Invitation to Summer

I LOVE cocktail napkins.

Aside from their graphic appeal — and the options of paper, linen, holiday, seasonal, formal, or fun — just having a supply of the hospitable squares on hand implies the possibility of socializing.

The fantasy of throwing a party provides its own gratifying entertainment. You compose an ideal guest list with the right mix of personalities, decide on flowers, read hors d’oeuvre recipes, even envision male guests in white dinner jackets.

Planning is half the fun, as a silver-haired neighbor once told my sister and her husband when she crossed the street to chat after seeing them begin to lay down garden roots in the yard of their first home.

Observing them through her picture window, Lillian, that was her name, undoubtedly recalled the days when she and her late husband were young homeowners. Now Lillian is gone and her carefully tended garden beds are returning to lawn. But her wistful words linger as a reminder that, yes, anticipation is part of the pleasure, but there are only so many summers in one lifetime, and social invitations make memories.

June brings a classic excuse for a soirée: The solstice, when extended daylight seems to buy us time and encourages lingering. The cocktail napkins? Starched white linen fits the occasion.

Our “Summer” section offers inspiration for table settings, cocktails, and a musical mix of bossa nova for background sounds that mingle well with tinkling ice.

Of course, lemonade or ice-cold Coke shared amid conversation on a concrete driveway is just fine. When the need arises for a patio, pool, or plantings, however, our pages offer design ideas and tips for doing it right the first time.

The importance of getting it right is something most of us learn while practicing (and making mistakes) on our first (and second) homes. A little expert advice makes the job and the outcome better — and often more affordable — in the long run.

There are always the inevitable horror stories of home ownership. Even the best-tended houses have that wildcard aspect (you just know something is about to go terribly wrong). In our Home Improvement pages, we try to help head off headaches. Despite our best efforts, most of us have our tales to tell. We include one such experience on page 52. Domestic calamities are no fun. But once the pain subsides, the retelling can make for cocktail conversation — yet another reason to schedule that party.