Archives for November 2015

First Coast Holiday Home Tours

By Monica Gutos

Once houses and street lamps are adorned with tinsel and twinkling lights, it’s apparent the holidays have finally arrived. While you and your family may not be able to walk through a snowy winter wonderland here on the First Coast, touring some of the most beautifully decorated residences and inns can be just the ticket to get into the holiday spirit. This long-standing tradition of viewing holiday displays in someone else’s home may seem a bit intrusive, but it’s an exciting way to find inspiration for your own festive décor. Grab a camera and slip on a pair of comfortable walking shoes and get ready for a season of splendor.

Amelia Island Museum of History Holiday Home Tour
Dec. 4–5
10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
On this self-guided home tour, you and your family can stroll through six private beach homes along the coastline while songs from carolers and other musicians fill the air with holiday cheer. A free trolley service will transport you from a central parking area to the homes.

Photo courtesy of Garden Club of St. AugustineGarden Club of St. Augustine Tour of Homes
Dec. 6
12 to 5 p.m.
Since 1968, the Garden Club of St. Augustine has been decking the halls of some of the most beautiful homes and landmarks in the nation’s oldest city. There will be free transportation for visitors on the Old Town Trolley. Guests can also partake in tasty treats and purchase unique crafts for family members or friends.

Springfield Holiday Home Tour
Dec.… Read the rest

Ahoy Matey! The S.S. Amelia Awaits

By Monica Gutos

Many ships have landed on the sandy shores of the First Coast throughout our history, but one boat in particular stands out: The S.S. Amelia. Each year in Amelia Island, The Ritz-Carlton welcomes the holiday season with a pirate ship. But you won’t find wooden planks or iron cannons aboard this vessel. This special ship is constructed entirely from gingerbread and other sugary sweet confections. The S.S Amelia is a culinary achievement of epic proportions. The 17-foot-long ship is the largest in the world and sits on display in The Ritz-Carlton lobby for guests and visitors from all over the world to admire.

Photo courtesy of Joe Murphy (2)Like any pirate ship, the gingerbread vessel features a mast with sails and a crow’s nest. Aboard the S.S. Amelia are gingerbread pirates, and new characters are added every year. This ship also features two cannons and cannon balls fashioned from the finest chocolates. Not even the minutest of details are spared. Guests may spot gingerbread characters standing next to chests of plunder labeled “nutmeg” and “sugar.”

The S.S. Amelia is, without a doubt, the most monumental dessert one can find on the First Coast. To concoct the gingerbread pirate ship, chefs use 1,200 pounds of flour, 900 pounds of sugar and 3,000 eggs—try fitting all that into your shopping cart! With ovens blazing and mixers buzzing, chefs work tirelessly to build the pieces used for the life-size ship. “On the Tuesday before the unveiling, a team of eight pastry chefs assembles over 1,000 pieces of gingerbread and uses over 200 pounds of royal frosting,” says Joe Murphy, director of public relations for The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island.… Read the rest

First Coast Shopping Spots


Bali Cargo Company, Photo courtesy of Kim Rogers (4)Bali Cargo Company
200 1st St., Ste. 100, Neptune Beach
Mostly handcrafted in small Balinese workshops and homes, each item is selected by the shop owners who travel to Bali and personally visit the suppliers of their goods, individually selecting their merchandise. Their handcrafted jewelry includes necklaces, bracelets and earrings of varying styles, colors and materials.

Penelope T
2400 S. 3rd St., Ste. 102, Jacksonville Beach
Penelope T offers clothing and accessories from contemporary designers. Known for their innovative styles of dresses, shoes, accessories, denims, tops and bottoms, Penelope T hopes to help women feel beautiful and showcase their individuality through fashion.

Sidney Cardel’s
237 5th Ave. S., Jacksonville BeachPhoto courtesy of Sidney Cardel's
Stepping into Sidney Cardel’s feels like home; a good thing since the store is centered on home décor. The beautiful shop also offers unique gifts, apparel and accessories.

Thirty Three Star
308 3rd St. S., Jacksonville Beach
This specialty rock ‘n’ roll boutique holds fashionable jeans, shirts, dresses, formal attire, accessories and more. Edgy, cool styles complement the store’s ambition to pay homage to rock legends such as AC/DC and Jimi Hendrix who have substantially impacted music and popular culture. In addition to more traditional clothing store attire, the boutique also holds hundreds of signature concert T-shirts, completing the store’s rock theme.


Cowford Traders
3563 St. Johns Ave., Jacksonville
Cowford Traders offers gifts, jewelry, home décor, accessories, fragrances, cards and holiday accents, carrying lines such as Vera Bradley®, Viva Beads and Pandora®. … Read the rest

Sbraga & Company Restaurant Opening

After much anticipation, Chef Kevin Sbraga’s Jacksonville restaurant, Sbraga & Company, will be opening on Nov. 14 at Unity Plaza. Jacksonville residents have been patiently waiting the Top Chef’s new restaurant.

Kevin Sbraga Photo Credit Michael Spain SmithSbraga & Company is the fourth restaurant Sbraga has opened since his win on Top Chef in 2010. His other restaurants include Sbraga, The Fat Ham and Juniper Commons. The restaurant will take one of the best aspects of the area, our Southern cooking.
Reservations can be made online at or at 746-0909. If you would like to check out our interview with Chef Sbraga, check it out at the rest

A Holiday Unlike Any Other

By Katherine Odom-Tomchin

Traditions are a source of great comfort for most people, as they are familiar and refreshingly repetitive when much of life is unpredictable. Many families expect the same traditions during the holidays and feel unsatisfied when those traditions are broken. We found a few Jacksonville families for which this is especially true, though what traditions they have come to expect may be surprising.

Photo courtesy of Amy Franks (2)The Franks Family
In the Franks’ opinion, why not celebrate Thanksgiving twice? Amy and John Franks and their three children, like most families, have a pattern established to celebrate their holiday. For Thanksgiving, they get up at the crack of dawn and each cook their favorite food to go along with an oven-roasted turkey for the early dinner later in the day. They reflect on what they are thankful for at dinner, watch football in the evening, drive to get the newspaper, which is full of funny ads for the holiday, and use the fine china, horrified by the prospect of eating off normal paper plates for the special meal. Despite being faced with the trying task of deciding which side dish to make each year—John’s dressing or Amy’s stuffing—the couple seamlessly combined their old family traditions. It is a delicious dinner and a good day but, for the Franks, Thanksgiving doesn’t stop there.

Since they love Thanksgiving so much, they celebrate it twice, dubbing the additional holiday “Franksgiving.” Amy credits John for having the idea. “So he said, ‘It is my favorite meal of the year and we only have it once a year!… Read the rest

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