MacDill Happenings

Things to Do in and around MacDill AFB

Last Minute Shopping in the MacDill Area

December 19, 2014 By: Laura Category: Events, Things to do Near MacDill AFB

Christmas Gifts in Cardboard Box and Packing Peanuts

The countdown to Christmas is in the single digits!  It’s less than a week away and it’s the homestretch for shopping.  But Tampa offers some great locations and opportunities for shoppers!

  • Tonight Hyde Park Village has “Moonlight Market” from 5pm to 9pm. It’s a great place to purchase holiday gifts from local inexpensive boutiques.  And Santa will  be there for the kids to visit!
  • The MacDill AFB Exchange is prefect place to shop and because you need a military ID to shop it won’t be too crowded.  If you’re having a holiday party, then the Class Six store should be on your list!
  • The Ellenton Outlet Mall has over 50 stores that should have everything on your Christmas list. It’s open till 9pm tonight and 10pm on Saturday.
  • Shops at Wiregrass in New Tampa has a great light show that will get you in the Christmas spirit.
  • The Mall at University Town Center in Sarasota is one the areas newest malls and it located just off of I-75.
  • The Westfield Brandon Mall is on holiday hours and will be open till 10pm tonight.
  • In Tampa, you can choose from Westshore Plaza and International Plaza. They are within miles of each other and both offer great dining opportunities.

Enjoy the weekend and get that shopping done now.  And don’t forget to shop online and just pay for the shipping charges.

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Things To Do In Tampa This Weekend

December 18, 2014 By: Laura Category: Dining, Events, Things to do Near MacDill AFB

palm tree lightedIt is that last exciting weekend before Christmas and some of you may need something fun to do besides shopping. Or maybe shopping and some fun!! Well here are some great events going on near the MacDill and Tampa Bay area. If you are participating in the boat parade I would love to see some pictures on our MacDill Happenings Facebook page.

  • Moonlight Market” at Hyde Park Village takes place on Friday from 5pm to 9pm. Enjoy a holiday shopping and boutique stroll with local gourmet foods, gifts, accessories, clothing and furniture.  This is the prefect opportunity to do your holiday shopping!
  • The holiday classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” will be playing this weekend at the Tampa Theatre will the first show on Friday evening at 7:30pm.  There will be sing along Christmas carols before the start of the movie  and snow falling outside the theatre!
  • Relax Friday evening starting at 6pm at the Sail Pavilion outside next to the Tampa Convention Center.  Enjoy the free music and have a little dinner from the food trucks that will be there.
  • On Saturday evening at 6:30pm, the Holiday Lighted Boat Parade will motor and sail around Davis Islands, Harbour Island and through Garrison Channel. A great to see the boats will be on the SS American Victory.
  • A Taste of Chanukah. This is event is in Sarasota but sounds very fun. Visit the Sarasota Fairgrounds from 1:00 pm until 5:00 pm. This event is FREE!!
  • Don’t forget about Glow Golf and Football Frenzy at the base. Glow Golf takes place on Friday December 19th at the Bay Palms Golf Course on MacDill form 6:00pm until 9:00pm. Football Frenzy is held every Sunday at the MacDill bowling lanes. Kick off is at 1:00pm!

So many fun things to do this weekend!! I hope everyone will get to take a little time out from shopping and enjoy all of these fun events going on in MacDill AFB area. If you know of an event that you would like to share please post it here in the comments or share it on our Facebook page!

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Keeping the Holiday Spirit Alive as a Military Spouse

December 17, 2014 By: Laura Category: Military Life, Military Spouse, Self Improvement

Photo Credit:photo credit: foxtail_1 via photopin cc

Keeping the Holiday spirit alive can be a challenge for any spouse but being a military spouse can make the holiday season even more challenging. As military spouses we face all kinds of challenges during the holiday season. For some, it is being stationed away from family, which be even more challenging if you are stationed overseas. But for others, one of the most daunting challenges at the Holidays is having a deployed spouse.

Military spouses handle these challenges in different ways. I have been very lucky and the hubby has only been deployed for one Christmas. He has spent several Holidays pulling duty but those were less of a challenge and for one such duty day  eating at the chow hall was a blast for the kids! Two of my fellow military spouse bloggers recently shared their experiences with this situation.

Diane shares some great tips in her article “Surviving the Holidays when your Spouse is Deployed“. I especially love her tip on keeping your family traditions alive. Wanting to keep our normal family traditions going I chose to stay at home instead of traveling to family. Neither my Mom nor my In-Law’s had the space for all of us to stay together and I wanted us to all be together to open gifts in our pajamas like we do every year. Staying home also allowed us to open our gifts while talking to my husband (unfortunately Skype was not an option). Keeping my spouse involved was also very important. I was amazed at his online shopping abilities!

Jen McDonald also shares some great tips in her article “Getting Through the Holidays During Deployment“. I love the idea of reaching out. My family has in the past reached out to other military spouses who would be celebrating the holidays alone. When I have invited others over I always ask if they would like to bring their favorite dish or if they had a tradition they would like to share. Not only did this make them feel a part of the family but it gave us some new traditions of our own. I do like the idea of going to a nursing home or sharing goodies with the guards at the gate.

For military families we tend to get used to spending the holidays alone. For a lot of us that may mean spending the holiday in a foreign country or a new town. But we are resilient and as you can see from what Diane and Jen have shared we learn to adapt. I know that year my husband was deployed I would have liked to have slept in all day and pretended there was no Christmas, but with five kids counting on me I got up and put on my big girl PJ’s and made sure we had a great day!

Have you spent a holiday while your spouse was deployed? How did you manage to get through the day? I would love to for you to share your tips. Also, if you know of any event in the MacDill AFB area that will help our local military spouses through the Christmas season I would really love to share those here and on our Facebook page.

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photo credit: foxtail_1 via photopin

Holiday Safety Tips

December 16, 2014 By: Laura Category: Self Improvement


The holidays can be a bit stressful which can make us a little forgetful. With all the hustle and bustle we sometimes forget about keeping our home safe. Not only do we need to mindful of safety when it comes to decorating our homes we also need to be safe when leaving our homes if only for an evening.

Karina Gafford of shares some great tips for keeping your home safe while on a holiday vacation. Even if you are a military family and living on base all of these tips could be helpful. Karina’s hint on making sure your mail box is not full is a great tip. You should always have the post office hold you mail while traveling. Securing your doors is a great hint whether you are gone for a week or just the day. My family has lights on a timer that come on every evening whether we are home or not.  This gives the impression we are home even if we have gone over to Orlando for the day.

I am going to share some tips for keeping your home safe during the holidays when you are home.

  • Deliveries. If you know you will be having packages delivered and you will not be home you may want to have them delivered to your office or to a neighbor or relative that will be home.If you live on base you may be able to have them delivered to the housing club house. I would check with Lincoln Family Housing.
  • Buy a fresh tree. This is especially important here in Florida. Luckily we have been having some cooler days but you must keep the water filled in the tree stand to ensure your tree does not dry out.
  • Make sure your lights both inside and out are up to code. Look for frayed wires etc… and never hook two extension cords up together. Turn your lights off when not at home.
  • While decorating make sure you use a ladder. Also, make sure that ladder is tall enough to reach where you need to reach. We have all seen that guy who thinks he can scale the wall and hang from the rafters to hang his Christmas lights! I suggest you don’t be that guy and end up in the ER!
  • Change the filters in your furnace and vacuum out your lint trap. With all the excitement of the holidays these things could get overlooked and cause a fire hazard.
  • If you did not check your smoke alarms when you turned the clocks back now would be a good time.
  • Check the safety of your decorations and gifts. Make sure any gifts or low reaching decorations are safe for small children and pets.
  • Drinking and driving do not mix. If you are hosting guests please make sure you do not let anyone leave who has too much to drink. Have the name of the taxi cab company for the area or have a designated driver ready to drive guests home.

I hope these tips will keep everyone safe during the holidays a trip to the ER is not want Santa wants for anyone except maybe scrooge!! If you have a great tip share it with us here in the comments or on our Facebook page.

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How to Give This Holiday Season

December 15, 2014 By: Laura Category: children, Events, News, Self Improvement, Things to do Near MacDill AFB

Christmas Gifts in Cardboard Box and Packing Peanuts

The holiday season is a time of giving and for most of us we want to share what we have with those not as fortunate as us. Here in the MacDill AFB we can find lots of ways to help those in need including our own veterans and service members.

Sometimes the question comes up as to who should we donate to and is this charity actually a reliable charity. In a recent article “A Quick Guide for Choosing a Charity” written by Dawn Smith she shares information on how you can research a charity that you are interested in. This resource is especially helpful for us transient military families. A new base means new charities that are asking for donations. Use  sites such as Charity Navigator to check on a charity your would like to donate to.

Here are a few of my favorite charities to donate to in the MacDill AFB area.

  • Toys For Tots. Nothing to be said about this amazing operation!
  • Rough Riders 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry Regiment. this group is constantly taking care of the children of Tampa and at Christmas their teddy bear drive tries to give a stuffed animal to every needy child in the area.
  • The Central Florida USO. Another great organization giving back to our service members and their families.
  • The Salvation Army. I can not resist putting a few dollars in the red kettle. My children learned at a young age to donate to the kettle.
  • Metropolitan Ministries. Not only does this charity feed the homeless on a daily basis the organization also tries to make sure struggling families in the area have gifts for the holidays.
  • Food For All Holiday Campaign at Publix. This is an easy way to donate you can just add a few dollars to your total and the donation will go to this great cause.
  • The Fisher House at the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital. Another great charity to help our veterans and their families.
  • If you would like to find out to help military families in need you can contact the Airman & Family Readiness Center for information.

These are just some of the charities I give to during the holiday season I am sure you can share a few with me as well. I would love to hear of any other charities here in the Tampa area that are in need of donations. You can share here in the comments section or on our Facebook page. Remember as you shop to check for programs such as Amazonsmile that make giving very easy and convenient.

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Christmas Events in Tampa on Sunday!

December 13, 2014 By: Laura Category: children, Communities, Events

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One of the highlights for a Christmas event on Sunday is the  Tampa Theatre presentation of the holiday classic “White Christmas” on Sunday. This 1954 classic musical stars Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Vera-Ellen, and Rosemary Clooney. Filmed in Technicolor, White Christmas features the songs of Irving Berlin, including the title song, “White Christmas”. A successful song-and-dance team become romantically involved with a sister act and team up to save the failing Vermont inn of their former commanding general. Also before the film, join everyone in singing Christmas carols along with the Mighty Wurlitzer organ. There are mini tours of the theatre before every show. So make sure that you get there early. The start time of the movie is 3pm, but doors open at 2pm. Tickets are $10 for the General Public.  Chosen by LIFE magazine as one of “America’s 21 Wonders,” Tampa Theatre is one of America’s best-preserved examples of grand movie palace architecture. Built in 1926 as one of America’s most elaborate “movie palaces”, the Tampa Theatre today is a historical treasure of Tampa. Inside the Tampa, audiences are transported to a lavish, romantic Mediterranean courtyard replete with old world statuary, flowers, and gargoyles. Tampa Theatre was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 and is a member of the League of Historic American Theatres.

The “Santa Speedo Run” takes place in Ybor City at 1pm. This 1-mile run benefits Brighter Seasons for Children with an entry fee of $35.

Winter Wonderland at the Lowry Park Zoo starts at 6:30pm. Check out Santa and his reindeer along with the million Christmas lights on display. Admission is $15.

Let us know about other events that you plan on attending during the holidays!

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Victorian Christmas Stroll at the Plant Museum until 23 Dec

December 12, 2014 By: Laura Category: children, Events

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Stop by the Henry B. Plant Museum during December and experience the charm of a 19th century holiday at the Tampa Bay Hotel during the Victorian Christmas Stroll. This event runs daily until 23 Dec from 10am to 8pm. With a lavishly decorated tree in each room of the museum and lush greenery draped throughout the Grand Hall, Victorian holiday traditions are brought to life. Antique toys are scattered about the museum, in addition to elegantly wrapped packages, imaginative decorations, and ornaments which capture the warmth of past holiday traditions. There is a special exhibit of antique toys dating from the 1890’s to 1930’s. During this era, the most popular gifts include dolls and dollhouses, board games, wind-up toys, rocking horses and sleds. Complimentary spiced cider and savory cookies will be served on the veranda every day when the carolers will music for your merriment. Visitors are invited to sing with the carolers from 6pm to 7:45pm in front of the 15-foot tree in the hallway. Admission is $15 for adults, $13 for seniors and $9 for children 18 to 4. This Monday and Tuesday are Discount Days for admission. Discount admission is reduced to $11 for adults, $10 for seniors and $7 for children.  Stop by the Museum store and choose from a large selection of unique Christmas gifts.  If you’re a recently arrived military family, then this is prefect opportunity to find out about the history of Tampa at unique Tampa institution. The Henry B. Plant Museum is located near downtown Tampa along the banks of the Hillsborough River next to the University of Tampa.

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Things to Do In Tampa Bay

December 11, 2014 By: Laura Category: Events


Christmas events are taking place all over the Tampa Bay area.  The little chill in the weather will make seem a little more Winter like this weekend, so get and enjoy it!

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How To Find the Perfect Rental Home

December 10, 2014 By: Laura Category: Military Life, PCS Move, Self Improvement

militarybyowner for rent sign

Finding the Perfect Rental Home

At this time of the year moving may be the last thing on your mind but for some of  our military families making a PCS move to the MacDill AFB area is a reality. Looking for a rental home can be stressful any time of the year and Danielle Keech of recently shared an article on ways to alleviate some of the stress.

In her article “Find Your Perfect Military Rental” Danielle talks about making a grand list as to what you want in your perfect rental. As the community relations manager for MilitaryByOwner I attend  spouse events hosted by SpouseBuzz and ArmyWivesNetwork and one of the things I do is talk with spouses about PCS moves. From these conversations I have found that the majority of spouses feel schools and a safe neighborhood are at the top of most military families priority list. The size of the home and number of bedrooms along with proximity to the base were next on the list.

So how do you go about finding the perfect rental in the MacDill area? Here are some links to get you started.

  • Schools. Go to the Hillsborough County Public schools site. Here you can look up how the schools are rated and what types of schools are available. Here in Hillsborough County we have school of choice which gives you the option of traditional, magnet and charter schools. You will also want to get in touch with the school liaison officer at MacDill .
  • Safe neighborhood. You may want to check sites such as to check the actual crime statistics. You can also go to the Hillsborough County Sheriffs page and look at this information. Another great tool is social media see if the neighborhoods you are interested in has a social media sharing site and see what the neighbors are talking about. Another great tool is this site uses information shared by other military families.

Once you have done your research on those two important factors you are ready to start looking and a great place to look for home in the Tampa/MacDill area is with Since you have done your research on schools and neighborhoods you will want to use the advanced search tool to use the zip codes of the areas you are interested in. The site also lets you look up the BAH for this area so you can factor that into your budget along with a map to see what the distance is to the base. With this information you now have the tools to find the perfect rental home.

Good luck in your search and if you have any other hints to share please leave a comment below.

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Tips on Finding Home Maintenance Providers

December 09, 2014 By: Laura Category: Military Life, Self Improvement


It is the Holiday season and we are all running on overdrive to get everything ready to celebrate. Yet, it seems this time of year something will always throw a wrench in to the festivities. The dishwasher breaks or here in the MacDill AFB area the air conditioning just might stop working! Even with the cool days we have been having a broken HVAC system might spoil your holiday spirit. In the event of one of these little disaster how do you choose a reliable repair company to come out? This is especially a hard task for a military family new to the area. I would also think for some of our new snow birds down for the holidays this would also be difficult task.

Recently staff writer Dawn Smith shared “3 Tips for Finding Home Maintenance Providers“. Dawn shares the providers she has used in the many rental homes she has lived in as an Army spouse. I am sharing her list and a few we have used.

  • Angies List. We have used this site several times . You do have to become a member but you can use the information for all over the country. Great if you own a rental home out of state etc…
  • Five Star Rated by Home Service Review.This site not only lets you look at reviews on line it will also send you a guide with your local providers and their reviews. Great item to leave in a rental home you own.
  • Home Advisor . With this site you put in your zip code and what you are looking for and they will give you a match to what you need. The company also provides reviews on their recommendations.
  • If your neighborhood as a Facebook page or neighborhood website ask your neighbors for recommendations.
  • Ask other military families who have been stationed in the area for their tips on good repair companies.
  • The Better Business Bureau, the Brandon Chamber of Commerce and the South Tampa Chamber are also great sources.
  • You might also want to try to see if any of the local businesses are listed. I like to whenever I can use a veteran owned business!

With these great tips and resources you have one less worry on your holiday list of things to do!! If you are a maintenance provider in the area share your information with us in the comment section or on our Facebook page. Do you follow us on Twitter? Well you need to!! @macdillhappenin I will be looking for a tweet!!

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