garden party for our little valentine who turned two…
Posted in child's play, DIY, handmade, nature February 27th, 2014 by pia


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…

The invitation:


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…


KASPIA_laly2ndbirthday_IMG_2526 photo by Kaspia


PS the aftermath…


« « « Leave a comment » » »


  1. mel@ loved handmade says

    superb, everything! happy birthday to your laly x

    February 27th, 2014 | #

  2. Marjorie says

    Hello Pia! I loved this post and the celebration for your little Valentine. Happy, happy birthday Laly. I can’t believe that she is two. Lovely post and, as always, very inspirational. Sweet Manon will be one in April and Luc will turn three in June. Merci for the inspiration for the perfect little party to celebrate the little ones.

    February 27th, 2014 | #

  3. Tina says

    These photos are divine! Really really lovely. That’s the party I want to throw.

    February 27th, 2014 | #

  4. Dulce says

    omg wish i could have a party as pretty as Laly’s!

    February 27th, 2014 | #

  5. Nat says

    This all looks so beautiful Pia, everyone looks like they are having the most wonderful time! I can’t think of anything better than a garden party! Hugs Nat xo

    February 27th, 2014 | #

  6. pippi says

    Truly inspiring Pia – i LOVE this so up my alley :

    February 27th, 2014 | #

  7. Joanne says

    Just lovely! What gorgeous friends you have. I’m really inspired & want a flower party of my own now 🙂 happy birthday to your little one! Thanks for sharing & great pics

    February 27th, 2014 | #

  8. Angy Braine says

    Oh Pia…how magical. I do believe I was meant to drop by here today of days… lifted my spirits and inspired me so… ♥

    February 27th, 2014 | #

  9. Kathleen McSweeney says

    Simply lovely, with natural elegance. Love seeing your celebration. Happy Birthday, Laly!

    February 27th, 2014 | #

  10. pia says

    Thank you kathleen! I’ll pass on your bîrthday wishes to Laly

    February 27th, 2014 | #

  11. pia says

    So so glad to hear it Angy

    February 27th, 2014 | #

  12. pia says

    It’s so fun to be able to create these experiences for her because I get to nurture my own inner child’s dreams! So yes I highly recommend you throw yourself a flower party joanne!

    February 27th, 2014 | #

  13. pia says

    Great to hear, thank you!

    February 27th, 2014 | #

  14. pia says

    Right? It was so much fun, and being in the garden surrounded by trees, flowers, nature, chooks and friends was so nurturing xxo

    February 27th, 2014 | #

  15. pia says

    Give it a try!

    February 27th, 2014 | #

  16. pia says

    Go for it!

    February 27th, 2014 | #

  17. pia says

    Oh Marjorie, I adore seeing photos of your grandbabies on Instagram. I can only imagine how beautiful a flower garden party could be in your part of the world, and the food you’d have! Magic. I’ll pass on your birthday wishes to Laly,thank you so much xx

    February 27th, 2014 | #

  18. pia says

    Thank you beautiful Mel

    February 27th, 2014 | #

  19. Maria Ernest Fragopoulou says

    Such beautiful photos Pia! Happy birthday for your little Laly! I loved the flowers and the homemade cake and cup cakes!

    February 27th, 2014 | #

  20. pia says

    Thank you maria!

    February 27th, 2014 | #

  21. Becka says

    It looks like it was such a lovely day and I love how much though you put into all the little details 🙂 x

    February 27th, 2014 | #

  22. Vicky says

    Happy birthday Laly! I love all these flowers!!! a cute party!

    February 27th, 2014 | #

  23. Linda Uzu says

    Oh, what a delightful party! Isn’t two years old a magical time to be a part of. Happiest of birthdays Laly. x

    February 28th, 2014 | #

  24. Steph @ this brown wren says

    Oh this is all kinds of beautiful! I so adore your philosophies on creating and making do. If we lived closer…kindred spirits I’m sure we’d be. Bravo Mumma on making such a wonderful celebration for (and of) your girl. Simple, elegant, creative and all about the birthday girl. Perfection! xx

    February 28th, 2014 | #

  25. Nick says

    Beautiful party. I love the aftermath image so much. It reminds me of this old photo of Studio 54 on New Years Day haha

    February 28th, 2014 | #

  26. Anna says

    This is so beautiful and inspiring, Pia! I love the lack of wastefulness especially. And your honesty about freaking out 🙂

    March 1st, 2014 | #

  27. pia says

    Ha! That’s fantastic, though our aftermath wasn’t as dramatic.

    March 2nd, 2014 | #

  28. pia says

    Thank you Anna! X

    March 2nd, 2014 | #

  29. Teresa says

    Beautiful images Pia. Love all the decoration and adore the idea that everything is made from things found and round and about.

    March 2nd, 2014 | #

  30. Sarah says

    Hi Pia,

    I love the idea of the bringing only pre-loved gifts to the party! So great in this day and age of consumption and commercialism.

    I have a question. Just wondering, what kind of visa did you have that enabled you to work in Paris and Amsterdam, and what kind of visa does Romain have that enables him to live in Sydney? Many thanks if you have any advice.

    March 6th, 2014 | #

  31. Sara says

    This post is such an inspiration! I really really enjoyed it and have to read again and again.

    March 11th, 2014 | #

  32. Julia says

    Lovely, the description of your process and your photos. Thank you for sharing.

    March 24th, 2014 | #

  33. pia says

    thank you Julia

    March 27th, 2014 | #

  34. Ruth says

    I only just read this post, what a beautiful party!!Happy belated birthday, Laly! You have absolutely outdone yourself, Pia. I can’t believe you created all that! No wonder you had a little meltdown 🙂 I am feeling super-inspired now to get creating and come up with something similar. Not necessarily a party but some decorations for the house perhaps, and some play ideas for my little girl. Thankyou so much for sharing!! Oh, and I felt compelled to add that even though everything looks fabulous I am sure that you could throw a party just as wonderful without the pressure of having to create so many amazing things. Your friends and family would probably love coming for a party at your beautiful house, no matter how much or little you have prepared… xx

    March 29th, 2014 | #

  35. pia says

    Hi Sarah, sorry it took me a while to answer your question. I am part Dutch and have Dutch citizenship so I have been able to live and work in Europe with ease. Romain has a defacto/spouse visa that enables him to work and live in Sydney. Hope this helps! Pia

    April 6th, 2014 | #

  36. Theresa says

    I love this party, Pia. Everything looks utterly beautiful but so effortless. Parties cost so much money these days and you’ve inspired me to think about what can be recycled from things at home. Happy birthday Laly!

    April 30th, 2014 | #

  37. pia says

    Oh wonderful, yes, I bet there is lots you can use!

    May 2nd, 2014 | #

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    June 9th, 2014 | #

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