When Christmas {Train} Comes to Town

Like most toddler boys, Little Lion Man is obsessed with trains.  Although when my oldest daughter was his age, she loved trains too.  In fact, because she loved Thomas and trains so much, we saw The Polar Express in the cinema when she was close to his age, however, she was a timid toddler and a few of the scenes frightened her.

But it didn’t frighten my Little Lion Man.  He hollered out, “Whoa!” when he watched the Polar Express cascade down the mountainside like a roller coaster.

Since Little Lion Man loves locomotives, we boarded the 7 ½ gauge CP&G Railroad at Crews Lakes Wilderness Park for a ride on the Christmas Train to the “North Pole”.  When Little Lion Man spotted the little engine chugging down the track, he had a similar reaction to The Polar Express. “Whoa!  Mama, it’s a train!”

Winding along tracks through the woods, reminded me of a similar train in England years ago.  On that train ride long ago, Allana met my friend, Suzie, her mum and Father Christmas.

But I digress.

Over the track and through the woods to Santa Claus we go went, but Little Lion Man wanted nothing to do with the big man in red.  He preferred to watch the trains arriving at the station.

After a quick photo opportunity and an even quicker word with Santa to remind him of the toys to bring, we were back on our way home.

At the end of the day, that little train ride brought a great deal of joy to one little boy.

And the rest of us had fun too. 

Merry Christmas!

What Christmas music is moving you this season?

Visit Xmas Dolly and Jade Louise Designs for more Music Monday.

Denise Mestanza-Taylor+

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Season’s Heatings! {Holiday Halfathon Recap}

When I registered for the Holiday Halfathon earlier in the year, I had no intention to aim for a PR.  With these plantar fasciitis feet, my PR days are gone, however, I expected to beat my time from three years ago.  Since I was pregnant, I could totally redeem that time even with bad heels.

Being a stunner runner, my attire is crucial next to the training.  Chrissy, Maribel and I wanted to match, so we decided on homemade tutus with striped furry stockings and a red wicking running shirt.  I added a little sequined clip-on Santa hat to my ensemble to finish my sporty Santa Baby look.

Lots of our Strider friends were also at this race as well as many of my runner blogger friends, Katrina of Sneakers and Fingerpaints and Beth of Discom-BOB-ulated Running.  Everybody looked so festive in their holiday attire.

About 4 miles into the race, I was dying from a heat stroke.  Usually, December races are cooler, but with the warmer weather, overcast and humidity, it felt like we were running in a Santa sauna.  I haven’t exposed my post-pregnancy belly in a sports bra in public, but I didn’t care.  I stripped off that shirt faster than a Catholic school girl at a frat party and then, I rolled down my cute striped socks.

Although Chrissy had been suffering from a sinus infection, she looked like a rock star out there.  She showed those bridges that she was the boss and she smiled the whole time.

The bridges were another reason I didn’t anticipate a PR.  I didn’t even want to push myself on that course.  I just wanted to finish better than I did three years ago.

Between the bridges and the heat, I needed to walk a large portion of the course.  Another runner on the course ridiculed Chrissy and I every time we walked the course.  John teased us about our tutus and socks having superpowers, but I don’t think so.  Those furry striped socks were my kryptonite!

Eventually, Chrissy and I caught up to Marie who was struggling due to a nasty bronchial infection.  Poor thing!  You know speedy little Marie is not up to par if she’s pacing with me.

Even with all the bridges, that last mile had to be the toughest for me.  We ran for a short distance on a sidewalk and then final half mile led us along a sandy, soft uneven trail covered with pine needles.  It was difficult to judge my footing and I stumbled a few times.  I decided to walk the trail and then I ran the last stretch to the finish line.  I suppose my tutu did give me some superpowers because I saved a sprint just for John.  I finished a few seconds before him and I beat my time from three years ago by nearly 30 minutes!

13.1 miles
Gun Time 2:26:55 
Chip Time 2:26:36
Ave Pace 11:13

We lost Maribel early in the race, but after we crossed the finish line, we all ran back to meet her.  The week prior to the race, her knee had been giving her a lot of grief and now, Maribel was really hurting.  When she spotted us, her spirits lifted and she sprinted the final stretch of her first half marathon.  Once past the finish line, we all cried in a huddled, blubbering mess for Maribel and everyone’s accomplishments and then we helped poor Maribel hobble over to the picnic tables to ice her knee.

Poor sick speedy Marie could barely talk.

I just wanted JM’s cookie cake beer.

At the post-race party, I found Jina of Behold the Turtle and we posed for a quick photo.  I loved her reindeer shirt!  As you can see, I was still so hot after the race and I was looking real hot in my white, very see through sports bra.  Yep, I’m a classy act.  Thank goodness for Cliff Shots covering my ta-tas like pasties!

I am so making Santa’s naughty list this year.

Denise Mestanza-Taylor+

Christmas Town at Busch Gardens

I’ve been dreaming of a White Christmas, just like the ones I used to know.  Last Friday night, Christmas Town at Busch Gardens turned my white Christmas dream into a reality filled with real snow (not the usual soapy kind) and Santa.

Upon entering the park, cheerful carolers greeted us with glad tidings.

With joyful anticipation of everything that lay ahead, my family and I didn’t know where to start first.  So, we followed the path to Jingle Bell Junction for a pint-sized, holly-jolly train ride.

After Jungle Bell Junction, the girls to a quick spin on the Gwazi Gliders and then we ventured through the Christmas Town Village to Snow World.  Though there was a chill in the air, the sweet smells of the Christmas Town Village warmed us and visions of snowflakes danced in our heads as the colorful lights of the Christmas Town Park magically appeared as snowflakes with the help our 3-D glasses.

Still staring through the spectacular sights of our 3-D glasses, we almost missed the wonders of Snow World.  Upon entering the icy winter wonderland, dancing snowman smiled and welcomed us.

Once inside the Snow World playground, the girls and I dashed to the snow tubing slide.

After our snow ride, we scurried through the densely packed snow to help repair a decapitated Frosty and then we pitched a few snowballs.

With our fill of snow (Is that even possible?), we wandered along Ice Wonder Way, a frozen pathway that sparkled and shimmered in the night with an electric blue snowflake shower.

As snowflakes cascaded down, a living angel statue led us to Cheetah Hunt for a no line, no waiting experience, which was the case with most of the rides that evening.  (Incidentally, Cheetah Hunt rates as one of my all-time favorite roller coasters.  It’s a Busch Gardens must-do.)

After Cheetah Hunt, we headed to the North Pole to Santa’s House. Happy elves entertained us with stories about cookies and Santa Claus as we waited to visit with jolly ol’ St. Nick and Mrs. Claus.  Once inside their home, Mrs. Claus welcomed us with cookies and good cheer in the hopes that St. Nick soon would appear.

With a swift secret knock, our happy elf hosts led us to a hidden room behind a hall of mirrors, like something out of Wonderland.  In a toasty warm room filled with toys and snow globes, the girls cuddled around Santa Claus and shared their Christmas requests.

Emmalynn asked Santa for a pony, but Santa sadly replied, “The ponies don’t travel well in the cold.  The sleigh is too high for them.”

“But, I wanted a My Little Pony, Santa.”

“Now, I can deliver that!”

A big kid myself, I couldn’t resist the chance to jump of Santa’s lap and Allan couldn’t resist telling Santa that I had been naughty.  I’m not sure if I made Santa’s naughty or really naughty nice list this year.

You know what be nice?  If we could do the evening all over again.  We had such a fabulous time at Christmas Town at Busch Gardens and now I’m dreaming of another white Christmas and a Jars of Clay concert too.

*Christmas Town runs every Friday, Saturday and Sunday now through to December 23 and is a separate-ticketed night event.  Regular daytime admission is not required or included. General admission for Christmas Town is $39.99 plus tax. Busch Gardens annual pass members will receive the deepest discounts with advance online priced at $24.99 for adults and $9.99 for children, and special offers are available for guests wishing to upgrade their paid daily admission to Busch Gardens. Families with children ages 3 to 9 will enjoy a special advance-purchase price of $9.99 for their youngest members.*

**The Tampa Bay Bloggers, my family and I received VIP tickets to Christmas Town in exchange for this review.  The opinions shared are my own. **

Denise Mestanza-Taylor+

Music Monday: It Feels Like Christmas

Even before the calendar flipped to December, my family and I were already all sparklejollytwinklejingley for Christmas during Thanksgiving.  Thanks to the Straz Center, my family and I experienced the joy and magic of Christmas a little early with the help of our favorite elf and star of Elf The Musical, Buddy.

And speaking of elves, a funny little Elf on the Shelf found a home in our tree on the first day of December.

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I know what you’re thinking. I swore I would never buy one because I said these elves symbolize everything that is wrong with Christmas, not to mention how incredible creepy, clown-like, Chuckie-wannabe these elves are.   Therefore, this holiday I’ll be eating humble pie instead of Christmas pie which is best served cold because this little North Pole transplant likes the cold.  Don’t judge me because there will be more photos like these.

Giggles went for a joyride.

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The next he snapped some photos of the tree.

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On Friday evening, we visited Christmas Town more than once.  My family and I once again experienced the wonder of Christmas with the help of Busch Garden’s Christmas Town.  The wondrous icy sensation of Snow World melted our hearts, but the truly heart-stopping, good cheer happened for me at Cheetah Hunt.  Nothing beats humming and singing a happy Christmas tune just before you’re catapulted into the atmosphere at high speed.

Santa baby, slip a sable under the tree, for me
I’ve been an awful good girl
Santa baby, and hurry down the chimney to…..NIGHAAAAAAAAAA!  OH MY GOD!

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However, while stopping Snow World at Busch Garden’s Christmas Town, we witnessed a travesty.  As my girls and I waited patiently in line to play in the snow, we watched two pre-teen boys beat the living ice cubes out of Frosty the Snowman.  The bad boys ripped off Frosty’s broomstick arms and beat him repeatedly until his head broke off.  As Frosty’s poor decapitated head lay helplessly on the ground, his attackers ripped off his carrot nose and violently stabbed him in the neck with his own nose.

I couldn’t believe the horrible scene unfolding in front of us.  “For love of God!  Stop beating Frosty!  All he ever wanted to do was wish everyone a ‘Happy Birthday’.”  Then, my girls chimed in to shout at the cruel children.  “Leave Frosty alone!”

Good Lord.  I can never look at a snowman the same way.  It will take years to heal from this and just when I finally could look at clowns and dolls without cringing.  And while we’re compiling a list of creepy creature, add living statue angels to the list.

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Then, my girls and I enjoyed one more Christmas moment when we visited the Tampa Theater for The Muppet Christmas Carol.  I had never seen the movie before so the film was a first for all of us.  Michael Caine played the perfect Scrooge.

Stay tuned for more posts to follow about each of these wonderful Christmas events!

Does it feels like Christmas or does the thought of Christmas having you cringing?  Are you in the Christmas mood yet or are you a Scrooge? 

What Christmas music is moving you this season?



Visit Xmas Dolly and Jade Louise Designs for more Music Monday.

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+

Race for the Cure 2012 {recap}

Last Saturday, “sweat pink” was more than a clever catch phrase from my SPA sisters.  With temperatures in the 90s and stifling humidity, I took sweating pink to a whole new level at the Race for the Cure.  All 664 10K participants have officially sweated pink for a good cause.

Normally, the weather is cooler for this event but it’s so hard to predict if fall will arrive in Florida in time for the race.  Maybe moving the start time up an half an hour would eliminate some of that heat?  Either way, we would still get to enjoy a gorgeous golden pink sunrise over St. Pete Pier.

Though year after the heat may be unpredictable, we can always count on a beautiful backdrop for this pink cause. It’s like the race officials roll in the sunrise with the balloons before the start of the race.

As we lined up for the start, we were oddly nervous about this race.  Chrissy and I wanted to finish under an hour.  Faith just wanted to finish for Miss Sharon, which is all we really wanted to do.

Chrissy and I paced together for the first couple of miles but I was really struggling with the heat and I had to walk the water stations.  Since I wanted to finish under an hour, I decided against snapping photos while running, a decision I now regret.  I was walking anyway and capturing the race in photos makes me happy.  I definitely was not running happy and snappy for this race.

The tutu I wore may have had something to do with the heat I felt.  Normally, I make my own tutus, but this kid’s petticoat costume from Target was so much cheaper than making one.  However, instead of hand-knotted tulle like my other tutus, this one had a nylon skirt underneath.  Let it be known, nylon does not wick away the sweat or the water I kept dumping on myself at every water station.

The little girls manning the 5 mile water station put a smile on my face and pep in my step with all the compliments they showered on me while handing me water.  “I LOVE your tutu!”  “I love that headband!”  I felt like the belle of the ball at the 5 mile water station.

Thankfully, my knees and heels held up for the duration of the race.  When I would feel a twinge of pain here and there, I looked for level ground to avoid running at an angle.  I also walked the “uphill” portion of the course through downtown St. Pete.

I tried to push it a little harder for the last mile, but I didn’t have a sprint in me.  With only 0.20 of mile to go, I went for the sprint, but then the race didn’t end.  The course ran longer than 6.2 miles!  I felt deflated.  Then, I heard the Suncoast Striders cheering for me and my attitude perked up.  My Strider family helped turn that frown upside down and I finished the last 0.15 of mile with a smile.  It wasn’t my best time but at least I beat my time from last year by 3 minutes.

10K (actual distance 6.35)
Chip Time 1:01:19
Garmin Time 1:10:19
Ave Pace (chip) 9:54
Ave Pace (Garmin) 9:40
Max Pace 6;35
Div Place 19/74
Gender Place 142/476
Overall Place 244/664

But the race did put things in perspective for me.  No matter how hot or tired or the pain I felt for the duration of the race, there are women who are suffering for more than a mere hour. Every minute of every day they are feeling pain, sick and nauseous.  Along with losing their hair and their breasts, they’re losing hope. They can’t see the finish line and they are feeling deflated.

I want those women to know that we are here for you!  We’re cheering for you in the homestretch!  Be strong!  You, the survivors who fought the battle against breast cancer and even the women who lost their lives in the battle are our inspiration.  You are our heroes.

That’s why even in the heat and humidity, I will always sweat pink and Race for the Cure.

A shout out to David and Aaron for capturing these pink moments and many other fantastic photos for the Suncoast Striders! xox

Denise Mestanza-Taylor+

Random Thoughts about Sweating Pink, a Cool Point and Track Tuesday

The other day, I received my Sweat Pink shirt from my SPA sisters at Fit Approach.  It’s so soft and comfy and fits perfectly.  I couldn’t wait to wear it and when I did, lots of people commented on it.

 

I almost love the shirt as much as my SPA sisters!  Between the races, their fitness achievements and healthy lifestyles, these women are so inspiring!


Last week, I mentioned how I bought two pairs of shoes and needed to test them out on the treadmill.  Well, the Asics GT-2170 won. I ran one mile in the shoes and they felt great.  Then, I tried the Nike shoes and couldn’t even run 30 seconds in them before I felt a weird pain across the toes.  So, the Nike were returned to The Running Center.

A while back, in the midst of our Florida summer heat and triathlon season, Trigger Point Performance Therapy sent me a Cool Point, the Original Hand Cooler to test and review.

“Ideal for this summer’s triathlon season, Cool Point from Trigger Point Performance Therapy could become a runner’s best friend.

Triathlons often demand peak performance, pace setting and dealing with fatigue, yet finding a balance between the three is a runner’s biggest challenge. Cool Point utilizes thermoregulation signals sent from the hand to the brain and keeps athletes feeling refreshed and performing at their best. Being durable and reusable, runners or cyclists now have the ability to control their performance and delay fatigue using Cool Point’s Stay Cool Technology. Just freeze the cooling gel and fit to your palm and see how Cool Point can take advantage of the hand being the body’s natural radiator.”

I actually used my Cool Point at the Tarpon Triathlon.  With the adjustable Velcro straps, I could fit it perfectly in the palm of my hand.

I’ve also used my Cool Point when I’ve missed my 5:00 a.m. run and found myself running a little later in the morning.  By 9:00 a.m., the Florida sun radiates some serious heat, but with the Cool Point, I combated the heat and avoided the fatigue brought on by summer sun.  Since the 90 degree temperatures are holding strong here in Florida, I’m still using my Cool Point into October.  It’s perfect for those short training runs.

Cool Point, the Original Hand Cooler is available at Trigger Point Performance Therapy for only $19.99.

As for my training runs, I ran 6 miles last Thursday and felt pretty good about my performance at Race for the Cure.  It looks like I may actually finish under an hour.

6.2 miles
Time 1:01
Ave Pace 9:52
Max Pace 7:02

On Saturday, Chrissy and I ran 13.1 miles but that was a horrible run and nothing like last week’s 12 miles.  It was hot and humid and I just couldn’t shake how tired I felt.  Thank goodness, Faith came along to finish the last 5 miles with us.

13.1 miles
Time 2:36
Ave Pace 11:17
Max Pace 7:37

On Sunday, my 7 year old woke up around 7:30 asking to ride her bike.  “Can we ride to Publix and get donuts for breakfast?”  Sure. Why not? I needed to do a recovery run anyway.  So, Emmalynn rode her bike 3.1 miles while I ran beside her.  Let’s just say she helped maintain an easy pace for me, but the run was truly a win-win (even though I passed on the donuts).  Emmalynn loved riding her bike with mom and I enjoyed my time alone with her.  Plus, I’m really enjoying the benefits of recovery runs.

3.1 miles
Time 40:21
Ave Pace 13:28
Max Pace 8:11

Monday I rested, but there was no resting today because it’s Track Tuesday, and boy it was another hot and humid morning.  UGH!  Once the weather cools, I’d like to up my quarter mile sprints to 6 quarter sprints or half mile sprints, but until then, I’m still struggling with these.  It’s obvious that the humidity is dragging me down because I couldn’t finished under 1:54 until the last sprint.

 In the last 1 mile lap, a toad or frog or something slimy hit my leg and it totally toad-ally freaked me out.  I thought it was the Frogalypse all over again.

1 mile
9:39

Lap 1 – 0.25
Time 1:48
Ave Pace 7:23

Lap 2 – 0.25
Time 1:56
Ave Pace 7:37

Lap 3 – 0.25
Time 1:52
Ave Pace 7:29

Lap 4 – 0.25
Time 1:54
Ave Pace 7:39

1.1   mile
Time 11:06
Ave Pace 10:07

So how did you do this week?  Link up and tell me all about it.



To join our Track Tuesday linky party, do your speed work (at least 4 quarter mile sprints) on Tuesday or any day you that works best for you, blog about your times and remember to add our cool Track Tuesday button to your post.  Then, link up your post at either Ricole Runs or Run DMT to share Track Tuesday Speed Work Sessions.  To show support for our other virtual running partners on the Track Tuesday Team, be sure to visit the other blogs listed in the linky party.  Give them a virtual high-five and leave some comment love too.

*Also linking up at*

Stacy

Denise Mestanza-Taylor+