Beat the Winter Blues: Throw a Summer Theme Party

Summer partyEven the biggest snow-and-ice buffs have said it by now: Enough with this winter. Alas, the storms and chills just keep coming, with no end in the immediate future (in fact, some of you are probably reading this looking at piles of snow outside your window). The only thing to do, short of booking a flight to Aruba, is to bask in a bit of denial–like, say, having an impromptu Summer Party. Yes, it will require your guests to go out in the snow and cold to get to your place. Yes, it will require you to go outside yourself, to do a bit of shopping. But we’ve kept the preparation to a minimal and besides, just think of the payoff: for a few glorious hours, you get to pretend it’s August.

Food. What embodies the idea of summer to you? (Aside from warm weather …) Chances are good that your definition involves some specific foods. Grilled meat. Ice cream, Klondike Bars, Bomb Pops. Lemonade. Luckily, these are all easy to make and eat indoors, in the winter, and odds are good that your corner store has all of them, even now. Grill up some hamburgers and hotdogs–preferably on the broiler, if you have one, for that smoke-kissed taste of summer. Make a potato salad and corn on the cob — this once frozen is OK. And if your store has a watermelon, BUY IT.

Music. Nothing bleak or sad or remotely wintery. No ballads. Only tunes that are peppy, happy, bouncy. For maximum effect, stock your playlist with topical songs: The Beatles’ “Good Day Sunshine,” Michael Franti’s reggae-tinged “Sound of Sunshine,” “Summer Nights” from “Grease,” or anything that conjures your own nostalgic memories of those long days of sandals and sunburn.

Decor. While you’re at the store shopping for summer foods, grab a travel magazine or two for your coffee table–specifically, look for those with big cover stories about tropical destinations (’tis the season). Also get some flowers to place in vases around your apartment. Not anything too stuffy and formal, like roses (which signal “Valentine’s Day,” not “summer”), and definitely not anything too anemic and wilted. But something yellow and cheery. And load up a summery movie to play on your TV or computer, if not for active watching then at least as background. Think movies about surfing, or Westerns, or anything that establishes a sense of easygoing Dog Days atmosphere.

Dress code. Obviously, no sane person is going to trek through slush and sleet in flip-flops just for the sake of a party. But that shouldn’t stop YOU–the host, the person who doesn’t have to go outside to get to the party–from changing into shorts and a t-shirt if you are a guy, or your favorite flirty little summer dress, if you are a female. If you own a Hawaiian shirt, now is the time to wear it. And you can at least encourage your guests to wear bright, summer-worthy colors.

Heat. If you’re able to control the heat in your apartment, crank up the thermostat (a couple of hours won’t be a huge hit to your heating bill), and tell guests that once they get inside, it’ll be nice and warm.

Extras (if you have the time). If you have the time and inclination to do even more, make even more elaborate summertime foods. Strawberry shortcake. Daiquiris or sangria, with or without the kick. Or head to a party-supply store for some colorful pennants, cheap party-favor sunglasses, leis, or anything else that helps establish that desperately-needed warm-weather vibe.

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Doug Mack is a writer based in Minneapolis and the author of the travel memoir Europe on 5 Wrong Turns a Day: One Man, Eight Countries, One Vintage Travel Guide (Perigee Books/Penguin). He has lived in apartments large and small, historic and modern, in Minneapolis and Chicago. Visit his web site at or find him on Twitter @douglasmack.

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