Cristina Ferrare
I recently reached a milestone birthday. I was truly bothered by this one—so much so that I chose the easiest way to deal with it by not acknowledging it at all. It was my intention to let the day go quietly without any fanfare, birthday wish or celebration. I purposely did not carry my cell phone with me, did not answer my home phone and did not pick up my messages at work. I didn't want to hear from or call back anyone—not my husband, not my kids, not a soul.

Needless to say, this backfired. I created a lot of chaos by not answering the numerous calls. My kids thought I was sick in the hospital and didn't tell them, and my mom freaked out, thought someone hit my car and assumed I was in a ditch off the 405 freeway. My husband, who knows me better than anyone, knew I was having a difficult day and chose to make the wise decision to just let me ride this one out.

So, I buried myself in my work, but not even that provided a safe haven from the celebrations. I was forced to deal with the fact that it was indeed my birthday when my colleagues at the office surprised me with a beautiful cake and a rousing rendition of the "Happy Birthday" song.

It didn't stop there. My daughters, Alex and Arianna, decided that they wanted to throw me a birthday party and knew instinctively that I wasn't going to have anything to do with a celebration. The day after my birthday, Alex simply just picked up the phone and said: "Mom, we know and understand that you probably don't want to do anything for your birthday but Arianna and I are giving you a party next weekend to celebrate this important one. We are doing all of the cooking, have a menu planned and we've invited the girlfriends in your life we know you love—and they all have accepted!"

My instinct was to say: "What? No, no, no!" But after hearing in her voice how excited she was about putting this evening together with her sister, all I could do was smile.

Alex recited the menu, and I was quite impressed:

Appetizers:
Grilled Baby Eggplant with Roasted Tomatoes and Feta with Basil Oil
Penne Pasta with Fresh Roma Tomato Sauce and Parmesan Cheese Curls

Entrée:
Soy-Glazed Sea Bass with Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes and Cucumber Vinaigrette
Wild Arugula Salad with Panko-Crusted Goat Cheese and Olive Oil and Lemon Dressing

Dessert:
Arianna's Famous Cheesecake with Fresh Berries

Wow. I thought that was very ambitious, especially since they've never cooked for so many people. Right away, I started to put in my two cents, only to be cut off immediately and told there was no way I was to go near the kitchen. I was to sit back, talk with my friends, drink in the evening and not worry when to throw the pasta down!

How did Cristina's birthday party turn out?