Labor Day picnics: Make yours memorable. Tips and where to go suggestions

Katie’s post on how to turn a Labor Day barbecue into a multi-cultural affair is a mouth-watering read that gave me the feeling that the sweet Italian sausages I bought for a cook-out could use some jazzing up. Put Katie’s read together with tips I picked up this summer during a chat with one of Hip Hostess’s event planners, Amber Cleary, and Labor Day could easily be turned into an event to remember fondly when you’re back at work on Tuesday. (Hopefully, that good mood will take you all the way to the next weekend.) If you look past your backyard for a picnic location, even better..

I tried a couple of Amber’s ideas out on my last picnic when I headed to the Columbus Symphony’s outdoor Picnic with the Pops concert with Christopher Cross.

Amber’s mantra about making an event special and personal, gave me more umph when I thought of putting together the fixin’s, something that Katie touched upon when she suggested dressing up Labor Day fare with a cultural twist.

Here are the ideas, plus suggestions for simple places to take your picnic for the last holiday of summer. (This photo was taken last Labor Day as Yourdon strolled around Central Park in Manhattan.)

Amber’s Tip #1 (plus my interpretation): Depending upon the number of people in the group, pack salads and side dishes in Chinese food carry-out boxes–the small size. Each person gets his or her own box (or boxes) depending upon what you put in them. This makes food transportable, and once the food is eaten, you can throw the box away. An advantage is that there won’t be a bowl to take home, and you won’t need to bring plates or serving spoons.

For my Picnic with the Pops outing, I made Amber’s Shrimp and Orzo Salad and Fruit Salad with Lime Dressing. Here’s a fruit salad recipe from the Food Network that has a tropical twist and another version served up in a martini glass here. For a version of a shrimp and orzo salad from Cooking Light, click here.

More food container suggestions:

Tip # 2. Here’s a tip that I found on Amber’s blog. Desserts like pudding can be served in a jar. She’s done this with chocolate mousse. Each person get his or her own jar. Jars can be recycled or taken back home for the next picnic.

Tip # 3. Put dry type eats in origami containers. I was at a party once where a snack mix was served in a handmade paper bowl. Very cool, and a Japanese tradition that adds a cultural flair. Amber has served individual packages of cookies in handmade boxes. If the bowl interests you, here’s a link to a how to make one.

Tip #4. How about flat bottomed ice-cream cones? Then you can eat the container. Trail mix would be great, I think. Each could be wrapped in Saran wrap or paper to keep the goods from falling out.

Tip # 5. For beverages, consider individual water bottles. When I met Amber, she handed me a Camelback water bottle filled with a Sauza Peach Margarita, a lovely concoction of DeKuyper Luscious Peachtree Schnapps Liqueur, DeKuyper Signature Triple Sec, Sauza Tequila, sour mix and lime. It was absolutely yummy.

Think of any cold beverage and water bottle pairing. This would save on cups. Water bottles could be labeled with people’s names. Better yet, tell people to bring their water bottles to the picnic and you’ll fill it with something special. It doesn’t need to be an alcoholic version of something special, but. if you’re looking for spiked drink suggestions, check out the DeKuyper’s Web site Mix Master page.

With drinks and food in hand, don’t forget the details that can make your Labor Day picnic more personal and special.

  • A cloth table cloth, either to spread on the ground or put over a table. Mine is from India. It’s colorful, lightweight and easy to carry.
  • A real basket. It doesn’t have to be a picnic basket, but is large enough to hold the tablecloth, utensils and whatever else you want to bring along to set the scene. (At Picnic with the Pops, I’ve seen candles and flowers.)
  • A cooler to hold whatever food you’re bringing along. The older I get, the more a cooler with wheels sounds like a good idea.
  • Something to sit on that offers back support. The older I get, the more I want something to sit on.

For a hiking picnic, divide up food into individual cold pack type lunch bags for each person to carry his or her own, or divide up the food so each person is carrying part of the meal.

Instead of staying in your backyard for Labor Day, consider these options that are possibly close to home. The more portable your picnic, the more travel friendly:

  • A cemetery. No, don’t eat on a grave. Many older cemeteries are equipped with ponds and grassy areas for spreading out a blanket, eating a meal and enjoying solitude. Many, like Green Lawn Cemetery in Columbus, where writer James Thurber is buried, have become bird sanctuaries thanks to the urban sprawl that has taken up swatches of their habitat..
  • A city or a metro park. Many metropolitan areas have parks that serve as an oasis for bike riders, roller bladers and nature hounds. Often the shelter houses and picnic tables are first come, first serve, but even without a shelter find a shade tree, spread out your tablecloth and settle down for an afternoon of leisure.
  • A college campus. Many universities have public spaces edged with massive, leafy trees and grassy lawns.
  • The grounds of an historic site. Many tourist attractions have picnic areas attached. Bring your picnic along while you learn more about the background of the area. Before you go, make sure the site is open. Many sites have had to cut back hours due to budget woes.
  • A lake shore-From The Great Lakes to a small lake that not many people know about, a lake shore picnic offers views of the sky as well as the water.
  • A river bank. Scope out a spot where the foliage is less dense and get comfortable.
  • A beach–These are the days when the water may be too cold for a swim, but perfect for a long walk on the sand after a meal.
  • A field in the middle of nowhere— Drive out of town until you get to the middle of nowhere, most probably on a country road and look for a spot that calls to you.
  • Along a trail. Divide your meal into various spots along the trail to give you motivation to keep going to as far as you want to head and back.

And here’s a Web site dedicated to picnic spots across the United States.

Whatever you do this Labor Day, take a tip from Amber and make it personal and fun.

The Travelocity Gnome visits Gadling

As the summer of 2009 winds to a close, Travelocity’s Roaming Gnome is wrapping up his tour of America. He’s been across the country, visiting Pat O’Brien’s in New Orleans, the beaches of San Diego and the narrow streets of Philadelphia, bringing joy, affection and gnominess to all those around him.

There’s only one stop left: The Gadling Labs.

This weekend, the 300 year old Travelocity Gnome will be joining us in a whirlwind tour of the Midwest and Northeast. Starting tonight in Ann Arbor, Michigan, we’ll be hosting a bar crawl throughout the sleepy college town, after which you might see us anywhere between Cincinnati, St. Louis, Newark, or New York as we plow through this Labor Day weekend head on.

If you happen to be in the Wolverine State this evening, stop by Dominick’s in Ann Arbor at 8PM to join in the festivites and get your picture taken with the gnome. Otherwise, keep an eye on the @gadling, or @RoamingGnome Twitter feeds to get updates on all of the action.

We’ll be posting your photos with the gnome on Gadling and on the Roaming Gnome’s Twitter and Facebook sites early next week, so make sure that you take this opportunity to grab your slice of fame!

Seven jobs that may soon disappear: Travel to where they are while you can

With Labor Day approaching, as we think of work, consider the culturally significant jobs in the world that may not be around in the future. Here is a look at seven that are hallmarks of particular regions.

First up. Traditional Glass Blower. In one of the furnace rooms at Cam Fornace in Murano, Italy, a short water bus hop from Venice, is a black and white photo from the 1920s (or thereabouts). In the photo, young men are blowing glass the way that glass blowers in Murano have blown glass for hundreds of years.

One of the men in the photo is the father of the master glass blower in this shot that I snapped two weeks ago when he was demonstrating how to make a vase. This master glass blower has been working at Cam Fornace ever since he was 14-years-old when he started there as an apprentice. Now he is 62.

According to our tour guide at our factory visit, traditional glass blowers are becoming a dying breed. In the past, the art was passed on through generations as sons learned from their fathers. These days, Italian sons are not particularly interested in their fathers’ glass blowing life. Our guide suspects that in twenty years, it will be hard to find a traditional Italian glass blower.

This doesn’t mean there won’t be glass blowers, but there won’t be many–if any– people who will be doing the art the way it’s been done for centuries. Cam Fornace will not be the same.

Traditional glass blowers aren’t the only jobs that are becoming a rarity. I’ve thought of others based on what I’ve seen in my travels. Each are jobs that are impacted by economics and cultural shifts. Here are six more jobs you may want to see people do before it’s too late.

Cyclo Driver. In Vietnam, cyclo drivers are becoming edged out by progress. As more Vietnamese are meeting middle class standards, motorcycles and cars are being traded in for bicycles. And, as city streets are being taken over by motorized vehicles, cyclos are losing ground of where they are allowed to pedal.

Although there will probably always be cyclos available for tourist use in certain historic sections of cities such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, I suspect that in the next few years, with economic progress, cyclos will have been swapped for vehicles that aren’t so hard on the operator. Days like the one I had in Hue back in the mid 1990s where I stood taking pictures of the various cyclos as they passed by French colonial buildings will no longer be possible. (The photo was taken in Hanoi in 2000, four years after the Hue visit.)

Bybee Pottery Maker. Not far from Lexington, Kentucky, Bybee Pottery has been in operation since 1809 by members of the same family. Lately, keeping up with the family business at this historic location is becoming more difficult. This article in the Lexington Herald-Leader echoes some of what I’ve heard. I’m hoping that even if family members are no longer interested in fashioning the company’s signature pieces, like this blue pitcher, (the same kind I have), someone else will take over the business and keep the pottery tradition going. After all, Bybee Pottery has the distinction of being the oldest pottery making business west of the Alleghenies. One of the family member cousins is making pottery in the Bybee way in Middletown, Kentucky near Louisville. His business, Little-Bit-of-Bybee, offers mail order which the original location does not. The Bybee way involves a kick-wheel. I easily spent an hour watching the process on a Bybee visit.

Horse Carriage Driver Depending upon the economy and tourist desires, I’m wondering how long horse carriages in Central Park in New York City will last. There have been rumblings about the horses’ care and safety. Here’s a discussion between Alec Baldwin and Liam Neeson about just that. On the other hand, with carriage rides being a signature of a romantic jaunt in Manhattan, and horses, their owners, and the drivers needing an income, the industry might prevail.

Traditional Lantern Maker Lukang, Taiwan, in addition to being one of the most historically interesting towns on the island, Lukang is home to one Taiwan’s living treasures–lantern maker Wu Dun-hou. Hopefully, Wu Dun-hou is teaching people his trade, but I’m afraid like most skilled crafts people, there will be less people willing to pay for the more expensive handmade lantern when mostly machine made knock-offs are less expensive. We were lucky to meet this artist in person and he graciously let me snap his picture. One scenario is that the knock-off sales will help fund the salaries of those making the originals.

Coconut Shell Rope Maker Coconut rope-making is done in India and Sri Lanka. In Sri Lanka, as a matter of fact, many items are made from coconut shells. Some people have the job of breaking apart coconuts all day long. Coconut shell breaking has got to be one of the more low skilled and low paying jobs in the coconut industry. Rope making is a few steps up. This photo was taken near Kerela, India. Interestingly, if you click on this link you’ll find a photo I came upon in my photo search. It was taken in 1960. Let’s see if this job will be around in 2020.

Elephant Washer Another job in Sri Lanka, Thailand and India that may or may not be around in the future is elephant washing. Using these elephants for work, however, is one way to ensure that they are protected. Perhaps economic growth will be slow enough that working elephants will continue to have a place in India, Sri Lanka and Thailand’s economy. Sure they’ll always be tourist shows, but I’m talking about construction. In that case, if the elephants continue to work doing tasks like hauling logs, they’ll get dirty, so perhaps washing elephants is a job that will remain for years to come.

How to get out of work and make the most of your Labor Day weekend

Back in June, maybe getting away for Labor Day weekend just didn’t seem possible. Maybe there were too many looming commitments or perhaps money seemed too tight. But now your time has been freed up and you’re seeing all the low-priced flights and deals available for Labor Day. You’re ready to get out of town and three days just isn’t enough. But the odds of your boss granting you an extra day off this late in the game are slim. How can you weasel out of work and make the most of your Labor Day weekend?

Step 1: Assess the situation
Determine how likely your boss is to grant you the time off. think about what matters most to your boss and how they treat time off. This will determine your strategy. Is your boss a sucker for a sad story? Can you pull on his or her heartstrings to score the time off? How heavy is your workload, and will going missing a day put any of your co-workers in a bad position? Is your boss understanding when you are ill or does he or she expect you to come in anyways?

Step 2: Know the company policy
Some offices have a policy that if you call in sick on a day immediately before or after a holiday, you don’t get paid for the time, or you may need to provide a doctor’s note. Others limit the number of staff that can take vacation on the same day. Knowing what rules your company has will also help you form your strategy.

Step 3: Form a plan
If you think there’s a good chance your boss will give you the day off, it’s best to just come right out and ask. But, the way you ask can determine the answer. Asking for time off to go on a last-minute fun-filled vacation may sound frivolous to a hard-working boss. Taking the day to volunteer or get in some much-needed medical appointments might go over better. A more sympathetic boss might be swayed if you say that some cherished relatives you haven’t seen in years are coming into town just for the day, or that it’s “family day” at the assisted-living home where your dear, aging grandparents live and you’ll be so disappointed to miss it. Be sure to stress how important the day off is to you, and reassure your boss that you won’t get behind on your work by missing another day. If you think it’s highly unlikely the boss will give you the time off, a better strategy might be to just plan on calling in sick or having a “family emergency” come up.

Step 4: Lay the Groundwork
Now is the time to start building the base of your excuse. If you plan on asking directly, just do it. But if you’ll be getting sick, start working up a gentle cough, sniffling occasionally, and talk about how run-down you feel. Let your personal appearance get a little ragged, keep a bottle of cough medicine on your desk, and mention that at your spouse’s/roommate’s office, the flu is going around. Or explain that you have a mild toothache (which will then require an emergency root canal on your chosen day off) or that your car has been making weird noises lately (which is a prelude to it breaking down so you can’t get to work).

Step 5: Enjoy your day off. . . but be careful
If you’ve asked for and been granted the day off, good for you. If not, and you are going with the dishonest option, make sure you don’t return to work with the unmistakable look of someone who has just been on vacation. A deep tan is a sure giveaway. If you opted to be “sick”, you should appear to recover over the course of a few days. If your car “broke down”, mention the costly repairs and be sure to not park your perfectly fine car in the same lot as the boss’!

If a full day off isn’t what you’re after, you can still make the most of the three-day weekend by extending your travel time a little. Take off right from work on Friday, leaving a few hours early if you can. If you are flying to your destination, try to book the first flight back on Tuesday morning. You’ll get a few extra hours of vacation by not coming back Monday night, and you won’t have to miss more than an hour or two of work. you can keep your boss happy, and squeeze just a bit more time into your three-day weekend.

Gadling’s Guide to Labor Day 2009

It’s the end of August and Labor Day is right around the corner. Have you got plans yet? There’s no doubt that the travel landscape is completely different from this time last year. Families are tightening the belt, savings accounts are saturating and unemployment is high.

But the travel industry is still out there, and now more than ever they want your tourist dollar. To that end, the savvy traveler can still get many a good deal on Labor Day packages, even as the last minute approaces. Here at Gadling we’re confident that you can make it, and to help you along your way we’ve created a series of posts both inspiring and perfecting your ideal holiday trip. Happy Trails!

America’s Best Labor Day Events and Summer’s Last Hurrah: Labor Day is fast approaching and that means it’s just about time to say so long to summer. The feeling is bittersweet – no one wants to bid farewell to those lazy summer days, but the onset of fall brings new beginnings as we look forward to beautiful changing leaves, cooler temps, football and fall TV.

But before we usher in the new season, it’s time to send summer out with a bang. New York has always been a place that really knows how to do it up. They’ve had a lot of practice – the first-ever Labor Day holiday was celebrated in New York City back in 1882. Colorado, Massachusetts and New Jersey were next to adopt the holiday. And before long, Labor Day was observed nationwide. Read on —>

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Five ways to avoid Labor Day Hassle:
Labor Day can be a godsend after a long summer of work. It’s hard to enjoy the beautiful warm weather when you have to be at work every Monday morning. Labor Day is not only a day off for most of us, but it’s also our last chance to really get out there and enjoy the healing and calming rays of the sun (in moderation of course) before fall starts to kick in. Some might say it’s the finest of the three-day vacations … but that means it’s also one of the busiest. Getting out of town sounds really fun until you’re stewing in the airport security line for 45 minutes or locked in highway gridlock.

Here are five ways to avoid hassle and enjoy your Labor Day vacation — you labored, right? Then you earned it.. Read on —>

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Labor Day Party Planning Guide: There’s no better way to spend Labor Day weekend than kicking back with friends, grilling out and soaking up the sunshine of those last lazy days of summer.

If you’re planning to throw a backyard bash to send summer out with a bang, it’s time to start preparing. From the food to the decorations, here are some tips and ideas for your end-of-summer shindig: Read on —>

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Labor Day: Three-Day Weekend Fun Not Far From Home: The last big three-day weekend of the summer is nearly upon us, and if you’re in the same position as most of the country, you’re finding yourself land locked for one of those ever-popular staycations.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t have any fun. Staying home can give you a great opportunity to check out your digs without the hassle of your fellow neighbors clogging things up (assuming they’re not staycationing too). So why not try checking out … Read on —>

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2009 Summer Beach Guides:
We’ve picked out ten beaches that have something for the whole family. From coast to coast, you can find great beaches with games for the kids and beautiful views for mom and dad. But we think we’ve found the absolute best for you and your loved ones. Pack up the kids and be sure to get sunscreen on everyone before you head out. Whether you have little ones or young adults, everyone should be in for a fun time. If you choose one of these beaches, you’ll be sure to have a fine day in the sun. Read on —>

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Drag out summer after Labor Day: 12 ideas: So what if it’s almost the end of August, kids are heading back to school in droves, and Labor Day is almost here?

There are ways to drag out that summer feeling with easy-going, inexpensive travel. Pick places that you haven’t been to before to heighten a sense of adventure — something that summers are made for.

Here are 12 ideas to get you started into dragging out summer–at least until the leaves start to change color. Read on —>

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Airlines roll out last minute flights for labor day: There are just two weeks left until Labor Day, but it’s not too late to plan a getaway for the holiday weekend. In fact, waiting until now to book your trip might even save you money with some of the great last-minute deals that are available. And if these deals don’t work for you, there’s still plenty of time to plan your perfect Labor Day vacation at a great price. Check out Hotwire’s Travel Ticker, peruse the sale list on Travelzoo and follow your favorite airlines on Twitter. JetBlue and Southwest regularly post their top deals on twitter, so you’ll be the first to know about great fares. Read on —>

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How to host a multi-cultural Labor Day barbecue: Labor Day is a quintessential American holiday. It’s a day to honor the workers, spend time with friends and family, and traditionally, to enjoy one last blow-out backyard barbecue before the cold weather sets in. Burgers, beers, and the all-American apple pie may be the staples, but since America is such a melting pot, why not honor that with a more international array of food and drink? Whether your ancestors arrived in America hundreds of years ago, or just within the last decade, showcase your heritage and the cultures of your closest friends by serving up some traditional cuisines from around the world. It doesn’t have to be a big hassle, you can make it as simple or complex as you like. Here are a few ideas for an international-themed Labor Day barbecue. Read on —>

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Labor Day: How to celebrate if you’re abroad: It’s coming up September 7th and you don’t want to miss it: Labor Day. Labor Day is our day to celebrate the strength of our labor and trade organizations, and in this economy, they can use all the bolstering and celebration we’ve got. Also, for Americans, Labor Day symbolizes the end of summer — and for some, the end of wearing white.

(I just try not to wear white shoes after Labor Day. The rest is too hard.)

If you’re abroad, you don’t have to skip Labor Day. There are perfectly good ways to celebrate, wherever you are. First of all, of course, you’re going to need some American food. Perhaps you don’t cook, but if you do, check out some of the apple pie recipes here — you can get the ingredients for apple pie almost anywhere, and what could be more American than that? Read on —>

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Labor Day: End the Summer Well: From parades to ceremonies, find the best places to spend Labor Day if you’d like to take part in one of the holiday’s top events. Be patriotic and celebrate the date.

At home, invite friends over during the three-day weekend and throw a little Labor Day-themed shindig for the people you love. If you need help finding what you need, check out our guide.

Or, if you don’t want to go to far from home during the holiday but you still want to do something fun, we’ve got some great suggestions for you. Also check out our 2009 Beach Guides. Read on —>