Monday, August 31, 2009

Empty but so-o-o GOOD!

I know, I know. This is a strangely empty cardboard container. What's up with that? Shortly before this portrait of the empty box was taken it held a bacon and cheese Angus Third Pounder from MacDonald's. I have been seeing so many television commercials about this new burger that in passing a MacDonald's mid-afternoon my car swung wildly into the drive-thru window and ordered for me. Honestly, I only eat at MacDonald's maybe twice a year, but this new Angus beef burger caught my taste-bud's attention. Oh, go ahead, they said, give it a try. It might be good. But do get a photo and see if you can duplicate the look on their print ads and TV spots. You know what I mean. Incredible fluffy bun. Ingredients piled a mile high. Overflowing with red onions, strips of bacon and perfect cheese slices angled just so. And, a burger that would win beauty contests. It would have been a good photo. Prize-winning even. I think it would. But, alas, I ate the entire thing. Kind of fast. Left a teeny bit of bacon and onion. (For this picture.) That's it folks. Gone. Except for this empty box and the MacD bag. I do not feel bad either. Turns out, it was pretty good. And big. (Now as I look today at some of your posts with the incredible food lovingly prepared and presented, I won't be so hungry.)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Your grandfather's hardware store it isn't: Restoration Hardware is more then hammers and tape measures

I know that Restoration Hardware is a nationwide chain of stores, nearly 100, and 8 in Florida alone, but it has always seemed more welcoming, friendly and comfortable then most big chain stores. I think because of the name it doesn't scream "expensive furniture store," even if their prices for a leather couch are the same as a nice used car. They really offer tons more then beds, mirrors, chairs and bathroom cabinets. In defense, their chairs and sofas are probably very well made and will be heirlooms handed down for generations, but I do wonder who buys some of the things. I love the floor lamps and wooden and metal easels for holing photos and small artwork. They are much more then way-costly leather furniture and chrome lamps. Every Christmas at holiday shopping time, I stay far away from malls and only shop at smaller, more personal shops. Every year there are more recipients with stockings then there are dollars to match and I found that Restoration Hardware cannot be beat, cannot, for creative, inventive, fun and affordable stuffer gifts. The name of the store should be a hint of some of the unusual and useful gifts they pile around the store and registers. Very cool levels, flashlights, folding everythings including whatchamacallits of every size and description. They have all the most loved and popular board games you remember playing as a kid. Plus, hand warmers in fuzzy cases (perfect for Florida's cold, 75-degree wintry nights), hammers for breaking car windows as we plunge off mile-high bridges and must escape the murky fathoms. They even pride themselves on cool, almost irresistible how-to books, toys and games from the wild and woolly 1940s-50s...think wooden blocks, Slinkys and kits for building forts to keep frontiersman safe and little boys in their coonskin hats. I am always surprised at their wide selection and do buy something here for everyone on my list (even if they haven't a clue what it is or how they would use it. It's the thought and I loved buying it here.) Right now they are selling photographs of Rock icons of the 1960s such as Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. This store is much, much more than fancy-smancy leather library chairs. It's full of great stuff! Where else would you go for 1920s Naval Binoculars and tripod. 9In stock now!) Come on. Think. So if the the binoculars and super-detailed, handmade wooden sailing vessels are your thing, they got 'em.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Wedding Bells? Your Waterfront Gazebo Awaits

If you think this spot looks like a good place to be married, you're right. The Davis Islands Garden Club is a delightful place located on the Seddon Island waterfront. Wedding ceremonies in the gazebo are very popular. It's an ideal spot with a view of the water, Harbour Island and the Tampa skyline. The club was originally founded in 1936 and I would imagine there have been thousands of newlyweds who have gathered here with their friends and family to begin their life together. The club members are responsible for development of the 52-acre Marjorie Park and for its care as well as other plants, shrubbery and flowers in both public and private places on the Islands. Plus they look after our native birds and wildlife. It’s a special mission and they can be proud of all they accomplish. The last time I attended a wedding here, for a young couple, a musician played an acoustic guitar as guests fanned out facing the gazebo and the water. The photos were gorgeous. The beauty and serenity of this garden setting is truly memorable.

Friday, August 28, 2009

It's the Onion Rings Dummy

I know that many people, especially the cooks and chefs in the family, would stop at this window of the Williams Sonoma store in Hyde Park to admire or even drool over the All-Clad cookware that's on display. I really can't speak to how well this particular brand cooks over any other, although it's rated very highly, but I can speak for my taste-buds and stomach that the results are excellent, 5-Star even. But that probably has a lot more to do with the person using the pots and pans (thanks honey!!!) and not how sturdy or good-looking they are (when new!) As we all know it is a lot like camera equipment; it's not the $2,500 body, 25 pixels or bag filled with lenses but rather how the human sees what's in front of the camera and when s/he clicks the shutter. Plain and simple. So the gourmet meal cooked in cast iron over a open camp fire can be every bit as good as a fine meal prepared in one of these shiny pans. I've bought a lot of kitchen stuff at Williams Sonoma but thankfully these pots last forever. Buy them and almost never buy one again.(Hooray!) I will continue to buy kitchen mitts and weird what IS this for gadgets but what I really want are the ONION RINGS. I am not proud. I can look past all the window display fluff and the expensive pots and pans and see a huge, 3-foot high mound of incredibly delicious looking, even scrumptious onion rings. And they are a good two foot around. Unbelievable and they'd be mine if it wasn't for the plate glass window between us. Come to papa. ...Excuse me? What do you mean they aren't real? Kill-joy. In that case, can I have the poster?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Big Max is more than Giant Pick-Up Sticks

Does everyone remember the game Pick -Up Sticks? Or Pick-A-Stick? This sculpture, Big Max, reminds me of playing the game as a kid. Big Max is part of Drawing In Space: The Peninsula Project that is a state-wide exhibition of very large sculpture placed in seven cities in Florida. Created by the celebrated American contemporary sculptor John Henry, Big Max is BIG and wonderful to explore at a distance and up close and from below. It is bright red and makes you smile and want to drum on its side to hear the side it makes. It’s as though a little kid oh so carefully positioned and balanced these giant metal pick-up sticks and then stood back and said, Don’t breath. Don't move. But when you actually visit, you must walk under and around the piece and imagine its weight, construction and balance. But do breath; this is a lot of sculpture to cover. Big Max sits firmly on the south side of Tampa’s MacDill Park, part of the Tampa Riverwalk that runs along our downtown riverfront. Made of steel and completed in 1995, the sculpture is 75-feet long and 33-high - as tall as a three story building.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tampa Bay History Center glows in the warmth of a Florida sunset

I featured the Tampa Bay History Center in a lengthy post on June 22nd. (Click HERE to revisit the museum's opening and for a bit of the history that is told inside.) The image from June was taken in the bright sunlight of a typical warm Tampa afternoon with a bright blue sky and a hint of clouds. This shot was just taken at sunset (after today's heavy downpour) as the interior of the museum came alive with color and a glow as bright as the sun. If this peek at the inside isn't enough in itself, just look at what's happened to the waterfront and the outdoor areas around the museum. Old Water Street has an all new look and vitality. The Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park and Tampa Riverwalk wrap around the building and the walk is brightly lit in the photo's foreground. An outdoor dining terrace with tables and umbrellas is just a few steps up and is inviting you to enjoy Tampa's famous Columbia Café. The Café celebrates the 100-year history of the original Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City and is located inside the museum on the first level. They serve lunch and dinner daily from their menu of Spanish and Cuban recipes, long-time Tampa favorites, and a perfect compliment to the rich, colorful and yes, even delicious stories told inside the museum. The Café provides dining indoors or outside on the terrace where you can enjoy the view as the sun sets and the lights on the channel, downtown and Harbour Island come alive. It is a spectacular view of Tampa and you'll know why residents and visitors alike love this city.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Awesome Sunset Dances in the Face of the Storm

As the sun began to set this evening storm clouds moved in overhead. Light rain was trying to fall as the sun fell fast and the western sky filled with wispy clouds. I took this shot at about 8:45 from the Harbour Island Bridge. Looking west down Garrison Channel, in the center of the frame, is: Davis Islands and Tampa General Hospital; on the right is Cotanchobee-Fort Brooke Park; and the tallest building is the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina. On the left are the docks, homes and condominiums of Harbour Island. The air was cool, dry and, for another 30 minutes, not a drop of moisture fell. But it was a real race off the bridge to keep the camera dry as I finished and the sky opened up with a pounding deluge. So much for being a weatherman and predicting the rain. And it looked like it would be a perfect night to just enjoy the lights of the city. Next time I will bring the plastic bag for the camera. I promise.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Steamship, Train and Treasure Chest: The statue honoring Henry B. Plant

Margaret Plant, wife of Henry Bradley Plant, commissioned this statue and fountain to honor the memory of her husband who died June 23, 1899. Titled Transportation, its design perfectly reflects Henry Plant’s life spent building a transportation network of ships and railroads. She chose the sculptor George Grey Barnard (1863-1938). Barnard studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and then went to Paris where he was admitted to the École des Beaux-Arts. It was while he was a student in Chicago that he became enthralled with the works of Michelangelo. His finished sculptures reflect his lifetime fascination and passion for the works of the Italian renaissance master. His best know works are the two sculptural groups he completed as a result of the Pennsylvania Capital Commission competition of 1901-2. The new state capital building in Harrisburg, designed by architect Joseph Huston, was completed in 1914. Barnard was selected to produce sculptures for the capital’s main entrance and they were installed in 1911. Although he created numerous other sculptures, he considered these his masterpieces.

The statue Transportation, also called the Henry Bradley Plant Memorial Fountain, faces the West Veranda and entrance to Plant’s Tampa Bay Hotel, today the University of Tampa and Henry B. Plant Museum. It sits above a circular fountain and features a ship and a train, symbols of the transportation network that drove and shaped Florida’s growth and development during the last part of the 19th century. The bow of a ship is at the center with a giant eagle perched over it holding a strong box or a treasure chest in his talons. On either side are sea creatures, a male and a female. The male holds a locomotive on his shoulder, representing the Plant system of railways, and the female holds a steam ship representing the Plant Steamship Company. Fish are on the sides below spouting water into the fountain. Mrs. Plant had the sculpture installed in front of the hotel. The fountain itself is thought to have been designed and constructed by hotel staff at her direction. The statue is reportedly the oldest piece of public art in Tampa. Located within a traffic circle between Plant Park and the building’s entrance, it provides a focal point and popular backdrop for photographs by tourists and students of the university and their friends and family.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Glazer Children's Museum enjoys a prime location on the Hillsborough River

The Glazer Children's Museum is well under construction and on track to open in 2010. Its riverfront location, just beside the soon to open Tampa Museum of Art, is part of a transformation of the area between the Hillsborough River and Ashley Drive. The 53,000 square foot facility will provide an opportunity for children and all the adults in the lives to play and learn in new, creative and totally fun and unexpected ways. This afternoon's bright blue skies, puffy white clouds and warm weather made it an ideal day to enjoy some leisurely boating on the bay and river. This view, from Plant Park, provides the perfect vantage point to watch progress on the building of the new museums, addition to the Riverwalk and restoration of Kiley Park as the entire riverfront is remade to the city's plan for a Cultural Arts District in Tampa's downtown.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Homes of Tampa's Hyde Park: The Morrison House in the Italianate Revival Style

The Morrison House, at 850 South Newport Avenue, is the oldest home in Hyde Park. Built in 1879, it is a late 19th-century Italianate design. William Morrison, whose farm and citrus groves surrounded the home and continued down to Hillsborough Bay, had the house constructed of an early concrete block (click to see the block detail.) Each block was made on the site. Interestingly, which you might be able to discern by looking at the photo, the house is facing to the right, away from the street and toward the south. When it was built and sited, surrounded as it was by his groves, he wanted to face the open bay. In the 1870s the view then without the mature oak trees - and now other homes - was unobstructed, and he could see the beach and sailing ships coming into the harbor. The home itself is very identifiable as Italianate Revival. Also called the Italian Villa style, it can be found in Scotland and England following its rediscovery as an architectural style around 1800. The most well-known example is Queen Victoria's home on the Isle of Wight. The off-center tower and heavy masonry are just two of the characteristics that Morrison incorporated in his design. Apparently, from my research, it was a popular alternative to the Gothic style for suburban and rural homes of the time period. The garden, in the smaller photo at upper left, leads guests in off the street, and then the walk turns left up to the steps and porch. It is very beautiful and simple, set to the side of the house as it is, similar to Charleston and Savannah style homes. Note that a For Sale sign is on the front lawn. Price for the single family, 4 bedroom house, with 3+ baths in 6,391 square feet? $3,750,000 or 2,616,888 EUROs. Geez!! Nice house, right?

Go to Tampa Daily Photo
HERE to see a Hyde Park home in the Prairie School style of architecture made famous by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Tampa's Hyde Park: A U.S. National Historic District and really great neighborhood

This has been, for almost 20 years, one of our favorite evening places to just sit, relax and enjoy a cup of coffee. For most of those years this fountain was overflowing with water and would gurgle and spray and provide a picture-postcard backdrop for tourists visiting the area. Even though it's full of rainwater right now, our city's water use restrictions have curtailed the operation of decorative fountains. It doesn't keep me from wanting to come and sit here, but I sure do miss the sound of the water cascading over the fountain. Some of our best and most popular restaurants are in the brick-faced buildings on the sidewalk to the right: Restaurant BT, The Wine Exchange and, out of the frame, Timpano's Italian Chop House.

It's interesting that right over my shoulder is a historical marker. It gives a brief history of Hyde Park and explains how it was first developed into a neighborhood. As I was taking this photo three men here on business from the Northeast came up to read it. In a few short paragraphs, it tells a version of this story: After Henry B. Plant built his Tampa Bay Hotel, and a bridge and railway were constructed across the Hillsborough River, developers began construction of streets and homes on the western side of the river. In 1886, O.H. Platt of Hyde Park, Illinois, purchased 20 acres of what were then citrus groves and named it Hyde Park. The first homes were built in the 1880s, but most were built between 1913 and 1928. When Florida's building boom of 1924-1926 ended and the stock market crashed in 1929, construction and further development almost stopped. Streets lined with large residences built before the Depression gave way to smaller homes, many of the bungalow style. Hyde Park today is a great mixture of home sizes, styles and ages. And really nice people. One street, Bungalow Terrace, just a block from this fountain, is a unique planned development of Craftsman style houses fronting a wide sidewalk. Without yards, save for small areas of grass and garden in front, the length of the communal sidewalk was covered originally by a decorative pergola. It's an fascinating group of homes where you live very close by your neighbor and confuse anyone trying to make a deliver because there is no street exactly. Bungalow Terrace is really just a sidewalk.

Hyde Park is both a local Historic District and a U.S. National Historic District.
The neighborhood and homes all fall under the guidelines established by the U.S. Secretary of Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation and are governed by The City of Tampa Architectural Review Board. Because of the historic nature of the neighborhood, and its wonderful mix of homes which are carefully restored and preserved, Hyde Park has become a very popular and desirable place to live. And even when the fountain isn't running, this is a terrific place to sit, think and contemplate the world.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Square One Burgers can't be beat!

Square One Burgers is not your run of the mill, or in any way typical burger joint. Not a chance. In fact, even knowing you’re going in for a really good hamburger doesn’t prepare you for this place at all. It is so welcoming, friendly and comfortable. You might even decide to just sit in the classy bar area as I do rather then at a table. (And that’s unusual for me; I like a comfy booth most everywhere. But not here.) The décor is more upscale and contemporary then you would expect and you won’t find a skimpy menu, peanut shells on the floor or sacks of potatoes piled up for show. This is a serious gourmet burger restaurant that welcomes singles, young professionals and families and won’t disappoint anyone. Just be prepared to be wowed. Bring your imagination, appetite and pickiest taste-buds and put 'em to work. It’s that much fun and delicious. The menu of incredible burgers is mind-blowing. Angus. Kobe. Veggie and Portobello Mushroom. Buffalo. Sashimi Tuna. Crab Cake. Plus kids, big and small, can enjoy an Angus hot dog if for some strange reason they thought they were off to the baseball game and got beaned in the head from a pop fly ball. The big, big decision after choosing which burger is how in the world to make it better. The menu of toppings includes practically anything one can think of. The burger you get is definitely your own original creation. Some hamburger places seem to think that anything out of the bun is of little consequence. Not at Square One. Everything from the menu, including their full bar, drinks, wine and super selection of beers, is great. Plus, the excellent service equals the fabulous and creative menu. You will not be disappointed in deciding to visit Square One. You will become a regular. They are on Henderson Boulevard in South Tampa, just south of Swann Avenue. Do not expect it to be like any other hamburger place you’ve ever known. It’s that good. Check out their menu HERE.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tampa Bay Hotel: Henry B. Plant's Magical 1890s Florida Resort

In previous posts I have featured the exterior and minarets of the almost startling and unbelievable Tampa Bay Hotel. When it first opened in 1891 on the west bank of the Hillsborough River in Tampa, Henry B. Plant's creation was unlike anything Florida or the nation had seen before. Its location, immense size, lush Florida landscaping and Moorish architecture were certain to overwhelm and over-deliver on Plant's promises as hotel guests stepped from his railroad cars from the Northeast. This was an ultra-luxurious hotel experience and the owners spared no expense in treating their guests to the finest accommodations, food, entertainment and modern amenities. The 511 rooms, many consisting of three-to-seven room suites, were the first in Florida to have electric lights and telephones. Most also had a private bath. The hotel elevator is still used today making it one of the oldest operational elevators in the United States. The Henry B. Plant Museum (visit online HERE), situated within the south wing of the original hotel, shares the 1/4 mile long building with the University of Tampa. It is on the National Register of Historic Places. The museum, accredited by the American Association of Museums, has restored the rooms to their original appearance. From paint to lighting to floor coverings, it's as though you are stepping back in time. The couple shown above in period clothing are preparing to dine in their suite; the bedroom's sleeping alcove is shown at left. Each of the museum's rooms is filled with authentic and original furnishings, artwork and even the hotel's china and silverware.

Mr. Plant and his wife traveled throughout the world in search of fine art and furniture to fill their magnificent hotel and museum-goers can step into period rooms and really sense what it was like to stay here. Although there are exhibit cases, most of the collection surrounds you are as you move down hallways and into rooms, dimly lit by bare bulbs just as they were over a century ago. A staff of museum professionals takes great care to recreate and maintain the rooms just as they were when guests enjoyed their tropical vacations. The long and illustrious list of famous guests and grand events held here, plus the fact that the hotel was headquarters for the U.S. Army during the Spanish American War, make this a must see place on any visit to Florida.

The museum is evidence of Plant's vision to build the ultimate resort hotel; we can today relive that experience in our city's most recognizable architectural and historic treasure, the Tampa Bay Hotel and the Henry B. Plant Museum.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Gray and Crumbling Evidence of the Departed

Tampa has a number of cemeteries, most of them the contemporary, recently-buried kind. They are vast stretches of finely manicured lawns, tall trees and shrubbery where families visit gorgeous headstones and mausoleums and place fresh flowers. One cemetery, in Tampa's downtown, is much quieter, a bit worn and moss-covered. It is not often visited. It's also filled with stories and evidence of Tampa's history. With only monochromatic, black and white images in mind, I've begun to explore Tampa's oldest burying ground. To my followers in many other countries, a cemetery first used in the 1840-50s would seem rather new. Compared to your cemeteries which date back many centuries, Oaklawn isn't old at all. But remember, Tampa wasn't a city at all, and barely a town when Oaklawn was set aside for burials. Within its walls bounded by Harrison, Jefferson, Laurel and Morgan Streets are actually two cemeteries: Oaklawn and St. Louis. At one time a fence stood between them but it's no longer there to separate the two. Oaklawn was set aside as a final resting-place for "White and Slave, Rich and Poor." That all said, it is a fascinating place and many members of earliest pioneer families are interred here. Several of our city's mayors and a good number of Confederate veterans of the Civil War are also here. I'll continue to explore with camera in hand, using back and white only, and post some images from time to time. (I doubt I will ever run out of new photos.)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Noises In Your Attic?

This is a real billboard on Interstate 275 North in Tampa. Who could pass this and not notice? With all of Florida's outdoor signage for Busch Gardens' African Safari, Disney's Animal Kingdom and Lowry Park Zoo, this billboard is simply brilliant and fits in extremely well. It's a natural. Now, its message begs the question, does a company really need to spend thousands of dollars each month for a great outdoor media location to advertise its animal riddance services? I know Florida is filled with wild animals (even I and some of my blog followers may fall into that category) but I didn't realize we were that desperate to remove bats, raccoons and rats from our homes. They are such nice, cute and cuddly little creatures. Now, back to a serious note, the artwork and message are fantastic. Gotta run though. My raccoon and bats need supper.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Home of the famous MINI...Just Over A Footlong

This is actually trome l'oeil at its best. If you love wall murals and photorealistic paintings, you have to then really appreciate this MINI in its garage.You would be hard pressed to make out what is real and what is totally faux and handpainted on the side of this car stereo and home theater store. It sits at one of Tampa's busiest intersections, a block off Interstate 275 at Dale Mabry Highway. My guess is most people in their cars, in a hurry, have never noticed it. Even if they have glanced over, they probably don't appreciate the great talent that it took to create such realism. Of course, the giant billboard looming above the store, and the threatening clouds encircling overhead - which are part of a strange tropical storm which formed overnight offshore in the Gulf of Mexico - are very real; you probably figured that out all on your own. The artist, who has done work all over the Tampa Bay area, on the inside and outside of homes and businesses, is Dr. Doodle. Go to his website, HERE, to see his amazing work.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Woodstock: 40 Years Later

I did not attend Woodstock in August 1969 but its milestone significance to an entire generation cannot be dismissed or underestimated. Although most men and women born between 1946 and 1964, the Baby Boom Generation, would say that that time in their life is no longer of any great consequence to them today, I would argue that the music festivals of the 1960 and '70s were singularly important to every soul who attended one: a defining time in their lives that helped shape who they are today...retired or soon to be. As I caught a glimpse of this dress this morning in the window of a high-end ladies clothing boutique, it struck me that the ladies who are might buy this dress were not even alive when the iconic peace symbol - used here as an expensive gold necklace - was first seen in protest of the draft, nuclear bombs and the Vietnam War. Today it's an accessory to an expensive dress. And perfectly acceptable in all settings...not a single reference to its original intended purpose as an in-your-face demonstration of your abhorrence of war. 40 years later, preschoolers can be found with peace symbols emblazoned on their tie-dyed onesies as they leap through the sandbox on the playground. I celebrate the grand passage of time, the technological marvels that are commonplace today and the ability to easily, seamlessly communicate - wirelessly - with others throughout the world...with a few badly typed keystrokes.

As an article in this morning's newspaper pointed out, the folks at Woodstock, 40 years ago this weekend, were totally cut off from the world outside of their gathering of 400,000 new best friends in Bethel, New York. (I wonder if they knew one day they'd be known as BFFs?) NO cell phones, IPhones, BlackBerries or Internet connectivity of any kind. Just a few hopelessly overused pay telephones. Nor was it anything but a sci-fi dream then - kind of Buck Rogers meets H.G. Wells and The Time Machine. Unimaginable. Today's kids, attending the same kind of music festival, three days of peace and love, would be photographing it on their phones, uploading it to Facebook, using Skype to talk to friends about it, and texting madly all through Jimi Hendrix as he played the Star Spangled Banner for the masses. It would be a concert for the entire world linked live in realtime. The world and its inhabitants sure have changed. It's not what Woodstock attendees imagined four decades ago, but pretty cool any way you look at it. There is a lot to celebrate.
In many ways this dress hanging in a store window, with its throw-back 60s look, and butterflies flitting about, speaks volumes about our world today.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Bait Nets Do The Trick

Fishermen who catch their own bait with a net are a very patient bunch. It's effective, certainly cheaper then buying them from a bait shop, but time consuming it is. With each throw he may have netted a half dozen little critters that he threw into the red bucket. How long he stayed at this I don't know but a good strong throwing arm and a ton of patience is a prerequisite.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Eagle Has Landed (or is it a Sea Gull?)

I like the way some folks welcome visitors at their front door. A "WELCOME" sign, a few broken plant pots, a not-so-well positioned outdoor light, another sign that reads, "Never Enough Thyme," and a bird of indeterminate origin or species. My guess is it's an eagle, but it could just as easily be a sea gull (this is Florida, remember.) Off to the right is what appears to be a small castle, probably a reference to Every man's home is his castle." This dear home is not to be confused with the home sweet bachelor's pad I posted today at Tampa Daily Photo HERE. One man's 500 square foot castle is another man's 500 square foot clothes closet. The Florida sun shines down equally on both.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Is there JOY in Dairy Joy?

I know there are Dairy Joy stores in other cities and states but how many of you grab an ice cream cone at at their walk-up window? I never have and I have never been drawn to pull in and partake; maybe I'm un-American or something. There's nothing wrong if Dairy Joy is your idea of ice cream sundae heaven, but it leaves me cold. I look at this store and think 1958, hot Chevys cruising by and poodle skirts. Is it the architecture? Or the concept that worked so well with MacDonald's when they began but has since been replaced by inside dining. What's wrong with my perception here?

Does anyone know a history of Dairy Joy, where they began or have really fun memories of getting a triple scoop there?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Tampa's SunTrust Tower Sparkles

The 36-story SunTrust Financial Centre Tower, located in the heart of Tampa's downtown business district, features a stair-stepped, lighted ziggurat at the top of it 525 foot height. It proudly shows off its twinkling and dancing lights and colors and looks especially good at sunset. The lights patterns and color combinations can be quickly changed to showcase special dates, events and celebrations.The light show really brightens the night sky and can be seen for miles around. (It's not the Eiffel Tower or Empire State Building but it's Tampa's very own.)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Old Florida looked like this

In the midst of commercial development, roads, people and congestion, it is always a surprise to find a scene that might have been one seen by settlers a hundreds or more years ago. A lazy, meandering river slides past cool, Florida grasses and old oak trees as it makes its way down to the bay. It just does not get more peaceful or relaxing then this.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Trendsetter Babes to Tweens

I don't have any "infants to tweens" in the house that are moving up into the trendsetter category, but I think this children's clothing store does everything right when it comes to visual marketing on their storefront. Giggle Box Couture is the name and they claim to have "The Hippest Clothing in Town." Well, if the outside says anything about what they offer on the inside, it might very well be true. They have a great location in Palma Ceia and, as you can see, they are not shy when it comes to exterior decor. From their name to the colorful striped walls to the fun and well written slogans on signs, they do tell their story loud and clear to everyone who passes by this location. The place grabs your attention. I think they know their customer well, too, when they say, "It's Never Too Early To Be A Trendsetter." Young moms can't help but want that for their kids. (Didn't we all strive at one time or another to lay claim to being a trendsetter?)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Vente Starbucks in almost every language

Yes, this was my afternoon. I met a friend for coffee and got my usual Vente size dark and bold brew. Verona is my favorite bean by Pikes Place and some others are OK, too. Starbucks is the place I learned to like raw sugar and it's hard to go back to little white packets. As I have written in earlier posts, I have enjoyed a Vente in some incredible cities in the U.S. and in many other countries. It isn't everyone's cup-of-tea, I know, but to me it's comforting. I recommend their stores in Santa Fe, Newport, RI, Vienna, Paris, and Prague. Don't misunderstand, I do enjoy the foods and coffee in the other countries, and their pastries, chocolate creations, etc., etc. Starbucks would never, ever keep me from experiencing and enjoying the coffee in foreign lands. One of my favorite memories of what Starbucks has done to me is, we were visiting our son who was studying architecture in Florence. He lived on the Piazzo Pitti across the Ponte Vecchio from school and the Caffè Pitti was right outside his door. I sat down to order a coffee and tried to order something larger than their regular teeny, tiny cup of coffee. Which is very good. To my son's embarrassment, I ended up with a double, double, double size cup that, as he explained in Italian to the waiter, only a crazy American tourist would even think to order. I blame it all on Starbucks and my addiction to my Vente. It is about a gallon and I like it that size. Period. I just hope I can show my face someday at Caffè Pitti without them recognizing me and bursting into laughter.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Viva La France and the Victorian Era

Because I personally have never shopped Ybor City’s 7th Avenue for ladies’ vintage clothing, I’ve never even seen the storefront on Ybor’s main street for La France. The store has had a very successful run for over 30 years and is still going strong. It has a loyal and devoted following. Not spotting a store that’s practically an institution in Ybor City didn’t keep me from spotting the rear of the store from 8th Avenue. When you’re really looking hard for the offbeat and unusual to photograph, sometimes it’s not the wild and colorful scene that’s screaming at you. Sometimes it’s more subtle and makes you do a double-take. That was the case with La France. Admittedly, I have not been inside or seen the front of the store, which I imagine is fun, frilly and very vintage (I will check it out when I can.) But this is the second story balcony behind the store and it is clear that they don’t sell woodworking tools, Harley buckles or Ybor's famous handrolled cigars. Nope, it appears to be women’s unmentionables hanging on a line. Plus a hand lettered sign below that says something about "Save the …" something. It's hard to make out exactly from across the back parking lot and the next street over. Nonetheless, I thought the store and its unique offering of vintage clothing, hats, shoes, handbags, jewelry and other objects from the last 100 years was worthy of your attention. La France is said to offer Victorian nightgowns, hats with veils, silk bed jackets …everything from the turn of the 20th century to the present. Lots of ladies’ vintage stuff I’m told and women do love the store and its selection. I promise to find it, peek in the front window and give a more informative and authoritative report. First I want to ask the owner about the clothes line on her back balcony. There has got to be a good story there.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Eat More Devil Crabs!

Standing on 8th Avenue in Ybor City tonight, I was dead in the path of one of our delightful bright yellow trolleys - angling for a perfect shot - when Lili's Homemade Devil Crab three-wheeler went by me so fast ans silently I almost couldn't capture it. Three shots later this one image shows the American flag flying proudly from the rear. As quickly as it appeared, it was gone. It clearly says WORLD FAMOUS, so who am I to dispute such a bold claim. If they had stopped for an instant, even an instant, I would have had to sample, taste and devour a couple of devil crabs, all in the name of science. For you! Then I could have reported back, accurately and precision, from my vantage point under laboratory conditions (in the middle of a busy brick street), that yes, they are FAMOUS. All we are left with is their tagline, EAT MORE DEVIL CRABS. (But, I can still smell the little devil crabs even now.)

Monday, August 3, 2009

Exploding Metal Party Girl

I really enjoy making discoveries of new artwork. Whether the piece is public art that I have passed a million times and not paid much attention to or some hidden and obscure creation that's not on display, the hunt and Eureka moment of discovery make it worthwhile. If I have never seen it before, such as many of the large handpainted murals that I have run across, it's like a piece of gold found in a creek bed. This sculpture, metal and other materials, is roughly 6-7 feet tall. There were two of them, almost identical, and both are standing in a side yard of what must surely be the artist's home and studio. I couldn't resist grabbing a few shots.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Feel the heat of the late afternoon sun

As the sun went down this evening it was still in the mid-80s. The water looks refreshing but is in the 90s. The sun is slowing moving off the buildings and docks but it's leaving behind today's heat and humidity. The sky has a hot cast to it and without a cooling afternoon shower today tomorrow should start where today's heat left off...high. Although like the next person I love a fun day on a sandy beach, I lift a glass high to the inventor of air conditioning, Dr. John Gorrie. (John Gorrie spent the last twenty years of his life on the Gulf Coast of Florida and Tampa has an elementary school named for him. Knowing that he lived with our humidity for a good portion of his life makes his brilliant solution that much more understandable. Floridians really admire and respect Dr. Gorrie's 1851 ice making invention, even if we don't instantly recognize his name. Who remembers going to an ice house in Florida and seeing the huge blocks of ice? And the men with ice tongs?)

Saturday, August 1, 2009