Utrecht | Blackbird Coffee & Vintage

Oudegracht 222, Utrecht, The Netherlands. That’s where Blackbird Coffee & Vintage is located. In a small, yet gorgeous, house along the Utrecht canals you can find this coffee shop where a combination of vintage and coffee are sold.
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The interior is unique and diverse. With beautiful bikes hung on the walls, art displayed throughout the shop and all kinds of vintage seats, chairs and couches to drink your beverage on. A lot of the interior is for sale as well. blackbird-2
Both staff and customers are relaxed and friendly (as are most people in Utrecht!). Groups of friends come here to catch up, dates take place, friendships are made and all of it happens in a relaxed atmosphere and on 1960’s/1970’s chairs and couches.  blackbird-4
Most products are organic and/or fairtrade. Look at these wonderfully packaged chocolate bars. I could’ve taken all of them, they looked so delicious! Especially the ‘sea salt & nibs’ one in the front!
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Instead of buying all the chocolate, I sat down with two of my best friends Joyce and Rozanne on a green couch in the back of the shop and enjoyed spending time with them.
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Our drinks where made up of two coffees and my slow juice (so good!). On the menu are things like coffee, tea, juices, cakes, breakfast items, sandwiches and more. There’s something for every taste and moment of the day day.  blackbird-9
Blackbird Coffee & Vintage is definitely a recommendation. The location is perfect, the people are friendly, the menu is great and the place looks awesome! Tell them I said hi when you visit
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Catie’s Kitchen: Rens Kroes Powerfood Cookbook

You should’ve seen my reaction when I held Rens Kroes’ cookbook called Powerfood in my hands at the local bookstore last week. When I flipped through the pages almost every recipe stood out to me. That’s my way of checking if a cookbook is going to work for me or not. It’s all about whether the recipes are interesting, doable and if the ingredients are relatively easy to get to. This one definitely did!

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Rens Kroes, a Dutch girl from the province Friesland, has a lot experience with healthy eating and even more passion for it. Although her cookbook is all about a healthy lifestyle, it’s in no way about diets or extreme meals. I’ve been a food lover my whole life, but I’ve been getting into eating healthy, making slow food, using fresh ingredients and even preparing vegetarian meals for the last two years or so. Rens Kroes cookbook is perfect for those of you who are just starting to eat more healthy or who have been doing so for a while. 

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What I like about the recipes is that they’re diverse. There are breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and even juice recipes. Some of the recipes are vegetarian, all of them use fresh and healthy ingredients. There are easy recipes, harder ones and recipes with influences from all over the world. What makes this book even more special are the personal stories Rens has included. Her morning routine, growing up in Friesland, where the recipes are from and such are part of the book. 

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I made about five of the recipes in the last three days when I spent my weekend at my parents house in the Dutch countryside. Even here, I had no trouble finding the ingredients I needed. I had most of them in my kitchen already. 

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I can already tell that his cookbook is going to be one of my favorites! You can buy the cookbook for €19,99 online or at your local bookstore!  

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One for One | TOMS Shoes

One for One, that’s what Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS wanted to realize when he founded TOMS in 2006. TOMS is a company known for selling shoes and matching every pair of shoes purchased with a pair of new shoes for a child in need. TOMS is now also selling glasses and doing other amazing work to improve children’s education, health and local economies all around the world.

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So where does that leave me? I bought a pair of shoes this past weekend at a local shoe store. Let’s rephrase that. I finally bought my own pair of TOMS shoes. Not only do I love the TOMS shoe design, I think the One for One concept it brilliant. It’s a practical and fun way to help out in a world where basic items like shoes and glasses aren’t available for everyone.

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Instead of donating to a good cause (which is also a great way to help out) you can buy yourself an awesome pair of TOMS and help out a child in need at the same time. It’s easy and it’s a win-win situation for everyone. Also, don’t you just love these shoes? I can’t believe how awesome they are!

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You’ve probably figured it out by now, but I’m extremely excited about my new shoes. If you’re interested in the One for One concept or if you’d like to buy shoes yourself, check out the website right here!

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Catie’s Kitchen: Holiday Meals Pt. 1

One of the most exciting things about going on vacation is trying out local food. In my case preparing scandinavian meals in Sweden. I took a picture of every dinner I ate whilst on vacation for two weeks. Whether you need some inspiration, you’re interested in Swedish food or you’re just nosy and curious about my eating habits.. this blogpost is just for you!

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Fresh mackerel with peper and garlic, fried onion rings, rösti and a cucumber, tomato and olive salad on the side.

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All I can say is.. mozarella sticks! We paired the mozarella sticks with some delicious potato gratin. To add some vitamins there is a salad containing cucumber, cherry tomatoes, green bell pepper, olives and some soft boiled egg.

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Sometimes all you need is an easy meal. We ate some tomato ravioli with shrimp and paprika tomato pasta sauce.

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This is de Dagens Lunch that I mentioned in my last blogpost. A typical Swedish meal with salmon, shrimp, potatoes, salad, fresh bread with butter, watermelon and a dille sauce.

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I love corn! This easy meal is made up of corn, fresh mackarel, some white beans (didn’t really like those) and some rösti.

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And finally some small baked potatos, a salad made with cucumber, yellow bell pepper, cherry tomato and dressing. A wonderful spicy sausage on the side. The red sauce that is in some pictures is a chili sauce we found in the supermarket.

That’s it! I’m not saying these are the most balanced, healthy meals, but I enjoyed each and every one of them! Part two of this series is coming your way soon!

Why Sweden is Awesome

I’m back! You probably didn’t know I was gone, because my lovely brother posted the last two blogposts I had written before I went on vacation. Nevertheless, I’m back and I have a lot of stories to share with you! The last two weeks I spent on the island Öland in Southern Sweden. My family and I rented a cottage from a friendly couple and we explored the island and area by car.

Some people are surprised when I tell them I went on vacation to Sweden. What can you do there? Isn’t it boring? There is no sun there, right? So here is a blogpost about two sunny weeks on a beautiful island, proving them wrong!

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Let’s start with me. Here I am standing in front of the limestone rocks that cover some of the coast of Öland. It’s called Byrum Raukar and the limestone is truly incredible to see. They’re up to 4 meters high and give the coast a spectacular look.

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The biggest town on the island is called Borgholm. It’s a pretty town with a harbor, quite a few shops, a beach and it’s also the place where the royal family has a summer house (Solliden). Near to Solliden you can find an enormous ‘ruin’ of a castle called Borgholm Slot. This is the courtyard inside.

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Scandinavian food. That’s one of the reasons why I love Sweden so much. What you see on the picture is called a Dagens Lunch. It’s a lunch that’s different every day of the week. For about 130 SEK we ate from a buffet and as you can see the plate is filled with potatoes, bread, salmon, shrimps, salad and lovely watermelon. Oh, and don’t forget about the dille sauce!

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The sunsets on the island were gorgeous. I took this photo at a little harbor near our cottage. The sea, sky and surrounding nature were extremely calm, relaxing and beautiful. We often walked to this harbor in the evening, stunned by its beauty every time.

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This isn’t a strange sighting when you’re in Sweden. Most of the coast is covered in rocks and people who visit often make small towers like on the photo. I’ve heard that they’re supposed to bring luck, but even though I’m not superstitious I made my own tower multiple times. Who knows, maybe it’ll give me some luck anyway!

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You might be surprised by this photo, but no this isn’t edited and yes this really is Sweden. Blue sky, clear water, white sand and a lot of sun.

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Standing on top of the lighthouse in the north of Öland, called Långe Erik, gave me this amazing view of the northern part of the island. You can see the blue water, lots of trees and the gorgeous land of Sweden!

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Our first and only trip to the mainland had as destination Kalmar. Kalmar is a big(ger) city with a great center, lots of shops and also this beautiful castle. We joined an English guided tour and learned a lot about the history of both the castle and the area.

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Sitting in a small train I spotted some deer. Here’s the best photo I took. Wildlife is everywhere in Sweden, especially on the main land.

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Just a photo of ice cream right? No it’s not! The two ice cream cones on the right are filled with Lakrits ice cream. Lakrits is an ingredient that the Swedish people love. It’s everywhere, in everything and it’s awesome. Lakrits is either the same or the ingredient for liquorice. You either love it or you hate it!

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And last but not least is a photo of the Shipwreck on the coast in the Trollskogen forest. This wreck is of the three masted schooner called Swiks and has been laying here since 1926. It’s a weird and yet beautiful sight to see. The surrounding forrest, coast and sea are also beautiful and worth visiting.

Two weeks of Sweden wasn’t enough. I definitely need to come back again and experience more of the Swedish lifestyle. Have you ever been to Scandinavia? Would you consider going after seeing these photos? 

Catie’s Kitchen: Green Morning Juice

My breakfast is almost always made up of fruit (it’s the only way for me to get through the morning without having to think much!). I like starting my day of with a light and healthy breakfast, because it gives me a great foundation for the day and is beneficial to my health and energy. Since a couple of months I’ve been using my juicer to make juices during the day and I love it! Now that I’m home for summer vacation I’ve taken the time to make a juice every morning for breakfast.

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I know there are a lot of different opinions about juicers, juicing and the benefits of the juice, but for me this is what works and this is what I like to drink. Juicing gives me the opportunity to eat a lot of fruit and vegetables in one day that otherwise would be a lot to consume. Instead of the thick(er) mixture you get when using a blender, juicing will give you a smooth and thin drink that’s refreshing and easy to drink. I’ve tried a lot of different ingredients, usually what I have laying around, and I’d like to share one of my favorites with you in this blogpost. I guess this juice can also be made with a blender, but the consistency will slightly differ.

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Ingredients (for one mason jar):

- half of a cucumber
– 1 sweet apple
– 1 kiwi
– 1 nectarine
– half of a lemon

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Wash the ingredients. Cut the fruits and vegetables as needed for your juicer. I peel the kiwi and cut the nectarine and apple into smaller pieces so they fit better in the juicer. Get your juicer ready and juice! There’s no particular order this needs to happen in, but I start with the cucumber and end by squeezing a bit of lemon juice in there! Serve your juice in a big glass and don’t forget to stir every now and then.

That’s it, you’ve just made your own green morning juice! If you recreate this, send a picture to me and tag me @catiemccartneyblog  #catieskitchen

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Facing Fears

I’ve been haunted by something for years and years now. It’s been a recurring thing in my life, something that would creep up on me when I was least expecting it. Something that would make me totally and utterly scared, fill me with such a panic that I froze with angst. I’ve always feared this particular thing, but it had gotten particularly worse in my teenage years. With other, I thought more important, things going on in my life I survived by living like it didn’t exist, like there was no problem. I couldn’t think, talk or hear someone talk about it. When I saw something that made me remember my fear I felt sick and panicked. It even went as far that I couldn’t hear anyone say the word. Dentist. Tandarts. Yes, I had a severe phobia of the dentist. 

The good news is, I’m doing better, the bad news is, I let it control me for a lot of years. So why am I sharing this with you? You might not have a problem with the dentist at all. You might even like it (are there people out there who enjoy it?). That’s not why I’m writing about this, it’s because everyone has fears, whether it be big or small, important or not. Fear is human, it’s also needed and important to feel fear. Fear helps us humans survive. It’s a way to recognize things that could endanger us. However, fears that are taking over your life or harming you in whatever way, are not OK. 

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Just to make it clear to you, I know loads of people dislike going to the dentist, they might even feel nervous or skip an appointment every now and then. Not saying that I’m something special, but I had gone past that stage of being scared, it had gotten to a whole other level. As I said I couldn’t talk about it, think about it, I had panic attacks about it, I dreamed about it (let’s call that a nightmare) and even worse.. I had stopped going to my appointments all together. My mom, supportive that she is, had talked to me about it for the last year and tried making me appointments, but every time I couldn’t go through with it, for whatever reason. 

I have had terrible experiences at the dentist. The dentist itself is a friendly and skilled guy. I’ve been going to him since I was young and he knows me and my family well. It’s the procedures that made me scared in the first place. My sensitivity for sound, smells and pain made it worse. I couldn’t handle the feeling and experience, I remember (almost) fainting one time. I had panic attacks (picture me sobbing hysterically in the room) when I tried to go. The dentist recognized I had a problem. I had a phobia.

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And then it was enough. I needed to go. My mom had made an appointment for herself and I knew about it. It was right before a vacation and I had some discomfort in my mouth and felt so worried about it. So I made myself go to her appointment (accompanied by my mom). Tip: go with someone you trust. The dentist knew about my fear (we called him before I came) and took his time explaining everything. He also didn’t use any tools except a mirror. Turned out I had two cavities. That could be fixed. Long story short. One cavity turned out to be much worse. I had inflammation under my tooth. It needed to go. It took a handful of appointments to get everything fixed. He described some drugs to make me calm and less worried, which helped a lot. I got through the process and each time had more courage to keep coming back. And the thing is, my fear became less and less.

Things that helped me:

talking about it with someone

making a plan and sticking to it (face your fears)

have someone there to support you

having the dentist know about it

taking some drugs the first couple of times

writing down my thoughts and feelings

doing it multiple times 

accepting that you’re scared 

It’ll be something that I’ll need to work on for the rest of my life and no I’ll never like going to the dentist. As long as I’m okay with going to my appointments once or twice a year, having a dentist that supports me and is careful, I’ll be okay. So don’t ever think there’s no hope. Never ever give up, because there’s always something you can do, there’s always hope. Don’t feel like you have to conquer your fears alone; find someone that understands and will help you. Fear is a part of life, but it’s not supposed to be consuming your life. When you feel ready to tackle it, go for it! I believe in you! 

Have you conquered any fears? Or are you still struggling with it?

200 Blog Followers!

It never was and it never will be about the numbers, about how many followers I have. I can say that because I started this blog because I love writing, I love sharing my life and I have loads and loads of creative ideas that I needed an outlet for. However, when I reached two hundred followers yesterday my heart skipped a beat. I love that there are 200 of you, my readers, who are following what I write and what I do on this blog. So for this day it is about the numbers, about the 200 of you who have subscribed to this blog and everyone who is reading it!

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I am truly grateful for each and every one of you out there who has been reading my blog! I started in August 2012 and almost two years later I am still writing, still loving it (maybe even more) and I am so excited for the journey that’s ahead!

So, thanks. From the bottom of my heart. Thank you so much!

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How I make most of my Summer

It’s summer, it’s warm outside, I’m home for summer vacation and there are a lot of things I have the time and space for now that I’m home from school. Since I don’t have to worry about things like doing homework, being on time and getting things done I’m using that time for different activities. Things that you might like to do as well. Here are five summer-y things I like (to do).

Read a lot of books
I’ve recently dedicated an entire blogpost to the books I bought for summer. You can read that here if you haven’t already. I’ve secretly added some more books to that collection since I was going through them on such a high speed that it wouldn’t last me very long. The book I’m reading now is called The disreputable history of Frankie Landau-Banks by Emily Lockhart. It’s set in a boarding school and it’s witty, interesting, lighthearted and sometimes very philosophical. It’s a perfect book for summer reading. Why not keep your brain in check whilst relaxing outside in the sun with a book?!

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Drink a lot of water
Drinking water is good for you, that’s what everyone says and everyone knows. It’s also easier said than done for me, because even though I’m always thirsty I can’t seem to make myself drink lots of water. The solution for me? Don’t buy any juices (what you don’t have you can’t drink), add fruits like lemon and lime to you water, fill a pitcher with the amount of water you’d like to drink during that day and start drinking until you’re finished that evening. It’s working for me and (I know how cliché this sounds) I’m actually seeing the effects of drinking 1,5 to 2L of water on my skin, hair and energy level. You can do it!

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Watch movies
I’d describe myself as a TV show kind of girl, not really a movie kind of person (although I love them). During the school year I can’t seem to make time to watch a movie the whole way through. Since I’m more relaxed now and feel like I have the time to watch whatever I want to I’m watching movies. The last movie I watched is called Frozen, because everyone has been talking about it! Coming from a girl who hardly ever watches Dinsey movies or animated movies for that matter, I thought it was funny and cleverly made!

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Spend time outside
Maybe it’s blazing hot, maybe you don’t feel like it, but make yourself spend time outside. Feel the summers breeze through your hair, the sun on your skin and the smells in the air. Take a book and read in the shade, go on a bike ride when it’s cool outside, spend time swimming or laying on the beach and most of all enjoy the beauty of nature. My favorite is eating breakfast or dinner outside in the garden with my family.

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Writing and journaling
You don’t have to start a blog (although, why not, if you’ve been thinking about it, this is a perfect time!) but maybe you’ve always wanted to start a journal, or maybe you have some great ideas or memories that you’d like to remember. Go get yourself a journal or notebook and start writing away. Journaling isn’t only a great way for remembering things, it’s also a way to let go of things that are filling up your head. My tip for writing is, write like nobody is ever going to read it. Write with your heart and emotions and worry about the flow or grammar later if you ever need to. Have fun with it! You can even make a summer journal and add photo’s, movie tickets and drawings to it.

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Trying new food
Whether you’re on vacation and there’s something on the menu you’ve never tried before, or you’re at home making dinner for the family. Go outside of your comfort zone this summer, try new ingredients, new items and new food. Maybe your local (farmers) market will have some ingredients you’ve never tried. Search for new recipes like I did yesterday and prepare yourself something delicious. It’s all about the fun of trying! I made portobello mushrooms stuffed with goat’s cheese, green pesto and pine nuts baked in the oven. It. Was. Delicious. Definitely trying the mushrooms again!

Enjoy the summer, wherever you are in the world!

 

Catie’s Kitchen: Sweet potatoes, Fish & Samphire

I promised my parents one day that I would cook dinner. This is something I often do during the weekends or when I’m home for a break. I love cooking in their big, clean kitchen, with all the right utensils and my moms support if I need it. I searched the web for a recipe that I’d like to try and I came across this one with a sweet potato. Since we live in a rural, coastal area, samphire is locally grown here. After a mid day hike we picked up some samphire from our local farm and I decided to add this to the recipe. It ended up being this: roasted sweet potato with filling, a Dutch kind of cod coated with dough (we call it ‘Lekkerbek’ which means someone who loves refined food) and samphire. 

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Roasted sweet potatoes (3 persons)

- 3 big sweet potatoes

- (olive) oil

- salt and pepper

- goats cheese (as much as you’d like)

- a couple of spring onions (I used about 5)

- a couple of hands of rucola

- two big tomatoes

The recipe didn’t ask for this but, I also added some fresh chive from our vegetable garden. 

Get out your baking dish and grease it with some oil. Wash the potatoes and coat them in the oil as well. Poke some holes in each potato with a fork. Put the potatoes in the baking dish and in the oven for about 45-55 minutes at 200 degrees celsius (392 fahrenheit). Check in on them every now and then and poke them with a fork to check if they’re getting any softer. They’re ready when they’re soft and squishy. 

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When the potatoes are in the oven you can start on the filling. Crumble your cheese and put it in a bowl. Cut the spring onions, after washing them, and add them to the cheese. Also add your washed and chopped chives and start cutting your tomatoes. Get rid of the seeds and insides and cut the outer parts into small cubes. Add everything to the mixture and finish it off with some pepper and salt. 

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Cod
I used the special Dutch kind called ‘Lekkerbekje’. It’s the kind of fish you’d use for fish and chips if you were British, but any kind of white fish, like cod, would do. I greased a baking dish with oil and put two big pieces of fish in to the dish. I put them in the oven with the potatoes on the same heat for about 10-15 minutes. You’ll see the fish turn a golden brown when it’s finished.

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Samphire (3 person)
- 150 gram samphire

I used the samphire as a side dish, therefore 150 grams will do. Rinse the samphire with some water. Put some water in a bowl and let it get to a boil. When it boils add the samphire for about 10 minutes. When it’s done get rid of the water and you’re ready.

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Finishing touches
I added a handful of rucola to each plate and put the potato on top. Cut down the middle of the potato and add the cheese and tomato mixture. Finish the plate with the samphire and cod and you’re ready to eat!

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Enjoy your meal! Tag me on Instagram and Twitter #catieskitchen @catiemccartneyblog