Bob’s Amazing Margarita

 Refreshing, icey cold, sweet-sour Margaritas are the perfect summer drink. My husband Bob Wilson has perfected a recipe that is sure to be a pleaser. Please note this recipe only serves one but who can stop there?

Bob’s Amazing Margarita Recipe -the best margarita ever!
(Serves 1)
2 ounces Cuervo Gold Especial
1 ounce Cointreau
1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
½ ounce Rose’s sweetened lime juice
½ ounce Triple Sec
Moisten lip of margarita glass with lime and dip in salt. Pour the ingredients over ice in a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously. Pour the mixture over crushed ice in the margarita glass. Serve and enjoy!

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Easy Candied Pecan, Pear and Gorzonzola Salad

From My Kitchen to Yours

I’ve started a real estate newsletter which is snail-mailed to a couple thousand residents of Sarasota County and emailed to another 500 or so people.  In each newsletter I’m including a recipe.  Here is a recipe that my family loves. If you have one you would like to share, please email it to me at and I’ll make sure it is included in one of the next newsletters!

Easy Candied Pecan, Pear and Gorgonzola Salad (Serves 4)


½ cup pecans

½ cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese

¼ cup sugar

1 pear – peeled, cored and diced

3 cups mixed greens

1 tablespoon Basalmic vinegar

½ cup dried cranberries

1 tablespoon raspberry vinaigrette

1 tablespoon olive oil


1. Place pecans and sugar in a skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly until sugar dissolves creating a light tan liquid and coats the pecans. Remove pecans from skillet and spread them on sheet of aluminum foil to cool.

2. Place in large salad bowl the mixed greens, cranberries, cheese, vinaigrette, vinegar, and olive oil. Toss gently. Add candied pecans and toss again.

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Zabar’s Black & White (Yin-Yang) Cookies

Despite these days of instant gratification via the internet, many of us still love our cookbooks.  One of my favorite cookbooks is “New York Cookbook: From Pelham Bay to Park Avenue, Firehouses to Four-Star Restaurants” by Molly O’Neill.  It is chock filled with New York stories and personality.

In every New York or New Jersey deli you will find a Yin-Yang or Black ‘n White cookie. This recipe comes from Zabar’s and is included in the New York Cookbook.  Enjoy!


Zabar’s Black & White (Yin-Yang) Cookies

Makes 2 dozen


1 ¾ cups granulated sugar

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

4 large eggs

1 cup milk

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon lemon extract

2 ½ cups cake flour

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt



4 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/3 to ½ cup boiling water

1 ounce bittersweet chocolate


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter 2 baking
  2. Make the cookies: in a large mixing bowl combine
    the sugar and butter and mix by machine until fluffy. Add the eggs, milk and
    both vanilla and lemon extracts. Mix ‘til smooth
  3. In a medium bowl combine the flours, baking
    powder and salt. Stir ‘til mixed. Add the dry ingredients to the wet in
    batches, stirring well to combine. Using a soup spoon drop spoonfuls of the
    dough 2 inches apart on the buttered baking sheets. Bake ‘til the edges begin
    to brown (20-30 minutes).  Allow to cool
  4. Make the frosting by placing confectioners’
    sugar in a large bowl and gradually adding enough boiling water (stirring
    constantly) until mixture is thick and spreadable.
  5. Remove half the frosting and place in top half
    of a double boiler set over simmering water. Add the chocolate. Warm mixture
    while stirring until chocolate is melted and frosting is smooth. Remove from
  6. With a brush, coat half the cookie with
    chocolate frosting and the other half with white frosting.
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Bang Bang Fish

Bang Bang Fish

This is my rendition of the Bonefish Grill Bang Bang Shrimp appetizer that everyone raves over. The outside of the fish is crispy even with the sauce, while the fish is tender and moist.

I’ve made this dish with various white fish types – cod, grouper, haddock.  Did the fisherman of the house bring something home?  Go ahead, experiment! (Serves 2)

1 pound white fish


Oil for frying

¼ cup Thai Sweet Chili Sauce

½ cup mayonnaise

3 drops hot sauce (if you wish)

Mix the ¼ cup Thai sweet chili sauce and the mayonnaise together
and set aside.  Fix whatever else you plan  to serve with the fish and have it ready on the plates.  Place a couple of pieces of lettuce next to it. This will be the bed for your fish. Heat the oil in the skillet.

Wash a piece of fish in water, shake it dry (a quick shake) and then place it on a plate with cornstarch. (You want the cornstarch to be dry.) Cover both sides and put the fish in to fry. Quickly do the same with each piece of fish.  By  this time the first piece should be cooked on one side. Turn it over and as the  fish browns, turn each one.  Once they are done, divide the fish in two portions and place one on each lettuce bed.

Cover the fish with the sauce.  Serve immediately.

p.s. I served this with a broccoli/garlic/noodle stirfry and sprinkled some black and white sesame seeds over it.  I also placed a couple of slices of ripe mango on the place. YUM!

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I’m pleased to announce that I received

I’m pleased to announce that I received my Short Sale Resolution Specialist certification today!

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Challenging Change

When a big change occurs in your life it forces you to change direction. Sometimes the new path may not be easy, but you can be absolutely certain that there is magnificence for you on the new path. You can be absolutely certain that the new path contains things that you could not have experienced otherwise. When we look back at a negative event that occurred in the past, we often see how in fact it transformed our life. We see how that event directed us toward a life that we would not change for anything. ”  Rhonda Byrne

This quote struck home.  During the past couple of years we have experienced much change.  We aren’t alone. 

Many people today find they are reinventing themselves.  For any number of reasons they are stepping outside of their rut and trying a new life on for size.  It can be due to the worldwide economic problems or it could be self imposed – either way it means a dramatic shift in business as usual.  Starting life over again at any age takes one out of their comfort zone, however one tends to be less flexible with age. 

Rigidity is frequently due to our sense of who we are, and our egos.  By the time one is in their 50’s, one is typically a self-proclaimed “expert” in one’s career, neighborhood, politics, interactions with others, etc.  Like Popeye one has a sense that “I y’am who I y’am.”  Most people by this point have pretty much climbed the mountain of their desires or have a sense of no longer desiring to do so. 

BANG!  Change happens and unless one finds an identical job in the same field, is living with their same spouse, and lives in the same area – the person is off kilter. 

Let me hasten to explain that I don’t view the inevitable turmoil as necessarily a bad thing.  Some people fear change and the resulting emotional chaos to the degree that they endure the same abusive person, hated job, or dangerous living situation for decades.  They placate their desperately unhappy selves by finding excuses to endure the unacceptable because in their minds making a change is worse than what they are experiencing.  They feel trapped and thus are.  They are the “glass almost empty” people who look at the “what if” and always imagine worse.  As if there could be something worse!

I once spoke with an executive recruiter with a highly successful search firm.  He told me that cocktail parties were onerous as inevitably once he told people what he did for a living, a person would proceed to tell him all about the horrible job they had and how badly they wanted out.  The workload was mammoth, the boss rivaled Atila the Hun, the coworkers were backstabbing opportunists, they had minimum or no vacation, and they were working for peanuts.  When the recruiter asked how long they had worked in this environment, the unhappy individual would respond that it had been ten or more years.  His response?  Well you must get something out of it to stay so long as there are always other jobs!

Of course not all situations are as clear cut – life is rarely so obvious.  Sometimes the self-inflicted change is brought about by a sense of no longer feeling excited or exciting.  It isn’t that life is horrid – it’s just dull.  I see this example when I speak to some people about their careers.  The job has become rote even when it is challenging.  Yes, you love your coworkers and you may even feel a sense of accomplishment however days and weeks and months stretch on and you are just wading through waist-deep career mud.  You’ve seen it all and done it all and there are days where you think “if I have to go to one more meeting and hear the same tired stuff said by the same people, I’ll scream.” 

Despite being sick and tired of what we are doing, I’m not saying we have no value at the job.  To the contrary – we can be the “go to” people.  We have knowledge and experience that only time provides.  We are the leaders.  We are the ones who have the calm presence of mind to help others get through the “all hands on deck” crisis.  This isn’t a question of competency – it is a question of feeling as though your spirit is entrapped.

It makes me wonder why we are so afraid of changing if we are miserable.  Is it a question of “the devil we know being better than the devil we don’t”?   No choice is perfect but it’s exciting to embrace the newness, the change!

I encourage people to step out of their discomfort zone.  As difficult as change is, we bring so much to the table – a lifetime of experiences and knowledge – and it very well may be that it is better utilized in following another dream.

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Grilled Romaine Lettuce with Balsamic Vinegar Reduction

Don’t you love when you find a dish that is a surprise?  I would have never thought to grill Romaine lettuce however I was served this as the prelude to a delicious meal at the Venice Café and immediately had to figure out a way to duplicate it.

Romaine lettuce is a staple in our house.  So is Balsamic vinegar.  So this is a dish that can be whipped up at any time.  Of course it helps to have the predictably wonderful Gulf coast weather in Florida which allows us to barbecue almost every day.

This is a delicious sweet-tart dish.  A bit of feta cheese sprinkled on top completes your deceiving simple gourmet dish.  Plan on ½ heart of Romaine lettuce and ½ cup Balsamic vinegar per person.  This recipe is for 4 people but it is easy to fix the dish for more.

Balsamic Vinegar Reduction

2 cups Balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons sugar

Pour vinegar and sugar in a pan and cook on the highest temperature.  Whisk it constantly so it doesn’t burn.  The reduction is finished when it is about half the amount you started with and syrupy.  Place pan on lowest temperature and whisk occasionally.

Grilled Romaine Lettuce Hearts

2 large hearts of Romaine lettuce

2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Slice the Romaine lettuce hearts in half length-wise. Brush olive oil on the sliced sides. Place hearts on the grill.  The lettuce will wilt. Cook until the bottom is slightly brown.

Transfer each half heart to a salad plate and dribble warm Balsamic vinegar reduction over them. Sprinkle a bit of feta cheese and grind some Himalayan salt and pepper over your masterpiece and serve immediately. 

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Help! I’ve Been Muggled!

One of the fun things about moving to a different part of the country or even the world is that one has the challenge of trying new things.  While Bob can no longer ski since we’ve moved to Florida (something he would have plenty of opportunities to do this year up north!), he has found a new hobby that can be done anywhere – geocaching!  Never heard of it?  Neither had we until lately.

We were walking in a local park in Nokomis when we came upon an elderly man who was searching through the bushes.  We thought he might have lost something so we stopped to ask if we could help him.  He laughed and explained that he was a geocacher.  This is a sporting activity enjoyed by almost 5 million people in the world. He described it as a high tech hide and seek game played in 100 countries and 7 continents.

Geochaching is a form of scavenger or treasure hunt accomplished with the use of a Global Positioning System (GPS).  Participants in this hide and seek small waterproof containers filled with a log book and sometimes little trinkets. These containers are the “caches”.   All of the caches are hidden outdoors so you have the fun of exploring new areas while searching for little treasures.  Once you find a cache, you share your experience online.  You may also trade trinkets.  There are 1.2 million caches all over the world and probably very near your own home!

Little did we know when we offered to help this man that we were “muggles” (non-geocachers) who had “muggled” him.  A muggle is a non-geocacher. Being muggled is either preventing a geocacher from secretly finding the cache or worse yet, is someone who vandalizes the cache.  There’s a whole terminology that goes with this game but that just adds to the fun.

This is a wonderful intergenerational activity to share with your kids.  It provides the excuse to get out of the house and into nature.  It doesn’t have to be strenuous as caches are hidden all over the place.  There was even one stuck to metal with magnets!

 If you are interested in learning more about this hobby, please visit the official site: .

The pictures on this page are of places my husband has geocached.  He does it all the time and has done so all over Sarasota County.  There was even a cache in Siesta Key Village. 

Happy geocaching to you!

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Something About the Women – Holly Near

Few who know me today would believe that prior to my twenties I was a painfully shy  person.  I was that person on the outskirts of any social gathering, clinging to my anonymity in the corner and wishing desperately that I could get outside of myself and enjoy the fun that others seemed to be having.  I recall in high school being asked to read one of my papers aloud to the class.  It was awful. I stammered and my knees were shaking so violently that it sounded like someone was clapping for me!  From then on my kind teacher allowed someone else to read my papers aloud.

One could argue today that I over compensated but none can deny I have almost completely transformed.  The core of my ability to come out of my cocoon was becoming a feminist.  I learned to love the imperfect me, to find my inner strength and assurance, and to believe that I had the power to change my life and even a small corner of the world for the better.  Of course the 57-year-old woman you see today is the result of many interactions and experiences yet one of the most influential people in my life has been Holly Near.

Holly Near’s accomplishments are too numerous and too well documented for me to recount.  If you are interested, I believe they are best summed up here: .  One of the best compliments I was ever given was being told that I looked like her.  She was the epitome of what I wanted to be – beautiful, funny, wise, talented, and outgoing. 

Holly Near’s courage and music inspired me to be more, do more, live more.  Her songs helped me to begin by loving and accepting the imperfect woman I am and thus be able to reach out and love and accept others for who they are.  She challenged me to think broader and to think “one world, one people”.  Yes Holly Near is renown as a social change artist however she was my personal change artist. 

If we are fortunate, we continue to grow and transform even as we grow older.  But it is very easy to fall into a rut and just accept whatever it is that one has accomplished and grown accustomed to.  We define ourselves by what we have done up to that point and fail to continue to “climb that mountain”.  Approximately a year ago my husband and I decided to find the courage to completely reinvent ourselves yet again.  We left our comfortable home, friends, family, and careers – determined to challenge ourselves and succeed.  Change isn’t easy.  It’s exciting and yes stressful.  I’m sure many thought we were absolutely crazy to leave a very financially comfortable existence and to fly without a net. 

In the exquisite serendipity that is life, I was given a gift last night that helped me reconnect the threads of my life and to see the web that has been woven so far.  Bob and Trevor were touring Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, College of Aviation in Daytona Beach.   I had worked all day on Siesta Key. I had spoken with a couple of potential buyers and had held an open house in a remarkable condo on the Turtle Beach area of Siesta Key.  I was hungry and lonely so I stopped in at my favorite Italian restaurant, Dolce Italia. 

Tiziana and Pippo always feed both my body and spirit and I almost always find people at nearby tables who are interesting and friendly.  I relate to this brave couple who have traveled so far to start again, and I love their warmth with everyone they meet. Entering their restaurant is like going to a friend’s house.  (Read this review: )

I had just ordered gnocchi with Sorrentino sauce when three women walked into the restaurant and two were greeted by the owners. One of them explained that they shared the same last name and her family had come from the same island in Italy, although they had met here.  We started to talk about the food, then where we came from and I found that the women of Italian descent had come from the New York/New Jersey area.  Their strawberry blond companion said little.  I continued to chat with them but to stare at the third.  Finally I blurted out, “I don’t know if you are familiar with her but you are a dead ringer for a famous singer – Holly Near.”  Imagine my surprise when she responded quietly, “I am she.” 

I won’t bore you with the mundane details of our conversation (nor regale you with tales of how I gushed and made a fool of myself) except this – when I mentioned I continued to listen to this day to many of her songs of old, she chided me that artists needed people to not be stuck in the past and that transformation can continue throughout life.   She is right on both accounts. 

Holly is taking a hiatus from singing.  She seemed quieter and more withdrawn than the Holly I met over 30 years ago.  She shared with me that she is not only not singing professionally but she doesn’t even sing in the shower.  I told her I understood being tired and the need to do something different however as one of her biggest fans, this pained me.  Maybe she too has found herself in a rut and is considering reinvention and re-inspiration.  Ultimately I’m sure she has not lost her famous spunk nor her music….and maybe she too is just taking the pieces of her life and rearranging them.  I only wish that in some way I could be the mirror to her that she was to me, and that I could in some small way help to inspire her as she has done for so many . 

I wish now that last night I had the eloquence or ability to tell her the impact she had in my life.  If only I could have at least quoted her own lyrics from a song I love, “Something About the Women”:

I look to you, I look to you for courage in my life
And I promise it’s not just foolish idolatry
That makes me gaze at you in wonder

Thank you Holly.  I thank you for what you have meant to me but also on behalf of people everywhere who found their voice because they heard yours. 

In summary, it seems that each time I visit Dolce Italia I have a magical experience.  Last night was no exception! 

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Reflections on Thanksgiving in a New Place

Holidays are for spending with family and friends however when one has moved far away there are only two choices – travel to be with the ones you love or stay home and make the best of it.  We had anticipated sharing Thanksgiving with friends from upstate New York however this fell through.   Additionally I am working with some home buyers and didn’t want to leave them in the midst of their search.  So this year I decided that we will start new traditions in a new place and would start by cooking a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. 

As you scratch your head in wonder about that sentence, let me rush to explain that our meals aren’t typically traditional.  Oh sure I’ll have the turkey but it will be accompanied by foods from other cultures and countries. 

Perhaps the funniest Thanksgiving meal I prepared was to include a vegan guest.  I was truly out of my element!  Every vegetarian dish I had in my repertoire had cheese, mayonnaise, or some other verboten item!  I seemed drawn to them like a moth to a flame.  It didn’t help that the guest was rude enough to make sure I knew where I had failed miserably.  Needless to say, she’s no longer in our lives!

This time I decided I would have an Americana meal – albeit with a Southern influence.  I spent days collecting recipes from friends and online resources.  Then I “doctored” them up to fit my creative streak. 

For 25 years we lived in the northeast and the oven blasting all day was a pleasant change from the bitter cold outside.  While the mornings in Florida during this season are a cool 60 degrees, midday it was 80.  So be it.  I just ramped up the air conditioner and went for it!

Trevor cracked us up by coming to the table with no shirt on, just to emphasis the difference between the season he grew up with and the one we experience now.

Next year I’m sure our table will be set for more than three.  We will meet new friends, family will join us, and we will be settled.  Perhaps we will help to feed the hungry, the homeless.  Maybe we will have a huge community potluck outdoors and enjoy the incredible Floridian weather.  The possibilities are endless, but this time we enjoyed our private feast and the transition between what was and what can be. 

Here is our menu for Thanksgiving 2010 – Back to the Basics!

Menu for Thanksgiving 2010

  • Herb Butter Roast Turkey Stuffed with Carrots, Onions, Lemons, Garlic
  • Cornbread Stuffing with Apples, Parsnips, Carrots, Celery, Onion, Honey Infused Pears and Chestnuts (recipe below)
  • Green Beans with Mushroom and French Fried Onion Casserole
  • Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallows
  • Orange Cranberry Relish
  • Sour Dough Baguette
  • Pinot Noir and White Sauvignon Wine


  • Hummmingbird Cake (recipe below)

In honor of a season of love and giving I’m providing two recipes. Enjoy!

Cornbread Stuffing (Chef Neil Kleinberg from Clinton St Baking Co. & Restaurant in NYC)

  • 1 package cornbread stuffing
  • 1-1/2 cups peeled and cubed parsnips (approximately 2 large parsnips)
  • 1-1/2 cups peeled and cubed carrots
  • 1-1/2 cups diced celery
  • 1-1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1 peeled and cubed green apple
  • 2 peeled and cubed pears
  • Honey to cover pears
  • 6-10 roasted chestnuts
  • 2 cubes butter
  • 1-2 cups chicken broth

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Dice all of the veggies and put aside.  Peel and cube the pears, cover them with honey and put them in the refrigerator.  Cut through the chestnut skins, scoring them in an “X”.  Place on cookie sheet and put in oven for 20 minutes.  While the chestnuts are roasting, melt the butter in a pan and cook the veggies over a low heat.  Peel and cube the apple and include it with the veggies (I didn’t want you to do it too early or it would turn brown).  Once all the veggies and apple are cooked, mix them with the cornbread stuffing.  Bring the chestnuts out of the oven and let them cool. Peel them and chop the nut meat. Add chestnuts and honey infused pears to the stuffing mix.  Stir in chicken broth so the stuffing mix is moist but not clumping together.  Place in a casserole dish (or stuff the bird) and lightly bake.


Hummingbird Cake (Chef Art Smith from Table Fifty Two in Chicago)


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (I used 2 cups all-purpose and 1 cup whole wheat flour)
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups chopped ripe bananas
  • 1 cup drained crushed pineapple
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs , beaten
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) finely chopped pecans


  • 8 ounces cream cheese , at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter , at room temperature
  • 1 pound confectioners’ sugar (about 4 1/2 cups sifted)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


To make the cake, position racks in the center and bottom third of the oven and preheat to 350°. Lightly butter two 9″ round cake pans, sprinkle evenly with flour and tap out the excess. (If you wish, butter the pans, line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper, then flour the pans and tap out the excess.)

Sift the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt into a bowl. In another bowl, stir or whisk the bananas, pineapple, oil, eggs and vanilla until combined. Do not use an electric mixer. Pour into the dry mixture and fold together with a large spatula just until smooth. Do not beat. Fold in the pecans. Spread evenly into the pans.

Bake until the cake springs back when pressed in the center, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer the cakes to wire racks and cool for 10 minutes. Invert the cakes onto the racks (remove the parchment paper now if using). Turn right side up and cool completely.

To make the icing: Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat the cream cheese and butter in a large bowl until combined. On low speed, gradually beat in the sugar, then the vanilla, to make a smooth icing.

Place 1 cake layer, upside down on a serving platter. Spread with about 2/3 cup of the icing. Top with the second layer, right side up. Spread the reaming icing over the top and sides of the cake. The cake can be prepared up to 1 day ahead and stored, uncovered in the refrigerator. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour before serving.

Posted in Community Relations, Recipes, Sarasota | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Getting Our Mojo On

Sarasota County has a population of about 390,000 people but a friendly small town feel.  This is a happy ending tale of a puppy and a small woman with a big heart. She has asked me not to reveal her name.  She wants no accolades for what she does and she doesn’t need additional business.

Approximately a month or so ago Bob called me from the site of an abandoned farm. He was uncharacteristically upset.  Someone had placed a 3-4 month old black Labrador Retriever mix puppy in an open kennel and left it. The week had been a scorcher and the puppy had no food or water. She was skinny with skin that just seemed to hang. She was invested with fleas and ticks.  Furthermore the kennel was overrun with fire ants and the puppy had been bitten unmercifully.   What a way for a puppy to start life!

Trevor and Bob didn’t know how long the puppy had been there but it seemed reasonable to believe she had been left to die.  She didn’t act like she had been beaten or physically abused. She was thin and scraggly looking but despite this she was adorably friendly.

We didn’t want three dogs.  We are all working up to 7 days/week and sometimes feel guilty for not spending enough time with the two we have. We take the responsibility of being a pet owner seriously.  Our dogs live with us in every sense of the word – and have become part of our family.  Our vet in Maine told us he had never seen such healthy dogs as our two.

We knew that living in a crate for up to 12 hours a day is no life for a puppy.  However this little black puppy tugged at our hearts and there was no way we could just take her to a shelter so of course she came home for us to love her and nurse her back to health.  She tore up our house and our lives but I looked forward to her jubilant greeting each morning.

We spent a week trying to decide what name fit this black bundle of energy who seemed to flourish under all the attention.  Finally one day Trevor announced her name was Mojo.  It fit!

One night at Dolce Italia we started talking to a couple at the next table. The gentleman spoke Italian to Pippo and Tiziana (the owners) and remarked that we had made great choices in both coming there as well as what we had ordered.  His lovely and gracious blond wife explained that she was in the animal care business.  This led me to tell her about Mojo and I asked her if she knew of anyone who wanted a puppy.  She explained she had been very successful in helping others and promised she would help us find the perfect home for her.

This became the start of a friendship that I’m sure will last a lifetime.  My petite and energetically compassionate friend began an exhaustive search for the perfect family for Mojo.  She had me bring her to her place of business and no one went by without hearing about the puppy’s plight.  Several wanted Mojo but were turned away as not being suitable.  Mojo is going to be a good sized dog and she needs to live in a house with a yard rather than an apartment. My new friend said she was going to be sure that Mojo had a life that made up for the first few months.

Every evening I would pick her up from the business.  Her little tummy was full of treats and her crate had an abundance of toys donated by my Southern Belle friend. We both decided that Mojo was probably a lab-pitbull mix.  We discussed the wonderful characteristics of both breeds and decided that Mojo would of course have all of them. The small but big hearted woman told me that her father’s best dog was exactly this.  He had loved this dog for 18 years and recently lost it. She briefly considered taking Mojo to him but he is elderly and frail.  An exuberant puppy was NOT what his doctor would have prescribed.

Finally I received a call I longed for and yet dreaded.  She had found a home!  A single father had been looking for a puppy just like Mojo.  He planned on taking her everywhere with him and promised she would receive all the love she so richly deserved.  My friend brought him the puppy, a crate, toys, a 20 lb bag of food, heartworm meds and Frontline to keep away the fleas.  All out of her own pocket!

It has been 3 days now.  I can’t help but cry as I write this.  I miss Mojo. Sometimes we have to do difficult things for the betterment of those we love.

This tale has such a happy ending.  Mojo is being loved and treated like a princess.  I have a good friend in Sarasota.  And with any luck at all, I’ll get visiting rights with Mojo……

p.s. All pix of Mojo are “after”.  A lady doesn’t deserve a photo shoot when she’s not looking her best!

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Shepherd’s Pie (aka Cottage Pie)

This is by far my most popular recipe.  It’s time to bring out the ingredients and whip some up!

Shepherd’s Pie (aka Cottage Pie).

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Off and Running

It’s amazing how fast our family business and my career as a real estate agent are growing!  We went from peaks and valleys to constant peaks.  Trevor has been working 7 days/week and  we have projected the company will soon be at the break even point.  Simultaneously I have taken every course offered and am working with buyers and sellers as a REALTOR with Coldwell Banker in Siesta Key.

It is energizing to build a new business.  I find I’m up before day break and don’t seem to tire despite a few 14 hour days.  I teeter-totter between developing a marketing/branding plan (I’m now Sarasota Shawn! ) and actually doing the work.  Of course eventually I’ll have to find that balance between personal and professional sides but for now it is fun and exciting and why stop when you are having a blast?

Getting up early has a distinct advantage.  We get a jump on the day and can take some time in the morning to enjoy nature and each other before running in different directions.

The other day Bob and I decided to take a walk along the Venice jetty.  It was a brisk morning – an un-Floridian 55 degrees.  Brrr.  It has pretty difficult to complain too much as our friends and family in New York, New Jersey and Maine were experiencing lows in the 30’s and even some snow.   However blood thins quickly and we were moving pretty fast.  The water was actually warmer than the air and we had higher than usual waves. Surfers abounded!  My once surfer husband wasn’t enticed though.

The choppy water wasn’t all that enticing to the fishermen but the birds certainly didn’t care.

I walked back to the car, hugged my husband, and again asked “what took us so long to move here?”

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The American Dream is Alive and Well in Sarasota

For your sweet moments….Dolce Italia! 

Recently a friend invited me to have an authentic Italian meal in the Gulf Gate section of Sarasota.  She warned me that the restaurant was small but charming and the food was “out of this world”.   The name of the restaurant is Dolce Italia and it is indeed a bit of sweet Italy. 

As we entered the restaurant  my friend  was greeted by an old friend and we were invited to share his table.   Soon the proprietors, Tiziana and Pippo (Felipe) came and joined us and while much was said in Italian I found that my background in Spanish helped considerably.

Tiziana and Pippo are from an Italian island.  After raising their 4 children, they left to the United States to make a better life for themselves and eventually their adult children. They have sunk everything into their little restaurant – heart, soul, and money.  Everything they serve is fresh and authentic – pasta from Naples, etc.

Tiziana and Pippo proceeded to serve us authentic Italian food that was heavenly!  There was so much that I had to take half home to the family. 

The Super Pippo Panini is incredible – mozzarella, prosciutto, tomatoes and mayo all nestled between two pieces of delicious Italian rolls.  The desserts were difficult to choose from so we shared a couple and had fragrant and non-bitter Italian espresso. 

It wasn’t long before I brought the family there for dinner.  I had the most delicious spaghetti Putanesca I’ve ever had!

I highly encourage you to visit this lovely couple and help them achieve the American Dream.  You will be glad you did!  They are located on 6606 Superior Avenue, Sarasota, FL 34231.  It’s right off Gulf Gate and Tamiami.  Their number is 941-921-7007.  Tell them Shawn sent you!

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Autumn Leaves and The BEST Lasagna

Cooler weather seems to call for hot comfort food and what is possibly more comforting than lasagna?  Making lasagna isn’t difficult but it is time-consuming.  Allow at least 3 hours prior to when you plan to serve it.  The great thing is that you can prepare it ahead of time and cook it an hour before the meal.  This makes quite a bit of lasagna.  The last time I made it the three of us had it for dinner for 3 meals. 


  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound mild Italian sausage
  • ½ onion, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2  eight-ounce  (8 oz) cans tomato sauce
  • 1 twenty-eight ounce (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 six-ounce (6 oz) cans tomato paste
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 tablespoons fresh basil, minced (or 2 tablespoons dried)
  • 4 tablespoons fresh oregano, stems removed (or 2 Tablespoons dried)
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 package lasagna noodles (I like Barilla best)
  • 2 eight ounce containers of ricotta cheese (whole milk is most flavorful)
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced (or 1 ½ tablespoons dried)
  • 1 pound mozzarella cheese, sliced thin)
  • 1 pound parmesan cheese, grated

To Prepare:

  1. Place lasagna noodles in a 9×13 casserole dish and pour hot water over them until they are covered.  Crumble ground beef and Italian sausage (without casings) in a large pot and cook until brown.  Add the onion and garlic and continue to cook until they are translucent.  Open the cans of tomato sauce, paste and crushed tomatoes and add them to the mixture. 
  2. Add the sugar and spices and water.  Continue cooking for at least ½ hour. 
  3. Bring out a second 9 x 13 casserole dish or remove the noodles from the first one and dry the dish out.   Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  4. Mix the ricotta cheese with egg and parsley.  Add ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese.  Turn off the heat under the sauce.
  5. You are now ready to assemble the lasagna.  Start with covering the bottom of the dish with a light coat of sauce. Place lasagna noodles lengthwise. You may cut noodles to fit the bottom of the dish. Add 1/3 of ricotta mixture and gently smear on noodles.  Sprinkle ¼ of remaining parmesan and 1/3 of mozzarella slices. Cover with light amount of sauce. Place noodles on top of sauce and repeat.  The last layer of noodles should just have plenty of sauce followed by mozzarella cheese and parmesan. 
  6. Lightly cover the lasagna with foil wrap, attempting not to touch the cheese. Place the dish on a cookie sheet to catch spills and slide it gently in the preheated oven.   Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.  Carefully remove the dish (with cookie sheet) and place on range.  Uncover the lasagna, scraping any cheese that sticks off the foil and place it back on the lasagna.  Return to the oven for another 30 minutes.
  7. During the last 5-8 minutes place foil wrapped Italian bread in the oven (I slice it in generous pieces).
  8. Bring the lasagna out and let it sit for at least 5 minutes so that cheese can set.
  9. Serve with a salad and hot bread.
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About Me

About Me.

Posted in Bob Wilson Photos, Introduction, Retirement/Reinvention, Sarasota | 1 Comment

Eat Local, Eat Fresh – Two Summer Salads

I don’t have many salad recipes.  A salad is something I just whip together out of whatever I have on hand.  These two salads are standbys in my home. We love the sharp bite of fresh lemon juice, the aroma and taste of extra virgin olive oil, and most of all the “close your eyes and sigh with pleasure” taste bud pleasure of local garden grown vegetables.  These two salads are quick to fix and serve and are good for either casual or fancy meals.  

Both recipes were  originally from my Argentinean brother-in-law, Mario.  Mario is one of the best cooks I’ve ever met.  He intuitively knows how to blend seasonings so that they play off each other.  I come from a family of excellent cooks and am blessed with a number of friends who are also superb chefs.  What I have learned from them is that food does not need to take hours to fix or to be elaborate.  It is more important that the ingredients colorful, healthful, and fun.  Both of these salads fit the bill!

The origins of the salads are Mediterranean and while simple are no less tasty.   Many people have moved away from low-fat diets to the earthy and delicious Mediterranean Diet.  This diet doesn’t concentrate on the amount of fat as much as the type of fats consumed. The emphasis is on eating more pasta, potatoes, breads and far less meat products.  It is heavy on fresh fruits and vegetables.  This is a heart healthy diet filled with fiber and nutrients.  It isn’t just eating massive amounts of pasta.  It includes including in your everyday diet the consumption of natural, fresh, seasonal plant foods.

Why eat local and seasonally?  Some espouse political and economic reasons but I do so for a simple reason – fresh food tastes better!  We all know that a tomato from a vine is completely different in taste, texture, and has more vitamins.  Locally grown fruits and vegetables are typically sold within 24-48 hours of being picked.  Most communities have Farmers’ Markets and I urge you to seek them out. You will be glad you did.

(Michelle and Gay – the avocado-onion-romaine salad one is for you as I know how much you love it!)

 Avocado-Onion-Romaine Lettuce Salad


1 large Florida avocado (or 3 Haas avocados), cut in chunks

¼ red onion, thinly sliced

1 head Romaine lettuce, cut into bite sized pieces

½ lemon juiced (about 1-2 tablespoons)

Equal amount of extra virgin olive oil (approx. 1-2 tablespoons)

Salt and pepper to taste


Place the avocado, lemon and olive oil in a dish and mix. Mash the avocado a bit but leave chunks. Toss this with the onions and Romaine lettuce. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Note: You can always throw some croutons and grated parmesan cheese in the mix.  It’s terrific either way.

Tomato-Fennel Salad


2 tomatoes

 1 fennel

1/2 lemon

3 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste


Wash the fennel and discard the feathery foliage.  Slice it in thin strips and place in shallow bowl. Cut the tomatoes in eighths and place in same bowl. Squeeze lemon and discard the seeds.  Pour over the fennel and tomato. Add olive oil. Toss salad.  Add salt and pepper.  Place in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Don’t spend all your time in the kitchen.  Prepare the meals and then sit down to eat and socialize.  Make your mealtime an enjoyable experience. Relax and delight in the food and in life.

Note: This is an update of a blog I posted several months back.

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My Life As An Entrepreneur – And More News

I no longer know what day of the week it is and it hardly matters.  For most people who work for someone else the weekends are sacrosanct.  Fridays are special as they mark the end of the work week and people look forward to two days of catching up on household chores, spending time with family and friends, and just relaxing.  This all changes when you own your own business.   

I work a bit almost every day and continue to mix business with pleasure.  Of course I can do this to some extent because I am not working at full capacity yet. 

Bob has been looking for a position as a molecular biologist but there aren’t many jobs out there and he has time to pursue his photography craft (, Trevor has formed a rock n roll band, and I am still tracking down Morningside High School alumni for a class reunion next year.  Trevor has also found an artistic side.  Look at the sunset he toyed with.

 Each day we find something interesting.  For instance recently we were driving down a road when we came across an animal we never expected to find in Florida.

The camel was resting  next to a large cat animal preserve.  What a great entrance!

Another day we stopped the car, captivated by flowers in a garden we drove by. 

In this same yard of a modest house I fell for the red and yellow flowers that looked like small versions of a Bird of Paradise plant. We visited a rare plant expert and she informed me that this is a Princess Di Heliconia.  I think I’ve found the plants I want to bookend our garage.

 Today I drove up to Manatee County to take pictures of a house.  We decided to stop on the way home at a gourmet store I had read about.  Morton’s Gourmet Market ( has served Sarasota for 40 years.  Morton’s is in a beautiful example of Spanish-Mediterranean architecture on a charming little side street filled with shops.

The smells emanating from the bakery lured us out of the car and into the building. Using every bit of will power I could muster, as well as the success of having lost 30 lbs, I pulled myself away into the main store only to be assaulted by displays of freshly made foods of all types.  Morton’s Market is not cheap – what gourmet food store is?  This is the kind of place mere mortals visit for something special. I was looking for orange infused virgin olive oil (and found it), but I could have done all my shopping there. 

 The produce looked fresh and inviting. The meats and seafood appeared fresh.  There were fresh flowers, cheeses from throughout the world, and fine wines.  Again showing remarkable self-restraint, I purchased only my sought after olive oil and a pack of seaweed crackers and quickly departed. 

Once outside Bob and I took a stroll across the street to a delightful park that ran through the block.  There was a red brick path that ambled beneath the moss strewn trees and terminated with a statue. 

We continued our drive home past the marina and paused to take pictures of the gigantic 26′ piece of art that captures the joy and exuberance of two strangers – a young sailor and a nurse.  The war was over! They survived and could get on with their lives. 

  Across the street One Sarasota Tower reflected the blue skies and the puffy clouds.  Another day in paradise…..

Now that I’ve shared our hedonistic work-pleasure philosophy, I’m ready to spring more news on you. 

I felt it was important to have it on a firm footing before proceeding with another step in my dreams of reinventing my life – to become a real estate agent.  I have talked this into the making for many years.  Each weekend my trip to grocery store including grabbing a stack of the real estate magazine throw aways to be relished as soon as I had some free time.  I would discuss various markets with friends, watching prices fluctuate and pondering the impact of a new highway, economic trends, and even the zeitgeist (spirit of the times). 

It seemed to me that this would be a perfect career – one that combined my love of home with my enjoyment of people and the pleasure of helping them.  I always believed it would be so satisfying to help people find a new home or to help people sell their home and move on in their lives.  I felt that my negotiation and interpersonal skills, honed by years of working as a healthcare administrator, would help me to create win-win situations.  Certainly our experiences buying and selling houses have been so.  We had excellent agents who became our friends. 

 Tuesday I am making this dream a reality.  I will finally begin a real estate course (  The intensive course is not long but comes highly recommended.   I do not fool myself. I’m well aware that in school we learn the rules however the job is always learned through experience.  I’m looking forward to finding the perfect broker and agency to mentor me. 

Stay tuned!

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Sunshine, Art, Gardens, and Hopes


It is easy to be optimistic in a place that has beautiful sunny weather every day.  Summer in Florida is hot but our proximity to the ocean mitigates the temperatures with an ocean breeze.  While we are busy with our new business and a growing clientale list, we still have plenty of time for adventures and for enjoying life. 

 Lately this has involved attending some community events and gardening.  My attitude has been optimistic and energetic.  I feel as though life holds many possibilities despite the constant barrage of bad news.  Maybe the trick to life isn’t so much in what you have accomplished but what one can create, learn, do.  No, I’m not taking some form of “happy” pill.  I just make an effort to see what can be while enjoying what is.  My attitude can be summed up with the tire cover I saw the other day:

After a few weeks of rapidly growing business and what seemed like amazing results for our efforts, everything came to a screeching halt with the Labor Day holidays.  It is ironic that we could find no labor on the day named for it and I admit to a bit of panic for a short time.  However  rather than moan and worry about it we decided to just go with the flow and enjoy the respite meanwhile hoping business would pick up again the following week.  We mailed out more flyers and business cards and relaxed.

Labor Day weekend featured Pioneer Days in nearby Englewood.  As we walked through the historic old town,  I especially enjoyed all the painted benches along the street. These were conveniently and thoughtfully placed so one could sit and enjoy an ice cream on a hot day while people watching.

We also decided to spend some time and a bit of money on landscaping.  Our flat acre looks so barren compared to the forest we enjoyed in Maine.  Inspired by a neighbor who swears she just sticks things in the ground and has a lush garden, I decided to try my hand at some Florida gardening.  We are fortunate in that the nearby park has a huge compost pile.  The local park is blessed with a large community garden there.   With visions of having a bountiful fruit and vegetable garden on our own 1.2 acre plot, I began to move from dreaming to acting.

Our land is primarily sand so we must augment the soil.  One morning before it got hot we decided we should go get some of the compost.  Bob brought Trevor’s truck and backed it up to the compost pile, handed me (!) a shovel and a trash can, and informed me this was after all MY project.

So here I am in my dress and my jewelry struggling with compost!

After having a bit of a laugh, he took over and finished the job.  When we got home I laid out all the items I planned to plant.  Some seeds, some things I had grabbed from the kitchen, and even a store-bought rosemary plant.  Compost and organic soil, fertilizer, and root starter in hand I was ready for the experiment.  Will it really be possible to grow such exotics as chayote, papaya, and mango in my backyard?  Time will tell. 

Spurred on with the gardening bug and a fabulous sale on hibiscus, we decided to fix up that barren plot in front of the house. 

We are adding plants little by little as I familiarize myself with the environment.  One has to keep in mind what works where.  Some plants are hardy and I’m going for these.

I keep being told to buy small plants as they will grow rapidly in this state.  Of course I couldn’t pick just one color and had to have several varieties of hibiscus.  This plant seems to epitomize the tropics in general and Florida in particular. Everywhere we go we see the flashy hibiscus flowers.  I can’t decide whether I like the double or single flowers so mixed and matched and delighted in both.

Pat, the master gardener at Lowe’s in Sarasota was originally from New Jersey and understands the education I need to successfully raise plants here. She has suggested books by Pamela Crawford, especially “Easy Gardens for South Florida”.  This book is perfect for not only helping me find the hardiest plants for each area of our garden (shade, semi-shade, scorching sun) but also for suggesting ways we can help our garden survive the drought and rainy seasons .  One of the things I enjoy most about this book is she suggests companion plants. 

The other book I’m depending on for inspiration and eye candy is a Sunset book, “Florida Top 10 Garden Guide”. 

This state is an adjustment.  We have learned do our outside projects in the morning or in the evening when the sun starts to set.  We have learned to expect quick and heavy tropical showers.  We have learned that there are hordes of people who moved here from New York, New Jersey, and Michigan and yet everyone seems to adapt to the Southern way – polite and charming.  Most of all we have learned that sunglasses are a must!

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