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+

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 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+

Random Thoughts about a Purple Run, Pretty Muddy, peerFit, Planks and Track Tuesday

This Thursday, my Suncoast Strider family and I will run a purple 10K for the Wear Purple Virtual Run to Cure Epilepsy.  I am so grateful for the Suncoast Strider’s support for this cause and my niece, Meghan.  The support and kindness from strangers moved my SIL, Kirsten, to tears. Expect a full race recap soon!

This Saturday is the Pretty Muddy.  I tried to find vendors to sponsor my Tampa Bay Blogger team with some Pretty Muddyfun camouflage running skirts but sadly, that didn’t happen.  Maybe next time?  *Hint…hint…to any vendors reading this post.*

Since costumes are encouraged for this event, I thought I would wear my Race for Cure ensemble.  I hated running in that tutu because it was so dang hot and I could care less if I ruin it in the mud.  To save my legs from getting torn up on the ropes, I’ll wear running capris underneath the pink tutu and a pink/black top to match. Of course, a black top may not show off all the mud like a lighter color would, but I really don’t want to ruin my other tops.

In preparation for the Pretty Muddy, my fellow runner girl bloggers and I will preview the course at the Little Everglades Ranch this Friday.  I’m really nervous about the all the mud and the obstacles, but still super excited about the event.  Plus, I finally get to meet Courtney of Journey of a Dreamer, who has been a long time Run DMT reader and coordinated so many pre-Pretty Muddy events here in Tampa.

Also, this weekend is the peerFit meetup in Hyde Park.  I’m excited about that too because it sounds like a lot of fun!  If you’re in the ‘hood on Sunday, come on by!

As for my marathon training, last week was a wasted week with Halloween and Allana’s birthday.  I only ran twice last week.  At least I got my 16 miles in and lived to tell about it and thankfully, I have not experienced any plantar fasciitis pain since I replaced my shoes.  *knock on wood*

I was also grateful that I didn’t have to run 16 miles alone. Chrissy, Maribel and Larisa ran with me in my neighborhood and I thanked them with a runner’s tailgate (a cooler full of orange slices, bananas, water, Gatorade, coconut water and chocolate milk).

Even with all the twists and turns through my neighborhood,  everyone survived with only a few complaints. lol But more importantly, it was Chrissy and Maribel’s LE and they did GREAT!  I am so proud of those girls!!!

16 miles
Time 3:00:40
Ave Pace 11:13
Max Pace 8:30

This morning, I did my usual speedwork, however, my Garmin was dead because someone (probably me) unplugged the charging station from my computer’s USB port, which totally blows.  I have no idea how I performed this morning, but I did do sprints.  You’ll just have to take my word on it.  I’m sure I rocked it. HA!

While you’re taking my word on my fitness achievements, I’m doing planks every day, three times a day and you can too by signing up here.

How about you?  Did you do sprints?  With Halloween, did you have a wasted week too?  

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*


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+

I’m Feeling Pretty Muddy

Pretty MuddyRecently, I was approached to join Tampa’s Pretty Muddy event on November 10.  Though have to admit, mud events don’t float my boat.  I honestly had no desire to do one because of all the…well…mud.  After all, I pay good money for these running shoes!  Why would I go tromping and trailblazing through mud only to ruin my running shoes?

Then, I discovered the Pretty Muddy.  It’s the only all female pink mud run with “architectural obstacles” which I hope means there is no electric fence.  There is, however, a huge inflatable slide.  And there are bubbles.

A muddy event with bubbles?  Is there bubbly at the finish line too?  Pink champagne for a pink race would be a nice touch.  Or maybe they could serve mud slides once you cross the finish line?

But the best part is that participants can choose not to do the obstacles“Every obstacle will have a sign showing you around it. Only do the ones you feel comfortable doing and don’t feel bad going around a few – this is your day, do what you want to do.” Pretty Muddy

I know. I know. That’s lame and I’m o.k. with that, because at the Pretty Muddy (and only the Pretty Muddy), if I don’t want to crawl through mud, I don’t have to do it.  It’s my day, my race and I can do what want.  See, now that’s my kind of mud run.

But who knows, I may have a change of heart.  After all, “the obstacles were built with “fun” being the number one objective. Some will challenge you a little, some might challenge you a lot – but we’ll be there every step of the way to help you through it.”

So, I’m all signed up.  Now all I need is the outfit.  I’m thinking pink camouflage.  What do you think?

If you want to be part of the Pretty Muddy action here in Tampa, there is an exclusive $10 off coupon code for Run DMT readers: deniseisrundmt.  Sign up quick!  This code expires after October 27.

Let’s get Pretty Muddy together…or not.  But either way, we will definitely have fun!

Denise Mestanza-Taylor+

Datz What We’re Talking About!

What do you get when you mix some of the best food in the bay with some of Tampa Bay’s best bloggers?  You’re guaranteed conversation and food that leaves you craving for more.

Last Saturday, the Tampa Bay Bloggers (Top left to right Running BettyGone Bananas, Fit Kids PlaygroundDigital Running and Run DMT) met to share blogging conference experiences and current projects.  Though everyone always learns so much from our meetups, the food truly set this meetup apart from all the others as Chef Jason of Datz created a special menu full of fall flavors just for us.

Our four course meal started with Butternut Squash and Apple Bisque topped with a five-spice froth, an item not currently on the menu.  The froth melted before any of us could capture it, however, capturing everyone’s expressions as they sampled the soup (or “Fall in a Bowl” as we coined it) would have been equally momentous.  Surprisingly less sweet than anticipated, the spices added an unexpected and pleasant savoriness  to the soup.

Next, Chef Jason served us family style platters of Figgy Piggy Salad followed by equally ginormous portions of Roasted Beet Salad.  The combination of the dried mission figs and the pumpkin seeds of the Figgy Piggy Salad offered such an unusual crunch and texture to salad.  Try as we might to replicate Chef Jason’s creation in our own kitchens, we would need to learn the secret to his warm bacon vinaigrette first.

*Photo provided by Datz*

The peppery arugula topped with pickled onions offered such a lovely tartness to of the Roasted Beet Salad.  The goat cheese and the balsamic glaze added just the right sweetness and balance to finish the salad.

*Photo provided by Datz*

For our final course, Chef Jason presented his newest addition to the Datz fall menu, Harvest Ravioli.  Pillows of squash raviolis served with sage and brown butter sauce and shaved parmesan are the finest of fall comfort food and Chef Jason highly recommended trying the raviolis with scallops, which sounds unbelievable.  Unfortunately, I had to take everyone’s word as to how wonderful the raviolis were because they contained walnuts and an epinephrine shot would have really ruined the evening.

*Photo provided by Datz*

Since I missed out on the raviolis, I ordered the famous Datchos, a pile of Datz homemade potato chips served with chili, cheese, jalapenos, sour cream and blue cheese drizzle and scallions.  I added pulled chicken to my pile of Datchos, a suggestion from our server, Maite, whose knowledge of craft beers and food pairings made an already spectacular meal even better.

We couldn’t end the evening without sampling some dessert, such as the Peanut Chocolate Explosion and a Seven Layer Chocolate Cake.  Two large slices of rich, heavenly cakes shared between us because apparently someone in the bunch had a chocolate craving.

*Photo by Kirsten of Gone Bananas*

My only regret is that we didn’t have a larger turn-out for the event but I’m blaming it on the FSU/USF game and not the location nor the food.  Hopefully, Datz and the Tampa Bay Bloggers can team up again.

In the meantime, I’m asking Santa for more Datz during the holidays.  Is it too soon to add Datz to my Christmas wish list?  Because nothing says Christmas like a Figgy Piggy pudding Salad from Datz!

Want to join our next Tampa Bay Blogger meetup?  Join us on Facebook for updates on food and fun with your favorite local Tampa Bay Bloggers.

Tweet @datz4foodies to tell Datz you fell in love with the fall menu and you read about it via Run DMT @denisermt.

For inquires or reservations, visit Datz at datzdeli.com.

Denise Mestanza-Taylor+