Celebrating Birthdays

I always love it when November rolls around, if only because it signals two things: my birthday and the upcoming winter holidays.

I’ve always been a fan of my birthday landing in the middle of November simply because it starts off a great sequence of holidays and days off of relaxing and lounging. In fact, it’s the perfect way to “wind down” the remainder of the year before starting it back up again in full force when January rolls around.

So for next week when I have buddies over, I plan to pretty much play video games in my basement with them on 3 different TVs. This will be the perfect setup for gaming and hanging out all weekend, and we won’t have to bother my partner who will most likely remain upstairs the majority of the time. It works for us and it works for her.

But one thing I know I’ll have to take care of prior to my birthday weekend is cleaning up the basement. It’s not necessarily that it’s a “mess”, per se. Rather, there just happens to be extra folded laundry down there (since that’s where our laundry appliances are) as well as a lot of old cardboard boxes full of belongings that are being kept in storage. If I can put all the laundry away, consolidate the storage boxes, and do a quick sweep through of loose items and whatever else needs picked up, it’ll be ready to go.

There’s also the fact that I’ll want to have multiple televisions set up down there. Unfortunately for me, my basement only has one outlet, so I’m forced to rig up multiple extension cords and drop cords to be able to run multiple TVs. While this sounds super crammed at first, it’s really not that bad thanks to the multiple cords spread out along the basement (in a manner that won’t cause anyone to trip, of course).

From there, it’s just configuring the table and my small home entertainment stand to make sure all TVs face the couch and none of those aforementioned cardboard boxes full of things are in the way. Throw in a thorough sweeping and dusting and I’ll have brought the basement together quite nicely so that everything is ready to go ahead of time.

I’m sure a lot of people don’t spend their birthday this way, but it’s what I prefer to do this year (and it helps that a new game is dropping on the day after my birthday, so it only makes sense to enjoy the weekend appropriately).

Halloween Handout Alternatives

As society moves forward, we’re beginning to learn more and more about different diets, food allergies, and other dietary restrictions in kids, adults, and seniors. This means that restaurants have a heightened awareness of food labels and labeling their own menus, and it also means taking specific orders very seriously and to the exact point. Any single mess up could mean the business is sued or worse: a patron could become severely ill or even die from mishandled food.

A lot of people have taken up arms in this new era, considering some of these dietary restrictions as needless or extra, and they’re quick to point the finger at political correctness. Whatever it is, being PC has caused scores of people to get offended by having to be more careful about what they say and how they say it. I’m guessing it’s because everyone seems to hate change, and having to change up the way they speak for the sake of others (oh the horror!) has caused them some sort of distress.

Nonetheless, back to dietary restrictions. With Halloween here, I told my partner that it would be great to offer some sort of alternative to handouts given on Halloween night. Since so many different candy boxes are full of too much sugar or have dairy products or even tree nuts in them, it’s better to err on the side of caution and hand out little crafts or stickers instead. Since nonfood items can still be enjoyed, there’s no worrying about what kids may have certain allergies to certain foods.

So, instead of handing out jawbreakers and milk chocolate bars and an assortment of candy boxes, I think we’re going to be content buying a hodge podge of little stickers online off Etsy, and we may even knit our own little spooky ghost figures or bats. I know a lot of kids look forward to the sweets they get on October 31st, but considering they’ll get plenty of candy from other neighbors, I feel better knowing I didn’t cause some unwanted food reaction while also handing out something memorable to the kids.

See, being aware of food allergens and dietary restrictions isn’t hard at all. All it takes is some thoughtfulness and willingness to switch up the norms to accommodate others. I don’t see why this is such a big deal to so many people, but I have a sneaking suspicion it all rides on having to go out of your way to help out another person. And that, for some reason, is too hard to do.

Having Friends Over for a Get Together

Little kickbacks are nice to host at your home from time to time, even if you do end up dreading the work involved in getting ready, preparing food, making sure everyone is comfortable and having a good time, and then cleaning up after the event (the least fun part!). But the good thing is that you don’t have to drive anywhere. AND you can hang out in the comfort of your own home.

If you’re going to be throwing little parties or events this holiday season, preparation really is a major part of the party itself. If you aren’t prepared for the numerous guests coming, the food and drinks situation can be a disaster. If you don’t plan out parking, that can also cause headaches for guests and yourself. With that said, here are a few things you can keep in mind when prepping for your next kick back.

Set out a few different treats and prepare some dishes.

Everyone loves surprises at events they end up at. I’ve always enjoyed the idea of setting out candy boxes as placeholders for your guests at the table. It’s cool to personalize their little gifts by knowing who likes what candy.

And whether you prefer doing finger foods or full on meals, it’s probably standard to provide at least a few different options for food. Your guests will likely be more than happy to bring dishes as well, but as the host, it’s somewhat of an expectation to have a few options for snacking. And guess what? If they start to know you like putting out little gifts at their seats (like the candy boxes above), they’ll be more likely than not to start bringing their own things to your events!

Get your seasonal decoration on.

Whether you’re simply cleaning up the place and putting out a few candles or going all out with fall or Halloween decor, making sure your place is nice and cozy is key. Just make sure you spruce the place up to match the season or upcoming holiday and everyone will realize you made a solid effort in hosting the event!

Have everyone bring their own drinks.

Trying to cut down the costs of hosting a party? You should make sure everyone brings their own drinks. Trying to satisfy the thirst of many guests who might be getting a bit rowdy late into the night is not something you should have to worry about. The good thing is that BYOB is pretty much the standard when it comes to get togethers and kickbacks. Take the stress off of yourself and your wallet by letting others know it’s fine to drink but ONLY if they bring their own.

Experiencing Yourself Through Music

For me, there’s nothing better than revisiting specific albums that I haven’t sat down with for a long time. Music means a heck of a lot to me, so being able to listen to things that used to mean something to me is an extremely nostalgic experience. What’s great is that it always seems to transport me back to a place and time in my life when I had that music on repeat.

Sometimes this involves me searching through my closet storage and getting out cheap moving boxes filled with old albums; then, I pop it on the record player and sit back. Other times, I just know where to find the music on Spotify, so I’ll queue it up on my soundbar or headphones and dive in. No matter what it means to me now or used to mean to me back then, I am reconnected with an older version of myself, and oftentimes old memories will come back, or I’ll remember things I used to enjoy.

I feel not enough people choose to look at music from this perspective, as a sort of “experiential” process. Instead, music is something that you hear on the radio to and from work, and that’s it. I view this as such a limited way of looking at music, and sometimes I feel bad for those who don’t know any better. They don’t know that there’s music out there that speaks to their soul and experiences and emotions. After all, this is what music is all about. It’s about baring your soul, being real, talking about things that matter, sharing experiences, and making meaning out of life. Unfortunately, a lot of popular music anymore is stripped of these aspects and ends up just being repetitive lyrics that hold very little meaning.

I think if everyone had their own little cheap moving boxes filled with records like me, there would be a lot more love and understanding in the world. If everyone gave music a chance and journeyed through the human experience from one artist to the next, people would begin to understand what makes the world work, what makes us all tick, and what actually matters in life. Like all things, though, everyone has their preferences and hobbies and interests, and they’ll never all overlap for the better.

I’m glad apps like Spotify have become so normalized if only to make music more widely accessible to people around the world. While artists may not be compensated fairly because of this model, I still think reaching more ears is more important than artists making buku bucks off of their music. The musicians who understand the impact that their music has on people are probably fine with the model anyway, because they understand what matters.

Reusing Your Cardboard

I’ve always been a huge fan of holding on to things (especially supplies and materials) that you think you no longer need. This is especially so for anything that’s often regarded as trash or mere packaging. For example, think of all the cardboard boxes you’ve ever had in your life. Now try to imagine the percentage of those you could’ve broken down and stored away for future use but are instead somewhere in a landfill, taking up space for no reason?

For as versatile and eco-friendly as cardboard is, we have a habit of throwing it straight in the trash instead of using it around the house for storage, recycling it, or even using it for mulch or composting. Why is it that we are always so obsessed with throwing things away?

The short answer is because we’re lazy. The long answer? Because the landfill system has made gathering trash and tossing it in a hole in the ground far easier than alternative methods. So, with a system made for us to be lazy, we’re all going to be lazy and choose the laziest option. Why would it have turned out any other way?

I try to do my part, though, in holding onto cardboard from packaging instead of tossing it straight in the trash. In fact, the last option I choose is recycling it. And I only resort to that if I don’t have use for it, don’t end up burning it, or can’t use it in organic matter, such as mulch and composting. (Yes, you can do both of these if you take the time to learn the process and do it on your own.)

Ultimately, we have to learn to start taking responsibility for our actions, and that includes everyday actions like tossing things in the trash.

If you happen to think of it, refuse to throw your cardboard boxes away the next time you get something in the mail from online. Heck, even if you got it from the store and it’s packaged in cardboard, make the conscious effort to break it down and store it away. And if you already have a huge amount of cardboard because you’ve been doing this, choose to recycle instead of trash it! It cannot be understated how much reducing your trash and reusing things from packaging helps to benefit the environmental state of the world. If only everyone would take the time to recycle one piece of cardboard once a week, things wouldn’t look so bleak.