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Basking in the glow of backyard string lights!

Backyard barbeques really are the mark of summer, aren’t they? Being outdoors. Grilling dinner. Enjoying the company of friends. It all speaks of a lazier time when flip flops are always appropriate footwear and shade is the greatest refreshment known to mankind.

Some friends of ours decided to kick off the summer with their own backyard barbeque this weekend. They have recently been working on their garden, and they wanted to enjoy it with some friends and neighbors before it gets Too. Hot. To. Move. here in the South Carolina heat. May and early June are fine for an outdoor event around here, but if you wait too much later, you’re really just going to want to be in the A/C or in the water. This week we’ve already hit the 100s. Yowzas…

A rare moment: Spotting my husband NOT playing cornhole…

Now, when someone says “barbeque” in the state of South Carolina, it often conjures up the age-old argument over mustard- versus ketchup- or vinegar-based, and which of them is truly the greatest-slash-correct sauce. But this was the kind of barbeque that included a taco bar, along with cheese dip and homemade salsas. In my opinion, this is the best kind of “barbeque,” as I am not a fan of the fatty pulled pork that seems to be our unofficial state food…

Our gracious host and hostess had grilled up some pulled chicken and fabulously marinated gourmet shrimp, as well as mixed up some fresh peach, mango and black bean/avocado salsas (yes, there were options!).

And then there was sangria. If sangria doesn’t say “summer,” I don’t know what does (except maybe a margarita…). And of course, there was dessert. The hostess had made her grandmother’s FABULOUS pound cake with just a hint of nutmeg, as well as delicious brownies. (I may have offered to help clean up afterward, just to continue to nibble on cake…)

This genius couple, being parents, also knew that there would be about a zillion kids at their party, so they rented a bounce house. You guys, this was SUCH great idea, as it occupied the kids the entire night. Plus, I’m sure that every single one of them went RIGHT to sleep when they got home. #winwin

And when the kids DID go home, a few of us “grown ups” (I use that term VERY loosely) took our turn in the bounce house. But it didn’t take long to realize just how out-of-shape I am. Jumping for about 3 minutes left me out of breath and my legs felt like they were going to fall off. I am not sure how those kids spent so much time in there all evening, but none of the adults lasted nearly that long…

Cornhole championship

For the slightly less childish adventurous, there was a constant game of cornhole going on in the backyard. I gotta tell you: my husband is SUPER competitive. And also naturally good at like every sport on earth. Even if he’s never played it before, I can GUARANTEE he will pick it up MUCH faster than I will. So as soon as he saw that there were cornhole boards, it was game on for the rest of the evening. I barely saw him all night! That’s one of the true differences between us: when the dinner bell rings, I come running, while he takes the opportunity to try to win the championship. (In fact, I’m not entirely sure he ate dinner at all that night…)

Enjoying a little A/C and Scattergories

Before the party, I had asked the hostess what I should bring, but with all of that food, she said it was pretty well covered. Not wanting to show up empty handed, I started thinking about possible hostess gifts. The mark of a good hostess gift is that you don’t expect them to use it (or even have to deal with it) during the party. So I made some Chili-Lime Peanuts that could be enjoyed along with the theme of the food, or could be eaten at a later time when the host and hostess finally had their house back to themselves.

But that got me thinking: What are some good hostess gifts? I did a little research, and here are some of my favorites, as well as a few of my own ideas:

  • Gourmet jam
  • High end salt
  • Good quality nuts
  • Homemade spiced nuts
  • Classy stationery
  • Dried fruit in a cute gift bag
  • Chocolates!
  • Fancy olive oil or dipping spices
  • Electric bottle opener (I have one of these and I think everyone should own one!)
  • Old timey candy
  • Fancy candle (beware of scents, though)
  • Wine (just don’t expect it to be served at the party)
  • Paper hand towels
  • Cocktail napkins
  • Interesting cocktail accessories (wine charms, paper umbrellas, fun straws, etc.)
  • Potted plants (don’t show up with cut flowers that immediately need to be put in a vase or that may clash with the decor/scents the hostess has prepared)