Dan’s 40th birthday party – we did it!


Dan's birthday inviteWE DID IT! We actually did it! Dan's 40th birthday party was a hugely, fabulous success! Over 120 of our family and friends joined us, the weather was utterly heavenly, amazing food (more on that coming up) lots of drinking and some sensational moves on Dan’s pallet dance floor has ensured that it's a party that will be discussed for quite some time!

Thank you all so, so much for your replies, stories and brilliant song choices. I am sorry that I didn't reply to each of you as I would normally, but it all got a little hectic as you can well imagine.

Empty barn - location for partySo, back to the beginning…one innocent little walk with Gus and a conversation about a barn…

You can imagine Dan’s comments when I said "I reckon we could do it up darling…trust me!!!!!"

Well, a lot of list-making and discussions later and we jolly well did 'do it up' for one day only. In fact when I had been at work on the following Monday and drove past I could've cried when I saw the last bits of bark being swept away… was it all a dream? 

So I thought a little peek into the before, during and after may be enjoyed…

The benefits of being a landscape gardener with a little black book, meant….

• 20 or so huge bamboos
• Four stunning and tall silver birch trees
• Two olive trees
• 10 old crates of plants
• Yards and yards of bunting
• Sofas and comfy chairs
• Astro turf
• Bark
• Pallets and ply to make a dance floor
• Hay bales covered in turf
• Eight up-lighters in pink (well, I had to soften it didn't I?)
• Pretty  pea and string lights (the kind that look like a light bulb string)
• The poshest loos that played gentle music! (brand new and never been wee wee'd in I might add)
• Last but not least, music that made everyone strut their funky stuff, which incidentally I suggested very loudly at 3.15am that we really needed to turn off. NOW!!!!!
Delivery of bamboo trees Maddie on the pallet dancefloor

Party animals 

Barn decked out in bunting and hay balesAs we watched the sun come up, I registered the time…4.38am, precisely! I felt we had partied with our hearts and souls. All the enjoyment we had and witnessing our friends having the same made all the work sooooooo worth it.

I heard lots of times that we must be mad and surely just going out for dinner would be easier? As our first guests looked around and said the same thing I had an overwhelming surge of emotion and the importance of celebrating Dan’s 40th suddenly shot into crisper focus.

My Daddy, as many of you will know, died when he was only just 40. I do not recall any celebrations nor parties, so maybe that makes me all the more “up” for celebrating my wonderful husband who I feel terrifically lucky to have. He who works like a Trojan, both physically and emotionally, day in day out for me and our children, something I know my Daddy did and would've continued to do had he been able to. So 40 WAS a BIG deal, whether I knew it as we planned it or whether that moment of clarification confirmed it!

Food glorious food 

Dan's birthday cupcakesNow please forgive my self appreciation/applause/pats on my back but, back to the food!! An almighty task which I did many times PANIC about, but it happened and the feeling of success was heady! I must at this stage remind you that Dan says I am "can't cook, shouldn't cook!" but I think it shows the mad mood we were in, when before I knew it, I was in charge of Thai green curry and rice for over 120 people.

Possibly the knowledge of my best big bro's assistance gave Dan the peace of mind he craved (Mark has been in catering all his career ) so after copious trial recipes (by Dan) big lists of ingredients (compiled by Dan) you'd have thought it'd be Mark and DAN commencing the chopping but no, 'twas me…aaarrgh.

I approached it all with a calm head, though mild hysteria regarding hygiene. I was petrified I would poison everyone, which was why the huge undertaking of cooking rice happened "live" at the do, as we all know rice is potentially a disaster especially in the heat we experienced!

Friday afternoon we started and 72 chicken breasts were chopped and cooked and safely refrigerated. I cleverly gave Mark the chillies job (I thought) but soon realised the onion and garlic job got me back big time! Poooooeey!!

Claire and her helpersIt was lovely to spend this time with my brother who has MS, I hoped that his expertise could be used to full effect and he would feel vital to the proceedings…which I think you've gleaned already that he was indeed vital. He is after all the big brother who taught me patiently to drive, who picked up the pieces when I hadn't done my piano practise and who taught me calming breathing exercises when I was scared as a little girl and was spooked in the night.

I do have another lovely brother (in case your reading this Neil and sulking!) but his skills were a tad far away as he had just returned to Australia after a wonderful first visit home, it was lovely to see him and his family all together again albeit fleetingly around his tough work schedule. He at least left us with some Aussie-style weather.

My utterly brilliant sister-in-law, who is beyond good at all she does, made Dan’s cake. Between us we hit on a garden of cakes, with decorations to look like grass, mud and twigs; so very earthy and so very Dan! I said fab, she went away and hey presto, Dan’s incredible cake garden was testament to her super skills, they tasted heavenly too!

Yes, it took some time to recover, though as Dan had to clear down by the Monday and I had three early Morning Shows that week it wasn't surprising…note how I blamed those factors and NOT the age!!!!

I'll leave you with some parting party shots, as I crank up the volume to Blurred Lines, dance anyone?

I’ll be back to let you in on my thoughts of some super new beauty things I'm trying…EGO’s amazing roller systems, shoes that stop my foot flooding over the side (if you know what I mean) and haircare from Wen the biggest brand in America, oh and as always, antics from this end!

Loads of love,

Chef Claire!

Party shots
Busy on the dancefloor Dancefloor Party Lighting Outside looking in Party Party Party Alison Keenan and Colin The bar area


  1. Gwen Tugwell August 1, 2013 at 11:41 am -  Reply

    Hi Claire,
    You are amazing and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, the transformation on the barn were magical besides all the other wonderful things you managed to pull off, Dan must have been so proud of you and I am so pleased for you that everything came together so well for you. I totally agree with you about the importance of marking the special birthdays, I lost my Dad when he was only 53 but I always remember the day, so you carry on being you and making all of your loved ones feel very very special.
    Love Gwen.

  2. Joanna Downey August 1, 2013 at 12:21 pm -  Reply

    Well done you, what an amazing success it sounds and YES you were right to celebrate your man’s very important birthday in such style. I’m now enjoying the school holiday and have started on my list of projects, after several rainy days we’re now back to blue skies and sunshine so I’m in the garden completing my potager. This sounds posh but is only being called that because I’ve found lots of terracotta edging strips and thought it would be nice to put them around the edge of a new vegetable garden. It’s a welcome change from this week’s other task of stripping varnish from the hall floor, it’s been a mammoth job and I can’t understand why a finish that scratched so easily when we didn’t want it to do that is taking so much effort to remove it by choice..! I know that you explained why you didn’t have time to respond to us from last post and it was in my reply that I told you that Bex, our lovely older daughter, is having her first baby. Now that she’s told everyone I have started buying, looking and then buying baby essentials and some non-essentials. We were asked not to say anything until after the 12 week scan and I found that really easy because, even though it’s wonderful news, both of us found the idea of being grandparents a tad daunting. Then I saw an outfit online and as I looked at it I suddenly felt this excitement and feeling of joy for this baby and I thought about the special relationship I shared with my grandmother and how my girls had the same with my parents – it was amazing. Happy days and enjoy August. Love from Jo x

  3. Julie Ann Roberst August 3, 2013 at 9:51 am -  Reply

    As ever, such a lovely blog Claire! Glad everything went well for Dan’s birthday! You are a true inspiration! Love from Julie x x

  4. Sandra Gregory August 4, 2013 at 1:05 am -  Reply

    Well done to you Claire, it looks like a really lovely party xxx

  5. Mrs V August 4, 2013 at 8:56 pm -  Reply

    Hi Claire,
    Wonderful pictures, a great party, fantastic blog as always.
    Much love to you and the family.
    V xx

  6. Denise August 6, 2013 at 8:22 pm -  Reply

    Hello Claire, Wow what a clever lady you are and may I say brave!
    The party sounds wonderful and one that you and the guests will remember for a long,long time. Well done to you and your army of helpers.
    Denise xx

  7. Diane gilbank August 8, 2013 at 2:09 pm -  Reply

    Wow wow wow Claire, what a very clever lady you are!! I know you had tons of help and couldn’t have done it without anyone, but the whole idea was yours and made so so poignant by the fact of your dad only living till he was 40. You did an amazing job and I am sure your dan was very touched and moved by all the hard work. The photos look as if it was done by some very clever party planner! So feel very proud of yourself.
    You come across as such a lovely person, who has a huge zest for life, but above all your love for your family shines through.
    Best wishes Diane xxx

  8. Paula Joy Williams August 10, 2013 at 5:03 am -  Reply

    looks like it was a fun night your children are gorgeous all growing up fast ~ Paula Joy Williams

  9. Claire Sutton August 10, 2013 at 1:13 pm -  Reply

    Gwen, Thankyou sooooooo much!!!! And for reading all about it. It makes me smile now each time we pass it, if only walls could talk!
    Lots of love Claire x

  10. Claire Sutton August 10, 2013 at 1:19 pm -  Reply

    Hello Jo,
    So so thrilled to hear Bex’s news, what an exciting time you all have ahead of you. Do you think you’ll be a Nannie, a Grannie, or a Grandma? Hee hee, it must feel so strange. How is Bex feeling? Hopefully not too sick and now enjoying all the developments, I remember reading I was growing, eyelashes and fingernails….sooooo clever!
    I shall wait to hear all the exciting news.Hows the potager, and the hall floor?? Always a project isn’t there. Heard the words tree house mentioned this morning, and I’m on project “our area”, bedroom bathroom and dressing room, all in one…a BIG project, and had to wait till now as big in £ ways too!
    Off to collect Gus as home from week away…washing on!
    Claire xx

  11. Claire Sutton August 10, 2013 at 1:21 pm -  Reply

    Julie, aaaah thank you for saying that, you are kind! Hope you’re enjoying August (it’s zooming by) With love,
    Claire x

  12. Claire Sutton August 10, 2013 at 1:22 pm -  Reply

    Thank you Sandra,
    I’m going to make Dan a party photo book as we’ve had so many lovely pics sent over.
    Sending my love,
    Claire x

  13. Claire Sutton August 10, 2013 at 1:24 pm -  Reply

    Hello, I know my blogs aren’t as speedy as they should be, but heh ho, it’s lovely comments like yours that make me feel happy!
    Happy summer holidays to you and yours,
    Love , c xx

  14. Claire Sutton August 10, 2013 at 1:26 pm -  Reply

    Denise, brave? MAD!!!!! That’s was a definite occurring thought, still oh so worth it!
    Lots of love to you, I hope wherever you are you’re enjoying some relaxing time, I’ve just had a super week by the sea, refreshed and ready for QVC on Monday!

  15. Claire Sutton August 10, 2013 at 3:17 pm -  Reply

    Diane, how nice to read such things! Thank you for taking the time to write, we’ve just had a recharge our batteries in a favourite place, Aldeburgh – sea air does wonders!
    See you very soon on QVC
    Till then, my love to you,
    Claire x

  16. Claire_sutton@qvc.com August 12, 2013 at 10:21 am -  Reply

    Hi Paula joy, nice to hear from you, the children sure are growing up though no pics of them in this blog, perhaps you saw a previous one?
    Hope all is well with you and enjoying the summer?
    With love Claire x

  17. Samantha Allen August 13, 2013 at 2:40 am -  Reply

    Hi Claire,
    Just wanted to drop you a line to say what lovely words you shared with us last night, I was deeply moved,
    I would love to know where you got that from, as I would love to have one in my home.
    So much sorrow and tears on Monday for beautiful Amica and Beulah too, but as night/early morning came I went outside with my two wonderful sons (young men now) and we watched the meteor shower, and we managed to see some shooting across the sky, it was truly magical. I made wishes on each one I caught, together with a prayer for Amica and Beulah, and my wonderful,kind,and loving Dad who I lost suddenly in 2005.
    So as we go about our daily lives, let us remember them with love, I drop in and talk to my Dad every single day, even if it is just to say “Hello, I am here, I have not forgotten”.
    Lots of love to both Amica and Beulah’s family, and all at QVC.
    Big hugs for you Claire, it is these that pick us up at times like this.

  18. susan August 14, 2013 at 4:47 pm -  Reply

    Hi Claire, I just can’t believe the awful news about Amica. Dreadful. So sad. I didn’t realize until recently things had taken a backward step. She looked so well last time on QVC. Much love to her family xx

  19. Claire_sutton@qvc.com August 15, 2013 at 5:54 pm -  Reply

    Samantha, I’m going to see if I can find where my friend got it from. Thank you so so much for such a nice message.
    With much love to you xxx

  20. Claire_sutton@qvc.com August 15, 2013 at 5:57 pm -  Reply

    It’s been such a difficult time and she did look so great and beautiful. Some drugs affected her skin suddenly which upset her as she was with us on air till that point. We are all so sad and yes her wonderful family has all our thoughts and prayers. Thank you xxxxxx

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