Behind the Book: The Sagamore Resort

Resort located in Lake George, New York

Resort located in Lake George, N.Y.

Welcome to my first “Behind the Book” blog post where I share the inspiration for my stories’ characters, settings, plots–and all that fascinating literary stuff.

Today’s escape takes us to The Sagamore Resort in Lake George, New York, featured in Chapter Fourteen of my debut novella, A LIGHT IN THE WINDOW, releasing 11.11.14 as part of Tule’s “Christmas in New York” series.

As part of my research, I spent a day with my Honey four hours north of our Long Island home one day this summer and we immersed ourselves in the resort life.

The Sagamore Resort

The Sagamore Resort

The Mohican on Lake George

The Mohican on Lake George

As we enjoyed a leisurely lunch of lobster roll and a good bottle of wine on La Bella Vita’s open-air balcony, I people-watched. Tourists and convention attendees were scattered across the grounds. Children tossed footballs, played tag, and roamed between the beach and hotel, enjoying their freedom and the gorgeous weather. Adults read in cozy Adirondack chairs, lounged near the water, or sipped cold beverages at one of the lakeside bar restaurants.

View from La Bella Vita

View from La Bella Vita

After the meal, we walked the grounds, talking to staff, taking in the lake sights, and snapping a few photos.

Sagamore Resort Beach

Sagamore Resort Beach

Lobby Elevators

Lobby Elevators

Then we trekked indoors. We sat in the lobby and I inhaled the fragrant flowers while I listened to heels echo off the parquet flooring. I gazed at the grand piano and imagined someone playing for the room. I could almost see Jade, my heroine from A LIGHT IN THE WINDOW, stepping out of the elevator and glancing upward at the chandeliers hanging from the high ceilings before she made her way to the carpeted stairs leading to La Bella Vita for dinner.

Sagamore Resort Lobby

Sagamore Resort Lobby

After a few hours of exploration and relaxation, we noticed the wind had begun to pick up and the clouds were rolling in. A late afternoon storm was headed our way. We reached the car as the first raindrops fell then drove through the village packed with tourists in spite of the downpour. At one point I swore I glimpsed Jade and Ben shopping there, strolling hand in hand.

Or maybe it was just my imagination.

At the Sagamore

At the Sagamore

That Lake George chapter practically wrote itself the following day. My fingers flew over the keyboard and hours passed by in the blink of an eye as I wove memories from our adventure into Jade and Ben’s journey to happily-ever-after.

A Light in The Window  What’s one of your favorite day trips from this summer?

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Goodbye Winter Boots, Hello Heels

Can't wait to wear these!

Can’t wait to wear these!

For anyone living in America, you are well aware of how tortuously long this winter season has been. Extraordinarily so. Retail therapy was one of my ways to escape the dreary weather.

I. Love. Shoes.

When I spied this gem of a pair made by Mercanti Fiorentini in DSW’s clearance section, I immediately pictured wearing them at my first book signing. They aren’t a pair my feet will tolerate for an evening of dancing, but are too pretty not to own. Right?

Surprisingly Comfy!

Surprisingly comfy!

This next pair reminds me of Cherry Adair, NYT Bestselling Author of romantic suspense and hilariously fun and competitive shoe maven at RWA’s annual national conference. These black heels are as sexy walking away as they are cute coming toward you. Think I’ll have an edge over Cherry if we bump into each other while I’m wearing these beauties?

Ooh la la!

Ooh la la!

After a dreary season of neutrals, it’s fun to select heels with a bit of spunk.

A Pop of Pink

A Pop of Pink

Do you subscribe to retail therapy or are you strictly a buy-for-a-purpose kind of gal?

 

 

 

 

Sunset Key and Latitudes

DSCN7912Welcome to this week’s Margarita Moment! If you enjoy this post and are a newcomer to my little island life inspired blog, sign up for your free, weekly escape. (Look to your right.) It will sail to your inbox on Mondays, more or less, depending on life’s currents and my novel writing schedule. Thanks for visiting.

The History of Sunset Key

During the 19th century, sediment from repeated Navy dredging projects in Key West’s Harbor was deposited a few hundred yards off the northwestern corner of the island. One of the resulting new islands was designated a fueling station and named Tank Island.

In 1986, the US government sold the 27-acre Tank Island to a developer. Westin Resorts built an exclusive resort on the northwestern quadrant and the island became known (at least to tourists) as Sunset Key. Exclusive vacation properties, owned by celebrities and wealthy business owners such as Oprah Winfrey, span the other three-quarters.

A Sunset Key Property

A Sunset Key Property

Latitudes

Latitudes is the renowned Westin resort restaurant on Sunset Key. I mentioned this restaurant in a previous blog post about romantic dining options in Key West. If you’re interested in planning a romantic sunset dinner at this particular restaurant, I suggest you reserve well in advance. Determine the time of sunset for your selected evening and then book online through Open Table. Take into consideration that the reserve time is when you’re expected to be at the Sunset Key Ferry on the Key West side. There’s a ten-minute ride across the harbor.

The view from ferry of Sunset Key Westin Resort

The view from ferry of Sunset Key Westin Resort

Once you arrive at Sunset Key, you may stop at the outside bar for a drink or enter the restaurant directly for your table. On the evening we dined there, we were given the option of a patio table or inside. The view outside is breathtaking but beware the heat. The inside tables still allow for a beautiful view while providing a cooler, intimate setting. Diners are welcomed (even expected) to leave their tables as the sun makes it descent beneath the watery horizon.

View from an intimate inside table at Latitudes

View from an intimate inside table at Latitudes

Coconut Crusted Grouper

Coconut Crusted Grouper

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Citrus Marinated Salmon

The food at Latitudes is delightfully presented. I chose the seafood cocktail appetizer, the mixed greens salad, and coconut crusted grouper with baby bok choy and black beans. My honey had the lobster bisque and citrus marinated salmon with risotto and grilled asparagus. The service was fine, the wait staff attentive but not intrusive. A couple can enjoy an intimate conversation, a great meal, and an unforgettable sunset. After your meal, transport will be waiting at the end of a short walk to the launch.

We found our meal at Latitudes to be a beautiful start to another romantic evening on our Key West getaway.

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Sunset at Latitudes

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Sailing Past Sunset Key

A View from the Dock

A View from the Dock

Eating Northern Italy Style

Welcome to another installment by my daughter, Rylie, about her recent trip to Italy with her Creative Writing classmates from college. If you missed Rylie’s first post about getting there from New York or her details and beautiful photography of Brunnenburg castle and Dorf Tirol, feel free to hop over to those articles. But be sure to return here for Rylie’s impressions of food in Northern Italy. As you can tell by the length of this article, she is definitely a fan of this subject. Enjoy!

Gardens at Disney Fort Wilderness

Gardens at Disney Fort Wilderness

First of all, thanks for your patience and understanding when my blog post didn’t appear last week. Our family was on vacation in Orlando, and we were so busy having fun my mom and I completely lost track of time!
Rather than going in chronological order of our excursion today, I’m going to write about an important part of Italian culture – food. I was a little nervous before my trip in regards to eating. I have many food intolerances, most of which would affected by Italian cuisine as far as I was aware. But the entire trip was a new experience, so I embraced the uncertainty and figured that even if I couldn’t eat everything, it wasn’t like I was going to starve.

And starve I most certainly did not. Lunch and dinner at Brunnenburg always began with a large self-serve arugula and mixed green salad, often with tomatoes, cucumbers, or dandelions sprinkled on top. Balsamic vinegar was the dressing of choice, with freshly baked wheat or white bread to dip in what vinegar was left over. The main courses took getting used to – my plate is generally divided into half meat, half grains, so the fist-sized chicken or steak portion next to a heaping pile of veggies and beans was a surprise.

But each meal during our stay at Brunnenburg Castle, painstakingly and lovingly cooked by Brigeeta, tasted divine, and I often found myself leaning back in my chair after strawberry shortcake or tiramisu desserts with my stomach pressed uncomfortably against my jeans.
At Brunnenburg, I didn’t have to worry about my poor German or Italian, as Mary’s family speaks English quite well.

Pasta at Hotel Restaurant

Pasta at Hotel Restaurant

On the other hand, the language barrier was an often embarrassing obstacle in the restaurants of Dorf Tirol. I escaped the task of translating a menu the first night since our professors were able to show us where the “American” choices were on the pizzeria menu; I ordered a margherita pizza, the hives I was sure to get from the tomatoes well worth the relative ease of filling my appetite with a familiar meal.

Wine and Grappa

Wine and Grappa

I wasn’t as lucky the second night. Eleven of us ended up at one of the Hotel Restaurants in town with only an Italian-to-English translation guidebook for assistance. The book turned out to be useless, as the menu was almost entirely written in German. We spent an hour and a half downing wine (or, in some cases, sipping cautiously at grappa, distilled wine that smells exactly like Absolut vodka) and asking our waiter, Ivan, about every item on the menu. Thoroughly impressed by Ivan’s patience and helpfulness – he translated the entire menu for us, twice – my friend and I ended up returning there two more evenings. Ivan not only remembered us, but our specific food preferences as well.

The biggest difficulty at Hotel Restaurant, once I understood the menu, was convincing Ivan and other the waiters that what I was ordering was what I actually wanted. Substituting “wine acid” (vinegar) for tomato sauce is apparently unheard of in Italy. But once that obstacle was overcome, the turkey (chicken was oddly absent from most menus) and pasta dishes I chose were decadent. The turkey was grilled to a golden brown and tasted exactly like chicken, making this chicken lover very happy, and the pasta was al dente. Perfection.

As for desserts, Schokoladenkuchen (chocolate cake) and Apfelstrudel mit Eis (apple strudel with ice cream) were by far the best desserts, and the Italian gelato was, of course, delicious. Sadly, I didn’t get around to trying the large gelato fruit sundaes, but it’s on my list of sweets to select when I one day return to Italy.
Before leaving Dorf Tirol, I had to try the one food the town is known for –Spargel. Spargel is a German white asparagus that, with my limited knowledge of vegetables for comparison, tasted most like an overly thick, fibrous string of half cooked spaghetti. The Spargel itself had little flavor other than butter, but it was featured in numerous dishes – at one restuarant, two full pages were dedicated to the vegetable!

Crab and Octopus In Venetian Market

Crab and Octopus In Venetian Market

I had just gotten the hang of reading German menus when it was time to pack up and leave our dorms at Brunnenburg behind, taking the three-hour bus ride south to spend a few days in Venice. Spargel, and vegetables in general, were sparse in Venice, where seafood was the dominating selection. Ever since having an allergic reaction to shrimp, I’ve avoided most seafood, but my class happily embraced the more familiar cuisine. Frittura di pesce (fried mixed fish, usually shrimp and scallops) seemed to be the most popular among my classmates, though black-inked cuttlefish was also tried, and I even tried a bite of rubbery salted octopus.

Venetian Pizza

Venetian Pizza

Dorf Tirol, a town more German than Italian, understandably didn’t make phenomenal pizza, so I was looking forward to sampling a real Venetian slice. Perhaps we didn’t find the right eatery locales or I’m just ridiculously spoiled by our Long Island pizza, but I wasn’t too impressed with the thin crusts and unblackened cheese. Still, eating pizza in Italy was something I can cross off the bucket list. Happily, the rich hot chocolate I discovered in a back-alley pizzeria more than made up for my disappointment with the pizza.

Another surprise in Italy was the shortage of ketchup. I hadn’t really noticed its absence while at Brunnenburg, but my first two meals in Venice were chicken cutlet and brie cheese sandwiches. I asked the waiter for the condiment and he scrounged up two ketchup packets for me.

Gelato was a sweet staple in Venice. Everywhere we went, there was another tiny shop boasting dozens of flavors, from ananas (pineapple) to lampone (raspberry) to nocciola cioccolato (chocolate hazelnut – Italians are pretty enamored with their Nutella). As per my usual hesitant style, I stuck to basics like stracciatella (vanilla with chocolate shavings) and menta (mint chocolate), though I also enjoyed arancia rossa (blood orange). The servers rarely spoke English, and I often found myself answering accidentally in German, but every flavor gelato had a picture of the fruit or food it was based on underneath the label.

Biergarten
Alcohol, as I mentioned above, was also a main element at every Italian meal. I’m a fan of white wine, so the complimentary aperitif of Prosecco in Dorf Tirol’s restaurants was an unexpected delight, Already legal drinking age in the states, I didn’t feel compelled to spend my Euros on liquor and wine like many of my classmates taking advantage of the lower drinking age, but I did enjoy several Forst beers in Dorf Tirol and in the Venetian pubs we visited a few evenings after dinner.

Forst Beer and MineralVasser

Forst Beer and MineralVasser

Now it’s your turn. What’s the craziest or best-tasting food you’ve ever tried?

Milestones, Memorial Day, and Mash-Ups

Milestones…DSCN6415

Tis the season of weddings, First Communions, and graduations. Last week, my family celebrated our daughter’s college graduation. I was tempted to cry, but she wouldn’t have approved. I’m thrilled for her, confident she is ready for the next step of her journey. It also doesn’t hurt that she’ll be home with us for a year before moving onto medical school. (How can a mom resist that cute face?)

Hard to believe, but Margarita Moments & Other Escapes celebrates its second blogiversary on Friday! One randomly selected reader will receive a $25 Amazon Gift Card, just for commenting on today’s post. You’ve got to enter to win!*  

Memorial Day…

All Gave Some, Some Gave All.

As much as we enjoy our Memorial Day weekend barbeques and pool parties, the meaning behind this holiday is bittersweet. Our hearts and minds remember those who have fought and died for us to have the many freedoms we savor as Americans.

Never forget.

Have a safe, relaxing holiday with your loved ones. Celebrate on behalf of those who can’t because they’re too busy keeping us safe.

…and Mash-Ups!

DSCN6377PEACH SANGRIA RECIPE

1.5 L White Wine (ie. Mescato)

1.5 cups Peach Absolut Vodka

1-2 cans of frozen lemonade

Strawberries (in chunks)

Granny Smith Apples (in chunks)

Serve over Ice or with Seltzer

JOLYSE’S HIGHLY RECOMMENDED POOLSIDE READS

 

Now it’s your turn.

Share any milestones, Memorial Day stories, suggested summer drink recipes or poolside reads. We’d love to enjoy them with you. Remember to leave a comment to be entered into this week’s drawing for a $25 Amazon Gift Card.

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*Winner must provide a valid email address in order to receive gift card via email. Winner will be announced Monday, June 3rd, 2013. Good luck!

Top Three Lists For 2012

Forgive the me, me, me format of this final post of 2012 as I reflect on the year. I wish you and yours a healthy, happy, prosperous New Year, and I look forward to entertaining you with this blog of mini-escapes (and occasional venting) and getting to know each of you more through our conversations in 2013. May it be a year of good luck for each of us!

My Top Three Gifts this Christmas:

  1. A heartfelt sentiment from my husband on Christmas morning, a gift of his undying love. I cried.
  2. A wallet from my son, who knows how disorganized I can be with pesky things like cash and credit cards. Even better was learning he “bought” the wallet with points earned at his school for excellent behavior. He could have purchased something for himself, but he didn’t. Yes, I cried.
  3. A red wine glass from my sister-in-law and niece etched with my name. I didn’t cry, but I really appreciated it, and made quick use of it. I needed to test it, right?

My Top Three Quotes for Margarita Moments:

2012-12-30 19.19.421.  The finest amusements are the most pointless ones.

Jacques Chardonne

2.  I would not exchange my leisure hours for all the wealth in the world.

Anonymous

3.  The happiest people are those who decide to use leisure as a means of mental development, who love good music, good books, good pictures, good company, and good conversation. They are not only happy themselves, they are the cause of happiness in others.

William Lyon Phelps

Top Three Margarita Moment Posts:

1.  A Love Story

2.  The Roller Coaster or Merry-Go-Round

3.  On A Serious Note

I’m proud of these little pieces of writing, but what made them successful was your participation through your views, likes, and comments. Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to visit Margarita Moments each week.

My Three Life (Writing) Lessons:

1. Follow your passion. If you aren’t passionate about writing the story, your readers won’t be passionate about reading it. The caveat to this lesson–write from your soul, not from a marketing standpoint or what you think others expect you to write.

2. Be consistent. I’m good about this one as a parent and at my day job, but when life became overwhelming in other areas this past fall I didn’t post blogs consistently. I may have lost some readers because of this and that makes me sad, for a writer’s joy is sharing her world with others. For 2013, I promise to post on Mondays without fail, even if only to submit an apology or announce a change of plans.

3.  Don’t give up, unless it’s to do something you feel even more strongly about.  This was a difficult lesson to learn. I’m very loyal. However, I wasted spent almost six months toughing it through a story that wasn’t panning out the way I’d expected. I began to lose interest in writing each night. Thankfully, I let go of that story (for now) and this year is ending on a high note as I complete a romantic suspense.

Please share your “My Top Three _____ for 2012” with us!

Ideas for your Top Threes of 2012:

  • proudest moments
  • books
  • movies
  • songs

Quote

In Remembrance

May 31st is Jolyse Barnett’s Margarita Moments blogiversary. In appreciation of YOU, my readers, I’m giving away prizes to random commenters** each week this month. (To learn if you won for commenting last week, scroll to the bottom of this post.) So, if you haven’t yet left a comment, now’s the time to dip your toes into the blog waters. Your email isn’t made public and you can use a nickname for privacy. Winners from today’s post will be announced Thursday, May 31st. Check back then for an extra-special Margarita Moment and final blogiversary giveaway. Enjoy, and good luck!

Simple and Delicious

This weekend has been a respite from the daily grind, relaxing by the pool with friends and family. Aside from an elusive sun, the weather’s been agreeable. Our big hit on the grill so far was the delectable bacon-wrapped scallops my sister brought to the party. I can’t wait to compare them to the shrimp recipe we’re trying out today!

All Gave Some, Some Gave All.

As much as we enjoy our Memorial Day weekend barbeques and pool parties, the meaning behind this holiday is bittersweet. Our hearts and minds remember those who have fought and died for us to have the many freedoms we savor as Americans.

Raised in a rural community during the seventies, I heard about the boys in our town, barely eighteen, drafted into service. A number of those young men never returned, their names etched into the war memorial in the center of our small town and celebrated three times a year. Those who did come home often had lasting scars, the worst of which were invisible. As a Girl Scout, I honored our veterans by placing a flag next to their graves each May and November. Little did I know we’d adopted a tradition begun by southern women after the Civil War to remember their dead.

The Cold War taught us to always be wary, and it was with great relief and optimism in 1981 when the Berlin Wall tumbled down. We no longer had to fear nuclear war with the Soviet Union. College years for me were the Big 80’s. Not only was our hair big, but our dreams too. Generation X expected the world. Like the song said, the future was so bright we had to wear sunglasses.

I was pregnant with our first child in 1990 when our country came to the brink of war again, with a “line drawn in the sand” between our president and Saddam Hussein in Iraq. I feared bringing a baby into a world of unease and heartache, and again was thankful when the brave men and women of our armed services brought the conflict to a speedy end.

Years of peace lulled many of us Americans into a false sense of security. That all changed one fateful September morning.

Never forget.

9-11 hit very close to home. We knew people who died on those planes, people who died in the towers, people who missed death by inches or seconds or last-minute change of plans. My home of Long Island fell silent. There was no air traffic and the Long Island Expressway was shut down.

I scurried out of my work building that day, anxious to be safely home with my loved ones, when a deafening roar stopped me in my tracks. Fearing the worst, I squinted into the midday sun to see silver fighter jets screaming overhead. I spied the red, white, and blue emblazoned on each, and I breathed again. I’d grown up hearing the occasional thunder of jets from the local Air Force base. They’d frightened me, but my father always reassured me they were there to protect us. Now I understood.

Have a safe, relaxing holiday with your loved ones. Celebrate on behalf of those who can’t because they’re too busy keeping us safe. I leave you with this song by Five for Fighting, one I think is perfect for Memorial Day:

What does Memorial Day mean to you?

And now for blogiversary news…Last week’s Margarita Moments prize winner is LynneRose!!!! Thanks for participating and congratulations! Email me at jolysebarnett@gmail.com with your address. An insulated personal cooler tote bag and $20 Amazon card will soon be on their way.

This week’s prize is a $25 Amazon card and a pair of Margarita glasses. Be sure to comment if you want to be entered into this drawing. 🙂

**Commenters must provide a continental USA address if selected as prize winner. I apologize to my out-of-country readers. I love you too, and will have to figure out a cost-effective way to include you in future giveaways. Thanks for reading!

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