My birthday was great — very very chill, which is exactly what I wanted. How things have changed! Birthdays in high school usually turned into a popularity competition to see who could accrue the most flowers, balloons, and other crap from their friends throughout the day. Of course it was cheating to put it in your locker, so everyone would walk around all day laden down with festivity.

In my first couple years of college, birthdays were an excuse to drink and go crazy (as if we needed one!) Later on, my activities became more sedate, but I still tried to fit as much into the day as possible — breakfast here, coffee there, dinner and dessert with my family, etc.

Now, my idea of a perfect birthday is a big breakfast (French toast made an excellent substitute for pancakes this year), a good workout, and a quiet afternoon with a book, a walk, and a bit of shopping. Dinner was leftover salmon, rice, and ratatouille from the night before, warmed up and eaten at home with my husband. I must be getting old!

To add a Portuguese touch to the celebrations, my birthday cake was a pair of pasteis de nata, my favorite creamy gooey custard treat. Gabe brought them home from work, then warmed them in the oven as we were eating dinner. Stick a couple leftover Hannukah candles in them, cut up an orange to provide a little bit of health food, and voila! The perfect Portuguese birthday cake.

My favorite part of any birthday, but especially this one, is the outpouring of love you get. My inbox was crammed full of ecards, emails, and Facebook notifications all day yesterday and on until this morning, as the good wishes continued coming in well after I’d gone to bed last night. I got calls from friends at home and in England, texts from my Portuguese friends, had a Skype call with my mom and uncle, and even got a phone call from my hairdresser here, who wanted to wish me a happy day.

Maybe things aren’t so different from my high school birthdays after all — the flowers and balloons just take a lighter, more portable electronic form these days. Either way, it is wonderful to feel so loved, and a small part of me wished that every day this year had been my birthday.

Today things are back to normal, or at least as normal as they can be two days before we take off on our next trip. The fun never ends!

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Here’s some pics from my bday, as well as a walk we took on Sunday afternoon. We came across a massive book fair in the nearby Parque Eduardo VII, with booths stretching all the way up one side and down the other. There were food booths, portable cafes, and even signing booths, with a few bored-looking authors on display for signing books.

It was a carnival of books, and there was an accordingly huge crowd of people, kids, dogs, the whole deal. I was amazed! I’ve never seen such a thing in the States. It was great to see the appreciation of literature and books so alive and well here.

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