The first few years that we lived in America, we did not quite get the while Thanksgiving holiday thing. We generally used those extra days off to go camping or take a mini vacation. On our 3rd Thanksgiving, we realized not only were we eating spaghetti, but we had spaghetti on thanksgiving day for the past 3 years. It was never planned but it just turned out like that. Since then, we have embraced the tradition of making a feast - with a few Dutch touches. Our first Thanksgiving in America, we went to New York City. This was the year after 9/11 so we did visit the memorial. One day, we were just walking along and we come upon this parade with huge balloons. It was cool to see and we stayed for a while. Afterwards, we went on with our day as usual and had spaghetti at one of the few restaurants that was open that day. It was not until years later when we were hearing about the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade that we realized that is what we saw. This Thanksgiving I got to see the parade up close and personal when my friend Vicki who is the event coordinator for the major's office gave me 2 tickets for the bleachers at Columbus Circle for my boyfriend and I. We had to get up super early to be there but it was worth it! What a great New York City Thanksgiving!
Ice Age! This made the whole crowd laugh. Everyone was like "haha, get it - he's chasing the acorn" (that's his thing in the movies and the little short films they do before). It was a great start to the parade.
Here's a Power Ranger doing the dance to Single Ladies:
Here's Daughtry reminding you to eat avocados:
My favorite: Pikachu! Pokemon was a huge part of my childhood (my brother, sister and I were major traders in our neighborhood in the Netherlands - I'm not kidding) and Pikachu is adorable although Polywag was my favorite. Now it's Charizard. A fire-breathing dragon is definitely the coolest.
The Ocean Spray dudes!
Mariah Carrey. The crowd went nuts over her. She was the only celebrate who was sitting down.
And, off course, Mr. and Mrs. Claus as the grand finale:
I'm so glad we got to go see the parade and we made a great Thanksgiving dinner when we got home. Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, corn, crescent rolls, cranberries and gravy. I woud have been fine with spaghetti but it was delicious! Our New York City Thanksgiving was a success but I can't wait to see our families for Christmas soon.
My boyfriend and I went to a wedding in the Bahamas on Halloween and this is the dress I made to wear for it. Also, I need to stop making dresses that require a lot of handwork and result in me staying up crazy late hand buning the edges of chiffon flowers with birthday candles. I made a sheath dress with an open back, tulle skirt overlay and flower appliqués.
Yes, that's me in my pjs on the left and the tackiest/most charming bathroom ever below while I try on the Muslin (a proof fit of a cheap cotton material called Muslin that you make to find any errors and check the fit. If you are using a fabric that has different qualities than Muslin, use a cheap version of the fabric you are using):
These are the stupid flowers that took me forever to make.
The finished dress:
I got my shoes and bag at DSW for awesome deals. I went there for shoes only with my mom but when I glanced over at the bags I saw this one that reminded me of Dutch Masters paintings and I couldn't pass it up. I like that it breaks up the colors of the dress and adds an element of surprise. I love surprises.
Sinterklaas is back in the Netherlands and after a rough week in the world between Kenya, Lebanon and Paris, I decided to make some traditional Dutch treats eaten between mid November to December 5th when Sinterklaas is in the country. Sinterklaas is St. Nicholas and is where the concept of Santa Claus came from (the Dutch - not the Germans - don't let anyone tell you otherwise) brought this tradition to America and it was later morphed into the current concept of Santa). Sinterklaas was a former holy man from the area of Turkey who used to bring clothes to poor children and freed slaves. Story goes that after being freed, these former slaves decided to help St.Nicholas carry out his work. Currently, Sinterklaas and his helpers (Zwarte Piet - Black Pete) live in his mansion in Spain. Mid-November they sail on a huge steamboat with presents and candy for all of the children in the Netherlands. This event actually takes place and is broadcasted on national television. A city is chosen in advance and the major of this city will greet Sinterklaas and lead him and his helpers through the city. From this day until December 5th when Sinterklaas gives presents to kids on his birthday, you can put your shoe by the chimney - or a door if your house does not have one - and sing songs and put some water or carrots for Sinterklaas' horse and in the morning, it will be filled with traditional candy and/or treats. It's amazing.
Below is a picture of my brother, sister and I (I'm on the left) at the annual Sinterklaas event in our neighborhood where all of the kids in the area get to personally meet Sinterklaas and his helpers a few days before the night where we get presents from his. The look on my brother's face basically sums up how exciting this whole Sinterklaas ordeal is.
Since you cannot get pepernoten in the States unless you order them from a place like this, here is a recipe to make your own.
The first step is making Speculaas mix. If you have this, you can skip this step. Here is what you need:
3 3/4 tbsp cinnamon
1 1/4 tbsp nutmeg
1 1/4 tbsp ground cloves
little less than 2 tsp anise (if you can, buy powdered because it was a pain to grind these seeds since I do not have a pestle and mortar)
little less than 2 tsp white pepper
little less than 2 tsp ground coriander
little less than 1/4 tsp ginger
Grind all ingredients - they should be powder - and mix them together. This will make about 6 tbsp. For the pepernoten, you only need 1 1/2 so save your extra!
2 cups flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup PLUS 2 tbsp dark brown sugar
7 tbsp chilled butter
3 1/2 tbsp milk
1 1/2 tbsp speculaas mix
1. Preheat oven to 340 degrees fahrenheit.
2. Beat butter until it is soft
3. Add the flour, baking powder, salt, dark brown sugar, milk and speculaas mix to the butter and kneed with your hands until it is fully mixed.
4. Roll little balls (a good rule of thumb is how much dough you can pick up just between your thump and index finger) and put them on a lined baking sheet.
5. Press down lightly
6. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes ( I couldn't fit all of the pepernoten on one sheet so I did a smalls second batch).
Traditionally, pepernoten are mixed with a few different candies but since I could not find any of those here, I just threw in some English Licorice (all-sorts) because they're delicious.
My amazing sister has mastered Dominique Ansel'd Mini Madeleines and I helped her make a batch last time we both visited our parents. And by help, I mean watch and take pictures. You can find the recipe here but I highly recommend getting his cookbook. It's fantastic! It's the same cookbook we used when we made out attempt at his at-home Cronuts.
Get your ingredient together (and make sure you have a mini madeleine pan!) and prep your batter the day before you plan on making the madeleines.
The recipe calls for incorporating the eggs by making a well in the center of the flour.
This fun video is a great tool to reference how to do this. Start at time 2:29 and enjoy!
Add the butter, brown sugar and honey mixture and then add the orange and lemon zest.
Leave the batter in the refrigerator covered overnight. The next day you are ready to made delicious mini madeleines!
It will take several batches to use all of the batter. It took us 5 but they only take about 10 minutes each so it goes very fast. Just a warning - you may end up eating half to a full batch as you are baking because ether are amazing fresh out of the oven. Depending on the type of honey you use, the middle of the madeleines can puff up in the middle - this is normal so no worries.
Dip those suckers in chocolate if you'd like to turn it up a notch. The madeleines are actually super flavorful on their own but we wanted to add colorful sprinkles and chocolate was the best way to do that.
At the end of October, my boyfriend and I went to Paradise Island on Nassau, Bahamas for his cousin's wedding (which was amazing and beautiful). The wedding was October 31st and since we met 10 years ago that day (we met on Halloween 2015), we decided to go a few days early to enjoy Paradise Island by ourselves. Here are some highlights of that trip:
We stayed in the Royal Towers at the Atlantis and while pretty much everything at the hotel was expensive, it was a beautiful and fun resort. It basically felt like a huge theme park with slides and pools and lots to explore. There's also a beach and a casino. From the airport, we took taxi instead of paying $35/pp for the Atlantis shuttle. A taxi is $36 for 2 people so I don't know why you would opt for the shuttle. The cabs are right outside the airport. They are unmarked but if you ask anyone, they will help you. Our cab ride was great and the driver was eager to tell us fun facts about the island.
The roof of the lobby:
The view from our room:
The mayan temple with the 'Leap of Faith' slide and two others. You slide down at about 80 degrees, it's awesome!
The aquarium at the resort. It's free admission and it's a great aquarium.
We played a few dollars on the slot machines and while I didn't actually win anything, I did find a $100 chip on the floor! And no, I did not gamble it, I cashed that sucked and pocketed the money.
After exploring the resort the first day and going on a bunch of slides, we went to downtown Nassau to get a sense of the culture. We went to Queen's Staircase and walked from there to the area where the cruise port is and Junkanoo Beach. Keep in mind that the locals WILL try to get your money any way possible. I'm not saying they will steal it but they will try to get you to buy anything. Do not fall for it and do not accept the price they give you if you do choose to buy something.
One of the days we ate at this place called Twin Brothers and it was delicious! I definitely recommend it!
Kalik is one of their local beers. They also have a local cocktail type drink called Fayou that is delicious. It comes in pear and pineapple and the pear was my favorite.
I discovered I love Pina Coladas! Also, the ocean water is crazy blue in Nassau!
The beach at the resort. So beautiful. I didn't want to leave.
Seeing how everything at the Atlantis is expensive and all reasonable places to eat close by around 5pm and the reasonable restaurants are closed during off season I HIGHLY recommend getting most of your food in downtown Nassau. It was a $12 ride from the resort and a full meal is about $6-$12 as opposed to $60+ at the resort. Keep in mind, however, that the rooms do not have a microwave or real refrigerator. The moon has a mini fridge packed with things you have to pay for with a tiny area left over for your own items - it fits about 2 bottles of water. The local food is absolutely delicious and consists of mainly rice and peas, jerk chicken (more barbecue than Jamaican chicken - it's fantastic), some seafood like conch fritters (I tried them for the first time at Twin Brothers and they were delicious), and this great macaroni casserole that's their version of mac and cheese but a million times better. They have plenty of other dishes but these were my favorite.
About the Author
Born and raised in the Netherlands, I now work as a designer in NYC. I love trying new things, candy and the color orange. In this blog, I will post about things I've learned and things I love. Veel plezier!