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Fran Thomas: Island Dream
Sunday, September 3rd, 2017

I have always enjoyed watching cooking shows.  As a teenager, I never missed an episode of Julia Child’s show, The French Chef. What a hoot she was. I doubt I ever made any of her dishes, but I certainly admired her attitude. Cooking should be fun.

Nowadays, my favorite is Pioneer Woman.  Although I’ve never been on a ranch in my life, I often steal ideas from her. (Sorry, Ree.) For me, they are just a starting point. Depending on what ingredients I have on hand, I tweak things to suit myself. I rarely make a recipe as written. Fortunately for me, my dear husband is willing to eat my experiments.

I guess it was inevitable for me to blend cooking and writing. I began by editing a cookbook. It was a collection put together by the members of the Insurance Women of Pittsburgh as a fund raiser and cleverly titled Premium Recipes.

Then for a few years I entered recipe contests. I even snagged a couple small prizes—an apron, a cutting board. The best prize I won, however, was a trip to New York City to take a class at the Institute of Culinary Education. The contest, sponsored by French’s, entailed creating a sandwich using one of their products. This was when American Idol was first on the air, so I devised a sandwich and called it the Simon Cowell. The ingredients included roast beef as rare as musical talent, as I recall.

Isabella Ramos, the heroine in my third Calusa Town Tale Island Dream, has long wanted to open her own restaurant. That is something I’d never do myself. It involves a lot of hard work and a fair amount of risk, as Izzy soon finds out. I’ll confine my culinary activities to my own kitchen, but it’s fun to experience Izzy’s adventures in cooking vicariously.

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Island Dream

Romance with a side of comedy

Zumba teacher Isabella Ramos moved from Miami to the quirky small town of Calusa to open a restaurant. Luc Girard arrives on the Florida island to become a painter, or so he says. The attraction is instant. But the secret he’s keeping threatens to deflate their relationship like a fallen soufflé. It takes the right mixture of ingredients for dreams to come true.

Island Dream is available on Amazon in paperback at or on Kindle at


One step closer to her dream.

Isabella Ramos drove her refurbished van across the drawbridge and towards her home in Calusa.  After catering a breakfast at a golf club on the mainland, she had already dropped off the two women she hired for larger jobs like this one. She yawned and let go of the steering wheel long enough to rub her eyes.  It was only noon, but she had risen early to prepare three varieties of Cuban pastries along with the hot items she had served.

The society women who belonged to the club had oohed and aahed over her food, and many had taken her business card, promising to call her for future high-profile events around town. The manager of the club was a valuable contact too. Isabella was certain he had a vast network that she hoped to tap into when she finally opened her restaurant.

Isabella had loved to bake from the first moment she stood on a chair before her abuela’s kitchen counter back in Miami and wielded a miniature rolling pin. As she got older, and taller, she learned how to prepare the Cuban dishes that made her grandma’s home the place to be when mealtime rolled around. The seed of the dream to open her own restaurant was born.

Up ahead, she spotted a man standing on a ladder next to a utility pole.  She didn’t recognize him, and he wasn’t dressed in an official uniform of any kind.  She didn’t see a truck, only a rusty bicycle that lay flat on the adjoining bike path. Who was he? Was he up to some mischief?

But what if he was in trouble? Before she could stop to think twice, she pulled the van over to the side of the road and got out.

The man shaded his eyes against the Florida sun as Izzy approached. The light glinted off his brown hair, gathered in an untidy man bun. A beard obscured the bottom half of his face making his expression unreadable.

“Can I help you?” he called.

He spoke with an intriguing accent. French?

“Oh, no,” Izzy said. “I wondered if you needed help.”

“You mean you wondered what I am doing,” the man replied. He gestured to several open cans at the foot of the ladder, half hidden in the weeds. “I am painting.”

“Painting on that pole? Why?”

He chuckled. “Because it is there. Is that not what people say when they climb Mount Everest? Simply because it is there.”