Remember that snowy day before Halloween when the Governor announced gatherings would be limited to 10 due to an uptick in COVID cases? For many looking forward to hosting friends and family, there was a collective knowing sigh. But, there’s plenty of ways to turn even a small soiree into something special. Drawing inspiration from the Take It Outside initiative, we’ve assembled ideas for turning an outdoor space into a moveable feast – all it takes is a ready attitude, seating, layers of color and lighting, bottomless thermoses of hot drinks, and perhaps some friendly spirits and wine.
There’s nothing like a fire pit to keep things toasty on a winter night, so be sure to stock up on dry wood and kindling. Small non-permanent fire pits are available, start at around 24 inches, and don’t require any digging – just a flat nonflammable surface. However, if a fire pit isn’t in the cards, an alternative focal point can be made by filling a group of mason jars with tealights to emit flickering light, or wrapping logs with string lights. Keep the chills at bay with thermoses always topped off with hot cider and cocoa, along with plenty of mugs. Consider having a basket of hand warmers available, too.
Pile up blankets and pillows and use them to add color, pattern, and softness to lawn chairs. Invite guests to bring their own blankets, too. Stock up on extra masks, mittens, gloves, and caps. Morse likes to assemble a “comfy crate” for each guest, complete with a lantern, blanket, and pillow.
Use lanterns to infuse ambience and additional light. Solar path lighting, strings of lights, votives in jars, or paper bag luminaries are among other effective methods.
“Red wine, cheese boards, apps, and s’mores are perfect for a socially distant campfire night,” says Morse. If planning on serving a full dinner, consider setting up a buffet indoors where guests can load plates one at a time and six feet apart before heading back outside, or pick up a tailgating buffet kit that includes aluminum pans, wire rack, and Sterno brand cooking fuel, which is non-toxic and biodegradable. Another route is to prepare individual bowls of layered holiday dinner faves ahead of time (think: mashed potatoes, turkey, cranberry sauce, and gravy) ready to hold and enjoy outside. Hot soups and chilis are also good bets.