request info email to friend
Outdoor Summer Entertaining
Summer is the perfect time for entertaining outdoors. Even though outdoor entertaining often is more casual than indoor parties, it still can be a lot of work. Here are some ways to cut your work and increase the fun:
Clean up; you don’t want people sitting on your dirty patio furniture in their white pants. To clean your outdoor furniture, use a mixture of water and a mild soap – dish soap for cushions, plastic and metal, and Murphy’s Oil for wood and wicker. Then hose off the soap, and let the furniture dry. Also clean up your outdoor space. Sweep off leaves and twigs; you can use your hose with a strong force to finish the job.
Light things up. Especially if your gathering will continue after dark, you need lighting. Citronella candles or tiki torches have the added advantage of keeping away the bugs, but little white lights can make your patio or deck seem like a fairyland.
Keep the menu simple and age-appropriate. For example, for casual dining, especially with kids, burgers and some make-head side salads are perfect; include veggie burgers for those who prefer a vegetarian dinner. For dessert, try watermelon, ice pops or make-your-own ice cream cones. If you are planning something more elegant, do most of the prep work before your guests arrive. For example, marinate chicken or beef, then put the meat and veggies on a skewer so all you have to do is put them on the grill. Add some make-ahead salads and white wine. For dessert, try sparkling wine, fruit and cheese.
Remember the details. Decorate clean bins for recycling and garbage. Keep beverages cold in a washtub full of ice. Use potted flowers to keep your tablecloths from blowing off. Put silverware – real or plastic – in decorated Mason jars. Add some background music with wireless speakers or a small MP3 speaker system.
Have some games ready. Depending on the age of your guests and the space available, choices can range from sidewalk chalk to a volleyball net. Put out a variety of games, and let people choose. You don’t have to orchestrate the games. But having them available will give children something to do while the adults are still eating. And if you are hosting only adults, it will allow those who get antsy to get up and get moving while those who are so inclined can linger over conversation and another glass of wine.
Make cleanup easy. Use disposable silverware, paper plates, plastic cups. If you want to be more environmentally conscious, consider serving things that don’t require silverware and cups. And use the bins mentioned above to encourage your guests to clean up after themselves. And be sure not to leave food sitting outside too long.
Have a backup plan. The thing about outdoor entertaining is that it is outdoors. That means there are things that can go wrong, including rain, cold, heat, bugs, etc. Know what you will do if you cannot hold your party outside.