Mermaids, Dolphins, Elves, Oh My!

By Melanie Pagan

This month on the island is truly a special one for residents and guests alike. Captiva Holiday Village holds a series of events that combine the essence of a winter wonderland with a laid-back, tropical twist (think Palm trees wrapped in Christmas lights).

This past weekend, I enjoyed watching the Fourth Annual Golf Cart Parade while it traveled from Chadwick’s Square at South Seas Island Resort to Andy Rosse Lane, looping around Chapin and Wiles Drive and back past the Green Flash restaurant before returning to South Seas. I even managed to snap a few shots of the creative carts amid the excitement!

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This year’s winners included:
Best in Show- American Realty of Captiva’s “Snow Renourishment”
Commercial Category- Kingfisher Vacation’s” Rudolphin”
Non-commercial Category- Mixed Nuts, featuring Betsy Hanna, Terry McClure, Cannella Mullins, Kim and Kathleen Nealon, and Deb Wendall.

Click here to see which events have yet to take place during the Captiva Holiday Village weekends!

A portion of the $20 entrance fee benefitted the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation.

Melanie Pagan is the editorial assistant/social media representative for TOTI Media, Inc. and she encourages you to participate in our Sanibel Stoop picture contest. LIke our Facebook page for details.

Run, Run, Rudolph

By Melanie Pagan

Recently on our Facebook, we shared the image below of TopNotch® Records singer, songwriter, and pianist Whitney Wolanin  hanging out with musician Gavin DeGraw. She ran into him while filming her short parody film for Run, Run Rudolph–a song that will play in over 100,000 retail stores this holiday season!

photo courtesy of

The film has already played in Berlin, Paris and IDAR Oberstein, but you can une into it here:

To hear more music by Whitney Wolanin, download her holiday mini-album Run, Run, Rudolph available on iTunes now! Learn more about the singer in our January/February issues, on stands soon.

 Melanie pagan is the editorial assistant for TOTI Media, Inc.

Happy Thanksgiving and Jolly Shopping Days!


by Melanie Pagan

As the end of the week approaches, stomachs growl in anticipation of turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, and other special dishes made exclusively on Thanksgiving. But food and fun with family members aren’t the only things that stir up excitement this holiday weekend.

Black Friday commences at the stroke of midnight and crowds of people race around to score some great deals on presents for loved ones (and, you know, maybe a gift of two for themselves). Our November/December issues of RSW Living, Gulf & Main, Bonita & Estero and Times of the Islands tell readers why Coconut Point and the Edison Mall are great places to shop on the big day.

And although Black Friday is widely recognized as the biggest shopping day of the year, Small Business Saturday is an equally great day to spend time hunting for cheap finds, all while supporting our local businesses.

Here are a few Southwest Florida-based establishments to keep in mind this Saturday:

Bonita/Estero/Naples – Mark Loren Designs (and Fort Myers), Norris Home Furnishings (Fort Myers and Sanibel), and Posh Plum.

Cape Coral/Fort Myers – Jennifer’s, Mirage Boutique, and The Open Door Shoppes.

Sanibel/Captiva – Cedar Chest Fine Jewelry, Eileen Fisher, H2O Outfitters, Island Pursuit,  Lily & Co., Sanibel Book Shop, She Sells Sea Shells, Suncatchers’ Dream, and YOLO Water Sports.

Fuel up during your big shopping weekend at one of these tasty local restaurants:

Bonita/Estero/Naples – A Table Apart, Bellini on Fifth Italian Ristorante, Big Hickory Seafood Grille & Marina, Blu Sushi (and Fort Myers),Figs Grille, Ford’s Garage (and Fort Myers), Gordon’s on the River, Figs Grille, Home Thai Sushi Bar, Inca’s Kitchen, Masa, Pinchers (several Lee County locations), Old 41, Survey Café, and Tarpon Bay Restaurant,

Cape Coral/Fort Myers – Cristof’s on McGregor, The Edison,  Firestone, Los Cabos Cantina, Prawnbroker, University Grill, and  The Veranda.

Fort Myers Beach – Nervous Nellie’s

Sanibel/Captiva – Cantina Captiva, Captiva Pizza, Yogurt & Gift Emporium, Geppetto’s Beach Foodies, The Jacaranda, Island BBQ, Island Cow, Island Pizza,  Keylime Bistro, Matzaluna, The Mucky Duck, The Old Captiva House, Pinocchio’s Ice cream, RC Otter’s,  The Sandbar, Starfish Grill, Sunshine Seafood Café & Wine Bar, Sweet Melissa’s Café, Timbers, Thistle Lodge, and Traders.

On behalf of the entire TOTI Media family: have a very happy, healthy and safe Thanksgiving and holiday weekend.

….Let us know below! We are thankful for our wonderful and loyal supporters of TOTI Media.

Play Here, Stay Here

by Melanie Pagan

Each morning that I drive over the Sanibel Causeway for work, I fall in love all over again. Even after all the years of frequenting the island in my youth, the feeling of serenity I get when I see Sanibel’s endless horizon from the top of the bridge never subsides. The sight of blue skies and waves as they glisten in the sun, quietly breaking and fading into white sand; the sound of swaying palm trees and pelicans diving for fish in the ocean… it is truly a slice of paradise.

I imagine that our seasonal island guests get a similar feeling when crossing over. Visitors arriving at any of Sanibel’s numerous luxury beachfront destinations will be treated to a front-row view of the water, and they can experience that peace daily.

I recently met with Waterside Inn owner Bert Jenks and toured rooms tailor-made for guests who yearn for that kind of experience. Waterside Inn is one of the many hotels that grant visitors secluded beach access just a few steps from their rooms.

But island tranquility is not just attainable out in the open. Beach-inspired color schemes linger throughout the cottages at the inn, and rooms bear just the right amount of sea-themed accents. Private balconies in units and front porches in suites allow guests to hear calming ocean sounds while enjoying the shade.

As I drove away from Waterside Inn, a maintenance man named John waved me goodbye. Just then I realized: guests may have high expectations for their stay on Sanibel based on the beautiful drive over, but those expectations must be met when they stay at one of our fine hotels—and they are! Not only are views from the rooms captivating, but hospitality services are genuine. Perhaps this is because Sanibel employees are truly happy to work where they do. After all, we do get to be at the beach all year long, and we are able to revisit that introduction to paradise each time we drive over the causeway.

San-Cap vacationers: what is your favorite place to stay on the islands and why? To Fort Myers locals: have you ever taken a “staycation” on the island? If so, where did you choose to rest your head? The beaches of Sanibel and Captiva have been ranked as some of the best in the world, so let’s recognize the establishments that make visits here more enjoyable.

Times of the Islands is the only sophisticated lifestyle magazine for the Lee island coast. Find out where to go to the get the most out of your vacation, or what is happening on the island you call home, by flipping through any of our issues.

Melanie Pagan is the editorial assistant for TOTI Media, Inc.

Sights from the Waterside Inn at  3033 W Gulf Dr, Sanibel, FL 33957 (239-472-1345):
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‘Tis the Season for Pleasin’

by Melanie Pagan

The holiday season is a wonderful time for Floridians. We are able to enjoy the outdoors without breaking a sweat, hospitality services thrive with a tremendous influx of vacationers, and out-of-state loved ones tend to travel here rather than persuade us to head north toward uninviting temperatures.

With that said, this past weekend I hosted a dinner party for my dear friends who escaped from an increasingly cold Colorado climate. We each prepared a special dish, and on that day of we filled up with sweet potato casserole, pot roast, and green beans, all while trading stories of our lives in cities apart. In the days before the gathering, I was not as concerned about the food (I keep that old pot roast family recipe on file for such occasions) as I was about the drinks. After all, everyone knows a dinner party is not complete without a delicious way to wash down an equally delightful dish.

Looking to create something with a seasonal taste like eggnog, but still light enough to compliment a meal, I searched through the November/December issue of Times of the Islands. When I opened up to the Cheers! section, a big bottle of Van Gogh Vodka immediately stared back at me. I was eager to give the liquor a try once I learned that the brand uses natural ingredients for flavoring, and has seemingly endless varieties from Dutch chocolate to PB&J.

The Double Dutch Espresso with Van Gogh Double Espresso Vodka ($29, Total Wine) featured in the magazine sounded simple and delicious—exactly the kind of drink I had in mind. The recipe called for milk or vanilla creamer and ground cinnamon, but I opted for vanilla almond milk and a touch of pumpkin spice creamer instead. I shook the ingredients with some ice, strained them into a martini glass, sprinkled cinnamon on top and voilà! Seasonally infused goodness with just the right amount of kick. I was very satisfied and, it turned out, my guests were too. By the end of dinner, my friends were begging to know where I had gotten the idea for the drink.

“Oh, you know, it’s just something I made,” I responded. I guess I’m not always as good at sharing tips as Times of the Islands can be. I will tell them eventually, but only after I use other ideas from the Cheers section first. After all, the drinks may serve as added incentive for my friends to visit, aside from the gorgeous weather we get during these cozy and inviting months.

Is there a holiday beverage, dish or gift idea we have inspired you to seek out for the holidays? Or is there a go-to recipe you keep just for celebratory occasions? Let us know if you’ve learned more about your favorite cocktail, wine, or spirit by reading our magazines! And if there is one we’ve just got to try, well, you don’t have to tell us twice. Cheers!

To find out more about a beverage to entertain or relax  with next, turn to the Cheers section in our November/December issues of Times of the Islands, Gulf & Main, RSW Living & Bonita & Estero on sale now.

Melanie Pagan is the editorial assistant for TOTI Media, Inc.

In Good Health

by Melanie Pagan

At a recent Carrabba’s luncheon, I listened to Andrew H. Singh, MD, MPH (guest author of Healthy Me. Healthy Lee. in our September/October issue of Gulf & Main) give a lecture on workplace wellness.

Similar to what he wrote in the article, Dr. Singh spoke about the Healthy Lee Workplace Wellness Incentive—a lifestyle plan created by the Horizon Council designed to inspire people in our community to make healthier choices.

Turns out, just a few simple lifestyle changes can take you a long way down the road to healthier living. Here are some key points Dr. Singh went over, showing us how to incorporate these choices every day:

Exercise More: Or, as I like to call it, the hardest activity to dedicate yourself to. But, commitment-phobes can relax. One does not need a gym membership to be active, although it helps.

Thirty minutes of exercise in the form of a brisk walk or three 10-minute exercises a day fits in to even the busiest of schedules, said Dr. Singh.

Eat healthier: Even after I opted for tilapia with my pasta instead of chicken, Dr. Singh offered a healthier alternative to our carb-filled dine in.

“As you can see, hardly anyone has touched the pasta at our table,” he said, pointing to a group of health workers with no more than a few bites taken from their plates. They had filled up on side orders of broccoli instead.

According to doctor’s orders, plates should be filled with 50 percent fruits and vegetables, equaling out to about five-to-nine servings a day. Even at restaurants, he proved this is still able to be done.

Don’t Smoke: The smoke-free environment Dr. Singh has implemented at his office promotes the healthy living lifestyle to all his employees. On average, he said, smokers miss about three-to-four more days of work per year directly from smoke-related illnesses.

Get plenty of rest: According to Dr. Singh, seven hours of sleep is the minimum a mind needs to stay sharp throughout the day.

Enjoy life: Isn’t this what we all want to do, anyway? Keeping your mind and body active, Dr. Singh said, is the key to getting there.

I watched as the doctor and wellness advocate kept us engaged through his honest enthusiasm, and it made me realize just how much he has truly benefited from this lifestyle. While most of us were drowning in that sluggish, two o’clock feeling after indulging in empty calories, I wondered how much better I would have felt had I opted for a plate of broccoli instead, too.

To those who have already adopted a more active lifestyle, how does this fit into your everyday schedule? And to those who are striving to be more health-conscious for 2014, how do you intend to do so? We always want to feel our best, so let’s help each other get there and start sharing some secrets to wellness!

For more information on the Healthy Lee Workplace Wellness Incentive and to learn how to implement this into your own workplace, pick up our September/October issue of Gulf & Main on stands now.

Melanie Pagan is the editorial assistant for TOTI Media, Inc. 

Hot Updates in the City

by Melanie Pagan

It was Friday afternoon. It was downtown. It was alive.

It was a far cry from how I remembered it.

I have lived in Fort Myers for most of my life, growing along with changes in the area. I can recall downtown gems from way back when (Ichiban in 2003, Liquid Café in 2004), but aside from hole-in-the-wall venues and eateries, the cityscape hardly left room for recreation. The only regulars strolling down First Street were business workers or bill payers.

But something changed in the years that I have neglected the River District. It has developed into a sort of urban playground, packed with boutiques, art galleries, live music, restaurants, bakeries, and plenty of event venues and tourist attractions.

I must say, when my colleague and I visited the local businesses to share our latest issues of Gulf & Main, I was pleasantly surprised with all the life that has since sprouted in the area. Each block had something unique to our eyes—Linen Cottage featured vintage cottage-style décor, Arts for ACT Gallery & Studio sold eclectic paintings and women’s wear, and Naples Soap Company showcased organic skincare products almost too attractive to use.

After a few hours, we had passed enough people dining outdoors to work up an appetite of our own. We stopped at Bennett’s Fresh Roast—a coffee and donut shop cozy enough that workers must know regulars on a personal basis.

As I devoured my cinnamon sugar donut (and wondered how they managed to pack so much flavor into such a delicate snack), my colleague and I talked about how refreshing it was to re-familiarize ourselves with an area we both previously knew so well. The amount of art, culture, fashion and fun we witnessed that day was palpable. It almost felt like being in a bigger city, only more rewarding because we knew the developments stemmed from creative Fort Myers individuals who believed in our urban core’s potential.

With that said: hats off to all the business owners and frequenters of downtown Fort Myers. You have succeeded in making our city a touch more vibrant.

Is there a specific downtown “gem” you feel could use some recognition? Or, maybe you want to share appreciation for past stories we’ve run to shed light on the city. To the long time locals: do you remember a downtown shop from back in the day? Share it with us! Supporting homegrown endeavors brings a sense of unity to the town we call home.

Be sure to watch for downtown Fort Myers’ latest developments, as well as features on prominent figures in the area by exploring future issues of Gulf & Main magazine.

Melanie Pagan is the editorial assistant for TOTI Media, Inc.

Be Still my Locks

by Melanie Pagan

Even if I could handle swimsuit-warranting weather for a big longer until crisp, fall air set in, my hair had made it clear it couldn’t. It was getting more and more impatient; childish, really. Strands were either facing every direction but the one I intended, or causing a scene in public by suddenly doubling in size from frizz. It was time for me to take control.

I flipped to the Beauty Trends section of Gulf & Main’s September/October issue, desperate to learn of a product that could tame my unruly mop. There it was, Moroccanoil, the answer to my hair-care prayers.

I had heard of Moroccan oil in the past, and noticed it had already been added to many contemporary styling products, but had never tried the trademarked stuff. Since I read that it’s the go-to product used on clients at ‘Tween Waters Inn on Captiva, I figured it must be worthy of my tresses, too.

I searched until I found just what I was looking for. I purchased Moroccanoil Luminous Hairspray ($22.20) and the Restorative Hair Mask ($43)—two types of products I have struggled with in the past. Usually, one is either too oily, the other too sticky, but with this brand my hair felt like Goldilocks (no pun intended) when she found the perfect porridge: just right.

I felt immediate improvement as I ran a comb through my knot-free strands after washing out the hydrating mask. My curls formed with bounce, not frizz.

When it came time to style, the hairspray was the ideal finishing touch. Just like the bottle reads, it created a weightless and natural look without any residue. For the rest of the day, I felt I had the hair of a celebrity who just stepped out of a salon.

Since then, the products have earned a spot in my daily beauty ritual, leaving me with the same confidence about my tresses every day. In fact, if my hair could talk, I would imagine it would want to share its gratitude with a speech like this:

“I’d like to thank all the lovely fans who have complimented me since my transformation, and to you, Moroccanoil, for believing in me when every other product gave up. But most of all, thank you Beauty Trends department, for I would have never reached my full potential had it not been for your guidance. I couldn’t have done it without you.”

But hey, maybe it’s best that my mane can’t talk for itself. Nobody likes egotism, and I certainly do not want to suffer from a big head (of hair) again.

Avid Beauty Trends readers: Do you have a favored product that has appeared in our magazines before? Or what about an item you have discovered with help from our beauty department? Please, do share! Also, if there is a product on a need-to-know basis that we haven’t yet featured, let us know! Sharing is caring, and we all know our beauty cabinets could use the love.

For more Moroccanoil products, pick up the September/October issue of Gulf & Main on stands now. Check out more of our latest beauty finds in our currently available issues of Gulf & Main, Times of the Islands, RSW Living and Bonita & Estero.

Melanie Pagan is the editorial assistant for TOTI Media, Inc.