Now posting at Needle and Compass!

Katrina Emery

Utrecht lies in the shadow of Amsterdam, somewhat unknown to visitors, though I’ve heard of lots of people who prefer living there to Amsterdam, actually. A cute university town, it’s a busy and prosperous city with all the benefits of Amsterdam (shopping, canals, public transportation, etc), but without the tourists. Which is always nice.

The other day we endured the 30 minute train ride (just horrible, I know) and set out to explore Utrecht. I’ve actually been there before, back in March, so some of these pictures are from that visit, too.

Utrecht is the fourth largest city in the Netherlands and is home to the country’s largest university. The most “famous” thing about the city is it’s church tower, which is the tallest in the country! Utrecht was a haven of Christianity for a time, and in the middle ages a large church was built, with an impressively tall…

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Blog Change

Hey there! I have a bit of an administration announcement today: I’m changing the name of my blog to match the shop, Needle and Compass, and moving it over to it’s own site, here. It’s a WordPress site, so you’ll still be able to follow it that way. Or you can also sign up for email subscriptions over there!

The change reflects a bit of a metamorphosis of the blog to focus on both travel and handmade/crafty things. I’d love for you to click through and keep reading! I have lots more Europe travel posts, and several embroidery projects I’m just about to finish, and I’m excited to show you those. I’d also like to post a few embroidered map projects from the shop, so look out for those in the future.

I’ll post a couple more times through The Penny Farthing, just so I don’t accidentally lose anyone. Thanks so much for reading, following and commenting–it’s so highly appreciated!

From now on, find me here at Needle and Compass!

Little Crumbs at De Laatste Kruimel

One of my favorite pastry shops in Amsterdam is tucked into a narrow street, unassuming and a bit hidden. But the window displays are so beautiful that you’re immediately lured in to taste the goodness that awaits! It’s called De Laatste Kruimel, which means “The Last Crumb.” Which is what you’ll be searching for on your plate when you go.

Those crumbs come from quiche, bread pudding, cakes, scones, and tarts, all made right there in the little shop. All seriously good.

The shop is tiny, and there are only a few tables, made from wooden crates with lacy vintage tablecloths thrown on. The best location to munch on your treats is on the back patio, overlooking the canal. While the tour boats go by, you can wave sweetly and take another bite of your cake.

As the wonderful hand-drawn sign says, they also serve lunch sandwiches and soups. And everything is delicious, right down to the de laatste kruimel!

De Laatste Kruimel, Langebrugsteeg 4, Amsterdam

The Joy of FEBO



I crossed something off my “to-do” list last weekend. Amsterdam has a fast food place called FEBO that’s stuffed into areas all over town–usually near a collection of bars. Ever since we moved here I’ve been promising myself that I need to try it. It was a necessity! Why did it take me so long? Because the food comes from a vending machine.

This is strange to me. In my head I know it’s freshly made (well, ‘freshly’) and placed in the slots to keep warm until I come along. But my eyes want to say, “Are you crazy? That’s a vending machine!” So I required a lot of time and a night out to said bars before I worked up the courage to try it. Luckily for you it was well documented, so you can get the full feel of FEBO without the actual food.

The selection is a mix of traditional dutch food like krokets with the normal fast food burgers. There’s also a counter where you can order fries and smoothies and other made-more-fresh things. I went with the machine-food, of course. Jesse selected a kroket and I a burger, and we stuck our coins in the slot. After the “clink” I pulled open the little door and took out my prize. (I also learned that you must open the bottom door–the others stay locked.)

The verdicts. The kroket: yum! Crunchy and hot, full of meat-gravy goodness. I would get that again anytime. The burger: not so yum. It tasted like it had been sitting under a heat lamp for a good long while. Which it had been. Surprise, surprise.

“FEBO– the most delicious!”

So, our FEBO experience was good and bad, like so much of life (what a life lesson I learned.) At least now I can say I’ve eaten a burger from a vending machine! I like to gauge reactions of my visiting friends when I tell them about it. Some have tried it gleefully, right away, while some have given me faces and swore they’d never touch it. What do you think–would you try FEBO?

Volendam and Edam



I wrote previously about our visit to the little island of Marken. After wandering around we caught a ferry across the water to Volendam. It’s a traditional fishing town that’s now turned into a place people go to take old-timey photos (no one would do that with me this time!). It’s a cute place, though the amount of tourist-geared items gets overwhelming. We spent a short time wandering around and soon felt satisfied.

Not far away is Edam–like the cheese! Though apparently that name denotes a type of cheese, not where it’s from: lots of Edam is made in Germany, I learned. The town still holds a cheese market in the summers on Wednesdays, capitalizing on it’s name.

Other than cheese, Edam is really precious. Tiny, cobbled, a bit forgotten, it’s streets still bustle with townfolk, it’s bakeries are stocked with bread and pastries, and it’s bridges are full of bicycles. It was a completely adorable place. I think it’s my favorite of the Marken-Volendam-Edam trifecta.

Edam also has a town legend about a mermaid who washed onto their shore and stayed for awhile. Apparently mermaids were pretty picky creatures, so the fact that one stayed in their town was a source of pride for the Edammers–they took it as quite the compliment, and created a special plaque in the town square for the occasion.

I could skip Volendam next time, but I’d love to go back to Edam, maybe on a long bike ride some sunny day. If summer ever comes to Holland…

Day Trip in Scotland


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We reserved one day in Edinburgh to get out of the city, which I’m SO glad we did. The Scottish countryside was absolutely breathtaking, and it was such a joy to be driving through it. We used this company, recommended to us by a friend, and highly enjoyed it. Of course there were times I wished we were on our own schedule, but in exchange for that we really saw a lot. I’ve listed a few of my favorite below!

Yellow fields: The hills were dotted with wide fields of bright yellow–our driver said it was rapeseed, which is canola to us Americans. I LOVED those pops of color. We never found ourselves right next to it and outside the bus, so all I have are blurry photos of it, but I still loved it.

Forth Bridge: Just north of Edinburgh is the Firth of Forth. (A firth is the Scottish word for an inlet or fjord.) Across that water is the old Kingdom of Fife. Put all that together and you get to say that you’re crossing “the Firth of Forth to Fife.” Which is just fun in your mouth. The bridge opened in 1890, has never had to be repaired, and is still used for trains. Gorgeous!

Ancient Celtic Worship Site: Our tour guide knew where to find this secret special place, and pulled down a small country road to let us take a glimpse. This is an ancient pagan worship place, which is still used today. Next to the old staircase we found Celtic carvings, and the tree stump holds offerings of people who’ve come to pay respects.

St Andrews: Our main destination for the day was the university town of St. Andrews, famous for being the birthplace of golf, and for being the place where Will met Kate. (Aww.) I actually felt kind of guilty for being in the birthplace of golf, since I’ve never been in the least bit interested, but members of my family are crazy about it! Do I buy them postcards, or is that just rude? “I’m here and you’re not, and I’m not even enjoying it like you would!” We dutifully took some photos and peeked inside the golf museum.

My favorite part of St. Andrews was the ruins of the old cathedral, which stand empty and open, grass growing in between.

Efteling, the Happiest Place


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Happy Summer! I thought I’d take this day to show some pictures of one of my favorite day trips we’ve taken, to the magical theme park of Efteling. Back when our friend Kerry was visiting we took a train and bus ride down south for a roller-coaster-and-cotton-candy-filled day.

Efteling is one of the oldest theme parks in the world: it opened in 1952 (before Disneyland!). Walt Disney toured Europe’s parks before opening his own, and many people claim he took a lot of inspiration from Efteling. The connections are pretty clear: Efteling has different ‘worlds,’ each with a different theme and plenty of corresponding rides. It’s also overrun with screaming children, long lines, lots of junk food, and a few dioramas.

The Efteling lake with the “Flying Pagoda”

The park isn’t huge, and we felt like we did it justice in one day, even getting multiple rides in. Our favorite ride, by far, was Joris en de Draak (Joris and the Dragon), a double wooden roller coaster. The two tracks run parallel almost the whole way, meaning you get to race your fellow riders. We rode it three times, and won every. single. time. Clearly we’re amazing.

Waiting in line for Joris en de Draak

Other fun rides included the Flying Dutchman (of course!) due to a section of terrifying complete darkness followed by an immediate drop, and the fast metal Python. Besides the rides, my favorite part was the cotton candy! It’s called suikerspin in Dutch, which means ‘sugar-spin.’ Figuring there were three of us we ordered the supersuikerspin and were awarded with the biggest cotton candy stick I’ve ever seen! Which we promptly devoured in five minutes flat.

We also took a short stroll through the Fairytale Forest, or Sprookjesbos, where we saw Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, Mother Hubbard in her shoe, and more. One display including a gentlemen with a very long neck, who’s story I’m still unclear on. Must be a Dutch one? Has anyone heard that one in English?

His neck ‘grew’ while we watched!

Efteling was designed almost entirely by the famous Dutch illustrator Anton Pieck, popular for his nostalgic, romantic, fairy-tale drawings. They did such a good job bringing the illustrations and characters to life that stepping into the park is almost like entering one his drawings. It was an exhausting, fun day that was totally worth it! If you have an extra day in the Netherlands, with or without kids, I highly recommend Efteling.

Sittin’ on the Dock of the Canal


I’m taking a little break from Edinburgh at the moment. My favorite part about blogging is the chance to look at the little things in life and appreciate them, day to day. When I get so caught up in multiple posts about our trips, the here and now tends to fade into the background, and I forget to appreciate it. So here’s a few photos about our weekend, which was nothing special, but still lovely.

The sun played hide and seek with giant fluffy clouds all weekend, teasing me into thinking it was warm then fading away again. But when it was out, it was gorgeous. I spent a few hours on two separate days sitting on a dock by a canal, eating, drinking, and chatting.

That white drink is a new, delicious creation of mine. I had a bottle of too-sweet white wine in the fridge, so I mixed it with bubbly water and put a couple halved cherries in it, and voila! A perfect dock-sitting summer drink. And if I’ve learned anything from Amsterdam, it’s that plastic cups won’t cut it if you want to make something special–only the best for me and my friends.

I relaxed in the sun, caught up with a friend, snacked on delicious things, and waved at boats as they passed. On one occasion a man went by in a boat, alone. He waved, and we waved back. Fifteen minutes later he came back the other way, this time with the addition of six women with him, all smiling. When we waved this time, impressed with him, they cried out, “isn’t he lucky?” We laughed and agreed, toasting his luck.

The EuroCup games are going on, for all the football/soccer fans here. I’ve caught glimpses of some games, but haven’t followed it too emotionally, which is good, because the Netherlands are losing quite miserably. My favorite part is all the cheery orange bunting out everywhere, and the rallying cry, “Hup Holland!”

It’s the end of the weekend now, and it’s pouring rain again, but I can hope for more sun soon!

Whiskey, or, Birthday Event #2



Our second requirement for celebrating Jesse’s 30th (golden!) birthday, was whiskey. We started with the Whiskey Experience.

Right on the Royal Mile, the Whiskey Experience is pretty touristy and starts off with a kind of kitschy ‘barrel ride’ through whiskey production. But, as someone who didn’t have a clue before, I did come away knowing a lot more about making whiskey, which was pretty interesting. And it comes with a tasting, a keepsake glass, and a peek at the world’s biggest whiskey collection (over 3,300 bottles).

I did not know that whiskey must be aged in a previously-used barrel, like bourbon or sherry. And that all of it’s flavor comes from the aging process, which is why you get expensive whiskies aged 70+ years. I also didn’t know that during aging a small percentage is lost–poof, gone–and this is called “the angel’s share.”

Scottish whiskey, or scotch, is from Scotland, while Irish whiskey is slightly different (and from Ireland, of course), and bourbon is American whiskey (also different). Single-malt scotch comes comes from one distillery and one barrel, while blended whiskey (the most popular on the market) is a blend of many kinds.

We also visited Tullibardine Distillery on a later day, which was a fun glimpse of a small distillery. I’d wager, though, that Jesse’s favorite moment was at The Bow Bar, where he found his holy grail: a 30-year aged whiskey, like himself. He’d been talking about getting it ever since we planned the trip, to anyone who would listen. We chose a nice old pub, got ourselves some drams, and sat down to watch the world go by for a bit. Cheers, Prost, or, if you’re in Scotland, sláinte!

Jesse’s is on the left, a Glenfarclas 30 yr old whiskey.

Barrel art promising to wait 11,000 nights and days, which equals 30 years.