8 tips for hosting Thanksgiving outdoors

Written by Simple Bites contributor Jan Scott of Family Bites.

The first time I told my mother-in-law that our annual Thanksgiving dinner was being held outdoors, she replied with “well, that’s interesting.” Not one to openly voice her opinion, or critique her sons and their wives, there was no mistaking the “lady, you’ve lost your mind” tone in her comment.

I’d wanted to celebrate the day of Thanks outdoors for a few years, and every October had arrived with uncertain weather forecasts, forcing me to hold the event inside. It had become a tad tight and crowded in our small urban home, as our family had nearly tripled in size in recent years. Of course, as each Thanksgiving Sunday arrived, the skies were blue, the temperature warm, and I cursed myself for not dining al fresco.

I’m happy to report that three years later, the Scott Family Outdoor Thanksgiving is a delicious success, thanks to our glorious October weather, and I dare say it’s now a holiday the entire family looks forward to. It does take a little coordination, though, as most outdoor meals are casual affairs, and I’m always determined not to loose the specialness of our holiday meal just because it’s being eaten outside.

Here are a few tips to help you host your own holiday dinner in the open air this year, if you’re so inclined.

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A Robot Birthday Cake

My chubby-cheeked firstborn, my Noah, is seven. Yesterday we bounced balloons, cut cake, passed lemonade, and sang to celebrate another milestone, another year gone by. The signs are everywhere: his front tooth is lose, the cuffs of his favorite blue sweatshirt are creeping up his arm and he’s growing in every direction.

Around the table at his party, he deftly wielded an eight-inch serrated knife and carved up slices of birthday cake for each one of his friends. He served himself last. That, in itself, is a sure sign he is growing up.

I’ve already shared my tips for a simple kids birthday party, so I won’t go into detail on the decorations (none) or games (one enormous neighborhood treasure hunt), but I am excited to tell you about Noah’s cake. A homemade cake is an essential part of the birthday party, and this year’s theme was: Robot!

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Celebrating 34 years with a harvest dinner (photo & video recap)

I promised a full report from my recent harvest dinner and birthday celebration, so here’s a photo recap of sorts for you to peruse on this holiday Monday. Did you get to sleep in? I hope so.

We were 22 adults, 15 kids, 4 baby girls, and one cute spaniel, gathered on a recent Sunday afternoon in the back yard of our urban homestead. It wasn’t really about my birthday, I only used the event as an excuse to invite 40 people over and enjoy one last bash before summer passed us by.

It’s no secret that I’ve been grasping at summer, not wanting to let it slip away, so we hauled our dining room table out onto the freshly mown grass, added the picnic table, plus a table I use for photography, and prepared to entertain under the trees.

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Set up a snacking station and more tips for a (parent friendly) kids’ party

My birthday each August marks the beginning of the end of summer for us, but on the positive side, it offers the perfect opportunity to throw one last party before the children go back to school and we are once again slave to those early bedtimes and morning routines.

Last weekend I did just that, inviting over forty friends and family for a harvest dinner on our urban homestead. I envisioned us eating outdoors, near the raised beds, seated around one long table. (My ‘Tablescapes‘ Pinterest board definitely played into that aspiration.)

Just this once, I wanted to give the parents a break. I wanted them to have a proper glass, be able to use a knife and fork, and be seated, instead of trying to balance a flimsy paper plate of food, a drink and a bebe in arms. More on how that worked out later; this post is about the little ones.

I had 15 kids attending; I needed a plan to keep them out of their parents hair – if only for half an hour or so – and feed them efficiently: and so the snacking station was born.

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A last-minute Fourth of July dessert: Berries & Cream Pastry Stars

Written by Cheri of Kitchen Simplicity.

Happy Fourth of July! For those of you who may be looking for a last-minute Independence Day dessert or just something fun and summery to make on a whim, this dessert is for you. Puff pastry stars stuffed with a whipped lemon cream cheese filling and summery berries of blue and red.

Puff pastry is my go-to for last-minute desserts because no matter what you do to them, you’re guaranteed the end product is going to be delicious. Plus, you can bake them into any shape and size you want, making them a perfect compliment to any occasion.

Today I chose to roll out the puff pastry, cut out star shapes with a cookie cutter and bake until golden. Once cooled, they get stuffed with a light and fluffy lemon cream cheese filling and slices of summery sweet, fresh fruit.

They make a perfect one- or two-bite dessert for a Fourth of July barbecue, or any summer day that just needs a sweet little pick me up.

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