Entries Tagged 'Tampa' ↓

Tampa BlogHer: Blogs, Beer, Men in Kilts

I haven’t stuck with blogging all these years because I like the sound of my own voice. On the contrary, I like people a whole lot more than yacking ceaselessly in my own plotted out space on the Internet. And people, many many people, with their own plotted space on the Internet, are actually behind all of these blogs. Blogs discussing side by side, leading to real interaction, leading to community. What you say matters, affects another, they respond, you connect, you have found someone like you and conversation and change and all kinds of crap you never expected would ever happen, HAPPENS. And you never even have to leave the house while your child naps in the other room, either.

So, knowing that community is what this blogging beast is really all about, I took my blog out of the house to meet some people behind the online connections last Saturday. I met a group of folks down at The Pub for Tampa BlogHer.

It’s an amazing thing, this blogging social media world. Because, while I had only met a few of those folks “in real life” before, I was greeted with hugs and familiarity and comfort. I know these people. We’ve known each other for years. Through this community we’ve built.

I’m excited because we’re going to really work on building up our local Tampa blogging community more. Another get-together is being planned for March. There is chatter of a Facebook page for local area bloggers — a place to keep networking, reaching out, making sure one has another’s back, maybe passing on event updates and tweet-up info. or which conferences are good or maybe some suggestions for reviews.

I love blogging. But I love people even more. I love media and words and information, but I love being social about it even more. When I can, I want to keep prioritizing the community part of this blogging beast. It’s important. It’s networking with heart. It reaches places I never expected it could.

I had a fantastic time seeing everyone that night. Tampa has a wonderful core of real and talented bloggers and writers. I can’t wait to see everyone again. But, really? I can’t wait to see what we’ll do next.

Oh wait. I forgot to talk about the men in kilts. So. There were very nice men who worked there dressed in kilts. And before I say something very double standard-ish and contrary to my usual non-objectifying tendencies… just make your way to The Pub yourself and come to your own conclusions about why I felt the need to give “men in kilts” the honor of being in the title of this blog post.

Picture courtesy of our host, Denise of @denisermt. Read her great wrap-up post here.

Others there?

Erika of Southern Fried Lives

Angel of Cheeky Sweetie

Maria of Mommy Melee

Raffi of Betty Running

Brian of Digital Running

Kirsten of Gone Bananas

Karen of If I Could Escape

Susie of Hide and Go Scrap

Clarissa at TBO

Motherhood, The Musical: My Review

Is motherhood something to be laughed at? Because, you know and I know that there are times when mothers completely lose their sense of humor. Poof, gone, lost, for a very long time. At 4am with a screaming — or giggling, wide-awake — baby. At 5pm, the witching hour, when dinner isn’t ready yet and you’re ankle deep in toddler tantrums. At the grocery store when you can’t seem to get down an aisle without screaming at your fighting children. Motherhood can be slow, endless, Chinese water torture, threatening to pull you deep, down into stewing pits of parenting despair. I’ll admit that it’s the hardest thing I have ever done.

And that’s why finding any outlet to laugh at parenting is so damn important.

And that’s where “Motherhood, The Musical” comes in.

I was asked to review this musical, now playing at the Straz Center in downtown Tampa, last week. And, since I am sucker for musicals (don’t even get me STARTED on my obsession with “Wicked”) and since I just really like the folks at the Straz, I was 100% down for some funny mom theater. Plus, I’ve seen lots of Facebook statuses raving about the show: “I laughed! I cried!” So, I was excited to check it out.

I rounded up two very deserving moms from my work to come with me and we set out for the Straz after a particularly crazy week at work.

The show was in the Jaeb Theater which is a smaller, cabaret style theater. We found our seats around a small table, surrounded by (no surprise here) many other mothers gathered for the show. The space was intimate — which meant a comfortable, more connected experience. I was impressed right away as the theater staff began the evening by reaching out to pregnant moms in the audience. They also sold pins with the profits going to autism research. And they even had cute “Motherhood, The Musical” postcards on the table which we could fill out and they would send for us if we dropped it in a mailbox in the lobby. (I sent one to my mother-in-law.) I have to say, the people who work at the Straz are just nice. They smile, they ask you how you are, they take pictures for you, they just make the whole vibe comfortable and welcoming. And, being a theater dork from way back, I think that really helps set the vibe for the show itself – so “cheers” to them…

Now, what did I think of the show itself? It was really great. Truly. But let me start with a couple negatives first.

Admittedly, they touched on a few cliches. You know, “we’re not gonna take cooking and cleaning anymore”  kind of thing. The naive pregnant mom, and the “knowing”, jaded other mothers hell bent on scaring the crap out of her. Mini-vans, grocery shopping, and husbands that have very little to do with parenting at all.

However. They took these typical motherhood cliches (which are only cliches because they are common experiences, by the way) and turned them into gut-busting, musical hilarity. The women who played the four mothers in the show were FANTASTIC. I kind of want to be friends with the divorced mom and the working mom. No, really. I want to have drinks with them because they have to be that awesome in real-life. (Hey ladies, email me! I can try to be awesome too!)

Also, the lyrics and the music in the show are both excellent. The lyrics are very well written, just FUNNY. Cliche or not, the mini-van song was hysterical. They took the sagging and leaking experiences of so many mothers and made anthems out of them. Even the “no more cooking and cleaning” thing was awesome. They rocked out. And I laughed. A lot.

And so did the women around us. Seriously. Women were howling, and stomping the floor, and standing, and cheering. Clearly, this show connected with the majority of the audience.

I also cried a little. No, I did. The song about “Every Other Weekend” in which the divorced mom sang about what it is like to be alone every other weekend. And how the kids come home spoiled by their fathers and she has to be the bad guy, and how she manages… well. I totally boo-hooed and said a little thankful prayer that I don’t have to experience weekends like those.

I don’t think this is a show for the majority of husbands. (Maybe some, but certainly not mine. His eye-rolling would have annoyed the hell out of me.) And, I don’t think this is a show for women who have no interest in parenting yet. I know one woman who saw it, but who isn’t anywhere near ready for children, and she said it “scared the crap out of her”. That said, bring your mother. Bring your mom friends. Bring your pregnant daughter. Bring the moms at work and the moms on your block and the teachers of your children. I suspect they will love it.

Also, if you’re going to get hung up the cliches and parenting generalizations, just check those at the door. Relax. Have fun. Let yourself laugh. Don’t take it too seriously. This isn’t supposed to be heavy stuff or some wildly prophetic social commentary. Its fun, and very funny. And it’s obviously something many, many, MANY mothers just “get”.

Cheers to the Straz and the awesome actors who rock that show out night after night (I kind of want your life). You did a fantastic job. Thanks for reminding me to laugh at this mothering stuff and then leave me ready to get back home and hug my boys super tight. Laughing like I did that night made me take a step back, accept the good and the ugly of this motherhood thing, and simply appreciate it so much more.

Want to go see it now? Get $29 tickets to see “Motherhood, The Musical” at the Straz Center through August 28th. Use promo code TIX29. The offer ends August 12th, though!  Restrictions and charges apply.

 

Shrek the Musical: A Mom’s Review

So last night I spent my evening laughing at farts and burps, revisiting favorite fairy tales and watching a big guy pick his wedgie on multiple occasions. No, this wasn’t another evening in my household overrun by boys. I was at the opening night of “Shrek the Musical” at the Straz Center in downtown Tampa with my four year old, his friend and her mother.

Awhile back, the Straz asked me if I would review “Shrek the Musical”. Being a freak for musicals (but that’s ok, “freak” works for this show, but I’ll come back to that later), I jumped at this opportunity. So, with our media passes in hand and a couple booster seats tucked under our arms, we settled into fantastic seats to watch the show.

What did I expect? I’ve seen a lot kids shows, you know. “Disney on Ice” stuff and the rest. They’re fun. Enjoyable enough. Certainly all about the kids. And I’ve seen every Shrek movie made so I already knew (and certainly already loved) this musical’s story line. So I was expecting what I already knew: the Shrek storyline, some fun costumes, some singing and happy tra-la-la usual kid-show carrying on. Weee.

That said, I had heard great things about the show too. It’s a big time musical, after all.

So I had kind of set myself up for failure. Nothing about kids shows would amaze me at this point, right? AND I had heard this would be good, so it had BETTER be.

So… how was it?

Folks, I loved it. It was better than I expected. I literally laughed out loud during every scene. I mean, lordy, where do I begin?

Yep, Shrek was funny. Oh and the Donkey was AWESOME. Really, really good. He managed to maintain – if not amp up – an insane energy level throughout the show. Fiona remains a fantastic brand of princess, no doubt. Her song about the morning, where she tap dances with the Pied Piper’s Mice, NEEDS to be my blog theme son.

Oh. But Lord Faquaad? He nailed it. I was dying. His carrying on, his delivery and his character were, I think, far better than what I remembered from the movie. And the thing about his height? The costumers decided to put him on his knees with fake legs hanging down in front. It doesn’t translate right here but, I swear to you, it was hysterical. He played off of it so well which made his “shortness” an absolute riot throughout the show as he navigated the stage, the dancing scenes and his horse.

But who stole the show? The dragon. I wanted to leap out of my seat and cheer when her number was over (my four year, who had crawled onto my lap, kept me anchored, however). They did a fantastic job making her character come to life even for the short period of time she was on stage. And her voice was to die for. I think the dragon was my favorite part and I only wish they could have brought her back in the end again. She really was wonderful.

And so was Lord Faquaad.

And so was the Donkey and the Three Blind Mice who crooned a soulful Barry White/Marvin Gaye-esque love jam to Shrek and Fiona over a campfire.

And so was the end when we were all up out of our seats dancing.

“Shrek the Musical” totally captured the vibe of the movie – and then went a little further with it. It was just a bit funnier and different enough to make it surprising. The songs were all original (apart from the very final scene) and there were some new twists and turns in the plot along the way which only made the story better.

And of course I adored the overall moral of this fairytale. I think it was summed up best by the storybook characters who adopted the phrase “Let Your Freak Flag Fly” as their way of celebrating each of their unique fairytale traits. It was clearly the anthem of the show – and one I kind of want to adopt myself.

My only complaint? (Apart from not enough Dragon time?) It was a long show for little kids. Mine was asking me “Is it was over yet?” throughout the last last fifteen minutes. I don’t blame the show itself (even though a few singing numbers went on a bit), it was just late for them. I would suggest matinee shows for the really younger crowd. Nevertheless, both kids were glued for the majority of it and the Fiona vs. Shrek Fart/Burp contest? My kid almost slipped off his booster seat from laughing so hard.

Not to mention the fact that he felt inspired enough to let one rip himself later in the show leaving the audience members around us in hysterics. Way to feel the theater moment, kid.

Anyway, go with your kids if you can. If you don’t have kids, go anyway. I don’t really see it as a kids show with adult humor, but it seems more like an adult show with kids humor that they get and are able to watch without picking up on the adult themes.

Go. Love it. Let ‘er rip (it will only add to the show). And let your freak flag fly.

Oh I almost forgot. I have promo code info:

Save 50% off select tickets to see SHREK THE MUSICAL this week.  Use promo code SWAMP and you can save on performances Thursday and Sunday evening.  This offer is available in price levels 1-3 only and is limited to 4 tickets.  All offers are not applicable to prior sales, cannot be combined with any other offer and are subject to availability.  Service charges apply.

FTC stuff: I received four complimentary tickets to review the show however I was not paid in anyway for my opinions in this post.

Mickey’s Magic Show Tampa Ticket Giveaway

Who knew Mickey did magic?

(What am I saying. Of course Mickey does magic. Disney World is only the “most magical place on earth”. What kind of Florida resident am I? These are things I should just KNOW, right?)

Well. OK, but did you know that Mickey does magic ON TOUR? I know, pretty cool right?

And here’s the really magical part. I have been offered tickets to Disney Live! Mickey’s Magic Show when it comes to the Bay area in early March. That means tickets for me – so I can review it and tell you all about it – and tickets for YOU so that you and three family members can just go and have fun and be amazed with your kids!

Again, cool right?

The Magic Show is coming to the Lakeland Center March 2-3, the Mahaffey Theatre March 4 and the St. Pete Times Forum March 6. Tickets start at $15 and complete details are at DisneyLive.com. Oh! And if you’re buying tickets, be sure to use the $3.00 discount code: MAGIC.

The four tickets I am giving away are for the 5:30pm, March 6th show at the St. Pete Times Forum.

Want to go?

Just leave a comment telling me what kind of magic you need in your life right now. Because we all need a little magic in our lives. Seriously.

You can enter up to three times by leaving comments here, tweeting (feel free to copy and paste: I just entered to win four tickets to the Disney Live! Mickey’s Magic Show at @sptimesforum here. http://wp.me/ptpXZ-13H #Tampa #Giveaway) or by sharing this on facebook. Just come back here and tell me that you did. And don’t forget to leave your email when prompted so I can contact you if you win.

The giveaway closes on February 17th and the winner will be selected at random.

Anyway, I’m really looking forward to taking my kids to see the show. If you’re curious to see what the show might be like, check out a quick preview below.

Update: We have a winner. Congratulations Kelly! I hope you and your fam enjoy the show!

Florida Fall

Here we go again. I had to turn my A/C back on. I wanted it to be Fall. And it was Fall for a little while. My boys and I played in the backyard, windows wide open, humidity gone and temperatures perfectly perfect.

But no. Florida came back to remind me that all bets are off down here. Never pack your summer clothes and always keep your A/C vent clean. It was 89 degrees today.

As a kind of, former New Englander, I get asked about this time of year a lot. Don’t you miss the changing leaves? What is it like living without any seasons? Isn’t it weird to celebrate Halloween or Christmas in the warm weather?

I guess.

I’ve lived in Florida for over five years now – a fact which blows my mind in its own right. And it is not the same down here. With the A/C and a tank top on right now, yeah, its hard to feel all hot cidery and crunchy leavey about this time of year.

But does that make this season any less like Halloween? Maybe its a cop out, but I argue that it’s just, well, different. And haven’t we learned from many an Afterschool Special that different IS OK, dammit?

Most of the U.S. celebrates holidays and seasons similarly with certain colors, temperatures, smells in the air, clothes worn and sun shifts across the sky. It’s familiar, it’s comfortable, it’s how it’s done.

But Florida plays by its own rules. It sticks out south here and tries to get all chummy with the West Indies, Mexico and Central America. Like some rebellious teen, it acts all “I’m sooo not anything like my family”. And then, after glancing northward at its sibling states, it insists “I don’t know what they’re into but I totally roll with humidity, keeerazy sun and palm trees, yo.” And it does.

But eventually Florida shrugs off its humidity and plays by the rules for a small while. The air does get “cooler” and the A/C is switched off. And while others worry about jackets over Halloween costumes, we worry about… well, nothing. Because Halloween night here almost always promises perfect, dry weather, folding chairs pulled into the driveway, pink and purple skies, laughing neighbors and temperate breezes. It is a beautiful absolutely spectacular time of year. And one we can’t help but enjoy adopting as “typical” Fall weather.

You see, after 5 years, I’ve learned to look a little closer and find that seasonal specialness that comes with this time of year. It is here. T-shirt and flip flop worthy, sure – but it is here.

Sometimes, if you look carefully in certain light, the colors of Fall are there.

Sometimes the sky is more orange than any pumpkin you will find.

After 5 years, new symbols of fall emerge. Like a drying stump in the backyard or beautiful berries on a bush.

Sunflowers come and sunflowers go. (And then come back again.)

And yes, sometimes, our leaves change too.

Happy Halloween. The beers will be on ice in our driveway on Sunday if you want to stop by…

Savvy Savings for Tampa Parents

Ok forgive me for a minute while I do a little business here. But I have some info to share that you really might want to hear. I promise. Because it involves a favorite little thing we all like to do called saving money. Uh-huh, that’s right. And even better? It involves saving money while entertaining our children. Drool worthy, no? So here’s the deal. Savvy Source has just launched its Savvy Savings and Scholarships program. And before you click away because you don’t live in Tampa, you should know that these savings are being offered in Atlanta, Boston, Denver, Minneapolis, New York Metro, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle and… Tampa!

So what are they offering?

Similar to Groupon, Savvy Source is sharing regular discounts to family friendly spots locally. Savings are expected to be 50-75% off original prices or membership fees. But unlike Groupon, the savings offers last longer than just one day (about a week). Another fantastic difference? 5% of your purchase is donated to a school of your choice and 5% is donated to a preschool scholarship fund.

I love that part. As a parent, nothing feels better than supporting schools while they struggle to stay afloat through so many budget cuts.

So if you’re curious about how it works, go here. Signing up is free and you will receive emails announcing the discounts regularly.

Oh and I should mention that if you are a blogger or are online regularly (Facebook counts) you can become a partner with Savvy Source and earn a percentage of the purchases made by those who sign up under you. I’m a partner, anyone can be, so feel free to sign up.

Here’s hoping you all bask in the savings. While entertaining your children. There’s nothing better.

Tampa’s Better-Than-A-Picnic Picnic

If you live in the Tampa Bay area, tell me you have already saved the date, right? Yep, Saturday, June 26th is coming up and The Motherhood, Hebrew National and all of the blogger co-hosts have a very fun picnic planned for that day. And we really reeeeally want you and your family to come.

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And why should you? Well, here are my top five reasons WHY you MUST come.

1) Get your grub on. Who wants to think up lunch for the whole family when it’s already there waiting for you? With fun and games too. It’s a lunch no brainer.

2) Be one with nature. E. G. Simmons Park is located in Ruskin on Tampa Bay. You’ll enjoy all that is beautiful about our local environs. Our coastline is so damn beautiful it will make you weepy – and you know it. Don’t forget the camera!

3) Watch me wrangle three boys. They aren’t all mine but I will be parenting them that day. And they like to fight. You might want to grab food from reason #1, park yourself on a bench and watch them have at it. I promise to try and keep my scolding G rated. It’s a family event after all.

4) The Mechanical bull. Ride ‘em cowboy. And you think I’m kidding? Check out the video taken by Mommy Words at her local Hebrew National picnic!

5) The Oil Spill. That’s right, here’s your chance to DO SOMETHING. A representative from the National Wildlife Federation will be there to answer questions. And we will be hosting a service activity aimed at giving children a chance to assist with the oil spill. We will also be collecting donated items which can help oil spill relief. The organizations we are supporting have donation lists here:

National Wildlife Federation Donation List

Save Our Seabirds Donation List

Some useful items to bring could be:

  • Dawn dishsoap
  • Backpacks
  • Clipboards
  • Hats
  • Sunscreen
  • Bleach
  • Wire or bolt cutters
  • Paper towels
  • Towels
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Sand paper
  • Bungee cords
  • Work gloves (medium. large, extra large)

WHO:

The other blog hosts will be (drum roll please because they are fab)…

Connie Roberts from Brain Foggles

Tracey Henry from Suburban Diva

Janet Dean from Green Mom Review

UPDATE: And we just found out one other very special guest will be there too…. ELMO!!!

WHEN: Saturday, June 26th from 11:30 AM – 3:30 PM

WHERE:

E. G. Simmons Park
2401 19th Avenue, N.W.
Ruskin, FL 33570
Shelter 17
(Off U.S. 41 in South Hillsborough County)

Important update: Be sure to mention at the park’s entrance that you are there for the “Hebrew National Picnic” to receive free admission!

The event is on Facebook too!

Please come!

FTC Disclaimer: The Motherhood and Hebrew National are compensating me to host and promote this event.

A Picnic Save the Date

So, do you want to go on a picnic?

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Hebrew National has invited four Tampa bloggers (myself included) to co-host a local picnic on June 26th. There will be all sorts of delish food (including plenty of Hebrew National hot dogs), music, interactive games and various kids activities.

Rumor has it there will even be a mechanical bull.

Um, step aside people. I am ALL over that.

While food, fun, family and mechanical bulls would have been enough to get me down there, I will tell you what excites me most about this picnic. We are going to be running a service project during the event. And what will our service project focus on?

The oil spill.

Details are to come but we are hoping to provide the Tampa community with the chance to participate in an on site activity aimed at helping local charities and organizations committed to assisting oil spill clean up.

I’ll be back later with further details but for now, please save the date.

When:

June 26th 11:30 – 3:30

Where:

E. G. Simmons Park
2401 19th Avenue, N.W.
Ruskin, FL 33570
(Off U.S. 41 in South Hillsborough County)

Island Nights at Adventure Island

Adventure Island in Tampa officially began its season of “Island Nights” on June 10th. And the folks at Adventure Island graciously invited me to bring my family and check it all out. Considering how much my children love water and how HOT it has been in Tampa already, we jumped at the chance to see what this water park is all about.

For three nights a week during the summer, Adventure Island opens its doors to families late into the evening. Guests are welcome to cool off at night on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from June 10th – August 14th.

And why would anyone want to hit a water park in the evening? If you’re asking that question, you’re obviously not from Florida. The sun here is HOT. Floridians are constantly concerned about sunburns and sunscreen reapplication. Also the heat of a summer day in Florida, water park or not, can be a bit overwhelming. Even when the sun sets, the air stays very warm in Florida. So being able to soak our summer weary bodies without the intense sun makes an evening visit to Adventure Island a very cool and refreshing plus.

So what did we think? My boys and I had a fantastic time. Truly. There are water rides for every age: splash pools for toddlers, age appropriate slides, climbing fun, water guns and dumping buckets for bigger kids, and then every combination of water slide for the oldest kids.

And by oldest kids I mean adults. Because there is something about a water park that makes every adult a kid again.

There are good deals for Florida and Georgia residents so check their website for ticket prices. However, be prepared to pay an extra $12.00 for parking. And if you want to rent a locker (which is very convenient) they cost $12.00 a day too. Also, I’ve heard that you need to get to the park early during the day to stake out a spot. We didn’t have any issues with a place for our things during the evening (we also rented a locker) but it is something to be aware of as the park gets busy.

Here is a quick video of our visit. It’s quick because I spent most of my time having fun. But it should give you a feel for the place during the evening. Plus my very sad seven year old at the end of the video (he did NOT want to leave, he had the time of his life, truly) cracked me up. Poor kid. But his tears are a sincere indication of how much fun he really had at Adventure Island that night.

Enjoy!

FTC Disclosure: Adventure Island paid for my family’s parking and admission.

The Gulf’s Guests

We are only guests here.

A few years back, I happened to put a few roots down some miles from the Gulf. I had no presumptions about what magic we would find here either. But within days, we found it. Drawn by some inner pull towards the shore and our general curiosity to see what all the fuss was about, we arrived at the Gulf’s coastline.

And we fell in love.

The Gulf stands clear and calm, mild and magnificent. Unlike the rough, tumbling waters we already knew off the shores of New England, these waters relented. They allowed us to wade in easily and settle quietly. They greeted us with fish darting around our toes and did not knock our baby on his butt. The Gulf was a warm welcome party, lulling us to stay awhile and sink our feet deep into its powder fine sand.

The Gulf is unlike any other body of water I’ve known before.

And since we have arrived, I’ve brought my family back again and again. I have walked on its shores with a new baby inside, calmed and safe. I have puttered out on boats and tossed myself blindly into it. So have my children. I have swum away from it’s shores and dived deep. I have been surrounded and filled with its aqua green, up around and over all of me.

The Gulf drops you to your knees and insists that you bathe in it, to roll around in it, to soak it up and slosh unheeded with its ebb and flow.

The Gulf surprises you with its true inhabitants. A dolphin slips by – a finger tip’s length away. A large gray shape lumbers past (not a mermaid but a manatee). Rays skate on its bottom. Fish of every size dash and jump and race through its quiet movement. Birds dive and swoop and come up with full beaks. Crabs scurry past your feet. Sand dollars are dug up with your toes. Star fish bend on your hand.

Life is everywhere.

And I am only a visitor. A guest. A passerby who barges through it’s open front door and settles her family on it’s shores. But there’s always a place for us – and a few intended hours predictably turn into an entire day. My children are endlessly entertained and utterly exhausted. I am rocked, repaired and relaxed. We stay and stay and stay.

The Gulf feeds and cleanses. The sand our bread, the water our wine.

We are renewed.

And then the Gulf bids the sun in and signals the inevitable end of our day. We pull our salted bodies up, gather our things and plod away. No matter how long we have overstayed our welcome, we are never entirely sated. We always come back. We always want more.

The Gulf feels like home.

But we are only guests here.