Destination Birthday Trend Sounds Great!

It’s time to fully embrace the destination birthday. I regularly schedule travel around my birthday as I can better justify the expense as a birthday present to me. But only once so far have I embarked on a milestone birthday celebration with a friend — we went to Miami and loved basking in the sun and drinking mojitos.

Destination birthday

The mojitos are looking a little low in the glass there…

Yet “more people are choosing to celebrate their big birthdays and anniversaries far from home—inviting everyone along for a blowout trip,” according to The Wall Street Journal. 

It’s a great idea that I am happy to get on board with.

Milestone birthdays cause anxiety in some (or worse) while others take greater risks and embrace adventure. Clearly, the ones who decide to travel ambitiously are in the latter camp.

A full 75% of adults 45 and over have taken, or plan to take, one of these “celebration vacations,” according to AARP research released this year, cited by the WSJ.

Part of the appeal is that spending quality time with one another somewhere different is more about valuing each other’s company than it is about buying gifts. Of course, the WSJ reporter (who went to Napa to celebrate a birthday) does concede this can be costly.

Still, there are some great ideas shared in the article:

  • A woman invited 15 of her friends (who didn’t all know one another yet) to stay in six-bedroom villa she rented in Jamaica to mark her 50th.
  • A Canadian man joined five buddies from high school on a motorcycling Italian tour for his 50th.
  • Another group of duffers played famous golf courses in Scotland to celebrate 50.
  • A tour operator invited 80 people to join her 50th fete in the Peruvian Andes, complete with an optional cruise up the Amazon.
  • 15 coffee lovers traveled the Colombian countryside for coffee tastings, salsa dancing and a bamboo river-raft float.

The thorough article rounds out with advice for the etiquette of this kind of birthday event — e.g. no gifts needed. But, fair warning if you do invite me along to your destination birthday, I was too busy already imagining where I might travel on my next milestone birthday to read the rules too carefully.

Where would you go? Would you travel with family or friends or both?

P.S. Apologies to anyone who read this already when I inadvertently published it and then made a big mess of it’s url history. Now, for it to appear on the actual blog (not just in people’s email) I am reposting. 

Birthday Bargains or “Bargoons”


Birthday Free Stuff

Photo credit: JwvanEck via / CC BY-NC

It has been a long time coming, but here — at last — is the free stuff on your birthday blog.

I have mentioned in the past my own family’s habit, when I was younger, of going each birthday to Baskin-Robbins for a free scoop of ice cream. Rainbow sherbet for me please! Although now it’s in stiff competition with gold medal ribbon. We would get a postcard in the mail rewarding us as members of the BR birthday club.

I have signed my son up for the online equivalent, but it is not quite a childhood tradition in his mind yet.

He is also part of a Toys R Us membership club that has Geoffrey the Giraffe sending him a bday gift certificate for some nominal amount each year. Since it is only $2 or so, he is unaware of this corporation’s good wishes. I do not want to let him loose in the store and have to make up the difference. I did so once, and he ended up with roller skates. Yes, I can be a sucker.

Nevertheless, part of enjoying the day you are born is taking advantage of marketing ploys to congratulate you on your good fortune in being born.

Here are some of the offerings I found in an online search (though membership in the loyalty club is often the price you must pay since nothing is truly free):

  • Ice cream. Along with 31 flavors, you can also enjoy a scoop at Ben and Jerry’s or Coldstone Creamery.
  • Chai. Or for those who like coffee, you can get a caffeine kick that way too at Starbucks with a free drink on your birthday.
  • Hardware. Yep, loyalty club members get a $5 birthday certificate.
  • Shoes. DSW sends its club members a $5 gift certificate.
  • Appetizers. Restaurants such as Chili’s or Lone Star Steakhouse send you a certificate for a free appetizer.
  • Breakfast. Einstein’s will give club members a free bagel. Denny’s lets birthday celebrants chow down on a free original grand slam of pancakes, eggs, and bacon.

It’s all in the name of marketing, of course. But, it’s your birthday — enjoy! Although I will also remind you, as much as I love a “bargoon,” that your birthday is a good day to treat yourself too.

Baby born against 48M-to-one odds!

The media often tells us about babies being born “against all odds.” Yet little Libbie Ballingall, born this month in Britain, takes the proverbial cake (birthday cake of course).

The infant girl was born August 1 at 6 pounds, 3 ounces. Yet what makes her particularly unique?

Birthday Baby

Image source: The Mirror

Libbie was born on the same birth date as her Mom and her Dad. Yes, the parents already celebrated a joint birthday. Now, the family will have to spread the joy over all three of them on the same date!

Plus, before you put a damper on this amazing coincidence, the little girl was not induced to come nine days late.

Her Mom told the Mirror, “The day before she arrived I was hoping she would wait, we never thought it would happen though. It is just bizarre.”

The mother also said, “Libbie is the best birthday present we could ever have.” So, obviously, she’s a first-time mother!

The nurses at the birthing hospital were pretty thrilled, too. When they found out, they even provided a cake to commemorate the triple birthday. (Surely a nice treat as opposed to the normal hospital pudding offered to a Mom in the maternity ward).

That the mom and dad are already birthday buddies celebrating the same August 1 birthday was pretty impressive. Yet consider too theirs isn’t even a mid-September birthday — the most popular time worldwide to be born.

A British bookie put the odds of a baby being born on its parents’ birthdays at 48,000,000 to 1. As I know absolutely nothing about probability (having changed my major to avoid statistics), I’ll take his word for it. Even though he goes by the odd name “Paddy Power.”

Now here’s a family that should be playing their birthdates at the lottery!

Birthdays are a time for…humiliation?

Birthdays when you’re single may be cause for frustration in North America — especially if one’s parents are particularly determined to see their offspring happily paired off. Nevertheless, we don’t make as big a deal of the single status on birthdays as some other countries around the world.

In Germany, according to Mental Floss, bachelors receive “sockencranz” on their 25th birthday. This means any German guy will be treated to a wreath of socks outside his home if he’s unmarried after a quarter of a century’s worth of opportunities to resolve this imbalance. The old socks are meant to represent old age.


That’s disappointingly obvious for my taste. I’d been hoping it might represent a now-dated (let’s hope) belief he was unable to wash his own socks and was stinking up the neighborhood (unless he lived at home with his mother).

Anyway, a search of sockencranz on Google nets a link to a #sockenkranz on instagram that clearly depicts women celebrating 25 with strings of socks too. Actually, many of the images have women or men and shot glasses…so alcohol seems to be involved as well (in a astoundingly rare showing of a culture incorporating liquor into its celebratory traditions).

Other global traditions that mark multiples of five are seen among:
• Latin Americans who celebrate a girl’s coming of age at 15 with the quincanera, which going by the amount of advice on the web about taking a “quince to the next level” is a trial run for a wedding
• Nigerians who celebrate the milestones of 1, 10 and 15 with massive parties and feasting
• Dutch who mark the “crown years” of 5, 10, 15, 20 and…uhm 21…with bigger presents.

But back to the public humiliation of the unmarried — in Denmark, the Danes who live to be 30 and unmarried wake up to what’s called a pepper person. These are often huge representations of men or women made out of oil drums.

Because nothing says “Happy Birthday, we love you” like a little singleton shaming, right?

Ode to Auteurs Via Cake Photography


Take a close look at that photo above. Who would you guess was being celebrated with this particular cake?

Consider some of the clues: how many candles? What color cake? What kind of sunglasses are those? And what car would I be driving off in using the keys on the left?

If you’re thinking of 16 Candles or those ferrari keys have you in mind of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off…you’re right there along with director John Hughes. His films were among favorites in my youth.

Hughes made an impression too on New Zealand-born Henry Hargreaves and installation artist Nicole Heffron who have made art out of staged settings for birthday cake photography paying homage to film auteurs.

Take a look at this slideshow of some of the selected works and see how many you can guess. I’ll leave some blank space below the pictures, so you can guess first before seeing the answers.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

….What do you think?…


….Did you get them all?


….Really? All 9?…


….Humming Jeopardy theme song…


Ok, then let’s begin with the Moon pies — if the pez dispenser didn’t give George Lucas away, perhaps the other sci-fi accoutrements and Star Wars paraphernalia gave it away.

Next up, the Mickey mold and items around this kitchen are inspired by Walt Disney.

The staircase on this sleekly elegant birthday table setting is for Alfred Hitchcock, particularly Vertigo.

The baked goods from New York’s Little Italy as well as the gambling and cigars are hints of Martin Scorsese’s Casino and Mean Streets.

Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange is suggested by the pills, milk and Beethoven album.

The samurai sword by the blood-spattered cake is a reminder of Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill.

The bear-shaped cake with a can of beer is to put you in mind of Ted director Seth MacFarlane (who probably doesn’t often see his films lumped with Scorcese, Kubrick and Hitchcock!).

John Waters’ identity is given away by his Pink Flamingos cake, a reference to the title of the 1972 movie starring drag queen Divine.

The cherry pie reminds us of Agent Cooper’s enthusiasm for the pastry even in the midst of solving the Laura Palmer case in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks.

The artists, who spent a year on the project taking one auteur to focus on each month, stated, “the series provides visual narratives that are both a celebration of each filmmaker’s unique vision and a glimpse into the minds of their most impassioned fans.”

You can see the entire series on Hargreaves’ site, where he also shares his photos of inmates’ last supper requests and other innovative project ideas.


Puppy presents not a great idea.

Prince George is apparently getting a puppy today as a present for his third birthday. This was reported in The Daily Mail, and is slightly more reliable than last month’s rumors that Kate Middleton is pregnant again with baby no. 3 (gasp!).

Judging by his interest in the pup his Royal family already has at home in this family photo, it seems likely the three-year-old third-in-line for the British throne will have his mind blown by a new wiggly puppy present.

The Daily Mail also reports the mini monarch-to-be is also getting a train set and a monogrammed football (that’s a soccer ball to my North American readers). But it’s the cute photo of the breed of puppy George is said to be getting — a Bolonka Zwetnas — that renders me nearly incapable of continuing to type further.


Image source

Yes, I mustered my strength to surpass that cuteness to be a bit of a spoilsport. Ho hey, you say?! How could one be a Negative Nancy in the face of such incredible fuzzy, fluffy adorableness? Just watch me….or, I guess, read me.

While this is not going to be a problem for the Royals who likely have an entourage to take care of the ball of fluff and fun due at George’s Beatrix Potter party extravaganza, us average folk should think twice about gifting live animals on the big day itself.

I am not pooh-poohing the gift of a pup entirely. Just don’t do it on the special day. It’s already difficult to bring a new, young animal into a household. Incorporating a live puppy into a home on a day when things are already a little topsy turvy can make the new family member’s arrival all the more stressful.

There are even some animal shelters that have a ban on pet adoptions as birthday gifts — although recent research is turning the tide on this one, according to the ASPCA.

The American Kennel Club lists all kinds of things to do in the home to puppy-proof. WebMD’s pet pages recommend the household together prepare in advance for bringing home puppy. These are the kinds of things it’s difficult to do when surprising someone with a puppy as a present.

The pet page, supported by the ASPCA, further states “don’t overwhelm Pup the first day, and don’t fight over him or create mob scenes showing him to the neighborhood.” Because introducing a puppy at a birthday party is unlikely to be overwhelming or create a mob scene…

So, again, let me be clear. I’m not against puppies. I’m not against adopting them. I’m not even against adopting puppies for someone’s birthday (as long as you know they’d like having a dog). I’m simply suggesting it shouldn’t be an impulse purchase, and would likely be better done the day after the birthday celebrations. Perhaps, instead, the puppy recipient could unwrap a box with a sparkly leash and a dog bowl with a voucher inside of it that says “good for one new birthday puppy.”

In the meantime, I’m still looking for responses to my six question survey about birthdays. One of the questions is about great gifts you’ve received. Let me know!

Bad News about Birthday Candles

birthday cake

Photo credit: r.nial.bradshaw via / CC BY

I thought it was pretty cool when I learned that the whole blowing out candles tradition dates back centuries. Many ancient cultures thought the smoke carried their good wishes up to the heavens.

Mental Floss traces the tradition to ancient Greece where people used to take cakes to the temple of Artemis. The lit candles were reminiscent of the moon, a popular symbol associated with the goddess of the hunt.

That site points also to Germans in 1746 putting candles in a cake to signify each year of the person’s age and the possible symbolism of a candle as the “light of the life” of a young child feted during Kinderfest.

These are all interesting ideas, right?

Then along comes Bustle with a report of a new study that pretty much busts the enjoyment of birthday candles forever more. It’s not as if the findings are surprising. Only did science really need to weigh in on this one? This study had to be sponsored by someone who hates birthday cake.

“One of our oldest celebrations is one of the yuckiest, scientists and germaphobes explain,” spoilsport Lifestyle reporter Kaitlyn Wylde writes.

She goes on to describe how gross the tradition actually is, and how it’s even more disgusting when kids are blowing out the candles, then introduces the actual science from Clemson University. I’m not going to repeat it here. It’s gross, and I wouldn’t do that to you.

Instead I will share my disappointment that this study originated at Clemson, my husband’s alma mater, and the school that prompts my son to cheer license plates and bumper stickers as we drive. I am even more devastated a school I am supposed to love by association has spoiled this aspect of birthdays for me.

Sure, there are alternatives to the sucking in a breath and letting out a gusting wish over top of the cake: Have the birthday person blow out a candle or candles on their own cupcake, a pre-cut slice, or personal small cake (a la the one year old’s smash cake). Or have the celebrant use a handheld fan, a folded paper fan, or an old school candle-snuffer. Recently, I also posted alternative birthday cake options — although I intended for those to include candles still.

Me? I’d rather take a cake and smash it in the face of the scientists who researched and thus ruined this age-old tradition. I can make it a purple and orange cake, though, just to make the punishment a little more Tigers-style.