Archive for May, 2009

Manta Coaster at Sea World Rained Out :(

May 27, 2009

Orlando Thunderstorm

Weather this week in Florida

Last month I posted that my office staff was going to test ride the new Manta Coaster at Sea World on May 20th before its grand opening on May 22nd.

I promised that I would let you know what we thought of the coaster.

Unfortunately, mother nature did not cooperate.  We have had heavy rainstorms all week.  The coaster was not operating when we went to the preview.

Stay tuned and in the next couple of weeks we’ll try to get a review of the coaster, written by people who actually rode it.

In the meantime, if you have ridden the Manta, please leave a comment and let us know you thoughts.


Orlando Japan Festival and Taiko Festival

May 12, 2009
Drumming for the Crowd

Drumming for the Crowd

An international tourist destination, like Orlando, attracts people from all over the world.

Many come for more than just the sites.  Some of them work here.  Some of them immigrate here.  Some are families of those who work or immigrate here.  And, of course, some are just friends of those already here.

When living in a foreign land, it is comforting to keep in touch with others from your homeland.  In this way, local communities from native homelands are formed.  Orlando has a lot of these communities.  One large community is from Japan.

As part of that community, on Sunday, May 24 2009 at 5:00pm, six different Japanese drumming groups will perform at the Orlando Taiko Festival at The Village of Hunter’s Creek, just 10 miles east of Disney.  Admission is free.  If you have never heard a group of over 25 Japanese drummers pounding in perfect rhythm–It is worth the trip to Hunter’s Creek.

In addition, each year, in mid December, the Orlando Hoshuko (a Japanese language school) sponsors the Orlando Japan Festival.  The language school strives to keep the Japanese heritage alive, especially for those from Japan who, for whatever reason, are located here in Orlando.  All funds raised by the Japan Festival support the school.

The Orlando Taiko Dojo (note:  Link is to a website written primarily in Japanese) are one of the sponsors of the Japan Festival and the centerpiece of the Taiko Festival.  Taiko is a form of Japanese drumming.  For over 15 years, Takemasa and Yuko Ishikura, the founders of the Taiko Dojo, would perform their Japanese drumming at the Japan Pavilion in the EPCOT Theme Park inside the Walt Disney World resort.

Four years ago, they teamed up with the Montessori School of Celebration, (the school my daughter attends) to provide Taiko (drumming) lessons for the students.  Once a week the students begin with a morning greeting “Ohayougozaimasu” to the Sensei (teacher), a short meditation, stretching with the “Pokemon Ondo” (dancing music), reading aloud the rules of conduct, and then practicing Taiko.  The lesson ends with bowing to the Sensei saying, “Arigatougozaimashita” (thank you!)

Unique Vendors

Unique Vendors

In mid December every year, the Montessori students perform their drumming along with the professional Taiko group at the Orlando Japan Festival.  This May, they will also perform at the Taiko Festival.  In previous years the Japan Festival was held at the large Japanese restaurant Rangetsu of Tokyo on International Drive, another festival sponsor.  But it has outgrown this venue and has moved to the community park in the Village at Hunter’s Creek in south Orlando.  This will also be the venue for the Taiko Festival on Sunday May 24.

In addition to Taiko, the Japan Festival in December features Japanese dancing, Judo, Koto performance, Manzai (skit), a tea ceremony and a greeting from the Consul General of Japan, Hiroshi Yamaguchi.  There are also many vendors selling everything from Japanese food samples and drinks to Anime and other cultural items from Japan.  Many Japanese groups and businesses also have booths educating the attendees about their products or services, such as additional Japan Festival sponsors–Asia Trend Magazine, IACE Travel, Mickeynet (no idea what this site is, as I can’t read Japanese, but it appears to be an agency that specializes in Japanese travel to Disney World), Pelloni Development and Mitsukoshi U.S.A. (hmm, a clothing store, perhaps?)

Tea Ceremony

Tea Ceremony

Like many festivals, the Japan Festival in December features raffles, street balloons, candy art and many other interesting sites, sounds and smells!  A sampling of the booths include the Koukou club, Furuhon Shop Hoshuko, TV-JAPAN, Kitade Wellness Center, PEACHES (Yoga), J. Club, Sushi Tomi, Sushiology, Auto Tech Japan, Ennichi Games and many others.

The Taiko Festival on May 24 won’t be quite as large as the December Japan Festival, but there will be plenty of great food and it is worth attending just to feel the deep pulsating beats of the large number of Japanese drummers.

Both festivals are free and open to the public.  Several hundred people from all walks of life attend them every year.  It provides an enriching cultural experience and is a great way to spend an hour or two experiencing another part of our world.

Best Salad Bar in Orlando is at Sweet Tomatoes

May 7, 2009
55 Feet of Farm Fresh Fare

55 Feet of Farm Fresh Fare

Normally, I don’t blog about chain restaurants.

Orlando has so many unique places, I don’t need to advertise something that you can get anywhere.

But Sweet Tomatoes only has around 70 restaurants–And it’s the kind of place I think needs to be discovered.

Mrs. LanceAround and I took Number One Son and Daughter to the new Sweet Tomatoes that opened in the Crossroads Shopping Center right next to Disney World.  It was as good as we expected.

Sweet Tomatoes provides fresh, all you can eat salad, complimented by soups, regular and sweet potatoes, pastas and a dessert bar.  Unlike many all-you-care-to-eat buffets, this one emphasizes the salad and healthier fare.  And it’s a real delight.

You begin by going down the 55 foot long salad bar and choosing from both prepared salads and fresh salad fixins’.  You then pay at the cash register.  At around $10 per person and almost $3 for unlimited soda, it is a bit pricey.  However, they work hard to keep their buffet lines clean and well stocked with plenty of fresh food.

After sitting, you can fill your cup with unlimited soda or different flavored iced teas.  You can also visit the soup bar, potato bar, pasta bar or cheesy focaccia bread bar.  At the end of your meal, there’s a dessert bar with a soft serve, fresh fruit, cobbler and various toppings.

For those with special diets, kudos to Sweet Tomatoes for identifying the main ingredients in most foods and for labeling foods such as “vegetarian” and even “vegan.”  No worries for the non-vegetarian–There is plenty of food for every type of appetite.

After filling ourselves with multiple trips to the different food bars, we had the unexpected pleasure of being warmly greeted by our friend Dave.  We know that Dave, like all his friends who attend the Orlando Science of Spirituality group, is a vegetarian.  We had not seen him for several years and seeing him again was the perfect dessert to a perfect meal!

Sweet Tomatoes, 12561 S. Apopka-Vineland Road, Orlando, FL  32836   407.938.9461