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+


After 9-11, We Rise Above

There are a few historical moments when you remember where you were on that fateful day.  On September 11, I was seven months pregnant standing in my classroom preparing my lessons for the day while I watched the news to understand why a plane flew into the North Tower.

The rest of the day is a blur.  I couldn’t tell you what I taught that day, however, I remember coming home and being glued to CNN to learn more of what had happened.  That evening, I watched the replay of the towers collapsing and footage of dust-covered people fleeing the city.

Eleven years later, I visited the 9/11 Memorial with my family this summer.  As we walked through the hallowed grounds, the horrific images from that fateful day flashed through my mind.

Yet, a sense of pride overcame me.  The terrorists tried to tear us down, but through the rubble, the dust and the tears, we became stronger.  The lives crushed and the emptiness created from a collapsing financial institution has been restored and rebuilt into a place of honor.

We lost so much that day, loved ones and heroes, but we rose above the destruction and the pain. Tomorrow, as the Tribute in Lights illuminate into heaven, it is another demonstration of how we still rise above and shine on with vigor.

But we will never forget.

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

Denise Mestanza-Taylor+

9/11 Memorial

This morning, I realized that I never shared my photos from NYC.  Since next Tuesday is the anniversary of the attacks on September 11, I thought it fitting to share photos of our visit to the 9/11 Memorial.

When visiting the memorial, visitors must request tickets from the preview site, which are free and only require reserving a day and time.

Before entering the site, everyone undergoes airport-like security.  Allan and I utilized the time to remind our girls to be respectful and on their best behavior as this place was hallowed ground like that of a cemetery.

Thousands of people died here.  Many heroes, firefighters and police officers, risked their lives to save others.  Some loved ones were never found and some remains are still buried here.

We told the girls that they might see people making rubbings of their loved ones’ names.

We also explained that this is a very sad place and they should expect to see people crying and mourning for their loss.

But I don’t think my children expected to see their own mom cry.  It was such a somber experience and I became overwhelmed with emotion.  I found myself tearing up quite a few times as images of that horrific day eleven years ago flashed in my mind.

Through it all, one tree survived.

Ghostly names chiseled into granite cascade into an abyss of where the north and south towers once stood.

Though much of the memorial site still needs to be completed, I applaud the city of New York for the magnificent memorial they built to honor those lost as a result of the attacks on 9/11 and the lives lost during the bombing in 1993.


Never forget.

Denise Mestanza-Taylor+

Shot Heard ‘Round the World and Fireworks

I loved all the Schoolhouse Rock! programs when I was a kid.  I remember looking forward to commercials between Saturday morning cartoons just to see what Schoolhouse Rock! short would air.  I enjoyed Schoolhouse Rock! programs so much that when I became a teacher, I incorporated them into my lessons.

With Wednesday being Fourth of July, the teacher in me thought a few Schoolhouse Rock! history lessons would be fun for Music Monday.


Enjoy the fireworks!

Have a happy and safe Fourth of July!

Visit Xmas Dolly and Jade Louise Designs for more Music Monday fun.
Denise Mestanza-Taylor+

Our Own Joan of Arc

As we wrap up the end of the school year, it seems like the projects keep piling on.  One of the recent projects required my youngest daughter, Emmalynn, to read a biography, complete with a book report and then she had to either dress as that person or create a puppet of that person for an oral presentation.

Did I mention she’s only six?  I don’t recall having to do these types of presentations until high school.  Nonetheless, Emmalynn and I visited our local library to search through the stacks of biographies for her report.

There were so many wonderful biographies of great people.  Although the choices were endless, we limited our choices to the materials and costumes available in our closets for the oral presentation portion of this assignment.  Should she be Sacagawea?  Mary Queen of Scotts?  Madame Curie?  Hillary Clinton? Miley Cyrus?  Harriet Tubman?
You Wouldn't Want to Be Joan of Arc!: A Mission You Might Want to Miss

The choice seemed clear when we found You Wouldn’t Want to Be Joan of Arc!: A Mission You Might Want to MissShe
could totally pull off a Joan of Arc.

With her Bob haircut, a sword, a riding horse-on-a-stick, and a homemade Princess Leah costume, she would be a dead ringer.  Not literally, though.  We would omit the whole burning at the stake part for her presentation.

As we read through the book, we learned that Joan of Arc preferred carrying a banner over a sword.  Therefore, we fashioned a similar banner using the backside of some leftover Christmas wrapping paper.  Emmalynn did her best to draw a few fleur de lys, the angels Michael and Gabriel seated on either side of God and the Latin words “Jesus Maria”.

For a more dramatic effect, Dad wrapped some duct tape around the cardboard tube.  It also helped strengthen the tube.

In the end, we had our own little Joan of Arc, who lived to tell about her adventures.


Denise Mestanza-Taylor+

It’s the End of the World

Ever watch Ancient Aliens on the History?  I’m a bit obsessed with the show.  On New Year’s Eve, the History channel aired an Ancient Aliens marathon and I was glued to the TV.

For the most part, it’s complete science fiction, but there are some interesting theories about ancient civilizations and their possible connection to extraterrestrial beings based on stone carvings, cave paintings and other artifacts.  The Mayans are mentioned in nearly every episode.

I suppose the powers that be at the History channel felt airing a back-to-back episodes of Ancient Aliens seemed appropriate since 2012 is predicted to be the end of the world.  After all, the Mayan calendar stops on December 21, 2012, which means the end of days, of course.

Should we take cues from a civilization that is completely extinct or should we not even give a second thought?

I liked Ricky Gervais’s view on it all.


In the meantime, I’m just going to keep on running and enjoy each day as a gift and not worry about ice caps melting, Armageddon or aliens collecting people.


Visit Xmas Dolly and Hairbows & Guitar Picks for more Music Monday fun.