Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Where East meets West...

...and where our adventure began...
Since being in Dubai the work has been tough: long days, little sleep and a few lost weekends here and there but on the plus side it looks like we are going to be here for a little longer as we head into phase 2 of the project. We're not finished with you yet Dubai!

We have managed to get out and experience a lot of Dubai already - way too much to fit into one blog post anyway so I will start with a quick recollection of our first encounters:
We were initially interested in understanding the story of Dubai also for purposes of the project we were about to undertake so we went off in search of Dubai's culture: what is it? where does it come from? and what does it all mean? 

We already knew that Dubai is the fastest growing city in the world, home to a multicultural population of over 200 nationalities where East meets West fusing its own traditional approach with western capitalistic interests. Dubai's landscape for example presents the harmonious co-existence of traditional wind-towers and astounding skyscrapers or like in my photo below, the tall Rolex branded building behind the traditional fishing boats in the foreground. Dubai used to be a small pearl fishing and trading village at the mouth of the Dubai Creek so this is where we began; Bur Dubai (Old Dubai) and Deira, North of Dubai - home to the wonderful traditional markets called the Souqs. 

We first visited the Textile Souq where doors and window shutters are draped with beautiful traditional fabrics and where stairways are lined with traditional arabic shoes in all imaginable colours and sizes. While your eyes are a wander, you almost dare not look in fear of being seen and consequently having yet another pashmina draped over your shoulder as a local selling technique. I was fighting them off like daggers...

We then proceeded to the Dubai Creek where a Dhow, a traditional fishing boat, took us on a leisurely trip to the other side of the Creek for so much as 2 Dirhams (approx. €0.40) - clearly they haven't caught on with the tourist prices.. ;-)

Once on the other side of the Creek, the beautifully presented Spice Souq is bursting with colours and rich fragrances that have your senses overwhelmed. It was not long before we had filtered our way through the maze of narrow streets and alleyways leading to the glittering Gold Souq, the main attraction in the city of Gold a.k.a. Dubai, with every inch of the shop windows filled with various yellow gold jewellery all very over the top but I expected no less.

After the Gold Souq we walked along the Creek where I was fascinated by the traditional cargo boats and the way in which these were being loaded ready to be sent off to international seas. I couldn't believe my eyes, I think I managed to capture the character of Dubai in just one picture...

Just look at the way the goods are being stacked - there is the attention to detail...or rather the lack of it, there's definitely no safety checks here, and how does this survive international seas without falling overboard...it remains a mystery but I was amused as this is how things tend to go in Dubai. The culture of Dubai was however not completely clear to us yet...something was missing so we went on a research trip to the Museum of Islamatic Civilization in Sharjah to really get behind the scenes of Dubai. The museum was originally a Souq which was renovated to preserve its authenticity. 

We learnt a lot about arabic patterns and architecture as well the importance of Religion which plays a significant role in the culture of Dubai. Mosques can be found throughout the city and at sunset the call to prayer can be heard across the rooftops or even across the speakers in the airport as we have experienced. The layout of the Museum is in keeping with the Arab-Islamic elements used in designing buildings and its d├ęcor reflects the richness of Islamic heritage, culture and traditions. Considered as one of the architectural wonders, the second of its kind in the entire Arabian Gulf, its most attractive feature is the majestic central dome with its intricate mosaic depicting the night sky with all the signs of the zodiac. 

On another note, a fun fact of the day: this is how Arab men greet each other - the nose rub, as it represents the values of respect.

But enough about the culture of Dubai...back in the new Dubai it's a whole other story...

Saturday, 18 January 2014

The Scandinavian in Me

I was always very certain about the fact that I would never want to build my own house from scratch just because I think it would be a total disaster. This purely comes down to the fact that I am a designer and therefore I am constantly seeing new styles, new furniture, new products and getting new ideas, which would normally be a good thing for interior design projects, but to try and put them all together into one house for myself...hmm...best not.

I have however changed my mind! The combination of scrolling through my personal tumblr page of images that I have been assembling over the past months and having just been back to Holland for the christmas break has finally made it clear to me what my personal style is in terms of my home. Being back in the cold winter weather was a shock to the system after our first few months in Dubai but my yummy knitted jumpers and blankets on the sofa in front of the fire were also very welcomed. I do miss the coziness of winter. Amongst the many enjoyable dinners, drinks and other social gatherings with friends and family there was one visit in particular that swayed my mind and got me thinking/dreaming for the future.

We went to visit our friends Niek & Sylvia who are currently building their own house in Deventer, the designer of which I am proud to announce is my boyfriend Paul Coenen who started up his company Studio Coenen to do so. Here are a few photos of the house so far:

The house is designed on a split level meaning that there is a constant connection between the levels allowing a lot of light through the house making it feel light, social and cozy all at the same time which is really lovely. Their aim was to create a scandinavian inspired house and well they have succeeded so far - despite it being a building site and in Holland and not my house, I somehow managed to make myself feel at home, like I was in Denmark. I didn't think that would ever be possible in Holland but it was just so comfortable, calm and collected, not too big, not too small - me like. Anyway, I look forward to seeing it finished! So naturally I now also want to build my own house and it will be simple, elegant, neat and scandinavian of course preferably with a gorgeous view, but who doesn't want that!?

So when I was looking through my tumblr page, I noticed a reoccurring theme. I seem to go through phases of very exciting bright colours which will be the season trends that come about but in between there is an underlying style which I am very fond of: Light Wood, White, Concrete, Black, Navy Blue, Gold & Silver, Grey Knit, Tangible Textures, Leather, Dark Wood, Brass and Green Nature. In a nutshell: contrast light/dark, natural, neutral, cozy and well-designed. I must be scandinavian after all ;)

Thursday, 16 January 2014

From one New House to another New House

It has been two and a half months already, and only now am I getting around to telling you about our new adventure to Dubai - Time flies! Firstly we had to leave behind our newly done up flat before I even had the chance to show you the before and after pictures so let's start with that:

It was hard work but what a difference it made. We were also just getting comfortable and then the news about Dubai jumped on us and we couldn't give it a miss so our flat is now in good hands and being looked after for us for the time being until we return (we weren't ready to just let it go).

So then, end of October we jumped on a plane, not just any plane, the new Emirates A380 bus to our new home for the coming year (or so we think!?)...the unique and dynamic destination of Dubai of which we knew nothing about but we were excited to find out. Firstly I would like to say that it has been a while since I have flown so comfortably! Big comfortable seats, big screens to watch movies on and when it gets dark the roof of the plane even has twinkling stars which has a very relaxing effect. Anyway...we landed just after midnight to what was our upcoming project: the airport. Exciting! But quite honestly we were a bit too tired to take it all in and we still had immigration to get through which was super busy and a long wait!

Once on the other side, we were picked up by our new colleague and housemate who drove us to our new home via the very long main road running straight down the middle of Dubai called the Sheikh Zayed Rd a.k.a the scenic route. So by the time we had reached our villa we had seen Dubai by night and caught a glimpse of all the iconic buildings glistening in the distance. We had cleverly arranged a week holiday in Dubai before we had to start work so that we could go and explore Dubai and all it's charms which I will elaborate on in a following post.

The villa where we live is in a new neighbourhood called Al Furjan which is a little bit on the outskirts at the moment but no doubt Dubai will continue to build outwards so maybe in a few years we will be living in the centre and then people will be jealous ;)
The entire neighbourhood is newbuild and some of the villas around us are still getting the finishing touches done but almost every week we get another neighbour so it is becoming less of a ghost town. The villas are gorgeous and vary in size. The villa we are living in has 5 bedrooms which we share with colleagues. It is very spacious so despite us all living together there is enough room for each of us to pick a corner in the house to relax or have some privacy if necessary that isn't in the confines of your room. So here are a few photos of our new house, the ikea house as we call it has been fully furnished from there...yep even in Dubai - no decorative gold ornamental furniture for us europeans:

And now the adventure really begins...

Sunday, 25 August 2013

We Run AMS

Since being in Amsterdam I joined the Nike running club and that's where it all began! I have been completely converted to Nike. I just love everything about it: the people, the atmosphere, the motivation, the stores, the clothes, the shoes, the gifts, the workouts, the surprises, the events...just everything. 

So every Wednesday I take part in the 'We Run AMS' running club. At the moment I am running with the intermediate group of 6.8km but the club is for people of all levels so you can also choose to do the beginner group at 3.8km or the advanced group at 10.5km. The advanced group kinda scares me...they're like animals...arriving back after their run literally sprinting past you causing a stir in the street and looking very intimidating with their clothes ripped off and sweat dripping off them. But on the other hand, get this for motivation...so on your first day, you receive a free 'We Run AMS' Nike Dri-fit T-shirt along with a stamp card on which you accumulate stamps for every time you go running and at every 5th stamp you receive a small gift from Nike. Ok, the gifts aren't anything to write home about but it is quite often that prior to going running I have thought of not going but then also thought about the consequences that if I don't go then I also won't get my stamp and thus no gift so the motivation works for me and the best thing is it's all free. I now have 13 stamps...I already have a reflector band and running socks..I wonder what's next..?

The same thing goes for the Nike Training Club which I take part in every Monday. This is however more of a challenge as there are limited tickets for the event and they are gone within minutes so me and the lovely group of girls I have met through this club take it in turns to guard the website for when the tickets get posted online as this is not at the same time every week. You also have to work a lot harder to earn those stamps but the reward is much greater because after 12 stamps you receive a Nike Sports Bra! The workout is tough and takes part in a church which feels slightly strange but atleast the pumping music that keeps us going sounds well. Last week we had a new trainer from Sweden and wow did she have energy. This tiny little petit woman who even after the first session continues with our session as smiley and energetic and non-sweaty as if it was the first session! Puts us to shame as she also does all the excercises yet the sweat is running off us. We were treated with a frozen yoghurt afterwards though so the smiles were all put back on our faces!

The other great thing about these sessions is that they offer you shoes to try during the workouts: Nike really do promotion well! It makes you want to own everything and they very cleverly put the start of the run club in the Nike shop on the main shopping street so you just get lured into it all. I for one have a shopping list and I am completely in love with the colours that are out at the moment and then suddenly for something that is otherwise a free ride, becomes a very expensive ride...it's true what they say...nothing is free in life ;)

Friday, 16 August 2013

A long time coming...

It has been a while and it has been a long time coming but here it is...my masterpiece(s) revealed! Whilst it has taken me so long to blog it, I have in the meantime actually been very productive and made a whole series of them. The first one was made entirely from magazines (design magazines at that which I raided the cupboards at work for during a big clear out - wasn't my idea I promise..) which has a very modern NYC loft feel to it and the other is made entirely from old books which on the contrary has a very cozy, vintage bookstore feel to it. So Modern vs. Vintage..?? Which do you prefer? Take a look at my website for more of my work. These ones measure 160 x 35cm but can also be made to order and smaller versions will be available soon.

On a further note, I have now officially moved to Amsterdam and we have been doing up the flat...see back soon for updates and before&after pictures on that.

p.s. this means that I finally have a little room that I can call an art studio - happy days!

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

My new favourite thing...

'Bilder & De Clercq' is literally my new favourite thing in Amsterdam. This shop makes it so quick and easy to do your food shopping and its all organic and healthy as well!
You may begin to think that I've turned into a food critic as I am indeed writing about yet another food concept but this one deserves praise. So do you often walk into the supermarket with the question 'what shall I eat tonight?' and then end up buying way too many ingredients which end up going off anyway and then sadly have to be thrown in the bin..? Well this is the concept on which this shop was built and I'm addicted to it.  

So every week they have a new set of deliciously enticing recipes. Each recipe has its own stand in the shop with all the ingredients needed to make the dish neatly layed out in the exact amounts necessary so it's literally just a case of picking one of each and you're done and ready to pay. Simple as that. Additionally you get a very thoroughly explained recipe card (right) with pictures and everything so even for the less gifted chefs amongst us, it really can't go wrong and from my experience it is always incredibly tasty. 

So far I've tried:...

Stuffed Cabbage Leaves with Fennel Sausage and Risotto...mmmmm!

and Spinach and Chickpea Curry...mmmmm!

Another thing I like about shopping there is that if you're trying to eat healthily, it's totally possible because there aren't any crisps or chocolates that for some reason always happen to tempt their way into my shopping basket whilst walking down the aisles to find what you're actually looking for in a normal supermarket so despite the food being just a little bit more expensive as it is all organic at 'Bilder & De Clercq', you're actually saving money as well because you have no choice basically. 

So this Thursday I am venturing in again for another exciting dish as my sister Nathalie is coming to eat with me in Amsterdam. My plan is to win her over too..Can't wait!

Monday, 15 April 2013

High-Wining with Yo-Sis

High Wining at 'Yo-Sis' is a great way to spend your Sunday afternoon. Last Sunday, I got together with all the boyfriends' girlfriends (I almost feel like a footballers wife ;)) to celebrate the opening and to be the first to taste the wonders of our friends' new business, 'Yo-Sis' in Ottersum, the Netherlands. What a brilliant day! We were pleasantly surprised and overwhelmed by the mouthwatering bits and bites. It was totally worth sitting for a total of 5 hours in a train on the warmest day of the year so far and that's gotta be saying something coming from the heat-freak that I am.

'Yo-Sis' was founded by two sisters: Eline and Maartje in an old school which has been in their family for years and together they make a great team: Eline being the culinary genious and Maartje being the creative artist, making and selling a selection of unique vases, lamps, tables and jewellery with the overarching concept: 'What's old is new!'. 
'Yo-Sis' specialises in all things high-...high-tea, high-wining and high-beer - see it's not just for girls!? (and for all of you who were wondering...we may be in the Netherlands but no this doesn't include weed, just innocent tea herbs).

We went for the high-wining and this is what we got spoilt with:

We began with a welcome drink of homemade Aperol Spritz which on a warm day like it was Sunday was lovely and fresh and not at all bitter which I sometimes find in the Aperol Spritz.
This was followed by a soup made from puffed garlic with a unique addition of orange pieces, pine nuts and chives for a very special tasting soup. Of course everything had been thought out very carefully down to the delicious accompanying wines. The soup was accompanied by a white wine from Spain: Raimat (Chardonnay & Albarino) with aromas of tropical fruits, orange and apricot blossom.

Next was a spicy mixed bean salad with tenderly grilled tuna steak which was just divine followed by a seafood inspired tiered platter which looked beautiful and consisted of a tartar of cucumber, apple and herring, smolked salmon rolls with cream cheese and cucumber and prawn skewers. Apart from the prawns, I am personally not very fond of fishy fish so I kindly donated my bites to the eager ladies who loved them. This selection of fish dishes was accompanying by yet another gorgeous wine from France: Domaine de la Ferrandiere Viognier, Vin de Pays d'Oc with a floral apricot taste, showing lavender and pollen aromas that are quite honeyed.

Following we were served a very light red wine from California for the last course: Hayes Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon with flavours of red cherry and anise and a hint of vanilla.
Accompanying was probably my favourite part of the meal: Chickenballs with Prunesauce, filled skinless tomatoes, dates with goats cheese wrapped in bacon and a cheesefondue with a vegetable skewer and homemade nut-fig bread.

Later we were then spoilt with a dessert and a cup of special blend tea (Puritea from Shri Lanka) just to top it off. The dessert had all the girls wiggling in their seats: A white chocolate mousse with red fruits and forest fruit sorbet...mmmmm!!

And to make the day even better than it already was, Eline and Maartje would like to exhibit my paintings at 'Yo-Sis' which is very exciting for me - let's hope they sell whilst hanging there - fingers crossed :)

All-in-all a brilliant day with the girls and a great start to Eline and Maartje's 'Yo-Sis' adventure. Good luck to you both!

If you would like to follow their journey please like their Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/YoSissen