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.

 

 

 

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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

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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!

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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.

VonRay

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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!

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Filed under Fun, Just Plain Weird, Seasonal

Video Round Up for 2010

Okay, so it was a bit tougher to search through an entire year’s worth of videos about Central Florida… but we managed to find what we think are the Top 5 videos of 2010.  (And, hey, if you disagree, feel free to post a link to your favorites in the comments section!)

So, what was our criteria? Well, we used YouTube’s viewer count as our main guide as well our own judgement as to the quality and interest of the clips.  So, without further adieu, here are our Top 5:

Really Weird Cloud Formations

(Note: This is not in Central Florida, but it occurred when UCF was playing K-State and they had the now infamous hour and a half lightning delay, so we still counted it.)  And, after seeing the clouds, all we could think of was why were those people still in the stands?  Didn’t they see the Wizard of Oz?!

Black and Gold!

We love that UCF has become a powerhouse in sports, being ranked in the top 25 in both football and basketball (WOOT!) and so this song clip by Wiz Khalifa seems entirely appropriate for the yearly Top 5. (From Central Florida’s very own Scott Kinmartin TV)

Ponies!

As a salute to the agricultural side of Florida, which is hugely important to our local economy, check out this video of a foal being born…too adorable! (And if you’ve never driven through Horse Country, think Ocala which is called the Horse Capitol of the World, then you need to take a Sunday afternoon drive up 441!)

Missing Girl Found

We just love happy endings…yes!

Central Florida Fair!

This film is pure art…just lovely, really.  (By Ben Van Hook)

And, two honorable mentions for the Central Florida Zoo…one good and one NOT so good (but really funny):

Good video – ZOOM

NOT so good video: Inappropriate Commercial. (This just missed our year cut off date, actually, but is it even real? Anyone know?  Somehow we’re thinking it’s not, but it does tickle our funny bones!)

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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?

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