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 ‘That’s Life’ Category

Research Insights – Green or Black Olives

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 19, 2018

I’m a big olive fan. When I was younger, I used to eat cream cheese and black olive sandwiches for lunch. Now I like to eat olives as an accompaniment to any kind of sandwich, or olive tapenade on crackers as an appetizer. I like green olives, but they can be saltier. Then we have Kalamata olives, which I enjoy along with nova on a bagel or in a Greek salad.

Olives

In Trimmed to Death, my hairstylist sleuth Marla Vail goes to interview a person of interest at an olive grove. Along the way, she learns more about this fruit from the olive tree.

What’s the difference between green and black olives?

The olive is a stone fruit, in which a fleshy outer covering surrounds a pit or stone, which in turn encases a seed. The outer flesh of an olive contains up to thirty percent oil. Olives grown for the table are different from olives pressed for oil.

Raw olives have a bitter taste. They need to be processed before we can eat them. They can be sun dried, but more commonly they’re treated to remove the bitter compounds and make them more palatable.

Green olives are picked before they ripen and are soaked in lye. Then they’re washed in water to remove the caustic solution and transferred to fermenting vessels full of brine. The brine is changed on a regular basis to help remove the bitter phenolic compound known as oleuropein. Fermentation occurs by natural microbes present on the olives that survive the lye treatment. These bacteria produce lactic acid that lowers the pH of the brine. This helps stabilize the product against unwanted pathogens. Once fermented, the olives are placed in fresh brine and acid-corrected before going to market.

olives

Black olives are picked after ripening. Tree-ripened olives turn purple due to an accumulation of anthocyanin, a purplish pigment. These ripe olives need treatment before they’re edible. Salt-cured olives, produced in certain Mediterranean countries, are washed and packed in alternating layers of salt. This draws the moisture from the olives, dehydrating and shriveling them. Once cured, they are sold in their natural state without any additives. Oil-cured olives are cured in salt and then soaked in oil. Otherwise, there’s the fermentation process described above.

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California black olives, although labeled as ripe on supermarket cans, are really green olives that have been soaked in lye and washed in water injected with compressed air. This process is repeated until the skin and flesh are oxidized, turning the olives black. Then the olives are washed and put into a fresh brine solution. Ferrous gluconate may be added to set the shiny black color before these olives are canned.

What is a Kalamata olive?

The Kalamata olive from this region in Greece has a deep purple color and is meatier than other varieties. These olives are placed directly into fermentation vessels full of brine until they appear almost dark brown or black. Most Kalamata olives are split to allow the interior to absorb the flavor. Beware these olives are usually sold with their seeds. Even if you get olives that are supposedly pitted, small bits might remain, so be careful when eating them.

Why are black olives sold in cans and green olives in jars?

Early California black olives sold in jars caused cases of botulism. As a result, the industry switched to a canning process. The artificially-ripened olives are heated to 240 degrees. A canned item can tolerate this temperature, but not a glass jar.

Green olives don’t undergo the addition of oxygen and are packed in brine. The salinity is high enough and the pH levels are low enough to inhibit bacterial growth, so they don’t have to be sealed in metal cans and cooked. These olives remain edible for many years stored in jugs, crocks, or jars. No refrigeration is required until opened.

Excerpt from Trimmed to Death

Hairstylist Marla Vail is talking to a Florida olive grower.

Olive Branch

“Some olive varieties may be edible off the tree if they are sun dried first. Otherwise, the curing process can take a few days with lye treatment, or a few months with brine or salt packing.”

“What do you mean, with lye?” Marla wrinkled her nose at the thought.

“Lye processing is mainly used with green or semi-ripe olives,” Ben explained, as they crossed over to another row and then headed back toward the main complex. “The olives are soaked in lye for eight to ten hours to hydrolyse the oleuropein. Then they’re washed in water to remove the caustic solution and transferred to fermenting vats filled with brine. Or, you can avoid the lye process and put them directly into fermentation vessels. There are other methods as well. One technique involves artificially darkening the olive to make it appear black.”

This was news to her. “Are table olives different from olives used to make olive oil?”

“Yes. Some olives are grown to cure and eat, while others are prized for their use in making extra virgin olive oil. Olive mills press the oil, and the sooner you get the product to consumers, the better the quality of the oil. Demand has increased since the health benefits of olive oil have been recognized. In the U.S., we currently import about ninety-eight percent of the millions of gallons we consume per year. You’re not always getting the product you think you are with these imports. Fraud has become a multi-million dollar enterprise.”

Olive Oil Scams are a topic for another time. I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about this fruit and are now eager to check out the varieties in your local grocery store. Disclaimer: This information is based on my interpretation of the data I read. Any errors are unintentional.

Are you an olive fan? If so, which variety do you like best?

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TRIMMED TO DEATH

Savvy hairstylist and amateur sleuth Marla Vail enters a charity bake-off contest at a fall festival sponsored by a local farm. While she waits to see if her coconut fudge pie is a winner, Marla discovers a dead body in the strawberry field. Can she unmask the killer before someone else gets trimmed from life? Recipes Included!

TRIMMED TO DEATH eBook

Get your copy here:

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Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/900157

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Posted in Food, Research, That's Life | Tagged: , , , | 5 Comments »

Museum of Science

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 12, 2018

We took a break and visited the Museum of Discovery and Science in downtown Fort Lauderdale. It had been years since we’d last visited when our kids were young. The museum has two levels plus a gift shop, concession stand, and IMAX theater. We bought tickets to the exhibits only, bypassing the films and the flight simulator or Mars Rover experiences. There’s also an Everglades Airboat Adventure, which we chose not to explore since we’ve been on the real thing in the past.

We began our tour in the Florida Ecoscapes section. Here displays showed various South Florida habitats and some of the creatures that lived in them.

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An impressive aquarium section had colorful tropical fish and this spiny lobster. It’s a good thing the lobster and shrimp that I eat in a restaurant come without the heads and antennas or I’d lose my appetite fast.

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A section on prehistoric Florida had this giant replica of a sea creature whose only predator was the whale. An overenthusiastic young tour guide told us how its cartilage structure instead of bones meant mainly teeth were found to prove its existence. He may have said the creatures died off due to lack of food during a mini-ice age, but I was only half-listening to his rapid-fire talk. He was very knowledgeable if you wanted a thorough explanation of the era.

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The otter section is nicely done, with a rocky waterfall that gives the animals room to play.

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Naturally there’s a hurricane section where you can see a water spout form and watch news broadcasts about various storms. Downstairs also has a kids section that looks like fun for smaller children.

Upstairs are the flight simulators and IMAX theater. Models of aircraft cockpits tempt you to sit in them and push buttons to allow you to virtually cruise down a runway. I ended up blowing up my aircraft as we veered onto the grass.

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There’s a health section where you can read about various bodily functions and medical robotic techniques.

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An area with brain teasers could keep you occupied all day trying to fit the jigsaw pieces into a square shape and doing other tasks. The biggest exhibit was on The Science of Archimedes, a Greek scientist eventually murdered by a Roman soldier. He designed a great many apparatus that were replicated here.

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A brief area with rocks and minerals drew my interest, followed by the inevitable dinosaurs.

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This was a fun visit that took about two hours to roam around inside and check out the gift shop. There’s no café on premises but the museum map shows one under construction. Parking is next door in a public garage. So if you’re in town looking for something indoors to do, visit our Museum of Discovery and Science. It’ll bring out the curious child in you.

GIVEAWAY

Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench.

GiftCards

 

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St. Petersburg Florida

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 12, 2018

We got into St. Petersburg, Florida on Wednesday Sept. 5. Unfortunately, I hadn’t booked the conference hotel which was already full when I registered for Bouchercon World Mystery Convention. Events took place at the historic Vinoy Renaissance by the bay. This distinctive structure faces a boat marina and a park on one side and Beach Drive at another end. Our hotel, the Hampton Inn, was on a side street from this main strip that hosts a plethora of restaurants and museums. The town is good for a few days stay with all there is to see and do. Here are shots of the Vinoy that was built in the 1920’s.

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It was a distinct disadvantage not staying there as we had to tip the valet at the Hampton Inn each time we needed the car. I got too hot walking the five to six blocks in ninety degree heat to the conference hotel while dressed up for the meeting. Once I left the Vinoy in the afternoon, I didn’t return. Daily thunderstorms and the intense heat prevented another long stroll. A shuttle ran between conference hotels, but only in the early morning and late afternoon. So I learned my lesson. Never stay off site again. However, we enjoyed St. Petersburg along Beach Drive even though we didn’t go farther into downtown.

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Dining adventures included Parkshore Grill where we had lunch on day one.

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We dined outside at Fresco’s on the first night.

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We met my former critique partner, Sharon Hartley, and her husband for dinner at Bella Brava.

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Richard and I enjoyed the early bird special at 400 Beach Seafood.

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I think I had more fun trying the different restaurants than anything else!

I skipped out on the conference on Saturday afternoon for a visit to the Museum of Fine Arts. This two-story building held many exhibits including sculptures, paintings, and valuable artifacts. I liked the clock exhibit. There’s a café and gift shop on the premises. Here are some of the items we viewed. More are in the album on my Facebook page.

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Coming Next: Bouchercon 2018

See all my photos HERE

GIVEAWAY

Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN Gift Card at Booklover’s Bench

Posted in Conferences, Florida Musings, Food, That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Adventures in Dining – Orlando

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 4, 2018

As usual when we visit Orlando, we like to try new dining spots as well as frequent some of our favorite restaurants. Besides Bonefish Grill and Longhorn, we celebrated our family’s September birthdays with the Magical Dining Month menu at Fleming’s. I got the beef filet with a salad and carrot cake for dessert.

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I didn’t fare as well at Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival. This being Labor Day Weekend and the opening of the festival, the park was crowded and there was a long wait under the broiling sun just to get in through bag inspection. We made it to a couple of places where I tasted the mini blended burger (very good!) and the loaded mac and cheese (too spicy).

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Then I succumbed to the heat and felt lightheaded. After a brief rest on a shady bench, I recovered my stamina and we headed to the festival marketplace to pick up our annual passholder magnets. Then we left, vowing to return when the weather has cooled and the crowds have thinned. I just can’t make this trek anymore in the 90+ degree heat.

Another day, we dined at La Madelaine, a French café located inside the Florida Mall where we took a nice air-conditioned walk. I didn’t have a problem there and enjoyed the exercise. My meal here was tomato basil soup, Caesar salad, and a half turkey and brie sandwich. The best breakfast was at Keke’s Café where I had a waffle accompanied by fresh berries and whipped cream.

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The highlight of the week was a bridal shower in honor of our daughter held at Orchid Thai Cuisine in Winter Park. The food was delicious from the buffet-style appetizers to the plated lunch to the beautiful cake. Our daughter was radiant as she greeted her friends and other guests.

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It’s hard to follow the wedding diet on these meals. I’d say I would wait until after the wedding, since that weekend will involve a lot of eating too, but then Thanksgiving will be upon us. Maybe I should make getting in shape a New Year’s resolution?

 

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

A Funeral and A Wedding

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 6, 2018

Last week brought both sadness and joy as we were called unexpectedly to a funeral and then hosted a bridal shower to celebrate our daughter’s upcoming nuptials.

It began on Sunday past when we got a call that my brother-in-law had passed away. I spent that morning making travel arrangements. On Monday, we flew to Maryland. We joined our immediate family for dinner at a trendy restaurant near the hotel. I had roast chicken with mushroom polenta.

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The next day we visited with my husband’s niece until it was time for the gravesite service. We saw many friends and relatives there. Rest in peace, Bobby.

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Another meal followed before we were left with our memories and a flight home on Wednesday. Not a moment to dawdle, as on Friday our daughter’s future in-laws were coming to town, and I’d invited them for dinner. Thursday was spent cooking along with hair and nails appointments. Friday we got the house in order before everyone arrived. I picked up the cake for the bridal shower and stuck it in the fridge. We had a lovely dinner together with our soon-to-be new family.

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Saturday morning, I rushed out to get the flowers, and we loaded our cars with party favors and other supplies. The event was to be held at Brio Tuscan Grille, where they’d partitioned off a private area with a curtain. We had the tables arranged in a U-Shape. Friends and relatives arrived to celebrate the joyous event with us.

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It was a great day, and we have many happy memories. In another month, we’ll attend a second shower, Bouchercon mystery writers’ conference, and Rosh Hashanah dinner all within a week. Let’s hope we only have happy times ahead as we cherish each day and each person who makes our lives meaningful. Blessings to you all.

 

Posted in That's Life | Tagged: , , , , | 14 Comments »

Taking a Hiatus

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on July 27, 2018

I may be taking a hiatus from this site for the next few months out of necessity. First, I’ve received my blog schedule for Trimmed to Death. This will be a Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour from Sept. 26 – Oct. 5. I am busy writing all the guest posts and interviews for this online tour as well as some other guest spots coming up around my release dates. You can follow my appearances at https://nancyjcohen.com/appearances/

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Bouchercon 2018 mystery writers’ conference runs Sept. 6 – 9 in St. Petersburg. This involves more prep time. Also in September, I have a second bridal shower, several family birthdays, my new book release, and the Jewish holidays.

And then there’s the wedding. Recently I accompanied our daughter to the bridal salon where she had a fitting. Her dress is even more beautiful than I remember. We saw her new house, celebrated our son’s birthday, and met our prospective in-laws for a meal. Now we are home and excited about the bridal shower I’m hosting a week from tomorrow. This involves centerpieces, a cake, party favors, coordinating the menu, and having company for the weekend.

Then October is wedding month. After that is the rush toward Thanksgiving, my next book release, and the end of year holidays. Yikes! My heart races at the thought of it all. Meanwhile, our house needs attention, and I haven’t even started on our get-rid-of list.

Am I writing anything new? Not at the moment. Who has time? I’m working on blogs and marketing for these upcoming releases. I hope you’ll help get the word out once I announce the debuts. Save these dates:

August 8 is Hair Brained Large Print edition

Sept. 25 is Trimmed to Death, #15 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries

Nov. 12 is Writing the Cozy Mystery: Expanded Second Edition

As things get more hectic, I suspect I’ll be lurking more than posting on social media. You may hear from me if something special happens or if I get an idea for a brilliant post, but otherwise things might be sparse here for a while as I’m occupied elsewhere.

And let me not neglect to thank you for your ongoing support, loyalty, and encouragement. It means a great deal to me. Enjoy the rest of summer!

 

Posted in Appearances, Marketing, That's Life, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , | 9 Comments »

Yesteryear Village

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on July 18, 2018

Yesteryear Village is located at the Fairgrounds in West Palm Beach. It’s a living history museum that tells the story of Florida up until 1945 or so. The nine acres house various historic buildings, shady oak trees, and brick-lined paths. A general store offers nostalgic goods for sale. But bring your own snacks. There’s a picnic area under shelter but no café on premises. The park is open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 10am to 4pm. There’s an admission fee. Allow a couple of hours to stroll around and enjoy the exhibits.

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Inside the gated grounds, we turned left from the Welcome Center and passed equipment for sugar processing and a small building describing the Pineapple growing industry in Florida. As the interior was roped off, we couldn’t read the signage inside, but I got enough of a view to get the gist of it. I hadn’t even been aware Florida had pineapple plantations.

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Next was a train caboose next to a switching station housing model trains and other railroad memorabilia.

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Inside the next structure, which held one set of public restrooms, was a shoe repair place, a print shop, and a fire house.

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From here we went to the jail, which held a one-person cell. Note the noose on the outside.

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We passed an old hunting shack and moved on to the church, which is still in use today for services and weddings.

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Beyond the Bait and Tackle Shop and the Smokehouse, we came to a two-storied (plus attic) Victorian house that dominated the area.

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Riddle House must have been very large and well-built for its day. Downstairs were the common rooms and kitchen, while upstairs were several bedrooms. It was rumored someone killed himself in the attic, and indeed, the park offers seasonal ghost tours. Some of the places have costumed guides, and this was one of them. We got our own private tour of this impressive house.

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We peeked inside the visitor cabins, sewing circle room, old telephone exhibit, and a shotgun house. I liked the school, a large building with two classrooms on either side of the teacher’s desk. A single schoolteacher taught all the grades, and she wasn’t permitted to be married. The old wooden desks each had a hole presumably for an inkwell.

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You can visit the old post office, farm buildings, a blacksmith shop, and more as you stroll among the shady grounds. Although the temperatures hit the nineties, a breeze kept us comfortable as did the leafy branches overhead. Some, but not all, of the buildings are air-conditioned.

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You can see all of my photos HERE. If you visit the park, ask for a map at the Welcome Center. They’re busiest during the Fair season, so you might want to go at a less crowded time. This site is owned and administered by the Fairgrounds, which somewhat surprised me. I guess it’s a way for them to earn some income when the fair or other events aren’t in session, but you’d think a historical society would be interested in this display of early Florida life. Be sure to visit if you’re in the area.

Do you like visiting recreated villages or living history museums with costumed guides?

 

Posted in Florida Musings, That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Publix Cooking Class – Seafood

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on July 5, 2018

We started the evening at Publix Aprons Cooking School with a glass of light golden sparkling Chloe Prosecco. This was a pleasant drink that’s good for sipping before dinner.

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The first course began with Grilled Shrimp Skewers accompanied by Corn and Pineapple Relish. This corn would make a good side dish by itself. The dish seemed reasonable to make at home, although I’d substitute parsley for the cilantro. The wine with this starter was a Buried Cane Chardonnay. It was a medium gold color, and I liked it enough to put it on my buy list.

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Cooking Tip: If you want to know if the oil in your pan is hot enough, add a couple of kernels of popcorn. When they pop, the oil is ready. Be careful the popped corn doesn’t hit you in the eye, so avoid leaning over the pan.

Next we watched the chef prepare Louisiana Lump Crab Cakes with Tasso Tartar Sauce. These were really good; crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. I could eat a meal just with these crab cakes. They were served with salad greens.

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In keeping with our seafood theme, the main course was Key West Jerk Snapper with Papaya and Red Pepper Jam. We each got a firm piece of fish that was moist and tasted good with the sauce. The wine was a Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc with a medium gold color. This was light and fruity.

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Cooking Tips:

Don’t marinate fish or shrimp with citrus, such as orange or lime juice, for more than an hour and a half or the citrus might cook the seafood, as in ceviche.

Dry the fish by patting it with paper towels before frying it. Our chef used a stainless steel sauté pan.

Pigeon Peas with Rice accompanied the fish as a side dish. This had a tomato base, unlike the version I like to make. The Earth Heart Erath Pinot Noir was good with this entrée.

Dessert was a divine Mississippi Molten Chocolate Cake, otherwise known as a lava cake. It melted in our mouths, the heat dissolved by a scoop of vanilla ice cream. My mouth is watering at the memory. I wasn’t fond of the Stella Rose Prosecco that came with this last course.

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Needless to say, I came home and conked out. Too much to eat and drink, but it was definitely worth the effort. I can’t wait to sign up for another class. Look for one near you at Publix Aprons Cooking School.

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GIVEAWAY

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Posted in Food, That's Life | Tagged: , , , , | 5 Comments »

Key West 2018

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 26, 2018

We drove down to Key West on the Thursday before the Mystery Fest Key West conference began. Once you hit the Keys beyond Miami and Homestead, you pass interesting little towns on each island along with scenic ocean vistas on either side of the highway. On Ramrod Key, we stopped for lunch at Boondocks. Their creamy New England clam chowder was one of the best. I liked the crabmeat salad and cole slaw that accompanied the soup. A half portion of salad was more than enough.

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After arriving in Key West, we checked in at the Doubletree Grand Key Resort and then took the hotel shuttle into town. Here we meandered around until our friends Alyssa Maxwell and her husband joined us for dinner. We dined at Conch Republic Seafood Company. Richard and I shared stuffed mushrooms and grilled mahi mahi. We were as stuffed as the mushrooms when we’d finished.

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Friday morning, we were free, so we visited the East Martello Museum, a Civil War era fort. Exhibits tell about how the fort was used during the war as well as a bit of Key West lore including ghost stories and the creepy Robert the Doll tale. Doll houses, a treasure chest, and a cannon were among the relics displayed. Then we went outside toward the tower where a spiral staircase takes you to the top. Here are some scenic views.

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Hungry from our exertions, we drove into town and lunched at Pinchers Crab Shack on Duval Street. Then it was back to the hotel for the start of the conference.

 What’s your favorite place in Key West?

See all my Key West Photos Here

Posted in Business of Writing, Conferences, Florida Musings, Food, That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , | 5 Comments »

Hollywood Studios and Beyond

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 31, 2018

We spent an afternoon last weekend strolling around Disney World’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando, Florida. Turning right at the first main intersection, we passed the fast food places on our left and gift shops on our right. Straight ahead was the Tower of Terror. I went on this theme park ride for one time in the past, and it was my only time. However, I like to admire the structure because it reminds me of Dead Roots, my haunted hotel mystery. I had this attraction in mind when planning the layout for my fictional resort, which was also inspired by the delightful Tower of Terror movie.

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Many of the former attractions were closed and we couldn’t access the back streets. Remodeling is underway for the new Mickey and Minnie Runaway Railway and the new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

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We viewed the tourists along with this local resident.

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Then we went into Star Wars: Path of the Jedi to see a 12 minute film and get cooled off in the air-conditioning. The film follows Luke Skywalker from when he began his journey as a Jedi to when Rey took up the challenge in the latest saga film.

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We saw the new Star Wars Solo movie at Disney’s Dine-In Theater. The action kept me on my toes throughout along with keeping track of the various political factions. I especially liked how Han met Chewbacca and Lando. If you want a good escapist film, I’d recommend it for an entertaining couple of hours.

We ate at several restaurants in the area. Here’s the stuffed mushroom appetizer we enjoyed at Longhorn.

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Breakfast one day was at Wilderness Lodge.

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Dinner at Ahi Sushi.

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We also went to the Farmer’s Market in Winter Park and then strolled along the shops at Park Avenue after lunch.

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This was a welcome break. Back home, I completed my final read-through of Trimmed to Death, #15 in the Bad Hair Day mystery series. Now it’s ready for production!

 

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

 
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