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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Dropping the Ball...and the Pickle...and the Potato...On New Year's Eve

When it comes to New Year’s Eve celebrations, very few places are dropping the ball these days. Instead, they are dropping wenches, wrenches, pickles, potatoes and bologna—and that’s no bologna.

The New Year’s Eve bologna drop in Lebanon, PA is a bunch of bologna

Pennsylvania may reign supreme when it comes to dropping things on New Year’s Eve. There are more than a dozen drops around the Keystone State, ranging from a button in Carlisle to a sled in Duncannon to the aforementioned wrench in Mechanicsburg (naturally).But certainly, Lebanon’s Bologna Drop takes the cake as a must-see New Year’s Eve event. You never sau-sage a thing as a 250-pound lunch meat plunging 16 feet to the excitement of adoring peeps.

Speaking of PEEPS, the marshmallow concoction is usually associated with Easter. But in Bethlehem, PA, where the treats are made, the drop of a 4.5-foot tall, 85-pound illuminated PEEP chick makes New Year’s Eve egg-stra special.

What’s the dill with pickle drops? While it’s a “no-briner” that Dillsburg, PA drops a six-foot Mr. Pickle, why is a place called Mt. Olive celebrating with a cucumber? It turns out the North Carolina burg is home to the largest independent pickle company in the country. But an unanswered pickle is why Mt. Olive opts to drop its three-foot cuke down a flagpole at midnight Greenwich Mean Time (7pm EST).

We wish you a happy bleu year! | Photo courtesy of Plymouth Arts Center
We wish you a happy bleu year! | Photo courtesy of Plymouth Arts Center

Dairy gets its due on New Year’s Eve in Wisconsin. In Plymouth, the former home of the National Cheese Exchange, a giant cheese wedge gets lowered from a 100-foot crane. But come early. The cheese roars at 10pm. Sounds gouda to us.
Idaho getting mashed... I mean smashed for new years
Boy oh Boise
Famous Potatoes, indeed. On New Year’s Eve, Boise, Idaho’s most notable spud is a luminous 16-foot tuber known as the Glowtato. Here’s the dirt: Thousands of spectators take to the streets to watch the s’mashing potato plummet in front of the State Capitol at midnight.
Female impersonator Gary Marion, known as Sushi, hangs in a giant replica of a woman's high heel shoe Thursday, Dec. 31, 2015, in Key West, Fla. | Photo courtesy of (Rob O'Neal/Florida Keys News Bureau/HO)
Female impersonator Gary Marion, known as Sushi, hangs in a giant replica of a woman’s high heel shoe in Key West, Fla. | Photo courtesy of (Rob O’Neal/Florida Keys News Bureau/HO)
In Key West, Sushi gets dropped on December 31…but she’s actually a drag queen and not a piece of raw fish. Sushi sits in a giant red stiletto that goes down at midnight. But plenty of actual sea creatures are celebrated along the Eastern seaboard on New Year’s Eve. Key West also drops a conch (and a wench, but that’s off-topic). Easton, Maryland lowers a crab. And in Eastport, Maine, the country’s easternmost city, they drop a sardine. An hour before the sardine goes down, a maple leaf falls in Eastport, sweetly celebrating the city’s neighbor just across the border. Why 11pm EST? Because it’s midnight in Canada. O.
This story originally appeared here.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Holiday Gifts for Your Favorite Traveler

Looking for a holiday gift for your favorite traveler? This post offers all sorts of suggestions and includes a recent Gadget Guru segment from Great Day Washington as well.

Picture Keeper Connect 

It's happened again. You've taken so many darn pictures that you've run out of space on your phone. Back up those images so you can take new ones this holiday season. After purchasing the Picture Keeper Connect ($119.99 for 16 GB), download the app to facilitate the super-easy transfer of photos and videos from a smartphone or tablet to a computer or a portable compact USB drive.

How about a battery pack that not only charges your mobile devices, but your car as well? Weego is a pocket-size jump starter battery pack that can do it all. You can give juice to the main power pack at home or in your car (cables included), and then throw Weego in your glove compartment for those times when something in your car is in need of a charge. There's even a built-in flashlight. There are three Weego models, ranging in price from $99.99 to $289 (depending on type of engine you need to charge). Easy-to-follow-instruction are included, as are jumper cables.


Sometimes, it's the traveler who needs the charge. Could it be that the quickest way to alleviate jet lag is... through the ear? That's the claim of HumanCharger's Finnish inventors, who say their device cuts typical jet lag recovery time in half by emitting light into the ear. The operating principle of the HumanCharger: The headset beams UV-free, blue-enriched white light through ear canal for 12 minutes at a time to the light sensitive regions of the brain that keep circadian rhythms in sync. The HumanCharger ($269.99) comes with a smartphone app that tells you when to take the needed 12-minute bursts of light (after you enter details of your trip). I haven’t tried it myself, but the HumanCharger has been certified to meet the EU Medical Device Directive.
Clean Wave Sanitizing Wand

Germs are everywhere when you travel. Airplanes and hotel rooms can be cesspools of microscopic bugs and bacteria. But the Verilux Clean Wave Sanitizing Wand ($69.99) can zap your these worries away. The wand uses powerful ultraviolet-C light to significantly reduce microscopic germs, mold and dust mites. Take the 10" battery-operated wand and wave it over doorknobs, light switches, bathroom fixtures and the remote control in your hotel room. On the airplane, you might want to zap the tray table and the seat back pocket, two of the dirtiest places around. Frankly, I might be tempted to zap my seatmate as well, particularly if he's hogging the armrest. But the instructions do not sanction that usage.

Black Starry Night Arcopedico Boots

When a traveler is sightseeing, (almost) nothing is more important than footwear. Yet, for women, it can be difficult to find comfortable and good-looking shoes, particularly for winter weather. Well, these Arcopedico boots were made for walking. The knit upper, the soft textile lining, a twin arch support system and a cushioned insole provide all-day comfort. Just as important, the soles are non-slip.

Friday, December 9, 2016

From Italy With Love: Emilia Romagna Edition

While you are enjoying these images of sites along the Via Emilia, take a listen to my recent segment on Italy's Emilia Romagna region on Around the World Radio.  Go to the December 1 show and forward 12 minutes in.

Bologna and Cured Meat

Teatro Regio di Parma (and yes, that's the Michelin Man off to the side)

 Parma Streetscape

A Wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano
Getting Inspected 

Modena Architecture

Modena Balsamic Vinegar 

 Just a Spoonful of Balsamic
(the perfect digestive)

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Food Porn Italian Style

Calling all foodies. If you want to truly indulge in the art of slow food, head to Emilia Romagna in northern Italy.

Want to learn how to make Parmigiano Reggiano from a hunky cheesemaker?

Or how can one become Inspector Cheese?

The Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium can set you up.

If your preference is prosciutto, head to Parma to experience the silence of the hams.

Perhaps this looks more appetizing.

Also sample authentic Modena Balsamic Vinegar.

If you want to check out Via Emilia museums focusing on products ranging from pasta to cheese to olive oil to cold meats, here's the menu.

For more ideas on food tours around Emilia Romagna's Food Valley, take a look at this.

We'll be profiling Carpigiani's Gelato University in an upcoming post. Meanwhile, if you want to learn how to make gelato, here's the scoop

Buon Appetito!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Where to Go Next

On Election Day, I did my travel expert thing on WUSA's Great Day Washington. The topic, aptly, was places to go to escape from the U.S. of A. 


If you are actually thinking about moving out of the country, here are some excellent alternatives.
In the comments section, let me know what your post-election travel plans are.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Of Spas, Sexy Beaches, Scrumptious Food and Swanky Chateaus

Interested in luscious male bodies, scrumptious food, deluxe mansions or sexy beach resorts? Then this round-up of stories I have recently written has something just for you. Indulge.

For ShermansTravel, I focused on how spas are appealing to the male species.

This picture capture your attention? You have
Kohler Waters Spa at the American Club to thank.

For Orbitz Blog, I dug into the development of central food markets around the USA.

Denver Central Market
Larkey Photography
I revisited my old stomping grounds for ShermansTravel, looking at how tourists on a tight budget can explore swanky Santa Barbara, California.

Speaking of swanky, are you aware that some of the country's most glamorous mansions are located in Delaware? Read on.

Nemours from Visit Wilmington

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Hot Travel Tips for the Holidays

Heading off for the holidays, kids? It's never too early to start planning your road trip, so here is some early advice designed for those traveling by car. For a televised version of these suggestions, please watch here.

Before you head out of town, check the weather forecast. That will help you pack more efficiently. Also, download apps that can make travel easier, such as those that provide the skinny on rest stop locations or cheap gas. Of course, try to avoid traveling at peak times. If you can actually drive on the holiday itself, you may end up having the road to yourself.

In terms of getting your car road ready, Autotrader* has a number of important tips to get to your destination safe and satisfied.

1. Before you go, check the oil, other fluids and tire pressure. If you can't do it yourself, bring your car to a dealer for a pre-holiday check-up.
2. Keep the kids happy and quiet on road trips. Plan ample stops, bring along healthy snacks and load up devices with movies and games to keep kids occupied.
3. Have patience. Allow yourself plenty of time. During the holidays, traffic and bad weather can slow you down. So, be prepared...and have your GPS available to opt for alternate routes.

Driving slowly and having the proper tire pressure will save on fuel costs. But if you want to reduce your fuel fee to $0, go electric. For shorter holiday trips, an electric vehicle like the Kia Soul EV* is a great money saver. The car itself--which has been named a Motorweek Best Eco-Friendly Vehicle--is very affordable--and, of course, you never have to pay for gas. Plus, you can charge it at home. Another nifty feature--using the Kia Soul smartphone app, you can actually warm up your car before you hit the road.

Even if you are visiting family or close friends, sometimes it's nice to have a place of your own to escape to at day's end. Particularly if you are traveling with kids, look for hotels with spacious accommodations. Embassy Suites by Hilton and Homewood Suites by Hilton both offer rooms with separate sleeping and living areas. Both brands offer a lot of value-added extras as well. Embassy Suites* has a nightly social hour with snacks. Even better, it serves up free cooked-to-order breakfasts, which can save a family a ton of dough. Meantime, Homewood Suites by Hilton* have fully-equipped kitchens, and complimentary grocery shopping services. Cooking in can save big money on food costs while traveling. Plus, having the in-room kitchen lets you bring something homemade to holiday feasts.

Even if you find a comfortable room with a cozy bed, getting a good night's sleep on the road can be challenging. You're in unfamiliar territory, plus you may be amped up from eating too many holiday cookies  For those occasional bouts of sleeplessness, pack ZZZquil.* You take it and 20 minutes later, you're off to a full night of sleep. You wake up feeling refreshed and ready for the holiday activities ahead, including more cookies.

Another thing that will make you feel better--exercising. Move around as much as possible throughout your trip to work off some of those holiday pounds before they get packed on.

*Sponsored content part of satellite media tour.

*An example of how to pivot in order to include a client as the interview is closing.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

More on Travel Accessories and Luggage from CNN Travel...and Me

8 hottest new accessories for travelers

(CNN)Roll-top suitcases, germ-busting bags and sleep-inducing face spoons — these are likely to be this year's headline-making travel gadgets.
That's the takeaway from this year's Travel Goods Show, held in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Crowdfunded products and 2.0 smart technology seem to be the prominent trends in the travel accessories arena.
    That translates into a wide selection of innovative products, from the practical to the posh.
    Here's our pick of the best:

    EgeeTouch Smart Travel Padlock

    This high-tech padlock looks like an old-fashioned lock.
    It isn't.
    It claims to be the first of its kind to require no key, no dial, and no code.
    Instead, a fob using Near Field Communication sends an abracadabra signal to the lock.
    Another option is downloading the Egee app to a smartphone.
    While NFC is the primary unlocking mechanism, Bluetooth is incorporated to allow for vicinity tracking should luggage go astray.
    The EgeeTouch lock is TSA-accepted.
    Pricing for the lock and matching fob -- crowdfunded on Indiegogo -- starts at $45.


    Prior to its release to the general public this year, Trunkster had been generating a ton of buzz.
    It all started with the most successful crowdfunding campaign (via Kickstarter) ever in the travel products space.
    That was followed up by an appearance -- and a deal -- on U.S. TV show "Shark Tank."
    Now, it's a winner of the Travel Goods Show Product Innovation Award.
    Trunkster is shaking up the world of luggage design with new-wave suitcases that dispense with zippers in favor of a roll-top sliding door.
    There's also an integrated digital scale, a removable battery, global tracking and a super-sturdy handle.
    Seductive design doesn't come cheap. The current website price is $355.

    Genius Pack Carry-On Spinner

    This case packs your clothes better than you do.
    Hauling around dirty laundry is the bane of the traveler who doesn't want to get soaked by hotel dry-cleaning prices.
    The Genius Pack 22-inch Carry-On Spinner can't wash dirty clothing, but it can compress it to take up less suitcase room.
    Laundry Compression Technology works by expelling unwanted air through a valve integrated into one compartment of the luggage.
    Back home, the dirty laundry bag is taken out and its contents thrown directly in the wash.
    Other novelties are a built-in slot for umbrella storage and a strap designed to secure a jacket onto the suitcase handle.
    The case weighs in at less than eight pounds and retails for $258.

    ORGO Lite

    We might like the price of micro hotels, but those tiny hotel bathrooms, where the toilet lid is the only place to stash toiletries, officially suck.
    This is where ORGO Lite comes in.
    It's an expandable, portable case that generates its own counter.
    Unzipped, it spans across most sinks to create space. Closed and zipped up, it fits easily into a small suitcase.
    Interior compartments are designed to hold lotions, potions, and toothbrushes in place.
    The ORGO Lite was another winner of the TGS Product Innovation Award.
    The suggested retail price is $39.99.

    Healthy Back Bag

    Ergonomics is a key focus in travel accessory design these days.
    The Healthy Back Bag tackles the issue with its teardrop-shaped satchel.
    Created by a leather craftsman, a doctor and a chiropractor, it molds to the shape of the body to combat problems of weight stress.
    With a non-slip strap to keep it in place, the Healthy Back Bag distributes weight across the back rather than pulling from one point on the shoulder.
    The designers say the more places a bag touches the body when worn, the lighter it feels, thus encouraging good posture.
    Price ranges depending upon size and fabric.


    This product, crowdfunded on Indiegogo, relies on the concept that the only thing keeping us from getting a decent in-flight snooze is ambient light seeping into our eye masks.
    The makers of Occles say their goggles will keep the illumination out, even if they make the user look like they're wearing spoons on their face.
    If used for sunbathing, they'll keep the UV rays out as well.
    Light, durable, strong and bridgeless (to avoid a tan line across the nose), the eye covers are padded with soft rubber.
    The adjustable fit works for a wide range of head sizes.
    Available in a variety of vibrant colors, the eyewear retails for $31.


    The Airpocket comes with a wide band that can be secured to a suitcase.
    Airline seat back pockets can be a cesspool of germs.
    That's why the Airpocket, crowdfunded on Kickstarter, may come in handy.
    This Australian-designed bag, made from somewhat pungent neoprene, organizes travel essentials into a neat package that fits in the seat back pocket.
    A wide band across the back allows it to be secured to a suitcase handle during crazed dashes across the airport.
    Add-on accessories include the Travelbook ($35) which holds documents in a slim flat case with RFID blocking and the Amenities Case ($20) with a see-through top.
    The suggested retail price for the Airpocket alone is $71.


    Armrest wrestling with neighboring passengers is one of the major annoyances of air travel.
    Arm-Share claims to end this territorial struggle for good.
    The double-decker device creates an upper and lower armrest surface permitting neighbors to use the same space, albeit on different levels.
    It's actually more comfortable, on all levels, than the airline armrest itself, and it folds up for easy storage.
    The product is expected to be available for sale by late summer 2016 for $30.