Chocolate Houses & Pink Flamingos

Weeks on Park Avenue can be really awesome; but for me, this last one has been especially hard to top.  Lots of energy, lots of positivity, good stuff all around.  As much as I LUV this stretch of brick, its wonderful shops, it can still surprise me how magical it can be, the wonderful group of people who operate businesses along it and work there.  Sometimes, still, they end up blowing me away with their commitment to the community, their creativity, their eagerness to try new things and pitch in.

Historic Preservation Expert Chris French goes futuristic trying the Google Glass which showed up for our luncheon.

Historic Preservation Expert Chris French goes futuristic trying the Google Glass which showed up for our luncheon.

It’s been a long week, filled with many individual experiences, but I’ll start with the freshest one.  I dropped by the Albin Polasek Museum & Gardens this afternoon to pick up posters to distribute to businesses along Park Avenue.  It did not take long to run out.  The enthusiasm from the merchants I spoke with for saving The Capen House, the ENORMOUS task of taking a long existing piece of Winter Park history apart, putting it on a barge and floating it along Lake Osceola to The Polasek, well, these enthusiastic Local merchants don’t just seem behind that possibility, but ready to see it happen, help make it happen.  There are some merchants I know better than others, but the reception from one really surprised me, the receptiveness in their eyes.  As I place the poster on the counter at Synergy Sportswear earlier I immediately saw an approving look on the face of the woman behind the counter.  Moments later another employee appeared and wanted to know if the poster was for the rally in Central Park on Saturday, September 13.  No, I explained, just the effort in general.  No problem, I was assured, we’ll get it up.  I know people along The Avenue are approached for all sort of things, to put up all sorts of posters, so their receptiveness – in general everyone’s receptiveness – when I entered made me think this CAN happen, the community IS behind it.  I wasn’t here when Casa Feliz made its BIG trip across Interlachen to sit on Park Avenue.  There’s a selfish part of me, I’ll admit, which wants to be a part of the water version! 

This is no small task, you may well realize.  And that, you might say is an understatement of mammoth proportions.  But it is doable.  On Tuesday this past week I had lunch at The Bistro On Park Avenue with Debbie Komanski, Executive Director for The Polasek, and Chris French, historic preservation expert, along with Locals interested in learning more, helping.  The setting, in the front solarium dining room of The Bistro, with its arched brick windows and charming garden surroundings seemed the ideal location for such a gathering.  We discussed the effort, new ways to get the community involved, talked about the rally for Preservation Capen to take place in Central Park tomorrow (ALMOST today!) beginning at 11:30.  If you’re in the area, or if you just have no plans, you definitely need to stop by, hear former mayors and others talk about Local historic preservation.  If you see a GRANDE sized Owl – Winter Park’s answer to BIG BIRD – out there, THAT is moi!  I’m going to be hot as heck, and I’m not talking about Brad Pitt kinda hot.  I’m talkin’ HOT FLASHES, fires of heck HOT.  So, drop by and fan me a bit!  I’ll flap my wings in appreciation!  J  (But, don’t tell the kids I’m anything but a BIG Owl!)

Kidlets LUV Parker!  Bring them out to the Preservation Capen rally in Central Park tomorrow, starting at 11:30.

Kidlets LUV Parker! Bring them out to the Preservation Capen rally in Central Park tomorrow, starting at 11:30.

A few other Bistro notes . . . . Jen Varga showed up at our Capen House LUV2Lunch (my working name for now) with Google Glasses on.  That was too much fun . . . the contrast between talking about saving a home built in 1885 (128 years old!) and amazing, state of the art technology which will not be available to the public until well into next year is as good as it gets in dichotomy terms, I think.  Nice juxtaposition!  Also, as I’m in The Bistro quite a bit, especially around happy hour as I’m usually typing away on my laptop, WELCOME to Theresa Reed, new bartendress extraordinaire.  It’s one of those very Park Avenue stories which exemplify such small community environments, one of someone who worked there, now working here, just doors away.  I just met her . . . . as she brought my glass of wine (YES, I said HAPPY HOUR!) . . . . and I think she’s going to be a FUN addition!  😉

Back to Capen House . . . . . it’s AMAZING what can be done these days.  Here’s this historic home built in 1885 in Winter Park, Florida – GLAD no one took advantage of that possibility I kept seeing on internet sites across the country to move it off wherever, Timbuktu, maybe?  You move it and it’s YOUR’S!  That would surely be embarrassing for the city of “Culture & Heritage,” a sad way to treat your past – made into this AMAZING mold to produce chocolates at Peterbrooke Chocolatier on Park Avenue.  I’d been communicating with them all week, waiting for these molds to arrive, the chocolate production process to begin.  I came in today to find Store Manager Caleb Pfeufer already with several trays full of dark and caramel chocolate Capens!  These images – IN CHOCOLATE – are AMAZING.  Hello, THAT is what we’re trying to SAVE . . . . but in CHOCOLATE, so you can eat it.  J  You can buy your own chocolaty, miniature version of The Capen House for $10 and $3 of that will go to the Preservation Capen effort.  That is as delicious as historic preservation will ever get, I promise you.  So, join us in Central Park, chomp down on some Capen Houses later and it’s all good!  No, you’re not a termite . . . . you’re a Local, historically-conscious chocolate LUVer!  Buy a few for friends for later!  Your community will be glad you did.

Peterbrooke Winter Park Store Manager Caleb Pfeufer can make you a CHOCOLATE house!  And part of the proceeds go to help SAVE Capen!

Peterbrooke Winter Park Store Manager Caleb Pfeufer can make you a CHOCOLATE house! And part of the proceeds go to help SAVE Capen!

The LUV2Lunch effort I mentioned earlier is a brand new idea, one I hope to focus on Local projects & events, bringing Locals together with organizers and others involved to talk, learn, share.  The goal is not to have big groups, but small ones, no more than 10 people, plus the invited guests.  BIG gatherings with lots of people can be fun; but, it’s often difficult to be heard, and those who are truly passionate about something get no more time than someone who’s there to take part, but might just as well be someplace else.  This is meant to be a gathering focused on those with passion about something, getting involved, but just haven’t before.  We’ll see where it goes.  I hope it has legs!

For me, it’s another opportunity to meet and get to know new Locals I haven’t before, yet often times ones I’ve been previously connected with via social media.  Funny how that sort of connectivity happens in 2013.  That was the case on Tuesday with Margaret Davis.  Margaret has professed to me that she lives in one of the “last Florida cracker houses in Winter Park”.  I hear that and it takes me back to living in South Florida, the wonderful couple we bought our house from there.  They moved to another classic 1920s Spanish style home where they had a mural painted over the banquette in the kitchen.  It was of a storm coming in over the Florida Everglades, an old ‘Florida cracker house’ centrally positioned.  There was an alligator somewhat hidden in the image they’d tell new visitors to locate.  I didn’t think it was very well hidden, but it often stumped the new guest, no matter.

Margaret Davis talks with Nature In Beauty owner Liz Marvaldi, samples some of their 100% organic products from Intelligent Nutrients.

Margaret Davis talks with Nature In Beauty owner Liz Marvaldi, samples some of their 100% organic products from Intelligent Nutrients.

Margaret works in commercial real estate, has a penchant for vintage, is wearing this bright red, vintage Chinese jacket.  She’d told me of some challenges she’s had in the last few years and working as I am with the wonderful ladies around the corner at Nature in Beauty, I thought they needed to meet.  Margaret is also a fan of natural, holistic solutions for health-related concerns, as am I.  (Hellooooo . . . note to the guys out there, if you’re losing your hair, first time I think I’ve written this in such a forum, but give gelatin a try.  It’s CHEAP and works.  It can do WONDERS.  But don’t say, oh, I’ll give it a try and then drop it like a rock.  TRY IT.  That means 5 or 6 weeks to see real results.  I’ve been taking it now for six years, said see ya latah Propecia after I saw its results.  Seriously.  Okay, tangent over.)

Anyway, the ladies – Liz Marvaldi, wife of Douglas Marvaldi at Marvaldi Makeup Studio, and Judith, his sister – have some AMAZING products from Intelligent Nutrients (an all-natural, CERTIFIED 100% organic line of shampoos and lotions, DE-stressing products from the guy who created Aveda cosmetics, and is prone to DRINKING his new line of products on Youtube videos to prove just how NATURAL they are) and SpaRitual, a line of all vegan nail lacquers, removers, lip glosses and more.  The DEstress Express line from Intelligent Nutrients is all about aromatherapy and acupressure.  Judith has told me before it’s not just for the granola types these days and she’s right.  This stuff has science behind it, really works, gets results.  And, as someone who has always dreaded walking through department store cosmetics counters because of the allergy fits they’d create, I’m amazed by how fresh, nice the scents are.  Helloooo . . . . THAT is called NATURE . . . as in made from vegetables, essential oils and such.  Your own allergy problems will surely be improved, as mine, and that’s a DEstress in and of itself.

Douglas Marvaldi and Mary Barnard secure the new wig to the head of Fortunata Flaminga for her coming big reveal for Flock This!

Douglas Marvaldi and Mary Barnard secure the new wig to the head of Fortunata Flaminga for her coming big reveal for Flock This!

And, to close, Mr. Marvaldi.  I’d been facebook friends with Douglas Marvaldi for a while, but really just met him, started to get to know him during the holidays last year as they invited me to the joint holiday event for both Nature in Beauty & Marvaldi Hair & Makeup Studio.  As I began working more closely with them over the summer I came to know of his Artistic talents, in addition to those working with hair and makeup.  Italian ancestry often seems to mean innate abilities to paint, draw, design, create.  Douglas has been blessed with such, along with this wonderful desire to help his clients, to develop solutions to improve their lives, make their lives easier, more enjoyable.  There is a true sense of caring for those he works with, who come to him for his advice and expertise.

Back in July I did happy hour on Park Avenue with Lisa Coney.  Lisa is one of the catalysts behind one of this area’s most impactful, wonderful Art galleries, 1350 West Art Gallery.  Located in the Carey Hand Cox Parker Funeral Home on Fairbanks Avenue, it isn’t just a nice space to display Art, but one in which Art rises, I think, to new heights, achieves something lots of Artists desire but may also never find.  This space, with its soft ivory walls, track-lighting and wooden floors is a place where those needing solace can come, find it in the images around them.  I’ve heard more than a few specific stories of wives, others breaking away from a service to find comfort in the colorful paintings, sculptures and other pieces in the 1350 West Art Gallery.  While you may wonder if your Art finds an opportunity to uplift and encourage, revive and comfort elsewhere, here, I assure you, that is a given.

Lisa and I were meeting to talk about the newest exhibit for the museum, The Power of Pink, benefitting Libby’s Legacy Breast Cancer Foundation.  This is an organization born of one daughter’s LUV for her mother, lost too early to breast cancer.  The organization was begun in tribute to her, seeking to aid and comfort women who find themselves facing the same terrible disease.  So, we’re chatting about something PINK, which made us think of the Winter Park PINK OUT! and the flamingos which spread across Central Park.  That made me think of the former Artygators of Central Florida, the bulls of Chicago, how Artists are presented with the challenge of taking raw, plain sculptures, no different than others.  The challenge, then, is to make them unique, different, ARTful.

There were a number of Park Avenue individuals who immediately came to mind for such a project and as I approached them about the possibility of participating, I was blown away by their receptiveness.  I’ll be writing much more about these, the individuals involved, but the gradual reveal of one of these – her official name is Fortunata Flaminga – this week is of special note.  Douglas Marvaldi hasn’t just created something unique, but given a flamingo personality, has introduced poignancy to the cause I had not expected.

I met him Thursday evening at his shop as he worked with Mary Barnard to attach Fortunata’s wig.  Mary is a theatrically trained wig maker.  You’ve seen her work in movies such as ‘The Pirates of the Caribbean’, other and shows.  But having met in the late 80s / early 90s, Douglas turned to Mary when a client who’d been diagnosed with breast cancer and was to undergo chemotherapy was concerned about the confidence her customers would have in her as she managed their investments, began to lose her hair.  She was conservative, Douglas explained, was concerned with maintaining their confidence in her, that she would be around for the long haul.  He turned to Mary and they began a new working relationship, making individually tailored wigs suited for the specific desires and needs of each client.

Douglas is not a loud person, quiet and calm.  Weeks after I’d asked if he’d be interested in participating in such a challenge I was delighted by the unexpected enthusiasm, excitement he had for taking part.  Then I started to learn of his plans to have a special wig made by Mary for the flamingo who was to become Fortunata.  He also made a leopard jacket, a necklace which complimented the hair, the eyelashes, a small leopard patterned jacket.  Thursday night I discovered he has created not just a unique, Artful flamingo, but one with a personality, a persona of old Hollywood, a time gone by and a creature you can have fun creating a background, an interesting past.

I’m so excited to see the other flamingos, what lies ahead.  I’ve seen quite a few and the story is now the same again and again:  a serious enthusiasm, wanting to do something wonderful and wonderfully creative for this Local group, for the gallery.

As I said when I began, these Locals just keep blowing me away.

Hope to see you tomorrow in Central Park!

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