Adore those Animal Antics

Welcome to this week’s Margarita Moment! If you enjoy this post and my little island life inspired blog, please sign up for your free, weekly escape. (Look on the right sidebar.) It will sail to your inbox on Mondays. Thanks for visiting!

Animal lover? I thought so. Most of us are, and that love isn’t usually limited to cats and dogs. We humans seems to get a kick out of the antics of all kinds of creatures. In the cat vs. dog debate, however, I personally lean toward the feline persuasion, having blogged “Keep Your Valium, Doctor, I Have My Cat!” and sharing oodles of adorable pics of my cuddly companion on Facebook and Twitter.

Viral Videos

Our fascination with adorable non-human creatures is demonstrated by the endless stream of animal video clips that go viral on the internet. If you search “animal video” on YouTube, almost 20 million choices pop up. If you narrow your search to “funny animal videos for children,” you still have approximately 4 million clips. Personally, I love animal videos and baby videos, but the babies with animals make me nervous. I understand most pets would never harm a child, but they are animals and as such I think they can be unpredictable. Here’s a cute cat video compilation. I especially like the cat falling asleep at 1:15, the cat boxing with the TV at 2:38, and the cat giving the another cat a massage at 6:08.

If you don’t care to watch a longer video, here’s an adorable one for a minute of your time.

Animals in Books

My faithful writing buddy

My faithful writing buddy

Animals also play a role in literature. My favorite book as a child featured an animal. FOLLOW MY LEADER  by James Garfield is about a boy’s life after he’s blinded by a firecracker over the Fourth of July holiday. Jimmy eventually gets a guide dog, Leader, who becomes his eyes and connection to the sighted world. That story, to me, was as much about Leader as it was Jimmy. I read that book in 1976 and still remember it as if I read it yesterday. That’s the power of a great story. You haven’t heard of that title? Another of my favorites is BLACK BEAUTY by Anna Sewell, the classic tale about a girl’s love for a horse.

As a contemporary romance writer, I include animals in the story when it makes sense for my characters. In ONE MORE SUNSET (Entangled, Late Fall 2014), heroine Abby Stone is on the run from her ex-boyfriend. She isn’t in a situation where she can care for an animal. Yet when creating my hero, Ben, for A LIGHT IN THE WINDOW (Tule Publishing, Nov 2014) I immediately envisioned him with a large, well-mannered dog. Sadie is a sweet Golden Retriever who appears in most scenes with Ben. She even has a career as a therapy dog at the town’s local senior center.

Of course, I’m not the first author to feature an animal in a contemporary romance, Kristin Higgins is well-known for including dogs in her books. In fact, when I searched on Amazon for her titles, ten of her book covers included a canine with the couple. My close friend and talented author Jeannie Moon gave her cat, Mo Kitty, a part in her Forever Love novel, THE TEMPORARY WIFE.

Animals in Daily Life

This inclusion and love of animals makes sense to me as a reader and writer of contemporary fiction because the reality is, whether we have pets or not…animals are part of most people’s daily lives. Generations of squirrels have cohabitated with my family on our quiet tree-lined street, entertaining us with their playfulness. We lamented their fates after Hurricane Irene hit and knocked over one of our large oak trees in the front yard, forcing us to make the difficult decision to cut the others to avoid future home damage, which in turn left some of those furry creatures temporarily homeless. We have taught our children about the many species of birds that fly onto our property and have built bird houses and fed the winged creatures through the more than two decades. In fact, a friendly baby bird inspired this post–tapping on my front screen door and hopping around (so cute!) on our front step.

Baby Bird Knocked at My Door!

Baby Bird Knocked at My Door!

 

What are your favorite stories featuring animals? What role do animals play in your daily life? Have a favorite animal video to share?

 

 

 

Who’s Up For Spring Break 2014?

Duval Street, Key West

Duval Street, Key West

Among the top Spring Break destinations in the United States for America’s young adults are:

  • Key West, Florida
  • New Orleans, Louisiana
  • South Padre, Texas
  • Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Daytona Beach, Florida
  • Lake Havasu, Arizona
  • Panama City, Florida
Family Lunch at EPCOT's Rose & Crown

Family Lunch at EPCOT’s Rose & Crown

Among the top five Spring Break destinations for families this year are:

  • Orlando, Florida
  • Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
  • Bahamas
  • San Diego, California
  • Captiva, Florida

Five Spring Break tunes for college-age kids (or young at heart):

Five Spring Break songs for the over-40 crowd:

I never experienced Spring Break as a college student, but have enjoyed many as an adult, usually with the family in Orlando. Happy times! For all of us unable to travel this season, how about we pour ourselves a glass of our favorite beverage, turn on our personal Spring Break playlist, and relax.

x0x0~Jolyse

Are you traveling for Spring Break? Any Spring Break moments–good or bad–to share?

 

 

 

 

Saving Mr. Banks, Miss Potter, and Magical News

Castle at Disney World

Castle at Disney World

Saving Mr. Banks

One of my favorite Disney movies is Mary Poppins. I’ve often joked with children in my care that I’m “practically perfect in every way.” I’ve seen the play on Broadway three times (once without any kids) and of course, know all the songs. I thought I already knew everything about the classic movie the night my honey and I decided to see Saving Mr. Banks.

I was wrong.

P. L. Travers:

  • grew up in Australia, not England. (She moved there later in life.)
  • idolized her father, who died quite young due to alcoholism.
  • based Mary Poppins on her stern aunt rather than her mother
  • originally declined Walt Disney’s repeated offers to buy the rights to her story because she didn’t feel a musical set the correct tone
  • eventually agreed to the musical when she fell in love with some of the songs
  • disapproved of the animated portions of the Disney movie
  • created Mary Poppins was her way of “saving” her father in fiction since she hadn’t been able to save him from himself in reality

Illustration from The Tale of Benjamin Bunny

Illustration from The Tale of Benjamin Bunny

Miss Potter

As a kid, I memorized Green Eggs and Ham, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, and Peter Rabbit. When I became a mother to a baby boy, I decorated his bedroom with Peter Rabbit and other Beatrix Potter characters. I read all her stories to my children and own the video adaptations on VHS. When I came across Miss Potter on Amazon Prime a few weeks ago, I figured I knew most everything there was to know about the author.

Once again, I was wrong.

Beatrix Potter:

Illustration from Peter Rabbit

Illustration from Peter Rabbit

  • was from a wealthy family
  • was secretly engaged to her publisher but he died before they could marry
  • was very particular about the final appearance of her illustrations
  • insisted on limiting the cost of her books so more people could afford them
  • eventually married later in life to the realtor who sold her a country estate

I also recently watched Magic Beyond Words: An Unauthorized Biography of J. K. Rowling, but too many reviewers of that movie question its authenticity for me to feel comfortable sharing my comments.

Why the recent interest in author movies?

A typical summer day writing on the patio

A typical summer day writing on the patio

Perhaps it’s because…

I sold!

I’m a bona fide, sold-my-first-book author. (See, all those late nights, early mornings, and weekends tapping away at a keyboard eventually pay off.) Entangled Publishing has bought the rights to One More Sunset, my romantic suspense/magic novel set between two of my favorite places–New York City and Key West. Entangled is a wonderful, quality company and I’m thrilled to join their team. The book’s release is estimated for late fall/early winter 2014 and will be part of Entangled’s category suspense line, Ignite.

Until next time, enjoy the Moments. Springtime, here we come!!!

Jolyse xoxo

Universal Studios

Universal Studios

Scenes From a Country Road

It’s often said that you cannot truly appreciate the beauty of a place until you leave it behind. No truer words were ever spoken. Here are a few of my favorite moments en route to our family reunion in the Adirondacks, where we shared a few stories, a few laughs, and lots of food, drink, and hugs.

My fictional town of Starling is inspired by the land I knew as a child and teen in beautiful upstate New York and the way of life I observe when visiting loved ones far from my current home on Long Island.

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How did you enjoy this last unofficial weekend of summer? What was your favorite moment of the season?

You Are My Sunshine

A few weeks ago, one of my blogger buddies bestowed upon me an unexpected but very pleasant gift: The Sunshine Award. Lord David Prosser is a witty gentleman from across the pond, and his blog, The Barsetshire Diaries , exemplifies courage and humor. I wish him many fond memories of his lovely Julia, and a future filled with love and happiness as his daughter blesses him with a grandchild this year.

Now, for my part in accepting this award…

What inspired me to start blogging? I started blogging after taking an incredible online course by Kristen Lamb about branding. Blogging was part of building my writer platform, but now it’s a delight in itself. I love connecting with people through this venue.

How did I come up with the name of my blog? As a romance writer, I wanted my blog posts to generally be an escape from everyday life. Sipping margaritas by the pool are about as escapist as I can imagine in my daily life and I’m a fan of alliteration.
What is my favorite blog I like to read? Wow, that’s a difficult question. I read and enjoy so many different blogs for different reasons. However, a few constants in my life are and blog.

Tell about my dream job. That’s easy. Writing and living in Key West.

Is my glass half full or half empty? Half full.
If I could go anywhere on a week’s vacation, where would I go? I’d rent a house on Sunset Key off the island of Key West.

What food can I absolutely not eat? I have many food intolerances and some allergies, but I won’t bore you all with that. As far as a food I could eat but choose not to…hands down that would be liver. Yuck! Even the smell of it makes me wretch.

Dark chocolate or milk chocolate?
Neither. Allergic. Sigh….

How much time do I spend blogging – in other words, am I one of those lucky people who can dash off a blog post in no time, or take forever on one post to get it just right?
I spend six hours per post, which is why I write only one per week. As you may know, I’ve had difficulty even getting that done with recent issues. Oh, and my obsessive novel writing tends to eat up a lot of hours. But that’s okay, right? I did start the blog to complement my writing, not replace it.

What shows do I like? I enjoy Once Upon a Time, NCIS, and Food Network shows such as Chopped! and Cupcake Wars. Those are the shows I’ll admit to watching. My guilty pleasure shows are my business…

There are three blogs in particular that warm my heart with their words in 2013, and thus deserve my nomination for the esteemed SUNSHINE AWARD:

Julie Glover’s  Threading the Labyrinth

Janet MuffintopMommy

Jess Witkin’s Happiness Project

Congrats! To accept this award, simply link your post to my blog, answer these simple questions, and nominate those bloggers who bring sunshine to your day.

And now, for a moment of natural bliss….

Happy Spring, everyone!

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Hundredth Post Humor and Dreamy Key West Homes

The Bone Fish Restaurant  in Dockyard, Bermuda

The Bone Fish Restaurant in Dockyard, Bermuda

Cheers! Today we toast the 100th post at Margarita Moments. Took a while to get here–hope it was worth the wait.

First, here’s an advertisement we came across in our wanderings last summer in beautiful Bermuda. Hey, who wouldn’t want to check that place out? Looks like more than mojitos are available.

If that kind of humor is up your alley, you may enjoy this one, too:

Courtesy of leightmoore WANA Commons

Okay, enough of the silly stuff. Onto today’s escape.

You had a glimpse at Old Town architecture in Key West Stylin’  a while back, but today we peek inside a smattering of beautiful Key West properties–courtesy one of my favorite real estate blogs by Gary Thomas. I’m not a realtor, nor am I in the market for a new home, but it’s fun to browse properties and dream…especially when it’s snowing in my backyard on the second day of Spring.

The first property was built in the 1800’s, a Bahamian-style home. This is the kind of house one sees all through Old Town, with its white picket fence, clapboard siding, large hurricane shutters and wrap-around balconies. My favorite part of this home is its outdoor living space. Gotta love the lap pool and guest cottage.

Not your style? Don’t worry, I’ve chosen four more for your viewing pleasure.

This next property is modern as the last was old, a penthouse condo in a gated community outside Old Town. The living and dining rooms may be a bit formal for some, but if you scroll down further you’ll find the most incredible loft area and balcony overlooking the sparkling waters. Don’t you agree?

Onto the top three:

If you like the outdoors to meet the in, and charm is your middle name, this Solares Hill Cottage is worth a peek. It’s cozy and filled with all the little Conch details. The only change I’d make would be to move the desk downstairs. This writer enjoys being surrounded by action while at the laptop. What’s your opinion?

Two is yet another style:

What could be better than a home in the Key West Writer’s Compound? Quiet, yet close to Historic Seaport and world-famous Duval, where creative types can gather for brainstorming, support each other through the manuscript rejections, and celebrate success with a margarita by the pool. Readers would love this place, too. Think of the all quiet, cozy places to read to your heart’s content and the opportunity for impromptu book talks.

A Primo KW Property:

If you prefer simplicity, your chi may be drawn to this mission-style home located in the Casa Marina section of Old Town. What wonderful curb appeal, high ceilings, and space for all your island guests. The pool and greenery are sheer perfection. Love, love, love this one!

Funny signs? What’s your dreamy Key West style? 

Please Forgive Me

I’m having one of those weeks…will post soon.

xoxo
Jolyse

Escape Winter

…with this week’s Margarita Moment.

Smather's Beach, KW

Smather’s Beach, KW

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Higgs Beach, KW

Historic Seaport, KW

Historic Seaport, KW

Bumper Sticker Humor

Overseas Highway, Florida

Overseas Highway, Florida

Today’s Margarita Moment is a montage of bumper sticker sayings I’ve gleaned over years of traveling.

Preachy or Obvious:

Honk if you love Jesus. Text and Drive if you want to meet Him.

The trouble with trouble is it starts out as fun.

If at first you don’t succeed, skydiving isn’t for you.

Techy:

What do we want? Time Travel. When do we want it? It’s irrelevant.

My podcast beat up your blog

Testy:

Horn broken. Watch for finger.

Mean People Suck

Word Play:

Midwives help people OUT

What would Scooby Doo?

Apathy – A Conflict of Disinterest

Help Stamp Out and Abolish Redundancy

Woman-Powered:

Ginger Rodgers did everything Fred Astaire did, except BACKWARDS and in HIGH HEELS!

Well-behaved women rarely make history – Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

My Top Three Favorites:

Reading is Sexy

One Human Race

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Happy President's Day...Truman's Little White House in KW

Happy President’s Day…Truman’s Little White House in KW

Any favorite bumper sticker sayings to share? Any bumper sticker pet peeves?

No Worries, this is Brainy Fun

This post has a little something for everyone. If anything Super Bowl-related is as relaxing for you as a trip to the dentist for a tooth extraction, scroll down to Brainy Fun.

If your team isn’t in contention or you aren’t a fan of football, Super Bowl partes can be as much about the food and drink, commercials and half-time show as they are about the actual game. Granted, the contest between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco Forty-Niners this year was pretty exciting, especially with a 33-minute blackout, but the talk of the evening at our house last night was about the commercials. Here are our favorite top three:

3.  Sweetest Ad

2.  Family Life Ad

1.  Happiest Ad

Many of you in the US likely had seen the Volkswagon ad before the big game since it caused a bit of a stir. Some have complained it has racist undertones. However, I’ll take my cue from the Jamaican government, which has openly embraced the ad as a positive connection to Jamaican culture. No worries, mon.

What’s your take on Super Bowl XLVII?

Brainy Fun…

If you like optical illusions, you’ll enjoy this video. I always learn something new from these science movies, yet they keep my attention with their catchy illustrations. This one is interactive. Even better. 🙂

What do you think of fast thinking vs. slow thinking? Were you tricked by any of the optical illusions or surprised by any of the activities’ answers?

Did You Ever Notice?

If you’re like me, you’d agree stand-up comedy is one of those forms of entertainment where it can be really hysterical or downright uncomfortable. In my home turf here on Long Island, there are some decent comedians on weeknight and occasional weekends out earning a little extra cash or warming up for their bigger gigs in the city. These acts tend to be good to side-splitting great. Then there are those comedians honing their craft, who haven’t quite made it big yet. They are the acts that can go either way. When it goes bad, the audience squirms with embarassment for the comedian. It’s no fun for anyone.

That’s what makes you realize the talent that goes into making a great stand-up show. The timing, the writing about everyday experiences in a unique, funny way, the facial expression, the gestures…the little zingers that make us think.

I can recite the whole “Cake for Breakfast” routine by Bill Cosby and still get a kick out of George Carlin’s “Did you ever notice?” skit. But Bill’s comedic style plays too slow for this post and Carlin’s language isn’t PG enough. So, I surfed YouTube, looking for the perfect stand-up moment to share with you today. After a couple hours of laughing, I realized I was procrastinating. What better stand-up moment to show you than Ellen Degeneres talking about, guess what, procrastinating.

What’s your favorite stand-up routine or comic? Are you a procrastinator? Are you reading this blog instead of working?

What’s Your Juice?

Ever notice that some of the most important lessons we learn in life are taught to us by children? Dewitt Jones is a National Geographic photojournalist and motivational speaker. In this three-minute clip, the best part of Jones’ Focus and Vision, he shares an inspirational anecdote that will stay with you forever. I promise you, you won’t regret it!

Now that you’ve experienced it, please share. What’s your juice?

“Margarita Moments” Mash-Up:

If you feel the slightest bit guilty about taking time out of your busy day to enjoy a “Margarita Moment,” these bloggers are here to tell you–it’s okay. You’re doing right by you.

Jill Weatherholt’s post, “Time’s a Wastin”

Writing Scribe, Susannah Hardy’s post, “I’m Number One”

Summer’s End

Summer of 2012 unofficially ended a week ago. What do you have to show for it? I’ll share my memories with the hope of inspiring you to reflect on yours.

The Highlights

Christmas in July?

My family kicked off the season with a trip to visit Mickey in Disney and Harry Potter at Universal. We almost floated away courtesy of Tropical Storm Debby, but we bonded over the discomfort of soggy feet and broken umbrellas. In fact, one of our favorite photos happens to be us posing in EPCOT–wet hair, slickers, and all.

This was a summer of parties with friends and dinner barbeques. We ate outside almost every possible moment as a family, enjoying our new patio and furniture by the pool. The investment in backyard improvements was well worth it.

The season’s project

My midsummer dream turned into reality with a romantic getaway to the Conch Republic for Hemingway Days. I proved to myself I could complete a 5K, survived a harrowing jet skiing experience, and watched my first Papa Look-Alike contest. My sweetheart and I treasured quiet moments together, biking Old Town, and people-watching on Duval.

I learned the joy and serenity of a morning spent kayaking on a local lake one beautiful August morning. Later that month, we cruised on the high seas to Bermuda with a family group of fourteen strong.

A Summer Treat

Labor Day weekend found us back in the Adirondacks for a family barbeque, a chance to sit around a campfire with my dad, siblings and kin one more time.

What memories do you treasure from the summer of 2012? 

Dog Days

If it flew past you before you got a chance to do all those things you’d hoped, what can you do now to enjoy the beauty of Fall around the corner?

Perhaps make an Autumn Wish List. I’d love to hear about your plans for the season ahead.

Bikes and Bubbles Encore

Happy Margarita Moment, all! This week I’m traveling with extended family in celebration of my in-laws’ fiftieth wedding anniversary. Please enjoy this reader favorite I originally posted last summer. I look forward to sharing the sights of Bermuda with you next week. Until then, cheers!

Do you ever find yourself blowing bubbles alone, skipping rope just for fun, or dunking a cookie in milk without counting calories?

Simple pleasures like these can bring you back to a time before you worried about laundry, bills, and work deadlines, when summers lasted a year and Halloween was near the top of your favorite holidays’ list.

As a kid growing up in New York’s rural Adirondacks, my bike was everything. First my Big Wheels, and later, my beloved ten-speed racing bike. I was excited to be independent, breezing along field-lined roads as my skinny legs pedaled to and from my friends’ houses.

Like many childhood toys, I left my bike behind upon entering college. By the time I pulled it out of the backyard shed, the bike was rusted and in need of new tires. Being an impatient twenty-something, I figured I’d buy a new one after my move. The NYC metro-area provided many wonderful opportunities for my husband and me, but traffic and the growing demands of family life convinced this transplanted country girl to switch over to a more conventional vehicle–the minivan.

Beautiful Southernmost Beach

Fast-forward twenty years, and my husband and I are on vacation in Key West, Florida. What’s the suggested mode of transportation?  Bicycles, of course. Called beach or island cruisers, these bikes are equipped with baskets in front, perfect for carrying a beach bag or souvenirs, like items from the KW Jewelry Bar. They can be ridden at night, too, with strobe lights attached to the wheels’ spokes instead of handlebars. (More on that to come!)

My eyes light up as I gaze at the bike, thinking, I’d miss you even if we’d never met. (Movie Quote Alert…answer below.) In spite of niggling doubts about having enough energy to traverse this five square-mile island, I agree to rent one.

We bike to Smathers and Fort Zachary Taylor beaches, bask in the sun like lizards and float on the warm Atlantic waters.

Later, we sightsee. In the evenings, I scoop up my flowing skirt to tuck around me as we take a leisurely ride side-by-side to Michael’s or another of our favorite haunts for a romantic dinner, followed by sunset cocktails at Mallory Square.

On our more adventurous nights, we lock up our bikes on Duval Street, and begin an impromptu Duval Crawl. Hours later, we return to our bikes (Sometimes the toughest part is remembering where the bikes are located!), and take the exhilarating two-wheeled trip back to our B & B. We whizz past quiet, side-street houses in the darkness–with nothing but mesmerizing strobe lights guiding our fuzzy brains. Whee!

I learned it’s never too late to enjoy simple pleasures like the ones I loved as a kid. Key West is my favorite getaway, and the fun we have riding our rented bikes everywhere is definitely a big part of the draw for me, being a kid at heart.

What childhood toy or activity have you left behind that you’d like to revisit, or maybe adapt to your life as an adult?

Movie Quote Answer: Wedding Date, 2005 (Debra Messing, Dermot Mulroney, Amy Adams, Peter Egan) Debra Messing’s character, Kat, complains that Dermot Mulroney’s character, Nick, knows everything about her and she doesn’t know a thing about him. He responds, “I’m allergic to fabric softener. I majored in comparative literature at Brown. I hate anchovies. And I think I’d miss you even if we never met.”

Hemingway Days 2012

Jolyse Barnett Photography

This week I’m reporting live from Key West, where the town is celebrating Hemingway Days. Look forward to giving you all the details. Stay tuned!

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