A night on the (hysterical) town with Book of Mormon at Straz Center, Tampa

Due to my relationship with Tampa Bay Bloggers, I was gifted two tickets by The Straz Center for the  Performing Arts to attend The Book of Mormon on media night in exchange for writing about the musical. All opinions are my own.
Although my blog usually focuses on entertaining and tablescaping, I also visit many local upscale restaurants, food and wine festivals and other entertainment venues. This is my second trip to The Straz as a blogger, and I hope you will enjoy travelling along.
The Book of Mormon came back to Tampa at The Straz Center for the  Performing Arts and I was so happy to be able to attend.
During its six-year run, the musical has won nine Tony Awards, including Best Musical.  I had heard about this musical for many years, and assumed it was “just another musical” that people loved to see to make a night on the town.
I had heard it was controversial because it makes fun of the Mormon Church, and I would imagine, religion.
A bit of background on the musical
It wasn’t until I started looking at photos and reviews of the musical leading up to the performance that I saw – hmm, this one is different, and people who see it really seemed “hooked” by some of the funnier, albeit very strange, lines. I’d never seen  men’s underwear being sold at the theater merchandise kiosk before.
The new missionaries.
The creators of South Park were the writers and madmen behind this musical. I wanted to find out why they chose the Mormon religion to write about. It turns out that they grew up in Colorado, with close proximity to Utah, so Mormons were a big part of their culture and society. (Sort of like Scientologists having headquarters in the city I live in?)
They defend themselves (see this ABC News article) by saying they are not necessarily making fun of Mormons, but for the “cheesy” wholesome quality they bring with their starched white short sleeve shirts, ever-present black ties and their willingness to ring the doorbell of virtually any stranger any time, anywhere, including other countries, such as Uganda.
Making fun of Mormons is like making fun of Disney World or other institutions.
Warning: Prudes please do not apply 
There is a warning in the playbill and other materials including the actual ticket of “explicit language” but there are also adult premises that I would not want to expose to anyone under 18, as the musical takes a look at very real and serious issues  in Uganda, including murder, warlords, AIDS  and female genital mutilation.
And let’s just say, I would not recommend this to people who are offended easily by cursing or looking at religion.
But for the rest of the world, you will want to see this play immediately.
Why I fell in love
At its heart, this is the story of friendship and right and wrong.
It’s about two young men who have been paired together, like roommates or war buddies and in this case, missionaries to another country.
One, sadly has never had many friends, and has been known as an elaborator of stories.

The other, hell- bent on succeeding, as told in the very funny song “You and Me (But Mostly Me.)”

Although very different from the classic tale, the story line reminded me of the Wicked plot: Two unlikely opposites put together against their will as young adults;  One teaching the other something they thought was impossible; Sweet sad songs; Defiant songs of delight and fortitude and perserverence.
It’s hard to not root for the two, as well as the Ugandan village facing insurmountable odds.
We are taken from Salt Lake City, to Uganda, where life includes daily strife and even death.
The two missionaries are treated to an African send off at the Salt Lake City airport.
Elder Cunningham trying to explain The Book of Mormon to the towns people.
The new missionaries meet  several missionaries who have been stationed in the village for three months and have not been able to convert one person to Mormonism. That gives the opportunity for some great song and dance, led by Elder McKinley, the very talented PJ Adzima, including “Turn It Off.”
After several rousing and well-done numbers by the townspeople  and more insight into their predicament,  we assume that successful Elder Price will be able to do the job, but it is Arnold who rises to the occasion.
It’s here Elder Cunningham  asks “What would Jesus do?” And begins the rousing – and hysterically choreographed – “Man Up.”
Elder Cunningham decides to do what no one believes he can do. He finds the strength, albeit he fudges the truth a little.
I was surprised I was shocked at a few things – but to go into it would give it away.
The music was lively and it’s easy to see why this musical has played 200 times in  six years.
As a Floridian, it was extra funny that the successful elder’s dream of success was to be stationed in Orlando.
It’s easy to love the bumbling Elder Cunningham (Arnold)  but even to love Elder Price,  although it becomes  clear that his perfect persona  has some serious flaws as well.
One of those is the guilt he keeps with him from stealing a glazed donut at age 6, which launches into a hell scene that changes the scenery  dramatically. We’ve all probably had this vision, and this nightmare.  Although somewhat scary,  it is raucously funny to see some of hell’s characters. You can guess who might be there but I’m not going to give it away.
Special treat was Jesus, who made a couple of appearances in the show, and had  one of the best lines of the show.
And suddenly we realize that the innocent Nabulungi rises to her greatness singing Sal Tlay Ka Siti – Salt  Lake City.
Nabulungi played by Kayla Pecchioni. Suddenly you realize she’s not just the darling of the village but an amazing talent with an incredible voice.
“Baptize You” sung by Elder Cunningham (Conner Peirson) and Nabulungi (Kayla Pecchioni)
“Baptize You”  is hysterical. And then Kayla Pecchioni  reprises with the sad and strong  Salt Lake City.  By then you realize  just how talented this whole cast is.
At times, I wondered how this Ugandan village could get out from this horrible repression, murder and mutilation.
However, as the conclusion shows how they reconcile,  audience members can’t keep track of how many times they’ve laughed.
Just when we think we’re going to have to leave these lovable missionaries and the Ugandan villagers, there is  a chance for the audience to join in the celebration.
I  have to admit I did not want the show to end and had a lump in my throat when we had to leave. Through all the dancing and singing, I had really bonded with these characters. As I think did the whole audience. A testimony to the talent of the whole cast.
Book of Mormon runs through Dec. 10 at  Carol Morsani Hall at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, 1010 N MacInnes Place, Tampa.
(813) 229-7827. Tickets are $33.75 and up.
The characters and actors of Tampa
My tickets! In front of the merchandise kiosk at The Straz Center.


Get inspired for your holiday table at The Hen House with Plate Girl


Holiday Tablescapes: Watch and Learn/ Dec. 12th 1-2pm

Holiday Tablescapes: Watch and Learn/ Dec. 12th 1-2pmHoliday Tablescapes: Watch and Learn/ Dec. 12th 1-2pm

Availability: In stock (23)

I’m so excited to be collaborating with The Hen House for a class on holiday tablescaping! The Hen House is located in Carrollwood and is an adorable shop that also has classroom space for fun events like this! Feel free to share with your friends and learn more!

Thank you Amy Lemons McDermott of Lemon Tree Vintage Market for the referral!

Here’s the announcement from The Hen House:

“Something fun is happening in The Coop on Tuesday, December 12th. Come and learn how create a beautiful and stunning opulent tablescape just in time for Christmas Holiday Entertaining. Presented by Marsha Strickhouser, The Plate Girl. This free demonstration will be happening from 1-2pm. Sign up and  reserve your space on-line.

More about Marsha! 

Marsha Strickhouser writes a blog called Plate Girl, is an avid tablescaper and helps people set their tables for holidays and general entertaining. She is obsessed with plates and has been collecting dishes since she was little. She believes setting a festive table makes the meal better and the day or night more memorable.

She will demonstrate how you can set a festive holiday table using many of the things you already have around your home.

She has appeared on WFLA and Daytime TV as Plate Girl, done tablescapes and florals for All Children/s Hospital Guild, Dress for Success and HCC, and collaborates with many area businesses to set tablescapes.

Her blog features tablescapes, restaurants, hotels and beaches and sometimes her Pomeranian and chihuahua.

She has a degree in journalism from the University of Miami and worked as a journalist for six years, including as a lifestyle and food editor at a tiny daily newspaper in South Dade county. She has also worked in public relations for almost 20 years, at the University of Miami School of Medicine, the University of South Florida and Valpak. (Yes, the coupon company, which makes me an official bargain hunter as well.)

You can also find her on social media at:
Facebook: PlateGirlFla
Twitter: PlateGirl19
Instagram: Plate_Girl
Pinterest: PlateGirl

Stalking the Dillard’s Christmas china department … is that wrong?

So after I went to Macy’s to check out the Christmas china, (see my previous post) I decided I needed more and headed over to Dillard’s.

Our local mall Westfield Countryside has a large department and selection. I always go there for Christmas and ALWAYS the day after Christmas for tons of great 50% off deals. It’s mobbed – but it’s fantastic.

I love that they have so many brands – in addition to Lenox, Spode, Fitz & Floyd,  Fiesta, Southern Living, Waterford, Christopher Radko and Swarovski, they have Dept. 56, Byers Choice, Annalee and more.

Here are some of my faves.

Fitz & Floyd
Fitz & Floyd
Byers Choice carollers
Spode Christmas tree. I spy my Chrismtas tree cookie jar in the back center. I love it!
Majestic Santa by Fitz & Floyd
So cute!
My mom used to buy me this book every Christmas!
These look just like the ones I had as a child.
Love these retro ornaments
Fitz & Floyd – gorgeous!
Christopher Radko tree of ornaments! And it spins!
Trendy decor items as well.
Cute Santa plate. These would be great to add to every day white china.
Love The Grinch by Dept. 56. Bought a WhoVille house last year!
Southern Living china is now at Dillard’s. I thought they used to be sold independently.
On point!
Classic Swarvski – ornaments and figurines.




Taking a trip to Macy’s china department to start the holidays

I don’t know if you can relate, but I love hanging out in department store china departments.

Yes. Really.

I worked in the Burdine’s (now Macy’s) china department when I was in college, and I guess that’s where it really got to me. It was there I saw the most elegant women choosing Christmas china patters such as Lenox Holiday.

And yes, I was hooked.

So now, I love to see all the china patterns set out for Christmas. And just when I think I know all of the companies and patterns, there’s something new.

My favorites: Lenox, Spode, Villeroy & Boch and even the sweetness of Pfaltzgraff.

Love Lenox!
Spode Christmas tree is a classic.
Love Toys by Villeroy & Boch.
Please forgive my no makeup! My daughter had been in the hospital and it had been a tough week. This was my one little shining light!
Villeroy & Boch
Lismore Pops
Lismore Pops
A new line by Waterford called Lismore Pops – after its best selling pattern and the newer brighter color.
New subtle line by Martha.
Glasses by Martha. Not Christmas but I love the pink-purple color!
Martha line – The plates match the napkins. Pretty lavender, pink, gold.
I really wanted this cake stand! I did buy some napkins, which were on sale.




Laura Katz Home filled with elegant treasures from the sea

Once again, I’m smitten with another shop at The Alley in Belleair. Locally, this little jewel is probably known to many, but I’ve just been introduced to it lately, and I’m so happy to find several treasures here.

In addition to Petal & Vine, Lemon Tree Vintage Market and dozens of others, I visited Laura Katz Home this weekend.

Although they are treasures from the sea, the items she hosts here are all elegant, from the textures of the gorgeous wing chair to gleaming metals, it’s a lovely place to look at exquisite details.

Take a look around at some her store on this November day. And if you love the ocean, stop by and treat yourself.

Brightly colored ornaments adorn the roof of the unassuming entrance of Laura Katz Home.


Barnacles, oysters and seashells are elegant here.
Elegant embroidered gold seahorses with silver starfish and ornaments.
Tall wooden musical angels grace the table behind the sofa.
An embroidered starfish runner and seashell chargers.
Seashell mirror looks exquisite in this festive setting.
I fell in love with this crystal blue damask wing chair.

Petal & Vine at The Alley offers fragrant and enchanting delights

The entrance to Petal & Vine

There’s something lovely about Petal & Vine. Is it the fresh flowers that greet you, the scent of pine and candles, or the sparkly and delightful ornaments and greenery?  Whichever it is, it’s a wonderful place to spend some time and pick up some gifts (including for yourself.)

Petal & Vine has been located in Belleair at The Alley for five years, but has had new owners since the beginning of 2017. It is at the forefront of dozens of shops that make up The Alley, including Lemon Street Vintage Market.

I was so delighted with this shop, it was difficult to stop taking photos of everything.

Since today is Small Business Saturday, I thought it would be good to share this sweet little shop.

Please take a walk with me around the store and and enjoy the enchanting sights!



Setting the Thanksgiving table with rich colors of Spode browns and oranges

I’m so happy to use my Spode “Woodland” Turkey china this year. I found it a year and half ago and I feel it is the “ultimate” in Thanksgiving dishes.

I also found a new Ralph Lauren tablecloth in burnt orange, and although it doesn’t match exactly, I like the contrast and the richness it brings.

I used my Mikasa wine and champagne glasses and some new-to-me Bombay Company palm tree brass candlesticks.

A floral centerpiece is a must for me, and I wanted to make my own floral arrangement. I was hoping to venture out to find some more unusual flowers like pods or birds of paradise, but I ended up being short on time and headed to my neighborhood Publix grocery store.  I used some eucalyptus and added red roses to the standard arrangement and added it to a crystal biscuit barrel.

It made for a beautiful table and my family and guests enjoyed it.

Hoping you also had a Happy Thanksgiving!! 🍁🦃🥂

  I used two different dinner plates – Spode “Woodlawn” Turkey, and William-Sonoma turkey plates from last year, which look very similar.  The salad plates are all Spode Woodland.




My mom’s Jim Shore pilgrim figurine.
This last photo shows how a centerpiece can add so much drama to a table. Here, the tablecloth and china and candlesticks are pretty, but not half as pretty as when the centerpiece of flowers is added. That’s why flowers and centerpieces are so important.





The Hen House in Carrollwood delightful place for gatherings, crafting, shopping

A friend told me about a great new place in Carrollwood (Tampa) called The Hen House.

Opened since this past April, The Hen House is a great place to pop in for some retail therapy, but also has several farmhouse tables for classes such as wreath making, sign making, florals and more.

There is also a cozy seating area to browse magazines and books about furniture painting projects.

I’m happy to announce I’ll be making an upcoming presentation on Tips to Set Your Holiday Table:
On Tuesday, Dec. 12, I’ll be at The Hen House in Tampa.

Continue reading “The Hen House in Carrollwood delightful place for gatherings, crafting, shopping”

Found Treasures moves to St. Petersburg, offering holiday lovelies at Gathered Glory

FOUND Treasures for Living has moved from Dunedin to St. Petersburg  and is now called Gathered Glory by Found. My friend Barb and I headed down there to check things out.

Instead of being in downtown on Main Street, it is now transferred to a warehouse area. But the friendliness and comaraderie certainly make up for what you think you might lose in that transition.

The products have definitely changed from the old store, and there are many wreaths, along with painted tin pieces and one of a kind artist offerings.

Owner Sara will have limited hours for the shop, so check out her Facebook page for hours. The next open house will be Dec. 2-3 and hoping yours truly will have a tablescape on display!

Loved this dove plate; bought the Santa!
Loved this simple frame with a Christmas message
Such a pretty frame. Some one bought it right away
Lovely spot
What a lovely little space!
Gorgeous metallic bird eggs
This vintage song book has songs about every state! My grandmother would have loved this!
A lovely assortment of candles and trees.
Father Christmas hand painted on tin.
Such a cute pillow!
I really wanted to get this! Love chandeliers!
Pretty little prayer spot.
Chalkboard ornaments.
Hand painted Santa.
Who doesn’t love a pretty pillow?
This lime green Santa came home with me. He announces the next opening of the store.

Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival offers chance to taste the world

So happy to visit Epcot – Walt Disney World Food and Wine Festival this week with  my daughter. Even though I live in Florida, I hadn’t been to the Food and Wine Festival  in more than 20 years, before I had children.

We went two days before the end of the festival, which was also the opening day of Disney World’s A Very Merry Christmas, so it was pretty crowded.

I loved – well, what everyone loves – being able to visit so many different countries in one day! And it’s so much fun to be able to try foods from every country as well.

My favorite pavilion is always France, with lavender, linens and champagne!

It’s been more than 20 years that I’ve been to the Epcot Food and Wine festival!!

I loved this martini slushi in France. I tried drinks from 6 countries (only!) but this was my favorite!
The Parisian restaurant looks pretty authentic to me!
Yes, I had to buy these.
Love these rolling pins. I wanted to add one to my collection!
Love these napkins from Provence.
Nice selection for the flight of Champagne in the France pavillion.
The employees at the France pavillion could not have been sweeter.