A Few of Our Favorite Things!

The Dog has Bitten. The Bee has Stung.  

As 2020 finally comes to a close, Caught in the Act offers up Holiday gift ideas inspired by the Broadway showtune and unconventional Christmas classic 

Here’s a query: Why is the song “My Favorite Things” — from the Broadway show The Sound of Music and its subsequent movie adaptation – so closely associated with Christmas? 

According to music director, songwriter, composer, author Todd Lowry on the website Quora, “My Favorite Things” first became associated with Christmas in 1961, two years after The Sound of Music opened on Broadway.  

Julie Andrews (who would later star in the movie version of The Sound of Music in 1965) performed “My Favorite Things” on national television on the 1961 Gary Moore Show Christmas Special. From then on, the song often was associated with Christmas. That association has become stronger over the years and now “My Favorite Things” is considered a Christmas standard. 

The lyrics of “My Favorite Things” (by Oscar Hammerstein II, with music by Richard Rodgers) make no mention of Christmas or the holidays. In the movie, Maria sings it to the von Trapp children to calm them during a thunderstorm. However, the lyrics mention warm woolen mittens, sleigh bells, snowflakes, silver white winters and brown paper packages, “so the jump from showtune to Christmas song isn’t a big one,” according to Lowry. 

With the Christmas holiday just a few weeks away, Straz marketing and programming staffers have come up with some great gift ideas inspired by the classic song.  

Raindrops on Roses – Give the gift of a green thumb this holiday season and grow plants for the ones you love. Starting plants from seeds can be an affordable way to give a thoughtful gift that will last. Some plants, such as rosemary and Cuban oregano can even be grown from clippings. That’s what I am doing this year. Though the gift may take a little bit more time and planning, it is sure to make the people in your life smile.  

Think about what your friends and family love to cook or eat. My brother-in-law makes pizza all the time so I am going to do my darndest to grow a tomato plant for him with Italian basil planted around the pot. My big sister on the other hand loves sunflowers will all her might. Little does she know I have four growing in the backyard for her now. (Sarah Ateek, Marketing Director) 

Whiskers on Kittens – That innocent face and those big eyes filled with wonder and curiosity — there isn’t anything much cuter than a kitten. And kitten season is pretty much year-round in Florida. You can help support the efforts of our Tampa Bay Humane Society with formula and nursing supplies. Check out the wish list on their donation site with multiple ways to contribute — perhaps use Amazon and have your gift delivered directly to the Humane Society, or donate directly to the Humane Society in honor of someone who already has everything they need.  (Deborah G. Kobritz, Assistant to VP, Programming and Marketing) 

Bright Copper Kettles – With the holly jolly of the holiday season running parallel to a pandemic, sometimes you just need the self-care of a nice cup of tea. And any good cup of tea starts with bright copper kettle, right? One option is going big ($45 to $159), with kettles available at Williams Sonomawest elmCrate and Barrel and even The Home Depot. But in the holiday spirit of buying local, we suggest you check out a close-to home tearoom for a one-stop shop from kettles to teapots to flavored teas to scones. TeBella Tea Co. has shops on Davis Island and South St. Petersburg that offer the full set-up with helpful clerks when you are overwhelmed by the choices from Earl Grey Lavendar to Jasmine Pearl to Matcha. A Google search shows more than a half-dozen shops open during the pandemic but call ahead for some have limited hours.

For something offbeat, check out the hard-to-find Bright Copper Kettle Yankee Candles on ebay ($9 to $2000) or take advantage of an Amazon offer of free unlimited reads of Bright Copper Kettles, a book by Candice Sue Patterson about wreath maker Darcy who tries to melt the heart of her frosty coppersmith neighbor Dean. Read it before it becomes a Hallmark movie.  (Kim MacCormack, Publications Manager)  

Warm Woolen Mittens – Founded in 2007, Krochet Kids has employed hundreds of people in Uganda and Peru to produce a broad array of gifts that give back.  The well-received products created abroad have established a cycle of employment and empowerment. From the beginning, the goal of Krochet Kids has been to highlight and celebrate the incredible individuals who are responsible for crafting the items they sell.  That is why every product comes with a label that features the signature of the maker. From hats, to scarfs to their Bennett Gloves ($28) – with a mitten option – their products aren’t just socially responsible, they are stylish and functional, too. (Paul Bilyeu, Senior Director of Communications) 

Brown Paper Packages Tied up with Strings – With all these favorite things you’ll be giving, you’ll need to know how to wrap them up before you put them under the tree. And why not use simple brown paper and string for a timeless gift-giving look? Instructables.com offers up easy, step-by-step instructions for the practically perfect package. Get your Martha Stewart on with all the supplies you need for just a buck at your local Dollar Tree or Dollar General. (LeeAnn Day Douglas, Senior Director Digital Marketing) 

Cream Colored Ponies – Every kid seems to be obsessed with ponies – and not just Twilight Sparkle and Rarity. Try a fun and artsy gift of pony stickers from Redbubble or “The Step-by-Step Way to Draw A Pony” at GoodReads. Or, better yet, let them show off their cream-coloring skills with “The Ultimate Cute and Fun Horse and Pony Coloring Book For Girls and Boys” on Amazon. That should keep the young equestrians busy enough to give the grown-ups time to enjoy a Pimm’s Pony cocktail. CHEERS and YOU’RE WELCOME! (Paul Bilyeu, Senior Director of Communications) 

Crisp Apple Strudels – If you’re one of those people who baked their way through COVID, this is a no-brainer. There are hundreds of strudel recipes online, with ingredients that cost less than $15. With an investment of 90 minutes, you can mix and bake enough strudel to feed your family and a few neighbors. If ordering is more your modus operandi, a few local bakeries and restaurants offer up the sweet, delicate German pastry. Taste of Berlin (Brandon), Jagerstuble (Largo), and Café Mozart (St. Petersburg) have the delectable dessert on the menu. You also can get a strudel-type pastry at the Publix bakery near you or you can purchase an authentic apple strudel online at Glady’s Bakery ($39), Oma Gisi’s German Bakery ($29.95) or Bennison’s Bakery ($25.) GenieBen!  (Kim MacCormack, Publications Manager) 

Doorbells – Our family’s favorite vacation spot is Acadia National Park, in our home state of Maine.  Prospect Harbor, on the Schoodic Point side of the Park, is the home of U.S. Bells. The doorbells, windchimes, and other outdoor pieces are cast in bronze in their onsite foundry where they have a gallery which is open year-round.  Bronze is the perfect material for outdoor use, standing up to decades of weather, even the blizzards of Maine. If you can’t make it to Maine this holiday season, you can order online. Our family is now scattered up and down the eastern seaboard and our homes each bear one of their doorbells. (Deborah G. Kobritz, Assistant to VP, Programming and Marketing) 

Sleigh Bells – Are ya listenin’? Sleigh Bells played the inaugural Big Guava Festival at the Florida Stage Fairgrounds back in 2014. I remembered hearing about the up-and-coming band prior to the festival, so I made a point to see their set. I’m so glad that I did, because it was one of the most memorable performances of the entire fest. Singer Alexis Krauss is an incredible frontwoman and, along with bandmate Derek E. Miller, brought a great energy. The Brooklyn, N.Y.-based band hasn’t been performing live much lately, due to, well … COVID-19, so lucky for us all their distinct musical stylings are available for purchase on Amazon Music, among other places. Known for their noise-pop sound featuring simple pop hooks sung over impossibly loud, distorted beats and punk guitar riffs, the duo is sure to find a spot on the playlist of any musically curious friend. Check out the official video for “It’s Just Us Now” … The von Trapp Family Singers they are NOT. (Roxanne Gallo, Programming Specialist) 

Schnitzel with Noodles – What the heck is schnitzel, anyway? A schnitzel is a thin slice of meat fried in fat. The meat is usually thinned by pounding with a meat tenderizer. Most commonly, the meats are breaded before frying. The breaded schnitzel is popular in many countries and is made using veal, pork, chicken, mutton,  beef,  turkey,  cheese or a textured vegetable protein. Follow this easy recipe. With just a few simple ingredients you can whip up a batch or two to share with a neighbor or a friend.  

Or, if you’re in the Tampa Bay area, check out Mr. Dunderbak’s Biergarten and Brewery. The local hot spot is known for their trivia, bingo and Polka nights as well as for their authentic schnitzel and strudel. You can dine in, get takeout, order gift cards online and visit their Christmas market. (Caitlin Potter, Senior Marketing Manager – Social Media) 

Wild Geese that Fly with the Moon on their Wings – Give that bird-watching fanatic on your nice list (come on … don’t we all know a bird-watching fanatic 😊?) the gift of a lifetime and plan a trip to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge. Their website offers all sorts of helpful tips to assist you in planning the adventure. With more than 10,000 acres of federally protected habitat that supports migrating birds throughout most of the year, the refuge sits at the northern end of the Central Valley of California. And according to eBird, high counts for the state of California were recorded in this refuge for both Snow Geese (250,000 on Jan. 30, 2004) and Greater White-fronted Geese (200,000 on Oct. 18, 2014). (Jeanne Piazza, Director of Programming) 

Girls in White Dresses with Blue Satin Sashes – Growing up there were always the perennial participatory school performances. But a most favorite at the age of about 7 was the Christmas and Hannukah assembly pageant. All the girls came from home dressed in white billowing clouds of chiffon. Someone loomed over us and anchored our waists with wide satiny sashes the color of blue haze and suddenly we were transformed into a magical cadre. With our rosy cherub cheeks, someone commented we were a vision of sugar plums. Now, I especially look forward to the Nutcracker performances at the Straz as they always trigger those nostalgic tears.  

Every little girl loves a new dress for the holiday season. The reality for us was that all our dresses were homemade … if your time allows, surf the options at the Peek-A-Boo Pattern Shop. If time is tight, browse the high-end selection at Neiman Marcus or look for a more affordable option at Sophia’s Style. (Mei Crain, Creative Director) 

Snowflakes that Stay on My Nose and Eyelashes – So, sometimes you just must give yourself a little gift! And why not look *G*L*A*M*O*R*O*U*S* while doing it? Sashay into your best holiday drag and add a pair of Snow White Glitter Eyelashes from Kamakula ($7.99) to fulfill all your Winter Wonderland fantasy realness. You better work! (Alessandra Cacciatore, Marketing Coordinator – Events) 

Silver White Winters that Melt into Springs – Why not treat that really special someone to a really special trip. Easy-to-fly-from-Tampa Southwest Airlines offers a variety of vacation packages to Colorado where you can enjoy the silver white winter and the glorious spring. My suggestion is Aspen. The authentic and chic mountain town is one of the world’s top ski areas. From the family-friendly Snowmass to the expert slopes of Aspen Mountain, there is terrain for all skill levels. In the spring, Aspen becomes a world-class destination for hiking, biking, kayaking, and scenic views. Give the COVID cloud a little time to clear and wait until next year to book your vacation stay at the super swanky St. Regis Aspen Resort – with Southwest packages starting at $3,446 per person, you may need the extra time to save up!  

For a more affordable snow-tastic adventure a little closer to home, check out Snowcat Ridge in Dade City (YES! Dade City, FLORIDA). Prices start at $24.95 per person. (Summer Bohnenkamp, Vice President of Marketing and Programming) 

ONE MORE FAVORITE THING: Check out these wonderful masks with similar fabrics to thevon Trapp kid’s curtain play clothes in the film version of The Sound of Music. A must-have for any fan of the movie, the masks are handmade by designer Debbie Turner, who as a child played Marta in the 1965 film … CURTAIN UP! (Judy Lisi, President and CEO)

 

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