29 October 2014 at 6:44 am, by Annie Chen

First speed skating lesson. An outdoor 400m track. Cold air clear skies sore legs breathing hard. Bundled up bike ride home.

This is my absolute favorite time of year, and it’s simply magical in Amsterdam. A city built on coziness comes into itself on these cold, dark evenings.

But best of all, momentum of brain and of legs resumes. Things just feel sharper and more focused in the winter. More rational and tangible.

No longer the season of swimming and picnics. Time to get on  that track and start gaining speed.


26 October 2011 at 5:05 am, by Annie Chen

We just moved floors at work and so it finally seems nice enough to show you! Here are some scenes from a typical day.

Bike ride in the morning: sunrise! It’s already getting darker in the morning and I think it will be pretty tough for a completely dark morning commute but for now, the sunrise is inspiring.

Here’s the building -the Ij tower, right on the river.

We’re now on the 4th floor (that’s actually 3b, more aligned with the feng shui principles of our business group leader)…and her’s my desk! That’s an Edward Hopper Print of a lighthouse in Portland Head Maine (from the MFA in Boston), a cute little wooden kitty from a dear co-worker at litl, and most excitingly, a Mac – which technically is not protocol, but I was becoming severely depressed using a windows machine. Now, staring at a computer for far too many hours a day is a bit more tolerable.

View from my desk! We’re right by the cruise ship terminal and sometimes there are huge ships outside. I’ve seen tourists with binoculars very interested in our work…they all get friendly waves of course. Haven’t seen anything wild or scandalous yet, but when I do I will report back. I’ll take a good photo when there are no boats – much more picturesque.

Typical work outfit, photographed in the bathroom mirror. Black pants, a crewneck sweater of some sort or white oxford shirt, heels to feel less insecure around all the super tall Dutchies (typically transition to flats by 4:30pm), a scarf – this one is really special, Timo brought it back from Denmark for me! Or you’ll probably find me in a black dress, skrit/turtleneck, and my absolute favorite accessory, black tights!

One of the new stars of my blog, Yvette!! Love working together.

But it really wouldn’t be possible without you, Douwe Egberts. Excellent coffe and cappuccinos from the canteen upstairs.

26 October 2011 at 5:04 am, by Annie Chen

Tuesday nights is this awesome Ashtanga yoga class from 6-7:30 and we get home feeling energized and exhausted and starving and satisfied all at the same time. It’s pretty sweet. It also results in an enjoyable dinner. For the past couple weeks it’s been all soup all the time. This is one of my favorite varieties so far with intensely flavorful tomatoes and peppers, and goes perfectly alongside grilled cheese sandwiches. Sharp british cheddar and whole wheat sourdough. Beautiful leafy salad with a light balsamic vinaigrette. Comfort, nostalgia, perfect textures, and great after a damp bike ride home from the studio.

Based on this recipe, but really inspired from Smitten Kitchen. Adapted to add red peppers, and not pull out the food processor.

1. Roast three red peppers by cutting them into strips laying them skin side up very close under the broiler. When the skin gets black, pull them out and put them in a plastic bag to help steam the skin off. Then when cool, peel off all the black bits.

2. Roast a bunch (6-7?) of halved tomatoes (cut side up) in a 400 degree oven with olive oil for about 30 minutes, or until they get soupy and burnt around the edges.

3. In a dutch oven, saute 3 or so cloves of chopped garlic in a couple teaspoons of olive oil until fragrant (1 min). Add a big pinch of dried thyme and stir.

4. Throw in all those roasted veggies and stir to combine.

5. Add about two cups vegetable broth or whatever feels good.

6. Remove from heat. Using a handblender, liquify!

7. Stir in salt and pepper to taste. Simmer on low with top on for about 10 minutes so all the flavors meld. After this you could also add in a 1/2 cup of cream or so if you want something richer. And then, DEVOUR! Don’t burn your mouth though.


26 October 2011 at 4:33 am, by Annie Chen

One of the Philips products our category is responsible for has a bizarre amazon page:

And customers who bought items in this category also bought….

I think we need to do some focus groups on this topic to get new consumer insights. Meow meow meow meow!

25 October 2011 at 3:41 am, by Annie Chen

For the first time I’m in a work environment with female leaders at all management levels. Considering everything I miss about working at start ups, this is one thing that I really appreciate. I’m learning A LOT – and getting crazy inspired along the way.

Just saw this list from Tara Sophia Mohr – some kind of leadership coach. It feels really relevant for me right now, and hopefully can be helpful to you!


1. Make a pact. No one else is going to build the life you want for you. No one else will even be able to completely understand it. The most amazing souls will show up to cheer you on along the way, but this is your game. Make a pact to be in it with yourself for the long haul, as your own supportive friend at every step along the way.

2. Imagine it. What does a knock-the-ball-out-of-the-park life look like for you? What is the career that seems so incredible you think it’s almost criminal to have it? What is the dream you don’t allow yourself to even consider because it seems too unrealistic, frivolous, or insane? Start envisioning it. That’s the beginning of having it.

3. Gasp. Start doing things that make you gasp and get the adrenalin flowing. Ask yourself, “What’s the gasp-level action here?” Your fears and a tough inner critic will chatter in your head. That’s normal, and just fine. When you hear that repetitive, irrational, mean inner critic, name it for what it is, and remember, it’s just a fearful liar, trying to protect you from any real or seeming risks. Go for the gasps and learn how false your inner critic’s narrative really is, and how conquerable your fears.

4. Get a thick skin. If you take risks, sometimes you’ll get a standing ovation, and sometimes, people will throw tomatoes. Can you think of any leader or innovator whom you admire who doesn’t have enthusiastic fans and harsh critics? Get used to wins and losses, praise and pans, getting a call back and being ignored. Work on letting go of needing to be liked and needing to be universally known as “a nice person.”

5. Be an arrogant idiot. Of course I know you won’t, because you never could. But please, just be a little more of an arrogant idiot. You know those guys around the office who share their opinions without thinking, who rally everyone around their big, (often unformed) ideas? Be more like them. Even if just a bit. You can afford to move a few inches in that direction.

6. Question the voice that says “I’m not ready yet.” I know, I know. Because you are so brilliant and have such high standards, you see every way that you could be more qualified. You notice every part of your idea that is not perfected yet. While you are waiting to be ready, gathering more experience, sitting on your ideas, our friends referenced in rule five are being anointed industry visionaries, getting raises, and seeing their ideas come to life in the world. They are no more ready than you, and perhaps less. Jump in the sandbox now, and start playing full out. Find out just how ready you are.

7. Don’t wait for your Oscar. Don’t wait to be praised, anointed, or validated. Don’t wait for someone to give you permission to lead. Don’t wait for someone to invite you to share your voice. No one is going to discover you. (Well, actually, they will, but paradoxically, only after you’ve started boldly and consistently stepping into leadership, sharing your voice, and doing things that scare the hell out of you.)

8. Filter advice. Most brilliant women are humble and open to guidance. We want to gather feedback and advice. Fine, but recognize that some people won’t understand what you are up to (often because you are saying something new and ahead of your time). Some people will find you to be not their cup of tea. Some will feel threatened. Some people will want to do with your idea only what is interesting or helpful to them. So interpret feedback carefully. Test advice and evaluate the results, rather than following it wholesale.

9. Recover and restore. If you start doing the things that make you gasp, doing what you don’t quite feel ready to do, and being more of an arrogant idiot, you are going to be stretching out of our comfort zone–a lot. Regularly do things that feel safe, cozy, and restorative. Vent to friends when you need to. Acknowledge the steps you’ve taken. Watch your tank to see how much risk-taking juice you have available to you. When it’s running low, stop, recover and restore.

10. Let other women know they are brilliant. Let them know what kind of brilliance you see, and why it’s so special. Call them into greater leadership and action. Let them know that they are ready. Watch out for that subtle, probably unconscious thought, “because I had to struggle and suffer on my way up…they should have to too.” Watch out for thinking this will “take” too much time – when the truth is it always has huge, often unexpected returns.

Clear a path by walking it, boldly.


23 October 2011 at 3:26 pm, by Annie Chen

It felt like…Boston! Those cold, clear fall days with a bit of wind and that amazing smell – that’s what this weekend was like. I was craving squash and apple cider donuts, but unfortunately they have neither here. Instead, I enjoyed the weather Dutch style.

First – good conversation and good cheese with Yvette and Timo. Timo recently returned from 16 days in Denmark for a design camp/workshop, so we all had a lot of important design stuff to catch up on!

Had a great dinner party on Saturday night, so good I even forgot to take pictures of the food! Tragic. But the table looked nice with some flowers from the Albert Cuyp market.

Sunday was a great bike ride to the Amsterdamse Bos – a forest in the south of the city. I went there with Yvette when the weather was still warm and we had a magical time – I’ll have to post some pics of that trip. About a 20 minute bike ride from our place, you feel like you are in the country.

There are miles of bike paths, ponds, streams, and most importantly a little farm, grazing area with highland cows, and expansive open fields for the perfect picnic. This time we both had to get back home and get some work done so we checked out the goat farm. In the summer they sell ice cream made from the goat milk!

Loved these cuties!!

Sweet little piggies…

Very proud roosters, with feathered feet. Love watching them prance around the farm.

When I am able to have goats, I will get ones that look like this:

This guy was more interested in eating Timo’s fingers than the hay…

Bike ride back to the center and warmed up with some fresh mint tea…and FALAFEL. We’re falafel addicts, it’s really becoming a problem.

20 October 2011 at 3:26 pm, by Annie Chen

On my bike ride to work over the first bridge, I look to my right and see the sun coming up over the canal. And on my bike ride home over the last bridge I look to the other side and see the sunset. Gorgeous bookends to my day.

Unless it’s raining, in which case it’s hood on and full speed ahead, wishing I had wind shield wipers on my glasses.

20 October 2011 at 3:21 pm, by Annie Chen

Found this recipe on Mark Bittman’s blog and it was great for a late summer meal. I know it’s not really in season anymore, but for my California readers you really can get zucchini and green beans all the time. I love risotto, but could live without all the butter/cheese/white rice. This version uses brown rice and gets it’s creaminess from the zucchini, what a great idea! Also threw in a bunch of chopped up green beans and peas for some extra veg, it worked out perfectly. A great dinner and lunch the next day. Enjoy.

Lemony Zucchini Risotto

Makes: 4 servings

Time: 45 to 60 minutes

Risotto can be almost meager or incredibly luxurious; this one manages to be both, as the grated zucchini mostly melts away, leaving behind a creamy richness that doesn’t depend on tons of rice or mounds of cheese. Parboiling the brown rice as directed in Step 1 helps the rice absorb water quickly and evenly.


1 cup short-grain brown rice

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, chopped

Black pepper

1⁄2 cup dry white wine or water

3 to 5 cups vegetable or chicken stock or water

4 small or 2 large zucchini (about 1 1⁄2 pounds), grated

Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

1⁄2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, optional

1 tablespoon butter or additional olive oil, optional

1⁄2 cup chopped fresh basil, plus more for garnish, optional

1. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and salt it. Stir in the brown rice, adjust the heat so that the water bubbles steadily, and cook, without stirring, for 10 to 15 minutes. Drain well.

2. Put the oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. When it’s hot, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until it softens, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is glossy and coated with oil, just a couple of minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then add the wine. Stir and let the liquid bubble away.

3. Begin to add the stock, about 1⁄2 cup at a time, stirring after each addition and every minute or so. When the stock is just about evaporated, add more. The mixture should be neither soupy nor dry. Keep the heat medium to medium-high and stir frequently.

4. After about 15 minutes of adding stock, stir in the zucchini and cook, stirring, until it releases its liquid and the mixture again becomes dry. Begin tasting the rice about 5 minutes later; you want it to be tender but with still a tiny bit of crunch. It could take as long as 45 minutes to reach this stage. When it does, stir in the lemon zest and juice, and the Parmesan, butter, and basil if you’re using them. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve immediately, garnished with additional basil if you like.

19 October 2011 at 10:28 am, by Annie Chen

Here’s what our place looked like…about 6 weeks ago. Still changing a lot, but loving what we’ve got so far. Warmed our house with a festive American brunch and new friends. Blessed with great weather.

First, kitchen/table/windows and Timo’s cousin! The windows open up and it’s a french balcony. Lovely to open these, really brings the outside in to the whole apartment. Only thing that could make it better is a balcony…maybe someday! Those chairs you might recognize from an earlier post and the table we got at a thrift store and refinished with a light gray stain.

Living room! Still plenty to do here…especially replacing the plastic stepstool that we use as a side table. Did you notice that the desk looks familiar though? Maybe brings you back to 6th grade or so…a fun find at Van Dijk and Ko.

Alternate view of the living room. That cool tray and the side table are from a great design warehouse store, Loods 5. The blue chair is actually an old Gispen chair we had recovered in blue fabric and we’re enjoying it a lot. Much more comfortable then it would let on…

Brunch! Do you like the dishes? Do they remind you of eating in Chinese restaurants? I hope so :)





19 October 2011 at 10:01 am, by Annie Chen

Shortly after returning from Italy we had a very very special houseguest! It was such a joy to have Jordan come to visit – lots of biking and exploring and catching up. Gaa that was so fun, can’t wait till the next visit…

Okay, so I stole some of these pictures off his facebook, but I just think this one is fantastic!

Had a great dinner/evening with Yvette too! Very fun for people to meet each other and enjoy delicious Dutch cheese at the same time :)

Albert Cuyp market for some stroopwaffels

A great trip to the Rijksmuseum and museumplein. Can you believe how lucky we were with the weather???


We also got to the Hague and the wonderful Maurithuis museum. Plus this fantastic beer bar with great Belgian selections, and a terrace on a boat where you could sit and waste away the afternoon :)

And how could I forget – lunch at Philips!!! The highlight of any trip to the Netherlands.

Maybe you can tell, we have similar photography styles: