Lilian, Lucille and Stephen Crane

January 18, 2012

While looking for a place to take my visiting parents this past Sunday, I remembered an article I had read in a local newspaper about Lilian Place, a historical home in Daytona Beach that had recently been restored and opened to the public.  Built in 1884, Lilian Place is the oldest house on Daytona’s beachside.

Its unique design is classified as Italianate High Victorian architecture. And that yellow and green paint? Apparently common colors during the Victorian age.  

Here are a few interesting things about the house’s history:

  • The house was built by Laurence and Mary Eliza Thompson, who moved to the area from Cincinnati, Ohio. Laurence was an early entrepreneur, first opening a General Store then later a real estate and insurance partnership. The Thompsons had three children, the youngest of which, Lilian, is the namesake of the property.
  • In 2002, the new owners turned the house into a Bed and Breakfast. After the wife died, the husband returned to New York and left the house to deteriorate. The Heritage Preservation Trust took it over in December 2009 and is continuing to restore it to its 1880s glory.
  • There have been several reports of ghostly encounters at Lilian Place, one concerning a young lady named Lucille. As far as anyone can tell, Lucille was a woman spurned by her fiancé, a former resident of Lilian Place.
  • Perhaps the property’s biggest claim to fame is its literary significance.  After his boat sank on December 31, 1896, Stephen Crane, author of The Red Badge of Courage, made it to shore and sought refuge for a few weeks at Lilian Place. As a result of his experience, he wrote his famous short story,  The Open Boat.

If only I had known about this place when it was still a Bed and Breakfast!  Old, quaint, and  potentially haunted. What a great combination.


Athletes and Chocolate

August 10, 2011

What do chocolate and athletes have in common?  Apparently the ESPY awards, ESPN’s yearly award ceremony for athletes.

Daytona Beach based Angell & Phelps Chocolate Factory found itself in a  unique situation in early July when it was named the official “gourmet chocolate sponsor” for the ESPYs.  The chocolatiers were asked to provide their exotic truffles for the award show attendees.

Truffles by Angell & Phelps

Athletes such as nominees Dirk Nowitzki (NBA), Serena Williams (tennis), Jimmie Johnson (NASCAR), Lindsey Vonn (Olympic skier) and Cam Newton (football) were a few who found Angell & Phelps treats in their celebrity gift bags this year.

Angell & Phelps truffle variety pack includes:

  • Milk Chocolate Truffles
  • Rum Milk Chocolate Truffles
  • Champagne Dark Chocolate Truffles
  • Amaretto Milk Chocolate Truffles
  • Raspberry Dark Chocolate Truffles

With a Groupon about to expire, we headed to the chocolate factory on Beach Street in old downtown Daytona Beach over the weekend.

The Chocolate Factory Tour

Angell & Phelps conducts a Chocolate Tour at least four times a day and we caught the last one at 4:00pm. Although fun, the tour isn’t very impressive.  You look through windows into the area where potato chips are being coated with chocolate, where white chocolate is kept at a constant 89 degrees for melting, and where the chocolates are boxed up for shipping. Maybe it was just late in the day, or maybe the workers dislike being on display, but no one seemed very happy.

How chocolate covered potato chips are made.


A worker prepares each chocolate covered chip by impressing the grooves on the potato chips.


White Chocolate melting machine

After the tour, we stood staring at all the choices behind the counter. To spend my $20 Groupon, we  diversified — a slice of chocolate fudge, a slice of maple nut fudge, several Honey Bees ( similar to Turtles and even more delicious).   The absolute best of our selections was the Dark Chocolate  Covered Cherries.  Now these were worth the trip. They are exquisite and some of the best candy we have ever tasted.

The Acclaimed Truffles

The Espy Truffles didn’t receive much enthusiasm from the crowd of 30 or more people at the last tour on Saturday.  But I for one had to give them a try. I bought two — a champagne truffle and a raspberry truffle. They were delicious, but still couldn’t top the chocolate covered cherries.

I wasn’t overwhelmed by the Angell & Phelps chocolate or their small factory. It’s a very small operation and I’m surprised they were able to accommodate such a big order as the Espy Awards.  The workers rarely smiled, one lady behind the candy counter rudely ignored us, and the overall feel of the store was less than exciting.

Will I go back? Possibly… for the chocolate covered cherries.  However, my heart still belongs to a particular little chocolate shop in Zürich, Switzerland. And state side, it lies with a certain northern chocolate shop – Stefanelli’s Candies – located in Erie, Pennsylvania.

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

July 6, 2011

Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.
–Babe Ruth–

Electing to stay in town this past 4th of July weekend, we discovered fun and inexpensive entertainment not far away in Daytona Beach. No, not the Coke Zero 400 NASCAR race, but that All-American sport — baseball.

Daytona Beach is home to the Daytona Cubs, the minor league team affiliated with the Chicago Cubs. And May through September, they play their hearts out.

Just shy of 5,000 people (which is close to capacity at the small Jackie Robinson ballpark) joined us for an All-American 4th of July evening of baseball, hot dogs and fireworks.  The Cubs didn’t let us down either. What the final score of 12-5 doesn’t tell you is that 10 of the Cubs’ points came during the 5th inning alone. Everything connected during that inning and the Cubs just couldn’t stop scoring.

Vietnam Vets of America Color Guard


July 4th Game in play (Photo by Matt O'Neill)

Batter up (Photo by Matt O'Neill)


The Florida State League

The Florida State League is a Class-A Advanced minor league baseball league, and when the players get to this level, they usually already have 3-4 years of professional play under their belt. 

There are two divisions in the Florida State League: North and South.

North Division
Brevard County Manatees (Affiliation: Milwaukee Brewers)
Clearwater Threshers (Affiliation: Philadelphia Phillies)
Daytona Cubs (Affiliation: Chicago Cubs)
Dunedin Blue Jays (Affiliation: Toronto Blue Jays)
Lakeland Flying Tigers (Affiliation: Detroit Tigers)
Tampa Yankees (Affiliation: New York Yankees)

South Division
Bradenton Marauders (Affiliation: Pittsburgh Pirates)
Charlotte Stone Crabs (Affiliation: Tampa Bay Rays)
Fort Myers Miracle (Affiliation: Minnesota Twins)
Jupiter Hammerheads (Affiliation: Florida Marlins)
Palm Beach Cardinals (Affiliation: St. Louis Cardinals)
St. Lucie Mets (Affiliation: New York Mets)

A little baseball for everyone, all over Florida.

Although individual stats rule more than team wins here, we root for the team as a whole and still celebrate each win.  It’s nice to see the dream of making it to the big leagues is alive and well right here in Florida.

Florida Archaeology Month

March 30, 2011

In honor of March being Florida Archaeology Month, I sought out archaeological sites to visit close to home. According to the Florida Public Archaeology Network website, there are over 29 such sites between Jacksonville and New Smyrna Beach alone! I chose the two closest to my neighborhood and headed out.

Dunlawton Plantation Sugar Mill Ruins (Port Orange)

The Dunlawton Plantation Sugar Mill Ruins site is described as “coquina and brick ruins of an 1830s sugar mill complex and assortment of sugar mill processing equipment.” After a short drive to its location, I entered the gates and found myself surrounded by a beautiful botanical garden.  To my surprise, the ruins were largely intact and amazingly preserved. 

According to a sign near the ruins,

In the late twentieth century, archaeologists began studying the factory site systemically. They discovered foundations, buried floors, machine objects, and discarded items of everyday life.” 

Kettles where extracted cane juice gradually thickened before being ladled into wooden cooling troughs.

Area where the Purgery stood. Crystallized sugar was packed in barrels and stored in the damp rooms for several weeks.


Samuel Butts Youth Archaeological Park (Daytona Beach)

I may never have known about the Samuel Butts Youth Archaeological Park if Florida Archaeology Month didn’t exist. 

I was stunned by the beauty of this park. And it’s all thanks to Daytona resident and amateur archaeologist Samuel Butts. Mr. Butts  found “copious spear points, bone tools and pottery fragments of the Timucuan Indians as well as skeletal material from a mastodon that roamed Central Florida during the Ice Ages” at this site.  He also found remains of a 1920s general store, complete with groceries, which had burned to the ground. Mr. Butts decided to make the 29-acre area a park, with panels interpreting the  prehistoric and historic sites in an effort to educate others.

Panel interpreting site where prehistoric shell tools and broken pottery were found.

Panel on the finding of a 1920s General Store which burned to the ground.

The pond was excavated in 2001. Butts found a "bone bed" over 10,000 years old containing the remains of prehistoric animals.


Thanks to the Florida Public Archaeology Network website, I have now found more explorations for my year ahead.  It looks like I will never run out of things to do here in Florida!



February 16, 2011

As a treat for myself before Valentine’s Day,  I finally watched the 2000 movie Chocolat, starring Juliet Binoche and Johnny Depp.  A mysterious chocolatier (Binoche) sets up shop across from a church in a small French village and disrupts the predictable day to day life there. Basically the movie is about how chocolate can bring people together, and bring happiness to life. 

Watching this made me wonder whether there are any true chocolatiers here in Florida. They may not be like the one in the movie, but surely a unique shop, not a chain, exists somewhere in this state.


Now I’m on a new quest — to find a unique chocolatier in the state of Florida. For this, I have devised a list of shops close to home to visit first:

  • Angell & Phelps (Daytona Beach)
  • Chocolate Connoisseurs (Winter Park)
  • Danay’s Candies (Orlando)
  • Caffe Chocolat (Titusville)
  • Whetstone Chocolates (St. Augustine)
  • Claude’s Chocolates (St. Augustine)

As I was devising this initial list, an email with the Groupon deal of the day arrived, offering a $20 Groupon to Daytona Beach’s Angell & Phelps Chocolate Factory for only $10.  Not only does Angell & Phelps sell chocolate, they also let you tour their kitchen and chocolate factory. This will be my first stop.

Jumping online for a little chocolate research, I came across a surprise website and blog for the Chocolate University Online.  I am thrilled that this chocolatier, Bryn Kirk,  found another way to get chocolate to the masses. Kirk even offers a free eBook, 101 Things You Must Know About Chocolate, and free information on her website such as  21 Things You Must Know About Chocolate.

As for my having to consume a large quantity of chocolate in order to complete this quest, that won’t be necessary. I’m looking more for ambiance. For style.  And yes, a somewhat European flair. I most likely will, however, in the name of research of course,  have to sample just a few.

Up in the Air

October 13, 2010

Let’s face it, many special events are not going to fit within the image Daytona Beach has created for itself.  Yet if you look beyond Spring Break  and motorcycle events (which includes Biketoberfest starting this Thursday), you see the area has certain unique features that stand out. One of those is the very specialized and highly respected Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.  And this past weekend,  Embry-Riddle brought something to the Daytona Beach area that has sorely been missing.

The Wings and Waves Air Show was held on both Saturday and Sunday, 11:00 a.m until 4:00 p.m.  With our  chairs, towels and cooler, we settled in to a wonderful spot on the beach behind the Hilton Hotel and awaited the show to begin. With perfect October weather and an outgoing tide, we couldn’t have asked for a better day.

Starting  off the event was Cheryl Stearns, the “most successful competitive skydiver in the world”, parachuting in with the American and Canadian flags. 

Then came a full line-up of planes, both old and new.  A unique highlight of the day consisted of the U.S. Air Force Heritage Flight.  A WWII era P-51 Mustang fighter aircraft was joined in formation by the F-16 Viper and the newest fighter aircraft, the F-22 Raptor.

Heritage P-51 Mustang, F-16 Viper and F-22 Raptor

A close up view makes them look like toys.

The spectacular grand finale was provided by The Canadian Snowbirds Jet Demonstration Team, composed of serving members of the Canadian Forces.

Canadian Snowbirds Jet Demonstration Team

At a time when it’s easy to become discouraged by the direction America has been taking – selfishness, greed, irresponsibility, victim mentality – events like this remind me of what America is, and can be. Strong, smart, innovative, and inventive. And I’m not just referring to the military, but to what America has been in the past, and still is today. I am so thankful we still have curious men and women who aren’t afraid to work hard and make the world a more interesting place.  And I’m proud to know that many of those men and women start out right here in Daytona Beach.

Labor Day Weekend, Florida Style

September 3, 2010

AAA is predicting that more Floridians will be traveling this Labor Day weekend.  Just where will all these Floridians be traveling to?  If they plan to stay in Florida, here a few best bets.

American Music Festival (Daytona Beach):  This four-day event features concerts by the likes of Tony Bennett, Usher, the Jonas Brothers, Demi Lovato, Blake Shelton and Huey Lewis and the News.  Apparently Daytona is trying to revive its image to be something more than just NASCAR and Bike Week, and music seems to be its answer.

Surfing for a Cause (Cocoa Beach):  This is the 25th annual National Kidney Foundation (NKF) Pro Am Surf Festival.  Competitors will be male and female, amateur and pro.  In addition to the weekend long competition, there will be concerts, karate and surfing demonstrations, and lots of free stuff (from advice to surfboards).  There will also be mini-health clinics, and massages for a buck a minute. The festival is touted as the largest charity event in the world.  

Brewfest (Key West):  This three-day brewfest will provide attendees access to 60 beers and ales, including the likes of Holy Mackerel, Monk in the Trunk, Magic Hat and UFO White.  On Sunday, attendees can attend the six-course Samuel Adams Beer Dinner and have a little chilled lobster gazpacho and grilled swordfish with their complimentary ale, lager or stout.

Other events going on around the state:

St. Augustine is celebrating its 445th birthday with a reenactment of the landing, a large birthday cake, and music on the Plaza de la Constitution.  On Sunday, Toby Keith will be performing at the Ampitheater.

In Downtown Jacksonville you can learn to shag, enter your kids in a hula hoop competition, dig in the sand for Jaguar home game tickets, eat some famous gumbo and enjoy live music.

Amelia Island starts their celebration with a beach cleanup, followed by a surf competiiton, reggae music concert, sand castle contest and giveaways.