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+

Tinsel and Lights and Happy Hanukkah

The other day I heard a Christmas song and the singer’s enchanting voice unhinged a memory.  I saw myself driving on a country hillside road on a long commute to work.  Almost as clear and haunting as the vision, her voice gave goose bumps similar to the ones that appeared when Allan and I first started dating and we would listen to Everything But The Girl’s Acoustic on long car rides while holding hands.

Tracey Thorn, the lead singer of Everything But the Girl, has released a Christmas album entitled Tinsel and Light.  The first song I heard off the album is the very same song that transported me to a time before parenthood.

I realize when artists go solo they despise being linked to their former band life, but Tracey Thorn’s Tinsel and Lights does just that.  The entire album reminds me everything I loved about Everything But The Girl but sprinkled with Christmas goodness.

You can listen and download entire the album on amazon.

While searching around YouTube and the internet for Tracey Thorn and Everything But Girl, I found this really fun interactive Tracey Thorn Advent Calendar full of videos, music, photos and Christmas cheer.

And on the subject of downloads, here are two you can’t pass up because both downloads benefit great causes.  Matisyahu released a new song for Hanukkah appropriately entitled Happy Hanukkah.  All proceeds go to the Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.  Download and donate here.

Then, download O Holy Night  performed by Ladywell Primary School from iTunes to help raise money for meningitis research in young Caden’s name.

For the next two Mondays leading up to Christmas, I will be sharing my favorite Christmas songs.  I would love for you to join in the merry music making by linking up and sharing your favorite holly jolly holiday tunes.



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

Denise Mestanza-Taylor+

Pretty Muddy, Pretty Dirrty and Pretty Fun

Pretty MuddyAh, dirrty (dirrty)
Filthy (filthy)
Nasty, you nasty (yeah)
Too dirrty to clean my act up
If you ain’t dirrty
You ain’t here to party (woo!)

What better way to recap the Pretty Muddy race than with a help from Christina Aguilera!

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, a mud run was never something I thought of trying.  Fear of over-the-top tests of endurance, electric fences and well…mud mostly steered me away from ever participating.  I had heard horror stories from friends who found mud in the nether regions for days after their mud run.

But when Courtney of Journey of a Dreamer challenged her fellow Sweat Pink Sisters to take on the Pretty Muddy, I simply had to go for it.  Who can resist a good challenge?

Obviously there were mass quantities of mud, but Pretty Muddy lacked an electrical fence which was a bonus for me.  Plus, there was a promise of beach balls and bubbles instead of bales of hay.  So with that, I would give it a go and I decided to make “Keep Calm and Get Pretty Muddy” my mantra.

The Friday before the event, a few fitness bloggers and I had the opportunity to preview the course.  I even tested out a few of the obstacles to see if I could even scale them.

Each obstacle offered a “pretty please pass”, however, for me to truly understand the whole mud run experience, I felt I had to at least attempt the obstacles even if it meant falling face down in the mud.  Either way, it would all make for a great blog post and interesting race recap.  Given my race number, I was doomed destined to have a hell of a time.

On race day, Jenny of Metamorfit and I started at the first wave at 8:00 a.m., which I now know was great strategy in itself.  Later I learned that some mud runs have long lines for each obstacle, but since not many people want to start at the first wave, there were no lines and no waiting for us.

I also learned that Pretty Muddy offers a lot more running than obstacles, which was perfect for a mother runner like me.  I loved running through the gorgeous grounds of the Little Everglades Ranch and I managed the soft terrain of the farm quite nicely.

At the start of the race, we ran through bubbles and I lost Jenny somewhere in the foam.  Very soon after the bubbles, we plunged into a pond and my soggy pond-soaked shoes felt 10 pounds apiece.  Once back on the trail, I wrung out my shoes with every squishy step.

Soon enough, my shoes were all wrung out just in time for the first mud pit positioned in front of a barn.  With my first step into the mud pit, I learned there is a strategy for stepping into mud pits.  Per my mistake, I stepped in too close to the edge and I couldn’t move my feet.  I had to pull my foot out and start over with a giant step forward. Giant step right! Giant step left!  Grab hold of the opposite edge and PULL yourself out! 

Just after the barn was an obstacle I like to call, “What Wood Jesus Do?”  Since I didn’t know the best way to attack this 2×4 wood carrying obstacle, I chose to carry my plank crucifixion style (over the back of my neck and across my shoulders) while I ran.

Past the planks, we found a huge inflatable slide with a pool of mud at the base rather than water.  Just after the slide and close to the 1.5 mile mark, I could hear the M.C. calling for the 8:15 wave to start and I knew I was making good time.

Around the bend just after the slide, there stood a cargo net to climb. Then, after another short run, I crawled through two tunnels full of mud, which made me feel a little claustrophobic.  Thankfully, I was off running again.

After a short distance, I had to scale the over and out obstacle.  I climbed over one, crawled under one into a pit of mud, back over another and under once again in yet another pit of mud.  Then, I was back on my way, but in the wrong direction.  I ran about a quarter mile off the trail when a sheriff on ATV cashed me down and told me and a few other ladies to go back the other way.

Once back on the right path, I bounced through beach balls and then shortly after that, I had to maneuver through the rope netting of the “get a leg up” obstacle, which included more mud of course.

The last mile led us back toward the start where only two more obstacles remained.  With only a little distance left to go, I had a few more wooden walls to climb.  Once over the walls, I ran as fast as I could up a slight incline to the finish line.   But first, there was one more mud pit to crawl through, which is where most of my mud damage happened.

Even with all the obstacles, I finished somewhere around 35:00, which I think is pretty excellent for someone with no previous crossfit experience.  Besides running, the only training I did to prepare for this race is climbing a playground apparatus at the park with my two year old son.  Honestly, I thought I lacked the upperbody strength for such an event, but I am in better shape than I thought.

So would I do it again?  Abso-pretty-lutley!

I am so on board for Pretty Muddy again next year!  I loved the endurance race adventure run without all the competitive pressure of a clock or all-star athletes.  Pretty Muddy was good wholesome, down and dirty fun.

Next year, I would love for my runner mother girlfriends to join me because I could have used a hand in that barn dance mud pit.  Plus, it would be fun to be part of a team with matching shirts and a team motto.   Of course, I’ve already got a ton of team ideas floating around in that Pretty Muddy brain of mine.

So who’s with me?

Ladies, please don’t fear the mud because it washes off better than you’ve heard!  Think of it more of a mud bath spa experience minus the sliced cucumbers on your eyes and a bit more climbing.

*A special thanks to Courtney for roping me into Pretty Muddy and for sharing her photos with me!*

Two Tribes and Yes, We Can

Like many Americans, I will be so glad when this election is over, however, I don’t believe it will end tomorrow at midnight.  With the popular vote being so close, I predict many states will call for a recount and America will be waiting for weeks to learn the name of our next president.  I also predict that Obama will win the electoral vote nationally but Romney will take Florida based upon a quote printed in the Tampa Bay Times from former Governor Jeb Bush:  “As Pasco goes, so does the state of Florida.”

It’s been such an ugly election and possibly even worse living in the swing state of Florida in the I-4 Corridor but the ugliness wasn’t limited to the TV or radio airwaves.  The spew of negativity and discontent from either side has been plastered all over my Facebook newsfeed.  I had several liberal friends complaining about Obama signs being stolen from their yards, however, ironically no Romney friends reported any such acts but perhaps not so surprisingly since Romney held a rally here last Saturday.

Then I spotted a defaced Obama sign outside my early polling precinct.

On Saturday, the last day of early voting, I waited in an hour and a half to cast my vote for Obama in sea of Romney supporters wearing buttons and t-shirts.  I should have worn my Obama tube socks.

Four years later, I’m still an Obama Mama.  Yes, Mr. President, I’m ready to move forward, past all the ugly partisan politics and get back to work fixing the economy and making America prosperous again.

Yes, we can.



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

Denise Mestanza-Taylor+

A Little Hocus Pocus Radioactive Ghost for Halloween

Everybody scream!  It’s almost Halloween!

Our maddening October is winding down, but honestly, I feel like this busy month has left me a ghost of my former self.

All right, maybe I’m exaggerating a little for the sake of a Halloween Music Monday post.  But it sure was a clever play on words to fit those two songs into the mix unlike this one.  I honestly can’t think of anything for this Imagine Dragon song except that I really like it.  So why not add Radioactive to a Halloween playlist?

And of course every great Halloween playlist should include Siouxsie and the Banshees’ Halloween because it’s a classic.

Whatever songs are on your Halloween playlist, may they be spellbinding, spine tingling tunes that move you down to your soul and keep you trick-or-treating for the long haul.

Have a safe and happy Halloween!



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

Denise Mestanza-Taylor+

A Devil Drops It Like It’s Hot and Runs the Night

This weekend, I’m participating in the Frankenfooter Living Dead Challenge, a two-part race comprised of a 5K on Saturday night followed by a half marathon on Sunday morning.  Since the course is on the very same trail my running group runs every week, I have a home team advantage, however, there’s still an element of fear for me because I’m a little nervous about running the 5K on Saturday night in the dark.  I just hope all my training in the dark wee hours of the early morning has prepared me for running in the dark, dark woods.

It’s no secret that I love Halloween and despite my fear of the dark and my issues with last year’s race, I’m still so excited to participate in this Halloween themed race.  I love dressing up, although I don’t need a Halloween race for an excuse to do so but at least I won’t be the only wearing a costume like so many other races.

In a previous post, I mentioned that I’m dressing as the Sun Drop girl for the 5K and I found the whole ensemble at the Sun Drop store online, so I dropped some cash it was hot, yo.  This costume might be way too hot to run in but it definitely be fun. 

I finally figured out my half marathon costume.  Let me give you a hint.

Do you get it?

I will be the devil with the blue dress.  For the costume, I’m wearing a blue running top, blue shorts, a blue tutu, red horns and possibly a tail.  I say “possibly” because I haven’t decided if I really want to deal with a tail smacking me in the ass for 13.1 miles.

By the way, our adult Halloween party was a blast.  Here’s a taste of my sushi costume, but there’s more photos to come later.



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

Denise Mestanza-Taylor+

Halloween Problem (Monster)

Halloween will be a three part party this year.  Part one starts this Saturday evening with our adult Halloween party.  Part two and three take place next weekend with the kids’ Halloween party for my mom’s group followed by the Living Dead Challenge (5K and half-marathon race).

Allan and I stepped up to be this year’s ghost hosts with the most for the adult Halloween party.  In preparation for the party, I’ve been searching and scrolling through Pinterest to find frugal, fun ideas for food and decorating.  At this point, I need to channel the ghost of Julia Child because I would love to make a graveyard cake, witch fingers or some other spooky snack, but I don’t think I will have time.

But more importantly, I still need to throw my costume together.  I ordered Allan’s sushi chef costume the other day, but I am still trying to find all the necessary pieces for my sushi costume.  I didn’t have any luck at Goodwill the other day, but I plan to stop in again this week.

And I’ll need to do all that between doctor visits, preparing a fall festival basket to be raffled off at my kids’ school, packing for a camping trip and running 12 miles on top of all the usual business such as homework, dinner, after school activities, etc.

As you can see, I have so much going on right now.  The Halloween party is just the monster problem escape I need and a perfect excuse to drink have fun with my friends.

For the next two Music Mondays, I will be sharing my favorite Halloween tunes.  I would love to hear what Halloween songs move your spirit.  Link up and play along…if you dare.  Muhahahahahahaha!



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

Denise Mestanza-Taylor+