On a recent steamy Sunday, we pulled out our authentic picnic basket complete with casual dishes and silverware all strapped into their appropriate place. My 7 and 9-year-olds put together a menu, I ran to the store and then we took an hour to craft everything that went into our little basket. It certainly could have been easier, but I chose to make it a little exercise in sustainability and creativity.
The kids formed a sandwich assembly line with ham, cheese, arugula, mayo and mustard options. We also invited one of my son’s friends. The friend’s sandwich creation was left to the discretion of my son, Calvin. We wrapped them in Wrap-N-Mat’s and initialed them so there would be no confusion – my daughter, Ava, did not want to find arugula in hers after all! The chips were counted out and packaged, also initialed. I peeled and sliced cucumbers and packed them with sea salt and humus. Then came the angel food cake – – an immediate first suggestion in the picnic planning process. We cut four precisely equal slices and packaged them together in one clear container. Cut strawberries and glaze were thrown into the little basket too.
The kids rounded out the basket after a quick check – adding cloth placemats, ice packs, another set of plates (for dessert of course) and glasses. Now, the basket didn’t have any insulation mind you, so we did need to cheat with a mini cooler for drinks.
We picked up my son’s friend around noon and headed west to our destination: French Regional Park. We have made it an annual outing for the past three years and have found it to be a clean, family friendly park with boat access, rentals and a sandy beach on the north side of Medicine Lake in Plymouth, MN. As we pulled in, my kids chimed in, Hey, we were just here on Thursday. So much for originality. Apparently, they had just been to FRP with the kids from their summer camp.
The two main parking lots were packed by 12:45, but we managed to nab a slot near the climbing area. We left the basket and beach stuff in the car while the kids climbed, swung and slid. They found some bizarre tunnel route around the play area which was an adventure. After about 20 minutes and a quick stop at the car for our stuff, we caught the trolley that would bring us to the beach area.
We set up shop at a table with an umbrella overlooking the beach area. The kids went for a swim and immediately worked up an appetite. Out came the basket. We set the table, poured the drinks and enjoyed our lunch. Other families were grilling out (one brought their very own large grill and wheeled it right onto the trolley) and having their elaborate picnics too.
Clean up went smoothly without the paper products to dispose. We recycled two bottles and stowed the rest back in the basket. More swimming and best hand-stand contests. Then it was time for sand castles, moats and all. The three of them spent about 30 minutes tunneling, shaping and building. Suddenly, Calvin remembered there was angelfood cake yet to be consumed, so we headed back to our table, took out the next set of plates, glazed the cake, added the strawberries and indulged.
Clean up for the dessert portion was more tricky due to the glaze, but I was able to rinse them off in the sink at the rental station. So, was the dishware, silverware and fare all worth it? For me, yes. I think the kids didn’t notice too terribly much. They were focused on sneaking away to check out rental items and rates. They came back, to my surprise, with a round of orange push-pops all thanks to my son who brings his wallet everywhere and has a habit of buying rounds for him and his friends.
We packed up, trolleyed back to the lot and dropped off Calvin’s friend around 3:30. We had a discussion about the basket and how we could make more sustainable choices in our everyday activities. We try to make it fun and interesting with reusable products from our gingham Wrap-N-Mats for sandwiches to funky water bottles. Sustainability on the run requires a bit more planning, but if that becomes second nature to my kids, I’ll consider it a good thing.