Throwing a successful backyard gathering doesn’t need to be stressful. Nor should it require weeks or even days of planning. Impossible, you say? Not at all: The key is adopting a few of our favorite hacks, each designed to make your backyard the place to gather this summer.
1. Build a backyard fire pit. In three minutes!
No fire pit, and no time to build one? No problem. Just grab a 15-gallon metal wash pail and four bricks from your local building supply or hardware store (total cost should be around 20 bucks). Set the wash pail wherever you like (well, ok, not inside!), then space the bricks evenly along the bottom; they’ll provide essential air flow. Lay your logs on top of the bricks, strike a match, and break out the hot dogs.
2. Make your picnic table an impromptu piece of art
Grab a roll of craft paper (your local office supply store should carry it), and use it in place of a tablecloth. Next, hand out pocket-sized packs of crayons, or place them conspicuously on the tables. Finally, encourage kids of all ages to add to the artistic masterpiece. As an incentive, find a place to hang the table covering from your previous gathering. Fair warning: the presence of adult beverages may influence the quality and nature of the art.
3. Cook corn in your cooler
If you want to see mouths drop, just start tossing freshly shucked ears of corn into an empty cooler, before casually adding boiling water (two quarts per dozen ears, since you’re asking), and closing the lid. Give it 30 minutes or so, open the lid, and voila! Perfectly cooked corn on the cob. Butter not included.
4. Create a backyard party “secret signal”
Gather your friends and neighbors together, and agree on a neighborhood signal for the spontaneous “party at my house tonight.” Our suggestions: A pink flamingo on the front lawn, a garden gnome in the driveway, or the universally understood balloon tied to the mailbox.
5. Use your holiday lights to make your summer more festive
Sometimes the simplest things have the biggest impact. In the spirit of this truism, we remind you to invest in a few strings of holiday lights. Run them around tree trunks and into the branches, around the legs of picnic tables, and pretty much anywhere they won’t get stepped on. It’s remarkable how much good cheer can be cultivated by this one simple act.
6. Get your kids to do all the work without even realizing it
Leave the canned whipped cream in the pantry, and instead pick up a few pints of fresh whipping cream and a half-dozen or so mason jars. Fill each jar with about a cup of cream, a tablespoon of sweetener (bonus points: Use maple syrup), and a dash of nutmeg. Gather the kids around, give them each a jar (be sure the lids are tight!), and count them down, with instructions to start shaking on “0”. The first one to achieve whipped cream gets the first taste–unless you claim it. Because you are the parent, after all.
7. Serve a party-sized burger
Sliders are so 2018; instead, create a massive hunk-a-chunk of grilled perfection by forming three pounds of ground beef into a party-sized patty, slathering it with your favorite toppings, and serving it inside a hollowed out loaf of your favorite locally baked bread. Slice into almost-reasonable sized portions, and serve with lots of napkins. Lots and lots of napkins.
8. Transform squeezable bottles into custom drink makers
Whether you’re serving alcohol or not, create a custom drink-mixing station by setting out squeeze bottles full of simple syrups. Your guests will love cooking up their own personal potions, though laminating a couple of your favorite recipes and setting them out with the mixin’s is a thoughtful touch.