“What could possibly go wrong?” That’s what I said to friends when I told them that I had decided to throw a surprise birthday party for my husband, Mark. I love to entertain and I do it a lot, but I’d never thrown a surprise party.
I didn’t want to go to a restaurant, but no problem—we could easily entertain twenty people in our home. However I neglected to consider that my husband works from home!
Solution: hide all the party preparations. I put everything—wine, all the groceries that I didn’t need to hide in the refrigerator, and even the flowers—in the trunk of my car. But what if Mark decided to use my car? Solution: I took the key out of the car and hid it in my pocket.
Now, where to put all the chairs I had to rent? There was no place in our home and no more room in my trunk so I called on friends. When I went to pick up the chairs, there were fire trucks everywhere—maybe for the store next door? No such luck. As it turned out, it was just a dryer fire, but it meant I couldn’t get the chairs. As I started to panic—“Not to worry,” the chair renter assured me. “I’ll be happy to drop them off later.” “Thank you!” I replied after explaining it was a surprise and the chairs had to be delivered to my neighbors. “No problem,” he assured me, and I checked off another solution.
The next issue was the Bolognese sauce I had to make a few days ahead of the party. No way could I to hide the large pot. When Mark saw the quantity of sauce I was making, he asked the obvious: “Why on earth are you making so much?” Without any hesitation, I replied, “I just felt like cooking. I’ll freeze it for later”. He nodded and walked away.
The day of the party, Olivia, our daughter, took Mark out for a daddy/daughter afternoon at the mall. That gave us three hours before our guests arrived and, considering everything we had to do, it wasn’t a lot of time. I still needed to make the white clam sauce to go on the linguini.
Trust me, it never would have gotten done without lots of help and amazing organization. (I’ll explain what I discovered about organization in another blog post. For now, let me just say Post-it notes!) Tyler, our son, was the one who set everything up, and two of Olivia’s friends came by to help us finish. As guests began to arrive, I ran upstairs to change, and Tyler greeted people and served the drinks until I came back down looking like a different person.
The last challenge was to decide if we should shout SURPRISE. What if the surprise caused Mark to have a heart attack? We actually debated this! In the end we decided to just stand there and not say anything. In hindsight we probably should have shouted, but I kept remembering that I’d said, “What could possibly go wrong?” and I was superstitious!
Here are the last minute text messages between our son daughter and a friend:
Mark was surprised, there was no heart attack, and it was a great party!
In hindsight, I discovered that it was a real privilege to create an event to celebrate someone you love. And if you stay open you always find solutions to problems.
How about you?
P.S. Here is the menu (it was actually very simple)
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I was with my mother in her room at her new abode.
As I sat facing her, I began to read last week’s post, Cooking through a Child’s Eyes, about the time we baked a marble cake together. I wondered if she remembered the event that. . .
The first time I saw magic happen in the kitchen I was six years old and wanted to help my mother cook. I’d follow her every step and move, clinging like her shadow, struggling to see what she was doing. Inevitably, she’d turn around and trip over me. It wasn’t optimum for either of us, so when she told me we were going to bake a special cake and I could help … “there is a surprise at the end,” she promised…
I beamed with joy…
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The last time I took a train that had a dining car was right after I graduated from high school.
Walking into the dining car, I was flooded with memories of childhood trips. It looked exactly as I remembered: the tables were set with clean white tablecloths, cloth napkins, china, silverware, and gleaming glasses—just like in an old movie.
I was excited and hungry for French food. My first taste was . . .