I write this today as I sit outside on our side porch in a comfy chair with my dog on my lap and the birds chirping in the background. Sounds idyllic, right? Funny, though this idyllic porch setting is always here waiting for me, too often I pass it up to sit at my desk to pound away at the daily grind. I find that the change of scenery somehow lightens my work load and makes me feel more creative. The same principle can be applied to entertaining in your home. Think outside the dining room box for your next gathering. Hosting your friends and family outdoors is an opportunity to entertain them in a casual, light-hearted that will help everyone have a great time.
Make it Comfy & Cozy
Your outdoors space should be comfortable for your guests to relax and enjoy themselves. I like to fill our patio furniture with extra pillows from our living room sofa to make them inviting. A fire pit is a "surefire" way to make guests cozy and to encourage them to stay and relax. I also keep baskets filled with blankets handy so my friends can keep themselves comfy if the evening gets chilly.
Turn on the Charm
When you are entertaining outdoors, you have a blank slate. You can set the scene however you'd like! Try setting a table underneath a big tree in your back yard instead - your guests will feel transported!
Light at Heart
By stringing lights in a tree or over your patio you can create an instant romantic bistro setting. Don't forget candlelight. I like to use clear glass jars or bowls filled with sea salt to hold the candles. Line them up all the way down the table. The sea salt seems to glow as the candles melt. You can watch this video to see me demonstrate my favorite easy centerpieces.
Keep Bugs at Bay
Bugs can breakup a party in no time, so it is great to be prepared. When I was a caterer, I always set up a basket full of bug sprays and wipes available for the guests - it is still something that I do for my own parties at home now.
We're Never too Old for S'mores
If you don't have a fire pit, you can still bring that classic feeling of an old-fashioned bonfire party by serving oven-broiled Mini S'mores. These are always so popular at my parties because they are bite-sized and are not messy at all! Here is the recipe and a link to a step-by-step video tutorial that includes making these s'mores and some of my other favorite easy desserts.
Easy Oven S'mores
Cut the graham crackers into 1-inch squares (basically, 1 graham cut into 8ths). Use a serrated bread knife to cut - it makes it very easy without too much damage. Cut small pieces of chocolate to fit on top of the graham pieces. Line them up on a baking sheet. Just cut a marshmallow into thirds with a hot, wet serrated knife and place them on top of the chocolate. Put them in the oven under the broiler for 30-45 seconds. Depending on your oven... watch them carefully, they will burn very quickly!