Category Archives: Organising an event tips and tricks

Setting the menu for children’s parties: A healthy approach PART 2



This weeks blog is a follow on from Part One posted last week, where Naturopath Brooke Jenkins gives us the tips on balancing some healthy options onto our children’s party menu. This week, Brooke takes us through the beverage menu, provides tips on serving allergy conscious foods and shares her recipe for a wheat, dairy, egg and sugar free cake!



While water may not be the most appealing drink for a birthday party, it really is the most preferable. Try serving water with funny straws or in colourful cups. Add more colour by making ice cubes from carrot or beetroot juice!

An excellent alternative is coconut water. Slightly sweet and very refreshing, kids love the taste of this nourishing drink.

Fruit juices should always be watered down and avoid products with additives, preservatives and added sugar. Also, consider the type of juice, as some children may be sensitive to some fruits like orange or strawberry.

Cordial is another drink option that is best avoided due to its high sugar content and its potential to exacerbate symptoms in asthmatic children. Soft drinks should be completely avoided and are considered inappropriate for children.


An important thing to consider when organising your party menu is whether you need to cater for any children with allergies or intolerances. 90% of food reactions are caused by milk, eggs, peanuts, treenuts ,wheat, soy, fish and shellfish and while some of these allergens are easy to avoid, others can be hidden in foods that you may not realise are present.

It is important to communicate with parents to understand what foods need to be avoided. Ask about allergies or dietary requirements on party invitations and discuss menu suggestions with parents. Ask lots of questions, knowing as much information about the allergy can help you to be discreet  and make sure everyone feels included.

Be aware that when preparing allergy free foods that extreme care should be taken not to cross contaminate. Thoroughly wash all utensils, bowls and chopping boards. You may also need to dedicate special plates and cups to avoid cross contamination.

Preparing low allergenic foods is especially challenging, since alternatives are often very processed foods with little nutrient value. Here is a recipe for a birthday cake that is made with natural, wholesome ingredients that everyone can enjoy.

Vanilla and coconut cake (wheat, dairy, egg and sugar free)

1 1/2 cups white spelt flour

1 tsp gluten free baking powder

3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/2 cup dessicated coconut

2 tsp apple cider vinegar

2 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 cup brown rice syrup

1/2 cup coconut milk

1/4 cup rice milk

1/3 cup coconut oil (melted)

Raspberry icing

1 cup coconut oil, warmed

1/4 cup of raspberry pulp*

1/4 cup maple syrup

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 Tbs sunflower seed butter

  1. Preheat oven to 180° and grease a 20cm (8 inch) round cake pan and line with baking paper
  2. Sift flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda into a medium sized bowl. Add the coconut and stir till combined
  3. In a small bowl, add the vinegar, vanilla, brown rice syrup, coconut and rice milks and coconut oil and mix together. Add to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Pour into prepared cake tin
  4. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Cool in the tin for 30 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely
  5. To make the icing, blend all ingredients
  6. Cut the cake in half, horizontally using a serrated knife and place base on a cake stand. Spread with half of the icing, top with cake top and spread remaining icing over cake

* to make raspberry pulp, place 3 cups of raspberries into a saucepan and cook down until it is very thick and pulpy. It should reduce down between 1/4 – 2/3 cup.

For more information about Brooke Jenkins, with lots of inspiration for healthy eating for children

Photo by red elephant creative, blossom straw printable by Penny Lane Studio



Setting the menu for children’s parties: A healthy approach PART 1

I remember when baby number one came into our world, as most Mums do, I laid out plans in my mind for the best start to life, starting with his health. A quick and nimble fellow from the beginning (crawling at 5 months and fast crawler at that), I limited his sugar intake to, well practically nil for the first year of his life.

Fast forward and my friendship formed with Naturopath Brooke Jenkins. Whilst chatting to her about kids parties, I asked the big question, is there a more healthy approach to planning our children’s parties? Of course when she forwarded me this article for the red elephant blog I was blown away at what there is to offer….as for the message, I love that we are still allowed to have our cake and eat it too, by adding or substituting just a few dishes at our parties we can have the traditional sweets and balance it out with a few not so sugary alternatives.

The recipes listed are also great for snacks for your little (and big) ones.


When its time to celebrate, we relax our food rules and enjoy things we don’t usually eat every day. Party foods are often sugary, processed foods with lots of fake colourings and non-food ingredients, but enjoying food at a party doesn’t need to be a fake-food affair. Its easy to prepare and serve a menu of nutrient dense wholefoods that everyone can enjoy.

Here are some exciting and appetising ways to provide nutritious food at your child’s next party!

Something substantial

Dedicating a time for everyone to eat together can be a good way of making sure kids have something substantial before or inbetween all the snacking and party games. Whether you’re having a BBQ or serving some simple sandwiches or salads, this is a good opportunity to introduce some protein, which will keep the kids feeling fuller for longer and not constantly snacking on party food (whether its healthy or not).

–      Sausages, chicken or home made rissoles

–      Sandwiches or wraps: chicken and salad, tuna and avocado or hummus and salad

–      Rice salad: cooked brown rice, tempeh, mixed, diced vegetables and tamari dressing

–      Mixed raw vegetables: tomatoes, cucumbers, zuchinni, celery and carrot sticks

–      Vegetable ‘chips’: cut sweet potato into chips, coat in olive oil and a little salt, bake on a baking tray in the oven at 220° for 40 minutes. Serve with hummus

–      BBQ’d corn on the cob. Serve with butter and parmesan for a delicious side dish

Healthy snack alternatives

–      Colourful fruit platters

–      Fruit skewers can look as fabulous as they taste, but always consider the age of the children before you end up with a bunch of kids running around with sharp sticks!

–      Healthy brownies (see part two next week for a recipe)

–      Pikelets with sugar free jam

–      Rice crackers with hummus

–      Cheese cubes and chopped raw vegetables

Healthy banana ice cream (pictured. This is good, its really good, and toddler approved!)

Blend frozen bananas with a little milk of your choice until a creamy consistency is achieved. You can also add some raw cacao powder to make chocolate ice cream or some frozen strawberries to make strawberry ice cream.

Store your ice cream in the freezer until its time to serve. Allow a few minutes for it to soften and then scoop it into little bowls or ice cream cones for serving.

Ice blocks

You can be as imaginative as you want! There are so many combinations and flavours to experiment with. Here are a few favourites, each flavour makes 6 ice blocks:

Banana coconut

1 banana, cut into chunks

1/2 cup coconut milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

Blueberry apple

2 cups blueberries

1/3 cup apple juice

1/3 cup coconut water

Watermelon lime

2 cups blended and strained watermelon juice

1 lime, juiced

Cucumber mint

2 cups blended and strained cucumber juice

1/2 cup of chopped mint steeped in 1/2 cup hot water, strained and cooled

1/3 cup coconut water

  1. Place all ingredients for ice blocks in a blender and process til smooth. Add a little water if necessary
  2. Pour into ice block moulds and leave to set overnight (or at least 8 hours)

Stay tuned to the blog for part two next week which includes a great cake recipe and some ideas for party drinks.

For more information about Brooke Jenkins, with lots of inspiration for healthy eating for children

Spoons pictured by red elephant creative.

Tips to planning an event: Brainstorming the theme

Vintage Circus themed hire items from Tiny Tots Toy Hire

When my career took me to a boutique events agency, it was the year 2000. Many events were surrounding our cities privelidge to host the 2000 Olympics….and EVERYONE wanted to be an Event Manager. I was a lucky one….plucked out from a sorted team of conference professionals, the hero of my time asked me to join him and grow his events company…what more does a girl want!?

During this time, a lot of the theming choices requested by clients were influenced by Hollywood…’Moulin Rouge’ was overwhelmingly huge and ‘The Oscars’ created a wonderful backbone to an evening fuelled by corporate dollar, and limited only by our imagination…

As time progressed, I noticed themes, like fashion, had their trends….white parties, silver parties, gangsters and moles, rock n roll 50’s, Lord of the Rings, Morocco, Under the Ocean all had their day…and now as I enter the world of children’s events, I can see that this is still a common element.

Weddings take a slightly different approach, the themes are more fashioned towards styles and colour trends….Vintage is huge, along with a more organic, neutral and natural approach to wedding decor, against a stark white crisp pallet. Mint is taking its upper rung in the ladder of popular wedding colour trends and Yellow has been up there for a while. I laugh to think back to a lady who commented on a recent forum that her wedding colour was mint, back in the early 80s, big hair and all and so with this in mind it stands to make sense these trends will have their day over and over.

So whether we choose our event theme based on decorative style period, colour, a hollywood movie, a children’s book or a cultural kaleidoscope there are a few tools and processes which can be used to explore the theme and brainstorm….

1. Brainstorm a word list: So you have a theme in mind. Now brainstorm the buzz words. Think of any associations which you might have with that theme….Jot it down….you never know what you might come up with and how it can be incorporated into your overall event decor. So for example, say the theme is Vintage Circus. Write down anything and everything that comes to mind…Clowns, Big top, Roll Up Roll Up, Ringmaster, Bunting, Red and White, Blue, Lions. Now your have your buzz word list. Now write next to your list what you could turn these things into, how the elements could come into play, for example, Big top could be your cake or the invitation. Ringmaster might be how you dress your child, Clowns as entertainment or might be a fun costume option for Mum and Dad (if your brave), Bunting has its obvious place, Red and White Cupcake toppers and so on.

2. Google and are your Friends: Particularly if you are working for a team or if you are person fuelled by visual inspiration, setting up a virtual pinboard is a great way to get the ideas flowing. Googling variations of the name of your theme and the buzz words listed from your Brainstorming session, then selecting the google images menu is your fast way to an image bank of inspiration. Saving them into your pinterest board will give you access throughout the planning period. Other amazing sources for visual inspiration include for creative handmade decor and supplies or some of the amazing party/wedding/event decor blogs such as or Then there is the media, online magazines such as mylittlejedi!mlj-magazine, there is just so many places to be inspired.

3. Create and inspiration board….Armed with your inspirational images, its now time to select your ‘hero images’. These are the pictures which hit the spot for your theme. You can then either create a virtual inspiration board using a platform such as photoshop (or event microsoft word), or you can print them for a physical inspiration board. The great thing about the physical inspiration board is this gives you a place to pin fabric swatches, ribbons, twine, and other decor samples for your event, make it colourful, give it texture….theres nothing like a tactile experience to help fuel your inspiration.

4. Share the creative process: They say two minds is better than one. One of the most enjoyable experiences about working in an events agency was sharing the brainstorming process with a team of creative minds. Just the other day a girlfriend and I were brainstorming an event. ‘We need height for the table’ she said. ‘Candelabra?’ I suggested. ‘It needs to be safe though, its a children’s event – what about a Chandelier hanging from the tree?’…and there it was, the perfect solution to make glam a children’s event. The process of a think tank gives fuel from one persons idea, to evolve into another persons adaptation of that idea and thus giving more depth to your creative process. Its is also nice way to share the organising experience with a partner/friend/family (and a great excuse to share a glass of wine or two, I’ve come up with some of my best ideas with a little grape therapy).

5. Give it time: There was nothing worse for creative block than a tight deadline. The boss would walk into the office after attending a client briefing. ‘We need to develop a theme for a client event, something surrounding ‘sports’. The client needs the proposal by next Friday’….and there it was, enter ‘Creative Block’. Good ideas take time to develop (like the old cliche of a fine wine). Inspiration comes through all moments in life: Something you might see on TV, read in the paper, see in a magazine, your surrounds – the decor in a room, a visit to a park, whilst your walking down the street, see in a shop window. Even something someone might say to you. Sometimes taking time out from the creative process for a few days (or weeks even) and returning with a fresh perspective can do wonders for injecting new ideas into your event creative.
6. Get amongst it! Visit hire companies, prop hire, decor hire, homeware stores, party shops, florists, markets….anything which might compliment your theme, go there. Touch the merchandise, play with it, HAVE FUN! Exploring your theme in person is a sure key way to ensure the shoe is going to fit. Chances are if you find something that takes your breath away, it will impress your guests too!
7. Remain flexible: As you continue organising your event, the creative element will develop even further. Rather than feeling obliged to set the decor in stone in the beginning, try to stay open to new ideas right up until the end. After 10 years of working with Mr last minute ideas, I was able to get my own back. On the morning of the wedding, whilst driving to the hairdressers came my one request, which I knew he couldn’t say no to….’The weddings in a barn, I think we need some lanterns’….and there it was…the element which gave the last touch of romance to an ol’ outdoor venue, thought of and delivered by one of our best suppliers and my all time favourite boss at last minute.’ I’m not saying you have to leave it so late in the piece, but sometimes those finishing touches take a while to come to you, be open to including them into your decor as you go along.
8. Make it personal: Lastly, make sure there is a personal twist. Whether the event is for you, a family member, friend or client, ensuring there is a personal element, a favourite piece of decor, flower, photos (or logo in a corporate world) ensuring there is something which is the signature to mark their event.
Without a doubt one of the most exciting elements to organising an event is developing the theming and selecting the decor which will make your guests event experience unique. Enjoy and live the process, look for inspiration in all that you do and its a great way to share the organising experience with your family and friends in the lead up to your big day.
Is there a special way you like to theme an event? Comment below 🙂 We’d LOVE to hear your tips!

Tips to planning an event: Calling in the Professionals?…The event planner, stylist, event manager

Make my wish come true clipboard by decoy lab

Make my wish come true clipboard by decoy lab

You have an event planned, the date is selected and you are now at the crossroads of deciding to go solo or with the help of an event planner. Before you make your decision based on budget, there are a few things you should consider. Today we take a look at where the value lies in hiring an event professional, what they do and how they do it,,,after reading this I am sure you will find there is a lot more value for money in an event planner than you might have first thought!

Time management: When does the venue need to be booked? How long does the baker need to make your cake? Time management is a key factor in planning an event. The event planner will work with you to ensure all the key elements are executed at exactly the right time and without stress.

Access to suppliers: Do not under-estimate the power of the planners access to suppliers. Event planners have been seeking and building relationships with suppliers since the initiation of their career. They know the strengths of their bakers, décor suppliers, florists, venues and can help you choose the perfect person to make and bake for your event.
Additionally, the event planners experience ensures the brief is communicated to achieve the event of your dreams.

Ideas: It goes without saying that the event planner is inspired by the industry on a day to day basis, they have probably seen more event features than you have cooked breakfasts. Their mind is brimming with ideas, which they are waiting to use on the next perfect event.
The best event planner will work with you to achieve your creative ideas and even enhance your ideas to create a vision way beyond your expectations.

Décor: The event planner has access to a range of décor which they can use to make your event look amazing…think drink dispensers, vintage crockery, cake stands, risers, tables, cloths, backdrops, candelabras, the list is endless. No doubt they have been collecting a bank full of amazing pieces or know where to source the perfect unique piece of décor to give your event the perfect edge.

More often than not, they will include the hire cost for their own pieces in the event management fee, giving you the perfect unique edge for your event at minimal cost.

Bargaining power: This is where you really get value for money. The event planner has been working with their suppliers for some time. Their regular commitment to these suppliers means they will get the best value for money.

It is important to know that if a ‘less than retail’ arrangement is available to the event planner it is usually a confidential agreement at the suppliers discretion. However the most important thing to know is that this is a contribution towards the over all value of your event, particularly if the fee arrangement is based on a percentage of the overall budget.

Keeping on target and on budget: A good event manager will work with you on developing the creative and execution plan for your event. An even better planner will keep your dreams within your targeted budget. They have the tricks and the tools to ensure your budget is referred to throughout the planning phase, giving you the option to keep your ideas within the targeted costs.

Onsite management: Have you ever had a party where you play the host and don’t get to mingle with your guests? Say no more! Even if you do not hire an event planner for the pre-production phase of your event, you might consider hiring someone to execute the bump in (setup), brief the suppliers onsite and attend the event ensuring the flow and execution of each element is seamless…ensuring you can enjoy yourself with those who you love, on this most important day.

To conclude: After a career stemming some 15 years experience in the events industry, I can assure you that the event planners role is not one which can be paid for by the hour. The event planner lives their job, brainstorming and thinking about the creative and execution of your event almost every waking hour of their day. They are inspired by everything and every moment around them, with the passion to deliver the most fabulous signature event for your day.

At the end of the day your value in choosing an event planner lies in their experience and their passion to live, eat and breathe your event from your initial briefing through to execution and debrief. There really cannot be a dollar value placed on that.

Steps to the perfect event: #1 The purpose of the event

Vintage Library Card Wedding Save The Date DIY Set (printable) by Hermias Wishes

Vintage Library Card Save The Date DIY Set (printable) by Hermias Wishes

It seems pretty common sense to think of the purpose of the event….your going to celebrate your daughters 1st birthday party right? Or your wedding, baby shower, husbands 50th…the list is endless. But by sitting down, putting pen to paper and answering a few extra questions will certainly help you with your future planning and execution of a seamless event….and if you are choosing to use a, event planner or stylist, the below will give you a head start for your briefing.

So lets look at the top questions you might ask, when you look at the purpose of the event…

Why are you having the event? A wedding, birthday, baby shower, you get the picture…

Who is it for? Son, Charlie,

Why? Celebrate 1st birthday

When will it be? Set the date, give yourself a minimum of 2 months absolute minimum planning time (if you are hosting the party at home or already have your venue booked), 4-6months is even better for a party. If planning a wedding, I would suggest a minimum of 12 months as venues can be very heavily booked, particularly during peak season. Keep in mind the less time you have to plan your event, the more limited you are with suppliers.

What sort of event will it be? Catered cocktail party, Sit down dinner?, Luncheon? Morning tea, Afternoon tea, High tea? Childrens menu or Adults menu? 3 course or buffet?

Who will come? A guest list should be one of the very first things you look at. This will help you determine how many invites you’ll need, venue, whether the event is a stand up or sit down affair, catering style and quantity and the budget. You could even break this list down into definite and maybes…(no one has to see your list except you and your stylist).

Where? Where is your ideal venue? Home? Local park? Or if you have a few venues on your wish list, especially for a wedding…list these. Venues operate on seasonal calendars, this means during certain times of they year, they can be booked up two years in advance, so having a couple of options is ideal.
Don’t forget to have a wet weather option if you plan on having an outdoor event.

How? How are you going to achieve this event? Will you call in an event organiser, stylist or party planner to help you? (if you have the budget, these people are worth their weight in gold giving you access to suppliers, ideas and decor you never dreamed of – they also have bargaining power, so at the end of the day – you are probably going to get more value for money…) Or will you tackle the project on your own? Or perhaps with the help of some family/friends?

Okay, so these questions seem quite obvious. But once you have the specific purpose written in front of you, this will certainly paint a clearer picture of what can be achieved and above all will help you with your task list, budget and overall planning and execution of your event.

In our next step we will look at the option of hiring an event planner or stylist, the pros and find out that they probably are more value for money than you expect.