Amsterdamn

Tourists flock to Amsterdam for tulips, its liberal take on drugs and the infamous red light district. Yet there’s so much more to lure you to this fine city. Here’s some insights from a Kiwi who’s had a damn good year in the Dam.

The frequency of English, the easy lifestyle and the working holiday visa explain why people are calling Amsterdam the new London. The weather is marginally better, there’s no long daily commute, and Kiwi brunch places dominate the local cafe scene. It feels just like home, only a way cooler Euro version.

The Netherlands are not best known for great weather, so it’s a case of suns out boats out. None of those awful glass enclosed boats with tourists sardined in. People in the know have their local, who strategically cruises the waterways catching the revered sun rays. The BYO food, drinks and music strongly appeal to the Kiwi mentality. There is no better way to soak up the myriad of canals then boating with rosé tinted glasses.

Biking is perhaps the most defining attribute of Amsterdam. It’s a small city, with a population of roughly 850,000. That’s less than even Auckland. This gives it a quaint big village feel. A typical bike trip is about 10 minutes. If embarking on an arduous commute of twenty minutes or more a lot of self-motivation is required. The petite size and delightful means of transport give Amsterdam its easy way of life.

So many bikes means bike thieves. Amsterdam may be safe for you, but your bike isn’t going to be so lucky. Thieves are rampant. So much so, most bikes have two locks. Everyone has a tale of at least one stolen bike. But don’t fret, there’s such a thing as bike fixer. Give them a description of the bike you so desire, €20 and a few days later it’s yours. Just beware of bike karma. Yes this is a thing. I’ve only managed to have one bike stolen, so bike karma seems to be on my side.

Cycling is merely transport, not exercise. This and fortunate genes mean that despite most traditional delicacies being deep fried you won’t see overweight Dutchies. Local dishes include stoopwafels (baked sugar on sugar), kaasstengels (deep fried cheese sticks), bitterballen (deep fried balls with mystery meat contents). You get the gist. It’s not all bad though. Kale was cool here long before it made it to Australasia. It’s the esteemed recipe from Grandma. Raw eateries, cold pressed juice and grain bowls are all on trend, in stylish backdrops that’d make even the coolest Melbourne hipster swoon.

The Dutch are a good looking race, for the most parts tall and slender, blessed with wavy silky hair and great bone structure. The women meander about in minimal make up, unbrushed hair and look effortlessly beautiful. Dutch men’s mane of long locks defies gravity lifting off their face, even when the wind isn’t blowing. It leaves female expats with serious hair envy. How do they maintain that volume?

Dutch fashion is minimalist, with a real Scandinavian feel. Clean lines, quality fabrics and muted tones. Think greys, creams, black and white, with maybe a splash of colour like denim or navy thrown in. Patterns aren’t really appreciated, unless it’s a stripe. A minimal stripe obviously. Sneakers can be worn on any occasion, even clubbing. Nothing about their fashion screams out at you, except the animal faux fur coat. In New Zealand this would seem very bogan Westie, alluding to Outrageous Fortune days. Here women of all ages somehow make it look semi chic. I’ve not attempted to master the look.

The work life balance is incredible. That is if you can get the work side of the balance into the equation. If you can’t? No worries, there’s no shortage of incredibly cool cafes you can pretend to work in. If I counted the hours I’d spent dwelling in such establishments, it’s almost like I had a part time cafe job here. Almost.

On that note, cafes are not to be mistaken with a coffee shop. To avoid getting a perplexed stoner wondering what an almond piccolo is, head to a cafe if you’re looking for coffee. Coffee shops are just for weed. The logic behind this is still a mystery to me, but knowing the Dutch there is indeed a great rationale behind it.

If you’re ever missing the many Kiwi waterways there’s of course an amplitude of canals. I’ve spent many an hour canal sitting. Feeling the calming nature of the water minimises the stresses of life, such as not being able to find your bike, or wondering what sneakers to wear. Some of the canals are even swimmable, though they tend to be a hefty twenty minute bike ride away.

Amsterdam masters a quaint charm and outdoor vibe that most urban cities lack. Littered with green havens and terraces, the exterior spaces breath life into the city. Rooftops, parks and the canals are flooded with people chilling, chatting, drinking and listening to music. Sun basking and people watching against historic buildings proves to be the perfect pass time.

As my year here has come full circle, the tulip’s are once again in bloom. I feel very content with my slice of life this side of the world. I’ve become fully inducted in the Dutch ways, cycling about with my cold pressed juice donning pastel tones. I’ve had many a friend come visit, all falling for the magic of this place. Must be time to head on another boat trip, and drink in my appreciation of this damn fine city.FullSizeRender-13

Weekend Markets

Today I ventured out to a new weekend market, and was pleasantly surprised by how much fresh produce you can pick up with the $12 change in your wallet.

It feels kinda good haggling with locals, and knowing the money is (hopefully) going to them and not some corporate conglomerate.

It takes me back to when I was living in Wellington, and every weekend for a pittance I’d stock up on fresh goodness.

My fridge is now so full of fruit and veggies I’m inspired with countless healthy meals for the week. For afternoon tea I had my favourite tropical green smoothie, and with dinner an old favourite salad — grated beetroot, carrot, apple with lemon juice and pumpkin seeds.

I’ve still got radishes, avocado, spring onions, lemon and Kale galore. The creative juices are beginning to flow.. and mum even scored some sweet flowers for Mother’s Day…

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DIY Mocha Face Mask

Awaken, brighten and tighten your face with this Coffee and Raw Cacao Powder mask. This antioxidant mask exfoliates your face, brightens your complexion and reduces puffiness and bags. It smells good enough to eat, and you’ll find all the ingredients in your kitchen.

Apply this in the morning, as you’ll feel the caffeine hit. If you do a little research you’ll be surprised to read coffee is one of the best antioxidants for your skin. Coffee tightens pores, reduces oiliness, improves tone, increases circulation, exfoliates dead skin and speeds up your skins natural renewal process.

Cocoa, Honey and Yoghurt are all very moisturising. Cocoa is packed with flavonoids that encourages healthy cell development, absorbs UV light and increase blood flow to the skin. Honey locks in moisture and improves skins hydration. Cleopatra bathed in milk to give her skin a healthy glow, so it’s no surprise that yoghurt contains lactive acid that improves your complexion and clears pores.

RECIPE

  • 1 Tablespoon of fresh coffee grinds*
  • 1 Tablespoon of raw organic Cacao powder
  • 2 Tablespoons of greek yoghurt**
  • 1 Tablespoon of honey
  • If you have oily prone skin, add a tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Let it dry on your face, leave for 15-20 minutes. Lightly exfoliate as you wash it off with warm water.

*Use freshly ground coffee. Espresso coffee is better as it has a finer texture, I use the grounds from my Stovetop.

**Can use a nut milk or coconut oil if you adverse to dairy products

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recipe from: http://www.crunchybetty.com/mocha-frappucino-mask-coffee-cocoa-and-honey-facial-mask

Sally Fallon & nutrition myths – A Book Review

Sally Fallon calls her dietary guidebook Nourishing Traditions politically incorrect nutrition.

She looks at how the industrial revolution introduced a wave of processed foods such as refined grains, canned foods, pasterised milk and sugar. Fallon argues with it came the host of illnesses and degenerative diseases that are the norm today.

This may sound like scare mongering to some of you. Especially the cynics on the ‘everything gives you cancer’ these days band wagon, but she makes some valid points.

We are all becoming aware of the fact that our modern diet may not be the best. We know we eat too much sugar and processed foods. We may have noticed a slight intolerance to dairy or gluten. We’re aware of the pesticides used on our fruit and veggies, the hormones pumped into chickens, the artificial way cows produce so much milk. We’re becoming conscious of this, yet our diet is so engrained in our lifestyle that change is hard. And there are too many changes you should make.

Still, consciousness is everything. Being aware. And making changes one small step at a time, as fits in with your lifestyle. For this, Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions provides an excellent starting point based on an analysis of traditional diets. Here’s just a selection of dietary myths she dispels.

MYTHS

1. Butter and fat are bad. This is something I’ve ‘known’ as long as I can remember. I remember my sister as a child getting caught eating butter out of the fridge and being scolded for such fattening behaviour.

Fallon goes into an in depth scientific look at poly-saturated and mono-saturated fat and fatty acid carbon chain lengths… but basically she suggests margarines and vegetable oils are not as healthy as we think. Because of the way they are extracted and used, they oxidise and go rancid creating free radicals and more. Saturated fats are not as bad as we think and in fact have many benefits for the body.

Studies have shown cultures with high fat diets such as the Swiss, Austrians and Greeks have life longeviety. It’s about eating the right types of fats. Ditch the Marg, and Canola oil and go for pure Butter, Coconut oil & Olive oil.

2. All Carbs are equal. Not everything we eat is equal, and not everything in moderation balances. Refined carbahydrates have actually been stripped of the bulk of their vitamins and nutrients. But they are worse than just empty calories — they actually deplete the body of its existing reserves of nutrients.

“Strict abstinence from refined sugar and very limited use of refined flour is good advice for everyone.” These were never in our diets prior to 1600, and our bodies haven’t evolved to be able to digest them properly nor get the proper nutrients we require from them.

3. A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down. Countless studies are now highlighting the dangers of eating too much sugar. It’s said to be more addictive than Cocaine, and is linked to heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease, Candida, behavioral disorders and the list continues, for like a page…. Just cut the sugar. Where possible.

4. Diet Drinks and Sugar Supplements help with weight loss. Sugar substitutes are just as addictive, and some people actually gain weight from them. They also can create a host of other issues due to their toxic nature. She urges the one thing of all things to start by giving up is soft drinks. Ok so cut the sugar AND soft drinks.

5. Vitamin Supplements are the answer!  They are good for short term, but the best way to intake vitamins is through whole foods. This ensures they are taken as intended, not in isolated or in extremities which can cause it’s own problems.

This is just a few points that struck me from the 674 page book (to be fair there are a LOT of recipes)

I like how she quotes lots of interesting facts and studies to back up what she’s talking about (her reference list is 7 pages!) Some of her ideas may seem extreme, but taken with a pinch of salt they make sense.

She divides food into 3 categories: eat, eat in moderate amounts, avoid like the plague. I like that. Eat everything (most things) in moderation. But it’s all about finding what works for you and your body. “Each person’s ideal diet is usually discovered through a combination of study, observation and intuition, a process designed… to keep him fit and healthy”

I’ll leave you with this quote which is gold.

“The challenge to every individual is to determine the diet that is right for him and to implement that diet in a way that does not divorce him from the company of fellow human beings at mealtimes”

Here’s the review from Barnes & Noble:

“Rather than jumping on the bandwagon of vegetarianism, nonfat dieting, soy mania, or any of the other eating fads that currently inform our sense of “proper nutrition,” this book looks to tradition, to the foods that have provided us with sustenance and strength for centuries, as the basis of a nutritious and health-conscious diet. Provocative but essentially grounded in logic and science, Nourishing Traditions recommends a diet including fats, oils (both in moderation), and whole grains, and warns readers of the dangers of some of the nutritional theories that are currently in vogue”.

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