Scrap Your Memories & Blogiversary Giveaways

A sampling of my scrapbook collection

Long before I began writing seriously, I kept journals–reams of pages filled with daily entries, jots, sketches, and reflections. Then, I began scrapbooking in the mid nineties to record my family life and move my photos from boxes to books. This hobby gave my creativity an outlet my day job previously had but no longer did.


I love this book! Great ideas for the novice scrapper.

As with most things in life, there were negatives to my new obsession. Every material and specialty tool cost money, which added up. Between the price of the photos, books, filler pages, and specialty materials such as stickers, pens, scissors and other tools–not to mention my labor–one project could easily top fifty bucks.

Homemade Scrapbook Page

Then, there was the mess. I didn’t have a designated space for my hobby and ended up filling my closet and kitchen cabinets with the supplies.

Scrapping is painstaking, yet rewarding.


Durability was my greatest concern. Others were eager to look at the photo albums, but I was forever worrying about torn and soiled pages. That bothered me, because the reason I’d started scrapping was to make our family photos accessible. These albums help develop my son’s language and social connections, too, areas of concern for a child with autism.

Disney books are magical to create.

The solution to my dilemma was the advent of digital scrapbooks. Not only is this form of scrapbooking quicker and more professional-looking than my best handmade efforts, but all the work is online instead of all over my house. It’s also easy to make duplicate books. The price of both kinds of scrapbooks is comparable, unless you splurge by creating an album like the Disney one I made two years ago.

My photo albums are more like picture books.

Photo sites such as Shutterfly and Snapfish are user-friendly and provide many options to create the book you imagine. They take up a fraction of the space at 1/2″ thick whereas the handmade scrapbooks are 2″-3″ thick. You can share digital albums online, so there’s no need to purchase every album you create.

With each successive album, I used fewer photos and more journaling until the photos supported the text rather than the other way around. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised I took that next step in creativity–painting pictures with words as a novelist. 

What’s your creative outlet? Do you scrapbook, journal, or research geneology online?

Let’s celebrate!

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 of May. 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 will be announced in the following week’s post. To be sure you don’t miss this opportunity, sign up for email notification and Margarita Moments will arrive at your inbox hassle-free.

First week's prize includes these pool-safe beverage glasses, hand towels, and a $10 Amazon Gift Card

A Dinner and Romance, Key West Style

You’ve booked your flight and rooms and are on your way to Key West with your sweetheart. Now for those little details, like choosing just the right restaurant for romance-filled evenings. With dining options galore in the Conch Republic, confusion may ensue. Relax. Let Margarita Moments narrow the choices for you.

  • Michaels – Known for its steak and seafood, this restaurant is a sure bet when it comes to quality cuisine and impeccable service. You may want to dine outdoors in their garden oasis. Michaels’ drink selection is impressive, including a variety of wines and martinis. I suggest the White Chocolate Martini made with Stoli Vanil Vodka & White Creme de Cacao, served in a Belgian chocolate rimmed glass. If you’re interested in one of their delicious fondue appetizers, be sure to order your selection immediately, as it takes 20-25 minutes to prepare. Entree servings are a healthy size, but leave room for dessert. I’d recommend sharing a warm chocolate volcano. Mmm.
  • The Flaming Buoy - A twilight dinner for two on this up-and-coming restaurant’s cozy side porch may set the mood for romance. The waitstaff is friendly yet unobtrusive. You won’t feel rushed as you may at some eateries, and the food is all about taste and comfort. I highly recommend the lobster mac and cheese. Click on the restaurant name above for my unabridged review.
  • Latitudes - This restaurant isn’t in Old Town like the others listed here, but is easily accessible via a complimentary ten-minute ferry ride to Sunset Key. I haven’t eaten here yet. There are so many wonderful choices in Key West, and this Westin Resort restaurant is a bit on the pricey side. Many reviewers say eating alfresco on Latitude’s quiet beach at sunset is worth every penny, though, and I imagine it is.
  • Hot Tin Roof - This restaurant is part of the sophisticated Ocean Key Resort overlooking Key West Harbor, the perfect backdrop for a romantic dinner. You may select small plates or opt for a heartier entree. Click here to see the menu. We’ve never been disappointed with its service or ambiance.
  • nine one five – Located at, you guessed it, 915 Duval Street, this is a tapis restaurant. Request a table for two on the building’s front porch, and you’ll be able to people watch while whispering sweet nothings to your love between servings. If you like chocolate, you may wish to make Life by Chocolate your meal’s final act.
  • Cafe Sole - Boasting French cuisine and intimate indoor or alfresco seating, this award-winning establishment is recommended by Key West aficionados and foodies across the internet. I haven’t eaten here before, but now it’s on my list!
  • Cafe Marquesa - This historied restaurant is affiliated with Marquesa Hotel, lodging designed for the discerning traveler. We’ve biked and strolled past it many times, and look forward to one day sitting inside as patrons. We hear the food is as incredible as the hotel’s reputation.
  • Charter boat — For the ultimate in intimate, rent a private yacht for a dinner sunset sail around Key West harbor. What a beautiful ending to a romantic getaway!

Entree at Michaels

Wherever you decide to dine, may you eat and drink in good health and happiness. Bon appetit!

What’s the most romantic restaurant you’ve enjoyed or wish to experience?

First Impressions

Remember when you were a kid and you loved to play pretend? This week’s Margarita Moment is a chance to recapture that imagination of yours.

Use any of my first three novels’ opening lines, or think of your own story starter, and have fun daydreaming. Ask yourself “What if?” and see where the ideas flow.

Ready or not, here we go…

A Daughter’s Final Promise – Contemporary Romance

First Impression: Kathryn knew better than to drink three glasses of champagne. She told herself she was obligated to have one during the toast. As for the second, she drank that in mock celebration of her status as single-older-sister-of-the-bride. She was fuzzy as to why she downed the third, but she strongly suspected it had something to do with having consumed the first two. It couldn’t have anything to do with her attraction to Joanna’s new brother-in-law, Jacob. Or, the fact he was slow dancing with another woman while she sat here in the corner, fiddling with her empty champagne glass.

When Dreams Collide – Contemporary Romance

First Impression:  Nicki Donnatto glanced up from her carefully prepared notes and smiled at the friendly faces in the audience. “And these are the reasons I request rezoning approval and a building permit.” She turned to the five board members seated to her left. “Thank you for your consideration.”

Uncharted Waters (Working Title) – Contemporary Romance

First Impression:  Damn his buddy, Dillon, for wanting to see some new performer at a Duval Street bar Saturday. Sure, the guy turned out to be a kickass musician, and he was funny as hell. All the tourists had laughed, their vacation dollars tucked into his tip jar. But that was beside the point. If they’d hung out at the Green Parrot instead of that tourist trap, he wouldn’t be in this mess. He couldn’t get her out of his head.

Speaking of story lines, the ending of A Daughter’s Final Promise was inspired by one of my favorite songs. Kathryn decides to take another chance on love, her relationship with Jacob different than others in the past because it’s one based on trust and tempered with compromise. Take a listen to this Maroon 5 video She Will Be Loved:

Fellow writers: This post was the brainchild of the talented and sweet Sonia G Medeiros’ April-May Writing Challenge. If you’d like to participate, click the link for more details. I’d love to see your entry!

Margarita Lovers: What’s your favorite first line or last words of a book, play, or movie? OR What inspires you?

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.


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

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. :)


A Love Story

Wedding Day

Twenty-four years ago today, I married my true love and best friend. But our love story began long before April 9, 1988.

At fifteen, I was tall, lanky, studious, and shy compared to most girls my age, yet eager to fit in despite lacking social graces. I survived adolescent crushes and ventured into dating. None of those boys, however, made me swoon like the heroes in my favorite novels. Night after night, I’d gaze into the starry darkness from my bedroom window, dreaming of the perfect romance.

The Michael Buble song, I Just Haven’t Met You Yet, reminds me of that yearning optimism I had as a teen.

I met my future husband autumn of ’83. He was a very confident, handsome guy with a great sense of humor, a potent combination as far as I was concerned. We hung in the same circles and kept bumping into each other, although I focused on my studies and dating guys I felt were more in my league. My future husband and I had a playful, friendly relationship, but it didn’t go any further than that.

Until months later, he stole a kiss. I began to suspect he was the one, but I didn’t want to believe it. At that point I had a love interest back home and figured he did too.

Sophomore year of college, he’d walk me home Saturday nights whenever my roommate wasn’t available. I began to share my accomplishments and sorrows with him. He offered emotional support after my breakup with a boy back home. We talked about our childhoods, our aspirations, our religious beliefs, just about everything. We’d become best friends.

Then he ruined everything by asking me out on a date. I had to refuse. What if things didn’t work out? Luckily for our love story, he wasn’t easily dissuaded. He brought me flowers. He asked me to a movie. He courted me.

And we lived happily ever after.

Well, not so fast. Our road to marriage was a bumpy one at times, both of us having grown into strong-minded, focused young adults, intent on making our way in the world while trying to figure out how to fit our lives together.  The 2005 movie A Lot Like Love, starring Ashton Kutcher and Amanda Peet, reminds me a bit of our real-life romance:

As we’ve wound our ways through the years,

we’ve lived our marriage vows,

loving each other

for better for worse,

in good times and in bad,

through sickness and health.

Twenty seven years after our first date, we’re still best friends, and we’re still crazy in love with each other. Happy anniversary, sweetheart.

That’s our love story. What’s yours? 

Hemingway’s Key West Years 1928 – 1939

Hemingway lived his dreams, as shown by this grade school assignment. ( KW Museum) Click for a larger view.

Thank you for your patience. The more I researched about this larger-than-life man, the more contradictions I encountered. The Hemingway Resource Center website suggests, “To find the truth about Hemingway, look first to his fiction.”

I did just that, along with gathering information from the Key West Museum, chatting with Key West historians, and poring through published biographies and online sources. If you find Hemingway a fascinating figure, too, you may wish to read his work and research to draw your own conclusions.

Ernest Miller Hemingway was an accomplished writer by the time he and his second wife arrived in Key West. John Dos Passos, his friend at the time, had recommended they stop there for a holiday on their return from Paris in April 1928.

Like many tourists to the tiny island, Ernest and Pauline were instant converts and determined to settle there. Perhaps it reminded them of the foreign lands they loved, while still part of the United States, situated as it is on the southernmost tip of Florida’s westward archipelago. After three years of renting apartments, the couple purchased a house in Old Town with money loaned by Pauline’s uncle.

907 Whitehead Street

Hemingway wrote the final draft of his bestselling A Farewell to Arms at their new home on 907 Whitehead Street, rising early each morning to write. He also published works such as Death in the Afternoon, Green Hills of Africa, and two of his most beloved short stories, “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” and “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” during his Key West years. As for his family life, Pauline gave birth to two sons during this time, and outfitted their property with a luxurious 20′ x 60′ pool, carved out of the island’s coral bedrock for $20,000 in 1938.

At home by the pool (Courtesy Hemingway House)

When the midday tropical sun drove him away from his writing, Hemingway gravitated toward the water or his favorite watering hole. Whether his time away from home was a consequence or cause of an unhappy marriage, only Pauline and he would know for sure. Whatever the case, Papa Hemingway as the macho persona developed during this decade.

On land, Papa continued his lifelong enjoyment of boxing. The backyard of a brothel in Bahama Village constructed a boxing ring where he spent many happy hours. This site is now home to the popular Blue Heaven restaurant. According to R. Andrew Wilson’s Write Like Hemingway, Papa “was known to exaggerate his own experience in the ring,” athough Key West historians assure me he did spar with locals and won quite often.

He enjoyed his drink as much as the next man, spotted at Sloppy Joe’s most afternoons. The original Sloppy Joes was located on 428 Greene Street and has been renamed Capt. Tony’s Saloon. (The current Sloppy Joe’s bar at the corner of lower Duval and Greene came to be when the owner refused to pay a rent increase at the former site and relocated in 1937.) Joe “Josie” Russell, the bar’s owner, is said to have cashed a $1,000 royalty check for Hemingway when all the banks refused, earning him a close friendship with the writer.

"Tag and Release. Not!"

Papa was an avid fisherman, the photos of him throughout present-day Key West establishments an apparent  testament to his prowess. The picture to the right can be seen at the Turtle Kraals Bar & Restaurant.  For his extended fishing trips to Havana, Papa would charter Josie Russell’s boat. Fans of Hemingway’s final novel, The Old Man and the Sea, may be interested to learn that the character, Santiago, was inspired by Papa’s Cuban mate, Carlos Gutierrez. According to Hemingway’s personal accounts, this mate had fished marlin for forty years and was a gifted storyteller. Photos, including one of Carlos Gutierrez with Papa, can be viewed here.

Why did Papa ultimately leave Key West?

At some point in his island adventures, Hemingway met journalist Martha Gellhorn, his future third wife. As with Pauline while still married to Hadley, he had an affair with Martha before divorcing Pauline in 1940. In addition, his last book written in Key West, To Have and Have Not, was considered by many critics to be second-rate. Some say he moved on with a new wife to a new life for a rebirth of his career. Although he owned the house until his death in 1961, Ernest Miller Hemingway’s life in Key West ended in 1939.

Was Hemingway an example of art imitating life, or life imitating art? Or were both so intertwined it’s impossible to separate the legend from the writer?

What are your thoughts about Hemingway, either as a historical figure or American writer?


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