Category Archives: Guest Blogger Extraordinaire

Local 11-year-old Helps Fight Hunger (You go girl!)

My utmost admiration and appreciation goes out to 11-year-old Abbey Brunault of College Park, who championed a worthy cause — hunger in Central Florida — and raised serious community awareness with the help of Second Harvest Food Bank.

Last spring, Abbey and her classmates at Princeton Elementary received a special assignment from enrichment teacher Ms. Patti Gordon (an Orange County Public School Teacher of the Year Finalist!), which was to research and report on a local non-profit organization. Abbey took the assignment to heart, donating $200 of her allowance and babysitting money to Second Harvest and making a call-to-action video in which she visits the food bank, volunteers and directly helps fight hunger in the community.

President/CEO Dave Krepcho and Abbey Brunault.

Touched by Abbey’s commitment, passion and creative approach to fighting hunger, Second Harvest President and CEO Dave Krepcho invited her to speak at the organization’s annual Feeding Hope Breakfast on June 23rd at the Church Street Ballroom. Her video was well-received at the event and has since been posted on the Second Harvest website.

“I chose Second Harvest Food Bank for my assignment because hunger is a very important issue to me,” Abbey said. “People in our community are suffering, and I believe that if we try hard enough, we can solve this problem.”

Abbey did an amazing job and inspired attendees to further invest in the fight against hunger in Central Florida. Congratulations to Abbey and Second Harvest for their amazing efforts!

This was post by Guest Blogger Extraordinaire Whitney Hopper who is the Director of Northeast Region at Costa Devault, a wordwise company.

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Filed under Charity, Education, Guest Blogger Extraordinaire, Resident done good

And where were you for the Fourth?

Thousands gathered at a picturesque Lake Baldwin for a classic Independence Day complete with a patriotic dog contest, apple pie bake-off, watermelon eating/seed spitting contest and grand firework display!

There was a steady crowd of babies, kids, adults, teens, and dogs (patriotic ones, to be exact) enjoying all of the festivities. Sponsor booths lined up along New Broad street and restaurants came out to serve their own specialities. Seito Sushi served crispy ahi tuna cones that had a melt-in-your-mouth flavor bottomed off with crunchy cone. Paddy Murphy’s, Lago, Jack’s Steakhouse, and Colibri served classics like hot dogs, hamburgers, pulled-pork sandwiches, and tacos. 
The hosts made sure to have all of the July 4th classics: watermelon for eating/seed spitting and a homemade apple pie contest.  There was also a beer garden and bounce house. The Baldwin Park Rotary Club made sure to have something to keep everyone smiling!
Everyone enjoyed the non-stop activities and danced the evening away to the fantastic live music. Upon sunset, guests spread a blanket and settled along the shore of Lake Baldwin.  There was a little surprise when a quick rainstorm passed through, but nothing that huddling under umbrellas couldn’t fix. Everyone stayed put and just like it was planned, the rain cleared up to welcome the beautiful, grand, and fabulous firework display!
The highly anticipated bash exceeded all expectations. Congratulations to the Baldwin Park Rotary Club for a successful event! We all look forward to next year!
This post was written by Guest Blogger Extraordinaire Ann Ngo, Development Manager of the American Lung Association in Florida, Central Region, whose offices are located in Baldwin Park. She can be found on Twitter at @annngo.

And where did you spend the Fourth? Share your experience in the comments!

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Filed under 4th of July, family, Fun, Guest Blogger Extraordinaire

My Top 5 Places in Orlando for Great Deals!

This is a guest blog by “J” from J’s Everyday Fashion. The blog is is only 5 weeks old, but she has over 1,000 fans on Facebook. She’s been featured on Glamour magazine’s website,, and on several times.

J, aka Jeanette, moved to Orlando in November. Previously she lived in Boston for 4 years, but was originally from Kansas. (Who knew Kansas gals had such fashion sense?!)

So, why does the Top 5 love her? She’s an everyday girl who loves fashion. She has a full time job, and she shops at the mall. She doesn’t walk the red carpet or wear designer clothes, because like most girls, she needs outfits to be functional, easy and affordable. Luckily, she insists that they also be beautiful!

The project: to share her story as an everyday girl navigating the retail world.
The budget: $250/month.
The reason: “Fashion is my art. And I like helping people.”

My Top 5 Places for Great Deals!

1. H&M, The Florida Mall

Central Florida residents rejoice, there are two H&M locations nearby – Florida Mall and Sanford. H&M is a leader in the fashion world, and it’s super-affordable to boot. Online ordering is not available, and there are no other locations in Florida (even Miami!) so I definitely recommend taking advantage of the inexpensive offerings from this store.

Insider tip: They receive new items everyday except Thursdays. The best stuff sells out within 1-2 days, so shop early and often!

Fabulous finds: This candy-stripe dress was only $4.95 (full price) and made the perfect outfit for a date with my husband (top). This military-inspired skirt is great for work and was only $24.95 (bottom).

Only $4.95

Only $24.99

2. DSW

With designer shoes at great prices and plenty of locations, what’s not to love?  (Locations include Millenia Mall, Altamonte, Kissimmee, Ocala, Sanford, Brandon and Tampa.)

Insider tip: Always check the clearance racks at the back for the best deals. Sign up for their free rewards program to receive coupons, including a $10 certificate just for signing up.

Fabulous finds: I scored these Steve Maddens on clearance at the Sanford location for $27 with a $10 coupon (top). These Chinese Laundry sandals are perfect for running errands and were only $27 on clearance at the Millenia location (bottom).

Only $27

Also $27

3. Banana Republic, Florida Mall

When you think of great deals, Banana Republic doesn’t always come to mind, but it should. This retailer speaks my language: quality stuff and when they mark things down – fantastic prices. There are many locations in Central Florida, but the Florida Mall is my favorite. They have the best selection of jewelry and Heritage clothes for men that you won’t find in any other Central Florida location.

Insider tip: Ask your local store to put you on their email list and they’ll let you know when they have promotions or put things on sale. And don’t miss the day after Christmas sale!

Fabulous finds: I scored these cropped khakis when the store reduced all sale pants to $13.99 in preparation for their summer collection (top). This pink shirt was marked down to $15 the day after Christmas, and I recently picked up this fringe necklace for $13.99 (bottom).

Only $13.99

Only $15 and $13.99

4. Forever 21, Millenia Mall

How do you look fashionable when it’s 100 degrees outside? Stock up on cheap, breezy sundresses from Forever 21. My favorite location is the Millenia Mall – they carry the Love 21 line (better quality at slightly higher prices) and Faith 21 (their plus size collection, which really means regular sizes).

Insider tip: Shopping at Forever 21 can be overwhelming, so look online first to pick some specific pieces to look for in the store.

Fabulous finds: I picked up this cute sundress for $13 and added a belt (top). I scored this 100% blue silk shirt for $22 and a parrot necklace to go with it for $5 (bottom).

Only $13

$22 and $5

5. Macy’s, Millenia Mall

I could get lost inside this Macy’s. Huge, huge selection! And great deals can be found here – especially on handbags and in the shoe section.

Insider tip: Once or twice a year, Macy’s has a Friends & Family sale where you can get 25% off everything, including designer brands like Coach.  Also, check out the sale shoes – sometimes they do a promotion to take an additional 30% off shoes that are already up to 50% off!

Fabulous find: I picked up my favorite purse, a patent leather Juicy Couture, after Christmas for $230 (top). I scored these black T-strap sandals for $15 (bottom).




Filed under Fun, Guest Blogger Extraordinaire, Just for Me, Uniquely Florida

Make the Kids Happy!

I am writing to tell you about an event I am putting together with the Child Life Specialists at Florida Hospital. Many people have never heard of “Child Life” unless they have had a child hospitalized for any length of time. When my son Noah was hospitalized last spring for 10 days, the child life specialists were a lifesaver! After that experience, I was fortunate to leave the hospital with a healthy strong boy. At that time, I knew I wanted to do something to help the wonderful Child Life Specialists whose job is to “make the kids happy” and offer support to families while they are in the hospital.


We are setting up a monthly event to be held on the Pediatric Oncology floor of Florida Hospital. While the main goal for all of these children is to get better and build their strength, they are not just children battling cancer. On the inside, they are still just typical children and pre-teens who want to feel good on the outside as well. We want to give them a few hours to escape from the side effects of their treatments and get pampered!

During the “party,” we will set up stations in the playrooms for patients to come in and have services offered to them such as:

  • makeup
  • manicures/pedicures
  • arts and crafts
  • tattoos / face painting
  • hats / scarves / bandanas / tiaras / more!

I have already lined up some volunteers who want to help with these parties. Tentatively, we are looking to schedule it on the 4th Thursday of the month from 10 am to 12 p.m.. Right now, I am working on getting the necessary items together for our first party.


Networking / Contacts to donate items
I am looking for connections to cosmetics companies who may be able to donate items to be used at the events. We need to keep everything hygienic for the safety of the patients. Therefore, make-up cannot be shared among the patients. We will put together small kits to use on each patient and then give it to her to keep.

Make-up Donations
In the meantime, we would like to get this going soon so I am collecting unused new in package make-up donations. I know most woman have items at home which may have been given as a sample or part of a gift package and that color just was not right for you. So, if you have anything that is still sealed and unused, it could be a great start to our make-up kits. We can also use any extra nail polish you may have.

Dress-up Items Donations
If you have any dress up items that can be washed or disinfected, we may be able to use those as well.

Be an Artist for the Day
We will need one to two people at each station helping the patients. You do not need to be a fantastic make-up artist, you just need to be willing to help. If you are willing to sign up to help at any of the parties, please email me and we would love your help. I know once you come once you will be so happy you did this, you will want to come back to help more.

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter and I do hope you are able to support this fantastic event in some way. If you know of anyone who may be interested in volunteering with this event, please feel free to pass on this information so they may contact me directly.

This post was written by dedicated mom and Guest Blogger Extraordinaire Renee Perelmuter. She was one of 14 mothers featured on The Oprah Show for her blog A Crazy Redhead. She can also be found on Twitter @ACrazyRedhead.


Filed under Charity, family, Guest Blogger Extraordinaire, Resident done good

A Night to Remember…


Said fast and repeatedly, his name matches the sound of my heart beating quickly all day on Wednesday (March 10, 2010) in anticipation of seeing Michael Bublé  in concert at the Amway Arena.

The excitement had been building inside me since I first purchased tickets for my sisters and their “hubby” dates and for my own husband and myself as Christmas gifts.  I’ve been patting myself on the back for three whole months for coming up with the perfect gift…dinner for the six of us at Houston’s and this sure-fire winner of a show!  Great gift, huh?  It’s even better when you know a special little story behind it… 

Michael Bublé represents a very meaningful link for our family.  Our father, who passed away last August, adored Michael’s music…so much so, that we played Bublé ballads at his funeral.  “You’re My Everything” speaks volumes about our dad; its upbeat lyrics and pop sound are just so “him” when he was at his cutest and sweetest.  He also adored Michael’s jazz renderings, but, more than almost any others of his songs, Daddy loved the Sinatra-influenced numbers.  What a treat to be able to see our father’s musical hero in person!

But, there’s more…  March 10th was also the anniversary of our dear mother’s passing.  She’s been gone for four years now, but we celebrate her life and all that she was every minute of every day.  We know that she and our father dance in heaven to Bublé’s songs and certainly were dancing and smiling down at us while we sat mesmerized in the Amway Arena.

The opening act of the show was an a cappella group whose style is dubbed “vocal play,” called Naturally 7.  Wow!  They used their voices to create the sounds of different musical instruments, and the results were incredible.  One fellow even replicated an entire set of drums!  Their singing harmonies were fantastic, too!  One song, in particular, stood out for us because of its amazing beat but pure sweetness — “While My Guitar Gently Sleeps.”  The first tenor, Rod Eldridge, hit the most incredible high notes at the end of the song that I have ever heard!  I would go to a lone concert by Naturally 7 any time…any place!

To say that the audience was “warmed up” by the time Michael Bublé appeared is a complete understatement.  The excitement was palpable.  When he reached the stage, he started out “hot” and only got hotter — in every way!  He is adorable…charming, witty, great looking, and someone most women would love to take home!  (I imagine his new fiancee might not be too happy about that!)  And that voice!  He opened with “Cry Me a River,” and the arena exploded!

This was the opening night of Bublé’s “Crazy Love” tour, and I believe Orlando is really crazy in love with him!  The concert sold out back in December, and the arena was completely filled!  Michael gave us lots to hold in our hearts — Billy Vera and the Beaters’ “At This Moment,” “Mack the Knife,” “All of Me,” Van Morrison’s “Crazy Love,” “Georgia,” “For Once in my Life,” and on and on.  I stopped writing song titles when he did a tribute to his boyhood idol, Michael Jackson.  Bublé sang “Billie Jean,” strutted and danced a la Jackson, and it was so cool!  Unbelievably, he ended up down in the audience!  He made his way to a small stage in the middle of the arena floor, followed by throngs of fans with cell phone cameras, and actually sang “Home” in the middle of the crowd!  He obviously loves being so close to his fans, grasping hands, smiling for photos, and making personal remarks to many.

What a treat!  From start to finish, it was a magical experience for my family.  The stage was glorious, with special lighting effects and backgrounds, big video images of Michael (live, of course), gorgeous colors and patterns, and a very slippery looking, angled floor on which he danced and displayed his quite talented footwork!  I would have totally wiped out on it!  

I’m still patting myself on the back for thinking of this great gift for my family.  The best part is…it was a wonderful gift for me, too!  I’ll never forget it.

Posted by longtime Floridian and guest blogger Mary Margaret Bowen, Vice President at Park Maitland School • Daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother • Artist, teacher, computer geek, photographer, collector of antiques, art, and memories.

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Filed under Amway Arena, concert, family, Fun, Guest Blogger Extraordinaire, Music

Bash for Books! Celebrating 125 Years…

As a new mom almost 9 years ago, I had no idea how important a library would become to my family and me.  In the beginning, the children’s department provided storytime, where I met so many new moms and the kids had wonderful singing, dancing and reading experiences.  As my children grew, we became involved in the youth programs and used the library for supplementing our home library with great stories. 

Since those early times, the Winter Park Public Library now provides us with DVDs, games, chapter books and, even book club books for me.  (Yeah!)   As our family ages, our experiences with the library continue.  For the past 125 years (yes, you read that correctly!), the WPPL has been an institution for all those who appreciate and support what the library has to offer.  Since I am aware of its “greatness,” it is with pleasure that I–along with numerous other supporters–volunteer to help with the library’s important fundraiser, Bash for Books.

If the library has given to you and your family the way it has to us, please join us for this great event.   Here are the details:

Bash for Books is a fundraising party in the Winter Park Public Library featuring silent and live auctions, a variety of international hors d’oeuvres, professionally selected wines, live music and a lot of fun. It will be Saturday, March 13 from 7 – 10 p.m. Tickets are only $75 each and this year that price includes all of the wine at the event. As a special treat, Michael Andrew is scheduled to appear and sing Come Fly with Me as a salute to this year’s Bash theme, “Around the World in 80 Days.” Tickets can be purchased online at at the Library or by calling 407-623-3486. All of the profits from the evening directly benefit the materials and services of the Library.

Posted by guest blogger Debbie Johnson, Winter Park resident and mother of two.

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Filed under Charity, family, Guest Blogger Extraordinaire, winter park

One off the Bucket List: Jimmy Buffett Concert

I got to scratch one off my “bucket list” last night when Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band came to town, transforming Amway Arena into Margaritaville  for a sold-out show. In the 40 years Buffett has been performing, he has compiled a great songbook and perfected a marketing machine that allows him to charge $136 for a lower bowl ticket and $45 for a t-shirt. Nobody’s complaining, though, because Buffett puts on a great show, embracing his audience like an old friend.

When Buffett walked on stage, the first thing he did was kick off his flip flops, then he performed barefoot the rest of the night, bouncing and hopping around the stage as if he were hanging out with us in a beachside bar in Antigua. Weather permitting, it’s hard to catch me in anything but flip flops, but weather was definitely not permitting last night and I had to dress for court earlier, so I was feeling pretty out of place wearing khakis and a tailored shirt in a sea of sharkfin hats, parrot heads, Hawaiian print shirts, and LED-equipped sombreros.

A Buffett concert is a kind of mental health barometer. (Translation: If you aren’t having a good time, you probably need to book a session with your psychiatrist!) Last night, it seemed we were all in sound mental health as the whole crowd was on their feet dancing throughout the show.

The Coral Reefer Band was stellar – 4 percussionists (including outstanding steel drums and bongos), 5 guitars (including a pedal steel guitar for Buffett’s country-flavored songs), solid keyboards and a trumpet for punch. The set incuded some lesser- known songs and all of his greatest hits – “Come Monday”, “Cheeseburger in Paradise”, “Changes in Latitude”, and of course “Margaritaville”. The band also performed covers of Crosby Stills and Nash’s “Southern Cross”, Van Morrison’s “Brown-Eyed Girl”, and what had to be the stand-out of the night, Bob Marley’s “One Love”, which was preceded by a moving music video of the song being beautifully performed all over the world, from three women  standing in an empty field in India to a small band playing on balconies in the Soweto ghetto.

Buffett did a lot of reminiscing during the show, often referring to his Florida-Alabama roots and displaying a real affection for Orlando. The video screens played several shots of Buffett surfing and paddleboarding, and he jokingly recalled how he and his buddies in Mobile used to hope for hurricanes so they could get some decent waves to ride. By the end, I had decided Buffett was my new hero, something the rest of the adoring crowd had figured out years ago. Who else can make smoking grass and drinking beer seem like a wise choice and a strategic career move?

Posted by guest blogger Spencer Rhodes, a Central Florida native. In addition to practicing law, Spencer is a long-time Jimmy Buffett fan.


Filed under Amway Arena, concert, Guest Blogger Extraordinaire, Uniquely Florida