Saturday, December 20, 2008

Let there be light!!!

This is a magic time for everyone.

Christmas is in the air, can you feel it? See it? Taste it?

Being that I am a very visceral person, I like tactile things, things that I can wrap my senses around and get the full effect. One of the best things about this time of year are the various light displays around the Tampa Bay area. I don't mean the commercial ones, I'm talking about what people put up at their own houses.

This time of year, I drive around after dark with some Christmas music playing on the radio and some hot chocolate in the thermos (I know it's too hot for that, but I still need the effect!) and just look at what our Tampa Bay neighbors have done. There's nothing like a little holiday sight-seeing to get everyone in the mood.

I have literally driven all over the area these past few seasons and witnessed all kinds of Christmas sparkle: the beautiful, the festive, the religious, and of course the ridiculous. But even the ridiculous is not so ridiculous, if that makes any sense. It seems the more overboard these displays are, the bigger the oohs and aahs.

One the best holiday set-ups I have ever seen is in south St. Petersburg in the area of 17th Avenue South and Youvil Court South. There's only maybe three houses there, but they all join in and put up a mega-display that rivals any commercial site anywhere. Over the top doesn't even cover it; there are just no words. Go and take the kids and see it for yourself. (and if you can, drop them a couple of dollars toward their respective electric bills; they have a collection box outside to help fund the effort.)

I'd love to hear about any other displays that have struck you. Sign in and blog here!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas is too far away - I gave in!

Every year this happens to me, and I hope that I'm not alone: I can't make it all the way to Christmas. Someone just has to open something NOW!

You see, each year someone gets a big gift from me; something that they've dreamed about having or something maybe they saw on TV or in a store and thought they'd never be able to have. I don't have kids, so I like to spoil at least one family member this way. It's not that I have a tremendous amount of cash, but when I have it, I like to spend it on people.

Like one year we sent my mother for a full day at Safety Harbor Spa - some place she'd never go on her own. One year it was Coach bag my sister was in love with but couldn't afford. And last year I got my hands on a painting by Luke Chueh that my husband wanted.

This year, I found out that my sister's two boys, 10 and 5, had no computer. The older one is starting to need one for school projects; the little one loves playing the Sponge Bob Squarepants game on Nickelodeon's website. And they only have access to a computer when they visit their grandparents. So I splurged: A full HP desktop, flat screen, printer, the whole she-bang (at a small LOCAL retailer, thank you very much).

I dropped the gifts off so they could have them Christmas Day, but I couldn't take the anticipation anymore - so they opened them right then! (It took very little convincing.) I was more excited, I think, than they were. At 36, I was jumping up and down when the wrapping paper came off!

But I couldn't stop there. I had my sister and brother-in-law open their stuff, too. Awful, I know. But this way, I think, Christmas lasts just a little bit longer, doesn't it? In these scary times we're having, with the economic downturn and all the federal bail-outs, I think it's important to make all the good times last as long as possible. Give out as many smiles as you can. Show some love.

After all, isn't that what it's all about?

Monday, December 15, 2008

A heart-lifting childrens' Christmas tale by local author

What if your Christmas tree could talk?
What would say exactly? And what would it think of our Christmas traditions?
Local Tampa Bay author James Andrew Bowen explores these very questions in “A Tree’s Christmas: A talking tree’s story of its Christmas adventures.”
Yet however whimsical the subject may e, the story is anything but silly. A tale of family memories, of love and of faith, “A Tree’s Christmas” is told first from 13-year old Anne’s point of view. Through her eyes we see her family’s Christmas traditions, and learn of the special memory her and her father share every year when they lay their Christmas tree down in the garden to become part of the earth again.
It is a story not only children can relates to , but the adult audience as well; we all have those special ornaments that are handed down season to season that bring with it tales from Christmases past, and memories of departed loved ones.
Later chapters pick up this unusual story in the Christmas tree’s voice, with a running commentary given by Lucky, a 14-year old Irish setter and steadfast sidekick. The emotional adventures these two experience is sure to put a new perspective in reader’s hearts, both young and old. And the circle of life theme alone will tug at your tear ducts. I won’t give away the surprise ending. A great read!
Bowen is a local writer from Tampa, and this new Christmas classic can be purchased at It will be in local book stores soon, and I hear rumors of a local book tour and signing by the author. A Spanish-language version is also available. (Psst! A portion of all proceeds go to benefit the PACE Center for Girls in Hillsborough!) I’ll keep you guys posted on local dates.

Sunday, December 14, 2008 members in the news!

Two of our members have recently been in the news! (for doing GOOD things!)

Michele of North Tampa
is the queen of spice! Her hot sauces -- Intensity Academy -- have been featured on the Today show, too. And we hear she recently won a bunch of awards! Everyone, please congratulate Michele. Or better yet, buy her sauces :)

Here is the link to the Times article:

And our very own Old Gold Lady, aka Jackie Simpson, also has much to brag about. She was recently featured in tbt* and then again in the Times.

Here are the links:


Need extra cash? She'll buy your old gold. Broken, even!