Ice Cream Social

by Grace Bonney

What better way to spend your summer soirees than in flowy sundresses parked in the grass eating ice cream? Today’s event is just that. An ice cream social filled with homemade goodness, festive balloons, handmade decor, and happy friends. The ideal time of day for an ice cream social is the afternoon. That 3:00 sugar craving and the afternoon heat are both calling for sweet, creamy, frozen delight. Another good thing about this time of day is that you don’t have to serve a lot of other food. It’s after lunch and before dinner, so light snacks are totally acceptable and affordable. Ice cream socials work for so many different occasions. Birthdays, 4th of July, Playdates, Promotion at work, Moving away party, Back to school, and so on.

images via: Kate Lee, Let’s Explode, Jose Villa, Ice Cream Social, Miss Hammer, Annie Bee

Invitations: I love Miss Pickles Press for whimsical, unique design. Jen, the owner of the press, is one cute and witty gal and her work speaks directly to the ice cream social crowd. Handmade is always an option as well for those who have a smaller group to invite and want to get crafty. These that guest blogger Laura Normandin made last week are perfect! I know I have a ton of patterned craft paper lying around that could easily get turned into an ice cream cone invitation with some handy scissors.

Decor ideas: Just the words ‘ice cream social’ conjures up bright, happy colors. I used to be anti-balloons both environmentally and aesthetically, but it seems they are making a comeback! Latex balloons (avoid mylar) are completely biodegradeable and compostable. That’s good news around our house since our kids can’t go to the shoe store or Trader Joe’s without asking for one. We just pop it and throw it in the compost. Who would have thought? Aesthetically, I’m finding a new nostalgic place in my heart for them. They remind me of childhood fantasy and are so perfect for an outdoor yard party. Make sure you tie them down so they don’t fly away! I can’t stress enough how much I love thrift stores and Goodwill. I picked up 10 old-fashioned etched glass ice cream bowls for $10! What a steal and I’ve used them dozens of times. I also love these dessert coupes from Anthropologie. I use cotton cocktail napkins for a lot of my events (from fabric that I buy and then stitch the edges). I wish I had these from The Guestroom Closet for this social, I may have to order them quick! If you do buy paper napkins, which there are so many festive options now, remember they too are biodegradeable. If you don’t compost, remember to recycle. My absolute go-to for my yard parties are flag banners. I have strung these up for Mexican fiestas, Election night, Birthday parties, and even spontaneous BBQs. I’m also drooling over these from etsy.

Menu: Ice cream of course! I make my own ice cream (which you all should do) as it is so easy with my Cuisinart ice cream maker. It is affordable, takes 20 minutes, and you can experiment with unique flavors. We have made lavender from our lavender bushes, lemon basil from our lemon tree, and salty chocolate with Maldon sea salt and raw cacao. Yummm. Buy some reusable ice cream containers or simply freeze it in glass tupperware. A cute way to display the flavors is to print their names in adorable fonts and cut them out with pinking shears. Then tape them to galvanized buckets filled with ice or spread around the bottom for display. (See picture.) I also put out salty options like organic pretzels, peanuts, and even crispy organic bacon (try it, it will blow your mind!) which make a yummy crushed up ice cream topper. Shortbread cookies, butter waffle wafers, and rolled flutes all make good ice cream dippers as well. For cool drinks serve fresh mint lemonade, grapefruit sparkling soda, and old fashioned root beer for those who may want to make a float. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, look for local ice cream vendors in your area. Even if you aren’t making it, it’s always nice to support the local purveyors who are and they will usually deliver to your home. A favorite L.A. option is Carmela Ice Cream. My friend Tracy from Your Daily Thread turned me onto the Icycle, an all natural, organic frozen treats cart biking the streets here in Los Angeles. They are on my ‘to hire’ list for one of my next summer parties. Pure driveway eye candy.

Mow the lawn, pull out your favorite tablecloth, and practice your best leisure chatter. Your ice cream social is the cream of the crop.

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  • Oh dear. I think your post only confirmed the fact that I really do need to buy an ice cream maker. I’ve been thinking about this for some time, primarily because it would allow me to make some interesting flavors but also because it means I could use nice simple ingredients (that I can pronounce). I had an incredibly blueberry basil ice cream recently and I think that, plus your testament about how easy it is seal the deal for me. I only wish I could share my ice cream making results.

  • this is just crazy! i was just telling my husband over the weekend that i feel an “ice cream social” would be a perfect way to spend my 30th birthday in september! it’s like you read my mind!

  • Again, I am amazed and impressed at your multiple talents, for your creativity and passion for “bringing folks together” for just some plain old fun and fellowship! :-) Of course there must be food too! My stomach is calling for home made ice cream!

  • I have two of those Cuisinart ice cream makers, and for best results I recommend making the ice cream ahead of time and then freezing it in a container. The “hard frozen” consistency you get with this method is more like ice cream than the “soft frozen” consistency you get straight out of the machine. Also, since you have to re-freeze the machine’s mixing bowl overnight for each batch of ice cream you want to make, this is the only way to make enough ice cream for a large party.

  • I HAVE to do one of these in Lubbock…perhaps in December though, since the ice cream will melt faster than we can eat it:) LOVE the ideas. Especially that we can toss all our latex water balloons in the composter!!!

  • What fun! Really never thought of framing a party around ice cream. How could anyone resist such an invite. Very creative. Can hardly wait to see what’s coming tomorrow.

  • How sweet. I love the individual letters spelling out the ice cream flavors. Looks so simple and divine.

  • Great idea! i’ve decided to host one before summer is out! Love the individual letters. Will do that for my friend’s blessingway this weekend!

  • looks like a must for this summer! i love the idea and the graphics surrounding the ice cream – good enough to eat.

  • I miss the ice cream socials; we always had homemade ice cream at family reunions (several would bring their hand cranked freezers full and ready to crank); no air conditioning +homemade ice dream=summertime

  • you have to try crushed Fritos corn chips as an ice cream topper, works well with vanilla or chocolate swirl, or any others I’m sure; and I love the flags idea as opposed to balloons that tangle and pop.

  • Paige I love this. An Ice Cream Social!!!!!!!! That is something one could get Eco creative with and make it tons of fun!!!!
    Thanks Paige.

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