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The Entertainer

Top Halloween Costumes for 2021

Halloween is just around the corner, so it’s time to start planning costumes for the whole family! Whether you’re trying a DIY look for your crew, hosting a party for friends, or trying to win the office costume contest, knowing this year’s hottest looks will give you the edge. Here are some of the costumes sure to be popular for kids and adults this year.

Space Jam: A New Legacy

Characters from this popular movie will be common choices for kids and adults alike. Fortunately, creating this look is easy: Wear a blue basketball jersey and shorts, then add the Tune Squad lettering and orange and yellow bullseye. This image would be easy to create with paper or yarn. Carry a basketball for the perfect accessory.

Miraculous! Ladybug and Cat Noir

Gaining an impressive following this year on Netflix, Miraculous! characters Ladybug and Cat Noir will be top choices for kids this year. For Cat Noir, a basic black bodysuit is best, but you can use a black long sleeve top and pants to achieve the same look. Add some cat ears, a black mask, and a green and black ring, and you’re set! Ladybug’s costume is simple as well: Cover a red bodysuit or pants/top combination with black dots, put your hair in two low ponytails, and add a red mask! Two small red/black earrings to highlight the character’s iconic accessory would complete the look perfectly.

Photo: FatCamera via gettyimages.com

Bridgerton Inspired Looks

This Netflix series was the hit of early 2021, so expect teens and adults alike to gravitate towards the 18th century luxury and decadence of its costumes. Queen Charlotte sports an iconic towering hairdo a la Marie Antoinette, while other characters have more reserved updos with natural curls framing the face. Dresses feature an empire waist and lots of jewels and embroidery, so search thrift stores for fabrics that might fit the bill. For men, suit jackets with tails and high-collared white shirts give off the perfect 18th-century vibe. Small accessories like white gloves will serve to complete your look.

WandaVision Characters (and Other Superheroes)

This Marvel series captured top ratings in 2021, so it’s a clear choice for adults who want to go the classic superhero route. Vision’s face is red and silver, so break out the paints and get to work. If you want the iconic superhero cape and leotard, choose a gray or silver. For a rendition of Vision as he’s masquerading as a human, choose any decade and dress to impress! Wanda follows a similar direction. Make sure that you have her iconic red hair, and then choose a decade to emulate.

As is typical, kids will gravitate towards superhero costumes this year. Spiderman and Captain America are popular choices, so blue and red outfits could serve as the base layer for both. Add webs and a spider logo on Spiderman’s chest or a cardboard shield emblazoned with a star for Captain America to complete the looks.

Minecraft Characters

The world of Minecraft is as popular as ever this year, so expect kids to dress as their favourite characters. Because everything in this game is built out of cubes, you can easily create these costumes using recycled boxes. Don the main character’s attire with an extra-large turquoise shirt and dark pants, create a skeleton look with a black and gray jumpsuit, or dress in all green to be a Creeper. The key to resembling a Minecraft character will be in the headgear – use a whole box as your helmet (decorated appropriately) to give the illusion that your head is made from an in-game cube.

Disney Characters – Now with Star Wars!

Adults and kids alike will always love dressing as their favourite Disney characters, so remember that this category now includes the Star Wars universe. The Mandalorian (featuring a baby Yoda character) is still popular this year, so watch out for kids dressed in tan robes with their faces painted green. Princess costumes are always a classic, but this year, Frozen characters and the new heroine, Raya, will take center stage. Raya’s fierce warrior look is easy to replicate with green pants, a yellow shirt, and armbands. Her iconic staff completes the look and could be made from a broom handle or long stick.

Choose your favourite look from this list to create a memorable Halloween 2021 costume!

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The Entertainer

Host a Frightfully Fun Horror Movie Bash With These Tips

Hosting a Halloween Movie Night is the ultimate way to hunker down with family and friends to experience some fright night thrills and chills. From serving up tasty treats and devilish décor to enjoying a classic list of scary flicks, your adults-only cinematic soiree is sure to deliver a ghoulishly grand time. Just follow these recommendations to ring in the spookiest night of the year – at your own risk. Mooo – wah-haha!

Choose a Spine-tingling Movie

The most important part of hosting an epic Halloween Movie Night is choosing the right movie. Horror buffs will likely agree that the spookier and more spine-tingling a film is, the better. A Halloween-themed movie list is jam-packed with hair-raising options. Doing a quick Google search for “best Halloween movies” or “scariest Halloween movies” will yield many results.

Some legendary serial killer-based flicks include “Halloween,” “Friday the 13th,” “Scream,” and “Nightmare on Elm Street.” If you love classic Halloween monsters, some critically-acclaimed films include “Dracula” (1973), “An American Werewolf in London” (1981), and the original “Frankenstein” (1931).

Iconic psychological horror movies include “The Shining” (1980), “The Sixth Sense” (1999), “Rosemary’s Baby” (1986), “Carrie” (1976), “Psycho” (1960), and “Get Out” (2017).

Or, if you’d like some comedic relief, some hilarious spooky spoofs include “Young Frankenstein” (1974), “Ghostbusters” (1981), and “Scary Movie” (2000).

Overall, there are plenty of spooky movies to conjure some Halloween spirit and stir up some old-fashioned fright.

Set the Spooky Scene

Nothing sets the spooky movie scene better than some festive Halloween décor. Use flickering wax or flameless candles for dim lighting, drape some “cobwebs” in corners or around tables, carve some jack-o-lanterns for a centrepiece, and string some tissue ghosts along the fireplace mantel. Decorations like these are inexpensive, but you can get as elaborate as your budget and imagination allows.

Halloween-themed throw blankets also add a cozy touch to the room – and provide protection during those heart-pounding movie moments when you feel compelled to close your eyes or hide. Check out Country Living’s 75 Easy DIY Halloween Decoration ideas here.

Photo: Pekic via gettyimages.com

Play Halloween Soundtrack Name That Tune

To kick off your movie night, play Halloween Soundtrack Name That Tune:

  • Before the gathering, create a playlist of popular scary movie soundtrack or Halloween songs. Give players orange paper and black pens. 
  • Have them number their papers with the number of tunes in the playlist. 
  • Set a timer and see who gets the most correct answers when the time runs out. 
  • Give a Halloween-themed prize to the winner – a bag of any kind of Halloween candy is a popular prize. 

Get a printable version of this game from The Tiptoe Fairy.

Enjoy Chilled Halloween Drinks

Quench your guests’ thirst with some chilling Halloween drinks. Serve your favourite brand of orange soda or Just a Pinch’s Dreamsicle Orange Punch in black party cups as easy, crowd-pleasing, nonalcoholic refreshments. Or, whip up some wickedly wonderful adult beverages like The Flavor Bender’s Witch’s Heart Cocktail that combines purple Blackberry Liqueur, Apple Brandy, and Grenadine. Yummly’s Zombie Brains also has a fun blend of raspberries, pomegranate juice, orange juice, vodka, Chambord, ginger ale, and ice.

Note: Be sure to drink responsibly, never drink and drive, and always use a designated driver.

Serve Tasty Halloween Treats

Every movie night needs some tasty treats – and Halloween is known for some of the best. Popcorn is a movie-time favourite. You can serve microwave or fresh-popped or your favourite brand of ready-to-eat cheddar, caramel, or kettle corn. The Coffee Mom offers a unique sweet and salty Halloween movie snack mix that contains candy corn, skull-and-bone candies, and popcorn drizzled in melted white chocolate turned orange with orange food colouring. Get the recipe here.

Additional ideas are individual candy cups with Halloween M&M’s, peanut butter pumpkins, gummy worms, candy orange slices, or this amazing Candy Spiders recipe from The Spruce Eats. Black licorice, pumpkin muffins, or Pillsbury’s Jack-o’ Lantern Sugar Cookie Pops also make some scrumptious movie night treats.

These are just a few ideas to get your wicked watch party started. Use some of these Halloween Movie Night suggestions or dream up some of your own – then, most importantly, sit back, chill out, and prepare to scare yourself silly!

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The Entertainer

Creative Cooking: 6 Thanksgiving Side Dishes to Try This Year

As you plan your Thanksgiving feast this year, you’ll undoubtedly place traditional favourites front and center—but don’t stop there! Let your creativity shine by featuring a few unusual side dishes with bold flavours and beautiful fall colours. Who knows, you just may find a new favourite that the whole family loves!

Charred Sweet Potatoes with Hot Honey Butter and Lime

Looking for a sweet potato dish that isn’t quite so sweet? These charred potatoes paired with a spicy honey butter sauce are the perfect alternative. Choose smaller sweet potatoes so that portions are right for your guests, and make sure you get a good crisp on them in the oven. The sauce is easy if you use room-temperature butter; just incorporate honey and hot sauce, then spread on the potatoes. Garnish with roasted pumpkin seeds for a festive crunch, and let guests squeeze lime over the top as they enjoy.

Baked Pineapple and Cheese Casserole

Serving pineapple at Thanksgiving isn’t common, but pair it with cheese? That’s truly a rare dish. Once you try this delicious treat, you’ll put it into your regular holiday rotation. Start by coating cheddar cheese with flour and sugar, then add in drained pineapple. Create your topping by crushing Ritz crackers and mixing them with butter and the pineapple juice. Bake everything together until the top is crispy and the cheese has melted. This side dish is the perfect complement to the more savoury items on the table, and even guests who don’t typically love pineapple will ask for seconds!

Glazed Shallots with Chile and Thyme

Adding a little spice to your Thanksgiving table this year is sure to make it memorable. These glazed shallots are a great complement to the richer, traditional side dishes and offer the perfect balance of spice and flavour. The key is to sauté the shallots in butter until they’re golden on all sides, then transfer them to the oven to finish baking with sprigs of thyme, chile, and sugar. The glaze that forms is memorable enough that your guests will ask for the recipe next year!

Photo: Stígur Már Karlsson /Heimsmyndir via gettyimages.com

Asparagus Puff Pastry Tart

Creamed spinach or green beans are typically the green vegetables on the Thanksgiving table. Try something new this year by serving asparagus puff pastry tarts. These tarts could even double as the biscuit, too! Using store-bought puff pastry dough, form enough shells so that each guest can have their own. Cook the puff pastry shells for about 10 minutes, then remove and use a fork to press down the middle so it stays flat. While these cool, cook your asparagus on the stovetop to give it a nice sear on all sides. Make a sauce using sour cream, horseradish, and spicy mustard, then spread into the pastry shells. Add several asparagus spears on top, and you have an easy yet sophisticated dish!

Vegan Wild-Rice-Stuffed Butternut Squash

It’s always a good idea to offer vegetarian and vegan meal options for your guests, so this dish could serve as the main course for those skipping the turkey. For everyone else, this stuffed butternut squash is a delicious side dish that could easily replace more traditional stuffing recipes. Roast the squash halves with a rub of maple syrup, vinegar, and oil for about 40 minutes until tender. While it’s baking, prepare your wild rice filling by cooking your rice of choice with onions, cayenne pepper, curry powder, and some cinnamon. These flavours mix wonderfully with other traditional dishes. Add some chunks of squash, cherries, and sage to cook, then spoon the finished mixture into the roasted squash halves and top with walnuts.

Winter Brussels Sprout Salad

Instead of relying on cooked vegetables for your Thanksgiving table, try this delicious raw brussels sprout salad instead. Combining thin strips of brussels sprouts with roasted grapes, pecans, and orange segments adds bright flavours to your table. The star of this salad is the dressing made from balsamic vinegar, oil, brown sugar, and red pepper flakes. Coat the brussels sprouts with the dressing and massage them into the leaves to tenderize a bit before adding the rest of the ingredients. Your guests will welcome these crisp, fresh flavours alongside more traditional dishes.

Incorporate one (or more!) of these creative side dishes into your Thanksgiving menu this year!

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The Entertainer

Impress Your Guests on a Budget: 6 Ways to Upgrade Your Entertainment Spaces

Whether you’ve become the family’s favourite Zoom host or you’re gearing up for gatherings with your quaranteam pod, adding a few updates to your space will reinvigorate your entertaining style and impress your guests. The best news? The updates we’ve gathered here are all inexpensive but deliver a big payoff. So grab that to-do list and get to it!

Daylight Bulbs

One of the biggest improvements you can make to the feel of your home, both online and in-person, is in the lighting. An outdated, orange-tinted glow will make it hard for your friends to see you on Zoom and make your in-person family feel less energetic than usual. Switch your overhead lights to daylight-style bulbs, and you’ll immediately notice a difference. Your party will pop with this change in ambiance!

Fresh (or Faux!) Flowers

Don’t fresh flowers instantly brighten a room? Whether you’re on Zoom or hosting your quaranteam for a small gathering, having fresh flowers strategically placed is an inexpensive way to make the room feel vibrant and clean – for a Zoom call, make sure to place the flowers in the background so that they don’t appear to be growing out of your head! Can’t afford fresh flowers or don’t want to deal with the mess they leave behind? The good news is that these days, faux versions look incredibly real, and despite their sometimes higher initial cost, they’ll last you for years and years. This roundup has some of the best faux spring flowers available; grab a few varieties so that you can rotate and make your guests think you’ve been flower picking in your free time.

Framed Art

If your Zoom background is looking a bit dull lately, then one of the easiest ways to freshen it up is framed art. Similarly, adding framed art around your house in strategic locations can add character and interest to your home that your guests will immediately notice. If you’re on a budget, think small – instead of buying a large original piece for a wall, purchase a small print from a local artist and refurbish a garage sale frame. Then, add this artwork to the wall surrounded by other smaller objects (think a small wreath, hanging dried herbs, a small mirror, etc.). The original art will be the focal point, but it didn’t set you back hundreds of dollars. If you’re looking for an even smaller scale, create your own images in the colour/seasonal pattern you’d like, print at home, then frame with refurbished items. You can create a vignette of these pieces on a mantel, table, or bathroom wall!

Photo: SteveCash via gettyimages.com

Hardware Upgrades

One of the easiest ways to refresh outdated furniture and cabinetry is by updating the hardware. New drawer pulls, knobs, and hinges can change the look of a piece without any paint or demolition. Consider updating the hardware throughout your entire home at the same time to create a unified look; even with the kitchen, two baths, and various furniture pieces, you’ll still come in well under a modest budget. If you have different styles or colour schemes throughout your home, choose one trait to carry through everywhere for consistency. Your space will automatically look more refined and polished with this simple upgrade. Check out this extensive collection of cabinet pulls and hardware, where you can easily sort by finish, colour, shape, and price.

Welcome Mat

Everyone knows that curb appeal is important, but what if you can’t afford new landscaping or exterior paint? For an inexpensive but noticeable upgrade, consider updating your welcome mat. While it may not get a lot of use these days, visitors will immediately notice a clean and inviting front mat (and the delivery drivers won’t mind a fresh space, either!). For an added bit of fun, try one of these interchangeable mats so that you can decorate your front step for any season.

Snack and Appetizer Trays

Nothing impresses your guests more than having specialized items for everyday activities – enter the snack tray! Instead of attending your Zoom family game night with the box of crackers balanced on your lap, take the extra time to organize your snacks and drinks on fun serving trays or plates. These wine appetizer plates are a sophisticated way to show off your elevated food game during a Zoom call or impress your in-person guests with their own easy spot for a drink and a nosh. If you have an assortment of appetizers or treats for the event, use this 3-tiered tray that collapses down for storage later; your food will be on beautiful display, and your guests will be impressed with (what they can only assume is) your extensive collection of hosting tools.

Whether you’re updating your Zoom room or freshening up your hall bath, these tips will let you affordably and easily impress your guests!

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4 Ways to Use Local Zucchini this Fall

Many think that the best of the local growing season hits in the summer, but really fall has just as much to offer. Local produce not only tastes better but also supports Canadian growers and reduces our carbon footprint.

While the season brings an abundance of local root vegetables and apples, zucchinis are a surprising star of fall. The nutrient-rich vegetable is in season right now and is a fan favourite for many reasons.

Zucchini contains a significant number of vitamins, zero fats and is high in both fibre and water. There are many ways to incorporate the veggie into your diet; here are just a few:

Bring the best side dish.
This time of year is always filled with gatherings of friends and families, and it is easy to impress with this side dish. Garlic-butter sautéed zucchini is easy, quick and will have everyone asking for your recipe. Cut the zucchini to your liking and pan-fry or sauté with butter, preferred seasoning and a tablespoon of minced garlic. Get creative with seasoning and other veggies. Add tomatoes when you sauté for extra flavour or make it cheesy by grating parmesan over it before serving.

No-guilt snacking.
Oven-baked zucchini chips are a great way to snack in a healthy way. You begin by cutting the zucchini into thin slices and mixing a blend of parmesan, salt, pepper and any additional seasoning. Then dip each slice into an egg wash, then into the mixture. Once coated, place the slices on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 375°F (190°C) until they look crispy brown, flipping them so both sides are evenly baked. Use these as your midnight snack or make as an appetizer paired with pesto, marinara or tzatziki.

Noodles + zucchini = zoodles.
Replace your pasta with local zucchini, using either a spiralizer, vegetable peeler or knife, or shred with a grater to get your desired shape and texture. Once you cut the zucchini, it’s as easy as sautéing in a pan with oil and seasoning for two to five minutes. Then, serve with
President’s Choice sweet basil pasta sauce and your choice of toppings.

Healthy on-the-go breakfast.
Try zucchini granola bites that don’t require any cooking and have limited ingredients. Start by mixing oats, almonds, cinnamon and chia seeds with the almond butter until well combined. All that’s left is to add dried, shredded zucchini, then roll the mixture into balls and put it in the fridge for 30 minutes. This recipe is quick, easy and perfect for on-the-go breakfast, school lunches and snacks.

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Celebrate Fall With 8 Seasonal Decorating Ideas

Autumn is right around the corner, and it’s time for your home to go from the airy, openness of summer to the cozier, crisper feeling of fall. In celebration of the season, you might want to bring those oranges, reds, golds, and browns into your home. 

We’re inspired by all the ways autumn plays on your senses, from the cool air on your skin to the smell of fireplaces burning and the sight of brilliant gold and red leaves. With those ideas in mind, we put together this list of fall decor ideas.

Real Pumpkins and Gourds

Real pumpkins and gourds are one of the best natural decor pieces you can bring in for the season. Line your stairs (inside or out) with pumpkins of varying sizes. Go with all orange, all white, or all green for a more classic look, or mix and match for a fun hodgepodge. Pile a wicker basket with a selection of gourds as a centrepiece, or flank the fireplace with an array of squash.

Fake Leaves 

While we’d love to bring the real thing inside, live leaves won’t hold up to more than a day of decorating duty. Fortunately, fake leaves can look almost as gorgeous and can be added to wreaths and garlands or even stuck to windows in a decorative representation of their yearly fall. 

Candles & Candle Holders

Swap out your sea- and cotton candy-themed summer candles for spicier, warmer scents. Fill the house with the aroma of cinnamon or pumpkin spice. Add a pumpkin-shaped candle holder for even more seasonal appeal.

Photo: fotostorm via gettyimages.com

Pillows

One of the easiest and most effective seasonal decorating items is the throw pillow. Pile orange, red, and gold pillows on the sofa, or go with a warm plaid to give the impression of piles of blankets. If you love representative images, choose one or two accent pillows decorated with a gold leaf, an orange pumpkin, or your favourite fall image.

Arts and Crafts Accents

Craft time with the kiddos (or grand-kiddos) can do double duty. Make turkeys from pumpkins by adding heads, tails, and feet. Or break out the paint and make patterns or faces on your pumpkins instead. Cut out leaves from orange, red, and brown construction paper and hang them on a string to make a garland. Feature these arts and crafts around the living areas and entryway.

Corn, Stalks, and Wheat Sheaths

Nothing says harvest time like dried corn, cornstalks, and wheat sheaths. You can prop large corn stalks by the front door, or tie them to the columns of your porch. Hang dried wheat sheaths from the mantle and line the top with multi-coloured corn, or create a centrepiece from a combination of them.

Fall Flowers

Marigolds, sunflowers, and mums bring a pop of fall colour into the home. Set a vase of sunflowers on your kitchen island or beside the guest bed. Feature large pots of mums at the front door or beside the fireplace. Fall flowers add a sense of freshness that compliments the coming indoors that’s natural with the season.

Colour 

To really create the autumn atmosphere in your home, focus on neutrals and earthy colours with accents of deep orange, brilliant red, and warm gold. Blankets and throw pillows are easy ways to make a significant impact with colour. Natural accents are also a quick and easy way to bring the hues of the outdoors in. Fill a glass bowl with pinecones for an end table accent, or fill a vase with dried wheat and a stick of dried berries. 

Celebrate the changing of the season and fill your house with autumn colours, harvest decorations, and that cozy feeling.

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Easy, Crowd-Pleasing, and Seasonal: 5 Side Dish Recipes for Fall

September brings with it a host of fresh produce: grapes, apples, leeks, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, lettuce, mushrooms, parsnips, and so much more! There are tons of delicious, in-season fruits and veggies ripe for whipping up mouth-watering side dishes. If you’re wondering how you’ll incorporate seasonal produce into your fall meals, here are a few of the best recipes for your seasonal sides!

Sauteed Carrots and Leeks

This five-star recipe is lightly sweet and brings in rave reviews from everyone who’s made it—veggie lovers or not. Chop your leeks and carrots and combine with chicken broth, butter, sugar, thyme, salt, and pepper. Simmer about 15 minutes in a skillet, or more for a softer texture, then let the veggies brown an additional 2-3 minutes. Take this side dish to show off at your next potluck, or whip it up as a side for your average Tuesday night chicken dinner. The kids might ask what a leek is, but they’ll be stuffing more of them in their mouths before you can answer!

Creamy Vanilla Grape & Apple Salad

Fall fruits get a heavenly sweet dressing in this side-dish recipe. It combines the bright fall flavours of red and green grapes, apple, and cranberry with the buttery flavour of pecans and an almost frosting-like dressing. In fact, you could swap this side dish for dessert! For that creamy dressing, combine cream cheese, sour cream, brown sugar, and vanilla extract and blend with an electric mixer until smooth. Chop the pecans and dice up your apples, then mix all the ingredients together and serve chilled.

Garlic Butter Roasted Parsnips

Who doesn’t love garlic and butter and…parsnips? Trust us, your whole family will be popping these roasted root vegetables like french fries. Parsnips have an earthy and mildly sweet flavour that’s enhanced by the butter and rosemary, and given a savoury touch with salt and garlic. Cut the parsnips into little fry-like batons, removing any of the woody centers. Then create your own homemade garlic butter by melting butter and stirring in four cloves of pressed garlic. Fresh rosemary adds the finishing touch to the buttery mixture, which you pour over your parsnips, season with salt and pepper, and bake for just 10 minutes at 450 degrees. Easy and delicious!

Photo: carlosgaw via gettyimages.com

Roasted Cauliflower & Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

Cauliflower and brussels sprouts are the perfect match in this roasted side dish, and you get all the benefits of these good-for-you veggies with all the added tastiness of bacon! Simply toss your brussels sprouts and cauliflower florets in olive oil and roast for 20 minutes or until tender. Just before serving, add crumbled, cooked bacon, drizzle the mixture with balsamic vinaigrette, and toss to coat. Serve to accolades.

Baked Parmesan Mushrooms

Another easy side dish that will compliment any fall meal, these baked parmesan mushrooms are a simple classic flavoured with thyme and lemon. To make them, thinly slice 1 1/2 pounds of cremini mushrooms as your base and line a baking sheet with a single layer. Add olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice, lemon zest, minced garlic, thyme, and grated parmesan. Toss to coat and bake for 12-15 minutes until browned. The mushroom juices and the slightly salty flavour of parmesan are accented by the zest of the lemon and the warmth of the garlic, making it a satisfying side for a chilly day.

From savoury to sweet, these are just a few of the sides you can make to feature in-season fruits and vegetables in your weekly meals. They’re great for a quick weeknight side or a dish to share at a big gathering. Use these as a starting point to develop your own favourite ways to serve up September harvests, or come back to these recipes again and again!

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How To Throw the Perfect Labour Day Barbecue

Labor Day is coming up, meaning it’s time to start planning that end-of-summer barbecue.

Some of us may be out of practice when it comes to throwing parties, but with a few tips and tricks, you can be sure to wow your guests, even if you haven’t entertained since 2019.

Here are a few ideas for an outdoor bash everyone is sure to remember.

Creativity, Accommodation, and Safety are Key with Food

Get creative with your food choices. Steak and burgers are classic choices for a barbecue, but for a memorable party, you might want to think outside the box. Kebabs are a fun option, and you can even build a “create your own kebab” station, making sliced meats and vegetables available to guests to build their own skewers. This way, everyone gets exactly what they want, and it saves you some work. Just remember to soak wooden skewers in water to keep them from burning up on the grill.

Be accommodating of different dietary restrictions. Good hosts are always ready to make their guests feel comfortable, which means making sure that everyone has something to eat, regardless of any allergies, sensitivities, or lifestyle choices. But that doesn’t mean you have to make a dozen different foods to make sure you’re ready for anything. Ask guests to inform you of dietary restrictions when they RSVP, then plan food accordingly.

Keep food safe from spoiling and bugs. Many barbecue favourites, like creamy pasta salad, will spoil quickly if left in the sun for too long. Use coolers filled with ice to keep cold things that spoil, and use mesh covers to protect food from insects. Also, always make sure that any grilled meats are cooked to a safe internal temperature, which means 145 degrees for steak, 160 degrees for burgers, and 165 degrees for chicken.

Drinks Should Include a Festive Mix

Similar to accommodating everyone’s dietary preferences, make sure all of your guests have something festive to drink, regardless of their situation or preference. Classics like lemonade and iced tea are always good bets for people who do not drink alcohol, but you could also go a step further and make a mocktail, concocting a fun and creative alcohol-free drink that keeps things interesting.

For those who do choose to imbibe, consider making a signature cocktail for the party, then fill pitchers or a beverage dispenser so that people can enjoy a mixed drink without having to reach for the martini shaker. Plus, if you make it in a pretty colour and serve it from a glass dispenser, it doubles as a decoration. Bonus points for throwing in fresh fruit!

Bring in a Mix of Games

No backyard barbecue is complete without a good yard game or two. Cornhole is a favourite, but you can also get a bit more creative and look for giant, outdoor versions of popular table games like Jenga or Connect 4. Or throw it back with lawn darts or croquet. For people who prefer to relax in the shade, make sure you have some playing cards or board games available, and games for the kids, too.

Prepare for the Pups

Your acquaintances with dogs might want to bring them to the party, and if that’s something you’re okay with, make sure you are prepared for Fido, too. Place dog bowls full of water in the yard to keep them from overheating and have some treats on hand. You can even grab some cheap dog toys to keep them entertained while their owners enjoy your fantastic spread.

And remember, since you’ll be entertaining outside, make sure everyone is safe in the sun. Have lots of water available, and allow guests to cool off inside if they need to. Also, provide sunscreen and bug repellent to keep everyone comfortable and happy.

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10 Unique Dishes To Wow At Your Next Barbecue

Labour Day barbecues are back, and that means lots of great side dishes to go along with the main course. Whether you’re hosting the party or bringing your contribution to a potluck, you’ll want to make sure your side dish is memorable and exciting, which means plain old potato salad just won’t cut it.

Read on for a slew of unique barbecue sides.

Jalapeño Popper Grilled Corn Salad

Spice it up with this jalapeño popper grilled corn salad from Wonky Wonderful. It’s creamy, cheesy, spicy, a little bit sweet, and has the unmistakable salty, savoury flavour of bacon. Or, you can leave the bacon out and serve up a side dish that vegetarians will love. (It’ll still be great without it.)

Pizza Rolls

Everyone likes pizza, but it’s rare to find it at a barbecue. It’s tough to cook on a grill and just isn’t a typical barbecue food, regardless of how delicious it is. But with these stuffed pizza rolls from The Girl Who Ate Everything, you can bring the flavours of pizza literally anywhere, barbecues included. Just roll up these bite-size wonders and let the compliments wash over you.

Green Goddess Potato Salad

Regular potato salad may be a little bit tired, but it’s not really a barbecue without some kind of potatoes. This green goddess potato salad from The Pioneer Woman is a fantastic way to raise the bar with tarragon, anchovies, and shallots all coming together to make an incredible tangy, creamy dressing for perfectly cooked red potatoes.

Summer Panzanella

What’s panzanella? Well, it’s a combination of all the best fresh summer veggies from your garden and crispy cubes of bread. This version from Delish is crispy, crunchy, and light, not to mention a snap to pull together.

Sriracha Sesame Potato Salad

If you know or are a vegan, you know it can be a little challenging to find things for them to eat at a barbecue. Solve that problem with this sriracha sesame potato salad from Vegan Yack Attack. It’s spicy, filling, and delicious, and is a cinch to make.

Chocolate-Covered Cherry Pie Pops

You’ve probably had cake pops by now. Maybe you’ve even tried making them yourself. But here we have chocolate-covered cherry pie pops from I Wash You Dry. That’s right. Cherry pie on a stick, covered in chocolate, and decked out with sprinkles.

Cannoli Dip

Much like pizza, cannoli are nearly universally liked. But they’re difficult to make and don’t travel especially well if you’re headed across town to a friend’s house. That’s where cannoli dip from Julie’s Eats and Treats comes in. It brings all of the flavours of cannoli with none of the hassle.

Grilled Pineapple Salsa

Chips and salsa is one of the world’s perfect foods. It’s easy, it’s delicious, and it can be eaten anywhere. Take it up a notch by making pineapple salsa from Delish, a slightly sweet twist on the classic that gets just a little smoke from grilling the pineapple first.

Grilled Chocolate Brownies in an Orange

This recipe from Bigger Bolder Baking might seem a little out there, but if you like orange-infused chocolate, it’s the one for you. You pour brownie batter into hollowed-out oranges and place them on the grill. The orange pulp flavours the brownie as it cooks, resulting in a unique and delicious creation.

Banana Splits on a Stick

It’s hot. You might not want to fire up the oven to prepare a dish to bring to a barbecue and would prefer a no-cook option instead. That’s where these banana splits on a stick from The Spruce Eats come in. You thread fruits onto a skewer, dip in melted chocolate and let them harden. Just like that, you’ve got a crowd-pleasing dessert without even thinking about the oven.

Whether you’re in charge of the appetizer or the dessert, these creative dishes are just the thing to stand out and take that Labour Day or summer barbecue to a whole new level!  

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The Entertainer

Summer Outside: 6 Games for Backyard Entertaining

Summer afternoons and evenings outside are a great time to connect with family and friends, in large groups or small. If you’d like to add some entertainment to your outdoor space, here are six ideas for games that you’ll love for any age and any group.

Giant Versions of Classic Games

Sometimes the best outdoor games are indoor favourites that you can supersize for the backyard! A popular new trend, giant outdoor versions of classic games like Checkers, Jenga, Yahtzee, and Connect Four are widely available. Many of these games can be played with two people/small groups if you’re looking for new outdoor activities after dinner; they also scale up well for larger gatherings. If you’re expecting a big crowd, set up several games and make a game obstacle course throughout the yard!

Capture the Flag

Many people hear this game mentioned and immediately return to childhood summers spent playing for hours outside. While Capture the Flag certainly has appeal for kids, adults can get in on the fun, as well. This game works best with a large group in a big space, so plan to head to the nearby park with your guests for this one. The best part about Capture the Flag is that it requires no real equipment – you can use a coloured towel or napkin for the flags if necessary! The basic rules state that teams hide their flags and then attempt to steal their opponents without getting caught. Part of the fun is then making “house rules” to spice things up, such as players getting caught and put in “jail” or rules about how closely someone can guard their own flag. If you have a crew that likes to play at night, check out this glow-in-the-dark version.

Spikeball/Roundnet

If you haven’t tried this newly-created game yet, be sure to put it on your list for this summer. This popular set comes with everything you need to set up your own backyard version. While typically a game for four players (teams of two), you can increase the number by getting a larger net size. Taking its inspiration from volleyball (and then flipping everything on its head!), Spikeball uses a horizontal net and a medium-sized softball. Players are allowed to hit the ball with one hand, but not carry or hold the ball, and the goal is to get points by making it hard for the other team to bounce the ball off the net. A fast-paced and fun game, Spikeball is a great option for small gatherings in an open yard. For more about how to play, check out this summary.

Bocce

Bocce is a classic yard game from Europe. It has migrated to the United States for good reason – with minimal prep and affordable supplies, this game is fun for all ages. Players take turns throwing heavy coloured balls as close to a small white ball as they can; the colour that’s closest scores a point that round, and play begins again. Bocce is also a great choice because the number of players is fairly flexible; you can play individually, on teams, or in rotations since the rounds are short. Unlike some yard games, you don’t need a large or even flat area to play – a slope or small boundaries will only add to the challenge!

Photo: skibreck via gettyimages.com

Ladder Toss

Another favourite for large or small groups, ladder toss, is an easy game that requires minimal setup or instruction. Players individually or in teams toss “bolas” (two golf balls suspended from the ends of a string) towards the rungs of a ladder to score points. The ladder has three rungs, and point values are assigned as the group decides. Younger players love this game, as well, but make sure that the littlest crowd stays away from the game play area – those bolas can hurt!

Bean Bag Toss/Cornhole

No matter what you call it, your family probably has played a version of bean bag toss for generations. One of the most popular outdoor games, cornhole, is easy to play and understand for any age. Players toss bean bags towards a board with a hole in it; points are awarded for getting the bag through the hole and/or on the board. If you want a fancy option suitable for playing after dark all summer long, some sets have built-in LED lights in the bags and on the board so that the party doesn’t have to stop when the sun goes down.

Grab several of these outdoor games to have on hand for the next time you’d like to take the party outside!

Ladder Toss

Another favourite for large or small groups, ladder toss, is an easy game that requires minimal setup or instruction. Players individually or in teams toss “bolas” (two golf balls suspended from the ends of a string) towards the rungs of a ladder to score points. The ladder has three rungs, and point values are assigned as the group decides. For an inexpensive but durable option, this set gets great reviews and is easy to assemble. Younger players love this game, as well, but make sure that the littlest crowd stays away from the game play area – those bolas can hurt!

Beanbag Toss/Cornhole

No matter what you call it, your family probably has played a version of beanbag toss for generations. One of the most popular outdoor games, cornhole, is easy to play and understand for any age. Players toss beanbags towards a board with a hole in it; points are awarded for getting the bag through the hole and/or on the board. If you want a fancy option suitable for playing after dark all summer long, this set has built-in LED lights in the bags and on the board so that the party doesn’t have to stop when the sun goes down.

Grab several of these outdoor games to have on hand for the next time you’d like to take the party outside!