Food, Travel

Getaway : A Cabin Experience and Escape from Boston

I know this post has been long due and I apologize for the long break without posts. 2020 had been a difficult year to say the least and my husband and I decided to end the year detaching ourselves from technology and soaking ourselves in nature. I started university back in Fall 2020 to pursue my MBA and at the end of my semester I was exhausted and ready to spend sometime off from the computer and I could not be happier. Personally, we did not want to take a flight and travel unless absolutely necessary due to the pandemic and also wanted to maintain social distancing while enjoying sometime off. We travelled to the Getaway house towards the end of December for three days two nights and picked the Escape from Boston which is located in New Hampshire. This New Hampshire Getaway House fulfilled it all for us!

The Getaway house is located at various locations throughout the country such as NYC, Atlanta, Washington D.C, Dallas, Houston, LA, Portland, etc. Use this link to receive $25 off your stay.

If you are someone who has always wanted to try camping and enjoys the outdoors but cannot go without a hot shower or a bathroom like me then the getaway experience is a perfect balance that offers the best of both worlds. It provides a comfy escape with the most relaxing views.

What is a Getaway House ?

For anyone who does not know what a getaway house is, let me explain it simply. A Getaway house is a container converted into cabin to provide a simplified glamping experience even for people with no camping experience. There are number of such cabins at each getaway location. The various cabins are spread in wooded areas approximately 150 feet apart from each other such that there is privacy and no one can see inside your cabin but also not too scary leaving you completely alone in the many acres of the wooded area.

One thing I really liked was all the cabins are named after the grandparents of the staff to honor their services and care they put in to ensure we enjoy a seamless experience. Our cabin name was Rose as it was beautiful.

What the Getaway is equipped with?

The getaway is equipped with all the essentials we needed for your stay and nothing that we didn’t making it a minimalist but amazing experience. Do not be fooled by the small size of the cabin. It is packed with literally everything you will need to make your stay so much more enjoyable. It is equipped with AC, heat, AM/FM radio, wireless speakers, toilet, hot shower, a private fire pit, grilling area with a picnic table and chairs, stove top, a mini refrigerator, salt, pepper, olive oil, utensils, a comfortable bed, etc. Check out the complete list of what is included in the house here. We also thought that the staff was extremely helpful and only a text or call away.

There is no WIFI at the getaway house and limited cell phone service depending on your provider which forces you to embrace the nature, enjoy the simple things in life and take a real break. They also provide a box to lock your phones away and enjoy yourselves without any devices. We actually thought this was a blessing after the crazy Zoom overdose we had. The Zoom fatigue was real and we could not think of a better way to completely switch off. We even put our phones in the box and locked them away for the weekend to enjoy a quiet time without any distractions. Trust me you will love it even if no WIFI and limited cell phone service sounds daunting at first. They provide some books and games at the cabin and we took our own books to read as well. It is was great way to shrug off the stress of work and detaching ourselves from the internet.

Safety and Security

Every Getaway house has a digital lock on the front door and a unique code which was texted to us on the day of check in with the name of your Cabin. This allowed us to securely lock our cabin while we explore around without worrying about your belongings.

Stay Options

The Getaway house offers two different kinds of cabins. One for two people (where we stayed) and one which can accommodate a maximum of four people(bunk beds) which is a great option for anyone traveling with kids. All the cabins have the bed located right next to the big glass window so we had the perfect view to wake up to. This is a great experience for anyone who wants to unplug and get away from the hustle of the everyday life. I thought it was a great place for even a solo traveler who loves to get inspired by nature and write a book, music, or any fun creative project on their mind.

Waking up in the morning with the perfect backdrop of nature was such a surreal experience. We absolutely loved the seating area created right next to the window and enjoyed sipping hot chocolate and reading a book in the cold. Could not think of a better way to start the day looking at the snow covered trees and enjoying the nature. Cannot wait to go back and try the other Getaway Houses at the other locations!

What to Pack/Bring ?

  1. Carry your favorite games, books or a creative project you would like to work on.
  2. Carry a bug spray if you are visiting during the summer months.
  3. A grill pan is optional not necessary.
  4. Grilling Food – Corn, strawberries, pineapple, ingredients to make kebabs, paneer/tofu, potatoes, bell peppers, onions, marshmallows, marinades, burgers, Maggi, etc.
  5. Snacking or any other Food items.
  6. Wine, champagne or anything you like to drink.
  7. Hot chocolate.
  8. Comfy clothes.

There are grocery stores nearby but I highly recommend planning and carrying what you need to save yourself a trip to the grocery store. The cabin also offers a survival kit if you like which includes food options.

Things to do Nearby

  1. Blasty Bough Brewing Company – If you want to check out some local brewery and try some local beers with beautiful views and live music check out the Blasty Bough Brewing Company. Check the link here for all the details.
  2. Pawtuckaway State Park – Located around 30 minutes from the cabin this state park offers hiking trails and boulders to climb. We did not do this during our stay but would love to check it out another time.

Things to do at the Getaway

  1. Movie/Game Night – We also did a movie and game night with popcorn and wine which we enjoyed a lot. We took some of the DVD’s of movies we wanted to watch and games we enjoyed. This was so much fun and I dont remember the last time I used a DVD before this experience. This was a great way to leave behind the reliance on Netflix and other streaming services.
  2. Grilling outside the cabin – Grilling under the stars, with a firepit was a perfect way for us to enjoy our nights with some music, wine and amazing food. They gave us a kit for grilling marshmallows, making s’mores too which was perfect to enjoy the fire pit outside during the cold month of December. They also provide fire wood, fire starting materials, a lighter and instructions on how to light a fire. They charge you at the end of your stay for the fire wood and the fire starting materials you used. It was our very first time to start a fire and the instructions were easy to follow. We enjoyed grilling kebabs, pineapple, strawberries and marshmallows, corn, paneer (an Indian version of tofu), and toasting s’mores and relished them. We loved it so much that we barely used the stovetop for any cooking even when it was freezing outside.
  3. Walk in the woods – If you are not in the mood to get out, the backyard of the Getaway House has nearby hiking/walking trails you can explore. We enjoyed walking around the trails nearby and collecting pinecones on the trails for the house.

Highly Recommend trying the Getaway House for a unique experience and coming home rejuvenated from the day to day stress of life. If you have any questions please feel free to reach out and leave a comment! Use this link to receive $25 off your stay

Lifestyle

How to Create a DIY Hula Hoop Photo Display

Looking for fun and creative ways to display pictures for your family, birthday parties, bridal showers, maternity display, graduation parties, theme parties, weddings or even as a gift to your friends? I think Hula Hoop Photo Display is a great way to instantly add to the decor while also compiling your favorite memories. I created a beautiful Hula Hoop Photo Display recently for my husbands birthday.

Materials Needed

A Hula Hoop (There are 2 sizes available – I got the slightly smaller one but you can pick any)

White Spray Paint (Any color of your choice. If you are planning to display for your wedding gold would be a great color option too to add some glitz and glam)

White Satin Ribbon

Faux flowers

Faux greenery/leaves

Hot glue Gun

A small wooden Block (Optional – If you want to make it stand)

Pictures (I printed ours using the Printic App)

Scissors

Directions

Step 1: Shortlist the pictures from your phone or social media which you would like to use for creating this beautiful photo display and send them for printing. I got mine printed using the Printic App. All you need to do is select the pictures you want to print and they will pop and print polaroid type pictures for you and send them in your mail. They did a fantastic job and I was extremely happy with the quality. If you want you can even have them edited to a black and white version for a more vintage look on photoshop before getting them printed. You can also print these yourself on Photo Paper if you like too.

Step 2: Next I took my Hula Hoop and wooden block and spray painted it white in a ventilated area. I gave them around 2 to 3 coats to ensure they were completely covered. I also coated them with a topcoat to seal the paint. You may skip this step if you like but I highly recommend it. Set them aside to dry completely. I kept them to dry completely for 24 hours. I did it in the summertime so it dried fairly quickly.

Step 3: Once they have completely dried, I cut 4 satin ribbons measuring the hula hoop and where they will be placed and secured them with a glue gun. If your pictures are fairly smaller than mine you can add a thinner satin ribbon too and add more ribbons to add more pictures. This is completely your choice. I started with cutting and sticking the center ribbon to be as symmetrical as possible.

Step 4: Next, I started to add the faux greenery. I first laid them out to decide how I wanted them by laying the leaves first and adding some faux flowers and faux buds around it. Once I was happy with the arrangement I secured everything with a hot glue gun. You can add as many or ass little of the faux greenery or faux flowers as you like. Remember to add enough hot glue to secure everything in its place.

Step 5: While everything was drying, I started laying the pictures on the satin ribbon until I was happy with the display arrangement and then secured them with a glue gun.

Step 6: Finally, I took the Hula Hoop Photo display and using a hot glue gun stuck it to the wooden block. Remember to hold it for a couple of minutes to give it support until the glue dries and can hold it easily. Ensure to apply enough hot glue in order to secure it in place. If you wish to hang them you can easily hand them too using ribbons and skipping the wooden block.

Hope you enjoy creating your personalized Hula Hoop Photo Display. If you do create one using the directions feel free to share it with me. I will be happy to see what you come up with.

Food, Lifestyle

How we Brewed our Own Beer – Homebrewing

After our trip to Amsterdam and actually visiting some breweries my husband and I were intrigued about someday brewing our own beer however always pushed it back. During the quarantine we finally decided to give it a try and become beer brewers from beer drinkers.

Since we are not experts at it we googled and looked for options and finally decided to order the Craft A Brew Kit from Amazon which had great reviews. We personally like Hefeweizen so got that kit but they definitely offer more options such as Pale Ale, Irish Scout, Brown Ale, IPA, Oktoberfest Ale, Ciders and many more options to pick from depending on your liking.

The kit includes a 1 gallon carboy, thermometer, sanitizer, yeast, hops, dry malt extract, speciality grains, grain steeping bag, airlock, rubber stopper, funnel, transfer tubing, racking cane, a tube clamp and a guide to craft brewing. A good thing about this kit is that all the equipments are reusable if you plan to brew beer again and all you need to get is the ingredients i.e Dry Malt Extract, yeast, speciality grains, hops, yeast, sanitizer and a grain steeping bag.

Additionally you need a large brew pot (link to the brew pot we used), around 10 Lbs of Ice, 10 to 12 Swing top bottles (or 4 big swing top bottles) and a fine mesh strainer (optional but recommended).

The guide to craft brewing included with the kit lists down all the steps in a clear and precise manner making it so easy to brew the beer even for beginners. It was our first time too but the instructions and very explicit and also they have many You Tube videos in case you need more clarity or don’t understand a particular step. Also, if you run into some questions which cannot be answered by viewing the videos you can always reach out to the brewmaster and they respond back with answers.

The Process consists of 6 steps :

Step 1: Brewing – This is the first step and one of the steps where you will spend most of your time. We took around 4 hours to complete this step but had a great time brewing our own beer. The guide has detailed instructions about this step and below are some of the pictures for this step.

Step 3 : Sanitization – This is one of the most important step to brewing and will determine if you get great tasting beer or terrible tasting beer. So be sure to follow this step exactly as stated in the guide.

Step 3 : Fermentation – Once we completed brewing our beer, we filled it in the sanitized carboy and plugged it with a rubber stopper and made a blow off assembly inserting one end of the tube in the rubber stopper and the other end into a half full glass of water. It is essential to store in a dark cool place for the fermentation process to commence. After a few days once the fermentation calms you can use the airlock. This whole process takes around 2 weeks.

Step 4 : Carbonation and Bottling – After 2 weeks of the fermentation process we were looking forward to the bottling process. We used the swing top bottles for this process and yet again sanitization is key to this process. In this process we reactivated the remaining yeast using sugar as fuel to carbonate the beer once bottled. Once that step is done we siphoned the beer from the carboy to a pot using the racking cane, clamp and a tube and then yet again to the bottles from the large pot as per the instructions mentioned in the guide. This process took us about 1.5 hours to complete. I am not going to lie we did get a little curious as to how the beer was tasting and tried a sip before the process of carbonation.We kept the bottled beer back in a warm dark place for another 2 weeks to allow the beer to carbonate and condition.

Step 5: Enjoy – After 2 weeks we got our home-brewed beer ready to drink. We were really happy to see the carbonation process work and the beer tasted absolutely amazing. We went all out and even designed our own Beer Labels and came up with a name for our Beer too. Clearly, we were over excited that the beer turned out so good and all the hard work paid off. We are left with our last Beer bottle now and already planning to brew our next batch by adding a twist to it.

This can be a great date night idea or even a fun activity for a family or friends to do together to spend time bonding with each other while also enjoying the rewards at the end of the brewing process. After all what’s better than a cold beer on a hot summer night ?

I would love to hear about your beer brewing experiences. Feel free to share them with me. Happy Brewing!

Travel

Boston Lights: A Lantern Experience at Franklin Park Zoo

This weekend we decided to visit the Franklin Zoo which unveiled its doors to the Lantern Experience and what a delight it was. As we entered the Zoo we were greeted by an illuminated welcome sign which gave us a little sneak peak into what to expect and let me tell you we were not disappointed. At the entrance they scanned our tickets and let us in. To ensure social distancing at the Zoo and maintaining limited capacities so as to avoid overcrowding it is essential to make online reservations here. They have ticket options available starting at 6.00 pm everyday until 9.30 pm everyday until November 1, 2020.

We made reservations at 9.00 pm allowing us enough time to enjoy the displays as the Zoo shuts its doors at 10.30 pm. We spent a good 1.5 hours enjoying the displays which we found was enough without it being rushed. If you are planning to go with kids I highly recommend going in earlier just so it doesn’t feel rushed and you have enough time just in case the kids decide to spend more time at the interactive displays.

Spanning 72 acres of the Franklin Park Zoo, there were over 50 majestic displays for everyone to enjoy. As we entered we saw interactive displays like the conservation wheel which allows you to spin the wheel to learn about different ways to conserve nature and wildlife, and step on lit tiles that bloom the petals of flowers on the wall display.

As we walked further, we saw the beautiful Asian lantern displays and a 197 foot long dragon breathing fire details bordered with Chinese Zodiac signs as per the birth year. Just at the tail of the dragon there were interactive musical step stars which were quite popular with the kids. We saw so many kids jumping around on the musical step stars and dancing their way out. I am not going to lie I did too. After all doesn’t everyone have a kid inside of them ?

Walking ahead there were various displays of lights as we reached the section displaying Pandas – A huge tall giant Panda, 2 pandas kissing each other. Another Panda display which caught my eye was the gleaming lit colorful tree with Pandas on it.

As we walked ahead we saw displays of giraffe, zebras, elephants, alligators, hippos and a few more displays. But the one which struck my eye the most was the display of twinkling color changing butterflies. It was bright, colorful and so full of life.

Walking ahead under the tunnel of white lanterns that hung above we we saw another display I really enjoyed was the Peacock fanning its spectacular feathers. Everyone stood there peacefully waiting to watch the peacock fans its feathers and the beautiful changing colors. It was a delight watching the Peacock, The National Bird of India in all its glory.

As we walked ahead through the various dazzling lantern displays and luminous flower displays we watched the beautiful color transforming tree. My husband said this tree reminded him of the tree in the Avatar movie (The Tree of Souls).

Passing through the blue Jellyfish display we walked into yet another display which I completely loved. A walk through an illuminated 66 foot long shark tunnel completely caught my eye. It was as though you are walking directly into the mouth of the shark. It was so creative and beautiful.

As we walked ahead we were nearing the end and walked through the Cinderella Carriage, and an interactive giant piano where you could dance your way on the keys making it lit up and play tunes. Definitely brings out the kid inside of you.

These were just a few of the key highlights for me but there is so much more and literally something for everyone. It is a fun one of a kind experience. If you enjoy watching the lights, the wildlife, nature, and cultural traditions this is definitely for you. As a part of the Zoo’s commitment to conservation and preservation they have used energy saving LED lights to create this whole experience.

The whole experience is magical and in parts interactive as well making it absolutely captivating. Highly recommend it to everyone.

Travel

Sperry Road to Stony Ledge Trail – Mount Greylock State Reservation

Mount Greylock, the highest peak in the state of Massachusetts has an elevation of 3491 feet and is one of the most scenic mountains in the United States. Last Saturday we decided to explore one of the trails Mount Greylock has to offer. We decided to pick a short trail with stunning views of Mount Greylock – Sperry Road to Stony Ledge Trail located near Adams, Massachusetts. It takes approximately 3 hours to reach the trail from Boston but is so worth it.

On our way my husband and I stopped for breakfast at On a Roll Cafe which is on the way to the hike to Sperry Road to Stony Ledge Trail from Boston. I cannot recommend this place enough. The food is amazing and the outdoor seating is absolutely amazing to soak in the summer with the lush greenery and a small manmade pond around it. We got the Lemon Ricotta Pancakes, Breakfast Burrito, a side of home cut fries and some juice and they were delicious. At the corner there is an Antique store called Route 7 Trading Post which we explored until we got a table as there was a wait time of approximately 20 minutes and they have some great pieces for anyone interested to get antiques.

After some breakfast we continued on our drive until we reached the 2 mile trail. The trailhead starts at CCC Dynamite Trail and there is parking available right at the beginning of the trail. We parked the car and headed on to the gravel road leading us to the Sperry Road to Stony ledge Trail. This trail is easy and is great for all skill levels but offers some magnificient views. Definitely will be a great place to come back to in order catch the beautiful fall colors.

On the trail we saw some beautiful butterflies, cranberry trees and some beautiful wild flowers.

There is also another diversion which takes you to the March Cataract Fall Trails, something we plan to explore the next time we visit there. The best time to visit the falls is definitely when it has rained as otherwise it will not be the same.

The 2 mile trail is an easy trail to soak in the beauty of the mountains without hiking all day and gains approximately 1500 feet in altitude. The stony ledge delivers panoramic views of the foliage and wild forest. After soaking in the views for sometime we started walking back down towards our car as we decided to drive up to the summit.

One great thing about Mount Greylock is that you can drive all the way up to the summit and explore the view as well even if you do not plan to do the summit hike. As we started driving back again from our trail to the summit there are a couple of lookout points on the way offering some dynamic views.

There is parking available at the summit and once we parked we explored the splendorous views by walking around to explore the Eastern, Western, Southern and Northern views.

At the Summit, there is a 92 feet tower Veterans War Memorial Tower built to honor the states dead from World War I. On a clear day, visitors can view as far as 90 miles to the north from the top of the tower. The tower’s beacon is possibly the most powerful light in Massachusetts intended to shine each night to honor the memory of the fallen heroes except for a few weeks in Spring and Fall to avoid confusing the migrating birds. Currently the tower is closed due to Covid-19 however the views are spectacular just by itself without having to actually climb the tower.

The Bascom Lodge located at the summit serves weekend warriors and hikers. It is currently closed due to the pandemic but can be seen from the outside as you walk around.

All in all a great easy trail to explore with spectacular views. Highly Recommend it!

Travel

Halibut Point State Park, MA – An Easy and Beautiful Trail

Halibut Point State Park located in the town of Rockport, MA is a small trail that spans approximately 2 miles but offers great views. This State Park is approximately one hour to the north of Boston and sits along the Atlantic Ocean featuring the 60 feet deep water filled granite quarry and the relaxing rocky ocean coast.

My husband and I visited this Park on Saturday at around 10.45 am however entered the park only at around 11.30 am as it is a very busy park and had to wait to park the car as the parking was full. Will highly recommend visiting before 10.00 am as once the parking lot is full you might need to wait until another hour to get parking.

Admission – There is a $5 parking fee for all Massachusetts residents and a $20 parking fee for all non Massachusetts residents.

This State Park is a perfect blend of great history and stunning views and is accessible all round the year. The sheets of granite that makes up Halibut Point are around 440 million years old and the quarry ended its operations in 1929 with the collapse of the Cape Ann granite industry.

Just like Massachusetts, this State Park has history under every rock and on every corner. Highly recommend this loop for Instagram worthy photos, the rich history of the granite quarry business and also to visit the watch tower in the visitor center from the WWII era which protected Boston and Portsmouth from attack by the sea. The watch tower offers great panoramic views. Currently the visitor center is closed due to Covid however there is so much more to explore and enjoy.

On a clear day the view stretches from Crane Bridge in Ipswich to Mount Agamenticus in Maine and the Isles of Shoals off the Coast of New Hampshire.

My husband and I spent sometime exploring the numbered self guided tour understanding the evolution of rock quarrying and the significance. On weekends from Columbus Day to Memorial Day they offer quarry tours and on every Saturday morning the tour includes a granite cutting demonstration. Currently they are not offering these tours due to Covid but it is fun exploring yourself too. We definitely want to take the tour once it opens to experience and see for ourselves the demonstration of the granite cutting.

This would be a great spot for a picnic with family and friends to enjoy some snacks while taking in the ocean views which make you feel so calm and relaxed.

After we were done exploring this beautiful loop and trails we headed to grab some lunch at Markouk Bread which is a tiny spot serving Lebanese and Mediterranean food. They make the breads fresh to order which makes it so delicious. We absolutely loved the Manoushie Special and Mohamara flatbreads, hummus and the falafel wrap.

Some other spots on my list to explore around Halibut Point State Park are Good Harbor Beach and Wingaersheek Beach. This can all easily be enjoyed in a day and is great for taking a day trip from Boston.

Lifestyle

11 Stay At Home Date Night Ideas

Date Nights have been so much easier until now to simply go out for a dinner, movie, concert or anything fun. But with staying at home we needed to get more creative to spend some quality time with each other especially to unwind from everything going around.

But who says you cannot make At-Home Date Nights fun and exciting? My husband and I tried these At Home Date Nights during the lockdown and had such a fun time. Here is a list of some fun ideas we did together until the pandemic settles.

  1. Tie – Dye Date Night – The tie-dye trend is so strong right now and we thought why not try and do it ourselves. We ordered the Tie-Dye Kit which included all the tie dye colors, gloves, rubber bands and plastic bags and a tie to secure your tie -dyed things. What we enjoyed the most about it was there is no correct or wrong way of doing it. We just let our creative juices flow and created some fun his and her styles tshirts, a baseball cap and even a travel pouch. It was such a fun night of creating something together and spending some quality time. Here is a picture of what we created.

2. Cocktail Making Contest – If both of you enjoy drinking this is definitely a fun idea for a date night. We had so much fun creating our own cocktails from ingredients we already had at home. We were surprised at how creative we got and the result of which was some really amazing concoctions using spirits, fruits, and spices. Even if you don’t come up with the best cocktails you will definitely have a great time.

3. Candlelit Dinner – Convert the experience of cooking at home a fun one by planning a fun Candlelit dinner. You can make it extremely fancy by having a three course meal – Appetizer, Main and Dessert or keep it simple by cooking just the main dish. But who cares as long as you are having fun. Put on some romantic music while cooking and then enjoy your meal at the dining table by lighting a few candles and having a romantic candle lit dinner with your favorite drinks. I love to dress up and use this time to dress up a little to get the whole experience but it is completely up to you.

4. Movie Marathon – A fun things to do is doing a movie marathon. My husband and I are Harry Potter fans so we did a fun Harry Potter movie marathon while binging on some popcorn and tortillas with salsa and guacamole. But literally you can pick anything you have been waiting to watch or love watching together and go with it. To make it feel like we are watching a movie in the theatre we turn off all the lights.

5. Game Nights – If you enjoy game nights then it is definitely a fun date night idea. We enjoy playing board and card games like Sequence, Code names duet, Ludo, Phase 10, Monopoly, etc. Recently I also learnt playing Chess on one of our date nights and was so much fun. Another fun game is the Newlywed game or Not So Newlywed game.

6. Bucket List Theme Date Night – Have a list of countries you want to visit or had been planning to visit if we were not in this pandemic? Why not convert it into a fun experience and make the most of it.

For Example – If you were planning to visit Mexico – How about make some tacos, nachos, quesadillas, etc.

If you were planning to visit India – How about making some Indian curries, biryani or some chaat?

If you were planning to visit Italy – Cook some Italian dishes like spaghetti, pizza, gnocchi, etc.

If you were planning to visit Japan – How about trying to make some sushi or ramen?

If you were planning to visit China – How about making some noodles, stir fry, fried rice or dumplings.

The options are unlimited depending on the country you pick up.

7. Karaoke Date Night – If you have a karaoke microphone great but even if you don’t just put on you tube and select song with lyrics you like and sing your hearts out. Better yet no one is watching you so you don’t need to care how you sing and just have fun.

8. Sip and Paint Date Night – Have some canvas, paints or brushes handy ? How about painting while sipping your favorite drink and also create some fun wall art for your home at the same time? Even if you don’t have a canvas and just have some drawing paper and colors or pencils you can sketch together and frame them and create your own wall art for your home. It doesn’t have to be anything complicated it can be something simple too. We created some fun frames.

9. Watch your wedding video – Now may be a perfect time to sit back, relax and binge on some snacks while watching your wedding video and photos and reliving those moments together. You can also surprise your partner by swapping your wedding DVD with another movie DVD so he/she will not know till you are actually watching it together. At the end if you want you can also make a small cake/cupcake and enjoy it like you did on your wedding.

10. Picnic in your Backyard – If you are looking for a fun date idea during the day you can also have a picnic in your backyard. You can take a blanket to sit on and some snacks, chips and sandwiches with some sangria/mimosas/wine or any beverage of your choice and play some music on your phone and play some board games as well.

11. Make a playlist of your favorite songs – A fun date night idea is creating a playlist of all your favorite songs. You can pen down all your favorite songs and create a mix tape so the next time you fit the road you are all set and have your favorite songs ready to play and groove. We had got a mix tape long ago to create our playlist and finally created one during the social distancing time.

Do you have any fun date night ideas that you enjoy? Feel free to share your thoughts and what you do on your date nights. I would love to hear about them.

Lifestyle

Top 12 Things to watch during Social Distancing

If social distancing has you stuck inside going crazy, here are some shows and movies you can watch to keep yourself engaged.

Also did you know, Hulu is offering free subscription for the first month ? Which means there is more content to stream even if you do not have a Hulu subscription already.

1) John Oliver: Last Week Tonight – This show airs on HBO and you can also find the clips on YouTube. It is an absolute favorite of mine. Comedian John Oliver reviews the crazy current affairs happening around the world with his insightful wit and fearless candor. The best thing about his show is how he addresses even the most serious problems in a light way.

2) Stay here – I binged this show during social distancing on Netflix. It is easy on the eyes and perfect for people looking to makeover their homes. On this show, the hosts transfer short term rental homes from sub par properties to dream holiday destinations which are rented on platforms like Airbnb.

3) Shark Tank – This show is available on Hulu and I am a fan. I have been following this show for years and it never gets old. On this show, budding entrepreneurs present their ideas to the sharks in the tank with the hope to strike a deal. Over the years, through this show I have come across so many new products in the market and also tried some of them that appealed to me.

4) Greys Anatomy – I have been following this show from the first time it was aired in 2005 until now and really enjoy it. It is engaging and fun but I won’t lie there are some seasons which are not as great and engaging as the others. Available on Netflix and Hulu. But the latest season is available only on Hulu.

5) Money Heist – I have just finished the first 2 seasons of this show which is originally a Spanish show but has been dubbed in English on Netflix. With its unpredictable and overwhelming plot, this series is so addictive that you will end up binge watching it.

6) Culinary Shows – Some good shows on Netflix are The Chefs Line, The Final Table, Chef’s Table and Ugly Delicious.

7) Next in Fashion – This show is Netflix’s take on fashion for all the project Runway fans out there. It is a battle of designers, most of whom are already accomplished to showcase their skills and sew to impress the judges with the opportunity to sell their line on Net-a-porter and win a cash prize.

8) Love is blind – This show is a throwback to the old days around 30 years back where people got married or spoke to each other first before actually meeting the significant other. This Netflix’s original show is a terrible show on numerous levels however is also quite addictive and quite popular on Netflix at this time.

9) The Morning Show – This is an Apple TV exclusive show and can be watched by anyone who has bought an Apple device lately for free as Apple is giving a free subscription for 1 year.

10)Vir Das Live Show– On 28th March, 2020 (Saturday) Vir Das is doing a insta – live concert starting at 9.00 pm IST (11.30 am ET) for 30 mins and promises to entertain you with his humor. He also has various shows available on Netflix for streaming with the latest one being his stand up special – Vir Das for India. Sharing the link to register for the same.

The link provided above also has various other live shows for you to stream for free.

11) Other Old but great shows

Breaking Bad (Netflix)

Sherlock (Netflix)

House of Cards (Netflix)

The Big Bang Theory (Netflix)

Suits (Amazon)

Bones (Amazon)

House (Amazon)

Project Runway (Amazon)

12) Movies to watch – There is a great collection of fun movies available on Amazon, Netflix and Hulu.

And the best thing is now on Netflix you can have your own party and watch your favorite shows and movies together with your friends or watch on Hulu for free for a month.

Here is a list of some movies you can watch:

Murder mystery (Netflix)

The Shawshank Redemption (Netflix)

Set it Up (Netflix)

Life as we Know It (Netflix and Hulu)

The Ugly Truth (Netflix and Hulu)

Spenser Confidential (Netflix)

Spy who dumped me (Hulu)

A Simple Favor (Hulu)

A Bad Moms Christmas (Hulu)

The Holiday (Hulu)

Feel free to share what you are watching and enjoying during social distancing. Happy Bingeing!!

Food, Travel

Fun Facts and Must Do Things in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is the capital of Netherlands. It is home to various world famous museums and is known for its artistic heritage, elaborate canal system, narrow houses with gabled facades, hazy coffee shops and Red Light District. I traveled to Amsterdam in April and cannot wait to share my experience with you as well as some interesting facts about the lively city. It has so much to offer and is one of my favorite cities.

Did you know?
1) Amsterdam derived its name from the Amstel River.
2) There are 165 Amsterdam canals that combine for a length of over 100 kilometers. The Canal Ring became part of the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2010.
3) Amsterdam has more bridges than Venice. How difficult is that to believe? But there are only, in fact, 409 bridges connecting Venice’s canals. Amsterdam actually has 1,281 bridges, three times as many as Venice!
4) There are approximately 2,500 houseboats in Amsterdam.
5) The tilted houses are called dancing houses. The soil was so swampy that they had to build on stilts and that caused them to wobble and sink into the river.
6) The number of bicycles in Amsterdam is more than the number of people living in the city.
7) Amsterdam has approximately 20 times more tourists throughout the year than the locals.
8) Amsterdam is one of the top 25 safest cities in the world and also one of the top 15 cities known for its high standard of living. Who would have thought, with all the marijuana and prostitution?
9) A study reveals that Dutch men are the tallest people in the world.
10) Amsterdam lies below the sea level and is among the top five coffee consuming cities in the world.
11) Amsterdam Stock Exchange is the oldest stock exchange in the world.
12) Same-sex marriage is legal in Amsterdam. The Netherlands was the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage.

Where to stay in Amsterdam

I travelled to Amsterdam with my husband and we rented an AirBnb in Amsterdam and enjoyed our stay at the beautiful bright, colorful bohemian apartment with a rooftop terrace. Everything about this apartment was absolutely inspiring. The host Anna enjoys traveling around the globe and it is evident from the decor of the house. The apartment is located on the 3rd and 4th floor. The 3rd floor has a spacious and beautiful living space with a fireplace to keep you warm when it gets cold, a fully stocked kitchen, a dining area and a balcony. Also the hosts have an entire wardrobe of amazing board games on the 3rd floor to unwind at the end of the day. The 4th floor has a huge bathroom which also has a walk in shower and a modern bath, a bedroom, a bookshelf with a reading nook with books about travel and food from all around the world and a rooftop terrace. The location of the apartment is great ; it is a 2 min walk to the tram and a 10 min bike ride to the city center. Anna, the host is extremely knowledgeable about the area and has some great recommendations and very quick with communication. Attaching the link to the apartment here

Another unique offering of Amsterdam is living on the floating house boats by the canals. There are also some great luxury floating house boats options available which looked amazing. I discovered these while exploring the city and would definitely consider staying there on my next visit for a different experience.

How to travel around Amsterdam

The best way to explore the city is either on a bike or on foot. Even if you only pedal around for a few hours, riding a bike is an essential Amsterdam experience. There are over 800,000 bicycles in Amsterdam. That’s more bikes than people! The city also has a flat landscape, which makes cycling so much more fun and enjoyable, and is also one the world’s most cycle-friendly cities with separate cycling paths throughout the entire city. You can also use public transport such as buses, trams, and metros, which are very well connected in the entire city. The public transportation covers all the places of interest. The main hub of the trams is Amsterdam Central station.

Best time to go to Amsterdam

The city is always buzzing with tourists year round, particularly being busier from April to September because it is warmer in those months. I traveled in April and it was extremely busy, but I had a great time. It would be ideal to book your stay ahead of time if you are going to travel in the peak tourist season as almost everything gets booked.

Must do things in Amsterdam:

1)Keukenhof — Keukenhof, known as the Garden of Europe is the world’s largest bulb flower park, and if you are traveling to Amsterdam between March to May then a visit to the gardens is a must. The magnificent gardens at Keukenhof are true visual ecstasy. These gardens are redesigned each year so even after many visits it will always look fresh and new with colorful flowers dancing before your eyes! If you love flowers like me, then this place will guarantee you a great experience, showcasing millions of tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, orchids, and other spring-flowering bulbs. Here, you can buy bulbs straight from the cultivators and they also have specialists to guide you how bulbs can be grown more successfully at home. To get to Keukenhof Gardens we took bus from Amsterdam City Center to the Schiphol Airport and transferred to Keukenhof Bus 858.

2) Canal cruise — Besides providing a stunning backdrop to the city’s historical center, floating down Amsterdam’s canals is one of the most memorable ways to discover the city’s sights and attractions. Whether you’re a first-time or frequent visitor, everything in Amsterdam seems a bit more magical when viewed from a boat. Most canal cruises take around an hour, which gives you an opportunity to explore Amsterdam’s UNESCO protected Canal Ring. There are various tours operating on the water and you could pick up one quite easily as per your location and requirements. I highly recommend taking the canal cruise in the evening or around sunset as the canals are more peaceful because they are less crowded.

3) Explore museums — Amsterdam is home to over 50 museums, exploring the diversity of history, art, culture, and educational fun. There are museums to suit everyone’s interest. Some of the most famous museums are Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum, and Anne Frank House. I visited the Rikjsmuseum since it was one of the museums that appealed to my interests and I wanted to do only 1 museum. The museum is huge and I spent around 4.5 to 5 hours to explore the museum. If you are short on time I would recommend to google the top 25 list to do at the museum which can be covered in around 2 hours. I highly recommend getting the I am Amsterdam card if you plan to visit many museums as it helps you save money.

4) Go beer tasting — Amsterdam is the home of the Heineken headquarters. The Heineken experience is a must see for all visitors. I had a great experience where they showed the brewing process, innovations, ingredients used, etc., and at the end of the tour also gave two free beers. During the Heineken tour too you have a few beer samplings besides the two free beers at the end. You can also personalize the Heineken beer bottle to carry as a souvenir back home with you. Some other interesting breweries that I would also recommend are Brouwerij de Prael, Brouwerij ‘t IJ (award winning brewery – located in a windmill), and Butcher’s Tears.

5) Visit coffee shops — A trip to Amsterdam wouldn’t be complete without visiting the coffee shops there. Purchase and consumption of cannabis is legal in Amsterdam which remains a huge tourist attraction making it quite easily the weed capital of Europe. Some of the coffee shops I recommend are The Bulldog The First, Mellow Yellow, Original Dampkrings, Braney’s Coffeeshop and Grey Area.

6) Parks — Parks are at the heart of Amsterdam culture. Every time the sun is out you will see the locals packing up the disposable barbecue and heading down to their nearest garden.If you like visiting parks do not miss to check out Vondelpark, the most famous park in Amsterdam with an open air theater and concerts in the summer. Some other interesting parks are Erasmuspark and Rembrandtpark.

7) Visit a market in Amsterdam — Whether you’re looking to buy or try some local delicacies or just soak up the atmosphere, visiting one of the many markets in Amsterdam is a unique and unforgettable experience. Markets selling everything from antiques to books to artisan food to vintage clothes are held all over the city every day. Some of the most popular Amsterdam markets include the Albert Cuypmarkt in De Pijp (Mon.-Sat.) Lindengrachtmarkt in the Jordaan (Saturdays), Bloemenmarkt (worlds only floating market)and the Waterlooplein Market – Flea Market (Mon.-Sat.).

8) Red Light District – From brothels  to sex museums, the Amsterdam Red Light District has it all. Amsterdam prides itself on its wholly liberal and tolerant attitude, embracing the fact that people may be into prostitution, soft drugs and pornography. And that it is only human. So instead of criminalizing everything, they enjoy the honesty of it all. Needless to say, that come to the district at night when it really comes to life however here are women forever tapping on the windows.

Day Trips from Amsterdam

If you have time then it would be exciting to venture out and take day trips to Volendam, Marken, Zaanse Schans (working windmills), countryside, Delft, The Hague, and Rotterdam. Each of these places is unique and has something to offer you. I personally took a day trip to Volendam, Marken and Zaanse Schans and enjoyed my time on the Dutch countryside.

Zaanse Schans at one point had over 600 windmills however right now they have around 5 to 6 working windmills each with a different purpose and name. The windmills all have separate admission tickets and prices so come prepared with small bills. I found the windmill attendants happy to share details about the intricate workings of their respective windmills. I visited 2 windmills – one which grinds peanuts for oil, and the other is a sawmill for lumber. You can easily spend 2 – 3 hours exploring the windmills.

After Zaanse Schans, we headed to Volendam which is a nearby fishing village and is known for their colorful wooden houses. We headed to the Volendam Museum and saw a glimpse of fishing vessels, antique uniforms, and lifestyle of the Dutch people. The town’s promenade is lined with souvenir shops and indoor/outdoor eateries where you can grab a bite. I ate lunch and tried the Dutch pancakes from a local vendor here and enjoyed it. We then headed to the Cheese Factory in Volendam where we saw a live demonstration of how cheese is made and also sampled a variety of cheese. We also saw a live demonstration of how they make fresh warm stroopwaffles and tried the same.

The last stop of our day trip was to Marken and we visited the Shoe Factory. We saw the whole process of how the famous Holland shoe is made. They showed us various different types of shoes they make and you can also buy souvenirs or the famous shoes to take back home with you. We then explored the houses and the area by ourselves and then headed back to Amsterdam.

Must Try Dutch Food

Amsterdam is well-known around the world as a city of indulgences. Here is a list of famous Dutch food you have to try:

1)Stroopwafel — It consists of a syrup filling sandwiched between two thin waffles and tastes best when it is hot. Try the one at Banketbakkerij Lanskroon or Albert Cuyp Market.

2) Dutch Cheese — They are absolutely amazing and cannot be missed. Try them at the Cheese Factory or Henri Willig Cheese shops for a guided experience, or at Reypenaer Proeflokaal or the Cheese Museum. You can also buy cheese to take back home and enjoy.

3)Patat or Frites (Dutch Fries) — These are a must-have with the lip-smacking sauces. One of my absolute favorite places for this food is Vleminckx Sausmeesters.

4)Poffertjes — You can buy these little fluffy pancakes from any street market or vendor. Many vendors even have the options to add toppings to these yummy fluffy pancakes. Though my favorite places were the one I tried when I took the day trip to Zaanse Schans, Marken and Volendam and at Albert Cuyp Market.

Food/Bar Recommendations

1) Try a Hipster cafe – I was not aware of this until my friend who lives there took me to one. We went to Café de Ceuvel which is a beautiful bohemian waterside cafe which featured not only yummy food and delicious drinks but also beautiful music. The cafe has been found by people who want to make a difference in the world and this belief goes further than a label that reads organic. They make their own soda’s with the organic syrups, grow their own vegetables, their bitterballs are made of oyster mushrooms that grow on coffee grinds and have a greenhouse on the roof where they grow their own herbs and are also building the world’s first Biogas Boat in which they can transform their organic waste into biogas to cook on! Highly recommend if you are looking for a real Dutch experience. This place is filled with locals and you will not see any tourists here. You can reach here either by taking a ferry or Uber.

2) BAK Restaurant – The chef heroes seasonal Dutch produce in beautiful dishes. This is an organic restaurant with great food. They have a varied wine list and offer a 3 course lunch menu on weekends at a great price. They also offer an 8 course dinner with wine pairings. If you get a table by the window you can enjoy the stunning view overlooking the water. I loved the food here. They have a great menu for vegetarians too.

3) Daalder – Located in Jordaan, Daalder offers amazing modern European food. The food here is not only creative but also delicious. Daalder does not offer a la carte menu. However you can choose how many courses you would like to eat and the chef does not fail to impress.Keep an open mind & let the story unfold. Every course is precisely balanced yet delightfully unique. We had paired our food with wine.

4) Winkel 43 – Located in Jordan, Winkel 43 is famous for its Apple pie. You can see the slices of fresh apples, and they aren’t doused in a heavy syrup like you would find in an American apple pie. Each bite is perfectly sweet and tart apple paired with crumbly and lightly sweetened crust and a dash of luscious whipped cream.

5) Ciel Bleu – If you are looking for a Michelin Star experience head to Ciel Bleu. We could not get a reservation here as by the time we had planned our trip it was already booked. Something on my bucket list the next time I visit Amsterdam.

6) The Pancake Pastry – This bakery in Amsterdam only makes one thing: an ultra decadent chocolate cookie stuffed with gooey white chocolate. There is always a line out the door. A must-try in Amsterdam.

7) Ice Bakery by Nutella – There is a Nutella bakery in Amsterdam. If you love Nutella this place is a must try. You can get Nutella ice cream, Nutella milkshakes, Nutella hot chocolate, Nutella cookie sandwiches, Nutella waffles, Nutella pancakes, Nutella poffertjes and Nutella muffins too.

8) The Lobby (Fizeaustraat 2)- If you are looking for breakfast definitely try The lobby. This was a recommendation provided to us by a local and we absolutely loved it. They also have amazing wines. An insider tip which was given to us by our host of the Airbnb we rented was to ask for “het vies boekje” (dirty book) which has a list of all their special wines.

9) Pazzi (De Clercqstraat 93) – Who doesn’t like Pizza? Pazzi is one of the best pizza places in town.

10) Frits (Jan Evertsenstraat 135) – Burgers, fries and beer! What is not to like? They are well known for their burgers and extra crispy fries and have all the locals favorite beers from local breweries.

11) Floor 17 – Just do it for the view!

12) Other Restaurants – A few local friends had also suggested us – De Struisvogel located in the 9 streets for a 3 course meal and Cafe Modern located in Meidoornweg 2 (fixed menu) however we did not happen to go there. Something to do on our next visit to Amsterdam.

Highly recommend to make a reservation beforehand especially if you are traveling during the peak season as it may get difficult to get a reservation last minute.

Where to Shop

Whether you are searching for a souvenir, a unique vintage dress or the latest designer handbag, Amsterdam has something for everyone.

1) Boutiques – If you are someone like me who likes to shop at local boutiques then head to The Nine Streets. A couple of interesting boutiques I found there were Scotch and Soda, King Louie and Who’s that girl ?.

2) Kalverstraat – If you are looking for international brands such as Pull and Bear, Zara, Urban Outfitters, River Island, etc then head here. There are over 100 brands on this street.

3) Leidsestraat – For beauty products

4) De Bijenkorf and P C Hooftstraat – For high end shopping.

If you have any questions please leave a comment and I will be happy to answer all your questions.