Oh, Picnics

I was never much of an outdoor kid. Once, I was gifted a Little Mermaid tent for which to encourage many-an-adventure in the grassy terrain, but instead, I opted to pitch it right over my bed to cozy up in my floral comforter with a dogeared copy of Matilda.

(Bless those parents of mine.)

Even now, in the heart of these beautiful Indiana summers, I find myself sometimes making endless excuses in my mind for reasons to stay indoors. Too hot for the baby, I say. Don’t want to mess with the sunscreen, I think. Doesn’t work with the schedule today, I reason.

All the while knowing full well that a few steps into the fresh air will make me come alive in a way Matilda and I both dared to dream of.

So I’ve been taking baby steps, re-learning the fine art of being outdoors. During Scout’s morning nap, Bee and I grab the baby monitor and sneak out to the patio with a heaping bowl of cherries for a read-aloud session of Pippi Longstocking. On the breeziest of evenings, we strap him into the stroller for a lazy walk down a path in the woods. Yesterday, we spent the afternoon bug hunting at the local nature preserve.

It is, almost every time, worth the sunscreen slathering.

The more we adventure, the more I find myself simply unable to resist nature’s siren song. Perhaps it’s simply a matter of growing older, of appreciating true beauty in a world of manufactured allure. Maybe it’s knowing how much Bee loves it, how much it stretches us both, how important it is to choose things we wouldn’t choose.

Maybe it’s the picnic.

Yes, it is more work to pack the contents of your refrigerator into a straw bag, to pre-slice the summer sausage and sharp cheddar, to fish the thermos from the depths of the pantry.

Yes, it is more work.
(Yes, it is more reward.)

There is something infinitely magical about dining outdoors, whether gathered around a picnic table or nestled on your grandmother’s quilt. Doesn’t everything taste extraordinary when you’re no longer sharing a meal ten steps away from dish duty? When the bustling cicadas, the chattering birds replace the banal hum of the laundry cycle at the end of the hallway?

And so, a few things to pack for your own alfresco feast, if you’d like:

  1. For toting around.
    I’m of the throw-everything-into-a-basket-and-let’s-get-on-with-it picnic variety. None of this separate compartments for stacked enamelware business. Paper plates? Check. Food? Done. I love this one because it’s (way) oversized, but any ‘ole tote will do.
  2. For slipping off.
    I know, I’m always singing the Pons praise. I almost ruined my pair in Singapore my traipsing around in a near-monsoon, but what do you know it? Four years later, they’re still kicking.
  3. For playing with.
    Ken mercilessly teases me for my old soul, 80-year-old hobbies. Give me a jigsaw puzzle, a round of euchre and a rousing game of checkers and I’m forever your girl. This set is lovely, and extra totable.
  4. For sitting on.
    We received this leather mat as a family gift, and I find myself using it for everything: yoga mat, finger paint dropcloth, and most recently, rolled up and stowed in our trunk as a readymade picnic blanket.
  5. For sipping together.
    Picnics should be simple, so I often opt to leave the bottle opener and clink-worthy glasses at home when indulging in a celebratory outing. Rose from a can? Surprisingly, it’s delicious.
  6. For peering through.
    Pink sunglasses are surprisingly versatile, or perhaps I just appreciate donning a hint of color in my very (very) neutral wardrobe. These are well made and won’t slide down your nose when you lean over to survey the salamander your kid just caught.
  7. For reading aloud.
    If there’s anything picnic-worthy to ponder during conversation or alone in thought, it’s the idea of Sabbath. This beloved Heschel classic is both enlightening and inspired, and short enough to finish in a long afternoon.
  8. For washing up.
    When the last morsels have long disappeared, these hand wipes get the job done. We stow a few in our glove compartment for our next adventure, and another, and the one after that…

Tell me, what are your picnic musts or traditions? As always, I’d love to hear!

p.s. If you don’t want to invite the mosquitoes to your fete, this organic anti-bug balm ($9) is amazing.

  • Picnics outside with the littles are great because 1) I don’t worry about the crumbs and mess because 2) we’re feeding the bugs and beasties! Have PBJ and blanket/towel/spare sweatshirt, will travel. = )

  • We’re not very good about picnics but we do do a lot of backyard, picnic table dining in the summer which is a good compromise for us, less to pack but still enjoying being outside! Also, I’m very interested in this canned wine…

    • Oh that’s a LOVELY compromise, and still just as exciting, I’m sure!!!! (You’ll love the canned wine.) ;)

  • For us picnicing (is that a word?) is very simple – A good picnic rug, basket with favorite wine, crusty bread, a good quality brie cheese and most important, good fun company.

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