Modern women love shortcuts; shortcuts to beat traffic, clean the house, prepare dinner and more. We need these shortcuts to accomplish the many things we NEED to do so that we have more time to enjoy the things we WANT to do … like play with our kids, ride our bikes and catch up on our DVR shows. Entertaining doesn’t exactly fall under the NEEDS category but research suggests that people do need to celebrate – our accomplishments, as well as the successes of our family and friends, not to mention birthdays, holidays and more; the positive results are exceptionally healthy.
With so many occasions to celebrate this summer, I’ve prepared a list of entertaining shortcuts so that you can spend less time planning your party and more time enjoying your company:
Send an e-vite. Assuming your party is informal, an electronic invitation is ideal for quickly and effectively communicating with guests, tracking responses and sending reminders. I prefer companies like paperlesspost.com that offer easy-to-use applications, attractive designs (with no advertisements) and posh presentations for a reasonable cost. Rule of thumb is to email the e-vites about two weeks before the party.
Bulk up on pantry items. Why wait for the party to purchase items that will last in your pantry for months? Chips, pretzels and crackers, as well as beverages, condiments and canned goods are great party staples. If you’re perplexed by the inclusion of canned goods for a summer party (when the farmer’s market offers so many fresher options), let me share a secret. White Bean Dip is a flavorful yet super inexpensive dip that is ideal for any party. The key ingredient is one can of cannellini beans (blended with a little EVOO). Google the recipe and then, stock up … and make a pit stop at the produce stand for fresh veggie dippers!
Stock up on summer essentials. Like pantry items, there are some entertaining essentials that you can buy in advance because you know you’re going to need them. For example, purchase white melamine plates, clear acrylic all-purpose stemware and cloth napkins, as well as citronella candles and pool towels when they go on sale … and then you’ll be one step closer to being party-ready!
Prepare one (semi) homemade recipe and purchase the rest. I enjoy experimenting with recipes but not the day of the party. Before the party begins, you’ll find me preparing the table not the food. My shortcut is prepared food from the grocery store – marinated chicken and beef kabobs, spicy steamed shrimp, salads, pasta and fresh baked bread – to complement my favorite homemade summer dessert – a trifle made with layers of angel food cake, mixed berries, vanilla instant pudding and cool-whip. What recipe do your guests always ask for? Make it and buy the rest!
Offer a specialty drink. Full bars can be overwhelming, especially if your bar is stocked with beer and wine. To minimize shopping, I suggest offering one or two specialty drinks. Fruity martinis, margaritas and pina coladas are favorite summertime cocktails. Alternately, you can offer a non-alcohol punch or lemonade for all guests to enjoy, with an option to modify the taste with a shot of rum or vodka. This idea works really well when children are guests at the party, too. Whatever your beverage plans, remember to purchase lots of ice (at least a pound per person) and water!
Be a Hostess with the Mostess! Make your guests comfortable with a basket of bug spray, sunscreen, hand sanitizer, travel size packets of wipes and tissues. Store the basket with seasonal items so that it’s always ready for company.
In a pinch ... use a beach towel, bed sheet or fabric remnant in lieu of a tablecloth; enhance the table with a few blooms from the garden; and create an extra beverage cooler from a sturdy beach bag with plastic liner.
Bribe your kids to wipe down the patio furniture. My girls always want to know how they can help set up for the party. I hand them a sponge and a bucket of soapy water. Yes, they are soaked when all is said and done but for them, it’s considered fun!
I hope you find these summer entertaining shortcuts useful and have more time to enjoy the things you want to do!