Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Dining Al Fresco: My New Favorite Activity

On Saturday morning, I found myself on my hands and knees at the Stratford location of T.K. Maxx (and yes, for all my American readers, this is the UK version of T.J. Maxx), fishing for a bashed up, non-descript box at the back of the lowest shelf. At last, I succeeded in maneuvering it to the front and, triumphant, opened the top to check its contents. Bingo: a tall, ornate carafe, the color of the ocean. Made of acrylic and (almost) indestructible if dropped - perfect for outdoor dining. I added it to my already-full basket, laden with a tasselled outdoor throw, matching plastic glasses (dead ringers for the real thing), and a light grey Le Creuset casserole dish (ideal for oven-to-table masterpieces).

That night, we had my father-in-law over for dinner, and I made the easiest meal: BBC Good Food's harissa chicken traybake; which consists of throwing a bunch of ingredients in a ovenproof dish (hence, the new Le Creuset dish - let's not talk about what happened to the one we used to have, as it nearly always starts an argument) and forgetting about it for about an hour or so. I'd highly recommend it.

We've been eating dinner outside a lot lately, mostly because the weather's been so warm and mild, but also because our garden is really beginning to grow. The fennel has formed its own little forest; the alliums (which are now just past their time) standing proudly upright; and the foxgloves springing up faster than I can say, "green thumb". Thankfully, we don't have to do much to it except trim it back, but John's been trimming the grass religiously - even resorting to using scissors for precise edges! For our table's centerpiece, I cut a few sprigs of lavender from the lavender bush in our front garden - simple, lovely, and fragrant.

As I've mentioned on the blog before, I love the challenge of finding treasures at T.K. Maxx - it's part of the fun. I make one, two, three, four rounds of the aisles - reaching back behind shelves to search for hidden gems and meticulously combing the clearance sections for ultra-reduced goodies.

Just as I found the beautiful carafe by accident, I walked past this blanket twice without noticing it, before its blue tassels caught my eye. It reminded me of something I'd find at Anthropologie or West Elm, but for a fraction of the price at £19.99.

The water glasses were a bargain £1.99 each (£1.99!) and they look so pretty on the table. We tend to go for neutrals in our home: lots of white, blue, cream, and grey. Although there were a lot of exciting and fun colors and patterns (I was really tempted by a bright, tropical outdoor cushion), I managed to resist and find items in keeping with our (boring but classic) aesthetic, though I think the throw is pretty fun!

I can't wait to have friends over for outdoor dinner parties this summer. Are you a fan of dining al fresco? We tend to throw open the French doors as soon as we get home lately!

Blanket, carafe, glasses, and casserole dish provided courtesy of T.K. Maxx. All opinions are my own.

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