Category: Birthdays

I recently had the joy of creating a gift for my niece, Shyna — a set of wooden blocks for her to play with. I’ll confess it wasn’t my first time, having made a set for my nephew, Connor, when he was about the same age.


I have no idea what got into my darling bride, but she pulled out all the stops on this, the sixth day of our honeymoon and my actual 40th birthday. As I explained yesterday we spent the entire day at Cameron House on Loch Lomond, an absurdly luxurious mini-palace, the cost of which she’s never shared and I don’t ever want to know. We had buffet breakfast in the morning, which was basically Full Irish but, since we were in Scotland, was simply called “breakfast”. Then we went and met Cooper. Who’s Cooper?

This is Cooper.

This is Cooper.

We were taken around for an hour or so by Graeme, a passionate birder who keeps a half-dozen or so birds of prey. Cooper was our boy, though, and he was gorgeous. We (Lisa and I) would take turns wearing the glove, and as we wandered through the woods Graeme would occasionally tell us to put our hand up; he’d put a bit of chicken on it, and in a few moments – whoosh!!! Cooper alights to take his treat. It was wonderful. Apparently on some tours like this the bird is basically sent to and fro from human to tree, back and forth. No no no, not with us. Graeme would engineer it so that Cooper would have to dive and swoop through underbrush and branches to reach us, which he did seemingly effortlessly. Fabulous. I’d do it again in a heartbeat, but apparently it’s a tough experience to come by in the United States, regulations being what the are here. At the end of the tour I distinctly remember Graeme setting up extended photo ops by giving Cooper a whole baby chick, which he tried to hide from us (I guess some of his tourists are squeamish?) by stuffing “the treat” deep into our gloved hand and immediately siccing Cooper on it. Whatever, it was an amazing time.


My darling love just figured out that the Garden of Cosmic Speculation will be open for its annual one-day-a-year-open-to-the-public-for-charity while we’ll be in Ireland for our honeymoon. Our honeymoon is now a split Ireland / Scotland trip.

Double bonus – it’s about an hour away from a portion of Hadrian’s Wall, which I’ve also wanted to see for decades.

Man, getting married is totally going to be worth it. (heh.)

Lisa’s addition: John’s birthday dinner wil be at Three Chimmneys, followed by a night at the House Over-By in the Isle of Skye. This place is listed as one of 500 Places for food & wine lovers, and definitely counts as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

An already special event (our honeymoon) is now fabulous!


This last weekend I flew down to San Francisco to surprise my mom for her birthday. It was a huge success.

She came in to the door and my nephew met her with flowers. Then he peremptorily said ‘close your eyes, it’s a secret!’ She, being a good grandma, did, and he led her into the living room, where I waited. (She did bounce off the walls a bit, he wasn’t very good at leading her, I must say.) When she opened her eyes — the look on her face was priceless.

Big hugs, lots of happiness.


(I have to note the date of our trips, as John makes several trips a year.)

For my mother’s birthday, John and I gave her a trip to Ashland, OR in late April. We all flew into Medford airport, where I rented a car for convenience. The weather was lovely, and none of us had any problems.

We stayed at The Cowslips Belle Bed n Breakfast, which was a wonderful place. Specifically, we were in the Love in Idleness room and the Cuckoo-Bud rooms, which are just across the (small) backyard, in the carriage house. The rooms were very comfortable, although a little crowded by the ‘extra’ twin bed (perfect for families, I’m sure). The breakfasts were fabulous, and the conversation even better.  This is our ‘go to’ place for years to come, I’m sure.

On Thursday night, we had dinner at The Peerless Inn. The Peerless has a unique collection of ‘small plates’ that provide a variety of options for tasting, and we took advantage of it. A butternut squash gnocchi was a sublime burst of Autumn in the mouth. The mussels were good. The wild mushroom risotto was exquisite. The melange of vegetables (brussels sprouts, asparagus, bok choy and green beans) were tasty and perfectly cooked. The chicken tagine remains a favorite. We were all pleased and satiated by the variety and the quality.

Friday, John went to see August, Osage County while the ladies went for mani pedis. A good time was had by all.  For dinner we went to an old favorite, Pasta Piatti. Solid Italian for a price that won’t break the bank. We eat here at least once each trip.

Our play that evening was Measure for Measure. John’s review sums it up well for me, although I would say that I found the singing very irritating and jarring. Kenajuan Bentley‘s performance was superb, his timing excellent and his ‘jive’ pentameter just great. This is a tough play to begin with, another one that can be difficult for modern audiences to appreciate, and I think the cast did a good job with it But it compares poorly with their last production (in 1998).

Saturday saw my mom and I returning to the spa for further pampering. Afterwards, we wandered around the town a bit. Books were bought, and various items.  Our dinner that evening was at Amuse.

We began with an amuse bouche of asparagus soup — springtime in a sip. I had the grilled shrimp, and John had the soup. For our mains, my mom had an excellent skirt steak, John had the scallops and I had a delicious halibut. Dessert was the beignets, always superb.

Our play that evening was Julius Caesar, which now ranks as on of the top 10 plays I have seen in 16 years at OSF.  From the opening, you are drawn in and carried along in this timeless tale of power, betrayal, and politics.

We left on Sunday, feted and feeling wonderful. A truly special vacation.