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I’m still in my star-crossed lovers and belief in the magic of love mode.  Since several friends have recommended the movie LETTERS TO JULIET to me, I finally watched it today.  Deep sigh!  Yes, it’s very sweet and implausible to the cynics of the world…but that’s not ME.  I believe in love, so, of course, I loved the movie!  I highly recommend it.

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I read this wonderful editorial review on Amazon.com by Tami Horiuchi and wanted to share it.

 

“Letters to Juliet succeeds in being just what it’s meant to be, a feel-good romantic comedy about love lost and love found, in which love triumphs in the face of cynicism. Inspired by the book of the same name, and filmed against the beautiful backdrop of Verona, Italy, the movie tells the story of how troubled young women seek advice from Shakespeare’s Juliet by leaving letters tacked to a wall, where they are carefully answered by Juliet’s self-appointed “secretaries.” One such note is found 50 years later by Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), a young American woman who is soon to be married and who yearns to become a writer. Her heartfelt answer to the letter serves as a catalyst for an epic romantic journey that will span continents and generations. The success of the film lies in the powerful interaction between the wistfully romantic and fully mature author of the letter, Claire (Vanessa Redgrave); the romantically idealistic Sophie; and Claire’s overly pragmatic, downright cynical grandson Charlie (Christopher Egan), who grudgingly accompanies his grandmother on what he deems an insane quest to Verona to find her long lost love, Lorenzo. The filmmakers, writers, and actors all capitalize well on the comic possibilities of the situation, and there are more than a few good chuckles to be had at the absurdity of the interactions between these three very different characters, as they experience everything from hope and longing to disappointment and unexpected fulfillment. In the end, each character grows and changes profoundly as a result of their shared journey. Sure, the events portrayed in the film are highly unrealistic, but that doesn’t change the fact that the film speaks to that innermost part of us all that, despite all logic, makes us want to believe that true love really does exist and that it just might triumph in the end. –Tami Horiuchi”

Yes, I’m still playing tourist where I live <g>.  Today was my South Beach excursion and going to a restaurant I’ve never eaten at before…BIG PINK…on South Beach.  What fun!  I guess you could say BIG PINK is a diner, but it’s so much more.  It’s casual to the nth degree…but has an extensive, interesting menu.  Yummy!!!

 

Cobb Salad

Reuben Sandwich

 

Amazing Cheesecake, which I did NOT eat!

Bigggggg Cookie at BIG PINK

 

And then after lunch a walk to the beach to appreciate the perfect blue sky and scent of the briny breeze.  I live in South Florida and haven’t even been NEAR the ocean in a long time!

A perfect beach day!

As a voracious reader since childhood, I have always been acutely aware of the profound effect of books and the written word.  Pictures, not quite as much.  There was the cliche, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”  Seriously…1,000 words?  That’s a lot of words.  However, as I grow older (I said “older,” not “old”), I have become more attuned to ALL my senses.  I prefer to think I have a heightened awareness to life.  I take increased delight in photos that stir memories, scents that transport me more soundly than a time machine…and music.  Ah, music.

 Music has become a way for my spirit to wing its way to another day and time…and sometimes just to savor and embellish the here and now.  A song doesn’t even have to have a deep underlying meaning.  Sometimes it’s just fixing a certain time/day/era that’s meaningful in and of itself.

 One such song is It’s My Turn, sung by Diana Ross.  I love that song!  The irony is I loved the movie as well, although it has taken some hard knocks by reviewers.  Art is so subjective!  I want a DVD copy of that movie sooooo badly, but it doesn’t exist.  I don’t understand why.  It would sell at least ONE copy…to me <g>.  If anyone ever comes across a copy, please let me know.

 It’s My Turn captivated me when it was released in 1980.  I can’t even tell you why.  I went to the movies alone, it held no attachment to anything going on in my life at the time, and yet I fell in love with the character-driven movie…AND THE SONG.    That’s the beauty of music.  Did I like the movie for the music or the music because of the movie?  Who knows.  It doesn’t matter WHY.  I just know I came away from that movie enchanted for all time for some reason. 

Fast forward to 2011.  It’s My Turn, the song, is still a favorite of mine and I listen to it whenever I feel like it…just because it makes me feel good.

Do you have songs that create a mood for you or take you away to last week, last year, or another lifetime?  What songs are YOUR personal time machines?

Craving Cuban Cuisine

I started this blog with “Reading, Writing, and Cruising” as some of my favorite things, but I’ve decided I’d also like to talk about some of my other passions…food, movies, and music. 

First up is my craving for some really good Cuban food.  The best I ever had was many, many years ago in Miami at a restaurant called Bilbao.  Has anyone heard of it?  Better yet, does anyone here remember it?  I enjoyed the BEST Paella and Sangria there.  That was my first time experiencing either, and I’ll never forget how delicious they were. I can almost taste the red wine and fruit in the Sangria even now. 

What Cuban food do you like to eat the most? 

 

As a tribute to my passion for Cuban food (which I really should learn how to make),  here is a recipe for Sangria that sounds really yummy.

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SANGRIA

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup frozen lemonade concentrate
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1 (750 milliliter) bottle dry red wine
  • 1/2 cup triple sec
  • 1 lemon, sliced into rounds
  • 1 orange, sliced into rounds
  • 1 lime, sliced into rounds
  • 1/4 cup white sugar (optional)
  • 8 maraschino cherries
  • 2 cups carbonated water (optional)

Directions

  1. In a large pitcher or bowl, mix together the brandy, lemon juice, lemonade concentrate, orange juice, red wine, triple sec, and sugar. Float slices of lemon, orange and lime, and maraschino cherries in the mixture. Refrigerate overnight for best flavor. For a fizzy sangria, add club soda just before serving.

STAR-CROSSED LOVERS. Sigh!!!

I just finished listening to JULIET by Anne Fortier (audiobook version, narrated by Cassandra Campbell.)  What a fabulous book, in my opinion!!!

I have been a fan of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet since I was a teenager.  I first fell in love with the story when I saw the 1968 movie adaptation starring Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting.  I couldn’t get enough of that movie when I was a young woman.  That meant going to the movie theater over and over to see the movie, which I did.  Several years later, I bought my first VHS recorder, and Romeo & Juliet was my first movie purchase. 

That being said, I was naturally drawn to the book JULIET like a moth to a flame.  I found the multi-layed past/present plots fascinating and the romance completely satisfying.  Sigh!  I want to emphasize you do NOT have to be a fan of Shakespeare to enjoy JULIET, though.  MY love of the story may have added a deeper level of enjoyment for me, but it’s not mandatory.  I do believe you’ll still enjoy the story if you like mystery and romance combined and especially if you can appreciate the author’s weaving 14th Century and the present day world into a complex interpretation of Romeo & Juliet.  Apparently this is Anne Fortier’s debut novel, and I am impressed! 

This book was perfect for the romantic in me who believes in neverending love. 

Jamie Ford, the author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (which I also HIGHLY recommend) reviewed JULIET in part by writing:

“Our story begins when Julie’s beloved Aunt Rose dies, leaving Julie and her twisted sister, Janice orphaned. (Their parents died years earlier in Tuscany). But while Aunt Rose leaves the family estate to Janice, Julie is bequeathed next to nothing, just a passport, a key, and a secret–that her real name is Giulietta Tolomei, a descendant of the Tolomeis and the Salembenis, the real families that inspired Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet—and that the “Curse upon both your houses,” is alive and well, 600 years later.

With exquisite detail and flawless pacing, Juliet is a multi-layered tapestry of Julie’s present and Giulietta’s 14th-century past, where families, generations apart, are still at each other’s throats. Betwixt tragedy and epic romance, Juliet will stir your heart and quicken your pulse. After all, if Julie is Giulietta, then where art thou, Romeo?”

In closing, all I can add is…E N J O Y this novel.  I’d love feedback from anyone who has already read and savored JULIET. 

 

What a fun day I had yesterday way way way south in the Redland Riot area of Homestead, Florida.  My husband and I spent Valentine’s Day acting like tourists and visiting places we had never gone to.  The weather was beyond perfect, and we wanted to get outdoors and savor the moment.  We drove and drove and drove through farm country.

Our first stop was the Knaus Berry Farm.  All I can say is yum, yum, yum.  The fresh Florida produce thankfully has not been harmed by the “cold” winter we’ve had.  I bought a basket of perfectly ripe, delectable tomatoes that I yearned for all day today and devoured some of for dinner tonight.   The lettuce, onions, beets, strawberries…all the fruits and vegetables were amazing.  What a difference just picked FRESH PRODUCE makes.  Speaking of which, you can pick your own strawberries there, but I’m too afraid of creepy crawly things. 

My husband veered from the produce area over to the ice cream stand and couldn’t resist a huge strawberry sundae LOADED with jumbo fresh sliced strawberries.

After perusing my trusty map, we headed to the Fruit and Spice Park.  This was the EDUCATIONAL part of our day, where I learned how significant this Park really is.  According to the “guide” in the Park office, we learned the Fruit and Spice Park’s tropical climate can be found nowhere else in the continental U.S. due to a combination of latitude, longitude, and obviously climate.  The Park has over 500 varieties of fruits, vegetables, spices, herbs, and nuts, and other commercially important plant specimens from around the world. 

My head was spinning from information overload (not really but the only way I can justify the next photo).  We walked outside…I was feeling frisky…and…

One day off from court reporting and I go crazy!

Then we meandered down the road a pace (I was getting into this rural mode quickly and decompressing from a few HECTIC work weeks) and stopped at Schnebly’s Winery. 

Exotic tropical fruit wines are for sale at Schnebly Redland’s Winery, featuring such local delicacies as mango, guava, lychee, passion fruit and carambola.

Schnebly Redland’s Winery is the first winery in Miami-Dade County and holds the distinction of being the Southernmost winery in the United States. 

 

I couldn’t pass up the wine tasting and tried five wines.  I liked the carambola quite a bit, liked the lychee but wouldn’t drink a lot of it, and did not like the avocado, although I love avocados.  Go figure.  On Valentine’s Day I absolutely HAD to try the passion fruit.  Yes!

So there you have it.  Quite a different sort of “field trip” for me…but lots of fun.  Today I had to give up the Carmen Miranda look and head back to the courthouse and WORK again <g>.

 

I thought I’d share a yummy recipe to continue my Hershey’s Kisses theme for Valentine’s Day.

PEANUT BUTTER BLOSSOMS

Ingredients:

48 Hershey’s Kisses

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup peanut butter (I like Peter Pan)
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Granulated sugar

Directions

  1. 1 Heat oven to 375°F. Remove wrappers from chocolates.
  2. 2 Beat butter and peanut butter in large bowl until well blended. Add 1/3 cup granulated sugar and brown sugar; beat until fluffy. Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; gradually beat into peanut butter mixture.
  3. 3 Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in granulated sugar; place on ungreased cookie sheet.
  4. 4 Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Immediately press a chocolate into center of each cookie; cookie will crack around edges. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely. About 4 dozen cookies.

 E N J O Y ! ! !

February & Romance

Ahhh, it’s February, which connotes Valentine’s Day…and romance.  I’m a romance author, a romance reader, and a consummate romantic.  I believe in love…<g>.

What fun!  February actually has a designated day to celebrate romance.  What better way to mark the day than with CHOCOLATE?  Yummmmmmm.  What is YOUR favorite chocolate?  Yes, there are all kinds of special confections, but one of my passions is Hershey’s Kisses…small delectable morsels of chocolately goodness.  Unlike M&Ms, Kisses dooooo melt in your mouth, which makes them sooooo special.

I know the correct word is “music,” but to use a bit of poetic license:  “If chocolate be the food of love…”  Well, you get the idea.

This is also a great month for romantic comedies.  Some old favorites come to mind, Sleepless in Seattle (in which Valentine’s Day was very important), Serendipity (more chocolate), and Simply Irresistible.  Then there is a newer film, Valentine’s Day. What are your favorite romantic comedies and/or romance movies? 

How about romantic books?  What are your favorites?

Whatever your passion this month, ENJOY…and Happy Valentine’s Day…oh…and discover or rediscover the sensuality of chocolate.

2011, so far

I’m actually having a really nice 2011.  In addition to the usual day-to-day working and keeping up with domestic life, I’ve been reading…a lot.  I’m always happiest when I have a great story that carries me away.  Thus, part of the reason for my exuberance.

Here are some books I’ve read and would recommend: 

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, by Jamie Ford

Lucia, Lucia, by Adriana Trigiani

The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein

Three Spencer Quinn mysteries if you are a dog lover (as I AMMMMMMM):  Dog on It, One Good Dog, and To Fetch a Thief.  Fun, fun stories!

And now…drumroll because this is sooooo out of character for me…I’m reading the Twilight series.  I can’t believe it!  No one who knows me would believe it!  I just can’t stand not KNOWING what they’re like, having them recommended to me and feeling ignorant.  The SURPRISE here is (at least half way through the second book, Breaking Dawn) is that I’m truly enjoying the series. 

Oh.  Lest you think I sit around reading and eating bon bons all day, many of my books are audiobooks, which I listen to as I drive to and from work, etc., etc.  My latest passion is my iPod Touch, which my WONDERFUL son surprised me with for Christmas.  My Touch has now joined my Kindle as traveling companions.

Happy New Year.  What are YOU reading?

Happy New Year (almost)

I could NOT let this year end without a final 2010 post to my blog.  I am way behind writing here and feel terrible about that.  December started out fine.  I was  busy but happy planning a cruise.  We sailed on Oasis of the Seas for the second time this year.  I intended to do another mini review when we returned, but life got way too hectic.  We returned the week before Christmas, and then my husband came down with a very bad cold, which proceeded to sweep through the house.  By Christmas Eve night my throat was sore, I felt feverish and horrible, and my energy was quickly waning.  Somehow I morphed my way through Christmas Day, fixing dinner and trying to pretend I was “okay.”  Then I got sicker and didn’t feel like doing much of anything for several more days.  HOWEVER, tonight, New Year’s Eve, I am FINALLY starting to feel like myself again.  YAY!  I am considering THAT a good omen for 2011. 

As I look ahead, I wish and pray for good health for my family and friends in 2011.  I hope to write more (when I’m not working), read more to satisfy the craving only books can touch(both on my Kindle and listening to more audiobooks), cruise more, blog more, and continue to connect and network with the people who are truly important in my life.

Here’s to a special new year for all of us with many blessings along our paths.  May at least some of your dreams come true!