26 ways to making the most of your summer patio party


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The summer season means bright days and pleasant nights, curled up on the porch or balcony with your latest book, playing ball with the kids or sitting by the pool or at the beach. It also means an opportunity to entertain outdoors and catch up with friends youve missed during the long months of winter hibernation.

In Julys Shop Talk blog, we have searched far and wide to put together our best tips and suggestions for a fun, delicious and memorable patio get-together.

Prepping  Do what you can before the big day so you can enjoy the party too:

  • Some people shun lists but we think putting a plan down on paper or your PC is a must. Start your to-dos at least a week before the big day and have it handy for updates.
  • Email or phone guests midweek to remind them of the upcoming festivities and make sure theyre still coming.
  • Remember to ask them if they have any allergies or dietary restrictions.
  • Mow the lawn, clean up the yard and touch up any peeling paint.
  • Dont have a yard? Then stake out a place at your neighbourhood park.
  • Clean your barbecue grill in advance, and remember to refill the propane tank or buy charcoal.
  • Make sure you have adequate seating, tables and spare bowls and platters for any dishes your guests might bring.
  • Use craft paper or disposable tablecloths to make cleaning up easier, as well as reusable melamine or bamboo plates.
  • Set up as much of the decorations, lights and furniture as possible the day or night before and throw plastic over any items that risk being damaged by unforeseen overnight summer rain.
  • Delegate where you can  its your party but you cant do it all.

Food and Drinks  Make it delicious but make it simple:

  • Create a seasonally appropriate menu  fresh vegetables and fruit and light fare are better than anything heavy or rich.
  • Consider a potluck meal but make sure your bases are covered and have guests commit to a balance of appetizers, entrees and desserts.
  • The day before, prepare frozen pops made with lemonade, sweet tea or juice  its a refreshing welcome snack to offer as your guests arrive.
  • Also the day before, prepare a big bowl of chilled gazpacho, which you can easily ladle into small cups  its delightfully savoury.
  • Set up self-service stations throughout the yard for drinks and appetizers, like dried fruit, olives and nuts. Delegate a family member or friend to make sure stations are replenished when they get low.
  • Pour or spoon out condiments into ramekins or teacups and spread them around the patio  itll save everyone waiting for jars to be passed around.
  • Visit the local farmers market for an assortment of fresh vegetables and fruit to fashion a colourful and completely edible centerpiece.
  • Prepare an assortment of refreshing avocado, humus and tahini dips so guests can nibble on your centrepiece. Want to keep the dips chilled in the summer heat? Simply fill bowls with ice and place the dip bowl inside them.
  • You can never overuse your grill for juicy meats, tasty fish and crunchy veggies.
  • For dessert, serve piping hot pie topped with a selection of ice creams, or create a pyramid of macarons in a variety of fun summer colours.

Ambiance  Create a relaxing and fun environment:

  • Want a theme for your event? Mexican? Beach? Tropical? Mediterranean? A visual theme isnt necessary but it can help tie your entire outdoor space together.
  • Bring out indoor furniture to create an inviting outdoor space — you can even move your dining room table under a shady tree, or position your TV room sofa near a fire pit for a perfect cozy spot when it gets dark.
  • If your event lasts into the night, make sure you have adequate lighting — paper lanterns, tiki torches, hurricane lanterns, LED string lights and jam jars filled with votives are all great ideas. So are small white paper bags filled with heavy candles to keep the bags from blowing over  use them to light a glowing path to your patio.
  • Prepare for unwanted critters — use citronella candles or fill a bowl with natural insect repellent. Electric fans at the edge of your outdoor space will keep mosquitoes away and cool off guests too.
  • Buy a handful of disposable cameras [do they still sell these?], leave them throughout the outdoor space and invite guests to take candid photos that you can print or post online later.
  • Set up outdoor games for the kids and kids at heart  badminton, bocce [link to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bocce] (an Italian ball game), croquet or trivia games are guaranteed favourites.
  • Dont forget the music  choose tunes thats arent too loud or overwhelming, something loungy, fun and upbeat like jazz, salsa or reggae. If you dont have your own playlist, ask a friend or find streaming music options online.

What are your own outdoor entertainment secrets? Please share them with the Shop Talk Blog community  and get ready for super summer fun!

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Did you know?

Ever wonder about the origin of the word barbecue? It derives from the Spanish word barbacoa, which in turn originates from an Arawak native word for framework of sticks  a raised wooden structure used to either sleep on or cure meat. Its modern meaning of an outdoor grill originated in 1931.

(Source: etymonline.com)

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