Dining outdoors is a great way to enjoy the beautiful weather in the summer months and lends itself to entertaining at home in a very casual and relaxed way.
Having said that, some planning is needed to provide your guests with a comfortable dining experience.
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1. Comfortable Seating
I have to confess – I really hate going somewhere and not having a comfortable place to sit. If I’m not comfortable, I can’t relax, and if I can’t relax I won’t be having a good time. Gosh that sounds grumpy doesn’t it? Must be my age!
Having nice thick cushions on your patio furniture can make for a warm and inviting and comfortable space for your guests. And you can change up your look on the patio by using different cushions for different occasions.
You need to place the grill close enough to the dining area so you grill master is away from the festivities but not too close so your guests aren’t bothered by the smoke. Always place your grill upwind from where you guests will be gathering.
3. Skip the Tablecloth
If the day is breezy (which we all love the breeze when it hot out) it can cause havoc on your table settings and tablecloths. Keep things casual and skip the table coverings. Or if you like having something on your table to pretty things up a bit us a table runner and place your center pieces on top. This beachy stripe outdoor table runner from Design Imports is pretty and will brighten up any patio table. It’s machine washable too!
4. Stock a Bar Cart with All Your Drink Essentials
Having enough beverages is important to keep your guests happy and tipsy! Wait, I meant to say hydrated…yes, that’s it…hydrated.
Anyway, you want to make it easy for your guests to grab drinks or play bar tender if they like. You can read my post about the 7 must haves for your bar cart to get an idea of what to include.
Using a bar cart makes it easy to roll it back to the house for restocking too. Something similar to the Bennet Outdoor Wicker Bar Cart is elegant and casual at the same time.
5. Let Guests Know the Grilling Preference of The Entree
Let me just say here and now that I am a well done steak girl. Any pink and I run for the hills. So knowing which items are medium rare or well done is a big thing with me. Meat grilling temperature markers take the guess work out of choosing which burger will suit your guests tastes. These cute little markers will get the job done and will stop guests like me from running and screaming if they happen to choose the medium rare steak.
Make sure you have enough lighting if your picnic lasts until dark. Citronella candles help with the lighting and also keep the mosquitoes away.
7. Yard Games
It’s important to have yard games ready to go if you are going to have kids in attendance. Oh hell, let’s be honest. At all the picnics I attend the adults are the ones out there playing the lawn darts and other games. All the while the kids are begging for their turn. Having plenty of games should keep the kids (and adults) entertained.
8. Caddy Sets are a life saver!
Having plenty of condiments available to your guests will allow everyone to pile their burgers with all their favorite toppings. DEI has the cutest Picnic Table Shaped Condiement Set I’ve ever seen. It’s super cute and affordable enough to pick up more than one so you can scatter them around the patio.
Don’t forget about the silverware. Having the silverware in an easy to reach spot is necessary or you will spend your day running back and forth from the kitchen to fetch more for those guests who are a bit more clumsy. Plastic cups can be used to hold your forks, spoons, and knives. Or you can get a bit more decorative and use this Galvanized Metal Bucket Tray Set for your flatware.
9. Keep Your Centerpieces simple
Pretty wildflowers in clear vases will add a touch of soft fragrance and casual elegance to your table.
10. Have Fun!
Now that all the planning is done, sit back and relax. Enjoy yourself. Enjoy your guests. Sip your favorite cocktail and make some memories and laugh…always laugh. It’s the key to being happy!
What are your favorite outdoor party planning tips? Let me know in the comments!
10 Side Dishes That Will Wow Everyone this Memorial Day
It’s that time of year again. School is ending for summer break, the weather is getting warmer, and Memorial Day is right around the corner. All of this means picnics, barbecues, and bonfires are on everyone’s schedules. Let the fun times begin!
Then the next question is what should I bring to Aunt Sue’s annual Memorial Day picnic?
Don’t worry! We have you covered. We’ve looked high and low and found some fabulous and tasty and unique side dish recipes that will have everyone raving about your culinary genius!
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I had the fortune of eating this recently at a fundraising dinner I attended. It was so good! And you can make it the day ahead so you aren’t rushing around on the day of your event. As a matter of fact it tastes better after all the flavors have a chance to sit and marinate together.
Oh potato salad how I love thee! This recipe is just like the one my mom makes. I always ask her to make it when I am home visiting. Maybe it’s the love she puts in it when she is making it, but this simple, easy to make recipe is my favorite!
Yes, my newly 14 year old daughter shares her birthday with the Cinco de Mayo celebration. Which is kinda cool don’t you think? I’m pretty sure she will enjoy it more as she gets older (21 and older). It’s like a built-in party on your birthday!
Cinco de Mayo means the 5th of May. The holiday commemorates the Mexican Army’s victory in 1862 over the french at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican war. And while it is celebrated in Mexico it isn’t a federal holiday. Actually it’s a pretty minor affair for our neighbors to the south. It is celebrated in Puebla with parades, speeches and re-enactments of the battle.
Within the United States Cinco de Mayo has taken on a much broader meaning. This is the day we get to celebrate the Mexican culture and heritage. The day is celebrated with parades, mariachi music, parties, fabulous Mexican cuisine, and of course cocktails!
Chicago has one of the larges Cinco de Mayo celebrations with events and an abundance of Mexican restaurants dishing out their yummy food.
You can have your own Cinco de Mayo celebration right in your own backyard. Mix up some margaritas, make some tacos and enjoy the evening with good friends.
Armanetti Liquors or Armanetti Beverage Marts as they are now known are one of Chicagoland’s leaders for providing fine wine and spirits. I came across an old Mixology booklet from them at a local flea market a few months back. I’m guessing it to be from the 50s or 60s as the phone number on the back contains a 2 letter extension before the numbers.
Of course there are tons of fabulous cocktail recipes, but there is also a section of Do’s and Don’ts of Proper Mixing.
I thought I would share them here!
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Do use a jigger (1 1/2 ounces) when measuring your liquor. Don’t rely on your eye
2. Do Measure all ingredients exactly. Don’t guess, you may spoil the drink.
3. Don’t shake when you should stir and don’t stir when you should shake. Each has it’s own meaning.
4. When possible, do chill your cocktail glasses before serving. Serving drinks ice cold will improve their taste. A perfect way to do this is find some freezable glasses like these:
Or if you really want to chill all of your glasses and add some professionalism to your home bar you could get a glass chiller:
5. You can frost your glasses by wetting them before putting them in the freezer. Sugar frosted glasses should be rimmed with a slice of lemon and dipped in a saucer of fine sugar, then into the freezer.
6. Don’t change your order of ingredients. It should always be ice first, then whiskey, then mix.
7. Slice or squeeze fruit just before using. Fruit and juices go stale when left to stand, even when refrigerated.
8. Fresh fruit juice always makes a drink better than canned juice.
9. For small parties, you can make enough of your own juice by emptying your trays well in advance, into clear plastic bags. The bags should then be placed in the freezer.
To add a little fun to your parties include a themed ice tray or find a spherical ice tray such as these I found on Amazon.
Or try these spherical ice trays to make round ice!
10. Ice should be taste free and crystal clear. Avoid using ice that has been exposed to foreign odors. For larger parties it is best to obtain ice from and ice machine or ice company.
11. Don’t make the second drink with the same ice cubes.
12. Do strain your cocktails, unless otherwise indicated, but don’t use silver, use a wire strainer.
13. Don’t keep drinks in your cocktail shaker. The drink will taste flat if the ice is allowed to melt in it.
14. Don’t fill cocktail glasses more than three-quarters of the way.
15. Don’t let spirited drinks sit in metal containers for any length of time.
16. Don’t stir carbonated drinks vigorously or you will encourage them to go flat.
17. Do soak lemons in cold water to get more juice and for easier squeezing.
18. Don’t stir a drink containing a lot of ice too much. You might dilute it too much.
19. Do dissolve sugar in a little water before mixing it in the drink.
20. Do – enjoy the fruits of your labor!
How do you mix a perfect cocktail? I’d love to hear your tips and tricks!
For me, bar carts conjure up images of class and sophistication. A time when cocktail parties and dinner parties were the major social events in a person’s social calendar. When men wore suits and the ladies dressed in their finest cocktail dresses and pearls.
When we see images on television and movies from the 50’s and 60’s era there always seems to be a bar cart lurking in the corner just waiting for the spontaneous cocktail hour – always elegantly stocked and stylishly adding to the decor of the room.
During the 1970’s homes were being built with built-in bars with all the amenities. Wet bars anyone? And thus the bar cart became lost in the new modern conveniences offered in the new homes.
However, in recent years the bar cart has made a resurgence! Like most classic items, they fade away for a time, but always come back because they are just that great! The bar cart allows you to always be ready to serve, ready to inspire, and ready to add just a bit of glamour to your home!
Stocking your bar cart is a matter of personal opinion, as each person has their own preference depending upon their personal tastes. But, a few essentials will make serving your guests with classic cocktails a breeze!
Cocktail Recipe Book – This is always to good to have on hand for spur of the moment cocktail requests.
2. Bartender tools set – this is essential when creating tantalizing concoctions!
3. Cocktail Napkins – There are some really cute cocktail napkins available. Some you can even have personalized with your own home bar slogan or name.
4. Mixers and spirits – You should have at least 3 base spirits so you can create a variety of cocktails. You can create hundreds of recipes with Whiskey, Vodka, Tequila, Gin or Rum. Choose your favorites! For those just beginning you can purchase one bottle of aromatic bitters to have on hand.
5. Cocktail Shaker – You’ll want to have a cocktail shaker to properly prepare those drinks that require shaking. Depending on the style you choose for your bar cart you can tailor your cocktail shaker to that look. For instance if you are going for a vintage look you may like to purchase something like the one below:
Or you can find something fabulous and contemporary like this one:
6. Cocktail Glasses – You’ll want to invest in some gorgeous glassware for you new bar cart. As with your cocktail shaker, the direction you take will determine which type of glasses you want to include. Vintage:
Or something more contemporary or modern:
Of course you can always marry vintage with modern and create your own unique look!
7. Swizzle sticks, wine glass charms and other fun accessories – A few unique touches made with inexpensive accessories can go a long way to tying your look together.
Have fun and let me know what your favorite items you like to have for your bar cart.