Nancy's Notes From Florida

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

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Posts Tagged ‘Florida’

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

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

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

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

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!

 

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Epcot Food Festival Revisited

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 8, 2017

We spent another delightful afternoon at Disney World’s Epcot Food & Wine Festival. Here we sampled more foods from around the world. Hurry if you want to go. The festival ends Nov. 13.

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Active Eats in Future World West (near Coca Cola pavilion on the way to World Showcase)
Loaded Mac ‘n’ Cheese – $4.75 with pepper bacon, cheddar cheese, green onions, and chopped bell peppers. My favorite for this season!
Sweet Avocado Cream with strawberries, yellow cake, and streusel topping. $3.75

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China – Chicken Pot Stickers $4.00. You get two dumplings. Very tasty.

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Italy – Absolut Penne with penne pasta, shrimp, and vodka sauce. $7.00. The shrimp are good but too much pasta is filling.

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American Adventure Hops & Barley – Smoked beef brisket with pimento cheese served on garlic toast. $5.50. The barbecued beef flavor was good but the meat a bit overdone. The soggy piece of bread beneath the meat was unappealing.

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We had a better meal at The Boathouse in Disney Springs. I had the lump crabmeat with avocado appetizer (enough for a meal) and Richard had a giant crab cake.

 

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The Road to Key West

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 21, 2017

On our way to Mystery Fest Key West, we took the turnpike extension south toward Homestead. Note the Mutineer Restaurant at the corner of SW 344th Street.

There’s a Starbucks in this vicinity too. From this junction, you head south. A long, boring stretch of swampland and mangroves follows until you leave mainland Florida. Or you can travel the scenic Card Sound Road that leads to upper Key Largo instead. Then it’s about a three hour drive to Key West. Right before the bridge to Key Largo is Gilbert’s Restaurant.

Traffic travels at speeds from thirty-five to fifty-five miles per hour through a series of islands. The scenic wonders will make you glad for the slower pace so you can enjoy the sights along the way. Allow extra time for pit stops and to fill your stomach. It took us five hours total from Fort Lauderdale. State parks abound if you want to stop for a swim or stretch your legs.

Key Largo is the first big island after you leave the mainland. Their inviting Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center just past Shell World is a good place to stop and use the restroom. Here also are a Publix and Winn Dixie, where you can grab a snack or use the facilities. There’s even a Starbucks, a rarity in the Keys. Full service restaurants include Fish House, Snappers, Skipper’s Dockside, Conch House, Island Grill, and Sundowners. We ate at the latter on our way home. Admiring a lovely view of the Gulf, we sipped creamy clam chowder in a bread bowl.

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Or you can take the scenic Card Sound Road instead and stop at Alabama Jack’s, if it still exists. Resorts on Key Largo include a Hilton and a Marriot. There’s a Botanical State Park at the north end. Or, if you like snorkeling or diving, check out John Pennecamp Coral Reef State Park with an aquarium, glass-bottom boat tours, museum exhibits, nature trails. On the way home, be sure to stop at the Florida Keys Key Lime Products on the east side of the road past mile marker 97. Good place to pick up some last minute frozen Key Lime pies, lime barbecue sauce, salsa, and other products.

On Tavernier are a Winn Dixie, Dairy Queen, CVS drug store, Dunkin Donuts, Chevron and Shell gas stations.

Islamorada is a popular weekend retreat. Stop by Hooked on Books at 81909 Overseas Highway and browse the bookshelves. Numerous restaurants claim their fame here: Islamorada Fish Company, Marker 88, Island Grill, Hog Heaven, Pierre’s Restaurant, Wahoo’s Bar and Grille, and Shula’s 2. The Postcard Inn, Amara Cay Resort, and the Chesapeake Resort look like nice hotels. From here, it’s two hours more to Key West. There’s a Visitor Center if you need a pit stop. Tourist attractions include Theater of the Sea, a marine mammal park with exhibits, animal shows, beach, grill, gift shop; and a History of Diving Museum with exhibits and gift shop. Look for a Starbucks before Whale Harbor Channel bridge.

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Marathon has a Publix and Winn Dixie, Walgreens, IHOP, gas stations and fast food places, the Island Fish Company restaurant, along with another visitor center. There’s Crane Point Museum and Nature Center with historic home, nature trails, tram ride, gift shop; and a Turtle Hospital with 90 min. tour and gift shop. if you’re looking for places to explore. Further along on Grassy Key is a Dolphin Research Center. We made it to Marathon three hours after leaving home but traffic was slow on I-75 due to construction.

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Big Pine Key has a gas station if you need it.

We stopped for lunch at Boondocks Grille at Ramrod Key around mile marker 28 on our way south. This restaurant opens for lunch at 11am. They have good clam chowder, sandwiches and salads, and a nicer gift shop than most of the souvenir stores in Key West.

Pigeon Key has a visitor center and a Sunset Grille and Raw Bar.

When you hit Key West, you face Roosevelt Boulevard going in two directions. Heading to the left will take you to a bunch of hotels and Southernmost Point. This latter is Mile Marker 0 on our country’s east coast and is 90 miles from Cuba. The opposite direction will take you past strip shopping centers, fast food restaurants, more hotels, and into downtown.

Duval Street hosts bars, restaurants, and gift shops. During the day, stroll along and soak up the tropical ambiance. Visit Hemingway House, Truman’s Little White House, Mel Fisher Maritime Museum, historical sites, and more. Take a ride on the Conch Train. Charter fishing, glass bottom boat rides, and various other boat tours are available. Or stroll along the Historic Seaport District for a number of waterfront restaurants by the marina. We’ve eaten at Alonso’s Raw Bar and Conch Republic at Harborside, and also Schooner Wharf. Here we saw a cook chopping up fish to feed to the sea life.

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At night, check out Mallory Square for street performers and a blazing sunset. Things come alive on Duval Street in the evening, when hordes of visitors ply the cafés and bars where live singers entertain the crowds.

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We recommend our favorite restaurant, Louie’s Backyard. This historic site faces the Atlantic Ocean and is a great place to enjoy fine dining. Prices can be expensive, but if you’re on a budget, just order an appetizer or share a meal. At the Upper Deck wine bar on the second level, you can get small bites if you don’t feel like a full meal.

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Come to the Keys to decompress. With its slower pace of life, it’ll help you relax. There’s only one negative. It’s hard to leave this island and return to reality.

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

Disney Ramblings

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 5, 2017

We visited Epcot at Disney World again for the annual Flower and Garden Festival. The colorful flower displays were as beautiful as always.

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Bypassing the crowds at Future World, we strolled around World Showcase to sample the foods in the various marketplaces. We headed right toward Canada, stopping by to get the beef tenderloin tips in a flavorful mushroom sauce along with mashed potatoes and cooked carrots. The meat was a bit chewy for my taste. Cost $6.50 for a generous portion.

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We moved on to the United Kingdom for the corned beef and cabbage which my husband ate. It’s a dish he likes at any time. Cost $5.50 per portion.

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At France, we noticed the fast-food café had moved toward the back while its former space is now occupied by an ice cream shop.

Next on the menu were the potato pancakes with applesauce from Germany. These are always good. Cost was $3.75. Dessert was the winner: blueberry buckle with pepper berry sorbet at The Berry Basket. $4.25 each. Well worth the visit!

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As if this wasn’t enough eating for the weekend, we took a walk the next day at Disney Springs. Planet Hollywood has reopened since our last visit. The dome looks a lot better without its prior garish colors. The Edison is still under construction but looks to be a big themed restaurant when it’s finished. Not much else had changed that we could notice.

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We ate lunch at the Boathouse, where I dined on this delicious crab and avocado dish. Fully sated, we returned to our condo to rest for the afternoon.

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Pirates – Fact or Fiction?

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on April 7, 2017

Research Notes: Pirates – Fact or Fiction?

Pirates have always fascinated readers. Witness the myriad romance novels wherein the hero, or even the heroine, is a pirate. How about the swashbuckling movies featuring pirate heroes? Yet for all their romantic image, these scourges of the high seas reaped death and destruction in their wake. We tend to overlook the reality and cling to the fictional counterpart.

Pirate With A Treasure Of Gold Behind A Lot Of Candles

Florida has a romanticized pirate named José Gaspar. Tampa has a Gasparilla Pirate Fest every year to celebrate this renowned character. So how does this apply to Facials Can Be Fatal, my latest Bad Hair Day Mystery featuring South Florida hairstylist Marla Vail?

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Marla uncovers an old family journal belonging to a lady who died while getting a facial at her day spa. This journal tells about a pirate and his buried treasure. Here is a conversation Marla and her husband, Detective Dalton Vail, have with a journalist in Key West. My fictionalized pirate is based on the Gasparilla legend. The reporter is speaking.

“I recalled the story of the infamous brigand known as Red Ted. Born Thaddeus Montoya, he was a nobleman’s son from Spain whose exploits with the ladies caused his hasty departure aboard a naval vessel. Because he could read and write, he rose to officer’s status and got himself appointed as a liaison to the court. But his old habits died hard, and he once again found himself fleeing Spanish authorities. He commandeered a ship and set sail, forcing the crew to either join him or be hanged. His nickname came from his fondness for bloodshed.

“Wanting to get even with Spain, he set out for the next decade to raid helpless merchant ships. But his inflated ego eventually caused his demise. Before his last voyage, Red Ted was getting set to retire. He’d loaded his goods onto a mule train and told his second in command to take it to Key West, where he planned to hole up in his later years. Then a sighting came for one more merchant ship that appeared to be unarmed. He couldn’t resist this last kill and set sail. The vessel turned out to be a warship hiding under a merchant flag, and Red Ted shot himself rather than be captured.”

“What happened to his mule train?” Marla asked.

“They were attacked by Indians on the route south. The natives made off with horses and mules and left them with fewer pack animals. They had to lighten their load and so buried some of the chests. They didn’t have much better luck as they headed into swampland and were beset by storms as well as bandits. With dwindling resources, they buried more loads along the way.”

How do these past events relate to the present? Facials Can Be Fatal has real journal entries from my father’s 1935 trip to Florida. He discovered a buried chest along the wilds of Fort Lauderdale beach. What was in this chest? In my fictional tale, it’s something quite different than what my father found. Read more in Facials Can Be Fatal.

What’s your favorite pirate movie?

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Facials Can Be Fatal (Bad Hair Day Mystery #13)

Salon owner Marla Vail’s new day spa hits a snag when a client dies during a facial. To salvage her reputation, Marla jumps on the trail of the killer. Soon she’s unraveling clues involving historic buildings, family journals, pirates, and shipwrecks off the Florida coast. The victim may have stumbled onto secrets others would kill to keep.

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