Saturday, December 27, 2014

A Journey of Discovery

Not much picnicking lately because I have been publishing my newest book: "How I Won the West: A Journey of Discovery" however, I have a picnic planned for early January in Florida.

In the meantime, I would love to hear your feedback.

Official Page: Jan Mann Books

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Big E


The Big E, the largest Fair in the Northeast, takes place in West Springfield, Mass. from September 12 though the 28th.

Visit the Midway for daily parades, attend concerts, go on thrilling rides, shop at Craft Common, and so much more. Check out all the options at And, don't forget to visit my favorite area, The Avenue of the States.

Each of the 6 New England State buildings is a scaled-down version of the original State House, and you'll want to experience all the exhibits and goodies unique to each state. In the Connecticut building, don't miss "Love to Read Connecticut Authors", a book store sponsored by Connecticut Authors and Publishers Association (CAPA.) Every day there will be different Connecticut authors signing books in a variety of genres. As much as we don't want to think about December, it is after all, only three months away, and autographed books make great gifts.

Make sure you go to the Big E on an empty stomach because you will find yourself in the midst of vendors that sell every kind of food imaginable. And, don't forget to check out the food specialties in each of the state buildings. What a picnic!!

Enjoy this once in a year experience!



Tuesday, July 1, 2014

July 1st is the first day of the most popular month for picnicking, especially the July 4th weekend! Why not take advantage of the many destinations in Connecticut for leisure-time activities, and bring along a picnic basket filled with your favorite foods.

One of my favorite places to picnic at this time of year is the pond at Gillette Castle State Park. Surrounded by picnic tables, the pond is covered with pink, white and fuchsia water lilies. If you are lucky, you may even see a frog jumping from one lily pad to another.

Here is a recipe from my book, Cruising Connecticut with a Picnic Basket.

Best Ever Banana Nut Bread

My Aunt Madeline's recipe dates back more than 80 years. If you like your bread sweet and moist, you will agree that this really is the best.

 3/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup sour cream
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup mashed bananas
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup chopped walnuts

*  preheat over to 350 degrees

* Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and sour cream, mixing well. In another bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Add this mix to creamed mixture alternately with the bananas. Stir in vanilla and nuts.

*  Pour into greased and floured 9X5-inch loan pan.

*  Bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and bread breaks away slightly from the edge of pan. Cool in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes; remove from pan and finish cooling on rack.

 Enjoy the recipe and the season!



Saturday, May 31, 2014

Give Yourself The Gift of Time

My 2009 cross-country trip yielded invitations to stay overnight in six different homes with people I met through online networking. After spending days on the road eating from my cooler and in restaurants and sleeping in hostels or budget motels, a home-cooked meal and a comfortable bed were welcome gifts.

What was even more precious was the gift they gave of themselves -- friendship and time, the time spent taking me to see the attractions in their world, a world I had not seen before.

During many of these outings, I would hear something to the effect that they had not been to a particular spot in a long time? And, I would hear my own voice, saying much the same thing when showing visitors around my home State of Connecticut. "This was so much fun, I wonder why I don't do this more often."

Why indeed? Why do we wait to enjoy an outing until we are called upon to be a gracious host? Are we not deserving enough to spend time doing the same thing just for us?

I know people who have lived in Connecticut for more than fifteen years and have yet to visit Mystic, one of the state's best-known tourist attractions. And as many years as I have spent day tripping in Connecticut prior to writing my book, there are still places on my "to see" list.

During this season of sunny days, let's give ourselves the gift of time, time to explore our world, time for the joyful discovery of all the best that your state, wherever that is, has to offer in the way of leisure-time activities. Leaving work and responsibilities behind, even for brief periods, revitalizes us in ways we cannot image. Traveling, even around our own neighborhood expands our world, giving us more clarity and insight, not only into that world, but ourselves.

Time and exploration, a gift we give ourselves.


Friday, April 18, 2014

It Must be Spring!

For me, the one sure sign of spring is the appearance of wildflowers. It was in January of 1986 that I opened a book in a Connecticut library and saw photographs of Garden in the Woods located at the New England Wildflower Society in Framingham, Massachusetts. I was hooked.

That spring I went on my first spring wildflower hunt, visiting over twenty state parks, nature centers and preserves. At the end of those six weeks, I had developed a strong passion for day tripping, so I just kept going, eventually leading to my day tripping, picnicking, and recipe book, Cruising Connecticut with a Picnic Basket.

Last week, when I spotted a notice in the Venice, Florida newspaper announcing a guided wildflower walk at the Curry Creek Preserve, I was thrilled. This one, led by Sarasota County Environmental Specialist Jeff Weber, was an easy hunt. I just enjoyed the beautiful day and environment as Jeff pointed out all the wildflowers on the one and one-half mile trail called the Pinebrook parcel. And birds, On this day, Jeff spotted a swallow-tailed kite, a new species for their bird list, bringing the total number to 103!

Curry Creek Preserve, is an 82 acre preserve purchased by the Sarasota County Natural Resources - Preserve Management in 2002. The native habitat includes a mangrove forest, tidal marshes, and scrub and pine flat woods. Their website also lists wildlife: gopher tortoises, alligators, river otters, eastern indigo snakes, and an assortment of wading birds, such as roseate spoonbill and wood stork. Oh yes, there is a creek, separating the Pinebrook parcel and the Albee Farm parcel, including a canoe and kayak launch located near the preserve's west entrance.

When I got home and deciphered my scribbled notes, I was surprised to count over 20 varieties of wildflowers, including Carolina jessamine, four-petal St. John's Wort, Chapman's Goldenrod, Yellow star-grass, Hoary pea, rose rush, and several clumps of hatpins.

A few looked somewhat familiar to me, but I surmise they are just different varieties in this state. Oh, if only I had thought to bring my wildflower identification book and journal to Florida with me!
For more information on Curry Creek Preserve:
Happy Spring!


Thursday, March 20, 2014

International Day of Happiness March 20th

Two of my Facebook friends, Dennis Schleicher and Margaret Hudson Greenberg posted the  information about this day, which made me look at my calendar and say "Yikes! I meant to blog on this day." That's the problem with getting so engrossed in writing my book, How I Won the West I don't even know what day it is most of the time.

Anyway, I had a happy day today. Worked in the morning, then went to lunch with a friend at The Three Sisters tea room on the island in Venice, which was yummy. Then we walked into a shop that had the most amusing greeting cards, we stood there for 20 minutes laughing out loud and then buying a bunch for people in our life who would appreciate them. Next door there was a small breakfast and lunch restaurant that was new to us, so we wandered in to look at the menu and immediately made plans to bike over next week for breakfast. Finally, my friend spotted an Arthur Murray Studio across the parking lot so we walked over to inquire about their schedule. Guess which one of us ended up signing up for three private lessons for ballroom dancing? Yup, me. Although I have been dancing my entire life, I have had the yearning to learn some more sophisticated and groovy moves for the fox trot and waltz, and some basic moves for the swing which I have not done to any extent, but LOVE!!

Yes, this was a very happy day, and although not every day is eating out and having fun, I usually find something happy about each one. It's just the way I have decided to live life.

Then, there is the other meaning of this "Day of Happiness" and that is thinking of ways to make other people happy. There are so many small ways to touch someone's life which not only makes another person happy but us as well. Wow - simple concept. All we have to do is to put the thought into our consciousness more often. Perhaps I will make a sign to put over my desk. Something like "Who can I make happy today?"

For everyone reading this blog, I sincerely hope this was a happy day for you. And thanks, Dennis and Margaret.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Picnicking in Florida

After what felt like an extra long period of cold temperatures and then steady rain for several days, the balmy weather on Sunday, February 1, 2014 was most welcome for the crowds that attended the 20th Annual Sarasota Highland Games & Celtic Festival. Bagpipes, drums, dancing and athletic events occupied our attention, along with the colorful scarves, kilts, sashes and ties indicative of the Scottish clans represented on this day.

At lunchtime, I was thrilled to find one of the food booths serving Cornish Pasties. Not only were they the best I've ever tasted, but it brought back wonderful memories of years ago when I made them for family dinners, and most often, for picnics. It's an easy and tasty dish of Great Britain and Ireland origin for tin miners who took them down into the mines for lunch because they were easy to carry and eat, plus the filling of ground beef, chopped onions and potatoes kept warm wrapped in pastry.

I hadn't thought about Cornish Pasties for years and in fact, have no idea where my recipe is. But, when I got home yesterday, I went online and typed in Cornish Pasties recipes. Thankfully, a few recipes popped up and I will once again be able to create this tasty delicacy for future picnics.

Whatever part of the Country you are living in, keep this dish in mind. After all, picnicking weather will come along eventually, and you'll be ready with a dish that is sure to please everyone.