Great Summer Products for Outdoor Entertaining

Save your summer from bugs and the blahs with these cool outdoor accessories.
Getting My Glow On

Getting My Glow On

My Glow Torch turning ho-hum outdoor ambiance into a magical almost-summer night.

It is finally hinting at summer in Atlanta after a schizophrenic spring ping-ponging between 50-degree days and the mid-80s. Knowing whether to don wool, wellies or short sleeves had previously been a daily challenge.

But no more. The weather has stabilized and turned slightly balmy and now the front porch and back deck beckon.  All would be perfect, ripe for barbecues and marathon porch-sitting and drink-sipping if it weren't for one small complication: the mosquito.  Just when summer shows, these blood-buzzards come calling, ruining all the fun.

I am prepared to win this war. After outfitting my drab, sad back deck with mega-planters filled with a green screen of arborvitae and cascades of creeping Jenny, picking out some adorable cushions to revive my vintage metal chairs and adding as many plants as I could pack into a small space I have taken my deck to the next level with a summertime arsenal of bug repellants and the instant-party ambiance of neo-TIKI torches.

My first mission in ensuring outdoor enjoyment: making my deck a mosquito no-fly zone. I absolutely despise applying bug spray: I would rather take my chances than deal with the mess and smell and feel of those solutions. So I am a big fan of devices that spray the air instead of having to apply goop.

There is something space age about the design and ingredients in a new line of all-natural Terminix AllClear mosquito zappers that I find very appealing. A great improvement: the dispensers use an all-natural mix of lemongrass, peppermint and geranium to rid your space of bugs rather than noxious chemicals. 

The line runs from the pager-sized battery-operated SideKick Repeller device that you clip onto your clothing and which creates a zone of don't-even-try-it insect repellent. Then there is the tidy little TableTop Repeller canister that emits a pleasant skeeter-eradicating vapor.  

And an almost exact match with my Mission-style outdoor lights is the Terminix Mosquito Mister Lantern, a combined light and bug-spray delivery system all in one that blends in perfectly with my decor. I am also slightly seduced by the operation of the mister: you use a remote control to mist, so you can stay close to the grill or never surrender your comfortable seat. The sudden blast of botanical insect repellant at regular intervals is a little startling until you get used to it, but it is preceded by a helpful warning tone so you can move yourself or food out of the line of fire. My only improvement? A tabletop bug-zapper that matches the Mission style of the wall-mounted device. Call me a priss, but I do like my coordination. But it's hard to argue with the essential good looks of these products, which are either appealing enough, or unobtrusive enough to command some deck space without marring the aesthetics.

But what is a bug-free outdoor party zone without ambiance, I ask? Now that you have cleared the air of critters, it's time to set the tone with a festive glow. When I think of TIKI torches I tend to think of Polynesian restaurants and beachside dining. Not bad things, just a little expected. I am therefore a serious fan of the artful blue glass orbs that top the metal TIKI torches of tomorrow, a nice new look from the TIKI company that created its iconic torch in 1964. The TIKI Glow Torch, which can be stuck into the ground, or in my case, into one of the planters on my deck, lends a fun, "let's get this party started" mood. An internal LED light is, I'll be frank, a distinct improvement on the now rather ho-hum TIKI torch. And the Tabletop Torch features the same marbled, art glass look that glows via an internal LED light for a double-whammy of festivity to replace the conventional tabletop candles—and lasts far longer too.

In addition to throwing off the expected, ever-so-exciting flames, this newfangled line of TIKI torches glows in a shifting array of hues, morphing from blue to red to green. Firestarter-meets-conversation-starter.

I also dig the "Jetsons" lines of the TIKI free-standing Metro Fire Sculpture from the Allumina line, a way to get the fire pit experience on a deck or patio. The sleek conical shape has a cool, mid-century feel, though these fire sculptures also come in a variety of other styles. Flames emerge from a wick within a tray of smooth black stones. It's stylish, mod and like all of the fire torches, is easily lit and then snuffed out with an attached metal cap that also protects the wick from rain.

There's just something about fire, for making an outdoor space magical, for drawing people outdoors. If I could just find the perfect outdoor rug, a cool awning and then find the time to enjoy it all, my summer will be complete.

Looking for more ways to keep mosquitoes out of your hair? Terminix suggests these solutions: 

  • Examine gutters for clogs and damage that would cause water to collect. 
  • Use soil to fill in low areas in lawns and landscaped areas where rainwater may collect and stand for more than seven days. 
  • Barrels or containers that capture rainwater should be emptied regularly. 
  • Empty kiddie pools regularly. 
  • Install an agitator in garden ponds or buy fish that eat mosquito larvae; The wave actions created by an agitator can prevent mosquito adults from successfully emerging from pupae. 
  • Empty and refill birdbaths at least once a week. 
  • Avoid times of peak mosquito activity, primarily dusk and dawn, but remember that some mosquitoes, such as the Asian tiger mosquito, bite during the daytime. 
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants when feasible.

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