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Throwing a Perfect Spring Picnic
The weather is finally starting to warm up here, which means my family and I don't have to spend every weekend indoors avoiding snow and blustery wind. It feels like this winter lasted forever, but I suppose that's Chicago for you. Thankfully, though, with the nicer weather, it also means we can get back to one of our favorite activities—having a picnic in the park.
We don't get to do it as often as we'd like to, but spending the afternoon sitting on the grass, watching the kids play with the dog and just taking in the sunlight is great. If you've never done it, you are truly missing out. Here are a few of my favorite ways to ensure we have the best time when we make the time to have a picnic.
Bring Good Food and Drinks
Rule number one about a picnic is that nothing should be messy. This is the time for things like cheese cubes, good bread, fruit, cut-up vegetables, things like that. Now's not the time for sandwiches with ten ingredients—while delicious, they can be a handful (quite literally) to keep together when you're sitting in the park having lunch. If your picnic involves kids, make sure to bring some kind of treat—we like to bring Rice Krispie treats, because there's no chocolate chips to melt all over their hands and clothes and make a mess. If it's just you and your main squeeze, bring a bottle of wine to split for a relaxing afternoon in the sun. What you bring also depends on the weather. If it's an early spring day, you don't have to worry about cold things getting warm quickly or frozen things like freeze-pops melting. However, if you head out during the summertime, bringing along a cooler probably wouldn't be a bad idea.
Bring Games for the Kids
While my husband and I love just sitting watching the kids play, sometimes the parks we visit don't have an attached playground. If that's the case, we just bring along some games for them to play outside. Bringing a ball for them to play catch with is great, and if it's the summer and you don't mind bringing home wet kids in the car, water guns can hold their attention for a while, too. Other than that, if you're familiar with the place you're going, you can create a scavenger hunt for the kids that will keep them occupied. You can make a prize for the winner, but make sure the others aren't left out, since we all know that can end in tears. If it's a sunny day, make sure to bring sunscreen as well, so that your fun day out doesn't lead to everyone getting a sunburn. If you're lucky enough to live by a beach, your picnic can also include supplies for making sand castles.
Bring a Blanket or Tablecloth
In addition to all that other good stuff, you have to have a good blanket or tablecloth—or both—to lay out on the grass to sit on. Grass in the springtime is notorious for being unexpectedly wet or muddy, so bring a blanket that you don't mind if it gets dirty. Depending on the size of your family, you might want to bring a few spares, for size or in case someone gets a little chilly in springtime's unpredictable temperature swings. On the beach, bring big beach towels and lay them out in such a way that everyone can fit sitting on it—like a big beach-towel quilt. As for if you're lucky enough to have picnic tables at your local park, bring a tablecloth—ideally one of those red-and-white checkered ones. The last family reunion our family attended featured those, and I wondered why my usually-thrifty great aunt would spend so much money buying so many tablecloths, but she said that she and my great uncle used a linen tablecloth rental so that she could have the look of the "traditional" picnic without having to spend all the money and, probably more importantly, store 15 red-and-white tablecloths.
Other Things to Bring
Bringing a stereo is always a good idea, as is bringing bug spray. Mosquito bites can really ruin a kid's day, not to mention yours. Make sure you bring things just in case someone gets hurt, too, because a skinned knee or a bee sting shouldn't mean that the day is over. A first aid kit and bug-bite remedies are always good to have on hand.
We can't wait to get back outside this spring. In fact, we're planning to go out this Saturday for our first picnic of the year. Here's hoping the weather holds up and it doesn't rain all weekend.