By Brooke Madden and Hosting Expert & Luxury Rental Coordinator for Cayman Marshall, Claudia Spahr-Kaye

After a year indoors, it’s no surprise that Canadians are beyond ready to get outside. Whether you’re a Bear Grylls-esque hiker, or glass of wine on the patio in your yoga pants kind of outdoorsy, all of us are craving some of that sweet, fresh summer air. Naturally, we flock to cottage country. Regularly, summer nights up north are spent with friends – dinner parties, campfires, boating. Hosting at the cottage is truly an art to be mastered. But in a world of restrictions, lockdowns, and ever-changing rules, how do we do so safely? Well, we get creative! This year, entertaining is going to require a little more preparation than usual. But, you’re already a stellar host, and with our help, you’ll truly become the hostess with the mostest.

Welcome to our guide to entertaining safely this summer.

Keeping It Clean

The first thing to keep in mind when planning a small gathering is cleanliness. No, I don’t mean precise vacuum lines satisfyingly engrained in the carpets, sparkling kitchen countertops, or meticulously karate-chopped throw pillows. Those are all bonus points, but your guests can’t appreciate them from the outdoors. This summer, cleanliness is all about handwashing. Setting up a handwashing station outdoors is imperative for safe entertaining. An area reserved for hand sanitizer, paper towels, soap, and a garden hose is really all you need to cover your bases. When your guests feel clean and germ-free, you’ll all be able to relax and safely enjoy each other’s company.

Drinks & Apps

With everyone clean and healthy, drinks and apps on the dock are a favourable way to start your afternoon. It’s one of those summer essentials that are still doable this year, so long as we do the proper prep. Your guests will be blown away by the thoughtfulness and creativity you’ve (figuratively and literally) brought to the table. The secret to keeping this gathering safe? Individuality! Everyone gets their own servings, and they’re all served contactless. The night before your guests arrive, ensure you’re stocked up on skewers, glassware, and plates. Appetizers like individual shrimp cocktails in a jar, skewers of veggies, and little baggies of popcorn are all options of snacks to serve your guests, that prevent sharing and cross-contamination. If you have little ones around, you can include them in the fun by investing in disposable cups and markers. Kids can write individual names or fun designs distinguishing each cup for the guests. Even sans kiddos, decorating and labelling plates and cups is a fun way to satisfy your inner child.

Spend more time with your company outside with a full outdoor kitchen from Muskoka BBQ and Outdoor Kitchen Centre. Alfa Ovens make a great addition to your outdoor kitchen area and create conversation in preparing dishes, including individual pizzas

Dinner Is (Safely) Served

Of course, the peak of cottage entertaining is enjoyed in the form of a sit-down dinner. Enjoying a dinner with friends safely is less complicated than you might anticipate, so long as it’s hosted outdoors. The important thing to keep in mind is ensuring your guests all live in the same household. You don’t want to be gathering multiple households quite yet – hopefully by next summer! Having one other household in your bubble can be safe, so long as social distancing is maintained. When your guest list is sorted, simply set up two tables. If available, place a smaller table between the two to allow for more space. Then, get creative in the kitchen! If wanting to serve dishes on a platter, make one per household. Desserts can be served in fun individual portions – cupcakes, fruit skewers, or even a mini chocolate mousse will safely satisfy your tastebuds.

Begging For S’more

No cottage trip is complete without a campfire. Ditch the big communal bag of marshmallows for smaller, individually portioned s’mores kits! S’mores kits can be crafted affordably, and are seriously adorable treats for you, your family, and your guests. Include chocolate, graham crackers, and marshmallows. Label or decorate the box for each guest, and tie to a roasting stick. You can make similar boxes filled with other goodies like popcorn, veggies, and chips, so your guests have a variety of options to choose from. Your guests will be begging for s’more!

See You Soon!

Like everything lately, hosting at the cottage is going to feel a little bit different this year. But if you embrace your adaptable and creative side, this summer can still be one for the books! Stay safe, wear a mask, wash your hands, and we’ll all be partying together at the cottage in no time.