Set the scene for festive feasting with these easy ideas for summer celebrations.
All decked out
Christmas is an occasion for colour and celebration. Make your setting sing with a bold, original tablecloth in a striking color.
Don't hold back when it comes to crockery. If you have a special set tucked away, bring it out! Or mix and match from several different sets - be bold and combine heirlooms with contemporary favourites. Fill in the gaps with plain white china.
Buy a length of floaty, sheer fabric, loosely attach a couple of decorations or baubles at the corners to act as weights and use it as a throw on the banquet table to help keep summer insects and overly adventurous kookaburras at bay.
Nothing makes an impression like beautiful outdoor furniture and summer is the perfect time to upgrade. Outdoor furniture comes in all kinds of materials, from timber and wicker to plastic, stone, concrete and a range of metals. Whichever you choose, go for quality and you'll get years of enjoyment from this investment in good living and simple pleasures.
Outdoor lighting adds atmosphere
Candlesticks on the table are simple and atmospheric. Protect your flames from the breeze by encasing them in glass candleholders or decorative lanterns; tealights in tumblers look pretty placed along the table.
As the sun goes down, outdoor lighting creates an instant party atmosphere. Get the basics right first: quality garden lighting will keep on giving long after the festive season is over. Check out the many stylishly designed, user friendly garden lights on the market. Extra low voltage (12V) halogen and solar models offer an easy DIY solution to outdoor lighting. When shopping for garden lights, be clear about your specific needs - use halogen bollards to highlight plants and shrubbery and low voltage downlights for spotlighting feature areas.
Solar lights are an increasingly popular, practical and affordable option. Look for units which come with a remote solar panel, allowing you to place the lights in shaded positions while the panel is placed in direct sunlight to charge.
Complement your landscape lighting with strings of electric lanterns and protected candlelight. For a festive touch, loop strands of twinkling lights above the dining area, in tree branches, around the outdoor umbrella and hanging from the pergola. Citronella candles on stakes lend resort-style ambience as well as helping to keep insects at bay.
Drinks on hand
Keep Christmas refreshments close at hand with an old wheelbarrow doubling as a drinks chiller. Line it with plastic, fill with ice and stock full of your favourite drinks. Throw some gum leaves in with the ice to continue the Aussie Christmas theme.
Silly season games
As festivities wind into the evening, try playing the 'Two Truths and a Lie' game. To play the game, everyone has to say three things about themselves, two of which are true and one of which is a lie. The challenge is to see who can correctly guess which one is the fib.
Get the kids involved
Everyone loves a celebration and wants to feel important so make sure you involve the small fry. Encourage them to make decorations to hang in the trees or serviette holders out of gum leaves and fabric scraps. Ask them to write down their favourite jokes, roll them tightly up, wrap a leaf around them and hide them in the table decorations for accidental discovery throughout the meal.