Birthday # 33

Last weekend I turned the ripe old age of 33. Yay!

I’m not the type to throw a big birthday party. I did when I turned 21, and I had a smallish dinner out with friends when we first moved to Amsterdam. But nothing makes me happier than to curl up in a cozy, quiet little bubble of love with Marlon and Tala. Over the years, Marlon has become such an expert at making me feel cherished that I hardly feel the need to seek birthday adoration from other people.

I woke up to the smell of freshly brewed coffee and the sight of this beautiful chocolate ganache cake from Patisserie Holtkamp. Holtkamp is known for the best cakes in Amsterdam, and supplies their desserts to some of my favorite cafes. Tip: call ahead to order a birthday cake, because the ones in the bakery go fast!

Patisserie Holtkamp Amsterdam chocolate cake

Yes, we breakfasted on chocolate cake. And yes, Tala had some too.

Tala and chocolate cake

Then it was time to address the elephant in the room, which you might have seen on Instagram.

Giant birthday present for my 33rd

Few things can awaken your inner child like seeing a giant birthday present sitting in your living room. If you want to make someone feel younger, not older, on their birthday, this is definitely how you should do it. So let’s unwrap it, shall we?

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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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What’s in the birthday box?

Who doesn’t love getting presents on their birthday? When I was a kid, it was all about quantity—the thrill of seeing a pile (the bigger the better) of gifts waiting to be opened, the sheer delight of ripping through present after present.

That’s changed a bit over the years. I’m happy to open just one present on my birthday, knowing it’s been selected with care by someone who knows me well. Being the person who knows me better than anyone, my husband always hits it out of the park.

Birthday gift sketches on kraft paper

This year, Marlon had me at hello. It was impossible not to cry upon the sight of these doodles on kraft paper, and I almost didn’t want to open the package. Our family, our journey, our story so far…

Marlon's sketches on kraft paper1

 

… our dreams, our future and all the stories to come.

Marlon's sketches on kraft paper2

Stories of which I am clearly, and happily, this family’s designated documentarian.

Sony RX100 II

As much as I love my DSLR and lenses, I’ve been dying for a point-and-shoot ever since Tala was born. As the pack mule for my and Tala’s stuff, I really feel the added bulk and weight of a DSLR and one or more lenses. Digging in my bag for the camera, not to mention changing lenses, seems to take forever, like Tala’s moving at warp speed and I’m underwater.

I wasn’t satisfied with my iPhone 4 camera, but needed something small, light, and fast. Having lived in the land of manual settings for the last three years, I couldn’t go back to just any old point-and-shoot.

Enter the Sony RX100 Mark II. I first heard about its predecessor, the Sony RX100, from The Diplomatic Wife, a conscientious shopper who did her research and found it a consistent favorite on lists of top digital compact cameras. Marlon took a big risk buying me a camera without any involvement or research from me, but he nailed it with this choice.

 

The Sony RX 100 MII gets raves on most reputable tech sites, such as Digital Photography Review and Gizmodo. What I’m loving about this camera: small size, big sensor. “How many megapixels?” is for noobs; it’s the people who ask about sensor size who know where it’s at. Simply put: the bigger the sensor, the more light and thus information a camera can capture, which translates into better images (for a more detailed, well-written explanation, check out this article).

This camera also has the all-important shallow depth of field (two words: blurry background) I just can’t live without, plus the option to shoot on manual, shutter speed priority and, my personal go-to mode, aperture priority.

Best of all, it slips into a coat pocket, making it discreet (for those times when I want to be a stealthy blogger ninja), convenient and easy to whip out for split-second flashes of brilliance/activity/cuteness. A great compact camera for me, more pictures and videos of Tala for everyone. Win-win for all!

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Big Brunch at NDSM-Werf

For my birthday, all I really wanted was to be surrounded by people and things that I love. If you know me, you know what a few of those are: I love my daughter and husband, I love food, art, living in Amsterdam, food, and art… and I love brunch. So, what better way to kick off my birthday weekend than with brunch?

The birthday factor required extra oomph. It couldn’t be just any ho-hum brunch. It had to be Brunch with a capital B. Something Big. In a Big place. With Big things going on.

And the Big Brunch at the NDSM-Werf was it.

Welcome to the Big Brunch NDSM Amsterdam

As part of the 24H Noord festival, five cafes and restaurants operating out of the NDSM-Werf—Noorderlicht Cafépllek, IJkantine, Bbrood and Loetje—joined forces to cook up one Big Brunch… right on my birthday morning! It was a gift from the brunch gods, dropped right on my brunch-loving lap.

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Birthday giveaway + reader survey!


Tomorrow, October 26, is my birthday. Yay!

As he does every year, my amazing hubby has been dropping hints about his birthday plans for me. If they involve good food and time with the two loves of my life, I’ll be more than happy.

I don’t have any deep, philosophical musings about turning 32. I just want to enjoy what I cherish most: my home and my family. I could do that any day of the year, really, but tomorrow I will savor it, and be grateful for it, just that extra bit more.

What I do have is a birthday request.

I’ve been feeling the need to add a little zing to my blogging routine and freshen things up around here. I’m putting a lot of thought into the blog these days to make some new and exciting things happen… soon.

Now I’m going to go out on a limb and do something I’ve never done: get you involved. Yes, you, my readers! I’d love to know your thoughts on some blog-related matters, and well, just get to know you you a little bit better. I’ve been blogging for so long, I feel a bit embarrassed that I never had the courage to do this sooner.

So for my birthday, would you click here to answer a short reader survey? You’ll make me super happy!

Birthday giveaway

To say thanks and to make it fun (it is my birthday after all), I’m giving away a few goodies from some of my favorite neighborhood shops.

I will choose two readers at random, who will each win:

  • a cool Aztec print notebook from the whimsical design shop Rare Bird,
  • a 4R-sized recycled leather envelope from leather goods and accessories boutique Cellarrich (one reader will receive a deep purple version, not in photo)
  • a hand-set, letterpressed card from Typique, a wonderful traditional printer that’s had the same address on the Haarlemmerdijk since 1967 (a real Jordaan treasure!),
  • all enclosed in an I Love Tea canvas tote bag from Tea Bar.

Click here to take the reader survey and join the giveaway. Both survey and giveaway will be open until November 8, Friday.

I’m really looking forward to your answers. Thank you in advance!
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