Amsterdam for the Weekend: Part 2

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Remember yesterday when we were having such a good time in Amsterdam? Well those times just rolled right on over to Saturday and didn’t let up until the next morning.

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Given what we ate and drank the night before we got up at an impressively early time and rode over the Noordermarkt for the weekly organic market. A quick side note: while we really loved the apartment we stayed in, we cannot say the same about the people who stayed above us. They had what sounded like four or five kids running around up there, but, in reality, was one heavy-footed (maybe club-footed?) and rambunctious child. Beginning at around 8:00 he would hop-scotch his way across the apartment only to finish with what must have been a particularly Stomp-inspired round of Dance Dance Revolution (can I get an “Amen” for those references, by the way?). It was infuriating, but we tried to be nice people and I only gave him the strong stank-eye once.

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The market has stalls with various produce and baked goods, along with pungently fresh seafood, meats, and cheeses. There were also several vendors selling vintage clothes, old books and posters, jewelry and other handicrafts. After trolling the aisles we stopped for coffees and split a dynamite croque madame at Finch, a trendy bar overlooking the square. One reviewer on Yelp said it was visited by “good-looking…people around 30″ and I’m like, shyeah it was!

We really liked it there.

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Next comes the sort of sad part I tried to explain yesterday. We had the BEST intentions of going out to Keukenhof, but it totally didn’t happen. I am disappointed in a way because I know it would have been gorgeous and such a unique experience, but at the time of booking my interpersonal skills were such that it would have been best for me to stay a ways away from someone asking for my money (and time). So we did what we did instead. Upward and onward!

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IMG_2920^^We did see a ton of bikes at the “parking garage” outside the Centraal Station, however.

IMG_2936After walking through the Oost neighborhood and visiting the interesting market they have on that side of town we decided to grab lunch at Wilde Zwijnen. Looking through the windows I was sure the place was closed but the gorgeous weather simply deterred people from dining inside so we had the place to ourselves. We had a scrumptious lunch but I think dinner there would be awesome. The New York Times has a great little article about the slow revival of Dutch cuisine and Wilde Zwijnen’s role in those recent improvements (along with Marius, the parent restaurant Worst Wijncafe, which we frequented on Thursday night).

As with so many of our experiences, the people at the restaurant were impossibly friendly. Our waitress sat and talked with us for a bit about the restaurant and the evolution of the menu and the area. She listed off some of her favorite spots and gave us a few tips and recommendations for the remainder of our trip. We also talked about the Jeff Wall exhibit at the Stedelijk museum and then became best friends. What is in the water there?!

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Oysters for lunch? Yup. What a treat! If you’re looking for a bit of a fancy lunch then please, by all means, stop here. We would highly recommend it.

We then strolled around the neighborhood and back to where we left our bikes by the brewery. Brouwerij’t IJ competes with Vondelpark for the where-the-locals-hang-when-it’s-warm award and if you can elbow your way in I definitely suggest stopping there for a brew or two. Located directly beneath the tallest wooden windmill in the Netherlands the brewery offers a regularly rotating list of beers to please a variety of palates. You can also take a tour in English on Fridays and Saturdays at 3:30. We especially liked the IJWit and the IPA, but everything sounded tasty and thirst quenching. Oh, and don’t forget a side of cheeeeeeese:

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IMG_2953^^ I think they call that maneuver “clutching”

 

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IMG_2969^^the visually delicious Nemo building

All boozed up, we decided to hit the Red Light District because I wasn’t sure I could handle the absurdity stone cold sober. Turns out, I definitely could have because it was lame. So lame. The girls in the windows were gross and cheesy and the stag and hen parties staggering along the streets were comical yet wholly ridiculous. Granted, we were there at 5:00 in the afternoon so well before the place gets going, but really it was quite a tame affair. I suppose if you’ve never been and have any interest it’s worth a gander. All in good fun, of course.

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IMG_2984^^no problem

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IMG_2985^^these dudes obviously had way too much fun. party on, garth.

We continued on our bikes back to our neighborhood and walked and walked until the sun nearly gave out.

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IMG_3056^^this guy looked super sweet and Adam went to try to play fetch with him, but instead nearly had his hand politely bitten off

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IMG_3069^^our apartment had crazy-steep stairs, although we hear that’s pretty much the norm around the city. one must have good balance and a strong constitution for those things!

That evening we were pretty beat from our big day and wanted to take it easy before our flight home the next morning. We again went around the corner for a bite and ended up at La Perla for the most delicious pizza on the planet (not true, but, dang, it was good). While the service was normal by Swiss standards compared to the rest of our experiences we felt downright assaulted here by our frosty waitress. This seems to be the general consensus though at this joint, so if you don’t mind communicating via grunts and dead stares then you’ll be totally fine.

We left right after shotgunning our pizzas and returned to the apartment for some hardcore TV watching. Flipping through channels has become a near-distant memory and it felt almost decadent to switch between National Geographic Wild  and the Discovery Channel with abandon. It might seem like a waste to some to spend an evening in front of the tube, but it felt like a little vacation perk and I was more than happy to just drink water and devour some questionable television for a couple hours.

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IMG_3075The next morning, Easter Sunday, we were off to the airport, looking at the canals longingly one last time secretly wishing we could stay a bit longer for what looked like a promising day. Instead, we got on our train to head to the airport and arrived on time and made our flight without compromise. Oh, no, no. We actually departed from the train station on a train packed with sweaty bodies and immediately braked about two hundred yards down the track. We started up again and then braked once more about two hundred yards further. This happened constantly the entire way to the airport, but got monumentally worse about three quarters of the way there. The conductor finally got on the intercom to alert the grumpy passengers that the brakes were malfunctioning and stopping on their own without any direction or warning. So what should have been a 16-minute trip became just over 50 and we got to the airline desk just in time for them to close it and give us a customer service number to call and reschedule our flight.

I’ll spare you the rest of the grizzly details because they are not flattering or useful. But, we made it back into town and stayed another night at the apartment and were booked on Monday’s flight. These are the things that happen when you travel and my only advice is to keep in mind that you will eventually get to your next destination and, most importantly, remember that your partner is not the enemy. I’m continually grateful that Adam is so easy to travel with and flexible because it makes traveling far more comfortable and comforting.

IMG_3083^^Finch is in the background with the sort of brownish awning. we returned here for afternoon beers and reading

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Yet more reading and wandering. You know, Amsterdam is an interesting place to be on Easter as I expected everything to be sort of quiet and closed. But it was as lively as any other day and the optimism was palpable. It was such an obvious difference between holidays here in Switzerland, wherein everything is closed and people generally hang out at home with family. For instance, we couldn’t even do laundry in our apartment on Friday in preparation for Sunday’s holy day.

That said, there was another perhaps far more significant holiday being celebrated on Sunday and those celebrants and their celebrations were most certainly made known ; ) Again, Amsterdam was a very interesting and entertaining place to be on this particular Sunday.

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We had Easter dinner at Wijnbar di’Vino and were so happy with its cozy atmosphere and delicious food. They have an excellent wine selection if you’re interested in tasting a few options and several snacks to accompany your glass or two. Each night they offer a different set menu based on what’s in season  and available and I’d recommend that as well. But, an evening spent on the corner soaking up the last few rays of warm sun are just perfect.

Oh, Amsterdam, you are a treasure. We love you so! I was constantly awed and inspired by your chic inhabitants and similarly stoked by your crazy language. Dutch sounds like someone speaking German with marbles in their mouth. Insanity! Thank you for being so kind and generous to us; I promise we will be back.

Have you been? Do I sound crazy? Did anyone else fall in love like a wild, fevered teenager? What are some of your favorite destinations?

Amsterdam for the Weekend: Part 1

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Oh, Amsterdam. You have my heart!

What a tremendously beautiful city. Amsterdam is so rich and full of culture and heritage that it’s nearly impossible not to fall for its charm and elegance. Architecture and ambiance aside, the Dutch people we encountered were phenomenally friendly. I’m pretty sure we have a million new best friends! It was so nice to feel so welcome by the locals and all the kind people we met. We will be back, I’m sure of it.

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We read numerous times how wonderful the city is in the spring and the reviews did not disappoint. The new greenery and blooming flowers, the promising local-to-tourist ratio, and generally mild temperatures were certainly in our favor. Though I must confess at the beginning of this recap that we did not go to Keukenhof Garden like we meant to. But, if you had been there for the line in the tourist office that foreshadowed the equally long and disorganized line just to get on the bus that didn’t even speak of the long bus ride out there you probably would have done the same. That is, walked around the city, had an amazing lunch and then enjoyed sunshine at the local brewery. So, I do want to apologize for the distinct lack of tulips in this post (and the next) because we really didn’t see that many. And I know that’s the point of being in the Netherlands in the spring, but alas, it’s distinct absence from this visit only giving us more impetus to return.

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But there are a lot of bikes in these pictures and they are just as prominent, if not more so, as the tulips. (Did you know that are an estimated more bikes than actually inhabitants in Amsterdam? I knew there would be a lot of bikes, but I was still blown away by the massive concentration of them in the city. It was amazing.)

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Adam and I arrived on Thursday afternoon and checked in to our Airbnb apartment. As I mentioned on our trip to Paris, we really like staying in local apartments. This flat was actually set up as permanent tourist apartment and wasn’t anyone’s home, but it was in the beautiful Jordaan neighborhood and cost quite a bit less than staying in a hotel in the same area would have. Jordaan is full of stylish cafes, shops, and delicious restaurants. It was also far less clogged with tourists than other districts and we got a great sense of how the Dutch live, which, to be frank, looks fantastic.

After checking in we had lunch at Cafe de Tuin, which was right around the corner from our apartment and had the best little sandwiches. Everyone eats sandwiches, or tosti’s, for lunch and we were happy to fit in with the cool kids. I highly recommend the smoked salmon with cream cheese and chives. This spot also hosted a chic crowd for late-night drinks.

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IMG_2813^^Mr. Adam’s traveling shoes

 

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Obviously, we spent a big chunk of the early afternoon just walking around and taking pictures (and trying not to get run over by bikes). It was a stunning afternoon that unfortunately gave way to strong winds and a chilly rain later in the day. We did walk by the Anne Frank museum and admired the line, if not the touching and poignant exhibit inside.

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Perhaps it will be a part of our next visit.

 

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IMG_2834^^Mendo is one of the most fashionable book shops I’ve visited. It has an impressive array of design, style, architecture, and fashion titles and top notch music to accompany your browsing. Definitely worth a visit if you’re in need of adding to the coffee table collection.

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We finally headed indoors to escape the chill and spent a good hour at Foam, Amsterdam’s photography museum. Foam is a very manageable size and doesn’t leave you completely worn out like some of the larger museums do. The Enclave by Richard Mosse is on view until June 1st and I’d highly recommend it. It’s a moving and emotionally stunning feature that treats the violent conflict in Congo through both visual and audio representations awash with a psychedelic hot pink filter. Interested? Of course you are.

There are several other rotating exhibitions that are worth a visit, especially if you’re fond of photography like we are.

IMG_2844^^afterward, we needed sustenance. Fries covered in mayonnaise and ketchup were a must.

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That night for dinner we ate at Worst Wijncafe, a dim and cozy enoteca on the northern side of the city. If you’re looking for a cornucopia of sausage and meat then hustle up to this joint and snag a seat at the bar (or if you’re really lucky, the two-person table in the kitchen). I won’t say, “Prepare to be amazed!” because I like you too much, but everything is so, so good. Of course, we may have been a little biased because we immediately spotted our favorite bottle of Spanish Garnacha (Camino de Navaherreros) that we used to drink all the time in Charleston and promptly threw down a few glasses, but I think everyone who is not a vegetarian will enjoy the place. Our waiter, Kees, made it an even better experience, as did our tablemates, with whom we shared great conversation and dinner recommendations. Go for the charcuterie plate and the fennel sausage. And the wine.

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The next morning we started with coffees at Winkel, a cute café in the Noordmarkt neighborhood. They are supposed to have unbeatable apple pie but it was a bit early for me to indulge.

Just along the same street is Moooi, a very cool store that is honestly way too cool for me. It was a great spot for inspiration, however, and offered a fun look at what’s happening in Dutch contemporary design and interiors.

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We later lunched at t’Smalle (above) which was also right around the corner from our apartment on a sweet little canal. It’s a distillery and brown café that was opened in 1780 and is still a local favorite. It’s perfect for people watching and a quick sandwich lunch.

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Bikes. Oh, the bikes. I was, in a word, obsessed with the well-maintained and clearly demarcated bikes lanes in the city. Everyone mostly rides these kooky little one-speeds and ours didn’t even have hand brakes! They were the kind where you just reverse peddle to stop and it took me way back to my first bikes.

We rented ours through our apartment but there are dozens of companies around the city that offer rentals. I liked that we didn’t look super obvious as tourists because ours were black and inconspicuous (unlike a lot of rental places that have bright red, yellow, or gold bikes) and I was hoping that would deter thieves, which we heard are numerous. I’d highly recommend renting one, however, since it was so easy to get around by cycling and we ended up saving a lot of money by not buying public transportation tickets or taking taxis. Doesn’t Adam look great?!

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We rode our bikes over to the Stedelijk Museum, which was another highlight of the trip. It’s an incredible contemporary art museum that reopened in 2012 after extensive renovations and additions. Their collection of modern and contemporary pieces was extensive and thoughtfully curated, but the temporary Jeff Wall: Tableaux, Pictures, Photographs, 1996-2013 exhibit really stole the show. His large-scale photographs mounted on lightboxes offer extraordinary glimpses into the lives ordinary people. Yet, there is also an element of the sublime and absurd. His technique and point of view add so much vibrancy and life to the space. It’s a can’t-miss show and it’s open until August 3rd.

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IMG_2879^^new closed-mouth smile. Thoughts? (Oh, and a pretty good glimpse at what short hair will look like. Again, thoughts?)

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After a couple hours at the museum we went around the corner to Vondelpark. It’s akin to Central Park in New York City or the Tierpark in Berlin and is obviously the place to be when it’s warm, which it most definitely was not when we were there. That didn’t deter the hundreds of people we saw, ourselves included! My hands were tiny ice chips by the time we got home, but it was a great ride nonetheless.

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We recovered at the apartment for a bit with a couple of Grolsch beers (when in the Netherlands…) before biking over to Blauw for dinner. It’s just past Vondelpark, so we of course could have timed it better, but the ride out there further fueled my flames of love for the city’s bike lanes. Blauw is well known by both locals and tourists for great Indonesian food and, again, we were not disappointed, though admittedly we did order an insane amount of food:

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There’s a medium-size square dish right behind my bottle of Bintang beer. That’s my entree. Every single other dish is just one order of the “rice table” and that is supposedly all for Adam. It’s a healthy combination of meat, vegetable, and fish dishes that give you a diverse taste of Indonesian cuisine and heartburn. We had to order the additional spicy shrimp entree since they don’t allow you to “share” the rice table because, of course, you would never order anything else. It really was a great meal, but despite our big appetites we barely put a dent in dinner.

We tried to squeeze in next door at Franklin for a digestif, if you will, but it was too packed and smoky. We instead cycled over to Bar Oldenhof for a more exclusive experience. After we rang the doorbell and walked around the block for ten minutes (seriously) we were finally let in and given the star treatment. I mean, we were everyone’s closest friend there. That city is so, so nice. Our waitress even wrote down a long list of her favorite bars and restaurants in the area. Adam indulged in a few bourbons (they have the largest selection of whiskeys in the area) and I sipped Champagne before heading home. It has a very warm feel and it’s a fun place to hang if you’re looking for a treat.

Phew! And that was only two days! I’ll be back tomorrow with more photos and highlights of the trip. Until then, have you been to Amsterdam? What were your favorite places/experiences? Do you love it as much as I do?!

 

 

Tuesday Book Club: Feelings

feeling feelings

This would be me finishing The Fault in Our Stars on the plane yesterday: hiding my face in my armpit so no one could tell I was crying. Like, hardcore crying. I was feeling that book fully with just about everything I had. Why do books make us (me?) so emotional, even when it’s not just sadness that’s being provoked?

And I just want to note that this was a reread, as in I already knew exactly what would happen.

 

Looking at Last Friday

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We are in Amsterdam this weekend! We booked this trip a couple months ago and while we were excited for it we got caught up with booking travel home for the wedding in August, the honeymoon in September and our Greece trip this summer. All the sudden Amsterdam was upon us and we had barely looked at information or made an itinerary. I managed to make a few dinner reservations and jot down a few ideas on places to visit (here and here, please. oh, and definitely here), but Adam’s been before and has some basic knowledge that we can rely on. Also, when you go to a place like Amsterdam I fully believe you can employ the “let’s just show up” philosophy and you undoubtedly be entertained.

Instead of a list of links (to be fair, I made two big lists this week–Wednesday and Thursday) how about a list of pictures? Here are a few shots from last Friday evening at the park. We enjoyed Prosecco and prosciutto and the sunset before going out to dinner. It was the perfect way to celebrate our meetiversary. Have a great weekend! And Happy Easter to those celebrating : )

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Introducing: Need Supply Co.

Black Pants

 

luca jersery top

 

leopard tee

 

 

 

jumpsuit

 

clara tote

 

eva in natural

 

peak ring

 

Medium Island Necklace

 

Need Supply Co. embraces every aspect of my preferred aesthetic: heavy emphasis on a neutral palette, tomboy style with a slight lean toward feminine accents, and a minimalist approach to fashion. I’m completely sold.

Based out of Richmond, Virginia, Need Supply Co. carries a unique blend of well-known brands and those just making an entrance into the fashion world. They began by selling vintage Levi’s but quickly expanded and started carrying a larger, more diverse array of both men’s and women’s clothing. I’ve seen their pieces crop up on Pinterest frequently, but I’ve been returning to the site nonstop to check out these sneakers, which I think need to be mine asap:

New Balance Sneaks

Very, very cool.

You can visit their store in Richmond or surf through their well-designed website. As of now they are offering free shipping within the U.S. on orders over $75 and they offer international shipping for a flat rate of $15, which is actually pretty great considering some of the atrocious prices I’ve seen out there. Above are a few pieces on my spring wish list (those sneaks being at the top) and you can click on the images for more information.

Obviously I’m most interested in the offerings for women, but here are a few cool options for the discerning gentleman:

technical windbreaker

 

raglan tee l:s

 

indigo yarn tee

 

men's vans

What’s on your wish list? Are you looking for anything in particular? I’m on the hunt for white jeans after mine were ruined in the wash last summer. I’d also like a few more dresses since I never seem to purchase them but always like the look of something softer in the spring and summer.

 

(Note: this is in no way a sponsored post, only an impassioned one. All images courtesy of Need Supply Co.)

 

Wedding Music

Planning a wedding is _______________ and _______________ and _______________.

These descriptors change all the time depending on my mood and how close to the wedding date we actually are, but more than anything they’re rather personal. It’s unfair to generalize a day that is so sacred and distinctive, and even more I’m learning to respect that both the planning and execution of said day deserve to remain completely free of judgment.

But, to be quite honest, I must say how glad I am that we are already married because if I was also juggling the emotional weight of the impending lifetime commitment bit then I think I would have canceled everything for an elopement and we would still be exactly where we are now.

Last week I had a mini-meltdown while talking ideas over with Adam and the only recourse was to chill out alone with some “Scandal” and bourbon. Isn’t it annoying that a big party can cause so much drama?

The next best cure for my panic was to listen to music. I’ve been debating what music I’d like to be playing for the pre-ceremony part of the day and, of course, for the procession. I have been leaning toward some nontraditional songs and last Thursday I found myself elbow deep in options. Though I was annoyed with both myself and Adam, not to mention the wedding industry, listening to these songs instantly reminded me of the beauty of love and weddings.

The song above had me weeping at my desk as did Cat Power’s “Sea of Love.” Can you imagine anything more romantic? Below I’ve listed out a few other tunes that feel especially meaningful and poignant for our wedding day. They are in no particular order and fall into categories such as “Pre-Ceremony,” “Processional,” “Cocktail Hour,” and “For Sitting and Crying and Gaining Perspective.”

I Will, The Beatles

La Vie en Rose, Louis Armstrong

Sparkplug Minuet, Mark Mothersbaugh (instrumental)

First Day of My Life, Bright Eyes

Little Martha, Duane Allman (instrumental)

In My life, The Beatles

If I Needed You, Andrew Bird

Forever, Ben Harper

Paris Sunrise – Ben Harper (Instrumental)

Where Do You Go to (My Lovely), Peter Sarstedt

Hold You in My Arms, Ray LaMontagne

Glasgow Love Theme, Craig Armstrong (instrumental)

I Love NYE, Badly Drawn Boy (instrumental)

Wouldn’t It Be Nice, Beach Boys

You Make My Dreams Come True, Hall & Oates

Hoppípolla, Sigur Rós

Walking on a Dream, Empire of the Sun

Coronado, Deerhunter

Hallelujah, The Helio Sequence

To note, we also have a band for the wedding, and they are reserved for the whole day. Rather than accessing a playlist on our iPod we could definitely ask them to play during these times. But, we hired them especially for the reception because they are one of the area’s best soul, funk, 70s, groovy, party-time-excellent bands and I’m not sure that’s the vibe we want for the whole wedding. I’d like to have some music that is representative of what we like now (and have throughout our relationship) and will fit the tone of the day. It’s fun to have a mix, right?

So, I obviously have a healthy list going so far but I’d love to hear from you! What were important songs on your wedding day? What music could you not live without? People don’t always remember the music that was played before the wedding–it’s usually about the dancing music, I think–but it’s fun to play around with different ideas.

 

 

Tuesday Book Club: Portlandia Activity Book

portlandia cover

Does anyone here watch “Portlandia” on IFC? I haven’t watched it recently simply because we don’t have reliable access to it anymore but it was secretly one of my favorite quirky shows. Every time I watched it I got that itchy second-hand embarrassment from how outrageous the sketches were, but the ridiculously funny characters and one-liners make all the sweaty pits worth it.

McSweeney’s recently published The Portlandia Activity Book, which promises to “expand your mind through participation, dehydrate you to a state of emotional rawness, then linger in the corners your bare soul.” Sounds thrilling!

The conversation starters and stoppers that are included in the book look like they would be most helpful at upcoming outdoor barbecues and summer weddings. Which ones are your favorites?

conversation starter cards

 

conversation stopper cards

Given my recent forays into indoor plant life and outdoor gardening I think the geranium question would be a pretty smooth transition piece for me. I honestly don’t know what I would say if someone asked me what hummus was like. Delicious? Flesh colored?

Do you ever buy kitschy coffee table books like this? I have a couple that I’ve received as gifts over the years, and while I don’t open them often whenever I do it’s usually a hoot. They make great White Elephant gifts and “just because” gifts if you’re ever in a pickle on what to get.

Oh, and you can wear this t-shirt while you read the book : )