All I want for Christmas is..

Two front teeth

Look what Santa brought us for Christmas morning!

Tala’s teeth really started coming out since we arrived. She started teething nearly three months ago, and now her teeth are here. I don’t blame them for not wanting to come out in the cold—looks like all they needed was some sunshine.

From Tala, Marlon and myself: Maligayang Pasko! Have a merry, merry Christmas everyone!

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DIY hand-lettered Christmas cards

I always make my own Christmas cards, but after having Tala, I realized this year would be different. Nobody would care about my artistic ideas anymore—everyone just wants to see the baby!

I wanted to give the holiday photos my own unique style without going the standard “family posing under the Christmas tree” route. Inspired by this Elle UK spread featuring Michelle Williams and some cool hand-lettered script, I created my own set of hand-lettered Christmas cards using Tala’s black-and-white holiday photos.

I hope everyone I’ve sent them to has received them by now, so I can share them without spoiling the surprise!

Hand-lettered baby Christmas card

I started out with a simple “Merry Christmas!” to warm up. To soften the stark black and white photos, I decided to keep the script fun, loopy and childlike, rather than ornate or fancy.

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Christmas in Amsterdam: Vintage tram ride with Santa

As a young family, we’re constantly discovering and creating our own family traditions. Marlon and I are both the youngest children, so we love finally being able to make the rules now that we’re parents—especially where Christmas is involved!

Not only do we get to draw on our own growing-up experiences of Christmas, but also on the traditions of the country and community we’ve chosen to live in. Because we live in the Netherlands, Sinterklaas becomes woven into our holiday fabric; because we live in cosmopolitan Amsterdam, friends from all over the world show us many new and different ways to celebrate Christmas.

Over the weekend, we found a new family tradition right here in Amsterdam: Santa’s Vintage Tram Ride.

Amsterdam vintage tram ride with Santa

Organized by the Amsterdam Mamas, a network for English-speaking parents in Amsterdam, Santa’s Vintage Tram Ride sets off every December from the Electrische Museumtramlijn Amsterdam.

This little museum dedicated to vintage electric trams is housed in the former Haarlemmermeerstation, a lovely old brick building in the Old South of Amsterdam.

Amsterdam vintage tram museum

The museum’s collection of old trams come from all over Europe and are in perfect working order. They ride every Sunday from Easter to the end of October, and can be hired for special events—which is exactly what the Amsterdam Mamas did for Christmas-loving young families like us.

Amsterdam vintage tram conductor

Christmas with children is truly something special. It was a joy to see all the excited little ones climbing aboard this stately old tram from Vienna…

Amsterdam vintage tram ride with Santa Claus

and sent off by the man of the hour, ringing a big gold bell… Santa Claus himself!

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Black & white Christmas photo shoot

I know Tala will only be a baby for a very short time. And I know I should probably take advantage of her first Christmas to do something ridiculously cute, such dress her up as an elf or a reindeer or a Christmas cupcake, or something equally silly.

However, as you’ve seen from our minimalist/alternative Christmas tree, keeping things simple is what feels natural and right this year. Having a baby also leaves one with significantly less time to scour the Internet for the most perfectly adorable (but not tacky) Christmas baby costume.

So when Amsterdam-based lifestyle photographer Maud Fontein conceptualized a series of mini holiday photo shoots with a Scandinavian-inspired black and white theme, I couldn’t resist.

Besides, between you and me, I don’t think Tala needs to dress up like a cupcake to look adorable. But maybe I’m a little bit biased.

Baby Christmas photos black and white

Naturally, on the day of the shoot, we were running late and Tala was being… shall we say, less than delightful and charming. (That’s the way it always works. Trust me.) So there I was, literally rolling around on the floor on my belly in front of a woman I had never met before, manically trying to get my daughter to smile before our thirty-minute clock ran out.

If there’s anything I learned from doing this quick shoot with Maud, it’s that motherhood kills your ability to be embarrassed about anything. I think after you allow your breasts to be used as a food source/pacifier in public, you tend to be a little less uptight about these things.

“All it takes is one good shot,” said Maud reassuringly—and all that matters is that in the end, we got it. Look at that soon-to-be-toothy smile!

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Gaga over glühwein

One of the things I love most about Christmas markets in Germany is drinking glühwein, or hot spiced wine. Marlon and I once received a bottle of glühwein as a gift when we were still living in Singapore, and it stayed untouched in our refrigerator for over a year simply because we couldn’t bear the thought of drinking hot wine in a hot, humid climate.

The whole atmosphere is part of the enjoyment of glühwein: being all bundled up, feeling the cold winter air on your face, warming your hands with the cup, standing under the twinkling lights that brighten up a prematurely dark afternoon or evening.

I think we must have hit every single glühwein stall in Dusseldorf. To attract attention in a thick crowd, every stall has its own little gimmick, and that’s part of the fun too.

Dusseldorf Christmas market gluhwein carousel

I’m pretty sure this glühwein carousel on Flinger Strasse features celebrities, whom you will probably only recognize if you’re German. I’m willing to guess that the portly lady on the left is Angela Merkel.

Dusseldorf Christmas market gluhwein stall chandelier

There’s kitschy… and then there’s classy. These beautiful chandeliers lit up the stall at the Sternchenmarkt, or Little Star Market, on the Stadtbrückchen square.

Dusseldorf Christmas market gluhwein copper pot

Traditional or trendy? These huge copper pots at the Marktplatz market are both, and they’re attention-grabbing, too. I loved the simple, clean lines of the terracotta mugs at this stall, but I sat out this round so I didn’t get my hands on them.

Dusseldorf Christmas market gluhwein

Every glühwein stall has its own mug with the year and the name of the market. A small deposit is built into the price of the drink, which you can forfeit if you want to take the mug home.

After three winters of Christmas market trips, Marlon and I have found ourselves with a small collection of these glühwein mugs. Still, we never seem to have enough mugs at home at this time of year, when we’re constantly making coffee and tea at home.

Dusseldorf Christmas market Schneehuttendorf gluhwein

This year we added another one to the collection, mostly because it’s the coolest one we’ve seen so far: a tall, skinny frosted glass mug from the market on Schadowplatz.

I can just imagine Tala in her teenage years rolling her eyes at our mugs. “Can you please get rid of this tacky glühwein mug collection? Please?!”

Dusseldorf Christmas market Sternchenmarkt gluhwein mug

Sorry, anak. I got you one of your own: a little star mug from your first Christmas market. Mommy can’t throw that away, now can she?

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