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+

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A Holiday Sampling at Datz

Last Wednesday, Christmas came early when Chef Jason and our friends at Datz prepared a holiday tasting for the Tampa Bay Bloggers.

As usual, Datz rolled out the red carpet with chilled cocktails ready and waiting for us.  This holiday cocktail, Wreck the Halls, mixes 360 Madagascar vanilla vodka, Kahlúa peppermint mocha and Adult Chocolate Milk, which made our evening very merry and bright.

For our first course, we sampled Flatbreads topped with fig, pear, goat cheese and arugula.  The combination of tangy fruits and goat cheese with the crispness of the flatbread bundled a bit of Christmas flare in every bite.

Then, we nibbled on new-to-me dish, Poutine.  The gooey, gravy goodness and the fries were a meal in itself. (After all, chips and gravy is a British delicacy.)  Toss in some cheese curds and a fried egg on top and now you have a complete dinner.  But ours didn’t stop there.

Next, we noshed on Corn Fritters with Powdered Sugar and Jalapeño Maple Syrup.  The heat and sweetness of the jalapeño maple syrups finished the fritters off perfectly.

Photo credit to Datz

Our holiday sampling quickly became a feast once the main course arrived, Black Tea-Spiced Baby, Free Rage Chicken with Asian Pear Chutney served with Curried Vegan Winter Stew.

 Just when we thought we couldn’t possible eat another bite, Chef Jason saved the best bite for last: Battered and Fried Oreos.  It was deep fried slice of heaven.

But our evening didn’t end with dessert.  To wrap up our tasty evening, the Tampa Bay Bloggers and I participated in a Secret Santa Swag Swap.  Upon arrival, we placed our gifts under a slim Christmas tree, a beautiful centerpiece.

Jina of Behold the Turtle took home my Turbie Twist.

I scored some lovely lingerie from Raffi of Running Betty.  Thanks to this sexy little number, I’ve been added to Santa’s naughty list for sure.

The evening was epic, but don’t take my word for it.

For more reviews of our Datz holiday sampling and our fun Secret Santa Swag Swap, visit my fellow Tampa Bay Bloggers.

Running Betty

My Fascinating Life

By the way, the Tampa Bay Bloggers are so tasty, we were featured in the menu just below Eddie Vedder.  Yep, we’re as hot and juicy as Eddie.

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+

Tupper Feeling Deep in My Heart for Dixie

When I received an invitation to Dixie’s Tupperware Party, I dusted off my Amy Winehouse wig just for the occasion and if I had some real Tupperware, I would have brought that too.

Photo credit: Bradford Rogne

Dixie’s Tupperware Party is not your “grandmother Tupperware Party” (NBC Today Show).  Dixie has taken the Tupperware world by storm and transformed it into something reminiscent of a Passion Party.  Hold onto tight to that corkscrew and strap on in for a wild ride because Dixie will show you a side of Tupperware you have never experienced before, one “more fun than a gaggle of lesbians at a Home Depot sidewalk sale”.

Grab your girlfriends for the ultimate girl’s night out with your favorite southern belle hostess, Dixie Longate. 

Dixie Longate, the fast-talking Tupperware Lady, has packed up her catalogues, and left her children in an Alabama trailer park to journey across the country. Join Dixie as she throws a good ol’ fashioned Tupperware Party filled with outrageously funny tales, heartfelt accounts, FREE giveaways, audience participation and the most fabulous assortment of Tupperware ever sold on a theater stage. Loaded with the most up-to-date products available for purchase, see for yourself how Ms. Longate became the #1 Tupperware seller in the U.S. and Canada, as she educates her guests on the many alternative uses she has discovered for her plastic products! WARNING: recommended for mature audiences.

Complete with catalogues and order forms, guests welcomed into Dixie’s living room can find gifts for everyone on their Christmas list and the “Unchristmas, Chaka Khan Jewish holiday” too.  Much like Tupperware’s lifetime guarantee for its “great crap”, Dixie delivers a presentation full of laughs complete with one-liners and innuendoes that popup faster than a FlatOut!® bowl.

Raffi and her friend, Jennifer, were invited to sit on Dixie’s sofa.

The classics are still Tupperware’s top sellers, but Dixie offers her guests new ideas for the classic products.  I will never look at a Shape-O Toy® the same way.  Dixie also proudly declares Tupperware products to be BPA-free as well as provides helpful tips to keep those beautiful colorful plastic bowls stain-free.

After Dixie’s Tupperware Party, my blogger friends and I had the pleasure to meet Dixie in the lobby where she processed Tupperware orders, signed autographs and posed for photos.  Her loving, adorable presence glows on and off stage.

“Denise, I love you more than an Asian girl loves counting. xo Dixie Longate”

Dixie’s Tupperware Party premieres December 4 through December 9 in the Jaeb Theater at The David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts.  Tickets may be purchased by visiting strazcenter.org.

*I received tickets to Dixie Tupperware Party in exchange for my honest review.*
Denise Mestanza-Taylor+

Elf The Musical: Buddy Brings Tights and Tinsel Town to Tampa

I’m singing.

I’m in a theater watching Elf and I’m singing.

Every since the Straz Center provided tickets to Tampa Bay Bloggers, I’ve been all sparklejollytwinklejingley with excitement.

Matt Kopec (Buddy) and the cast of “Elf The Musical”. Photo by Joan Marcus

Elf The Musical is based on the Christmas classic Elf starring Will Ferrell.  Through high energy dance numbers and toe tapping tunes, Elf The Musical tells the tale of Buddy the elf, a human misplaced in the North Pole who travels to New York City to find his father while uncovering the true meaning of Christmas for others along the way.

Matt Kopec (Buddy) and Gordon Gray (Santa) in “Elf The Musical”. Photo by Joan Marcus

Elf The Musical shares many of the same comedic antics, one-liners and funny punch lines from the film, but many new funny moments will make your belly shake like a bowl of jelly.  Although some favorite moments from the movie appear in the musical (the revolving door) others didn’t make the cut, such as the famous snowball scene or the singing in the shower scene.

The overall warm cocoa feeling of Christmas and the colorful costumes set the stage beautifully for the start of the Christmas season.   Having visited New York City during the holiday season, the show captures that magic brilliantly.  Rollerblades replace ice skates on a mock rink in front of Rockfeller Center, but the merriment still feels genuine.

Since we’re already share an affinity for elf culture, my family and I loved the live performance.  After watching Santa’s sleigh soar through the final scene, we left the theater full of Christmas spirit and singing, of course.

We just watched Elf The Musical and we’re singing.

Elf The Musical is now playing in Tampa.  Visit strazcenter.org for show times and tickets.

For tour information, visit elfthemusicalontour.com.

*The Straz Center provided my family and me with tickets for Elf The Musical in exchange for my honest review of the show.  The opinions provided are my own.*

*Production photos of Elf The Musical provided by the David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts .*

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+

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+