link Reese in a jacket similar to the black one I found. Perfect for dressy nights.



Lost the link for this is anyone knows.  I find this darling with the tough jacket/sweet dress.

Harper's Bazaar

SJP via Daily Mail

link Love everything about this!

link Perfect summer/fall transition look.
Blake Lively via Pinterest. A rerun, but I adore this look.

Harper and Harley This isn't short, but this is so cute.

One thing that makes the shorter jackets work is the longer tops underneath, so you get a layered and more modern look.

Harper's Bazaar 

Sara Strand blog This mix of heel, baseball hat and jacket just adorbs.
models on the street

                  The mix of tennis shoes like converse or vans with the jackets is fresh.


X Kim

More links and images available on my Pinterest Board Thinking About Fall Already. . .

Sunday, August 25, 2013

I Heart Amsterdam

Hello friends! I apologize for this last installment of my Europe trip being so late. Things got crazy there at the end of summer and then school started and everything else took a backseat for a while! I was dying to find time to write these last trip posts!

 If you are interested in the preceding parts of this trip, my travel posts from England are here in part 1part 2part 3, and part 4 and Belgium in part 5

Making our way from Belgium to the Netherlands, I just had to share the beauty of the Antwerp train station, which was our transfer point.

Amazing! ( Sorry phone photo here.) This does not even show the gorgeous ceilings or the outside of this beauty. This station, built in 1895, was slated for demolition. After WWII, many of Europe's rail stations fell into disrepair and neglect with the advent of the evil car and lack of money. I cannot even imagine taking such a lovely place down. Luckily, it was saved and restored in the 1980s. On a related note, a fabulous flash mob of doing some Sound of Music was filmed here! If you haven't seen it, you can here. It gives me those warm fuzzies. I know I'm kind of a nerd like that.

Our itinerary was Bruges to Amsterdam by rail, but as we were checking our tickets booked online, we noticed we were given a 7 minute window to transfer trains in Antwerp. Hmm, probably not going to happen I thought. 

First of all, the Antwerp train station is four stories of trains! Secondly, Northern European trains are on time. (This is not Italy people. Just saying.) There was no way we were going to make that connection!  We actually hit the ground running with all of our stuff, kids backpacks, earphones, biscuits packages and jackets flying and got there just as the train pulled out... Lol.

Another bummer was this was the first day, (a Saturday) of the European summer vacation for schools. Madness! Everyone was off somewhere and all trains were previously booked....So, the train folks admitted their scheduling error and sympathetically let us ride in the bar car! Not so horrible for an hour.. A nice gentleman thought we were funny and took a photo of us..

Well, we made it there and it was worth all the hassle! 

The boys and I in front of the Rijkmuseum.

Did I mention this trip was cold? It was freezing cold by wimpy Californian standards. I packed at home in 95 degree heat and though my brain knew I should pack warmer clothes for late June, I didn't pack much- hence me wearing my pashmina/blanket thingy I usually keep for the airplane. I was happy to have it and wore it most days on top of my jacket. We only got warmer weather the last 2 days of the trip. It stayed in the 50s cool and windy and damp most of this trip. Let this be a tip if you go here in summer! Pack for warmth!

 Basically wearing a blanket. Not sure how chic that was, but I hate being cold!

Amsterdam is the land of the bicycle and don't you know it the second you hit town. We were first astounded at the 4-story parking structure at the train station that was just for bikes!! Bikes are everywhere and they have a sophisticated bike infrastructure with bike traffic lights and designated paths as well as many streets that are mainly for bikes. 

Amsterdam train station- google images.
If you forgot where you parked your bike you may never find it. This is just the train station and they are building more bike spots here.

 We were amazed by all the kids and families on bikes. Look how they fit the kids in these fun wheelbarrow contraptions or the Dutch call them, bakfiets! My kids would have loved these when they were small. Of course most Americans will cringe at the thought of their child not being strapped or sealed in!

Loved this guy and their little dog!

Cute couples seemed to be everywhere.

Most people had these generic black bikes and a milk crate wired to it. There are no fancy bikes anywhere and no helmets ever! People are amazing bikers here. They are fast and so used to it that couples even hold hands and bike side by side.

Don't you love both the men's bright pants here? People dressed beautifully in Amsterdam. It's a very stylish city.

 Families share bikes like this mother and her daughters going into the tunnels that run under the Rijksmuseum.

This was a grandmother with her daughter and granddaughter .

Amsterdam has 800,000 people and 880,000 bikes. It is estimated that 70% of all trips or errands are done on bicycle. It wasn't always this way. In the 1970s the country began to invest in biking. There was a really interesting article about how biking became so popular in the Netherlands here on BBC news magazine. The Dutch also believe there is safety in numbers, which I am sure is true.

 If they aren't on wheels than they are pushing them. I loved this stylish little gal and her dolly.

On every gate or fence or space a bike is chained to it. I'm not kidding about that.

As a bike rider myself, I would be quite intimidated to ride here as a tourist! Dutch biker speed is fast! You should see the corners they take, with kids as well! I saw quite a few near misses and you have to be careful not to walk on the bike paths.

Griffin running from under the Rijksmuseum tunnels. Sadly we did not get to the Rijksmuseum on this trip, but we stayed in this area called the museum district and it was a terrific location, close to the canals, shopping district and all the museums in this vicinity.

In front of the museum there are huge letters spelling Amsterdam that people love to pose on.

Much of Amsterdam reminded me of New York with it's leafy streets and tall brick houses.

It was just beautiful. I loved wandering here.

Flowers are grown where you least expect it.

Flower boxes are on most of the bridges!

So much to do here, but we only had two full days. We wandered the city and checked out the flower market, shops and restaurants.

The front of the Rijkmuseum.  This and the Van Gogh Museum are about a block apart.

The Amsterdam flower market was interesting and was huge.  Fun shopping here.  Grif was intrigued by the solar butterflies. They have Delftware for sale in the stands and nearby on the main shopping street, Kalverstraat, which is for pedestrians only.

They sell tiny pygmy orange trees in canisters here. Orange is the official color of the Netherlands and it makes a good little souvenir. You can bring it home and plant it. (Okay, mine's still in the can.)

This hammock store was pretty cool.

The cheese shops also line the flower market. Don't skip stopping here and sampling! We brought home a wonderful wheel of gouda.

These antique dealers enjoying the sun and some wine. We loved their vintage steam liner chairs!

The bathroom is a store. That's right. Hilarious to us.

Can you read this sign? Sure he did. :/

One of the best meals we had on this trip was here at Cafe Loetje. It's near the museum district and is a favorite of the locals.  Salads were huge and food was very good. Wonderful outdoor dining and fun bar. People were so nice!

They also have a cat. I think his name was Arthur. This family was trying to snap his photo as he sat on the chair with them He also sat next to me on the bar. Great fries here. Don't forget to have fries. I ate them every day - also beer. And waffles! Food is just a huge part of the fun experience here!!

Speaking of food, on the Kalverstraat shopping street, we stumbled across this gem just about lunch time. It's not far from the flower markets.

Behold the best grocery store I have ever entered, La Place. Just some of the samplings in the prepared food area. . .

 The foods you could bring home or eat there were amazing. They had soup stations, bread stations, an Asian wok station, and I could go on and on!

Focaccia by the foot!

Grab and go juices made in house.

We all picked something delicious and sat upstairs where it feels like you are in someone's home.
The lunch area has beautiful marble tables and furniture.

My lunch was this olive focaccia and a citron presse soda. If I could only have this near my home! 

Something that's a must in Amsterdam is the Anne Frank House. I have wanted to go since I was young.  Make sure you go online and make an appointment if you plan to do this. Booking online before,  you can go to a special door and walk right in. The lines go around the block and you may have to wait several hours if you don't make an appointment.

Visiting the Anne Frank House was one of the highlights of this trip. Words can't describe the impression it leaves on you. I think it's something everyone should do.  For my boys, ages 15 and 11, this was the right age to do this. I was hoping they would get some perspective and better understanding about what happened during the war from this. My oldest said that he felt this made it (in his words),  really, real- seeing her experience from her room. 

You do climb into the real rooms Anne and the others hid in and they are in their original shape, untouched after all this time. Anne's wall is still decorated with movie stars photos and other things that a young 15 year old girl would be obsessed with at the time. That really got to me as did seeing her diaries. The museum does a good job of keeping the dialogue going as you move through and eventually end up in a place where you can ask yourself if people in the world today are suffering the same way.

The one thing I did buy was a postcard of Anne at 15, her last photo. I keep this on my bulletin board so I will not forget.

Another must do is a canal ride. It's a great way to see more of Amsterdam. If you go on a Saturday or Friday afternoon and it's sunny, it's even more fun. When the sun shines here, everyone comes outdoors. I mean everyone. If they aren't on the canals in some floating form, then they are on every doorstep or canal edge with their own chairs and bottles of wine and food. It's a city-wide party when the sun is out and crazier still on the water!

Some interesting sightings....

Bridal shower boat?

Loved their wicker chairs! Looked like an after work float.

This cute couple rigged up their hammock near the canal edge.

You can see above the block party atmosphere starting. I wish I took a photo when we were trapped in boat gridlock so you could see all the watercraft and rafts! It was fun though. Everyone had music playing and it was like a huge party. I have to say, people here know how to enjoy life. It's also a great city to be young in. The water is like one big cruising area.

Many of the boats are houseboats and have their own gardens! Love the boxwood and black paint here.

Boxwood is popular all over the city.

I  also adored the lacquered doors that are everywhere.

Another boxwood adorned and more modern canal home below.

 Unique to Amsterdam is the very narrow canal houses. A long time ago, homeowners were taxed according to the width of their homes, so home were built as narrow and tall as possible.

The narrowness of these homes is the reason you will see that all houses have a hook on the top to pull furniture through the windows! Many of the canal houses were built in the 17th century and the canal house area is now a Unesco World Heritage site.

I hated leaving Amsterdam. There was so much to still see. I feel like we barely scratched the surface. I also adored the Dutch people who were so kind and friendly. 

Getting this far across the world, I like to take a few things home with me to remember my trip. One thing I bought that I really love was this Delftware tile. The blue and white pottery that is original to the Delft region of Holland is everywhere. So beautiful.


 It sits in my kitchen window now and it makes me think of our trip.

The shop where I bought it tied these tiny Dutch shoes on my package and I love these!

I popped into H&M while I was there and I couldn't help being attracted to this tunic. It so reminded me of all the beautiful Delft all over the city. I had to buy it.

Of course we also brought home stroopwaffles and Dutch cookies. A wonderful place to get these is right at their own grocery, Albert Heijn. They are less expensive plus I just love browsing foreign grocery stores. Always interesting to see what they have.

Next door to our hotel was a fancy designer end shopping district, PC Hooftstraat. My husband and I went one afternoon to check it out. It was disappointing to see Cartier, Gucci, Tiffany, LV and the like.   The last thing I want to buy on my travels is something from the mall at home.

 It's so much more fun to scope out things original to the area you are visiting. We were just about to leave the street when I spied a cute store called Lifestyles. It was like a Pottery Barn with a Dutch flair. I loved it! They had wonderful candles, woven accessories, table linens and even tunics and scarves and totes. I bought a pretty candle and another tunic at the summer sale. I was thrilled to get items that were totally unique for me.  Do you not agree about that when shopping abroad?

Thanks for patiently sticking with this blog during my slow month!  I'm back up to speed and my final trip installment with Germany is still to come! Thanks for reading!