Hello, 30

One of the silver linings of getting another year older (aside from the cake) is that it provides an excuse for getting together to celebrate with family and friends.

My birthday festivities started off on Saturday morning with brunch with Bridget, my mom and aunt, at Kanella, a BYOB specializing in cuisine from Greece and Cyprus. I can’t believe that I’ve never written about it before. I’ve been there quite a few times for dinner and brunch and its one of my favorite places in the city. The thing that appeals to me most about the food from this area of the world is that it relies on fresh ingredients and a simple presentation. Kanella gets it just right.

With the exception of one or two sweeter dishes (like crepes drizzled with carob syrup), most of the brunch options are of a more savory variety. Some of my favorite dishes are the Cyprus breakfast, which consists of sunny side up eggs, slightly salty, fried halloumi cheese, sausage and toast as well as the Shaksouka, a tomato and pepper stew topped with poached eggs. On my birthday visit, I enjoyed one of the day’s specials, a salad with just barely cooked tuna, served over a bed of greens and topped with a simple squeeze of lemon and hint of salt.

And, of course, since our visit was of a celebratory nature, Bridget and I got our drink on early in the day with mimosas.

Brunch was followed by manicures and pedicures, and then we headed home to get ready for the evening’s festivities. My mom and Chester told me over the summer that they were planning a 30th birthday party for me. While I like the idea of a surprise party, in theory, I would be absolutely mortified to show up to an event in my honor without a fabulous dress/shoes and fresh manicure/blow-out.  I agreed that they could keep the location and other details of the party under wraps, but appreciated the heads up so that I could make sure that I looked presentable.

Chester took the most circuitous route into Center City while I tried to guess while we were headed. Of course, it was impossible to, given the fact that there are a million restaurants around here. After making me nervous by pulling up to sketchiest looking restaurant in South Philly and throwing me off by making it look like we were going to University City when we pulled off the expressway at South Street, we ended up at Georgio on Pine where my family and friends were waiting.

My Vicki’s girls, Gab and Rhonda

Me and my grandfather

My mom and one of her best friends, Donna

Acting like a goof.

I was so excited to see everyone that I spent most of the time going from table to table to chat and not a whole lot of time eating. A rare occurrence.

The food I did try, however, was absolutely delicious. And, there was plenty of it. Seriously, it just kept coming out of the kitchen. There was bruschetta and calamari, a pasta plate featuring gnocchi (the best I’ve had in quite awhile), ravioli in tomato cream sauce and bucatini, a choice of one of three entrees (stuffed chicken, branzino and veal). The staff who worked our party that night could not have been nicer. This restaurant is definitely one of Philly’s hidden gems and highly recommend it.

I did make sure to sit down in time for cake, however. Chester ordered it from Whipped Baked Shop in Fishtown and made sure that it included all of my favorite things: daisies, fudgy chocolate cake and peanut butter buttercream. It was one of the best cakes I have ever had. I’m pretty excited that the top tier is still sitting in my fridge. But, probably not for much longer.

Photo stolen from Rhonda’s Facebook page. Love that the candle said “29, again.”

Checkter: The party was a smashing success. I know that the process involved sending quite a few e-mails, working late nights to take care of the little details, and spending time in the car running errands around the city. You definitely could have a future in events management (Although I’m pretty sure you aren’t the least bit interested). I can’t say thank you enough for making me feel like the most special person on the planet, not just on my birthday, but every day. I know I drive you crazy sometimes and you spoil me much, much more than I probably deserve.

To my family and friends: Thank you for making it a little bit easier for me to say goodbye to my 20s. Extra hugs and thanks to those of you who had to travel in order to spend the weekend with me, including Chester’s parents, Bill and Bing, who flew in from Chicago, and Bridget and Bill who drove in from Boston. And, to those of you who braved the crazy traffic and drove around looking for parking on a busy Saturday night in Philly, thanks for not turning around and going home.

One of my favorite gifts is the box of advice and memories that you all contributed to. Some of my favorite bits include:

Always double bow.” –Mom

“Never, never, never try to fix anything in the house. Always remember that you are your mother’s daughter. Fixing anything is a bad idea” –Aunt

“Always remember where you came from and who really matters to you, always forgive and forget, and sometimes just forget. –Joe, one of my mom’s best friends

“Make sure that you save room for dessert. And soup.” –Dave Bruno

“Drinking helps” –Darin Pfeifer

And, as for memories that I couldn’t forget, even if I tried:

“Remember when you got your legs stuck under Nunnie’s fence while playing on the slip and slide.” – Yes, Bridge, I do. I told my mom that the scars running up and down my legs were the result of my press-on nails. She totally bought it (not).

“The Russian Tea Room, NYC. Suzie, Maryann, Bridget and Lauren for lunch. $85 each. Bridget and Lauren wouldn’t eat.”–This was on the occasion of Bridget’s 12th birthday. Our palates were not yet that adventurous.

“Getting held up by the police at your bachelorette party.” –  Ciana, please tell Julius once again, that I’m sorry about his car. I know it’s been two years, but I don’t think I’ve done quite enough apologizing for that incident, yet.

I’m looking forward to everything that’s in store for the the next decade—and beyond. With all of the wonderful people I have in my life, I know that everything that is to come is sure to be kick ass.

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