In which Valerie adds another year to her profile
Every year around this time, Valerie has a birthday, and as every child knows, birthdays bring with them birthday presents. One of the lovely things about aging is that even if you don't HAVE everything, you come to realize that you don't WANT or NEED everything, so you choose far more carefully, and cherish your choice more deeply. After much thought, Valerie realized she really only wanted one thing (well, three things, actually, but we'll get to that later): she desperately wanted help cleaning out her ridiculous storage space. Here it is, before its makeover.
As you can see, it was full of great big awkward boxes, and Valerie couldn't get into it or get anything out of it. And now, with decrepitude approaching, where she used to heave boxes around with abandon, she now has doctors advising her that she could put her back out doing that by herself. The whole thing was making her nuts. What to do? Who you gonna call?
No, not Ghostbusters. Jean!
The first thing we did was to completely empty out the storage unit. With each of us carrying one end of a box, and with dollies borrowed to roll all the STUFF around on, we soon had the unit empty. Of course, that meant that stuff was all over in the narrow corridors that characterize storage rooms, but what did we care? (It was the Fourth of July weekend, and everyone had left the city -- except us. Go figger.)
Jean had some pertinent questions to ask, like Do you want your boxes facing this way or that way? What boxes do you go into more often? Do you have plastic bags to cover your suitcase with so it doesn't get dusty? Why don't you put your small suitcase in your large suitcase to save space? Do you have Post It notes to mark your boxes with? And tape? Valerie dithered over all of this, so Jean just took command, and Valerie was mostly in charge of handling one end of each box.
Here's the unit starting to take shape under Jean's direction.
We could have put in quite a few more work-in-progress photos, but what the hey. Let's cut to the chase. Below is the finished product, WITH WALK-IN SPACE! The whole project took about two hours, which is probably one-third the time it would have taken Valerie by herself. And it was much more fun, because we could gossip about everyone we know, and even about people we don't know. Very little got thrown out. That was not the point, and besides, that's a project for someone with at least a week of free time. (Jean interjects that although little was thrown out that day, certain items were tagged for removal shortly thereafter. Prime example: The big white plastic bag with pink and blue lettering in the right foreground containing shoe-making materials is slated to be donated to the place where Valerie took shoe-making lessons several years ago. And there was a little time capsule box of clothes dating as far back as high school. We're saving that for a separate post.)
Job well done!
You'll notice that we dressed for the occasion, even putting our hair in Rosie the Riveter kerchiefs to get into the spirit of things.
Then it was time for the other two things. One of them was to have been cocktails (of course!), but by then we were tired and thirsty, so since there happened to be a bottle of champagne in the refrigerator, we put the cocktail idea to rest and pulled out the bottle instead. (Remember: always be prepared!) Yeah, yeah, yeah. Less muscle than Rosie, and less determination in the face. And Rosie doesn't have a glass. If anything, she'd have a wrench. But we're older, and not fighting a war. (And notice Valerie's nod to Rosie with wrist and ankle cuffs in Rosie's likeness.)
And here's a close-up.
Valerie was ready to leave for the next leg of the day's celebrations, but Jean had a few surprises in store. First, there was the spot-on birthday card, featuring one of our favorite topics of conversation.
Then, since we both work in offices, there was the thoughtful gift of emergency office supplies. Wait - are those way cool black and white checkered earrings nesting along with the scissors, stapler, staples, tape and thumb drive? Well, yes. 'Cause you never can tell!
And as a final surprise, because a girl needs a bit of art in the office (at least, girls who don't work in museums or auction houses), a bit of portable art (Malevich tributes?) in the form of earrings and a matching brooch.
Then we were off to get the third thing: the elusive chocolate souffle - very hard to find in New York. No, not chocolate mousse. We had a restaurant in mind, but while we were on our way, we ran into Montgomery Frazier, who was decked out in holiday finery and who mentioned he'd just been to Baccarat. (In contrast to Montgomery, in the can-do spirit of the morning, and partly because we are naughty girls, we did not change clothes.) When we passed Baccarat not five minutes later, we looked at the menu, and to our amazement, it featured souffle on the dessert menu. Well, why not, we thought. (Spell Check keeps suggesting we were out gunning for chocolate shuffle. If we miss any of Spell Check's thoughtful assistance, we just want to assure you that we were decidedly not out for chocolate shuffle. Perish the thought!)
We took the elevator to the second floor and actually entered the Lounge. Sigh. The ambiance was lovely and as an extra special birthday treat, it turned out the background music sound level was perfect -- not the usual deafening roar we have come to expect and dread. We could actually hear each other talk without having to shout. After our morning's labors, we were ready to relax and selected comfy high back wing chairs at a table by the window.
After we'd been there for a few minutes, upon closer review of the menu, Jean made the discovery that the Lounge served chocolate souffle cake and that the restaurant (on the first floor) served the traditional souffle. Luckily, our waiter cheerily volunteered to arrange to bring the traditional souffle upstairs to the birthday girl if we were willing to wait about ten extra minutes. Problem solved! Jean opted for the cake version after being told it resembled a lava cake.
When it arrived, Valerie's souffle was in a copper ramekin on a plate decorated with Happy Birthday written in chocolate and a traditional candy-striped candle. Everything was served, by the way, on or in Baccarat products. A feast for the eyes!
The piece de resistence? The waiter's cracking of a Grand Marnier-filled chocolate egg over the center of the souffle and placing it dead center into the crust of the powdered sugar-dusted souffle, of course. Perfection! What we wanted to know was how they got the warm Grand Marnier sauce inside the unmelted chocolate egg. And it all happened so fast that we missed the opportunity to photograph the little spun sugar nest on which the egg was delivered. All of that was a bit of magic, and another feast for eyes wide-eyed with wonder.
Jean's cake was different but equally delicious, served with two tablespoons of exquisitely shaped whipped cream, drops of dark chocolate and white chocolate and a chocolate straw, which she used to stir her latte. How decadent. We practically licked our plates clean!
Before we left, we toured the bar located on the same floor and had the opening photo taken on the outdoor balcony.
This wasn't one of those BIG birthdays, if you know what we mean, but it was a perfect birthday. So cool it's enough to make you want another!
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