SETTING THE STAGE
To reward your guests for a job well done, here’s how to set the tone and table in style.
An Engaging E-vite
Instead of sending a standard email, let your guests feel special by using Paperless Post. The site creates elegant, email-able invitations complete with a stylish e-envelope that look as if they were engraved for just a few dollars! ($5 for 60 “email” invitations; www.paperlesspost.com)
Clean and Simple
Go natural! Use a jute tablecloth to emphasize the DIY vibe. To save even more, buy a roll of burlap at your local home improvement store for about $11. Add a pop of color down the middle by transforming a folded tablecloth into a table runner.
Photo Place Cards
Personalize each place setting by organizing photographs of friends you've been meaning to give to them. Sort and group by person, bundle with pretty thin ribbon and place atop napkins to use as photo "place cards,” which double as favors.
Fire up the grill with refreshing fruit. Place chopped fruit on water-soaked skewers, brush with olive or vegetable oil, melted butter or cooking spray to prevent sticking. Firmer fruits such as plums and nectarines can stand the heat of the grill for 4 to 5 minutes, but keep a closer eye on strawberries and mangoes.
To keep busy hands at work, refuel your guests with bite-size treats. Cut cooked hot dogs and buns into thirds and serve with condiments. The key is making non-greasy snacks that pop in the mouth and can be served on trays.
Lip-smacking homemade lemonade served in tall glasses with mint garnish is both refreshing and popular―prepare for refills! Combine 1 thinly sliced lemon and 1 2/3 cups superfine sugar in a bowl; mash with a spoon. Add 3 cups of cold water and 1¼ cups lemon juice; let stand for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Strain. Puree half of lemon juice mixture and 4 cups ice in a blender until smooth. Pour into 4 chilled glasses; repeat. Serves 8.
To make a festive dessert, carve out a mini watermelon and save the lid (create jagged edges like a jack o’ lantern). Freeze the watermelon. Fill it with frozen scoops of sorbet or ice cream keeping in mind that a variety of different flavors will make for a colorful presentation. Re-top with frozen lid and place in center of table for guests to scoop their own servings into small bowls.
As a thank you for particularly grimy jobs, gift guests with a homemade beauty scrub to take home: combine ¼ cup sugar, 2 tbsp. lemon juice and 1 tsp. honey. This mixture can be multiplied and put into small, decorative jars wrapped with ribbon.