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Pack Your Bags, Puddle Jumping is Moving

Big News! Puddle Jumping is growing up and changing platforms. Please visit the new and improved Puddle Jumping at:www.LetsGoPuddleJumping.blogspot.com

While you’re there, take a moment to subscribe and sign up for the RSS feed to have new posts delivered right to your inbox.

Looking forward to sharing the next chapter of Puddle Jumping with you!

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Hurray! Jacksonville Essential Guide iPhone app is now available on iTunes

Download yours today!


Join me for a game-for-anything romp through the River City with stops in my favorite locals’ hot spots and tried-and-true hangouts. You’ll love the in-the-know tips on the best BBQ, the coolest hang on a Saturday afternoon, and the best vantage point for summertime fireworks.

I created this Jacksonville app from the ground up by collecting a broad cross-section of locals’ favorites and compiling them in a fun and spirited guide to the best that Jacksonville has to offer. Jacksonville Essential Guide isn’t just a print guide slapped into an app skin; instead, it’s full of fun and concise original content written with the on-the-go user in mind. Whether you’re standing on the corner of Laura & Forsyth surfing for a great lunch spot, or lying on your couch planning a day in Avondale, this simple but powerful app will lead you by the hand and provide exactly the right information in no time.

In Jacksonville Essential Guide, I condense the city’s overwhelming opportunities into 175 top sites, hidden gems and must-do activities and give users access to over 850 color photos. This visually rich app is full of insider tips for locals and first-time visitors. (Activities, restaurants and lodging in St. Augustine, Fernandina, and Amelia Island are also covered.)

Engaging and easy-to-navigate features include:

• Photo  slide shows for each entry, so that you know what you’re getting before you go.

• Concise, original text by a Jacksonville native.

• Entries filtered by useful criteria like Fabulous Food, Art Appreciation, Get Out and Get Moving, Nightlife, Where to Sleep, and more.

• Entries sorted by name, distance, price and neighborhood.

• One-click website and phone interface to buy tickets, peruse current menus, and more.

• Google maps and walking and driving directions for each entry.

• Over 100MB of offline content that you an access anytime without an Internet connection.

• Direct links to Wikipedia, Yelp reviews or establishment’s web sites (whichever is most useful to the user).

• Neighborhood overviews help you decide how and where to spend your time.

• The ability to share user comments and mark and save favorites.

• Fast browsing.

Check it out today; at only $1.99 it costs way less than a latte, and it will last much longer! Buy it once and get free upgrades for life.

So, who is Sarah Reiss?

Sarah Wetzel Reiss is a food, travel and lifestyle writer with over 100 articles in print on destinations from Big Bear to Barbados. She is a member of The Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) and makes life on the road look like a walk in the park. In addition to Jacksonville Essential Guide, Sarah is the author of Insiders’ Guide: Jacksonville, 3rd ed. (Globe Pequot) – available on http://www.amazon.com – and two blogs: City Dish (www.CityDish.net) and Puddle Jumping (www.sarahreiss.wordpress.com). Her columns – “In Store”, “The Thoughtful Traveler” and “10 Reasons to Love” have appeared in magazines and newspapers from Palm Springs to Princeton.

Sarah grew up in Jacksonville and attended The Bolles School. She holds a BA in Journalism (Indiana University) and an MFA in Writing (Naropa University). Over the last 10 years, Sarah has served as (among other things) the Communications Manager at The Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce and the Chair of Creative Writing at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, and the managing editor of Packet Magazines. She is now a full-time writer of books, apps and magazine articles on travel, lifestyle and food. (Visit www.sarahreiss.com to find out more.) Download yours today at http://sutromedia.com/apps/Jacksonville_Essential_Guide

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New Approach; Big Reward

No matter what they say, no one I’ve ever met actually enjoys purchasing a car. Shopping for cars, yes. But the actual act of negotiating and buying makes most people want to set themselves on fire just for the distraction. It should come as no surprise that I’m no exception.

I’m an expert test driver. So much so that I have, in my test drive arsenal, a variety of routes that makes the Gumball 3000 look like a Sunday drive. But when it comes time to step up to the negotiating table, my brakes lock. The ploy is always the same: the tentative offer followed by the salesman’s theatrical slog to the manager’s office, his return and rueful rebuttal, and then the dollars-and-cents shell game where the ball moves around so many times that someone – usually the buyer and usually with a nagging sense that he or she has somehow gotten the shaft – says Uncle.

So when the time recently came to buy a car, the words, “If you don’t like the rules, change them,” kept coming to mind. Change the rules…change the rules… but how?  I resolved to find a way to avoid the shaft and take the upper hand in a way that made sense with my personality. So I decided to approach the question of “how?” with the same attention I give to every other bit of work in my life – I’d research it to death.

Now, in regard to this situation I know three things for certain: I am a good communicator; I am scary-steely once I am resolved about something; and (thanks to that counseling psychology degree and a comfort with eye-contact) I am capable of staying present and making the other party feel heard. It was clear that the key to my success lay in these three traits.  I realized that I’d failed in the past because I’d been trying to negotiate on the car dealer’s terms – which rely on an ill-informed, gullible buyer who can be manipulated.  So, I reasoned, if this time I come in deeply, almost hyperbolically, informed and use positive reflective listening to communicate my unwavering platform, we might just avoid some of the shell game and end up with a positive negotiating experience.

A quick Google search in this direction turned up a “car-salesman-tell-all” website that counseled would-be buyers to try much the same thing and, instead of approaching the transaction as a last-man-standing face-off, approach it as a Richard Covey-style win-win-win scenario. You want the salesman to win by selling a car, you want the dealership to win by moving another car off their lot, and, oh yeah, you want yourself to win by paying a price that will make you feel like you got a good deal and like you can recommend the dealer to your friends. Anything less than that and the triangle dissolves.

Of course, the whole upside-down triangle balances on the point of non-attachment. You can’t want anything so much that you’re not willing to walk away. Clear-headedness must prevail. That absence of desperation, that non-attachment, provides the balance and the key to success.

Now, it would make for a more lively next section of this story for me to relay a comedy-of-errors romp in which I realized, with self-deprecation, that I am not cut out for horse-trading. But the truth is, the win-win-win approach actually worked. After driving everything from aVolvo s60 to the Honda Element, we settled on the Honda Crosstour (great car – who knew?). So, armed with a genial pleasantness, an armful (and iPhone full) of research data (online invoice),  and by applying reflective listening, clear friendliness, and a solid yet jovial platform we were able to talk the dealer down almost $5,500 and buy the car at the price we wanted to pay with only one round of negotiation.

The whole process was a revelation: I don’t have to play by someone else’s rules (a tack that fails every time, BTW). I could recast the game with my own winning formula and experience even more success just by nature of being positive, clear and authentic. A revelation  – but one that I guess I knew all along.

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Insiders’ Guide: Jacksonville now available on Amazon

The all-new Insiders Guide: Jacksonville

Get ’em while they’re hot!

The all-new, hipped-up Insiders’ Guide: Jacksonville

is now available through


Click here to order through my author link.

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Give it away … now

Tanque Verde Ranch , Arizona

Twenty-one years ago, Annie Dillard, one of the most astute writers on writing (and the author of, among other books, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek), published an article titled “Write Till You Drop” in the New York Times in which she wrote:

“One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.”

How many times have I found that, to my own surprise and chagrin, my knee-jerk reaction to creative opportunity is inertia? Even partial inertia? Even an inertia so small and private that it manifests as a mosquito-like annoyance? Well, small or large, unsettling in its heft or buzzing and small, that paralytic tendency has caused me to hold back, refrain, be stingy, hoard, or otherwise resist giving fully of my ideas, lest the aftermath of giving result in a creative void of epic proportion.

Each of us has a responsibility to look at how creative stinginess or inertia or paralysis affects us. Out of a fear of creative infertility we stave off sharing even half of the creative capital that we come up with, intimidated by the idea that, if we give it, we will have blown our one big wad of currency and that its absence will uncover a generative vacuum that might just gape forever.

This blog, if nothing else, is about taking down my own imagined consequences – the ones that have kept me from exploring everything I have to give. To me, this means finally launching my ideas for grander writing projects and trusting that the consequence will not be a creative desert but rather a fertility so lush that I’ll be overcome by the germination of new ideas. After all, an idea does no one any good if its is held so tightly that it suffocates.

So, let’s aim high, give big, throw armloads of ideas into the air and allow ourselves to be amazed at how many of them stick. You’ll see that, if there are consequences, chances are they are small (and most likely imaginary). Let’s recommit to giving, to sharing theories, to launching the armada of ideas that we all keep close to our respective chests.

It’s time to launch the big ships, and trust that the New World is out there.

Find Dillard’s full article here: http://tinyurl.com/AnnieDillard

or visit


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No Pants Day…No, really!

It turns out there is actually a way to shock downtown New Yorkers. Global No Pants Day came early this year, and on one of the chilliest nights of the season, but a little frigidity didn’t stop these Improv Everywhere enthusiasts from showing off their insuociant charm in statement briefs and polka-dot boy-shorts all over town.

Up and down 14th Street, throughout The Village and all around the Lower East Side exposed exhibitionists waited for the A-Train, mugged in Starbucks and drew double takes  (but not from New York’s finest who were on hand around town to make sure improvers were able to enjoy their night unmolested. God bless em!)

Now, those of you who have snapped out of the reverie brought on by these pantied lovelies are probably wondering what sort of mini-fear I could have possibly faced. It just might surprise you, but I have a fear of asking people if I can take their pictures. Turns out, after 20-some years as a photographer and photojournalist, I still shy away from spontaneously asking real people in the real world if I can take their picture.

But what a way to exorcise that fear!

My thinking was that if these folks were willing to bare all in Union Square, they certainly wouldn’t mind my asking to photograph them. Turns out I was right. Thanks to all the 20-somethings in these pics who said adios to inhibition and helped me free myself from one of my own fears in the process.

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