PARTY #1: A DIY PARTY
Modern times call for creative themes and the Do-It-Yourself Party is the latest trend to draw a crowd. The idea is to bond
with friends while simultaneously tackling small home projects. Whether it’s a baby’s room that needs paint or a garage that
cries for reorganizing, here’s a way to rally the troops, chip in toward a common goal and enjoy delicious summer eats.
Swap Your Stuff
Since recycling is all the rage, have each guest bring three items in good condition that they want to pass forward and exchange. It’s like shopping at an antique or vintage store without spending a cent. As a host, you can narrow the exchange to clothes (even more specifically “professional attire” or “casual”), home accessories or kitchen gadgets or simply leave the exchange open and have the swap be an exciting free-for-all.
De-clutter Your Closet
Let your girlfriends help you get rid of unwanted or outdated items from your closet. Make three piles: to keep, to repair, to donate to charity. Model outfits to make sure they fit and flatter and serve a purpose in your wardrobe. Allow your friends to discern the keepers and ask their advice for fresh ways to accessorize.
Paint (Your) Town Red
Ask your friends to pitch in and have a painting party! If you are moving, getting ready for a new baby or sprucing up for an open house, friends want to help, so channel energies toward a satisfying and helpful goal. In return, encourage attendees to host their own DIY parties so that the efforts are reciprocal.
SETTING THE STAGE
To reward your guests for a job well done, here’s how to set the tone and table in style.
An Engaging E-vite
Instead of sending a standard email, let your guests feel special by using Paperless Post. The site creates elegant, email-able invitations complete with a stylish e-envelope that look as if they were engraved for just a few dollars! ($5 for 60 “email” invitations; www.paperlesspost.com)
Clean and Simple
Go natural! Use a jute tablecloth to emphasize the DIY vibe. To save even more, buy a roll of burlap at your local home improvement store for about $11. Add a pop of color down the middle by transforming a folded tablecloth into a table runner.
Photo Place Cards
Personalize each place setting by organizing photographs of friends you've been meaning to give to them. Sort and group by person, bundle with pretty thin ribbon and place atop napkins to use as photo "place cards,” which double as favors.
Fire up the grill with refreshing fruit. Place chopped fruit on water-soaked skewers, brush with olive or vegetable oil, melted butter or cooking spray to prevent sticking. Firmer fruits such as plums and nectarines can stand the heat of the grill for 4 to 5 minutes, but keep a closer eye on strawberries and mangoes.
To keep busy hands at work, refuel your guests with bite-size treats. Cut cooked hot dogs and buns into thirds and serve with condiments. The key is making non-greasy snacks that pop in the mouth and can be served on trays.
Lip-smacking homemade lemonade served in tall glasses with mint garnish is both refreshing and popular―prepare for refills! Combine 1 thinly sliced lemon and 1 2/3 cups superfine sugar in a bowl; mash with a spoon. Add 3 cups of cold water and 1¼ cups lemon juice; let stand for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Strain. Puree half of lemon juice mixture and 4 cups ice in a blender until smooth. Pour into 4 chilled glasses; repeat. Serves 8.
To make a festive dessert, carve out a mini watermelon and save the lid (create jagged edges like a jack o’ lantern). Freeze the watermelon. Fill it with frozen scoops of sorbet or ice cream keeping in mind that a variety of different flavors will make for a colorful presentation. Re-top with frozen lid and place in center of table for guests to scoop their own servings into small bowls.
As a thank you for particularly grimy jobs, gift guests with a homemade beauty scrub to take home: combine ¼ cup sugar, 2 tbsp. lemon juice and 1 tsp. honey. This mixture can be multiplied and put into small, decorative jars wrapped with ribbon.
PARTY #2: MOVIE NIGHT
Big Sky, Big Screen
Everyone loves a good film, so stage a movie night outside in the comfort of your own backyard. For the screen, hang a sheet or project the movie onto a wall. Given that projectors are pricey, rent one for about $50 or buy a used one. Sound is sometimes a challenge, but that’s the best part: the addition of nature’s surround sound.
Just in case it starts to drizzle, be sure moviegoers are sitting on a water-resistant blanket. Try Essentials from JJ Cole; $34.95, www.jjcoleusa.com/blanket
Make a popcorn “bar” where guests can top their snack with BBQ, caramel, Cajun or cinnamon sugar toppings in theater-style popcorn bags.
By the Script
Make the evening follow a movie’s theme. If you decide to show “The Godfather” serve popcorn with grated Parmesan cheese, garlic, dried oregano and basil (check out the recipe here) and hazelnut-flavored soda. Or bring out Swedish fish, goldfish crackers and orange soda for a screening of Finding Nemo.
No Buggin’ Out
Keep insects away with ThermaCELL Mini Insect Repellent Lantern, a pocketsize, easy-to-use repellent that offers a 15 ft. x 15 ft. “canopy” of protection. ($19.99; www.mosquitorepellent.com)
Create an ambient mood by stringing Christmas lights overhead and lighting lanterns with citronella candles ($10; www.pier1.com).
Is it dark yet? While you await dusk, keep the kids entertained with the following games:
Organize an archaeological dig. Use pieces of cardboard to represent fossils, then bury them in mulch, loose dirt or a sandbox. Set kids on the trail!
Be creative if you’re at the pool. Call out the name of a character, animal or object, such as a mermaid, shark or sailboat, and have kids act it out in the water.