Entertaining at a cottage by the lake must leave you time to enjoy the view and all the outdoor activities. A few simple steps is often enough to make your guests feel welcome.
You could start with these three ideas from a Montauk Surf Shack that was featured on The New York Times. What I like about these ideas is that you can reuse them over and over. The key component is to provide comfort in a fun and stylish way.
- Create your own outdoor theater with vintage webbed lawn chairs and a canvas screen. Ask your guests to bring the sangria, beer, popcorn and their favorite movie.
- Spread a large collection of comfy pillows on the dock. Pillows are easy to make with outdoor fabrics and use less place than lounge chairs.
- If you often invite a large group of people, why not build your own canvas teepees? This way, your guests will not have to bring their tent. Better yet, you will be ready for impromptu guests. Building the teepees could be a fun group activity one weekend.
+ Webbed Lawn Chairs at Lawn Chairs USA $29.99 USD
+ photos: Randy Harris for The New York Times
As my son approaches the 5-month mark, I wish to find an easy way to document his monthly milestone. We already take a daily picture of him. I initially wanted to design my own signs, but I clearly lack the time. I need a ready-to-use option to identify his age on a picture. I might have found the one.
Sticky Bellies is a peel-able sticker that looks great on shirts, pants or objects. It comes in a set of 1 to 12 months and a set of 13 to 24 months. The Oh Sew Adorable is tailored towards little girls, the Oh Sew Handsome is for boys while the neutral Oh Sew Cute would fit both genders.
+ Oh Sew Stickers by Sticky Bellies $14.99 USD per set
It is not because you rent an apartment that you could not realize your dream of well-organized kitchen cabinets. You can reach that goal with versatile drawer organizers like the ones made by Oxo. Available in height of 4 and 5 inches, the expandable drawer dividers will separate your plastic ware lids from the bowls, keep your pan lids, cutting boards and cookie sheets upright or neatly stack your table linens.
The line includes interlocking deep drawer bins, a drawer tray with movable dividers, and an expandable utensil organizer.
+ Oxo Drawer Organizers from $8.99 to $24.99 USD
Any parent knows that you can avoid to keep close by a couple of bins filled with your baby or toddler toys. So, it’s best to look for great looking toy bins. Three friends who lived in New York and Toronto started 3 Sprouts in 2007. They produce cute, fun and practical toy bins and storage caddies that parents and kids would love to use.
You can put on the storage caddy all the essential nursery items – from diapers to lotions, washcloths and onesies – that you need in one spot and ready to go. My son’s nursery is on the second floor. When I have a babysitter, I carry all these essentials on the main floor. Having a tote like this will eliminate some steps. Later, the storage caddy could be repurposed as a magazine holder, a craft tote or a toy tote. I just wish that we could wash them in the machine.
You have a choice of 8 animals for the storage bins and 3 animals for the caddies. You can buy those online at 3 Sprouts (they ship to Canada and the United States) or from these local retailers. These would make wonderful baby shower gifts that would be appreciated by mom and dad.
+ Organic Cotton Nursery Caddy by 3 Sprouts $23.99 USD or CAD
+ Organic Cotton Storage Bin by 3 Sprouts $39.99 USD or CAD
During these dog days of summer, the prospect of a hearty, rich slow cooker meal likely couldn’t be further from your mind. After all, it’s grilling season!
But this quick – and brilliant – tip from Tara and Stephanie at Healthy Mama, Healthy Baby makes so much sense right now, when farmer’s markets are loaded with fresh, locally grown veggies.
They chop meat and veggies to pre-assemble and freeze basic slow cooker meals. All it takes is a few ingredient adjustments to create completely different meals – from barbecue chicken to Thai curry.
Your slow cooker may stay in storage for another few months (although it sure beats turning on the oven during a heat wave!), but when you’re ready for your first cozy fall meal? You can re-live summer memories with the tastes of the season.
I was surprised when I read this article from The New York Times by the spread of high-end, custom playhouse makers. I would have never imagined building a playhouse with air conditioning, a kitchen with running water and a 32-inch flat TV on the second floor. The article clearly depicts the world of the rich and super rich niche.
But more than that, the article made me realized that the playhouse market is not only parents but also for grandparents who wish to provide their grandchildren with the best entertainment. For example, it makes perfect sense for a family gathering place on a lake. And the best thing is that the family members can pitch in (money and/or labor) to build a fun play zone for the kids.
Modern Style Playhouses
Personally, I would pick a modern style for my son like the ones made by Smart Playhouse. I like the clean, airy lines of the Illinois model with its eight large windows.
The Hobikken playhouse model is available in three sizes: mini, junior and maxi. It becomes a playroom outside your home.
+ Child’s Play, Grown-Up Cash from The New York Times
+ Illinois model from Smart Playhouse $12,485, including interior lighting
+ Hobikken playhouse by Smart Playhouse
It is funny that I found in a South African magazine one of the most inspiring pictures that capture the spirit of french alfresco dining. The French are not afraid to mix formal, classic pieces with rustic elements. That dining table is the perfect example with Napoleon III bronze candelabra being used for casual outdoor dining.
This kitchen illustrates one of the most important elements of stylish, stress-free entertaining: do not neglect the preparation. Create a butler station by putting on a surface the glassware, the water bottles or pitchers, the wines and the bread that you will need for the night. This way, it is easy to delegate this task during the party, if you want to. Even if you do it yourself, you will see that this technique simplifies your life.
+ photos by Elsa Young for House and Leisure – August 2011 issue
When it comes to planning super stylish parties, sometimes boys get the short end of the stick. But little dudes deserve clever little details too, and there’s no shortage of them in this cool cowboy birthday party designed by Lovely Little Parties.
A broader theme can be easier to execute because it allows more room for creativity, and ensures it won’t lose any of its charm over time. The cowboy connection is an obvious one in the photos, but there are also “Wild West” touches in the customized “Wanted” poster of the birthday boy and handmade “Sheriff” badges.
Classic red and blue gingham fabric on the tables and on the take-home jars of cowboy cookie mix create a punchy party palette that’s balanced with neutral materials like burlap, twine and brown kraft paper. A wooden crate does double duty as a cake stand for the adorable farm cake, while keeping it just out of reach of a stampede of little party-goers. Paper cut-out horseshoes are adorable accents on stamped paper loot bags and threaded on twine as an alternative to popular bunting garland (as seen in top photo).
Check out Somewhere Splendid for more photos of this Western themed party and vendor information.
+ Party by Lovely Little Parties, via Somewhere Splendid
+ Photos by Melanie Mauer
Only if you tried to stop and smell them would you ever guess these flowers were anything but the real deal.
And while there’s certainly no shortage of DIY paper flower tutorials available, this bouquet is something truly special: the variations in paper, colours and flower shapes, plus the addition of faux fern leaves, make it look authentic.
The bouquet, and the coordinating stems in simple vases, are a wonderful option for brides on a budget, or sentimental ones who want to preserve memories of their special day.
And though carnations aren’t as popular a petal pick as, say, roses, there’s something ultra feminine about this ruffled version made from floral wire stems and twisted cupcake liners.
Check out MarthaStewart.com for complete instructions on how to create this quick and easy DIY.
+ DIY Sticker & Cupcake Paper Flowers from Martha Stewart
Reading the latest issue of Saveur (Sept. 2011) taught me that the pesto starts with the smallest, palest basil leaves. It is because they do not have the bitterness and the licorice-like taste of the mature leaves. But if you have mature green basil leaves, simply blanch them for 30 seconds and plunge them in an ice bath right away. Another tip is that coarse sea salt will help pulverize the ingredients. You want a delicate flavor olive oil to not overpower your pesto. Go for an olive oil that is pale gold. Plus, you will get several recipes from across the Mediterranean.
The second article that caught my attention is about homemade ice cream. They showcased 6 ways to make your own ice cream without an automatic ice maker, which include using coffee cans or Ziploc bags.
Look closely at this table and you should find a few ideas to steal if you are hosting an adult or kids party around an art theme. For instance, use the art materials as your props to design your dinner place settings. They used Chinese calligraphy brushes.
Mixing the art supplies with your table design enables you to jump right away into the party theme. It is an important point if you wish to have enough time to do the activities and serve dinner.
+ Delicious Table details from H.D. Buttercup’s blog