5 things you must do in Amsterdam

If you read my 2017 travel goals post here, you’ll see that one of my favorite 2016 trips was 48 hours in Amsterdam! After spending 5 days in Paris, we hopped on a quick (3 hours to be exact) train ride over to Amsterdam. I’m telling you, trains are the way to go. We showed up at the station 30 minutes prior to departure, grabbed a coffee & a window seat and left the station. It was so peaceful to just put some earbuds in and watch the countryside pass us by. If you have time, make a pit stop in Bruges- we didn’t have time, but I hear it’s darling. So, we arrived in Amsterdam on Tuesday afternoon (around 1:30pm) and left on Friday at 10am. Y’all…Amsterdam is TOTALLY possible to see in 48 hours. All you need is a double espresso & a plan. Let’s dive in…

5 THINGS YOU MUST DO IN AMSTERDAM

#1 Anne Frank Museum

I highly recommend buying tickets ahead of time, online. We showed up at 9:15 for our 9:20 tour and walked right in. Truthfully, it had been so long since I’d learned about Anne Frank that I’d forgotten a lot of the details. Being inside the home she & her family hid in (for years!) and reading her diary was such a touching, emotional experience. Her story is truly amazing and the tour really gives you a detailed history lesson. We found it to be very profound. A must do.

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#2 Pancakes

When you’re done with the Anne Frank house (go in the morning to avoid the crowd), head over to the Pancake Bakery- a famous pancake house! This is what Amsterdam is known for, so how could we not go? We ordered a pancake & an omelet to share. Both were huge & delicious! The meal came with OJ, tea, toast & bacon, and our total was less than 25 Euro.

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#3 Ride a Bike

This is hands down the best way to get around Amsterdam. It’s a fun, quick, efficient way to get around the city, especially if you’re crunched for time. Our hotel (Andaz hotel – amazing hotel, location & service. Can’t recommend enough!) provided bikes to us andΒ  we used them from 12pm-7pm and went all over the city (5+ miles). Careful though- it’s quite scary when you’re dodging cars, pedestrians, mopeds & other bikes.

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#4 Red Light District

Now I’ll be the first to admit that I was really sketched out by going here. I had this horrible imagine in my head of what this would be like. We rode our bikes here during the day and it really wasn’t that bad. Would I spend hours hanging out here? Probably not. Would I walk around at night? Nope. But it’s one of those things that you have to go and see because you’re there. As expected, there are lots of sex shops and “coffee shops” but it’s fine to walk through once.

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#5 Heineken

Head over to check out the Heineken Experience…an experience is right! This is not your typical brewery. Plan to spend at least an hour or two here tasting beer, learning about the history, petting horses & hopping on a quick interactive ride. It’s such a fun place and totally worth going. If you’ve got time or want something more local, we also visited the less touristy, Brouwerij ‘t IJ- it’s on the southeast side of town in a more local area. Get a beer flight for 9 Euro and sit on the back patio full of picnic tables and shade trees. Also a very fun experience.

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Amsterdam Tips:

  • Stay in the canal district- it’s little quiet nook in the middle of a great area. You’re away from the touristy noise but have multiple restaurants & bars within 2 blocks.
  • If you need a fun dinner spot, check out Zazas ! I surprised Terry there with a birthday dinner and it was just perfect. They went above and beyond to recognize his day (I’m talking sparklers on cakes & complimentary champs and balloons).
  • Visit the Bulldog Coffee Shop – even if you don’t partake, it’s cool to see where this all started.

Who else has been to Amsterdam? What’s your favorite thing to do in the city?

A Weekend in Sonoma

This dreary, wintery Boston weather has me dreaming of warmer days. I can’t believe it was only two and a half months ago that we were in 80 & sunny California, soaking in the sun & sipping on some wine. Take me back!

Now, I’m no wine expert, nor am I claiming to be; however, I do know a good atmosphere when I find one. We spent 3 days/2 nights in downtown Sonoma. (I can’t recommend staying at the Cottage Inn & Spa enough). Given that we visited multiple wineries, restaurants & store, I’m sharing a few of my favorites…

Restaurants

-THE GIRL & THE FIG-

The Girl & The Fig came so highly recommended that even with two weeks notice, we couldn’t get a reservation. After a little too much wine & a quick nap on day 2, we woke up at about 8:30 with a craving for a cozy, easy dinner. Damn, did this hit the spot.

We walked right in and sat at the bar (something I always recommend when you’re visiting a new town- the bartenders are friendly & local resources!). We ended up staying for over 2 hours, chatting away with the locals & having one of our best meals out there.Β The food is has a french flair, which I love. My veggie quiche was *to die for* and T’s steak frites were top notch. Seriously, go here- it’s adorable & cozy with some bomb ass food.

-EL DORADO KITCHEN-

Right across the street from Girl & The Fig, inside a hotel, is the El Dorado Kitchen. Don’t be fooled by the title, as this isn’t a local Mexican joint. Recommended by a major foodie friend of mine, I knew it wouldn’t disappoint. The first thing I noticed was the hip, cool vibe with the open concept bar/dining room and the huge wood burning pizza oven. The had low, funky music and it totally felt very NYC. Already loving it!

Our server was extremely friendly & helpful. Unfortunately, I had come down with the flu by this point in our trip so it was soup and water for me. Womp womp. The wine list was, of course, extensive & the menu even moreso. Terry got an incredible looking pork chop with apple compote and sauteed bok choy. He said it was the best pork chop he’s ever had. The sweet waiter then brought out a special dessert for our engagement, which I drooled over but let T devour, since I couldn’t taste much anyways. Did I mention how much it sucks to be sick on vacation? Luckily it was the last night and I had done my fair share of eating & drinking my way through California the previous 5 days.

Wineries

-GUNDLACH BUNDSCHU-

Gundlach Bundschu, or”Gun Bun” as the locals say, is a winery that we actually stumbled upon when Scribe had a ridiculous wait & a $100 tasting (enter eye roll, its not that cool). Being next door, we saw the sign as we passed by. Lucky for us that Scribe was being too-cool-for-school because we just LOVED gun bun! It was our only stop of the day (we arrived into town at about 4pm after driving up from Carmel) and couldn’t have been better.

Gun Bun has a large, casual tasting room with a curved bar area, making it super easy to chat with other people. Our wine tasting expert was very knowledgeable of history and really went above and beyond when giving us tastings. When we told him we just got engaged, he gave us two stemless wine glasses, an awesome cheese board & a bottle of white. Talk about amazing service!

We took our wine & cheese board outside to enjoy the sunset. They’ve got a very large, open patio area with about 10 picnic tables for patrons to enjoy the space. It overlooks a small lake and has string lights hanging all around. Really feels like you’re in a friends killer back yard. It was romantic, special & the perfect spot to end the day.

-MAURITSON-

Let me preface this by saying, we are friends with the Mauritson family so we got the super duper special treatment (in-credible)! Most people won’t stay for 4 hours to chat about life, sample endless wines & snack on tasty treats like we did. Go anyways.

The family story is incredible and the winery is really beautiful. In fact, we enjoyed the wine so much that we bought into the wine club! Their property is truly stunning, the red wine is delicious & the people are just the best. They truly made this experience one-of-a-kind.

-PASSALACQUA-

We stopped by Passalacqua right after Mauritson because it’s my future MIL’s favorite wine and we wanted to surprise her with a bottle for Christmas. (spoiler alert: she loved it!) They’ve got a gorgeous, sprawling property and we did our entire tasting outside on their large back deck. I love wineries like this that feel intimate & cozy. We sat back in our adirondack chairs, sipped on some whites and enjoyed the view. I’m so glad we popped in because this ended up being one of the most relaxing moments of the day.

-THREE STICKS-

Remember when I said that I recommend sitting at the bar to eat dinner and chat it up with the locals? This is exactly why. We met a local food & wine writer (hi, Sara!) who recommended that we stop by 3 sticks. Truth be told, we’d never heard of it, but we had a little extra time on Sunday morning before heading out of town. What. A. Find.

Three Sticks Winery is located within an unassuming adobe style home right past the downtown square. You’d easily walk past it thinking it’s someone’s private residence. Well, it is easily my dream home. The adobe was fully designed by an awesome interior designer Ken Fulk and has an eclectic, artsy vibe with decor of metals, wood & leather. It has, hands down, one of the best back yards I’ve ever seen.

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We called ahead and they snuck us in for a quick tasting. Their Pinot Noirs are out of this world (we bought 2 on the spot). If you’re ever in downtown Sonoma, go here!

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Well, that rounds up my Sonoma weekend list of places to visit. For our first trip there, I’d say it was a major success. I am dying to go back & need some more spots to add to my list.

What’s your favorite place in Sonoma?!

 

Home Decor Must Have for pet owners

Happy Monday y’all! How was everyone’s weekend?

The Northeast has been pounded with some snow the past few days (not the fun kind, the annoying kind) and I’m going stir crazy! One of the worst parts about the snowstorm is having to take the pup in & out. She’s a total diva and hates the cold but does like playing in (and eating) the snow.

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As a pet owner, I’m constantly aware of the impact she has on our home. Dogs come with smells, toys, blankets, etc. For me, it’s important to know that someone could walk into our home and not even know we have a dog. Here’s how I do it:

Stylish Storage

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Similar to kids toys, dog toys aren’t cute or aesthetically appealing. I keep all of Mela’s toys in a small woven basket, tucked away into the corner (easy to hide when company comes over). I also keep a basket in the hall closet with all of her necessities (extra bags, leashes, bandanas, etc). Cute baskets are so easy & inexpensive! A few I like are this, this and this.

Tip: I like to keep a blanket on each sofa that she sits on, to avoid getting a mess of dog hair all over. She like them & knows those are her spots.

Candles

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As pet owners, we often become unaware that our beloved 4 legged friend has a certain scent to others. Let’s all get a quick wake up call, do a favor to our guests and stock up on some good smelling candles. A few favorites include this, these and this.

Clean Often

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This isn’t fun, but it’s needed. Part of the territory with pets is that you’ve got to clean often. I sweep and/or vacuum pretty much every day. For those of us with shedding dogs, it’s a necessary evil! Spend 10 minutes a day and I promise you’ll notice a difference. This vacuum is one I recommend!

What are you favorite tips & tricks to keep your dog friendly home looking sharp?!

Snow Day Activities

Happy Thursday y’all…we woke up to this:

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While snow days can be quite fun every now & then (especially if you live in an area where it’s a fun surprise!), they can get annoying real quick when it starts to disrupt your daily routine. I’ve put together a list of my favorite things to do on a snow day. Hopefully you’re able to take advantage over the next two days and join me in one of these…

5 SNOW DAY ACTIVIES

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Wedding Planning: Music

Happy Tuesday! I must say, the next couple of weeks will be spotty in posting as I am totally swamped with wedding planning. We found a venue (!!!!) but need to lock down a few things immediately: guest list, save the dates, musician & hotel blocks. Once that’s done, I can breathe again and then enjoy the planning process over the next 6 months.

image1-1.jpgThis picture was taken at my fiance’s cousin’s wedding this past summer in Jackson, Wyoming. We were having a ball dancing &Β  a friend caught us mid-twirl! It was such a fun, cute picture and reminds me of how much we both enjoy dancing at weddings!

That’s where you come in….does anyone have band/DJ/musician suggestions for a wedding in upstate New York? (really anyone from New England will do).

Feel free to comment below or send me an email at southendstyleblog@gmail.com.

Thank you in advance πŸ™‚

Valentines Day Girlfriend’s Gift Guide (under $50!)

Believe it or not, Valentines Day is around the corner! For those of you not into the cheesy red roses & heart shaped chocolate boxes (myself included), you’re probably thinking ugh another gift guide for couples…Wrong!

This is such a fun holiday to give a little something to the special ladies in your life- moms, girlfriends, wives, besties, sister, etc.Β  I’ve gathered some of my favorite items below, all under $50, to inspire you to brighten a special gal’s day:

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{workout pants // earrings // planner // wallet // perfume // eyeshadow palette // jammies}

Powder Room Before & After

You may remember the powder room design plan that I shared back in September. (See the post here). To refresh your memory, this is a window-less powder room that has been intense red for years & was in desperate need of a makeover. The client wasn’t in the market for a new vanity, countertop or faucet so we were stuck with what we’ve got & did our best to make it work. Rather than go with a typical neutral, they wanted to bring a pop of wall color into this space. Here’s the plan I came up with:

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While I still wish the vanity/countertop were more of a gray-ish tone, they’re pretty much tan in person; however, the space looks much more modern! (Please excuse the bad photos, I really struggled to take some good shots with zero overhead light).

You can see the updated lighting, mirror, paint & accessories. It’s hard to tell in the picture, but when the light is on, the white accessories really brighten up the space.

Again, terrible lighting but you get the idea.The wall color in real life is a matte color and looks quite modern, yet relaxing.

Note what a difference using the proper sized-to-scale artwork makes! The “before” pictures were way too small and hung too far apart. The new frames are a proper fit for the wall- they’re great in person too!

Again, I’m really embarrassed with the horrible photos but I wanted to give you an idea of what a can of paint can do! So if you don’t have a full renovation in the budget, have faith that you can easily transform a space for under $500!