Healthy Travel Snacks

Friday January 10, 2014 at 6:06 AM | 4 Comments

water bottles

Drink water & stay hydrated when you travel

The new year is filled with weight loss resolutions, gym memberships, workout promises and the best of intentions to eat healthy. Yet temptations abound. Let’s think like a Boy Scout and Be Prepared with healthy snacks when we travel.

Healthy eating on the go

1. Water is top on my list of healthy travel snacks. While I realize that water is a beverage, it is a necessary item on my travel list and life in general. Anyone who has suffered from dehydration knows the importance of proper hydration. Water – it is good for you and calorie free.

2. Almond butter. Packed with protein (14%) fiber (14%) and iron (8%), I discovered Barney Butter at the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco. Made with California almonds, an 0.6 oz tube of natural almond butter is only 90 calories and fits easily in a backpack or purse.

Cruncha ma-me, veggie snack

Cruncha ma-me – a healthy travel snack

3. Greek yogurt. Low in calories and flowing in calcium, yogurt is a filling, healthy travel snack for breakfast or anytime of day. Greek yogurt has the edge over regular yogurt in that it packs less sugar and up to double the protein. This healthy snack has got to be a dietitian’s delight!

4. Granola mix and nuts. Apologies in advance to those who suffer from nut allergies. For the rest of us; knock yourself out with nuts and go a little crazy by tossing in dried fruits, granola and some chocolate chips to create trail mix. This is certainly a healthier alternative to that candy bar in the gas station mini market or vending machine. While cashews are my favorite nut, walnuts, almonds and pistachios offer more nutrients than the lowly peanut.

5. Hummus and carrots. I buy the 17 oz party size Sabra brand at my Costco store, as our family tends to blow through the hummus. I pair my hummus with organic baby carrots.

6. Bars. Whether you are an athlete, a hungry traveler or a bariatric weight loss patient in need of a high protein meal, there are snack bars for every occasion. I enjoy KIND bars and Luna bars. My teenage son, a varsity water polo player, lives on Builder Bars and Cliff Bars.

Quaker Real Medleys, oatmeal

Quaker Real Medleys oatmeal make quick & easy travel snacks.

7. Oatmeal. My favorite healthy snack for an early morning flight or budget breakfast in a hotel room: Umpqua Oats or Quaker Real Medleys. At 14 grams, summer berry flavor is relatively low in sugar. Buy them on sale in the grocery store and stash one in your purse for travel – just add hot water and you have an instant healthy snack for the road.

8. Veggie snacks. I love snacking on steamed edamame and have been known to order a plate of these legumes at The Cheesecake Factory. I was delighted to discover Crunch a ma me, an edamame veggie snack that I found while shopping at Whole Foods Market. The Berkeley-based company says that their 90 calorie snack bags of freeze-dried edamame offers more protein than an egg, the same fiber as an apple and taste great. I like the fact that the product comes in several flavors and is free of GMO’s (genetically modified organisms.) Another California company producing edamame is Seapoint Farms in Huntington Beach. The largest importer and manufacturer of edamame in the U.S., Seapoint Farms sells dry roasted edamame in several flavors.

9. Kale chips. My health conscious daughter likes kale chips. What are your favorite brands?

10. Dried fruit is a winner in the natural foods category. Some people dry their own fruit to make fruit leather strips. Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s carry bags of dried fruit and Costco carries big bags of dried fruits such as mangoes, but beware, they are high in natural sugar.

What are your favorite travel snacks that you can’t live without?

Article and photos by Food and Wine Writer Nancy D. Brown

Movie Review: Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Friday January 3, 2014 at 6:06 AM | 6 Comments

Ben Stiller, Walter Mitty

Ben Stiller stars as Walter Mitty, a Life magazine photo editor who daydreams about travel. Photo courtesy 20th Century Fox

Like Woody Allen, it seems that people either love or hate the actor Ben Stiller. Personally, I’m a fan of Ben Stiller and I love anything involving travel, so of course I was going to be one of the first to see “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” playing in movie theaters.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

An insecure Life magazine photo editor by day, Walter Mitty, played and directed by Ben Stiller, loves to daydream. While the original short story by Ohio-born author James Thurber is based on a war hero, sharp shooter and surgeon, Stiller’s movie takes us to Greenland, Iceland and the Himalayas in search of a missing image shot by Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn), a Life magazine travel photographer.

Print magazines move to digital

In a way, life imitates art in this movie. As a freelance travel writer I am all too aware of my writing outlets moving from print to online. The same holds true in “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” Walter is in fear of his job being eliminated as Life magazine transitions from print to digital publication. Walter is in charge of an image, photographed by legendary travel photographer Sean O’Connell, that is destined to grace the final cover of the magazine. Sure enough, the negative goes missing and Mitty sets off on a multi-continent active travel adventure of a lifetime.

Ben Stiller, Sean Penn

Action and adventure found in movie “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” Photo courtesy 20th Century Fox.

Action adventure travel

Why I loved the movie “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” As a travel writer and photographer, I love capturing images of beautiful scenery, writing about the places I visit and the people that I meet on my travels.

Mitty accompanies a drunk helicopter pilot on a daring sea flight in Greenland, skateboards down a knarly road in Iceland – he should have had a Go-Pro camera strapped on his helmet – but wait – he wasn’t wearing a helmet, and eventually catches up with Travel Photographer Sean O’Connell perched on a remote mountain in the Himalayas.

This travel movie had fun characters – Shirley MacLaine plays Walter’s mother and, of course, features a love interest with a magazine co-worker – Kristen Wiig as Cheryl.

My husband hated this movie

Husband of travel writer: Cheryl (Kristen Wiig) was impossibly hot for the nerd Mitty (Ben Stiller) who could not punch the button on a dating service. The action and photography was fancifully entertaining but the pay off is to have mythical photographer, Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn), not take a photo. Gee, just be in the moment… Spoiler Alert: Apparently, the big plot pay off was that one should look through a wallet, given as a gift, when a negative of a ‘valuable’ photo goes missing…oh a metaphor for having what you need right under your nose. Stiller’s Mitty was too pathetic to care about. It seemed like a selfie with action and adventure for Stiller to indulge himself. Daydreams or real adventure; you can’t tell and you don’t care. The movie looses itself in pretty scenery and that is the only plus. It was a painful movie to watch. I wish I had my $14.00 back.

Have you seen the movie “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”? Did you love or hate this travel adventure movie?

Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown’s 2013 Year in Review – What a Trip

Friday December 27, 2013 at 5:05 AM | 3 Comments

mask, La Noria, Mexico

Leather mask from La Noria, Sinaloa, Mexico

My birthday falls in January, so I am always assured a great travel trip.  That is, I take travel planning into my own hands and make certain I am bound for somewhere fun.  This year was no exception!


I was invited to Mexico by the Mazatlán Hotel Association to write about a new Cal Jet Air flight from Oakland International Airport direct to Mazatlán. Unfortunately, since my January visit, the flight has been suspended. While there, I also reviewed Pueblo Bonito Emerald Bay Resort & Spa. It was relatively cold in Mazatlán that time of year, but warmer than San Francisco.

From there, I made my annual pilgrimage to the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco, California.  I created a video on food tours to take during your travels, from Arkansas to Argentina. Toward the end of January I traveled to Carmel Valley, California and reviewed Holman Ranch. No horseback riding yet since my total hip replacement, but I’m getting ready.

Little River Inn, pacific ocean

Little River Inn on California’s Mendocino coast


The beginning of February brought me to California’s Mendocino coast for a quick overnight at Little River Inn. One night in Little River is way too short, but it was a beautiful day on the coast.

Not only did I fly to Maui and learn about a new 20 minute flight from Kahului airport to Hāna   (I love you Hāna, but your windy roads take too long for those  short trips) I also took my first horseback ride post hip replacement surgery! Mahalo Travassana Hāna and Lumeria Maui – a new educational retreat located in upcountry Makawao.


While many travel writers focus on their own backyard, my travels take me near and far. Team San Jose invited me to visit the Silicon Valley and their many museums. From there, I traveled a short distance further to watch Elephant Seals at Ano Nuevo State Park and chat with fishermen and legendary big wave surfer Jeff Clark at Mavericks in Half Moon Bay, California.




From shaking it up in the night club’s of Las Vegas, Nevada to horseback riding at The Ranch at Rock Creek in Philipsburg, Montana, I was riding high this spring. I also managed to fit in a quick trip to Palm Springs, California to preview Restaurant Week.

Lisbon, Portugal trolley

Lisbon, Portugal and the trolleys remind me of San Francisco.


I was invited back to Ojai, California, this time to review the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa. This lovely five star resort is celebrating its 90th anniversary and boy, does she look good.

Our daughter studied abroad in Seville, Spain from January to June, via her studies at UC Berkeley. She had a ball traveling in Europe on a budget. I had planned to meet her in Lisbon, Portugal, thanks to a trip to the Azores and Centro Portugal with Portugal Tourism, but my husband and daughter ditched me and headed to Germany instead.

I was traveling solo in Lisbon, but felt very safe during all of my travels in Portugal. Lisbon reminds me of San Francisco, with its access to the water, love of seafood and wonderful museums. The Azores is a great place to go horseback riding.

Apollo Space Shuttle, Huntsville, Alabama

Visiting the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama


Being a California girl, the south is new to me. I loved my visit to the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 2012 and jumped at the chance to head south again. This trip I was bound for Alabama. I traveled to Huntsville to review the dual-branded Homewood Suites and Hampton Inn & Suites – a bonus was visiting the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.

A new bed and breakfast, Chanric Inn, opened in Calistoga wine country and I recently learned that a Lafayette local owns the Inn on Randolph in Napa, California. I consider myself fortunate to live so close to Napa Valley wine country.


This was my first time to attend Napa Valley Festival del Sole. From vintner luncheons to a Great Gatsby gala at Meadowood Napa Valley and A Taste of Napa, this 10-day party is one of America’s premier music festivals. Mark your calendar for next year’s festival.

Nancy D. Brown, Las Vegas

Nancy Brown with Benny Binion at the South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa in Las Vegas


My parent’s have always raved about Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Needless to say, I didn’t have to think twice before accepting a trip to Jackson Fork Ranch. Horseback riding, fly fishing and no cooking required. What more could a girl ask for?

Horses on the Las Vegas strip? You bet! The South Point Hotel, Casino and Spa has 1,200 climate controlled box stalls and the largest indoor arena in Nevada, or the world, for that matter, that is attached to a hotel.


How many Four Seasons hotels can one tiny Hawaiian island support? The answer is two; Four Seasons Lodge at Koele and Four Seasons Lanai, Manele Bay. It turns out that Lanai, Hawaii has got quite a lot going for it.

After Hawaii I stayed local and tried the Sips and Saddles hotel package in Los Gatos, California at the Toll House. With Silicon Valley nearby, horseback riding in Capitola and wine tasting in the Santa Cruz mountains, visitors to the Bay Area have plenty of things to see and do.

Blue Ridge Vineyard

A warm welcome from Virginia’s Blue Ridge Vineyard


Now that the grapes have been harvested, it was time to travel to Virginia and watch the leaves change colors in the Blue Ridge mountains of Roanoke Valley. This trip, compliments of Visit Blue Ridge, was too short for me. I look forward to returning and exploring more of this region.


A fairly new (three years old) food and wine festival, Flavor Napa Valley, had me tasting food and wine at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, followed the next night with a winemaker dinner held at Meritage Resort and Spa.

Our family gathered with my 88 year old mother to celebrate Thanksgiving in Carmel, California. The folks from Subaru asked me to review their 2014 Forester SUV, so we cruised down the California coast in style.


With writing deadlines approaching, holiday and birthday celebrations, I’m sticking close to home in December. How about you? Where have your travels taken you this year and what are your travel plans for 2014?

Article and photos by Nancy D. Brown