Happy New Year!

  I decided to take the holidays off blogging and have had a very relaxing time back in the UK.

This year Rob (my brother) and I were in charge of the Icelandic Christmas dinner and I am happy to report it was a success! Playing cook I realised that Christmas is definitely where my sweet tooth comes from – sugar browned potatos, sugar roasted carrots and parsnips, homemade toblerone ice cream and more sugar in the fruit salad dressing have definitely contributed to my holiday weight gain. But if you haven’t put on weight then you’ve not eaten enough these past few weeks let’s be honest…

After our Icelandic meal on the 24th I had a traditional 25th and another roast on Boxing Day. It was basically three Christmas meals which was delightful and I am now the proud owner of a pressure cooker (thanks Santa) so am looking forward to making a whole chicken in 20 minutes 👌🏼 I do not want to return any gifts despite only providing a few suggestions – an even bigger success!

For the second year in a row my little brother spoiled the board game surprise. I bought cluedo for my sister in law – he’s been telling her how excited he was to play cluedo for weeks whilst it sat at home ready to wrap for her gift. Massive fail but it was a good game nonetheless!

After Christmas I headed up north to George’s via Rothwell. 5.5 hours of driving later I realised everyone travelled on the 27th last year, it was a bad plan.

Once in Barnsley I was finally able to use Meerkat Movie codes to see Star Wars and the new Hunger Games. I am fully up to date on Jedi-ness and was impressed with the finale of HG (no spoilers so no more details).

I also got to meet George’s mum’s new pup Joey 😁😁 next to the huge Oscar and Maddie he’s just a little baby and my dog love is as strong as ever!

For New Years we decided to stay in so I had some fancy pink wine (Echo Falls…), watched New Years Eve the film and saw the bells at midnight before cracking out the sparklers! It was fabulous and only cost me £11 in booze. Staying in is definitely the new going out…

Two Barnsley matches, a few more board games and beers later I’m back in Ptown searching for houses! Long story short Grandma Soff is returning to the UK so I’m undecided how much longer I’ll keep this up but I’ll try for a bit longer…



Cologne at Christmas Time

Being able to go to Cologne for the night is quite the novelty I never thought I’d have. George and I went to +6 Christmas markets, drank lots of mulled wine, ate lots of food and took part in that well known Christmas tradition of 3D mini golf…

Ok so maybe not quite a traditional activity, but it took us 1.5hours to get to The Glowing Rooms (because we are really good at getting lost) and I was not disappointed. The whole room glowed in the dark and we were given an iPod to keep score and 3D glasses that made the floor come to life. Definitely worth a visit!

For dinner we went to Paffgen – it was like a really informal wagamamas style seating arrangement and they sold the standard German restaurant dishes. George had a pork knuckle and I had some sort of beef dish with potato dumplings. The only thing that disappointed us was the baby beers…steins don’t seem to be a thing in Cologne but it was good beer nonetheless.

After the whistle stop tour we went back to Haarlem and spent the rest of our time chilling. On Monday Niels and Maarten came round for a Christmas dinner, kudos to chef Ellie for doing most of the work…

Having just arrived back in England I’m now looking forward to spending some time with the fam over the holiday period and heading up to Barnsley for New Years!

Merry Christmas everyone 😊


Cold Arms, CIM and a fabulous cookie pizza

Last weekend I had Friday and Monday off to revise and treated myself to Mumford and Sons in between. They played Cold Arms so my relationship with Mumf is complete and then spent the rest of my time chilling with George in Barnsley/preparing for the big CIM exam! We went to our beloved spoons and played top trumps which I really enjoyed because we rarely do normal couple stuff (that’s our normal). Plus spoons is ridiculously cheap compared to Haarlem so we splashed out on dinner and George lost his Five Guys virginity. It was magical.

Tuesday morning I felt prepared and ready, but come 5pm post the three hour exam, my CIM fate is no more clear ha. Ethical Marketing is officially my new arch nemesis and I never want to see a framework ever again. I’m going to try and forget about it until March when the results come out as there’s not a lot I can do now…I can cross that bridge when it comes to it.Back in Peterborough I met with Ellie and Alex (who I used to live with) for dinner at Wildwood after the exam. It was really nice to catch up but I wasn’t amazed by the food. As a result we had to travel across town to get a cookie pizza and this soon made me completely forget about Ethical Marketing and remember to instead focus on how amazing desserts are.

Also it’s December now so I got a Marvel advent calendar and can have chocolate for breakfast EVERYDAY 💪🏼 


Mieke visited Grandma Soff!

I’m a little belated with last weeks post but better late than never!

Mieke came to Haarlem last weekend and we had a fabulous time. After she arrived on Saturday we wandered around Haarlem. I showed her the Amsterdam Poort, market square and took her down the little alleyways. 

Just after lunch we went to the Corrie Ten Boom Museum, which is literally around the corner from my house. It is a lesser known hiding place but there have still been plenty of films and books made to honour the story of the Ten-Booms. All I can say is it’s worth a visit and it’s free but it’s very religious…

Then we cycled down to Zandvoort beach. What was a lovely cycle there turned into a battle of us vs the wind on arrival, so we rode almost straight back after snapping a couple of pictures by the coast ha! It was nice to get out but I think that’s my visits to the beach done until late Jan/Feb.

In the eve we decided to head to Amsterdam for dinner, drinks and a bit of dancing with Ellie and her friend Alice who was also visiting! After eating in a very nice restaurant I can only describe the nightlife as a smaller and colder Magaluf strip of sorts. We went into a couple of really cheesy bars, had some shots and jumped on the last train home to avoid figuring out the buses.

On Sunday we woke up at a reasonable time and went back to Dam for a free walking tour. We arrived a little early so went around the shopping centre and saw an elephant exhibition that had been in Nottingham when we were at uni so that was quite nice to see again!

I cannot express how cold the tour was…I broke my boots a couple of weeks ago and trainers just do not cut it. Once your feet get cold that’s it – your done! But I did enjoy walking about nonetheless. I’m addicted to the step tracker on my iPhone so was very proud of 24,000 steps.

After the tour we got chips and mayo from the chip stand I have eaten at far too many times now. (They’re awesome though it’s right by central station.) A repeat of the Anne Frank museum was our next stop before going to the slightly less cultural sex museum; although some would argue that point.

If you imagine anything and everything that is tacky and related to penises and prostitution, it was in there. For €4 it was worth a giggle but by the end of it we were ready to head home!

Sunday was date night in the Smedestraat household (that’s my street) and we cooked the traditional roast butternut squash. A year or so ago we spent near enough 5/6 hours cooking one in a broken oven so thought we’d pay tribute to that fond memory.

I had Monday off work so we went back to Dam to wander Vondelpark, Museum Square/Plein, get the standard “Iamsterdam” selfie and bought more chips with truffle mayo…26,000 steps later it was time to say our goodbyes most probably until the New Year.

I’m looking forward to this exam being over and getting my social life back now 😁😁😁. Every weekend in Haarlem should be an adventure! (At least that’s the plan).


My Friday the 13th

“You’ve wasted too much of your life in an airport if you’ve never missed a flight” – this is what the MD of my work told me a couple of weeks ago, and I think I took his words too literally.

Whilst trying to get back to the UK on Friday for our Saturday CIM session I managed to forget my passport…I didn’t want to give up without a fight so with 1 hour til departure I paid €120 for a taxi to take me home and back to pick it up – I still missed it by a matter of minutes. I watched them detach the plane walkway, it was painful. After running around the airport I found out it was the last flight of the eve but KLM took pity on me and let me switch to a morning flight for free (thank you kind lady!).

I went back home and tried to work out what time I needed to get the train to make the 7:15am flight. Safe to say my brain has not been functioning properly and I didn’t leave myself enough time…the trains weren’t running as regularly at 5am and I almost missed the second flight of the weekend.

Another €50 taxi later I was at Schipol waiting at the gate with my passport, boarding pass and 10minutes to spare. It’s been an expensive weekend but at least it was worth it!

Despite the drama I made it to Heathrow, then to Yateley to pick up my car and finally to Cambridge for the CIM exam prep. The day went relatively quickly after downing copious amounts of coffee and I feel slightly more prepared now.  Not wanting to risk travelling elsewhere when I was so tired, I went straight back down south post-CIM. We all had dinner at Robs (my brother) and I got to spend more time with my baby nephew! He’s so awake compared to my last visit and was smiling and giggling which was super cute 😊.

Sunday was my half chill day – I haven’t baked for months so spent a couple of hours making a stroop cake 👌🏼 but otherwise lounged about. Lisa brought Baby J over, we watched Finding Nemo, my Dad made homemade scones and then my he drove me to the airport nice and early so I wasn’t rushing about.

I thought it was all over but my taxi driver then didn’t show up in Holland. He’d decided to wait elsewhere but the message didn’t come through to my phone until I was supposed to be getting off the train Id decided to get…so I missed my stop and went to Amsterdam Central but eventually got home.

Thankfully Mieke’s visiting next weekend so I will be safe from travel fails!


I realised my Facebook account disconnected from WordPress so if you fancy a read the last two posts are also available via my blog 🙂

Museum night

most of this week was spent on CIM after George left. I had a lot of reports to complete at work so my evenings were engulfed in assignment amendments and revision with the occasional episode of Walking Dead…I’ve watched so many episodes recently every night I dream about zombies. My dreams think I would survive an apocalypse though so at least I now feel prepared.

Then because you have to do at least one fun thing a week a few of us booked tickets to Museum Night in Amsterdam yesterday. You pay 18 euros and join 35,000 people in a ‘crawl’ of all of the city’s museums from 7pm until 2am. They’ve just put up all of the Christmas lights so it was an especially pretty tour.

Obviously we are super organised and had no plan whatsoever – luckily we had Niels from the office to help navigate using his GPS! Starting at the Allard Pierson museum we wandered through a variety of Egyptian archeological discoveries whilst being followed by a singer. For some reason he had been paid to walk around with a guitar and took a liking to us.

Then we walked to the Museumplein/square, that I have managed to completely miss on every one of my Amsterdam visits, and went to the Stedijk Museum (the queue for the Rijksmuseum was like a mile long and not moving so we skipped that one). After signing up for a walking tour of the Zero exhibition we explored a little and had a drink whilst we had time to kill.

I can now say I am not a fan of modern art if the Zero exhibition is anything to go by. One section was an artist that had burned canvases, complete with a stack of empty match boxes that were clearly his leftovers. Then oh yerh one artist literally sold his shit in a can to “push the boundaries of art” – you mean to see who is dumb enough to buy it? Kudos to him though it’s now worth thousands.

The highlight of my evening was definitely the Van Gogh Museum. My parents had a replica of Sunflowers in our first ever house so it always brings back a sense of nostalgia for me, and the original was much more impressive than my memory of the fake! 

Now to get back to CIM, 4 more weeks until exams are over 🙌🏼


Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Zandvoort and Haarlem

  last weekend was a long and fabulous one. George came for his second visit so I took Friday off and we went to Rotterdam.

The weather was lovely and sunny so we spent hours walking about; visited the Markethal, the old harbour, hotel New York and enjoyed the views. The Markethal is a huge building with an intricately painted flower ceiling. The highlight was the stroop cakes I found, I would pay the 20 euros for the train just for the cake…

We had lunch in the old harbour, overlooking the canal and the White House (witte huis) – once the tallest building it Europe and now just a cute little skyscraper. It was so nice just walking about, being outside and exploring the Netherlands after two weekends of working.

Saturday we woke up late, cycled to the beach in Zandvoort for a bit and then went to Amsterdam for dinner. We may have walked around for 2 hours in the wrong places but I wasn’t overwhelmed by the Amsterdam restaurant choices…we ended up at a tapas place that was ok, but I won’t be returning.

As it was Halloween apparently it was normal for hundreds of people to parade through the city in their scary attire. I feel they either should’ve been at a party or not dressed like death…

Sunday was our chill day as George’s flight was at 3pm. After a walking dead marathon we said our goodbyes and then I was very happy that his flight got cancelled so he had to return…the only time the delays have gone in my favour!

The fog was so bad and the flights so messed up I got to keep him until this morning. We went to the Wolfhound last night for a drink and so he could play the guitar – it’s my favourite local and the staff are so lovely! 

Back to reality now until the weekend.


Bike jams and bitterballen

Apparently fleets of boats sometimes like to pass through the Dutch canals and when they do it really delays your cycle home! It was definitely less irritating than a car traffic jam but trying to cross the road when 20 other bikes are pushing off is a little dangerous when you’re a wobbly cyclist…

This week I finally found a cheap restaurant! There’s an Italian by mine where you can get a decent meal for 10 Euros which is always good to know.

Following the cheap meal out on Wednesday, four of us from work decided to do dinner and drinks on Friday. I tried my very first bitterballen (it’s like a fried ball of brown goo) and I liked it 👍🏼 Then we went to a steakhouse where I was served the pint below – apparently this is normal. Obviously when it first arrived the head was to full capacity but that is not a large beer…not sure who the bartender was trying to kid.

After a few too many drinks that was pretty much my weekend over…I woke up a little bit tired on Saturday and have cracked on with more CIM. First draft of Mastering Metrics complete and I am honestly praying its of a high enough standard because it’s my least favourite thing in the world.

Trying to cut down on sweets so I decided I needed to finish off the Nutella. Not sure that’s how it’s meant to work…but in case you were wondering putting ice cream in the jar was a fabulous decision.

Looking forward to a CIM-free day, roll on next weekend!




The Nobel Restaurant was this weeks choice of restaurant for our weekly 121. Ellie and I have been working stupid hours at work so a Thursday night break was very much needed! We both had salmon and then I had a triple chocolate mousse afterwards because a meal isn’t a meal without a dessert…

The grad project we’ve been working on is finally live – if you want a marketing, technology or finance graduate scheme job please apply today because every application counts towards our results 👍🏼. It’s been a hectic project alongside our normal workload but I have really enjoyed working on a campaign from start to finish to tracking.

Then Friday eve I returned to the airport and was only delayed 2 hours (a mini fist bump feeling when travelling to Manchester). The train was reasonably stress free and I had a takeaway waiting for me on arrival so I was a happy traveller.The weekend in Barnsley involved my first match of the season, me losing every bet on my accumulator, meeting a pony called Gracie and taking a walk to The Potting Shed (a cute little cafe/bistro with a view of the ducks 😊).

Monday morning I got the earliest train to Ptown and it was really nice to catch up with the grads and the CTM team before our Marketing Masterclass! Speakers from O2, Crowdfunder and one of our agencies, Albion, spoke about the rise of O2, challenger brands and how to disrupt the market. It was really interesting and I have a few bits and bobs to read up on like pay as you go insurance, Crowdfunder and other start ups that could pose a threat to our insurance businesses (bit of geeking).

Having just arrived home from my third and final weekend in the UK I’m happy to be staying in Haarlem for a while now and having people come visit me! /do lots of CIM…

Planes, trains and so many delays

I think it’s safe to say I hate public transport. I have just sat down with another lonely pint to wait for my departure gate.

Coming to Barnsley on Friday was supposed to be a lovely day. I’d booked a half day, left lots of time to get to the airport and was really looking forward to going for a meal in the evening, when my flight got cancelled…

I got in the ticket office queue to see what my options were, I was number 837 and there were about 100 people in front of me. I had left my phone charger with Niels in the office by accident and I had 30% battery – but I was ok because I had my packed lunch.

About 50 people in, I get a call from Priscilla, she apparently sorts the travel for hoyhoy (my work) and can book me on another flight without me having to queue (bit late but that was fine). P then tells me the only option I have is to fly to London and then to Manchester if I want to go to Barnsley today…I accepted, I wasn’t going out for dinner anymore but I’d still make the drinks, all was not lost!

Ellie met me at the airport to charge my phone so I could check in to my new flight, pretty sure it would’ve been game over if not. Two hours later I’m on my BA flight to London and loving life because I like free beer and snacks. I was ok with the situation. I could recover from this.

Next I arrived in London, accidentally got bumped to business class and after a few calls it was confirmed – I had 10minutes to take advantage of the BA lounge. Imagine free beer, decent wine, cake and biscuits. I had a very nutritional snack dinner and then just as I was about to leave I spied the departure board. Delayed ANOTHER HOUR. But things could be worse…I had some more wine, made a Czech friend who leant me a phone charger and a business traveller gave me a free portable charger after I explained my troubles. I like business class.

Eventually I got to Manchester with 15minutes until the train – so I ran. Obviously I’m part Usain Bolt so made the train but it wouldn’t be a completely disaster until it was delayed and I’d missed my change at Huddersfield…so that happened.

I then got on the Wakefield train, I could make one drink providing this wasn’t delayed. No. I was too scared to risk it so I got off the train before it had departed – if I’d stayed on I would’ve been stuck.

Finally! I got to Barnsley. All I had to do was get the key from under the red plant. Remember when my phone died the second I turned on my torch? I do. I put my hand under so many pots but eventually fear took over, I didn’t care about the key, I was locked out for 25minutes and something was in the bush. It was not worth it.

I’d missed the meal, the drinks and the North is SO COLD. I’m lucky George is worth it or I would’ve killed him on sight.

After all the delays I have thoroughly enjoyed my weekend in Barnsley! I thank all of my new travel friends for getting me through the pain and I had a Ninos which is better than Dominoes and made a chocolate orange cheesecake which was heavenly.

Talking through that delay makes my 4 hour wait going back seem like nothing…