With only a few months of warm bright cheery sunshine to rejoice in a year, summers in this part of the world is all about vacations, barbecues, beaches, pool-side, outdoor sports, biking, hiking, camping, colorful flowers, chirpy birdies, fun, frolic, watermelons, picnics and about the red gingham’s. We love picnics. Apart from the usual well-planned picnicking with family and friends in a park or at the river-side, we also do these small impromptu early morning family picnic-breakfasts on our lawn. The picture that you’ll see below is from one that we did on our front yard a few days back, under my favorite Japanese cherry tree.
There’s something very mesmerizing about them. Early mornings of a summer weekend, songs of birds and the skies that reminisces of an artist’s palette with an orange-pink glow, tinted clouds and the first rays of the sun, all lazily rising to shine a little after the crack of dawn. Very few things in life compare to sitting beneath that sky, and on a soft picnic blanket spread over crisp, lush green grass…relishing a humble brekkie…fresh cut fruits, breads, sandwiches and sipping your morning cup of sanity…chatting with your mate, as your kids playfully run around giggling.
We adore these picnics so much so, that 2 autumns back, when we were planning big-J’s birthday, she insisted on a picnic themed party. A fall-time Birthday Picnic? We instantly agreed on the idea. Lil-J was still an infant that time, so as much as we wanted to celebrate the handful of warm days before it got cold, we wanted to keep it the birthday simple, yet fun-filled.
We reserved a beautiful park that had everything we loved! Scenic woods, nature trails, a large gazebo, a pavilion with picnic tables, a playground, open field area, a generous dose of nature’s beauty and greenery in abundance.
I struck to the picnic basics and worked on the ground details….outdoor games/activities for kids, lawn chairs and picnic blankets, non-messy portable fun picnic food and drink items, some creative pinterest-inspired grab-&-go snacks, children’s music on Bluetooth enabled mini-speakers, picnic favors…..they did do the wonder!
I designed a custom birthday invite, and used a lot of natural wood items to work with, chose classic Red-and-white gingham fabric and papers that mirrors traditional picnic colors/pattern and kept close to “nature themed” bits and pieces. Had the décor part minimal. And because it was Fall, I also used orange, green and yellow plastic baskets to serve snacks as well as Brown and orange leaf appetizer trays. At first, I thought doing all this would be snappy, but with a new infant at hand, it ended up being real grinding and left me with a gawky hubby (who was just about ready for a last minute venue change and buy a birthday package at a kid’s recreation center)!! So I had to skip the idea of baking the birthday cake among a couple other quick sacrifices.
It was thankfully a gorgeous Sunday with plenty of sunshine. We were able to layout the tables and set up things well ahead in time. Had a full house picnic with an attendance of 22 children in all and their parents…totaling about 50 guests. Big-J played the magician and did host an amazing magic show (Occasionally, the magician requested her audience to cover their eyes, as she used her special props and tricks out of her cape :D)!! The kids had a grand time and made us realize that a playground and an open green field is all that it takes for a troop of little monkeys to have a blast….after all, all they need is to run and hop around! And thanks to how the little ones enjoyed and entertained themselves to full, I didn’t get any opportunity to bring them together for a couple activities I had originally planned….the sack race or the ball-in-the-spoon contest or the fun riddle time!
The party highlights were the juice-and applesauce robots, snack bag butterflies, watermelon popsicles, pirate bananas, bento lunch boxes, picnic-themed favor baskets (with skip ropes, side-walk chalks, bubble bottles, flutes and play-dohs), kite flying, and the balloon release at the end of the party. To honor Ants, the uninvited guests that turn up in picnics, I had these simple snack of celery and broccoli with peanut butter/nutella spread: Ants on a Log (had raisins), Ants on a Vacation (without raisins), Ants on a “Slip and Slide” (raisins on honey), Frogs on a Log (green olives), Bees on Trees (MnMs on Broccoli). The snack-tray was emptied in no time! Ants apart, a picnic is about bugs too! One of the best parts was also our “Adopt a Bug” program. I used wide mouthed glass jelly jars and put labels on them. Stuffed in some brown “hay” paper to make “bug bed” and placed a plastic bug in each jar. Big-J named each one of them and I wrote a little snippet about the bug on the jar, so the kids know a little about their new pet. The kids were elated, as each got to take home a bug!
Overall we were glad that children enjoyed a good time and most fed themselves well (surprise!), while the parents loved the atmosphere and liked the party pieces. And for us? Phew!!! We were finally able to take in the joy and bask in the glory of relief
Now, coming back to today’s recipe, here’s one of my favorite picnic foods, I do often…the Ruby red fruit mojito salad. I know…it’s been a month full of salad and condiment posts for me. Unlike the cheerful veggie-based Alfalfa sprout salad I posted some days back, this passionately red, rum-soaked salad has bursts of very refreshing flavors diffused with a lace of lemony-minty deliciousness. It truly is one killer mojito fruit punch…our friends and we absolutely adore it. Skip the alcohol to make a kid-friendly version. Don’t forget to leave me a comment so I know how you liked it. In the meantime, have a great start of the week you all…
- 3 to 4 tbsp White Rum
- 60 ml fresh Lime Juice
- 2 tbsp raw honey
- 0.5 tsp black salt
- 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
- 0.5 tsp fresh ground black pepper
- 1/4th of a large watermelon
- 4 to 5 large strawberries
- 1 generous handful raspberries
- 15 sweet dark Cherries
- 25 red seedless red table grapes
- 1/4 of a large Pomegranate
HOW I MAKE IT⇒
- Wash and shred the mint leaves finely.
- In a mixing bowl, add the rum, honey, salt, pepper, lime juice and whisk together till mixed. Set aside.
- Wash the fruits. Slice watermelon to about 1 inch cubes. Chop strawberries. Stem and de-seed the cherries. Separate out the pomegranate arils.
- In a large mixing bowl, put together all the fruits. Add shredded mint and pour the mojito mix. Give a nice quick mix. And serve chilled.
As the flavors mix and diffuse, this salad gets and tastes better over a couple hours if kept refrigerated or chilled. This makes it a great salad to go for a beach, pool-side, potlucks or a fun-filled picnic party. If blood-oranges are in season, you may add them to this mix of fruits too. Or consider adding cranberries, grapefruit, if you’d like them in. Add the salad juices to your favorite drink for a great fruity cocktail. To make it kid-friendly, skip adding rum to make a virgin salad.