The Backyard Party

Enchant your backyardEnchant Your Backyard

Chef & cookbook author Kate McMillan and DIY decor expert Brittni Mehlhoff are back to share a few easy ideas for turning an ordinary backyard into an enchanted setting for a summer party.


Adding an
Island Touch

Your backyard transformation begins with an easy and fun DIY project.

DIY Watercolor Placemats

DIY Watercolor Placemats

By Brittini Mehlhoff of Paper & Stitch

Inspired by the turquoise waters of Bora Bora, this DIY party idea will dress up your picnic table in a hurry.

To make your own watercolor placemats, you'll need a plain white placemat, a glass of water, a paintbrush, and textile paint. You can pick up textile paint at any arts and crafts or hobby store.

  1. plain white placemats
  2. glass of water
  3. paintbrush
  4. textile paint

Start by adding a layer of water to the surface of your placemat with a paintbrush.

Then beginning adding layers of paint on top, horizontally.

Continue adding water with a paintbrush as you are painting to give the placemat a watercolor look.

Once the placemat is covered in paint, let it air dry before using.

DIY Watercolor Placemats Steps

Brittni Mehlhoff DIY & Home Decor Expert

Brittni Mehlhoff is a craft stylist living in Atlanta, GA. In addition to styling, she is the founding editor of Paper & Stitch, a DIY lifestyle blog that features accessible, modern project ideas and recipes for a hip and happy home. Her work has been featured in numerous craft books, print publications, and popular sites, such as Woman's Day, Better Homes and Gardens, Country Living, Apartment Therapy, and many more. In 2014, Paste magazine named Paper & Stitch #2 on its list of top 10 DIY blogs to follow.

Essential Decorations

  1. Strung lights Once you try these, you’ll never want to entertain without them.
  2. Grass table skirt This fun accessory adds a lot of ambience for the buck. Get it here.
  3. Tiki torches Perhaps the most classic of all island-themed party decorations — and for good reason!

A Recipe to Transport You

Nothing says summertime grilling quite like a skewer. Here’s a sophisticated and modern take on a classic that will fit right in with your island theme. Don’t worry — you can handle it.

Swordfish, Ripe Green Olive & Preserved Lemon Skewers with Gremolata

Swordfish, Ripe Green Olive & Preserved Lemon Skewers with Gremolata

  • 10 min prep
  • 15 min cook
  • 4 servings


  • 1 cup packed fresh parsley leaves
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • 1 big clove garlic
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 lbs swordfish, skin removed, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 preserved lemons (7 oz jar), juices reserved, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup Lindsay Naturals California Ripe Green Olives (or your favorite green Lindsay olive), drained

Cooking Directions

  1. If you are using wooden skewers, fully submerge them in water for at least an hour prior to grilling so they don’t burn on the grill.
  2. To make the gremolata, finely chop the parsley and transfer to a mixing bowl along with the lemon zest. Finely grate or chop the garlic and add to the mixing bowl. Stir in the olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside at room temperature.
  3. Preheat a grill to medium-high. If using charcoal, prepare for direct heat.
  4. Place the swordfish into a nonreactive bowl and add the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the reserved juice from the lemons. Toss to combine and season well with salt and pepper. Thread onto skewers alternating pieces of fish, lemons, and olives.
  5. Lightly spray the grill grates with a nonstick cooking spray and place the skewers onto the grill. Cook just until fish is cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a serving platter and top with the gremolata. Serve at once.
Kate McMillan

Kate McMillan Chef & Cookbook Author

Kate McMillan is chef and owner of Kate McMillan Catering. She has authored 9 recipe books for Williams-Sonoma, and has worked as an event planner for Vogue and Glamour magazines. She lives in Northern California with husband and their three daughters.
Stay Calm!

Stay Calm!

If the host isn’t having fun, no one else will.

Spicy Mango Margarita

The sweet flavor of mango and sassy punch of spice provides a tropical twist to this classic cocktail.

Get the Recipe

DIY Thatched-Roof Umbrella Drink Stirrers

DIY Thatched-Roof Umbrella Drink Stirrers

By Brittini Mehlhoff of Paper & Stitch

Sail away to a little piece of paradise with these DIY umbrella drink stirrers inspired by the thatched roof bungalows Bora Bora is known for. To make your own DIY drink stirrers you'll need: scissors, a brown paper bag, paint and a paintbrush (optional), craft glue, and paper cocktail umbrellas (which can be found at your local grocery or party store).

To create a colorful umbrella, you'll first want to paint a medium sized area of a brown paper bag and let it dry.

  1. scissors
  2. brown paper bag
  3. paint
  4. paintbrush
  5. craft glue
  6. paper cocktail umbrellas

Then, cut a circle from the bag that is slightly larger than a cocktail umbrella. Next, cut a long rectangular strip from the same bag.

Create fringe strips all the way around the circle shape and the long rectangular strip.

Glue the circle onto the umbrella then wrap the long rectangular strip around and around the umbrella as well. Secure the end with glue. For tall glasses, attach the umbrella to a wood skewer before using.

DIY Thatched-Roof Umbrella Drink Stirrers Steps
Be Prepared!

Be Prepared!

Do as much ahead as you can! Read through your recipes and see what can be done a day or two in advance. Most recipes can at least be prepped in advance. Exceptions to this rule are herb sauces (they will lose their color) and fresh fish (always try to buy the same day you are cooking).