Apples in the orchard
Mellowing one by one;
Soft cheeks to the sun;
Roses faint with sweetness,
Lilies fair of face,
Drowsy scents and murmurs
Haunting every place;
Lengths of golden sunshine,
Moonlight bright as day,--
Don't you think that summer's
Pleasanter than early May?
-- Thomas Bailey Aldrich, Marjorie's Almanac
The summer sunshine brings out the best in us and stimulates the desire to bring friends and family together. Outside of Thanksgiving and Christmas, the majority of Americans entertain the most between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Outdoor entertaining may present some different challenges but you can also consider them opportunities. I do.
Although twilight sparkles as dusk descends, it often isn't enough to illuminate outside dining. Consider the prepackaged paper lanterns that come in a rainbow of colors. Manufacturers have also created battery operated options in case you don't have an outside outlet. And natch always include votives and hurricane lamps for extra lighting. With all these varying heights, the eyes can dance all over the table and embrace the warmth that envelops the overall ambiance.
Suzanne Lovell, a Chicago-based interior designer and architect, uses the vibrant colors of summer fruits to inspire her menus as well as her table settings. "Often people make the mistake of worrying about how the food will look on a plate and then opt for boring white plates instead of trying different options," she says. "But after the meal, people only remember how beautiful the table looked when they arrive and the taste of the food, not how the food looks on a plate."
Considering that the majority of meals are served buffet style during the summer with the grill in active use, perhaps it's time to use the colors of summer as a launching pad.
Pears can become weights on napkins to prevent it from blowing away while simultaneously pleasing the aesthetic senses. Foods ranging from garlic, corn and lemons can be used in vases along with flowers. Fill cups with strawberries. For a dash of daring, mix up plates while keeping the tangerine colored napkins consistent.
In life, don't be afraid to go out on a limb. After all, that is where the best fruit is.
Suzanne's daughter Alice cuts flowers that she will put in vases with garlic. "If you include children in your rituals, they will not only learn how to entertain but continue this tradition," she says. "It then becomes something you both share."
Did you notice how Suzanne mixed and matched the plates? But she made sure the apricot napkins were all the same as well as the glasses. Mixing and matching stirs things up but there has to be some cohesive themes on the table so it's exciting, not jarring.
Blue and yellow are always a winning combination for any outdoor entertaining. Here Suzanne used bright yellow flowers and a lemon colored tablecloth to complement her blue and white table setting.
Whatever plates you choose, think of them as holding your family stories. These plates are from an artist who loved his wife so much that he envisioned all the men who would want her if he died and painted a different scene for each plate.
Here's another close-up of one of the plates. Suzanne loves whimsy which is evident in her choice of plates. Plus details like these are great springboards for conversation.
It can be windy on summer nights. But Suzanne solved the problem of flyaway napkins by placing a pear on the napkin. The pear inspired the table setting which includes the choice of tablecloth. Necessity can become the mother of invention.
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