The Lolita Picnic

March 18, 2009 at 11:26 pm | Posted in Life, Lumpy | 2 Comments
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Ahh, the picnic. Aside from the tea party, is there anything more iconic? A poof of lolis (technical term – the subject was raised a year or two ago on egl) sprawled on blankets in a flowery plain. Pale pink serving dishes are perched on wrought-iron tiers and strewn with cakes and cookies. Plates lay discarded about the group with nibbled sandwiches and crumbs falling off of them. The girls are dressed in flowing chiffons and fanning themselves with lace fans, their parasols propped up above them to shield their porcelain skin from the setting sun.

Aww, what a pretty picture. What they don’t show you is the batch of cookies they burnt, the aching feet with blisters already almost bursting from hiking through  the woods in heels, and the ants and mosquitos that have just discovered our picnicing lolitas and are getting ready to feast. In reality, picnics are a good idea, but take quite a bit of careful planning and consideration to go off without a hitch. I’m a bit of a picnic connoisseur, so I’ve decided, what with the weather (finally! blessedly!!) warming up around here, that I’d write up a guide for picnicing, specifically as it relates to lolitas.

First and foremost: planning. Who will be invited? Will it be just your best friend and yourself, your close personal friends, or a state-wide meet-up? Obviously, the first step is setting a date. Personally, I find the best time to have any outdoors event is mid-spring, because the light chill is gone from the air, but you aren’t going to sweat through your make-up or pass out from dehydration. You want a day of the week that will work for everyone, but will still be good for your location – we’ll talk about that next. Once you have your date, think briefly about time – it’s not something to obsess over, but make sure you’ll have enough transport time and light in the day to set up, eat, hang out, and pack up, and you don’t want to be doing any of that in the dark.

Next, location. Day and location really go hand in hand, and you can choose one before the other easily. When chosing the location, think about your attendees. Where are they coming from? How far do they want to drive? DO they drive, or does it need to be at least partially accessable by public transportation – or maybe they can carpool? These are all common questions when planning any meet-up – if you haven’t before, I recommend checking out my friend Victoria Suzanne’s post on meet-up do’s and don’ts here. As far as picnic-specific location tips, make sure it’s easily-accessable – a clearing in the middle of a forest is beautiful, but is it really plausible to hike to in rocking horses? Think about popularity, too – you don’t want to be stepping over small children or dodging frisbees and confused stares while you’re trying to enjoy your picnic, so try and find somewhere that’s not as popular, or if the local park is the only option, even going during a time of day when most people won’t be there will save you headaches. In my experience, weekdays during the day (around noon or 1) is the best option if you can, as kids are in school and parents at work, so all you’ll see is the occassional stroller-confined small child or dog-walker. Of course, if you yourself or any of your guests have to be in work or school, this obviously won’t work, so plan accordingly.

Now that you have that out of the way, you get onto my favorite part: planning your menu! When planning a menu, it’s a good rule of thumb to have at least a side, entree, and dessert. When planning for a party or group, I recommend an appetizer or small first course to nibble at while talking, setting up, etc., a side or two (I prefer two, in case someone doesn’t like or can’t eat one, but it’s up to you), an entree, and a very simple dessert. It’s important that at least most of your food can be eaten either with the hands or a utensil – this may not be hugely important for other people, but remember that some of your attendees will be wearing gloves and may not want to soil them with mustard or chocolate, but at the same time, most of your guests will be wearing expensive clothes that they care very much about, and won’t feel like playing tag with roly-poly pasta salad that could bounce at any moment off their plates and onto their Angelic Pretty. Side dishes can be anything from tossed salad with light vinaigrette, rosemary french fries, or minty fruit salad. For main dishes, it’s good to use finger food – sandwiches, pre-made mini-pizzas or quesadilla, or classic dishes baked in muffin tins like macaroni and cheese or meatloaf. I wouldn’t go crazy for dessert – cookies, cupcakes, something that’s easy to eat, because your guests won’t want to deal with forks and spoons after that fantastic meal you just amde them! Remember, ask your guests about food allergies beforehand, and don’t be afraid to delegate! Once you have a guest list, distribute a list of things you need and kindly ask your guests to bring something – drinks, paper plates, utensils, cups, etc. are necessary but often-overlooked parts of picnics and are easy for people traveling long distances or those lacking confidence at the stove. Try not to pack anything to heavy, weight- or food-wise. You don’t want to lug anything heavy to your picnic location, and you definitely don’t want everyone to take a nap after they finish lunch! Your menu should be light and refreshing, setting the stage for an afternoon of cart-wheels and flower-picking, not moaning and napping!

A few extra tidbits:

  • Bring at least two blankets to overlap on each other. That way, you won’t be all squished up, but you won’t be tables away like you would at a restaurant. Plain-colored, older blanketse are the best, because some grass stains won’t wash out, and you don’t want to ruin your nicest duvet!
  • In the same vein, an oft-overlooked aspect is the ground – you’ll be eating and sitting on it, so make sure there are at least a few yards of open space without too many rocks or lumps to go up your butts.
  • Keep dietary restrictions in mind. I know I mentioned this above, but it is very important to keep the health and morals of others in mind. If you have a vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, or lactose intolerant friend attending, make sure you have at least two things for her to eat, and that they should be included in the menu, so she doesn’t feel like she’s inconveniencing you – a fruit salad or pasta salad dressed with vinegar instead of mayonnaise, etc.
  • Remember bug spray! Should be self-explanatory, especially if your picnic will be later in the afternoon, or later in the season.
  • Don’t be afraid to set a dress code. It may sound harsh, but if you’ve been to the location before, you really will know best what will or will not work as far as your guests’ ensembles go. If you know that you’ll be walking a bit, it’s really not that ridiculous to ask your guests not to wear heels, and if they don’t like it, who’s forcing them to attend?
  • It’s never bad to buy premade food! Especially if you can’t delegate to your guests (in which case, why are they allowed to attend?!). A lot of grocery stores have freshly-made sandwich platters, and I’m certain that every town in America has a local bakery where you could pick up some dessert. There is aboslutely nothing wrong with taking some help from the pros!

My expertise comes from the summer after I graduated high school – my boyfriend and I lived in different towns, and an excuse to go see him during summer break would be packing up a picnic, getting dressed up, and taking a train the few towns over to share it with him. I learned a lot about the art of picnicing over those month, and now that it’s finally summer again I’m very excited to exercise my skills! I hope these tips have helped you, and that you’ve actually read all the way to here! It’s all very important, promise!!

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2 Comments »

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  1. You’re ever so considerate and fabulous! I look forward to many great picnics this spring!

  2. We should have a picnic soon! It is supposed to dip back into the 20s this week however ;-; The only thing I’d add to your article is:

    Don’t litter or bring any trash that might escape. Plastic bags from the grocery are not only a real non-biodegradable hazard, I feel they’re really tacky in photos! This also goes with: if you buy store-bought foods, please serve them in something else. A bag of Doritos in the middle of your gorgeous picnic is not cute! Plus it will cut down on waste and the possibility of leaving waste.

    I also have delicious recipe ideas, we should plot together :3


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