Travel – Labor Day Weekend

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Labor Day weekend begins the day after tomorrow. Some people are returning home from their end of summer vacations, some are beginning their getaways. Our family is traditionally back by Labor Day weekend. This year we didn’t go away – car and house repairs made that cost prohibitive but we did manage to do an overnight trip that, to be honest, had its ups and downs. We’re spending this week of vacation getting together for dinner and mini-golfing at the end of the week, and then back to school and work for most of us. Middle child started college so he’s been attending classes while the rest of us have been sleeping late and eating potato chips for breakfast or something equally healthy!

New York has a vast amount of wonderful things to do and places to visit. I truly love living in New York. Even at the height of Covid, we were still able to travel within the state safely. Staying in a hotel and eating at restaurants, we felt very safe.

Here are a few of my recent recommendations:

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Inspire. August.

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I’ve often talked and written about how profoundly life-altering it was when I returned from my first (and at the time I thought only) trip to Wales. It was barely forty-eight hours and yet it left an indelible mark on my soul. It led me down new paths that branched off and created new adventures and journeys within these past thirty-five years. If I recall correctly, that first summer was spent working at (the now defunct) Waldenbook’s bookstore, where as an employee I received a 33% discount, and folks wonder why I had less money at the end of the summer than I started with. I was straightening and dusting books, and performing an additional wide plethora of mindless tasks when I noticed a small mass market paperback book high on a shelf. It was the title that drew my attention: Here Be Dragons. I thought it would be fantastical and in line with my hobby of playing Dungeons & Dragons, but I was to be disappointed in that, and extremely gratified to discover that it was a novel based in medieval Wales centering on the life and world of the Prince of Wales, Llywelyn Fawr.

I was drawn into this story quickly. This is the only book that I’ve owned three copies of: one that I read several times and gave to someone to read, a new copy to replace that one, and a digital copy for my Kindle. There were two subsequent novels, Falls the Shadow and The Reckoning, now know more or less as The Welsh Trilogy. I was all in.

The author, Sharon Kay Penman had a way of bringing me into the medieval age, and I read the rest of her books – all of them – voraciously. Not one was a disappointment. One of the things that drew me so deep was Penman’s Author’s Notes, where she discussed and explained her researching process and she defined some of the things that seemed implausible but that had in fact actually happened.

  1. Lady Joanna’s affair, the burning of the prince’s bed, and the execution of her lover. True.
  2. Gruffydd ap Llywelyn, the prince’s son was held hostage by King John and the terms of his release were detailed in the Magna Carta; yes, THE Magna Carta. True.
  3. Eleanor de Montfort kidnapped by pirates. True.

And much more.

Earlier this week, I discovered that Ms. Penman died in early 2021. I am heartbroken, but I’ve discovered her last published book, The Land Beyond the Sea, which I began this afternoon. The memories of reading her well-researched and well-developed books will continue to inspire me as I continue to gain insight into the process of writing and the joy of reading.


“We’d become aliens in our own land,” he’d warned, “denied our own laws, our own language, even our yesterdays, for a conquered people are not allowed a prideful past. Worst of all, we’d be leaving our children and grandchildren a legacy of misery and loss, a future bereft of hope.”
― Sharon Kay Penman, The Reckoning

“But in all honesty, I do not find it so peculiar a notion, that a Welshman should rule Wales.”
― Sharon Kay Penman, Falls the Shadow

“Poor Wales. So far from Heaven, so close to England.”
― Sharon Kay Penman, Here Be Dragons

“Fretting about time’s passing will not slow it down one whit.”
― Sharon Kay Penman, Here be Dragons

“for each age interprets the past in the light of its own biases.”
― Sharon Kay Penman, Falls the Shadow

Dolwyddelan Castle, built by Llywelyn Fawr (the Great) in or around the 13th century. Dolwyddelan, Gwynedd, North Wales. (I don’t imagine it looked much different in his time, especially from this angle.)
(c)2022

Friday Food, Sunday Dinner

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July is one of those months – aren’t they all, though? We had a graduation, July 4th, the Supreme Court disasters, two funerals, and my husband’s birthday, and I am finally able to sit at the computer and write this belated post. What I’ve decided is to reach into the archives and share with you some of the best summer recipes that I’ve previously posted. Enjoy and Bon Appetit!

Ambrosia Salad – one of my favorite desserts as a child and so easy to make a child can do it!

Fruit with Sour Cream – refreshing, easy, perfect for a summer’s day.

Summer Salad (with chicken) – perfect for lunch or dinner. Put the dressing on the side and bring it for a picnic.

Food for Travel – With the kids out of school and the warm weather across the country, summer is a great time for travel. How do you keep your kids satisfied on long car trips? Here’s one way.

Home or away, whatever your family is doing this summer, no need to cook everyday. Eat healthy, eat fast, eat easy. Have a great July!

Happy St. Paddy’s Day!

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In honor of our common Irish heritage (today anyway), I thought I’d post some original art as well as photos from our very short visit to Dublin, Ireland a few years ago. The photo of the Celtic cross is from the historic landmark at Cranfield Church in Randalstown in Northern Ireland. I would note that we could not get into St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin because you needed tickets which we did not have. That did not stop us from strolling the adjacent park and enjoying the blue sky and sunshine.

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Friday Food. January.

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Kellogg’s Luxury Muesli. (c)2022

We happened upon this lovely speciman while we were on vacation last summer. It was one of the choices for breakfast at our hotel in Quebec. I had to laugh at its ‘luxury’ adjective even as it gave me flashbacks.

Thirty-five years ago this month, very close to this day in fact, I was traveling with my college roommate throughout the British Isles between the fall and spring semesters. We were traveling by foot mostly with trains, buses, and hitchhiking interspersed where necessary. We stayed in hostels the whole time except for one bed and breakfast in Warwick. Except for that bastion of civilization that included a delicious English fry-up and a bathtub, we carried and prepared out own food. On any of the two night stays we were able to procure eggs and milk or other refrigerated items to use.

On the other days we breakfasted on mueslix. Not this luxury variety from Kellogg’s, but a no-name baggie of oats and other grains, almonds, and raisins. Mixed with hot water, it was….vile. Maybe I should have added milk and butter as if it were oatmeal, but we never had milk or butter at our disposal; only water that we could heat. Sometimes we ate it cold.

At least the tea was good.

I fully intended to try this ‘luxury’ branded muesli, but I never got past my aversion filled flashbacks to try it. I tried to get one of my kids to eat it so I could taste it, but they wouldn’t succumb to the pressure. It was as if they could read my memory.

Muesli. Ugh.

Inspire. October.

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Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.

St. Francis of Assisi

I was happy to find the above quotation in my collection for today since today is the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi. He is well known for his love of animals; in fact, many churches do blessings of animals during this weekend of his feast including my own parish. He is the patron of animals, merchants, and ecology and is known to have set up the first live nativity scene around the year 1220.

I would recommend reading the English translation of Canticle of the Sun, which Francis composed and by the same token I’d highly recommend reading Pope Francis’ encyclical letter, Laudato Si as well as the book based on that encyclical, Our Common Home by my friend, Brother Mickey McGrath.

In devotion to our common home and its care as well as his concern for the poor, Pope Francis took that name as his Papal name in 2013. It is the first time a Pope has been called Francis, and truly speaks to the heart of our current pope and brings on much inspiration to do for others in many ways.


Labyrinth at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario Public Library.
(c)2021

The above photo is of my most recent labyrinth walk. Located behind the library in Niagara-on-the-Lake in Ontario, Canada, it is placed in serene, pastoral setting, surrounded by grass, trees, and a farm in the distance. There was the opportunity to walk it, pray the walk, and then to sit just taking in the space around me. There was a vegetable garden, a gazebo, and a court for lawn bowling. If my family wasn’t waiting for me in the car, I could have stayed there at least an additonal hour. I may plan on them dropping me off for a bit longer the next time we’re in the area.

It was a very hot day, but once I settled onto the marble bench after my walk, I was able to feel the breeze, letting it cool me off while I contemplated the bucolic area. Despite sitting relatively still, I felt energized and inspired, and all I wanted to do was to sit and write for a bit. That is one of the reasons that I always carry pen and paper, although in this case, I left it in the car bringing only my mask and my phone camera.

When I first saw the shape of this labyrinth online about two years ago it seemed an unusual shape. Upon seeing it in person, I realized that the shape itself wasn’t unusual or the design, but the way the turns were so sharp with acute angles. For me, it created the feeling of looking inside a keyhole or walking through the inside of a keyhole like a miniature person, Elves and the Shoemaker style.

As I said in yesterday’s reflection, I like falling headfirst into the photos and letting myself be inspired as if I had returned to the original place of the photo.


What inspires you?


Library Gardens. Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario Public Library.
(c)2021
I could have sat all day here, writing and looking out of the window.
(c)2021

Insta-Travel

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I do have plans to post a few things this week while I’m away from home. If you can’t wait for the prose, check out the Instagram link on the lower sidebar. I’ve just posted a vignette of snapshots from our first two days in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Included in the photo are:

  • Historic Site of Margeuerite Bourgeoys et Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours – outside and altar
  • Emtpy tomb of St. Kateri Tekakwitha in Kanawake (the site where she died)
  • One of the oldest doors of the first hotel in Montreal. A nearby historical buiilding is keeping its historical features and turning into an Air-bnb
  • Largest potted plant *I’ve* ever seen – Town of Mont Royal
  • Riding the Metro
  • Poulet et poutine at St. Hubert’s
  • Gelato! Creme broule, napolean, and raspberry sorbet
  • Sculpture on our walk through towards the Port of Montreal

I will try to post photos on this Instagram daily.

Any suggestions on what to see and where to go in Toronto and Niagara Falls are welcome in the comments.tm

Friday Food. August.

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Jacket Potatoes

The first time I had a jacket potato was in Warwick in the Warwick Castle cafe. It was a special treat. Warwick was a food oasis. We were hiking and staying in hostels and so we cooked our own meals – mueslix for breakfast, canned hash or peanut butter for lunch, hot dogs. We had eggs once. Warwick was the castle cafe and dinner at Toby’s Carving Room. No idea if it’s still there, but that was delicious.

It may have been the food on the go that made this jacket potato so amazing, but it stayed in my head for years; decades. It was simple and it was delicious.

It was simply a baked potato with stuff in and on it. I can’t remember what it contained. I have a vague memory of melted butter, freshly shredded cheddar, and sour cream, but there may have been bacon and there were definitely chives.

It became bigger than life in my memory.

When my family went to Wales a few years ago, we ate at a wonderful cafe that I had eaten at on my solo trip in 2009, The Bell Tower Cafe, and I ordered a jacket potato with a salad. It was amazing. It lived up to the memory of Warwick Castle. It was laden with cheese, and honestly on baked potato even with stuff in it doesn’t look like much, but it fills you up, and you’re set for the day. With all my instagramming, I still can’t believe I passed up the opportunity to take a picture of it!

Recently for dinner, we had roast beef, and instead of making my usual leftover meal of Shepherd’s Pie (I know, it’s cottage pie, but my mother in law was from Antrim in Northern Ireland, and if she could call it Shepherd’s Pie, then I can call it Shepherd’s Pie). But I digress. I decided instead to make jacket potatoes with the leftovers.

I baked large russet potatoes in the oven for an hour or so at 400, and when they were finished, sliced them open, added butter, an already warmed up mixture of roast beef, gravy, peas & carrots, onions, and Worcestershire sauce, topped with shredded cheddar, sour cream and chives.

As I type this, I want one right now!

Jacket Potatoes. (c)2021

Travel in the Time of Covid, Again

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Back in November, I published a travel piece on covid traveling. I was about to write a new one for this summer as protocols have changed, but in reading it, except for the references to Thanksgiving travel and with the Delta variant and low vaccination rates in parts of the country, it is sadly still up to date.

You can read it here: Travel in the Time of Covid.

A few things that I’d like to emphasize if you’re planning on a family vacation or even a stay-at-home vacation with local experiences:

1. Masks, social distancing, and Hand sanitizer. For all practical purposes, nothing’s changed. Wear your mask, wear a double mask in places with higher covid numbers, and wash your hands and use hand sanitizer when soap and water isn’t available. Keep six feet (or 2 meters) away from non-family/group members.

2. Contact Tracing. Expect to give out your name and phone number when asked for it. Each locality will have different rules and requirements.

3. Attractions. Check on capacity and if you need a reservation. Many places will limit how many people can visit at a time. Places may have timed tickets. Places may require social distancing. They may also require proof of vaccination.

4. Restaurants. They may require reservations. They may have longer wait times due to social distancing and capacity limits. They may have limited menus, and may also be short-staffed. Their hours may be different than normal.

5. Hotels. Hotels that offer free breakfast may not; they may have substitutes. They may have limited housekeeping due to staffing or wanting to limit how many people go in and out of each room. Pools and fitness centers may be closed or have limited access.

6. Shopping. Use your debit/credit card as much as possible and avoid cash if you can. Some places we went to last year refused to take cash at all.

I’d love to hear what tips you have used for your most recent vacations or trips. Comment below.