Sunday, November 9, 2014

Jeff's Surprise 50th Birthday Party

Remember that time I organized Diana's wedding reception and I said I'd never plan another party again? Yeah. I lied. Because last month we had...


Jeff is my "brother." It's in quotes because he is not my brother by blood. "Brother" is a designation given to me by Jeff's wife Bonny. She uses it when he gets in trouble, like some people do their children or pets.  

"Did you hear what your brother did now?"  
"Ut oh. What'd he do?"

Bonny approached me months ago to discuss a party for Jeff's 50th birthday. She had no idea what to do. A wine trail limo trip? Rent the game bus? Do we do dinner or just beer and munchies? And where do we have it??? It was tough to figure this one out. Bonny was not a party planner and all my ideas involved Michael Bay-style explosions and hot male strippers. Clearly there was a middle ground here we were completely missing. Eventually, the idea of a party was dropped as it turned out Jeff and Bonny would be on a two-week vacation during October and he wouldn't even be here for his birthday. A super-long vacation should be a good enough birthday celebration.

Then something we should have expected happened... word got back to us that Jeff was a little forlorn at the prospect of no party for his 50th birthday...

"Stephanie! We have to have a party!"
"I'm on it!"

After I made sure that Bonny didn't mind my taking over the planning ("Please do!"), I contacted Stacey...

"We're having a surprise birthday party for Jeff! It's going to be the weekend before Halloween!"
"Halloween birthday party? I am all over that!"

Bonny wasn't too keen on the Halloween part...

"I'm not wearing a costume."
"You don't have to."
"No costumes."
"Ok! No costumes! Can we at least have sandwiches and junk food that I don't have to tend to so I'm not in the kitchen all night? Like tailgate food?"
"I think you found the theme to your party."
"Jeff's a Chargers fan."
"True. Well, this will be the Chargers party he'll never get to have since they'll never win a Super Bowl in his lifetime."

I broke the news to Stacey...

"It's a football party. Specifically, the Chargers."
"They're blue and yellow."
"Those colors aren't very Halloweeny."
"No. We have to figure something out here."
"To the Pinterests!"

Stacey found the neatest idea for invitations. Game tickets! I created them using They weren't nearly as difficult as they looked like they should have been.

Incidentally, I check online and that section/row/seats are supposed to be the best seats to see a game at Qualcomm Stadium where the San Diego Chargers play. I'm strangely anal about things like that. 

Bonny supplied me the invite list. With just his family, her family, super-close friend, and Jeff's department from work, it was way more than she expected. I assured her this would not be a problem. I mailed the tickets along with a note stating that this was a surprise party and Jeff would be lured to the firehouse under the pretense that he would be attending a Tastefully Simple Fall Catalog Dinner being thrown by my hubby Drew. We have done this in the past, so it's not entirely that odd a scenario. Plus, we figured it was the one event that Jeff would never say no to because it's for the-nicest-guy-on-the-planet-that-would-do-anything-for-anyone Drew. I even mailed a TS invite to Bonny and Jeff for the fake dinner party. We had everything covered!

Unlike Diana's reception, in which the food was provided by Lewis Restaurant and some family members, I said I would do the food. How hard could it be? It's just tailgate party food for 80 people.

Oh, very gosh darn hard!!! For one, I'd never cooked for 80 people before. I had no idea how much I needed for anything. You can google it and it'll tell you that you need 1.25 pounds of food per person of this but only 0.75 of that... blah blah blah... totally unhelpful. I decided to make it based on what we had for Diana's reception, which was 125 people. So, we just need 64% of the amount of food. It was nice in theory.

In the end, I bought way too much, I cooked way too much, and my time management (which is usually spot-on) was woefully inadequate. I underestimated how much time it would take to make the food. When Friday night rolled around, I found myself inundated in the kitchen. To make matters worse, my back seized up at one point during the evening. It was a sad sight. A fat woman crying and cooking while trying not to bend over. Beautiful. 

Having gone to bed at 2:30 am, I was a hideous creature the next day. I showered and dressed to go to a TOPS Rally Event I had to be at. I had debated not going, but I'd already paid for it, so I was going. With wet hair and whatever clothes I could find, I rolled into the car. My fellow members were stunned when I arrived. 

"You look awful."
"Come on! Is it that bad?"
"Yes. Probably worse."

I explained to them what I'd done the previous day. They shook their heads at me.

"Didn't you say you'd never do this again?"
"Did I?"
"I love you guys. Can I have a hug?"

I do truly love them. They're awesome. By the end of the Rally, I was a happy, happy camper. My friends made me laugh and I'd been awarded one of the Top Ten Best Losers for Summer. I got a ribbon and a little certificate. I had no idea! Apparently I was less fat after summer than the beginning of it. To be honest, I hadn't paid that much attention.

Afterwards, we went home and our attentions turned back to Jeff's party. Drew and I loaded up the car with all the food. Thankfully, Drew had taken all the decorations, paper goods, coffee fixings, beer, water, soda, and anything else not requiring refrigeration, over to the firehouse the night before where Christie -- amazing co-worker and Fleming Firefighter/EMT -- was cleaning the hall and setting up the tables for the party.

At 4 pm, Christie, Drew, Stacey and myself, all gathered at the firehouse to start prepping. Stacey and I both thought 4 pm should be plenty of time to do this for a 5:45 pm party. In reality, 3 pm would have been better. We worked quickly though and got the decorations up.

We got cheapo tablecloths from the Dollar Tree. I'd used my Silhouette to cut out some footballs, players & cheerleaders, and Chargers lightning bolts. The tin buckets, also from the Dollar Tree, were filled with peanuts. 

In each of the three side windows, we hung the simple banners I made (love that Silhouette!). Stacey and I made the jersey's from cardstock and foam board backing (also Dollar Tree and again... Silhouette cut outs!). They were so cool! I don't have a photo of it, but the guys were taking pictures of themselves while holding the jerseys in front of them.

Stacey made this really awesome scoreboard!! She, too, is a Silhouette fanatic!

Drew borrowed speakers from our friend and local DJ Toby. Interesting fact... his DJ service is called Silhouettes Co. MORE SILHOUETTES!

And here's our audio technician at the controls! Drew, Stacey, and myself created the ultimate Tailgate Party playlist (thank you Google!) 

As the time grew near, people started to arrive and my anxiety returned tenfold! We'd forgotten to start the coffee --- Stacey took that over. The nacho meat wasn't reheating quickly enough --- Christie grabbed a large skillet and went to town. The Velveeta wasn't melting. 

"Are you kidding me??? You have one function in life, Velveeta! To melt!! Why aren't you melting???"

I'd put it in the crockpot plenty early enough, but it wasn't melting nearly as quickly as my sanity. So, I put the crockpot in the microwave. It took ten minutes and it wasn't so much melted as it had turned into molten plastic. Ridiculous.

As the time grew close to 6 pm, and Jeff's arrival, we were all wondering if we pulled this off. Surprising Jeff was not an easy thing. It's hard to hide things from him.

We did it!!!!!!

He was completely surprised! I can't believe we managed to keep this a secret. Bonny even arranged it so he'd wear his Chargers shirt so he'd fit right in.

Appetizers: Nacho bar, Popcorn bar (thank you Christie), Cheeseball (thank you Stacey), Dips, Crockpot Chex Mix
Entrees & Sides: Wegmans Sub Platters, Nino's Pizza, Pasta Salad, Hashbrown Casserole, Baked Beans, Fruit Salad (thank you Stacey)
Dessert: Football cake and cupcakes (thank you Cindy)
Beverages: Wine (thank you Bonny)

This was a great party! Just for fun, here's a list of the stuff Stacey and I thought of but decided we couldn't due... for obvious reasons...

1.  A taped-off VIP section including a couch and two barcaloungers. Like they have at the Dome. Or at least did the last time I was there twenty years ago.
2.  A replica of the ESPN Sportscenter desk for amazing guest photo-ops.
3.  Terry Bradshaw to sit at said ESPN Sportscenter desk. (Yeah, I know. He doesn't work for ESPN. I couldn't tell you which anchor does. But Bradshaw looks like he likes a party!)
4.  A copy of the 1981 Chargers vs Dolphins playoff game to play on the large screen TV. The "Epic in Miami" has been hailed as the best NFL game in history. But apparently no one has a copy of it. I tried like heck to get this.
5. Originally, the banners and jerseys would be hung from ceiling. And there would be dozens of them spanning the room. Kind of glad that we couldn't do that.

There's no way I could have pulled it off. As it was, I couldn't have done what we did without so many people's help. And since this is my blog, I'm going to take a moment to thank them.

Stacey - You are the best co-party-planner ever! You kept me sane when I was freaking out!
Christie - Thanks for booking the fire hall and for all the awesomeness you bring with it! I so appreciate it. And huge thank you to the Fleming #2 Firefighters that helped with clean up. I hope you enjoyed the leftovers. ;)
Cindy - The cake and cupcakes were the bomb!! 
Karen - You helped clean up and did the worst task ever... cleaned out the Velveeta crockpot! Yuck! Thank you!!!
Drew - As always, you were a great help. I can always count on you. You can never leave me. XOX
Bonny - Thanks for entrusting this party in me. I appreciate your low-maintenanced attitude to party-going. Makes my job really easy. Of course, if you weren't, I wouldn't have done it. Ha!
Jeff - For once in your life, thank you for being clueless. By the way, do you now know why Bonny needed to buy more wine in Myrtle Beach??? Duh! Haha!
Thank you everyone who came and participated in the secret! 

Until next time... Bahahahaha! What next time? I'm never doing this again... No, I mean it this time... Sure, I know exactly how much food to make now, but it doesn't mean I'll do this again... There's no next time... No.... No... A wha?????... Really??? I don't know. When is Mardi Gras???... 



P.S. Pam, my offer still stands. If you and Ralph renew your vows, I will throw you a Harry Potter themed reception afterwards. Just think about it.