5 essentials to get your backyard party-ready

(BPT) - The warm, summery weather is a golden opportunity to take your get-together outside. Whatever the occasion, take advantage of the sun and extra space, and let these tips help you plan and get your outdoor space ready for your guests.

1. Cluster the conversation spots

When planning your backyard layout, think beyond the patio table, and provide more than enough seating for all. Arrange sofas and chairs into conversation clusters to keep people outside and enjoying each other’s company. It’s also a good idea to provide coffee tables, side tables and other spaces where people can set their drinks and snacks. Don’t be afraid to borrow pieces from a friend or neighbor to make the party set complete.

2. Don't forget the right lighting

Consider the time of day of your gathering and what that means for your lighting situation. Intense late-day sun glare is unpleasant for all, but a few strategically placed patio plants can make a huge difference (and make the space feel more intimate). For the post-sundown festivities, light up the party zone with holiday lights by stringing them along deck rails, or zig-zagging them overhead. Add a fire pit, and if it’s chilly, keep an extra stash of throw blankets and jackets and you’ll have a cozy, well-lit space for those late-night talks.

3. Keep flying invaders at bay

No one likes it when uninvited guests like flying, biting insects show up. Bottles of insect repellent in a conspicuous place are a good bet on buggy nights, but keep these (and the spraying area) well away from the food. For a chemical-free alternative, setting out a fan or two on a low setting can stir up enough of a breeze to keep the pests away.

4. Get your game on

For the ultimate crowd mixer and crowd pleaser, keep a few fun and easy yard games on hand. Dust off the old bocce ball set. Or, with a few simple materials from your local hardware store, you can create and customize DIY versions of your favorites, including bean-bag toss, ring toss or even target shooting with water guns.

5. Keep the snacks simple and stress free

The secret to a good party is not stressing over every detail of the décor and the same goes for the food. An array of delicious but simple snacks are more than enough to get the party started. Soft pretzels are always a party favorite, but did you know that most people — 69 percent of them, to be exact — prefer to eat their soft pretzels dipped? Another 28 percent prefer cheese toppings above all the others. For the perfect snack to spice up the festivities, include a batch of Superpretzel Parmesan Garlic Bites or Superpretzel Everything Pretzel Bites (see recipes below).

Parmesan Garlic Bites

Ingredients:

9-12 Superpretzel Soft Pretzel Bites

1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons wet minced garlic

2 tablespoons dry parsley

2 tablespoons pretzel salt

1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese

Directions:

In a bowl, combine the extra virgin olive oil, garlic, pretzel salt, parsley and cheese and set aside.

Deep fry the pretzel bites in your favorite cooking oil at 360 degrees F for about 2 minutes.

When done, dredge the pretzel bites into the oil and cheese mixture.

Serve with your favorite dipping sauce.

Everything Pretzel Bites

Ingredients:

20 Superpretzel Soft Pretzel Bites

Everything bagel seasoning

Melted butter

Optional: whipped cream cheese (for dipping)

Directions:

Prepare soft pretzel bites according to instructions on the box.

Lightly coat soft pretzel bites with melted butter.

Season soft pretzel bites with everything bagel seasoning and soft pretzel salt.

Bake in 350 degree F oven until golden brown.

Serve with whipped cream cheese.


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