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Fall's Masterpiece unveiled!

Here we are in the early days of October and it seems that already every leaf peeper on earth is out on the trail.  Even my, otherwise, quiet hamlet of Easton, Connecticut, has turned into a bumper-to-bumper standstill of city folks hauling shiny pumpkins to their automobiles and waiting in lines at Sherwood’s Farm to partake of slow hayrides through the pumpkin patch.  Likewise, if you are trying to book an overnight stay at a New England Country Inn, good luck!

There is no better time than now here in New England to join the many other trailblazers and go outdoors.  To really rejigger, collect a few colorful leaves and scatter them as decorations indoors.  If you have friends living in less colorful areas, plan a day trip with the sole purpose of collecting leaves for them.  Then for five bucks or less, laminate them on an oversized sheet and drop the creation along with a sweet note into the mail. (I actually borrowed this idea from a woman I overheard at a copier shop doing this very thing for a friend.)

Color, color &, yes, more color!

Isn’t that the best way to rejigger, share your joy of the day-tripping experience with a friend?  Let’s face it, e-mail is a convenient way to keep in touch, but taking the time to send an “I care” package packs a stronger message of love


In the cyclical fashion of life and death, summer’s promenade nears its final steps.  I always contemplated why people spent so many hours planting flowers when summer seems to wink and flirt, and then without warning, scoot yonder before even an indulgence of a generous goodbye.

The Inn at Mystic, Mystic, CT

After having the opportunity to experience many summers in my life, I have finally figured out that the hours spent sowing, planting, preparing one’s garden….only to witness a spray of naked buds, yellowed leaves and empty soil patches, are an act of unconditional love.  If you could put the concept into words, the statement would be like this, “I believe that there is never an end, only a new beginning; I believe in promise and hope and the goodness of all things. I believe.”

On that note, rejigger and smell every single flower that you can on your next day-tripping adventure before season’s end.  Inhale, as if it is the last summer, the final hour, the final moment…breathe deeply the joy of now…and replace all of your mind’s chatter by repeating the following: “I believe.”

Jody Dyer, long-time owner of the Inn at Mystic, Mystic, CT

Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.

Kahlil Gibran

I took the news personally and was dizzy in delight to hear that Dick Allen, a Trumbull resident, was named Connecticut’s new poet laureate in June.

Canterbury (CT) Public Library: Ever think I could be as great as Connecticut’s new poet laureate Dick Allen?

In the late 1970s, after getting partially off a rollercoaster ride via the adolescent addiction route, I took a poetry writing class at the University of Bridgeport with Dick Allen.  At the time, I was sandwiched in between a drug-induced past, conveniently whisked away under a shatterproof floorboard of denial, and a future that I did not dare glimpse. 

In his classroom twice a week, I emerged from my dark and solely occupied cocoon.  When Mr. Allen read his poetry, the classroom’s walls boomeranged with intonations and a rhythmic style that could dissect, pluck and reach so far into my soul that the process shook and awakened those parts in me that had been so comfy and so sleepy, wrapped in inertia, for so damn long. Although it took nearly six more years for me to shed fully my Rip Van Winkle-esque existence, the first building blocks in that course of action Mr. Allen’s influence mortared.

In other words, Mr. Allen taught me that in order to experience great poetry, like great life, you have to be alert.  Listen intently.  Peel away the brainy part of the head so that the heart has the room that it requires to breathe fully and, yes, love without restraint.  Love every damn thing down to the wart. 

As I ventured forth to become a travel writer in the 1990s, I approached each newfound milieu with a keen ear, sharp eyes and overzealous appetite that Mr. Allen had first mirrored to me in his classroom.  On my journey, nothing, absolutely nothing, whether a gnawed chicken bone on a supper plate or ladybug on a car’s windshield was mediocre.  My ears heard poetry everywhere. 

On your next day trip, before summer bats her last eyelash, whether you go on a rollercoaster ride or hide away in an alcove at an out-of-the-way library, see, hear, breath poetry.  Get off the jaded road before it is too late to hear poetry for poetry is everywhere…fine tune the hearing.  Afterwards, pick up a book written by the present Connecticut’s poet laureate, go home and read the poetry out loud as if it will be your final voice; then take this same principle on your future travels.


By Dick Allen

Almost invisible, but once you look for them
nearly everywhere
like moss in crevices and drifting thoughts,

ferns are what it must mean
to love without yearning. Protectors
of everything small that needs to disappear,

deermice and tossed trash, bad brushstrokes in a painting,
theirs is the softest name, the softest touch.
They are social workers

as social workers should be—so full of calm
even those who don’t trust them
come into their care. Fiddleheads or not,

the rumor that once a year, on Midsummer’s Eve,
ferns blossom with tiny blue flowers
and if a pinch of fern seed falls upon your shoes

you will be less apparent—this rumor
is baseless: ferns have tiny spores
that travel in dew and raindrops,

no more magical
than Henri Rousseau, composing “The Peaceable Kingdom,”
or adder’s tongues, cinnamon, wall rue.

In the world’s secret corners,
men wish to vanish, but ferns are what look on,
trembling, holding all light green places.

From Ode to the Cold War: Poems New and Collected, Sarabande Books, 1997.

New Canaan, CT, Nature Center Greenhouse




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.

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.


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.


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.


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


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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