Summer Plans, and All that Jazz

I got my toes in the pool, ass on the land,

Not a worry in the world, a red wine in my hand.

Life is good today, life is good today.

Inspired by Zac Brown Band’s song, “Toes” (and the red wine)

I may not be dancing in my flip flops this beautiful almost-summer day, but I’m enjoying time with my kids in the backyard. How about you? Do you relax? You deserve a break once in awhile. Life is precious; enjoy it.

But you know that, don’t you, because you stopped by for a laugh and a smile. Smart cookie!

Thanks to you wonderful margarita lovers, our Margarita Moments Playlist has some fine additions, and I’ve linked most titles so you can take a listen whenever you have a chance. That was my husband’s idea. Thanks, honey! Anyway, I’m especially excited to have discovered an incredible version of Margaritaville–you know, the song that started a revolution–by Alan Jackson, featuring who else but Jimmy Buffet. Feel free to add some of your own. Remember, it’s never too late to comment on a particular post here. We’re pretty laidback about those kind of things at Margarita Moments.

Here in the Conch Republic,

You know we’re doing just fine,

We’re not gonna worry

We know the sun’s gonna shine.

The rest of the world,

A million miles away,

Here in the Conch Republic,

We’re doing okay.

Yeah, we’re doing okay.

Here on the Conch Republic by Howard Livingston & the Mile Marker 24 Band

Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m a little homesick for my second home. As much as I embrace the roller coaster, I’m ready for the summer calm I always feel while lying by my pool or when in Florida. The packing has begun for our annnual family trip to Orlando (Later than usual, but better late than never, right?) and three weeks later is our couple’s only getaway to Old Town.

I’m giddy thinking about both. I love my children dearly, and they’re lots of fun. My sister and her husband will join us at Disney and Universal (Harry Potter world, yay!) and we’ll get a chance to visit my in-law’s new Florida home (Me, jealous? Of course not.) In Key West, we’ll renew old acquaintances and form new friendships, fish, paddle, admire the turquoise waters, and bike through Old Town looking for new adventures.

Other than our Florida vacays, I hope to fill my summer days (in between work) with:

  • pool parties

    Broadway, NYC

  • beach jaunts
  • sorbet and ice cream runs
  • afternoon frozen concoctions
  • barbeques with great friends
  • Broadway plays
  • action movies
  • romance novels
  • writing at my local coffee shop

How do you hope to spend these precious days of summer?

Dancing in Your Flip Flops

Welcome! Kick off your shoes and slip into a comfy pair of flip flops.

Surprise!

Back in late April, the weather here on Long Island was unseasonably warm. On one of those beautiful afternoons, my husband and I hit the jackpot–home without the kids.

Our pool wasn’t open yet, but that didn’t stop him from grabbing the loungers out of the backyard shed while I poured wine and plated chips and salsa. All that was missing was a palm tree swaying in the breeze.

And some laidback, tropical tunes.

That got me to thinking. Margarita Moments aficionados need a playlist. Here’s the compilation to date (Titles to be added with reader suggestions!):

  1. Margaritaville – Jimmy Buffett
  2. Key West Address – James T. Slater
  3. Toes – Zac Brown Band
  4. Living on Key West Time – Howard Livingston & Mile Marker 24
  5. No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problems – Kenny Chesney
  6. Pour Me a Vacation – Pete Harris
  7. Hot Sand, Pina Coladas, and Caribbean Beer – Seth Turner
  8. Changes in Latitude – Jimmy Buffett
  9. I Don’t Have to Be Me Until Monday – Steve Azur
  10. Here in the Conch Republic – Howard Livingston & Mile Marker 24
  11. Key West Intermezzo (I Saw You First) – John Mellencamp
  12. Looe Key Tiki Bar – Howard Livingston & Mile Marker 24
  13. When the Sun Goes Down – Kenny Chesney
  14. Two Pina Coladas – Garth Brooks
  15. Blame it on the Margaritas – Howard Livingston & Mile Marker 24
  16. Meet Me in the Keys – Howard Livingston & Mile Marker 24
  17. I’m Living on an Island – Howard Livingston & Mile Marker 24
  18. Red Wine - UB40
  19. All Summer Long - Kid Rock
  20. Baby I Love Your Way – Big Mountain

Have you ever heard of #2? If this song’s lighthearted lyrics and video  doesn’t get those flip flops dancing, I don’t know what will. Enjoy!

I love this YouTube slideshow of one of my favorite tunes.

Do you have any songs to add to our playlist? Where do you buy your comfy flip flops?

Blogging this past month was really fun! Thanks for helping celebrate Jolyse Barnett’s Margarita Moments & Other Escapes first blogiversary. All May commenters’ names were placed in a hat (one slip per comment) and my obliging daughter randomly picked out the winner. Congratulations to Catie Rhodes!!! Email me at jolysebarnett@gmail.com with your address and your handpainted, crystal Lolita Margarita glass will soon be on its way. I look forward to future giveaways that include a copy of my latest release. It’s only a matter of hard work, luck, and timing, right? :)

Kindle Fire Obsession Update

A Tropical Drink to Chase Away Winter Blahs

Happy Margarita Moment, everyone! I’m excited to share a couple of fun travel posts, pics/music, and news I discovered on the web this week. But first, here’s that update I promised.

It’s been two months since I purchased a Kindle Fire. In that time, my crush has become a full-fledged obsession. In fact, it’s hard to imagine life without it–or at least my late evenings, weekends, waiting rooms, and car rides. Amazon Prime’s promotional month of free movies and tv shows was a nice perk. As I shared in my initial post about the Fire, I was hesitant to pay the $79 annual fee until I knew how often I’d actually use the service.

Here’s my Fire money breakdown for the past month:

$11 on movie downloads

$30 on ebook/music downloads

If I were a Prime member, I would have had unlimited streaming access for three of the four movies as opposed to a 48 hour rental window, saving $8. At that rate, I’d save $96 for the year, coming out $15 ahead. Not a huge difference, but I know I would have watched 3-4 more movies had they been “free.”

The exciting news for parents of kids with Kindle Fires came on February eighth. Amazon announced a deal with Viacom that brings a number of Nickelodeon, MTV, TVLand, and Comedy Central shows as part of Prime’s package. Considering my son spent $41 of his Christmas gift card to own a complete season of a favorite Nick show, a $79 investment can very well save money in the long run–in addition to more viewing options.

Be cautioned:  Unlimited streaming only works when the Fire has Wi-Fi connection. You still need to purchase and download tv shows and movies to view them offline. Let’s say you want to watch The Bodyguard, one of Amazon Prime’s new listings. As a member, you can watch this Whitney Houston/Kevin Costner flick via Wi-Fi as often as you wish until the movie is removed from the Prime listing. (I’ve only owned the Fire for three months, but I haven’t noticed any movies taken off the roster yet.) If you aren’t a member, you can download it or watch via wi-fi for $2.99 in a 48 hour rental period.

Fire Text Customization Features

Let’s talk ebooks.

I’m so excited to finally have an ereader and instant access to my favorite authors’ work. As you may remember, I discovered a new contemporary romance author, Abigail Strom, and consumed all four of her delicious titles. Since then, I’ve read Jan Rome’s ONE SMALL FIB romantic comedy and began THE CHASE IS ON by Maggie Van Well.  I haven’t had an issue with eyestrain or awkwardness holding the Fire. I actually prefer the backlighting for reading at night, and I figured out how to customize the ebook by background color, font, letter size, line spacing, and margins. Just click on bottom of screen and a pop-up menu appears. (Not all custom features are available with all ebooks, however.) As long as the Kindle Fire is indoors or in shade, visibility is excellent.

Now, for your Margarita Moment Mini-Mashup…

I follow Nicole Basaraba’s blog faithfully, not only because she’s a kindred writer spirit, but because of her awesome European travel posts. Check out her recent trek to Alicante, Spain. You won’t be sorry!

In the same vein as my recent youtube video, Livin’ on Key West Time, is this relaxing slideshow of Mexican vistas by Adinasadventures.

Last, but not least, is this article about a Long Island couple who recently won a $3 million scratch-off jackpot. After paying off their bills and taking care of two children’s weddings, guess where they’re taking a little trip? In their words, they’re going “heaven on Earth…Key West.” I couldn’t agree more, and I wish them all the best.

Until next time, I wish you all the best too. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find a little slice of heaven on Earth wherever you are this week.

Livin’ on Key West Time

Do you find that you’re always racing to get things done? Whether you commute to work, chauffeur the kids, have work deadlines or errands to run, the clock is your task master. You may be known to say things like, “If only there were more than twenty-four hours in a day,” “I have to put out the biggest fire first,” “You want to do WHAT when?” and your all-time favorite (with only a hint of sarcasm, of course), “Sure I can get that done in my FREE time.”

If this sounds like your life, then this Magarita Moment is for you. C’mon, kick back and relax. All those chores will still be waiting four-and-a-half minutes from now, right?

If you didn’t have to run off just yet, please share your ideas for saving time or using it effectively. That would be really helpful, you know, because I just spent an entire weekend playing with Windows Movie Maker and I have a lot of work to catch up on now.  :)

Get Lost…in a Book

Winter Chill

An avid reader doesn’t need an excuse to enjoy a good book, yet there’s something especially appealing about skipping errands in favor of curling up on your favorite piece of furniture and losing yourself in a story. I think this is doubly true during winter, sitting quietly a welcome change after all the excitement of December. Are you in the mood to revisit a beloved novel, read your favorite author’s newest release, make a dent in your to-be-read pile, or discover a new author?

As a novice owner of a Kindle Fire, I chose to read CROSS MY HEART, a book by Abigail Strom that ranks as the number one contemporary romance on Kindle. Its ranking may have had something to do with the book’s price, a mere ninety-nine cents. But that alone didn’t convince me to give her novel a try. It was Abigail Strom’s website bio, book blurbs, reader reviews, and excerpts that did.

CROSS MY HEART is Abigail’s third book, and the second in the Landry trilogy. The heroine, Jenna, is a singer/guitarist from a recently defunct rock band. She is back home in rural Iowa for the summer, housesitting for relatives. Michael Stone is a divorced, part-time father and workaholic cardiac surgeon who lives next door. They are attracted to each other, but don’t actually have a conversation until his teenage daughter arrives for her two-week visit. The daughter begs Michael to help her meet Jenna, one of her favorite singers. In the end, Jenna teaches Michael about music and having faith in himself as a dad, and he teaches her that love is worth compromise.

Abigail wrote the daughter, Claire with such a realistic teenage personality. The family and other interpersonal dynamics pull at the heartstrings, too, with believable, compelling conflicts. I was rooting for these characters, and I felt that the three of them would make a terrific family unit. I had to keep reading to see how they worked it all out. I wasn’t disappointed.

I finished Jenna Landry’s story only to dive into another Strom book. In WAITING FOR YOU, Jake Landry has returned from Afghanistan after four tours of military duty. He’s a strong man, trying to move forward in his life, but he suffers from PTSD. This prevents him from reconnecting with his family. He rejects his feelings toward Erin, the girl-next-door he’d left behind, determined not to ruin her innocence with his jaded perspective and numb heart. He leaves town after one incredible night with Erin, only to return six months later to learn the encounter had lasting consequences. I cried twice while reading this book; that’s how invested I became in Jake and Erin’s story.

The last of Abigail Strom’s books I’ve read is THE MILLIONAIRE’S WISH. This happens to be the first in the Landry trilogy and was published as a Silhouette Special Edition. I was quickly drawn into Allison and Rick’s lives. Allison is the oldest Landry sibling, and completely turned off to men after a violent ending to her first relationship back in high school. Her youngest sister died of cancer, and Allison has dedicated her adult life to her non-profit foundation helping families affected by the disease. She needs Rick’s money to help keep her dreams alive. He agrees, but on one condition. That condition forces the two to face their personal issues. Eventually, they realize they are crazy in love with each other and are ready to move forward as a couple. This story was satifying overall and answered all my story questions (with inclusion of an epilogue), yet the ending felt a bit rushed compared to the other two.

Abigail’s no-nonsense prose allows the reader to focus on the characters and their journey to their happily-ever-after. Her voice makes for a quick, seamless read. I would love for her to weave in a few more setting details in future novels, especially if she writes another trilogy. Stories where the community essentially becomes another character and part of the plot, as in Jodi Thomas’ HARMONY series, may add even more depth to an already well-crafted book. Then again, that’s just my opinion.

In Strom’s Landry trilogy, the emotional and sexual tension is her forte. CROSS MY HEART has the steamiest and greatest number of detailed, yet tasteful romantic scenes, and WAITING FOR YOU has sex scenes that are not only hot, but incredibly emotional.

In a nutshell, Abigail Strom writes a sweet, sexy, and satisfying read.

My Reading Spot

You deserve a Margarita Moment. Why not sink into your favorite chair and get lost in a story? What will you be reading?

Kindle Fire

Today’s post is about my new mini-escape, the Kindle Fire. After reading Catie Rhode’s blog post about the Kindle Keyboard, I started thinking about my new high-tech crush. I don’t profess to be a gadget diva, by any means. I don’t have email access on my phone, I didn’t know what Angry Birds was until a month ago, and I haven’t figured out how to use Word 2010–writing my books using an older version. Please feel free to comment, educating me and bringing me into the twenty-first century with the rest of you! That being said, here goes:

First screen of movie selection

The Kindle Fire took me by surprise. Sure, I had heard the hype. This was Amazon’s little I-Pad wannabe, for a fraction of the price. I hadn’t taken it too seriously, though, until our son began nagging us with his tech-filled wishlist a few months ago. The Fire’s $200 price tag appealed to Santa, but we didn’t fall in love with this tablet until setting it up in anticipation of Christmas morning.

Not only does the Kindle Fire come at a reasonable cost for its abilities, it includes a trial period of Amazon Prime. This provides you free two-day shipping on many Amazon purchases, access to instant streaming of thousands of movies and TV shows, and ability to borrow one free book per month from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. After your free month, you can opt to purchase an annual membership at $79. I believe this membership would pay for itself if you order often from Amazon and need a quick turnaround time, if you enjoy and have time to watch favorite movies and older tv shows, and use the Kindle Library monthly. In short, crunch the numbers first to see if it’s worth your investment.

Reading a novel on the Fire

Reading a novel on Fire

If, like me, you don’t already have an I-Pad, another Kindle, or a phone with apps, the Kindle Fire is incredible! I love the size and weight of this tablet for lying in bed watching a movie or reading a book. I thought the backlight would bother my eyes, but I’ve read three full-length novels (indoors) so far without any problems. I even read on the train yesterday during daylight and didn’t experience the glare other users have mentioned. I’d still bet that the other Kindles are better suited for reading in strong sunlight, however, and will likely buy a Kindle Keyboard or Touch by summer for outdoor use.

A page from Henry and Mudge by Cynthia Rylant

If you have a child who resists reading, the Kindle Fire can be a great way to jump-start or renew interest. The color, variety, and low cost of picture books and early chapter books amazes me. My son willingly reads Magic Tree House books now, and has even asked to buy other books he browsed in the Kindle Book Store online! (We uploaded his Amazon gift cards to his Kindle account, and I get email notification each time he purchases an item.) The beautiful color translates nicely for older teens and adults for reading magazines and newspapers.

Those angry, addictive birds!

Of course, the Kindle Fire is just plain fun, too. It has all kinds of apps that can help fill waiting time at appointments, during travel, or at the grocery store. Our family likes Angry Birds, but we also enjoy simpler apps like tic-tac-toe and hangman. In addition, you can download music. In public, my son copes with sensory dysfunction by listening to music (through earbuds attached to the Kindle) reading Kindle books.

The one drawback to the Kindle Fire for me is its onscreen keyboard. This tablet has a web browser, but it takes a certain finesse to hit the desired key. You also have to hit keys to move back and forth between symbols/numbers and upper/lower case alphabet. This can be tedious. You may prefer reading emails and other social media on this tablet, but turn to your laptop or other high-tech device for keyboarding anything substantial. Children seem to be much more adept at using the Fire for writing than adults. Maybe it’s a generational thing?

As a writer, I don’t believe any gadget will ever replace my laptop. However, for non-writing activities, the Kindle Fire is terrific. Now, if I can only figure out the pros and cons of downloading to my device vs. the using the Cloud.

What’s your experience or view of the Kindle Fire compared to other high-tech gadgets?

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