Some were in a race to pile as many layers of frosting and sprinkles as they could onto the heart-shaped cookies before devouring their creations. Others took meticulous care to create intricate designs. In the end, not much evidence was left, save a crumb or two, on the decorative paper plates of those who participated in the latest cookie decorating event at The Lakes of Valparaiso.
Thursday evening was a perfect night for such a gathering. As the snowflakes swirled in the biting breeze outside, residents of all ages gathered in the warm and welcoming clubhouse of the residential living community on Valparaiso’s north east side for an evening of fun, sugar (lots and lots of sugar), and pre-Valentine’s Day flair. Toddlers to grandmas – no age was too young or old for this timeless tradition.
Chelle and Brian Johnson and their children, 3-year-old Ezra and 8-year-old Brielle, stopped by for the fun before heading out to Front Porch Music in Valparaiso to celebrate Bob Marley’s birthday. Brielle is taking guitar lessons there, but was all too happy to stop in and decorate a cookie first.
“Pleaaaasssseee can I have another cookie?” Brielle begged her mom. The answer was no, but that didn’t stop her from helping her brother Ezra with the final touches on his creation.
The Johnsons moved to Lakes of Valparaiso about a year ago from the Chicago area.
“This has been the perfect community for us to live in as we transition into a new home,” Chelle said. “We’ve participated in a number of events and have liked them all.”
“I like the hiking,” Brielle piped. She was referencing the Lakes of Valparaiso fitness trail that the family uses in all seasons.
Chelle said she and Brian particularly enjoyed the date night event where they made turkey burgers, and the kids love the pool and bean bag court in the summer.
On the other side of the table, Lakes of Valparaiso resident Vickie Katsepas took advantage of the welcoming event to spend time with her visiting daughter Apollonia Pollard. In her three years at Lakes of Valparaiso so far, Katsepas has enjoyed the events she has attended, particularly movie nights and wine tasting. Pollard is happy her mom enjoys the community.
“It’s nice and quiet for her living here, but there’s always something to do, too,” she said.
Jenna Espinoza was visiting all the way from New Mexico and enjoyed seeing Lakes of Valparaiso for the first time since it has opened.
“The last time I was here, it was still being built,” she said. “I’m glad to see it completed – it’s really nice here.”
She was visiting friends Michelle Espar and Sebastian Snyder, who have lived at The Lakes of Valparaiso for about six months, and Jessica Espar, who was tagging along at the cookie event.
“We love coming to all the activities they have here,” Snyder said. “It gives us that close-knit community feel that you don’t get at other places. Even when there isn’t an activity, we come down to play pool, and, of course, there’s the pool in the summer which is great.”
Michelle said The Lakes of Valparaiso has proven to be a great community so far, including for their fur baby Mia – a Rodesian ridgeback puppy whose name made it onto one of their cookies, decorated with love.
Gia Sadural, a concierge at The Lakes of Valparaiso, facilitated the cookie event. She’s been on the residential community’s team for about two months, and the cookie decorating event was her first.
“I’m so pleased with the turnout!” she said, surveying the 20 or so people trading laughs at the table as they decorated. “I’ve lived in other apartment communities with activities where people might trickle in, but this is a great turnout and everyone is so welcoming and friendly,” she said. “I honestly love it here. It’s a really nice work space, and the activities we host provide a great sense of community.”
Sadural said The Lakes of Valparaiso team brainstorms new creative events for residents, while making sure to bring back some favorites from the past, like Mimosa Monday Mixers. The next one is Feb. 24 at 6 p.m. at the clubhouse.
Before that, though, The Lakes of Valparaiso is hosting another night of sweet, sweet dessert - the Chocolate Fondue Bar (Marshmallows! Fruit! Chocolate!) on Feb. 13 at 6 p.m.