2013: My Year in Books

When I was pregnant, my mommy friends told me to read as many books as I could before the baby came. Looking back at my year, I actually got to read quite a few! I love reading, so I’m glad I still managed to eke out some precious page time, even with the demands of a new baby.

Receiving a Kindle as a no-occasion present from Marlon enabled my reading habit to flourish. Instead of just staring into space—or lovingly into my baby’s eyes, as TV commercials would have you believe—during Tala’s numerous feedings, I held my Kindle in my free hand (one-handed activities rock!) and read while nursing.

Book reviews are not usually my thing, but looking back, I decided these books were worth sharing. So, in no particular order, here’s a one-time-big-time review of my year in books.

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Atlantis Books in Oia, Santorini

What’s with this year and awesome bookstores? First there was the Stedelijk Museum bookshop, where I scored a really cool alphabet book for Tala. Then there was our visit to Selexyz Dominicanen, a 12th century church-turned-bookstore in Maastricht. Good things must come in threes, because this is the third fantastic bookstore of the year: Atlantis Books in Oia, Santorini.

Atlantis Books Oia Santorini

I was first drawn in by the palm-sized, beautifully printed books displayed out front. They’re published by Paravion Press and are designed to be sent by mail. I’d be thrilled to receive one of these from Santorini… better than a postcard, indeed!

Atlantis Books Oia handmade books

Then I saw this and just had to laughed. For €5, which do you think would be a better companion: a cat or a book? I’d have a hard time choosing, although if it was our cranky black cat for rent, I’d probably advise someone to take a book.

Atlantis Books Oia rent-a-cat

It’s hard to resist something that makes you laugh out loud, and Atlantis Books did just that with this adorable display. How could I not step inside?

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Selexyz Dominicanen: Heaven for booklovers

There are so many churches in Europe that if you’ve been traveling for a while, you almost feel that when you’ve seen one church, you’ve seen them all. Well, the Dominicanenkerk in Maastricht is different.

Selexyz Dominicanen Maastricht exterior

That’s because this 13th century Gothic church has been deconsecrated and transformed into what is officially one of the world’s coolest bookstores. And I’m not exaggerating here.

Selexyz Dominicanen Maastricht4

I had seen this branch of the Dutch bookstore chain Selexyz on more than one list of the world’s coolest bookstores. I simply couldn’t miss the chance to see it for myself during our weekend visit to Maastricht.

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Stedelijk Museum bookshop & ABC3D

For me, no museum visit is complete without a stop at the bookshop. Amsterdam’s museums have terrific ones, and the ever business-savvy Dutch have cleverly ensured that at the major museums (the Van Gogh, Rijksmuseum and Stedelijk), visitors can access the bookshops without having to buy a ticket to the museum itself.

Our family trip to the Stedelijk ended, naturally, with a visit to the museum’s stunning shop.

Stedelijk Museum bookshop

Not only does it look like a really nice place to just sit and browse art books…

Stedelijk bookshop

but it also has a great little selection of design gifts and goodies. I had my “mommy glasses” on (the parental equivalent of beer goggles) and zeroed in immediately on the children’s section, which has design-y books in English, Dutch and—my personal favorite—children’s books that can be read in any language.

This is how I found Tala’s first alphabet: a pop-up book called ABC3D by Parisian graphic designer Marion Bataille.

Marion Bataille ABC3D

The holographic cover alone promises something different. This isn’t your ordinary alphabet!

Marion Bataille ABC3D holographic cover

I love pop-up books for the sense of fun and surprise they bring to reading, and ABC3D combines those elements with some seriously cool type design. I looked for our family’s initials and took a few shots to show you.

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Tala’s first flight: A giveaway!

A baby’s life is full of firsts, and my daughter’s first flight was one that I was both nervous and excited about. Tala and I joined Marlon on a business trip to Berlin last week. I was thrilled to finally put that hard-won passport and return visa to good use. But nobody even looked at her passport! That’s flying within the Schengen states for you.

First time flying with baby

Having flown once with an infant doesn’t make me an expert, but I learned a lot from this trip. Here are some of the things Marlon and I did that really, really worked for us.

1) Ease into it. Our travel history is full of crazy transfers and photo finishes, but you don’t want baby’s first trip to be The Amazing Race. Flying time to Berlin was just one hour, no transfers, making it an easy first flight. We also chose a 12 noon departure, allowing ample time for our morning routines (for three now!) without rushing.

2) Plan your mode of baby transport around your itinerary. I didn’t have time to create a day-to-day itinerary as I used to, but I had a general idea of what I wanted to do in Berlin. I brought our Bugaboo Cameleon3 frame because I wanted to shop and be able to put Tala down somewhere while fitting clothes; a (borrowed) Maxi Cosi car seat and adapters for a weekend drive out of town; and the Ergobaby carrier as backup just in case.

Traveling with car seat, stroller and baby carrier

3) Factor in lots of time. We were at Schiphol a little over two hours in advance, which enabled us go through the airport at a relaxed pace. There will always be a need for feeding, changing and minor disasters.

4) Know that you can’t anticipate everything, so be ready to roll with the punches. Pre-baby, I would’ve put on my Google ninja suit and researched what to expect from the airline and airports. Now, I just don’t have the time. I only knew in advance that KLM allows strollers to be checked in free of charge. Beyond that, we had to improvise.

For example, we were allowed to take the Bugaboo all the way through Schiphol and check it in right before boarding the plane. But at Berlin Tegel, we had to dismantle it, wrap both parts in huge plastic bags, and drop them off at a separate bulky baggage terminal prior to security. This is where factoring in lots of pre-departure time makes a huge difference.

5) Nurse at takeoff. The only hiccup was that on our flight home, we were made to take Tala out of her nice, secure baby carrier—where she was sleeping peacefully—and sit her on my lap, facing forward, with an infant extension belt around her waist.

Wow, that was awful. Not only did she howl throughout takeoff and landing, but those flimsy belts don’t stay on (not even for a minute!), and are even banned in the US and Canada! Why the EU still enforces their use is truly beyond me.

It was definitely better on the flight out, when I had Tala on the boob. She had wriggled out of the belt, but at least she was quiet and calm. I’m definitely doing that again next time.

6) Document the flight! Doing all of the above should help make flying with a baby easier, but documenting the flight will make it special.

Tala and the Captain

Marlon and I made sure to deplane last so that we could take Tala’s picture with the pilot, who was super nice and friendly. But that’s not all!

We documented Tala’s first trip with a fun and cool souvenir that I want to share. So here comes my very first blog giveaway!

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