By the HOWL Street Team
Close your eyes and you can smell the freshly cut grass, smoky barbecue and citronella. We love New England’s warmest months and how you can’t swig your hard lemonade without spilling on a great outdoor bash. But this year, why not throw your own? All you need is HOWL’s guide to simple do-it-yourself ideas, add friends and PRESTO! — you’ve got a backyard bash that’s fun, functional and best of all, super cheap on the fly.
10 Easy Ways to Make Your Yard Party Worthy
Bring indoor comforts outside
Rugs, pillows, throws — all things you already have lying around the house make for a cozy conversation area outside. Add creative touches like affixing a mirror to the outside of your house, or rolling out an old lamp. No patio set? No problem. Pull your inside chairs outdoors for the occasion and create a mini-living room.
Ask each of your friends to bring a dish (doesn’t have to be fancy; think watermelon, tossed salad, chips and dip). You’ll not only save on food, you’ll also have more variety around the table.
Pick seasonal produce
Use the vibrant fruits and veggies of summer to your advantage. Plenty of local farm stands and farmers’ markets (like The Farm Market every Sunday at Mill No. 5, 250 Jackson St., Lowell), are filled with everything you need for a colorful and tasty salad centerpiece. Two simple salads we love: strawberries, blueberries, arugula, feta, pecans and avocado. And broccoli, baby spinach, mandarin oranges, blue cheese and cherry tomatoes.
We love backyard games like volleyball, cornhole, badminton, horse shoes, croquet and washers. If you don’t have any of these, make your own games. Grab a couple of same size crates (the kind clementines come in the grocery story will do), glue a couple of soup cans in the center and pick up a dozen flat washers from your local hardware store (about $1.80) and you’ve got yourself a game. Or borrow a folding table from a friend and get your beer pong on.
Use your own tableware
Ditch the paper plates and plastic cups. The dinnerware and glassware in your kitchen cabinets is reusable and gives the simplest gathering a more elegant vibe. Add colorful cloth napkins and your own silverware and you’ve got a laid-back summer table, ready for dinner with your homies.
Kick it old-school
Take your record player outdoors, and pile up the games everyone remembers from childhood — Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit, Twister, Pictionary, chess, cribbage, dominoes, etc.
Make your own oasis
Filling your deck or yard with plants creates a breezy boho vibe. One of the best tips we learned was from our favorite local designer, Chhavy Sinuon of Style This Shindig, who suggested pruning the trees and bushes around your home and sticking the clippings in vases or mason jars with water.
Create at least a couple separate spaces in your yard or deck. Set up your seating area for mingling, and make your food and beverage station separate. You can add an extra folding table and have guests help themselves, buffet style. If you don’t have a galvanized pail for drinks, pick up a plastic kiddie pool for under $10. Fill with ice and enjoy a cold one.
Rock the Mason jars
We love Mason jars because they are relatively inexpensive and there are endless uses for them.
A few of our favorite ways:
• Fill them with tea lights for an enchanting vibe after dark.
• Fill them with lemon, rosemary and vanilla extract for a natural fragrance enhancer.
• The no-brainer — serve drinks in them.
• Make your own citronella candles with them. All you need is 100 percent cotton rope, citronella oil, a hammer and a screwdriver. Hammer the screwdriver through the lid (you can hammer two lids at once) to make your wick hole. Take your three strand 100 percent cotton rope (nylon will melt and quit burning) and wrap the tip with tape to prevent fraying as you pass it through the lid. Pour oil into jar, about . to 1/3 full. Screw lid into place and snip off taped tip with scissors. Let rope soak for about 10 to 15 minutes before lighting. Flame will burn high for a few minutes until wick burns down to the base of lid and appear like a regular candle burning — and mosquitos be gone.