Almost time for brunch at The Ranch

It can get pretty busy in where I live in Tampa Bay. Pinellas County – a  peninsula off the west central coast of Florida – can get jammed packed, especially once kids go back to school and even more so in the fall when the Snowbirds/winter visitors come back.

But about 10 miles to our north you can still find open land, ranches, and even one or two alpaca farms.

Our friend Tom has a nice little ranch up there. He’s extremely hospitable and opens his home once a month for Sunday brunches.

It’s always refreshing to leave traffic behind and  head over to The Ranch. Tom always has a huge table filled with food, a kitchen bar filled with champagne, Bloody Mary’s and other cocktails.

This tray isn’t an appetizer tray – it’s garnishes for Bloody Mary’s!


His pool is a great place to enjoy the Florida sun and unwind, watch the horses, donkeys, dogs, cats, chickens and ducks.

It’s nothing too fancy, but it’s such a fun place to be!

Fruit trees and forts mark the passing of another summer


It’s almost the end of mango season here in Central Florida. I’ve been carefully watching the blooms on my tree for several months, waiting for when the fruit is large enough to pick. The mangoes haven’t reached their yellow or orange stage yet, so I want them to stay on my tree for a few more weeks. It’s hurricane season here, and even if there are no hurricanes, there are tropical storms or at least very windy storms that knock the fruit off the tree.

About how big my current mango tree was 20 years ago when I planted it.







Regretfully, annually, I see the work of the squirrels as well, with gnawed on mangoes littering the ground – pits exposed and squirrel teeth marks visible. There are others too far gone – just pits dirtied by the soil, embedded  from rains weeks ago.

I worry about my mangoes. Will there be enough to harvest, pridefully carry inside, slice from the pit and eat over the sink so that the juices dribble down my wrists and arms.

I worry I won’t have enough to satisfy me, and to slice and freeze for later months when there are no longer mangoes on the tree.

mango cutGrowing up in Miami, mangoes sustained my family and me almost every summer morning. We had one large tree out by the road next to the Phillips’ house, and it was enough to bear enough fruit for possibly 10 mangoes a day. When I’d take the garbage to the side of the road, I’d usually step on too-ripened mangoes that had fallen from the tree and we hadn’t picked up soon enough. They were orange with brown or black spots, or sometimes totally black on one side, rotting and smelly. Most of the time I was barefoot and would step right into it and slide, like a banana peel. Damn it, I’d think. Stupid mango.

We had other fruit in the yard as well. Oranges, bananas, carambola, calamondins, sea grapes and avocados.

It seems like I spent an inordinate amount of time outside, looking for ripe fruit, picking it, eating it. It seems all I did was wander around outside, foraging the neighborhood for fruit, climbing trees, roaming from yard to yard. Back then I judged people on two things: did they have fruit trees in their yards, and did they have “good trees.”

I know my mom fed me, because she would ring the outdoor brass bell just before 7:30 just before dusk, right after Gilligan’s Island and before My Favorite Martian was on and the sun was streaming through the back window. She’d make salmon and green peas and my sister and I would count who got more of the tiny round bones in our salmon. By then I had been out most of the day looking for fruit on neighbors’ trees. The Phillips had cherries; the Colemans had oranges; the Freemonts had tangerines, which were on the back side of their house and fairly protected. One had to be pretty clever to pick those without Mrs. Freemont spotting you. The unnamed neighbors next to them had the coveted mulberry tree. Their yard was pretty expansive, not fenced in and almost desolate toward the back. And they never seemed to be home. My best friend Gail and I would make the trip from her house to my house and then back again, stopping to climb the tree, grab handfuls of berries enough to stain our lips and fingers.

If we weren’t eating fruit, we’d search for forts, in trees or free-standing. Gail had a fort in her back yard between a few pine trees. It was big for a fort, and was away from the house so we wouldn’t be bothered by her siblings or parents and had the freedom to sing as many Sonny & Cher songs as we wanted. We were always in search of trees. Tall ones like the huge ficus in my front yard that branched out making encapsulated rooms that we could claim as our own. Or  the Australian pines in my back yard, that had shed saplings around their trunks, making smaller trees around their feet, in lines and curves, enough so that could once again make “rooms” out of them. There were bedrooms, a living room and a kitchen. Somewhere we had found a black and white speckled pot that we used to make pine cone and water soup and serve to each other. in the afternoons,  we played happily as Betty and Veronica, sharing our pine cone soup and debating who Archie liked more. We would venture out to get mangoes and add those to our snack, or some of the small calamondins, which we dipped in Ziploc bags filled with sugar.

mango ixora

Now I have to remind myself to go to the side yard and check to see if the mangoes are getting ripe.  Once again this summer. For the 19th year at this house. It’s about half the size of the one at my old house and doesn’t give nearly as much fruit.

mango sliced

But soon there will be fruit I can take in and slice and eat over the sink. Soon I can store the  extra fruit, some yellow slices, some orange, in Ziploc bags and push them to the back so no one else sees them.

Now, they are all the fruit I have left.

A peek into Waldorf Astoria Orlando

Although my main passion is tablescapes and entertaining, I also like to share my travels to hotels and restaurants, and share elegant surroundings.

Recently I visited Orlando, which is only two hours away from Tampa Bay , and stayed at the Hilton Bonnet Creek resort. The hotel is connected by the conference venue to the Waldorf Astoria Orlando. They each have their own pools and restaurants, but guests are free to use any of them.

I’m so glad I took the time to wander over to the Waldorf, which I had never stayed in. After strolling the long marble hallways, we turned to find a lovely tuxedoed waiter  in tails and a large silver platter of champagne flutes.
  Ahhhh, heaven.

Continue reading “A peek into Waldorf Astoria Orlando”

Farmtable Kitchen at Locale Market impressive in both fare and decor

Farm Table Kitchen, located inside Locale Market at SunDial in St. Petersburg, FL.

I went for a business lunch recently and my  associate  suggested Farmtable Kitchen at Locale Market. I had heard about the market but I must have been sleeping under a rock for two years,  because I didn’t know about Farmtable Kitchen.

Continue reading “Farmtable Kitchen at Locale Market impressive in both fare and decor”

It’s Officially Summer as Tropical Smoothie Cafe Celebrates National Flip Flop Day June 16

Since I started working with marketing for the local Tampa Bay Tropical Smoothie Cafe team, one of my favorite times of year is mid-June.

That’s because  everyone gets rewarded for wearing flip flops! And in Florida, that’s a no-brainer.

Some flip flop gals in the St. Petersburg cafe in 2016.

Tropical Smoothie Cafe started celebrating National Flip Flop Day many years ago, and offers a free smoothie to customers on that day!

Customers wearing flip flops on June 16 from 2 p.m. – 7 p.m. at Tropical Smoothie Café receive free, limited edition Sunshine Smoothie in 20th anniversary souvenir cup.


“National Flip Flop Day creates a mini vacation from everyday life by encouraging customers to kick back and wear flip flops while enjoying a freshly made smoothie. Customers wearing flip flops into Tropical Smoothie Café between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. will receive a free, limited edition Sunshine Smoothie in a 16-ounce, 20th anniversary souvenir cup. There are no strings — or in this case — shoe laces, attached.”

I decorated some of the tables in the Cafes with tropical colored plates, plants, tropical fruit and funny big sunglasses. 





Cabot Cheese at Epicurean Hotel kitchen Pair for Sunday Supper Movement Event

So excited to be with the  Sunday Supper Movement for this event at the Epicurean Hotel in Tampa!








It was a great day with hours of recipes, fun and surprises by Cabot Creamery. We were treated to a beautiful Cabot yogurt bar with fresh fruit and chocolate, too.

I always appreciate good china – this white china is so clean and pure.

Chef Jimmy from Cabot Creamery Co-operative is now making macaroni and cheese.


  Can you tell we can’t wait to taste it!? #CookingwithCabot 

Here are several macaroni and cheese recipes from Cabot Creamery.

Friends from Tampa Bay Bloggers and Sunday Supper Movement gathered in the kitchen at the EpicureanHotel, Autograph Collection Epicurean Theatre


Sunday Supper bloggers listening to chef!

Sharing Fourth of July tablescape ideas on DayTime TV

Getting things ready for another Plate Girl segment on Daytime TV tomorrow: ideas to help you set the table for Fourth of July celebration!



Waiting in the wings watching the show as I get ready.


The flowers are ready and table is set – getting ready to go live!

The table in all its glory – several different dishes are stacked up, in order to show the different plates you can use.




Thank you Daytime TV Show for having Plate Girl in today to talk about

decorating your table for the Fourth of July!