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June 7, 2011 3:55 PM   Subscribe

How can my coworkers and I surprise our awesome receptionist on her 50th birthday?

I would like to do something over-the-top awesome (on a budget) for the receptionist at my company. She is an amazing lady. She's recently overcome a bout with breast cancer, has lost a child and still is the most friendly, cheerful and positive person I've ever met. She treats us all like we're her kids and takes care of everyone she meets like they're family.

When she celebrated the end of treatment for her cancer, we all went in on a gift card for spa treatments for her. I'd like to take it to the next level. She is an incredible party planner and the most thoughtful gift giver I've ever met. How can we "WOW" her?

Some details about her:
She's EXTREMELY outgoing and fun-loving, loves to bake and is kind of a baking snob (but in a charming way), she's on the conservative side politically, vegetarian, extremely patriotic (her birthday is the 4th of July), originally from the South.

Since she's the receptionist at a large corporation, there are some limits on what we can do to decorate her desk. Is there a clever and creative way to spoil her on her big 5-0? She has two teenage daughters who we'd like to incorporate in whatever it is we do, too. Thanks!
posted by lbo to Human Relations (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Ask her daughters about this if you haven't already.

However, if she's a baking snob, maybe some: bakeware? Silpats? A really nice, high-powered Kitchen Aid? GC to Williams Sonoma? Depends on what she already has and your budget.

As for her desk, I wouldn't bother decorating it if she's conservative, but if you had a really nicely-wrapped gift and a crafty card (check etsy) that would probably hit all the right notes. maybe a tasteful arrangement of flowers and the like would add to it?
posted by jlunar at 4:09 PM on June 7, 2011


Quick question...did she TELL you its going to be her 50th birthday, or did you figure this out.

Believe it or not, some people...especially conservative women from the south may NOT want to publicize their 50th birthday.

Figure this out before continuing unless this lady is all about celebrating her birthdays and letting people know how old she is.
posted by hal_c_on at 4:13 PM on June 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Seconding hal_c_on. I'm not 50 yet, but I'm a decade-plus older than many of my coworkers and don't share their boundless enthusiasm for birthdays. I mean, I like my birthday but I hate celebrating it at work.

That said, you can't go wrong with flowers and treating someone to lunch.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 5:14 PM on June 7, 2011


Assuming she's okay with the whole idea of celebrating her 50th, I'm always fond of one-for-each-year things, like 50 roses.

Alternatively, for something over-the-top, is there any way you could incorporate her daughters, your coworkers, maybe some of her friends, and make up a 50-person chorus to serenade her? (It's no big deal if folks aren't perfect singers: it really is the thought that counts.)
posted by easily confused at 5:27 PM on June 7, 2011


Could you buy tickets for her and her daughters to an experience-based gift? I'm thinking a cooking class (if there's one that's sufficiently advanced/ that wouldn't be insulting-- like from a famous bakery or local chef), a wine-tasting event, a spa day together, or something like that?

I also really like the serenade idea. For my mom's 60th birthday some of her friends wrote a silly song about her, and she loved it. I don't know if you want to go that far, but it was really super-sweet and I think it did make her cry.

And if you do get her a cake at work (maybe one with a flag AND a silly birthday message?), be sure to mention in the card that you're sure it's not half as good as the ones she bakes!
posted by dizziest at 6:02 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


my last idea gave me another one: is there a special cake that she particularly likes to bake or that her family usually makes for birthdays? you could ask her daughters to either make it or give you the recipe so you could make it, and surprise her with that at her birthday lunch.
posted by dizziest at 6:03 PM on June 7, 2011


Does she like to travel? I don't know if you can buy gift cards to airlines but that would be pretty cool.

We have the Loveless Cafe here in Nashville and they have some pretty good gift baskets with southern stuff if you want to go that route.

She was born in 1961? Is there anything you could play up for that? Maybe have people dress up in clothing from that era?

Whatever you do, have fun! I'm sure she will appreciate it!
posted by dawkins_7 at 6:24 PM on June 7, 2011


Remember, at a place of business, for legal reasons, you do not know someone's age. Whatever you plan, it should not indicate you know her age.
posted by ifandonlyif at 6:31 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


How about giving her the day off and a little bit of pocket money to spend on it?
posted by angiep at 6:58 PM on June 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Make fuss. You don't need to publicise '50' everywhere but make the work gathering a big deal. Have someone else cover the phones/desk/whatever and set up a morning tea/afternoon tea nicely. Little cakey cakes and tea in cups and saucers.

Light a candle and sing happy birthday. Have people sign a card for her. My work on my 'round end' birthday got a heap of joined paper dolls and each person wrote on one or drew on one to make it look like me. I liked them so much I still have them up on wall. They gave me flowers and were waiting with party poppers when I came in the room. It was noisy and silly and fun. (My workplace is particularly good at birthdays, so they were well practised.)

I think high tea is befitting this dame. No present suggestions though, I'm afraid.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 7:34 PM on June 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


OOh...Trivia Newton John (HAHA) has it!

Having high tea would be REALLY nice. Tea, finger sandwiches...some kind of southern "I shouldn't...but it IS my birthday" kind of fingersnacks...

THAT would be appreciated and remembered, especially if its not done on a regular basis.
posted by hal_c_on at 8:00 PM on June 7, 2011


Put mint julep in the teacups and invite me.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 8:47 PM on June 7, 2011


give her the day off! get her daughters to surprise her at work in the morning, and have something arranged for them to go off and do
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:06 AM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


In addition to anything else you do: It seems clear you love this woman, or at the very least think she's awesome(!) - so never underestimate the value of a hand-written note/card telling her [i]why[/i] she's so awesome. Bonus points if multiple folks are willing to write them. Nothing like an actual letter of appreciation to make someone feel appreciated.
posted by CarolineR at 8:49 PM on June 11, 2011


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