This Year, I’m Going to Make Fifty Nifty

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

happy birthday

The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.

– Oprah Winfrey

This month, I’ll be turning 50. The big five-oh. The ultimate F word. Vintage 1966, limited edition, genuine original parts. Five perfect 10s.

Heck, I’m still amazed to be around after that aneurysm rupture. I’m just now starting to feel strong again and more like me. So instead of mourning the passing of my youth, I’m going to celebrate. All year long. I’ve even got a list of 50 things I want to do now that I’m fifty. It’s not a “bucket list,” per se, more of a “ways to celebrate” and/or “things I want to do” before I turn 51.

  1. Get back up to 10k steps a day.
  2. Visit Edisto. (How have I never been?!)
  3. Go to the Chihuly Exhibit in Atlanta.
  4. Go to a college football game. It’s been years since I tailgated.
  5. Get a pair of invisible glasses so the world can see my eyes again.
  6. Go horseback riding.
  7. Hold a snake.
  8. Finally paint my bedroom a soft Tiffany blue.
  9. Camp out.
  10. Give up social media and electronics one weekend a month.
  11. Kiss a stranger.
  12. Get back to doing “hanging abs” at the gym.
  13. Get a digital eye exam so for once, I won’t second guess “which is better, one or (click click click) two.
  14. Visit an old friend.
  15. Scatter Jessie the Cat’s ashes on Pickett Street.
  16. Volunteer for a non-environmental cause that I love.
  17. Learn to shag well enough that I can do it sober.
  18. Plant something and watch it grow.
  19. Take some type of an art class.
  20. Take those electronic guitar lessons that Beth gave me for Christmas.
  21. Compile a new “hearts” print.
  22. Get down to my (revised) goal weight.
  23. Skinny dip.
  24. Learn to knit and/or crochet so I can be a yarn bomber!
  25. Pick one of my many pinned projects on Pinterest and make it a reality.
  26. Take a huge leap of faith. Subject undefined, but do something without a safety net.
  27. Be a tourist in my own town one weekend. Go to the places people come to Columbia to do and see, like the Zoo. Also go to at least one place that I’ve never been before.
  28. Read The Stand by Stephen King. All the way through this time.
  29. Replace the “orester” on the back of my car with a new chrome name plate, or at least an F.
  30. Make a special 50 mug at Mad Platter.
  31. When I splurge, let it be on something wicked good, not a box of every day cookies or vanilla anything.
  32. Get to know our neighbors.
  33. Create a fairy garden.
  34. Donate blood.
  35. Kayak on a local river.
  36. Earn the Toastmasters “Table Topic” of the day award.
  37. Go tubing on a local river.
  38. Take a hike.
  39. Visit Pretty Place in the Upstate.
  40. Dance at the Greek Festival. (Last year, I was too dizzy!)
  41. Celebrate the New Year.
  42. Up my shoe game.
  43. Sing at church (instead of mumbling and mouthing.)
  44. Learn a magic trick.
  45. Have coffee with someone new once a month.
  46. Have coffee by myself once a month.
  47. Clean and organize the cargo area of my car.
  48. Go bird watching.
  49. Have lunch at The Dixie in Greenwood, SC, the town where I grew up.
  50. Take more bubble baths.

The Fillers

By: Lara Clark

Wednesday was my birthday. Cue the balloon. It was not a significant age, nor of much significance to report. I mean, all birthdays should really fall on the weekend because hump Growing olderday does not exactly scream par-tay. But with the passing of another 365 days, I did spent the day thinking about what my 29th year held and what my NEW 29th** year would have in store. The truth is, the older I get, the less convinced I am that I am ever going to have it all figured out. I still don’t understand much about insurance premiums, IRA’s (Roth or not), or coupon clipping…those things that I thought grown-ups understood.

With a little age under my belt (and under my eyes) I do understand a little more about unconditional love, heartbreaking loss, pure joy and fleeting time. This birthday, I wondered if maybe those grown-up things are what I should worry about and continue to muddle through the other stuff.

I recently watched the movie Boyhood and – this is not a spoiler, so I will tell you – the mother in the film says something to the effect of, “Life is just a series of milestones.” I don’t know why, but this quote just made me sad. Milestones are really pretty few and far between. I mean, obviously they are important… they are “milestones.” But what about the fillers, the in-between, the birthdays that fall on Wednesdays? I think I might need to hold a little tighter to those. I should free up the space in my mind that currently holds all those insecurities about whether I am where this grown-up should be in life. I am exactly where I need to be today or at least until I learn more and change a little here and there. I am “in between” milestones. Nice texts from my husband or tickle wars with kids on my couch are okay fillers too. Cue the balloons for those.

** I know Chaunte is right and I should tell my age proudly, but for now I will just admit proudly that I am aging.

Tell Your Age – Proudly

By: Chaunte McClure

Last week I celebrated my 38th birthday. Oops, did I just tell my age? Who does that? There are many women who won’t. Well, I’m not one of those women. I don’t quite understand why women (and I know some men do it, too) keep their age a secret. Does your age help crack the code to a master lock or a mind-boggling riddle? Could that number be the one to help the inquirer win the lottery? Or are you just ashamed of your age? Don’t be. Be proud of your age, whether you’re 18, 21, 50, somewhere in between or beyond. It’s great to age, you know. If you’re not getting older, you’re dead. Sorry to be so blunt, but it’s true. We should be grateful that we are living and have lived to see each birthday that has passed.  I’ve heard people say when their birthday comes around that it’s just another day. No, it’s not just another day. It’s your birthday, the date commemorating the day that God, who created you, allowed you to be a part of this world. That’s worth celebrating.

Happy BirthdayI usually don’t make a big deal out of my birthday, but this year was different. I wanted to do something for myself for a change. I wanted a change of scenery and to do something different. I decided to drive to Atlanta, even if I had to go alone. Fortunately, I didn’t travel solo. I was in good company with a friend I met in high school, whom I reconnected with last year. We had a ball! We shopped, ate, shopped and ate some more. I treated myself to a little pampering at one of the most popular salons in Atlanta, too. Besides, it was my birthday.

Well my birthday has come and gone, but I’m looking forward to turning 39, 40, and every age that follows. And every time I’m asked my age, I’ll proudly say it. Regardless of where you are in life right or how you feel about yourself, be proud of your age and be thankful that you’re still alive.

I’m Chaunte McClure, inspiring you to rejoice, be glad and tell your age.

Chocolate Cake

By: Brady Evans

CakeMy birthday came and went in early March without much fanfare. Part of the problem might have been that I have a student who has been consistently wishing me “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!” daily since August. It was hard to believe when the day had come that it was truly my birthday after all those wonderful salutations all year long.

Another problem, I guess, is that as you get older, birthdays matter less. Unless you are my mom (who blogs at leemalerich.wordpress.com if you want to check her out!), apparently, and then you throw yourself a wonderful party. That’s where this cake came into play – not on my birthday but on her birthday, which is two weeks after mine.

Maybe I went all out on the cakes (yes, there were two; I’ll share the other later) because I had truly not gone all out on my birthday. Or maybe it was because the skies had opened up and it had been raining for two days. What’s better than baking up a storm during an actual storm?

CakeI must confess that I chose this cake because the interior is deep dark chocolate and while my mom and I both prefer vanilla, our husbands do not. Also, I was in the mood to challenge myself by making homemade salted caramel.

The cake was described by the party guests as “shove your face into and eat away” delicious. Ina Garten makes a mean chocolate cake and the salted caramel frosting truly was the perfect contrast. The compliments I received for the baking of this cake at the party were embarrassingly plentiful, so use that as an indication of how quickly you should make this cake! Below are the recipes for the cake, the salted caramel and the salted caramel frosting.

Chocolate Cake (adapted from Ina Garten)

Ingredients

  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1.5 cups whole buttermilk, shaken, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons brewed coffee
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup good cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease your cake pans. (I like to use the wrapper from my sticks of butter).
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and 2 sugars on high speed until light and fluffy (approximately 5 minutes).
  3. Reduce the speed to medium, add the eggs 1 at a time and incorporate fully.
  4. Add the vanilla and mix well.
  5. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and coffee.
  6. In a third bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt.
  7. On low speed, add the buttermilk mixture and the flour mixture alternately in thirds to the mixer bowl, beginning with the buttermilk mixture and ending with the flour mixture. Mix only until blended.
  8. Finish by folding the batter with a rubber spatula to be sure it’s completely blended.
  9. Divide the batter between two 8″ round cake pan.
  10. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let cool for 10-15 minutes and then remove to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Salted Caramel (from Kimberly Taylor Images)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Combine the sugar, water and the corn syrup in a large saucepan and stir with a wooden spoon over medium heat until sugar is dissolved.
  2. Cover the saucepan and let it cook over medium heat for 3 minutes.
  3. After 3 minutes, remove the lid, increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil.
  4. Do not stir from this point on, but instead swirl the liquid around the pan so that the caramel doesn’t burn.
  5. Continue to cook until the caramel turns an even light amber color (it will darken upon standing) then remove from the heat and let stand for about 30 seconds. This step will take about 5 minutes.
  6. Carefully, pour the heavy cream into the mixture. The mixture will bubble up, so watch out.
  7. Stir the mixture, again being careful. Add the butter, lemon juice, and salt. Stir until combined.
  8. Measure 1 cup into a glass measuring cup. Stirring occasionally, allow to cool until thick like molasses and warm to the touch, about 20 minutes.
  9. Save any extra in a sealed container in the refrigerator.

Salted Caramel Frosting (from Kimberly Taylor Images)

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks (1/2 pound) butter at room temperature
  • 8 ounces of cream cheese
  • 3-4 cups sifted powdered sugar
  • 1 cup salted caramel (recipe above)

Instructions

  1. Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed until creamy.
  2. Add 2 cups of the powdered sugar into the butter/cream cheese mixture and beat to combine.
  3. Add 1 cup of the salted caramel and beat to combine.
  4. Add additional powdered sugar until the frosting is the sweetness and consistency you desire.

Celebrate You

By: Roshanda Pratt

I am writing this post on my 30-something birthday (May 31st)! The clock reads: 2:04 a.m. I should be sleeping, but I am wide awake with excitement. Today, as people celebrate me I want to pose a question to you. When was the last time you celebrated yourself? I mean really celebrated without it being a birthday? Although excited about the Facebook birthday posts, cards, calls and gifts. However, I am most excited about the birthday celebration I am throwing myself.

I believe you should honor others, rejoice with them, and cheer them on. But I also think many of us have developed this attitude to celebrate ourselves means we are being arrogant and self consuming. I disagree. I have spent the better part of the early years of my life depressed; not liking myself. I had birthday parties, even surprise parties where people gathered together to honor me, but on the inside I did not even like me. Trust me, its hard to enjoy a party when you have self-esteem issues. It gives new meaning to that song… “It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to.”

My life changed in college. In college then I vowed after a friend told me, I was good at celebrating others, but horrible at giving myself the same permission. I decided whether no one else did or did not, I would love me enough to applaud me. So back to my original question: “When was the last time you celebrated you?”  You don’t have to wait until your birthday, you can do it when you meet a goal or just because.

So as my friend told me many years ago, I give you permission to buy a hamburger and put a candle in it … it’s your special day because YOU are worth celebrating.

Happy YOU Day!

R0 🙂