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? 

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

MM 0

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?

If These Shoes Could Talk

I click on the closet light and yank a sweater off the shelf to pull it over my head. That makes three layers. I lean down to slide my hand along the chilly wood floor, pushing aside wool skirts and cordoroy slacks as I search for my fuzzy slippers. No luck. I do find a colony of dust bunnies and a pair of sandals, however. The shoes must have accidentally been left behind in the Columbus Day transition.

Our Seaplane Adventure - That cute flip-flop and his twin followed us everywhere

Our Seaplane Adventure – That cute flip-flop and his twin followed us everywhere

I miss summer. I glance down at the girly-girl heels in my hands. I bet they do, too. If my sandals could talk, what would they say about our years together? I sit on my bed, hugging them close as ideas float through my head.

We biked through Old Town, Key West and sunned ourselves at South Beach. The sand was quite hot!

We treated ourselves to pedicures. Our favorite color your toes wore was Powerful Pink, a stunning combination with our metallic blue leather, if we do say so ourselves.

We attended a July wedding and our comfy soles allowed you to keep up with your Dad and son on the dance floor.

We explored Jefferson Fort at Dry Tortugas National Park and climbed to the top for a breathtaking view of the Atlantic. You appreciated our sturdy heels.

One of many incredible views at Fort Jefferson

One of many incredible views at Fort Jefferson

We splashed through rain puddles (and we didn’t complain) while you played at Universal Islands of Adventure with the family.

We lounged in the backyard with girl friends, while you drank strawberry margaritas and listened to island music. Thank you for being careful and not spilling sticky drinks on us.

The margarita reference reminds me of the task I still have to finish, the one I was in the middle of when I became too cold in my den to concentrate. I shake my head and laugh. Yes, I’m caught, guilty as charged–Number One Procrastinator. I have a post to write, and here I am, reminiscing about summer with inanimate objects. I shiver under my three layers of tops. Darn, it’s cold in here. Maybe I’ll grab a blanket out of the linen closet on my way downstairs, make a cup of hot chocolate, and sit by the fireplace while I brainstorm more ideas.

I set my pretty blue flowered sandals on the tippy-top closet shelf. That way they won’t have to fight off the dust bunnies while they wait for summer to return.

If an item of yours could talk, what would it say?

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?

Key West Couplets — Part One

Key West Shoreline

Key West is America’s tropical southernmost city,

One-and-a-half miles wide and four short miles of pretty,

Home to Mile Marker Zero, the end of US Highway One,

Where the Atlantic meets the Gulf to kiss the setting sun.

Jolyse Barnett Photography

Key West is roosters, six toed cats, and endangered Key Deer herds,

Street performing dogs, skittish lizards, photo posing boas and birds.

Kayaking to view manatees, nurse sharks, and dolphins,

Fishing the flats for grouper and hogfish while dreaming of marlins or tarpins.

Jolyse Barnett Photography

Key West is baked clams with bacon, pink shrimp, lobster cheese and mac,

Catch of the day so incredible we keep coming back,

Michael’s, The Flaming Buoy, Cafe Sole’s, and Blue Heaven,

Sloppy Joe’s, Hogs Breath, Aqua Club, and Irish Kevin’s.

Jolyse Barnett Photography

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

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

(Hmm, that sounds like a good place to stop for now. I’m feeling a bit thirsty.)

To Be Continued…

Jolyse Barnett PhotographyWhat is Key West for you?

Jet Skiing Myths Debunked

Key West Harbor Walk — Don’t let the calm waters fool you!

On our recent getaway to Key West for Hemingway Days, we arrived at the popular jet ski tour located on Front Street, part of the Historic Seaport Harbor Walk in Old Town. We were excited about our upcoming adventure. I wore a swimsuit, cover-up, and a huge smile. Little did I know how ill-prepared I was, having bought into the myths of this particular water sport.

Myth #1:  Jet skiing is for anyone!

The reality…

If you’re nervous about controlling your own jet ski, don’t even think about being a passenger, where you’re at the mercy of another person’s driving skills (or lack thereof) and have very little to hold onto to keep yourself from flying off the back of the machine. My husband is a big man, and with a life jacket, even bigger. I couldn’t wrap my arms completely around him so I grasped the jacket’s front straps and held on for dear life. Oh, and you’d think it would be wise to slather up with sunscreen in preparation for the sunny day, but once the ocean spray hits your legs you’ll have less traction than a greased pig. You’ll be so slippery that when you race to catch up with the rest of your tour group, the only part of your body not flying a like a flag in a stiff breeze will be two fingers–precariously close to losing their grip.

Myth #2: It’s a great way to enjoy wildlife!

The reality…

Let me ask you, “How many dolphins, sting rays, sea turtles, and manatees do you think you’re likely to see on a jet ski tour?” If you answered zero, you’re correct. The waves, vibration, and noise created by one jet ski is enough to send all nearby waterlife and fowl headed as far away from you as possible. Combine that with the five other machines in your tour group, and you’ve effectively driven away the hardiest of water creatures. Don’t feel too badly though. You’re being pummeled by salt water at 30-60 miles per hour, so you can’t see a damned thing anyway. All you can concentrate on is staying on the jet ski, ignoring the sting in your eyes, and praying for the safety of land.

These jet skiers make it look easy!

Myth #3: It’s not only fun, but educational!

The reality…

Sure, the tour guides are knowledgeable about the area, and they stop at four or five different sites to impart historical trivia. The only problem is, between the airplanes and helicopters flying overhead and your heart beating a staccato terror drum roll, you’ll hear about one of every ten words–learning absolutely nothing other than how thankful you are to be alive and that you should NEVER believe those glossy brochures.

Myth #4: It’s thrilling, yet safe!

The reality…

If you enjoy being frightened to within an inch of your life, imagining that at any second you’re going to sail through the air and hit water at about fifty miles per hour and worrying about the inexperienced jet skiers behind you running you over, then yes, it’s thrilling. If you enjoy riding on the back of a motorized machine, much like an out-of-control motorcycle, contending with five foot waves of the Atlantic which causes your pelvis to bang repeatedly against the jet ski’s seat, then yeah, that’s thrilling too. If you’re a closet exhibitionist, and enjoy the idea of accidentally exposing your bottom half to your entire tour group at a brief stop to wade at a sandbar, then most definitely, it’s thrilling.

Safe, not so much. But it’s not as if you aren’t forewarned, signing those requisite waivers about loss of life or limb before you’re allowed to mount your water steed. Life is risky, and jet skiing, if you so choose, is part of life. If you jet ski in calm lake, bay, or gulf waters, it may be quite fun and safe. If you are an inexperienced jet skier riding with another inexperienced jet skier anxious to prove his manliness, and your group’s intent is to tour twenty-six miles around an island between the Gulf of Mexico into choppy Atlantic waters with a time limit of two hours, then it can be a tad more risky.

Paddleboarding, a low-tech option.

Luckily, the only victim of our jet ski ride were my sunglasses. A rogue wave drenched us about thirty seconds from the conclusion of our tour and I made the mistake of lifting my face to the sun. The wind caught my glasses and they disappeared into Key West harbor. Hesitant to litter, we turned back to look for them, but the deafening horn of a ferry on our tail changed our minds. We bonded from our common experience, filled with a few moments of sheer terror interspersed with moments of joy, riding the waves around our beloved tropical island.

Will I do it again? Maybe. But next time, I drive!

That’s my take on jet skiing. What’s yours? We’d love to hear your story about that or any other water sport.

Morton’s Toe and Malbec??

Please excuse this interruption to your regularly scheduled programming Moment, which will be posted Thursday, June 7th. In the meantime, we hope you enjoy this special broadcast award announcement.

I recently discovered R. M. Wilburn, author of the Buggy Crenshaw Adventures, a Young Adult series titled In Search of the Nexus.  I was drawn to this author’s wit and fantastical illustrations, a self-described “scrimboodler extraordinaire.” The children in my life adore stories such as Wilburn’s, as do I. See this author’s work here!

Imagine my delight when a writer I admire honored me with The Versatile Blogger Award–a perfect way to kick off Margarita Moments’ second year!

With this honor comes responsibility. I met the first and second by thanking my wonderfully talented nominating blogger and linking back to Wilburn’s blog for all to enjoy.

As for the third, I have to share seven facts about myself. Hmm. That’s challenging. I find it far easier to answer questions, like when I was tagged by Jan Romes. (Speaking of my writer pal, her new light-hearted romantic suspense, Stay Close, Novac! is FREE on Amazon through Friday, June 8th. Order it here if interested.)

After much thought, here are some silly-to-serious facts about me that most people outside of my family wouldn’t know and likely could live without, but what the heck, it’s part of the award rules:

  • I possess Morton’s Toe. No, this isn’t anything gross, unless you think a person whose second toe is longer than her big toe should cover those piggies. Also called Celtic toe, it’s a hereditary trait like having dimples or a widow’s peak hairline.
  • Broccoli is my favorite veggie. I could eat it steamed every day and be quite content.

    Wine party?

  • After many devoted years to Pindar Winter White, a great local wine vintnered here on Long Island, I converted to red wines. My current favorites are Argentinian Malbecs. Love for wine and wineries made research for my Sapphire Falls trilogy a pleasure.
  • Like many authors, I write in more than one genre. I enjoy creating giggle poetry (yet to be published) which satisfies my desire to spout immature potty humor. I’ve also recently outlined a women’s fiction/psychological thriller I can’t wait to write after I finish my current works-in-progress.
  • I love when my husband whispers to me. Enough said?
  • My favorite story is Henry James’ novella, “Beast in the Jungle.” I highly recommend it as a rainy day read. Then tell me if it changed your outlook on life like it did mine.
  • I participated in Girl Scouts from Brownies to Senior Scouts and earned the Gold Award. I credit scouting, and my Junior Scout leader in particular, with helping me believe in myself and my abilities. Amazing how one person can make such a difference in a child’s life.

My fourth and final responsibility as an award recipient is to pay it forward. Nominations will be announced Thursday when I post your Margarita Moment.

Until then…

Please share a silly or serious fact about you! If that doesn’t appeal to you, perhaps suggest a Margarita Moment topic you’re dying to read. After all, this blog is for you.

Please tune in Thursday to learn who won the “surprise” first blogiversary prize for commenting on any of May’s Margarita Moment posts. See you then!

The Roller Coaster or Merry-Go-Round?

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. (See this week’s prize package below.) 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 Monday, May 14th. Enjoy, and good luck! 

Prior to having kids, my husband and I watched a movie called Parenthood. This 1989 film produced by Ron Howard was billed as a comedy, yet portrayed the reality of family life as well as any drama I’ve ever seen.

Which brings me to today’s Moment.

One of the four parenting stories features a middle-aged father named Gil, played by Steve Martin. Gil has a difficult relationship with his own father, so he strives to be Super Dad to his three kids. However, when his oldest son’s erratic behavior threatens to change his school placement to special ed classes, Gil is frantic. Add to that his wife’s unplanned fourth pregnancy and work pressures, the guy is out of his mind with worry. Here are my favorite clips from the movie, when Grandma shares her words of wisdom and Gil finally gets their meaning:

In case you can’t access the video or want the short version…

[Gil has been complaining about his complicated life; Grandma wanders into the room] Grandma: You know, when I was nineteen, Grandpa took me on a roller coaster. Gil: Oh? Grandma: Up, down, up, down. Oh, what a ride! Gil: What a great story. Grandma: I always wanted to go again. You know, it was just so interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited, and so thrilled all together! Some didn’t like it. They went on the merry-go-round. That just goes around. Nothing. I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it.

I like the merry-go-round. It’s pleasant, safe, and predictable. When our daughter was little, we’d take her on the one at Disney’s Magic Kingdom and she would smile and wave each time she passed by. Life was good. Life was simple.

Routine is our merry-go-round. We get up, send the kids off to school, do our work, the kids return home for dinner, we help with homework, watch tv, and go to bed. Then we do it all over again the next day. I enjoy routine; I like doing laundry and keeping to a schedule. Our son, being on the autism spectrum, craves routine–although it often constrains him (and us).

There’s something to be said for breaking out of the ordinary and taking a risk. It keeps us fresh, ready for anything life swings at us. It clears the cobwebs from our brains and exercises our imagination.

Our son’s first roller coaster ride!

Our daughter graduated from the merry-go-round and was a roller coaster pro by the time her brother was born.

Life for my family changed drastically with his autism diagnosis. Five years and hundreds of ABA therapy hours later, we took a family outing to an amusement park. This was a big deal, driving hours away from home and everything familiar. We had prepared our son with photos and talks about what to expect at Sesame Place, and he knew he was going to see Elmo, his favorite character, but it could go either way. New experiences often triggered extreme anxiety for him and tantrums could ensue. Luckily, the morning at the park was a huge success. He enjoyed it all–the water rides, the characters, the shows, the food, and the shops.

Then we saw the kiddie roller coaster. How I wanted my son to share our love of thrill rides! Should we push our luck? Heck, yeah. How would we know if he liked it if we never tried? We waited with bated breath to learn if our second-born would relish or fear what the rest of us in the family adored.

Whee!

By the second dip of the tiny coaster, his eyes lit up and he wore a grin the size of his face.

Since that magical day, we’ve enjoyed the mega coasters at Great Adventure in New Jersey and those at Disney World and Universal as a family. We even brave the Tower of Terror at MGM Disney in Orlando on occasion.

I’ve witnessed a positive change in our son after each of these adventures. He becomes more emotionally connected and animated afterwards, the results lasting weeks or months. Other parents of children on the ASD spectrum have noted similar responses from their kids, including gains in language and learning after trips to places such as Disney.

Like Gil in Parenthood, I’ve learned life has a way of shaking us silly with its unexpected twists and turns. We can learn to hold on, savor the wind as it whips through our hair, and dare to try as we plunge into the next adventure. We can choose to keep with the status quo and get satisfaction out of the little things. Or maybe, just maybe, we can embrace both, being responsible when necessary, unbridled when possible in order to grow–whether as parents or individuals. What do you think?

Do you prefer the merry-go-round or roller coaster?

Do you think it’s possible the excitement of roller coasters and other thrill rides may trigger positive changes in brain activity for children on the autism spectrum, or that other factors may be responsible for this phenomenon?

 

This week’s prize package

**Commenters must provide a continental USA address if selected as the prize winner. I’m sorry, 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. :)

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.  :)

Diary of a Fitness Wannabe

USA Soccer Team

“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance…”

—US Code Section 20

This 1972 law affected the life of every school-aged girl across America. Title IX allowed us to play sports, expanding the definition of what it means to be feminine. Girls, if we so choose, may be as athletic and competitive as our counterparts. Pretty cool, huh!

I, for one, took advantage of this new freedom throughout elementary and high school. In college, I flirted with rugby and racquetball, but my true loves were weightlifting and running. In fact, my boyfriend at the time (now husband) and I exercised together. How romantic, right? Not. He’s uber-competitive and sweats a lot. To be fair, he says I jogged slower than he walked. True. I never claimed to be a sport superstar. I just enjoy being active.

Thin Thighs in 30 Days by Wendy Stehling

In the 80′s, I was working in midtown Manhattan so my fitness routine morphed into walking. I also swore by a little book called Thin Thighs in Thirty Days. I wish I had taken photos of my legs back then. They are but a distant memory. (On a side note, I ordered a new book! I’ll let you know on September 1st if the book works for slightly older thighs like mine.)

With marriage, we moved to the suburbs and a more sedentary life. To combat an increasing waistline, I rose early to exercise with TV fitness guru Denise Austin most weekday mornings. Her spunky kindness and real-life body kept me motivated, even on cold winter days.

Once we became home owners, my husband and I created a little workout room in our garage. We have enjoyed a Nordic Track, stationary bike, and treadmill in that room over the years. What’s great about it, too, is that when our kids see us using the free weights or other machines, they want to join in.

A backyard pool can be another fun way to get some exercise without the whole perspiration factor. In addition to floating around, maybe wade, tread water, or swim. I’m not a strong swimmer at the beginning of the season, so I’ll use a boogie board to focus either on arms or legs activity until I get back into the laps routine. Water is great for resistance exercises, too.

My new love -- Pilates

When talking with other women about their exercise routines, the two most common reasons I hear for why they don’t exercise or keep to an exercise regimen are 1.) not enough time and 2.) boredom. Believe me, as a writer with a day job and demanding family, I understand the time issue. I generally devote 20-30 minutes to exercise a day. Try not to feel guilty about taking time away from your family. Look at it this way, if you stay healthy, you’re around longer to care for them. If you don’t get to exercise on a particular day, no big deal. Just try not to miss two consecutive days. Otherwise, you may fall out of the habit.

As for boredom, mix it up! You can see by the variety of activities I’ve enjoyed over the decades that my interests and skill levels have changed. I no longer run, but I swim and do Pilates. Small weight routines are easy to fit in throughout the day, too.  I keep cute little dumbbells in my laundry room to do arm sets in between chores. No underarm wings for this girl! If you’re unsure about how to do exercises, ask the experts. I like Shape magazine’s online activities for new workout ideas and step-by-step explanations so I do the activity correctly and don’t hurt myself. Some of my friends enjoy going to yoga class together, others walk at lunchtime and still others are into biking. One of my nieces recently learned how to box and another is active in adult league softball and soccer.

In a ShapeFit article about why women may dislike exercise, one reason given is that we’re not necessarily in it to compete. Many of us “want is to get a good workout and avoid getting muffins and rolls around our bodies, yet keep eating them.” I know many women (i.e. the women in the top photo) who would strongly disagree with that statement, yet it rings true for me.

Post 1972, we girls have so many choices when it comes to physical activity. If you don’t exercise, what are your reasons? If you do, what kinds of sports or other workouts do you enjoy? What advice would you give to other women to help make exercise a pleasure rather than a chore?   Please note:  I’ve rated this blog as PG. ;)

This blog is my personal experience and opinion. The information contained here doesn’t intend to treat, diagnose, or cure any physical ailments. Please consult your physician before starting any new diets or exercises!

What’s Next for HP Fans?

Hogwarts Castle at Wizarding World

Like millions of devoted Harry Potter fans, my 20-year-old daughter and I attended a midnight showing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 this past weekend. We had pre-purchased tickets (six weeks in advance, her idea) to our local theatre’s 3-D premiere, and arrived two-and-a-half hours early (her idea, too) to get prime seats. As the sold-out showing began, a hushed silence fell over the audience. Over the next 125 minutes, every pair of 3-D glasses was glued to the big screen, rarely interrupted by the occasional sniffle. (Okay, I admit it. I cried twice.) The closing credits rolled and my daughter turned to me with a somber look and said,  “My childhood has ended.”

I learned upon reading the news the following morning that my child’s sentiment has been echoed by young adults across the muggle world. Like my daughter, they literally grew up with the characters in JK Rowling‘s fantasy series about an orphaned boy making his way in a complex, magical world.

On the heels of that sobering statement, she smiled and thanked me for accompanying her to a midnight movie (I get up at six.) and for encouraging her to read that first Harry Potter book all those years ago. I almost cried a third time. To think, I’d almost forgotten how our love affair with HP had begun. But she hadn’t.

Village of Hogsmeade

Back in 2000, I was warned by other parents the book I was so interested in buying for my child delved into witchcraft. Not one to be swayed easily, I bought two copies so I could read a chapter ahead and have her skip any parts I didn’t approve. (That never happened; I cannot imagine what those parents were thinking.) She didn’t like the book at first, and complained it was boring. I kept encouraging her to read one more chapter, telling her it would take off soon. She was a voracious realistic fiction and non-fiction reader. I felt she just needed a little nudge. By Chapter 5, I no longer needed to nudge. She had fallen in love with the story, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Eleven years, seven books, eight movies, one HP-themed bedroom, and numerous HP-related games, action figures, and video games later–in a blink of an eye, really–and we were leaving the theatre. All I could think was: What were HP fans like us to do, now that the last page had been written, read, and translated into a motion picture? And then it hit, we can relive the experience by rereading the books, by watching the movies, checking out Pottermore and, perhaps my favorite idea, by revisiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter!

Chocolate Frogs in the window at Honeydukes

In anticipation of this year’s July 15th bittersweet moment, my husband and I had ventured to Universal Studios’ new theme park with our daughter for her birthday the previous summer. We stayed on-property and had early access to the theme park, yet still endured long, hot waits in line for everything–yes, even the stores had lines. But to us the waits were worth it, to be immersed so fully into the fictional world of Harry Potter. (My husband isn’t a fan per se, but he did enjoy a Hogsmeade beer or two.)

The Stairs Above Three Broomsticks Restaurant

Entering the Wizarding World, we were met by a friendly conductor of Hogswart Express who made small-talk as we had our photos taken with him. The village of Hogsmeade was incredible, with many little details we hoped to experience, from the potted mandrake to Moaning Myrtle’s voice in the witches room to the animated portraits in Hogwarts castle.

We ate a traditional British meal in Three Broomsticks, shopped in Honeydukes for chocolate frogs and at Dervish and Banges for Griffindor shirts and Remembralls. Our daughter had a wand choose her at Ollivander’s, we took the Forbidden Journey (Eek, spiders!) and twice survived the Dragon’s Challenge.

At the end of our little getaway, the most precious part for my husband and me was looking into our daughter’s eyes and seeing our little girl again–if only for a moment. She admitted to having fantasized about attending Hogwarts as a child and that this theme park was the closest she could imagine to that fantasy being realized.

I have a feeling we’ll be back again.

Are you or is someone in your life a Harry Potter fan? Do you have any thoughts on the phenomenal success of these books, or on the future of Harry Potter through JK Rowling’s ventures, such as Pottermore or Wizarding World at Universal?

Hogsmeade Village at Night

Island Hopping at Home

One of Bermuda's Famous Pink Beaches

With its world-famous pink sand beaches, golf courses, and rich history as Great Britain’s first colony, Bermuda was also our family’s first island vacation in 1998.

My husband, daughter, and I explored Gibbs Hill Lighthouse, Horseshoe Bay, the Children’s Aquarium, and Fort St. Catherine, all located between Hamilton and St. George on this gem of the Atlantic Ocean, about 700 miles due east of South Carolina.

Having saved our souvenir shopping for the last bittersweet morning, we strolled St. George’s cobblestone streets until we came across an art gallery, the Carole Holding Studio. Little did we know our decision to purchase three of this local artist’s landscape prints was the beginning of a conversion–of the decor kind. At the time, my husband and I were more concerned the souvenirs fit into our budget and our luggage than into our traditional-style home.

Island Art

Back from our adventure, we bought frames for our lithographs and hung them in our living room. There the island souvenirs hung, more treasured as the years passed. Today, they are complemented by a new shade of wall paint, joined by Key West watercolors and a pretty Hawaiian shell windchime.

Subsequent jaunts to the Bahamas, St. Maarten, St. Thomas, Puerto Rico, and Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula brought even more inexpensive yet whimsical Caribbean art into our lives. Various prints, metal artwork, handpainted plates, photographs, miniature sculptures, and a few touristy plaques flow into the foyer, den, and upstairs into the second-floor hallway. Sure, we could cheat and buy tropical accents online. But they really wouldn’t be souvenirs then, would they?

A Dutch Delft - St. Maarten

Last year, we were fortunate to remodel our master bedroom. Instead of selecting a paint color or desired flooring as I have in the past, I requested a theme:  Key West. (Thank goodness my husband adores the place as much as I do.)

The resulting room is all I’d imagined. I wake each morning to an airy, casual island ambiance–in my own suburban town! I savor those first few minutes of the day as I transition smoothly from dream world to reality, gazing at blue walls with white trim and plantation shutters. Our old brown nightstands and dressers are now pale yellow, graced by seashell-filled lamps and a few of our favorite getaway photos. We like the effect so much we plan to do the same for our master bath.

Key West Themed Bedroom

On cold, winter days, my house’s Caribbean style brings forth memories of warm island breezes, flip-flop days, and life-giving sun. In the summer, it urges me to stop cleaning (“No worries” right?) and to slip into a swimsuit, grab a beach read, and enjoy our backyard pool. If only for a little while.

Our Resident Parrot

I’m also a fan of Tuscan-style kitchens, adore spa-inspired bathrooms, and anything by Pottery Barn. How about you? What item, room, or part of your home is your hidden oasis in the midst of a busy life? Is it a particular theme you consciously developed or an environment you created organically? If you don’t have a tranquil place within your home, what do you dream of creating?

One of Many Geckos

Route 1 to Paradise!

Key West, End of US Highway 1 CLICK photo for more details!

Early in our marriage, my husband and I made our daily commute on Route #1, or Boston Post Road as it’s called in Westchester, New York. I had no idea this busy road, should we have chosen to follow it south, led to a place that, years later, would become our favorite getaway destination.

Key West, a small island with nicknames such as Bone Island and Conch Republic, is located at the southwestern tip of US Highway Route 1, one hundred twenty-seven scenic miles and 43 bridges from the Florida mainland.

After many happy years of marriage, we welcomed the arrival of our second child. We were thrilled, but overwhelmed! The baby we had waited for so long and love so dearly was born with special needs. We dug in our heels, advocating tirelessly for him to become his personal best. Unfortunately, with our focus on our son, something had to give. That something was us.

A wise friend advised, “The best gift a parent can give their child is a great marriage.” Now, if a typical couple’s divorce rate is about 5o%, adding in my husband’s line of work and our new family situation, the odds were stacked against us. (I realize it’s not always possible to make a marriage work; all we can do is try our best.)

Sharing my concerns with family, I was grateful when my kind mother-in-law offered to babysit. We hadn’t been on a couple’s vacation in a decade,  but we knew what we craved–tropical weather, hammocks, water sports, romantic walks on the beach, fresh seafood, and fine spirits. With a little research and a lot of faith, we took a chance on Key West.

Landing at Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood airport one summer morning, we rent a sexy Mustang convertible and are on our way. You know, like in the movies. Well, those movies lie, people. By the time we reach Key Largo in the upper keys (an hour into our drive), I notice my husband’s forehead is fire-engine red and his shirt’s dripping wet. Laughing, we give in, putting up the top before one of us collapses from heat exhaustion.

View from Overseas Highway

Aside from the rental car, our first getaway is memorable in a good way. Overseas Highway locations are found according to mile markers (MM) and whether an establishment is bayside or oceanside. We stop at MM102 to eat lunch at the Fish House, a casual restaurant that features, you guessed it, fish. But these aren’t ordinary fish. They are bought directly off boats, not through distributors. Now, that’s fresh! I become an instant fan of yellowtail snapper.

Back on the road, we cross the famous Seven-Mile Bridge toward paradise. The layers of worry and responsibilities unravel as we listen to the rhythmic steel drums of Caribbean music. Sparkling, turquoise waters beckon on either side of our vehicle, while fishing and sail boats dot the horizon. We even glimpse wildlife at Deer Key when a small, four-legged inhabit skitters along our path, safe behind its nature preserve fencing. At that point we remember, “Life is not the amount of breaths you take, it’s the moments that take your breath away.” (MQA — Answer below)

Reaching Old Town, Key West, we check into our B&B, welcomed by friendly faces and refreshing drinks. It’s only fitting:  Happy Hour has begun.

Do you have a special place where you can escape the ordinary?

KW Butterfly Conservatory--CLICK photo for Website

Movie Quote Answer:  Hitch, 2005. (Will Smith, Kevin James, Eva Mendes, Amber Valletta) Will Smith’s character, Alex Hitchens, is speaking with Kevin James’ character, Albert, about love when he says, “Life is not the amount of breaths you take, it’s the moments that take your breath away.”

DSW, I Love You!

Well, maybe love is too strong a word to describe how I feel about a retail store, but the mere thought of Designer Shoe Warehouse causes a delicate trickle of excitement to warm my insides. Like many of you, I’m busy with a day job and family, so when I find an hour to go shoe shopping, it’s the perfect mini-escape. Some movie characters may feel that happiness isn’t happiness without a violin-playing goat (MQA-answer below), but to me, it’s when I find the rare and wonderful combination of

A Recent Summer Purchase

brand, style, comfort, and cost in a pair of shoes. As I pass through DSW’s doors, the scent of faint leather and vision of countless heels, flats, sandals, flip-flops, and boots attracts me like a thirsty party guest to a whirring margarita blender.

A fan of Sex & The City back when it was an HBO regular, I yearned for a shoe collection like one owned by Carrie Bradshaw. Her Manolo Blahniks, Louboutins, and Jimmy Choos were always cutting edge, often breathtakingly beautiful and out-of-reach to a middle-class mom in the suburbs like me. Unlike Carrie, I cannot justify maxing out my credit cards to sustain a shoe addiction. Besides, I’m too hard on them and I demand my clothes and accessories provide a certain degree of comfort. (Okay, for really beautiful heels I’ll pay more, as long as they are semi-comfortable for at least two hours.)

Favorite Pair of Party Shoes

This past April, it seemed everyone was talking about Kate Middleton’s wedding dress and, of course, her shoes. Her sister, Pippa, is becoming a fashion icon as well. I like this young woman’s style, and was surprised to see a pair of her shoes is similar to one of mine. (Click on Pippa’s name above to check out a fellow shoe lover’s blog. Pippa’s silver sandals are pictured there.) Judge for yourself. Does the future Queen of England’s sister share my taste in heels?

Sometimes, if you’re like me, leaving your home to get a fix for your shoe craving can seem close to impossible. If you haven’t discovered the next best thing to in-store shopping, you may want to try this. Go online to Zappos. This virtual store is a wonderful alternative to designer shoe outlets, with all the selection and sizes as well as incredible customer service.

The choices beckoning a footwear fan browsing in-store or online can distract even the most focused shopper from her mission. You know what I mean, like when you go to Target or Walmart intending to buy one item for twenty dollars and you leave there having spent three times that. Shopping Zappos, the consumer can do an advanced search by brand, color, style, size, heel height or any of these combinations. This site can be especially useful when you have the dress and need specific shoes to match. The silver sandals shown above are from Zappos. I was in a wedding and needed silver, 3.5 inch high heels for my dress’ length. When the first pair sent turned out to be too large, I exchanged it for a smaller size, without additional cost. Quick and easy.

Thinking about your summer shoe wishlist? Consider taking time out to visit your favorite shoe haunt, and get a pair or three. I’d LOVE to hear about your finds. Oh, and don’t forget to pamper those hard-working feet with a pedicure. Now, that’s an escape!

Movie Quote AlertNotting Hill, 1999. (Hugh Grant, Julia Roberts, Emma Chambers, Rhys Ifans) Julia Roberts’ character, Anna, studies a Chagall painting with Hugh Grant’s character, William. She describes the painting by saying,”It feels like how being in love should be. Floating through a dark blue sky.” To which William responds, “With a goat playing the violin.” Anna nods. “Yes – happiness isn’t happiness without a violin-playing goat.”

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