(BPT) - The sweet days of summer signal a long awaited transition for outdoor living. Combine food, family and friends with fresh ideas, and the possibilities for summer entertaining are endless.
'There is something so magical about taking a meal outside in the warm weather,' says designer Julie Robbins. 'Sip tea from a porcelain cup in the late afternoon sun. Bring out vintage grill plates for a barbecue at the beach. Dine under the stars with lanterns and fireflies. Savor the season, because the memories will last far longer than the summer.'
Robbins leads design and entertaining seminars at Replacements, Ltd., the world's largest retailer of old and new china, crystal, silver and collectibles. She offers many ideas to make the summer memorable:
Don't sweat the ants
Whether a big bash in the park or a quilt spread under your favorite backyard tree, picnics are hugely popular this summer.
'These moments are too precious for paper plates,' Robbins says. 'When possible, opt for fine or casual dinnerware over disposable plates and cups. It's better for the environment and elevates your event from everyday to unforgettable.'
Robbins suggests mixing glass plates in fun summer colors with your dinnerware to create seasonal flair. If you're hesitant to use your dinnerware because you're worried about breaking a plate or glass, use fast food drink caddies to pack your glasses and layer cloth napkins between plates. Place a newspaper at the bottom of your basket or tote for added cushion; Robbins says you can then wrap your dirty dishes in newspaper for the ride home. This will protect your basket or tote from food residue and preserve your table settings for your next event. Another great tip, use a glass out of your cabinet to transport and hold utensils. Robbins also suggests placing cupcake liners over glasses then punching a hole in the liner and inserting a drinking straw to keep ants and other insects from getting into beverages.
Planning a tapas-like gathering filled with finger foods, appetizers and snacks lends itself to your backyard or patio and is a great event for mingling.
'Canapé plates, dip bowls and cheese trays are perfect for this type of entertaining,' says Replacements' Product Marketing Manager Keith Winkler. 'These pieces are not only stackable, they're small enough that your guests can easily carry them around. Additionally, stemless wine glasses are perfect for outdoor gatherings because you set them down almost any place and they won't tip over. You can find some really fun stemless wines made by Waterford and Riedel. Glass beverage dispensers are also very popular for summer entertaining. With these, you can mix up lemonade, sangria or create your own signature drink that guests can serve themselves. Godinger offers some really trendy beverage dispensers, while Homer Laughlin is producing them in fun Fiesta colors.'
A hot design tip this summer, head to the salvage store and buy an inexpensive old door you can paint and prop on saw horses to use as an outdoor table. This not only creates a fun look, but it's a great conversation starter at gatherings.
Fabulous al fresco
Regardless of whether you're planning a casual cookout or a more formal alfresco meal, trends show more of us plan to entertain outdoors this summer. Robbins suggests using serving pieces that are both fun and functional.
'Alternative metal serving pieces are perfect for a picnic or patio because they're nearly indestructible,' says Robbins. 'These serving pieces can be warmed or chilled to help maintain the temperature of your foods. Manufacturers like Lenox, Arthur Court and Wilton Armetale offer seasonal shapes and pieces.'
As an added touch to summer gatherings, Robbins suggests finding new uses for your dinnerware, like using iced tea or ice cream glasses to create small floral arrangements or filling pitchers or compotes with flowers from your garden to use as centerpieces. For more summer entertaining tips and ideas, visit Replacements' Facebook page.