Saturday, October 17, 2015


There is a writing conference that I attend each year that often takes place in Tampa Bay, Florida.  Not a bad place to spend a handful of days, but perhaps a challenge to one’s focus.  Beach or workshop?  Sunshine or seminar?  If you’re clever, you can do both.  If you’re a DestiKNITter, you can squeeze in a fiber adventure while you’re at it.  Which, of course, I did.

Let’s start with the beachfront location.  For me, that’s always been:

Tradewinds Island Grand
5500 Gulf Blvd 
St Pete Beach, FL 33706

Honestly, it takes a little convincing to make yourself leave the property.  There’s just about everything you need within the confines of this hotel and its sister property, the Guy Harvey Outpost.  The resort package gets you access to all kinds of adventures including water slides, parasailing, beach cabanas, stand-up paddleboarding, and a James-Bond-esque water jetpack thingy that looks as exciting as it does dangerous.  I’m impressed with how this place effortlessly combines a grown-up atmosphere while still being highly kid-friendly.  A large number of my fellow conferees bring their spouses and families, and for good reason.  Professional development doesn’t get more fun that this—and if it makes a great seminar, you can imagine what an awesome vacation or family reunion can be had here.

But, you're going to want to wander eventually.  For me, beachfront eateries divide into two camps: tourist and local.  It’s fun to eat at the places designed for travelers—they can often be entertaining and delicious—but I also try to make sure I check out the little spots where locals eat.  When you’ve had your fill of meals within the Tradewinds confines, give yourself a long walk down the beach (a daily must-have for me, especially when my brain is stuffed from seminars) to a super-casual dinner at:

Woody’s Waterfront
7308 Sunset Way
St Pete Beach, FL 33706

The place has the small, sandy, driftwoody feel of a great beach joint.  We nabbed a table right up against the water and watched the sun go down while enjoying quintessential plastic baskets of good seafood.  
I indulged in the clam strips dinner—always my favorite—and was not disappointed.  My husband said his scallops were great, too.  Be warned: this is a cash-only establishment.

After a few days of baking in the sun (or if it rains), you may be ready to venture forth for other amusements. For me, of course, that means fiber finds, and lucky for us, there was a nifty one not too far away.  Have fun watching the neighborhoods and architecture change as you drive down Gulf Blvd to Largo, where you’ll find:

720 9th Ave SW
Largo, FL 33770

The store takes its name from “cria,” the term for a young alpaca. As such, you won’t be surprised to find a strong focus on Alpaca products, fibers, and gifts.  Owner Alicia Chivers even manages her own nearby alpaca farm, and was kind enough to give us a private tour before visiting the shop.

They are charming animals, an endearing combination of cute and scruffy—but watch out for their trademark spit.  I can now count being spat upon by an alpaca among my life experiences.  It wasn’t nearly as bad as you’d imagine. 

Criativity hosts a popular open knitting night on Tuesdays, and you can tell the store has a loyal band of customers.  One of them even has her own designated and decorated chair—you know that’s a store devoted to community-building!  

There’s a wide selection of alpaca fiber clothing, gifts, and decor items.  If you’re forced to do your yarn shopping with non-knitters (always a challenge), your companions will find plenty to amuse themselves here.  Even those poor souls who don’t pick up the needles will be interested in the Birdie Balls that offer a selection of nice nesting fibers for feathered friends in your life.  Practical types will find the felted dryer balls both unique and useful.

For us knitters, an impressive selection of yarn stocked by weight awaits you.  The store feels just the right size—not so small you feel like they won’t have enough of what you need, but not so big that you feel you’ll miss a special find. Take a look at local vendor The Fiber Seed yarns in sock, sport, laceweight, and worsted weights.  There are even little mini-skeins—Seedlings, of course—to tempt you into a “taste.”

Suggested projects include:

Swingback Hoodie
Amy Gunderson’s pattern from the summer issue of Knit Purl takes a casual classic up a notch with beautiful stitchwork down the back.  This garment does up nicely in 8-12 skeins of Llamalini lama-linen-silk blend, depending on size. If you’ve been wanting to knit something your teenager will actually wear, this offers an excellent choice.

Classic Elite Sasha Poncho
Classic Elite photo
Tonia Barry's warm, sturdy poncho boasts loads of panache with a bold shoulder detail and dynamic buttons. This a statement accessory, to be sure.  You can go so many directions with color combinations and button styles!  The Classic Elite Chalet yarn makes for a cozy piece of outerwear anyone would be proud to wear.

Casapinka Woven Shawlette
Casapinka photo
Make good use of Araucania Huasco merino wool’s extraordinary colors in this simple shawl that lets the fiber do the talking.  A perfect one-skein gift—or an indulgence for yourself.

Our Knit Along from Criativity:
Foxy Duo Cowl
If you’re looking for an attention-getter of an accessory, this is it.  Ingeniously sized so that it either drapes over your shoulders or softly bunches around your neck, the combination of Prism’s glitzy “Stuff” and dramatic “Plume” is hard to beat.  This looks like an adventure to knit and a definitely feels like a luxury to touch—who can resist?

When you’ve filled your shopping bag, grab lunch ( just make sure it’s before 2:30) at:

Wildflower Cafe
1465 S Fort Harrison Ave
Clearwater, FL 33756

I love charming breakfast/lunch places. I couldn’t resist trying the chicken pecan “tart”—a quiche, really.  A nice kale salad, a variety of flavored iced teas, and chutney rounded out my delicious meal.  A large, yummy fresh-baked cookie proved the perfect ending.  

If you’re extra lucky, you’ll receive a visit from Henry, the restaurant’s resident heron host who wanders amongst the outdoor tables!

What’s an adventure without chocolate?  Get yours at:

William Dean Chocolates
2790 W Bay Dr
Ste 1
Belleair Bluffs, FL 33770

So amazing they were featured in the Hunger Games movies!  Alicia is fond of their gelato, but I found chocolates are too amazing to resist.  Art you can eat, and a stunning selection.  And they have French macarons.  Heaven!  Eat some there, and buy some more to take home for later—more chocolate is always better than less—just keep an eye on your car temperature if you’re not going straight home.

Finish your day with some foam of the non-sea variety at:
Barley Mow Brewing Company
518 West Bay Dr
Largo, FL 33770

I’m not much of a beer fan, but a place with S’mores stout gets my attention. With quality beers and live music on Friday nights, many consider this place the area’s best little brewery.  Just the right rustic atmosphere with both indoor and outdoor seating—a perfect knit-in-public spot if you are so inclined.

You can spend the the rest of your time chilling on the beach, but can guide you to some other fun adventures, including:

There are also the usual theme parks, golf courses, and fishing charters, but speaking of fish, make sure you don’t leave without visiting:

Rumfish Grill
6000 Gulf Blvd
Saint Pete Beach, FL 33706

The Guy Harvey Outpost takes it name from famed aquatic illustrator  Guy Harvey, who makes regular appearances at the resort.  So, the fish theme makes sense.  And if you’re a fan of the reality show “Tanked,” you’ll recognize the massive, full-wall fish tank that serves as this restaurant’s key attraction.  Should you want to do more than spectate, you can actually book a swim inside the tank (only $35!  Seriously, I though it would be loads more—I’m definitely doing it next time I visit). 

Lighted menus allow the room to be dark and theatrical—perfect for aquatic viewing and perhaps a romantic dinner.  Reviews are decidedly mixed about the food, and it is understandably a challenge to get seated near the tank. Still, for a unique meal experience, it’s hard to beat a place like this.  If you’re short on time or have little ones (although I’d wager they might actually sit through a meal here), you can just take in the “visitor’s view” without eating.  Look for the alarmingly sinister-looking eel—that may be the only thing keeping me out of the tank next year!

I’ve only skimmed the surface—see the aquatic joke I made there?—of what Tampa, Tampa Bay and St. Pete have to offer.  You can bet this won’t be the last installment on this DestiKNITions!

Up next, we meet this month's Reader Who Knits, and then I cast on the furry first rows of the Foxy Duo cowl.

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