Posts Tagged Trop Rock Band

Kala Uke Arrtists The Atomic Sharks

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Kala Ukulele Artists “The Atomic Sharks”

I (Bry) enjoy getting to know ukulele musicians and Kala uke players even more so.  I have interviewed several Kala musicians but this is the first duo/band that I have interviewed together. As I also play “island music” and ukulele (as well as playing occasionally for kids)… I was looking forward to getting to know the Atomic Sharks. Thanks, guys, for answering these questions!

The Atomic Sharks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bio: from their website www.atomicsharks.com

The Atomic Sharks are Kris Hensler and Kenny Taylor.

 

Both Kenny and Kris share a passion for kids and music education. The Sharks were a perfect opportunity for both of them to combine their musical assets into one giant feeding frenzy of fun and mayhem. There’s one thing that the Sharks love as much as making great island music…and that’s teaching kids how to do it too. As musical ambassadors for Kala Brand Music Company, Kenny and Kris love to show kids how to have a great time while playing the ukulele.

1) Where is home for you at the moment?

Both born and bred in Fort Wayne, Indiana… although I’ve (Kris) spent time in Southern California and Chicago. We’ve both logged plenty of miles on the road in the 80’s and early 90’s.

2) What were your earliest/current musical influences?

Kris Hensler:

I started playing drums when I was 4 years old. My uncle was a jazz drummer in and around Chicago back in the ’50’s so I was drawn to performers like Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa.

As a teenager I got interested in songwriting and started to study the craft by listening to people like Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, James Taylor, and later on, Sting. The best lesson I learned from those guys was to stay out of the way of a good song. You should be able to strip away all of the glitter and ego and still be left with a compelling statement, whether it be musical or lyrical.

These days I’m a big fan of the Zac Brown Band. Good songwriting and great musicianship.

For pure vocal beauty, I love listening to Darius Rucker. He’s got one of those rare voices that I never get tired of hearing. I always liked him in Hooty but even more now that he’s on his own.

And of course Jimmy Buffet. Even though I love his songwriting and live shows, what I really aspire to is his ability to turn his passion into a viable business. Brilliant!

Kenny Taylor:

My earliest influences were the country western music played by my father, a fiddle player, the jazz my much older brother played on records, and seeing the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show. Yes, I remember it and I had just turned 3.

3) When did you start playing the uke?

Kris Hensler:

I started playing in late 2002. I bought myself a cheap 50 dollar uke for Christmas. So right at 11 years.  

Kenny Taylor:

I got to the uke late in life, when I was 30 yrs old. I started with a baritone, then a soprano, and then about 15 more sopranos over the years. I used them for theatrical and studio work. My 1990′s rockabilly band the Blue Moon Boys, featuring Nic Roulette, used the uke on several albums. We toured in a van a lot and a cheap ukulele I bought became the “bandvan” uke. Everybody in the band learned how to play it and countless musicians had a go at it, including cowboy band, Riders in the Sky and Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers (both of whom signed it).

4) What Kala ukes are you currently playing?

I (Kris) play an all Mahogany Tenor with cutaway. The model is K-SMHTE – C.

Kenny plays the Tenor Acacia with cutaway.

We also bring several of the Makala ukes to lives shows so kids can play them. We often do a short session to show kids a few uke basics.

Atomic Sharks

5) Any current musical projects you would like to tell us about (tours/CD’s)?

We are currently working on new material for the Atomic Sharks’ first CD. We’re still working on a title for the CD, although we’ll be releasing several of the songs as singles online before the end of 2013. The first single off the new CD will be “Smile.” It features Kenny playing the Tenor Ukulele like a Lap Steel.

We’re also working with WTIU in Bloomington on a video project. It’s a series of 12 music videos that will be aired on PBS stations in the Midwest as part of a series for kids called the “Friday Zone”.

In addition to that, we’re also producing a series of 10 short music education spots that will air on PBS stations across the country sometime in 2014.

There are a few other projects in the early stages that I can’t talk about just yet. We work with a company called Creative Licensing Group (CLG). Our ongoing relationship with them will help us to extend the Shark brand around the globe in the next several years.

Plus live performances throughout the year.

2014 will be a busy year for the Sharks.

6) Any question that you wished someone would ask but never has? With answer of course

Kris Hensler:

Nobody has ever asked WHY I write music. I hear many people who profess to be songwriters say things like, “well, I just write for myself and if people like it then that’s great.” I don’t subscribe to that at all. And I don’t think too many others really do either. I just think that’s the answer they want people to hear. I write music because I have something that I want to share with the rest of the world. I want to write that ONE song that someone remembers 20 years from now and thinks to themselves…hey, that was a really catchy tune. If that happens even once, I’ll be a happy man.

Parrot Island Band update: It slows up a bit for us in the cooler months but this gives us time to record a few of our original songs.  I have a couple of songs to add congas and background vocals and we should have our CD “Parrot Island Ukulele” out early in 2014.

Thanksgiving is only a couple of days away… we thank all of you who have listened to us and encouraged us this year… Have a blessed holiday season and I (Bry) hope we see you in 2014, if not before.

Blessings and beaches,

Bry Harris

Kala Uke Artist

www.parrotislandband.com

Kala ukulele Bry

 

Article source: http://www.parrotislandband.com/2013/11/26/kala-ukulele-artists-the-atomic-sharks/

Under Those Balmy Palms

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Under Those Balmy Palms

Bry Harris uke

 

 

 

 

Under those Balmy Palms. There are still three weeks until the Balmy Palms song contest is over.  My song, Under Those Balmy Palms is one of the three songs chosen as a finalist and I have been busy trying to get the word out. Some of the neat byproducts of promoting the song contest have been:

Ø      I have had folks let me know they have voted for me from (among other places) Ecuador, Canada, Alaska, Singapore, Australia and England!

Ø      I have heard from a number of high school friends who have voted and sent along encouraging words (some I hadn’t heard from in several years… nice to reconnect a bit on Facebook).

Ø     My Dad had a chance to hear my song… and I got his vote!

Ø      I received a vote from Heidi Swedberg, actress who played “Susan” on “Seinfeld” (she is also a talented ukulele player who was kind enough to let me interview her a few months back).

Ø       It has been very nice to contact friends about voting and find out that they had already voted…

Ø    Several of my friends (and even acquaintances) have asked their friends to vote (greatly appreciated).

Having contacted friends, family, acquaintances, Parrotheads, people we have played for, ukulele clubs and everyone I could possibly think of, I am now trying to have a little fun with the contest.  

Here are a few pictures I have been sharing to try and get people’s attention in a creative way…

Bry Harris Under Those Balmy Palms

 

Under Those Balmy Palms Bry Harris

Coming this week

Under Those Balmy Palms Bry Harris

 

 

 

 

 

Under Those Balmy Palms Bry Harris

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While there is no way to know where I stand in this song contest, I feel good about the way I have promoted my song and the Balmy Palms company.  Thanks to everyone for your encouragement and kind words…

Until next time…

Beaches and blessings,

Bry Harris

Kala ukulele Bry aa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kala Ukulele Artist

Eddy Finn Ukulele Artist

Parrot Island Band

www.parrotislandband.com

 

Article source: http://www.parrotislandband.com/2013/08/27/under-those-balmy-palms/

Under Those Balmy Palms

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Under Those Balmy Palms

Bry Harris uke

 

 

 

 

Under those Balmy Palms. There are still three weeks until the Balmy Palms song contest is over.  My song, Under Those Balmy Palms is one of the three songs chosen as a finalist and I have been busy trying to get the word out. Some of the neat byproducts of promoting the song contest have been:

Ø      I have had folks let me know they have voted for me from (among other places) Ecuador, Canada, Alaska, Singapore, Australia and England!

Ø      I have heard from a number of high school friends who have voted and sent along encouraging words (some I hadn’t heard from in several years… nice to reconnect a bit on Facebook).

Ø     My Dad had a chance to hear my song… and I got his vote!

Ø      I received a vote from Heidi Swedberg, actress who played “Susan” on “Seinfeld” (she is also a talented ukulele player who was kind enough to let me interview her a few months back).

Ø       It has been very nice to contact friends about voting and find out that they had already voted…

Ø    Several of my friends (and even acquaintances) have asked their friends to vote (greatly appreciated).

Having contacted friends, family, acquaintances, Parrotheads, people we have played for, ukulele clubs and everyone I could possibly think of, I am now trying to have a little fun with the contest.  

Here are a few pictures I have been sharing to try and get people’s attention in a creative way…

Bry Harris Under Those Balmy Palms

 

Under Those Balmy Palms Bry Harris

Coming this week

Under Those Balmy Palms Bry Harris

 

 

 

 

 

Under Those Balmy Palms Bry Harris

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While there is no way to know where I stand in this song contest, I feel good about the way I have promoted my song and the Balmy Palms company.  Thanks to everyone for your encouragement and kind words…

Until next time…

Beaches and blessings,

Bry Harris

Kala ukulele Bry aa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kala Ukulele Artist

Eddy Finn Ukulele Artist

Parrot Island Band

www.parrotislandband.com

 

Article source: http://www.parrotislandband.com/2013/08/27/under-those-balmy-palms/

Balmy Palms Song Contest

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Balmy Palms Song Contest

I found out recently that I was selected as a finalist in a contest by Balmy Palms  to select a song to represent their tropical themed business! In addition to me (Bry Harris), you can hear the songs of the two other contest finalists…

Bry Harris uke

 

 

 

 

Here is what the folks at Balmy Palms were looking for…

“Aspiring singer/songwriters are invited to submit an original song for consideration. Submitted songs should convey the feel-good essence of the brand and put listeners in the brand’s trademarked “Balmy Palms state of mind”.  The ideal song will evoke images of a carefree island lifestyle and the brand’s tagline “No worries, no qualms…just Balmy Palms.

With those instructions, I set out to write a song for the contest –  the words are below. (I added ukulele, U-bass and steel drum and hopefully captured the essence of what they were looking for.)

Under Those Balmy Palms

It’s a good day, living it my way, down by the salty sea

Plenty of sunshine, having a good time, I’m happy as I can be

No worries, no qualms, living my life under those balmy palm trees 

It’s a good day, living it my way down by the salty sea 

Taking it easy, I’m feeling calm… under those balmy palms


I’ve got my hammock right over there, a place to go to let down
my hair

No need to hurry, the skies are clear, won’t you come over, pull up a chair

No worries, no qualms, living my life under those balmy palm trees 

It’s a good day, living it my way, down by the salty sea 

Taking it easy, I’m feeling calm… under those balmy palms


Taking in the breeze, living in the moment

Walking by the sea, can’t get enough of it…

No worries, no qualms, living my life under those balmy palm trees 

It’s a good day, living it my way, down by the salty sea 

Taking it easy, I’m feeling calm… under those balmy palms

Bry Harris Kala Uke artist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think the final product is a song that can be used both in smaller segments (maybe on radio ads) or as the entire song to be played on radio. While the songs are being voted on (and I am sure the number will influence the final decision), the final selection will be decided by those who are running the contest.

So far, I have heard from folks in Australia, England, Singapore, Canada… and my dad (and he doesn’t usually get on the computer!) saying they had voted for my song- WOW! I also heard today from Heidi Swedberg (actress who played Susan/George’s wife on Seinfeld) who said she was casting her vote- NEAT!:). I haven’t been playing in the Parrothead circles very long so I have to “think out of the box” in seeking consideration from those who might vote.

Thanks to all who have voted for me so far. Not everyone has the same taste in music and at this point, it does become very subjective. I saw one comment that said he didn’t like any of the songs… now that is an honest opinion!!

I also have seen how important it is for those who vote to share and encourage friends to listen/vote…  I have seen responses from friends of friends who voted because they trust YOU… thanks for sharing!

Why am I pushing so hard on this contest? 1) Hopefully it will open more doors for people to hear my songs; 2) hopefully people who like ukuleles will hear and think about having us play at an event or house concert; 3) the monetary amount given to the winner would allow me to have songs I am preparing for our next CD to be “mastered”, or produced in better quality for radio stations and CD production; and 4) this is a bit of a stretch for me to “put myself out there” in asking folks to support my music… and it is good to move out of our comfort zones! 

There will be more to come. The contest ends Sept 15th (going to be a long month)… but I am sure I will learn some things, reconnect with friends and grow along the way…

Beaches and blessings,

Bry Harris

Kala Uke Artist

Eddy Finn Uke Artist

Parrot Island Band

 Kala Uke Artist Bry Harris

Article source: http://www.parrotislandband.com/2013/08/16/balmy-palms-song-contest/

They Call Him Flipper

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They call him “Flipper”

A couple of months ago I picked up Lance “Flipper” Steen’s new CD, “Take Me to Paradise” and have really enjoyed it! Although I haven’t met Lance in person yet, we have exchanged several e-mails and have found out that we share several common interests (Trop Rock music and ukuleles being two of them). I have enjoyed getting to know Lance and his music and look forward to ending up at the same music event some day to get better acquainted in person…

Lance Flipper Steen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bio: Lance “Flipper” Steen is a 20 year veteran of the Parrothead Circuit, playing percussion, first with “Mark Northey and the Phinheads” in ’93, then spending 12 years on and off and on again with “Phins.” He is currently playing with Terry Beck and Jerry Turnbow in a venture called T,JF, as well as getting his solo start playing ukulele, while promoting his new CD “Take Me to Paradise”

1) Where is home for you at the moment?

“O’Fallon, MO (Suburb of St. Louis)”

2) What were your earliest/and current musical influences?

“Earliest – I love to tell the story about my folks loading up the car back in the 70′s and taking the family to Village Inn Pizza Parlor every weekend to see a local band “The Travelers” playing current hits of the time in a blue grass kinda mix. Great thing is that Terry Beck, the lead singer, filled in for Paul Roush a few gigs at the end of “Phins” and Jerry Turnbow and I play with him regularly now….
“Current – I listen to a lot of Kenny Chesney and Zac Brown (but I hear ukulele in everything…). “

3) When did you start playing the uke?

“About 6 years ago, Dennis Arnold (then President of the St. Louis Parrothead Club) asked me to start taking some group ukulele lessons with him.”

4) What ukes are you currently playing?

“I still play “Lucy”, my first uke, a Tenor Black Kala Arch-top that reminded me of B.B. King’s “Lucille”.

“I also play a Tenor “Cedar” Kala Arch-top, appropriately named “Desi Lu” (currently tuned with a Low G), though my main uke is a Kala Concert, with electronics and built in tuner (not yet named).
“Lastly, I have a Kala Concert, bare bones basic uke, that I call “Loo” because…. well, I keep it in the bathroom… ”

5) Any current musical projects you would like to tell us about (tours/CD’s)?

“I recently released my first CD (“Take Me to Paradise”) apart from the band Phins, and am working on my set list,
with limited dates booked at this time. Check it out on CDBaby.com or I-tunes.”

Take Me to Paradise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6) Any question that you wished someone would ask but never has? With answer of course

“Why do you name your Ukes?

“Well, just like my kids, if I’m going to ask someone to pick one up for me I like to call them by name. I’m always telling my boy, “Go get Lucy out of my bedroom.” “Go grab Desi-Lu outta the dining room” or “Go grab Loo out of the bathroom…” … Like my kids, I also try to never put them in cases, they were meant to be played… (the ukes, not the kids…)”

They call him flipper

7) One more, how did you get the nickname “Flipper”? 

“Long story – in my 20′s, my brothers and I did some professional wrestling. A couple years later, I was working at a piano bar, as a bouncer. After hours, several of us were partying, guys were asking about it and before long, I was tucking my chin and showing them a front ¾ flip flat to my back. Somehow that evolved into part of the show, one piano player would play the theme to Flipper, while the other would hold a hula hoop, for me to jump through. So I have been Flipper for about 20 years now… ”

Thanks “Flipper” (can you still do those ¾ flips??) for sharing your love for uke and music…

Beaches and blessings,

Bry Harris

Kala Uke Artist Bry Harris

 

 

 

 

Kala Uke Artist

www.parrotislandband.com

 

Article source: http://www.parrotislandband.com/2013/07/31/they-call-him-flipper/

Keep Calm and Uke On

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Keep Calm and Uke On     

Below is the video and lyrics to “Keep Calm and Uke On”, a song I wrote this week. As I have mentioned elsewhere, I find the ukulele to be very relaxing and this phrase “struck a chord” with me as I sat down to write this song.

 

Keep Calm and Uke On

Everyone they seem so stressed

I think that I know why

We listen to so much bad news, it makes us want to cry

I really think that we should try to change our point of view

I’ve got a great idea that I’m glad to share with you

Chorus

Keep calm and uke on

There is no need to worry

About the things that could go wrong

Keep calm and uke on

Pick up your ukulele and we’ll sing a happy song

 

The weather man said that tomorrow

There’s gonna be some rain

We canceled all our plans, it really is a pain

The sun comes out, it’s not too late

I know what we can do….        

Go grab a ukulele and we’ll sing a song or two

Chorus

Keep calm and uke on

There is no need to worry

About the things that could go wrong

Keep calm and uke on

Pick up your ukulele and we’ll sing a happy song

Bridge

There are some things that we can change

And other things we can’t

We cannot help growing old but we can sing and dance

Chorus

Keep calm and uke on

There is no need to worry

About the things that could go wrong

Keep calm and uke on

Pick up your ukulele and we’ll sing a happy song

Bry Harris Uke On

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As part of the Parrot Island Band (a Jimmy Buffett Tribute Band here in Atlanta, Georgia), we enjoy playing in events that help people relax and enjoy being together. Over the last few years, I have also added many of the songs I have written to our set list and now I continue expanding the sound of the band having added the ukulele.

Here’s hoping you “Keep Calm and…” whatever it is that brings you joy and helps you relax.

Beaches and blessings,

Bry Harris

www.parrotislandband.com

Kala Ukulele Ambassador

Peace, Love and Ukulele

 

Article source: http://www.parrotislandband.com/2013/07/05/keep-calm-and-uke-on/

Howard Livingston’s Meet Me in the Keys Event Recap

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Text © Carol Ewald. Photo © Dj Jeff Allen

Text © Carol Ewald. Photo © Dj Jeff Allen


How can I describe these groups known as the Coconut Castaways that host and support this great event? First of all, they are the friendliest, most welcoming bunch of people you’ll ever meet. Secondly, their generosity and passion for the KOA Care Camps is overwhelming.

These camps are specifically set up for children fighting the battle with cancer. It allows them to be KIDS and a break from the hospitals and anguish of their normal daily routines.   The Coconut Castaways slogan of “Serving Community Roles with Caribbean Souls” could not be more apparent.

The event unofficially started Wednesday night with the Annual Goodie Bag Stuffing Party.  Roger Jokela entertained the group while they worked and Howard Livingston even sang a few songs.  This pre-party is always a “must attend”

goodie-bag-stuffing

© Mark Reiman
Goody bag stuffing pre-party!

This amazing event “officially” started out Thursday with a Meet Greet evening with their “Ringleader” Howard Livingston. In spite of rainy weather, we all gathered at the beautiful DoubleTree–Hilton-Grand Key Resort for an evening filled with music by John Patti, Howard and Rick.  Oh yea……there was definitely gonna be “Magic In Key West”.

On Friday AM, the Annual Hangover Classic trek had participants meeting poolside then walking along the ocean to the Conch Flyer Lounge where they were met by Capt. Josh.  All participants had made a Care Camp donation to be a part of the walk.  Captain Josh had everyone ready to party while they all enjoyed Bloody Marys, Mimosas and Screwdrivers to rehydrate for the walk back to the hotel.

The pool party Friday afternoon went on as planned and the weather cooperated.  The non-stop music with Paul Roush, Jack Mosely, Mike Broward, Jimi Pappas, John Patti,  Key West Chris Rehm, and Allan Holland was awesome.

As an additional effort to raise more money, you could get your toenails painted turquoise for a small donation.  How cool it was to see all these macho men parading with painted toes and it raised $1200 for the cause!  As the last of the entertainment hit their final notes…..the Key West skies opened up and the rain came.  It was as if it was planned that way.

DJ-Jeff-Jack-and-Paul.jpg

© DJ Jeff Allen
Paul Roush and Jack Mosely at the Pool Party

Saturday afternoon it was a packed house at the Rum Barrel for a special performance by John Frinzi. What a great performer he is and he raised $130 to get his toenails painted too! And then on to the main event at Schooner’s Wharf with Howard Livingston and the Mile Marker 24 Band.

The dollars were adding up quickly for the KOA Care Camp! The band kept rocking and there was even an appearance from “Amish Ice” aka DJ Jeff from Beachfront Radio. Built-to-Last barstools and a cigar box box guitar were auctioned off and raised another $1350.

dj-jeff-allen-howard-livingston

Dj Jeff “Amish Ice” joins Howard Livingston on stage at Schooner’s Wharf

The special Howie “Hats” were selling like crazy and then……it was time to make a margarita.  For those that don’t know about the special margarita machine, it is an outboard motor that has been converted to a blender.  The result margarita is a very special blend. Not just tequila and mix, but the generosity and spirit of giving back as the first margarita produced is auctioned off.  This year at the event that first margarita brought $8000 to the Kids!  It was an incredible night.

© DJ Jeff Allen
Howie’s Famous Margarita Maker

What could be better than spending your Sunday at the Smokin’ Tuna? The food was amazing (included ) and Ericson Holt band jammed the whole afternoon with all the Coconut Castaways celebrating a great event….but wait, it’s not over yet……

That evening we all boarded the “Fury” for a farewell sunset cruise.  Great appetizers and cocktails and the awesome music of Eric Stone. What a beautiful ending to a fantastic event.

We, as Beachfront Radio, could not have been more proud to be a part of this fundraiser.  Their efforts over those few days brought in approx. $25,000.  Added to their fundraisers over the year, their total going to the KOA Care Camp is about $90,000!!!! A lot of kids are going to camp!

Southernmost-coconut-castaways

© Vicki Koch

As we all know, these kinds of events take a lot of work but the result is gratifying.  Those volunteer people that work tirelessly in the months of preparation, the sponsors that donate and support this event should all be praised and proud of what was accomplished.

Next year’s Coconut Castaway goal is to break that $100K mark.  To find out more and be a part of this tremendous fundraiser visit their site at Southern Most Castaways. You can make a donation year-round to the KOA Care Camps on their website or at: KOA Campground Donations 

We hope to see you in 2014!

 

Respectfully submitted – Carol Ewald  (with input from Tammy Hollander)

Article source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/TropRockin/~3/6vU2u9lhLdA/

Homemade Moonshine Recipe Without a Still

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homemade-moonshine-recipe

Text Photo © Jeff Cohen


 

No need to worry about blowing up your moonshine still!  Anyone can make this homemade blackberry moonshine recipe with just a few simple ingredients and patience.

Phase 1 (3 weeks)

Ingredients:
1 Liter 190 proof grain alcohol (Everclear).  You can find it at liquor stores.
3 60z. containers of fresh blackberries

Directions:
Pour the grain alcohol into a 1/2 gallon jar with a lid.
Add all of the blackberries.
Crush the blackberries with a wooden spoon.
Seal the jar and let it sit for 3 weeks.
Shake the jar every other day.

Phase 2 (2 weeks)

After the alcohol and blackberries have sat for 3 weeks, you’ll make a simple syrup to add to the mixture.

Ingredients:
4 cups water
3 cups sugar

Directions:
Bring water to a boil and add sugar.  Stir until the sugar dissolves then let cool to room temperature.
While the simple sugar mixture is cooling, take your alcohol and blackberry mixture and strain out the remaining blackberries.
Return the alcohol mixture into its jar and pour in the simple sugar mixture.
Seal the jar and let sit for 2 weeks or longer.

The resulting moonshine is strong at 95 proof with a wonderful blackberry flavor.

Serve as a chilled shot or use the moonshine to make tasty jello shots.

When making jello shots, just replace 1/2 of the water called for in the jello recipe.  If you use more than that, the jello won’t set up.

Enjoy!

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Margaritaville Footwear Parrot Head Appreciation Day

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margaritaville-parrot-head

Have you blown out your flip flops from last summer?  Then it’s time for a new pair or two!

Margaritaville Footwear is running a sweepstakes on Facebook, naming June 22nd as Parrot Head Appreciation Day.  The grand prize winner will walk away with 2 pairs of Margartiaville Footwear, various Parrot Head Sun Care products and $250 worth of new Margaritaville clothing.

Just visit the Margaritaville Footwear Facebook page to enter.

It’s nice to be appreciated!

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Coastal California Elephant Seals

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elephant-seals-california

Text Photos © Tammy Camp


We drove down California’s Highway 1, stopping at almost every overlook and state park.  After nearly 6 hours on one road, we thought we’d never find our way back to the highway.  We depended on Google Maps to guide us, but to our surprise, we were without cell phone coverage all day.

We found a little hotel and restaurant and stopped for directions.  We were shocked to learn we were at least an hour from crossing over to the main highway.  Determined to get off Highway 1 before dark, I might have been driving a little over the speed limit.

The road had finally straightened out.  With no more crazy cliff hugging curves, we were discussing random topics to pass the time.  For some reason, we began talking about road names and our disgust for how deceiving they can be.  For example, why are there roads named “Bay View” when there is no bay in sight?  A few minutes later we passed a sign that said “Elephant Seal Vista” and wondered out loud if anyone told the seals to be there.  We figured they hadn’t read the sign.

With only 30 minutes of daylight left, we were trying to beat the setting sun. I was frantically looking for a pullover area, expecting it to be another dirt outcropping like many of the vistas along Highway 1.   Still not believing we’d actually see seals, my friend rolled down the window to listen.  Unbelievable, we began to hear seals!

The lookout was named Piedras Blancas, which was a well maintained roadside park perched above an Elephant Seal breeding ground.  Plenty of paved parking and a wooden boardwalk along the shoreline.  We flew out of the car, grabbed our camera gear and practically ran to the boardwalk.

The scene was magical.  It smelled like fish.

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Elephant Seals covered the beach, crawling over each other to find the right spot to sleep for the night.  Seals were letting out random bellows, arching their heads backwards and scooping sand onto their bodies.  Many were already asleep.

Our first few minutes were spent in a photo snapping freenzy trying capture a few great shots prior to sundown.  Afterwards, we stood in awe watching their behavior.  These creatures were awkward on land.  Trying to crawl around on their bellies pushing all that weight with flippers.  We noticed a number of seals had peeling skin and we began to worry that something was wrong.

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Did you notice the peeling skin in the above photo?  Well, between April and May each year, the females and juvenile Elephant Seals come into California shores to molt.  The younger males appear in May and June and the adult males arrive in July and August.  This was the end of the females and juvenile molting season.  Most of the slick, blue-gray seals lacked the elongated nose that is most prominent on the adult males.  Some seals still had their full, dark furry coat and only had just begun molting.  Perhaps these were the younger males whose molting season overlaps with the females.

As the light of the day was disappearing, a lone Elephant Seal returned to the beach and back into the heard.  He was adorable as he crawled over the sleeping mound of seals until he slid into an open spot.   We hated to leave, but unfortunately there wasn’t anymore we could see.

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Back on the road, we only had 12 more miles to go to reach the city of Cambria, where we could turn inland towards the main freeway.  All the way back to our hotel we talked about how perfect the day had been and how things worked out just right to get us to the seals.

We thought:  “What if we had stayed longer at Big Sur?”  “Aren’t we glad we decided not to eat at the restaurant where we asked directions?”  Sometimes the best adventures are completely unexpected.

To see more Elephant Seal pictures, click here to visit our Facebook page.

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