Celebrating Valentine’s Day, Part 2

Romantic Rose Painting

Romantic Rose Painting by Carrie Walker

***A note to my best friend, also named Amber– SPOILER ALERT!  If you are actually managing to keep up with reading my blog (no expectations, really, this is justincase) read this post only if you want to know what I’m planning!***

My little Valentine’s dinner party is officially happening!  I’m really excited about it, and I think the guys are too.  I know Fox is.  How excited can you expect a grown man to be about a dressed-up dinner party he’s paying for?  Yeah… Pan’s about that excited.

I have been doing my weekly housecleaning chores, through all the normal tedium of every room of the house,  and all the while I have been daydreaming about how many courses to serve.  As I vacuum, I ponder how difficult it would be to cook in a crinoline.  I fold laundry, and wonder if I have enough time to make myself a new apron.   Washing dishes and I’m wondering, do my guests like lobster, or would they prefer crab?  Changing the bedding has me thinking, is puff pastry too hard to work with?  (If you’re picturing this, go ahead and put me in heels with a legit fluffy thought bubble over my head.  Don’t skimp, these are the ultimate fluffy-fifties-housewife thoughts I’m having!)  Through my musings, I have created a funny little plan of action.

The Living Room Now-- I Know, Right?

The Living Room Now– I Know, Right?

I am turning our home into a totally cornball version of a swanky restaurant for Valentine’s Day. We are calling it, “Chez Lunatique.”  My living room already has very minimal furniture in it (see photo to right), and we have two vintage fifties formica dinette tables– I just need to move them both into that room and set up a couple of dining areas.  I can then use the adjoining dining room as a lounge and bar before dinner.  I plan to do one table for the grown ups (plus a spot for baby if those friends come), and the other table for the three kids.  Somewhere, somewhere in this house, I have two different 50’s tablecloths with red roses on them.  One is gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous– perfect, even, the other is so worn and faded it will come to no peril at a child’s table.  I NEED to find them, it is so important to me, and I feel as if I may start tearing open random bins in the garage very soon.  All of this is a big wake-up call that I need go get unpacking my crap, and ASAP.

Anyway, those red rose tablecloths will tie together the two tables, and then I can set them differently to accommodate the needs of the table.  The kids’ table will be easy, I will get some holiday-colored paper plates and I have somewhere some thick, vinyl, red gingham placemats.  The centerpiece needs to be something whimsical….  I may or may not use my cupcake cookie jars on both tables in lieu of flowers… but I would like to go more elegant for the adult tablescape, so I may opt not to use those on the tables.

I have been collecting vintage glassware for over a decade, so I’m always excited to use a selection of those for a gathering.  In my mind, that is often the justification for *having* such a collection, so of course I try and break out whatever is appropriate for parties.  (The word ‘break’ is jarring when it comes to collecting glassware, isn’t it?  That could just be me, after fifteen years of coveting old glass, I may be hyper-aware.) I have a set of the dish-style champagne glasses that are etched with rose stems that are so fabulous, I am desperately hoping that I can find all of them.  Or at least six of them.  I am going to check a few places this weekend and see if I can find a heart-shaped ice cube tray for cheap, I would love to freeze raspberry-pomegranate juice hearts to drop into chilled champagne.  If I cannot, I may just go with berries or something.  I would also like to find some plastic champagne glasses, to do the same with ginger ale for the kiddo table.  A big part of the fun is making them feel special and grown-up too.

I’m kind of freaking out in the plate department though….  I don’t really have any decent place settings, can you believe that?  That is an issue I planned to tackle a little closer to the completion of my kitchen ‘renovation’ (read: wallpapering and cleaning up the cabinets), but now I am caught in an odd situation.  Do I go and try desperately to get a short stack of what I need thrifted this week, or do I try and borrow some?  Who would I even borrow them from…?  My Mother-in-law may have some nicer china I could use.  I’m sure Mom would loan her stuff, but she’s three hours away.  Sheesh.  No way I could go with paper plates for the adults on this one, they are not acceptable with what I want to serve!  I can just picture it.  Talk about working for hours to make a dish fancy, just to bring it down with a greasy paper plate with horrible blue daisies around the edge….  No, no, no, that will never do!

And speaking of what I want to serve, I have been positively agonizing over this… I am definitely doing four courses, and I want it to be crazy elegant, like the kind of dishes you would never bother to make on a Tuesday night.  I want to use ingredients that normally intimidate– shellfish, filet mignon, cheeses that come packaged with waxy rinds, artichokes, and pastry dough.  I want to wow even myself!

The kids are all under 8, and for them I am doing simple personal pizzas with heart-shaped pepperoni for the entree.  I plan on giving them their salad and entree courses concurrently, (their ‘salad’ will actually be crudite’) while we eat our salad course, so that they can skip off to play in Fox’s room while we eat our entrees in actual swanky, adult-conversationed peace.

Rusty Models the Red Chairs

Rusty Models the Red Chairs

We will adjourn to digest for a wee bit– maybe play a board game as a group– and then reconvene for coffee and dessert wherever we deem comfortable.  Our house is actually sort ideal for this evening’s “game” of playing restaurant, and since we are still new to this house, extra bits of Valentine’s flair can be added to any space on a whim.  We live in a split foyer, so I will arrange this vestibule as the entry to a very fine dining establishment.  Coats can be taken, bags stashed in our coat closet, and (red!) tickets given in assurance for their safe return.  My wee maitre’d can escort the guests to the bar, for an aperitif and a few heart-centric magic tricks from my husband the magician, while I finish the remaining food details.  When we are ready to progress to dinner, we will move to what is actually the living room for the salad course and entrees.  We will be printing up menus of the finalized dishes– as if they had choices to peruse– and placing them it every place setting to continue with the restaurant feel.

I am not joking when I say that I have been teaching my six-year-old a terrible, thick, French accent with the hopes that he will play my maitre’d for the evening.  I have been showing him how to flare his nostrils and lift his chin, as a true snob would.  We have rehearsed, “Do you have a reservation?” in a nasal tone.  I have searched for Ratatouille on On-Demand. I am ruminating on how I can draw things from his current wardrobe to make him look like a front-of-the-house head at our ‘restaurant’ of one evening.  I want to make him a black vest and a bow tie.  (Do I have TIME?)  Dear Fox has even allowed me to practice drawing on his upper lip an assortment of eyeliner-pencil moustaches.  He will for sure be referred to as “Monsieur Renard” for the evening.  All of this (and helping me make the invitations) has upped the anticipation factor for the young man.  He is already counting the days.

As for celebrating the holiday the way my parents always did with us, I am very excited.  I am hoping to start a bit of a tradition of a small dinner party with our closest (or not) friends every year.  One of our two invited families has already RSVP’d that they will be coming, so I genuinely have a lot to look forward to, knowing that our dearest friends will be coming.  I need to call my mother– she will be so proud!


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