project picnic

My sweetie and I have never really gotten into giving gifts on Valentine’s Day. We exchange valentines for sure – Mark has won my heart with his brown paper bag valentines dressed up with nothing more than a sharpie. Truthfully I think the first year he made that style he was in a pinch and managed to pull off something quick. But it was charming. So much so that now I’ve come to love and expect them. This year he went all out. He found the stash of construction paper at school.

I almost always make a plate of pretty pink cut-out cookies. Or sometimes a tray of coconut cupcakes dotted with tacky conversation hearts. If the ice road over to Madeline Island has formed by the 14th, we’ll set out for one of our favorite restaurants, Lotta’s, for a deliciously romantic meal. But we’re just as happy to stay in, cook something simple, and light a few candles. As it happens this year, the ice road was open, but Lotta’s was not. So instead, I made Cacio e Pepe and served it in cute little baked parmesan bowls. A spinach salad with chopped egg and a tangy lemon mustard vinaigrette, a bottle of wine, and we were all set. It was a photo worthy meal, but in an effort to be the teeniest bit romantic, I refrained from bringing my camera to the table. I snuck back later and took a dessert shot instead.

But this year, there was something else at the table. A present for Mark. Curiously, it’s something that I have longed after for a long time. A good old-fashioned picnic basket. I love picnicking. What can top finding a few new salads to try out, rounding up some good cheese and fancy snacks, packing a blanket, a fresh magazine – or maybe the Sunday crossword, and heading somewhere outdoors to take the afternoon off? It’s something we don’t do nearly enough of.

In an effort to inspire us, I found an old metal picnic tote on Etsy. I outfitted it with enameled plates, bistro-style tin wine glasses, outrageously miniature salt and pepper shakers, stripey napkins, and some odds and end silverware. I also threw in a book of Pablo Neruda love poems. Then I made 12 cut out hearts, each with a different picnic destination on it – one a month. Seems like a reasonable goal, doesn’t it? My proposed settings range all over – from Potato River Falls (where you can lounge about in waterfall filled pools), to the top of Mt. Ashwabay (our local ski hill that has a stellar view of Lake Superior), to my mom’s cherry orchard, to our living room floor (I figure we might need an inclement weather back-up).

I agree with Alice Waters’ in her Art of Simple Food when she claims our taste buds are enlivened in the open air. And who out there couldn’t use a little more R&R and change of pace in their routines? I for one am looking forward to reviving the fine art of picnicking. I can’t wait to round up and create some picnic worthy recipes to share with you as we take our monthly adventures. I welcome anyone who wants to join me on project picnic and share their experiences. I’d also love to hear any good local picnic destinations if something comes to mind!

4 Responses to “project picnic”


  1. 1 dani February 17, 2011 at 9:49 pm

    Oh this is so cute, romantic and fun. Someday we too will find the cutest vintage picnic basket and have lofty goals of actually using it! I love this!

    • 2 GarlicPig February 18, 2011 at 4:56 pm

      Ha! In the meantime we’ll have to drag the three of you along on one. Or if nothing else I know of this great little patio in Bayfield that would be perfect for a picnic.


  1. 1 forge on (project picnic.2) « Garlic Pig Trackback on May 17, 2011 at 12:47 pm
  2. 2 the great e-scape (project picnic.4) « Garlic Pig Trackback on July 5, 2011 at 6:49 pm

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