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Dress Up Outdoor Dining

Warm weather draws us outside and there's no reason we shouldn't dine in style

We are all drawn to the outdoors when the weather turns spring-like. It's especially nice to fire up the grill and have a casual meal on the deck or in a special back yard spot. While paper and plastic are practical, there are also times when it's fun to dress up the outdoor meal just a little. That doesn't necessarily mean bringing out the fine china, but a few fun items picked up at garage sales or in specialty shops can really make a difference.

Chargers are really practical for outdoor dining. Also known as buffet or service plates, the formal types are fairly pricy. You can find many interesting patterns and shapes, however, that will really dress up your table without breaking the bank. Newer styles are square, fish-shaped, and even made of faux lace. These don't have to be "official" service plates, either. Unique wood cutting boards make a wonderful base or look for one-of-a-kind large plates or small platters. Mix and match to create an eclectic service.

Individual serving trays are useful, too. Use them for transport from the kitchen and then off-load for dining. Glass domes that typically fit on cake stands can be decorative and practical. You'll find plenty of these at flea markets and garage sales. Just place them over the plate while charring the steaks and your food will be protected from flies and other pests. They're good for serving dishes as well.

Small dishtowels can make great casual napkins. They're inexpensive and easy to clean, especially following a cookout.

Now's also the time to visit the paper goods and discount stores and pick up a supply of colorful table napkins. Be sure to select a number of different sizes, especially the heavier-duty dinner napkins.

Of course, etiquette demands that a formal charger should be only used for two courses and no more. It should also be removed before the main course. With outdoor dining, however, you can dress down the formalities and still maintain the elegance. Use the charger in any manner you wish and relax.

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Pittsburg, TX 75686
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