The Nightingale; Unbecoming; The Girls From Corona del Mar; Remember Me Like This

On My Bookshelf this month:

The Nightingale  |  The story of two sisters in occupied France during World War II, and the role they each play in the French Resistance. I have been obsessed with WWII novels this year, and this is my favorite of all that I have read. It is a beautiful story of strength, courage, love and survival, and left me in tears at the end.  |  “If I have learned anything in this long life of mine, it is this: in love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are.”

Unbecoming  |  A girl from small town Tennessee plans a robbery, then escapes to Prague with a stolen painting as her husband and his best friend go to jail for the crime. Not spectacular, but interesting enough.  |  “Real liars don’t lie about anything, they just lie. ‘About’ is a word liars use to justify their lying, to make it seem like a localized problem…With a liar, you can never know the whole truth, ever. You can’t ever be sure that this version is the real version. There is no end, no bottom. Sometimes I wonder if the whole thing was a hoax.”

The Girls From Corona del Mar  |  A very real and somewhat depressing look at a lifelong friendship between two girls. One seemingly perfect, who hits a string of bad luck that never really ends, and her flawed best friend from a dysfunctional family, who in the end realizes that you can never really know another person.  | “What had been so funny? But you can never remember what you were laughing about, and even if you could, it seems doubtful that it would still be funny.”

Remember Me Like This  |  An 11 year old boy disappears, and as the years go by, his family never gives up hope of finding him. After 4 years, he is miraculously found in a neighboring town, having been abducted by a violent pedophile. But instead of this being the happy ending, the book explores how this affects each of the members of his family.  |  “Those four years had gutted her family. How could she not understand such hideous gravity? Everywhere she looked, the absolute and crushing weight of the past. At times she’d been bloated with sadness, leaden and unmovable. Other times, she would have sworn she was a sieve…Life started to feel – what? Not normal. Not familiar. Inhabitable. Navigable.” “The past was a bridge that looked solid and sturdy, but once you were on it, you saw that it extended only far enough to strand you, to suspend you between loss and longing with nowhere to go at all.”

I’m always looking for good book recommendations! What are your favorites?

 

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A Weekend in Prague

Often called the city of a thousand squires, or even the Paris of Eastern Europe, Prague is breathtakingly gorgeous. It is easy to see why people fall in love with this beautiful old city. Prague’s historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and there is no shortage of great restaurants, museums, galleries and world class shopping. Plus, the beer is cheaper than water!

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Moving Abroad Survival Tips

Moving Abroad Survival Tip #1: Give it a year.

We arrived in Vienna a year ago today. It has been a wonderful year, full of amazing friends and exciting adventures. But it has also been a year of challenges. New schools, new jobs, a new house, a new language. And more lessons learned than I can even count.

I started to write about what I have learned in the last 12 months, and quickly realized I could go on and on and on, and still not even come close to covering everything. So I will break it down into little tidbits, lessons learned, survival tips for moving abroad.

My hope is that this series will offer tips for anyone who is moving abroad, for the first time or the fifteenth. And if you aren’t moving abroad, it will give you a peek into the expat experience. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

My very first tip is to give it a year.

Some people will tell you to give it a few months. I think it takes an entire year.

Moving to a new place is hard. And when that new place happens to be on the other side of the world, it is even harder. Confusion, self doubt, denial, anger, frustration, loneliness and self pity are just a few of the emotions you experience in those early days. You feel like you will never master even the most routine of tasks, like navigating the grocery store, or setting up your cell phone. Everything is a chore, and you ask yourself over and over again why you are doing this.

But, as the weeks and months go on, it gets easier. Little by little you make friends, you build a community, you learn the ropes.

Until one day you look around and you realize that this is home. And you are happy here.

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Entrance to The Hoxton Amsterdam

The Hoxton Amsterdam opened earlier this month on the Herengracht Canal, and is already one of the hottest spots in town. The third of Hoxton’s hotels, and the first outside of the UK, the Hoxton Amsterdam is located in five canal houses from the 17th century.

When I booked my room, the hotel hadn’t open yet, so I had no reviews to go off of. I am big on reading about others’ experiences, but I am so glad I went for it anyway, because I had a really wonderful stay.

The location is perfect! Located in the beautiful canals, enough away from the crazy crowds of the city center for it to feel a bit more calm and tranquil, but close enough that you can walk anywhere within a few minutes.

The Hoxton Amsterdam - Herengracht Canal Houses

In the lobby is Lotti’s, a hip restaurant filled with a very stylish crowd, and plenty of comfy seating to hang out day or night. After a long day out and about in town, the convenience of Lotti’s can’t be beat, and everything that I tried was fantastic.

The Hoxton Amsterdam Lotti's RestaurantThe Hoxton Amsterdam

There are 3 different sizes of rooms; the shoebox, the cosy, and the roomy. I was in Amsterdam solo so I tried out the shoebox room. It was definitely small, but it didn’t feel cramped. I really liked it. In the room description it says that there is no room for yoga poses, but I am happy to report that I did yoga every morning with no problems whatsoever.

All rooms come with the Hox Perks, which are free water and milk in the mini fridge, free wifi, an hour of free telephone calls, and a free breakfast bag.

The Hoxton Amsterdam Shoebox Twin Room

While not at all fancy, the breakfast bag is a great little snack to get you going in the morning. Each night you hang the brown bag on a hook outside your door, and indicate at what time you would like your breakfast. In the morning, your bag is filled with fresh juice, yogurt with granola, and a banana.

The Hoxton Amsterdam - Hox Perks Breakfast Bag

The bathroom has awesome copper piping as towel bars, a rainfall shower, and lovely smelling shampoo and conditioner. I appreciate that they provide large bottles in the shower instead of the wasteful, travel sizes.

The Hoxton Amsterdam

Downstairs is a cool area called The Apartment, consisting of 5 different rooms and an outdoor patio, where meetings or private events are hosted.

The Hoxton Amsterdam - The Apartment KitchenHoxton Hotel AmsterdamThe Hoxton Amsterdam Apartment Outdoor SpaceThe Hoxton AmsterdamHoxton Bar

Amsterdam is full of stylish boutique hotels, and beautifully designed airbnb apartments. But there are a few things that set The Hoxton apart. All of the amazingly thought out details. The fun vintage decorations. The Hox Perks. And my favorite- all of the cheeky humor interspersed throughout the hotel. Inside the rooms there is a little drawer labeled ‘crap’, that holds a pencil, a pad of paper, and a cute little accordion pamphlet with information about the hotel. The hair dryer bag says ‘hot air’. A sign on the stairs says ‘whatever goes up, always comes back down’. And doors leading nowhere say ‘dead end’.

I loved staying at The Hoxton, and would definitely recommend it if you find yourself in Amsterdam!

Dead End

MORE INFORMATION:

Check the latest prices for The Hoxton Amsterdam on:  Booking  |  Hotels.com  |  Agoda

Read reviews for The Hoxton Amsterdam on:  TripAdvisor

Don’t miss the rest of my suggestions for a Weekend in Amsterdam.

Read more posts about The Netherlands.

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Easy Homemade Baby Yogurt

I am one of those people who stands in the grocery store aisles for hours reading labels. Which can be pretty annoying for anyone shopping with me. And it gets cold in the dairy aisle after a while! But do you know how hard it is to find anyyogurt without sugar besides plain? Even the yogurt labeled for babies is loaded with sugar. And plain yogurt isn’t always the tastiest, especially for babies and toddlers.

But if you add a bit of fruit purée to your plain yogurt, it’s delicious!

Easy Homemade Baby Yogurt

To make your own baby yogurt, you will need:

  • organic, plain, whole milk yogurt (or greek yogurt)
  • fruit purées
  • optional sweeteners such as honey (if your baby is over a year old) or agave nectar

Directions:

  • Start with organic, plain, whole milk yogurt.
  • Swirl in a fresh fruit purée of your choice.
  • Add a tiny bit of honey or agave nectar to taste, if desired. (If you are using a sweet fruit, this won’t be necessary)

Enjoy!

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