Archive for the ‘Birthdays’ Category

Forgotten birthday rage

June 22, 2010

I noticed in The Telegraph’s recent obituary for TV chef Keith Floyd that he once experienced an episode of what I can only describe as “birthday rage”.  Or, perhaps more accurately, “forgotten birthday rage”:

His third marriage ended when he accused his wife of forgetting his birthday. In a rage he destroyed much of his own restaurant bar and threw out his wife and 50 diners before retiring to a nearby hostelry to drown his sorrows.

The article doesn’t elaborate as to whether Floyd’s wife really did forget his birthday.  (Wouldn’t it have been awful if she’d had some lovely surprise present wrapped and ready to give to him after the restaurant shut for the night?  Although I wouldn’t recommend leaving it that late in the day to give your nearest and dearest their birthday present.)

And in another episode I recently read about, a woman complained to the authorities that her mail had been stolen, because she had not received birthday cards from some of her friends.  Rather touching, I thought.

Which I guess goes to show that people really do care about whether you remember their birthdays.

Prompt, not pretty

April 30, 2010

Earlier this week it was my friend Beth’s birthday.  I’d been trying to find a copy of a certain book for her, which I’d read and thought she’d enjoy too (Don’t look behind you by Peter Allison, an entertaining memoir about his work as a safari guide in Africa).  Beth grew up in Africa and loves its wildlife, so I thought she’d enjoy this particular book.

Four days before her birthday, I still hadn’t been able to track down a copy of it.  So when I found a copy of it last Saturday (her birthday was the Tuesday following), I quickly purchased it – complete with exchange card, just in case – then pondered my options.

If I took the book home to wrap, I wouldn’t be able to post it until Monday, the day before her birthday.  So it might not arrive on time.  Plus it would take a special trip to get it posted (I have a few health complications – nothing life-threatening, but it means I need to slow down a bit just now.)

Having weighed all this up, and the fact there was a post office just around the corner, open for business, I made my decision.  Five minutes later the book was packaged, addressed and in the postal system.  Okay, there was no card or pretty wrapping paper with it, but it was going to arrive on time.  I made a choice, and ‘prompt’ won the day over ‘pretty’.

When I got home I emailed Beth to let her know her birthday present was en route, but undressed.  Beth is in her early 50s – she can handle an unwrapped gift (and she’s very popular – I know she’ll get many more gifts all gussied up in their finest!) 

However, if I was sending a gift to a child, I would definitely have taken the book home and made sure it was wrapped – the pleasure of unwrapping an attractive gift is, for a child, a big thrill indeed.

Gingerbread musings

April 19, 2010

Paying their way: my numeral cookie cutters make a batch of "2" biscuits

I did it!  I made a batch of “2” shaped gingerbread cookies for the slew of second birthday parties coming up, using the numeral cookie cutters I bought a couple of months ago.  

I frosted them in different ways and personalised some of them with messages like “Cory is 2” and “Happy Birthday!”.  I thought they looked great, and suitably festive, especially when packaged.

However, my confidence dipped when I went to the first party.  It turned out to be a full-on, almost-no-expense-spared sort of children’s party.  (I mean, there wasn’t a clown or magician, but I think next year there will be).  I had felt pretty good about my special cookies gift, until I saw the hordes of other people all turning up with big flossy parcels.  Then I began to feel…cheap.

I couldn’t help it.  But then again, I reminded myself, this little boy is little more than an acquaintance.  We haven’t seen Cory in probably four months.  It seemed like madness to rush out and buy a $15 – $30 toy for a child we barely know.  Plus, his wealthy parents seem to have purchased him every toy his heart could possibly desire.  What on earth could I have found that he didn’t have already?

So I found myself in a “But it’s the thought that counts!” kind of moment.  Maybe the gift was a little cheap (?).  Certainly it only cost me a few dollars instead of the dozens I’d normally have to have shelled out. 

But despite being relatively inexpensive, it wasn’t an easy gift.  Baking the cookies, frosting them in various ways, including hand-frosted messages…that took a lot of time and effort.  It would have been much simpler to just visit a local boutique and have them giftwrap some puzzle or train or something – done in a matter of moments. 

All the same, I couldn’t help wondering what the parents thought about it, later on after the party trimmings had all been swept up.  Did they comment to each other, What a charming and original gift, and that homemade gingerbread sure does taste good! 

Or did they say, Cheap bitch!

Teen birthday angst

April 2, 2010

I know a young girl, soon to turn 15, who is not speaking to her parents – because they won’t buy her the $400 mobile phone she wants as a birthday gift.

Her family are blue collar working class and have a $300 limit on birthday gifts – which frankly I think is very generous.  However their daughter, with her eyes firmly set on a fancier, prettier, more fashionable mobile phone, insists that she’ll have nothing but that phone. 

She’s tried asking her folks for an advance on the babysitting money she’ll earn in a few weeks when the school holidays arrive, to give her the extra money towards the phone.  But they’ve put their foot down and said No.  Wisely, I think.

Firstly, because it’s her little sister’s birthday soon after, and they’ll need all their readies for her birthday.  Secondly, because they intuitively grasp that it’s wrong to encourage their children to yearn after luxury items that they don’t really need and they can’t really afford.  And if they cave in this year, what will she be demanding next birthday?  A car?  A $500 handbag?  A ski vacation?

The thing is, she’s actually a very sweet and caring girl at heart.  She’s just caught up in the massive egocentricity that is being a teenager – with perhaps a dash of peer pressure relating to mobile phone ownership.  She’s pretty and popular – and beginning to really know it. 

I think her parents are sensible to not give in to her wheedling.  Although she’s not speaking to them now, I know that can’t last: she’s part of a caring, loving, humorous family.  And one day, she’ll realise how selfish she was being.

Historic birthday cards

March 19, 2010

I rather like these date-specific birthday cards, peppered with photos and interesting snippets of information about what notable other things – besides your birthday – happened on that particular day.

I’ve got one for my father-in-law’s birthday later this year – he’s quite a history buff and not a particular fan of the usual kissy-kissy birthday cards.  I think he’ll find this card fascinating.

Available from quality greeting card merchants.

Cookies-by-numbers

February 19, 2010

Numeric cookie cutters - any number of gift uses

Not long after I posted about the Helvetica cookie cutters, I happened across this set of number cookie cutters, from zero to nine. 

I bought them for myself, but they would make a great gift for anyone with young children who likes to bake.

I’ll also use them to make gifts: ‘age number’ cookies for birthday parties (I’ll make fancy, frosted ‘2’s for my daughter’s upcoming second birthday) and as cute party favors.  They’ll also make amusing novelty cookies for milestone birthday parties, such as 40th birthdays.  Plus, in a similar vein, cookies for wedding (or other) anniversaries – , ’10’, ’25’ etc.

I can’t wait to use ’em!

Always bring a present

December 16, 2009

I’ve learnt the hard way: unless the birthday invitation has “no presents please” printed on it, always, always bring a gift.  Even if the birthday girl’s sibling says not to bother.  Even if it’s just for casual “it’s my birthday” drinks at a bar for someone you’re not all that close to (in which case, something small will be fine). 

In fact, something small will usually always be fine.  (If something big is called for, chances are this will be clear to you – because it’s for a close relative, or for a big-deal event like a wedding – and so you won’t be dithering about whether or not you ought to bring a present.)

Twice I’ve been to casual birthday get-togethers where I’ve been assured that it wouldn’t be necessary to bring a gift.  And each time, while being greeted by the birthday girl, I’ve seen her eyes momentarily flick down to my empty hands then widen in surprise.  Clearly, no matter what I’d been assured, clearly the birthday person most certainly DID expect gifts! 

So I’ve learnt my lesson.  Always, always, bring a present, however small.

Ideas for small presents: some chocolates or candy; a scented candle (boring, but reliable – make sure you buy a good brand though); a cute notepad; a posy of flowers; a bottle of (good but not great) wine.

If only I’d known!

November 28, 2009

I had a roommate some years ago who, after learning in passing that my birthday had recently occurred (such as after having observed a recent gift), had a habit of exclaiming, “It was your birthday last week?  Oh, you should have told me!”

The implication being, of course, that she too would have gotten me a card or a present for my birthday – if only she’d known the date.

We roomed together for three years and, upon the second and third exclamations of belated birthday surprise, I had to bite my tongue from pointing out: “You keep a birthday calendar right here on the kitchen wall.  You could have written my birthday on on that calendar last time you heard it was my birthday.  If you’d wanted to.”

But in the interests of domestic harmony, I kept my trap shut.  Which I still think was the right thing to do.  After all, we’re still friends!  And I have the funny feeling that we wouldn’t be if I’d pointed out her deliberate birthday blind spot. 

Understand, I didn’t care about her buying me a present.  For many years now I’ve actually preferred giving gifts to getting ’em.  But her deliberate, pretend forgetfulness – she was no bimbo – did rankle with me.

Ever have something like that happen to you?

Banal birthday

October 7, 2009

It was a friend’s birthday recently. What did your husband give you, I enquired.

“A bunch of flowers and a box of chocolates.”

“Oh no! How BORING!” I blurted out – and immediately regretted it. Me and my big mouth. After all, perhaps she was thrilled with these gifts.

I didn’t mean to criticise his presents (which apparently were rather nice: good quality chocolates and a beautiful bouquet). It’s just that they’re… well…a trifle dull. Predictable. They’re the sort of gifts that say: “I have no idea what to give you. Hopefully this will suffice.”

A person could get mad (or worried) at receiving such gifts from a spouse. Because one could surmise that perhaps he didn’t know what you are actually interested in. Or because he finds you boring. Or because he simply couldn’t be bothered. None of these being relationship-enhancing notions.

So what should the husband have done? Well, if he truly couldn’t think of anything – beyond candy and flowers – to give his wife, I’d recommend the honest approach.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with saying to your nearest and dearest: “Honey, I know it’s your birthday coming up soon, but I just can’t think of what to get you. Is there anything special you’d like?” Which would open up a useful discussion about what some options might be – and would likely be appreciated by the other party.

Birthday reminders – an update

September 23, 2009

Further to my earlier post about automated birthday reminders, here’s how I fared:

First of all I tried Birthday Pal, which – although very easy to use – was ultimately unsuccessful, because it never generated the scheduled email reminders to me that I input.  Perhaps the service has ceased, but the website is still ticking over?  I’ll never know.

Next I tried Birthday Alarm, which started off nice and easy to become a member.  Until Step 2 – which required template emails to be sent to my friends and family members, asking them to input their birthday dates.  Now that didn’t suit me at all!  Do I want to bother my loved ones with annoying emails (which might look to be spam or a phishing attempt, and therefore need some checking out), when I already know their birthdays?  No!  I just want to input their birthdays directly – I have the dates right here beside me.  But Birthday Alarm wouldn’t let me complete Step 2 of the membership log-in until I’d selected email addresses to send said emails to.  So, scratch Birthday Alarm too.

HappyBirthday.Com I skipped completely because, like Birthday Alarm, it requires the birthday people themselves to enter in their details – details which I already know and am happy to input myself.

BigDates charges a fee for its service ($10/year), so scratch that one as well.

The other idea suggested was Yahoo! Calendar.  I no longer have a Yahoo! account, but as I’m with Google, I thought I’d check out what options they have.  Sure enough, they have a Google Calendar option, and so far it’s proving smart and easy (and free).  I can input the key dates, select how long I want them to recur for, and organise reminders up to four weeks in advance.  So far, it’s looking very promising.