Planning the many intricacies of the perfect menu, scouring the countryside for suitable decorations, hand-crafting and making out the invitations, building props and costumes, you name it, if it has to do with throwing a party, I love it. My particular favorite, themed or costume parties, you can't beat 'em. It is always exciting for me to see how clever and creative people will be with their wardrobe choice, and pictures are a must. I start planning my kids' birthday parties months in advance, and sometimes I wonder if I do it more for them or for me. Okay, I know it is for me, but they reap the benefits as well, so my conscience is clear. As an example of my party craze, I'll detail some of the preparation that went into my son's most recent birthday celebration, a cowboy party for my little 4-year-old sheriff. Guests were greeted at the front door by a bleached out cow skull, 10-gallon hat, and 6-shooters displayed on an old square bale. The menu included beans and cornbread, barbecue ribs, and gingersnaps, as well as root beer in tiny kid-sized pilsner mugs. Hand-painted faux wood signs hung on the walls, directing guests to the Tin Star Cantina and the High Noon Saloon, my bathrooms had the customary half-moon outhouse symbol emblazoned across the doors, and a scale kids-size log cabin, complete with barrel table, curtains, and a daisy patch under the window was erected for the enjoyment of all the pint-sized guests. The doorway was too low for most of the grown-ups to enter, but perfect for anyone under four and a half feet tall, so it had all the allure of an exclusive clubhouse. There was trail mix, beef jerky, sheriff's badges, and play money in the "loot bags" I had prepared for the kids, and many sundry other props upon which to feast the eye. I was in my element, and everything was perfect. Perfect, this is, until the guests arrived and the party was in full swing. That's when I became overwhelmed with all the noise and action, as I moved from room to room, making sure all the guests were satisfied and the kids were not getting into trouble. Alas, it is a curse to love parties so much and yet by nature be an introvert, a lover of peace, quiet, and calm. I am a person who needs a measure of silence every day so that my brain may continue to function, and when I don't have that I get stressed and snappy, and the steam explodes out of my ears like Bugs Bunny. Okay, I may be exaggerating, a little, but I truly don't do well at noisy, boisterous events, much to the chagrin of my best friend who thrives on such things. So, in an ideal situation, I would design the perfect setting for a party, make the most clever and tasty dishes to eat, turn the guests loose to enjoy themselves, and then go hide somewhere quiet. When the party is over, the last few guests still linger, and the kitchen is full of wonderful, tasty, snackable party food, I would sneak back in and indulge myself. You see, my first love is the creation of the party, but my second is leftover party food. There's something about tiny hot dogs wrapped in biscuit dough that is far superior to an average sized hot dog in a bun: all the flavor of the larger choice condensed into such a small package, it makes my mouth water just thinking of it. And all the wonderful varied concoctions into which one can dip a tortilla chip, oh, the list is endless! And of course, there is my new love, fruit pizza. Icing on a cookie with fresh fruit, melt in my mouth, you decadent morsel! Yes, my friends, I shall feast today, fruit pizza for breakfast, nachos and barbecue on tiny rolls for lunch, loaded potato casserole and tiny hot dogs for dinner! Manna from heaven, and all I had to do to get it was sit through a few hours of party time with the Dotsons, which, I'll be honest, definitely has its moments. No doubt, worth every bit.