To be honest, this week’s “theme” had me stumped. 

On one hand, Memorial Day is the last and most solemn solemnity before the wide, warm stretch of summer.  Memorial Day is a day when graves are tended everywhere, when you can see tiny red, white, and blue flags waving afresh to signify those that gave their lives in service.  And then, on the other hand, Memorial Day is a marker of school soon ending and the beginning of warm summer days spent with friends and family.  So which emotion do we choose on this Monday, May 27th: brooding reflection or easy, sunlit festivity?

I wasn’t sure so, naturally, I Google-searched “Memorial Day” and filtered to “News.”  I landed on an article by the New York Times called “This Memorial Day” :

  • “It has always seemed fitting to mark the purpose of [Memorial Day]—honoring those who have died in our country’s service—at the exuberant end of May […] nature is doing all it can to comfort.  Life, it seems to be saying, continues on from summer to summer.  There are memories and sadness, but also a verdancy that makes us celebrate what we have.”

I don’t expect everyone to agree with this but this reasoning sits well with me.  Think about it: Memorial Day probably wasn’t created to reduce everyone to a state of grief and anger.  But then again, the day was given the name “Memorial Day” for good reason. 

Every one of us has grieved for one reason or many.  Others giving up their lives for the betterment of our own lives is an age-old theme, beginning with God’s universal sacrifice on the cross.  And yet…here we are, in the preamble before summer and all of its warmth and related cheer.  So, while Memorial Day can be a sad reminder of memories past, it can also be an exuberant reminder of things to come.  Let the green grass and budding flowers say it in unison with you: We are here!  We’re alive! 

So, my suggestion?  Pack a picnic and go outside!  Take this holiday to both memorialize those you miss and create fresh memories with those still in your life.

Picnic picks via Life + Health:

Mix up your picnic plate with piles of unique salads, tempered by a dessert or two.

Mixed Rice, Almond, and Sun-Dried Tomato Salad: Nutty wild and brown rice combines with juicy bursts of sun-dried tomato, creamy avocado, and crunchy celery and almond bits.

Black Bean, Corn & Quinoa Salad: Although quinoa is often used as a replacement for rice with stews or stir fries, it’s sometimes best served cold, as the base for a filling, grain-based salad like this one.  Quinoa pairs beautifully with other Peruvian staples like corn and black beans, turning this dish into a plate of food that is as pretty and colorful as it is delicious.  It’s a salad that keeps well in the fridge for at least a few days.

Tabbouleh: It’s a foolproof, classic Arabic dish that really only requires you to cook the grain, chop the vegetables, pour on the liquids, and mix.  Like many other staple dishes, this one can be mixed up and adapted to your preferences.  Consider using quinoa or couscous instead of bulgur, or add in chopped cucumbers or sun-dried tomatoes for a different flavor profile.

Creamy Pasta Salad: Sometimes, you just need things to be easy.  You need lunch or dinner to not take a half hour or more to prepare, and you want to make it early in the day so that it’s ready when you are.  This pasta salad is for just such a day.  (It doesn’t hurt that it’s cheerfully bright and perfect for eating outside in the sun.)  This perfect pasta salad really only takes as long to make as your pasta takes to cook.


Broccoli with Roasted Peppers & Olives: Broccoli is native to the Mediterranean and Asia Minor, so it only seems right to pair it with Mediterranean flavors, like softened peppers, acidic olives, and kicky lemon.  Green, red, purple, and yellow—it’s a beautiful plate of bright and complex flavors.  


AB&J Cookies (Almond Butter & Jam Cookies): Disclaimer: your children will love this recipe.  Any recipe that instructs them to jam their thumbs into cookie dough and fill it with jam is an A+ in their books.  It’s a cookie that will win your heart, too.  Raspberries and almonds are a winning combination and this recipe in particular highlights the flavors beautifully—lightly sweet, with a buttery almond flavor and pop of sweet raspberry goodness.  If you and your children are fans of PB&J, you’ll love this cookie.


Lemon Cornmeal Cookies
: If you’re looking for a dessert other than chocolate-caramel-coconut-etc., the only thing that should come to mind is a lightly sweet, subtly tart lemon cornmeal cookie with the tiny crunch of granulated sugar on top.  It’s a perfect cookie to eat with a cup of tea in the wintertime.  But then again, it’s a perfect cookie to pack on a hot day spent at the beach.  Maybe it’s just a perfect cookie.

More picnic eats from around the web:

via The Kitchn, Summer Barley Salad: “Our recipe says to put it into soups but a barley salad is a delicious way to use it during the hot summer months. Think of it as a nice, wheat-free alternative to a pasta salad!”

via Oh She Glows, Long Weekend Grilled Salad: “Light, fresh, filling, and easy to throw together for any long weekend gathering. The fresh corn lends a light sweetness to the zesty lime dressing. A generous dusting of salt and pepper before serving really makes everything come together. You can also make this the day before and let the flavours develop overnight in the fridge. Just throw it into a container and you’re good to go!”

via Post Punk Kitchen, Creamy Avocado Potato Salad: “Potato salad with a silky, creamy guac instead of mayo? Seriously. This is a favorite from vegan brunch, and I wanted to put it up for you just in case you’re looking for something a little different for your BBQ this Memorial Day. It’s ridiculously simple to make and beyond delicious.”

via Cook Republic, Simple Onion and Focaccia Bread: “An interesting little fact that not a lot of people know is the importance of rosemary and Anzac Day in Australia. After the battle of Gallipoli, there were no flowers in the sparse terrain surrounding the graves. The only greenery around was rosemary bushes and so that was used to adorn the graves. As a remembrance of that time, sprigs of rosemary are worn on Anzac Day.”

via My New Roots, Peachy Keen Raw Cobbler: “Today, the peaches wanted to be eaten raw, but I was also looking for a “comforting” way of serving them. Seeing as I am in the great U.S.of A. I thought a cobbler was in order – nothing says America more to me than cobbler (except maybe chicken fried steak). A cobbler is traditionally baked, but to highlight the ridiculous juicy-goodness that the peaches possess, I figured out a way to keep all the ingredients out of the oven. Success.”

via Food52, Lemonade Ice Cubes: A few weeks ago, we went to the wedding of some good friends out on Long Island. Despite a few drops of rain during the ceremony, everything came off without a hitch, [and] bobbing [in my drink] were ice cubes that had berries embedded in them, almost like beautiful, rainbow-bright fossils in amber.”

— Have a wonderful long weekend!


About the Author

Sarah Jung

Sarah Jung is the associate director of Life and Health Network, but wears a plethora of hats as editor, communications director, and sometimes photographer. Unrelated to Life and Health, Sarah is the country director and founding member of Oon Jai Foundation, a non-profit organization that seeks to empower people living in developing countries through friendship and working, learning, and mentoring side-by-side with the locals. In her spare time, Sarah likes to read, write, and find mountains to climb.

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