bye bye, breda

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The past month has been a complete whirlwind and by the look of things, they are unlikely to slow down. On the bright side, whirlwinds bring excitement, new adventures and everlasting memories; while on the flipside, time flies.

The craze started the moment I heard my apartment sold. In a quick three weeks, I was packed, moved (or should I say stored), on the hunt for a new place and ready for my travel back to the states. My last few days in Breda were certainly bittersweet, as this cozy city introduced and broke me in to all things Dutch. It was truly the perfect place to begin my living abroad journey (not too big, not too small), and thanks to Breda, I am ready for the ‘too big’ city.

Stay tuned for a few more very exciting details… But until then, I hope you enjoy a few of my favorite Breda snapshots taken over the past six months.

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Until next time – tot ziens!

XX – Whitney

reasons for jet lag

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As do most vacas, my trip home to Florida went by way too quickly. Our two weeks were packed with family, friends, and lots of nautical fun – and I wouldn’t have had it any other way (unless an extension of a week… or three… was an option). While I’m still recovering from jet lag (one tough ole bird), I thought I would share a slight recap of our time in beautiful, sunny (for the most part) Florida.

Blue Wahoos game – Pensacola, Florida

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Watermelon cake for my cousin’s birthday

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Necessity for a day of swimming, floating and kayaking on the river

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Pensacola Beach, Florida

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Amazing Americana/nautical manicure

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Early birthday celebration with my parents and Joost

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One of my most favorite gifts (ever) – pretty sure I’m never taking it off

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Until next time – tot ziens!

XX – Whitney

party details

You can always count on holidays being my favorite days of the year as it brings family and friends together for a little R&R, hearty laughs, delicious treats and good company – and this 4th of July was no different. Well, slightly, as the 4th was celebrated on the 6th… and across the pond in Holland. However, the R&R, hearty laughs, delicious treats and good company was still very much there. Words can’t express how much fun I had planning, shopping (or should I say hunting – sometimes I felt like I was on a wild goose chase for the things on my list), decorating, sharing American traditions and being a part of such a fun and wonderful group of people.

The Outfit –

I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to find Americana wear! I’m talking one store, second outfit tried on easy. If you think I was the best dressed of the party – think again! There were American flag swimming trunks and shirts and stars + stripes everywhere! Absolutely loved.

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The Decor –

I found shopping for party supplies a bit on the difficult side as there’s no “Party City” or places of the like – plus, the actual decor is totally different – BUT, that just allowed for more creativity and craft time. I also learned mason jars do not exist in the Netherlands and ice, along with red plastic cups, are rare finds. Who knew?

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Treats and Spirits –

There’s nothing better than festive treats and spirits at a party – our menu included red, white and blue sangria with pineapple stars, a fruit flag, juicy watermelon, coozies to compliment the beer (apparently very American), buttery nips (also very American) and the star of the night… an American flag cake! We also had delicious BBQ, cucumber bites, potato salad, pasta salad and toasted bread.

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The Entertainment –

After dinner, we enjoyed beer pong tournaments (many played for the first time!) and posing in the photo booth. If you want fun and hysterically comical snap shots from your party – definitely opt for a PB. The next day, with temps soaring in the 80s, we enjoyed a wet and wild water balloon fight.

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Until next time – Joost and I will be on our way to vaca in the U-S-A!

XX – Whitney

swan attack

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This weekend was a happy one, as I was beyond excited to welcome Joost back from a two-week training course – which felt like the longest 14 days ever (funny to think how quickly we’ve become spoiled with seeing each other every weekend, where it once was every 8-12 weeks). Along with the “Welcome Home” celebration, we also had Aspergedag 2013 on our agenda (family code name for the annual Asparagus Party – bet you can’t guess what we ate!). On our way to the party, I spotted the cutest little swan family and of course, a photo opp was totally necessary. Everyone seemed to be in for the photo shoot, minus the father swan – see ruffled feathers below. It would have been nice to know swans are a protective and aggressive breed beforehand.

Therefore, from this experience as well as the stork one, it can be concluded Dutch birds do not favor brightly colored Americans named Whitney.

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Joost and I were surprised with beautiful (and healthy) blooms at the Asparagus Party – hoping I can keep this mini garden alive! Any tips?

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Until next time – tot ziens!

XX – Whitney

sun, sand and saltwater

Spontaneous road trip to the beach? You can always count me in – even with a breezy high of 60 degrees. Tossing my bikini aside (tear), Rockanje essentials included: a light sweater, waterproof jacket, fleece-lined leggings and rain boots. Yes, rain boots (Florida people – please cease your laughter).

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We’re here! Wait… Are we at the beach? Or in the forest? Well, the answer is both! Never seeing anything like this before, I was in love with the little pre-beach walk – most certainly did a great job building my anticipation for the sun, sand and saltwater that lies ahead.

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Finally! After the longest walk ever (ok, it was only 4 minutes), I had the salty air upon my face, the ocean in my sight and the sand in between my toes… I mean, under my rain boots. To say the least, I was like a kid in a candy store. The calm waters, fresh breeze, dunes (quite possibly the biggest hills in Holland – really, this country is like a pancake) and instant tide changes were all noteworthy Rockanje attributes that quickly had me head over heels. I also loved how the beach is not only forever long, but also forever wide (which works in everyone’s favor – apparently once temps are considered beach weather appropriate, the entire country flocks to the coast – and when that time comes, I hope Joost is ready for a 5am departure). Even though the temps were cooler than your typical beach day, Joost and I had a wonderful time walking the beach, drawing in the sand, looking for shells, watching families build sand castles, laughing at dogs chase after sticks (apparently the water wasn’t too cold for them, brr) and ending our day with a beautiful beach sunset.

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I thought this was one of the most hilarious things I’ve ever seen (which is apparently common)… and they call us rednecks?

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Until next time – tot ziens!

XX – Whitney

land of the wooden clogs

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Welcome to farmer’s land – also known as the small village of Nieuwleusen! After spending last Thursday at the (very busy, very crowded and very loud) jazz festival, Joost and I decided to pack our bags, head north and get away for a little R&R. Obviously I have no idea what the future holds, but if the words “homeowners” and “Netherlands” are in the same sentence – I can only hope it’s somewhere of the like. Besides, where else am I going to raise my pet sheep?

After two hours or so of driving, we finally made it and were surrounded by green pastures, typical farm animals (even Belted Galloway aka oreo cows), and most importantly, Joost’s dad and Margreet! Our visit consisted of great conversation, learning how to drive a stick shift (only stalled out 7 times), highly intense board games (yours truly won every game – insert evil laugh), jogs through the forest, eventful bike rides (to be explained in just a moment), tending to the horses in wooden clogs, shopping, visiting a mansion (coming soon to a S&B post near you) and peace + quiet (minus the 9am Saturday morning tractor show, where every farmer felt it was necessary to lay on their horns… not honk, but lay). All in all, Joost and I had a wonderful weekend and can’t wait to visit again soon.

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The weather looked promising – blue skies, white, fluffy clouds and sunshine – so we decided to take a bike ride through the forest. Dear little Mother Nature proved my statement, “never trust Holland’s blue skies and sunshine” to be exactly right. About 15 minutes into our ride, the clouds turned dark, the flood gates opened and we were drenched (I should really invest in waterproof mascara) – and I’m not talking sprinkles, but a full on torrential downpour. Joost joked that I am now, officially, a Dutch woman as I’ve been initiated into the culture. But really, once was enough.

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The downpour only lasted 10 or so minutes, so Joost and I decided to head back, change and continue our cycling adventures. I gave up on ‘being cute’ and immediately went for my running gear (in case of any other wet surprises). We enjoyed ‘baa’ing at the sheep (yes, we are those kind of people) and taking in all of the beautiful country sights.

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Everything about the country agreed with me – except Ollie the Cat. He obviously wasn’t a fan.

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Until next time – tot ziens!

XX – Whitney

a flower rainbow

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Imagine. Thousands of flowers – all in full bloom, every color of the rainbow included and the sweetest yet freshest scent you’ve ever smelled in your life… Welcome to the flower fields of Holland. While I’ve seen dozens, or maybe hundreds of pictures, none compared to having all senses totally engulfed by the fields (well, all senses minus taste). I would have to say, the luckiest people of Holland (from late March to mid May) are those whose homes overlook the fields. I could see myself, book in hand, pillow in the tractor seat, feet propped and coffee in the cup holder (tractors do have cup holders, right)?

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The Netherlands continues to hold the honor of ‘World’s Best Flowers’ and ‘World’s Best Flower Gardens’ (coming soon to a Sequins and Bow Ties post near you). As you can imagine, flower enthusiasts from across the world flock to Northern Holland to experience these magnificent sights, which I totally get, as I’ve already vowed to visit every year (hopefully more than once and hopefully with my green thumb family members :: hint hint ::).

From a business standpoint, the Dutch own the horticulture market. Not a surprising statement, but what you might find surprising are the figures involved. Over 4.32 billion (yes, billion with a b) tulip bulbs are exported each year, which brings in a hearty €16.2 billion (which is over $21.2 billion US dollars). WOW! And just think, these numbers are specific to tulips.

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Until next time – tot ziens, my friends!

XX – Whitney