We had our first cookout of the year on Sunday, and another one today to celebrate July 4th. It’s been a great week for hanging out with friends and family; this time last year Adam and I were in Hawaii, and we’d just found out that H was on the way. It was such an incredible time, so I don’t know…I was feeling really festive this July. Several teachers from school came on Sunday, and they caught me up on everything I’d missed while on maternity leave. H loved just hanging out on the patio under an umbrella. We tried putting her in the crib for a nap, but she didn’t want to miss the party! So she took all her naps on me that day, lol. I’m not complaining.

This week was also the first time I’d really put out a coordinated spread since our 2010 Christmas party, and I tried to use a lot of tips from Amy Atlas’s Sweet Designs. I didn’t take photos of today’s table until the end of the day, and they aren’t anywhere near as great as the photos Adam shot of Sunday’s table. So I’m posting Adam’s photos from our Sunday cookout here. I had so much fun putting this together, and I love how it turned out.

I made strawberry pies-in-a-jar for Sunday. I actually made cherry pies-in-a-jar today, too. This is my new favorite party trick. I use my favorite pie recipes but cut out the dough to fill my mini Weck jars. The crust and filling for a regular pie are enough for 12 mini pies, and you bake them in the oven at 375 for 50-60 minutes. They are easy and so delicious. I love the gooey, exploded nature of these. Perfect summer cookout food!

I did kind of a strawberry color scheme (the berries of my obsession lately). Red berry colors and a little bit of green.

We made kid and grownup versions of drinks: Virgin Strawberry Lemonade here, and Raspberry Limeade with Vodka at the other end of the table. I pureed about a quart of fresh strawberries and mixed it with 2 gallons of organic store-bought lemonade. On the kitchen island I had a big dispenser full of the remaining lemonade. Adam muddled fresh black raspberries (I actually went and picked those!) with store-bought limeade and vodka. Those are homemade Jello shots in the background, a strawberry-vodka version and a strawberry-peach kids’ version. I followed the directions for Fruit Juice Squares on the back of the Knox unflavored gelatin packet. It calls for 4 packets of gelatin and 4 cups of fruit juice (plus sugar or honey if you desire). Mix the gelatin with 1 cup cold juice, let stand for a minute, then add 3 cups of boiling juice. Mix, spread in a 13 x 9 pan, and refrigerate 2-3 hours until set. But instead of one big batch I made 2 smaller ones (in 2 square cake pans). I used peach nectar and strawberries I’d pureed for the fruit juice, and for the alchoholic version I replaced half the liquid with vodka (and used that as the cold liquid element, only adding 1 cup of boiling juice). They came out perfectly!

I used my Cricut to make recipe card-shaped signs for the food. I used Avery address labels for writing.

I set up a chips and dip station with little bags of tortilla, potato, and sweet potato chips for people to just grab and munch on. I put the labels for the dip on the spoons used to serve. I made a little sign that said “Please help yourself to chips and dip!” I also pre-wrapped the cutlery in napkins and tied the bundles with baker’s twine so folks could grab everything they needed quickly.

The strawberry truffles (from Amy Atlas’s recipe) were delicious, but I made them too big. Next time a little smaller, and I might try dark chocolate.

I loved this spread, I was really proud of it. Especially with H as my “kitchen helper.”

Here’s a quick (and completely awful!) photo I took of today’s spread, after we’d ransacked it and started cleaning up. Better late than never! I think I did pretty well turning this tablescape over in 2 days.

Now to relax, do a whole lot of dishes, and start daydreaming about our next holiday party….