Jim and I love to entertain.  And I love doing the summer parties because they are easy.

The simplest way for us to host a BBQ is to supply all the burgers and hot-dogs (and now we also like to serve beef brisket!), and we supply all the condiments and fixin’s for those things….and we also supply all the beer, water and soda.  We just ask that everyone else supply the side dishes and desserts.

One year we ended up with 4 different trays of brownies!  This year seemed to be the year for pasta salad and chips.  Oh, and Red Velvet Cake / Cupcakes.  I love it!

Sadly, I was so busy I never got to see who brought what….nor did I get a chance to sample some of the things I wanted to try, like Erica’s Buffalo Chicken Dip.  THAT looked delicious!

I did manage to sneak away one of Dwayne’s Stuffed Mushrooms and hid it in the kitchen for later.  :)

By the time I was done cooking I wasn’t even hungry- at least not for a burger or dog!  But I ate some of Kelli’s potato salad and a tri-colored salad that someone brought, plus a red velvet cupcake.  Yep, that was my dinner.  Oh, and I snuck a few pieces of brisket throughout the night.

We ended up with a turnout of 53 people.  According to evite that was 30 adults and 23 kids.

Our yard/home can easily support that.  We set up two 6-foot banquet tables to hold all the food, plus a smaller 4-foot table as the plate/napkin/silverware/bun & meat station.  Unfortunately I didn’t get a ‘before’ picture- or even a ‘during’ picture.  Here is a photo from the next morning:

Oh, I should add- we’ve learned managing garbage and recycling is KEY to having minimal clean up the next day.  We have 3 huge collapsible garbage cans (that we use for camping trash/recycling) and being the overly organized person that I am, I made up and printed signs to label them.

OK, back to decorating:

For seating/dining areas- I borrowed my parents’ two big round patio tables each with 4 chairs….I set up another 5′ banquet table with 6 patio chairs around it, and we had a table in our gazebo.  Each table was decorated with a red table cloth and floral arrangement.

We also had several seating areas spread throughout the yard- just plain ol’ patio chairs in clusters.   Plus we have our retaining wall gardens that people can sit on- and we brought all our camping chairs out.  Oh, and the two kiddie tables that each sit 4 kiddos of varying sizes.

Again, no pictures taken of this set-up, but here’s the next morning (after chairs have been stacked, table arrangements removed, tables moved, etc.):

And here’s the table centerpieces (now all shoved onto one table):

Thanks to my Mom for bringing over 18 short glass vases and dozens of fresh-cut Dahlia’s from her garden….we had beautiful Dahlia center pieces for every table!  Lots of compliments on those.

OK, so feeding 53 people….

This is the crazy part….

I cooked 42 hot dogs, 43 hamburgers and 15 pounds of brisket.  ALL of it gone! Well, I think there were 8 hamburgers left.  But still!  That’s A LOT of meat!

Since the main purpose of my blog is to dump my brain and file stuff for my future reference….here it is.  I need to remember a few things.

Here’s what we need for our next big party:

1)  A volunteer photographer to run around and take pictures of everything and everyone and everything and everyone.  Sad that the only pictures I took were the morning after.  How am I supposed to scrapbook that?  We thought about supplying disposable cameras, but I think I’ll just hand over my digital camera.

2) I might be too much of a control freak to let someone else do the grilling, but I’m open to it.  I enjoyed doing the grilling because it gave me a chance to talk to everyone as they came through the line.  I had lots of offers for people to take over, but I really felt like I was in a great place to socialize.  But it would be nice, as the hostess, to be able to eat my dinner the same time as everyone else and sit with everyone else…and chat with friends!  So send your resume my way….even though this is a volunteer job. (And see #7 on how I’d like to manage that again.)

3)  No football.  No soccer.  Sorry kids.  You are all too big and the ball was all over the place.  Next year the badminton net goes back up and the big balls will be put away.  And if you are over the age of 5 please stay off the Cozy Coupes and toddler toys.

4) Face painting anyone?  Minute-to-win-it challenges?  We need stuff to keep the kids busy (since there’s no football or soccer playing)…..I’m looking for volunteers for this!

5) DJ play me a tune!  Jim and I get too busy and forget to turn the radios on, or up, or tune them to the same channel.  It was interesting music for a while (something different in every room) and I apologize for that.   At the end of the night we got the ipod out and put it on shuffle and were entertained with a variety of music- with the occasional Christmas tune, Audiobook passage, or ballet song it was quite entertaining.  So….unless we get our outdoor speakers wired…or even IF we get our outdoor speakers wired- we need a mix list.  Anyone?  Do you wanna DJ?

6) Beverage tags.  OK- so I put a sharpie out there hoping the kids would use it to write their names on their cups so everyone would know who’s was who’s.  No luck.  Not complaining about the wasted beverages, we realize it’s part of the party process, but it would be nice if the kids could remember where they put their drinks or which drink was theirs when they DO put it down.  After throwing away $20 worth of one-sip-taken beverages, I’m thinking 2-liters and plastic cups next year?  Hmmmm…..

7) Bathing Burgers!  I saw this at another BBQ and decided to give it a try here.  When I first started grilling the burgers, I was able to fit 20 burgers and 20 hot dogs on the grill for the first round.  Yep- we have a massive sized grill.  I could fit 4 burgers deep and 5 rows across.  Plus  have room on the end for 2 rows of 10 hot dogs.  When the burgers were done, I wanted a way to keep them warm and moist- enter the hamburger bath.  I put one of those disposable metal cake pans on the far left end of the grill and moved all the cooked burgers to the tray, poured in a 1/2 can of beef broth and let them simmer away.  With the tray in place I was still able to cook 8 more burgers at a time, and leave room to melt cheese on 4 already cooked burgers- plus still had hot dog cooking space!  Anyway- the process was to cook the burgers, move them to the bath, and just before people started coming through the line I took 8 burgers out of the bath and topped them with cheese, shut the lid to let the heat melt the cheese- then I’d move them to a tray on the table where people could grab their meat.  I always had burgers in the bath, burgers cooking on the grill and usually 3 or 4 burgers ‘cheesing’.  This process worked amazingly well and I think there was only one time where I wasn’t paying close enough attention and forgot to cheese some burgers so there was a minute wait.  But I have to say, I don’t think we’ve ever been able to move people so quickly through the line before, and nobody was waiting for burgers- and they were always moist and juicy. LOVE IT!  Doing it again for sure!