An Entertainment Backup Plan

An Entertainment Backup Plan

Photograph Credit: Fotolio

After today’s events, I am considering creating an entertainment backup plan. Lest you think Murphy hits our home each time we entertain, let me assure you that we entertain quite a bit without incidents.

Tonight was not the case. Everything was going well. I had picked up the pizzas from Papa Murphy’s this afternoon, the house was cleaned, and homework finished.

With the oven preheated, I placed the pizza on the top rack, set the timer, and sat down to rest.


The Incident

Paul came home and was hanging up his jacket when we saw a flash in our kitchen. Checking the light bulbs for outages, we found none. Not seeing anything else, we wrote it off to a power surge.

About 20 minutes later the timer sounded, and I went to the oven. Well, everything was dark.

At this time, I realized that the flash was from the oven. Paul reset the breakers, and then we checked the unit. The oven light and the stovetop worked fine. However, the oven had shorted out. Bummer!

Thankfully, I have wonderful neighbors. I called up one and explained the situation. In typical southern hospitality, she invited me down to use her oven. I enjoyed the time listening and playing with her children while the pizza finished baking.

Considering a Backup Plan

Our dinner turned out well, got off to a little late start, and we had a great night. We are not sure how we will fix the oven. But for now, the rest of our week sports a cooktop menu, so we are good to go.

Though this experience turned out fine, I began thinking about what I would have done had my neighbor not been home. I had called my nextdoor neighbor first, and she was not home. But the second neighbor I called was able to help me out.

Not that I plan to keep numerous options available when we entertain, but I have started thinking about our entertainment backup plan, which definitely includes my fantastic neighbors.

I’m thinking that I might want to choose a cooktop, oven, and freezer/microwave option. Of course, if the power goes out, then I’ll need a grill option. Happy creating!

Question: Do you have an entertainment backup plan? If so, would you be willing to share it?

Keeping Children at the Table: Reusable Placemats

Keeping children at the tableEntertaining company with a meal brings about a change in my children. I’m not sure if it is because talking about their day gets overtaken with conversations with our guests, but my children seem to eat lightning fast with guests.

Any other night, they linger and chat and need reminding “to eat.” Even though we include the children into the adult conversations, they seem to finish early and want to depart from the table with company present.

In noticing this pattern with my children, I tried incorporating placemats and dry erase markers with their table setting, and it worked. When my children completed their meal, they remained at the table and colored their placemats.

Not only do my children enjoy these placemats, but also their friends. The children stay at the table and participate in the conversations while coloring their placemats. Win, WIN, WIN!

After the dinner, a simple wipe with a paper towel (or from my daughter’s finger :-)) removes the colors. Our reusable placemats keep children at the table meal after meal after meal.

How to Make Reusable Placements

1. Enlarge or print a coloring page or printable, like these adorable ones from Cheerios & Lattes.

2. Laminate them or place them in a plastic envelope purchased at a craft store.

3. Color, draw, and write with dry- or wet-erase markers.

In using time wisely to entertain family and friends, reusable placements assist hostesses in keeping children at the table. As you execute your plan on Thanksgiving Day, consider adding a reusable placement to each child’s place setting.

As they finish their meal, they can remain at the table coloring and creating with the markers provided. With happy children, the adults can interact while all guests remain together. Happy entertaining!

Question: While entertaining, how do you keep children at the table?

Summer Picnic & Barbecue Planning Guide – Part 5 of 5

Enlisting Cleanup Helpers

Photograph Credit: Rubbermaid Products

Many schools started this week here in South Carolina. With one last week of summer fun, our family is taking advantage of near-empty establishments to get in those last few moments of an unscheduled routine.

As our summer whines down, so does this series on planning a summer picnic and backyard barbecue just in time for Labor Day weekend. In case you’ve missed a post, here’s a recap of the series:

Summer Picnic and Barbecue Planning Guide

Part 1: Planning the Menu

Part 2: Distributing the Responsibilities

Part 3: Creating an Inviting Space

Part 4: Keeping Refrigerated Items Cold

Part 5: Enlisting Cleanup Helpers

Enlisting Cleanup Helpers

In this last segment, I will share how cleanup can come together in a snap. If the picnic occurs in the evening, then as the sun sets and everyone begins moving indoors, I enlist helpers. 😉

For our barbecues, the table rests near our sliding glass door. As individuals pass to go indoors, I ask them to take a dish to the kitchen. After the first two or so requests, the other participants join in to help.

When I get a number of volunteers, I just coordinate the tear down:

1. Provide trash cans

2. Take all food and beverages to the kitchen

3. Place all paper and plastic products and decorations on my dining room table

4. Provide cloths to wipe down the table

5. Direct the chairs, tables, and trash bags to the garage

Once the outdoor area is clear, I move to the kitchen. In using time wisely with our guests, I simply get the food put away and in the refrigerator and return to the party. Once our friends leave, Paul and I tidy the kitchen and dining room. Cleanup goes rather smoothly as most is done because everyone shares a part.

NOTE: If your summer picnic is more formal, then do not expect your guests to help with cleanup. This planning guide is for a relaxed event with family and friends, who should not feel offended when asked to help.

As you plan and adjust to your fall schedule, remember to fit in hospitality. A relaxed summer picnic and barbecue offers opportunities to entertain while enjoying time with friends and your family. With a Labor Day break on the horizon, use this summer picnic and barbecue planning guide to make some special memories. Happy planning!

Question: What would you add to the planning guide?  

Summer Picnic & Barbecue Planning Guide – Part 4 of 5

Keeping refrigerated items cold

Photograph Credit: Flickr (Smabs Sputzer)

Many summer schedules are coming to an end, but summer continues officially until September. As your routines change and you are reunited with your friends, enjoy times together over a summer picnic and barbecue.

After planning the menu in part 1, distributing the responsibilities in part 2, and creating an inviting space in part 3, today continues with keeping refrigerated items cold and organizing your food layout.

Keeping Refrigerated Items Cold

With the summer heat, keeping the refrigerated items chilled is a challenge. Besides keeping those dishes inside or in a cooler, I like using ice packs. Since the ice packs will melt, I do the following:

1. Find a coordinating hand towel that fits nicely on the table,

2. Set the hand towel (folded in half) in the place of the refrigerated dish,

3. Place the ice packs on top of the hand towel, and

4. Put the dish on top of the ice packs.

Throughout the picnic, I check the refrigerated dishes for coolness and return them to the kitchen as the dinner comes to an end. Keeping refrigerated items cool is difficult in the direct sunlight. If the ice packs are too bulky for under the dish, I have placed the ice packs around the dish as well. As each picnic menu has its challenges, I focus on keeping the refrigerated items cold when organizing the food layout.

Organizing the Food Layout

When I setup the food table, I choose to group like items together as needed. My organizational pattern is as follows:

1. Paper Products

In this section, I place the plates, napkins, and silverware. Of course, I skip this step if tables are preset with these items.

2. Meats

A platter of meats followed by breads and condiments fill the next section on the serving table.

3. Sides

Placed next to the meats are the sides, including salads, vegetables, and fruit.

4. Desserts

If desserts are included on the table, then I add them at the end. Depending on the setup, I usually serve dessert after dinner is complete.

5. Drinks

If I only have one table, then I set the drinks with cups at the end. This way, guests do not carry their drink through the food line as they fill their plates.

With a simple setup plan that works with any type of gathering, I can quickly prepare for guests without lots of fuss. Inviting friends on the fly is possible with a plan in place. Entertaining others does not require china and crystal glasses. Thank goodness. 🙂

Planning a simple summer picnic and barbecue need not take lots of time and energy. In using time wisely to plan ahead to keep refrigerated items cold and organizing the food layout, you can focus on relaxing and enjoying your evening.

With Labor Day weekend coming, consider inviting some friends for an enjoyable summer picnic and barbecue. Happy planning!

Question: How do you keep the refrigerated dishes cold?

Summer Picnic & Barbecue Planning Guide – Part 3 of 5

Summer picnic and barbecue planning guide

Photograph Credit: Flickr (Buck Lava)

With back-to-school responsibilities underway, I almost forgot that Labor Day weekend is less than a month away. Without my monthly blogging plan, I would have overlooked this opportunity.

Our family enjoys attending an annual cookout and camp out with friends. But if those plans change, I will refer to this series for hosting a summer picnic and barbecue.

In part 1, we looked at the food options and started planning our menu. Then in part 2, we continued planning by distributing the responsibilities since our friends willingly offer to help. Today, I will share simple ways for creating an inviting space.

Part 3: Creating an Inviting Space

With the goal of having a great time, I keep our decorations simple and small for a couple of reasons:

1. Decorating is not one of my strengths. I enjoy matching items, but my style is simple and practical.

2. Frugal-minded, I prefer to invest in items that will last. Getting lots of matching disposable paper products with banners and other cute items translates to tossing those items later or storing more items in my home. As I have spent much time decluttering my home, I evaluate every item coming back into the clean, empty spaces.

Keeping to the basics creates an inviting space. My basics are food area, seating, and open space for play.

1. Food Area

Usually I choose either a table outside or my kitchen counter. If using my outside table, I choose a simple table cloth and secure it well. If using my kitchen counter, I clear the counter of extra items to keep the food centralized.

2. Seating

Offering plenty of seating options gives our guests choices to move about chatting with friends. Movable chairs are my favorite as friends can relocate throughout the party. If I am short on chairs, then I borrow or setup smaller tables and chairs for the children.

3. Open Space

Since our parties always include our children, I plan extra space for them to run and play. Setting up our picnic and barbecue close to the house, I leave a large space in the backyard for the children to play. If your space is limited consider using half of the space vertically or horizontally for play.

If time and funds permit, I also enjoy a simple centerpiece, candle, flowers, or confetti for an added touch. With a little creativity, I can create an inviting space full of color and festive flare with an assortment of food, solid colored napkins, and simple white plates, plastic ware, and cups.

As you consider your next summer picnic and barbecue, creating an inviting space does not need lots of extra items. But if you have the decorating gene, then enjoy this process. I know others who thrive with a blank slate to paint a masterpiece. However, I am content focusing on food, seating, and open space with a little extra color to brighten our afternoon or evening event.

Next week, this series will continue with part 4 – keeping refrigerated dishes cold and organizing your food layout. Until next time, happy planning while using time wisely!

Question: What are your upcoming plans for Labor Day weekend?