USF students start frozen cookie dough business

Look out cookie dough lovers there’s a frozen treat for you around the Tampa Bay area. Fro-Dough is a new creation for Florida no matter the day or the weather.

Bree Sparks, sophomore, and Cameron Austin, freshman, a couple at The University of South Florida have combined the trend of edible cookie dough and the cold sweetness of ice cream to create Fro-Dough.

“People are super excited anytime they see it, they have to do a double take because it still is a really new concept,” said Sparks, founder of Fro-Dough.

For those worried about uncooked cookie dough making you sick, do not fear. Fro-Dough is completely harmless because it is made with safe flour and a replacement for eggs. Compared to other cookie dough companies it is unique because it is frozen. Many of the flavors are actually vegan or gluten-free.

Sparks is vegan and a huge cookie dough connoisseur herself. “Edible cookie dough has been like one of our many passions, like everyone else we love to eat it straight out of the bowl,” said Sparks.

There are a variety of flavors ranging from chocolate chip, sugar cookie, cake batter, brownie batter, sweet and salty and even a mixed berry cobbler flavor.

Vegan Brownie Batter is just one of the many flavors Fro-Dough has to offer around the Tampa Bay area. Photo by Deanna Salt

“Our flavors if we don’t absolutely love them, we don’t sell them and we freeze it. Not a lot of other people freeze it and in our opinions, it just makes it so much better,” said Austin.

While Fro-Dough does not have a specific location you can try free samples at many different events throughout the Tampa Bay area.

“We do markets around Tampa Bay like right now we’re selling every week on Wednesdays and Thursdays at USF Bull Market and we also do an array of events over the weekend that you can find on our Facebook page,” said Sparks.

Sparks and Austin have come a long way from when they first started making cookie dough for fun at home.

“It was pretty lengthy cause there’s really no instructions on doing it, especially like us, where we’re selling at markets rather than starting an actual brick and mortar place,” said Sparks. “It was a bit confusing to get licensed. We had to go through the Department of Hotels and Businesses and get licensed by them; a business license. We had to get our freezer, we had to get our trailer and perfect all our recipes.”

Fro-Dough uses a commercial kitchen in South Tampa where the whole dream comes together.

“This place helped out a lot because I went in here not knowing anything and I talked to the owner. She gave me a whole list of all the things that I needed to do which was super helpful,” Sparks explained.

After recently starting this business in 2017, Sparks and Austin have a lot of hope for Fro-Dough and want to open a physical location soon. They are partnering with a local non-profit, Keys to Kindness, which they will donate all proceeds from their Kind Blast-Mixed Berry Cobbler flavor.

Keep up with Fro-Dough on their Facebook page at Frodough.co and their Instagram @fro.dough.

People ditch homes to live in school buses

Dozens of people rolled into Sertoma Youth Ranch in Brooksville on Feb. 17 to show off their tiny homes on wheels at the inaugural Florida Skoolie Swarm.

The trend of abandoning traditional homes for remodeled school buses called “skoolies” is gaining popularity. Some want to reduce their cost of living, while others crave a nomadic lifestyle rooted in simplicity.

“It’s people who really wanted to just maybe change things up in their lives,” said Sandy Blankenship, a Skoolie Swarm coordinator. “For me, I wanted to move into a bus to simplify things.”

The idea of living with less is appealing to some people who are working, but struggle to stay financially afloat. Many of the buses are rigged with solar panels and accumulate their water from hoses and other outside sources, meaning no electricity or water bill.

“It feels good, you get rid of stuff,” said Roger Scruggs, a teacher at Florida Virtual School who lives in a bus of his own. “I still have a job, I still have an income. I just live in a bus.”

A group of “skoolies” are in Brooksville with their remodeled school buses. Photo by Zach Wilcox.

School buses are commonly purchased online or at an auction for a few thousand dollars and then renovated to support day-to-day life. Renovations include installing a bed, toilet, sink and storage space. The cost of creating a skoolie may be expensive, but for people like Scruggs, it’s worth it.

“I bought the bus for $4,000,” said Scruggs. “I’ve put in roughly $7,000 into it, which isn’t bad for an RV.”

Some roadblocks on the path to mobile living include understanding where it’s legal to park skoolies and dealing with code violations.

“Homeowners associations and zone and code enforcement, when they see a school bus in a driveway or parked at somebody’s house, they consider it a commercial vehicle a lot, and they’ll tell them that they have to move it or get fined,” said Travis Mattson, one of the skoolie owners at the Skoolie Swarm. “Some homeowners associations don’t want you to have that kind of vehicle in your driveway, and you have to get it titled as a motor home in order to legally park it there. So there is a little bit of struggle while you’re building it when you’re getting ready to go full time.”

Despite some of these struggles, many skoolie owners have found the transition to be very efficient and rewarding because they get the chance to see places some traditional homeowners never will.

“My regret is not doing it earlier because there’s so much out there to see that you just want to be able to get out and explore the country,” said Scruggs. “And this is the best way to do it.”

For people interested in downsizing to a tiny home, local tiny homes festivals are a good place to start. The next upcoming one in the Tampa Bay area is the St. Pete Tiny Home Festival.

Florida Focus News Brief March 28, 2018

In this news brief: a New York developer has big plans for Tampa; a three-car crash leaves one person dead and two others injured; a skydiver is injured after a hard landing; a shootout inside a home leads to several arrests; eat a sub and help a charity–today is Day of Giving at Jersey Mike’s.

Florida Focus News Brief Mar.27, 2018

In this news brief: Governor Rick Scott signs a bill aimed at helping Florida’s first responders; gun violence is the highest ranked issue for Florida Democratic voters; the University of Florida is teaming up with state transportation officials to make travel safe for seniors; one of Ybor City’s last wooden cigar factories will open in May as an apartment complex.

Florida Focus News Brief March 26, 2018

In this news brief: I-75 southbound lanes close after a crash involving four vehicles; a 350-acre brush fire is still active in Polk County; A new library is now open in the university area; and Clearwater Fire & Rescue and The Suncoast Safe Kids Coalition team up to raise water safety awareness.

#i75traffic #gibsonton #fdot #flhighwaypatrol #polkcountyfirerescue #PCFR #arthenialjoyner #clearwaterfirerescue #suncoastsafekids #watersafety #floridafocus #news

 

 

 

Tampa welcomes Bay Area Renaissance Festival

Hear ye, hear ye. The Renaissance Festival has officially made its way back to the Bay Area. This year, the festival is celebrating 39 years of existence. What started as a small get-together of Renaissance style partying and contests, evolved into what is loved by many today.

The festival opened its gates Feb. 10 and will continue to run through March 25. Operating hours are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. every weekend, including Festival Friday on March 23. It’s located next to the Museum of Science and Industry and directly across USF.

It features 12 stages of various comedic Renaissance-themed shows, arts and crafts, roaming musicians and food that reflects both traditional and modern times.

Kiersten Lyons, a festival employee who has traveled with them for many years, expressed her excitement over the event.

“I absolutely love the fun freedom of all the different walks of life that come through here,” she said. “Anybody from the U.S. to the U.K. comes here. It’s an amazing event.”

Entertaining festival-goers this “statue” stays on his podium for most of the day. Photo taken by Yara Zayas.

Once you enter, you are immediately transported back in time. Everywhere you look you can see people dressed in Renaissance attire, speaking phrases like “huzzah” or “good morrow” and you may even see someone who will address themselves with a title of nobility, such as Lord or Lady.

“You got to get here! It’s awesome, it’s amazing to celebrate your heritage and your history,” said Lyons.

The gates have opened. #timetraveler #bayarearenfest

A post shared by Bay Area Renaissance Festival (@bayarearenfest) on

The event also features several activities that kids and adults will enjoy.

You can practice your ax throwing, try your hand at archery, ride a camel, test out your strength with a hammer game and do some bungee jumping. Also, if you know where to look, you’ll even find a mermaid cove or get a chance to have a photo taken with a unicorn.

“The mud show’s great, the jousting’s great, and they have a human chessboard,” said Lyons. “It’s absolutely wonderful. You get the best of everything around here.”

Lyons also made sure to mention how many of the people who put shows together make their living that way.

“The shows are definitely a great experience,” she said.

Festival-goers can also enjoy the shops that can be found throughout the grounds. You can find items such as swords, magic wands, hand-made mugs and art pieces from local artists all up for purchase. Prices vary with each vendor.

Most vendors and food booths accept credit and debit cards. However, you should always bring some cash. For convenience, there are ATMs available throughout the park.

The event offers seven differently themed weekends such as Pirates & Pets, Time Travelers, Shamrocks & Shenanigans, and Barbarian Brew Fest.

Travel back in time to the 16th century by visiting the Bay Area Renaissance Festival! With 12 stages of live…

Posted by Yara Zayas on Wednesday, March 7, 2018

If you’re interested in attending, tickets vary in price. Adult tickets are about $22, students with a valid ID can get in for about $18, and tickets for kids cost about $14. They also offer a military discount with proper identification.

Parking is always free for attendees, courtesy of MOSI.

Pets are also allowed inside the park after terms and conditions are met.

For more information visit the Bay Area Renaissance Festival site at http://www.bayarearenfest.com/.

Florida focus News Brief March 20, 2018

In this news brief: A Polk County 16-year-old is facing first degree murder charges for beating his friend to death.  A Dade City home burns down this morning. Pasco County fire rescue responded to the call and found the home engulfed in flames. The Pinellas County sheriff’s office wants you to know about a new phone scam. Port Tampa Bay strikes a deal to sell 3.4 acres of waterfront property.