Entertaining Ideas for the
End-of-Summer Bash

As the lazy days of summer begin to come to an end, it’s time to plan for the end-of-summer bash. Here are a few of our favorite decorations and accessories for the occasion.

LanternsFestive Lighting

Lanterns add character, ambiance and illumination to outdoor living spaces. These lanterns from Restoration Hardware can either be placed on a flat surface or hung from tree limbs or porch rafters. For safety reasons, consider choosing flameless candles for your lanterns. Just remember not to leave flameless candles where rain can get to them and destroy the electronics.

Outdoor FanKeeping it Cool

This remote controlled oscillating fan provides both an attractive accent piece and additional comfort to summer outdoor living. Built-in lighting enhances the comfort for evening gatherings. The space-saving tower design and quiet motor allows for optimal placement near sitting areas. In addition to cooling things down, the air movement also helps keep bugs away from your party guests.

Mobile Brick OvenNow, That’s Hot!

Turn your outdoor space into a gourmet outdoor kitchen with this powerful, yet economical, brick oven. Available in either domed or pyramid styles in either bronze or silver vein, the mobile version of Belgard’s brick oven offers the flavor of wood-fired cooking with a small footprint and is available in classic wood-burning and hybrid wood/gas models. The movable cart allows you reposition your outdoor kitchen to suit your party’s needs.

Yummy Goodness

Nothing ensures the success of a party like simple and tasty appetizers. This cast iron cheese baking dish from Crate & Barrel allows you to bake brie and other cheeses on the grill, where they can be infused with smoke to add additional flavor. The heavy duty two-piece baker can also accommodate savory or sweet sauces to enhance the decadence.

Teardrop Beverage ContainerElegant Refreshments

What makes a party festive? Why festive drinks, of course. This teardrop shaped beverage dispenser with solid wood pine lid provides an elegant container for your party cocktails and brings distinguished formal beauty to your outdoor space. For ideas on how to fill this 2.5 gallon container with festive liquid refreshment, check out our crisp summer cocktail blog.

Eye-Catching Accessories

If you’re looking for a unique way to serve hors d’oeuvres or dinner rolls, then look no further. This playful ocean-themed Pottery Barn bowl attaches to any patio umbrella pole to provide a serving spot for either a bowl or loose rolls without taking up counter or table space.

Time to Enjoy Your Pool!

Where does your mind go when thinking about summer? Maybe you imagine relaxing on the beach or taking a trip to the nearest water park. Something about spending time outside in the water and sun just screams, “It’s summer!” However, thoughts of beaches and water parks also scream, “Time and money!!” This summer, try using a more convenient method for soaking up rays and hanging out in the water. The idea is very simple: put on your favorite bathing suit and then walk right into your backyard. Remember that giant and expensive hole in your yard that you filled with a large amount of water? Believe it or not, it’s not just a lovely water feature. You’re allowed to use it! Here’s the best part: you can use it whenever you want! Here are a few ideas to help you get the most from your pool this summer.

GAMES FOR THE KIDS

Most kids enjoy playing “Marco Polo” or “Sharks and Minnows” in the pool. While that’s all well and good, how about trying a few different games with the kids this summer. Just remember that all games should be supervised by an adult.

PingPongPing Pong Scramble: This is almost like the pool version of hungry hungry hippos. Have the kids form a large circle and then dump a container of ping balls in the middle of the circle. Kids can use socks, party cups, or even plastic bags to collect the balls. The player with the most balls wins.

WatermelonWatermelon Relay: You may not know this, but watermelons float. Split the group into relay teams. Have each contestant swim across the pool pushing a watermelon, handing it off to the next person in line. The team who finishes first wins. And when the game is over, carve up the “game balls” for a tasty poolside treat!

PaperBoatPaper Boat Races: Making a paper boat is simple, but if you don’t remember how, there are many instructional videos on YouTube. To stretch the time, you can first have the kids decorate their pieces of paper with crayons before folding the paper into boats. Once the boats are built, turn the pool pump on to create a current for racing the boats around the pool. For added fun, kids can create “wind” by blowing on the boats, or they can use their hands to create “waves” to propel the boats. Just remember that if the boats get too wet, they will sink or fall apart. But that’s ok, just make some more for the next race!

FUN WITH FAMILY & FRIENDS

VolleyballWater Volleyball: This activity is usually reserved for larger families or several guests who don’t mind getting a little physical. Pool nets and a volleyball are a relatively inexpensive purchase, and the setup is easy. Just pick your teams and try not to swallow too much water when grandma accidentally takes you out while diving for a loose ball. If you want to get really into it, and have the right amount of people for it, set up a tournament and go out and buy a cheap trophy to give to the winning team. This can easily become your next family or group tradition.

Cocktail CaddyFloating Cocktail Party (21+):  When the kids are away, the adults will play. Invite some friends over for an afternoon or evening of relaxing adult-filled activities. Open a nice bottle of wine, try that new martini recipe you found the other day, or simply bust out a few beers. Most importantly, do it from the comfort of your pool, floating on your favorite flotation device. You can even purchase a floating ice chest or cocktail caddy for your bar-tending convenience. For ambiance at evening gatherings, add some floating lights. For safety reasons, make sure to use only shatterproof glasses while around or in the pool.

Pool lights

Product Highlight:
Permeable Pavers

One of the fastest growing trends in outdoor living, permeable pavers are an attractive way to improve drainage, recycle water, and help the environment. Built over a gradient bed of gravel, permeable pavers allow water to percolate down into the ground below, which not only reduces the amount of stormwater runoff, but cleans the water of pollutants in the process. A permeable pavement system can also be constructed to include a water harvesting system to recycle water for irrigation or other uses. Belgard offers a full line of permeable pavers ideal for a variety of outdoor living designs.

Eco Dublin®: With the smooth face of cut stone, Eco Dublin is a three-piece modular paver that supports both foot and vehicular traffic and adds a modular contemporary flair to outdoor living designs.

Subterra®Stone: Subterra Stone might very well be the most attractive, natural-looking permeable paver on the market. Featuring a false joint structure and a textured face, it offers the elegant look of chiseled stone and is ideal for homeowners who desire environmental stewardship without compromising beauty and style.

Aqua-Roc™: Offering the classic look of brick pavers, Aqua-Roc can be laid in a running bond, basket-weave, or herringbone patterns to create attractive and durable driveways, walkways, patios and poolscapes.

Aqua-Bric®: Aqua-Bric incorporates a notched edge to offer a modern twist on the classic brick paver. This versatile paver can be used for numerous applications and complements any architectural style.

Turfstone®:  Turfstone’s eco-friendly design reduces run-off and allows greenery to grow right through it, creating a highly unique hardscape design that works in harmony with nature and helps control and stabilize soil erosion.

Turfstone

Outdoor Kitchen Trends

Belgard Hardscapes - GMS

The popularity of the outdoor kitchen is undeniable. In many areas of the country, kitchens are becoming a standard element of the home design in new construction, particularly in median level homes and above, and can range from a simple built-in grill to full-scale gourmet kitchens that rival in quality and scale to the indoor kitchen. In fact, it’s not unusual in today’s outdoor living culture to spend more money on the construction of the outdoor kitchen than the indoor kitchen, considering that all of the building materials and appliances need to be sturdy enough to survive outdoor conditions, including moisture, harsh sunlight, and a wide range of critters.

In the continued evolution of this developing phenomenon, here are a few of today’s hottest outdoor kitchen trends:

Cooking SurfacesMultiple Cooking Surfaces

Outdoor entertaining is optimal for large groups because the very nature of the open setting allows for large numbers of people to gather without feeling crowded. However, entertaining large groups requires large amounts of food, which makes multiple cooking surfaces a must. Options can include both charcoal and gas grills, standard cooking burners, fryer burners, brick ovens, and even standard ovens. Many don’t consider including a brick oven due to the mistaken belief that brick ovens are only useful for cooking bread or pizza, however brick oven owners know that anything can be cooked in a brick oven that can be cooked in a standard oven. For brick oven recipe ideas, click here.

imageCreate Functional Zones

Outdoor kitchens with different functional zones allow for multiple cooking, prep, and entertaining activities to occur simultaneously. Today’s outdoor kitchens incorporate lots of counter space for food prep and serving, in addition to extra counter space for creating a communal environment so that the guests can visit with the hosts during food prep and cooking. One popular trend is to incorporate a multi-level counter top, with one level functioning as the prep area, and the higher level functioning as the serving surface or bar area.

imageLight the Way

In any kitchen, proper lighting is key to functionality. However, the modern outdoor kitchen needs to function as both a kitchen and an entertainment space. Popular lighting options include outdoor rated pendants, uplighting into the rafters, and under cabinet lights. Installing dimmer switches allows for brighter lighting during cooking and lower ambient light when the cooking is done. Also, low voltage lights installed directly onto the exterior of the cabinetry is a popular way to provide additional ambiance. Other trending lighting options include nearby fire features like outdoor fireplaces, fire pits, and fire tables. For other outdoor lighting ideas, click here.

imageCreature Comforts

The modern family is accustomed to being constantly plugged in. Naturally, this trend has moved outdoors. The trendy outdoor kitchen is fully equipped with all of the comforts of the home’s interior, including comfortable furniture, outdoor rated audio speakers, televisions, fans, gas heaters, wi-fi, and retractable solar screens for shielding guest during sunnier times of day. Specialty outdoor appliances are also rising in popularity, like kegerators, wine refrigerators, and bar style roll-top beverage coolers.

Father’s Day Gourmet BBQ Ideas

It’s that time of year again where we set aside a day to say, “Thank you,” to that hard working man in our lives: Dad. The only problem with Father’s Day is that many of our fathers are humble guys who often say that they don’t want anything special. This year, tell Dad “Tough luck,” and do something special for him anyway. Here are a few ideas you can do for the “old man” this Father’s Day that will surely bring a smile to his face.

oh-onion-blue-cheese-mini-burgers-x

Gourmet burgers topped with caramelized onions, blue cheese mayo, tomato, and arugula. (Photo credit: Oxmoor House, Time Inc.)

Gourmet Burger Bar

Sure, Pop probably barbeques burgers regularly. However, ketchup, mustard, lettuce and tomato can get boring. This Father’s Day, stock up on new ingredients to add to your burgers and setup a gourmet burger bar. Here is a quick list of items to get you started. Don’t be afraid to experiment with other toppings that are not listed here. The idea is to just try something new.

Have fun experimenting with any sort of possible topping. Examples included avocados, over-easy style eggs, sprouts, various greens, caramelized onions and mushrooms, and literally any pepper that comes to mind. While the grill is hot, try grilling some fruit toppings, like pineapple or peaches.

Next up, the cheese layer. Sure, you’ll need standards like American, cheddar, and swiss, but don’t be afraid to mix it up a little with something like pepper jack, gouda, havarti, blue cheese, and goat cheese.

Then the coup-de-grace, the sauces. Here’s where you really get to have a little fun. Options include wasabi mayo, humus, honey mustard, Boursin sauce, garlic aioli, and (don’t laugh until you’ve tried it) peanut butter and jelly.

And, what shall all of these delicious toppings rest upon? Try different types of buns: onion, poppy seed, rosemary focaccia, or brioche would all be excellent options. Check out your local gourmet grocery or bakery for more ideas. The point is to try something different. Dad may find his new favorite burger after all is said and done.

Bacon-wrapped stuffed peppers, ready for the grill. (Photo credit: Photo: William Dickey; Styling: Lisa Powell Bailey - Time Inc.)

Bacon-wrapped stuffed peppers, ready for the grill. (Photo: William Dickey; Styling: Lisa Powell Bailey – Time Inc.)

On the Side, Dad Style

Whether we like it or not, most dads are starch fans, so be prepared to starch it up with some dad-friendly side items. Dishes like potato salad, baked macaroni, and loaded baked potatoes come to mind. But, you can also get dad to step outside of his norm a bit by adding some grilled vegetables to the table. One idea is to stuff peppers with gourmet cheeses from your burger bar and grill them. To make it a little more dad-friendly, you can always add bacon. For other grilled fruit and veggie ideas, check out our “Garden to Grill Ideas” blog.

Microbrew Tasting

What is simpler than burgers and beer? Both cooking burgers and drinking beers are two of the favorite pastimes for many American men. While your father may have his beer of choice, most likely something he learned to love in college, it may be time to broaden his horizons.

Make it festive and set up a microbrew tasting table. Visit your local specialty liquor store and get a variety of samples from around the country. Many specialty stores will have a wide variety of single beers for sale or will allow you to break a six-pack for the purpose of doing a sampling. If not, plan ahead and order from an online distributor. It also will be helpful if you have small drinking glasses or shot glasses at your BBQ for beer sampling.

Beer tasting

Old Fashioned Mother’s Day Backyard Picnic

Summer Vacation Picnic SceneMother’s Day is fast approaching and families are trying to find the perfect way to say “Thank You” to Mom. What better way to do that than an old-fashioned picnic? You don’t even need to go anywhere to do it. Simply grab your picnic basket and head to the backyard. This is a super easy and endearing way to show your appreciation for that one woman who has always been there for you. Unsure of what to pack in your basket? Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Her Favorite Things

Keep it simple. Think finger foods. Possibilities include tea sandwiches, antipasto plates, or whatever quick meal you know your mom will enjoy. This shouldn’t be hard; after all, think of all the times you came home from school and had a homemade snack from Mom waiting for you. Does your mom have a strong affinity for Chinese food? If so, go to the nearest Chinese restaurant and grab some of her favorites, like egg rolls or potstickers. Maybe she’s more into salads. Salads are quick and painless to make, and even quicker to find ready-made at your local health foods store. The point is that you will be spending a special afternoon with your mother.

Fun and Games

Pack a fun little game with you, such as a deck of cards or a travel-sized chess board. If your mother enjoys being active, plan on some fun yard games like badminton, croquet, or cornhole toss. These activities will be especially fun if you and your mom love to compete with each other, and they work well for both intimate and large gatherings. When in doubt, pick any fun activity that your mom loves to do and bring the necessary materials.

Special Jams

Are you a musician? Bring a guitar with you and play some songs for your mom. Maybe even write her a song. Any mother who says she wouldn’t like a song made just for her is either extremely humble or a liar, or both. Not musically inclined? That’s fine, too. Make a playlist with some of your mom’s favorite tunes and play them on a portable speaker.

Treasured Memories

No matter how you decide to plan your picnic, make it something that your mom will always remember. You should know your mother better than most people. Make it a unique experience for her. Fill it with items that you know your mother enjoys. Also, don’t forget to pack chocolate and flowers. But, that should go without saying.