Tuesday, February 28, 2012

{Guest Blogger: Fairy Tales Are True}

Hi Explore.Dream.Discover Friends!  
We both share a love for our husbands, travel, fashion, and flat faced dogs.  Liz is away in Seville, so I am hijacking her blog to share with y'all my travel style.

Liz asked me a few questions:  
What's your travel uniform in Europe?
{pixie pantsswagg, infinity scarf}

How do you choose what to pack?
I lay it out before hand.  I start researching the weather.  I mentally prepare for a while in advance, and particularly think about an upcoming trip in my head anytime I happen to be shopping.  I'm a pretty practical girl though - so I know I have to choose versatile pieces.  
scarves?  i never go without one i love.  plus they are inexpensive way to change up an existing outfit.
{one scarf - three ways.  as a scarf, a cover up, and draped.  in france, croatia, and russia}

Your favorite shoes for travel?
I love my intyce boots.  I have them in black and cognac.  and i've bought them both, twice!
if it is somewhere tropical  I am usually in flip flops.  i know, not so good for my back.
if you anticipate any nights out and need a little height - in my opinion, wedges are the way to go.
or flats.  i have some leopard flats that have been my trusty go-to's. 

Do you stick with dresses or jeans?
I don't usually pack jeans!   I am generally a dress girl.  although I didn't realize it until looking back for this post... but i wear a lot of rompers as well!

Is there one clothing item you never travel without?
There's actually a few... So here's my top 4 travel essentials.
I rarely packed more than a backpack, but I was not away for more than two weeks at a time, and the whole having a home base in Switzerland helped.  

Whether you are backpacking for two months or a few days, you don't have to sacrifice style.  With versatile pieces, a couple of dresses, pops of color, and a necklace or two you love ... you'll fit it all in your carry-on and look stylish.  it's been done (:  

Thanks for having me Liz!!  
I can't wait to see pictures from Seville!
xo xo 

{Guest Blogger: Mike + Jess in Malta}

I was so pleased to be asked by Liz to guest post on her blog while she and Corey are in Seville (Seville!). I'm Jess, one half of mike-jess.com, a blog I share with my partner, Mike, and our two pups, where we document our life abroad in Malta.

If you've never heard of Malta, you aren't alone. Malta is a little island in the middle of the Mediterranean, measuring only 121 square miles/316 square kilometers, with a population of just over 400,000. Situated between Italy and North Africa, Malta is a unique blend of both cultures. And it's not all sun and sand here. With a history of settlement predating the pyramids in Giza, we are spoiled with endless opportunities to learn and explore. Since moving here in 2010 Mike and I have been soaking it all up, offering advice to fellow expats and visitors, and sharing photos of our experiences along the way.

Some of our favourite things about this little island:

i study art history and malta is the perfect place to do it

enough said

a burst of colour and energy in the middle of winter, carnival is traditionally how the maltese let loose before Lent
the view of valletta's skyline (the capital city, a unesco world heritage site). this view still gives me butterflies.

from poking around little fishing villages to hiking along malta's cliffs and rocky shores, there's always something unexpected to discover

this is where malta's italian heritage really shines through. feast (or festa, in maltese) is really code word for party.
at most feasts there are fireworks before, during, and after. in the summer this means there are usually fireworks every night. and sometimes even during the day! in april malta also plays host to an international fireworks festival. last year we missed it because we were traveling through the greek mountains and going to london for the royal wedding, but we are super excited to catch it this year.

a former british colony, cuisine in malta is a curious mix of italian, british, and north african. plus we get fresh, local produce all year long - a novelty, for us canadians. citrus season in january? yes, please. and don't even get me started on maltese bread or ravioli.

ancient neolithic temples and hypogeums, medieval walled cities, roman houses, baroque churches, impressive fortifications, malta has it all. some of our favourite historic sites include the walled cities of valletta, mdina and birgu, as well as the Hal Salfieni Hypogeum and Hagar Qim temple.
brightly coloured fishing boats called luzzus pull right up to the market to unload their goods at this seaside market in the village of marsaxlokk (pronounced mar-sa-shlock). when you order seafood in marsaxlokk's restaurants sometimes you are even lucky enough to have to wait until it comes off the boat. now that's fresh.
mike's a sports guy (that's him rock climbing) and he's loved taking advantage of being able to do outdoor activities in malta all year long. again, a big novelty for us canadians. and what better way to take advantage of malta's balmy weather? windsurfing, sailing, kayaking, diving, snorkelling, hiking, and of course malta's favourite team sports - football (soccer, for us north americans) and water polo, are just a few activities for athletes to take up here.
summer is a magical time in malta. big-name outdoor concerts (like the isle of MTV), DJs spinning at open-air clubs, wine and beer festivals, feasts, fairs, seaside bbqs, sunset picnics, hot beaches and warm seas. absolute perfection.
while we've certainly felt the european cold snap in malta this winter, we are normally lucky to have very mild winters and hot, dry summers. in malta it doesn't rain a drop from may until september, and we like it that way.

We also love that living in Malta allows us to travel more affordably and more often. During our first (whirlwind) year in Malta we were able to visit 11 countries and 19 cities (biggest lesson - pack light). We also bought our first car, got our dogs their own passports (for real), and just finished filming an episode of House Hunters International. Please, somebody pinch me.

But, as Liz knows, moving abroad is not all picture-perfect. And we have our (short) list of complaints and challenges. Making friends while working from home, language barriers, strange shop hours, walking on cobblestone in heels (not happening), smoking in public places, lack of dog friendly spaces, renting property, no good dill pickles, crazy driving. Life abroad is still life, and it has its ups and downs. But would we trade it for anything? Not a chance.

For a better look at life in Malta and our travels, follow along on our adventure at mike-jess.com.

Monday, February 27, 2012

{Guest Blogger: Sequins & Stripes}

Hi there! It's Liz from the fashion and style blog, Sequins & Stripes, and I am thrilled to be here today while Liz jets off to Seville for a quick {and dreamy!} getaway! It is currently still winter in Chicago, which I assume is similar to Amsterdam, but Spain is experiencing some 70 degree temps and I have no doubt that Liz will be soaking up every moment. Sounds like a lovely weekend, right? I recently spent a month in Europe and Spain had to be one of the most effortlessly styled countries that I visited. I have no doubt that Liz packed a perfectly assembled {and stylish} suitcase herself, but I thought it would be fun to put together two looks that can easily work for both day and night. 

Flared denim can easily be dressed up or down and this silky white tee is a dressy twist on basic jersey. Pair this outfit with bright pink flats for day or pointed heels for night! For accessories, I love the bright colors in the Mango scarf, paired with fun yellow studs and the python clutch. A striped dress is adorable {and comfortable} for day and night, paired with Milly for Sperry Topsiders during the day and the pink flats for night. Add a pop of lipstick when it's time to go out with your man, and your look goes from day to night in one quick step! Two easy outfits to roam the streets of Seville and take on the town!

A huge thank you to Liz for hosting me today! I can't wait to hear all about her dreamy escape! 

Don't forget to stop by Sequins & Stripes to find daily inspiration for a styled life, or if you're in need of some styling assistance, check out my website: Elizabeth Schneider Style!

Friday, February 24, 2012

{Under the Weather}

Well, getting sick before our much anticipated trip to Spain was certainly not on the to-do list, but I guess you have to roll with the punches (as Megan would say). We leave bright and early tomorrow morning and it's supposed to be 70 and sunny in Seville all weekend. Corey may just have to drag me, kicking and screaming, onto the plane on Tuesday morning! I have three incredible guest posters over the next few days, so please come check them out. Seriously, my favorite guest posts to date - you won't want to miss them! And then I'll be back with photos from our trip (per usual). Have an amazing weekend and wish me luck kicking this nasty cold before tomorrow morning!

P.S. If you happen to be bored this weekend and are looking for some new reads, here are my current (new-to-me) favorites!

This Chick's Got Style: An Amsterdam style blog
Wayfare Magazine: A new online travel mag (thanks for the tip Ashley!)
l'esthetique: Adorable style/lifestyle blog.
My Suitcase Heart: Gorgeous photography/lifestyle blog 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

{Sponsor Spotlight: Shades of Gray}

I’m so excited to introduce you all to Amira from the blog Shades of Gray! Amira originally started her blog as a travel blog to document a 3 week trip through Europe with her boyfriend (they visited Belgium, Paris, Germany and Amsterdam!). Her boyfriend actually proposed on Christmas in Belgium (how romantic!), so the blog ended up morphing into a wedding planning blog. Now, almost a year and a half after the wedding, she uses her cute blog as a place to share the joys (and challenges) of being a newlywed who works full-time and goes to grad school. She wrote an awesome post about 10 thingsshe learned in the first year of marriage that I am pretty obsessed with! Go check her out – you’ll be so happy you did :)

Monday, February 20, 2012

{Weekend Recap}

This weekend we…

Met friends at a new (to us) bar in our neighborhood that brews their own beer!  Good beer, good company, what more could you ask for?

Made banana pancakes for breakfast Saturday and we lounged around for the greater part of the morning. Bliss.

I went shopping all by myself. I found Voluspa candles and pink skinnies (among other things). I remembered why they call it Retail Therapy as I felt like a new woman after my shopping excursion!

Went out for pizza at our favorite place on Saturday night. It was divine as usual. Then we stopped by McDonald’s for a vanilla ice cream cone. Hey, you can’t beat dessert for 1 EUR (TOTAL.).

Watched The Ides of March on my laptop in bed with my two boys (Henry is such a good cuddler!). I decided that was my favorite place to be. Ever.

Met up with friends at the Beer Temple on Saturday night. They have more than 60 different American bottled beers and over 30 taps! We stayed out until 3AM, which is not a regular occurrence for us. I know, I’m making us sound so cool right now.

Sunday we slept in, I made oatmeal with honey and cinnamon for breakfast and then we met up with family friends for lunch in Oud Zuid.

I made Baked Shoestring Garlic Fries a la Pinterest. I’m making another Pinterest-found recipe tonight! I’m on a roll!

And best of all, we Skyped with our niece, Emma. She turns one today! Happy birthday sweet, little Emma! I know you can’t read this, but someday I’ll show it to you and you’ll see how much your uncle and I missed you while we lived in Europe!

What did you do this weekend?

P.S. I'm also over at Mama and Her Boys today talking about how Corey and I ended up abroad - go take a peek!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

{Lemon Ricotta Pancakes}

Good morning! I don't know about you, but our favorite thing to do on a Sunday morning is lounge around in our comfies, sleepily sip a cappuccino and make an indulgent breakfast. We made these Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with sauteed apples a few weeks back and I thought I'd post them this morning in case you were looking for a special Sunday breakfast recipe. Bon appétit! 
 Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Sauteed Apples
Servings: Makes about twelve 3- to 4-inch pancakes.

For the sauteed apples
4 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
fresh lemon juice to taste

For the pancakes
4 large eggs, separated
1 1/3 cups ricotta
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly grated lemon zest
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Melted butter for brushing the griddle

Maple syrup, as an accompaniment

Prepare the sauteed apples:
In a large heavy skillet saute the apples in the butter over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until they are softened, sprinkle them with the sugar and the cinnamon, and cook them over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 10 minutes, or until they are tender. Stir in the lemon juice and keep the mixture warm.

Make the pancakes:
In a bowl whisk together the egg yolks, the ricotta, the sugar, and the zest, add the flour, and stir the mixture until it is just combined. In a bowl with an electric mixer beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they hold stiff peaks, whisk about one fourth of them into the ricotta mixture, and fold in the remaining whites gently but thoroughly. Heat a griddle over medium-low heat until it is hot enough to make drops of water scatter over its surface and brush it with some of the melted butter. Working in batches, pour the batter onto the griddle by 1/4-cup measures and cook the pancakes for 1 to 2 minutes on each side, or until they are golden, brushing the griddle with some of the melted butter as necessary. Transfer the pancakes as they are cooked to a heatproof platter and keep them warm in a preheated 200°F oven.

Serve the pancakes with the sauteed apples and the maple syrup.

{Photos © Liz Denfeld Photography}

Friday, February 17, 2012

{Travel Plans: February - June}

Before we moved to Europe we decided our goal would be to travel at least one new place a month while we were living abroad. Sure, that sounds like a lot, but we made a list of our "must-sees" and there are about 50 cities on the list. That's a lot. So time cannot be wasted! We've already done a pretty great job of sticking to that goal, even with three trips home between August and December! I thought you guys might be interested in our upcoming travel plans (I've had a few questions via Formspring and E-Mail), so here they are!
Next weekend we're meeting up with Nicole in Seville, Spain! Our original plan was to go to the Basque Region in Spain, but after all the cold we've been experiencing we decided we'd trade rainy northern Spain for sunny Southern Spain.
Next month we're meeting Megan + her boyfriend, Stephen, in Edinburgh! I can't wait to see the castle and get to know them over a few pints! We're also going to take a day trip out to St. Andrews, which I've heard is breathtakingly beautiful.
In April my mom is coming to visit for TWO WEEKS. Oh my gosh, I am soooo excited!!! We're going to spend the long Easter weekend in Barcelona. Perfection.
In May the huz turns the big 3-0 so I wanted to take him somewhere extra special. We will be jetting off to one of our dream destinations: The Amalfi Coast! We'll be staying in a quaint Italian B&B right in the edge of the cliffs and will enjoy the magnificent view from our own private balcony. 
In June.. I can hardly get the words out I am THAT excited.. we're heading to SANTORINI for an entire week!! That'll be our longest trip to date! The goal here is pure relaxation. No crazy sightseeing or walking until our feet blister. We splurged on our hotel as this is our ultimate dream European destination. Our room has a giant private balcony complete with loungers and a jacuzzi tub! {special thanks to Ashlee for the recommendation!}.

I'd LOVE any recommendations you have for these cities. Especially restaurants or any unique/off-the-beaten path shops or sights :)

{image credit: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5}

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

{Amsterdam Winter Wonderland: Part II}

I think this is the most photos I've ever put in one post! Wowza! Hope you enjoy it. I just couldn't help myself - the frozen canals are true pretty not to over-share :)
{Photos © Liz Denfeld Photography}