I’m of a certain age where all my friends (and in a year and a half I myself) are starting to reach that milestone birthday year. When I was a child I remember when my mom turned 40. A friend was trying to be funny and put up “Over the Hill” signs on her birthday. But my dad promptly took them down. He knew that mom was already nervous about this birthday. And at that time and age, 40 felt much older. Nowadays, 40 is considered a great age, a point in your life where you are, generally, settled and happy in your life, where you are doing well in your career but still have 20 more years of it, a time when you get a chance to let go of the person you were in the past and embrace the person you are today. So it seemed fitting that for my friend A, we decided to celebrate in a big way. His wife R set up a spectacular weekend in Bodega Bay. 3 families and 5 couples all taking the time to come together for a packed fun filled weekend full of fun activities and celebrating A’s new decade.
The group was so large, we actually had to split into two AirBnB houses. We were staying in the bigger, main house, since we though it was better to have the kids not have to be transported to a new sleep arrangement late in the evening. We stayed at the famous Pyramid house, a distinctive structure in Bodega Bay which is shaped similar to a pyramid with slanting walls and spectacular views. The house was huge with four bedrooms, a theater room, a hot tub, ping pong and billiards table, and a sizable living room. We arrived Friday evening, just behind another family. He had already started a simple dinner, so we were able to feed the kids and make sure they didn’t get too hungry.
Slowly everyone started to descend onto the house, including the birthday boy and his family. After we got the kids fed, they went off to explore the house, jumping on the sofas in the theater room, playing with the billiard table, and generally running around the “mansion”. At some point we put a movie on in the theater room so the adults could sit and enjoy dinner with a glass of wine and then some whiskey tasting. Eventually one of the adults put the kids to bed (I still don’t know which one), so we could enjoy more whiskey and talking. Finally, around 1am, I was asleep on my feet and went to bed. My husband stayed up until 3am helping R with the birthday dessert, and R stayed up until 4 am preparing for the next day. 😱
The next day my son was up at his usual bright and early 6am, and woke up all the other kids too. I gave them the remote and told them to watch as much as they wanted. Mommy and Daddy needed sleep. Finally, at 7:30 am they started to get too loud so I begrudgingly got out of bed, and set about helping them get ready for the day. Soon others were up and we set about making eggs, bagels and cereal for the kids, and copious amounts of coffee for the adults. R disappeared to set up the birthday hike, while I played host as the other house woke up late (must be nice to have no kids around) and slowly made their way over to our house for breakfast. The morning had seen gray and rain, but soon the sun came out. Several of us decided to head down to the beach we could see from the house. My daughter wanted to stay behind so I stayed with her. But the group walked to the beach and were greeted with a beautiful view with water that broke the water and created beautiful waves. By the time the group was ready to return, the sun was in full force and all worked up a sweat hiking back up the hill.
Around noon, R made it back with clam chowder and crab sandwiches for lunch. Everyone (but the kids) dug in enjoying the amazing meal typical of this area. It still took another hour or so to get everyone in the house sorted with snacks, get the kids in appropriate hiking gear, and get everyone out the door and to Bodega Head. Here we went on a special 40th birthday geocache adventure, where we hiked 3 miles around Bodega Bay Head, saw the beautiful bay, and found both traditional geocaches and special 40th birthday geocaches just for us. Check out my blog post on our geocaching adventure to see how we finished it up.
After the hike we were all cold, tired, and ready to relax and have fun. We came back to the house, opened the hot tub and…the kids immediately jumped in like it was a swimming pool. Meanwhile inside, we were busy making hot chocolate with chartreuse, and Irish coffees for the adults (kids got regular hot chocolate once they were out of the tub). However, while we were all drinking and relaxing when the chef from Northwest Catering showed up!
Bodega Bay doesn’t have a lot of fine dining establishments, and those that did exist wanted a restaurant buy out for a party as large as ours. R decided to go with a private chef she could get the dinner she wanted, servers to help with the serving and clean up, and no one would have to drive anywhere afterwards. Northwest Catering is amazing. They came with the chef, and two servers. They not only cooked the dinner, but helped with the making of whipped cream for the drinks we were having, opened the wine and poured whenever we stopped by the kitchen to ask for another glass, took dirty dishes and got everything cleaned up before they left, and cooked one of the best meals I’ve had in a long time. The appetizers were oysters, both raw and steamed. Both were delicious. Then an arugula salad with parmesan. For the main entrée, there were two choices, I had the duck confit, which was cooked perfectly. The other option was the halibut which others said was perfectly light and flaky. The children were fed macaroni and cheese, chicken and cauliflower. It’s entirely possible I went over to sneak a few bits of the incredibly flavorful macaroni and cheese!
However, the birthday cake was all R and other friend K. A is French and R wanted a French Pastry for the cake. So she made profiteroles filled with a home-made chocolate chartreuse filling. Then K made a Carmel, and the stuffed rolls were pasted to a cone in a pies monte cake. Once assembled, R and K brought out the masterpiece with FOURTY lite candles. It was beautiful, but like the joke cards say, after he blew them all out, we ran around opening windows and doors, afraid the smoke would set off the fire alarms. 😂
After the cake, A opened presents. The best part was a book R put together. She contacted all his friends all over the world for messages of good will and photos. It was moving to see A go through the book, and be genuinely touched so many contributed to this special memory. At some point after that, we moved the sleeping children to their beds (they had been watching a movie in the theater room during the dinner, and had fallen asleep in front of the movie), and then the real party began. We turned up the music, opened more wine and whiskey, and started drinking and dancing. Unfortunately, I was dehydrated from the day hike and previous night of drinking. I skipped the happy feeling and went straight to pounding headache. I drank a few glasses of water, hugged everyone good night, and went up to the room to try and sleep it off. The rest stayed up for several hours dancing, drinking, and celebrating this amazing time and being together.
The next morning everyone very, very, verrrryyyy slowly got up, drank water and coffee, and started to get ready for the day. The kids were up as usual at their bright and early time frame, and were at the pool table by 8am (but thankfully I stopped them from going sooner). R made a fantastic brunch of sourdough pancakes, broiled grapefruit, eggs and smoked salmon. We all chatted about the fun we had that weekend, and the memories we had made over the years. Sunday was A’s official birthday so he was inundated with calls from family and friends all over the world, wishing him a happy birthday. Soon it was time to pack up. As it always happens when you stay in a big house, you spread out. And it took several hours to find all the stuff, get it back to it’s correct owners, pack up, pack the cars up, clean up, etc. The kids ran around the house “helping”, before we put on Cars 3 in the theater room (they got to use it WAAAYYY more than we did), and then played a wrestling game for which I’m just glad no one was hurt. We managed to be completely finished at 1:57pm, 3 minutes from checkout.
Then we said our good-byes. A and some were going off on another hike, but my family and I had to get back to the Bay Area to prepare for the week ahead. We hugged everyone, and the kids were sad to leave the mansion we got to stay in. We hugged A and thanked him for letting us be a part of his life and this special weekend. Happy 40th A. Here is to another 40 years where I get to watch you grow as a man, father, god-father, husband and friend.
*Stared photos taken by Atma Photography