Today is my birthday. Hooray! I guess.

I have mixed feelings about the significance of birthdays. I don’t have conflicted feelings about birthdays themselves; that is, I’m not someone who bemoans getting older (at least, not yet). I’m in my early thirties, for crying out loud, and I detest when people my age complain about being “old.” Puh-leeze. No, it’s more that I have mixed feelings about how big of a deal should be made of one’s birthday as an adult. I mean, I’m not going to go all Jehovah’s Witness on everyone and eschew celebrating birthdays altogether, but do I really need to mark the passage of each year or my life with some big hullabaloo? Probably not, right?

This debate is theoretical, really, since I rarely do much for my birthday, anyway. This year my birthday is especially anticlimactic since I’ll be spending it with a baby (my baby, as a matter of fact) and pretty much no one else. Al is traveling for business, my parents are moving into their new house, and everyone else is just going about their Tuesday morning, so it’s just me and Miss Lucia today. (This is not to say that my birthday has passed by unnoticed: Al took me out to a great dinner this past weekend and I think I can probably wrangle another birthday dinner out of him this weekend, too). I’m fine with the fact that I’ll be spending today putting soiled diapers out for collection, doing laundry, taking Lucia to baby music class, working during her naps, and all of the other things I normally do on a Tuesday. This is my life, and it’s a good one.

Last night, I was looking through the journal that I kept while I was pregnant to see what I was up to at this time last year, when I was turning thirty-two. Back then, I was three months away from giving birth. I was going to yoga classes and writing 2000 words a day in a manuscript and practicing Hypnobabies techniques and taking naps (NAPS!!). I had no idea what my life would look like today, but I knew it would involve poopy diapers. Yep. Also, fewer naps, more coffee. But also, way more baby laughter, which kind of outweighs everything else. All in all, I’d say thirty-three year old Steph has the better end of the deal than thirty-two year old Steph, despite all the naps that younger lady got to take. After all, I get to spend my birthday with this hilarious little person:

Anyway. It’s time for me to wake up Lulu so we can make it on time to her baby music class, which might end up being the cutest way possible I could celebrate my thirty-third birthday. Enjoy your Tuesday, everyone.


Today is my birthday. I’m 32. There’s nothing particularly exciting about 32, or any birthday, really, after 30 and before 40. They’re all kind of ‘meh’ birthdays, aren’t they? But I suppose this birthday feels more significant to me than it otherwise would because I’m 26 weeks pregnant, and there’s something about having a little person kicking around inside you that imbues everything with a sense of importance. After all, I’ll be 32 when I have this baby, so 32 suddenly has become an important age. This is the last birthday I’ll celebrate as a pre-parent. It’s the first birthday I’ve had in a while where I didn’t drink too much (sigh). It’s the first birthday I celebrated in our new house. So, really, it feels like quite an adult birthday — maybe my first really grown-up birthday.

Spending my birthday in maternity jeans.
Spending my birthday in maternity jeans.

It’s strange to think that this is the third birthday I’ve recorded since starting this blog two years ago. When I started this thing, I was just turning 30, quitting my lawyer job, and moving to South Africa, and at the time, those life changes felt so momentous. And they were, of course. But now, at 32, the changes I’m facing are even MORE momentous. I mean, for crying out loud, I’m going to have a KID in three months! There’s going to be another person living with me and Al — permanently (well, at least for the next 18 years or so). It’s CRAZY. And I know logically that life can’t continue to shift and evolve at the rate that it has for me over these past few years (and I think that’s a good thing), but it is exciting to have something big happening at the turn of every single year. I’m not one of those people who hates getting older, because every year, life gets better. It’s not always easier, but it is better.

In this, my thirty-third year, I know some stuff is going to get harder (see, e.g., poopy diapers), but I am pretty sure that things are going to get even more awesome than they already are. Here we go!


I turned 31 this weekend, and to celebrate, Al planned a surprise weekend getaway for us to Oslo. He didn’t tell me where we were going until the night before, but, as I mentioned, he gave me cryptic little clues along the way.


On Friday night, we took the train to Stanstead Airport and flew to Oslo. When we got off the plane, it was rainy and cold and so dark we couldn’t see anything out the windows of the shuttle bus to the city center. But the next morning, when we emerged into the Oslo daylight, we saw this:

Leaves, glorious leaves!


As you may know, I’m a sucker for fall colors. And Oslo seriously kicks butt when it comes to fall colors, you guys.

To wit:

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Apart from goggling at the beautiful leaves, Al and I packed a lot of stuff into our brief weekend in Oslo. On Saturday morning, we walked around the city and took in the major sights. As it turns out, there aren’t a ton of “major sights” in Oslo because it’s quite a small (but very pretty) city. First, we checked out the Opera House, which was designed to look like a glacier floating in the harbor. It’s a pretty stunning sight from afar, and it’s even cooler to be able to walk on top of it and get a view of the city and the harbor.

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In the afternoon, we headed to the excellent Norwegian Museum of Cultural History. Part of it is a traditional museum, indoors, with exhibits behind glass (including an exhibit about Norway’s long knitting tradition!). But another part of it is an open-air museum full of traditional Norwegian buildings (farmhouses, storehouses, lofts, churches) with restored interiors that you can peek into. Many of the buildings (such as the Stave Church, which was originally from circa 1200) were refurbished and brought to the park by King Oscar II in the 1880s.

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My favorite exhibit was an apartment building that you could walk through that showed various apartments of both fictional and real families from the late 19th century to the late 20th century. Since Al and I saw Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House here in London for Al’s birthday a few weeks ago, we were interested to see the recreation of the Helmers’ (fictional) apartment (it was cool!). After that, we also paid a visit to the Viking Ship Museum, which, I’m sorry, was overrated (and kind of a rip-off). Save your krones and just go see the cool open-air cultural museum.

For my birthday dinner, we ate at the wonderful Smalhans, which specializes in fresh food and organic wines. We had an eight-course dinner and it was SO delicious. After dinner, being the big nerds we are, we set out to find the apartment of Harry Hole, one of our favorite (fictional) alcoholic Norwegian detectives. After some searching, we found it!

Outside Harry Hole's house
Outside Harry Hole’s house


We also found Harry’s local bar/restaurant, Schroeder’s. We were going to go in, but it actually seemed to be full of locals (like, REAL locals) and we got intimidated. But we saw the outside, so. Mission accomplished.

On Sunday, we spent part of the day wandering through the sculpture garden at Vigeland Park, which includes more than 200 sculptures designed by Gustav Vigeland. Some of the sculptures were nice. Some of them were weird. And others were, frankly, disturbing. See for yourself.

Parenting: what not to do.
Parenting: what not to do.
Arm wrestling?
Arm wrestling?
A Scorpio and a scorpion
A Scorpio and a scorpion

After gawping at the weird sculptures, we went and grabbed some lunch at a cozy cafe, where I chowed down on elk tartare (first time for everything) and Al had a tiny bowl of French onion soup that cost more than our monthly rent in South Africa (well, almost). But it was worth it! It was such a great birthday weekend! I’m so glad I got to see Oslo, even if only for a weekend. Thank you, Al, for a great trip. Now let’s get planning that weekend trip to Finland…





Happy birthday to Al

Tomorrow is Alastair’s birthday. As I mentioned in this post, he is twenty-two days my senior, which allows me to say, with a straight face, that I am married to an “older, foreign gentleman.” It makes being married to a Canadian who is a couple weeks older than me sound positively intriguing, doesn’t it?

I have many birthday festivities planned for Al this year, several of which I cannot reveal at this time, in the interest of maintaining the crucial element of birthday surprise. But I can reveal that these plans will include (but will not be limited to) the following: chocolate, sparkling wine, regular wine, food(s) of various sorts, handmade item(s) by yours truly, and more chocolate. Al, deny it as he may, is a big chocolate fan. There is historical proof of this:

Implied message from baby Al: this entire cake is MINE.

In the interest of getting birthday-ready, and since I am at a good pausing point with all of my various writing projects, I am thinking about taking the day off to make and bake things. So, off I go!

Happy (almost) birthday, Al! I love you!


October is one of my favorite months, and not only because it’s the month of my birth. Actually, I used to think that my birthday subsumed the entire month of October. I have a really specific memory from when I was four or five years old of waking up on October 1, running downstairs, and announcing to my mom that it was MY BIRTHDAY. She gently disabused me of that notion and eventually I figured out how calendars work. But I still kinda think of October as “my” month.

No, but really, I like October for a lot of reasons that have nothing to do with the fact that I have, for the last thirty years, stuffed myself silly with cake on the 27th of the month. For one thing, my husband was also born in October. He is exactly three weeks and one day older than me, which, in his book, automatically makes him far more worldly and experienced than I. “My eyes were already starting to focus when you were born!” he likes to reminds me. So, we’re both October babies, although my husband is a Libra and I’m a Scorpio, technically, although I am the most atypical Scorpio in the world, except for the possessiveness part, I guess? I’m really more of an uptight Virgo at heart, but what are you gonna do? The planets are aligned how the planets are aligned and thus, I must be, by definition, “jealous, obsessive, suspicious, manipulative, and unyielding.” Flattering!

Another thing I’ve always loved about October is that it’s the first month of the year that’s fully FALL. September, if we’re being real, is mostly summer. Sure, in September you go back to school and maybe a leaf or two turns orange, but only the last week of the month is officially fall. In October, though, there’s no pussyfooting around: fall is HERE. Leaves turn colors, the wind gets all blustery, it’s acceptable to wear cable-knit sweaters and boots, it’s time to start thinking about your Halloween costume that probably won’t happen, and, as if by magic, pumpkin-flavored stuff appears everywhere. Pumpkin spice lattes are to fall what crocuses are to spring: when they start popping up, you know the seasons have really changed.

Image courtesy of
Image courtesy of

The thing is, fall isn’t even my favorite season. Someone with my circulation can’t really afford to get behind a season that includes November, I’m sorry. I’m much more of a spring fan, personally. But fall has a lot to offer, and October itself is the best month of fall. Here’s why:

  • I have a real excuse to knit now. My compulsive knitting looks weird in the summer, but no one blinks an eye come October.
  • My birthday + my husband’s birthday –> plenty of excuses to overindulge. Like we needed them.
  • Pumpkin stuff.
  • Halloween. Even though by the time Halloween rolls around this year, I’ll be 31 and probably in a country where people don’t care about Halloween, I’ll still celebrate it in my heart.
  • It’s acceptable to watch It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown any day this month.
  • Best birthstone ever: opal. (And tourmaline, I guess). Suck it, November (topaz? Pshaw)!
  • Speaking of birth things, did you know that every month has a “birth flower,” as well? Actually, each month is assigned not one, but two flowers, since there is a British system and an American system. I smell a sinister, worldwide flower conspiracy afoot. Anyway, October’s flower is the Misty Blue Limonium under the British system, and the Calendula/Marigold under the US system. I had never heard of either the Misty Blue Limonium (which sounds like a kind of fancy floor tiling) or the Calendula (which sounds like an unsightly growth you’d get removed at the dermatologist’s), so I googled both. The Misty Blue Limonium is okay, and it’s actually purple. The Calendula, if nothing else, is fall-like.
So dewy!
  • It’s National Pizza Month. In America. In case I needed to specify where else one would celebrate National Pizza Month.
  • It’s also Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Adopt a Shelter Dog Month.
  • And Apple Jack month, whatever that is.

Okay, that’s enough reasons. If I haven’t convinced you that October is awesome yet, you’re unconvinceable. And so, on that note, I bid you all a Happy October (Merry October?) and hope that if you’re in a place with sweaters, leaves, pumpkins, and animals in adorable Halloween costumes, you take some time to appreciate it today and every day this month.



I woke up today, my thirtieth birthday, with a hangover from drinking too much Pinotage at a South African country estate near Pretoria. So I guess this is my life now.

It’s been kind of a whirlwind. I left DC on Wednesday afternoon and got into Johannesburg on Thursday evening.  Al was waiting for me at the airport with a bouquet of red roses (a romantic, that one!) and we embarked on our first South African adventure together: driving back to our apartment in a rental car, with no GPS, on the left side of the road.  Nothing like a few brushes with death to really make one feel at home in a new place, eh?

Our apartment is in an area called Craighall Park, which is home to a fancy mall and a fancy grocery store (Woolworths — go figure) but is also curiously abundant with sex shops.  We live directly across the street from a charming little place called Sextopia.

Our apartment complex, however, is gated off, leafy, and quiet.  When we entered the gates, there were four little kids playing with water guns in the driveway.  They all eyed us shyly and the oldest one asked us, very properly, how we were doing.  We were fine.

That first night, we ate dinner at a restaurant in the fancy mall.  I was immediately impressed with the food and the wine here, both of which are delicious and cheap.

My second day in South Africa, Al and I ran essential errands, which included buying a hair dryer, stocking up on wine, and getting a “wireless stick” for my computer, and then we packed into our rental car again to drive north to Kievits Kroon, a country estate where Al’s company was holding a retreat.  We had cocktails on the veranda of a manor house (built in the “Cape Dutch style,” I am told) looking out over lush green lawns. A cat purred around our ankles. It was lovely.

I spent the rest of last night stuffing myself with a variety of tasty local dishes, including ostrich medallions, and a *bit* too much Pinotage, which is the signature varietal of South Africa, so how could I not, right? When in Pretoria, I say.

Anyway.  Today I woke up thirty years old and with a red wine headache.  But you know? I feel pretty good about it.  I’m in Africa on a Grand Adventure with my husband.  Bring it, old age.  I’m ready for you.