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Q and A: Cycling in Westchase

This month we asked residents what it is like riding a bike in the Westchase area and what can be done to make it safer and more enjoyable?

Kathy Burke, Castleford

I ride for exercise and pleasure. It's so relaxing and beautiful in Westchase. It's almost like the people who developed Westchase made it with cyclists in mind. I think it encourages people to want to ride.

I love the tunnel under Linebaugh and always use it when I ride to the YMCA to work out; it's so convenient and safe.

I'm still afraid of the bike lanes and use the sidewalk to get to the Upper Tampa Bay Trail on the other side of Sheldon. When you're on the trail, you don't have to worry about cars. There are so many other people out riding and jogging that it creates a nice, friendly, safe atmosphere.

I'd like to see drivers more aware of cyclists especially when we have to cross multiple lanes of traffic. Maybe larger signs would be helpful. Cyclists have to do their part, too, by being aware of traffic and riding defensively.

Rick Miller, The Greens

I like cycling in Westchase. It's very scenic and it's a good biking distance to restaurants, stores and it's close to the Upper Tampa Bay Trail. I can also get my exercise riding to the Y to work out. What I don't like is the traffic on Linebaugh. So many drivers are not paying attention to cyclists, especially when they're turning or at crosswalks. They're distracted by their cell phones. I stay on the sidewalk on Linebaugh. Truck side view mirrors get into the bike lane.

You also have to watch out for people backing out of their driveways without looking. Cyclists always have to ride defensively. Maybe stricter enforcement of laws about texting while driving would help but it's more about drivers being more aware and conscientious.

Ryoga Yasui, The Fords

I work at Publix and don't drive a car so my bike is very important to me. It helps me get to work on time. I ride every day. I have not had any problems but I am afraid of cars coming too close. Drivers should watch out for bikes.

Wade Neller, The Bridges

The thing I like best about Westchase are the bike lanes. I like to do group rides and that means riding on the streets. The bike lanes give you some degree of safety.

The thing I like least are the people who have no respect for cyclists or the law. So many fly down Linebaugh at 65 miles an hour talking on their cell phones or texting. Quite often they are weaving in and out of the bike lane.

By Phil Dean

COMMENTS

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Q and A: Westchase’s Benefits and Areas for Improvement

What do you love about Westchase and what would you improve? We asked a handful of Westchasers the same questions. Here’s what they offered.

Luke Carrens, West Park Village Apartments

Westchase has great access to shops and restaurants. You almost never have to leave the community. You can walk to many of the places, or walk your dog at any time of the day or night and feel safe. I would like to see apartment residents have the opportunity to recycle like the rest of Westchase. I take my recyclable materials to drop off locations or to my parents’ home. It would much more convenient to have bins at the complex. Apartment residents would like to do their part just like everyone else in Westchase.

Tara Leone, Westchase

I really like the sense of community here. We have access to some many amenities you almost never need to leave. I would love to see something done to improve the traffic on Linebaugh, especially during the rush hours.

Ed Kelly, The Vineyards

Our neighborhood is gated which makes it quiet. It also makes you feel very safe and secure. Westchase is so accessible. It's close and convenient to so much, like downtown and the airport. I really think Tampa needs a light rail system. It would help reduce traffic and make our area so much more attractive to businesses thinking about relocating to the Tampa Bay area.

Joe Matthews, Chelmsford

I love all the recreation facilities in Westchase, especially the heated community pools, the tennis courts and the close proximity to the county recreation center behind the elementary school. I walk four-miles along Linebaugh Avenue for exercise almost every day. It's beautiful. My wife and I have lived in Westchase for 20 years and it has really nurtured us. I suppose reducing traffic would make it better but, in truth, I have trouble thinking about what we could do to improve things. I think it’s pretty near perfect just the way it is.

By Phil Dean

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Q and A: What’s Your Favorite Thanksgiving Recipe?

Looking for something new for Thanksgiving? 

Maybe one of these favorite side dishes or desserts from Westchase residents will become your family’s new favorite.

Jennifer Foster, The Greens

This recipe is from my husband’s family and is better than the usual green bean casserole.

Corn and Green Bean Casserole

2 cans French style green beans
2 cans shoe peg corn
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1 cup sour cream
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 small chopped onion
1 stick butter
1 sleeve saltine crackers, crushed

Drain beans and corn. Mix the soup, sour cream, onions and cheese. Stir in corn and green beans. Put in airtight container overnight. Spread in 9” x 9” x 3” casserole dish. Melt butter, add the crushed crackers and spread the mixture on top of casserole. Bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

Karen Rich, West Park Village

This is my favorite Thanksgiving side dish. It’s from Ina Garten. It is a lot if work to make, but everyone loves it.

Saffron Risotto with Butternut Squash

1 butternut squash, 2 pounds
2 tbsp. olive oil
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
6 cups chicken stock
6 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 ounces of pancetta, diced
½ cup minced shallots
1½ cups Arborio rice
½ cup dry white wine
1 tsp. saffron threads
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Peel the squash, remove seeds and cut into ¾-inch cubes. Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast for 25-30 minutes.

Heat the chicken stock and leave to simmer.

Melt the butter and sauté the pancetta and shallots in a large heavy pot. Add the uncooked rice and stir to coat. Add the wine and cook for two minutes.

Add two full ladles of stock, the saffron, 1 tsp. salt and ½ tsp. pepper. Stir and simmer until stock is absorbed.

Continue to add stock, two ladles at a time, stirring, until mixture seems dry.
Continue until all stock is absorbed and rice is cooked through but al dente.

Off the heat, add the roasted squash and Parmesan cheese.

Chris Barrett, The Bridges

Yes, everyone associates pumpkin pie with Thanksgiving, but this dessert is a favorite of my daughters as well as my nieces and nephews at every Thanksgiving dinner. After trying it, you’ll never make another box cake again. One taste and you’ll agree – it rivals Wright’s Gourmet Deli’s famous chocolate cake.

Homemade Chocolate Cake

It can be made in two 9” round pans or a 13” x 9” inch rectangular pan.

Cake

2 cups white sugar
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1½ tsp. baking powder
1½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
½ cup vegetable oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour (or spray with cooking spray) your pans.

Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Add the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla, mixing well. Stir in the boiling water. (The batter will be thinner than you are accustomed to seeing in a cake batter.) Pour the batter into the prepared pans.

Bake 30-35 minutes for round pans or 35-50 minutes for a rectangular pan – until an inserted toothpick or knife comes out clean. Cool completely and frost with buttercream frosting.

For a deeper chocolate flavor, you can use Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder. This works very well with the coffee buttercream frosting mentioned below.

Buttercream Frosting

3 cups powdered sugar
2/3 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
½ cup butter (2 sticks)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
5-6 tablespoons milk

Let the butter soften. Using a mixer on high, beat in the powdered sugar, cocoa power and vanilla. Add milk to desired consistency.

If you want a mocha-flavored icing, add 2 teaspoons of instant coffee to the milk just before adding it. If you’d prefer to try a coffee-flavored icing without the chocolate (it’s delicious!), don’t add the cocoa. Instead add 2 tablespoons of instant coffee to the milk before adding it. Reduce the milk, however, to only 1-2 tablespoons or the icing will be too thin.

By Marcy Sanford

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Westchase Q and A: How Do You Make Halloween Fun?

Why should kids get to have all the fun on Halloween?

Adults need an excuse to dress up, make treats, and show off their haunting skills too. Take a tip from these Westchase residents on how to make the most of the Halloween season.

Asmita Kakodker
Radcliffe

I love to bake and decorate cookies and cupcakes for every holiday, but Halloween is a lot of fun. A couple of years ago I made red velvet cupcakes and dressed them up with decorations I’d bought but now I’ve started making sugar cookies and hand painting the decorations on them.

Michelle Sulzer
West Park Village

We made these ghosts several years ago. I’d seen ones that I liked but they were really expensive. We were able to make these using wire Halloween baskets from the dollar section of Target, white sheets and white string.

The Linder Family
West Park Village

The family that trick or treats together gets the most candy. Terra Linder (Queen Amidala) didn’t have to use too much force to convince not just her husband and children but also her parents and in-laws to dress as their favorite Star Wars character. The dog even joined in.

Larry Sheehan
West Park Village

On Halloween night Larry (Captain Jack Sparrow) becomes the most photographed pirate in Westchase.

November’s Q and A will ask: what's your favorite Thanksgiving side dish recipe? If you have a great side dish recipe that you're willing to share with your neighbors, please email Marcy Sanford at marcysanford@mail.com.

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Westchase Q and A: Your First Job

In honor of Labor Day we asked a few Westchase residents about their first job.

Sherri Kelly
Radcliffe

I grew up in Indiana and had a paper route when I was 14. On the weekends I delivered the morning paper starting at 6 a.m. and on the weekdays I delivered the paper after school. It took me about an hour to walk around my neighborhood but I enjoyed talking to people in the afternoons.

Nicole Whitmore
The Fords

I had my first job when I was 14 at Val’s Pet Supply Store in Royal Oak, Michigan. We sold fish, hamsters, rats, and mice in addition to pet supplies. I liked working there because I loved the animals but it was a little sad when people came in to buy mice as pet food. I still love animals. I have two fish, a dog, and a cat named Hyde E. Clum.

Jason Clark
West Park Village

I made pizzas at Pasquale’s in South Florida. Their meatballs are my favorite pizza topping because they are homemade. We still go there to eat whenever we’re in town.

Nikki Pivnichny
The Bridges

My first job after college was as a police officer. The worst part of the job was dealing with rude and ungrateful citizens but the best part was helping those in need and that every day at work was different. You never knew what would happen.

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Westchase Q and A: Your Favorite Teacher

School is starting soon. A great teacher makes the year great and can influence and help you find your talents.

Who was your favorite teacher?

Kylie Spence
The Greens

Ms. Kimmerling because she is very sweet and planned fun centers and activities. She is a really good reading and writing teacher.

Lela VanLoon
The Fords

My physics teacher in high school. At the time there were not a lot of hands-on activities in science classes but she planned a very interactive class with lots of hands-on labs for us and made physics very interesting. Now that I teach physics, I try to do the same thing for my class. By the end of the year the labs in my classes are completely hands-on and student led.

Brinly Baugess
Village Green

Mrs. Falcon because she made learning fun. She gave us a second look at our tests and learning was a good experience in her class. Plus she made delicious tacos for Taco Tuesdays. 

Bradyn Baugess
Village Green

Mrs. Wade because she was fun and made learning easy. She helped us study and was very nice.

Julia Barrett
Village Green

Mrs. Miller because she was very sweet and did not show any favoritism towards any students. She made learning fun and had an awesome acting camp over the summer.

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Westchase Q and A: Celebrating Independence Day

Fireworks, parades, and cookouts – the Fourth of July is the perfect occasion to show your patriotism and celebrate with family and friends.

What’s Your Favorite Way to Celebrate the 4th of July?

Claire Kelly
Radcliff

I like to go to the Main Street carnival festival with my grandparents in Indiana.

Brooke Ingram
Village Green

I like to go swimming at the pool and have a cookout with friends.

Mike Flannery
Village Green

Blowing things up.

Matt Peaire
Village Green

Watching fireworks at Hilton Head Beach after spending the day there.

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Westchase Q and A: What Do You Like Doing with Dad?

Many countries around the world celebrate Father’s Day in June.

While the idea of a day to honor dads was first presented in the early 1900s in response to Mother’s Day, it did not become an official holiday until 1972 when President Richard Nixon signed a law making it a national holiday. 

What’s your favorite thing to do with your Dad?

Layla Cain
Glencliff

I like to stay up late and watch scary movies with my dad. I like the zombie and vampire movies but my favorites are the werewolf ones.

Sam Garmendia
The Greens

I like to go to Bucs and Lightning games with my dad.

Aly Johnston
The Fords

I like to play soccer with my dad.

Gavin Peaire
Village Green

I like to go out on the boat with my dad and go fishing. I also like to practice soccer with him.

By Marcy Sanford

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Westchase Q and A: What was your favorite vacation?

Before you plan your travels this summer, take some advice from young Westchasers and consider some of these memory-making destinations.

What was your favorite vacation?

Caelyn Rickert
West Park Village

My favorite vacation was to Monterey, California. We stayed with friends who had a huge pool – it was really deep and you could actually dive into it. We went to Big Sur, which is a big cliff with the ocean at the bottom, and we visited San Francisco and drove over the Golden Gate Bridge.

Maddie Sulzer
West Park Village

My favorite vacation was spending two weeks with my grandparents in their RV. We drove to Pennsylvania. We stayed at Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Campground. They have a water park there that was a lot of fun. My grandparents took me to an amusement park called Knoebels, which had a lot of rides. And I got to eat lots of sweets and treats.

Ian Ludlam
West Park Village

Last year, we when we went to Gulf Shores, Alabama, and stayed in a beach house there. We got to body surf and build sand castles and have sand fights. We looked for fish in the ocean and played soccer. We got to watch the U.S. women’s soccer team win the World’s Cup.

Laine Anderson
Radcliffe

My friend’s parents surprised him for his birthday with a trip to Orlando and invited my family. We stayed at the Reunion Resort. It has a water park with big slides and a lazy river.

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Q and A: How Do You Celebrate April Fools’ Day?

For some Westchase residents April Fools’ Day is their favorite day of the year.

For others, the day is spent worrying and wondering what will happen next.

Nicole and Cole Fisher
The Greens

My son Cole was born on April Fools' Day. We started playing little pranks on him when he was 9 years old. That year I iced a cake made out of sponges. Each year we get a little bit more creative and, as they've gotten older, his brothers and sister have joined in. I've put a fake roach in his lunchbox, fake poop on his toilet, made fake chicken pot pie, and put poppers on the door to surprise him when he walked in from school.

So far my favorite prank has been when I wrapped his phone with rubber bands and about half a skein of yarn, put it in his backpack as he was leaving for carpool and then called him. He likes it but does get a little wary. He never knows what's going to happen on his birthday.

Sydney Grossman
West Park Village

My mom pulls pranks each year on April Fools’ Day. She has put Vaseline on our doorknobs, made Oreos with toothpaste in the middle, frosted a cupcake with mayonnaise, and put salt in our drinking water at dinner. When I was younger, she sewed my pajama pants shut so I couldn’t put them on.

One year she lined the whole porch with solo cups filled with water so we couldn’t leave the house. She covered my brother’s car in post-it notes. She froze milk in a bowl overnight and then put cereal and milk on top of it so that when we tried to eat it, our spoons got stuck. The worst part is she laughs and laughs about the prank for hours afterwards. It’s the worst day of the year. This year I think I’m moving out for the day.

By Marcy Sanford

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Westchase Q & A: What Magical Creatures Touch Your Life?

One of the many things that parenting books don’t prepare you for is the onslaught of magical creatures that will begin visiting your home to give your children candy, toys and money. Sometimes they just drop the booty and head on to the next house. Occasionally, at a few lucky children’s homes, they stay a little bit longer to make the visit a bit more magical.

Julia Sanchez
The Fords

Each year on Easter morning when I wake up, the Easter bunny has left footprints outside my bedroom door leading me to my Easter basket that he left for me.

Collin Sorvillo
West Park Village

Our leprechaun, Seamus, calls us before he comes and leaves a message. On the night of the 16th of March he visits our house and makes a big mess. One time he put our shoes in crazy places like the refrigerator. He leaves green foot prints in the sink but he also leaves candy for me.

Ava Pivnichny
The Bridges

The night before Easter we leave our empty baskets out. The Easter bunny hides them after filling them up. He leaves trails of jellybeans for us to follow to find the baskets. My mom says he did the same thing for her when she was a little girl.

Lauren Clark
West Park Village

My tooth fairy, Toothalena, leaves me notes along with money whenever I lose a tooth.

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Westchase Q & A: How’d You Meet?

Sometimes it’s love at first sight and sometimes it takes a little bit longer to realize that you’ve met the one. In honor of Valentine’s Day, we asked Westchase residents: How did your spouse and you meet?

Carolyn and Jim Rogers
Harbor Links
Married Aug. 31, 1991

I’d only lived in Tampa for two weeks when a co-worker set me up on a blind date with Jim. I’d moved here from Michigan to work for Merrill Lynch and to escape the cold winters. We went to a New Orleans style restaurant called Fat Jacques on Hillsborough Avenue. We got married three years later.

Sarah Abigail and John Paul Gambino
The Fords
Married Jan. 10, 2009

I had moved back to Tampa from Orlando and lived here for two months. On a whim I decided to go out for drinks one night after work with some friends. We went to a place we’d never been before – The Dubliner Irish Pub. John Paul was a bartender there at the time and he’d picked up a shift from a co-worker who did not want to work that night. As soon as I saw him, I was swept away. Later he told me he felt the same way. Because he was so nice to us, we all gave him our business cards because we worked for the Lightning and offered him tickets. A few days later, he e-mailed and we started dating. We got married two years later.

Lesley and Steve Holroyd
The Fords
Married Feb. 22, 2003

We met when we both were working at HomeBanc Mortgage Corporation. We were good friends before we started dating. We dated for 10 months before we got engaged.

Dominique and Jason Sorvillo
West Park Village
Married April 16, 2006

We met when we were freshmen at Boston College. We were at a mixer and the college had paired us together. We hung out with the same group of friends but did not start dating until we were juniors. We dated for 10 years before we got married.

By Marcy Sanford

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Westchase Q and A: Favorite Holiday Traditions

Holidays mean family, friends, food and laughter.

By Marcy Sanford

Each year is a chance to relive old traditions or begin new ones. We asked a few Westchase residents what their favorite holiday traditions were.

Lauren Clark
West Park Village

Each year my family plays a present game. The out-of-town family connects through Facetime and plays with us. Each person buys a gift card that we put in a bag. You get a number and when it is your turn you pull a gift card from the bag or you can steal a gift card from someone else. It’s a lot of fun and it’s nice to connect with family that doesn’t live in Florida.

Asmita Kakodker
Radcliffe

Diwali is the Hindu New Year and is also know as the Festival of Lights. It stands for the triumph of good over evil, truth over falsehood, and light over darkness. In our home, Diwali is celebrated by cleaning every nook and cranny in the house, making lots of delicious food and desserts, lighting lamps, wearing new clothes, bursting firecrackers, and exchanging gifts with family and friends.

Nick Katzman
West Park Village

A few years ago my neighbor organized a parade on Christmas night and we’ve continued to do it each year. All the kids decorate their bikes with lights and we play music and ride through West Park Village to the big Christmas tree at the other end of the neighborhood. Each year more people are in the parade and last year people came out of their houses and waved at us when we went by.

Alexis and Grant Newman
West Park Village

Each year we go to our grandmother’s house for Hanukah. It is lots of fun to see our cousins and to play the dreidel game and light the menorah. We are an interfaith family and we also celebrate Christmas. For both holidays we try to concentrate on what we are thankful for and think about how we can help others.

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Westchase Q and A: What’s Your Favorite Thanksgiving Dish?


In 1847 Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of the popular women’s magazine, Godey’s Lady’s Book, began asking U.S. presidents to make Thanksgiving an annual holiday.

As part of her campaign, Hale printed Thanksgiving recipes and menus in her magazine and published dozen of cookbooks.

Although many states and territories already celebrated Thanksgiving, the day they celebrated varied and it was not widely celebrated in the South. President Abraham Lincoln, the fifth president Hale had asked to proclaim a national day of Thanksgiving, agreed to make Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863.

It’s very likely because of Hale’s influence that we think of turkey, stuffing, mashed potato, and pies as standards for our Thanksgiving meal. And most Westchase residents seem to agree that the turkey is their favorite dish on the table the fourth Thursday of November.

What’s your favorite Thanksgiving dish?

Eloise Jager, The Shires

I really like the turkey. My mom makes a great turkey and potatoes. I like those too.

Ann Bordin, West Park Village

My grandmother is a wonderful cook. She makes great turkey and an amazing sweet sauce. Her stuffing is really good and last year she made apple pie with whipped cream. That was my favorite.

Conner Flannery, The Greens

I like to help cook Thanksgiving dinner. Sometimes my dad and I make clams casino. One year we were in New England and we went into the water and got fresh clams. We steam the clams and then sauté them with garlic, onions, basil, breadcrumbs and bacon.

Mary Turnbull, The Greens

We have a very traditional meal of basted turkey, corn pudding, green beans, stuffing, and apple pie. One year we were at Disney for Thanksgiving and on the drive back the family started asking when we were going to have our Thanksgiving meal. They didn’t like the thought of missing it.

By Marcy Sanford

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Westchase Q and A: What Was Your Favorite Halloween Costume?

Halloween will be here before you know it. If you don’t have a costume ready yet, perhaps you’ll find some inspiration from these young Westchase residents, who shared their favorite Halloween costumes.

Westchase Power Couple
A.K.A. Gavin and Mackenzie Peaire
The Greens

Mackenzie designed her own Westchase mom costume, complete with a Starbucks cup, matching workout ensemble, Westchase Elementary Visitor’s sticker, and a couple of kids in tow. Not to be outdone, her brother Gavin channeled his father’s look after a week of commuting on the Veterans.

Pinkalicious
A.K.A. Ava Pivnichny
The Bridges

Ava went with a storybook hero but did not have to mimic the title character’s habit of eating all pink foods, as her mom was able to recreate the look by using dye, lace, bows, and by creating a perfectly matching tiara and wand.

Dorothy
A.K.A. Carly Garmendia
The Greens

Carly hadn’t seen The Wizard of Oz but was hooked on the music and was lucky enough to have a grandmother to hand sew the costume for her.

Red Eyed Ghost
A.K.A. Nicklas Andreasen
The Greens

Nicklas reports that this was his all-time favorite costume because the eyes lit up and people only saw creepy red eyes coming towards them at night. He had to endure trick-or-treating with a battery pack in his pocket and red light bulbs hanging on his face but says it was worth it for the scared reactions he got.

The UPS Guy
A.K.A. Mason Linder
West Park Village

Mason’s mom says she must have done a lot of online shopping that year because Mason came up with the costume idea on his own – even using a delivery box as his treat bag.

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Westchase Q & A: Your First Job

In 1894 the U.S. Congress declared the first Monday in September a legal holiday. In honor of Labor Day we asked a few Westchase residents about their first job.

Rob Sulzer, West Park Village

My first job was with Lukas Nursery in Oviedo, Florida. They had a retail side and a warehouse side but since I didn’t know anything about retail, I had to work on the warehouse side. We had to pull weeds in 100-degree temperatures.  The people working retail made three times the amount of money we did and they got to work in the AC. In the afternoons while I was waiting for my dad to pick me up, I would read the instructions for all the materials inside the store. One day the owner saw me helping a customer and I was promoted to working retail. After college I worked homicide in Orlando. After a few years, I was ready for a change. I ran into a friend who told me he was looking for someone to run the retail side of his nursery in Naples and I told him I could do it.

Merrily Rickert, West Park Village

My mother signed me up with the Actor’s Studio in Canada when I was 14. One time I had to dress up as a pimento olive and walk around grocery stores with a can of olives. Kids running around the store would come up and kick me and push me to see if they could knock me over because I was round like an olive. One day my mom brought the family in to take pictures with me. It was torture. I did get to be an extra in several movies including one with Bette Midler and another where I got to do a fight scene. That part was awesome.

Althea Connery, The Greens

When I was 15 years old I had a job through the Mayor’s Summer Youth program in Buffalo, New York. I scheduled student classes for the upcoming school year. I really liked it because I was able to put my friends in the good classes. Later I went into the medical field and the organizational skills I learned in the program really helped me. Working in the medical field developed my interests in healthy cooking, which brought my to my current job at The Olive Tree. I love working here and helping educate people about healthy cooking.

Larry Sheehan, West Park Village

I had the best first job ever. When I was 16, I worked at the Sand Dollar on Redington Beach renting hobie cats, jet skis, and aqua cycles and setting up cabanas. During the summer, we lived on a condo on the beach and I was able to walk out my front door down the beach to my job. I got to be on the beach from sun up to sun down, got to drive a cherry red jeep on the beach, and met lots of different people. It was hard work but I loved it and never took it for granted.

Compiled by Marcy Sanford

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Westchase Q and A: Influential Teachers

Hopefully, you’ve had a teacher or mentor who inspired and challenged you: someone who changed your life’s direction or helped you see the path you should be taking. In honor of teachers and the beginning of a new school year, we asked a few Westchase residents to tell us about their favorite teachers.

Ella Sanford
West Park Village

My favorite teacher was my third grade teacher at Westchase Elementary, Mrs. Milcetich. Before her class, I hated writing but she took time to work with me, talk and taught me how to write. Now I love writing.

Grace Wilcox
The Bridges

My favorite teacher is my band teacher at Robinson High School, Mr. Revett. I play piano in the jazz band, oboe in the concert band, and clarinet in the marching band. Mr. Revett is a really good teacher who helps us all work together and makes band fun.

Martha Wilcox
The Bridges

Our band teacher at Davidsen Middle School, Ms. Cochran, is awesome. She’s funny and entertaining and picks fun music for us to play. She really makes the class fun. We’re a large middle school band and we always get excellent marks.

Dawn Grossman
West Park Village

My tenth grade biology teacher in upstate New York was probably the most inspirational. He was challenging but also took the time to get to know each of us as individuals. He was funny yet firm. He expected each of us to always exceed his expectations while he also provided plenty of opportunity to do so. There was always an opportunity to revisit a grade or assignment because he stressed that the whole point is to understand and learn – not to complete an assignment or test just for a grade.

Carrie Garmendia
The Greens

My favorite teacher was my seventh grade English teacher, Ms. Lawyer, at Stillwater Junior High in Stillwater, Minnesota. She was a young, energetic teacher who gave me confidence in my writing. After seventh grade, I always excelled in the subject. I believe the confidence she gave me later helped me decide to pursue my degree in journalism/telecommunications at the University of Florida.

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Westchase Q & A: Serving Their Country

Since 1776, more than 40 million people have served the people of the United States. We asked a few Westchase residents to share their stories of why they joined the military and what it meant to them to serve and protect their country.

Captain Kathy Peluso
Radcliffe
Army 1984-1991

I joined the Army after law school primarily for the adventure. Because of my upbringing as an Army brat, I had a deep yearning to serve our country. I served in a support capacity during the Gulf wars. Although I have always been patriotic, I suppose that is when I felt most patriotic. It was a very exciting time to be in Washington, D.C. and at the Pentagon. It has all been an honor and a privilege.

Lieutenant Colonel Tony Peluso
Radcliffe
Army 1967-1992

Since I was 10 years old, there hasn’t been a day when I didn’t want to be a soldier – and that includes every day since I retired. I dropped out of college and enlisted in the Army because majoring in Sociology seemed absurd with a war on. I wanted to serve my country and do something worthwhile. It was a great adventure. I wouldn’t trade one nanosecond of my three airborne tours for a winning lottery ticket. Well, there might have been some days that I’d trade – but not very many.

Sergeant Dione Hodges
The Vineyards
Army 1995-2000

I was academically suspended from college my freshman year of college. My mother offered me options, but staying home wasn't one of them. The military provided me with structure and an opportunity to excel. The best thing about the Army was that everyone was green. The ranks of the military are filled with every ethnicity and social status you can think of, but all of that becomes secondary to accomplishing the mission.

Lieutenant Commander Vince Kirsch
The Fords
Marine Corps 1992-1998
Navy 1998-2012

I was having trouble in college; not really sure what to do with my life. The first war in Iraq was starting and I went to the Marine recruiter on a whim. Next thing I knew I was standing on painted footprints in Parris Island. It was the best decision I ever made. Returning home from a deployment, especially if you’re on a ship, is a very patriotic feeling. When you see U.S. land start to come in to view, it is a good feeling to know you've been gone so that everyone back here could live their lives in relative peace.

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Westchase Q and A: School Memories

When you think back on your school days what do you remember?

A favorite teacher who inspired you or the friends you made? Maybe you were involved with a club or sport that you still participate in today?

Summer break is upon us so we asked a few Westchase students to share their favorite memories of their schools before they move on to new challenges.

Averi Utesch, Keswick Forest
Grade 5, Lowry Elementary
Future Davidsen Middle School student

It’s been very easy to make friends and be involved at Lowry Elementary. I really like everything here. I met my best friend, Valentina, this year. My favorite activity has been the drum corps every Friday morning. I’m getting better at math but my favorite subject is social studies.

Kelly Westmoreland, The Fords
Grade 5, Westchase Elementary
Future Davidsen Middle School student

All of my teachers at Westchase Elementary have been very nice and helpful. If you make a mistake, they are there to help you. Each year I’ve made new friends in all of my classes. The favorite activities I’ve been a part of are drum corps and safety patrol.

Nick Gordon, The Greens
Grade 8, Davidsen Middle School
Future Alonso High School student

I have had some great teachers at Davidsen. I’ve played in the regular band and jazz band all three years and the band teacher, Mrs. Cochran, has been a great teacher and a good friend. Mr. Miller has made history and civics very interesting and Ms. Miller’s ancient history class has been one of my favorites.

Sophia Sayre, The Shires
Grade 8, Davidsen Middle School
Future Alonso High School student

I’ve really enjoyed my math and art classes at Davidsen. Ms. Talamantez teaches algebra by using interactive learning that has really helped me understand it. I have had Mr. Heath’s art class all three years. It is a 3-D art class and we’ve made lots of fun, neat projects. Ms. DeGusipe’s castle projects have been a fun way to use the math skills we’ve learned.

Briana Moya, The Fords
Grade 12, Alonso High School
Future Florida State University student

I have been a part of the student government (SGA) since I started at Alonso and have really enjoyed that. The thing I like most about the school is the diversity. You meet many different people and there are opportunities for everyone here. You can easily find an extracurricular activity that you want to be part of. In addition to SGA, I’ve played lacrosse, and am a member of the National Honor Society, Beta Club, and Spanish Honors.

Marissa Young, The Fords
Grade 12, Alonso High School
Future University of Iowa student

There are lots of opportunities at Alonso to get involved. The clubs and sports work around each other so you can play different sports and be involved with clubs that interest you. I am a varsity cheerleader, a member of the National Honor Society, the Beta Club, and Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and am involved with SGA. In the leadership classes for SGA, we get to plan and coordinate events for the entire school.

By Marcy Sanford

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Westchase Q and A: What Was Your Favorite Vacation?

What’s your idea of the perfect vacation? Being with family? Being alone? Seeing a new place or going to the same spot each year?

Do you like to explore or would you rather curl up with a few good books and ignore the rest of the world?

We asked a few Westchase residents to tell us about their favorite vacation.

Gary Ingram, West Park Village

“My favorite trip was going to Salobrena, Grenada, in Spain with my wife and her sister and her sister’s husband. We rented a house and were able to really explore the area and get to know the locals. I enjoyed talking to them and learning about the history of the area, which goes back 6,000 years. We ate wonderful meals, took great day trips, and learned about Spain’s culture and architecture. We saw some amazing churches. It was a perfect trip.”

Kim Richardson, Radcliffe

My husband and I were able to visit two very different areas of Costa Rica. In Northwest Costa Rica we stayed in a resort with volcano views and hiked trails near the volcano as well as through the rain forest. We went horseback riding through the countryside. One of the most amazing things we did was to zip-line across canyons and over treetops. We repelled down waterfalls. On the Central Pacific Coast we explored the Manuel Antonio National Park, stayed in a quaint bungalow and ate some fabulous local meals.

Desmond and Maryke Curran, West Park Village

One year my wife and I joined the crew of a Windstar Cruise for three weeks as the onboard physician and nurse. The four-masted motor sailing yacht only held about 78 passengers and we sailed around the French Polynesian islands each week. Each day of voyage we woke up just off one of the islands and sailed in while having breakfast. It was absolutely beautiful and magical.

Jennifer Peaire, Village Green

We’ve been going to Hilton Head, South Carolina, for 10 years. Part of the reason I love it is because it is a short, six-hour, drive to get there, and is very affordable. We’ve always stayed at the Sea Pines Resort. Once you get there, you can park your car and don’t have to drive for the rest of the trip. There are bike paths connecting the beaches and pools to the hotel and one that goes to the downtown area. There are lots of activities for children of all ages and adults. When the tide is low, there are tide pools all over the beach and you can find sand dollars. It’s a perfect place for a family vacation. Our children have made friends there that they see each year when we go back.

By Marcy Sanford

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Westchase Q and A: What to Put in the Old Sweetbay Space?

The joy of getting nonperishable food and condiments for 50 percent off faded quickly after Sweetbay closed its doors in 2013.

Its closure left Westchase residents with fewer grocery shopping options and triggered hopes for a quick replacement. While there are still no announced tenants for the space, we asked Westchase residents what they would like to see go into the empty supermarket space on Sheldon Road. What do you think?

John Williams, The Shires

“A cinebistro that shows movies for both adults and children.”

Carmen Hatcher, The Fords

“A good grocery store like Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s.”

John Heller, Village Green

“An indoor basketball court.”

Gabrielle Hogan, West Park Village

“Something like Topgolf.”

By Marcy Sanford

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