Bringing Movie Magic to the Backyard

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By Amanda Baity

Every spring, I go crazy thinking of all the fun activities I want to do with my family. Warmer months are the
perfect time for backyard water slides, water balloons and homemade Popsicles.

When the weather starts to warm up, I always think of my family’s much-loved movie nights. Movie nights are even more fun when you bring them outdoors. My family only does this a few times a year since it takes a little extra effort, but the results and memories are worth it.

Set the Night Up Right

On the day of movie night, we prepare the yard and start setting up. First, you need a projector. Prices for new top-of-the-line projectors can start well into the thousands of dollars. However, along with newer models, many electronics stores carry a range of cheaper, refurbished projectors, and you can find used models starting at around $200. You can also rent projectors online or borrow them from a friend.

Your next decision is whether you want to stream the movie or use a DVD. If you want to stream, a laptop or phone will do.

You might even bring your big television outside and attach it to the projector. If you need a DVD player, some laptops or popular game consoles, such as an Xbox, can serve this purpose. No matter what you choose, you will need A/V cables to hook your player to the projector. Follow your projector’s instruction
manual if you have any difficulties. You will also need sound, so plan to use stereo or computer speakers. No speakers? No problem. You can pick up a cheap set online.

Picking the perfect movie is key. Keep your audience in mind. Depending on the quality of the equipment you have, picking a family favorite may be better than choosing a new release as it could be hard to hear, and the projector quality may not be up to movie theater standards.

Now on to the screen. You can show your movies on anything from a purchased or rented screen to a smooth outdoor wall. I use my photography backdrop stand with a thick, white sheet. You could also secure the sheet along a fence or clothesline.

Atmosphere Is Everything

Of course, atmosphere is vital. There are so many ways to create the perfect movie theater feel. I hang string lights for a soft glow. Candles and lanterns will accomplish this as well. For seating, my family uses beanbags and lounge chairs, blankets and even tents. If you are feeling especially ambitious, you can pull the couch or a futon outside like my dad used to do.

Another essential component is food. Popcorn, candy and soda are some of our favorite snacks and a requirement for a successful movie night. I also like to get creative with some twists on the classics. Buttered popcorn cupcakes is one of our favorite outdoor movie treats.

Buttered Popcorn Cupcakes

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Popcorn Cupcakes

Try these cupcakes out to help create the perfect movie night experience.

INGREDIENTS
About 8 egg yolks or 6 ounces (room temperature)
8 1⁄2 ounces milk
1/8 ounces vanilla extract
10 1⁄2 ounces all-purpose flour
10 1⁄2 ounces granulated sugar
19.5 grams (1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) baking powder
Pinch of salt
6 ounces unsalted butter (room temperature)

DIRECTIONS
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and place liners in cupcake pan.
2.Combine the yolks, vanilla and 2 ounces of milk in a bowl, and whisk lightly.
3. Place all dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and combine on low speed.
4.Add the butter and remaining milk. Mix on low speed until all ingredients are moistened.
5.Increase to medium speed and beat for 11⁄2 minutes. Scrape down the sides.
6. Gradually add the egg mixture in three batches, mixing for about 20 seconds and scraping between each addition.
7. Fill cupcake liners halfway and bake for about 25 to 35 minutes until finished. Let cool before decorating.

Simple Buttercream Icing

This easy-to-make, egg-free frosting recipe has been in my familyfor generations. It’s not only great on cupcakes, but also for decorating cookies for holidays, birthdays and parties. To add coloring to the icing, use color paste.

INGREDIENTS
1⁄2 cup shortening
1⁄2 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons milk

DIRECTIONS
1.In a large bowl, cream together the butter, shortening and vanilla.
2.Blend in the sugar, one cup at a time, beating well after each addition.
3.Beat in the milk and continue mixing until light and fluffy.
4.Keep icing covered until ready to decorate.

Marshmallow “Popcorn”

For cupcake topping, you can get creative with marshmallow “popcorn.” You will need regular-size marshmallows, yellow food coloring and a little powdered sugar.

First, color half of your batch of marshmallows yellow and let them dry.

Next, make a small cut in the middle of each marshmallow and then make three small cuts in their tops. Twist the marshmallows lightly at the middle. Then press the three “petal” shapes made from the three cuts lightly until they begin to fan out. Voila! Your marshmallows look like popcorn.

The more shapes you make, the better the “popcorn” will look. If the marshmallows get sticky while you are manipulating them, dust them lightly with powdered sugar. Be aware that the sugar will dull the yellow color of the marshmallows, so use it sparingly.

You don’t have to go very far to enjoy a night with the family. Turn your backyard into a movie theater, and watch the fun unfold,

Amanda Baity is Prince William Living’s Director of Operations and Photo Editor and Director of Operations for Brides & Weddings. Wife of a Marine Corps combat veteran, Amanda co-founded Semper K9 Assistance Dogs with her husband, Christopher. She serves as Director of Operations for Semper K9 and an advocate for the military community with a focus on invisible wounds.

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