A laying-in-the-sunshine-all-day picnic. Its the most laid back loosest of gatherings with friends and family and one that says in no better style Summer Is Here. And, though a simple blanket will do, when it comes to picnics we like to go all out, creating a welcoming area or 'camp' that says this is our adventure for the day. So, if you want to take your picnic to the next level here's our top tips and ideas to get you picnicking beyond the magnificent this summer.
Set the Mood
*Finding a space - be it your back garden or the wilds of the lush long grass down a winding lane in the countryside, the wide open space of your local park or a little roof terrace there's a space just waiting for a picnic, easily executed with some bright melamine and colourful accessories and a few simple touches.
*Be sure to create a shaded area, find a tree, sleeping babies can stay cool, and if the sun get's too much for the children they can loll around in their undercover space.
* Bring piles of cushions and blankets and throws and spread out - it says we have no time constraint and thats what a picnic is all about; a day well spent lazing in the sunshine.
* make it a BYO blanket. No-one likes a grass stained bum and the bigger the spread of blankets the better and friends are more likely to laze around and feel comfortable.
* Simple touches like rolling all your cutlery into a napkin and tying with a ribbon are such small and easy things to do but make an impact as well as making it easier to pack.
*bottles wrapped in tea towels or napkins make them easy to carry and great to bring as a guest.
* bring out the bunting - it's instantly hung and adds so much colour to the day. besides, lying back and watching it flap in the breeze is beautiful.
*be colourful - hang honeycomb tissue paper balls from wherever they can be hung
*light the way - bring candles and votives, if permitted, so the picnic can continue into dusk
*a radio or iphone and speakers - though not a must, always keeps the mood playful
*make a phone pot - have everyone put their iPhones and blackberry's into a basket. All your friends are here anyway why have anything else intrude.
*if you're in your garden take advantage of prolonging the evening after the sun has set. Light a fire and let the conversation spark around the flames. Its a beautiful way for children to fall asleep cuddled up in warm blankets with the sounds of gentle voices under the night sky.
*be sure to bring extra blankets for warmth though it may get cooler there's no need to head inside.
and if you or someone you know plays guitar - bring it and bring them!
Feed the soul -
Though sometimes a simple picnic during a lunch break or a quick impromptu catch up with friends in the park may not require much food when it comes to picnics we say make it a feast. A feast for the belly and the soul.
*The more food the better. Not only will there be a big feast with enough food for friends and family to be blissfully content and full, but also enough to pick on for the rest of the day. This is more true when you have kids because they'll want to pick throughout the day, in-between all their running around and playing.
*Have food ready to pick at that doesn't require being hot or cold to be eaten. Delicious crusty bread and cheese is great as is fruit, dips and vegetables cut into strips. Quiches, wraps, cold meats, savoury tarts, rice salads, bean salads, couches salads are all great winners too.
*Individual salad servings prepared in jam jars are great and much easier to eat from than the plate. Great too for shaking up with some salad dressing. Attach a fork to the side with an elastic for ready to eat yumminess.
*Jam jars rock a picnic - filled with salad, desserts ready made, used as beakers for cold drinks, which can easily have lids put on to prevent bugs making a beeline for them or prevent kids spilling them, and later for holding all those flowers that the children or maybe a doting partner will bring back to you - picked from the hedgerows.
*a chopping board and knife is an essential - the chopping board can double up as a serving platter too.
*forget ice packs think packs of ice. Keep things cool using packs of ice in your cooler bag and then you'll have the ice for serving drinks, keeping bottles cool, nursing those bumps you may get playing the three legged race as well as washing sticky hands once dessert is over.
*Bring serving platters - food prepared and carried in melamine tupperware can easily be poured onto a serving platter and poured back in to stay fresh once the feast is over,
*colanders are great for holding and serving a huge selection of fresh berries and are easy to be passed around.
*dont' be tempted to use plastic throw away plates and cutlery, your food deserves better than that and in a throw-away world we need to be a little more conscious of our environment. Instead opt for melamine; practical and fun. Food just looks and tastes better when eaten of colourful picnic pieces.
* Fancy lemonade - splurge, it tastes of summer and is worth every pretty penny, unless of course you make your own which, of course, nothing can better.
* cucumber sandwiches - I can never refuse one, theres nothing more British and it tastes of childhood.
* salt n pepper - use miniature jam jars with minute holes tapped through for salt n pepper.
*quiche's are great they can be eaten at any temperature and are sure to be filling.
*dips - everybody loves them
*repurpose egg cartons for food sharing, hard boiled eggs with their lids taken off, asparagus dips, or even sweet treats disguised and ready to shared.
*oh so sweet - when it comes to dessert go old school, a crumble will be delicious, especially if you can manage to keep some cream cool. Fresh berries always go down treat, whatever you bring be sure it can withstand a hot afternoon covered up. Bite sized nibbles are great such as biscuits, muffins, brownies, slices and best of all chocolate crispy cakes which are simple to make and taste of children's parties and memories of first cooking with mama.
*Ah.... tea. A flask of tea will be truly scrumptious but if you forget about it or it get's too cold - just add a slice of lemon and some ice, as though it was intended that way.
*don't forget the bottle openers, corkscrews and napkins, and of course plastic bags for carrying your rubbish home.
kids love -
Remember that kids like to keep busy, if you want to avoid your children begging you to hit the playground then be sure to bring your own playground with you.
*Games can be simple to make with as little as a ball of string, but hula hoops, bubbles, skipping ropes, balls, frisbees and hopscotch will keep them busy whole day.
*bring water balloons and wooden spoons to double up the fun - you'll quickly have a game of egg and spoon with the balloons as well as some cooling down with water bombs
*If you've got empty picnic baskets then setting up ball games will be easy with teams trying to score in each others goals, simple great fun,
*a picnic isn't complete without some daisy chain making
*and a tea towel or napkin can easily transform into a three legged race.
*putting aside a few nibbles into small bento boxes or melamine containers for a later snack will go down a treat, feeling like a whole fresh new picnic later in the afternoon.
* wooden BBQ skewers are great for encouraging kids to eat a fun selection of fruit, letting them make their own fruit kebabs. Equally lollypop sticks are great for sticking slices of water melon onto and making your own fresh fruit lollies.
you'll discover plenty of ideas for play here.
Our Favourite Picnic Pieces -
We're crazy about picnics and parties and you'll always discover all our favourite things here.
My 2 essential easy picnic recipes
How do you rock your picnics?