In most cases, hosting outdoor parties in Ojai in winter is not much different than entertaining outdoors in summer. It may be a little colder and it certainly gets dark earlier but, aside from that, we are fortunate to live in a temperate, near-coastal community that allows us to enjoy outdoor living any time of the year.
However, Ojai’s amazing weather may decide not to cooperate that day and it might be a bit too cold for comfort -- or it might even rain (let’s hope!). Fortunately, you do not have to let a little inclement weather get in your way and, with the proper party preparations, your winter shindig is sure to go off without a hitch.
To help ensure that your outdoor Christmas dinner or Chanukah party is a fun, memorable event, here are 10 tips to help you keep your guests comfortable and filled with holiday cheer.
10 Tips for Hosting Outdoor Holiday Parties in Ojai
1. Create a kids’ area.
Whether you are hosting your party indoors or outdoors, if the invitations say it is an all-ages gathering, you are sure to have at least a few children there. This is particularly true if you are hosting this year’s family dinner. When there are gifts and games involved, it is definitely more fun to have the kids involved, but you will also want to be prepared to keep them entertained when the adults need a break or are partaking in other activities.
Some easy ideas include setting up a temporary movie theater on your patio where you can show holiday movies, creating a kids’ space with a craft table or cookie decorating table, putting together a holiday scavenger hunt or putting one of the older kids in charge of games with fun prizes.
2. Set up a self-serve drink station.
If you are hosting more than a few family members or close friends, you could find yourself running inside to the kitchen to refill drinks throughout the night. To make your hosting duties a bit less stressful and make sure your guests are well hydrated, set up a centrally located self-serve drink station. Keep in mind that if you are serving alcohol and have children in attendance, you should set up two drink stations to keep alcoholic beverages out of little hands.
Since it will likely be a bit chilly outside, be sure to include at least one or two warm beverage options, such as coffee, spiced cider, hot chocolate or tea.
3. Determine how you will keep your guests warm.
Patio heaters, outdoor fireplaces, fire pits or chimeneas are all great options that can create a welcoming, wintery environment while helping ward off the cold. If you have a fire feature as part of your outdoor living area, be sure it is clean, in good repair and well stocked with the appropriate fuel. If you have propane-fueled patio heaters, be sure to have extra propane tanks on hand.
If you do not have any of these options already on hand, you can purchase an inexpensive, portable fire pit at Home Depot or Lowes, buy patio heaters at either of these stores, or rent patio heaters just for your party.
If you will not have too many guests in attendance, another fun idea is to pass out cozy slippers and throw blankets as party favors.
4. Be prepared for rain.
We don’t have that many rainy days in Ojai, but the holidays do happen right in the middle of our rainy season. You may not know the weather report when you pick the day for your party, so it is possible that this could mean some much-needed rain might coincide with your holiday gathering.
If you have a covered patio, you might be okay, but if you are expecting a lot of guests, you may need to consider purchasing or renting a canopy or tent to expand your covered entertaining space. If this is your plan, look for one with curtains, since this will allow you to close one or more sides to help keep your guests warm and dry.
5. Have a back-up plan.
Your heart may be set on an outdoor Christmas, but Mother Nature may have other ideas. Just in case the weather really does not cooperate and it is simply too cold or rainy for your guests to comfortably congregate outdoors, make sure you have a back-up plan. The easiest option for most folks is going to be having an indoor room ready to go in case you need to move the party inside.
If possible, pick a room that is adjacent to the outdoor area you plan to use. That way, it will be easy for guests to move between the spaces. It will also make your hosting duties a bit easier if your guests are not spread all over the house.
6. Create a festive, cold-weather menu.
If you are hosting a family holiday meal, tradition may dictate most of the menu. However, there is probably at least a little wiggle room for adding something fun and festive to the feast. And, of course, if it is just a party celebrating the season, you are free to plan a menu that compliments your theme.
When entertaining outdoors in colder weather, comfort foods and hot beverages are always a safe bet, which means fondue, chili, warm desserts, hot apple cider or Irish coffees all work for winter menus.
7. Consider extra lighting.
Depending on the time of day you choose, it may be dark before your guests even arrive. This calls for extra lighting to guide the way and create a festive ambiance. Most any lighting will do, but the holidays give you a great excuse to go a little crazy with the string lights.
If you are considering solar path lights to illuminate walkways, be sure to put them in place at least a few days in advance to make sure they all work and have plenty of time to get a good charge.
8. Stock your gift closet with a few extras.
If your gathering will include a white elephant gift exchange or friends and family exchanging gifts, your hosting duties include keeping a few extra gifts on hand. This ensures that everyone will have something to unwrap – just in case unexpected guests arrive or someone forgets their white elephant gift at home.
You can pick up a few last-minute gifts at any of the boutiques in downtown Ojai.
9. Determine how to handle gift wrapping materials.
Another consideration for parties with gift exchanges is how to manage the inevitable piles of wrapping paper, ribbons, gift bags and tissue paper. Have receptacles ready to receive trash, recycling and reusable wrapping materials and make sure they are clearly marked to make your job easier.
10. Make it memorable.
Make your holiday celebration all the more special by adding an element that makes it more memorable. This could be something as simple as having an ugly sweater theme or handing out the perfect party favors. Or it can be a bit more involved, such as inviting your guests to create seasonal crafts to take home with them, playing festive party games, or helping a good cause by collecting donations of toys or food.
AimeeJo Davis-Varela is the marketing director for The Davis Group and a freelance writer specializing in real estate, sustainable home improvement, eco-friendly landscaping, green living and travel writing.
by: Aimee Jo Davis-Varela
One of the many benefits of living in the Ojai Valley is the ability to enjoy outdoor living any month of the year. Cooking outdoors is an important part of this, and most of us look forward to hosting family barbecues or grilling with our friends when the weekend rolls around. While grilling is an eco-friendlier cooking method than indoor cooking in most cases, dowsing charcoal with lighter fluid and charring meats until they are barely recognizable are not that great for the planet or your family’s health.
The smoke from burning charcoal or wood is filled with carcinogens and unhealthy compounds that increase environmental pollution and can accumulate in our bodies, increasing our risk for a variety of ailments. When you use lighter fluid, you are also filling the air with harmful petrochemicals that are bad for you, your family and the planet. Top that off with some chemical-laden pest control products to keep your guests comfortable, disposable plates and cups that end up in a landfill, and even more chemicals being released into the air with every bit of fat that drops from your meat onto the grill, and you can see how conventional grilling may be a lot of fun but is not the healthiest activity.
Fortunately, all you need to do is take a few simple steps to green your grilling routine and make your next al fresco dinner party an earth-conscious affair. The first step, of course, is choosing the right barbecue. Propane is better than charcoal, natural gas and electric grills are better than propane, and solar-powered grills, hydrogen-powered grills and corn-burning grills are even better. Of course, if you don’t want to part with your beloved charcoal barbecue, you can go greener with your grilling by switching to lump charcoal, natural charcoal or plant-based ethanol discs.
Once you’ve found your perfect barbecue grill and are ready for your first cookout, try these simple tips to lower your carbon footprint and enjoy healthier, eco-friendlier grilling:
1. If you have to light your cooking fuel, use an electric starter or charcoal chimney, and skip the lighter fluid.
2. Avoid excess smoke by keeping your grill clean. Avoid chemical cleaners and use a paste made from baking soda and water instead.
3. Purchase local meats and produce to avoid the energy and pollution of transporting foods.
4. Purchase organic foods to avoid feeding your family and friends chemical-laden products and to help keep those chemicals out of the air, water supply and soil.
5. Make the most of your fire by preparing the entire meal on the grill and making enough for leftovers.
6. If you do not want to use your indoor dinnerware outdoors, purchase cloth napkins and tablecloths, reusable plates and glasses, and other reusable party supplies for your grill-based gatherings.
7. Use natural pest control methods, such as citronella oil candles, bay leaves tucked under chairs, rosemary or sage tossed into the fire, or marigolds, sage, mint or rosemary planted around your outdoor living areas.
The Davis Group
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