Ahhh ... Spring. It's finally here. The time of year we Michiganders appreciate more than most. We crack our windows and crank up the tunes at 55 degrees, smile more, and break out our flip-flops too soon.
If you're like my friends and me, you also get the itch to socialize—particularly if it's a warm and sunny Friday afternoon. Usually it takes just one group text, and it's game on.
A couple of weeks ago it was one of these such times. An end-of-day event at school suddenly turned into Mommy Happy Hour at my house. I was looking forward to it until I got home and realized my husband ate all the guac he had made and the last bottle of wine was consumed the night before. Ugh. Why does this always happen? So I grabbed my keys, slapped a note on the door for my friends that I'd be right back, and headed to the grocery store. Where I live, we don't have anything super close by, so my trip ended up being 40 minutes. I felt like I had failed my friends and myself, since I wasn't as relaxed anymore.
The best gatherings are often those that aren't planned, but that doesn't mean you can't be prepared. Here are some great tips from my fabulously organized co-worker, who loves to entertain on her deck during the summer.
Assign Some Space
If you have a liquor cabinet and a wine rack or cooler that you keep stocked in case of unexpected guests, then you're already ahead of the game. But what if this "stash" ends up getting consumed anyway? Designate a few bottles as "guest only" and store them away from the rest. Same goes for food. Keep a stash of nonperishables in a special box in your cupboard or liquor cabinet that is off-limits except for guests. And hide the Stacy's Pita Chips from yourself, too.
Drinks: Something for Everyone
It seems that everyone has their own cocktail of choice, so make sure you have a variety: craft beer, light beer, at least one bottle each of white and red wines, vodka, and tonic water. Having something nicer than Sunny Delight for those who don't drink will also be appreciated—stock up on sparkling water or gourmet sodas.
Two Super-Easy, Warm-Weather Cocktails by the Pitcher
- Sangria: Mix red burgundy with white rum and sliced fruit. Dilute with sparkling water (if you're a lightweight).
- Berry Lemonade: Keep a couple of cans of frozen lemonade and a bag of frozen raspberries or blackberries in the freezer. Spike with white rum or vodka for a quick pitcher of deliciousness.
Hors d'ouvres: Because We All Like to Snack
There are some items that you probably already have in your meat and veggie drawers in the fridge that make for great quick hors d'ouvres: Grapes, baby carrots, grape tomatoes, apples, hard salami, and other quick munchables are great paired with soft cheeses, hummus, or even a light vinaigrette.
If you want to add a little something special, pick up some of these yummy staples to keep on hand:
- Gourmet olives stuffed with blue cheese, almonds, or other yummy treats.
- Several varieties of crackers.
- A jar of good quality spicy mustard.
- Dried fruit: dates, apricots, pineapple.
- A jar/bag of mixed nuts, spiced almonds, or wasabi peas.
- A bag of tortilla or pita chips.
- A can of nacho cheese soup and a can of beef chili to mix and heat for an easy taco dip.
- A jar of gourmet salsa.
- Canned artichoke and crab to mix up a quick dip.
Written by Jill Carroll and Jen Reynolds, West Michigan Woman staff members who enjoy a nice party—impromptu, or not.