Nancy's Notes From Florida

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

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

Days at Disney

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 29, 2018

We went to Epcot while we were in Orlando to enjoy the Food & Wine Festival. At Africa, we had a wine flight consisting of Cederberg Chenin Blanc, Jam Jar Sweet Shiraz, and Groot Constantia Pinotage. We were not impressed by any of them.

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Here are some of the other things we tried. They were all good. Probably my favorite was the last one on this list.

Chicken Dumplings at China, $4.45
Marinated Chicken with Peanut Sauce at Thailand, $5.00
Shrimp Skewer at Africa, $6.75
Wine Flight at Africa, $6.50
Carrot Cake at Hops & Barley American Adventure
Apple Strudel at Germany
Banana Almond Soft-Serve Sundae at The Almond Orchard $4.50

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Our visit on another day was to the Animal Kingdom. We enjoyed a stroll through Pandora and then went around Africa to Asia, past the youngsters area, and back to the front section where we exited. We’ve seen the shows and have gone on most of the rides, so we can just savor the ambiance, the plants, and the animals for a couple of hours.

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And so ended our wedding journey and escape into a fantasy realm. Now it’s back to reality.

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The Wedding Breakfast

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 27, 2018

We gathered the next morning in St. Augustine with members of the wedding party and close relatives for the wedding breakfast. It was lovely seeing everyone again before they dispersed to their various locations. The Holiday Inn St. Augustine – Historic did a great job of setting up the bountiful buffet and tables.

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We visited with our relatives and members of the bridal party again. Then it was time for a final goodbye.

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All we have left are fond memories, our wedding attire, and the hole in our checking account (just kidding!). I’m happy to say the cleaners removed the stains from my dress. I just need to get the hook repaired at the back, and it’s ready to go again. I don’t know where I’ll ever wear it, but it’ll hang in my closet just in case. It’s a one-of-a-kind that is too precious to give away.

Now it’s time to settle into our routine and attempt to get back to work. Can I get the writing bug again after all this excitement? What’s next? As the New Year approaches, we’ll want to examine what we’ve accomplished these past twelve months and where we want to go. But first we have all the rest of the holidays to celebrate. Bring on the champagne!

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The Wedding Reception

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 23, 2018

Inside the ballroom at Treasury on the Plaza in St. Augustine, we took our seats at our assigned tables for our daughter’s wedding reception. The bridal couple had this lovely corner:

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The centerpieces were lovely, and the setting in this historic former bank building was as majestic as a palace. The vault in the back has been turned into a really cool bar. The special lighting gave a pink glow to the entire room.

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The meal was served without delay. This way the festivities could proceed without guests waiting for each course to be delivered. We had salad, a dual entrée of fish with lemon sauce and chicken marsala, and wedding cake to finish.

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The first dance was beautiful. Next our husband danced with our daughter, and then the groom danced with his mom.

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The best surprise was a dance number with the bride and groom in a swirl of fog. As they ended their slow dance, their attendants joined them and they began dancing to Michael Jackson’s Thriller. It was awesome! They were great, and it was a headliner sequence that we’ll always remember. In between dance numbers, we had time to go around and greet our friends and family. As the evening drew to a close, the wedding planner had us all go outside and light sparklers to send off the happy couple. I couldn’t believe it was over already.

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Coming Next: The Wedding Breakfast

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The Wedding Ceremony

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 21, 2018

As we lined up in the foyer prior to walking down the aisle at Treasury on the Plaza in St. Augustine, the tension in the air increased. Finally, it was our turn. My husband and I went in next-to-last. Inside the doors, we stood aside so our daughter could appear alone in the doorway for everyone to admire. We then joined arms and walked down the aisle together as is the custom in Jewish weddings. The moment seemed surreal. I didn’t hear the music or see individual faces. It was hard to believe we were really there at our daughter’s wedding.

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The ceremony was beautiful, incorporating many Jewish customs. Our daughter looked radiant, and the groom wore a grin the entire time. They performed the custom of circling seven times to represent the seven days of creation. In a more modern fashion, the bride circled three times and then the groom did the same. They made the last round together.

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Finally, the groom smashed the traditional glass with his foot, and it was done.

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The beaming couple strode down the aisle, followed by the attendants in the prescribed order. We went next, trailed by the groom’s parents. The attendants and bridal couple went outside for photos while the rest of us segued into the cocktail hour.

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As I roamed around greeting people, I grabbed an appetizer and promptly spilled it on my gown. My very expensive beaded gown. This was Mishap #3 (or 4, if you count the snap on my dress popping as described in the prior post). In the dark, the stains on the skirt might not show, but they would be glaringly obvious if the photographer shone his light in my direction. Fortunately, I’d had the foresight to bring a backup dress. I’d bought a dress in the same color at Dillard’s and really liked it, but I thought it a bit too staid for a mother-of-the bride dress. However, it would serve its purpose now. Herein lies The Tale of Two Dresses. You can see them here.

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Most guests in the darkened ballroom thought I’d merely put on a jacket. This dress turned out to be more comfortable for dancing anyway, especially with the snap broken on the first gown. I’d also changed my shoes from a higher heel for the ceremony to a medium heel for the reception.

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So here’s your wedding tip: Be Prepared. Bring spare shoes, an extra gown, and accessories to match. I wish I’d brought a necklace to go with dress number two, but I’d left my baubles in the hotel room. Next time, if there is one, I’ll double up on everything. Meanwhile, we had to line up again for a grand entrance into the ballroom after everyone had found their seats.

Coming Next: The Wedding Reception

In the meantime, have a wonderful Thanksgiving! I am thankful to all of you for your ongoing support and encouragement. Your friendship, even at a distance and across cyberspace, means a lot to me. Have a blessed holiday with good food, friends and family. May peace and love be with you.

turkey

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

The Wedding Day

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 19, 2018

At 10am on our daughter’s wedding day, the bridal attendants and mothers gathered in the bride’s hotel room and donned the special robes she’d provided for each of us. Hair and makeup experts arrived and began their work, starting with the bridesmaids. These young ladies all looked like models, and they were even more gorgeous after the prep team did their work.

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I was very happy with the way my hair and makeup turned out. Thanks to Carrie Wilson Makeup and Hair by Lisa Moir for their expertise.

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Our daughter had ordered sandwiches brought in so we ate lunch while sitting around watching each other get done. The photographers arrived as our daughter was finishing with her hair. They snapped pictures of us in our robes. It was a glorious day outside, and we stood on the balcony admiring the view of the bay glistening in the distance. We’d lucked out with the weather.

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Before we knew it, we had to gather our belongings and make our way to the wedding venue at Treasury on the Plaza in St. Augustine. We were getting dressed over there in the bridal suite. Chaos ensued as the girls all put on their red gowns and touched up their hair in the large space allotted to us, complete with dressing table mirrors and our own restroom and kitchenette. We did a champagne toast to the occasion. Everyone looked beautiful, and it was heartwarming to see our daughter with her life-long friends and her cousin, the maid of honor.

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As I bent over in my gown to hook my silver shoes, the snap popped on my dress. This snap held the shoulders together at the back. Without it, the dress started to slip down. I had to constantly readjust it. I had told the seamstress the dress was too tight on top, and this proved it. Meanwhile, our daughter left to do the “First Look” photos with the groom. Then they came back in along with the rabbi. The bride and groom signed the Jewish marriage certificate called a ketubah in front of all of us as witnesses.

We all went outside to take formal photos in the park across the street before any guests arrived. Then it was time to wait in our private areas (the groomsmen had their own suite) until summoned by the wedding planner to assemble in the foyer. My heart rate accelerated. It was almost time.

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Coming Next: The Wedding Ceremony

Posted in Florida Musings, That's Life | Tagged: , , , | 7 Comments »

The Wedding Rehearsal

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 15, 2018

The wedding rehearsal was held at 11am on Saturday. Our bridal party assembled at the Treasury on the Plaza where the wedding planner took us step-by-step through the ceremony. It was a sobering moment as the reality of the wedding hit us. How would we remember all these moves when the time came?

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Our heads filled with instructions, we went to lunch at O.C. White’s Restaurant in their upstairs room. We had a delightful meal while getting to know each other.

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During our free afternoon, Richard and I strolled down St. George Street to browse in the shops. St. Augustine is always a charming town to visit with its distinctive restaurants, museums, historical buildings and attractions.

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Then it was time to rest in our room until the rehearsal dinner at The Floridian. Our private room upstairs was beautifully decorated, and appetizers were laid out on the bar. Mostly this was about connecting with close family members and getting better acquainted with members of the bridal party. Thanks to Es and Rick, our future mechutonim, for hosting this event. Anticipation filled the air. The big day would soon be upon us.

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Coming Next: The Wedding Day

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Writing the Cozy Mystery: Expanded Second Edition

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 12, 2018

I’m excited to announce the release of Writing the Cozy Mystery: Expanded Second Edition.

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Do you want to write a cozy mystery but don’t have a clue where to start? Or are you in the middle of a story and stuck on the plot? Perhaps you’re already writing a series, and you need tips on keeping your material fresh. Writing the Cozy Mystery will help you develop your characters, establish the setting, plot the story, add suspense, plant clues and solve the crime.

This Second Edition contains more examples; additional writing exercises; expanded sections; and seven new chapters including The Muddle in the Middle, Romance and Murder, Special Considerations for Cozy Writers, Keeping a Series Fresh, Writing the Smart Synopsis, Mystery Movies, and Marketing Tips. You’ll find everything you need to know in an easy-to-read, clear manner to write your own mystery and maintain a long-running series. Recommended for cozy writers, mystery fans, and creative writing classes. Just in time for your holiday gift bags!

“Too many writer’s guides focus on style and how to write; but Nancy J. Cohen’s Writing the Cozy Mystery: Expanded Second Edition doesn’t limit itself to literary mechanics alone. This makes it a highly recommended pick for all levels of writers; from those who enjoy mysteries and need a clearer definition of ‘cozy’ and its applications; to writers already well aware of the genre, but who need tips on how to sustain suspense or sprinkle believable clues throughout a cozy production.” D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review

If you are thinking about writing a cozy mystery, read this book first! Nancy lays out all the necessary steps in an interesting and informative way that is easy to follow. This book was an invaluable tool when I wrote my first cozy. Highly recommended.” Catherine Bruns, USA Today Bestselling Author

“Nancy J. Cohen offers clear examples, practical writing exercises, and friendly advice designed to help the beginning cozy author start—and finish!—a saleable book. Even seasoned cozy writers can find helpful hints for building better characters and story.” Diane A.S. Stuckart, aka Ali Brandon, NY Times Bestselling Author of the Tarot Cats Mysteries

“If you want to write a cozy mystery—or really, any kind of mystery—this is the book for you! Everything you need to know in one handy volume.” Victoria Thompson, Bestselling Author of the Gaslight Mystery Series

Digital Edition: ISBN 978-0-9985317-2-4, $3.99, Orange Grove Press
Print Edition: ISBN 978-0-9985317-3-1, $9.99, Orange Grove Press
Cover Design and Graphic Illustrations by
Boulevard Photografica

Print Pages: 130 pages. Word Count: 28,000 words
Nonfiction – Reference – Writing Guide

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Booksellers and Librarians: This title is available at Ingram.

Note: Amazon will not link the 190+ reviews from the first edition, so I need ALL NEW REVIEWS on the book’s Amazon page. Please take a few minutes to say how this book helped you if you find it a useful read.

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Pre-Wedding Adventures

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 9, 2018

Our daughter’s wedding was magnificent. It’s hard to believe it is over. All that planning for ten months and then in three days, it was done. There’s relief that things went well mixed with regret that it’s past history, but we’ll relive the event through the photos. (This collage is representative of a wedding but is not ours.)

Wedding Collage

We checked into the bed and breakfast inn at St. Augustine that was designated for the bridal party. Here began the first of our Wedding Misadventures. This historic inn had no private parking area. You have to park in an assigned space at a lot several blocks away. To unload your luggage, you must hunt down a driveway on a street at the rear. We pulled into the wrong place and had to drive around the block again to find the proper loading zone. Our room was in a separate structure from the main building, where our daughter had booked a lovely suite. We had a room that needed renovation as the wall a/c unit blasted onto the beds. There was a long flight of steps up to our second floor room with no elevator.

The front desk sent a guy to help us with our bags. Then we backed our car out of the tight driveway and ended up scratching the passenger side. We suspect it came from a latch sticking out from a gate. Mishap #1.

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Friday evening, we had drinks in the cozy cocktail lounge at the inn and then got ready to meet everyone at Michael’s Tasting Room for an informal dinner. My husband flushed the toilet in our hotel room before we left. It overflowed and flooded on the floor. Mishap #2. We reported it to the front desk, who assured us they would get the maintenance man right over there.

We went to dinner and had a delightful meal with the members of the bridal party who’d arrived early. From left to right are the bride and groom. They are toasting with the groom’s brother (aka the best man) and his wife. And here are Richard and I seated with Es and Rick, soon to be our Mechutonim (i.e. relatives through marriage).

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Anxious about our room situation, we hurried back around 9:30. The front desk person said a plumber had been called, and he was still working on the toilet. We spoke to the man, who said the problem was in a pipe and he had to drill into the wall.

We were outta there. After speaking to the front desk, we spent the night at another hotel, planning to return in the morning. The inn refunded our night’s stay. We returned the next day and had a pleasant breakfast on the front porch. I had French Toast Peach Cobbler. That’s the best part about B&Bs – the morning meal.

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It’s a good thing we ate first, because here’s what we found in our room:

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Despite the clerk’s reassurance that the problem had been fixed and the maid would clean up, we checked out and booked two nights at the Hilton. Central a/c! Starbucks in the lobby! We were in heaven! We moved over all our stuff and were ready to face the new day.

Coming Next: The Wedding Rehearsal

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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.

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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.

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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

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