O’town’s Jewel Box Museums: Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art

You may think that to experience fine art, you have to go to New York or Boston or DC, but there are vibrant, exciting museums within a 75 minute ride of New Tampa. One example is the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art (CHM). It is eclectic, personal and small enough to be appreciated in an evening’s visit.

CHM is located at 445 North Park Avenue, Winter Park, just north of Orlando (I4 East to Exit 87East, Fairbanks Ave, to Park Ave. North). Home to the most complete collection of Tiffany art in the world, its galleries are devoted to stained glass, vases, lampshades, paintings and sketches, jewelry and a chapel by Louis Comfort Tiffany, the Tiffany Studios and a handful of other artists of the 1860’s to 1920’s.

Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933) was an artist and designer of the Art Nouveau period, who is most well known today for his work in stained glass windows and lampshades. He was the founder of Tiffany Studios which, in addition to the aforementioned stained glass, produced other household decorative objects. Louis’ father, Charles Lewis Tiffany, owned a gift store on Fifth Avenue in New York City, which carried stationary, sterling and jewelry and is today known as Tiffany and Co. Yes, THAT Tiffany!

On Friday nights, in addition to visiting galleries, you can listen to ensembles, jazz bands, flute trios and other musical entertainment. They’ll perform on one side of the museum and then move to the other, so you can enjoy the music no matter which side you’re on. Even three rooms away, you can hear the flutes, violins or saxophones softly drawing you on, making a more complete creative experience by adding performance art to fine art.

In the McKean Pavilion, in back of CHM proper, artists demonstrate various techniques used by Tiffany. Stained glass panel productions (how the glass is selected, marked, cut and reassembled), glass fusing and mosaic (imbedding beads, medallions, metal bits or other pieces of glass within the glass, pleating or layering glass and tilework) and lampshade production (how glass is curved, cut, pieced and put together to form the famous Tiffany lamps) were recent demonstrations. The demonstrations are one and a half to two hours long, but you don’t have to arrive when they start or stay for the whole time. The demonstrations are NOT hands on because glasswork is dangerous, using sharp knives and high temperature blowtorches. The glass artists will answer any questions you may have and you are invited to come right up to the work area, where you can examine the different kinds of glass.

Current exhibits are “Orientalism-An Eye for the Exotic,” how Eastern art influenced European and American art. Not only Japanese, but also elements of Persian, Algerian, Turkish and Indian art were incorporated into art of the Victorian and Edwardian age. Side by side displays of the Eastern and Western piece show the direct influence. To see a painting of a magnolia by a Japanese artist duplicated in a glass panel is breathtaking.

“The Quest for Beauty: Louis Comfort Tiffany’s Life and Art” is a retrospective of Tiffany’s life, including examples of his childhood drawings, watercolors he did on his “European Graduation Tour,” and the history of the Tiffany studios, all organized chronologically. This exhibit spotlights how he developed and grew as an artist. Extensive notes on his life and outside influences, on his family, colleagues, business and employees are also included in this exhibit.

There is an award for “Proficiency in Drawing, July 1, 1864,” next to a series of sketches and oils Tiffany did as a teenager that shows just want a fine artist he was. The delicacy of his work, the care translated into everything he did. You can compare the sketches of Arabs with the sketches he did for the chapel and see how his travels affected his later art.

Some of the stained glass is displayed in double sided cases, so you can examine the ‘right’ and the ‘wrong’ side. Since glass art is meant to be viewed with a light source behind it, usually in a window, the wrong side is generally on display. To see it up close, you have to wonder how it is possible that the same piece of glass on the right side is translucent, delicate, as thin as gossamer, and on the wrong side, wrinkled, opaque, rough looking. You can examine the leading strips, how they are wrapped so just a bit shows in the front but the back is full of blobs and solder.

The reinstallation of the “Tiffany Jewelry, Enamels and Metalworks Gallery” will be completed within the next few weeks, with the opening scheduled for March 4, 2008. This redesigned gallery will include new, more incisive notes and a ‘fresh look.’

The permanent exhibits include glassmaking techniques and the vases and lamp rooms. Make sure you look up. The tops of the ten foot high display cases are crowded with even more vases. Everywhere you turn is something different and beautiful. If you can’t find a piece in your favorite color, shape, sheen or texture, then you just have to look at the next display.

The Arts and Crafts Movement of 1860 to 1920 gallery contains furniture by Stickley, Burne-Jones, Tobey and others in addition to Tiffany. Ceramics, paintings and table displays of the era with sketchpads and quills complete the room. There is even a cuspidor (spittoon) in the corner, a necessity in and chewing tobacco-addicted household.

The jewel of the museum is the chapel interior designed for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. There is a “Madonna and Child” and a “Lamentation” in stained glass. The stages Tiffany used to in developing the face of Joseph are displayed outside the chapel. Behind the altar, there is a mosaic wall of peacocks with a crown hovering over them. In the sacristy, is a large baptismal font.

If you are a Tiffanyholic or glass fanatic, it’s easy to spend a whole day here. For most museum hoppers, a few hours will suffice. The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art is located at 445 North Park Avenue in Winter Park. It is reachable by phone (407-645-5311) or on the web at http://www.morsemuseum.org/. Open Tues-Sat, 9:30 to 4, Sunday from 1 to 4 and Fridays, November through April from 4 to 8 pm. Admission is $3 for adults, $1 for students; under 12 and Friday evenings are free.

Published in NTNN on Feb 22,2008. Vol 16, issue 4


A haven for books is a natural haven for writers. The Pasco/NPR branch of the Florida Writers Association will be holding its 2nd Annual Writers Conference on April 6 from 8:30 to 6 pm at the New Port Richey Library. For some persons, writing is a chore, for others a pleasure and for some it is a life need, as much as food, sleep or air.

The compulsion to write. The feeling that unless you have access to a pen and paper or keyboard, your brain is in danger of exploding. And the results? Sometimes good, sometimes drivel, but it doesn’t matter as long as the words have been traveled along the synaptic path, so the hornets in your brain can rest. This is the blessing or curse of hypergraphia.

Fiction writers, historians, poets, computer coders, attorneys, reporters, editors, screenwriters and others may have hypergraphia, but have all found ways to use it to their advantage. Meeting other writers can help you channel your compulsion and be a comfort. Even if you write only for the occasional pleasure of doing so, meeting other writers will help you improve your craft. The Florida Writers Association (FWA) is a great resource for wordsmiths and lives up to its motto: Writers Helping Writers.

The 2nd Annual Do It! Write Conference will be held at the New Port Richey Public Library, 5939 Main St., on April 6th from 8:30 to 6 p.m. Early Bird registration by Feb 28 is $39 for FWA members and $59 for non-members. Registration from March 1 to April 1 is $49 for FWA members and $69 for non-members. Refreshments and lunch are included, so you don’t have to worry about leaving and missing anything.

During the day long event, you can attend up four of the ten different seminars. You can also schedule a private interview with an agent or one of the seminar leaders. There is time to ‘schmooze’ with members of the FWA, browse in the bookstore and have your purchases signed by the authors, and enjoy time with others obsessed with the joy and angst of writing.

The keynote speaker for the Conference is John Strelecky, best selling author of The Why Café, The Big Five and the recently released Life Safari. He is a motivational speaker, author and world traveler, gathering inspiration which he shares with his audience.

Writing seminar topics include How to Write Thrillers, Editing Boot Camp, and From Manuscript to Masterpiece. Once you’ve gone through a few dozen edits on your work, you may want to obtain an agent or directly submit it for publication. Making Strengths and Weaknesses Work For You, An Agent and An Author: Marriage Made in Heaven or Hell? and How to Get Your Foot in the Door will be filled with pointers on the publication process. Of course once you are published, whether you are self-published or picked up by a traditional publishing house, you’ll want to drive sales. Marketing and publicity seminars include Blogging and Podcasting for Book Promotion, Driving Book Sales, Selling to the Lucrative Library Market, and The Four Principles of Networking. These are designed to help you in this latter stage of the process, the sell-through.

There will be a separate workshop on March 22 on Perfecting Your Pitch, led by Molli Nickell, a publishing coach and author. This will be hosted by the New Port Richey Library. For more information on this separate event, call 727-847-2023.

Having attended writers’ conferences in the past, the main drawback is always selecting which seminars to attend, as there is overlap in the scheduling. If you are interested in pursuing a career as a writer, if you want to improve your craft or if you just want to spend time with others who share your particular ‘craziness,’ this will be a very informative and fun day.

For more information or to register, visit the Pasco/NPR website at
http://mysite.verizon.net/resockeb/id79.html. The Florida Writers Association can be reached at http://www.floridawriters.net/dnn/. From this website, you can access local branches of the FWA, read about the statewide conference held on Nov. 9th through 11, 2007, find out about publishing contests, obtain information about upcoming events or read articles about writing, editing and publishing.


It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Yes, once again it is time to gather all your most intimate financial information, including a list of persons in your household, so you can file your personal income tax return and hope that, after remembering to cross your ‘i’s and dot your‘t’s, you’ll avoid the audit flags raised by falling outside the ‘usual and customary parameters’ as defined by our favorite branch of the government, the Internal Revenue Service.

New for tax year 2007, the IRS has made it perfectly clear that if you support someone who lives in your household for the whole year and who is NOT related to you by blood or marriage AND you support that person’s child, you can put BOTH your friend and the child on your tax return as a ‘Qualifying Relative Other’ for exemption purposes, reducing your taxable income and tax liability.

Every year the IRS changes, deletes and clarifies codes, definitions and rules. The classification of ‘Qualifying Relative’ (QR) has been modified and clarified since 2005 and you and your tax preparer may not be aware of how this affects you. It sounds much more intimidating than it is, but the IRS recently issued a ruling which makes logical sense. Mirabile dictu!

For income tax purposes, a Dependent is a person who is supported by you. The IRS has very exact rules to follow for the definition of Dependent which vary a bit when looking at (HOH) filling status. The definition of Dependent for Exemption purposes was refined in 2005, but the notes issued on the definition did not exactly match the actual intent of Congress, which the IRS enforces.

On Jan 14, 2008, the IRS released a notice correcting the notes previously issued. In IRS Publ. 17, pages 22 to 34, and again in Publ. 501, pages 9 to 14, the rules for Dependent: Qualifying Relative (QR) are redefined to be clearer and less ambiguous. A QR is related by blood or marriage, lives with you, is supported by you and is not claimed by any other taxpayer and may also qualify you for HOH filing status. However, a person can be a Qualifying Relative Other (QRO) for exemption purposes only if the person lives in your household for the entire year and is supported by you. So you could claim your boy/girlfriend. But if they had a child, you couldn’t claim the child. Prior to the IRS Notice of Jan 14, 2008, a child could not be claimed as a QRO if there was anyone else who could possibly legally claim the child even if they did not do so. The child’s exemption was lost.

John Wood, CPA, noted that, “the IRS has changed the wording in Pub. 17 Table 3-1 for 2007. [The test for] “Qualifying Relative” now reads “the person cannot be your qualifying child or the qualifying child of any other taxpayer”. [In prior years, it read] anyone else.”

“Many people, including tax professionals, may have incorrectly interpreted the law and may have overlooked or failed to properly claim a dependent exemption. The IRS issued Notice 2008-5 on January 14, 2008 in an attempt to clarify the meaning of a qualifying relative. Congress has not changed the law and the IRS notice does not reflect a change in its interpretation of the law. It is a “clarification”, and it is applicable to all tax years after 2004. [i.e. 2005, 2006, 2007 etc] This means that taxpayers, who were told, based on a widespread misinterpretation that they could not claim an unrelated person, may be able to file an amended return to claim the dependent exemption.”

In 2005 and 2006, a taxpayer could claim a person who was NOT related by blood or marriage as a dependent for the personal exemption only. This meant if your boyfriend, girlfriend or other person lived with you for the whole year and was supported by you, then you could include him/her on your tax return as QRO and take the personal exemption. The stickiness was if your QRO had a child, many tax professionals and tax software packages would not allow you to claim the child even if you supported the child, because of the phrase “any other person,” erring on the side of caution. If this situation applies to you, as Mr. Wood states above you may want to file an amended return for tax years 2005 and/or 2006.

For filing year 2007, if you can claim the parent and no one else (i.e., former spouse, biological parent) claims the child, then you can use the child’s personal exemption. It makes perfect sense. If Richard Roe and his daughter, Rachel Roe, live with you all year and you provide all their support, then you can put both of them on your tax return as QRO and take both personal exemptions.

Each personal exemption reduces your taxable income by $3,400 for the 2007 tax year. Depending on your particular situation, this can result in a significant reduction in your actual tax liability. For example: Sally Smith makes $25,000 per year. She supported her boyfriend, Richard Roe and Richard’s minor daughter Rachel for the whole year. Her filing status is Single with 3 exemptions.

Her standard deduction of $5,350 and three exemptions total $10,200. This makes her taxable income $9,450, and her tax liability is $1,030. Before these changes went into effect, Sally would have been Single with 1 exemption, herself. Her taxable income would be $16,250 and the tax on that is $2,050. Being allowed to claim the exemptions for Richard and Rachel reduces her tax burden by $1,020.

Mr. Wood also pointed out that while that “a child who ‘ages out’ of Qualifying Child status may still be considered the taxpayer’s dependent, as long as he or she meets the requirements for a Qualifying Relative. Therefore, provided the individual meets the new requirements, a taxpayer’s 24 year-old child could be a dependent.”
NTNN would like to thank Mr. Wood for his valuable input, knowledge, research and the time he spent assisting in the preparation of this article.

For more information or clarification, contact John S. Wood, CPA, at www.jwoodcpa.com or your tax professional. The IRS can be reached on-line at www.irs.gov or call the 1-800-829-1040 helpline.

Published in NTNN on February 8, 2008. Vol 16, issue 3.


HOTT can mean sexy, cool, great, creative, different, inspiring. When describing Phoenix Studio founder, Susan Gott, it means all of those and so much more, as a typical day includes working with 2400 degree molten glass and 900 degree ovens.

Every year, Susan Gott, founder of Phoenix Studio, hosts a holiday glass show, artist open house and demonstration the weekend after Thanksgiving. She built, owns and operates Phoenix Studio, located in the Seminole Heights neighborhood of central Tampa. The studio sprawls through the building and out into the back yard. Ornaments hang from trees, sculptures stand in corners or in groups, contemplating the lizards as they race around the garden. Display cases holding vases, platters, paper weights and poured glass sculptures are lined up along the walls. Boxes are filled with blown glass globes. The jewel like colors glow. Guests carefully examine the delicate creations, deciding just where they would like to see it in their home or who would most appreciate it as a gift. This year, Susan was demonstrating her technique for casting a life-size sculpture.

“Okay, make sure you stay back. The molten glass is over 2400 degrees and you are going to feel it if you’re too close,” Susan Gott called out, as Team Phoenix poured the thick fluid into the mold

Susan had already placed some of the unique, precast inclusions (inset decorative pieces) into niches carved into the sides of the heavy mold. The first layer of glass was poured over these inclusions to anchor them into position. More inclusions, windows and images were set or pushed in and then another layer of molten glass was poured. So they continued, pouring and placing, blow torches at ready, filling the mold.

Taking the branding irons, she stamped designs into the layers. She artfully placed more colored pieces, leaves, globes and varied geometric or asymmetric shapes around the mold. This was no longer a tub of liquid glass The life-sized female statue now has a face and recognizable body parts. The body parts are, for the most part, veiled with leaves and gems, much as Eve draped herself when leaving Eden.

A vast amount of preparation work goes into each piece. Everything must be preplanned and choreographed. When working with molten glass, safety, accuracy and speed are vital concerns. There is no time to discuss or direct when holding a ladle of liquid glass. Protective body gear includes leather aprons, leather and Kevlar gloves, full face helmets, protective goggles and heavy work boots.

The room contains furnaces, metal tubes, work tables, large vats of water. There are curved spatulas, rollers, pincers, snippers, fine wiring in various areas. Metal trays pressed with various textural patterns are used to simulate checkerboard or other intricate designs in the glass. Friends, neighbors and interested strangers, soon to become friends, lined up around the room to watch the proceedings. A lucky few climbed the stairs to the balcony to get an overview of the proceedings. As heat rises, those on the balcony had an enhanced experience of what it means to be a glass artist.

“Susan, will we see it unmolded tonight? Will we get to see the finished work?”

Susan laughed as her assistant sifted silica powder over the almost completed work, using her blow torch to add the final gloss.

“Not tonight. Tonight, this goes back into the oven. We keep it at 800 to 900 degrees for two days and then it has to anneal [set] for 2-1/2 to 3 weeks. And we have to watch the temperature. If it drops too soon, the piece will shatter. It has to come down gradually. The internal heat of the statue will make the mold crack, further guaranteeing the uniqueness and exclusivity of each piece. After it’s annealed, it’ll be pressure washed and polished. A blacksmith will fabricate a stand and I’ll do whatever other finish work it needs: gold leaf, carving, gemstones. Every piece is one of a kind, as the inclusions are individually placed and each mold is destroyed,” Susan replied.

At the studio, Susan and Team Phoenix produce commissioned pieces and pieces for sale to the public. Commissioned pieces in the collections of the University of Central Florida, Port Tampa Library in Hillsborough County, the City of St Petersburg and HARTline’s University Area Transit Center can also be seen on her website, www.gottglass.com.

Cast pieces are available for purchase as are works produced by Phoenix Glass Studio. Smaller cast pieces for sale include ornaments, vases, globes, sea weights (pieces in the shape of shells and mollusks), oil lamps, bowls, platters, bookends and wall hangings. Prices range from $14 and up, depending on size and complexity of the piece. These unique glass objects would be a beautiful addition to any home or office. Whether you chose to hang an assortment of window globes and enjoy the play of colored light on your desk or counter top, enjoy fresh cut flowers in a multicolored vase or use one of the platters as a centerpiece for your dinner table or wall hanging, there is something here to excite the senses of the most jaded person.

Susan has worked in glass for over 25 years. She started with glass painting, moved on to traditional stained glass (individual pieces of cut glass soldered together with leading) and then to casting and blowing glass. She has always enjoyed working with heat and molten substances. “I’ve always worked with heat, been drawn to heat. And, as I developed as an artist, I chose to work with hotter and hotter substances,” Susan told the crowd.

“My sources of inspiration are endless. Archaeology, mythology, Jung, Indonesian and African masks, Celtic art, ancient Greece, the belief systems of the Native Americans all come into play in my work.”

Susan also studied bronze casting, jewelry making and raku. Raku is a method of Japanese ceramic firing which uses low temperatures and the immersion of the piece in a bed of combustible materials to develop a crackle glaze. She has a Master of Fine Arts from Kent State University and has received numerous awards and grants for her work. She is also the first place winner 2002 though 2006, Glass Division, at Disney’s Festival of the Masters, where she has a coveted spot outside Bongo’s each year Phoenix Studio, located at 811 East Knollwood St, Tampa is open weekdays from 9 to 5 and by appointment. The phone number is (813) 237-FIRE or visit them on the web at www.gottglass.com.

Published on December 7, 2007. Volume 15,issue 24.


For the 26th year, the Henry B. Plant Museum present its Annual Victorian Christmas Stroll. The museum, located at the University of Tampa in downtown Tampa, is festooned with decorations, garlands, wreathes, and of course, Victorian Christmas trees. From Dec. 1 through 23, you can step back into another era and enjoy the pageantry of America’s Gilded Age.

The Henry B. Plant Museum is housed in the former Tampa Bay Hotel. Built in 1891, the museum occupies one wing of the 511 guest room hotel, with the remainder housing the University of Tampa. Each room of the museum reflects a different aspect of Victorian life and is decorated in the same theme.

Before entering the museum, you climb the broad steps onto a deep shaded veranda. Small tables line the porch, where cookies and hot spiced cider are served, complimentary with your paid admission.

Through the double doors, the entry foyer contains a teddy bear tree, a tableau of bears, doll carts and other bear memorabilia. Theodore Roosevelt was a visitor to the hotel and this reflects his association with the teddy bear, that perennial favorite. Straight ahead, across the broad hallway, lies the train room, dedicated to Henry Plant himself.

You enter the broad hall. To the left, at the far end of the grand hallway is the 18 ft tall central tree. To the right, the entrance to the University of Tampa is visible. There are only a few rooms to the right, so let us commence our stroll that way and continue counterclockwise.

The first room is the long reading and writing room. This room contains books and writing tables. Letter writing was an important means of communication in the Victorian age, just as text and emailing are an integral part of ours. In many areas, mail was delivered three times a day, allowing almost instant communication. The tree is festooned with greeting cards and small books.

Across the hall is a room currently dedicated to the 1920's, the era of jazz, flappers and bathtub gin. Women had obtained the right to vote and crossword puzzles were the rage. Victorian corsets contrast with jazzbaby teddies. Fans, garters, pearl necklaces and other froufrou of that time hang from its branches.

Now entering the Henry B Plant room, the 14 ft tree is topped with a railroad crossing sign. Henry Plant owned more than 4000 miles of train track, covering Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. Train schedules and small trains hang from the branches, while a large scale toy train sits at the base of the tree.

The adjacent room, containing perhaps a dozen decorated chairs, features a 14 minutes movie about Henry B Plant and the building of the museum, nee the Tampa Bay Hotel. A small Victorian bathroom is visible through the doorway complete with artificial bubble bath.

The next room is the dining room. The feather trees showcase beaded garland and are accompanied by a large statue of a swan. The tables are set for dinner, each place setting different. This reflects the Victorian multicourse dinner, with each course requiring a change of plate and flatwear. A menu completes the display, listing the nine courses offered, the classic soup to nuts.

Around the bend is the stairwell. Garland and stockings lead your eye upward to the second floor. The tree which stands in the crook of the stairwell is laden with Native American dolls. Small toys and treats are in piles on the floor to be given to those less fortunate.

The sports room tree is dedicated to the number one American pastime, the boys of summer: baseball. Souvenirs from Cooperstown, New York, now home to the Baseball Hall of Fame, cover the tree. The room also highlights fishing, croquet and hunting.

Another Victorian obsession was with all things Oriental. The tree is topped with a red parasol, red representing happiness and good luck. Small fans, chopsticks, paper lanterns complete the tree. Antique vases line the room.

Now reentering the grand hallway, you stand before the 18 ft tall central tree. Reflecting Victorian mores and its emphasis on family life, the tree has globes, lights, small toys, minature musical instruments and oddbits. Each family member would include a few items reflecting his or her interests or hobbies, often handmade.

The small private library’s tree has New Year’s postcards clipped to it. A bisque doll sits on a bench, quietly awaiting the return of her owner.

This room leads to the master bedroom, where two mannequins in formal evening wear represent Mr and Mrs Plant. Mr Plant already has his top hat on while Mrs Plant holds her dance card. The tree has small glass ornaments and purple ribbons.

The music room is the children’s haven. Toys, paper dolls and balls are strewn on the floor, while a bear plays the harp. This was considered one to the private room, where children could romp and not disturb the guests.

Entering the garden room is like entering a terrarium: stunning. Garlands of citrus fruits hang from the mantle. Vaguely disturbing garden statutes are on display. The Hotel was proud to be able to offer fresh fruit all year long.

The last display room is the Spanish-American War room. The hotel was the headquarters for the US Army during the war. The trees are covered with cigars, cigar boxes, dominoes and Cuban flags, celebrating nearby Ybor City and its history of rolling and packing cigars.

The gift shop is also enhanced by a white and blue tree. In addition to museum books and souvenirs, the shop sells ornaments, porcelain figurines, silver, candles, baby items, jewelry, beaded purses and maps.

There is musical entertainment each night. A capella singers, soloists and ensembles perform, encouraging sing-a-longs of traditional carols. Museum guests linger, enjoying the interludes, before stepping outside for cookies and cider.

The 26th Annual Victorian Christmas Stroll takes place each day from December 1 to 23, 10 am to 8 pm daily. Admission is $10 for adults, $4 for children under 12. Mondays and Tuesdays, adult admission is $6 and children’s price is $3. Located at 401 West Kennedy Blvd, Tampa, the phone number is (813) 254-1891, or visit them on the web at www.plantmuseum.com.

Published on December21, 2007. Volume 15, issue 25.


Did you know that Florida has over two dozen vineyards, many of which offer complimentary tours and tastings? While many vintners offer fruit-infused wine, a blending of grape and fruit wines (usually 80% grape, 20% fruit), Florida Orange Groves Inc and Winery in St. Petersburg is unique in that it manufactures and bottles fruit wines that are 100% non-grape, although they recently introduced a grape wine. These wines are very smooth, very appealing, with little of the tannic experience that some find sharp or displeasing.

Florida Orange Groves Inc and Winery (FOGW) is open 7 days a week (see hours below). The tasting bar is open and tours are conducted throughout the day. Because fruit is harvested and processed year round, you can see actual bottling year round. Unlike a grape winery, it isn’t limited to the small window of the picking season. A very informative video which explains the complete bottling process is shown before the tour. Here, art, science and technology combine into a delicious package. It was a very pleasing way to spend an afternoon. Educational, too!

The Shook family founded FOGW in the early 1970’s as a citrus packing and shipping operation. After a few years, they expanded the operation to include a gift store and juicing operation. In 1991, the Shooks’ began the long arduous process of obtaining all the necessary federal and state permits and certifications that are required for a commercial winery. The goal was to produce, bottle and sell wines made exclusively from locally grown fruit, including citrus, berry and tropical fruits. It was not until 1997 that the winery was able to open its doors. Since then, the line has been expanded to include Georgia peaches, Washington marrionberries and even locally grown muscadine grapes

The permitting process is so detailed and arduous that it mandates not just the basic label information, i.e. volume, weight, alcohol content, but even the font, color, size of the picture and the size and shape of the bottles. Of course, FOGW is in full compliance with all health and sanitary regulations.

Entering the gift store filled with wines, wine accessories, local jams,jellies, preserves and kitschy Florida souvenirs, there is a long tasting bar on the left hand side. Over thirty varieties of wines, including mango, hurricane (a blend of passion fruit, watermelon, mango and other sunny flavors), pineapple and hot sun, a tomato wine spiked with jalapeno, are available. Lists of the wines, pencils and glasses line the counter, and you are invited to sample whatever you like. Caveat: This is for adults over 21 only! It is illegal to serve alcohol to minors.

If you’re unsure, the friendly staff will make suggestions and remind you that there are no wrong decisions. They are all very knowledgeable and their enthusiasm is palpable. You can sample the wines until you fall in love with one. Or two. Or even three. In addition to wine, there are wine-based smoothie blends. Pouring about a tablespoon of wine into your glass, the staff suggests that you follow the “Six S’s” of wine tasting to get optimum flavor from your sample:

Sight: Look at the wine in the glass.
Swirl: Swirl the wine in your glass to release the aroma.
Sniff: Inhale the scent. Let the scent hit your palate.
Sip: Take a small sip of the wine.
Swish: Roll the wine around in your mouth so that all the taste buds can experience the flavor and texture of the wine.
Swallow: Finally, allow the wine to glide down your throat and enjoy the silk feel of it.

Repeat with the remaining wine in your glass. It is truly amazing how many different nuances you can detect in a tablespoon of wine. When you’ve finished one, you are encouraged to try another. The owners and staff do recommend you limit yourself to three to six wines, both to preserve the sensitivity of you palate and your ability to operate a motor vehicle.

Before or after (or even during-you can take a break from tasting and come back to it) there is an excellent 12 minute video on the history of FOGW and the fermenting and bottling process. It goes into great detail and it is highly recommended that you see it before going on the actual tour. Even if you chose to stay in the shop, tasting, the staff is happy to run the video for you, as many times as you want to see it.

Before the fermentation process can begin, the fruit is pressed and juiced off-site. The fruit juice is brought to the plant for fermentation (development of alcohol content in a liquid). Juice is poured into 1000 gallon, stainless steel tanks and yeast is added. Depending on the fruit, the fermentation process takes from one week to three months.

The next step is racking the tanks. As the juices ferment, lees (sediment-tiny solid particles of fruit) fall to the bottom of the barrel. A clear glass tube on the side of the tank allows the wine master to monitor the state of sedimentation and determine when it is time to rack the wine, usually when there is about a foot of sediment. The clear wine is siphoned off the top and the lees removed. This is repeated as many times as necessary until the wine is clear.

The third and fourth steps are bottling and labeling. The bottles are sterilized and filled with CO2 to prevent oxygenation, which would spoil the wine. As the wine is shot into the bottle, the CO2 is pushed out. An antibacterial, resin cork is inserted into the bottle, sealing it. Unlike natural cork, resin won’t shrink, doesn’t break apart, can be easily reinserted to preserve your wine and it comes in a variety of colors, which FOGW coordinates with the bottle labels.

After this, the bottles are ‘cap sealed’. A clear plastic seal is shrink wrapped around the neck of the bottle providing additional protection against oxygenation. The bottles are labeled, boxed and stored pending shipment. The fermenting and bottling rooms are kept at 58 degrees at all times. A 2 degree variance either way can ruin a batch of wine.

While this is a boutique winery, they just acquired a machine which will automate the bottling process. It’s about fifteen feet long, increases the bottling capacity eight fold and is fascinating. Metal fingers coax the bottles along the conveyor belt, swinging, spinning and finally rolling them into the waiting box in a ballet of glass and steel.

The tour also includes viewing the fermenting rooms, which are lined with 1000 and 1500 gallon tanks. The 1000 gallon tank is eight feet tall and six feet in diameter, the 1500 gallon ten feet tall and about seven feet in diameter. Walking along the rows of tanks in the cool room, you can look at the same glass tube the wine master uses to evaluate the wine and see the different stages of the fermentation process. Some tubes are viscose, some have falling particles and some are clear, ready for bottling.

Since 1997, FOGW has been awarded a total of 176 gold, silver and bronze ribbons, including seven “Best of Show” at the Florida and Indiana State Fairs and at the “Wines of the South” competition. Each autumn, it participates in EPCOT’s Food and Wine Festival, the only Florida winery to do so.

Florida Orange Groves Inc and Winery is located at 1500 Pasadena Ave South in St Petersburg. The tasting bar and gift store are open Monday to Saturday from 9:00 to 5:30 and Sunday from 12:30 to 5pm. Tours are conducted throughout the day. The phone number is (727) 347-4025 and they can be reached on the web at www.floridawine.com.

Published on January 25, 2008. Volume 16, issue 2.


On the second Saturday of each month, a select number of galleries in St. Petersburg stay open late. The gallery owners put out chocolates, cookies and candies, straighten their displays, wipe off the last sticky handprint and look forward to greeting patrons during the Downtown Arts Association Second Saturday Gallery Walk.

St. Petersburg was voted one of the “Top 25 Arts Destinations, Mid-Size Category” by the readers of American Style magazine, and the gallery walk is an example of why it has received that honor. Wandering the streets of St. Pete, you can stumble into an exciting art studio on practically every block. However, for many people an impediment to gallery hopping is that the hours are generally from 10 to 6 pm, weekdays. During the Second Saturday event, the participating studios extend their hours, opening from 5:30 until 9 p.m. We were able to visit five venues recently along Central and 2nd Avenues, from the Pier all the way to 5th Street. Walking shoes or sneakers are a must so your feet don’t give out before you do.

Starting at the Florida Craftsmen Gallery, 501 Central Avenue at 5th St, 727-821-7391, http://www.floridacraftsmen.net/, home for the work of over 250 local artists, our eyes widened at the eclectic offerings. Everything from glass jewelry to metal wall hangings to nude ceramic sculptures is on display. The window on the Central Avenue side frames an 8 ft by 8 ft hanging of small squares of fabric, individually appliquéd, beaded and embellished, in a veritable rainbow of colors by Marlene Glickman. As you walk past the wall hanging, the slight disruption of air caused by the movement of your body makes the squares sway gently, giving the work life and movement. Glass sculptures by Susan Gott are displayed in one window, vases and lamps rest upon staggered pedestals, a table of hand-turned wooden bowls and platters complete the multi-media extravaganza. Against the wall, a crib filled with Grace Ann Alfiero’s patchwork Goth-inspired bunnies? kitties? invites the eye and then shocks it. These are the perfect gift for a disaffected, sullen teenager or an adult with a warped sense of humor. Charlie Parker’s fireplace enclosure of hand crafted tiles sets off a naïve-style Don Quixote sculpted by Martha Kehm. There are glass kisses, ceramic teapots, yard markers and glass and metal beaded ceiling fan pulls because beauty does not stop at eye level, nor does it only rest upon a wall. On Jan. 18th, the exhibit “Highly Recommended: Emerging Artists Invitational” will open, running until Feb 22. This exhibit of up and coming artists will feature cutting edge works that erase any preconceived boundaries the viewer may have between ‘art’ and ‘craft’

The Glass Canvas Gallery, 146 2nd Street, between 1st and 2nd Avenues, 727-821-6767, is devoted exclusively to the glass arts, featuring the work of over 350 artists. Abstract sculptures both large and small, platters and perfume bottles are the oeuvre of this contemporary gallery. Delicate ornaments, globes and finials hang from a tree in the back of the gallery. A fish tank with a warning label “Do Not Feed” holds glass insects, including a preying mantis, a scorpion and iridescent dragonflies. A cat and dog molded from flat, colored sheets of plastic were extraordinarily real in their expressions, ready to be taken home and loved. These pets don’t have to be walked or fed, either. A few of the more prominent artists carried are Rosin of Italy, James Connie and Vandermark.

Out on the Pier, is the Crystal Mirage Gallery, 800 2nd Avenue, 727-895-1166, http://www.crystalmirage.com/. Jewelry lies in velvet cases, while sea-life sculptures, Native American crafts sit in large glass cabinets. Fantasy figurines of trolls and goblins make faces, shovel dirt and plan mischief as they sit in the tightly packed display units. Japanese low-fired Raku ceramic ware, Swarovski crystal pieces, collectibles and metal abstracts fill up the rest of this jam-packed gallery. Correia, Abelman , Zellique, Schmidt Rhea art glass studios , Zack Studios, Moon Rocks, Eickholt Glass, Douglas Sweet, Madd Art, Hal Berger, Buzz Blodgett, Loy Allen , Krystonia are a few of the lines carried here. The Crystal Mirage fulfills subscription requests if you collect series art. If a piece is not in stock, the staff is happy to order it for you. Every possible inch is filled with beautiful pieces of art and craft work. If you don’t see what you you’re looking for, ask because the owners may have it in the back, waiting for a display spot.

Going out to or returning from the Pier, you may want to hop on one of the free trolleys that run about every five minutes between the Pier and the parking lots. There is a second trolley which goes into downtown St. Petersburg, stopping at Baywalk and the museums.

Shapiro’s at Baywalk was next. Shapiro’s, 185 2nd Avenue North, 727-894-2111, http://www.shapirogallery.com/, recently opened a branch in Sautee, Georgia. A friendly moose crafted of hubcaps and metal pipes guards the entrance, letting you know you’re in for something off the beaten path. Shapiro’s carries Kathy Bransfield, Watchcraft, Gary Rosenthal, Yardbirds, Cricket Forge, Heartwood Creations and Mikutowski Woodworking. The works range from ‘found art’ (art made of discarded materials) to wall décor, pottery, leather, Judaica, coffee scoops and nightlights. There are pokes to decorate your yard, oversized metal wall words, turned and painted wood platters, hand punched leather bags and clocks. The Judaica includes menorahs, mezzuzah cases, a sterling yod, tzedakah boxes, dreidels, marriage and bar/bat mitzvah memorabilia. Hammered metal bracelets, inlaid wood cutting boards and boxes are in another corner. There are pieces for every room of your home or office, from the kitchen to the boardroom. The staff is very helpful and informative, mentioning a number of upcoming local art and craft events.

The Artspace at 10 Fifth St off Central Avenue, 727-418-8887, http://www.artspaceartists.com/ is a warren of working artist’s studios, so anyone could be there. The 18 artists in residence work in a variety of media. This past Saturday, Mack Hicks was explaining his “paradoxical art” to a few visitors. Reminiscent of Escher, his work plays with trompe l’oeil, perspective and illusion. While he has stark paintings on the wall, the 3-dimensional pieces, crafted of foam core and painted are even more intriguing. Moving closer or back, swaying slightly from side to side, the pieces swim in and out, and seem to shimmer. One piece has three sections, depicting the Lincoln Memorial. President Lincoln, sitting on his chair, appears to be inside the Memorial and then outside. It is hard to tear your eyes away from the piece, but when you do, there are paradoxical pieces depicting ancient Greece, the Pier and other places.

Second Saturday can be an exciting way to spend an evening, enjoying the latest in contemporary art and crafts. The next few 2nd Saturdays are February 9th, March 8th and April 12th. Participating studios vary, please visit the website or call the individual gallery beforehand to determine whether or not it will be open. For more information, visit http://www.stpetearts.org/ or surrealmuse.com/category/tampa/tampa/.

Published in NTNN on February 8,2008. Volume 16, issue 3.


Once a month, the City of Orlando sponsors a two hour Moonlight History Stroll of Greenwood Cemetery. Located within the city limits of Orlando, Greenwood is about 75 minutes from the New Tampa area via I4 East to Exit 82A, State Road 408E to Exit 11B. Don Price, the General Manager of the cemetery, guides you on a four mile walk, visiting the graves of some of Orlando’s most notable and/or notorious citizens. While this is not a ghost tour, it is a fascinating perspective on the checkered history of Orlando, its politics, segregation and the economic growth and societal changes of the past century.

Chartered in 1880, Orlando’s picturesque Greenwood Cemetery embraces more than 100 acres of grass, trees and tombstones. Even after losing 140 trees during the 2004 hurricane season, it is a cool, shaded (and shady!) place to spend an afternoon-or an evening. Despite more than 60,000 interments to date, including transfers from other cemeteries in the area which were closed by local ordinance, it is open, viable and somehow “always has room for one more.”

Meeting at the main entrance to the cemetery, Price begins with an overview of what you’ll see and learn on your walk. He’s an expert on local history, and what he doesn’t know, he makes up as he goes along. In addition to commercial film studios, Valencia Community College, UCF and Full Sail film programs all use Greenwood for their student projects. According to Price, not only were the movies “The Way Back Home” and “Unconscious” filmed at Greenwood, but every movie ever made, too, and he personally had either a walk-on or speaking parts in all of them. Determining precisely when and what he is pulling everyone’s leg about is just part of the fun.

Explaining the physical layout of the cemetery, the significance of the four gates, the impact of State Road 408 abutting the north side of the cemetery and the various sections is only the beginning. A veritable who’s who of historic and present-day Orlando citizens are laid to rest in Greenwood. It seems every major street and neighborhood in Orlando has a corresponding grave and tall tale, including Parramore, Bumby, Leu, Mizell and Boone.

Indeed, it is ironic that Parramore Avenue and the poor, overwhelmingly African-American neighborhood of Parramore were named in honor of a Captain of the Confederate Army, James Parramore. Harry Leu bought the Mizell estate, now known as Harry P. Leu Gardens, in the Winter Park area of Orange County. Cassius Boone, a tax collector and owner of the first hotel in Orlando, has a high school named after him. Joseph Bumby built a large Victorian building across from his hardware store, neither of which is located on Bumby Avenue.

There are mausoleums, many monuments of granite and a few wood markers. Some of the family monuments and mausoleums tell sad tales of infant mortality, childbed fever, and widowhood, as is true of all cemeteries.

Racism is always ugly and to see it in a cemetery is shocking to many. Jim Crow laws even extend to the grave and the cemetery was not completely desegregated until Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Part of the earlier push to desegregate Greenwood was made by various veterans’ groups. Soldiers from both sides of the Civil War are buried there, as are veterans of the Spanish-American War and both World Wars. Men who have served together, defending our country, were not about to be separated in death. Today, it is hard to imagine people being sorted and, to paraphrase Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., “judged by the color of their skin [not] by the content of their character." Yet this was not uncommon in the early years of our nation. The Ku Klux Klan was not the laughing stock it is today. The Ocoee Massacre of 1920 was one result of this mindset.

On Nov 2, 1920, in Ocoee, located in northwest Orange County, July Perry and his friend, Mose Norman, both black, tried to vote. Judge John Cheney, who had helped many African-Americans register to vote, encouraged them to return to the polls. A former Chief of Police of Orlando, Sam Salisbury, led a posse to arrest Mr. Perry and Mr. Mose. Salisbury was shot by an undetermined assailant and a black-white riot ensued, leaving many dead. The 495 black residents of Ocoee fled, and it remained an all-white town for over 65 years. Both July Perry and Judge Cheney are buried in Greenwood.

Price also explains how and why the ‘residents’ of other cemeteries were moved to Greenwood. He recounts the arch-rivalry between Elijah Hand, who owned a funeral home and his son, who opened a rival funeral parlor across the street. Price explains what it means to be buried on higher ground, at the midpoint of a section or near one of the gates. Even in death, rivalry and politics are a pre-eminent part of the Orlando character.

Greenwood Cemetery is located at 1603 Greenwood St. Take I4 east to Exit 82A, State Road 408 East. Get off at exit 11B Mills Ave. For more information, call 407-246-2616 or visit their website at http://www.greenwood cemetery.net/index.htm. Tours will be held on Jan 25, Feb 22 and March 21 from 9 to 11 pm and reservations are required. There is no charge, although donations to defray the cost of replacing the lost trees are accepted.

For more information on the ‘residents’ of Greenwood, go to http://www.cfhf.net/orlando/people/index2.htm. The Ocoee Massacre is covered in detail at http://iml.jou.ufl.edu/projects/fall01/white/

Published on January 25, 2008. Volume 16, issue 2.

January Solutions to December Excesses

It’s January, the start of the new year. And, for many of us, the time that we approach our mail boxes with dread, knowing that the credit card bills demanding payment for our holiday excesses will be arriving any minute. Between the toys, presents, restaurant meals and out of town guests that descended, it is not at all unusual to be short of cash during the winter months.

But you still have to have fun. You still want to entertain your kids. You may have a birthday or anniversary to celebrate or even a date you want to impress. Which raises the question: how? How can you go out and not put yourself even further into debt?

Living in Central Florida, we are blessed with year round sunshine and temperatures that only rarely drop to freezing. Public parks are always an option for a free/cheap excursion. Art galleries and window shopping can be a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. Anyone can do that. Let’s take a step a bit further outside the box.

The Dali Museum, 1000 Third Street South, St Petersburg, 727-823-3767,
www.salvadordalimuseum.org/home.html, is open seven days a week. General admission is $15.00. On Thursdays, from 5 to 8 p.m. adult admission is reduced to $5.00. Children ages 5 to 9 are $4.00. Children 4 and under are free at all times. Current exhibits include The Fine Art of Collecting Dali, the student exhibit of Surrealism, Dreams and Fantasy, Dali in Focus and the permanent collection, home to the most comprehensive collection of Dali’s work in the world. Opening Feb 8, Dali & Film, examines Dali’s use of alternative media, specifically the relationship between his art and film. It includes his work with Luis Bunuel, Hitchcock and Disney, along with screenplays, sets and narration. In conjunction with this exhibition, the museum also shows films on most Thursday evenings at 6 pm, including Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow on January 3 and Metropolis on January 17, 2008.

Surrealism is a genre that appeals to all age groups. Children love it because they naturally understand the absurdity of it, the incongruity. It appeals to their love of fantasy. Melting clocks, flying fish, distorted buildings all have their place in Dali’s odd dream world. Adults see the humor and political-religious commentary often contained in the pieces, which can inspire fascinating conversation and an inclination to twirl imaginary mustachios. The color usage, floating animals and architectural oddities reflect the way we often feel about life, that it is a series of nonsensical events, as opposed to the way we know it actually is, logical and orderly. Or is it? And sometimes, a cigar is just a...fish.

While the three hour time frame may seem short, it can be the perfect way to spend a Thursday evening. There is time enough to wander the galleries, have dinner and still be home at a decent hour.

If you have a half-tank of gas in the car and you’re willing to venture further afield, it is possible to have a theme park experience without entering a park at all! While you may think a visit to Disney means buying a day’s admission, you can enjoy a visit to one of the hotels and take in the decor, the museum quality artwork and the entertainment and not spend a penny. Your only cost would be if you opt for valet parking, decide to dine in one of the restaurants or if you throw a penny in the wishing well. Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge (at exit 65W-Osceola Pkwy on I4), 407-938-3000, is a bit less than an hour away. This unique hotel offers a few inexpensive entertainment options. http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/wdw/resorts/resortLanding?id=AnimalKingdomLodgeResortLandingPage

Entering the hotel, you’ll notice a series of display cases and statues in the lobby. Each corridor also contains display cases, statues, masks and other artifacts. The display cases contain smaller artworks, jewelry, baskets, garments and calligraphy scrolls. These are all museum quality African art. Each case or wall hanging is labeled with a detailed explanation of the provenance, usage and importance of each piece. A map of the hotel will help you in locating the various works of art. In the early evening, cast members give talks on African art, music and culture in one of the lounge areas off the main lobby.

Leaving the main building through the back doors, you pass a large fire pit surrounded by rocking chairs. A story teller spins tales and tells jokes each evening appropriate for even the youngest child. Continue past the fire pit to the savannah. The different areas are inhabited by wildebeest, zebras, giraffe, flamingos, pelicans, ostriches and other animals. Each area is designed for a particular group of animals in both its landscaping and security planning. There are numerous signs explaining the daily habits of each animal. If you arrive really early, before 7 a.m., it is possible to catch the animal caregivers putting food out for the animals and leading some to their particular areas. Cast members are always nearby with more information, if you have questions. Children who attend the cultural or animal lectures are often rewarded with beads and can make a bracelet or necklace.

The final serendipitous event is the culinary tour. Each day at 4 p.m., guests meet near Boma, the African buffet restaurant on the lower level. The buffet and each of its stations are explained, how a vegetarian diet is more common in Africa than here, the European origins of most of the desserts, the reason the salmon is nut-encrusted. Guests are then led into Jiko, where one of the chefs gives a brief lecture on African food, wine and liqueurs. Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is the exclusive North American distributor of Amarula, a delicious cream liqueur. The tour includes a visit to the wine cellar, a close up of the ovens, handling some African spices and often a few samples of this unusual cuisine. On previous visits, samples have included hummus, soups, crackers, sates and desserts.

Other free or inexpensive activities that you’ll enjoy, and we will review in future issues include Greenwood Cemetery, Orlando Museum of Art, Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, SurrealMuse Studios and the joys of reciprocal membership.

Published on January 11, 2008. Volume 16, issue 1