A Big Milestone and a Study on Entertaining Simply


Let’s be real: an hour before a deadline or photo shoot I’m usually rushing around frantically trying to finish everything up last minute (we’ve all been there, am I right?). Everything always comes together, however when it comes to parenting, last minute doesn’t usually turn out very well. So when my daughter turned one and I decided to host our close friends for her first birthday party, I knew that it needed to be simple to plan and prepare for my own sanity as well as keeping the birthday girl in a good mood.

I wanted it to be understated and elegant, but with some magic and whimsy since it was, after all, a one-year-old birthday party. Having a toddler means I don’t have nearly as much time as I used to, so I had to be very efficient! I am a firm believer, as you will see, in using the things we love rather than hiding them away for safekeeping. Because what is the point of having those things if we never enjoy them? And if they get broken or worn out, then they’ve lived a full life by making us happy and we can let them go with gratitude. So for this party, I was determined to use things I already have and love rather than purchasing decor I won’t want once the party is over (fewer things to end up in the landfill).

I started by pulling together everything we had that I thought could work: decor from a baby shower I’d hosted a few years back, a few of my “treasures”, and some favorite serveware. After taking stock, the design concept (aka designer talk for theme) naturally fell into place: woodland fairy. There was some nostalgia for me with the woodland fairy theme. My sister and I used to make and furnish little houses out of bits of wood, cloth, clay and other odds and ends we’d find when we were young. I’m not sure why tiny things are so appealing. Maybe they remind us of childhood, when life seemed simpler. I suppose you could say that this party was an ode to the innocence of childhood.


In keeping with the minimalist concept, I kept the decor to two areas: on the refreshment table and over the fireplace. Muted rose and earth tones with plenty of greenery were used to create the feeling of a forest party since it was too cold to actually be outside.

I repurposed our existing gallery wall by replacing photos with wallpaper prints and foraged for branches and leaves in the forest behind our house. The little fairy house I made out of foraged pebbles and pieces of bark, and tied my own pom-poms for the “tree”. The birdcage and the handmade beehive candles are from our wedding; the tiny wooden frog was a gift. I did purchase the wood slices because I’ve been wanting some for a while, and the little fairy was a must-have. As a fun way for guests to see how much the little one grew I printed her monthly photos and hung them on twine using tiny clothespins.

The cake almost slid off the stand when moving it onto the high chair (which is why the baby's breath is half off the stand) so what you're not seeing is a huge finger hole where I saved it ha!

The cake almost slid off the stand when moving it onto the high chair (which is why the baby's breath is half off the stand) so what you're not seeing is a huge finger hole where I saved it ha!

A naked smash cake fit the theme perfectly and took a lot less time to decorate. It was a fresh ginger and molasses cake with scented cream frosting (recipe from Salt Fat Acid Heat). The vanilla cupcakes with buttercream icing decorated like mushrooms were a crowd favorite (recipe from Style Sweet CA) along with the dipped pretzels and Thin Mints - gotta love those Girl Scout cookies!


Although not everything went exactly to plan (read: trying to frost the cake with one hand while holding a fussing toddler in the other), simplifying the to-do list helped me finish prepping early so I could be relaxed when guests started to arrive; I was able to be more present in the celebration. And a relaxed host equals happy guests!