"The summer hath his joys/And winter his delights," and any partygiver knows that they are not the same at all. It is time to rearrange ourselves, to drag the table away from the fireplace and push it under a window, to haul the Burgundies back down to the cellar and bring out the Chardonnays, to think up a hundred new ways to serve fruit, and to take advantage of the few months our living room can be the whole outdoors.
Now -- not five minutes before the guests arrive -- be sure that when you get outdoors, the living is easy. Trays, for instance, to carry the food from kitchen to terrace. The Kitchen Bazaar (4455 Connecticut Ave. NW, Montgomery Mall, Seven Corners Center and Towsontown Centre) has big plastic ones -- oval-shaped and gaudy in pink, purple, green and red, as well as a discreet black for the hostess who shrinks from such vivid display. At $6.98, they're cheap enough to get a couple.
And then there are barbecue tools -- forgotten until the steak begins to burn and a search of the kitchen drawers turns up nothing but a handful of kitchen forks. Conran's (3227 Grace St. NW) will keep you away from the heat with long-handled tongs, forks, spatulas and brushes for $2.50 each. It also has a long-handled grill basket ($8.95) to take fish and fowl over the coals.
To start the fire, Little Caledonia, 1419 Wisconsin Ave. NW, has a gas match lighter for $12.50; once you've got it going, scent it with bags of hickory chips (7 1/2 pounds for $6 at Williams-Sonoma, Mazza Galleria, Wisconsin and Western avenues) or mesquite chips (1 1/2 lbs. for $3 at Kitchen Bazaar).
To cook kabobs or the like, there are packages of bamboo skewers -- 99 cents for a package of 100 12-inch sticks -- at the Kitchen Bazaar. Soak them first or they'll be in the fire instead of on it.
Forget china. Someone is sure to drop the Wedgwood on the brick terrace, or step on a plate left lying on the lawn. Use paper plates but buy pretty ones (both Little Caledonia and Kitchen Bazaar have a good selection); to keep them from buckling, set them inside wicker plate holders, which can be reused throughout the summer. (A package of 4 is $1.40 at Williams-Sonoma.) If your guests are Frequent Fliers, they might prefer to maintain the illusion of pie in the sky by having their dinners served on airline-style plastic trays with little sections to hold this food or that, and a hole to keep the glass from toppling over. Even if adults thought it weird, children would love it. Trays are $1.75 each at the Kitchen Bazaar.
Also forget stemmed wine glasses. They are much too precarious for outdoor eating. Instead, stock up on chunky glasses that will survive bumpy ground and evening breezes. Williams-Sonoma has some in pressed glass for $1 each. Conran's has taller ones, lemonade glasses that look heavy enough to bounce off concrete (95 cents), and Little Caledonia has the kind they use in French cafe's for $1 each.
To keep the picnic cloth from flapping into the cole slaw, Kitchen Bazaar is selling clamps that anchor the cloth to the edge of the table (89 cents). If you're spreading the cloth on the ground and have nothing to clamp it to, buy a package of hem weights at a sewing store and pin or sew one to each corner.
To light the night, stock up on votive candleholders, available at most hardware stores, and a supply of food-warmer candles, which are usually cheaper than votive candles. (The food-warmer candles can also be used to extend the life of those pear-shaped, colored glass candle holders for sale in supermarkets. When the wick in the original candle gets gutted by wax, drop in a food-warmer candle.) Kerosene lamps won't blow out when the wind comes up and they, too, are available at most hardware stores. Williams-Sonoma has a fancier kind, miniature railway lanterns for $3.50 each, but try raising the chimney before you buy them. Some of the lanterns are stiff and by the time they're lit, you've got pinched fingers and a temper. Little Caledonia has reusable bamboo poles, topped with clear glass candleholders to be stuck around the garden, and Kitchen Bazaar has tall candle torches that look like giant, poisonous lollipops when they're not lit. But they're going to be lit, aren't they, so no one will see the ghastly colors ($6).
Not all summer guests are welcome guests. Slugs and bugs come uninvited, though the former are only a nuisance when you're eating on the ground. Saucers of beer should lure them away. They are nature's topers and, like many a two-footer, will drown themselves in drink. To hold the bugs at bay, spray before the guests arrive and put out plenty of citronella candles. There are also bug guns to shoot flies ($3.79 at Kitchen Bazaar). Conran's has long-handled butterfly nets (75 cents each) which you could distribute to guests while encouraging a pre-dinner bug roundup.
Birds are also part of the great outdoors, and there are two you should invite to your party. Pink plastic flamingos ($4.95 at Conran's) can wander across your lawn, and a floating rubber ducky ($7.99 at Kitchen Bazaar) will bob around your pool, obligingly carrying a drink on his back.