Lucy’s Isn’t Completely German…….

Enjoying German Draft and a Riesling at Lucy's in Key Largo

Enjoying German Draft and a Riesling at Lucy’s in Key Largo

Okay, Lucy isn’t really a German name and there are most assuredly dishes on the menu that have nothing to do with German cuisine. On the other hand, the array of schnitzel (jaeger, rahm, zeiguener, peppercorn) brings back fond memories of dining in Germany and they have Spaten and other excellent beers on tap. Lucy’s has followed the rule of being a restaurant in Key Largo if you aren’t on the water. Make it a fun place and pay attention to the food. They have done both quite well as they’ve taken a space that has seen a couple of restaurants come and go already. You walk in and have to smile at the “gastropub” and enjoy the atmosphere even before the friendly staff greets you. It’s a place run with an extended family and the latest addition is one of the family members who’s come down from up north and happens to be a pastry chef. Dessert, anyone?

Their Facebook is at https://www.facebook.com/lucy305 and they are located Bayside across from the plaza with Diver’s Direct. That’s 99620 Overseas Highway if you need a street address and they’re open every day except Tuesday from 12-10 p.m. Prices are reasonable and the portions won’t leave you hungry. Check them out and have a good time. We hope they do well and will return again before too long.

 

What Does That Cost?….

We were having an interesting conversation last evening at a networking event about the struggles of small and mid-size businesses, especially when it comes to the “business” side of business so to speak. By that, I mean the parts required to actually run things. We won’t get into the burden of complying with regulations, reports, and so forth or the woes of labor issues if there are employees. Our discussion was centered on how difficult it can be to really understand what it costs to run a business and how to determine if money spent on marketing is worth the price paid.

Let’s start with business costs because items like lease and utilities are easy to see, but there are all the small things that can be over-looked like office supplies, association fees if applicable, etc.,. There are an amazing number of businesses that don’t think about that kind of thing as business costs. Being able to analyze marketing is especially difficult because owners who depend on customers often forget to ask new customers how they came to hear of them. Continued customer loyalty will be largely dependent on their perceived value, but that initial visit has to be for some reason and finding out what that reason is can be helpful. That leads into how to evaluate marketing successes and that is usually very difficult unless it’s a case of having run something like a special with a coupon (if that’s applicable to a business) and people bring that in. One of the tools with Social Media is that whether you agree with it or not, there is quite a bit of data that can be “mined” about visitors to a site and so forth. Unfortunately that can also be time-consuming and confusing unless you know how to do the analysis. As far as print and something like radio goes, that’s also hard to measure because you don’t know how many people actually look at an ad or hear a spot on a radio. Sponsorships for events is something that I’ve posted about. In general it’s really hard to measure the value of sponsoring local events because there may not be any immediate pay-off. But, and especially if it is a small town or neighborhood situation, the goodwill you generate will usually come back around to you later.

So, if you are in business for yourself, take a little time to think about how good a handle you have on costs and if someone you know is thinking about going into business, it’s a good topic to discuss. What it comes down to is that having a written business plan is one of the best approaches to use. More about that in a future post.

A Day of Racing…..

Hubby is relaxing in his recliner with the Indianapolis 500 race on TV and then he will switch to the NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 race and yes, this is all scheduled to be exactly the way it sounds. The Indy race is in it’s 99th year and not being a total NASCAR history buff, I don’t know when they got the idea to have a 600 mile race immediately following the Indy one. That could well have been one of those things that started out as a “Hey, what if?”, or it could have been something entirely different. At any rate, if you enjoy racing, it’s hard to beat the Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend.

I had hoped that I would be able to do one of the Chris Green (she’s the underwater investigator) novels in a NASCAR setting, but so far, I haven’t been able to get the behind-the-scenes access that would give me the kind of details that I like to have when I craft a book. That doesn’t mean I’ve given up on the idea, just that it will have to be postponed for a while. Actually, we haven’t visited Bev Henderson in Verde Key for quite some time and we’ll be headed down there for the next novel – Shades of Deception. I was looking at a November release, however, a major project looks like it’s about to finally come into play for me and if so, that will seriously impact my calendar. I can’t give any details just yet, but if all goes well, I can make the announcement late next week.

So Happy Memorial Day to all and don’t forget to tell a veteran “thank you” if you get a chance to.

A Different Delightful Find…..

Vinny and Samantha at Angel's Haven Ranch I Homestead

Vinny and Samantha at Angel’s Haven Ranch I Homestead

I do not ride, however, I enjoy horses and in fact, in the Small Town Quilting Series, one of the members of the quilting circle is very much involved with horses. I had the great pleasure of going out to Angel’s Haven Ranch yesterday where Manager Samantha Turner showed me around. The five acres at 34551 SW 218th Ave, Homestead is continuing to add features that will be especially nice for special events, but there is plenty to do right now. Lessons, (and Samantha’s background is English as well as Western), boarding, and trail rides to the Everglades for experienced riders are all available. Their website of http://www.angelshavenranch.com is also being tweaked, but you can get the essential information or email angelshavenranch@gmail.com

As we strolled around the wonderfully laid out grounds, the horses certainly seemed happy and Samantha was scheduled to give a lesson that afternoon to a four-year old. As someone who has been riding horses since the age of six, Samantha’s love of horses is obvious and she also has experience with equine therapy. Send her an email or give a call at 305 245-8782 for a tour or to set up a lesson.

The ranch is located about a five minute drive from the wonderful fruit stand, Robert is Here. Instead of turning left to go to the Everglades at Robert’s, you continue straight and when you cross SW 217th Ave (the road sign might still be missing), you look at the partially paved road ahead with a little trepidation. That’s okay, cross on over and just a short distance, a double gate on your left will be open. You cut through there on, yes, dirt and grass and Angel’s Haven Ranch is on your left with the sign clearly displayed. The complex is gated so be sure and call or email to make sure someone will be at the ranch.

How A Day Gets Changed…..

Snooks in Key Largo

Snooks in Key Largo

First, my apologies for my lapse in posting. I’ve been significantly involved with the HCA Celebration of the Arts event that we had Friday evening and then Saturday which was to be my catch-up day turned out to be different than I had planned. I had invited a friend to come down for Happy Hour to be followed by dinner and an overnight stay since fairly large quantities of wine are the norm for these visits. As it turned out, there was a special two-part event at the History of Diving Museum in Islamorada (http://www.divingmuseum.org)

Bob Croft, who has been called “The American Father of Free Diving” is down along with his delightful wife of sixty years, and he was doing a book signing in the afternoon and a lecture Saturday evening. I couldn’t change plans for the evening, but I contacted my friend to see if she wanted to come down extra early, have lunch in the Keys and go with me to the book signing. The exact “where” of lunch was to be determined, although my friend’s preference is to always dine on the water if possible. Traffic was pretty jammed and there were a couple of drivers who were complete jerks (although I referred to them in other terms verbally), so we stopped at Snooks Bayside since by that time it was well past my usual noon lunch hour. It was hot of course, but a beautiful day and we were under an umbrella. We lingered in a pleasant lunch, then headed to the museum. That of course took longer than I’d thought, but it was thoroughly enjoyable and while traffic was better coming back, it was after five-thirty when we arrived at the house. And that is how a day gets completely changed, but on the other hand, it was a very nice change.

Fun in St Croix…..

Having now missed going to St Croix for two years in a row, we are somewhat keeping up with things through one of the dive shops we use when we are on-island. The real reason that we prefer St Croix over the more well-known St Thomas is that aside from the great diving, the feel of the island is more relaxed and you don’t have the mass of cruise ship passengers to jostle through. Granted, those same passengers are why St Thomas has the high-end brand stores and the more exclusive resorts. That’s okay, they’re welcome to them.

St Croix is not the place to go if you need that sort of thing, lots of casinos, or clubs that stay open until the wee hours of the morning. It is the place to go if you love to dive, snorkel and enjoy the beauty of a tropical island for the sake of it’s beauty. We also love the restaurants and some of our favorite beach bars that are genuine beach bars are on St Croix. The food is somewhat expensive, as it is on most of the islands where so much has to be imported. The portions tend to be large though and when we spend a whole week by Night Three we usually pick up a salad and then eat restaurant leftovers for a meal that is every bit as good the second time as the first. We did stop going to a number of the many artists galleries simply because we have so much art that we can’t buy any more and I sometimes lose my resolve and squeeze in another piece.

I think the only thing missing from St Croix is that there aren’t any spectacular waterfalls. The driving on the “wrong” side of the road is a bit tricky, but a lot of the Caribbean islands share that trait and you just have to be extra careful.

Of Mothers and Daughters……

There are trickier things than family dynamics, but if you look at the sheer impact of families, that pretty much shoots to the top of the list of what humans deal with. Setting aside the many permutations of friends and relatives’ relationships, the mother-daughter ones that I develop for my fiction are spread along a spectrum from what will be somewhat of a jaw-dropper in the upcoming Shades of Deception to the fairly idyllic affection shown in the “Small Town” quilting series. Police Detective Bev Henderson loves her mother and is frequently exasperated with her lack of understanding as to why her daughter wanted to be a police officer instead of having a “normal” job. They don’t have all that much in common as adults, but their exchanges are often humorous.

Chris Green, the main character in the spin-off series of Deadly Doubloons, etc., is older and wiser now than when she greatly stressed her parents with teenage rebellion and ultimately eloped with a totally unsuitable boy at age eighteen. I’ve never introduced the readers to her parents, although Chris occasionally reflects about having restored their relationship.

The tragic ones depicted in False Front and Georgina’s Grief spoke to the heart-breaking reality that exists for too many children when the destructive behavior of their mothers (and can be fathers as well) forces the child to assume an adult role or causes so much emotional damage that the baggage they carry into adulthood is difficult to rid themselves of.

Like other aspects of creating characters, this particular relationship can be pivotal in developing a fictional person that readers can relate to, can see in their minds, or as one fan says, “Your books are written so that it’s like watching a movie”. For most writers, our goal is to make the characters either seem genuine or be so much fun that you don’t mind the exaggeration.

And so, for those who do have that wonderful kind of affection between mothers and daughters, that’s great. For those whose life experiences have taken a different turn, remember that you are your own person and one of value.

Busier Than Usual…….

Goodness, what a week this is turning out to be. It’s a combination of some deadlines on some writing projects, some of the volunteer work that I’m doing that has a flurry of extra events, the regular things that I’m involved in, and of course making time for those delightful lunches that I have with my friends. Next week is going to be pretty crammed as well, but it truly is all good stuff.

Someone asked me the other day when the next scuba-themed novel was coming out and at the moment, I’m projecting late October or early November. We haven’t checked in on Police Detective Bev Henderson in the fictional town of Verde Key for a while since we’ve been off on adventures with freelance underwater investigator Chris Green. So, Shades of Deception will carry us back to see what’s been going on with Bev, Kyle, and the other characters in town. There will be more excitement for sure, although I am still working out a couple of plot points that I haven’t firmly settled on yet and I need to have a long conversation with an IT expert to make sure I can realistically set up a situation in a way that I think I can. The nice thing about returning to the Keys as a location is that I will be able to once again get to use one of hubby’s underwater photos on the cover. It’s always nice when I can do that.

A Delightful Find……

Quarry Machinery at Windley Key Fossil Reef Park

Quarry Machinery at Windley Key Fossil Reef Park

I have passed by the Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park many times with the thought that one of these days I (or we) would stop in to see what it was all about. That day came yesterday and what a delightful place it is. Not dramatic, mind you, but quite interesting and pleasant. Well, bug spray is needed during much of the year and my lack of it yesterday did shorten the amount of time I walked, but it was long enough to get a sense of the place.

A few facts and figures first. The original 30+ acres was owned by a family that sold the property to the Florida East Coast Railway in 1908. Henry Flagler, owner and President of FEC, needed the quarries in order to carve out tens of thousands of tons of stone for fill during the long process of building the famous Overseas Railway. The beauty of the stone was finally noticed, particularly when it was polished, and it became a popular choice for builders after the railroad was completed. In the common fashion of land, however, a developer began to eye it and local citizens went to work to preserve the area instead for its historic and natural attributes. It joined the list of state parks and more acreage was added over the years. Now, more than 40 types of trees can be seen that provide a haven for tree snails, butterflies, birds, reptiles, and other insects. Multiple, well-kept trails wind through the trees and to the quarries and you can watch geckos and lizards either sunning or leaping from branches to the ground as butterflies flit about. By the way, spiders are not my thing, so when I noticed the webs, I walked past without checking them out. The compact Alison Fahrer Environmental Education Center is nicely laid out with interesting information. This is not the kind of place where you want to bring a child who insists on a “wow” factor, but it’s great for one who likes trees, plants, lizards, and bugs. There is a lot of overhead cover because of the many trees and there is often a breeze. Admission is only $2.50 per person over the age of five and there are guided tours for $2 Fri-Sun, at 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Yes, you can take your leashed pet, but you are required to stay on the trails and not wander into the woods. The park is open Thursday-Monday, 8-5:00.

Windley Key Park 1

 

Celebrating the Local Arts…….

Thanks to the East Everglades Orchid Society for helping us have a thriving orchid.

Thanks to the East Everglades Orchid Society for helping us have a thriving orchid.

We’re not quite two weeks away from the Homestead Center for the Arts Annual Celebration of the Arts. For those of you intimately familiar with HCA, bear with me while I share the news with those who might not be.

Friday, May 15, 2015 from 5:30-7:30 p.m., we will have a reception and awards recognition at the Villages Audubon Club House, 1851 South Canal Drive Homestead, FL 33035. The cost is only $10/person and will include light refreshments and door prizes. The theme this year is, “Come Meet Actors, Artists, Authors and More!” The reservation form can be found at the HCA website of http://homesteadcenterforthearts.com and you can pay by check or cash. (Sorry, we haven’t gotten to the PayPal or other options stage just yet).

The format for the event will be a lot of fun and members of most of the affiliate groups will be on hand to happily tell visitors about what they do and how to become involved in local arts and culture. A sampling of those groups are: The Children’s Art Gallery (they teach adults, too), the East Everglades Orchid Society who can help you learn everything you ever wanted to know about orchids, the Homestead Community Concerts with their upcoming season, the Lamplighters Writers Group with the different times that they meet, the South Florida National Parks Camera Club with the exciting things they have planned, and the always fascinating South Florida Woodturners Guild who not only preserve the beautiful craft of woodturning, but they do so with recaptured local woods.

When people ask, “What is there to do around here?”, many are not aware of HCA’s more than two dozen groups that are dedicated to promoting arts, culture, and our unique environment. Come join us and spread the world through your social media contacts.