One of my favorite parts of summer is eating and entertaining outdoors. I don't know why taking food outside makes it taste better. It's one of life's great mysteries. It's my adult version of camping out in the living room. (Remember how any activity was more fun when done in a fort made of old sheets). This summer I'm looking forward to many laid back evenings on the porch (Yes hello, Mother Nature, that means you need to knock it off with all these crazy east coast storms and humidity, please). Here are some summer entertaining tips I've been collecting:
1) Trees are not required for pretty lights. A paper lantern and a string tied to anything you've got...or a stick if you've got nothin'... is a fast way to festive. (I like these inexpensive lanterns from World Market).
2) Outdoor entertaining can be for 1 (or 2). Don't wait to have a full blown BBQ with every friend and family member you know. Light a candle, carry your dinner plate outside and see how fast your day melts away. (I know what I said in tip #1, but if you have a spot to string lights...then go big, it will be one hour worth of decorating that will last you all summer).
3) No outdoor dinnerware, no problem! Look around and be creative. Necessity is the soul of inspiration. I guarantee that people will leave talking about your (free!) picked from the tree coasters more than they would any fancy "outdoor entertaining" ones you bought from the store.
4) Remember to windproof. Nothing is fun about your table/decorations blowing over in your lap. I love the genius idea of combing flowers and candles into one piece. Weighting table linens can also be done with a button attached to the corner to hang something with a little weight off of, or incorporating some heavy shells or rocks along the table setting.
5) Utilitarian decor looks great outside. Tiles running down a table are function, and pretty. Eating outside erases some of the table setting conceptions that people have so why not break the box all together. Things that would look funny in your dining room, will look great in the garden.
6) Stretch your space. For many people they have more room outside than confined in their dining room or kitchen. So spread things out to encourage people to stroll around a bit. Put the bar at the farthest point of the space, because I promise, everyone will go over there anyway. And make it self-serve so you can set it and forget it.
All images via Ms. Stewart