Tuesday, June 7, 2016

THE SUMMER PICNIC. IS IT DEAD OR ALIVE? By Catherine Lanigan and Rula Sinara

Rula's family picnic at Harper's Ferry
CATHERINE: I’ve always thought that one of the most romantic scenes in a book is the summer picnic. Doesn’t matter to me if the book is a Regency Romance, a Manhattan holiday in Central Park or a beach picnic with kids running around and sharks in the water. Once summer hits, I want to read about my hero and heroine packing up a lunch and having nothing else on their minds except each other and possibly, what’s in that picnic basket?

The quintessential wicker picnic basket filled with wine, cheese, bread and homemade fried chicken, alas, has been replaced with Styrofoam coolers, Igloos and let’s face it, plain old plastic bags from the grocery. Most of us modern heroines are so over-worked, over-scheduled and busy that when the weekend holiday or picnic mini-vacation comes around, we dash to the store, buy deli potato salad, cole slaw and a bucket of chicken. But there’s something about the lure of that picnic basket, a “jug of wine, a loaf of bread and thou,” that motivates the heart to seek that illusive and idyllic place in nature where for a few hours we can forget our world and worries and live in the moment. It is tranquility we seek when we think of picnics.

Frenchie waiting patiently for a yummy morsel to fall off of Catherine's picnic table.
That vintage tintype in our heads that reminds us that life is for the living. That we are meant to have hours dedicated to fun and relaxation and only in nature will we find that elusive escape.

I’ll grant that some of us are throw-backs to these romantic times and we do our best to resurrect some of the traditions our mothers or grandmothers taught us. We make homemade brownies and cornbread ourselves. Maybe we even pre-boil the baby back ribs so our hero can throw them on the charcoal grill at the beach and take credit for that yummy honey and brown sugar barbeque sauce they’ve been marinating in for four hours. (Our heroine in the novel would do that. Or maybe not.)

Catherine's family backyard picnic

The thing is, when it comes to summer and picnic fun outdoors after being house-bound all winter, we all get pretty inventive. I’ve always tried to put some romance or at least some “tablescaping” into my picnics. I think Rula will agree with me. We both love to garden and if we were packing up THE picnic basket to please Romeo (and the family) we’d probably both toss in a cache of flowers from the garden. Why not? They’re a pleasant surprise and put a smile on everyone’s face.

RULA: I’m with you, Catherine! I know that picnics are supposed to be about the people involved…family, kids or romantic couple…but no one can deny that the setting (just like in a book!) is such an important element. If we were to play a word association game, if I got the word ‘picnic’, the first thing that would come to mind is ‘nature’. And I totally agree that, with our plugged-in, busy lives, there’s nothing more relaxing and grounding than…well, than sitting on the ground in an idyllic, natural setting and sharing food. As a kid living in North Africa, we used to picnic a lot…usually somewhere in the Atlas mountains or in the Sahara desert or on the beach. And yes, there were sharks and I’d just seen the movie ‘Jaws’, so no, I did not wade in lol.

I do a lot of homemade cooking, so I’d go the old fashioned route on my picnic basket. To me, fruit is a must. What’s a picnic without grapes or watermelon? I also usually make sandwiches and hard boiled eggs (hey, they’re a natural protein bar). Oh, and I wouldn’t forget desserts like brownies or cookies.

Rula's Harper's Ferry picnic views
Another of Rula's Harper's Ferry views...so much like the areas she enjoyed family picnics in the Atlas Mts.
As for games, as a kid I was content collecting seashells or hanging upside down from a tree like a monkey. Now, I enjoy volley ball, badminton, daydreaming and more daydreaming lol. One thing I’ve never taken to is Frisbee. As popular a picnic game as it is, the self-preservation side of me doesn’t welcome hard-edged objects flying at my face. And ouch! My hands! So Catherine, what’s in your picnic basket?

CATHERINE: I’ve invented some very fun sandwiches and wraps over the years and tried to ramp up the old standby of potato salad by making German potato salad with plenty of bacon. (A guy pleaser, young and old.) Hot dogs? Go for the Chicago Dog for a adults complete with the hot peppers and a big dill pickle and poppy seed bun. The kids will still want the plain dogs, but that leaves more for the adults.

Even when there’s no beach nearby, the backyard picnic or barbeque can be as much or more fun. The good thing about staying close to home is that if the weather turns, the mosquitoes swarm in clouds over your strawberry glaze pie and your sweetheart’s face, you can dash to the indoors.

So everyone reading this…Do you pack a picnic basket? Or do you Igloo the meal? Where do you go? Beach? Park? A secret escape place? Or do you prefer your own backyard? The screened-in porch? What entertainment is a must?

What’s your favorite picnic food? Is there something that you simply must include every year?

GIVEAWAY: For everyone who responds to our little “survey” here, we’ll take your names and have a drawing. The winner will get a copy of one of Rula’s books, “From Kenya With Love” series (print or epub---your choice) and one of Catherine’s books from “The Shores of Indian Lake” series (print or epub---your choice.)

And don’t forget to pop by our upcoming virtual book tours for more fun and giveaways! For Rula's tour that kicked off this past weekend, click HERE. For Catherine's upcoming tour, click HERE.



And check out the spectacular summer giveaway by the July Heartwarming authors! Details HERE!


47 comments:

  1. I haven't been on a real picnic for at least a dozen years. The last one I can remember was a company event we held for employees and their families at the Toronto Zoo. Your post does make me long for one, though.

    Although we don't think of it as a picnic, when the weather permits, we love to eat outside on our back patio. As for food, since you mention ribs, I have to brag that anyone who has tasted the barbequed ribs my husband makes confirms that they are the best they have ever tried! (But I've seen pictures of the spectacular feasts Catherine prepares, so I should be a little cautious about saying that in her company!)

    Hmmm...I think it might be time for us to invite friends for another backyard picnic!

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    1. Thanks, Kate. Okay. So count me in the next time you guys do the ribs. So, do you do babyback pork ribs or beef short ribs? I like the babybacks myself and when I lived in Texas I used to have a smoker and we smoked them...for 6 hours. Those were to die for! These days, not so much. I cheat a lot and use my sister's northern recipe of pre-boiling them, then baking in the oven for 45 minutes and then toss them on the grill for a bit of a char. I know, I can hear the die-hards out there saying, "OH NO! Catherine! You blaspheme!"

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    2. You know you're welcome any time. Yes, Ken boils his ribs first (with some onions and spices tossed in the water), but when he's tried it (and different recipes) without boiling them first, they haven't been nearly as delicious. He makes up his own barbeque sauce, too. I don't even know the secret recipe! :-)

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    3. I lived in Texas and it's all about the barbeque lol! They even have major bbq and chili contests. They take their sauce seriously ;).

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    4. Just jumping in, as a former Texan, to say I love baby back ribs, but you just can't beat a good smoked brisket. My hubby just bought a smoker and the ribs were amazing, although he when he grills them low and slow for many hours, they are pretty darn good too. I think we need to get all our hubbies together for a rib cook off. I'll volunteer to be a taste-tester!

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    5. Yay! A fellow Texan! Did I know that, LeAnne? I think I forgot lol. But yes, smoked brisket is huge. There was this tiny, hole-in-the-wall place near where I worked...literally not more than a shack-sized place...but it was so famous for its brisket that it made it on the news (this was in the early 90's). In my opinion, you need a lot of shade to picnic in Texas lol! Man is it hot!

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  2. Like Kate, we cook out more than we picnic, but what fun it is. The guys tend to cook, which leaves the girls watching and sampling wine. A good time. Wonderful post!

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    1. Hi, Liz! Wow. I'm coming to your party. At mine the men don't cook and they do the wine tasting. I like yours better!

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    2. Okay, both of you are invited to our home for a barbeque. I'll make "fully-loaded potato skins" to go with the ribs. They are more like potato patties with cheese, bacon bits, chives and other yummy stuff tossed in. Ken will do the veggies on the grill and I'll make the salad and dessert. You ladies can relax and enjoy the wine...and maybe give the pups a little attention!

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    3. ...of course Rula has to come, too!

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    4. I'm coming! I love grilled veggies...especially red bell peppers.

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    5. Red bell peppers have been added to the menu! :-)

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    6. Oh my gosh! I'm bringing Indiana blueberry crisp. For dessert!

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    7. So we're all invited to Kate's house? Is that right? Sounds wonderful!

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  3. I love picnics and just wrote my characters on a picnic on the beach in my current wip. So appropriate post ladies. Love your ideas. Enjoyed the photos too.

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    1. Thanks, Sandra! I grew up on a beach and LOVE beach picnics! Love reading about them too :).

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    2. Thanks, Sandra! I want to read your book!!' Cool!

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  4. I grew up having picnics and so did my kids. Once we had the kids the picnics weren't the romantic kind. But we had friends we could call at the last minute and say, "hey what's in your fridge--any stuff for a picnic?" And we'd all toss our stuff in baskets and coolers and off we'd go. Even in the snow. One of my favorite times was when we took bread, cheese, wine and hot chocolate for all the kids and took snowmobiles into the Oregon back-country. Now here in AZ, summer picnics are more like backyard events around a pool. All are fun. Thanks for stoking the memories ladies.

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    1. A winter, hot chocolate picnic! That sounds incredible, Roz! I love that!

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    2. Now that is the neatest ! Picnic in the snow!!

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  5. Picnics! How fun! It's been years since we've done a true picnic. Most of our picnics weren't really picnics. When the kids were little, we went camping a lot...are those meals considered picnics? On the weekends, we'd throw sandwich stuff and drinks in an igloo and head for the hills. Our picnics were usually eaten out of the back of the pick-up truck while we drove around scouting for deer or fishing at the river.

    You've got me craving potato salad now. :)

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    1. I consider those picnics! Every July 4th we head to the park to watch fireworks and I usually pack snacks and drinks in a cooler. We bring camping chairs too, though the boys like to climb up and sit on the roof of our suv lol. The food isn't eaten on a checkered cloth on the grass, but I still consider that a picnic ;).

      And now I want potato salad too!

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    2. Now, I think that's romantic out of the pick up truck! I did that many times when my son was little and I had a pick up!!

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  6. I haven't been on a picnic in many, many years, but I used to love going on picnics with my family while I was growing up. I believe the last one we had was when I was about 14 years old and we were at a park in the local zoo. It was so much fun. Those were good times.

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    1. Picnics do bring back memories, Stephanie :). Kind of like family dinners, which unfortunately are sometimes overlooked in modern 'rush everything' society. Picnics slow things down and bring everyone together to make memories.

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    2. I so agree, Rula. Picnics and parks make us take in the scenery, breathe the air and relish the joy in life. It's too easy not to do these things!

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  7. There's no sitting on the ground for us anymore, so we picnic on the porch. I have a recipe for country ribs, sauerkraut, carrots, and other yummy stuff that I cook on top of the stove. It's always wonderful - and I'm cooking, so you know it has to be easy and foolproof. Neighbors bring whatever they've got and it's always memorable. I'm sure it's the people and not the food. Like Roz, my neighbor Barb and I have been known to sit on the porch wrapped in blankets in February and sip tea and eat cookies. Love and friendship warms us, whatever the weather.

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    1. Muriel, everything you say is always beautiful and poetic. It's definitely about the people! And between you and Roz, I now have winter picnics on my mind! One plus is you don't have to deal with mosquitoes lol!

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    2. Ha! Rula! Good point no mosquitos !!
      I have been toying with the idea of an outside fireplace... Suddenly a rage in my area-- for years. To have an outdoor barbecue I snow but by the fire.. What fun. Of course I'll have to wear two parkas!

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    3. Catherine, we have an iron fire pit on our patio, as well as a larger bonfire pit dug out (and surrounded by quartz collected off our land) out in our field. The portable fire pit is easy to use on a whim on a cool night. We really love both and love having bonfires or campfires.

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  8. Hi Catherine and Rule...I'm an August baby and would LOVE to go on a picnic for my birthday. In my family we have four birthdays and our anniversary in August, so mine often takes a back seat. The kids come first, right? A picnic is a lovely idea :)

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  9. Hi Catherine and Rule...I'm an August baby and would LOVE to go on a picnic for my birthday. In my family we have four birthdays and our anniversary in August, so mine often takes a back seat. The kids come first, right? A picnic is a lovely idea :)

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    1. A birthday picnic is a wonderful idea, Susan!! Sounds perfect to me!

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    2. Hi, Susan! My son's birthday is in August and he always wanted picnics at the zoo or park. Now it's the backyard barbecue and always an ice cream cake!!

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  10. Picnic basket and a cooler are a good combo for the summer. Add a lake to it and you've got yourself a pretty good deal.

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  11. I love a picnic, too! There's just something so fun and relaxing about enjoying a meal outside with husband, friends, or family. Even those uninvited guests like bees, ants, and mosquitoes somehow manage to add to ambiance (Not to mention a little comic relief). I think my favorite picnic food would have to be cold bbq chicken and watermelon.

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    1. Hi, Carol! I'm still a chicken person for the picnic. Honey and biscuits or lots of French bread and fruit. Two bottles of wine!

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    2. Carol, my youngest's favorite food in the world is watermelon. He's in middle school now, but it has been his favorite since he could eat solids. In fact, once when he was 2, I had sliced watermelon wedges and set them outside for my three boys to eat. I figure, outside it's easier to hose them off afterwards lol. Well, I turned around and my youngest had made it through the red and was chowing down on the rind. He just couldn't stop! I took a pic and it was included in the school slide show at his 5th gr 'graduation' ;).

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  12. I love a good summer picnic! We back to a large grove in our neighborhood and we used to have the best summer picnics back there with all the neighbors when the kids were little. Nothing better than yummy food, some cold drinks, and good company!

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    1. That sound so wonderful, Amy! Perfect childhood memories!

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  13. We love picnics!! We take a picnic basket and we like to go to a park and spread a blanket on the ground and enjoy. Or we bring our chairs and sit in them on the blanket. We like to bring books and magazines to read and we usually eat sandwiches, chips, fruit and nuts. Although I do really love eating fried chicken at a picnic. I don't like cooking it though. We just went to The Duke Mansion to look at their beautiful gardens where we are going to have a picnic. They provide the basket, food, wine and blanket. We are looking forward to doing that. ( :

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  14. Hi everyone! We have a winner!

    SUSAN LUTE !!

    Susan, you've won your choice of print or Kindle of one of my 'From Kenya, with Love' books and one of Catherine's 'Shores of Indian Lake' books! Please contact me either through my contact page on www.rulasinara.com or email me at rulasinara (at) gmail (dot) com with your preferences and either email or mailing address. I'll pass the info on to Catherine, or you can contact her through her website as well. Congrats!!

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