Entries in ‘What a Trip’ Journal

Book Review: Don’t Cook the Planet by Emily Abrams

Tuesday March 25, 2014 at 11:11 PM | 0 Comments

The exterior of Alice Waters' Chez Panisse, considered the birthplace of California cuisine.

The exterior of Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse, considered the birthplace of California cuisine.

Last week I had the pleasure of representing What a Trip at a special event at Chez Panisse, hosted by Alice Waters and a young eco-activist/author named Emily Abrams.

The occasion was the book release of Don’t Cook the Planet by 19-year-old Abrams. Waters contributed to this beautiful volume of recipes, photographs, and snippets of wisdom from world-renowned chefs, activists and luminaries including Michael Pollan, Tom Colicchio, Robert Redford, and Paul Simon.

The menu was no frills — a simple though perfectly dressed salad of greens and thin-crust pizza topped with more greens and Parmesan.

Alice, who contributed her (you guessed it, simple) garlic vinaigrette recipe to the book, spoke a few words and graciously posed for numerous selfies with guests. The murmurs around my table were that Abrams’ parents paid for both the event and Waters’ participation in the project. Who knows? And really, who cares? Abrams is a delightful young high school senior and 100% of the proceeds from her book’s sale will be donated to non-profits committed to sustainable efforts.

The gist of the book is that small, conscious choices — like drinking tap water, shopping for local produce at farmers’ markets, and composting among other things — can impact climate control which Abrams considers her generation’s “defining issue.”

The colorful volume (with extraordinary food photography) is peppered with tips for finding easy ways to turn our culinary choices into environmental actions.

Alice Waters and guests at the pizza party for 'Don't Cook the Planet'

Alice Waters and guests at the pizza party for ‘Don’t Cook the Planet’

With a forward written by the still incredibly handsome Robert Kennedy Jr., Don’t Cook the Planet features a collection of more than 70 recipes from Richard Branson’s Spring shepard’s pie and Rahm Emmanuel’s homemade challah to Chevy Chase’s veggie chili and Ethel Kennedy’s Deviled Eggs.

Many of the recipes look straightforward and simple enough. In fact, this book could spur me on to get into the kitchen and fire up some quinoa cakes, beef risotto, or an apple pandowdy.

We’ll see…

Contributed by Lisa Dion of Friscomama.com. Photos by Lisa Dion



Subaru Forester Review

Wednesday December 4, 2013 at 6:06 AM | 2 Comments

Stella, subaru road trip

Stella ready for Carmel, California road trip

This post is sponsored by Subaru

Those of us who travel with pets know that they do not want to be left behind. You would think our dog would relax when she sees us packing her dog bed and dog food into the SUV. But no, she wants to jump in the Subaru Forester so that we can’t possibly forget her.

Carmel, California road trip

Our family of two teenagers, two adults and Stella planned a road trip to Carmel, California. Over the freeway and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go!

Now I realize that as a California girl, I don’t know anything about cold weather, but I am digging the all-weather package with heated front seats. Bum warmers, baby!



Subaru Forester

2014 Subaru Forester SUV Review

As I am the travel writer in the family, I pack light. My children and husband – they do not take after me. We planned to haul two sets of golf clubs, a laptop computer, camera & video equipment and luggage, lots of luggage.

Unfortunately, my husband had to work late the night of departure, so we drove two cars to Carmel. Truthfully, it would have been a tight fit for the Subaru Forester with four adults, the dog and the golf clubs – the clubs are what put us over the edge. Without the clubs, the dog had plenty of room in the back.

I thought the kids would be all over the SiriusXM radio. Instead, they each tuned out with their iTunes and headphones and left me to sort out the endless choices on the satellite radio. With no one to veto my music selections, I happily listened to Christmas carols the entire drive to Carmel.

Unlike many SUV’s, getting in and out of the Subaru Forester was easy with my total hip replacement. The three-hour drive from Walnut Creek to Carmel (with Thanksgiving traffic) was a breeze as the SUV provided a car-like ride. On long car rides, or if driving while sleepy (not recommended) the lane departure warning system* was certainly an added bonus that might even save lives.


Subaru Forester Leather-wrapped steering wheel

Subaru Forester Leather-wrapped steering wheel

Fuel smart, tech-friendly

The 2014 Subaru Forester comes with all-wheel drive – did I mention that I have two hunters in the family? We need a vehicle that goes anywhere and this SUV would easily handle snow, mud and dusty road conditions. I like a car that gets good gas mileage. At 32 mpg, driving to Carmel and back used less than one tank of gas. (Subaru estimates the annual fuel cost of the 2014 Forester crossover SUV to be $1,950.)

Subaru tech safety

The Subaru comes with 4-wheel disc brakes, anti-lock braking system and (optional) eyesight drive-assist system – this last feature comes in handy when deer jump out from the road at night or you are backing out of a grocery store parking lot the day before Thanksgiving.

The Subaru Forester has airbags galore. If you are a parent of teenagers, feel good that there is a driver’s side knee airbag, front seat side airbags, side curtain airbags and whiplash protection front seats. There’s even a harness for your dog, but our Forester didn’t come with this optional item.


LCD Touch-Screen GPS Navigation

LCD Touch-Screen GPS Navigation

Bells and whistles

With kids in the back of the car, dual-zone automatic climate control is important. The LCD Touch-screen GPS navigation system comes with large font size for the baby boomer in the front seat. Of course an am/fm stereo with cd player is standard. It’s the SiriusXM satellite radio and Harman/Kardon speaker system that caught my son’s attention when they delivered the car. I like the Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity. “Yes, grandma, we’re almost here.”

As for the keyless access and start, I was a little concerned that I would lock the keys in the car. Due to my paranoia and only one set of car keys, I kept the key fob with me at all times.

If you were looking for engine performance and “under the hood” reviews, you’ll need to look elsewhere.

For more insider tips follow Luxury Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown on Twitter and follow @Subaru_usa on Twitter.

For additional information visit Subaru

Article written by, video and photos courtesy of Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown of What a Trip, Travels from Northern California. As a member of Subaru Forester blogger program, Subaru of America asked me to review their car in exchange for the short-term use of their vehicle. All opinions are my own.

*lane departure warning & lane sway warning system, optional equipment

Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown’s 2012 Year in Review – What a Trip

Friday December 28, 2012 at 5:05 AM | 4 Comments

"Nancy D. Brown Rancho de los Caballeros"

Nancy riding Gonzo on her birthday at Rancho de los Caballeros, Wickenburg, AZ

It’s always a good idea to take the planning of your birthday celebration into your own hands. Last year, I took a foodie tour of San Francisco and this year I booked myself a solo getaway with sunshine and horseback riding at Rancho de los Caballeros in Wickenburg, Arizona.

This travel writer played tourist in San Francisco with an overnight stay at the Sir Francis Drake during the annual Fancy Food Show.


To Alisal Guest Ranch for horseback riding and a visit to California’s storybook town of Solvang.

February is Mardi Gras time in the South. This was not only my first time to celebrate Mardi Gras -  be a part of a krewe, throw beads and ride on a float – it was also my first time visiting the Mississippi Gulf Coast.


Road trip to Carmel, California and the Hofsas House in early March. Then onto Healdsburg for an overnight at Hotel Les Mars and horseback riding through the Sonoma county vineyards of Chalk Hill Estate.

I flew an airplane, and not just any plane, I piloted a Cirrus SR-22 for the first time with the Learn to Fly program. What a trip!

Vegas bound to dine with Chef Pierre at the Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas in Nevada.


My first time to San Antonio, Texas to celebrate Fiesta San Antonio, cruise along the famous river walk  and see the Mission Walk trail, connecting bikers, joggers and walkers on this landscaped, historic trail. While I didn’t have time for horseback riding in Texas, I watched my first Charreada in San Antonio.

"Everett Ridge"

Travel California’s Wine Road of Northern Sonoma County to Everett Ridge.


I traveled California’s Wine Road of Northern Sonoma County on a blogger retreat in early May and then ventured over to Napa for the expansion of Meritage Resort & Spa. They have an underground spa that is out of this world.

I journeyed to Debeque, Colorado, near Grand Junction, for a week of hanging with cowboys and horseback riding at the High Lonesome Ranch. I also experienced my first cattle drive while on the back of a horse. Giddy up!


Once again, I purchased my ticket to TBEX, the Travel Blog Exchange annual conference. And once again, the dates conflicted with another writing assignment. No way was I going to pass up a trip to Toulouse, France and the Midi-Pyrenees region. I drank and dined my way through Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle thanks to the French Tourism Board.


I drove California’s Sonoma Coast in my Mini Cooper, hugging scenic Highway One until I reached Timber Cove Inn,  located in Jenner, California. Timber Cove is undergoing a room-by-room, large scale renovation. I’ll be anxious to see the end result of the remodel.


Some people walk the historic el Camino de Santiago, our family takes a yearly pilgrimage to Sunriver Resort in central Oregon. While others may not consider a family vacation as spiritual, or a time for inner reflection; I beg to differ. Our yearly vacation is a rare moment in time when everyone clears their busy schedules and makes time for down time. Time to float the Deschutes River rapids with friends; time to go horseback riding, and, time for my Oregon-born husband to re-connect with his outdoor-oriented roots.


I flew non-stop from San Francisco International Airport to Palm Springs, California. This was my first time to discover the Hollywood desert playground of the rich and famous. Next stop, a road trip to Temecula Valley Winegrowers to experience Southern California’s CRUSH.

"Spa Natur'Eau"

Spa Natur’Eau, Quebec, Canada


I flew into Montreal and enjoyed a visual experience at the Botanical Gardens, along with a city tour. Then onto Quebec, Canada in the fall for a spa trip to experience Nordic Baths and overnights at fabulous country inns.


After many years of dealing with a failing hip, I made the decision to undergo total hip replacement surgery. You’ll see from this post that it took me quite awhile to come to terms with this decision. While my surgeon said no to horseback riding in Mexico, I was fortunate to be invited to Secrets Vallarta Bay in Puerto Vallarta for one last hotel review prior to surgery.


My travel wings were clipped the month of December due to my left hip replacement surgery. However,  I had a chance to speak with some cowboys and cowgirls who had experience recovering from joint replacement surgery and broken bones and were now back in the saddle.

What are you grateful for this year? Have you traveled somewhere special or made plans for travel in 2013.  I’d love to hear what travel plans are in store for you.

Related Post:

Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown’s 2011 Year in Review

Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown’s 2010 Year in Review