Swept Away

One sure way to beat the winter blues is to host a simple get-together that will transport you and your guests from the bleakness of the season to the spirit of warmer days to come. Stumped for a party theme? Let the intoxicating scent of a tropical air freshener be the inspiration for your tropical event, or make the outdoorsy fragrance of a natural air freshener be the catalyst for your country picnic. Here’s how:

A Tropical Party
Ambience: Visit your local party store and stock up on leis that you can put on your guests when they arrive, tiny paper umbrellas for cocktails, and plastic palm trees. Download some classic Hawaiian tunes or reggae to get everyone in the “island” mood.

Food and Drink: Island life means lots of fresh fruit and fish, so prepare generous platters of pineapple, melons, and mangoes, and order trays of sushi and sashimi or set up a grilled-fish taco bar. For cocktails, go native with mixed fruit punch drinks and lemonades garnished with fresh mint—and don’t forget the paper umbrellas.

A Country Picnic
Ambience: Look for gingham-checked paper tablecloths and red or blue plastic plates and cups at the supermarket or your local party store (or you can simply spread your best picnic blanket on your living room floor). While you’re shopping, see if you can find inexpensive cowboy hats for your guests to wear. Download some country tunes or your favorite summer dance music.

Food and Drink: Nothing says picnic like fried chicken, potato salad, cornbread, and apple pie. Of course, you can make it yourself or order from your favorite take-out eatery. A selection of cold beer and soft drinks complements the food.