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Wednesday, July 5, 2023

A Girls' Day Out: A Meal on a Budget and With Dietary Restrictions

Last Friday my daughters took me out for a day to our nearby vintage district and farm community. As I mentioned before, the little town we visited hugs the Snohomish River. Most of the tourists spend their day in the shops and restaurants up the short hill from the river. Few even know this park down along the walking path by the river exists. There are only two ways to get down to this spot, either the sloping walking path from one end of town, or a set of wooden stairs that are practically hidden from view about midway through the town.

The city has set up two picnic tables under a large tree just off of the walking path. Most of the time, we are the only ones interested in using one of these tables. In March, when we convinced my husband to join us as my daughters celebrated their own birthday in Snohomish, the four of us had both picnic tables to ourselves at noon. We had great weather that day, with highs in the low 70s. In addition, the large tree had not leafed out yet, so the sun chased away any chill we may have felt when we first sat down.

On Friday's outing, we arrived with our picnic gear and found one table occupied by a man with his guitar, but the other table was available. In all of our years visiting this town and picnicking by the river, we have never had anyone use one table while we used the other. That's how unknown this area with tables is.

My daughters packed a fantastic lunch for us all to enjoy. They made chicken salad, using leftover roasted chicken from earlier in the week, and brought both slices of bread and rice cakes for the chicken. They also made a marinated green bean salad by making a vinaigrette for canned green beans, allowing to chill overnight. They cut carrot sticks, brought whole apples, potato chips, roasted peanuts, and iced tea. And for dessert, they packed jellied fruit slices and caramel rice cakes. Doesn't that all sound fabulous? Everything was delicious and they made sure I could eat almost all of it (except the bread slices). The food was plentiful and we had leftovers to enjoy the next day, too.

Our musician companion at the other table provided background music for ambiance. And we were treated to a view not only of the river, but of others enjoying the beautiful day. We watched 2 people on jet skis enjoying the river and several hang gliders coming down into a large grassy field on the other side of the river.

Our lovely lunch in the park was refreshing. I can't imagine feeling so refreshed after a lunch in a restaurant with the clatter of kitchen work, dishes, and other diners' conversations. We had peace, beauty, and tasty food. What a way to enjoy lunch with my daughters!

Our picnic made me think of all of the other opportunities summer presents for picnics. My family has done picnics at local beaches, in tree-filled parks, on benches in the small "town square" of a neighboring development, and in our own backyard. There's something special about a meal outdoors, away from phones, internet, the doorbell, and household  chores. We now plan to make picnicky a regular feature of this summer. How about you? Do you enjoy picnics? Are there any picnics in your upcoming plans for this summer? What are some of your favorite picnic foods?


  1. What a lovely day. We seek out lesser known places, too and are happiest when we don't see anyone else. We're in our miserable hot and humid phase right now, so we're not looking for as many picnic opportunities. However, we are eating breakfast outside on our porch more often.

    1. Breakfast on your porch sounds like such a summery thing to do, Live and Learn. Enjoy whatever moments outdoors that work for you right now!

  2. I agree. What a pleasant day!
    Last night we joined another couple for an evening picnic in a state park with a beach. The humidity and temperatures were high. However, we were in the shade and the beach breeze made it so nice. We enjoyed our meal and just sat and visited for three very pleasant hours. Yes, we need to revive picnic.
    As a child there wasn't yet interstate or many restaurants and money was tight. Si, if we want on a day trip my mother would fry a chicken, make potato salad and also pack a can of pork and beans. Back then there were pull off spots along the highway with picnic tables. We would stop and have our meal at one of those. Very, very little eating in restaurants when I grew up. But lots of fun picnics!

    1. Hi Linda,
      Your al fresco dinner at the beach sounds lovely. You pointed out another benefit to picnic meals -- you can linger as long as you want with no pressure from wait staff to vacate a table. I'm glad you had such a good time.

  3. That sounds like a lovely time with your daughters. I love how they work to make everything special for you.

    I enjoy picnics a lot. Recently we've had excessively humid temps as well as smoke haze from the Canadian fires, so we've been staying indoors. Around home when we have had picnics, the kids and I have been most likely to have lunch at the beach and I keep things simple with a few fun additions (PB&J, whatever fruit is in season, yogurt, and I add in chips and those tiny cans of soda pop as a treat). It's very easy to get sand in your food so I find simpler is better in terms of food options. Plus, it's a lot of work to gather all the stuff you need for a day at the beach and if I'm too overwhelmed, I'm less likely to want to go.

    We hike on our vacations and often carry our lunch and seek out an impressive view for our meal (which we eat sitting on logs or rocks or sometimes on the ground). We've had some very scenic sites for our meals--mountains, rushing rivers, waterfalls. Often our hiking meals are (generic) Triscuit crackers, cheese, summer sausage, dried fruit, and cookies--easy to pack and you don't have to worry about food spoilage. We recently returned from a trip to WV and unfortunately the weather and/or gnats made it unpleasant to eat outside, so lunch was often in our truck after a hike. Still pretty, just not quite as dramatic of a background.

    1. Hi Kris,
      those are some great tips for sandy beach picnics.
      That's too bad that both weather and bugs curtailed picnicking while on your recent vacation. But car picnics can have their own sense of fun. We've done plenty of those. In winter, when the weather is dreary but not freezing, we sometimes bring lunch in the car to park at an overlook for the Puget Sound and just enjoy the view through the windshield while eating lunch, dinner, or a snack.

  4. I'm late to the discussion, as usual, though I read about your day out with happiness, as you posted it, Lili. Sounded like a really lovely outing, without compromising your health or your finances. Wonderful!
    As some of the other ladies mentioned, I like the idea of shopping the antique malls with a couple of things in mind. We have a fabulous one here, and had a couple of good ones where we lived before; and I find it fun to peruse around sometimes, though I'm not much of a buyer. But if I have some cash and feel I might want to buy, I do try to think ahead about what would be useful for us or for a gift. And when I see something, I usually leave it where it is, and take another turn around the mall to think if I really, really want it, or not. Usually I don't (I'm very cheap LOL!), but when I do, I do really enjoy picking up some pretty or useful new-to-me thing. And I'd rather pay for an older, used, nice thing than some imported junky thing at a store.
    And picnics? Hooray for picnics! We love them -- in the car, on the trail, wherever! I chuckled at Kris' hiking lunch menu... just like our family's trail lunching, from the time I was tiny. As you know, I have a very strict diet now, which eliminates some of the "fun" foods; but on the other hand, because I can't just pick up fast food or eat out of the truck stop or C-store hot deli, I've had to learn how to pack lunch, not for a picnic necessarily, but just to get through long shopping trips to the city, visiting family over mealtimes, etc. The upside of that is that I'm ready for a picnic pretty much anytime I leave the house!!! LOL
    Loved the sound of your riverside city park. We have some favorites like that in the three-state area we spend the most time in. Seems like a LOT of little towns have a picnic table in the shade somewhere, and in any reasonable weather it's nice to get into the fresh air out of the car. There's a lovely one by a river and an old bridge about 45 minutes from here, which is also in a town with a little fish-and-chips joint, one junk food I do occasionally treat myself with successfully. One day we watched a guy playing fetch with his dog in the water for an hour. Other times we've watched bald eagles. Another nice place to eat in this area is at fishing access points. They're free to use, a lot have picnic tables, and almost all of them also have pit toilets (another key to a leisurely picnic experience, like the absence of insects, or too much heat/cold). They're usually lightly-used, because there are a lot of them, and because they're near the water, they have interesting scenic/flora/fauna advantages. But we've even had very pleasant picnics at roadside rest areas, since most people only use the loos, don't sit in the shade, and you really have the picnic area to yourself a lot of times! St. George, Utah, in 103 degree heat, was even lovely, in the shade on the grass with sandwiches, cold water, and some slices of that lemon cake recipe that has the lemon simple syrup drizzled over it. We've just noticed with rest areas, the farther from town, the more likely they are to be clean and safe. Near-town rest areas... not always places you want to picnic! (i. e., South St. Louis on the Illinois side of the Mississippi on the 50, maybe? Gorgeous huge park rest area. Scarier than heck! Peter Skene Ogden Bridge state viewpoint, Redmond, Oregon, delightful -- but leash your dog, there's a deep gorge. )
    Hope everyone's enjoying the summer. Sara

    1. Hi Sara,
      When I chose something from the vintage stores, it is always something useful for me. I like old kitchen tools, especially. This last time, I eyed some nice and practical aprons. I'd really like to see aprons make a comeback. They do save your clothes from cooking splatters. On vacation about 10 years ago, we went into a second hand store and I bought a used apple mill as a souvenir. It's a nice reminder of our vacation and very practical, gets used every year.

      Mmm, lemon cake with a lemon syrup sounds delicious right now!
      Thanks for your comments and tips on rest stops. Good to know!


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