This Week in Bullet Points

October 28, 2019

Photo by Todd Trapani on Unsplash
  • Still waiting for fall to make an appearance
  • Bathing and clipping Tank this week, since he’s grown a lovely and unnecessary winter coat already
  • Some real “circle of life” stuff happening (subscribe to the Happy Little Thoughts newsletter for more details) among my circle of friends
  • Marking the first anniversary of the death of my father
  • Preparing for the 2019 Gratitude Challenge, sponsored by Positively Present, which starts Friday
  • Little bit stunned that it’s almost November
  • Happy that yesterday’s car trouble turned out to be a dead battery and not something more serious expensive

What will your week hold?


It Must Be Autumn Somewhere Link Love

October 25, 2019

Oh to be in New Hampshire...

Rumor has it that it’s fall. Tell that to Florida’s weather. I’m sure those of you shoveling snow already want to shoot me, but I’m still wearing shorts.

It’s not pretty.

Thank goodness for air conditioning and the Internet. Here are some fun and interesting things I’ve discovered recently. Hope you enjoy! Have a pumpkin spice latte for me.

Check out my most recent article, “A Heart Full of Horses,” in America’s Horse here.

There is good in the world. I loved this sweet story.

Laure Ferlita shared this article, “Enoughness: A Gift From France” with me a couple of weeks ago. This thought stayed with me: When you have enough, why hustle for more? As the author asks, “But here’s the big question: do we have more of what matters? More joy? More rest? More connection?”
Speaking of France, if you’re looking for an opportunity to explore the countryside, connect with likeminded souls, and discover how creativity can add depth to your life, join Laure Ferlita at the enchanting Le Vieux Couvent in 2020. Registration is now open. (This is the same art retreat/workshop I attended in 2018 and it was fabulous!)
Forget my house, I want to declutter my mind. Here are some tips from Happiful magazine. I’m working on number one and number five in particular.

As my work has gotten busier, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I use my time. In “How to Declare Time Independence,” Laura Vanderkam writes, “Time passes whether or not we think about how we’re spending it, so it’s easy to spend time mindlessly. Days go by and years go by, always filled with something. The question is whether these things that fill our time are necessary, meaningful, or enjoyable.”

This little guy made me smile. I just wanted to hug him. (Not a good idea.)

This cracked me up:

Happy Friday!


Five Lasting Ways Travel Can Affect You

October 21, 2019

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”
—Henry Miller

As I was pressing Publish on last Monday’s “Simple Pleasures—Art and Flowers on the Maine Midcoast,” I realized that I’ve been sharing what I enjoyed on our trip to New Hampshire and Maine without sharing how those places and experiences affected me—and have continued to affect me, even now that I’ve been home for a couple of weeks. 

Aside from the relaxation and fun of the actual trip, I’ve found most trips leave traces behind: lasting effects on my happiness, a deepening of my understanding of the world around me, and even sometimes a change in how I live. Here are five ways travel affects me once I return home:

Spurs curiosity

Traveling reveals just how much I don’t know about the world. I often don’t know how things work in a new place, occasionally I don’t speak the language, and can easily find myself in a position of vulnerability. Excellent for reminding me that I don’t know it all, and that there are many ways to live and many reasons for doing things a certain way. It’s a perfect opportunity to be quiet and observe, and to ask questions.

I often come home wanting to learn about something I saw or experienced on vacation, also. Since I love to read, some of our excursions have been to authors’ homes, inspiring me to read or reread their work. Seeing one of Robert Frost’s homes has made me pull out a collection of his poetry I haven’t looked at for years. Visiting Mark Twain’s home in Connecticut spurred my interest in his writing, including his doorstop-sized autobiography.

I love exploring natural places and gardens, and wonder about various plants we see—what are they? Will they grow in Florida?

Encourages exercise

There’s nothing like a hilly hike the first day out to bring to your attention that your job is sedentary, and frankly, my dear, you’ve let that exercise program slide. Most of my trips involve exploring, whether it’s the hills of San Francisco, the city streets of Paris, or the hiking trails in New Hampshire. Exploring on foot is great…so long as your body can take it. Our recent trip was a big wake-up call—I need to make some changes to my fitness routine. In other words, I need to get back into having a fitness routine.

Rekindles creative drive

I almost always come home wanting to sketch more, take more photographs, write poetry, or add more creative flourishes to my non-fiction writing. Travel refills my creative well. This time, I came home wanting desperately to make something beautiful. (Maybe because we saw so much beauty?) Much of my writing work is service-oriented, which I love, but it isn’t necessarily beautiful. I need to find an outlet for that part of me that wants to make things pretty (see below).

Inspires us to add beauty to everyday life

A trip to England many years ago ignited a desire to plant flowers for cutting and grow pretty window boxes. I very much enjoyed aperitif in France, though without having someone to prepare it for me, I haven’t had much luck in instituting the practice. I even enjoy watching how people dress—as a work-at-home writer, I most often wear shorts or yoga pants and a t-shirt, so my fashion sense is, shall we say, stunted.

Aperitif at Le Vieux Couvent

Breaks the chain of bad habits

At home, I watch too much TV, eat too many unhealthy snacks, and get lazy about various life maintenance tasks. When I’m on a trip, life is distilled down to its essence. I have a bare minimum of things with me, and my to-do list becomes very short and sweet. I have time for the things I enjoy most. Suddenly reruns of Castle hold no appeal and I’m too busy doing something interesting to snack mindlessly. When I’m not actively exploring, I read, write in my journal, or sketch.

After I return home, I usually have a burst of energy and good intentions. At least for a while, my bad habits are reduced. The trick is holding on to good intentions, making better habits easier than falling back into the old bad habits. I haven’t entirely licked this problem, but I’m working on it.

Life is short, but it is wide, as the saying goes. There are so many good and interesting things in the world, so many simple pleasures and everyday adventures to discover—and traveling reminds me to look for those things, and incorporate them into daily life after I’m home.

What lasting traces do your travels leave behind?

Alain de Botton

Bring the Traveling Mind-set Home

October 18, 2019

“What, then, is a traveling mind-set? Receptivity might be said to be its chief characteristic. Receptive, we approach new places with humility. We carry with us no rigid ideas about what is or is not interesting. We irritate locals because we stand in traffic islands and narrow streets and admire what they take to be unremarkable small details. We risk getting run over because we are intrigued by the roof of a government building or an inscription on a wall. We find a supermarket or a hairdresser’s shop unusually fascinating. We dwell at length on the layout of a menu or the clothes of the presenters on the evening news. We are alive to the layers of history beneath the present and take notes and photographs.

“Home, by contrast, finds us more settled in our expectations. We feel assured that we have discovered everything interesting about our neighborhood, primarily by virtue of our having lived there a long time. It seems inconceivable that there could be anything new to find in a place where we have been living for a decade or more. We have become habituated and therefore blind to it.”
—Alain de Botton, The Art of Travel


Simple Pleasures—Art and Flowers on the Maine Midcoast

October 14, 2019

Our continuing travels in Maine…

After Acadia and Bar Harbor, we began a leisurely drive down the Maine coast. I had made a list of places that sounded interesting, and we decided to explore what took our fancy, deciding where to stop for the night on the fly, since we didn’t know exactly where we’d be when it was time to find a place to stay. We were between the tourist seasons of summer and “leaf peeping,” so it wasn’t too crowded. If you want to stay somewhere special or if you go during a busier time of year, it would be better to make plans ahead of time, but this worked fine for finding a place just to sleep for the night. We had a couple rooms that were just OK, but mostly every place we stayed had something nice about it, whether it was a tasty breakfast, a pretty view, or even an adorable puppy in the office.

This is Bella. No, we didn't pack her up and bring her home with us. 

Farnsworth Art Museum

One day we explored some of the art and garden attractions in Maine’s Midcoast area. This area so charmed us, we’ve even discussed retiring there! That would be quite a change for this California/Florida couple!

We started with the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland. The Farnsworth focuses on American art from the 18th century to the present, with a special focus on artists who have lived and worked in Maine. These include artists like Winslow Homer, Edward Hopper, and Georgia O’Keeffe, in addition to works by the Wyeth family: N.C. Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth, and James (“Jamie”) Wyeth.

Frolic, by Jamie Wyeth.

Detail from Frolic

On recommendation of some people we met at the tire repair shop—because of course we had to have a little adversity on our trip—we ate lunch at Café Miranda, an adorable little place just a few streets away from the museum. My husband had a late breakfast, but I had the “Fabulous Bowl of Meat,” which was actually…Thai lettuce wraps. And delicious.

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

Thus fortified, we meandered down to Boothbay to visit the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. As I mentioned on Instagram, we may not have seen many colorful fall leaves, but we made up for that in displays of flowers. We saw gorgeous flowers everywhere, but, of course, the botanical gardens were exceptional.

The entrance

Vertical garden


The garden opened in 2007 after 16 years of planning, and is the largest botanical garden in New England. Seventeen of its 295 acres feature plants native to Maine as well as other plants suited to northern coastal conditions.

The children’s garden area was especially fun:

Look closely at the picket fence, also below

Garden resident

Arbor with gourds--you can see one at the right of the entrance

When our feet we were finished with exploring the garden, we found ourselves a hotel in East Boothbay, the Smuggler’s Cove Inn  (where we met Bella). We spotted a sign for a fish and chips special at the Carriage House restaurant on our way to the hotel, and went back there for dinner—and it was one of our best dinners of the whole trip. Everything from the pickle fried chicken wings appetizer to the homemade sauce for the fish was scrumptious. 

And so we come to the end of another full day of the Johnson & Johnson belated anniversary road trip of 2019. Thank you for letting me re-live our trip as I post these photos and memories here—I have a few more experiences to share!


Autumn Poses a Question

October 11, 2019

“We cherish things, Japan has always known, precisely because they cannot last; it’s their frailty that adds sweetness…. Autumn poses the question we all have to live with: How to hold on to the things we love even though we know that we and they are dying. How to see the world as it is, yet find light within that truth.”


Trip Highlights: Acadia and Bar Harbor

October 07, 2019

One of the planned highlights of our trip to New Hampshire and Maine was our time in Acadia National Park. We spent two days exploring the park, and nearby town of Bar Harbor.

We had made reservations for two nights in Bar Harbor, which was wise because Bar Harbor was bustling, even in the shoulder season between summer and “leaf peeping.” We would have spent too much time inching through traffic and finding parking. Our hotel, The Acadia, was right on the village green and we were able to walk most of the town.

Acadia covers about 38,000 acres—and we saw only a fraction of its forests, lakes, ponds, meadows and rocky coastline.

We began our visit with a trip to Hulls Cove Visitor Center, and a drive on the auto loop road up to Mt. Cadillac where you can see forever—or at least as far as Bar Harbor.

Frenchman Bay and Bar Harbor

The next morning, we began our explorations of Acadia at the Wild Gardens of Acadia, which we happened to pass on our way to the Ocean Path trail head. Intrigued, we pulled off the road to find an area of the park that displays in microcosm the different types of growing conditions in Acadia, including mixed woods, meadows, and marshes. We walked a little way down the Jessup Path, a boardwalk leading through woods and meadows to a roadside pond.

Jessup Path

Ocean Path is a 4.4 mile round trip from Sand Beach to Otter Point. The path runs right next to the loop road, but there are many places to climb away from the road to explore the rocks and take photos of the scenery. It’s an easy trail, but it was pretty crowded and if we had been visiting in the summer, traffic on the road would have been disruptive and bothersome. We entered at Sand Beach and walked to Thunder Hole, before turning around to walk back. Thunder Hole wasn’t thundering, unfortunately.

Ocean Path, Sand Beach in the distance

Thunder Hole...not thundering

We drove to Otter Point, where we saw no otters, but did see some waterfowl.

Our next stop was Jordan Pond House for lunch and their famous popovers. We sat on the lawn where we enjoyed a view of the Bubbles, and a cool breeze kept the wasps from being too annoying—they’re drawn to the strawberry preserves served with the popovers. Our waiter told us during high season, the kitchen turns out 4,000 popovers a day!

Jordan Pond House from the lawn

The Bubbles


We wrapped up our day with more exploring, shopping, and eating in Bar Harbor. And then, the next day, onward. Where did we go next? Stay tuned…

A Mellower Season

October 04, 2019

Photo by Monika Grabkowska on Unsplash

“Autumn is the mellower season, and what we lose in flowers we more than gain in fruits.”
—Samuel Butler, The Way of All Flesh