Category Archives: Blogger Extraordinaire

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!

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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!

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Filed under Blogger Extraordinaire, Just for Me

Orlando Bloggers in da House!

It’s finally ready! If you weren’t able to watch LIVE on Sunday evening, here’s the Orlando Live segment with Top 5 editor Bess Auer, along with host Peter Murphy and Pulse of Central Florida‘s editors Kim Taylor and Ashley Edwards. Woot!

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Orlando Live – A Sneak Peek Behind the Scenes

Last night I had the opportunity to get a backstage look at Orlando Live, a kicking local broadcast featuring all things about the City Beautiful. Viewers can tune in for the live show or watch past episodes on-demand. I had never been behind the scenes at a working television studio during a broadcast before, so it was quite the experience!

Orlando Live is filmed in Studio 1A at Full Sail, an exciting place all on its own; especially the Backlot area! (By the way, the nationally syndicated morning television show The Daily Buzz is filmed in Studio 1B, right next door! Cool!)

Studio 1A at Full Sail

So, I arrived an hour-and-a-half early in order to watch the run through of the show as well as a walk through of my own segment so the camera people could figure out their angles, shots, etc. I couldn’t believe how many people it takes to produce this show… lots of camera men, sound guys, directors, prop people, production staff, etc. I was very impressed!

I took a seat in a green room of sorts (ironically it had one wall painted green–for a green screen probably) along with the two other bloggers being featured, Kim Taylor and Ashley K. Edwards, both of the Pulse of Central Florida.

Kim Taylor, Bess Auer, and Ashley Edwards

After a short run-through, we were fitted for microphones and then ready to go.  In the studio audience were Kyle Menard from Brink Magazine as well as my hubby @swimmerjoe and his younger brother, Tyson Auer, a stand-out-baseball player from UCF who is getting a shot at playing with the Angels this spring. Tyson brought a few other friends to support me as well… and I needed it because I was nervous!

SwimmerJoe in the studio audience

Uber-Host Peter Murphy came back to chat for a few minutes before we went live… I don’t know how he stays so calm and relaxed just moments before broadcasting!

Bess and host Peter Murphy moments before the show's live broadcast

Well, the show began and I got the opportunity to shoot a few quick pics before my segment:

The control room

House music

Singer Aaron Childree and band

Colleen Burns presenting a Yelp segment with her assistant, Haley the Yorkie

And then it was time for the blogger segment, so Kim, Ashley, and I took our seats by Peter.  I wanted to capture the moment, and I just had time to quickly shoot this movie with my iPhone, with only seconds to spare!

Our segment began and in his casual manner, Peter set us at ease and got us talking about blogging about the Orlando scene.  Kim and Ashley seemed like old pros and I found myself beginning to enjoy it, too. Suddenly, though, just as Peter was interviewing me, my phone buzzed with my son texting me… Peter grabbed my phone! Talk about bad timing!  But at least my son was thrilled to get a “shout out” on a live broadcast!

Top 5 editor Bess Auer being interviewed live.

Well, I made it through the broadcast and loved it!  If you haven’t ever seen Orlando Live, I highly recommend you peruse some of the past episodes “on demand” at their Vimeo site.  It’s a great place to find out loads of info about our great city as well as hear some fabulous local musicians of note.

After I got home, I had a chance to go through my hubby’s swag bag he snagged as a studio audience member. It was provided by Yelp Orlando and was loaded with fun stuff. If you are not familiar with Yelp, it is an awesome site to find out anything about local places, such as restaurants, eateries, coffee shops, day spas, etc. Colleen Burns does a really incredible job heading it up, and I loved talking with her last night. (And her little cutie pie Haley, too!)

Swag from Yelp Orlando

I will post my segment just as soon as I get a copy, but in the meantime you can watch the full program here.  Thanks for a great time, Orlando Live!  You are now a regular program for me to watch… simply awesome!

To see more photos from last night, visit the Top 5 Facebook page.


Filed under Blogger Extraordinaire, family, Fun, Orlando

Orlando Live – The Blogger Episode!

The Top 5 is so excited to be on Orlando Live, a kicking broadcast that focuses on all things Orlando. Hosted by Peter Murphy, the show explores everything the City Beautiful has to offer, including local celebs ranging from Dwight Howard, Mayor Buddy Dyer, celebrity chefs, musicians and their bands, singers like Jacqueline Jones, and many many more!

Occasionally Murphy focuses on bloggers, including J from J’s Everyday Fashion, Mark Baratelli of The Daily City, and Gustavo Hernando of Dafoodie to name a few. This Sunday night, Murphy is turning his attention to Top 5 editor Bess Auer and the Pulse of Central Forida’s Kimberly Taylor and Ashley K. Edwards.  We’ll be discussing things to do in Orlando as well as what makes this City such a wonderful place to live and work.

J from J's Everyday Fashion being interview by Peter Murphy.

So, how can you see the special blogger episode?  Tune in and watch LIVE this Sunday night, starting at 9 pm…there is surely the potential for some major bloopers!  So remember on Sunday night to go to to see it.

We’ll definitely give a shout out to the Top 5 fans! Woot!


Filed under Blogger Extraordinaire, Celebrity, Fun, Orlando

Central Florida Travel Bloggers – Travel Knowledge Central!

The Top 5 was at the Orlando Science Center today to attend the Central Florida Chapter Meeting of the Travel Blog Exchange, also known as TBEX, which is an international association of travel-specific bloggers. While there, we discussed all sorts of things related to travel, websites, blogging, etc., and we also got to hear from Jeff Stanford of the Orlando Science Center as well as Susan Lomax of the Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Chapter President Ben Reed leading a discussion about travel blogs.

I was pleased I got to see some old friends, including Britt Reints of Miss Britt and the TBEX Chapter’s organizer and president Ben Reed of Adventures With Ben, as well as discover some new friends and exciting blogs. So, Central Floridians, in addition to checking out the “Other Orlando Blogs” at the top of this blog, you can also visit these great sites:

Today's attendees are awesome bloggers located right here in Central Florida.

I enjoyed re-exploring the Science Center and highly recommend you visit the special Music Box exhibit.  And, a very special thanks to Ben for organizing today’s valuable meeting!

Top 5 editor Bess Auer with Ben Reed.


Filed under Blogger Extraordinaire, Education, Girlfriend Getaway, Literary, Orlando, Tourist

Sea World’s Christmas Celebration: It’s a Sure Thing!

The Top 5 was invited to a tweet up at Sea World to preview the newest things at their Christmas Celebration, and I was quite impressed.  I had never attended their seasonal offerings before, and I found myself rediscovering Sea World at night, where it is a seemingly different park!

Since hubby and son were unavailable, I grabbed my mother and we headed out for a VIP greeting by Sea World’s PR staff.  Swag bag and credentials in hand, we were escorted to a reception area complete with yummy cookies and two special guests: Pete and Penny Penguin!


Top 5 editor Bess Auer chatting with Pete and Penny Penguin.


The reception overlooked the beautiful lake where you could see a watery, majestic forest of brightly lit trees. Gorgeous!


Beautiful backdrop for our gathering!


We were then officially greeted by the Sea World marketing and PR department, where Michael Fletcher took time to explain the different “zones” and new highlights of the Christmas Celebration:

Clyde & Seamore’s Holiday Show – Sea World took one of my favorite shows and added a holiday twist. These funny sea lions must tidy up and complete some chores to make Santa’s “good list.”  Hilarious!

Shamu Christmas… Miracles – a fabulous new show with really cool multi-media effects. Again, seeing it at night creates such a different ambience than a daytime show. I liked it! (See video at bottom of post.)

The Sea of Trees – a beautiful forest of brightly lit trees whose lights flash and change color according to the music. There are 75 trees, several tons of light bulbs, and over 8 miles of cables of lights! Yeah, it is pretty darn spectacular!

The Christmas Market – my personal favorite space, due to the unusual lighting and atmosphere.  There are gorgeous white crystal ice trees surrounded by penguins and polar bears. Here you can shop for special gifts or get toasty hot chocolate. Sea World has come out with lots of new gifts and products just for the season.


Ice tree

Brightly lit polar bear family

Lit up penguin family

Top 5 editor Bess Auer with a new friend



Winter Wonderland on Ice – a super-cute ice skating show that features some fabulous athletes and actors! (See more in the video at the bottom of the post.)


Photo from Sea World.

Photo from Sea World


Abby Cadabby from Sesame Street – this lovable Sesame Street creature takes time to welcome little ones to Sea World’s Christmas, just like she did for Halloween. I love this pairing of Sesame Street and Sea World!

All of Sea World’s normal attractions are open during this time, including the Manta and other rides, and you can even visit the Polar Express where you will be serenaded and the transported to meet Santa Claus! (See video at bottom of post.)

And, it wouldn’t be a theme park Christmas without S-N-O-W!  And, Sea World doesn’t disappoint, as it snows several times throughout the night!


Look closely for snow flurries


And, I must admit, I like the thought Sea World put into their planning and decorations. Who else would have created a snowflake design featuring whales!


Can you see the whales in the snowflake?


I did have a charming time strolling the boardwalk among the magical trees. I highly recommend going on one of the nights… it is the perfect setting for seasonal romance! (Too bad I my hubby wasn’t there!)  However, it is a moving setting for anyone, young or old, to venture through the spectacularly dramatic park as trees light up and music softly plays. Truly majestic!

I thoroughly enjoyed the evening and I was excited to see friends and fellow bloggers Jennifer Leet from The Dirty Shirt as well as Rori Paul from RoriTravel’s Florida.


Bess Auer with Laura and Rori Paul


I also got to hang with Gabe Travers from as well as Kevin Cantor who is one of my favorite tweeps as @FLallday. (See the Top 5 Facebook page for photos of Kevin and others.)

Final thoughts – I definitely recommend adding Sea World’s Christmas Celebration to your must-do holiday list. Unlike the other theme parks, where red and green holiday decorations abound, the colorful and iridescent variations of the watery atmosphere seem to transport you to another place. Purples, pinks, deep blues and greens, as well as penguins, polar bears, sea lions, and walruses beckon you to stay and play in the winter wonderland.  The wide sidewalks provide plenty of wheelchair and stroller space and somehow seem less hectic and chaotic than other theme park celebrations.

And, yes, the Sea of Trees is mesmerizing in the most wonderful way!  here’s a video overview with footage provided by Sea World:

To see all the photos from the Top 5’s trip to Sea World’s Christmas Celebration 2010, visit our Facebook Fan Page.


Filed under Blogger Extraordinaire, Fun, General Info, Only at a Theme Park, Sea World, Seasonal

College Park: Holiday on the Drive

One of my favorite local ‘hoods, College Park, was sparkling this evening with their annual Holiday on the Drive.



This mega-block party featured street vendors, entertainers, musicians, food, drink, and the restaurants and boutiques were hopping:



There were plenty of other things to do, from bounce houses for kids to decorating gingerbread cookies from street-side karts.



I enjoyed the scene and then met up for dinner at Harmoni with fellow bloggers Katy Widrick, J from J’s Everyday Fashion, and Meghann from Meals and Miles. We even got to see Jackie of Momjovi with her adorable family!

We had a fabu meal and then ventured out to see street dancing!  And, to our surprise, Katy Kwidrick jumped right in to perform in this seemingly flash mob provided by the uber cool Dance Trance:

Okay, so it wasn’t actually a true flash mob, but it was lots of fun to watch!  I first heard about Dance Trance on the Pulse of Central Florida when blogger Ashley Edwards wrote about his visit. After reading that and seeing them dance tonight, I’m pretty sure I will be visiting in my near future!

So, thanks College Park for a fun evening… the cool weather and fun street party was a great way to put me in the mood to enjoy the holiday season!


Filed under Blogger Extraordinaire, Fun

Take Out for Thanksgiving? Oh yeah!

So, I met up with several Orlando area tweeters and bloggers at Boston Market for a tasting of the restaurant’s newly enhanced menu. I spent time with @dafoodie, @thedailycity, @kiran_, and @tastychomps and we had a lovely time catching up over some very yummy food.

Top 5 editor Bess Auer with Mark Baratelli of the The Daily City and Kiran Srivastava of Chatterbox.

Now, the non-foodie in me (I love to eat but not to cook!) started to think a bit ahead… Thanksgiving is just around the corner, right? I’ve got my smoked turkey ordered from Bubbalou’s but am in desperate need of some really good side dishes. (I’m not kidding…I really do not cook.)  So, what better timing for me than to be able to sample some side dishes tonight?

In addition to Boston Market’s normal sides, here’s some of the new gourmet sides we got to try:

  • Loaded Mashed Potatoes
  • Garlicky Lemon Savoy Spinach
  • Squash Casserole (My favorite!)
  • Mediterranean Green Beans

Yep, I am one step ahead of you… I’m already placing my order for next week!

And, what else is new at Boston Market?  Well, for one things, there were ceramic plates and real silverware. And, table service… really!

I think this change is a positive step for the chain.  And, they have definitely made my Thanksgiving easier!

Some of the new yummy side dishes!


Filed under Blogger Extraordinaire, Fun, General Info, New & Hot, Seasonal

Orlando Film Fest: Will U B There?


The Top 5 will be at the opening night of the Orlando Film Fest. In fact, has invited us to attend and tweet on their behalf as we take on the sights and sounds of opening night!


Billed as “Independent film for everyone!”, there are over 300 filmmakers expected to attend, and most films will have a Q&A afterwards. And what’s even more fun? If you love to laugh, you can also attend the Fool Fest at SAK Comedy Lab, held in conjunction with the Orlando Film Fest.

Held at the fabulous Plaza Cinema Cafe in downtown Orlando, there’s a new movie starting just about every 30 to 45 minutes, so there’s bound to be a movie or two that you simply MUST SEE!  Click here for the full schedule.



Filed under Blogger Extraordinaire, Fun, New & Hot, Orlando, The Arts