One year, one week, two days and eight hours ago… we moved. Also, results from our birthday poll!

It’s true. I’ve been a Minnesotan for over a year now, survived a winter even the natives are calling “brutal” and, in case you’re wondering, I’ve not yet adopted the dialect… dontcha know.

I’m working on a post where I’ll talk about all the things I’ve learned this last year: the differences between city folk and small town folk, what it’s like moving across the country, switching from a desert landscape to a snowy one, stuff like that there.

And by working on it, I mean I sometimes think about it. There may or may not be actual sentences written down.

In the meantime, below are some pictures of our recent trip with our kids. They came up for a visit and to escape Phoenix heat. We traveled over to Duluth for a few days as well as spent some time in the cities. (This is a true sign of Minnesotan: I now say things like, “We went to the cities.”)

Here’s a few from Duluth (click on an image to enlarge):

Note the big ship? When you see ships like that, you begin to realize just how big Lake Superior is.

Here’s the aerial bridge lowering once the ship passed through:

Gotta pity the poor cars who had to wait all that time for the bridge to come back down. It had to be at least 15 minutes from the time the bells first started ringing.

Speaking of which, they really don’t give you a lot of warning as to when the bridge is going to rise. On our last day there, we thought we’d walk across it.

Full disclosure: we had noticed a ship was coming but there was some debate on our part as to whether the bridge would have to rise for it or not. In any case, the walking light still showed “Walk” so we walked across.

It was at the halfway mark — and believe me, this is one long bridge — when the bells start sounding and a voice comes on telling us to “Get the hell off the bridge.”

Okay, so maybe he didn’t say those exact words. In any case, we got the hint and picked up our pace. Like, ran. We made it just in time before it started to rise.

Death comes to us all_2

Other than almost dying, it was a great trip. We toured a maritime museum, a whale back ship and a mansion, though I didn’t think to take pictures at any of them. I guess we were enjoying ourselves too much?

Though I got a picture of my ice cream:

curry caramel cashew and salted licorice

On the left is Salted Licorice, on the right is Curry Caramel Cashew. Sounds weird, right? Yet they were delicious. Daughter had a scoop of Honey Chamomile in a cup of espresso. (Calming and invigorating.)

So then we went to the cities and hung out mostly in downtown St. Paul. Son said it was kind of like New York City but without all the people.

That’s me getting friendly with F. Scott Fitzgerald. (Did you know he was from St. Paul? It’s true!)

Charles Schultz is from Minnesota as well, so the whole Peanuts gang is hanging out in Landmark Park. That’s Husband discussing philosophy with Linus and Sally.

I have one other photo I simply must show you. After we dropped the kids off at the airport, Husband and I stopped at an antique shop in Elk River.

Where I found this guy!

Froggy friend

Is he not the most glorious fella you’ve ever seen? I mean, he’s so charming holding the completely impractical planter I found at WalMart for five bucks.

Say, if any of you have any suggestions as to what I should name my froggy friend, let me know. Right now the leading contenders are Bowie, Elton, or Irving.

Alrighty, so now it’s time for the results of our poll. We really seemed to hit a nerve with this one. You people have some strong opinions on birthday parties for adults.

For a reminder, these were the questions:

poll questions

As it turns out, 40% of you find parties childish while 32% of you accept them only if you’re hammered.

Only one person — one person mind you! — threatened to end our friendship over this. I found this heartening. (No one chose the final question.)

There was also a write-in option. These were the responses:

Other answers

If we evaluate the overall intent, I think it’s safe to say none of these responses are in favor of parties. Though I want to pull out the final one:

I love to celebrate life, on any day. Blessed to be alive.

Yes!!!

That’s the ticket, friends. Rather than reserve one day out of the year where we honor each other, how about we celebrate every day?

Though maybe without the noisemakers and pointy hats. Ain’t no one in favor of those.

Birthday blues (1)

To all of you who took our poll — and waited so patiently for the results — thank you for playing.

Now go eat some cake and start celebrating life. 🙂

happy

 

Singing the Birthday Blues… and no, it’s not my birthday

I have a fantasy that one day I will work among adults who do not celebrate their birthdays.

It’s not that I deny I’m getting older (still alive at 55). It’s just that I’m an adult now and frankly, it seems a little silly. Living one more year isn’t that big of an accomplishment. Most people manage it.

But more than that, there’s something else about birthdays that I really hate. Like, really really really hate. And people who know me are aware and act accordingly.

Last year for my birthday, Daughter drew a picture for me that highlights my feelings exactly. I will share it with you now when it is not my birthday because… Hello? Have you been listening?

Birthday blues (1)
That’s me in the Groucho Marx glasses.

I hate the attention. Can’t stand it. During any party my primary thought is, “if I leave, will anyone notice?” So when I’m the guest of honor, the answer is usually “No.”

Not always, but usually.

I’m aware that my dislike of parties can be an issue for my friends and family. Most of whom are very generous and loving and effusive with their emotions. Which is annoying as hell.

Honestly. I need to find new friends.

But work? Work should be free of birthday celebrations because, you know, it’s work. Yet at every place I’ve been, birthdays are all the rage.

At my last job, I had to tell my boss to please stop giving me flowers. She usually did it at the beginning and end of the school year, on Admin Assistant Day, my birthday, and all major holidays. I think she once did it on National Eat a Pickle Day. Not sure.

The thing is, Husband knows not to send me flowers at work and it never occurred to me to tell anyone else. If I’m in the hospital? Sure. Bring it on. If I’m home? Better yet. But at work? Nuh-uh. No way, no how.

Reason being:

“Oh how pretty – what’s the occasion?!”
“Is it your birthday? Oh my gosh! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!”
“Ooooh, how beautiful! Lucky you!”
“Are those from your husband or do you have a secret admirer? Haha!”

People who normally never talk to me — and honestly, it’s my favorite thing about them — are suddenly talking to me!

My God!!!

As I mentioned before, I now work at a convent. I have also stated that I am enjoying this job very much. It seems to have all the criteria for happy employment: meaningful work, pleasant coworkers, peaceful environment. I feel quite lucky.

Sadly, it has a downside. I became aware of it just two short days into the job, during lunchtime. I was in the dining hall enjoying a lovely bowl of tomato basil soup with croutons on top.

Have you ever put croutons in your soup? It’s quite good. You should try it.

Suddenly someone starts singing that damned birthday song. I look around and there by the dessert tray stands the poor slob to whom the entire dining hall is now singing.

But wait, it’s not just one verse! Because they’re Franciscan Sisters, they have to give it their own special flair.

Here’s the verse they add: “God’s blessings on you, God’s blessings on you,” etc. With their hands stretched out for the blessing.

Beings how it was only my second day, and beings how I didn’t know the person to whom they were singing, I figured it was a fluke. Sadly, it was not.

When it was repeated a couple weeks later, I knew it was their custom. An insane, diabolical custom in an otherwise sane environment.

At the time I was sitting next to Mr. and Mrs. Boss. Once the song was over, I turned to them and said, “By the way, I’ll be taking my birthday off this year.”

“Oh really? Do you have something fun planned?”

“No. I just won’t be here.”

Fast forward a few months and… well, two things are at play here. For one, I tend to forget things. Birthdays among them, including my own.

I would have missed last year’s completely had it not been for Husband. No kidding.

The other thing? The particular department I work for has a custom of taking the birthday person out for lunch, usually the week after. The birthday person chooses the location and everyone else chips in. In other words, it’s a free lunch of your choosing.

Yeah.

Mr. Boss asked if I’d like to do the celebration on my actual birthday, rather than the week after. I thought, hey, I’ll miss the dining hall sing-a-long!  “Um… sure!”

I chose a local joint called Sanchez Burritos. It’s a little like Chipotle – you go through the line and choose your toppings for a burrito, taco salad, rice bowl, quesadilla, etc. Only in this case, the place is run by three cousins from Honduras and all their sauces and meats are prepared on site.

You should get a whiff of this place. *swoon*

As can be expected, eating with four Sisters and a man who attended seminary (though chose marriage over priesthood), they all prayed as soon as they sat down. I waited patiently.

Then Mr. Boss pulls a surprise. He has us all hold hands while he says a blessing – for Me! Giving thanks I was born, moved to Minnesota, took this job, yada-yada.

Never had THAT happen before!

My face

Anyway. We wound up having a discussion regarding birthdays. It shouldn’t have surprised me – Mr. Boss remembered what I said at that lunch several months ago and planned accordingly.

This is what happens when people live their lives focused outward. They not only remember someone’s preferences, they act on them. Amazing.

Two of the Sisters admitted they avoid the dining hall on their birthdays for the same reason I did. “I eat in my room” one told me. The other said, “I just deal with it.”

Sister LaVonne said, “I think the celebration should reflect the person being celebrated. If they don’t like attention, you should respect that.”

I had a similar conversation once with Daughter, who is as much an introvert as I am. Her feeling was that if people care about you so much as to say, “Hey, glad you’re still alive bucko,” then you should be thankful there are such people in the world and just suck it up. Besides, you might get cake.

My thinking more closely aligned with Sister LaVonne: “Please go away.”

You know, I’d really like to hear your opinions on this subject and since I’ve never done a poll before, it’s time we start. We’ll make it multiple choice and we’ll even include a write-in option for you creative types.

Next week I’ll be out of town and in all likelihood not posting – unless I pull one out of the vaults. Haven’t decided yet.

In any case, I’ll give you the results of our birthday poll the week after that.
Please choose wisely. The fate of adult birthday parties is in your hands.

Not really, but let’s pretend.

A Belated Birthday Celebration Involving Second-Hand Clothes, a Stoned Clerk Named Ryan, and Several Doggies

Celebrating your birthday after the fact can be glorious for the simple fact that it usually involves mother’s guilt. And mother’s guilt is a powerful force to behold.

So it was that after my week-long convalescence – a week where no celebration, nay, no smiles, were deemed possible – Daughter was treated to a Belated Birthday Celebration which included a trip to our favorite consignment shop, stopping at our favorite coffee/sandwich shop where our clerk may or may not have been stoned, eating lunch with five pooches, one of whom wore a tutu, and arriving back home at that perfect moment when you know — when there is no doubt — that magic is real.

The day was a beautiful one. Before we left, Daughter held up two CDs for review. She always lets me choose our travel music. I’ve yet to come across a CD of hers I don’t like, as her music leans toward alternative and quirky, and that suits me. I point at one: “Tallahassee” by The Mountain Goats.

“Good choice,” she says. Three songs later, we’re at the consignment shop, A Second Look.

I love this place. Just about everything you can think of is at this store: clothing, jewelry, housewares, home furnishings, electronics… I once bought a pink-checkered chicken at this place. I didn’t know I needed a pink-checkered chicken until I found it there. That’s how great this store is.

Pink checkered chicken

Another great thing: the longer items are there, the deeper their discount. Big signs throughout the store give you the day’s sale:

Items Dated before 1/28: 25% off
Items Dated before 1/4: 50% off
Items Dated before 12/21: 75% off

Sometimes you get lucky and find several “must-haves” at a deep discount. Other times you find squat. But it’s the thrill of the hunt, that what matters. That’s why you go.

For this trip, Daughter only found one item she could not live without, but oh what a find: a metallic snakeskin print scarf!

As for me, I found two cropped pants that fit me perfectly, even though they were mislabeled as “6” when I’m clearly still a “4” (*yesIamsoshutup*). I also found two lovely comfy shirts, perfect for lounging around the house in the evening sans bra. You can never have too many of those.

Our purchases competed, it was time for lunch. Fortunately we didn’t have far to go, because our favorite lunch spot is right in front of A Second Look. It’s called 32nd Shea, because it’s on the corner of 32nd Street & Shea. Clever, right?

And get this: it’s in a remodeled Fotomat. Remember those old drive-thru spots where they’d develop your pictures? That’s where this place is.

32nd Shea

You place your order at the register, a huge chalkboard above displays the menu. Ryan takes our order. He’s leaning on the counter at an angle, typing everything we say onto the screen. With each item he says, “You got it.”

“We’re gonna split the Veggie-Tarian sandwich.”
“You got it.”
Daughter adds, “I’ll have a tall iced coffee with rosemary syrup honey.”
“You got it.”
I say, “And I’ll have a large tropical iced green tea.”
“You got it. Do you want soup or chips with the sandwich?”
“Um…” We look at each other, Daughter shrugs, I say, “Chips.”
“You got it. Do you wanna eat outside or in?”
“Outside.”
“You got it. Remind me of your name again?”
“Christi.”
“Christi. You got it.”

We find a table on the patio and take our seats. Daughter comments on Ryan. “I love him,” she says. “He was so tired he could barely stand up straight.”

“I thought he was stoned,” I say.

“Even better,” she decides. “And I love how he says, ‘remind me of your name.’ I bet he says that to every customer. Remind me of your name? We’ve never met, good sir!”

She decides to write a short skit for her play-writing class featuring Ryan, the stoned sandwich shop clerk. As she makes notes on her phone, I survey the other customers on the patio. It’s a full house, people and pooches alike.

Forgot to mention: 32nd Shea is dog-friendly.

We dined with no less than five pooches: a German Shepherd behind me, a Golden Retriever to my left, a Mixed Breed with a worried expression, a Shih Tzu in a Tutu, and on my right was one of those dogs with the long ass name. The King Charles Cavalier Bowling on the Green Spaniel (or something like that).

Behind Daughter, the group with Worried Mutt was involved in some sort of project. They took up two tables: a tall long table where they sat, as well as a short round one where they piled all their magazines. For they had heaps and heaps of magazines.

Patio at 32nd Shea

There were about four or five women at the long table. Really I’m not sure how many because people were wandering to and fro with abandon. In amongst their cups of coffee and lunch orders were glue sticks, poster board, construction paper, and other arts and crafts paraphernalia. I’ve no idea what they were doing, but it seemed to be causing great stress for their Worried Mutt.

Do you suppose they were doing it wrong? Or maybe they were going about it too slowly, and Worried Mutt feared they’d be late for their afternoon crochet lesson? Honestly, it was so hard to tell, and sadly, I did not get a chance to interview the dog and find out.

And while it could have been my imagination, the Golden Retriever seemed concerned on Worried Mutt’s behalf too. Though that’s just the way of Goldens. They are a caring breed, taking the whole world on their shoulders, trying so hard to alleviate our burden. I happen to know our current political divisions trouble Goldens excessively. They are doing all they can to help, wagging their tails so energetically, but look deep into their caring eyes and you’ll see. They are troubled.

One breed you will never find troubled, not one iota troubled, is the King Charles of Upper Bucklebury and Bob’s Your Uncle Spaniel. I swear, the pooch who was dining on my right could barely make the effort to raise his head, much less worry over our sad political state. And why should he? His companion, a woman who exuded wealth from every pore, kept him on her lap the entire time and only stopped patting him long enough to offer him a morsel from her BLT. I’m telling ya, that dog’s got it good.

Meanwhile, the Shih Tzu in the Tutu made its way through the lunch crowd, visiting table after table, acting with great certainty that all would be charmed by their presence. For indeed, we were.

Its person, an older woman wearing a fanny pack (Daughter says all owners of Shih Tzus are old; it’s like a law) referred to the dog in the third person: “Do we want to say hello to the people? Let’s say hello!”

So they did. They said hello.

Dog wearing tutu

I said hello back. It was the polite thing to do.

The only one who seemed displeased by the Shih Tzu in the Tutu was the German Shepherd. It was… how shall I put it?… it was as though he considered it a personal affront that there should even be a Shih Tzu in a Tutu. He maintained his dignity, of course. Was careful not to show the slightest amount of agitation. But even so. You could tell.

Our sandwich was wonderful, by the way, as were the drinks. We lingered as long as we could. Honestly, I was hoping an unveiling of the arts and crafts project was imminent, but alas, it was not to be. On our way home we made two stops, one to pick up the necessary ingredients for strawberry shortcake, and the other to pick up dry cleaning (hey, it was just one block over, okay?).

And now we come to the most special event of the day — in point of fact, it is the entire purpose of my writing — when we pulled into the driveway and I shut off the car.

You know how it is when the song you’re listening to ends at the exact moment your ride is over? You put the car in park and… duuummmm… the song ends? It feels like you’ve attained perfection. As though everything came into place and magic is in the air. Well, that’s the way it was for us, only it was the last note of the last song on the whole CD!

Total MAGIC!

It exists people, it really exists! All you have to do is look around and view the world with fresh eyes.

And maybe look into the eyes of a Golden Retriever while you’re at it. Lord knows it can’t hurt.

Screen Shot 2018-02-20 at 3.25.34 PM.pngNote: No Goldens were troubled in the making of this blog post.

Party Planning for Friendly Anti-Socialites

Note: What follows is something I published two years ago. I’m rerunning it because a) We really did have a party this last weekend so it totally fits, and b) because of said party, the story I intended to publish isn’t ready. So until it is, I hope you enjoy this:

We had our annual holiday get-together last weekend, where something like 25 to 200 people stopped by our house to partake in food, drink, and stimulating conversation.

Diners in a restaurant, talking

Twenty-five is the more likely number, but it’s all a matter of perspective. A very social, extroverted person might have looked at our gathering and thought, “My, what a charming little party this is.” While a more private, introverted person might have thought, “GAHHH!!!”

Regular readers of this blog know I lean more toward the latter than the former, and are no doubt wondering why I agree to these parties. Truth be told, in the days leading up to these events, I wonder it myself. But the fact is, I enjoy them.

I especially enjoy them when they’re over.

Also, I think we introverts owe it to society to show how parties should be done. Because from the parties I’ve thrown and the parties I’ve attended, I’ve come to one inescapable conclusion: Introverts throw better parties.

That is because – as with all things – we overthink them.

How an Extrovert Throws a Party:
  • Sets up event on social media, tells friends to invite anyone they left out
  • Gets on with life until day of party
  • Buys food and drinks on day of party
  • Welcomes guests at door
  • Enjoys party
How an Introvert Throws a Party:
  • Carefully reviews calendar and selects a day with least amount of personal conflicts, in which the moon and stars have aligned to give the best chance of success for a social event
  • Looks over guest list; crosses out names, adds names, mostly crosses out names
  • Researches several sites for recipes and decorating ideas
  • Checks out party planning books at library, as well as several cookbooks
  • Creates a menu, revises menu daily until hour before party
  • Walks through home, imagines party in real time, considers main areas of gathering, best flow from one area to another; moves furniture several times until right balance is achieved
  • Plans music for evening, selects song list with care
  • Night before party wakes up several times thinking, “Did I remember to–” but of course they remembered to. They remembered all things
  • Drinks glass of wine before guests arrive, or other calming beverage of choice
  • During party, remains in kitchen for majority of evening, replenishing dishes that don’t need replenishing, providing safe haven for fellow introverts requiring no small talk
  • After party, collapses on sofa and reviews evening, replays every moment, wonders how it could have gone better; pledges not to repeat event for a very long time
  • Makes notes and plan of improvement for next event

I know other introverted party planners include pets at their soirees and I certainly appreciate them at any party I attend. But the sad fact is, phobias do exist and not everyone enjoys a cold nose at their crotch. Therefore I keep my furry friends safely hidden away.

That being said, I came up with a brilliant idea that I’m anxious to set up for any future parties: the Introvert’s Party Room for Rest and Recuperation.

Back when vinyls were all that, there was a huge record store in downtown Phoenix that had a separate room for classical music fans. It was great. When you walked in, all other sound was blocked out and you only heard classical. If memory serves right, there was always an aroma of leather and pipe tobacco. I was 15 years old and had no interest in classical music, but I seriously loved that room.

What I want is a similar room for overwhelmed party guests. The room must be easily accessible from the main area so they can slip in or out without detection. There will be comfy chairs, plenty of books and writing materials, a couple laptops with free wi-fi, and a dog.

White dog next to person with laptop

Once the introvert was fully recovered, they could return to the party in progress.

Or not. No pressure.

Doesn’t that sound great? I’m going to get to work on that real soon. It may involve buying a new house, but dang it I’m determined.

If only because I’m the one in dire need of it. 😉

At this point my original article segued seamlessly into a recipe. In my early posts I did this quite a bit, as it was my shtick. I’m not sure why I quit the shtick. I was probably distracted by something shiny. In any case, I’ve got a recipe for you today.

Two for One Cookies

  • Servings: 4 to 5 dozen cookies
  • Difficulty: no sweat
  • Print

This is a recipe I came across in an old tattered cookbook with no cover, so I'm afraid I can't credit it properly. It's great for a party as it allows you to offer a variety of cookies without baking all day.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter (softened)
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten well
  • 2¾ cups flour
  • 2 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • Add-ins (see below)

Directions

Mix together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside. Cream together sugar and butter. Add eggs and blend well. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix well.

At this point, shape the dough into a ball and divide in half. For each half, choose one of the following options:

  1. Add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, roll into balls and dip in a cinnamon/sugar mixture to make Snickerdoodles
  2. Add 1/2 teaspoon almond extract, roll into balls, flatten slightly and press an almond in the center to make Chinese Almond cookies
  3. Add one teaspoon either lemon or orange zest, can also add 1/2 cup dried fruit and/or nuts, roll into balls and flatten slightly, sprinkle with sugar
  4. Add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 cup chocolate chips, 1/2 cup coconut and 1/3 cup chopped nuts, drop by rounded teaspoon onto cookie sheet
  5. Create your own option!

Place dough 2 inches apart on cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. Bake for 8-10 minutes at 350 degrees until lightly golden brown. Let stand a minute before removing from cookie sheet.

Party Planning for Friendly Anti-Socialites

We had our annual holiday get-together at our house this last weekend, where something like 25 to 100 people stopped by our little abode to partake in food, drink, and stimulating conversation.

partyTwenty-five is the more likely number of attendees, but it’s all a matter of perspective, right? A very social, extroverted person may have looked at our gathering and thought, “My, what a charming little party this is.” While a more private, introverted person might have thought, “GAHHH!!!”

Regular readers of this blog know that I lean more toward the latter than the former, so perhaps you’re wondering why I have these parties to begin with? Truth be told, in the days leading up to the events, I wonder it myself. But the fact is, I enjoy them.

I especially enjoy them when they’re over.

Also, I think we introverts have an obligation to society to show how parties should be done. Because from the parties I’ve thrown and the parties I’ve attended, I’ve come to one inescapable conclusion: Introverts throw better parties.

That is because, as with all things, we overthink them.

Continue reading “Party Planning for Friendly Anti-Socialites”

On Wine, Jalapeños, and World Famous Chili

We arrived at the party late because as Husband said, nothing our friend does ever starts on time. He was right. The dinner party was to start at 6:00, we arrived at 6:30, the food wasn’t ready until 8:30.

But there was beer, wine, sangria, and over in the corner of the room I spotted people making simple cocktails. Except for Husband and Friend, I knew no one at this party.wine-beer-cocktail

Normally this would have caused me deep distress, but I decided to relax and observe, just like a real writer would. (Make note of that, please. I was impersonating a real writer.)

Husband brought me a glass of wine and soon we were in the midst of a conversation with a woman from Seattle. Her place was near the ocean and we simply must visit her, we must, she’ll give us her card, she’s completely serious, we simply must visit her.

I was half-way through my glass of wine when I realized I hadn’t eaten anything since 10 a.m., and there were no appetizers in sight.  As Seattle Woman talked, I whispered my dilemma to Husband. He spotted a basket of muffins in the far corner of the kitchen – leftovers from their breakfast, perhaps?

Continue reading “On Wine, Jalapeños, and World Famous Chili”