It wasn’t a big birthday, but I wanted to celebrate it big anyway. I had been thinking a lot about how I spend my time and what really matters and decided I wanted to embrace the occasion to do what I love most: be in the company of people I love. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t a kid or celebrating a milestone birthday, I was going to throw myself a party.

As a mom of two young children — one of which is a baby that I’m nursing — I didn’t want to stress myself out trying to organize an adults-only affair. I would have to hire two babysitters, bring my breast pump, and check my phone a thousand times to make sure everyone was ok. Frankly, I would find it too anxiety-producing to leave the kids  at home. My toddler relies on me for bedtime songs and stories; my baby relies on me for sustenance and soothing. My mom-wiring makes it difficult for me to relax when they’re not around. Plus, if I wanted to spend time with the people I love, my two girls are top of the list.

I set off to find a family-friendly space in the South Bay of LA. I needed somewhere kids could run around — but remain contained — and I wanted something with adult charm, too. I didn’t want to bring in a caterer or a food truck or organize the purchase and schlepping of plates and flatware as I had done at too many birthday parties.  After scouring the area, it was clear The Rockefeller’s garden patio in Redondo was perfect. Little white lights criss-crossed a beautiful, turf-covered patio, with a private bar, plenty of room for tables, a buffet and even a corn hole set. I easily arranged a kids-friendly dinner thanks to the help of a manager kind enough to give me her cell phone number so we could nail down details as they popped into my head.

I was delighted when the venue offered to take care of simple but pretty table flowers —  another item off my list (and not another cost!).

I enlisted Jae LaShay Decor to give the party the festive feel it needed. I wanted celebratory but nothing over the top. We decided on two two-toned balloon columns at the party’s entrance. They were perfect; they set the tone (this is a party!) without being too much. They ushered in guests with just the right energy.

I hired Chris Watson, a musician whose singer-songwriter vibe hit the spot.

And then, because I subscribe whole-heartedly to all of the event-related wisdom in Priya Parker’s The Art of Gathering, I added a feature to infuse the party with a little more depth, meaning and connection: I wrote a love note to each guest.

It is a tradition in my family to get together on birthdays and share something we love about the birthday girl/boy. One year on my birthday, my dad — funny by nature — got on a roll and the toast became a bit of a roast, so now we have annual roast and toasts, a twist that has added more than a few laughs alongside the mushy stuff.

This birthday I decided to turn the tradition around – sans roast – and share something I love about each of my guests. Before the party, I wrote a brief, individualized note to each person, explaining my family’s tradition and sharing what I love about them. I gave the notes to the host to pass out as guests arrived.

The party was a success; I brought together the people I love and got to gush about how much and why I love them. We celebrated life in a beautiful, kids and adult-friendly venue, there was beautiful décor, great food and, importantly, plenty of cake.