Old Orchard Beach, ME, Pirate’s Cove Mini-Golf

Speaking of blue skies in the previous post, Big Skies Play the Blues,

summer seems to bring out the truest, bluest landscape. 

 

Have you taken the time to notice?  (Or are you too busy complaining about…how hot…humid…whatever it is?)

 On your next day trip, here’s your assignment (yes, that’s right, assignment; I am after all a teacher!):  Observe the blues.  Relish in them.  Feel grateful to be alive.  Feel grateful to see…wow, what a privilege.  Feel grateful to be and, just be.  Feel Grateful; live GREAT&ful.

♥♥♥♥

 Who shouted with glee when the color blue was born?

~ “The book of Questions,” Pablo Neruda

 

 

Old Orchard Beach, Maine: Beautiful Blues

 

You say there are no miracles?  Look above, no I’m not just talking heaven here, I’m talking that there have been some unbelievable sky masterpieces around our neck of the woods.  As I refresh, rejuvenate and rejigger* on my day-tripping experiences, I can’t get over the spectrum of blues ranging from robin egg to turquoise that have colored the sky. 

The clouds, too, have been potent and interesting.  You can spend an hour guessing what the puffy forms resemble.  The other day, I found mermaids, puppy dogs and rabbit ears!  Whether you live in Big Sky, Montana or Brisbane, Australia, as you take a day trip, remember to glance up at the summer’s sky.  It will take you where you need to be, in the here and now. 

Look up and feel the blood pressure go down.

*  “Quietly but noticeably over the past year, Americans have rejiggered their lives to elevate experiences over things. Because of the Great Recession, a recent New York Times/CBS News poll has found, nearly half of Americans said they were spending less time buying nonessentials, and more than half are spending less money in stores and online,” In Recession, Americans Doing More, Buying Less; NYT, January 2, 2010.

Sometimes you don't have to get out of the car to enjoy a day trip!

I had a friend tell me the other week that she had an overworked, overscheduled week that amounted to one long bad mood.  On Friday after work, she said she went to the beach bypassing the crowds and, instead, laid her body in the sun fully clothed on top of an empty picnic table.  Not that I’m advocating this sort of behavior since picnic tables are meant for sitting not laying on, but I do think it illustrates the point of getting a change of scenery without necessarily stepping totally inside the scene.

Sometimes, for whatever reason, you don’t want to be a part of the world; in other words, instead of going fully into the community sandbox, you want to sit on the edge.  This limbo position I believe serves its purpose.  Once, while I was conducting a program at the Norma Pfreim Breast Care Center, a woman shared an inspiring story.  After she had lost her husband at a very young age to cancer, she found herself isolated and grieving alone for weeks on end.  One day she decided to go out—but not all the way out.  Lo and behold, she went on a day trip.  She drove herself to an outdoor summer festival.  Mind you, she did not leave her car.  She sat in her front seat as an observant.  Kids laughed.  Adults noshed on pizza and ice cream.  Ferris wheels whirled.  The scene gave the woman hope in that it served as a symbolic transition that one day she too would join life again.

So, on those days that you feel you don’t want to be a part of things, remember you don’t always have to get into the sandbox to have a good time and refresh, rejuvenate and rejigger.*

*  “Quietly but noticeably over the past year, Americans have rejiggered their lives to elevate experiences over things. Because of the Great Recession, a recent New York Times/CBS News poll has found, nearly half of Americans said they were spending less time buying nonessentials, and more than half are spending less money in stores and online,” In Recession, Americans Doing More, Buying Less; NYT, January 2, 2010.

 

Outside a window of Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry--Nature's Museum!

Early in my travel-writing career while writing about amusement parks, I learned an indispensible truth: travel in a counter clockwise direction.  In other words, from the main entrance gate when the crowds go left (modus operandi in amusement parks), you go counter clockwise, right. 

Sometimes the best way to refresh, rejuvenate and rejigger,* is to take the opposite direction from the crowds.  Once taking a day trip at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, I followed the crowds onward, eyes straight ahead, until, that is, I looked outside a window in the  museum and saw nature’s museum. In a patch of sweet hued and sweet fragrance gardens, butterflies danced and flitted.  The dramatic movements made my mind break into a lyrical version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”  So now when I think back to my Chicago day trip, I recall not one museum perspective, but two!

Outside a window of Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry--Nature's Museum!

And that’s what I learned from my backyard therapy experiences,  instead of looking straight ahead, look up or down; instead of going in the direction of the crowd, go counter clockwise…sometimes going against the tide gives you the most memorable vantage point. 

Look up!

Next backyard therapy adventure: Look in far-off areas!

Tucked behind the grand piano, The Spencer Hotel, Chautauqua, NY

Skip the hotdogs & eat Thai Food this July 4th! (Bangkok Restaurant, Danbury, CT)

One of my friend Eileen’s favorite Christmas memories was going to a Chinese restaurant and a movie with her newly divorced daughter.  Eileen was a recent widow, and her daughter did not have custody of her children on that particular Christmas Day.  As she shared about the novelty of this adventure, her face glowed in glee.  Historically, her family had always celebrated Christmases past with a traditional holiday feast and presents.  On what marked a holiday that both women had initially dreaded turned out to be one of the best ones (except the absence of the young children did tug on their heartstrings) that they had ever experienced.

On this same note, my friend Dian, who used to spend oodles of money buying Christmas gifts for her grown-up daughters, now takes them on exotic trips instead—talk about elevating experiences over things!  Don’t even ask which holidays stay in the forefront of this family’s mind!

A very important thing that my day-tripping experiences have taught me is that I can basically do what I want and with whom I choose.  So as we celebrate Independence Day weekend, I like to think about my independence and what would best suit my family’s lifestyle to refresh, rejuvenate and rejigger.*  The fact is, we don’t have to watch the fireworks.  We don’t have to have hamburgers and hot dogs.  We don’t even have to think about the meaning of the holiday.  When the kids were little and my travel-writing career was booming, in fact, most of our most memorable July 4ths were spent at places ranging from Thai restaurants  to museums.  We also spent a few exciting Independence Day weekends watching firework displays in faraway towns, miles away from our home. 

Thai food on the July Fourth? Definitely! (Bangkok Restaurant, Danbury, CT)

Day-tripping experiences have really taught me my preferences, and that I have the power to choose where I want to go as much as I have the power to choose whether or not I will have a good day, but, of course, going on a day trips sprinkles fairy dust on any given day.

Happy, safe 4th of July; celebrate in your own fashion!

*  “Quietly but noticeably over the past year, Americans have rejiggered their lives to elevate experiences over things. Because of the Great Recession, a recent New York Times/CBS News poll has found, nearly half of Americans said they were spending less time buying nonessentials, and more than half are spending less money in stores and online,” In Recession, Americans Doing More, Buying Less; NYT, January 2, 2010.

Inn at Mystic, Mystic, CT

Oceans, lakes, streams, reservoirs and ponds, ahhh, particularly on a sultry summer day, nothing can refresh the body, mind and spirit, but especially the body, like water. Nearly 70 percent of the earth is composed of water, as is the human body.  I don’t believe that this is sheer coincidence.  Since the beginning of civilization, each generation has benefited from the therapeutic value of water. 

Mystic, CT

For me, the next best thing next to the spa experience in helping one relax, rejuvenate and rejigger* is to go to the coastline.  In fact, in the mid-1980s, I spent many hours a week walking the sands while my mind rambled, pained and powerless, during one of the toughest periods of my life.  No matter how tremulous my thoughts were, as I trampled up one side of the beach and then another, the rhythmic, constant companionship of the waves splashing forth, helped squelch my overly critical thoughts.

Mystic, CT

As I arrived each day to walk the beach, the salt air signaled the start of the familiar ritual and no matter how burdened I felt, immediately I experienced a sense of calm, and a glimmer of hope flicked on my grimly dark horizon like the first crack of dawn.

Stonington, CT

Linda Samuels puts it so well in her blog when she writes, “…lately I’ve spent more time by the rivers—walking, sitting, eating, and just being. There is something restorative about water. My mind quiets enough to simply focus on the scenery before me. The “must dos” and “should dos” take a back seat while nature works it magic, bringing me to a calmer, clearer place.”

Olde Mistick Village, Mystic, CT

My mind, these days, may not be so pained, but it still runs overactive, and I, like Leslie, feel so much calmer by the shoreline.  Although I like to wander the beach four seasons a year, summertime, of course, is when the swarms of pedestrians think likeminded.  But even amidst a lot of company, which can become pretty noisy, I still walk away, sand coarse between my toes, feeling restored—even during the times I didn’t feel I needed restoration!  And that’s the thing, I think if everyone in the world was required to go to the water for a few hours every week, health care costs would plunge. Simple, huh? Even if you think you don’t need some restorative time, try a walk by the water before summer flits away like a Monarch butterfly.

Inn at Mystic, Mystic, CT

Mystic, CT

Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, MN

 

And in the end,
it’s not the years in your life that count.
It’s the life in your years.

— Abraham Lincoln

You can give your dad ties, shirts and robes, but, in the end, what really matters is time spent well.  On home turf together, disruptions abound with ringing telephones and favorite programs on television; let’s not forget that growing chore list.

A day-tripping experience allows the opportunity to unwind, enjoy and rejigger.*  Whether you have a terrific relationship with dad or terrible, or, perhaps, falling somewhere in between, a visit to a museum, a  park or special event takes the focus off dialoging about hot topics and boring chitchat, and instead magnifies the splendor of the fleeting moments.  Growing up, day trips were the farthest thing from my over-worked and over-committed dad’s mind.  However, well into my 40s, from the day the family received his emphysema diagnosis to the day he died, four years later, I made it a point to be one hundred percent “there” for him in the waning years.  “There” meaning deliberately employing an overkill of patience, tolerance and anything to steer away from non-confrontational moods that could have ruined our limited time together. 

What this experience taught me, and what I try to bring forth into my day trips, is to relax and, yes, just enjoy the moment.  How?  Okay, back to dad.  Many times, we would be stationary like at the doctor’s office or waiting for the senior citizen bus.  I would concentrate on his breathing, which was easy to do because he utilized an oxygen tank.  So we would sit.  He would breathe.  I would listen.  In this precise orchestra, without word or gesture, we found each other in a spirit of love, because, as it’s been said before, love is in the moment.

So, here’s an idea for a Father’s Day gift.  Buy a few tickets to the museum.  There are, too, some pretty interesting things to do this holiday like Bullwhips in the Open field at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, an 11-acre park in Minnesota, located near the Walker Art Center.  Regardless of where you go or what you do, just feel your dad next to you; appreciate the wonder of your breath and his breath, think about how they synchronize without any effort at all.  Realize that this is love, naturally and fully, as close as you can build a pathway to heaven on earth.

Happy Father’s Day.

*  “Quietly but noticeably over the past year, Americans have rejiggered their lives to elevate experiences over things. Because of the Great Recession, a recent New York Times/CBS News poll has found, nearly half of Americans said they were spending less time buying nonessentials, and more than half are spending less money in stores and online,” In Recession, Americans Doing More, Buying Less; NYT, January 2, 2010.

Make a beeline to beauty, Hammonasset Beach State Park, Madison, CT

In the introduction of “Consummate Connecticut: Day Trips with Panache,” I end with these words, “TAKE THE LONG WAY HOME…May the road ahead greet you gently at each turn and may you never lose the wonder to travel that extra mile. ”

This was my topic at hand for my next blog.  Before I could sit down and write about it, guess what?  I had to run an errand in Bridgeport, CT, and I decided, yep, you guessed it…to rejigger * and take the long way home; actually, I decided to investigate a little side street that I was on, and, right at the corner, the sight of a brick factory made me regress to being eight years old again. 

Just as I suspected, I espied a tiny Wonder Bread factory outlet across the street.  Pulling into the parking lot, after I strode in, I immediately felt the hovering presence of my dad beside me in his crisp, blue-ironed shirt, car keys jingling in his hand.

Here, in this minuscule place, I recaptured a giant rush of youth; so much of it spent grazing on Twinkies and spongy white bread.  The taste of memory was even sweeter as I remembered my father who, ironically, possessing an oak-tree stature, was a scarce presence in my childhood.

“How long has this store been here?”  I asked the sales clerk at the checkout counter.

“At least 50 years.”

“Wow, I haven’t been here since I was eight,” I explained, recalling how my dad, planting a seed for my adult bargain-hunting penchant, whittled away many weekends taking me to shop here with him.

“I get people in here all the time who say that,” she said with a smile from ear to ear. 

Needless to say, the day trip queen ended up eating a Twinkies while taking another chunk of the day to refuel my memories of my dad, who, I realized, wasn’t so non-existent in my early life after all, as I refueled the car, knowing the extra miles were worth the experience, certainly the wonder of reuniting with the Wonder Bread outlet.

Winding road inspiration: Stewart B. McKinley National Wildlife Refuge, Sheffield Island, Norwalk, CT

*  “Quietly but noticeably over the past year, Americans have rejiggered their lives to elevate experiences over things. Because of the Great Recession, a recent New York Times/CBS News poll has found, nearly half of Americans said they were spending less time buying nonessentials, and more than half are spending less money in stores and online,” In Recession, Americans Doing More, Buying Less; NYT, January 2, 2010

Day trip catch-up, closer than you think! (Blueberry Hill Inn, Goshen, VT)

It’s the weekend!  Yeah!  Just you and…running the kids to soccer games…grocery shopping…perhaps painting the bedroom…gardening…whoa….What happened to weekends off?  Not this weekend, you say, with a five-page to-do list in your right hand and a dirty load of laundry…you know the load you were going to wash on Wednesday…in your left hand. 

Okay, so I’ll let you off the hook for taking the entire day off.  As a competent, mature adult, now and then you do have to play catch-up with responsibilities.  However, that does not mean you can’t alleviate a bit of the chore list with a day trip catch-up, too. 

Day trip catch-up?  Absolutely.  For instance, if you are running errands and live by the water, simply drive by and give yourself a minute of breathing room.  Better yet, pull over—still in your car—and take in the sights, even for a few minutes (but don’t blame me if you end up there for a much longer time than anticipated—that’s a good thing).

If you do not have access to a car, take a longer bus route home and keep your mind keen on the new sightings, perhaps a new restaurant in the neighborhood, or do a few added minutes of people-watching.  Consider, too, instead of eating lunch at home, noshing outside at a nearby park or inside a mall if it is raining. 

This weekend, amid the chores, the obligations and the commitments, detach—even for a few minutes—by playing day-trip catch up.  It’s a fun game that will likely give you a refreshing perspective, maybe put a smile on your face and certainly help you rejigger.*

Blueberry Hill Inn, Goshen, VT

 

Blueberry Hill Inn, Goshen, VT

 

Blueberry Hill Inn, Goshen, VT

 NOTE:  All images were taken at Blueberry Hill Inn, Goshen, VT

*  “Quietly but noticeably over the past year, Americans have rejiggered their lives to elevate experiences over things. Because of the Great Recession, a recent New York Times/CBS News poll has found, nearly half of Americans said they were spending less time buying nonessentials, and more than half are spending less money in stores and online,” In Recession, Americans Doing More, Buying Less; NYT, January 2, 2010.

My famous vegetarian-style stuffed grape leaves make any picnic a smash!

An impromptu, planned picnic, say what?  You can’t plan spontaneity!  Oh, yes you can!  The best picnics are coordinated days beforehand, step by step.  By the time picnic day rolls around—you choose a time, figure out a location, perhaps call a few last-minute companions to join in the fun.  Now that’s what I call a stress free spur-of-the-moment day trip.  Grab the stuff, out the door, no hassle; don’t even worry about the rain, it’s in the plans too.

Here’s how.  Each day, beginning midweek, Wednesday, you start getting everything ready.

Wednesday

1. Get your (preferably reusable) basket(s), tote bag(s), cooler(s) or take-along(s) ready.  Double check to see if you have enough dinnerware and utensils; napkins (preferably reusable cloth) and other supplies.  Make sure you have frozen ice packets or ice bags.  Don’t forget the chairs/blanket; umbrellas and rain attire (for plan B). 

2.  Check to see what condiments you have on hand, such as salt/pepper, butter/margarine, hot sauce.  For trouble-free packing, transfer, if necessary, items to smaller containers. 

3.  Decide if you want to add any special touches, like candles, hand fans or silk flowers. 

4.  Create a shopping list for any missing items. 

5.  Decide on a cold food menu (this way, you don’t have to worry about keeping food hot) and add to your shopping list. 

Here is a sample menu.  You are welcome to use it:

Cold Vegetarian-Style Stuffed Grape Leaves (see recipe below)

(Optional) Chicken Quesadilla Pinwheels (or an assortment of finger sandwiches of your choosing)

Fresh Green Salad or Fresh Vegetable Assortment

Stacy’s Sensational Potato Salad

Fresh Italian (or any other kind of) Bread

Additional condiments of your choice:  pickles, mixed assortment of olives, assortment of cheese, crackers.

Soft drinks, water, whatever you like

Assorted fruits, yogurt, your favorite dessert.

Thursday

1.  Shop for supplies/food/condiments/ice. 

2.  Pack ALL utensils and non-perishable supplies in their designated baskets/tote bags.  Have them out-the-door ready; in fact, place whatever you can into the car’s trunk NOW (one less worry).  Pack chairs and any other bulky items in the car, too. 

3.  Prepare rain gear, have it out-the-door ready, too.

4.  Sort out soda/water/beverages into cooler. 

5.  Prepare and pack condiments.  Remember, if a jar of pickles is too large to take, break down the volume and pack in an appropriate container.

5.  Wash all fruit and veggies; air dry overnight.

6.  Scrub potatoes and celery root; peel.  Boil both.  Refrigerate.

7.  Cook rice; I like jasmine in preparation of stuffed grape leaves recipe.  Refrigerate.

Friday:  

1.  Purchase bread. 

2.  Assemble potato salad (see recipe below), and pack in appropriate container and refrigerate.  3.  Assemble grape leaves, and pack in appropriate container and refrigerate. 

4.  Prepare sandwiches or Chicken Quesadilla Pinwheels.

5.  Prepare dessert.

Now here’s the fun part:  Wake up Saturday at your leisure, pack and add ice to remaining picnic foods.  Chose a perfect picnic location—if it’s raining, obviously find one that has overhead protection or roof like a gazebo or pavilion—and go, rejigger* with all your might!!

For the sake of novelty, conduct a brainstorming session and come up with some off-the-beaten-track picnic spots, perhaps, for instance, on a museum’s grounds where the public is allowed.

Behind the CT River Museum, Essex, makes a flawless picnic backdrop

Westport's (CT) Sherwood Island: A unexpected picnic guest drops in

Recipes:

Cold Vegetarian Stuffed Grape Leaves

Approximately one jar of vegetarian-style grape leaves (available in the ethnic section of the supermarket); I prefer Peloponnese jarred variety

Approximately two cups of rice, instant or long cooking, any variety or flavor; again, I prefer jasmine

One small jar of pine nuts

One Knorr’s Vegetable Soup packet (I can’t cook without Knorr’s!)

One 8 ounce can of chopped tomatoes or fresh chopped tomatoes

Two tablespoons of rice vinegar

Your favorite oil and vinegar salad dressing, approximately three cups: enough to soak/cover a completed tray of stuffed grape leaves

A squirt of fresh lemon juice

Sprig of parsley for garnish

Rinse, do not blanch grape leaves—about half of the jar, depending on desired quantity.  Cook two or more cups rice, depending upon desired quantity.  Add the contents of one Knorr’s Vegetable soup packet to rice, mix.  Sprinkle in pine nuts, gauge amount to personal preference.  Squirt lemon for taste.  Place about one teaspoon of rice mixture on underside of each leaf near the stem’s end.  Covering stuffing by folding left and right sides of leaf until they touch.  Roll up leaf from base to tip, pinch in the sides if necessary.  Repeat with all leafs and line all rolled leaves in baking dish.

Cover baking dish of rolled leaves with salad dressing and juice from one whole lemon.  Add two or three good squirts of rice vinegar.  Cut the remaining lemon and decorate tray with rime.  Top off with canned or chopped fresh tomatoes.  Garnish with a sprig of parsley.  Bake approximately 30 to 40 minutes or until boiling.  Cool and refrigerate for picnic time.

Stacy’s Sensational Potato Salad

One bag potatoes, I prefer Dole brand potatoes

One celery root (found in the produce section of the supermarket)

One large sweet onion

Two scallions

One Knorr’s Vegetable Soup packet

Mayonnaise (I prefer Hellmann’s)

Two tablespoons of rice vinegar

One or two boiled cold eggs (optional)

Chopped fresh dill (optional)

Cook and dice potatoes and celery root (dice both about the same size).  Dice finely raw onions and scallions.  Mix onions, scallions and Knorr’s Vegetable Soup packet and about a cup or more, depending on taste preference, of Hellmann’s Mayonnaise into potatoes and celery root combination.  Add rice vinegar.  Add dill and boiled chopped eggs, if desired.  Chill in appropriate container until picnic time. 

*  “Quietly but noticeably over the past year, Americans have rejiggered their lives to elevate experiences over things. Because of the Great Recession, a recent New York Times/CBS News poll has found, nearly half of Americans said they were spending less time buying nonessentials, and more than half are spending less money in stores and online,” In Recession, Americans Doing More, Buying Less; NYT, January 2, 2010.

Consummate Author! Consummate Journalist! Consummate Motivator!

Through simple secrets to a happier life like day-trip adventures and a gratitude journal by the bedside, I have not only been able to overcome many obstacles in my life, but erase negative and useless thinking…and, yes, learn to relax, rejuvenate, rejigger. *

Rejigger *

* “Quietly but noticeably over the past year, Americans have rejiggered their lives to elevate experiences over things. Because of the Great Recession, a recent New York Times/CBS News poll has found, nearly half of Americans said they were spending less time buying nonessentials, and more than half are spending less money in stores and online,” In Recession, Americans Doing More, Buying Less; NYT, January 2, 2010.

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Day Trip Travel — Experiences Over Things

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