Tropical Christmas Cookies, Music, and More Holiday Ideas

 Tropical Twist to the Season –


Celebrating the holiday!

Enjoy tropical Christmas or Holiday Cookie recipes, an on-line relaxing spot to take a breath, take in a Hawaiian holiday song and an adorable holiday ornament to decorate a tree or window.





Be sure to stop by iTunes, Amazon MP3 or Google play and purchase this Mele Kalikimaka (Hawaiian Christmas Song) by Bing Crosby, on the White Christmas album. (It’s a must have for your holiday playlist:)



Try these holiday treats for your sweet tooth. Taste the melody of sunny flavors that melt in your mouth.

Yum! Tropical Holiday Treat!

Tropical Carrot Cake Cookies


1 stick butter (8 Tbsp.) at room temperature

½ cup packed brown sugar

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking soda

1 cup finely grated raw carrots

½ cup crushed pineapple packed in it’s own juice, drained (save the juice for frosting)

½ cup chopped pecans

½ cup shredded sweetened coconut



*Pre-heat oven to 350˚.  Grease your cookie sheet (or line with parchment paper).

*In a large bowl, beat butter until creamy, (1-2 minutes using handheld mixer).

*Add both sugars and mix until fluffy (about 5 minutes).

*Add egg and vanilla. Mix well.

*In medium bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.

*Add flour mixture to butter mixture until just combined.

*Fold in carrots, pineapple, pecans and coconut.

*Drop by Tbsp. onto baking sheet.

*Bake at 350˚ for 13-14 minutes or until set and edges slightly golden brown.

*Remove from oven and cool on cookie sheet for a couple of minutes, then onto a cooling rack.

*Let cool completely, then frost.

 Tropical Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz. Neufchatel cheese (can substitute cream cheese, this one has lower fat and fewer calories)

2 cups powdered sugar

3 Tbsp. pineapple juice

1 Tsp. vanilla

½ cup sweetened shredded coconut (for sprinkling)


Mix all ingredients together except coconut. Sprinkle coconut on top.


♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥  ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥  ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥  ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥  ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥  ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥  ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥


Enjoy a stress free 2 minutes at:

Hear the waves crash, see the peaceful shore. Relax.


 ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥  ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥  ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥  ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥  ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥  ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥  ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥


Coconut, Pineapple and Orange, a delicious cookie combination:)

Tropical Macaroons

Add a tropical twist to a favorite macaroon.

(Adapted from /pina-colada-macarooms-tropical.html)


2 ½ cups sweetened, flaked coconut

1/3 cup granulated sugar

4 tbsp. flour

½ tsp. salt

3 egg whites

1 tsp. vanilla

4 tsps. orange juice

1 cup crushed pineapple


*Pre-heat oven to 350˚.  Line cookie sheet with parchment paper or coat with cooking spray.

*Mix coconut, sugar, flour and salt together in large bowl.

*Whisk egg whites, vanilla and orange juice in medium bowl until light, frothy and evenly colored.

*Drop dough by spoonfuls onto cookie sheet and use your fingers to form the dough into tight pyramids or domes.

*Bake about 20 minutes until edges and tops lightly browned.


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The coolest tropical ornament on the planet. I happened upon her booth at this art show in between games at a soccer tournament. Beautiful, whimsical, lovely.


Adorable ornament

I love this colorful, whimsical little ornament!

Check out the rest of Liza Abelson’s amazing art glass works at Be sure to see the little mermaids!


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What’s your favorite Tropical Holiday Tradition?  Did you find a cookie cutter in the shape of a palm tree or put a little pineapple in your cranberry sauce.  We want to know.  Share your tropical ideas in the comments.


Wishing you and your family a happy tropical holiday and a sunny New Year.


Please Respect Copyright

Thanks for visiting my blog. All work is copyright of the author/artist, unless otherwise noted. If you would like to put anything from this site on your website please quote the author and provide a link back to this blog. All rights reserved.
© Kristi Rhodes 2012

Ten Tropical, Cost-Saving Tabletop Decorating Touches for Your Party or Casual Wedding Reception

I discovered these tropical decorating ideas while helping plan an event very close to my heart…

Lovely Mom and Dashing Richard during their tropical wedding:)

My wonderful Mom was married to her very sweet beau, Richard, this summer.  The loving couple had a simple, enchanting, homemade, fun, tropical wedding and reception. The affair was filled with love and tropical beauty.

A sample of the tabletop decorations. Photo courtesy of Wendy Maus©.


Pardon me for the tropical interruption.  This seemed like a good place for a video of Stone Calypso Medley – Trinidad&Tobago – Steel drums.

Plan Your Own Party in Paradise with Ten Ideas for Tabletop Tropical Touches
1. Splash Everything in Tropical Colors.

Color the party fun and festive with bowls and other serving pieces in the blue/green pallate, accented with crisp white.   

Pop in tropical colored serving dishes.

Great serving spoons were found at a dollar store.

Multi-colored serving pieces


2. Scatter Fabulous, Decorative Fish Nets.  They can be found at dollar stores and used over plain white tablecloths for a tropical touch.  Try them for a tropical wall decorations.

Decorative fishing net reely (little fishing humor) adds the tropical feel


3. Sprinkle sea glass. I found small packages of it at Michael’s for around a dollar.

Sea glass sparkles in your tropical centerpiece


4. Beautiful Baskets, Crazy Useful. You could fill them with tropical colored napkins, an arrangement, or to hold chips or bread.


Baskets, versatile and tropical

5. Put it All in Positively Perfect and Multipurpose Pails. They’re available in all sizes and colors and can be used for everything from holding arrangements to silverware and drinks.


These pails are perfect for tropical party tables.

6. Flexible, Fabulous, Faux Foliage.  We found ours at a dollar store and they really amp up the tropical feel.

Fabulous Faux Tropical Foliage


7. Burlap, Not Just for Bags Anymore. A great layering piece.  We used a 1’ x 1’ square as an inexpensive starting point for a tropical centerpiece.

Burlap is versatile, for a runner, an easy gathering piece for a tropical arrangement of a small accent under a vase.

8. Bouncy, Beach Balls.  Scatter on the tables or fill the pool with these playful, always tropical, adorable additions.

Beach balls add fun to a tropical table top.


9. Lanterns, Some Light Up for Extra Pizzazz.  I found these little ones at CVS, they’re tropical, add interest and beautiful at night.

These lanterns were extra special because they were small enough to fit nicely on a tabletop. They ran on batteries and they changed colors.


10. Fish Decorations, Plates, and Bowls.  They are just tropical and cute


Fun fish serving pieces and decorations


Wishing you a wonderful party.  I hope these suggestions helped you create a fun, tropical get-together.

If you have a tropical tabletop idea you’d like to share, please let us know in the comments.  Also, If you have any tropical party ideas or stories, please share. I love to hear from you and discover new decorating tips.

Thanks so much for stopping by!


Please Respect Copyright

Thanks for visiting my blog. All work is copyright of the author/artist, unless otherwise noted. If you would like to put anything from this site on your website please quote the author and provide a link back to this blog. All rights reserved.
© Kristi Rhodes 2012


Mangoes in the Morning – 3 Tropical Recipes to Start Your Day

Mangoes. Yum.

The local grocery stores are filled with ripe, sweet and juicy mangoes.  A perfect time to add a little tropical to your morning.

Mangos are my favorite fruit.  I love their silky texture, the bright tropical orange color to their meat, and their tangy/sweet flavor, their luscious juiciness. Yum.  Like a burst of sun, wrapped in a fruit.

In case you haven’t worked with a mango before, they are a little different. First wash them because a small percentage of people are allergic to the sap that sometimes can be on the skin. Mangoes are covered with a thick skin and have a large seed in the center.  You peel the skin off and then cut the fruit away from the pit. There are a couple of ways to do this, I use a knife to peel the skin all the way around working to remove as little of the delicious fruit as possible (like peeling an apple), then I slice down both sides of the oblong pit.  It sounds all neat and orderly here, but chopping a ripe mango is a juicy, messy but joyous proposition.

If you’d like to try another way of peeling your mango, has a great description.

The three recipes I’ve created here add a tropical twist to a few old breakfast favorites.

1. Mango Coconut Banana Bread -The mango and coconut bring a fruity, nutty, tropical twist to beloved banana bread.

2. Mango Tropical Smoothie  – A quick breakfast packed with vitamin C and protein.

3. Mango Pancakes Topped with Mango Whipped Cream  – Not only for the weekend, a decadent tropical delight.


Mango Coconut Banana Bread

A new twist on an old favorite – Mango Coconut Banana Bread

adapted from Coconut Bread recipe, Bahama Mama’s Cooking by Capt. Jan Robinson

This bread is the comfortable banana bread you know and love with a tropical kick that makes it fresh. It’s perfect for breakfast, snack or lunch.  Served warm with butter was the favorite at our house.

Makes 2 loaves


 4 cups flour

2 cups sugar

1 cup shredded sweetened coconut

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. nutmeg

1 tsp. vanilla

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1 cup milk

½ cup cream of coconut or coconut milk

1 cup mango, medium diced

1 cup banana, mashed

4 eggs, beaten


Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine all ingredients.

Separate into two 5 X 9 inch greased loaf pans.

Bake 1 hour or until done.  After 10 minutes, remove from pans and cool on racks.

Top with mango butter – YUM!



Mango Tropical Smoothie

A Tropical Eye Opener – Mango Tropical Smoothie

This Mango Tropical Smoothie is perfect for breakfast-on-the-go. It is easy and quick to make. Full of vitamins and protein it will help kick-start your day.

Sometimes I add a little coconut milk to up the tropical factor.


Makes 1 cup


1 1/2 cups fresh mango diced large or 1-15 oz. can sliced mango drained and rinsed or 1 cup frozen mango chunks (but need to add another tablespoon of honey)

1/2 cup orange juice

1/2 cup plain, non-fat greek yogurt

1/2 banana

1 Tbsp. honey

Handful of ice


Blend until smooth.



Mango Pancakes topped with Mango Whipped Cream

Tropical Treat - Mango Pancakes Topped with Mango Whipped Cream

These Mango Pancakes Topped with Mango whipped cream are for that special morning when you just need something tropical. No need for syrup, just top with fruit, then the whipped cream and heaven-on-a-plate.

Makes 10 pancakes


2 cups all-purpose flour

2 Tbsp. sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

¾ tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

2 eggs

1 ½ cups milk

1 banana, mashed

1 cup fresh mango, diced small (you can substitute frozen mango that has been thawed or canned mango)

Vegetable oil


Mix all ingredients, except vegetable oil, until combined. Don’t over mix, should be lumpy.


Warm 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in skillet over medium heat.


Pour 1/3 cup batter per pancake into skillet.  Cook until bubbles form in batter. Flip and cook until done, approximately 2 1/2 minutes per side.


Keep warm on a plate as you finish the remaining batter.


Serve with sugared mango chunks and mango whipped cream (recipe follows).


Mango Whipped Cream

 8 oz. whipping cream

½ tsp. vanilla

2 Tbsp. sugar

2 Tbsp. fresh mango, diced small (can be messy:)


Whip cream until it starts to thicken.


Add remaining ingredients and continue to whip until stiff peaks form.


Do you have a favorite way to eat mangoes? Have you had any mango adventures? We’d love to hear about it in the comment section.

Thanks for stopping by!


Please Respect Copyright

Thanks for visiting my blog. All work is copyright of the author/artist, unless otherwise noted. If you would like to put anything from this site on your website please quote the author and provide a link back to this blog. All rights reserved.
© Kristi Rhodes 2012


Rent a Sailboat for a Tropical Adventure in the British Virgin Islands – Part 2

Part 2

I’m Kristi Rhodes and excited to continue my interview with Tom Thompson, Captain of Lucky Dog Sailing.  He answered my many questions about what it takes to enjoy a sailing vacation in the British Virgin Islands (BVI).

Part 1 of my interview with Tom follows this post. Backwards. Sorry.

This trip is on my bucket list, and I also really love just hearing about their adventures, where they go and how they manage it. Renting a sailboat to cruise around the (BVI) seemed like an unattainable vacation until they told me their story.  The only caveat is that Tom is a captain with many years experience sailing, both in Chicago and the Caribbean.  For less experienced or novice sailors, hiring a captain with the boat is a great way to enjoy the same adventure.

First, a little background, Tom is a U.S. Coast Guard certified captain, sailing out of Belmont Harbor, Chicago, IL.  He has fifteen years sailing experience on Lake Michigan and has made 5 charter sailing trips to the BVI and St. Martin/St. Barts. His wife, Kristi is the helms(wo)man and a wonderful photographer.

Pardon me for the tropical interruption.  This seemed like a good place for a video of Bob Marley.  Be sure to stop by iTunes, Amazon MP3 or Google Play to purchase this song, Satisfy your Soul by Bob Marley and The Wailers


Snorkel adventure at Monkey Point. Photos provided by Kristi Moen. Click on photo to enlarge.

Do you snorkel a lot? What is favorite activity on trip? 

Yes, we snorkel almost every day, and it seems that each spot is better than the last.  We’ve seen great coral formations, sea fans, sea turtles, stingrays, octopus, dolphins, squid, crabs and an abundance of fish.  There is one spot named Monkey Point, just off Great Guana, that is a “must see”.  In addition to the normal sea life, there are giant schools of 4” long silver fish that completely surround you, but stay about a foot away from you, as you swim through the school you can’t see anything else.  It’s amazing.

What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you?

The list is long, but generally it has something to do getting the crew of 8 into and out of the Zodiac style Dinghy.  Add in a couple cocktails and a moving boat and somebody is going swimming…


Oh, and a particular taxi ride comes to mind….  Our first year, our flights arrived late, so we made reservations to stay at a hotel that said it was near the airport.  8 of us were on the same flight, so all loaded into one mini-van type cab – a guy in our group negotiated a rate of $40 for all of us – what a deal!  As you can imagine, with all of our luggage, we needed to sit on laps and were packed in like sardines.  It took a while, but we finally got the doors closed and left the airport.  About a block away, the cab took a right, went about 100 feet, and stopped.  We thought he might be getting directions, or that we were too overloaded to go any further.  Nope.  We were at the hotel.  It took us longer to unpack the van than to get there, and we certainly could have walked.  Lesson learned?  Google your hotel location before you travel!  The cabbie probably laughed as much as we did later that night (and I’m sure we weren’t the first or last to do this).

  What’s the scariest thing that’s happened to you?

I’d have to say, the scariest moment(s) are usually weather related.  There are frequent late afternoon squalls – luckily you can see them coming, but you have to reef the sails quickly to prepare.   One trip to St Martin, we had to bring the boat in a day early due to a tropical storm approaching.  It was still sunny, but the wind and waves were building quickly.  The channel into the harbor is very narrow and winding with a lot of reef, and we had to navigate it in 10-12 foot seas.  A harbor boat came out to lead each boat in, but trying to navigate a Cat through that was a workout for sure, and the lead boat kept disappearing beyond the large waves.  It was a welcome moment when we tied up to the dock that afternoon!

Rough Seas-not the rough seas they encountered, just generic rough seas:) –added for dramatic effect.

What percentage of trip is done doing what?  Like, sailing from spot to spot 50%, hanging out on deserted island 40%, cleaning and preparing meals 10%.

It’s rare the winds are going to be in the direction and strength you need each leg of the trip, so, we sail some and motor some each day.  But in general – Traveling from place to place – 30%, Stops for lunch and snorkeling – 40%, Time on boat and on shore at overnight accommodations – 30%.  Other “chores” really happen concurrently, but we share the load.

Do you dock and sleep?  Or does someone sail overnight or at night?

The charter companies prohibit night sailing, so we’re usually on the mooring ball by 4pm, just in time for Happy Hour!

How about fishing?  Do you eat mostly fish?

You can fish off the boat as long as you buy and license and you’re not in a Marine Park.  The onshore restaurants have the best fish you’ve ever tasted.  It’s all caught locally, never frozen, and when it’s gone, it’s gone, so plan to eat dinner early – and, in high season – radio ahead for a group reservation.

What’s your favorite place to dock and visit?

Baths on Virgin Gorda. Photographs provided by Kristi Moen. Click on photo to enlarge.

In the BVI we actually have two favorites…The Baths on Virgin Gorda and the island of Jost Van Dyke.  The Baths is a spot right on the beach with very large granite boulders that look like they were stacked by a Giant from outer space.  There are marked paths through the boulders that lead you to ponds and little secluded beaches.  Some call the Bathes the 8th Wonder of the World.  Note – get there EARLY in the morning, as it gets incredibly busy and hard to get through by late morning.  Jost Van Dyke is a small island on the north side of Tortola with several famous bars (Foxy’s & Soggy Dollar), and Sidney’s Peace & Love restaurant.  Don’t want to miss Jost!

Tintamarre Island Beach looking back at St. Martin. Mike soaking:) Photo provided by Kristi Moen. Click on photo to enlarge.

In the St. Martin area (Il Forche), we spent a night on a deserted island where we were the only sailboat in a harbor, and woke to do a morning hike to the top of the highest point on the island at sunrise.  Looking out over a deserted island surrounded by ocean as far as you can see really makes you feel small and also how much “work” really matters.  It was a morning I’ll never forget.

Have you met any really great locals? Tell me about them.

Kristi, Foxy (from Foxys Bar on Jost Van Dyke) and Tom. Photograph courtesy of Kristi Moen©

We met Foxy (from Foxy’s on Jost Van Dyke) – he was casually playing his guitar in the morning at his beach bar.  He would ask folks where they were from, and then make up a song with that city in it.  He also told really colorful jokes that will make even sailors blush!

We also had the opportunity to meet Sidney (from Sidney’s Peace & Love on Jost) and a lot of his extended family.  He served us lobsters that were as tall as we were (when you held antennae, which he had you do for a great photo moment before he cooked them).  It was a quiet day, and he introduced us to his family and visited with our group for most of the afternoon.  Also gave the Captain a free lobster meal!  Sadly, Sidney passed away 2 years ago, but we will always remember this day with him and his family.

From left to right Sidney (from Sidney’s Peace & Love on Jost), lobster, Tom, lobster, Kristi & Mike. Photo couresty of Kristi Moen©. Click on photo to enlarge.

How hard is it to walk off the boat after a week in the tropics and leave on the plane for home?

It’s a hectic morning – coming into the dock, packing, disembarking, grabbing a cab, getting to airport, transfers in Miami, etc…

One funny thing to mention is that on the boat, you’re always barefoot and deck is generally wet, so your feet get a little water-logged.  It feels sooo good to put on a pair of dry socks after the trip.  You wouldn’t think it’s such a big deal, but it really is.

Is this type of trip horribly expensive? 

Well, let’s just say it’s worth every penny!  But, yes, it’s more than your average vacation.  There are some ways around this – going in off/shoulder season, looking for special discount weeks with the charter companies, going on a monohull, etc.  The catamarans are almost double the price of the monohulls, so if you’re going alone or only have 2-3 couples, a monohull will save a lot of money, but you will spend a LOT more time sailing from spot to spot vs. enjoying the stops (cats are much faster).  With a group of 8 on a cat, we plan on about $200 per person per day, which includes the boat, meals/drinks on the boat, moorings, etc. (Airfare, transfers, shore meals/drinks, etc. not included).

What if someone wants more information?

For charter questions, contact Sunsail or The Moorings either online or call them and request a brochure.  The brochures are full of options and pictures of the different islands that they have mooring base locations.  I really would recommend the BVI, especially for your first charter trip due to the favorable sailing conditions and abundance of mooring balls for overnight stays.

For trip advice, leave your name in the comments section and I’ll forward your request to Tom, you know, just to avoid spam and all.  He loves to hear where people are going and always glad to share his experiences.

Tom and Kristi–Thanks again! Photograph courtesy of Kristi Moen©

Thanks so much to Tom and Kristi!!!!!

We’d love to hear your favorite tropical adventures, let us know in the comment section.

Thank you for stopping by!


Please Respect Copyright

Thanks for visiting my blog. All work is copyright of the author/artist, unless otherwise noted. If you would like to put anything from this site on your website please quote the author and provide a link back to this blog. All rights reserved.
© Kristi Rhodes 2012


Rent a Sailboat for a Tropical Adventure in the British Virgin Islands – Part 1

See How This Couple Is Living the Dream

Each year on his Christmas card, I stared dreamily at Tom’s photos of his Caribbean sailing vacations. I always wanted to hear the full story of how he and his wife, Kristi, were able to sail in the Caribbean, it seemed like such an out-of-reach, exotic adventure. I had so many questions, where did they sail, what is involved, but we never got around to talking about it. Today, I finally asked the questions for my bucket list trip and he gave me great answers.  I hope they help you learn how to take a sailing trip to the British Virgin Islands, or just to daydream about a sailing trip to the Caribbean.

Pardon me for a small tropical interruption.  Just thought a little Jimmy Buffett could set the sailing mood. Be sure to stop by iTunes,  Amazon MP3 or Google play and purchase this song, One Particular Harbor, by Jimmy Buffett. A must-have for your summer playlist:)

Back to our interview…A little background, Tom Thompson of Lucky Dog Sailing, is a U.S. Coast Guard certified captain, sailing out of Belmont Harbor, Chicago, IL. He has fifteen years sailing experience on Lake Michigan. He also has made 5 charter sailing trips to the BVI and St. Martin/St. Barts.

Where did you go on your first Tropical Sailing vacation? Did you have a captain?

Thanks to Wikipedia for this map:)  Click to see bigger picture.

 Our first charter trip was to the British Virgin Islands. The BVI is a group of islands just southeast of St. Thomas & St John. The largest island in the BVI is Tortola and it is surrounded by many barrier islands that form a “ring” around Tortola. You sail in the protected waters between Tortola and the barrier islands, mostly in the Sir Francis Drake channel and basically do a circle around Tortola. The waters around the BVI are deep with few reefs, navigation is line-of-site, and there are a lot of mooring balls for overnight security. Our first trip was on a Lagoon 38 catamaran with 4 cabins and 2 heads. We now have upgraded to a 44’ catamaran which provides more living/dining space and a private head for each of the 4 cabins.
( Editor’s note, this is the manufacturer’s video and I just thought it was cool and would give you a feel for the 44′ catamaran.  I did not receive compensation — but if they offered, I would not turn down a free boat:)

There are 2 major yacht charter companies on Tortola, Sunsail and The Moorings, each with many choices in styles (mono-hull or catamaran) and lengths of sailboats.  Depending on your sailing experience, you can Captain the boat yourself (you have to submit a sailing resume to the company) or you can hire a Captain (through the charter company) to take you around the islands.   Sunsail also offers a Flotilla option, which we did our first time and would highly recommend for all first timers.  This is where a group of charter boats, with a lead boat from the company, travel to the same spot every night, but you are pretty much on your own all day.  Each night you meet for a briefing for the next day, and they also have some social nights, if you’d like to join the group on shore.  This gives you peace of mind, as they make sure each boat arrives to the harbor each afternoon and help you set anchor if needed.  The lead boat has a mechanic on board, so is there to assist with any minor issues with the sailboat that inevitably come up.  This gives you a lot of flexibility and feeling that you are doing it alone (as you don’t follow each other all day), but the security that someone is looking out for you.

Dead Man’s Cove, Peter Island. Photo courtesy of Kristi Moen© Click on photo to see full size.

(If you click on the photo, you can see the larger size and it is even more beautiful.  Kristi -photographer and helmswoman- says that Dead Man’s Cove is one of their favorite lunch spots.  “There is an incredible resort with a great lanai-type lunch spot on the beach (only place where you have to dine with “real” clothes on  – no suits etc. – men usually wear collars). There is also a great beach for relaxing and good snorkeling, too.  This day was busier than most – sometimes there are only 2 – 3 boats with us.”)

Where did you learn to sail? 

Growing up in Panama City, FL, my family was always out on the water on our power boat. When I turned 14, I bought my first sailboat – a 14’ Sunfish, and probably sailed it 3 or 4 times a week.  Since then, have owned a Hobie 12, Hobie 16, Catalina 27, Hunter Legend 35.5 and currently own a Hunter 41 Deck Salon.  We live in Chicago and sail out of Belmont Harbor on Lake Michigan.

How big are the boats you rent?  How many people does it take to run them?  How many slackers are on board or does everyone have a job?:)

Yes, I Captain the boat, with my wife, Kristi, as my Helmsman (or should I say Helmswoman!).  We usually charter a 41’ to 44’ catamaran.  We always go the catamaran route for the stability, the extra living space and everyone loves to sit on the front trampoline as we are under way.  The two of us can handle the sailing duties of the “cat”, but we give everybody a job for the week.  Some jobs are more glamorous than others, but each is important to a smooth and safe sail.

Less glamorous job

Describe a typical trip, day-by-day, like arrive in day one, sail to next island, , spend day two snorkeling, then hike up a mountain and sing “The Hills are Alive”…

Day 1 involves getting to the island and usually staying overnight in a local hotel (you can also pay ½ day rate for boat if it is available the night before).

Day 2 starts with the crew dividing – some to the grocery store, some to the liquor store, and some to do the boat briefing and checkout with the charter company.

Once we’re underway, there really isn’t ever a typical day, which makes the trip very interesting.  We do have a “plan”, but we always have a “plan b” to take into account prevailing winds/weather.

Each day we have breakfast on board and then head out of the harbor.

Most days involve a snorkel spot and a lunch spot on the way to our overnight stop.

One thing we really like is the flexibility to move at whatever pace you want, there isn’t a schedule to follow.  The charter companies ask that you arrive in your overnight location around 4pm, so that you can see the sea bottom while the sun is still high in the sky, and also gets you to Happy Hour on time! In the BVI, most harbors have a field of mooring balls to secure the boat overnight.  The fee to use the mooring balls is usually $20-$25 per night.  There is also the option to anchor for the night, but we sleep a lot better knowing the boat is secure on a mooring ball.  There are also some harbors where you can have a slip with power, etc., but we prefer to be out on the water.  The last day is busy getting everything off the boat and getting back to airport.

Sunset at Cooper Island – Manchioneel Bay. Photo courtesy of Kristi Moen© Click on photo to see full size.

(Kristi says,”Cooper Island is a great place to go to shore for sunset, cocktails and conch fritters before having dinner on board.  Great views and quiet place.”)
So, this is an annual trip. How many friends go?  Any snoreres?  Are they invited back?

The first few trips, we had the same 3 other couples.  The past few trips, we have actually had enough “demand” for 2 weeks, so we go around Tortola for one week, then the first group flies out, the second group flies in, and we do it all again!

Yes, we have some snorers (the Helmswoman, for example, ha!), but on the catamaran, the cabins are spread out to the ends of each pontoon, so you really don’t hear your fellow crew.

Where do you sleep? Anyone under the stars? 

Each of the cabins have at least a full size bed…. the bigger the boat, obviously the bigger the cabins and the beds. We have slept under the stars on occasion, but in Caribbean, it generally rains a bit overnight, so we usually end up in our cabins.  Once you leave the dock (and shore power), you lose the air conditioning, so the cabins have small fans and you sleep with the hatch open for ventilation.  Well, until it rains…..  Usually someone will be on the trampoline for sunrise in their blankets.

What do you eat?  What’s your favorite on-board meal?

Soggy Dollar on Jost Van Dyke, White Bay. Photo courtesy of Kristi Moen©

There are several great restaurants and famous bars around the BVI, like Foxy’s and Soggy Dollar on Jost Van Dyke, that you’ll want to try.  We always have breakfast on board, but usually split lunch and dinner with one on shore and one on board based on the day’s itinerary.  There is a small BBQ grill on board, so most meals involve grilling in some way.  We try to vary the meat – chicken one night, steak the other, fish, etc.  One thing that works well is that each couple takes one meal to prepare – and they plan it all.  This couple leaves Happy Hour on the beach early to prepare cook and serve the meal, make the drinks, and do all the cleanup – while the rest of the crew does whatever they would like – arriving in time to enjoy a relaxing dinner on board.  This way, you work hard one night, but get to enjoy all the other nights.  Also, the galley is not really large enough for more than 2 – so it works out perfectly.

What do you bring?  What do you buy when you get there?

Groceries – To help make the trip a little more affordable, we bring most all of the dry goods (like rice, pasta, pop-tarts, cookies, energy bars, spices) and condiments (ketchup, mustard, soy, BBQ sauce) from home.  We pack this all in a double large black trash bag and put into a cooler with wheels and check this as one piece of luggage.  There are Velcro straps you can buy to hold the cooler lid shut (and keeps the handle in place).  This keeps everything from breaking, and then you have an extra cooler on the boat, as well as something to carry your souvenirs home in!  Refrigerator space is very limited on the boat, so we go to the market every other day for fresh meat and veggies.

Clothes – Bring a LOT less than you think you need.  It’s casual everywhere you go, and you will be in your swim suits the majority of the time.  Also, things get a little “boaty” after a few days, so here’s a trick – get the extra-large Ziplock bags (2.5 gallon) and put 1-2 days worth of clothes in each bag with a dryer sheet.  Then, when you open it, it is nice and fresh!  And pack a few pairs of socks (see departure day notes).  And a pair of shoes you can walk/hike in – there are some spectacular morning hikes from many overnight coves.

Other – A few small waterproof flashlights (Target has some with blinking lights for safety, too).  You do a lot of traveling in and out of the dinghy at night, on docks, and in bars.  Walkie Talkies to communicate to others when you split up (as you only have one dinghy).  Febreeze (remember “boaty” comment).  Games & Cards.

Off the beach at Soggy Dollar, Jost Van Dyke, White Bay. Photo courtesy of Kristi Moen© Click on photo for full screen view.

To be continued…

If you have any questions, have a fascinating sailing tale or just wanna extend the conversation…please fill in the reply box below or  hit the talk balloon by the title and leave us a comment:)

NOTE: Please check with boat rental companies for all of their rules and most of all, be safe:)

Thanks so much for stopping by:)



Please Respect Copyright

Thanks for visiting my blog. All work is copyright of the author/artist, unless otherwise noted. If you would like to put anything from this site on your website please quote the author and provide a link back to this blog. All rights reserved.
© Kristi Rhodes 2012

Tropical Toasted Coconut “Chips” Dipped in Dark Chocolate

Oh, the happy coconut.  I thought we’d start off with a little coconut nostalgia. Please enjoy this tropical moment from YouTube, then we can go on to more serious coconut matters.

Be sure to stop by iTunes,  Amazon MP3 or Google play and purchase this song Coconut, by Harry Nilsson. It’s a must have for your summer playlist:)


Okay, now that we’re all feeling really tropical.

I wanted to share one of my recipes.  It was inspired from the tropical book I wrote and am currently editing.


Toasted Coconut “Chips” Dipped in Dark Chocolate

These little candies are perfect for a special treat, a gift for your favorite coconut + chocolate lover, a great barbecue take-along, or an after school snack. From start to finish, this recipe takes about forty-five minutes to create.



1 fresh coconut from your local grocery store

2 dark chocolate 3.5 ounce bars (I used Lindt 70% cocoa, Smooth Dark for this recipe)


Prepare the coconut:

First, crack the coconut in half and drain the water (or keep for another recipe). I placed the coconut in the grass and hit it with a hammer. It cracked very easily.

Next remove the meat from the hard shell.  One technique is to run a butter knife between the white meat and the brown shell.  Then score the white meat with a sharp knife into 2 inch chunks, and use your butter knife to “shimmy” out the chunks.  You want the coconut to stay in as large of pieces as you can manage.

Using the butter knife to ‘shimmy’ out the coconut meat:)

Once you have the chunks of coconut out of the shell, take a vegetable peeler and peel away the darker skin from the white

meat.  Save the meat.

Peeling off the darker layer


Now use the side slicer on a box grater or a paring knife and carefully cut the coconut meat into thin slices.

Grating into slices to make “chips”


Placing the coconut slices on the baking sheet to put in the over for toasting


Place these slices onto a baking sheet and bake at 350° for 3 – 10 minutes depending on the thickness of your slices — until toasted.  You want the edges to be light brown.


 Prepare the chocolate for dipping:

Break up the chocolate bars in a bowl

Break up the two dark chocolate bars into squares and place in a bowl.  On fifty percent power, microwave the bowl of chocolate for a minute, stir.  Repeat until all of the chocolate is melted.

Dip the cooled toasted coconut “chips” into the dark chocolate and place each chip on a platter lined with wax paper.

The toasted coconut “chips” dipped in dark chocolate ready for the fridge

Put platter into the fridge for ten minutes or until hard.


Store in airtight container with layers separated with wax paper in the refrigerator.

What is your favorite tropical candy?  Let us know click on the comment balloon next to this post’s title at the top.  If you have a recipe that you’d like to share, we’d love to try it.

Hope to see you next week.  Thanks so much for stopping by.


Please Respect Copyright

Thanks for visiting my blog. All work is copyright of the author/artist, unless otherwise noted. If you would like to put anything from this site on your website please quote the author and provide a link back to this blog. All rights reserved.
© Kristi Rhodes 2012


Tropical Trip Alert – Relax and Explore Hope Town, Elbow Cay, Abaco, Bahamas

My friend went on this fabulous vacation, to Hope Town, Elbow Cay, Bahamas.  She shared her how-to-get-there, what-to-do secrets. Hope it will help with your travel plans or give you a new little tropical adventure to add to your bucket list.

1.  How do you get to Hope Town, Elbow Cay, Abaco, Bahamas?

*Flight and ferry ride.

Taking off…

It’s only a 45-minute flight from Florida.  She, her husband and teenage son hopped on a plane in West Palm Beach, and flew to Marsh Harbor, Abaco Islands, Bahamas.    For some of us, non-Floridians, I looked at the flight prices from Hartford, CT. to Marsh Harbor during July, 2012 and they ran in the $600 range, although, that was my first glance at Travelocity and I didn’t shop around.

Once you arrive in Marsh Harbor, she said it was a short taxi ride to the dock where you wait for the next ferry to Hope Town.  She rode the ferry with a crowd of dressed-up local girls and their mothers going for tea at the Hope Town Harbour Lodge.


Ferry at Hope Town Harbor Lodge Photograph courtesy of Wendy Cawley Maus©

The Marsh Harbor ferry leaves every couple of hours and takes about twenty minutes to get to Hope Town. To get the latest information, the website for the ferry is


 2.  Where’d they stay? 

 *Hope Town Harbour Lodge.

The ferry took them right to the Hope Town Harbour Lodge. It used to be an old Captain’s House and is a beautiful lodge with lush grounds.  The staff were all very friendly.  There lodge also has a lovely pool area with a bar you can see above in the photo.  A path through the gardens leads to the beach, and fun snorkeling. Check out their website for more information www.hopetownlodgecom.

In case they are booked up, or if you’d like to try something different, there are other hotels, as well as houses to rent.


How did she get around? 

 *Walk, golf cart and boat (bicycles rentals were also available)

Their family rented a golf cart for one day and used it to go and visit Tahiti Beach, on the other end of Elbow Cay.  My friend described it as beautiful, with a few people, and boats pulling up, quiet and relaxing.  They snorkeled there also.

Golf cart currently run around $40 for a day or $240 a week during the off-season according to their ads.

They also spent a couple of days renting a boat.  The boats rent for a day or a week and the costs depend on how many days you rent.  NOTE: This family owns their own boat and are accustomed to working with boats and navigation.

My adventurous friend said the best thing about renting the boat was the ability to island hop.  Their family enjoyed Man-O-War Cay where they watched the Albury Brothers Boat Company make boats and enjoyed goodies made from a bakery that was located in the baker’s own home.  She also browsed through the Albury Sail Shop and purchased a beautiful purse that had a tag that read:  Made by Mrs. Norman Albury, Sailmaker, Man-O-War Cay.


Man-O-War Sign   Photograph by Wendy Cawley Maus ©


She also raved about visiting Great Guana Cay and finding a really great spot for lunch, Nipper’s. They walked down a path past a rusted piece of construction equipment with graffiti all over it, walked a little further and found Nipper’s.  She said you could spend the day there, great food, a bar, gift shop, beach where you can snorkel and a pool. Nipper’s website even includes videos Note:  Afternoons are great for families, but you may want to avoid Sunday and holiday adult parties if visiting with children.

Nipper’s at Great Guana Cay Photograph courtesy of Wendy Cawley Maus©


The other island hop treasure they found was on Little Harbour, Abaco, a place called Pete’s Pub and Gallery.  She said it was the quintessential beach bar, sandy floor great food, and wonderful atmosphere. Their website is


Pete’s Pub and Gallery, Little Harbour, Photograph courtesy of Wendy Cawley Maus©


What’d you eat?

*Their favorite was:

*Mom…Souse,  soup that was filled with meat and veggies 

*Dad…Fried fresh fish sandwiches and conch fritters. 

*Teenaged son…Mac and cheese pies, baked macaroni and cheese with             peppers to make it spicy, then baked and cut into squares.

That said, she still had many, many foodie stories that she gushed about from her trip, whether it be from the banana bread you could smell from outside Vern’s to breakfasts to Capt’n Jacks for lunch (could walk or take boat) – sit outside right on the water.  For dinner they took the golf cart to Sea Spray Resort and Marina.  She said it had a fun bar and restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating, as well as a great band playing for entertainment and dancing. You can see more about them at


What were the other cool, sights you enjoyed?

 *Hope Town Light or Elbow Reef Lighthouse


Hope T own Light, Photograph courtesy of  Wendy Cawley Maus©

*Snorkeling and seeing the wonderful sea creatures

*The beautiful crystal clear water.

*Architecture – New England style houses


Typical Hope Town House and Street, Photograph courtesy of  Wendy Cawley Maus©

What was the vibe of Hope Town? 

 *Relaxing, pretty quiet, friendly, laid back.

Need additional information?

 *For Overall Hope Town information:

 *For a webcam current shot of the beach there, go to:


I hope this either gave you a relaxing tropical coffee break, a mental mini-vacation to the Bahamas or prepared you for a real trip the Islands.

Be sure to double-check all of the information before your departure in case of changing circumstances.

What tropical trip was your favorite?  What made it so special?  Let us know in the comments so we can add it to our tropical bucket list:)

Thanks for stopping by~

Please Respect Copyright

Thanks for visiting my blog. All work is copyright of the author/artist, unless otherwise noted. If you would like to put anything from this site on your website please quote the author and provide a link back to this blog. All rights reserved.
© Kristi Rhodes 2012


5 Top Snorkeling Videos

Welcome!  Today, we’re visiting the top 5 snorkeling videos.

For all of you snorkel lovers or if you’re just interested in the creatures under-the-sea  these videos will bring you down under (the sea, that is).  These videos are listed in no particular order. Enjoy:)

1. The first video is from ST. ANDREWS STATE PARK, in Panama City, Florida.

My family snorkeled there and we loved it. A sandy beach lined a sheltered cove with rocks that bordered the inlet to snorkel along.

The video just relaxed me. Fun to watch the few fish that led to an amazing school.

2. The second video is so cool to me because it stars an OCTOPUS.

How often do we get to see how they move around in their natural environment? I thought it was fascinating.


3. This third video showcases a SEA TURTLE meeting snorkelers on the Great Barrier Reef.

Oh. My. Gosh.  It is so darned cute. I have only seen turtles a couple of times while snorkeling, so it is fun to me to live vicariously through this video.


4. The fourth interesting snorkeling video is from COZUMEL.

It’s fun because it has cool music, takes you from shore to ship to snorkel place and then under the sea. I felt like a passenger on the trip.

5. The fifth snorkeling video is from Antigua.

Just looked like a fun adventure I’d love to experience.  Also, at more than 9 minutes long, you can really get lost in the adventure.

I hope you enjoyed the snorkeling trips today. Where was your favorite snorkeling adventure?  Let us know in the Comments section.  If you’d like to receive email notice for new posts, there’s a place in the comments box to check.

Thanks so much for visiting Tropical Coffee Break.  Hope to see you next week for a new tropical topic:)


Please Respect Copyright

Thanks for visiting my blog. All work is copyright of the author/artist, unless otherwise noted. If you would like to put anything from this site on your website please quote the author and provide a link back to this blog. All rights reserved.
© Kristi Rhodes 2012

Mark Klein’s Famous Fresh Margarita Recipe

Monday, May 21, 2012

WELCOME to Tropical Coffee Break. My name is Kristi Rhodes and I’m writing about all things tropical and sub-tropical.  I hope you will take a break from your day to enjoy tropical views, adventures, recipes, sounds, books, furnishings, creatures or anything else tropical and fun I find.

I thought a TOAST may be in order.  I mean this is my first blog and we need to celebrate such an occasions don’t we?  Well, just in case you don’t have anything to toast with, I’ve included my favorite drink recipe.

My toast to you:

May your day be filled with tropical attitudes, relaxed family-and-friend-filled moments and peaceful minds.

Clink and drink!

Mark Klein’s Famous Fresh Margarita Recipe 

This is my brother’s secret recipe. 

The Finished Recipe
Non-alcoholic is just as delicious, just omit the hard stuff, maybe increase the sugar

(Just a word from our legal team:  please follow the drinking laws in your state or country and only imbibe if you are of age)

*Makes 3 cups


1 ½ ounces Tequila (1800 or your favorite)

1 ounce Cointreau or Triple Sec

4 limes, 3 oranges and ½ grapefruit

¼ cup sugar

1 1/2 ounces Tequila (1800 or your favorite)

First, create the…

Fresh Homemade Margarita Mix:

In a small pitcher,

Squeeze 4 limes, 3 oranges and half of a grapefruit

Add ¼ cup sugar

Stir juices and sugar together.


In a cocktail shaker or pitcher:

Add a handful of ice

Add Tequila and Cointreau

Add Fresh Homemade Margarita Mix

Now…Shake, shake, shake—shake, shake, shake…shake your boo –

Oh sorry.  Lost in a song.

Shake, shake, shake


Prepare your glasses:

(This step is optional)

Rub a lime wedge all the way around the rim of your glass

Put the lime in the coconut….or something like that

Dip your glass in a plate of salt or sugar


If serving your Margarita straight up, strain the combined ingredients in the shaker and pour into your salt/sugar rimmed glass.

 If serving on-the-rocks, pour your Margarita over ice in your salt/sugar rimmed glass.

If serving frozen, pour the Margarita into the blender, give it a whirl and then pour into your salt/sugar rimmed glass.


Let the party begin…

Clink and slurp.

I’m picturing you right now having fun, drinking your Margaritas with friends. What’s your favorite tropical drink recipe?  Share below in the comments. If you’d like to get updates in your email when new blogs (around once a week) come out, check the box in comments. Come join us for more fun in the tropics.

Until next time, wishing you sunny days and tropical coffee breaks…


Please Respect Copyright

Thanks for visiting my blog. All work is copyright of the author/artist, unless otherwise noted. If you would like to put anything from this site on your website please quote the author and provide a link back to this blog. All rights reserved.
© Kristi Rhodes 2012



Welcome to Tropical Coffee Break where in the time it takes to sip a cup of coffee you can be taken to the tropics and back!

Welcome to Tropical Coffee Break. Thanks for visiting.

Enjoy a minute of tropicality right now.  Watch below and inhale.

Take a peek at our blog, it’s under the tab “Tropical Blog”, next to the “Home” and “About Me” tabs.

Today we’re making a toast to our first blog page and included is…

 Mark Klein’s Famous Fresh Margarita Recipe.

You don’t want to miss it!  Stop by.

If you’d like to receive Tropical Coffee Break new blog posts automatically to your email, be sure to check the box in the comments block that says, “Notify me of new posts by email”.

Thanks so much!


Please Respect Copyright

Thanks for visiting my blog. All work is copyright of the author/artist, unless otherwise noted. If you would like to put anything from this site on your website please quote the author and provide a link back to this blog. All rights reserved.
© Kristi Rhodes 2012