In a few short days Valentine’s Day will be here. I look forward to the excuse for a nice date night with the husband. Talking to each other like grown ups is so much fun. The wine and dessert isn’t bad either.
I also love this holiday because it’s a great reason to throw a party. I’m not talking about the champagne-and-tiny-appetizers-being-passed-around-on-fancy-china-kind-of-party. (But if you’re throwing one feel free to invite me. I promise not to show up in my yoga pants.) No, I’m talking about the juice-box-and-children-running-around-acting-like-ninjas-kind. So it’s a play date.
Let me tell you about the Valentine’s Day play date we just had.
I have found that keeping the guest list small is important when you’re trying to prevent things from getting out of hand. More kids equals more mess, more noise, and more food required. We invited my son’s three best friends (ages 4 and 5) plus their siblings (all toddlers).
Always top of mind to me is to not overburden myself with one million impossible things to accomplish prior to a party. That means planning a menu that doesn’t require much cooking the day of the event. Because let’s be honest, I’m going to need that time to clean. Half the toys will be shoved into closets, dog hair will be vacuumed from the rugs, and Legos peeking out from under furniture put away. Sometimes I can even convince my five year old that it would be super fun for him to use baby wipes to clean the baseboards. Does this sound terrible? He loves it. Score for me. I’m going to take advantage of that while it lasts.
I wanted to create an atmosphere that wasn’t overdone or intimidating (because ick) with food that’s relatively healthy (yes to sugar, no to chemicals and junk).
Knowing that my audience was a couple of five year olds, their toddler siblings, and their sweet mamas I didn’t go crazy on the menu. I planned to serve lunch so it didn’t need to be a heavy meal. Finger foods are so much fun for kids to enjoy (and moms who are trying to converse while screaming children race by).
Let’s get to the details.
Why waste money and time on decor that you’ll just toss as soon as your guests leave? You know what will last a week or longer after the party ends? Flowers. I love a beautiful flower arrangement on the table. It doesn’t take much more than that in my opinion. I buy them from the grocery store for $10 or less.
I also look for plates and napkins that compliment the theme. This serves two purposes. (1) They make everything more festive (and kids always notice them). (2) Less dishes after the party! Victory dance. Fist bump. All the happy feels.
Finally the last bit of decor I added was a vase of candy in the appropriate party colors. We don’t buy a lot of candy at our house so it’s really fun to do it for occasions such as these.
Now on to the menu.
Heart-shaped sandwiches made with turkey, cheese, and olive oil mayo. These were made the morning of and refrigerated for a few hours.
Crackers, cheddar cheese, and rotisserie chicken. I’m a big believer in cheese and crackers when we have children over. They love loading them up and with the addition of the chicken the mamas do too. The cheese was cut that morning and arranged on the platter. The rotisserie chicken was store bought.
Fruit kabobs with strawberries, green grapes, and cantaloupe. Served with dip made from unsweetened greek yogurt mixed with honey.
Dye Free Strawberry Cookies & Pink Icing made the night before. They are really really REALLY good. This is the only item on the menu that required actual cooking. I could have gone with store bought but I am a woman who loves making cookies. Plus you can’t beat this recipe. Sorry to all those amazing bakeries in the area. You’re great, I know it. But these cookies taste just as good as the ones that cost $1 each and this beautiful pink icing is made without any red dye. The local bakeries cannot say the same.
If you’re wanting to try a different cookie I suggest this chocolate chip cookie recipe. Or if your house is already clean and you have the time (don’t tell me if you do) make both! It’s a party!
It wasn’t an overwhelming amount of work. I was able to enjoy the play date without stressing about what needed to be done. Could I have included a banner on the fireplace made of felt hearts? Well sure and it would have been adorable. Could I have added a table cloth and pink/red confetti to the food display? Absolutely. There is a lot I could have done. But really it’s not necessary. Sometimes I want to invest the time in all the tiny details. Sometimes I just don’t. Sometimes I want to only focus on a few key elements. And that’s okay.
In the end the overall look was charming and clean. The mess that the children left behind was not.
Totally worth it.