Archive For January 8, 2018
Dressing Downton™ — A Special Exhibition at The Lightner Museum
What a special treat hubby and I had while visiting St. Augustine, Florida as part of our 30th wedding anniversary celebration. Touring The Lightner Museum was on our to-do list, but when I found out about a unique exhibit in progress I became super-excited. Fans of the wildly popular television series Downton Abbey® would have been doing the happy dance with me. For those unaware, the TV show was a British period drama, transporting viewers to post-Edwardian England. The television series has won numerous prestigious awards and has also been recognized for its remarkable costume design.
The exhibition at The Lightner Museum was entitled Dressing Downton™: Changing Fashion for Changing Times. It was as if the beloved PBS Masterpiece drama, which ended its 6th season last year, came to America. I was immersed in the fascinating social history and culture of a bygone era. The exhibit perfectly captured some of the most memorable moments from the show’s six-season run.
The Lightner Museum Re-Creates Scenes from Downton Abbey®
Themes in the Dressing Downton™ exhibition included the evolution of fashion, high society etiquette, and the changing roles of women. The re-creations of sets were absolutely amazing! The Lightner Museum did an extraordinary job of integrating 40+ costumes into various elegant rooms, made to look like the Crawley family’s classic Georgian country house. I felt as if I’d just arrived for a visit, dinner party, or high tea at Highclere Castle. One of the docents at The Lightner Museum told me they had brought out some very special art and furnishings from the Museum’s archives specifically for this outstanding exhibition. 60,000-80,000 Florida residents and visitors to Saint Augustine were fortunate to view such rarities!
Downton Abbey® — The Progression of Style from 1912 to 1920
Each vignette contained a display panel with a photo of the corresponding costume and scene from the show, along with interesting details about the design. The panel also included little tidbits about royal life in the early 1900s. The Downton Abbey® exhibit explored fashions in Britain between 1912, the year the Titanic sank, and the early 1920s, the dawn of the Jazz Age. Just as portrayed in the television series, this time period saw notable changes in people’s lives and in the way they dressed, particularly because of the impact of World War 1 (1914-1918).
The exhibition showed the period costumes in historical context. Dressing Downton™ was all about the progression of style in Britain — from the cumbersome corsets and bustles of the Dowager Countess to the liberating fashion choices of Lady Sybil. Men’s fashion went from white tie and formal tails to a much more relaxed short dinner jacket with black tie. Costumes on display ranged from country tweeds, to servants’ uniforms, to lavish gowns and evening attire. There was a costume for every activity and every time of day!
Dressing Downton™: Changing Fashion for Changing Times — Photo Tour
Please enjoy the photo tour of Dressing Downton™: Changing Fashion for Changing Times — may it transport you 100 years back in time, when “flapper pudding” was the creamy dessert of the day, and it was proper to wear gloves or tip your hat. Kudos to The Lightner Museum in St. Augustine, Florida for creating such an incredible fully immersive experience… one Lord Grantham himself would be proud of!
Downton Abbey® — The U. S. Tour Continues
If you missed the Dressing Downton™: Changing Fashion for Changing Times exhibition at The Lightner Museum in Saint Augustine, Florida (extended through 2/4/18), you may have been given a second chance. Another traveling exhibit has begun. It kicked off in New York City where the limited-time engagement has been extended until April 2, 2018, due to popular demand. Additional dates and locations for this multi-city tour will be announced.
This tour is simply called Downton Abbey®: The Exhibition. It launched internationally in Singapore last summer, and included some previously unseen footage from the mega-hit TV series.
Here’s the official press release…
“Visitors will be transported on an incredible journey through the grand home of Downton Abbey as the exhibition peers into the world of the Crawleys and those that served them below stairs.
From Mrs. Patmore’s hectic kitchen and the gossip-fuelled servants’ quarters, to the family’s glamorous dining room and Lady Mary’s bedroom, fans will get the chance to walk through some of the series’ most recognizable and beloved sets. Visitors will even come up-close to over 50 of the show’s official costumes worn by their favorite actors including Michelle Dockery, Hugh Bonneville and Dame Maggie Smith!”
Ticket prices range from $30 adult to $15 children’s tickets. Ticket purchases or more information can be found at the official Downton Exhibition website here. For an extra-special occasion, private parties can also be booked, which re-create an Edwardian dinner in the Crawleys’ dining room. Wow, what a memorable experience that would be! American fans of this global phenomenon were hoping for an official announcement of the rumored feature film adaptation, but until then, you can satisfy your Crawley-craving by visiting Downton Abbey®: The Exhibition. Here’s hoping it comes to a city near you!
Have you seen the Dressing Downton™ exhibit while in the Sunshine State? Is this an exhibition you’d like to see? Please reply in the “comment” box below!
8 Unique Gifts for Florida Residents
Hate boring gifts? Me too! But if your gift recipient is a Florida resident, your present doesn’t have to be dull and uneventful. As a Florida resident for the past 17 years, I’ve discovered some really exciting gifts that are far more memorable than the repetitive dinner and flowers. Not that Ruth Chris and roses are bad, they can just be, well… monotonous!
I’m pleased to share my go-to list that I use when I’m in need of a more unique or unusual gift, something unexpected that I promise will never be shoved to the back of the closet or re-gifted.
Several of the gift ideas work well for anyone living in Florida, regardless of age. A few are perfect for the adventure seeker, and we’ve got the proverbial foodie covered as well. And, no gift list would be complete without at least one option for that hard-to-buy-for hopeless romantic. Most of them are all-occasion, so whether you’re searching for a birthday, anniversary, retirement, newlywed, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, or graduation gift, we’ve got you covered. Take a BIG sigh of relief, and let me know in the “comment box” below which one you chose. (The gifts are not listed in any particular order.)
I came across this unusual gift while searching for a milestone birthday gift for my hubby. I wanted something memorable and out-of-the-ordinary. After searching online for countless hours, I was growing increasingly frustrated and nearly settled for that unremarkable steak dinner. I’m so glad I didn’t give up, because hubby still talks about his sailing lessons gift, even though it was three years ago. He says it was the best birthday gift he ever received. Perhaps it was the element of surprise, I don’t know. Some men are not easily impressed and can be hard to please, so I was elated to see he sincerely loved the sailing lessons.
You can read my full review of the sailing lessons here. Even though this was a birthday gift for an older man, I quickly realized that sailing lessons would be perfect for [almost] any age and any special occasion gift. Sailing lessons are also gender-neutral; an all-around spectacular gift for anyone living in or visiting the Sunshine State. Realize, though, this is not your typical sit-back-and-sip-champagne kind of sail boat ride. This is a participatory sailing, perfect for that adventurous-spirit on your gift list! If you’re looking for an action-packed, exhilarating, unusual gift… this is it!
Since I live in Central Florida, I booked the sailing lessons with Captain Eric West at Adventure Yacht Harbor, located just south of Daytona Beach and near Ponce Inlet, Florida. However, there are other locations throughout Florida that offer private beginner sailing instruction. In fact, Florida has some of America’s premier sailing schools.
Disney Annual Pass
What could be better than a trip to Disney? Unlimited visits, of course! And what kid (and adult kids at heart) wouldn’t want limitless visits to The Happiest Place On Earth? A Disney Annual Pass is truly the perfect gift that keeps on giving. One of the perks of being a Florida resident is the close proximity to the world famous Disney theme parks, and the ability to purchase discounted admission of multi-day tickets and annual passes.
Disney offers a variety of ticket options for Florida residents, one for every budget. Whether you choose to give a Disney Gift Card that will partially pay for your recipient’s admission, or go all out and splurge on the full price of a Disney Annual Pass, it’s a gift that will not soon be forgotten. How happy that special person will be to receive endless adventures in the Disney parks!
Here’s a link to the official Disney website that will further explain how to gift Disney theme park tickets. Additionally, check out the article on FloridaFunAndFork that reviews a special type of Disney Annual Pass for Florida residents called Weekday Select Pass. Disney rarely advertises this inexpensive option, and most Florida residents do not even know it exists. The price will surprise you!
Historic Gardens and Museums Membership
Florida is home to some of the most beautiful botanical gardens I have seen. Because of our semi-tropical climate, there’s always something in bloom. Freezes are infrequent, so there is color year round. I love visiting the gardens in Florida in the winter months. The temperatures are cooler, there’s little or no humidity, and to me it’s the best time of the year to be outdoors.
A Botanical Garden Membership for Florida residents is another one of those unique gifts that can be appreciated all year long. And, here’s something you may not realize — most of them include reciprocal benefits. For example… I have a yearly membership to Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida. Not only am I entitled to unlimited admissions to the gorgeous Bok Tower Botanical Gardens, I also receive free or greatly discounted admission to many other Florida museums, gardens, and cultural institutions. Additionally, I receive free admission to more than 300 participating public gardens throughout the United States (through the American Horticultural Society). You can check out the reciprocal national list here.
So here’s the math: I purchased a $70 Duo Membership (for hubby and me) to Bok Tower Gardens that includes unlimited visits to the botanical gardens, including the brand new 3+ acre Hammock Hollow Children’s Garden, and we automatically get reciprocal admission to hundreds of gardens and museums nationwide! Shopping for a unique gift doesn’t have to be a stressful experience when you have an option as awesome as this.
Food Tour Gift Certificate
Whether you’re shopping for a bonafide foodie or someone who simply appreciates good food and drink, here’s a gift option that’s oftentimes overlooked. A Florida Food Tour is a unique gift choice, and a great alternative to restaurant gift cards. Not that restaurant gift cards are bad, they’re just unoriginal and sometimes used as a last resort type of gift when we can’t seem to come up with anything else. Sure, we can think of creative ways to wrap and disguise a restaurant gift card, but when it’s opened, it’s still a common, ordinary gift card to a restaurant they’ve been to a thousand times. It’s a great gift, but there’s no “wow” factor.
My favorite Food Tour in Florida is in one of my favorite cities in Florida — Saint Augustine. While in St. Augustine during our 25th wedding anniversary trip we took the Vittles and Vino VIP Carriage Tour. The food and wine tour (that included six different food outlets) was definitely a highlight of our weekend. Years later, we still recall the fantastic food, unexpected fun, and newly formed friendships we made. Historic St. Augustine is only a couple hours drive from most locations within Central Florida. You can check out the various Food Tours and pricing here. Another Food Tour we enjoyed was in Winter Park, Florida. FloridaFunAndFork has the full review along with photos here.
Murder Mystery Dinner Train
I love the dinner and a show concept. Whether you’re looking for a great evening of family entertainment or a unique first-date experience, dinner shows are a fantastic choice. Most Florida residents and visitors to Central Florida are aware of the most popular ones like Medieval Times, Disney’s Hoop Dee Doo Revue, Sleuths Mystery Dinner Show, Outta Control Magic Comedy Dinner Show, Capone’s Dinner & Show, or Disney’s Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show. But, there’s a unique dinner show I love that’s not as highly publicized but just as awesome as those previously mentioned. It’s the Murder Mystery Dinner Train in Ft. Myers, Florida.
My best friend gave me this unique dinner show experience for my birthday a few years ago. It was a super-fantastic gift! The show was shrouded in mystery, with a conundrum of twists and turns in the plot. And, my friend was the only person to correctly solve the mystery, and received a prize! That made the special occasion even more memorable. Here’s my full review of the Murder Mystery Dinner Train, along with photos of the meal and cast members. I haven’t found a better gift for those who love a challenging murder mystery. It’s the ultimate “whodunnit” gift that will not soon be forgotten!
Florida Citrus Candy from Davidson of Dundee
It’s no secret the Sunshine State is synonymous with citrus. A short drive anywhere within Florida will have you stopping at one of those infamous orange-colored domes that look like a real orange. It’s the destination of choice for tourists to pick up a bag of fresh Florida-grown citrus as a tasty souvenir, or perhaps ship a case back home to family or friends. A bag of vitamin-C-packed oranges or grapefruit makes a great gift. But there’s nothing highly unusual about receiving healthy citrus fruit from Florida — actually, it’s one of those things we are known for! It’s like people expect it from us. What they don’t expect is Florida citrus candy, with its unique flavor and texture.
The best I have ever tasted is from Davidson’s of Dundee. (You can see photos and read my review here.) They are a real, old-fashioned candy and jelly factory that has been featured on the Food Network, Fox News, Wall Street Journal’s Smart Money Magazine, Southern Living Magazine, NBC and ABC affiliates, and the Washington Post. They provide free samples, so you can try before you buy. Guests can also watch the candies being made during a fun and informative factory tour. And when you’ve finally made your selections, Davidson of Dundee can ship it practically anywhere.
Here’s what makes citrus candy from Davidson of Dundee so special: They cook every small batch in copper kettles, hand-stirred with wooden paddles, the recipes are from the early 1900s, they do not use high fructose corn syrup, and they use only the finest sun-ripened fruit from their own Florida groves and Everglades sugar. Oh, and did I mention Davidson of Dundee has been in business [at the same location] for almost a half century? Pretty impressive, don’t you think? Trust me on this one… citrus candy from Davidson’s will be a yummy, appreciative gift.
Stop by Davidson of Dundee located at 28421 US Hwy. 27 in Dundee, Florida. Or visit the website of this family owned Florida landmark here.
Gift Certificate to a Florida Bed & Breakfast Inn
This is one of my favorite gifts to give… and receive. Who doesn’t like the gift of travel? And, let’s face it, we all need a little R&R at some point throughout the year. Big hotel chains with a ton of amenities (and hoards of people) are nice, sometimes. But for me and my hubby, nothing compares to the rest and relaxation we get while staying at a bed and breakfast inn. We find them to be quaint, quiet, and romantic. We always come away refreshed in spirit and revived in body.
I didn’t realize Florida had so many quality and historical B&B’s until I started searching for a special occasion gift some years ago. For example: We stayed at the River Lily Inn, a historic 1895 estate overlooking the intracoastal Halifax River in Daytona Beach. In my full-length review of River Lily Inn, I affectionately call it “the Ritz Carlton of B & B’s!” Everything about the stay was perfect. And we recently returned from a 4-night stay at Casa de Suenos, an intimate bed and breakfast inn, located in the historic district of St. Augustine. With a flair and grace reflecting its Spanish design and heritage, the elegant atmosphere was ideal for our 30th wedding anniversary getaway.
There are several ways to give the gift of B&B travel. Most individual bed and breakfast inns offer their own in-house gift certificates, which obviously can only be redeemed at that specific property. A better option, I believe, is to purchase a generic B&B gift certificate through a top-rated company like BnB Finder, by which you can select a dollar amount of your choosing that the gift recipient can apply towards the bed and breakfast inn of their choice. There are no blackout dates, no expiration dates, and the B&B travel gift certificate can even be emailed to your recipient. Another great gift option is to purchase a Buy-One-Night-Get-One-FREE certificate through iLoveInns. For as little as $20 you can purchase a gift voucher that allows the recipient to get a free night stay when they purchase a night. For example: If the first night cost $159, the second night would be free; thus making the voucher worth $159. Hubby and I have saved thousands of dollars on B&B lodging with these incredible vouchers. Travel — most certainly a gift that never goes out of style!
A Gift from The Barn Antiques & Shopping Complex
I like receiving gift certificates from retail stores as much as you do. But sometimes I don’t enjoy giving them. I feel as if it can convey the wrong impression — that I didn’t spend enough time and consideration on the gift. It’s nice to know there are still a handful of places in Florida where you can shop for that special one-of-a-kind unique gift. The Barn Antiques and Shopping Complex in Lake Alfred, Florida is one of those rare places. I’m quite sure whatever you choose here will not be returned. Or better yet, take your special person along and plan to spend a few hours here.
The complex consists of four specialty retail shops and The Back Porch restaurant. Treat your special someone to a picnic-style lunch at The Back Porch then allow them to choose their own gift from one of the shops. There are so many unusual items here, everything from home decor to clothing and jewelry, antiques from England, and even a garden shop. Trust me, it’s not the type of merchandise you’ll find at those big-box stores or the mall. I have never left here empty-handed, and I don’t believe you will either! The Barn Antiques Complex is another one of those family owned old-Florida landmarks that have survived almost 50 years… and with good reason!
Can you add to our list of unique gift items for Florida residents? Remember… nothing boring! Please reply in the comment box below.