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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Birthdays at home are great!

So, tomorrow's my birthday. (Yea! Happy birthday me!) I was born on my father's birthday. For the whole of my life, until my father's passing, birthdays were always a shared event. We alternated who got to pick the cake flavor, which is really kind of funny, because we both always chose chocolate. Our birthday celebrations always included dinner out in a restaurant. This was just a "given" in our family.

Fast forward many years. For our kids birthdays, we usually enjoy a restaurant meal. This year, for our son, we went to a local Chinese restaurant for dinner -- a remarkable deal, as the 5 of us can share 3 entrees and still feel full. For our daughters, we used a gift card to Olive Garden (a birthday gift to me from last year), and went in late afternoon and ordered appetizers to share before going home for ice cream, cake and tea. This outing was free to us, as the gift card even covered the tip. I like taking the kids out on their birthdays. It gives them the opportunity to learn about dining out etiquette, how to figure the tip, and they get to enjoy being waited on for that one evening, with no kitchen cleanup duties afterwards.

But for my husband and myself, dinner out hasn't been something that we do on a regular basis. In the past, I admit, I have moped a bit about not eating out on my birthday. But when I sat down to really think about it, I realized that I actually prefer dining at home on my birthday, even when I bake my own cake and cook my own birthday dinner.

I'll tell you why I now think birthdays at home are so great.
  • I get exactly what I want for dinner, and prepared the way I want it. I spend weeks thinking long and hard about the perfect birthday dinner menu. I've been craving beef for several months. So, this year's menu is mushroom and cheese burgers, onion rings, oven fries, creamy rhubarb gelatin salad and Boston cream pie. My husband's birthday is next week. He loooooves fish. Me, not so much. But for his birthday, he gets fish. We'll be using some of the smoked salmon from the freezer for a fish-filled dinner that night. I go to a lot of effort to make home birthday dinners as delicious as can be. I won't be making ice cream, but I will make a Boston cream pie. The cake layers are already in the freezer. Everything will be made with soy milk, so that I can enjoy it without side effects. It's not possible to specify that everything be cooked and baked with soy milk in most restaurants.
  • It's relaxed at home. No wait staff singing birthday wishes and embarrassing me. No stresses over how much everything will cost and then the tip. It's my day and if I want to just wear sweats and hair in a ponytail, then that's totally fine. The rest of the family has been in class or at work all day and they want a relaxed evening, as well.
  • We can work everyone's schedules into a meal at home. When birthdays fall on weekdays, this matters. My daughters and husband will be coming from downtown Seattle and my son will be coming from the east side of Lake Washington. Getting home in the evening can be unpredictable. Even if someone isn't home yet, we can start dinner, and include them when they do get here.
  • I can take the money that would have been spent on dinner in a restaurant and do something long-lasting instead. Dinner out is a fleeting enjoyment. I think I'd rather have a few pretty things for the same cost as if we'd eaten out.
While eating out can be a fun indulgence, for the time being I'll just keep reminding myself of the many reasons birthdays at home can be great, too.

How do you like to celebrate your own birthdays? Is eating out the norm in your family? Or do you have a special meal at home? What would the perfect birthday dinner menu look like for your birthday?


  1. Honestly, it never occurred to me to take my kids to a restaurant for their birthday. Maybe as they get older--I just found, with little ones, that it's so much easier to be home. We typically will invite whatever family members are around (my brother and his family are the only ones within 40 miles of us--well, until my niece moved here a year ago--so it would be them and sometimes grandparents would visit from out of town) and as the kids became school-age, we would invite a friend of theirs as well. I try to cook a favorite meal for them and make a really fun cake (I've done Raggedy Ann, a pirate hat, a caterpillar, Hello Kitty ... )--my son has pretty much outgrown the "cute" cake thing so I've done ice cream cakes the past 2 years. For my hubby's birthday, I always make pie. He doesn't care about a gift but he loves pie. My birthday often falls by the wayside. Our anniversary is the 21st of April, my birthday is May 5 and then Mother's Day follows that. Busy. Sometimes I make a cake for myself, more because the kids think it's fun--I don't *love* cake. It's funny that you mention that you prefer to eat at home--I prefer to do that on the big "eating out" holidays like Valentine's Day and Mother's Day. Usually restaurants are so crowded that it just doesn't feel fun or special to have a restaurant meal. I DO like to have a nice meal in a nicer restaurant for our anniversary and that's the one time during the year when I will splurge and order a glass of wine with my meal. :)

    I think however you choose to celebrate, you should try to make the other person feel special. There are a lot of ways to do that, thankfully!

    1. Hi Kris,
      here's my thinking on eating in restaurants on "big" holidays like Valentine's and Mother's Day. The restaurants are packed on those days. The wait staff and kitchen crew are overworked. As a result, the experience is not as good as it should be.

      You know me, I'm always thinking about value for money spent. The value for dollar spent just isn't great in restaurants on those two holidays.

      My husband's and my birthday are so close together that cake twice in one month is too much. I think I'll do a pie this year for him. But it will have to be something he thinks is more special than my usual fruit pies. He'd love pecan pie, but no pecans here this year. Maybe lemon meringue.

    2. My mom made lemon meringue, but I've never tried to make it--and I love it! Sounds like a tasty treat for him. I hope both of you enjoy your special days. :)

  2. Happy early birthday greetings Lili. Your birthday dinner sounds delicious. Birthdays at my house used to be the only time we would splurge on food items outside of homemade -- always pizza! I think birthday dinners at home are best -- beyond the cost savings, its just nicer to relax, just enjoying the company you've chosen to spend time with, etc. I hope you get to just take it easy on your birthday day, and do just want you want to do!

    1. Hi Jayne,
      Thank you. No real plans for the day, except to take advantage of the various birthday freebies that I've signed up for, and getting dinner going. I've saved a magazine just for my birthday. I tried to not even look at the cover, so it would all be new to me. If the weather is nice, I'll do some more work in the garden. I spent all of Monday out there. But there's still a lot of work to be done.

  3. Restaurant meals are overrated. We have 2 vegetarians in the family (me included) and paying over the odds for such cheap ingredients is not pleasurable. My daughters birthdays are family events which I cook at home. For my own birthday I like a homemade card and a nice slice of cake served with tea at home (with my 'sweats' on too!)

    1. Hi Marion,
      I'm glad to hear you think that about restaurant meals! This is especially true with moderately priced restaurants, I think. $12 for a plate of pasta? $10 for a deluxe burger and fries? While it's nice to have someone wait on you from time to time, the food itself often isn't as good as I can make at home.

      And I did wear sweats last night! I had jeans on all day, but by evening my legs were so cold, I had to put on sweats.

  4. Have a very Happy Birthday!n Enjoy that magazine - I've done that before - saved a book or magazine for a special day, and not allowed myself one peek beforehand : )
    Jo Ann

    1. Hi Jo Ann,
      Thank you!
      There was something even better about saving that magazine just for my birthday. Usually I might skim a magazine when I get it, as I'm getting dinner ready, or between household chores. But by setting it aside for my birthday, I sat and really enjoyed it!

  5. I enjoy dining at home, but not if I have to cook my own birthday meal. (You know, that cooking is not my favorite thing.) My husband prefers a restaurant. The boys would be happy eating in or eating out.

    When I was growing up, we got to chose the menu on our birthday and it could be whatever we wanted. I always chose creamed chicken and biscuits.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      I think you've mentioned that before, not caring for cooking all that much. I wonder if that will change now that you and Ward are empty nesters. I bet your mom was a great cook. Creamed chicken and biscuits sounds yummy!

      The cooking wasn't bad at all, last night. It's always the cleaning up afterward that I dislike. Thankfully, everyone pitched in on the clean-up.

  6. Happy birthday Lili! I hope that you have the best day ever!! My birthday is tomorrow on the 17th. I hope all of your prayers come to pass and pray that God blesses you and your family always! Your friend, Lona!!

    1. Hi Lona,
      Happy, happy birthday to you! I pray for many blessings for you today, on your special day! Have a wonderful birthday.

  7. Happy Birthday!! My birthday's on Sunday and I will be eating out...meeting my parents half way between our home and theirs for a walk and a pub lunch. My Dad has found a pub with a great gluten free menu and the table's already booked! But that's not always the norm for birthdays. It's just that this year mine falls on Easter Sunday so double the reason for a meal out!

    1. Hi Sarah,
      Have a happy birthday, this Sunday! Hospitals must be very busy in April.
      I think having lunch in a pub with your parents sounds like a wonderful way to celebrate (both your birthday and Easter).
      Praying for birthday blessings for you!

  8. Happy Birthday LIli!!! Hope it's a really special day!!

    1. Hi Valarie,
      Thank you! It was a delightfully quiet day here, which felt very special indeed! Thank you for the birthday wishes.


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