The Cold, Cupcakes and Champagne: Celebrating My Birthday!

Jamie & Justin

One of my favourite traditions that Justin and I have is taking off one another’s birthdays. Last Thursday, December 7, was mine and we started our celebrations the night before, getting dressed up and heading out for a wonderful meal.  Weeks earlier Justin came up with a fun and creative way to choose the restaurant. He picked five different places he thought I would enjoy, copied just their menus into a document and asked me to pick based on what looked yum. It was so much fun and, for me, the clear winner was Momofuku.

We’d seen it many times. It strikes a pose on the west side of University Avenue here in Toronto, just south of where we used to live in the Queen West neighbourhood. Momofuku covers three floors, each of which houses a different concept restaurant. We went to Daishon with its floor to high-ceiling glass walls overlooking the busyness of downtown. The position of our table allowed me to look right up University with all the lights of the city and street – beautiful!

After a brief encounter with a mildly unfriendly hostess, everything was wonderful. The service was thoughtful, helpful and friendly and the food was complex, balanced and even fun! We started with steamed chicken buns (Chicken Bun – ssäm sauce, pickled carrots, scallion)  and honestly, they were such a beautiful contrast of soft and crispy with such a delicious tanginess that I thought we should skip the rest of the meal and just tell them to keep them coming! Thank goodness I didn’t because honestly, the rice cakes (Rice Cakes – spicy pork sausage, chinese broccoli, tofu) were a treat and I will be talking about the Brussels sprouts (Brussels Sprouts – fish sauce, puffed rice, mint  ) for a very long time.

Delicious food, a beautiful view and my wonderful husband, my birthday was off to a good start.

In the morning the cold had arrived but that has never stopped Justin and I from going down to the Beaches for some yearly traditions. We stopped at our favourite spot for breakfast where it was just us and one other customer enjoying a morning meal. We ate a classic breakfast and drank our coffee in the quiet and talked about all that we’re dreaming of for the year ahead. Once fortified, we braved the beach!

In 2013, on the first birthday after my mom passed away, it was a grey, cold day much like this year and when Justin and I went down to the beach, the clouds parted and the sun broke through for just a few moments. I knew in my heart that was Mom telling me she was there, celebrating with me. It happened again this year, just a few moments of light to connect me to my mom’s love.

In the spirit of that connection, I continued my now yearly tradition of buying myself a piece of birthday jewellery from my mom.  Each year, except this one, there has been a young woman who has also lost her mom working at the shop. We talk about our loss and the things we do to keep our mothers alive in our hearts.  I hope she is well.

Choosing this birthday gift from my mom has become deeply meaningful to me. Each piece becomes a part of my story with and without her. This year I chose a pendant of rutilated quartz. I’ve had my eye on this stone for years. I had no idea that it is a powerful healing stone, one that amplifies intuition and clears away negativity. I think my mom and I have chosen a powerful ally for the year ahead.

The blessings continued as we met up with my sister Shannon to go to the movies! We’d all been wanting to see Thor: Ragnarok and this was our chance to catch it before it disappeared from the theatres. We had so much fun!

We even found a sparkling spot at the theatre for celebrating with presents! Look at this gorgeous journal that Shannon made for me! I just love it. I had seen her create this pattern in her own journal and fell in love with it instantly! Now I have my own. She also made me my favourite cookies: Chocolate Drop Quickies. They have been my favourite since I was 10! I still have the well-worn index card where my young baking self wrote the recipe by hand. wish I could share  a picture of the cookies but, well, they didn’t last that long! Yum!

I have such creative sisters! Suzie sent me a gorgeous clay pendant that she had made herself! It is doubly precious to me because it represents the creative joy she discovered this year in fulfilling a lifelong dream to work with clay. I see in this pendant Suzie’s artistry and love and I will feel that every day I wear it! She also sent me these wonderful prints of our childhood photos. Look at the two of us! What beamers!

The next day the celebrations continued with my birthday Journal Jam!

Last year I started having friends over for these fun Journal Jam nights. Usually we pull out our journals, some markers, coloured pencils and collage materials but for my birthday I thought it would be so much fun to play with paint! First we shared a delicious dinner and popped open some champagne and then we changed the buffet offerings over to paints and spent the rest of the night playing, laughing and talking.

We even did potato printing! (I love these beauties by my friend Kim!) Seriously, I felt like I had the best 12-year-old birthday I could imagine! One of my favourite moments was when our youngest Journal Jammer (she’s just about 10) said, “I never want to leave!” That’s exactly how I feel about Journal Jam, Stella bella!

Last night my birthday celebrations wrapped up with Justin and I braving the cold once again to see Sarah Slean perform at the Harbourfront Theatre. Glorious! She was witty, dramatic and wonderfully playful and the music – brilliant, absolutely brilliant. We were with her for every heartbeat, attentive and appreciative, and when she played The Right Words, tears rolled down my cheeks. This year, for this birthday, I felt as though she played it just for me.

If you’re unfamiliar with Sarah’s music, let me draw my birthday celebration to a close by offering up the gift of introducing the two of you. May each note and each word be a blessing as it has been for me. I am filled with joy and gratitude for this birthday. May this be the beginning of a beautiful, auspicious year.


  1. How wonderful to see and hear all about your birthday celebrations, Jamie! How wonderful to have a moment with Mom at the Beach, that is so special. I had a great tim celebrating together at Thor and at Journal Jam. Here is to an rockin’ year ahead!

  2. Wow!!! Such a wonderful birthday Jamie. I think the piece you choose this year to wear is perfection, Mom would love it and I know she was there with you in spirit too. That picture Shannon (I’m assuming) took of you… OMG, so Jamie!!! And that one of you at the beach (Justin?) with your hood up? Fantastic. I love that you both brave the elements together on your birthday no matter what. Art and song and family and film… Sounds perfect to me. I’m glad I can be there with you too when you wear the pendant Jamie. :) So glad you had a great birthday!

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