Monday, April 20, 2009

Rockin' Surprise Party

Last Thursday we pulled off an incredible feat: a surprise party for son Carson's 10th birthday! When Carson left home that morning, Joe casually mentioned that he would pick Carson up from school for a little birthday shopping. As soon as he left, I set to work decorating for the party. I wanted to cover our entire dining room ceiling and chandelier with balloons for a dramatic transformation. Within hours the ho-hum house Carson left was full of color and ready to rock!

Since Carson is now a "10-ager," I wanted to plan a party that would rock. Weeks before the celebration, I started asking Carson his favorite songs so I could compile them onto a CD of "Carson Lester's Top 10 at 10." I designed the CD cover in Word by resizing a graphic to fit the CD case. An insert listing Carson's favorite songs also contained a message for guests: "Thank you for helping us celebrate Carson's 10th birthday. You rock!"

Carson's rockin' party needed an electric guitar cake!

Carson's cake was a hit with all the kids and a big surprise for the birthday boy! In order to pull off a surprise party, I couldn't share my plans with Christian, Mary Ashley and Emma. At 7, 5 and 3, respectively, I knew they couldn't keep a secret, so I made and decorated the birthday cake Wednesday and delivered it to a neighbor's house while they were all out of the house. And I even made cupcakes "for some people at church" and saved a few for our dinner that night to explain the scent of chocolate cake. (Who knew I could be so sneaky?)

Carson's electric guitar cake was a lot of fun to make. I baked a sheet cake and let it cool, then sliced off one short end of the rectangle to make the handle of the guitar. I then rounded the bottom of the cake and shaved off cake from the sides to create a cool guitar shape. Pieced together with icing, these cake pieces formed the end of the handle. Iced smooth with chocolate buttercream icing, Carson's cake started looking like a guitar! Next, I used a toothpick to draw the face of the guitar, flames on the sides and a "C" on the end of the handle. Then I covered the cake in icing stars. I finished off the design with red icing strings and a ribbon guitar strap. It was a rockin' cake, if I do say so myself!

I knew that Carson's evening would have a dreamlike quality, so I wanted him to have a lasting memento from the party. I resized the graphic I used for the favor CDs and taped it to a wide mat that guests signed as they arrived for the party. Displayed in his room, this inexpensive framed piece does double duty as cool art and sweet memory. With everything going on at the party, Carson didn't even notice this piece, but in the days since he has commented on how much it means to him.

Along with our "Top 10 at 10" CDs, packages of Pop Rocks and gummy guitars and microphones from Dollar Tree made sweet favors. Party horns from Party City looked festive clustered in vases on our dining room table, and the kids loved blowing them when it was time to cut the cake.

I wanted to have something on hand to keep guests satisfied while they waited for Carson's arrival, and this layered pizza dip was a hit. It was easy to put together before the party and was a nice accompaniment to our fuss-free menu of pizza and soft drinks.

Layered Pizza Dip

My sister-in-law, Shannon, shared this recipe with me, and it got rave reviews from adults and kids alike at Carson's surprise party.
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
14-ounce jar pizza sauce
1/3 cup chopped onion
6-ounce can chopped black olives
2 ounces sliced pepperoni, chopped
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
Press cream cheese into the bottom of an oven-safe pie plate or small casserole dish. Layer other ingredients over, and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Serve with corn chips.

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