You're 3 Steps Away from the Perfect Picnic

originally published by Jessica Lemmon for Harlequin here

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Where I live, we’re in the throes of summer. Both the heat and humidity are at all-time highs, which means many of my “date nights” are spent on the boat or floating around in the lake. A restaurant or movie theater is always an option, but for a perfect summer date I recommend packing a picnic.

My version of a picnic date doesn’t involve hours in the kitchen prepping or hauling the grill to the picnic spot. This picnic is 100% portable and served cold, which is ideal for combatting summer heat, and can easily be enjoyed at two in the afternoon on a Saturday or Tuesday evening while stargazing. Whatever says romance to you and your SO is the perfect time for this picnic.

The necessities:

STEP 1: Procure a “basket”

The hubs and I forgo a traditional picnic basket and choose either a cooler or a picnic tote I bought for just such an occasion.

STEP 2: Gather flatware, bowls, plates & napkins

Plastic, paper or the real thing—it’s totally up to you! While you can choose anything you like, here’s what I usually pack.

  • A selection of cheeses. One hard, one soft—brie and cheddar, for example. I love smoked Gouda and Havarti, too.

  • Grapes, sliced apples, blueberries or strawberries. Vanilla yogurt makes a great topping.

  • I always pack store-bought hummus, but you could opt instead for chicken salad, spinach and artichoke dip, or even bean dip.

  • Bread, crackers, chips or cucumber rounds, carrot sticks and red pepper slices are the perfect accompaniment to dip.

  • Sparkling water or sparkling wine—the option is yours! Just don’t forget the stemware! This is a romantic date, after all.

STEP 3: Find a venue

Whether you’re attending an outdoor concert, boarding a boat, spreading out a quilt on your living room rug or in your backyard, it doesn’t matter where you enjoy your romantic date night, only that you enjoy it together.

Now it’s your turn! Tell me…what’s your favorite picnic food?

5 Ways to Keep a Cold at Bay

Now that weather is cooling down and your body is working harder to stay warm, you might find yourself battling a cold. When you feel the "ick" descending here are 5 fast fixes to put you on the road to feeling better.

(1) Calm down

Stress is a killer, and if you've been working on a project at work or chasing around little ones who won't let you have a break, it's time to take three. Three deep breaths that is. While you inhale, say to yourself "INHALE" and while you exhale, say to yourself "EXHALE." Be in the moment for those three deep breaths and notice what's going on in your body. Are you jittery from too much adrenaline or caffeine? Are you feeling thirsty? Hungry? Is your head buzzing and/or focus is difficult? Assess where you are right now (without judgement), then...

(2) Drink fresh lemon water

Vitamin C is your friend, and so is alkalizing that acidic bloodstream of yours. Slice a fresh lemon in half and squeeze it into 8-10 oz. of water and drink up. Lemon water cleanses out yucky toxins from your innards, too, especially if you drink it upon waking. Make it your new morning habit, and if you can't quite handle half a lemon's juice, start with a wedge and work your way up.

(3) Scrap the sugar

Cache the candy bar, pour out the soda pop, and avoid alcohol. While you're on prevention detail, give your body a break from simple sugars that can put you over the edge.

(4) Eat a vegetable

Or three. Nom on carrot sticks, celery, cucumbers, or even a fresh salad. (Easy on that sugary salad dressing!) Make sure you're fueling your body with healthy foods that will give your immune system a vibrant boost.

(5) Rest

Be honest with me... are you getting enough sleep? In order for your body to fight off the crud that's creeping into your life, rest up! If eight hours of sleep at night sounds like a far-off fantasy, it's time to reevaluate your nighttime activities. Shut down the screens (TV, cell phone, iPad) and vow to get ready for sleeping 30 minutes before you usually do. Bench the caffeine early in the day (or stick to a low-caff option like green tea) so that your slumber is restful. If you can't catnap during the day, take 15 to close your eyes and do this simple meditation as you count to ten: Inhale (silently say one), exhale (silently say two), Inhale (silently say three) and so on until you get to ten. Once you've counted to ten, start over at one and breathe/count to ten again. Lose your place? Start at the number one no matter what breath you're on.

Keep up these healthy habits not only when you suffer the first sniffle or feel a tickle in your throat, but every day as part of a strong self-care/wellness practice. They're simple, cheap, and pack a punch when building an already depressed immune system. Plus, they'll make you feel mentally strong and remind you to stress less.

Stay well!