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Fair-weather friends

The backyard beckons us to host the perfect summer soiree

It’s summer, and when the temperature rises, the parties get hotter. Whether it’s an end of season bash or a simple summer evening with friends, there always is a great outdoor party to be had. 

Karen Garlough of My Chef Catering in Wheaton says the latest party trend is to give guests a hand in the preparation, with a “create-your-own” option on the menu. Slider bars get party-goers building their own mini burgers using an array of tasty toppings and even different sandwich options, like grilled Portobello mushrooms, pulled pork or tilapia.

Do-it-yourself sundaes remain a cool choice, or for a twist on the dessert favorite, try a shortcake bar filled with fanciful fruits and whipped cream. 

If you’re looking for a menu option that truly takes advantage of the warm breezes and sultry evenings of summer, Garlough suggests some popular trends, such as tropical themes that embrace roasted pork and pineapple with a full-on Tiki decor, or a casual barbecue taste testing, encouraging  guests to slather their favorite foods with regional sauces, taste-testing their way from Kansas City to the Carolinas.

And if you need a hand with the planning, Garlough offers all these options through My Chef’s services.

“When you are hosting a party, you can spend all your time cleaning, cooking and hosting instead of enjoying yourself,” Garlough suggests.  Hiring a service staff to help run your party keeps you enjoying the day. 

Outdoor entertaining is grand, but pesky insects can bug you start to finish, and leave your guests feeling less than festive. Garlough recommends crushing some fresh mint and putting it on your table to keep the bees and yellow jackets away, chemical-free.

Decorating the deck and primping the patio for your next gathering couldn’t be simpler, with great accessories that fit the bold bright hues of summer.

Colored lanterns, and twinkling Christmas lights add just the right ambience for a summer evening, while bright-colored tablecloths, dishware and napkins dress your table in sumptuous summer color, says Paula Goss, owner and manager at Fuller's Home and Hardware in Hinsdale. 

Her napkin of choice is from MYdrap. These are 100 percent cotton napkins that can be washed and recycled and come in many different sizes and colors. Unlike regular cloth napkins, these tear off of a roll like paper towels.

Tiki torches are a great way to outline a yard with fun lighting and keep away unwanted bugs, especially if you’re enjoying that island feel at your party, she adds, and don’t forget the music to keep people happy and enjoying themselves.

"It can be used as not just background," Goss says.  "Set up a place where they can all dance. It's an inexpensive way to have fun."

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