“Y’all are Valentinin’ already?” the UPS man asked quizzically, making his way up the walkway with a package. He was shouting up to Hope and me as we hung a heart garland off the second-story porch at our Ripley house on Pine Street one day in early January. Why, yes, my good man, yes, we are. I am sure he was shocked that we were getting ready because, if he were a typical guy, it wouldn’t cross his mind to start Valentinin’ until Feb. 14!  

I was going to write a standard-issue “Valentine’s Day decorating and party ideas” column this week. I love Valentine’s Day because I have the BEST sweetheart. Our ancestral family home here in Ripley has been totally decked out for Valentine’s Day since the first week of January. I was going to write THAT column, but there was a plot twist. I recently lamented to FGG that our daughter, Bella, resumed college in Florida this semester and that she would not be here in Ripley for our annual Galentine’s Day celebration. FGG is a worldly man who knows a lot of things, and I was shocked when he inquired, “WHAT is Galentine’s Day?” If FGG doesn’t know what it is, there definitely may be others who do not know what it is, either, and y’all are missing out! I need to fix this problem, pronto, so I am writing about it in the column this week.

From where did this fake holiday that you must celebrate originate? Cosmopolitan.com explains: “Galentine’s Day (celebrated on Feb. 13) was created by a fictional character: Leslie Knope of Parks and Recreation. In 2010, the second season of Parks and Rec included an episode called “Galentine’s Day,” in which Leslie gathers a group of her closest gal pals for a brunch of waffles and love. ‘Every Feb. 13, my lady friends and I leave our husbands and our boyfriends at home, and we just come and kick it, breakfast-style,’ Leslie says in the episode. ‘Ladies celebrating ladies.’ And thus, Galentine’s Day was unofficially added to everyone’s calendar.

No, seriously: according to The Atlantic, it’s such a widely recognized fake holiday that some companies now run Galentine’s Day promotions. What could be more real than that?”

The reason I know about Galentine’s Day is that three out of five of our children and I are dedicated Parks and Recreation fans. Bella is such a fan of Leslie Knope, the founder of Galentine’s Day, that she dressed up as Leslie for Halloween this year. It matters not if you’ve ever seen the show. What matters is that you get a made-up holiday to celebrate with friends, dedicated to letting them know how much you love them.

Cosmo further explains, “There’s no wrong way to celebrate. You could pay tribute to Leslie Knope, the foremother of Galentine’s Day, by hosting a waffle brunch. Or you could gather your pals for a wine-and-cheese happy hour, make a reservation at a fancy restaurant, make a group mani-pedi appointment, or pop champagne and celebrate how great it is to be in a room without men for a few hours. It’s your Galentine’s Day, and you can celebrate however you want.”

Since Bella is back at college in Florida, that leaves just Hope, my assistant, to celebrate Galentine’s Day with me here in Ripley. My dearest companion is my assistant, who we hired many months ago to help me sort, organize, toss, clean, and donate a bunch of stuff here at our ancestral Pine Street house, which we bought from family back in May. Moving into a house full of antiques when we brought a full truck of furniture from Florida was an undertaking I could not handle without copious amounts of help (and adult beverages).

Enter Hope. We ran a yard sale when we moved here for six weeks straight! Hope wiped my tears many days when the task felt overwhelming, schlepping items in the Mississippi heat, and she kept me sane. I could not have transformed this old family house into our home without her! I tend to have too many creative ideas at once, and Hope keeps me from “squirreling” so I can focus on the tasks at hand. I am beyond grateful to call her not just my personal assistant but also my friend.

This was to be Hope’s first Galentine’s Day celebration, and I wanted to make it over-the-top because, as I always say: “Anything done well is overdone.” Of course, being super “extra,” I had to over-decorate for the occasion. I raided Dollar Tree here in Ripley. We made no-sew garlands with felt hearts, rope, scraps of fabric, and stickers from Dollar Tree (and we were hanging them that day the confused UPS man arrived). I made Valentine’s Gnomes with socks from Dollar Tree (there’s an instructional video on my The Little Mrs. FGG’s YouTube). Balloon bouquets from Dollar Tree and roses from Aldi made decorating on a budget easy. I illuminated strings of fairy lights from Dollar Tree. We didn’t just stop at the house: we brought the month-long celebration into the backyard, and the chauffeur’s house also got doused in pink and red hearts. When Pine Street looked like Cupid threw up on it, I knew we were finished decorating.

Our Galentine’s Day celebration involved lunch on the porch and dessert in the backyard. Initially, I thought I would prep the food myself, as I did for my New Year’s Eve column. I started thinking about love, which is the theme of this holiday, and I had a lightbulb moment: we should have lunch from Grace Café and Eatery in Ripley.

I recently brought Hope into Grace Café for the first time. I kept staring at their sign, which said Grace=Love in Action. It clicked that this is also the foundation for any solid friendship (or relationship)!

If you’ve never been to Grace, you are missing out. When you enter the charming brick two-story structure that houses Grace, you feel like you’re entering a warm and welcoming home. And, it’s not just the building that makes you feel warm and welcome: it’s the amazing people who work at Grace, as well. It’s Bella and I’s favorite place for coffee and lunch, and Hope had never been until I brought her in for a coffee. Hope got hooked on the coffee frappes from Grace. Remembering this, and knowing that she had not yet eaten lunch at Grace, I arranged with Rob and David, the owners, to cater our Galentine’s luncheon! Even though they get slammed at lunchtime, they agreed to deliver a special lunch for two. We were waiting on the porch when David and Lauren Lindsey, their manager, arrived with lunch. Hope was stoked to see the house salad, topped with Salmon! I got a yummy chicken sandwich and the BEST seasoned fries I have ever eaten! Lauren even brought specialty Valentine’s red velvet coffee drinks for us. What a treat!

Grace Café and Eatery is unique. The restaurant is the heart of everything else the visionary owners of Grace Café promote. They are here to help the community. “Leadership is Servanthood” is their motto.

As Lauren, the manager, explained, “We gather those in our community, especially youth, to spearhead community projects, such as: cleaning up our streets, elderly homes, etc. (wherever we are needed).” She went on to detail the many outreach programs Grace is involved in to help those who need it most here in our community and shared Grace’s goal of opening a community center in the near future.

Lauren added, “Grace is somewhere that we hope anyone can walk in and feel life coming from the place. We want everyone to be able to feel the love. Love equals action.”

I can think of no better place to celebrate a holiday dedicated to love than at a restaurant whose mission is acting in love. Go once, and I guarantee you will be back. Grace Café and Eatery is the perfect spot to enjoy a Galentine’s or Valentine’s breakfast or luncheon. It’s also a great place to bring the kids or just chill by yourself with your coffee.

It’s located at 108 South Commerce Street, Ripley. It’s open Monday through Saturday for breakfast from 7-10:45 a.m., lunch from 11 a.m.-2 p.m., and the coffee bar is open from 7-4. On Sundays, lunch, and coffee is from 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Dinner hours will start soon. Be sure to follow their social media accounts. They are @graceatery on Instagram.

Our Galentine’s Day celebration was everything I had hoped for. Celebrating on the porch in our Valentine’s Day pajamas, chatting, eating the delicious catered lunch from Grace, and sipping our drinks, made our Galentine’s Day memorable. It turns out that Lauren, the manager of Grace, is also a talented photographer (Lolly Lins Photography). An impromptu photoshoot for our Galentine’s celebration made it extra special. I presented Hope with a gift basket containing a picture frame, candy, and wine. The picture frame is for our photo taken of us wearing our coordinating heart PJ’s.

After lunch, Hope and I headed out to the backyard for a dessert picnic, including the cocoa bombs we made (Instructions can be found on The Little Mrs. FGG’s YouTube channel). We hung out in the chauffeur’s house, which we transformed for our Galentine’s Celebration into “The Babe Cave,” totally decked out with pink and red fabric garland that we made, pink pillows we made simply by duct-taping fabric onto a pillow like a present and hiding the tape on the back, roses from Aldi, and more festive Dollar Tree decorations. The only thing missing from making the day perfect was Bella.

 You may ask, “Is Galentine’s Day only for ladies?” The answer is anyone and everyone can celebrate Galentine’s Day. Remember what I always say: It’s 2021, and there are no rules! Galentine’s Day is a celebration of friendship.

As Cosmo observes, “It’s corny. It’s cheesy. And that’s what makes it great.”

Will you celebrate Galentine’s Day this year? Holler at me and let me know at littlemrsfgg@gmail.com and be sure to follow my social media accounts on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.

A PSA to the UPS man and all the other guys out there: Y’all need to start Valentinin’ NOW to keep yourselves out of trouble. Time is running out. May your February- and the rest of your year - be filled with love!

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