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Sarasota writer wins statewide blog award

Robin Draper

Sarasota’s Robin Draper won big-time recognition for her blog Authentic Florida, which was named Best Food Blog in the state at the Sunshine Awards competition held in Orlando in January. (Yes, I know, I’m a bit behind!) More than 100 nominees were submitted to the contest, held at FlBlogCon (the Florida Blogger and Social Media Conference), and Draper walked away with the prize.

Draper grew up on Siesta Key and after a stint in the Peace Corps and California, she moved back to the area in 2009 and launched her blog shortly afterward. She travels the state looking for fun, Florida-only experiences and eats, and on her site writes about the places she visits and the food she eats with a loving touch. Her book Authentic Florida is available online at Amazon and at Barnes & Noble.

Posted on April 30th, 2014 Comments (2)Comments RSS Feed

Former Herald-Tribune editor launches new book on Florida breweries

Craft beer is all the rage these days, particularly in Florida, which has earned a reputation as a hub for creative, delicious beers, with a plethora of small, medium and large breweries all over. The scene has grown so popular it’s now the subject of a book, titled, well, Florida Breweries, and it was penned by former Sarasota Herald-Tribune assistant business editor Gerard Walen.

Gerard now runs a website called Road Trips for Beer, which documents Gerard’s travels for IPAs, ales, porters and more, and he has also launched the website Beer in Florida, which is dedicated to covering all things craft beer in the Sunshine State.

Walen is celebrating the release of the new book with two parties: one at Crystal River’s Copp Brewery on Thurs., April 3, from 5:30 to 8 p.m., and one at The Ale and the Witch in St. Petersburg on Thurs., April 10, from 6 to 8 p.m. You can buy a book at the parties for $19.95 or order it on Amazon and bring it with you. Gerard says he’ll sign whatever you’ve got. Check it out! And raise a pint for me.

Posted on March 26th, 2014 Comments Off on Former Herald-Tribune editor launches new book on Florida breweriesComments RSS Feed

Sarasota poet offers meditation on mourning a pet

For all those out there who love their dogs, Sarasota poet Arlene Klein recently republished a collection titled I Never Wanted to Say Goodbye: Gentle Words to Comfort Those Who Mourn the Loss of a Pet. Klein calls the book “a testament to the joy of living with pets and the sorrow of losing them.”

“The book is a collection of poems, written as a tribute to the dogs I loved and lost,” she writes. “Gentle words to comfort those who mourn the loss of a beloved pet. It touches the heart and is an inspiration to embrace every magical moment we share with our furry friends.”

Originally published in 1995, the book was nominated for a Dog Writers Association of America Maxwell award. Klein released a revised edition two years ago — she even got Betty White to write the foreword.

A portion of book sale proceeds goes to the Morris Animal Foundation for canine health studies.

Posted on August 5th, 2013 Comments (4)Comments RSS Feed

Mind-body experience expansion (No LSD required)

Terry DeMeo

I recently spent some time working with Martha Beck Master Certified life coach Terry DeMeo. My work with Terry has turned my life in a virtual Inner 180. It’s not hyperbole to say Terry’s coaching taught me tools I’d never known existed and, seriously, she pretty much blew the lid off (or, actually taught me how to blow the lid off myself) of many of my closest-held assumptions about myself, and the way I think, work and move in the world.

Our work covered personal and professional areas and, well, I can’t recommend her enough if you are seriously seeking to eliminate the roadblocks you’ve created in your life. ‘Cause that’s the biggest lesson, that I thought I knew already before working with her, but soon realized that I had only understood the concept on an intellectual level: the roadblock to experiencing your life the way you want to experience it isn’t your parent, your boss, your job or your broken-down-old car. The barriers between you and the life you want to live aren’t put there by boyfriends or thundershowers or a penchant for chocolate. The only thing getting in your way is you.

Working with Terry one-on-one was the best learning investment I’ve made in myself since working three jobs and seven days a week to put myself through college.

A lawyer-turned-life coach based in Coconut Grove, Florida, Terry’s mission is simple: helping intelligent people solve problems and transcend challenges. And I loved that she communicated and worked with me from both an emotional POV and a scientific one. She taught me a lot about how the brain works (and a not insignificant amount about how the body works).

No less an authority than Martha Beck, the bestselling author and Oprah magazine columnist, calls her “a wise, inspiring coach with the experience, emotional intelligence, and intellect to guide you through virtually anything.”

I encourage you to check out her Facebook page her Facebook page, and website (linked above), where she publishes her own thoughts, like this one I loved: on the discipline of writing.

Posted on July 11th, 2013 Comments Off on Mind-body experience expansion (No LSD required)Comments RSS Feed

Anne-Marie Slaughter headlines this year’s Renaissance Luncheon

Anne-Marie Slaughter

If you’re unaware of the myriad offerings of the Women’s Resource Center, a great opportunity to learn more is coming up quickly: On Tues., March 12, the Center hosts its biggest fundraising event of the year — the Renaissance Luncheon — at the Ritz-Carlton.

“For our donors, [the luncheon] lets them know the good programs and services their money is supporting,” Executive Director Janice Zarro explained to me last year. It’s “an opportunity to showcase our values and the impact we are having on our community.”

And that impact is significant.

Each year, nearly 13,000 women take advantage of the Center’s varied programs, which include everything from peer referral counseling, finance education and Excel spreadsheet training to lessons on starting and managing a business. On the personal side, they offer classes in navigating life as a widow, learning yoga, handling divorce, bouncing back from adversity and creating the life you desire – just to name a few.

The Renaissance Luncheon is a cornerstone in helping the Center continue to do what it does for the women of our community and has developed into a can’t-miss event — attracting close to 600 men and women who want to support the Center and draw insights from the outstanding keynote speakers.  The theme for this year’s luncheon is “Redefining Balance,” and the keynote speaker is Anne-Marie Slaughter, the author of the much-discussed and controversial 2012 Atlantic essay, “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All.”

The event begins with boutique shopping at 10:30 a.m., followed at noon by lunch and Slaughter’s talk. It also includes drawings for prizes and a silent auction — some of the goodies include a five-course meal for eight, courtesy of Zest! of Sarasota catering.

A ticket for the luncheon will run you $95; you can purchase one online by clicking here.

Posted on February 26th, 2013 Comments Off on Anne-Marie Slaughter headlines this year’s Renaissance LuncheonComments RSS Feed

More Joy in January


Sitting at my desk, immersed in updating content for a client website, all doors and windows open, and outside a bird singing one of the sweetest songs. So sweet, so soft, so near; it draws me away to the doorway and I search the surrounding bushes for the source of that singing. I finally spot a female cardinal, deep in the bush very near. She falls silent when I reach the door. I go back to my desk and realize I can see her easily from here.

She’s hasn’t resumed her singing, but I know she will. And as corny as this sounds, I realize this is joy. “Our truest life is when we are dreams awake.” Henry David Thoreau

Posted on January 24th, 2013 Comments Off on More Joy in JanuaryComments RSS Feed

Joy joy joy

Yesterday and this morning, feeling pretty awful on a personal basis and then, sullenly checking in with facebook, saw this and my world changed.

Posted on December 24th, 2012 Comments Off on Joy joy joyComments RSS Feed

Sarasota Film Fest Hopeful: Racing the Rez

Even if I weren’t best friends with the director, Racing the Rez would be on my must-watch list. The documentary follows the stories of two high school cross country racing teams in Northern Arizona, where tribal bragging rights and a state championship are on the line. But it’s also a peek into a culture we rarely get to see — that of the Navajo and Hopi who live on America’s largest reservation. By following these boys, we’re really following a whole community.

Brian Truglio

I met the director, Brian Truglio, when I was at Bucknell University on a poetry scholarship and when he was running a monthly poetry discussion forum called the Full Moon Poets Society. We’ve been best friends ever since. Brian first visited the Navajo Nation in 1991, and taught there for a number of years.

Racing the Rez picked up a Best Documentary award at the Arlington International Film Festival, and has been broadcast several times in many states, including here in Florida. I heartily recommend checking it out. The best way to find out if the film’s showing on your screen soon is to follow the film’s Facebook page. Brian regularly posts there about when and where the film can be seen.

He’s applied to next year’s Sarasota Film Festival as well, so (fingers crossed) you might even be able to see the film on the big screen.

Posted on December 13th, 2012 Comments Off on Sarasota Film Fest Hopeful: Racing the RezComments RSS Feed

Regifting good

Kindness is the one gift that should always be regifted. It’s a gift no one would ever be offended to receive knowing it had first belonged to someone else. And it’s a gift that once made, the giver would undoubtedly only be pleased if you passed it along to someone else.

Spoke at Laurel Oak last week — full circle from my first local talk ever, also at L.O., (shown above) given to the Democratic Club of Sarasota in 2008.

I gave a talk on Friday — 90 or so people in the audience — and spoke at one point about the extraordinary generosity of my Reality Chick, Reality Online, and Sense and the City readers who, over the years, have contributed thousands and thousands of dollars during my annual fundraising drives for All Faiths Food Bank. I told the audience that my fee for the day’s talk was going straight to All Faiths, since every year I donate whatever I earn during the month of November from speaking and newspaper writing fees to All Faiths. (If you’d like to participate in this year’s drive or just learn more, click here.) I spoke about kindness and caring for everyone in our community — about the incredible need many are facing and I related times in my life, too, when I’d been in need and strangers had stepped up to help me.

After my talk, as I was preparing to leave, a woman approached me and pressed a check into my hands. “Your talk today moved me,” she said; and she asked me to make sure to send along her check, which she had just written, with mine when I send it in to All Faiths.

Such an unexpected kindness. Such an appreciated gesture. And her contribution will make a tangible difference to several someones in the upcoming weeks in our community. That’s the perfect regifting scenario: the group was kind enough to hire and pay me to speak; I was kind enough to earmark the fee for All Faiths; a stranger in the audience was kind enough to amplify those kindnesses with her own donation. Who know where this one small strand of kindness — begun when this group was kind enough to invite a column-less columnist to speak — will end?

Posted on November 18th, 2012 Comments Off on Regifting goodComments RSS Feed

Thursday Yoga with Gary Halperin

Gary Halperin (Photo via

Seasoned M.C. readers know the name Gary Halperin: He’s the certified professional-level Kripalu Yoga teacher whose classes have helped me develop mental clarity, emotional satisfaction, and psychological calm (um, right — tell that to my cats when they’re meowing at 6:15 in the morning!). Gary recently emailed me to tell me about a new special he’s running for yoga beginners — starting Sept. 6, and if you mention this blog, there’s a free class in it for you! (read below)

The class will teach standard yoga postures, emphasizing body awareness and safety. Have you been intimidated by yoga before? Thought about joining a class but just couldn’t pull the trigger? Then Gary’s the man for you.

The lessons kick off at 6:45 p.m. this Thurs., Sept. 6, and continue 6:45-7:45 p.m. each Thursday in September. The classes are held at The Radiance Center, 2868 Ringling Blvd., in the Gold Tree Plaza. The four-class session is $40, and be sure to mention my blog to Gary. That shout-out will get you one free class on top of the beginner series — you just have to mention this blog when you register. Not a bad deal at all!

Posted on September 5th, 2012 Comments Off on Thursday Yoga with Gary HalperinComments RSS Feed