Thursday, December 31, 2009

Best of Tampa Sunsets in 2009: Skywatch #55

This photo was taken on July 31st of Tampa's brilliant sky and sunset reflecting on the Hillsborough River after a storm. The rain is still falling softly and gently onto the water's surface.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Best of 2009: Boats at Rest on Garrison Channel

This black and white image first appeared on November 22 and was the most commented upon of my Tampa Florida Photo posts of 2009. It was taken just before Thanksgiving from the Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park, of the boats at the docks behind the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hilton on Garrison Channel.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New Toy for Christmas

No, not the fine sailboat but the camera I shot it with. This scene is of boats at the docks of the Marjorie Yacht Basin on the east channel of Davis Islands.

NOTE: My son gave me a Nikon D80 camera body for Christmas. (He's a generous young fellow!!) I took a couple of days to try, try to gain some familiarity with its digital operation and features. I am excited that the Nikkor lenses that I have had for 30-40 years DO work with this new body. (I have not shot film through the F2 or other misc. Nikons in close to ten years.) It's great they fit and they feel like old friends as I mounted them to the D80 to go out shooting today. BUT, they are not auto in any way so this first effort is not to my crisp standards. I'm learning and will get better.

[This particular shot was taken with the Nikon D80 and Nikkor 105mm, at f22.]

Sunday, December 27, 2009

We Need Them FAST: Amazon Hose and Rubber

The entire wall of the 40,000 square foot Amazon Hose and Rubber Company is covered with an expertly painted Pop art mural. The series of colorful, finely-rendered panels look as though the famed American artist Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997) descended on this busy East Tampa road and did his masterful best. (Visit the Lichtenstein Foundation HERE.) Located on 50th Street in Tampa, Amazon also has facilities in Orlando and Miami and offers hydraulic and industrial hose products (I wonder if their other buildings also feature giant comic-strip panels?)

This monumental-sized mural was the creation of
Vitale Art & Design Studio (visit their website HERE), located across Tampa Bay in St. Petersburg. My compliments to the artists who made this building look spectacular and to the company that recognizes how important art is to their employees, customers, neighborhood and our city. If you live near or travel on 50th, look to your right just as you drive north from Adamo Drive/Highway 60 - Careful as this is a very busy commercial highway.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Monster Assembly for Christmas

Yes, even as your kids have families of their own, grandparents can still have all the fun of assembling toys for little ones at Christmas. Usually this involves - OK, it always involves buying something you would have died for as a kid...if such a toy had even been invented, imagined or dreamed of. (My best present at the tender age of 3 or 4 was a Buck Rogers spaceship made out of sturdy cardboard. I'll never forget it!!) This year I had to buy a Fisher Price Power Wheels Craftsman F-150 riding truck for a fine grandson. A Monster Truck. I did want to buy it last year but was convinced he was too young. Yea, right. So I waited. A whole year.
This truck has "Monster Traction™" and can navigate sidewalks, lawns, neighbors' bushes with precision, even concrete lawn statues. It can easily take out moms, grandmothers and small barking, snarling Pekingese who think it's a giant vacuum cleaner. Without a scratch. Believe it or not, it has a real FM radio, truck bed with a drop-down tailgate, Velcro seat belts, folding side mirrors, cup holders (CUP HOLDERS!!), a battery charge indicator light and two and hit things or drive even faster and hit things with more force. (It is currently governed to slow.) It also goes in reverse. CAUTION: This toy can NOT be driven in a home. Got it? Assembly only took forever and requires assistance (HINT: Ask a big strong son with an engineer's brain and an architect's degree to be your apprentice elf and to help lift it in and out of a reasonable size SUV for transport to a safe, open park area or sibling's home to show off your, I mean the grandson's new "toy.")

You should have seen the little guy's expression. Pure joy. Truly, PRICELESS. And he had his seat-belt on and was operating the FM radio before even starting the motor. FM radio??!!

Friday, December 25, 2009

St. Nicholas was revered for his secret gift-giving

The gift from God the Father was his only begotten son. Our Savior Jesus Christ, who was born this day, promises us Eternal and Everlasting Life. A gift beyond comprehension or imagining. A gift we can loudly proclaim to people everywhere.

Praise be to God.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Santa with a touch of Tampa's Jose Gaspar

Each year in February, Tampa is invaded by Jose Gaspar and his band of pirates of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla. Along with several other equally as colorful and fun-filled Krewe's of party-goers and parade participants, the city surrenders to the loud, bead-throwing invaders after a spectacular waterborne invasion of ships, cannons and rowdy swashbucklers.

This Christmas tree ornament represents a Santa with a slight Gaspar pirate-theme...not your traditional Santa Claus but a uniquely Tampa-themed, jolly old St. Nicholas. (He's really a friendly guy under the outlandish garb and equally as generous.)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Taste of Spain: Tampa's heritage

Tampa's Hispanic history and heritage is actually a wonderful combination of Latin foods, music and language. Spanish, Cuban, Italian, Jewish and even German immigrants all came to Tampa's Ybor City and worked to make Tampa the Cigar Capital of the World. The city and its residents are filled with rich and proud traditions. And delicious food. (Did I already say that?) Tinatapas in Channelside was ready fro diners today and will be there with open arms tomorrow.

Snow removal was not necessary for this really can sit outside. It is perfect winter weather.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Girly Bowling

This giant wall-size mural outside Splitsville in Channelside represent girl bowling at its best. Depending on how you look at it, and your seat at the lane, this bowling technique, refined over the years by girls and women of every age, makes every man feel superior...and more and more in love with the opposite sex. You go girls. Throw that ball however it suits you. We love you even more for your ball handling skills. (Notice that on these near-freezing nights in Tampa - when it threatens to drop into the 40s - establishments provide these effective gas heating units as you can see in the bottom right.)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

One Big BAD Cookie!

This is a wonderful holiday display at the nearby Williams-Sonoma store, a perennial favorite of mine for kitchen and cooking gifts for the most-deserving Mrs. Tampa DP. I was strolling and window shopping when this gigantic cookie appeared; it must be about 6-feet across, which we all know is silly and impossible. (But it sure did catch my eye.!) If I could find Oreos this size I'd stock up and retire to a secluded island and live out my life feasting on overstuffed sandwich cookies filled with delicious white mush. (Oreo cookies are a personal weakness.)

If you look closely you can make out the reflections of streetlights and windows of the retailer Restoration Hardware in the lower portion of the cookie.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Hisbiscus and Bromeliad tree at Tommy Bahama

Walking past this window in Hyde Park Village, notice the tropical theme and absence of parkas, mittens, wool scarfs and ice scrapers. Although I love looking at snow-covered blogs, this is more my idea of the perfect winter holiday season. (I admit that I did have a light jacket on because of a mist in the air.) I've done my share of shoveling driveways and trying to get cars to start in below freezing weather. Humbug.

Take note that there are dozens of things in this Tommy Bahama window that would make lots of big boys and girls happy this Christmas. The oversize cigar ashtray is just one attractive looking item that caught my eye. Just thought I'd mention it (in case Santa reads my blog!)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Giant-Sized PLAYMOBIL Santa

This huge Santa is proudly welcoming kids to the Learning Express store in Hyde Park Village. He's not an actual retail version of aPlaymobil toy figure but a promotional piece standing at the entrance to attract bright-eyed boys and girls. Each one enter the wonderful store with dreams of sugarplums and stockings filled with fun and imaginative toys. Learning Express is filled with things that the founder thought "should encourage creativity and learning, foster developmental growth, and, of course, be fun." It is a really terrific place to take young ones and watch them explore and play. It is not in any way a typical toy store. It's filled with tons of stuff and NO switches. Just well designed goodies and toys that they will treasure for years. (Visit and learn more about Learning Express HERE.)

I wonder how many kids have either thought this Saint Nicholas at the door is real, or asked mom, dad or grandparents to buy him for them to play with? Come to think of it, it'd look good next to our life-size toy soldier. What do you mean he's not for sale??!! I'll put him on my list that's going to the elves at the North Pole.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Adults Only: CinéBistro in Hyde Park Village

CinéBistro opened on Swann Avenue in Hyde Park Village a few months ago and is an interesting and attractive entertainment concept. ADULTS ONLY. ID required proving you're 21 years of age or older. This is not the place to bring the grandkids to or send teenagers for a Saturday afternoon matinee.

If you haven't heard of CineBistro, or other theaters like it, it's a specially-designed movie palace which shows new releases such as Invictus, The Blind Side and New Moon, which are playing in multiplexes all over the city and nation. And all three are rated PG-13, so this isn't "adult entertainment" in the tawdry sense of the term. Nope, it's the experience, food, beverage and seating which keeps out the the younger folk. (Very thoughtful.) It's the fact that it's reserved for the older, adult audience that makes this place special and quite alluring. Even romantic.

Here is how Cobb Theatre, which brought CineBistro to Tampa, describes it: "CinéBistro, Cobb Theatres’ extraordinary premium movie theatre and dining experience captured in one unique entertainment venue, is changing the way people watch movies, create romantic moments, eat and socialize." As they say, "Prepared to be pampered " as you leisurely savor delicious foods and drinks from a full bar. You can hang at the bar and socialize for a while if you wish and then take your reserved seats in the theater where you can order from the menu until right before your show starts. Relax in luxurious high-back leather rocking chairs and dine on a fine meal - appetizers, entrees and desserts - with your favorite cocktails and wine as you enjoy the presentation. Try the Pan Seared Scottish Salmon with a bottle of Cakebread Chardonnay. Very adult, right?

To learn more about CineBistro in Hyde Park Village click HERE.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Monday, December 14, 2009

Blazing sunny afternoon

For all of you living in cold, wintry climes, if you stare long enough at this scene it will melt your ice and snow.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Don't mess with the big white bird

The beach was so warm and relaxing this afternoon and there were several birds along the shore. Our Pekingese likes the sand as long as he doesn't get too dirty...he is NOT a waterdog that leaps into the waves or a rough and tumble farm-yard dog who might chase the cows or horses. Nope. He kind of prefers the lazy approach to life and his energy level and snippy disposition seems about right. Even though he is a Florida native, he's not fond of the sand (or grass for that matter) but will sniff around for something new and interesting. A bird? A big white bird? Just sitting there? (Not to worry. They are almost the same size and Porter doesn't have a beak or claws. It wouldn't even be a fair fight because Porter doesn't fly very well.)

No, Porter did not have fresh white bird meat in his bowl of kibbles. There isn't even the slightest chance he could catch this fine bird. But, the thought still crossed his mind. Look at his huge eyes, steely gaze and determined set to his jaw. He is on the hunt!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Matt Larson: Professional Photographer Plays With Toy Cameras

My photo above is of copyrighted work (c) 2009 Matt Larson

Tonight we went to a really fun holiday open house party hosted by good friends who are both extremely talented artists. Matt is the hard-working photographer and career marketing guru while his wife, Rebecca Sexton Larson - Becky - is the accomplished studio artist and museum professional. I wrote about our terrific time tonight at Tampa Daily Photo HERE where I featured Becky's work and bio. The party was a lot of fun. Good food, delicious bourbon egg-nog and terribly interesting people. Nothing is more fun than to be invited to a party. Our hosts threw open their home, every nook and cranny, to show off their work and invite guests to make a purchase...and that is not hard to do. Look at my shot of just the beautifully framed photos spread out under their tree. Every room and surface was displaying their framed and oversized, unframed pieces. Just begging to go home with you. It's very tempting and impossible to resist if you love and collect photography. Matt has enjoyed a long career working with "grown-up" Nikons and other heavy and expensive pro equipment. While he still uses the mega-bodies and bags of lens in his work, he plays a lot with every kind of toy camera made in the world - with fascinating and astonishing results. The shot above is taken with his Apple I-Phone;
one of these brand new images was sold this evening.
Here is an excerpt from Matt's online bio: "A professional newspaper marketing photographer working with toy cameras of all types (Holga, Diana, Polaroid, iPhone, Argus Bean, etc.). Why you ask? Why not. Matt was given a professional Nikon camera and darkroom outfit before he reached age 10. Both his father and bother were avid photographers. He attended the University of South Florida and obtained a B.A. degree in photojournalism. Many years later, he completed his MBA degree at Saint Leo University. Larson admits that his discovery of plastic toy cameras reignited his love for photography and has brought him back to those early years of just having fun playing around in the darkroom and making art."
Visit Matt's blog, ToyCameraPlay, HERE.
Thanks Larsons for a fun and memorable evening. We will be back next year!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Let It Sunshine, Let It Sunshine ...

(Sing to the tune, "Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.") When there is no hope or expectation of snow at Christmas - like here every year - the next best thing is to head over and enjoy Mickey's Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World and its snowy wonderland. Just think, you can leave all your wool sweaters and Gortex cold weather gear at the Florida border and come dressed in shorts, shirtsleeves and sunglasses.

Sorry about the palm trees sticking up from this Disney billboard. The scene does look like many of your posts showing the real wintry scenes. And real cold temperatures. Stay warm everyone. (Even if you do have to come south to the Sunshine State for some relieve from winter.)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Guy's Got to Dry His Feathers

Gray and "wintry" overcast skies are Tampa's norm for the past couple days so it's tough finding even a tiny bit of sun and shadow to help enhance an image. I went back to a series of images from a perfectly hot late summer day and pulled out a bird I found sunning himself and drying his feathers. Tomorrow, I will go out again, with renewed energy and determination, and find something bright, shiny and warm. Hey, it is Tampa. How long can the sky look like it could snow?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Wienermobile is REAL!

I can't help but smile every time I have caught even a glimpse of the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile. Who ever came up with the original idea was a genius. Pure genius. Whether it's being driven down the highway or sitting parked on display, it stops adults and kids dead in their tracks. The Wienermobile is a marketing and promotional extravaganza on wheels. (Now, if I could just drive it for a few minutes...and eat a dog or two. Do you think they serve a cold frothy Guinness Stout?)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Warm weather even in winter: It's near perfect in Tampa

It was a pleasant 75-degrees today with a few tall white clouds. Even into the late afternoon, walkers and joggers were out on Bayshore Boulevard enjoying the weather and holiday lights on all of the homes.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Three Graces tightly wrapped in blue

These three maidens are almost ready for their big unveiling in Tampa's new Bern's Park on South Howard Avenue. The park is named in memory of Bern Laxer, founder of world-famous Bern's Steak House (click HERE). Laxer, who died in 2004, founded his restaurant in 1956 and carefully guided it to near perfection. Renowned for its incredible steaks and organic vegetables from Bern's own gardens, it boasts the largest wine selection of any restaurant in the world. (I will be sure and capture the statues after they are revealed.)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

It's A Strong Breeze

The restaurant Bahama Breeze out on Rocky Point sees its share of jet traffic overhead from Tampa International Airport. Plus, its location out Courtney Campbell Causeway in Old Tampa Bay means its waterfront comes alive with sunshine or the rains and strong winds we have experienced the last couple of days.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Rain on my Poincettia

It is pouring rain here in Tampa and has been all day. Poinsettias appear magically at our home every year at Christmas time (my dear sweetheart and caroler is responsible I know!) and decorate our home during the holiday season. These are raindrops I tried to capture on plants just out in front surrounded by Christmas lights.

I found the history of Poinsettias so interesting. They are native to Mexico and the Aztecs called the poinsettia Cuetlaxochitl. During the 14th - 16th century the sap was used to control fevers and even used to make a reddish dye. Montezuma, the last of the Aztec kings, would have poinsettias brought into what now is Mexico City by caravans because poinsettias could not be grown in the high altitude. Interestingly, Roberts Poinsett was the first United States Ambassador to Mexico, being appointed by President John Quincy Adams in the 1820's. During his stay he looked for new plants. In 1828, he found a beautiful shrub with large red flowers and he took cuttings and brought them back to the United States. Later he named the plant the poinsettia in honor of his discovery.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Buy it on Palma Ceia Golf Course

This rather large Mediterranean-styled home is located on the fairway at Palma Ceia Golf and Country Club. And, it's for sale. I don't even want to guess at the price, but I'm sure it's in the stratosphere. If you're golfer, and have a golf membership at the club - and deep pockets in the middle of this recession - then this could be your absolute dream home. If you answered no to each of these questions, then be content to peek from the drive on a beautiful Tampa afternoon.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

What is it?

Who remembers this scene from behind walls? Or still deals with it? - Joan Perry in Charleston is certainly familiar with this outdated practice and perhaps Lori Skoog, too, living on that wonderful farm in western New York state. (Or still has nightmares about it and is thankful to live in a new condo someplace!!) Living in an "older" house in a historic district certainly has its pluses and great advantages. We wouldn't trade our home or neighborhood for any other, but a surprise such as this one made me pause... and grab a fire extinguisher.

This was supposed to have ALL been removed and replaced almost 20 years ago, so finding this hiding today during a major restoration/repair project was a huge and most unwelcome surprise. And yes, I made a phone call immediately and it will be replaced ASAP. (They promise.)

Can you provide the correct name? (HINT:
It was an early standardized method in buildings and houses, in common use in North America from about 1880 to the 1930s.)