Sunday, June 9, 2013

#1 Fan... Dreams do come true!

As far as I'm concerned... there are really only three birthdays that "count" in life... your 1st birthday, your 21st birthday and your 40th birthday. On your first birthday, you are celebrated by your parents, who ooh and ahh over your every move. Your 21st birthday is spent celebrating your freedoms as an adult and the only party necessary is one that involves a very late night and lots of "cheers!" On your fortieth birthday, you feel like you have become the person you are meant to be and if you're lucky, you have people around you that want to celebrate you and your life story.

Well, this is the year that Firoze turned forty and he said many times over the past year... you don't have to do anything for my birthday. Except that I want to celebrate him and everything that he has become, to celebrate his life story so far. I feel so lucky to have a husband that I love and admire. Someone who turned my world upside down from the first time he really looked in my eyes and I felt like I saw my future. He is a self-made man, who has come from a third world country and with no more than a backpack and the well wishes from his family, has worked every day of his life to make something of himself. He graduated from the top hotel school in Switzerland and has worked harder than anyone I have ever known to survive in the world of luxury hotels. More than his hotel smarts and amazing work ethic, I wanted to celebrate the most kind, caring, and open person I have ever known. He counts his friends by the hundreds and meets someone who would walk up to him and give him a handshake or a hug on every single public outing that we make. He has been generous beyond words with everyone from all walks of life, from stopping EVERY single time to give money or take food to the homeless guy on the street, the one that 100 cars will pass and he will turn around and stop the car, even as I'm saying "please, can we just keep going?!" He washes my floors, does the laundry and gives me a foot rub when work is awful. He loves the boys unconditionally and will give them baths, teach them how to play soccer, and take them to the playground on his days off. He is an extrovert and loves people and it shows. For all the ways that I am shy and introverted, he has shown me how important it is to stop and have a conversation with someone, even if that is the only time you'll ever meet them. He can talk to literally ANYONE and the one phrase I have heard a million times is "your husband is SO nice! No really... I'm not just saying that. He is truly such a nice person!" And it's true...he is nice and more than that, he's the one I love and I'm so lucky that I got such a good person and a best friend to spend my life with. So, for all those reasons and more, I wanted to celebrate him on his big 40th birthday!

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When I was debating what kind of gift to get him early this year, I was really debating over something that would really amaze him and remember it for the rest of his life. After lots of thinking, one day I decided to search things related to his favorite soccer team in the world... Chelsea. First of all, I have NEVER bought tickets to a sporting event by myself in my whole life and don't even really know how it works. Secondly, almost all soccer games are played in other countries, so the chance that they would even be coming to the US was slim to none. Anyways, I googled "Chelsea soccer game usa 2013" to see what came up and the first heading said "Chelsea to play exhibition game on May 23rd." Well, May 23rd was his birthday, so I just couldn't believe it...could this be true?! I saw a number to call the stadium and I called there and asked how to go about buying tickets and the operator literally laughed in my face and said "that game sold out in 2 minutes and there is not a single ticket available." Well, long story short, I bought front row tickets from an online scalper to the game, bought plane tickets, arranged our hotel stay and new Chelsea gear and had the longest wait in history to reveal my surprise!!

Leading up to his actual birthday, I made sure to make lots of comments about how we should go out to dinner on his birthday since we both had the day off. I told him our big plan would be to go on a date and see a movie, since the last time we did that was probably 6 years ago. He pretty much bought this story, hook line and sinker! I made sure to arrange our nanny to stay overnight with the boys and to come at 6am on the morning of his birthday. On that morning, my heart was absolutely racing, since he thought he would get to sleep in and I was going to wake him up at 6am and reveal the surprise. I got up at 5am and took a shower and put his clothes for the trip in the bathroom. Then I woke him up and told him he needed to take a quick shower and get dressed because he had to come with me to take Devon to school. For some reason, he didn't ask questions and just went with it. When he came downstairs, Devon was dressed and ready for school and I had a birthday present waiting for him. I just couldn't wait for him to open his present and find out the surprise I had been keeping for so long!

You can see the reveal here...and yes, the part with Firoze and Devon was at 6:15 in the morning and the camera is shaking like crazy because I was so nervous!

Firoze is Forty! from Julie Nizam on Vimeo.

Needless to say, he was in total shock and confusion as we dropped Devon off at school and then headed straight to the airport. Our suitcase was already hidden in the trunk and I don't think it really registered that this was all happening until we were in the airport at our gate, waiting to get on the plane. It was such an exciting and happy day and one that both of us will never forget!

This is the glorious view as we flew into St Louis, Missouri! We were on cloud 9!!

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As we flew to St Louis, he asked me "by the way, where are we staying?" and I told him that I had to pay about 3 times the normal rate for our hotel room because the entire city was sold out for this game. He then said "one of our old friends lives in St Louis and her husband works at the Four Seasons. I wonder if I can get in touch with her?" I didn't think anyone would be picking up the phone to talk to a friend from 10 years ago at 7am in the morning. Well, I should have known... in a friendship that only Firoze could have, our friend Nikol insisted on dropping all her plans for the day and picked us up from the airport. We found out she has become as much of a foodie as I have and gave us a "foodie's tour" of St Louis. What on earth could have been better?! To be welcomed with open arms and to be driven around and shown where to get the best cupcake, the best ribs, the best coffee shop, the best breakfast in all of St Louis... we were in heaven. After much searching online, I thought I had our food destinations all planned out, but Nikol took us to a restaurant I would never have found on my own... the cutest, most charming farm-to-table breakfast place and vintage general store all wrapped up into one fantastic restaurant!

If you're in St Louis, you've gotta check out Winslow's Home!

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During breakfast, she said she had called her husband and arranged for us to stay at the Four Seasons. What a miracle!! We were beyond thrilled and she said she would take us on a little driving tour of the city and then make sure we got checked in to our room. This was such a blessing and just one more thing to prove the power of friendship. It just made our day that much sweeter.

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After our wonderful breakfast and lots of good conversation, she drove us to the Four Seasons. When I asked her if it was near the St Louis arch, she just laughed. Now I know why! On the way into the driveway, she pointed out the the hotel was connected to a major casino and I think Firoze went into overload mode, but the best was yet to come...

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When we got into the lobby, we saw the entire Chelsea soccer team standing in the lobby. Seriously, I think Firoze died and went to heaven! I don't think he has ever been happier or more in awe in his whole life! Somehow he managed to keep it cool as he literally said hello to everyone on the team, calling them out like old friends with their first name, like "hey Frank!" I think these guys were thinking "do we know you???" because he knew every single player!

What a welcoming commitee...

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Firoze with his favorite player, Frank Lampard, the all-time leading goal scorer for Chelsea and 3-time player of the year!

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After they all left the lobby, Firoze was literally speechless and I was staring at the magnificent view of the arch...

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I think we both needed to calm down... a pot of tea for me and a cocktail for Firoze before being whisked up to our room.

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We were treated like kings and queens and had the most beautiful upgraded room with a breathtaking view of the arch and river with floor to ceiling windows. Thank you Nikol and Alper for your hospitality and frienship!!!

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After a tour of the hotel and casino, we definitely hung out around the lobby to see Chelsea players doing tv interviews, walking around, talking with their coaches, and meeting other fans! We then returned to the room to relax and get ready for the big game, which meant a huge bubble bath, and a cheese plate and a nap!

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To show my love, I had to get decked out as a huge Chelsea fan! And by the end of the night, I think I became one! Maybe it had something to do with the face tattoo...

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It was just a short walk from our hotel through downtown St Louis to the stadium...

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The excitement was contagious! Every single person on the street was decked out in the complete team colors and everywhere was a sea of blue. There was live music, people cheering in the streets and a completely full stadium of 48,000 fans who were all major soccer fans. Our day had been beyond perfect so far, but now Firoze got to see where our seats were located...

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Yes, front row seats!!!!!! We could literally reach our foot out and touch the field. We got a close up view of the players and the action. We cheered with the Chelsea fans and got heckled by the Manchester City fans. It was wild and crazy!!

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How exciting that this day happened on May 23rd?! It was meant to be...

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Who got to be hugged by the team mascot... the Chelsea Lion??? The birthday boy...that's who!

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It was a complete nail biting game, down to the very last second with Chelsea losing by one goal made in the last few minutes. Even with his team losing the game, I don't think I have ever seen Firoze happier (except maybe on the days the boys were born, but maybe just a smidge happier) than he was on this day. If I could have written a movie script for the perfect 40th birthday present, it couldn't have been scripted to be any better than it turned out. From start to finish, God blessed our perfect day and worked a miracle so Firoze could meet his favorite players in the world and watch the game together, holding hands and cheering on the men in blue!

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After the game, we had to make one last stop... Let's just say it was a very LATE night!

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The next day, we had to take a walking tour of the cool downtown area.  photo IMG_2693_zpsa2831e3b.jpg

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And Riverfront Park was so clean and beautiful!

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The arch was spectacular. It is so much more breathtaking than you would think...

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And we toured the museum located under the arch, below the surface...

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After our tour of the arch, we had to take Nikol's foodie recommendation for lunch. When a foodie light up talking about her favorite restaurant and throws out phrases like "line out the door" and "voted one of the top 10 restaurants in the USA" and "best barbeque she's ever had" you just go! So away we went with a taxi driver who was more like a historian and city tour guide and headed over to Pappy's Smokehouse...

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And yes, we got there are 11am and made it through the line in about 30 minutes, but when we sat down, the line was through the restaurant, down some hallways, out the door and around the block!

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And here's what all the fuss was about... (Eat your heart out Guillermo! This was SERIOUSLY the best pork ribs I have ever had in my life!!) And poor Firoze had to suffer with no pork, but smoked beef brisket... poor boy!

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After our major lunch, we took an afternoon stroll around the West End and saw this...

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And took one last suggestion from Nikol and got a cupcake to go from Cup...

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I am truly so excited that we will always have this incredible memory from Firoze's birthday. It's something he will never forget and I know we'll be talking about this day when we are 80 years old and hopefully sitting on a porch somewhere in rocking chairs!

And last but not least, after flying back to Atlanta, we celebrated with our favorite friends and somehow ended up having our party crashed by Burt from "The Burt Show." He was incredibly friendly and the first thing he said when he saw Firoze coming over to his table was "don't I know you?!" Yes Burt, you probably do... And that's my Firoze... the life of every party and the unoffical mayor of Atlanta!

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