Everyday Hacks

Tips for Easy Outdoor Fun

Great tips for impromptu backyard get-togethers

Summer is my favorite season because being able to be outside is like gaining an extra room in my home.

When friends drop by, it’s an excellent reason for an impromptu backyard party. I don’t worry about what the inside of the house looks like; I just make sure there’s a cool drink for everyone, a few snacks and outside we go. We sit and visit as the sky darkens and the kids play and no one mentions the word bedtime.

Summer entertaining doesn’t have to be fancy, but here are a few hacks to streamline your outdoor entertaining, so you can spend time enjoying the weather and your guests.

Grills Just Want to Have Fun

Maybe every girl thinks that her dad is the king of grilling; mine actually is. So, for the best grilled chicken, fish, steak, and, yes, turkey, I head to his house, and he’s a great host, so you’re probably invited, too. However, if you are grilling on your own, here are some tips:

  • Maximize table space and minimize clean-up time by using a muffin tin to hold your barbecue condiments. A jumbo muffin tin will hold ketchup, mustard, mayo, relish, tomato slices, and pickles. Just add spoons to each cup.
  • Have a box of wet wipes on your outdoor table for post summer-feast hands and face clean-up, because, when it comes to barbecued food, paper napkins often just can’t do the job.

Perfectly Buttered Corn on the Cob

This is from my childhood neighbor, Mrs. Peterson, who had the best method for buttering corn on the cob. It’s also a neat “magic trick” the kids will love doing.

Fill a tall canning jar or glass with hot water, leaving 1½ inches of space at the top. Melt a stick of butter in the microwave, and then pour the melted butter into the jar or glass of hot water. See the butter floating on top?

Dip your cooked ear of corn all the way into water and butter, pull out and voilà! You’ve got a perfectly buttered ear of corn, evenly coated on all sides with just the right amount of butter per kernel.

Cool and Protect Beverages

Try these fun and refreshing ways to keep beverages cool and covered:

  • Fill some water balloons with water and freeze. On a hot day, place the frozen water balloons in a cooler with your drinks to keep them cool. The frozen water in the balloons will gradually melt, leaving you ready for a late afternoon water balloon fight. (But wait to use them until they are fully melted to avoid injury.)
  • Freeze berries or grapes and place them in glasses in lieu of ice cubes to chill your drink without watering it down.
  • Keep bees and other bugs away from your drinks by covering the top of each glass with an upside-down cupcake liner. Poke a drinking straw through the center of the liner and sip away.

Outdoor Reading Nook

Create a cozy kids’ outdoor hang-out spot by filling a larger-sized kids’ wading pool with blankets and pillows. Place in a shaded area of your yard, throw in some books and you have an instant outdoor library!

Bubble Station

Fill a gallon drink dispenser from a dollar store with bubble solution. Give each child a kid-sized paper cup and a bubble wand and let them fill their cups with solution from the dispenser. They can blow to their hearts’ content and get more bubble solution on their own when they run out.

Glow Ring Toss

Put a twist on backyard games with glow sticks. Stake two thicker glow sticks about five feet apart in the grass. Have kids bend several thinner glow sticks into circles for tossing.

Quick Kiddie Pool Cover

A twin-size fitted sheet makes a good cover for a wading pool to keep out dirt, bugs, leaves and small animals when your kids aren’t splashing around in it. It’ll also help to conserve water since you won’t need to dump it out as often and may even help the water retain its warmth.

Shop Now, Relax Later

As summer begins, I head to my favorite spot — the dollar store — and stock up on paper products such as plates and napkins, bubble solution and glow sticks, so I can easily say to friends, “The weather is beautiful! Drop by tonight.”

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Outdoor Reading Nook

Create a cozy kids’ outdoor hang-out spot by filling a larger-sized kids’ wading pool with blankets and pillows. Place in a shaded area of your yard, throw in some books and you have an instant outdoor library!

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