my petite crevette is not so petite anymore… every year throwing her birthday party becomes more fun, because she’s really starting to enjoy it herself now. but it also makes me realize how fast time is flying by. somehow, my own birthdays don’t really have quite the same effect as seeing my little baby grow into this cute, stubborn, funny, smart little lady.

we celebrated her birthday in switzerland this year, making it the first big event for which we didn’t travel back to belgium to spend it with as many family members as possible. we realized that, if we kept celebrating all the milestones in belgium, we’d never make any significant memories like that in switzerland, which has been our home for over six years now. somehow it felt appropriate and good, now that juliet is getting a bit older and is getting more attached to her room, her home and her environment, to start celebrating her birthday right here. but of course it’s a mixed feeling, as we are simultaneously taking away the opportunity to spend this time with her grandparents and god parents.

this living abroad thing does not get any easier, does it? the longer we’re here, the more confused i get about what place to call home and where to feel best. when i’m in switzerland, i miss belgium, my friends and family. when i’m in belgium, i miss my home, my routines and our beautiful, beautiful surroundings. i don’t think i’ll ever get used to seeing the alps from our living room window, driving down to the supermarket via streets winding through vineyards, or living only twenty minutes away from gorgeous mountain tops or ten minutes from a beautiful lake. i miss good, affordable restaurants and i do get frustrated with having to shop for most things online because there are not that many great boutiques around – but in the end, are those the things that really matter? i once thought i was a city girl, not able to live more than five minutes away from a bustling metropole and hoping to one day live in the beating heart of the world (new york, duh). i am not so sure about that anymore today.

back to juliet’s birthday though! i still remember the first party we ever threw her – it was tasteful with white balloons and green eucalyptus, with stylish cakes and understated decorations… boy, did we come a long way since then! i was all set to throw her a super classy ‘moon and stars’ party, inspired by her gorgeous crown. but then i came across all those meri meri goodies and i imagined the look on juliet’s face if she were to discover a hot pink flamingo-themed birthday table. and i succumbed, of course. i would even say i went completely overboard (those who know me, know i only have two modes of existence – ‘not going for it at all’ or ‘going all the way and beyond’). we got a tower of donuts and decorated it with glittering stars and flamingo candles. she was happy as a clam eating the glaze off the donuts and opening her presents – maileg bunnies to play with and pink clothes to wear.

i had the best time setting up this table (with some nice ‘adult’ tableware accents, too) and seeing the joy it sparked in juliet, who wore the most glamorous outfit and sprinkled glitter all over our home in the process. but secretly i am already looking forward to throwing a certain baby her very classy, very understated and stylish first birthday party next year…

photos by stephanie duval and matthias rabaey • meri meri party supplies and maileg gifts via HET LAND VAN OOIT • outfit juliet by MARMAR • bow hair clip from BONBON BABY AND KIDS • bib elodie details via BABY MATTERS and crown meri meri via STADTLANDKIND • outfit stephanie by FRAGILE • high chair at the table from BUDTZBENDIX • high chair in the background from STOKKE • cutlery and tableware from POMAX

last month i took you on A LITTLE TOUR of my favorite belgian children’s store het land van ooit, which also happens to be the place where i put together a gift registry for the new addition to our family. if you’re belgian, you’re familiar with the concept – you put together a list of gift ideas so that family and friends who’d like to offer you something to celebrate the birth of your baby know exactly what you’d be most happy with. apparently it’s not something that is usual in many countries, though from my experience it seems that our neighbors in france and switzerland are catching up. i know it’s the thought that counts and everything, but who can say in all honesty they like every single gift they’ve ever gotten that wasn’t picked from a list? i mean, how many pastel-colored-name-embroidered towels does a person need in their life? (none, if you ask me).

so many belgian children’s stores offer the service of putting together a gift registry when you’re expecting, and what shop is the perfect fit for you really depends on what you like and need. for me, the choice for HET LAND VAN OOIT was easily made. even more so than three years ago when juliet was born, the shop carries most of my favorite belgian and international brands. their selection is huge, and i love that it covers every single aspect of new parenthood – from dressing to feeding to bathing to transporting your babe. they also have the biggest offer in furniture and decoration – and that’s what sealed the deal for me. as you may know if you’ve followed my journey for the past few years, there are very few things i find as important as making our apartment look beautiful and feel like a true home for everyone involved. even though our rooms are decidedly fuller than three years ago and we already have many baby essentials lying around, i thought it was important to add some new things that make life as a family of four easier, and that will make our baby feel welcome and loved right from the start.

so a few weeks ago i sat down with karolien van turnhout to create the gift registry for our baby girl. she is one of the four kids of rita sels, who founded het land van ooit over 20 years ago. the five now work together in running the family business – karolien and her mom are usually off to the international fairs to buy the new clothes’ collections, for example. but around 19 years ago, she started out by helping clients put together the best possible gift lists before the arrival of their newborns. and from any interaction i’ve had with anyone at het land van ooit, it becomes so obvious just how much experience they have in that department. there literally is no question they haven’t heard before, no type of parent they haven’t helped out yet. i admit i’m not the easiest breed of consumer – my priority is definitely on creating a ‘big picture’ in which every little detail fits together perfectly. and yes, sometimes i tend to overlook the practicalities of real life in the process. but i’ve always felt like the people at het land van ooit respect my wishes and peculiarities with endless patience, while gently sharing their knowhow and experiences whenever appropriate. i’m very grateful for the way in which they have managed to simultaneously help me scout the perfect items for my ‘ideal vision’ and given me expert advice on some of the less sexy but hugely practical aspects.

but enough about how much i love the people there – let’s talk stuff! obviously i haven’t been able to resist scooping up some goodies already in order to prepare for baby’s arrival. you may have already seen THIS gorgeous garbo&friends bedding, and i already showed off our beautiful new OLIVER FURNITURE crib on instagram. i also couldn’t resist buying baby’s first outfit for the hospital (THIS and THIS from my favorite MARMAR) and some super cute cuddles. but there is plenty more good stuff on my list – and i have gathered some of my absolute favorites in the little collage above. from left to right, from the top down • 1+ more in the family CARDIGAN and T-SHIRT • cam cam BIB • beaba BATH THERMOMETER (how cute is this floral design?!) • liewood PLACEMAT and BATH TOWEL • mini a ture PANTS and TOP • cam cam BATH TOWEL.

i’m curious to know about your experiences with gift registries. have you had one before? what was the ultimate thing on there? any recommendations – stuff that people tend to overlook or something you truly loved? and if you are on the giving end of the equation – do you like gift registries or do you prefer picking something out yourself? what’s your favorite thing to gift parents of a newborn?

video and photography by stephanie duval • post in collaboration with HET LAND VAN OOIT


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my name is stephanie duval, and i am a storyteller. this blog is where i share my favorite stories about design, travel, fashion and the nice things in life.


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