Posted in Lights, Camera, Universal!, Mandy Eats, Out and About in Orlando, Uncategorized

Mandy Eats- Off the Universal Dining Plan

Universal Orlando Resort consists of three theme parks, a shopping district, and five hotels chock full of foodie possibilities. I’m always on the hunt for the craziest of what theme park food has to offer. But it comes at a price, as any venture to a theme park would. In a world of $11 hot dogs and $4 sodas, where can you turn to if you want to experience the best of the best when you’re on a tight budget? Why Universal, of course. 

That’s where the Universal Dining Plan comes to play.

For a flat fee, you are issued one meal of your choice from any quick service restaurants and one snack from any snack cart, candy shop, or ice cream parlor. In addition, you also get beverage options, and this is where the different price plans come to play. 

The $28.99 plan includes one meal, one snack, and a Coca-Cola Freestyle Souvenir Mug with Unlimited Refills for the day.  You can also bring back the cup on your next visit and pay a fee of about $8 to get unlimited refills again.

The $22.99 plan, which includes the meal and snack, replaces the cup with two beverage credits. That means you get a drink with your meal and a spare drink you can use for your snack. Today, I took this plan out for a spin and took it upon myself to find the most interesting things you can get with a dining plan.

The Meal

Usually when I get the dining plan, I find myself in the Three Broomsticks or Mel’s and I wanted to try something new. Both places are awesome, and I plan on doing reviews of them later on, but this place always struck me as one I should pass. Little did I know I was missing out on awesomeness. I will be doing a full on review of this place in my next post because the detail and theming is something I could write forever about. But if you’re big into classic sci-fi and horror movies, and love to dine amongst real life props from said movies, Monster’s Cafe is your geeky haven for curing the hangries.

It’s alive…IT’S ALIVE!

The Speciality Smokehouse Burger (valued at about $19 after taxes) is a burger topped with pepper jack cheese, pulled pork, cole slaw and pickles, served with fries and a small chocolate or vanilla milkshake (which I didn’t get since I was afraid it would kill off a snack or drink credit, which I found out later it doesn’t.) It also includes your first beverage credit, which I got a Coke Zero. 

The burger was sloppy goodness that brings you back to those days at a family BBQ, the monster mash up of a pulled pork snadwhich and a burger made way for a sweet and smokey meal. 

Cross dissection of tasty experiemtnal burger.

My only complaint was that the bun disintegrated underneath, which involved the aide of crispy crinkle fries and a fork to get the job done. Oh the humanity! All in all, this was a tasty meal worth getting again on a future visit.

The (Second) Beverage

My “basic white girl” senses are tingling.

I found myself at Islands of Adventure, wandering around Hogsmeade while looking for my next beverage to try. Some of the drinks that we would classify as beverages actually count as snack credits on the Dining Plan, like the Fishy Green Ale and the Butterbeer, as well as the bottled versions of the pumpkin juice and gillywater. But, you can easily get some of the bottled  drinks with the proper drink credit from the tap at Hog’s Head which is attached to The Leaky Cauldrun.

The Pumpkin Juice (valued at about $5 after taxes) is a sweet non-alcoholic beverage fit for any autumn loving, pumpkin spice consuming wizard or muggle alike. It’s consistency is that of apple cider with a pumpkin spice kick to it, and the best part is that it’s offered year round. Both sides of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter offer this drink, so no matter if you find yourself at Hogsmeade or Diagon Alley, rest assured you can satisfy your pumpkin craving.

The Snack

Decisions decisions…

After taking a ride on the Hogwarts Express back to Diagon Alley, I had a hankering for some ice cream. I originally wanted to go to some of the Ben & Jerry’s places on property so I could go and grab some Jimmy Fallon ice cream “The Tonight Dough”. But to my dismay, I found out most of those places were closed since it was almost the end of the day. I decided to venture back to Diagon Alley to check out Florean Fortescue’s. I heard they had some pretty fun flavors there that would be perfect for a fun foodie experience. Florean’s is usually open late while some of the shops and restaurants within Universal close an hour before the park does. If you have a last minute craving, it never hurts to check Diagon Alley.

Sweet Gringrots, this ice cream is tasty.

Upon entering Florean’s, you are bombarded with a variety of ice cream flavors and consistencies, from soft serve to hard packed, and even potted cream. Flavors range from your basic vanilla and chocolate to some crazy flavors like Apple Pie, Earl Grey and Lavender, and the one I chose, Chocolate Chili. Yep, you read that right. And it tasted exactly how you think it did, very chocolatey and pretty spicy. The combination of the two reminded me of Mexican hot chocolate. 

For the Dining Plan, a waffle cone and ice cream or a cup of ice cream (valued at about $7.50 after taxes) is considered a snack credit, any toppings are considered extra. I wound up getting my sprinkles for free because they ran out of my flavor ice cream and had to pull some from the back, which was too frozen for them to scoop out right away. Needless to say, it was well worth the wait, and the sprinkles were an awesome touch to an already magical day.  (Thanks Kristen.)

So…is it worth it?

Let’s look at the breakdown from today by the numbers, shall we?

Meal and Beverage- $19

Second Beverage- $5

Snack- $7.50

———————————-

TOTAL- $31.50

DINING PLAN+TAX -$24.49

Savings of $7.01

Keep in mind these prices are approximate, as I didn’t get the final prices for some of my items and was only going by the prices on the menu without the taxes. But when you look at the numbers that I used,  it’s pretty obvious that you can save quite a bit of money by using the Dining Plan, so much so that you could almost count it as snagging some free ice cream. The savings do add up the more expensive your meal is, for instance, a Chicken & Ribs platter over at The Three Broomsticks can go for almost as much as the Dining Plan itself. Also keep in mind that some items within the menus at the restaurants don’t count as part of Dining Plan for some reason or another, usually ice cream sundaes or large family size meals fall into this category. Easiest way you could know for sure is the check the menus for the universal Dining Plan logo or ask a team member for assistance. 

 All in all, this plan is definitely worth it if you know you’re going to eat something more than just a hot dog and chips. The plan won’t do so well if you stick to the lesser expensive items, because in some cases you actually make out better buying a la carte.  the Dining Plan gives you the freedom to try what you want and eat what you want without worrying about shedding out more money than you have to. This little card is a foodie’s right of passage.

You could get the Universal Dining Plans in child and adult forms at any vacation planning window, guest services, quick service restaurant, and several kiosks located through property. I got mine at the dining kiosk near the entrance of Universal Studios next to On-Location (the photo shop.) 

There’s a whole new world to explore. Hope you brought your appetite.



Posted in Mandy Eats, Out and About in Orlando

Mandy Eats- Fat One’s

Here we go…

Welcome to a new addition to Legally Blind Bagged, where I will be trying out and reviewing the weird and unusal cuisine Orlando has to offer, whether it be a limited edition treat from the theme parks or a food truck that is out of the ordinary, I’ll eat it, you know, so you don’t have to.

For my first foodie adventure, may I present to you the one, the only, Fat One’s Hot Dogs and Itailian Ice.

Fat One’s is Joey Fatone’s (get it, Fat One’s?) hot dog stand, offering a tasty variety of Angus beef foot longs with toppings well worth the Fat One label.  Who knew boy bands and hot dogs were so NSYNC?

All jokes aside, this little hot dog stand nestled in the middle of the Florida Mall food court offers a variety of different flavors,  from the classic dog with your basic toppings to pressed dogs like the Joey Pizza or Rueben. Prices typically range about $5 a dog and sides include Italian water ice and french fries, sold separately.

But I decided to go for the real deal, the $11.99 Fat One.

God Must Have Spent A Little More Time on this hot dog, topped with french fries, corned beef, pepperoni, shredded mozzarella, nacho cheese, red onion sauce and green onions. Wowza! Surprisingly this combination of randomness actually works together. The flavors balance each other out to make way for a very tasty and filling dog well worth the fanfare.  I almost couldn’t finish it. Although  $11.99 might be a little pricey for a hot dog, you do get your money’s worth, or should I say it’s a good buy buy buy. Also for the price of $11.99, they offer what is called the Boy Bander, which offers five mini hot dogs in their signature flavors, perfect for those who can’t pick just one. (It’s hard to pick a favorite after all.)

 On this trip, I also managed to try the Pina Colada Italian Ice. Coming from a girl who was raised on Rita’s Water Ice her whole life, this does come pretty close to being the best water ice I’ve ever had since I moved out here. Far from the typical snow cone like concoction that people try to pass off down here in Florida as real Water Ice. Fat One’s does not dissappoint. Needless to say, this Philly girl came out happy.

So next time you find yourself at the Florida Mall, feel free to give this place a try.  This I Promise You, it is totally worth the hype.

Fat One’s is located in the food court of the Florida Mall, S, 8001 Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando, FL 32809.

What else should Mandy eat? If you know of any fun and quirky places or foods you want me to try, please post in the comments below. 

Posted in Out and About in Orlando

Let’s Taco About It

Last Saturday, RJ bought me tickets to one of those awesome foodie events downtown I have always longed for, but never had the time to partake in it. Work has been crazy busy, my health issues have been hit or miss, and money is just not in the cards for me to go spending away. To be treated to something like this meant a lot. Plus, who wouldn’t want to pass up unlimited tacos and booze?

 

Tacos & Tequila Orlando was a one day event held by Orlando Weekly and a variety of local eateries and sponsors. This short but sweet festival showcased a variety of different tacos paired with any sort of tequila you could imagine, hosted in Cheyenne’s Saloon off Church St in the heart of Orlando. Three floors of tasty goodbess, not to mention live music and entertainment.

Oh, I forgot to mention the awesome extra perk of complementary Pacifico Beer, in my opinion the swankier cousin of Corona, and a new favorite. I’m not much of a beer drinker, but this had me coming back for more.

As people entered the sold out event, each guest was given a token you could use to vote for your favorite taco. Whoever won the contest takes away bragging rights as the best taco in Orlando, not to mention a cash prize.

I dropped my coin into Fish on Fire’s bucket, their fish taco was a tasty treat and a crowd favorite, they ran out before I could get seconds. But I drank my sorrows away in Blue Nector for a bit and I was good to go. Sadly, I didn’t document the awesomeness that was Fish on Fire’s Taco, although my drunk self took a pretty picture of the Blue Nector booth. #PrioritiesMuch?  If you ever find yourself in Orlando, pay the Fish on Fire a visit. I know I will…and next time, I promise I’ll showcase it in all it’s Tacoey glory (Is Tacoey even a word?)

There were several other tacos that caught my eye. Those rainbow colored ones are from Tamale Co. Mexican Street Food, a taco truck I have come across on many events, but never had the chance to try. Both eye catching and delicious, Tamale Co. could of easily snagged my vote if I haven’t stumbled across Fish on Fire. Highly recommended next time you see their truck at a local event near you. Why highly recommended? It’s because they were the winner of the best taco at the event. An award well deserved for a very Insta Worthy piece of street food.

After about a dozen tequila shots, my plan to review each taco like a real foodie failed, all I have are the photos of these gorgeous tasty tortillas as a memory. Not to mention some very foggy selfies reminiscent of my college days.

Have you seen these tacos? Leave a comment below if you remember where they came from. I took photos of them so they must be good. A lot of these places deserve the credit where credit is due.

 All in all, Orlando Weekly has pulled off yet another amazing event for the books. For the $50 RJ paid for us to get in as general admission, it more than paid for itself in not only the food and beverages, but the fun atmosphere in the heart of downtown Orlando. I’m hoping in due time, I could review more of these awesome events and share them with you. Do you have an event you would like me to cover? Drop me some info in the comments below.

Posted in Relationship Ramblings, The Billy Blogs

Learning to Love Again

It’s been a few months since Bill walked…or should I say rolled…out of my life, and although I should be over it by now, the honest truth is that I’m really not. I have been so emotionally invested for the last decade, and most recently the last two years, that I feel like at times, I haven’t given others a chance.

While dating Bill, I landed in  some tough times that have resulted in RJ coming to my rescue, at one point, taking partial residence in my apartment, only going back to his for mail checks and doctor’s appointments since his apartment is closer to there. He has helped me through my darkest moments, and yet I was so focused on Bill and his needs. When Bill would “ghost” me for weeks due to a new video game or whatever, RJ would bring up a fun conversation and keep me from feeling bored. When Bill would forget my birthday or whatever holiday that was coming up, RJ would drop off a little something to help me celebrate.

I kept saying to myself that Bill “didn’t know better” or that his payee who held his money ransom was just “being a bitch” until it was later revealed that he was more into himself and his games to not care about me. And when you added his  “not my girlfriend” into the mix, the only logical answer would of been to leave him and go with RJ.

Logic? What the hell is that? 

Over the last few weeks, RJ and I have been toying around with the idea that we should try to pick up where we left off, especially since most of what ruined us in the past has been resolved. He found work, he is more respectful, and he has taken initiative even when I was tied up in other things. 

It hurts me lately that even though he loves me, I don’t believe in it. Between our past and me losing Bill, I’m afraid to love again. I call him my boyfriend, but I don’t have that sense of pride that I should when saying it. 

I look back at the weeks that followed me landing the new job and can’t help but feel guilt upon staying here over moving in with Bill. But the question remains “would I have been happy there? Or am I better off here?”

Would I have reconnected with the art scene to some degree on my own?

Would I have ever found all the cool things to do in Orlando without limiting myself to my “bus bubble” (I always feel paranoid getting lost.)

Would I have the freedom to do what I want when I want it?

Would I have taken the chances to grow and be a better person without a fear of abandonment?

I most likely wouldn’t of found that in Rhode Island…or elsewhere.

While Bill told me it wasn’t worth me keeping this job, RJ was in my corner, cheering me on, telling me that he was proud of me. Words Bill used to say to me way back when. Back when his heart was in the right place and not stuck in a gaming console, or a random lady friend.

Sometimes, I wish I never took RJ for granted like I do. I wish I can find a way to love him again like the way he loves me.

Needless to say I am angry at myself for being angry at him for reasons unknown. My emotions are so off kilter on this matter, that I wonder if I can even learn to love again in general. 

I wish I can see what RJ sees in me, since I’m just a mess of a human being. Whatever the reason may be, I’m thankful he hasn’t let go.

If only I can learn to hang on. 

Posted in Overcoming Adversity

Aiming a Bit Too High

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about the goals I always wanted to acomplish. As I enter the realm of public speaking and tell random strangers, or anyone willing to listen, about my life as this nerdy legally blind blogger, it gives me a great feeling to know that I can look back and say I made some sort of impact in the world. 

But often, I wish I can do more. 

Although I’m living the crazy dream of living in Florida and planning vacations for the Florida theme parks, I feel like it’s not enough. I don’t see myself as management material given my anxiety, nor do I see myself being a trainer, because I have come to learn that I am a slow ass learner at my new job. Odd, considering I caught on things easily at Disney. Maybe I have gone brain dead since then?

I miss the days where I had some sort of impact, whether it was from working with the special needs kids in the homeroom classes in junior high, or my adult years as a parapro for at risk youth. I felt a sense of honor knowing that for every bad day with a kid brought at least one “ah ha” moment that proved to me I was doing my job right, even though some teachers disagreed with it. I treated my kids with dignity not a diagnosis. Same as I treated my relationship with Bill. I felt I made an impact just by being myself. Just how big of an impact, well, that’s left to be determined. 

I have a million and one ideas of what I want to acomplish. I want to land a TED Talk gig, build an art program for the disabled, start my own self advocacy group, find a way to bring my talents, whatever they may be, to the world. I want to make a difference, but I also need to pay the bills and keep a roof over my head. Damn adulting.

Only question is, where do I begin? They say to spread my wings, but how do you get these bastards to work? 

Posted in Overcoming Adversity, Pondering about PTSD

The IEP Effect

Imagine if you will that you’re the only kid in your class with a disability, and yet somehow, you manage with the aid of whatever accomadations you have. Things are going well, you are learning everything you need to know. “You got this.” you say to yourself.

And then here comes a random lady with a clipboard, who follows you around everywhere for the entire day.

As a little kid, you don’t question it. Until your IEP comes around and mom and dad chew you a new one about something wrong you did or about an accomadation you decided not to use.

And then it dawns on you. That lady is documenting every move you made and adding it to your IEP. The purpose is supposed to help you grow and function, but once you realize what is going on, anyone with a clipboard becomes your enemy. 

You try to deal with said enemy by remembering all the flaws you had the last time and try to work your way through it, even bullshitting around things to make you look good (as a kid, I did that a lot.)

And then the IEP comes out and even more things get thrown on there, even things you always did right come out wrong. The stress eats you alive and that fear of failure lingers to the point where you feel worthless. It’s almost like if you are a straight A student but fail the SATS. You’re smart and do everything right and yet someone or something above you says different 

You would think dealing with this kind of issue would pass as you leave childhood, but in my case, it doesn’t.

In my work, we get observed on how well we do in our sales pitch. Last week went amazing, and yet for some reason, I failed this time despite what I assumed I did correctly. That fear of failure as I watched the gentleman with a clipboard behind me sent those negative vibes I grew acustomed to as a child. I tried to outshine so much, but somewhere along the line, it all faded to black. 

Ever since childhood and more recently since me leaving Disney, I always get that sick sense of being a failure and losing every ounce of self esteem over a freaking clipboard. Hell, even if they had an iPad or whatever I would be scared out of my mind still. The fact that I am physically being graded throws me off so hard, it’s as though I’m back in elementary school again.

I don’t hold any blame on anyone by any means. The man who graded me is an amazing mentor, but I do blame the fact that a system seeking more flaws than successes, IEP, sales reports, or otherwise, has that physical presence that makes you feel pressured to be perfect to a point where you aren’t. Ultimately, I blame my childhood experiences on this fear that somehow manifested itself into the adult world. I am a great seller, but when I know I’m being graded, I shut down somehow. 

Although there is a big difference between the IEP and a Sales Report, the premises of improvement remains the same, right down to the details that can make or break a person. 

Learning experiences in general should be more positive, although flaws and needs of improvement need to be addressed, there has to be another way to do it so those who need help won’t feel the embarassment of dealing with their differences and needs.

The last thing I would want is for any child who needs an IEP to deal with the constant fear of failure that I’m feeling now as an adult.

Curse you, you evil clipboard.

Posted in Uncategorized

Stressed and (Surprisingly) Surviving

For reasons (sort of) unknown, I have had this sense of dread hanging over me, almost as though I am destined to fail. I have that fear that the events that played last summer will happen to me again. Often I feel like what I am doing is never enough. It’s as if everything I learned at the new job just gets lost once something happens in real life beyond the classes I took. I’m asking questions every five minutes, so much so, I feel my team lead is getting sick of my derpy brain, even though I have only gone live about twice in a booth since I started.

As busy as things have gotten with the new park opening and my upcoming projects (the presentation at the Family Cafe and my first shot of giving up my autumn season to be a scareactor for Halloween Horror Nights) I have felt that my writing has taken a backdoor with all that is happening because my brain is constantly on how well or not well I do at work. Rest assured to my blogging family, I haven’t died yet.

Which is surprising to say the least.

A year ago, with this kind of stress added to my life, I would be in a corner of my booth freaking out. But now I feel a sense of acomplishment and determination to make the most of everything I do, to try new things, and not let the crazy of a new park get to me. Seeing the lines and the occausional upset guest doesn’t phase me anymore.

Is it because I survived the worst year of my life and learned to handle whatever comes my way? Is it the years of experience that made me somewhat of a pro as to how to tackle difficult situations? Is it the fact I work with some surprisingly caring and compassionate people? Is it because I am no longer focused on the ex and his health issues, the long bus ride home, or the office melodrama that took every bit of life out of me?

Whatever it is, I feel empowered to take on whatever challenges life hands me. My writing and touristy blogs will be back soon, as well as some other fun ideas I am conjouring up in the back of my brain (food reviews possibly?) But for now, work beckons.

Now if only I can get this pesky cloud of dread over me to blow over.