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.

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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.

Posted in Nerdy and Nifty, Out and About in Orlando

Spooky Retro, Horrifying Fun 

This past weekend, I have participated in what has become a bi-annual tradition for me. Volunteering for Spooky Empire.

Spooky Empire shirt paying tribute to the Pulse victims, along with the paper hearts that share the same purpose, given to me by a guest

Spooky Empire is a twice-a-year convention held in Orlando Florida that showcases anything in the horror and sci-fi genres, with a little rock and roll mixed in. From vendors who carry one of a kind props and collectibles, celebrities from horror movies and shows, crazy cosplays, and everything in between, you’re bound to find something fun.

Volunteer Orientation Night, or should we say Cemetery Print Appreciation Night? Cemetery Prints is a very popular vender found at the convention each year.

Among the many things that happened at this year’s Retro convention was the opportunity to meet various celebrities, from Dee Snider, Joan Cusack, Ernie Hudson, and Malcolm McDowell, along with some of the cast of Stranger Things and Halloween, there was somebody for everyone to meet and get autographs with, along with some panels and Q and A’s.

Of course, it’s never a Spooky Empire without Lloyd Kaufman, who not only did a Q&A at the event, but was available at the Troma booth most of the weekend for his adoring fans.

Lloyd Kaufman and Toxie

Wandering around the vendor room is like falling into a wormhole of awesomeness. Whether you’re looking for retro toys and collectibles or something as crazy as a skull lamp or a hand stitched Freddy Krueger doll, Spooky has anything your little dark heart desires. A majority of what is offered at Spooky is handcrafted by a variety of artisans. You can seriously get lost in there for hours. There’s also a tattoo festival on site, but many artists didn’t allow photos.

One the things I love most about Spooky is that independent filmmakers are invited to showcase some of their work, usually during film festivals at the October event. But sometimes they like to set up booths as a way to get the word out of their film, such as the case for movies like Bubba the Redneck Werewolf (who often shares a booth with Coffee Shop of Horrors) and what has to be a new favorite of mine, Pool Party Massacre. It’s awesome getting to learn about the creative process firsthand from those who have been through it. Plus, it’s not everyday you find a severed head in a pool floatie. 

Prop from Pool Party Massacre

And of course, what convention wouldn’t be complete without some cosplayers?

Each year, Spooky Empire takes it one step further and adds a new element to the show. Last year, the October show was so big, that they moved it to the Orange County Convention Center (which was then pushed back to December due to Hurricane Matthew.) This year, Spooky Empire has decided to take over the Magic Kingdom with it’s first ever “Spooky Day in the Park” this September IN ADDITION to the annual October event. “Spooky Day” will be the first time in the con’s history that they take over a local amusement park. So rest assured, there’s plenty of Spooky to go around. 

“Spooky Day” runs September 22-23, while Spooky Empire’s fall show runs from October 27 to 29, just in time for Halloween. You can follow Spooky Empire and purchase tickets for any of the events at www.SpookyEmpire.com

Be there or be scared.

Posted in Nerdy and Nifty, Out and About in Orlando

EpicMcD, I’m Lovin’ It

Wandering around I-Drive has always been an adventure, stumbling across various oddities and attractions many would never imagine finding.

But would you ever stop to think that something as basic as a McDonald’s would be one of them?

Yes, a McDonald’s. We all have been to one at some point of our lives. Many of us have grabbed the burger or a cup of coffee from there. It’s an American staple and almost every town has one. 

But what makes this McDonald’s different is that it’s epic. Even the sign on their window says so.

Why is it epic?

Well for starters, how many McDonald’s in the world have a fancy set up like this?

And most importantly, how many of them have a fancy pizza oven on site., much less sell pasta and whatever that amazing sandwhich in the back is?

Epic McDonald’s has been a staple in many a Florida vacation for the last couple decades. I remember coming here as a kid and being amazed about everything it has to offer. Just recently, Epic McDonald’s has seen an extensive renovation, but it has kept it’s charm as one of the largest entertainment McDonald’s in the country, quite possibly the world. 

This two-story McDonald’s houses not only the pizza and pasta bar, but an epic dessert bar that offers a variety of cakes and baked goods, in addition to the ice cream creations you have known to love from any other McDonald’s you have been to.

Unlike its previous design, which looked very tacky and neon to today’s standards, Epic McDonald’s new look brings a more Modern Cafe vibe, from the seating to the artwork, it doesn’t feel like your typical McDonald’s, even though it hints at it.

On the second floor, Epic McDonald’s houses it’s infamous PlayPlace and arcade. PlayPlaces have become a dying fixture in many McDonald’s due to costs of upkeep and lack of interest, as kids would rather play with their IPad instead. Epic McDonald’s PlayPlace is a rare gem, not to mention huge. If only I were smaller so I could explore this thing.

And of course, my friend Amanda and I had to partake in some fun. Oddly enough, we weren’t limited by our sizes in the toddler area.

In addition to the PlayPlace, an arcade with a variety of modern games and a prize redemption area grace the top floor. From SkeeBall to Jurassic Park and everything in between. It’s indeed a gamer’s dream come true.

Just like the downstairs area, quirky artwork graces the top as well. Even McNight the Moon makes an appearance. 

It’s also a great place for a birthday party, as I was able to snap a photo of a set up before it began. I remember having a McDonald’s birthday party when I was little and how awesome it was, I can only imagine how epic one at Epic McDonald’s would be.

Epic McDonald’s is located at 6875 W Sand Lake Rd, Orlando, FL 32819-9349. You can read up on EpicMcD at its website here and learn more about the special events they offer as well. Face painting and Magic Shows, anyone?