Why we panic when we should picnic

May 30, 2014

overwhelmed

Right at this very moment we are overwhelmed. Our inboxes, our kitchen islands, our messy cars. Things are coming to an end-like school, spring sports leagues and graduations - which somehow always means a little more hustle and a lot more to do.

And when we thought about all of the festivities coming up it's sad to say our first reaction was to worry. Father's Day? (Do I have time to order something online or are there printable golf giftcards?) Graduation parties? (What's the going rate for graduation and can we swing three open houses in one day?) Summer vacation? (When? Where? What to pack?)

picnic

Are you nodding or shaking your head? Or both? Because we know so many of us are in the same boat and yet we're kind of disgusted listening to ourselves. Time to slow down and simplify. All of this hustle and hyper-worry and we're missing the whole point.

So all of that to say, a summer picnic sort of seemed like the antithesis of all this busyness and anxiety. A reminder of how simple things can be and how if we unplugged and unwound a little there might just be hope for us yet.

So here's what we came up with over our own lunch, out on the patio in the near-warm sun, to keep you and your picnic calm, cool and collected. For Father's Day, for a graduation picnic, for your cul-de-sac or for you and your daughter some Tuesday:

picnic plastic

1. Buy a collapsible picnic basket and keep it in your car. There are some really cool and inexpensive ones out there like this one and this one and if you have one in your car, you can always run to the store on a whim, throw your goodies in the basket and . . . picnic!

2. Stock up on picnic stuff all at once. This sounds like something for the to-do list now, but really if you make one trip, you can knock off a bunch of picnic staples. You can also gather things you already have. Once you have them together, you'll be much more likely to spontaneously picnic. Here's our list, keep it in your collapsible picnic basket or somewhere that's easy to get to:

  1. A waterproof picnic blanket
  2. Paper or plastic plates
  3. Paper or plastic cups
  4. Plastic or old silverware
  5. Paper napkins or old cloth ones
  6. Bug spray
  7. Snacks (variety packs are always a good idea)
  8. A small scissors or pocket knife
  9. A corkscrew
  10. Plastic bags
  11. Re-freezable ice packs

3. Do pitch-in picnics. When some of our kids were little, we'd meet friends at the same park almost every Friday night in the summer. We'd email and split the menu, the kids could run and play and we'd shake off the week together and relax.

4. Do mini picnics. A picnic doesn't necessarily mean you have to have a three-course meal. Forget the appetizers and main course and skip right to dessert. Grab a couple slices of cheesecake and meet a friend at the park. Split up the s'more ingredients and roasting sticks and meet by someone's firepit. That qualifies as a picnic, right?

image of catered food

5. Cheat. If you're the one throwing the Father's Day get-together or Graduation Party, get some or all of the food catered. No one cares. In fact, a lot of people actually look forward to food from some of their favorite local joints.

6. Hire help. Again, if you're in the hosting hot seat, there's help to be found. Some friends of ours hire family friends to set-up and cleanup, help in the kitchen, reload trays, fix drinks or be in charge of music, games and/or children. The small price is more than worth it when you are free to actually enjoy your picnic party.

7. Have your kids plan the picnic. Make it a special occasion to have your kids plan the picnic. Let them create and make the simple menu, pack the basket and pick the spot. Everyone wins.

8. Pretend you're a kid. One of our mothers-in-law reminded us of this when she took her grandkids on a picnic. She picked dandelions with them, rolled down the hill, threw rocks in the pond and collected a quirky mix of found objects on the walk home, including a blue jay feather, a bottle cap and three sparkly rocks. She didn't worry about what they were eating or finding the perfect spot in the shade, she just had a good time. How cool is that?

There's a place for a little planning. But invite in some unchoreographed moments this summer, too. Go on a picnic. And stop worrying so much, it all has a way of working out.

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