Traditional recipes

6 Tips to Hosting a Better Summer Soirée

6 Tips to Hosting a Better Summer Soirée

There are a ton of ways to host friends and family for a casual summer soirée. Why not upgrade your hosting skills and shake things up a bit? The host(ess) who takes risks wins the love of his or her guests. You can totally handle a party upgrade: Hosting should be fun, not stressful, and if you plan ahead, your fête will go off without a hitch.

Whether you’re hosting a picnic, cookout, or an alfresco dinner party, Chassie Post of is here to offer you a few tips that will make your summer party the talk of the town.

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Get Off The Table:

— For a twist on traditional outdoor entertaining, take your guests to the beach, or set up a campfire on your lawn.

Beachy Seat:

— Have a bunch of people coming over and a shortage of seating? Throw some thick, colorful quilts and beach towels on the ground!

Real Fake:

— As they say, fake it till you make it!

— Don't be afraid to give your summer bouquet a boost! We love to mix real and fake flowers to give our buds some staying power. The key: a beautiful vase. It puts the pretty in petals!

Portable Party:

— As we all know, the party is where the bar is!

— I love a portable bar, and this chic little leather case filled with all the essentials is the ultimate portable party!

Ice Cream Dream:

— For the best homemade ice cream sandwich ever, make your own ice cream and freeze in a cylinder. Slice circles like you would cookie dough, sandwich with your homemade (or not!) cookies, and voila!

— Or create your own ice cream parlor with a super-festive soft-serve machine. Make it special with cone-inspired glasses, and let the fun begin!

Julia Turshen's Top Tips for Throwing the Ultimate Party

When cookbook author Julia Turshen hosts her culinary podcast Keep Calm and Cook On, she has a relaxed, comfortable style that sets her guests at ease. She takes the same approach when she throws a party. Keep calm and host on with her top tips for entertaining.

Julia Turshen started cooking at such a young age that her family nickname was "Julia the Child." Before she was old enough to hold a chef&aposs knife, she was hosting parties. Her first, a Valentine&aposs Day soiree for her grandparents and assorted relatives, had a strict black-tie dress code and featured little sandwiches that 6-year-old Julia fancied up with a heart-shape cookie cutter. "It was all very extra," Julia says with a laugh."My entertaining style has gotten a whole lot more relaxed."

These days, Julia—who writes best-selling cookbooks and runs Equity at the Table, a database connecting underrepresented minorities in the food world—is much more likely to greet her guests in an untucked shirt and jeans. Her enthusiasm for bringing people together, however, still burns. Most of Julia&aposs gatherings are spontaneous and happen at the 150-year-old farmhouse in upstate New York she shares with wife Grace Bonney, founder of the blog DesignSponge. "Because we live in a rural area without many restaurants, I cook at home every day," Julia says. "That makes it really easy to text friends and say, &aposHey, I bought too much chicken. Do you want to come over?&apos"

Julia believes food doesn&apost have to be complicated to be good. She serves simple dishes that are delicious hot or at room temperature, eliminating the stress of last-minute cooking. "I don&apost want to be stuck in the kitchen wondering if everyone is talking out there." She also makes sure to prepare a meal that everyone will enjoy. So when inviting someone to her home for the first time, she asks about food restriction. "I don&apost want anyone to feel on the outside of my table, and that translates to what we&aposre eating."

It&aposs about more than delicious food, though. "What&aposs most important to me is the quality of our time together," she says. "You want people to leave your home thinking, That was such a great night!" To that end, she loves bringing together friends from different circles whom she predicts will hit if off then encouraging them to get to know one another and hash out solutions to the dilemmas of the day. "I love that meaningful conversations start around my table, and my goal is to make sure they don&apost end there."

What Will Post-Pandemic Entertaining Look Like? Experts Weigh In

Social circles are buzzing again, so we asked three entertaining experts to give us their best tips for throwing a post-pandemic party that&rsquos as comfortable as it is memorable.

After more than a year spent distancing, we're all itching to socialize now that vaccines are widely available and the number of COVID infections is decreasing. But what exactly will post-pandemic entertaining look like? Some people are still (understandably!) wary of close contact, shared grazing tables&mdashor shared anything, really&mdashwhile others are ready to dive in, break bread, and toast each other with gusto.

Nearly one-third of Americans say they&rsquove already started to socialize, according to recent research from the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index. Another 29 percent say they will once they, or everyone in their circle, are vaccinated 21 percent say when officials say it is safe, and 20 percent say they just don&rsquot know.

Even though a growing number of people are ready to party, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still suggests intimate, small gatherings as opposed to large ones. All this lingering uncertainty has everyone wondering what&rsquos the best and safest way to entertain post-pandemic in a way that ensures everyone is comfortable and has a good time&mdashhosts included.

Here&rsquos a hint: Smaller is better. At least right now. &ldquoThere&rsquos soaring interest in more intimate gatherings at the moment,&rdquo says Rebecca Gardner, founder and creative director of event and interiors collective Houses and Parties (whose party settings are shown above and below). &ldquoThe good news is, small parties feel meaningful, allowing you more time and space to connect and attend to beautiful details.&rdquo But that doesn&rsquot mean you have to sacrifice elegance or sophistication. &ldquoI want to wear sequins, dance on the table, and find my shoes in the bushes on Sunday morning, but it&rsquos been quite a year, and most of us are happy to tiptoe into it first,&rdquo adds Gardner.

Another benefit of small gatherings is that the details have a chance to shine. "The intentional gathering is back,&rdquo says Melissa Ippensen, special event designer at the historic Barnsley Resort in Adairsville, Georgia, home to a steady stream of elegant affairs that she says have become more intimate in the post-COVID world. &ldquoNow more than ever, people treasure togetherness, so events have become more personal. Things like guest place settings and personal decor touches are factoring into each gathering more than ever. The small details are enhanced because just coming together is a true delight!"

Now more than ever, people treasure togetherness, so events have become more personal.

One easy way to minimize lingering concerns about post-pandemic parties is to host a party outdoors. &ldquoAl fresco dining puts everyone at ease and allows for guests to space out but still be part of the community,&rdquo Ippensen says. Let your guests know ahead of time, so they know what to expect. &ldquoOffer a wrap on the back of a chair if the night gets chilly, have a few lovely market umbrellas to provide shade, and tell the group to pack flats, not heels." Being outdoors shouldn&rsquot make you feel restricted to backyards and courtyards, however. &ldquoEveryone is bored with their own patio, so move dinner to a park or a local peony farm&mdashanywhere new and exciting,&rdquo Gardner suggests.

Even outdoors, the elegance of a plated dinner is back. &rdquoForget family style! Forget buffets! Let's dress up and sit down!&rdquo Gardner says. But think beyond just a salad and entrée. &ldquoWe&rsquore seeing station-style food deconstructed to accommodate small plates and more courses," Ippensen says.

You also want to consider the placement of tables and chairs. &ldquoA good rule of thumb post-COVID is to place tables about 10 to 12' apart,&rdquo says Marielle Shortell, founder of Hestia Harlow, which curates rent-and-return table settings. Pre-pandemic, 24" was normal for each place setting, but &ldquodepending on the event and comfort level, this can be stretched farther,&rdquo Shortell says. Keep groups to no more than six at a 60" round or an 8' rectangular table.

Whether you&rsquore soiree is indoors or out, making a dance floor feel 100 percent COVID-safe is a tall order, &ldquobuuuuut you could have a 10' x 10' dance floor and let every guest take their turn,&rdquo says Gardner. Another idea is to expand the dance floor and add vignettes with cocktail tables and lounge chairs so everyone can participate at their comfort level. &ldquoWe&rsquove used plants and greenery to create pockets that help guests remember to socially distance,&rdquo says Ippensen. &ldquoIt brings the outside element into an indoor party and it feels like you&rsquore dancing in a garden."

If it&rsquos the kind of gathering that requires sending out invitations, personalize them. &ldquoA kind note that says you want the guest to celebrate with you, whether in person or through warm wishes, lets them know it's OK to say no if they&rsquore not quite comfortable in social gatherings yet,&rdquo Ippensen adds. Not everyone is ready for post-pandemic entertaining &mdash but the good news is, we&rsquore almost there!

Ready to host? Find some designer inspiration below.

25 Best Pool Party Ideas to Make Your Next Bash a Splash

Dive into these recipes, themes, and decorations that are perfect for pool parties!

Summer is right around the corner and for many people, that means hosting pool parties in the backyard. There's no better way to beat the summer heat than inviting your friends and family over to swim, lounge by the pool, and generally just have fun in the sun. To add color and variety to your summertime soirées, we've rounded up some of the best pool party ideas the web has to offer&mdashincluding themes, decorations, recipes, games, and more. Some of these DIY projects, like pool balloons or a festive confetti-covered pineapple centerpiece, are so simple that they can be made in a matter of minutes. Others, like a DIY tiki bar or a custom fire pit, take a little more effort to create but will pack a big punch at parties and can be used to entertain all summer long! Of course, no pool party is ever complete without some light, summery snacks. Whether you want to spice things up with shrimp tacos or keep it sweet with an ice cream float bar, we've got recipes to suit every taste and occasion. Check out our gallery of ideas to make sure your next pool party is a splash!

This festive shrimp and mango recipe is ideal for impromptu summer gatherings when you need a quick dinner that requires minimal cooking. Let your friends pick their own toppings and make the taco of their dreams!

See more at Oh Joy!.

This ice cream float bar is perfect for a summer soirée by the pool and can be enjoyed by adults and kids alike. Give this childhood favorite a twist by serving it with sparkling juices and flavored sodas.

See more at Julie Blanner.

Balloons are one of the easiest and most affordable ways to decorate for any party. Bring a playful splash of color to your pool by floating balloons in the water.

Create the pastel pool party of your dreams with a magical pale pink ombre cake, custom confetti, and flamingo lawn ornaments. No pool? No problem. Let your guests cool their heels on a hot day in an inflatable pool.

10 tips for hosting a successful sleepover

Is your kid hosting her first sleepover? Make it a huge success by following these expert tips.

Sleepovers, slumber parties, overnights: Whatever you call them, hearsay suggests they’re heaven for kids and hell for parents. Overly excited or homesick kids, wet sleeping bags, nervous tummies and social conflicts can make for a rather, er, eye-opening experience. “At 4 a.m., my kid was the only one asleep,” says Linda Lee of Mississauga, Ont. “The others were practising a dance for her birthday, and were all dressed and ready to perform!”

Sweep away the Cheezie dust and fatigue-blurred memories, however, and a more positive picture begins to emerge. “Sleepovers can provide a chance for kids to practise being independent and boost social and problem-solving skills, all within a safe environment,” says Rob Stringer, a parenting and youth coach and father of two in Binbrook, Ont. So, how can you host a great sleepover without resorting to divine intervention? (OK, a little prayer couldn’t hurt…) We asked Canadian parents and experts to lay out their ground rules.

1. You shall not host a sleepover until your child is truly ready
“That’s probably around seven or eight years old for a party,” says Jamie Kyle McGillian, author of Sleepover Party! Games and Giggles for a Fun Night and the mother of two daughters in Dobbs Ferry, NY. “You know the child is ready when she says she’d like to try it, when she starts packing a bag and planning games to play.” That said, kids as young as five can probably handle a small overnight visit with one or two close friends or cousins.

Another question to consider is whether your pint-sized guests are ready. If you’re unsure, a good compromise might be a “half” sleepover, in which guests wear pyjamas, have fun and then leave around 9 p.m. Or consider an opt-out policy. “We made it clear that kids were welcome to be picked up at bedtime and could call home at any time if they decided to stay or not stay,” says Vicki Delinger, a mother of an 11-year-old daughter in Edmonton.

2. You shall limit the guest list
Start small — with maybe one to three guests—and build up to a larger number as you get the hang of sleepovers. But if you have more experience with kids — and two responsible adults on hand for the whole evening—jump right in and have six to 10 stay over. Delinger is one of those heartier souls. “My daughter has had sleepovers for her last four birthdays, with as many as 15 girls at each — but I’ve found they pretty much entertain themselves.”

Consider the personalities involved too. This may not be the time to introduce new pals to the crowd. “You must have a playdate with them at least once to get to know them and — let’s be honest — make sure you don’t hate them,” says Peggy Campbell,* a mother of two in Dartmouth, NS. “Hating during the day is much easier than hating at night.” Aim for an even number of kids, including the host. Three’s a crowd, as the saying goes, especially when all three are tired.

3. You shall honour your guests’ parents
The success of your sleepover is directly proportional to the amount of information shared—both outgoing and incoming. “Invitations should clearly state drop-off and pickup times, whether meals are included, what kids should bring (sleeping bag, pillow), a little info about supervision and any planned activities, plus a contact number,” says Stringer.

Talk to the other parents about their child’s sleepover experience, food allergies and nighttime habits. For example, some parents may expect a phone call before bed.

If your child is the one sleeping over, don’t be coy about his nighttime-wetting issues or fear of the dark. It will come out anyway, and a prepared host parent can handle the situation positively and discreetly.

4. You shall not offer sugary treats or heavy foods an hour before bedtime
Mini-pizzas, veggies and dip, fresh fruit, pretzels, popcorn and other light, nut-free foods and snacks are wise choices. “Give treats early in the evening to allow time to burn off the sugar,” says Kim Gauvin of Ottawa, mom of a nine-year-old boy. And, of course, avoid any food that might upset someone’s already nervous, away-from-home tummy. “Remember it will be you cleaning their vomit out of the grout, no one else,” says Campbell ruefully.

5. You shall relax about the activities
“Encourage, but don’t force anyone to play the games and do the crafts,” suggests McGillian. “Keep lots of books and magazines on hand so that kids who don’t want to do the activity can still hang out and feel comfortable.” The best activities allow everyone to get involved — unlike a video game, say, where only one or two can play.

Good ideas include: decorating cupcakes or making sundaes watching age-appropriate, non-scary movies creating a dance routine or video doing karaoke playing board games and making forts, if you have ample couch cushions. “I like the Love It or Hate It game — when I was a substitute teacher, kids from kindergarten through seventh grade had fun with it,” says McGillian. Form a circle and give each kid a chance to name something: the beach, fried shrimp, snowstorms. Then each person has to decide if they love it or hate it. “There is no middle ground, so it always makes people laugh,” she says.

6. You shall be nearby, and have a code
Keep younger kids within hearing distance on the same floor as you with older kids in the basement or a sep-arate recreation room, check in every 15 to 30 minutes. “Better to err on the side of being a little intrusive the first time,” says Stringer. Both he and McGillian also recommend developing a code phrase that your child can say to you if things are getting out of control or a guest is having trouble. (The phrase could be as simple as “What time is it?”) That way you can step in and help, but no one feels singled out. And, of course, ensure that you have working smoke alarms wherever the kids sleep or play.

7. You shall honour the level sleeping field
A circle of sleeping bags on a living room or bedroom floor, space permitting, means everyone is connected and equal. Plus, this prevents kids from falling on each other from a bed, and squelches arguments about who gets to sleep where. “Each time a new friend sleeps over, there’s a debate about who will sleep on the top bunk,” warns Gauvin, who preferred her son’s more egalitarian trundle-bed option in years past.

8. You shall make sleep possible
“There is never any hope of a regular bedtime, or that sleep will come even with lights out,” says Gauvin. That said, there are a few things you can do to get the kids to sleep at 2 a.m. instead of 4 a.m. Let them know when lights out will occur and what’s expected of them. Dim the lights leading up to that time, and possibly hand out flashlights once the lights are off. If the giggling hasn’t stopped well into the wee hours, consider sleeping with them yourself or laying down the law. “A dad’s deep and scarier voice is essential at the final, final, final lights-out time,” says Campbell.

9. You shall prepare for forgotten toothbrushes and sudden exits
Expect the unexpected: Have extra sleeping bags, blankets, pillows and toiletries available. Gauvin says toothbrushes are forgotten most. Almost all of the parents we talked to had also primed their guests’ parents to expect a phone call in case their child got homesick or out of control. Some even recommend having a sign-in sheet so contact numbers are easy to find at 3 a.m.

10. You shall not say, “Oh, come pick him up whenever.”
“Do not make the next-day pickup time any later than 10 a.m.,” warns Campbell. Even though they chattered until 3 a.m., they’ll probably still wake at 7. The bleary-eyed, chip-encrusted dawn will be difficult, but you can comfort yourself with having created some magical memories and, hopefully, an even stronger bond of friendship, for your child and her guests.

As for guest parents, follow the golden rule and do unto host parents as you would have them do unto you. That means packing every conceivable thing — including cuddle toys — that your child could need, making sure he’s well fed and rested before he arrives, not dropping him off early “because you were in the neighbourhood” and picking him up the next day on time, or even — bless you! — early. It also means you’re hosting the next slumber party!

Sleeping with the fishes…and the dinosaurs, and the airplanes

Looking to spice up your sleepovers? From museums to zoos to libraries, many facilities across Canada offer unforgettable overnight programs for kids:

Vancouver Aquarium: Take part in a behind-the-scenes marine tour, then doze off beside the beluga whales. Vancouver, (604) 659-3504,

H.R. MacMillan Space Centre: Build a rocket, enjoy space travel in a flight simulator and marvel at the night sky in the planetarium theatre. Vancouver, (604) 738-7827 ext. 241,

Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology: Snooze among more than three dozen dinosaur skeletons. Drumheller, Alta., 1-888-440-4240,

Toronto Zoo: Fall asleep outdoors in a bush camp to the hoots and cries of exotic animals. Toronto, (416) 392-5947,

Fort Edmonton Park Spend the night as a pioneer, using lanterns for light and making bannock for breakfast. Edmonton, (780) 496-8787, (Click on Programs, then Educational Programs, Group Programs.)

Saskatchewan Science Centre: Play mad scientist for a night with science activities and shows. Regina, 1-800-667-6300 ext. 3,

Manitoba Children’s Museum: Enjoy an after-hours mystery scavenger hunt and a late-night movie before setting up the sleeping bags. Winnipeg, (204) 924-4004,

Canadian Aviation Museum: Steer a Cessna, take a flashlight tour of the museum, and crash out under the wings of an airplane. Ottawa, (613) 993-4264,

Montréal Biodôme: Bed down with the critters inside one of the Biodôme’s live ecosystems. Montreal, (514) 868-3000,

Maritime Museum of the Atlantic: Explore a 100-year-old steamship, learn about life at sea and hear ghostly bedtime stories. Halifax, (902) 446-4416,

Wolfville Memorial Library: Enjoy its annual literary sleepover with mystery guest — in 2008 it was Robert Munsch! Wolfville, NS, (902) 542-5760,

This article was originally published in April 2009.

Are you worried your kid isn’t outgoing enough? Check out this video on how you can make your child be more outgoing:

Cooking for a Crowd

Inviting over a group of guests always sounds like fun. But if you&rsquore like many a hostess, the to-dos and &ldquowhat-ifs&rdquo (&ldquoWhat if I don&rsquot make enough?&rdquo &ldquoWhat if someone doesn&rsquot eat meat?&rdquo) of feeding a hungry bunch can send even a calm cook into panic mode. &ldquoStress levels naturally run a bit higher when you&rsquore having a party,&rdquo says Dawn Simmons, a cooking instructor in Dallas and author of Cooking For Crowds For Dummies. &ldquoPlanning is the key to alleviating a lot of anxiety, and if you have a great time, your guests will, too.&rdquo Here, how to serve with success.

Sifting through your pile of &ldquorecipes I must try one day&rdquo for something that will wow? Unless you have a backup entrée (and why put that extra stress on yourself?), rely instead on meals you can (almost) cook with your eyes closed. Experimenting with new dishes or complicated recipes ups the chances for problems, says Simmons you should always test-run recipes before serving them to a group. If you&rsquore absolutely dying to make something new, stick with an appetizer or dessert as part of an assortment of other reliable recipes&mdashnot a dish the entire meal depends on.

Go wild when you&rsquore hosting your adventurous-palate dinner club. Otherwise, make sure your menu appeals to wide-ranging tastes. Translation: Stay away from quail eggs and anything else unusual. Since it&rsquos hard to know everyone&rsquos eating preferences, include vegetarian options and avoid weighing the menu down with one particular ingredient or seasoning (cilantro in the rice, cilantro chicken, cilantro margaritas) in case a guest has an aversion, suggests Aaron Albrecht, Executive Chef at Dean & Deluca in New York City, where he oversees the catering department.

What do you get when you leave all your cooking until the day of the party? A hostess who&rsquos scrambling around for most of the gathering. &ldquoChoose dishes you can make in big batches ahead of time and then reheat just before the party so you can mingle more and be a good host,&rdquo says Albrecht. He recommends making Italian classics, such as eggplant parmesan and lasagna as well as roasts and soups, in advance. Socializing is difficult when you have to park yourself at the stove to make sautés and stir-fries.

The amount you need to make varies depending on your guests (adults-only or your teen&rsquos ravenous football team?) and when you&rsquore serving (plan for bigger portions at dinnertime), says Simmons. The more types of items you offer at each course, the less you need of each. A few rough guidelines from on how much to cook per person: for entrées, about ½ pound of boneless poultry or ground beef or 4 to 5 ounces of pasta for sides, 3 to 4 ounces of veggies and 1 ½ ounces of grains and for dessert, about two cookies or brownies.

Free up time and valuable oven space by buying a few pre-made items (we won&rsquot tell). Most home kitchens don&rsquot have a ton of prep surface, so picking up a crudité or charcuterie plate or a labor-intensive side dish allows you to focus on what you are making, says Albrecht. Consider rounding out a meal with a local favorite&mdashperhaps a pie from a popular stand or some spreads from a great Middle Eastern grocer. A little help makes a less-harried hostess.

While plated meals are well-suited for formal affairs, they require you to be &ldquoon&rdquo throughout the event. With a serve-yourself set-up, though, a hostess can tackle most of the work before company arrives and just replenish as needed. Plus, guests love the freedom to choose what they want to eat. Go buffet-style with drinks and desserts too. No-slicing-required grabs, like cookies and brownies, are easiest.

Warning: You may need to tap into your Type-A side to reduce stress overall. From platters to ingredients, make lists of everything you&rsquoll need, says Simmons&mdashand cross off those items when you pick up whatever you didn&rsquot have. Once you have a clear headcount, gather enough flatware and dishes to cover every guest during each course, with a few extra&mdashyou don&rsquot want to scrub dirty dishes during your party. The day before the event, arrange empty platters and chafing dishes along your buffet with Post-its indicating what each will hold. If you have the fridge space, group together the items you&rsquoll need for each dish or course, so you&rsquore not hunting during crunch time, suggests Albrecht.

When you&rsquore short on time and there&rsquos a lot to cook, it&rsquos tempting to average individual dishes&rsquo cooking temperatures so more can go into the oven at once. (&ldquo450º for the potatoes and 350º for the chicken? 400º it is!&rdquo) But that results in unevenly cooked food, warns Albrecht. In fact, the more you jam into the oven, the higher the cooking temp needs to be, though it takes expert instincts to know by how much. So limit the number of noshes you bake at once, and consider mixing in a few stove-top or off-the-grill eats with your oven recipes.

You want your soirée to be remembered for great food and good times&mdashnot sick guests. Start with these bacteria-bashing pointers from the USDA: Nix cross-contamination by chopping veggies and slicing bread on a cutting board that&rsquos separate from the one you use for raw meat, seafood or poultry. Use a food thermometer to ensure you cook meats to a safe minimum internal temp: 145ºF for cuts of pork, beef and other red meats 160ºF for ground meats and 165ºF for poultry. Reheat all the hot foods you&rsquove made ahead to 165º. Trash eats sitting at room temperature for longer than two hours. To keep track, avoid filling half-empty platters with fresh food.

EyeSwoon's Athena Calderone Shows Us How to Throw an EPIC Summer Soirée

If there is anyone who knows how to throw a summer soirພ, it&aposs EyeSwoon’s Athena Calderone. If you haven&apost visited her too-gorgeous-to-be-true website yet, you’ll find a treasure trove of beautiful photos and refreshing recipes and get a glimpse of the beautiful parties that she hosts at her East Hampton retreat. Last Friday, I was one of the lucky guests at one of Calderone’s summer soirພs, to celebrate Vestiaire Collective, the latest online consignment site for luxury goods to make waves amongst the fashion crowd. (If you’re not familiar sight the site just yet, now is the perfect opportunity to embark on a shopping spree at Notable guests included stylist Kate Foley (co-host of the event) Jessie Randall, founder of Loeffler Randall and Max Osterweis of SUNO. The evening was the perfect trifecta of beauty: guests, decor and food.

Calderone’s picturesque backyard was the perfect setting for such a summer shindig, and lucky for her, she doesn’t have to look too far when it comes to picking a palette, which was inspired by her surroundings: Purple flowers budding in her garden and the lavender she was clipping at a local farm a week prior. “I do think effortless is key to evoke a relaxed summer vibe. A lot of thought went into the dinner decor, but always with the goal of keeping it a bit informal.”

For the centerpiece, this relaxed simplicity was key. In lieu of fussy decor, Calderone simply lay bunches of fresh lavender down the table directly on the surface, creating a beautiful, fragrant runner that could not have been easier to execute. Plus, the fresh herbs channeled the origins of Vestiaire Collective. “Since it is a European brand, and our goal was to celebrate the season, I began to think about the ever abundant lavender fields in Provence, France, and how they release such a swoony fragrance and are also an elegant expression of summer.”

For the menus, Calderone opted for casual kraft paper, and had them printed in unexpected white lettering which “kept things elevated.” As for the beautiful wispy bouquets at each place setting, “I worked together with Taylor Patterson of Fodder Fox Farm. Keeping within the pale purple and pink color story, we simply clipped some blooms (some purchased and others from my garden) and tied them together with nude linen fabric that was rustically torn,” explains Calderone. “I prefer for things to feel natural and undone.”

The food was equally pleasing to the eye and palate. During cocktail hour, guests enjoyed hors d’oeuvres and a lovely tequila cocktail, created by Jim Meehan (of PDT and chef Enrique Olvera of Cosme). For dinner, highlighting the season’s best produce, Cloud catering whipped up a strawberry and endive salad with whipped crème fra໬he and strawberry vinaigrette for the appetizer, and Tasmania sea trout with a medley of veggies, potatoes, and a tomato vinaigrette. Each dish came beautifully plated, with ribbons of fresh vegetables carefully arranged atop artful swipes of colorful sauces.

Cocktail Tips

Whether you're an experienced cocktail party host or are just stepping into the stylish world of cocktail party entertaining, here are tips to help make your next party a successful event.

  1. Stock up on plenty of ice. You'll need it for chilling bottles of beer, wine or champagne as well as serving in drinks on the rocks. A good rule of thumb is ​to plan to have one pound of ice per guest.
  2. Be prepared with an assortment of glass styles to cover the type of drinks you plan to serve. These include wine glasses for wines, juice and water straight-sided highballs for tall drinks tumblers for spirits and juices and martini glasses.
  3. Have twice as many glasses on hand as guests. For wine, champagne and martini glasses, wine glass charms will help guests to keep track of glasses as they mill about your party.
  4. For a two-hour party where you only plan on serving wine and/or champagne, you'll need to have one bottle for every two guests. Have a mix of white and red varieties. White used to be the predominant favorite, but red is becoming just as popular. , you'll want to stock up on vodka, whiskey, wines, and beer. For a more complete bar, you can add gin, tequila, rum, bourbon, vermouth, sherry, and brandy.
  5. Don't forget to stock up on mixers including orange juice, soda, tonic, ginger ale, cola, tomato juice, Tabasco, lemons, limes, horseradish, and Worcestershire sauce.
  6. If you anticipate your guests will be wine drinkers, you can prepare by uncorking a few bottles in advance, and then replacing the corks.
  7. Consider hiring a bartender to mix the drinks for your party. That will allow you much more time to socialize with your guests. There are even caterers that specialize in bartending services only.
  8. Have coffee available for any guests that may need a little assistance at the end of the party. Your local taxi company phone number should also be handy and offered to any guests you believe shouldn't be driving.
  9. A cocktail party is not a family event--encourage your guests with children to find a sitter for the night.

7 Rooftop Party Ideas Just In Time For Summer

Memorial Day weekend marked the unofficial start of summer, and what better way to ring in the new season than with a party that makes the most of the rising temperature and balmy nights? Look no further than your very own building for an ideal outdoor refuge that's been waiting all winter to be the backdrop of the ultimate summer bash. So gather your crew, head upstairs, and throw the best hot-weather celebration with these rooftop party ideas, just in time for summer.

Rooftop parties are a summer staple, especially if you're a city dweller. Where else can you enjoy uninterrupted views and cool breezes to wind down from hot sticky days? If you're one of the lucky individuals who has access to a party-ready rooftop, do all your friends a favor and host a get-together to put all previous rooftop gatherings to shame.

Prepare the space with decor that pulls double duty, providing a splash of color with comfy throws and adding some glitz with clever lighting options. Serve up snacks and libations that are easy to consume standing, reclined, or on an improvised dance floor. The greatest thing about a rooftop party is the space does most of the work for you, all you need to provide is a few essential comforts. After that — with the views, the breeze, and the setting that screams summer — you and your guests are destined to make some magical summertime memories.

1. Add Some Shade

If your get-together begins in daylight hours, make sure you provide some shady options with large umbrellas. You don't want to experience the toll of direct sunlight on a scorching summer day.

2. Get Creative With Comfy Seating

Make sure you have plenty of comfortable seating options for your guests. If your roof doesn't already have chairs, consider bringing some up. You can also create cozy spaces using cushions and blankets. When arranging chairs and lounging areas, consider conversation and work in clusters, ensuring that those taking seats will be able to gather together. If you're lacking cushions and feeling really creative, try your hand at making your own pillows. Throw down some outdoor rugs if you have them before putting down anything made of fabric, and try to stick with washable blankets and throws so you don't ruin your best textiles.

3. Bring The Roof To Life With Plants

Skip store-bought decorations and keep things simple with strategically placed decor you already own. The addition of a few potted plants here and there instantly ups the wow-factor (and Instagram-worthiness) of the space while also making the venue look more homey and put together.

4. Keep Food Simple For You And Your Guests

Once your party is underway, the last thing you want is to be stressing about feeding everyone and rushing back and forth between the roof and your apartment to serve up new snacks. If you're planning on cooking for your guests, make things in large batches to save time and energy. Bake a large pizza and cut it up into bite-sized finger food. Or create an array of homemade dips that can hang out in bowls while guests snack throughout the party.

If you want to take things up a notch while still minimizing your serving duties, create a hands-on food bar. For example, set up a DIY avocado station where guests can top off their own avocado halves, providing a basket of avocados and some delectable toppings like salsa and Cotija cheese.

At a rooftop party it's also important to consider how guests will be walking around with their food. If you aren't presenting snacks and dips on tables, make sure they're on sturdy trays that can easily be passed around. Have plenty of plastic plates (of the disposable variety or cheap ones you don't mind possibly sacrificing), or really get the party going with this clever drinkware-dish combo.

5. Keep Cool With Drinks And Keep Drinks Cool

Even if you're asking guests to BYOB (which is highly recommended to make sure everyone stays satiated), make sure you do serve up some of your own drinks. Cold beer and chilled wine are no-brainers for a rooftop bash, but upgrade your drinking options with some fun cocktails to kick off summer. Similar to the DIY food bar, you can set up a station where guests can play mixologist and make their own cocktails. Look up a deliciously simple recipe and provide all the right ingredients with fun labels and a card for instructions they can follow if they choose. Make sure you have plenty of ice and enough coolers to accommodate your guests so your booze stays cold even as the temperature rises.

6. Have Lighting Double As Decoration

If your summer day gathering turns into a soirée, make sure you have lighting that takes you into the evening (not to mention the proper extension cords). Even the simplest string lights instantly bring magic to any roof, but if you really want to impress, choose lights that go beyond straightforward bulbs, or get crafty and make your own like these tissue paper flowers or painted stringlights. Lanterns can also do wonders for a dimly lit roof, so round up your hurricanes and mason jars and cluster them throughout the space.

7. Complete The Scene With Music

Add that final touch of summertime magic with the perfect party playlist. Keep things chill and mellow in the first hour or two that guests arrive, so the conversation can be the star of the show. As the evening marches on, don't be afraid to turn up the beat as guests are more inclined to bust a move. Before the party starts, see who of your friends has the bluetooth speaker with the best sound quality, and if any of them happen to be musicians with a repertoire beyond "Wonderwall," let them know they're welcome to bring their instrument for an acoustic jam session al fresco.

These 15 Easy Summer Party Ideas Will Help You Throw The Ultimate Al Fresco Fête

The biggest do's and don'ts for planning any outdoor soiree.

'Tis the season of sunshine, and with the warmth comes more opportunities to entertain outdoors. Before you send out those invites, read on for event designers' essential do's and don'ts for throwing the perfect outdoor dinner party.

Beachside? Poolside? Al fresco garden party? Help your guests plan their evenings and outfits with an invitation that sets the tone for your fête. If your setting comes with clothing challenges&mdashlike high heel-stumbling grass or shoe-gritting sand&mdashthe invitation is the perfect opportunity to give everyone the heads up, too.

"From your backyard flora to your china cabinet, there are design elements for your al fresco table all around your home," says Ron Wendt of Ron Wendt Design in New York City. Try checking your backyard for natural blooming flowers or greenery to adorn the tables.

If you do decide to bring that fancy china out, tone down your tabletop with some thick cotton dinner napkins or a laid-back base setting, like rattan chargers, for a more informal fête.

Unless you have a side table to keep all the food, you're going to want to save some room for all that deliciousness. "Most al fresco dining is passed family style, and those platters need a place to sit for when all your guests want seconds," says Bri Crowley, creative director of Robertson's Flowers & Events in Philadelphia.

The whole point of an al fresco affair is to keep things light and fun, so no need to go overboard with strict seating plans or floral arrangements. "Let your table reflect the bright colors of the season by mixing up different shades of seasonal flowers for decorative arrangements, and allow your guests to naturally gravitate to the seat of their choice," Wendt says.

Whether you opt for a waft of blooming flowers, the pop of fresh-cut citrus, or the botnaical richness of herbs, smell can play a big role in creating a welcoming (and appetite-inducing) atmosphere. Drinks expert Cody Goldstein from Muddling Memories suggests stimulating your guests senses by garnishing drinks with barely smoldering cinnamon sticks, anise pods, or rosemary sprigs (light them in a fire for 5-10 seconds and then extinguish to bring out their natural aromas.) Or toss a few fresh herbs on the grill to create a scentscape that will subtley perfume the air.

Your dinner party regulars have probably already memorized your go-to playlist, so try mixing things up with something out of the box. "One of my favorite music discovery apps is Radiooooo," says Duolan Li, DJ and co-owner of Tu in Charlestown, South Carolina. "It's a music jukebox time machine that allows you to select songs based on countries and decades as opposed to genres and titles."

Outdoor dining often comes with less-than-plush seating options. Compensate by draping cozy-making fabrics like chic Turkish towels, over chairs and benches.

Rather than mixing up individual cocktails behind the bar, free your hands up by embracing the old-school cool of a classic punch or pitcher cocktail and let guests help themselves.

Before you go crazy with those arrangements, take a moment to consider how much space you're actually working with. "If your floral garlands are too wide, your guests might get more than what they bargained for in their salads!" Crowley says. On the other hand, if you&rsquore using smaller bistro tables, a large floral arrangement could take away from the food.

Setting up DIY food bars not only takes the pressure off serving, it also creates a fun way for guests to create their own meals. Here are a few of New York City-based event designer Jung Lee's favorites:

Taco Bar: "I&rsquod offer grilled shrimp, chicken and meat, salsa, guacamole, lettuce, shredded cheese, cilantro, hot sauce, and blue corn nachos."

Burger Bar: "I&rsquod serve turkey, tuna, and beef&mdashsmall buns, bibb lettuce, sliced tomatoes, sliced onions, pickles, at least two types of cheese, condiments, and chips on the side."

Grilled Pizza Bar: "Prepare a slew of toppings&mdashsausage, herbs, fresh tomato, peppers, mushrooms, hot chili flakes and truffle oil."

Or if you&rsquore pressed for time, outsource the whole thing and order dumplings and different dipping sauces, for a make-shift dumpling bar, Jung adds

If you prefer a plated dinner, be selective in allocating your time so you don't spend the whole party laboring away in the kitchen. Choose one course to dedicate your efforts to - say, a dramatic main, like whole roasted fish or rack of lamb - then opt for family-style starters and sides that can be prepared in advance and served at room temperature.

Between the heat and the insects, you might want to rethink bringing out those bigger dishes too soon. "It&rsquos perfectly fine to set out cold hors d'oeuvres outdoors, but as your first course may be more complex, it&rsquos best to store it inside until the sun sets or the temperature goes down so that it doesn&rsquot spoil," Wendt says.

A tip for your serving area: Lay it out so that it&rsquos no more than 12 feet away from your dining table. "That way, your guests can get up and serve themselves without having to leave the conversation at the table," Wendt adds.

While you shouldn't go crazy with lighting options, you also don't want your guests to be left in the dark when that beautiful sun starts to set. "You need lighting from above and below to insure the perfect ambience," Wendt says. Soft lighting is usually best, in the form of string lights or a lantern over the table. If you have an open umbrella, even better for hanging bistro lights! Lastly, just add hurricane lamps and flood the table with votives, Wendt says, and your table is set.

No need to worry about pulling a Mary Berry (or rushing out to your local bake shop before your guests arrive.) Keep things breezy by laying out some farmers' market fruit, assorted cheeses, or imperfectly-perfect hunks of dark chocolate for everyone to nibble, Italian-style. Trust us, you'll get no complaints.