I really enjoy entertaining during the summer months. There’s something special about sitting outside when the weather is balmy, enjoying something nice and cold. When it came to designing our garden, it was super important to us that we created a great space for entertaining. Unfortunately we only got to use the garden for entertaining once before we jetted off to our new life in India. Now, we’re lucky enough to be able to entertain outside pretty much 365 days a year. It’s just those pesky mosquitoes stopping us! So, lovely readers, you heard it here first, I’m vowing to entertain outside more. In fact, I’m hot footing it into town now to buy some storm lanterns that I’ve had my eye on!
Here are some ideas and suggestions on entertaining outside and some things I’ll definitely be trying out.
There are a few things to consider when entertaining, whether entertaining inside or out, but the first thing you should consider is the atmosphere that you’re looking to create. With this in mind, you can turn your attention to the following:
Setting the scene is so important. Think, linen napkins and tablecloths, fresh flowers in an array of different size jam jars, vases and mason jars will look fabulous. Carafes of water with fruit/herb ice cubes will add a new dimension to just plain old water. A bowl with lemons and limes piled high provides a great centrepiece. Tea lights and hurricane lamps on the table will create a cosy environment when night falls. Oh, and how about a lovely glass dish with some floating candles?
Ensure that there are plenty of seats for everybody to take a pew. If you don’t have enough, then borrow from your friends and neighbours. Take the inside out if you can! Large scatter cushions look great and will help create a relaxed environment. Dot around small tables for people to place their glasses and plates on.
Lighting has the ability to set the mood of a party. Soft, glowing candles in storm lanterns, strategically placed around the garden will look very chic. Tea light holders hanging from branches and lantern crooks, together with an array of storm lanterns will truly light-up your evening. Think about putting two storm lanterns either side of your front door and some hurricane lamps leading the way along any paths. Twinkling lights in trees and bushes will add instant warmth and ambience to your party. My friend Alice, is a dab hand at this!
Make your life easier by opting for seasonal, simple dishes. Think salads, antipasto, dips – easy to prepare and easy to serve. If you’re thinking of serving pudding, then how about a bowl of fresh strawberries with cream or ice cream? And talking about ice cream, maybe make pudding an ice cream bar, where people can make their own sundaes.
Summer is all about fresh flavours, so try to offer a few drinks that utilise ingredients typically available during the summer months. Frozen cocktails always go down a storm too. Ensure any wine and beer you’re planning on serving is icy cold. Make drinks look pretty and inviting. And don’t forget about your non-drinkers. Create some interesting and different soft drinks, instead of the usual fare of juices and fizzy drinks. Homemade ginger beer or a lime, cucumber & mint cooler would be delicious on a warm summer’s day or evening.
And finally, music. Music can make or break a party, so make sure you give it careful consideration. We tend to create playlists in iTunes and then hook our iPod up to either the speakers or in the docking station, so we’re not having to faff about changing CDs. Background music is what you’re looking for, with maybe something more uptempo as the evening progresses.
Domestic Princess tips
- Prepare as much as you can in advance before your guests arrive. That way, you’ll only have finishing touches to do on the day.
- Offer guests a drink as soon as they arrive. If you have a group of people who don’t all know each other, this is a great icebreaker.
- To quickly chill wine, wet a tea towel, wrap it around the bottle and pop it in the freezer for 15 minutes. Set a timer to make sure you take don’t forget to take it out!
- If you want to make a visual impact, cluster lots of candles together in different areas of the garden.
- Have a bowl of mosquito cream available for guests to apply once witching hour hits. Also, don’t forget to light citronella candles to help deter the pesky mites away!
- Make sure you have ice, ice and more ice!
- If hanging candles from trees, make sure that they’re in deep containers, so that the wicks are a good few inches lower than the rims. If you’re worried about naked flames, invest in battery-operated candles – there are some great authentic ones available these days. Solar lights are another good option too.
- If serving dips, place the bowl of dip, especially if dairy, in an iced bowl of water. This will help keep it chilled.
- When entertaining outside, treat your outside space as an integral part of your home. This was our aim when we designed our garden; we wanted the garden to feel like an extension of the kitchen.
- Have sun cream on hand and some blankets for guests to use if it gets a bit chilly.
- More than anything else relax and have fun! If your guests see you having fun, then they will too!
With much love