Saturday, January 28, 2012

Valentine's Day Desserts - Make One For Your Honey

This adorable dessert is heart-shaped and covered in chocolate. What more do you need for Valentine's Day? 

To make the chocolate-covered ice cream hearts, you'll need a nice sized (3-inch) heart-shaped cookie cutter. Sometimes these can be found in antique stores or in family kitchens. If you don't have one, now's the time to beg, borrow or find one.

The Chocolate-covered ice cream hearts are spectacular at the end of a romantic dinner. 

Chocolate-Covered Ice Cream Hearts

  • 2 slices (3/4 inches thick) of strawberry ice cream or frozen yogurt
  • 1 container of Hershey's chocolate shell coating
  • 1 tube of gel or decorative icing
  • heart-shaped candies (with appropriate messages)
  • fresh strawberries, raspberries, kiwi, or your personal favorite


  1. Line a plastic rectangular tub with wax paper. Cut out two hearts (with 3-inch large heart cookie cutters) and place on wax paper. Cover with plastic lid and freeze.
  2. When ready to serve, place ice cream hearts on dessert plates, cover with chocolate shell coating. Let the coating harden and then decorate with icing, gel and candies.
  3. Slice fresh strawberries (or personal favorite fruit), arrange on plate. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

How Writers Deal With Distraction

Distractions are a fact of life. Learning how to effectively channel the countless interruptions and distractions into something positive is a critical skill for a writer to master. I admit, I struggle with this. 

The thought of chocolate can divert my attention, or how there's a missing coach light on the front porch or suddenly how much the dogs need a bath. It doesn't take much. Oh, how to get back to writing...

Prerequisite to Writing

Being unfocused isn't a bad thing as long as it can be controlled. It is usually a prerequisite to writing, a period of time in which the mind floats, searching for a place to land. That unfocused, intentional drift is an incredibly valuable time in which to gather ideas and choose a topic or a poem's direction. 

Thornton Wilder (1897 - 1975, author of Our Town) touches on this sensory ride in his quote, "The stuff of which masterpieces are made drifts about the world waiting to be clothed in words."

Writers: Find Your Focus

Clarity is that place where all writers suddenly feel as though a veil has been lifted and pure intention is harnessed. This is where ideas are lined up like horses at the track, ready to blaze straight out of the gates. Once focus takes hold, the writing journey begins in earnest. George Lucas said it so succinctly, "Your focus determines your reality."

Writing Distractions

Most writers suffer from the same group of everyday, common distractions:

  • phones ringing
  • email overload
  • home and yard work
  • pets and child (or elder) care
  • exercise for health 

If writing is what you love to do, what's the problem? Most likely, the problem comes from not setting boundaries for yourself.

Writers — Get Organized and Set Boundaries

When setting boundaries this includes where and when to write. Writing from a central room in a house with pets and children running around is asking for trouble. Turning off a phone does not make you a bad person.

Simple steps to create order :

  • set up a writing space where interruptions will be minimal
  • turn off the phone (let voice mail take over)
  • allow yourself a set amount of time to read emails, check the news, exercise
  • make lunch time a special time for eating, talking, being playful

Once you take yourself seriously as a writer, so will everyone else. Creating order is simply creating a space in each day for writing to come first. 

Elizabeth Barrett Browning once said, "At painful times, when composition is impossible and reading is not enough, grammars and dictionaries are excellent for distraction." Now there's a way to regain focus!

Use Everything as Inspiration for Writing

Viewing distractions as inspiration in some way can help alleviate the feelings of annoyance and impatience. Stephen King said it so well here: "In truth, I've found that any day's routine interruptions and distractions don't much hurt a work in progress and may actually help it in some ways. It is, after all, the dab of grit that seeps into an oyster's shell that makes the pearl." I love that, Stephen!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Best Vacation Destination 2012

Arthur Frommer has chosen Sanibel Island as the best vacation destination for 2012. Can't say I'm totally surprised, but it must be really difficult to pick ONE place over all the rest. He said that Sanibel's white sand beaches, excellent restaurants and wildlife make it an "idyllic haven" for travelers.

Having lived in this area for almost two decades, I can say that he is most definitely right on the mark. Sanibel Island offers such a wide variety of thrills from sailing, shelling, eating, speed boating and even an occasional historical thrill.

When Friends Come to Visit

This island can be discovered by air (Coastal Biplanes), by sea (Captiva Cruises), or just by laying on the beautiful beaches. Even though it costs $6 to get to Sanibel on the causeway, there are several free beaches, all of them gorgeous. Once you've had enough of the ocean, go to the back bay area behind Tween Waters Inn and rent a kayak. Hanging out with the local manatees is a great way to reduce stress.

So Arthur, thanks for sharing the SW Florida love. I'd still like to visit Dubai, Bora Bora, Venice and Capetown, but for now, I'm content to be at home here in paradise.

My Daily Juice

What I really like about juicing every day (yeah, it's not the clean up) is learning about new veggies to add to my loyal group of healthy foods. This week I've been juicing kale, spinach, apple, orange, carrot and a beet. And then came watercress.

I've never been properly introduced to watercress so I went on an exploratory expedition to find out the skinny on this 'super leaf' and what I found was quite impressive.

Watercress is an excellent source of vitamins A, C & K and a good source of calcium. In fact, what I learned about this powerful little leaf made me a loyal fan. With more vitamin C than an orange and more calcium than whole milk, watercress is more like a multi vitamin.

Are You Eating Enough Fruits and Veggies?

It's difficult to eat enough of the right things on a daily basis but if you add juicing to your daily regimen, you've just added some important vitamins that your body can absorb almost immediately. Some things are that simple. And if you think it's too complicated, check out Dr. Mercola's Benefits of Juicing.

So, no one's telling you to change your whole diet or to suddenly eat all raw foods. Just juice. And buy organic veggies and fruits. We'll talk about that another day. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Key West Fish Wrap

There are plenty of reasons to visit Key West and eventually I'll get around to sharing as many of them as I possibly can. Today what I like about Key West is the variety of freakishly good food (and I say freakishly in the most adoring tone) on just about every corner of the city. Seriously.

The recipe I'm about to share with you is similar to one I ate in a pub in a fit of hunger and delirium. When I returned home, this is what I mustered up to celebrate what I love best about the southernmost city; fresh food prepared with simple ingredients, a bit of citrus (a must) and a sense of joy in whatever veggies and fish are in season.

This fish wrap has only one ingredient you might have to make a special trip to buy. Miso paste is the ingredient and can be found in any Asian grocery or upscale food market which brings the flavor of this recipe to its pinnacle of perfection.

My Favorite Fish Wrap

  • tortillas, plain or flavored
  • avocados, sliced thin
  • grilled white fish (grouper or tilapia is delish)
  • miso paste (I get mine at the Asian grocery store)
  • grilled onions
  • cucumbers, sliced very thin
  • tomatoes, sliced very thin
  • feta cheese crumbles
  • romaine lettuce
  • several Key limes (if they're available)
  • optional: sweet potato wedges for side dishes

Directions for Wrap

  1. Saute onions in extra-virgin olive oil til golden.
  2. Grill fish (baste in olive oil, salt, pepper, Key lime juice) for 10 minutes, turning once, then slice.
  3. Spread miso paste thinly onto tortilla.
  4. Place fish, avocado, grilled onions, cukes, tomatoes and feta cheese onto tortilla.
  5. Squeeze a little Key lime juice over fish and veggies.
  6. Roll up and heat just to melt cheese, if desired.
  7. Pair this fish wrap with small bowls of cole slaw or sweet potato wedges.
So good, so fresh, so Key West!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Sanibel Island Hosts Linda Egan, Pulitzer Prize Winner of Fiction 2011

Well, what I like about Sanibel Island tonight is the quality of visitors. And by visitors, I mean specifically, those successful people who come to the island to share their vision.

Tonight I was privileged to hear Linda Egan, Pulitzer prize winner of fiction for 2011 (A Visit From the Goon Squad), speak about her life, her writing, and her best tips for writing a book today.

There wasn't a moment that found me listless or bored. I was catching pearls and diamonds in the air as I tried my best to memorize every word she shared. I should've brought a recorder...duh.

Nevertheless, what I learned was enough for me to take my next step. She doesn't ever know what her writing is going to become...a short story, a novel, a collection of stories. This one idea took me from feeling depressed to feeling empowered. No one knows, not even a Pulitzer prize winner, what their words will turn into. What she shared with her audience was pure gold. Who cares what comes of it, just write it.

L to R Dr. Linda Saether, Vicki Chavis, Pulitzer Prize Winner, Linda Egan
Not only that, but let your intuition guide you, not the practical side of your brain, the part of you that wants to be in charge. Just let the words out, edit, edit again, and then let one of your friends in your writing group tell you what they like or dislike. Did you get that? Writing groups rock! So, find one, start one, be in one. This is how the best writers of our time do it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

SW Florida, You Rock!

It's so incredible to live here. Some people, yeah, the younger generation, might say there's nothing to do here. I have to say, "WTF?" because I find this area to be growing exponentially in every way possible.

Some of my favorite comedians are coming next month to entertain us and then there's Linda Egan, the 2011 Pulitzer prize winner who is here this week to speak at the local Sanibel library. There are so many other reasons to love the area. Stay with me and I'll share the wealth whether it's food, entertainment or historical reasons to fall in love.

Come back often and read about the best of the best, whether it's on the water, flying above it, or eating in a restaurant with the latest take on healthy foods.

You've got it all here in one sweet space. It's what I like about this!