Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A New Picnic Recipe

How do you define a "perfect picnic?" For me, it is the coming together of four factors: ideal weather (not too hot, not too cold, not too windy,) good company, and delicious food. Add either a stimulating activity to enjoy before or after the meal, or pleasant surroundings in which to relax while enjoying good conversation.

Such was my spring picnic on March 20th. Although it was cool and overcast earlier in the day, by the time I picked up my friends at 4:00, it was sunny and warm. Yes, weather in Florida, like Connecticut, can change in a minute.

We "cruised" over to Bayfront Park in Sarasota, situated on an island peninsula, surrounded by the Sarasota skyline, John Ringling Causeway, and the blue waters of Sarasota Bay. Within the park are two restaurants, a playground, fountains, walking paths, and of course, picnic tables. We found our ideal table near the water, highlighted by the late afternoon sun.

The picnic basket was overflowing: fried chicken, stuffed shells, caramel beans, tossed green salad, and finger desserts. One of my contributions was a new bean dish from a neighbor's 92 year-old cousin who lives in Venice. Thanks to Florence and Carl for permission to share this recipe with my readers. And, for another great picnic recipe, see http://www.cruisingconnecticut.com/. Click What's in our Picnic Basket?

Margo's Caramel Beans
1 pound lima beans
1/2 pound butter
1-1/2 cups brown sugar

Soak lima beans overnight in water. Pour off water. In pot, put lima beans and cover with about 2" of water. Cook until tender (45 minutes to 1 hour.) Pour off most of the water.

Add butter and brown sugar, salt and pepper to taste. (You can also add 1/2 tsp dry mustard, bacon bits, maple syrup, or more sugar.)

Bake, uncovered at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Time may vary depending on how much liquid there is. Beans should be moist but not runny.

May all your picnics be perfect! Click Comments and tell me about your favorites.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

What do you do when it Rains on Your Parade?

Or, rather, what do you do when the weather does not cooperate for your outdoor picnic? The answer: If it's overcast or only a light intermittent rain is threatened, think about changing your destination to one that has picnic shelters, such as Devil's Hopyard State Park, Gillete Castle, Roseland Cottage, or one of the wineries, all described in my book. (http://www.cruisingconnecticut.com/)

What if the weather keeps you indoors? In Connecticut, there were many times when the weather did a 90-degree turn in the time it took me to toss the salad prior to packing it in the cooler. When this happened, we usually just ate your picnic at the diningt room table like any other meal.

But, the most fun was when I continued to pack up the goodies, declaring we would still have our picnic and to follow me. In the living room, I spread my colorful picnic cloth on the floor, inviting everyone to take a seat around the perimeter, and proceeded to unpack the basket. By the time this ritual was finished, everyone was back in the mood for a picnic, especially since I tended to make everyone's favorite dishes. (Doesn't everyone do this for a picnic?) We played word games while we ate and soon forgot all about the weather outside. Children especially love the spontaneity and absurdity of a picnic on the living room floor.

One good thing about a home picjnic, if you forget to pack the condiments, or heaven forbid, the corkscrew (the thing I forgot most often until I bought a spare one to keep in the picnic basket) ~ they are just a few steps away.

I'll let you know if the weather cooperates for my first-day-of-spring picnic here in Florida. (Yesterday, the high winds prevented most outdoor activities.) Wherever you are, Happy Spring! At the first sign of pleasant weather, enjoy an outdoor picnic.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Greetings from Sunny Florida!

I decided to finish the last of my edits for Cruising Connecticut's 2nd Edition while vacationing in Florida. The fact that I could be outdoors during the winter months and picnic has inspired me.

Picnicking at beaches and parks is universal of course, but I found distinct differences between my home state of Connecticut and my vacation state of Florida. For example, at the Stamford Museum & Nature Center, I talk about fending off the ducks looking for a free handout; at Lido Park in Sarasota, it is the seagulls, and the squirrels, and even raccoons, whose normal nocturnal nature has been turned upside down from being fed by visitors. And, instead of the shells and stones I collect at Hammonasset Beach State Park, at Casperson Beach in Venice, I join the folks who are collecting shark's teeth.

Whatever the setting, an ideal picnic is still the same: delicious food eaten outdoors, preferably combined with good company and a fun activity. And, although I may have had a head state on the picnic season, everyone will soon be able to catch up. March 20th is the first day of spring; with its promise for new growth and new beginnings, more relaxing times and outdoor fun, it's the perfect time to dust off your picnic basket and get ready for picnicking in Connecticut.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Cruising Connecticut's 2nd Edition

Welcome to my new Blog!

Readers reply on the information in travel books to be as current and accurate as possible, so I recently grabbed my picnic basket to revisit my favorite places. The result ~ the Second Edition of Cruising Connecticut with a Picnic Basket will be launched on April 10.

As I cruised around the state updating the information in my current chapters, I experienced the same sense of adventure that prompted me to write the First Edition, and somewhere along the way I made the decision to add two new day trips and picnics, each accompanied by an exciting picnic recipe contributed by a Connecticut celebrity.

Also new on my website is a slide show of over 100 photos that I took at locations in Cruising Connecticut (http://www.cruisingconnecticut.com/) plus a new page for updated information to destinations as I learn about them.

I am happy to have this new venue to share day tripping, picnicking, and recipe ideas with my readers on a regular basis. Until next time, remember that Spring is right around the corner which means spending more time outdoors. Yea!