Happy Friday, friends. The month of September is one of my favourites, because I love fall and because two of the best men I know were born this month. In fact, one of them is celebrating his birthday today. Happy birthday, Dad!
The other is my husband, one of the best humans on earth. For his 30th birthday, I wanted to plan a lot of stuff, to extend the celebrations as long as I could. I wanted to show my gratitude for all he does and remind him how much he is loved. I coordinated a whole week of surprises for Brian, and most of them went well. In a few twists and turns of fate, however, it was the completely unplanned (and very stressful) surprises and that ended up making the week even more memorable. Brian's reaction to the unplanned surprises reminded me once again what a fantastic person I have by my side.
Now, where to begin? I suppose at the beginning of the birthday week. This post is pretty long, so read on with a snack in hand!
Since we actually didn't have a home all of August and were staying with various family and friends, I arranged for us to rent an apartment through AirBnB for his actual birthday weekend. I told him to pack for a weekend, and I read out the turn-by-turn directions from Google maps, but he had no idea where we were going or when. We arrived at our rental, and the names on the buzzer were his first hint — our friends Jennie and Zach were joining us for the weekend from Ottawa.
The rental was seriously perfect. If you ever need a great place to stay in Toronto, I'd be happy to recommend this amazing two-floor apartment.
We chilled out for a bit and gave Brian his gifts (like this so-hideous-it's-great jersey, complete with typo) that Zach ordered Brian from China.
At night, we headed to The Libertine for dinner and drinks, but as it's a speakeasy hidden behind a tarot reading place, I easily tricked Brian into thinking he'd be getting his cards read before we met up with friends at another location.
But when he saw the tarot reader was absent from her seat, I suggested we hang out in the waiting room. I opened the door beside us to reveal what was decidedly not a waiting room, but definitely a party in waiting.
We then headed to a favourite bar in the same neighbourhood, the Emmet Ray, for dancing and a round of Chumbawumbas for the gentlemen.
On Sunday we celebrated his official birthday with his family, which was when I told him to pack his bags again because we were going to New York.
On the first night, we had dinner with Jenn and Pierre at Balaboosta, which was perfection.
We spent the second day walking, drinking, eating and shopping — the four best things to do in any city. We stopped for tacos and micheladas (extra spicy) at Tacombi.
We returned to Le Labo after falling in love with that shop last spring, and each left with a little bottle.
Then we met up with our friend Dev, who took us on a rambling bike ride/bar crawl through Chinatown, SOHO, the Lower East Side, the West Village and eventually, Brooklyn. My favourite stops along the way? Ditch Plains for dinner and the Anyway Cafe for a Bloody Romanoff
The next day, it was unspeakably hot, but we kept walking anyways. I was relieved to have packed this breezy onesie, because it just about saved me in the 95 degree sun.
And I fell in love with her apartment.
The next day, after squeezing in a visit to the American Museum of Natural History, we headed to the airport for what we thought would be our flight home. Nope!
Thunderstorms grounded all Porter flights that night, and with a backlog of the previous day's worth of passengers, the chance of making it home at a reasonable time the next day seemed risky.
Now, being a wedding photographer comes with a fair amount of pressure, both on the day itself and in the way you have to run your own life as a result. Because it was Thursday, despite the fact that I'd scheduled us a day of travel buffer, making it back to Toronto for Saturday's wedding was weighing heavily on our minds.
So, Brian called a car rental company and made us a reservation. I waited to retrieve our baggage that had never even left the tarmac. And I waited... and waited. And out of all the luggage from three cancelled flights, only one bag was misplaced—ours.
Hours later, when they finally found our bag, I rushed to the car rental agency and we began the long drive home through the night. By we I mean Brian, who drove the entire way with not a single word of complaint and only two coffees. We arrived back in town just as the morning commute was gearing up.
With our own car stranded an hour away and the rental drop-off location in the opposite direction, it was shaping up to be another day of travel nightmares. But when Brian called his sister to see if she might be able to help us out, she didn't blink before taking some time off work, then driving to get us where we needed to be. Brian's family is amazing.
The next morning, the day of the wedding, Brian woke up with the stomach flu. Two of my worst fears surrounding wedding photography (travel drama and the stomach flu) had surfaced in less than 48 hours! While I made some phone calls and weighed my options, Brian somehow pulled himself together and insisted he would help me photograph the wedding.
It was one of the most beautiful weddings I've ever photographed and Brian was there by my side every minute, doing some of his best work. I couldn't believe it. As I looked across the table at him during dinner, fighting a fever and still smiling, my eyes filled up with tears of gratitude.
How, of all the people in the world did I find this wonderful man? The man who doesn't believe in complaining, who is always true to his word, who would do and has done anything for those he loves. How did I get so lucky? I feel like it was my birthday, not his.
Brian, it makes perfect sense that your strength of character showed itself so strongly on your birthday. This is who you are as a full-grown man now —a stand up guy. I am so excited to be adults together, and to stand by your side through our thirties, having adventures and smiling through every twist and turn.