When I was younger, I never understood the apprehension about turning 30. I’ve always thought of myself as an old soul, so when I was 25 the thought of turning 30 sounded fabulous. For me the 20′s seemed, stereotypically, to be synonymous with insecurity and making mistakes. I was more than happy to skip past that. I was convinced I already knew who I was and didn’t need five more years to figure it out. I had a good job, a condo and a boyfriend. I felt like I’d checked all the boxes. I was settled.
But then I started questioning whether I was on the right career path. And my boyfriend and I broke up. And I was back to renting again so I could start my life in a new city. I felt suddenly self-conscious about what I had accomplished. My life was no longer moving along a predictable, linear path. I became obsessed with comparing myself to friends on Facebook, mentally noting where I thought I was falling behind. And even worse, I felt I was lagging behind my own expectations. Because let’s face it, many of us, at 12 or 16 have an idea of where we think we’ll be at 30. Maybe we imagine the ideal husband or the dream job with the lavishly decorated office. Mostly we probably thought, at the time, that 30 was unfathomably old. I know I did. Rationally I knew my harsh self-assessment wasn’t fair. I was incredibly naive as a teen and completely incapable of predicting my own, or any future. I was blissfully unaware that life sometimes takes twists and turns you don’t expect. Yet, I couldn’t shake a feeling of mourning of all that I had imagined that hadn’t been. Suddenly turning 30 didn’t seem that great after all.
All that energy, I will admit, made me a bit uneasy about turning 30. So I was amazed when the birthday came and instead of disappointment, I felt tremendous relief. I knew there was nothing I could do to change how my 20′s had played out. All I could do was be thankful for the journey I’d already taken and hopeful for what lied ahead.
So instead of wallowing I planned for a few days in Puerto Rico with two great college girlfriends and my wonderful sister, soaking up sunshine on the beach and eating Puerto Rican food. (I’m excited to recreate mofongo in my own kitchen.) I also invited my Chicago friends over to my place for a night of cocktails and appetizers. I can’t think of a better way to kick off being 30. And the food and drinks I served for my party weren’t half bad either.
For cocktails I served:
- Moscow Mules made with homemade ginger-lime syrup, vodka, and seltzer water
- Hibiscus Mojitos made with hibiscus syrup from a jar of wild hibiscus flowers in syrup, lemon juice, lime juice, and white rum
- Winter Soltice made from rosemary-infused pear nectar, brandy, and Cointreau
- Lemon Drop Jelly Shots made with homemade lemon syrup, Cointreau and Vodka
All three cocktails were from Danny Meyer’s cocktail book Mix Shake Stir, which I couldn’t recommend more highly. They were delicious and potent, not to mention easily batch made, a plus for a party. There were many more in the book than could fit on the menu so I look forward to trying more in the future. I know the Red Delicious, Cherry Blossom Sling, and The Hayride all caught my eye. The jelly shots were from Jelly Shot Test Kitchen, another new favorite book of mine.
For food, I went with small bites I thought would pair well with the drinks. I wanted things that, given it would be my 30th, would be a tad more elegant, but still approachable enough so as to appease all of the palates at the party. Most of the recipes I sourced from Pinterest as I’ve developed an addiction to pinning appetizer recipes on my commute home.
For food I served:
- Pistachio and Goat Cheese Grape Pops (Adapted from Sandy a la Mode, except that I inserted lollypop sticks to make them a pop instead of a truffle)
- Homemade Pretzel Bites with Assorted Mustards and Jalapeno Cheese Dip (Pretzel recipe adapted from Bobby Flay and dip adapted from Smells Like Home. I highly recommend the pretzel bites if you’re looking for a make ahead party recipe. I froze them immediately after they cooled and reheated them at 350 degrees and they tasted fresh-baked.)
- One Bite Gougere BLTs (Basically I made a batch of Gougeres and sliced them like sandwich buns filling them with the traditional BLT fixin’s. This is another great make ahead option as you can make and freeze the Gougeres ahead of time and reheat at 350 degrees when you’re ready to use.)
- Honey Chipotle Chicken Wings (Recipe from Cinnamon, Spice & Everything Nice)
I was also lucky in that I have incredibly generous friends so the spread was rounded out with an ample selection of wine, a vegetarian mushroom pate, triple salted caramel cupcakes, and sangria.
Overall, I couldn’t have asked for a more fabulous birthday after all was said and done! There’s something about surrounding yourself with friends that makes it easy to remind yourself how much good stuff is already in your life. Since my birthday I’m actually loving being 30 (Who’d have thought!) and can’t wait to see what comes my way next.