A happy birthday has not come easily this year. I’ve been trying for a few days now, and the obstacles have been myriad. Firstly, there is the fact that Melanie was scheduled to be in parent–teacher conferences all night long on my actual birthday. This required me to schedule any official birthday plans for another time—which is fine by me. As an adult, I prefer to treat my birthday as an excuse to do various fun things throughout the week. Having the festivities fall on my actual birthday doesn’t matter much to me. And so, the first quasi-official birthday celebration was scheduled for last night. For a while now, I’ve been wanting to try a restaurant called The Copper Onion. I’ve heard really good things about it, so it’s been on my list of must-try Utah eateries. Part of the appeal is that The Copper Onion is located next door to—and in the same building as—the Broadway Centre Cinemas, a movie theater specializing in independent film that I have long claimed as my favorite SLC-area multiplex. I’ve been waiting for a time when Melanie and I could hit Broadway and The Copper Onion for a movie-and-dinner date. I figured my birthday would be a good excuse for making such a thing happen. As it turned out, one of the movies currently playing at Broadway is a documentary about the FLDS Church. That sounded right up my alley, but it also made me think of a couple of friends we’ve made at our new church. And so, we invited them to go with us, and they agreed.
Well, babysitting plans ended up not going so well. To make a long story short, Melanie and I had to cancel our double date. That was quite a bummer to me, but I was determined not to let Tuesday night go to waste. And so, I decided that Melanie and I should take the kids to dinner and a movie. When I picked Melanie and the boys up from school, we went to see Hotel Transylvania 2. Sounds fun, right? Yeah. Sort of. Except kids can be really moody, especially when they’re super tired. Creegan had been treating me like garbage throughout the entire day, and trying to do something in the evening didn’t much help. At the movie theater, he threw tantrums over where to sit and whether he was holding the popcorn, etc. He first forced me into one seat, then whined and complained and made me move out of it after the movie was already going. Rather than being fun, it gave me a headache. I was already feeling quite tired myself, having gotten only four hours of sleep the night before. I ended up sleeping through a good chunk of the movie, which frustrated me. Although Creegan had eventually settled down during the movie, the antics started up again the second we left the movie theater. The thought of going to dinner with a screaming child sounded miserable. My nap also threw me off and made me feel less like eating. I knew I’d be mad if I just went home and let the plans be overturned, so I drove around aimlessly for a little while and tried to give myself and Creegan time to calm down. Eventually, it worked, and I felt in good enough spirits to go to Mandarin Garden, a Chinese restaurant that is well-reviewed online but that we had never before tried. (We’ve been on a mission to find a really good, and relatively convenient, Chinese restaurant in Utah and haven’t had much success.)
Dinner ended up being a positive experience. And Mandarin Garden proved to be the best Chinese food we’ve found since moving back to Utah. Eddie had us pretending to be food critics, so my thoughts on the food are a bit more developed than they might otherwise be. On the whole, the food was cooked to perfection. Textures were what they should be, and this matters quite a bit with Chinese food (as it does with other food). Too many of the Chinese restaurants we’ve tried have given us tough, stringy meat, fried items that are more spongy than crisp, and pasty, gummy noodles and rice. Mandarin Garden did great in all of these departments, with a couple of minor exceptions. The Lo Mein was mildly—very mildly—gummy, the egg roll filling was a bit wetter than you’d expect, and the diced carrots in my egg flower soup were crispier than they should’ve been. The soup ended up being the most mediocre dish of the night. It wasn’t as rich or flavorful as most other egg drop soups I’ve had, and I would’ve appreciated some wantons to sprinkle on top. Aside from the soup, however, everything had a very nice flavor. I would not have known the orange beef was beef rather than chicken, had I not ordered it myself, but it was tasty. I appreciated that the restaurant offered a kids’ menu, which allowed Peter and Creegan to get chicken fingers and fries. You don’t always have that type of option at a Chinese restaurant, but it certainly came in useful for us.
All’s well that ends well? Not exactly. Melanie and Peter both spent the next morning—this morning—puking. Melanie’s symptoms seemed very much like food poisoning, although I’m not sure that’s possible. We both ate the same stuff, with the exception of Melanie having hot and sour soup. It could’ve been the soup, I suppose, but Peter didn’t have that. Of course, Melanie wonders if her sickness psychologically influenced Peter to be sick. Peter gets sick much easier than anyone else, but also recovers much more quickly. Sure enough, after a couple of hours of being ill, Peter seems fine and dandy. Melanie does not. She’s still feeling rather terrible, although the more unsightly problems have dissipated. She couldn’t bear the thought of not being there for parent–teacher conferences, and so she’s actually out there doing them, right now. Brave woman. But, needless to say, this day did not go according to plan. Perhaps jerkishly™, I did my best to carry on as normal. I drove Eddie and Creegan to school, then I went to get myself a chai latte, which was a free birthday gift from Starbucks. I got the Oprah Cinnamon Chai Tea Latte, which I haven’t had in a while and figured I’d reacquaint myself with. It is not nearly as good as a normal chai latte. It’s a more delicate, floral chai with black pepper accents. It’s fine enough, but there is better chai to be had. Anyway, with the chai latte in hand (well, in my cup holder), I drove to Fresh Donut & Deli for a fun breakfast. Fresh Donut & Deli is another place I’ve been meaning to try. From what I can tell, they are the most raved about donut place in Utah, next to (or perhaps neck and neck with) Banbury Cross. I was not disappointed. Their glazed doughnuts have the melt-in-your-mouth quality that people love in Krispy Kreme, but they are more billowy. It’s the best of both worlds. I also tried a crumb cake donut. I love it when cake donuts crackle as you bite into them, and that’s what I got here—a nice crunch on the outside edge. Perfection! I’ve personally never been completely wowed by Banbury Cross, so I have no trouble claiming Fresh Donut & Deli as the superior donuteer™.
After indulging myself, I picked up a Diet Mountain Dew for Melanie and took it to her. As I said, Peter was more or less fine at this point, lounging in our bed and watching Zathura on Netflix. I scoured Facebook for a little while, spent nearly 40 minutes on the phone with my mom, and then debated what to do for much longer than I should’ve. Having had only a couple of donuts for breakfast, I was quite hungry by this point in time and wondered what I should do for lunch that would be birthday appropriate. I had originally wanted to go to Grinders 13, but it seemed so far away and it seemed kind of boring to go that far just to eat by myself. I finally decided on picking up a movie from Redbox (another birthday freebie) and getting Crown Burgers. Crown isn’t super duper close to where we live, and I probably should’ve known better. By the time I got back home with it, it was kind of cold and not really that great, which is a shame. The movie I chose was Cop Car, a small but powerful independent thriller. I enjoyed watching it. By this time, Melanie had recuperated enough to accompany me as I went to pick up Eddie, at which point she stayed at the school for parent–teacher conferences.
And that is pretty much what has happened so far. Not the best birthday, but not the worst. Melanie and the boys have Friday off of school, so maybe that will turn into a more successfully celebrative day. We shall see.