Surprise Party for Our Mom's 60th Birthday

Welcome to November Birthdays, StellaBella Readers!

After ending my career in non-profit recently, I changed my title on linkedin & Facebook to the Creative Director of StellaBella.  I wasn't sure what to list while I'm job hunting, so I thought it was an appropriate interim title.  But the REAL Creator of the StellaBella Team is our fabulous, amazing and supportive Mom, Sharon Stella!  My sister and I wouldn't be the strong individuals that we are today, without her love and support.  She celebrated the young age of 60 on Tuesday, November 18th this year, but the weekend before - the StellaBella Team planned a BIG surprise party for her!


Rachel (AKA Baby Stella), had the idea to throw a surprise for our mom's milestone over the summer.  She reserved the location early, and we started writing the guest list.  Her job was invites, and making phone calls to everyone involved.  She also wanted to order the food, and make sure her favorite cake was made.  The only problem was that Rachel was the alibi for the surprise, and would be with her for the hours leading up to the party. 

This left me with the obvious responsibility, (and utter joy) of decorating & hosting!  We decided on a purple & silver color scheme (our mom's favorite colors), the rest was left was up to me.  Not only would I decorate the space; but we needed a music streaming set up, and the slideshow I created would be played across one of the tv screens throughout the night.  

I found this Keep Calm Free Poster Generator, as I was searching online, and it became 1 of 2 inspirations for the party theme.  This was an easy to use tool, and gave you a lot of flexibility with what you could custom design.  Once I made the 1st, "Keep Calm it's Only 60", I had ideas for 2 more versions, and my party theme grew from there.  I printed out a few 8x10's to be hung around, but then I printed 24 smaller versions to add to the star decals.  These stars appear as an embellishment on my mason jar balloon weights, and the decorative photo mobiles.  



I covered 6 cigarette boxes with silver tape, and filled them with rocks.  When I first made them I thought that was it - I would tie the helium balloons to the silver box, and that would be the center piece for 6 tables.  But then I considered the 6 mason jars I already had, and I knew they would make a cute little house for my weighted boxes.  It always pays to start making your projects early, so the idea grows and changes, and you have time to enjoy the process!  The string I used to wrap around the jars, is also the same used to create the photo mobiles below.  Here is where my 2nd inspiration comes in...


I thought a photo slideshow would be a great visual impact for my mom to see on this special night.  We were going for that tear-jerk moment. There are so many great images from our childhood, with friends, travels and more recent pictures captured on Facebook - that I could compile a great collection.  After my sister and cousin contributed, it ended up being a collection of over 130 images!  Here are just a few:



While I was arranging the photos in slideshow using iPhoto, there were default themes to use.  The one that appealed to me the most was the photo mobile theme, swinging one still to the next.  I loved the simplicity of the theme, and it inspired me to make actual mobiles!  

I attached a printed picture (from the slideshow), to each side of purple cardboard.  In between each picture on the mobile I made cut out stars and circles from the same purple cardboard, punching holes in either end.  I used decorative washi tape as photo boarders, and I just kept making mobiles until I used up all supplies.  Since I knew the event space had beautiful high ceilings, the impact would be worth it!

The Russian Club has been an event space for our family, as long as I can remember.  Today, my mom's cousin has taken over as the social club's President, and there are always events going on, or just a friendly place to stop by, open daily.  It has been a spot for my mom to go out in her neighborhood, visit with friends and family - and get a very, very cheap drink!

The Russian Club Before -


The Russian Club After - Ready to Celebrate Sharon's Surprise!


We strategically hung the mobiles adjacent to the balloons centered on each of the 6 tables.  Along the left side of the room, we lined up a gift table, where I also set up my guest book for everyone to sign.  I used a black 3 ring binder, decorated with washi tape, and a personalized front and back cover.  But if the book just sat there on the table, it might go unnoticed... Another opportunity to put the Keep Calm Generator to work... "Keep Calm and Sign the Guest Book", was the next obvious sign!





For as many holes I punched to create the mobiles and guest book, no paper went to waste!  I emptied the hole puncher out, and started to save them in a bag.  It was the perfect amount of confetti to sprinkle on the tables right before the party started.  


The 2 posters were created by one of the volunteer bartenders who works for a local printing company.  He helps out the club by making all of the posters advertising events and themed nights that they host throughout the year.  Although you weren't able to be there for the party - Thank You Chuck!


And what would a party be without a photo booth?!?!  Conveniently adjacent to the dance floor, of course!  I'm not sure if you could have said that 10 years ago, but today with the popularity of social media, and ease of photo sharing and tagging - it's the best way to communicate/brag to your friends about the fun time you had!  I looked into the price of hiring someone that comes with the works: props, backdrop, photo equipment and on-site custom photo printing.  Then I took it down a notch & got prices of a photographer paid by the hour with no bells and whistles.  I decided the personal touch would be the best way to go - it's the StellaBella way!  

Baby Stella is the queen of dress-up, and I asked her if she could put together a "prop bag".  She came through with way more than I could have imagined: 2 feather boas, tiaras, mardi gras beads, masks and even a few wigs!  I put together paper cut-out stick props, arranged in another mason jar, and added them to mix.  And my 3rd opportunity to use the Keep Calm Generator... "Grab a Prop and Strike a Pose", and let's get this party started!  



The actual surprise went perfectly as planned, there were more people than I thought, and I know she was pleasantly overwhelmed to walk in to a room filled with close friends and family from her full and wonderful life.  I started the day off as party decorator, but as soon guests arrived, I moved into the role of hostess with the most-ess!   I forgot all about my photographer hat, and below were the few pictures from the rest of the unforgettable evening.  (Next time I will hire that photographer!)


This little guy is my cousin's son, Evan.  The last time I saw him was at his 1st Birthday party.  What a personality he has become!  He had everyone's attention and was dancing his heart out all night, I'm sure he fell asleep as soon as he got in the car home.




The video below shows the BIG moment, and the lights come up after the first minute.  It was a last minute move to ask my mom's neighbor to record this & I'm so glad she had steady hands!  Thank you Vera! 


Everyone else involved will be thanked personally, and again Rachel & I couldn't have made this possible without everyone in attendance.  But an additional thank you goes out to Gerri, Cat, Lisa, Mike, my brother-in-law Eric, and of course my love, Ronnie.  Your help was invaluable in making this night super special for a super special lady!

What do you think? Should we add Parties/Events to StellaBella's Services page?

As November moves along, I want to also send Happy Happy Birthday vibes to the love of my life, Big Ronnie and his mom, Roxanne who both celebrate their birthdays on Thanksgiving, November 27th.  Happy Turkey Birthday!

And to my Readers, I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving and remember all you have to be thankful for.  I know organizing and throwing this surprise reminded me just how thankful I am to have such a wonderful woman for a mom, and how special she is to me everyday of my life.  It wasn't just a one time gesture, like sending a card or calling the florist.  It took time, and consistent energy to arrange, and it felt great!  Celebrating life along the way of life is a great way to show how thankful you are to the most important people!  Surprise!


La vita è bella,


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