If you’re not already partying in your backyard this is the post for you. I’m going to give you some really easy, cheap and fun ways to ease your backyard party hosting duties.
First off, how colorful is your patio? If you are one of those color phobic decorators the backyard is your best place to experiment. Experiment with color toss cushions, lanterns, planters, outdoor rugs, umbrellas and of course plants. Let go of those inhibitions and have some fun trying new things. There are no rules, but there are some guidelines.
This year I had no choice but to replace my free-standing umbrella. This time I chose yellow. As I walk through the nearby park and the rest of the neighborhood there are spots I can still see my yellow umbrella. It makes me smile every time I see it, I guess the color scientists were right, yellow is a happy color.
How much color is too much color? There is no real answer to that one. Simply add some coordinating color to the items you already have and see just how much you can live with. A great way to start is by introducing an outdoor area rug. An outdoor area rug will help define the area, help save the wear and tear on the wood and add color and texture. There are some really great inexpensive plastic weave outdoor rugs on the market. If you can’t find the size you need just buy two smaller rugs and place them together. Remember that when outdoors, green is always the back drop neutral.
We entertain a lot in the summer. I think people come to see us just as much as they come to enjoy the pool. So entertaining has to be easy and not break the bank. Here’s a few tips I’ve learned for simple and easy outdoor entertaining.
1. Choose and have a set menu of simple food to prepare. Along with hot dogs and burgers (mostly for the kids) I like to keep some ready to eat “cheater” foods like frozen ribs that can go right from the freezer to the BBQ. You do have to try a few before you find something that is great tasting. Have summer staples around for the BBQ like corn and potatoes for baking. Reduce BBQ baking time for the potatoes by cooking them part way in the microwave for about 15 minutes. Then add them to the barbeque wrapped in tin foil. Barbequed corn tastes best and cooks faster when each one is foil wrapped. Make sure you have all the condiments. I don’t know how many times I forget the sour cream.
I do all the grilling in my household because my so-called better half tends to over cook (AKA burn) everything. Here’s a health and safety tip: make sure to wash the utensil used to place uncooked meats and chicken on the barbeque, or just use a different clean one. Unless, of course, you don’t want those guests returning.
2. Create stations. I always have a place for adult drinks and another for the kids. Kids love pouring their own drinks so I use a jug like dispenser. Place all the items you’ll at each station. This just keeps people from criss crossing each other. This was a problem on our deck because it’s not large and I found we were bumping into each other mainly because the BBQ is also on the deck. Sometimes I bring out the popcorn maker too and set up a station with different popcorn spices. This usually keeps the kids busy for awhile. The other thing I do is ask for a volunteer to keep an eye on a certain station. The host and hostess should enjoy their time with family and friends too and not always be worrying about if they need to get more ice or napkins. I usually get one of my kids to volunteer (voluntold). And, for this reason I designate a cabinet in the kitchen that holds nothing else but plastic cups, trays and other summertime entertaining paraphernalia.
3. Do as much as you can in advance. I like to make sure everything is set to go, like a table setting if you’re going to have sit down, or the dip is prepared and the veggies chopped and sliced. Have as much done in advance as you can goes a long way in enjoying yourself at your own function. I make my famous (or enfamous depending on how much of it you drink) white wine Sangria.
White Wine Sangria:
The night before add a bottle of your favorite Pinot Grigio and lemon, lime, orange wedges and 150mls of white sugar. Before serving add half litre of Ginger Ale and colorful fruit.
4. Use what you have. I always try to reuse or get as much out of using something as possible. Take birch branches for instance. I don’t know why people feel that birch branches are just for Christmas or fall displays. I just put them in flower containers and then plant the flowers around them. See what you think.
We had a tree come down in the ice storm last winter so I kept three 18″ to 24″ logs which I use as extra seating for the fire pit, side tables and pedestals.
Setting the table is always one of my favorite things to do. It’s kind of a challenge for me because I don’t want to spend any extra money to make a fab table setting. I go through the house and find things to use as a table setting or serving containers. About a year ago I started to collect milk white and I’ve collected quite a few piece since. I’m always looking for excuses to show off my milk white. In this instance I used some of my milk white collection as planters for the table setting and serving pieces. To my son’s chagrin I empty the ketchup in a milk white goblet. Come on, that’s a lot more fun than the Ketchup plastic bottle. I used other milk white pieces for salads and other condiments.
I used a thick ceramic vase as an additional wine cooler. It’s best to chill both the vase and wine in the refrigerator for a while before placing them on the table to keep it cool longer.
5. Keep the party mode going. As sunset falls turn on the drama by lighting candles and well placed LED lights. If you’ve read my other posts you will know that I’m a big fan of LED string lights. I wait for after Christmas sales and stock up. I put them around outdoor trellises, around the umbrella and around the birch branches too. There’s so many great places for LED string lights. Serve a few small munchies to ooohs and awhas with this simple hors’doevres:
1 package of your favorite artisan bread crisps (plain)
1 brick marble cheese. Cut into squares to fit on the crips.
Add a small dash of hot piquante sauce on each piece of cheese. Serve.
It’s super easy and guests love it.
With a little preparation even guests who just drop by will have a great time. You’ll impress everyone with your preparedness. So have fun, get creative and party hardy this summer.