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Perfect Picnic Tips

Your easy guide to a little splendor in the grass.

Picnics come in all shapes and sizes. Whether in a grassy pasture, on an urban rooftop, or at the beach, a picnic is the perfect way to unwind from life's hectic pace and score points with your love muffin. Just follow some simple pointers so you have nothing to worry about except charming the pants off your mate.

Choose Your Spot
Before you start, remember that you've got to lug everything to your picnic site. Be realistic about what you or your significant other can carry. If you're traveling far afield, opt for paper and plastic to lighten the load. Remember: You want to indulge your romantic inclinations, not create an Olympic-caliber workout.

Feed the Soul
For a truly sumptuous, romantic experience, leave the charcoal and lighter fluid at home. Instead, opt for the standard, no-fuss picnic fare of crusty French bread, cheese, fruit, and a bottle of chilled white wine on a grassy hillside. Or, better yet, prepare a succulent meal -- the kind you hunger for after hours on the beach or a long hike through the woods -- to savor with your honey next to a babbling brook.

Keep It Simple
Whether you're running to the supermarket to pick up some olives and cheese or are cooking up your own creations, just remember that the foods you pick should be movable and simple. Despite this constraint, the possibilities are endless. If you have a thermos, bring some chilled soup. Quiche is also a tasty option when served cold. Wraps are a yummy, easy-to-eat treat too. But before you pack up the cooler, chill everything thoroughly and toss in plenty of ice. To be safe, Good Housekeeping recommends that food shouldn't sit outdoors for more than 1 hour.

Pack the Essentials
Make sure you're fully equipped for your adventure. Here's a list of essentials for your outdoor excursion:

  1. Picnic basket or cooler
  2. Bottled water (freeze overnight and use as an ice pack)
  3. Outdoor dinnerware
  4. Flatware or plastic silverware
  5. Napkins
  6. Glassware
  7. Corkscrew and/or bottle opener
  8. Tablecloth, sweatshirt blanket, or sari
  9. Decorative centerpiece (hurricane candles, a cup of freshly plucked wildflowers, a beautiful dessert)
  10. Sunscreen
  11. Bug spray or citronella candles
  12. Trash bag

Set the Mood
It's easy to create a special mood for your picnic with just a few finishing touches. Start with what you want to sit on -- for instance, a red-and-white checked tablecloth could add an Italian flavor to your excursion. Bring fresh flowers and place them in a low bowl. Don't forget the lighting -- take along some votive candles or paper lanterns to hang from trees. You can even bring your candelabra for a truly dramatic effect.

Go All Out
If you don't have far to go, pull out all the punches. Breaking out your good crystal isn't such a great idea -- wind may knock it over, and crystal breaks easily. On the other hand, drinking out of plastic stemware isn't going to score big romance points. Bring along glassware like heavy-weighted goblets, either new or vintage, that will be harder to topple and won't shatter. Pump up the elegance by packing some flatware you picked up at an antique store or garage sale. Wrap the flatware in a linen napkin and tie with a ribbon or a piece of twine. So now that the hard stuff is taken care of, you're free eat, drink, and romance the pants off your honey.

-- Lisa Vincenti