Thirty One.

Tara’s birthday is one of my favorite times of the year.  It’s an opportunity where I get to celebrate her entirely.  Because birthdays are a big deal for her as well, it always extends for the entire week.  It also stretches me to be unique and creative with each one that I get to be a part of.  To read about last year’s birthday, click <<<here>>>.

Her actual birthday this year fell on a Tuesday (July 30th) which was good and bad. With it being in the middle of the work week, we had to wait till Friday to really do something BIG with friends. It did, however, give us an opportunity to do some small little things throughout the week.

This year I feel like we’ve hit a new stride personally as true NYC locals.  Last year, our first in NY, we hadn’t really developed any close friendships in the City so we ended up planning a big birthday bash with her FL friends and family.  Thanks in large part to the small group we started at our church, our “network” of close friends has grown quite considerably since the beginning of 2013.  This is how the birthday week unfolded.

Monday
It just so happened that it was the closing night of our small group season.  We had almost everybody at the group that night (which has grown from 12 to 20 people).

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Last year for Tara’s 30th, I had a cake made by the fabulous KaraBoo Bakery and we
included on the cake 30 things that defined Tara.
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Karaboo always hits it out of the park.  I was bummed that I couldn’t fly in a cake
from them.  In an interesting twist of fate, I ended up meeting a cake maker, Amy Noelle of Sugar Flower Cake Shop, on the Friday prior to Tara’s birthday week at a networking meeting in the City.  She is extremely talented, creative, uses local ingredients and does not use fondant on anything.  She was showing pictures of her work on her iPad and after I left the meeting, I e-mailed her to see if she could take on making my wife’s cake.  She accepted and we came up with a local NYC cake idea.  As I said earlier in this post, I feel like this year we’ve really settled into our NYC life.  We don’t feel we’re tourists anymore and we’ve embraced this City as our own.  So here’s the cake we had made to represent our “local” status in the Union Square area and I surprised Tara by bringing it out on that night to share with our group…our NYC friends.
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As for the cake ingredients/flavor, here’s the breakdown.  We decided on a Champagne Cake with chocolate buttercream filling and NYC Honey Icing.  Champagne cakes are all the rage this year plus that’s one of her favorite drinks!  The honey is sold in the Union Square farmer’s market (Andrew’s Honey).  Andrew has hives all around Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn and keeps the harvests separately.  The variety they are using right now is the Chelsea honey.  The chocolate was Valrhona dark chocolate.  Since chocolate doesn’t grow in the state of New York, she had to look outside and use one of the best quality French chocolates (which was great because Tara has a personal affinity for all things French!).  The champagne is a pink champagne which fit in with the purple and green color scheme.

Her gift that night was a mophie phone case/charger…a real game changer as a NY’er.  More on that in a future blog post.
mophie

Tuesday
This was the actual birthday.  I got up at 5:30AM to wait in line at Dominique Ansel’s Bakery, the inventor of the Cronut (more on this in a future blog post as well).  I was able to score 2 cronuts when the bakery opened at 8AM and deliver them to the wife at work as my “surprise” gift that day.  The cronut had a blackberry glaze with bits of pulverized berries mixed in and it was rolled with a mix of coarse sugar and lime zest. It was filled with blackberry-swirled vanilla cream. Every month they change flavors.  It tastes every bit as good as it sounds!!
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I had some flowers delivered at work a few hours later.
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We went and ate at Pierre Loti, a wine and cheese bar in Union Square – one of Tara’s favorite things to do.  It was great to spend some time with her out on a date – just the two of us.  We tried a few different plates and shared a bottle of wine.
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Wednesday
We had dinner scheduled with some friends of ours from a few weeks ago, so before we went, I gave her a card with 2 plane tickets to the Dominican Republic.  We have not taken a vacation at all this year.  So this will be a great break for us in the Fall (even if it is just for a weekend) before my travel/gig season gets crazy and hopefully we can come back with some good looking tans for the winter!
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Thursday
Finally a night at the house just to chill and catch up on some DVR shows.  But to make the night a little special, I had ordered some ZD wine (T’s favorite) to be shipped in from Napa and it came in that day so we enjoyed a bottle with dinner.
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Friday
I had a DJ gig on Saturday so this was our night to live it up!  We went out with our good friends, Cameron and Leslee, to Beauty and Essex on the lower East Side.  I will do a separate blog post on that location later on but let me just say, this place blew our mind!  From the outside, you wouldn’t have any idea what the vibe is like.  You actually walk THROUGH a pawn shop (the front door) and it opens up to this massive 3 story space.  It’s very trendy.

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beauty inside
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They are known for their FREE “champagne bar” that is INSIDE the ladies restroom and you better believe that Tara and Leslee took FULL advantage of that.  Did I mention that it was FREE?
*NOTE: The men’s restroom, was not at all furnished with that type of amenity.
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The food at B&E is very tapas style.  We hung out there, shared some amazing food, drank some quality wine and had great conversation.

Afterwards, we went out to a hole-in-the-wall bar called Nurse Bettie for a night cap and then finished eating tacos out of a taco truck called Tacos Morelos (Cameron and Leslee’s first DATE night spot in the NYC -TRUE story and yes, this is one of the many reasons why we love them)!
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Great way to cap off 31 in the City!
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Tara’s 30th…surprise 2 of 3

Yesterday I blogged about gift #1 for Tara’s 30th.  While that was the first of three gifts given, it was not the first one I had planned.  Herein lies surprise gift #2.  First, the backstory.

Tara has been a trooper with our move to NYC.  It is the first time that she has really lived away from home.  Granted she lived in Tallahassee during her college years; that was still only a little over 2 hours away (a quick commute home if needed).  If you’ve spent any time with her, you’ll pick up on the fact right away that she is a social butterfly.  She loves being around people and people love being around her.

Since she works with me in my business and we work from home primarily, the opportunities to meet new people in our new City are vey limited.  Plus, for the first couple months we lived here, I was traveling non-stop so she was really by herself 90% of the time.  She probably wouldn’t admit it, but I could see it had defintely taken its toll on her.  The thought of spending her birthday (and one of such significance) away from her closest friends was slowly looking like reality.

Luckily, she had a work trip to Destin, FL (our previous hometown) planned the weekend before her birthday.  That was when I decided to throw her a surprise party.  The details weren’t totally worked out but the initial idea was that I would fly in to surprise her at a dinner with some of her Destin friends and we’d get a birthday cake designed in the style of the new shoes.  Then at some point, I’d pull out the real ones.  The last part of that plan got nixed when I had to give her the shoes early.  So I had to go to plan B.  Here’s some of the details of this surprise party.

Because it was her 30th birthday, I wanted to stay with a “30” theme throughout.  In Florida, there’s a beautiful stretch of highway along the gulf called “30-A”.  So I thought we could have it at a restaurant on that road.  We made reservations at 723 Whiskey Bravo.  It has a cool rooftop, very affordable food and a private room.

Another themed idea was to invite only 30 of her closest family and friends.  I called some of her college roomates to see if they could make it, one of her best friends from Jacksonville and of course her family.

We secretly sent out E-invites and then her sister designed a cool 3D paper reminder invite that went out as well.

The cake was the toughest part.  I had no clue what to do with the design since the shoe thing would be anti-climatic at this point.  So I put together the brains of Bob and Leslie (2 of my business partners) and the fantastic pattisier, Kara Enache, from Karaboo Bakery and we came up with something in no time.  We decided to go with “30 Things about Tara”.  While I was able to come up with the majority of the 30, I had to call in some recruits like her mom, sister and one of her best friends to help me compile the list.  Honestly, it was such a fun process.  We ended up having so many things that we had to start eliminating things to get to 30.  We left it with Kara to figure out how to incorporate everything.  Since you can’t see all 30 things on the picture of the cake, I’m listing the 30 below.

  1. Church/God/Faith
  2. Family
  3. Friends
  4. Sunbathing
  5. Wine
  6. Beer (Miller Lite) {God only knows why that brand – Eww!}
  7. FSU Seminoles
  8. Ballet
  9. Cheerleading
  10. NYC
  11. CA
  12. FL
  13. Sushi Sho (CA Sushi Place)
  14. Bert’s Chili (Waffle House)
  15. Airplane
  16. Kean Coffee (CA Coffee Place)
  17. Shoes
  18. Chi Omega (sorority)
  19. Stationery
  20. Dresses
  21. Crab Island/Boating/Backdown / Billy Bowlegs {Boat she goes on every year}
  22. Bruiser (her dog)
  23. Chanel (her smell)
  24. Ruby (her birthstone)
  25. Justin Timberlake / N’Sync {the OG celebrity crush}
  26. Beans
  27. Stuart Weitzman
  28. 10/2/10  (Wedding Date) {Duh}
  29. SOTER (licence plate of her first used car) {was a running joke/nickname of car}
  30. 9:24AM (time she was born)

The result was this.

Her favorite color is purple so although my camera doesn’t do it justice, that is the color of it.  She loves red velvet so that was flavor inside the cake. Kara killed it!  Amazing job.  The restaurant charged ZERO for a plating fee.  So we were able to bring it in, keep it in one of their refrigerators and and have it served after dinner.

One other small thing I added at the last minute was ordering a few bottles of her favorite wine for the party.  She loves ZD wine so I had that shipped in.  The corkage fee at this particular restaurant was very minimal and was the perfect last minute touch.

I got there the day of the party.  I remained in hiding most of the day, then arrived at the restaurant a little bit prior to the event happening.  She was finishing a wedding rehearsal and we had her assistant coordinator take her to the restaurant.   At the restaurant at that time was just our work folks (we had her believing that the work folks wanted to have a drink with her).  As is usually the case in July in the panhandle, it was muggy and humid.  She loves Martinis so I had one waiting at the door in my hand for her.

She was happily surprised and we went upstairs on the deck to hang for a little bit while the other peeps we had invited filed in downstairs to the private room.  There were a few close calls of the surprise being thrawted.  Tara ran into her grandparents on her way into the restaurant but her grandmother spun a great story as to why they were out there.  Then a few of our friends came upstairs and again another story was made up. Whew!

I took her downstairs once I got the word that everybody was in the room and the surprise came to life!

This was definitely something Tara needed considering the week she had been having (more on that in the next blog posting).  I’m so thankful that so many of her family and friends drove out to be a part of this.  Major thanks go out to Bob and Leslie for helping me make it all come together.

There still was one last BIG surprise for her birthday.  #3 will come out on the blog tomorrow!