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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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+

Random Thoughts about a Crazy World, Crazy Love, the Mom Squad, the Miles and Track Tuesday

Thirteen years ago, I was teaching at an elementary school is a migrant community.   After the Columbine shooting, my school district put lockdown drills into place.  We practiced those drills along with fire drills and tornado drills.

Sometime after that, the lockdown drill became a reality when a person ran through our school’s soccer field wielding a gun and shots were fired. We (the teachers) had to turn off our lights and hide with our students in our classrooms. We had to be brave for our students. We had to protect them and these students came from horrible homes and probably saw this type of thing regularly. School was their safe place, but not that day.

As an educator, I can’t even imagine how the teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School felt that fateful Friday last week. I can’t even imagine what went through their minds as they tried to be brave and protect their students who thought school was their safe place. As parent, I just want to hold my babies and never let go.

God bless the teachers, the survivors and the families as they deal with their loss. Hopefully, schools can be safe places again and maybe the powers that be will make common sense gun control as common place as lockdowns.

Also thirteen years ago, I married my best friend.  It’s been a crazy, mad wild ride but I wouldn’t change one day of it, especially since my husband still has a few surprises up his sleeve.  He bought me this mirror from IKEA that I’d been eyeing for the longest time and wrote a message on it that says, “Denise, Happy Anniversary. You are beautiful and I love you. xxxx ♥ ♥”

His present is…er…um….on backorder.  Yep, that’s it!

Speaking of surprises, my husband pulled a doozy on me yesterday.  He high jacked my email and contacted Joe of 10 News to ask if he would to announce our anniversary on the air during our Moms Squad segment.  Watch it here and check out my totally surprised expression at the end.

On the subject of the Mom Squad, Joe has asked Marisa, Jenny and me to be his regular team every week, so we are officially The Mom Squad, which of course means we need our own coffee mugs since we’re part talk show television.  Plus, if I was holding a coffee mug, it would keep me from speaking with my hands.  Here’s last week segment.

I’m really struggling mentally with my marathon training.  I’m just so tired lately and as a result, my training is suffering.  Then, the Holiday Half didn’t go so well, but at least I beat my time from 3 years ago which shouldn’t been hard to do since I was pregnant then.  (More about the Holiday Half tomorrow!)

I had a really tough time recovering after the half marathon.  On Sunday I woke up with this horrible Charlie horse in my thigh I know it’s a direct result from not fueling properly after the race.  Other than a few beers, I didn’t drink any of my usual recovery drinks such as chocolate milk or coconut and I didn’t eat for hours after the race. Stupid move, I know and I definitely paid for it in the middle of the night.

Since my Mondays are Mom Squad days, I’ve also had to readjust my whole marathon training schedule.  But given the whole Charlie horse episode, I also decided against speedwork last week and just went for an easy 3 mile run.

3.1 miles
Time 31:25
Ave Pace 10:08
Max Pace 8:08

And that was the last time I ran last week, except for my 20 miler on Saturday.  Again, not my proudest marathon training moment, but it happens.  Last week was a really tough week for me emotionally and my training suffered.  I honestly considered postponing my 20 miler until the following week, but my running partners talked me into it.  Sometimes peer pressure does have its benefits.

So, I ran I went into my 20 miler with only 3 miles recorded that week and I was dreading it.  I feared the worst and I warned my running partners that I would be all piss and vinegar and cussing up a storm.

After 5 miles, I had this weird pain in the top of my foot, like my shoelaces were too tight.  I tried to loosen them but things still hurt.  Overall it wasn’t my best, but we finished just under 4 hours and I could walk afterwards.  20 miles in the books!  And even with all those weird foot pains, I found the energy to do a 5-10-15-20 dance with my running partners.

20 miles
Time 3:56: 35
Ave Pace 11:50
Max Pace 8:07

Today, I decided against speedwork but elected to do a 4 mile tempo run.  I even threw some sprints in at the end.

4.25 miles
Time 40:46
Ave Pace 9:36
Max Pace 6:47 (0.25 sprint – 7:33)

According to variety of plans I’m following to make up my hybrid plan, this week is a step-back week to 12.  I like the sound of that distance.

What’s you running plans for the week?  Got some sprints to share?  What other work-outs are you doing?

I am excited to announce a new Track Tuesday co-host!  Meghan of runMeganrun will be joining me on the track for weekly speedwork.  The “rules” are still the same, so link up and play along with us.

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 runMeganrun 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+

peerFit Makes Fitness Hit New Heights

Thanks to my friends at peerFit, I can scratch partying on a rooftop off my bucket list now. Last Sunday, peerFit and Fitz Koehler hosted a rooftop fitness party in Hyde Park Village.  After running 12 miles earlier that day, I should skipped out I was primed and ready to go.

A sizable crowd arrived on the roof to get down and funky with fitness, but we had plenty of room on the roof to spread out to shake our moneymakers and spontaneous jazz hands.

To offer a taste of a variety of fitness programs, different instructors took turns leading the crowd.  The instructors’ high energy and enthusiasm about their classes encouraged us to keep moving.

Since I’m mostly a mother runner, I loved sampling a taste of the different types of group fitness classes that area vailable, but CXWORX totally kicked my butt.  My sad attempt at a few planks every day didn’t even come close to prepare me for the beating the CXWORX core work-out delivered.  I was sore for days.  And I loved it.

Admittedly, I’m a runner because it’s easy.  I can just get up and go.  I don’t have to constantly watch an instructor to see where to place my feet and follow along.  Although in more ways than one, there’s strength in numbers in a group fitness class.  The instructors push you.  They stretch you out of your comfort zone.  Their enthusiasm is contagious and every participant succumbs to it.  Plus, if you don’t keep moving, someone will grapevine right over you.

After an intense cardio work-out, we cooled down with some yoga and the long stretches were a welcomed sight.

Word on the street says peerFit plans to host monthly rooftop fitness parties and I hope that’s true.  But next time, how about some butler-served smoothies and protein bars at the party?

Want to make fitness fit your life?  Find a fitness class near you with the peerFit app now available for iPhone.

Denise Mestanza-Taylor+

peerFit Fits Tampa’s Lifestyle

It wasn’t necessary to bribe me with Seasons 52 to appreciate what peerFit does, although it may have helped.  The flatbreads, salads and two-bite shots of dessert might have sweetened the deal for me and love the peerFit presentation.

The founders of peerFit and Fitz Koehler invited a few local fitness bloggers to a lunch-and-learn to hear about the peerFit website and announce the launch of their new mobile application.

Through the site and the soon-to-be released mobile application, peerFit has found away to eliminate the excuses and help people reach their fitness goals.  As their slogan touts, peerFit is making fitness fit our lives.

Honestly, the concept is brilliant.  It’s like Urbanspoon or Yelp but only specific to fitness.  With a quick search, users can locate gyms or fitness classes nationwide and learn how other users have rated those classes.

The facilities and the instructors each have an intensity score so users can learn the difficulty of a class or an instructor before arriving.  With a five-point scale, users rate an instructor and the class and leave general feedback in the comments section.  After reading reviews, users can commit to going, add it to their calendars and/or receive a text reminder.  There’s even a social media option to share fitness classes with Facebook friends and Twitter followers.

Research states that 7% of people will try a new class cold, but 70% will try a new class based on peer reviews. peerFit is helping that 70% commit to fitness one hundred percent.

To learn more, like peerFit on Facebook and Twitter to stay up-to-date on the release date of the mobile application.  The peerFit crew love Twitter so tweet them any questions or suggestions you have about the site or the app.

And if you’re in the Tampa Bay area, you are cordially invited to a fitness party like no other! Join me and a few of your other favorite fitness bloggers on Sunday, November 11 at 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. in Hyde Park Village on top of Parking Garage C for an outdoor workout overlooking beautiful downtown Tampa led by celebrity fitness instructor Fitz Koehler.  This guaranteed to be fun fitness party will include circuit training ropes, yoga and local trainers providing training and information.  Plus, peerFit will offer music, giveaways and more.

Everyone is welcome, so bring a friend and I’ll see you there!   And you will see how peerFit makes fitness fit your life, calendar, social network… (fill in the blank).

Denise Mestanza-Taylor+

How I Sweat Pink, Think Pink and Act Pink

Yesterday, I underwent a second mammogram performed once again by Linda.  As I discovered last year, mammograms are nothing to fear.  Forget the horror stories of tortured ta-tas and boobs being squished.  It doesn’t hurt and for only few moments of being manhandled, you are preventing breast cancer.

Being over the age of…eh…hem…*cough*… forty, I’m the prime pink ribbon candidate.  Last year, I received my baseline mammogram (a series of four x-rays or four squishings) in order for my doctor to view the structure and composition of my breasts.  That baseline will be compared to yesterday’s mammogram and each of my future mammograms.

Linda informed me this year that even if you have no history of breast cancer in your family, you’re not out of the woods, though you’re risk is less than a woman with a family history.

According to the American Cancer Society,

“Breast cancer risk is higher among women whose close blood relatives have this disease.

Having one first-degree relative (mother, sister, or daughter) with breast cancer approximately doubles a woman’s risk. Having 2 first-degree relatives increases her risk about 3-fold.

The exact risk is not known, but women with a family history of breast cancer in a father or brother also have an increased risk of breast cancer.

Altogether, less than 15% of women with breast cancer have a family member with this disease. This means that most (over 85%) women who get breast cancer do not have a family history of this disease.

Some other risk factors include: (source komen.org)

  • being a woman
  • getting older — the older you get, the greater your
  • risk of breast cancer
  • having an inherited mutation in the BRCA1 or
  • BRCA2 breast cancer genes
  • a personal history of breast or ovarian cancer
  • a family history of breast cancer
  • having high breast density on a mammogram
  • having a previous biopsy showing hyperplasia
  • lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS)
  • being exposed to large amounts of radiation at a young age
  • never having children
  • having your first child after age 35
  • high levels of blood androgrens or estrogens
  • postmenopausal hormone use (current or recent use) of estrogen or estrogen plus progestin
  • being overweight after menopause or gaining weight as an adult
  • high bone density
  • having more than one drink of alcohol per day
  • starting menopause after age 55
  • being younger than 12 at the time of your first period
  • current or recent use of birth control pills

The bottom line is if you are a woman, you are at risk. Period.

So promise me you will go get squished.  Together, we are the cure.

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+