As far as birthdays go, this year has got to take the award for the most epic, most spoilt birthday in my 39 years of existence. At least, in my memory anyway.
Some of you might know that I have a strange history when it comes to celebrating my birthday. Last year, however, I decided to start changing my attitude by holding my first fundraiser + celebrating with new friends and some fabulous strangers in San Francisco. I also had a small belated celebration with the family when I returned to Adelaide as well. It was wonderful!
This year, I wanted to recreate all that. But, I thought I needed to think of different ways to celebrate. So that there's no pressure to do the same thing. Ever.
Life changes, after all. And, my life has certainly changed a lot since a year ago.
So, as part of the celebrations, I held my first blog giveaway in years.
Celeste was sweet enough to make the booking for our dinner. And, Christina made my night even better by surprising me with a present: the "Printing by Hand" book by Lena Corwin. A book in my wish list, and very apt for my current obsession with printmaking.
Anyway, our first stop was one of my favourite Adelaide restaurants: The Hot Pot Train in the city. We each ordered a pot of soup to cook our chosen meats and veggies in. My favourite is the Laksa Soup, so I had that again.
Then, after filling ourselves up, we went to Devour Desset Bar in Prospect for a chai creme brûlée with other things that I can't remember now and pots of tea.
And, when the wonderful folks at Devour found out that I was celebrating a birthday, they served one of their new recipes - a scoop of banana ice cream. Mine even had a cute candle! It was a great way to end the evening with two really cool people.
Admittedly, my birthday eve had an unexpected twist after I said goodbye to my friends. But, I'm not sure yet what to make of this surreal event. So, I will leave it at that for now.
In any case, the next day, I celebrated my birthday morning with lovely hugs, kisses, and gifts from the family. And, the announcement that we were having a surprise overnight trip to the Barossa Valley.
I haven't been to the Barossa in years. I think my daughter wasn't even born yet the last time we visited. So, it was quite exciting to make our way there.
The husband organised for us to stay at the Novotel Barossa Valley for the weekend. And, we couldn't have chosen a better weekend. There was a festival at the time and the weather was perfect. It was definitely Barossa like we've never seen before.
One of our favourite finds was the Barossa Valley Brewing. I'm not a beer drinker, but apparently, their in-house brews are incredible. The hubby ordered the Bee Sting with our meal and was smitten. I was in-love with my Southern Fried Chicken, American Ribs, and Shoestring Fries.
Lunch was also served with live entertainment by the garden, so even though it was right next to the main road, we still felt the ambiance was fantastic. And, service was friendly and efficient, even though the place was packed. It's definitely noted as a place to return to one day.
In the afternoon, we ended up lounging mostly by the resort's pool. With the lovely sunshine, and amazing views, where else would you want to be?
For dinner, we found another great local find in the form of 1918. Set in a lovely property in Tanunda, this restaurant is a Barossa Valley gem.
Sure, we were less than impressed with customer service, from the time we booked, to the time we arrived, and most through service, we had people working that night who frowned, gave insensitive comments, and generally made us feel somewhat uncomfortable. Frankly, for a restaurant of that quality and that price range, you'd expect something better.
But, my good birthday mood + the amazing food served allowed us to overlook the not-so-nice bits of that dinner. The hubby had the sirloin steak with a side order of chips, the kids ordered pasta and chicken nuggets from the kids' menu, and I had an amazing prawn dish from the entree menu matched with a (not quite filled) glass of rosé called Tom Foolery "Trouble and Strife".
The place and the food definitely make 1918 worth visiting again. But, I am not so sure if I'd be in a hurry to return due to our personal experience. Maybe one day.
And, just before I tucked in for the day, my mum also called from Manila to greet me a happy birthday. This was on top of an early birthday card and present she gave.
The next day, the family and I started off our day with a buffet breakfast at the resort's restaurant, Harry's. The spread was modest, and even though I didn't really have much of an appetite at the time, the hubby and kids seemed to have enjoyed it immensely.
While still having breakky, I ended up leaving the family for my other birthday treat: a one-hour "relax" massage at the Endota Spa in the Novotel Barossa. My second in a week! I told you I was spoilt rotten.
Anyway, I thoroughly loved my massage, and I must admit to enjoying it slightly better than my earlier "mind" treatment at a different Endota Spa.
After the massage, the family continued to hang out at the resort until it was time for us to I even ended up playing a couple of table tennis games with the kids. I think I surprised them when they witnessed that I can actually do something that resembles "sporty".
Once we checked out, we went to Novotel's next door neighbour, the Tanunda Pines Golf Club. The kids have never been to a driving range before to play (the boy was too young to hold a club last time we were in one). So, we thought that it would be good for them to give it a go.
The folks at the club were lovely people who greeted us with such warmth. Really put the kids at ease. They were even generous with the clubs that they lent us. And, as long as we kept a few balls for the practice putting area, we were allowed to stay for as long as we wanted.
After an hour or so at the golf club, we drove to check out a nearby town called Angaston for the first time. It looked really lovely and quaint. Unfortunately, we left it a bit too late to try some of its offering. So, it was just a quick stop.
The kids really wanted to experience their first official winery visit, so we decided to head off to Seppeltsfield before it closed.
Last time we were there, the boy was just a baby. And, the girl wasn't even around yet. This time, they were having their own "tasting" (raspberry cordial)... And, they really loved it. The two ladies who talked to us were very good, especially with the kids.
We ended up walking away with a bottle of the cordial + a red that the hubby liked. Unfortunately for me, I didn't get to taste anything that was "just right". The wines I've tried were either too dry or too sweet for my taste. Ah well. Never mind. I might just nick a bit of the red that hubby bought. 🙂
Once the winery visit was over, we headed home.
Had a quick chat with my parents-in-law when they greeted me that evening.
And, of course, I enjoyed reading all the lovely birthday greetings from friends and connections all over via Facebook (100+!), Twitter, Instagram, and emails and private messages.
So, yeah, I think I am getting over this birthday hang-up at last. Needless to say, I loved this year's celebrations. Yes, even though I ended up with the flu that very Sunday night we came home from our weekend getaway (and still getting over it now).
Really, the little bit of weird things, surreal encounters, small annoyances, and minor setbacks are nothing compared to the bigness of all the love and care I felt from so many people to remind me that birthdays are awesome.
And that life is good.
In fact, life is better than good.
I am grateful. And honoured. And older. But then, that comes with the package, right? 😉
Again, thank you all who made this year's birthday celebrations really, really special.
And, here's to me hoping to make the most out of my final year in my 30s.
Shai has been managing and blogging here at ShaiCoggins.com for 17 years. Here, she writes about creativity, productivity, and how to recharge for a better, happier lifestyle. She is the author of Today: Life Journal, Colour Bliss: Kaleidoscopes, and a little known children's book. A serial entrepreneur, Shai also currently runs Vervely.com, a boutique digital media agency offering online content, community, and conversion marketing services. Her blogging experience and digital work have been featured in various media, including being listed in Fast Company's "Most Influential Women in Technology" list. Originally from Manila, Shai lived in Singapore and the USA before moving to Australia with her British husband. They have two children, a pet bunny, and a rambunctious rescue Labrador.