Alfresco Living – Prepare Your Deck For The Perfect Summer

With the summer months nearly upon us, a lot of you may be looking forward to spending a lot more time outside. Specifically, if you happen to have a back deck or porch, you may be anticipating evening cocktails, cookouts with friends or family, or simply morning tea or coffee with the rising sun. If you’re like me, you’re pretty convinced that nothing beats time on your deck during the warmest months of the year.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t make that deck better!

Alfresco Living – Prepare Your Deck For The Perfect SummerHaving said that I have a few recommendations coming for how to set your deck up for the perfect summer season. So here we go…

Give It A Thorough Cleaning

First things first! Unless you have an outdoor heater or two in place, odds are you’ve spent most of the winter and spring more or less avoiding your deck area. Naturally, that means some tidying up will be in order. Cobwebs, debris, dust, and more will have accumulated, likely in a way that requires more than a quick sweeping. This list of tips for a summer ready deck or porch recommends power washing right off the bat, and I’d have to agree this is the right way to start. You can always get down on your hands and knees and scrub, but now may be a good time to think about adding a power washer to your garden shed or home tool arsenal. It gets the job done quicker, and it’s actually a pretty affordable piece of equipment.

Sand Down The Floors

Speaking of adding to a home tool arsenal, a power sander might actually be a more useful tool than you’ve realised before. Case in point, this site has a wide selection of different power sanders right alongside some far more basic pieces that are commonly found in garden sheds or toolkits so you can find just the right tool for the job. That’s because a lot of people have come around to the idea that a power sander can speed up an otherwise stressful task! Once you scrub or power wash your deck you’ll likely find the floor a little bit coarse, and sanding it down keeps it looking nice and primes it for your own barefoot lounging in the warm weather.

Fill The Space With Plants

The same list referenced previously recommends planting annuals and a variety of flowers in outdoor areas, and this may truly be the best way to make your deck beautiful and cozy during the summer. Whether it’s hanging ferns, planted flowers, or even lines of bushes or hedges around the border of the deck, plant life just feels right during the summer. It’ll help you and any guests you may have to feel like you’re truly embracing the outdoors every time you step out on the deck.

Set Up Exposed Flame

I realise this doesn’t sound like the safest or most necessary option, particularly when we’ve just discussed wooden floors, but I’m only suggesting open flames to add a little bit of light in the evenings. You might find an endless selection of attractive candle fixtures made for outdoor areas, or if you really want to cultivate a striking atmosphere you could consider something like a tiki torch in the right place. There’s something undeniably pleasant about a summer night lit up by natural flames. As long as you’re safe about it this can make for a wonderful addition to your deck in the months ahead.

Invest In Comfortable Outdoor Furniture

A lot of outdoor furniture is, frankly, crude and uncomfortable. In many cases it basically amounts to splintery wooden chairs, or canvas seating stretched over bland iron frames. These can certainly get the job done but if you haven’t visited a home and gardening shop in a while you may not have noticed that more comfortable outdoor furniture is always becoming more affordable. You can find whole sets of cushioned chairs and sturdy tables for very reasonable prices and easily make your deck more appealing as a place to lounge. And as a bonus, try to pick a uniform colour scheme for cushions that suits the atmosphere you want to create. I’d suggest a cool blue or green to fit in with nature but not compete with the vibrant colours of flowers or other plants you may have.

Prepare To Maintain

As a final point, I’d like to echo this article’s closing statement on summer deck preparation: maintain, maintain, maintain. An outdoor deck is constantly exposed to the elements, even if it happens to have its own roof or overhang to shield it from rain. Every few days at least you’ll want to sweep away dirt and dust and do any other basic upkeep that might seem necessary, or else the deck will quickly revert back to its winter condition.

Aside from these tips, it all pretty much comes down to personal taste! You’ll find all kinds of fun ways to set up your deck the way you envision it. But these ideas should serve as a foundation that can help most anyone who wants to spend the summer outside.

Parragon Book Buddy – “The Camping Cookbook”

Parragon Book Buddy -- “The Camping Cookbook”

It is summer time and I have the perfect cookbook for this time of year – The Camping Cookbook – Recipes for the great outdoors.

Like most of the time with Love Food cookbooks there is more to the book than just recipes. The Camping Cookbook – Recipes for the great outdoors contains a lot of great tips for your outdoors living including:

  • What to take – the equipment list
  • Hints & tips for pitching your tent
  • Campsite cooking – cooking with gas, cooking on the barbecue and cooking over the campfire
  • “Don’t forget” check list
  • Store cupboard essentials

It even offers some advice on why skipping breakfast is bad for you and how to beat bad weather blues.

So you see it is like a great outdoors guide all in one 🙂

The cookbook part in itself is split into five main chapters:

  1. The big breakfast
  2. Lunchtime
  3. Seriously filling dinner
  4. Something on the side
  5. All things sweet

There are over 70 yummy recipes in there or how I would describe them as a list of our favourites.

Some of the recipes are simple meals that we might do everyday anyways like Bacon Butties, Apple and Spice Porridge or a Rice Pudding but despite this fact I really like this book. I think it offers a great selection of dishes to pick from and it is written purely with outdoor cooking in mind, so you know the recipes will be fairly easy and will only require a minimum number of ingredients.

I picked few of my personal favourites to share with you.

Parragon Book Buddy – “The Camping Cookbook”  Spicy Fried Eggs

Spicy Fried Eggs – this reminds me of all the camping trips I took as a child with my parents. I actually still cook it from time to time but Mark isn’t so keen on it. He thinks that all the additional trimmings do not belong with eggs… but hey what does he know?

Parragon Book Buddy – “The Camping Cookbook”  Tomato Bruschetta

Tomato Bruschetta is my next pick. It is so quick and simple yet so delicious. I totally adore the taste on nice fresh toasted bread, sweet juicy tomatoes and basil. This is a perfect lunch meal… anytime and anywhere.

Parragon Book Buddy – “The Camping Cookbook” Sunshine Risotto

Sunshine Risotto makes for a perfect dinner meal; it is light and healthy, fabulous looking and full of goodness. This might not be the quickest meal but once camping we shouldn’t be in any rush. It is good to take your time and prepare your meal with love. This particular recipe features sun-dried tomatoes, which give the biggest flavour burst but it can be adopted to suit any pallet. If you are not a tomato fan you can try and create for example a mushroom risotto, especially if you are close by to some nice woodland and can go and pick your the wild mushrooms yourself.

Parragon Book Buddy – “The Camping Cookbook” Meatballs on a Stick

There are Meatballs on a Stick. This is my favourite recipe from the book. I totally love it and I just can’t believe that I’ve never thought about doing it before. The recipe calls for pork and herb sausages, fresh minced beef, breadcrumbs, onion, fresh herbs, egg and some salt and pepper to taste. It couldn’t be any easier. It reminds me of my Polish Meatballs 😉 I am sure cooking it on the BBQ will enhance the flavour and provide a great dining experience.

Parragon Book Buddy – “The Camping Cookbook” Fruit Skewers

Fruit Skewers is my choice for a pudding. I love fresh fruits and I love chocolate, so these two paired together makes for me a perfect combo. You are supposed to brush your fruits with a little maple syrup, which will make them caramelize over the fire. Then just drizzle over them some melted chocolate and enjoy the fresh sharp taste of the juicy fruits mixed with the sweet chocolate. Oh, this really sounds great!

So what do you think about my choices?

Would you like to try any of these dishes?

Parragon Book Buddy  “The Camping Cookbook”

***
The Camping Cookbook – Recipes for the great outdoors
ISBN 978-1-4723-5619-2
Published by Parragon Books Ltd in 2014
Part of Love Food
Number of pages: 192
RRP: £8
Hardback

*  I received this book for free from Parragon as a part of my Book Buddy pack.

How to hold a successful garden party

How to hold a successful garden party

Summer is here, which means a perfect time to open our windows and bi-folding doors and connect more with the nature on our door step.

Bi-folding doors or patio doors are the perfect connector between the indoor and the outdoors part of your house. Once open they will allow your garden to flow indoors creating the illusion of one huge open space. They are the perfect solution for creating an airy and light environment to live in; an almost perfect solution for enjoying the summer time to its fullest.

It is summer time so what could be better than a party full of friends and laughter to share in this huge open space you have just created?

A garden party!

They are always so much fun. They provide us with endless opportunities to do something different, to entertain our loved ones and to change an ordinary day into a potentially unforgettable one.

I have a list of things to consider when planning a garden party… here it comes…

Party spot

As it is the UK and the weather is quite temperamental it would be wise to pick a spot in the garden which has some cover above our heads. This will protect us from the sun and keep us cool (or cool-er) and when the worst comes to the worst and Mr. Rain decides to join us, it will help keep us dry. One of those big garden umbrellas should do the trick. If you happen to have a large garden and own a gazebo or a garden tent then of course set the main tables inside them.

Party furniture

Chairs are the key. Yes, it is a garden party and so your guest will most likely be either running around and playing or standing and mixing in the garden but at some point they will all want to sit down and relax and have something to eat and drink… make sure that the chairs have soft covers on them and are comfortable. It is really not very pleasant to sit on hard, uncomfortable chairs for hours and this can kill the good mood around.

Tableware

Whatever the theme or the occasion of your party do not use the best family china or even the silver, there is always an increased possibility that something will get broken. A garden party will tend to relax people a bit more than a standard party and thus we are prone to being less careful. Use your everyday tableware set or even better use disposable ones or even a plastic picnic set. Now a day’s disposable tableware can be so pretty; no more of that boring white all around… they can be purchased in a variety of different colours and patterns.

How to hold a successful garden party

Food

It is BBQ time! I am not joking, a garden party is meant to be coupled with a good BBQ, but you will need some more things to round out your feast… Make sure that you have plenty of light fresh dishes, which are easy to eat and do not require you to sit bolt upright and use a knife and fork. Salads, finger foods, fresh fruits and of course some veggies are always a good choice… oh and remember to do some vegetarian options just in case one of your friends has converted 😉

Drinks

For a garden party you will need plenty of them especially if it is a hot day. Keep them cool but not freezing cool and make sure that there is a lot of water. If you serve alcohol, serve some water just next to it… alcohol will speed up the dehydration process so your guests will need to drink a bit more. Keeping drinks on ice in hot weather is not very practical but pour some cold water into a bucket, place in a shaded spot and put your drinks in… They will stay nice and cool and all you need is a cloth to dry them out before serving.

Decorations and light

Make sure that the surroundings are all neat and tidy and all surfaces are clean. Cut the grass the day before, hide all the gardens tools, remove any dry or “dead” plants… this all helps to make the space look nice and presentable and will help save you time and money on additional decorations, sometimes a lovely looking garden is all you need.
Like with most parties we never know when it is going to finish, so be ready for an evening / night time. Prepare some lampions, garden lamps or just a bunch of candles, ready to light up when the sun starts to set.

Fly’s / Wildlife

Summer time equals a global invasion of fly’s, wasps, mosquito and tons of other little creatures which are out and about and will want to join in, pretty lights attract them. Protect your food with covers at all time. Buy some insect repealing candles or smelly sticks and keep them burning.

Noise and neighbours

If you neighbours aren’t invited then be polite inform them about your party. It is the nice way to be with your neighbours, and who knows it might just help to avoid that two hour long session with his chainsaw he had planned for that day. Give them fair notice that this day / evening will most likely not be as peaceful as usually and the noise level may well be much higher.

I think that’s all.

Now that all the basics have been covered – go invite your friends… and I mean it… friends. No one enjoys those parties that are full of guests who were invited because it was the polite thing to do… These parties are never as much fun as the parties with your friends, people you trust and love.

So have fun!

And if you have any further tips for a successful garden party, please do share.

* Post written in collaboration with expressbifolds.co.uk.

Shed me happy, please

We all have hobbies and things we love to do, we Mark loves to cook, especially using our BBQ or a smoker (I crossed out the “we” as I am more of an eating than the cooking type).

Most people use their BBQ in summer when the weather is nice and they have a bunch of friends over, we use it all year round. Mark would love to take his BBQ skills to the next level and he has already catered for 50 guests. All this is good but being a huge BBQ buff means a lot of accessories, tools and extras which you wouldn’t even imagine. Our kitchen is drowning in wood flakes needed to achieve smoke, different racks, 100s of spices necessary for mixing to create the perfect rub depending on the cut and type of meat or fish we are cooking and tons of other things which apparently are essential must haves, I don’t complain though as usually what comes out at the end of the process is mouth-wateringly awesome. All this stuff though which is used solely whilst BBQ-ing all take up valuable space.

Shed me happy, please - our BBQs

Two different types of BBQ require a double amount of accessories, apparently. Very often a rack which can be used on our open top BBQ is not suitable for the closed up smoker, so we need two of them… and the story continues…

Shed me happy, please - accessories

Accessories, tools and all those additional things needed for a good BBQ is one thing, the other problem is a prep area. Our kitchen is not huge and at times we really struggle to find enough space to do all that needs to be done.

So I plea to Best Sheds: please shed me happy to save my sanity and my kitchen from being overrun by BBQ accessories and help us create an outdoor prep and storage area.

Shed me happy, please - Dream Shed

The 5×4 Pent Shed would be perfect for us. It is not too big, so it will easily fit in our back garden and it is not too small, so there will be enough room for a small prep area and a lot of storage.

And you know what? If we win we might even prepare a nice BBQ for your arrival, so you can have a nice nosh up whilst delivering the shed 🙂

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