New York City

In Manhattan last Wednesday, we strolled up Fifth Avenue, across Rockefeller Center, and down Broadway to Times Square. From here we passed by Bryant Park and the New York Public Library and back to Grand Central Station.

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The Hyatt Grand Central was a great location on 42nd Street. Across the street was the Central Café where I had one of the best bagels ever along with smoked salmon.


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We discovered Two Boots in a hidden nook inside Grand Central. I liked their pizza with its crisp crust. We explored the food court and the fresh market in this interior maze of corridors with hordes of people rushing to their destinations with determined expressions. It’s a frenzied city with a hectic pace. I liked the Hale & Hearty soup chain. Their soups are the best and very filling. It’s enough for a meal. And pastries are everywhere—fresh croissants in butter, chocolate, and almond varieties; apple Danish; big cookies. Street vendors abound. Naturally, we had to try a kosher hot dog along the way. Do you see a pattern here? I tend to define a city by its food.

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We took a taxi to Penn Station, the first time we’d been in this madhouse. The directions inside aren’t clear so we stumbled around trying to figure out what to do. As we were early for our train to Union Station in D.C., we entered the waiting lounge. Here we took turns exploring the shops and cafes lining the corridors, and I bought us a sandwich at a deli to keep for lunch. Finally, about 15 minutes before departure, the overhead screens lit up with the Track Number. After a bit of scrutiny, we found the proper escalator and trundled down to the train. Here it was a free-for-all for a seat. You scramble onto a car hauling your luggage and grab a vacant space. The seats were quite comfortable, with outlets for electronics and tray tables like on an airline. Cars ahead had card tables for patrons who wished to work on their laptops and a café car that sold snacks.



This train was a lot smoother than the autotrain we’d taken from Sanford, FL to Lorton, VA. It was a pleasant ride with the scenery rolling by as we passed through New Jersey and Delaware on the way south. I wish our country kept up the rails and encouraged train travel like in Europe. It’s an adventure, and one we don’t get often enough. As we arrived at Union Station, we grabbed our luggage and joined the rush to the exit. We could have taken the Metro to Bethesda but not with all our suitcases, so we hailed a cab.

Coming Next: Malice Domestic

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Mystery Writers of America

Our festivities for the Mystery Writers of America national board meeting began at a signing event on Friday night at Mysterious Bookshop. Here we chatted with other authors, fellow board members, and fans while sipping wine. A good time was had by all.

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Dinner followed at Sammy’s Noodle Shop. It was great to meet each other in person this way.


Following was an all-day session on Saturday where we got down to the serious business of the organization. I scribbled down many great ideas to try at the chapter level, as I was there in my capacity as president of the Florida chapter.

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Then we had a lovely dinner at Bobby Van’s before it was time to say fond farewells.

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As temperatures had dipped into the teens on Saturday morning and Sunday arrived with dreary rain, I was glad to board the plane for sunny Florida.


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New York City

Manhattan is always fascinating to visit, and this time was no exception. I came to attend the Mystery Writers of America national board meeting but arrived a day early to take in the sights. Since it was cold out and we were hungry, we began our sojourn at Hale & Hearty Soups.

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Thursday afternoon, we roamed around Fifth Avenue, stopping in one of the clothing shops. It was impossible to try on anything while wearing four layers of clothes against the 20 degrees plus temperature outside. We wandered on to grab pizza for a quick dinner before seeing Kinky Boots at the Al Hirschfeld theater. It was a fun, lively performance with a feel-good vibe.

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On Friday, we ate breakfast at a local deli, getting our fill of nova salmon and cream cheese on a bagel. Then we took a taxi to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Here we started at the Egyptian exhibit, enthralled by the replicas of tombs where we felt like Indiana Jones.

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Downstairs was a special costume exhibit called “Death Becomes Her” about ritual mourning outfits in earlier centuries. Somber music played throughout, enhancing the mood. Besides clothing, mourning jewelry like I mention in my book, Died Blonde, was displayed. People used to include hair from their departed loved ones in these brooches and such.

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We ate lunch at one of the museum cafés overlooking Central Park. The trees were bare this time of year but the cold didn’t deter people from walking the paths there. After lunch, we headed to the Asian section after breezing through the Medieval wing. This area on the second floor wasn’t nearly as popular as others. We breezed through, already tired of looking at statuary.

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Next we stopped by the European artists to see works by famous painters. We got too tired to continue and left the museum. However, we were unable to resist grabbing hot dogs at a Sabrett food stand outside. A lineup of food trucks provided many choices.

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Poison: Friend or Foe?

Poison: Friend or Foe?

At the American Museum of Natural History in New York City is an exhibit called The Power of Poison. First we entered a section on Poison in Nature, where plants and animals may use poisons as a natural defense. For example, the golden poison frog from the Chocó Forest is highly toxic. It almost looks like a porcelain figurine until you see it breathing. Native humans use the frog’s toxin to make poison darts. This poison stops nerves from transmitting impulses. But don’t fear frogs; this particular species gets its toxicity from the diet it eats, likely beetles.

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Plants have natural defenses, too. Think about poison ivy or other plants you touch that cause an allergic reaction. And some plants are so toxic that even the smoke from burning them can be harmful. So how can some animals eat toxic plants and not feel the effects? Howler monkeys eat toxic leaves, but they also eat clay that binds poisons.

The next section describes Poisons in Myth & Legend. Snow White, the witches of Macbeth, Emperor Qin, and the Mad Hatter are displayed. The latter doubtless got its name because hat makers were exposed to dangerous mercury levels during the manufacturing process. Some poisons can mimic death, hence the legend of Snow White and also Romeo and Juliet.

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Villains & Victims talks about famous people like Cleopatra. How did she really die? And was Lucrezia Borgia an infamous poisoner like her reputation claims? Who are some famous authors who employed poisons in their tales? Agatha Christie mysteries, Sherlock Holmes, and Harry Potter are some of the stories mentioned.


Detecting Poison has a live demonstration. We moved past this to sit at the interactive displays at Poison by Accident to solve a mystery at three stations as to what had accidentally poisoned each victim. A family pet, a British sea captain named Captain Cook, and an owl were the victims. Clues were in sight for you to detect through observation at the scene. I got all three correct!

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The most interesting section was Poison for Good to find cures for diseases. For example, a drug made from a Gila Monster’s venom is used to treat Type II diabetes. While yew tree needles can be deadly, a chemical found in the bark helps provide an anti-cancer medicine. Research is providing more treatments and hope for future cures.

Visit to learn more about the role of poisons in nature, human history, medicine, myth and legend.

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New York City: The Food

New York City: The Food

You can’t go to New York City without experiencing some of life’s best dining. The first night, we ate at the Fig and Olive. For appetizers, we got a bowl of olives and a mushroom dish that was heavenly. Our main meal was salmon with side dishes that were fairly meager. Don’t expect big portions here. The restaurant was crowded so we were glad we’d made a reservation.

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Friday morning, we ate breakfast at Carnegie Deli. My daughter had a smoked salmon platter with a bagel and I had a boloney and egg omelet.

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After spending half the day at the museum, we ate lunch at one of the Le Pain restaurants where you get served. We got like an appetizer platter of cheeses and such and nibbled from it for our meal.


Friday night was dinner with the mystery writers’ gang at Sammy’s Noodle Shop.


Saturday, I dined alone with the MWA folks at Bobby Van’s Grill. The filet mignon and side dishes were excellent.

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On Sunday, we grabbed a bite to eat on our stroll to Rockefeller Center, shared a hot dog from a food vendor on Broadway, stopped in to the Hershey store to buy chocolate to bring home, checked out the Cellar at Macy’s, and had lunch in Lord & Taylor.

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Their tomato soup was delicious, and it paired very well with a grilled cheese sandwich. Again, we were too weary and burdened down by our heavy coats to want to shop. I hated that part when I lived up north: dressing for the cold weather and dying from the heat when you went inside. I love the South, where you can run outside in short-sleeves for most of the year.

We bought croissants and Danish at Grand Central Station and a piece of chocolate layer cake at the Strip House to bring home.


Temptation abounds with the best looking pastries in New York wherever you go, cupcakes and crumb nuts (square donuts), fresh breads, and more. You could get fruits and vegetables at many of the markets, but I think we do better in Florida in this regard, at least in winter. I really liked the Hale & Hearty soup places in New York. That’s great for cold weather, not so much for their heat waves in the summer. So if you go to New York, leave room in your suitcase to bring home some treats.

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Dinner on Sunday was New York pizza at John’s Pizzeria, just down the street from the Minskoff Theatre where we needed to go to see The Lion King. The medium size was more than adequate for both of us.

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Finally, we left on Monday and ate breakfast at the airport. All that walking helped when I got on the scale at home. I’d only gained one pound. Now it’s back to a healthier diet.

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New York City

New York City: The Sights

Recently I went to New York for orientation as incoming President of the Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America. This job also put me on the national Board of Directors. Friday night, I met the other chapter presidents and at-large directors as we mingled at the Mysterious Bookshop and enjoyed dinner together at Sammy’s Noodle Shop. The next day was filled with one long meeting where we learned about the organization and more about our roles. I found the sessions interesting and informative. A delicious dinner at Bobby Van’s Grill followed.

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The rest of the time was spent sightseeing. On Friday, we ate breakfast at Carnegie Deli. It was snowing! Thank goodness for my inherited mink coat. I wouldn’t have been warm enough otherwise.

Then we took a cab over to the American Museum of Natural History. Standing across from Central Park, I admired the wintry view.

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Jacket-length outerwear doesn’t work in this cold climate. You need a coat that covers your butt. I also wore a knit cap, gloves, and a cashmere scarf. Plus three layers underneath. The only problem was the heat that hit when you went inside a building. Four layers went on and off so often that I hurt my shoulder.

More on the museum exhibits later. My next free day was Sunday, so we strolled outside to see some of the main sights. It wasn’t our first visit to NY so we could skip all the places we’d already seen and just soak in the atmosphere. We sniffed roasted chestnuts and pretzels as we walked along.

We viewed the skaters at Rockefeller Center and nearby Radio City.

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Then we walked over to Times Square.

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We had to visit Macy’s with its nine floors but were too exhausted and hungry to go shopping. From here we walked to Lord & Taylor on Fifth Avenue and had lunch. The NY Public Library makes an impressive sight.

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Then we dipped into Grand Central Station to watch the people scurrying to make their trains and to visit the food markets.

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That night, we saw The Lion King. The costumes were spectacular. The way the actors depict the animals was fantastic. It’s a show worth seeing if you can meet the steep cost.

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New York is always fascinating, from the architecture to the eateries, to the jumble of people, and even to the trash waiting for curbside pickup. Steam issues from vents, trucks rumble by, taxi drivers honk their horns. It’s a maelstrom of humanity, but one you can never get tired of joining.

Yet it sure was nice to return home to the quieter life with palm trees, green grass, and balmy breezes. However, I’d better not put away that fur coat. It’s supposed to go down into the forties here. The good thing about our cold spells is that they don’t last long.

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