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A table that thinks it's a storage shed

Patio table and chair set by Hammacher Schlemmer stows away neatly during winter months.

When you're done with your picnic, the chairs fit snugly under the table
The summer months are waning, but if you're anything like me, you'll continue eating outside until the evening frost calls for winter coats. Whether I'm on vacation, on my day off, or on my lunch break, it's tough to find anything as instantaneously liberating and relaxing as eating outdoors.

If you have a deck or patio and you share my sentiments about al fresco dining, then, chances are, you own deck furniture. But, what happens to your blessed table and chairs in the winter months?

I don't have a deck, or a patio, or a veranda (sigh), but my parents did, and I remember their deck furniture collecting an alarmingly thick layer of winter grime. The table they had was glass, and I remember writing "wash me" into the dirt on more than one occasion. The chairs had canvas pads that we had to remove and cover with plastic every time the weather got bad.

The patio furniture from my childhood required this annoying upkeep, but yours doesn't have to. I recently happened upon the Hammacher Schlemmer Trestle Patio Table and Stow Away Chair set, which lets you enjoy the great outdoors while you can, but then is conveniently packed away for the winter or in inclement summer weather.

The table and chairs are made of Shorea wood, which is weather-resistant and sealed with a protective oil finish (which, says the manufacturer, "gently grays with time," which could be a potential downside if you want to maintain your deck furniture's aesthetic). It also has an umbrella hole (umbrella not included), just in case you want to keep your dinner party going in blazing sunlight or if it starts to sprinkle. The neatest part is that the four chairs fold flat and stack underneath the table when you're not using it.

The set is available for $299.95 through SkyMall Magazine (if you're flying anytime soon), or on Hammacher Schlemmer's Web site.