Posted in Nerdy and Nifty

The Ugly Cake Tradition

Ever since I moved in with RJ back in my college days, he would always do this cute thing on my birthday where he would make me a cake with what ever he could find.

Usually around the time of my birthday, it would be a tough week when it comes to pay. The rent is due in a few days after all. But somehow, someway he would make it work out so I wouldn’t have to celebrate my birthday alone. Even when I was with Bill, RJ would do a little something for me since Bill never had the means to celebrate. It was RJ’s way of saying thank you for being a friend.

It all started back in 2009 when we decided to have a small birthday party at the Providence roller derby game I am convinced to this day that the party was cursed, given not many people showed up and that I dropped the cake on the way home. After coming home and assessing the damage of the cake, RJ decided to get a little creative with some food we bought at the local Bodega. Thus, the River Rat cake was born, banana chip eyes, cookie ears, and a mini marshmallow tail.

The following year brought a home baked version we dubbed the “PMS River Cake” which was Funfetti cake with a strawberry jam river meant to mimic a river seen in the Strawberry Shortcake cartoons, complete with a bath toy or two to complete the ensemble.

This kick-started a tradition that has lasted many years.

Sometimes, we would make do with Swedish Fish and a Tastykake Chocolate Junior, while other years would bring Ben & Jerry’s smashed into a plate of waffles, but no matter how he did it, and no matter how bad it looked, it always put a smile on my face. Just to know I’m loved and that I can have something to laugh about makes these ugly cakes worthwhile.

Since today is my birthday, I woke up to see half of my Shopkins collection piled on top of an orange Halloween Funfetti cake. Glad to see the tradition lives on. I hope this lasts forever.

Thank you RJ for everything.

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

Mandy Eats at the Monster’s Cafe

Every once in awhile, there’s that one place you always walk past that you pay no attention to. Whether it’s that little cafe in the shopping center in your hometown or at a theme park you visit frequently. That place for me up until recently just so happens to be the Monsters Cafe at Universal Orlando resort.

As to why I always skipped it is beyond me. I love horror movies, but this place was just never on my radar amongst my obsession for all the Harry Potter stuff.

In my last Mandy Eats post, I talked about the food that I purchased here and it was delightful. But unlike my usual Mandy Eats posts where I talk about the food, this time around, I will talk about the atmosphere.

Because wow….

As you’re waiting in the queue line, you are greeted with the massive light bulb straight out of Dr. Frankenstein Laboratory. Although the menu is typical theme park food, the setting just get you into a mood of nostalgia. Everywhere you look, there’s memorabilia and movie posters of sci-fi and horror movies past.

The restaurant is divided into four areas, each has its own special theme. The windows are wrapped in decals that help set the mood for each room. Certain items are taken straight from the movies and hung on the walls for all to see. Yes, that really is the Bride of Frankenstein’s head.

On the back of the menu lies brief descriptions of each room and the themes that surround it. Although I had my dinner in the room considered the mansion, one of my favorite areas had to have been the Sci-Fi room.

With my best friend and Trekkie Amanda in tow, we have stumbled upon an epic nerdy paradise.

The overall attention to detail is stunning and the service is spectacular. And the food, is to die for. Needless to say, I’m kicking myself in the butt I haven’t discovered this gem sooner.

The Monsters Cafe is Quick Service dining plan Friendly restaurant located across from the Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon ride in Universal Studios. it is also the home to the Scareacter dining experience during the Park’s Halloween Horror Nights event.

Grab a plate and be prepared to be scared.

Posted in News and Opinions, Out and About in Orlando, Overcoming Adversity

Aftermath

Hurricane Irma had to have been the craziest storm I have ever wittnessed ever since Hurricane Sandy hit almost five years ago. The overall energy and magnitude of the storm was enough to stop a city that revolves around theme parks and attractions for two whole days, often unheard of in recent memory.

So how did I do?

Well after RJ and I ventured into the feeding frenzy that was Walmart and stocked up on mostly dry goods in the event out power would be lost for weeks on end, we braved it out with junk food and scary movies, waiting for the moment when power would go out.

Oddly enough it never did.

Seems like we had it easy, right?

Take a look at this. Yes, that pole/tree/whatever the heck it is has impaled the roof of my building.

Which resulted in some flooding. 

Which resulted in the loss of several blankets, as well as my stove and toaster, which became waterlogged after a kitchen cabinet of all things sprung a leak. 

Compared to most, we made it out easy. But the clean up process has been insane. Workers have been on my roof since about 9pm last night non-stop, drilling and chizzlimg away at the cracks and placing new files. Once the big work ends outside, the inside work begins. From killing off the water damage to replacing my stove, the whole process could take a few weeks.

Despite my constant griping due to lack of sleep or nutritious food, I am thankful to live in an apartment complex that has treated me good thus far.

But I am still longing for a sense of normalcy. 

Hopefully soon.

Posted in News and Opinions, Out and About in Orlando, Uncategorized

Oh Irma…..

Unless you have been living under a rock, Florida has been placed into a state of emergency due to a category 5 hurricane making a B-line through the center of the state. 

After the events of Hurricane Harvey that hit Texas with a vengence, the typical laid back partying type have turned into the preparers of impending doom, stocking up food and water and just about everything else you could imagine. Stores are empty and there have been bum rushes of people grabbing cases of water like crazy parents buying the latest Christmas toy. 

I spent the last 3 days trying to track down water with the only success being out at Walgreens across from work, my two hands only managing to snag one since I have no access to a vehicle (luckily, a good friend I was meeting up with managed to get me a ride home.)

All this disaster stuff has made me numb. This isn’t my first go-around with a hurricane. My first major one from memory was Hurricane Sandy in 2012, which became the catalyst for my move here to Orlando when the schools I worked at got shut down for a few weeks. I have also dealt with Hurricane Matthew, which became a dud of a storm, which results in mad trust issues. 

 My family back up north has been worried about me, so much so to the point where they’re calling me every other hour. Part of me doesn’t know if I should give into the hype and panic or just wait it out and treat it like a normal rain storm. 

 I will tell you now, my anxiety is through the roof trying to prepare for this. With RJ’s help, I have managed to obtain enough supplies to last me for a few days and then some. I have had a few anxiety attacks the last few days and he has been there with me the whole time. 

But when it comes to evacuating, forget it. Without a car and up to date medical records for the cats that are required by shelters, that leaves us staring at the belly of the beast. My friend offered to come get us, but I want to stay in my own home, which is as far inland as you can get here in Florida. They don’t call my neighborhood Florida Center for nothing. 

As I sit here awaiting the storm, I am reminded that life is something one must never take for granted. The storm is just one thing life throws at you to make sure you’re paying attention. I’m ready for the best as well as the worst. Whatever happens happens, but we won’t know for sure until Monday afternoon when she finally blows over. 

To my family, friends, and followers, please know that whatever comes out of this, I wanted to express my gratitude for all of you. I will do my best to keep you posted on what’s going on…the best way I’ll be doing this will be on the Facebook page. For now, I’m ready to ride this thing out.

Okay Irma, show me whatcha got…just please play nice. 

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.