Nancy's Notes From Florida

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

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Winter Park

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 29, 2015

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

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

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

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

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Star Wars at Disney Springs

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 28, 2015

We spent Christmas Day at the movies as is our tradition. This year, we saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens at Disney’s Dine-In Movie Theater. I love this experience where you lounge in comfy seats, order a meal, and dine during the film showing on a big screen.

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As for the movie, I loved it. It has action-packed scenes and emotional resonance similar to the original film that started it all. The new characters are complex and engage your interest right away, while seeing familiar faces brings you back to an earlier era when the same universe fired your imagination. It appeals to both old and new fans and satisfies both. Surprise plot twists will startle you even if you thought you saw them coming. As for the final scene, all I could say was, “How can they end it NOW?” We breathlessly await the sequel to see if it will bring another reveal. Meanwhile, I’m ready to pre-order this DVD.

After the movie, we strolled along the west end of Disney Springs amid the Christmas Day crowds, crossed the bridge and headed for a glimpse of the new Hangar Bar. This themed lounge is very small so be prepared to wait for a seat.

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We passed by the Boatyard, a popular restaurant which we’d tried before. It’s next to a landing where you can rent an amphibious car to cruise the lake. We went over to Morimoto Asia instead for drinks and appetizers. I had the sake sangria and an order of steamed dumplings. Reservations are suggested for a seat in the dining room. Otherwise, you can sit in the bar area and order food.

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The mobs of people discouraged us from exploring further changes at Disney Springs, so we headed home.

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Hollywood Studios at Disney

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 26, 2015

We went to Disney World’s Hollywood Studios to see what changes had taken place since our last visit. Aside from the Christmas decorations, there were a couple of Star Wars related attractions that we visited. The first was Path of the Jedi. This ten-minute film showcases highlights from the first six movies and shows teasers from The Force Awakens. It’s still a thrill to hear the majestic theme music reverberating through the theater.

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Next we strolled around, bypassing Star Tours except to browse in its shop. We’d been on this simulation ride before, but now we chose to avoid the stomach-shaking experience.

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The Backstage Tour is closed, presumably to turn into part of Star Wars land when it’s built who-knows-when in the future. We skipped all the other familiar rides we’d been on before and headed over to the former animation building. This now houses Star Wars Launch Bay. Here you’ll find another short film with a behind-the-scenes look at The Force Awakens. Our fervor to see the latest movie is now at a peak. We toured the exhibits here with model spacecraft, works of art, character uniforms, weaponry, and more. Of course the exit is through another shop, this one with expensive collectible items.

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With the crowds and humidity increasing, we decided to call it a day. As annual passholders, we don’t need to get the most for our money on any single visit. So we left to go do some necessary shopping and to watch our DVD of Tomorrowland in the comfort of our condo.

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Happy Holidays!

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Gifts for Writers

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 22, 2015

What should you buy for the writer on your gift list? Some of the more interesting gifts I’ve received have come from my writer pals or my kids, like the jar labeled Writer’s Remedy that holds little squares with different words for inspiration, or the figure holding a hammer to his computer with a plaque that says #1 Author & Mom, or the coffee mug with my book title. My husband gave me a glass blown Disney castle to represent my dreams coming true. Be imaginative or be simple. Whatever you give will be appreciated.

Gifts

1. Books on their Wish List, or a gift card to Amazon or BN.
2. Gift Card to Starbucks or their favorite shopping site.
3. Office Supplies: Sticky notes, highlighters, novelty ballpoint pens, paper clips, pocket notebooks. You name it, we can use it.
4. Personalized notepads or sticky notes.
5. Cute desk accessories like Brighton desk clocks or magnetic paper clip holders.
6. Scented candles to make the office smell good.
7. Body lotions, hand cream, scented soaps. These are always welcome.
8. A gift certificate to a day spa. A manicure or massage can go a long way toward relaxation.
9. USB Flash Drive. We can use several of these as backups to keep in different locations.
10. Portable charging device for electronics.
11. Food baskets, chocolates, and wine. You can never go wrong here.
12. Decorative coasters for their desk or side table near where they work or read.
13. Collectible paperweights.
14. Restaurant gift cards so they don’t have to cook.
15. Cute novelty items for writers. Look in those catalogs you get in the mail. Tee shirts, mugs, nightshirts or other items with funny sayings relevant to writers.
16. Movies. Look for films about writers. For example, Her Alibi starring Tom Selleck is a very funny movie about a mystery writer. See the many take-offs on Jane Austen (Austenland, Lost in Austen, plus the works themselves), English period murder mysteries such as Gosford Park or seasons of Downton Abbey. Remember how we all loved Romancing the Stone? The classics never go out of date. See more suggestions here:
https://killzoneblog.com/2015/12/mystery-movies.html Or give a Fandango gift card, so they can buy movie tickets of their choice.
17. Did I mention chocolate?

What else would you add to this list?

Posted in Business of Writing, That's Life | Tagged: , , , , | 9 Comments »

The Final Journey

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 21, 2015

The Final Journey on the Celebrity Constellation
Day 9, Sunday, December 6, 2015

We arose to the rising sun over the sea, looking forward to our final day of relaxation before we’d have to disembark.

 

We were wined and dined with a wine tasting as Captain’s Club Elite members.

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Later we attended an afternoon tea in one of the dining rooms. Add in breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and we were eating nearly all day.

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As we were strolling by the pool deck, I was startled to see a guest reading my cruise mystery, Killer Knots. What a thrill this gave me! Imagine the chances to finding someone with my book in their hands! I introduced myself and offered to personalize her copy. Susan was kind enough to let me take her photo:

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The rest of the day, we packed our suitcases, lounged around, and enjoyed the ocean view. The trip was almost at an end. We’d had a wonderful time, and the weather gods had been with us. Now we could face whatever waited at home with renewed energy.

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Day of Departure
Day 10, Monday, December 7, 2015 on the Celebrity Constellation
We sat in Ocean Liners with other Elite members waiting for our number to be called. Pastries and coffee were available. We were off the ship by 9am. And so ended our journey. It’s time to plan the next one, after I lose the weight I’d gained.

View all cruise photos here: https://www.facebook.com/NancyJCohenAuthor

Contest Alert!
Holiday Bonanza
Last Day! Win a pair of Arizona crafted earrings and a silver evening bag for your holiday parties. Two runners-up will each win a signed hardcover Perish by Pedicure (A Bad Hair Day Mystery). http://nancyjcohen.com/contest/

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Labadee: An Island Paradise

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 20, 2015

Day 8, Saturday, December 5, 2015 on the Celebrity Constellation

Labadee is a beautiful beach hideaway private to Royal Caribbean Cruise Line. It’s at the very tip of Haiti if my geography is correct. The sea is a magnificent aqua color and mountainous terrain adds beauty to the scenery.

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RCCL (which owns Celebrity) supplies chairs and towels for all guests. All you need do is tip the beach attendant to put a chair where you want it. Then you can laze about, swim, or participate in various activities sponsored by the cruise line. Bring sun screen, sunglasses, a hat and beach sandals. It gets hot.

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Plenty of bars and rest rooms are scattered about for your convenience. The peninsula is big enough that you can even ride a free tram around to the various stops. Be aware that swimming is allowed on one side only, at the bay with its multiple beaches. The other side faces the ocean and is suitable for sunbathing and admiring the sea.

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The beach barbecue is always fun. You can choose hamburgers, hot dogs, ribs, or chicken plus side dishes and cookies. Free cold drinks are available in dispensers.

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At one end of the place is a zip line and roller coaster up on a hill. Near this at the base is the shopping village, where you can buy lovely gifts for your friends at home. Mahogany bowls, colorful Haitian art, native jewelry, dolls, wood carvings and more all can be yours, preferably for cash. Bargaining is expected.

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This area had grown since I’d last been here, and I lost my cousin Janice among the warren of shops. We reunited later at the tram stop. An air-conditioned indoor section offers a respite from the heat. The marketplace is a good site to pick up gifts for folks back home. Here’s a lovely serving dish I couldn’t resist:

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I could revisit this setting endlessly. The scenery is magnificent; the bay water gentle and warm; the beaches rife with palm trees and lounge chairs. Food is provided, and there are shopping opportunities. What more could you want?

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P1050363Nancy and Janice Trio

View more photos here: https://www.facebook.com/NancyJCohenAuthor

Contest Alert!

Holiday Bonanza, Dec. 7 – 21
Last Two Days! Win a pair of Arizona crafted earrings and a silver evening bag for your holiday parties. Two runners-up will each win a signed hardcover Perish by Pedicure. http://nancyjcohen.com/contest/

Coming Next: The Final Journey

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San Juan Food Tour

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 19, 2015

San Juan, Puerto Rico
Day 7, Friday December 4, 2015 on the Celebrity Constellation

We took the ship’s Food and Cultural Tour of San Juan for $82.00 per person. It turned out to be a moderately strenuous walking tour so beware if you think about signing up for this one. Having seen the old city and visited the rainforest, we were looking for something different to do. This fit the bill. We got a nice tour of the city along with several food stops.

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Our first stop was for Puerto Rican coffee and a pastry covered with powdered sugar. This coffee is unsweetened but tasted good to me without adding sugar. The pastry was like a beignet, a soft warm concoction that was easy to consume but one that wouldn’t be on my daily diet.

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From here we went to a restaurant where we sat at one long table. We made our own Mojito cocktails: Add 4 to 5 mint leaves to glass and crush with pestle. Add a spoonful of natural or light brown sugar. Use pestle to blend. Pour in 1 shot of rum. Add club soda.

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Using a thicker pestle, we ground up fried plantains then added shredded (pulled) cooked chicken with Creole sauce. This Mofongo was our main dish, served with rice and red beans.

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For dessert, we headed to another restaurant for a flan that tasted more like cheesecake.

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Here we are on the ship waiting to leave port:

 

View more photos here: https://www.facebook.com/NancyJCohenAuthor

Contest Alert!

Holiday Bonanza,
Dec. 7 – 21
Win a pair of Arizona crafted earrings and a silver evening bag for your holiday parties. Two runners-up will each win a signed hardcover Perish by Pedicure (A Bad Hair Day Mystery). http://nancyjcohen.com/contest/

Coming Next: Labadee

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Cruzan Rum Factory

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 18, 2015

Celebrity Constellation
Cruzan Rum Factory on St. Croix
Day 6, Thursday, December 3, 2015

Our island tour of St. Croix included a stop at the Cruzan Rum Distillery. Another rum factory exists on the island, and some of the tours go there. That’s Captain Morgan’s place, which our guide said is a newer facility. It’s where they make spiced rum. But the Cruzan brand is more historical and is responsible for much of the rum exported from the island.

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We began at the visitor center, where we bought $8 tickets that gave us the tour plus two drinks. For the same price, you can just get the drinks and hang out at the visitor center, which also serves as a gift shop.

Outside, our tour guide told us about the factory’s history and about some of the buildings.

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Then she led us to a series of vats under a covered structure. A brown liquid swirled around before the fermenting stage. It smelled divinely like molasses in this section.

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We followed the young woman up and down stairs, through twisting corridors, indoors and back outside while I snapped photos everywhere. The catwalks and twisting paths inspired my imagination as did the fuel tanks where I could envision a James-Bondish scene.

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Eventually, we ended up back in the visitor center where we imbibed our drinks, a pina colada and a rum punch. Note how happy my cousin Janice looks. Needless to say, we felt pretty good on the ride back to Frederiksted.

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View more photos here: https://www.facebook.com/NancyJCohenAuthor

Contest Alert!

Holiday Bonanza, Dec. 7 – 21
Win a pair of Arizona crafted earrings and a silver evening bag for your holiday parties. Two runners-up will each win a signed hardcover Perish by Pedicure (A Bad Hair Day Mystery). Enter Now!
http://nancyjcohen.com/contest/

Booklovers Bench, Dec. 1-18
LAST DAY! Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench
http://bookloversbench.com/contest/ Check out our other features, including a weekly Let’s Talk discussion with our authors.

Coming Next: San Juan

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St. Croix

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 17, 2015

Celebrity Constellation, Day 6, Thursday, December 3, 2015

We docked at Frederiksted, which at a quick glance, had nothing much for tourists except for a few native market stands and uninviting streets.

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Rather than take one of Celebrity’s island tours for $80 or more, we opted to hire a cab on the pier. We found a booth offering $25 island tours, with a $8 extra fee if we wanted to stop at the Cruzan Rum Distillery. Add in a $5 tip, and it would cost us $38 each. That’s a lot cheaper than the cruise line’s price. We wouldn’t stop at the botanical garden like their tours, but we’d still drive through the rainforest.

Twelve passengers fit inside the air-conditioned van that came with seatbelts and commentary by the driver. We bumped along roads that needed fixing up into the hills with trees surrounding us, until we reached a smoother section of asphalt. Long vines hung down from trees through the rainforest. We drove along hilly roads with scenic views.

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Our first stop was the Renaissance Resort, a beautiful beachside hotel with elegant amenities and clean rest rooms. We admired the breathtaking views from here before scampering back inside the van.

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Our next stop, for a full hour, was in the larger city of Christiansted. Here we scurried around to the souvenir shops, admired the view from the water, and wished we had more time.

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Our final stop was the Cruzan Rum Distillery. I was fascinated by the nooks and crannies in this place, my imagination sending Marla and Dalton here while being chased by a killer. What a perfect complex for an action sequence. I’ll have to set a similar facility in a fictional location for a future book. This place was so interesting that it’ll be my blog post for tomorrow.

During our drive back through the forest-lined roads, I spotted the rear end of a horse sticking out from the trees. Liberated by the rum I’d had to drink, I shouted out: “Look, there’s a horse’s ass.” My fellow passengers were not amused. Wish I could have gotten a picture to prove my point, but we drove by too fast. The scenery was lovely as we headed back toward the ship.

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Once again in Frederiksted, we grabbed lunch at Pier 69 on Kings Street. The native markets didn’t hold much of interest, so we waddled our way back onto the ship for a much needed nap.

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I don’t remember what we ate for dinner that night, but here are the photos from our repast after the sun descended:

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View more photos here: https://www.facebook.com/NancyJCohenAuthor

Contest Alert!

Holiday Bonanza, Dec. 7 – 21
Win a pair of Arizona crafted earrings and a silver evening bag for your holiday parties. Two runners-up prizes: A signed hardcover Perish by Pedicure. Enter Here:
http://nancyjcohen.com/contest/

Booklovers Bench, Dec. 1-18
Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench
http://bookloversbench.com/contest/ Check out our other features, including a weekly Let’s Talk discussion with our authors.

Coming Next: Cruzan Rum Distillery

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St. Maarten

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 16, 2015

St. Maarten
Day 5, Wednesday,
December 2, 2015

I needed to fortify myself with a good breakfast in preparation for shopping, so I ate another omelet with roasted potatoes, bacon, rye bread, and fresh pineapple.

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St. Maarten is my favorite island to visit. I went out on deck to watch our approach.

 

We took the water taxi from the pier into Philipsburg, the Dutch side of this island. It costs $7 cash for a round trip. As you see, many other ships were in dock that day. We went into town early so as to beat the crowds.

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The water is a vibrant jewel green. At the other end, you can shop, dine out, or lounge on the beach, all within walking distance.

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The shops beckoned to us, so we picked up our freebies with coupons from the ship and couldn’t resist many of the other wares. We stopped in the Guavaberry liquor place but didn’t buy anything as we still had a supply from previous cruises.

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We ate lunch at the Barefoot Terrace where I’d been before. I had coconut shrimp, which was six huge butterflied shrimp fried in batter, along with a choice of two sides. Mine were fried plantains and rice with black beans. Janice had coconut curry chicken. Now I have a craving to cook that dish at home.

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By the time we finished shopping, we were tired and ready to return to our cabins. Having visited the island before, we’ve already taken the excursions to the French side and seen the sights. There’s a nude beach somewhere if you’re interested and it still exists. But why pay for a taxi to a beach when there’s one right there where you land in Philipsburg? My conclusion: I still love St. Maarten, and it remains a favorite port.

Dinner in the dining room that night was spinach and cheese turnover, roasted turkey with accompaniments, and a moist chocolate sacher torte. Are you hungry yet?

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Contest Alert!

Holiday Bonanza, Dec. 7 – 21
Win a pair of Arizona crafted earrings and a silver evening bag for your holiday parties. Two runners-up prizes: A signed hardcover Perish by Pedicure. Enter Here: http://nancyjcohen.com/contest/

Booklovers Bench, Dec. 1-18
Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench
http://bookloversbench.com/contest/ Check out our other features, including a weekly Let’s Talk discussion with our authors.

Coming Next: St. Croix

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