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  • Writer's pictureAmber

Hawaii 5-O Birthday Party

Updated: Feb 26, 2019

In June, my dad turned the big 5-0.

For most of my life, I wasn’t quite sure what his age was. I think he lied to me once and I was endlessly confused. When this monumental birthday was in view, I wanted to be sure he got a special event.

For mom’s birthday this year, our family went to Cancun, which was a blast. I didn’t have a chance to bake her anything or make her a big dinner. She was in charge of her day.

Dad worked hard renovating our family’s cabin this year. It’s an old property that sits out near the ocean. He and my uncle spent their summers there as kids. My brother and I have been very fortunate to spend our summers there, as well. Dad finally bought it from my grandfather and rebuilt it from the ground to the top of the apex of the roof. He said he wanted it to be “a destination”. So, I made it Hawaii.

I took advantage of the pun and threw him a Hawaii 5-0 birthday party.

My grandmother (onwards known as Grammy) and Grandpa Ron happened to be in town for the occasion. We made a ton of on-theme dishes, decorated to create an island vibe, and everyone arrived according to the dress code.

I do want to apologize for my photos- it wasn’t until well after the party that I realized blogging was a good idea. There are too many items that didn’t get photographed but were still totally awesome.

I reused a clothing item, which I never do. I bought this tropical jumpsuit from J. Crew last year to wear on my honeymoon. I wore it to The Rock Bar in Bali. It’s super cute, though, and I love the fabric. Obviously I couldn’t get rid of it after the one wear. It went so beautiful with a neon purple orchid hairpiece, matching flower leis, and June Bug Kylie Cosmetics lip kit.

Yup... I forgot a full-body shot. I'll get better, I promise.

Like I said, everyone arrived appropriately dressed. We had some great looking Hawaiian shirts at the party and our friends Brennan and Janel came in matching outfits! Brennan grew a mustache for a month to be Magnum P-I! They’re a theme party hostess’ dream!

My younger brother just turned 21 in March. I'll write about his brewing birthday soon! He’s since accumulated a full bar of liquor bottles. He was our party bartender. He had a full menu of cocktails, such as:


I’m a modern woman and I make conservation efforts, when I can. Not only are palm plates theme appropriate, but they’re also super chic and compostable!

Solid colored cocktail napkins and table covers are available in bright colors at any dollar store. If you’re lucky, it will be luau season and you’ll find cool decorations, like burlap luau swags and tiki bar signs. For those of us on a budget, scrounge your local Hobby Lobby, Value Village, and Goodwill. You can find some cool vintage décor that’s on theme and on budget. I found this pineapple clipboard slightly damaged on clearance at Hobby Lobby. Some of our hurricane glasses were ordered on Amazon, but some were found in the kitchen shelves of second-hand shops. The hurricane glass from Hard Rock Maui was a hit! You can find tons of fabrics, serving dishes, and tacky shirts at shops like these.

As guests arrived, they were greeted with both enthusiasm and a lei. It lights up my heart when guests arrive with additions to the food table. It brings a little bit of the guests into the menu. We had a couple plates of those super easy, yet scrumptious sliders you see on Pinterest all the time (definitely try those at home). The Sandas family brought a bit of Greece to the party with perfectly seasoned lamb. Angel and Spencer brought a crunchy appetizer of wrapped asparagus. Yum!

I used pineapples throughout the party. Pineapples served as vases for Pike Place Market flowers. Pineapples were carved into boats for my mom’s famous salsa. I also made this fabulous pineapple cheese ball that was the star of the party. You can find the recipe here!

Aside from that super popular pineapple cheese ball, I also made delicious prosciutto picks with mozzarella balls, cantaloupe, and a drizzle of balsamic glaze. Looking back, the only Hawaiian themed part of that appetizer were the bamboo picks (I’m in denial, still).

Dad’s the grillmaster and I gave him a recipe for Kalua Pork! Kalua means ‘cooked underground’. No one had the desire to dig a big hole, so I let dad use his fancy smoker. He wrapped a few pork butts in banana leaves and smoked them for 8 hours. When they came out, they didn’t fall apart like we’d hoped (I’m pretty sure they needed another 2 hours on the smoker…), but mom came to the rescue with her Instant Pot. A quick zap and the pork butt was juicy and pulled to perfection.

I had picked up a bottle of Huli Huli sauce at Cost Plus World Market, which is like a sweet soy sauce. Dad was apprehensive, but he had a taste and fell in love. This Huli Huli Kalua pork was so delicious that I’ve had 2 guests from the party reach out for the recipe. It’s delicious. Served with King’s Hawaiian burger buns (and some Hawaiian Luau BBQ chips for some crunch), it’s the perfect main dish.

We also did some chicken skewers with red and green peppers and hunks of red onion. If pork or red meat is your main, always try to have a chicken or a vegetarian option. The times they are a-changing and as good hostesses, we need to be considerate of some diet preferences.

No Hawaiian party is complete without macaroni salad. No Johnson family party is complete with mom’s macaroni salad, potato salad, and the deviled eggs of the gods. My husband married me because of my mom’s deviled eggs. I’m pretty sure I’m not joking about that.

We finished up the day with a toast to the event, a Happy Birthday song for my daddy, and a ceremonial cutting of my Coconut layer cake with crushed pineapple filling and a rich coconut buttercream. Click here for the recipe!

I decorated the outside with Pirouette cookies to look like bamboo. I also covered the top with calico coconut shreds. I put a lot of time and effort into making pineapple flowers, which ultimately was a waste. They never dried out and they were a major disappointment. The cake was beautiful without them, though, so they probably were unnecessary from the beginning.

At the end of every special meal or event, I like to reflect on how it made me feel. I love my dad a lot and I’m really blessed that I’m able to invest time and energy to do things like this for him. The most important people in your life deserve your efforts. Even when you don’t have a lot of money, or a lot of talent, it’s the way you make people feel that is remembered. I hope you felt special that day, dad, because you’re awesome and we love having you in our lives. I love you.

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