‘Making’ sense during covid

In the quiet of quarantine, many of us turned inward to reflect and put forth creative energy.

Such a moment happened for me among the bookshelf. Organizing books that spanned from undergrad to teaching college, a large chunk of my collection are books I worked on while a publishing assistant and ultimately a publicist. I look back on these days mostly positive, especially the one perk of being a book publicist is working with the authors, sometimes; and when the stars collide and personalities mesh, it’s a great way to make a living.

When a good book comes along, celebrations can surround the launch of it. That is what happened over a decade ago when I met Rebecca Yaker and Patricia Hoskins, authors of One-Yard Wonders, (Storey Publishing) over 300 pages of patterns and instructions of what to do with one yard of fabric. I even started a craft table in my apartment at the time, to take on this original text. While the book is now part of my library, my craft table sold to a former co-worker, and my collection of fabric stashed — until the pandemic beckoned once-unobtainable face masks and my crafty tendencies came rushing back to me.

Rebecca Yaker puts a little sparkle in her creations

While the world is slowly coming out of the pandemic, but many of us are still picking up our art supplies to bide our time during shutdowns. My library discovery made me wonder about what my authors in Minnesota were up to, and I recently caught up with one of them.

Since publishing One-Yard Wonders, and two subsequent titles, Yaker has been focusing on more personal projects — growing and picking up new fractions skill sets, including shoemaking, hand and machine knitting, furniture upholstery, weaving, and bra making. “I always seem to come back to sewing as a palate cleanser,” she said.

“It goes without saying, the past year has been nuts, for everyone, for different reasons and overlapping ones,” Yaker said. “For my own sanity, between running my online business (https://www.rebeccayaker.com/), having everyone home 100-percent of the time, helping to coordinate my kids’ distance learning, and more, I’ve been trying to carve out time for personal projects.

“Disappearing into my sewing space definite helps keep me sane.”

A space of one’s own

Humans are social creatures, even those who are more introverted by nature, and as such, we also need to make time for connection, according to Rachel Sikorski, a creative arts therapist, in Buffalo, NY. For those who are more outgoing and energized by social connections, time alone can be difficult. 

“Striking a healthy balance might involve carving out time for both — alone and connection, as well as honor our own need for more or less of the things,” she said.

To make time alone more manageable and enriching, which can also be done in groups, even virtually, finding hobbies, activities, and creative outlets can help recharge, rest, and relax; such as reading, listening to music or a podcast, or taking time for creativity (cooking, coloring, painting, drawing, crocheting, or knitting, etc.).

“Kids have a much easier time playing with creativity,”  Sikorski said. “As we get older and more self-conscious as adolescents, we may or may not see ourselves as creative or having artistic skills, so we may stop doing these sort of activities. As adults, this is something many of us have to work to cultivate, the ability to get out of our heads and be creative, without analysis or judgment, to experience the value of the process itself.

“I think some crafts can be the way ‘in’ for some adults, and certainly the Internet makes this much more accessible to the masses.”

While Yaker saw an “explosion” in the popularity of crafting during 2020, Sikorski looks at the overall creative process as cathartic and enlightening, and it’s not the first time society has turned to the making of things to help cultivate mindfulness and pause to self-reflect. 

LIFE 11-24-1941 Cover: woman knitting w. caption How to Knit. Photograph by Gjon Mili. (Photo by Gjon Mili/Life Magazine, Copyright Time Inc./The LIFE Premium Collection/Getty Images)

According to reports, when World War I ended, shell-shocked soldiers were prescribed embroidery therapy. World War II brought a Victory Knitting campaign to aid service members and refugees, during with the Red Cross published patterns of mitts for riflemen and stump covers for amputees.

“I think people have always turned to art as a way to find the language to express that which words cannot fully capture,” Sikorski said. 

Avant grade artists, such as Vincent van Gogh, in various regions and periods of history, challenged the status quo. Instead of representing the reality of nature, the focus shifted to express emotion and internal experience. 

While the full impact of the pandemic remains to be seen, it has challenged us in a variety of ways, according to Sikorski. Her clients are experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety. 

“We’re enduring a (heavy) existential crisis, leading even the youngest to ask questions when confronted with so much sickness and death,” she said. “We’re trying to find ways to pass the time while stuck inside and robbed of our routines, distract from this time and make sense of the injustice in our country and the world; and find ways to cope with it all. The creative activity lends itself well to this need for distraction, redirection, catharsis, representation of complex feelings and ideas; and perhaps most importantly, containment of this difficult material — putting it somewhere, so we don’t have to carry it all day.”

The traveling van Gogh exhibit is an immersive experience.

Economics of creativity 

While the world economy unraveled during the pandemic, not all industries suffered. The creative economy is set to have a banner year, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, especially in a post-COVID-19 world. 

“My local industrial sewing machine technician sold out of all his machines, including the ones that had been sitting on his sales floor for over five years,” Yaker said. “For some people, the pandemic afforded them more time to explore and dabble in new hobbies. That, combined with the Zoom explosion (of classes) has made things so much more accessible.”

The future

“It feels premature to speculate the end of the pandemic. Countless things will forever be different as a result. That said, over the past year, many people were able to expose themselves to new things and/or reignite old passions for making. Hopefully, newfound hobbies will stick, or give way to further exploration and act as a reminder to try new things,” Yaker said. “Craft and the art of making will forever be a significant part of my life.”

Somewhere in time

It’s been decades since I visited the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan, however, I’d bet nothing has changed; and that’s the beauty of it. While the world waits to travel, there is nothing wrong with planning, and Michigan is an ideal place to visit when the northern states are waking up after winter, and spring is just starting to reveal itself. 

The Grand Hotel is located on Mackinac Island, population 492, and where horse-drawn carriages are the preferred mode of transportation. With the exception of snowmobiles during winter, emergency and service vehicles, motorized vehicles have been prohibited since 1898. Travel on the island is either by foot, bicycle, or horse-drawn carriage. 

View from the iconic front porch at the Grand Hotel @wellplannedadventures

Since 1887, the Island has been home to its defining feature, the Grand Hotel. Fitting with the old-world vibe of the island, the Grand Hotel has a dress code after 6:30 pm. Dresses, skirts, blouses, dress sweaters, and dress slacks for ladies are preferred; while gentlemen are required to wear a suit coat, necktie, and dress pants; no denim or shorts allowed.

When the Grand Hotel first opened its doors as a summer retreat for vacationers who traveled to Michigan by train, and came to Mackinac Island via steamer and boat, it was known as “America’s Summer Place” (it is seasonal), and it still is. 

Since the 1930s one family nurtured and guided the hotel’s growth to a highly acclaimed and much-beloved getaway but in 2019 KSL Capital Partners LLC purchased the Grand Hotel for an undisclosed sum from the Musser family. Dan Musser III remains chairman of the hotel.

The Musser family would have been involved with the filming of Somewhere in Time, a 1980 American film starring Christopher Reeve, Jane Seymour, and Christopher Plummer.

Reeve and Seymour on set Photograph by Derek Hudson/Getty Images

Reeve plays Richard Collier, a playwright who becomes obsessed with a photograph of a young woman at the Grand Hotel. Through self-hypnosis, he wishes himself back in time to the year 1912 to find love with actress Elise McKenna (portrayed by Seymour) but comes into conflict with Elise’s manager, William Fawcett Robinson (portrayed by Plummer), who fears that romance will derail her career and resolves to stop him. 

The 18th variation of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini” appears several times, allowing this film to be known for its musical score. 

While the Grand Hotel is known for its hospitality, this National Landmark has been able to stay current while continuing to beguile guests with charm and its heritage. 

Beginning May 3, guests can take advantage of the Grand Hotel’s Pre-Opening Package, and be one of the first guests as they reopen for the season. Additional information can be found on their website. For details about Mackinac Island visit the tourism bureau’s website.

Mackinac Island is accessible by driving to Mackinac City or St. Ignace and taking a ferry. The Starline Mackinac Island Ferry and Sheplar’s Mackinac Island Ferry offers round trip passage. The 16-min. tour offers a spectacular view of Lake Huron and the Straits of Mackinac Lighthouses. The island is also accessible by plane (Mackinac Island Airport) or private boat. 

Travel in place; back in time

Maryland welcomes millions of visitors every year, to celebrate the richness it has to offer; including the long growing season that makes it very rewarding to be a locavore. All of this was encompassed in Dishing Up Maryland by Lucie L. Snodgrass and photographs by Edwin Remsberg, a book I had the pleasure of publicizing 10 years ago.


It might seems summery, but October is National Seafood Month in Maryland, and Dishing Up Maryland brings some of the state’s best recipes home. Maryland is known for crabs: how to catch, cook and consume; most specifically Blue Crabs: the native inhabitants of the beautiful Chesapeake Bay. Eating crabs is a way of life and picking them is a skill residents have mastered since childhood.

Photo by Edwin Remsberg

The peak season for Maryland Blue Crabs is from April to the end of November. The biggest heaviest crabs are typically harvested during the fall months (September to mid-November). In December, as the weather cooks down, crabs from the Bay head towards warmer waters.

Travel in place

Armchair travel may be the way to go during these times, so check out these mouth watering dishes from some of Baltimore’s top restaurants: A decadent Crab Dip French Toast from Blue Moon Cafe, or this lump-filled crab cake from Koco’s Pub and don’t miss THIS COLOSSAL CREATION from The Local Oyster in Mount Vernon Marketplace. For a sweeter take, how about some Smith Island Cake, the official cake of Maryland? Here’s Loch Bar’s take on the classic!

With COVID-19 restrictions in place, some may be willing to experience charm city IRL (in real life), and updates can be found here. According to Visit Baltimore, the local tourism agency, every restaurant, shop, and attraction operate differently, and statuses change daily. “We recommend that visitors go to the websites or social media pages and/or call the businesses they’d like to visit to confirm that they are open. Many attractions have moved to online ticketing and timed ticketing, and restaurants are offering carryout and outdoor dining to safely serve customers,” Erica Rodrigues, senior marketing manager, said in an email.

Travel Local

Is it safe to come out yet? 

In the past few months, I got off lucky. Mild symptoms, very young children at home, and tuning into Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s daily pressers were my saving graces. I also took a pause on writing anything. How do you cover travel writing when roaming is not feasible and penning memories of it seem inappropriate?

The arrival of spring brought with it a slow lift of bans in New York State, but those of us who are lucky enough to even ponder the concept of travel, are still left wondering: Is it safe, is it worth it, and now with the addition of civil unrest, how is life as we knew it going to logistically work?

It will. It’s a new normal, and we will travel again, perhaps even this summer. 

While I’m still prepping the backyard for summertime fun, and researching travel time locales, I’m ready to explore locally — and Maine is the first stop. 

No, I’m not driving hours northward, been there done that. I’m walking up to my local Main Street where Cousins Maine Lobster will be at 12 Gates Brewing Company from noon to 9 p.m. on Saturday, June 6. Guests will order using a mobile app and pick up their finished to-go order one at a time from the food truck. 12 Gates will have beer available to-go as well, according to the brewer.

“We will be practicing social distancing and no on-site consumption will be permitted,” they said in an e-mail.

12 Gates Brewing Company had the unfortunate timing of opening their beautiful new facility, next to a picturesque creek on a quaint Main Street, just in time for the Pandemic to shelter us all in place. They were also one of the local eateries who provided customers with to-go meals and growlers.

While a Maine lobster food truck from New York City is a new concept, 12 Gates promises they serve mouthwatering #RealMaineLobster, and of course, their own “delicious” beer from its local brewery. 

Cousins Maine Lobster did not return inquiries about their best business practices. For more information about Cousins Maine Lobster food trucks visit https://www.cousinsmainelobster.com/.

Celebrate the Spring season with great food, drinks, and fun; and remember to bring a mask. 

12 Gates Brewing Company is located at 80 Earhart Dr., Williamsville, NY 14221. 

Irish eyes are still smiling

Louisiana is home to over 400 festivals, good food, fun times and history like only the Deep South can provide.

Experiencing NOLA culture, circa the early 2000s.

While its most familiar city, New Orleans (NOLA) may be known for the celebrations before Lent, referred to as Mardi Gras, NOLA should also be a festive destination for St. Patrick’s Day. Given the enduring presence of Catholicism, it is no surprise there is a strong Irish history in the Big Easy.

An early wave of Irish immigrants, fleeing British persecution at the end of the 1700s, arrived in NOLA and made it home. The first St. Patrick’s Day celebration was held in 1809 and throughout the 19th century, Irish social and benevolent organizations were formed, and Irish theater thrived, according to the New Orleans visitors bureau. Immigrants driven out of their homeland by the potato famine started arriving in significant numbers between the 1820s and 1840s.

Irish immigrants often found cheap passage to New Orleans because cotton ships unloading in Liverpool, filled their holds with human ballast for their return trip. Living conditions didn’t improve much for these weary travelers once they arrived in their new homeland. Home was now in the slums for thousands of Irish immigrants, and they were exposed to the epidemics that periodically swept the city. Many Irish labored on the New Basin Canal, a dangerous project that claimed thousands of lives.

Still more arrived, and to this day St. Patrick’s Church, founded in 1833, stands proud – with services in English, not French, as it’s always been.

On March 17, St. Patrick’s Day in New Orleans becomes a week-and-a-half of parades and block parties. For a full list of events click here.


Bring the flavors of Louisiana home with its own Jay Ducote, former Food Network Star contestant, and Baton Rouge chef. His Irish Beef Stew recipe uses his own Coffee Chile Rub, a barbecue rub with brown sugar, smoked paprika, and other savory spices that will add heat to this usually bland dish. Find the recipe for his Irish Beef Stew here.

‘My old Kentucky home’

There’s nothing like the smell of Southern vegetation, the feel of dewy humidity on the skin, and a slower pace of life. If you can’t tell, I have a crush on the South. I may actually be a wannabe southerner.

One of the cities below the Mason-Dixon Line that makes me swoon is Louisville, Kentucky, and thanks to an infamous horse race, Louisville isn’t the sleepy city it once was. But if you can’t make it to Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May, it is still possible to enjoy the Kentucky Derby.

I could’ve been a contender: Who to bet on this year

Courtesy of Horse Racing Nation

Post Rating Silks Horse / Sire Trainer / Jockey Last Start HRN
War of Will
War Front
M. Casse
T. Gaffalione
9th, 2019 Louisiana Derby (G2)
D. Gargan
J. Alvarado
2nd, 2019 Wood Memorial (G2) View Video
By My Standards
W. Calhoun
G. Saez
1st, 2019 Louisiana Derby (G2)
Gray Magician 
P. Miller
D. Van Dyke
2nd, 2019 UAE Derby (G2) View Video
City Zip
B. Baffert
I. Ortiz, Jr.
2nd, 2019 Arkansas Derby (G1)
Candy Ride
G. Weaver
J. Castellano
1st, 2019 Blue Grass Stakes (G2)
Maximum Security
New Year’s Day
J. Servis
L. Saez
1st, 2019 Florida Derby (G1)
W. Mott
J. Ortiz
1st, 2019 Wood Memorial (G2) View Video
Plus Que Parfait
Point of Entry
B. Walsh
R. Santana, Jr.
1st, 2019 UAE Derby (G2) View Video
Cutting Humor 
First Samurai
T. Pletcher
C. Lanerie
1st, 2019 Sunland Derby (G3)
K. McLaughlin
R. Maragh
3rd, 2019 Wood Memorial (G2) View Video
Omaha Beach 
War Front
R. Mandella
M. Smith
1st, 2019 Arkansas Derby (G1)
Code of Honor
Noble Mission
C. McGaughey III
J. Velazquez
3rd, 2019 Florida Derby (G1)
Win Win Win
Hat Trick
M. Trombetta
J. Pimentel
2nd, 2019 Blue Grass Stakes (G2)
Master Fencer
Just a Way
K. Tsunoda
J. Leparoux
Game Winner 
Candy Ride
B. Baffert
J. Rosario
2nd, 2019 Santa Anita Derby (G1)
Quality Road
B. Baffert
F. Geroux
1st, 2019 Santa Anita Derby (G1)
Long Range Toddy
Take Charge Indy
S. Asmussen
J. Court
6th, 2019 Arkansas Derby (G1)
Hard Spun
T. Pletcher
M. Franco
2nd, 2019 Louisiana Derby (G2)
Country House
Lookin At Lucky
W. Mott
F. Prat
3rd, 2019 Arkansas Derby (G1)
G. Delgado
C. Landeros
2nd, 2019 Florida Derby (G1)

The fashion

32072911_10156054740917928_4045327682039185408_nSouthern style can’t help but rub itself off on you. After some time in the warmer states, labels like Lily Pulitzer and Jack Rogers will creep into your wardrobe. Kick the drab out of early Northern spring (or whenever you may be) with colorful pieces, lots of pastel and preppy, scalloped clothes; and for the derby, don’t forget the hat.

     History of the Hats

The tradition of the Kentucky Derby hat began at the inception of the race; the founder Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr. wanted to ensure a good crowd at his event, according to the J.McLaughlin blog (at the time the race track had a reputation as immoral and dangerous). Looking to other successful races for inspiration, he looked to the glamorous Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Dolittle and her moment of tw0 worlds colliding at the Ascot races in England. According to the Kentucky Derby Museum, “He loaded up a wagon full of high society women and they were going door-to-door telling their friends, ‘We’re going to have a picnic at the racetrack,’” And it worked. The upper class poured into the stadium in their finest, as a place to see and be seen.

The tradition of the hat lives on as a fun element to the races (and more practically to keep the sun out of spectator’s eyes).

If you happen to be in Buffalo, New York and still need a hat, check out Pamela Inc. Women’s Clothing and Accessories (3142 Main St., http://uhartsgroup.com/pamela).

Page to Pantry

The Mint Julep Mocktail

6 mint leaves, rinsed

1 ½ cup sugar

2 cups cold water

¾ cups lemon juice

2-4 cups lemon-lime soda (Fresca or Ginger Ale work well)


Mix sugar in an equal amount of warm water and refrigerate for 30 to 40 min.

Squeeze the lemons in sugar syrup and mix well.

Add soda and mix well.

Layer the serving glass with crushed ice and pour the syrup over the ice.

Garnish with mint leaves.

Serve cold.


Indiana, so nice I visited it twice

For business or pleasure? Is a question rarely asked in 2019, for who hasn’t taken a business trip and made the most out of it by squeezing a little fun into the itinerary, especially since your employer has already picked up the tab to get you there?

One such destination for me in Bloomington, home to the University of Indiana, the flagship campus of eight, and not much else. A college town, there are plenty of bars and restaurants, but when work and life bring you to the same dreaded place, twice, it would’ve been nice to make it one trip.

Instead, there was one wedding weekend and another three-day stint that included a lonely hotel room, business meetings and uncomfortable travel (do not look for food, drink or entertainment at the Indianapolis Airport).

Road warriors are starting to see work-related travel as an opportunity and avoid these trappings. They take advantage of new and sometimes unusual destinations to learn about the local culture or extend the stay into a vacation.

According to Robyn Domber, vice president of research at Development Counsellors International (DCI), a marketing firm specializing in economic development and travel, there has been a 40-percent increase in American bleisure travel since 2016.

“By all indicators, this trend is projected to continue to particularly in light of certain demographic and economic trends,” she said.

Driven largely by millennials (it’s estimated 48-percent of bleisure travelers are millennials, according to Domber) due to their value of work-life balance more than any other generation before them, and given the incredibly tight labor market across the United States.

Due to these factors, employers are recognizing that official bleisure policies can be a benefit that can help attract and retain employees.

“A bleisure policy has very few downsides and in fact can actually help an employer’s bottom line, but adding a Saturday night stay, the cost of a flight may actually be lower,” Domber said. “The employee, by default of having the experience, returns more knowledge both about the place and the people that reside there.”

DCI estimates that nearly 80-percent of their “traveling” staff actually extended a business trip in the past year for leisure purposes.

“As an employer that encourages bleisure travel, DCI has seen the benefits of this policy first hand, and employees are more than willing to take advantage of this perk,” Domber said.

Taking a plus one or the entire family on a business trip can be distracting, could also be another reason why bleisure travel is most common among millennials – it’s just the carefree stage of life therein.

Matt takes a break from meetings to enjoy the sites 

Rockford – it’s not Chicago

It’s the middle of America, where reaching a Starbucks without a car means daring to cross a four-lane highway. But if you get off the beaten path, there is an enchanting garden and a historic brewery that embraces its natural resources to serve seasonal dishes, both worth the trip to Rockford.


I started my three-day stay in Rockford on the banks of the Rock River, at Prairie Street Brewing Company, the oldest brewery in the state of Illinois. A beautiful red brick National Historic Landmark building, that is not just serving beer. Thanks to Chef Josh Tourville, their core menu offers at least a handful of seasonal specials that highlight local products from local farmers. Depending on availability and popularity, items could change bi-weekly.

“In the winter I like to use fermented, pickled, and processed products from last season’s farmer crops,” Tourville said. They also get five Berkshire pigs a month from Joe McKenna, an “amazing” pig farmer in Capron, Il.

Notable dishes on the winter menu include:

Berkshire Pork Tenderloin Sandwich

Baby Back Ribs

Faroe Island Salmon Poke

Iowa Premium Certified Angus Beef Flat Iron Steak Frites

House-Made Kimchi Fried Rice

Grilled Mahi Mahi Fish Tacos



gardenphotos_maingate_winterAfter a meal at Prairie Street, walk through the most impressive Anderson Japanese Gardens. Stroll through the 12-acre landscape of babbling streams, rushing waterfalls and winding pathways, to discover koi-filled ponds and carefully manicured paths. The attention to detail with every rock and alignment of trees, allows visitors to leave the outside world behind and be inspired by the tranquility of nature.

Ranked one of North America’s highest quality Japanese gardens for more than a decade, construction began on the space in 1978 when Rockford businessman John Anderson after a visit to Portland Japanese Garden in Oregon. With the ongoing assistance of renowned Master Craftsman and designer Hoichi Kurisu, the Andersons’ swampy backyard along Rockford’s Spring Creek was transformed into a Japanese-style landscape. In 1998 John and Linda Anderson donated to Gardens as a supported organization to the Rockford Rotary Charitable Association and serves as a not-for-profit and for all to enjoy, year round.

You say potato I say potato

Once upon a time, travel journalists pitched editors with their credentials and clips, not posts and followers, for writing assignments that paid. I was one of these reporters. Hungry for adventure, and literally hungry (New York City is an expensive place to live, even in the early 2000s), I was constantly pitching editors of top magazines with my story ideas. My ambition and love for adventure were married when I began writing for Condé Nast Traveler for their budget section. Destinations with tight purse strings were perfect for this fresh post-graduate grad student.

One of my assignments was Idaho, really because I was invited to spend a long weekend with friends-of-a-friend, but I also saw it as an opportunity to dig up something notable about the “gem state” other than potatoes.


Courtesy of Coeur d'Alene Resort Golf Course
Courtesy of Coeur d’Alene Resort Golf Course

Welcome to the Northwest’s playground at the Coeur d’Alene Resort Golf Course in Coeur d’Alene. One of the world’s top destinations for vacation, business, romance and fun, and especially golfers, where they will appreciate playing the world’s challenging only floating green, while everyone else escapes to the spa or infinity pool at the resort. The entire party will enjoy taking in the sights of the beautiful alpine lake in a quaint, friendly downtown lakeside atmosphere. A memorable and magical experience now is the time to go while renovations are still fresh and packages are available. The staff is incredibly helpful and friendly.


Travel has long influenced people to create, enjoy the new cuisine and in some cases, discover new artists. In the early 2000s, this was listening to Jack Johnson, a former surfer from Hawaii turned singer-songwriter who was already popular on the West Coast. Downloading Brushfire Fairytales still takes me back to those carefree days of one’s 20s.



There will be plenty of opportunities to eat potatoes, (and meat) in Idaho. The Idaho® Russet thrives in high altitudes and lots of warm sun during the day and cool evenings. Mineral-rich soil thanks to the volcanic material that once covered Idaho, that is well drained but also absorbs the pure snowmelt from the Teton Mountains, also helps yield noteworthy spuds.