Category Archives: Tampa Bay

When Lightning Strikes, Build A Sense Of Community

Let’s get one thing very straight…I am not a sports fan.

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I sort of want to blame my father for my overall lack of interest even though he actually loves sports. I know, it’s Father’s Day on Sunday and I do wish him a very happy one, but as a child, if there was a University of Michigan football game that conflicted with a special event there was a lot of discussion about whether he would be there.

I may never live down the fact that I decided to get married to my first husband on the day of the Michigan-Ohio State football game in November 1988.  My mother, the ever so smart woman that she was, threw my father a tailgate party at the hotel where all of our guests were staying in lieu of him possibly following through on the idea of chartering a plane to go to the game in Columbus and thinking he could still make it back in time for the wedding. So much for the day being all about me.2012_12_29_08_48_230699

He was also very involved for many years in our community’s Little League…VERY INVOLVED !

And if there was a sporting event on Sunday afternoon that ran late, we couldn’t go out to dinner until it was over.

Side note: My mom had a general rule about the kitchen being closed most Sunday nights..have I mentioned she was really smart?

Don’t get me wrong, my father did a lot of stuff with us as kids and until we became teenagers with the typical teenage angst and attitudes, he set aside at least one afternoon a month to take me and my siblings separately to an activity of our choice. We joke about his sports’ obsessions now, however, at the time I really didn’t get it. It’s amazing what years of therapy can do to help, right?

So call me crazy but…I resented sports by the age of 6. I suppose it also didn’t help that I was not the most coordinated child and still have terrible depth perception. I blame that on being born cross-eyed and to all the boys that teased me about it in elementary school, sorry if karma has paid you a visit but you kind of brought it on yourselves.

Yeah, sports weren’t, aren’t and probably never will be my thing.

Well, that’s not 100% true but I will get to that in a minute.

It is true that I don’t like watching sports and I really don’t understand most of the rules.

Seriously!

I mentioned in a recent blog my inability after 14 years of watching my son play soccer both at school and on competitive teams that I still don’t know how to tell when a player is off sides.

In addition…
I think baseball is like watching paint dry…
I have no clue where the puck is through most of a hockey game…
I don’t get spending 4 or 5 hours trying to put a little ball in 18 holes or watching a car go round and round a track (I do, however, think horse racing is beautiful and my friend Laura will appreciate me saying that especially since today is her birthday)…
I don’t like the idea that a lot of athletes use their status to feel entitled or it gives them the right to be above common decency and the law…
And I will never be able to justify in my head why athletes make more than teachers and nurses.

All that being said, I live in Tampa Bay and all three of the major sports teams…Lightning, Buccaneers and Rays…work very hard these days at raising the profile of our region especially when you have them involved in initiatives like Give And Grub, a fantastic non-profit food truck with a mission to fight hunger.  

When I moved here almost 20 years ago, the Bucs were by no means a winning team (ok, no need to talk about whether or not they have been the past few years), the Lightning were toddlers (the franchise was only 3 years old although holding their own by making it to the playoffs in 1996) and the Rays were still just a twinkle in some soon to be owner’s eyes (their first season was 1998).

This was not a diehard sports town/region…yet.

Slowly but surely, Tampa Bay has put itself on the map as a legitimate place for fans to be, well, fans. And after watching the Stanley Cup playoffs and finals over the past several weeks unfold in the national spotlight, it does seem they are finally taking us seriously.

Yes, I said us.

I watched more minutes of hockey in the past month or so than I previously watched in my entire life. I grew up in Detroit and lived in New York for many years so I know about hockey towns. I just went and read a book when my father or now ex-husband were watching a particular game.

Another side note: My first date with the ex? A U of M – Notre Dame hockey game. Yeah, it was a sign, I know.

I’m thinking the biggest reason I willingly sat through all of the recent games was because I understand now more than ever how important it all is to the future of the place I now call home. Before I owned my baked goods company for the years I did and now work as the Director of Strategic Relationships for OJ Mortgage, I guess I wasn’t really invested in Tampa Bay. I volunteered at my kids’ schools and engaged in a lot of fundraising for our local Jewish Community Center but I would be kidding myself if I said any of that helped the overall region grow.

Truth be told, I never thought I was here for the long haul. When my first husband moved us here in 1995, I thought we’d stay 10 years tops. After he made the money he thought he would in Real Estate development, I figured we would move to Northern California and open a cute little bed and breakfast where I would cook fabulous food with local ingredients and he would manage the finances and wine cellar.

I think I still cook fabulous food, do a pretty good job at managing the finances in my second marriage and keep enough wine on hand should a group of friends come for dinner at the last minute. But it is unlikely I will ever own a B&B in Napa or Sonoma. It’s all good, though, I have plenty of other dreams to work on.

As I watched the final minutes of Game 6 the other night knowing the Chicago Black Hawks were likely going to win 2-0 and claim the Stanley Cup title, I also watched Tampa Bay’s pride swell on social media. “Great effort”, “Intense series”, “Way to go Bolts”, “Here’s to next season”, “Always The Thunder” and many other very positive comments filled my news feed.

There didn’t seem to be any bitterness or blame. I’m guessing it’s because we still won a lot of recognition and credibility, that is, with the exception it seems from Suntrust Bank that didn’t feel it was necessary to light up the top of their very prominent downtown building in Lightning colors during the games. Boo Suntrust

Topher Morrison is the Managing Director of Key Person of Influence USA and definitely understands a thing or two about raising your profile in your community and, more importantly, supporting your community. Kudos to him for displaying the photo above the way he did…I am sure Sykes Enterprises appreciated the Tweet, Suntrust not so much.

My husband, of course, the fierce independent mortgage broker that he is said it’s just one more reason not to trust big banks for your mortgage needs. Gotta love the big guy for always finding his own silver lining.

And besides, who needs Suntrust when Wallet Hub recently ranked Tampa Bay as #4 in the nation for hockey fans … #GoBolts !

Sports may not be my “thing”, but a sense of community definitely is and will remain one whether I stay in Tampa Bay or not. I just needed about two decades to figure it out.

So here’s to Lightning striking, Buccaneers invading and Rays…ummmm…stinging????….again and again. And here’s to all of our communities getting bigger, stronger, better.

That’s it for now…#BlackerOut !

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Call Me Crazy, Community Building, Tampa Bay

Did You Hear The One About A Vegetarian Walking Into A Bacon Festival?

I am a vegetarian…well, sort of. I eat any fish or seafood so I guess that makes me a pescetarian, but meat and poultry products haven’t graced my lips since I was 15.

So why would a person who hasn’t touched the stuff in over 30 years want to go to a bacon festival?America Loves Bacon   4.11.15   Tampa FL

Call me crazy but…curiosity mostly…I thought it would be interesting to see who shows up both as attendees and vendors.

And I have to say, I was not disappointed. What can I say, I am easily amused.

Besides, I wanted to pay homage to the Spanish settlers who introduced America to bacon back in the 1500s. I made mention of this particular fact in my blog last week. By the way, did you know there are actually 5 ways to say bacon in Spanish?…

Uno…Tocino
Dos…Tocineta
Tres…Panceta
Quatro…Beicon
Cinco…Bacón

Hmmm…I guess we adopted #5 in English.  And suffice it to say, if you ever travel to a Spanish speaking country you can now feel pretty confident in ordering bacon properly…You’re welcome.

Full disclosure: This is where I have to insert the standard blogger’s thing that this is technically considered a “sponsored post”. I did receive 2 complimentary passes to the America Loves Bacon Festival  this past weekend at the Florida State Fairgrounds (thanks to a fellow member of Tampa Bay Bloggers, Carlos Hernandez of Carlos Eats)  in exchange for writing this, but anything to help promote things happening in the Tampa Bay community and satisfy my curiosity  I will happily sell my soul…ok, maybe not my soul…but you know what I mean. Carry on…

I obviously needed a sidekick of sorts to do all the sampling. I figured my 18 year old son or my husband would happily come along for the ride but they didn’t seem to share my curiosity for this particular field trip.

Their loss and my friend Ellen’s gain. I think her response when I asked her whether she wanted to go was “Shut up!”

I took that as a yes.

We actually had been at the Walk For Wishes that morning supporting another friend who has a son with neuroblastoma and had been a Make a Wish Foundation “wish” recipient last year.

Pediatric cancer survivors helping grant the next "wish"

Pediatric cancer survivors helping grant the next “wish”…     Our friend’s son is the second from the left

The actual walk took place along the just completed (but 40 years in the making) Tampa Riverwalk

Awesome photo opp along the Riverwalk

Awesome photo opp along the Riverwalk

…and then walked an extra 3 miles to and from the Tampa Convention Center to watch yet another friend’s daughter for a little while in a volleyball tournament. Ellen decided that she needed a little extra pre bacon festival prep so she ran up and down the steps outside the convention center just for good measure. She’s the one with her arms up in the air in case you can’t tell.

My friend Ellen during her best impression of Rocky before the bacon festival

Ellen doing her best impression of “Rocky”

By the time we got to the bacon festival, we were really hungry so we made a bee line for the first food truck we saw. Lucky for me it was The Maine Thang, a “pescetarian” based truck and we shared a lobster roll that hit the spot, albeit a very expensive one… $11. Yeah, as usual, I found the most expensive thing to eat in the whole place.

Good friends share lobster rolls

Good friends share lobster rolls

Worth $11? Does it really matter when you are hungry???

Worth $11? Does it really matter when you are hungry???

Onward and upward…

Ellen eyed the booth for Datz Dough, a South Tampa foodie mecca, where she claimed their bacon brownie “ridiculous”…as in ridiculously amazing.

Datz Dough Bacon Brownie

Before I could get a decent photo of the bacon brownie it went into Ellen’s mouth so that means I had no choice but to post this photo…sorry Ellen

Their bacon mac ‘n cheese, though…apparently not so amazing. She took one bite and asked for her sample ticket back. Fortunately, they didn’t argue with her and we moved on to The Madison Chocolatiers West and their bacon donut. Ellen claimed she was only going to take one bite so she could pace herself, but it seemed to have disappeared rather quickly.  I assume that means she liked it.

Madison Chocolatiers West Bacon Donut

This time I got a photo before a bite was taken.

As we meandered around to the various booths and food trucks, the lines were getting longer by the minute. Ellen, however, was clearly struggling with what to get with the precious remaining sample tickets. Then she stopped suddenly, looking intensely at the menu on the side of one of the food trucks and screamed…

"Shut the front door...deep fried bacon wrapped twinkies?"

“SHUT THE FRONT DOOR…DEEP FRIED       BACON WRAPPED TWINKIES?…           NO FREAKING WAY!”

Yes, all caps do emphasize just how excited she got, don’t they? I waited in line for almost 30 minutes for this…

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Is there anything they won’t deep fry or wrap in bacon?

 

while Ellen sampled these…

Bacon and onion perogies

Bacon and onion perogies

For the record, there were lots of people sporting some interesting articles of bacon inspired clothing/costumes including these guys dressed as slices of the stuff…

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Can’t imagine it really would have tasted very good Ellen!

and this one…

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Hehe…his shirt says boobies

but I kind of liked this one the best for it’s creative extension of the word “exercise”…

This is one giant stretch!

This is one giant stretch

Did I mention it was hot?

Like stupid hot…as in why are we walking around in the middle of the day when it is so freakin’ hot!

This is Florida in April after all and, yes, you literally could have fried the bacon on the pavement.

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But that didn’t seem to deter the thousands of people who showed up and, yes, that included a few protesters stationed right at the entrance/exit to the fairgrounds. I have to question if they thought there was any possibility they were going to convert a single bacon loving soul on their way in or out, but I definitely give them major props for trying.

What exactly is their end game at a bacon festival?

What exactly is their end game at a bacon festival?

When all was said and done, Ellen sampled 8 different things, claimed she was officially “over” bacon and was going home to have celery sticks for dinner.

The next morning she set me a text with the message “Look what Dave (aka her husband) is doing” and this photo…

So much for being "over" bacon

So much for being “over” bacon

That’s it for now…#BlackerOut !

Bacon Fact

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Filed under Call Me Crazy, Food, Great Causes, Tampa Bay

History Lessons…Tampa Bay Style

I consider myself a person who really likes history and whenever I travel I love finding tours, museums, whatever to visit. But in my own community, Tampa Bay, I’ve kind of taken it for granted. Then I spent a recent Friday afternoon at the Tampa Bay History Center  as well as the following day at The Ringling Museum in Sarasota and realized there is nothing about our region’s history that should ever be taken for granted.

So let’s start with the History Center…I was invited on a VIP tour with several other Ambassadors for Tampa Bay Business Owners thanks to Timothy Bennett of Armon Events . Our tour guide was Rodney Kite-Powell, who started out working for the center one summer during college when it was essentially a storefront on Harbour Island, an area adjacent to Downtown Tampa, and never really left.

Tampa_History_Center_(3486924401)

That was about 20 years and several paid grades ago. He is now the Curator of History and we were so fortunate to get his take on all of the museums exhibits and artifacts.  In other words, he was awesome…and so is the museum. Seriously, I know many of you are rolling your eyes, thinking what could possibly be so interesting about Tampa Bay’s history.

Honestly, I used to roll my eyes too. I mean, I never really thought Tampa Bay or Florida, in general, had done much in terms of contributing to our nation’s history and culture other than becoming a mecca for senior citizens and Disney fans.

When  I was working for a research and marketing company almost 15 years ago and the president of the company was very much behind the development of and fundraising for what is now the Center’s permanent home…behind Amalie Arena in the Channelside District of Downtown Tampa and part of the ever expanding Tampa Riverwalk  …I just didn’t get it despite how much I happen to really like American history. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that 15 years ago I still looked upon Tampa as a whackadoodle place, but as I’ve mentioned many times before, because of how much I have connected with the business community here in recent years I have grown to appreciate all that it has to offer more than I could have ever imagined.

So here’s my history lesson of Tampa Bay in a nutshell…#BlackerStyle of course…

  • Spanish explorers came to the region in the early 1500s in search of gold and encountered the native Tocabaga Indians. They never found gold but in the process, they essentially drove the tribe to extinction because of the fighting that ensued and the disease they spread.  No bueno, Espana, no bueno. At least there are a few remnants remaining including the canoe pictured below made from a tree trunk. Not sure I’d trust it today but back then, it definitely was a clever mode of transportation for the Tocabagans.dug out canoe
  • There is, however, one thing the Spanish did bring to this region first that we kind of can’t be too mad at them about…bacon! You’re welcome Estados Unidos. (Sidenote: The America Loves Bacon Festival is this weekend at the Florida State Fairgrounds …I’m not sure the early explorers ever anticipated a festival around “jamón” but I assume you’ll thank me later  if you go)
  • Did you know that the Seminole Tribe was originally from Georgia and Alabama and known as the Creek Indians?  Sorry Creeks but FSU Seminoles does have a better ring to it.  Meanwhile, the United States government is still technically at war with the Seminoles since there was never a treaty signed after the last war between them ended in 1858. Something tells me the Seminoles aren’t too worried about it today given the success of the Hard Rock Casino here.Standing ground
  • Henry Plant was, of course, the gentleman who brought the railroad to the region after the discovery of rich phosphate deposits, giving a huge boost to the local economy. He built the Tampa Bay Hotel , the signature building on the present day  University of Tampa campus and now a National Historic Landmark, as well as several other hotels along the railroad route from the north, encouraging the growth of our tourism industry.  I’m guessing those weren’t exactly of the Motel 6 variety either.Tampa Bay Hotel
  • There is no disputing the role the cigar industry has played in our history. There is only one factory left today but in the 1920s there were 120 and more cigars were being made here than anywhere else in the world. Over 400 million a year to be exact. A few of the older Cubans in our community today apparently joke that their mothers, who worked in the factories, were “strippers”. They are, of course, referring to the fact that their mothers were responsible for stripping the tobacco leaves from the stems and not some of the first employees of a particularly famous Tampa landmark on Dale Mabry Highway.Cigars
  • And last, but certainly not least, Jose Gaspar, the pirate who we “celebrate” every year at the Gasparilla Festival (sorry, hard for me to understand why we celebrate pirates who were essentially rapists and thieves) …Totally made up. Yep, sorry, kids but Jose was part of a marketing campaign in the early 1900s that started the whole Gasparilla parade thing.  Hey, I’m just the messenger…if you want to debate it, you definitely need to hook up with Rodney at the Center.

Oh and two more things…1) Definitely do a docent tour if you go. I think you always get more out of these type of places when you have someone guiding you and 2) If you are looking for a very cool event space, you really do need to put the Center on your short list of possible venues. It has a fabulous 3 story atrium housing a Columbia Restaurant outpost and an outdoor patio overlooking the Garrison Channel.

Tampa History Center entrance 3

I think that’s enough of a history lesson for today. I’ll report on my visit to The Ringling Museum another time. But if you can’t wait, go see for yourself. I promise it will be just an equally amazing  immersion into Tampa Bay’s history.

That’s it for now…#BlackerOut !

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Call Me Crazy, Florida Life, Tampa Bay, Travel