Love Your Ladies With 16 Ideas for Galentine's Day

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GAL FORCE

Leslie Knope, played by Amy Poehler on the sitcom "Parks and Recreation," started Galentine's Day on February 13 as a way to celebrate the love she had for her female friends. Like Leslie, the holiday is concerned with generosity, heart-filled commemorations, champagne, and waffles. The holiday soon moved into the real world and evolved, like its romantic counterpart, into yet another gift-giving opportunity. While Leslie did hand out gifts, they're not required -- it's more important to revel in those important relationships and spread the love. Here are 16 ways to make Galentine's Day a memorable friend fest.
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GO OUT FOR BRUNCH

Brunch is the classic way to get the ladies together -- and a central part of Leslie's celebration. Galentine's day falls on a Tuesday this year, but celebrate the holiday a few days early and make a reservation at the group's favorite brunch spot. Make cards for everyone, telling them how much their friendship means. Galentine's Day is meant to be indulgent, so have lots of champagne, plenty of dessert, and, of course, waffles.
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BRUNCH AT HOME

Decorate with heart streamers and flowers from the supermarket. Have a potluck with everyone bringing favorite foods to share, or make a strata or a frittata -- because, according to Leslie Knope, Galentine's Day is "like the Lilith Fair minus the angst. Plus Frittatas!" -- and let friends bring sides. Reminisce over mimosas about meaningful shared moments. A red velvet cake with candy hearts on the top would be a delightful ending.
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THROW A THEME PARTY

This would do well for brunch or dinner. Since it's winter, and your besties will be aching to have it over with, a summer party might be a good theme. Wear sundresses, play surf music to beach up the mood, and serve piña coladas or frozen daiquiris. Make up a game for all to play. Guests could each bring a small wrapped favor that will continue the summer theme, such as sunglasses, a beach towel, a summer music mix CD, cheap flip-flops, and so on. Everyone gets a gift as they leave.
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HOST AFTERNOON TEA

Friends who are "Downton Abbey" fans or otherwise Anglophile will adore having a real British high tea. Make it at home with scones, pastries, finger sandwiches, and of course a variety of teas. (Mimosas would not be out of place, either.) Those who live near a genuine tea parlor can partake of the lovely goodies and pretend to be living in a more refined world.
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ORGANIZE A WINE TASTING

Alcoholic beverages are a big part of a friendship celebration. Make it the main event by hosting a wine tasting. Of course when tasting wine it's not necessary to drink it -- but being realistic, wine will be imbibed. Offer four or five kinds, or let guests each bring a bottle. Provide glasses, crackers or baguette to eat between tastes, and little notepads on which to mark comments. Segue into brunch after the tasting.
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PLAN A MOVIE NIGHT

Think "Thelma and Louise," "Bridesmaids," "Romy and Michele's High School Reunion," "Steel Magnolias," "Waiting to Exhale," or "The Women" (the old one, with Norma Shearer and Joan Crawford). Aim for movies that are about female relationships where men are not the center. (Okay, "The Women" is all about men, but there aren't any in the movie.) Popcorn and champagne are essential. Expect to talk to the screen as the action moves along.
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WIN BIG WITH GIRLS POKER NIGHT

Start with eco friendly or snazzy playing cards, grab some poker chips, or a whole gaming set ($23 at Walmart) for very little money. Serve finger foods such as sliders, skewers, or small sandwiches so no one has to show or put down their hands. A rat-pack-themed playlist will make it seem really Las Vegas. (Politically conscious players might consider donating their winnings to a women's shelter.)
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MAKE WAFFLES

It's the most Leslie Knope thing to do. Waffle irons are found easily at thrift shops, though it might be worth a splurge on one that makes heart-shaped waffles ($40 at Crate & Barrel). Have the ladies bring toppings to enliven the carbs: jams, compotes, lemon curd, Nutella, smoked salmon, and crème fraiche to add an upscale twist, as well as whipped cream and strawberries, bacon and maple syrup, or bourbon whipped cream. Don't forget the champagne (or prosecco).
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RENT A KARAOKE ROOM

Sing together for a great bonding experience that cements friendships old and new. In most major metro areas, a group can rent a private karaoke party room for relatively little money, split a few ways (usually $20 to $30 an hour for up to 15 people, less for a smaller group). Confirm before renting to make sure the song selection will be good for all -- girl groups, Beyoncé, and songs of female empowerment. Alternatively, most party stores will rent a karaoke machine.
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THROW A SLUMBER PARTY

It doesn't have to be an actual sleepover, because who has the room? But all the accoutrements of a slumber party are fun and put girl stuff front and center. To make it authentic, everyone can come in jammies. Whip up a batch of fruity cocktails and stock a bunch of diet-free, unhealthy snacks. A would-be slumber party is a good opportunity to try out makeup ideas that would ordinarily be too complicated. Honest feedback is essential, and really, that's what friends are for. Nail art and facials are musts; so is plenty of talking -- a game truth or dare would be appropriate. And of course, if somebody has a Ouija Board, now is the time to bring it out.
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SKATE LIKE OLYMPIANS

Channel the Olympic teams and chip in for a skating party at a local rink. Link arms and make a skating chain to show solidarity. Afterward, retire for cocoa and dessert. If it's too cold or snowy, head to the pool of someone's gym and try out synchronized swimming. (It will be hilarious.) And since all those calories have been burned off in the pool, an indulgent meal can follow, guilt-free.
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GET CRAFTY WITH DIY ART

If the group has a creative bent, find fun classes in painting or pottery. Some towns even have special Galentine's Day events geared to making things, such as one for Blooms + Wine ($40) in Colorado Springs, CO. Or, stay home, have a potluck lunch, serve some booze, and make objects of art such as little bowls or rhinestone friendship bracelets.
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INDULGE WITH A CHOCOLATE FONDUE PARTY

Nothing says love like chocolate. Fondue is made for sharing, and if nobody's parents have a fondue pot, it can be made on the stove. Keep it warm in a slow cooker and have friends bring things to dip -- strawberries, biscotti, melon, marshmallows, orange, pineapple, pound cake, or anything the imagination can devise. Use bamboo skewers to spear and dip.
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HOST A MURDER MYSTERY

A murder mystery is a game in which all guests take part and play characters while figuring out clues. It's possible to buy murder mystery party kits that came with everything needed, but it's possible to find some for free with instructions, clues, and character cards. A gang of theatrically minded friends can come in costumes, if the host has had the foresight to send out invites giving each guest background info on her character. Follow all that hard work with a nice meal and a stiff drink.
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MAKE MOZZARELLA TOGETHER

You'll going to be eating together anyway, so why not make something together? And who can say no to cheese? A mozzarella-making kit ($34 from Sur la Table) comes with everything but the cream, and makes enough for everybody to take some home, even after gorging. Friends can provide things to go with it -- tomatoes, basil, French bread, or salad to put it on. Italian wine or prosecco would be an appropriate accompaniment.
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MAKE YOUR OWN PIZZA

Even if mozzarella making is not on the agenda, making pizza together will be fun. Either buy or make pizza dough. Have guests bring toppings such as pepperoni, sausage, olives, ricotta, sun-dried tomatoes, or caramelized onions. Each guest gets a ball of dough and can roll out their own pizzas and top them as they choose. Drink bellinis or limoncello cocktails while they bake.

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