Category Archives: Relax

Mother’s Day Poolside Garden Brunch: Prepare a No-Fail Feast

by Tracy Kunzler

From the editor: So you’ve set the table and decorated the yard, what’s next? Food and drink of course! Tracy Kunzler has lots of suggestions to make mom’s special day refreshing and delicious!

You want to treat mom to a nice meal. You don’t want to give her food poisoning. As she may have mentioned one or 73 times, she had plenty of nausea with the morning sickness that came with carrying you for nine months! So, keep the brunch menu simple and easy, but delicious nonetheless! I recommend the following:

Special beverages

Serve upgraded versions of Mom’s favorite morning drinks. If she’s a coffee drinker, top off her coffee with some whipped cream and cocoa powder or chocolate shavings. If she prefers iced tea, serve a flavored one like peach or blackberry. Instead of typical orange juice, try a new, exotic juice served in pretty glasses and garnished with fresh fruit.

Smoked salmon platter

Create a beautiful platter of thinly sliced smoked salmon (available in the seafood case of most grocery stores), cream cheese, sliced tomato, slivered red onion, capers and mini bagels. An easy but delicious indulgence!

Mini quiches

You can get these in the frozen food section of most grocery stores and heat up per package directions. They often come in a variety pack.

Fresh fruit platter

Cut up an assortment of mom’s favorite fresh fruits and serve with this easy, can’t-miss fruit dip! With a mixer, blend together one 8 ounce package of softened cream cheese with one 15 ounce jar of marshmallow cream and one teaspoon of vanilla extract until smooth. Chill in a serving bowl or ramekin until ready to serve.

This is especially delicious with fresh pineapple and strawberries but will be well-received with any fruit. Have you ever known anyone NOT to like cream cheese and marshmallow cream? If you do, I’d be mighty suspicious of them.

Cupcake “flower” bouquet

For dessert, serve a special treat that doubles as part of the table decorations! Arrange frosted cupcakes (homemade or store bought) in a clay pot to resemble a flower bouquet! &Sweets on Tumblr shows you how.

You can also get small terracotta pots just large enough to hold a single cupcake from the craft or garden store and do one for each place setting for “single flower” cupcake pots!

Mother’s Day Poolside Garden Brunch: Set the Scene


Host a Spa Pool Party For Your Bridesmaids

by Tracy Kunzler

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A bridal luncheon is the traditional way brides thank their bridesmaids for all they do to make the bride’s wedding day special. We’ve all been to them. They are sweet, lovely, well-intentioned occasions that, on a fun scale of 1-10, typically rate a strong “Meh.” You want to do something especially fun and memorable, and you’ve come to the right place! We have a plan for a poolside spa party worthy of all the time and energy bridesmaids spend on the bride that won’t take a ton of your time and energy. With the top five wedding months being May-September, a poolside spa party makes sense. Besides, who wouldn’t choose “relaxed, exfoliated and manicured by the pool” over “dressed-up and bored indoors?” This is also a terrific party to host for tired moms, stressed-out girlfriends and helpful neighbors! Best of all, even though it appears to be “all about the bridesmaids,” as host, you’ll get pampered too! Check out this easy plan for creating a spa oasis for your girls!

Spa Services

At least five to six weeks before your event, you’ll want to start preparations and figure out what spa services you’ll offer at your party so you can book your professionals. If you have a spa or salon you frequent, ask if it’s possible to book staff for private parties. If you’re holding your party during off hours, you’ll have an even better chance of securing them. Find out if they are able to bring all the necessary equipment – foot baths for pedicures, massage tables for massages, etc. Ask what they’ll need from you as far as set-up, and have it ready for them. There are a number of companies offering mobile spa parties these days, so do an internet search for services available in your area. (One I found in my area offers a “milkshake mani-pedi.” I don’t know what that is, but I’m in!) Another option is to contact local massage therapy and cosmetology schools to see if they have students to recommend. You can often save money this way.

Whichever way you go, I recommend meeting with your techs ahead of time, getting references and making sure the techs are properly trained in the services you want them to provide. I would also book one more tech than you think you’ll need. You don’t want to be caught short-staffed at your event because someone cancelled at the last minute. Be sure to call your professionals a few days before the party to remind them of the start time and go over once more their list of needs. If your budget allows, I recommend negotiating a price for providing each bridesmaid with a mani-pedi and a shoulder massage. If your budget allows for more services, like facials and full massages, go for it! Ask your specialists to arrive 30 minutes before party time to set up.


You can get custom invitations printed through sites like, or you can make your own. We love this one we spied on You have to admit it has a certain “polish” to it! It’s so cute; your girls are likely to save it as a special keepsake. Be sure to print all your party details on the label like date, time, what services will be provided, and be sure to tell guests to wear their swimsuits. You can find all the how-tos here.

nail polish

Set the Scene and the Mood

This party plan offers something appealing to all the senses and offers your busy bridesmaids a chance to slow down and unwind. Just having your party poolside makes for a serene setting. Add to the beauty and serenity of your spa setting with a few “lotus blossoms” floating in the pool. Thanks to water-resistant battery compartments, these beautiful floating lotus flower lights add beauty to your pool both day and night. They’re the perfect compliment to your spa theme.

Floating Lotus Pool Lights

Consider having pretty, comfortable robes for your bridesmaids to wear once they enter your “spa.” Sites like offer specially priced sets for bridesmaids like the ones shown below. Just type “bridesmaid robes” in the search bar. These make for a special keepsake the bridesmaids can wear during the party and again while getting dressed on the big day. At, you can get waffle knit kimono style robes for as little as $10.99 each when you order four or more. There are also services that rent robes for such occasions. Or, if you travel a lot, just take one from each hotel you stay in. Just kidding!

Be sure to load your iPod or smart phone with soothing, instrumental music or nature sounds and play your selections via a pair of portable speakers or docking station during the party. Many libraries have a selection of CD’s of instrumental music and nature sounds you can check out at no cost.

Light scented candles throughout your spa setting. Put out a few containers of scented body butters for guests to apply to hands and elbows. Place a few fashion magazines around. Take clippings of fresh flowers, large leaves and ornamental grasses from the yard to put in vases. Scatter some pillows on your lounge chairs, and set out a pretty basket of your best towels for guests to use.


Being that your party will likely occur just days before your bridesmaids will don the bridesmaids’ dresses they’ve had carefully altered, your guests will probably prefer to eat light. (Believe me, I know from experience Spanx can only perform so many miracles!) We recommend a menu made up of small bites your girls can eat one handed as they sip and receive a mani or pedi by the pool. Keeping portions small will allow each guest to try a taste of this and that, leaving them happily satisfied. Here’s a spa-tacular menu that’s easy on waistlines and hosts!

  • Cucumber-mint water – No spa is worth its weight in bath salts if it doesn’t offer the classic spa drink. Simply add sliced cucumber and fresh mint to a pitcher of ice water.
  • Flavored ice tea – It’s also nice to offer a flavored iced tea such as peach or raspberry.
  • A signature drink – By offering one signature cocktail you make by the batch, you’ll save time and money. We like this Skinny Girl-Inspired Sparkling White Sangria from nutrition coach Linda Wagner. It’s a slimmed-down version of a summer favorite that is beautiful to boot.

Skinny Girl-Inspired Sparkling White Sangria - for the full recipe. Simply add the sliced fruit and mint to the wine and then the stevia until desired sweetness is reached. (Linda recommends an alcohol-free stevia.) Let sit for at least an hour in the fridge to let the flavors infuse. You can also freeze half of the fruit and add right before serving to keep the Sangria cold without diluting the flavor.


Spa facial cheese ball – We fell in love with this clever and adorable appetizer from Hungry Happenings and are sure your girls will love it, too! Check out the Hungry Happenings website to see what you need!


Finger sandwiches – Use favorite sandwich fillings to make finger sandwiches. Consider perennial girl favorites like chicken salad, cucumber and cream cheese and pimento cheese. You can buy prepared chicken salad to save time – Trader Joe’s has several delicious varieties – and prepared pimento cheese as well.

Fresh fruit skewers – make up skewers of fresh fruit guests can nibble on while receiving spa services. Seasonal and favorite fruits like strawberries, watermelon, blueberries, pineapple and cantaloupe make a pretty and delicious combination.

Mini dessert tray – Make up a tray of small favorite desserts like mini éclairs and cream puffs (these disappear any time I serve them), mini lemon bars, and cheesecake bites. I will share my secret recipe for these with you: I buy the cream puffs, éclairs and cheesecake bites in the frozen food section of the grocery store. I buy the lemon bars from the bakery and cut them up into smaller bites. I arrange them on a pretty tray with some fresh mint leaves or a few pansy blossoms. You’re welcome!

When Your Guests Arrive…

Greet them with the drink of their choice, offer them robes to wear over their swimsuits if you choose to provide them, and encourage them to turn off their cell phones or at least set them on vibrate.

Discuss what treatments are available and let the guests rotate through the circuit. While they are waiting their turn to have a mani, pedi or massage, let them enjoy a facial mask you can make up easily and inexpensively. This DIY skin-brightening mask caught our eye. Be sure to have enough ingredients on hand to make up enough for all your guests.

Ideal bridesmaid gift – Tradition dictates that a bride gives her bridesmaids a thank you gift such as a picture frame, scented candle or a necklace or pair of earrings for the bridesmaids to wear during the wedding. Tradition once dictated that women were not allowed to vote or show their knees. Present your bridesmaids with a unique, nontraditional gift they will cherish using during your spa party and all summer long like a pool float! Your girls will happily think of you and your savvy gift skills each time they peacefully lounge. Picture frames, candles and earrings are really nice, but I can’t nap, lounge, or tan in any of them! Just sayin’!

Allow guests to rotate through desired service stations and sip and nibble at their leisure. You will have created a spa afternoon so wonderfully Zen, that when the party is over, your bridesmaids will say, “Leave? Namaste right here!”

Check out our Pinterest board for more party ideas!

Follow SwimWays’s board Pool & Beach Party Ideas on Pinterest.


Spring Break Travel and Packing Tips for Families

by Tracy Kunzler

From the editor: Our relaxation expert presents a series of tips for the upcoming spring break. Do you have vacation plans? Leave a comment – we’d love to know where you’re going!

Spring Break Packing and Travel Tips

Spring break marks the first time many of us will visit pools and beaches this year as we head south for a much-needed “latitude adjustment” after the cold winter months. The thing I hate about going on spring break is wondering what to pack. (That and having to come back home!) Following is help with the “what to pack” thing. (As far as the “coming back home” thing, maybe you can Google “faking a kidnapping?” You’re on your own there!) The really great thing is, since spring break often occurs over the Easter holiday, many of these things can double as Easter gifts kids can use on your trip! Following, a checklist of things that will take up minimum room in your suitcase and provide maximum fun on your trip near the water!

Check out the links below for Tracy’s series on spring break travel and packing tips!



What to Remember to Pack for Your Vacation

by Tracy Kunzler

From the editor: Sometimes packing for your escape can make or break your vacation. The most important part of preparing is often what you pack and don’t pack for your vacation. Read on to find out Tracy’s suggestions to optimize packing. Don’t forget your sunscreen!

In all the chaos of packing for a family trip, it’s easy to forget some essentials. (We can tell you’re way more together than the people in that “Home Alone” movie, so we won’t list “ALL of your children”.) Below is a checklist of things to pack to help ensure your family trip near the water goes swimmingly.

What to pack for your vacation


Sure, the cute little gift shop at the resort or general store at the campground might carry it, but it’s likely to cost a lot more than you’d pay at home – that’s money you could spend on vacation beverages! If flying, be sure to pack sunscreen in checked luggage to comply with TSA guidelines and in a Ziploc bag to keep it from leaking onto your clothes. Don’t forget sunscreen for lips, too!


Seems like a no-brainer, but this is something we can forget to add to our bags after a long, gray winter. You’ll want to have a pair for every member of the family. Added bonus: You can check out that cute cabana guy without anyone being the wiser.

Swim Goggles

Speaking of eyewear, you don’t want to forget swimming goggles for your swimmers! If you need a few new pairs for the kids, get them goggles they’ll want to wear with bright colors or featuring favorite characters. The Disney and Marvel character themed swim masks have a see through scrim, so kids can see out, while everyone else sees the character – great for children who love to play pretend!

Two Bathing Suits Per Person

Bathing suits don’t always dry completely overnight – especially in humid regions. Getting into a wet bathing suit is no fun. Packing two (or three) suits per person eliminates this problem. If traveling by plane, each person should have one suit packed in a carry-on bag in case the airline misplaces some luggage. I don’t know about you, but I have to go through about 73 bathing suits to find one that will adequately camouflage “things,” and don’t want to go through the torturous process of swimsuit shopping on vacation!

A Few Towels

Yes, many hotels provide beach and pool towels, but the service is not always reliable. Also, their towels might be kind of scratchy and not washed as often as you’d like, so pack a few of your own to be on the safe side.

Beach Bag

It’s easy to forget to pack a beach bag, and not so easy to carry all your gear to the pool and shore without one once you reach your destination. A nylon type bag that rolls up to the size of a pair of socks in your luggage is ideal. It can also double as a carryon bag filled with souvenirs on the trip home.

Underwater camera

Capture the water-full fun of your spring break trip on a waterproof camera. If you don’t own one, borrow a friend’s or get a few disposable ones,like these ones from Walmart that will keep the kids happily occupied.

Carry-On Essentials

Finally, things you’ll want to have in carry-on luggage include:

  • ID, passports, copies of airline tickets and itinerary
  • Money, credit cards
  • Cell phone and charger
  • Distractions and entertainment for little ones (Including pacifiers or gum to help with ear discomfort that can come with changes in altitude on planes)
  • All prescription and over-the-counter meds for each family member
  • Contact lenses, spare eyeglasses
  • Hand sanitizer (make sure it’s 3 oz. or less) and some sanitary wipes
  • One swimsuit and one change of clothing per person
  • Snacks
  • Tissues

Additionally, it’s a good idea to have a photocopy of your complete itinerary, including your home address, all flight information, hotel addresses and travel dates in each piece of checked luggage. That way, if a bag gets lost in transit, airline staff will know where to find you.

Real Simple Magazine has a great travel checklist for young families. You can access it here.

Follow these tips, and you’ll have a water-full vacation! Remember to bring me something back! I’ll take a cute cabana boy!

Check out the links below for more of Tracy’s series on spring break travel and packing tips!