Ready, Prepped, Go! Getting Ready For Outdoor Entertaining Tips

It’s that time of year again to get the summer party started. Outdoor areas dressed out for backyard grilling and chilling take center stage this time of year.

Are you ready for spending quality time in the backyard on the patio, porch, courtyard, or deck entertaining and enjoying the summer?

I know I am!

vintage backyard bbq

Here’s a few outdoor entertaining tips for getting the summer essentials prepped and ready to go.

summer entertaining tips

Butcher Blocks and Cutting Boards

To deter bacteria from finding a home in the cracks and on the cutting surface, wash the block or board with mild dishwashing detergent and warm water.  Allow the butcher block or cutting board to completely dry. Cover the butcher block or cutting board with a thin layer of coarse salt to draw residual moisture out of the cracks. Wipe of excess coarse salt and use a clean cloth to apply mineral oil, rubbing with the grain.  Let dry overnight.

grain prep board

Searching for an easy and inexpensive grill degreaser?  Try baking soda and a steel wool pad.  Apply elbow grease and voilà!

Keeping Outdoor Cushions Neat and Clean 

Keep the comfort and color, lose the mold, mildew, and dirt with a solution of 2 teaspoons borax, 2 teaspoons dishwashing liquid, and 2 quarts warm water.  Mix and pour solution in spray bottle. Liberally spray each cushion down with solution and allow to sit for 15 – 20 minutes. Hose off cushions with water hose and hang from clothes line or stand up to dry.

outdoor chair cushion


Flavored Ice Cubes 

The heat and humidity will melt those ice cubes soon enough, but with flavored ice cubes watered down beverages retain their deliciousness. This is so simple- fill ice trays 3/4 full with the beverage of choice and freeze. Take the taste to the next level by adding fresh mint to iced tea or punch cubes, rosemary sprigs to lemonade,  pearl onion or halved seasoned green bean to Clamato for bloody marys, or a blend of cream, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and strong coffee for iced coffees.  Grab the blender (or food processor) and purée watermelon slices or fresh strawberries for a summer kick over watermelon or strawberry flavored ice cubes.


Weeds No More 

Weeds between patio pavers, bricks, and deck boards are unsightly summer sights.  Let the sun shine in and down on weeds that have been sprayed with a solution of 1 gallon white vinegar, ½ cup of dishwashing liquid, and 2 Tablespoons salt.  Fill a spray bottle with the mixture,  set to stream, and spray the mixture on the weeds.  This works best on a warm and sunny day. The heat from the sun aids in the process.


Mosquitoes and the West Nile Virus They Carry

Talk about buzz kill!  Keeping these pesky uninvited guests away is outdoor priority number one.  Citronella candles, tiki and table top torches, and decorative lanterns come in a wide assortment of styles, sizes and price points.

citronella candle

Is That a Bee in Your Bonnet?  

No, it’s a dryer sheet!  Strategically placed in an apron pocket, under table linens,  or pinned to the corners of a tablecloth,  dryer sheets help to keep bees at bay.

dryer sheets

Freshen Up With a Twist 

Enjoying the summer good life can get messy, sticky, sweaty, and smelly. Hand sanitizer and wet wipes work well, but  I also like to make individual “freshen up with a twist” packs. Place two damp paper towels in a Ziploc bag – one with a drop of liquid soap (I love the fresh scent of Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Lemon Verbena Liquid Soap) on it for cleansing, and the other for rinsing.  Include a slice of lemon for an extra twist of fresh.  Lemon softens your skin and is a natural odor eliminator. Place the packs in a gallon Ziploc bag, seal it tight, and place it in a lunch tote or outdoor fridge to keep them nice and cool.

hand wipes

Getting things ready for spending time outdoors entertaining and enjoying the best of summer goes with the backyard territory.  My friends, summer is making its presence known.  Get summer ready, get outdoor entertaining prepped, and go!

love your style

Welcome Holiday Guests Not Holiday Stress

Stress free holiday entertaining ideas put the merry in a holiday good time.  From the planned casual holiday soiree to the not so planned we saw your lights on holiday surprise drop-in, these stock items can cut the stress, welcome guests, ward off the holiday bah humflubug, and make things festive.

wreath on front doorTraditional Home

Let me share with you some of the staples I keep on hand and filed under tried-and-true stress free holiday entertaining ideas.



Bath & Body Works

Mingle responsibly.  It’s not only the holidays, but the cold and flu season as well.


Alice Cut Glass Votive Cup

Votive candles instantly add that cozy and homey feel to the setting.  I don’t know if it’s the warmth they exude or the soft glow, but votive candles create a relaxing atmosphere.  Stock up on these home decor and entertaining staples.


Put out the welcome mat.  Head off mud, slush and dirt at the door.

alton brown hot cocoa recipeThe Chive

Festive need not be expensive.  The package sells the product, and a festive presentation impresses the harshest holiday critic.  My darling maternal grandmother taught me through her gracious example.  She loved Lady Borden Vanilla ice cream- her signature dessert offering.  She lived alone, and with single serving sizes not yet on the market, the large container ice cream would often fall victim to  freezer burn.  What the ice cream lacked in taste was more than made up in serving presentation.


Reed and Barton® Francis I spoon

She always served two scoops of Lady Borden Vanilla in a glass sherbet dish accompanied by a sterling silver spoon.


A simple white coffee or decorative holiday mug from the dollar store filled with hot cocoa and garnished with a peppermint stick and marshmallows or red hot apple cider garnished with a cinnamon stick is holiday comfort in a cup!

I recommend preparing this recipe for homemade marshmallows while listening to the ever fitting Christmas classic “A Marshmallow World” performed by the ever cool Dean Martin.

Marshmallows (French Laundry)


3  envelopes of unflavored Knox gelatin

½  cup cold water

2 cups granulated sugar

2/3 cups corn syrup

¼  cup water

¼  teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

Confectioners’ sugar for dredging


In the bowl of an electric mixer, sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cold water. Soak for 10 minutes.

Combine sugar, corn syrup, and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil and boil hard for 1 minute.  Pour boiling syrup into gelatin and mix at high speed.  Add the salt and beat for 12 minutes.  Add vanilla and incorporate into mixture.  Scrape into a 9 x 9-inch pan lined with oiled plastic wrap and spread evenly. (Note: Lightly oil hands and spatula or bowl scraper).  After pouring marshmallow mixture into the pan, take another piece of plastic wrap and press mixture into the pan.

Let mixture sit for a few hours.  Remove from pan, dredge the marshmallow slab with confectioners’ sugar and cut into 12 equal pieces with scissors (the best tool for the job) or a chef’s knife.  Dredge each piece of marshmallow in confectioners’ sugar.

Yield: 12 large marshmallows


These cookies taste just like….


Girl Scout Thin Mints?

Like the ones my grandmother used to make?

That’s the idea!

These holiday cookies pack a powerful please that give the baker and holiday treat maker a break.  Presentation is everything!


Baby, it’s cold outside.  I pick up inexpensive fleece throws when I find them on holiday special.  This little touch of  homey and cozy is a big hit with our guests as we celebrate the holiday moments of our lives.


Tie them up with raffia,


attach a holiday gift tag,


and place them in a basket.  The inexpensive fleece throws make a nice holiday “from our home to yours” parting gift.


Hand them out to your guests to ward off the chill while watching a classic holiday movie or hanging out listening to holiday music.  Let’s not forget that a holiday playlist queued up and ready to shuffle is always a hit.

Holiday music video #2~ 

Holiday get-togethers as well as the unexpected drop in visit often turn out to be a stress free and fun time.  Stock up, de-stress and enjoy!

Love your style!

Chilled Black-Eyed Pea Salad

The Places In The Home summer salad series continues with a chilled salad recipe perfect for summer.  This recipe for Chilled Black-Eyed Pea salad will not disappoint.

Chilled Black-Eyed Pea Salad


2 cups dry black-eyed peas

6 cups water

1 Tablespoon chicken bouillon seasoning

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon fine black pepper

1 medium bell pepper, chopped

1 celery rib, finely chopped

1 green onion, chopped

1 onion, chopped

2 tomatoes, chopped

2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped

½ cup mayonnaise

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1 ½  teaspoon sea salt


Wash black-eyed peas. Drain black-eyed peas and place in a deep pot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil.

Drain off the water, add fresh water and return to burner.  Add powdered chicken bouillon flavor, garlic powder, and pepper.  Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium high and cover with slight vent.  Cook for 20 minutes, or until tender.  Drain off water and place peas in a large mixing bowl.  Allow to cool.

Chop bell pepper, celery, onion, green onions, tomatoes, and parsley.

In a small bowl, whisk  together mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, and lemon juice.  Season with sea salt and additional pepper to taste.

Pour into the vegetables and gently fold all ingredients together.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.

I like a little salad with my pepper.



Service With A Style: Serving Trays With Style

Serving trays have been on my mind over the past few weeks. One tends to give quite a bit of thought to food and drink presentation as she finds herself up to her spices during the season of cocktail parties, holiday open houses, and treat trays for neighbor and friends.  When it comes to entertaining and presentation, I take a mental inventory of the formal or informal aspect of the occasion. Pulling out all the stops with the bells and whistles on the frou-frou presentation express is more in line with the treat trays given for corporate gifts than with the cookies, candies, and hot coffee industrial sized goodie trays prepared for Dave the Builder and his engineering c0-w0rkers.  You’ve got to know your audience and the serving trays with style that corresponds to said audience.

Serving Trays With Stylevia

These serving trays with style fall somewhere between festive, fun and fabulous. That latter point is beautifully made by this Croco serving tray.



Designed by designer Ibride, this large rectangular serving tray serves a whimsical take on artistic interpretation.

original_galerie-de-portraits-large-rectangular-tray-cornileusGalerie de Portraits Cornileus Serving Tray

An all occasion choice that can be dressed up or dressed down, acrylic trays are a clear and chic choice.

acrylic-traysWest Elm

Vintage maps and drawings from Home Decorators Collection make excellent conversation pieces with stylish functionality.



Antique serving trays of tole, toile and paper mache material, style and provenance from Charish.




Sips and snacks by the sea nautical themed decorative wood serving tray with handles sets an elegantly casual mood.

tsc-giftables-nautical-diary-large-wooden-tray-tl03TSC Nautical Tray

Is it a gorgeous statement piece or impressive serving tray?   The beauty of rose quartz paired with gold leaf makes it both.


Rose Quartz Platter-Serving Tray

This trough style tray serves two purposes in my opinion, one as tray and the other as centerpiece.


These designer inspired serving trays from Bellissimo are fabulous by design and designer.



A toast to casual formality fittingly describes this set of La Maison Du Chiarello Wood/ Metal Serving Trays fit for a late afternoon sip and style spread.


Going pink Flamingo is always in season!  It can be twenty below outside, but the mood and the vibe will warm right up when a Flamingo themed serving trays comes to meet, greet and serve good eats!

flamingo-serving-trayFlamingo Trio Serving Tray

Food presentation is indeed an expression of artistic talent.

artist-palette-cheese-trayArtist Palette Cheese Tray


H & M

Outdoor entertaining tablescapes and cocktail carts are made for the casual and fun look of galvanized metal. These galvanized goodies from Pottery Barn keep the mood causally chic.


Unique serving trays with style add yet another element of visual flair to the art of food and beverage presentation.

Love your style!