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’

Writers Conference on Cruise Ship

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on April 14, 2016

Cruise with your Muse aboard Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas.

Fun-in-the-Sun Conference sponsored by Florida Romance Writers.

FRW Cruise2017

Join us to see the beautiful blue seas of Cozumel with Keynote Speaker Elizabeth Hoyt and Special Guest Speaker Michael Hauge.

Guest Speakers

Sail from Fort Lauderdale on Thursday, February 16th, 2017 and return to port on Monday, February 20th, 2017.

Editor/Agent appointments, writing workshops, and social networking events.

Interior Cabin: $480.72 per person with a $50.00 on board credit per cabin
Promenade $441.47 per person
Oceanview $563.22 per person with $100.00 credit per cabin (H)
Balcony category E3 $642.47 per person (E3)
Junior suite $1050.72 with $300.00 credit per cabin

These prices are only sample fares, contact our travel agent at 305-666-1010 to get the current pricing. Promotion offers are frequently available at lower prices.

Cruise includes ship accommodations, ocean transportation, meals onboard, entertainment, taxes, and port charges. Cruise fee deposit is due when you reserve your cabin and is paid directly to our travel agent. 

Pre-sail Party on Wednesday night February 15, 2016. Details TBA.

Conference fee:
FRW Members –  $160 conference fee through 7/1/16
RWA Members – $180 conference fee through 7/1/16
Non-members – $200 conference fee through 7/1/16
Companion/Spouse  $50 conference fee

To Register, go to http://frwfuninthesunmain.blogspot.com

 

Posted in Business of Writing, Conferences, Cruising, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Green Cay Nature Center

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 22, 2016

We spent a lovely day on Saturday enjoying the serenity of nature at Green Cay Nature Center in Boynton Beach. Besides a boardwalk offering a couple of trails over the wetlands, there’s a science center with exhibits and a tiny gift shop.

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The weather was perfect for a trek, in the seventies with cloudy skies that kept the heat away. It attracted the birds, however, because we saw many varieties.

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What thrilled us was catching a glimpse of an alligator swimming along. It’s rare to see one moving like this, so we stared transfixed. See it moving on my Facebook page.

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Here’s another one sunning on a patch of higher ground.

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The trees and vegetation were lovely and relaxing to our urban-glazed gaze. We strolled along, soaking in the bird sounds and enjoying the slight breeze.

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It pays to seek nature once in a while, forcing you to remember the days when electricity wasn’t abundant and people had to live off the land. You gain a renewed appreciation for all that civilization has given us, minus the ugly side of human nature. Here in this oasis, all is at peace and harmony. And so, peace be with you, my friends. Where do you go to seek tranquility?

Our walk made us hungry, so we headed to Seasons 52 for lunch. I’d say we enjoyed ourselves, yes?

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

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.

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

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

South Florida History Museum

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 11, 2015

Located in downtown Bradenton, Florida, the South Florida History Museum offers two levels of exhibits. Short on time, we bypassed the Bishop Planetarium which is included in the admission price ($19 adults, $17 seniors). Our first stop was the Parker Manatee Aquarium, where a guide demonstrated the qualities of several manatees under their care. These huge, intelligent creatures were impressive. They prefer warm water and can be sensitive to cold temperatures, pollution, and boats that get in their path.

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From here, we moved on to dioramas and displays of native habitats, shell collections, and pine uplands with a pioneer cabin.

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There’s a Spanish house with a chapel that has a lovely stained glass window.

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My favorite was the Medical Gallery with an ancient operating room, dental suite, torturous looking instruments, and an apothecary shop.

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You could easily spend a couple of hours here or more. It was an unexpected bonus of our trip to the west coast, and I’m glad we could enjoy this attraction. Note there’s a gift shop but no café on premises.

Contest Alert! Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench. Check out our other features, including a weekly Let’s Talk discussion with our authors.

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

Bradenton

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 9, 2015

I was invited to give a talk for the Manatee Arts and Lecture Series in Bradenton, Florida, followed by a high tea, on Wednesday, October 21. https://youtu.be/_hRX_Pt18LY

We arrived the day before at this surprisingly large town on Florida’s west coast just north of Sarasota. After crossing a bridge spanning the Manatee River on Business Route 41, we swung left to the Palmetto Riverside Bed and Breakfast. This lovely historic house was built in 1913 and later expanded as a wedding venue. It has six bedrooms, each with private bath. The rooms are decorated with many interesting knickknacks. From the moment you enter, the host and hostess greet you warmly and see to your every need.

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Here’s the house next door:

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Drinks and appetizers are complimentary pre-dinner. We enjoyed hors d’oeuvres and chatting with other guests before heading over to the Riverhouse Reef and Grill for dinner. This was a lovely setting on the river, and we enjoyed our meal of salmon with a lemon dill sauce. Here we visited with my former critique partner, author Sharon Hartley, who’d made the trip to join us. Our appetizers, besides a bowl of green olives and another one of a strange orange fruit:

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In the morning, our B&B hosts served us a sumptuous breakfast on the sunny enclosed porch. The choices were too many and highly tempting. A cart was rolled over to our tableside. It held a bread basket (croissants, nut bread, French bread slices); yogurt parfait; fruit cup; selection of cheeses; orange juice; watermelon smoothie. Who could eat all this? But that wasn’t all! Our host brought over a plate with scrambled eggs and a panini sandwich. More weight gained!

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Barely able to move after this enormous meal, we staggered to the car and headed into town. Free until the afternoon, we visited the South Florida History Museum before moving on to my first engagement of the day at the Manatee Performing Arts Center. I gave my scheduled talk, which was video recorded for an educational TV station, fielded questions from readers in the audience, and signed books courtesy of Bookstore One from Sarasota.

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Then we moved on to Latte Luna, a delightful café in town, where we and other guests were treated to a high tea. More food! This meal started with scones and jam, then proceeded to a plate filled with some sort of spinach and cheese concoction, plus three little sandwiches. We finished with desserts including an iced banana cake, oatmeal cookie, and iced cupcake.

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If you’ve been following my blogs, now you know why going away from home is a sure way for me to gain weight. A couple of Halloween events coming up will be fun but won’t help in that regard. Then I MUST focus on losing the extra pounds before our upcoming cruise.

Since we got out of the tea room late, we stayed for a night at the historic Hampton Inn in downtown Bradenton. I liked the décor and architecture of this hotel that is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Contest Alert! Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench. Check out our other features, including a weekly Let’s Talk discussion with our authors.

See my Guest Blog on “Far-Flung Family Ties” at http://bit.ly/1WLP0Rr and leave a comment for a chance to win a Kindle copy of Peril by Ponytail (Bad Hair Day Mystery #12).

Posted in Appearances, Business of Writing, The Writing Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

Florida to North Carolina

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 19, 2015

Since I-95 was closed due to flooding in South Carolina, we decided to drive to North Carolina via a western route. The first night we stayed in St. Augustine to once again visit this historic city. We entered Flagler College, which used to be an ornate hotel. You could see the trappings of its luxurious era in the décor. We passed up the chance to pay and see the dining room, but the courtyard and entry hall were impressive enough.

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From here, we strolled down the main shopping street and ate lunch in Columbia, a popular place with Spanish cuisine. I had to get a glass of sangria. We’d been to town before and had already visited the museums, Fountain of Youth, fort, and winery. So this time we headed out toward I-75 and hit the two outlet malls on either side of the highway. We ate dinner at an Asian place and retired early to prepare for our long journey the next day.

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We took I-75 to Atlanta, which is a snarl of traffic. After a brief stint on 285, we veered onto 85 north. We stopped for the night in Buford, Georgia which has The Mall of Georgia and many chain restaurants. It’s a good place to stop and stretch your legs.

The next day, we continued on I-85 to Durham, where we explored the Sarah P. Duke Gardens. You could wander here for hours.

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We drove inside the Duke University campus, impressed by the stately stone buildings and the remarkable chapel that was under renovations, judging from the scaffolding surrounding the tower. The town itself had nothing to draw us so we moved on to Raleigh, where the Bouchercon mystery conference was being held.

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Next: The Adventures Continue

 

Posted in Florida Musings, Travel | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

New Smyrna Beach Book Festival

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 16, 2015

This active little town on Florida’s east coast near Daytona holds lots of festivals, fairs, competitions and social events. I was excited to be invited as a speaker for their recent Book Festival. After arriving at the beachside Best Western on Friday (Oct. 2), we joined the event organizers and other authors for drinks and hearty appetizers at Barracudas down the street. A stiff breeze bent the palm fronds as remnants of Hurricane Joaquin blew past the coast. We enjoyed the company and getting to know our weekend group.

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Saturday morning at 10am, a bunch of us authors were on a panel together. Moderating the panel was a fellow from UCF, one of the sponsors. We spoke a bit about our work and answered questions from the audience. Then we each got an hour spot to do a talk. Mine wasn’t until 4pm, so I met my husband for lunch at That’s Amore for Eggplant Parmigiana. Afterward, we strolled down Flagler Avenue, enjoying the seaside ambiance, the shops, and the multitude of cafes.

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Back at the conference center in the middle of town, I hung out in the book room before taking a seat to listen to Patrick Kendrick. Like me, he’s a Florida chapter member of Mystery Writers of America. Patrick spoke about his fascinating thriller, The Savants. Then it was my turn. We had a decent sized audience who asked good questions.

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That night, we all met again for drinks and appetizers at Outriggers Tiki Bar and Grille. They treat their authors well! The book festival was a memorable and pleasant experience, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to meet all the persons involved.

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And here is a yummy Key Lime dessert:

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For more info on this festival, go to: http://nsbfla.com/bookfestival

 

Posted in Appearances, Business of Writing, Conferences, Florida Musings, The Writing Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Key West Revisited

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 19, 2015

On our way to Mystery Writers Key West Fest, we took the turnpike extension south toward Homestead. I noted the Mutineer Restaurant at the corner of SW 344th Street. From this junction, you head south. A long, boring stretch of swampland and mangroves follows until you leave mainland Florida. Then it’s about a three hour drive to Key West.

Traffic travels at speeds of forty 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.

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Key Largo is the first big island after you leave the mainland. Their inviting Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center 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. It was a filling meal. 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. If you like snorkeling or diving, check out John Pennecamp Coral Reef State Park.

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, Wahoo’s Bar and Grille, and Shula’s 2. The Postcard Inn 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, and a History of Diving Museum.

Marathon has a Publix and Winn Dixie, Walgreens, IHOP, gas stations and fast food places along with another visitor center. There’s Crane Point Museum and Nature Center, and a Turtle Hospital if you’re looking for places to explore. Further along on Grassy Key is a Dolphin Research Center.

We stopped for lunch at Boondocks Grille & Draft House at Ramrod Key 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. Don’t forget to order Key lime pie while in the Keys.

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

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We dined at 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 on the second level, you can get small bites if you don’t feel like a full meal. Here I am with Deni Dietz, my editor from Five Star.

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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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Contest Alert!

Name a Character in my next Bad Hair Day Mystery! Two Runners-Up Prizes: a signed paperback of Hanging by a Hair and a deck of Marco Island Playing Cards, or a signed paperback of Shear Murder and a deck of Tropical Drink Playing Cards. Enter Here

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

Marco Island Revisited

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on July 14, 2015

We spent a pleasant three days on Marco Island in the southwest portion of the state. Just south of Naples, this island has a tranquil atmosphere. From uncluttered beaches to gourmet restaurants, you can relax and unwind amid this tropical oasis.

Dinners

The first night, we ate at Marek’s amid its historical ambiance in an old house. Our meal began with Duck and Vegetable Egg Rolls followed by a Caesar salad. The entrée that we shared was fresh grilled grouper topped with rum banana puree and lemon butter drizzle. This was deliciously done. It came with rice and vegetables. The lively bar attracts a crowd.

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At Snook Inn, we ordered Shrimp DeJoghne which were coated in bread crumbs and sautéed in a garlic butter sauce. This came with a salad bar, soft bread, and a choice of potato. It was a tasty meal at great value with a water view of the Marco River. This place is popular with families.

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We ate our final meal at Café de Marco. I like the elegant atmosphere here with its white clothed tables and candlelight. We began with seafood stuffed mushrooms then progressed to house salads. We shared mahi mahi de Marco in a signature mushroom garlic sauce. It came with potatoes au gratin and plain green beans. The latter were chewy and not appealing. Broccoli would have been a better choice. But I still like the romantic ambiance in this place next to the historic Olde Marco Inn.

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Next time, we’d like to try Bistro Soleil attached to the inn. The hotel itself was built in the late 1800’s and is inspirational for a mystery or romantic suspense story.

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Hotel

As in the past, we stayed at the Hilton on Marco Island. It’s a good thing as the Marriott is closed for extensive renovations. I really like the Hilton though. From spacious rooms with a gulf view to comfortable beds and pillows, this hotel has nice amenities. There’s even a shower mat in the bathroom, handle bars so you don’t slip, and plentiful toiletries. Our room came with slippers and robes but that may be because we are Hilton Honors members. As far as dining, the  lounge opens at 5:00 pm. That’s one complaint. I wish they opened one hour earlier. And the Starbucks coffee bar in the lobby opens early in the morning but closes shortly after noon. So there’s nowhere to get an afternoon cup of coffee. Rooms do come with coffeemakers but you only get enough packs for the morning.

The hotel has two restaurants, a formal one called Sandpiper and an informal overlooking the beach called Paradise Café. We like to eat breakfast in the latter but be prepared for a $40 bill. In contrast, other days we ate breakfast at Ne Ne’s Kitchen not far along at 297 N. Collier Blvd. I had their cornflake crusted French Toast with fresh strawberries and whipped cream. Or try Susie’s Diner in Marco Town Center. Dinner is also nice at Paradise Café.

The pool area is attractive. Chairs are free here and at the beach but umbrellas cost money. There’s a catamaran that leaves directly from the beach if you want a boat ride and tour to a private island for swimming and shelling. The water is clear with no seaweed or other debris. The powdery white sand is good for walking, and schools of fish might keep you company in the water. During our stay, the Gulf was very calm. I could sit in it like a bathtub and didn’t even have any swells come by.

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Besides dining and beach activities, there’s little else to do here. You can visit the shops in one afternoon. Sunshine Booksellers has the monopoly on bookstores. Or just laze at the beach or by the pool.

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See all photos on my Facebook page. Look for the Marco Island July 2015 Album and please Like my page while there.

Booklover’s Bench Contest: Enter to win $25 Amazon/BN Giftcard: http://bookloversbench.com/july-2015-contest/

 

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

 
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