Giving Thanks 2013

Today in the United States we celebrate the feast of Thanksgiving, begun in 1621 at Plimouth Plantation. The Pilgrims celebrated a successful harvest with their Native American friends, the Wampanoags, for three joyous days.

In addition to the traditional blessings, I am especially thankful for these three:

DSCN7956My honey is in complete remission from prostate cancer, his blood counts back to normal for a man his age. He hardly broke stride this past year, and I pray his good health and attitude continues.

My readers, followers, and friends through social media are a treasure I could never have anticipated when I began this journey toward publishing three-and-a-half years ago. I have learned from you, laughed and cried with you, but most of all, have welcomed into my heart your wonderful friendships from around the world. Thank you all. You are dear to me. I wish I had endless time to respond to every post, Facebook Update, and Tweet I read of yours. Please know how important you are to me and how your being there has impacted my life. I only hope I have brightened your life half as much as you have brightened mine!

Row your little boat. You'll get there!

Row your little boat. You’ll get there!

Finally, thanks to all of you who encourage me to keep writing, to keep querying. I recently received an offer of contract from Entangled Publishing to make my romantic suspense/magical novel part of their Ignite line of ebooks. I promise to share all the incredible details as soon as I can!

Hugging Couple outside Key West Museum

Hugging Couple outside Key West Museum

In the meantime, I appreciate my family’s support as I clickety-click on the keyboard of my laptop, gaze into space while I imagine instead of clean, and work out story elements at the dinner table, on car rides, and–okay–pretty much everywhere they will allow. I realize how lucky I am they believe in me and my dreams.

And for you all, a big virtual hug.

Enjoy the moments!

Key West Sunset 2013

Key West Sunset 2013

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

Kayaking the Keys

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Downwind EcoTours at Geiger Key, 8 miles east of Old Town KW

Kayaking the Keys

Floating through the Mangroves

Floating through the Mangroves

If you love water and ocean life, you may enjoy kayaking. It’s quiet and laid-back, a perfect change of pace from the Duval Crawl nightlife.

You may opt for the kayak/snorkeling tour leaving from Key West Historic Seaport, which involves taking a motor boat out to The Lakes section of Key West Harbor where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Gulf. Your guide will teach you all about the creatures swimming in the crystal clear waters beneath you, such as the nurse shark, a variety of tropical fish, and the delicate coral reef ecosystem. If you take the last tour of the day, you will have the added excitement of watching the famous sunset as you motor back to the marina.

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Years ago, we enjoyed our kayaking tour. For this getaway, we chose to explore the backcountry. What a great choice! I learned more about the mangrove ecosystem in five minutes from Tortuga Jack of Downwind Tours than in all our years of travel to the Keys.

The Highlights:

Double-Crested Cormorant

Dry and Ready for Flight

The double-crested cormorant isn’t a favorite of local fishermen as this excellent diver and fisher competes for the tastiest meals. Unlike most birds, this one doesn’t have waterproofing oil glands. When the cormorant dives into the water for its meal, its feathers become saturated. That’s why you’ll often see them perching in the sun, drying their feathers. I was excited to snap the shot (above) just as this creature took off.

Cormorant nest in a red mangrove.

Cormorant Nest in a Red Mangrove

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The creature shown here on our kayak paddle is called a Cassiopeia. Like its namesake constellation that’s an upside-down M, this jellyfish floats along the current upside-down in Key West’s shallow waters. They can grow up to ten inches in diameter, but their poison is weak.

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Tortuga Jack with a Horseshoe Crab

Living on Long Island, we are familiar with the horseshoe crab. What I didn’t know was that this ancient creature’s blood contains copper. This made the crab useful in scientific research and as fertilizer in the past.

A Horseshoe Crab

A Horseshoe Crab

Like most Floridian waters, the channel we traversed contains crocodiles. According to our guide, they are “elusive, exclusive, and seclusive.”  We also learned from Tortuga Jack that crocs have ventured as far south as Cuba in recent years, with a population of two thousand and growing,  competing with native species for available food sources.

Paddling the Quiet Channels

Paddling the Quiet Channels

We looked carefully, but those toothy creatures remained hidden. I suppose that was a good thing.

Crossing the channel; Overseas Highway in the distance

Crossing the Channel with the Overseas Highway in the Distance

A Mangrove Maze

A Mangrove Maze

The mangroves’ evolutional goal may be to create land, but the combination of Key West’s two tidal systems along with strong currents prevent the accumulation of soil in many areas. Winding through the tangle of branches, prop roots, and leaves, you realize why drug dealers and other lawbreakers used these waters to evade capture.

Nature meets Civilization

Nature Meets Civilization

As you float back to the starting point, you can imagine life on these waters. As beautiful as they are, the guide is your key to a successful outing. Not only was ours knowledgeable about the science aspect, but the history and literary aspects as well. We were the lucky recipients of an impromptu poem or two.

What special memories have you collected this autumn season?

Sunken Meadow Beach at Sunset

 

Photo Credit:  Jen Gracen

Photo Credit: Jen Gracen

I attended a book launch party for a dear friend at Sunken Meadow Beach, Long Island this past weekend. When I caught a glimpse of this incredible sunset, I was heartsick that I’d left my Nikon at home. Luckily, my romance writer pal saved the night with her iphone camera. Beautiful, huh? Thanks, Jen.

Then I discovered the sunset in Jen’s wine glass, and I asked her to take a shot of it so you could enjoy it too.

Photo Credit: Jen Gracen

Photo Credit: Jen Gracen

What did you do this past weekend? Any special accomplishments or simple pleasures?

Key West Couplets – Part Two

Welcome to this week’s Margarita Moment, the second of a three-part homage to the Conch Republic–Key West. Feel free to check out Key West Couplets – Part One if you missed it.

Irish Kevin's Bar

Key West is Hogaritas, Ultimate Margaritas, Corona with limes,

Rum punch, Flying Monkeys’ frozen concoctions, our favorite red wines.

Happy Hour that begins each day ’round about noon,

Laidback island music, with a work-to-live motto and a steel drum tune.

Jolyse Barnett Photography

Key West is James Audubon, Tennessee Williams, and Chesney,

Jimmy Buffett, Mel Fisher, McGillis, and Winfrey.

Cigars rolled by Cubans and beaches made from soft Bahamian sand,

Home of the Navy, Coast Guard, and factories where turtles were once canned.

Jolyse Barnett Photography

Key West is upper, mid, and lower Duval,

Art boutiques, souvenir shops, and occasional vendor stall,

Piano bars, sports bars, and others with history or flare,

All ending at a cobblestone street that leads to a boardwalk and Mallory Square.

Jolyse Barnett Photography

Key West is tanning at Smathers, Higgins, Fort Zack, and South Beach,

Snapping photos of butterflies, exploring the world of banyon trees, and birds out of reach…

Until next Monday, when we finish our poetic tour of Key West, here’s a song by one of my favorite American Idol artists, Phil Phillips, with his beautiful homage to someone special. Wherever you may be, may it be the place you make your home.

What place would you like to call home?

Key West Street Fair and Sunsets

Booths at the Street Fair

The Papa Look-Alikes Contest is a big draw for fans of Key West Hemingway Days, but that’s not all this annual festival offers.

Saturday afternoon, Old Town hosted a Caribbean Street Fair, designed to reflect the spirit of Key West during the original Hemingway’s era. A large section of Duval Street was closed to vehicles for local artisans and mom-and-pop food vendors to display their goods. People browsed the stands, many sipping ice cold lemonade in the tropical heat. There was wall art designed from sheet metal, touristy plaques made from recycled fence, Cuban sandwiches, and Bahamian-prepared sausages among other items. We bought little other than bottled water, focused on hydration.

At dusk, over six hundred people participated in the Hemingway 5K Sunset Run/Walk. My husband entered as a runner, and convinced me to participate as a walker. I ran recreationally for a number of years, but with children and other responsibilities, I’d become more of a treadmill kind of gal this past decade. More recently, I was injured in a fall and endured PT for many months. My knees continue to give me grief. On top of that, Key West’s weather was still like a steambath at race time. I had valid concerns about finishing.

I kissed my husband good luck and he flew ahead of us few walkers with the other runners. I focused on putting one foot in front of the other, stretching my gait as far as possible and pumping those arms. And I kept that pace. Eventually, I passed a number of other racers, some jogging slower than my walk. That’s okay, though, because we were all in it for fun. The race entry fees went toward a local children’s organization, and there was something special about race-walking from the famous Southernmost Point, down Whitehead Street where Hemingway’s Museum is located, onto the Truman Annex, down the Quay for a spectacular sunset view, looping through sidestreets and back down Whitehead to the finish line at Southernmost Point. Spectators cheered and encouraged everyone. I did it. We all did it. It felt good. I may just enter another 5K in the future, and next time I’ll run.

What a View!

When was the last time you were coaxed into doing something outside your comfort zone? How did it turn out?

Waxing Poetic

April is one of my favorite months. Spring is in full bloom, Long Island days seem slightly sunnier…and it’s poetry month. To put you in the poem frame of mind, here’s a haiku I wrote, just for you.

Poetry

Sensory snapshot in words

Lines, rhymes, alliteration, stanzas

Rhythm rolling off my tongue

When I’m in the mood for a little poetry pick-me-up but don’t have the energy left to write my own, I surf on poetry websites. The next poem is courtesy of www.OnlyPoems.com.:

Tropical Island

Palm trees sway

To the beat of the drums

As my plane lands

My Caribbean escape awaits

 

I dip my feet

Into the refreshing warm water

The ocean sweeps me away

To my personal paradise

 

Flashes of color

Shimmering scales

Crystal blue water

A blissful sight

 

The burning red sun

Battles the soft ocean breeze

My toes dig deeper into the sand

I don’t want to leave

 

The reef is a playground

To all curious creatures

And the seaweed rocks back and forth

To the rhythm of the water

 

But sunset comes

In shades of orange, yellow, and pink

As it settles to rest

Sinking beneath the ocean waves

by Peyton Alexis

Do you like poetry? Why or why not? If you like poetry, do you have any favorite poets or related websites you’d recommend?

P.S. – If you’re not into poetry, no worries. Next week’s post will be written in prose. 🙂

 

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