Nancy's Notes From Florida

Author Nancy J. Cohen discusses the writing process and life as a Florida resident.

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Archive for the ‘Florida Musings’ Category

Home Shows

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 30, 2016

We’ve been interested in home and design shows lately. Maybe it’s because we are undergoing a bathroom remodel, and we want to see what we’ve missed. Recently, we’ve attended one show in Orlando and one in Fort Lauderdale. To the left below: Fort Lauderdale. To the right below: Orlando. In the middle: People testing the recliners or just having a rest.

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The Orlando Convention Center is enormous. You have to know which building is housing your event to determine the proper parking lot. You park outdoors and then have quite a walk to the event venue. Inside the one we attended, there was only a single food court with not the most appealing menu choices. We preferred the Fort Lauderdale site that has multiple food booths at either end of the cavernous hall. Be prepared for steep prices. A plain hot dog costs $5.00. This one with an onion is from the food court in Orlando. No onions that we could see in Fort Lauderdale.

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The Fort Lauderdale event seemed more crowded with both vendors and guests. At both events, booths displayed a range of goods of fancy art works, crystal chandeliers, and luxury furnishings to the nitty-gritty air-conditioning systems, hurricane impact windows, and bath/kitchen updates you’d expect to be displayed. Cooking demos competed with vendors trying to get you to sign up for a free something-or-other in exchange for your email address. Below: Choose your art. Frog musicians to the left; spinning shoe rack to the right (buy your own shoes).

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It’s a fun afternoon, if you don’t mind the admission charge. You get your indoor walking in a cooled environment and see all the things for your house that you’ll never be able to afford.

 

Posted in Florida Musings, That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Hugh Taylor Birch State Park

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 20, 2016

We spent the morning this past weekend getting our exercise at Hugh Taylor Birch State Park in Fort Lauderdale. Located east on Sunrise Blvd., this large acreage contains picnic areas, beach access, a fresh-water lake, and walking trails. The garden center is currently closed for renovations. You can go on Segway tours, rent boats or bikes, and more.

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We began our stroll by heading down a trail toward the beach. You can either access the sidewalk along the street, or go underground via a tunnel to the sandy beach. Other than inside the park, this stretch doesn’t have any amenities such as restrooms or snack bars. Entry fees for the park will range from $2.00 to $6.00, depending on if you drive a vehicle and how many people are in the car. For pedestrians only, it’s the lesser sum.

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After viewing the glistening ocean and the freighters hovering offshore, we turned back to explore the nature trails inside the state park. We spied a gopher tortoise before it vanished into the woods. The leafy trees provided welcome shade.

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The twenty-minute Maritime Hammock Trail appealed to us, so we took off along the wooded dirt path. We watched our footing as tree roots and dead leaves provided hazards underfoot. We wore hats for protection against the sun dappling through the branches and against spider webs overhead. The tree trunks were thin this time of year and the swamp not too buggy. It brought back the nostalgia of my childhood days and how I’d let my imagination roam free. In the woods near our house, friends and I would play war. These days I’d picture myself as an adventurer on a quest to another planet, wary of strange life forms and aware of danger around every corner. It refills the creative well to let your mind wander during visits to new places. I didn’t need to imagine my heroine sleuth Marla Shore being chased through the woods as I’ve already written that scene.

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See the grapes growing on the sea grape tree to above right? Another trail seemed to head off into the far distance, so we turned away from that one. Hot and sweaty, we returned to our car and drove the rest of the way around the road. This took us from the beach side to the Intracoastal with views of expensive homes and big-time yachts.

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We’re lucky we have so many parks and nature centers available in Broward County in addition to the beaches. Now is a good time to go, before the summer heat and humidity bring the mosquitoes and being outdoors–except in a pool–is less desirable.

Posted in Florida Musings, That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Orlando Showtime

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 18, 2016

Mother’s Day morning found us picking blueberries at the Beck Brothers farm in Windermere. Their berries stay fresh longer than any store-bought varieties. They’re a bit tart this early in the season but are great on cereal or in pancakes.

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Since we were attending a show (Beautiful: The Carole King Story) at the new Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Orlando, we chose to dine nearby at The Boheme Restaurant in the Grand Bohemian Hotel. The elegant red décor matched the elevated prices but we felt the service wasn’t comparable to other upscale places, in our opinion. But you might think otherwise, and it is a mere few steps away from the theater. The food was very good.

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The dazzling Dr. Phillips Center was built in a contemporary/modern style. I felt like I was on a cruise ship during show time. Seats at the orchestra level far back had a good view of the stage. There looked to be four floors maybe, with cafés on each one. Anyway, you could grab a substantial snack here if you’re hungry. You can bring drinks into the theater but not food, and seats have drink holders. We enjoyed the lively show and the music from an earlier era. Now this has made me want to see what’s playing in the theaters at home.

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Posted in Disney, Florida Musings, Food, That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Disney World Revisited

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 16, 2016

We had another enjoyable visit to Disney World, our favorite weekend getaway. Over Mother’s Day weekend, we strolled through Disney Springs, enjoying glimpses of new eateries like The Edison (under construction) and STK Steakhouse. A new section is scheduled to open this month. Planet Hollywood is undergoing renovations as is the old paddlewheel boat restaurant. New shops have also opened up. It’s great that parking is still free, and the garage is a marvel of technology that parking garages everywhere should emulate. The second garage is still under construction.

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At Animal Kingdom, we saw building cranes over where Avatar land is being developed. We didn’t spot much else that was new. It was already crowded when we arrived late morning, so we passed by the rides/attractions and stood in line for lunch. This place could have used more than one cashier. Sit-down restaurants are not readily available in this park, other than the Asian one and the Rainforest Café. The windows at the fast-food places get crowded. Let’s hope the Avatar section will have more dining choices. It’s still pleasant to stroll around the park with the tropical vegetation and authentic-looking scenery.

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Yellow Dog Dining Experience

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 16, 2016

Our daughter, a foodie like us, knows the trendy dining establishments in Orlando. She took us to Yellow Dog Eats, an eclectic restaurant in Gotha, a sleepy suburb southwest of Orlando proper.

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This eaterie is situated in a historic home built in 1910.

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Inside, you order your food from an extensive menu, take a number, and find a table. The waiter brings your order. You can sit indoors or outside at a back patio. It’s a lively scene with music on weekend evenings.

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Hippie-era signs decorate the property.

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Nearby is an old church and a classic hair salon in a typical old Florida-style house with a sloped roof and wraparound porch. Spanish moss hangs from the tree limbs, and a sense of serenity pervades the locale. Stop by if you’re in the area and enjoy the rustic ambiance.

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Posted in Florida Musings, Food, That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 11, 2016

Orlando has a multitude of dining opportunities. We began our sojourn this past weekend by eating hot dogs in the food court at the Home and Garden Show in the Convention Center. Then we strolled the aisles, inspecting the products and services offered by numerous exhibitors.

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We topped off the day by dining at Kobe Japanese Steakhouse. I’d forgotten how delicious food tastes when cooked in front of you at a hibachi grill. The meal included soup and a salad. You chose the main ingredient for the entrée—steak, chicken, or shrimp—and this came with noodles, fried rice, and sautéed vegetables to make a generous feast. The chef showed off his artistry as he prepared the meal.

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On Saturday, we visited Epcot at Disney World. The weather graced us with partially cloudy skies that kept temperatures mild in the seventies. As usual, we admired the lovely flower displays.

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I dipped into Club Cool for a quick sample of soft drinks from around the world.

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Turning right at World Showcase, we sampled a variety of food choices at the marketplace booths. I liked the pulled duck confit at France and the chicken fricassee at Germany.

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We noted construction next to Mexico. I’m wondering what is going up at that site.

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Now that we are home, it’s time to raise the exercise quotient and return to healthy eating.

Dining around the world at Epcot #Disney #food http://bit.ly/1YGGS77

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Green Cay Nature Center

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 22, 2016

We spent a lovely day on Saturday enjoying the serenity of nature at Green Cay Nature Center in Boynton Beach. Besides a boardwalk offering a couple of trails over the wetlands, there’s a science center with exhibits and a tiny gift shop.

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The weather was perfect for a trek, in the seventies with cloudy skies that kept the heat away. It attracted the birds, however, because we saw many varieties.

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What thrilled us was catching a glimpse of an alligator swimming along. It’s rare to see one moving like this, so we stared transfixed. See it moving on my Facebook page.

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Here’s another one sunning on a patch of higher ground.

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The trees and vegetation were lovely and relaxing to our urban-glazed gaze. We strolled along, soaking in the bird sounds and enjoying the slight breeze.

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It pays to seek nature once in a while, forcing you to remember the days when electricity wasn’t abundant and people had to live off the land. You gain a renewed appreciation for all that civilization has given us, minus the ugly side of human nature. Here in this oasis, all is at peace and harmony. And so, peace be with you, my friends. Where do you go to seek tranquility?

Our walk made us hungry, so we headed to Seasons 52 for lunch. I’d say we enjoyed ourselves, yes?

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Posted in Florida Musings, That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Creatures and Story Creation

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 8, 2016

Writers can spin stories out of thin air. Yes, it’s true. We grab ideas out of the effluvia around us. Soon we’re building a novel. The characters gel, and the setting takes on detail. And then we’re off, pounding at the keyboard, the fervor of creation keeping us in its grip.

Let me give you a demonstration.

The other day, my husband and I enjoyed a sunny afternoon at Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray. Florida may have changeable weather in the winter, but we have no snow, sunny skies, and colorful flowers.

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Birds fly down here in the colder months to share space with ducks and turtles that grace our neighborhoods.

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We also have a variety of critters we’d rather not meet up close and personal. Witness this guy we observed during our visit to Morikami.

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Here he is enjoying a meal. Thank goodness iguanas eat plants and not people.

 

Places like Morikami remind me of why I became a writer. When I sit on a bench and gaze at a lake or tread upon dead leaves through the forest, I let my imagination soar to other worlds. And so here we go with an example of how easy it is for a writer to start a story under any circumstances. We are walking along a wooded trail surrounded by tall trees and leafy foliage.

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Mystery: I’m a tour guide/curator/director leading a group through a botanical garden. Our continued funding depends upon the success of this excursion as does my job security. All is going well until one of our party goes missing and later turns up dead…murdered. Whodunit? Is it the real estate magnate who covets the property to turn into condos? The chief curator at a rival attraction? A meandering spouse who saw the tour as a good opportunity to make his partner disappear? A politician whose stance on public safety will lift his status on the campaign trail? The mystery deepens as I begin my investigation and learn that each person in the group has a secret to hide.

Romance: I’m sitting on the park bench when a cute guy sits beside me. He wears a camera with a big lens around his neck. With a sexy grin, he peers over my shoulder and asks what I am sketching. We get to talking. I love the dimples that crease his cheeks when he smiles. But I’m dismayed when he tells me he’s the photographer assigned to the article I’m writing. Oh, no. How will I keep my professional distance when all I can think about is jumping his bones?

Horror: Patrons have vanished from the trail around the lake. Other guests have reported hearing strange noises in the brush and glimpsing a reptilian tail. But my friends think it’ll be a hoot to stay here overnight. We’re all drinking and having fun after dark until Ada is pulled screaming into a clump of trees. No one sees what grabbed her, but she’s totally gone except for the blood. We pack to leave and go to call for help, but our cell phones have no service and the road is closed due to flooding ahead. We’re trapped there….

Science Fiction: With my laser weapon strapped to my hip, I patrol the woods. My acute sense of smell tells me the creature is near. Anticipating the bounty for my catch, I track its life form on my portable viewer. My client will pay a bonus if I capture the specimen alive. All I have to do is net the prickly ardtrunk and transport us both to my flier.

Fantasy: I halted at the Japanese rock garden, admiring the combed gravel. At the far end, a pair of white stone statues guarded the display of Bonsai plants. A sense of peace washed over me as I stared at the small, glittering stones on the ground. They’d been raked recently, with a spiral pattern leading one into the other like a miniature maze. I’d been drawn to this place, never realizing the oasis sat just outside the city beyond the Fae Woodlands. I glanced to my right, where the air under a painted red archway seemed to shimmer. My heart raced as I approached. I could no more stop my feet from stepping across the threshold than I could stop my breathing. And that’s when the world tilted….

YA Fantasy: Oh Gawd, why’d my parents have to bring me to this boring place? They might enjoy the trees and plants, but nature isn’t my thing. Give me my cell phone and a Diet Coke, and I’m a happy sixteen-year-old. I took out my cell phone to text Marlene and tell her what Randy had said to me in math class, but the dang thing wouldn’t connect. “Hey, Ma,” I yelled, glancing up. “When are we leaving already?” Oh great, I couldn’t see my folks anywhere in this freakin’ garden. They must have gone up ahead. Wait, that hedge hadn’t been there a moment ago. And where did that weirdo come from? The short little guy stood staring at me as though I had come from Mars.

Isn’t this fun? Which story do you like?

As you can see, storytelling is in my blood. I can’t stop playing the “What If?” game. Where do you go for inspiration?

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Posted in Fiction Writing, Florida Musings, The Writing Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , | 98 Comments »

2015 in review

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 31, 2015

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Winter Park

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 29, 2015

We decided to visit the Farmer’s Market in Winter Park last Saturday. Not all the vendors were present since it was a holiday weekend, so we grabbed croissants at a food stand and jumped back in the car. The perfect weather led us to Harry P. Leu Gardens, a lovely botanical gardens that we’ve visited many times before. This garden was the model for Orchid Isle (minus the orchids) in my wedding mystery, Shear Murder. It was a perfectly clear and sunny day to stroll the many tree-lined paths.

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From here, we went for lunch at the popular barbecue place, 4 Rivers Smokehouse. Then we headed over to Lombardi’s seafood market. We purchased fresh salmon farmed in the U.S. without hormones and gazed in awe at the other offerings.

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Our daughter made delicious salmon balls for dinner, accompanied by cauliflower mash and potato latkes. The latter caused some hilarity in the kitchen as one mishap led to another, and we ended up dumping out the cooked and peeled potatoes in favor of using a handy box mix. No matter; the family that cooks together, stays together.

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With wonderful holiday memories to treasure, my husband and I headed home. Now it’s time to clean things up from 2015 and move ahead toward the new year.

Posted in Florida Musings, Food, That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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