I recently posted, on Facebook, a few photos of a local excursion I took with my husband, Paul. It consisted of a walk, lunch and a visit to a collectibles shop. A friend commented, “You go on the best day trips.”

I simply thanked her for the compliment, but I wanted to say, “It actually takes a lot of work to plan those events.”

In the summer, we like to go somewhere a couple of times a week. First we must decide where. We try to avoid tourist hot spots on the weekend. The weather is always a factor. How long is it going to take to get there? Where will we eat lunch? Since the pandemic, that last question has become increasingly complicated.

I enjoy working out the logistics of our day trips, but it’s not the only activity that keeps me busy. I also find myself spending what seems like an inordinate amount of time planning what we’re going to eat at home, and what we’re going to stream and watch.

I’m not complaining about any of this, and fully realize it’s one of those “first-world problems.” Besides, since I’ve retired from my day job I do have time to work on these important lifestyle issues.

Actually, the meal planning does rise above the level of entertainment. (Although it does include making sure I always have on hand my current weakness, Yasso frozen yogurt bars.) Food consumption has social, cultural, political, economic and health implications.

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See? Complicated.

Paul and I have been eating a mostly plant-based diet for years, and I’m always aiming for healthy choices. But I also consider cost, especially right now, with prices rising constantly. I try to avoid plastics and over-packaging, but then face the olive oil dilemma. The plastic container of the same product is cheaper.

I choose the glass, not just in consideration of the environment, but because I figure pricey extra-virgin olive oil tastes better in glass.

I try to avoid wasting food, but even with careful planning, it happens. The weather report changes, so we reschedule a day trip, meaning leftovers from the day before go by the wayside. At this time of year, I get excited about all the fresh, local produce available and sometimes buy too much.

Deciding what to stream is less agonizing. I think it’s funny that I keep little sticky notes with viewing recommendations that I come across in my internet travels, or from friends’ suggestions. Not so long ago, Paul and I idly watched reruns of “The Big Bang Theory” after supper (we were typically multitasking — browsing online, knitting, napping, etc.) and enjoying a cinematic selection from Netflix on the weekend.

Suddenly, we were binge-watching, although for us this is just one episode at a time. Now that we are in the habit of doing this, I feel the need to plan ahead on what we’ll be watching next.

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There may seem to be no lack of options, but this is an illusion. I’ve surveyed enough “What to Watch Next on Prime” lists to know there’s a lot of trash out there. The point is, we may only watch an hour a day (sometimes an hour and a half for shows like Masterpiece’s “Endeavour”) but we want that hour to be well-spent.

And it almost always is. Some of my favorites have included “The Queen’s Gambit,” and “Last Tango in Halifax.” I’m looking forward to the return of “The Crown” this fall, as well as continuing this current season of “Masterpiece.” An adaptation of Anthony Horowitz’s “Magpie Murders,” one of my favorite books, is scheduled.

Looks like we’re good on the viewing front for a while.

In the meantime, I’m still planning day trips. The weather has been so fine lately that it hasn’t been an issue, but figuring out where to eat continues to be a problem.

Paul and I try to eat outdoors whenever possible. The good news is that many restaurants are offering that option, even it that means two tables on the sidewalk.

But, because of staffing and supply shortages, many restaurants now have limited hours or are closed several days a week. I was trying to plan a jaunt on a Sunday and found that all three of the places we like to eat at in the Rockland area were closed on that day.

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It was simpler in 2020, when we weren’t eating lunch out at all, and I packed picnics for all our adventures. While we still do that sometimes, I am enjoying dining out again.

Although I don’t foresee myself totally giving up planning anytime soon — because who wants to drive 50 miles only to find your destination is closed? — I am trying to be a little more flexible.

We headed out to the Norway area recently. I’d looked at possible lunch venues, but couldn’t tell if they had outdoor seating. I decided we’d leave it to chance.

Yes, chance!

Paul asked for recommendations at a store we stopped at, and we ended up having a wonderful al fresco meal at a charming bistro. Outside.

I smiled to myself as Paul and I watched the passersby. The restaurant had an Italian vibe, and I relished it. My busy, planning brain enjoyed its day off.

Liz Soares welcomes email at [email protected]


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