Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Take a Break: Plan an end of summer party

With every other ad on television announcing “back to school sales,” to say nothing of the chirping crickets, foggy mornings, cool nights,  ripening fruit and heavily laden tomato plants, fall is definitely on its way. Even though the bounty of harvest lies ahead, for many, autumn is a hard time of the year. Letting go of lazy summer days and preparing for shorter days, and the eventual cold, and harsh conditions of winter, can be depressing. However, embrace the change that’s about to happen and linger over these last warm days by planning an end of summer or “welcome autumn” party. 

This could be a special BBQ, bonfire, drive-in movie, beach day or whatever strikes your fancy.  If you know someone in the hospital, this could be a very fun way to spend an afternoon.

Pick a Theme. For the dreaded “back to school blues” people,  liven it up by doing things that are a fun spin on school, such as create a “class project”-tie dyed T-shirts, make their own chalkboards etc. You can even make a “brown bag” lunch.  Since I hate the heat of summer, I’ve always liked the idea of “welcome autumn” as a theme. “One last swim” also works, since many people close their pools after Labor Day. If you’re stuck for a theme, think about who you’d like to invite, That should give you not only a “theme” but some ideas of what they might like doing.

Invitations: Some people love to send out print invitations, I’m an e-mail/phone kind of person myself. Check out Pingg  for free e-mail invites. For someone in the hospital, send an invitation so they not only know when to expect you, it gives them something to look forward to.

Decorate the table: Note: If you are taking this to someone in the hospital, live plants may not be allowed. If at all possible, see if you can take the party outside.
• If your basil is going gangbusters, take sprigs of it and put it in small glass jars with water. Not only will these grow roots and can be potted, these can be placed on the table so guests can take them home.

• Gardens are at their peak at this time of year, so decorate the table with things like tomatoes, peaches, squash, vases of herbs etc.

• Make a center piece of potted plants or wildflowers. Sunflowers are in full swing.

• Keep the table linens and napkins simple and crisp-white, yellow, pale blue, unless you are thinking fall and then go for the rust colors.

Food: This time of year is all about the tomatoes for me, so think up plenty of ways to use them. BBQs are fun, but consider all the fresh produce in the store and/or garden and plan accordingly.

Activities: While the theme will dictate the kinds of activities to do, consider some of the following:
• For the evening bonfire, upgrade smores by using really good chocolate and putting them on cookies versus graham crackers.
• Since fall is on the way, consider a fall craft project that guests can take home to help them welcome the new season. Need some ideas, check out 50 Favorite Fall Craft Ideas. 
• This is a great time to host a “canning” party, where you can take advantage of the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables. It doesn’t just have to be jam or spaghetti sauce. Consider things like salsa, dilly beans, and pickled watermelon rind. In the dead of winter, there is something very special about opening a jar of sauce, beans, tomatoes etc. that you made on a hot day at the end of summer.
• One of my favorite parties involves everyone bringing a dish that is made from either local foods only, or with the primary ingredients coming from your garden. 

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