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Volume 21, Issue 12


December 2017

Fixer Upper’s Chip & Joanna Gaines Sponsor Valrico Woman

To Climb To New Heights With Her Non Profit By Dreams Amanda Boston

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Coinciding her service with the release with the of his new book Tim Tebow Capital Gaines, Foundation, Chip Gaines Vazquez from HGTV’s witnessed Fixer Upper metaphorilaunched his cal mounChipStarter contains move test. The contest through invited others faith in with big dreams Jesus Alexis and Tim: Every March, Alexis Vazquez Fixer Upper’s Chip and Joanna Gaines present to pitch their serves as a volunteer photographer at Tim Tebow’s Christ. Alexis Vazquez a $14,000 check to support her ideas through a “I got a Celebrity Gala and Golf Classic in Jacksonville. endeavor to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. two-minute kick in the Star State for video with the hopes of gut from the Holy Spirit,” said Vazquez. the big reveal. receiving financial backing. “I felt that I was to take everything I Alexis Chip and his wife Joanna learned about mountains spiritually and Vazquez, a star on a reality television apply it physically. So I decided that I Bloomingdale show in Waco, Texas where would climb a mountain while fundraisHigh School they take the worst house on ing $25,000 for the Tim Tebow graduate, was the block and transform it into Foundation.” one of the six something beautiful. The two Vazquez aspires to ascend Mount finalists. have been transparent about Kilimanjaro, the highest freestanding Since a sophomore in high school, their faith in God and continuously mountain in the world. Vazquez has owned her own photograacknowledge God for their success. “People run marathons for chariphy business. The 24-year-old is a Likewise, the couple has not forgot- visual storyteller who creates narratives ties, so I thought why not climb a ten those who came alongside them mountain. I hope to inspire others to through use of photography. Vazquez’s financially and invested in their dream. conquer their own mountains," love for God and her craft have led her From this posture of gratitude, Chip and to trot around the globe as a missionary remarked Vazquez. Joanna conceived the ChipStarter conVazquez continued, “I have this serving others and chronicling their stotest as a way to give back by making goal of raising $25,000 for the foundaries of faith. someone else’s dream a reality. tion, and my mentality was to go big or For the past four years, Vazquez After reviewing more than 2,700 stay home. I wanted to do something has volunteered as a photographer for video submissions, the couple selected the Tim Tebow’s Celebrity Gala and Story Continued on Page 15 six finalists and flew them to the Lone Golf Classic in Jacksonville. Through

Everyone Still Welcome As Walk Thru Bethlehem Offers Interactive Family Holiday Event For 31 Years By Amanda Boston

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See Our Special Section

Columns: GraceNotes

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Heroic Women

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Hooked On Books

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Faith & Footprints

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Kings Avenue ter at the event. The app Baptist Church of is available for both Brandon invites you Android and Apple and your family to devices. travel back in time to If you wish to wait Bethlehem and expeon the premises, rience the true meanChristmas carols will ing of Christmas. Its resonate throughout the annual Walk Thru sanctuary from local Bethlehem event school bands and musitakes place nightly cal acts. Hoyt also menfrom Thursday, tioned that new kinds of December 7 to As visitors Walk Thru Bethlehem, the vendors interact with them to provide a realistic entertainment are being atmosphere of a Jewish town. Walk Thru Bethlehem is a gift to community that is Sunday, December introduced to this year’s completely volunteer-based and reliant on donations. 10. lineup. months to create an environment that will For 31 years, Walk Thru Bethlehem, With a production of this magnitude show our community the greatest gift that an interactive town of 20,000 square feet, and the weightiness of its message, Hoyt God has given to each of us in the birth of has asked for monetary donations from is brought to life with a volunteer cast of His son,” said Committee Chairperson actors and animals. The town’s realistic area businesses to keep the event going. Tracy Hoyt. backdrop transports its visitors to the little Those who wish to donate can do so at Walk Thru Bethlehem is a local traditown of Bethlehem where actors dramathe event or online through ‘easy tithe’ at tion drawing in more than 6,000 people tize the story leading up to the birth of www.kingsavenue.org. over the four-day span. On arrival, visitors Jesus Christ. Walk Thru Bethlehem is a free family The 30-minute journey immerses you are given a number designating a guide event and is scheduled for December 7 and an appointed tour time. into the throes of Jewish life—captivating from 6:30-9:30 p.m.; December 8 from Due to its popularity, Hoyt noted, “We the five senses and stirring the heart. 6:30-10 p.m.; December 9 from 4-10 p.m.; have long lines so visitors should arrive From the shouts of angry Roman guards and December 10 from 4-9 p.m. early, but we have an app that allows to the tender moment with baby Jesus, The church is located at 2602 S. them to get a number and come back visitors will feel what it was like on the Kings Ave. in Brandon. To volunteer, conlater with their entire group.” night of His birth. The journey concludes tact Tracy Hoyt at The brand-new ‘Walk Thru with proclamation of the good news as it WTB2017KABC@gmail.com or the Bethlehem’ app keeps you informed of depicts Christ’s death and resurrection. church at 685-3095. For more information, your place in line, but you must first regis“We have been working for several visit Facebook at Walk Thru Bethlehem.

Page 2 • christianvoicemonthly.com • December 2017

Tasty Venues Brings European Flare To Brandon With Cafe, Culinary Tastings & Tours By Tatiana Ortiz

Traveling to European or brunch for $15 per person countries such as Italy, from 11 a.m.- 2 p.m. Brunch France and Spain might also gets served on Sundays seem costly to some. By visitfor the same price and time. ing Tasty Venues in Brandon To add, individuals can one does not need to come enjoy a Culinary Exploration with a passport in hand, but Class with Chef Cripe on instead with an empty stomThursdays and Fridays at 6 ach to be filled with an p.m. The cost varies based authentic European cuisine. on the menu and style of Individuals can also discover class. Visit www.mytastyvvarious cookbooks, specialty enues.com to register. foods and more from Europe. Individuals can also experiTasty Venues brought a ence dinner with the chef on unique concept of a Saturdays at 6 p.m. café and gift shop to On the first Sunday of the Brandon area when the month people can it opened in May of this attend a traditional year. A chef in England Italian dinner, which inspired the Tasty starts at 2 p.m. or Venues Executive Chef even take a culinary Cinzia Cripe to create tour in Italy. something similar. Chef One of the ownCripe thought the ers from Tasty Venues Brandon community shared her thoughts. needed a place where “Overall, we feel individuals could very passionate about Executive Chef Cinzia Cripe from explore the world Tasty Venues holds a berry tart that bringing the communithrough food. She ty together through she made. moved to Brandon several years ago food,” Debora Felton said. from North Dakota, but originally came Join Sicilian Chef Giorgio Ruggeri from Sorrento, Italy. from November 29- December 2 as he Furthermore, it offers lunch Monday teaches guests how to prepare authentic through Friday from 11 a.m.- 2 p.m. Tasty Italian dishes. Venues does not utilize a set menu. It is located at 951 E. Brandon Blvd. Check out its Facebook page www.facein Brandon. Open Monday through book.com/TastyVenues/ to learn more Wednesday 11 a.m.- 7 p.m., Thursday about the daily lunch menu. Individuals through Friday 11 a.m.- 8:30 p.m., can dine in or order to-go. Every other Saturday 10 a.m.- 8:30 p.m. and Sunday Saturday people can come for British tea 10 a.m.- 3 p.m. Call 381-4999.

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Page 3 • christianvoicemonthly.com • December 2017

An Evening In Mayberry With Rodney Dillard And The Walker Brothers

By Amanda Boston

With its unmistakable whistled theme song and wholesome script, The Andy Griffith Show transports audiences back to a simpler time—to the fictional town of Mayberry, North Carolina. On Sunday, January 7 at 6 p.m., New Hope

The Walker Brothers with Jarrod on the mandolin, Cory on the banjo and Tyler on the guitar.

Dillard will engage the audience with his musical talents and share stories from his experience on the show. The intimate evening will also provide an opportunity for the audience to ask questions. His wife Beverly Cotton-Dillard, a renowned banjo player who often appeared on Hee Haw, will join her husband as they perform well-known bluegrass songs from the show along with gospel music favorites. Although The Andy Griffith Show The bluegrass band, The Dillards, began appear- ended in 1968, the show continues ing on The Andy Griffith Show in 1963 with the to appeal to new generations reoccurring role as ‘The Darlings,’ a family blue- through its reruns. Dillard expoundgrass band. ed on the show’s parallels to United Methodist Church in Brandon Christianity and its ability to transcend invites you to ‘An Evening In Mayberry,’ time. with cast member Rodney Dillard. Dillard “The show portrayed family values— and his bluegrass band, The Dillards, Christian values, and Andy personified played a reoccurring role as ‘The the fruit of the Spirit, especially with the Darlings,” a backwoods family bluegrass way he treated Opie,” said Dillard. band, on The Andy Griffith Show. “People are trying to find these values in

today’s entertainment world, and they are not. That’s why people are attracted to this show.” Adding to the musical talent are the Walker Brothers, Cory (27), Jarrod (25) and Tyler (21) Walker. The three Durant High graduates will accompany Dillard and are the sons of local residents David and Stacey Walker. In their younger years, The Walker Brothers are remembered for their bluegrass performances at the Strawberry Festival. A few years ago, Dillard hired Cory to play with ‘The Dillards.’ Cory and Jarrod now live in Nashville with burgeoning music careers to include performances with the Grand Ole Opry and CMA Music Festival. The two brothers have also played on national television with bluegrass icons Earl

Scruggs and Ricky Skaggs. Tyler, the youngest, is a senior at Florida State University and reunites with his brothers to play bluegrass performances in his hometown. The event is free, but a donation box will be onsite. New Hope will open its doors at 5 p.m. with first come first serve seating. The church is located 121 N. Knights Ave. in Brandon. For more information, contact the church at 689-4161 or search ‘The Dillards’ on Facebook. The Walker Brothers will also perform at Beef ‘O’ Brady’s at 812 W. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in Seffner on Friday, February 23 at 7 p.m. For more information, email David Walker at davidloydwalker@gmail.com.

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Page 4 • christianvoicemonthly.com • December 2017

Christmas Town™ Returns To Busch Gardens® With Family Favorites & More

Staff Report

Christmas Town™ returns to Busch Gardens® with twinkling lights, Yuletide shows, holiday shopping, Rudolph’s Winter Wonderland and of course a visit from the big man himself—Santa Claus. The annual holiday tradition takes place on 25 select dates from Sunday, November 19 to Sunday, December 31. Christmas Town is included with an annual pass, Fun Card or daily admission to the park. New this year is A Story Time Breakfast with Rudolph at the Dragon Fire Grill. As guests enjoy stories from the famous RedNosed Reindeer, they dine on waffles, French toast, eggs, biscuits and gravy, pastries and more. Rudolph’s Winter Wonderland returns with its beloved television characters that bring to life the scenes from the television screen. This year Sam the Snowman joins the cast of Rudolph, Clarice, Yukon Cornelius and Bumble at the Winter Wonderland located in Celestial Crossing. Guests can also expect the return of Santa’s House presented by CocaCola®, where families encounter busy little elves preparing for Christmas. Families can meet and take photos with Santa in his private study. Also, new this year is the Three Kings Celebration, which will be held on Monday, January 1 through

Memory Care Available! Saturday, January 6. Busch Gardens unfolds the famed journey to the humble town of Bethlehem. This cultural celebration boasts authentic Latin flavors found only during the holidays, live entertainment honoring the three Wise Men and Busch Gardens’ dazzling display of twinkling Yuletide lights. From world-class roller coasters and Broadway-style entertainment to one-of-a-kind, up-close animal encounters, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay continues to deliver some of the biggest thrills anywhere. Visit ChristmasTown.com. Christmas Town Events Team at 9875523.

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Page 5 • christianvoicemonthly.com • December 2017

Grace Notes

Decom-Stressing Christmas

By Debora Coty

Is your house beginning to look a lot like this? I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the everyday blessings we enjoy: health, family, home, old friends, new friends, Cadbury milk chocolate bars with almonds … You know, I’d just like to saver this lovely tranquility – this peaceful contentment, this quiet pre-Christmasmadness moment – a little longer. Before the stress begins. Ahhh. Okay. It’s over. Here comes the little mister lugging the first side-splitting box of decorations from the attic. Sigh. But it doesn’t have to be. Over. Right? Can’t you just picture a gurgling Baby Jesus smiling up at you from the manger? He doesn’t care if the halls are decked or the Christmas tree is blazing. He doesn’t give a fig about figgy pudding (what IS that stuff, anyway?) or gingerbread cookies or pumpkin pies. He doesn’t even plan to shop for one single gift.

All Baby Jesus wants for Christmas is you. Your attention. Your adoration. Your unfettered joy at the miracle of His birth. Let’s face it, dear friend, it’s pretty much impossible to give Baby Jesus His heart’s desire the way we currently do Christmas … putting up more decorations than the Griswolds, baking so many cookies that elves move into your backyard tree, shopping till ya drop then dragging back to the packed mall the next day for the ten items you forgot. But what if we just stop … breathe … gaze down into that manger … and remember why we’re doing all this in the first place? So how about you and I make a pact right now to do it differently this year? Let’s keep that wee baby in the manger at the center of our consciousness every blessed day. Because we truly are Blessed. Why, you might even say we’re too blessed to be stressed!

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Page 6 • christianvoicemonthly.com • December 2017

Christmas Day, Eve & Holiday Services Offered By Local Area Churches By Amanda Boston

Who: Bay Life Church What: Join The Angels Christmas Service

When: Saturday, December 23 at 6 p.m. and Sunday, December 24 at 2 p.m., 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. with no morning service. Where: 1017 Kingsway Rd. in Brandon Description: Bay Life Church will host four Christmas Eve services on Saturday and Sunday featuring classic carols and new favorites, a beautiful Christmas tree for family portraits, a family-friendly seasonal game and a powerful message of hope from Pastor Mark Saunders.

Who: Bell Shoals Baptist Church— Apollo Beach Campus What: Christmas Eve Services

When: Sunday, December 24 with candlelight services at 8 a.m., 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. with regular children and youth programs at the 9:30 and 11 a.m. services. Where: Apollo Beach Campus at 408 Apollo Beach Blvd. in Apollo Beach.

Who: Bell Shoals Baptist Church—Brandon Campus What: Christmas Eve Services

When: Sunday, December 24 at 9:15 a.m. and 11 a.m. Where: Brandon Campus located at 2102 Bell Shoals Rd. in Brandon Description: Join Bell Shoals for a message about Christmas Eve in heaven from Dr. Stephen Rummage.

Who: Centerpoint Church What: “A Simple Christmas” Christmas Eve Services

When: Sunday, December 24 at 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 12 Noon, 3:30 p.m., 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Where: 1801 S. Miller Rd. in Valrico Description: There will be full children’s programming offered during the 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 12 Noon service times. Nursery care is available only (for children up to 4 years) during the 3:30 p.m., 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. services.

Who: The Chapel at Fishhawk What: Christmas Eve Services

When: Sunday, December 24 at 9 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. for ‘Pajamas and Pancakes’ (family service) and a candlelight service at 6 p.m. with nursery and pre-K childcare. Where: 6026 Churchside Dr. in Lithia Description: For the Sunday morning services, “The Morning Before Christmas" is a family story that will prepare us for Christmas day. We will have a pancake breakfast all

morning and encourage families to come dressed in pajamas to celebrate Christmas Eve. Pajamas are encouraged, but not required. The candlelight service at 6 p.m. will be an interactive message of music and teaching that will prepare our hearts to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

Who: The Crossing Church What: A Christmas Film and Production of A Story of Promise

When: Tampa Campus Saturday, December 23 at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. Sunday, December 24 at 8:45 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. SouthShore Campus Sunday, December 24 at 8:45 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. Where: Tampa Campus is located at 10130 Tuscany Ridge Dr. in Tampa, and SouthShore Campus is located at 3058 E. College Ave. in Ruskin. Description: Come hear the traditional Christmas story from a new perspective. In our first Christmas film, The Crossing Church will tell the story of Jesus’ birth through the eyes of Simeon. Live music and this special film will be woven together along with carol singing, candle lighting and a message from our Lead Pastor Greg Dumas.

Who: Destiny Church What: Christmas Celebration

When: Sunday, December 24 at 10:30 a.m. Where: 2322 11th Ave. SE in Ruskin Description: The Christmas Celebration will focus on the life of Jesus from His birth in a manger to His death on the cross.

Who: First Baptist Church Brandon What: Christmas Eve Service

When: Sunday, December 24 at 5 p.m. with prelude music beginning at 4:30 p.m. Where: 216 N. Parsons Ave. in Brandon

Who: First Baptist Church of Riverview What: Christmas Eve Service

When: Sunday, December 24 at 10:45 a.m. Where: 8626 US Hwy 301 S. in Riverview

Who: Grace Baptist Church What: Christmas at Grace

When: December 24 at 11 a.m. Where: 2909 John Moore Rd. in Brandon Description: A beautiful service is planned full of singing carols, reading the Christmas story and more. Every child who attends will return home with a present.

Who: Holy Innocents' Episcopal Church What: Christmas Eve


When: Sunday, December 24 Rite II with music at 10 a.m., Family Christmas Eve Service at 5 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Festive Eucharist with a 10 p.m. musical prelude

Who: Journey Church What: Christmas Eve Services

When: On Sunday, December 24 at 9 a.m. and a candlelight service at 5 p.m. Where: 1310 John Moore Rd. in Brandon Where: 604 N. Valrico Rd. in Valrico

Who: Lighthouse Revival Center What: Christmas Eve Service

When: Sunday, December 24 at 10 a.m. Where: 7211 S. 78th St. in Riverview

Who: Limona Village Chapel What: Christmas in Brandon

When: Sunday, December 24 at 5:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Where: 408 Limona Rd. in Brandon Description: Christmas in Brandon is a community Christmas Eve worship experience. We will sing familiar Christmas tunes and share the Christmas story together.

Who: New Hope United Methodist Church What: Christmas Eve Services

When: Sunday, December 24 at 9:30 a.m. modern worship, 11 a.m. blended worship service with a separate Hispanic worship service, 5 p.m. family service and 7 p.m. modern worship. Where: 121 N. Knights Ave. in Brandon.

Who: Next Level Church What: Christmas Eve Service

When: Sunday, December 24 at 10 a.m. Where: 10540 Browning Rd. in Lithia

Who: Riverstone Church What: Candlelight Christmas Eve Service

When: Sunday, December 24t at 6 p.m. Where: 12011 East Bay Rd. in Gibsonton

Who: Ruskin United Methodist Church What: Christmas Eve Services

When: Sunday, December 24 at 10 a.m. for the Christmas Cantata titled Sing with the Angels and Sunday, December 24 at 6:30 p.m. for a traditional candlelight service Where: 105 4th Av. NW in Ruskin

Who: Saint Andrew's United Methodist Church What: Christmas Eve Services The Light of the Whole World

When: Sunday, December 24 with morning worship 10 a.m., family service at 4:30 p.m., contemporary service 6:30 p.m., traditional service at 8:30 p.m. and a traditional service with communion at 11 p.m. Where: 3315 S. Bryan Rd. in Brandon

Who: Saint Anne Catholic Church What: Christmas Masses

When: Saturday, December 23 with Mass at 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. with Reconciliation until 12 Noon and Vigil Mass at 4:30 p.m.; Sunday, December 24 with Masses at 8 a.m. and 10 a.m., children’s choirs at 3:30 p.m. with family Mass at 4 p.m., choral singing at 6 p.m. with Mass at 6:30 p.m., Spanish Mass and Posada Procession at 9 p.m. and youth choir at 11:45 p.m. with Mass at 12 Midnight; Monday, December 25 with Christmas Mass at 8a.m., 10 a.m. and 12 Noon. Where: 106 11th. Ave. N.E. in Ruskin.

Who: Saint Stephen Catholic Church What: Christmas Masses at St. Stephen

When: Sunday, December 24 Masses at 4 p.m., 6 p.m., 8 p.m. and 12 Midnight and Christmas Day Masses at 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. only Where: 10118 Saint Stephen Cir. in Riverview Description: Come worship Jesus, God’s Greatest Gift. All are welcome.

Who: South Brandon Worship Center What: Christmas Eve Services

When: Sunday, December 24 at 9:15 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. Where: 4929 Bell Shoals Rd. in Valrico Description: Join us for a reflective time of acoustic worship, as we retell the story of the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, through word and song.

Who: Southside Baptist Church What: Christmas Eve Candlelight Service

When: Sunday, December 24 at 6 p.m. Where: 415 W. Lumsden Rd. in Brandon

Who: United Methodist Church of Sun City What: Christmas Eve Candlelight Service

When: Sunday, December 24 with the contemporary service at 4 p.m., traditional services at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. and a communion service at 10 p.m. Where: 1210 Del Webb Blvd. West in Sun City Center Description: Join us this Christmas season and restore your hope.

Page 7 • christianvoicemonthly.com • December 2017

Celebrating Christmas Throughout December With Bell Shoals Baptist Church By Amanda Boston

As the commercialization of p.m. at the First Baptist Church of Christmas competes for our hearts this Brandon, located at 216 N. Parsons Ave. holiday season, Debbie Bell Shoals Weisemann is Baptist Church the Gift of invites the comHope team munity to center leader for Bell on the reason Shoals and for the seasaid, “It’s just a son—the birth special opporof Jesus Christ. tunity to share The church will the love of be offering mulJesus with tiple events on others. We its Brandon campus to need volunteers to help you celebrate the help with gift wrapping Savior’s birth through or to be personal shopDecember. pers to help those On Saturday, ‘shopping’ for their December 2 from 10 child.” a.m. to 1 p.m., Bell On Tuesday, Shoals will host a December 19 at 5:30 ‘Surviving the p.m., Bell Shoals will Holidays’ workshop for present a senior adult those experiencing Bell Shoals Baptist Church opens its dinner titled ‘A Charlie grief through loss. This doors as it hosts multiple events to Brown Christmas.’ The celebrate the birth of Jesus. workshop provides dinner is for those who various tools to process their loss and are 60 years and older. The evening will cope over the holidays. The workshop will include food, fun and fellowship in a include lunch. Charlie Brown themed atmosphere. The Bell Shoals Worship Ministry will Leading up to Christmas, Bell Shoals conduct its annual Christmas production, will be handing out a devotional booklet The Wonder of Jesus Through One titled, The Christmas Code by O. S. Man’s Eyes, on Friday, December 8 at 7 Hawkins during its Sunday worship servp.m. and Saturday, December 9 and ices. The booklet celebrates the Advent Sunday, December 10 at 6 p.m. The season and helps you stay focused on show features Bell Shoals’ 175-person the true meaning of Christmas. adult choir, a 35-piece orchestra and an On Sunday, December 24 at 9:15 8-piece rhythm section. a.m. and 11 a.m., the church will hold its Bell Shoals is also participating in Gift Christmas Eve services with a message of Hope, a multi-church outreach providfrom Senior Pastor Dr. Stephen ing 800 families in the greater Brandon Rummage titled Christmas in Heaven. area with food items to prepare a holiday For more information on all these meal and an opportunity to ‘shop’ for toys events and more, please contact the for their children. The distribution dates church at 689-4229 or visit www.bellare Thursday, December 14 and Friday, shoals.com/brandon. Bell Shoals Baptist December 15 from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. and Church is located at 2102 Bell Shoals Rd Saturday, December 16 from 9 a.m.-5 in Brandon.

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This Day Ministries: Choosing To Serve God On This Day Forward

By Amanda Boston

Through the pullows.” pit, radio broadcasts This Day Ministries and discipleship, engages men from This Day Ministries three platforms: the pulhopes to incite a pit, radio broadcasts and spiritual awakening a discipleship program. in the American From the pulpit, Couch churches by turning unapologetically preachchurch attendees es the Word of God into disciples. The across America as a ministry's name is traveling pastor. His inspired by Joshua messages are then edit24:15, "...choose for ed and aired online on yourselves This Day its three radio programs who you will This Day In The Word, serve...." Strength For This Day and Local resident Jon Engaging The Truth. Couch, the founder of This Additionally, This Day Day Ministries, believes Ministries comes alongside that America is one of the churches and businesses most challenging places for through its discipleship proChristians to fully live out gram, which is broken down their faith. He theorized that into four areas of focus: men, America's wealth and comworkplace, students and pasforts impede the discipletors. ship process as Christians Men For This Day equips merely ‘add' a little Jesus men to be pastors of their to their lives. ‘mini-churches’ at home. This Local resident Jon Couch is the founder of Day In Business brings the Before establishing This Day Ministries. This Day Ministries, Couch Word of God into the workserved as senior pastor. During this time, place. Students For This Day engages he noticed a common problem—men high school and college students to surwere fleeing the church in droves. To win render their lives to Jesus. Pressing On men with the gospel, he decided to This Day strengthens discouraged pasrevamp his approach to ministry and tors through pastors’ gatherings. extend his reach. Based on his experiThe discipleship program manifests ence and statistical data, Couch felt itself through men’s conferences, church compelled to usher in This Day services, pastors’ gatherings, team buildMinistries. ing activities and more. If you would like “If we win the child to Christ first, This Day Ministries to come to your usually three to five percent of the time church or organization, you can contact the rest of the family says we are in too,” Couch at jon@thisdayministries.org. explained Couch. For more information on This Day He continued, “If we win the wife Ministries or to tune into a radio broadfirst, the statistics are better at 17 to 20 cast, visit www.thisdayministries.org. You percent. However, if the man of the fami- can also visit Facebook at ly accepts Christ first, then 90 to 95 perThisDayMinistries2415 or Twitter at cent of the time the rest of the family folHopeForThisDay.


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Page 8 • christianvoicemonthly.com • December 2017

Where To Take The Family To See The Best Local Holiday Lights This Season Now that the holidays are upon us, there is a lot of stress just coping with the day to day preparations. Enjoy some simple quality time with friends and family while getting into the holiday spirit. Here are some area light displays for all to enjoy.

Riverview Neighbors Team Up For National Recognition On ABC’s Great American Light Fight

Wonderland of Lights Drive Thru At Hillsborough County Fairgrounds

North Pole Productions presents Wonderland of Lights Drive Thru at the Hillsborough County Fairgrounds. The display will be open Thanksgiving night through Saturday, December 30. After driving through the beautiful lights, stop by the Christmas Village for camel and pony rides, North Pole Express train ride, horse drawn wagon rides. Visit with The Wolves of the World. There will be craft and gift vendors too. While enjoying the evening, the family can enjoy hot cocoa and donuts, fried dough, popcorn and cotton candy, funnel cakes, and a selection of fair foods. Vehicles (up to eight passengers) cost $20. For tickets and to view the show schedule, visit www.thewonderlandoflights.com.

It was beginning to look a lot like Christmas back in October at the homes of neighbors’ Rob Silver and Mike Richards. The two were selected to compete in ABC’s holiday reality show, The Great Christmas Light Fight. They teamed up and spent months decorating their homes in an amazing display with the hopes of beating out other national contestants in the first ‘neighbors’ battle to be aired on the show. The reality show presents families and neighborhoods across America who competes against each other to win a cash prize and the coveted Light Fight trophy. The show will air in midDecember. on ABC. Through January 2, you can enjoy the display every night at 9229 and 2931 Sunnyoak Dr. in Riverview. Stop for a few minutes watch the display which is set to music playing through a surround sound system Mike Richards, along with his family and Rob Silver wait for on the premises. The the moment the lights will be display will be lit until turned on during the October filming of ABC’s Great about midnight each American Light Fight. night.

Christmas Lane Brings Holiday Cheer To Tampa Bay Area

Christmas Lane returns to the Strawberry Festival Fairgrounds on Friday, November 24. The month long winter wonderland experience will take place until December 24 inside and around the Charlie

Grimes Family Agriculture Center, 2508 W. Oak Ave. in Plant City. The elaborate displays feature over 1.5 million lights accompanying its larger-than-life decorations that use more than 168,000 watts of power. Christmas Lane is a nonprofit organization. Volunteers work more than 1,800 hours to set it up. Attendees will enjoy new displays, carnival rides, twice weekly living Nativities by area churches, expanded menu, and nightly performances by local performers. Hours are Thursday through Sunday from 6-10 p.m. each night. Tickets are $5 for adults. Children ages 4 to 12 are $3. Children 3 and under are free. Free admission will be available on Thursdays for current and former members of the military. Friday nights are free admission to teachers, first responders and law enforcement. Every child who wears his/her league jersey or shirt on Saturday’s will receive free popcorn. Seniors receive a complimentary cup of

By Michelle Colesanti

coffee on Sundays. Parking is free and can be accessed from Lemon St. and Oak St. For more information, visit ChristmasLane.com or on Facebook at Christmas Lane.

Oakdale Light Display Among Largest In The U.S.

It has become a tradition in the Tampa Bay area for people near and far to visit the Oakdale Light Display in St. Petersburg. It was ranked in the top three nationally by NBC’s Today show, presented first in HGTV’s All Out Christmas Special and featured in People Magazine. Each year the light display is different adorning about one-half million lights. Enjoy the walk-ways, water fountains, computerized light show, animated dolls and a snowman about three stories high. The most popular item is the large HO-scale model railroad. It can run 18 trains at one time. The kids love the double bubble machines and games. Three electric meters are needed to handle the power. Although the electric bill can run as high as $4,000, the event is free and fun for everyone. Visit the display from Friday, November 24 to Wednesday, January 3, 2018 from 6-10 p.m. at 2719 Oakdale St. in St. Petersburg. Visit ChristmasDisplay.org.

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Page 9 • christianvoicemonthly.com • December 2017

Live Like You Mean It Church Is A Lighthouse, Not A Fortress!

By Derek Maul Preaching is a tough gig. Bringing God’s word is challenging at the best of times. When the occasion calls for a prophetic voice, the responsibility and the implications ratchet up a notch. What is the Good News at a time like this? How should the church respond to the shootings at Sutherland Springs? What does God want us to say, and who is God calling us to be? It is only in being clear about who we are that we have any hope of understanding what it is that we are now expected to do. Jesus came to offer God’s children a way home. Religion alone can’t fix that broken relationship. “I am the gate,” Jesus said (John 10), “Follow me home and I’ll make the introductions.” Because of Jesus, and through Jesus, God is making reconciliation our experience, our identity, and our mission. God, Paul tells the Corinthians, has given us the ministry of reconciliation. The church is where we worship, find encouragement, and grow, and it’s from where we are sent out as ambassadors. Not where we huddle behind closed doors, but where light is generated and then launched into a dark world. We stand as a lighthouse, not a fortress.

The image of the cross is tragically appropriate. The Lord’s arms are outstretched in invitation. Jesus is an invitation, not a security guard. We don’t need bouncers, we need welcomers. Jesus is the gate, not the gatekeeper. “Go out into the highways and the byways,” Jesus tells us. “I want people to come home, and I’m not checking I.D.s.” Jesus rolled away the stone - he’s always removing barriers. But he doesn’t stand passively with his arms stretched out wide, he goes out into the streets, the marketplace, the parties, the fields – all the places where life happens. “Come home with me,” the master says, “I’ll make the introductions.” So who are we? Are we an invitation… or a barrier… or a lighthouse… or a gatekeeper… or a discouragement… or an ambassador…? How much of an invitation are we? Derek Maul has written for many news outlets, including the Tampa Tribune, The United Methodist News Service, All Pro Dad, FOCUS Magazine, Newsweek, USA Today, The Christian Science Monitor, Presbyterians Today, Guideposts, Chicken Soup for the Soul and many other publications. Read Derek Maul’s daily blog posts at www.derekmaul.wordpress.com

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Page 10 • christianvoicemonthly.com • December 2017

Page 11 • christianvoicemonthly.com • December 2017

Esther – Standing With Courage Throughout the Bible, there are many stories of strong and heroic women. In this new series, we will explore a story of faithful Biblical woman each month. With their strong faith, the women of the Bible continue to teach us how to live authentic, faith-filled lives. No matter what our circumstances are, we can find ourselves in their stories. The Book of Esther is one of only two books of the Bible named after women (the other is Ruth.) This is a story of a beautiful young Jewish girl who risked her life to serve God and save her people. Esther lived in ancient Persia about 100 years after the Babylonian captivity. When Esther's parents died, she was adopted by her father's brother, Mordecai, who later became an employee of the Persian King. During these times, the Persian king, Ahasuerus, threw extravagant parties. On the final day of the festivities, he called for his queen to appear before his guests, but she refused to come. She risked death with her refusal, but the king only banished her. He then sent an edict throughout his kingdom that gave male subjects the right to rule over their wives in all matters. Ahasuerus now sought a replacement queen and he ordered the most

By Kelly Wise Valdes

attractive maidens in his kingdom to be brought before him, which included Esther. At the time, Esther was only 14 years old, but she possessed remarkable beauty as well as charm and intelligence. Ahasuerus was immediately impressed by Esther and made her his new queen. While at the palace gate, Mordecai overheard a plot by two of the king's eunuchs to kill Ahasuerus. Mordecai told Esther, who then informed the king about the deadly plot. At this same time, the king's second in command was a wicked man named Haman. He hated the Jews and he hated Mordecai, who had refused to bow down to him. So, Haman devised a scheme to have every Jew in Persia killed. The King went along with Haman’s idea and the Jewish people were to be all killed on a specific day. Meanwhile, Mordecai learned of the plan and shared it with Esther. Esther knew she had to save her people. “I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16). Then risking her own life, brave young Esther invited Ahasuerus and Haman to a banquet where eventually she revealed her Jewish heritage to the king, as well as Haman's plot to have her and her people killed Esther demonstrated Godly courage and we can be inspired by her example.


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Page 12 • christianvoicemonthly.com • December 2017

Hooked On Christian Books The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

By Kelly Wise Valdes

For many centuries, December brings us to a time of excitement, hope, joy and family. It marks the season of Christmas as well as the beginning of Advent. People of all ages and faiths try to embrace the Christmas spirit. People who are not professing Christians even claim familiarity with the story of the birth of Jesus. Christmas displays of Jesus resting in a manger can be found in front yards alongside of Santa and Rudolph. Christmas Carols about Jesus’ birth are played on the radio and are sandwiched between Jingle Bells and Frosty the Snowman. Yet, despite the abundance of Christian references in popular culture, many of us get lost during Advent season. Is there a deeper meaning to that first Christmas besides just being an incredible story?

25 Christmas Blessings: An Inspiring Countdown to Christmas! By: Dena Dyer Prepare your heart for the miracle of Christ's birth as you reflect on God's many graces during this joyful season. Featuring a meditation, prayer, Scripture reading, and "Top 10 Ways to Bless Others This Christmas," each holiday-themed reading explores topics such as love, giving, listening, resting, celebrating, remembering and more.

The Story of Christmas: Story Book Set & Advent Calendar By: Workman Publishing Wonderfully illustrated and brimming with holiday spirit, this set features miniature board books. Read in sequence, they capture the magic of the first Christmas, from Gabriel's visit to Mary, to the Three Wise Men gazing at the star, to Jesus' birth. Each book is one of four different trim sizes and features a gold thread loop so it can be hung on the Christmas tree.

The Christ of Christmas By: James Montgomery Boice The Christmas story evokes many touching images - Halos, fresh hay, shepherds carrying new lambs and young motherhood. But the Christmas story is more than sentimental - it is powerful. It deals with real people, it involves pain and it is one of the most strikingly unusual stories in all of history. Its main emphasis is not on the infancy of Jesus but on the life of Jesus. It's a story that still has deep meaning today.

21 Days of Christmas: Stories That Celebrate God's Greatest Gift By: Kathy Ide In this faith-filled book, readers find heartwarming stories that illustrate the true meaning of Christmas through tales about giving, loving and family. At the end of each chapter, there is a "Life Application" to help carry the truth of each story into your life. This volume features a debossed hardcover binding, color printing throughout, and a ribbon bookmark. Perfect for giving this Advent and Christmas season.

Page 13 • christianvoicemonthly.com • December 2017

BAPTIST Bay Life Church 1017 Kingsway Ave., Brandon (813) 661-3696 Bell Shoals Baptist Church 2102 Bell Shoals Rd., Brandon (813) 689-4229 Bell Shoals - Apollo Beach Campus 6414 Golf and Sea Blvd., Apollo Beach (813) 641-2222 First Baptist Church of Brandon 216 N. Parsons Ave., Brandon (813) 689-1204 First Baptist Church of Bloomingdale 3303 Bloomingdale Ave.,Valrico 813-689-3847 First Baptist Church of Gibsonton 9912 Indiana St., Gibsonton 813-677-1301 First Baptist Church of Ruskin 820 College Ave. W., Ruskin (813) 645-6439 FishHawk Fellowship 15326 Fishhawk Blvd., Lithia, (813) 655-7431 Grace Baptist Temple 2909 John Moore Rd., Brandon (813) 689-7190 Journey Church 1310 John Moore Rd., Brandon (813) 699-8262 Shiloh Baptist Church 1104 Cason St., Plant City (813) 752-8345 South Bay Baptist Church 13498 US 301 S., Riverview 813-677-0721 CATHOLIC Nativity Catholic Church 705 E Brandon Blvd., Brandon (813) 681-4608 St. Anne Catholic Church 106 11th Ave. NE, Ruskin (813) 645-1714

St. Stephen Catholic Church 10118 Saint Stephen Circle, Riverview (813) 689-4900 CHURCH OF GOD Boyette Springs Church of God 12114 Boyette Rd., Riverview (813) 671-0086 EPISCOPAL Holy Innocents' Episcopal Church 604 N. Valrico Rd., Valrico (813) 689-3130 LUTHERAN Immanuel Lutheran Church 2913 John Moore Rd., Brandon (813) 689-1787 Living Savior Lutheran Church 2650 Lithia Pinecrest Rd., Valrico (813) 681-2375 METHODIST First United Methodist Church of Seffner 1310 South Kingsway Rd., Seffner (813) 689-3513 Grace Community United Methodist Church 5708 Lithia Pinecrest Rd., Lithia (813) 661-8858 New Hope United Methodist Church 120 N. Knights Ave., Brandon (813) 689-4161 Riverview First United Methodist Church 8002 US Hwy 301., Riverview www.riverviewflumc.org Ruskin United Methodist Church 105 4th Ave. NW, Ruskin (813) 645-1241 South Shore United Methodist Church 11525 Big Bend Rd., Riverview (813) 649-9462 NON-DENOMINATIONAL Destiny Church 2322 11th Ave. SE, Ruskin (813) 645-3337 Grace Community Church 1425 N Valrico Rd., Valrico (813) 689-9781

Harvest Bible Chapel Bloomingdale High School 813-699-0517 Life Church at FishHawk 6420 Lithia Pinecrest Rd., Lithia (813) 681-6503 Love First Christian Center 12847 Balm Riverview Rd., Riverview 813-671-2009 River of Life Christian Center 6605 Krycul Ave, Riverview 813-677-4453 The Chapel at FishHawk 6026 Churchside Dr. Lithia 813-661-7105 The Crossing Church - Main Campus 10130 Tuscany Ridge Dr., Tampa, (813) 626-0783 The Crossing Church - SouthShore 3058 East College Ave., Ruskin (813) 626-0580 The Palms Church 207 New Hope Rd., Brandon (813) 841-9598 True Sanctuary 6528 US Hwy 301 S., Suite 114, Riverview (813) 319-5862 PENTECOSTAL HighPoint Church of Brandon 2207 Lithia-Pinecrest Rd., Valrico/Brandon (813) 685-4827 PRESBYTERIAN First Presbyterian Church of Brandon -PCUSA 121 Carver Ave., Brandon (813) 689-4597 Redeemer Church-PCA 12404 Boyette Rd., Riverview (813) 741-1776 Westminster Presbyterian Church PCA 402 E. Lumsden Rd., Brandon (813) 689-6541

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Page 14 • christianvoicemonthly.com • December 2017

Hot Off The Christian News Wire

By Kelly Wise Valdes

ago, Walmart had banned its employees from even responding with the phrase ‘Merry Christmas.’ Now the company has moved to the ‘Nice List,’ completely embracing the Christmas season. Fortunately, many other companies have followed suit. Liberty Counsel is an international nonprofit, litigation, education and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom. For more information on the list, visit www.lc.org and look for the ‘Naughty or Nice’ link.

Are Your Stores Naughty or Nice?

As a feature of the annual Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign, Liberty Counsel has provided a Naughty and Nice List, cataloging which stores are censoring Christmas and which are publicly celebrating it. The Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign educates shoppers about stores that are still willing to keep Christ part of Christmas. Belk, JCPenney, Walmart, Staples and Kohl's are examples of stores on the ‘Nice List’ for acknowledging Christmas and offering Christmas gifting options.

Liberty Counsel encourages consumers to incorporate the information on this list into Christmas shopping plans. For the last 14 years, Liberty

Counsel has been tracking retailers and how they are increasingly acknowledging Christmas again. Years

the most beloved Christmas classics like Hark, O Holy Night and Joy To The World. For more information, visit www.hillsong.com/worship.

Christmas Programs for Military Families in Need

Military budgets, which are often already stretched to their limits, do not contain a lot of money for buying Christmas presents. However, military families are also some of the most deserving people during the holiday

Hillsong Worship Announces 2017 Christmas Album The Peace Project

The influential worship band behind the fastest growing single in church history, Hillsong Worship, announced their new Christmas album The Peace Project, the first from them in nearly five years. Hillsong Worship’s 12-track Christmas collection was released in late October. Timely titled The Peace Project, the holiday collection presents a fresh collaboration of renowned Hillsong talent. The album features seven new, original songs including Prince of Heaven, Seasons, and Peace Upon The Earth along with new arrangements of five of

season. To help thank military families for the sacrifices made year-round, many organizations offer programs to make Christmas possible for deserving military families, especially those with children who deserve to have a joy-filled Christmas. There are many programs available to military families in need including: Adopt-a-Family for the Holidays, Operation Christmas Spirit, Operation Holiday Joy, and Operation Homefront. For more information, visit www.militarybenefits.info/christmasprograms-for-miliary-families-in-need/.

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Page 15 • christianvoicemonthly.com • December 2017

Fixer Upper’s Gaines Sponsors Valrico Woman To Climb To New Heights....Con’t From Page 1

By Amanda Boston By Kelly Wise Valdes

Alexis Vazquez (right) along with other finalists discover they are all winners of the ChipStarter contest.

that I knew only God could do.” With little momentum in sponsorship, Vazquez asked God to show up big. He did. Through a subscriber email from the Fixer Upper show, she discovered the ChipStarter contest. The email detailed the contest and in it had one phrase, which immediately caught her attention. The email asked, "Want to climb a mountain?" Vazquez viewed this as a sign from God and submitted her video. On October 10, Vazquez received word that she was a finalist. Chip and Joanna flew Vazquez along with the other finalists to Waco to pitch their dreams. Instead of one winner, all six finalists went home as winners. Vazquez was awarded $14,000 to assist with expenses related to the climb and jumpstart her fundraising campaign for the Tim Tebow Foundation. The ChipStarter winnings will be more than enough to cover her climbing expenses.

“It was so surreal while at the same time, it felt so natural. The way they are portrayed on TV with Chip as the goofy one and Joanna as a little more reserved is exactly how they are in reality. They were amazing in person and so encouraging," said Vazquez. Vazquez would like to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in February 2018 but still needs to achieve her goal of $25,000 for Tim Tebow Foundation. To donate, visit Vazquez’s Ascent to Mount Kilimanjaro’s donation page at https://community.timtebowfoundation.org/fundraise/team?ftid=112303. All donations go directly to the Tim Tebow Foundation’s outreach initiatives. For more information on the Tim Tebow Foundation, visit www.timtebowfoundation.org. To learn more about Vazquez’s endeavor, visit www.alexismarie-photography.com/ or on Instagram at alexismariephoto.

The Sagrada Familia is one of the most famous landmarks in Barcelona. This magnificent structure has been under construction since 1882 and it's not expected to be completed until 2026, more than 140 years after in the making. The history of the church is almost as fascinating as the architecture itself. During the 19th Century, booksellers José Maria Bocabella and José Maria Rodriguez decided to build a church in Barcelona and to devote it to the Holy Family, thus the name ‘Sagrada Familia.’ They hired the architect of the Diocese, Francisco del Villar, who designed the Gothic-style church 1882. Because of fundamental disagreements with Bocabella, del Villar designed from the project and the young architect, Antoni Gaudí, took the reins. The Sagrada Familia became Gaudí's life work and he significantly influences each part of the building. Because of its extensive dimension and its opulent design, the church became so important that people soon called it ‘the Cathedral.’ He was convinced that one day the city would be known because of this church. In contrast to the original Gothic-style, Gaudí’s design required no supporting sidewalls

because he incorporated countless windows that allow for natural light. The church was built solely by donation, which led to a long build-time. "My client is in no hurry," Gaudí once said, referring to God. The building was popularly known as ‘the cathedral of the poor’ and Gaudi himself was known to go begging for contributions that would currently amount to $600,000 per year. Sadly, Gaudí died in 1926 after being struck by a City tram. He had been living on the Sagrada Familia building site and looked so impoverished that it took several hours for doctors to realize who he was. Even after his death, construction continued according to his intricate plans. The layout of the church has the shape of a Latin cross with enormous dimensions. The Sagrada Familia is one of the world's largest church buildings: the entrance to the alter is the length of a professional football field. With a roof finally in place, Pope Benedict was able to consecrate it as a Basilica in November 2010. A setback occurred when a man set fire to the Basilica's sacristy area in April 2011. The public rallied and started raising funds and It is now among Spain’s mostvisited tourist attractions. For more information, visit www.sagradafamilia.org.

Page 16 • christianvoicemonthly.com • December 2017

Annual Holiday Sweepstakes Highlights Best Of Shop Local

By Marie Gilmore

coming in and someone is going to be very excited to receive all of these great items from the businesses in our community,” said Kerrie Hoening, Advertising Sales Manager. “Last year was the first time we have ever done a proe z d Pri gram like this in the GranThings e m a c e , FL b Our Favorite ia h it the paper and L f . o rs l is family op Loca al retaile we are excited to The Dav of the 2016 Sh zes from 25 loc winners pstakes with pri share some of the treasures from Swee our local small businesses with our readers.” Bridget Jenkins Wilson, owner of Cardinal Roofing and a member of his holiday season, the Osprey the Valrico/FishHawk Chamber of Observer is once again partnering Commerce said the Chamber is with local businesses to highlight also focused on encouraging local the best of Shop Local gift giving. shopping this holiday season and in The campaign is called, A Few fact has a Shop Local Holiday Expo of Our Favorite Things and we have coming up on Saturday, gone to the best of our local busiDecember 9, 9 a.m.-12 Noon at nesses and asked them to give us Park Square in FishHawk Ranch. ideas of a few of the top items “Anything we can do to keep available this holiday season. our local businesses in the spotlight From now until mid-December, is great for our community,” she we will be collecting Our Favorite said. “And, this is a great opportuniThings all throughout the communi- ty for Osprey Observer readers to ty and putting them together in have a chance to win an amazing one giant gift basket that will be holiday gift.” given out in a Sweepstakes for our Already gathered this season, readers. gifts include a Ladies Seiko Watch “We have so many great items from McAuley’s Fine Jewelry val-


ued at $350 and a custom outdoor fire pit from Outdoor Impressions valued at $800. A pure Silver Christmas Coin from Corbin’s Coins valued at $30, DayDreams Day Spa Journey To Tranquility valued at $135, custom framing certificates from FastFrame, a Swarovski Crystal necklace from TMarie’s Boutique and a ukulele from Music Showcase, just to name a few of the great treasures already gathered together. Last year, more than 450 residents entered the Sweepstakes

and the Grand Prize, valued at more than $3,500, was awarded just before Christmas to FishHawk resident Tim Davis. To enter this year, email Sweepstakes to contest@ospreyobserver.com or fill out the entry form and send in by mail, fax or email. Good luck and thank you for shopping local! No purchase or contribution is necessary to enter and contest is subject to all rules & regulations as required by the State of Florida.

Legendary Kicking Coach Tom Feely


Tom@FeelyAthletics.com Visit FeelyAthletics.com for more info!

Kick! Punt! Snap!

Private and Group Lessons Gift Certificates Available Whether you are a novice or a professional athlete looking to fine tune your skills, Feely Athletics will help you improve your game.

Headline Entertainment Lineup Announced For 2018 Florida Strawberry Festival

By Kate Quesada

The Florida Strawberry Festival released its lineup of headline entertainment artists performing on the Wish Farms Soundstage at the 2018 Florida Strawberry Festival. The 11-day community event will take place from March 111. Advance tickets for admission and for headline entertainment shows will go on sale Thursday, Dec. 7 at 8 a.m. and can be purchased online at www.flstrawberryfestival.com, at the Amscot Main Ticket Office located at 2209 W. Oak Ave. in Plant City or by calling 754-1996. “The theme of this year’s festival is ‘Building New Memories!’ with a strong emphasis on the construction of our new

GT Grandstands seating area,” said Florida Strawberry Festival President Paul Davis. The new bleacher-style seating will accommodate 9,200 total guests, is closer to the stage and will be more comfortable for guests, Davis said. Another change with the construction project is that the event will no longer offer free seating to headline shows. The 83rd Annual Florida Strawberry Festival will take place March 1-11. Beginning in January, specials, discounts and free entertainment will be announced at www.flstrawberryfestival.com.

2018 LINE UP:

Thursday, March 1 Friday, March 2 Saturday, March 3 Sunday, March 4 Monday, March 5 Tuesday, March 6 Wednesday, March 7 Thursday, March 8

10:30 a.m. 3:30 p.m. 7:30 p.m. 3:30 p.m. 7:30 p.m. 3:30 p.m. 7:30 p.m. 3:30 p.m. 7:30 p.m. 3:30 p.m. 7:30 p.m. 3:30 p.m. 7:30 p.m. 3:30 p.m. 7:30 p.m. 10:30 a.m. 3:30 p.m. 7:30 p.m.

Friday, March 9 Saturday, March 10 Sunday, March 11

3:30 7:30 3:30 7:30

p.m. p.m. p.m. p.m.

3:30 p.m. 7:30 p.m.

Jimmy Sturr & His Orchestra Oak Ridge Boys DNCE Jerry Lee Lewis Justin Moore and Dylan Scott Cam The Band Perry Lee Greenwood REBA McENTIRE Jimmy Fortune Josh Turner Gaither Vocal Band Casting Crowns Engelbert Humperdinck Trace Adkins The Lettermen Drifters, Platters and Cornell Gunter’s Coasters I Love the 90s Tour featuring Vanilla Ice, Tone Loc and Salt-N-Pepa Charley Pride Earth, Wind & Fire Sawyer Brown Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds and Anthony Hamilton Chase Bryant Brad Paisley

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A Charlie Brown Christmas Live! On Stage Comes To Lakeland RP Funding Center Join Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy, Linus and the rest of the Peanuts gang uncover the true meaning of Christmas in A Charlie Brown Christmas Live! On Stage at the RP Funding Center on Wednesday, December 20 at 7 p.m. A Charlie Brown Christmas Live! On Stage is a fresh take on the timeless classic that gives the audience a completely new way of experiencing the storyline as portrayed by actors who maintain the integrity and spirit of each Peanuts character. This Emmy and Peabody award-winning story by Charles M. Schulz has been a longstanding tradition, warming the hearts of millions of fans since it first aired on television over 50 years ago. Now, this live on stage adaptation of the classic animated television special brings all your favorite characters to life - all set to the unforgettable sounds of the Vince Guaraldi musical score.



A Charlie Brown Christmas Live! On Stage encompasses each of your favorite scenes from the original animated television show. It even expands the storyline into greater detail with more fun, more music, more finding the true Christmas spirit exploding into a celebration of song as the audience is invited to join the Peanuts gang in singing Christmas favorites. Ticket prices are $42 and $31 (other fees may apply) and are available by visiting the RP Funding Center Box Office, tollfree 888397-0100, and online at www.rpfundingcenter.com. The RP Funding Center is located in Lakeland, off I-4 on Lime Street. The RP Funding Center is a short drive from anywhere in Central Florida. Regular box office hours are Monday-Friday 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. For ticket information, call the Box Office at (863) 834-8111 or visit www.rpfundingcenter.com.

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Cookson Hills Toy Run Continues To Provide Christmas Memories

By Michael Smith

As the Cookson Christmas, the joy Hills Toy Run preand magic when they pares to celebrate its are opened in your 24th anniversary next presence,” Brown month, event cosaid. founder Sheri Brown The day will consaid this year’s event clude with a drawing will return to the origifor several special nal traditions that raffle prizes at 4 p.m. have made it ‘the During the past best-kept secret in 23 years, Brown and Hillsborough County.’ her supporters have Brown and her provided more than husband, Bill, found8,000 people with ed the Cookson Hills Christmas presents A motorcycle loaded with Christmas Toy Run in 1993 and a barbecue picpresents at the Cookson Hills Toy Run. nic, creating wonderafter discovering a ‘need’ in the community. The Browns had ful Christmas memories for everyone in to step down from hosting the toy run in attendance. 2014 due to Bill’s health problems. He She said the event is about “touching passed away in November 2015 from a soul, making a difference, and paying it pancreatic cancer. forward.” This year’s event once again will be In addition to the presents and picnic, held at Veterans Memorial Park & this year’s event will feature free cotton Museum on U.S. 301 in Tampa, begincandy from the Egypt Temple Motorcycle ning at 10 a.m. on Sunday, December 3. Patrol, DJ entertainment, sleigh rides, A live auction and raffle will take face painting, super heroes provided by place from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., with the Makers United for Children’s Hope motorcyclists going for a country ride at (MUCH) Foundation and more. 1p.m. Volunteers will pass out Christmas Brown, emphasizing that 100 percent gifts to the ‘forgotten’ veterans, children of everything received goes to the toy (newborn to 18 years old), special-need run, said that the event could not have individuals of all ages and seniors in made it for 23 years without the commuattendance at 2:30 p.m. The presents will nity’s support. be opened at 3:15 p.m. in the presence She still needs help with this year’s of those who donated them. event. To learn how you can help, contact “Instead of dropping your gifts in a Brown by phone at 643-5758 or by email box, bring your family and friends along at cooksontoyrun@aol.com. To learn with your gifts, personally hand them out, more about the Cookson Hills Toy Run, then experience the true ‘Spirit’ of visit cooksonhillstoyrun.com.

Holiday Coin Collections, A Daydreams Day Spa Escape & New Sporting Goods a gift card to Daydreams. Corbin’s Stamp & Coin Is Your With many different Source For Treasured types of spa Family Heirlooms packages to If you are looking for the choose from perfect gift - maybe for a famincluding ily with a new baby or to celmassage ebrate a momentous occatherapy, sion, a special coin may be body, therathe perfect keepsake? Start a py, skin care therapy, new family tradition by comnail and pedicure treatmemorating the Christmas ments, waxings & season each year. Holiday brows, airbrush tanning, coin collections are the permaternity fect way. One ounce pure silservices, ver coins are available for services for $29.95 in a gift box or also as men and for an ornament teens and that can be more, there is displayed. something for Corbin’s everyone. The Coins is shop in located at Daydreams also offers 209 N. Kings Ave. in Brandon and is open Monday to Gift Basket spa products which would also make Friday from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Item: 1 oz. great gifts. Pevonia and Saturday from 9 Pure Silver Skin Care products a.m.-1 p.m. Christmas are offered. Coin Gift certificates are available Journey To Tranquility At Value: $30 at the Spa, located at 658 Oakfield DayDreams Day Spa With all the stress the holiDr. in Brandon or online at www.daydays bring, what better gift for somedreamsdayspa.com. one (or yourself) is to escape for a few A second DayDreams location is hours to DayDreams Day Spa & Bath in Lakeland at 1463 Town Center Dr. Shop. You can make that possible with For more information on this location,


Stamp & Coin

call 863686-5859.

Enhance Your Photos At Fast Frame For The

Perfect Holiday Gift Did you take a special picture this year while you spent time with your family, maybe on vacation or at a special event? Surprise your family this year with a wonderful family picture specially framed to order commemorating this special shared time. Once you have that beautiful photo, a frame becomes part of the bigger picture, so it’s imporGift Basket Item: tant to make sure Tranquility Journey in that it brings out Spa - 95 minute mas- the photo in just sage, hand therapy the right way. and hot stone foot When cusmassage. tomers bring in Value: $135 their personal items and they are not sure about how to decorate their art,

By Michelle Colesanti

Fast Frame owner Alex Roche helps to educate them on how to enhance their item through framing. He offers competitive pricing and has been assisting customers with frames for more than 28 years. Fast Frame also offers oil paint stretches, shadow boxes, needle points, restoration and repairs and cor-

porate art. Fast Frame has been a part of the community Gift Basket for 15 years. Item: Two $40 For more Gift Cards for information, Framing visit www.fastValue: $80 frame.com or call Roche at 655-6400. Fast Frame is located at 6128 Winthrop Town Center Ave. in Riverview. Hours of operation are Sunday and Monday by appointment only with 24-hour notice and Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m.–8 p.m.

Rolling Pin Cooking Class Gift Certificate, TMarie’s Special Gifts & Musical Music Showcase It is also Brandon’s Big Green ‘Eggheadquarters,’ the ultimate cooking experience. Rolling Pin Emporium is open for private events too. Gift cards are also available. Rolling Pin is located at 2080 Gift Basket Item: Badlands Dr. in Brandon. Gift Bundle of Items Call 653-2418 or visit & Cooking Class http://rollingpinonline.com/ Certificates for more information.

Great Gift Ideas And Classes Help Make Rolling Pin A Great Stop For Holiday Gift Needs If you are stuck coming up with creative gift ideas, make a visit to Rolling Pin and to find something for every chef in your life. Rolling Pin offers a gourmet retail store and cooking classValue: $547 ($447 es. Retail; $100 Stop by and browse Find Your Perfect the extensive collection of Cooking Classes) Holiday Ensemble At classic and unique kitchenTMaries Fashion & Gifts Boutique ware. You will find everything TMaries Fashion & Gifts from barware, bakeware, aprons, Boutique is towels & mitts, coffees & teas, cookyour one stop ware, electrics, gadgets, gifts for entertaining, knives & cutting boards, shop for all of your favorite outdoor cooking and more. Enjoy fashion outfits shopping in the specialty food and and acceswine departments. There are many great reasons to sories for the attend Rolling Pin’s cooking classes - upcoming holiday season. It offers a wide variety whether you enjoy cooking – or just of casual fashions, resort wear, plus eating - from great date nights to size fashions, swim suits and cover learning about new foods, this is a ups, accessories, shoes, gifts, formal great gift idea anyone would be dresses, and prom/homecoming excited to receive.

Give The Gift of

dresses, to help you define your own unique style. While you are in there shopping for those party clothes, you will also find many accessories including jewelry that would also make great gifts for friends and family members. Some brands available at TMaries include Tribal, Elan, Catherine Barclay, Julian Chang, French Dressing Jeans

Gift Basket Item:

30 inch 14K Gold Plated Chain and Statement Necklace with Swarovski Crystal Cabana Life. Gift Encrusted Rose Medallion and Large White Seashell Pearl. Certificates are also Value: $117 available. T. Marie’s Fashion & Gift Boutique is open Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. and on Sunday from 12 Noon-5 p.m. It is located at 3407 Lithia Pinecrest Rd. in Valrico. For more information, call 530-0922. Visit www.TMariesfashions.com.

Get It Listed! Get It SOLD!


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Bowling! Games! Food! Drinks!*

By Michelle Colesanti

A Few Of Your Favorite Things Can Be Found At Music Showcase Music is the international language that is understood and enjoyed by all. Share your love of music by offering voice or instrument lessons to your favorite student. Instrument rentals start at $10 (if you don’t want to make a purchase). If you sign up online, the instrument will be delivered to your school. All of your music needs can be found at Music Showcase, which offers competitive pricing on sheet music and books. There is an in-house repair shop, and private and group lessons are offered.

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LC’s Cafe Holiday Catering, McAuley Fine Jewelry Seiko Watch & Feely Athletics Is your child interested in musical theatre, acting, or maybe photography? Sign them up at the Florida Academy of Performing Arts at Music Showcase. Music Showcase is located at 402 Oakfield Dr. in Brandon. For more information, call 685-5998 or visit MusicShowcaseOnline.com and FAOPA.org.

home where LC’s Café will host with a waiter and attendant in your kitchen. Hours are Tuesday to Friday from 9 a.m.-3 p.m., Saturday Brunch from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. It is closed on Sunday and Gift Basket Monday. Item: Ukelele LC’s Café is locatand Gift Card ed near Divine Value: $70 Designs Spa at 1602 (Ukelele $50 Dr. #103 in Oakfield and Gift Card Enjoy Home-Style Latin Brandon. Call 526-9395 $20) Inspired Holiday Catering or email From LC’s Cafe lcsupperclub@gmail.com. Enjoy simple, sweet and savory home style cooked, McAuley Fine Jewelry Is A Gem Latin inspired In The Community Gift Basket foods. LC’s This season design something Item: Catering Café will be uniquely ‘you’ to surprise your speGift Certificate glad to cater cial someone. your upcomValue: $50 McAuley Fine ing holiday (with $250 Jewelry (located in party either at the former Martin’s order) your work office Jewelers) will help or home. The staff is flexiyou plan your cusble in helping you to enjoy tom made piece of perfect meals to help celJewelry. Jewelry ebrate the season. repairs are also Enjoy holiday events done on premises. in the privacy of your own McCauley Fine

By Michelle Colesanti

Whether a one-on-one instruction on a Saturday or a week long camp or combine featuring hundreds of youths, Feely is nationally known for teaching the fundamentals and techniques of kicking and punting. To date, roughly 15 of Feely’s Gift Basket students have played profesItem: Seiko sional football. His most Ladies Watch notable pupil is son Jay Feely, Value: $350 a Jesuit High grad who went on to play 16 years in the professional ranks, including 14 in the Jewelry is NFL. “I know there’s nobody who’s located done more in the state of Florida to on kids get better in the last 15 help Oakfield Drive, in the Atlantic years from a kicking and punting Village Plaza, Kings Ave. & Oakfield standpoint,” Jay Feely said of his Dr. father. It is open from Tuesday to If your child is interested in Friday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and sports, help them achieve their Saturday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Call 205-5008 or email dream. Call 689-8124 or visit Tom@FeelyAthletics.com. www.mcauleyfinejewelry.com. Gift Basket Visit www.feelykicking.com Item: Triplex for more information.

Feely Athletics Will Take Your Budding Athlete To Stealth Tee The Next Level Value: $65 Jesuit and national kicking coach Tom Feely has coached hundreds, perhaps thousands of youths in various sports, but he is known especially for his work in football.

Custom Firepit From Outdoor Impressions & Birthday Party Celebration At The Alley Outdoor Impressions Will Help You Create The Perfect Outdoor Space To Enjoy YearRound With the beautiful weather that we enjoy year-round, it makes sense to have an outdoor kitchen area specially created for you. The designers at Outdoor Impressions specialize in customizing the details of your outdoor kitchen to your specific needs and taste; everything from the location of appliances in the outdoor kitchen build, to the materials and color schemes that best compliment your home and outdoor living space. It also specializes in paver driveways, patios, walkways, entryways, pergolas, arbors, water features, fire pits, fire places and

design services. A different kind of gift idea for friends or family could be Outdoor Impression’s 30 inch Munich fire pit. Whether roasting marshmallows or sipping wine,

Gift Basket

memories Item: are sure to Outdoor Fire be created Pit year after Value: $800 year with this great feature added to any outdoor living space. Outdoor Impressions is located at 10020 Carr Rd. in Riverview. Call 684-6817 for more information. It is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Family Fun Awaits At The Alley At Southshore With over 42,000 sq. ft. of fun, the Alley should be your first choice in family entertainment during the


813-530-0922 www.TMariesFashions.com 3407 Lithia Pinecrest Rd Valrico (at Bloomingdale) HOURS: Monday-Saturday 10am-7pm | Sunday 10am-5pm

By Michelle Colesanti

holidays. There are 32 bowlon-site. ing lanes along with a Have fun at Route 66 Mini Gift Basket Hurricane Alley 8 Lane Bowling, Tin Pan Alley Executive Suite. But Arcade and Billiards too. Item: Birthday bowling is only the Stuff your kid’s stockings Party For Up beginning of all the with passes to go bowling. To 12 People fun. While there, you The Alley is open Value: can also enjoy Alley Sunday to Thursday from 9 $129.99 Kat’s Pub & Grill or a.m.-12 Midnight and Friday Alley Scoops Ice Cream if and Saturday from 9 a.m.-2:30 you just want a snack. If you want a.m. It is located at 10221 Big Bend to host a private holiday party, Rd. in Riverview. Call 672-8353 or there is a private space for that visit purpose. Professional catering is http://thealleyatsouthshore.com.

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Backyard Birdseed Squirrel Buster, Jewelry In A Cinch & Daniella’s Mobile Massage Nature Lovers Will Delight In Gifts From Backyard Birdseed Backyard Birdseed is your go-to place for your friends and family who enjoy watching nature close up. It carries a wide array of products to increase backyard (and front yard) Gift Basket enjoyment for Item: Squirrel children, famiBuster lies, and birders Value: $50 of all ages. Premium birdseed, bird baths, bird and bat houses, hummingbird feeders and patio and garden décor are all available. In case you do not know what the perfect gift would be for your nature lover, gift certificates are also available. Backyard Birdseed is located at 3642 Lithia Pinecrest Rd. (next to Car Wash on the Greens) in Valrico. It is open Monday to Friday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and on Saturday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and closed Sundays. Call 8162473 or visit www.backyardbirdseed.com.

Leaving Jewelry Frustration Behind Is A Cinch Cinch Clasp offers you the most valuable piece of jewelry you will ever own. We have all struggled with putting on or taking off necklaces, bracelets and or anklets. Those little clasps can be so hard to put on and take off. If you have longer nails or arthritis, these little clasps can be next to impossible to maneuver. Cinch Clasp lets you put on or take off any necklace, chain, bracelet in two seconds or less every time. Cinch Clasp is very secure and can handle multiple chains, so you can put on or take off all at the same time. Cinch Clasp would make a great gift to accompany a piece of jewelry you are giving someone dear to you or just on its own for someone who already has a lot of jewelry. Cinch Clasp comes in three different sizes and offers many different finishes. The Cinch Clasp was invented by local resident

aj westfall

rt the dai tors inn is Cool! te.wrhem re Clea ..

By Michelle Colesanti

Maria Gibbs. Visit celestialclasp.com or 352-9087.

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After driving thru the beautiful lights, stop by The Christmas Village and Enjoy: • • • • • •

Gift Certificates

... the Perfect Gift for ANYONE on your list!

Hot Cocoa & Donuts Fried Dough Camel Rides Popcorn & Cotton Candy Funnel Cakes A selection of Fair foods & more

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Visit our website for Drive Thru Tickets and to view our Show Schedule: www.thewonderlando!lights.com

Big Green Egg Spices At Pinch A Penny, Bliss Costmetics, Sweet Treats & Pet Needs FishHawk PinchA-Penny Has Egg-cellent Christmas Ideas For your cooking enthusiast, FishHawk Pinch-APenny has got you Gift Basket covered. The 4-1 Item:A collection offered for the family including child Big Green Egg grills, roasts, bakes and of Big Green Egg care while you work out. There are a smokes a variety of Sauces & Spices lot of sports opportunities for the kids such as basketball, volleyball and Value: $110 more. food from desserts to burgers. Pinch-A-Penny The local Campo Y is truly a part of has all the accessories you our community so make it a part of your need along with sauces and seasonings family. Campo Y is located at 3414 to boot. Now through Dec 31, the store is Culbreath Rd. in Valrico. It is open having a 15 percent sale on all Big Green Egg grills and accessories. Pinch-a-Penny is located across from Newsome High School at 16715 FishHawk Blvd. in Lithia. Call 655-3700. Give The Gift Of Health At Campo Y The start of a New Year holds a lot of promise. Everyone makes resolutions to eat healthier and to exercise more. This year, it is time to do something Gift Basket about it. Give a gift of a Campo Y membership to someone you 3 Month Family care about to help them to live Monday to Friday from 5 their healthiest lives. Membership a.m.-10 p.m., Saturday Campo Y offers many from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. and exercise options for all ages Value: $246 Sunday from 12 Noon-6 p.m. and body types such as Yoga, For more information, call cycling, Pilates, aerobics and much 684-1371. Visit more. www.tampaymca.org/locations/campo. Many programs and camps are

By Michelle Colesanti

the perfect place to find the perfect gift. Tasteful Gifts From Edible The store is smaller by choice and the Arrangements Make Great Holiday shelves are stocked with just the right Treats products specifically chosen to help get What better way to say you care you in and out and get home happy. It than with a healthy and tasteful gift of has the largest selection fresh fruit. With many of natural, holistic and assortments from Edible human grade foods, Arrangements, you will along with a friendly find something for knowledgeable team to everyone on your gift help you with all your list. pet’s needs. There is a Choose from many beautiful holiGift Certificate self-service dog wash day gift baskets such as the Christmas for a - you wash your pet, Tree Bouquet or the traditional Chocolate they clean up the Delicious Celebration® bouquet recipe, Dipped Fruit mess. You can also honeydew, cantaloupe, strawberries, Box: $35 join the Dirty Dog and grapes scattered throughout a Wash Club for half the beautiful arrangement to create an eyeprice of a regular wash and catching and wow-worthy effect. don’t forget its Nail Trim Club too. You Edible Arrangements can be found can also find everything you need for locally in the Shoppes at Lithia, located your small pets, bird, fish and reptiles. at 3455 Lithia Pinecrest Rd. in Valrico Every other Sunday a pet shot clinic is held from 1-2:30 p.m. Pet Supplies Plus (571-7200), and also at 10273 Big Bend Rd. in Riverview (Bell Plaza)(672- is located in the Valrico Commons Plaza at 1937 E. S.R. 60 in Brandon (at 6111) or order online at www.ediValrico Rd.). It is open Mondayblearrangements.com. Gift Basket Saturday from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Item: Glo Fish and Saturday from 10 a.m.-6 Shop Pet Supplies Plus This p.m. For more information, call Aquarium Holiday Season For All Your Pet Needs 540-0645. Value: $50 Holiday gift shopping is not just for your two legged family and friends. Your pets will enjoy receiving some new toys and snacks and Pets Supply Plus is

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Email contest@ospreyobserver.com

Professional Photography, Breathe Easy & Don’t Forget The Pets This Holiday the special woman in your life. Call Urioste at 784-1845 to book a session.

turing all natural raw food diets. All foods are American made, corn, wheat, soy, and gluten free. You will find natural remedies Don’t Forget Boutique Style Studio Offers for worms, fleas Your Pet’s In The Holiday Glamour Makeover ticks. and Gift Basket Celebrations The holidays are a perfect time Kim’s also Salt Grotto Item: Gift Your pets are part of the to give yourself a gift of pamoffers a wide Basket & Gift Certificate family and you don’t want pering, along with a full glamvariety of Certificates our makeover. As you glow from Value: $50 them to miss out on the toys, dog and Value: $58 holiday celebrations. your special day, the photos taken cat bedding, Kim’s Natural Pet Foods has everywill make a great gift to your family apparel and supthing you need to give your or special someone. plies. pets a happy, healthy life Amber Urioste, the owner and phoGift Basket Kim’s Natural Pet Foods is locatand what better time to tographer behind AU Professional ed at 3110 Lithia Pinecrest Rd. Item: Pet check out some new food Photography, brought this boutique in Valrico (next to Subway). For Treat Basket more information, call 684style studio to the area, and special- and treats to keep them as healthy and izes in glamour, boudoir and high Value: $100 3663 or visit kimsnatuhappy as possible. school senior portraits. ralpetfoods.com. Your day of pampering will include a Specializing in Visit The Salt holistic foods made professional hair and makeup artist, Grotto And from real ingrediand to experience what it is like to Breathe Easier ents like meat, fish, be a model for the day. Receive the This Holiday and healthful vegright amount of love and attention, Season etables; not with guidance in posing so you end Breathe byproducts, it offers up with images that they will love easier this holia great selection of and treasure for a lifetime. day season. all natural foods as The Studio specializes in showing Relax in luxury well as unique natthe client how beautiful they really ural chews and are, and of their transformation with at The Salt treats, including a a before and after photo. Grotto. Dig your toes frozen section feaThis will also make a great gift for into the sand like salt

and fill your lungs with

3642 Lithia Pinecrest Rd (next to CarWash on the Greens)

813-816-BIRD (2473)

www.BackyardBirdseed.com BackyardBirdseed@gmail.com

Backyard Birdseed

Great Gift Ideas for Everyone On Your List! Premium Birdseed • Bird Baths

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Gift Certifificcates Available! Mondays (closed) | T thru F - noon to 6pm | Sat & Sun - 10am to 4pm


1602 Oakfield Dr, #103 Brandon In the Divine Designs Salon Plaza Tues - Sat 9am-3pm

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Holiday Catering • Event Planning & Catering Pop Up Supper Club with Table Side Service in Your Private Home


By Michelle Colesanti

safe, naturally salty air. With each breath, inhale micro-particles that holistically address respiratory and skin ailments. Give the gift of good health to your loved ones. There are both adult and children’s Salt Room Therapy. Other gift ideas include unique salt related gifts including Himalayan Salt Lamps, cooking stones, seasonings bath salts and soaps. The Salt Grotto is located in Plaza Bella Shopping Center, 1026 Bloomingdale Ave. in Valrico. Call 324-8946 or visit http://thesaltgrotto.com

Local Bakers Offer Holiday Cookie Works Of Art For Shop Local Gift

By Kate Quesada

Custom cookies baked and decorated by Erin Cowan of The Butter Tree.

Kerry Williams of The Sugared Owl creates custom cookies based on customer requests.

With the holidays approaching and many occasions calling for sweet treats, these local entrepreneurs take cookie making to the next level creating custom works of art that taste great too.

decorating and drying each cookie. She asks for at least three or four days advance notice for orders. For more information, search The Butter Tree on Facebook, or call (646) 522-8952.

The Butter Tree

The Sugared Owl

FishHawk resident Erin Cowan owns and operates The Butter Tree, specializing in custom decorated sugar cookies for any occasion from birthday parties to weddings and showers. Cowan, a former lawyer who practiced in New York City before moving to Florida, started the business to keep busy while staying home with her children. “I got started after randomly coming across a blog post about decorated sugar cookies in 2001,” said Cowan. “I have no professional training and am self-taught from trial and error.” The Butter Tree offers vanilla or almond sugar cookies with royal icing. Each cookie is custom, hand created and takes several days to make as Cowan works from scratch, baking, coloring the icing and then

In addition to making decorated sugar cookies, Kerry Williams of The Sugared Owl, also offers Make and Take classes, where residents can learn to work with Royal Icing and pick up the techniques used to make their own delicious works of art. Williams, a FishHawk residents has been decorating cookies for four years and offers vanilla/orange, vanilla/almond, peanut butter and chocolate sugar cookies for the holidays. All cookies are decoded with a “Frankenfrosting,” which is a mixture of Royal Icing and glaze. “Customers contact me for any theme they would like and we work to come up with the designs they want,” said Williams. The Sugared Owl began offering cookie classes, which have been hosted in Cool Beans coffee shop in

FishHawk resident Paula Escobar makes cookies of any size, color and design.

FishHawk and Kraftology in Brandon, a year ago. “You gather some friends and come decorate your own dozen cookies,” said Williams. “We work on several together and decorate each cookie in sections. Everyone leaves with beautifully decorated cookies they made themselves.” The group is limited to 10 people and classes range from one-and-ahalf to two hours. In addition to regular adult classes, Williams also offers kids’ classes at Cool Beans and has a “Cookies for Santa” class planned this month. Search The Sugared Owl on Facebook, for more information, or contact Williams at (908) 328-2311 or jkwilliams78@hotmail.com.

2 Little Sweets When FishHawk resident Paula Escobar’s youngest daughter turned one four years ago, she decided to make cookies for the party. They were such a success that she decided to turn her hobby into a business and 2 Little Sweets was born. “After months of practicing at

night while my girls slept, so I wouldn’t be chasing them and baking, I began posting my creations on social media,” said Escobar. “Friends and neighbors began showing interest in the cookies and asked if I would sell them. Escobar’s cookies are custom orders to any design, color or size. “It is a labor of love,” she said, noting that each cookie is hand decorated and freshly baked. “It is a consuming and long process with cookie dough, icing, mixing, baking, decorating and packing.” 2 Little Sweets requests a minimum order of a dozen cookies, but can make any number higher than 12. “All the decorated cookies are custom and because they are custom, you won’t find my cookies to look, taste or feel like the cookies you would find at the supermarket,” said Escobar, who especially enjoys when her customers send her pictures of them enjoying her products. For information, contact Escobar at cookiesby2littlesweets@yahoo.com or search 2 Little Sweets on Facebook.

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Osprey Observer 2017-12 Christian Voice  

Osprey Observer 2017-12 Christian Voice