Southern Hill Farms Strawberry Picking

If you have ever been to Southern Hill Farms, you know they have different events and pick your own fruit events throughout the different seasons. Right now, its strawberry picking season! If you have never been to the farm, now is the time, there is no fruit better than freshly picked!

The farm is on roughly 120 acres of land, and depending which way you come in, the entrance is a long clay road. There is plenty of parking available, and for the strawberry picking, you do not have to pay to park like during other events there where they have more going on.

When you first enter Southern Hill Farms there is an employee letting you know how everything works and giving you directions to the strawberry field and the barn. The barn is where you can go up to the air stream they have parked, and purchase their drinks and donuts that are made right there on the farm, and yes right now there are strawberry donuts and drinks to enjoy! They also have their market open, the eatery and beer shed.

They also have a play area for the children to play and plenty of photo opportunities with signs and the ones you put your head through the holes to become different characters like snowmen and such. They actually just announced on their Instagram page, which I will link below, that they will be opening their kids zone back up for the season on weekends. There will be a festival swing, jump pillows, a giant slide, obstacle course, sports game and farm wagon rides available in one all-inclusive wrist band for purchase.

On approaching the strawberry fields, you walk up to the check-in desk where the employee there lets you know how it all works and hands you their box. She told us which side the farm has been using and which sides have more fruit so you can start there. They ask that you pull the strawberry with one hand while holding the vine with the other to protect pulling the plant out of its delicate row.

The field was pretty large and as you can see, so it’s very easy to social distance from other groups. There are signs that ask that you wear a mask where social distancing isn’t possible, like at the entrance and exit. Most complied with that, we just kept ours on the whole time it was easier and luckily a nice cool day when we went.

Once you have picked your row, if you bend down slightly you can see the fruit better to know where to start. I recommend pushing the leafs aside slightly as that was where the bigger riper strawberries were hiding. There were some quite large ones ready to pick when we went too.

We took our daughter with us, and being a toddler I wasn’t sure if she would want to join in but she loved scanning the plants for them. Once we pointed one out she did really well pulling them off while we held the stem. This was the first time strawberry picking for all of us, and now I am wondering why we waited so long, hopefully we can keep coming so she can continue to make these memories.

Once you are ready to leave you head over to the exit for weighing and they do take cash or credit, this part was all outside too which was helpful. We didn’t fill the whole box but had a good single layer which was close to a pound in weight. Once we got home we washed them and honestly, I don’t want to ever buy grocery store strawberries ever again, they were so sweet and fresh! It was almost like they had sugar on, they were that sweet! I cannot recommend this activity enough!

You can check their website out or their Instagram page, as that is where they will update you on when they run out of ripe fruit to pick and update you once they are open again. They open only on certain days so check their schedule to plan your trip.

The Southern Hill Farms website is http://southernhillfarms.com and their Instagram handle is @southernhillfarms and you can also check them out on Facebook for live updates.

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Clermont’s Holiday Enchanted Forest

The City of Clermont has many activities to safely enjoy this season and take part in. They just had their Virtual Light up Clermont Ceremony on December 4th, which featured a special message from the Mayor and Council. Don’t worry if you missed it, because there’s something so fun going on at Victory Pointe!

Clermont’s Holiday Enchanted Forest opened December 5 and runs until January 3, 2021 at Victory Pointe. It is open nightly until 10pm. There are over 40 decorated trees all lined up by the lake.

Schools, organizations, businesses, and families have individually decorated these trees being showcased nightly.

You can stroll through the Enchanted Forest at your leisure while listening to the Holiday music being played throughout. Signs in front of each tree tell you which group decorated each tree, some are more obvious than others, but they are all so fun!

We went on quite a cold night for Florida, and since it is located right by the lake it got very chilly so be sure to take a blanket or decent coat/sweater so you can enjoy it more. Don’t be like me in shorts and a T-Shirt wondering “where this cold snap even came from?”.

There is also a box to drop off letters to Santa in Santa’s mailbox which will be delivery directly to the North Pole. It’s right by the entrance to the Holiday Enchanted Forest, and also has a great area for photo opportunities.

It really is a fun, cute event and completely free! I want to go back in the day time now to enjoy some of the details more as they were all lit up so beautifully but I want to see the creativity close up!

On the way out we decided to walk by the historic village and I am so glad we did, they have a few little cute displays and cut outs. But what was a really nice addition this year was over in the bay window of the Train Depot, the building closest to West Avenue.

Tommy Candido, display coordinator at John Zweifel’s President’s Hall of Fame, set up his personal Christmas Village. The display fills the entire window and is lighted every evening, 6-10pm.

It’s such a pretty animated display, featuring children on sleds, ice skaters, an air balloon and Gibbon (a Yeti, a signature of every Christmas Village Candido has put together over the years). I loved the little town square in the middle with all the light up trees leading to the big tree!

You can check out more about this event among others if you head to their website www.ClermontFL.gov

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Christmas in Downtown Winter Garden

This year, Downtown Winter Garden will be different for Christmas in order to keep people safe, but they are still offering some fun and safe entertainment for everyone.

This year, they have festive lighting and decorations, holiday-themed photo stations, a painted holiday mural wall, Santa’s Workshop, Winter Wonderland and many more activities outside for everyone.

There were plenty of places for photo opportunities and they even had a small area cordoned off with real snow that they kept topping up for kids and big kids-alike!

All the activities were free except for the horse-drawn carriage which requires reservations.

Our personal favorite was the projection light show they are doing on Town Hall. It runs in about a 20 minute loop and features Christmas songs and projection mapping over the building.


The light show runs mostly on weekends from 6-9pm, the link to will be at the bottom of the page for their Holiday Calendar.

They also have a Merry Winter Garden Farmer’s Market every Saturday in December, 8:00 am to 1:00 pm, where you can find produce, artisan foods, wreaths and holiday plants.

Seasonal food, drinks and merchandise will be available for purchase at shops and restaurants, and you will find expanded outside seating. Make sure you also check out the Garden Theatre, as they will be having live theatre and holiday movies shown throughout December.

Check out http://downtownwg.com for the town’s schedule and www.gardentheatre.org to see what Garden Theatre is offering this Holiday season.

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A Visit To Historic Clermont with Gail

This week we decided to take a walk through historic Clermont and the waterfront there. It was such a beautiful breezy day for Central Florida so we had to go out and enjoy it!

At the corner of West Avenue and Osceola Street, is Clermont’s Historical Village. The houses were individually moved from their original locations to sit where they are now, for visitors to come and learn about the City’s history. The Kern House was built in 1885, the Townsend House was built in 1895, and the Depot building around 1925.

The village also features the original Cooper Memorial Library, built in 1914, and it also has a Quonset Hut which is used as a World War II Museum. Clermont’s Historic Village open hours are Friday from 1 p.m to 3 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Clermont was founded in 1884 and incorporated in 1916. Right now, the City is undergoing a Downtown-Waterfront Master Plan, so you will see a lot of construction going on around the Downtown area and around the Historic Village. There are some wonderful additions coming, some have already been built like Victory Point, Kehlor Recreation Center and the new boat ramp.

Currently, they are working on a Wi-Fi Trail to enhance safety and navigation for trail users, plus, it will be able to support events with data and live broadcasting in key areas. The streetscape is also in progress all around the area, to create a focal point at City Hall. I am most excited about their Art Walk area, this is still under construction downtown and due to be completed at the end of this year. If you want to take a look at any of the improvements and what’s coming you can visit https://www.clermontfl.gov/MasterPlan

After the Historic Village, we took a walk down to the waterfront as it was such a beautiful day, you can often catch sight of gators and many different native birds down here.

There’s a bike trail going right past the lake (part of the upcoming Wi-Fi Trail) and many picnic benches, so it’s a perfect location to bring the family or friends and catch up with a great view! Today we just walked around staying outside, enjoying the views. But Clermont has some amazing places to eat and drink, with many new places opening all the time. Next time you are thinking of visiting a local town, consider Clermont as there’s something for everyone here.

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The Chick-Fil-A Christmas Spectacular at the Citrus Tower

The Citrus Tower in Clermont has brought back its light show for the first time since they stopped the show 2 years ago. The new light show this year features 50,000 lights on the 226-foot tower, synchronized to music and snowfall.

Owners Scott and Heather Homan reached out to the community for help and support in funding the return of the show. They were seeking people to purchase $100 annual memberships, and the proceeds from those sales would go toward the light show. Then, Chick-Fil-A of Clermont’s owner Rocky DeStafano contributed 20-free chicken sandwich vouchers per membership, and sales spiked. With the support of other local business groups and the Real Life Church, they were able to meet the funding needed to make the show happen.

This 360-degree light show truly is one of a kind, and something we felt is very safe to be able to go view during these times of Covid-19. As you can see, it is really easy to social distance from people here. At first, we stayed in our car, but then we got out to view it better since the parking lot gives you plenty of space to stay away from others safely. They do have an announcement asking that children are monitored since it is a working parking lot.

Back in March this year, they had some lights attached to communicate hope amid the worldwide Coronavirus pandemic. But bringing back this light show was so magical, they even have snow machines set up and have a little closed off area right up front for people to stand closer away from the parking lot.

The owners have recently transformed the inside of the building adding a coffee shop, arcade, and a board game store. They also added free Wi-Fi, air conditioning, and a new seating area at the top of the tower to sit and enjoy the views, maybe with a coffee from downstairs.

The show will run until January 1st from 6-10 pm every night. Their Facebook page suggests you wear a mask at all times, social distance when possible, and to remain in your car to view the show if you are at risk for Covid. If you are comfortable heading inside (wear a mask please) the Citrus Coffee Company inside the lobby has a limited-time Christmas Drink: Ginger Snap S’More Latte available for purchase among other sweet treats.

The Florida Citrus Tower is located at 141 S Hwy 27, Clermont FL 34711.

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A Visit to Newton Park with Gail

In these times of Covid-19, we have to decide what we are comfortable doing when venturing out of the house and looking for entertainment.

It really depends on what you feel is right for you and your family. For my family, we have a young toddler, so I personally haven’t felt comfortable to go inside buildings with her yet.

Instead, we try to choose some outdoor places we can visit, and we try to do this a couple of times a week.

Newton Park

This week we decided to wander around Newton Park, in Winter Garden which is a lakefront park by Lake Apopka.

It wasn’t busy at all mid week, but I can see it being more popular on weekends for fishing and picnics.

Newton Park

In this park, you can even bring your own boat and go out onto the lake itself and do a little fishing.

Newton Park

We mainly love it because it’s so peaceful and the views are so pretty, on a clear day you can see pretty far.

The day we went, it was pretty cloudy so you couldn’t see too much but it helped that it was much cooler!

Newton Park

We walked right out onto the pier to take in some of the views since it was such a nice windy day.

Pro-tip, try not to drop any Goldfish snacks along the pier if you can help it, was a bit daunting like a scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds movie!

Newton Park

We even got to see some gators, they were a few baby-sized ones floating around and then we spotted this larger one right by the pier. Must have been a good 5-6 feet long!

Newton Park
Newton Park

Lake Apopka is the fourth largest lake in Florida, and during the 1940s was one of Central Florida’s main attractions.

Anglers traveled from through the world to fish here. The Edgewater Hotel in downtown Winter Garden used to house many of these visitors.

Newton Park
Newton Park

Sadly, the discharge of water, rich in nutrients from agricultural and other sources, produced conditions that created a chronic algal bloom and resulted in a loss of the lake’s recreational value and game fish populations.

In the ’90s, clean up measures with good intentions failed and muck choked the lake bottom.

This eventually led to other restoration projects, each with its own problems and work continues to develop a plan to ensure future development does not negatively impact the lake.

Newton Park

We continue to visit other parks in the area but wanted to talk about this one since its a lovely local place to visit.

Newton Park is located at 31 W Garden Ave, Winter Garden, FL, 34787.

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Night of a Million Lights at Give Kids The World

This week we were invited to preview the upcoming Night of a Million Lights event, taking place for the first time ever at Give Kids The World!

The Give Kids The World Village was forced to close back in March this year due to Covid-19, delaying more than 4,000 wishes. This 89-acre non-profit resort provides critically ill children and their families with magical week-long wish vacations at no cost to them. There are a total of 166 storybook residential villas for them to stay in while enjoying experiences at the local theme parks and attractions.

Night of a Million Lights is designed to raise funds to ensure that when they are able to reopen, the wishes for these families can be granted and return bigger and better than ever before.

This event has transformed the village into a dazzling wonderland!

The Night of a Million Lights features more than 3 million glittering lights, larger than life displays, and 45 amazingly decorated wish family residential villas. This really is a sight to see!

Once you enter the residential villas area, you will see each house has its own sponsor, some are very obvious who the sponsor is before you even read the sign, one of my favorites being the Crayola house!

I love the crayons “decorating” the house and their expressions!

Mayor Clayton’s home, which is home to the 6-foot tall bunny rabbit who governs the Village, has a garden area that is not to be missed with decorations under a beautiful archway perfect for those selfies!

They were busy at work setting up all the lights and we even saw a “whack a mole” game being set up.

Admission for all guests includes complimentary ice cream from the Village’s new centerpiece, Henri’s Starlight Scoops and hot cocoa. There is also unlimited access to the Village’s wheelchair-accessible rides and attractions.

Additional food and beverage and special edition holiday merchandise- including 3D glasses for the lights will be available for purchase.

Santa and some other surprises will be making this visit extra special for all guests!

Night of a Million Lights will take place from November 13 through to January 3, from 5:00 p.m to 10:00 p.m daily with staggered entry times to promote social distancing. Mask wearing will be required for all guests.

The Village is always open for more volunteers, especially to help decorate for this upcoming event, you can apply on their website now at http://gktw.org/lights/volunteer or email them at volunteer@gktw.org

To purchase tickets for the event please head to their website http://gktw.org/lights today as some busy days may start selling out.

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Sugar Factory Orlando is now open!

Sugar Factory Orlando is one of the latest wonderful additions to IDrive 360, located right next to The Orlando Eye. It lists itself as an American brasserie but it really is the ultimate place for sweet treats, gourmet food and world famous smoking goblet candy-infused cocktails!

Sugar Factory Orlando

We had the opportunity to get a sneak peak of the menu before it opened to public, and get a taster of what was to come! We were treated to many samples of what would be on the menu for food, and while everything was so delicious, our favorite were the red velvet pancakes with white chocolate chunks and orange zest! They were just sweet enough and would make either the perfect late morning snack, or a tasty dessert after a meal here. In Fact they have a whole page on their menu dedicated to pancakes and waffles, so there really is something for everyone.

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Speaking of sweet things, which is pretty much everything on the menu, another one of our favorites were the milkshakes! We got to try the Very Berry Blast and the Chocolate milkshake, which left us wanting more. They have a large selection of milkshakes on their menu and personally i want to go back and try The Barbie, it’s garnished with pink rock candy crumbles!

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Ok so maybe that wasn’t quite sweet enough for you? If this is the case, then you might want to try their ultimate signature dessert, the WORLD FAMOUS Sugar Factory King Kong Sundae!

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Why yes, those ARE sparklers in the sundae! Other ingredients include… are you ready? 24 scoops of ice cream covered with hot fudge, caramel and strawberry sauce, sliced bananas, toasted marshmallows, Reese’s Pieces, chocolate chip cookies, crushed waffle cones, gummi bears, white chocolate strawberry shavings and toasted walnuts with whipped cream, giant lollipops and aforementioned sparklers blaze away on the top! You can close your mouth now! As you can tell, it’s meant to be shared, they suggest 12 people share this $99 dessert show! When ordered the servers make a fuss, dim the lights and everyones attention is on this dessert! Perfect for birthday parties, bachelorette parties and more!

Now we know desserts can make you thirsty, so what about their drinks? They actually have quite an extensive cocktail and martini menu, but it is their smoking goblet signature drinks that make them famous!

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We actually got to try 4 of them, pictured above, and each one can be made non alcoholic upon request also, and they all feature dry ice for that mystical look.

The blue one was Ocean Blue, which contained Hpnotiq and featured gummi sharks swimming within its deep blue sea!

The orange one was the Mai Tai, which blended fresh orange and pineapple juices with coconut rum topped with a float of Dark Myers rum.

The yellow one was White Gummi, so fresh and fruity and features gummi worms floating around in the goblet!

The green one….well best until last they say, this one was the Lollipop Passion and is their signature goblet. It blends together melon, coconut and pineapple and is garnished with lollipops and necklace candy!

Whether getting one for yourself or to share, I don’t think you could be disappointed with any of these flavors, but just in case…Lollipop Passion!

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After dinner be sure to check out the store side and candy factory amazingness. Whether you are craving one of their famous Couture lollipops, or some gummi bears and chocolates, head to their pick and mix selection. Here you can get everything from trail mix, to spicy hot pepper gummies (take our word for it) and a snake gummi that is so large, when you select it from the container you will be pulling and pulling and pulling until you finally remove it’s 3ft body!

(Disclaimer-We have no confirmation on actual size due to the fact that he got eaten too fast, RIP Gummi Snake, your sacrifice was not in vein!).

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So whether you are on a girls night, bachelorette party, birthday party, or date night, Sugar Factory is perfect for any occasion. On weekends they even have a special brunch menu from 11am-4pm…remember the red velvet pancakes? They also have free parking and valet parking is also available nearby. They are open now, so be sure to stop by when you can and let us know what YOUR favorite drink or menu item was!

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A look into Disney On Ice presents Frozen!

sisters Disney on Ice presents Frozen Amway Center

On Wednesday night, we had the opportunity to attend a media preview of the final rehearsal for Disney on Ice Presents Frozen, the day before the show went live here at the Amway Center before heading out on a tour of North America!

I was so excited to see this show, as I had thought about how cool Frozen would be if Disney On Ice featured it, ever since I saw Stars On Ice here at the Amway Center in April!

Olympic Skater Gracie Gold paid tribute to Queen Elsa when she performed one of her routines to Let It Go, dressed in a smaller tutu version of Elsa’s iconic blue dress!

gracie elsa Disney on Ice presents Frozen Amway Center

On our way in, we could purchase merchandise from the stands. There were not only programs available for $15, but there were items that I haven’t even noticed in any Disney Stores yet! Pull apart Olaf was very adorable, and they had many souvenir character cups, and plushes to buy! You could also get your photo taken with cardboard cut outs of Olaf, Elsa & Anna, and even have your face painted like them!

merch Disney on Ice presents Frozen Amway Centerfacepainting Disney on Ice presents Frozen Amway Center

The show started with some warm up acts getting us on our feet, my favorite part being when they guided everybody though a dance and told us thats how you “do the snowman”! It got everyone dancing and ready for the show!

Our hosts came out to greet us first, which of course, was Mickey and Minnie Mouse! They were dressed up in warm skiing style costumes, and I admit to being very jealous about Minnie’s pink Ugg style boots, very stylish!

They soon brought out other Disney characters including the Princesses and their Princes! Soon enough the whole stage was full of our beloved Disney Characters. What a way to kick off the night!

intro Disney on Ice presents Frozen Amway Center

We the story of Frozen started during the performance, and we got a glimpse into young sisters, Anna & Elsa, staying up playing, and of course building a snowman! Our first glimpse at Olaf!

True to the story, the scene ended with Anna being injured by her sister, so Elsa was told to “conceal, don’t feel” and hid away from Anna in her room.

snowman Disney on Ice presents Frozen Amway Center

We were then treated to Anna’s “For The First Time In Forever” scene, in which we first see her grown up and this is where we really see her shine! Her excitement is represented through her moves as she dances through the square looking forward to the Coronation, while Elsa looks on in the background forlornly.

first time Disney on Ice presents Frozen Amway Center

Our next scene was “Love Is An Open Door” where Anna meets Hans for the first time, I loved the huge clock they had in the background, and the fountain added a nice effect from the movie.

When the other dancers came out for the Coronation, the colors used on the ice were just stunning and added such a beautiful visual!

open door Disney on Ice presents Frozen Amway Center coronation Disney on Ice presents Frozen Amway Center

After the coronation we saw Anna & Hans excitedly ask for, now Queen, Elsa’s permission to marry each other. Which she replied with the now famous “You can’t marry a man you JUST met!”, which as we know, led to the argument between the sisters, and Elsa’s mounting emotions coming through triggering her magic, accidentally setting off an eternal winter upon Arendelle. The pyrotechnics used during this scene really added to the dramatics and emotions of the moment.

marry? Disney on Ice presents Frozen Amway Center

The next scene led to a lot of cheers as we got to see grown up Kristoff and Sven, who we saw briefly at the beginning as their younger selves collecting their ice together.

Here we see them meet Anna, who persuades them to help her find her sister. However Anna is soon offended by Kristoff’s comments about Hans, “You mean to tell me you got engaged to someone you just met that day…didn’t your parents ever warn you about strangers?”.

sven Disney on Ice presents Frozen Amway Center

It felt like the next scene was the one that everyone had been waiting for, Elsa’s moment of freedom from the restrictions that she has lived under all her life. It was time for Elsa to “Let It Go”.

The lights and snow flurries used in this scene just added to the magic as she made her ice castle. It was truly so beautiful to see her surrounded by ice!

let it go Disney on Ice presents Frozen Amway Center

We were then introduced to a real life Olaf! Which was played out so brilliantly as it went from a full size Olaf, to being tossed around by Anna and Kristoff in pieces!

olaf Disney on Ice presents Frozen Amway CenterThis then led to such a fun part of the show, Olaf performing his “In Summer” song, it was so fun watching the choreography to this part!Disney on Ice presents Frozen Amway Center In summer

I loved the next scene that showed when Anna, Kristoff, Olaf, and Sven finally reaching Elsa’s ice castle.  Anna & Elsa began dancing around the ice together, during the “For The First Time In Forever (Reprise)” part, as Anna begs Elsa to come back home and restore summer in Arendelle.

But as we know, Elsa’s surprise leads her to accidentally freeze Anna’s heart, and she is prompted to order “Marshmallow” to drive them away.

Marshmallow was represented so well in this, he was huge and rolled out onto the ice with huge presence!

ice castle Disney on Ice presents Frozen Amway Center marshmallow Disney on Ice presents Frozen Amway Center

After running away from Marshmallow, Kristoff takes Anna to  the Valley of the Living Rock, to meet his family, the Trolls. Where they mistake her for his girlfriend and “He’s A Bit Of A Fixer Upper” is performed, I loved it when all the trolls one by one linked arms and they rotated around Kristoff & Anna in the middle, it was so cute!

The scene ends with Anna being told that only an act of true love can save her from freezing and her untimely death.

So Kristoff takes Anna back to Arendelle so she may receive a kiss from Hans, her supposed true love!

trolls Disney on Ice presents Frozen Amway Center

Sadly this scene leads to use fining out Han’s true intentions, that he never loved Anna and was only using her to become the King of Arendelle!

But it did lead to a scene with a lot of cheers and “aw’s” when Olaf appears, lights a fire for Anna and speaks his famous line…”Some people are worth melting for!”. I think the whole stadium audience melted at this point too!

melting Disney on Ice presents Frozen Amway Center

Luckily, Elsa, who managed to escape her capture by Hans, tries to find Anna but is hunted down by Hans which leads Anna to leap to the rescue and put herself in between them, freezing to death before the sword hits her. As we all know, Anna’s sacrifice was an act of true love for her sister, and then she is soon revived.

true love Disney on Ice presents Frozen Amway Center

The last scenes in this show were my favorite, as not only do we see the party back at Arendelle once summer is restored, but ALL the characters from the beginning opening come back out to celebrate with the Frozen Characters!

I personally loved this part, as it felt like classic Disney, embracing and celebrating their most recent hit in Frozen!

finale Disney on Ice presents Frozen Amway Center

I certainly recommend seeing Disney on Ice presents Frozen to any Frozen fan, as it did not disappoint!

For a complete list of tour dates visit disneyonice.com.

 

 

 

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A peek at Four Seasons Resort Orlando

 

4 seasons Four Seasons Resort Orlando

This week we got to take a look at the all new Four Seasons Resort Orlando, at Walt Disney World! The resort doesn’t officially open until August 3rd, but everything is looking amazing and ready for opening day!

Four Seasons Resort Orlando

The Four Seasons Resort Orlando is located within the prestigious Golden Oak Community, you enter through the main gates, although separate gated entrances ensure privacy for the residents from resort guests.

The resort features a Tom-Fazio championship designed golf course, a world-class spa and an ‘explorer island’ for kids and families.

Four Seasons Resort Orlando

 

 

chandy by night

The first thing I noticed on entering the resort was the amazing chandelier you are greeted with by the stairs, it is supposed to represent fireworks, and as the day changes into night it only becomes even more stunning throwing dancing lights all around! Look closely over the balcony and you will spot a large hidden Mickey!

hidden mickey

We headed outside and found a reflections pond right outside which the ducks were currently enjoying! You can see lots of cabanas along the lake that guests can rent out and grill by the lake. One of my favorite areas was a seating area that had a fun water feature that was a rotating clear ball over a fountain, very mesmerizing!

reflections pond

water ball

The first pool you come along is an adult only pool, gated off with child proof locks. Its called The Oasis and features under water audio!

the oasis

The part we were most excited to go see was Explorer Island, that features a family pool, a Splash Zone, a Lazy River, and The Drop.

This whole area is pretty amazing. The Splash Zone features an interactive fountain among ruins, I specifically loved the curtains of water falling from the arches, and at night the fountains light up all different colors. It’s beautiful!

splash pad Four Seasons Resort Orlando

The Lazy River reminds me of something that you would find at the Atlantis Resort!

It’s an 11,008 sq ft lazy river, and even has canons by the splash pad that reach pretty far out.

Four Seasons Resort Orlando

So watch out fellow tubers passing by, those kids standing by watching you may have hidden intentions! Cant wait to see these in action!

 

Four Seasons Resort Orlando

The Drop is their 242 foot water slide that’s made of see through fibre glass so you can watch your fall alllllllll the way down!

Four Seasons Resort Orlando

If you take the stairs up, you can get to The Mansion, that features tables tennis, bocce ball, pool tables, a fireplace, additional seating areas, and an observation deck to check out all the fun below!

Four Seasons Resort Orlando

 

After seeing the sunset around the pool we headed back inside to eat. We decided to eat at Ravello, a modern Italian restaurant located on the ground floor, and is linked to their bar upstairs.

ravello

I loved the lay out and seating in here, but I thought the live action “show Kitchen” was fun as you can watch the chefs prepare your food.

show kitchen

Four Seasons Resort Orlando

They had a limited menu since the opening isn’t until August 3rd, but it still had some great items on and really gave us an idea of what was to come.

menu

I decided to order the Gnocchi, featuring gorgonzola, parmigano, provolone AND fontina cheeses! So delicious, and they even accommodated me not having the toasting walnuts on top due to my allergy, and ensured they used separate equipment and utensils too.

gnocchi

They had quite a long wine list to go with the menu, offering all of them by the bottle or by the individual glass. We were very tempted by the dessert since they had tiramisu but we were too full from our mains, so we will have to just go back to try those. I did enquire about whether they would be offering a Disney Cast Member discount, but they weren’t sure yet, so if you go make sure you ask about it as they may start to offer one. We loved this restaurant and we will go back once it has opened officially.

restrooms

I loved getting to see around the Four Seasons Resort Orlando! The Resort is very beautiful, and with florida resident rates, I may have to go back!

On the way out through Golden Oak I spotted a Little Mermaid figurine with Sebastian and Flounder, very cute, see if you can find her too!

ariel Four Seasons Resort Orlando

 

 

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California Grill- finally my first visit!

California Grill

 

I have been wanting to dine at California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort for so long now, and I am always asked if I would recommend it. Of course, from what I hear I absolutely recommend it, but I had never actually been there myself. So it was my wedding anniversary this month, and we decided it was the perfect reason to go to California Grill as we had heard it was a very romantic restaurant. Plus it has recently been re-imagined with a new design inspired by mid-century modern California, featuring a new seasonal ingredients menu. The sushi bar was also extended and now features a 12-course omakase menu.

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We found out that the Wishes fireworks at Magic Kingdom were going off that night at 10pm, so we booked our meal for 9:40pm knowing that would give us time to sit, peruse the menu, order some drinks and possibly appetizers right by the time we should be thinking about going out on the balcony to watch them. One of the highlights of California Grill is the amazing view over Magic Kingdom to watch the fireworks.

 

So we checked in at the California Grill desk on the second floor in the Contemporary, and were told to take the elevator upstairs to the restaurant. Upon getting out of the elevator, there’s a secondary check in desk in front of a very impressive wine selection of 1,600 bottles housed in a climate controlled showcase. It has been reported that they have about 250 wine selections, 80 by the glass!

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While you wait for your table to be ready, you are invited to sit in the lounge area, where tables are a first come first serve basis. Some people without reservations actually dine here as the entire California Grill menu is available to order from the lounge also. We had only just been given our menus when our buzzer was already going off, so the wait was very short. The nice thing about when they take you to your table is that they walk you by the open kitchen, so you can see all the chefs and what dishes they are coming up with. The person who seated us actually pointed some items out that we were looking at, which later on helped me decide on which dessert I was going to order!

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We ended up being seated in a quieter room toward the side of the California Grill. I want to say she called it the Monorail Room, but as there was no view of the monorail I must have misheard her. From what I gather this used to be the old wine room, but it was very intimate as the ceiling is lower here, and there are only around 10 tables inside. The view was very relaxing as although you couldn’t see Magic Kingdom, you could see the lake and the electrical water pageant very well.

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I was told the drinks are wonderful at California Grill, so of course we had to try them out. Our favorite was the Sake Martini recommended by a friend, it was so delicious! The Cucumber Fizz was my second favorite, but I don’t doubt that had I tried more, that they would have all quickly become my new favorites!

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By this point they had announced that in 5 minutes Wishes fireworks were going to be starting, so they give you time to get outside on to the balcony to find your spot. Of course, you don’t have to go outside, if you remain inside California Grill they dim the lights and play the music inside the restaurant for you. As we couldn’t see them from our room, we decided to head outside for them. We got a great spot, and they have speakers out there playing the same songs and sound effects as the ones in the park.

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Despite living close by, there’s nothing like watching them from high up, going off over Cinderella Castle! Feels quite romantic too if you tune out the rest of the people around you and just face forward. This was truly a highlight of the meal at California Grill, and I’m sure it looked and felt just as beautiful from inside the restaurant if you had a lovely view.

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We got back to our table and the server brought out our appetizers immediately, they must have been holding them ready for when you return from the fireworks. For our starters, my husband had sushi which he loved as it was such a generous portion for an appetizer! I had the Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli, which was nice but I wasn’t expecting it to just be one piece, at least I wasn’t too full for my main course.

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For our main course, Simon had the grilled pork tenderloin, and he said it was so delicious and cooked perfectly to his liking! I chose something that wasn’t on the California Grill menu, I chose to go with the Vegetarian Unplugged, a dish that is always different. Basically you never know what you are going to get, as the chefs pass a dish around the kitchen and they put a part of whatever vegetarian side dish they are creating at that time. So you end up with something different each time you go, they also do a Vegan Unplugged dish too with the same idea.

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My server wasn’t quite sure what my items were but they were pretty easy to figure out. The only thing I didn’t like was the fact that there didn’t seem to be much to each plate, so it wasn’t very filling and had a lot of similar tastes, which was a shame as it had sounded so promising. Nevertheless, I enjoyed my dishes at California Grill.

 

I would say the best part of the meal at California Grill was the dessert! Simon ordered the Seasonal Tasting featuring Peach themed desserts, and I ordered the Sundae Sampler. My favorite being the Reverse Root Beer Float, which featured root beer ice cream with a little tiny cute glass bottle of vanilla soda to pour on top! Very cute!

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Overall we did really enjoy our food at California Grill, but for me, as a vegetarian I wasn’t that impressed with the dish I had. I was also a bit disappointed no one acknowledged that we were on our anniversary despite letting them know at the podium and telling our server. I’m not sure if they just don’t do anything special here, but a simple “Happy Anniversary” would have been lovely. I might not be rushing back to dine here, but now I can recommend it to others and I will certainly encourage them to try the Sake Martini and Reverse Root Beer Float!

 

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Maleficent Review With Gail

Maleficent

Maleficent, from Walt Disney Pictures, is out in theaters now, and I got to see an early showing in 3D. While this review is relatively spoiler-free, but there are bits of pieces of plot here and there so be warned!

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-XO4XiRop0&list=PLTnR43JTLNs8AKNpJ4KFI6SSdpTzkcXjw&feature=share

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first thought about seeing Maleficent, and had toyed with the idea of watching Disney’s 1959 classic movie Sleeping Beauty again before I went to refresh my memory on the original story in order to appreciate this re-imagined screen play.

I am glad that I chose not to do that, because despite the comparisons this movie really stands by itself and flips whatever you expected of it.

Maleficent is the first 3D movie I have seen in the movie theater, and I’m glad it was as the effects were amazing and the scenes just beautiful!

Maleficent

When we first see Maleficent, she is a young girl, queen of the fairies (played by Isobelle Malloy & Ella Purnell) and despite animosity between their kingdom and the humans, she befriends a young boy who wanders into their land. Their love blossoms over the years, yet it was not meant to be. Soon his drive and passion to one day be King takes over, and their bond is broken.

Without giving away too many spoilers, the link between the animated Sleeping Beauty and this re-imagined story, cross over at the christening of the King and Queen’s daughter, Aurora. Yet here we are given a more plausible and heart wrenching reason as to what motivates Maleficent to curse Aurora in the first place.

It is at this point that Maleficent places that curse on Aurora, that on her 16th Birthday, she will prick her finger on a spindle and fall into a coma like sleep. The only thing that can awaken her is true love’s kiss.

The King, in fear of his daughter’s life, sends her off to a secret location in the woods to live with 3 flying pixies who are to raise her and bring her back to the kingdom one day after she turns 16 and no sooner. Maleficent, with her sidekick Diaval, a raven she saved from being killed earlier in the story that she changes from raven to human and other forms, find the house Aurora is hiding in and they begin watching from afar.

Maleficent

Eventually they end up meeting in the forest, and the moments between them as Aurora grows up, are some of my favorite parts of the movie. Aurora at 5 is actually played by Jolie’s daughter Vivienne Jolie-Pitt. The interactions between them are both beautiful, yet chilling, marred with the knowledge that Maleficent put this curse on Aurora years earlier.

The final part of the movie I will let readers experience first hand, as the twists and feelings of the scenes were visually and emotionally stunning. I wasn’t expecting quite the array of emotions that I experienced watching this movie, and I really feel like Angelina Jolie did a wonderful job as Maleficent! Jolie reportedly hand-selected Lana Del Ray to cover the original film’s song “Once Upon A Dream” (based on Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty Waltz).

There are some fight scenes within this movie and strong imagery within the characters of the story, so while I recommend parental advisory for young or sensitive viewers, I do think families will enjoy discussing the comparisons and differences between Maleficent and the animated Sleeping Beauty Classic.

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Girl’s Day in St Cloud

st cloud

 

I love finding small towns to visit that have wonderful historic downtowns, with fun places to shop and eat. St Cloud is one of those places for me. It’s a bit further out from where I live, so I like to try a different place each time I visit, especially on girl’s day! So this time I went to a cafe based on my friend’s recommendation that she had been to before. Diane’s Tea Room is located on New York Avenue in the heart of downtown St Cloud.

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In the front of the cafe is a gift shop featuring collectibles, decor and gifts that you can peruse while walking through to the cafe at the back.

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If it’s not too busy you can chose where you would like to sit, and really with all the cute decorations they have, you can’t really pick a wrong table!

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They do feature some specials for dinner, and for lunch they had a good variety and had some vegetarian options too.

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I decided to go with the homemade quiche that came with fruit and a choice of side. The quiche was brie and broccoli and it was so fresh and delicious I actually wanted more! I loved the presentation of the food, especially the chocolate covered strawberry! The plates used gave a warm homey touch to all the food.

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They feature some delicious flavored iced teas, and their hot tea was very tasty too, which again, was presented very nicely in your personal tea pot and cup with a saucer.

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For dessert we had to try the scones as they make them fresh and I was told they are so soft and melt in your mouth! The other desserts featured that day sounded great too, but the scones just sounded too tempting, especially when I saw they come served with fresh made Devonshire cream! Delicious!

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I am already looking forward to the next time I visit Diane’s in St Cloud, as there were many other items I would love to try! I also loved how when you go to the bathroom, you walk through the back of the restaurant and into the foyer of the Hunter Arms Hotel. It had such cool decor, and I read afterwards that its known to be haunted, by a ghost named Vivian?! So if you’re into that kind of thing then maybe this is somewhere for you to visit! I just thought it looked like a cool historic hotel lobby!

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After we ate, we walked around the antique stores and gift shops, and they have some lovely stores there that I always end up spending money at!

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At the moment, the downtown area of St Cloud is under refurbishment, as they are removing the asphalt on the roads to expose the original historic bricks underneath! I didn’t even know you could DO that, but I’m sure its going to look beautiful once its finished! At the time of writing this I’m not sure how far they have gotten, hopefully they may have even completed it by now! I can’t wait to see what it looks like!

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If you would like to visit Diane’s Tea Room, it is located on 1023 New York Ave in St Cloud, and you can also friend them on Facebook to look for their weekly specials.Follow us for more updates: Facebooktwittergoogle_plusyoutubetumblrinstagram

Top Ten Tips for attending Food Truck Nights!

YumYum food truck

YumYum

If you have never eaten from a local Food Truck before, specifically one in Orlando, then you are missing out! There are many amazing gourmet trucks to be found, from BBQ, to Sushi, to burgers, to dessert trucks, there are many options for you to try! The best way to be able to try a range of all they offer is to attend a food truck night. A lot of local communities have organized monthly food truck events now, or there are food truck bazaars that travel around major locations around central Florida bringing a huge selection of trucks to your local Malls or Downtown areas.

Sweet City Gelato

Sweet City Gelato

My husband and I love to go round to the food truck events, so I thought for those of you who haven’t done that before, that I would compile a list of tips for attending a food truck night. I could think of many, but I will keep it to just 10 so it can hopefully help start you off, in descending order…

Tip Number 10:

Look up ahead of time where your nearest Food Truck event will be. A quick search online will lead you to many sites that will list where they are and when.

Tip Number 9:

Come Hungry! Sounds silly but you will find so many dishes you will want to try, from all different trucks, so bring your hunger and prepare to be amazed at what you will find.

 

Melissa's Chicken & Waffles

Melissa’s Chicken & Waffles

Tip Number 8:

Bring chairs and/or tables. This is something you may not think would be useful, but these events can take place among lake sides, parking lots, downtown areas, and many do not have any seats available. Bringing chairs, or even blankets, mean you can hang out more and relax while you try your selections. This is especially helpful if you have children or elderly friends or family members who would prefer the comfort of a chair and table.

Tip Number 7:

Bring friends or family! If you come in groups, it means everyone can maximize their options as you can split dishes and get to try things that normally you wouldn’t get to if you were only choosing one item.

 

 

 

Korean BBQ Box Korean BBQ Box Truck

Korean BBQ Taco Box

Tip Number 6:

Bring an umbrella in the car or in your bag with you. Many food truck nights take place during the summer months in which we have our torrential downpours in the afternoons/early evenings. Most of these nights the trucks continue come rain or shine, so don’t let the rain put you off!

Tip Number 5:

Bring cash or cards. The majority of the trucks accept cash and credit cards now, so no need to stop at the ATM if you don’t have cash, just bring a major credit card and you’ll be good to go! Many will even email the receipt directly to you, and you can even add gratuity to these also.

Kona Dog

Kona Dog

Tip Number 4:

Don’t stop at the first truck you see, its true that you will most likely find options at every truck you like the sound of, but walk around all the trucks first and see what they have. You will be surprised how many options there are, and for many diets too!

Tip Number 3:

Do you own a dog? Bring them with you! Not only may your dog love to socialize with the others there, but there are sometimes dog specialty food trucks also, featuring organic treats and refreshments for your best friend!

Fork In The Road

Fork In The Road

Tip Number 2:

Arrive early to avoid lines! Many food truck nights can get very busy, especially ones close to downtown areas where people can walk by on their way home from work. Getting there at the beginning of the night is always best if you can, the later it gets the longer the lines get, and since most of the items are cooked fresh for you, there may be a long wait if you arrive later on.

Tip Number 1:

Social media! Many, if not all, of the food trucks use social media to get the word out about not only which locations they will be in, but also what new menu items they will feature and any special offers going on. Its also a great way to keep in touch with your favorite truck, or to ask any questions ahead of time. They tend to monitor them closely so don’t expect a long wait to hear back from them, whether its Twitter, Facebook or emailing, they will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have. If you look at the trucks, many will have decals and wraps stating how to contact them online.

 

Lakeside at Berkshire Park

Now all that is left for you to do is start looking up where your local food truck event is. Whether it’s in Orlando, Chicago or L.A, there are many out there to find, you will not be disappointed! Good luck and remember….arrive hungry!

 

 

 

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Girls day at The Barn Antiques, Lake Alfred

antique Rooster Table

 

Last week for girls day we decided to go visit The Barn Antiques, which is located in Lake Alfred toward Lakeland, and was established back in 1969. Not only is there a huge antique showroom, but also a large showroom of new gifts, some from local artists, but there is also a garden center and cafe!

 

The Stable

 

My friend told me about this place a while back, and how a lot of their antique items are from England, she has some great items from here around her home. So we thought we would make a day out of it and go for lunch and a shop around their antique showrooms.

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We decided to meet early for lunch at 11:30am as she had mentioned it can get quite busy around the midday time. The cafe is called “The Back Porch” and has a lot of seating both indoors and outside in their porch area facing their gardens. Upon entering you pick up a paper menu with a post it note at the top, then take your seat where you would like to sit. There are pencils in jars on the tables, so you jot down your table number on the post it note at the top, then check the items you would like to order. The menu has so many options, and you are able to mix and match between these. We all chose “the Country Picnic”, which included a soup, sandwich, salad and dessert for only $7.84! There were even a couple of vegetarian options, and the soups were also vegetarian friendly.

 

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For the drinks you could chose from their different freshly brewed ice teas, hot teas, coffees and lemonade. I decided to go for the spiced raspberry iced tea, which included free refills so that worked for me. When they bring the food out, they bring it in little picnic boxes, which I thought was such a lovely presentation style, so different! The food was delicious, and the little desserts were very cute and tasty, I opted for an English trifle, which didn’t include jello so was great for this vegetarian!

 

Picnic

After lunch we headed into the antique showrooms. The gift part was a lot of fun as they had such an array of items to purchase! From candles, to jewelry, clothes, light fixtures and kitchen ware, they had it all! Some parts were presented in themes which made it easy to show around and look at your favorite things.

Decorbunny

 

Next we headed into the antiques part, and It looked smaller inside, until i realized it just kept going and going! A lot of their pieces are from England and Europe dating from the 19th and 20th century! They get shipments quite regularly, so no one visit is the same, so it’s good to keep coming back and seeing what else they get in.

Mirror

They even have a stained glass window section toward the back, which made me wish I had somewhere to put one as I saw some beautiful pieces!

 

Stained glass

We then made our way out to the “Backyard Shop” located in the garden. Here you could find so many whimsical garden ornaments and decor, from solar powered fairies to gnome homes and mailbox covers! Some parts of the store are designed around the oak trees themselves so you almost feel like you are shopping in the forest or inside a huge tree house!

GardenFlowerbust

We pretty much stayed the whole day at The Barn as there was so much to do. It was so relaxing and fun that I am already planning my next trip there! It’s only about a 45 minute drive from the Orlando area, so well worth the trip for some fun and unique antique finds! Their opening times are always seasonal, but this season they are open Tuesday through Saturday from 10-4pm, be sure to check them out soon for some great antiques!

 

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