Nancy's Notes From Florida

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

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    A Bad Hair Day Mystery

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Downton Abbey Exhibition

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 11, 2019

The Downton Abbey Exhibition is currently at City Place in West Palm Beach. We went last weekend to view the scenes and costumes from one of our favorite period piece shows. The exhibit is housed in a former Macy’s location. The restrooms are upstairs, and it’s sad to see how empty the cavernous halls were with even some original signage remaining.

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Back downstairs, we entered to view a short introductory film about the beloved series. The next room had profiles of each character, along with some of their detailed artifacts such as handwritten letters that made it all seem real. You could read about their duties and roles in society at the time, as well as many of the social and political issues dominating the scene.

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Murals along the walls were fun as they gave a larger than life sense of being there.

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I liked viewing the sets the best. It felt as though we were in a historic mansion getting a glimpse into the people’s lives there. Going into a hallway reminiscent of the TV show, we first entered rooms representing the downstairs sections. Imagine the hustle and bustle in the kitchen where the cook and other servants prepared several meals a day.

 

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We saw the servants’ hall where they took their meals and where the bell board was located.

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Then we viewed Lady Mary’s bedroom. Look at this old hairstyling guide. Marla, my hairstylist sleuth, would get a kick out of it. Mary’s dressing table is dimly lit.

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The library consists of projections on three walls surrounding a series of benches. As you sit there, various scenes come to life on screen. Again, you feel as though you’re in the story.

I love seeing costumes, and these were no exception. Which ones would you choose if you could pick from them?

 

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Accessories were included. Here’s a selection of hats, gloves, and jewelry that were necessary to complete your ensemble.

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There were a number of bridal ensembles, complete with beaded veils and embellishments that a real bride could have worn. The detail was amazing.

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Then we come to the dining room. I like to imagine myself sitting there and being served. Note the number of wine glasses and utensils. My mother used to have tiny salt cellars with silver spoons like here. It must have been a tediously long evening with so many courses and even more rules to follow.

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It took us about an hour total to go through each area, ending up in the gift shop, of course. Go to http://DowntonExhibition.com for more information. Use code SHARE5 during check-out for $5 off tickets. Offer valid through January 15, 2019. Or try code FRESH5 if that one doesn’t work. Senior discount available too. If driving the Hibiscus Garage is nearby. The exhibit is at 575 S. Rosemary Avenue in West Palm Beach. Rosemary is closed off due to construction so you have to go around. Take I-95 or the Turnpike to Okeechobee Blvd and head east. You’ll see City Place on the left.

Reviewing the scenes and characters will make you ready for Downton Abbey: The Movie!

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Other period favorites of mine on TV are Poldark and Outlander. How about you?

CLICK TO TWEET

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Posted in Florida Musings, Research, That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , | 11 Comments »

Writing Goals for 2019

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 8, 2019

Setting goals is critical if you want to get things done. For a writer, making a list of what you want to accomplish each year will put you on the right path. In an earlier blog post, I reviewed my goals for 2018. We discussed what got done and what didn’t. Authors can break down their goals into creative and business oriented tasks.

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So now let’s take a look at 2019. This might seem less ambitious than last year, but revising and reissuing my backlist titles is my main goal. That project could take the entire year, because I go through each book to tighten the writing and then do a full read-through once for any further changes and again to check for conversion errors after formatting. It takes time, because I want each book to be the best possible version. So I am not going to set myself too many tasks beyond this one.

CREATIVE GOALS

Reissue remaining backlist titles (6 romances + 4 mysteries)

Write and publish Easter Hair Hunt, #16 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries

Write and publish a Bad Hair Day recipe book

BUSINESS GOALS

Enter latest releases in writing contests

Carry on with newsletter, blogs and social media

Update website in terms of hosting and other behind-the-scenes decisions

Bundle books into box sets

Consider wider distribution for audiobooks

LEARNING GOALS

Learn how to use various book production tools as new opportunities arise

Learn how to plan and promote book sales after all my backlist titles are under my control

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Five years ago, I wrote a list of long-term, five-year goals. I am pleased to say that I am on target with most of these items. Once this year’s goals are met, it will be time for a career reassessment. Only by resetting our overall goals periodically can we gain clarity on the best path to take next.

What is the main item you want to get done this year?

GIVEAWAY

Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN Gift Card at Booklovers Bench.

 

Posted in Business of Writing, Fiction Writing, Marketing, Self-Publishing, The Writing Life, Writing Tips | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Christmas Day in Disney Springs

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 4, 2019

On Christmas Day, we saw the Aquaman movie at Disney Springs, followed the Christmas Tree Trail, and ate dinner at the House of Blues. It was a magical day. Here are some photos:

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House of Blues

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We celebrated New Year’s Eve with dinner at Buca di Beppo in Davie.

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Our Florida weather continues to be mild, so we are enjoying the parks.

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Check out my personal goal-setting guidelines for this year and enter our Booklover’s Bench contest for a $25 Amazon/BN gift card while there: https://bookloversbench.com/lets-talk-with-nancy-j-cohen-29/

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

Further Adventures in Orlando

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 3, 2019

Happy New Year! Time is moving on, so let me tell you about our latest adventures in Orlando over Christmas. We took a stroll at The Mall at Millenia that was nicely decorated for the holidays.

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Dinner included an evening at Bosphorus Turkish Cuisine. We began with their hollow lava bread and hummus appetizer. I really liked the zucchini patties served with yogurt. I could eat this savory dish for an entire meal. The appetizer includes three huge pancakes, so be prepared to share. I didn’t care so much for the falafel ones. My husband had the lamb shish-kabob for his entrée, and I had moussaka. I always like this eggplant dish.

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I’d wanted to explore the Island Grove Wine Company at Formosa Gardens in Kissimmee. It’s mostly a retail store with a café and tasting bar. Although they advertise tours and a botanical garden, these don’t really exist. We each enjoyed a turkey sandwich along with our wine tasting. I liked the dry blueberry, the slightly sweet peach, and the cranberry wine. The company has a full-fledged winery at Hawthorne, FL: https://www.islandgrovewinecompany.com/

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From here, we went down the street to an indoor flea market but the twisting stalls held a collection of shlock. Good place for tourists but not for us. It doesn’t compare to the Festival Marketplace at home.

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Coming Next: Christmas Day in Disney Springs

GIVEAWAY

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

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

Year-End Goal Review

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 30, 2018

Each year, it’s important to set personal as well as business goals. And accordingly, at the end of the year, we should review how much we’ve accomplished and what needs to carry over for next time. I hold myself accountable to you, so let’s see where we stand on the writing aspect. As for the personal angle, I survived our daughter’s wedding. That is a herculean task in itself.

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CREATIVE GOALS

Reissue ebook Author’s Edition Silver Serenade – January 9, 2018

Reissue print Author’s Edition Died Blonde – February 6, 2018

Produce Body Wave Audiobook – May 11, 2018

Promote Large Print Edition of Hair Brained – Aug. 8, 2018

Finish and Launch Trimmed to Death – Sept. 25, 2018

Publish Writing the Cozy Mystery: Expanded Second Edition – Nov. 12, 2018

Write Epilogue to Hair Brained – Launched as short story Hairball Hijinks – June 12, 2018

Revise Keeper of the Rings – Reissued July 13, 2018

Revise Dead Roots (Revisions Done; Needs read-through)

Continue backlist title reissues (Revisions Done on Perish by Pedicure and Killer Knots)

Plot Easter Hair Hunt novella (In Progress)

BUSINESS GOALS

Prepare PowerPoint lectures and handouts for upcoming events (DONE)

Enter Hair Brained in writing contests (DONE – Also entered latest titles into contests)

Keep up with newsletter, blogs and social media

LEARNING GOALS

Learn how to do Facebook Ads (NOT DONE)

Learn how to put books on sale across various vendors (NOT DONE)

As you see, I did great in the creative arena but didn’t reach my learning goals. In January, I’ll formulate new goals for 2019. How about you? What were your major accomplishments this year?

 

Posted in Business of Writing, Marketing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Tips for Query Letters

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 13, 2018

Do you want to send an agent a query letter but have no idea what it should include? Or perhaps you’ve sent out several queries and you keep getting rejections. What could you be doing wrong? Here are some steps you can take to put yourself on the path to success.

Query Letters

· Check the guidelines for submissions on the agent’s website. This will tell you what genres the person represents and if they prefer email or snail mail submissions. The guidelines will also state if you should include any sample chapters.

· Make sure the agent does not require an exclusive submission. If so, you’d lose months while waiting for a response. See if the agent mentions their expected response time.

· Write a one-page snappy query letter introducing yourself, giving the word count and genre for your book, a catchy story blurb, and your writing credits. If possible, include a hot premise or marketing hook that makes your story stand out. This means using keywords such as “paranormal” or “dystopian” or “domestic suspense” or saying your story is “Indiana Jones meets Romancing the Stone.” If you can compare your style to similar published authors, do so without bragging about how your book is as wonderful as Ms. Bestselling Author.

· Be careful not to sound as though your writing is all over the board in terms of genres. Be clear about your focus. For example, don’t give the genre as a suspense novel and then mention that it takes place on another planet and your next book will be a vampire story. You’ll want to build your author brand by focusing on one genre as you grow your readership.

· Do not describe your life history or any personal details unless they relate directly to your book. Do include if you belong to a critique group, have won writing contests, or if you’ve attended writing workshops and conferences.

· You can also mention why readers might want to read your book. What is the value in it for them? Again, don’t brag and say it’s the most exciting book they’ll ever read, or it’s a fast-paced thrill ride. This is for readers to determine. But if it helps them appreciate family values or learn about how you can rise above past mistakes, this could be useful to include as a theme.

Basic Structure

First Paragraph – State your book’s title, genre and word count. Here you can put if you’re a published author seeking representation or a new author seeking an agent for your first book.

Second Paragraph – This is your catchy book blurb. Write it like a log line for a TV show or like the back cover copy of your book. You’ll want to engage the reader’s interest.

Third Paragraph – Here offer your biography as it applies to your writing, including works you’ve published, memberships in professional writing organizations, writing workshops you’ve attended, critique group participation. Mention any expertise or work credentials that apply to your book. You can also make marketing suggestions or mention your proposed target audience. Mention if your story is book one of a series.

Last Remarks – Thank the agent for their consideration and offer to send the completed manuscript upon request. Do mention if this is a multiple submission.

Signature Line – Here is where you can add your social media links. Doubtless the agent, if interested, will look you up to see if you have an online platform.

If you hear nothing back from the agent for a couple of months, send a follow-up email to ask if she’s received your query. Be courteous and respectful of the agent’s time. Be aware that some agents won’t respond at all, and this can be taken as a rejection. But follow through at least once to make sure your email was received. As an alternative, you can request a return receipt for when the agent opens the message.

If you receive a rejection letter with detailed suggestions for your work, write a thank you note. Remember, an author-agent relationship is a two-way street. Just as you want to hire the ideal agent, the agent wants to land the ideal client. Be courteous, professional, and savvy about the industry. Also respect that while the agent might offer suggestions for improvements, this is not an invitation to resubmit your work unless the agent says so in her response.

Resources

http://queryshark.blogspot.com/
http://bit.ly/2OuiFX2
http://wp.me/pHSwk-3e3

 

**CLICK TO TWEET

 

GIVEAWAYS

Enter Here Dec. 1 – 15 to win a signed hardcover of Peril by Ponytail by Nancy J. Cohen along with a DVD of “Author’s Anonymous” and a bag of microwave popcorn. Two Runners-up get either a signed paperback of Shear Murder or Hanging by a Hair.

Enter Here Dec. 1 – 18 to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench.

 

Posted in Business of Writing, Marketing, The Writing Life, Writing Tips | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Research Insights – Olive Oil Scams

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 6, 2018

While doing research for my books, I love to learn about esoteric topics. For Trimmed to Death, #15 in my Bad Hair Day Mystery series, I focused the story on food. Hairstylist and amateur sleuth Marla Vail enters a bake-off contest that’s a recipe for disaster when a contestant ends up dead.


In considering the possible crime involved, I came across the topic of olive oil fraud. This led me to delve into the Florida olive growing industry and how olives are processed. Yes, I’m an olive fan. And now I’m more aware of fraud in the olive oil import business. Read on, and you can become more knowledgeable, too. Disclaimer: This information is based on my interpretation of the data so you are urged to verify the facts yourself.

The Problem

Olive oil scams rake in millions of dollars and involve fake labels and inferior products. The Italian extra virgin olive oil you paid a hefty price to buy? It may originate from somewhere else entirely. For example, a criminal ring from Italy passed off a blend of imported oils from the Middle East as authentic Italian extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). Italy’s authorities unraveled the scheme, which involved twelve companies and a certification laboratory. Thousands of tons of olive oil were fraudulently bottled and labeled as made in Italy. Just so you know, Italy may be the world’s largest importer and exporter of olive oil, but Spain is the largest producer. Much of what comes from Italy is merely bottled there.

In another case, seven well-known Italian olive oil producers were investigated for falsely passing off inferior olive oil products as extra virgin. Italian authorities conducted operation “Mama Mia” and seized 2,000 tons of falsely labeled EVOO worth $14.5 million. Two months later, they seized another 22 tons of counterfeit oil. Italian newspaper La Stampa tested twenty of the most popular brands in Italy and discovered forty-five percent was falsely labeled.

As much as eighty percent of olive oil labeled as extra virgin may be diluted with lower grades of oil. These can include refined oils that have been processed with heat or chemicals. Or the EVOO may be adulterated with processed seed oils, such as soybean, peanut or sunflower. These seed oils can cause potential allergic reactions. Sometimes the extra virgin olive oil is cut with stale oil left over from earlier crops, or it may even be sold rancid. The market is rife with fraud, with estimates that nearly seventy percent of all store-bought EVOOs sold in the United States are falsely labeled.

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What is being done about it?

The U.S. Congress ordered the FDA to begin testing imported oils for adulteration and misbranding. Italian producers have created their own seal of quality that says 100% Qualita Italiana. California producers have a California Olive Oil Commission (COOC) 100% Certified Extra Virgin seal. The North American Olive Oil Association has its own certified logo.

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What can you do?

Check the label and see if the country of origin is listed. Look at the date for when the oil was pressed or harvested and try to buy it less than a year old. Ignore the “bottled on” date as well as “use by” a certain date. See if it has one of the certification seals above. Look for specialty olive oils produced by local olive growers in Florida and California. Shop at specialty stores that provide information about chemical analysis, olive variety, where and when it originated. These shops do tastings and sell in small quantities. Once opened, olive oil deteriorates quickly. So it’s better to buy two small bottles than one bigger one.

Olive Branch

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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, she discovers a dead body in the strawberry field. Can she unmask the killer before someone else gets trimmed from life? Recipes Included!

Get your copy here:

Amazon Print: https://amzn.to/2xXmY57
Amazon Kindle: https://amzn.to/2Kb7oIK
Apple Books: https://apple.co/2xWHSRP
BN Nook: http://bit.ly/2sH9vcH
BN Print: http://bit.ly/2lEUhkB
Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/trimmed-to-death

GIVEAWAYS
Enter Here Dec. 1 – 15 to win a signed hardcover of Peril by Ponytail along with a DVD of “Author’s Anonymous” and a bag of microwave popcorn. Two Runners-up get either a signed paperback of Shear Murder or Hanging by a Hair.

Enter Here Dec. 1 – 18 to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench.

Posted in Fiction Writing, Food, Research, The Writing Life, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Top 20 Gifts for Writers

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 3, 2018

What should you buy for the writer on your gift list? You can be imaginative or be simple. Whatever you give will be appreciated. I’ve come across some fun ideas below to share with you if you’re in a quandary about what to get the writer in your life. Put these in your holiday gift bags and make someone happy.

Gifts

Gift cards are always an option, but which ones in particular may appeal to an author? Let’s take a look and start going down the list.

1. A gift card to Amazon or Barnes and Noble or your local independent bookstore.
2. A gift card to Starbucks if they like coffee or tea.
3. A gift card to a favorite restaurant so your writer can save time in meal preparation.
4. A gift certificate to a day spa to reward a long day spent at the keyboard.
5. Office Supplies are always useful, such as sticky notes, highlighters, paper clips, notepads, mailing envelopes. You name it, we can use it. Here are some ideas to jumpstart the imagination:

 

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6. Journals are handy for notes at conferences or for scribbling down our ideas for plot or characters. Go old-fashioned or modern with these choices:

 

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7. Desktop or wall clocks help tell us when we need to get out of the chair and take a break.

 

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8. USB flash drive to store important files, or a portable charging device like this Mophie that’s handy in a power blackout. Or how about a pen/flash drive combo?

 

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9. Coffee, tea, chocolate, and other food items are always welcome. Find out what your writer pal favors for snacks and beverages and make sure there’s a handy supply available.

 

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10. Body lotions, hand cream, and scented soaps are always helpful to induce relaxation.

11. Stylish pens are a well-appreciated gift as are pens for booksignings. We can never have enough.

 

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12. A decorative case for a pen collection may come in handy.

 

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13. Mugs come with cute remarks for writers.

 

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14. Decorative coasters are needed to protect our desk from mugs holding our favorite beverage.

 

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15. Jewelry can make a statement about who we are to the reading public.

 

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16. Inspirational Gifts such as this Storymatic activity box and Writer’s Toolbox.

 

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17. Tee shirts, pillows, or other clothing items for writers.

 

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18. Movies. Look for films about writers or favorite genre films/TV shows.

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Lastly, these intangible gifts might be appreciated more than any material goods.

19. Write a review of their latest book and post it online.

20. Give the gift of Time. Take over some chores so your writer can have more time to write.

What else would you add to this list?

CLICK TO TWEET

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GIVEAWAYS

Enter Here Dec. 1 – 15 to win a signed hardcover of Peril by Ponytail along with a DVD of “Author’s Anonymous” and a bag of microwave popcorn. Two Runners-up get either a signed paperback of Shear Murder or Hanging by a Hair.

Enter Here Dec. 1 – 18 to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench.

 

 

Posted in That's Life, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , | 13 Comments »

More Fun in the Sun

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 2, 2018

On Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend, we began the day with a walk in Tree Tops Park. This is always lovely with the tall trees and marshland walkway. I didn’t climb the viewing tower this time, but others in our party made it to the top.

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We saw The Crimes of Grindelwald movie in the afternoon. Lots of plot twists and revelations captured my interest in this film that takes place before the Harry Potter films, although the scenes with creatures could be too slow-moving. The plotting and characters still don’t have the appeal of the original movies, although the world-building elements will appeal to diehard fans.

In the evening, we went for the dinner show at the venerable Mai Kai Restaurant that’s been here ever since I can remember. This was a celebratory birthday dinner. I started with coconut lobster bisque. My entrée was a teriyaki combo with rice. For dessert, my choice was coconut flan. The food was good and the show as spectacular as I remembered. You can see the videos on my Facebook page.

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Sunday morning, we concluded the weekend with brunch at Vienna Café. It was an elegant and memorable way to end the festivities. And now it’s time to focus on the upcoming holidays and get back to work. You’ll be happy to hear that I have finally started writing the next Bad Hair Day mystery novella. It may be slow-going, but at least it’s moving forward.

GIVEAWAYS

Enter Here Dec. 1 – 15 to win a signed hardcover of Peril by Ponytail along with a DVD of “Author’s Anonymous” and a bag of microwave popcorn. Two Runners-up get either a signed paperback of Shear Murder or Hanging by a Hair.

Winter Wonder

Enter Here Dec. 1 – 18 to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench.

Posted in Florida Musings, Food, That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , | 6 Comments »

Schnebly Winery

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 30, 2018

My birthday often falls the same weekend as Thanksgiving. My birth date was actually on the holiday. My mother used to say she got me on a platter instead of a turkey. This year, our kids came home so we could celebrate together. We had a lovely meal with all the proper fixings while enjoying each other’s company.

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On Friday of Thanksgiving weekend, we drove to Florida City/Homestead. We meant to stop at Knaus Berry Farm, but the line to get in was way too long for us to wait out in the hot sun. We took backroads instead toward the Schnebly Redland’s Winery and Miami Brewing Co. It was an educational drive through South Florida’s agricultural country. The winery makes wine and beer out of tropical fruits. There’s a gift shop adjacent to the Redlander Restaurant where we had lunch. I had a tasty burger with fried avocado on top.

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The tour took us on a path under a thatched roof and past a waterfall. We fed the Koi fish in the pond while the guide explained the winery’s origins. Next we viewed the vats where the fruit is pressed for juice and later fermented.

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The resulting liquid is filtered to remove any remaining solids and then bottled in dark bottles to prevent sunlight from penetrating. Beer is sold in cans.

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We entered the taproom where beer samples were available. I am not a beer drinker, but our kids enjoyed the taste. We saw the rest of the brewery before moving on to the wine tasting.

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At the bar in the gift shop, we each chose five wines to taste. I liked the Grand Reserve, a white that was dry enough to be a table wine, and Denisse’s Boo-Boo Wine that was similar to an ice wine to be sipped after dinner.

We drove next to Robert is Here to look at the farmer’s market selling fresh fruits and vegetables and their famous milkshakes. Outside is a mini-zoo where you can feed lettuce to the animals. The only thing lacking is a decent restroom. With the crowds they get, they should invest in a real facility. If you’re desperate, they have portable units on site. Then we drove home. Exhausted from the long day, we ate turkey leftovers for dinner.

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WINTER WONDER GIVEAWAY

Winter Wonder Giveaway

Enter Here Dec. 1 – 15 to win a signed hardcover of Peril by Ponytail along with a DVD of “Author’s Anonymous” and a bag of microwave popcorn. Two Runners-up get either a signed paperback of Shear Murder or Hanging by a Hair.

Posted in Food, Research, That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , | 38 Comments »

 
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