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

Eleven at Reunion Resort

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 5, 2016

Eleven at Reunion Resort

Saturday night, we dined at Eleven rooftop restaurant at the Reunion Resort in Kissimmee, FL. We like trying new places during Orlando’s Magical Dining Month, where you can get a three-course meal for $33 per person. This golf resort sits off exit 58 from I-4 heading west from Orlando toward Tampa. It’s a large gated community that winds around until you reach the resort proper.

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The views atop the eleventh floor warrant a visit. Note how you can see Epcot in the far distance. A swimming pool is adjacent to the restaurant named Eleven.

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Inside, the dining area is pleasant with views all around. The first course we chose was coconut shrimp, crispy and succulent with a spicy sauce on the side.

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Next we ordered cedar planked salmon which came accompanied by mashed potatoes and asparagus. This was tasty and a generous enough portion that I had leftovers to take home. I didn’t care so much for the soft rolls in the bread basket as they had a sprinkling of salt on the crust, and I didn’t need the added sodium. An herb butter gave a mild flavor.

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Dessert, a chocolate lava cake, was sinfully rich. I ate the whole thing. It’s diet city for me once we go home.

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While I enjoyed trying this restaurant and seeing the view, I wouldn’t make a return trip here. It’s too far out of the way, and although the meal was good, I can get an equivalent salmon or steak dinner elsewhere.

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Posted in Florida Musings, Food, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Lobster Lovers Cooking Class

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 9, 2016

Lobster Lovers Cooking Class

We attended the Lobster Lovers class at Publix Aprons® Cooking School. My husband and I like shrimp better than lobster, but this menu looked too tempting to resist. We prefer the demo classes where students sit at white-clothed tables rather than the hands-on ones where you have to do the actual work. In the demo variety, after the chef makes each dish in front of us, we get to eat it with an accompanying wine. This makes for a gourmet meal complete with recipes and cooking tips.

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Grilled Lobster, Shrimp and Andouille Chowder paired with an Erath Pinot Grigio.

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This was delicious and filling, making it a good choice for a hearty winter soup. We liked the wine, a pleasant taste to our palates. Cooking tip 1: Maine cold water lobster is sweeter than warm water Caribbean varieties. Cooking tip 2: Rather than dunking shrimp into a pot of boiling water, put it into a pot when the water is room temperature and bring it to a boil along with the water.

Spiny Lobster and Mango Spring Rolls with Tarragon-Lime Aioli paired with a Benzinger Sauvignon Blanc.

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This was a tasty appetizer. I especially liked the aioli even though I’m not a big tarragon fan. Cooking tip 1: An emulsifier binds substances together like vinegar and oil. Examples of emulsifiers are mustard, egg yolks, and garlic. Cooking tip 2: Pasteurized eggs reduce the chance of salmonella if you are using raw eggs in a recipe. As for the wine, it didn’t seem to have as much body as the first one and was too light for our tastes.

Pan-Bronzed Lobster Risotto with Roasted Corn Relish and Orange-Sherry Reduction paired with a Layer Cake Chardonnay.

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I liked the lobster, sauce, and corn relish but there was too much risotto in comparison. Cooking tip, if I heard correctly: You can roast corn in its husk at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. I prefer my method, which is microwaving it in the husk for 4 minutes, chopping off both ends, and sliding the husk off. We really liked this wine choice, our favorite of the evening.

Peach Brown Betty with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream paired with a Chateau St. Michelle Riesling.

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This dessert was lip-smacking good. So good and easy to make that I might even make it at home once I lose the weight I’d gained here tonight. However, I’ll use store-bought ice cream instead of making my own. The wine was too sweet for our tastes. Cooking tip 1: Use frozen and thawed sliced peaches instead of blanching and peeling fresh ones. Cooking tip 2: Cinnamon is an anesthetic so if you eat too much, it can numb your tongue.

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

Coca-Cola at Disney Springs

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 5, 2016

We saw Star Trek: Beyond at Disney’s AMC Dine-In Theater at Disney Springs in Orlando. I liked the film and would rate it five stars. The galactic scope isn’t as broad as the Star Wars universe, but Star Trek focuses more on characters. I thought this movie did a good job with the character interactions among the crew and the personal journeys of Kirk and Spock. The villain’s motivation seemed plausible. His weapons were immensely powerful compared to Federation defenses, and action scenes were plentiful. I had a good time and will definitely buy the DVD when it comes out.

IMG_2423Star Trek Beyond showtimes and tickets

The Coca-Cola Store had opened since we’d been here last, so we had to visit. I was suitably impressed by the array of merchandise offered at the two-level shop inside. The variety exceeded my expectations. Up on the third level, we stopped by the outdoor bar to try their combo sampler of sodas and floats. Be prepared for a sugar high after you try all these drinks. Dinner was at The Melting Pot on West Sand Lake Road. Good for a fondue experience but no leftovers.

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The next day, we hung around Millennia Mall and went to lunch at La Madeleine. There’s a coffee place at one end and a restaurant at the other. You order your food, get a table, and wait for your order to be delivered. Crepes, soups, sandwiches, and salads are on the menu along with more substantial entrees. I felt a couple of pounds heavier as we left.

There’s always something new to explore in Orlando. Make it your destination.

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Magic Kingdom Revisited

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 3, 2016

The Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida represents family outings and celebrations. My husband and I went there after we got engaged. We went there again to celebrate when I’d sold my first book. This sale culminated a long, hard struggle as I wrote six books before selling a three-book contract to Dorchester. My first published title, Circle of Light, sold about the same time The Lion King came out. Every time I heard “Circle of Life” playing, it reminded me of my book with a sense of joy and wonder that my career had finally taken off. And since Circle of Light, winner of the HOLT Medallion, was a scifi romance, Tomorrowland was a particular favorite of mine. Speaking of which, I enjoyed the movie by that name. We’ve returned to Disney World every year, often several times, from when our children were babies to now with them as adults. We have annual passes and still enjoy the beautiful landscaping, the happy ambiance, and the place where dreams can come true.

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We went on It’s A Small World and People Mover rides this time. It was too hot for waiting in lines. Lunch was at the Colombia Harbour House opposite the Haunted Mansion. I had a hummus, tomato, and broccoli slaw sandwich.

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As we strolled back to Main Street, we came upon a delightful entertainment:

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The Magic Kingdom is still a magical experience. I’m hoping the family memories we create there will pass on to the next generation.


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Disney Springs

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 30, 2016

Disney Springs has opened the Lime parking garage and the town center since our last visit. We enjoyed strolling around the new shopping area and eating lunch at the burger place.

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Lots of other new restaurants have yet to open. I’m eager for the Floridian one. The Edison looks like it has a long way to go, and so does the remodel of the old Planet Hollywood restaurant. Our kids liked the cupcake ATM at Sprinkles.

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We saw Independence Day: Resurgence at the theater here. The movie was fun but predictable. It got us out of the heat for a few hours.

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Dinner that night was at Cooper’s Hawk, a popular restaurant on International Drive and Sand Lake Road just east of I-4. I ate braised beef short ribs, very tender meat, and had leftovers to take home.

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Disney Springs is a fun destination with free parking, shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues. It gets livelier in afternoons and evenings, so if you want a quiet stroll, come early.

 

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Epcot Revisited

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 28, 2016

We spent last weekend getting our Disney World fix. Early in the morning, we took a walk at Riverside Resort, enjoying the old South ambiance with colonial-style buildings. Every few feet along the bayou were signs warning of alligators and snakes. But it was the tropical foliage and beautifully landscaped grounds that captured our attention. We had breakfast in the food court before heading back to our condo for a rest.

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A short while later, we drove to Epcot for a stroll around our favorite theme park. Here is the water fountain by Imagination. Note the water spraying up rather than down.

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We went on the ride at the Land, always a pleasant interlude especially in the ninety-degree heat. I like seeing how their fruits and veggies thrive in a soil-less environment. The fish tanks are what inspired me to research tilapia aquaculture for Body Wave. Note the baby alligators in the tank on the right.

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The new Frozen ride is open that replaced Maelstrom at the Norway pavilion. We noticed a line at Fast Pass, and if you didn’t reserve a spot there, you had a two hour wait. This was around 10:30am. We refreshed ourselves with free soft drink samples from around the world at the Coca Cola building, ate lunch at a fast food place with indoor seating, and gave up on walking around World Showcase. That’s the advantage of having annual passes. You can come and go without feeling the pressure to stay all day and go on the rides. We’ve been on most of them enough times to conduct our own tour.

 

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Weekend Fun

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 21, 2016

A break from work is needed once in a while, and this past weekend I was fortunate to enjoy several new experiences. A getaway was especially welcome considering we’d been stuck in the house for weeks now while our bathroom renovation is getting done.

On Saturday, I attended a meeting of the Florida Chapter Mystery Writers of America. Author Judi Ciance offered advice on how to display books at festivals and signing events. She doesn’t just lay them out flat on a table. Instead, she prepares an attractive display with fun items related to her book covers, a dish of candy to tempt passersby, bookends that are conversation starters, and a huge poster saying “Meet the Author.” I hope I get to put her tips into practice.

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Sunday found us attending the Beauty and the Beast show at Broward Center for Performing Arts. It had been years since we’d been to a performance here. Our orchestra location was ideal for seeing the stage, but the seats were crammed in so tightly that you barely had room for your legs. Kiosks in the lobby sell souvenirs and snacks, and I believe you can pay extra to sit in a lounge. The show was great although not quite as spectacular as Lion King. “Be our Guest” is still my favorite production number.

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From here, we drove over to 15th Street Fisheries where we hung around until our dinner reservation. Casual dining downstairs and the bar area were mobbed. You could sit outside under cover but good luck if you didn’t have a reservation.

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Since it was Father’s Day, I’d reserved a table in the fancier (and pricier), upstairs dining room. We liked the raspberry salad with candied walnuts. My Florida snapper came with coconut and mango rice. Richard had Ahi tuna.

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The food was good, and so was the service, but our view out the window at the Intracoastal was the best part. I’ll leave you with this video so you can imagine yourself on a boat in a balmy breeze.

 

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Florida Escape

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 7, 2016

New Release: Florida Escape

In 1935, my father and two fellow adventurers headed to South Florida hoping to discover an idyllic paradise. Instead, they found boggy wastelands, rats and mosquitoes, sticks of dynamite, black panthers, rushing rivers, and skunks.

An explorer at heart, Harry I. Heller had already spent one summer hitchhiking 12,000 miles across the United States, which he describes in his book titled Thumbs Up. Not to be daunted, he and his friends persisted in their search until they came upon an abandoned log cabin on a deserted beach. Here they recreated their fantasy of a tropical paradise.

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Harry wrote his adventures in a short journal titled Florida Escape. I’ve edited his work and have now made it available for readers of Florida history, travel memoirs, and true-life adventure.

Note that passages from this work will appear in Facials Can Be Fatal, my next Bad Hair Day mystery from Five Star due in Feb. 2017. If you want a sneak peek at the real story behind those excerpts, you’ll find it in Florida Escape.

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Excerpt from Florida Escape

Lester and I were pretty well disgusted by the time we reached Fort Lauderdale. We had investigated a number of possibilities for a campsite, but nothing suited us. Murray was of the diehard breed and urged us to keep going. Rather than argue with him, we agreed. His persistence was not fruitless.

At a fork in the highway, we decided to take the dirt road that ran parallel to the ocean. The sight that greeted us when we had travelled a short distance brought forth cries of enthusiasm and joy. The sky blue waters of the ocean and a wide expanse of beach stretched into the far distance. In the middle of this panorama of beauty, sitting in splendid isolation, was a rugged log cabin. It seemed to have been built to order for our benefit. A few lonesome coconut trees stood romantically outlined in the reflected glory of the setting sun.

A strong odor of skunk filled the air. We turned up our noses in disgust as we approached the door that stood invitingly open.

When we entered, it was to find a scene of disorder. Rubbish littered the cement floor. Piles of empty tin cans, old newspapers, and a varied assortment of odds and ends covered every inch. The wind had blown in sand through the many holes between the logs. Where there had once been windows now were yawning gaps. Someone had attempted to close the openings with boards, which hung loosely from rusted nails. Thousands of fast-moving ants scattered at our arrival. Spider webs stretched overhead, and their disturbed occupants scurried around in great excitement.

But this sight did not discourage us. We were only interested in the knowledge that we had at last found our ideal spot. Without bothering to make inquiries regarding the place’s ownership, or to consider that we might be trespassing upon private property, we rolled up our sleeves and began to clean house.

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Pictures of the Log Cabin Below

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Posted in Book Reviews, Florida Musings, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , | 62 Comments »

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: , , , , | 2 Comments »

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 »

 
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