Beach Treats

Beach Treats

When I was growing up, my family would spent some time every summer at the Jersey shore. Living in Philly, the beach was about a two-hour drive. My grandparents had a place in Cape May, and they nicely let us use it. (A post for another day will be all of the Victorian houses there, some of which you can tour. So much fun!).

As the calendar gets closer to Summer (I’ve been in countdown mode since Christmas), I always check for beach weekends so I can get at least one dose of Vitamin Sea. Days at the beach are one of my most favorite things. I’m definitely a summer baby. Give me sun, sand, and salt water, and I’m a happy girl.

I’m also a giant baby, so the amusement rides at the boardwalk (we usually would drive to Wildwood) weren’t my favorite thing. But going to the boardwalk meant we got to have a special, once-a-year treat: salt water taffy.

(photo credit: Shriver’s Salt Water Taffy: https://shrivers.com/)

I grew up thinking that salt water taffy was a Jersey shore thing. But apparently it is a coastal thing (and like everything else, you can buy it online if you can’t get to the beach. I’ll link to some places at the end of the post). The story goes that it originated Atlantic City, New Jersey with a man named David Bradley. He had a taffy stand on the boardwalk, and it was damaged during a bad coastal storm in 1883. The next morning, he was in a bad mood about the damage, so when a little girl asked for some taffy, he sarcastically called it “salt water taffy”. The catchy phrase stuck, and “Salt Water Taffy” was born.

Salt water taffy doesn’t have ocean water in it. I’m sort of sad about that… (It actually has hardly any water at all, and only certain flavors use a bit of salt).

And it doesn’t taste salty either. I guess the closest thing I can compare them to are Starbursts. But these are better. Way better. Promise. (That may be my nostalgia talking, but hey…)

Traditional Flavors include: Chocolate, Vanilla, Strawberry, Grape, Peanut Butter, Licorice, Banana, Molasses, Molasses Mint, Orange, Lemon, Lime, Peppermint, Wintergreen, Teaberry, Spearmint, and Cinnamon.

(photo credit: James’s Candy. https://www.jamescandy.com/)

Even now, the sight of the box instantly transports me back to lazy, sunny, carefree days and the magic of summer. My grown-up self appreciates that they now make sugar-free versions too.

(photo credit: James’s Candy. https://www.jamescandy.com/)

A few places you can get it (that will also ship it to your door):

Shriver’s in Ocean City, NJ and James’ Candy Company in Atlantic City, NJ.

Let me know if you’ve tried it, like it, or what’s your favorite beach food (vacation food).

Not so patiently waiting for summer,

Bacon-wrapped dates will be my downfall

Bacon-wrapped dates will be my downfall

I am a foodie.

I think you know that by now. Pretty much every conversation I have ends up, at some point, being about food. It’s not that I am hungry all of the time. It’s more that I like talking about the marriage of interesting flavour combinations or how velvety a piece of cheese can feel in your mouth and the memories or reactions it can evoke.

I’m also a foodie who had weight loss surgery.

Which means I can only eat very small portions now and my tastebuds are developing new likes. It also means I haven’t gone out to dinner in a while. I was on a nasty pre-operation liquid diet (which was HELL) for a month prior to the surgery. Then I had to continue the liquid diet for ten days post-surgery. Well, at least I am able to eat solid food again, but my stomach can’t tolerate everything at the moment. It’s not easy, but the health benefits outweigh the cons.

Anyway, a few days ago, I had one of those memories evoked by food. It wasn’t because of something I ate. It was because of something I smelled–namely, bacon. Just the aroma of one of my neighbours making bacon took me back to Palma de Mallorca, Spain and sharing a plate of bacon-wrapped dates with my husband. If you’ve never had bacon-wrapped dates, it’s to die for. It’s probably not at all healthy, but it’s good for the soul.

The deliciousness that is bacon-wrapped dates.

We had this bit of deliciousness at a tapas bar called La Taperia, which if you’re ever in Palma you’ll find it on Carrer de Montenegro.  In Spanish, the dish is called Dátiles con bacon–at least, that’s what it’s called on their menu. Tord and I have been to Palma several times. Whenever we’re there, we end up having dinner at La Taperia at least three times during our stay and we always order the bacon-wrapped dates. And we can’t get enough of them. We vie for the last one, which we inevitably split and then we long to have it again.

We’ll probably go to Palma again to celebrate my husband’s birthday. He’s one of those lucky people whose birthday is celebrated during the summer. I am pretty sure we’ll end up sharing a bottle of wine and a plate of dátiles con bacon at La Taperia. And, considering the surgery I’ve recently had, tapas is great: small dishes that you can linger over and share. It’s a feast for the eyes that isn’t too heavy on the belly (as long as you don’t choose anything too rich).

The staff at La Taperia also make it a restaurant worth visiting. They are also foodies and when they describe the various tapas dishes on the menu, you can tell they are passionate about the food they create. You will never hear them say, “I don’t know. I haven’t tasted it.” They’ve tried everything and can tempt you with the most tantalising descriptions of the flavours and textures.

I’m pretty sure that bacon-wrapped dates will be my downfall. On my deathbed, I’ll be hoping that a plate of them will be waiting for me beyond the pearly gates, preferably with a glass of red wine. I should probably write sonnets about these dates, paint pictures of them and have them make an appearance in every book I write. But for now, I will content myself with knowing that the next time I am on the island of Mallorca, I can walk to Calle Montenegro and order a plate. I’ll even be nice and share it with Tord.

Coffee, Coffee, Everywhere

Coffee, Coffee, Everywhere

 

So, you know how people visit a new city (or country), and one of the first things they want to do is check out the local cuisine, or the food the city is known for? Yeah… I’m not one of those people.

BUT… I will totally want to check out their coffee shops and get my taste of local flavor that way.

Anyone on a restricted diet can tell you that going out to eat has the potential to be a stressful event, and so for me, coffee is a way around that. I know I’ll be happy with a cup of java, so the stress is gone, and I can just enjoy the rest of the experience.

 

Sitting back, hands cupped around a warm mug, and people-watching: there’s nothing better.

Often, my writer’s brain will start crafting stories for the people I see. The baristas, the customers, and the passers-by.

National chains are a good backup, but I always seek out the small shops first. I like experiencing the different decor, and talking to the baristas about the different types of coffees they’ve selected. And, the added bonus is that I get to feed my caffeine habit.

So, coffee shops are a must-stop on my travels. I’d love to hear about any must-stops you have.

 

Pumpkin, Shmumpkin. I’m all about Maple!

Pumpkin, Shmumpkin. I’m all about Maple!

Hello, Spicy people! T’is the season. No, not the one for Frosty and Rudolph. We still have time before the world explodes into red, green, blue and white fairy lights.

Nope, I’m talking about pumpkin season. More accurately, pumpkin spice season. You know what I’m talking about. Everyone from Tim Horton’s to Dunkin’ Donuts to Febreze has seized upon this faux fall notion that everything, and I do mean everything, has to bear the flavour or scent of of some imaginary grandma’s pumpkin pie.

I love pumpkin pie, but I don’t want it in my latte.

Besides, I would argue another flavour is far more deserving of our adulation, and warms the cockles of my taste buds far more than pumpkin.

Maple.

Mr. X and I recently returned from Canada, arguably the land of maple-flavoured/scented everything, and my one true regret is that I didn’t go shopping while we were there.

Maple syrup? Yum. Good on pancakes, in oatmeal and porridge, even on toast!

Maple flakes? So, so good. These crunchy little morsels simultaneously add sweetness and texture to hot cereals, but hey. If you want to eat them by the handful, I won’t tell.

Maple candy? Oh Em Gee. Imagine the rich flavor of maple syrup in the form of a delightful, melt-in-your-mouth candy. Heaven. Amiright?

Okay, I know it’s all about personal preference. And I do love some pumpkin-laden things. After all, Halloween is my favourite holiday. But given the choice between a pumpkin spice scone and a maple scone, maple will win every time for me.  How about you? What’s your favourite fall flavour?

Sun, Sand and Sexy

Sun, Sand and Sexy

Long hot summer days call for more activity and less clothing, and a great way to relax and have some fun is a day at the beach.

If you’re the more active type, there are a ton of options. Splash in for a refreshing swim, surf the waves, kayak, or jog the beach.

 

If you’re more the sedentary type, an umbrella, something icy cold to drink, and a good book is a great way to spend an afternoon.

(Might I suggest a sexy romance novel from your favorite Spice Aisle author?)

Of course there’s always time for a little sight seeing.

(Nice boat.)

And of course, there’s always that possibility for a summer romance.

Just like in the movies.

Beach time…

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

 

Opening Day of baseball season is upon us! That means, the boys of Summer are back! And, there’s nothing like watching a game right at the stadium. For me, that holds true whether it’s basketball, football, hockey, or baseball — there’s an energy when you’re right there where the action is happening that you just can’t get through a TV screen, regardless of how big it may be.

Living in Philly, I’m spoiled by having the four major sports team all in one spot. The stadium complex houses Citizens Bank Park for the Phillies, Lincoln Financial Field for the Eagles, and the Wells Fargo Center for both the Sixers and Flyers.

For today’s post, we’ll stick with baseball. Citizens Bank Park is a fabulous place to watch a ball game. The field is beautiful, manicured blades of grass, perfect baselines, the rich reddish brown of the warning track, and the giant Liberty Bell in the outfield that lights up when the Phillies score a home run. And, nothing says ballpark like the smell of popcorn and hot dogs. Not that I eat those things. 🙂 My only complaint is there needs to be more vegan/vegetarian options on the menu…and decent coffee… But I digress.

There’s also tons of Phillies history tucked into and around the stadium, so fans of the sport have a lot to see.

I’m the first to admit that I like a lot of action in my sports, like what you get in a hockey game, but baseball is a lot more than just some guy hitting a ball and running around the bases. There’s a lot of strategy involved, from which pitches to throw, to which player to try to tag out, and where players bat in the lineup.

A few of my favorite things are: watching the players huddle at the pitcher’s mound with heads bent close together (I always wonder if they’re chatting about things other than baseball, like which pub to hit after the game), the pitcher’s ritual as he gets ready to throw some heat, trying to determine if a player is getting ready to steal a base, the way your body tenses up as a player makes a diving catch, and finally, the most fun is watching the antics of the mascot as he messes with the opposing team. The Phillie Phanatic, aka the best mascot in major league baseball, is a genius at doing this.

Whether a cool wind is whipping across the outfield in spring and fall, or the sun is baking the seats in the dog days of summer, a day at the ballpark is always a hit. (See what I did there? 🙂  ha ha!)

Play ball!

Hello Dali

Hello Dali

My wife and I recently went to visit friends in St. Petersburg, FL. While there we visited the Salvador Dali Museum.

What a wonderful, rich adventure for this former art student. (Okay, most of my study was of women and alcohol back then, but I was technically an art major.)

The museum itself is a work of art, and a true tribute to this artistic genius.

I’ve always loved Dali’s work. Best known for his melting clocks, Dali’s surrealist style fit in well with my love of science fiction and fantasy.

We took the audio tour, which featured a self-paced trek through the museum guided by a data pad and audio headphones. Lots of great information about the artist and his work. And unlike in college, this time I really listened.

They are also now featuring a temporary exhibit of works from artist Frida Kahlo.

The museum grounds are no less spectacular, featuring a hedge maze and a wishing tree.

 

I made my wish, and I’m not going to tell you what it was, but it does rhyme with Moo Nork Limes Nest Feller.

Globetrotting, fab events, and can I sleep now?

Globetrotting, fab events, and can I sleep now?

by Xio Axelrod

If you could see me, you might notice dark circles under my eyes and a sort of bewildered look in them. Traveling 11,000 miles in one week will do that to you. I think I mentioned before that 2016 has been the year of Xio flying all over the damn place, lol. It’s been a blast! But it’s also been…well…pretty exhausting.

Let’s recap:

Back in April, I flew to Las Vegas for the 2016 RT Booklovers convention. Which. Was. Awesome. I live in Philadelphia, so that’s 4400 air miles roundtrip.

book_fair2_0

The RT Book Fair is HUGE!

[Read more…]

Falling for Foliage

Falling for Foliage

foliage

As the only travel I’ve been doing lately is logging tons of hours and miles traveling along the New Jersey and Pennsylvania Turnpikes en route to physical therapy (yes, that is as glamorous as it sounds…) I thought we could have a fun post today. A where would you go post, if you wanted to see pretty scenery for Autumn.

And so, I bring you a small taste of few of the top places in the States to view the change of seasons.

First up, we’ll start in the Northeast with Stowe, VT: (Where sugar maples sparkle in shades of fire and gold.)

Then, we’ll head down to Oakland, MD, and Swallow Falls State Park: (The oldest stands of eastern hemlock and white pine—more than 360 years old—blanket the area in gold, orange, red, and evergreen.)

Next, we’re heading over to Michigan, and Porcupine Mountains State Park: (Talk about variety – this park has more than 100 species of trees and more than 300 waterfalls.)

Then, we’re off to the west coast, and Leavenworth, WA: (SO pretty and peaceful! I want to go!)

And finally, back to my hometown: Wissahickon Valley Park in Philadelphia, PA: (I LOVE walking/running the trails here.)

 

I so love this time of year. Nothing could be better that spying some pretty colors while drinking a pumpkin spice latte. (Though, to be honest, my preferred version is sprinkling pumpkin pie spice into my coffee). Where do you think is the best place to see fall foliage?

xoxo,

Susan-Sig

Fine Dining in Paris

Fine Dining in Paris

Nope, I’ve never been to Paris, but I’ve visited it many times in my head while reading romances set there, and someday I’d love to visit. Nothing goes together better than food and romance, and Paris is the most romantic city in the world.

So I’ve done a bit of research, because when I do go, I want to sample the best in French Cuisine.

I’m using TripAdvisor.com’s list of top 10 Best Paris Restaurants.

The first stop on our culinary tour of Paris is Epicure.

Can I just say…yum.

But save some room because we’re moving on to number 2 on our list: Cezembre.

Reviewers call it Delicious, Simply Remarkable, An Amazing Discovery. And they rave about the food.

AAA

Still hungry?

Our third stop is at Le Clos Y

One excited reviewer call this the “Best Meal In Paris.

AABAre we having fun yet?

Well, I’m full, but if you’d like the rest of the list go to: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurants-g187147-Paris_Ile_de_France.html

Then, um, go to Paris!!!

Steve