Monday, November 4, 2013

Painting With Fire Studio, Tampa, & Tarpon Springs

My husband had a job in Tampa at the end of October so, I drove down with him.  This gave me a chance to finally take a class with Barbara Lewis at her Painting With Fire Studio in St Petersburg!  Our day was a combination of instruction, experimentation, and play.  I had the chance to meet her beautiful daughter, Laura and her wonderful husband, Jim.  I'll have to meet her son, David, on my next trip down because that was his day off.  Painting With Fire Studio is a family business and you can tell that they are all very passionate about what they do.  If you ever have a chance to take a class--DO IT (esp. a one-on-one class)!  Barbara is an excellent teacher and I learned a lot.  I did a fair bit of damage to my wallet shopping after class but had money not been an issue, I could have easily spent double.  The little zip bags of enamel are every bit as alluring as colorful beads in a bead shop.

After my fantastic day with Barbara, I walked down to The Queens Head where I waited for my husband.  It's a fun bar and the food smelled lovely but, alas,  I had already eaten so, I only had wine.  The Queens Head is welcoming to everyone (GBLT-friendly), has a nice courtyard, fun music, and the restrooms are papered in scandalous tabloids.  The place is a total hoot and I'd definitely recommend that anyone taking a class at PWFS stop by for a drink.

Because our closest Ikea stores are in Atlanta and Orlando and we had no reason to visit either place, the visit to Tampa definitely came in handy.  I picked up a few necessities and we headed to Oldsmar where we spent the night a bit closer to Tarpon Springs.

The next morning we drove over to Tarpon Springs.  I used to go to Tarpon fairly regularly but hadn't been in almost seven years.  It has changed a lot in those seven years and has an even more touristy feel to it now.  I miss the Tarpon Springs of 20+ years ago but I understand that as the older residents die, their families might not want to continue their businesses.  A lot of my favorite shops are now closed but I think that I miss Halki Market the most.  The grumpy old guy and his sweet wife were always highlights of each of my visits and their shelves were always stocked with Greek goodies that the other shops never had.

By the time that we had driven around a bit to see how things had changed, we were starving and we made our way over to Mykonos Restaurant.  That little restaurant is our favorite and we eat there during every visit.  I had the Mykonos salad which is an upgraded version of their regular Greek salad and features crispy romaine rather than iceberg lettuce and lots of fresh dill.  They must raise their own tomatoes because I've never had a tomato paler than deep, blood red and they taste vine-ripened.  Be sure to order the potato salad along with your Greek salad.  You'll find it buried in the middle of the bowl and the mix of flavors is so good.  My husband had the carefully fried Kalamaria.  His plate was loaded with lots of tender, tiny squid with crispy tentacles. Their kalamaria is never rubbery or over-cooked.  He chose a salad and oven potatoes as his sides and both were generous and delicious--but we knew that they would be because their food is consistently delicious.  My husband is really good about sharing so, I enjoyed some of his squid, too.

Mykonos Restaurant, Tarpon Springs

Kalamaria Tiganetes, Mykonos Restaaurant

Greek Salad, Mykonos Restaurant
(Food photos were taken after we'd already been eating.  Oops!)

There was a craft festival while we were in Tarpon Springs and I had been excited when I read that it was a juried show featuring US-handmade art and crafts.  What I saw was a hodgepodge of items that included really nice, handmade items and a variety of imported junk.  The show may be juried but I have a feeling that the qualification for getting in is a check that doesn't bounce.  Tarpon Springs deserves better than that.

After perusing the "craft" festival, we headed over to share a chocolate kōk and get some Greek coffee (don't call it Turkish while in Tarpon Springs) at Hellas Bakery.  We needed the caffeine jolt that our large semi-sweet (metrio) Greek coffees provided.  I love to bake Greek pastries but kōk is always a treat that I prefer to get at bakeries.

Anastasi Docked on Anclote River
Anastasi Docked on the Anclote River

Sponge Diving Industry Marker
Tarpon Springs Sponge Industry Marker (sorry for the angle; a tent was blocking access)

Sponge Diving Industry Marker-Reverse

Sponge Boat
Sponge Boat "Susie Sea"
Loaded With a Haul of Sponges

Air Pump For Sponge Diver
Pump To Provide Air For Sponge Diver

Statue of Sponge Diver, Tarpon Springs
Statue of Sponge Diver Wearing a Skafandro Suit

We didn't have time to visit Cigar City Brewing Company or Tampa Bay Brewing Company while we were in Tampa but we still wanted to try at least one pint of locally brewed beer before we drove home.  We stopped by 701 Tap House before we left Tarpon Springs to see what local beers they had on tap but found that their list was heavily weighted with non-local beers.  We did manage to find a couple that we wanted to try from the few locally-produced beers.  My husband tried the Jai Alai IPA from Cigar City Brewing and I had the Apricot (Wheat) Peach Ale from Dunedin Brewery.  The Jai Alai IPA is a really nicely balanced IPA that would appeal to even those who don't necessarily love hoppy IPAs while still appealing to those of us who love our hops.  The hops are balanced with citrus notes and a slightly floral fragrance.   My Apricot Peach Ale was a nice beer that I would enjoy more during the summer months.  I tend to prefer IPAs, stouts, and porters but nice, crisp, fruit beers can win me over.  The Raspberry Wheat at McGuire's Irish Pub is one such beer and (some years' batches of) Abita's Strawberry Harvest Lager is another but I find fruit beers to generally be hit or miss.  Dunedin's Apricot Peach Ale did not have an overly apricot/peach fragrance or flavor (some fruit beers are way over the top) but it also lacked the yeastiness that I love about some wheat beers.  My husband and I both preferred the IPA.

Our quick jaunt down to Tampa and the surrounding area was a lot of fun and my class with Barbara was the highlight.  Thanks for a fabulous day, Barbara!


  1. Sounds like a lot of fun. I have barely touched on playing with enamel. The last thing I need is another addiction (jewelry related of course, lol)! I can't wait to see what you made and what you make with your newly enameled beads, etc.

    1. You would have had a blast. It's fast-paced and really is very different from regular enameling.

      I know what you mean about the jewelry addictions. I've totally given myself over to it and don't even try to reign myself in. I'm resigned to the fact that I can't stop learning new techniques.

      I'm in the process of making lots of components but photos of actual jewelry will soon follow.