Tuesday, October 27, 2009

SoFla Blogup 2009


I fondly recall the first blogger meetup in Miami ... though Hidden City has told me that proto-bloggers socialized in Miami as far back as the dawn of the interwebs.

But in recent history, circa 2006, several established bloggers who are still active today got together for conversation, drinks and food at Tobacco Road. The meetup was inspired by the fact that Stormhoek Winery had put together blogger shindig in South Beach for a Gaping Void campaign. A few people were turned off by the commercial nature of the event and decided that "we" could meet up all on our own. I don't remember who "we" was; it was a loosely defined collective. It just sort of happened.

None of us had met in person, though we knew each other's blogs well. There were no name tags and we had to introduce ourselves one by one -- kind of like when you're in elementary school on the first day of class and have to tell the rest of the kids what you did last summer. I remember talking to some fellow bloggers before the event who were downright shy. "OMG, I have to meet people in person? What's that all about?"

Putting a face to the blog was a big deal back then, but boy, how things have changed since 2006! For many of us, social media has made the face-to-face far less awkward.

It's time to get together again. James and Annette from Soul of Miami and I have teamed up with Graziano's at Brickell for another afternoon of socializing on November 21st, 2 - 5 pm, possibly longer -- if any spontaneous plans should occur.

The first hour will be bloggers ONLY. Afterward, readers and fans are welcome to mingle! Please visit Soul of Miami for details and to RSVP. If you are a blogger, make sure you do reply so we can have a name tag ready for you at the door.

RSVP AT SOUL OF MIAMI

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Local: Holy Moly Redlands Guacamole!



On October 10, Schnebly Redland's Winery in Homestead hosted a special event to benefit four local high schools with culinary arts and agricultural programs. The goal was to beat the Guinness World Record for largest guacamole and they did it!

Under the supervision of their chef instructors, students mashed 3,428 pounds of avocados, diced 489 pounds of tomatoes and squeezed the juice out of 478 pounds of limes. Mixed together with 98.5 pounds of mayonnaise, the guacamole beat the previous record by 103 pounds for a whopping 4,114 pounds of the green stuff.

Later, the guacamole was seasoned with cilantro, green onion, a little hot pepper and salt for individual sale to the public. Guacamole wasn't the only avocado treat served up -- the sale of avocado ice cream, pies and bread also helped with proceeds. The event raised $4,789, which will help the young chefs-to-be in cook up even more in their daily classroom adventures.

If the idea of avocado ice cream seems strange, don't forget that it's a fruit. And yes, Schnebly makes a crisp and delicious wine from the creamy pulp. The alligator on the bottle's label refers to the old days when Florida pioneers called the fruit gator pear.

Students also competed for best recipes, with local chefs Allen Susser, Michael Schwartz, Darren Lee and Giancarla Bodoni as judges.

Michael Schwartz of Micheal's Genuine in the Design District had worked with students earlier in the week to come up with recipes. "We went to the schools, talked to the kids and game planned what they would prepare," Schwartz said. "They came up with recipes and ideas, and we tweaked them a little bit. But really they did all the work. The program is amazing."

About 1,000 people enjoyed the lovely grounds at Schnebly Winery that day.

Read more about Schnebly Winery at Miami Beach 411.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Sex and the Beach Author Still Crazy After Four Years of Blogging

Wow, it's hard to believe that four years have gone by. So much so, that I totally forgot to celebrate this blog's anniversary. If I were married to me, I'd expect roses, champagne and an honest apology!

It's amazing that I didn't even know what a blog was just weeks before my first post.

It all started on October 10, 2005, when the newly created Manola Blablablanik pondered about things that no longer even cross her mind, unless, of course, she's giving advice to some wayward newbie just entering the mauling claws of life on South Beach.
Seven months after breaking up with her boyfriend, with whom she had faithfully spent most of her mid-twenties, my dear friend Boobette had already sowed her wild oats. I lived vicariously through my younger alter-ego, also a writer. Ten years her senior and a veteran of South Beach, I listened attentively to mini-me. "I'm such a ho," she told me one day with a pang of bewilderment. "I slept with more men in the past seven months than I have in my entire life!" And that's when it all started, because I immediately blurted out, "well, that's because you live in HoBe!"

Manola has certainly come a long way, hasn't she? She has deleted her blog accidentally and recovered her blog fortuitously (thanks to the help of a friend in Google); she has gone on hiatus a couple of times; she has survived the Jurrasic period of blogs after witnessing many of them go sadly into extinction; she has transformed from a secretive hide-behind-your-pen-name persona to a leading participant in a massive, national social media campaign; she has moved from the beach to the mainland; she has broken her leg; she has brazenly remained a spinster; and most impressive of all, she has suffered from agoraphobia and panic disorder but recovered fully with incredible, fearless resilience.

manola alligatorDarwin was wrong. He meant: "Survival of the craziest."

As I look back on the last four years and how I've grown -- I must say I'm pretty happy. Every single writing gig or social media project I've been involved with has come through this blog.

When people ask me about blogging, I always say it's a process of evolution. I don't need to know where I'll be tomorrow, because as long as I can write, things will move in whatever direction they need to. That's the beauty of blogging.

I want to thank all my readers, supporters, friends and writing clients for following this blog and having faith in me. The last four years were good. May the years to come be even better! And if I ever made you snort coffee out of your nose, well here ... here's a Kleenex.

Muah!

Here's classic Sex and the Beach. My all time favorite cartoon:

the new sobe dining trend

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Ford Fiesta: Cracker Country Gator Wrastlin' Adventure!



Our fifth mission was one of the best yet. Brad and I went to Gatorland in Orlando to fulfill his lifelong dream of wrestling an alligator. Ever the closet country boy, my buddy Brad grew up on a farm and wrestled juvenile livestock when he himself was a kid. At long last, Brad was ready for the challenge.

I've also had a special place in my heart for the reptiles, since I used to come across them in my hardcore Everglades fishing days -- sometimes a little too close for comfort.

Even though Brad got all the hot reptile action on this mission, believe me, I was no less shy. Whenever he was in front of the camera, I was only a foot away from the gator's business end, capturing the footage you see in the video.

For the first time since we started doing these Ford Fiesta missions, Brad and I actually drove out of town for adventure and really got into the whole spirit of the road thing. I drove for four hours straight from South Miami to Orlando down the turnpike. This was a big deal for me, considering my panic attack situation a year or so ago, when I could barely get behind the wheel of a car. Talk about freedom!

I'm not going to get into too much detail here about Gatorland, because I'm going to be writing a story at Miami Beach 411 about this amazing park. But I will tell you this: of all the parks in Orlando, Gatorland is one I would not only bring people to, I'd insist that they go. And honestly, I can't wait to go back.

Right next to busy Orange Blossom Trail is this amazing swampland, covered with natural vegetation, where humans can learn all about the wily ways of gators, crocodiles and other animals. It's a conservancy of sorts -- gators that would otherwise end up as Gucci bags have a safe place to live out the rest of their lives.

And the best part of all: we got a humbling lesson in history. The term cracker is not some pejorative term for redneck, as we thought it was. It actually refers to the sound whips made when cowboys used to drive their beasts across the prairies and hammocks of Florida.

Cowboys in Florida? Why, yes -- and not of the cocaine variety. Before oranges, Florida used to be big on cattle husbandry. Heck, even today there are even some wild Florida cows roaming out there among the cypress trees and palmetto.

Anyway, in the hammocks, and especially during the dry season, alligators would hang out in deep pockets of water, which were obviously sources of hydration for wild animals as well as herds of cows.

The hunkering, hungry reptiles could just grab one of those thirsty suckers by the snout, which wasn't good business for cattle ranchers, so the crackers had to get the darn critters out of the way.

And that, my friends, is the origin of alligator wrestling. Cowboys didn't have to do that in the Wild West, did they?

Actually, that really wasn't the best part. The whip cracker guy was really hot. He spoke in a delicious, melt-in-your-mouth drawl and boy, he could talk gator. Impressive. They don't make men like that in Miami, do they? I might need to get me a cracker boy to whoop this city girl's ass in shape! Though that might be like Crocodile Dundee does the fetish club ... I don't know.

Anyway, that's all I'm going to say for now about Gatorpark -- enjoy the video!

PS ... do yourself a favor and call Gatorland's main phone line before 5 PM EST. If you don't laugh your ass off, you aint alive: 1-800-393-5297.

Special thanks to Tim Williams, Brandon, Donny and the rest of the warm and friendly park staff who helped make our visit such a rewarding day.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Book Review: Tantric Sex for Busy Couples


You're probably wondering why I'm reviewing a book for couples on a blog for single women, but knowing what you want from a potential sex life is important homework on the path to coupledom.

Though Tantric Sex for Busy Couples (Hunter House, 2009) is aimed mainly at heterosexual, established relationships, it's chock full of information that will help anyone -- gay or straight -- looking for skills in intimacy both inside and outside of the bedroom.

Diana Daffner, a certified sexologist and Tai Chi instructor living on the west coast of Florida, authored the book with contributions from her husband of 24 years, Richard Daffner, also a certified sexologist. The 212-page paperback offers step-by-step physical exercises based on Diana and Richard's daily practice, which has helped their relationship maintain a spark over the years.

The practice is informed by principles of Tai Chi and yoga, but you needn't be a martial artist or yogi to understand her clear and simple descriptions of these principles. In fact, the book is a great primer on chakras, energy centers, ying and yang and other concepts. Also, the exercises are extremely simple and require no major physical exertion.

This is not a pornographic book offering up 101 sexual positions, but rather a tastefully illustrated guidebook for couples looking to break down intimacy barriers on physical as well as spiritual levels. The exercises help couples communicate intimately with and without words.

This also isn't a book about quickies on the kitchen floor or sex focused exclusively on achieving orgasm (not that there's anything wrong with that kind of sex). It's about the tantric approach to sex, which is based on energy and opening of the heart, as well as exploring all emotions -- even uncomfortable ones.

Most people think of tantra as a wild, orgiastic sexual practice, but the truth is, it's really about connecting -- taking an ordinary act and making it sacred. And you can have intimacy on all levels, even without sex, which is one of the reasons why this is an interesting read for anyone interested in cultivating relationship skills.

I had a chance to speak with Diana over the phone in what ended up being a delightful conversation.

On the subject of whether to have sex with your eyes open or closed, Diana believes it's important to have different experiences with eye contact. "Senses are heightened with the eyes closed, but to be able to look outward and feel a connection inside, that is the training of tantra," she said. "Most people don't even look themselves in the eyes and that in itself is a tantric practice."

Here's where practicing tantra comes in handy, even if you're a single woman. One of the first exercises in Diana's book is called solo stillness, which you can practice with yourself, even without a partner. Solo stillness is literally about standing still, centering yourself, tuning into your body and creating a space where connection can occur. After all, if you are not connected with yourself, how do you expect to share yourself with another?

And then there's the next level: practicing solo stillness in front of a mirror, eyes wide open, which is a very intense tantric practice. "Connect with the one behind your own eyes," she explained. "Look back at yourself and see yourself. Acknowledge yourself. We expect this from others but not ourselves. Be accepting of your whole body."

This is not a narcissistic practice, but rather a way of shedding those fears and inner dialogues that keep us from feeling secure in the presence of a lover. The first level of intimacy we need to cultivate is a deeply personal one. Hush that mind. Forget about the freckles, wrinkles and folds of fat. Look deeply within, while looking out.

I highly recommend this book to any woman who is curious about developing intimacy either with her current partner or with a future lover. We can't expect some prince charming to sweep us off our feet and give us what we want if we haven't paid close attention to our own desires. Forget Cinderella and happily ever after. Love and intimacy requires work, and you don't have to wait until you're in a relationship to start taking what's sacred about love seriously.

Too many times, we gals seek validation in the arms of a man and that leaves us feeling empty. Tantra begins with you, before that man ever penetrates your body. Our pre-relationship homework here is to fearlessly explore what we're willing to share with someone else.

And besides, what happens after you meet prince charming and he stops rocking your world in bed? Falling in love can only take you so far. "The break up rate is high. People fall out of love," said Diana. "But there is a way to continually recreate that first rush of love. True tantra is accepting. Everything has the potential to be sacred."

Diana and Richard offer workshops and retreats in South Florida and elsewhere in the U.S. For more information, visit them at Intimacy Retreats: Tantra and the Art of Conscious Relationship.

Disclosure: Dear FTC, I was not paid to write this book review. I wrote it because I damn well felt like it. But like any professional writer, I did get a complimentary copy of the book from the publisher. Are you going to fine me? If so, please contact my attorney. Thanks, Maria.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Local: Beauty on the Beach

Postcard, c. 1940

You still have a few days left to catch the Wolfsonian Museum's Beauty on the Beach: A Centennial Celebration of Swimwear exhibit.

Located on the top floor, the exhibit adds to the museum's already rich collection of twentieth-century artifacts. The room is filled with actual swimsuits from the 1920s to the present, all from the archives of famous apparel manufacturer Jantzen. By far the most interesting is the oldest one -- a bathing costume knitted from heavy wool. It's a wonder women didn't drown in those darn things!

Swimming, as opposed to bathing, became popular just before the First World War. Posters, magazine covers, postcards, advertisements -- all which were designed to entice women to the water -- are on display. A short reel of vintage film clips complements the printed material.

The bathing suits, all lined up in a row in chronological progression, show how the shapes of women's silhouettes have changed in the last century. In the early years, freed from the constraints of Victorian dress, women were suddenly able to flex their muscles and expose their bodies in new ways. Fast forward to postwar 1950s and women became bombshells with hourglass bodies. And just ten years later, with the invention of Lycra, 1960s women sported a more natural, less exaggerated look.

As you browse the exhibit, think about what was going on in each decade of the last century. It's clear that the history of bathing suit design in America also reflected the history of women.

The exhibit made me think about how women dress in South Beach today. On the streets of the island, there's a very fine line between swimsuit and club dress. There's also a very big line between nudity and good taste.

But that's what we see outside. The Wolfsonian exhibit focuses more on design: how it was influenced by changes in attitudes as well as advances in manufacturing techniques and materials.

On the ground floor, the exhibit also features large framed black-and-white photographs by New York-based photographer Miles Ladin. Sun Stroke Stimulus asks the question "what does beauty on the beach look like here and now--on Miami Beach in 2009?"

The photos are humorous and playful, capturing just a few of so many South Beach bodies.

The brochure reads: "His intention is to reveal the unadulterated beauty and intensity of nature -- whether the beach or body-- as well as man's foibles and vulnerabilities."

Unadulterated? I find this quite ironic, considering that the aim of all things South Beach is to be nip, tucked and artificially enhanced -- even the buildings!

Food for thought.

The exhibit runs until October 11th. Visit the Wolfsonian for hours and directions. Plan on browsing the museum's permanent collection as well. It's always worth a look.

Sidenote: In the last couple of years, Miami Fever has masterfully documented women's street and beach wear.