Monday, May 6, 2013

Birthday Abundance

It just so happens that a plethora of people in my life celebrate birthdays between May 5 and May 8, including Lora, in Baltimore, Maryland, who works for the American Heart Association and recently became a certified Master Gardener; Christian, in North Potomac, Maryland, the father of my paternal cousin, Claudia; my best friend’s father, Lyle, in Spokane, Washington; my go-to computer guru, Ralph, in Dallas, Texas; a dear friend, Juanita, in Pinole, California; my favorite gal pal, Jan, in Baltimore; my great niece, Sophia (having her very first birthday) in Newark, California, and the irrepressible architectural-model, exhibit and display designer, Jesse, also of Baltimore.  Whew!

Saturday night was a perfect evening to celebrate the birthdays of two of these fab people, Jan and Jesse.  Jan chose the restaurant, Blue Hill Tavern, a dining venue in the southeast section of Baltimore’s outer harbor originally developed on the plantation of a 19th century seaman named John O’Donnell (  Long a blue-collar waterfront area known for an early population of Welsh copper miners who settled there, the area has undergone a dramatic gentrification over the past several years, boasting a number of upscale businesses and restaurants like Blue Hill Tavern.

Jan, right, and I prepare to enjoy a fun
night on the town for her birthday

We met first at Jan and Robert’s lovely home in the Roland Park area of Baltimore City, starting our celebration early with champagne and a scrumptious crab dip.  Jan wore a Jes’Irie’Wear high-low skirt ( and black lace top, over which she layered a gorgeous vintage beaded shawl by Sharmark Las Vegas which she found at a trade show there in 1994.  Accenting Jan’s outfit was an incredible tooled-leather purse fashioned in the shape of a guitar, embellished with semi-precious beads, stones and crystals by designer Mary Frances (  The handbag even has a name, the Hall of Fame bag, one of several guitar-themed purses in the designer’s intriguing collection of novelty accessories.

Jan's amazing leather purse
by designer Mary Frances

For my own part, I chose a one-shouldered Bisou Bisou dress from JCPenney, pairing it with some fabulous glittery blue-green heels by Rachel Rachel Roy.  I selected my favorite Swarovski crystal bracelet, handmade by my high school pal Lily Williams of northern California, and a necklace and earrings of teal beads and crystals that I found in a tiny shop in the picturesque Eastern Shore town of Saint Michaels, Maryland, several summers ago.

This exquisite teakwood sculpture
was made by artisans on the island
of Java in Indonesia 

Before departing home for the restaurant, Jan and I posed for pictures in front of an extraordinary sculpture in Jan and Robert’s back yard, created on the island of Java from fallen teak limbs gathered by hand and carefully assembled into a larger-than-life-size horse, one of only four such statues made by the Indonesian artisans.  We toasted to good health and loving friendships before heading out into the perfect spring evening.

The food at Blue Hill Tavern was exceptional.  I enjoyed pork with roasted cauliflower and risotto croquettes. Jesse treated himself to steak and lobster, while Jan and Robert split an entrĂ©e of sour beef and dumplings, a distinctly Baltimorean dish tracing back to the city’s German roots.  We finished with molten chocolate cake and blood orange sorbet, a fitting conclusion to the splurge-worthy meal. 

From left: Jesse, me, Jan and Robert celebrate Jan
and Jesse's birthdays at Blue Hill Tavern in Baltimore
A return to reality (and the bathroom scale) the following morning strengthened my resolve to step up my exercise regimen.  But the memory of a wonderful evening spent celebrating the birthdays of dear friends in delightful surroundings lingers on, a pleasant diversion from the work-a-day world.  I wish a very happy birthday to my dearest friends and my niece this week!

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