The humid air and persistent drizzle last Saturday (actually the Saturday before last... it's taken me quite some time to compose this post) did not deter us from having an intimate garden party to celebrate Laly's second birthday. I have not hosted a party since we lived on the houseboat in Amsterdam, so I was feeling a bit daunted about the idea and wondered if I could do it without getting completely overwhelmed and stressed (the main reason why I don't host parties - dinner ones or otherwise). I worked hard for the two weeks leading up to the event to be really present with my time and to let things go if they weren't working out the way I intended, or if things happened that stopped me from being able to create exactly what I had envisioned. My intention was to try my best to have fun with each part of the process - painting the bunting, gathering the flora, cooking, setting up... I still got stressed, and we still had a family meltdown the day of the party. BUT. I do feel like I was more present, more aware than I have been in similar situations in the past. And I have to say, I absolutely enjoyed the making and doing, and I really enjoyed the party, which was my true goal. I was so rapt to see everyone enjoying themselves, there was such a great vibe, everyone got on and Laly and her friends were fantastic, not a tantrum in sight. Before the party I was saying to Romain with complete conviction, "We are never doing this again"and 3 hours later after the party, with as much conviction I declared, "I can't wait to do this again!".
Anyway, I'm sure you're much more interested to know about the decorations, food and finery, non? I adorned our small back garden with jasmine vines, frangipanis and fern fronds, handmade watercolour bunting and fabric garlands. My aim, as always, was to set the scene without buying anything new, using objects found around my home and neighborhood, along with making decorations by hand with materials on hand.
On the invitation I asked our guests to enter the garden via the side path which I decorated with rope, vines, paper bunting, and pretty painted cardboard arrows showing the way. I wanted to make it feel a bit like entering a secret garden. On the morning of the party I found two large branches I'd discarded in a back corner (I have piles of branches, rope, and twigs dotted around my garden in case inspiration strikes to make something). These particular branches curved at one end which, when attached to either side of the gate, formed a beautiful arch. Through the arch, our little guests were greeted with fresh drinking coconuts (made festive with party umbrellas and straws) while grown up guests were offered a glass of bubbles. I filled glass jugs for water with orange slices, strawberries, grapes and mint picked from the garden, and there was watermelon, rockmelon and strawberries on a long small table for the kids.
I created a few play areas around the garden for Laly's friends to explore, hoping to ignite their imaginations. There was a flower crown making area under a tree where I had various sized crown bases I made by simply twisting vines into a circle shape, with frangipanis and other gathered flowers at the ready to add to the vine base for the children (and grown ups) to create their own special headpiece...
Olive (above right photo) who is my friend and fellow author Kelly Doust's gorgeous daughter showed my little Laly how to make a crown. Isn't Olive's crown beautiful?
Another play area was a sandpit which I had made a couple of weeks earlier using only found and free material - I'm really thrilled with it and will post about it next.
The other play area outside was "Laly's Flower Market" - a little stall I set up with cut flowers and foliage, paper bags and string for the kids to make their own bouquets to take home. The weather was a little too wet for this but it looked lovely and set the scene, and everyone could take flowers home at the end of the party. Although I had planned to bring Laly's wooden kitchen outside, and set up a dolls picnic on the lawn, I left these things inside and let the kids roam freely in and out of the rain.
Do you remember my great aunty Joyce who we explored Paris with a few years ago? Here she is, 93 years old and ready to greet the guests. Laly adores her great great aunty Joyce, they laugh so much together, it's really wonderful to see.
My beautiful friend Kaspia and her boy Romeo, enjoying fresh coconut.
Adorable Freya holding a balloon, and Laly's best friend Alexander with his incredibly sweet and cheeky smile.
Beautiful friends and family.
A few quirky decorations including a flower and feather mask I was inspired to make the night before, and a very old umbrella handed down in my family, hanging upside down.
From top left, clockwise: watercoloured paper bunting; Laly with a pink frangipani; the end of the day flower crown area; Laly's beautiful friend Daisy.
I fashioned a few giant paper flowers made from old tissue paper I had lying around and some dried up moss, using this tutorial.
The chickens were a hit with the little ones! Here is Romeo itching to get into the hen run (which he did many times, and right into the nesting box of the coop). Right: even the coop got dressed up with vines and frangipanis thanks to my friend Jen, co-parent to our chooks.
I had dreamt up the idea of having a simple but elegant cake sprinkled with garden flowers, and my aunty Kathy made it - I could not have wanted for anything more beautiful. She made a double layered carrot cake, smothered in butter icing which we topped with pretty blossoms picked straight from her own garden. She also made the cutest little banana muffins. There were no lollies (candy) or chocolate in sight... I can't quite believe I hosted a party without chocolate - my every day weakness. But I did, and it was not lacking (unless it was and our friends didn't want to say so).
Laly and her papa.
Clockwise from top left: Laly playing with her hat made by Kaspia; Paloma sampling a banana cupcake; Romeo getting into the fruit; Tilda in her red boots playing in Laly's kitchen.
My dear friend Sasha and her daughter Tilda.
Beautiful Edith sitting down to her own little tea party at the end of the party.
My fab cousin Louis came up from Canberra, took hold of my camera and snapped most of the photos you see here as you know I'm hopeless at taking photos of my work or events. Isn't he talented? I'm glad I've finally learnt to ask others to take photos for me to share with you. So what you see in this post is a combination of Louis' photos, a few of my quick phone snaps before and after, and loads of lovely shots by my sweet friend Kaspia.
Some other aspects of the party you might like...
At the bottom of the invitation I wrote: please do not feel obliged to bring gifts for Laly, your company alone will be very special. However if you’d like to bring something, pre-loved would be wonderful thank you.
I was delighted that guests did just that, it felt less wasteful and fulfilled my desire to consume less. And I love that the gifts have stories attached to them.
I made party bags by painting brown paper lunch bags with dots and stripes, and only filled them with things I already had in my craft drawers - paper umbrellas, colourful feathers, a little book I made from left over packing paper and ribbon, and some popcorn.
I'm so grateful to everyone who joined us to celebrate with Laly. I hope you enjoyed this post and maybe find some inspiration in here for your next gathering.
Here's to our little valentine turning two, our beautiful girl who teaches me so much about life and love every single day...
photo by Kaspia
PS the aftermath...