The Loh Life is writer/performer Sandra Tsing Loh's weekly take on life, family, and pop culture in early 21st century Southern California.
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Isn't it Romantic? Part One: Partyin' at Costco

Sandra Tsing Loh makes a trip to Costco... on her birthday.

As a divorced mom of two middle school daughters, holidays can be a chore and, for me, February is particularly trying.  The other week I had a birthday - on Tuesday, how festive! - and then Friday, of course, was Valentine's Day.  The capper.

I put my shoulder to the wheel and got it done, however.

To dispatch with the Tuesday night birthday, I came up with a weirdly fun new kind of dinner party.  Harried working parents?  You may steal it if you wish!

What had sounded good to me was a cozy dinner with four girlfriends.  Problem: I didn't want to cook, and I didn't want to go out.  Just the thought of wrangling over the bill - "It's not YOUR treat, it's MY treat!" - and being surprised by a $42 bottle of chardonnay that, frankly, we would probably demolish in 12 minutes -

No.  For half the money and double the fun - ?  Six words: "Voyage Into The Center of Costco."  What I did is, while shopping at Costco on my birthday, yes, that's right, I threw caution to the wind and gave myself over to the heady experience of buying all of those insanely exotic frozen appetizers you always wonder about.  Don't you?  Don't you fall into a kind of trance when you roll your cart down those wondrous boulevards of gleaming freezer cases - Freezer cases that seem to vibrate with fun?  Don't you gaze upon those cool tempting libraries of appetizers and marvel, "How in the heck do they do that?"  And, where do they get such amazing ideas, these magical elves from that snowy land to power this veritable-gastronomical Disneyland?  We're talking tempura shrimp in tequila lime sauce, handmade Maryland crab cakes with mango chutney, basil pesto crusted tilapia.  I threw in a box of 40 pork chimichangas and grass fed beef with asiago cheese and fennel cocktail sausages just 'cause I could.  Party on, Garth!

By contrast, my culinary hits at home are limited to "Make Your Own Pizza" - Trader Joe's pizza dough, sauce - "The Stuffed Biscuit" - Pillsbury biscuits that you stuff, mostly with instant mashed potatoes - and, of course, the one vegetable, something I stumbled onto quite by accident called "Broccoli From Hell."  You throw broccoli on a sheet, drench it in too much olive oil and sea salt, shove it in the oven at 475, and then go and answer a bunch of email.  The result is broccoli that's scorched to a blackened crisp, which is the "From Hell" part, and surprisingly tasty.  Although, now I guess you can see why I didn't want to cook on my birthday and no one else wanted me to either.

Next week: Babies Attack CPK.