Lake of the Woods, Mahomet, Illinois

Planning a Family Picnic

Ballparks are filling up with popcorn and hotdog eating fans, excited kiddos are embarking on a couple months of freedom and adventure, and overflowing waffles cones are in high demand. Summer signs are starting to show all around us. The next week or so we’re looking at highs of 73-82 degrees, we’re in that limbo time before it becomes straight up hot. If you can escape the thunderstorms -and actually even small scale tornados- that have run through our area lately, this is a perfect time to get outside.

One activity that we have started to do a lot more as a family is taking picnics. They can be as low-maintenance or as high-maintenance as you’d like. We took our first one of this season a couple weeks ago over at Homer Lake; fruit, sammies, some water and tea, a muddy hike, and workout clothes. We took another one earlier this week at Lake of the Woods and stepped it up a notch.

We’ve not had professional family pictures taken in years. Actually, the last time we booked a session that included pictures with both Ben and I, Jack was in my tummy. Outside of that, we’ve had newborn pictures taken of Chase -everything else we’ve done on our own…baby Chase is starting kindergarten this fall (slow sob inside!). My little boys soon won’t be so little anymore. It was time. Time to mix a few professional photos in with all our homemade goodies that document this beautiful season in life. Hell yes, it is chaotic and extremely frustrating at times too, but every bit worth it. I’m almost positive that my kids were talking about poop and butt cheeks in the picture below, thank goodness our photographer, Peyton (owner of Peyton Marie Photography), also has 2 boys about the same age (and another baby on the way!). She was completely able to relate.

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So yes, we’re a little more dressed up for this picnic in comparison to our ordinary ones, but I love that Peyton was able to capture moments of us doing something that we’d normally do on any given weekend, sans the yoga pants and muddy clothes -all the sweat, still there.

So whether you are getting professional photos done for an early evening picnic, rolling out a of bed for a brunch picnic in your backyard, or on a whim driving over to the nearest forest preserve for an afternoon of being outdoorsy, there are a few things to consider.

Location

Where to go, where to go? Let’s think.

Literally, your options are endless here.

You can get creative here. Do you want to be by a lot of people? Or would you rather it be more secluded? Do you want it to be within walking distance? Or are you okay driving a bit to get there? Some other considerations: sunscreen, bug spray, blankets, and a small, wireless bluetooth speaker.

Storage

What are you going to put your food and drinks in? This partially depends on what exactly you are going to bring and then how long you plan to be gone. Earlier this week we knew we only had a short drive, would then be eating right away, and would then be coming home short after, hence this little storage bin that I picked up worked just fine. It also doubles as home décor, if you are gonna use something cute -find something that can serve multiple purposes.

Assuming that you are going to be bringing cold drinks of some sort, ditch the cute container if you are going to be gone for awhile. Opt for your favorite choice of cooler with some ice and/or ice packs. Maybe you aren’t going to have anything cold and this is a mute subject.

Food

For us, we typically have food that we want to keep cold if we are going to be out and about for an extended period of time. I think you noticed the watermelon already…

The fruit usually doesn’t stop there for us, lots of berries too, cheers!

We’ve got fruit lovers in this house so our picnics usually have at least two of the following: watermelon, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, apples, grapes, and/or cuties. My kids will also eat entire peppers so often we will chop a couple of those up too. Another good veggie option is carrots or even packing up a fresh salad. We keep the main course pretty simple and will usually do sammies. PB & Js minus the Js earlier this week and turkey and cheese a few weeks ago; just mix it up a bit to give ya something to look forward to. Maybe throw a small bag of chips in there too. We often will pop a bag of popcorn and then put it into small baggies to bring along. Grandpa Chris loves popcorn and that has been passed down. Believe it or not, I had the kids try pistachios this week because 1) I love pistachios and 2) I thought watching them try to open one up would be entertaining.

It was :-).

Lastly, don’t forgot dessert -unless you are one of those magical humans who does not crave it. Almost always, we do cookies of some sort. It could even be something as small as a piece of mini milk/dark chocolate too. We’ve done the chocolate covered Chewy bars a lot too. *Keep in mind, these melt easily, I’m raising my hand from personal experience -lots of times!

We might have spoiled them a bit this time with some Watermelon Sour Patch Kids too…and maybe even used these bribes.

Drinks

I know, are you wondering why in the heck my kid is drinking Sparkling ICE? Me too. These were supposed to be for Ben and I and the Kool-Aid Lemonade for them. Nevertheless, Jack insisted he try it. “Hot,” he said, and then continued to want to drink the rest of his “soda pop” the remainder of the night.

Fine I suppose? Anyhow, bring something along to hydrate ya. Water is an obvious smart choice. Gatorade, La Croix, tea, juice boxes…or maybe you have a favorite poison -grab a bottle of that wine!

Pretty sure (aka I KNOW) that guy in white could have used his favorite brewski about this point… he is a total fan of taking multiple pictures, huge fan. You played well babe.

Activities

By no means are activities a must, maybe you just want to relax, even take a nap -go for it! In our case, ain’t no naps gonna happen on a picnic. I think the reason we often go to forest preserves or state parks is because of the hiking trails -they are just something built in to do. Maybe you want to canoe, kayak, or go bird watching. There’s always something additional to do at a one of these locations. Some other ideas to consider:

Ultimately, none of these ideas might even be for you, maybe you don’t even like to go outside?! But maybe, just maybe, this gave you an idea for something else that you can do as we transition into these summer months. Or maybe, just maybe this convinced you to book Petyon for a family lifestyle session or share her name with friends. Whatever it might be, I hope you took an idea away from this post. With that, it is time for me wrap this up -I just heard Chase tell Jack “I’ve had enough of your stinkerness, shut that door!” and I’m going to lose my mind if I have to tell them one more time to not interrupt while I try to finish this. What I’m trying to say is -we don’t always look and feel as happy as we do in all of the above pictures- but the moments of “stinkerness” are far outweighed by all the good. Okay, I’m going to go discipline now, wish me luck :-).

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