Oh, summer! The sun is shining comfortingly, the grass is lusciously inviting, and everywhere you feel life teeming voluptuously. So why not picnics? I love picnics. . unfortunately I only remember having a few in my childhood and never any more later, with no idea just why. So inspired by The Best Friend's picnic photos, I declared to D we must have a picnic, with work and general distractions seeing the months pass by, before eventually materialising in a very greedy, spontaneous affair up on the Tor in June. The Best Friend and her boyfriend were planning to visit Brighton for my birthday weekend, so like two happy chirpy girls, we decided that a picnic (and loads of photographs!) would be on the agenda. Within a mad flurry of messages exchanged via Facebook, we racked our brains for a theme-- and the excuse for a dress-- and like the vintage-lovin' girl that I am, suggested the 50's era. To say it was a wonderful picnic would be a massive understatement-- our amazing other-halves cooked a storm, provided delightful company and took us fantastic photographs-- here's to fantabulous picnics in the future, and here's how
Pick a theme, and a dress!
Our theme was vintage. More specifically, 50s. Easy-peasy, with the number of 50s dresses available online, in the markets and in my wardrobe. . Denise was really excited about it, telling me that she immediately went to Ebay to scout for her dress. I was intending to wear this playful red-and-white polka-dotted dress when D presented me with this gorgeous floral dress on my birthday complete with a crinoline, telling me "You can wear this for the picnic!". . and it would be rude not to* ;)
And on a sidenote, I love crinolines since I was a little girl, always wanting to "steal" them off brides before the wonders of Ebay and Amazon made shopping internationally convenient, the prohibitively-high shipping costs notwithstanding. Living in the UK, however, I'd always end up buying other stuff other than crinolines, so D has been so sweet to get me one. Our dresses in place, Denise was quite upset that she forgot to pack her crinoline to Brighton. On Saturday, I happily quipped, "Why not buy one here?" and she went, "No, P! I'm not going to waste any money buying more crinolines". On Sunday, however, she told me, "P, let's rush down to town and grab a crinoline". Wahoo! It'd be the two of us bulldozing down the flat in our ethereally-light crinolines. .
So yes, pick a theme, and pick your dress. Execute a detailed plan on what you are planning to accessorise your look with the night before with your friend, and let your friend talk you into carrying a Chanel handbag for a picnic, because you just feel like being a little decadent. Nevermind if the men are not going to participate in the theme, even if D deadpans, "Shall we both be naked and in dicky-bows" because . . you know they're going to love the dresses and The Look. After all, it's that which adds to the fun and bonding with gurlfriends. . .
The dress and crinoline are by Hell Bunny; shoes from Dolce & Gabanna; handbag by Chanel; headpiece by Accessorize; and pearl necklace worn as bracelet by Diva.
*"It would be rude not to"-- as what D always says. It would thus be rude not to quote him.
A gorgeous picnic hamper-- with everything strapped in
I panicked a little when I realised that we had no wicker basket or anything pretty to put our food in. A cursory Google search revealed so many awesome picnic baskets, and then I found Fine Food Stores, thinking to myself that if an empty basket from them would set me back by about £60, why not top up £30 to get loads of luxury food. Denise replied me, "I thought a picnic was frugal! Like sandwiches!" and that ricocheted me back to earth. Oh.
No more caviar and smoked venison then.
Maybe I should get a regular wicker basket, I thought. Denise went to hunt for one but with no joy, and by Wednesday I had found a pretty cute and simple one at Bert's whilst I went shopping for kitchen organisation. Then D came home from his own kitchenware hunt and told me excitedly, "There was this shop, and this amazing lined picnic basket. Proper posh. I'll take you there tomorrow. You're gonna love it". Brighton really has the most amazing stores, I may never want to leave. Lined in mint-green cloth, its beautiful utensils, porcelain plates and wine glasses were lovingly strapped in leather. And there was a salt-and-pepper shaker. And a utility knife. I fell in love. It went home with us on Friday, where I gleefully unveiled it to Denise, who went, "P I thought it was meant to be frugal?" but she fell in love too.
As I told D, I had no idea picnic baskets are so cool. He explained that the British take their picnics seriously, and hence everything is beautifully strapped up.
Verdict: This beautiful and utilitarian (best of every world!) piece from England At Home is worth every penny. A picnic basket, is, afterall reusable.
Cook up a storm
Whilst Denise and I raced down various parts of Brighton to grab her crinoline and other groceries, the boys whipped up a storm in the kitchen, and we stepped back into a gastronomically-tantalising world that took over the flat. A failsafe food plan for picnics would include sandwiches, salads, cupcakes, dried and fresh fruits, chocolates, boiled eggs, and olives. Also, remember to bring lime and lemon for your drinks.
Part of our 'search' for food began the day before at the Brighton Saturday markets, where we hauled home biltong, fresh walnut bread, pretty cupcakes, chocolate truffles; whilst D proudly unveiled king prawn rings earlier that morning.
Otherwise, this guide provides you with 101 picnic recipes prepared under 20 minutes.
Throw in your favourite drinks-- wine, juice, ginger beer-- and even a canister or two of coffee and tea.
Cool bags (easily available from the 99p store, no matter how ugly) and non-leak tupperware are musts for storing your foodstuffs.
As are plastic bags for wrapping up the dirty cutlery and crockery-- you don't want them to dirty your beautiful picnic basket. Of course, never forget napkins and wet tissues. For the latter, a big packet of baby wipes are highly economical. Just in case.
Finally, a picnic mat where all of you can lounge on.
Prime location and awesome weather
By the sea, in the park, in public gardens, on your roof garden, in a secret hideaway you discovered-- anywhere that catches your fancy.
D picked Hove Park, a sprawling beautiful expanse of greenery, and found us a shaded location under a few massive trees, away from boisterous children in other parts of the same park.
Set up your tripods!
Jason is an amazing photographer (who joked that he was invited for the weekend for his camera, which is not true!) and he came with his lenses and tripod, industriously snapping away, whilst D kept going, "We can eat first then take pictures later".
(1) It is a sunny day and you don't want to wait for your makeup to melt in the sun
(2) Your lipstick will progressively fade away as you drink
(3) Capturing moments is what it's all about, too.
D shakes his head at the three cameras snapping photographs of everything, because the only other alternative would be to hire a photographer for the event, which would be less fun and more expensive and not to mention, over-the-top! I'm sure D is fast learning these principles. . .
Because it helps you improve your photography skills. For a long time, I used to take horrendous pictures of everything, including framing a friend's shot so much so that her head looked like it was post-execution on a platter. My only saving graces were photographs of cats and food. Now after much practice with food photography, I think my people photography has improved by leaps and bounds. And of course, after picking up tips from friends and from D.
But that aside, food photography is mandatory because. . you can trawl the pictures up in the middle of the night and drool. And, you know these pictures will always evoke lovely memories.
Pictured: Salad with boiled eggs and Kettle Chips by D and Jason; D's Wicked Gourmet Sandwiches; pretty cupcakes purchased at below half-price (a.k.a. benefit of going to the market when it is about to close!); king prawn ring (we tucked into two); Crabbies' ginger beer.
You know how in Mary Poppins, you are asked to Feed The Birds? Well, feed the dogs when you're picnicking!
Denise accidentally dropped the rest of the biltong* onto her dress and the grass, so she threw some onto the grass, and the olfactory senses in Buster (the dog in the picture) and his girlfriend Betty immediately went into high alert.
D took the whole packet and gave it to the owners, who joked if they could join our picnic. And four very happy dogs were wolfing down biltong. Karma Points for D!
Feed the humans
*A type of cured meat from South Africa
Extra Karma Points for D! ;)
(My hair is only so beautiful because Denise is a genius!)
Pose with your picnic basket
Hold on to the smart-looking strap to balance!
Take fun photographs
The more WTF!?, the better.Celebrate friendship
It's one of the most beautiful blessings ever. What more when these memories are captured in picture-perfect moments, and in matching crinolines to boot.
Take beautiful portraits
It'd be criminal not to, when you're all dressed up. .
Again, I secretly quipped to Denise, "I'm so happy we both found chefs". Although we do know it is beyond the Chef Factor :)
Take a nap
Loads of love
We could have done without the fanciness but not without the love. It's the company that maketh the difference. .
Have you had any picnics this summer? Do tell your experiences and your tips for the best picnics! x