My grandmother, Baba, used to say that her 60s were her favorite decade. I kind of love that because as amazing and blessed as we feel today – that means the best is yet to come. My mom and dad had their 60th birthdays over the past month…clearly this required celebrating!
With family from across the country descending upon Chicago for the weekend, we kicked off the celebrations with a Friday night dinner on Hillside Lane. The goal was casual and fun and I had my fingers and toes crossed for good weather. I had big plans of backyard games and rustic signs, like these. I even was able to get reclaimed barn wood from my friend at work; but the threat of rain proved too great and with darkness settling in earlier and earlier – my goal of bocce and bags did not happen. Next time. The rain did hold off so we were able to set up the backyard with drinks, appetizers and some extra seating.
With the weather getting cooler I wanted the inside to kind of glow with warmth. I picked up new candles for our mini-mantle and the scent was a subtle reminder that fall had arrived. I went with deep purples and golds for color in the napkins, plates and flowers and added as much candlelight as possible (while still out of reach of any and all 2 year olds…I’m looking at you, Luci).
The menu was casual….with a gathering of 20+ people, we couldn’t be slaving away in the kitchen for hours. For appetizers I tried out a couple of new things. The pre-made veggie cups with dip in the bottom seemed too easy to have not thought of it before. I also tried out strawberry bruschetta with goat cheese and a dash of balsamic as a fresh twist on a classic. And my soon-to-be sister-in-law’s mother makes the most divine (read: butter and cheese rich) appetizers. Mara’s asparagus rolls were gone before I knew it.
For dinner we went with shredded beef sandwiches (crock pot style!), ravs and meat sauce (note: growing up, we called tortellini, ravs or ravioli – I don’t know if we’ll ever know why, but ravs are a staple in our family), Portillo’s Chopped Salad and chips. Easy, easy, easy – but delish! And finally, it’s not a birthday party without a little bit of sweet. With the extra cups from the veggie appetizer, I made brownie parfait, pairing brownie, strawberries, blueberries and whipped cream with a raspberry and mint garnish. Simple perfection….and enough leftovers to enjoy for a few nights afterwards 🙂
The weekend continued with an architectural tour of Chicago. It couldn’t have been a more picturesque of days – crisp fall air and crystal clear skies. I was able to capture some great shots to prove it….
And the festivities wrapped up with a beautiful dinner at my cousin’s home – kicking off with a backyard Mass (in good Catholic tradition) and complete with hydrangeas, white table linens and lantern lighting.
I’ve always had a sense of how lucky we are to have the family that we do; but it is times like these that I am reminded again of just how blessed we are. Being surrounded by family and cousins and aunts and uncles who share and celebrate in your joys is a gift that I feel so humbled to pass down to our kids. The sounds of stories being passed or my aunts laughing over cards or the call for one last round of Bailey’s or a late night game of bags with cousins in the backyard makes our lives richer and these celebrations sweeter.
My parents are incredible and there are no two people who deserve a celebration more. They have created a family with deep roots and countless branches to hang happy memories. This party was another one of those memories. Here’s to Baba’s wisdom ringing true again – may this next decade be your best yet.