Simple Summer Entertaining

It's that time of year again!  I must say, I am not effected by the weather too much, however, I am beyond ready for the sun.  Bring it on.

Since it is a little overcast today, I thought I would get into the "all things sunny" mood; to me, that only means one thing:  parties.

I am an unashamed, unapologetic party animal.  I am going to share all that I have learned so that you can throw a party that will make you the envy of all your friends.

I really like the idea of easy and simple and I think this should be the main objective when throwing a grad party, a baby shower, a back yard barbecue or even just a small get together with friends.

I think there are three main components to a successful party: 1) food; 2) presentation of food and 3) ambiance (fancy word for decorations).

1)  Food:  Make food simple, easy and rustic.  Don't worry about having everything assembled and put together.  I love a table that is organic and I love lots of different flavors and colors on a table. For example, think about putting a large bowl of pulled pork (email me for recipe and I will be happy to send it) in the middle of the table and place several different simple fresh salads around it.  Serve it with tortilla chips or taco shells and fresh lime wedges; or a large platter of bison burgers with bacon and blue cheese with two kinds of bread and fresh fruit.  Serve large pitchers of homemade lemonade (spiked or not), make some fresh and light sun tea*.

2) Food Service:  I was out and about a couple of days ago and I was amazed with the selection of acrylic serving ware.  The Bay, Canadian Tire and Bed Bath and Beyond have a great selection.  Think about fresh patterns that can be mixed and matched.  Match bold linens with other bold linens.  Head over to Fabricland and buy a couple large pieces of fabric, tuck the rough edges in and use as a table covering or table runner.  Dress up the table with pots of fresh herbs or flowers. Also, throw a little texture on the table by layering a large wood or hemp placemat under a potted plant or candle arrangement.  Use inexpensive mason jars to hold long veggie sticks (carrots, zucchini, celery, etc.).

3)  Ambiance:  I love fire (don't worry, I have it under control).  Think about purchasing some inexpensive bamboo torches and place them around the outside space or think about using an outdoor fireplace with an arrangement of seats surrounding it or place sand in the bottom of mason jars and place a candle inside.  Music is a must.  Get a great play list together on your ipod and pipe it around your gathering area.  Or, think live music.  The area high schools have jazz ensembles that will come to your house and play live music.  I have used a jazz quartet from Lindsay Thurber and they were fantastic and comparatively inexpensive.

So many times, when we are planning these events, we get very stressed and sometimes too busy with details to really enjoy our party.  That should be a crime.  Prepare as much food as you can in advance (pulled pork can be cooked in the oven or a crock pot overnight), salads and dressings can be assembled separately and mixed together at the last minute.  Prepare a couple kinds of cookies or lemon squares one to two days in advance and pull them out when you are ready.

I hope these tips have helped and I will be waiting for the invite!

*Place 6 - 8 tea bags or the equivalent of loose tea (cherry blossom is wonderful or green tea and mint)  in about 15 cups of water.  Cover with plastic wrap and set in the direct sun for the day (about 5 - 6 hours).  Sweeten if desired with honey, maple syrup, agave or raw sugar.  This tea is best used within two days.