Monday, August 12, 2019

Bringing Some British Common Sense To Your Garden Party

Garden Party

There are two types of garden parties. The first one includes posh Afternoon Tea sandwiches and a fancy hat. It’s the sort of parties that only a few chosen ones can attend. And each of them has dusted off the old cocktail dress in the hope that they could finally get to see a member of the Royal Family from a distance.

I saw Kate behind the raspberry tea cakes. – read: I saw her, but she didn’t see me, and I wasn’t allowed to come closer. I had tea with the Queen! It was amazing! – read: I had tea, and the Queen was in the venue too, 500 yards from me, surrounded by guards and officials.

William is so cheerful in real life! – read: I saw him smiling in the distance.

The second type of garden party is a lot more relaxed. You’ve seen it dozens of times in your favourite American films. It includes a barbecue, a lot of burgers and buns, and plenty of cheerful neighbours, chatting, laughing and relaxing. In the background, the kids are playing with a giant inflatable unicorn in the pool while slurping on deliciously creamy milkshakes. Unless you’ve received an invitation to a garden party with Her Majesty the Queen, it’s fair to say that you should probably focus your attention on a more casual event. Unfortunately, our inspiration for friendly garden reunions comes directly from the US. The truth is that the British summer is nothing like the American summer – as the recent flooding in North Yorkshire shows. Our British summer can be hot at times, but, more often than not, the weather can be temperamental. Additionally, you’re unlikely to invite your neighbours and their kids to your garden party. The British population tends to be more reserved than our American cousins. Besides, our homes are typically a lot smaller. Needless to say, the pool in the garden is an impossible dream for many of us. It’s a matter of choosing between a BBQ or a pool, because you don’t have any space for both. So, while you can find some inspiring ideas in an American garden party, you also need to inject some much needed British common sense to make it work.

It’s not always sunny

You only need to take a look through the window. Let’s put it this way: if it’s sunny, you’re in luck. More often than not, the British summer tends to bring grey clouds, wind, and rain. While it’s not to say that you can’t have hot days, you are not naive. You always pack an umbrella in your bag. So, it’s fair to say that your garden party could be hit by sudden rain. The best way to plan a British garden party is to consider possible weather changes. A covered patio offers the perfect mix of outdoor fun and protection against the elements. Additionally, if it’s built directly by your living room, you can subtly bring the party indoors if the day takes a cold turn. In other words, it would be ill-advised to plan an outdoorsy only event as the weather can change quickly.

Seriously, you wouldn’t sit in the grass

It doesn’t matter how appealing the idea of sitting surrounded by nature feels; everybody knows about the risks of being bitten by a bug. Indeed, ticks can be responsible for severe physical and mental problems if they infect you with Lyme disease. Other insects also carry the disease. Both are more prevalent in grassy areas, so it’s a good idea to avoid sitting directly in the garden. However, you can create a cosy outdoors lounging area with garden furniture. Don’t be shy about decorating your garden living room, with a throw – make sure it doesn’t touch the ground as insects could climb onto it – and a few elegant cushions. Blow your guests’ minds with silk pillowcases that stay cool even when the weather is warming up! And, of course, don’t forget to get a table with modulable legs to adjust to the uneven ground.

You don’t want anybody to see your dry grass

When you have a busy lifestyle, looking after the garden becomes an afterthought. But when it’s not a priority, it’s more difficult to achieve the lush and green oasis of the magazines! Indeed, in summer especially, British gardens struggle to keep their appealing look and feel. Heavy rain like we had in July turns everything to mud. Then the weather turns up the heat, drying out the soil and leaving dried mud and cracks. If you can’t afford to maintain the lawn, your best bet is to opt for artificial alternatives that stay green all year round and are easy to maintain. Additionally, if the grass isn’t your cup of tea, a wildflower meadow offers a colourful option that doesn’t require any heavy maintenance.

There’s no mosquito-less party

Everybody loves a sweet treat. But nobody likes sugar more than mosquitoes, especially as they can smell it in your blood. However, covering every inch of skin in repellent spray is not an appealing solution. But you can use the plants in your garden to address the issues. Marigold, for instance, is a natural repellent against mosquitoes. Mint, basil, and citronella grass have a similar effect on the buzzing population, keeping them at bay while you enjoy your garden party with friends and relatives. You can also find electric repellents that can be plugged in, which guarantee the comfort of your guests on the patio too! Finally, if you’re going to keep your table safe from bug invasions, a fresh bunch of lavender and rosemary placed as a centrepiece can work wonders. It’s also a brilliant alternative to the more uncomfortable citronella candle.

Nobody drinks milkshakes

There is no American garden party without milkshakes and beer. But as far as Britons are concerned, the milkshake isn’t the typical go-to beverage for the summer. In fact, if you want to throw an adult version of the garden party, you probably need to revise the recipes for some of the most crowd-pleasing cocktails. There can’t be a real party without a somehow posh cocktail, because, even if you’re not invited to the official event, you still know that garden parties have a lot in common with the Queen. Therefore, adding an element of sophistication and elegance with carefully selected recipes can wow your guests. You can also offer alc-free drinks such as lassis to your younger guests. Not that there’s anything wrong with milkshakes, but you know a lassi can be dressed up to fit the semi-Royal mood!

Urgh, a bbq for my vegan friends?

The typical barbecue party involves burger patties, sausages, and buns. However, people have a much more complex diet nowadays than they used to in your favourite US films. If you’re inviting only a handful of friends, you might have to cater for vegetarian and vegan guests. A simple tomato pasta salad can get everybody excited and satisfy even your meat-eating guests. If you want to give guests a choice, a buffet with smoky mini pizzas that people can top with the ingredients of their choice can ensure that nobody feels left out from the menu. As long as you offer a variety of meat, fish, vegetables, and dairy-free products, you can cater for large groups without worrying about finding a dish that will meet the different expectations and dietary requirements. Ideally, you should already have a list of food intolerance, allergies, and other specifications before you start planning your menu! In our small British gardens, an open-air bbq is not always a good idea as your guests risk inhaling the smoke.

Replace the meat with salads.

Getting ready for a party takes only a few minutes

A garden party with the Queen might require hours of preparation. But as you’re switching the Afternoon Tea with the Royals for a buffet meal with friends, you can things casual and easy. Don’t overthink it; you can’t turn up to a British garden party in your best clothes. From food spillage to rain, many risk factors threaten your cocktail dress. Instead, slip into a floaty summer dress. Prairie dresses are back in trend. Paired with sneakers and a loose ponytail, you’re ready for a day out with friends and relatives.

No party without a cake

Last but not least, there is no party with a typical British pudding. We have so many yummy cake recipes that it would be sad not to prepare for the sweet classics of the British cuisine. Nothing beats the authentic flavours of a homebaked cake. Truly, you don’t need to be an experienced baker to turn up with your homemade Victoria Sponge cake. If you want to add a twist to the recipe, replace the raspberry jam with gooseberry conserve, which adds a tangy taste to the cake. For something to dunk in your tea, homemade shortbread is a must! You can flavour the biscuit by sprinkling sugar and dried lavender on top.

The garden party as we dream of it doesn’t exist in Britain. But you can certainly recreate the conviviality, playfulness, and cosiness of an American BBQ event in your garden. Gather a few friends, select your drinks and dishes, and set the decor. To put a British twist to your party, remember to take the UK weather into consideration!

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