Tampa Theatre Dazzles at Christmas

When my sister and I attended a showing of Holiday Inn last year, the Tampa Theatre instantly became a new Christmas pastime.  This year, I enjoyed the new holiday tradition with my girls when we were invited to attend The Muppet Christmas Carol.

Since the 1920s, the magnificent Tampa Theatre has been entertaining and dazzling audiences for generations and my daughters were no exception.  With its gorgeous Mediterranean style décor, they felt like princesses strolling through a starry-lit castle.

The royal red carpet treatment continued when my princesses chose balcony seats.  They loved experiencing the sights and sounds of a movie from new heights.

Just like in its early days, an organist serenades the audience before the featured presentation.  For an extra special treat, Mrs. Claus made a guest appearance and shared stories with the audience.

To pay tribute to a golden era gone-by, the organist led the audience in a few sing-a-longs before the featured presentation.

Before the movie started, I slipped away to the concession stand for the usual cinema snacks of popcorn and soft drinks, but the Tampa Theatre also serves non-traditional libations such as beer and wine.  While at the concession stand, I spotted a vintage replica blown glass ornament of the famous flashing Tampa Theatre marquis.  Since the proceeds of the ornament benefit the restoration and maintenance of the theatre, I added an ornament to my popcorn and beer tab.

As for The Muppet Christmas Carol, I had never seen the film before, so it added an element of something new for all of us.  Although the sound had some technical difficulties (which is completely understandable for a theatre nearly a century old), we still enjoyed the movie.  Michael Caine made the perfect Scrooge and the Muppets delivered all the musical, silly, loving charm would expect from any Muppet movie.

My girls loved the movie, but the beauty and overall experience of the Tampa Theatre makes any movie even more magical.

Each December, the Theatre offers a Holiday Classics Movie Series on the big screen, with the opportunity to sing along to carols with the Mighty Wurlitzer organ before each show, in the unmatched elegance of the city’s historic movie palace. Tickets for the Holiday Classics Movie Series are $9 for adults and $7 for children, seniors, military and Tampa Theatre members at the box office, or online at TampaTheatre.org ($2 convenience fee applies).”

*My family and I received a tour of the Tampa Theatre and tickets to The Muppet Christmas Carol in exchange for my honest review.  My opinions and love for the Tampa Theatre are real and my own.*

Denise Mestanza-Taylor+


Another Spooktacular Time

Every year, my kids look forward to our Halloween tradition, SeaWorld’s Halloween Spooktacular.  My children absolutely love SeaWorld and all the fun SeaWorld’s Halloween Spootacular offers, but what I love most about this Halloween experience is that the trick-or-treating party atmosphere is included with a one-day admission.

Unlike previous years, the weather has been ridiculously warm for October and I advised my girls to wear something cool for fear that dressed as Merida and Finn, they would suffer heat strokes.  So, Allana modified her Adventure Time Finn costume by wearing a sweatband instead of Finn’s usual bear fleece cap.  Instead of Merida, Emmalynn decided to match her sister’s costume by dressing as the Bubblegum Princess from Adventure Time.  Liam could stay cool in his road costume from last Halloween and thankfully, the shirt still fit him.

Since we had some time to spare before the official open of SeaWorld’s Halloween Spooktacular, I hopped into the single rider queue for Manta, the most amazing roller coaster in Orlando.  On Manta, riders sit parallel to the track to simulate the feel of an underwater flight of a giant sting ray.

After my Manta moment, we made our way down the trick-or-treating path and we eventually found ourselves at Penelope’s Party Zone, located at SeaWorld’s Bayside Stage.  Much like last year, the under-the-sea dance celebration is the most happening Halloween hot spotWith happy pumpkins leading the dance steps and an energetic DJ pumping out tunes to make every creature move, this underwater Halloween dance party is non-stop fun for all ages.


Additional craft tables and art easels have been added to Penelope’s Party Zone this year.  My girls enjoyed assembling the free foam craft witches.

The Spooky Sand Art Station and Apple Decorating Post have returned once again for an additional nominal cost.  At the Apple Decorating Post, large tasty apples or brick-size Rice Krispies treats are dipped into chocolate or caramel sauces and then topped with sprinkles, candies and other sweets of your choosing.

Since I have three children with very different tastes, each could build their own tasty creation.

I especially liked the additional treats for grownups.  Beer in a boat and other soft drinks are now available inside Penelope’s Party Zone to help keep guests cool in this Halloween hot spot.

Just outside the party zone is a new stop, Penelope’s Photacular, where guests can show off their most Spooktacular costume which might make a celebrity guest appearance in a virtual costume parade before the Shamu Rocks show.

Since there was candy to be collecting, no one in my Halloween herd wanted to pose with Shamu, but the polar bear at Wild Arctic was a great catch in Emmalynn’s eyes.

And of course, there were lots of candy stations to visit for trick-or-treating, but sadly there were no mini bananas or peanuts as in previous years.  Those treats were replaced with unlimited quantities of Vitamin Water, which was quite refreshing in the heat, although Liam was more fond of the little boxes of raisins.

After visiting all trick-or-treating stations, Liam and I stopped to cool off at the splash pad inside Shamu’s Happy Harbor while the big kids rode some rides.  Once again, SeaWorld’s Halloween Spooktacular was a huge splash for my family.

SeaWorld’s Halloween Spooktacular takes place every weekend in October (6-7th, 13-14th, 19-21st, and 26-28th) and the daytime event runs from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m.

If you have concerns about food allergies, all park restaurants are equipped and trained to take care of guests with allergen needs.  SeaWorld Park restaurant managers and supervisors will work one-on-one with guests and oversee the preparation of each allergen-friendly meal from start to finish. “Chef Cards“, filled out in advance by guests to outline the foods to avoid, are handed to a chef before the preparation of the meal.

For more information about allergen-friendly meals or to purchase advance tickets for SeaWorld’s Halloween Spooktacular, visit SeaWorldOrlando.com.

Denise Mestanza-Taylor+

Suds, Sun and Fun Runs

I promised forced my friends to run with me during our girlfriend getaway.  After last year’s drunken-no-running-fest, I couldn’t let myself slip up like that.  Besides, running on the beach is therapeutic for me.  Hopefully now, my girlfriends share those same sentiments.

Before our run, we had to capture the moment, of course, especially since one little smarty-running-pants figured out how to work her VGA front-facing camera on her Incredible device.  And thanks to Chrissy, we all knew exactly where to look at the camera.

Chrissy and Kat were worried about running in soft sand and I assured them that we would stick to the harder, packed sandy shores.  Unfortunately, high tide foiled our beach run plans and after a mile in uneven soft sandy surface, we elected to follow the bike trail along the island.

Instead of a beach run, we ran six miles along a very windy road with bad blind spots.  But I sure wasn’t blind to this Obama/Biden sign.

6 miles
Time 1:04
Ave Pace 10:43
Max Pace 7:46

The next day, Kat chose to sleep in and Chrissy, Faith and I had a little bit of a hangover later start.  Given the…eh…hem…*cough*…conditions  (and of course, I mean the heat), we opted to only run three miles.  What a sad three miles they were!

But no matter how hot we felt, we felt fit, accomplished and ready to take on the day!

But more importantly, we could return to our regularly scheduled beer pong program guilt free.

3.10 miles
Time 37:52
Ave Pace 12:14
Max Pace 8:01

PhotoStory Fridaythe hollie rogueUnknown Mami

“Disclosure: I am participating in the Verizon Wireless Ambassador program and have been provided with a wireless device and three months of service in exchange for my honest opinions about the product.”


Denise Mestanza-Taylor+

Run to Remember (9-11 Memorial 5K)

When I heard about a free 5K held on 9-11, I immediately signed up for the race.  Although the event was held early Tuesday morning in Spring Hill and would interfere with my family’s morning routine, I really wanted to be part of the memorial race.

The event page announced a start time of 6:30, but that’s when the race formalities and memorial service started.  The ROTC presented the flags accompanied by the national anthem sung by the YMCA children’s program director.  Then, local figures, the YMCA CEO and the Hernando County Sherriff, offered a few words followed a prayer led by a local minister.

The race director also mentioned the Twin Towers artwork on display had won national recognition for its design.

Around 7:00 a.m. we were told to move the start line and instructed to follow the fast runner with the flag.  With a crowd of a few hundred participants, I wanted to be as close to the start as possible and I found a spot behind some young male high school students.

Surprisingly, not many participants wore red, white and blue although many people wore the race shirt from the event.  However, I was the only one wearing a tutu and Obama tube socks and since I made such a spectacle of myself, I had to prove I was a real runner.

At the gun, I started my Garmin and followed the flag through the streets of Seven Hills.  That is not just a charming neighborhood name.  There are actually hills in Seven Hills.  Those steep inclines were pretty intense, but I stayed strong.  At one point, I even passed the young high school boys.

At the 1.5 mile water station, I took a very brief walking break to drink some water and then I quickly returned to pushing it up those hills.  One last large hill before the finish line and I sprinted the last quarter mile.  (After all, it was Track Tuesday.)  Even with all the hills, this was my fastest 5K post-baby.

Gun Time 28:01

Garmin Time 28:01

Ave Pace 8:58

Max Pace 6:01

Afterwards, we were rewarded with juice and doughnuts for our efforts.  Actually, the free continental breakfast after the race was an unbelievable spread of juice, coffee, pastries, bagels, granola bars and fruit.  Thank you to the Hernando YMCA, all the volunteers and sponsors who made this wonderful free event possible.

PhotoStory Fridaythe hollie rogueUnknown Mami

Denise Mestanza-Taylor+

A Cake Toddlers Dig

PhotobucketWhen I uncovered this construction cake on Pinterest, I knew Liam would love it for his birthday.  What two year old wouldn’t love a cake with construction vehicles and edible dirt?

I placed my order with our resident Cake Boss, Iron chef Allan and he assembled the cake as outlined by Lauren of Fredellicious. He baked two cakes, one yellow and one chocolate, although our cakes were a Betty Crocker’s Butter Recipe Yellow Cake and Devil’s Food Cake recipe to save on time.

He then, froze and cut the cakes, following Lauren’s slanted stripes cake tutorial.

Then, iced the cakes with his own chocolate icing recipe. (See recipe below.)

And finally, he finished it off with some crushed Oreo cookies and a few construction vehicles.

I love the extra touches he added such as some Oreo dirt in the dump truck and tire trucks along the cake platter.

He even added a small lake.

And just as I suspected, Little Lion Man loved it.

Iron Chef Allan’s Chocolate Icing
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup Hershey’s Cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
2Tbsp coffee
2 tsp vanilla
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract


Using a handheld mixer, add butter, salt, cocoa and sugar to a medium-sized bowl and mix until well combined.  Stir in vanilla and coffee.  If additional liquid is needed, add small amount of additional coffee until icing shows desired consistency.

Thanks for joining our weekly Friday Food Fight! Can’t wait to see what everyone is flinging this week!

*Also submitted at*

Sweet Tooth FridayPhotoStory Fridaythe hollie rogue Look whooooo’s snapping

Denise Mestanza-Taylor+

Happy Birthday to Our Superhero Princess!

For you, any conflict can be solved with raising a sword or waving a magic wand.

Your toothless grins and boisterous laughter fills our days with many smiles.

You may be a princess without pony, but you are also a superhero with the power to melt anyone’s heart.

Happy 7th Birthday, Emmalynn, our precious little superhero princess!

Denise Mestanza-Taylor+

5 Miles for Moffitt 2012

Although my 5 Miles for Moffitt race was over two weeks ago, I’ve been struggling with this recap as well as a chest cold.

Against my better judgment, I decided to run the race with a hacking, nagging cough.  My chest was tight and I could barely breathe, but it was important for me to run this race in my Aunt June’s memory.  Aunt June spent the last two years of her life barely breathing through rounds of chemotherapy, therefore, I could easily suck it up and run with a little cough.

Friends advised me to take the race easy and not push myself, which was my plan.  “Listen to your body, don’t push it!” @forrestgump49er tweeted me.  I was just there to do something good in the ‘hood and support a cause that is bigger than all of us.

Much like last year, the course led us through the campus of my Alma Mater.  For the most part, it’s a flat course through the USF with lots of shady trees and the occasional hill.

We ran the past The American Cancer Society and Moffitt as subtle scenic symbols to remind us why what brought us here.

Past the hospitals, we began a gradual incline.  I remembered this being quite challenging last year, but this year it didn’t seem so bad despite feeling poorly due to my cold.  I guess all those fitness challenges paid off!

Around the bend, we ran towards the Sun Dome and then the course looped back with more “hills” on the horizon.

Once over the final incline, the 5 milers joined up with the 5K runners and surprisingly, it wasn’t congested where the two races met.

As we headed toward the finish, I caught a whiff of the jasmine hedge along the street.  I couldn’t help but sing, “Summer breeze races make me fine. Blowing through the jasmine in my mind.”  I’m not sure if anyone appreciated my humor or singing as we finished up our five miles.

At least I enjoyed it and my time too.  Even with a cold, I finished almost a minute faster than last year.

Gun Time 51:08.4 

Chip Time 50:45.3 

Ave Pace 10:10

Division Place 34/68

Overall Place 515/886

After the race, I hacked a lung from coughing and then I visited the Moffitt Mole Patrol for a free skin screening.  Since I constantly slather myself in sun block, I felt pretty confident in the results.  Boy, was I in for shock!  Apparently, I have some sun damage on my chest.  What?!  How is that possible? 

I determined it’s from all the unintentional exposure like walking through a parking lot or spontaneous play dates at the park.  Needless to say, this mama will make sun block part of her daily routine from now on!  I ain’t getting old lady neck or chest just yet!

When I put my racing top back on after my screening, I noticed my “in memory” sign was missing.  Somehow the sign had slipped out of the plastic sleeve during the race.  “I’ve lost my aunt!” I exclaimed to the doctor, but he looked very confused.  I’m sure he thought the sun was damaging my brain as well as my skin.

PhotoStory Fridaythe hollie rogue Look whooooo’s snapping Unknown Mami

Denise Mestanza-Taylor+