Skip the Blue Vinny

Tuesday morning I woke up to discover I was 35. At some point during the night, I had been delivered squarely and inarguably into my mid-thirties. It sort of snuck up on me, which is actually a good way to handle birthdays. (In theory, it limits expectations and/or over-sensitivity about age. In theory, I said.) It occurred to me that I could no longer claim to be in my late-early-thirties by any stretch. No, I'm squarely in my mid-mid-thirties now. Staring down forty in the face. But until I'm in my late-mid-thirties I shan't give it another thought. Actually, it didn’t bother me at all, especially since I slept ridiculously late. When I awoke, the World's Best Husband delivered to me breakfast in bed – a slice of chocolate mousse cake and a big cup of strong java. Probably not part of anyone's nutritionally balanced breakfast but I highly recommend starting your birthday this way, if not every day.

I was absolutely knackered from being a social butterfly all weekend in St. Louis so I spent the most decadent day – lounging in bed reading until noon, then slipping into the fragrant bath my wondrous husband drew for me and poring over a stack of long-ignored mindless magazines. I believe at some point my brain actually ceased functioning. And it was glorious.

As a birthday present to myself and in deference to my laziness, I played hooky from that afternoon’s lecture, from which Chris returned with a bunch of beautiful stargazer lilies. He then presented me with a glass necklace my lovely friend Adria had made, in response to some heavy hints I dropped during the Women’s Support & Community Services Holiday Boutique. We had dinner at Paesano’s, where we’d had an excellent experience sharing a few choice appetizers a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, we didn’t find dinner itself nearly as spectacular, but it was nice nonetheless. Yesterday I woke up to discover it was winter. Just like that, all of a sudden. The glorious fall sun was nowhere to be seen, replaced instead with a steel gray sky and a light dusting of snow flurries. Many people said that Michigan would be cold. It turns out they weren’t kidding. Today, it’s chilly again, temperatures tap-dancing around the lower twenties, the wind oppressive and biting. And while I’m not in the habit of telling you about my intimate wear, I don’t mind letting you know that I broke out the long underwear this morn. And not a moment too soon.

After skipping Tuesday’s lecture, it seems like weeks since I’d seen the KWF gang, so I jumped at the chance to join some of the girls out last night. Gail, Kimberly, Rainey and I kicked off the madness with a cheese tasting at Zingerman’s. It was a little more formal than I had pictured, with all of us seated around long tables at the coffee house with a basket of bread, a pitcher of water and sheets on which to write our observations about the look, smell and taste of each cheese.

I’m not much of a cheese aficionado, steering clear of your stronger-tasting types like Camenbert or Roquefort. My taste buds are embarrassingly unsophisticated and I tend to find such pungent concoctions reminiscent of ripe feet in both taste and smell. However, I’ll do serious damage to a nice fresh mozzarella or a brick of sharp white cheddar.

I wasn’t able to differentiate much between some of the cheeses last night - the words "mild" and "cheesy" generally popped up a lot. We tried cheeses made from both goats' and cows' milk and learned that when you're working up the former, you need to watch out for goat funk. (The phrase "filthy beasts" was used more than once.) They ranged in texture from a cow's milk cream cheese so far from the Philadelphia crap that you'd barely recognize them as cousins. There was a hand-ladeled fresh goat round, and we were treated to the flavor sensation of a small chunk submerged into the most unbelievably yummy squash soup from downstairs.

We got bits of the perfectly peppery Sharon Hollow and the firmer Manchester, which we tasted baked up en croute with an Italian chestnut cream. It was divine but, as I've said before, if you wrapped a shoe in puff pastry, I'd eat it. All of the cheeses are named after small towns in the area, and we lobbied hard, on Gail’s behalf, to get an unnamed cheese named after her hometown of Jackson. Not sure they were having it. (Which is fine with us, really, since that one was packed full of an overwhelming amount of green and cracked black pepper.

The Little Napoleon was a favorite and only partly because of its adorable moniker. The last two were Chelsea, which I don't recall much about and Bridgewater, which was memorable for its slightly beige color and peppery flavor. We learned a number of fascinating facts, including the highly unsanitary origins of the Blue Vinny as well as how to skirt the law and get your hands on some raw milk. And we were given just enough hazelnut gelato to make addicts of us. (Don't dealers always give away the first taste for free?)

After we were so full of cheese we could barely move, we headed down to Rush Street - the sort of classy joint that never would have admitted the likes of me in my drinking days - to meet up with Lisa. We were then joined by Gerard and Graham who, despite their head gear, were distinctly not girls, thus all that chatter about our ovaries ground to an immediate halt. Boys ruin everything, don’t they?