The Top 5 Has Moved!

If you are looking for the Central Florida Top 5 website, we’ve moved locations, becoming a self-hosted blog.  Our new url is

So if you are a current RSS subscriber, you may have to change your feed to this:

Thanks so much for being a fan and we’re grateful for your readership!

1 Comment

Filed under Blogger Extraordinaire

Bon Voyage 2010: Going on a Disney Cruise because 2+3+3+7=50

For New Year’s my family is taking a Disney Cruise to celebrate my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary.  So, we’ve come up with a slogan: 2+3+3+7=50

2=My parents

Married on December 19, 1960 in All Saints Episcopal Church,  my parents have figured out the key to success.

My parents at the Lazy 3 Ranch in Winter Park

+3=My two brothers and me

I had a magical childhood growing up in Winter Park on a “ranch” which now sits in the middle of Aloma Ave. and 436. Go figure that the city would grow up so fast around us!

Top 5 editor Bess Auer with her brothers.

+3=Our spouses

Yep, our family grew by three more in just two years. I got married in All Saints Church (just like my parents as well as my grandparents!) and then my brothers followed suit by getting married less than two years later.

Top 5 editor Bess Auer getting married at All Saints Church in Winter Park

+7=Our children

While I only have one child, my brothers had three each. Our family has grown by quite a bit since my parents married in 1960!

The 7 grandchildren

So now you know where we got 2+3+3+7=50!

And, to celebrate that 50, my mother wanted to do something that my father and she could share and enjoy with all of us, including my niece with special needs. A cruise seemed like the perfect choice, but not only that, she chose a DISNEY Cruise!

Needless to say between the family time, playing and relaxing, as well as the spotty wi-fi on ship, the Top 5 will not be blogging, tweeting, or Facebooking while on the cruise. (I feel the withdrawal already setting in!)

I am signing off until 2011; however, some big changes will be in store for when I come back. Thanks to Seventh Degree, Inc., the Top 5 will have a brand new look! (Yay!)  Not only will there be a totally new design with some incredible features, I am also stoked about some new additions.

Meghann Anderson, blogger extraordinaire of Meals and Miles, has agreed to be my “Go to Fitness Girl” for exercising in Central Florida.  She’ll not only be reviewing the many racing and fitness events around town (she’s done most of them!), she’ll also be giving tips and advice about staying and living healthy in Central Florida. I am so honored she’s agreed to “come aboard” the Top 5! (Did you like my boat reference there? I’m so ready for the cruise! Ha!)

So, until the launch of our new blog design, have a wonderful New Year!

Note: I do have house guests taking care of the casa and pets while we’re cruising… can you imagine the kennel bill for 3 cats and 3 dogs?!  My special guest is a former student (believe it or not! Oh, am I getting old!) who is staying here with her family. I hope she enjoys Orlando and I hope the weather warms up for them!

1 Comment

Filed under disney, family, History, Just for Me

Draco Malfoy Visits the Wizarding World

Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy) visited with the Beauxbatons at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter during his recent visit to Universal Orlando Resort.

First Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, and now Tom Felton (the actor better know as Draco Malfoy) has made his way to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. He’s one of our favorite “bad boys” and what fun to see him here in Orlando. He was present at the Grand Opening, but it’s nice that he’s come back again.

Leave a comment

Filed under Only at a Theme Park, Universal

Things to do in Orlando with Holiday Guests

So Christmas has come and gone and many of us are counting down to New Year’s. The theme parks are busy and shopping is still at full tilt, but I received a question via Twitter from @Orlando_FL_Rep asking what they could do with guests this week besides the theme parks. Many of us might be in a similar situation, so I thought I’d put together some suggestions, and I tried to think mostly indoors, as it is still pretty cold outside. I am sure there are other great things to do, so feel free to add your ideas in the comments section!


Winter Park

Orlando Arts

Mount Dora

Antiquing/Thrift Shopping




1 Comment

Filed under Citrus Bowl, family, Fun, General Info

Snow in Florida!

Twitter has been rife today with snow reports across North Florida. My son (ever hopeful) is praying that makes its way to Central Florida.  While it’s not really likely, it has happened. (In fact I clearly remember in college being able to scrape up enough of the white stuff to throw a snowball on Florida Field!)

So, it got us discussing how often it actually snows here, so we turned to the ever-trusty internet.  Here’s what we found on Wikipedia:


  • 1774: A snowstorm extends across much of the state. The effected residents speak of it as an “extraordinary white rain.”
  • 1797: Land surveyor Andrew Ellicott reports 8-inch (203mm) snowdrifts near the source of the St. Marys River in Baker County.
  • January 11, 1800: Over 5 inches (127mm) of snow is on the ground along the St. Marys River to the north of Jacksonville, the highest recorded snowfall total in Jacksonville history.
  • January 13, 1852: Several hours of snow accumulates to a total of 0.5 inch (13mm) in Jacksonville.
  • February 28, 1855: Light snow flurries are reported in Jacksonville.
  • January 29, 1868: Light sleet falls throughout the night in northeastern Florida.
  • February 28, 1869: During the morning hours, some snow flurries are reported in Jacksonville.
  • January 10, 1873: At 7:25 a.m., a few snowflakes fall near Jacksonville.
  • February 4 & 5, 1875: Light sleet occurs between midnight and sunrise on both dates.
  • January 4, 1879: For an hour and a half, sleet falls in Jacksonville before turning to rain. The rainfall covers grounds and trees with ice early on January 5, breaking the limbs of many orange trees.
  • January 5, 1887: An inch (25mm) of snow falls at Pensacola.
  • January 14, 1892: 0.4 inch (10mm) of snow is reported at Pensacola.
  • February 14, 1892: Pensacola reports 3 inches (76mm) of snow.
  • December 27, 1892: Light snow falls in various intervals in the northeastern portion of the state.
  • January 18, 1893: Falling sleet turns to snow before later changing to rain in Jacksonville.
  • February 14, 1895: Two short durations of light snow are reported in Jacksonville.
  • February 12 & 13, 1899: Rain changes to sleet and later turns to snow during the Great Blizzard of 1899, with the snow falling for about 8 hours. With temperatures of about 10°F (−12°C), the snow accumulates to 2 inches (51mm) near Jacksonville and 4 inches (102mm) at Lake Butler. In some locations, the snow remains on the ground for several days.

20th century (23 Reported Snow Events)

Major Snow Events

(≥2″ for Florida) are in bold
1900’s (2 Snow Events)

  • December 16, 1901: Light snow is reported in Jacksonville.
  • February 7, 1907: Downtown Jacksonville receives light snow flurries in the early afternoon.

1910’s (1 Snow Event)

  • November 27, 1912: An overnight period of snow covers the ground and trees with a 0.5-inch (13mm) layer in northern Florida.

1930’s (2 Snow Events)

  • December 1934: Traces of snow were recorded in Tampa.
  • January 22, 1935: Snow falls until the next morning, with Pensacola recording 1 inch (25mm).

1940’s (2 Snow Events)

  • January 1940: Traces of snow were recorded in Tampa.
  • January 1948: Traces of snow were recorded in Tampa (again).

1950’s (6 Snow Events, 3 Major Snow Events)

  • February 2, 1951: Snowfall begins and ends the following day, accumulating to about 2 inches (51mm) in Saint Augustine and Crescent City.
  • December 14, 1952: Sleet and snow falls across the northern portion of the state, though there is very little accumulation.
  • December 14, 1953: Light sleet occurs in the morning in Marianna.
  • March 6, 1954: Four inches of snow accumulates at Milton Experimental Station, Santa Rosa County within a 24 hour period; the highest such total for Florida according to official modern records.
  • March 28, 1955: Snowfall accumulates to about an inch in Marianna along the Florida Panhandle.
  • February 13, 1958: An overnight rainfall changes to snowfall in Jacksonville and accumulates to about 1.5 inches (38mm). Additionally,Tallahassee reports a record 2.8 inches (71mm).

1960’s (1 or 2 Snow Events)

  • 1962 or 1963 A couple snowflakes fell at Disston Junior High School in Gulfport (by St. Petersburg)

1970’s (3 Snow Events, 1 Major Snow Event)

  • February 9, 1973: Snow falls over the northern portion of the state, including a total of two inches (51mm) in Pensacola, with unofficial reports of up to 8 inches (203mm).
  • January 17, 1977: The pressure gradient between a strong ridge over the Mississippi Valley and a Nor’easter over Atlantic Canada sends very cold temperatures southward into the state. Areas around Pensacola are the first to receive the snow. Then the rest of The Panhandle. Followed by record accumulations for The Nature Coast, the I-4 corridor (both Orlando and Tampa receive light accumulations of about 1-2″ with a few isolated spots reportedly receiving 3-6″), and finally South Florida. By early on January 19, West Palm Beach reported snow for the first time on record, with snow flurries reaching as far south as Homestead. The snow causes little impact as it was of the dry variety, though the accompanying cold air results in hundreds of millions of dollars in damage(Orlando tied the 1899 record of over six consecutive nights well-below freezing). On January 20, the Miami Herald reports the event as the front page story, with a headline of a size usually reserved for the declaration of war.
  • Late January, 1977: Pensacola receives snowfall.

1980’s (3 Snow Events, 1 Major Snow Event)

  • March 2, 1980: A quarter of an inch (6mm) of snow covers car tops and patio furniture in Jacksonville.
  • March 1, 1986: 0.5 inch (13mm) of snow accumulates overnight in Jacksonville before melting within 30 minutes due to the morning sun.
  • December 23, 1989: Light rain in Jacksonville turns to freezing rain as temperatures drop, and later changes to snow. The snow totals several inches in some locations, and results in the first White Christmas in the city’s history. Orlando was reported to receive wet snow that melted a week later due to a typical temperature rebound.

1990’s (3 Snow Events, 1 Major Snow Event)

  • March 12, 1993: The ’93 Superstorm produces up to 4 inches (102mm) of snow along the Florida Panhandle.
  • January 8, 1996: Snow flurries are reported from Crystal River to New Port Richey with no accumulation.
  • December 18, 1996: A plume of cold air causes snow to form in the northwestern portion of Escambia County.

21st century (11 Reported Events)

2000’s (6 Snow Events)

  • January 24, 2003: A plume of Arctic air produces widespread record low temperatures and light snow flurries along the eastern coastline. The snow is described as ocean effect snow, identical to lake effect snow in that it occurs due to very cold air passing over relatively warm water temperatures. The snow reaches as far south as Fort Pierce.
  • December 25, 2004: Locations along the Florida Panhandle receive a dusting of snow.
  • November 21, 2006: An eastward moving weather system produces a very light dusting and snowflakes in central Florida. It is the first snow in November in the state since 1912.
  • February 3, 2007: Very light snow flurries are reported in the northeastern panhandle, lasting less than an hour.
  • January 3, 2008: Light snow flurries are reported near Daytona Beach.
  • February 2008: Unofficial reports indicated a few snowflakes fell along the Nature Coast once or twice, due to advancing Arctic air quickly descending from the northwest over relatively warm Gulf waters (whether or not it was virga is debatable).

2010’s (6 Snow Events, 6 Snow Events in One Year)

  • January 8-9, 2010: Very light dusting of snow seen in the eastern Jacksonville area. Light snow also fell in parts of central Florida, which briefly accumulated slightly in parts of Marion County. Sleet was widespread and snow was isolated across the Orlando area, Tampa and also in Melbourne. Isolated flurries were even reported as from West Palm Beach to as far south as Kendall and sleet in a few spots in the South Florida metropolitan area for only the second time in record history and first time since 1977.
  • February 12, 2010: A possibility of up to 4-7 inches of snow were predicted in Northwestern Florida including Pensacola and Crestview. Actual totals ended up around 1 inch in many spots. 2010 is the first year since the mid 1950’s to have more than one accumulation of snow in a single year.
  • February 14, 2010: A half inch of snow fell across the northern halves of Escambia, Santa Rosa, Walton and Okaloosa Counties. Snowfall was associated with anAlberta clipper that sank southward due to Arctic air left by the cold front from the previous snow event.
  • December 8, 2010: Snow mixed with rain is reported in western parts of the panhandle, north of Pensacola. Snow flurries were reported across the North Escambia area this morning, incluing Atmore, Walnut Hill, Bratt, Flomaton, Byrneville, Century, Brewton, Lambeth, Little River, Poarch and Huxford.
  • December 15, 2010: Though possibly virga, a wintry mix of rain and snow was shown on radar around Century and Walnut Hill as well as southeast of Panama City, possibly remnants of a line of snow that moved through southern Alabama around 4-5 AM local time.
  • December 26, 2010, a mix of snow and sleet was reported in Jacksonville, FL by NWS

Leave a comment

Filed under History, Uniquely Florida

Mariah Carey with Orlando Ballet at Disney World

Photo from

In case you missed this broadcast yesterday (recorded on December 3 at the Magic Kingdom), here it is again, but this time from an audience member’s point of view.  It’s nice when ABC decides to film here in Orlando (think jobs!) and it brings a nice focus to Central Florida as the continued destination for fun in the sun.

We’re truly hopeful Florida’s film industry will continue to grow in 2011. The Metro Orlando Film and Entertainment Commission has not had any major announcements since October, but we’re sure they are continuing to promote Orlando as a great place for making movies. This past year Transformers 3 was filmed partially around Central Florida and Shaq vs. Bieber was set here, too. And with Full Sail and EA Sports already based here in the Orlando area, let’s hope ABC continues to chip in to get this industry going!

As for yesterdays show, though, Mariah Carey and Ryan Seacrest were the stars of the Disney show and parade.  We love the fact that dancers from the Orlando Ballet were the ones asked to perform long with a clearly pregnant Mariah Carey for the ABC special!

(Credit to milkdidmybodygood for the video!)

Leave a comment

Filed under Seasonal, Uniquely Florida

The Big 25: A Critical Review of my New Year’s Resolutions

So, I revisited my post from last New Year’s and found my resolution list entitled: Every Good Floridian’s New Year’s Resolution List…the Big 25. I wanted to do a critical review of my performance, see just how well I followed through on what I had resolved to do. I figure anything I hadn’t yet achieved, I’ll keep on my 2011 list.

  1. Research how to reduce my carbon footprint…then actually do it- Still on my list.
    After listening to Orville Schell talk at Rollins College, I realize more than ever how important my actions are in Global Warming. But I also learned there are some  major players making a difference, including Walmart!

  2. Use less water- Still on my list.
    With the new landscaping we put in recently, we haven’t reduced our water use at all; if anything, it has increased. (So has my water bill!) So this stays on my list for 2011.

  3. Start recycling- Still on my list.
    We actually started; truly.  But it lost steam in my household, so we’ll try once again in 2011.

  4. Actually remember to take in the reusable bags when I go grocery shopping- Still on my list.
    The older I get, the less I remember anything, let alone reusable bags as I walk in the grocery store. *sigh*

  5. Now that the SunRail is here, support it- Still on my list.
    I hope the SunRail will bring some much-needed jobs to the area, but the project doesn’t actually get underway until 2013, so until then, we’re keeping our fingers crossed.

  6. Research the potential candidates in the Senate Race [insert Crist, Rubio, other names here] and make an informed choice- Done.
    Onward to a better 2011 in terms of government, eh? Let’s get the economy rolling and some new jobs in Central Florida!

  7. Cheer for the two Florida athletes in the Winter Games: Anthony Lobello and Jennifer Rodriguez – Done.
    Looking to 2012! Lots of Central Florida athletes are sure to represent, including current World Record Holder Ryan Lochte!

  8. Spend more time outdoors enjoying Central Florida weather- Done.
    I am hoping for a mild winter for my new plants. (See Resolution #2)  We Floridians just aren’t cut out for cold winters, hence my recent post entitled “Thin-Blooded Floridian Meets Thick-Sweatered Cold.”

  9. Wear sunscreen daily- Mostly done.
    I don’t actively lay out in the sun, but I don’t always apply in the mornings. But, this great reminder about sunscreen from J’s Every Day Fashion has helped me recently to include it in my morning routine.

  10. Buy orange juice from Florida growers- Done.
    Local. Local. Local.  (And there’s a great orange juice shop called Hollieanna Groves right on 17-92 in Maitland!)

  11. Visit a farmer’s market at least once a month- Mostly done.
    Fortunately there are a variety to choose from, some occurring on different days of the week. My favorites? Winter Park Farmers Market on Saturday, Maitland Farmers Market on Sundays, and Audoban Park Farmers Market on Mondays.

  12. Shop at local boutiques- Mostly done.
    Sometimes convenience overrides this, and unfortunately the economy is really hit small independent stores hard, but when I can, I am there.

  13. Donate to a local charity that services locally- Done.
    And I love the fact that many Top 5 fans are big supporters of local charities, too. Just check out this list of great local organizations they supplied!

  14. Visit the Central Florida Zoo- Still on my list.
    I just haven’t had the time, but I can’t wait to try their Zoom Air Adventure.

  15. Visit the Central Florida Top 5 website to plan my schedule- Still on my list, of course!
    And, we’ve got BIG NEWS about our site, with several exciting things happening in 2011. Stay tuned!

  16. Visit a local museum at least once a month…lots of culture to choose from!- Mostly done.
    I discovered the Mennello Museum of American Art this year… one of my favorite local places now.

  17. Find out the local musicians/bands and buy their music- Mostly done.
    I discovered Aaron Childree, Russ Watkins, Ron Irizarry thanks to Orlando Live, and so they go down as new local favorites. I also love bands like FunkUs that support Rock for Hunger, which benefits locals.

  18. Go to the local theatre…there’s some really fantastic talent- Done.
    There are some really great local theaters, including Orlando Shakespeare Theater, Mad Cow, and Winter Park Playhouse, and they provide performances for the young and old alike. (My Christmas present to my parents? Chaps! A Jingle, Jangle Christmas at Orlando Shakes…and they LOVED it!) And, of course, a special shout out to United Arts for helping keep this fantastic theater and other arts alive and well in Central Florida.

  19. Adopt a pet from the shelter rather than a chain pet store- Done.
    Our newest family member, Juan, is a rescue dog… and what a cutie! (I couldn’t believe somebody could get rid of a 2.9 pound Yorkie!) And, yes, this little rock star of a pooch, does have his own Facebook Fan Page!

  20. Become a better neighbor- Still on my list.
    Of course, in addition to my immediate neighbors living next door to me, I also mean a better neighbor to my fellow Central Floridian.  And, this reminder from just the other day let me know I still have a long, long way to go.

  21. Support the home team (in whatever sport you choose)- Done.
    Yes, I am still a Gator (all kinds of weather, you know) but I am also a HUGE supporter of the home teams:  UCF (ranked Top 25 in football and basketball), Rollins (#2 in men’s soccer), Florida Tuskers, Orlando Predators (So glad they’re back-April 2011!), Orlando Magic, Blue Dolfins (Central Florida’s oldest swim team), and now the Orlando City Soccer Club all have me rooting for them!

  22. Find a new local blog to follow…we have some great writers with really interesting things to say!- Done.
    I’ve had the great honor of meeting many Orlando bloggers this year. If you haven’t perused my list, take time to discover some great local writers! I’ve also gotten to know some great travel bloggers, many of whom are local, so if you need travel, info, look here.

  23. Visit a theme park…when’s the last time you actually went to one?- Done.
    Universal Studio’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Sea World were tops on my list this year. But as my Texas nieces and nephew are always quick to remind me, “You live at Disney World!” So, why not take advantage of these great parks?

  24. Read or watch the local news (in print or online…be informed about your community)- Mostly done.
    I must admit, Twitter is my main source of news now…and I do follow local news anchors! LOL And, if you are on Twitter, follow me; I’d love to tweet with you and I follow back if you are local or interested in Central Florida!

  25. Support space travel. (For jobs, economy, and for the future…)- Done and still doing it.
    One of the highlights of 2010 was attending the NASA Tweet Up STS-133. I didn’t even matter that the shuttle didn’t actually launch (I have seen that before), but simply being there with space enthusiasts from all over the world, reminded me of how many eyes were watching Central Florida. I took great pride in knowing we were the leaders of the human race in space exploration, which to me is the greatest achievement of mankind.  I consider my grandmother…when she was young her family would take a horse and wagon on an all-day trip to New Smyrna Beach. However, before she died, she was able to witness man walking on the Moon!  So, despite a recent, major re-alignment to NASA and our Space Program, I still can only dream of what can be accomplished in my lifetime… here’s aiming for the stars in 2011 and beyond!

Leave a comment

Filed under Blogger Extraordinaire, Just for Me

Merry Christmas from the Top 5

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas! To those in Central Florida who have struggled during 2010, may your burden be lightened in 2011. To those of us who are fortunate, let’s include in our New Year’s resolutions a pledge to do a bit extra for our neighbors in need. (If you need a suggestion of how to share, take a look at this list supplied by our readers.)

As for us here at the Top 5, we are thankful for a healthy, happy season, and we are especially thankful for you, our readers. Although we’re hoping for a mild winter, we’re dreaming of a White Christmas today! (Anyone up for snow skiing?)


Top 5 editor Bess Auer and family.




Leave a comment

Filed under family, Seasonal

Story of the Nativity as Told in the Digital Age

What if Mary, Joseph, and the 3 Kings had access to today’s social media tools?  Ponder no longer as this video shows us how the story of the Nativity would be just a tad different.

As social media addicts, we think this is pure genius! (And special thanks to Top 5 reader Stephen Nelson for showing us this!)

Enjoy and maybe watching this video will become a Christmas Eve tradition! LOL

Leave a comment

Filed under Fun, Seasonal

A Bit of Kindness Goes an Awful Long Way

So, this morning I was getting my “hair did” at Artistic Hair Care & Design by Michael Jon–easily the most experienced and incredible hair dresser in Winter Park (truly!)–when an older lady took the chair next to me.  I inwardly moaned a bit, because she seemed like a talker… you know what I mean, one of those who have the gift of gab and want to talk with you whether you feel like conversation or not!  Well, sure enough she started jabbing away cheerfully and I nodded curtly every now and then, thankful when her hair dresser Barbara Dey took over doing the woman’s hair.

Finally I could sit back in peace and let Michael Jon do his work. (Yep, I’ve reached the age where I need those gifted hands to create some major magic with my hair!)  At any rate, the talkative lady was now bending Barbara’s ear so I couldn’t help but overhear her story that went something like this:

“Well, I’ve got my brother and his wife coming to Christmas dinner, and my daughter and son-in-law, and I invited a lady I met at the diner. Her husband isn’t living any more and she had told me she was going to spend Christmas with her children, but it turned out her children were her cats, so I just insisted she come.  Turns out she would love to!”

Invite a widow to Christmas dinner? Hhhmm…. I suddenly felt very small for acting snippily towards her.  I felt even worse as she continued telling her story to Barbara:

“You see Frank and I eat at the same diner each Tuesday, and there she was waiting on a table, too. She looked to be alone so we just asked her join us. At first she didn’t want to impose but I insisted. We had a wonderful meal and we’ve invited her to join every Tuesday if she wants.”

I couldn’t ever imagine asking a perfect stranger to join me for a single meal, much less making a weekly date out of it!  The story continued:

“When my daughter found out she was coming, she wanted to get her a present, but I thought it might make her a little uncomfortable to be in a new house with all these strangers giving her things. So, I told my daughter not to. I will give her a little crystal angel, just for it being Christmas and all, but that shouldn’t make her uncomfortable, do you think?”

Then I felt it… something had changed in the atmosphere of the salon… I knew I was sitting in the presence of a woman far greater than me.  Suddenly I was honored just to have heard her conversation.

I am thankful there are people like her in this world; those who go out of their way to help perfect strangers.

After she left I mentioned this to Michael Jon, who agreed and then told me the lady was a teacher at Lighthouse Central Florida, helping those who are blind learn to read Braille. Somehow I could have guessed she did something like that!

So, the next time somebody wants to strike up a conversation with me, I will be much more willing to talk back, to share a bit of myself.  Perhaps I will be brave enough to initiate the conversation, because who knows what the other person is going through. A bit of kindness goes an awful long way.

I am thankful for the reminder!


Filed under Just for Me, Seasonal