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Splendor in the Grass

Let the Knicks mind their own baskets for now. With the weather this good, it's time to find one for yourself and make a date with Mother Nature.

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So you're having your dinner in your tiny, dark, dingy little kitchen again. If you glance out a window or chance to surf over to Channel 1, maybe you'll realize how criminal it is not to be taking advantage of this spring's fine outdoor-dining weather. Now, you could start taking all your meals at the Boathouse, but it's a lot cheaper -- and much more charming -- to fill one of these chic wicker baskets with anything from niçoise salad to Big Macs (don't forget a bottle of wine) and claim a bit of green space for spreading out the goods.

For a full picnic, with salads and cold cuts to share, pick up an old-fashioned basket, equipped with plastic plates, cups, and cutlery. Bed Bath & Beyond's classic, double-handle style ($29.99) is lined in pretty blue gingham and comes with a service for four. For less cumbersome toting, try Macy's slim, suitcase-style picnic case ($37.50) with gingham lining and similar equipment.

Light lunch for two fits nicely in Pier I's simple, natural-wicker basket ($10), which has a compartment for two bottles and a separate bin for food. But for truly easy carrying, invest in a shoulder-strap-fitted fisherman's creel ($24.99) at Capitol Fishing Tackle Company. Designed to hold the catch of the day, these varnished-wicker shoulder bags, contoured to fit hips, are equally handy when stuffed with tuna sandwiches and some Evian.

Crate & Barrel's pretty madras or daisy-print tablecloths double as perfect picnic blankets (in various sizes, from $12.95) that are thick and sturdy, but light enough to carry around. To keep your cloth stable, invest in a set of cherry- or lemon-shaped weights ($5.95 for four) that clip on the edges. This blanket-weight system's also perfect for the beach.

Bed Bath & Beyond, 620 Sixth Ave., at 18th St. (255-3550); Macy's Herald Square (695-4400); Pier 1 Imports, 71 Fifth Ave., at 15th St. (206-1911); Capitol Fishing Tackle Company, 218 W. 23rd St. (929-6132); Crate & Barrel, 650 Madison Ave., at 59th St. (308-0011).

Picks of the Week

Onward Kashiyama's sample sale features top spring and summer picks from ultra-fashionable designers like Helmut Lang, Martine Sitbon, Tocca, Paul Smith, and Alexander McQueen. Most styles are about half off (back stock is up to 80percent off): from $20 for a KorsTee to $500 for a Helmut Lang jacket. Women's sizes 4-10; men's sizes 40-44. 1 E. 27th St. (629-6100); A.E., M.C., V.; Tues.-Fri. 11-6; 5/25-5/27, 6/2-6/4, 6/8-6/11.

cK Calvin Klein, Ungaro, Feraud, and Valentino men's suits are all more than half off at the companies' joint stock sale. Prices are $20-$30 for ties to $25-$60 for dress shirts to $150-$550 for suits. Sizes 38S to 48L. Parsons School of Design, 560 Seventh Ave., at 40th St.; A.E., M.C., V.; Mon.-Thurs. 9-6:30, Fri. till 1; 5/24-5/28.

Susan Lazar's chic, tailored basics and pretty spring dresses are sold at places like Bendel's and Saks. At the sample sale, they're all at least half off: sundresses start at $50, pants and tops at $30. Women's sizes 2-12. 275 W. 39th St., third floor (302-5888); A.E., M.C., V.; Mon.-Thurs. 9-6; 5/24-5/27.

The Bridal Garden always donates proceeds from sales of wedding gowns from Ulla Maija, Nancy Issler, and other top designers to the Sheltering Arms Children's Service. Now most styles are about 75 percent off retail: from $495 to $1,295. Sizes 4-10. 122 E. 29th St. (252-0661); A.E., M.C., V.; Tues.-Sat. by appointment only; 5/24-6/19.

ALWAYS A DEAL
Home, Sweet Home

The recent arrival of Chelsea's Portico outlet is good news for those who can't be bothered to trek out to Jersey for discounted pillowcases. The 3,300-square-foot clearance center of the upmarket home- and bath-accessories chain shaves 30 to 50 percent off prices on discontinued furniture, bath products, home linens, and baby accessories. Current stock includes king-size linen sheet sets ($139.99), iron coffee tables ($720), and gingham crib quilts ($49.99). 233 Tenth Ave., near 23rd St. (807-8807).


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