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Surprise 60th birthday weekend | Extended family event

Way back in July, I hopped a plane to Santa Barbara for the best surprise birthday party I’ve ever attended.  It was 7 months in the making, and it was totally worth it–especially since it was for my mom.  My sister-in-law, Julie, arranged almost everything from her home in California–even planning a color theme for the big birthday surprise.  It was all yellow and raspberry after the amazing cake we were to enjoy in celebration of my mom’s big day.  It was pretty sneaky of all of us and there were moments where we almost slipped the secret.  My mom, well, she’s not one to like surprises at all.  She’ll get mad at me for saying this, but she was grumpy more than once about the fact that we weren’t planning anything despite all she’d done for my step-dad’s 60th a few years back.  We all wondered if Jim would crack and tell her about the surprise before they actually arrived.

Friends of theirs jumped in on the gig and actually invited them to an open house for a new home they built near Santa Barbara.  It was the perfect cover–a reason to get her out of Arizona without suspecting.  Except there really wasn’t an open house. In reality, all of us “kids” and our spouses flew in earlier in the day to prep the board room at the Inn of the Spanish Garden.  Then we got to sit and wait for the big surprise.  Of course we had good company, great wine and delicious snacks to keep us busy.  Throughout the day, each of us took a turn to call and wish Mom a happy birthday trying to not give away the surprise and lying through our teeth about where we were and what we were doing.  We worried she wouldn’t be surprised.  But she was floored.  And we all had a good laugh.  She had me take some portraits to update her walls since we were all together at one time.  I got a big family shot and portraits of each couple that was willing (I’m not talking about you, Dan!).

After the big surprise, we headed to a fantastic dinner in the courtyard at Wine Cask.  And the next day we went on a wine tour in Santa Ynez valley, including stops at Demetria Estate and Saarloos & Sons’ tasting room.  We went to two more vineyards after lunch, but I put away the camera and just focused on being a daughter.  Here is a peek into my mom’s big weekend.  Hope it was great, Mom.  Big huge thanks to Jim and Jules for organizing everything.  And a great thank you to all the venues we visited.  Each and everyone of you was fantastic.  We had a blast.

Flowers, gift bags, event details


Surprise birthday celebration

Enjoying the party

Wine Cask birthday dinner

Santa Ynez Valley scenery

celebrating mom



Saarloos and Sons 2

Family group portrait with parents, adult children, and spouses

Parents portrait

Phoenix husband and wife Portrait

Jonathan And Julie

Tia And Matt, Chandler Couple

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