Summer Party and Picnic Crafts
A Bright Buffet
Crisp white and fire-engine-red pails bring charm (and order) to a serve-yourself table. Small, large, squat, tall: They're just right for flowers, drinks, utensils, and snacks.
1. Skip the Tablecloth
For a fresh-looking table that makes cleanup easy, start with an inexpensive roll of white paper. Painters' tape holds it down, and rubber stamps add DIY flair.
White butcher paper, reliablepaper.com.
2. Serve Snacks to Go
Individual buckets of thick-cut fries (or cherries or popcorn) are just right for toting to the pool, the deck, or the tree house. Tulip baking cups, which come prefolded to fit a muffin pan, slip neatly into pails.
3. Group the Essentials
Everything a diner needs -- fork, knife, napkin, and straw -- is tucked into this grab-and-go pocket, minimizing fumbling at the buffet. Rubber-stamped decorations add just enough whimsy to make plain white bags feel fun. Place the bags in a low-rise container between the plates (these pretty tin ones won't blow away) and the glasses.
4. Corral the Cocktails
Color-coordinated ice buckets -- red for rose and white for Sauvignon Blanc -- make it easy to spot your drink of choice.
Enamel pails, bucket-outlet.com.
5. Keep the Flowers Basic
Single hydrangeas, a quintessential summer flower, make a big show inside tiny pails down the center of the table. A mass of blossoms creates a grander statement among the refreshments.
A Perfect Picnic
Pack a hamper and hit the road. With practical storage solutions and a waste-not ethos, eating outside is a walk in the park.
1. Sit in Style:
A natural woven mat is comfy to lounge on, durable, and light enough to tote when rolled up and tied with a rope. If you have a spare hand, take along a pillow or two for extra cushioning.
Rattan mat, 52" by 72", pearlriver.com. Clothesline, amazon.com.Get the Picnic-Mat Tie How-To2. Use Smart Tools
A little prep is inevitable, so why not make it easy on yourself? Pick up a collapsible cutting board and a folding knife, which are ideal for travel -- and an impromptu cheese course.Folding chopping board, shopterrain.com. No. 8 folding knife, brookfarmgeneralstore.com.
3. Toss or Reuse:
For food packaging, strike a balance between convenient disposables and eco-friendly reusables. Take-out cartons are great for sides. Compostable cutlery has more heft than plastic without the environmental impact. And checkerboard sandwich wrappers make any old combination feel fresh. Matching containers lend polish at little cost.Take-out cartons, containerstore.com. Wooden cutlery, conranusa.com. Stacked lunch box, vivaterra.com. Locking Lid Container Set, bedbathandbeyond.com.
4. Upgrade to Cloth
It's worth forgoing paper napkins in favor of pretty cotton ones you can use again and again. Slip them into easy-to-sew pockets, which double as mats -- a surprising, elegant touch.Get the Portable Picnic Utensil Roll How-To5. Keep Things Chill
Cold soup travels well in a sealed pitcher. Just pour it into cups, wrapped in paper and secured with rubber bands, for spoon-free serving. Here's a trick for keeping it chilled: Freeze ice cubes of soup and add to the pitcher.
A Relaxed Dinner
Embrace a theme and have fun with it. The balmy climes inspired our tropical party decor. Plan a low-stress menu -- even takeout would feel festive at this table -- and add one special dish, such as make-your-own spring rolls.
1. Cast a Fiery Glow
Flickering candles inside rattan lanterns set an alluring scene. Wrapping pink vellum around the votive candleholders projects a rosy warmth.
2. Keep Flowers Fresh
For lush centerpieces that will flower all summer, create these crepe-paper lotus blossoms in vibrant hues. Eye-catching and economical, they are simple to make -- even for a busy host.
Crepe paper, castleintheair.biz.
3. Serve Up the Theme
Inexpensive cedar boat trays fit right in with the island motif. The small boats at each plate hold ramekins of dipping sauce and seasoning. Spring-roll fillings, meant for sharing, make up the larger boats' cargo.
Cedar-veneer boat trays, from Dandelion, 888-548-1968.
4. Go for a Boxy Look
Simple cylindrical wooden boxes, available at crafts stores, can be platforms for platters -- giving everyone access to the appetizers. The wide base makes a wobble-free support. In a smaller size, the boxes serve as vessels for flowers.
Round boxes, from Michaels stores.
5. Grab a Seat
Pick up a few stools and you'll always have room for one more guest. These perches can add color year-round, as extra chairs or coffee tables.
Tahiti stools, cb2.com.