Happy Father’s Day!

Fathers Day 2014

Happy Father’s Day to all the amazing dads out there!

Marlon is in Stockholm for a speaking engagement, and we started missing him even before he left (yes, that’s possible). He hasn’t had to be away for more than five or six days for work, but it’s still difficult when he’s away. Even when it’s easy, it’s just… not as fun. I don’t know how the families whose dads travel frequently or are based abroad do it.

I’m lucky to have had a mom who was both mother and father to me, but this time of year I’m also filled with a nostalgia for something I never really had. It seems everyone is changing their Facebook profile photos to show fathers walking them down the aisle or playing the doting grandfather; in my photos, Dad is eternally young, and I’m still a chubby, curly-haired baby.

I guess by now you’ve seen Dove’s sniffle-inducing Father’s Day ad? It doesn’t have to be Father’s Day to make me grateful for Tala to have a chance at all of that. And isn’t that all parents want for their children—to give them something they never had?

Okay, enough sentimental jibber-jabber. I hope you’re showing the dads in your life how special they are today. Time to think up something fun for the dad in our life when he gets back from Stockholm!

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Lambanog cocktail with homemade ginger ale

Friday night is cocktail night!

At least it is in our home. After putting Tala to bed, Marlon and I like to celebrate the weekend by firing up a movie and sharing cocktails on the couch. This helps compensate for all those dates we don’t go on anymore, and is an easy and affordable way to make couples’ night in a bit more special.

Missing the flavors of home, I sought the help of a bartender friend to whip up a Filipino-inspired cocktail. This friend also happens to be the owner of The Curator, a coffee and cocktail bar back home that’s gotten rave reviews for its third wave brews and specialty cocktails. A good friend to have, right?

Lambanog cocktail with homemade ginger ale

My sister gave us a bottle of Dona Juliana lambanog for Christmas (don’t you just love the tropical kitsch of that bottle?), so I thought: “What about a lambanog cocktail?”

A few things you should know about lambanog:

  • It’s a coconut-based liquor, like vodka or rum, made from the sap of coconut flowers collected before they bloom
  • Coconut sap is fermented into tuba, which is itself a potent and popular liquor, then distilled into lambanog
  • It’s known as a poor man’s drink—it costs almost nothing to make, and coconut farmers have been drinking it for generations

One last thing. It’s pretty damn strong—we’re talking 80 to 90 proof, or 40-45 percent alcohol.

Lambanog cocktail alcohol content

As the mom of a toddler, that’s exactly what I need at the end of the week. Those coconut farmers know how to roll.

Homemade salabat soda, or ginger ale, makes a perfect mixer for this potent coconut liquor. We tried it with store-bought ginger beer, but the canned stuff just doesn’t have the same kick as fresh ginger. Here’s how to make it at home.

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(Late) Springtime rituals

While we were traveling, everyone at home in Amsterdam was working on their balconies, beautifying their gardens, and giving spring a proper welcome. Here at Palazzo Plazo, well, we’ve had some catching up to do. Springtime isn’t all flowers and sunshine—it also means a fair bit of work!

While our neighbors are already hosting backyard barbecues, we’ve spent the last couple of weekends catching up on springtime chores… although maybe “rituals” would be a sunnier way to put those tasks in perspective.

A lot of our yearly springtime “rituals” involve the balcony: clearing away the herbs that I killed Nature took over the winter, replacing them with new ones, and adding some colorful flowers to the mix. I’m taking a lot of inspiration from the Urban Jungle Bloggers and hoping I can join them soon!

New herbs on the balcony

Springtime also means scrubbing our wooden deck with a chemical cleaner to zap the mossy gunk that accumulated over the cold months. Now the deck is clean enough for Tala to play on. It’s like we’ve gained an entire room of unexplored crawl space! Yay.

Tala on the balcony

We also hung up a second-hand baby swing (thank you, Peggy!), which Tala absolutely loves.

Tala in her balcony baby swing

It’s our new favorite activity on sunny mornings—Tala swings and squeals while I enjoy a cup of coffee in (relative) peace and quiet. Baby laughter doesn’t count as noise.

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This man

… has been a revelation to me in the past year as a husband, friend, lover, partner, and most of all, as a father. I knew he was going to be good, but I never knew he was going to be this good.

Marlon and Tala bath

This man has been hands-on literally from day one. He holds his daughter with as much loving tenderness today as he did when she was a few days old.

Marlon and Tala in Greece

This man is always happy to see her and eager to take her in his arms. He adores her, dotes on her, gives his weekends to her, and she knows it. He has to be told, sometimes, actually many times, to put her down and let her play and learn by herself.

Marlon and Tala

This man swoops to my rescue when the last grains of my energy and sanity have fallen through the hourglass. His strong arms have carried his daughter up and down endless flights of stairs in airports, train stations, museums, our home.

Marlon and Tala in Paris

This man takes his daughter to the market every Saturday to give me precious time for myself. He occasionally returns with a new discovery—wild mushrooms, carob syrup, a lobster, how to shuck oysters—that fills him with an infectious delight. This man truly loves to cook for his family, and always makes sure I have a matching fork and spoon (because he knows I care about weird things like that). Marlon and lobster

This man has seen me at my worst in every possible way, especially in the past year. Yet he is still here, my fan and friend, my confidante and champion. He makes me laugh, forgives me and believes in me. He always has a good answer for my stupid questions like “Does this make me look like a wrestler/pillowcase/hooker?” He loves me in a way I know I will never be loved by anyone else, ever.

Marlon and me in El Nido

This man is the reason my family lives this life, why it’s so much fun, why we have so much beer in the fridge, why Tala has beautiful eyes, why I am a wife and mother, and why I want to be a better one.

Family selfie

This man turns 33 today, and I can’t wait for him to get off that plane from London and come home to his girls who love him very, very much. Happy birthday, my Googly!

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Our alternative Christmas tree

Are you feeling the Christmas spirit yet? I sure am! Last weekend, Marlon and I put on some Christmas carols and started putting up our Christmas decorations at home.

After moving here and discovering the beauty of decorating with fresh and natural materials, I’ve tossed out most, if not all, of our matchy-matchy plastic Christmas decorations from Asia—yes, including our fake Christmas tree. Since we don’t get to enjoy them for very long before our annual trip home, I’ve learned to keep our Christmas decorations simple, minimal and natural.

This year, having a baby poses a new decorating challenge. With Tala grabbing onto all our furniture and trying to pull herself up to a standing position, a big tree would just be too hazardous to have around. We needed an alternative tree that would be safely out of the baby’s way, but still colorful, cheery and Christmasy.

Christmas decoration with winter berries

There are tons of alternative Christmas tree ideas on Pinterest, but as the mother of an eight month-old baby, I don’t exactly have a lot of time for crafting these days. What I did have time for was a visit to the market, where I found these gorgeous bright red winter berries in abundant supply. An armful of these branches in a big glass jar make for a simple, easy and fuss-free alternative Christmas tree.

Traditional German wooden Christmas tree ornament

I didn’t want to overload our tree, so I chose to use just a few special Christmas ornaments. I took out only the ornaments we’ve collected from our visits to German Christmas markets (in Cologne, Aachen and Monschau), and kept the rest in their boxes until next year.

Christmas tree ornament gold star

Christmas tree ornament tin angel

Glass Christmas tree ornaments from Germany

To complete our little Christmas vignette, I dusted off our hand-carved miniature Nativity scene and placed it at the foot of our “tree.” With the candles lit plus some tea lights on the side, it becomes a cozy sight in the evenings.

Miniature wooden Nativity

I like how this simpler, more pared-down tree made me more choiceful, and reminded me that we really can be happy with less. I’m still hoping we get to put up a real Christmas tree someday, but until Tala’s a little more grown up, this berry-branch tree will be our chosen pop of Christmas cheer.

Have you started Christmas decorating yet? Are you doing anything differently this year?

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