The open road: Traveling tips

101_2217Fast food isn’t particularly good for the waistline or the pocketbook! And, no matter how familiar, most of it is nothing to write home about.

So, this summer, why not slow down a little to nurture your spirit as well as your body? Whether you take a quick weekend jaunt or an extended trip across the country, here are some good ways to make your next driving trip a memorable one:

Pack a picnic basket

Seriously. There was a time when a wicker basket was a staple in the back seat or the trunk of almost every vehicle. Those were the days when people planned a day’s journey based on the distance between gas stations, and pulled off the road to enjoy a field of flowers or a lakeside vista. Today, with conveniences available at every highway exit, it’s not so necessary to plan ahead, but having a picnic basket full of good food still makes sense.

Fill yours with hard boiled eggs, a package of mini carrots or sugar snap peas, cans of sardines and packets of tuna, a jar of peanut butter, a loaf of crusty French bread, crackers, and homemade granola or trail mix. Bring along either a round of Brie, a wedge of blue, or some string cheese that can stand being out of the refrigerator for a few hours. Include apples, oranges and dried fruit, and maybe some homemade cookies. Pack plastic plates, glasses and silverware, a roll of paper towels and a plastic tablecloth. Include a blanket or quilt for sitting on the ground.

If you’re taking a long trip, restock at a local grocery store; forego the chain restaurants. Forget the cooler full of soda, but bring a large thermos filled with iced tea or lemonade. In cooler weather, fill the thermos with hot chocolate, tomato soup or chicken bouillon. Invest in refillable personal water bottles and fill them with tap water. When you get hungry, get off the road and get out of the car. Park by a stream or find a city park: Walk around, lounge on the grass, walk the dog, and let the kids run!

Get off the road – go local

Turn off the interstate occasionally. Even if you want to make good time getting to your destination, you’ll be surprised how invigorating it can be to take a scenic route or venture onto a back road. Forget the GPS and the app, and buy an old-fashioned road map, the paper accordion-folding kind that you spread out on the hood of the car, the kind that shows small towns, county roads, twisting dirt paths, historical sites and topographical features. Then make time to explore.

Leave the smart phone in your pocket and teach your children map-reading skills; get lost on purpose, just so you can find an alternative way back to the highway. Cultivate spontaneity! Take a few chances. Laugh a lot!

The highways were built to move goods and people quickly from place to place, and they do that well. But, any journey can be as interesting as the destination if you take a turn through the countryside and small towns along the way. It’s a whole different world view and one you don’t want to miss. Stop to photograph wild flowers, historical markers, spectacular views, a herd of longhorns, or an old barn. Look for the unusual. Stop at farm stands and “pick your own” orchards. Buy freshly-squeezed orange juice in Florida, fresh shelled pecans in Texas, cherries in Washington or just tapped maple syrup in Vermont. WP_20160508_007 (1)

Keep a travel journal

Don’t worry about the literary quality; just make it personal and it will be memorable. Simply write quick notes to keep in an old three-ring binder and punctuate with doodles, postcards, snapshots or restaurant business cards. Or take notes on your digital device to accompany the pictures you snap: Transfer the notes and photos to an online journal when you return home. Just be sure to date (and place) the entries so that you can look through actual or virtual pages later to recall specific events.

Your kids will love reliving this part of their history, and you can tell friends and relatives about your experiences.  Write about the wild flowers or the weather; the long, boring miles of highway, or the squabbles in the back seat; add anything that describes the moment! And don’t wait for an epic two-week vacation to Europe to begin journaling. You don’t have to be born with a sense of adventure to enjoy travel. You simply have to keep your mind open to possibilities, your heart open to fun and your eyes focused on the new sights all around you.

Slow down and look around

Take advantage of state tourist information centers as you cross state lines. Great sources of information,  they are staffed with knowledgeable volunteers, and often offer snacks, coffee and cool drinks. They also provide a welcome break from sitting! Many states also have upscale, modern rest stops with clean rest rooms, playgrounds and picnic tables.

Turn off the highway and head for a small town square. Look for a local café, or a diner with lots of cars parked outside. Chances are you’ll discover friendly people, good food and good times. Strike up a conversation with your server; ask questions about the area if it’s new to you.

Travel without reservations if you don’t have a deadline, and look for local hotels in small towns rather than chain motels along the highway. Consider it a bonus if you find a charming country inn, a lakeside cottage at a state park, or a historic hotel in the heart of a Midwest city. Another way: Take day trips to other towns in your area. You’ll be surprised at the things you discover!

Walt Whitman said it pretty well:

         “Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road, 

         Healthy, free, the world before me, 

        The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.” 

The Color of Happy

I was privileged to attend Colormix 2016 yesterday at Dallas Market Center. It was a gathering sponsored by Sherwin Williams — a gala event that included displays from the market’s  furniture and decor showrooms as well as lunch. The business of the day, of course, was the unveiling of new color trends for the coming year.

Attended by more than 600 designers, style-setters, architects and merchandisers, it started me thinking about the effects of color — on our moods, in daily lives, in table settings, clothing, furniture and even food. I also considered how the color palette affects the palate as I read the luncheon menu. The tablescapes were impressive, decorated with freshness and verve. But there was a distinct color choice in the menu:  20151013_120250

  • Ancho chicken roulade, with spinach on a purple corn tamal cake
  • Golden corn salad, with purple tip romaine, purple cabbage, yellow grape tomatoes . . .
  • Purple cauliflower soup shooter
  • Lavender panna cotta with edible flower garnish

Can you see the direction this is going?

The subtle menu theme extended into the four individualized color schemes with the names, Pura Vida, Mas Amor Por Favor, Nouveau Narrative, and Trajectory. Each has at least one color that leans toward purple, lavender, plum or a grayed and mysterious color of dusk. There are brights as well. Explore the rationale    behind the collection and check out the full spectrum: It’s a treat!

As Paula Deen is fond of saying: “First you eat with your eyes.” Nutritionists recommend that we fill our plates with color in order to fuel our bodies properly in a natural way. Increasingly, mental health specialists study color in our natural and built environments to explain our moods, encourage wellness, spur creativity and create calm.

It is also obvious that we rely on color to express ourselves: Just consider “feeling blue,” “in a black mood,” “a sunny expression,” “in the pink,” “seeing red,” and “as clear as black and white.”

Does color have a single meaning?

What is this thing called color? Scientists tell us it has to do with the way light is refracted. Artists tell us that color is personal. And we know that different people see and experience color in different ways. We speak of the absence of color, of nuances of color, and of colorful language.


The paint company does a great job of answering some of these questions. Predictions for 2016 are based on tradition, the economy,  environmental influences, the artistic climate, technology, and a multitude of other factors. The way in which new color palettes are determined and introduced is as creative and fascinating as the colors themselves.

So what is the Color of Happy?

For the coming year, according to Sherwin Williams, colors are  influenced by many factors, among them:

  • Fresh mindfulness
  • Vintage workmanship
  • Social engagement
  • Technology and materials that seem to come from out of this world.

The overriding theme of yesterday’s presentation, evident in everything from tablescapes to the audio-visual presentation, was the “passionate pursuit” of a shared color consciousness.

Here’s to adding a bit of color to your life next year, in whatever manner you choose to do so!