Viewing: Marlon

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!

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!

Simple joys and something special

How was your weekend? Feeling tired and a little broke after our recent trip to Maastricht (plus we’re saving up for the Big Trip of the year in a week’s time), Marlon and I decided to stay in all weekend long. I know, married couples are boring, they never want to go out anymore, blah blah blah. Am I just getting old, or is staying at home simply more appealing now?

Whether forced by an empty wallet or by choice, staying in can be extremely recharging and satisfying. I think the key is to mix simple pleasures with a little something special. A Masterchef Australia marathon (such a good show!) on the couch with this adorable face napping on my belly (yes, a long naptime helps!)… now that’s a prime example of a simple pleasure that doesn’t cost a thing.

Tala napping

So is being treated to the sight of the funniest bedhead ever…

Tala bedhead

… and using cuddles and playtime to put the work week firmly into the past (especially for Daddy).

Daddy and Tala

The fun part is injecting a little something extraordinary into what would otherwise be an ordinary weekend. Just one well-chosen treat can make staying at home closer to being a pleasure than a belt-tightening measure. It could be a decadent hot chocolate or a new book to curl up with on the couch.

For us, of course, it’s food. On Saturday mornings, Marlon likes to take Tala for a walk to the Noordermarkt, giving me one precious baby-free morning a week. This weekend, he came home from the market with a large, very pregnant and very LIVE lobster, wild and not farmed, from the Netherlands’ own North Sea.

Marlon's lobster dinner

If you can get over the creepy factor of a plastic bag rustling in your fridge and can handle them without getting pinched, lobsters are the easiest luxurious dinner. Just drop in a pot, cover and wait a few minutes. We had ours with potato wedges and sweet potato fries, a lime, cilantro, garlic and butter sauce, and white wine from the grocery.

Lobster and wine

What simple joys do you enjoy during a weekend at home? And what’s your favorite way to inject something special into a stay-at-home weekend?

Date night: Berlin edition

Since our first post-partum date night was such a success, Marlon and I decided to make it a monthly commitment. This month’s date night was extra special because we did it in Berlin.

Marlon & Deepa date night Berlin

We hired a babysitter for the evening, fed Tala and put her to bed before setting off. Before leaving our hotel, we just had to stop and take a few outfit photos by the street art park along the riverside. It is such a highlight for me when I get to wear non-nursing clothes!

Berlin has some amazing nightlife, but since we were exhausted from the day’s activities—a conference for Marlon, wrestling with the stroller and public transport for me—we weren’t too ambitious. We just wanted somewhere nearby with a cozy, intimate atmosphere and superb food.

Bar Raval Kreuzberg Berlin

That’s exactly what we got at Bar Raval, a tapas bar right beside the Görlitzer Park (which I hear is a prime spot to catch the sunset). With the huge windows thrown open in summer, it’s a great place to watch the hip Kreuzberg crowd stroll by. I didn’t see a single baby or child while people-watching, so this was the right choice for our baby-free date night.

Bar Raval al fresco tapas Berlin

We were attended to personally by one of the owners, who put a stop to our gluttony after we had chosen five small plates from the speisekarte. “I think you should stop here,” he said gently. Point taken, señor.

Luckily, the fantastic tataki of Iberico pork made it into our party of five. “People come back here just for this dish,” he said. For this—lightly charred and crisp on the outside, tender and flavorful on the inside—I would, too. Also, I can’t go to a tapas bar and not have pulpo (octopus); they do a delicious one here, served over warm and creamy potatoes.

Bar Raval Berlin tapas

Bar Raval is not a budget eatery by Berlin standards, but I thought it was terrific value: five (generous) tapas plates, two sinful desserts, and four glasses of Spanish red wine for a hair under €40. The babysitter was more expensive than this meal, but I guess I have to get used to that.

Night view Friedrichshain over the Oberbaum Bridge

We capped our date night with a romantic evening stroll over the Oberbaum Bridge back to our hotel. The lights reflecting off the river almost made me forget about the aroma of pee welling up from various nooks in the bridge. Oh Berlin, you sure know how to treat a girl.

Date night: Post partum edition

How was your weekend? After getting way too jealous about all the fun happening at The Hive, I tore myself away from Twitter and Instagram for a Date Night with my husband. Just him and me, for the first time in 11 months. No baby bump, no baby!

We left Tala at home with a babysitter, although Marlon is pulling a Tala face here because I said I missed her on the tram ride to the cinema. Yes, I’ve turned into a cliche. I consider it an achievement that I didn’t check up on her once, trusting the babysitter would contact me if something went wrong.

Date night The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby is officially the most expensive movie we have ever seen, babysitting fees included. Hiring a babysitter is expensive! I love our life here, but this was one of those times I really felt the impact of living away from home. Back home, we wouldn’t have had a second thought about leaving Tala with my mom for Date Night. Being thousands of miles away from family, we don’t have that luxury.

It took a few conversations before we made the decision to hire a babysitter. I tried to forget that the cost of a babysitter for one evening can cover half a month’s pay for a full-time, live-in nanny in Manila. Instead, I tried to see it as an investment—literally, with a measurable monetary value—in our marriage. We’ve spent money investing in things. Why not in our relationship?

So, Marlon and I were determined to make the most of our four baby-free hours. We enjoyed the loud music and cramped cozy interiors of Los Pilones, the best Mexican restaurant in town and a personal favorite, definitely a place we couldn’t have gone with our baby. We enjoyed a long conversation over dinner, even though we talked about Tala half the time.

Mojito y margarita

And I enjoyed my first post-pregnancy mojito and margarita! Eleven months is a long time to wait for a margarita, and the ones at Los Pilones are worth it. Not only are they big, but they also come with a little refill jug for margarita-hungry mamas like me.

At the end of the evening, we came home to Tala feeling refreshed and lighthearted, knowing that we had made the right decision. We might even make Date Night a monthly affair, unless it’s one of those months when we’re crawling to payday (admit it, you’ve been there).

What’s your favorite thing to do on a Date Night? And, on a more serious note: I’m still thinking about the idea of making “investments” in a relationship. Any thoughts or advice?

Chalkboard drawings in the nursery

Marlon and I finally got to do the one thing we’d been itching to do since painting the chalkboard wall in Tala’s nursery: draw on it! It only took one rainy afternoon (lots of those in Amsterdam) to turn our blank “canvas” from this…

Nursery chalkboard wall-before

into this.

Nursery chalkboard wall-after

Want a closer look at the details?

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Mother’s Day at The Conservatorium

Marlon totally scored 10 out of 10 for organizing my first Mother’s Day. After Tala’s breastfast breakfast at 7am, he put me to bed, whisked her out of our bedroom and let me sleep in until her next feed at 11am. As the mother of an eight week-old baby, you think you’ll never ever sleep in until 11am again, so this was definitely the right way to get the party started.

I woke up to breakfast in bed: chocolate chip pancakes with maple syrup (a hard-to-find commodity in the Netherlands) and bacon. No pictures, sorry—I demolished everything before I remembered the camera!

Then it was off to a top-secret location for my Mother’s Day surprise. He put me on the wrong tram and took me the long way around the block to throw me off, but eventually we reached it: The Conservatorium Hotel on Museumplein, and in its basement, the Akasha Spa.

Conservatorium Akasha Spa1

Obviously I couldn’t take pictures of people in a spa state of undress, so all spa images are via The Conservatorium.

He deposited me at the spa, took the baby, and disappeared for the next five hours. Left to my own devices, what was I supposed to do?

Conservatorium Akasha Spa pool1

Image via The Conservatorium

Nothing. That was the plan, apparently: for me to do absolutely nothing. To do nothing in the steaming marble hammam, or the Finnish sauna, or the pool, for five blissful hours.

Conservatorium Akasha Spa2

Image via The Conservatorium

Oh, right, I had an Ayurveda massage. But I didn’t have to do anything there either, just lay there like a blob while hot sesame oil was slathered all over me. I hate hard massages, so this soft and gentle treatment was perfect for me. My husband, he knows me well.

I’m not a spa addict, but after the beating my body took from pregnancy, birth and caring for a newborn, this was like being reborn. After gorging myself on idleness, I emerged from this sleek and gleaming paradise of pampering to meet Marlon and Tala upstairs in the hotel. I had been here only once before, and this time I got to take a closer look… and take pictures, of course!

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Newborn photo session

The photos from Tala’s newborn photography session arrived yesterday… and I can’t stop looking at them! These were taken when Tala was a little over three weeks old, and already I can’t believe how small she was just two short weeks ago.

Not only did lifestyle photographer Melody Rae do a wonderful job capturing our home and our family in these images, but she was also generous with them—we received over a hundred post-processed photos, with color and black-and-white versions of each. That way we can just choose which ones we want to print, without having to pay a set price for prints.

I love the way the photos all feel so relaxed, like it would be on a regular Sunday at home. We couldn’t have gotten this same vibe at a studio. It’s hard to choose favorites, but here are some of mine.

Family photo black & white

Family photo shutters black & white

Tala and Daddy black & white

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Adventures in babywearing

One of the highlights of my week was learning how to carry Tala in a wrap. Babywearing, the practice of carrying a baby on the body in a sling, wrap or carrier, was something I really wanted to try.

While I was pregnant, I made my own DIY wrap inspired by the Moby Wrap. This popular brand-name wrap is basically a long piece of fabric that enables you to carry the baby close to your body, distributing weight over your back and freeing up your arms.

Making my own wrap was as simple as buying five meters of cotton jersey for €3 per meter. I didn’t even need to hem or serge it because this type of fabric doesn’t unravel. A slightly stretchy fabric like cotton jersey is suitable for wrapping newborns up to about 15 lbs; after that, more supportive fabrics like linen or cotton are recommended.

After a few false starts and many Youtube videos (this tutorial was the one that finally did it for me), I finally succeeded in putting Tala in a wrap. From then on, life with our newborn just got easier.

DIY stretchy sling for newborn

There are lots of reasons to try—and love—babywearing. According to this article, babies worn in a sling or carrier fuss less—apparently, 43 percent less than babies who aren’t.

At this age, Tala can’t handle too much stimulation; facing inwards against me, she’s less likely to be overstimulated by the outside world. Instead, she’s comforted by things she knows: the sound of my heartbeat, the smell of my skin, the closeness of my body.

She can sleep for hours this way, and sleep can only be a good thing for both mother and baby. She’ll even sleep past feeding time, only waking up for a feed if I take her out of the wrap. Bonus: she doesn’t wake up ready to attack the boob like a ravenous barracuda. That’s happened before and believe me, it’s not my favorite thing.

After nearly three weeks of having my arms full, it’s awesome to use my arms again. I’ve vacuumed, cleaned the kitchen, blogged, put on makeup, even cooked and ate meals, all while wearing Tala. Okay, I did have to pick rice out of her hair a few times. But she never seems to mind… she’s always conked out, asleep!

Finally, I just love to have her this close to me—”close enough to kiss” is the rule of thumb for front carrying. To me, it’s the closest thing to being pregnant again. It’s instinctive and natural, to be able to go about my day without having to think about how to take care of her.

Mommy and Daddy babywearing stretchy sling

As for Daddy… well, Marlon loves it! I think he was sold when using the sling gave him a few precious hours to catch up on UFC and wrestling after dinner one evening. He says we’ll keep her in it until she’s 15.

So far, I’ve only used the wrap at home. My next babywearing adventure will be stepping out with Tala in it, and getting things done in the world beyond our door. Stay tuned!

One month!

Tala is one month old today! How fast did that go? My impatient feeder with the big appetite, my spiky-haired cuddlebug, my strong, fast-growing girl with her daddy’s big almond eyes and mommy’s pouty lips, was born exactly one month ago.

Tala 1 Month for blog

And what a month it has been! It has been one month of learning, and I don’t mean just learning how to meet her basic needs, or that she’s a cuddler who gets impatient when she doesn’t get milk in 0.573 seconds. The more I learn about her, the more I learn about myself too.

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