Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tuesday Travels: Moon Florida Keys Giveaway

Last week, on the heels of wrapping our fourth annual Big Easy International Film Festival – an independent film festival that my husband, Dan, and I operate in downtown New Orleans – I discovered a wonderful surprise at my mailing place in the French Quarter. Behind the counter, amid other packets and packages, lay two boxes, each addressed to me and filled with numerous author-allotted copies of my brand-new Moon Florida Keys guidebook, the first edition of a mainstream travel guide about that unique archipelago in southern Florida.

Soon after lugging them back to my apartment (and rubbing my sore arms back to life), I cracked open one of the boxes and perused the guide with Dan. Following the rather lengthy research, writing, revision, and proofing process that had resulted in the production of this guide, I must admit to feeling a great sense of pride as Dan and I turned each page, taking in every photo, map, and callout box in the 375-page guide. Especially rewarding were the photographs, most of which were taken by either me or Dan and all of which reminded us of our latest Florida Keys adventure.

In celebration of this long-awaited delivery, I posted a trivia contest on my American Nomad blog. The first person to correctly answer all five questions – the answers of which can all be found in my Florida Keys guide – by 11:59 p.m. CST on New Year's Eve will win three of my signed guidebooks: Moon Florida Keys, Moon Michigan, and Moon Baja RV Camping. If you're curious about any or all of these amazingly diverse destinations, give the contest a try! Except for a bit of time spent Google-ing the answers, what, after all, do you have to lose?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Weekend Mishmash: Gratitude for Grandparents

As usual, I find myself stretched a bit too thin to post here on a regular basis, and as I've expressed before, I really miss the time I used to spend surfing the blogosphere. But, despite my myriad duties and projects as of late, I know I'd be remiss if I allowed Thanksgiving week to pass me by without expressing my heartfelt gratitude for my friends and loved ones, including my blogging pals.

Lately, though, I've felt most grateful for my four grandparents – all of whom were a huge part of my life, especially during my childhood. Although they're never far from my mind, they've been even more present in my thoughts this year. Perhaps that's because I lost the last two – my paternal grandfather and my maternal grandmother – within the last six months. My grandpa (pictured here with my dad and stepmom), whom I called Paw-Paw Al as a child, passed away in mid-June, just a few days before Father's Day, while my grandma, otherwise known as Maw-Maw Deanne, died less than two weeks ago, just 10 days following her 88th birthday.

While I love and miss each of them greatly, losing Deanne (pictured here with me and my mom) was perhaps the hardest blow – and not just because she was the last to go. She was also, if truth be told, my favorite. Her house – which was lost in Hurricane Katrina – always felt like home to me. While growing up, I spent countless hours with her, reading books, watching our favorite shows, eating our favorite treats, singing our favorite songs. We were so close that we even had a shared tune – “You Are My Sunshine” – which, appropriately enough, was written by former Louisiana governor Jimmie Davis.

Of course, I could easily fill a hundred posts with all the adventures I had with my grandparents as a child. But, for now, I'll just say that, while losing each of them has been devastating to me – especially given my atheistic belief that I'll never see them again – I realize how fortunate I am to have known, loved, and been loved by them. And, though their absence saddens me and sharply reminds me of my own mortality, I'm grateful that they were such an important part of my life – and I know without a doubt that they'll always be a part of me.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Whimsical Wednesday: Oysters, Road Trips, and Disappointment

First, the good news. Despite our disappointing discovery that the Oceana Grill has indefinitely ceased the serving of oysters-on-the-half-shell, Dan and I have successfully found some plump, tasty, relatively clean oysters at the French Market Restaurant on Decatur Street in the French Quarter. True, on the day we sampled them, they were $17 per dozen as opposed to the happy hour special of $6 per dozen that the eatery regularly offered prior to the devastating Deepwater Horizon oil spill in April, but given that we're both die-hard oyster lovers suffering a severe six-month oyster withdrawal (due to our lengthy stay in Michigan, a state not known for its raw shellfish), it was a price that we were indeed willing to pay – especially on that particular day, the day we realized that our much-anticipated French Quarter apartment would probably never be ready and that we'd be better off demanding the return of our deposit. So, yahoo for us!

Now, for the other news – well, it's not really news as much as a travel observation. Last week, I was informed that I've been spending a bit too much time focusing on Michigan, New Orleans, and the Florida Keys on my American Nomad blog. Given that I've been working on back-to-back guides – that is, Moon Florida Keys, Moon Michigan, and Moon New Orleans – I suppose my fixation makes sense. Nevertheless, I've decided to make a concerted effort to cover other parts of the United States more frequently. To that end, I wrote and posted a piece about the historic mining town of Silverton, Colorado on Monday. While researching the post – and sifting through old photographs from my first visit to Silverton, part of a road trip that my mom and I took back in the 1980s – I recalled a disappointing discovery.

As a child, I'd been enamored with an old-fashioned place called Smedley's Ice Cream Parlor, situated in the 1300 block of Greene Street. I loved it so much, I even took a picture of it. But, alas, on a more recent trip to Silverton, I discovered that the ice cream parlor had been replaced by a hotel, and while I have nothing against that particular hotel, I must admit... I do miss the ice cream parlor. Of course, that's not the only favorite haunt to have suffered such a fate over the years. For a whole slew of reasons – from economic to personal – establishments, even beloved ones, come and go, but despite the logic behind such decisions, I'm not always happy with the results.

So, what about you? Have you ever returned to a particular locale, only to learn that a beloved establishment has been replaced by another? More importantly, how did you handle such disappointment?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tuesday Travels: Where Have All the Oysters Gone?

If I were a Catholic, I might say, “I can't believe it's been nearly a month since my last confession!” But given that I'm just a humble atheist, I'll simply say, “Holy crap! Has it really been almost a month since my last freakin' blog post?!”

As I noted in mid-September, life has been busier than usual. At the moment, I'm trying to wrap up work on the fourth edition of Moon Michigan and gearing up for the third edition of Moon New Orleans, but I'd be seriously remiss if I didn't mention the fact that Dan and I have recently made our seasonal trek from northern Michigan to the Big Easy. Though we're both missing the quietude and fall colors of the woods beside Big Bear Lake, we're happy to be back in New Orleans. Unfortunately, however, the city is not completely how we left it. The much-publicized Gulf oil spill has definitely left its mark, causing one of our favorite French Quarter restaurants, the Oceana Grill, to cease serving raw oysters, at least for a while. Of course, that won't stop us from venturing into the Quarter again tomorrow, in search of those deliciously slimy mollusks. Here's hoping we can scare a few up!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tuesday Travels: My Dream Guide Is a Go!

As my sporadic blogging might indicate, I've been busier than a one-armed paper hanger (as my mother would say) over the past several months, and this week is no exception. Between working on the fourth edition of Moon Michigan and proofing the first edition of Moon Florida Keys, I don't seem to have much time for anything else. But I simply have to take a minute to share some good news with my online pals.

Two weeks ago, I found out that my proposal for the third edition of Moon New Orleans has earned me the chance to write the guide that, for the past decade, I've longed to write. Don't get me wrong – I've loved exploring destinations like Southern California, Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and Key West – some of the previous destinations that I've written guides about. But I've always dreamed of authoring a guidebook to the Big Easy, my beloved hometown and my favorite American city, so imagine my delight when I learned yesterday that the book contract is currently on its way to me. Though I have plenty of other tasks to finish first, I simply can't wait to get started!

Okay, enough about me. What's happening with you crazy cats?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tuesday Travels: Touring Michigan's S.S. Keewatin

Over the weekend, I recounted a recent tour of the historic S.S. Keewatin in Douglas, Michigan, on my American Nomad blog. If you're curious, you can read all about it there, but in the meantime, here are some of the photos that I couldn't post on my other blog.

the main lobby for boarding passengers

the purser's office, located in the lobby

a porthole amid the sleeping quarters

the bridal suite

the preserved wheelhouse

smokestacks and lifeboats on the upper deck

amusing potty doors at the adjacent bar on the dock

four friends having lunch beside Kalamazoo Lake

And, of course, if you ever have a chance to see the Keewatin for yourself, I highly recommend taking the Grand Tour, as Dan, Warren, Missy, and I did!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Whimsical Wednesday: Texas-style Treasure Hunts

Roughly a year ago, I told you about the passion that Dan and I share for treasure hunting. In fact, over the past decade, we've experienced an assortment of treasure hunts, from gold-panning in northern California to diamond-digging in southwestern Arkansas. Of course, our most memorable excursions have taken place on South Padre Island, the budget-friendly barrier island near the southern tip of the Lone Star State. Although we've never stumbled upon a Spanish galleon filled with oodles of misplaced jewels, we've certainly found some interesting items in the sand dunes and tidal flats north of town, usually in the company of local historian Steve Hathcock. Such adventures have been on my mind a lot lately, perhaps since searching for Petoskey stones along the shores of Lake Michigan a few weeks ago. As with many of the items found on South Padre, Petoskey stones have more figurative worth than monetary value, but they sure are fun to find. So, although I look forward to our next treasure-hunting adventure – or should I say misadventure? – on South Padre Island, it's comforting to know that plenty of locales offer their own share of hunt-worthy features. After all, the hunt should matter more than the find itself... uh, right?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Monday Munchies: Our Beloved Mojitos

Given that I've previously shared my passion for alcoholic treats, key lime pie, and fresh mint, it probably comes as no surprise that Dan and I are particularly fond of mojitos: refreshing, Cuban-style cocktails that blend rum, sugar, lime, mint, soda water, and ice. Unfortunately, my round-the-clock work schedule makes it rather impossible for me to enjoy mojitos, often the inevitable cause of sleepiness, on a regular basis – which is why this weekend was so wonderful. Both in dire need of a mini-vacation, Dan and I headed south to Saugatuck, Michigan, a lovely resort community along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. For three days and three nights, we spent plenty of work-free time with another couple, relishing the chance to relax, visit area art galleries, and, yes, savor a variety of regional wines, yummy beers, and other libations, including our beloved mojitos, which Dan prepares better than anyone else I know.

So, what's your favorite refreshment, with or without alcohol?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tuesday Travels: Free Admission to America's National Parks

During the course of my travel-writing career, I've often been surprised to find that many of America's national parks, such as Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which straddles Tennessee and North Carolina, charge no entrance fee. Well, this weekend, even those that do will be waiving such fees, according to the National Park Service. So, if you have the time, head to your nearest national park unit. For me, the closest one is lovely Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore on Michigan's Leelanau Peninsula. Of course, my favorite national park is Kentucky's Mammoth Cave, the inspiration for my first-to-be-completed and soon-to-be-revised novel. Although I wish I were headed there this weekend, I'm excited about my upcoming getaway to Saugatuck, a resort community alongside Lake Michigan, where the hubby and I will be venturing with some old friends of his.

Naturally, if you can't make it to a national park this weekend, you can always vie for the free annual National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass that Moon Travel Guides is giving away. As one of their authors, I'm sadly not eligible (sniff, sniff), but most of my blogalicious friends are, so good luck, everyone!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Monday Munchies: Scratched Legs and Stained Fingers

Perhaps you're wondering what sort of “munchies” would involve scratched legs, stained fingers, and potential bug bites. Well, here's a riddle for you... what is black and bulbous, grows on thorny bushes, and makes delicious jam, scones, muffins, and cobbler? Why, blackberries, of course! That's the reason that, despite the prevalent pitfalls, Dan and I ventured out yesterday afternoon to explore the tangled blackberry bushes along a particular country road in northern Michigan. Early August is usually a prime time for such a rewarding activity, and given the fair amount of rain and sunlight that we've received this summer, we were hopeful about our prospects.

As it turned out, our hopes were well-founded. Although several bushes lay on the other side of a no-trespassing fence, and many of the available berries were still red and unready, plenty were black and ripe for plucking... which is exactly what we did. While the sunshine warmed our backs, and bumblebees hovered above the purple and yellow wildflowers that surrounded us, we picked a veritable heap of berries, even sampling a few along the way. After about an hour of picking, we managed to fill a large plastic bag with delicious, perfectly ripe blackberries. Ultimately, there were more to be picked, but frankly, we had tired of the prickly thorns – because, yes, as expected, we had succeeded in scratching most of our limbs. Perhaps it didn't help that we'd worn shorts and short-sleeved shirts, but it was simply too warm for denim and flannel... at least for me.

So, the question is... were the two pounds or so of yummy blackberries that we picked yesterday worth all the war wounds? Well, in my humble opinion, our hard-fought battle with sudden depressions, thorny vines, and annoying insects just made the berries even tastier, which is usually the case with anything worth having. It's almost always worth more when it takes a little effort to achieve or attain. So, what do you think? Would we – and our limbs – have been better off with store-bought blackberries instead?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tuesday Travels: My Dream Guide

Despite the fact that maintaining my American Nomad travel blog and working on back-to-back travel guides tends to stymie other beloved interests – such as playing my guitar, reading books on the hammock, writing this blog, and revising my novel – I'm grateful for my travel-writing career and delighted that my English degree has been put to good use. Frankly, I'm proud of the way my latest guide, Moon Florida Keys, is turning out, and I'm excited to be working on the fourth edition of Moon Michigan. Reflecting on my career thus far, I'm even happy with the work I did for Insight Guides, a London-based company for which I updated and revised several books, including ones about Los Angeles, San Diego, and America's national parks. Still, there's one place that I have yet to cover in book form, and given some of my previous posts – which explore everything from Cafe Du Monde to king cake season – I'll bet you can guess which one... Although nothing's carved in stone yet, it looks like I might be writing the third edition of a guide I've long wanted to write. Let's just hope that Avalon likes my book proposal!

So, what about you? Any good news?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Monday Munchies: Better Than Sex

As I lamented last Thursday, breaking bad habits is not an easy task, especially when you're enduring a so-called diet – or, as my mother says, a healthy lifestyle change – and you find yourself fantasizing about yummy treats from the past. True, the past that concerns me now happened fairly recently – only six months ago, in fact, when Dan and I were exploring Key West in preparation for my Moon Florida Keys guide. You see, it was at that time that we ventured into Better Than Sex, a bordello-style dessert lounge and wine bar just a block from Duval Street, the city's main drag.

Back in April, I wrote about our sensual experience on my American Nomad blog – an experience that I won't easily forget. In fact, every time I sit down to eat my perfectly proportioned bowl of oatmeal and blueberries, I dream about the tempting delectables we consumed that night, and I try to take small comfort in the fact that I'm a little lighter than I was then, so at least this diet – I mean, healthy lifestyle change – is good for something. Still, at my most desperate moments, I gaze at the photos we took during our memorable meal, and I try hard not to salivate at the thought of my Kinky Key Lime Pie, a fluffy, tangy lime chiffon mousse pie covered with macadamia nuts.

It might seem like pure torture – just as Dan torments himself by watching Giada, Paula, and his other favorite Food Network stars – but I actually find it comforting to remember how delicious the Peanut Butter Perversion was that night. At least, it gives me something to anticipate on our next trip to Key West. Besides, we've come to realize that deprivation is no way to modify our eating habits. Frankly, neither of us is ashamed to admit that we relish food – so I suppose it's just moderation that we need...

...and a white chocolate-rimmed glass of sparkling red Dolce Stilnovo Moscato – otherwise known as Kelly's Klimax – wouldn't hurt either.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Thoughtful Thursday: The Trouble with Habits

It's hard for me to believe that I haven't posted here in over two months. It's even harder to believe that it took that long for me to finish my last travel guide.

Last summer, when I started this blog, I had every intention of posting six times a week – no matter that everyone, from my hubby to my online pals, thought I was delusional. At the time, I believed that, by forcing myself to post something nearly every day, I could form a solid habit – and for a while, that logic seemed to work. After a few months, posting here had indeed become a near-daily habit – one that I thought would be difficult to break, especially since I really enjoyed writing my “simple pleasure” posts and interacting with my fellow writers. In my warped little brain, I thought that a positive habit like that would stick for a good long while.

Little did I know, however, that work would interfere with my well-intentioned plans. Back in January, I was so busy traveling and researching for my Moon Florida Keys guide that I was lucky to post once a week, much less six times. It didn't take long for my positive habit to become a regular burden – especially since I had more pressing blogs, like American Nomad, to maintain – and once I fell off the proverbial wagon, it was hard to make it a priority anymore. Hence, my recent two-month absence.

But, despite my reluctant absence, I've missed it greatly – not to mention my buddies in the blogosphere. Now that I've finished the Keys guide – and have only the copy-editing and proofing stages left – I hope to be a little more consistent with this blog. Of course, I now have a new edition of Moon Michigan to write, but I'm hoping that I'll be able, with my hubby's help, to manage my time better this time around. Still, in the wake of this harried first half of 2010, I can't help but wonder... Why is it so easy to break a good habit like blogging, but difficult to break bad ones, like smoking cigarettes or, in my case, eating chocolate?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Whimsical Wednesday: How Did This Travel Thing Happen Anyway?

Wow. I can't believe three weeks have transpired since my last post. Boy, when a once dedicated blogger falls, she really falls. Sadly, my only excuse is work... of the travel variety, of course. Over the past few weeks, I've finally finished my Moon Florida Keys travel guidebook, signed a contract for the latest edition of Moon Michigan, discovered that some of my travel secrets were included in a cool collaborative project intended to benefit a global clean water initiative, compiled a list of America's top 15 budget-friendly destinations, and participated in a 20-station satellite radio tour about said budget-friendly destinations. During this curious radio tour, several hosts asked me how I ended up in my present travel-writing career. Without hesitation, I blamed – I mean, thanked – my mom for my current endeavors. It was she, after all, who took me on my most memorable road trips as a kid – to places as far afield as San Antonio, the Rocky Mountains, Washington, D.C., even Canada. No wonder I do what I do for a living – albeit, a meager one. If only I could make room for some time to finish my novel – and check in with my ol' blogosphere pals. 'Cause, boy, do I miss keeping up with their thoughts and adventures.

So, that said, I'm just curious... what have y'all been up to lately?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Tuesday Travels: More Trouble for the Gulf Coast

While Dan and I enjoy moving around the country as we do, there's a danger that we'll sometimes long for a place we've just vacated or, in the case of New Orleans this spring, skipped altogether. Although northern Michigan is absolutely beautiful right now, we can't help but long for southern Louisiana, where we'd normally be right now, wandering the historic streets of the French Quarter, munching on raw oysters, visiting with my mom and grandma in Baton Rouge, or fishing with my dad in the waters south of New Orleans. Of course, with the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, fishing might not be a possibility for a while anyway – not that that's much consolation. I'd much rather be missing a good fishing season right now than wondering about the negative effects that this spill is bound to have on Louisiana's fisheries and tourism industry – only four and a half years after Hurricane Katrina and the Army Corps of Engineers caused their own share of problems.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tuesday Travels: Snow in April?!

Normally, Dan and I wouldn't be in northern Michigan at this time of year. During the month of April, we're usually in the Big Easy, roaming through the French Quarter, noshing on raw oysters and muffulettas and shrimp po-boys, and listening to live music at annual events like the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. But, alas, we decided, for a variety of reasons, to head up north a little earlier than usual. And, wouldn't you know that, while the weather is perfect in New Orleans, it's a bit chilly in northern Michigan, so chilly in fact that it actually snowed this past weekend?!

I woke up on Saturday morning to the sight of snow on the rooftops...

...and snow on the steps...

...and snow on the ever-present Christmas tree in the yard! While I was tickled to death, running around the yard, taking photographs, Dan was inside, fuming. As he said, instead of snowflakes falling to the ground, he wished “they were little bits of 80-degree sunshine.” Well, honey, it'll be summer soon enough. In the meantime, I aim to enjoy the cool weather while it lasts.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tuesday Travels: Back in Michigan... At Last!

I know I've been absent from the blogosphere in, well, forever, but I just have to say... I'm so eager to be back in northern Michigan again. True, I'm still hard at work, trying to wrap up my Moon Florida Keys guide and wondering what a good night's sleep used to feel like, but it's still awesome to be on Big Bear Lake again, surrounded by trees and enjoying the relative solitude.

While I admit that the trees look even better during the autumn months, I'll take what I can get, scraggly, post-winter trees and all.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Monday Munchies: Thanks, Honey!

Every year, around this time, Dan and I find ourselves in the City of Angels. Ostensibly, we're here to produce our annual cinematic event, the Beverly Hills Shorts Festival. But, while in town, we also look forward to seeing our old pals – friends that we've known for several years, since the days of our full-time residency in Southern California or, in some cases, since my days as a Northwestern University undergrad. Admittedly, I haven't seen much of them this year – due, in large part, to our frequent bouts with the flu as well as my insane work schedule (Have I mentioned that I'm writing a travel guide to the Florida Keys? Haha!). One event, though, that we always make time for is our annual food-and-wine bacchanal – a multi-hour evening of gourmet cuisine, engrossing conversation, and, uh, several bottles of wine with three of my old college pals: Cat, Halle, and Erik.

Well, despite my insane work schedule, we gathered this past Saturday at Cat's house for our annual diet-busting extravaganza – for which Dan, naturally, always cooks. Unfortunately, I forgot to bring a camera with me (I blame my fuzzy, guide-obsessed head), so I wasn't able to record the wonderful dishes for posterity, but suffice it to say, it was scrumptious as always. The menu – if the six bottles of wine we shared haven't dulled my memory – included bruschetta, bread with olive tapenade, creamy avocado-cucumber gazpacho, soy-glazed grilled shrimp, mint-goat cheese salad, and crab-stuffed manicotti with Creole cream sauce. Ooh-la-la!

So, I just wanted to take a quick break from writing and say... THANKS, HONEY! It was a delicious feast, as always, and I really appreciated the respite from my crazy remind-me-what-sleep-is-again schedule. I love you, Danny, for many, many reasons – and your mad cooking skills are definitely at the top of the list.

Oh, and, of course, I owe some gratitude to Halle and Erik, for bringing the wine, and to Cat, for making some killer Irish-style cupcakes, made with chocolate, whiskey, Guinness beer, and Bailey's Irish cream (some of my favorite ingredients in all the world) and a perfect way to punctuate Dan's mouth-watering meal. Thanks, guys!

So, what yummy things have you eaten lately?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tuesday Travels: Film Fests and Lighthouses

This past weekend, I had to put my Florida Keys travel guide aside and focus on one of my other ongoing projects: the Beverly Hills Shorts Festival, a small independent film festival that my husband and I began five years ago. For this year's fest, the opening night party took place at Hollywood Billiards, while the actual films were screened at Raleigh Studios on Melrose Avenue. It was inevitable that filmmakers would ask about the origin of our name – given that the entire event took place in Hollywood, not Beverly Hills – but a change of venue was unfortunately required this year. Hey, better to have taken place in the wrong neighborhood than not at all, right?

Anyway, despite the fact that I'm stressed out from my never-ending travel guide work and still recovering from a head cold, I enjoyed plenty of moments from this weekend's event. The party on Thursday night was, of course, a highlight – as were all the informative, funny, and often poignant behind-the-scenes tales revealed during the post-screening Q&As. One particularly touching moment occurred after the first drama program on Friday night, when Pauley Perrette (zany Abby Sciuto on NCIS) revealed her own personal connections to To Comfort You, the short drama in which she stars as a dying young woman.

The rest of the festival was just as memorable. Although our attendance was lower than in previous years, those festival-goers that did attend seemed pleased with the film selections – which always makes me and Dan feel proud. So, despite snafus like having the wrong HD deck on Friday and fighting L.A. Marathon traffic on Sunday, it went fairly smoothly.

And, as always, we couldn't have done it without our awesome volunteers, especially Jen, Angel, and Doug (thanks, guys!).

But, of course, now that the weekend is over, I've had to double my efforts with the travel guide to make up for lost time. Although I was able to get a little bit done in the projection booth – including a post about other film festivals – there's a lot left to be done before I can put the Florida Keys behind me for a little while. Of course, it doesn't help that Dan and I will be in Michigan in roughly two weeks – a fact that has already conjured up visions of lighthouses and tall trees and places that are a world away from southern Florida. I swear, the life of a nomad sure takes some getting used to – for one thing, it's hard to leave our friends and family behind in each port of call – but at least the scenery changes a lot.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Whimsical Wednesday: Happy St. Patty's Day!

Though I'm still hard at work on my Florida Keys guide – and gearing up for the fifth annual Beverly Hills Shorts Festival this weekend – yikes! – I just wanted to take a minute to wish you all a Happy St. Patrick's Day. If you have a minute, check out my top picks for Irish pubs in America – and join the shamrock fun over at Come In Character. In the meantime, have a wonderful holiday – and don't forget to wear a little green – or you're liable to get pinched.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Thoughtful Thursday: Totally Tapped Out

Wow. I can't believe it's been over a week since I blogged here. Although I'm enjoying writing chapters for my Florida Keys guidebook – and blogging about travel-related things like snorkeling and fishing in the Lower Keys – the tight editorial schedule (which is way tighter than I'm used to) has ensured that I have little time for anything else, including this blog, your blogs, and my novel revision. Even though my deadline's been extended to mid-April, it's not just lack of time that's held me back... with my head so focused on the Keys, I haven't had the creative energy to focus on anything else. I mean, sheesh, I don't even have much to say about the boring, unamusing marathon that was this year's Oscars (although I'm very happy for Sandra Bullock and Kathryn Bigelow). Oh, looky, I guess I did have a little bit to say...

Anyway, sometimes, I wonder how other writers juggle blogging along with everything else. I guess we all need a break from the blogosphere once in a while, but I sure do miss all my online buddies – and can't wait to visit your blogs in a month or so. Until then, I hope everything's going swimmingly for you all!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Whimsical Wednesday: Conchs, Fudgies, and Other American Jargon

Though my life is currently revolving around Moon Florida Keys, I still have other responsibilities – such as my travel blog at Moon.com. So, while working on a glossary of regional terms for the travel guide, I was suddenly inspired to post a four-part series about the unique regional dialect (and features) of four of my favorite U.S. locales: the Florida Keys, the Everglades, New Orleans, and Michigan.

So, if you ever wanted to know (but were afraid to ask) what a no-see-um is, here's your chance!

And, of course, feel free to share the odd words and expressions unique to your neck of the woods. I'd like to be better prepared for a future visit!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Weekend Mishmash: Lost Crazies on Shutter Island

Despite my impending deadline for Moon Florida Keys, Dan and I have had a pretty darn good weekend. As promised in my last post, we ventured to a nearby movie theater on Friday night and enjoyed a double feature of The Crazies and Shutter Island. While such thrillers might not be for everyone, we liked both of them immensely.

As other reviewers have noted, The Crazies is a surprisingly intelligent horror film. Spanning just a few days in the life (and unfortunate demise) of a small town in Iowa – due to an inadvertent contamination of the communal water supply – the movie offers an effective balance between terror and tragedy. Part of the film's success can be attributed to the solid cast, adeptly led by Timothy Olyphant – a skilled actor who manages to insert moments of humor in an otherwise serious film about a fatal government mistake and the callous cover-up that ensues. But, as I told my mom on the phone tonight, it's also surprisingly less gory than I expected, a testament to the filmmakers' desire to keep story and character development paramount.

Shutter Island, which we saw afterward, is an equally entertaining film, based on a novel by Dennis Lehane. Despite the fact that the story's climactic twist is apparent from the beginning, the experience is still well worth the price of admission (which is, by the way, a heck of a lot higher in Los Angeles than in northern Michigan). Given that it's filmed almost entirely on an isolated island during inclement weather, the movie is certainly rich with atmosphere. In fact, director Martin Scorsese has effectively used the environment to heighten the story's tension, leading the main character, a troubled U.S. marshal, through dangerous settings, such as a blustery cemetery and a perilous cliff face. Beyond the atmosphere, the film is full of excellent performances, from the likes of Ben Kingsley, Max von Sydow, Michelle Williams, Jackie Earle Haley, and Ted Levine, not to mention engaging cameos by Patricia Clarkson and Elias Koteas. Of course, the star of the film is Leonardo DiCaprio, who gives a heart-wrenching performance in what is ultimately a poignant psychological drama.

But movies weren't the only diversion we experienced this weekend. Last night, we attended a Lost panel discussion at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills. Part of this year's Paley Fest, an annual event hosted by the Paley Center for Media in celebration of modern television, the panel featured several members of the cast and creative team, including actors Terry O'Quinn (John Locke), Michael Emerson (Ben Linus), and Nestor Carbonell (Richard Alpert), plus executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse – all of whom offered amusing answers to the questions posed by the moderator and audience. Of course, no definitive secrets were revealed about the final season of this simultaneously compelling and annoying show, but we did get a chance to see a clip of next week's episode, which was cool. More than anything, I was delighted by the rapport between O'Quinn and Emerson, who play fierce rivals on the series, and frankly, I welcomed another night away from my laptop.

But, naturally, I'm hard at work today. Sigh.

Well, I hope your weekend was equally fun, wherever you went and whatever you did.