With the end of summer just around the corner (sigh), it's time to make the most of these last weeks of warmth and long evenings. What better than an impromptu picnic with friends, or a romantic stroll followed by a sunset-bathed meal, or just escaping by yourself with a rug, thermos of tea and a good book? Here are some handy hints to take the stress out of picnic planning and help you squeeze the maximum pleasure out of this glorious season.
Make sure your picnic spot has enough space, and preferably a scenic view that you can gaze at wistfully whilst you relax. You can really picnic anywhere, though bear in mind who is coming (you might need facilities like toilets or parking). Don't overthink this - with the right people and food you can make anywhere fun.
All picnics will be more enjoyable with the right basic essentials. First, something to sit on. Use a tablecloth, beach towel, blanket or quilt spread out on the grass (or sand), or take along camping chairs if you need something more comfortable. If you are picnicking at home you can throw in some cushions for extra lolling. You will also need something in which to transport the picnic. This may depend a bit on whether you are travelling on foot or by bike, in which case a backpack is in order, or in a car, which you can load up with bulkier things. Nothing beats a traditional wicker picnic basket, but we also love market baskets or a plain old tote.
Other essentials include: a good knife (preferably like this one, with a guard), a bottle opener (because, picnics and bubbly), a garbage bag, sunscreen, tin foil or containers for leftovers, some pretty napkins, and ice-packs or a cooler for meat or perishable food (a frozen bottle of water works well here, plus you can drink it once it's melted). Non-essential but useful things might be a frisbee or ball, a chopping board, reusable sandwich bags, a cheese knife, and a cheap shower curtain to go under your rug if the ground is wet.
We think it's best to keep things unfussy for picnics, and a selection of food that can be thrown together to create a delicious buffet-style free-for-all is always fun. All you need is a few tasty cheeses, some prosciutto and salami, boiled eggs, salad, really good bread, fruit, chips and a non-melty desert. Wrapping sandwiches in greaseproof paper and tying with string looks beautiful - and keeps your sandwiches from falling apart. When it's time to eat, lay the food out on a rustic chopping board, put out napkins and glasses, and hey presto, an instant picnic win! Get other people to bring contributions too, and you will have a proper feast. If you want to go fancy, why not make this amazing-looking picnic loaf ?
Mason jars, are brilliant for transporting salads or more mushable fruits. Just make sure you layer any 'wet' ingredients at the bottom to avoid a soggy salad. Use containers to transport food (and to bring back leftovers) if you have room, otherwise pack heavy items at the bottom of your basket to stop them crushing everything else. Wrap bottles or glass containers in your picnic blanket or napkins to protect them.
Unless you are catering solely for children, you can't go wrong with some chilled fizz on a lazy summer's day. For a deliciously refreshing soft drink, pour good quality lemonade into bottles or a portable jug and add some chopped strawberries, a few leaves of fresh mint and a slice of lemon. Water is vital when outdoors, so make sure you have plenty. Take frozen bottles so that they stay beautifully cold throughout the picnic.
That's it! All you need to make the most of being outdoors. Of course, you may find you enjoy yourself so much you keep on picnicking right through to winter. There's something magically appealing about a picnic in the snow, isn't there?
For ideas on sprucing up your own outdoor space look here.
(Images: oncewed.com; hellomay.com; littlemisspartyplanner.com)