Category Archives: Florida books

Coral reef mating season

The Florida Spectacular’s August edition.

Coral reefs!The first time I visited the Florida Keys, I fell in love. Not so much with the purported laid-back lifestyle, and definitely not with Key West, but with the water. I snorkeled over reefs that shouted a rainbow of color at me, and since then I’ve been on and in and under those waters in a myriad of ways.

The reefs don’t look the same as they did so many years ago, but there’s hope. Check out this virtual panel about coral reef conseravtion from the Florida State Parks.

The full moon in August is when the coral reefs spawn (lab-grown coral reefs spawn the same way; click that link to learn more,) and although I was there a few years ago during the full moon, I missed it. I’ll return, though — and I hope the reefs will still be there. 

Florida Keys coral reef
(image via Matt Kieffer via Flickr, CC2.0)

Florida Road Trip!

Watching the reef from a glass-bottom boat, wearing a snorkel, or through a dive mask is a reason to get to the Florida Keys. My favorite place to stay is White Gate Court, but with seven cottages, they may not have rooms available. Also good, especially for those of you who don’t travel with dogs: The Islander. Make time to stop at the Florida Keys History and Discovery Center, too.  

Florida Living

Make your backyard look like a state park? Why not. While this photo isn’t from my backyard but Big Cypress Preserve, when we bought our Gulfport house, we did set about ripping out the “traditional” (read: non-Florida) landscaping and creating a landscape that reminded us of some of our favorite Florida places. Sound appealing? Here are some tips on Florida-friendly landscaping from the Florida State Parks.

Florida bookshelf

Apocalypse Yesterday book cover — Brock Adams
(image via Penguin Random House)

Someone sent me a copy of Apocalypse Yesterday. Here’s how the book description reads: “The zombie apocalypse is over. The humans have won. Life is back to normal. And Rip is bored as hell. It’s not much of a life sitting in a call center in the poor town of Spanish Shanty, Florida, answering emails and listening to customer complaints.” So far, so good! Read for yourself!

Head of Blackbeard

August 27: Urban Legends of Florida: Mostly True Stories from the Sunshine State Class via Zoom, hosted by Royal Palms. Free for any Palms residents; all others, $5. Fee goes to the Greater Largo Library Foundation to help support the Community bookmobile. Sign up here.

July in the Sunshine State

The Florida Spectacular: July

July in Florida

School in New York ends much later than it does in Florida, which is why, when my parents moved to Florida at the end of my second-grade year, we didn’t arrive until July 1. 

This month marks the 40th anniversary of the best thing that happened to seven-year-old Cathy and even though we’re all waiting out the pandemic, even though it’s broiling outside by 10 a.m., and even though my favorite part of July, the afternoon thunderstorms, hasn’t kicked in yet… well, I feel pretty great this month. 

Florida Road Trip!

The hardest part about the pandemic for me (other than the always-present general anxiety about the pandemic itself) isn’t wearing a mask, or the half-hour it takes to disinfect my groceries, or even finding room in my new fanny pack (it has the Skunk Ape on it!) for hand sanitizer and gloves. The hardest thing for me? I miss my road trips.

Take an aerial tour of Big and Little Talbot Islands state parks. Need more parks? Check out the webcams and other armchair adventures from Florida State Parks.

Speaking events

Wednesdays, 10:30 a.m.: Tangelo talks. Come meet like-minded Florida-philes as we explore bits of Florida you want to know more about. Zoom; OLLI’s Explore Florida members only.Get your Floridian membership here.

Thursday, July 23, 1 p.m.: Hurricane History. Florida’s hurricane history is nothing short of amazing. Come learn about our historic storms, and how we paved the way for better storm forecasting. Westminster residents only.

Thursday, July 23, 7 p.m.: Floridian Cocktail Society. Floridian members learn a little about Florida — and how to make a Florida-themed cocktail or cocktail. Zoom; OLLI’s Explore Florida members only.Get your Floridian membership here.

Monday, July 27, 4:30 p.m.: Floridian book club. This month we have Tom Corcoran’s classic mystery series about Key West, “The Mango Opera,” on our nightstands. Zoom; OLLI’s Explore Florida members only.Get your Floridian membership here.

Florida in the kitchen

Randy Wayne White recipe The Sunshine Plate
Everyone loves Randy Wayne White’s shrimp recipe, but check out his pork with pineapple salsa. Trust me.

I can’t get enough of shrimp lately, and there’s nothing like Key West Pinks. I’ll eat shrimp in any iteration you can dream up, and since the new Doc Ford’s opened near me, Randy Wayne White’s Yucatan Shrimp has haunted my dreams. White’s best-known for his environment-and-history-studded Florida crime novels, but  don’t underestimate his cooking prowess. That Yucatan Shrimp dish at his restaurants? He created that recipe. I make several of his recipes (he published a cookbook in 2006) and, if for some reason I can’t get shrimp, this pork-with-pineapple-salsa dishnever fails. 

(By the way, even if you don’t love to cook, you may want to check out his cookbook. The stories to go along with each recipe offer insight into how White creates many of his characters.)

Florida bookshelf

Diane Roberts Tribal
image via Lipsio / CC BY

This month I’m reading Tribal, by Diane Roberts. Diane’s a Florida native with a delightful lineage. She writes regularly for FlamingoMagazine and has no shortage of books about Florida to her name. I’m stepping out of my comfort zone with Tribal, because while I love watchingcollege football, I wasn’t sure I wanted to read about it. Diane’s always a delight, though, so I decided to dip my nose into her work about college football in the South. Read for yourself; it’s $3.99 on Kindle!

Get The Florida Spectacular newsletter.

The Florida Spectacular: June

Welcome to June.I’m not even going to pretend the world doesn’t feel like a giant dumpster fire right now. Whatever side you’re on with… well, everything… it’s a scary time. 

Without minimizing the tragedy of the past few days (and those of you who follow me on Twitter know exactly how I feel about all that’s happening — I don’t shy away from politics there) let’s give ourselves a break and talk about Florida things. 
The Florida Road (Trip) not taken

El Cap, Calypso, Banyan and I are supposed to be at the resort in that picture tomorrow, but well, we’re not, for obvious reasons. White Gate Court in Islamorada remains one of my favorite places to stay, because it’s totally off-leash for dogs (including the beach.) I like to say it’s a human-friendly dog resort. It’s comfortable (but not luxe) and it’s the perfect place for a getaway which, I suspect, we’ll badly need in a few months, when we will be able to (safely) go there. 
White Gate Court in Islamorada, a human-friendly dog resort.
Wish I were here…
Speaking events in June

June 30, 10:15 a.m.: Weeki Wachee: Sirens & Springs.I have one talk this month, at Westminster Suncoast (via Zoom.) I’m certain one day this pretty green box will be filled with talks and events, but right now, if you live at a Westminster, please make plans to join the OLLI Zoom!
Datil pepper
(Image via Paullassiter / CC BY-SA 3.0)
I’ve been baking and cooking and grilling like mad, and I’m currently dealing with an enthusiastic datil pepper tree. Datil peppers are Florida’s pepper — they’re unique to Florida and grow mainly in St. Augustine. My peppers are yellow, rather than the red shown in this photo, and I’ve been using them wherever I can get away with adding a little heat (El Cap isn’t a huge fan of spicy food and insists I long ago “burned away” the part of my tongue that tastes spice.) I’ve yet to find a mustard sauce recipe I like (please send me one if you have a Carolina mustard sauce recipe you love) but I did make regular mustard. I added a couple chopped datil peppers and left out the honey in this recipe.
Starring Sally J. Freedman As Herself, by Judy Blume
(Image used under Fair Use guidelines)

Florida bookshelf

I’m reading like crazy lately, and my next read is a re-read from my childhood: Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself, by Judy Blume. This 1977 novel (intended for kids) deals not only with racism (which I remember) but anti-semitism (which I do not, hence the re-read.) Blume set the book in Miami Beach and I can’t wait to dive into it again. Read for yourself!

See you next month!
Sign up to get The Florida Spectacular newsletter delivered to your inbox here.