Don’t forget, Sunday is Valentine’s Day

Whether it’s a childhood crush, a budding romance or a lifelong love — Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to celebrate the joy that your love brings to your life.

Here’s hoping you enjoy this small selection of love stories will help inspire some sweet memories for you, and that you have yourself a Happy Heart’s Day, too.

A shared love of Disney, and pets
Around 2014, I joined the online dating app called Plenty of Fish.

Both my husband and I came across each other’s profiles and our conversation started very quickly.

(Courtesy of Brittany Desmarais)

We finally agreed to meet in person and decided on a Dunkin Donuts/Baskin Robbins Combo, because who doesn’t like coffee and ice cream?

We hit it off immediately and ended up at IHOP for a “Breakfast for Dinner” date night.

Our biggest love that we share is for Disney; he loves the parks and I love the original movies. We also both absolutely love animals.

Over the next five years, there were obstacles that came between us like jobs, distance and other potential relationships, but we always ended up going back to one another.

We finally made the decision that we were meant to be.

My husband moved into my home in February 2019, and we decided to make it official and were married in February 2020.

We bought our first home together in March 2020 following our wedding, and are hopeful for a baby to join our family this year. We have many fur babies (three dogs, two cats), two fish and a very large Sulcata Tortoise, but truly want to have a “human” baby of our own!

Happy Valentine’s Day to my husband Christopher James!

I love you and hope that our life together continues to surprise us, and make each and every single day worth it!

— Brittany Desmarais (She and her husband are from Lutz).

(Courtesy of Katie Fernandez)

What a good guy, great connection
Clark and I met eight years ago when we worked at the same restaurant together in Tampa. We lost touch after we both found new jobs, but reconnected this past year. I love him because he is my best friend, a good guy, and we have a great connection.

— Katie Fernandez (Katie is the sales assistant at The Laker/Lutz News)

(Courtesy of Mary Rathman)

Almost 37 years, and still going strong
Joe and I both lived in the same town and went to the same high school. We met in 1980, and although we have different versions of how we met, it all worked out for the best! I fell in love with him because he lets me be me, loves me unconditionally, makes me laugh, and wants to see me happy. We’ve raised three amazing kids and will be married 37 years in May.

Mary Rathman (Mary is the editorial assistant at The Laker/Lutz News)

Published February 10, 2021

A New Look For 2021 From Tampa Surgical Arts

Tampa Surgical Arts offers cosmetic treatments that give patients confidence and makes them look years younger. Two of the practice’s most popular procedures are the Brazilian Butt Lift, and facelifts for the lower neck and face.

Manik S. Bedi, MD, DDS

“I love being able to sculpt people’s bodies and help them achieve the curves they always wanted to have, or get rid of stubborn fat,” says medical director Dr. Manik S. Bedi, who is a triple-board-certified surgeon with cosmetic and oral/maxillofacial surgery certificates, and a doctorate of dental surgery.

Brazilian Butt Lift (BBL)
A BBL enhances a patient’s backside by lifting, firming and correcting any physical imbalances to increase its overall size. Dr. Bedi harvests fat from the stomach and love handles, carefully injects it into the buttocks, and then sculpts the fat to create a rounder, curvier look.

“Unlike a traditional butt lift, with a BBL there’s no actual lifting,” explains Dr. Bedi. “It’s just making the waist smaller and the butt larger by injecting your own fat, which results in a more natural, but still lifted look.”

After surgery, a BBL patient typically feels sore for a week or two, and can return to work after that. Dr. Bedi says that 60% to 80% of the swelling is gone within the first eight weeks, and the patient is fully recovered within six to nine months.

“And, as long as you’re maintaining a healthy lifestyle, the results will last a lifetime,” says Dr. Bedi.

You can also have stubborn fat removed at Tampa Surgical Arts.

“Sometimes excess fat is genetic. So, no matter how much you work out and lose weight, you still might have some of that stubborn fat on your stomach or neck that you just won’t be able to lose. That’s where our procedures come in handy,” Dr. Bedi explains.

Both men and women benefit from BBL procedures.

“I had a male patient come in and his exact words were: ‘I just want to wear pants and not have them fall down.’ The result of the procedure for men is an athletic, squared look,” says Dr. Bedi.

Lower Neck and Facelifts
Surgical lifts are ideal for someone wanting to tighten a sagging jawline, remove the “marionette” lines between their nose and the corners of their mouth, or improve a tired appearance.

This procedure involves removing any excess fat and tightening the skin by pulling it up and back. All incisions are made behind the ears, so they are easily hidden from view.

“On average, the procedure will make you look eight to 10 years younger,” says Dr. Bedi, “You will still look like yourself, just much more refreshed.” An ideal candidate for a lift is someone in their 40s through 60s.

After the surgery, patients will experience some swelling, bruising and discomfort, and should expect to spend at least a week out of work. Dr. Bedi says that 60% to 80% of swelling will be gone in six weeks, with final results in three to four months.

Special Offer
In January, all facelift patients will get free fat grafting, called a “Lift N Fill” technique. This is when Dr. Bedi will inject fat from your body into places on your face, such as below the eyes and in the cheeks, where volume has been lost.

Tampa Surgical Arts
17751 Gunn Highway, Odessa, FL 33556

Tampa Tour de Clay showcases the artistry of pottery 

Judy Bilek and Cindy Karafilis, both of Land O’ Lakes, browse Tampa Tour de Clay artist Ira Burhan’s work at Jack Boyle’s San Antonio Pottery studio. This was the first time the women had attended the tour, but after purchasing several pieces of pottery, it won’t be their last. (Kelli Carmack)

The annual tradition of the Tampa Tour de Clay — now in its 13th year — gave pottery lovers a chance to check out new pieces — either live or virtually in an event that adjusted, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gallery hoppers could check out pieces on Dec. 12 and Dec. 13 at Jack Boyle’s San Antonio Pottery in San Antonio, Wellman and Welsch Pottery in Lutz, and Pottery Boys Clay Studios in Palm Harbor.

Those who didn’t feel comfortable visiting the studios in person could take a virtual tour option, instead.

One benefit of the virtual tour was that “attendees” could view and purchase work by some artists who were unable to attend the traditional tour, including Lynne Meade, Timothy Sullivan, Larry Allen, Jennifer McCurdy and Martha Grover.

Tampa Tour de Clay artist Kimberli Cummings puts the finishing touches on her booth at the 13th annual Tampa Tour de Clay. She was stationed at Wellman and Welsch’s Pottery studio in Lutz. Cummings specializes in majolica pottery, and many of her pieces depict Tampa landscapes, such as the University of Tampa.
Tampa Tour de Clay artist William ‘Bill’ Kidd shows off one of his latest pieces available for purchase at the 13th annual Tampa Tour de Clay. He was stationed at Jack Boyle’s San Antonio Pottery studio. His work consists of wheel-thrown and hand-built ceramic bowls, vessels, plates, jars and sculptures. He draws much of the inspiration for his work from ocean and sea creatures.

1,000+ crowd at Scarecrow Festival

There were plenty of fun activities to do at the Scarecrow Festival, held on Oct. 10, at the Pioneer Florida Museum and Village. Guests could make their own scarecrow, participate in costume contests, enjoy live entertainment and so much more. (Kelli Carmack)

The Pioneer Florida Museum and Village, in Dade City, held its annual Scarecrow Festival on Oct. 10.

With the purchase of a $5 admission ticket, attendees could participate in games, costume contests and petting zoos, as well as enjoy watching performances from soccer-playing dogs and a bubble balloon magician.

The most popular activity was “Make Your Own Scarecrow,” where guests could create life-sized scarecrows by stuffing them with loads of hay.

The Scarecrow Festival was sponsored by the San Antonio Citizens Federal Credit Union.

Published October 21, 2020

This scarecrow seems to enjoy hanging out near the livestock.
Over 72 vendors were at the Pioneer Florida Museum and Village’s annual Scarecrow Festival. Guests were able to purchase Fall-themed items, such as tin pumpkins, candles, home décor and more. The item featured here was created by Karen Gaskin, member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR).
The main activity at the Scarecrow Festival, held on Oct. 10 at the Pioneer Florida Museum, was creating your own life-sized scarecrow to take home.
The Soccer Collies brought lots of fun to the Scarecrow Festival when they played soccer in front of a captivated crowd. The Soccer Collies are the entertainment side of the Soccer Dogs organization, whose goal is to locate and assist in the training and placement of rescue and shelter dogs that show potential to become soccer playing dogs. Shown with the Soccer Collies is Mark Lukas, founder of Soccer Dogs

Taco festival offers flavorful fun

Hundreds of people turned out recently for the Taco Festival at the Grove at Wesley Chapel.

The festival, held Sept. 19 and Sept. 20, gave event-goers the opportunity to listen to live music, taste mouthwatering tacos and drink refreshing beverages, such as margaritas and mojitos.

Homemade salsa and authentic Cuban cigars were available for purchase, and those attending could sample different types of tequila.

Food and drink were the highlight of the festival, but there were lots of fun, kid-friendly activities, such as hot air balloon rides, rock climbing, festival games and bounce houses.

Tomas Alzamora wears a taco-shaped hat and island-themed shirt — embracing the spirit of the day at the Taco Festival at the Grove at Wesley Chapel. (Kelli Carmack)
Orlando resident Gary Pherai, also known as the ‘Island Boy,’ prepares authentic coconut drinks for thirsty patrons at the Wesley Chapel Taco Festival. Pherai travels all over the country with his coconut business. ‘Thankfully I still have these,’ he says with a laugh — referring to his hands, while he holds a very sharp knife.
Bill, Adam, Savannah and Telicia Schroeder of Wesley Chapel strike a pose at the Taco Festival held at the Grove at Wesley Chapel.

CareerSource Tampa Bay and Hillsborough Libraries to hold Virtual Employability Skills Workshops

CareerSource Tampa Bay (CSTB) and Hillsborough County Libraries are teaming up to hold Virtual Employability Skills workshops. The virtual workshops will be held on Tuesday, September 15, 2020 from 11:00 A.M. to 1:30 P.M. with four different employability sessions.

The workshop will feature four speakers who will hold 20-minute workshops on the various topics:
  • Modern Day Job Search for Mature Workers
  • Interview Preparation
  • Leveling Up Your LinkedIn Profile for Job Seekers
  • Navigating Employ Florida
Anyone interested in attending this virtual workshop can register by clicking on this link:

Pasco Announces Major Changes to School Meal Program

Due to changes in the rules governing the federal school lunch program, Pasco Schools is making it easier than ever for students – and children 18 and under – to receive free meals.

Starting on Monday, September 14, students who attend class on campus will still be able to get meals in the school cafeteria, and now those meals will be free. Also starting on Monday, September 14, students who attend school remotely will still be able to receive school meals on a drive-through basis. Those meals also will be free.

Here’s how the program will work for students who are learning remotely through mySchool Online or Pasco eSchool:

    • Monday, September 14 through Thursday, September 17, the daily drive-through meal distribution will continue at the designated site time – and meals will now be free. Designated locations and times are listed here.
    • On Friday, September 18, the school district will serve a week’s worth of meals (breakfast and lunch) curbside to mySchool Online students, quarantined students, and children in the community 18 years and under. That includes Pasco e-School students. Pasco Schools will keep the same times already established for curbside feeding. Curbside meal distribution will continue once a week on Fridays.
    • Pasco Schools encourages families intending to participate curbside to complete the Meal Reservation Form so they can be best prepared for curbside participation. Parent/guardians no longer have to go to their child’s school; they can pick up meals from the site that is most convenient.

For more information on Pasco’s school meal programs, visit the Food and Nutrition Services web page at:

Movie-goers share laughter, and a sense of normalcy

Floodgates Church hosted a drive-in theater night on Aug. 15 at Land O’ Lakes Heritage Park. “We wanted to give some love and outreach to our community, and give people who have been cooped up in their homes a chance to get out,” said Pastor Kenton Brake, who leads the Lutz church. Families of all ages came out to watch the film.

Cannan Allen and his sister, Hayley, grab front row seats and settle in to watch the movie, ‘Up.’ (Kelli Carmack)