decadent day

by rebecca on May 22, 2010

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     This colorful fruit pizza is my altared space today. It reminds me there are times to surrender the rules in favor of a bit of decadence. I am devoted to the study of happiness in the month of May.

       Happiness is learned as much as good manners or the multiplication tables.  I didn’t always know this.  I thought happiness was something that would find me at wonderful moments when I was truly deserving.  It is, instead, a treasure hunt, and the better I get at seeking, the more often I find.

       At our house we practice happiness with Decadent Day, a feast for the appetites of our decadent desires.  The table is strewn with desserts made to resemble a meal.  We decorate a long banquet table with white table cloths then sprinkle all that formal attire with skittles and sweethearts. There are an astounding amount of desserts we disguise to look like main courses so that every kid’s dream of dessert for dinner comes and lands on our table.

       We invite all our friends and have a gigantic water fight, play capture the flag and tag.  There are races, obstacle courses and face painting.  In short, we make a point of playing.  In one corner of the party sits a decorative tree, some construction paper, glue and scissors.  People are invited to make a flower, and write upon it a summer time wish.  Our wishes have ranged from playing in the sprinkler to going to Spain.  By coming together for a party our friends know they bring us our greatest happiness and, often, we’re able to join in fulfilling their summer wishes as well, thus increasing our imaginations for what is play.

       Weeks before the last day of school, the kids and I begin making lists and trying out recipes for new ways to make dessert look like dinner.  Now that we’ve been doing this awhile there are the old standards that we simply must have.  There are Twizlers licorice sticks placed in every glass so that the two ends can be bit off to make a straw.  The porch table is decorated with lollipops.  My newest favorite is french-fries made from sugar cookies and miniature cups of red frosting to be the ketchup. 

       I love listening to the kids as we make these lists.  They tell stories from all the previous Decadent Day celebrations remembering the to-die-for creampuffs the Nilsen family brought or the sweetest little hamburger cookies Jessica made.  Because we make our party pot-luck and ask people to play our game of making dessert look like dinner, we have a whole stockpile of memories wrapped up in tasty treats.  Our friends have sweetened our lives and we have the recipe cards to prove it.

       When our guests arrive we romp and throw sponges at people’s faces.  We chase and hide and make ourselves sick on sugar.  We also ask everyone to contribute to our summer fun by placing a whimsical wish on our tree. 

       This is easier for some than for others.  Some people are worried about messing up.  It seems many people are concerned whether or not they play in an acceptable fashion. I can relate. I worried I wasn’t hard body enough. Or my play lacked intellectual prowess. Did my play look as festive as a Martha Stewart magazine?

       This simply must change. Smiling lowers blood pressure.  It makes for happy lines on old people’s faces.  And, by golly, life is simply better when you’re laughing.  I am so confident the world needs more play that I take it as my mission to personally accompany people to the tree and command that they put a little whimsy into their summer plans.

       For those who tend in the intellectual direction, I point out my wish to drink coffees in the morning sun while reading gossip magazines. For my impressively buff friends I note the number of naps on my husband’s flower of fantasy.

       Having fun is about undoing who we think we should be and diving decadently into who we want to be, even if it’s only for a little while. I have plenty of time to set goals, and practice being responsible. On the last day of school, my family welcomes summer with a shout of permission to practice being happy.

       We’ve gone water skiing and watermelon seed spitting because of flowers on our tree.  We took a tour of Omaha’s Jane and John Doe street-art on bicycles.  We jumped in every body of water we found, puddles, pools and lakes over the course of one summer.  We ate popsicles and played in the fire hydrant fountain.  We had a slumber party at the zoo and slept next to the jellyfish because we were worried sleeping in the shark tunnel might contribute to bad dreams.

       As I read back through these lists I wonder where I got the energy to do these things and make these plans.  But that’s the thing about practicing happiness.  You get better the more you show up for rehearsal.  Happiness and fun are energizing.  These little outings are like mini-vacations without the cost, packing or time away from work.  I’ve never once, not a single time, regretted having fun.  I never complain about the time it takes once I’m there.  And the residual joy it spreads through my week gives me an extra hour a day for the sleep I didn’t need because happiness offers a rest all its own.

       Tell me about the lollipops and licorice sticks in your month of yes-you-May. Do you need to practice happiness? What constitutes decadence in your life?

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Yvette Francino May 22, 2010 at 12:39 pm

You always have such creative, wonderful ideas to celebrate life, love and happiness. On April Fools we have made our dinners look like dessert (meatloaf pie with mashed potato frosting) and desserts look like dinner (as you undoubtedly know, there’s a lot you can do here!) It’s fun to be whimsical and let out your inner-child with play or going against what’s “normal.”

For me, decadence is sleeping late, or lazing around all day with a great book, hanging out in the sunshine, drinking margaritas, eating chocolate… letting go of responsibilities and chores. It’s good to add a little decadent behavior each day…and definitely to find the joy in life each day.


Kristen @ Motherese May 22, 2010 at 1:45 pm

The next time Decadent Day rolls around, please feel free to bring all the trappings here and we’ll celebrate together. 🙂 What a wonderful idea!

The height of decadence in my life right now would be an uninterrupted meal. My sons are both very needy at mealtimes and I miss the ability to enjoy a long, languorous meal. To help increase our own happiness, my husband and I have initiated a weekly date night that’s all about going out and eating together, enjoying food and each other’s company. It’s not quite Decadent Day, but it works for us for right now!


Jenn M May 22, 2010 at 4:22 pm

How delightful! I think I need a party like this, too. You are my happiness hero!!!


rebecca May 22, 2010 at 7:22 pm


I love your ideas for mixing it up on April Fool’s Day. I’m going to see if I can trick someone next year.

I adore your decadent indulgences.


rebecca May 22, 2010 at 7:25 pm


I’m also glad you and your husband have a “decadent” dinner together. Raising children can bring couples together I think…but also can create so much busy mania that there is no time to taste one another and remember why there was love between each other.

I don’t know why it makes me so happy, but I love to see couples fostering love. Maybe because I know marriage is a fragile thing and I enjoy seeing others delving into it full force. It’s a decadent ritual to eat an uninterrupted meal indeed.

At our decadent days in the past I’ve carried babies just so that parents can eat or sit or even throw water balloons.


rebecca May 22, 2010 at 7:28 pm


Thank you for saying that. Happiness fans unite!!!


SuziCate May 24, 2010 at 8:55 am

Sounds like lots of fun and dilish treats. My friend had a chocolate party once. Absolutely everything (except the wine) had a form of chocolate involved. It was a great!


Stacia May 24, 2010 at 2:13 pm

Can I come to Decadent Day?? Sounds wonderful! What a memorable way to celebrate summer and start making those flower-wishes bloom. =>


Rudri May 24, 2010 at 2:42 pm

This seems like such a fun idea. I love the message of happiness behind it. I am inspired to have a decadent day at my home.


Eva @ Eva Evolving May 24, 2010 at 3:41 pm

Oh wow, this sounds just fabulous! The best idea for a family party – I’m going to have to remember this one. I love the idea of just breaking the rules, going all-out for just a day. One special day everyone looks forward to.

One idea that keeps popping into my mind: to ride our bikes over to a nearby park and restaurant that keeps getting good reviews, and have a nice dinner, sitting outside on the patio in the beautiful weather. But I need to stop thinking about it and just do it!


rebecca May 25, 2010 at 6:55 am


Chocolate! Oooh! I recently found a new chocolate bar I adore. Not holding the wrapper now. Will update you later.


rebecca May 25, 2010 at 6:57 am


Please DO come! And bring the Fluffy Bunnies!


rebecca May 25, 2010 at 6:58 am


Let me know how your Decadent Day goes.


rebecca May 25, 2010 at 7:00 am


Family dates on bicycles are always more special. I don’t know why, I just know it’s true. It seems more laborious to get out the door because it’s different, but then I do it and the magic carries me for days. I hope you will get riding and enjoy the bikes and restaurant.

Let me know how it tastes!


BigLittleWolf May 25, 2010 at 9:33 am

Your fruity pizza looks fabulous!

I have found that as I get older, I’ll take non-planning when it comes to any time off I might get (rare), and letting whatever will unfold do just that. Life is hectic and complicated enough. I’d rather “be” than run.

As for a “yes-you-may-May” – if I could – I’d sleep. On a beach somewhere. Read. Or simply stroll the streets of Paris. Nothing planned. A visit to a few friends. A coffee. Writing. People watching. A gallery stroll. That’s my “happy place” – natural and decadent both.


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