Recommended wine for today’s entry: Last Friday night, I had a delicious glass – OK, two delicious glasses – of Conundrum chardonnay at the beautiful new home of our friends Todd and Patty. It was a nice treat and a fun night. Everyone should try Conundrum.
The weather, although a bit on the hot and muggy side, has me in the mood to do some outdoor entertaining. Give me a sticky summer evening and a sweaty glass of wine and I’m in heaven. We do quite a bit of al fresco entertaining, mainly because it is difficult to throw a nice party when there’s a furry creature (or some remnant thereof) on every perch in the house.
Indoor parties require us to constantly direct the person with white pants to sit on the chair preferred by the golden retriever mix and the person in dark pants to the sofa, where the black Lab routinely splays. Oh, I know it would be easier to thoroughly vacuum the furniture, but that’s no fun, now, is it?
So we prefer to do most of our entertaining outside. And even when we do, it is difficult to ensure that the dogs don’t drive people crazy and that our guests don’t notice the blurry smears of dog snot on all the doors and windows or the black cat hairs laced through their potato salad.
So we ply them with drinks.
And we do allow for designated drivers. They are given a watery tasting placebo with a lime wedge and we have them wear those folding glasses you get at the eye doctor.
Over the years, I have developed a checklist of sorts for use when planning and executing outdoor soirees. A lessons-learned sort of thing.
- Invitations. This is one of the fun parts – I love party invitations! Two tidbits here: When filling them out, make a note of what time you told people the party will start. There is nothing as disconcerting as making eye contact through the window with guests gathering in your backyard as you walk naked from the shower. Another thing that is fun to do with invitations is screw with people. For example, write “casual” on everyone’s invitation except for someone whom you think is snobby but are forced to invite. Or your husband’s old girlfriend. Then they’ll show up wildly overdressed and you can make snippy comments to other people about her obviously not getting invited out much.
- House preparation: If you are having a daytime party, clean only the East-facing part of your house. Likewise, for an evening event, clean only the West-facing area, paying particular attention to windows and hardwood floors that are illuminated to a ghastly degree when the late afternoon sun slants through. Another option is to prevent anyone from going in to use the restroom until after the sun sets. Sometimes this can be challenging, but I have had luck saying “Oh, I know someone just went in there, so you should wait a few minutes.” Then you can sic your most garrulous friend on them and tell them not to let go until the sun’s down.
- Speaking of restrooms: Don’t forget to thoroughly clean your powder room and one other bathroom. Lighting a nice candle is a good idea. Put an extra roll of toilet paper in plain sight. If you have a toilet that has a tendency to act up, for example, if the water feed to refill it just elects not to pump water in at times, for goodness sake, get it fixed before you have the whole softball team and their families to your house. It makes for bad dinner table conversations when everyone is speculating on who “did that.” As each person leaves they say, “Thanks so much for having us. We had a great time.” Then they lean in toward you and, lowering their voice, they add, “Just so you know: It wasn’t me.” Every last guest.
- Other poop issues: DON’T FORGET TO CLEAN UP THE DOG POOP! This is a horrifying omission and one that can’t be dealt with delicately while guests are standing in the yard. And even the cutest little Lilly Pulitzer dress won’t draw the eye up and away from dog poop oozing between a guest’s toes.
- Set up: Alright, this may sound odd, but, if you are a pet owner, you will relate. Obviously you’ll want to keep the food you’ve prepared fresh and fur-free. Refrigerated items are easy – but what about those items that don’t need to be in the fridge? To avoid dogs consuming things outright, cats licking the softening butter and the inevitable wafting fur disturbed by last-minute cleanups, just cover it well and put it in your car. It’s genius, I tell you. Then when the time comes to put the food out, park the vehicle close to the tables and voila! Or, and here’s a special hint for an upscale party — use someone else’s car and have them help unload it. Now you have A CATERER! That’ll show the snobby ex-girlfriend, won’t it?