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Celebrate Summer with Food and Flowers

by Matthew Mead

Matthew is a stylist, writer, author, photographer, lifestyle editor, and noted style expert. Matthew is the official food photographer for the Associated Press and is a regular contributor to Better Homes and Gardens, Real Simple, and Oprah.com. He has also written several books and produced countless magazine spreads and ad campaigns for companies such as Pottery Barn, Dove Chocolate, Target, and Stonewall Kitchen.

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  • hydrangeas
    Photo: Matthew Mead
  • When 4th of July hits and the hot weather is in full tilt, I want everything about summer to surround me.  Flowers, gatherings, barbeques...the very essence of celebrating fills every sunshiny day.  Here are some of my favorite quick tips and simple ideas to savor every part of the summer!

    Big bouquets of blue hydrangeas are my go-to blossoms for both indoor and outdoor centerpieces! You only need a few of these generously-sized mop heads to fill a vase. If you don't have them growing in your yard, they are plentiful as small plants at the grocery store or cut bouquets at the farm stand. Best of all, they come in the most beautiful shades of blue for showing off your patriotic spirit.
  • bike planter
    Photo: Matthew Mead

    A vintage bike becomes an unexpected planter, when the bike's basket is filled with beautiful blooms. This moveable planter can sit in front of a fence to add color or at the beginning of a walkway as a cheerful greeting to guests. Plant your favorite flowers in the basket at the beginning of the season. Or, if you're a little behind on your gardening, place a lush hanging plant in the basket for the same look in a pinch.

  • basket of flowers
    Photo: Matthew Mead

    I like to create distinct, personalized planters for visiting guests using hanging plants and straw beach bags. I just line the tote with a plastic bag to contain the plant pot and the water. For the finishing touch, I hang these handmade planters from wrought iron hooks or shepard poles.

  • cocktails
    Photo: Matthew Mead
  • My family loves long walks on the beach in the early mornings and just before twilight. Our favorite thing to do is gather shells and stones. We make fun drink stirrer sticks with bamboo skewers, glue, and trinkets we find on the shore. Our golden cocktail is the perfect way to end a sunset and prepare to watch the fireworks over the water.  

    Golden Cocktail

    2 parts Irish whiskey
    2 parts ginger ale
    1/2 part peach schnapps
    splash of orange juice
    lime wheel for garnish

    1. Combine the whiskey, schnapps, and juice in a tall glass filled with ice.
    2. Top with ginger ale.
    3. Garnish with a lime wheel.
  • snacks
    Photo: Matthew Mead
  • Keeping lots of munching foods on hand for instant entertaining is a must in the summer. Crunchy bread sticks, salty olives, and almonds pair nicely with a crisp wine spritzer or mixed drinks. These snacks can be assembled in minutes to enjoy on a deck, patio, or beach side. Add a goat cheese or tangy dip to round out the selection. If you're a guest for the night, bring these fresh and tasty appetizers to the event, and your host will be thrilled.
  • tomato flatbread
    Photo: Matthew Mead
  • In the summer, fresh produce abounds! So, make every meal as fresh and as flavorful as it can be. Roast grape tomatoes in the oven with olive oil and kosher salt for 10 minutes at 400 degrees F. Top crisp bakery bread with arugula and the warm tomato compote for an instant lunch or light dinner. The flavors and prep are simple, but the effect is so tasty it will appear as if you slaved all day in the kitchen.
  • summer food
    Photo: Matthew Mead
  • What are my go to foods for any summer event? Easy burgers seasoned with salt, pepper, and steak sauce. Serve them on homemade onion rolls with a slaw of green beans and shredded carrots. A fresh salad of cucumber, corn, tomato, and herbs tossed with pickled onions and bacon.  A crab and avocado burger made with bay seasoning and tender bakery rolls sprinkled with parmesan cheese.
  • popsicles
    Photo: Matthew Mead

    For dessert, try chocolate gelato, You can make it or buy it. Either way it will be a delicious finish to the night when served with candied cherries. Or make a batch of homemade popsicles with chocolate and vanilla pudding and put your feet up and enjoy every firework that lights the sky.

  • Whatever you do, breathe in everyday of summer, smell the flowers, taste the fruits. The 4th of July kicks of this season of celebration, so don't let a day pass by without joining the party!
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