Monday, December 20, 2010

Happy Holidays

Winter is officially here, not that we need a calendar to tell us it is cold! This recipe from Cruising Connecticut with a Picnic Basket is the perfect cold weather drink to be enjoyed not only while picnicking but during other occasions as well:

1. Pour into a thermos to take along on a Sleigh Ride or a day of skiing or sledding.

2. Cozy up in front of a fire, put your favorite Christmas CD on and sip away.

3. Serve it as your guests arrive for a holiday get-together.

1. Pour 4 cups apple cider into a saucepan.
2. Add 2 cinnamon sticks and a teaspoon of whole cloves.
3. Bring to just below boiling point.
4. Remove from heat.
5. Strain.

Pour into cups and add one-half of a fresh orange slice.

OPTION #1: Top with a dallop of whipped cream.
OPTION #2: Stir in 1/2 cup ginger brandy.


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

One Last Day trip and Picnic for 2010

I recently enjoyed what was probably my last day trip and picnic this year with my sister, Pat. The occasion was a friend’s book signing in New Hartford, CT. Patti Kierys wrote a book titled Christmas in the Country, an historical account of The Ullmann Farm in Pleasant Valley, CT. The Ullmann family arrived in Hartford in 1884, and the following year settled in a homestead now known as Squire’s Tavern.

The book is a charming and captivating account of the family’s personal stories and holiday traditions, brought to life by authentic recipes and numerous photos, including a tree decorated with Patti’s own re-created Victorian ornaments. Similar ornaments designed by Patti have often adorned trees at various esteemed residences in Connecticut, like the Governor’s Mansion, as well as travelling all the way to the White House in Washington, D.C.

We loved the fact that the venue for Patti’s book signing was the Gallery at Jerram Winery in New Hartford. This was my first visit, so of course we went early for a wine tasting and picnic which we had picked up at Passiflora Tea Room, Café and Herbal Shoppe, also in New Hartford. Not only do they have great-tasting local, organic food but have some fun special events on Thursday evenings and Sunday afternoons. Check it out at

Jerram Winery was founded in 1998 by Jim Jerram, owner and winemaker. Our tasting consisted of 6 wines, both red and white (out of 11 on the list) several of which were award winners. The property and buildings are unique and welcoming, especially the Tasting Room, a former butter factory that is 107 years old. We look forward to visiting again, perhaps at a different time of year, and learning more about the history of the farm.

I don’t foresee any picnics during December; this month will be devoted to holiday festivities, including shopping. Now that Black Friday is over, I look forward to a slower-paced shopping experience. If you also enjoy a more leisurely and fun type of holiday shopping, consider the following two venues:

Friday, December 3rd, from 4:30-9:00pm. Shop ‘til You Drop at Woodside School, 30 Woodside Road, Cromwell. With over 60 vendors (including authors Patricia Sheehy ( and Jan Mann ( you should have plenty of gift choices. Enjoy free admission, raffles, door prizes and refreshments.

Wednesday, December 8th from 5:00-8:00pm. Heart of the Country, 169 Main Street, Old Wethersfield is hosting a Girls Night Out with authors Patricia Sheehy, Jan Mann and Maureen Chapdelaine ( Enjoy light refreshments, including a treat from Jan’s picnic basket while you browse at this unique and diverse gift shop.

Hope to see you at one of these events.

Monday, November 15, 2010

November Days

I hope everyone enjoyed “Loosen Up, Lighten Up Day” yesterday (November 14th), a reminder of the “benefits of joy and laughter.” Don’t worry if you didn’t know about it, these traits work well any day, and in fact provide more benefits when put into practice consistently. Yet, it’s easy to get distracted in these busy times, so I decided to write these words on a sticky note and place beside my computer where I spend much of my time working on my second book.

Speaking of writing, today (November 15th) is “I Love to Write Day”, a day to “encourage people of all ages to write something: a poem, a short story or a letter to the editor, or to start or finish a novel.” Hmm, it goes on to say, “The possibilities are endless” so I figure everything we write probably counts, except maybe our shopping list.

This day was founded in 2002 by Delaware Author and Ghostwriter John Riddle and will be observed in major cities around the U.S. with libraries, schools and bookstores planning special events and activities. Check it out at Actually, even if you don’t enjoy writing, try just a few minutes of journaling on a regular basis. It’s amazing how much we learn about ourselves, and it’s great for problem solving!

I love this one. November 26th is “Sinkie Day”, a day to become acquainted (if you are not already) with the “time-honored, casual-yet-tasteful cuisine culture” of eating over the kitchen sink. How fitting that this falls on the day after Thanksgiving when people can enjoy the leftovers in style!

Happy Thanksgiving, and no matter how you enjoy your leftovers, may there be plenty!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Habits are Hard to Break

Normally, this would have been the weekend when I would spend a day visiting my favorite spots in Litchfield County to marvel at the autumn colors and confirm once again that the foliage in Connecticut is every bit as spectacular as that in Vermont.

For years, it’s been pretty much the same route, starting at Hopkins Vineyard in New Preston for a wine tasting and the purchase of a bottle of Sachem’s Picnic to enjoy later in the day. In my book I talk about the setting being straight out of a country journal, but the most dramatic view here is the foliage across Lake Waramaug. Next, we visit Kent Falls State Park in Kent, climbing the stairs to the top of the falls which plunge 70 feet in a dramatic cascade. then heading to Cornwall Covered Bridge, just seven miles north in West Cornwall. Here we drive through the narrow 173-foot long bridge, which has been in continuous service since 1864, park the car on the other side, and walk through the bridge and back again, peeking out the window openings on each side for postcard views of the Housatonic River.

The rest of our day varies somewhat depending on how early we started out. Sometimes we poke around the Towns of Kent or West Cornwall, other times we take a drive to the top of the 1,683-foot Mohawk state Forest in Cornwall, just under 4 miles. The view is an awe-inspiring panorama of Mount Greylock to the north, Heublein Tower and Avon Mountain to the East, and the Catskills to the West.

Picnicking is spectacular at any one of these places, or what's fun is a progressive picnic, snacks at the first stop, soup or salad at the second, and so forth.

Anyway, as I said, this is the fall foliage trip I usually plan for the middle weekend in October, but which is not going to work out this year. So, I am doubly glad that last weekend I happened to find myself in the Berkshires with a friend who suggested we drive to Bash Bish Falls located in the extreme southwest corner of Massachusetts at Mount Washington State forest.

We followed signs from route 41 in Egremont, arriving at the upper parking lot and proceeded to walk down a rather steep hill which promised to be even steeper further on. Thankfully, after just a few feet we met someone coming the other way who said he knew of an easier access, which turned out to be a lower parking lot, less than a mile or so further on, actually just across the line in New York. What a difference ~ an easy walk where we could actually enjoy the scenery rather than struggle down a steep hill covered with wet leaves.

What really excited me however, were the falls, the fastest flowing I have seen in several years thanks to the rainfall during the past few weeks. This is Massachusetts’ highest single-drop waterfall with water cascading through a series of gorges and forest before dropping about 60 feet into a pool below. They are known as twin falls because of the boulders that are in the middle separating the cascades.

Now I'm thinking it's probably a good thing to change direction every now and then. Who knows, one of these years I just might decide to revisit Vermont in October. It's been a long time!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

What a Great Month for Picnicking

I love September this year, having already picnicked four times in eight days. Three were over Labor Day weekend alone when an out-of-state friend was visiting.

Cassidy Hill Vineyard, located in the rolling hills of Coventry, has been making wine for about two years. The winery is housed in a log cabin that feels right at home in this part of the state. Enjoy a tasting and lunch inside at a table as we did, or on the porch complete with rocking chairs begging you to sit a spell. For our picnic, we chose takeout from Coventry’s Highland Park Market. (

Coventry Farmers Market, located on the grounds of the Nathan Hale Homestead is big, diverse and fun. Open every Sunday from 11-2 through October 31st, it is a perfect Fall destination. We had several choices for picnicking right at the Farmers Market. I chose Indian food, and although I can’t remember the name of the chicken and rice dish I chose, it was delicious.

I love Connecticut Town Greens and No. 34 (or thereabouts) on my wish list of books to write would be one highlighting all the Town Greens in the state. A friend and I happened to be in Windsor one day and we stopped for a takeout pizza at one of my favorite pizza joints and drove to the lovely and spacious town green. Here we found a bench right in front of a fountain, and since it was a holiday weekend, we had a quiet 2 hours to eat and visit.

Picnic No. 4 on Saturday, September 11th was the ultimate picnic, when 18 family members gathered on the lawn at Gouveia Vineyard in Wallingford. Everyone brought a plate of finger foods to share, and the offerings were phenomenal: small chicken salad sandwiches, deviled crab stuffed eggs, asparagus wrapped in prosciutto and cheese, skewers of marinated fresh tomatoes, peppers and mushrooms straight from someone’s garden, Sandwiched meat loaf, and at least a half dozen other delicacies. We had so much fun we’re already looking forward to next year! (

Don’t forget about the Big E going on now through October 3rd. And, speaking of picnicking, I counted 82 food booths on the website!! Astounding, isn’t it. But my personal choice is to tour the State Buildings for food offerings, because nothing compares to the giant Idaho stuffed potatoes from Maine, fresh blueberry pie from Vermont, seafood dishes from Rhode Island, and well, you get the idea.

When you get to the Connecticut Building, after filling up on fried dough and Italian ice, don’t forget to stop at the Connecticut Authors and Publishers Association Bookstore. The vast array of books, in all genres, is incredible and local authors are here signing books continuously for the entire 17 days. If you happen to visit on Friday, September 24th from 9-4 please stop and say hello. I’d love to meet you.

Happy Picnicking!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Q&A's From My Book Talks About Connecticut Attractions

For the past five years I have had the privilege of traveling around the State talking to folks at libraries, garden clubs, civic organizations, church groups, newcomers clubs, and book stores about the great destinations for day tripping and picnicking in this state. During some 180 appearances I been asked many questions, a few of which are posted here along with my answers.

Q. What is your favorite day trip?
A. It would be impossible to pick just one, plus the favorites sometimes vary from visit to visit. But I'll tell you about some of my personal favorites in each season: In the Fall,the wineries,and it’s also a great time of year to hike up to Heublein Tower at Talcott Mountain State Park. Plus every year, on a weekend day closest to October 15, I take my annual fall foliage day trip to Kent Falls in Kent, Cornwall Covered Bridge in West Cornwall, and Hopkins Vineyard in New Preston, the latter to marvel at the beautiful foliage on the banks of Lake Waramaug; in the winter, Downtown Cabaret Theatre in Bridgeport, and especially during the holidays when they are decorated, Gillette Castle and Mark Twain House; in the Spring, Flanders Nature Center in Woodbury and Connecticut College Arboretum in New London for spring wildflower hunts and almost any place in Mystic; and in the summer, Main Street, Essex, and any place in or near the water, one of my favorites being the Thimble Island Cruise in Branford.

Q. What is your favorite place to picnic?
A. My favorite picnic is always the one enjoyed at the same location as my day trip/activity, but if I take the activity out of the equation, in the summer it’s the pond at Gillette Castle State Park (on the left before you drive up the hill to the Castle parking area) filled with pink, white and fuchsia water lilies. I like picnicking at the Heublein Tower at Talcott Mountain State Park at any time of year for the diverse areas available at the top of the mountain, all with great views, and Gouveia Vineyard in Wallingford because of the option of picnicking outside in the nice weather or in a comfortable room inside when the weather is questionable.

Q. After scouring the state day tripping for so many years, you must know about everything that is available?
A. Even I find it hard to believe, but I’ve hardly scratched the surface. There are numerous state parks that I have never visited, all with their own unique points of interest, historic homes I will probably never get to, hiking and biking trails, museums, and new wineries seem to be springing up faster than I can count.

Q. Was it hard to decide which places to write about.
A. Yes, I struggled with this decision, but I wanted diversity, not only in activities, but in locations throughout the state. This meant I had to leave out some great places because they were too close to another destination. Others did not have a suitable place to picnic. And, still others went out of business or changed drastically between the time of my research and years later when I finally got around to publishing my book.

Q. How did you decide on the recipes?
A. First, I designed a suggested menu for each day trip that suited both the activity and the picnicking facilities. For example, my picnic basket looks very different when I am visiting a state park with picnic tables and grills than when I am taking a walking tour of Hartford and stop for a light lunch on a park bench. Then, I found or designed recipes that covered all the food categories, because I wanted them to be enjoyed at home as well as on picnics.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Picnics Japanese style

Today, I am happy to welcome a guest blogger, Alexis Bonari, who shares with us the charming customs of picnicking Japanese style. Thank you Alexis!

Picnics Japanese Style

If anyone enjoys a good picnic more than Americans and the French, it would be the Japanese. Many of their traditional holidays incorporate picnics into the festivity plans. If you ever need an excuse to have a picnic, here are a few Japanese picnic traditions to savor:

Moon Viewing Festival (O-tsukimi):
The moon is believed to be the most beautiful it will be all year on O-tsukimi. Therefore, the people of Japan arrange nighttime picnics to view the moon and the fireflies that are abundant at this time of the year.

O-tsukimi is celebrated on August 15th of the Japanese Lunar Calendar. Because the dates of the lunar calendar change from year to year, the actual date to celebrate O-tsukimi usually occurs in September or October of the standard calendar. Derived from an equivalent Chinese holiday over 1000 years ago, the traditions associated with O-tsukmi have long since taken on a completely unique, Japanese set of characteristics.

Foods are prepared to represent the moon. Dumplings and satiomo (taro potatoes) are served to guests. These are also offered on an altar to the moon. Other important foods are pumpkin and chestnuts. Food is eaten outside on the grass or just inside the doors of a teahouse.

Cherry Blossom Viewing (Hanami):
The end of March and the beginning of April mark the beginning of Hanami, cherry blossom viewing time. During this popular holiday, Japanese take time out to sit under the cherry trees and indulge in a picnic. Walkways between the trees are illuminated by torches, allowing the picnic festivities to continue into the night.

Traditional picnic foods are prepared at home and brought to the gathering in bento boxes. (These are wooden or lacquered boxes with partitions in them for different varieties of food.) Foods commonly brought to a Hanami celebration include: fish cakes with pink designs, spring herb dumplings, grilled fish, simmered spring vegetables, and other artfully arranged delicacies (

Japan has a long cultural history of celebrating nature. It is therefore no surprise that outdoor eating holds a special place in their festive traditions.

Bio: Alexis Bonari is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education, researching areas of online education. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Three Days = Three Cruising Connecticut Destinations = One Picnic

This past Friday the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, the oldest public art museum in the Country, sponsored a Gallery Talk on Sol LeWitt. Although I had heard of this artist. born in Hartford in 1928, I was totally unfamiliar with his work. What a treat, not only to learn something of the man, who as a young boy took art classes at the Museum, but then to view the exhibit of this world renowned artist, best known for his contribution and leadership role in conceptual art. Before you go to the exhibit room, note the fascinating and colorfully detailed wall painting that takes up the entire wall behind the admissions desk. The exhibit runs through August 15th.

For our pre-museum outdoor picnic, we went straight to Burr Mall on the south side of the museum. As described in Cruising Connecticut with a Picnic Basket, we had a commanding view of the well-known sculpture Stegosaurus, and a pool and fountain while picnicking on one of the white marble slab benches outside the Municipal Building. This bench was even more perfect, both as a seat and a table than I remembered.

Our simple lunch of hard boiled eggs, cheese and crackers, watermelon and fresh cherries was thoroughly enjoyed in this setting, even though the serenity was somewhat overshadowed by the construction of the museum's new roof. Inside, we found several display rooms empty and closed to the public as they are also being spruced up.

Speaking of construction, folks who have Cruising Connecticut may remember that in 2008 when my 2nd Edition was published, I inserted a note at the end of the Hartford chapter (City Walking Tours) that the Connecticut Science Museum was still being constructed. Well, earlier this month I finally visited this facility, urged in part by a gift of free passes! I am hoping that in time this attraction, like so many others in the state, will have reduced-rate passes that can be checked out at local libraries.

The architecture and creative design of the exhibits immediately grabbed my attention, but after awhile there was a bit of frustration as massive groups of school children prevented a close-up view of the more popular displays. While it was heartening to see how animated and boisterous the kids were about science, I began to wonder whether it was the science itself that was the attraction, or simply the fun of playing with the hands-on exhibits. A little bit of both most likely. Next time, I plan to arrive in mid-afternoon when it will be quieter and easier to get up close ~ and to have a turn to play!

On Sunday, I delivered books to The Gift Shop at Connecticut Trolley Museum. This tourist spot was busy with happy families riding a trolley dating back to the late 1800's or early 1900's. If I hadn't planned on running up to UConn with another book delivery, I would have been tempted to join them.

After my book drop at UConn Bookstore, I drove past some of the barns on the animal trail admiring the beautifully kept grounds, but the only place I stopped on this very warm day was at the Dairy Barn. Yum, they still dish up the best homemade ice cream in the state.

Happy day tripping and picnicking!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

All About Picnics

Although I enjoy picnicking at any time of year, I join the throngs of people who picnic more in July than other months. I suppose it is because July is the first full month of summer, school is out, vacations begin and the most popular single day for picnicking falls in this month, July 4th. No wonder someone thought to designate July as National Picnic Month.

During my various talks throughout Connecticut, people sometimes ask about the origin of picnicking and are surprised to learn that the custom dates back to France and shortly thereafter in England in the 17th century where feasts were moved outdoors to coincide with a planned activity, such as shooting parties, fox hunts, sporting event, or garden parties. Mostly formal affairs, I visualize servants carrying large hampers of delicacies to the designated destination. In the mid-1800's picnicking slowly began to take on an informality where each invited guest brought a food item to share.

Today, we call this a pot luck picnic. I planned such an event with a group of friends for a day later this month at Elizabeth Park in Hartford. Hopefully, we have timed it so the roses are in full bloom. ( I love the idea of an authentic pot luck picnic as opposed to our holiday pot luck where we sign up ahead of time with our food contribution. For our summer pot luck picnic no one knows what the others are bringing. So, we take the risk that we might end up with 8 cheese and cracker appetizers, 8 meat loafs, or 8 desserts (I should be so lucky!) What fun it is to see the delicious delicacies that end up on the picnic table, and to ultimately enjoy a versatile and well-balanced luncheon every time.

Are you ready for picnic season? Have you taken your picnic bag or basket out of storage and checked for any missing items? Is it time to jog to the discount store and restock? Just think picnic and you will be amazed at how easy it is to put together an informal pot luck picnic with friends and family in the great outdoors.

To get you in the mood to find the perfect place, check out the collection of photos I took at various picnic areas around the state. Go to and click on Photos on the left.

May all your picnics be perfect!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

6 Steps to The Perfect Picnic

One or more of these basic steps have been used to plan all my picnics through the years. Every single picnic is unique, but for me that is the best part. Different people, different locations, different menu all add up to a new adventure each and every time. I hope these tips inspire you to get out and picnic more:

1. Keep your picnic basket packed and ready to go at all times. Nothing discourages picnicking more than having to hunt for necessities like dishes, silverware, napkins, tablecloth and all the other basics. For a complete list of items to pack in your picnic basket, check my Blog dated May 3, 2008.
2. Pick a location. I like to combine a picnic with some sort of activity, whether it is a tourist attraction similar to those found in Cruising Connecticut with a Picnic Basket, or something more passive, like watching your kids play ball at the park, or enjoying a romantic sunset.
3. Decide who to invite -- a friend, relative, neighbor? Anyone would be thrilled to be invited to go on a picnic. But, what if it is spontaneous and everyone in your circle is busy? Well, I hope you will agree that you are the best company you know and go anyway.
4. Choose your menu. First, take into consideration the location and picnic facilities since the menu for a picnic at a state park with tables and grills might be very different than for a picnic on a blanket at the beach. Also, think about the safety and ease of transporting the food. For ideas on getting a head start on picnic foods see my Blog dated April 27, 2008.
5. Be flexible. If the weather decides not to cooperate, you may have to pick another destination, one that has an overhead covering. Or, in the extreme, spread your picnic cloth on the living floor. Hey, it's not as bad as you might think ~ all your favorite foods, background music and no ants. Story telling or board games may be the perfect activity to complement your home picnic.
6. It's okay to ignore Steps 1-5. Let's say you wake up to a beautiful day and some rare leisure time to get outdoors and play, which of course, will include a picnic. You don't have a plan, you can 't think of where to go, you don't know if anyone is free on the spur-of-the-moment and don't feel like calling around. More importantly, your picnic basket is definitely not ready to go, in fact, you can't even find your picnic basket, and you certainly don't have anything interesting in the fridge because you haven't been grocery shopping in a while, but even if you do have food you don't feel like taking the time to get it ready.

What to do? SIMPLE!

Walk out the door empty-handed, well, except for maybe a table or ground cover. Stop at the nearest market and buy the fixings for a grand French picnic: a loaf of crusty bread, some good hard cheese, and a bunch of grapes. Oh, and a bottle of fizzy water. And, then let your car guide you to the perfect picnic spot. The key is not to get so caught up or overwhelmed by the details of picnicking that you give up the idea altogether.

I like to think that when we have an open and willing heart, and an adventuresome spirit, all our picnics will be perfect!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Picnicking Season

I personally believe that picnicking knows no season, although I know most people prefer to picnic in the warmer weather. If you fall into this category picnic season is finally here. The first step is to dig out your picnic basket and make sure it's stocked with all the basics so you can just grab it and go when the spirit, and the weather suits you.

Here is one of my all-time favorite main dishes from Cruising Connecticut with a Picnic Basket. It's simple to prepare, uses basic ingredients, and travels well.

Glastonbury Gourmet's Chicken Caprese
(Courtesy of Les Harris - Executive Chef @ Glastonbury Gourmet)

Chicken Breasts (sliced thin)
Eggs, Milk
Fresh Tomato
Fresh Ovoline Mozzarella (4 oz. balls)
Balsamic Vinegar (for reduction)
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper
Fresh Basil

- Wash off chicken breasts and pat dry with a clean towel.
- Place Balsamic Vinegar in a heavy bottom sauce pan and begin reducing to a thin syrup consistency.
- Prepare a flat bottom container for flour. Season four lightly with salt & Pepper. Place chicken into flour (both sides) and tap excess flour off the chicken breasts.
- Place the above chicken breasts in an egg wash (beaten eggs with milk.) Remove when coated thoroughly and place back into flour (the egg wash acts as a glue.) Lightly coat each side of chicken with the flour and tap off excess again.
- Heat up saute pan with olive oil and butter. Place chicken into hot pan and saute both sides until golden brown. Remove from pan and place into a preheated oven (325 degrees) for approximately 7 to 10 minutes (time depends on thickness of chicken.) The chicken should be cooked completely.
- Place cooked chicken on plate. Slice your tomato and ovoline mozzarella and layer them down the chicken sideways. Add a fresh leaf of basil in between the tomato and ovoline. Sprinkle with salt & pepper to taste.
- Drizzle the balsamic vinegar reduction over the above finished chicken and enjoy!
- Total time from start to finish is 20 to 30 minutes.

Note from Jan: I've enjoyed this dish warm by timing it to come out of the oven right before leaving for the picnic. Wrap well, then cover with layers of newspaper to help hold in the heat and eat within 2 hours. I also enjoy making ahead and refrigerating until leaving for my picnic. In either case, if it is convenient you can wrap the tomato, mozzarella, and Balsamic vinegar separately and assemble at the picnic site.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tomorrow is National Letting Go of Stuff Day

Hello Folks,

Would you believe after all this time I have no picnic outings to report from Florida? I'm still waiting for some consistent 70-plus degree weather without the strong winds that have become norm this winter. So, in lieu of picnicking, I have been spending more time working on my 2nd book, Cruising Cross-Country than I might have otherwise, and I guess this is a good thing.

So, putting the subject of day tripping, picnicking and writing aside for today, I would like to share the following from Chase's Calendar of Events. I believe the message can benefit everyone. These days we take stuff into our sub-conscious at an alarming rate and forget that every once and a while we need to clear out the negative, that which we no longer want or need in our lives.

Mission Statement: National Letting Go of Stuff Day ~ April 25th
To provide a day of acknowledgment for freeing up sub-conscious space so people all over the United States can begin to experience freedom - from the inside-out.

1. A day to claim your personal power.
2. A day to begin measuring your personal success from one year to the next.
3. A day to begin cleaning out your heart - getting rid of all the emotional pain.
4. A day to claim RENEWAL of your spirit.
5. A day to BEGIN LETTING GO of your past situations that are holding you back from your future success.
6. A day to claim your future dreams - as your own.
7. A day to accept and acknowledge what you can and cannot control in your life - and live accordingly.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


I've been in Florida for six weeks and have only been on one picnic. Although there has been isolated days when at least part of the day is pleasant, the weather changes so quickly, from wind to rain to cold, it's a bit risky to chance a picnic.

But, the last week in January was an exceptional week with good weather every day. My grandson happened to be visiting that week, helping me with painting and other chores, but I made sure we still have plenty of time to play. One of the places I took him to is Myakka River State Park, in Sarasota.

First, we took the Canopy Walkway & Tower, a walkway "through the treetops" on a swing bridge, then meandered down a path to the dam to see the alligators sunning themselves on the far bank. Later, along the 7-mile scenic drive we spotted a group of impatient-looking vultures hovering in treetops and in two different areas, armadillos digging furiously in the soil by the roadway. It was the closest either of us has ever been to this strange looking mammal.

Eventually, we drove through the park toward the North gate until we came to the Clay Gully picnic area, where picnic tables sit comfortably next to the river, amidst trees and other foliage. Our picnic fare was simple: sandwiches of fresh roasted white chicken, Swiss cheese, cranberry sauce, spinach leaves and mayo on oatmeal grain break, with chips and drinks.

On the way home we stopped at Nokomis Groves for homemade ice cream. Their citrus fruit business has been in operation for over sixty years, but we were there for their soft serve ice cream. They swirl the most unusual favors together, like pineapple and orange, chocolate and lime. Yum!

Although I haven't been picnicking nearly as often as I would like (yet!) I am so happy to be in Florida, where the sun at least peaks out most days, and I can still bundle up and get outside to walk ~ in sneakers rather than snow boots. Yes, life is good!

I hope wherever you live, picnics will soon be in your future.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Calendar of Events

2010 Chase's Calendar of Events has the most interesting information. For my family and friends back in Connecticut, this one is for you:

Hula in the Coola Day ~ February 1st is "A day for those longing to escape the winter doldrums to laugh at the cold with a luau party. Put away your winter coats, get out your shorts and flip-flops, play limbo and say 'Aloha.' "

If you are lucky enough to have already escaped the cold, to say, Florida, for the next 28 days (and longer I'm sure!) you can enjoy Florida Strawberry Month. Yum!

And, no matter where you live you can celebrate Bake for Family Fun Month. The Home Baking Association dedicates the entire month to "the great taste, good nutrition, economy and family fun of traditional home baking."

Wouldn't it be great if everyone working in a service industry put this into practice ~ National Laugh-Friendly Month. The sponsors of this one encourages businesses and individuals to promote exceptional customer service with smiles, humor and laughter.

Speaking of laughter, February 8th is Laugh and Get Rich Day. The promoter of this day believes that people who laugh are more effective, tend to remember things better, and that laughter helps to lower the turnover rate.

Joel Goodman: Seven days without laughter makes one weak.

Well, it looks like this month is all about eating and laughing. Sounds good to me!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Turning the Page

I rather enjoyed turning the calendar page from December to January this year. Along with so many, I'm mustering up the hope that 2010 will be better for everyone, but also on a personal note, I am optimistic about both short and long-term goals.

Maybe I am splitting hairs, but I prefer the more serious image that the word "goal" evokes rather than the word "resolution" traditionally used at this time of year. Maybe it's because the latter is usually preceded by "New Year's..." and so often broken in the same time it takes the ball to drop in Times Square.

Anyway, my short-term goal will be realized as fast as I sprout my snowbird wings and fly to warmer weather. Being in a new place both mentally and physically, I will eagerly begin writing my new book about a retired woman (that's me!) traveling x-country to visit 10 National Parks, both solo and on-the-cheap. The fact that it is a travel book will be the only resemblance to my first book, Cruising Connecticut with a Picnic Basket. Because I spent only a brief time in each location (compared to dozens of visits to each of my destinations in Cruising Connecticut), the key components of day tripping, picnicking and recipes will be abandoned.

So, what will be the focus of my new book? Perhaps part memoir, with a sprinkling of inspiration, and a few how-to's sprinkled here and there, like how-to travel alone without being lonely." What do the readers of this blog like, or dislike, about traveling solo? And, how do you keep from being lonely? I'd love to hear from you.

I love how travel author David Yeadon describes traveling alone in The Way of the Wanderer, "We have to be alone to touch our inner selves. And, if we cannot touch ourselves, how can we truly touch anyone else?"

Happy New Year! Whether you have resolutions or goals for 2010, may they be achieved easily and happily.