Surprise, We Think You're Awesome

This weekend, I threw my first surprise party. Turns out, throwing a surprise party is pretty much like throwing a regular party, with the main difference being that you feel like a real asshole for a few weeks beforehand when you're talking to the person you're throwing it for. What am I doing on Friday? Uh....nothing! But yeah, I'm afraid I can't hang out. Why? Um, no reason. I'm definitely not cutting out eleven templates of your head and gluing them onto popsicle sticks or anything!

That was an idea I got right here, and it was awesome. It was also really, really, really creepy:

But wait, let me back up a little. When I found out that my lovely, wonderful, hilarious friend Amber was leaving San Francisco—at least for a little while; we'll see if I haven't convinced her to come back in, like, three weeks—I immediately knew that I wanted to throw her a party to say goodbye. I find it a lot easier to say goodbye to people if I can pad the whole thing with frozen margaritas and lots of cheese, so yes, I basically did it for my own self-preservation.

But how do you pull off a surprise party? Well, it's pretty much just like it is on TV. A few weeks ago, I asked Amber if she wanted to come over on Saturday night to hang out, drink wine, and watch TV. Then I invited a small group of our mutual friends over—for a half hour earlier—and swore them to secrecy. The week leading up to the party, I had a small flashback to my wedding and went a little crazy with the crafting. Luckily, my dad was in town for a few days and staying with us, so I put him to work as the vice president of party planning:

He did an excellent job. I shall be writing him a recommendation on Linked In.

When Amber arrived at my house that night to "watch TV," she had absolutely no idea what was going on—at least, I hope she didn't. We climbed the stairs, chatting about this and that, and then she turned the corner into my living room, and saw this:


There was no fainting, thank goodness, but I think she was pretty shocked. I admit, I didn't quite bank on it being so disturbing to see seven Amber Adrian replicas in front of me, several of them male, but—trouper that she is—our guest of honor took it all in stride.

On the right: fake Amber. On the left, actual Amber holding a popsicle stick under her chin. I want this photograph blown up to twelve times this size and hung in every room in my house.

After Amber's heart rate had slowed to normal, we shoved some food down her throat. Despite my usual Type-A guilt that a potluck is "cheating"—if I invited you to my house, I feel sort of bad making you bring your own food—I cut the miniature Martha Stewart who lives in my head a little slack this time and asked everyone to bring a dish that reminded them, in some way, of Amber.

We had a lot of bacon and a lot of cheese.

Afterwards, I revealed the world's most hilarious ice cream cake, which I'd had emblazoned with this picture of Amber accidentally knocking over the cake at our friend Kristin's wedding.

The poor bakery people called me three times that week. "We recieved your order," the concerned cake-decorator said each time, "and we're just, uh, double checking that this is definitely the picture you want to use."

(EDITED TO ADD: I just realized that they spelled "irreplaceable" wrong! I know this because I had to look it up when I was placing the cake order and waffling on whether it had that extra "e" in the middle. So I know I spelled it right on the order form. Turns out you were double-checking the wrong thing, cake people!) 

After we had eaten, and eaten some more, and consumed margaritas and wine and champagne, and played a rather rousing game of Celebrity—have you ever played this game? I want it played at my funeral, because it makes me so competitive I'm pretty sure I'd come back from the dead to join in—the guitars came out, as they tend to do when my dad and my brother are around, and the evening progressed into one long jam session that went on until 1am.

What, you don't have your dad at your parties? Huh

Finally, before everyone left and I collapsed, exhausted, into bed, I handed out the party favors I'd baked earlier that morning, and which, I shudder to report, required me to use the dreaded wooden spoon. (Amber, if you are ever in doubt as to how much I value your friendship, please note that I conquered my fear of the wooden spoon to make your party favors.)

Yes, those are brown butter bacon chocolate chip cookies. They were.....interesting. Unusual. Pretty much exactly as you would expect a cookie containing meat to be, I guess: not unpleasant at all—I rather enjoyed them—but maybe just a little bit disconcerting. I was slightly worried that they might be so life-altering that I'd have to revise the opinion I'd so confidently stated on the label Sean made, but the jury has made a decision and we can all rest easy: Amber Adrian is still better than brown butter bacon chocolate chip cookies. Thank goodness for that.

There are a ton more pictures of Amber's surprise party right here, if you're interested, but for now I will leave you with a quick video I made of the whole shebang. I think we can all agree that it would be a crime not to leave those balloons up on my ceiling for the rest of the week.

Pretzel Thief
Aug 22, 2011

WEEEELL, I bet Amber thinks YOU'RE pretty freakin' awesome after all this!

What an effort!

Looks like you all had a blast out the wazoo...yay! And yes, the face masks ARE pretty creepy...but funny, heh heh.

Also, your dad kicks ass. That is all.

Aug 22, 2011

This is so sweet! I love her face on the video when she sees you guys wearing your masks. And I absolutely agree, your Dad is awesome!

Aug 22, 2011

The real Amber + the mask Amber reminds me of those pictures in US Weekly when celebrities visit their wax figure at Madame Tussauds!

Such a cute, fun party!

Aug 22, 2011

One - I have played Celebrity and it is SO much fun! I've had a hard time getting others into it at parties but I'm not going to give up on pushing this game.

Two - We threw a party this weekend (first annual Sausage Fest actually... so freakin fun) and my friend brought Bacon Bourbon Brownies. I was skeptical about meat in dessert too... but um... YUM!

Third - Love the face on a stick...must mental note bookmark that for future events.

Aug 22, 2011

That's funny, I experienced my first surprise party from the *other* side this weekend! My sweet friend and future MIL threw me a surprise party for my 30th birthday, and it was basically the most awesome thing ever. I was never sure if I'd like a surprise party, but it turns out they're amazing.

(Also I just have to mention that my first captcha code was a bunch of symbols, including one I didn't have a clue how to type.)

Aug 22, 2011

My family creates person-of-honor face masks for all types of occasions: 50th birthday parties, surprise parties, wedding receptions. It is such a fun prop.

As usual, your celebration looks top notch! And three cheers for rad Dads.

Aug 22, 2011

What a LOVELY party. (I am ignoring entirely it's COMPLETELY SAD PURPOSE.)

Also, best line EVER: "He did an excellent job. I shall be writing him a recommendation on Linked In."

Aug 22, 2011

You guys are so sweet. If I was Amber I'd seriously re-think the whole "moving away" thing.

Aug 22, 2011

First, the real/fake Amber picture took me a minute.
Second, I will be stealing so many things from this party planning post you've provided!
Third, I think she should DEF change her mind about moving!

Aug 22, 2011

Aw, I love Amber, and I love that you guys did this for her. The photo of her holding the Popsicle stick made my entire day.

Aug 22, 2011

This is just awesome in every possible way.

Sensibly Sassy
Aug 22, 2011

You are THE BEST party orchestrator ever! EVER.
What a lucky gal that Amber is to have such great friends :)

Aug 22, 2011

What a fun litle party! All your hard work paid off. Amber must be such a wonderful person to have such a great group of friends. I giggled about all the bacon and cheese dishes. I think that's what I'd be known for too.

Aug 22, 2011

This is the best thing ever, Holly.

Also, I've made chocolate chip cookies with bacon grease instead of butter -- I think I replaced half? -- and they did not taste bacony/meaty at ALL, but instead, were light, fluffy and deliciously crispy, I think because there's little to no water in bacon fat. Way better than just butter. Try it sometime if you have leftover bacon fat.

Aug 22, 2011

That picture of real Amber + fake one just... is too much for me. I keep staring at it. Everyone should have a friend who loves them enough to use a wooden spoon (to make special bacon cookies).

Operation Pink Herring
Aug 22, 2011

I'm pretty sad that Amber is leaving San Francisco, and I've never even met her. Don't go, Amber!

Aug 22, 2011

I did almost the exact same thing for a surprise party for my husband's 30th birthday (oh, jeez, almost 5 years ago. Time flies!). Only differences were that I used elastic and holes in the sides so people could wear the masks, and we had a pretty large group, so I had masks made out of four different pictures -- Jared in a baseball hat, Jared in a pirate hat and eye patch, Jared in a cowboy hat, and I don't remember the other one. But it was great. And super, super wiggy.

Aug 22, 2011

aw i love it. i LOVE surprise parties. although i think everyone around me wants to stop them. i have no idea why. the anticipation is the best part!

Aug 22, 2011

We did a similar thing last year for my sister's 30th birthday. Except that we used cut outs of her old school photos. It was quite fun. Here's a photo

Such a sweet thing you did for Amber. Good luck to her wherever it is she's going.

Aug 22, 2011

wait, what?? She's moving? Her blog has been rather silent of late, nothing was mentioned about moving!

That's a pretty cool party. The picture of real Amber/fake Amber took me a minute.

Camels & Chocolate
Aug 22, 2011

1) I love that Scott is pretty much the centerpiece of Amber's going away cake.

2) That still might very well be my favorite photo of Amber ever. And the fact that she was knocking over cupcakes at a wedding while CAUGHT ON CAMERA kills me even more.

3) The photo of Amber with the popsicle stick: I didn't even realize it was Real Amber on a Popsicle Stick. I totally thought it was Fake Amber's Face on Real Amber's Body. Crazy!

4) Your party-throwing skills blow. me. away.

5) I'm so bummed to have missed this!

Aug 22, 2011

Would it be creepy to ask you to be my friend? It's only that you throw the most wonderful parties!

It looks like a lot of fun! Love all of the details!

Aug 22, 2011

I was so insanely touched by this whole thing. And how many people can say they went home with their head on a popsicle stick? NOT MANY.

Aug 23, 2011

Awwwwwwwwww...... that was sweet! I think I'm going to hang that photo of the real&fake Amber on every wall in my house, too.

Aug 23, 2011

As the recipient of a going-away party in 2005 in which everyone had masks of not only me, but also my husband, I can say WITHOUT A DOUBT that that is equally the scariest and sweetest thing one could ever walk into.

Aug 23, 2011

what kind of camera do you use? I love photography, and I've been going through your photosets, and your picture quality is amazing.

Nothing But Bonfires
Aug 23, 2011

Aw thanks, Heraa. It's a Canon Rebel.

Aug 23, 2011

She really is lovely!! I am sad you're losing her (but kinda excited that I get to hang out with her down here in LA!). What a perfect sendoff! There really is no one quite like Amber. :)
p.s. Also I would like to say for the record that she's wearing the shirt I gave her. THIS IS DESTINY!

Aug 23, 2011

She really is lovely!! I am sad you're losing her (but kinda excited that I get to hang out with her down here in LA!). What a perfect sendoff! There really is no one quite like Amber. :)
p.s. Also I would like to say for the record that she's wearing the shirt I gave her. THIS IS DESTINY!

Aug 23, 2011

aw what a sweet going away party! although you're right the faces are a bit creepy, funny, but definitely creepy, haha.

but love all the crafty touches, so cute.


I am so bummed to have missed this - Amber, YOU RULE. I'm so bummed that you're leaving, but excited for your new adven...



Aug 23, 2011

Oh my stars, what a great friend you are!

Aug 23, 2011

Wait a second... isn't that the chick you always call "Moose"???

Lorena @lamaschida
Aug 24, 2011

what a lovely party! I have to ask though...what happened after she knocked the wedding cake over?!

Nothing But Bonfires
Aug 24, 2011

Marcheline -- the very same.

Lorena -- Thankfully, two of our other friends moved in very calmly and swiftly and righted the toppled cupcakes (it was a big display of wedding cupcakes) and no-one was any the wiser. Uh, until now.

Sep 02, 2011

I hope you don't mind but, I'm copying everything you did for my sisters 40th birthday party! Lovely!

Kerri Anne
Sep 06, 2011

So amazing. Amber and you and friendship that features parties laden with popsicle stick heads and bacon cookies.

Jan 03, 2012

Love all of your pictures! Looks like a wonderful party. My sister and I are throwing a surprise party for our Mom's birthday and I love the "face on a stick" idea! Also loved your cookie favors. Where did you get the labels? Thanks!

Jan 03, 2012

Your party looked lovely! Where did you find the cookie labels?

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