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’

Chef Jean Pierre Cooking School

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 30, 2017

We attended Jean Pierre’s Cooking School last night, thanks to a generous gift from our daughter. The complex consists of a commercial kitchen in back, a store selling gourmet spices, olive oil, vinegar, cooking pans, and utensils in the front, and a classroom holding thirty guests off to the side. We received bottled water, but if you want wine, you are welcome to bring your own. We took our seats in the comfortably upholstered chairs. These all faced forward so we could easily see the chef or watch his movements in an overhead mirror.

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Chef Jean Pierre is an entertaining personality who’d operated The Left Bank restaurant in downtown Fort Lauderdale. We used to enjoy meals there along with his tableside preparations of various French dishes. Now he runs the cooking school, which appears to be highly popular judging from the full-house last night and the distance some folks came to attend.

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The first course was Shrimp Sambucca with Israeli Couscous. It tasted sublime and could easily be a main entrée. It seemed fairly easy to make, except for peeling and deveining the shrimp.

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Next came Steak Diane in a flavorful mushroom tomato sauce. The chef cut beef tenderloins into medallions and pounded them between parchment paper so they came out thin and easy to sauté. The potatoes were made by thinly slicing sweet potatoes and regular baking potatoes on a mandolin. This dish required a lot of preparation so we got to taste the results. Buttered baby green beans accompanied the meal.

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By now I was full, but I made room for the irresistible Bananas Foster. Who doesn’t like this sweet dish of caramelized bananas with vanilla ice cream?

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Naturally I learned a few interesting cooking tips. For example, if you’re using thickeners, flour should be added in the beginning as it needs to cook adequately. Cornstarch can be added at the end. When adding flour to a sauce cooking in a pot, put a strainer in the pot and add the flour. Whisk the flour through the strainer, and this will avoid lumps.

As for storing garlic, you can buy a jar of peeled garlic. Then chop it all up in a food processor. Add a little olive oil and mix. Freeze in an ice cube tray, and you have set portions to drop into your dishes thereafter.

NOTE: These are my interpretations and any errors are mine.

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Posted in Florida Musings, Food, Recipes, That's Life | Tagged: , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Bedners Farm and Market

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 23, 2017

Bedner’s Farm was established in 1960 by Arthur Bedner from Pennsylvania. Today the 80-acre property is run by his three sons and grandson.

The store itself is in a sprawling building off Route 441 in Palm Beach County between Boynton Beach Blvd. and Atlantic Ave. Parking is in front or at an overflow lot in the back. From the back, you climb up a small rise toward the main attractions. A narrow water-filled canal borders the fields so you can’t reach them from the rear parking lot. Just across the ditch is a pepper patch growing red and green bell peppers. Divided by tall sugar cane plants that serve as a wind block are more fields growing strawberries and grape tomatoes.

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We decided to go picking first. At an open air stand, you collect however many buckets you want by leaving your credit card. In return, you are assigned a number that you have to remember. Prices are listed on signage.

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From here, we trudged along a packed dirt path to the fields. The sun was warm and the temperature rose to the low eighties. The air had low humidity, making for a pleasant day. Hats shaded our eyes along with sunglasses. I wore a fanny pack where I kept my camera. Row after row of plants stretched before us. One section, the plants flattened and dried, had held cucumbers. Another with tomato plants had been picked clean of ripe, red tomatoes and held only green ones. So my husband headed toward the peppers while I went to pick strawberries.

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I held each stem between forefinger and middle finger and gently yanked. One-by-one, I plopped the berries into my bucket while inhaling the scent of fruit warming in the sun. It was addictive, and I couldn’t stop picking the fruits. My treasure hunt revealed the ripe red berries glistening in the sun and waiting to be snatched. When my bucket was nearly full, I went to find my spouse. He had some delectable pepper specimens in his pail. We headed back up a slight ridge toward the open-air sales booth and turned in our buckets. Our bounty came to just over $18.00. I put my driver’s license back in my wallet and the brown paper shopping bags into the car.

We bypassed the tractor-pulled tram ride and gem mining in a nearby wooden sluice with a water tower at the top. Hungry from our exertions, we strode over to Porky & Beth’s Barbecue truck across the yard from the outdoor ticket booth.

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The aroma of barbecued beef wafted into our noses. I ordered a quarter chicken and Richard got the brisket. Yellow rice accompanied his meal while I chose mac and cheese. We’d both selected cole slaw and also ordered drinks. By the time we took our Styrofoam-encased meals to the thatch-roof covered picnic area, I was salivating. I tore into my meal, hungrier than ever. There’s nothing like outdoor exercise and a barbecue cooked by someone else to stimulate your appetite. Birds stood nearby, twittering while we ate. A welcome breeze cooled our skin while we swatted flies away from our food. Happily full, we tossed our empty trash in the can to proceed in our explorations.

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Facing the fields, we noted a petting zoo and pony rides to our left but resisted a visit to this popular kids’ area, instead heading toward the indoor market. Sheds with empty crates, tools, and tractors dotted the property. As we approached the air-conditioned building, we noted a Sabrett hot dog stand, a lemonade stand, soft pretzels, and homemade ice cream available from various vendors. There was also a lady selling clothing and another selling orchids at five plants for twenty dollars.

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Inside the building, we took a shopping cart and plowed down each narrow aisle. The place had a crowd which made maneuvering difficult. It’s best to get there early. Besides the usual fresh produce, I spied olive oils, vinegars, olives, pickle barrels, granola mixtures, Florida-made honey, soaps, challah rolls, onion rolls, a variety of breads including but not limited to banana and zucchini breads and gluten-free choices. One section held bins with peppers in different colors and shapes. There was pasta and pesto, hot sauces, gourmet tortilla chips, hot peanuts, a coffee machine where you could buy a cup, olive spreads, packaged nuts, salad dressings, fruity sauces, apple butter, pickled peaches, German sauerkraut, and a large selection of wines. It’s easy to fill your shopping cart.

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I’d like to return here in the fall when they have a pumpkin patch and corn fields. Here’s the bounty we brought home this time. Now I have to decide what to do with it all. Eggplant Parmigian with a fresh salad, anyone?

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Posted in Florida Musings, Food, Research, That's Life | Tagged: , , , , , , | 22 Comments »

Food Fun at Epcot and West Orlando

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 18, 2016

Besides attending the Epcot Food and Wine Festival at Disney World this past weekend in Orlando, we tried a couple of new restaurants. Friday night, we ate at Longhorn in Winter Garden. This wasn’t new to us, but I ordered the grilled shrimp and enjoyed this dish with rice, a baked sweet potato, salad, and bread.

On Saturday, we ate brunch at Slate. This trendy establishment is located by Trader Joes on West Sand Lake Road. Weekend brunch menu items are reasonably priced and varied in selection. Our family shared the deviled eggs appetizer, and I had the toast points with smoked salmon for my meal. This wasn’t lox like I’d expected but real pieces of cooked salmon in a tasty mixture. While pricey for dinner, the restaurant is open during weekdays for lunch.

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Since we weren’t too hungry for dinner, we took a walk around Disney’s Riverside Resort that is close to our condo. Then we settled into the lounge for drinks and appetizers that would serve as our meal. I enjoyed the cheese fritters that were fried cheese balls in a sweet red pepper sauce. My Mai Tai had lots of fruit juice but seemed to be light on the rum. The guys had the hearty gumbo soup.

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Sunday we went to Epcot for a stroll around World Showcase. Here we turned right and stopped first at the Caribbean marketplace. I passed on their seared grouper with pigeon peas and rice in coconut sauce, deciding to wait for further fare. One member of our party tried their Quesito puff pastry stuffed with sweetened cream cheese and guava sauce. At Patagonia, our son had the grilled beef skewer with Chimichurri Sauce and Boniato Puree.

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My first taste was the mushroom beef filet mignon at Canada ($7.25). At Scotland, I had one of my favorite dishes, the crispy potato pancake with Scottish smoked salmon and herbed sour cream ($5.00).

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After getting my protein, I was prepared to saunter along in the ninety-degree heat toward France. They always have dishes I like but the portions are generous, and I decided to save my appetite. The guys each had the Beef Bourguignon, braised short ribs with mashed potatoes ($6.25). I’ve had it before, and it’s very good but filling. And it was too hot for their onion soup with gruyere and cognac. Nor was I ready for dessert, or I’d have had the caramel chocolate crème brulee. Don’t these descriptions make your mouth water?

Belgium had a dish I might have tried if I hadn’t already eaten meat. The beer-braised beef with smoked gouda mashed potatoes sounded good. Next time. Of course, you can get Belgian waffles here, too.

At Japan, our daughter had the spicy sushi roll ($5.75). I couldn’t resist the garlic shrimp and rice ($6.95). It’s as good as it sounds, although if you eat all the rice, you might get too stuffed for anything else. As it was, I’d wanted to try the smoked beef brisket and pimento cheese at the American Adventure, but was already getting too full. Their lobster roll and carrot cake sounded tempting, too.

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We dipped into the Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar at Italy to share a bottle of wine and to cool off in the darkened interior. It’s a quiet place where you can relax and recoup your energy along with your appetite.

Unfortunately, I didn’t recoup my hunger enough to try the Korean BBQ beef, the Chinese roasted duck with hoisin sauce or the chicken pot stickers, the Mexican chocolate flan, or the lamb chop at Australia. Next time, we’ll have to start to the left at World Showcase and go around in the opposite direction.

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Toward the end, I stopped at Farm Fresh for their savory mac and cheese dish ($4.50) that came with bacon bits and chopped green onions. It was my favorite taste of this visit. Their stewed chicken with mushrooms and spinach sounded good, but I couldn’t eat anymore. Or drink anymore. I might have liked to try the Mai Tai or pineapple wine at the Hawaii marketplace.

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Meandering past the Caribbean site again, we visited the new additions on our way back to Future World. We couldn’t resist the Chocolate Studio where we sampled the red wine chocolate truffle ($2.25) and the chocolate raspberry torte ($4.00).

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Note that vegetarian, gluten-free, and kid-friendly items are marked in the Festival Passport booklet. The Food and Wine Festival is open until mid-November. It’s especially pleasant once the season’s first cold front moves in and cools the air. Meanwhile, be prepared with umbrellas for the passing showers. And now that I’ve reviewed all these treats available there, I’m ready to go again.

That night, we didn’t feel like eating a heavy dinner, so we ventured to 33 & Melt, a grilled cheese emporium only open past 4:00 pm in the Summerport area of Windermere. It’s located amid townhouses in a residential district at a recreated town square. A few other shops are sprinkled in here with a lake toward the rear. I had the grilled brie with raspberry preserves sandwich. Entries come with salad greens tossed in champagne vinaigrette; a dipper of very tasty tomato soup, and a couple of pickle slices. It’s a small neighborhood place with a bar serving beer and wine, but it’s family-friendly and the food is good.

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Look at what waited by our doorstep on our return home. Was he out looking for a meal, too?

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Eleven at Reunion Resort

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 5, 2016

Eleven at Reunion Resort

Saturday night, we dined at Eleven rooftop restaurant at the Reunion Resort in Kissimmee, FL. We like trying new places during Orlando’s Magical Dining Month, where you can get a three-course meal for $33 per person. This golf resort sits off exit 58 from I-4 heading west from Orlando toward Tampa. It’s a large gated community that winds around until you reach the resort proper.

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The views atop the eleventh floor warrant a visit. Note how you can see Epcot in the far distance. A swimming pool is adjacent to the restaurant named Eleven.

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Inside, the dining area is pleasant with views all around. The first course we chose was coconut shrimp, crispy and succulent with a spicy sauce on the side.

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Next we ordered cedar planked salmon which came accompanied by mashed potatoes and asparagus. This was tasty and a generous enough portion that I had leftovers to take home. I didn’t care so much for the soft rolls in the bread basket as they had a sprinkling of salt on the crust, and I didn’t need the added sodium. An herb butter gave a mild flavor.

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Dessert, a chocolate lava cake, was sinfully rich. I ate the whole thing. It’s diet city for me once we go home.

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While I enjoyed trying this restaurant and seeing the view, I wouldn’t make a return trip here. It’s too far out of the way, and although the meal was good, I can get an equivalent salmon or steak dinner elsewhere.

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Magic Kingdom Revisited

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 3, 2016

The Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida represents family outings and celebrations. My husband and I went there after we got engaged. We went there again to celebrate when I’d sold my first book. This sale culminated a long, hard struggle as I wrote six books before selling a three-book contract to Dorchester. My first published title, Circle of Light, sold about the same time The Lion King came out. Every time I heard “Circle of Life” playing, it reminded me of my book with a sense of joy and wonder that my career had finally taken off. And since Circle of Light, winner of the HOLT Medallion, was a scifi romance, Tomorrowland was a particular favorite of mine. Speaking of which, I enjoyed the movie by that name. We’ve returned to Disney World every year, often several times, from when our children were babies to now with them as adults. We have annual passes and still enjoy the beautiful landscaping, the happy ambiance, and the place where dreams can come true.

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We went on It’s A Small World and People Mover rides this time. It was too hot for waiting in lines. Lunch was at the Colombia Harbour House opposite the Haunted Mansion. I had a hummus, tomato, and broccoli slaw sandwich.

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As we strolled back to Main Street, we came upon a delightful entertainment:

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The Magic Kingdom is still a magical experience. I’m hoping the family memories we create there will pass on to the next generation.


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Epcot Revisited

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 28, 2016

We spent last weekend getting our Disney World fix. Early in the morning, we took a walk at Riverside Resort, enjoying the old South ambiance with colonial-style buildings. Every few feet along the bayou were signs warning of alligators and snakes. But it was the tropical foliage and beautifully landscaped grounds that captured our attention. We had breakfast in the food court before heading back to our condo for a rest.

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A short while later, we drove to Epcot for a stroll around our favorite theme park. Here is the water fountain by Imagination. Note the water spraying up rather than down.

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We went on the ride at the Land, always a pleasant interlude especially in the ninety-degree heat. I like seeing how their fruits and veggies thrive in a soil-less environment. The fish tanks are what inspired me to research tilapia aquaculture for Body Wave. Note the baby alligators in the tank on the right.

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The new Frozen ride is open that replaced Maelstrom at the Norway pavilion. We noticed a line at Fast Pass, and if you didn’t reserve a spot there, you had a two hour wait. This was around 10:30am. We refreshed ourselves with free soft drink samples from around the world at the Coca Cola building, ate lunch at a fast food place with indoor seating, and gave up on walking around World Showcase. That’s the advantage of having annual passes. You can come and go without feeling the pressure to stay all day and go on the rides. We’ve been on most of them enough times to conduct our own tour.

 

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Weekend Fun

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 21, 2016

A break from work is needed once in a while, and this past weekend I was fortunate to enjoy several new experiences. A getaway was especially welcome considering we’d been stuck in the house for weeks now while our bathroom renovation is getting done.

On Saturday, I attended a meeting of the Florida Chapter Mystery Writers of America. Author Judi Ciance offered advice on how to display books at festivals and signing events. She doesn’t just lay them out flat on a table. Instead, she prepares an attractive display with fun items related to her book covers, a dish of candy to tempt passersby, bookends that are conversation starters, and a huge poster saying “Meet the Author.” I hope I get to put her tips into practice.

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Sunday found us attending the Beauty and the Beast show at Broward Center for Performing Arts. It had been years since we’d been to a performance here. Our orchestra location was ideal for seeing the stage, but the seats were crammed in so tightly that you barely had room for your legs. Kiosks in the lobby sell souvenirs and snacks, and I believe you can pay extra to sit in a lounge. The show was great although not quite as spectacular as Lion King. “Be our Guest” is still my favorite production number.

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From here, we drove over to 15th Street Fisheries where we hung around until our dinner reservation. Casual dining downstairs and the bar area were mobbed. You could sit outside under cover but good luck if you didn’t have a reservation.

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Since it was Father’s Day, I’d reserved a table in the fancier (and pricier), upstairs dining room. We liked the raspberry salad with candied walnuts. My Florida snapper came with coconut and mango rice. Richard had Ahi tuna.

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The food was good, and so was the service, but our view out the window at the Intracoastal was the best part. I’ll leave you with this video so you can imagine yourself on a boat in a balmy breeze.

 

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Hugh Taylor Birch State Park

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 20, 2016

We spent the morning this past weekend getting our exercise at Hugh Taylor Birch State Park in Fort Lauderdale. Located east on Sunrise Blvd., this large acreage contains picnic areas, beach access, a fresh-water lake, and walking trails. The garden center is currently closed for renovations. You can go on Segway tours, rent boats or bikes, and more.

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We began our stroll by heading down a trail toward the beach. You can either access the sidewalk along the street, or go underground via a tunnel to the sandy beach. Other than inside the park, this stretch doesn’t have any amenities such as restrooms or snack bars. Entry fees for the park will range from $2.00 to $6.00, depending on if you drive a vehicle and how many people are in the car. For pedestrians only, it’s the lesser sum.

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After viewing the glistening ocean and the freighters hovering offshore, we turned back to explore the nature trails inside the state park. We spied a gopher tortoise before it vanished into the woods. The leafy trees provided welcome shade.

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The twenty-minute Maritime Hammock Trail appealed to us, so we took off along the wooded dirt path. We watched our footing as tree roots and dead leaves provided hazards underfoot. We wore hats for protection against the sun dappling through the branches and against spider webs overhead. The tree trunks were thin this time of year and the swamp not too buggy. It brought back the nostalgia of my childhood days and how I’d let my imagination roam free. In the woods near our house, friends and I would play war. These days I’d picture myself as an adventurer on a quest to another planet, wary of strange life forms and aware of danger around every corner. It refills the creative well to let your mind wander during visits to new places. I didn’t need to imagine my heroine sleuth Marla Shore being chased through the woods as I’ve already written that scene.

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See the grapes growing on the sea grape tree to above right? Another trail seemed to head off into the far distance, so we turned away from that one. Hot and sweaty, we returned to our car and drove the rest of the way around the road. This took us from the beach side to the Intracoastal with views of expensive homes and big-time yachts.

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We’re lucky we have so many parks and nature centers available in Broward County in addition to the beaches. Now is a good time to go, before the summer heat and humidity bring the mosquitoes and being outdoors–except in a pool–is less desirable.

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Disney World Revisited

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 16, 2016

We had another enjoyable visit to Disney World, our favorite weekend getaway. Over Mother’s Day weekend, we strolled through Disney Springs, enjoying glimpses of new eateries like The Edison (under construction) and STK Steakhouse. A new section is scheduled to open this month. Planet Hollywood is undergoing renovations as is the old paddlewheel boat restaurant. New shops have also opened up. It’s great that parking is still free, and the garage is a marvel of technology that parking garages everywhere should emulate. The second garage is still under construction.

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At Animal Kingdom, we saw building cranes over where Avatar land is being developed. We didn’t spot much else that was new. It was already crowded when we arrived late morning, so we passed by the rides/attractions and stood in line for lunch. This place could have used more than one cashier. Sit-down restaurants are not readily available in this park, other than the Asian one and the Rainforest Café. The windows at the fast-food places get crowded. Let’s hope the Avatar section will have more dining choices. It’s still pleasant to stroll around the park with the tropical vegetation and authentic-looking scenery.

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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

 

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