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April 16, 2014
A group of local newbies discover the St. Pete Shuffle.

St. Pete Shuffle

I’ve never felt so incapable ever. All around me laughing children and senior citizens seemed to effortlessly reach their target. I was just happy if I stayed on the board. Wait a minute— I WAS still happy! And I was having freaking fun!

It was my first time entering the moonlit Shuffleboard courts in Downtown St. Petersburg. Every Friday night the courts have the St. Pete Shuffle— the courts open to the public for free games and equipment rental. This is one of those “if you live in St. Pete you HAVE to…” type of places. After years of putting it off I finally hauled my butt there. Now I can finally say because of the free admission and the festive atmosphere of courts this is a “If you’re cool and you live in Tampa Bay you have to…” big deal like that. I rushed to stuff a cooler once I learned you could bring your own food and drinks (I even saw families with several huge bins and party balloons trailing behind them)


About to take a shot

About to take a shot

My small gathering of newbies had never played Shuffleboard and have definitely never been to the St. Pete Shuffle. All our first reactions reflected awe at the number of people there. (My friends thought it would just be us). All nationalities, all ages, and all kinds of style were there. We had picked a great Friday to attend as a band played near the bleachers, a food truck catered to growling stomachs, and inside the rental building were booths set up to show off Vintage Floridiana photos and items.

It was easy to grab an available court, but we had to wait about 5 minutes until another long stick (the tang?) became available. (Supplies can run out so you just wait until someone is done with theirs) A dueling elderly couple was nearby and successfully intimidating us with their shots as our own practice ones went nowhere near our target. Learning to play was easy. There’s instructional signs around as well as members of the court giving assistance. It wasn’t long before we were using those tangs to slide the discs (the biscuit?) towards the target zones.

In between puck shots we sipped the Sangria and cookies we brought. We danced to the band playing. We danced whenever we got any points at all. What was this? Hand-eye coordination? Hand, eye, arm strength coordination? Shuffleboard is a strange game seemingly birthed from golf, pool, and I’ll even add Table Football in there. Partner Shoes and I only mildly improved in our aim as time went by, but it wasn’t enough to beat the other couple we played against… I’d like to say beginner’s luck but that was our first time as well.

Although we were the losers, Partner Shoes and I agreed this was too unusual and too much odd fun to be a one-time thing. You’ll definitely see us shuffle over there again.

St. Pete Shuffle
Every Friday Night, 7-11pm
559 Mirror Lake Dr N, St Petersburg, FL 33701


March 25, 2014

Hi Ladies and Gents. I’ve returned from a rather groovy shin-dig. Drastically different from its past events, review website Yelp decided to hold its most recent gathering as a… dramatic pause… British Sixties party at a car dealership. (Yes! That’s FOUR levels of strangeness altogether) We were assured several times there would be no selling going on.

Food from the event

Some of the nom noms from the event

As all Yelp events, this one was also free so I decided to repay my hosts by at least getting in on the fun. A ransacked closet and a missing afro wig, somehow Partner Shoes and I managed to don somewhat convincing Sixties outfits.

Photobombed by Austin Powers!

Photobombed by Austin Powers!

Fog, flashing lights, and pulsing music greeted our fashionably late selves into the converted office space of Fernan MINI. A crowd had already formed around the edibles of the event and a portable bar was fulfilling our two-drink limit. Meanwhile an Austin Powers impersonator was keeping things lively and a photo booth snapped away.

Eddie’s Bar and Grill provided all the bite-sized morsels and kept it within the British theme. All the semi-warm apps were nicely plated and looked tasty despite their (unfortunate) lack of heat. To my Asian tongue, food such as Fish & Chips, Bangers, and Scotch Egg are a bit… well… bland although I’m sure these were comparable to similar dishes from other venues. I enjoyed the desserts more as a delicious Whipped Mousse on a Fillo Shell took my personal award for cuteness and best in texture contrast and taste. From the bar, I could order the featured PIMMS cocktail over and over again! It displayed a juicy taste with no alcohol finish… except there were no giggly alcohol effects either. But I saw the bartender put a good amount in! (hmmm… maybe I’m becoming more tolerant?)

The dance floor

What?! Yelp events normally don’t involve dancing! (I’m with glee)

Our costumed selvesThe Austin Powers impersonator bounced from guest to guest. (His “groovy” and “Yea, baby” sounded deliciously close to the real thing… but it was funny how once he had to say something else the accent dropped). The music drowned out half the conversations but at least succeeded in calling people to the dance floor. This Pyra is especially happy because after months of prodding, a very sober Shoes joined me on the dance floor in tearing it up! Prior, Shoes would rather inhale cement before dancing. On Saturday night he even used a bit of upgraded ballroom dancing to hold me close.

Often Yelp events are “foodie” related (a phrase that drives me nuts because 90% of “foodies” I know think being a foodie means merely eating a lot) but this was a party! Was it just me or were people also more open to talking to strangers because of the atmosphere? On the (not really) negative side, the party atmosphere also made me question the reason for this Yelp event (normally made to highlight certain businesses) because the obvious highlighted business here—Fernan MINI—didn’t really get to highlight what they DO. Oh well, everyone in attendance looked like they had fun—including the whole Fernan staff.

Although the food was comparable, I enjoyed this event more than other Yelp events because of the party atmosphere. And dancing with my partner Shoes was a definite bonus.

Click on any photo above to be taken to my Photo Album of the event.


February 27, 2014

CRS - spilled bag

“They tricked me into going to school,” Thomas the energetic speaker from Ghana laughed while indicating the nearby CRS members. “I only wanted the food but I had to go to class to get it. So they tricked me.” Then his big smile flashed brighter, “And now I work with them tricking other children into school.”

CRS - Filling weighing area meAnd soon it was our turn to help with the trickery.

Partner Shoes and I found ourselves in front of weighing scales. For more than an hour bags upon bags of dried food would magically appear for us to weigh. As soon as a bag left my fingers it would disappear to get sealed and packaged. We were just two people out of a hundred who volunteered for this brutal work.

Okay—That was a slight exaggeration.
Helping Hands—a creation of Catholic Relief Services and Stop Hunger Now—had set up shop today in Clearwater, FL. Their mission was to bring nutritious meals to the hungry of Burkina Faso in Western Africa. They needed many strong, skillful, willing (and did I mention good-looking?) volunteers. Armed in hairnets and plastic gloves, people from all over the Bay area met at the hall of St. Catherine’s Catholic Church to fill and package the food.

After a few speeches about gratitude and what to expect, we were released to the food stations.

The back stations

These are the back tables where the bags get filled up

The mostly giggling gray-haired folk flocked to the back stations where they took turns filling the plastic bags. Dehydrated Vegetables? Check! Legumes? Check! Grains? Check! So-called “nutritious sachet?” Check! Now run it to the scales!

My little scale

My little scale

Shoes and I waited hungrily for the bags to arrive. Too heavy? Remove some grains. Too light? Add grains! How many times can I get it exact with just one spoonful? With frightening speed the bags made their way across the table to the ‘sealers’ who made sure all air escaped the bags before sealing it shut with hot presses.

A flurry of energetic runners passed like blood through veins refilling supplies, transporting bags to get filled, weighed, sealed and finally into cardboard boxes.

Although the work was different and fun, I had to keep reminding myself tasks like this wouldn’t be needed if everyone on the planet was as blessed. I learned before Helping Hands gives food to the needy, they first make sure they aren’t taking away from any existing jobs and resources first. Burkina Faso had neither.

Different organizations request to host the Helping Hands project by pledging to donate enough material for a certain number of meals. St. Catherine’s pledged more than 2900 bags that Saturday and hit that goal in less than three hours.

At the event’s conclusion, you could sample a cooked version of the food we were packaging. I don’t know if they salted the samples for American palates, but it started salty. From Thomas’s story, it didn’t sound like the people in that area cared—they just needed food and nutrition. He painted a very fierce story about the differences in his lifestyle from there to here. How do you focus on improving the economy and surroundings when your first worry is what to eat?

I didn’t feel like I had done enough. It’s hard to feel helpful while sitting down and weighing bags. I just have to trust the bags I touched will eventually calm someone’s hunger.I strongly encourage families… anyone… to just freakin’ GET OUT THERE and volunteer to help the less fortunate. I’m sure you’ve been blessed in some way.

Click on any photo to see more pictures from the event.

Related Websites:
Helping Hands
Catholic Relief Services
Stop Hunger Now


February 24, 2014

I understood that chant to be a checklist. I came I saw and I conquered.

Posing with the Sign

I arrived at Trashy Treasures late to find its Friday night party already in full swing. The Dunedin Fine Arts Center itself was already an odd assortment of sights starting with the obviously ‘under construction’ area to the side, but now its front yard was also a flurry of activity. Handfuls of people were streaming out the exit with their hands full of frames. PODS Moving Containers were strewn to one side—was I witnessing an art looting?

Paula Allen's paper decorated space

Paula Allen’s paper decorated space

Eat it!
We were starving! Partner Socs and I grabbed food from the two attending food trucks (Tillery’s Bar-B-Que and Dos Tacos). Since our stomachs asked for more we also tried noms from the Art Center’s own Palm Café.

Contain It!
Those weren’t just regular PODS. Each one had been given to an artist to become their blank slate. I loved how there was no fear to actually ENTER the art and admire it from one inch away. (You can’t do that at the Louvre—your breathing can sometimes set priceless art works in flames). The artists welcomed your fingerprints on their creations.

Beard's Roomy Pod

Beard’s Roomy Pod

A few PODS stood out to me.

Paula Allen looked very calm and serene sitting in the back of her container which had every inch of it—floor included—plastered in brown or white paper covered with her drawings. Nearby, Nathan Beard’s POD was now a mini house with partitioned rooms. In doing so, Beard managed to decorate each room with his own mini artworks of photography, sculptures, and drawings. A couple were also mesmerizing such as the POD were you had to enter past a blackout curtain into her ‘room’ illuminated by strobes and black lights (I forgot the artist’s name). The most memorable to me was also the simplest. Kumpa Tawornprom’s POD featured an elaborate wooden sculpture of a dragon slowly spinning from a ceiling suspension.


Here’s a side of the dragon, but I don’t want to spoil the Abe Lincoln part

Cool in itself…until spinning it a certain angle allowed the spotlight to perfectly project an outline of Abraham Lincoln’s face on the back wall.

Trash it!
At least three rooms inside the Center contained almost a hundred works of art—and were selling every bit for low prices! These Trashy Treasures were all rejected and donated by their owners. It was a garage sale for art! With very limited space in my Studio, I lustfully looked at too many pieces and faced a mental battle of which to bring home.

With the event closing down I quickly bought two small pieces.

Staring Up inside the "draw it yourself' pod of USF students

Staring Up inside the “draw it yourself’ pod of USF students

The food truck foods allowed me to Eat it! I stepped in PODS to Contain it! I even bought some art from the Trash It! But I forgot to enjoy that alcoholic art known as Craft Beer. No Brew it! for me. With an army of volunteers and proceeds benefiting the DFAC, this was still one Tasty if not Trashy Treasure.

To view my photos from the event, just click on any of the photos in this article.


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