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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Amsterdam with kids: Westerpark kinderbadje

You know what’s a godsend for people in Amsterdam with kids? The kinderbadje at Westerpark, that’s what!

Westerpark kinderbadje Amsterdam with kids

Thanks to last weekend’s spectacular sunshine, we’ve practically been living at the Westerpark kinderbadje, or paddling pool, for the last couple of days. It’s a wonder we haven’t grown webbing between our toes. Now that quite a few of my friends and I have little ones, it’s much harder to get together for a picnic on a sunny day. I blame the kiddie pools—it’s next to impossible to tear friends away from their neighborhood kinderbadje.

Amsterdam with kids kinderbadje Westerpark

Naturally, I think the one in our neighborhood is the coolest. A few reasons why:

  • Water is changed daily, and contains no chemicals because it’s recycled to irrigate the greenery in the park. Clean and green!
  • A grassy, sunny slope right next to the pool is perfect for sunbathing and picnics.
  • Right around the corner from a good lunchwood-fired pizzaquality coffee (they have flat whites!), even mussels and gin and tonics. Not that babies should have coffee or gin and tonics, but hey, we parents need to get through the day somehow.
  • Ice cream! How can you not end a summer day at the pool with ice cream? Just a few meters away, Ijscuypje also makes sorbet milkshakes with rum—strictly for Mama and Papa, of course.

It was Tala’s first time at the pool last Friday, and this certified water baby is hooked. She loves crawling on her hands and feet in the shallows…

Tala crawling in the pool Westerpark

then taking great shaky strides with one hand with a death grip on Mama, the other splashing in the water.

Amsterdam with kids Tala at the baby pool Westerpark

Most of all, she’s fascinated by the older kids, squealing in delight (perhaps even envy) when she sees them swim, splash and run. I’m hoping it inspires her to get up on her own two feet and run after them… or am I?

Amsterdam with kids after paddling Westerpark

These pictures of Tala at the kinderbadje were enough to get Papa packing up and leaving the office at 3:30 p.m. on a Friday! Thankfully, this is the Netherlands, where doing so is considered totally normal on a warm day. Marlon wasn’t the only dad in his office clothes at the pool, I can tell you that.

Amsterdam with kids bike ride in Westerpark

Having Tala is making me rediscover my city in a whole new way—call it Amsterdam 2.0, or Amsterdam with kids. With her chubby little hand in mine and the sun on both our faces, I can’t wait to experience more.

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Brunch in Rotterdam: Memory Lane

If you think a good brunch is an essential part of a perfect weekend, then you’re a lot like me. And if you just happen to be in Rotterdam for the weekend, I’ve got a gem of a brunch place for you.

Rotterdam brunch Memory Lane

For a delicious brunch in Rotterdam, look no further than Memory Lane. Situated on Hoogstraat in the city center, this casual, cool restaurant serves both breakfast and a proeverij (tasting) lunch until 5 p.m. from Tuesdays to Sundays.

Marlon and I started our 24-hour date night in Rotterdam with brunch here. I was already charmed by their hilarious Twitter come-ons, but when we walked in we knew we had chosen the right place.

Rotterdam brunch Memory Lane restaurant

It’s homey, cozy, unpretentious, and casually cool without trying too hard. The relaxed combination of recycled wood, old cafeteria-style tables and chairs, and haphazardly piled cookbooks appealed to the deepest recesses of my eclectic granny heart.

Rotterdam brunch Memory Lane cookbooks

And then there was the food.

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Date night: Rotterdam edition

It’s Date Night. And the crowd goes wild!

WWE Live in Rotterdam Randy Orton

With a beer in one hand, a cone of mayo-slathered frites in the other, I navigate the sea of neon-clad 10 year-old boys who are crazed with the first hormonal stirrings, accompanied by gym-ripped dads dressed in the tiny muscle tees and leather chokers they seem to have saved from their gigolo glory days.

I sidestep pimpled teens who are communicating to each other entirely in football jargon and curse words, and push past a handful of (surprisingly large) women sporting big blond hair, fake tans and slick faux-leather leggings.

I hand the beer and frites to my husband, who’s as excited as a puppy, and settle down for the main event. As sweaty brutes in one-shouldered Spandex onesies toss each other into the air and smash metal folding chairs into each other’s ridiculously muscled backs, as a wife, I wonder: “Whose idea was this again?”

Oh yeah. Mine.

WWE Live in Rotterdam

When I first bought tickets to WWE Live in Rotterdam as a Christmas present for Marlon, a lifelong WWE fan, it seemed like a stroke of genius. Hey, I liked Hulk Hogan when I was four, so I totally get it! I boasted, feeling like a cool wife. Let’s go to Rotterdam! We’ll make a weekend of it!

Sitting in that teeming mass of testosterone, I wasn’t so sure. My eyes clung desperately to Randy Orton (above), the wrestler who seemed the least like a caricature and most like a real person. Also, he’s cute. Eye candy makes a world of difference.

Somehow, I made it through the evening without turning into a hormonally crazed tween or an ex-gigolo dad. We left Ahoy Rotterdam with Marlon looking chuffed and acting suitably grateful for my wifely sacrifice.

Rotterdam Erasmus Bridge by night

As for me? I needed a stiff cocktail. Let the real Date Night begin!

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