Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Birthday to Everyone Celebrating a Christmas Birthday

I'm breaking my tradition this year. I figure there are enough holiday greetings to go around, so this message is for everyone with a Christmas birthday. HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I kinda know what it's like to have a Christmas birthday because one of my daughters was born on December 24th, and although every year we tried hard to separate her birthday from Christmas, I never got the feeling that we quite pulled it off.

Amidst all the shopping, baking, decorating, sending and receiving Christmas cards, and everywhere we go, carols are playing and lights are twinkling, it's no wonder most Christmas "babies" feel like their birthday takes second stage.

Interesting though, I recently heard about a woman who was determined to make it up to the children who had summer birthdays, feeling that they missed out by not being in school to pass out cupcakes and have all their friends wish them a happy birthday. So, she had special school days where all the summer kids could celebrate their birthdays. It makes me wonder how many people really like their birth-day.

I like the way a friend is celebrating her birthday this year, which is to throw herself a birthday party on her birthday, December 25th. She phoned all her friends back in June with the initial invitation and this month mailed out printed invitations to an open house from 3:00-6:00. She went to the party store and bought herself the traditional kid's cone paper birthday hat and a huge badge that says "Birthday Girl" and for decorations, a "Happy Birthday" banner will hang inside the door of her apartment. Refreshments will be the traditional birthday cake and drinks.

I'm all for the idea of adults taking charge and planning the kind of celebration that makes them happy. I've planned many of my own birthdays through the years, and family and friends are always willing to accommodate. I remember one year when I waited for my family to ask the usual question, "What would you like to do for your birthday?" I was ready. "Take a hike" I replied. This was when I was doing research for day trips for Cruising Connecticut and the trail I had read about was not well-traveled so I needed some company. Although they weren't enthusiastic about the idea, they helped me pack up the birthday cake, candles, drinks and paper goods and off we went.

The destination didn't turn out to be suitable for my book, but nonetheless, it was a nice hike and we found a clearing to have my birthday cake, complete with candles, singing and all. The only onlookers were a man and a dog. This was a rather low-key birthday, but I've planned some doozies, like renting out the Bushnell Park Carousel for a joint party with a dear friend who shares a birthday on the same day. And, wait until my family hear the plans for the next one!

A very Happy Birthday to my Christmas Eve daughter, my fun loving birthday-planning friend, my young cousin in Hyannis, other friends and acquaintances, and everyone who has a birthday on or near Christmas. Whenever or however you choose to celebrate, have fun and enjoy your special day!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Historic Homes in Connecticut Ready for the Holidays

Yikes! The Thanksgiving Holiday has passed and that can only mean one thing: Christmas is less than 4 weeks away. Along with the holiday shopping, there will be parties, plays, concerts and other events are all vying for our attention. Even historic homes are dressed up for the holidays. A visit to any one of the following will put you in the holiday spirit with renewed enthusiasm and energy.

GILLETTE CASTLE in East Haddam will be "adorned in its holiday finery" for special tours complete with live musical performances. Evening tours are scheduled for the first three Friday evenings in December from 4-8 pm. Daytime tours are scheduled for the first three Saturdays and Sundays as well as December 28-30 from 10-4. A free day of children's programs takes place on December 28 from 10-4. (Click Cal. of Events.)

FLORENCE GRISWOLD HOUSE & MUSEUM in Old Lyme showcases four elaborate "Fantasy Trees plus a 12 foot "Artists Tree" decorated with 100 artists' painted palettes. See how families celebrated Xmas in 1910. Also, check out the family programs on Sundays through January 10, and Christmastime Teas in December. Museum and Home tours are Tue-Sat 10-5, Sun 1-5, closed Xmas and New Year's Day.

Note the new fun graphic on this website, which is a copy of the well-known painting by Henry R. Moore. "The Fox Chase" depicting artists in unique and amusing poses hangs over the fireplace in the Griswold home. As you "Race into the Past" you can click on 25 different icons to learn about these Lyme Art Colony artists.

ROSELAND COTTAGE in Woodstock presents an annual Christmas program highlighting decorations based on the Bowens 1887 celebration in New York. First floor tours of the house are offered along with holiday music and readings from A Christmas Carol. Date: Sunday, December 6 from 12-4, admission free.

THE MARK TWAIN HOUSE & MUSEUM in Hartford offers the Connecticut Yankee Holiday Dinner Tour on Saturdays in December in conjunction with The Kitchen at Billings Forge. Also, the 29th Annual Holiday House Tour takes place this year on December 6 and HartBeat Ensemble's "Ebeneeze: A Hartford Holiday Carol" will be performed in the auditorium three times in December with free admission. For information on all events:

NOTE: The above 4 destinations, along with 38 others, are described in detail in Cruising Connecticut with a Picnic Basket. Along with "Historic Homes & Gardens" there are 10 other categories of exciting activities suitable for all ages and interests. In addition, each venue has picnicking facilities and recipes. Special holiday price.

Friday, November 13, 2009

My Life on a Bookshelf

Someone asked me if I read any good books on my recent x-country trip and I chuckled and answered truthfully that I hardly had time to read my maps, that if I hadn't received a gift of a GPS, I would have spent a lot of time being lost. Later, I wondered what kind of book I would have taken with me if I'd actually had an opportunity to read.

My primary reading choice for over 20 years has been non-fiction, on a wide variety of subjects related to what my interest was at the time, such as books on investing when I joined a stock club, books on business and public speaking when a job opportunity came my way, how-to books on decorating and other artistic endeavors, and the like. And, in between, inspirational books of all kinds. For the last few years, the concentration has been on my book, Cruising Connecticut with a Picnic Basket, so I read books on travel and day tripping, then writing, publishing, marketing and promotion, in that order. A friend once commented, "I can tell a lot about a person by what I see on their bookshelves." The image of the closed books lined up on my own shelves immediately verified her claim. My life, in fact, was an open one.

Vacations were a different story. Part of the excitement of getting away was what I considered the luxury of packing non-fiction in my suitcase. I looked forward to escaping to unknown worlds with plots set in exotic locations and characters who demanded emotional involvement. Like the vacation itself, fiction was an indulgence, a rare treat like a chocolate truffle to satisfy my sweet tooth.

But, now I've abruptly changed my reading routine to focus on good literature, enjoying every moment of this "indulgence" while soaking in the incredible energy, style and tone of the writers. Secretly, I am hoping that a smidgen of their brilliance will somehow reverberate to my keyboard when I'm staring at that menacing blank page of my new book, Cruising X-Country....

Just as I have not yet decided on the final title, I am still thinking about the focus. I am hoping that a couple of author friends are right when they say, "Just start writing and once you get going you may not have a choice, the book will write itself." Now, that's an exciting image!

By the way, as usual, Cruising Connecticut will be at a couple of Holiday Fairs which are right around the corner. Check out the calendar page on my website, I'd love to meet you, and an autographed book, either alone or tucked into a basket with a bottle of Connecticut wine is a nice gift for any occasion. If you can't get to an event you can still get an autographed book with my online order form. Also, click "What's In Our Picnic Basket" for the latest posted recipe from Cruising Connecticut, a nice addition to your holiday hors d'oeuvre platter.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Tidbits~from Cruising Connecticut with a Picnic Basket to Cruising X-Country

A recent article in Sunday’s Hartford Courant talked about the plans being discussed for the 100th anniversary of the death of Mark Twain. It promises to be a year filled with memorabilia, celebrations, readings and plays. I think it’s interesting that reported visitor figures to the Mark Twain House in 2009 was 64,000 people, 75% being from out of state including all 50 states and 61 countries. Figures during 2010are expected to far surpass last year’s so check the website often so you won’t miss any of the upcoming dates. www.marktwainhouse,org.

It’s almost November, but if you think the season is over for visiting Connecticut wineries, just have a peek at the website for Haight-Brown Vineyard. The list of activities is impressive, both in its numbers and versatility. Hopkins Vineyard won a silver medal at the 2009 Big E Wine Competition for Sachem’s Picnic, one of my favorites and mentioned in my book. And, Gouveia Vineyard has a Xmas Sing-a-long scheduled for December 20th from 2:30-4:30. That sounds like fun! Check out the events at these and all the other Connecticut wineries at

Since returning from my x-country trip just over three weeks ago, I have only been on one day trip and that was to the Town of Kent. Although Kent Falls State Park is one of the day trips in Cruising Connecticut with a Picnic Basket, I chose to partner Cornwall Cover Bridge to this outing. However, since Kent is only 5 miles of so further, if you find yourself in this area of the state, do navigate to this small, charming town.

I am slowly getting back to a somewhat normal routine (if I could remember what normal was I would be able to arrive faster!) I have been moving and organizing the mountains of papers and books collected along the way, and sorting through hundreds of photos. I had been mildly complaining for the last couple of years about exchanging my 35 millimeter camera for a digital, but after this trip, I am even more aware of the benefits of choosing this camera, especially while traveling.

Aside from the cost of processing dozens of rolls of film only to find one of two from each roll that, if I am lucky I deem outstanding, the real value for me is the ease and safety of downloading my valuable x-country photos into my computer and backing them up while on the road. Back home, when I look at a photo of a mountain, instead of wondering which mountain I am looking at, I can match up my itinerary to the date and exact time stated underneath the photo to know where I was on that day and at that hour. This photo journal has already proven to be a valuable backup to my written journal.

I find I am always lagging behind the pact with any kind of technology, resisting and thrashing about until at some point I just give in. Then, it's only a matter of time until it suddenly occurs to me how happy I am that I took the leap. So it is with my digital camera. Finally.

Friday, October 9, 2009

36 Days and 6,469 Miles Later...

As expected, Teddy Tripper and I had mixed emotions when we arrived home on Tuesday. We loved being on the road looking for adventures, making new friends, and touring National Parks. Whoever said that the National Parks are this Country’s greatest treasure sure got that right. While we were on the road we felt like we could go on forever, but when our frantic pace slowed down, an incredible weariness set in. So, we have been resting up for tomorrow’s start of my fall promotion schedule for Cruising Connecticut. (Check my website for upcoming functions at

While I continue doing what I love, which is talking to groups about all the great treasures in the State of Connecticut, I will also begin writing my new book about the thrill of visiting 10 National Parks in five weeks, how to travel solo and not be lonely, and introduce readers to some interesting places and people I met along the way.

I loved blogging during the trip, receiving comments and responding back. It was such fun! I will continue blogging on a semi-regular basis, just as I have been doing for the past year, keeping folks up to date on new day trips I discover, as well as upcoming functions at destinations in Cruising Connecticut. Oh, and of course, sharing picnic recipes.

Also, from time to time, I will let you know how my new book is coming along. Suggestions and/or questions will be welcome at any time, but especially now, while I am planning the format and preparing my outline. What would YOU like to know about the National Parks, or x-country travel in general, solo or otherwise? Shoot me a comment at the end of this post, or email me at:

Sunday, October 4, 2009

You Meet the Most Interesting People While Sitting at a Bar, Especially in Durango, CO

The fact that the restaurant we went in to order a takeout was located in the historic Strater Hotel, and that this same hotel was hosting the annual Cowboy Poetry Convention just might be the reason why over half the patrons were dressed in their finest cowboy outfits, including a woman I sat next to at the bar while waiting for our order.

She said that she had ridden her horse here from Florida! I asked her where she slept and she said she had a sleeping bag and sometimes strangers would put her up or feed her. Now, I had a couple of dozen more questions, like what kind of roads she traveled on and how long did the trip take, did her horse get enough to eat, what she did for work, and where was her next destination, just for starters. I mean, I was practically salivating thinking abut the story I was onto.

However, before I could continue with my "interview" she caught the attention of the manager and asked him if she could bring her horse into the restaurant to have his picture taken. No kidding! At this point, my eyes are fixed on the manager, and I was mighty impressed by how cool he was. After only a second's pause he said he couldn't allow a horse into the restaurant, but that she could bring his head inside the door if someone was ready inside with a camera.

Just at that moment, the waitress arrived with our order, and another time it might not have mattered if we sat there for a while longer, but our takeout was a chocolate avalanche dessert that this restaurant is noted for, which among other sinful things, includes ice cream. So, there was nothing to do but hurry home and get it in the freezer for our after-dinner treat.

I guess it's a good thing I didn't pursue the profession I thought about in high school - a newspaper reporter. If it was dinner time, I probably would have missed the big scoop.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Trip Statistics

Tomorrow I am scheduled for a trail ride at a stable in Mancos, CO and I started thinking about all the different forms of transportation I will have taken on this trip other than my car. What a surprise when I started counting and came up with 10! The list includes plane, raft, dune buggy, BART (train from suburb into San Francisco) cable car, bus, excursion steam train, yacht, motor boat, and horse.

Here are some other statistics:

36 Days on the road
10 National Parks visited
7 Parks where I had a queasy stomach and/or white knuckles while driving
5 Parks where I wished I had an extra day
10 States I stayed overnight
8 Nights stayed in a hostel
12 Nights stayed with friends
3 Kinds of wildlife spotted that were bigger than a turkey
0 Times Teddy Tripper spotted a relative
8 Days with temperature in triple digits (unofficial)
1 Days I saw rain (so far)
2 Other solo women travelers I met
12 Miles walked in one day (estimated)
1 Parking tickets
2 Times I "lost" my car in a parking lot
2 Days I missed journaling
2 Evenings I watched TV
3 Days I had a picnic (defined as eating my own food outside my car)
10,000 Mountain ranges I drove over (unofficial)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

From Hostels to the Occidental

I guess I should come clean about my resolve to travel "on-the-cheap." I started out good. The first night I stayed in a hostel, although I did "splurge" on a private room. Total cost: $49.30. Even though the bathroom and shower were at the end of the hall, and there was a terrible ruckus at 2:30 in the morning from a nearby room, I decided to risk a second hostel a few nights later. This one was a charming, tiny room in a hotel built in the 1800's. It reminded me of a log cabin, with it's rustic twin bed covered in a plaid comforter. Although again, the bathroom was down the hall, at least the shower was private, and, it was quiet. In addition to four additional hostels along my route, I consistently made reservations in inns and motels that fit in the on-the-cheap category.

Then, there was Buffalo, Wyoming. I had been on the Internet for some time trying to find a reasonably priced room in this stop-over town, when I happened upon Although I was immediately fascinated by the history and decor of this hotel, I resolved to be good and went on looking for an alternative, thinking that I didn't have to actually stay overnight, but could simply visit during the day and have a peek.

Someone once wrote, "Continue until your weariness overcomes the need to save money." And, yes, I eventually booked the room. Total cost: $140.71. But, it turned out to be a bargain after all, because in addition to being a delightful place to spend the night, it was a history lesson, a day's entertainment, and most definitely in the category of "favorite memories of my x-country trip."

Who knows, it may actually be eligible for a chapter in my new book, the solo, x-country, not quite on-the-cheap book.

To the Connecticut blogger who heard my interview on the Mary Jones Show (WDRC 1360 AM) I will be calling in again on Saturday, September 26th at 1:30 Eastern Standard Time.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A Red Nose

It was a beautiful day, so I decided to spend part of my afternoon in Portland, Oregon visiting two parks that this city is well-known for, the International Rose Test Garden and The Japanese Garden. Since Portland is called the Rose City, my first stop was the Rose Garden. The 550 varieties bloom from June into the fall, and during my visit in mid-September the three hillside terraces looking over the downtown was alive with color and fragrance.

On my way to the roses I first came to the children's playground and noticed a man and woman soaring high on the swings. That looks like fun, I thought, and paused to tell them so. Immediately after I got the words out of my mouth I looked closer at the man. Was that a red nose he was wearing? I just had to ask, "Why are you wearing a red nose?"

"Because this is our day to have fun and the red nose reminds us of that."

This is a very wise man, I think. What could be a simpler and more effective reminder to have fun than wearing a red nose? I mean, how could anyone wear a red nose and not have fun?

So, imagine my surprise when, two days later, I am in a store in Florence and spot a bin of red noses. Without hesitation, I buy two, because although I think I've got this "fun" thing pretty well figured out, it never hurts to have a reminder around. The other (?) because there may come a day when someone in my life needs a red nose, and I'll be ready.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Solo Traveler Welcomes the Personal Connection

From roosters crowing to cars honking, from cows mooing to sirens blaring, from driving down "cow paths" to one-way city streets, which are always going the other way. From Montana to Seattle!

Just a few days ago, I was headed toward Montana looking forward to three days of human contact with folks who had invited a solo traveler/writer and perfect stranger to be a guest in their home.

The first town was Livingston, just north of Yellowstone. The hosts were a lovely couple, Relly and Mel, who not only fed me and gave me a place to sleep, but took me on a grand and historic tour of this place they have settled in and grown to love. In addition, a surprise and pleasant evening was offered when Relly, an actress, brought me to her rehearsal of "You Can't Take it With You" which will be playing at The Blue Slipper Theatre. For anyone living in this area, check it out. The talented cast will not only have you laughing out loud, but you will go home thinking that your own family might be perfectly normal after all.

Next, I drove to Fort Shaw, just west of Great Falls. Margaret and Duane have a small but growing farm which was an exciting new experience. I saw the sunrise, picked fresh corn for a large family dinner, and rode a horse. Well, okay, I "sat" on a horse to have my picture taken. But, that small act of getting on a horse after 30 years has given me the courage, I think, to schedule a trail ride later in one of the National Parks. The house sits on a hill with a dramatic view of a square butte, the small town of Fort Shaw, and neighboring farms. This special couple made me feel so at home, it was hard to leave.

But, there are new adventures beckoning, so I tucked the memory of mountains, valleys, and farmland away in a special place, and set off for a few days of exploring the beautiful and exciting West Coast.

Until next time ~

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Four National Parks Visited

Last night I checked into my hostel in W. Yellowstone two hours later than planned, explaining to the clerk that it had taken longer to drive out of Yellowstone because of the wildlife, once when a family of elk were grazing by the creek, and another when a humongous bison was sauntering down the road in a zig zag pattern. I don't think he was drunk, so he probably just enjoyed having control of when the long line of cars could start moving. Maybe it was his way of saying, "Hey, this is my home so deal with it."

"Yes, and then all the nuts stop to gawk, or whip out their cameras and snap a few dozen pictures."

"Uh, oh, guilty on both counts" I replied raising my hand, and we both had a good laugh.

It's hard to believe that I have been on the road for only one week. When I stop to think I have four more weeks of being wowed and stimulated by all the natural beauty that is in my path, I am rather overwhelmed.

So far, Teddy Tripper and I have visited four national parks: Rocky Mountain, Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone, and Grand Teton. Each one was uniquely beautiful, and hopefully, when I have had time to digest them all, I will write about my impressions.

But, for now, a personal experience ---

When I arrived at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, I stopped at the Visitors Center to ask the ranger for a map and suggestions on what part of the park I should visit given my time frame. Without hesitation she said I should drive up to the top of the mountain (over 14,000 feet, in fact, the highest mountain in our national park system) Now, every time that I considered this option while planning my trip, I had felt apprehensive.

"Well, I'm not sure since I don't like driving on narrow, winding roads with no guardrails."

She chuckled and said, "The roads are not narrow, and we haven't lost anyone yet."

"You mean no one has gone over the side?"

"Not unless they wanted to."

Isn't it interesting how past experiences influence our thinking even 37 years later? In this case, it was a crazy uncle-in-law that drove like a maniac up a Swiss mountain on a rocky dirt path. Every time one of us would gasp (our form of communication since he didn't speak English and we didn't speak Italian!) he would press harder on the gas pedal and flash a toothless grin.

As it turned out, "my" road was not only paved, it was a two-lane road just like the ones I drive on a daily basis, with yellow lines down the center; it was also a gentler climb that I had imagined. Still, it was over 14,000 feet and curvy, so I kept my eyes fixed firmly in front of me, never once looking over the edge.

At the top, I was rewarded with a stunning view, but the real reward was the jubilation for having pushed through my fear and then feeling lighter and more free.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The "not-so-wild" West

John Wayne had a commanding presence about him. Heck, even a wooden cutout got me to take notice. It was placed next to the door leading into the lobby of the motel, along with a couple of plastic horses, a pair of cowboy boots, and saddles.

Walking through the courtyard to my room, I notice the two corners of the u-shaped structure where other cowboys and assorted western paraphernalia are at home, while an elk and moose, windmill and totem pole find space closer to the street. In fact, everywhere I look, I am reminded I am in Wyoming. And, like John Wayne, everything is larger-than-life.

On the second floor landing where I am headed, is a hanging 36x42 wooden painting of five cowboys playing poker with a dance hall "lady", and guess who's winning? And what's this? A handsome cowboy standing right next to my room, while on the roof across the courtyard is a rearing palomino. Why not!

What pulls it all together, I think, is the profusion of pink and fuchsia flowers blooming in every nook and cranny. Standing containers are placed next to all the molded animals and cowboy cutouts, while pots hang in front of the doors to the rooms.

I had asked my grandson, who is attending WyoTech to check out the local motels, and this is the one he choose for me to spend my one night in Laramie. I loved it!! And probably the one I will remember best at the end of this trip.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Sunday, August 30, 2009

"Each Venture is a New Beginning" ~ T.S. Eliot

Almost everything is packed and ready to go. Actually, everything but Teddy Tripper and the laptop I am using.

Interestingly, for the past few days, I have been scurrying around tending to the myriad of details that 5 weeks away from home and work requires. And, although I sensed I was one day ahead of schedule, something drove me to keep that frantic pace.

Now, I get it. My intuition was telling me that I needed tomorrow, the day before my big trip to take it easy, perhaps do some relaxation and meditation exercises, get myself centered. I believe if I start out with a sense of inner peace, I will be better able to open my eyes to all the richness and serendipity that is certain to be found in this new venture, this new beginning.

Back in a few days from the wild wild west.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Packing is the Pits!

It's even harder to figure out what to pack when I keep hearing a voice yelling the most tiresome advice: "Pack light!"

There actually was one time in my life when I packed light for a trip. Back in the 70's, when a husband, three daughters, ages 14, 12 and 5, and I packed for a 4-week camping trip through seven countries in Europe, each of us had one suitcase. The sizes varied depending on the size of the owner, and we only brought what we could fit into our suitcase. This worked well because the popular fashion fabric was polyester, which was not only lightweight, but wash and drip dry, which we did most nights in the campground sink.

The problem with the 5 suitcases did not become apparent until we arrived in France and found the only car for rent was a very small car, with no trunk. So, there was nothing to do but tie everything onto the roof. By "everything" I mean the rented tent, cots, sleeping bags, camp stove, lantern, table, folding chairs, and of course, the 5 suitcases. To say we looked comical would be an understatement; however, it did save us time traveling across the borders. The guards would see us coming, realize the magnitude of any kind of inspection, and wave us right through.

Thirty-three years later, when I was trying to come up with a fun and whimsical idea for the cover of "Cruising Connecticut with a Picnic Basket", that image came to mind, prompting the oversized picnic basket tied to the roof.

Now, for the second time in my life, I am determined to pack light. Since I am flying to Denver to begin my driving trip, just like our European trip, whatever does not fit into my suitcase will stay home. But, what is interesting, again, is all the other stuff I need, or feel I need: a cooler and ice packs, extra pillows, eating utensils, including dish, bowl, cup and silverware, copies of Cruising Connecticut, gifts, a canvas bag for my front seat to hold maps, schedules, book/journal, tape recorder, CD's, and (many!) miscellany items.

All these "must have" incidentals will require a rather large carton to be shipped ahead to my grandson who I plan to visit on the second day. Well, at least this time, I'm pretty sure the extras will fit in the car!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

"There is no set path; just follow your heart"

I've had this quote on my desk, copied from a friend's refrigerator magnet, since last year, shortly after I started planning my x-country trip. It resonated with me. I wanted to travel the country like John Steinbeck in "Travels with Charley: In search of America", except that instead of bringing along a French standard poodle, I would bring Teddy Tripper, my Vermont teddy bear, a gift for my first solo RV trip in 2003, when I drove down the east coast of Florida and up the west. The great thing is that he arrived with all the appropriate accessories, such as backpack, cell phone, sunglasses, and sandals, and carried a sign, "Florida or bust."

Steinbeck had a "lifelong wanderlust", and so do I. At first I thought of taking my entire trip with "no set path" which I imagined Steinbeck had done. But, I soon realized that this is not 1960 and I am not Steinbeck. So, I did my thing with the guide books and the maps and yes, made reservations for all 35 nights.

In the end, it became clear that of course there is no set path, that is, until we create one. And the fact that I created mine in advance rather than as I went along, does not diminish the fact that during my weeks of research and planning, I did indeed follow my heart.

Here is the path my heart created:

National Parks: Rocky Mountain, Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Glacier Mountain, Redwood, Yosemite, Zion, Bryce, and Mesa Verde, plus many national monuments and landmarks. In between, I will visit places like the Black Hills in South Dakota, the Coast of Oregon, Napa Valley in California, and the Monument Valley Navajo Reservation in Utah, as well as the west coast cities of Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco. And, best of all, I have set aside time to get off the beaten path to visit friends of friends in small towns along the way.

Now, I just have to find some cowboy boots for Teddy Tripper!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Eating Healthy and Cheap While Traveling

Since my longest road trips of late have been 3 days, the 36 day x-country trip I am planning has me a little concerned about my traveling companions, a somewhat finicky digestive system and a thin wallet. So, first I googled "Eating Healthy While Traveling" and got 404,000 hits.

After an hour of random research I got impatient and gave up, since I was already familiar with most of the food suggestions which I use regularly while traveling: A cooler filled with cheese and/or peanut butter, fruit, whole wheat crackers, my own trail mix, hummus and raw veggies, and milk for my breakfast cereal. And, of course, lots of water which I freeze ahead to help keep my food cold.

I also love my wrap, a slice of Swiss cheese and a slice of deli turkey breast rolled up together with a filling of Cole slaw for a tasty crunch. Actually, this is the Surprise Roll Sandwich recipe in Cruising Connecticut with a Picnic Basket without the roll.

So, I'm okay for breakfast, lunch and snacks, well at least for 3 days. But, the other 33? I find that eating the same things over and over is not only boring, but usually turns me off from those foods in a very short time. So, I will have to persevere in finding new additions to my old standbys. I am hoping some of my readers have suggestions which they will share, either by posting a reply (click on "Comments" at the bottom of this post) or email me at

Next, I googled "Eating Cheap While Traveling." Here, I got 1,440,000 hits and after checking just a few realized this was a better fit for me. gave me some new ideas, like carrying an empty water bottle to the airport and filling with tap water after check-in, plus some reminders, like packing an immersion heater for boiling water in your hotel room, great for instant soup.

I love the portable picnic pack idea I found on which I will assemble and take with me for all those picnic lunches I plan to have. This handy pack should work well whether I find a picnic table or use my lap. Check it out.

Ah, now dinner is an entirely different matter. Back to my research!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

My Solo Cross-Country Trip

The recent flipping of the calendar page from July to August is a mixture of "YIKES, only four weeks to go, how will I ever be ready for my cross-country trip", and "WOW, only four weeks to go before my next exciting adventure." And the emotion changes as quickly as I turn the pages of my guidebooks, which for two days this past weekend, totaled about 24 hours.

That's a whole lotta pages(!) but now I am much closer to reaching the goal I started this spring, planning my 36-day itinerary, including dates, destinations, and hours and miles from point A to point B. In addition, at least for the first week, I have a list of places under the headings "must visit" and "visit if I have the time" plus reservations for lodging, including a couple of hostels which will be a first for me.

I love the initial research, poring over maps and guidebooks for general information, searching the internet for the unusual and bizarre, and networking with friends and friends of friends for specifics and personal stories. I discovered that the process is pretty much the same, whether I am taking a 5-week cross-country tour to unfamiliar places, or a series of day trips in my home state of Connecticut.

Oh, sure, a small part of me envies the carefree traveler who can happily hop in the car and go where the spirit takes him, but my curious and cautious nature seems to demand that I do an extraordinary amount of advance planning so I know exactly what to expect. Interestingly though, once I begin my trip, I am remarkably flexible and carefree, changing course where necessary, or making the decision to veer off the path to look for my own serendipity.

During future blog postings, I will talk about traveling alone versus being lonely, keep you up to date on the method and progress of my research, which 10 national parks I will be visiting, and other considerable and trivial facts, such as whether or not I can find a convenient and practical way to pack my picnic basket!

What I hope my readers will do, especially those with more experience traveling cross-country (in case you are wondering what "more experience" means, I have none!) is to share tips with me and other readers about how to best prepare for and enjoy this kind of travel.

Follow my blog. Halfway down this page on the left, under Subscribe to Cruising Connecticut, click "Posts", or email me at I'd love to hear from you.

More next week!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Good News for Book Lovers

The Connecticut Author Trail (, a consortium of libraries in Eastern Connecticut, will host 16 local authors as they showcase their books and share their stories. I was pleased to be invited by the Lebanon Library to talk about my book, Cruising Connecticut with a Picnic Basket on July 21st and had an amazing experience. The event runs to September 24 when the finale takes place at The Mohegan Sun.

After my talk, the librarian gave me a packet of materials about Lebanon's beautiful and historic mile-long green, one of the largest in New England. The green is on the National Register of Historic Places because of its rich agricultural and Revolutionary War Heritage.

I heard about this green prior to my visit and intended to arrive one hour early so I could walk the path around the green and have a picnic supper, however, the weather did not cooperate. (What else is new!) So, it is now on my list of "Things to Do." I plan to start at The Lebanon Historical Society Museum and Visitors Center where there is an orientation video, library, shop and visitor information, and then visit any of six historic buildings clustered at the southerly end. In addition, many other buildings can be viewed along the trail.

Lebanon is a member of the Northeast Connecticut Visitors District known as the "Quiet Corner", and residents and visitors enjoy community activities on the green year-round. Check out this special place on

I am constantly amazed that even with all my fervent Connecticut day tripping through the years, there are still so many exciting places I have yet to visit. But, first I will take a hiatus from Cruising Connecticut to cruise cross-country.

More about this upcoming adventure next week!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

July is National Picnic Month

The eternal optimist in me believes that the weather for the rest of July will live up to our expectations so that we can finally enjoy some serious picnicking.

This month, I am offering my blog readers a special discount for mail orders for Cruising Connecticut with a Picnic Basket. Just go to my website ( during July, print out the order form and write at the top "SPECIAL BLOG PRICE." Next,
change the retail price of $15.95 to $12.00, add tax of 72 cents plus the normal S&H charge and mail with a check for $14.22 to the address on the form.

Orders will be filled immediately and sent media mail to arrive in approximately 4-5 business days. You will then be treated to 42 exciting and diverse day trips throughout Connecticut, all with picnicking facilities plus easy and delicious recipes.

Whether or not you order Cruising Connecticut, please enjoy this recipe from my book in honor of National Picnic Month.

Blue Broccoli
1-1/2 lbs. broccoli
1/4 cup red onion, thinly sliced rings
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 cup bleu cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts, if desired

* Rinse broccoli and cut off stems leaving only the florets. Cook in microwave on high for 2-4 minutes, or in saucepan with a little water just until fork tender. Don't overcook. Rinse thoroughly in cold water to halt cooking and retain the bright green color. Drain well.
* Place in bowl. Add onion.
* Mix sour cream, mayonnaise, and lemon juice together and add to broccoli. Fold in bleu cheese and walnuts. Chill.
Serves 4-6

May all your picnics be perfect!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Sampling of FREE Summer Music in Hartford, Ct.

While planning a picnic with friends at Elizabeth Park to coincide with the annual bloom of 15,000 rose bushes, I learned that this year's Rose Garden Lawn concerts will take place on Wednesday evenings June 25th through August 27th from 6:30-8:00 p.m. Visitors will be treated to a variety of music, from swing, rock, Cajun, country, and pop, to top 40, R&B, Motown, and 50's.

At the Butler, McCook House, the performers are also varied and eclectic. The concert series takes place on the first Thursday in June, July, August, and September from 5:30-7:30 p.m.

Bushnell Park sponsors the Monday Night Jazz series in the park's pavilion from June 6th through August 3rd. Opening bands start at 6:00 p.m.; headliners at 7:30. Also at this location is New England's largest free outdoor jazz festival on July 17, 18, 19. Get times, performers, directions and other information at

Trinity College is into the 60th annual Plumb Memorial Carillon Concert, taking place on the quad bordering the chapel. Every Wednesday evening at 7:00 through August. Tours of the chapel are offered following the concert.

Although the above destinations are all in the City of Hartford, no matter where you live in Connecticut, I guarantee you can easily locate a concert venue nearby. Make it a point to find and take advantage of the enjoyable summer activity of relaxing on the lawn while listening to good music. What could be better, except maybe picnicking at the same time!

Cruising Connecticut with a Picnic Basket has 48 recipes designed to make picnicking simple and fun.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Romantic and First-Date Picnics

A reader recently asked me about the best places for a romantic picnic, and a first-date picnic. First, a romantic picnic.

I love this question, because there is a kind of romance simply in the act of planning a picnic, thinking about where to go and what to pack for the ultimate experience. One of my favorite picnic menus is also the simplest; go to the market for a loaf of good crusty bread, a hard cheese (cheddar?) and maybe some brie. Add grapes, or fresh strawberries, and your favorite beverage. Don't forget the bread and cheese knives, napkins and a cloth to use as either a table cover or ground cover. If you want to go all out, include a candle and a portable CD player. Now, where to go?

Hammonasset Beach at sunset: Arrive late afternoon, take a walk on the beach, then sit on the sand or at a picnic table and enjoy your picnic while waiting for the sunset.
The Pond at Gillette Castle State Park: Before you drive up the hill to the parking area, look for the pond on your left. In the summer, the pond is covered with pink, white, and fuchsia water lilies, and the picnic tables surrounding the pond are set far enough apart for a feeling of privacy. Later, a visit to the castle can also be quite romantic, as is the view of the Connecticut River from the balcony.
The top of the mountain at Mohawk Forest State Park: A 4-mile drive brings you to the top of the mountain where there is a small roundabout with 2 or 3 picnic tables. Although there is no guarantee, there is a good chance you will have the space to yourselves. The panoramic view is breathtaking.
Wineries: Picnics at wineries can also be romantic. First the wine tasting and agreeing on the perfect wine to go with your picnic, then finding a secluded spot on the scenic grounds to enjoy the picnic and each other. Check out the wineries in the Connecticut Wine Trail for hours and picnic facilities.

First-date picnics should be stress-free, so don't overlook something as simple as picnicking at a local park. Pick a scenic park with unique attractions, such as Elizabeth Park in West Hartford (enjoy the flowers, especially the rose gardens peaking in late June and the duck pond), or Wickam Park in Manchester (ornamental gardens, woodlands, pond, panoramic view and plenty of walking around space. Picnicking options are plentiful at parks and the fun is to let serendipity guide you to the perfect spot. Check out the local parks in your area, and also the state parks, such as Kent Falls State Park in Kent, or Harkness Memorial State Park in Waterford. Just like city and town parks, each state park has its own unique features.

More ideas: Tour a historic home, such as Gillette Castle State Park in East Haddam, Mark Twain House in Hartford, or Roseland Cottage in Woodstock. (Check with your local library for free or reduced passes.) Or, spend a relaxing afternoon poking around Connecticut's charming town greens and scenic main streets like Essex, Stonington Village, Mystic, and Litchfield where, after your stroll, you can always find an inviting place to picnic.

Finally, the perfect day trip and picnic for romance or first-date, suitable for any age group as well as families, take a boat tour of the Thimble Islands, available at the Stony Creek section of Branford. Picnic at the small beach adjacent to the dock.

Although space is limited here, more information on all the places mentioned should be easily accessed on the web or at the Connecticut Visitors Center. Hopefully these ideas will get you started in thinking of your own romantic and first-date picnic ideas. I'd love to hear any success stories!

I don't usually use this venue to talk about my book appearances, however, I will make an exception here since it's an exciting opportunity for folks to meet 7 Connecticut authors with books of diverse genres. The date is June 7th at Buttonwood Tree in Middletown, where at 3:00, we will briefly introduce ourselves and our work and autographing our books until 5:00. Come meet and greet the authors and check out the great selection of books.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

No Cost Day Trips

These days we are all looking for ways to enjoy our leisure time, at little or preferably, no cost. Below is a partial list of Connecticut day trips that fit this criteria. All but one are from my book, Cruising Connecticut with a Picnic Basket The only thing you have to worry about is gas and food.

1. Easy and Pleasant Walking Trails: Gillette Castle State Park, East Haddam; Dinosaur State Park, Rocky Hill; White Memorial Conservation Center, Litchfield; Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center, Mystic. (Note that these locations also have nature centers or buildings to tour for which there is an admission charge, however, there is no cost to enter and park, or for enjoying the walking trails and picnicking facilities.)

2. Window Shopping While Strolling Along Quintessential Connecticut Main Streets: Towns of Essex; Chester; and Mystic.

3. Spring Wildflower Walk: Flanders Nature Center & Land Trust, Woodbury; Connecticut College Arboretum, New London. (Note that May is the best month for this activity, although at Connecticut College you can also enjoy a profusion of native trees and shrubs in any season.)

4. Bike Paths: The one I know best is the Air Line Trail which goes through East Hampton, Colchester, and Hebron. For others, see or (Click Rail & Canal Trails.)

5. Museums: Always Free ~ Yale University Art Gallery and Yale Center for British Art, both in New Haven; Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford currently has free admission on the last Saturday of each month. Confirm by telephone (860-278-2670) that this special is still in effect. Note that many libraries offer their patrons a free ARTpass to this and other museums.

6. Vineyards/Wineries: Although most wineries now charge for wine tasting, many offer free self-tours of the vineyards and guided tour of the wine making process. Best of all, the settings are scenic and most have picnicking facilities.

Speaking of food, save money by bringing a picnic on your outings, either packing lunch at home or stopping at the market to pick up your favorite sandwich makings. Money aside, a meal eaten outdoors is the ultimate complement to an outdoor activity or event.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Events and Food Talk

I hope everyone is taking advantage of the summer-like weather this weekend and spending time outdoors, preferably with a picnic. Although my book, Cruising Connecticut with a Picnic Basket, is all about combining a picnic with a day trip, or event, picnics do not always have to be lengthy or complicated.

Yesterday, I had chores that mostly kept me inside, but I knew I couldn't let the day go by without getting outdoors, so at lunch time I walked to a nearby luncheonette, ordered a sandwich and ate outside at a nearby picnic table with a view of several different flowering shrubs and trees. It was a perfect break in my busy day.

Occasionally, I surf the web to see what I can find on Events and Food, and this time, I have an event for both April and May. is a website for food facts, fun, festivals and more. Under Food History for April, one of the featured foods is pecans, so I decided to share one of the most popular recipes in my book, Loaded Oatmeal Cookies, with pecans of course, and other surprises. It can be found on my website, by clicking "What's in our Picnic Basket" and scrolling down to Featured Recipe.

May's event is from Chase's Calendar of Events, a book I enjoy perusing at the library on occasion. The first full week each year is National Wildflower Week, "a week to encourage the observation, cultivation and study of native wildflowers as a means of deepening humankind's relationship, responsibility and commitment to protect and care for the ecological integrity of Mother Earth."

Coincidentally, I just wrote about this favorite past time in my last blog on April 3rd. Check it out and plan your own spring wildflower hunt, either at one of the sites I mention, or at a park or nature center near you.

Ah, the joy of spring in Connecticut!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Signs of Spring

With my time in Florida nearing an end, my mind is racing ahead to my return to Connecticut. Not only am I looking forward to connecting with family and friends, but also enjoying my favorite season.

I love to watch the early signs of spring, when dormant gardens spring back to life, when the drab world of winter is taken over by vibrant colors and songbirds, and a feeling of joy and possibility is in the scented air. Best of all, the longer, warmer days mean we can spend more time enjoying outdoor activities, including of course, picnicking.

One of my favorite spring activities is the wildflower hunt. I became fascinated by wildflowers many years ago when I visited Garden in the Woods located at the New England Wildflower Society in Framingham, Massachusetts. I was so awed that I went on a 6-week spring wildflower hunt, visiting over twenty state parks, preserves and nature centers in Connecticut, all dedicated to the preservation and enjoyment of these delicate and mysterious flowers.

Two of the 42 chapters in my day tripping and picnicking book, Cruising Connecticut with a Picnic Basket are devoted to this activity, which are best viewed from the last week in April through the first week in June, with the peak, most years, around mid-May.

The first day trip, the Native Plant Collection located at the Connecticut College Arboretum in New London, contains a separate wildflower garden with markers for easy identification. And, while there, check out the amazing 25-acre collection of native trees and shrubs. (

A more challenging hunt is The Botany Trail at the Flanders Nature Center & Land Trust in Woodbury. This one-mile trail is great for wildflower enthusiasts, although I first visited as a novice. Luckily, I had invited a friend who brought along three wildflower identification books! (

To view an amazing collection of photos from these and the other destinations in Cruising Connecticut, go to and click "Photos" on left.

Happy Spring!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Cruising Connecticut has success in Florida!

I was intrigued with a series of programs at the Venice (Florida) library called "Booked for Lunch", where every Friday at noon, a different author talks about and signs their book. Without any forewarning, the marketer in me came out of vacation mode long enough to inquire about being part of the program, and next thing I knew, I was booked. Cruising Connecticut with a Picnic Basket by Jan Mann was listed in the February calendar.

Because I was pretty sure a Florida audience would not be interested in hearing about all the great things there are to do in Connecticut, I chose a new topic, "7 Steps to a Perfect Picnic" including exciting new recipes to take home. And, what a surprise to learn that of the 35 attendees, slightly more than one-half had ties to Connecticut.

Best of all, everyone seemed to enjoy hearing about the different ways to plan and enjoy a picnic, along with tales about some of the more unique recipes and how they tied into the destinations in my book. For example, Joe's Jambalaya contributed by the Commission of Tailgating" featured in my Football Tailgating chapter, and Almond Macaroons, an 1873 recipe featured at Roseland Cottage during Henry Bowen's reign as "Mr. 4th of July." But, the ultimate joy for me was the amount of audience participation, a sure sign that people were not only paying attention, but interested in what I had to say.

My 7 steps are simple enough, well, at least the first six:

1. Keep Your Picnic Basket Ready to Go at all Times
2. Have a Plan
3. Pick a Location
4. Decide Who to Invite
5. Choose your Menu
6. Be Flexible

The most important step is No. 7: IT'S OKAY TO IGNORE STEPS 1-6. The point is this: Let's say you are lucky enough to wake up to a beautiful day and have the opportunity to get out and play. Of course, you don't have a plan, you can't think of where to go, you don't know if anyone is free, your picnic basket is not organized, and in fact, you can't even find your picnic basket. You don't have anything interesting to eat because you haven't been grocery shopping in a while, and even if you do have food in the house you don't feel like preparing it. We've all been there!

What to do? First of all, do not let any of the above details deter you. Simply make a sandwich and walk out the door, or stop at the market for a prepared sandwich, or the makings of a french picnic: a loaf of crusty bread, some good, hard cheese, and a bunch of grapes. Then, get in your car and drive. Keep an open, positive mind and chances are your car will take you to the best place for you to relax, enjoy a casual activity, or experience an over-the-top adventure, whatever you need to get rejuvenated at that particular time. Never get caught up in the details of the picnic if you don't have the time or inclination.

Remember, the simplest picnics are often the most perfect.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

National Banana Bread Day

February 23 was National Banana Bread Day, and although my schedule for yesterday was carefully planned so I would have time to post my incredible recipe for Banana Bread, it was not to be.

First, I had to make an emergency visit to the car dealer, and when I finally got to the library around mid-afternoon, I found I couldn't get on the internet because my wireless adapter had broken. Off to the store for a replacement and back again to discover the library was getting ready to close.

So, I am a day late. Nevertheless, in honor of National Banana Bread Day, here is one of my favorite recipes from my book, Cruising Connecticut with a Picnic Basket. I hope you enjoy it.

(My Aunt Madeline's recipe dates back more than 75 years. If you like your bread sweet and moist, you will probably agree 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 oven 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 loaf 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.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Greetings From a Happy Snowbird!

It has been almost one year since I started my blog, and this is the longest I have gone without posting an entry ~ over three weeks. For many reasons which are unimportant, it has taken me longer than usual to get here and settle in to the Florida life which I will enjoy for the next several weeks. And, how exciting it is to see sunny skies, sunsets, green grass, and flowers! I love it, and I wish I could have packed up all my friends and family and brought them along to share it with me, especially with the blustery weather back home.

I've even gone on two picnics so far. One was at Myakka River State Park in Sarasota, a 350-acre park with scenic drives, wildlife observation areas, and airboat and tram tours to search for wildlife. The other was at The Rookery in Venice, a small island for the protection of the wading and nesting birds that I love to photograph, including both the snowy and great egret and the great blue heron.

Both times I made Wild Rice and Ham Salad, simply because of its ease and simplicity, and because everyone who tastes it loves it. The rest of the suggested menu items are tortilla chips and Salsa, pumpkin or zucchini bread and watermelon, but any bread or fruit will do. I also like cherry tomatoes with this salad.

This recipe is from my book, Cruising Connecticut with a Picnic Basket, 2nd Edition, and I am happy to share it with folks who are lucky enough to be in a climate suitable for picnicking in February; for everyone else, keep this on hand for all your spring and summer picnics. Not that there aren't places for hearty folks to enjoy a February picnic in Connecticut, such as The White Memorial Conservation Center in Litchfield, but in that case, I rather think my chili recipe would be a better choice!

2 cups cooked wild rice
1/2 pound lean ham, cut into bite size chunks
1/2 cup golden raisins, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes and drained
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup pecan halves

1. In small shallow pan spread pecan halves in a single layer. Bake in 350-degree preheated oven until toasted, approximately 5 minutes. Watch closely. Cool. (I personally like smaller pieces so I cut them in half again.)
2. In large bowl, stir together rice, ham, raisins, and scallions. Add salt and pepper.
3. In small bowl, whisk oil and vinegar together until well blended. Slowly pour over rice and ham mixture until the salad contains the amount that suits you. (I almost never use the entire amount.) Toss.
4. Serve at room temperature or chilled. Just before serving, garnish with pecans. Serve on lettuce leaves.
Serves 4-6

Travel Tip: Refrigerate salad overnight, or at least two hours before packing in cooler.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Yikes, this Winter is no Picnic!

Just one week ago, I attempted to flee Connecticut for kinder temperatures in Florida, but found I couldn't outrun the weather. I was delayed for two days waiting for the ice storm to pass. But, I'm here now and since I'm fortunate enough to be able to enjoy a few weeks reprieve from the wintry mix back home, I won't complain about a couple of days' delay.

While I am here, I plan to get out for a walk every day, spend time on my photography, and have lots of beach picnics. I'll let you know how the picnicking works out in future blogs. In the meantime, start getting ready for your own spring picnic, no matter where you live. First, make a list and shop for the staples you need to fill your picnic basket: dishes, cups, silverware, napkins (I find great bargains for cloth napkins during Kohls sales days) and assorted utensils. Being prepared ahead of time means you can pick up and go in a moment's notice. Then, take a mental escape from winter by planning when and where your first picnic of 2009 will take place.

In Connecticut, mine is usually on the first day of spring (March 20th.) Hopefully, it is under a sunny, blue sky, but what to do when the weather does not cooperate? No need to abandon your plans when there are plenty of places to picnic under cover, indoors, or even in the car (preferably while parked at a scenic location!)

I'll post my most memorable rainy-day picnic in a future blog, but I'd like to hear from other picnic aficionados out there. Tell me about your unusual or creative picnic during less than ideal weather. The most memorable entry will receive a copy of my book, Cruising Connecticut with a Picnic Basket, a day tripping, picnicking and recipe book. Send your email by January 31, 2009 to Type "Picnic Entry" in the subject line.

In the meantime, may all your future picnics be sunny, or at least memorable!