Category Archives: Just for Me

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!

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Filed under disney, family, History, Just for Me

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

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

40 Years of Florida Christmases

My readers may remember that I celebrated my 40th birthday this year (back in April) and I made my 40 for 40 promise, which, by the way, I am happy to report has continued on track!  Donating to Relay for Life on behalf  of fellow tweeter @JenVargas, fulfilling her birthday wish, was #32.

At any rate, as Christmas approaches and I went to set up my tree again this year, I realized that this is my 40th Christmas… so of course I knew I had a blog post in the making!

Florida Christmas in the 1970s

  • Opening of Disney World Resort
  • Opening of Sea World
  • Closing of McCoy Air Force Base

Now, my family actually goes back to the 1800s in Central Florida. In fact, here’s my grandmother fishing a snake out of Howell Creek when she was much much younger!

And, when my mother was a teenager, she wanted a horse, but the City of Winter Park did not allow horses inside the city limits. So, my family moved way out in the country (at the time) and bought some pasture land down a dirt road with beautiful goldenrod growing all over.  (This dirt road is now known as Aloma Ave. and that goldenrod pasture is marked by Goldenrod the road!)  But this Lazy 3 Ranch, where my mother grew up, is where I grew up too, at the same time as the city was growing up around us in leaps and bounds.

The Lazy 3 Ranch, corner of Aloma Ave. and 436

So, my memories of Christmas at this time were typical of most children: lots of 70s era toys!  Dolls and ride-in cars for me, Stretch Armstrong and army men for my brothers, a working Lionel train set for which my father spent weeks building and nailing down a track, and even chickens. Yes, chickens…we did live on some land, after all!

And, of course, Disney toys and theme park visits were very big with our family…we lived in Central Florida! (And, boy, do I remember those booklets of tickets…especially the feared E-Ticket!)

Christmas, 1975

A young Top 5 editor Bess Auer with her beloved "Big Red"

And as soon as we had our toys, we’d rush outside to try them out, riding bikes down the driveway, skateboarding around, climbing trees with GI Joe.

Christmas 1976

Florida Christmas in the 1980s

  • Space Shuttle program launches
  • Opening of Epcot
  • Domination by Miami football

By the 80s my brothers and I were getting into our teenage years, and Central Florida saw the launch of the first Space Shuttle as well as the opening of Epcot. (I watched the opening live while home sick from school…and classmate Jody Crane skipped school to attend the opening and was featured as the very first guest!  He got lifetime tickets or some such wonderful thing!)

At any rate, childhood toys at Christmas gave way to clothes and boom boxes.  And still, after unwrapping presents on Christmas day, we’d head outdoors to the yard to have orange and grapefruit wars, or to take my grandmother to Epcot, or even to head to the beach and lay out in the sun for most of the day.  Florida Decembers have certain advantages!

Christmas day - grandmother and her beloved dog at the beach in New Smyrna...look how uncrowded!

And then, as the decade ended and I was cheering in college, sometimes Christmas days were spent traveling to bowl games, like the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.  (Not a bad place to spend Christmas and New Year’s, by the way!)

Florida Christmas in the 1990s

  • Opening of Universal Studios
  • Domination by Bowden’s FSU football program
  • Closing of the Orlando Naval Training Center

This decade saw me getting married, buying my own home, and setting up my own Christmas tree for the first time.  I have never been a fan of traditional, so I bought silk flowers for my tree, which I still use nearly twenty years later!

Our Christmas tree

And then, as the second half of the 90s began, I became a mother, and Christmas suddenly was geared to children once again. Thomas the Tank Engine, Pokemon, and Legos were tops in our house, as Harry Potter paraphernalia soon would become, too.

Florida Christmas in the 2000s

  • Ending of the Space Shuttle Program
  • Opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
  • Domination by Florida Gator football and basketball programs
  • Rise to national prominence by UCF’s football and basketball programs

And so I have reached this latest decade. This one saw the passing of my brother, the continued growth of our children, and even some of the final flights of the Space Shuttles. My son has become the teenager, and iPods have replaced boom boxes, X-Box Kinect has replaced Atari.

My son does not rush out to the front yard to race around on his skateboard or ride his new bike, as my brothers and I did when we were young.  Instead he plops on the couch, puts on his headset, and connects with twelve different friends around Florida who all got the same video game to play online. It is a strange new world in which I live, one ruled by indoors, electronics, and air conditioning, but I wouldn’t miss it for anything!

Forty years of Christmases… what do you remember?


Filed under disney, Just for Me, Sea World, Seasonal, Shuttle, Uniquely Florida

Burlesque Invades Orlando! (Sort of….)

Last night I headed toward the Premium Outlet Malls, not to shop, but to take a dance class with fellow blogger and social mediaists Katy Widrick (@Kwidrick), Kiran Srivastava (@Kiran_), Julie (@PBFingers), and Kelly Walker (@PegLegPug).  Katy had invited us to Studio K for a special Burlesque dance class.

To give you an idea of burlesque dancing, here’s a trailer for Christina Aguilera and Cher’s new movie of the same name:

It looked easy enough, just prance around with a sassy attitude, shimmy the shoulders and whip your hair a few times…right?  I had been an elite gymnast and competitive cheerleader in college, surely this would not be a big deal… right?

Well… let’s just say it had been quite a while since I had shimmied anything.

I arrived to find most of the participants much younger than me and dressed in fishnet stockings, bustiers, and high heels. Suddenly I looked rather frumpy in my cut off sweat pants and sneakers.  And the black feather boa just looked kind of silly wrapped around my neck and it was apparently moulting…but strengthened by the solidarity of my fellow lady bloggers, I didn’t make a run for the door but bravely made my way to a waiting chair.

Katy, Bess, Kelly, and Kiran

Studio K's dance floor

A perky, in-shape instructor, Alice Renee K, dressed in a black bejewelled bustier, began to strut her stuff and we did our best to follow along.  A wall of mirrors allowed me to track my progress, and at first I felt pretty confident. (Of course, all we were doing was sitting in the chair and sapping our fingers to the beat!)

Then the choreography took us out of a chair and first the right arm goes out, then the left and… and OMG!!!!  What was that hanging down under my arms?   GASP!!! That was NOT there the last time I did any type of dance lesson!  (I guess a decade or so will do that to your body!) I suddenly had wings hanging down off my arms…perhaps they used to be arm muscles, but now I looked like a saggy chicken who had trouble taking flight! Oh dear…

And now that I was totally distracted by my floppy arms I completely missed the next eight count. I was hopelessly lost as the instructor started the music and everyone began the routine again.  (And I just heard Studio K took video of us… I feel blackmail is somewhere in my very near future!)



So, what did I learn from my humiliating experience last night?

Well, that I need to get in the gym, that I need to wear long sleeves next time I dance, and that I will have to continue to take Ibuprofen for the next several days to ease my aching back!

But, despite all of my aches and pains and chicken wings, I also learned that it is kind of fun to try something new.  And while I am not the next Christina Aguilera, I can still have a good time pretending to be.

Orlando has a variety of dance studios that cater to the whimsical adult who wants to get in shape while having a good time. It doesn’t matter your experience or ability level (obviously!) so don’t let never having done it before stand in your way. Get out there and try it! And, with Florida’s cold winter seemingly set to stay awhile, indoor exercise doesn’t sound so bad!

The dance group...

So, wanna know what happened to my feather boa?  Click here to go see on the Top 5 Facebook page. (Evil laugh)


Filed under Fun, Just for Me

December 7: Never Forget

While no living American will ever forget 9-11, many do not have any particular images come to mind when December 7 is mentioned. Shame on us for forgetting. Shame on us for not remembering.

“A day that will live in infamy.”

December 7 is the day the Japanese launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, dragging America into the second World War. Just as today’s War on Terror affects many Americans, you would be hard-pressed to find somebody who did not have a relative involved in WWII. I did.

My grandfather served in the war. He was a Lieutenant Colonel who at one time had a whole unit under his command. He wasn’t a soldier; he was an attorney, one that served in Orlando for over 50 years.  I’ve often heard the story of how his men were sitting around drinking one night and began to question my grandfather’s command.  He pulled out his gun and shot a bottle some thirty yards off (by sheer dumb luck!) and that put an end to their questioning.  After the war he dutifully worked the Nuremberg Trials. My mother still tells of how she and her mother were the first shipload of dependents to go over to Europe after the war’s end. But I never heard my grandfather speak of the war.

Top 5 editor's Bess Auer's grandfather, Lieutenant Colonel Kohloss

In addition to my grandfather, my uncle served in World War II.  In fact he died during the war. He was a bombardier and his plane was shot down over enemy territory. We have pictures of his gravestone in France.

It’s a strange world in which we live; a world where so many young men (and women) lost their lives in a war that so few now pay attention to, so few now remember.

Fortunately there are people like Harry Meisel, who just recently passed away. Harry fought in the Battle of the Bulge and was a true local legend, having taught three generations of Central Floridians to swim. Harry was also instrumental in establishing a World War II memorial right here in Orlando, now located on the northeast corner of Lake Eola.  Harry strongly believed Central Floridians should understand the sacrifice Central Floridians made for the cause. I agree.

I am thankful for people like Harry and my grandfather and my uncle.  I am thankful for those willing to fight not only for my rights and freedoms, but for the rights and freedoms of others.

So, if you are one of those who did not recognize December 7 as a day of infamy, please take a moment to now be thankful for those who served in World War II. They are indeed the Greatest Generation.


Filed under family, History, Just for Me, Out of Orlando, Resident done good

Cyber Monday is Killing Me (Wait until my son gets home from school!)

Yep, it is Cyber Monday, the online shopping equivalent of Black Friday. And as I cruise the internet and all my assorted social media sites, I can’t help but get eyefuls of the deals out there.  Of course, on Black Friday all I had to do was stay away from the malls and shut off the local news.

With Cyber Monday, though, it is e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e!

Deals popping up in my inbox, streaming across websites, ads on Facebook and running down fan page walls, and even Twitter has its share of ads. UGH! I might actually be tempted into spending money I shouldn’t…STOP IT!

I can’t get away from it…My son even texted me from school informing me about the Cyber Monday deals:

“Since it’s Cyber Monday, prices will be slashed. Would you pretty please go to apple or best buy and buy some Beats by Dr. Dre, the big chunky kind, not the small skinny kind, and use it as a Christmas present? They are marked down by $300 and it’s a great deal. These were on my Xmas list and I really want them. Thank you so much for considering this Mommy. I love you and have a good day.”

I chose to ignore this since there is NO WAY I am getting a teenager earphones that cost hundreds of dollars.  So, a few minutes later I get a second text:

“Or a Kinect for Xbox 360 cuz those are slightly cheaper but that is fun for the whole family! 🙂 Just the kinect I think not the Xbox 360 that comes with it.”

I don’t even know what a Kinect is, so I again ignored the message, wondering what class he was in and asking myself why he was texting me in the middle of it!  Then, a few minutes later:

“Have a good day 😉 This will help us bond as a family and prices have SEVERELY dropped.”

Okay, so my son knows what buttons to push…family bonding, cheerful wishings to me… yeah, a born salesman. And I do admire the all caps on SEVERELY to emphasize the savings I will be getting. Nice touch.

So, Black Friday and Cyber Monday marketers, congratulations!  You have won!  You have bullied me through my son into spending money I don’t want to spend. No, he won’t be getting any Dr. Dre headphones for hundreds of dollars, and I don’t even know what this Kinect is, but I’m pretty sure Amazon is having some good deals on books today….he he he.

(He’s going to need a good book after losing his phone for texting in class!)


Filed under family, Just for Me, Seasonal