A DIY High Tea For a Special Occasion

A DIY High Tea for a Special Occasion

A DIY High Tea To Celebrate My Mother-in-law’s Birthday 

We had a DIY High Tea last weekend to celebrate my mother-in-law’s birthday.  The event was such a success I thought I’d share it here.  I have included instructions on creating your own DIY High Tea because this themed party was easy to put together ourselves.

A Special Birthday Celebration

My mother-in-law’s birthday was approaching when my sister-in-law and I planned this event.  It wasn’t a milestone birthday, however it was an important one.  This could be the last birthday we spend with her because she is in the final stages of lung cancer.

As a family we know the importance of creating memories.  No event has passed without us celebrating together in some way.  Our parents-in-law haven’t been in great health for a few years and, although they still live independently in their own home, we have noticed that they have slowed down considerably.  We are blessed to still have them both at age 86 and nearly 90.

My mother-in-law Gwen at her surprise birthday party looking beautiful and so happy.
My mother-in-law Gwen at her surprise birthday party looking beautiful and so happy.

Hatching the perfect plan

Michelle and I decided to make this birthday a very special celebration for our mother-in-law.  It would be a surprise party as we knew Gwen would love it.  The theme was a garden party high tea.  A few years ago we had gone to a revolving restaurant at the top of a Surfers Paradise building for high tea.  Unfortunately there are no high teas available due to Covid restrictions so we decided that a DIY high tea would be easy to put together.

The original plan was for a garden party under a white gazebo.  Unfortunately torrential rain forced our party indoors but it looked just as beautiful.  My husband and I were to pick up my parents-in-law for a surprise location.  We were to follow my husband’s brother in our car, but first we needed to go to his house.

A lovely surprise for our guest of honour

We made sure Gwen walked in first to the beautifully decorated room.  The look on her face was priceless.  Everyone was in tears, overcome with emotion.  We managed to pull off the biggest surprise birthday for the most special lady.

Gwen my mother-in-law just after she came into the room - surprise!
Gwen my mother-in-law just after she came into the room – surprise!

Here’s how to have your own DIY High Tea:

A DIY High Tea is a great theme for a special occasion. For a birthday, hens’ night, fundraiser, girls’ night out, Mother’s Day, baby shower or family celebration. Everything you need to decorate it is easy to obtain from second hand shops and discount stores, which makes it budget friendly.

Colour co-ordination

Choose complementary colours. Pink, mint and white are lovely colours that are very feminine.

Theme

As well as being a high tea, we made it a garden party – as if you are having tea with the Queen!  We bought sun hats for everyone and we all wore floral or linen.

Decorations

Most of the decorations came from KMart and discount stores.  We looked for colour co-ordinated decorations, with a floral theme to suit the garden party aspect of the theme.  All the flowers were dried or silk flowers.  My lace tablecloth was draped over pink disposable tablecloths.

A DIY High Tea would not be complete without three tiered cake stands displaying petite cakes and chocolate dipped strawberries.  Pretty teapots, cups and plates, set out on a lace tablecloth suit the feminine aesthetic.
A DIY High Tea would not be complete without three tiered cake stands displaying petite cakes and chocolate dipped strawberries. Pretty teapots, cups and plates, set out on a lace tablecloth suit the feminine aesthetic.

Tea pots and crockery 

It was nice to use our own crystal glasses and china that we had in our china cabinets.  I have a dinner set that originally belonged to my English great-grandmother – it is over 100 years old.  My sister-in-law scoured second-hand shops for teapots, milk jugs and cups.  It was a very eclectic collection which looked awesome and suited the feminine aesthetic well.

Food

This is the focal point of a High Tea.  Everything is bite sized – cakes, sandwiches, savouries and scones with jam and cream.  We bought most of the petite cakes from a French Patisserie, and supplemented that with supplies from the local supermarket.  If you are looking for a cheaper alternative, local supermarkets usually have a great selection of bite sized cakes and frozen savouries.  Pretty floral serving platters and tiered cake stands display the petite cakes beautifully. 

Drink

Pots of tea, coffee and juice on the tables.  Pink champagne in an ice bucket.

DIY High Tea Table Setting showing pretty cups saucers and tea pot, a three tiered cake stand with petite cakes and platters of finger sandwiches.
DIY High Tea Table Setting showing pretty cups saucers and tea pot, a three tiered cake stand with petite cakes and platters of finger sandwiches.

Music

A sound track of music from the 40s 50s and 60s suited the occasion.  My mother-in-law really enjoyed hearing the music she listened to in her youth.

Game

My mother-in-law loves bingo so that is what we played!  We all put $10 into the kitty and played two games with various amounts to win.  It made it more exciting.  The winner on the day was my mother-in-law which thrilled her no end!

Playing Bingo at the DIY High Tea
Playing Bingo at the DIY High Tea

A Successful DIY High Tea

The day was a great success.  It was very easy to plan, and was probably one of the easiest themed parties to source everything we needed.  I’d highly recommend giving someone special a DIY High Tea.  Even the men in the family enjoyed it. 

My sister-in-law Michelle had the initial idea, and together we expanded on it.  She missed her calling as she is so good at party planning, down to the fine details.  

A DIY High Tea for a Special Occasion - the Henry Family enjoying tea and smiling towards the camera.  Everyone has sun hats on, which suits the theme of Garden Party High Tea
A DIY High Tea for a Special Occasion – the Henry Family enjoying tea and smiling towards the camera. Everyone has sun hats on, which suits the theme of Garden Party High Tea

Credits: 

Michelle Henry, execution of the high tea plan, preparing most of the food and styling the room

Aaron Tawadros, photography

The Henry family, enthusiastically taking part in a surprise party for a very special person. Everyone was involved in some way, from setting up the room to helping set out the food.

A DIY High Tea is a great theme for a special occasion.  For a birthday, hens' night, fundraiser, girls' night out, Mother's Day, baby shower or family celebration.  Everything you need to decorate it is easy to obtain from second hand shops and discount stores.
A DIY High Tea is a great theme for a special occasion. For a birthday, hens’ night, fundraiser, girls’ night out, Mother’s Day, baby shower or family celebration. Everything you need to decorate it is easy to obtain from second hand shops and discount stores.

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What I Really Want For Christmas in 2020

What I Really Want For Christmas in 2020

Family Unity is More Important Than Gifts

My Christmas wish list is a little different this year. What I really want for Christmas can’t be wrapped and placed under the tree. Christmas is a time for families to gather, often over a celebratory meal and the traditions like gift giving.  In Australia it is one of the main celebrations of the year.  Even if you don’t identify as Christian, most families gather together.

Most mothers take on the role of organising many of the Christmas traditions such as buying the gifts and preparing the food.  It can be a busy time leading up to the day as mothers tend to take on the extra tasks so that Christmas can be a happy time for their family.

Christmas Traditions

Every family has its own traditions for this time, whether it is watching the Carols by Candlelight, eating roast turkey, or going to Midnight Mass.  There is often food that she traditionally cooks every year because it is someone’s favourite.  

Every year there are a few things that I always cook.  My son loves turkey, but it has to be one specific turkey that I cook.  I was a single mother during their teens, and my budget didn’t stretch to buying a whole turkey.  I cooked a rolled turkey thigh that was frozen – it was pretty grim.  Even though I could now cook a whole turkey, my son insists on that awful rolled turkey thigh!  Every year we laugh about it, but that is what I still cook for him!

My Christmas Wish List

As another Christmas looms, I have put some thought into the gifts on my wishlist.  This year’s Christmas is sure to be extra special as most of us will be pleased to see the end of this very trying year.  These are the gifts I would love:

  • My family to be united to celebrate Christmas
  • Security and safety for my family
  • Good health – everyone remains Covid free, with the prospect of a vaccine soon
  • My sons are happy with life and both stay employed in jobs that they enjoy
  • Our country remains free of natural disasters
  • Our leaders keep our country safe and our economy strong
  • We are free to travel and enjoy our freedom again
  • Peace and serenity, gratitude for all that we are blessed with

I am optimistic that I will receive all the gifts on my wishlist this Christmas.  Wouldn’t it be a lovely celebration if we could all receive them?  It wasn’t that long ago that we took most of this for granted, but after this year I don’t take anything for granted anymore.

The Gift I Most Desire

Time with my family is even more precious now, as both sons moved out leaving us empty nesters.  The border was closed for most of the year meaning that I couldn’t see my family in New South Wales.  Our family has had many health issues, not from Covid, but from cancer and other issues.

This year the emphasis won’t be on material gifts, it will be on celebrating together as a family.  One of my brothers will be here, which will be lovely.  

My other brother has sadly distanced himself from the rest of the family after our father passed away.  It’s such a shame as dad’s dying wish was for all of us to be united as a family.  The situation seems insurmountable as he refuses all attempts of reconciliation. 

It may be the last year we spend with my mother-in-law too, as she has reached the palliative stage of lung cancer.  We will treasure every moment we have with her.  

This Christmas Will Be Different

This Christmas has taken on a different meaning for all of us.  We now don’t take for granted that we can cross the state border, or gather together as a family group.  Our health has been our focus and we no longer take that for granted either.  It will be a relief that we made it through one of the most challenging years any of us has ever seen.

I am so grateful for a Christmas celebration with the most precious thing, my family.

What gifts do you most look forward to receiving? Are you wanting intangible gifts like me? If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy:

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Don’t Hold Back

My motto for this year is Don’t Hold Back


My motto for this year is don’t hold back. For years I’ve left things on hold because of lack of self confidence. Last year I finally started my blog after having it on hold for 6 years! My confidence last year was inspired by my weight loss and new zest for life because I had more energy and felt good about myself. Once I had started writing, it just flowed. I have written in journals all my life but finally I am writing for other people! I’m learning new skills and connecting with other people who have a passion for a healthy lifestyle.

Once I could see the possibilities open up to me, it flowed on to other aspects of my life. I’ve been a nurse for over 30 years but I’ve held myself back in my career even though I’ve studied and obtained other qualifications. Whenever a career opportunity has come up I’ve always said to myself that I can’t apply because I don’t have those skills or experience in a particular area. I’ve decided the best way to fix it is to get those skills!

Learn New Skills to Improve Your Career Prospects

This is the year I’m finally going to give myself permission to learn new skills so that I can go for those jobs. If it means stepping out of my comfort zone then so be it. By learning new skills I’ll be opening myself up to working in areas that are much more suited to my stage of life – that being someone with chronic back pain who can’t work a day without it causing severe pain, and insomnia so bad that the shift work I do is intolerable.

My older son has always had a dream to be a film editor. He got the nickname “Steven Spielburg” when he was only very young because he was always filming on our home video camera. He’s been slowly building up his portfolio of work by doing free work for his niche industry (music and tour videos for bands). His goal is to be an editor and he’s been planning to go back to University to study towards this. He said to me a couple of days ago that next year he would start applying for editing jobs and if he doesn’t get one by the end of next year he will go back to studying. I said to him, “Why not do that now? You’re ready for it. This is the year we should all decide that we’re going to go for it. If we’ve had a dream to do something for years, then this is the year we will do it. What have I got to lose? I’m 54 this year and if I don’t do it now I probably never will.”

With that I could see the light-bulb moment shine in his eyes and he said, “You know what? You’re right! What have I got to lose? I’ll bring my plans forward to this year and start applying for editing jobs”. I’m glad my influence can inspire someone else to follow their dreams.

When Your Dream Job Doesn’t Materialise – Act On Plan B

My other son finished a degree in journalism and communications a bit over a year ago. He applied for many jobs but was pretty let down by the lack of response and his dream was shattered. Mid last year he decided to look into going back to university and studying teaching. He’s had the dream of teaching since he was a child. I can remember him telling me that when he was at Primary school himself. It was always “Plan B” and something to do when his writing career was stagnating or he was settling down to married life and had a family. So he looked into university courses and decided to apply for a Masters course to become an English and history teacher- not some time in the future, but now, this year! It meant taking a few more history subjects at university last year but if he’d waited till this year it would have been one more year before he’d been able to start his Masters.

Don't Hold Back from achieving your dreams.  Shows woman holding a large egg timer
Don’t Hold Back From Achieving Your Dreams

Stop Procrastinating, What Have You Got To Lose?

So this year is going to be the year that we don’t hold back. No more procrastination or self-doubt. Just go for it and give it a go. What have we got to lose? Nothing! But if we let self-doubt hold us back, then our dreams will be on hold for another year and another. My message today is – If anything’s been holding you back, figure out why? What is it that you lack? If it’s skills or experience, then study or find a mentor. Volunteer or work freelance, or work for free to get some experience. Do a course or just learn it from books at the library or Youtube videos or online courses. Whatever it is, don’t hold yourself back. What have you got to lose?

Shared at the following Link-up: https://www.denysewhelan.com.au/denyse-blogs/kindness-in-covid19-times-24-51-lifethisweek-48-2020/

Update to Post 23 September 2020

Eight months ago, when I wrote this post, the world was a different place. That was pre-Covid-19. For myself and my family, we have been through perhaps one of the most challenging periods we’ve ever had to deal with. A month after I wrote this I was diagnosed with the BRCA2 gene mutation. You can read about it in this post. I’ve had five surgeries this year and have been unable to work for the majority of 2020.

My sons have moved out of home. My younger son did return to university, to start his Masters in Communication. He just landed his first job in the field so won’t be studying teaching now. My older son has moved to Brisbane, and was transferred to another branch of his company. He is yet to return to studying.

Even though our plans for the year were shattered, we feel lucky that we haven’t been affected personally by Covid-19. My health has been challenged but I haven’t contracted the disease. Our family is well, even though I can’t see my brothers and nephew who live over the border.

There’s still time to realise those dreams, they’re on hold for now. My message is still the same – if you have a dream, work towards it. Covid-19 may have messed up our plans but we can still dream of a better world.

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