Tag Archives: Orlando

Orlando Changemakers Unite to Form The Collective

Attention change-makers, activists, established and rising stars in the non-profit world, or anyone else who is passionate and dedicated to a cause they actively champion. A new initiative called The Collective is here to help cultivate the caused based leaders here in Orlando. The Collective is a free program that will meet monthly to discuss topics that are important to those who actively work to make the world a better place in some way.

What is The Collective Anyway?

The Collective is an initiative from the minds of collaborators Change Everything; Jon Busdeker–Digital Storyteller and former reporter at WESH 2 News; and CT-Social–a digital marketing agency dedicated to non-profit work here in Orlando (and the agency behind Central Florida Top 5’s big makeover in 2015!).

The idea grew out of a desire to build a network of support to those who dedicate themselves and their time to important causes. “We want to find people who are really passionate about social change. They can be passionate about the arts, social reform, homelessness, whatever it is,” Jon Busdeker explains. “We want to create a community and give them a space so they can become better at what they do.”

How Will it Work?

The Collective will meet once a month, with their first meeting to take place on March 29. Each meeting will focus on a different topic affecting those who work in cause based spaces. Some of the topics covered will be: media relations for causes, donor relations, emotional health and self-care for cause based work, and dealing with stress.

Meetings will also include expert guest speakers and group discussions. The goal is to build and cultivate leaders who are doing the hard work in the various causes they care about. Members will learn not only from experts but from each other. “We want to give people the tools to do what they’re most passionate about,” Busdeker said.

Who Should Apply?

The Collective is for anyone who is dedicated to making an impact on a cause they care deeply about.

  • Non-profit leaders or rising stars in the non-profit world.
  • Government employees who work tirelessly to make their community a better place.
  • Dedicated activists who are organizing groups to enact change.
  • Business leaders who champion causes in their free time because it’s important to their values.

Ready to Join?

The Collective is accepting members into this inaugural group. There is no cost to attend. If you are interested in joining and feel you’d be a perfect fit for this group, please apply on-line at http://collective.change-everything.com.

PaddyWagon Orlando’s St. Paddy’s Celebration

The biggest St. Paddy’s Day Party will be here on Friday March 17th! Live music and DJs playing your Irish Favorites. Doors open at noon and the party will be going on all day! You’re not going to want to miss this!

Move 60 Challenge

March 1st – April 29th

Get Moving, Have Fun and Win Prizes!

Be part of the MOVEment! Walk. Bike. Swim. Dance. Garden. Do yoga… Just get moving for 60 days!

And when you do, you’re entered to win great weekly prizes like mini-memberships to RDV Sportsplex, Fitbits, restaurant and movie gift certificates and more!

It’s Free, Fun and Easy. Register as an Individual or recruit a team of friends, co-workers, school/PTO parents or your faith community.

Free T-shirt and Timex Pedometer – Every registered participant will receive a super soft, free T-shirt and Timex pedometer while supplies last. And, everyone who participates is eligible for great weekly prize drawings. Win great health, more fun and great prizes – simply for being active.

Once you register, you’ll receive an automatic email reply acknowledging your registration. Bring your phone or print out that receipt as proof of registration to receive your t-shirt and/or pedometer.

T-SHIRT/PEDOMETER PICK UP LOCATIONS:

  • Orlando: Track Shack
  • Winter Park: Winter Park Public Library, Winter Park Farmer’s Market (Saturday, Feb. 25 ONLY 7am – 1 pm)
  • Maitland: Maitland Public Library, RDV Sportsplex, Maitland Farmer’s Market (Sunday, Feb. 26 ONLY 9 am – 2 pm)
  • Eatonville: Healthy Eatonville Place

Join together as we become the healthiest community in the nation and Get Moving!

Special thanks to Healthy Central Florida Move60 sponsors – Florida Blue, Winter Park Health Foundation, Florida Hospital and the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce.

Join Move60 to walk, get fit, have fun and win prizes!

Happy Thanksgiving from Central Florida Top 5! Why are you thankful?

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! We are thankful to you, dear reader, for your continued support! This year has been a tough one for each of us at Central Florida Top 5, for a multitude of reasons. It goes without saying that 2016 has been very tough for our friends and neighbors in Orlando. However, we still have much for which to be thankful in (cheerful) spite of it all.

I asked our Top 5 Team, regardless of how they felt about the holiday itself, why they were thankful and for what. I also asked the team to share a Local/Holiday #ProTip, or a unique way that we in Central Florida spend the holidays; fun things that maybe those outside of Central Florida may not have heard of or have the opportunity to do in their areas.

Here’s what they wanted to share with all of you;

 

Jen Lee BioAuthor and Top 5 Lake County Contributor, Jennifer Lee:

This year I am thankful for my health. I had my thyroid removed, I’m cancer-free, and doing well on medication. I’m also thankful to LEASH, Inc for the work they do to save pets in Lake County and for bringing our three new cats into our lives.

We’re not doing it this year, but a very Central Florida way to spend Thanksgiving is to enjoy the buffet at the Swan and Dolphin, then walk it off around Disney’s Boardwalk.

Holiday #ProTip: Take part in Small Business Saturday in Downtown Mount Dora! Lots of great shops, including an indie bookstore. Get a jump start on your Christmas shopping, then stay for Light Up Mount Dora!

 

 

Joe Thoma

 

CEO of Awareness Campaign and Top 5 Charitable/Arts Contributor, Joe Thoma:

I am most thankful for friends, family and colleagues.
* My true friendships in 2016 have transcended the strife and tumult of mere world, national and local problems, issues and politics.
* Family is more of a blessing each year. Partly because we all appreciate the precious gift of time with each other. (And partly because we’ve all gotten too old to start or maintain feuds!)
* Colleagues: I have connected with great new team members all over the world. My longtime teammates have strengthened our working ties and built on our combined strengths to do good work, have good fun and make good money.

Florida is blessed with a lot of casual attitudes. So Thanksgiving in Central Florida offers the opportunity to cherry pick the best traditions and dump the tedious parts. We’re such a diverse lot — Don’t like turkey? Do like many Italian families Up North and have lasagna, bracciole and even some pizza. Or go Puerto Rican with Pavochon, Mofongo stuffing and Arroz con Gandules. Or, like me, go out for a steak.

Holiday #ProTip: Great time to enjoy some lightly attended days at the theme parks before the Christmas rush. Google “disney world crowd calendar 2016” without the quotation marks.

 

Top 5 Contributors Carolyn Capern and Greg Trujillo (CT Social)

Top 5 Contributors Carolyn Capern and Greg Trujillo of CT Social

Digital storyteller at , Top 5 Web Team & Contributor, Carolyn Capern:

This Thanksgiving 2016, I am thankful for a healthy year and a year spent largely on projects that felt like they mattered. I’m thankful for the city leaders that are still working hard on issues like homelessness and making Orlando more green.

Spending Thanksgiving in Central Florida is the ideal time to get outside for a walk. Find a trail or a park or just head to a walkable downtown area like Lake Eola.

Holiday #ProTip: Don’t miss the Festival of Trees at Orlando Museum of Art! And after your Thanksgiving feasting, get in the festive mood by checking out the Orlando Philharmonic’s ‘Home For The Holidays’ concert this Saturday.

 

 

David B 1

 

Pro MLS Supporter and Top 5 Orlando City Soccer Club Contributor, David Blair:

Thanksgiving weekend is a good time for the family. I am thankful for my family. My beautiful wife and healthy little girl.

 

Local & Holiday #ProTip: If you have never been to the Old Spanish Sugar Mill and Griddle House in DeLeon Springs, go! They’re open Monday – Friday 9:00am to 4:00pm, and Saturday, Sunday, & Holidays from 8:00am to 4:00pm. Check out their website at: http://www.oldspanishsugarmill.com/.

 

 

 

Kari KleinCo-Host of Nerd Flix & Chill podcast and Top 5 Foodie Contributor, Kari Klein:

This year I’m thankful for friends who are more like family and a newfound ability to un-apologetically say ‘no’ as well as ‘yes’ – (see below)

I am celebrating Thanksgiving this year by getting a tattoo – no it’s not themed to the holiday and the date wasn’t planned, but when it’s a difficult place to get into and there’s an opening, you take it….or at least I did. It’s what the pilgrims would have wanted.  

Holiday #ProTip – Be patient and allow for extra time if traveling. Don’t let a few minutes of frustration (or more if you’re on I-4) ruin your whole day.

 

 

Allen Paschel

Central Florida Top 5’s Business and Tech Writer, Allen Paschel:

I am most thankful for scientists, engineers, and dreamers that brought us new technology in 2016.

A great, different way to celebrate Thanksgiving in Central Florida is to enjoy many of the great local restaurants that will be open for travelers visiting the area. If you haven’t bought your turkey or you’ve chickened out. Use Open Table to book a reservation!

Holiday #ProTip: his will be the first weekend with 300 DRONES flying over Disney Springs for an amazing light show called “Starbright Holidays – An Intel Collaboration.” They’ll have nightly shows from now until January 8 at 7pm and 8:30pm. Check them out!

 

John DiDonnaCreator/Director of Phantasmagoria Orlando and Top 5 Arts Contributor, John DiDonna:

“Thankful for a community that can come together in times of fear and duress, thankful for families to support and love. Thankful that through personal and community tragedies that people are people – capable of so much love in the face of so much of the opposite.

Thankful for our community leaders like Buddy Dyer and Patty Sheehan who show us what commitment is – not just to budgets and planning – but to the hearts of all in Central Florida.”

 

 

 

Chris Collins

Filmmaker and Top 5 Guest Contributor, Christopher Collins:

“I am thankful to be alive. A year ago, I was in a car accident that could have ended my life. Obviously I survived, but the injury to my left foot & the trauma of the accident is something that has affected me even to this day, perhaps for the rest of my life, so I have to get the best Car accident lawyers to get compensation for that.

With the help of my family & friends, I was able to recover from that accident, and this Thanksgiving I am grateful that I am still able to spend time with the ones I love.

 

 

 

Kelly Sharkey

Owner of SeaWorldMommy.com and Top 5 Contributor, Kelly Green:

I’m thankful for today. I’m not promised anything more than that. This year has been rough… for our community, for my family in some ways… and I’m reminded how brief this life is. I’m thankful for the opportunity to be kind to strangers, to forgive wrongs, and to press on to new beginnings.

Life #ProTip: Even if you aren’t thrilled with how you’re looking this holiday season, get in pictures with your friends and family! This is the only holiday season 2016 you’ll have. Remember it. Capture it. Relive it through photos. You’ll be glad you have those moments captured.

 

 

Jay DLSCinematographer and Top 5 Pop Culture Contributor Jay De Los Santos:

This year I’m just thankful to have a steady job! Florida’s entertainment incentive is next to non-existent right now, and finding film and tv work has been challenging not to mention next to impossible. My hope is that this will all turn around in the next few years so I can work in my field. In the meantime, I plan on joining Film Florida in 2017 so I can be part of this change.

Holiday #ProTip: Can’t wait for Amazon Prime to deliver? Shop Local Pop Culture! Hit up (not so) hidden gem Gods and Monsters at Orlando’s Anti Mall, Artegon Marketplace for unique and hard to find t-shirts, figures, comics, art, and more!”

 

Rich Bio

Co-Host of Over A Beer podcast and Top 5 Contributor, Rich Belsan:

I’m of course thankful for my family, friends, and amazing girlfriend. I’m also thankful for the continued growth and support of Over a Beer.

For a #ProTip? If you’re looking for some good beer for the holiday there are great breweries in town like Hourglass Brewing.

 

Host/Producer of FilmSlam at Enzian and Top 5 Managing Editor, Jen Vargas:

For the past two years, my reason for being thankful hasn’t changed. I am most thankful for my mom’s oncologist, Dr. Kalpesh Barot and his team at Southwest Cancer Center. They are the reason my mom is still around for another Thanksgiving, and words cannot pay enough tribute to Dr. Barot and his team for all they’ve done for her. Thank you, Dr. Barot!

Holiday #ProTip: If the elections come up at the dinner table, make sure to have Adele queued up.

A unique way to spend Thanksgiving in Central Florida? There are so many! We don’t have snow but if you’d like to see it, catch Now Snowing in the Town of Celebration from now through December 31st! Or catch ICE! at Gaylord Palms featuring A Charlie Brown Christmas! I’m a lifelong Snoopy fan and cannot gush enough about this year’s Peanuts theme. Bring gloves, a hat, and a scarf though – it’s only 9 degrees in there!

 

Brian might bring his Blogger Award from Give Kids The World!

Brian and his Blogger Extraordinaire Award from Give Kids The World!

And finally, Top 5 Owner (who we all miss!) and Contributor, Brian Wilson:

This year I am most thankful for my health, my parents, my brothers, and their families. So happy I get to be close to them right now.

A unique thing to do Central Florida I’d suggest making time to get to a national park or trail or something historic or special to you and yours.

My holiday #ProTip is to make time to do something with a friend or family member this season, or make something, whether it is a card, a letter, or go to a local arts event vs buying a gift – so something vs buying something – I love candles but a coffee date with a friend can be priceless.

 

THANK YOU, TOP 5 READERS!

Enter to win Discovery Cove’s Splashy Sweet 16

Coral, the first dolphin born at SeaWorld’s Discovery Cove to mother Jenny, turns Sweet 16 this year, as does Discovery Cove itself!

Coral sweet 16 Discovery CoveBorn October 4, 2000, Coral is having a party that’s going to last all year long, with one lucky person (and 15 of their friends!) receiving the gifts. To celebrate the momentous occasion, SeaWorld’s Discovery Cove is holding a contest where someone will win entry for 16 to Discovery Cove, including:

• 16 All-Inclusive Dolphin Swim Packages

• 2 Private Cabanas

• 2 Nights at an Official SeaWorld HotelCoral sweet 16 2

• Transportation to and from Orlando, Florida

• Tickets to SeaWorld and Aquatica

 

Enter here daily through August 14. A winner will be announced on August 15, 2016 via email.

 

Discovery Cove is what I like to call a Cruise Ship excursion, without the cruise ship! There guests can visit The Grand Reef®, which contains more than 10,000 tropical fish, and the Freshwater Oasis®, featuring playful Asian otters and curious marmoset monkeys. Our family has been just about every year for the past few years and we can’t say enough good things about it. Everything is included: delicious food, drink (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), treats, wet suit, animal-friendly sunblock… you name it!

Insider tip: Don’t let your kid have unlimited frozen fruit bars. Just one or maybe two. (Do NOT ask for the details on how we learned that, LOL!)

For three consecutive years, Discovery Cove has ranked as one of the top amusement parks and water parks in the world in the TripAdvisor Traveler’s Choice Awards. For more information on SeaWorld’s gorgeous sister park, visit DiscoveryCove.com.

Did you know?
Coral is an eight-foot, 450-pound dolphin. Her female calf is named, appropriately, Reef!

Orlando, you are #TRULYLoved

It’s been a heavy month for the world, and in Orlando specifically. Our local City and County government, as well as our LGBTQ and Latinx communities have been working through their grief non-stop since the tragedy at Pulse. People here are slowly healing but still, we can’t forget. But we can make it better, all of us.

#LocalLoveOrlando Map (Pulse Edition) by Macbeth Studio

#LocalLoveOrlando Map (Pulse Edition) by Macbeth Studio

As a citizen and resident, I knew I wanted to do something. More than just saying ‘thank you,’ more than just a friendly tweet of encouragement. Smiles were the first thing that came to mind. They’re free, and anyone can inspire one, anywhere and at any time.

Many individuals and Orlando agencies have had to work through their grief, non-stop, over the past month including; City of Orlando and Mayor Buddy Dyer‘s office and communications teams, City of Orlando District 4 Commissioner Patty Sheehan, Orange County and Mayor Teresa Jacobs‘ office and communications teams, Orlando Police Department and Chief John Mina, Orlando Fire Department and Chief Williams, The Center, Orlando’s LGBT Community Center of Central Florida, and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Metro Orlando.

So… what’s the plan?

First things first – the smiles. I don’t know about you, but when I see one of Truly Nolen’s Volkswagen Bugs driving down the road, I immediately smile. From the ears on the roof to the tail on the back, I could be sitting in the worst traffic ever, see that mouse car, and smile. Did you know that Truly Nolen also has a Mouse Limo? It’s true! If seeing a huge, yellow Mouse Limo roll down the road doesn’t make you smile, I’m not sure what else will.

Truly Nolen Limo Side

Another thing that makes me smile? CUPCAKES. Win! Little cups of cake and icing, and enough joy to fit in the palm of your hand. Who doesn’t love a good cupcake? Even when they’re bad, they’re good. (Note: I have never had a bad cupcake, even ones I’ve baked myself. And I don’t cook.) 

So… I decided to combine the two, and thanks to Truly Nolen and Sprinkles Disney Springs, tomorrow’s JOYride will be a little sweeter!

How did I come to cupcakes and Mouse Limos?

At last month’s Mascot Games at the Amway Center, Jack Martin, who drives Truly Nolen’s Southeast U.S. Mouse Limo all over the country, offered to take me for a ride in the limo – and of course I said yes! After the attack on Pulse happened on June 12th, I knew I wanted to do more than just take a joyride around town in an unusual, but really cool limo.

Wait. JOY… ride. JOYride!! Makes PERFECT sense. 

Luckily Truly Nolen is as active in their communities (all over the United States) as Central Florida Top 5 and I are here in Orlando. In fact, we’ve teamed up a few times before. We received a not-as-scary-as-it-sounds bug education at Truly Nolen University and they also introduced us to a young quilting expert named Faith-Christina Duncan and her friends at the Down Syndrome Association of Central Florida.

After brainstorming with Truly Nolen’s Community Events, Social Media, and PR Manager, Toby Srebnik, we came up with a plan. Why not share smiles with everyone in Orlando (including those on the road) on our Mouse Limo JOYride through Orlando?

Next, I needed to locate cupcakes… dozens of delicious, colorful cupcakes. The first company that came to mind, who was equally as community-minded, was Sprinkles Bakery.  Sure, they have an amazing new Cupcake ATM at Disney Springs, but could they fill a very tall order of 5 dozen cupcakes? A quick call to Sprinkles Los Angeles and Sprinkles Disney Springs sealed the deal! The answer was an immediate YES!

The answer is always YES to cupcakes. Especially Sprinkles cupcakes!

The answer is always YES to cupcakes. Especially Sprinkles cupcakes!

[To learn more about them, read our 5 Things You Never Knew About Sprinkles Bakery post!]

So, tomorrow, I will be hand delivering smiles and Sprinkles cupcakes, via Truly Nolen’s Mouse Limo (the Official JOYride Vehicle!) to – just a few – of the people who have tirelessly kept our Orlando community safe and loved; City of Orlando, Orange County, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and The LGBT Center of Central Florida!

Does all of this sound goofy or sweet? I’m okay with either. As long as smiles are smiled tomorrow, it’s a good day. We’ll have to play it by… ear. (Ha! Mouse… Ear.)

I will also make a small delivery of wheelchair afghans and cuddly stuffed frogs for an out-of-state friend to Give Kids the World at some point on Wednesday! Please, I-4, be kind to us!

Picking up a special #TRULYLoved donation for @gktwvillage from @MariposaX & her mom.

A post shared by Jen (@jenvargas) on

You can follow my Orlando JOYride on Google Maps! I will also post a link tomorrow beginning at 1pm from the app Glympse, so you can follow our JOYride in REAL TIME, and maybe catch a glimpse of Truly Nolen’s Mouse Limo. (More puns! Okay, I’ll stop.)

Want to join in on the fun? When you’re out tomorrow, if you see us on the road or at one of our ‘sweet’ stops, snap a picture of Truly Nolen’s Mouse Limo and hashtag it #TRULYLoved!

Not in Central Florida? No problem! Snap a picture of you and your friends smiling or forming a heart (with your hands, arms, pencils, a drawing – anything you like) and share it on Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat or Facebook using #TRULYLoved! We’ll be sure to share them all!

Also, be sure to follow @TrulyNolen, @CentralFLTop5, and me, @jenvargas on Twitter for live, on the road and inside the Mouse Limo updates!

 

About Truly Nolen
Founded in 1938, Tucson, Arizona-based Truly Nolen of America is the largest family-owned pest control company in the United States. Our East Coast Operations Office is proudly headquartered in Orlando and is visible off Interstate 4. Truly Nolen has over 80 branch offices in Arizona, California, Florida, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas and Utah. The company also has independently owned and operated franchises in an ever-growing number of territories including Kentucky, Georgia, New Jersey, Canada, Puerto Rico and over 60 countries. To learn more about Truly Nolen, visit www.trulynolen.com or follow us on Facebook(www.facebook.com/TrulyNolenand Twitter (www.twitter.com/TrulyNolen).

About Sprinkles Cupcakes
Sprinkles Cupcakes opened “the world’s first cupcake bakery” in Beverly Hills, as reported by the Food Network, and is credited by the Los Angeles Times as “the progenitor of the haute cupcake craze.”  Founded by Candace Nelson, judge on Food Network’s hit show “Cupcake Wars,” and husband Charles, Sprinkles has inspired long lines of devoted Hollywood stars and serious epicureans alike.  From Tom Cruise to Oprah Winfrey, Blake Lively to Ryan Seacrest, celebrities are abuzz about Sprinkles!  Baked fresh in small batches throughout the day, Sprinkles Cupcakes are handcrafted from the finest ingredients and contain no preservatives, trans fats or artificial flavors.  Sprinkles has 20 locations nationwide, a traveling Sprinklesmobile – the world’s first cupcake truck, and sells its cupcake mixes at over 250 Williams-Sonoma stores throughout the US and Canada.  In 2012, Sprinkles debuted the world’s first Cupcake ATM and continued its foray into classic American desserts with the launch of Sprinkles Ice Cream. For additional information and a list of future locations, please visit www.sprinkles.com.

United We Remember, Unidos Recordemos at Osceola Heritage Park

It is imperative that we ALL unite. As religious leaders, victims’ families, LGBTQ, non-profit organizations, and businesses are coming together to show support for the victims.

Es imperativo que TODOS nos unamos. Como líderes religiosos, familiares de víctimas del LGBTQ, organizaciones sin fines de lucro y comercios para dar apoyo a las víctimas.

Date/Fecha: July 11th, 2016

Time/Hora: 7pm – 9pm

Location/Lugar: Osceola Heritage Park Exhibition Hall, 1875 Silver Spur Lane, Kissimmee, FL 34744

Please join us on July 11, 2016 which mark one month to the night of the mass shooting. More information and details to come. Please SHARE SHARE SHARE please Invite INVITE INVITE friends and family.

We are looking for volunteers. If you or your business would like to help with event please message me. Thank you

United We Remember

Florida Hospital’s Gourmet Soiree with Food Network’s Chef Robert Irvine on June 5

Have you ever watched shows like Top Chef, Master Chef, Iron Chef and any other food contests with chef in the title and thought “I could do that”? This weekend at the Florida Hospital Gourmet Soiree, you can!

On June 5th at Rosen Shingle Creek, Food Network’s Chef Robert Irvine will host over 70 of Central Florida’s top chefs as they compete for the coveted Gourmet Soiree Silver Fork Award.  Your ticket to the event qualifies you as their sous chef!

So proud of my #fhgourmetsoiree apron

A post shared by Kari (@nfc_kari) on

Your table of 10 and assigned Chef will conceptualize a healthy dish from a pantry of ingredients provided by Whole Foods. A presentation plate will then be judged by four celebrity guest judges prior to being judged on taste by Robert Irvine himself.

I had an opportunity to participate in a sneak preview event that gave me a small taste, an amuse bouche, if you will, of the big night.13221615_10154067972262707_4698264850060514429_n

To sum it up, the experience was thrilling, exciting, educational, harder than it looks on tv, and so much more delicious too.

My small group was assigned to Chef Jose Gonzalez from Cuba Libre at Pointe Orlando and we were to prepare a dish using tofu. Chef wasted no time in delegating assignments. He gave us an overall plan and it was up to us to fetch the ingredients, prepare, cook and assemble.  What followed was the shortest 45 mins of my life and a retraction of my tofu dislike.

Our team created a BBQ tofu dish with an accompanying salad that won over the judges and secured our win against the other team’s chicken risotto.

When you attend the Florida Hospital Gourmet Soiree, not only will you have a good time, but you’ll be doing good as well.  The event will support Florida Hospital for Children’s vital Health and Wellness Initiatives – Community programs like Mission: fit Possible in our Central Florida Schools, CREATION U in surrounding churches, Dr. Angela Fals’ weight management program and the patient focused CREATION Kids Kamp — all teach children good eating habits and healthy life choices in fun, kid friendly ways.

Team Tofu! Chef Gonzales and I after our team won the #fhgourmetsoiree preview event

A post shared by Kari (@nfc_kari) on

For more information including tickets and pricing, visit http://fhgourmetsoiree.com.

ProTip: To get a sneak peek at the wonderful live and silent auction items, and register ahead of time, go to https://qtego.net/qlink/gourmetsoiree and download the Qtego app!

Top 5 things to know about Invictus Games 2016 in Orlando!

ticketprices_FB

When His Royal Highness, Prince Harry of Wales, announced last July that the Invictus Games were coming to Orlando, we were immediately onboard.  What an honor! [And in case you hadn’t heard, the Invictus Games are coming to Central Florida!] This inspiring adaptive sports event for wounded warriors of all kinds will begin at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex this Sunday, Mother’s Day, May 8th beginning with a grand Opening Ceremony on May 8th at 6pm and is almost SOLD OUT!

[Click here for full schedule]

We’ve been sworn to secrecy about the details but what we can tell you… the Invictus Games’ Opening Ceremonies are going to HUUUUGE. Alongside military performances and shared stories from Veterans and Active Duty members from around the world, Prince Harry, First Lady Michelle Obama (What up, FLOTUS?!), James Blunt, Laura Wright and more surprise guests will be in attendance at this one-of-a-kind event.

Also very cool to note, the Invictus Games will be preceded by The Invictus Games Symposium on Invisible Wounds, presented by the George W. Bush Institute. (Former President Bush also serves as Honorary Chairman for the Invictus Games Orlando 2016.) The symposium will focus on understanding the multiple facets of invisible wounds and how the warriors, caregivers, general public, providers, and influencers each play an important role in helping servicemen and women succeed. Many see the visible wounds of combat but many never think of the psychological ones – PTSD and brain trauma among them – that follow these folks home, and for the rest of their lives.

Athletes, caregivers, medical and policy experts, and providers will discuss such topics as; Understanding the Impact of Invisible Wounds, Recognizing the Need for Help, Overcoming the Barriers to Seeking Care, Navigating and Improving the Systems of Care and Addressing Invisible Wounds.  You can sign up to livestream the symposium here before Sunday’s Opening Ceremonies.

Invictus Games Orlando 2016 Map

Fourteen nations will be competing this weekend including; Afghanistan, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, France, Georgia, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Netherlands, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and the United States! (Iraq was supposed to as well but could not attend.) Of the 500 competitors, 115 Servicewomen and men will represent the United States!

The first Invictus Games began in 2014 after His Royal Highness, Prince Harry of Wales, took a trip to the Warrior Games here in the United States. After seeing how the power of sport could help Servicemembers with life-changing injuries (visible or otherwise), he decided London would host the Inaugural Invictus Games internationally.

The word ‘invictus‘ is a Latin adjective which means unconquered. As Prince Harry has said, “These Games have shone a spotlight on the ‘unconquerable’ character of service men and women and their families and their ‘Invictus’ spirit. These Games have been about seeing guys sprinting for the finish line and then turning round to clap the last man in. They have been about teammates choosing to cross the line together, not wanting to come second, but not wanting the other guys to either. These Games have shown the very best of the human spirit.

InvicTip: Check out English poet William Ernest Henley’s poem, Invictus, which was written while the author was in the hospital battling tuberculosis.

As if this all of this wasn’t enough of a reason to attend, watch and support the Invictus Games Orlando 2016, here are five more:

1. Sports!

Longtime fans of sports in general already love to watch sports and attend games in person. Of the ten competitive events at Invictus Games 2016; archery, indoor rowing, powerlifting, road cycling, sitting volleyball, track and field, swimming, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby, and wheelchair tennis, we’re sure you’ll find a new favorite.

2. #MoreThanThankYou is more than [a] hashtag

Anytime one sees a Servicewoman or man in uniform, we’ve all grown accustomed to thanking them for their service to our country. Of course these more than just words, and we’re sure those in uniform (and their families) thank you for the gratitude. A gentleman named Ken Fisher, Chairman and CEO of Fisher House Foundation, challenges all of us to say more than ‘thank you’ by attending the Games and sharing the story of a friend or family member, Active Duty or Veteran, on Instagram using the hashtag #MoreThanThankYou.

InvicTip: Read my exclusive interview with Fisher House Foundation CEO, Ken Fisher, on wearables4good.org!

3. The Competition is REAL – ask the UK and Canada!

Uh oh. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama dropped the mic, and the gauntlet. Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth and His Royal Highness, Prince Harry have something to say about this…

As does Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau

Oh SNAP! It’s ON like Donkey Kong.

4. Ticket prices are very reasonable

A single event ticket for adults is only $18, and Seniors are only $13. Children ages 3-9 are $13. (Under 3 is FREE) Active Duty military and Veteran tickets are only $13. Tickets for Opening Ceremonies on May 8th cost $65, and Closing Ceremonies on May 12th at 6pm cost $45. Keep in mind, the ticket prices we’ve listed are per event. You will need more than one ticket if attending more than one event. General Parking at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex is FREE, valet services will be available for an unconfirmed fee. [Click here for WWoS Guest Services and further information.]

For those wanting to stay over, Walt Disney World Resort room reservation agents are available from Monday to Friday, 8:30 AM to 6:00 PM Eastern time, along with Saturday and Sunday from 8:30 AM to 5 PM Eastern time by calling (407) 939-4686. Rooms are available at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort for $178 per night plus tax and Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort for $113 per night plus tax.

InvicTip: Archery Finals, Sitting Volleyball Semis & Finals, Wheelchair Rugby Semis & Finals, Wheelchair Tennis Semis & Finals, and Wheelchair Basketball Finals are very close to selling out according to Ticketmaster’s site. Act FAST!

5. If you can’t attend physically, you can watch & support virtually!

We’d love to see you here in Orlando but understand if you or your family can’t physically make this year’s Invictus Games. You can still watch the Invictus Games Orlando 2016 LIVE online and on ESPN 2 & 3 via the app or on TV. You can also participate by following #InvictusOrlando on their official social channels: 

We also encourage you to support the Games beyond their visit to Orlando, and learn more about the Invictus Games Foundation by clicking here. Next year’s games will be in Toronto, Canada! Perhaps we’ll be visiting readers in our Neighbors to the North next year?

2016 Invictus Games viewing schedule:

Date Time (ET) Event/Commentators Network
Sun, May 8 8 – 10 p.m. Opening Ceremony ESPN2
Mon, May 9 8 – 11 a.m. Powerlifting Finals  ESPN3
  1:30 – 4:30 p.m. Rowing Finals  ESPN3
7 – 10:30 p.m. Archery Finals  ESPN3
  7 – 8 p.m. Day 1 Primetime Show  ESPN2
Tue, May 10 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. Track & Field Finals  ESPN3
2 – 4:30 p.m. Sitting Volleyball Semifinals  ESPN3
  7 – 9:30 p.m. Sitting Volleyball Gold & Bronze Matches ESPN3
7 – 8:30 p.m. Day 2 Primetime Show  ESPN
Wed, May 11 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. Swimming Finals  ESPN3
2 – 4:30 p.m. Wheelchair Rugby Semifinals  ESPN3
  7:30 – 11p.m. Wheelchair Rugby Gold & Bronze Medal Matches & Exhibition  ESPN3
7 – 8 p.m. Day 3 Primetime Show  ESPN2
Thur, May 12 8 – 10 a.m. Wheelchair Tennis Final  ESPN3
  10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Wheelchair Basketball Semifinals  ESPN3
  2 – 4 p.m. Wheelchair Basketball Gold & Bronze Medal Matches  ESPN3
  7 – 10 p.m. Closing Ceremony ESPN2
Sun, May 13 1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. Encore Presentation Primetime Show ABC

See you this weekend!

 

Paws for Peace Walk helps all Survivors of domestic abuse

All paws on deck for this Saturday’s Paws for Peace Walk 2016! Take a fun stroll through Blue Jacket Park with your whole family – furry and not so furry – help raise awareness for TWO great causes; Harbor House of Central Florida and Paws For Peace Kennel at Harbor House! (Details below)

Paws for Peace 2

When thinking of a Survivor of domestic abuse most only think of the humans affected, particularly the small ones. In this country, a woman is battered by her partner every 15 seconds. What happens to the family pet(s) in this situation? Enter: Paws For Peace Kennel.

After years of planning and fundraising, Harbor House of Central Florida’s Paws for Peace Kennel officially opened on December 6, 2012. It is a 1,500 square foot state of the art facility located on site at Harbor House’s confidential Emergency Shelter, which features grooming area, exam room, 20 kennels (for dogs and cats), and space for other smaller, pocket pets such as hamsters, ferrets and birds.
Paws for Peace 3 Sheehan
Day to day operations are supported by the annual Paws For Peace Walk as well as by donor contributions throughout the year. Harbor House is the only shelter in Central Florida with an on site kennel for pets, ensuring no family member is left behind in an abusive home.
Paws for Peace 1
How can YOU participate? Register your human and/or anipal family here: harborhousefl.com/pawswalk! 100% of the proceeds from this walk will go to fund Survivors and their pets staying in Harbor House of Central Florida’s Safe Short Term Housing.
Harbor House Paws for Peace

Details:

What: Paws For Peace 2016 Walk

Where: Blue Jacket Park

(North corner of General Rees Avenue and Lower Park Road)

Map2501 General Rees Avenue 

Orlando, Florida 32814

When: Saturday, April 23rd, 2016

Registration opens at 8am, the Walk begins at 9am.

A New Day for SeaWorld: Orca Breeding Program Ends

As an advocate for wildlife conservation and, yes – a passionate advocate for SeaWorld – March 17, 2016 is a big day, and I encourage everyone to truly do their due diligence in reinvestigating how they feel about SeaWorld today.

Here’s what’s happening right now at SeaWorld:

SeaWorld’s orca breeding program officially ends today.  There is one whale, Takara, who’s been pregnant since last year – so, prepare yourselves for the last orca calf birth within SeaWorld’s parks.

Theatrical shows are done. Which is making way for new natural habitat encounters that are being created (but, keep in mind, these take time and don’t happen overnight — you’ll see them first in California later this year, then San Diego, and last in Orlando – in 2019) and these will focus on orca enrichment, exercise and overall health.

SeaWorld partners with Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) to further support the changes announced today.

 

Two years ago, I decided very deliberately to share my stance on SeaWorld with everyone.  I was tired of “living in fear” that someone would have a differing opinion – a lot of people on the internet do, and they let me know it every time I step into the park.  I understand why many have trouble supporting SeaWorld.  I’ve also done my own extensive research to know why I personally choose to stand with SeaWorld, and I can only ask that you respect my opinion as much as I try to respect yours.

The killer whales that are currently in their care, and have been for many years, have mostly all been BORN within the parks — there is NO WAY that any of them could survive in the wild. None. Zilch. Not up for discussion.  “Saving the whales” by “freeing” them into the ocean…is likely certain death for them.  I’m not willing to risk their lives to see if these whales born in captivity can even begin to figure out the wild.  I’m not up for debating this here or now with anyone – we’ve been there/done that.

However, it is my total and complete belief that WITHOUT SEAWORLD? We – and the very existence of these animals (from killer whale to manatee to sea turtle) – would have been entirely worse off. Likely, without SeaWorld, the Florida Manatee would’ve been wiped off the planet years ago…that’s just for starters.

And I find it extremely difficult to believe that everyone who’s been calling for their heads was or would’ve been the “activist” that they are for the killer whale without – ironically – SeaWorld themselves.

Because, let’s be real here for a second — no one gave a flying flippity thought about the killer whales (and, in fact, actually FEARED the animal) until SeaWorld stepped in and gave us Shamu. Had SeaWorld NOT put the killer whale infront of us and began educating us about the species people would likely continue to fear this “killer” and never even know what they are – let alone CARE about them. They’d care as much, if not less, about the KILLER whale as they do the blue whale or the beluga whale or the sperm whale….or sharks…or sea turtles…or manatees.

Think what you want of SeaWorld after watching one piece of propaganda that was set out with the intention of destroying every single thing this company does, both good and bad. Admittedly, I agree, many of these changes were necessary and I’m happy to see them come to fruition.  That being said, I do not believe that the total destruction of the predominant resource that helps to rescue/rehab and conserve these animals all over the world was – or is – warranted. Keep in mind, SeaWorld is not only accredited through various high level organizations globally – they’re also regulated by federal & state agencies too.  SeaWorld is not the only authority involved in these animal’s care, rehab, and conservation.

Having SeaWorld in my backyard here in Orlando, growing up supporting them, and WITNESSING THEM being the first on many calls throughout the year to help save just about any animal that needs them – has me solidly on Team SeaWorld. They are, after all, the very reason I became fascinated with these animals back in the 80s as a kid from New Jersey who never knew much more than what a garden snake or a duck in the pond at the park looked like outside of what was in books.  Now, some 30-odd years later, my friends will tell you that I’m a fierce lover of all animals, but in particular those of the marine sort.  Why?  SeaWorld.

My hope now, after today especially, is that more people begin to reconsider their stance on SeaWorld, that you at least take another hardcore look and are open to the changes that are happening — because without SeaWorld and without our support in SeaWorld and all the GOOD that they do provide? You could bet your bottom dollar that a lot of these animals cease to exist.

SeaWorld needs money and resources to make things happen – from their rescue and rehab programs, to the new changes they’re working to put in place, and the continuation in the level of care that these animals ARE in fact receiveing. Which is likely better than you & I receive any time we go to the doctor…they need us, as much as we need them.

Editor’s Note: Central Florida Top 5 encourages everyone to visit SeaWorldCares.com/Future to learn more about Sea World’s current efforts and plans for the future. 

SeaWorld announced that it is phasing out current killer whale theatrical shows and replacing with new, inspiring, natural orca encounters as part of its ongoing commitment to education, marine science research, and rescue of marine animals. These programs will focus on orca enrichment, exercise, and overall health and will start in its San Diego park next year, followed by San Antonio and then Orlando in 2019. Artist Rendering 2016 ©SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment

SeaWorld announced that it is phasing out current killer whale theatrical shows and replacing with new, inspiring, natural orca encounters as part of its ongoing commitment to education, marine science research, and rescue of marine animals. These programs will focus on orca enrichment, exercise, and overall health and will start in its San Diego park next year, followed by San Antonio and then Orlando in 2019. Artist Rendering

2016 ©SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment

The Boathouse at Disney Springs – Your Ship has come in!

If you haven’t been to Disney Springs lately, you’re missing the boat!  To be more precise, you’re missing The Boathouse.

The Boathouse Orlando is one of Disney Springs‘ latest additions to their culinary offerings at the newly expanded entertainment and shopping complex we used to refer to as Downtown Disney.

If this is all news to you, then you really need to take a trip out to Disney Springs and experience the magic first hand. There are a lot of great dining options and one of my favorites is The Boathouse Orlando, with their delicious offerings and ambiance of this gorgeous new restaurant!

Boathouse Orlando, Burger

You can dine indoors or dockside enjoying their award-winning menu of steaks, chops, fresh seafood, and out-of-this-world desserts. You’ll find the best selection of Oysters in Florida at The Boathouse and something for everyone on their menu. Since I was there for lunch, the Boathouse Double Cheddar Cheeseburger seemed like the winning choice and believe me, it didn’t disappoint! They custom grind the meat for this classic burger using 50% chuck and 50% brisket for a truly delicious combination!

Boathouse Orlando

Along with your dinner, you can enjoy classic craft cocktails and an extensive offering of wines from iconic American vineyards at three distinctive bars: The Captain’s Raw Bar, Admiral’s Club Bar and The Dockside Bar, built over the water and attached to over 300 feet of boardwalk and docks. It’s also a great spot to just unwind with your favorite beverage. And while you’re there check out their vintage amphicars and The Venezia, a 40-ft. Italian Wooden Water Taxi for a relaxing cruise on the lake with a guided Captain’s tours of Disney Springs.

Boathouse Orlando

Of course The Boathouse offers beautiful dining rooms inside, as well as their fun bar area at the entrance, as well as a ships store for souvenirs to commemorate your visit.

Boathouse Orlando

If you’re looking for a romantic evening, make sure to visit The Boathouse at night. That’s when Disney Springs comes alive and the The Boathouse with its spectacular night views of the lake is the perfect location for your next date night.

The Boathouse Orlando is a family friendly restaurant too, with a special kids menu (delivered in their own Boathouse Car kids meal box) . So don’t anyone at home when you visit Disney Springs, everyone will love the Boathouse Menu!

The Boathouse is located at Disney Springs
1620 East Buena Vista Drive
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830
(407) 939-2628

Sun – Thurs 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m.
Sat & Sun 11:00 a.m. to 2:00

The BOATHOUSE® offers private dining for special events & large groups. Their team of culinary experts will design a menu and create a celebration for memories that last a lifetime.

Charity leaders ring in 2016 with high hopes

The slowly recovering economy helped Central Florida’s charities and nonprofit groups provide better services to those in need in 2015. Some causes – like finding shelter for homeless veterans – scored significant gains.

But the number of people who can’t afford adequate clothing, food, shelter and safety overall is still increasing, while charitable giving and volunteering remain in a slump.

We asked a handful of key players in the public/nonprofit sector what the Central Florida giving community should focus on in 2016.

Be Prepared

“Even after the lessons learned from the 2007 recession, many surviving nonprofit organizations are still not advancing the development of a ‘rainy-day’ fund. The benefits of a contingency reserve are obvious with an emphasis on the fact that current and potential contributed income funders are more likely to look favorably on this best practice behavior. With the topsy-turvy global economy, it just makes sense to prepare and avoid financial upheaval. Make it a top strategic goal for 2016.”
— Bob Kovacevich, president, Avatar Company, a nonprofit-sector research, planning and fundraising consultancy (www.Facebook.com/Avatarway).

Support the Arts

“We at Enzian, to paraphrase a movie line, always depend on the kindness of strangers, and after they visit us, they become very dear friends. It is through the generosity of friends that our community continues to has the courage to aspire to great things. And with friends like that, we can do anything. I expect nothing less in 2016.”
— Henry Maldonado, President at Enzian Theater, Maitland.

Agency & Client Collaboration

“I hope for continued collaboration among agencies to maximize benefits to people in need. There is great work being done to organize resources for comprehensive solutions to the community. I also hope agencies continue encouraging clients to participate in their own wellness. And I hope funders increase support for existing programs — not just for new programs to be developed.
— Vickie Martin, Executive Director, Christian HELP Foundation, devoted to preventing homelessness by helping the unemployed find jobs.

Time & Talent

“I hope that 2016 will provide Central Florida with breakthrough philanthropic leadership in recruiting and deploying volunteers. Orlando was recently ranked 46 out 51 large metropolitan areas in the United States in terms of volunteerism. Volunteers are the “civic soul” of any great community. We need to do better in 2016!
— David A. Odahowski, President and CEO at Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation

Build on Momentum

“I am extremely proud to say Central Florida is leading the state in solving homelessness. The first hurdle is public awareness and empathy. I have watched our community transform from arresting and vilifying people to being empathetic and solving the problem. My hope is we continue our momentum and become the epicenter of change in Florida. ”
— Thomas Francis Rebman (homeless-hungry.org)

Focus on the Good

“Continue the great work so many charities do. I don’t think we concentrate enough on all the positive things happening in our community. We are close to finding housing for all homeless veterans, which was a huge push for the City of Orlando last year. There are many charities, too many to mention, that help children. We are a giving community in Orlando.
— Patty Sheehan, Commissioner, District 4, Orlando (facebook.com/patty.sheehan.52)

Teamwork & Cooperation

“I hope that we continue on the course of highly engaged civic and government leaders collaborating on significant social issues facing our community, such as homelessness and domestic violence. We’ve made such progress over the past few years, and I’m looking forward to it increasing.”
— Carol Wick, Chief Executive Officer at Harbor House of Central Florida

Baby It’s Cold… In Orlando (Somewhat)

It’s the last week of fall and here in Central Florida we’re experiencing temperatures 10 degrees higher than average. What’s an Orlandoan to do when they’d like a taste of a Winter Wonderland? Here are my top five:

1) Ice Skating
I remember skating on a pond outside our house in Michigan as a child. It was a tiny little thing, and you couldn’t really get up enough speed to do even an arabesque, much less any kind of twirls. Luckily we have rinks here in Orlando like RDV Sportsplex that has public skating hours, and in Kissimmee there’s  The Ice Factory where they also have open skating AND you can skate with Santa this Friday night (December 18, 2015)! Light Up UCF has an outdoor (albeit warm) rink plus lots of other holiday activities including a film festival and light show. Other synthetic ice rinks include and I-Drive 360  and the Orlando Science Center both warm yet (pardon the pun) COOL!

If watching ice skating gives you a shiver, SeaWorld Orlando’s Winter Wonderland on Ice is a show-stopping, ice skating extravaganza. Though far from making one think of ice, “Hot Chocolate” is my favorite production number. Check it out! (♫ Oh We Got It! ♫) Best of all, all #SeaWorldChristmas events are included with admission.

2) Ice Bars
Ice Bar on International Drive is one “hot” spot (pun intended) where you can “taste the cold” along with your drink! Visit during happy hour every Sunday through Thursday from 7–9p for discounted admission (drinks extra).

At Minus5 Ice Bar at Pointe Orlando everything is made of 100% ice including the bar, tables, benches, walls and even the glasses guests drink from. Check their calendar for events and specials.

Though both bars are marketed to the tourists, locals can have a night of cold fun if to just imagine what it would be like to live in a cold clime, or to remember the days when they “used to” live up north.

Another option is On The Block, a “pop up” VIP ice bar inside ICE! at Gaylord Palms (read more about ICE! below). This add-on experience is for guests 21 and over.

3) Frozen Treats
Can’t get TO the snow? How about a snow… cone?! Or ice cream? Orlando is home to great restaurants and shops with delicious frozen treats. Vivoli Gelateria in Disney Springs offers a variety of Italian frozen creations including seasonal flavors. Also at Disney Springs, Downtown Snow Company (near Fulton’s Crab House and across from Portobello), offers shaved ice and a multitude of festive flavors. Thinking French instead? Check out L’artisan des Glaces at Epcot’s France Pavilion. Kona Ice serves up shaved ice at multiple locations and you can’t go wrong with a Concrete from Shake Shack (not very “holiday”, but I LOVE the Key Lime!) or Freddy’s Frozen Custard (they have a Pumpkin Pie one seasonally that’s OH so good).

Want to make a frozen drink at home that tastes like the holidays? Emily Ellyn created some of my all-time favorites. (Her Eggnog Martini is my go-to holiday drink with spirit!)

4) Snow and Ice IN Florida
You’d be hard pressed to find anywhere in Florida colder than ICE! at Gaylord Palms. It’s a chilly 9 degrees inside! Enjoy ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas carved out of over two million pounds of ice. After your chilly stroll through a true Winter Wonderland, add to the fun with Alpine Rush! Who knew you could snow sled in the Sunshine State?! My son has been down the slides at least 50 times (conservatively). This is by far my favorite Florida cold spot, though remember to bring your touch-pad gloves for the walk-through if you intend to take pictures or Instagram your #CAGP15 trip. My phone froze up before I made it to the last room, the Nativity.

ProTip: Keep your phone or camera as close to your body as you can between shots and by all means wear closed-toed shoes. (I did not during one of my walk-throughs this year and I found myself doing a Prancer imitation as I went from room to room.) ICE! featuring ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas runs through January 3, 2016. Season passes are available, too, so you can enjoy the Frozen Fabulousness over and over. It’ll be like you live in snow country. But without the tire chains.

This Friday (Dec. 18), guests age 21 and older can visit Gaylord Palms Resort to zoom down the Alpine Rush Snow Tubing hills and jaunt through the 9-degree ICE! attraction wearing only a bikini or board shorts (shorts and a T-shirt can also be worn)! Their one-night-only Polar Bear Plunge 2015 is $50 plus tax and processing fees and include access to Alpine Rush Snow Tubing and ICE!, appetizers and two drink tickets to be redeemed during the event. A portion of all ticket proceeds from the Polar Bear Plunge will be donated to Special Olympics Florida.

The City of Winter Haven is holding Snow Central. Play in 70 tons of snow and go down 3 lanes of the Snow Slide,  meet Santa and more, all for free, Thurs. Dec. 17 from 6–9pm.

5) Fake It ‘Till You Make It
While there are no places to build snowmen (though you can sing along to the family frozenDisney Frozen soundtrack…), you can close your eyes and imagine the attraction industry’s soap-bubble concoction or tissue paper cutouts are snow. Theme parks have snow nightly now through the end of the year (Disney, Universal, and SeaWorld all have Florida-friendly “snow” nightly; check park maps for details), and it’s “Now Snowing” at Celebration Florida, too!

I only lived in Michigan for a couple of years. The rest of the time I lived in my birth place of Central Florida. It did snow here one year when I was a kid. I hadn’t seen snow prior to then and it seemed other-worldly. I think we managed to scoop up enough for a single snowball, but in that moment it was winter here in Orlando. There are no forecasts for flurries this year, but I can “feel” winter just a little more though fun frozen activities and treats all around town.

2015 Fall Fiesta in the Park

                                                                     2015 Fall Fiesta in the Park

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer invites Central Florida residents and visitors to attend the 45th annual Fall Fiesta in the Park on November 7-8 at beautiful Lake Eola Park.

The festival will include 300 artists and crafters, great food, live music and a children’s play area.

 

City of Orlando 45th Annual Fall Fiesta in the Park

Date: November 7-8

Time: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday, 12-5 p.m. Sunday

Location: Lake Eola Park

Admission: Free

For a Premiere Dining Experience Check out EnjoyFresh

There’s a new kid in town and they are AWESOME! Last month I signed up for a meetup group for newbies in the Orlando area and little did I know that this culinary experience would be more than just a casual get together.

Our host for this meetup was also a transplant to O-Town (as so many of us are) and he had brought with him a new concept in dining called EnjoyFresh.

EnjoyFresh is a marketplace for culinary experiences. Rethinking dining out, by connecting food lovers with chefs and restaurants. Users search EnjoyFresh for unique culinary experiences near them. The marketplace holds everything from off-menu dishes, to pop-ups, tasting menus and beyond. EnjoyFresh lets you discover unique new places and experience your favorite restaurants like never before. They hand select all of the experiences to bring us the most creative, tastiest and exclusive food experiences around.

EnjoyFresh is doing well in California and our host for the Orlando Events, Laurent is hoping to do the same for Central Florida. To give you a better idea here’s a glimpse of what you can expect at an EnjoyFresh Dining Event.

Artisan's Table Shrimp Crostini

The EnjoyFresh event at Artisan’s Table was a Jack Daniel’s Whiskey Dinner, with 4 courses of deliciousness and 5 Jack Daniel’s Whiskey cocktails. Our first course was a Shrimp Crostini with homemade chorizo, yellow tomato marmalade and focaccia crostini. This was paired with a Gentleman Jack Brown Derby. (The cocktails were all themed post-prohibition era)

Maple Bacon Butter Washed Jack Daniel's Manhattan

And as the night progressed we were served this OMG delicious Maple Bacon Butter Washed Jack Daniel’s Manhattan with our Herb Marinated Duck Breast……sigh. It was a good night to be me! Thanks to our new friends from Brown-Forman we also had fun swag to take home as well as door prizes of premiere whiskeys!

This was the second EnjoyFresh event I had been to and honestly while the concept is amazing I was waiting to see how it played out. In my opinion, I think we have a winner here and I’m looking forward to new and exciting dining experiences!

So if you love food, love good conversation and want to be treated just a little bit special than EnjoyFresh is just what you’re looking for. They’ll be working with some of the best restaurants in the area to bring us unique and delicious dining experiences.

You can sign up for EnjoyFresh on their website or mobile app. EnjoyFresh also lets you sign up through Facebook and Twitter. Enter your details and start enjoying mouthwatering made-to-order delicacies. There is no charge to join EnjoyFresh, the only expense will be for the culinary adventures you choose. The cost of the event will all inclusive, there are no hidden fees.

The more people that sign up, the more likely that EnjoyFresh will be hosting more events, so head on over to their website and get ready for some deliciousness!

Click on this link for more information on Artisan’s Table.

 

Asia Trend Asian Cultural EXPO 2015

Asia Trend Magazine is proud to present the 6th Annual Asian Cultural EXPO to showcase the culture of Asia and to celebrate Asia Trend’s 10 years of publishing on October 17, 2015 at Turkey Lake at Bill Frederick Park.  Come experience and honor the wonders of Asian culture through exhibitions, performances, and crafts!  Asian Cultural EXPO will be held together with the Walgreens Orlando International Dragon Boat Festival which will be participated by 2,500 Corporate and Community members and over a thousand spectators.   The event is free and good for all ages.

 

 

Asia Trend Inc. is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with a mission of strengthening mutual understanding, creating effective channels of communication between Asian Americans and non-Asian Americans and promoting cultural performing arts.  Asia Trend Community learning center, opened in November 2014 at the Orlando Fashion Square Mall to educate, connect and engage the community about the history, cultures and emerging business opportunities of Asia through partnership.  Visit www.asiatrend.org to know more.

Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurant

I love finding new places to dine in the Orlando area and I love meeting people!  So when I found out about a local meetup group that goes out to area restaurants for dinner, it was a match made in heaven!

Cooper Hawk Winery

I was blown away when I entered Cooper’s Hawk Winery. The gift shop and bar area were spectacular. It was the perfect spot to try out their hand crafted wines and pick up a gift for that hard to shop for family member. The Cooper’s Hawk Winery produces around 600,000 gallons of wine each year and since Opening in late 2005, Cooper’s Hawk has received over 300 wine awards from various local, national, and international wine competitions.

Cooper Hawk Winery

If  you’re not in the mood for wine or you’re looking for a little chocolate to pair with one of your favorite wines, look no further than the delicious array of chocolate treats located adjacent to the wine bar.

Cooper Hawk Winery

Cooper’s Hawk has well appointed and comfortable dining area’s with a variety of seating. In this picture you can see how a bottle of wine is served in one of Cooper’s Hawk signature wine decanters. Just another way to make your dining experience enjoyable!

Asian Pork Belly Tostados

Then there’s the food….sigh. I started off the night with their Award Winning Asian Pork Belly Tostadas, enjoying the Southern Grilled Shrimp & Polenta for dinner. Service was excellent, with management making their rounds throughout the night checking with their guests to make sure everyone was having a good meal and a good evening. Cooper’s Hawk has a varied and imaginative menu with something for every palate.  You’ll enjoy choosing your meal from classic meat and seafood dishes, burgers, pasta, salads, gluten free and their low calorie Life Balance menu.

Just make sure to save room for dessert. All desserts are made in-house daily by our chefs and are large enough to be shared, I can highly recommend the Chocolate Pretzel Bread Pudding and the Banana Caramel Ice Cream Sandwich. I will need to make a return trip just to try the rest of their desserts!

Cooper’s Hawk Winery has two Orlando area locations: 529 N. Alafaya Trail in the Waterford Lakes area and 8005 International Drive in the I-Drive area.

Tasting Room & Restaurant Hours are: Monday – Thursday: 11 am – 9:30 pm : Friday & Saturday: 11 am – 10:30 pm  : Sunday:  11 am – 9 pm

Bar Hours: Monday – Thursday: 11 am – 10:30 pm : Friday & Saturday: 11 am – 11:30 pm  :  Sunday: 11 am – 10 pm

DRIP Goes Vampire for October

There are plenty of Halloween events going on around town, but this new event from DRIP sounds like a bloody good time.

Performance art group, DRIP, is creating a safe haven for the Vampires and their human friends. Finally there will be a place in Orlando for Vampires to be themselves, sip “Blood” from the Blood Bar, watch dancers enjoy “Blood” baths, take a “Blood” shower, witness human sacrifices, enjoy live music, and full theatrical show featuring performances in paint, sand, “blood”, flying water and more.  The Underground Vampire Bar will be at DRIP for a limited time in October on International Drive just down the street from the New Orlando Eye and on the backside of the Señor Frog’s building.

The Underground Vampire Bar Grand Opening Party takes place Friday, October 9, 2015, kicking off a four-week run.

DRIP founder Jessica Mariko explains: “We’ve been wanting to convert DRIP into a dark and sexy Vampire environment in October for a couple of years and the timing is finally right to make it a reality. I love to create new forms of stimulation and challenge our team to create new twists in our storyline to feature a vampire falling in love with a human, eternal love, heartbreak and the color red!”

Photo credit: Carl Jordan

Photo credit: Carl Jordan

Guests heading to DRIP’s Underground Vampire Bar will start by changing into a limited edition white vampire t-shirt and make their way over to the killer paint station to paint their shirts and paint their friends. Performance artists will be enjoying a bath in the liquid blood hammock while guests grab a drink of choice from the Blood Bar. T-shirt artists will custom design and cut guest’s shirts for $5 and turn them into corsets, dresses, tank tops and more.

There will be a custom vampire DRIP show featuring a live band and dancers telling a story of eternal love and heartbreak.

Post show, guests will join an after party until midnight with DJ Marone, dance floor, interactive blood shower, human sacrifices and one lucky winner will receive a complimentary bottle of DRIP “Bloodeaux” wine nightly at 11:00 PM!

DRIP’s Underground Vampire Bar will be open every Friday and Saturday in October as well as for special events including the Florida Premiere of “Clockwork Orange” on Oct. 15-19, Local Art Night on Oct. 22, and Zombie College Paint Party on Oct. 29.

The Underground Vampire Bar will finish with a closing night party on Halloween, October 31, featuring an after party with “The Bloody Jug Band.”

The Underground Vampire Bar tickets range from $35-$79. Doors and activities open at 8:00PM. Guests will want to dress to get and colorful and wet, shorts and flip-flops are perfect. Age restrictions vary per event.

For a full listing of events and tickets, visit DRIP’s website at  www.ILoveDRIP.com. DRIP is located at 8747 International Dr. Ste. 102, Orlando, Fl 32819 on the backside of the building with Senor Frogs and Denny’s.

 

Featured image credit: Brooke Pifer

Baby It’s Cold Inside – IceBar Orlando

Living in the Sunshine State where temperatures regularly hit 90 degrees and higher the last thing you expect is the frozen tundra. But that’s just what you’ll find on I-Drive amidst the restaurants and tourist spots.

The IceBar Orlando with over 70 tons of hand-carved ice has been featured as one of the top 10 bars on Travel Channel’s “Extreme Barhopping” and “America’s Best Top 10 Destinations” on the Food Network.   

I-Drive, Orlando

When you arrive at the IceBar Orlando you’ll enter through the FIRE Lounge and be greeted by an Ice Princess who’ll help get you ready for your Arctic Adventure. Thermal Coats and Gloves are provided to help you battle the cold and for an additional fee you can upgrade to a (faux) fur coat, to keep you both warm and stylish.

I-Drive,

As you enter the IceBar you can check the temperature, we were at a balmy 15 degrees that evening. Inside this Winter Wonderland, we were greeted by an ice sculpted polar bear, an ice throne, ice tables, ice stools and ice benches. Thankfully all the chairs are covered with a faux fur to keep your bottom from getting too chilly!

Drinks were served at the IceBar in Ice sculpted glasses by a friendly bartender who seemed to be oblivious to the cold, as he poured our colorful and very tasty cocktails. After being served we moved to a table at the back of the IceBar to people watch as the bar filled up.  It wasn’t long before we were rewarded with a fun group of IceBar companions.

I would advise coming early to avoid the crowds and have more time in the IceBar.

I-Drive , Orlando

Management does request that you limit your stays inside the IceBar to 45 minutes or less at one time. You’re free to visit the adjacent FireBar to warm up, enjoy a cocktail and get the blood flowing again while enjoying the music.  When you can feel your feet again and the color has returned to your face it’s time to head back over to the Frozen Tundra for another cocktail.

Just remember to drink responsibly and never drink and drive, we want you to enjoy all Orlando has to offer for many years to come.

ICEBAR Orlando is located at 8967 International Drive in Orlando.  They’re open Sunday – Wednesday from 7 pm – 12 pm; Thursday 7 pm – 1 am; Friday – Saturday 7 pm – 2 am.  Age requirements for entry are  Under 21 from 7 pm – 9pm.