Frozen water balloons will keep your drinks chilled during summer parties.
Photo caption: Mike Garten

Be the hostess with the mostest … and the leastest (stress, that is) with our simple and delicious entertaining ideas.

Mix batch cocktails: Give yourself more time to mingle by mixing a pitcher or two in advance so guests can simply pour some over ice when they arrive (or when they’re ready for a refill).

Freeze some copper mugs: Place them in the freezer until frosty (about 20 minutes) before serving so drinks stay cooler longer.

Paint the porch ceiling sky blue: A serene shade overhead keeps a covered space light and bright.

Opt for a round coffee table: A circular style looks modern and is easier to walk around than a traditional rectangle when you’re entertaining. Choose a concrete or stone finish to contrast with wood furniture.

Chill bottles with frozen water balloons: Use your faucet to fill regular latex balloons (they’re less likely to break) until they’re the size of oranges, then freeze overnight on a baking sheet. They’ll melt more slowly than ice cubes, and no one will have to dunk a hand in ice water to fish out a drink.

Turn a utility cart into a portable bar: Four wheels and a couple of shelves are all you need for a drink station that will roll around the porch as the party moves.

Keep cushions pristine: Use a cotton swab to dab mildew spots on white fabric with chlorine bleach and those on colored fabric with hydrogen peroxide, then rinse. (Always test in an out-of-the-way area first.)

Create a hangout on the grass: Encourage company to step down to the lawn by arranging comfy chairs and cushions around a soft quilt.

Plan a grab-and-go menu: Keep the conversation flowing with finger foods that don’t require everyone to stop and sit. Small bites like marinated mini grilled chicken sliders (piled high with radishes, cucumbers, scallions and cilantro!) and crunchy pickled carrots are a tasty departure from burgers and dogs.

Stack dishes on the table: To keep the vibe relaxed, skip formal place settings so friends can fill their plates and eat where they please.

Make the centerpiece edible: Load up on fresh fruit from the farmers’ market and arrange it along the center of the table for a feast of a focal point.

Whip up a no-bake dessert: For a sweet finish to your fete, assemble layered lemon mascarpone ladyfinger parfaits, then pop them in the fridge until you’re ready to wow your guests.

Put sunscreen and bug spray in a basket: Round up outdoor essentials like sun protection and insect repellent to ensure that everyone stays comfortable. Tuck in hand wipes and a few paper fans, and it will seem as if you’ve thought of absolutely everything.

Refresh wood furniture: If it’s dull and dirty, wash the wood with a mix of mild dish soap and water and rinse. To give it a whole new look, lightly sand it, prime it and paint it a bright, happy color.


The “Do” Diet

Stay healthy this summer with these “dos” recommended by our team.

DO: Eat Tomatoes, Raw and Cooked!

Tomatoes are at their peak nutritional value in late summer. Eat up, because they’re packed with vitamin C and the antioxidant lycopene, which is linked to reducing your risk of chronic disease. Over time, eating foods with lycopene also can help protect your skin from the UV radiation that causes sun damage (think wrinkles, droop and, of course, skin cancer). Freeze tomatoes for cooking (blanch and peel first) or simmer them into sauce and freeze to serve with hearty pastas all winter long. Research shows that cooking boosts lycopene and eating them raw delivers the highest levels of vitamin C.

DO: Swat Mosquitoes

Go ahead and whack at those persistent little buggers! You’ll (hopefully) avoid getting bitten, and the biters you wave away will probably steer clear of you for a while. University of Washington and Virginia Tech research has found that mosquitoes learn to associate a particular odor with an unpleasant sensation, like being hit, and as a result, they avoid that scent for at least 24 hours. While the tactic deters only the mosquitoes that get hit – meaning you won’t prevent new ones from swarming to your scent – it could ward off repeat offenders.

Recalls Alert

The following products and vehicles were recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Unless otherwise indicated, discontinue use of the products immediately and return them to the store where purchased for a refund. For more information about the products, call the manufacturer or CPSC’s toll-free hotline, 800-638-2772. Only some cars or trucks recalled are affected. Contact a dealer for your model to see if it is included in the recall. The dealer will tell you what to do.


Josephine floor mirrors, sold exclusively at Crate and Barrel stores nationwide and online at from December 2016 through February 2018 for about $450 for a single mirror and $1,250 for a three-mirror set.

The mirror’s glass can separate from the wooden backing and fall, posing a laceration hazard. Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled mirrors and contact Crate and Barrel to arrange for a free replacement. Crate and Barrel is contacting all known purchasers directly. Consumers can contact Crate and Barrel at 800-451-8217 from 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. CST Monday through Friday, or online at Click on “Product Recall” for more information.

2016-2018 Nissan Titan

2016 and 2018 Nissan Titan XD

Accessories installed on these vehicles reduced the load carrying capacity; however, a Load Carrying Capacity modification label was not installed, possibly allowing the vehicle to be overloaded. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 110, “Tire Selection and Rims.” An overloaded vehicle can increase the risk of a crash. Nissan will notify owners and provide a new modification label, with installation instructions, for free. Owners may contact Nissan customer service at 800-867-7669.

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Distributed by King Features Syndicate