Amsterdam: The Beginning.

A year ago I embarked on a journey of a lifetime. I stepped out of my comfort zone and took a trip to Amsterdam.  This probably would not have happened without the motivation from one of my dearest friends. So, I thank her for that.  It has always been one of my dreams to venture out into the world and finally it happened.

I’d like to share what that experience was like.

My flight departed at 7:45pm from Newark Airport.  I was super excited and nervous at the same time.

Take off was beautiful.  Nothing but darkness above and beautiful bright city lights below. I spent most of the flight  just staring out of the window and wondering what will happen once we landed. I was very anxious because I did not know what to expect once I got there.

I had spent the previous weeks watching numerous YouTube videos on other people’s experiences traveling to Amsterdam.

The flight literally felt like an eternity. I remember continuously checking the time and growing more and more impatient each time as barely 5 minutes had passed each and every time.

I stared out the window and watched skies turn from a dark blue to reddish-orange, and then finally day light.

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We landed  at Schiphol Airport after 9am local time. I was so relieved to have finally reached and was also very excited. All I could think was we are finally here. The hotel at which we were staying gave free shuttle service to and from the airport. So once we maneuvered our way out of the airport  we were able to spot the shuttle and hopped right on. The drive to the hotel wasn’t long. Maybe about 15 minutes or so. I remember I had wished it was longer because I was enjoying the view and wanted to keep taking pictures and videos during the drive.

After checking in to the hotel, we settled into our room.  It took some time for me to adjust to the new time zone.  Although we arrived early morning, we traveled through the night and basically fast forwarded 6 hours. My friend was able to get some sleep on the flight, but I did not. We drank so much coffee the first day. I don’t think I have ever had that many espresso shots in one day.

After freshening up, we walked down the street and got on the tram headed in the direction of Centraal Station.

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So a little side note, please don’t be like me and not plan out your traveling expenses. Every time that my ticket expired I would just purchase another 24 hour one. It wasn’t until the last day that I realized it would have just been cheaper if I’d just bought a 3 day pass from the beginning. Sigh.

Back to the story……

We stayed on for a few stops and then got off at a random stop and started walking around and familiarizing ourselves with the city. We were also super cheesy and walked around with a giant unfolded map of Amsterdam which we received at the hotel. Could we have made it any more obvious that we were tourists? LOL.

 

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The first thing that I noticed were the number of bicycles that were parked around the city. It is no lie, Amsterdam truly is the bike capital of the world.

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Then of course there were the beautiful canals.

I spent an hour just sitting and gazing off into the water and watching the boats pass by.

I was also very impressed by the car drivers and their parking skills. I kept thinking how many times I’d probably drive into the canal while attempting to park if I had lived there.

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As we continued walking around, I spotted a food stand. One of the things on my bucket list was to try the pickled herring. I am not really a fan of fish , but I decided while visiting The Netherlands, I should embrace the culture. Also, I am a believer in trying most things at least once.  And you know what? It wasn’t even bad. I was able to eat most of it. I think I was too focused on the fact that it was raw.  I’d probably try it again during my next visit.

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It was interesting to see how quickly the weather changed. The mornings always seemed a little gloomy, with sprinkles of rain every other hour throughout the day. But at times there would be a burst of sunlight and super clear skies. It was during the winter, so that could have played a role.

I made sure I always had my camera ready to take that perfect shot.

 

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We stopped at a few places to get refreshments and pretty much walked the day away.

We decided to head back a little after sunset to finally rest. We needed all the energy we could get to prepare us for the following day.

That night when I returned to the hotel room, I had the best sleep of my life.

 

Part two coming soon..

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Bath & Body Works run with my sister <3

Here is a story of how a quick store run turned into a mini shopping spree.

Like the shopping addicts that we are, my sister and I decided to make a last minute trip to Bath & Body Works to use a coupon that was about to expire to buy items that we didn’t need.

The coupon that we originally had in mind was for 20% off your entire purchase. It was intended for  a candle that I have been obsessed with and wanted my sister to try it out.

The most delicious candle that I have ever smelled. Almond is her name.img_1923

We made it just in time to grab  the last candle.

I thought our mission was complete but little did I know, I was sadly mistaken. 

Somehow we became separated during our walk to the register. For those of you that have ever been inside a Bath & Body Works know that the stores are not that large. So how this happened, I do not know. Where the heck did she disappear to? I continued walking towards the register thinking maybe she got there before me. Nope. There was no sign of her. I circled back around the store and finally saw her. Oh no, I thought. She was chatting it up with a sales associate who appeared to be handing her a shopping bag. I raced over there and tried to break up the interaction. I failed.

It’s buy 3 get 3 free she said to me. I begged and pleaded with her. We got the candle that we came for, there’s no need for anything else. If I pick up 3 body creams, you can get 3 free, she said to me. Fine. I was sold.

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We scattered around the store in search of our 3 perfect body creams. When we found them we decided that was it and joined the line.

While waiting on line, a customer who had just completed her purchase showed me a coupon for $5 on any body cream that she wasn’t able to use. She said it expired today. I allowed her to place it in my hand.

Damn It, I thought. At first I tried to resist, but my addiction would not allow me. I dropped my bag and ran back to the body cream section and started quickly browsing for another body cream which smelled delicious. I decided on Lavender Honey and made my way back to the line.

While I was completing my scavenger hunt, my sister discovered the $10 off sale on 3 wick candles and helped herself to two more.

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She also grabbed a few wall flower refills. All I could do was laugh. We did the exact same thing that we swore we wouldn’t do.  Maybe next time we will do better.

But in all seriousness, that Almond candle is truly something special. If you haven’t tried it out yet please at least give it a sniff on your next visit before its gone! I promise you wont regret it. 🙂

 

 

Winter Blues

Yes, I am that annoying person that starts the Christmas carols in mid September.  It is a high level of self discipline that keeps me from putting up my tree and decorations before Thanksgiving weekend. Truthfully I’d keep my decorations up year round if it didn’t annoy my friends and family so much.

Christmas has truly always been the most wonderful time of the year for me. I think one of the reasons that I love the winter so much is because of the memories that I associate with it. The cozy blankets, delicious smell of hot chocolate, the tangy taste of sorrel, and of course the delightful  sound of festive music playing in the background.

My earliest memories of winter in New York are of times spent with my mother. Luckily for me she is a teacher and always had her winter breaks around the same time that I did. That meant plenty of time bonding, shopping, and  walking around 34th  St.  We visited Macy’s a lot during the holiday time. I always loved to ride those old wooden escalators and later on visiting the McDonald’s on the third floor( I think). That was always a treat.

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Then there are the memories of family gatherings, Broadway shows, epic snow days and snow ball fights. I actually remember my dad allowing me by the fire escape for once, to collect snow and make snowballs and store them in the freezer for a snow fight that was later to come. No I cam not making this stuff up.

After Christmas, the cheerfulness of the holidays would carry on into New Years. I have never watched the ball drop in person, but it was just as exciting staying up late and watching it on television. It was always done in the warm comfort of my home which was just fine. With our googly new year glasses on and confetti in place, we began the countdown.

Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one …….. Happy New Year!

The residual happiness lasts about what? Maybe a day or two? Then all thats left is the pretty Christmas lights that usually stay up for a week or two. If you’re lucky three. After that its always just been a big pause until Spring rolls around. At least for me.

Now as an adult, winter time isn’t quite the same. I realize someone has to go out and shovel the snow. That someone is me. Also, I can’t just call out of work because Id rather spend the day playing in the snow. I mean, I can, but I am sure that is frowned upon. And don’t get me started on the trauma of discovering that Santa isn’t real.

The emptiness that I feel after the holidays are over is something new. Or maybe I am just now acknowledging it. Maybe it is because I don’t have as much distractions as I did when I was younger. Or maybe this is just my quarter life crisis.

I now spend most of latter winter months in seclusion. Some people might call it seasonal depression, but what ever this feeling is allows me to think and reflect on life. I often go for walks through trails or by  lakes and rivers to get a clear head. There is a calmness that comes to me while in the presence of large bodies of water. I close my eyes, take a deep breath in of that crisp winter air and immediately forget all of my troubles.

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Beautifully frozen lake.
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Cloudy sky

Without the presence of snow, there is not really much to see.

The barren trees, cloudy skies, and early sunsets leave me without much distractions. There’s an emptiness that washes over me.

There are no bees buzzing. No birds singing. No insects doing whatever it is that they do.

It is nothing but serene silence.

It’s at this time when those thoughts that I push so far back in my mind start to creep forward. I ask myself, what is my purpose? Why am I here? Is this the life that I truly want to live? Will I regret the experiences and opportunities that I let slip by. Will I ever be able to make a difference in the world? And the question that haunts me the most…… Will I ever reach my fullest potential?

I think it is important to process these questions and feelings because it gives a chance for growth and improvement. How can you grow as a person without ever taking the time to reflect on yourself and past actions? Within  a few months when Winter is gone and those long bright days with late evening sunsets return, my party face will be back on and it will be another few months before these thought-provoking questions return.

At the end of the day, I do not have all of the answers, if even any. No one does. What I do know is life is short, so I will continue my best to embrace all of these wonderful moments and lessons that life has to offer.

 

 

My Love/Hate Relationship with Dunkin’ Donuts.

My love for Dunkin hasn’t been the same ever since they removed my beloved sandwich from the menu over a year ago.
I was devastated by the news. I had grown tiresome of all of the egg sandwiches and had no desire to eat them. There was just something off about the taste and texture of the eggs. I feel the same way about McDonald’s but at least they have the substitution of “round egg”.  Anywhoo…. back to Dunkin. Although I was over their egg sandwiches, I still visited a few times a week for a coffee. I have heard so many people over the years bash the taste of Dunkin’s coffee, but like I’ve always said, you’ve got to know how to order it. I would always go for a Hazelnut with cream only. Hot or iced depending on my mood and time of the day.  I have since switched to Toasted Almond.

So on one particular day it was very crowded and I had to stand in line (There was no drive thru at this location). While waiting on line, I started reading through the menu as an attempt to kill some time. I noticed a sandwich that I had never seen before. Turkey Cheddar Bacon Ciabatta. I thought hmmmm interesting. I like all four ingredients. When it became my turn to order, I decided to try it out. I was asked if I’d like it with Chipotle sauce and I said sure.  I paid for my sandwich and frolicked to my car. Once in my car, I proceeded to unwrap and then dig into my sandwich. OMG, DELICIOUS! I am not even exaggerating. For the next 7 or so months, I became a regular and ordered that sandwich probably about 6 times a week.  It was like clockwork. I also ditched the coffee and started drinking their green tea, with lemon of course. As time went on, I realized that I was wasting all of my money on this sandwich and decided to take a break.  I felt that I could probably even make the sandwich myself for cheaper at home. I am not sure what I did wrong but the sandwich I ended up making just wasn’t quite the same. Anyway after that, months went by without my beloved sandwich.  A few months into 2018, I decided that I was ready to return to my one true love. I pulled in to the drive thru with confidence and demanded my Turkey Cheddar Bacon on a Ciabatta at once!  I was met back with laughter. I didn’t understand what was so humorous. I was told that they no longer served that sandwich. Oh, I thought.  I ordered a plain bagel with cream cheese and bacon and went on my way.

Later that week, I attempted to order that same sandwich at a different location and was given the same answer. Once I realized what was happening, I immediately got angry. No they did NOT permanently remove my favorite sandwich from the menu!  I grabbed my phone and immediately went to google.  There I learned that it had been discontinued for low sales, and I thought what?? How were people not ordering this? Maybe if they would add a picture of it on the menu people would actually know that it existed. I also learned that it was discontinued the first week of 2018. I then understood why that worker in the drive thru found my order to be so amusing.

It has been a year since its removal from the menu, and I am still healing.  Moral of the story, enjoy all the things that you love while you still have them!

Update:

I am glad to see some changes on the menu. Today I decided to give the Power Breakfast Sandwich a go. I mean it’s still an egg sandwich, but the combination of spinach, peppers, onion, and turkey sausage gives it a little personality. If you have already tried it out, tell me what you think.

Fun Things to do in Boston

At the end of the summer, I took a weekend trip to Boston with a good friend of mine. I believe it was their first visit, and it was my second time visiting this wonderful city. We decided to try and fit as much into our schedule as possible so that we could get the most out of Boston with the two days we would be spending. With that being said, I have come up with a list of fun things to do while in Boston!

1. Grab a bite to eat.

You can’t go to Boston and not sample the seafood! There are so many different places to sample from.  The first place that I tried as soon as I got off the bus was James Hook & Co. They have a variety of food choices on their menu. I went with the lobster roll and loved it. It was only a few minutes’ walk from the bus terminal.  The following morning, I had brunch at Bostonia Public House followed by a few drinks. The food was delicious. I ordered the Lobster Mac n Cheese which was lobster served with three cheese mornay and herb breadcrumbs. My friend had the Shaved Benton’s Virginia Country Ham. That came with a buttermilk biscuit, red pepper jelly, two cage free poached eggs and Lyonnaise potatoes. I would definitely recommend stopping there to grab a bite.

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Lobster Mac n Cheese
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Shaved Benton’s Virginia Country Ham.
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Lobster Roll from James Hook & Co.

2. Take a Stroll and admire the beauty.

One of my favorite memories from my visit was simply walking around and taking in all of the beauty. I have always loved the calmness that I feel by being close to open waters. While walking around, I walked over a few bridges, saw a few landmarks and  admired the wonderful architecture of the buildings.

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3. Go on a cruise.

There are a variety of cruises/boat rides  available in Boston. I was able to book a few using Expedia. Most of the cruises are available in the morning and afternoon, with a few in the late evening into the night. I absolutely love being out on the water, so I had to experience both day and night.  At this time, a typical 30-90 min guided cruise of Boston Harbor ranges from $26-$31. Cruises with more activities and food selection went from $60-$91.  There is also an option of  going whale watching. The whales are usually seen from April- October.

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Beautiful view of Boston Harbor while on the Constitution cruise.
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Boston Harbor
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More shots of Boston Harbor while on the cruise.

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Two words, Open Bar.

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4. Explore the museums.

Luckily for us, one of the cruises that we booked was the USS Constitution Cruise. It was about an hour long and made a stop at the museum where we were able to hop off and explore while also getting to tour the ship.  We had about an hour after hopping off to explore the museum and the actual USS Constitution.

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First lieutenant uniform 1813 at the USS Constitution Museum

5. Take great photos!

Please, don’t get so caught up in living in the moment that you neglect taking photos! There is nothing better than looking back on the photos taken and experiencing the trip all over again!

If you have already visited Boston, what were some of the activities that you enjoyed?

 

 

Please take a moment to enjoy some of these lovely shots taken throughout the city.

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