Mountaintop Picnic

My short summer bucket list included "picnic on mountaintops". Picnics are always fun, but if you can picnic with a view, they become a mini-vacation -- a sort of removing oneself from the world for a bit -- but with tasty food! One lazy, Sunday afternoon a couple of weeks ago, we packed a picnic and headed to our mountaintop destination, nearly 3,000-ft. above sea level, to the summit of Mount Sunapee, New Hampshire. I had been to the top before (click here) and was excited to show Dave and Julia this unique destination where we could picnic with a view.

Mount Sunapee, which is indeed a mountain, is also a ski resort which offers summer lift rides to the top. To be perfectly honest, heights and chair lifts are not my thing, but I knew the view from the top was worth it. And after some pleading to please lower the safety bar and some admonishments to not rock the thing, I settled in and enjoyed the ride. We could feel the temperature getting cooler as we ascended and the fresh mountain breezes rushed refreshingly over us. Negotiating the on and off of a chair lift with a large picnic basket and a smallish (but heavy) cooler was not as difficult as expected, and before we knew it we were on the top of the mountain with the world before us. What a view!

For once, I think I finally hit on the ideal sort of picnic fare -- simple, delicious, and not too much work. This meant that most of it was purchased from the market, some was foraged from our refrigerator, and an effort was made for dessert.

From the market: rotisserie chicken (sliced), salami, crackers, Brie, Fontina, crusty bread, really good butter, strawberries, plums, French soda.

From our refrigerator: homemade dill pickles (click here), leftover tomato-mozzarella salad.

Dessert: chocolate ganache tarts

We sat there, munching away, having almost the entire mountaintop to ourselves. Julia, at one point, asked, "Is this when bears smell our food and come eat us?" Happy to report that didn't happen! We brought binoculars and playing cards, but amusements paled compared to the simple enjoyment of the view. Occasionally, another group of people would wander close for a good view of the lakes and forests beyond. We'd chat for a few moments. I'd offer them some food. They'd decline and move on. They didn't know what they were missing! The view was great, but the view + picnic was sublime!

By far, my favorite memory of our mountaintop picnic was the several times Dave threw his arms wide to the breeze, smiled, shook his head, and said, "Ahhh...I LOVE this!" I think another trip here in the autumn just might be a good idea!

View on the way down.

Useful Links:

Mount Sunapee  - for year-round fun!

Metal Cooler - This is our absolute favorite cooler! It will pack food for four people tightly, or for two with ample room. All the food you see here that needed to be refrigerated was packed in it (plus room for ice). I'm also quite fond of giving it as a wedding gift!

Grandkids' Camp Ideas: A Useful Guide

Hosting all the grandkids for "camp" at grandma and grandpa's house is a bond-building, family strengthening, and fun-filled (albeit, exhausting) endeavor that will create some awesome summer memories for everyone! It's a great opportunity to harken back to the pre-digital age and fill the grandkids' days with the sort of active, creative, and communal fun we had as kids. But how should you plan "camp" so that it will strike that balance between lazy summer days and busy enough to be fun and memorable? Recently, we hosted all four of our grandkids, ages 4, 5, 6, and 8, for five days of Grandkids' Camp and here are some ideas that should be helpful, if you're thinking of planning a camp of your own.

1. Have a mental game plan. Before they arrive, have a mental (or written) list of a handful of activities and/or excursions to do each day of camp. These are your ideas that will generate the most excitement among the grandkids. For us, these were: a nature program with live animals, a musical production of "Peter Pan", storytime at the library, a movie, and going out for ice cream. If your grandkids are older, they might enjoy: a day at the beach, a hike, a visit to a museum, canoeing, etc. Check your local library, recreation department, and children's theaters for their scheduled programs and see if any of those events will be happening during your "camp" dates.

2. Post the plan. Every day, after breakfast, I would write out "Today's Plan" and hang it up for everyone to see. The grandkids gathered round with great excitement for this each day...eager to know what fun the day would hold! And while having a detailed plan may seem like overkill, it really does help! It keeps anyone from getting bored, because activities change about every 30-60 minutes. And it does seem to accelerate the day for the grandparents, which is helpful when you're no longer used to the daily demands of little ones.

And don't forget to assign chores and switch them up daily. Assigning chores is essential in my book, because nobody needs a free ride, even at Grandpa and Grandma's house, and idle hands get into trouble, and we don't want discipline issues, because this is Grandkids' Camp and it ought to be FUN! So, assign those chores! It's good for them! "Dog feeder" was the coveted chore at our Grandkids' Camp. With older kids, some ideas might be: KP duty, lawn mowing, food prep, some odd jobs around the house you can work on together, etc.

3. Balance is everything. Not everything you plan to do will appeal equally to all kids or to the full age range of grandkids, so try to strike a balance of activities. A full-day of outdoors and competitive games may take all the fun out of Grandkids' Camp for the snuggly introvert, just as a day of book reading and art may make some others quite antsy. When thinking up ideas, I tried to have a nice blend of indoors and outdoors, quiet and loud, individual and all-together. And everyone had a 30-minutes quiet time in the afternoon...mostly because I needed it, and you will too!

For indoors, we: played games, worked puzzles, watched a DVD, had art time, had free play time, did chores, read, etc.

For outdoors, we: walked the dog, colored with chalk, explored the garden, ran through the sprinklers, and more.

4. Keep food simple. Think like a summer-loving kid when meal planning. Think of those great, summer food memories of your childhood...and plan to eat your way through those memories: blueberries, watermelon, hot dogs, pizza, popsicles, chicken fingers, applesauce, and ice cream.

5. Bedtime routines. It's helpful to know their bed time hour and their bedtime routine (baths, books, drinks, lights off, door open or closed) before they arrive. That being said, we could never get them to bed on time. But it's Grandkids' Camp, so staying up past bedtime seems like part of the fun, right? We have found that being firm on staying in bed is important, especially on the first night, because it will set the stage for the rest of the nights. And don't forget that a generous dose of outdoor time each day helps to tire everyone out for a good night's sleep.

By the end of "Grandkids' Camp" at Grandma and Grandpa's house, they should have that good sort of tired -- that "I've run in the sprinklers and chased the sun and eaten watermelon and climbed trees and following the dog all day" sort of tired. And you'll be tired too. You'll have that "I've chased kids for days and I'm not as young as I used to be and their smiles and hugs make my heart melt and I think this was important for us all" sort of tired. And it was.

Useful links:

We loved playing Dog Bingo, which was perfect for kids in the 4 to 8 age range and taught me several dog breeds too! Available here.

The best puzzles EVER for bringing the whole family, of diverse ages, together are Family Hour puzzles, which include pieces in three different sizes: small, medium, and large. The eight-year old could work the smallest pieces, the five-year old worked the medium, and the four-year old worked the largest. Zoom in on the puzzle photo above to see it all coming together in one puzzle. Link here to the one we worked.
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