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Simply . . . Entertaining: Turn Mother's Day into a picnic with simple foods, no cleanup

Thursday, May 03, 2001

By Mary Miller

Although I often shun holidays that feel as if they were invented by greeting card and flower companies, I do have a fondness for Mother's Day.

This is probably because I, as a mother myself, am a direct beneficiary of the marketing frenzy. I'm always willing to accept flowers, candy and most other gifts. Home appliances and cleaning aids such as vacuum cleaners, freezers (sorry, dear hubby, I had to include that one), and mops and brooms are no-nos in my book.

For me, the best Mother's Day gifts have been those that little hands have made. The homemade cards, the clay handprints, the finger-painted drawings.


Mary Miller is a Fox Chapel-based registered dietitian and food writer. For questions or comments, she can be reached at marymar333@home.com.


As the hands grow, the gifts change. A thoughtful gesture, such as washing the car or cleaning up around the house, has replaced the sweet homemade items as the best surprises.

According to the book "In The Royal Manner" by Paul Burrell, Mother's Day began in May 1907 when a Philadelphia woman wanted to memorialize her late mother. By the Second World War, the GIs who were overseas and homesick for Mom had turned the day into an international holiday, although some countries celebrate at a different time of year.

If you're planning a Mother's Day celebration, my advice is to avoid planning something that ends up in a major cleanup by the one you're supposed to be celebrating -- good ol' Mom. If you have done the breakfast-in-bed treat only to leave behind a kitchen filled with dirty dishes -- shame on you.

Brunch or dinner out is great, but we've all done it lots of times. Why not try something a little different this year? A picnic. Just at the time when we realize that spring is actually here, it does all of the family good to get outside for some fresh air even if we have to wear sweaters.

Pack a basket filled with goodies that all will enjoy -- sandwiches, chocolate chip cookies and fruit. Head for a nearby park.

No need to make anything from scratch, just buy good-quality foods from the grocery store. Allow the children to make the menu choices, with a little direction from an adult. Kids often know Mom's favorite foods, so use their suggestions to pack the basket. Does she like Italian salami, French pate or salted cashews?

Unfold a soft blanket and set out the food -- using disposable plates and cutlery so there will be no cleanup for Mom afterwards. A few hours away from the television and the phone are an additional bonus for everyone.

Have fun with games that are often considered just for children: Fly a kite, do tricks with yo-yos, play jacks or blow bubbles.

And while you're at it, why not purchase a picnic basket as part of the gift? Fill it with utensils, dinnerware, glassware and napkins. Plastic or silver, Styrofoam or china, plastic or crystal, paper or cloth -- the style is up to you. Decorate the basket with some flowers -- real or artificial -- and you have the perfect Mother's Day gift.

These treats would certainly be included in the picnic basket I would arrange for my own mother. We both love them. A bit of chocolate and a lot of sweet and tangy apricot flavor. A fabulous and easy way to end any meal.

Chocolate Dipped Apricots

16 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
24 glazed apricots

Line a cookie sheet with wax paper. Lightly butter or spray with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.

Melt 8 ounces of the chocolate in the top of a double boiler. When the chocolate has melted completely, remove from heat and add the rest of the chocolate, stirring until melted and smooth. Once the chocolate has cooled slightly -- ideally to 88 to 90 degrees -- dip the fruit into the melted chocolate, dipping the fruit three-quarters of the way into the chocolate. Set each piece on the prepared cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining fruit.

Allow to cool until chocolate is hardened, about 4 hours. Peel from wax paper and store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two weeks. Makes 24 pieces.

Adapted from "The Ultimate Candy Book"

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