Birthday Beginnings with Chocolate

A friend of mine, growing up in the Dominican Republic, would awaken on her birthday to the song Las Mañanitas and a cup of hot chocolate. I want to adopt this cultural practice of starting the day with my belly full of warm chocolate!

One of my favorite travel memories comes from my time in Paris when our hotel would serve us fresh-from-the-oven croissants and individual pots of chocolat chaud. I am salivating just remembering how wonderful it was to start to the day with this buttery, flaky pastry and my own silver carafe filled with liquid Parisian chocolate? Each of the mornings I spent there felt like my birthday — just being in Paris is enough to celebrate after all.

Hot Chocolate Creativity

Nonetheless, we can’t have this excellent experience every day in most parts of the world. So, instead, I offer the following few exciting hot chocolate recipes for you to try if you want to add this idea into your birthday fun.

This spicy hot chocolate from the New York Times has chile powder too:

Or People shared chocolatier Jacques Torres’s recipe for a minty hot chocolate:

 

For a little added boost to your morning, you could start with a Kahlua hot chocolate such as this one from Damn Delicious:

Another boozy one that is supposed to taste like a foil-wrapped chocolate orange comes from serious eats:

Or, for hot days when you still want some cocoa taste, you could try this Frozen Nutella hot chocolate:

Combining two of my favorites is this chocolate and peanut butter hot chocolate recipe (plus, I love this site’s name: chocolatemoosey.com):

For your entertainment, also, I end this blog with a Minions parody of the best-known Latin American birthday song.

Sharing Birthdays at the Office

Birthdays are for celebrating with fun, flair, love and laughter. If I didn’t believe this, I probably wouldn’t have a blog devoted to birthdays.

Happily, I have some examples of people taking advantage of this special day to give their co-workers an extra helping of attention and affection. Loyal readers already know I am a big fan of feting people at work, if the individual decides to ignore my personal rule to not work on your birthday.

Office Birthday Fun

One recent blog post I saw featured a site devoted to discovering “a fresh approach to style through fun ideas for the wardrobe and home,” taking its own advice for an employee birthday.

Under the boasting headline, “We just took office birthdays to a whole new level,” the blogger talked about taking the weekly office meeting out of doors for a picnic at a table with fresh cut flowers and a breakfast taco spread. The coffee choices were also immensely important as the blog clearly has a product placement angle for an espresso machine…Nevertheless, the images are lovely, and the birthday celebrant probably enjoyed being made to feel extra special on her birthday.

office birthdays

Birthday Co-Worker Collusion

Those watching Good Morning Britain recently could actually see Kate Garraway having a good time on her birthday as her coworkers surprised her on the program’s set. The Sun reported her kids and her parents joined the host live on air for her 50th. Her co-workers also treated her to a plate of doughnuts, a present, and a highlight reel of her past career on television. This included some memories even the host groaned and grimaced over!

office birthday
Plus they offered the national show’s audience at home a glimpse of Garraway during her school days. This reminded me of the practice in several cultures of shaming the birthday person on their big day.

Related reading:

Employee Birthday Benefits

30 Today? Have a Pepper Person

Brace for a Birthday Flour Storm

What’s Your Birthstone?

It’s June! Did you know that June birthdays are associated with cultured pearl, moonstones, or alexandrite? This month is also one of only two to have three birth stone options.

history of birthstones

Alexandrite, Image source

May gets Emeralds. April gets Diamonds. My birth month, October, gets boring old Opal. I almost wish I lived prior to 1912 so that I could have enjoyed aquamarine as an option! Although, I found out there’s something called a chocolate opal, which sounds appealing but still does not float my aesthetic boat.

history of birthstones

Chocolate opal, Image source

Why 1912? That’s when the National Association of Jewelers in the US officially adopted a list to standardize birthstones. Nevertheless, the standardization hasn’t taken over entirely. For instance, the Hindu would go with coral for October, or topaz for December, when the Americans and Brits would associate the same gem with November instead.

What’s Your Birthstone?

The full, standardized, list per the Jewelers of America circa 2016, when they added spinel — yes, spinel (pictured below) — to August options.

January — Garnet
February — Amethyst
March — Aquamarine
April — Diamonds
May — Emerald
June — Alexandrite, Cultured Pearl, Moonstone
July — Ruby
August — Peridot or Spinel
September — Sapphire
October — Opal or Tourmaline
November — Citrine or Topaz
December — Turquoise, Tanzanite or Blue Zircon

history of birthstones

Spinel, Image source

History of Birthstones

You may think birthstones are simply a marketing tool, but the attachment of a stone to a birth month dates back to the 1st century AD. Before that, in the book of Exodus, a breastplate of Aaron is described as being set with twelve stones representing each of the tribes of Israel. In the 1st century, and again in the 5th century, writers proposed that each of the stones had a special power associated with its corresponding astrological sign, and the stone could act as a talisman at certain times.

It wasn’t until 18th century Poland when the idea of wearing the stone associated with your own birth month came into fashion with the arrival in the region of Jewish gem traders.

Now that I know this history, I think we should start lobbying to bring back the practice of owning all of the gems for the year. No, I’m not on the gem association payroll, I just really, really like shiny things.

How Your Birth Month Affects Your Personality

birthday month

There’s a Mother Goose poem that suggests the date of your birth impacts your personality:

Monday’s child is fair of face,
Tuesday’s child is full of grace;
Wednesday’s child is full of woe,
Thursday’s child has far to go;
Friday’s child is loving and giving,
Saturday’s child works hard for its living;
But the child that is born on the Sabbath day
Is bonny and blithe, and good and gay.

Astrology too suggests that your personality is dictated by the position of the planets at the exact moment you cry your first cry.

Yet now there’s science, too, that suggests the month of your birth can affect your personality.

How Your Birth Month Affects You

A Time magazine article recently summarized the “small but increasingly persuasive body of evidence that there may indeed be some cause and effect at work.”

There are countless factors in your development as a baby in the womb that can be impacted by season:

Nutrition — Even where food is plentiful the availability of certain vitamins and proteins can be influenced by season

Viruses — A baby gestating during wintertime may be affected by a mother’s bout of the flu or seasonal affective disorder. Low serotonin levels in the maternal brain, for instance, could potentially cause serotonin shortfalls in the baby too.

The season in which we’re born can affect us after birth, too. A 2010 study of mice found that mouse pups (did you know that was their name?) “born and weaned in simulated winter light adjusted less well to a change to summer light, exhibiting poorer feeding habits and activity levels.” Meanwhile, “mice born and weaned in summer light had no such problems adjusting to winter conditions.”

Seasonal Patterns for Humans

Scientists have worked to see if these kinds of findings are true for humans too. The preliminary results suggest yes. Here are some of the Time examples:

Spring: March, April and May babies score higher for general optimism. Yet, at the same time, spring babies have proven more susceptible to clinical depression. According to a study of 58,000 subjects in the U.K. in 2012, May babies are most at risk while November babies have the lowest depression rates.

Summer:  June, July and August babies are more likely to cycle rapidly between high and low moods. Yet this doesn’t reach to bipolar diagnoses — those are lowest among babies born in August.

Fall: Fall babies tend to enjoy the equilibrium suggested by the zodiac sign Libra’s scales. Studies show “people born in fall not only enjoy low levels of depression, but are similarly less likely to develop bipolar disorder.” Nevertheless, the autumn-born “do have a tendency to irritability.”

Winter: Babies with these birthdates face several challenges: “higher levels of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, SAD and depression.” At least they’re likely to be less irritable. Plus, one study of 300 celebrities did find that January and February are good months “to be born if you want to be famous since those months correlate with creativity and imaginative problem-solving.”

Keep in mind, this is a fledgling area of scientific research. Still, if you’re looking for something else to blame for your blues or tendency to bicker, you could potentially point to your birth month.

Related reading:

Bad at Sports? Blame Your Birthday

It’s my special day — mine and some 20M others.

 

Smart Birthday Card Marketing

Birthday cards

Photo credit: Texican Chick via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

There are still some of us in the world that buy and send birthday cards. Judging by the size of the greeting card section in various retail outlets, this habit isn’t yet dead. In the past I’ve written about a great idea of having birthday cards give back.

Another option is to give a birthday card that is more than a message. For instance, you can shell out a few more dollars for a card that sings “Staying Alive” to the recipient on their over the hill birthday.

Recently one of this blog’s readers sent an image of a different kind of birthday card creativity:

Birthday cards

Yes, those are “delicious greeting cards” for a reason…they come with jellybeans. The marketing for this lays it out for you: “Your message” and “Their treat.” Clever packaging and making the birthday presentation all the easier? Score one for this birthday card marketer!

Birthday Cards as Marketing Tool

At the same time, birthday cards can be used by a company to spread goodwill. A reader also sent me birthday cards coming to her child from a summer camp. Her daughter’s birthday is in April, yet the counselors had written personalized birthday cards to their campers during each of her weeks of summer camp. Then, come April, she received four different, individualized birthday cards from the counselors of each of her weeks of camp!

img_85851.jpg

This is a fantastic reminder of camp fun and can keep the kids engaged with the experience year-round. What a simple way to make kids happy and foster camper loyalty! If I ever ran a kids camp (which will NEVER, EVER happen) I would steal this idea for sure.

 

 

 

 

Birthday Games Around the World

In my research of birthdays around the world, I was recently reading Barbara Rinkoff’s (1967) book on this topic. Although there is some gender stereotyping in here that makes me cringe — one activity is labeled as being for “boys and tomboys” — I appreciate her thorough overview of how one might celebrate birthdays with a global perspective.

I thought it would be fun to share some of the country-specific games she suggests for kids’ birthday parties. Maybe you can get some ideas from these to entertain young ones on a birthday or any other day.

Birthday games

Photo credit: januartha via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Birthday Games in Brazil

This one from Brazil is one of my favorites from the book: Hit the Penny. Put a coin atop a broomstick or bamboo pole stuck in the ground (or, inside, into a tree stand). Draw a circle about 3 feet in diameter around the pole. Kids then stand 4 to 6 feet from the stick and try to knock the coin from the pole using pennies. Knocking the coin off the pole and outside the circle = one point while inside the circle = no points. Me, I’d tweak that last rule and make inside the circle one point and outside three to make the game more competitive for all.

Another from Brazil, the one for boys and tomboys actually, is Luta de Galo (Chicken Fight). Two players stick a hankie into their waistband or belt and fold their right arms across their chests. They then try to get the opponent’s hankie while hopping on a right foot only and using only the left hand.

Fire and Finding Stuff Games

Bird’s Alive is a unique one from Denmark, where apparently they are more open to children and flames. Children sit in a circle and pass a lighted paper or stick to one another saying “Bird’s Alive” as they do. They may blow on the paper or stick to keep the flame alive but the player who is holding the stick when the flame goes out must pay a forfeit. These typically involve being silly — dancing with a broom, neighing like a horse, or crying like a baby.

The English game Hunt the Thimble is easy to set up and could be challenging. Everyone playing leaves the room while a thimble is hidden. The children are signaled to return. The one who finds the thimble first is the winner.

Games Requiring Concentration

Germany’s Kommando Bimberle has everyone sitting around a table. One child commands “do this with your hands” or “don’t do this with your hands.” If listeners do the wrong thing, they must put something of their on the table. When a previously specified number of things is on the table for one person, they must again pay the forfeit (a la Demark). (Am I the only one who sees this one as training for strip poker?)

An Israeli game of skill involves placing a bottle on the floor. Children take turns kneeling on a chair and, with one hand behind their backs, trying to drop peanuts into the bottle. This game is aptly named Peanuts in the Bottle.

Energetic Birthday Games

Japanese children play Hanakago (The Flower Basket). Each child is given a name of a flower. They must remember this throughout the game as they sit on a chair or pillow in a circle in the room. The child who is IT does not have a chair. IT calls out two flowers and those two children must switch seats quickly while IT tries to claim one of the two available chairs. IT may also call Hanakago which forces all players to find a new seat.

In the Philippines they play Pusa at Aso (Cat and Dog). All the players sit in a circle as cats. One child sits in the middle and is Dog. He or she guards a pile of shoes, sticks or stone standing in for bones. The cats try to sneak one of the dog’s bones from the pile. Dog tries to protect them by tagging cats, but Dog cannot move around the circle and can only use his hands and feet to touch the cats. If a Cat is tagged, that Cat becomes Dog.

Birthday Games

Photo credit: David Maddison via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

South Africans form a wide circle of girls with a circle of boys inside facing out towards their girl partners. An extra boy, IT, is in the center of the circle. He winks at a girl and she tries to get to IT before her partner tags her. If she reaches IT without being tagged by her partner, her partner becomes IT. This Knikkertjie (Winking Game) could easily be played without the gender divisions and just partnered up children.

Ultimately, the lesson learned from this variety of games is that the world is full of creative ideas. And, even more importantly, that we know how to have a good time at birthday parties!

 

 

 

100th Birthday Wish is to Work

Screen Shot 2017-04-05 at 12.12.34 PM.pngHere’s something we can all aspire to — loving our job enough that we want to go back for our 100th birthday!

That’s what Bill Hansen of New Jersey did. The centenarian came out of retirement on his 100th birthday to return to Hutchinson Plumbing, Heating and Cooling in Cherry Hill in return for $1.

The company CEO Fred Hutchinson signed a work agreement welcoming the permit coordinator back for a birthday cake, a standing ovation, media coverage, and a complete set of assignments.

Hansen had already retired in his 60s, but got bored and at 66 returned to work at Hutchinson’s company where he worked for another 32 years before retiring again at 97!

I’ve written in the past about all of my reasons not to work on your birthday, but Hansen says he hates retirement. So, for him the better gift is going back to his “second family” and seeing familiar faces and meeting new people.

This is certainly an employee (or retired employee) birthday benefit I didn’t consider in my previous blog suggesting good ways to recognize worker birthdays.

It’s a wish we might all make over our birthday cake (if our office allows it…and we don’t mind spitting on our friends’ dessert) — to enjoy our work and the people we work with enough that we want to return after retirement.