When you grow up in Michigan and wait months for warm weather, you learn to appreciate so much, a meal out of doors.  Yes, it can be a hassle to take everything outside, but when you are sitting there on a nice summer night, enjoying the tastes and sounds of summer in your own backyard, at a park or on a beach, it’s pretty nice.  When our kids were young, I looked for every opportunity to get them outside for exercise and fresh air.  We’d do picnics  on a quilt, dinner on the patio and sometimes even breakfast on the patio.  They loved it.  If you’re grilling, it’s even easier, the food goes from the grill to the table.  If you are making something inside, just have yourself an easy way to transfer everything.  Well, that’s what today’s post is about, how to make Outdoor Entertaining easy and if it’s easy, you’ll have more fun and do it more  often.  Here we go…

A nicely swept front porch is always ready for guests.

Start With A List - Everything starts with a list. At the beginning of the season, it’s usually the list to get the yard in order for the season.  Let’s start there.  Have your patio in order so you can plan to entertain, even last minute.  Keep your patio in good shape by sweeping occasionally, trimming plants so everyday can be a good day and ready for friends and family to stop over.  Keep the front porch looking good by sweeping  so it looks pleasant as your guests arrive.  Let your landscape company know if you are having a large gathering so mowers won’t be cutting grass while your people arrive. If there are any repairs to do, try to do them early on in the season so you can enjoy your efforts the entire summer.

If tables aren't available, a quilt is always an option for a picnic or any outdoor meal. Here children from one of my previous summer classes enjoy corn on the cob, hot dogs and watermelon for lunch outdoors.

Plan Your Menu -  Decide on the fare for your gathering.  Will you grill, will you make hearty salads in advance?  Will you enlist friends to bring dishes?  I think there is nothing wrong with having guests bring something to contribute.  Sometimes I like to do it myself, and sometimes, I like to prepare the main entree’ and have guests bring side dishes and dessert.   Most guests are glad to contribute when they receive and invitation, just communicate what you would like them to bring and be specific so you know what to expect and also so you won’t have duplicates, unless you are planning on it.  My RECIPES Page has many great ideas.  Just a bout a month ago for Memorial Day, I posted some of my warm weather favorite foods.  Grilling is a nice option, however, you need to determine who will be cooking and if you want to be cooking while your guests are there.  I have grilled Lemon Chicken on the grill before the guest arrived and served at room temperature.  We were celebrating a high school graduation with Family and I did not want to be grilling while guests were there for a bit of a dressy occasion.  Had it been a picnic, I would have had no problem with that, though.  We used to have a big summer party with very hearty salads.  Everything was made in advance so that I could have fun.  Room temperature food is fine for most items and many people do this now.  The most important thing in planning your menu is to keep things simple.  Remember, the food is secondary to those you are serving.  People are happy to get an invitation.  Simple food with simple ingredients is a good bet and you will be more at ease.  Ice Cream Bars are a good  dessert for outdoors.  No dishes required, napkins and disposal is easy. Cookies are also a good choice.

Lobster Rolls are a nice meal on a summer evening, sderved here with corn on the cob and watermelon, summer staple side dishes.

Beverages - Will you serve alcohol? Glasses, cans, bottles.  If you have a pool, I would say no glass.  Really, any glass bottles outdoors would require glass cleanup if a bottle breaks so for outdoors, you may just want cans and plastic bottles. Again, the “keep it easy thing.” Cans and plastic bottles means you don’t need a bottle opener.  Consider wine un a box with clear plastic cups.  Decide if you will have coolers of cans or will you have someone serving, like a bar tender?  If serving alcohol, have plenty of little bottles of water on hand in the cooler as well.  I like the little bottles because there is less waste.  Most people won’t drink a  whole 16.8 ounce bottle of water, but a smaller one is less likely to be wasted. Do you want guests to drink out of cans or will you have cups close at hand?

If eating outdoors, I still like the serving table indoors.

Serving, ETC. - Where will you serve food?  I like keeping the serving table indoors for cleanliness and keeping bugs away.  A kitchen table is usually a good choice (or which ever room is closest to the patio door/exit.  I like plates at the beginning of the buffet of course and leave the flatware and napkins at the end so that guests do not have to juggle utensils and try to serve food on their plate.  A gal from high school who caters, Joan Melnick gave me that tip for an Engagement Party.  I like paper products for a large crowd that’s casual, however, you are the host/hostess and you get to make that  decision.  For a dress up gathering, I like dishes but when you are in charge, YOU get to decide and what ever you choose, it the right option, just make things easy on yourself.  Maybe you can hire some high school kids to help out and load your dishwasher.  Either way, hiring some help for a large event is a great idea.  If you do, meet with them in advance to discuss payment, method, and a clear list of tasks expected to be done and when they are to leave, a specific time or when the job is done.  As with anything else, good communication means that you are happy for your event and that your help has a clear idea of your expectations.  I like to draw up a contract so that everything is spelled out. Citronella candles or some type of flame is nice for repelling bugs away.  Lights outdoors are nice.  Have adequate  receptacles for trash and make sure that you have a plan for rain and should there be a weather emergency.  Music.  Have your playlist or music station set to music for the event.  If using cordless Bluetooth speakers, make sure they are charged.  I like simple flowers on the tables.  use low vases so that guests can see across the table.   Larger vases or flowers are ok for the serving table thought.  Make sure that you have a bathroom and have a plan to refresh with towels and TP.  I usually have this on the list for my helpers.  They know that they are to empty garbage can, wipe down sink, faucet, door nobs, toilet seat, and replace towels or makes sure there are enough paper towels.  If playing music, be mindful of volume and neighbors if your gathering goes late.  If you will be lighting off fireworks, makes sure you have addressed any appropriate approval necessary (HOA, or government municipality) and let your neighbors  know so that they can plan for  for their pets or children in the event that they may be alarmed or frightened.  You don’t want any unexpected drama showing up at your place.   Have your clothes in order so that you know what you are wearing.  Make sure to have time to get yourself ready so that you are able to have fun and at the end of the day be able to say, “It was a Great Day 🌼