By Krista Ehret
The chill in the air signifies the change of season that we all so “patiently” waited for - fall has officially arrived! Open windows, falling leaves, and pumpkin spice everything, are all telltale signs that fall is finally here. This is my favorite time of year to entertain, mostly because we can be outdoors without the woes of humidity and pests that the summer offers in droves. Between the living room football parties and the cozy holiday gatherings, take some time to have a casual family-friendly bonfire that gives everyone the opportunity to enjoy the autumn air and connect before the craziness of the season sets in. Here are some ideas:
Set the Mood. Let's be clear, casual does not mean drab. Take some time to make your backyard area cozy and inviting. If you live in the country and can actually have a bonfire, wonderful, If you're city-locked, then dust off the old fire pit and make that your focal point. Make sure you have ample seating either with furniture or thick quilts all near the fire feature. String lights, lanterns, and tiki torches are all great and inexpensive ways to add some ambiance as well as keeping things from getting too dark.
Offer Food and Drink Stations. Everyone loves a good food station. Just ask every wedding guest for the last ten years. Being able to customize your dinner is fun and allows the prep work to be done ahead of time. It's the best of both worlds for the host and the attendees. You want food that is easy, filling, but still season appropriate. Ideas for main course stations could be hotdogs (especially if you have an actual bonfire), chili bar, mashed potatoes, and mac and cheese. Display cute serving dishes with toppings to go along with each. S'mores are the ideal dessert. If you want to keep things a bit less messy, you could consider a s'mores dip, a caramel apple dessert bar, or a couple of cobblers. For drinks, I suggest a white and red wine, seasonal craft beer, a domestic beer option, and then either a coffee bar or an apple cider bar with the option to make either boozy. Include a hot chocolate option for the kiddos.
Keep Everyone Comfy. I personally love a little nip in the air. However, I have friends that cannot stand the cold. Make sure to accommodate everyone by having extra throws or coats at the ready. Also, have a sitting area set up inside, possibly near a lit fireplace, so that those who have babies, or just don't want to be outside, can be indoors without feeling like they're imposing or an afterthought.
Safety First. Consider the age of any children that will be invited as well as your adult to child ratio. Toddlers will be mesmerized by the fire, but may not be able to control themselves from getting too close. Consider having a babysitter and some activities set up inside so that the younger kids can play safely and the adults can have a moment to relax and chat.