Wednesday, 29 August 2007

beautiful memories old and new

The first street I lived on on arrival in Amsterdam, oh-so many moons ago, was the Haarlemmerstraat. The Haarlemmerstraat (becoming the Haarlemmerdijk further down) is a great street with everything you could possibly ever want or need. One of my favourite shops that’s been around since before I arrived is Vivian Hann’s ceramic design shop. Vivian’s discerning eye has selected some of the most gorgeous contemporary ceramic design for you to choose from.
One such item is Mokkatanten’s ceramic memory stick. Founded by Cora Gebauer and Insa Doan, Mokkatanten sort of translates to ‘elderly aunts drinking coffee and bickering’. Beautifully presented in lace fabric and with it’s own knitted pouch it’s a quirky blend of old and new technologies. Even more beautiful when the stick is plugged in and the LED starts glowing through the china. The memory memory stick is 1GB capacity, 7cm long and retails for €105 / USD$125. Mokkatanten also make beautiful cups and fabrics.
Another very sweet product in the store is this ‘leftover’ spoon by Mara Skujeniece. Mara designed this spoon as part of a tableware range she did especially for De Bakkerswinkel (The Baker’s Shop). The tableware is wonderfully tactile with it’s organic forms and mix of raw and glazed surfaces. It compliments the quirky and down-to-Earth vibe of De Bakkerswinkel, which is a favourite local hangout of mine now and a mere stone’s throw from the Haarlemmerstraat.
A lovely place to stop and re-fuel after a hard days shopping, I recommend their heavenly scones with home made jam and cream. A great expat scone fix, I take all my visiting friends and family there. You can purchase a 6-item tableware set from De Bakkerswinkel’s (Westerpark location only), price unknown sorry. The spoons can be purchasesd separately from Vivian’s and are €5.50 each.
Vivan Hann, Haarlemmerdijk 102, Amsterdam.
De BakkersWinkel, Amsterdam Westergasfabriek.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

crusin’ croatia

Six days isn’t a long vacation, but it was more than enough time for me to fall in love with Croatia. Landing in Split I was lying in the 30-degree sunshine on a gorgeous pebble beach within the hour. Fabulous.
From Split we hopped on a ferry to the island of Hvar. A gorgeous little harbour city laced by boats form the humble dingy to multi-storey yachts that dwarfed the city behind them.
By day we were soaking up the glorious sun and dipping in and out of the sparkling blue Adriatic water marvelling at our sublime surroundings.
By night we feasted on fresh seafood then hit the town. Nothing beats lounging alfresco on a warm summers night, sipping cocktails and watching the beautiful brown people pass you by.
There was also a hint of glitz and glamour in the air, with the sighting of Miss Nicky Hilton, sister of the infamous Paris. We joined the paparazzi for a moment as she passed us by in a blur of flashing bulbs...gotcha!
Fun to see a Celeb, but it also signals the fact that the world has truly discovered Croatia now. Damn, secret is out.
The next day it was time to head back to the mainland to explore Split, the second largest city in Croatia. A palm-lined harbour draws you back into the historical Old City which is over 1800 years old. The Old Town and surrounding city walls are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And it’s not difficult to understand why, the maze of narrow medievil cobbeled streets beckon you at every turn to explore further.
One of the most commanding Roman ruins still in existence is Split's Diocletian's Palace. Far from being a pile of abandoned buildings, the 220 buildings within the palace boundaries are home to about 3000 people.
For the last two days we packed up the car and split Split for a mini road trip. Heading north and inland to Zagreb we drove through beautiful lush countryside. The ravages of war still evident as we passed desecrated buildings and scared houses.
On the way we planned to stop and see the Waterfalls of the Plitvice Lakes. Sadly, we didn’t know you needed a good three plus hours to do so. Problem was there’s no look-out close by from the entrance that you can walk or drive to, instead you catch a train to certain points of the national park then walk back. But it’s an incredible place so I’m including a little info on it anyway.
Situated on the eponymous Plitvice plateau between three mountains, the lake lies near the Bosnia and Herzegovina boarders. There are sixteen lakes in total, separated into an upper and lower cluster formed by runoff from the mountains, descending from an altitude of 636m to 503m over a distance of some 8 km. The lakes are renowned for their distinctive colours, ranging from azure to green, grey or blue. Their colours changing constantly depending on the quantity of minerals or organisms in the water and the angle of sunlight.
Definitely something to look forward to next time.
Continuing onto Zagreb now, the capital city of Croatia has a booming economy. A lovely city with Austro-Hungarian architecture and a much welcomed cooler climate. Taking it easy for the last day, we mooching about and soaking in the sights. A little market shopping for some prized local produce: lavender oil, olive oil, honey and fresh figs. I managed to get half my figs home un-squished, and they were the starring ingredient in my Croatian Fig and Apple muffins I made for a friend’s birthday the following day. Delish!
My stay was short but jam-packed due to a stellar efforts of one utterly charming Miss Linda. A big thank you, my Dear. And a big hugs and kisses for Suki Chik for inviting me. A truly unforgettable holiday hijack. Good times, ladies, good times.

Monday, 13 August 2007

The fair has come to town

De Parade is here. Along the banks of the Amstel a simple park has been transformed into an enchanting fairytale fairground. Coloured lights are strung up between lit trees, amongst paper flags and lanterns. Ornate hand-painted pavilions and signage beautifully lit-up, it could be a movie set from 50s America.

There are all the essentials of fairground: a gorgeous vintage Ferris wheel, a crazy-swing merry-go-round, a scattering of kooky amusements.

My favourite of these would have to be the Silent Disco; picture a brightly-painted pagoda jammed with people dancing to music only they can hear on headphones. Quite ridiculous, utterly hilarious. The mini drive-in movie, a close second.

De Parade, now in it's 17th year running, is predominately a travelling fringe festival of contemporary short theatre productions and music. Though to be honest I arrived a little too late in the eve and a little too hang over to sit through either.

So instead my friends and I grabbed some food from some of the many food stalls where you can have anything from Mexican to Sushi, or of course the obligatory Dutch Herring or even make-your-own poffertjes. Making poffertjes is not as easy as it looks, believe me.

With full bellies and dreamy smiles we huddled around an open fire sipping Rosé, enjoying the festivities and atmosphere around us. A lovely mellow way to spend an evening.

De Parade: 3 - 19 August, 2007. Open Sunday - Thursday 15.00 - 01.00. Friday / Saturday 15.00 - 02.00. Where: Martin Luther King Park, Amsterdam. Public transport gets you quite close, or try the De Parade Boat with on board bar.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

simply simpsons

We all know The Simpsons cartoon sit-com. Ever wondered what you'd look like if you were a character from the show? Well now you can! The Simpsons, The Movie website lets you build your own character, play games, tour Springfield and more. I think the character-builder is a great idea, althought personally, I would have liked to have been in a skirt or at least have a pair of my 6" heels, but I can live with this version of me in 2D.

The website is but one of the many facets of the mass-market campaign to promote the new Simpson's movie, which by now should be in cinemas everywhere.

Mini-marts across America have been converted into Kwik-E-Marts, complete with character cut-outs and a range of the very familiar products of Springfield: Buzz Cola, Krusty-O's breakfast cereal, Squishe slurpies, and of course, Homer's signature snack, the humble donut.

But it doesn't stop there. From very locally based in-store marketing we jump to a much more sophisticated promotional idea at the absolute opposite end of the market: “The Simpsons go to Paris with Linda Evangelista” as featured in the August edition of Harper's Bazaar. Julius Preite has done a series of illustrations featuring our favourite dysfunctional family modelling top of the line haute couture alongside one the world's top models, Linda Evangelista as well as with the designer's themselves. They model Alber Elbaz, Karl Lagerfeld, Viktor & Rolf, Versace and Jean Paul Gaultier. Below are just a few of my favourite images.

The Simpson's is TV sit-com that has stood the test of time. Indeed, it's America's longest running sit-com and longest-running animation program having first aired in 1989.