Backyard Celebrations

Who says you have to go anywhere to have fun in the summer? Use your very own backyard as the setting for a kid's campout, a farmer's market buffet dinner, a fresh fruit cocktail party or a s'mores-themed get-together.
Start by assessing the size and capacity of your backyard. How many people can you fit? Where will everyone sit? What will you do if it starts to rain? Once all those questions are answered, write up a guest list and send the invitation. Punchbowl offers a wide variety of festive digital invitations geared toward a backyard celebration:

As with any party, planning can be overwhelming. We've put together the following 'how to's' so you're able to party plan like a pro and actually enjoy the event without stressing about the details.
  • Backyard Campout for Kids: For every child, there comes a point when the idea of sleeping outside seems like the ultimate adventure. Treat your kids and their friends to an overnight in your backyard and you'll be the favorite parent on the block! It's helpful to limit the number of kids to under ten so you are able to manage and supervise everyone the entire time. The limited number will also help if the weather doesn't cooperate and everyone has to camp indoors. Follow these helpful guidelines to ensure your party is a hit while also being super safe and organized. 
    • On the invitations, ask the parents to pack a sleeping bag, lightweight tent (if possible), flashlight, blanket, swimsuit and a warm change of clothes.
    • Once everyone arrives, set up the tents and sleeping bags so no one has to do it in the dark.
    • Make sure all the kids know where the bathroom is indoors.
    • Put out bug spray, bottles of water and a first aid kit.
    • Before the party officially begins, outline any rules you have. For instance, emphasize that no child is to leave your yard without telling you first.
    • It's also wise to have at least one adult sleep outside with the kids if they are under 13 years old.
  • Food: It's likely that all the kids will be very excited and running around, so set up a food table where they can grab snacks throughout the night. 
    • Pack paper bags with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chips and boxes of raisins.
    • Make homemade pizzas, grill and cut into squares.
    • Put a variety of fruit juices in beverage dispensers and set out reusable water bottles. The kids can serve themselves and then take the bottle home with them as a party favor.
    • Make trail, snack or candy mixes and distribute evenly into small plastic bags so they are easily transportable.
    • Set up an ice cream bar at the end of the night and let all the kids make their own sundaes.
    • Serve muffins, orange juice boxes and fresh fruit cups to the hungry campers the next morning.
  • Activities: While they may be just as happy playing impromptu tag, there's a chance you'll want to plan several activities before bedtime. Here are a few no-fail outdoor pasttimes: 
    • Hand out mason jars with lids poked with holes and start a competition for who can catch the most fireflies.
    • If it's warm, set up the sprinkler and hand out water balloons.
    • Arrange a scavenger hunt (find a red flower, collect three gray stones, pluck a three-leaf clover, etc.) and award prizes to the kids who complete the hunt.
  • Farmer's Market Dinner Party: Get on the local food bandwagon and take advantage of all the fresh, locally-grown food found at a regional farmer's market. Planning, set up and food can be easy - arrange for your dinner party to be on the same day as the farmer's market and grab as many of the party items as possible just hours before everyone arrives. That way, the food will be at it's peak freshness, the flowers will be spritely and full of color and you won't go crazy making plans all week long! 
    • Scope out the market the week before. Ask vendors what produce they'll have coming in the following week so you can build the menu based on what will be available.
    • If there aren't any local markets in your area, purchase menu items from the grocery store but check to see if they have a section of locally-grown food. Buy what's in season - you'll get the most bang for your buck!
    • The friendlier you are with vendors, the more you'll get. See if they're willing to sell you fruit baskets for centerpieces, special produce or flowers that they save for their favorite customers, etc.
  • Food: Flavors abound in fresh fruits and vegetables. These recipes will bring out the natural beauty in all the ingredients and every guest will be asking for seconds!
Beet Salad with Feta
  • 3 cups of fresh beets (yellow or red), washed, peeled and cubed
  • 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 cup crumbled feta
Mix lemon juice and a dash of salt in a small bowl. Slowly add the olive oil while continuing to stir. Add a dash of pepper and drizzle over beets. Allow to marinate for 30 minutes in the refrigerator. Sprinkle feta over beet mixture and toss gently. Serve chilled. 
Heirloom Tomato Salad
  • 4 - 6 heirloom tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 bunch fresh basil
Quarter tomatoes, sprinkle with salt and pepper and pour olive oil and vinegar over all tomatoes. Chop basil and sprinkle on top. Serve at room temperature with fresh bread and mozzarella.
Spinach and Goat Cheese Quiche
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 cups fresh goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cup fresh spinach, chopped, uncooked
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 pie shell
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Saute onion and garlic over medium heat until browned. Mix eggs, milk, cheese, onions and garlic in a bowl and set aside. Toss spinach with olive oil, salt and pepper. Add egg mixture to pie shell and then layer in spinach. Bake at 325 degrees for 35 minutes or until the top is browned and bubbly. Serve with mixed greens and olive oil with lemon juice topped with freshly ground pepper.
  • Decorations: When decorating for a backyard farmer's market dinner party, use rustic accents and recycle items you already have or would throw away otherwise to display food or flowers.
  • Mason jars and tea lights: Simply place tea lights in mason jars and randomly place them all over your yard. The overall effect will be romantic and whimsical.
  • Wildflowers in juice cartons: Save up empty juice containers for a few weeks and cut the tops off. Fill with water and some wildflowers for an instant - and easy - centerpiece.
  • Fruit crates: Most grocery stores are more than happy to give up the wooden crates that most produce is delivered in. Use on the table to hold silverware, plates, pitchers of water, etc.
  • Summer Fruit Cocktail Party: The fresh fruit of the summer season lends itself to a summer fruit cocktail party in your backyard. They are so refreshing, it doesn't matter if you use alcohol or not.
  • Cocktail Recipes: As the major (and one-and-only) focal point of the party, set up a bar with all the fixings you'll need to make cocktails. Display a menu (for instance, a chalkboard) with ingredients so guests can either make their own or order from you. A few of the cocktails below can be assembled prior to the party and can be served in glass pitchers with garnishes on the side. Peach Lime Whiskey Splash
    • 2 oz. whiskey
    • 1 oz. peach liqueur or fresh peach juice
    • 1 lime, sliced
    • 2 oz club soda
    • 3 sprigs of fresh mint
Combine whiskey, peach liqueur or juice and soda in shaker with ice. Pour into glass and add a few slices of lime and mint.
Sparkling Blackberry Cocktail
  • 1 bottle Prosecco or other sparkling white wine
  • 2 cups fresh blackberries
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 tbsp. fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 3 sprigs of fresh mint
  • Slices of fresh strawberries or other fruit
Simmer blackberries, sugar, water and rosemary in a saucepan for 20 minutes until thickened. Pour mixture through sieve and let the syrup stand for five minutes. Chill syrup (covered) until cold. Add ice cubes to each glass with a few slices of strawberries or other fruit. Pour in Prosecco and add a splash of syrup.
Tangerine Amaro Old Fashioned
  • 1/4 cup whiskey
  • 1/4 cup Amaro (Italian herbal liqueur)
  • 1 tbsp. cherry juice
  • 1/8 cup sugar
  • 1 tangerine, peeled and quartered
  • 1/4 cup tonic
  • Tangerine peels, twisted
Muddle tangerine, cherry juice and sugar in shaker. Add ice, whisky and Amaro and shake. Pour into glasses and add a splash of tonic water. Garnish with peels and serve.
Watermellon Mojito
  • 1 watermelon, cut into pieces with seeds removed
  • 1 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup mint leaves
  • 3 cups rum
  • 1/4 cup simple syrup (sugar syrup)
Blend watermelon, lime juice and mint in a blender until smooth. Pour through a seive into a pitcher and mix in rum and syrup. Serve over ice with mint leaves as garnish.
Snappy Apple Cocktail
  • 1 oz. vodka
  • 1 1/2 oz. apple liqueur
  • 1/4 apple juice
  • 1/8 cup ginger ale
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 apple, thinly sliced
Shake vodka, apple liqueur, juice and ginger ale with ice. Strain into glass, add lemon juice and sliced apple for garnish.
Strawberry Basil Lemonade
  • 2 oz. vodka
  • 1/4 cup fresh strawberries
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/8 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup soda water, chilled
  • 1 large sprig fresh basil
Slice and remove stems from strawberries and mix with sugar. Allow to chill for 30 minutes. Muddle in shaker with lemon juice and a few pieces of basil. Pour into glass, add vodka and garnish with basil.
  • S'mores!: To have a summer without s'mores is like having a spring without flowers! Gather friends and family in your backyard and make this delectable summer snack over a grill, firepit or campfire. 
    • Set up a seating area around the fire and put out blankets, bug spray and flashlights. Try to use a spot that is relatively flat, with no large rocks or tree roots that enable tripping in the dark.
    • Fill galvanized tin buckets with all the makings for the s'mores (marshmallows, graham crackers, chocolate bars, roasting sticks), bottled water, beer, wine and juice boxes for the kids.
    • Decorate around the seating area with votive candles or hanging votive holders.
    • If you are making a campfire, consider putting wire fencing around the perimeter of the fire so no one gets too close.
    • Fill another bucket with wet wipes for easy clean up of sticky hands.
  • More Ideas: If you want to go beyond the standard s'mores recipe, try these fun variations: 
    • Use other candy bars instead of chocolate bars (Reece's Cups are perfect!)
    • Offer banana or strawberry slices dipped in chocolate instead of candy
    • Or, make your own marshmallows and graham crackers! And, try offering a non-alcoholic, refreshing drink.
Homemade Marshmallows
  • 3 packages plain gelatin
  • 1 cup ice water
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup corn syrup
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1/4 cornstarch
  • Canola oil spray
Place 1/2 cup water, sugar, syrup and salt in a small pan over medium heat. Cover and cook for four minutes. Uncover and continue to cook for another eight minutes. Remove immediately and set aside. Mix gelatin and remaining water with electric mixer and slowly pour the sugar mixture in. Mix on high until thick and warm. Add vanilla near the end of whipping. Spray baking pan with canola spray and coat the bottom of the pan with cornstarch and confectioners' sugar. Pour the whipped mixture into the pan and spread evenly. Dust with leftover confectioners' sugar and cornstarch. Allow to sit over night. Cut into squares with a pizza wheel.
Homemade Graham Crackers
  • 1 cup graham flour
  • 3/4 cup regular flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. allspice
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
  • 3/4 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 tbsp. molasses
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Sift dry ingredients in large bowl. Whisk butter, honey, molasses and milk together in a medium bowl. Pour these ingredients into large bowl with dry ingredients until a moldable dough. Make into a disk shape, wrap in plastic and chill for at least an hour (or one full day if possible).
Coat two baking sheets with butter and heat oven to 350 degrees. Dust countertop with flour, remove dough from refridgerator and divide in half (place other half in refridgerator). Flatten the first half until 1/2 inch thick. Dust countertop with flour again and roll dough until 1/8 inch thick. Use a sharp knife to cut the dough into 5x3 inch rectangles. Use a fork to press holes into the top of each rectangle. Combine cinnamon and sugar together and sprinkle on cookies. Bake for 17 minutes, remove and allow to cool. Repeat this with remaining dough. 
Nectarine Honey Breezer
  • 1 oz. honey water (half honey, half water)
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1 nectarine, sliced
  • 1 cup lemon-lime soda
Muddle nectarine slices with honey water at the bottom of a glass. Add lemon juice, soda and ice. Garnish with colored straw and slice of nectarine.
  • Activities: Offer some other activities in addition to the fire: 
    • Play a movie outdoors by setting up a projector and white sheet hanging on a windowless outside wall.
    • Set up a telescope for star gazing.
    • Use flashlights to play night tag.
Enjoy what you have right in your own backyard - top your summer off with our ideas for a kid's campout, a farmer's market buffet dinner, a fresh fruit cocktail party or a s'mores-themed get-together. Celebrate the season of warm weather, long days and flexible schedules and have some fun!
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