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A risk’kay surprise

Organising a surprise party for your husband is got to be harder than being an undercover agent in a drug ring. Infact, the CIA should seriously consider adopting surprise party planning into their training prospectus. How does anyone manage to do anything in secret these days?

For a start we have we have 5 devices in our house that can be can be used for reading messages. There is Gmail, Facebook and text messages that just seem to pop up on any one of these things at any time. Even drafting this blog post I am thinking of a good place to file it. Trying to find a time to design invites, order party props has also been a challenge. He really must think I do a lot of shopping on asos or Facebook-ing when I have to quickly flick sites or cover up my Photoshop file.

Then just when I thought I had covered all my tracks, I’m at work, a week before the party and at 9.41am I receive a email from my husband who’s at home working saying ‘you forgot your phone, can you call back Danielle about the sparklers’ Since did online orders result in a phone call!!?? Apparently she was just checking if the person receiving them was over 16. Slightly ironic considering they are being used for a 40th birthday party.

I console myself that I am doing a good thing. A few months before the big event. I asked my darling husband what he wanted to do for the big four oh. He said ‘how about curry takeaway and a rented movie?’ Now considering this happens once a week anyway, I didn’t think this was an appropriate solution to mark a milestone. So I did what good wifes do. I told him that is ridiculous, he told me he wasn’t really looking forward to turning 40, I told him that is ridiculous, he told me, under no circumstances did he want a party and I told him, ok honey I understand, forget the curry, I will take you to a fancy restaurant instead. He was happy and I was happy as I went to sleep that night wondering which pubs in the area had private rooms to hire and where his old baby photos were.

So a save-the-date email goes out. I get lots of offers of help. A great one from Gerred, an amazing creative who does high-end light installations and offers to do an interactive magic wall with Sam’s baby photos. Man, this was a lucky break, Sam loves stuff like this (once he gets over the photos of his mum breastfeeding him swimming around). See Gerred’s previous work (The Magic Wall), its all very inspiring!

I also find this cool iPad photo booth idea on Design Sponge.

A venue gets chosen, who knew that the American rock bar down the road had its own hidden speakeasy room you can hire (its only on their website!). I check it out and find its the perfect size for the amount of people we have.

I get thinking about the type of cake I would have, it has to be good and it has to be slightly wacky. I decide on recreating my husbands head on a plate. Theres is no hidden metaphor for this idea, only that a birthday a few years ago I tried a round flat cake with his ‘face’ on it and it was the most embarrassing thing I have ever presented in front of so many people. I had even used tic tacs for teeth, will spare you the photos…

This cake, well, this cake will be AMAZING, EPIC even! It will be a tribute to the most beautiful, kind, smily, 40 year old head I have ever known, a head that who deserves nothing more than being my finest creation. [OK I write this before the creating it, photos and how to posted here. Only judge me on my good intentions…]

Its the day of the party. I take Sam shopping to buy him a new shirt for his fancy dinner out that night (wink, wink). Cheeky thing milks the situation, heads to the most expensive store and proceeds to buy not 1 shirt but 2 and a pair of jeans that frankly, look like all the other expensive jeans he owns. He’s got a happy shopping glow though. After having some noodles, then coffee and cake at our favourite place we head home. I need to pop out child free to set up the party room. Just heading out! I say. Where you going anyway? Um. Well. I told you ages ago, I have a hair appointment!. Eek, knowing full well my hair will be in the same ponytail when I get back. Mental note if he notices that I will say, they bloody well double booked me, so I went and had a coffee down the road with Daisy instead. Turns out he doesn’t notice. When we finally both leave the house that evening (after successfully filling his stomach with a pie) I tell him on the way there that Suzie (a good friend who he has known for 15 years) thinks it disgusting I haven’t organised a party for you and her and Steve want to meet us for a quick drink before we head out for dinner. We get to the bar and head downstairs. Its quite obviously a private room so as we walk downstairs I tell him its a new speakeasy bar that not many people know about yet.

The night is a success! 40 friends were there to celebrate and Sam is overjoyed (or perhaps happily intoxicated) at the effort everyone has made to be there. We finish up at 2am and leave with fun 40th birthday memories that hopefully last longer than a night at home with a movie and takeout curry would of.

Top tips for in-house Surprise party planning.

  1. Make your partner/flatmate believe that you understand why they don’t want to celebrate and that although you think its ridiculous, you will respect their decision.
  2. Make sure you log out of Facebook, Gmail and don’t have text messages show up on screen as they come through.
  3. Save the date invite emails should have a non-suspicious header.
  4. Carry your phone with you at all times.
  5. Enlist friends to help (if only to incriminate them if it doesn’t go well or if it does – make the surprise-ee realise what great friends they have!) The later is preferable.
  6. If you have told them you are taking them out for a fancy dinner and really it is a ‘drinks’ party with not much more food than a head shape cake, then you will need to find a way of filling their stomachs before hand. For males I would assume its easier. Tell them the booking isn’t till late and it has fancy small plates, so you better eat this pie for now. (I know Sam wouldn’t blink) For females…? hmmm, tough as I would be saving up my appetite for minimum 3 courses and rather not be bloated in my evening wear. Maybe you could put a kebab in your pocket to present to her later? Any better suggestions?
  7. Give your babysitter instructions before they come over (ie. Saying “we are just down the road if you need us” does not say *fancy special restaurant* to anyone unless maybe you live in Manhattan.
  8. Make the cake elsewhere at a friends place, other creative input is invaluable and can often save you! A huge thank you to Susie who had great input to the head and spent 3 hours decorating it with me.
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So now for the *AMAZING* *EPIC* cake head…

I decide on Chocolate cake. Its a safe bet. Here’s the winning recipe, its so perfectly moist. I tripled the recipe for safe measure, I want to make a head that’s at the least life size. I bake in two pyrex bowls. Well, actually I am too tight to buy another bowl, so I cooked one, which seemed to take F O R E V E R, (mainly because it’s so dense in a bowl) then have to wait ’till it’s cooled enough then cook another, it really was an all day event. Lucky it was a pretty miserable day so didn’t feel to bad keeping Ferne inside and enlisting her ‘help’, even if that meant she provided the music of banging pans together. If you are short of time, don’t be tight and buy another bowl and cook both together! Also I had some mixture left over so cooked the extra in another cake tin for spare parts. Now, a great tip I found on Mumsnet is to put the cake in the freezer. Why you say?! Well for 3 great reasons:

  1. You can make the cake up to a month before hand if you like
  2. Means it won’t crumble while you carve it.
  3. The icing will set faster on a cold cake

Oh such a great tip. Especially for the moist type of cake I’m making. (God, does anyone else hate the word ‘moist’ ?? I guess more fitting to describe a cake than the alternatives I find in the thesaurus – dampish, steamy, humid, muggy, clammy, dank, wet, wettish, soggy, sweaty, sticky.) I pop my naked, frozen head parts wrapped up in a bag (so easy to transport frozen parts) and head (ha!) round to Susie’s place where we will spend the next 3 hours decorating. Ok, no-one said it was a short process but epic head cake decorating takes time! I need two colours of icing, dark brown and a whitish, creamish colour. You can follow the same icing instructions as in the cake recipe, only one with white chocolate. While the icing is setting, we started moulding the cake. Wash hands thoroughly… There’s a lot of cake touching.

  1. Flatten off one side of the rounded cake so it can sit nicely on the plate and won’t roll around. Add some of your ‘spare parts’ cake around the edges if you’re not confident it will stay on the plate.
  2. Join the 2 halves together. There will be a bit of a gap around where the edges join so mush excess cake in and around the sides. Remember, it doesn’t matter what your cake looks like underneath as icing will cover all.
  3. Mark out the detail of the face. Then mould the shape of nose and eyes.
  4. Ice the face area with the light icing first.
  5. For the mouth we laid down a bit of the dark icing then cut some red liquorice for the shape of the lips (perhaps they were slightly too exaggerated in hind sight). Teeth were chopped up white chocolate.
  6. Nostrals were dabs of dark chocolate icing.
  7. Eyes and eyebrows were liquorice cut to shape and chocolate buttons for the eyeballs.
  8. Then add the dark icing around the back of the cake for the hair. And for an added effect of my husbands spiky black hair we had some chopped up liquorice sticking out of it. (I was totally giggling to myself as he was styling his hair with his hair wax in the same style the next evening…)

Voila! Your head cake all done! Ok, so maybe it didn’t turn out ‘exactly’ like Sam’s head, and I had to reassure him when he asked the next day in his hungover state if I thought thats what he really looked like and if he should start wearing a paper bag over his head… Oh dear… Maybe I need to start planning a more flattering cake for his 50th.

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Little baby bottom balm or some intense moisturiser for you.

One thing I have discovered about the beauty industry is that often you don’t need ten different products for ten different things. There is so much terrible marketing out there when really its possible that 1 product can do quite a lot.Now this isn’t a proper recipe, but to be honest, someone gave me a pot of lovely natural balm when Ferne was born, all the way from New Zealand and when I ran out and couldn’t get the same brand here, I decided to give it a go and make some myself, using similar ingredients. However, I got so engrossed I forgot to write down the quantities I used. I have made it several times since and although it varies slightly in consistency, its always lovely. The general rule is simple in that if you want it soft, use lots more of the oils than waxes/butters and if you want it more like a hard lip balm constancy, add half and half waxes/butter to oils. You can also experiment with different butters and oils.

Ingredients:

  • Sweet almond oil
  • Avocardo oil
  • Avocardo butter
  • Coconut oil
  • Beeswax
  • Emulsifying wax
  • Cammomile essential oil

Melt slowly in a heat proof jug over a pot of boiling water. I added the camomile oil after taking it off the heat. Pour into sterilised jars.

This batch I made was soft but not liquidity.

It works beautifully as baby bottom balm, but also I like to use it as an all over body moisturiser on wet skin after a shower. Its great for cracked hands and feet too and of course as a light lipbalm. And the other good thing is that this there is no water in it so it will keep for at least 6 months to a year if prepared in sterilised jars. I made a few then personalised some jars for friends.

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