Fresh ideas for elegant outdoor entertaining
When it comes to having friends and family over for summer gatherings, first thoughts often turn to late afternoon barbecues with sizzling burgers, plastic cups and paper plates. If that's your idea of outdoor entertaining, maybe it's time to get out of the house.
"So many people are trapped in the mindset that china should only be used for formal meals around the dining room table," says Dubravka Vujinovic, showroom stylist with Replacements, Ltd., known as the world's largest supplier of old and new china, crystal, silver and collectibles. "That's just so limiting. You can have fantastic fine dining outdoors, such as a sunny afternoon picnic or perhaps a beautiful dinner at sunset or under the stars, simply by using 'your good stuff' outdoors."
Find new uses for traditional pieces
Who says you can only use a tureen to serve soup or goblets for wine? Alfresco entertaining really opens the door to new purposes for china, crystal and silver.
* Fill your silver or crystal punch bowl with water and float candles and flowers, or add ice and chill bottles of wine and other beverages.
* Iced tea glasses are perfect for parfaits or fruit salads, while sherbet or champagne glasses are great for serving ice cream and other summertime desserts.
* Use silver mint julep cups to serve shrimp cocktail or as individual vases.
* Fill coffee pots, pitchers or serving pieces with fresh flowers to create unusual centerpieces.
* Use a soup tureen to keep dinner rolls warm.
* Stack footed cake plates, fill with appetizers and adorn with summer blossoms. You can also place candles of varying sizes on cake plates to create a great accent or centerpiece for evening entertaining.
Sizzle with seasonal color
From crystal blue skies to vibrant blooming flowers, dining outdoors is all about summertime hues. "Entertaining outside frees up the host to mix bright colors that might be a little overwhelming indoors," adds Vujinovic. "Get creative by mixing and matching different hues of china or colored glass. And instead of using a tablecloth, buy inexpensive fabric remnants to layer various bold colors to accent your tableware. Turquoise, coral and violet are among the hot colors for summer 2010." She also suggests using ribbon or kitchen twine to tie fresh flowers around linens as napkin rings, or using herbs in lieu of cut flowers. Take advantage of color all around you by incorporating fresh flowers and greenery from your yard or summer fruits and vegetables from your garden in centerpieces and other decor.
Hit the spot with summer tea parties
Formal afternoon tea isn't just for the English - tea parties are becoming a popular entertaining trend.
* Set up several small tables around your patio or deck with tea sets or themes of various patterns. Tie those together with similar floral centerpieces.
* Purchase tea cups in patterns that fit your guests' personalities for a take-home gift.
* Float delicate blossoms in tea cups or fill with miniature bouquets for colorful accents.
Don't worry about the ants
Take out your bridal china for an elegant, romantic afternoon picnic.
* Use soup tureens or covered vegetable bowls to serve tuna or potato salads.
* Serve sandwiches or desserts on handled cake plates.
* Place condiment bowls or similar dishes on cake stands to elevate off the ground.
"So many people are nervous about using their china, crystal or silver, especially heirloom and discontinued patterns," says Keith Winkler, Replacements' product marketing and business development manager. "But these pieces are made to be used. In fact, regular hand washing will help keep impurities from penetrating the glaze of fine china and basically keeps the glaze strong, while silver's finish actually improves with daily use."
For those worried about damaging a special piece, Replacements offers extensive restoration services or more than likely can help you find a new one from the company's inventory of more than 13 million pieces. If you don't know the name of your pattern, you can take advantage of Replacements' Free Pattern Identification Service. Winkler says the company receives up to 3,000 requests weekly from people needing help identifying their patterns. You can find more information on this process at www.replacements.com.
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