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Practical, playful ideas for summer entertaining

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BY JENNY HOLMES

Correspondent

From coffee to cocktails, summertime is the best time to invite friends over and enjoy all the area has to offer with warm days and starry nights.

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Why keep up with the Joneses when you can be the Joneses? Check out these practical to playful ideas to keep your summer entertaining hot, from sun up to sun down.

PJ Overvold, owner of ODesign, an event planning company in the Brainerd lakes area, shares her top entertaining tips to make your summer sizzle.

1. Make it a date

Be sure you plan a day that you know is free from other events. Otherwise, you’ll create conflicts for guests. And to make it easy for everyone, check out a few of the fun, and free, electronic invitations at www.evite.com.

2. Set a theme

You don’t need to have a full-blown theme, but it helps to plan around a general idea, like food, a holiday or even a color. Make it a luau with leis and little drink umbrellas. Or, perhaps go with a barbeque theme and accessorize with red-checkered table linens and coordinating napkins.

3. Signature cocktail

Greet your guests with a cocktail when they arrive. This sets the rhythm for what’s to come. Use chalk paint on glass to personalize each guest’s beverage with his or her name. Go vintage with Mason jars as glasses and add a paper straw for color. The sky is the limit and the first impression is key.

4. Music to set the mood

This could be anything! Choose something that will set the mood. It can be as simple as your iPod with speakers. Music relaxes your guests; just be sure it’s not too loud. Visit your favorite electronics store or department to check out the latest in portable, and affordable, speaker options.

5. Décor and more

Keep it simple! Less is certainly more, in most eyes. Remember your theme and work off that. If hosting your gathering outside, consider the weather. Stick to shaded areas if the forecast calls for sunny and warm. Light the night for evening events. Lanterns are a great option and can be strung from trees, placed around the deck, or even lining a walkway or dock section. Citronella candles provide dual purposes. Or, string outdoor lights under an umbrella. You don’t want your guests to think the party ends when the sun goes down.

6. Ensuring a great party

Bar none: Set up an area that is visible and easy to access. Stock it with drinks you know your invited guests will like. If you start with a signature drink, switch to a beer and wine bar. Don’t forget to offer non-alcoholic options, as well. Coffee and tea choices for later are always a hit with the ladies. Bring out your Keurig coffeemaker and set it up at the bar with a basket of assorted K-Cups. Voila!

7. Foodies rejoice

Appetizers are a must if you’re planning to eat later in the evening. Keeping snack foods placed at tables around areas where guests mingle is all you need. Don’t worry about bringing out the kitchen so you look like Martha Stewart. Remember, less is more.

Now the dinner: Serve something you can make ahead of time. You want to be a part of the evening, too. Have the grill set up near the party. Men love to gather around the grill for a beer or two and bond over sizzling T-bones.

Provide three salad choices, bread and the main entree to build off from. You can add the bonus items, including fruit and vegetables as you like. And, of course, condiments. Dessert? Yes! Who doesn’t love a sweet ending?

8. Setting the scene

and table

This greatly depends on the number of expected guests. Depending on whether you’re looking at five or 50-plus, this makes a huge difference in how you will serve. Take your number of guests and decide whether you want to have a sit down dinner or buffet. Casual is this summer’s style.

Bright colors are very much a staple for summer. Go with two colors and build off them, from napkins and linens to flowers and candles. Doing this will help you pull it all together. Don’t be afraid to look on Pinterest for some great ideas.

9. All for fun: activities

You might want to plan a few activities, depending on your party. Yard games are always fun: croquet, putting contest, ladder golf. Again, work around your guest list and style. Boat rides are fun for those who have lake access and can be done before or after the main meal is served.

And, of course, who doesn’t love to sit around a roaring fire under the stars and tell stories?

10. Bottom line

The bottom line for summer entertaining? Simple and relaxed! Have fun with your guests, and make it fun for you, too!

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