We’re thrilled to be celebrating Brioni’s eighth birthday party at the home of close friends in Melbourne, Victoria. After spending several months here earlier this year, this feels like home, and we’re surrounded by a wider group of friends who joined us today for a very special vegan birthday party.

Hagai Erman and the vegan birthday cake — a carved watermelon — for Brioni's 8th birthday, August 2014
Our friend Hagai has created a masterpiece in carving Brioni's name in a watermelon and then decorating it with fresh fruit! He says that although this is sensational, it is the simplest birthday cake he has ever made — it took less than an hour instead of the usual five hours of baking and decorating.

Hagai is a “foodie”. I have a special knack of attracting people into our lives who love to talk about, shop for and prepare elaborate dishes. So when I called him up last month and explained that we would be in Melbourne for Brioni’s birthday, Hagai was delighted to organise a special menu to cater to Brioni’s vegan sensibilities as well as more conventional tastes!

Vegan lollies and treats at Brioni's 8th birthday party, August 2014
Brioni fills bowls with vegan treats that we bought yesterday. Although when we purchased the lollies yesterday, I thought we were getting them just for her to eat (and set them aside so her sisters wouldn't access them), Brioni chose to open the packets and serve them up for her friends at today's party.

Carved watermelon cake at Brioni's vegan birthday party, August 2014
Brioni's friends and sisters have kept her out of the kitchen all afternoon, so the "cake" is a total surprise — and delight!

We almost had a tragic moment in the kitchen earlier when the cake was half-finished. Lana rushed at Hagai to hug his leg, and — in responding to her — his arm knocked the partially-carved watermelon into the sink where a mug neatly sliced off the letter “B”. Thankfully, toothpicks saved the day as they pinned the “B” back into place, and the mishap was never noticed by the birthday girl or any other party-goer save the witnesses in the kitchen!

Ana Strawberry painting Brioni's face, August 2014
Ana brings out her face-paints and, starting with Brioni, fulfills each child's particular request.

Brioni with a wolf face-paint, August 2014
Brioni is currently enamoured with wolves, and when she sees the wolf-face Ana has painted on her, she's thrilled!

Children with their faces painted by Ana Strawberry, August 2014
I love the versatility and creativity demonstrated in the variety of looks within the whole face-painted gang! (Not all the children who came to Brioni's party — including Aisha — wanted to have their faces painted.)

It was a chaotic, noisy afternoon, and exactly what Brioni wanted for her party. We caught up with friends we hadn’t seen in months as well as met new faces who rapidly became friends. The girls had wrapped up and hidden presents earlier, creating a treasure map to lead Brioni to the stash. Other games were improvised, and Ana’s special face-painting led to noisy confrontations between the predators and more delicate butterflies.

Brioni's name in carved watermelon letters, August 2014
At the end of the afternoon, the success of Brioni's party is evident in the complete destruction of the cake — but the letters survive!

Sometimes it’s difficult to meet the expectations of a person like Brioni who is very specific with her (sometimes inadequately-expressed) ideas. However, with this party we seem to have gotten everything right — especially with the cake! I’m so thankful to Hagai for hosting us and carving up such a beautiful treat. Brioni loves being here for her eighth birthday and will remember it as a special one for the rest of her life!