Last minute party prep.

Quick! It’s a party! And it’s at your house!

So, it’s Saturday afternoon and you’re winding down from a day of chores and errands, soccer games and dance recitals, or maybe a day at the beach or park. Why not invite the gang over for a fun, impromptu party?

Does the thought make you squeamish? Did you laugh out loud at the use of “impromptu” and “fun” in the same sentence? It’s not crazy. With a few helpful tips (and an open mind), you can invite people over with very little notice and have a great and relaxing time. In fact, you may even have more fun than you would at some party that you planned for months.

Here’s how:

  • House Prep. This is no time for deep cleaning… in this case, it’s all about the superficial. What’s important is that you get your house looking good enough for guests. Start at one end of your house and pick up all clutter. Just pile up the mail, the shoes on the floor, magazines, toys (if you have kids or pets) and shove them in a bedroom. Grab a dust cloth and wipe down primary surfaces – coffee table, side tables, lampshades. Hardwood or tile floors? Run the vacuum over them to pick up dust bunnies and larger debris. Wipe down the sink and mirror in the bathroom.
  • Food. Don’t go crazy worrying about something fancy. If you’re out of the house when you have this brilliant party idea, then don’t wait – make a quick stop at the store on your way home. Pick up ready-made items such as cold cuts and salads in the deli section. Go through the salad bar and grab artichoke hearts, olives, stuffed grape leaves, roasted peppers – put these things together on a platter and you’ve got a perfect antipasto. A wedge of cheese with some fruit jam and crackers is an elegant appetizer. Hit the freezer aisle for frozen baby quiches or that perennial favorite, pigs-in-a-blanket. Don’t forget to grab something sweet – some grapes or cherries in the produce section and some cookies from the bakery department. (While you’re at the store, in addition to food, grab a bouquet or two of flowers, a package of cocktail-size napkins and small paper plates.) At home, you’ve probably already got the ingredients for some excellent snacks. One idea: pop some popcorn, top with a little melted butter and sprinkle lightly with smoked paprika, Old Bay Seasoning or Cajun spices. Delish and addicting!
  • Drinks. Run out to the liquor store and grab beer and wine – there’s no need for fancy cocktails and your guests certainly won’t expect something more for a last-minute soiree. If you keep a few cans of frozen limeade in your freezer and a bottle of tequila in the cabinet, you’ve got the makings for quick margaritas. Or have a couple bottles of cranberry juice and vodka on hand. Even better (and faster) – ask your guests to bring a six-pack or bottle of wine. Not only will this relieve you of one party prep chore (not to mention expense), most guests will welcome the chance to contribute. When they ask, “What can I bring?” Don’t say “oh, nothing.” Say, “How about some beer/wine?” It can be fun to see the mix of different brands people bring to share.
  • Atmosphere. So you got home with the snacks, you did a speed cleaning (aka hiding the clutter) and your guests are bringing the drinks. All that’s left is to set the tone. Put food items on your fancy plates, platters and serving dishes. Set out glasses and small plates and napkins. Put your iPod on shuffle and start the music. Grab every candle you can find, place them around the party room(s) and dim the lights. Boom… it’s a party!