hen I was growing up, our family went on picnics all the time. It was not fancy but we never noticed or cared. We spread an old green chenille bedspread at the beach, or a plastic gingham tablecloth on a wooden table under the trees at the park, for picnics and birthday parties, and got out thermoses-full of lemonade, a colorful stack of aluminum cups, waxed-paper-wrapped egg-salad sandwiches -- or tuna with potato chips crunched into them.
e picnicked up and down the road on our way to and from our camping trips in Sequoia National Park; my dad would pull the station wagon over next to a river beneath the tall mountains; the doors would swing open and car-bound children would run wild while my mom brought out a basket full of everything delicious; she was a great sandwich maker, she knew the secret of lots of mayonnaise, very soft bread, and iceberg lettuce for the crunch---our baloney sandwiches were manna from heaven; she cut our oranges in quarters, and always had homemade cookies.
s a grown up, I sort of forgot about picnics. We eat in the garden all summer long, and have had our fair share of beach parties, but the old-fashioned picnic in a park, we forgot to do. Until we went to England.
e were staying in a stone cottage in a place called STOURHEAD, an eighteenth-century landscape garden with acres and acres of walking paths that meandered hill and dale; through woods filled with wild bluebells, across grassy fields with frolicking baby lambs, over a grass bridge, into a grotto; a place of history, with every imaginable color of rhododendron and azalea in bloom, ponds and a lake filled with baby ducks; it was as close to heaven on earth as I can imagine ever being.
e arrived on a Thursday, there weren't many people around, mostly just us (and our private peacock named Percy that seemed to hang out on our roof or lawn; ); we walked and walked and walked listening to the bells from the twelfth-century church on the quiet grounds, getting to know this MAGICAL PLACE where we were going to live for two glorious weeks.
n Saturday everything changed; the wildflower fields and grassy lawns, the "gardens" (as they called these miles and miles of wildness) became dotted with parties of picnickers. Like I've never seen before; those English people have the right idea about what weekends are for; quilts, tablecloths, and blankets were spread, pillows were plopped around, baskets of food and wine were brought out; the picnickers stayed all day; they read, slept, lounged, enjoyed the sunshine; just them, the food, the breeze in the trees, and the birds.
id we want this? Oh yes we did. We found a basket and spent the morning in our cottage kitchen filling it with our idea of the perfect picnic, stuffed eggs and potato salad and old fashioned fried chicken (the secret to crunchy coating is to soak it in milk for an hour before shaking it in a bag full of flour, salt & pepper). We walked out our door (past Percy) along a curved path, through a picket fence gate, to the perfect spot next to the lake, on the sun-dappled grass, under a cherry tree in white bloom, and had lunch in the wildflowers with our little audience of geese and goslings (yes we brought a picnic for them too). We stayed all day, lying on our backs, watching the sky through the branches of the trees. And a few days later, when our friend came from America for a visit, we did it again and took her. And when my English pen-pal girlfriend Rachel came to see us, we did it then too.
e have a little park near us here in California, it's tiny and green; we go there on weekdays when it's quiet, take food, lie on the grass, watch the clouds go by; there's something about getting out of the house, away from the lists of what needs to be done, that makes us forget all our worldly responsibilities.
O. I'm sure you know what I'm getting at... Is there a park near you? Because here is the Menu you need and if you click on any of the watercolors, you get recipes! They are all links! Take your family or your best friend on this mini vacation which is free to everyone. It's a stress reliever, a time slower-downer, and one of the greatest of the little things in life. Even if it's a lunch hour, and a sandwich, it's a wonderful break from reality, which in this crazy world, we all need.
y the time you read this, Joe and I will be in our car, heading east across the US of A, up through Utah to Wyoming, across South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin, through Chicago, across Indiana, up through Ohio, and along the great lakes into New England (in the Spring!); then to Cape Cod, onto the FERRY, and home to our old house on Martha's Vineyard.
e're staying on the island until next year! Through the holidays! Yay! We get to have snow! I need my "house of creativity" to help me write my book; we should be there in time to smell the wisteria in bloom over the kitchen porch. Judy and Kellee (from the studio) are coming to stay with us in June; we're all excited; they've never been to the island, it's lovely there in June and we get to be tour guides. We'll pack a picnic so we can be spontaneous and park along the road somewhere to enjoy the view.
atch our Friends of Susan Branch (FOSB) FACEBOOK Page for photos and up-dates on all our adventures (I hope you got one of the Mother's Day Crowns we put up for you to print out? -- if you didn't see them, scroll down on the FOSB page, and see photos of our mommy-models!); I hope to be able to TWITTER from the road too; and for sure when we get to the island.
e'll be thinking of you! And wishing you happy spring! Enjoy the GREEN, life is good.
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