Sneaky Blondie

I am sneaky. And I throw good parties. Two excellent qualities to possess when one wants to throw a surprise birthday party for your boyfriend. And I threw a fun party on Saturday!

I couldn’t talk about it on here, because well, then it wouldn’t be much a surprise, would it?

But about two months ago, I realized I would miss my boyfriend Big T’s 31st birthday while I was in Seattle for the challenge match. And he just recently bought a new house – his first – so he’s been wanting to have a party for all of his buddies here at his new digs.

I picked a date, one without any rugby going on or other outings, and contacted one of his close friends from college down in Chicago to see if Mr. A and some of Big T’s other friends could come up for the surprise to take Big T golfing and get him out of the house. Then I’d have everybody else come over while they were gone. It took a lot to pull it off …

First, I had a hard time convincing my boyfriend that we should just stay home that weekend and not go to any rugby tournaments (Very hard for two rugby players!!). Then I had to convince him not to throw a party at his house before this weekend, so I was full of excuses why I couldn’t help him with his party. Thankfully he knew I would need to help him with good food, so he opted not to do a party on his own. Then a different college buddy decided to have a party down in Illinois the same day that my boyfriend wanted to go to. Aarrgggh. Up until a week ago, he was still saying we should go down there. And of course, all of his teammates up here found a tournament down in Iowa on the same day to play and would miss the party now. Things weren’t looking good to pull this off.

But it all came together. And it was pretty fun. But I was so paranoid that somebody would spoil the surprise, that I was sure Big T knew something was up this past week and was digging for information.

Friday night, I got out of work, stopped by my parents’ house for coolers, an extra table and some supplies. Then I went grocery shopping. I decided to make things easy on myself and not making any hugely intensive food, but I wanted stuff that would be good and light for a backyard party.

I chose to make this yummy Tex-Mex Salsa, guacamole, spicy taco dip, marinated/skewered chicken, green peppers and pineapple, and then for dessert, an angel food cake with fresh strawberries and raspberries with cool whip, and a layered pistachio pudding & cool whip on graham cracker crust dish my mom always made for parties when I was a kid. (I’ll put recipes below for my friends’ who asked).

I bought party supplies at the dollar store to save money, asked everyone coming to bring their own beverages and chairs, and picked peonies from my parents’ garden for flowers. The weather cooperated and the whole weekend was sunny.

My biggest fear was that somebody would tell Big T or that either no one would come or too many would come and we get in trouble with his new older neighbors. Thankfully, just the right amount of people came and it was a great time.

So, Friday night, I made all of the food that could be completed ahead of time and then went over to Big T’s, so he wouldn’t be suspicious. Thankfully, my sister had her first art show for her mixed-media collage pieces, so I had an excellent cover of needing to help her with her show.

Big T and I got up very early and picked up my dad to take him to our local farmer’s market down on our capitol square, so that scored me fresh strawberries and a good cover for saying I’d be bumming with my dad and at home after his buddies took him golfing. Little did he know, everybody but him was in on it.

His buddies got up here around 10:30 a.m., and I had told him last week that I would make some food for the four of us to grill out after they got done golfing. If they came back by 3 p.m. (party started at 2), then it would be all ready. But he’s telling me that if they played 18 holes, they might not be down until 5 p.m. So I’m hustlin’, playing the guilt card and saying “But honey, I don’t want to sit around waiting for you guys all day with nothing to do. Can’t you just play 9 holes and be back by 3 p.m.? Wouldn’t that be better?!” and so he says, okay, I’ll ask the guys if that’s okay. And I let the guys know, just 9 holes.

So they go to golf at 11 a.m. and happened to find a course not too far away with open tee times that worked, then I ran home, got all my stuff, ran to the grocery store for last-minute things like charcoal for the grill and some tasty Leinie’s Berryweis beer for yours truly to fuel my hustlin’ and snuck back into Big T’s house to set up and finish the food.

My damn cell phone was ringing/texting every few minutes with different friends’ calling and I was sweating up a storm, because the day was warming up. But by 2 p.m., friends starting showing up and by 2:30, we had quite a nice little party going, and Big T’s team plans for Iowa had (sadly) (okay, not really) fallen through, so all of his guy friends from here in town could come too.

So a little before 3 p.m., Big T calls and says, hey, we’re done golfing, coming home, and he thinks I’m at my house (cells rule!) and I say, oh, I just got to your house, I’ll get some food ready. But my good friend Kim K. (in town from Colorado) and I are laughing and just trying to get all the chicken, pineapple and peppers on the skewers to grill up. And our friend Sprinkles brought this game he built called Redneck golf (golfballs on ropes you throw to wrap around these 3 pipes!) to play in the backyard, so the party was all set.

But then the phone rings again. Big T says they have run out of gas on the highway. Whoops! So can I please come get them and bring his extra can of gas from the garage, and he’s apologizing profusely. So I’m laughing, tell everybody I’ll be back and to just keep partying. Big T and his buddies are about 12 minutes drive out of town just sitting there playing cards on the side of the road. So here’s me to the rescue and he’s so focused on the gas, that he’s not thinking about anything else. So we stop at gas station to get more gas for the cars and he asks, hey, we should get some coke for drinks. And I answer, “Oh, I already got you some. I know you guys all like drinks with coke.” and he says, “Great. But what about ice?” and I say “Got ice too. No worries.” and trying to act as innocent as possible. And he says “Wow, you are great!” and I’m laughing really hard, but trying to hide it.

So we drive home and pull up and start getting out of the car. Everybody’s parked down the street away from his house, but he sees my friend Casey’s cherokee, which is just like my dad’s car, and says “Is your dad here?” and I say, “No, he’s at home working on his garden today, remember?” “Oh yeah.” (I say “phew”). And I look around and everybody is hidden in the back yard and you can’t hear anything. So we’re good … until I realize one of the girl’s who came with my other friend Kim is standing in the big window looking at us (she didn’t know if this was him). And Big T just looked at his house, but didn’t see her. So I’m trying to get her attention and waving her to hide behind his back and he busts me … “Did you just wave at somebody?” “Nooo … ” (quiet). “Are you having a party?” to which I say nothing and help him get his stuff out of the car … and we walk in the house. And he notices shoes all over his front walkway … and sees people in his backyard … “You ARE having a party?!” and he walks out his backdoor to find all my teammates yelling “Surprise!” and then more of his teammates hiding all over his backyard and up a tree, yelling “Surprise”.

And despite my paranoia, he hadn’t suspected anything until he caught me waving to that girl to hide. Ha!

So we had a great time. And he had a good belated birthday and housewarming party. And he liked all the food. And he said no one had ever thrown him a surprise party before and I got lots of kisses in return. 🙂

I am sneaky!!

Here are some of the recipes for the food I made … all is yummy. Try it! I cook without measuring mostly, so these are approximations. Do what tastes good.

Tex Mex Salsa (AWESOME! from my sister’s friend)
– One can of black beans, drained & rinsed
– One can of corn, drained
– One small bunch (4-5) green onions, chopped fine, just the white and some green
– 1/2 bunch of cilantro, chopped fine, no stems
– 1 chopped sweet pepper (green, yellow, red or combo of colors)
– 3 large spoonfuls (tablespoons) of vinegar
– A few dashes of Salt
– A few dashes of Cumin
– A few dashes of Hot sauce

Guacamole (My favorite easy snack!)
– 3-4 avacados, cut in half, remove seeds (set one aside), lightly slice through green inside, but not outer skin to cube, then scoop out with spoon. Slicing through meat makes it easier to smash up later.
– 1 clove of garlic, diced fine
– 1/2 a lime, squeeze juice all over avocado
– salt to taste
– a handful of chopped cilantro, no stems
– You can add diced peppers, tomatoes, or whatever you want, but I liked it fresh and simple.
– Mix all ingredients and mash with fork until just a few small chunks left
– Allegedly, adding lime will keep the avocados from turning brown. But some say it’s the seed you set aside and throw back in the mix at the end. I do both. This can’t be made ahead of time, so make right before you serve and keep it cool to avoid brownness.

Taco Dip (My perennial rugby social dish)
– 1 package of cream cheese, softened
– 1 16 oz. container of sour cream
– 1 package of Ortega (or whatever brand you like) taco seasoning mix
– Mix these three together well, then spread in pan
– 1 bottle of Ortega Taco Sauce (red stuff, can be spicy), pour over top of cream spread
– shredded cheese to cover
– shredded/chopped lettuce to cover
– chopped onions
– you can add sliced jalapenos, diced tomatoes, cilantro, etc. to your taste. You can also skip the taco sauce, and use salsa or just diff. veggies to taste. I like the heat.

Marinated Chicken with Gr. Peppers & Pineapple
– Sliced chicken breast/thighs to bite-sizes pieces
– Add to large ziploc bag with teriyaki sauce, juice from drained can of chunk pineapple, small slices of garlic, salt, pepper and some red pepper flakes if you like spice
– Seal bag, shake up to cover evenly, let marinate for at least a few hours if not overnight
– Set aside bite-sized green peppers (at least 1″ pieces) and pineapple (also larger pieces to skewer more easily)
– Meat will absorb the good teriyaki/pineapple/spice flavor
– When you are ready to grill, soak the wooden skewers (available for like 100 for $1 at your grocery store). Soaking the skewers keeps them from splintering and burning your food. Or use metal skewers if you have them. Skewer the chicken pieces, pineapple and peppers, 3 of each per skewer to grill. Will cook fast, since it’s all small. Discard bag full of marinade and garlic.

Pistachio Pudding Dessert
– Use large cake pan, buy store-bought graham cracker crust and follow directions to cover bottom of pan. It’s usually graham cracker mix, butter and sugar until cracker mix is clumpy, then spread over bottom of pan. Probably two times the standard recipe measurements for a cheesecake/pie pan. Get good layer of cracker on bottom of pan, bake at 350 for 8 minutes, take out and let cool.
– Instant Pistachio (or whatever flavor you most like) pudding, two boxes, normal pudding recipe with 3-4 cups of cold milk, mix and let thicken a few minutes, then poor in even layer across cooled cracker crust.
– Set in fridge to solidify.
– Once ready to serve, add container of cool whip in even layer across pistachio pudding. You should be able to cut/serve like a cake if it stays cool. Yummy.

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