Friday, March 4, 2011

Spring Fever

It may seem too early to think about entertaining outdoors, but I’m getting Spring Fever! Here in California, especially the San Francisco Bay Area, it’s second nature-so to say, to entertain al fresco. Our weather here at least 8 months out of the year is perfect for a party setting in the sunshine. I have always enjoyed entertaining outdoors and I love to be able to help people do the same. There is something about the sunshine, light breeze and the birds singing in the background that contributes to the perfect celebratory ambiance. Most of the events that I cater are at private homes, so the parties are not too big to host in ones backyard or patio, plus entertaining at home is much more relaxing then having it at a public venue.

I find that whether the soiree is casual or formal, sit down or buffet style; my clients and their guests are at their most relaxed state enjoying the party in someone’s garden. Not to say that they are not enjoying the event if it was indoors, remember that you do need a back up plan during the spring or fall months in the bay area, sometimes we do get rain here. Here are some key points to remember when planning a garden party.

1. Lack of Shade-No fun in the Sweltering Sun: Depending on where you live, you may have a lack of shade at key times of the day, leaving your guests roast in the midday sun. So, please plan ahead and have plenty of umbrellas; you can rent them from your local party rental company, if you don’t have enough of them on hand.
2. Lighting: Depending on what time you are hosting your event, the sun does go down and you need to plan for that. There is nothing worse then tripping on obstacles in the backyard or not being able to see the food that you are eating. Turn on your backlights; make it fun, a simple change of a light bulb with different wattage or colors can add to the ambience. String up some lights everywhere, you can find boxes of large or small string lights at many larger department stores, if you don’t want to do that yourself, many rental companies can supply a lighting package for you that includes installation. One really great thing that I love, are the new L.E.D. battery operated candles, I like the larger pillar style ones, you can get them at very reasonable prices, I have found many at the big box stores and many discount retailers, they really do look like a real flickering candle, they are safe and they don’t blow out.
3. Man’s Best Friend, or Unruly Pets at the Party? No matter how well behaved your pets are, unexpected things can happen when you have a large group of people in your home whom your pets are not familiar with. Please either hire a pet sitter to take them out for a play date for several hours or for the whole day or night or have them comfortably restrained in another room of the house. Nothing is worse then a pet trying to get food off of the buffet table that I had just set up or someone’s pet inspecting everyone’s inseam; it has happened.
4. Insects Are Not Welcome Guests At Your Party: Take a few minutes to inspect your home and backyard the week before the party. Look especially for standing water, a source for mosquitoes, and for bee’s nests. If you do have a bee’s nest, call a beekeeper- most of them will remove the bee’s nest for free. Walk through the lawn and the perimeter of the house for anthills; some gentle insecticides (preferably organic) can make all the difference between a really fun party and ants crawling on your watermelon or worse…you!
5. Entertainment: Good food and fun friends mingling at your party is great entertainment, but for small parties when conversations tend to get low, there always seems to be that uncomfortable silence in the background sometimes. To avoid this, simply have some music on, turn the stereo on and angle the speakers facing outdoors from a back window or re wire the speakers with long wires, or some homes have outdoor speakers wired already. If you have it in your budget, hire a small band or a DJ, which will really get your party going. Please remember, simple is best, music in the background is always nice.
6. Last but not Least: Turn your sprinkle systems off the day before the party, walking on mushy landscapes or getting high heels stuck in the ground from damp lawns are not fun, nor are they fun for your Manolo Blahnik’s. Have plenty of ice on hand, usually when you have mixed drinks and ice to cool sodas, wine and beer you will need at least 2 lbs of ice per guest for any kind of outdoor party, store the ice in coolers or large plastic tubs…rental companies also have coolers that you can rent.

Hope the above tips are helpful for you; the next time you host a party outdoors. Hiring a caterer, like myself, at Butler For Hire: really takes the stress out of entertaining. When was the last time you were able to be a GUEST at your OWN party? I will be able to ensure that you will be able to put your feet up when I arrive at your doorstep.