There are those that live their lives with a great deal of routine, finding that routine is helpful to them to navigate their worlds more more efficiently. There are those that live their lives without a great deal of routine, finding that routine is monotonous, dull, and tedious.
No matter which side of the coin you find yourself, it has been said that “sometimes a break from the routine is the very thing you need.” (author unknown).
So it is with me; I found myself needing a break from all this talk about politics and the pandemic these days. I invited my friend to join me for a mini-break while we stole away for a few hours to the beach. I told her to clear her schedule, and we would eat our lunch at the beach today. Little did she know I was creating the experience in my mind, watching detail after detail flash before my eyes, inside my mind, as we spoke.
I have never had a true beach “picnic”. Each and every time I have eaten lunch at the beach here in Florida, the meal has been a blend of pragmatic and quick. I tend to pack my food in that ubiquitous little red and white cooler with a handle that I have had for many years. Normally, I deliberately choose things that won’t spoil if they get too warm on a hot day at the beach here in the summer. Ice packs on those hot days last only so long after all.
Today would be different. Instead of just sitting on my beach blanket, I wanted to create a beautiful moment in time for our “staycation” at the beach. My friend and I are both longing for the days when travel to far away places with beautiful beach parties and inspiring settings is again a viable option. For now, however, since we can’t change our worlds, we need to change our thinking. What we needed was a “staycation” for the day.
I had seen numerous pictures in the past of instagram-worthy “boho” dinner parties at the beach and had admired all the effort it must have taken to create an experience as beautiful as that. When my friend asked what she could bring to the lunch, I told her nothing at all. She is one of those people who is beautiful both inside and out, always doing something for others. I decided today was a good day to “pay it forward” to her, thinking about all that she has done recently for my family and me while covid knocked at our door, and I respectfully declined her generous and kind offer to bring something to our “staycation celebration”. Within a moment or two, I made up my mind to arrive at the beach approximately an hour before she arrived to set things up. The menu would be good but simple food. I recently purchased a sign that said “Good food. Good Friends. Good Times” and used it as my inspiration. Today would be a good time, but it would be simple. It would be different, but it wouldn’t be so labor intensive or costly, as I wanted to enjoy the day, too. I didn’t want to be too tired from all the preparations as the day gradually unfolded with laughs and good conversation. It all had to start with some sort of table, however, and a comfortable place upon which to sit.
I searched CraigsList for anyone who was giving away free wooden pallets, as I had seen some boho picnics use pallets as a table. Because we are very careful in the pandemic, the table would have to allow for a minimum of six feet for social distancing outside, as neither she or I have had covid yet. Although I love the look of using wooden pallets for beach tables, I quickly dismissed the idea, as it would be difficult for me to carry two wooden pallets on the beach myself. I then considered wooden “orange crates”, which would provide a two purpose approach to simplify things.
The crates would allow me to efficiently carry things onto the beach and once inverted could serve as a table. Two orange crates would suffice, I thought. I purchased them at Michael’s for about ten dollars each. After I set up the crates on my living room floor, they looked small and unimpressive. How could I infuse them with a little life to inspire a break from our routines? Certainly color would play a part. I began to think of all the little things I already had in the house that would dress up the scene unfolding in my mind. I decided I needed a centerpiece that was yellow, my friend’s favorite color. I somehow had to weave more yellow throughout the scene unfolding in my mind, too . I found a turquoise table runner with starfish on it that I had put away in the closet. I also had star fish and plastic coral that played a role in my beach-themed living room at home and a vase of yellow silk flowers. I set those out and decided I needed to create a longer “table” instead of two mini tables for this to work. I began thinking of using 2 x 4 wooden boards to join the two creates together versus a piece of plywood. I decided that neither was the right “look” I was going for in my mind and would be too cumbersome to carry by myself. I finally went back to Michaels and then to Hobby Lobby to find some sort of rustic unfinished wooden piece (maybe a sign) that would join the two crates.
I used my 40 percent off Hobby Lobby coupon for a sign that was almost three feet long to lay across the two tables and decided we would sit upon cushions from my couch.
Next, I went to Lowes to see if they had some sort of bamboo plant stake that I could insert into the sand easily at both ends of the table in order to string some tassel decorations from one end of the table to the other above us as we sat. I found some square six foot stakes with a pointy end for ease of insertion into the sand for about two dollars and fifty cents each and decided I would need four with some twine to lash them together.
Next, I decided I would try the Dollar Tree to get some yellow paper decorations and some plastic tablecloths. I spend four dollars there (two table cloths and two packages of decorations).
The menu would be simple and wouldn’t require much to transport. I thought a sandwich made in a hollowed out bread boule cut into pie-shaped pieces would give me a different look, and I would serve it on a piece of slate that I had previously purchased at World Market. A simple, classic dessert of strawberry shortcake came to mind, but how could I break out from my tried and true strawberry shortcake recipe? I decided I would layer it in a mason jar for easy transport and ease in eating at the beach. This strawberry shortcake layered mini trifle would be attractive to look at as well, and I had been inspired by eating trifle at my mother-in-law’s house this week. The sandwich, biscuits, and strawberries had the advantage that they could be made the night before, and all that I would need to do that morning would be to assemble the dessert after making a fresh batch of sweetened whipped cream. PERFECT! Why serve only one dessert when you can have two, though? I ended up making the strawberry shortcake in a plastic mini shooter glass from the Dollar Tree, as well. I made a peanut butter and oreo shooter, too. Two small desserts would be better than one dessert today. After all, it WAS a celebration.
My friend came onto the beach at the designated time today and was so grateful that I had taken the time to make our day together a little bit more special. Our “staycation” was a hit, and we both enjoyed “whiling away the hours” together and felt refreshed and ready for anything on our separate rides home. The best part was we were able to socially distance from at least six feet away (I used my pink tape measure) by setting up the cushions and tables MORE than six feet apart and didn’t even have to think about the covid distance during the meal, as it was previously set up to those necessary parameters. Total price paid for newly purchased items today: about sixty dollars. Sixty dollars for a new experience. I chuckled to myself at the check out with my purchases. As the television commercial says, “Some things in life are priceless. For everything else, there is Master Card.” A great experience and a little slice of humor to go with it somehow caused me to enjoy the day even more.
Life it good; carpe diem, friends. Try to find something out of the ordinary to do today to have a “staycation celebration” of your own if you can.
“May you live all the days of your life.”