It’s June, and almost no matter where you are in the world, the weather is glorious. What better reason to celebrate? It’s high time to throw open the windows, invite friends round and throw a party.
But wait, you may think. Going to a party is fun. But organizing one is tedious. There’s so much to do, including inviting the right mix of family and friends, cleaning and decorating your house, preparing the food and drinks, and creating music playlists.
News flash: Planning a party doesn’t have to be a chore. Use your handy tech assistant – otherwise known as your Lumia phone – along with some Windows phone apps to get your party started.
The simple and free Checklist+ app organizes your party to-do’s and other checklists, such as packing and groceries.
You can add and edit as many items as you wish, complete with descriptions and further instructions.
Once you complete an action (“buy six cases of red wine” or “hire Beatles tribute band”) and check it off, that item stays on the list so you know how many actions you’ve completed and you’ll feel very productive as a result!
Evite (free) is the granddaddy of online invitation apps.
You have thousands of well-designed invitations to choose from, for events ranging from baby shower to retirement party.
What’s especially useful is the ability to manage guest lists and RSVPs on the go. Note that Evite is optimized for North America, which is only a factor when first registering for an account.
If you live in Europe, India or elsewhere, here’s a quick work-around tip from the Evite support team: When asked for zip code, input 10001.
Food & Drink
BigOven isn’t just a free recipe app, but an all-in-one meal planner. Of course, you’ll have tons of reader-reviewed recipes (300,000! and counting) at your fingertips; search by ingredient or peruse “Party Ideas” or “Recent Raves” for inspiration.
But you also can keep your grocery list, add personal notes, and share recipes via email or social media with the app.
A neat feature: If you’re trying to figure out how combine random items in your fridge or pantry for a tasty meal, simply input three ingredients (like broccoli, eggs and rice) into the “Use Your Leftovers” function and BigOven will deliver recipe options (the winner: fresh vegetable and herb quiche).
Want more? The app also has an expanded, ad-free version. With BigOvenPro ($2.50/month or $20/year), you unlock useful features including custom folders to track family food preferences, special search filters, nutrition information for each ingredient, and the ability to add as many recipes as you want.
Bartender (free trial; $1.29) This is a nifty little drinks-recipe app. Containing more than 100 well-known and succinctly written cocktail recipes, Bartender’s features include adjusting the quantity of a recipe’s ingredients so you can make the drink for up to five people, the ability to email recipes straight from the app, and a drinks log so you can track when and where you had an especially good (or bad) drink.
Here’s my favorite feature of this app: Shake your Lumia and Bartender will choose a random cocktail and give you the recipe. Mine was the Georgia Mint Julep: apricot brandy, mint leaves, sugar and soda. Shaken, of course. Not stirred.
Called a “secret weapon” for Lumia owners, MixRadio gives your party the audio boost it needs with personalized, non-stop ad-free music streaming. The service will also suggest new artists and songs you may like based on your “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” ratings, and you can download up to four playlists for the awesome price of free.
That feature will come in handy if your fete is outside and you’re away from Internet access. The paid version of MixRadio ($4) is even more awesome: higher quality audio, more offline mixes and the ability to listen to MixRadio from your laptop or desktop.
The new Storyteller app makes you a whiz-bang multimedia producer, no matter your digital skill level. Currently available in beta for Lumia devices, Storyteller displays your party photos and videos in the form of narrative stories.
The app groups photos and videos together based on time and place, and leverages HERE map technology to show where the photos and videos were recorded. You can also add and edit story captions, providing a richer, more satisfying multimedia experience.
Now that you’ve got some handy party-planning apps, to further tap into your inner event planner, here’s an appetizer that you can easily assemble for a crowd.
Recipe: Savory Pita Chips
Adapted from BigOven.com
Feeds 12 people, about four wedges per person
People will snap these up, especially when paired with hummus or another dip. If you don’t have the exact spices below, feel free to improvise. While best just out of the oven when they’re still a bit chewy, these pita chips also travel well.
6 six-inch pita breads
2-3 tbs good-quality olive oil
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp garlic granules
1 tsp onion powder
2 tsps oregano
1 tsp paprika
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 400F.
2. Mix all the spices in a small container (there will be some left over, so a spice jar makes a good container).
3. Brush each pita bread with olive oil and cut into eight wedges (as you would slice a pizza).
4. Arrange pita wedges in a single layer on a baking sheet and sprinkle with the seasoning mix.
5. Bake for 10 minutes.
6. Transfer wedges onto a festive platter and pair with hummus, guacamole, or other dip of your choice.
Oh, and when you do organize your backyard BBQ, summer house party, or shindig, don’t forget to send an invite my way!