November Five to Try, Part II

On another day in our wonderfully relaxing week-long staycation, we decided to continue our November Five to Try adventures. Here we go!

Five to Try for November #3 – Stone Soup Company

We planned to jet into downtown Tampa for some fun, but not before catching a little lunch at an Ybor City place the hubby and I had yet to visit – Stone Soup Company (http://www.xsoup4u.com/).

 

I liked the vibe of this place from the moment we stepped inside…

 

…and even picked our little table complete with entertainment while we waited for our food. Man, when was the last time I played UNO? Gee, I don’t know…when I was 12 maybe? Yeah, that’s a while ago.

 

We nixed any appetizers and went straight for the main course – for me, a blend of cheeses in a grilled cheese sandwich with air-baked fries and coleslaw.

Larry went with a French Dip with those fries as well and potato salad. The verdict – he loved all of his.

I was crazy about his potato salad and the fries (nice surprise!) My coleslaw? Far too much vinegar for my personal preference and not nearly the mayo I like. (Wow, so two strikeouts with coleslaw in just days? Clearly not a good week for cabbage lobbyists everywhere…)

Then there was the grilled cheese – liked the consistency, even liked the choice of cheeses but perhaps if they had actually used some seasoning, it might have been more interesting. Frankly, it was pretty drab. They could learn a few things from the gang over at Mimi’s Café.

I’d definitely give this place another shot. After all,  there were plenty of other vegetarian options I’d like to try, so I won’t hold their lack of seasoning ability with this one item against them. After all, Larry said the French Dip was great, for example – but I won’t get the grilled cheese again and I can’t recommend it. But I did like the menu’s variety, the friendly service, the fairly reasonable prices, so I have a hunch I’ll be back. I’ll just be treading new culinary territory in there next time. But those fries will be on the plate again without question…mmm, mmm, mmm.

Five to Try for November #4 – American Victory

I’m proudest of this Five to Try experience this month. Here’s why.

When I first bought some discounted passes to explore the American Victory (http://www.americanvictory.org/), a WWII-era ship, on Half Off Depot, I thought, we’ll go check out this ship, enjoy some balmy Bay breezes, get some great pictures…like this one!

Cool!  Or this one…

And yes, we did manage to do all of those things. However, I had neglected to think of a short list of key components of this experience:

  1. It would involve stairs – LOTS OF THEM – over and over and over.
  2. Everything would be VERY narrow – including hallways, stairwells, rooms, etc.
  3. It would involve going deep into the confines of a ship chock full of small, tight spaces.
  4. It would involve HIGH places, very high up, looking down in many spots.
  5. It would be big. Really big. Really really REALLY big and spread out like the Sahara. So if I got winded just walking through IKEA, I could expect that I would probably need a ventilator by the time we were though in this place.

In response to these important elements of the ship and our exploration of it, I had not taken into account these important aspects of MOI:

  1. I have bad knees and struggle with stairs, not to mention I fall down a lot…frequently and quite easily.
  2. Did I mention that I am not narrow? Enough said.
  3. I am claustrophobic.
  4. I am afraid of heights.
  5. See #2.

When we first hopped aboard this big vessel and I asked the courteous host at the entrance where the bathrooms were, like a fool, I had forgotten that I was now on the ship – not in some connected handy lobby. He directed me up one level to the teeny, tiny, itsy-bitsy bathroom just above us. That is when I had the revelation. It looked like this.

I soon came face-to-face with a lot of these conflicting characteristics and the battle to come that would be American Victory vs. Chris Kuhn.

 HELP!

I won’t bore you with sweaty, heart-pulsating and knee-crunching details. It was a tough trek for me to make.

So if you’re out of shape like me, just be prepared for the consequences. (To give you an idea, I was out cold by 9 or 10pm that evening and slept like a baby – and I must also admit that I still have some residual upper thigh and buttock muscle pain from the adventure – and that was a month ago!) See. Here I was still alive. A little bit at least.

I still had enough energy to muster up a smile. Sorta. 

But was it worth it? Every damn ache, pain and scary moment of it. I felt like I would fall down the stairwells on at least three occasions but I had such a great time! It was as if we owned the place and had full freedom to roam as we please (though there were a few spots that they did not allow us to explore but that was fine). We had a blast. Plenty of great pictures and views. Like this!

Tons of Weight Watchers exercise points that day for both walking and stair-climbing! And we learned a lot about life on such a boat during wartime.

 

We even had a little fun with the place, too. Like Captain Larry…

And my new fancy-schmancy computer that I hid in my backpack on the way out…hope they won’t notice.

I highly recommend the experience! Look into it the next time someone visiting wants to see something unique in Tampa. Take them down to beautiful Channelside to check out the port, the Tampa Bay History Museum, the Florida Aquarium, the beautiful Riverwalk and maybe leave American Victory for an afternoon by itself because chances are, the only thing your company will want to do afterwards is snag a drink over in Ybor or Harbor Island and recuperate the rest of the evening!

Five to Try for November #5 – a Patel Conservatory Production

Finally, theater. I love it but I honestly don’t get to go as much as I’d like because if there’s been one place we’ve cut our budgets it’s in the entertainment column. So I can’t even remember the last time we’ve gotten an opportunity to go to a rock concert or wonderful Broadway performance in the main theater inside Straz Center.

An opportunity presented itself to check out a Patel Conservatory (http://www.patelconservatory.org/) theater offering firsthand from a group I’d always heard so much about but never saw anything from in person – the young, talented performers learning through the acclaimed theater program at Patel Conservatory. In fact, that evening, a key director of the group’s theater program Ami Sallee Corley took the stage to greet those in attendance to catch the group’s rendition of Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town.”

I was so excited to see this wonderful woman whom I had first interviewed when I was part of the initial launch of skirt! Tampa Bay Magazine back in April 2008 (she was featured in our first issue in fact!)

My husband and I were able to catch a Friday night performance at the Straz Center’s smallest theater and were impressed the Conservatory’s commitment to being faithful to the somewhat unusual play and its minimal use of set props and surroundings, requiring quite a bit of imagination on the part of both the actors themselves and their audience, as well.

It’s refreshing to see so many people open to allowing themselves to show vulnerability at such a young age (most players were anywhere from mid-teens to young adult). Congrats, Ami and crew, for your success and for what appeared to be a warm reception by your audience that night.

I had not read the play since I was a sophomore in high school, so while I knew beforehand the unusual twist of the final act (which I won’t ruin for anyone here), I had never actually seen it performed – just read aloud by a bunch of whiny 15-year-olds (and yes, I include myself in that mix). So it was interesting to see it laid out before me or at least this interpretation of what Wilder was hoping to capture.

If you get a chance to check out a future Patel Conservatory performance – whether theater, music, dance or otherwise – give it a shot. They are usually quite reasonable in cost yet there is still entertainment value and just think of the encouragement and support you’ll be showing some of our community’s youngest thespians and performers.

So, there it is…November in all of its gold, brown and auburn glory. December is already in motion and so is this month’s Five to Try. What new places, things and experiences will pop into our orbit in this, our final formal month of this creative exercise for 2012?

Now go forth and try, everybody…try something new or something you’ve always meant to explore.

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