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A Trilogy of Elevens or The Best Thing I’ve Learned in 33 Years of Living

There are Amber Hope Marlow people and not Amber Hope Marlow people, and I’ve learned to accept this. Business has taught me this, mostly, but it translates to real life, too. I don’t care about what the non-AHM people think of me, but I press the advice, support and wisdom of the Me-People into myself and try to support them in return. It’s made for a pretty good life thus far.

The Amber Hope Marlow people also get invited to have cake on my birthday.

High Dive in Brooklyn, 6pm.

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Thoughts on Traveling

My trip to Europe was so amazing. I had no idea what to expect and was so nervous about trying to navigate three countries, three cities worth of sight-seeing, four flights, one international train ride, and two time zones, all with only one carry-on piece of luggage, and all in nine days. It worked out though.

London was because flights to Heathrow were relatively inexpensive, and I figured it was best to start exploring in a city where I spoke the language. I spent two days there adjusting to the time change and wandering around the northern part of the city which felt like Brooklyn. I ate in pubs mostly, and didn’t do any exotic dining. I also spent a lot of time in my impossibly tiny hotel room. It felt luxurious to lay in bed, five floors up, and listen to the street noise below.

Berlin was for fun. Two summers ago I had a brief-but-passionate fling with a musician who scuttled off to Berlin; it was nice to catch up now older, wiser, and less charmed by dashing but inappropriate lovers, even if they do play the saxophone. My favorite part was shopping up and down Kastanienstrasse and exploring the neighborhood of Prenzlauer Berg where I rented a room from a gay guy almost my age – we gossiped about boys and his apartment was absolutely gorgeous. I promised to show him New York for his first visit.


Paris was for girlfriends. It was Esther’s 30th birthday, so four of us met in an apartment for four days, and there were fancy dinners with too many desserts, lots of girl talk, countless bottles of wine, and TONS of shopping, of course. We were also shameless flirts – after eating at the low-key, super delicious Au Passage one night, we sneaked into kitchen to thank the REALLY sexy Australian chef James Henry.

It’s me!

On her actual birthday, we took the train out to Versailles. The museum is closed on Mondays, so we explored the gardens on foot, via golf cart, and on bicycles. The weather was perfect, the bicycles were perfect, the light was perfect – it was magic. When I am looking over excellent days in 2014, this will for sure be in the top 10. Esther was radiant. You know how I feel about birthdays, and I got completely choked up after midnight when we began celebrating hers. Don’t laugh! Ok, laugh. I’m completely ridiculous.

Important lessons learned:

It’s not that hard to not speak the language. Lots of people I encountered spoke some English, I wrote addresses down when I needed to communicate to cab drivers, certain menu items are easy to spot using context clues, and by the end of four days in Berlin I was able to order coffee the way I wanted (side note: German seems not that hard to learn for English speakers, and I plan on trying). Pointing, trying to pronounce things as best as possible, and saying thank you  a lot got me pretty far as well. Also, most people are nice, which goes farther than anything.

Wandering is my favorite way to see cities. I did research on certain neighborhoods, as well as certain Tube/Métro/U-bahn stops (depending on if I was in London, Paris, or Berlin) and got off just to browse. It made me want to do this in New York, too.

Cheap airlines aren’t always worth it. Berlin to Paris was the worst. I left out of a crummy airport in Berlin far from where I was staying. My flight was early so I took a cab, and my carryon luggage was less than 1 cm too large, but they made me check it for a huge fee (meanwhile, my luggage was 1.5 kilos overweight on the oh-so-wonderful Virgin Atlantic, and they let it slide). In the end, I would have spent just as much flying out of the better, closer airport at a more decent time.

I want to go back to Paris next year, and now that it’s spring (kind of – it’s still so chilly here!) I want to go do more fun stuff in New York, too.

Asking flight attendants to make sure you don’t miss any snacks works! During both trans-Atlantics, I woke up every few hours to discover treats laid nicely on my tray table to eat at my leisure, and my seat mates and I exchanged dinner orders just in case.

Also, I do like traveling by myself, at least partially. I think if I were on a beach laying around I’d be bored, or if I traveled solo for weeks at a time I’d be lonely, but this was just about right. Staying in an Air BnB home with the host present was helpful, too.

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Birthday Portraits, an Eight Year Tradition

This was ALMOST the final photo. You can see the one that made the cut, and that links you to years previous, here.

If you follow me on – oh, just about any social media platform – you know that yesterday, I turned 32. It was hard to miss; I pretty much refused to shut up about it for 24 hours straight, starting at 12:01 am when I showed the waiter the time and announced my celebration had begun. He gave me my beer on the house. (Yes, we eat late in New York.) I also took a photo of myself, a now eight year tradition I intend to keep up as long as humanly possible. It’s been so fun to watch my face change. I’m thinner and oh-so-slightly more wrinkled around the eyes. My hair has varied lengths in the photos but remains largely unchanged, as does my smile.

For the first time this year, I took my birthday photo in a non-bathroom mirror. I have a new, giant full-length mirror in my pink bedroom, and the light is gorgeous in there. I had so much fun doing my 20 minute photo shoot (featuring Matty, now twelve, who took my sitting on the floor as an invitation to get close.)

The concept that everyone has one day where they get to be special and have a reminder that they are worth celebrating just for being here is such a happy one for me, and I get bummed out by the “let’s not make a big deal out of it, you’re *insert adult age that doesn’t divide by 10 here*” narrative. Birthdays are AWESOME! I’m on a one-woman mission to get everyone else excited about them, too.

My suburban mom dance skills are unrivaled.

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My Heaving Bosom Birthday Party

Amber's Heaving Bosom Birthday Party - 11

When I was 13 my mother was really into going to Goodwill which always had a stack of romance novels – “bodice rippers” – in the book corner. They would automatically fall open to the juiciest parts, their spines broken open to paragraphs about “heaving bosoms”, “satiny love sheaths”, and “rigid manhood”. I would read them when I thought she wasn’t looking.

To celebrate turning 31 – the inverse of 13 – I hosted a “Heaving Bosom Birthday Party”. The local used bookstore was raided, and I came away with dozens of trashy romance novels. My friends were invited to flip through and find the  saucy parts to read out loud.

I surprised myself by being prudish! I was giggling uncontrollably almost the whole night, and had to bury my face in my hands a bunch of times. But it was awesome; even some of my generally shyer friends stepped up and read passages that made me blush, and it was hilarious and fun to be a little bit scandalized.

My good friend Eva Blue from Montreal happened to be in New York City over the weekend, and she took all of these amazing photos that show just how shocked I was! Eva, thank you for your photos – I’m so glad you were here. The entire set is on Flickr.

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My Name on the Cake

brooklyn blogger amber marlow photographer

In one of the more “Oh, Brooklyn, you are so cute.” moments I’ve had in a while, I ordered this cake not from a form, but by walking from my apartment to the French patisserie down the street from me [Trois Pommes in Park Slope], calling the baker over, and having her join me in a brainstorming session.

We literally had a daydream about cake.

“No chocolate.” was my only rule (Patrice is allergic.) “Anything else is game.”

We ended up doing peanut butter cake with a peanut butter and raspberry jam filling and cream cheese frosting. It was childhood and love in cake form, and there’s a huge hunk of it left in my fridge because it was so rich my friends all tapped out after one piece. Wimps!

Happy weekend.

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February 2013 30 Photo Challenge #1

feb. 1 – a dessert fork (on top), shown with a regular dinner fork, as requested by miss tracey nolan

feb. 3 – a little stinker who wiggled last second and got my photo all blurry! i love it anyway.

feb. 5 – happy birthday, biana! we got a teeny chocolate cake at trois pommes patisserie in park slope, brooklyn.

feb. 5 – happy birthday, patrice! cake? nope. that’s a candle stuck in a strawberry, perched on the edge of a glass of processo.

amber marlow theambershow photographer blogger brooklyn

feb. 6 – i’ve started incorporating late afternoon naps into my work day. it’s made me fitter, happier, and more productive. sometimes i watch tv on my laptop, though.

brooklyn blogger photographer amber marlow

feb. 7 – laundry day. i usually have it washed by a service, but once a month, i do my top blanket myself to avoid a $7 surcharge.

{Keen observers will note that I skipped Saturday and Monday, and then took two photos on Tuesday, and thus cheated. Keen observers can suck it.}

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Life List: Have a Big Party for a Birthday – Check!

Who let me drink and then use a big knife?!

It turns out that 30 isn’t so bad.

I headed to my favorite bar the night before around 11:30 and counted down to midnight there, surrounded by a handful of friends who all wore goofy party hats, bought me way, way too many shots (fuck you all), and made elderly jokes. We stayed out pretty late, and I got this text at 9 am:

There is a direct relationship between how much I love you and how much I hate today. Happy birthday, old girl.

At the spa they booked me with Richard, the world’s hottest masseuse. He introduced himself by asking me, “Are you ready to feel good today?”

Why yes. Yes I am. Richard.

Whiskey & Salt is a quirky supper club run by my friends; they told me I could pick whatever food I wanted, which was easy: soul food, the kind my grandmother (the black one) used to feed me. Fried (organic, free-range, humane certified) chicken, collard greens, green beans, yams, biscuits, corn bread, sweet tea (with vodka – my grandma left that out, but I thought it was a splendid addition), and the best goddamn mac and cheese ever. Plus four cakes. (Conversation post dinner- Me: Am I supposed to be able to bend? Kathryn: No.) And then they went Pinterest on my backyard with the decorations.

 

photo from Lara

photo from Christina

They showed up with supplies at noon and served dinner at 8, and while they bustled around my kitchen all day, I did the following: had a nap in the hammock, had a nap on my bed, fixed my hair, took my annual birthday photo, and occasionally wandered into the kitchen to get in their way and stick my finger in whatever was around that looked good. Usually frosting.

Friends arrived at seven – there were 16 of us at dinner all told –  bearing wine, balloons, cards, gifts, flowers, and sweet toasts that made me cry into my cake. It is an amazing thing to be loved.

This is my 30’s? I’ll take it.

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