PRIDE on the Amsterdam Canals

[click on any image to view larger]

In NYC, the Pride parade marches along 5th Avenue. In New Orleans, its the streets of the obvious French Quarter. Always on the street, always in June.

Hop on over to Amsterdam in August and experience the parade on the water. Come on, its Amsterdam…you had to figure it was a bike or a boat, right? The parade of barges and boats begins at the top of the Prinsengracht and then cuts up the Amstel River before ending around the Oosterdok. And this is when living on the canal (or knowing someone who knows someone!) has advantages. We were fortunate to be a +2 add-on with our friends and enjoy the parade from their colleague’s canal house.  This meant the luxury of a clean bathroom and not having to improvise our own vantage point like these two.

We missed the parade last year as we were stateside, but I heard it was a washout with rain. This year, the day began with sunny skies—quite a rarity this summer—and the Prinsengracht was packed with spectators along the canal walls on foot and boat.

Some had choreographed dances…

Some a color theme…

And several with confetti…

And if you were a large barge, you required a boat on the front to steer:

And one on the back to push:

A good time was being had by all, and then Amsterdam had to be AmsterDAM[n].

However, the celebration on the boats continued!

After about 15 minutes of hard rain and high winds, the clouds moved on and the umbrellas were folded.

The week was filled with various events around the city, but the Saturday parade was certainly the highlight.  The night before, we also attended the Drag Queen Olympics.  Quite interesting!  I did’t have my camera on hand (shocker, I know), but you can catch some great photos and video posted on my friend’s blog by clicking here.

All fun times come to an end, but I’ll leave you with some other parade fotos…and a promise to have updates from Italy posted soon.  CLICK HERE for foto slideshow.


En route to Varenna, Lake Como


[July 9, 2010]

Day 2

A quick breakfast, a stop at the local bodega for provisions and we are on the road—Lake Como or bust!  It wasn’t long before we hit the Swiss border and we could sense the Italian Lakes getting closer.  While August is typically a busy month for many Europeans to take holiday, it was quite obvious several were getting a jump start in July.  Nearly every other vehicle from The Netherlands, Belgium, or France had in tow either a camper, a set of bicycles, a roof box, or all of the above.

Once through the queue and across the Swiss border, the scenery was lush and mountainous.  Quite a change in topography having come from the Dutch “low lands”.  Driving through the Swiss Alps also meant navigating long dark tunnels (usually backed up with traffic) in order to slice through the terrain.  Day 2 of this stop-and-go traffic was again unkind to G’s feet enduring several crawling hours of clutch-brake-gas-clutch-gas-gas-clutch-brake-clutch-brake-gas-clutch-brake.

As signs for Lugano were appearing, we were soon rewarded with our first glimpse of the Italian Lakes with sunny views of Lake Lugano.  Lake Lugano splits the Swiss/Italian border and soon after crossing we had some extremely narrow and winding streets with high stone walls which no U.S. SUV would have cleared and retained both side view mirrors.  Continuing east-ish, we wriggled down the hill to reach the ferry landing at Menaggio on the western shore of Lake Como.  G brought the car to the queue while I purchased a ticket to cross the lake on the next ferry to Varenna.  Having been sheltered in the cool A/C of the car for several hours, I nearly melted when I went to the ticket window.  WOW, it’s hot here.

We were the last car to squeak in on the ferry and the cool breeze during the ride across was more than welcome as we stood on the deck and soaked up the panoramic views as we crossed the heart of Lake Como.  In about 15 minutes we arrived in Varenna.  Our next challenge was managing 10 hairpin turns (G calls them switchbacks) to whirl up the hill and reach our apartment.  We were both a bit nauseous from the twists and turns; but when we walked in, the views to accompany our home cooked meal were more than worth it.



*pardon fuzzy fotos from moving vehicle*

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On the road again…

[July 8, 2011]

Day 1

We have hit the road for our long summer holiday. Long both in length and driving distance. This trip brings us again to a few picturesque areas (with great food and wine of course!) in a country we’ve yet to explore together…Italia! First stop is Lake Como, followed by Florence, and wrapped up with a weekend in Cinque Terre. Fortunately there will be a lot of walking and biking to burn all the wonderful calories we plan to consume.

Friday afternoon began our traffic filled stop-and-go drive to our half-way point:  Strasbourg, France. Strasbourg is just over the German border and well known for their Christmas markets. Spending barely over 12 hours in Strasbourg, we managed to squeeze in a great meal, a post dinner walk through the center, and a few winks of sleep.

Hopefully I’ll stay a bit more timely with updates about this trip than I did with our excursion in northern Spain last summer. Here are a few shots from Strasbourg. More to come as we eat our way through Italy!



Crossing the bridge into "Petite-France"

Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-Strasbourg

Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-Strasbourg

Walking off dinner

Family comes to town

After a very long hiatus from my blog, I am now trying to catch up with several overdue posts! Despite many rainy days over here, somehow those fun rainy day projects were upstaged by tasks of must-do-now. G’s parents recently came for a visit and we managed to squeeze in 4 countries in just 12 days. Whew!

As usual, I’ve taken more photos that I can manage to organize as one trip ends and I’m frantically getting ready and planning for the next one. For now, here’s a quick peek at some of our excursions in the Netherlands, Scotland, Germany, and Belgium with Kathy & Roy. Enjoy the slideshow…more to come soon.

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A Call for Kongs

There is no doubt I have a soft spot for dogs.  I remember getting our family dog, “Mindy” when I was just four years old…and she lived a long life into my college days.  Sadly, not every dog is fortunate to find a happy home and spends much of their life locked in a small cage at a shelter hoping to be adopted.

A few years ago, my friend and colleague Miriam, served as a “foster parent” to Bailey while the shelter was trying to locate a permanent home.  When no home was found, Miriam adopted Bailey as she couldn’t bear the thought of her being euthanized.  With the help of donors and volunteers, Miriam and other dog owners are organizing a campaign to gather kongs for dogs at the three New York City Animal Care & Control (AC&C) shelters.

While I know that everyone can’t adopt a dog, it’s super easy to make one (or two, or three) happy with a simple kong toy.  With the convenience of the internet, you can pick, purchase, and ship a kong within minutes.  Please read below for more information provided by Miriam.  Click here for a recent article regarding the campaign.

Bailey is the chief inspector for the kongs 🙂

What is the drive?

Hundreds of dogs are euthanized at AC&C every single month.  These dogs languish in small cages for days and sometimes weeks, with little to no activity or fun to break up their monotonous days. Volunteers walk the dogs, and to try to give them a bit of attention. But with so many dogs, even a large amount of volunteers cannot reach out to every dog, every day, for more than a few minutes at a time. While we wish every dog at AC&C would be quickly adopted, until that time comes, we want every single dog in a shelter in NYC to have a Kong.  Unfortunately due to budget cuts and the increasing dog population at AC&C, toys are rarely provided.

What is a Kong?  How does it help the shelter dog?

A Kong is an oblong hard rubber chew toy. It is roughly conical with two grooves and a hollow center. The idea is to put peanut butter or a biscuit inside the toy to keep the dog interested and busy. They come in various sizes for different dogs, but are most popular in the large sizes as they are one of very few designs that a large dog cannot easily destroy.

Dogs are occupied for large chunks of time, trying to retrieve the treats from within the Kong. These simple toys are the key to helping alleviate the horrendous anxiety these dogs suffer while locked in cages listening to the cries and barking of hundreds of other dogs around them. Kongs lower a dog’s stress level and reduce their nervous energy, providing a greater chance of adoption.  Studies have shown the presence of toys in a cage increases adoption rates.

Where can I buy a Kong? has the lowest price on Kongs – $5.99.  Size Large and above are preferred.  Coupon code “kcefs” provides free shipping. If you are ordering over $49, coupon code “10offdog” provides 10% off.   Free shipping is automatically applied to orders exceeding $49.   We suggest all Kongs be mailed by April 5th, 2011.

Virtually every pet store carries Kongs.   Used Kongs are also greatly appreciated!

Where do I send the Kong?

Kongs can be brought to the Stuffing Party (described below) or mailed to:

Miriam Bouchma

3 Times Square

11th Floor

New York, NY 10036

What happens after I send my Kong?

On April 7, 2011 the NYC PitBull Meetup Group will host a Kong Stuffing Party in Midtown Manhattan.  The party is going to be lots of fun – wine, mixed drinks, food, and dog themed. In addition, Kongs will be stuffed with peanut butter and treats in preparation for drop-off at Animal Care & Control of NYC’s three shelters.  (The Kongs will be frozen overnight, and delivered over the weekend).

We ask that people who attend please bring 2 jars of creamy peanut butter to help with the stuffing. To get more details about the party or to RSVP for the event, go here…

All donators will be invited to participate in a doga class (with or without your dog) in early May. Details forthcoming.  Class donated by


This campaign was inspired and approved by the December 2010 “Kongs and more” drive by Vicktory Dog Handsome Dan in Providence, Rhode Island.  To find out more about Handsome Dan, please visit his Facebook page at

Spanish Sunday

On Friday night, G returned home from a week-long business trip in NYC and Paris.  During my ‘single’ week, it was pretty quiet in the kitchen preparing very simple meals for myself.  With G back home, I was ready to dirty some pots and pans and make a mess of the keuken.

Despite the freezing temperatures which began this weekend, we bundled up and biked to the markets and grocery store to prepare for some weekend cooking.  Saturday’s meal wasn’t very fussy.  Rosemary butter chicken, hand-mashed potatoes and some fresh green beans made for a cozy night in by the fire.  Super Lekker!

On Sunday, we spent our lunchtime at the gym building up our appetites for our Spanish Sunday meal:  Gambas Picantes and Tortilla Española.  After our long holiday in northern Spain this summer, I continue to be inspired to try to replicate all the tasty meals we enjoyed there.  It also helps that G bought me a Spanish cookbook with tons of great recipes.  Today we found two more keepers.

The Spanish tortilla can be served so many different ways—a starter, main course, sandwich filling, or tapa and either warm or cold.  It’s one of the most common tapas and I can’t remember how many times we ordered one during our trip.  While there are several variations and different ingredients can easily be added (various meats or veggies), the basic ingredients include potatoes, olive oil, onion, eggs, salt, pepper, and butter.   Easy.  The tricky part is the cooking, it’s all about timing…which is while I let G take the reins on this first stab.  He can make a mean omelette, so logic told me he was well suited for the tortilla.

Pan fry the boiled potatoes

Off heat: let the potatoes, caramelized onions , & eggs "marry" for a few minutes

Back on heat, gently swirl to cook the egg

The flip for cooking side two...and my cue to start the shrimp

Last night I began marinating the shrimp in olive oil with chili peppers and garlic.


Since shrimp are so quick to cook, I waited until G was on side two of the tortilla before tossing the gambas on the hot skillet.

Perfectly pink and ready to eat!


Paired with a fantastic Chilean Shiraz and a garlicky wheat roll, there was no doubt we had happy tummies tonight.

Great job G!

Full of flavor and not overly spicy

Eet smakelijk!!!


An American Sunday in A’Dam

I love living abroad, but sometimes miss the Sunday Funday’s I used to have in NYC with my friends.  Some Sunday’s were “healthy”:  run a 5 or 10k race in Central Park and then ingest twice the calories at brunch that we had just burned off.  Other’s were “holier”:  morning mass at the neighborhood church and then off to any bar that was televising the Saints football game (not always an easy find in NYC or Hoboken).  And in the summertime when it was too hot for a run and too early for football watching, we could easily make a marathon day out of eating and drinking.  Really.

I was thrilled when I heard about the Sunday pop-up brunch in Amsterdam called lovefood; click here to check it out.  I went once in the spring and have been eager to return.  Jason Hartley, an Englishman living in Amsterdam for 10+ years is a consultant during the week and a chef during the weekend cooking up a fantastic brunch and satisfying tummies of all cultures.  It’s a solid brunch menu with my favorite brunch beverage, the Bloody Mary.  Lovefood has had several pop-up homes in A’Dam and is currently serving up Sunday’s in the canal ring on the Prinsengracht.  Today was the 2-year celebration for lovefood which featured a special birthday pop-up at Tommy Hilfiger’s People’s Place; a new restaurant/bar/event space which  is exclusive to TH’s staff and business customers.



J at the Bloody Bar

Me and J mix our Bloodys

super lekker bloodys

Proost with J & E

With beverages in hand, it was time to order.  I love breakfast food.  And I appreciate the American breakfast more now that it is not at my disposal.  While my mom can make some fabulous dinners, I loved when we were in need of a trip to the grocery,  and she made breakfast for dinner because somehow there always seemed to be enough eggs, hash browns, bacon, sausage or biscuits for a satisfying meal.

My patient friends can attest to the fact that I could never make up my mind when time came to place my brunch order.  Sweet or savory, sweet or savory?   Which begs the follow up question, ‘mimosa or bloody, mimosa or bloody?’.   Fortunately lovefood’s menu is equipped for i-want-my-cake-and-it-eat-too people like me.  It’s called The Full Mikey.  (catchy, eh?)  And this morning I was Mikey and I would eat anything, anything that Jason Hartely was cooking.

The Full Mikey

The Full Veggie & Eggs Florentine

Complimentary birthday cupcakes



A few hours later it was time to change gears.  The NFL championship games were on and I was ready to support my Packer friends.  I had a gold scarf, but lacked a single article of hunter green to show my support for the cheese heads.  J had plenty of green in stock and happily loaned me a green shirt and dubbed me an honorary Packer fan for the night.  We are 7 hours ahead of U.S. CST, but found an Aussie bar in Rembrandtplein showing not only the Packers/Bears game, but the Jets/Steelers game as well as long as you were in the door by midnight.  It proved to be a game worth staying up late for.  I’m tempted to find a cheesehead hat for the big game.  After all, this is Holland…land of kaas.  Veel success to the Packers in two weeks!

Happy Fans!

Game Over!