Many Hats of Me: April 2013

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Gem Setting Challenges When Designing Jewelry with Native Cut Stones

Native Cut VS. Calibrated Gemstones

Most of my gemstones are purchased from eBay stores from Chanthaburi, Thailand, an area famous for its gem trading. I buy all sizes, shapes, and types; most are purchased for under $50.  Although beautiful, these stones are "native" cut stones: uncalibrated, hand-cut stones, that do not fit standard settings.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Morean Arts Center: Glass Studio, Hotshop and Chihuly Collection Gallery

Morean Art Center, St. Petersburg, Florida

We stopped by St. Petersburg on our way from Fort Myers to Orlando. The weather turned wet during our stay there, so we decided to see  something new and unique. Not far from our hotel was a glass blowing demonstration and museum at the Morean Art Center, a community-focused organization that supports the visual arts through its galleries and studios.

The Morean Art Center is made up of four buildings:

  1. Morean Art Center (719 Central Avenue), a community-based art gallery and studio that exhibits both local and national artists and provides art courses to the community. 
  2. Glass Studio and Hotshop (located across the alleyway from the Morean Art Center) is a store and glass forge where artists can create glass artwork and demonstrate their craft. The Hotshop also offers glass blowing courses.
  3. The Center for Clay (420 22nd Street South) is a center for ceramic education, offering ceramic courses for people of all ages.
  4. Chihuly Collection Gallery (400 Beach Drive NE), opened in 2010, is a 10,000 square foot building that was specially designed to house the works of the famous Seattle glass artist, Dale Chihuly.

We purchased a combo ticket from the Morean Art Gallery that included the glass blowing demonstration at the Hotshop, and entry into the Chihuly Museum. Since we didn't have time to visit the Center for Clay, we plan to visit again and sign up for some courses. 

Hotshop Glass Studio

The Hotshop Glass Studio is a large, semi-outdoor workspace that has two walls made of chain link fence that allows natural ventilation. The forges are on one side of the room and seating on the other.

Although the forge is over 20 feet away, when the forge doors open, you can feel and hear the flames. The sound is very much like the roar of the Balrog in the movie the Fellowship of the Ring. 

Roar of the Balrog

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Fort Myers and Sanibel Island - Places to Eat

Places to Eat at Fort Myers and Sanibel Island

Wisteria Tea Room and Cafe, Downtown, Fort Myers

Wisteria Tea Room and Cafe (2512 Second Street, Fort Myers 33901 (239) 689-4436) is a 30-minute drive northeast of the Fort Myers beach area, in downtown Fort Myers. It is a southern-style tea house serving salads, soups, and sandwiches for brunch. Their specialty is the Tea Time Menu, where they serve sweet and savory dainty delights.

Their Tea Time specials are beautifully presented on a layered plate holder. The orders also include an endless pot of tea where you can order multiple pots of tea of different flavors.
We ordered the Royal Tea and the Savory Tea with a pot of chocolate cherry tea and caramel tea. We also ordered homemade mac-and-cheese for the children. The portions are small but filling.
The restaurant is open from 11AM-3PM daily. Reservations are recommended for the weekends.

Wisteria Room Menu, detail
Wisteria Room Menu, detail

Beautifully served on tiered serving platters
Beautifully served on tiered serving platters

Tea is served with fine British bone china
Tea is served with fine British bone china

Chocolate cherry scones served with sliced strawberries and clotted cream
Chocolate cherry scones served with sliced strawberries and clotted cream

Creme Brulee with fresh blueberries, chocolate cheesecake, and a lemon pound cake
Creme Brulee with fresh blueberries, chocolate cheesecake, and a lemon pound cake

Crostinis with cucumber and goat cheese spread, and sun-dried tapenade, egg salad in pastry, and a hearts-of-palm and mushroom quiche
Crostinis with cucumber and goat cheese spread, and sun-dried tapenade, egg salad in pastry, and a hearts-of-palm and mushroom quiche

Doc Ford's Sanibel Island Rum Bar and Grille, Sanibel Island

After our visit to the Bailey-Matthew Shell Museum, we drove 1 mile east to Doc Ford's, a restaurant recommended by the museum staff.

Doc Ford's is a large seafood restaurant and bar located in a large strip mall with parking. It has both indoor and outdoor seating. The portions are large and the prices are surprisingly low; best of all, the food is expertly prepared and cooked. My son's breaded fish was still moist in the center and our steamed prawns were perfectly cooked. We are planning on a second visit to Sanibel so that we can eat at Doc Ford's again.

Doc Ford's address is 975 Rabbit Road, Sanibel Island, FL 33957 phone: (239) 472-8311. After the Causeway, turnRIGHT onto Periwinkle Drive.

Doc Ford's Restaurant exterior
Doc Ford's

Doc Ford's menu
Doc Ford's Menu

Detail of Doc Ford's extensive menu. Check out the raw oysters at $12.95 a dozen!! The second it arrived at my table, I started eating. I realized that I forgot to take a picture only after I ate the last oyster! I would have ordered another 12 if we hadn't ordered a pound of peel and eat shrimp!

One pound of peel and eat shrimp
Doc Ford's One pound of peel and eat shrimp

Peel and Eat Shrimp with spicy hot chili and cilantro dip at $13.95 a half pound, $24.95 a pound. The shrimp were thick and juicy at 3"+ long.

Grilled grouper sandwich with black beans for $13.95.
Doc Ford's Grilled grouper sandwich with black beans for $13.95.

Mixed Salad with honey mustard dressing and bread sticks for $5.95
Mixed Salad with honey mustard dressing and breadsticks for $5.95

Gatorbites Tail and Ale Restaurant, Fort Myers

This restaurant was across the street from our hotel, but we had avoided it since we thought it was just a bar. Our last night in Fort Myers, we decided to try it out since it was getting late and we were tired. To our delight and surprise, Gatorbites serves its namesake, Alligator! We smiled all the way to our table.

We ordered a beer recommended by the server, Yuengling, which I presumed was a Chinese brewery. I learn later that it's an old Pennsylvania brewery (established in 1831) that has been operating since before Prohibition. I ordered a pint and my hubby ordered a glass. Despite my small stature, I can drink! :)

The beer is a sweeter variety that's a bit on the heavy side with no bitter aftertaste.

We order the "Bloody Mary Seared" alligator, grilled scallops (an amazing $9.95 for 6!) and a hearts-of-palm salad. The alligator was juicy, tasting a little like chicken. The scallops were large, sweet and "just-cooked."

Gatorbites Restaurant Menu
Gatorbites Menu

The menu has the usual bar items like burgers, wings, and fries. However, this amazing restaurant offers a gourmet seafood selections and of course, Alligator!

Gatorbites Menu, detail

Gatorbites Blood Mary Seared Alligator
Gatorbites Blood Mary Seared Alligator

Gatorbites grilled scallops

Grilled Scallops

Gatorbites Hearts-of-Palm salad
Gatorbites Hearts-of-Palm salad

Gastronomic Disappointment in Fort Myers

Like most tourists, we conduct some research on the area we are about to visit, especially places to eat. We usually start with TripAdvisor and then if we are not satisfied with the info, we refine with Yelp or Urbanspoon. For most places that we've been to, TripAdvisor has been very helpful with hotel and restaurant information. However, in Fort Myers, TripAdvisor has failed miserably.

Since we were heading to a seaside town, and the fact that were-were coming from the Midwest, we were very interested in seafood. TripAdvisor only had 30 seafood restaurants in Fort Myers; Doc Ford's and Gatorbites were not listed at all. A search for "restaurants" in Fort Myers comes up with a selection of local favorites, including Ruby Tuesday at #25! Gatorbites was #51, and Doc Ford's didn't even register because it is categorized at Fort Myers Beach or Sanibel Island.

Another frustrating fact about Fort Myers is that most restaurants close at 8 PM on weekdays. We tried to eat at a Clambake, another TripAdvisor top 10 recommendation that was a 25-minute drive from our hotel, only to be turned away. We had made an 8 pm reservation, but we arrived at 8:25 PM. They failed to inform us that we would be their last customers. We were so angry, we were speechless.

We sat in our car for the next 15 minutes Googling for a restaurant that would be opened. We found that the rib place, Rib City, we had lunch two days before was opened until 9 pm, so we called and ordered take-out. Their ribs are nicely smoked, with tender meat that falls off the bone and the prices are very good, with children 5 and under eating for free. However, we wanted a change from the red meat meals we are accustomed to in the MidWest.

Rib City Restaurant, Fort Meyers

Rib City Restaurant Menu
Rib City Restaurant Menu

We weren't the only ones who were disappointed with Fort Myers cuisine. We spoke to a few families at our hotel, and they also complained about the lack of high-quality restaurants in the area. They did mention the Lighthouse Waterfront Restaurant as a good choice and about a mile from the hotel. We plan to try it when we visit Fort Meyers again. Also, they close at 10 PM!

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Saturday, April 6, 2013

Sanibel Island - Lighthouse Beach and the Seashell Museum

Sanibel Island, Florida

Sanibel Island is located just off the western coast of Fort Meyers. It's a narrow piece of land approximately 10.5 miles long. We had planned to wake at dawn every day to go shelling, but there was a full moon during our visit and low tide was only late at night. 

With this in mind, we decided to try Lighthouse Beach on the eastern side of the island since it has ample parking, washrooms, showers, and is the closest beach to the Causeway. Please check to help plan your Sanibel Island holiday. Low tides are the best time to visit.

Map of Sanibel and Captiva Island, from the Shell Museum
Map of Sanibel and Captiva Island, from the Shell Museum

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Edison and Ford Winter Estates, Fort Meyers, Florida

Fort Meyers, Florida

This Spring Break, we are escaping our Minnesota cold weather for the sun and surf of Florida. We arrived last week to Fort Meyers, Florida, located at the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River and the Gulf of Mexico. The fort was established in the 1800’s to support the war against the Seminole Indians.

The Edison and Ford Estates

Much to the dismay of our young children, we decided to skip the beach, and start our holiday with a visit to the Edison and Ford Estates. Thomas Edison, founder of General Electric, and inventor of the light bulb (and about a thousand more inventions) purchased a large parcel of along the Caloosahatchee River in 1885 to build his summer home and scientific laboratory, named Seminole Lodge. His good buddy, and former employee, Henry Ford, the inventor of the first mass produced automobile, purchased the neighboring house, the Mangoes, in 1916.

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