Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Carrie Surprise For My Birthday

I turned 30 this March. John talked me into having a celebration and I decided to celebrate by going to dinner and then Star Karaoke for an evening of singing. I have some friends that would probably do Karaoke anywhere, but I knew that in order to get the masses to sing, I would have to do something different. Star Karaoke has rooms that can be rented for an evening of private fun. The rooms are supposed to hold up to 15 people, but we were able to fit close to 20.

I was looking forward to my celebration weekend because John and Tara were going to come from SC to visit. They arrived on Friday night and the weekend was set. On Saturday morning, we made a vegan breakfast/brunch. When everything was cleaned up and we were all ready for the day, we gathered in our family room to chat.

As we were talking, the doorbell rang. This was strange as we rarely get unexpected visitors. I immediately said "who could that be?" John quickly replied that it was probably a lawn care service trying to get us treat our lawn. It seemed like a likely explanation because we have received numerous flyers from different lawn care service companies. John rushed to the door and I followed. As I approached the door, my Dad was looking in the window. This was odd, my parents never come over without calling first. I guess they wanted to come over and see John and Tara. I was wrong.....

When I got to the door, my Dad was grinning wide. As we opened the door, I started to say ask my Dad what the occasion was and then my Mom and Carried popped around the corner. I could barely speak, I was so surprised. I am not even sure how I reacted because it was all a blur, but I was happy to see my old friend, Carrie.

Leading up to this event, I knew a surprise was coming. I had overheard my Mom and John whispering about something and I heard Carrie's name. I asked John if Carrie was visiting and he said I was off base with my guess. He asked me take a Monday off from work and he led me to believe that he was taking me somewhere on Monday. It turns out that Carrie was set to stay until Monday afternoon. John is sneakier than I thought.

Carrie is one of my oldest friends. We met in second grade and by third grade, we were almost inseparable. We spent many recesses, sleep overs, dinners, and lunches together over the years. We remained close all through school. The only major fight we ever had was when were were 13. I do not remember what it was about, but we stopped talking for a couple of weeks. We made up and never fought like that again. Our friendship continued into high school where we went to school dances, homecoming, prom, the mall, Eat n' Park, Zoo Boo, etc. Most of my memories from my teenage years include Carrie. We were there for each other through all of our crushes and heartbreaks. I was even there when she had her first kiss!

It had been a while since I had seen Carrie and we were overdue for a visit. It was nice to have her see our home and meet our friends. We spent the remainder of Saturday catching up and then we headed out for my birthday fun! We had delicious Thai food at Swasasdee and then topped the evening off with Karaoke in our private room. Many of us sang the night away to our favorite songs. I was so impressed with Carrie. She had not met any of these people before and she sang her heart out! She did an awesome job! Everyone who took the mic, rocked and I am proud of those who tried! The ones who did not sing, seemed to have fun listening to all of us. :)

The next day we decided to show Carrie a bit of Durham. We went to Sarah Duke Gardens, Duke Chapel, a local taco joint, and had dinner with my parents. We spent most of the day outside in the warm sun. I was so thankful for the nice weather because Carrie lives in Ohio and she deserved to experience spring-like weather. Carrie left Monday afternoon. We woke up, I made vegan blueberry pancakes and we chatted the morning away.

This was one of the most memorable birthdays yet! A weekend visit with friends, a surprise visit from Carrie, Thai food, and Karaoke. I am not sure I could have asked for a better weekend! Catching up with Carrie was just what I needed. It had been too long since we had spent time in-person together. I cannot wait to see her again.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Baby Pressure Mounting

I created this blog to write about my Etsy products, art I create, and vegan food (purchased and homemade). I never intended to use this blog to rant about things I encounter in life. I am going to break away from my original purpose every now and again. This is one of those times.....

As I head into my 30's, the only change that I have noticed is pressure from society to have a baby. Apparently, society has decided that I have reached my childbearing peak. Thanks for letting me know, society! More and more people ask me "when are you and John having kids" and "why haven't you had kids yet?" We have been married for five years and one would think that some expiration date is looming. I also hear "now that you have bought a home, a baby comes next!" Really? The next thing on OUR list is getting a dog and fixing up our yard.

Usually parents, especially Mom's, are the ones to inflict baby pressure. In this case, that is not so. My parents and John's don't ask or say a thing about it. I think there are several reasons for this. One, they have a grandchild/grandchildren. Two, they had kids when they were older than us. My Mom was 33 when I was born and my Dad was 38. John's parents were around the same age.

Others seem to find an occasion, usually a public one, to ask the question or make a statement. I find it very hard to respond respectfully.

Recently on Facebook, the following question was posed to me: "Amanda, where are your babies?" My response was, "at the animal shelter." How does one respond to that question? The question itself bothers me. It makes the assumptions that I am having kids and they will be babies. What if that is not the plan? What if I did not want kids? Then I would have to defend and justify my feelings in a public forum. What if we planned on adopting older children? Either way, the question is a bit too blunt for Facebook.

While the question is often asked innocently, people fail to consider that getting pregnant is not always easy. While that is not our situation, I know many people my age who are having trouble getting pregnant. Can you imagine how painful and pressuring that question is for them? They want so much to be parents and it isn't happening. On top of that, society is asking them why they have not had kids. A seemingly innocent question becomes a very painful reminder of their ongoing struggle.

I also know a lot of people who just do not want kids and it works for them. If one knows they do not want to have children, then it is probably a good thing that they do not have them. It is frustrating how they have to justify their feelings to others. They often hear that they are missing out in life and that it is their purpose to have a child. Just because a child is right for one person, does not mean it is right for everyone.

Fortunately, our good friends never pressure us. I have had discussions with many of my female friends and I do not mind. If you are close to me, I am happy to discuss the topic with you and probably already have. My close friends are intuitive enough to bring up the topic in a more private forum. Many of them feel the same as I do or are currently struggling and realize the need for private discussions.

I am not opposed to people wondering if we are going to have children. It is an ok thing to think about. If you really want to know, you can ask me. Please just use some common sense. Don't ask me on Facebook, over the internet in a manner that others can see, in a crowded public place yelling across a room, etc. I have no issue discussing the topic, but I would rather it not be broadcast for all to hear.

I promise that when we have children, I will let everyone know. For now, we are happy with our beautiful niece and nephews.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, Take Two

Now that I had one successful cupcake under my belt, it was time to try another. My second attempt would be eaten by my friends and coworkers. Since the first batch had gone so well, I was not worried about try number two. It was Jim's birthday (a friend and coworker) and I wanted to make something special for him. He loves coffee like I do, if that is even possible, and I knew I had to try mocha flavored. Jim and I work together on many clients and I have to keep him content. When the Psychometrcian is pleased, the Test Developer/Project Manager is pleased too. It is a delicate rhythm we have to keep here.

So, I opened my "Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World" cookbook and began my search through the luscious recipes and pictures. Since I was going for a mocha flavor I decided on the Your Basic Chocolate Cupcake recipe with the addition of coffee to the batter. To top off these chocolaty delights, I chose Chocolate Buttercream Frosting with the another addition of coffee.

Now that I had a plan, I retrieved all of ingredients from the pantry and fridge and got to work. The recipe and frosting proved to be simple. The smell of chocolate and coffee had me psyched to try this sweet treat. They looked good after they had been iced, but I felt they were missing something. As I looked through the kitchen, espresso beans jumped out at me. I knew I HAD to top each cupcake with an espresso bean.

My cupcakes were finished and packed them up to take to work the next day. I was fortunate to have a friend let me borrow her cupcake carrier for the day. The bright blue-green made the brown cupcakes pop! John wanted a taste, but he had to wait to see if there were any left over. Luckily, Jim made sure that there was at least one left for him.

The next day at work, we met in Jim's office after lunch. We sang "Happy Birthday" and chowed down on cupcakes. To my delight, they received rave reviews. They even inspired a coworker to buy the book to make cupcakes for her kids.

And the verdict is.......these cupcakes were a big WINNER! I would make both recipes again with the addition of mocha.