Regardless of whether you prefer informal barbecues by the pool or sit-down dinners on the patio, chances are you’re already making the most of this warmer weather and entertaining outside. With supermarkets stocked with fresh summer produce and the kids on school holidays, it’s the perfect time to catch up with friends, family and the neighbours before the new year kicks in.
To avoid the hot Aussie sun, late afternoon and evening is a great time to invite people over. And while there are numerous things to consider when it comes to planning an outdoor party for this time of the day – furniture, beverages, shade systems, for example –there are three essentials that tie it altogether: music, food and lighting.
Create a musical playlist
Music instantly sets the tone when it comes to entertaining, be it the latest Disney tunes for a kids’ pool party or the ambient grooves of Café Del Mar for a grown-up dinner. However, there’s nothing more annoying for the host and their guests than the sound of songs abruptly changing, especially if you have that one friend who is determined to scroll through their iPod looking for a song. Thankfully with today’s technology, listening to music outside has never been easier.
Creating a pool party playlist is pretty simple using your smartphone, tablet or desktop computer, especially with iTunes and Soundcloud. It’s a good idea to create a few playlists in different genres, so you can start with chilled tunes for when people arrive then change to something more upbeat when the cocktails have kicked in (and the kids have gone to bed!).
You’ll also findfantastic outdoor sound systems that are compact in design and engineered to withstand the elements. For example, the Free Space 51 Environmental Speaker from Bose, which provides 360-degree sound, can be mounted on an external wall or set directly into the ground to blend in with your landscaping. Its unique design disperses sound 360 degrees evenly so that guests in all directions receive the same level of quality sound.
There are even waterproof speakers that look like rocks,waterproof iPods you can use in the pool or spa, and portable Bluetooth speakers (some are even splash-proof) that provide up to 15-hours of listening time.
Finger food and canapés
Unless you’re planning a formal dinner party, we suggest sticking to barbecues, canapes or even a relaxed buffet. That way you’re able to entertain family and friends without committing to an elaborate menu (and getting stuck in the kitchen while everyone enjoys themselves outside). Bite-size snacks that are light on the palette and easy to handle are ideal for hot days and guests who are walking around mingling.
For online recipe suggestions, check out Taste.com.au for canapés, Jamie Oliver for barbecue food, Food and Wine for summer cocktails, and Kidspot.com.au for platter-friendly kids pool party snacks.
If you’re eating and drinking on the pool deck, leave the glass indoors and instead use shatterproof cups and tablewear, like the beautiful melamine pieces from Barel Designs. For biodegradable or recycled options, check out Greenmark Pack or Eco Toys.
Set the mood with lighting
Just like strategically placed lamps create more ambiance than an overhead fluorescent light in your lounge room, the right outdoor lighting can completely change the look and mood of your backyard or pool deckfor entertaining purposes.
Low voltage lights help maintain the right atmosphere better than floodlights or spotlights and, depending on where you position them, can totally transforman outdoor space at night.
There is an incredible array of products on the market that range from path lights and pool lights to decorative lanterns, ground lights and accent lights. Each one is designed to achieve a specific effect, like highlighting the branches of a tree, shining light on your outdoor cooker, and making pathways and steps safer for guests.
While they may not offer the same brightness as standard 12-volt lights, solar powered systems are just as effective. They are usually inexpensive, easy to install and work by storing energy from the sun during the day, and turning on automatically at night.
Finally, if you plan on having a big party that will likely last late into the night, it’s always a good idea to notify neighbours at least one week prior so they can make plans (or buy earplugs!)
Speak to your local Swimart professional about caring for your pool or spa over summer, especially if it has been used constantly, or visit www.swimart.com.au
Next week we’ll look at the pool toys and leisure products available that are designed to keep the whole family entertained.