Celebrating In Style – Mr Perfect’s 50th Birthday
Mr Perfect turned 50 last week (I’m sure he’s delighted I’ve shared that with you all) and we hosted an incredible weekend of birthday celebrations in mid Wales, with a close group of friends. It appeared to be a huge success so I thought I would share my story of how my ideas for celebrating in style came together, just in case any of you have got big celebrations to plan!
I should start by telling you it was about a year in the planning, I organised it on my own, as I wanted everyone who was invited to enjoy the same surprises as the birthday boy. Plus I work pretty much full time and co write the LBA blog, so had to fit the organising in between everything else – no easy task but one I thoroughly enjoyed!
Where I Started
Actually, that should say “where WE started” as the only two things Mr Perfect was aware of was WHO was invited and WHERE we were going! He already knew he wanted to go away for a long weekend with friends, so the first step was to pull together a list of who to invite, then we’d know what size house we needed to accommodate everyone.
Pulling together the list of who to invite was pretty tough! We started off with a list of about 34 and had a browse online for houses which could accommodate, we soon realised that to get something suitable we would need to reduce the list, which we did to 24. Sadly this meant there were a few people we would have loved to have been there but simply couldn’t invite due to numbers (it felt like planning a wedding!).
Next we had to find “our house” – we created a list of what we’d like in a house and then searched on line for houses which met our criteria. I emailed all of the houses we thought were a match (about 10) and after receiving responses, shortlisted those to 6 properties we decided to go and view.
We saw some amazing properties, one with it’s own Havana Club, which was right up our street as we visited Cuba in April last year and thought that would be a nice touch, another which had the most incredible entrance hall, with a domed ceiling and huge function type room, one which looked amazing on line but on visiting found the kitchen was rather too small for 24 people and you had to be indoors with the party room doors shut by 11 pm. An immaculate house with 12 ensuite bedrooms and a swimming pool, but it had light cream carpets downstairs and everything was a little too “perfect” for us (and our red wine drinking guests) plus again you had to be in doors by 11pm – which isn’t going to make for much of a party!
Then there was Plas Dinam, one of the first we visited. We were dumbstruck when we first drove up the long drive and pulled up outside what can only be described as a huge and splendid country mansion (the owners call it a house but what do you think).
Strangely we didn’t make our minds up immediately, I think in the back of our minds we had a perfect picture and because we’d seen so many other houses we kept comparing them. I ended up creating an excel sheet with 3 of the houses on and listing everything each house did and didn’t have and then agreed with Mr Perfect that Plas Dinam was by far the best and was indeed “perfect” for us and our group of friends. We confirmed who would be up for coming and then bit the bullet and booked it!
From then on it was full speed ahead, even with about 11 months to plan! You may be getting an idea of what I’m like now! If you saw my house you would never think I had OCD tendancies!
Next to decide was a theme, of sorts. I didn’t want everything dictated by a theme, but just a general idea running throughout the weekend. This was actually the easiest part to decide, one because I now wasn’t including Mr Perfect in any of the arrangements (deep joy) but also because the birthday boy does love a bit of Motown, Frankie Valli and music in general. So that was the third thing I decided on – a MOTOWN or Jersey Boys theme!
The ideas came thick and fast, believe it or not from the day I booked Plas Dinam, I found it difficult to sleep for 3 weeks, I kept waking up with new ideas and getting up in the middle of the night to write them down so I wouldn’t forget, each night felt like Christmas Eve, which is great once a year but 3 weeks of broken sleep was hard work!
I spent a good few days/nights trawling the internet looking for a band (within my budget – which if I’m honest I hadn’t set as I was far too excited). I watched numerous videos of different Motown and Jersey Boy Tribute bands and emailed those I thought were good. I found one Jersey Boys tribute band who were absolutely brilliant, the email reply was hilarious, they wrote “if you don’t mind paying the flights from Australia, where we are based, we would love to play at your event”! Suffice to say I declined.
However, I’m so glad they weren’t based in the UK because then I wouldn’t have found the absolutely brilliant SOUL KINDA Wonderful, a soul and Motown tribute group, led by the amazing Richie Sampson (who has sung with The Drifters and The Foundations)! I found them by searching Motown Tribute Bands on Google – here is the video I found and booked them from. I have to say, they are so much better than this video and yet this captured my heart and imagination! This would be the icing on the cake for celebrating in style!
I had a couple of email communications with Richie and once he confirmed he could also perform “December ’63 (Oh What A Night)” as part of his set, the deal was done! SOUL KINDA Wonderful were booked and I was on a roll!
As I wanted to keep the band a secret from both Mr Perfect and our guests, I decided I needed to visit Plas Dinam again, mainly to work out if it was possible to sneak them in without anyone seeing. I took another drive to Llandinam, Powys and this time met with Tyson, as Eldrydd was busy filming with the team from Salvage Hunters! I had to keep dodging the filming and making sure I wasn’t clomping with my heels as I double checked all the bedrooms! I took the house floor plans with me and managed to work out I could block off the 2 entrances to the dining hall, the second lounge room door and the door from the kitchen side of the house into the main entrance. No easy task but I was determined to make it work!
I also needed to make sure my idea for bedroom door hangers would work. I wanted to hang a 7″ vinyl record from each door handle, with a welcome message on one side and a “Shhhh do not disturb” on the other side. In keeping with the Motown theme, each room was named after a famous Motown artist, except ours as Mr Perfect loves Frankie Valli! They also had the guests names on, to make sure everyone was certain which room was theirs! Hopefully it made a nice little keepsake. So I took a record with me just to make sure it wouldn’t be in the way of the door opening and shutting. I was over the moon when it was the perfect size! Making them was a whole other matter (not being able to explain why I had come home with a rubber mallet, nail punches and finally asking to borrow the electric drill definitely had Mr P wondering what on earth I was doing).
I left the house 100% confident we’d chosen the right house for everything I had planned. Unfortunately I couldn’t explain to Mr Perfect why, as I didn’t want to let on about the band!
Keeping The Troops Entertained
Next it was time to work out how to keep the troops entertained on Friday night, Saturday day and Sunday! I looked at horse riding but there were no stables near enough who could accommodate 20 or more people, so that was crossed off the list, as was clay pigeon shooting as it didn’t appeal to everyone and some had issues with their backs and shoulders and couldn’t do it. Again this turned out for the best, as I decided to use all the entertainment available to me at the house!
They had a huge billiard/snooker room, with full size table, table tennis room, giant jenga, croquet, treasure hunt, tennis, massive gas BBQ, incredible outside space, two large lounges (one perfect for a party night), very impressive dining hall, original Victorian bread oven (now used for pizza baking), pit fire, huge kitchen with side kitchen and double original pantry (proper marble shelves), a drinks room with fridge, a small TV room with 50″ plasma TV, 15 gorgeous bedrooms (most with views to die for) and numerous bath and shower rooms! Oh and even it’s own museum!!
My plan was to use as many of the facilities as possible. I drew up a spread sheet (GET ME), with activities and timings for each day (sounds like an itinerary but it was only to ensure there would always be something to do if people wanted to, not that they had to).
I also had another spreadsheet detailing what food was needed for when (when you are caterng for 20+ people for 3+ days you need to be organised). Friday night was a sit down dinner with two choices of meals, Sri Lankan Chicken Curry with rice, naan and poppadoms and homemade lasagne with side salad and garlic bread.
With the theme being Motown, I decided for Saturday night to go with a “Soul Food” theme (not that I ended up explaining this to anyone), by way of a BBQ, with steak, sticky BBQ ribs (I’ll share share the recipe as they were amazing), tandoori chicken, beef burgers, sausages, halloumi, jacket potatoes and a large selection of side salads (which I decided to have made by a local cook, who bought them up to the house Saturday afternoon).
Sunday we were originally booked into the highly recommended local pub for a lunchtime roast, however on Saturday it was agreed there was so much food at the house that it made sense to cancel, plus some guests had to leave, thankfully the pub were absolutely fine about it! So we ended up with a whole salmon and left over meat and salads.
For breakfast each day I’d catered enough bacon, eggs, sausages, bread, pastries, beans, tomatoes etc etc to last the whole weekend, pretty much whatever anyone wanted for breakfast was there, including an abundance of fresh fruit and some yogurt!
Saturday lunch doubled as an activity – Pizza making and baking, you can see the details below!
Desserts – I decided against proper puds, but instead made scones (with clotted cream & jam), brownies and cookies and Margot (not her real name, she has certain traits of Margot from The Good Life) made two lemon loaf cakes and Lucy supplied the healthy sweet option of Deliciously Ella Energy Balls (click here for the recipe Energy Balls). There was also the most incredible red velvet birthday cake, again Motown themed made by the very talented Helen’s Cakes. The idea came from Pinterest and was personalised by adding Mr Perfect sat on the piano in his Yacht Man outfit (that’s a whole other post but our guests understood), with Stevie Wonder tickling the keys and singing!
Enough dips, crisps, pitta’s, nuts and veg to sink a small ship! And of course, lots and lots and lots of booze – each guest brought their favourite tipple and either a bottle of fizz or port and then there was lots more fizz, red wine, white wine, beer, cider (some very lovely specialty versions also bought by Mr Teear), vodka, Bacardi, Havana Club, Spiced Rum (can you tell we like rum), tequila, Pimms, Chambord, brandy and Jack Daniels! Not forgetting the soft drinks and mixers! We probably could have partied for a week, if we were a few years younger.
How It All Came Together
There was rather a major hitch just before the weekend, Mr P had been having tests for some time for problems with his heart, he got a call the week of the celebrations to say his appointment at the hospital had been bought forward to the Thursday of that week. I had visions of him being kept in and the rest of us having the party without him (we did actually discuss this!). As it happened, he was given a load of new meds and was told “no alcohol” – this really isn’t what he wanted to hear! A quick trip to the supermarket for Becks Blue non alcoholic beer, never thought we’d need that on the weekend!
Two days of cooking, baking and food shopping and then day one of the weekend was upon us…
Arrival day, with guests allowed to turn up from 4 pm onwards. It’s a pretty long drive from Buckinghamshire, so we weren’t sure what time everyone would turn up, so I decided to make it a casual evening, with a pre-prepared dinner (cooked by my fair hand the day before) to be served in the VERY grand dining hall. Plus of course some getting to know you games, as not everyone had met before.
The games I had planned were “How Much Do You Use” involving toilet rolls! Beer Pong, Pie Face and Questions & Answers. I’d also sent out an email prior to the weekend putting all the guests into 3 teams and asking each team to make a cocktail, 2 on Friday night and then there should have been 2 on Saturday night (as it turned out, the one I had purchased the ingredients for, which was named “Motown Smash” never got made! One of the teams turned the cocktail making into a competition and offered up our car as first prize! Not that the other teams knew that.
Friday Night Cocktails
On arriving at Plas Dinam and with the help of Mr Perfect and Mr Scriven, we had to unload the car (no mean feat), I put big candle lanterns by the front door, the bottle lights on the tables outside, each room got a personalised party invitation, box of chocolates, a hangover recovery kit (which I’d put together beforehand), slippers, eye and face masks, bottles of water and a box of chocolates and the personalised “Welcome & Do Not Disturb” door hangers. I’d also organised with Eldrydd to have extra bathrobes delivered, so all guests had one. I think it’s the little touches which make all the difference.
Of course we also had background music (with some impromptu singing from guests) using the speaker and karaoke equipment which was bought along by Mr Bird, our very own karaoke king! I’d had a clandestine meeting with him and his ever lovely lady Penny prior to the event to discuss exactly how the Karaoke would work on Saturday night and how best to play the playlists etc. It was a great wind up telling Mr Perfect I couldn’t tell him where I was going and that all would become clear in good time!
Talking of music – I made the decision to put together 3 different playlists; day time chill out, Motown and soul and dance and disco! Including asking all guest to send me there 3 favourite tunes for each genre, so I could ensure everyone had something they liked. SERIOUSLY I think this was by far the hardest part of the planning! I can’t tell you how long it took to put the 3 playlists together, especially when I decided the dance and disco had to be in order of decades! I was still adding, deleting and moving songs until the day before we left for the weekend! Suffice to say I now have some rather excellent play lists, bar a few dubious choices from a couple of the guests!
Guests started arriving from about 3.30 pm (we were still putting the Tesco delivery away), with the last couple arriving at just gone 7 pm. Everyone seemed to take themselves off to the outside and conservatory area, where I put out a few nibbles and everyone quite happily helped themselves to drinks.
The food was put on to warm (with the help of AGA expert Lucy), we laid the tables and decided to use the £10k table just to put the food on (buffet style so people could help themselves, I was a bit scared to use it for eating and drinking at (although we were more than welcome to).
The evening went really well, with everyone chatting and laughing while digging into the food. Once food was done, it was time for the first getting to you know game, which was “how much do you use”, where each person takes how many sheets of toilet roll they would typically use (if you get my drift). That in itself causes much hilarity, especially when you ask them all to hold up their lengths of paper. After the laughing subsided I then explained however many pieces they’d taken they had to tell everyone else one fact about themselves (there were a few who wished they hadn’t taken so much). We had a microphone which we passed around the table – some people loved using it, others really didn’t.
It was a really good game to relax everyone but also find out more about each other. The music was turned up a couple of notches and a bit of singing took place. We also got our second cocktail (the red one in the picture) the last tray was bought in by a topless male guest being fanned with a towel by one of the other male guests! I won’t embarrass him by uploading the photo, but it definitely set the tone for the weekend, in terms of laughter not being undressed!
I guessed people may over indulge on the Friday night, why is it we never seem to learn not to over egg it on the first night! So I arranged for a highly recommended local baker, Andy’s Bread, to deliver a basket of pastries and some freshly baked breads on Saturday morning at 9.30 am. This was as well as getting all the required ingredients to make a full english should anyone want one (I’ll come on to how I arranged the food a bit later). My plan was for everyone to be up, fed and ready to start some activities by 11 a.m. Amazingly we ended up pretty much on track!
Activities for Saturday, were set up as team games, with medals for the winning team! They were supposed to take place outdoors (as it’s such a wonderful setting), unfortunately weather didn’t allow this, so I made a quick call to Eldrydd, the owner and asked if we were OK to play Giant Jenga in the dining hall, which she agreed to as long as there was no danger of the furniture getting damaged (which was fair enough, as the Salvage Hunters had told her one of the dining room tables was worth £10,000.00!). I’ve never seen so many people so nervous or competitive playing a game of Jenga! I was the ref, so took great pleasure in watching them all and taking photos, here’s LBA’s lovely Lucy succeeding in removing her second Jenga peice, I think in the end we got to 28 levels high!
As we finished Jenga a little later than anticipated and two guests had to make a quick dash to a local music store to get some guitar strings (yep we had a guitar player with us too!), we decided to take a break from activities, some went to play pool or table tennis and the rest of us congregated in the kitchen, where it would have been rude not to make a few Bloody Mary’s – they were delicious!
Next up was Pizza Making! 3 of us, and probably not the best 3, had met Tyson (owner) earlier in the morning and he had lit the original Victorian Bread Oven (now used as a Pizza Oven) and then talked us through how to get it to temperature and how to make sure the made pizza’s slid off the boards into the oven. It all sounded so easy!!!
The pizza dough and sauce was also delivered by Andy’s Bread. A few of us prepared the various toppings, tuna, pepperoni, ricotta, grated mozzarella, buffalo mozzarella, fresh jalapeno peppers, red pepper, green pepper, red onion, sliced mushrooms, fresh tomatoes, sliced olives, ham, eggs, spinach and rocket! We even had fresh pineapple but I forgot to prepare that, there was no chance there wasn’t something for everyone – I may have gone a little over the top! (Note: I did check with everyone prior to the weekend for allergies etc and made sure there were other options for those who needed them).
Creating our own pizza’s turned out to be a comedy of errors, for nearly everyone! We’d been told by Tyson to put cornmeal on our boards to make sure the pizzas slid off easily into the pizza oven, the first set of people up to make there’s, me being one of them, put the cornmeal on the boards and then tried to shape it, into what we were told should be a “thin base”. If it didn’t end up stuck to our hands it definitely ended up stuck to the board! I took mine to the pizza oven but there was no chance of it sliding off the board, so I took it back, carefully lifted it and then added more cornmeal underneath. Back to the oven and I still had to lift it off with the pizza shovel! Massive fail by me, here’s how it came out
Mmmm, not quite Pizza Express but it actually tasted lovely! Of course there is always one or two people who manage to get it right and Mr Teear had to be one of them (who at one point over the weekend took the Mr Perfect crown, he did however lose it again), but here is what it should look like – his also slid perfectly off the board!
We also had an expert dough flinger in our group, so have to share this picture too
You may note the flour on his hands, we had worked out by this point you needed to flour your hands and board, plus put the cornmeal on!
After a good couple of hours making, baking (or should that be breaking) and eating pizza, we were ready for the next team challenge. Table Tennis!
We were going to do a round robin (where the teams take it in turns to hit the ball and then run round to the other end of the table). At this point the Health & Safety Executive stepped in and advised of the dangers of running past the concrete fireplace (especially after a couple of beers and bloody mary’s), so after much a do (and I mean much a do) we decided the teams would stay at their end of the table and pass the table tennis bat to the next player to take their turn. The winning team would be the first to 21, with me acting as referee and keeping score (oh and taking photo’s), suffice to say I lost track of the score a couple of times, to loud jeering and arguing between the teams! Luckily there were a couple of players who played fair and helped me keep track!
Who knew table tennis could be so hilarious. At one point one team had about four bats (this is called cheating), they were confiscated! Players forgot to pass bats leaving the next player helpless and there were some wicked shots by one of the female players, who I was beginning to think was a ringer but she assured me she didn’t play table tennis, it was pure luck! Apart from the verbal abuse aimed at me and the tantrums by the two captains, it was a great laugh (actually so was the abuse and tantrums). Can you tell which team won?
With the same team who won Jenga also winning the Table Tennis, it meant there was no need to play any deciding games, as it was supposed to be best of 3. Just for the purposes of this blog, the third team game was going to be croquet, of sorts, with each team member taking a hit and the first team to get to the end would be the winner. As it was raining we couldn’t have done this anyway, but we would have played team snooker on the billiard table instead. With time ticking by and the FA Cup Final looming at 5.30 pm, we decided against a third team game.
Which worked brilliantly for me, as I needed to get on with decorating the party room! I soon realised it was unrealistic to try and blow up the balloons and tie them with ribbon and lights myself. Thankfully I had some willing helpers and myself and 4 others snuck off to the party room to get to work, while the others got themselves sorted and settled to watch the footy!
I had no idea when I booked the weekend that the FA Cup Final was being played on the Saturday, it threw a bit of a spanner in the works, as the men were supposed to be cooking the evening BBQ food, scheduled for 7pm. They assured me they would get changed at half time and could get cooking by 7 ish! Anyone who watched the game knows it went into extra time – I was busy doing other things so had no idea until I realised the meat only started to get cooked at about 8 – good job I’d have been flipping out! Note: it’s worth having a plan but don’t expect to stick to it!
Once the balloons were blown, ribboned and lit my lovely helpers left me to finish off the decorations. Which consisted of a small LED glitter ball, multi coloured LED disco light, glass jars with fairy lights inside, glass bottles with LED cork stopper lights and my favourite decoration of all, original 7″ Motown vinyl records strung up on copper string LED fairy lights, which is what we also attached to the balloons! The records were hung around the walls, with the balloons positioned randomly, the battery packs acted as weights on the balloons and I also used these to tape the records on top of the cornicing (agreed in advance with the owners).
As I’d made the Motown record lights before the weekend, it was just a case of putting them up and also putting the lights in the jars. I’d turn them on once the band were set up.
So, how did I manage to sneak the band in without giving the game away? I checked beforehand when they were going to turn up and, as mentioned, put “keep out” signs on certain doors. There was a major panic when I realised the football was being watched in the room right next door, which meant when the band sound checked the guests would hear them! So I very kindly asked (OK, ordered) them to vacate the room at half time and to watch the remainder in the small TV room by the kitchen, which actually had a much bigger TV and was nearer the drink and food, WIN WIN!
From 6.00 pm onwards I kept looking out of the front window, waiting for SOUL KINDA Wonderful to arrive. At about 6.30 pm I looked out and saw “Expert Pizza Flinger” (Neil) out by his car and at the same time the band driving up in their car! PANIC again! If you know Neil, you will know he throws THE BEST parties and celebrations ever, he really goes to town. Which is why I really wanted to make party night a surprise for him, as he always does so much for everyone else. I dashed outside and ordered him, only to see Lucy hanging out of her bedroom window in her dressing gown trying to see what was going on! Eventually I welcomed Richie and Paul and showed them where they would be setting up.
Once they’d got all their gear in, and I’d got them both a drink, I said I needed to go and get ready for the party (I had about half an hour, not how I’d planned it by hey ho, I wouldn’t be curling my hair, painting my nails, with my very expensive nail polish purchased specifically for the party, or putting on my intricate glitter eye shadow). Richie said he’d call if he needed anything.
In the middle of trying to make myself look half presentable, I got a phone call to say the power in the party room wasn’t working! OH MY GOD – 3RD AND BIGGEST PANIC, we couldn’t have a party without music and lights! I got straight on the phone to Eldrydd (god bless her) and explained the situation, she very calmly said Tyson was free and he’d pop up to have a look and that it was probably just a fuse. YES, AT THIS POINT I PRAYED!
I finished getting ready, whizzed down to the band to find them warming up, all their lights on and the room looking beautiful. It was worth praying.
Next was getting the guys some food and more drink, a quick trip to the kitchen to find all the salads already on the table, and the finishes touches being made to the rest of the food, but no music! So it was time to put on my Dance & Disco playlist. The first track, specifically done that way, was Donna Summer “Last Dance”, I put it on and picked up my camera, as Leesy jigged around the kitchen with two red peppers strategically placed and just behind him, at the AGA was our very own Karaoke King (Birdie), he was having the time of his life, I have to share this video, because it’s too funny not to share (soon to be YouTube sensation!)
By now it was gone 9pm, the band were due to start at 9.30! I asked a couple of the ladies to grab them a plate of food each and then went back to the party room, where they were still rehearsing. One of my favourite moments from the weekend was sitting in a chair listening to them sing just to me, especially as they were practising December ’63 (oh what a night), I have to admit having a tear in my eye, with the realisation it had all come together!
The band took their food into the room next door, now doubling as their dressing room and we agreed to start at 9.45, to give them time to get ready and for me to get a drink! Oh and what a drink… Team 3’s cocktail tasted divine and they had really gone all out on the presentation (Neil was in this team along with a number of other very competitive guests, and yes, was the team who decided it was a competition without telling anyone else)!
Impressive eh! I may have had one too many of these on the night, not to mention the one I decided to have as hair of the dog on Sunday morning – not such a good idea!!
Cocktail in hand, I whizzed back to check-in on the band, it was 10 minutes to kick off! I was about ready to spontaneously combust. A year of planning, making, organising, buying, collecting, cooking and keeping secrets was about to come to fruition…
The guests were given their 10 minute warning, I tried to compose myself, checked everyone was present and ready, then it was time for Mr Perfect to see what all the planning and secrets had been about!
We filed into the dining room (Lucy, bless her, was already in place in the party room, as she was videoing Mr P’s entrance and the first song) and then we entered the party room. I was so busy worrying about having to introduce the band I didn’t really see Mr Perfects reaction! I went to the front and introduced SOUL KINDA Wonderful to the birthday boy and guests, I got to use this beauty, which I’ve always wanted to do…
Then it was over to Richie Sampson and Paul Anthony aka SOUL KINDA Wonderful to get the party started! It wasn’t long before everyone was dancing and singing along to song after song of Motown music. SKW were absolutely FANTASTIC, I could not believe just how good they were, superb singers, great entertainers, a few moves thrown in and extremely professional. I would highly recommend them to anyone who loves GREAT music! (All details for everything are listed at the end).
I’d booked the band for two 45 minute sets and they gave us more than our monies worth, we even had Paul singing Karaoke with a couple of the men later in the evening! It did help that we had a couple of spare bedrooms so I’d offered for them to stay rather than drive 3 hours back to Leicester and they took me up on my offer and ended up chilling out with the rest of us after they’d finished their set!
The band were followed by Karaoke, led by the Karaoke King and Dancing Cook, Birdie! I’d also arranged in advance for three of the men to sing Father & Son (It’s Not Time To Make A Change) by Boyzone, as a surprise for Mr Perfect. It’s a standing joke that he only knows 2 lines from the song but always sings it after a few bevvies! So that’s how the Karaoke started, with Mr Perfect joining in on the last verse. This part of the night went on for quite some time!
At some point I was supposed to put candles on Mr Perfects cake and open a couple of bottles of champagne with sparklers on, with all the singing and dancing this didn’t happen, at one point myself and Nicole did get the champagne sparklers out of the box but couldn’t work out how to light them, so they were swiftly put away again! (Nothing to do with the alcohol consumed).
The next thing I properly remember (shocking I know) is standing outside by the Pizza Oven, with a handful of party revelers, you know those who like to be up right to the end! Well right to the end was 5.45 a.m., by which time I was announcing to everyone I wasn’t going to go to bed. Thank goodness Mr Perfect convinced me otherwise!
By the time I got downstairs, at about 11.00 a.m., SKW had departed, apparently they’d been down and made breakfast before leaving and a couple of guests were up in time to see them off!
The cleaning fairies had been in at some point between leaving the kitchen the previous evening and me getting up in the morning. If you can manage to find “cleaning fairies” for any events you are organising, they are absolutely amazing, they quietly prepare food, fill and empty dishwashers, cover food and put it in the fridge so it’s not wasted and still manage to look fabulous constantly and join in with all the festivities! They are otherwise known as “AMAZING FRIENDS” – I’d like to thank them all from the bottom of my heart!
The best thing about Sunday was that the sun was shining – at last we could venture outdoors! A few couples had to leave on Sunday, once they’d gone their merry ways, we decided to go for a walk to the village of Llandinam (only about a mile down the road). It was great for blowing away a few cobwebs and waking us up.
The route back was a little path, on the land of Plas Dinam, which took you up through the fields and to the back of the house. There was a swing on route, so it would have been rude not to have a go…
With the sun still shining, we decided to sit out in the garden, with a couple of bottles of prosecco and a few dips and crisps, I do love a dip and crisp! It was also time for Mr Perfect to open his birthday presents, he was truly spoilt by his friends, with funny and some very sentimental gifts, all of which he was very humbled and thankful for.
My gift to him, apart from the whole weekend and complete outfit for Saturday night (socks as well), were in keeping with the Motown theme. Firstly tickets to see Stevie Wonder in Hyde Park in July, we kicked ourselves for not booking tickets to see him at the o2 a few years ago, so when I saw he was returning to England and in the year Mr Perfect was 50, I knew I had to book them. I also managed to track down a DVD of the Motown 25th Anniversary concert, if you’re as old as us, you will remember it being shown on TV. Mr P had video taped it as it had all his favourite Motown acts singing live and together, including The Jackson 5, it was sacred to him. Unfortunately “somebody” taped over it with Coronation Street (not me by the way) and he has banged on about it ever since I’ve known him. So it seemed appropriate to find a copy, believe it or not you can’t get in the UK, so I had it shipped from Australia, it was cheaper than shipping over the Jersey Boys Tribute! He had a couple of other music themed pressies too.
I’d also had a special “Guest Book” made, for all of our guests to sign, so we could present it to him as a memory of the weekend. I found the idea on Pinterest and designed the label myself and a company called Adamapple made it for me. I’ve just checked and he doesn’t appear to do them anymore, but if you search for “vinyl record guest book” on Google, you will find someone who sells them. Here’s Mr P’s
It was very much a chilling out afternoon, four of our guests decided to make use of the croquet, patiently set up by Mr Teear the day before and the original and one and only Mr P (Bo), came and sat on the bench with me and played a tune on his guitar and sang along, even with a very croaky voice from the night before he wasn’t too shabby! We moved back over to everyone else, who had now moved to the lawn where the sun was shining, a few of the men (and ladies) decided to partake in Cuban cigars (purchased last year on our trip), with Bo playing guitar and puffing away at the same time, mulit-talented!
Oh and while all this was going on, Margot (Anna) and I had put a whole salmon in the fish kettle, with some white wine, water and stuffed the salmon with fresh parsley, lemon and black pepper. Then my “cleaning fairies” knocked up a super supper with all the leftover salad and meat from the night before. The salmon was to die for, I could have eaten the lot myself!
Neil had also taken himself away to light the pit fire and after we’d all grabbed some food we wandered up to the fire pit, with coats and blankets, to watch the sun go down and a few of the men had a go at the crossbar challenge, on the make-shift goal just down from the fire.
There were some interesting celebrations when said crossbar was hit, I won’t share the photo’s of one particular celebration, which involved the pulling down of trousers!! And yes, before you ask the original and only Mr P did hit the crossbar first time, much to the disgust of my Mr Perfect! Although he was ecstatic when Mr Scriven also hit it first time, quite a lot of celebratory swearing!
This end to Sunday was pretty much perfect, completely chilled, still more laughs and fabulous company!
As the sun set and the warmth of the day subsided, we took ourselves back inside for cheese, wine and port (well some had wine and port, others, like myself stuck to tea or water). By 11 pm I was completely exhausted – myself and the fairy cleaners had done some tidying up during they day but the rest had to be done in the morning. Off to my very comfy bed I went and slept like a (well behaved) baby until about 7 a.m.
Time to put the house back in order and sort out ALL the food and drink which was left (I definitely over estimated). There were so many eggs left I encouraged people to have them for breakfast, which quite a few did, whilst others finished of Andy’s Bread.
All the guests helped with tidying and packing the cars (we needed two cars to get everything to the house and still two to get everything home again, but that was because I needed space in the estate to pick the dog up).
We divvied out the remaining food and drink and then it was time for final goodbyes. I have to admit to getting rather emotional when the last of our guests were departing, I think it was the sheer relief that everything had gone so well but also the sadness it was all over, I was also completely and utterly exhausted! It had been such a long time in the making and in the blink of an eye it was over. I still get emotional two weeks later when I hear certain tracks or read the lovely thank you cards and messages (not that I want anyone to think I’m a softie!).
All that remained was to do a double check of all the rooms (that took a while), give Eldrydd a call to say we were about to leave and leave a message in the guest book. Then it was a 3-4 hour drive home, with a stop to collect our beloved Storm (dog) and thank my sister with a couple of bottles of champagne. The dog had been ill all weekend, keeping her awake and needing a visit to the vets, all of which Karen took in her stride and kept the worry away from me (she’s my Dog Fairy!).
There it is, celebrating in style done my way. Definitely one of the best weekends of my life, and I’ve had quite a few! I loved it so much that I’ve already started the ball rolling for my 50th in a couple of years time… watch this space, you’ve always got to go bigger and better!
If anyone would like more details on anything I’ve written about, please feel free to get in touch, either comment below, on Facebook or email me direct via the contact page. If you need a party organiser, I may just be your woman, DD PP Parties is also in the planning (Diane Duncan Permanently P****d Parties), obviously it wouldn’t be called this because I couldn’t ever have the surname “Duncan”!
Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed and got some inspiration for your own events. Please feel free to share.
As promised here are all the links to the various companies I used for my celebrating in style weekend – if you contact any of them, please let them know you heard about them from Diane Richardson Clarke (Life Begins At).
Plas Dinam Country House
SOUL KINDA Wonderful Facebook Page – or contact Richie Sampson direct: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Helen’s Cakes – Ask for Helen Attwood based in Harrow
Andy’s Bread – Ask for Andy, based in Llandinam, delivers to Plas Dinam
Fruit & Veg Carrot & Coriander High Wycombe
Salad Bowls for Saturday night made by Frances Jones Catering – Email: email@example.com
Direct Delivery to Plas Dinam by Tesco Online
Steak, Ribs, Salad Dressings, Chicken for curry from Gleesons Butchers Penn & Tylers Green
Beef Burgers, Sausages, Salmon, Dips, Cheese, Rolls, Garlic Bread, Clotted Cream and more Costco Hayes
Bottle lights, bottles, copper wire fairy lights, vinyl records, treasure box and contents, balloons and ribbon, pie face, beer pong, funny face place mats, metal bins, glitter ball – all from Ebay or Amazon. Hangover Bags Etsy.