Silhouettes, Shadows, and Sunsets

Knowing winter storm Janus was on its way (which has dumped a foot of snow on us already), we took advantage of yesterday’s beautiful weather and took a quick flight to Cape May. My older daughter and I decided that silhouettes,Ā shadows, and the sunset would be our impromptu photo theme for the collection below. Hope everyone is having a great week!

Windy walk

Shadow 1

Shadow 2

Shadow 3

Shadow 4


Sunset 1

Sunset 2
Sunset 3

Cape May Mall SignIf you’re a new follower, check out my other Cape May posts:

Tomorrow, something for the fantasy fans… my 5 favorite “winterbeests.” Get ready to share yours! šŸ™‚


Hemingway Home and Museum in Key West (a.k.a. the convergence of #cats and #books… pure bliss!)

Hemingway House

Last week, my husband and I went to Key West. I’d never been and it was terrific! Sort of “Hawaii meets New Orleans.” Duvall Street was as fun, crowded, colorful, and commercial as the French Quarter and the rest of the island was as beautiful, balmy, and restful as off-season Oahu.

My five favorite things: 1. Dinner at Louie’s Backyard (the back deck sits oceanfront, gorgeously lit with low lights at night; the menu and staff are equally impressive); 2. Breakfast at the Hot Tin Roof (the perfect spot for mimosas); 3. Ernest Hemingway’s house (pics below); 4. Biking/shopping onĀ Duvall Street (mostly enjoyed the biking, but also loved peeking in the boutiques… the t-shirt shops I get enough of on the Jersey Shore); and 5. Watching the famous sunsets.

Flying into Key West... This wing's a bit bigger than the one I'm used to seeing out my window ;-)
Flying into Key West…
This wing’s a bit bigger than the one
I’m used to seeing out my window šŸ˜‰
Hemingway Home and Museum
Hemingway Home and Museum

Ernest Hemingway, who wrote The Sun Also Rises, Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Old Man and the Sea, among many other novels, short stories, and poems, lived in the house from 1931 to 1940. The man (prolific writer, WWI ambulance driver, adventurer, ladies man, fisherman…), the house (built in 1851 on the second highest point in Key West by Asa Tift, a marine architect and salvage wrecker), and the cats (at least 45 of them were roaming around the grounds, all carrying the polydactyl gene) make this museum tour A MUST if you go to Key West.

The outside of Hemingway's writer's loft. Built above the garage and beside the pool. Wouldn't it be grand to write somewhere like this everyday?
The outside of Hemingway’s writer’s loft. Built above the garage and beside the pool. Wouldn’t it be grand to write somewhere like this every day?
The inside of the loft. The old fashioned typewriter and lack of air conditioning give me some comfort that I'm lucky enough with my little writing nook. :-)
The inside of the loft. The old-fashioned typewriter and lack of air conditioning give me some comfort that I’m lucky enough with my little writing nook. šŸ™‚

Even if you’re not a cat lover, it’s hard not toĀ be charmed by the cats. The whole herd of them is given free reign over the house and grounds. They are everywhere! They are looked after by a full-time staff and aĀ vet visits them once a week to keep them on their toes. šŸ˜‰

looks like he's wearing mittensPolydactyl CatSix Toed Cat

The Key West Lighthouse, which can be seen from the balcony outside of Hemingway's bedroom
The Key West Lighthouse, which can be seen from the balcony outside of Hemingway’s bedroom
Spent some time in the bookstore, of course, which is in the garage, right next to the pool.
Spent some time in the bookstore, of course, which is in the garage, right next to the pool.

What did I buy at the bookstore? Among other things, a book of cat poems.

In the beginning,
God created cats,
and then bugs.
Bugs grow up to be moths and butterflies,
which can be eaten.

From Kirby Congdon’s “The Cat’s Story”

The infamous $20,000 pool (the house cost $8,000).
The infamous $20,000 pool (the house cost $8,000).

Because my husband is an aviation enthusiast, we had to stop by Kelly’s — the bar located in the first Pan Am office building, which isĀ named after former owner Kelly McGillis of TOP GUN fame — for a drink. Since it was happy hour, one drink turned into two… šŸ˜€

Sign outside of Kelly's Bar, Grill, and Brewery. Fun happy hour: Good beer! Great hot wings!
Sign outside of Kelly’s Bar, Grill, and Brewery. Fun happy hour: Good beer! Great hot wings!
Our bikes on Duvall Street I loved how accommodating the drivers were to cyclists. Despite the traffic, a very leisurely ride.
Our bikes on Duvall Street
I loved how accommodating the drivers were to cyclists. Despite the traffic, a very leisurely ride.
Goodbye, Casa Marina! I will miss your shakers full of skinny cucumber lemonade! :-D
Goodbye, Casa Marina! I will miss your shakers full of skinny cucumber lemonade! šŸ˜€

So what about you? Have you taken any winter breaks lately? If so, where did you go? Writers, do you have a favorite place for writer’s retreats? Key West offers lots of inspiration! I hope everyone is having a great January!

Beer! (and the Cape May Brewing Company)

Cape May, Cape May Brewing Company, beer, micro-brew, vacation, New Jersey, day trip, travel

Last week I was on the Jersey Shore. Most of the week I spent on the beach, reading during the day and visiting the boardwalk or watching the moonrise at night. But I visited two places that are very good day trip destinations: the Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum and the Cape May Brewing Company. This is the last post in a three-part series I’m doing to say sayonara to summer. If you like beer or touring micro-breweries (come on, who doesn’t?) then read on!

Cape May, flying, aviation, pilot, Cessna, day trip
Ready for Take Off

Before visiting the brewery, we met some friends of ours for a flight around Cape May. It was cloudy and visibility was low, but otherwise it was a fun flight. The perfect precursor to a beer tasting!

Waiting for other traffic to land
Waiting for other traffic to land
Cape May, flying, aviation, pilot, Cessna, day trip
Garden State Parkway aerial view

beer, micro-brew, Cape May Brewing CompanyThe Cape May brewery started in 2010 with the plan “to open the first micro brewery at the Jersey Shore and put New Jersey on the map as a craft beer state.” They are located within walking distance of the Cape May airport. They now serve over 40 bars and restaurants in Cape May and serve up to 12 beers in their tap room.

Centennial IPA = Best IPA at the 2012 Atlantic City Beer Fest

Cape May, Cape May Brewing Company, beer, micro-brew, vacation, New Jersey, day trip, travel
People eating, drinking, and hanging out

We toured and tasted: I tried the Watermelon Wheat (I’d probably make a terrible sommelier. I couldn’t taste the watermelon at all), the Saison (IPA + Wheat + Belgium Double = my favorite), the Centennial IPA, and the Hitching Post (a bourbon stout). We left our kids in OC, but the place is kid-friendly. They serve root beer (for kids and pilots!) and, in reverse BYOB fashion, they allow you to bring in food and eat at their picnic tables while sampling the beer. I loved the feel of the place. It was warm, inviting, friendly, and fun. Very casual and laid back.

Cape May Brewing Company, beer, micro-brew
My husband, Craig, and me

Flying Back to Ocean City

Gray Skies
Gray Skies

My husband is a good pilot — very responsible. And he knows I sometimesĀ get motion sickness… especially when flying after an afternoon of beer tasting!Ā (check out my ridiculous selfiesĀ below) He has an IFR, which allows him to fly through clouds and low visibility weather, but when he saw thunderstorms closing in around the OC airport, he decided to turn back.


No pilot would intentionally fly into this

We landed at Cape May again, tied the plane down, and decided to wait out the storm in the FBO (Flight Level Aviation). We weren’t the only ones stranded by the storm. There were also two BoatPixĀ helicopter pilots there. For over an hour we huddled up in the FBO, keeping one eye on the storm andĀ the otherĀ on the TV (SyFy channel was playing Sharknado, which was as impossibly hilarious as everyone said it was. In fact, some Sat when I have absolutely nothing else to do, I may watch it again. It was that horribly good.) (Also, as an aside, the FBO is new and they were awesome. Sarah kept the place open late just so we could all wait out the storm. Pilots: please gas up there if you land in Cape May! šŸ˜€ )

About twenty minutes earlier, we were sitting in those chairs watching the storm come in

By sunset the storm had passed and we were able to take off again and this time make it all the way into Ocean City… to find we’d left the sunroof of our car open… LOL. What a day!


Hard earned beer for the pilot Home at last!
Hard earned beer for the pilot
Home at last!

Other links you may be interested in:

Donā€™t forget to take my READER SURVEY and tell me what you most like to read here and/or want to see here.

Rosie the RiveterFinally, if you want a chance to win the Rosie the RiveterĀ bag (can be used for books… or beer!) that I bought at the Cape May aviation museum, then comment below or send me an e-mail: archer at jillarcherĀ dot com. US only.

Have you ever been to the Cape May Brewing Company? Do you like microbrews? How about beer? šŸ˜€ Have a fantastic Labor Day, everyone!

Ocean City, New Jersey

Ocean City Beach PatrolLast week, I was at the Jersey Shore. I’ve never watched the “Jersey Shore” reality TV show, but I’m betting the Jersey Shore I know and love is very different fromĀ the MTV version. If you’re interested in seeing a few pics and reading about a classic Jersey Shore family vacation, then read on! This is the first post in a three-partĀ series I’m doing to closeĀ out summer. The next two posts will be on the Cape May Aviation Museum and the Cape May Brewery. While I was at the museum, I bought some things in their gift shop to support them. One of the items was a Rosie the RiveterĀ tote bag (pictured below; perfect for carrying books!). If you’re interested in entering your name in my Rosie tote bag giveaway (US only due to mailing costs), comment below or just send me an e-mail: archer at jillarcherĀ dot com.

Ocean City, New Jersey, travel, beach, east coast, vacation
Ocean City, New Jersey, boardwalk, beach, vacation, travel, east coast

Every year we hit the same places: MancoĀ and Manco’s PizzaĀ (which we still call “Mack and Manco’s” even though all traces of Mack have been scrubbed), Playland’s Castaway Cove (the Hurricane and Double Shot are old favoritesĀ but the park recently installed some neat new rides like Air Race), Johnson’s Popcorn and Fralinger’sĀ for salt water taffy.Ā And, of course, my kids take every opportunity to replenish their depleted hoard of plastic shovels and beaded jewelry.

Blue Moon, Ocean City, beach
“The day, water, sun, moon, night…
I do not have to purchase these things with money.”

There was a blue moon while we were there this year. A blue moon is the third of four full moons in a season, although a blue moon can also be the second of two full moons in a month.Ā Blue moons are rare and explains where the “once in a blue moon” phrase originated. Regardless of the scientific or seasonal explanations for the blue moon — seeing a full moon rise over the ocean was pretty spectacular and something I’d never seen before. (I took a lot of pictures, but none of them effectively convey the experience. Walking along the beach in the moonlight is about a lot more than one snapped shot, and besides, my cell phone takes crappy nighttime pics šŸ™‚ ). In any case, we took more evening walks on the beach than usual this year.

Ocean City New Jersey, beach, travel, vacation

The sunsets were almost as neat as the blue moon. Bayside, you can see the sun set over Peck Bay or Great Egg Harbor, but we stay within a few blocks of the Atlantic so it’s easier to lug all our stuff down each morning. So the sun sets over dunes and houses for us. Still pretty though…

Ocean City sunset, sand dunes, beaches, east cost, travel, vacation

We took our little Cessna down so that we could enjoy some afternoon and sunset flights (more on those flights in the next two posts!).Ocean City New Jersey Airport, aviation, flying

New 9th Street Bridge and Visitor's Center OCNJ
Aerial View of New 9th Street Bridge and Visitor’s Center

I drove in on the new 9th street bridge before flying over it. Even though I’ll admit that the new bridge is much improved, I couldn’t help feeling sentimental about all the times I’d crossed the old drawbridge on the way into town. I’m not the only one. Check out this 2011 post by Douglas Bergen in the Ocean City Patch where he bid farewell to the old bridge with a brief bit of wonderfully written nostalgia:

“What child didn’t get goosebumps hearing the telltale hum of car tires rolling over the metal grates of the closed drawbridge? The soundĀ signaled that the beach and Boardwalk were near.

And like record albums, encyclopedias and other quaint notions we have to explain to our children, will they look at us funny when we explain how a little mechanical arm dropped down, and the whole roadway cleaved and lifted up to let boats pass by?”

East Coast Beaches, aviation, travel, flying, vacation, beach

Ghost crab
“Sandy” the ghost crab

Ghost crabs (or sand crabs)Ā aren’t as easy to see and catch on the Jersey Shore as they are in the Outer Banks, but we still managed to capture this little guy (long enough for him to be dubbed “Sandy” — after the hurricaneĀ — and then we let him go).

Ghost crab

The Mad Scientist's Guide to World Domination
Shrimp, clams, and mussels
My husband made this tasty dish and served it with linguine. Other nights, we steamed snow crab legs or fried fish. By the end of the week, even I was ready for some red meat!
When I first attempted to make this drink, it looked like the concoction on the cover of THE MAD SCIENTIST’S GUIDE TO WORLD DOMINATION (see above). I realize purists will likely scoff at the martini glass but that’s the beauty of *my* Jersey Shore. Presentation is irrelevant. šŸ˜€
Ocean City Airport
Ocean City FBO

Rosie the Riveter

Here’s a picture of the tote bag I bought at the Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum. I think it looks perfect for carting around books and all sorts of other stuff. Even though summer is over, who can’t use another beach bag? šŸ˜€ Leave a comment or send me an e-mail to enter to win it. US only. And stay tuned for parts 2 and 3… the Cape May museum and brewery!

What did you do this summer? What’s your favorite part about going to the shore? Do you like Rosie the Riveter? Have you ever made mojitos? Are you from Ocean City? What do you think of the new 9th street bridge?

#Writing: The Importance of Taking Time Off (and Hanging With Your Husband)

writing life, boardwalk, south beach
South Beach Boardwalk: Great for a morning stroll

If you are a writer just starting out, my advice is: write, write, write! šŸ˜€ But if you are an author who has been writing for years (possibly squeezing it in between another career and the obligations of raising a family), then my message of holiday cheer to you is: Make sure to take some time off!

I recently had the great fortune to attend a business trip with my husband to South Beach in Miami. When he first suggested I come, I balked. My youngest daughter had an out-of-town gymnastics meet that weekend, I was in the middle of doing revisions for my second book, I have family coming in for the holidays, and I had zero presents, no tree, and a house devoid of red, green, and gold trim. But my husband pointed out I’d missed last year’s trip for similar reasons and it would always be like that. Unless I made a conscious decision to take a weekend off for the sole purpose of hanging out with him, I never would. If I waited for the “right time” (i.e. when nothing else was scheduled), I might not go away with him again until my kids were in college, which is ludicrous. Because you should make time to get away ā€“ with your husband, your friends, other family members, or just yourself ā€“ for short breaks from both your creative project and the natural stresses of every day life.

Miami, South Beach
Miami’s South Beach
parrots, The Palms, South Beach
The Palms Hotel Parrots: Cheerful and exotic.
writing life, winter break, The Palms Hotel
Ocean view from The Palms Hotel

Bottom Line: I had a wonderful weekend jam-packed with poolside drinks, walks on the beach, a short but relaxing spa visit, a little shopping (in a local bookstore, of course), fantastic food, great company, and a vibrant sampling of Miami’s night life at a nearby club that Saturday night. When I returned home, I was pleased (and, truth be told, not surprised) to find out that all was calm on the domestic front. My youngestĀ did well at her meet and my daughters and MIL (who watched them) had a terrific time together. My revisions are finished and turned in to my editor. We have a tree now and there are ornaments on it. The rest of my house is sufficiently trimmed with red, green, and gold. So what if I still haven’t finished shopping, let alone wrapping? There’s still time and that weekend away was worth it!

Miami, South Beach, Lincoln RoadMiami South Beach OceanBooks & Books on Lincoln Road

So how about you? Have you gone away recently? If so, where did you go? If not, what’s holding you back? You don’t have to go far. Sometimes, being a tourist in your town can be just as much fun as visiting somewhere else. If you haven’t taken some time off in a while, make it a resolution for 2013 and then come back and tell us where you went! Wherever you go ā€“ Enjoy! šŸ˜€

Last Flight of 2011

Chesapeake Bay -- Tabula Rasa for 2012

My husband is a recreational pilot who has his Instrument Flight Rating. We have a small Cessna 172 that we keep at Martin State Airport in east Baltimore County. From time to time, we use the little plane for trips into small airports and un-towered runways that give us quick access to places that would otherwise take hours to get to in a car.

Cape May, NJ

Yesterday afternoon we decided to fly down to Cape May, NJ. We only had a few hours, since we were due at a friend’s house later to ring in the New Year, so this short day trip was the perfect way to spend the last remaining daylight hours of 2011. Cape May is one of our favorite places to fly to. It’s close, it’s on the beach, and the quaint little town has all kinds of little shops and restaurants to hang out in.

Yesterday’s weather was windy, slightly cloudy, partially sunny — in other words, beautiful! My husband was able to do the flight visually (without instruments), which is our preferred way to fly. If you can’t see the ground, it’s not as much fun. (Although, like Howard Hughes, I do like some clouds. They add interest. Remember Leonardo DiCaprio’s line from THE AVIATOR? “I want clouds, damn it… Find me some clouds.” I love that line. :-))

Signs That 2012 Will Be A Good Year

In flight, I was struck by two things: how amazingly, unbelievably empty the Chesapeake Bay was. We are used to seeing the bay dotted with countless sailboats and motor boats. Yesterday, I don’t think there was a single boat down there. But instead of looking lonely, it just looked gorgeously pristine. Somehow fitting for a New Year’s trip. It was as if the bay had refreshed itself and was waiting for the new 2012 boaters to make their mark on it. We also saw a fairly large rainbow stretching from sky to ground in an area somewhere over Dover. I don’t know if anyone on the ground would have been able to see it. I always think rainbows are good luck, so I took seeing one on New Year’s Eve Day as a particularly good sign that 2012 will be a good year.

Landing was as uneventful as take off. These are usually the most exciting parts of a flight, but (not to brag or anything ;-)) my husband’s a good pilot and we hardly felt a bump as our tiny plane touched down on Runway 28 at WWD. Our cab was already waiting for us, so we were in town less than five minutes later.

Charming, Romantic, and Sweet


Ā  Ā 

Cape May is a charming town year round, but the Christmas season really shows it off. It was wonderful seeing all of the lights and decorations. The horse-drawn carriages were out, taking couples on romantic rides through the narrow streets. A small boy was playing his guitar at the corner of Jackson and Beach. A cat napped on a rusty old lawn chair somewhere along Perry Street. There was a wedding at Congress Hall. We found ourselves unintentionally trailing after the wedding party as they made their way through town and down to the beach, the photographer snapping pictures the whole way. We stopped at the Cape May Popcorn Factory and bought paper cones full of caramel popcorn and hot chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallows.

East Coast Sunset Over Water

I love that Cape May is one of the few places on the Atlantic where you can see the sun set over water. We strolled down to the beach to enjoy the view, the sound of the waves, and to write in the sand as the sun set on the last day of 2011. With a beach grass stick, I wrote “Happy New Year” and “2011,” in the sand, smiling when the waves came in and washed “2011” away.

We caught a return cab on Beach Street and were soon back in the air. From the cockpit, I tried to capture the last rays of red daylight with my camera, but it was already too dark. Beneath us, the twinkling town lights looked like muted firecrackers. The lulling sound of the plane’s engine and the rhythmic, hypnotic vibration had its effect and my youngest soon fell asleep in the back. It was a good thing… because not two hours later, we were at our neighbor’s house waiting to watch the ball drop, pop some champagne, and ring in the New Year!

So how about you? How are you celebrating the New Year? Did you do anything special on the last day of 2011? If you want to see more pictures of Cape May on December 31, 2011, check out my Facebook album “On The Fly.” BEST WISHES FOR A WONDERFUL 2012!!