Category Archives: Blogger Extraordinaire

Happy NaNoWriMo! Who’s Going to Try It?

For those not in the know, November is National Novel Writing Month, where the challenge is to write a novel in 30 days. It is a contest, of sorts; there’s no real winner and you are really just competing against yourself.  However, thousands of people from all over the world sign up to “compete.”  They even form teams, plot ahead of time, but don’t actually start writing until 12 a.m. November 1st. And the goal? To write 175 pages (or 50,000 words) by 12 a.m. on November 30th.

Sound extreme? Maybe. But what a cool idea to promote writing and reading!

As an English teacher, avid writer and blogger, and self-confessed bibliophile, I love it! And while I am much too busy this month to participate, and I have already written my share of novels. (It’s my favorite form of writing, by the way!)  In fact, I my first novel, Soul Conspiracy, went on to be one of 8 finalists (from out of 200 submissions) in the 1998 International Hemingway Novel Competition.  Alas, I did not pursue getting it published because I still want to re-write it to make it a faster-paced thriller. (Yeah, I’m a bit of a perfectionist with my novel writing.)

At any rate, I thought in honor of NaNoWriMo, I’d select a few novels set in or about Florida. Some of these you may have read, others may be new to you. Feel free to add your favorite Florida-based novels!

20 Great Florida Novels

1. A Land Remembered, by Patrick D. Smith (This author has won more awards from the state of Florida for this novel than any other novelist, including Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.)

2. Crossing the Creek, A Literary Friendship of Zora Neale Hurston and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, by Anna Lillios  (Brand new, but simply wonderful!)

3. The Yearling, by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (This novel won a Pulitzer Prize)

4. Cross Creek, by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

5. Seraph on the Suwanee, by Zora Neale Hurston

6. Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston (This novel is on most lists of 100 Greatest Novels of the 20th Century)

7. To Have and Have Not, by Ernest Hemingway (Hemingway’s only novel set in the U.S. Vastly different from the movie.)

8. Tourist Season, by Carl Hiassen (One of Hiassen’s many outstanding books set in Florida.)

9. Strawberry Girl, by Lois Lenski (This novel won a Newberry Award, the highest honor for young adult books.)

10. Ninety-Two in the Shade, by Thomas McGuane

11. We Are The Boys, by Glendon Swarthout (This novel was the inspiration for the movie by the same name.)

12. From the Earth to the Moon, by Jules Verne (Written in 1890 and has man launching to space from Florida’s WEST coast!)

13. Guard of Honor, by James Gould Cozzens (This novel won a Pulitzer Prize.)

14. Hoot, by Carl Hiassen (This is a young adult novel by Hiassen.)

15. Shadow Country, by Peter Matthiessen

16. At The Moon’s Inn, by Andrew Lytle (This novel adeptly explores De Soto’s ventures into Florida.)

17. Mile Zero, by Thomas Sanchez

18. Remembering Blue, by Connie May Fowler (This is a wonderful young adult book.)

19. Big Trouble, by Dave Barry (One of Barry’s many hilarious novels.)

20. Florida Roadkill, by Tim Dorsey (Again, one of many by Dorsey.)

There are lots of other books set in Florida, and if you love mysteries you can check out this list here.  And here is another good list of many different genres, all still set in Florida.

And, for a final shameless plug about books set in Florida, you can always check out one of my other novels,  Confessions of a Gator Cheerleader which you can get as an iPhone app, too. :)


Filed under Blogger Extraordinaire, Education, General Info, History, Just for Me, Literary, Uniquely Florida

Announcing the November “Top 5″ (And where you Can Find It)

One of the most exciting times around the Central Florida Top 5 comes around the first of every month, when we announce the “Top 5″ upcoming events for the next month. You know, the Top 5 literary events, Top 5 sports events, etc., and this cam be a valuable tool for planning your calendar.

Since we have done away with our traditional, free-standing website (where we used to list all the different Top 5 categories), we are now listing the monthly Top 5 here on this blog as a static page. (See the top just to the left above the giant girl’s head? Right there you will see November Top 5!) The nice thing about a blog page, though, is we can highlight each category further, with pictures and even more information about the events.

You can also find out even more information on our Facebook fan page.

So, we hope you enjoy checking out November’s Top 5 events and that you will explore all the great things Central Florida has to offer!

Leave a comment

Filed under Blogger Extraordinaire, General Info, Uniquely Florida

Changes for the Central Florida Top 5

The first year for the Central Florida Top 5 (founded in July 2009) brought many exciting events and an overwhelming response from the Central Florida community. I have taken great delight in researching and attending new shows, concerts, literary and art events, as well as supporting many non-profits. My Top 5 judges have been so supportive, and I have met countless terrific people I am now proud to call friends.

So, it would be natural that I would want to continue doing the wonderful things that work, and move past the things that are not as successful. (For example, I will never hold another video contest!) Keeping those things in mind, the Top 5 is evolving by moving entirely to Facebook, Twitter, and the Top 5 blog.

The separate, free-standing Top 5 website is being discontinued as updating it took several days of tedious web work and design each and every month.  So after much thought and discussion, it was decided I can convey the same information about upcoming events and streamline my audience by simply posting that info on my blog and Facebook pages. And, the much-loved calendar–by far the most-visited page on the free-standing website–can be recreated on the Facebook page. (In fact, the Calendar App is upgrading and getting ready to launch even as I type this!)

Our Facebook Welcome Page - go check it out!

And even better, Facebook will be a “one-stop-shop” where you can view the Top 5′s latest Youtube videos, photo albums, tweets, and other info.  Also, it will be even easier for you to interact with me and give feedback, let me know about other great events happening around town, as well as state how you liked the events you attended. It seems like a real win-win!

So, to those of you who enjoyed my separate, free-standing website, forgive me for simplifying my busy life. I hope you will transfer over your following to this blog and become a fan on Facebook, and I hope to provide even more complete coverage through these online venues. (Yes, there will still be the Top 5 events in different categories each month… you will just visit my blog to see them!)

So, thanks for hanging in there and I hope you enjoy this new format for streamlining my information to you. I do love writing about Central Florida… so here’s to you, readers and fans! Thanks for being there! :-)


Filed under Blogger Extraordinaire, General Info, Just for Me, New & Hot

Make A Wish and Lady Bloggers!

The Top 5 was honored to join several fellow “lady bloggers” last night at The Wine Room on Park Avenue in Winter Park. Organized by Kim Taylor of The Pulse of Central Florida, I got to see Colleen Burns of Yelp Orlando and Lady Ballers, Jeanette of J’s Everyday Fashion (who dished on her celebrity interview with Giuliana Rancic), Katy Widrick of Growing Bolder and her own blog, Jackie of Momjovi, and then Katy of The Balanced Foodie. On the way out, I even ran into Holly Shakespeare!

The Lady Bloggers!

So, our gathering was not the only event happening at The Wine Room. Roll out the red carpet, spin out the DJ, and turn on the spotlights… a fashion show was making its way right through the middle of the establishment! Fashions were provided by Liz’s Fashion Experience, and so we got to watch slinky long-legged models in high heels and faux fur as they strutted the “catwalk” to the front. And, it was all raising money for the Make A Wish foundation… so we loved it!

So, the night was a dazzling time, all the way around! Looking forward to the next gathering of the Lady Bloggers!


Filed under Blogger Extraordinaire, Celebrity, Fashion, Fun, Girlfriend Getaway, Just for Me, winter park

Dafoodie is da Best!, one of the Top 5′s favorite “tweeps,” has been selected to compete in the Road To Success Small Business Challenge by Marriott’s Fairfield Inn & Suites.  Dafoodie, created by Gustavo Hernando, is just one of ten small business selected from across the country to compete for the grand prize of $20,000. To win, he will be traveling the country to meet set goals, but will share his journey with us by posting pictures, blogging, and tweeting about it.

Gustavo and his famed Dafoodie Smart Car at a recent lunch at Dexter's of Winter Park.

So for those unfamiliar, with, here’s how Gustavo explains his site: came about after posting pictures of entrees I’d ordered from various restaurants on my Facebook page. I got a lot of comments like ‘Wow, it looks good! Where did you eat it?’ Even at restaurants, it’s happened that people ask me what it is that I’m eating. Not all restaurants have photos of their dishes. So that got me thinking, ‘If you’re a visual person like me, you’d probably rather see an example of a restaurant’s food than read about it.’ So I decided to make a site where all you look at is pictures of food.”

So, be sure to follow Gustavo on Facebook and Twitter as he takes Dafoodie on the road to success.

Good luck, Dafoodie, we’ll be rooting for you!


Filed under Blogger Extraordinaire, General Info, New & Hot, Resident done good, Restaurant Row

More than Once Around the Track

Below is an abbreviated post the Top 5 wrote for the Girlfriend Getaway Florida promotion. To see the full article, click here.

When we were asked to go on a “mission” to visit the Daytona 500 Experience, I was excited because NASCAR is right up there in my hubby’s interests. And, apparently car racing goes pretty far back in my family, too, as witnessed by this picture from my grandmother’s photo album:

Taken at Daytona Beach in 1929.

I was fortunate to marry into an interesting family; you see my father-in-law used to own a NASCAR race team which competed in the Cup races. (Yeah, I spent far more time watching races than a city girl ought to!)  His family doesn’t go racing anymore, but NASCAR is still a constant presence in our household, no matter how much I may protest! In fact, here’s a post from this past Valentine’s Day, where my hubby paid more attention to the race than to me!

And even though I was far from being a diehard race girl, I did have fun writing about my experiences for a few magazines, including this article I did when I interviewed Richard Petty’s family.

Me and The King!

Hubby and me at the family pit box.

And although we’d been to the Daytona International Speedway, we had never stopped in for the Daytona 500 Experience. If you even kind of like racing, you will immensely enjoy this experience!  And, kudos to Chevy, because there were Chevrolets EVERYWHERE at this attraction. (I guess this is because Chevy has won the Daytona 500 21 times! (Ford is the runner up with a measely 11 times… he he…)

Not only can you see legendary racecars, photos, and trophies, you can also watch a fantastic I-Max movie. At the exit, you can see the actual car of the current Daytona 500 winner, Chevy driver Jamie McMurray. (It was rolled right from the track to its current parking spot in the attraction…very cool!) And, be sure to take a test drive in the track simulator, where you go 8 laps to see who’s the best of the best! (Yes, I admit, I wrecked my son… I had to get ahead somehow!) Here’s how I did:

Here’s a taste of what you can see and do at the Daytona 500 Experience… (And you get to see me changing a tire during a pit stop! For real!)

And then we were off on a VIP Hot Pass Track Tour, which runs only runs once a day Thursdays through Sundays, lasts around two and half hours, and takes you into every race fan’s dreams: the infield, the 500 Club, the press boxes, luxury sky boxes, and best of all, the Winner’s Circle! (Did you know that Lake Lloyd in the infield is big enough to have hosted fishing tournaments and ski exhibitions? Wow!)

The track was currently being repaved, which was kind of a neat thing to see. By the time they finish all the layers, the track will be 7 inches thick! (Hopefully the infamous hole will be a thing of the past!)  And, if you want to own a bit of history, the current track is being sold off in pieces here.

Thanks WESH and Southern Chevy Dealers for sending us on this mission. And special thanks to David Casale from Guest Services who made sure I was treated like a VIP all day long, as well as Terry and Woody for the fabulous tour!

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Filed under Blogger Extraordinaire, family, Fun, Just for Me, NASCAR, Tourist, Uniquely Florida

FaceTime Success

The first-ever Central Florida Tweet Up was a solid success Thursday night at Eden Bar at the Enzian. Special thanks to the Doterati for hosting a “pre-tweet up” to get the ball rolling for a spectacular evening!

The exciting news? At 8:03 pm, our hashtag of #cfltweet was “trending topic” in Orlando!

Here’s the list of who attended (some of us have multiple usernames):

  • kwidrick
  • alexiskn
  • fallynstarr
  • crowdtamers
  • BNVfilms
  • Kitmurphy
  • OrlandoImprov
  • JFordMakeUp
  • DavidJhinson
  • BeckiPR
  • reilly_tyne
  • annngo
  • Fltoodo
  • LRLMovie
  • Jenvargas
  • AnalogArtist
  • PulseofCFL
  • LadyBallers
  • YelpOrlando
  • whoframedabbie
  • ColleenBurns
  • SwimmerJoe
  • Social_Citizen
  • Grooveshark
  • TheDailyCity
  • BerMatt
  • cherylp3
  • Tperlmuttr
  • BigDawgPaulShow
  • Splatterweb
  • EdenBar
  • FloridaFilmFest
  • EnzianTheater
  • CurefortheRun
  • willspot
  • KimberlyTaylor
  • dafoodie
  • gehernando
  • centralfltop5
  • peglegpug
  • bananakin
  • somacowgeoff
  • brightgirl
  • sarahlogic
  • comasowjen
  • brianfeldman
  • jsevrydayfashion
  • aaronford
  • geekluv
  • izonorlando
  • relayhunterscrk
  • Hkmouse
  • RevJonB
  • Parkmaitland
  • undomest_diva
  • hollyshakespear
  • SFarkash

If you attended and are not on the list, PLEASE leave a comment so I can correct it! And, to follow these great tweeps, @ComaSowJen has created a list on Twitter to make it easy for you.

If you add up all our followers, we reach an audience of over 76,000 people! (Now, that’s the power of social media!)

For a more complete review of the night, you can see my Girlfriend Getaway post, featuring my Chevy Camaro.  Here’s a short video of the night:

1 Comment

Filed under Blogger Extraordinaire, Fun, General Info, Girlfriend Getaway, Uniquely Florida

Facetime! Let’s Meet in Person!

In this strange new world we live in, where see more friends on Facebook than we ever see in our daily lives, wouldn’t it be nice to actually breathe the same air space and talk face to face for a while?

When I started the Top 5 (a year ago this month) I had no idea how it would take off and grow. I have met so many wonderful people across this fair state of ours, and so many people passionate about a cause, whether it be Disney, finding a cure for cancer, traveling, feeding the hungry, wearing T-shirts! (Yes, wearing T-Shirts, as in Jason Sadler of Jacksonville.)

Through blogging, Facebook, and Twitter, I have befriended quite a few Central Florida characters, and I am not talking about Chip and Dale from Disney!

  • I am talking about those lovable guys at SomaCow, the world’s greatest internet radio show, ever!
  • I’m talking about every NASA geek who’s “on the grid”…and yes, they are sooo much smarter and less geeky than I ever could have imagined! (Who else could be cool enough to tweet from outer space?)
  • I’m talking about every artist, actor, singer, and musician who is brilliant and talented enough to see the value of connecting their art to the world virtually. @thedailycity, @enzian, and @unitedarts have shown me just how talented Orlando is!
  • I’m talking about the passionate non-profits, who give more and more of themselves to help support others. Simply inspiring!
  • I’m talking about the “mom bloggers” who thankfully analyze everything their child eats, plays, talks, and does in order that I won’t have to!
  • I’m talking about the other “Girls on the Go!” who do a much better job talking about cars than I do!
  • I’m talking about the theme park junkies, such as @FlallDay, who seems far too wise for his years! He and others know more about Disney, Universal, and Sea World than the CEOs of those parks could ever know. Why? Because these guys and gals are infiltrating the parks every morning, noon, and night and seeing it from both a visitor’s and insider’s perspective.
  • I’m talking about all the marketing and PR tweeps who are grinding down this social media phenomenon and figuring out how to best leverage the unusual format to their clients’ advantage.
  • I’m talking about the travel bloggers, such as @MtDora, @Roritravel, @adventureswithben, and @JeffTitelius, who give me fabulous tips and guidance so I will always appear to know what I’m doing!
  • I’m talking about the fit and nutrition bloggers, such as @swimmerjoe, @kwidrick, and @dafoodie, whose knowledge of exercise and/or diet inspires to head to the gym yet another day.
  • I’m talking about other “Florida” bloggers, such as @PulseofCFL,@fl2native, @orlandofl407, and @fltoodoo, because we share a common love of the Sunshine State.
  • I’m talking about the organizations who have decided to tackle social media, therefore delivering their events straight to my computer: organizations such as @orlandosci, @madcowtheater, @orlandoshakes. If they didn’t “socialize” I’d never know what they were doing!
  • I’m talking about the tweeps that just love to tweet, like @jenvargas, @brermatt, @anakenn, @somacowjen, and many, many others simply because I feel like we’re friends (virtual ones).

So, as you can see, these virtual acquaintances have become a large part of my life, strange as it is! So, that is why I decided to host tonight’s Central Florida Tweet Up in order to have a little facetime with those I “talk with” almost daily. I’d love to have a drink and just put a face with a username so next time I see them online, it’s all the more personal.

Here are the details:

Tonight, Thursday, July 22
At Eden Bar at the Enzian Theater
7 pm – 9 pm


Filed under Blogger Extraordinaire, Fun, Girlfriend Getaway, Just for Me, Uniquely Florida

World Championship of Stuffed Sports!

The 18th Annual Celebrity Mascot Games was held this past weekend and was, as usual, a display of the best talents in the world of Stuffed Sports.

If you are like me, most sporting events are long, boring stretches of sweaty dudes trying steal a ball from each other while you wait for the mascot to run out and entertain us. The Celebrity Mascot Games is the only event in the world that eliminates that wait for you by bringing together the thirty best mascots and running them through competitions to determine which group of mascots are the fastest, the strongest, the smartest, and–well, they are mascots after all!–the best at “bending” the rules.

This year’s event featured some pretty intense American Gladiators-style events and really kicked the intensity up a notch. I know what you are thinking: We live in Orlando and therefore have the BEST mascot in sports, Stuff the Magic Dragon, so how can these games possibly be fair with Stuff on his home turf? Stuff is a very gracious host to the other mascots and doesn’t flaunt his home-field advantage over them……much! (Except for his rapelling-from-the-top-of-the-arena entrance–the crowd went CRAZY!–and using a motorcycle for some of the events, you would hardly even know it was Stuff’s house!)

Stuff the Magic Dragon

I always come away from the games with a new favorite mascot and this year was no exception. I remember my first Celebrity Mascot Games and encountering for the first time the University of Nebraska’s mascot Lil’ Red and literally losing my breath with laughter at some of the tricks he could pull. (This year he flipped upside-down and did the YMCA dance with his feet….which inspired Stuff to try the same trick….on top of a 30 foot ladder!)

Lil' Red

This year I was very impressed with some of the local mascots: Tommy Tar from Rollins College and Thunderbug from the Tampa Bay Lightning both did great jobs. Raymond from the Tampa Bay Rays was very low energy, but somehow made it work for him. Knightro the UCF Knight also made an impressive showing, and Albert and Alberta from the University of Florida were crowd favorites as usual.

Albert and Alberta

I was excited to see Globie from the Harlem Globetrotters for the first time. Fin from the Vancouver Canucks always seemed to be in the middle of the action and here’s a special nod to Harry the Hawk from the Atlanta Hawks; he walked EXACTLY like a bird, that can’t be easy to pull off for several hours in an outfit like that!


All of this craziness came together at the Amway Arena to raise some money for an outstanding charity, New Hope for Kids, a local charity that offers support to children and families who have lost a loved one and also grants wishes to kids in the Central Florida area who have life-threatening illnesses. New Hope is a great charity and 90 cents of every dollar goes toward program services.

New Hope for Kids Banner

This post was by Guest Blogger Extraordinaire Ross, Superproducer of SomaCow, the Greatest Internet Talk Show, Ever! Tune in to SomaCow on Fridays or Sundays to listen live, or relive the experience with a podcast. Ross can be followed on Twitter @Elross. 

Ross and friends...


Filed under Amway Arena, Blogger Extraordinaire, Celebrity, Charity, Rollins College, Sports, UCF

Doctor! Doctor! Give me the news!

We’re Calling Sick Out of Work and
Having an Adventure!

Ben's feeling the blues!

It’s summertime: the sun is shining, the waves are crashing, the nights are long…and you’re stuck at work!

From theme parks, beaches, off-the-beaten-path attractions, cultural museums and local festivals, Central Florida has enough attractions, events and things to do to keep you busy all year long. Wouldn’t you rather be out there than sitting there in your office?
That’s what we thought!

Summer’s in full-swing and both Ben and Bess, editors of  and Central Florida Top 5 are calling in sick and going to visit, “YOUR Favorite Central Florida attraction to Call in Sick For!”

Here are the details:

1. Submit

From now until July 3rd, readers of both well-known Central Florida Travel & Tourism Blogs can submit their favorite Central Florida Adventure.  Share your favorite by commenting to this post on either blog.

2. Vote

Ben and Bess will select their Top 5 reader submissions and put them to vote from July 5th – July 17th. Readers can vote on their absolute favorite.

3. Do it!

On July 23rd, Ben and Bess will call in sick (well, sort of) and set out on a day of adventure, visiting YOUR #1 destination. They’ll capture every detail and share with you the Best Central Florida Summer Day Activity the week of July 25th at  and Central Florida Top 5.

So what are you waiting for?
Submit, Vote and Let’s Do it!


If you’d like to connect with Ben and Bess, follow them below:   - Twitter | Facebook
Central Florida Top 5Twitter | Facebook


Filed under Blogger Extraordinaire, Fun, Seasonal, Tourist, Uniquely Florida