Archive for the ‘Birthday’ Category

Service of Attacking the Blues by Chatting with Strangers

Thursday, July 4th, 2024

The day I shot this was the delivery man’s birthday.

I’ve made a conscious effort of saying nice things to select strangers on the street and other places to counteract the blues fomented by current political turmoil and strife. I’ve always remarked on adorable dogs—all of them are, even the ugly ones. Sometimes dog owners thank or smile and other times they walk on without comment. Maybe they didn’t hear me or were in a rush or they don’t speak English or are a dog walker and not invested in the pooch at the end of the leash.

I’ve discovered that speaking up cheers me. I try to make the gloomiest looking cashiers smile—if not laugh. It often works.

Warning in NYC: You must be prepared for no response or reaction.

Yesterday I said, “beautiful day,” to a young man who was unloading a bunch of packages from his truck to fill a giant container on wheels slated for delivery to apartment buildings. He replied with a brilliant smile saying, “It is! And it’s my birthday!” so I was able to wish him a happy one and we both parted delighted.

I took a photo of the two men at the bottom of the steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

People holding the SLOW or STOP signs at construction sites often appreciate a smile or a “hi.” There’s a ton of building going on in these parts.

The city is crawling with tourists, many non-English speaking. Should you want to make most of them happy, if you see one of them taking a photo of the other in front of the clock at Grand Central or at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, for example, they’ll jump at the chance to have you snap a shot of both of them. The only time I was curtly refused was by an American. I didn’t think I looked intimidating.

I used to let it pass but I’ve become bolder when I see someone approach and I wait–and hold open the door and they neither nod nor thank. I speak up if they are teenagers or older. And if they don’t look scary, I say, “you’re welcome.” Then, under my breath, I wish them a crummy day.

Do you speak with strangers? Does a happy reaction cheer you up?

One of the many construction sites within easy walking distance of my apartment.

Service of How Much to Spend on Gifts for Children

Thursday, July 20th, 2023


Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay 

A reader asked Philip Galanes, who responds to reader questions on “Social Q’s” in The New York Times, if it was OK to ask guests invited to the joint birthday party for her four- and seven-year-old offspring, to donate to their 529 college savings plans instead of bringing gifts.

His reply to this question*** wasn’t nearly as interesting as his comment about part of the mother’s query. She’d written: “My children don’t need any more toys, and it pains me to see a $50 toy ignored when that same $50 could help pay their tuition someday.”

Galanes wrote: “I may be out of step here: I would not be giving children $50 gifts, either. (Put me down for a book or a fun craft project at $20 a pop.)”

I’m with Galanes. Imagine having to drop $100 for your kids to attend a birthday party for these two?

I would further surmise that if the mother’s circle routinely gives $50 toys to her children’s young friends, she should be able to cover the kids’ tuitions when the time comes by putting aside enough money yearly from her income and by substituting expenditures on overpriced toys with creativity.

***For those who don’t want to link to the column, here’s Galanes’s advice regarding the reader’s question: “But I don’t think a backyard birthday party for small children is the right venue for soliciting contributions to college savings plans.”

If you’re not a close relative, how much do—or would–you spend on children’s birthday gifts? Have you been asked to donate to a child’s college fund?

Service of Well-Meaning Gestures That Miss the Mark

Monday, February 6th, 2023


Image by Shaun from Pixabay 

You may remember similar stories. This one was about a spectacular surprise 50th birthday party that went south because the birthday girl didn’t want anyone to know how old she was. Her husband, who planned a creative and lavish event for everyone she knew, didn’t understand that about her. When she arrived at the venue, her expression was of horror, not surprise.

It happens.

Misunderstanding may also have happened at a Nyack, N.Y. middle school on the first day of Black History Month. A student received a lot of local publicity for criticizing the cafeteria for serving what she considered to be a racially insensitive meal: chicken, waffles and watermelon. She was on TV news, all over the papers, and the media also jumped to the conclusion that the meal was indeed a terrible slight.

The food service company apologized.

Because of my marketing background, I wondered whether the meal planner at the food service company had been trying to do something in recognition of the day, to respect it–in no way intending to make fun of it or demean it.

I mentioned the incident to Deborah Wright, a retired Chicago public lower and middle school teacher with 40 years under her belt. When I said: “call out the food police” she replied: “Food police for sure! I am pretty sure if it is a typical school, there will be other choices in the cafeteria. I agree that it was offered as appreciation for Black History Month. It would be comparable to Casimir Pulaski Day in Chicago highlighting pierogis and sauerkraut. Only in Chicago was that day celebrated!”

A friend who for many years was a food service director/chef at a major hospital said: “holidays always required themed days. So typical meals of the celebratory day were served and my food establishments were decorated in that holiday du jour!  People lightened up celebrating cultures.

“Maybe I don’t understand why this meal is offensive, sounds like a meal kids will eat…isn’t that the point of a school food service?

“Christmas/Hanukkah we’d serve ham, sweet potatoes next to the roast chicken and latkes, fresh vegetables, decorations, and a smile. One year, a black customer told me I wasn’t representing Kwanzaa. So, I asked her for help. She was thrilled. We served goat stew and fried fish, collard greens, black eyed peas and rice. I bought decorations and asked her to help. She told everyone and we were so busy pulling it off. It was a great success!”

It’s a shame that the CBS 2 News at 11 PM producer didn’t read up on the distinguished pedigree of the chicken and waffle dish. Like many popular recipes, kitchens and towns claim to have invented the combination in the South, in Pennsylvania and New York City. Harlem World Magazine found the best execution in its backyard: “Well’s Restaurant In Harlem, The Best Chicken And Waffles In The World 1938-1982,” was the title of an article.

According to the magazine: “Tori Avey reports that Wells became a late night hotspot for jazz musicians, who would stop by late at night after their various gigs. The musicians, arriving too late for dinner but too early for breakfast, enjoyed the appetizing compromise of fried chicken and waffles. Before long, Wells was frequented by the likes of Nat King Cole (who held his wedding reception there).” Avey is a food blogger. Sammy Davis Jr, Kim Novak and Frank Sinatra were only some of the celebrities who also frequented the restaurant.

The husband in the first example should have first checked with his wife’s best friend to float the concept of a surprise 50th. That might have averted a disaster. I wonder if the chicken-waffle-watermelon meal would have received kudos if there was a simultaneous recognition of Black History Month at the cafeteria through decoration the way the hospital food director amplified celebratory holiday food? Are we at the point at which we can’t safely recognize anyone’s heritage at a public school cafeteria? Or, at the opposite extreme, must we not miss a single holiday, starting with St. Swithin’s Day?


Image by WOKANDAPIX from Pixabay 

Service of Flowers and Candles to Console, Cheer and Celebrate

Thursday, September 15th, 2022

Birthday bouquet

There have been too many occasions for flowers lately between Queen Elizabeth’s death and commemorating those who perished on 9/11. News reports mentioned that candles, marmalade sandwiches and Paddington bears joined the blossoms honoring the Queen. We also see flowers, candles and stuffed animals outside schools after deadly shootings.

Second Aveinue memorial

At 57th Street and Second Avenue in Manhattan there’s a memorial for someone who died July 2021. It was his birthday according to one of the notes, hence the new bouquets I photographed this week [image right].

Friends sent flowers when dear ones died and I loved them.

I send donations in someone’s memory either to their favorite charity or to one that reflects their interest–as in wildlife or books–or supports research into the disease they suffered from. It would be discourteous for the firm to post notices on fences to ask mourners to please send the money you’d spend on flowers to your favorite charity or some of the Queens’.

I love fresh flowers in the living room when I have company. I associate them with happy times like weddings and anniversaries. I received a magnificent bouquet from my nephew on my recent birthday [photo above] and I remember a giant bouquet of wild flowers my then future husband cut and gave me on arriving for a date early on. One year a huge box of lilacs in three colors came from my stepdaughter’s garden. These blossoms and many others may be long gone but are hard to forget.

People are desperate to do something to honor a deceased person and to cheer survivors. Flowers are gorgeous. It makes sense. In addition to flowers, candles, and stuffed animals are there other symbols that celebrate both sad and happy occasions? Although fabulous flowers are memorable, do you prefer to donate money to charity in a person’s memory?

Firehouse East 40th Street 9/11, 2022
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