From Brooke: My calendar and I need to have a talk. See, summer is coming and I have things I want to do. I want to spend nights out late exploring with my family. I want to sleep in like I used to do during the summers when I was a young girl. Mostly, I want to catch up with friends. As my own boss, I can work from anywhere—which I love (and it’s the motivation behind my new program, Live Out Loud with Brooke). Being my own boss is the only way I’m able to balance the adventures of work with my passion for travel, but home is my favorite place to be.
This summer, I’m determined that no matter how busy things get, I’ll still make time to entertain. Busy seems to get a bad reputation, but I love the chaos as long as I’m keeping busy with the things I’m passionate about. To me, that is the recipe for loving life.
Here’s a blueprint I’ve come up with to make it more realistic.
1. Keep decor simple
Set the mood with a string of lights or paper lanterns and fresh flowers. I love finding natural ways to elevate a space. If I have an extra 10 minutes, I’ll use hollowed-out watermelons or pineapples as vases. Another great option is to add lemons or limes to the base of a clear vase. Tulips are my absolute favorite flower. I always put clean white or bright colored tulips in my kitchen or on a table outside.
Substitute glass for melamine plates. Nothing stops the conversation like someone breaking a plate and staring while you clean it up. Melamine plates also add pops of color to the decor. The best part is, they don’t cost a fortune—and you can toss them in the dishwasher afterwards and reuse them again for your next event. You can get them everywhere from Target to World Market and Williams Sonoma. (Bonus if you can find unbreakable wine glasses.)
2. Make your guests comfortable
You don’t want your deck or balcony to leave guests covered in bug bites so use Citronella oil torches or candles to help keep the mosquitos at bay.
Keep a basket stocked with supplies your guests might need. Sunscreen, an extra towel, a light blanket (if your party is going to run late), and non-toxic bug spray. Buy everything at the beginning of the season then just pull it out when you need it.
3. Stock the bar
Buy club soda in smaller bottles as 2-liters may go flat between parties. Club soda is easier on the tummy than tonic water. Avoid other mixtures that are full of sugar. Pre-cut garnishes the night before and leave them in the fridge to stay fresh.
According to Martha Stewart, you want to allow for a pound of ice for each guest as well as three drinks, three glasses and three napkins per person for a 2-hour party.
4. Serve simple cocktails
I’m not suggesting you offer only beer and wine. Although, do be careful not to serve drinks full of sugar that can derail the healthy choices you made throughout the day. Sugar can cause headaches and add to uncomfortable bloating.
Here are a few of my favorite cocktail recipes for easy entertaining.
By Brooke Thomas
This was inspired on a trip to Mexico. It doesn’t use traditional refined sugar like most sangria recipes. Basil has stress busting properties and can help clear your skin.
½ pound fresh strawberries, trimmed and sliced
1 apple, diced
1 ounce fresh whole basil leaves
1 bottle Chardonnay or white wine of choice
½ cup coconut palm sugar
1 cup club soda
1 cup Santa Cruz Organic White Grape Juice
Score the basil leaves with a fork and rub gently (this will help release the flavor into the sangria).
Layer the fruit, sugar and basil in a large pitcher and let sit for 10 minutes so the sugar can absorb the juices from the basil and fruit.
Add the club soda and remaining liquids.
Stir well and serve.
Skinny Skinny Margarita
By Brooke Thomas
This is my go-to refreshing drink. The key is to use a good quality of tequila. You don’t want headaches in the morning.
1.5 ounces of good quality silver tequila
6 ounces of club soda
Juice from one whole fresh lime
Mix contents together and serve.
By Brooke Thomas
Moscow Mules are typically made from vodka, ginger beer and lime but I’ve been making them with ginger Kombucha. It doesn’t have the added sugar the beer has and it’s easier on the stomach. The best way to drink them is in a copper mug. When vodka comes in contact with copper, the copper oxidizes and bumps up the aroma. The metal keeps the drink cold.
1.5 ounces of vodka
8 ounces of Gingeraid Kombucha (I like GT’s brand)
Juice from ½ of a fresh lime
Pour over ice in a copper mug and serve.
By Brooke Thomas
Always have a festive mocktail available for anyone looking to not consume alcohol. You can do the “muddling” in the glasses in advance and leave them in the fridge. When the guests arrive, just add in the ice and club soda.
12 to 14 small mint leaves or 6 to 8 big ones
1 ounce fresh lime juice
¾ tablespoon rum extract
2 tablespoons coconut palm sugar
4 ounces club soda
Put the mint leaves, lime juice and sugar in a tall cocktail glass and muddle the leaves.
Fill the glass with ice cubes and add rum extract and club soda.
Stir to mix up sugar.
Garnish with another mint sprig.
For more from Brooke, see her recent columns and visit her online at 360 Your Life. She offers free recipes and practical solutions for healthy living each month in her weekly newsletter. Sign up on her website.
Images courtesy of Brooke Thomas.