Category Archives: Food writing

6 Easy Travel Activities to Enliven Your Writing

August is a popular time to travel, and the hub and I jumped on the bandwagon this month. Our recent trip to see family and friends in NYC allowed us to revisit old haunts and try new ones on for size.

Freedom Tower and Empire views from the SI Ferry
Freedom Tower and Empire views from the SI Ferry

The trip prompted me to write this post about my version of travel writing.  : )

I love to travel. It’s one of my favorite things, right up there with eating, sleeping, reading, writing … you get the idea. The thing is, travel is an incredible learning experience. It gives you the opportunity to discover so much about other places, other people and cultures, other ways of life. And you can learn a great deal about yourself along the way, too. Bonus.

On top of those—in my opinion, fabulous—reasons to traipse the globe, there’s another. If you’re a writer like me, when you return from your adventures, you have the incredible opportunity to share them through words. Which is one of the reasons I call the books I write “adventure mysteries.”

I love incorporating elements of travel, food, people into my stories to add character and depth to the tales. To add a greater level of intrigue and excitement a reader might otherwise not get, or expect to get, from a book.

In my first novel, Emerald Obsession, Lexy explores a Bahamian island, Eleuthera, then returns to Manhattan to solve the mystery of cursed pirate jewels. How fun for me that my vacation in the Bahamas sparked an entire novel. Of course, when you see photos from my stay, you’ll understand the inspiration. Check out this picture, then click the link to my Photographs page for more.

Eleuthera Sunset 2
Eleuthera Sunset

I’m continuing the trend with my second book—still called TB for now—which is set in a couple of fun places, namely the Turks and Caicos and St. Augustine, Florida (shocker, right?). Wait till you read it! ; )

In the meantime, have a look at these six tips for bringing travel to life in your writing.

1—Take lots of photos. They capture the essence of a place, a people, and will refresh your memories and evoke the emotions you experienced while traveling. Besides, you already carry your smart phone, right? So snap away. ; )

2—Keep a travel journal. I find this easiest when I journey solo, but even noting in your cell where you went and when is a good tool for setting scenes, recalling distances and understanding time. Jot down relevant details and pull them out later for a dose of believability.

3—Become a temporary locavore. By far my favorite. Eat, eat, eat and savor the unique flavors and spices, colors and scents of the regional food or cooking style. Use them to saturate your stories with local authenticity.

4—Meet the locals. When possible, have a resident show you around their hometown. Who better to give the inside scoop on all the fabulous particulars of a place than someone who lives there?

5—Stop by specialty events and places; do things you can’t elsewhere. Walk the High Line, a park built on a section of elevated former rail line on Manhattan’s west side. Take in a free beach-side rock concert. Unique experiences are everywhere.

6—Track your journeys on a map, either digitally or old-school-wise on paper. Use your cell’s GPS to get up close with where you’ve been, or stick pins into your wall map to plot your journeys for a great overview.

Brooklyn-born brunch
Ferrara’s, Little Italy


Night skyline
Night skyline
Ft W
Fort Wadsworth and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge

And here’s an extra tip for when you can’t get there in person: use Google maps and zoom in to the street view to get a feel for a place. A note of caution: though maps are accurate, the street-view photos can be out-of-date, so double-check your findings with a second or third source. Try Trip Advisor. So many travelers there, happy to share their favorite, current photos. Have fun with your online journey, too.

Now that you’ve heard my tips for using travel to enliven your writing, please tell me about your experiences. What’s your favorite destination? Or your favorite thing to do while visiting a new place or an old fave? And always a good question: where are you going next? More than half the fun is in the planning and anticipation, right? : ) Share your thoughts in the comment section. I can’t wait for some new travel ideas.

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Swaying Palms

The Write Time … for a Summer Treat

Like most writers I know, I feel like I don’t have enough time to write. We juggle a ton of other responsibilities, so that even when we carve out time at our computer or with a notebook, things often interrupt and push writing to the back seat.

One of those things currently stealing my writing time is cooking dinner for me and the hub, something I’m adapting to since we married last year. Because I work from home, I have more flexibility in my schedule. And, though very challenging mentally at times, I have to concede my daily physical workload is not quite as exhausting as my hub’s is as a contractor. So, most days making dinner falls to me.

Those who know me know I wasn’t much of a cook when I got hitched. I’d lived in the West Village and worked in Hell’s Kitchen (love that name) for all of my 17 years in Manhattan, and world-class cooking and cuisines greeted me whenever I stepped outside.

To say I hardly cooked during those NYC years is massive hyperbole. I boiled water for pasta, ate cheese and crackers and pepperoni (thanks, Uncle John!!) and occasionally heated a can of soup or scrambled a couple eggs. Could’ve ended in tragedy, considering my love of food, but with a decent salary and so many readily available scrumptious options, I had no choice but to indulge my restaurant craving.

Fortunately for me, for a relatively small city St. Augustine boasts a disproportionately large quantity of fabulous eateries. But that’s a topic for another blog. : )

As much as I’ve enjoyed the culinary additions (yay, a Thai restaurant finally opened downtown), one cannot live on restaurant food alone, said someone somewhere, surely. And since neither my hub nor I are rolling in dough (hello, can we say “whole-house reno,” anyone? Another writing-time-suck, BTW.), I’ve taken up cursing—I mean, cooking—to keep us eating tasty, healthy food on a reasonable budget.

Well, now. Shopping and cooking for more than one person is quite the experience.

But I’m getting used to juggling both. And to my hub’s ears’ and stomach’s delight, I’m improving. I won’t bog you down with my best tips and tricks for shopping fast, healthily and affordably. There are so many other more worthy sites you can check out for better tips than I could give. Here are two to try:

So what I’ll do here is share a few fun summer dishes that I tweak to fit what I find in my kitchen, along with links to a couple great recipes. Check out these fun yums:

–Old Bay Shrimp:

Spicy Shrimp over Rice

Ridiculously easy and incredibly flavorful, especially if, like me, you love OB. Bonus: shrimp are healthy; something about that low-mercury, good omega-fat thing. : ) For kicks, I make my own cocktail sauce using ketchup, horseradish, lemon juice and Tabasco. I don’t have a recipe; I just mix everything until I like how it tastes.

–Cold Pasta Salad:

Pasta Salad
Easy Pasta Salad

Yeah, there are a bazillion varieties out there. Try them all. ; ) Pasta salad is a great, easy way to have a healthy, cheap-ish summer dinner (or lunch) without going crazy in a hot kitchen. One of my versions includes: mini shells (try the whole wheat or fiber pastas), store-bought cooked chicken (like those Perdue shortcuts, if they’re on sale; otherwise, use whatever leftover protein-y substance you have in-house, like a can of chickpeas), grape tomatoes, cucumbers, a few onions (the hub loves onions), olives, cheese (feta’s great, so’s pepperjack), peppers and zesty Italian dressing. Dice up the bits, add to the pasta and mix it all with the dressing. Easy part: cook a large quantity of pasta for dinner some night, then reserve some unsauced to use the next day in the PS. : )

–My hub’s Czech Cucumber Salad:
So good, if you like vinegar, as we do. And super-easy: peel, then grate (with the big holes) 3-4 large cukes into a bowl. Add white vinegar, salt, pepper and a dash of sugar to taste. Stir. Almost like having cold cuke soup, but not pureed.

–Easy Smoothies:
I make these with an immersion blender; it’s so fast, easy and healthy, because you start with frozen fruit instead of ice. Toss in your fruit—I use froz mixed berries, plus whatever fresh I feel like: banana’s great, watermelon, peach. Then add milk and some fruit juice or lemonade to reach your desired consistency. I sometimes add Greek yogurt (great protein), applesauce, etc, too, for extra health or flavor. Or try some avocado!! Zip the whole thing for about 30 seconds, then pop in a straw and sip. Sometimes when we’re needing a “special smoothie,” I’ll add a splash (or two) of vodka. Healthy and mentally refreshing. ; ) Once in a blue, we get wacky and refreeze the smoothie into pops:

Smoothie Pops

So there are a few of my go-to, summer faves. I do actually cook many more things, including chicken, fish, pork and beef. Plus actual real veggies and carb-y things.

But this post would draaag if I listed them all. Plus, I’m—happily—finally getting the hang of (somewhat) cooking on the fly. I find a recipe that sounds good (check out, but I never seem to have all the ingredients, so I throw in whatever’s hiding in the cabinets. So far, no one’s gotten sick.  : )  But that does make it hard to share recipes! Whoops.

Do you enjoy cooking? What do you prepare during the dog days of summer? Please share some of your favorite dishes, either to cook or to eat, in the comment section. I LOVE food! Almost as much as I love writing. Happy eating and happy writing. : )

Oh, and as a bonus, follow this link to a delicious Gambas al Ajillo recipe. Courtesy of Lauren Aloise, the recipe is similar to one used to prepare the Gambas San Martin dish Lexy and Claire salivate over at Las Ramblas Tapas Restaurant in Emerald Obession:
If you’re ever in NYC’s West Village, stop by for the real deal at Las Ramblas on West 4th Street: It’s one of my favorite tapas joints. <3

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Writing Food, Writing Love

Since I’m “sociable” these days in my expanding role as an online book marketer, I’m exposed to new sources of zany information. Take food, for instance (thank you, I will). Food holiday notices pop up often. Maybe I’m just hungry, but I’ve seen a ton of foodie goodness highlighted this month. To start with, April is National Garlic Month. Guess what’s in tonight’s dinner. : ) So far, I’ve encountered National Empanada Day and National Cheese Fondue Day. We’ve also enjoyed Beer Day and World Malbec Day. And I’m looking forward to Pigs in a Blanket Day and Shrimp Scampi Day. I had no idea such tasty fun abounded online.

Of course, what this really means for a foodie like myself is hunger. All day long. And the need to satiate that hunger. So, what does that have to do with writing?

Let me make the distinction that I’m speaking of writing about food within the context of a story. I don’t write as a food critic or food blogger, though I’ve investigated those avenues. After research and thought, I knew I much preferred incorporating my food love into novels and stories.

I grew up near and in Manhattan. One of my favorite things about the city is the availability of crazy-diverse food offerings around the clock. In my opinion, it’s one of the things NYC does best: supply an endless bounty of succulent bites.

Alaska roll and sushi yumminess

A large part of my existence in the Big Apple (see, it’s even nicknamed after a food), involved eating and dining out. While deciding whether to move to St. Augustine, a considerable factor was its gastronomy effect: could the town sustain me? After significant sampling of the local fare, I had my answer: a resounding yes. Thank goodness.

Cheese plate from The Floridian...a fave.
Cheese plate from The Floridian…a fave.

Given the enormity of my adoration, it made sense to bring this huge fixation into my writing. Food is one of my great loves (don’t worry, my hub is right there, too), so I had to blend it with another of my great loves, writing.

Writing about food creates ambiance, develops character, evokes setting, propels scenes …. Food plays a role in the bigger picture that is the story.

People think of food with a range of emotion. People relate to sustenance as a universal language. We connect to others through cuisine and cooking. The experience of food involves all the senses: taste, touch, smell, sight and hearing. The inclusion of these five items is critical to brilliant, captivating writing.

This food writing is not about sensory overload, though. It’s about setting a time and place, creating relationships between the character and the food, the situation, the other characters. It’s about bonding and enjoyment, craving and the simple truth of necessity.

In my first novel, Emerald Obsession, the lead character Lexy, much like myself (shocking), indulges in a variety of food and drink experiences. From the juicy, homey burger at Walker’s to the garlicky, piquant gambas at Las Ramblas, her emotions progress from consolation to camaraderie. A beer with a suspicious character in a neighborhood pub segues into a drinking contest and lends zip to her feisty attitude and competitive nature.

And in my forthcoming novel—I’ll call it simply TB for now—I have the cast meeting the newcomer in a seaside Caribbean locale over crunchy conch fritters and a crisp Turks Head beer, while breezes ruffle the palms overhead.

I hope my stories transport people somewhere exotic and exciting. Writing about food and the surroundings in which it’s shared is a great way to escape the everyday. Or to remind us how good it is.

So, friends, fans and followers, how do you feel when you read about food? Does that delight you and make you hungry, like me? Share your favorite foods and restaurants in the comment section. I’d love to hear what sets your taste buds zinging. One of my ABSOLUTE faves—which I was fortunate to have on a recent visit north—is my mom’s homemade lasagna!!! Check out the photos. I surprised her (not really) by having three servings that night. Whee … heaven! : ) Thanks for reading and sharing = caring.

Lasagne with Mom
Lasagne with Mom
Lasagne, pre-oven
Lasagne, pre-oven
Mom's best lasagne, after I got my hands on it!
Mom’s best lasagne, after I got my hands on it!

PS—If you’re in the St. Augustine area this weekend, 4/23/16, stop by the Annual Taste of St. Augustine for delectable nibbles from our local restaurants, a highlight of my spring. Be on the lookout for me and the hub.

Outside enjoying delicious St. Aug food