My twin sister and I hosted a garden party for our mom's 85th birthday. My mom and her friends just loved it and we had so much fun preparing for it. I am sharing this so you can use it as a template to host a garden party yourself! We split the tasks according to what we do best. I planned, shopped and set the table and my sister baked and did the flower arrangements. (Which jobs would you prefer?!) Now to share my best tips!Read More
I was not sure that I could pull off a surprise birthday for my husband's 60th birthday. We were staying with friends in South Africa, sharing a car and spending most days together so I didn't have much privacy for party planning! But I knew I needed to try.
When our arrangements to visit our friends' farm were postponed, I reached out to a few friends and asked them to join us on the farm in 10 days time as a surprise for Brett's 60th. I wish that our children and family could have been with us, and that many more of our friends could have joined us. But all I could manage was a small group! I booked out all the cottages on the farm and made as many plans as I could without Brett hearing me!
We drove out to the farm through the beautiful farmlands of the Overberg area of the Cape. We were welcomed by our friends Andries and Coia who along with farming, have a beautiful wedding venue called Beloftebos. We relaxed on the farm (more like Brett relaxed while I kept checking my phone for messages as people were driving a few hours to reach the farm.)
After dinner we sat in front of the fire. Eventually Brett suggested that we let our hosts go to bed, as it was getting late, but we kept talking. We needed to wait up so that our guests could walk in and surprise Brett! Eventually they arrived, knocked on the door and came in singing. Brett couldn't believe his eyes. He was totally surprised! Phew, now I could relax and enjoy the weekend.
On Saturday morning we gathered in one of the cottages for birthday cake and coffee. It was wonderful to have guests ranging from Angus who is less than 3 months to some of us who are around 60.
After tea we headed out to explore the farm. Most of us live in suburban areas so it was such fun to be out in the countryside.
The highlight of the afternoon was going on a tractor ride through the fields of exquisite indigenous proteas to the top of the hill overlooking the entire farm. It was great fun although it was cold at the crest of the hill. (The birthday boy is on the phone, but it is legitimate! Someone was lost on their way out to the farm and he was directing them.)
In the evening we had a braai (BBQ) and Make your own Pizza supper. The children had so much fun making pizzas, that by the time the real dinner was served most of us were no longer hungry. I decorated the tables with my South African themed cloths and beautiful proteas from the farm. It was such a joy to have so many exquisite flowers to arrange.
Since this was a celebration that went on all weekend, we planned a Birthday Brunch. One of my friends, who is also one of our Heartistry Experience alumni, offered to set the table as a gift for Brett. Now this is not just someone normal who is laying the table. Sylvia is the owner of Special Events and Trouvrou and sets tables for the rich and famous (and others)! She used objects that were meaningful for Brett and also some cards I made with the 10 S Model-listing 10 of Brett's character traits! Look at Sylvia's gorgeous handiwork!
I was so thankful that my friend Karien, who lives on a neighboring farm, has a small catering business. Karien's daughter Nina works with her. They agreed to make us an organic, farm-style Breakfast Brunch. It was delicious! She served homemade bread, fig jam from her own tree, muffins, scones, savory fritattas, miniature meat balls with spicy chutney, smoked fish pastries and the most decadent chocolate cupcakes and brownies.
It was such a blessing to have our friends join us for the weekend for Brett's birthday. I am so deeply grateful for our Cape Town Heartistry community who hosted us, set the table and prepared the food. What a joy to be the recipient of such excellent hospitality! Thanks so much Andries, Coia, Sylvia and Karien!
We spent a final night on the farm and woke in the morning to a glorious sunrise! I loved all the proteas drying from the roof of one of the sheds on the farm. So colorful!
I encourage my South African friends to plan a visit to Beloftebos. The self-catering cottages are so charming and it is an ideal place to have a very restful holiday.
My South African host and her daughter both have their birthdays on the same day. What an excellent opportunity to host a birthday tea party!
We decided to enjoy the warm weather and host the party on the patio. I used one of my scarves as the table cloth and then we added my friend's beautiful china. So often special china is kept for display only; I encourage you to take it out and have the pleasure of using it. In the midst of often challenging every day lives, it is worth making the effort to celebrate as regularly as we can!
I love hosting people but don't like cooking so I am always looking for short-cuts. We served home-made quiches that we bought from a local co-operative bakery, but any store bought quiches would be fine. I baked my 5-Minute Buttermilk Scones and we served them with apricot and berry jam and a big bowl of cream. Watch the video and get the recipe and directions here.
I changed it up by adding some pink food coloring and some cherries, iced it with light pink buttercream icing and served it as the birthday cake. I added a surprise treat inside the center of the bundt cake. The two birthday girls were excited to see what was inside!
One of the guests brought a chocolate cake and I added in some cute mini cookies and macaroons that I purchased. We had a toast with non-alcoholic pink champagne and then it was time for presents. Everyone had a great morning and the mom and daughter birthday duo announced that this was one of the best birthdays they had ever had!
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We spontaneously decided to invite our colleague, Linh to come for a work meeting (a.k.a. a surprise birthday brunch) at 9.30 AM and had half an hour to make it happen! This was a fun challenge! Here is how my friend Linda and I made the very rapid preparations!
- Turned on oven to pre-heat (400 degrees)
- Put on our aprons-pretty ones help!
- Set the table
- Hospitality Tip-Start by setting the table first- if someone arrives and the table is set and ready, they will feel welcomed and loved! You can always cook when they are with you.
Hospitality Tip-It is worth investing in a few pretty table cloths. Small, square ones work really well as they can be put over other cloths, used on a rectangular table or on a round table such as mine.
Hospitality Tip-A cake stand turns every occasion into a celebration! If you don't own one, put a plate on an upturned bowl to get the same effect.
Hospitality Tip-Keep some pretty napkins on hand. (Check out 10 Uses for Napkins other than Wiping Your Mouth).
No flowers? I quickly added extra napkins in a milk jug to add color and interest!
I began with the baking by making scones in my food processor. They are easy to make and taste wonderful when they are warm (there was no choice but to have them warm, as this all happened so fast!)
- 2 Cups Flour
- 1 Tablespoon Sugar
- 2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
- Mix briefly in food processor
- Measure 1/4 cup of oil into 1 Cup baking cup
- Add one egg and fill to the top with buttermilk.
- Add to flour mixture in food processor and process quickly (don't over process)
- Place dough on floured board or parchment paper and pat down to about 2 inches think.
- Cut into small circles and bake for about 10 minutes until lightly brown on top and cooked through. Serve with butter, jam and cream (if you have it, which I didn't!)
Hospitality Tip- Always keep some small cakes or little tarts in the freezer, as these can be pulled out at the last minute to be used as a birthday cake or for some other celebration. We had Trader Joe's mini fruit tarts all ready to be popped in the oven.
While I made the scones, Linda fried bacon and scrambled eggs and had that ready to cook at the last minute. When the scones were in the oven, and the eggs and bacon ready to go, we added some other touches.
Hospitality Tip- Add light! I love my small, sparking lights and I use them so often to make a festive atmosphere. We added them to the table and a lit candle.
Wine glasses make any occasion more special, so put one at each place setting. Although we put out sparkling wine, none of us drank it as it was a work day! We enjoyed tea and coffee instead.
Hospitality Tip- Keep birthday cards on hand. I signed a birthday card, added a small gift and put cards on the table for affirmations. I had made the cards at an earlier time using wrapping paper that I loved and had them ready to go.
Hospitality Tip- Make the occasion meaningful through words that are shared. We have a tradition with our staff that we spend time honoring, affirming and praying for each person on their birthday. We took a few minutes and wrote our affirmations in the cards, while Linh waited patiently and then we read the words out loud to her. This is always a very meaningful time for all of us. We have also grown in our ability to speak out encouraging and uplifting words.
If you don't feel comfortable writing an affirmation, check out this blogpost: 10 Tips for Writing a Good Affirmation
Surprise! Linh arrived and we had a special time together celebrating our friend.
Hospitality is not hard. But it requires practice, so give yourself a bit longer than 30 minutes and you'll do fine.
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