The Fourth of July is the biggest picnic day in the U.S. It’s the day we get together with our families, honor the founding of the country with celebratory fireworks, eat delicious food and enjoy the great outdoors.
While the Fourth is when the country celebrates its independence, it’s also a time you can show off your picnic-organizing skills.
Here are some ideas to make your Fourth of July picnic fun and memorable.
One of the most important parts of planning a picnic is picking the perfect location. For the Fourth, it’s often a matter of preference. Some people prefer being in a prime location where you can see public fireworks in the evening. Others prefer to be in less crowded areas where there’s more room to spread it out and have games. Still, others may want to be around a public pool or around an area they can light their own fireworks.
For example, if you’re in New York City, you may want to have a picnic in Central Park for a little more space or you may want to have one on the beach at Coney Island to allow for swimming.
Today is the beginning of National Picnic Week over in the UK, and to celebrate, they are encouraging people to grab their baskets and head outside.
Fewer things can be more encouraging than the chance to sit at and eat a full-sized chocolate picnic table that’s completely edible.
The chocolate picnic table, which appeared at Cotswold Wildlife Park in Oxfordshire, was made of 400 chocolate bars and weighed more than 130 pounds. The table was made by Cadbury, best known for its chocolate eggs here in the US, as a marketing ploy and to publicize National Picnic Week.
According to The Huffington Post, the table is fully edible, even though glaze that protects the chocolate from the elements was applied.
This table looks amazing and quite delicious, but I can’t imagine it’s very comfortable, even if it can seat a family of four. Let’s hope it didn’t melt while anyone was sitting on it or eaten by ants. Still it was a great creation to publicize National Picnic Week.
Although the US doesn’t have a week to celebrate picnicking, the month of July is National Picnic Month.
Image by Odan Jaeger
All your picnic gear sitting by the door. You’ve packed the remaining picnic jars into your basket. You check the thermometer and it says a nice 80 degrees Fahrenheit, but when you open the door and step outside, it feels like you just put on a soaking wet Snuggie that someone put in the microwave.
Even though the temperature may be amenable, humidity is the ultimate nuisance. New York City has been generally pleasant these past fews days, except for the humidity hovering around 68%. That’s nothing compared to some of the percentages found in places like New Orleans.
Still, high humidity shouldn’t deter you from your picnic, especially if you’ve planned a special picnic months in advance. Here are some ways you can still have a pleasant picnic on a humid day.
Pick a strategic picnic spot in the shade and in the path of a breeze
It’s common sense to set up your picnic in the shade on a hot day, but when it’s humid, it’s equally important to look for a place that’s not sheltered from potential breezes. A breeze on a humid day is like water during a drought; it may be difficult to find but it will cure what ails you. Shade is great, but it doesn’t allow you to escape the humidity, which is why the breeze is so coveted. Take a moment to walk around or determine where the wind travels and set up the picnic there.
Wear light, flowing clothing
When it’s humid, clothes stuck to you like white on rice. Thick, heavy clothing that rests against your skin makes it almost unbearable to be outside. Light cotton and silk clothing will give your skin room to breathe.
We’ve all had picnics go awry at some point in our lives. One of my picnics was overcome by a gust of wind that turned every plate upside down and caused a comical chase of napkins down a hill. Another time, ants overran the picnic before I deployed some useful anti-ant techniques.
But when four American tourists tried to have a calm picnic in East Iceland, they were treated to one of the most original and harrowing picnic-gone-awry experiences in recent memory.
After they had set up their picnic with four chairs and a table, the small section of ice they were sitting on broke off and drifted away into the freezing waters of the Fjallsárlón glacial lagoon.
Fortunately, one of the four was able to jump off the floe in time to go call for help (and presumably snap the image above).
It’s hard to tell whether the image shows a calm group of picnickers carrying about as if nothing were wrong or a pack of tourists so frightened about falling into the icy waters that they didn’t dare move an inch.
Image via Flickr
The stereotypical picnic meal is packed away in Tupperware, but not everyone wants to conform to the standard perception of the picnic.
Enter Mason jars.
The Mason jar is a glass jar with a screw-on lid that was commonly used in canning preserved food like jam. They date back to the mid-19th century, but they’ve also become big for antique collectors. Now they’ve gained popularity in a new area: picnicking.
Why jars? Well, why not? They have a classic look and vintage feel. They open and close easily. They’re reusable, and you don’t have to worry about any harmful plastics associated with other food storage containers. Plus, they’re fun.
Packing your meals in jars gives you the opportunity to make new foods with different presentations. Instead of making a traditional salad served on a plate, you could make a Mason Jar salad with a variety of layers. If you don’t get the appeal of something like a salad in a jar, Tammy over at Skinny Mom’s Kitchen expressed the same doubt before she realized how easy it is to make the salads. They also stay fresh for longer periods of time.
When you think of picnics, you probably have the classic image of a red and white checkered blanket, a willow basket and a delicious sandwich with a salad on the side.
Needless to say, this isn’t what the upper class citizens of the United Kingdom have in mind.
Pippa Middleton, the famous sister of the Duchess of Cambridge, wrote her latest column for UK grocery store Waitrose about what the perfect romantic picnic would entail, and it’s getting a lot of criticism for being overly ornate and outrageously expensive.
The picnic, which includes such dishes as Fig and Goat’s Cheese Fougasse and Smoke Chicken and Melon Salad, comes out to £99 (about $150) for the ingredients alone. She also recommends getting quilted rugs, tea towels with French stripes and enamel plates, not to mention traveling to France.
Here’s her perfect picnic:
Here’s my vision of the perfect picnic. I’m in Provence, in a field just off the beaten track, where we’ve parked the car and thrown a quilted rug across the dry, parched grasses. The hazy sky is cobalt blue, cicadas hum around us and it’s hot, very hot. But not too hot for a picnic. Around us are plump peaches, figs and strawberries, oozing ripe cheeses and crunchy baguettes, torn and ready to mop up every last morsel.
While this would definitely be the perfect romantic picnic for two (who wouldn’t want to lounge with their loved one in Provence while eating strawberry and lavender cheesecake?), the meal takes more than two hours to prepare and costs a good amount of money.
Picnic season is here in full force. The weather is warming, the landscape is growing greener and the need to get outside is at its peak. If you’re a picnicker at heart, we don’t have to tell you that part of the spirit of picnicking is reconnecting with the outdoors and embracing nature.
And nothing shows a greater love and appreciation for nature than having an environmentally friendly picnic. So the next time you’re planning on picnicking, here are some things you should keep in mind when trying to have a green picnic.
Walk to your picnic
Even though some of the best picnic spots might be a short drive away, jumping into your Hummer to get there is not an environmentally responsible thing to do. Instead, stay local. There are likely several hidden gems within walking or biking distance of your home, so head over to the local park with your picnic basket and enjoy your neighborhood.
Bring reusable plates and silverware and cloth napkins
It’s undeniably convenient to bring along plastic utensils and paper plates, but it’s one of the least environmentally friendly ways to eat because all the trash just goes and sits in a landfill. There are biodegradable alternatives, but the best way to have a green picnic is to bring things that are reusable, which means you should also take along cloth napkins you can wash with the laundry.
Clean your picnic site when you’re done
My birthday is at the end of July – the perfect time for families to take their final vacation right before kids go back to school. As a child, I developed a slight fear about my birthday because the RSVP “sorry, out of town!” was frequently heard. Choosing who was invited was a huge ordeal for me. Not because I was acting out a Sweet Sixteen-worthy selection process, but because I didn’t want to waste an invitation on someone who wouldn’t be able to come.
For my ninth birthday, I had a pool party. This one – this, I was excited for. Pools are big, so everyone in my class could be invited. I had a stress free invitation process. I was excited. So excited.
And then, the week of the party, the first problem arose. I got swimmer’s ear. For a now 22-year old who stills curls into a ball and calls her mom when she gets even the slightest cold, acute pain constantly occurring in one ear would be a problem. So for an almost 9-year old, this was severe torture. In addition to the prescription eardrops, the doctor gave very strict instructions for the healing process: do not go swimming. After many tears and my mother’s explanations, the doctor said I was allowed to get in the pool, as long as I wore earplugs and never went in above my shoulders. Even a 4th grader knows earplugs are not cool. Nor is staying in the kiddie end of the pool. Continue reading
In the word association game, if you said “patriotic holidays,” I’d respond with “Old Navy.” When I was younger, Old Navy made t-shirts every summer that had American flags with “Summer 19xx” scripted beneath the waving flag. The shirts were sold throughout the summer, so your kids could be patriotically attired from Memorial Day to July 4th on to Labor Day.
Most summers, my extended family takes a vacation together. We’re a small family, but the five grandchildren are within five years of each other. When you have five kids between the ages of, say, eight and thirteen in close quarters for a week, it is easy to think there are far more than five cranky, screaming preteens in your midst. But my grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles, were somehow able to mentally and emotionally survive the experiences year after year. Whenever the vacations fell during the Memorial Day or July 4th, all five of us were bedecked in matching Old Navy American flag t-shirts.
Those days were no one’s best fashion moments. Personally, I’m happy to forget pictures of me in inches-thick glasses, my brother’s hand-me-down soccer shorts, and one of those shirts. But they are wonderful memories with my grandparents and cousins. Not to reminisce too much as a 22-year-old, but life does speed up when you get older, and it has now been three years since we were all together. Continue reading
There is a direct correlation between a Southern town’s size and the number of cheap Mexican restaurants within its city limits. I know this could probably be said about all restaurants or, for that matter, other service industry establishments. But Mexican restaurants are different. In the case of, say, a French restaurant, you want a very nice establishment with a well-trained chef and white tablecloths and a full wine list. This establishment can almost exclusively be enjoyed in a larger town.
For someone who grew up in a small town, however, the quality of a Mexican restaurant has little to do with the food. A cheap Mexican place invariably has cheap vinyl booths in a odd color. The chips are too salty, and the salsa a little watery. But it’s the place you eat with your friends, and you stay for hours. You love the food, no matter how much grease is pooling in the middle of the enchilada’s cheese or how many rumors you’ve heard of rats in the kitchen. For small town Southerners, Mexican restaurants are judged by their character, not their quality.
In the town where I grew up, there were two such places. At college, a place almost entirely populated by people related to tiny University, there was one glorious place. My favorite memories with my friends in high school and college were spent at these places whose names even fit their stereotype: Los Mex and Mi Casa. Hours stuck in those cracked vinyl booths. Hours spent crying and laughing with my friends over gallons of queso, too many overly sweetened margaritas, karaoke, waiters that knew us far too well, and truly enjoyable, bad food. Continue reading