Girls weekend in Amsterdam

What do girls do on a weekend getaway to Amsterdam? To list a few important things… Shopping, flowers, candy,¬†champagne, people watching, lots of¬†pictures and selfies ūüôā ¬†Stylish galleries and cool bars… Anything else¬†you would do without kids and your other best half. ¬†I am talking about the trip where I¬†can take hours just taking a perfect picture of tulips or great shot near¬†one of the million bikes :)… without anyone saying “Are we done yet?”.

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One of my favorite cities in the world has it all. Here is the list of best experiences for perfect girls weekend in Amsterdam:

Stylish boutique hotel.  Ambassade hotel is walking distance to many cafes, shops and art galleries in wonderful Jordaan neighborhood. Jordaan is delightful, artsy and quiet, it most reminds me of Greenwich village in New York plus charming canals and centuries old cobblestone streets. Ambassade Hotel has beautifully decorated rooms with balconies facing Herengracht canal.  Lots of character and amazing old and new Dutch details. And it has airport transfers in Tesla!

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In the morning, couple mile run to Bloomenmakt to start the day and stopping by at Delft store for some cute gifts home.

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Continue with cold press juice at B.Juice, it’s located between Keisersgracht and Herengracht just steps away from Ambassade hotel on Huidenstraat 13.

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Done with a healthy glow and on to some sweets… especially that it is next door to B.Juice. Cute french¬†Pompadour bakery.¬†Selection is mouth watering.¬† I love berry cakes. Cassis (black current) is one of my favorite childhood berries and¬†mousse cake from Pompadour bakery was divine!

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Museum of bags and purses is cool. Perfect attraction for fashionistas and curious girls on a weekend in Amsterdam. Even though I am mostly lost in a fancy world, there are so many attractive purses and Ugly collection was memorable – look at all these poor animals.

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I am not watching travel channel much (oh…wait, why am I not watching that much?). If you do, Anthony Bourdain’s name is very familiar and he has several great pieces on Amsterdam. ¬†Well, couple places he was raving about were truly fantastic.

First of, Upstairs Pancake house. It is located in a typical old 15 century Dutch house. Stairs are steep and add excitement to the whole experience, so are Dutch royal family pictures on the walls and dozens of tea pots on the ceiling. Doesn’t this yummy strawberry pannekoeken (pancake)¬†look like best¬†lunch ever?

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For another recommended awesome experience, we headed to De Drie Fleschjes (Three little bottles) on Gravenstraat 18.  I wish we had a bar like this here were we can hang out with friends on a happy hour. It is a tiny place, one of those you would come back to again and again to.. Wooden barrels of various drinks on the wall, simple local appetizers, atmosphere is amazing, people talking and enjoying a glass of beer or dutch gin. We came here to try some of that Dutch gin, genevere. The glass is filled to the top, so bow over the bar and drink from the top of your glass.

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The area between the Singel, Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht canals has an intimate shopping centre known as ‚ÄėDe 9 Straatjes‚Äô (The 9 Streets). The nine picturesque streets connecting the canals are filled with one-of-a-kind small shops, tea rooms and galleries. In search for Dutch brands,¬†Denham jean store on Runstraat 17-18 is¬†definelty my favorite. Attention to details, simple yet timelessness designs. Edgy and cool. ¬†There are so many cool boutiques in Jordaan neighborhood.

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Love stories lingerie boutique is super fun, great concept of mix and match styles. Spent too much time in their cute flagship store on Herengracht 296.

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Candy store of them all is Jamin!  It has multiple locations in Amsterdam. There are walls of bins of colorful gummy candy in all shapes and favors. Perfect gift for kids at home and great with a glass of champagne at great restaurant on Prinsengracht, Proeverij 274.

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For last night drinks heading to Andaz lounge. Andaz Hotel deserves a separate post with it’s beautiful design. Dutch history comes alive with modern¬†details and unique garden is stunning. Cocktails¬†menu is elaborate and atmosphere is relaxing.

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Favorite things to do in New York

Any chance I get to travel to NYC, morning run in Central Park is a must! I love the energy that almost like electricity is coming from the ground. It feels like big Heart of New York city is beating faster!  I like running on Sunday morning and there is always some marathon happening, so this adds to excitement. I hear various foreign languages being spoken, there are tourists taking pictures of gorgeous views around the reservoir, there are runners, dog walkers, professional photoshoots, people walking and soaking in the beauty of this amazing place. Magnolias coming to bloom, sun and clear blue sky (no filters on photos :)), Truly one of best places in the world.   IMG_2234IMG_2237 IMG_2235
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In a mood for fresh juice? With latest trend around detox and juice cleanse, multiple locations of Juice Generation are growing in the city, several are very close to Central park. Feeling great with green goodness..

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For a delicious¬†breakfast after morning¬†run, grab hand crafted¬†freshly roasted coffee drink at Oren¬†coffee shop. Best part – they carry buttery, flaky, “melt in your mouth” croissants from famous Balthazar restaurant’s¬†bakery. Shop is eclectic and fun, there are¬†colorful mugs on the shelves and always friendly baristas.

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Whitney Museum is √ľber cool. This was one of my favorite things to do in New York, great experience¬†with¬†kids¬†at Jeff Koons exhibit where¬†balloon animals and gigantic play dough where their favorites. Stop¬†by at¬†their museum shop, ¬†getting travel gifts is best at¬†art museums in my opinion – unique keepsakes and presents.

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Next time in New York, I really want to check out this new cool store Anine Bing opened in Greenwich village on 330 Bleecker street. I am huge fan of her minimalistic Scandinavian rocker chic style.  Image from www.aninebing.com

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And for more shopping Soho is one of best destinations. There is a cacao heaven at Marie Bell for sweet recharge from the visiting boutiques around. Their hot chocolate is decadent, it is a candy bar in the cup, fragrant and delicious.

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En – Japanese brasserie. Fantastic and very popular lunch or dinner spot. It is worth going even for their house made tofu – smooth, creamy and salty. There are great healthy options on a extensive menu, large sake selection. Ambiance is great with minimalistic Japanese design, perfect attention to detail and occasional celebrity or two :).

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New York is great any season, my favorite is springtime..

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Simple white shirt and thoughts about capsule wardrobe

I like reading fashion blogs. Some of them definitely inspired me to share my point of view. The trend I am¬†always following and watching is minimalism and simplicity. ¬†I love seeing capsule wardrobes that designers and bloggers are putting together,¬†easy choices and simple classic pieces. I do like beautiful things and glamour that fashion world represents, I enjoy and admire seeing cool ladies wearing carefully thought through outfits and I can spend hours reading fashion magazines or start my day with¬†cool australian blog www.theyallhateus.com. But I look into my closet …and yes maybe I need couple new things. Yet¬†I keep wearing same staple pieces and I keep going back to what I feel my best in. Great fitting jeans and t-shirts, moto boots, simple black pump, leather jacket, black formal jacket and little black dress and white shirt. Combinations of these items are endless. Adding statement¬†jewelry or red lipstick to feel more glamourous. Several years ago I found inspiring ideas at¬†www.into-mind.com. I spent time rearranging and cleaning my closet and result felt so good – it doesn’t take much time every morning now to choose what to wear.¬†Simplicity makes my packing for travel painless and I only bring a carry-on anywhere I go regardless of duration of the trip. When I think of new outfit I can invest¬†into¬†something brilliant¬†that goes well with existing things instead of buying several pieces. There was an article last week in Haarper’s Baazar by art director of leading creative advertising agency in NYC, ¬†Matilda Kahl – she told her story of wearing exact same outfit¬†everyday and it reassured me in greatness of wardrobe¬†simplicity. ¬†Looking at classic, timeless simple white shirt at blog photos, I just can’t help but pull one out of my closet again and again. What is your favorite item you can’t live without and should fashion be simple?

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Audrey Hepburn looks glamorous in oversized boyfriend shirt

Capsule Wardrobe
French Vogue Editor, Emmanuelle Alt in simple white shirt, black pumps and blue jeans
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Note to self – try this brilliant wrap using¬†my husband’s old shirt

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pictures from Pinterest

 

Stay young – my skin care and beauty secrets

Getting close to 40 is a strange deal ūüôā I feel better than in my early 30s. I have lots of energy and with both kids growing up I have more time¬†for fitness and better night sleep. But, these stubborn wrinkles keep creeping in… I believe that great outdoor run or cardio session is better than botox and even though some splurges are worth it,¬† skin care should not cost a fortune. ¬†And that most precious, yet free¬†beauty trick is a SMILE!¬† Especially the one that comes from¬†our happy moments when whole face lights up. Smile¬†looks best on everyone’s face.

I did my research and trials though (links to some good sites below) and several favorite products definitely changed the way my skin looks.

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starting from the left:
1.Retinol – google and search in magazines, this is one real wrinkles fighter.¬†I found couple light and non-irritating kinds and saw my skin change in a month. Smoother, firmer, brighter, less wrinkles, less pimples too ūüôā
Peter Thomas Roth makes a great vitamin E and retinol in magic blue bottle and I also liked San Francisco based Algenenist serum.

2. Night moistirizer. This is the one I keep searching for. My latest is from Neostrata. I like it, it is tingly but it has AHAs so I can see brighter face in the morning.

3. Sunscreen. A must after retinol at night. How I wish now I knew that these dark spots on my face are so hard to get rid of and good sunscreen in my 20s would prevent from lots of discolorations. I am now a fan of these lightweight, non-clogging moistirizers. Simple Clinique and Peter Thomas Roth.

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4. ¬†Clinique Face tanning lotion. Easy – get some healthy face¬†tan¬†from the tube. It doesn’t smell bad (like lots of others I tried do). California sunkissed girl¬†in 2 minutes. Love it.

5. Chanel Beiges. This is a splurge but it is amazing. That gorgeous face color of Gisele is actually achievable. Some bronzer or cream on cheekbones and forehead. Or both.

Extras…
6. Shiseido eye patches. It is another retinol product. Works wonders after long flights or tiring weeks at the office.

7. Skin masks. Again, Shiseido ones are my favorite. There are facial massage instructions and pictures in a box and you get great relaxing experience either with firming or brightening or moistirizing mask Рhere.

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8. DYI. Coconut oil. It must be praised enough already, but I’m adding to the list. I mix it with honey and couple drops of lemon juice and it works for both my face, body and hair.
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When researching products, I looked at www.sephora.com , www.dermstore.com  and www.paulaschoice.com for reviews . I also  checked chemicals and unhealthy parabens (sometimes hard to avoid) at this amazing site www.ewg.org/skindeep

Drinking lots of water and eating well is what makes skin look great too. Happy time with family and friends and a mimosa (vitamin C and antioxidants :)) !  Cheers !  Healthy glow guaranteed!

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Five reasons to love Sydney

I traveled home last week end and my aircraft A330 window seat neighbor was from Australia. Cool guy, he loves Minneapolis because of obvious reasons (we are outdoorsy, hearty people with cool museums, restaurants and biking trails), he is consulting in lower Manhattan, ¬†traveling the world extensivly from biking in Thailand to volunteering in Kenya to meeting snow monkeys in Japan… just like many other smart and adventurous Aussies – working to live (not living to work – as I find myself often doing :)) …We talked about travel and that brought back all great memories of my Australian experiences. ¬†I have to go back at least 5 more times to see more. But here are my top reasons to love Sydney (I can keep this list longer, but focusing on great 5):

1. People.
Beautiful, tan, fit, energetic, cool accent and cool attitude. Just to start the list of amazing Australians – Miranda Kerr, Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman or my favorite on instagram : Kayla Itsines and Emily Skye. People are extremely friendly, I felt warm welcomed right away and being in Sydney was always safe and comfortable. I would just start looking at my map or travel guide and I would get “can I help you” right away. ¬†Hello Sydney, we are thrilled to be here!!!

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2. Harbour, ocean, fitness, freedom
This is about how cool Sydney outdoors life is –¬†Walk to bustling Circular Quay and grab a ferry. Enjoy the views. Go to Manly or Zoo. Feel salty breeze on your face. Walk amazing coastline from Bronte to Bondi (read more here). With heavenly weather and sunshine year round – bike, surf, swim in many outdoor pools or ocean, run.

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Giraffes get the best view of Sydney at Taronga zoo.

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exercising is easy with equipped coastal walk
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3. Healthy food, flat white.
Cafferati of Sydney introduced me to my favorite drink which thanks goodness is now in my local MN coffee shop. Flat white.
Besides amazing restaurants like Quay, Rockpool, Est featured in inspirational magazine Australian Gourmet Traveller...there is Sydney fish market. I love farmers markets, so picking freshly grilled seafood and enjoying it with prosecco outside is my favorite gourmet experience from Sydney.

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Howdy, handsome, this green sauce looks good on you
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4. Blue Mountains
We almost didn’t make it, it was raining and forecast to see Blue mountains and famous Three Sisters was gloomy. But, last minute reservation with blue ribbon day tours, great luck and breaking clouds and we were rewarded with amazing views, blue haze and aroma of eucalyptus trees, rainbow and sun. And we got to feed hungry wallabies and kangaroos, hug koalas at Featherdale wildlife park on a way there!

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5. Sydney Opera
The white sails of spectacular Sydney’s opera house met me on a first sunrise in Sydney after long flight and I said goodbye to this amazing city on last night at the Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour. There were excellent performances, Madama Butterfly wedding fireworks. Cio-cio-san last rising took my breath away.

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Varenna and Bellagio

Bella Italia! What not to like about Italy? There is amazing food, I would travel there anytime just to get pizza, vino, gelato and coffee, lots of it!  Beautiful people, architecture, museums, mountains, lakes Рthis country has it all. Venice or Rome, Florence or Milan. While I am lucky to already traveled to these cities, I still I have a huge list of places I want to see in Italy.. For now my heart belongs to tiny sleepy rustic Varenna and charming elegant Bellagio on lake Como. Varenna is easily reached by train from Milan airport and it is your gateway to Lake Como. Boats provide easy and breezy transportation between Varenna and Bellagio as well as other villages and magnificent villas around the lake. Every sight around the lake is like a postcard.  Here is my Italian love story via favorite images from lake Como.

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View of Varenna from the boat…¬† after so needed caffeine recharge at cute little cafe on a way. There are so many of them, all are inviting, all have terrific views of the lake, sleepy boats, planters with flowers. ¬†Finally… perfect cappuccino italiano…and pizza for breakfast. Heaven!
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Exploring Varenna lakeside and streets and finding some delicious gelato. Jet lag was never a problem for my son in the morning. Gelato for breakfast cures everything.
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In Bellagio we stayed in a small efficient apartment in one of century-old picturesque buildings, in the middle of cobblestone stairways. I really enjoyed simplicity of that because it made me feel like a local. Neighbors suggested trattorias for dinner and gelaterias for our bambino. There was laundry hanging outside and pigeons cooing in the morning. One morning we went for a kayak ride on a lake near a small village of Pescallo. Other days we strolled around Bellagio, boat hopping around villas on the lake. No wonder Bellagio is called a Pearl of lake Como. Seeing it’s magnificent views, visiting¬†stunning villas around is¬†truly wonderful experience.

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DSCN0262Villa del Balbianello

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Villa Carlotta

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Hana backroad

I like to write about great travel experiences and this is certainly the one that will stay in memory. You know how they say that sometimes great things happen when you step¬†out of comfort zone? This is what happened when we decided to take unrecommended, “don’t do it” route and it became one of best experiences. It started with planned, highly anticipated and planned activity – Road To Hana. We got ¬†iPhone Hana mile marker GPS¬†app, planned recommended stops, packed picnic and refreshments, got kids excited (shaved ice and banana bread, lots of yummy drinks and must haves : mosquito repellent and motion sickness homeopathic pills every 2 hours). The winding, cliff hugging road to Hana is a known Hawaiian must-see, with many¬†waterfalls surrounded by lush tropical forests, breathtaking wild ocean outlooks along Maui Highway 360. The journey is long, starting on sunrise at small surfer town of Paia and ending midday in Hana. Drive is pretty¬†cool, exhilarating at times when it hits one-lane narrow bridges or when sun filters¬†beautifully through the trees or when road bends so peninsula and sparkling blue ocean comes into view. ¬†My best stops was¬†K’eanae peninsula and black sand beach at¬†Wai‚Äôanapanapa state park where lava formations meet¬†violent Pacific ocean waves. Such rare and breathtaking sights, bright colors and wild crashing waves.
Just after Hana, wonderful views awaited us at South Wailua falls. Then at Haleakala national park, there were more exciting lava formations called Seven Sacred Pools. We had wonderful picnic with a view of ¬†the ocean and planned our way back… Here is were guidebooks and car rental companies tell you to turn around, avoid falling rocks,¬†unpaved roads¬†and¬†flash floods and and go back the same way we came to Hana. Just a few people and couple travel blog posts told us about driving Hana backroad on Pi’ilani highway and that it was cool. We¬†checked the forecast and no storms were approaching,¬†weather¬†supported good driving conditions, night hours were still way ahead, so we decided to forgo “don’t do it” comments¬†and took adventurous road.¬† So glad we did, this is were the best part of Hana journey is for me – ¬†backroad from Hana. ¬†Yes, there were unpaved, bumpy and crooked roads and livestock on a way.¬†Yes, there were hairy blind spots (honk when in doubt) and stretches of mountains chained up so rocks won’t fall down. There were thrills of one-in-a-half lanes, bumps and hanging cliffs.¬†But overall the drive is not difficult and the dazzling views of golden yellow and brown west side of¬†Maui were worth it. It just felt so complete to make a full circle around Hana starting with morning climb up through lush rain forests and cascading waterfalls and ending with magic sunset over dry and wild volcanic desert.
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Home, sweet home

Happy Week-end…Going through “Weekend retreats” book made me think of cozy week-end at home, burning fireplaces, soft sheepskin rugs and fluffy pillows. Nooks or chairs (how about this amazing one suspending from the ceiling?), snowy window views, inviting sofas …Home to decompress, destress, daydream. These pictures inspired me for our living room decoration.
I love spending time by our fireplace that I painted white to blend with Scandinavian color palette. Moments with my coffee or reading, working, chatting with family are relaxing and warm.

Pictures from www.myscandinavianhome.com, copper hill hotel hotel and my living room

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Escape above the clouds

I look back at my photos from Swiss Alps, Berner Oberland, and I feel that crips, crystal blue air¬†and vividly picture snowcapped mountains hugging the sky and endless green fields. To escape above the clouds,¬†train station is located¬†right below Zurich airport’s arrival terminal. My first question on our trip¬†timetable is : how is it possible to connect by train from Zurich to Luzern and then from¬†Lauterbrunnen to Wengen with under¬†5 minutes connections in between. With super efficient Swiss railroad system and trains obviously running on “Swiss watch”, it is easy. ¬†And the added bonus – last lag of the trip to Wengen is a¬†cogwheel train. Journey is exciting and relaxing. Even after long overnight flight, I can’t stop looking out of the train window and admiring breathtaking view, passing by glistening emerald lakes and picturesque towns adorned by magnificent Alps. When we get to Wengen, it’s quiet, occasional cowbell sounds. Checking in to a cozy little inn with fluffy pillows and blankets and amazing hospitality.
Next day more amazing views higher and higher Р on top of Europe Рat Jungfraujoch. And then ultimate hiker experience : get away from it all, no stress, no busy world noises. Just trail, alpine panorama, sound of footsteps and wild flowers.
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Middle Earth and becoming a Hobbit

When I was deciding on where to go in New Zealand my choice was obvious – North Island, because my son¬†loves Tolkien books. ¬†To see real movie set in Hobbiton was definitely¬†unique opportunity. Just watching¬†wide happy grin on my son’s¬†face when he walked¬†into hobbit houses was a special experience for me.
Beautifully landscaped, mysterious land¬†inspired Peter Jackson to¬†make¬†Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies. I agree that¬†this land it is indeed magical. We discovered all kinds of wonders during couple days in Waikato region between Matamata and Rotorua. We¬†became hobbits in Tolkien book inspired village, drinking¬†real Bilbo’s ginger ale at local hobbit pub, dressing like hobbits and sitting on a bench under oak tree¬†like Gandalf.. Then¬†watching geysers and clouds of steam and bubbling mud pools at Waiotapu Thermal park, exploring stunning nature volcanic wonders and admiring artists’s palette of carbon dioxide champagne pool.¬†This is were Green Dragon must be coming from. ¬†Surreal Middle Earth. Unique earth. New Zealand.

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