1. Keep food simple. Grab some potato salad and fruit salad from the deli, put them in a bowl with some sprigs of mint, set the bowls atop baking dishes filled with ice.
2. BBQ - not you! Some one whose job is to only do that. Do not allow this person in your kitchen. They may make a mess. Marinade what they'll be cooking ahead of time, then figure out in advance what they'll need, and put it on a tray ready to go.
3. Put all beverages into a bucket with ice with an opener near by. Open up some chips, dips, and nuts and put them in bowls spread around your entertaining area.
4. Use your regular plates and silverware. Have a large basket or plastic container for people to stow them in when they're done. Make sure you have a bag for garbage and one for recycling. Label all of these containers to let guests know where to put things.
5. Serve everything on a buffet table in the shade.
6. After dinner bring out individual ice cream bars for dessert. Usually, only the kids will want them anyway.
Speaking of kids:
1. Buy bubbles and water pistols. That should keep them busy. I won't address the fireworks issue, except to say avoid them if you can. An activity like Bocci ball is a fun game for kids and adults as well. When we lived in the country, I once had a neighbor bring her horse over and gave rides to the kids. That was really great!
2. Keep the kids outdoors and your dog indoors. Never trust other people's kids with your dog! Dogs hate fireworks anyway and can run off.
3. To make sure small kids don't wander off, lock your backyard gate up high and ask your guests to re-lock it if they go out.
4. Try to pay a teenager to entertain your guests' kids.
If you set everything up this way, your only job at your party is to see that people are having a good time. Make sure people have a beverage, introduce people to each other, etc.
Have a safe and happy 4th!
Next Entry: Third installment of my interview with The Self Taught Artist.