Thursday, January 18, 2018
News Roundup

Santa's going to 'Kinky Boots' after helping the Belles

12.4.15

A few recipes have changed, hemlines have gone up and down, and several new women come on board, but the mission of the Christmas Belles has remained the same for 53 years. Twenty-four hostesses invite about 250 women to an elegant coffee the first Friday in December to raise money and collect toys for the Christmas Toy Shop.

The "belles" underwrite the total cost of the two-hour event so all the money from the guests' donations, around $25,000 a year, goes to support the Christmas Toy Shop. That non-profit organization gives toys, bikes, books and beyond to more than 2,000 needy Pinellas children.

Each year, the group asks someone in the community with a house large enough to accommodate the crowd to allow them to stage their holiday hospitality. This year the champagne punch, crustless sandwiches, canapes and Christmas cookies (all homemade) were served at the Old Northeast home of Emily and Tash Elwyn.

"It's the easiest party to throw," said Emily Elwyn. "These women are organized. They came in like little ants and immediately started moving furniture, bringing in food. They have a job chart."

Guests enjoyed the Elwyns' extensive collection of folk art paintings in bold colors by self-taught artists such as Howard Finster and John "Cornbread" Anderson.

Their 1920 home was built by Fred Blair, who also built an airport and movie studio on Weedon Island and produced three silent movies there.

New this year, 13 "Christmas belles" were named "silver belles." Because the day of setting up, serving, clearing and cleaning is very taxing, these women who have been at it for so many years were invited to relax and visiting with guests instead of work.

"I think it's important to get younger women in to keep this going on for years to come," said Anne Long, a silver belle, who worked at this newspaper for 28 years and wrote the "You Asked For It" food column. Other silver belles are Mary Wyatt Allen, Marion Ballard, Rosemary Hempel, Susan Hicks, Laurie Lowe, Evelyn Moorefield, Carol Piper, Ardith Rutland, Iris Salzer, Betty Shamas, Judy Stanton and Patsy Wheeler. Kristen Rutland, a new belle, joined the ranks with her mother, Nancy Rutland and grandmother, Ardith Rutland.

The presence of Santa is a long-standing Belles tradition, though the true identity of the husband, brother or friend who dons the red suit and long beard is always a secret.

At 1:15 p.m. he proclaimed to the women on the front porch: "Santa is clocking out." When hostess Glenn Mosby told Santa what time they were heading out to see Kinky Boots later it was clear her husband, Dav Mosby, played the role this year.

"Are you taking the sleigh to Tampa," asked fellow hostess Deann Coop.

12.5.15

More than 170 women turned out to dine, shop and support the Treasure Islette's HollyFest. The women's club founded in 1955 has donated close to $1 million over the years to scholarships, youth programs, recreation, the Treasure Island Fire Department and Treasure Island Police Department. Proceeds from this year's event will go toward city beautification, according to President Mary Cox.

The luncheon at the Treasure Island Community Center was surrounded by tables selling handmade gifts from wreaths to wine bags and themed baskets full of items for pets, gardening, cooking and more.

12.5.15

Mouths were agape at beautiful homes, tranquil water views, uniquely trimmed trees and Ikebana flower arrangements at the Florida Orchestra Guild's Holiday Tour of Homes. People from Sarasota to Palm Harbor toured five homes on Snell Isle.

Highlights included two well-appointed outdoor kitchens, a courtyard pool, a tree of limited edition White House ornaments from over the years and a screening room with bigger-than-life black and white pictures of Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe and James Dean.

The owner of one of the homes is a member of the St. Petersburg chapter of Ikebana International. There were more than a dozen minimalist arrangements of living branches, leaves, grasses and blossoms. The foyer featured a not-so-minimal 5-foot-high arrangement of woven and braided palm leaves painted silver and gold.

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