Happy 1st birthday to my baby girl Virginia! I can’t believe she is one year old today!
To celebrate Virginia’s first year of life we decided to throw her a Luau. Why a luau you ask? Well, it is July, so it seemed appropriate enough, but actually there is a funny story as to how we came up with the idea in the first place. Back in February, when Virginia was just 7 months old, Jon bought a pineapple that sat ripening on our kitchen counter for several days. We decided that it would be a good idea to put the whole pineapple on Virginia’s high chair tray so that she could touch it and explore the interesting texture of the pineapple. Well, let’s just say she was a little apprehensive of this strange and poky fruit. She didn’t cry or anything, just pulled her hands in toward her chest whenever the fruit got too near. We have it on video and it’s one of my all time favorites. Afterwords I joked to Jon that we should throw Virginia a Luau for her 1sth birthday. After the seed was planted I just couldn’t get the idea out of my head, it just seemed like she was meant to have a Luau birthday, and here we are!
Of course we couldn’t just buy a few tiki torches, plastic leis, grass skirts, have a pig roast, and call it a day! Read on to see how we transformed ordinary cardboard boxes, t-shirts, and produce into some pretty neat Luau decor. I credit many of my ideas to Pinterest, where I got so much of my inspiration (see my luau pinterest board here), my husband for his amazing aptitude for drawing tiki masks and hibiscus flowers (he’s spent many hours painting signs for Trader Joe’s), and my mom awesome cake decorating abilities!
I first want to mention that this was a lot of work. A LOT. But it was worth it. Just keep that mind that if you want to recreate some of the decorations that we have made, you will need a lot of time, or a lot of hands, to get it done. So although this is a great recourse for people who want to throw their own DIY luau, it is not for the procrastinations out there. Sorry.
First thing’s first, when going to a party, any party, you have to know where it is. We threw the luau in my parent’s back yard (actually, on their newly finished patio!) and while many guests had been there before, some had not and I wanted to not only set a festive mood, but make it obvious as to where the party was happening. Balloons on the mailbox are an obvious choice, but in this situation I thought tissue paper flowers (made out of recycled tissue paper from Virginia’s baby shower and originally used as decor in her first nursery) and hand-painted aloha signs on either side of the driveway were more appropriate.
The above photo is by Mary Norgard, Virginia’s lovely Great Aunt!
Once guests make their way to the back of the house they are greeted by four tiki masks flanking the begining and end of my parent’s lovely stone path, and two giant hanging painted cardboard signs. The first sign reads “Hau’ oli la hanau Virginia” which means happy birthday Virginia in Hawaiian, and the other reads “Aloha.”
Jon gets full credit for making and hanging the signs. Each letter was hand-drawn on cardboard, cut out, painted with acrylic paint, and then strung together with twine. I’d also like to mention that all of our cardboard decorations were made using recycled cardboard from Trader Joe’s (actually they are twice recycled, because before we used them for decorations we made a box maze for Virginia with them a few weeks ago!).
Hand-painted tiki masks were tied to tiki torches and trees, while hibiscus flowers were placed in potted flowers, hung from umbrellas, and tied to the legs of Virginia’s high chair.
In accordance with Hawaiian tradition, each guest received a lei upon arrival to the luau. Each lei was lovingly hand-made from recycled t-shirts using this tutorial that I found on Pinterest. From experience, the softer high quality shirts yielded nicer “flowers.” To keep the leis from getting tangled, I hung them from a hand-carved wooden sculpture of a family that I bought from my mom during my trip to Ghana ten years ago. They sat next to the entrance of the luau on the table with the stereo (stocked with Hawaiian music CDs from the library) and a sign that reads “Mahalo” or “thank you.”
I used two green recycled t-shirts and some elastic to create Virginia’s grass skirt. It was VERY easy to make. To make one yourself cut a shirt horizontally underneath the arms. Using the bottom tube that remains, cut the shirt in 1.5 inch strips from top to bottom, stopping each cut about 2 inches from the bottom hem. That will become the top of your skirt. Repeat this process with a second shirt. Put shirt inside of the other and cut slits into both every 4 inches or so. Weave your elastic through the holes and sew the elastic to itself, creating the waist band. Trim the skirt to desired length. I showed my mom Virginia’s skirt earlier in the week and she decided to make one for Virginia’s older cousin. I really liked how they both turned out!
A wreath made from several paper drink umbrellas stuck into one of those packed-straw wreath forms from the craft store was a fun little project and another one that was Pinterest-inspired. I thought it was a cute idea, but when I saw a box of over 100 of those tiny umbrellas for only $1 at a church rummage sale last weekend, I had to make one myself. I wasn’t really sure where I’d end up putting it, but the gazebos door seemed to be as good a place as any.
And what would a party be without food? We were a little ambitious with some of our food choices, as a lot of the things were a bit labor intensive but had to be done kind of at the last-minute. We had a veggie tray, complete with palm tree made from a carrot and bell pepper sitting on an island of humus. A pineapple cream cheese spread that looked like a pineapple. A fruit salad in a watermelon bowl cut like a tiki mask. To drink we had a pineapple, lemonade punch and the main course was Hawaiian ham and veggie kababs. Finally, the cake, made by my mother, was in the shape of a roasted pig and came out fabulous (both in looks and in taste)!
My Mom also made a “smash cake,” which Virginia throughly enjoyed of course.
I can’t wait to have more luaus in the future!