Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Christmas from the Benedicts!

This is my last post of the year.  I am taking a few days off to devote to my family and to having the best holiday season ever!  I will be back to posting daily on Jan. 4th.  In the meantime, the photo below was the one I sent with my Christmas card this year of my three near-perfect grandchildren.  I am SO lucky they all live within just a few minutes of me. 

Today the grandchildren and I are spending the day together so my oldest daughter can get some of her final Christmas preparations completed and so my younger daughter doesn't have to find a sitter.  I think we are going to see the new Alvin and the Chipmunks movie and then out to lunch and probably stop by Nokomis Groves for ice cream. 

Yesterday I bought a new game at Barnes and Noble that is a real scavenger hunt, so we might do that later in the day or maybe I will take them for a bit again tomorrow and play.  I am sure their mothers would be very happy if I did that! 

By the way, many of you have told me you are making some of the recipes I posted last week.  Please let me know how they turned out.  You can email me at and tell me all about it!

May you have the best holiday season, no matter what you celebrate, and may your new year be filled with magic and fulfilled dreams!

The Benedicts

Madeline (6), Marina (almost 10), Brodie (just turned 8)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Selby Gardens - Lights in Bloom

Lights, beautiful lights all around the gardens.  My husband and I took our three grandchildren to see Selby Gardens' Lights in Bloom last night.  When we were on our way home, I asked the kids what were their favorite things and they said , "Everything!", so I guess they liked it!  I think what they really liked was to be able to run around in the relative darkness with the grandparents and cousins.  We bought a bag of caramel corn and ate that as we walked around, too, so that didn't hurt either!

Several years ago we visited this same event and really didn't care for it.  They had teenagers as volunteers and they basically ran wild all over the gardens, really spoiling the visitors' experience.  That has changed.  Nary a wild teenager in sight.  It was quite pleasant to walk around the gardens in the moonlight. 

The kids really enjoyed the kids' craft area and were proud of their creations.  It also gave Nana and Papa time to sit down and rest for a minute.  (I know I am talking like we are 90 instead of 54, but I wasn't wearing the right shoes and my husband has been having some back problems, so anyway, that's our story and we're sticking to it.)

For some reason my photos downloaded to my blog backwards, so the first pictures are really the ending of the tour and the last pictures, the beginning.  I encourage you to support the gardens, which are really such a treasure to our area, by going on the tour.  If you can, take some children with you - they'll appreciate it!

The fireplace in the living room of the Christy Payne house, now called The Mansion.  The house was decorated for the holidays by ASID members.

The Christmas tree decorated to invoke the mansion's bay side location.

The living room

The dining room table

The kitchen table

Another view of the dining room table

The dining room

The stairway decorated with garland and orchids

On the front door

Poinsettias at the entrance

The grandchildren in front of the bromeliad tree

Frosty cut-outs on the bay front

The front of the mansion.  I loved the big lighted snowflakes!

How pretty!

Santa's reindeer in their pen

The grandkids tell Santa their Christmas list.

Santa's sleigh

Elves dancing around the tree

Colorful trees along the path

Dancing lights,which I had so much trouble capturing.  I kept shooting just as they all went dark!

The front of the Selby house.

The kids decorating bags.

The kids making paper wreaths.

A wreath and a trio of frogs that the kids could turn the lights on and off and all around.  They enjoyed that!

Glittering butterflies

Lights strung along the path

The pergola with lights and dancing fairies

The sign for the Wishing Tree that told which color of ribbon meant which kind of wish.

Marina and Madeline hanging their wishes on the tree.

Going down the light tunnel

The Wishing Tree

Brodie and Marina hang wishes.

Three terrific grandkids!

Flowers in lights

Starting down the walkway

Electric trains

My favorite lights view - many butterflies in the banyans.

A lighted cockatoo greets you as you start your tour.

Monday, December 19, 2011

JFCS Gala - Le Grand Cabaret

Jewish Family & Children's Service's Gala, Le Grand Cabaret, was certainly a grand evening!  From the beautiful people, to the luscious sounds of the Sarasota Orchestra, to the vivacious singing of the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, to the elegant Ritz Carlton setting, everything was superb.  With a sold-out crowd of over 500 - all at the Patron or above level - before any invitations even went out, co-chairs Judy Cahn and Marie Monsky can be proud of their accomplishment.

Dirk Meyer, Associate Conductor of the Sarasota Orchestra did a marvelous job of not only conducting, but also of connecting with the audience with his witty repartee.  (By the way, his wife Jennifer looked stunning.  I have never seen her look so beautiful.)  How fortunate we are that Bea Friedman underwrites the orchestra's performance every year.  Speaking of Miss Bea, I didn't get her photo because I couldn't get close enough!  She was always surrounded by so many people trying to get an audience with her.  That's what happens when you are one of the town's biggest philanthropists!

I have seen the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe perform at numerous events this season and their performances never get old - in fact, I think they keep getting better and better.  Nate Jacobs, Artistic Director, has put together a terrific group.  They were divine.  Especially Chris Eisenberg, whose mother, Josephine, is now on staff at JFCS. 

The JFCS agency video made its debut at the gala.  JFCS does so much good for our entire community, not only the Jewish community.  They have served almost 22,000 clients in the past year alone.  The stories told of the people they have helped were quite amazing and brought tears to my eyes.  I must say, several videos at different organizations' events this year have been really well done. 

One of the ways guests could help immediately, was to buy the Boxes of Hope centerpieces, which were filled with toys and gifts for 53 families served by the Building Strong Families Homelessness Prevention Program.  What a fabulous idea for centerpieces!

Lots of Sarasota swells attended.  In addition to those photographed below or already mentioned, others attending were Nate Benderson and Anne Virag, Ilene Friedman, Alisa and Ernest Kretzmer, Betty Schoenbaum, Teri Hansen and Steve Wilberding, Sydney and Jerome Goldstein, Florence Katz, Steve Miles, Lynn and Dr. Arthur Guilford, Doris Kaplan, Diana Lager, Fran and David Lambert, Renee Sheade, Barbara Zdravecky, Greg Band, Gary and Kathy Heard and JFCS VP of Development, Andria Bilan.   

Co-chair Marie and Donald Monsky

Co-chair Judy Cahn and Scott Anderson

JFCS President and CEO Rose Chapman

Flora Major and Vivian Kouvant 

Dottie and Bob Garner

Alan and Vivienne Smith

Mickey Fine, Arnold Hoffman, and Marsha Panuce

Paula Leu and Nicci Kobritz

Sally Yanowitz, Peggy Abt, and Lois Stulberg

Marjorie North, Skip and Gail Sacks

Dr. Cucho and Melba Jimenez

Elaine Margolis, Judy Cuppy, and Noel Sams

David Band and Christine Jennings

Mayor Suzanne Atwell and Grace Carlson

Martha Honey, Donald Monsky, and Bob Dudley

Bill and Audrey Coleman

Marie Wirries and Jewel Ash

Marty and Rabbi Jonathan Katz

Tom and Marjorie Peter, Marv Albert and Gerri Aaron

Lisa Walsh and Molly Schechter

Malcolm Candlish and Judy Cahn

Lee Levine, Ron Good, and Hannah Honeyman

Dr. Arthur Ancowitz and Ina Schnell

Ian Webb and Margaret Barbieri

Joseph Gianguzzo and Brian Lipton

Christine and Bruce Cassidy, Jr.

Phil King, Julie Milton, and Dennis Stover

Rev. Jim and Nikki Nilon

Susan Burns and Larry Eger

Jocelyn Stevens and Roxie Jerde

Wendy and Jerry Finestein and Veronica Brady

Patricia Caswell and Margaret Callihan

Dennis and Graci McGillicuddy

Joan Lyon and Sue Jacobson

George Allison and Flori Roberts

Leigh and Dr. Michael Gordon

The centerpiece