Category Archives: General Info

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!

Kids/Family

Winter Park

Orlando Arts

Mount Dora

Antiquing/Thrift Shopping

Sanford

Botanical

Sports

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Filed under Citrus Bowl, family, Fun, General Info

Invest Locally, Central Florida

With 2010 quickly wrapping up, I find myself counting my blessings.  I still have a job, my family is safe and healthy, I have a coat and boots for when it is cold, and although I don’t cook, I have food on the table for every meal.  This is far more than many Central Floridians can say this year.

I think back over the news of the economy this year, and reflect on the number of workers who have been laid off here…NASA, Sea World, fellow teachers and public relation specialists are some of the companies and titles that come to mind of friends that have lost their jobs. My thoughts are with them!

This time two years ago, my family was grieving the passing of my brother, who left behind three young children. I know the pain of losing a family member and realize time does not make it better, only more bearable.  He is one of the main reasons the Top 5 supports the American Lung Association – Central Region.  Along with my brother’s passing, my niece who has special needs has caused me to also support the Special Olympics of Florida. Both are worthy organizations that reach out to others. My thoughts are with anyone who is suffering or trying best they can to make their way.

I often see pleas from the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida for winter coats, blankets, etc., asking for people to donate these items.  Last winter my son used his money to buy blankets to donate; perhaps he will be moved to do it again this year. Those in need never end, and my thoughts are with them, especially during this unusually cold winter!

And beyond the physical comforts, food banks like Second Harvest are always providing a necessary service, so my thoughts are with those who are not only donating food, time, and money, but also those who find it necessary to rely on the food bank for their daily bread.

Thinking along these lines, I asked my Twitter followers which local organization they supported, and I was pleased with the large response:

Nathaniel’s Hope

Mercy Drive Ministries

Hadassah

Susan G. Komen of Central Florida

Children’s Home Society

Harbor House

Pet Rescue by Judy

The Russell Home

New Hope for Kids

Give Kids the World

Orlando’s local humane societies

Relay for Life (all around the Central Florida area)

Valencia Giving

B.A.S.E. Camp

Salvation Army

Girls on the Run

BETA Center

Orlando Union Rescue Mission

I certainly hope you will take the time to click each link to see what each organization is about. And, if you know of a worthy organization that is not listed here, please add it in the comments.

The wonderful thing about living in Central Florida is the people themselves; let’s invest in each other… because together we can overcome anything!

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Filed under Charity, family, General Info, Non-profit, Orlando

Twilight Stars Invade Orlando – Watch Your Necks!

If you are a Twilight fan–and, yes, there are millions out there!–some of the stars of the movies will be featured at the Official Twilight Convention right here in Orlando, December 10-12 at the Disney Hilton.

Here’s some of the stars you can see (photos from the official website):

Peter Facinelli - Dr. Carlisle Cullen

Chaske Spencer - Sam, the Werewolf

Charlie Bewley - The Volturi Tracker Demetri

So, be sure to check out the convention and all the fun happenings including:

  • The Saturday Night Volturi Vampire Ball
  • Vampire makeovers
  • Sunday brunch and charity auction
  • Fantasy faces and body art

Sounds like a blast to us…just watch your neck with all these vampires in town!

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Filed under Fun, General Info, Just Plain Weird, Literary

Thin-Blooded Floridian Meets Thick-Sweatered Cold

Okay, so I wasn't quite this cold... but still!

It was in the low thirties when I left the house this morning and I looked like I was ready to go snow skiing. I had on my Hot Chillies long underwear, wool socks, boots, long pants, long-sleeved t-shirt, wool sweater, long wool coat, scarf, gloves, and hat. And, to top it off, I even had the shake-’em-up hand warmers to stick in my gloves.

I was a girl on a mission: Brave the walk from my house to my car, and then from my car to the classroom. Yep, I figured on perhaps three and a half minutes of total exposure and I was feeling pretty confident.

Now, you Northerners are sure to be snickering, because the sun was shining brightly on me by this afternoon, but I only lost the gloves and hat throughout the day. You see, I am a native Floridian who has never had thick blood. And, to top it off, I am a consistent wine drinker, so all those wonderful red grapes have thinned my blood even further.

Thin blood is an urban myth you say? Not according to local medical expert Dr. Todd Husty as quoted on WESH.com:

Many Central Floridians who have moved from northern states claim their blood has thinned, making going back to dealing with freezing temperatures harder to bear.

Dr. Todd Husty said what those northern natives are feeling is real.

Husty said after living in Florida, residents’ bodies change. It adjusts and learns how to cope with the Sunshine State’s extreme heat in the spring and summer months.

“It has to learn how to lose heat. It has to learn how to sweat better. It has to learn how to do anything possible to keep from getting overheated,” Husty said.

The only problem is that because Floridians’ bodies are accustomed to getting rid of heat, making more heat and saving it is more difficult.

So, laugh at me if you will, but live here long enough and you will be bundled up for a blizzard, too!

So, here are a few obvious reminders for cold weather:

  • Bring in your animals (They get cold, too despite their fur coats!)
  • Bring in or cover and tropical plants but don’t use plastic
  • During the day before a possible freeze, get as much water into the ground as you can but don’t get water on the plant after sunset
  • Beware of space heaters as they easily cause house fires
  • Stay bundled up inside the house to avoid a high electric bill (Or should I say higher electric bill!)
  • Turn off all nonessential lights and things such as pool pumps. Use dishwashers and other major appliances only when necessary. Try to refrain from taking longer showers, which people often do when the weather is cold.
  • Florida Power and Light suggests that instead of turning the heat down at night, keep it at the same level– four degrees lower than usual– all day.
  • Close windows and blinds to hold heat in. Also, use ceiling fans to distribute heat around a room.
  • Keep your feet warm (and head, too if possible)

Stay warm, everybody!

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Filed under General Info, Seasonal, Uniquely Florida

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 WESH.com 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.

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

Black Friday Shopping Tips and Apps From J’s Everyday Fashion

It’s the day before Thanksgiving and I am already looking past tomorrow’s Turkey Day and onwards to the infamous Black Friday–the biggest shopping day of the retail year!  Black Friday can be tempting and terrifying all at the same time… the deals, the crowds, the parking, the savings, the credit card bills…yikes!  But rest assured our favorite fashionista blogger J from J’s Everyday Fashion has helped make this year’s Black Friday a bit easier.  So, without further ado, here are her suggestions, originally posted on November 17 …and thanks, J, for letting us re-post it!

5 Things to Know about Black Friday at the Florida Mall

 

Photo: Orlandoinfo.com

 

Today I was invited to a blogging/technology lunch with some other bloggers and the marketing folks at the Florida Mall. We talked about the upcoming holiday events at the mall and enjoyed some tasty lunch from Buca de Beppo!

Here are 5 things you need to know about Black Friday at the Florida Mall:

1. Approximately 50 stores will be opening at midnight on Black Friday. Night owls rejoice!
2. They are expecting 100,000 guests. Pack a snack and be ready to shop, shop, shop.
3.  Lanvin hits H&M on November 20th. Check out this FabSugar feature to see pictures from the line.
4. There are a bunch of new stores at the mall to check out including Charming Charlie (affordable accessories), A’Gaci (a Forever 21 type), and Cotton On (an Australian brand that reminds me of American Eagle).
5. Finally, check out these apps to help with your Black Friday shopping:

simon.com: here’s no better way to maximize your Simon shopping experience than the free Simon Malls iPhone App. And there’s no better way to maximize your shopping experience when you get there than with the Simon Malls app.

Park’n Find: This will save you time finding your car in a crowded mall parking lot. Park’n Find uses GPS to remember where you parked so you can find it again later. The app can also remind you to put more money on the meter using push notifications.

FatWallet.com is a year-round bargain hunters application where forum members meet online to swap deals, coupons codes and savings strategies. But each year, as Black Friday rolls around they really get serious. Black Friday will keep users up to date on the latest BF ads and discounts. It pulls information from the online forums as new deals are posted.

Mall Maps Deluxe can help you navigate the crowded mall. Mall Maps has detailed floor plans for more than 1,000 shopping centers in all 50 states. You can even directions to the mall or search the phone directory of the mall’s retail stores.

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The TGI Black Fridayapp is powered by TGIBlackFriday.com and DealCatcher.com, this app is designed to help users prepare for the Black Friday. Find ads, deals and coupons from major retailers — sometimes before they are released to the public — then create a shopping list and compare prices.

Dealnews.com offers this application for tracking Black Friday Deals. Some people wait all year for them, while others seek out Black Friday-like deals every day. This application does both!

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Filed under Fashion, General Info, Guest Blogger Extraordinaire, New & Hot

Central Florida is LivingStrong!

Congratulations to M.D. Anderson Cancer Center Orlando for being named the recipient of not just one, but two LIVESTRONG Community Impact Project awards! These awards will bring cancer support programs to patients in Central Florida, and are funded by LIVESTRONG, the organization founded by cancer survivor and champion cyclist Lance Armstrong.

I have long been a fan of Lance Armstrong, and indeed, one of my very first blog posts was about Lance returning to ride in the Tour de France just after a short retirement.

So, when I heard that Central Florida was in the running for one of his great programs, I Facebooked, tweeted, and blogged to get people to vote. I am so proud it paid off, as I feel it will be a true benefit to cancer patients as well as local artists. (FYI: Over a two-week period, more than 260,000 votes were cast and M. D. Anderson – Orlando was among the finalists. WOW!)

“This is a tremendous opportunity for M. D. Anderson – Orlando and we are thrilled to be named as a recipient of these awards,” said Clarence Brown, III, MD, president and CEO, M. D. Anderson – Orlando. “We want to give special thanks to LIVESTRONG and to everyone who voted in support of this program here in Central Florida. We are very excited to move forward and provide these programs to our patients.”

For the first program, United Arts of Central Florida will work with The Creative Center’s Artists-in-Residence program and will allow patients to explore, absorb, and express themselves creatively as they endure diagnosis and treatment. The program will work bedside as well as in small group settings with men, women, and children.

“Through the generosity of LIVESTRONG, United Arts is proud to facilitate in bringing local artists to M. D. Anderson – Orlando as the fight against cancer continues,” said Cory Warren, events manager, United Arts of Central Florida. “We are honored to continue the success of The Creative Center’s Artists-in-Residence program locally by coupling the arts and medicine in the full spectrum of the healing process.”

The second program, The Cancer Transitions is designed to support, educate and empower people with cancer in the transitional period after treatment is over. By incorporating support groups, education, nutrition and physical exercise, as well as addressing other medical management, a survivor’s psychosocial and quality of life issues will be discussed.

M. D. Anderson – Orlando was selected as a recipient for the $20,000 in LIVESTRONG grants following a national online voting campaign involving more than 170 hospitals and cancer centers.

Congrats and use it well!

More LIVESTRONG News:  “The 28 Can’t Wait.”

You can support the LIVESTRONG foundation even more by buying really, really cool yellow gear. (Yeah, there are other colors, too, but yellow is the really, really cool one, no?)

Between now and midnight on November 30, all LIVESTRONG gear will be 28% off in honor of the 28 million survivors who are fighting this disease.

Get your LIVESTRONG gear today, and use the discount code THE28 to get 28% off! Click here to shop now.

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Filed under Celebrity, Charity, Contest, General Info, Non-profit, Orlando, Out of Orlando, The Arts