New Covid travel restrictions and the 2021 travel season.


The holiday season is here and with a lot of travel.  Traveling has been challenging with restrictions, weather, and an increased travel.  Planning has become more important and flexibility even more so.  So, if you are going anywhere during the month of December make sure you know what the rules of the road are.

If you are staying in the US, check your destination’s health department for any updates.   You can find a listing here:   Check for potential restrictions for any accomodations, reservations, or events that you may be attending.   Recently, I was in NYC and we used an app called NYC Covid Safe for theatre and restaurant entry.  I was also required to show proof for an event in Philadelphia.  I had a new phone and the image didn’t transfer.  Luckily, I had the portal for health provider and was able to pull up the documentation there.

As far as international travel, there are new travel restriction in place.  The US warns not to travel to France, Portugal, Jordan, Andorra, Lichtenstein, Tanzania, and Cyprus due to high Covid levels.  Also, there are new restrictions for testing and according to the CDC:

What You Need to Know
  • If you plan to travel internationally, you will need to get a COVID-19 viral test (regardless of vaccination status or citizenship) no more than 1 day before you travel by air into the United States. You must show your negative result to the airline before you board your flight.
  • If you recently recovered from COVID-19, you may instead travel with documentation of recovery from COVID-19 (i.e., your positive COVID-19 viral test result on a sample taken no more than 90 days before the flight’s departure from a foreign country and a letter from a licensed healthcare provider or a public health official stating that you were cleared to travel).
Are You Fully Vaccinated for Air Travel to the United States?

You are considered fully vaccinated:

  • 2 weeks (14 days) after your dose of an accepted single-dose vaccine
  • 2 weeks (14 days) after your second dose of an accepted 2-dose series
  • 2 weeks (14 days) after you received the full series of an accepted COVID-19 vaccine (not placebo) in a clinical trial
  • 2 weeks (14 days) after you received the full series of a Novavax (or Covovax) COVID-19 vaccine (not placebo) in a phase 3 clinical trial
  • 2 weeks (14 days) after you received 2 doses of any “mix-and-match” combination of accepted COVID-19 vaccines administered at least 17 days apart*

If you don’t meet these requirements, you are NOT fully vaccinated.

* CDC has not recommended the use of mix-and-match COVID-19 vaccine primary series. However, such strategies are increasingly common in many countries outside of the United States. Therefore, for the of purpose of interpreting vaccination records for travel to the United States, CDC will accept combinations of accepted COVID-19 vaccines.

There are 14 home Covid tests that are FDA approved.  I looked into the 4 largest airlines for their home testing options.  Here are the options and links to where they can be purchased.
Here are the guidelines and the restrictions.  Keep posted on the changes via news outlets and the CDC to ensure that you are not caught without the proper information and documentation.  Please be safe and Happy Holidays!

Bringing a bit of Williamsburg home for Christmas and dining Colonial style: The King’s Arms Tavern


I haven’t been to Colonial Williamsburg in years.  The last time I went was 10 years ago with my friend, Bob.  We found a wonderful restaurant that we have talked about over the years and he considers one of his favorite dining experiences.  When I planned this trip with my friend Camille and her kids, I immediately made a reservations and couldn’t wait to share this restaurant with them.

King’s Arm Tavern

The King’s Arm Tavern is in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. The restaurant defines itself as a “refined chophouse experience” and has a long history.  “Originally opened by Jane Vobe in 1772, this authentic reproduction public house serves up a transporting experience for the senses in Colonial Williamsburg. Everything is true to the time period at King’s Arms Tavern, from the fashion sported by servers to the pewter candlesticks—all adding to an air of colonial elegance. Inspired by 18th-century recipes, but with updates to suit 21st-century tastes, tuck into a chophouse menu featuring prime rib, pork chops, and more.” It’s historical dining at its finest.

We received a text letting us know that our table was ready early.  We arrived and were immediately seated in a little alcove with a window.  Our server arrived and our meal started to fall apart.  We ordered a wine punch bowl for the adults and some fruit drinks for the kids.  We received the wrong adult punch and were dismissed with a “Oh, I wrote it down wrong” with no offer to bring the right punch or to take it off the bill.

Since we had a punch bowl on our table, we asked if we could remove the glass hurricane cover to the candle and the waitress became mad.  She lectured us on the cost of the glass and how we can’t break it because of the cost.  After she left, I quietly took the glass off and placed it on the floor.  I returned the glass after the meal, unscathed.  We felt like children being scolded for something we didn’t do. Mind you we were dressed well and weren’t acting inappropriately.

Our appetizers arrived without incident, although it took a half hour to receive them. We asked for some bread only to be told “I’ll bring it, I can’t carry everything.”   I started watching the timeliness of our meal as compared to the table of 2 and table of 6 that sat down as the same time as we did.  They received their foods quicker and enjoyed history lessons that we did not.  We received very little information or attention.

Our King’s Arm Menu

Sangaree Punch

Seasonal Punch (nonalcoholic)

Ramequin’s Vol-Au-Vent

Romaine Hearts Salat

Peanut Soupe

Madeira Braised Shank of Lamb

Chop of Shoat

Hunter’s Game Pye

I usually look up reviews before I go to a restaurant, however, not ones that I have been to several times.  This was the case with this restaurant and I wish I had, although my past experience might have caused me to negate what I read.

The food and atmosphere were very good but the service was atrocious.  Our server lagged in providing prompt service, did not provide historical context for the food, disappeared for more than 20 minutes at a stretch, served items out of order and the wrong items, and at times was rude.  Yes, we had an 8 and 10 years old with us.  They were well behaved, knew which utensils to use, did not cause a commotion, and one actually ate lamb and enjoyed it.  These two are well versed on how to act in public and were so in awe of the experience and were busy taking it in which conversing with us about the history of the place, which I had to look up and supplement.

You may ask if these serving “transgressions” were really terrible.  We watch the other 4 tables around us receive excellent and attentive service.  We overheard the conversations the server had with other people.  One table had a couple, one had a party of 6, and the other two had parties of 4.  I had the time to count and watch as I stewed over not being served.  We even asked when things were coming and we met with some terse comments.  It was so bad that the Bestie left a 5 dollar tip on a pricey tab and I complained to the manager, which I have never done before.  The manager just bobbed his head and apologized.  He watched the kids for misbehavior…there was none and they patiently waited for me to finish the conversation.  We later read some reviews and heard reviews from some locals about the service there. which mirrored our experience.

Having said all that, I am a fan of early American cooking since it depends upon fresh and local.  There are a myriad of choices for dining and there are Holiday festivities that occur. According to the Colonial Williamsburg blog, the festivities began at the start of November.  According to the blog:

          “Colonial Williamsburg Resorts is kicking off the holiday season in November with a  festive array of events and experiences including the Annual Lighting Ceremony at the iconic Williamsburg Inn, a popular golf invitational, Annual Pie and Bake Sale,  Thanksgiving feasts, and the highly-anticipated Annual Gingerbread open house at the Williamsburg.”

Other activities include a New Year’s Eve celebration, a Christmas Market, ice skating, and Holiday decorations tours.  Form more information, check out their blog:

The Holiday Season Returns to Colonial Williamsburg Resorts

I did some hunting for a Holiday cookie to bring the taste of Williamsburg home.  I found a wonderful blog from The Seasoned Mom.  She does an excellent job of discussing the taste and texture of the Williamsburg cookies, the reasons for the ingredients, how to make, decorate, and store, and tips to optimize the recipe.

Old-Fashioned Williamsburg Gingerbread Cookies

Her inspiration for the recipe is the Raleigh Tavern Bakery.  Her childhood memories of this delightful little place spills over into her adulthood.  The bakery is a great stop during any visit to Colonial Williamsburg. The recipe for the cookies are in her blog and I have attached a video from Colonial Williamsburg for a visual. Enjoy these lovely cookies and cherish the memories!




The Holiday Season Returns to Colonial Williamsburg Resorts

Old-Fashioned Williamsburg Gingerbread Cookies

A vibrant and entertaining escape to St. Augustine Florida…the search for youth, history and clam chowder


St. Augustine, Florida is one of my favorite cities. I find it beautiful, peaceful, and appealing. I try to get there as often as I can and it’s usually is a stop either to Orlando or from Orlando. St. Augustine has beautiful weather year round, historic sites, excellent food, and is vibrant.  Recently, I indulged in another trip to St. Augustine with Bob and his brother-in-law, Steve.  It was as delightful as ever.

Bob, Steve, and I stopped there on our way to Universal and Disney World. We arrived there on Saturday late afternoon and then spent the day there on Sunday.  One of our first stops on Sunday were  El Castillo de San Marco , The Fountain of Youth, and the beach. We needed to stretch our legs and we took a wonderful walk around the area. I reacquainted myself with the Castillo and found it as engaging and fascinating as ever.  El Castillo looks very short from the distance but when you are close it is tall and imposing.

Spanish admiral and conquistador Pedro Menéndez de Avilés established the city St. Augustine in 1567 and Spanish architect Ignacio Daza began construction on the Castillo in 1672. This edifice is the oldest surviving masonry structure in United States and the only fort to never have been captured. It was built to protect St. Augustine from pirates and British invasions.  The fort transferred rule amongst 4 different governments, peacefully, six times: Spain, 1695–1763 and 1783–1821, Kingdom of Great Britain, 1763–1783, and the United States of America, 1821–date (during 1861–1865, under control of the Confederate States of America) (wiki).

That’s the brief wiki version.  To experience the history go and visit.  There is a rich indigenous history and almost 500 years of colonial history.  Everything is marked and there are maps and websites that will walk you through the area and most of it is either walkable or you can climb on to one of the local trams.  There are markers all through the site that explains different features.

We then cruised over to the Fountain of Youth and met up with Ponce de Leon. I am not a huge fan of the fountain of youth because I find it very much a let down.  The first time that I saw it was years ago and I was shocked to see that was a small spring. The Spring has made a mineral water and there’s a spicket outside or you can drink some.  The water is free but there is a ticket charge to access the archaeological site to access the water.

Next, we hit the beach for a bit of  walk since poor Oreo was feeling like stretching her legs.  She did hate the water and had a problem with go near it.  Before hitting the the hotel, we geared up for some Cuban cafe to ensure that we had energy for the rest of the day which was the rest of the trip to Disney World.

St. Augustine is a melting pot of Caribbean, Southern, and European foods.  It’s influenced by the fresh ingredients and the flavors of its ancestors.  The fresh flavors of peppers, limes, seafood, and tomatoes make up the part of the culinary profile of St. Augustine.  Some of the most popular foods are conch, shrimp and grits, gator tail, and Minorcan clam chowder. This last one intrigued me because I had never heard of it before. The Menorocons were indentured servants from Menorca and other Mediterranean islands who were brought to Smyrna, Florida by Scottish spectator Dr. Andrew Turnbull to work on his indigo plantation.

One of the interesting areas that I stumbled across is how many different types of clam chowders there are. Until recently, I only thought that there was a New England and Manhattan clam chowder.  There’s New England, Manhattan, New Jersey, Hatteras Island, Minorcan, Rhode Island, and Cabo Clam.  I am a fan of tomato based chowders since I have been shying from cream based soups for severals years.  The Minorcan clam chowder is a close relative to Manhattan clam chowder.  The difference is that Minorcan clam chowder doesn’t use potatoes and adds the sweet, tart, and spicy datil pepper. The datil pepper is indigenous to Cuba and has been erroneously credited to the Minorcans, but is the key ingredient to this wonderful dish.  We’re bringing home some of St. Augustine with this recipe.  Enjoy!


1 quart of fresh clams
2 pounds of onions, minced
2 large cans of tomatoes
1 datil pepper, minced fine
1 clove of garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon each of thyme, salt, and pepper
2 lbs. raw potatoes, finely diced

Brown the minced onions in oil. Add the tomatoes, datil pepper, and garlic. Cook on slow until it is a paste. Meanwhile, boil the finely-diced potatoes until tender, and then add the potatoes with their water to the tomato paste. Add the thyme, salt, pepper. Mince or grind the clams, cover them with water, and cook for 20-minutes. Add the clams and their liquid to the mixture. This will make 3 quarts and can be frozen. — Recipe from “St. Augustine Cookery,” published in 1965 by the Flagler Hospital Auxiliary.



Minorcans of St. Augustine

Thanksgiving TV: Movies Marathons and Holiday Specials


The other day the bestie’s daughter asked to play Christmas music.  I put my foot down.  Nope.  Not until after Thanksgiving.  I enjoy the Holiday season and I think if you start too early, it slows down the enjoyment.  I am not a fan of starting the Holidays right after Halloween because it doesn’t give Thanksgiving its due.

I look forward to Thanksgiving and not just because it is a 4 day weekend, but because I am truly thankful for what I have in life and delight in sharing it with family and friends.  I like relaxing, chatting, laughing with friends and family.

Growing up there were very few Thanksgiving shows or movies.  There were Christmas specials starring Andy Williams, Bob Hope, and Bing Crosby, Christmas mass, the Rose Bowl parade, a couple of Hanukkah specials, and some Christmas movies and cartoons all of which were shown once and on a schedule.  If you missed it, you missed it. Now, the season kicks off with Thanksgiving specials and, of course, football.

A lot of retail stores have gone back to the tradition of being closed on Thanksgiving.  Amanda and I would go to the theater to catch a movie and then begin some Midnight shopping since the stores were empty and I would be done with all Christmas giving that night.  I would rather curl up with some movies and popcorn since I refuse to go out early on Black Friday and have since the 90s.

Parade, Reader’s Digest, and Rotten Tomatoes put together a list of Thanksgiving movies

  1. A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
  2. Turkey Drop
  3. The Blindside
  4. You’ve Got Mail
  5. Pieces of April
  6. Holiday In The Wild
  7. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
  8. Sweet November
  9. Addams Family Values
  10. Scent of a Woman
  11. The Ice Storm
  12. The House of Yes
  13. Home for the Holidays
  14. Paul Blart:  Mall Cop
  15. Love Actually
  16. Free Birds
  17. Friendsgiving

Reader’s Digest

  1. Holidaysburg
  2. An Old Fashion Thanksgiving
  3. Little Fockers
  4. Turkey Hollow
  5. Love at The Thanksgiving Day Parade
  6. Rocky
  7. Giant
  8. Krisha
  9. Thankskilling
  10. One True Thing
  11. The Day Trippers
  12. She’s Gotta Have It
  13. The Oath
  14. What’s Cooking
  15. Mistress America
  16. Instant Family
  17. Turkey Bowl

Rotten Tomatoes

  1.  The War At Home
  2. The Myth of Fingerprints
  3. Alice’s Restaurant
  4. Hannah and Her Sisters


40 of the Best Movies to Watch While Curled up in Your Comfiest Pants (or PJs!) This Thanksgiving

Reader’s Digest’s 35 Best Thanksgiving Movies to Watch This Year

Thanksgiving Travel 2021…Here are the hazards to expect


It’s that time of year and Thanksgiving is the most traveled time of the year.  Covid derailed last year’s holidays and with restrictions easing this year, the expectation is that this year will be a heavy travel time.  AAA projects that 50.9 million Americans will travel 50 plus miles from home starting next Wednesday and going through to Sunday, November 26.  According to the organization, this is the highest volume of travelers since 2005. There seems to be several hazards to navigate, adding to delays, anxiety, and frustration.

What does this mean for your travel plans?  It means be prepared and stay informed!

It looks like the weather is going to be an issue in some areas this year.  The exact timing of the weather has yet to be set, according to AccuWeather.  Currently, meteorologists are watching two separate scenarios that can bring chaos to Thanksgiving travel.  In both cases, heavy snow, rain, and thunderstorms can produce high winds throughout Southern states and central and eastern parts of the US.  Meteorologists expect the worst weather on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.  As of an hour ago, the storm is over southern Alaska and heading our way.  The 95 corridor from New York City to Washington, DC will be spared the worst of it as far as the upcoming pattern.  AccuWeather is still calling for strong winds with snow in the Ohio Valley and north and rain plus thunderstorms in the south.

This means keep an eye on the weather and if you can leave early, do so.  Make sure you have a full tank and the appropriate clothing for the weather.  During the winter, I keep a small snow shovel and a telescoping snow brush, in case I need to dig myself out.  I keep water in the car and some snacks plus a blanket for road delays.  Drive slow and keep an ear to local news.  Growing up in Northeast Ohio taught me to be prepared for snowmageddon.

Something else to consider is Life 360.  The Bestie, her daughter, and I have it on our phones to track where we are.  When my guy and I drove down to Virginia Beach to join the Bestie and her family, she followed our progress down because the kids were wondering where we were.  Princess rides her bike and she is required to take her phone so her mom and track her, if need be.  Each family member has a bubble which moves around the map.  You receive notifications when someone in your family leaves home, arrives home, has low battery, and launches an SOS.  You can track their route and in cases like bad weather that may be a good idea.

Another issue is the amount traffic coming next week.  Conde Nast said it best:

“For some of the country’s most congested cities—New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C.—Tuesday, November 22 is universally marked as the worst day to travel (save for Atlanta and Houston, which will fare worse Wednesday). To beat the rush, avoid traveling in the evening. AAA reports that delays hit especially hard between three and four p.m., with trip times slowed up to three times more than normal. And areas on major highways, like I-5 S in L.A., I-495 E in New York, and I-95 S in D.C. are slated to lock up too.”

Expect delays and keep close to technology.  Even if you know where you are going, keep your GPS on for warnings about heavy traffic and congestion.  I like Google maps because I can display it in my car, map out points of interest along the way and share my itinerary.  I also like Waze.  I feel that Waze has better live reports and I am able to display it on my car screen through Apple Carplay and Android Auto.

Something else to keep in mind is having enough gas in the car.  iExit is an excellent app for finding the best gas prices and has interstate guides which you can launch by opening the app on or near any interstate nationwide.  What I appreciate about iExit is that Yelp is integrated and provides ratings and reviews.  Gas Buddy is another app that provides gas prices enroute and provides a rewards program.  There is a trip cost calculator along with an outage finder that provides information on gas stations that have power and fuel during natural disasters.

Something else to keep in mind is roadside service.  I have mine through USAA and my kids are on it, too.  Yes, they are older and, yes, I still worry about them….a lot.  Amanda always came home from school during spring break and in her senior here she decided to go up to Montreal with some of her friends. It was snowing and they slid off the road. Luckily, no one was hurt and it wasn’t too bad. It was rough on her because the police that came only spoke French. I had her call USAA and they came out and pulled her right onto the road. The rest of the trip proceeded without incident. Why my daughter chose to go north for spring break still eludes me to this day. Alex normally stays home for spring break, too. I have never asked them why they never wanted to go on spring break. It could be that maybe they just want to see their mom. Oh well, a mom can dream.

Be careful and most importantly watch the weather since that is going to create chaos in an already busy travel time.  Keep safe and cheers!




Family, Fun, and Football. What are football fans are watching this Thanksgiving?


I remember growing up and my dad having season tickets to the Cleveland Browns.  He went with our neighbor, Ray, and a few others.  He loved.  He would pack his binoculars, thermos of coffee, and lunch.  He would come home as a pop-sicle.  Back then, the winters were brutal with blizzards in 1977 and 1978.  I remember waking up to the house shaking from the wind.  This was back in the late 70s .  He stepped away from season tickets when prices skyrocketed.  We watched at home and then the infamous Earnest Bynar play happened….The Fumble.  He slowed his consumption of football for a while after that.

Dad never truly lost his interest in football.  The game is a part of Thanksgiving tradition and a major part of Cleveland culture.  We never really kept that part of the tradition when the kids were growing up. My kids are not huge football fans and after my years in Chicago, I weaned them onto basketball (Alex) and hockey (Amanda). Jimmy is a Dallas fan and I let him marry my daughter anyway. Allen?  My Philly boy…It’s the Eagles.  The bestie?  You know the one from Pittsburgh?  I’m sure you can guess.  The cousins are in Miami.  We are all over the place.

Cleveland is in 3rd place in the division…right behind The Ravens and the Steelers, of course.  The first sentence every child in Cleveland learns is “Well, there is always next year!”.  So, for all of you who are realists and know that Cleveland will have to wait for next year and for those who have a shot this year, here is a heads up on what is on for Thanksgiving week.


Week 12

  • Thursday, Nov. 25 (Thanksgiving)
Game Kickoff time TV channel
Bears at Lions 12:30 p.m. ET Fox
Raiders at Cowboys 4:30 p.m. ET CBS
Bills at Saints 8:20 p.m. ET NBC
  • Sunday, Nov. 28
Game Kickoff time TV channel
Buccaneers at Colts 1 p.m. ET Fox
Jets at Texans 1 p.m. ET CBS
Eagles at Giants 1 p.m. ET Fox
Panthers at Dolphins 1 p.m. ET Fox
Titans at Patriots 1 p.m. ET CBS
Steelers at Bengals 1 p.m. ET CBS
Falcons at Jaguars 1 p.m. ET CBS
Chargers at Broncos 4:05 p.m. ET CBS
Rams at Packers 4:25 p.m. ET Fox
Vikings at 49ers 4:25 p.m. ET Fox
Browns at Ravens 8:20 p.m. ET NBC


Wandering through Connecticut …A delightful drive through an enchanting New England towns


Fall is absolutely one of the most beautiful times of the year. There is nothing like the cool weather, the color of fall leaves, and a warm cozy sweater. Even as a born and raised Midwesterner, who has lived all four seasons her whole life, I think of New England when it comes to fall.  One of my favorite New England towns is Mystic, Connecticut. I found it a beautiful, romantic, and relaxing. It’s a relaxing trip because the town offers so much, yet it’s at your own pace. Mystic is two hours south of Boston and approximately five hours from the Philadelphia area. They offer an Amtrak station and are right off of I-95 making it easily accessible.  I sent my daughter Amanda and her husband Jimmy there as a stop before reaching Boston and Salem.

I received a text that they had arrived.  Of course, Amanda didn’t provide any details or follow-up, so I had to wait until the next morning.  The kids called and I was regaled with descriptions of their wonderful evening.  They stopped in Groton, Connecticut which is approximately 10 minutes from Mystic and found a charming seaside inn and an excellent restaurant.

Thames Inn and Marina sits on The Thames River not far from the Atlantic.  Part of the inn’s charm is how clean it is.  The room comes equipped with a full kitchen and the only drawback was, according to Amanda, is the lack of cups.  They also couldn’t compliment Wayne, the manager, enough.  They found him delightful and really nice.  Their Facebook quote is “Please come and stay with us. We treat you like family!”  It sounds like they stand behind their words.  Their Facebook page is sparse but does offer contact information.  You can find the Thames Inn at  or on any of the major hotel booking sites.  For the price, this place could not be beat. map and price.

A quick walk from the inn, Amanda and Jimmy found an Italian restaurant that caused their mouths to water and food to disappear at an alarming rate.  Paul’s Pasta Shop has a view of the marina and Amanda mentioned that they watched fisherman coming in from a day at sea.  The atmosphere is causal, and they do not take reservations.  They are open from 11AM to 9PM Tuesday through Sunday.  They have won numerous Readers’ Choice Awards in Connecticut Magazine such as Best Italian, Best Vegetarian and Best Value, also in The New London Day’s” Best of ” Awards.

Amanda is a foodie and Jimmy loves to eat.  They became word warriors…. better living through adjectives. Lucious, well-seasoned, buttery, robust, generous, delicious, and generous.  They had Dorothy’s 5 cheese lasagna, Dorothy’s meat lasagna, breaded chicken alfredo with shrimp, and meatballs.  Amanda described the alfredo sauce as buttery and the cheese lasagna as Little Italy perfect.  Jimmy said the shrimp wasn’t overcooked, the chicken tender and the meatballs juicy and flavorful.  Their pasta is homemade and can be bought on site.

The next morning, Amanda and Jimmy drove the 10 minutes to Mystic.  The fell in love with the charm of the town and wanted to spend some time there.  Since Jimmy is a Julia Roberts fan, I suggested Mystic Pizza, but it was too early.  I recommend Mystic Pizza for the movie travel aspect and the memorabilia since the pizza rates a consistently 3.5 to 4.0.  I was on the phone with them looking for a breakfast as they were driving through town. Mystic Market came up.  Amanda described it as an upscale deli.  She had tea and an asiago bagel.  Jimmy has a chicken salad sandwich.  Again, good food had by all.  With that they hit the road to Boston.


I love this area.  I find it charming and relaxing.  Sometimes, I forget to just be and Mystic allows that for me. Bob and I have been best friends for 20 years and have enjoyed a plethora of trips and adventures.  We traveled from Gloucester, through Salem and Boston via Mystic and Plymouth.   Bob and I went several years ago, and we thought it was one of the most romantic areas we had ever been.  It’s a shame we were with each other and not significant others.  I highly recommend this as a stop along the way or a long weekend.  Enjoy!!!

Conquering your travel adventure planning? Try these clever travel apps


I use to admire people who made “hitting the road” look effortless.  It was as if they rolled out of bed, jumped into their transportation of choice, and experienced the world. These mythical beasts were meant to see the world and have an empty life list (I am not a fan of the phrase bucket list).  They roamed and I would watch with fascination as I admired pictures and memories.

One day, I grew up and understood that travel is work and requires some planning.  I wanted to make sure I experienced travel my way.

I am a huge fan of roadtrips.  I love the drives whether they are solo or with others.  I listen to playlists, new music, books, and podcasts.  I always map out the drive to make sure I am heading in the right direction and how long it will take to my destination.  From there I do a little research to check out anything interesting on the way or if there is anything that I am truly wanting to see.  I don’t necessarily make an itinerary but I will put them on my map and if I am so moved to do so, I stop.

This was the case with my latest trip.  I drove from Philly to Knoxville to pick up Bob and his brother-in-aw, Steve, for a trip to Orlando.

Since I was solo between Philly and Knoxville, I took the opportunity to check in on some sites that I have been curious about.  I saw the largest paint can!  During the planning for my Knoxville to Orlando road trip, I made sure I had regular stops for Bob.  Bob is a diabetic and needs regular breaks.  I make sure the side trips are interesting and fun, at least for us.  While surfing for information, I found 2 websites that really helped me with planning and last minute suggestions.  Roadside America and TV Food Maps were truly helpful and easy to use.

Roadside America is a website for those looking for quirky and unique stop along the way. This is where I found the Big Chicken in Marietta, Georgia. I also found a cold war missile displayed in a Krystal parking lot which is also on I -75 in Georgia.  We had a trifecta of stops and were disappointed when we found out that the world’s largest peanut (number three on list) was taken out by Hurricane Michael in 2018.

What I liked about Roadside America was the reviews and the interactive map.  The site was made to chronicle “nutty” roadside attractions.  There is an area called “My Sights” where you can plan, select, save, share, and export your trip plans.  The site is so easy to use with a state-by-state map, which I used to give the kids some ideas for their trip to Boston and I used to to map my trip from Pennsylvania to Tennessee and from Tennessee to Florida.The “My Sights” page has a nice tutorial to walk you through the process.  It is unbelievable how many unusual and interesting sites there are across the US.




The other website I enjoyed using was TV Food Maps:  Restaurants On TV.  This site was even easier to use.  There is a feature that maps your trip using a starting and ending location with how many miles off the road you are willing to go.  This made our trip through Georgia easy.  I popped the site up on my phone and we used it as a guide to find our lunch.  This is great if there is a particular food show or host you enjoy and want to experience.  I like it because the restaurants are juried by experts on the food channels.  The place we were shooting for in Forsyth, Georgia was closed and we ended up at Grits Cafe.  EXCELLENT alternative.



The devil is in the details and these two apps have the details that make road trips easy and memorable.  I am at the point that I don’t just want to stop, run to the bathroom, grab a drink, and go.  I am looking for fun, memories, and leisurely pursuits.  We all looked forward to the roadside oddities and had a good time researching our questions, talking about history, and “back in the day”.  I am still looking for an alternative to the peanut lost to Hurricane Michael and I am sure I will find it somewhere along the way.




Georgia’s Big Chicken


On our way to visit Harry Potter and the Mouse, I plotted some sites to break up our 9 hour drive from Knoxville to Orlando.  As I was looking for something along I-75, I found a website called Roadside America which gave me a map of “oddities” along the route. I zeroed in on the Big Chicken in Marietta, Georgia and I felt the pull.  It was 3.5 hours into the trip and a nice place for a break.  We were not disappointed with our stop.

S.R. “Tubby” Davis built The Big Chicken for his eatery called Johnny Reb’s Chick, Chuck ‘N Shake in 1956.  It was designed by Georgia Tech architecture student, Hubert Puckett, and built by Atlantic Steel.  The structure is 56 feet tall and stands on Cobb Parkway, North.  In 1966, Davis sold the restaurant to his brother who turned it into a KFC franchise in 1974.  The restaurant began to show some wear and the Big Chicken sustained damage during a storm in 1993.  KFC planned to tear it down, but the public protested.  The Cobb County Government reported that pilots protested because they used the landmark as a guide to the Atlanta airport.  The Big Chicken was rebuilt in 1994. The restaurant closed for $2,000,000 renovation in 2017. The Big Chicken stands loud and proud in the Georgia sun as a monument to fried chicken.

You can check them out on Facebook at

We pulled up and I immediately was in enamored by the Big Chicken.  You can see it in this YouTube commercial:

We stood and took videos and watched its eyes roll and beak open and close.  I believe this is called easily amused.  We walked inside and were amazed at the interior.  This, by far, is the nicest KFC restaurant we had ever seen.  As you walk in, there is an homage to the Colonel in the form of a life-size statue.  Around the corner, near the counter is a merchandise area.  My favorite were the KFC socks.  The display included hats, t-shirts, stuffed chickens, and a few other chachkies.  Even the bathrooms were beautiful.  The wall had a written transcript of the Colonel’s life.  The main dining room had hanging lights that looks like a bucket and there is a celebrity wall.  The original menu hangs there, too.  We ordered drinks and I told the woman behind the counter how impressed we were with the place and how interesting we found it.  Karla laughed and said it’s more upscale like a sit down restaurant and then gave us a brief history and tour of the place.  She even mentioned that KFC is thinking about putting a second floor.

This was a great spot to stop and see something completely unusual. We all enjoyed it and I am so glad we stopped there.  I give this place a thumb up as somewhere to visit along the way.



Tips on how to survive November travel drama like a badass. Keeping it happy, cheerful & relaxing,


I LOVE THE HOLIDAYS.  My husband used to call me the original Christmas elf.  At one point, we had 21 Christmas trees in our home.  Yes, you heard that right, 21.  They ranged in size, theme, and complexity. I had an ornate wire tree with curled ends where I would hang candy, there were several permanently decorated tabletop trees, 3-4 foot trees for bedrooms, and in one house we had a 12 foot Christmas tree.  There were menus, activities, parties, and plans with family and friends.  We established new traditions and kept old ones. 

Time marched on and the kids grew older, and Santa stopped being a thing.  We minimized a lot of the decorating and the number of trees as we began to travel between Christmas and New Year’s.  We simplified the Holidays so that we could enjoy them.  Now that I am a widow, have grown children, and have new commitments with friends and my guy, the Holidays have changed, again.

One of the Holidays that has changed the most is Thanksgiving.  Upon moving to the Philly area, we continued cooking our traditional feast.  We cooked and prepared for two days and would eat a fraction of the meal.  It was not the way we wanted to spend time together.   We began to attend Longwood Gardens’ buffet in the greenhouse music room and loved it.  They had turkey, ham, and salmon, soups including Kennett Square mushroom soup, side dishes, desserts, and cocktails.  We would have a sumptuous and varied meal that left everyone satisfied and then we would walk the gardens and admire the Christmas decorations.  Later, Alex would play videos games and Amanda and I would go see a movie.  Unfortunately, Longwood eliminated their buffet.  Now, there is a prix fixe dinner at 1906, which is sold out for this year.  The Cafe has a Thanksgiving bounty station, which requires no reservations.

This brings me to 2021.  Alex is finishing college, Amanda is married and living in Virginia, and I am happily coupled and living outside of Philadelphia.  My parents and in-laws are gone as well as my favorite cousin.  Bob lives in Knoxville, working, and in a relationship.  I have friends and family in different states and most of my village (my besties) are here in the Philadelphia area.  Holidays are hard work and there is a certain amount of planning and commitment to making them happen.  Here are few ideas to keep everything moving in the right direction.


Plan Ahead

I can’t stress this enough.  It’s a matter of where you want to be, who you want to be with, and what you want to do. Having a timeline, a thought about what you may want to see along the way, with food stops you may having wanting to try is the best, especially of the trip is only for a few days.

Be aware of travel dates. According to flight booking search engines, there will be half the Thanksgiving travelers this year. Kayak saw a 60% drop in Thanksgiving flight searches. Also, travelers seem to be avoiding the major travel days. This year, the most searched dates are the Wednesday (Nov. 25) before the holiday and the following Sunday (Nov. 29) with Kayak and Hopper saying that they busiest day for their search was Saturday (Nov. 28). Travelers are booking fewer flights for the Monday (Nov. 23) and Tuesday (Nov. 24) before Thanksgiving. Hopper saw half as many flights booked on Sunday (Nov. 22) as compared to Saturday after Thanksgiving (Nov 28). If you still have a flexible or remote work schedule this might work for you.

Make reservations as early as possible. I noticed on Resy and Open Table that some restaurants are only taking reservations 2 weeks ahead of your chosen date. There are restrictions in some places for how long you can sit at your table, vaccines requirements, mask mandates. Buy tickets as soon as possible and make you read the cancellation and return policy first.

Stay Informed

There are still covid restrictions for restaurants and traveling.  Look into the restrictions for where you are going and if are going international, look into the requirements for coming back.

Here are the guidelines for international:

Here are guidelines of domestic travel:

United Airlines:

Delta Air Lines:

American Airlines:

Southwest Airlines:

Something else to think about are fees for checking bags, cancellation policies, carry on restrictions, and document guidelines.  Also, keep track of flight schedules. With fewer travelers booking flights, your flight could be canceled and consolidated into another making for a fuller flight. This is a real possibility since November and December 2020 bookings are down as much as 84 percent on American Airlines, 94 percent on Delta Air Lines and 81 percent on United Airlines as compared to last year. If you are flying to a smaller town, your flight may have an increased chance of cancellation. The more you know the better.

Keep It Light

Remember that you must wait for checked luggage, lug carry-ons, and juggle wallets, phones, kids, pets, and luggage. I was looking for a roomy “suitcase” that would allow me to use it as a backpack and I found it with the Mother Lode Travel Backpack. I made sure that the size fits for carry-on I used this for a week in Ireland without issue. I will be talking more about this piece later on.

I usually carry two 8×10 flat pack makeup bags. One is for toiletries such as toothbrush, hair and body care, and prescriptions. Then other is for skin care and makeup. These bags pack fairly flat. The other bag I pack is 4×6 cord bag which carries charging cables, batteries, international charger, camera battery backup and buds. I find that the more I organized and can just throw into a bag, the easier it is for me to pack and unpack, as needed. I am also a fan of travel size tools like my hair dryer and curling iron which fit into my flat packs.

For those of you who carry cross body purses or messenger bags, I highly encourage this because you can use it with a backpack. I have one with a front pocket that I use for my passport wallet. I also keep my glasses and anything that I will need immediately in that front pocket. It’s all about accessibility and simplicity.

Use Technology

All major airlines have apps. Some have a preflight checklist that you need to complete before receiving a boarding pass. These apps also allow you to check in electronically, keep up to date with your flight and keep you on time. The airlines also send push notifications for updates and reminders.

There are a lot of trip planning apps. There go from Waze, to Google maps, Gas Buddy and iExit Interstate Map to help plan road travel. I especially enjoy knowing where the traffic backups are so I can get off the road for a layover. While you are on the road, try Roadtrippers, TV Food Maps, and Roadside America. These apps will help you plan places to eat, stops along the way and attractions. If you are traveling with kids, these breaks may be what you need to keep from breaking. Do a little research and find what right for you. There so many interesting and awe-inspiring sites on the road. Personally, I stopped to see a paint can and a chicken…no regrets.

A Little Organization Goes a Long Way

I am all for being organized and I’m sometimes teased about it. Oh, well. One of the organizational ideas that I have used over the years is to take the Christmas presents with me. First, this forces me to get my shopping done early and to wrap it at my leisure. When we used to drive from Chicago to Cleveland to visit the family for Thanksgiving, I would take the presents and leave them with the family. This was just in case we ended up with bad weather or if we were traveling. Sometimes, we would stop for a Christmas visit on our way out of town for a vacation and this would allow me not to have to think about forgetting anyone or anything as far as presents.

Another organizational tip is to keep all your documents in one place. I am still a proponent of that and have a passport wallet that has spots for my credit cards, my health insurance card, and any paper documents that I might need. It works and fits into just about any spot that I may need to place it into. I also keep pdf scans and receipts and emails in a folder so that I can access it from any computer in case of a lost phone or misplaced documents. I keep a scan of my drivers license, passport, health insurance in that folder, too.

Make sure to arrive early for any transportation you may be taking. This could be the bus, the train, a plane, or a ship. There could be issues with traffic, documentation, or in the case of our Ireland trip a wheelchair. Never take it for granted that you’ve given yourself enough time. There are always lounges, restaurants, or other places to hang out while you wait.

I make a list and check it twice. I find that I function better when I have an area where I stage my trip. This may sound a little excessive, but it works for me. I put my suitcase there, my passport wallet, any necessary documents and the bags that I need to pack for toiletries and electronics. I also keep a paper list of what I have to take, I just hate forgetting anything.


Now is not the time to try out complicated recipes, decorations, or elaborate ideas. For me, Thanksgiving is about being with the people I love and being thankful that they are in my life.

I have gone by way of asking for help when I need it and not turning people down when they make an offer. I will be spending Thanksgiving with my friend Susan, her family, my bestie, and my guy. I offered to take a dessert and some wine. The bestie will be taking an appetizer. This is just a nice way of thanking her for hosting this huge meal and by taking some of the load off her. I used to say no to people when they offered, now, I am far more mature and understand that it is a help and appreciation and not a sign of weakness.

I have also been known to go by way of premade especially with desserts. There is a lovely little bakery in Malvern, Pennsylvania called Strawberry Bakery. Jean Paul is a French train pastry chef and makes the most divine desserts. I have picked up two or three of his desserts and his fresh baked rolls instead of trying to reinvent the wheel. He does a much better job than I ever could (He has classes available, and they are worth taking!!). Also, Wegmans, one of our local grocery stores, has a good bakery which I have used. Wegman’s also has charcuterie boards and platters available during the holiday season.

I have minimized the decorations over the years. Let’s face it, it is about food, family, friends, football, and fun. I invested in all white place settings and service ware years ago and then use a beautiful table cloth, white cloth napkins, and silver wire napkin rings. I either make or buy a low and wide centerpiece and place votives on the table. Included is a beautiful wreath on the door, a seasonal welcome mat, some pumpkins, and corn stalks. They go up on October 1st and come down at the end of November. I use the Thanksgiving/Fall decor for 2 months and have enough out that it takes less than 1/2 hour to put away.

One of the fun activities, I use to do with the kids was decorate the tree that weekend. I have a couple of themes for trees and keep them in separate containers and yes, they are labeled. It keeps me from having to hunt for items. The tree is prelit and there are more decorations including the wire tree with candy hanging off it and some permanently decorated trees for around the house. The front door has a wreath, some lights, and a seasonal mat. If we are traveling, then it is the main tree, and the front door.

I have come to enjoy the simplicity and the time I have gained. I appreciate the memories, old and new. I answer questions and provide recipes. I look forward to watching my kids create their own traditions and relish the time I spend with them helping create or watching them enjoy what they have created. I’m in a good place to be and I enjoy it.

Whatever you do for the upcoming Holiday season. Be safe. Have fun. Enjoy family and friends. Happy Thanksgiving.


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