Category Archives: Seasonal

Mariah Carey with Orlando Ballet at Disney World

Photo from

In case you missed this broadcast yesterday (recorded on December 3 at the Magic Kingdom), here it is again, but this time from an audience member’s point of view.  It’s nice when ABC decides to film here in Orlando (think jobs!) and it brings a nice focus to Central Florida as the continued destination for fun in the sun.

We’re truly hopeful Florida’s film industry will continue to grow in 2011. The Metro Orlando Film and Entertainment Commission has not had any major announcements since October, but we’re sure they are continuing to promote Orlando as a great place for making movies. This past year Transformers 3 was filmed partially around Central Florida and Shaq vs. Bieber was set here, too. And with Full Sail and EA Sports already based here in the Orlando area, let’s hope ABC continues to chip in to get this industry going!

As for yesterdays show, though, Mariah Carey and Ryan Seacrest were the stars of the Disney show and parade.  We love the fact that dancers from the Orlando Ballet were the ones asked to perform long with a clearly pregnant Mariah Carey for the ABC special!

(Credit to milkdidmybodygood for the video!)

Leave a comment

Filed under Seasonal, Uniquely Florida

Merry Christmas from the Top 5

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas! To those in Central Florida who have struggled during 2010, may your burden be lightened in 2011. To those of us who are fortunate, let’s include in our New Year’s resolutions a pledge to do a bit extra for our neighbors in need. (If you need a suggestion of how to share, take a look at this list supplied by our readers.)

As for us here at the Top 5, we are thankful for a healthy, happy season, and we are especially thankful for you, our readers. Although we’re hoping for a mild winter, we’re dreaming of a White Christmas today! (Anyone up for snow skiing?)


Top 5 editor Bess Auer and family.




Leave a comment

Filed under family, Seasonal

Story of the Nativity as Told in the Digital Age

What if Mary, Joseph, and the 3 Kings had access to today’s social media tools?  Ponder no longer as this video shows us how the story of the Nativity would be just a tad different.

As social media addicts, we think this is pure genius! (And special thanks to Top 5 reader Stephen Nelson for showing us this!)

Enjoy and maybe watching this video will become a Christmas Eve tradition! LOL

Leave a comment

Filed under Fun, Seasonal

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

New Year’s Eve in Orlando – Top 5 Ways to Ring in 2011

Of course there are many places to have a rocking New Year’s Eve in the Central Florida area. Most of the local clubs will be having parties, as well as all the theme parks, each ending in a fabulous fireworks show. But to narrow down your choices, here’s where we are recommending that will be sure to be a great end to 2010 and awesome start to 2011.

Long a favorite because of its party atmosphere, ring in the New Year with a concert featuring Bret Michaels!

From Universal's website

Picture nine different venues at this block party!  This is perhaps Orlando’s largest New Year’s Eve event, featuring an outdoor dance floor. Nice!

A repeat of last year’s theme, the Enzian always has plenty of character on-hand for a great time. Here’s a video to show what’s in store:
A true family event with activities for children, classic rock n’ roll, rides, and fireworks at midnight.

Another family place with great restaurants and shops, both open late for the party. And, listen to bands throughout the night, including VonRay and the Mo Geetz Band until fireworks at midnight.


Leave a comment

Filed under family, Fun, Seasonal

Festivus Orlando 2010! (Just For the Rest of Us!)

It’s December 23, and as Seinfeld fans everywhere know, today is Festivus!  That means airing of grievances, feats of strength, setting up a metal pole, and even Festivus miracles…Festivus is all too real!

For the uninitiated, here’s a short summary of the holiday:

Yes, people everywhere pour into the streets and bars to perform heroic acts of strength, to loudly complain, and to jubilantly celebrate the day!  Even Orlando-based AirTran got into the mood by offering their “Don’t be distracted by Tinsel, Celebrate Festivus with AirTran.”  (Unfortunately, their celebration ran from December 1-12, missing the actual holiday by quite a bit, but they still get kudos for effort.)

Fortunately for the rest of us, Festivus is alive and well in the rest of Orlando with a few observances around town (Or you can have your own!):

  • Head to the Festivus for the Rest of Us festival at Orlando Tastings Wine Bar
  • Try the Festivus Holiday Party at Graffiti Junktion, Thornton Park
  • Demand that Ben & Jerry bring back their Festivus flavored ice cream (an ice cream for the rest of us) at your favorite stores around town
  • Order this special Festivus pin
  • Perform a feat of strength (don’t get hurt, though)
  • Gripe and complain to air your grievances
  • Dance around a metal pole (Hmmm… that sounds a bit risqué!)
  • Hope for a Festivus miracle

So, friends, happy Festivus for the Rest of Us! Enjoy the day!

Leave a comment

Filed under Fun, Just Plain Weird, 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

Total Eclipse Tonight – Along with the Yule Feast

Okay, this is kind of cool:  The Pagan observance, the Yule Feast, which some believe is the origin of the December date of Christmas, dates back thousands of years and coincides with the Winter Solstice.  Originally, it was believed that the Sun King was reborn every year on this day, after dying off in the fall.

There are those in Orlando who revel in this tradition, and Dandelion  Communitea Cafe is holding a special feast just for tonight.

And, to make the night even more special, this evening features a Full Moon Lunar Eclipse, visible in its entirety, and only  aligns with a Solstice every 100+ years. (Almost 400 years since visible in Florida!) So, the Florida School of Holistic Living will be hosting a celebratory rhythm circle in the garden that will go into the night (until 3 am).

Sounds kind of neat, huh?


Filed under Seasonal

Toys for Tots – Alive and Well in Central Florida

As a parent and teacher, I know that creating empathy in children (especially as they grow into teenagers) is not the easiest thing to do. Some children that are generous by nature when young, may become possessive and clingy later on; others seem to have self-centerdness invade as they grow. However, this is all the natural development of a child as he or she discovers himself and self-identity is explored.

However, that doesn’t mean we quit trying to reinforce the necessity of helping others, and this time of year presents a wonderful opportunity for children to “have to” give a little.  By modeling to children that sharing and giving is the right thing to do, that helping others also ultimately helps ourselves, then little by little, they will internalize this. The Marine Corps Toys for Tots provides an excellent springboard for this lesson.

Park Maitland School recently teamed with some local businesses to help drive a hugely successful toy drive.  Parents and teachers spent time discussing helping those less fortunate and how the students could make another child happy on Christmas day.

This is a concrete example that almost all children easily understand without much teaching: Toy = Happiness.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Top 5 applauds all the schools in the area who are busy teaching Central Florida’s children more than just letters and numbers, but are teaching them to become responsible, serving citizens… awesome!

Leave a comment

Filed under Charity, family, Seasonal

Enzian Theater – A Stop on Santa’s List

Some very lucky children (who had obviously been very good) got a visit from Santa recently. His sleigh touched down outside the Enzian Theater and Santa moseyed inside… take a look:

And, if the weather ever warms up, your children will love the Enzian’s next Popcorn Flick featuring The Iron Giant on December 16 at Winter Park’s Central Park.

Leave a comment

Filed under Fun, Seasonal