If you’ve lived through what feels like an endless winter haze (like we’ve seen here in the Northeast), the beginning of summer requires a celebration. Even on the sunniest days, it was just too hard to think that a new season was coming, but finally it’s July and the weather is fabulous.
The Science of Summer
Sunshine is actually good for you. Your body needs Vitamin D to encourage healthy growth in your bones and muscles. Generally, people who get less of it over their lifetimes are more likely to develop heart-related issues and osteoporosis. If you’re outside midday for just a few minutes (without sunscreen) your skin will convert UVB rays into just the right amount of Vitamin D. This is just an approximation, and depends on several things like where you’re located and the color of your skin. (Please talk to your doctor before skipping sunscreen or making any other sun-related changes!) A lack of sun during the winter months also brings out depression, anxiety and insomnia for some people. (It’s called Seasonal Affective Disorder).
Being inside all day isn’t just preventing you from getting a nice tan. Some studies have shown that the human brain will produce more serotonin — a chemical that increases confidence and happiness —when you’re exposed to the sun. It’s one of the chemicals produced by drugs such as LSD or the anti-depressant, Prozac. You can imagine (and probably feel) what happens in the absence of sunlight in your life. There isn’t a scientific consensus on how sunlight stimulates serotonin production during this season but what we feel is real.
Of course this doesn’t mean you should skip your sunscreen and lay out in the sun. There are obvious and proven risks with doing that. What I’m sayin’ is simple.
You need a break.
You need some sun, and some food. And maybe a cold drink.
Prescription to Party
When the weather starts to warm up it’s no surprise that people jump at a chance to grill some food outside or just to put on a t-shirt and take a walk. My husband’s birthday is in the middle of the summer, and we always take advantage of that. This year, as several others before, we headed outside for a barbecue with our family and friends. Combining all of these things made for a great day.
If you’re looking for something to do this summer that will bring together the people you love, this is what you need.
It’s a given that the sun should be out and shining this month but sometimes Mother Nature does her own thing. We had intense lighting storms and threatening clouds over the July 4th weekend. This dissipated when our party came around, but it’s always wise to keep tabs on those clouds. It might be organic, but rain will NOT make your steak taste better.
I’m always one to encourage people to mingle and get to know each other, but you still need something for them to do. This could be as simple as planning something at the beach. If you decide to go to a park or a similar location, you should think about bringing some things: soccer ball, baseball and gloves, frisbee, football. I’d also suggest a speaker to play music from your phone or other device. If you don’t have these things, ask your friends to bring what they have. We were lucky to have all of these things around and they were definitely useful.
We also had a pinata for the birthday boy (er… man). Let me tell you, it stole the show. My sister-in-law had the great idea to get one for a party that would have more adults than children. She filled it with things like floss, soap, lotions, and Hot Wheels cars. Everyone was surprised, including myself. The kids reactions were priceless. Sorry guys, maybe next time!
Location, location, location
If you have a chance, scope out your location of choice to decide on the best spot to have your party. Look for things like walking distance to bathrooms, water fountains, and ability to get under the shade or trees. Parking space is important if your friends are driving. If they’re not, consider walking distance from public transportation. Bring a stand-up umbrella or ask your friends to do so if it’s going to be very hot. We had blankets and beach chairs, and again, asked people to bring their own. There were picnic benches at the park, but a lot of people chose to relax on something more comfortable.
Food and drinks
Bring a cooler, fill it with ice, juice, beer, and water bottles. Bring more water than will fit into your cooler. This is really important, especially if you’re going to be running around or constantly in the sun. We bought four large jugs of water, plus sodas and juices, but after several hours we started to run out. This happened right in the middle of a sweaty soccer game and people were happy to drink some of the warm water we had left.
We had one regular cooler and one of these freezer packs. If I did it again, I’d get a second cooler with ice. First to bring more cold water, but also because the [ice pops] we had to put in the pack were mostly melted by the time we were done with the food. It was a great tragedy, in my opinion. Don’t forget to keep any perishable foods out of the sun or in a cooler, especially dairy-based dips.
About 30 people showed up. This included families with toddlers and some older kids. We bought about 15 pounds of chicken and beef (combined) for the grill. We also had veggies on skewers, dips, and a giant bowl of fruit salad. Considering my parents also brought some more food, I think everyone was satisfied. We probably had enough leftovers for about a week.
Check out bbqplanner.com for an approximate estimate of how much food you should get.
At the end of the day, my husband and I were very happy with how the day went. We’ll probably plan another when we have the time.
How you plan a party depends on what you and your friends or family like. In the end it’s about enjoying the sunshine in good company!