Category Archives: Blogger Extraordinaire

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

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