MacDill Happenings

Things to Do in and around MacDill AFB

Celebrating Thanksgiving Florida Style in the MacDill AFB Area.

November 26, 2014 By: Laura Category: Dining, Events, Military Life, Self Improvement, Things to do Near MacDill AFB

Thanksgiving Florida Style

Thanksgiving Florida Style

I did a search for Thanksgiving events in the MacDill area and one of the articles that came up was “How to Celebrate Thanksgiving in Florida“. It gave me a blog idea for our area. Celebrating Thanksgiving in Florida is a unique experience. Here are some of the ideas the article shared:

  • Have your Thanksgiving Feast out of doors. Try grilling your turkey and add local citrus to you menu. I am not sure if out of doors will work this year but I know in the past we have celebrated at the beach.
  • Instead of watching the Macy’s Day parade on the television check the Universal Studio’s Orlando version out. I would suggest getting there early and purchase your tickets at the IT&T office on MacDill AFB.
  • Another alternative to the Macy’s parade would be the Thanksgiving Day parade at Walt Disney World. Again purchase your tickets on base or at the Shades of Green military hotel at Disney. You may just want to spend the weekend there it is a beautiful resort.
  • If you are looking for some great roller coasters and beautiful Christmas decorations without driving to Orlando then check out Busch Gardens Christmas Town starting on Friday the 28th of November.

Here are a few more ideas to help you celebrate Thanksgiving in the MacDill area.

  • This is not so much unique to Florida but you can always go shopping on Thanksgiving. A lot of the stores at both West Shore Mall and Brandon town center will be open. For military families it looks like no shopping services will be open on base. Here is the link to the AAFES  page for MacDill.
  • Invite a single service member or a family with a deployed spouse over for thanksgiving dinner.
  • I am not sure if this is allowed but take a plate of goodies up to the Security police at the gate.
  • Maybe dinner out is what you are looking for. You may have lots of company in town for the holiday or you just want a low key stress-free dinner. Here is a list of restaurants that WFLA has reported will be open.
  • End the days celebrations by taking in the sunset at the beach on MacDill or any of our other the local beaches. We have used the sunset at the beach as a great family photo opportunity. Great for Christmas cards.

Lots of uniquely Florida ideas . I am not sure if the weather will cooperate for outdoor celebrating this year but I am excited to wear one of my sweaters to dinner. I would love for you to share how you celebrate Florida style. Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

From all of us at MacDill Happenings we wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and pray for a safe and bountiful day for all of our service members deployed and celebrating away from loved ones.

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Cooking a Great Turkey Tips

November 25, 2014 By: Laura Category: Dining, Self Improvement

Turkey Cooking Tips

Turkey Cooking Tips

Will you be cooking a turkey this Thanksgiving holiday? Some of you will bake your turkey, some will deep-fry your turkey and some of you might just do it up Florida style and barbeque your turkey. No matter how you cook the turkey it can be a stressful event. I remember my first Thanksgiving as a wife, we were stationed in Ft Sill OK far from family and I wanted my hubby and the few friends we had over to have the best turkey ever!! Well I forgot to take the bag of  stuff (that is what I call it) out of the cavity of the bird. When we discovered that I thought all was lost but, the turkey was actually fine (the stuff wasn’t) and we had a great dinner.

So to try to make cooking the bird a little less stressful I am sharing some tips I read on the Butterball site and the Food Network site. I hope you will find these tips helpful:

  • Check the cavity of the bird for a plastic bag containing the neck, gizzards etc… very important.
  • Thawing the bird. Thaw the bird in the refrigerator. Allow yourself 24 hours for every 4-5 pounds of bird. It could take up to 4 days for a 20 pound turkey and at least 24 for a turkey breast.
  • The amount of time needed to cook is determined by the weight of the turkey and whether it is  fresh or frozen. Cook at 350 degrees and allow 20 minutes per pound for a defrosted turkey and 10-15 minutes for a fresh turkey.
  • Use a meat thermometer. The thigh should read 165 degrees and if you have stuffed the turkey it should also read 165 to be fully cooked. The Butterball site has a great how to on where you should place the thermometer.
  • Here is a tip I did not know. For a crisper skin uncover your turkey over night in the refrigerator.
  • If you are going to stuff the turkey do not do it the night before. You may want to add vegetables and herbs to the turkey cavity to give it flavor instead of stuffing.
  • Store your leftovers withing two hours of cooking and they should not be eaten after three days of refrigerated storage.
  • Make sure to clean all prep surfaces and tools with warm soapy water.

By using these tips and the others found on the Butterball and Food Network site you should be set for cooking your turkey. Sorry I have no tips for deep-frying or grilling. Maybe you have some tips on that to share with us here on the blog or on our Facebook page. I hope everyone has a successful turkey on the table!!

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Thanksgiving Traditions

November 24, 2014 By: Laura Category: Military Life, Uncategorized

Thanksgiving Traditions

Thanksgiving Traditions

Thanksgiving is this Thursday. For many of us this means a day of traditions that have been handed down from family for years. For us military families we have definitely learned to adjust our traditions to fit our military lifestyles.

The first Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621 by the Pilgrims and lasted 3 days. Thanksgiving became an official holiday in 1863 when Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday of November would be “a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens”.

In these modern days we celebrate this tradition of giving thanks. For most of us this means Turkey, thankful prayers, family and for many football. Fro many military families it may mean celebrating in a foreign country or with out our service member at our dining table.  In a recent article written by Danielle Keech “What is Your Holiday Tradition?” she shares how she keeps traditions alive as a new military spouse. Danielle’s article got me to thinking of how the military has influenced some our traditions.

For many of us military families we adapt and learn new traditions. One tradition I love about being a military family is having the single service members over for dinner. For the first few years of our marriage we had several of our single marine friends over and it gave the day that family feeling. Sharing the holiday with other families also gave us a chance to see and taste other traditions. Because celebrating a holiday far from home was hard and I was thankful for this tradition of making sure no one spent Thanksgiving alone and that we were making new traditions with a new “family”. One tradition that has been constant at every Thanksgiving gathering I have been to do is the dinner prayer and asking for the safe return of all our of service members deployed.

Celebrating Thanksgiving overseas can also be a challenge. I can remember my Mom adapting her stuffing recipe because all the ingredients she needed were not available at the Yokata AFB commissary. During our year in Guam we had a dear friend host Thanksgiving for 30 of us. For this event my other friend wanted to bring her traditional buttermilk pie but their was not a carton of buttermilk to be found on the island. We all were on the look out at the commissary to grab a carton if it came in!! These wonderful memories will always be a part of us and some these friendships have lasted an entire military career and beyond. Oh and we did have buttermilk pie and it was delicious!!

How does your family keep traditions alive? Are you a military family that has adapted your traditions to fit your traveling lifestyle? I would love for you to share your answers here on the blog or on the MacDill Happenings Facebook page. I know for me setting out the good dishes and lighting candles in my cornucopia candle holder makes the day special no matter where we are living at the time.

As my children have grown up our family tradition has become a night at the movies. I am a little upset the new Hobbit movie is not coming out on Thanksgiving!! We have even done a little late night shopping after the movies. I can not remember the last time we were home in California for Thanksgiving and it has been years since all of my children were home for the holiday. This year we will fill up the chairs at the table with my sons roommates from USF and look forward to the phone calls we will make to our out of state family.

I wish all of you a Happy Thanksgiving and hope you will be able to celebrate with old and new traditions.

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“The Theory of Everything” at Tampa Theatre

November 22, 2014 By: Laura Category: News

YouTube Preview Image

If you’ve seen the previews on TV and heard about the great reviews about “The Theory of Everything” and want to see it, then you will have to go to downtown Tampa to watch it!  The Tampa Theatre is showing “The Theory of Everything” with the next screening at 1:30pm today.

The film was inspired by the memoir Traveling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen by Jane Wilde Hawking, which deals with her relationship with her ex-husband Stephen Hawking, his diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis(ALS), and his success in physics.

Built in 1926 as one of America’s most elaborate “movie palaces”, the Tampa Theatre today is a historical treasure of Tampa. Located in downtown Tampa, the Theatre is easily accessible from I-275 and I-4. Designed by famed theatre architect John Eberson, the Tampa is a superior example of the “atmospheric” style of theatre design. Inside the Tampa, audiences are transported to a lavish, romantic Mediterranean courtyard replete with old world statuary, flowers, and gargoyles. Over it all is a night time sky replete with twinkling stars and floating clouds. Tampa Theatre was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 and is a member of the League of Historic American Theatres. There is on-street parking nearby and parking lots within walking distance. Tampa Theatre is about 30 minutes away no matter if you live in Brandon, FishHawk Ranch, New Tampa, St. Pete or Westchase!

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Things to do in Tampa Bay!

November 21, 2014 By: Laura Category: Dining, Events


It’s been a little cooler than normal, but it should start warming up this weekend!  This weekend is filled with plenty of holiday fun and it is still a great time to watch the sunset from the beach.

  • Enjoy the beach at Treasure Island during Sanding Ovations. This is Treasure Island’s Master Cup Sand Sculpting Competition and Music Festival, a four day competition of ten sand sculpting masters from throughout North America, Europe and Asia.
  • Even with the warm up, you can go ice skating in downtown Tampa.  Tampa’s Downtown On Ice rink opens up on Friday evening and for $10 you will receive a pair of ice skates and 90 minutes on the ice.
  • The Seaboard Seafood Festival runs on Saturday and Sunday at Curtis Hixon Park in downtown Tampa.
  • The Enchanted Tree Lighting Ceremony & Holiday Street Party takes place at Hyde Park Village in south Tampa on Saturday starting at 5pm.  This is great event for kids. Check out the food trucks, vendors and free music!
  • On Saturday in St. Pete stop by Shopapalooza and get your holiday shopping done early where you can shop from over 100 vendors!
  • Learn about the cigar making history of Ybor City during the La Verbena Festival from noon to 5pm on Sunday.

If you have suggestion on other things to do, please leave a comment.  Enjoy the weekend!

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Flood Insurance: Why We Need it in The MacDill AFB Area

November 19, 2014 By: Laura Category: News


why you need flood insurance courtesyof concrobium

I recently made a trip to the New Orleans area and saw areas that were still being rebuilt 9 years after the Katrina Hurricane. It made me think back to 2004 when Hurricane Charlie made a path of destruction across Florida and how unprepared so many of us were. I remember reading in the weeks after Charlie about  many homeowners who thought they had flood coverage only to find out they did not.

Homeowners find it difficult to find private companies that will even write a flood insurance policy and customers must rely on the federal programs for coverage. I am not an expert on this side of the issue so I suggest you take a look at the FEMA site for the National Flood Insurance Program or talk to your policy holder to check what you can and or covered for.

I know that after reading staff writer Karina Gafford’s article “Military Families: My Flood Insurance Wake Up Call” I will be checking on my policy.

Why do we need flood insurance in the MacDill AFB area? Well if you have lived here for any length of time you can see how just a down pour can flood the streets of Tampa and the outlying suburbs. So just imagine a tropical storm or Hurricane. According to Karina’s article 1 in 4 home owners will need flood insurance during the lifetime of their mortgage. According to the Florida Flood their are many misconceptions on owning a flood insurance policy. This is what they had to say about the misconceptions:

  • The Number One Misconception is that homeowners insurance covers flood risk. The fact is that homeowners insurance policies typically DO NOT cover flood damage, a point usually highlighted in bold letters on the first page of your homeowners policy.
  • The Second Misconception is that flood insurance policies are expensive. Actually, if your home or business is located in a Preferred Risk Zone as determined by FEMA, you can purchase flood insurance for as little as $129 per year.
  • The Third Misconception is that many homeowners think they don’t live in a flood zone. In reality, FEMA has designated the entire state of Florida as a flood zone with varying levels of risk.

Great reasons to have a flood insurance policy whether you are renting, own a rental property or own your home. This information is especially important for our military families in the area who may not be aware of the flood risk here in the MacDill AFB area. I am not sure how it works with base housing but I would make sure my rental insurance has flood insurance if you are living on MacDill Base housing.

That being said even if your home is not located in Florida you should know that all 50 states have experienced flooding in the last 5 years.  If you own a home in another state and or renting it out you probably need to check your policy for flood coverage.

With this information I would suggest making a call to your insurer and checking what coverage you have or may not have.  With the information in Karina’s article, FEMA and you should be very educated in why you need flood insurance here in the Tampa bay area.

I hope none of us will ever need to use our flood insurance policies but now that we all know the facts being covered will ease the burden if we do have a flood. Another great tip if you are searching for a home to rent or buy check out the FEMA maps for what flood zone the home falls under.


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Thanksgiving Travel Tips

November 18, 2014 By: Laura Category: Self Improvement, Travel

Thanksgiving Travel Tips

Thanksgiving Travel Tips

Thanksgiving is next week and many people will be traveling for the holiday weekend.  Traveling to visit relatives for the Thanksgiving holiday is a  tradition for a lot of military families. Visiting relatives over the holidays is just another way to keep our holiday traditions alive. So next week many of you will be hopping in your car, or on a plane, train or bus to destinations all around the world. For some of us in the MacDill AFB area it may just mean a drive over to Orlando to visit one of the theme parks!! What ever your plans may be here are a few tips to hopefully keep your stress level down!

  • Getting your plane tickets. If you have not done so already you need to get on it. Using sites such as Expedia can ease the stress of looking at every airline for the best deal. CNET has some great tech ideas on finding the best deals.
  • Plan your route if you are driving. ABC Action News shared a great story on Google Maps Thanksgiving travel tips. Great tips on the best time of day to start your trip. Use PCS Lodging to plan your hotel stops.
  • Check the IT&T office at MacDill for deals on cruises and amusement parks in the area.
  • If you are driving make sure you check to see that your car is ready for travel. Check all fluids, hoses, belts , tire pressure and your brakes. For a look at all that you should check read All Star Automotive latest article. If you are driving up North make sure you keep blankets, extra food, water and first aid items in the car. You never know when bad weather is going to strand you.
  • Get your playlist ready! Of course you will need several version of “Over the river and through the woods to Grandmothers house we go”!! I am sure ours will contain many Taylor Swift songs!
  • Traveling with kids can be stressful so plan ahead. Check out “Tips to Help You Stay Sane on a Road Trip with Kids” for great ideas on games, snacks and planning.

Monica Schaffer a staff writer for wrote a great article “5 Tips for Creating a Fun-Filled PCS Trip” some of which could also apply to your Thanksgiving trip. I would love to hear where some of you are going and how you are planning your Thanksgiving travel. Please share with me a comment or a post on my Facebook page.

I have one more tip to share  and that is check the weather before you leave on your trip!! Make sure to pack accordingly it is so frustrating to get to your destination and then have to go out and buy clothes to go with the weather!!! Has this happened to you?

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Make Your Holiday Shopping Easier with Amazon

November 17, 2014 By: Laura Category: News, Self Improvement

 Christmas Gifts in Cardboard Box and Packing Peanuts

 When it comes to holiday shopping  the internet seems to be a favorite choice for military families . One of the reasons they may be so popular especially with military spouses is the fact that Amazon ships to most APO and FPO addresses. Another reason my family likes to use their services is the fact they have committed to and have employed many veterans. Recently Amazon opened two new distribution centers right here near MacDill AFB, one  in Lakeland and the other  in Ruskin. I saw on the MacDill Wives Facebook page and other spouse social media sites that Amazon was encouraging military spouses to apply for their holiday customer service positions.

One of the best reasons to shop with Amazon is the AmazonSmile program. Our staff writer Dawn Smith shared in a recent article “5 Helpful Holiday Orders from Amazon” how Amazon is using this program to help charities all across the world including those that are helping our veterans. In fact you can designate to have .5% of your purchase go to the Central  Florida USO.

As a family we have used Amazon mostly when we were stationed overseas but now that I have read Dawn’s article I may use the site to buy wine! Who knew Amazon Wine existed!! Another benefit that Dawn mentioned was being able to order items that may be nostalgic or unique to your hometown. Such a plus for service members who may have a special brand of candy, food or drink that that they miss during the holidays. I know many a mom who uses the Prime Pantry feature to order wipes and diapers.

How do you use Amazon? Do you use AmazonSmiles and help  your favorite charity? Have you or someone you know applied to work for Amazon? I would love to hear you stories! Please share them with me below in the comments section and do not forget to use the like buttons to follow me on Facebook and Twitter. I would love to get a tweet from someone new today!!!

Don’t forget if you are shopping for a home to rent or buy to check out the listings on Also check out our gift giving ideas on Pinterest.

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Take a Visit or Make Move to Jacksonville!

November 15, 2014 By: Laura Category: Communities, News


If you are looking for something different to do over the holidays or maybe you are looking for a mini vacation idea then a drive up to Jacksonville might be the answer. Or maybe you have orders to PCS to the Jacksonville area. Our family has spent Thanksgiving in Jacksonville numerous times with our daughter when she was attending Jacksonville University. The drive up and over to Jacksonville will take you about 3 hours and 22 minutes from Tampa. I recommend the I-4 to I-95 route.  MapQuest at times will take you up I75 and across 301 via Gainesville. On a few of our trips we planned lunch in either Orlando or St Augustine.

Jacksonville has a different feel and look than Tampa. Since Jacksonville sits on the Atlantic the beaches are a little different. The water is a little cooler and a deep blue but very beautiful. One of the best reasons to take your mini vacation is the accessibility to two Navy bases. If you’re a golfer, then both bases, NAS Jacksonville and NS Mayport, have great golf courses.  Both bases have plenty of nearby housing off base.

Downtown Jacksonville boasts 5.6 miles of beautiful riverfront, including almost 3 miles of riverwalk. The Jacksonville Landing
located on the river in downtown is a shopping and entertainment center that hosts over 350 events annually, including live music every weekend. The Riverside Arts Market is prefect place to spend a Saturday afternoon in the downtown area.

The Jacksonville Zoo is must see! Spread out on more than 93 acres, you can see more than 1,800 animals and a 1,000 exotic plants.

A visit the Jacksonville area could include a relaxing visit to Amelia Island and stop at the historic St.Augustine.

Whether it’s short visit or a PCS move, Jacksonville will have something new for you to explore and enjoy almost everyday!

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Weekend Events Near MacDill AFB

November 13, 2014 By: Laura Category: Events, Things to do Near MacDill AFB


The weekend is almost here. Do you have plans? Well if you are looking for something to do around the MacDill area I have some great events to share.

  • The Ribfest returns this weekend at St. Petse’s Vinoy Park. Running Friday to Sunday, ribs and music will be on the menu. Admission is $16 on Friday and $20 on Saturday and Sunday with proceeds going to local nonprofit organizations including All Children’s Hospital, Great Explorations, the Carter G. Woodson Museum and Tampa Bay Watch.
  •  The Tampa Bay International Auto Show takes place from Friday to Sunday at the downtown Tampa Convention Center. Admission is $12 for ages 13 and over, children 7-12 will pay $5 and military personnel with any type of military ID card will pay $5.
  • On Saturday at 11:30am, the Tampa Theatre will have a Backstage Tour. You will learn the Theatre’s secrets, stories, art and architecture during the 90-minute tours. It’s $7.50 for adults and $5 for ages 2-12.
  • On Saturday at 7pm, the Tampa Bay Lightning take on the New York Islanders at Amalie Arena.
  • The Sarasota Medieval Fair continues this weekend. Make sure you ask about the military discount for tickets. If you do any jousting please share the photo’s with us.
  • Are you expecting a new little one? Well you may want to check out the Mother of All Baby Showers on Friday night at the Glazer Children’s Museum.
  • If you love to read then check out Tampa’s Bookstore Day on Saturday November 15th. This a great way to visit some of the local book stores and also shop local.

So many fun things to do this weekend in the Tampa Bay area!! Please share with us any fun events I may have missed. Share here on the blog or on our Facebook page. These beautiful fall night make it a great time to watch a sunset!! Share you pictures.

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