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Last year I woke up on my birthday, walked down the hall rubbing tired eyes the entire way only to be greeted by a brand new computer sitting unassumingly on the office desk. It came as a complete surprise and I found myself staring gleefully at a box that dominated the room, giant apple staring right back at me. This wasn’t a whim of a gift, it was a carefully picked piece from my husband, something that had meaning well beyond a shiny new toy for the office. I had been working on Popover endlessly in order to get the site up and running. Everything had been designed, programmed, then revisited over the course of months and the entire time my little laptop was chugging along trying complete my demands. It was time to replace the little guy. I decided to launch Popover the same day as my birthday and the computer upgrade not only made my birthday memorable, but the launch day special as well.

Blame it on my “lonely only” childhood, but birthdays are always a big deal. When people claim they don’t celebrate I just stare at them baffled like something in their statement was lost in translation. Because this year also marks the first anniversary of Popover I wanted the celebration to be doubly as memorable so I asked some of our contributors to share their special birthday memories and traditions. The fun and unexpected part of this website is watching and reading how our contributors are willing to write in their own voice and tell their stories through images, all while celebrating what they have to share. I was not surprised when their birthday stories and photos turned out to be equally as heartfelt as their features that live on Popover. Looking through the images of grandparents, vintage cake toppers, friends, and homemade cakes was like peeking into the past, making this article more touching to write. In one short year Popover has met and introduced a range of talented writers and artisans, hosted events that gathered people of all backgrounds to eat together, and shared a few of our own favorite things…and we’re just getting started. Read on to get a glimpse of how our contributors celebrate their birthdays and what the day means to them.

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Suraiya of Hayworth and Heart:
I think most people would agree that one of the best parts of a birthday is the cake and for me it’s also the cake decorations. I think this is why I was so excited to receive a bag of old cake toppers the last time I went home to visit my family. The bag had a completely random assortment of characters showing my many interests from my 1st birthday on. There was the ballerina birthday, Sesames Street, Snow White, and then the more traditional wax numbers and balloons. Basketball and soccer players made their way in by way of my brother’s celebrations. Of course a lot of years were missing, some were broken and most are just little plastic pieces picked up over the years. There isn’t anything expensive or even that exciting but it was such fun to dig through them. I don’t have one favorite birthday memory that jumps out, but these little pieces help me to remember small bits and pieces from all of them. It is the décor of one the guests from another and mostly importantly cakes.

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Nicole from Sorella Muse Photography:
I’m going to cheat a little bit, and talk about my fiance Daniel’s 26th birthday instead of one of my own! At the time, I had known him for two weeks and we had gone on 3 dates. When he mentioned his birthday was coming up, I wasn’t even sure he would want to invite me to the party, since it was a little early to be introduced to friends. I was trying to decide what to do: based on how long we had been dating, I knew I should probably get him a small gift at most, a book to sit between the Spanish poetry and French philosophy on his shelves. But based on how much I already felt for him, I wanted to do something on a grander scale. My sister was nervous for me, worried that I would freak him out if I planned anything too special. The words “lunatic” and “crazy” may have been used. But I went for it, because we traditionally make a big deal out of birthdays in my family, and I already wanted to show him how much I cared. I surprised him with an evening picnic at Griffith Observatory on his birthday eve, where we found a perfect little perch to lay our blanket hidden from the other stargazers, and feasted on cheese, hummus, berries, chocolate, and wine with the lights of Los Angeles glittering below. It was a truly epic and romantic night. Later, after he became my boyfriend, he told me it was the most special thing anyone had ever planned for his birthday, and I was glad that I had taken the risk.

21st birthday

Jacquilyn of Jacquilyn in the Kitchen:
On my 21st birthday I was in college in Southern California. My sister was in Denmark and my mom was in Northern California, so I didn’t expect to see either one of them for my birthday. However, my mom told me that she had ordered a present for me and I had to pick it up in Los Angeles. I was a little dubious, but got in my car and started driving. Turns out, I was on my way to pick up my sister from the airport who flew all the way from Denmark to see me. Later that day, my mom showed up on my doorstep with my birthday present, a Kitchen Aid mixer. This was one of the most special birthdays for me and I think about it every time I use my Kitchen Aid.

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Lorenzo of The Essential Man:
Every new birthday is a blessing. Of course I like to spend it with family and friends, but I’m pretty lowkey on my birthday. One tradition I’ve had since I started working is that I get myself something each year. Something I’ve been wanting, it’s not always big sometimes is really small, but it’s cool to treat myself.This year during my trip to San Francisco (my birthday gift from my lovely girlfriend) I treated myself to these awesome shoes I had been wanting and this picture reflects my happiness!

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Katie of Twin Stripe:
In college, everyone knew us as “SLAPR”, an acronym of our last names. My four best friends from college and I found a reason to celebrate everything – birthdays being extra important. Our birthdays space out nicely over the calendar, so each of us ends up with a special celebration, typically dinner and drinks or special activity. Even though I don’t live in Chicago, I still try to Skype in for each birthday to join in the festivities. I’ll be celebrating my 30th birthday in Chicago in 2015 and we are planning a 30th birthday girls weekend so we can all celebrate turning the big 3-0! 2015 will should be an amazing year!

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Shelly of Vegetarian Ventures:
One of my fondest memories as a child was getting to pick out what shape my birthday cake would be. My grandma was very savvy in the kitchen and she would pull out these newspaper clipping and Betty Crocker cookbooks that I could flip through for inspiration; I remember having a cake shaped like a cat, a Power Ranger, a wolf, and a witch. I like to think that it was those cakes that sparked my interest in the kitchen and made me realize how much of a creative outlet cooking can be. I no longer get to pick out the shape of my cake (unless I am making it myself) but do still think about those silly shaped birthday cakes every time someone asked me what flavor cake I’d like for my birthday. Cheers to birthdays and growing older but never growing up when it comes to getting creative in the kitchen!

All photos are from each contributor. Thank you everyone for sharing these touching memories! Here’s to more birthdays!