Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Family Picnic

"Let's Bring Back The Family Picnic" was the title of an article written by John Rosemond last year calling for a "national movement to bring back the picnic." He thought the picnic movement important enough, even if it meant taking kids out of organized after-school sports!

I love the part about the "national movement" to bring back the custom of picnicking, but I don't believe we have to take such drastic steps as giving up sports. What if we simply give more thought to the idea of picnicking as we go about our daily lives, so that we are organized and ready to go when we have a welcome break in our daily routine?

Here are some suggestions to accomplish just that:

1. "Think Picnic when you are grocery shopping for ingredients to prepare dinner. Example: If you are planning to make a meatloaf, double the ingredients and the recipe. Wrap the extra meatloaf (or one-half of the large loaf) and place in a freezer bag marked "picnic." Think of all the other meals you make where you could easily double the recipe for instant picnic meals.

2. "Think Picnic" when you are cleaning up after a meal and wondering what to do with the leftovers. Leftover roasts, sliced and frozen separately (place wax paper between the layers so you can un-thaw the exact amount you will need) will make the perfect sandwich for a picnic. Almost any food will serve as a delectable picnic at some future date, whether it is an appetizer, meat, side dish, soup, bread, or dessert. Even casseroles, if heated to a proper degree and placed in a wide-mouth thermos, can be a choice picnic item.

3. Buy foods especially for picnicking and put them away. Juice boxes and bottled water can go into the freezer until needed for the picnic. Then, place directly into your cooler. They also work well when placed in a backpack along with a sandwich. By the time you are ready for your picnic, the drink will be un-thawed and your sandwich still cold.

What if you haven't gotten around to doing any of the above, but an opportunity for a picnic comes along? Don't despair. Simply "wing it" by scrounging around the fridge and cabinets and grabbing what you can find. After all, even a peanut butter and jelly sandwich tastes great when eaten out of doors with family and friends.

The real value of the picnic is, as Rosemond says, "an opportunity for the family to tone down their daily lives, get away from it all, and just relax and enjoy one another's company." I couldn't agree more!

Next time, I will tell you how easy it is to "think Picnic" in order to get the picnic basket stocked with all the accessories, so it is ready to walk out the door with you at a moment's notice. Because, really, when you don't have to worry about finding and pulling dishes and utensils from drawers, cabinets, and closets, you are more than halfway there.

So, starting today, let's all "think Picnic."

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Publishing Options

Well, it didn't take long for me to jump back into the exciting world of author, marketer, promoter, distributor, speaker, and my friend Gina would probably add, popcorn vendor and elephant sweep. When I made the decision to self-publish, I wanted to "do it all," to experience each phase of the process. It was and continues to be an amazing journey. For me! But, for folks who prefer to travel down a different path there are plenty of options.

If you have questions or concerns about the world of publishing, author Patricia Sheehy ( and I will be giving two talks on this very subject. "From Manuscript to Finished Book" will explore some of the opportunities and challenges of both traditional publishing and self-publishing. The dates and locations are:

Saturday, April 26th at 1:00, Borders Meriden
Sunday, May 18th at 4:00, Borders Farmington

Hope to see you.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Recipe for National Pecan Month

In honor of National Pecan Month, I thought I would share my recipe for "Loaded Oatmeal Cookies." This is an original recipe from Cruising Connecticut with a Picnic Basket and one that seems to get a lot of raves. Try it and let me know what you think.

Loaded Oatmeal Cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups oatmeal
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup white chocolate morsels
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

* Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
* In mixing bowl, blend butter and both sugars with electric mixer. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Add vanilla and mix into batter. In another bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; add to creamed ingredients, mixing well. Add oatmeal, cranberries, chocolate morsels, and pecans to batter and blend.
* Drop dough by heaping tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.
* Bake 10-12 minutes or until set and just barely golden.
* Leave in pan for 1-2 minutes; remove to rack to finish cooling. When cool, pack in covered container to keep fresh and soft.
* Yield: About 4 dozen.

Pecan Facts: According to, research shows that in addition to cholesterol-lowering properties and heart-healthy fats, pecans contain more than 19 important vitamins and minerals. This "All American Nut", first discovered growing in North America and parts of Mexico in the 1600's is grown in 14 states and enjoyed around the world as the perfect nut. The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture statistics show that over 346 million pounds of pecans were produced in the U.S. in 1999, with the majority of the world's pecan production (80%) coming from the U.S.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Springtime in Connecticut

As much as I love every minute that I spend in Florida during the cold months, I am the consummate snowbird, happily returning to my roots each spring. Family and friends welcome me, I am comforted by the familiarity of home and surroundings, and ready to plunge back into the routine and rhythm of life as author, researcher and speaker. If there is time, I will go on my traditional spring wildflower hunt to seek out the early wildflowers poking through the hard, brown earth. In late April, it is the Marsh Marigold, found near brooks and swamps, with its brighter-than-gold glint that takes my breath away, and the fragile but determined Dog's Tooth Violet that is appreciated for its lovely contrast to our still drab wooded areas. There are dozens of destinations throughout the state where you can find spring wildflowers, two of which are described in Cruising Connecticut with a Picnic Basket ~ Flanders Nature Center in Woodbury and Connecticut College Arboretum in New London.

April also begins my round of book signings and speaking engagements, with three scheduled this first week. The groups, clubs and organizations who ask me to speak are an enthusiastic audience and I love sharing information about the diverse leisure-time activities in Connecticut, the available picnicking facilities, and great recipe ideas for the occasion.

This year, as always, I have some new experiences to look forward to, including a guest appearance on Prudence Sloan's Talk of Connecticut radio show (WDRC AM 1360) and the taping of two cablevision shows. Also, for writers out there who may be struggling with the question of whether to choose the traditional route of publishing or to self-publish, I will be part of a panel of authors at three Borders Bookstores during the next two months to discuss this very question. Check out my spring schedule thus far at (About the author.)

Yes, it's good to be home.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Two New Day Trips

It was a difficult decision. Which two, out of about 92 possibilities, should I add to the 2nd Edition of Cruising Connecticut with a Picnic Basket? (Release date: April 10, 2008)

I knew I wanted another winery to add to the two I already have, because the number of Connecticut wineries has grown so fast during the last few years ~ there are fifteen listed on the Wine Trail ~ I thought this category was deserving of a third day trip. Also, during my book talks around the state and sharing information about Haight-Brown Vineyard and Hopkins Vineyard, folks would ask me if I knew about this or that winery, and I was anxious to check them out. By chance, Gouveia in Wallingford happened to be first on my list. I was immediately impressed, not only because of the visual appeal, both inside and out, but by talking with Joe Gouveia. He had an interesting story to tell, and because I am a storyteller, this excited me. But, the clincher was the incredible picnic facilities; I was blown away and you will be too. Read more on Page 214 on my book.

The second new day trip is The Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, a premier tourist attraction in Connecticut. I love the research part of writing a travel book, and one of my favorite categories is Historic Homes & Gardens because of the interesting characters I get to know: The Boothe Brothers, Florence Griswold, William Gillette, the Harkness Family, Henry Bowen, and now Mark Twain. Read more about this fascinating man and his home on Page 102.

And, as Twain said, "It is of no use to keep private information which you can't show off" so I will also give you a sneak preview of the fantastic recipes included with each day trip: Prudence Sloan, Radio & TV Food Show Host gives us a Spanish Tapas picnic, and a Cold Lobster Salad Roll is the creation of Adam Alderin, Chef at Max Fish, the Max Group's newest restaurant in Glastonbury. Yum!