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:

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

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

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?
The party was held in Montecito at the home of my dear friend Genevieve Reitman. When my girls called her with the idea, she immediately said yes and put her brand of magic on it by creating a table that was like walking into a dream sequence in a movie. Before me was a huge, round table that sat 20 people. The room was lit only by candles, and the flickering flames bounced off the crystal, creating more light that looked like a thousand stars glistening—simply breathtaking!

I was overwhelmed and a bit nervous that all this attention was directed at me, and I couldn't run away to my safe place, in this case the kitchen, to be alone with my thoughts. I was so moved and touched that my girls did this for me and my "love friends" drove all the way up from L.A. in torrential rain to be there. My friend Jan even flew in from Dallas in a thunderstorm, then drove through it to be there!

When it was time to have dinner, I quietly took my seat (because I was speechless) next to my mother. At this point, I stopped to give thanks on how lucky and blessed I am to be the age I am and still have my mother with me. I was surrounded by good, solid, decent, loving and fiercely loyal friends and family. I listened to the words as each person one by one got up to speak and toast the newest chapter in my life.

I had always categorized my life in chapters, one for each decade, and wondered how to label this one. "The Final Chapter"? "The Way-Over-the-Hill-and-Beyond Chapter"? "The Year of 'The Clapper'"? "Where Do I Go from Here?" "Why Do I Feel So Young Inside But Can't Get My Jeans on Without Holding onto the Wall?"

As I sat there and listened to everyone, I realized that this was the beginning of my "Dream Come True" chapter.

I am about to embark on a new venture that has been a lifelong dream of mine. A dream that, frankly, I had given up on until now. It occurred to me while I was listening to my friend's toasts that I am ready for this next big adventure. I am exactly where I am supposed to be at this point in my life. I have been blessed with a supportive, patient and loving husband for 25 years, children that are my life's blood, close family bonds and friends that are my friends in the truest, purist sense of the word. It's because of my family and friends that I'm prepared and ready for this new opportunity. I've never been busier, had so much responsibility or fun, and I've never been more ready!

Stay tuned for a big announcement soon!

In honor of this memorable evening I had, I would like to share with you the recipe for Arianna's outstanding cheesecake. She made two of them for my birthday, and when I tried to smuggle them out of the house the next morning, I was busted! I heard a rather stern voice booming from across the room as the gentleman of the house asked, "You're not taking that cheesecake home with you, are you?" Guess not. Maybe next year.

Sending big bowls of birthday wishes!



Next Story