A Very Special Birthday Celebration

A Very Special Birthday Celebration

Celebrating a long life with joy

My father-in-law turned 90 years old last week. I would like to share with you how we celebrated this special event in this post. It was a very special birthday celebration which almost didn’t happen because of sudden changes in travel restrictions. We were so lucky that the weekend strict lockdown in Brisbane didn’t affect us.

Happy 90th birthday Cec
Happy 90th birthday Cec – cheers to a long life

A Positive Outcome From 2020

One of the most positive things about 2020 was nurturing relationships that are important to me.  Normally my life is extremely busy and I feel continually jetlagged from unrelenting shift work as a nurse.  Many of you know that I have been off work since May because of complications during surgery.  Having time on my hands has been a blessing in that I have been able to spend a lot of time with my in-laws. 

I have had time to visit for a chat and a cup of tea, and not stress about needing to be somewhere or do something on my brief days off.  I also have been able to attend all the family gatherings, whereas most of the time I work on public holidays and other special occasions.  This is something I don’t take this for granted.  I feel like I have been blessed with this time.  

Stronger Family Relationships

My relationship with my parents-in-law and my sister-in-law have been the most improved by this.  My sister-in-law and I have been able to plan some lovely family gatherings such as my mother-in-law’s High Tea surprise birthday party.  I could also help with my sister-in-law’s 50th birthday Alice In Wonderland party.  Just in general we have become closer this year, bonded by being married to two lovely men who are definitely the product of their equally lovely parents.

My sister-in-law and I share another thing in common. Both our mothers passed away when we were newlyweds in our early 20s.  I think that it is why we know that we need to create lovely memories during the latter years of our parents-in-laws’ lives.  Every birthday and special occasion has taken on new meaning as we are aware that time with them is limited.

My husband and I with Gwen and Cec, my parents-in-law
My husband and I with Gwen and Cec, my parents-in-law

My Father-in-law’s Special Birthday Celebration

My father-in-law’s 90th birthday is the latest milestone for our family. We celebrated the occasion with a lovely lunch.  The family let me organise the event which I felt very privileged to do – they needed to put some trust in my organisational skills!  I don’t have the same creative, event planning abilities as my sister-in-law (just look at what she did for my mother-in-law’s High Tea and you will see what I mean!).  But I am pretty good at organising things.

The day was a success, and the smiles on everyone’s faces were my reward.  We had the lunch at a club nearby which we have used previously for events.  

My father-in-law celebrating his 90th birthday with his sister and dear friend
My father-in-law celebrating his 90th birthday with his sister Shirley and dear friend June

Celebrating a Long Life

At 90 years old, my father-in-law has been through a lot, including serving in the Australian Army in the Korean conflict when he was a young man.  He has chronic pain from injuries sustained in a fall through a roof, and suffers from COPD.  His mind is still sharp and he and my mother-in-law still drive and live independently in their own home.  Cec is one of the kindest men you will ever meet.  To be able to organise this special birthday for him was an honour.

I was brought to tears when the whole club sang Happy Birthday to him.  I created a collage of photos of him from babyhood until now and he was “tickled pink!”.  He talked about each photo and shared his memories with us.  His sister aged 92 was able to come from Northern New South Wales. A close family friend who has been like an Auntie to my husband and his brother was also able to come.

A collage for a 90th birthday - celebrating the life of my father-in-law Cec
A collage of photos depicting the life of my 90 year old Father-in-law Cec

The Special Birthday Celebration Almost Didn’t Happen

We have been holding our breath leading up to this event. No-one knows whether the border to New South Wales will close again or we’ll be sent back into lockdown.  There was a weekend lockdown as close as Brisbane and Logan because of two new strains of the more contagious UK variant of Covid-19 being detected in Brisbane.  We have been extremely lucky here to avoid it.

Treasure your loved ones as you never know when they will be taken from you.  This year marks 30 years since my mother passed away, and 10 years since my sister died suddenly from an epileptic fit.  It’s hard for me to fathom that so much time has passed.  Many of you know that my mother-in-law is in the final stages of lung cancer so we value any time we have left with her.

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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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