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kick back easy summer entertaining 
by Yee-Fan Sun
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4 Sweet stuff. Skip the dinner altogether and host a dessert party. Cakes, cookies and pies can all be baked up the day before, leaving you with plenty of time the day of the party to sit back and chill. For those lacking in the baking skills department, the options are still plenty. You can hit up your favorite bakery for a schmancy tart or two, offer bowls of luscious blueberries, cherries and raspberries, and serve it all up with a good dessert wine. For something less hoity-toity, there's the ever-popular ice cream smorgasbord. Pick up whatever cheap, fresh fruits you can find at the market, make some real whipped cream, and set out hot fudge sauce, crumbled oreos, m&ms, or whatever else suits your fancy.

5 Pitcher this! Who has the energy to play bartender when it's a sizzling 100F outdoors? Still, nothing ups the fun factor of a gathering like a designated drink du jour (or nuit, as the case may be). Make your life easier by mixing up drinks by the pitcherful. Margaritas, sangria, and spiked lemonade all make for perfect summer sipping, and can be made up in large quantities at a time. Keep the pitcher chilled in the fridge or in a cooler, have plenty of ice available in a separate ice bucket, and of course, don't forget the garnishes.

7 Cool off. Lacking in the pool department? Doesn't mean you can't enjoy the water. Get nostalgic with some of your favorite childhood summer games -- get some water guns or fill up some water balloons, and enjoy a friendly waterfight.

8 Beach and beyond. Much as I love having folks over at the house, summer is also a great time to take the party elsewhere. Pack up the coolers and the blankets and head to the beach; grab a Frisbee, plenty of munchies, and gather at the park. Or get away from the noise of the city, and organize a night around the campfire. There are plenty of free/cheap public places within easy driving distance, just waiting to provide that perfect gathering spot for you and your buds. It's like a mini-vacation -- only easier on the wallet and a whole lot less work.

check out these related articles: 
fresh! fruity! cocktails | summer sippers | sangria | garden-fresh summer menu | easy party foods | grilling 101

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