Come rain or shine (or snow, sleet, and gale force winds), my mother would shut all of us children outside for half an hour every day. A monstrous heap of multiple coats, scarves and hats, I would stand by the door window and concentrate all the miserable expression I could muster into the 3 or so visible inches of my face. With two imploring eyes and a thoroughly pink nose, I hoped to extract some kind of sympathy from my mother’s adamantly turned back.
Getting your dose of fresh air is the one thing my mother has always insisted on. Though I couldn’t quite reconcile myself to its benefits as I stood outside the window, with a face lit up and yet wholly un-comforted by the warm glow emanating from the kitchen, I am now as avid a campaigner for fresh air as my mother.
Increasing your exposure to sunlight and oxygen translates to greater energy, mental clarity, reduced depression and stress, better sleep, and can even help ward off a whole host of illnesses, such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and heart disease. So my mother was definitely on to something.
Far from being traumatised, I now need to get out into the fresh air on a daily basis, and strongly feel its absence when cooped up indoors all day. But whilst fresh air is great, aside from breathing what can we actually do to propel us out on a wintry day?
Walking is clearly a perfect way to enjoy that cheek-pinching cold whilst working up bodily warmth. Yet even better, and more exciting when you’re bored of contemplating the same old fences, hedges, and impossibly slow-to-biodegrade banana peel, is to go for a picnic with a friend. Find a new walk deep in the countryside (or park, waters-edge, riverside, or beach), bring a friend, and feast on a picnic that will warm your very soul.
Tip Number 1: Start with a walk.
Plan a nice route, bring your backpack (not forgetting to remind your friend to bring theirs, too), and get your walking shoes on. There’s no better way to preface a picnic than by working up your appetite with a long, crisp walk. It not only gets the tummy rumbling in anticipation, but it gives you and your friend a chance to catch up whilst simultaneously appreciating nature and getting in some exercise. Your cafe catch-ups can’t event pretend to offer such a range of benefits, no matter how soy, skinny, or decaf you make your coffee.
Tip Number 2: Bring the warmth outside.
This will be the magic touch to your winter-warmer picnic, and there are several ways you can do this. Compulsory is a thermos of tea or coffee, but you could also bring a thermos of soup. You could bring mini-hot water bottles. You could bring food that has been recently cooked/heated and wrap it in layers and layers of tin foil with an additional blanket wrapped around that (which has its second use as your picnic blanket): I’ve done this with a rotisserie chicken which worked well. And you could, like we did on this particular picnic, bring a barbecue for your bacon butties or banana splits (or both). More in depth tips on this aspect of your winter picnic can be found on this blog post.
Tip Number 3: Bring a game.
Whether it’s cards, a board game, or magic tricks, a game really makes a picnic that extra bit memorable – as if a winter picnic wasn’t memorable enough! My friend and I have now got into the habit of playing charades (how the hell you act out Jamie Oliver we never discovered). In fact, my friend has a pretty memorable way of explaining “football” which I filmed during my last winter picnic.
Tip Number 4: Scrap the salads – it’s all about the comforting food.
First of all, salads are going to do nothing in terms of warming your cockles. You’ve gone on a long walk, you’ve weathered the cold, and you’ve had a great bout of fresh air – so forget your diet and indulge in the food you love! Bacon butties, banana splits, cookies, cake, steak sandwiches, hot dogs – it’s not everyday you go for a picnic, let alone a winter one. And anyway, it’s only normal to fatten up a little during the colder months…
…that said, if you do have salad a great way to package it for a picnic is in a jar like so.
Tip Number 4: Plan your picnic.
A bit of pre-planning doesn’t go amiss when you’re thinking of indulging in a picnic, because when you reach your idyllic, secluded picnicking spot and realise you’ve forgotten the sandwiches, there really isn’t much you can do about it. For a really handy guide about all the things you need for a picnic, head to my blog post “The 10 essential things you need to help your picnic run smoothly”.
Tip Number 5: Bring some plastic bags.
There’s really nothing worse than going on a beautiful walk and stumbling on the semi-degraded remains of someone else’s picnic, so make sure that you bring some plastic bags for all your peels, packets, and partially eaten bacon butties. Not only that, but you might not want to use your backpack for a while if its been the carrier of your greasy knives and forks, dirty plates, and leaking salad jars.