Those Summer Nights


Photos by Rachel Coward

When the summer sun smiles on the Pacific Northwest, there’s no place more beautiful than outside and home. Make the most of summer nights like this by creating a breezy summer dining experience on the deck, dock, or garden patio. All it takes is a casual entertaining corner, delicious sips, fun flora, a simple menu showcasing the freshest summer ingredients, and a few easy DIY details. Meet me on the dock for the magic hour. Summer starts now!

The Décor
Pull together a relaxed beach vibe with a subtle nautical undertone in unexpected colors, like grays and corals. An eclectic mix keeps it casual.

20150514_MonicaHart-BBQ_0764Sweet Summer Dessert Tray
Here are five ideas to make fruit the ultimate dessert.
1. Create a fruit tray with the freshest ingredients.
2. Put fresh cherries in small white bags for guests to munch while they mingle.
3. Halve and pit fresh peaches, and fill the centers with vanilla and honey creme fraiche.
4. Make watermelon pops. Just cut fresh rind-on watermelon into small triangles, then skewer onto lollipop sticks.
5. Create a “tipsy” fruit pop for adults by combining blended fruit with a splash of Grand Marnier and a deep freeze. Try cantaloupe with jalapeño simple syrup and mint, or try strawberry, raspberry, and basil.

Thirst Quenchers
Sparkling water topped with scoops of frozen watermelon ice — use a melon ball scoop and freeze — is as refreshing as it gets.


Easy, Fresh Taco Cart

Easy, Fresh Taco Cart
Keep the menu short but fresh with grilled lemon prawns, scallops and kumquat tacos with all of the fixings, including pineapple and jalapeño salsa, jalapeño crema, cilantro pesto, and fresh lime juice.

Pineapple Jalapeño Salsa

  • 2 cups red and yellow bell peppers, chopped
  • 2 cups red and yellow grape tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 cup chopped pineapple (Or take a shortcut and buy it pre-cut at Metropolitan Market.)
  • 1 tablespoon jalapeño (seeds removed), finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

The Best Dressing

  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons of Grand Marnier
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper

Roasted Potato Bites

  • Cut the potatoes in half
  • Drizzle with olive oil and the juice of 1/2 a lemon.
  • Sprinkle with lemon zest, salt, pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme then toss.

Roast at 400 degrees for about 20-25 minutes until the potatoes are crisp and golden brown. Serve these lemon thyme potatoes with candied jalapeño sour cream dip.


DIY tote & napkin rings

Create a Tote
Make a handy beach towel tote using braided cotton cording, leather strips, a hole punch, contact cement and metal clasps. You can find all of the materials to make your own tote and Ben Franklin Crafts and Frames in Redmond and the towel at West Elm.


  • One beach towel
  • Two 18-inch lengths of cotton cord
  • One 25-inch length of twisted hemp rope
  • One 7 inch by 2 inch piece of leather
  • Four small clasps, 3/4 inch
  • A hole punch
  • Cement glue


  • Slide a clasp onto each end of the 18-inch cord. Clasps should face opposite directions so that they will create a hook. Turn under 1-inch on each end and glue. Repeat for second cotton cord.
  • Repeat on each end making sure the clasps are facing opposite direction on each cord.
  • Punch a small hole centered on both short ends of the leather. Thread the twisted hemp rope through both holes and create a knot on the strap underside.
  • Take a rolled beach towel and wrap with cotton cords, lining up the clasps.
  • Glue down the leather strap on top of the cording two inches from the clasps on both sides.

DIY Napkin Rings
Make metal napkin rings fresh as a daisy! All you need are mini craft store magnets, floral glue and daisies.

Use What You Have
Bring the indoors out with a few easy pieces. I turned our old teak trunk into a rustic dockside wine bar, grabbed the kitchen chairs, and pulled up a comfy jute foot rest. What do you have already on hand to create your outdoor space for the night?

Fresh Florals
Create a colorful fresh-flower table runner in unusual repurposed containers — cigar boxes! I found these for $5 each at a local cigar store. Fena Flowers of Kirkland rocked the theme, adding bright flowers, succulents, sand and shells!


DIY Cocktail Tray & Watermelon Jalapeno Margarita

DIY Cocktail Tray
I created this lobster-print shadowbox cocktail tray in minutes. Make your own with a decorative paper napkin and a little Mod Podge (a sticky glue-like adhesive that dries clear).
1. I used a 12-by-12-inch white shadowbox and a lobster napkin unfolded to the same size.
2. Remove the glass. Lightly coat one side of the glass with Mod Podge. Carefully place a single napkin layer on top of the glass, decorative side down, and smooth out any bubbles.
3. You may want to add a paper backing to the reverse side before popping the glass back into the shadowbox. Use the same technique for the glass anchor coasters and add a felt backing.

Watermelon Jalapeno Margarita

Kick off your summer soirée with a killer cocktail. Make this watermelon jalapeño margarita because some like it hot! Shake the following ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice, and pour.

  • 1 shot pureed fresh watermelon (Tip: Get Metropolitan Market’s precubed watermelon!)
  • 1 shot tequila
  • ¼ shot Grand Marnier
  • ½ shot fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 shot jalapeño simple syrup (1 cup water to 1 cup granulated sugar and a jalapeño sliced with seeds removed. Simmer on the stovetop, strain, cool, and chill)
  • 4 to 6 drops habanero bitters

20150514_MonicaHart-BBQ_0715The Wine
With the meal, I served a gorgeous trio of Chateau Ste. Michelle Sauvignon Blanc wines with notes of melon, herbs, and citrus. You also can create a simple and light Sauvignon Blanc sangria by adding sliced fresh peaches, lime, and mint to the wine.

The Lighting
As the sun sets, extend the glow with a single strand of string globe lights and mason jars with tea lights. Look for solar-powered lights if you don’t have outside power.

Wine: Chateau Ste. Michelle, Woodinville
Menu Ingredients: Metropolitan Market, Kirkland
Flowers: Fena Flowers, Kirkland
DIY supplies: Ben Franklin Crafts and Frames, Redmond
Hair: SEVEN the salon, Bellevue
Ottoman, tote, and throw: Haley’s Cottage, Kirkland

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