A Birthday Ritual

I celebrated a birthday last week. There was a nice dinner out — one that required shoes that were not Birkenstocks — and a buttery pile of pancakes for breakfast that came with instructions from my daughters to “Sit down and don’t get up for ANYTHING.” That one sentence would’ve been enough to call the day a win, but a few hours later, an email arrived in my inbox and the day was complete. The subject line read “Rory has sent you a Graeter’s digital gift card.” Translation: “Summer can officially begin!”

Rory, she of Maple Candy Pork Chop fame, has been sending me the gift card every year for probably six or seven years now. It’s enough for a half dozen pints of the famous Cincinnati ice cream, plus shipping, and it’s timed perfectly, right as spring kicks into gear and Ice Cream Once a Day becomes the official family mantra. Usually the kids help me pick out the flavors but this time I went ahead and one-clicked within minutes of receiving the email. We were having a family over for dinner that weekend and I thought it would be fun to pick up a box of Comet cones and offer a veritable ice cream shop for dessert. (How much better is that than serving, say, a lemon tart?)

The ice cream is so good. I mean, Toffee Chocolate Chip should win a Pulitzer for poetry. And Abby is nuts for the Oregon Strawberry, which, she describes, is “more tang than sweet.” But the sweetest part? That Rory remembers. Anyone out there wondering “Should I? Or shouldn’t I?” about sending a gift or a note to someone for a birthday, for Mother’s Day, for a thank you, for whatever. I’m sitting here with my Salted Caramel to tell you: You should.

This year I went heavy on the chocolate-chip offerings, something my Buckeye Blitz-loving husband was not happy about. (I reminded him whose birthday it was.)

What about you guys? Do you have birthday rituals like this? Please share. If for no other reason than I always need good ideas when Rory’s birthday comes around.

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I am from Cincinnati and Graeter’s is a summer tradition that is for sure 🙂 My favorite is Black Cherry Chip! As for a birthday tradition, my birthday falls around Thanksgiving so we usually celebrate my birthday on Thanksgiving Day with ice cream cake instead of pumpkin pie! For my kids I always let them pick what they want for dinner and what they want for their special treat on their day.


My daughter had her 10th birthday. I’m not a party planner, but I do know that the double digit party is a big deal. Originally she wanted to have a party with her best friend (he’s like a brother), Max, and go bowling. Max didn’t like that idea. He said that he had other plans. My daughter came home crying that her birthday plans were ruined. I told her that we should plan a fashion show girl party instead, dis-invite Max, and still have fun. About 15 girls showed up. We had streamers, balloons, and a cake with blue roses. We had music. The girls were doing facials, painting nails, and curling hair. We had Martinelli apple cider in champagne glasses. It was a total girl power, girl party. Max was really a sore loser. He ended up crashing the party with his friend, Jace. What started out as a fail ended up as a really great turn out. Happy Birthday to Abby. I hope her birthday is the best. I would send Rory a “thank you” card, and if you get a chance, return the favor. Birthdays are special days of the year.



I am from Cincy too – Graeter’s is SO good. My favorite is plain chocolate chip. They have new gelato flavors that are to die for too! The mint chocolate crunch – YUM!


No rituals to note, but I wanted to comment because I was happy to see Graeter’s mentioned. Soooo good! My favorites are Cookie Dough Chip and Mocha Chip!

The Prestigious School

My school age daughter made her own birthday cake this year because she is developing a love of baking and she wanted to make a particular kind of cake. It seemed like a good idea, and it was delicious, but then another mother passed a comment to me about how I must be so busy because my daughter had to make her own birthday cake. I enlightened the other mother, but the comment still annoyed me.


Tradition: I miss the cake that my grandma always used to make for me. I know how to make it now, but it involves a boxed cake mix and ingredients that no one in my house but me would eat (maraschino cherries and walnuts).

On a happier note: that Buckeye Blitz just might be what entices me to order. Chocolate + peanut butter in ice cream is The Bomb.com (as my twelve year old likes to say).


Also from Cincinnati here, and I have to add that while Graeter’s is good, Aglamesis Bros. is even better in my opinion. My sister sent me 6 pints of it a couple of Christmases ago, and my kids could not get over how good it was– and their opinions, unlike mine, are not influenced by nostalgia. 🙂 When we lived in Ohio, I think they had two shops– one downtown (?) and one out in the ‘burbs in Montgomery, where I lived. Their mint chocolate chip is absolutely incredible– I need to get some oil of mint and try to duplicate it. 🙂


Summer birthday, I am a big fan of the standard Carvel. For my day, nothing can top it. Since I’ve become an “adult” (a word I use loosely), I try to stay a kid by doing something that my early-30s friends don’t normally do. Last year we went trampolining- the year before paddle surfing with a healthy dose of beach volleyball and for my 30th- a Britney Spears themed party. No matter my age, I try to keep it fun!


I agree that Graeter’s is very good – it was one of the first things we heard about Ohio when we told friends we were moving there from Colorado. I encourage you to try Jeni’s Ice Cream, also from Ohio. Her flavors are for a more-adult palate, though – like cherries with goat cheese or lavender berry or riesling poached pear sorbet. Needless to say, my kids always picked Graeter’s over Jeni’s.


I’m in brand training for work this week and picked Graeter’s raspberry chocolate chip as the brand I’m obsessed with. And I don’t even like the combination of chocolate + fruit!


Happy Birthday by the way! We’ve been getting into ice cream cakes for everyone’s birthday (except husband who insists on Key Lime Pie). We usually purchase them and our favorite lately has been ice cream cakes where there is no actual cake and only ice cream.


A Graeter’s ice cream shop is less than a block from where I sit this morning. How lucky am I? (I see you got my favorite: black raspberry chocolate chip. Mmmmmm.


I grew up in Cincinnati and am therefore delightfully familiar with Graeters. Your post started my day with a mouth watering longing for their toffee chip. Or their turtle sundae (their hot fudge and caramel sauces mixed together is as decadent as it gets). But, alas….I moved away many years ago, and I need to find me a friend as wonderful as Rory who will send me such a gift!!!!! Truly is the best ice cream in the world. Everything else is a sorry attempt. Thanks for starting my day with a wonderful childhood memory!!!


Oh, man! What a lovely tradition! (And friend!) My husband was living in Cincy when we met, and we now live about 1.5 hours from there and go back often. Graeter’s is always on our list of places to visit when we return. It really is fantastic ice cream! I especially love the chocolate chips – which they make by drizzling chocolate into the cream, rather than adding actual chips. Enjoy!

Mary Fran

They have a NEW flavor. Toasted Coconut gelato! Amazing!!! They also sell it at my local grocery store in Chicago…dangerous!


I’m from Cincinnati and I love Graeters! We always take the kids to one of the shops a few times during the summer for a treat. However, we’re currently in Japan for 2 years and miss Graeters! My lovely sister-in-law even checked with a local store to see if International Shipping was an option (it wasn’t). Enjoy your ice cream!


For my daughters’ birthdays, I have always baked them a special birthday cake. (It’s the only 2 times a year I bake!) I will never forget when my oldest daughter turned three, and she asked for a ‘castle’ birthday cake. Guests were arriving while we were still ‘assembling’ the turrets, which were frosting-coated sugar cones! Looking back at pictures, it’s the wackiest castle I’ve ever seen, but it was built with love 🙂


I am a fan of celebrating a birthday week. For myself, of course! For the kids, I’m all about making their cake (box mix!)and sticking a favorite small toy in it as decoration (My Little Ponys do this very well!). For friends, I love the idea of gifting dinner at their favorite restaurant. If they live close, I’ll bake simple cookies or brownies and leave them on their doorstep as a little extra treat during their birthday week. Birthdays are the best!


I love giving gifts. A favorite is a gift basket: recent favorite books, a tube of Weleda hand cream (luxurious and not inexpensive therefore perfect for gift-giving), a tub of Garrett’s Chicago mix popcorn, nice/fun pjs. Treat yo self (friend)! And belated happy birthday from Des Moines, Iowa. That direct marketing conference/snooze mentioned in your first book? I was likely there. Asleep.


This is not really a birthday tradition, but something I just figured out. My daughter and I love peanut butter topping on ice cream but hated the kind you buy at the store so we just microwaved a teaspoon or so of good, creamy peanut butter and drizzled it on chocolate chip ice cream–yum, so good!


Between Graeter’s and Jeni’s we here in Columbus, Ohio are ridiculously spoiled in the ice cream department.


It isn’t quite a ritual, but our family now often orders from Chocomize (http://www.chocomize.com/) for special occasions like birthdays (or just ’cause). The most fun part is deciding on the ingredients! And we aren’t from Ohio, but we love Graeter’s, too – I didn’t know you could order by mail. Sweet!


I’m a little behind here, but just in case anyone is still reading comments, I’m not from Cincy, but just across the river, and we have Graeter’s in Kentucky too.

If you’re elsewhere, you can try and find the pints in the freezer section. I’ve seen them as far south as South Carolina in Kroger or Publix.

If you’re not that lucky, Talenti gelato isn’t quite as good, but it’s a close second.