Archive for January, 2010

DiVine at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

January 31, 2010

There's Something DiVine About This Stand of Trees in Animal Kingdom

“Did you see it?”  

“What was that?”  

“Did that tree just move?”  

When walking through Disney World, one expects to meet lots of characters. Sometimes these encounters are expected and intentional; sometimes they are unexpected. Often you meet “first tier” characters, such as Mickey & Minnie Mouse, Goofy, or Donald Duck. Sometimes you meet unconventional characters like the soldiers from Toy Story, the Imperial Stormtroopers from Star Wars or the elusive, sometimes smoke free Pecos Bill.  

For a truly serendipitous encounter, I hope you meet DiVine.  

DiVine Revealed

She can be as allusive as her character.  A search on Disney’s website does not reveal her. On the internet, I have seen her referred to as “Tree Woman” or “Ivy Woman.”  

Who is she?  

Her name is Priscilla Blight and she is a performance artist who is part of a group known as The Living Garden. When she moves, it is with the grace and agility of nature itself. When she stands still, she portrays the strength of a rock. When she so wishes, she can blend into the scenery so completely that all are blind to her prescence.  

I posted a picture of her at the top of this blog. Did you see her?  

Currently, DiVine appears on the pathway between Africa and Asia in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Some websites state that she performs at 10am, 11am, noon, and 1pm. But I can’t find any official listing of her in Disney literature. And she surely can’t perform every day of the week. My family saw her on Saturdy.  

Once Revealed, She Always Draws a Crowd

Using stilts, extended arms and creative costuming, DiVine fluctuates between 7 and 16 feet tall. When she crosses the path, it’s impossible to miss her. When she curls around a post, it’s easy to mistake her for ivy. When she hugs a tree, she vanishes into the landscape.  

There is something both mystical and magical about DiVine. The best way to see her occurs when you are innocently looking at a grove of trees and, suddenly, one of them begins to move. Fortunately, that’s how I first encountered her. With that first movement, however, she draws a crowd. Then most people see her as they strain to understand what everyone is looking at.  

Her performance ability, however, is superb. Not only can she move in a way that convinces you she is a moving plant; not only can her face take on the luminecent quality of a natural organism; she also has great timing. She can stand perfectly still and tranquil until all the nearby guests have taken their look and moved on. Then–suddenly–unexpectantly–she will begin to move right in front of an unsuspecting youngster who will cry out in delight, astonishment or sometimes terror.  

She does not speak. She does not look directly at you. Her eyes are either wide open or so serenely shut you just know she has returned to Nirvana.  

This is a character performance worth experiencing. It is, for lack of a better word, DiVine! 

[2/1/10 Editor’s Note:  Whenever I write a blog, I usually send an email to the subject of the blog. This blog was partially based on information from the website cited above. After posting, we were delighted to hear from Priscilla Stephan (nee Blight) who created the character DiVine. She gave us the following update to that information: 

Dear LanceAround,

Thank you for writing such a poetic Blog 🙂

I felt it was also important to update you so that you have a few current facts!!

DiVine has recently become part of a new company i have just formed called  Living World Entertainment. I am now called Priscilla Stephan (not Blight) because I got married a few years ago.

While i created the character DiVine and used to perform this act I now function mainly as a Creative Director.We now have about 10/12 DiVine performers that work through out the states and beyond!!

Up until very recently DiVine was part of The living Garden which was produced by 2nd Nature Productions. i started 2nd Nature  in FL in 1999. Divine now however as been transferred out of 2nd Nature into my new company Living World Entertainment.

The performers name who was working that day is Carol ann Byron.

I hope this helps:)

and thanks again for sending this to me.

Warm Regards

-Priscilla

Which Way Did She Go?

Advertisements

Space Mountain Re-Opens After Refurbishment

January 28, 2010

Blast Off on This Newly Refurbished Ride

After a 12 million dollar renovation, Space Mountain in Disney World’s Magic Kingdom has now re-opened and is ready to blast off passengers on this iconic roller coaster thrill ride. 

A Space Mountain Rocket

The thrill of Space Mountain is created by the illusion caused from operating in near darkness. This 2.5 minute attraction achieves speeds of only 28mph.  However, in the dark it feels like it is going so much faster. This photo shows how each “rocket” requires only minimal restraints. 

For this reason, Space Mountain is the perfect coaster for those who are a little squeamish about riding a faster, more heavily restrained coaster. In addition, the cool star and planet special effects in Space Mountain make for a delightful immersive environment. Part of the thrill comes from not knowing which direction your “rocket” will turn next.

If someone in your group does not want to ride, they can still join everyone in the queue where there are new, interactive games, a new glow-in-the-dark spaceport and even brief glimpses of the ride. Prior to refurbishment, the ride “rockets” had reflective decals on the side and you could see more of the ride. These were removed in the new version to allow for even less light, creating a darker and more immersive thrill ride. As with all Disney rides, there is a last minute way to exit prior to boarding the ride as well as a baby swap and an area where you can wait for your party members who have chosen to ride.

I have not had a chance to try the new Space Mountain but Number One Daughter wants to take her friends to Disney this weekend so I might have an opportunity then. If so, I’ll give you an update.

Legoland in Florida Coming Soon

January 21, 2010

Entrance to California's Legoland

Big newsflash–the informed readers of LanceAroundOrlando will be among the first to hear this news… 

Legoland is creating a new theme park in Central Florida scheduled to open in late 2011. 

Legoland is a very popular theme park specially designed for families with children ages 2 to 12.  They currently operate in California (between San Diego and Los Angeles), Denmark, Germany and the United Kingdom.  Legoland in Florida will be located in the former site of the Cypress Gardens theme park in Winter Haven, just 45 minute south of Disney World. 

Based on the information from their California website, it looks like ticket pricing will be comparable to the prices at Disney World, Universal and Sea World. 

Legoland is currently owned by Merlin Entertainments Group.  Since 2005, Merlin has been majority owned by Blackstone, self described as one of the world’s leading investment and advisory firms.  They acquired Legoland parks in 2005, Gardaland (in Italy) in 2006 and Tussauds Group in 2007 (yes, they are famous for Madame Tussauds Wax Museums but they also own Alton Towers–a theme park in England that is the 11th most visited theme park in Europe–and the London Eye, the landmark ferris wheel located in downtown London.) 

In addition to their new theme park, Legoland will continue to operate what was known as Splash Island Water Park as a separate, ticketed attraction.  They also state that Cypress Garden’s famed water ski shows and their historical gardens will stay intact. 

All this was revealed at a special press conference today, 21 January 2010, attended by several Florida dignitaries, including Governor Charlie Crist. 

Stay tuned to LanceAroundOrlando for further updates.

Tea Time–An Infusion of Good Vibes

January 19, 2010

This is a Tearoom Experience You Won't Soon Forget

Tearooms come in all shapes and sizes.   

When we think of a tearoom, we often picture an elegant Victorian setting with silver, three-tiered trays loaded with cucumber sandwiches, scones & petite fours and lovely ladies wearing red hats and dressed in their Sunday finest. Up till now, those are the tea shoppes we have visited and blogged about for this segment of LanceAroundOrlando.com.   

To conclude this series on tearooms near Disney World, Mrs. LanceAround, Number One Daughter and I travelled to downtown Orlando, just 15 minutes north of Disney, and paid a visit to Infusion Tea.   

Grandma Never Had Tea Here

Teamap.com lists Infusion as an “Urban” tearoom, “A modern tea house and organic/vegetarian cafe.” It ranks 19th out of 117 tearooms in Florida.  That ranking is completely wrong–Infusion is in a class all by itself!   

Upon entering Infusion, the modern, lime green plastic chairs and the co-op artisan gift shop instantly communicate that you aren’t in Grandma’s Tea Room anymore!   

Great Tea and Fresh Baked Goods

We decided to make a meal of it and ordered the tempeh chili, three-dip flat bread platter, today’s special potato crepes, a piece of red velvet cake and the more traditional cucumber sandwich and scones with clotted cream to round out our tea tasting.   

Unlike fancy tearooms, at Infusion you place your order at the counter before finding an empty table. The waitress was knowledgable and thorough, but she never smiled and didn’t seem particularly glad to have a customer. [1/23/10 Editor’s Note:  This morning, another server at Infusion informed us that 0ur waitress is from Haiti and has loved ones there.  They are okay, but this could explain why she was not smiling during our visit.  Our thoughts go out to her and her loved ones!]  Soon after ordering, we were served our scones and it was obvious that the clotted cream had been placed in its little plastic container at the start of the business day and left to coagulate in the refrigerator ever since.  I was prepared to be very disappointed.   

It didn’t last long.   

First up was the three-dip flat bread.  A dollop of freshly made hummus beside a scoop of chutney and then a smattering of tabouleh served with slices of crisp, flat bread.  All of it was delicious.  Then came the cucumber sandwich.  Traditional cucumber sandwiches are made with paper thin, near transparent slices of cucumber.  Infusion appeared to take pride in cucumber slices that were almost too thick to bite.  My disappointment gave way to wonder as I noticed the three-bean edamame, chick pea and black bean salad beside the sandwich.  Both were quite tasty.   

Then came the tempeh chili topped with sour cream and cheese and the potato crepe also topped with sour cream.  The crepe needed some salt, which was easily provided.  The chili was a perfect refuge from an unusually chilly Florida evening.   

All This and We Had Some Tea as Well

Oh…yeah…and we had some tea.   

Number one daughter selected Monk’s Tea.  Turns out it was referring more to a Monastic Order than her favorite TV show that stars Tony Shaloub, but we all agreed the tea was supreme-o!   

While Mrs. LanceAround and I thought the tearoom fare was way above average, Number One Daughter was less enthusiastic.  As she put it, the tearoom was passable, but the artisan gift shop made the trip worthwhile.   

Creative, Artistic Offerings Inside Infusion

Local artists share in the rent, display and staffing of the gift shop which occupies half of the space within Infusion Tea. Number One Daughter would squeal with delight as she encountered one creative piece after another.   

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I put a lot of photos into this post.  Unfortunately, upon review, I notice that they lack the scent and the taste that made up the best part of Infusion tea.  

Pity.  

We can go grab that taste whenever we want.  The fine readers of my blog, however, will have to wait until they travel to Orlando.  Fortunately for them, they will have read this post and will know where to go for a delicious and memorable tea time.  

In the meantime, pass the clotted cream, would you honey?   

Infusion Tea
1600 Edgewater Drive
Orlando, FL 32804
407.999.5255
www.InfusionOrlando.com   

We'll Be Back!

The Tea Cup

January 15, 2010

A Tea Room Experience Like No Other!

Mrs. LanceAround was feeling bad.

It was the coldest week in Florida’s history and Number Two Son had just left to go back to college in Sarasota.  Mrs. LanceAround did not notice that the new winter coat we bought him for Christmas had been left behind.  There goes the “mother of the year” award!

Since we have been enjoying tea rooms in the Disney Area, we decided to drive the two hours to Sarasota, take Number Two Son his coat and enjoy a tea room along the way.

According to TeaMap.com, the # 1 tea room in Florida is the Victorian Grace in Brandon, FL about 55 minutes from Disney World.  We called them, only to discover that their last seating for afternoon tea is at 1pm.  This puzzled us since typically afternoon tea is seved around 3pm?  In addition, the link to their website on TeaMap.com was not working.

Lucky for us!

It turns out that just a mile away from Victorian Grace is The Tea Cup, ranked # 3 in Florida.  They close at 4pm and we were able to get there just in time.

Lynn is Proud of Her New Business

The beautiful decking at the back of The Tea Cup told us we had arrived at someplace special.  In addition to an elegantly decorated tea room, a section of The Tea Cup was a gift shop.  Owner Lynn Davis spoke with pride as she described her efforts to remodel prior to opening just two years ago.

Since we had the misfortune of visiting The Tea Cup during the coldest week in Florida’s history, we could not fully enjoy the outside garden that was shaded by an enormous oak tree beautifully infused with a plant that appeared to be from the Araceae family.  The wrought iron benches, tiled pathways and ornate archway in the outdoor garden indicated that this would be a very special place to enjoy a springtime tea!

Inside, the tea room (pictured above) was peaceful, relaxing and romantic.  Swept up in the grandeur, I leaned over to Mrs. LanceAround, stroked her lovely face, and was about to say…  But just then my phone rang and I spent the next few minutes before getting afternoon tea dealing with a business issue.  Oh well.

Phone call over, the food arrived and it was magnificent.  Lynn insisted that we try the portabello mushroom sandwich.  She was right–It was to die for!  The scones were about the best I had ever tasted.  Everything was obviously made fresh.  You could taste the loving pride that went into every bite.

Their website states they are “A Garden Style Tea Room With Eveything to Delight The Feminine Heart.”  But even those of us with masculine hearts find enjoyment at The Tea Cup!

Next time you’re in Florida, skip the mouse and pay a visit to The Tea Cup.  It’s a vacation experience you won’t forget.

The Tea Cup
1107 Lithia Pinecrest Road
Brandon, FL 33511
813.654.6543
http://www.TheTeaCupTeaRoom.com

Tea Time Disconnect at Wishes Brew

January 12, 2010

(Editor’s note:  Office Manager Anne read the following post and commented is was a “scathing review” of Wishes Brew Tea House.  Ouch.  I did not mean to be “scathing.”  There were some, easily correctable, negatives about Wishes Brew, but our overall experience was more positive than negative.  However, re-reading the review I found some cleverly worded phrases that I am loathe to revise.  *sigh*.  These are the challenges of the journalistic artist…Your comments…as always…are very much appreciated–LanceAround.)

After the lovely experience we had at the Hart Sisters Tea Room in Sanford, we decided to use TeaMap.com to try some other nearby tea shops.

Tea rooms near Disney are becoming hard to find as both Sherlock’s in Celebration and Churchill’s on West Hwy. 192 have closed their doors.

The next closest tea room is the Wishes Brew Tea House of Hunter’s Creek.  Our experience there proved to be as schizophrenic as the name of the tea shoppe.  Is “Wishes Brew” meant to be a play on the expression “witch’s brew?”  If not, the unfortunate allusion proved to be prophetic.

The first thing you notice upon entering Wishes Brew is the dichotomy of the furnishings.  Interspersed throughout the elegant, Victortorian style tables, chairs and place settings are seatings obviously designed for the masculine set; dark wood, upholstered chairs with masculine table settings and chess sets are a stark contrast to the whimsical “Alice in Wonderland” tea set or our dainty, white table.

In the center of the room was a platform containing extra large, king and queen throne-like chairs.  According to our waiter they are used by “reservation only.”  These different table settings further added to our dual feelings about this place.  We loved the creativity and whimsy; the yin and yang.  But what lay ahead?  Were in for “Wishes” or “Witches” a-brewing?  Turns out, it was a little of both.

The menu was a typical tea room menu and Mrs. LanceAround and I eagerly ordered the afternoon tea while Number One Daughter selected the hummus platter.  Our second disconnect occurred with the waiter, who was a handsome, eager to please young man.  He was personable and engaging, but lacked some of the social graces one might expect from a person charged with the serving of an afternoon tea.

The tea, scones, sandwiches, pastries and hummus were served.  Thus came the final disconnect.  The hummus tasted like it was a store bought.  The pita was sliced, buttered and toasted.  This did not disguise the fact that it was quite old.  The egg salad and cucumber filling for the sandwiches were wonderful–but, again, this did not make up for the bread which was so old the exterior was hard and stale.  The small scones were okay, but the miniscule amount of cream provided was not enough to make for a satisfying scone topping.  Lastly, the pastries were all store bought, not fresh made.  Albeit, we did enjoy the familiar taste of Walker’s famous shortbread cookie.

You might be surprised to hear that, despite our experience, we actually think that Wishes Brew is worth a visit–especially if you have never had a tea room experience.  Anyone can have a bad day.  It won’t take much for them to ensure that they use fresh bread next time.  Who knows, maybe even someone from Wishes Brew will read this review and offer Mrs. LanceAround and me a chance to try them again.  Maybe even give us a free tea?  We are not above such petty bribery.  Be forewarned, however,  just because you give us free food does not guarantee that we will amend this posting with a more positive rebuttal!  Our fine readers deserve our honest opinion!

In the meantime, we are heading towards Tampa to try out another tea room that is currently ranked #3 in Florida by TeaMap.com.

Stay tuned, we’ll post about it soon!

Hart Sisters Tea Room

January 5, 2010

# 1 Daughter Outside the Entrance to Hart Sisters Tea Room

Feeling stressed?  Overwhelmed?  Need a break?  I have the perfect solution for you.   

Find a nearby place to enjoy a British Afternoon Tea.   

That’s what my family did this weekend.  We discovered a gem–the Hart Sisters Tea Room in Sanford, FL.   

A traditional British Afternoon Tea is typically served between 3pm and 5pm and consists of your choice of tea served with scones and a side of Devonshire Cream plus jam, cucumber sandwiches (I know, it sounds ycchh.  But if you’ve never had one, you won’t believe how good they taste) and assorted other pastries all presented on a silver, three-tiered serving platter.   

Susan Serves # 1 Daughter

We met Susan nee Hart who co-owns the Hart Sisters Tea Room along with her sister, Anna.  Although neither are British, they enjoy cooking and entrepreneurship. They opened their own catering business in 2004 and supplemented that in 2006 by opening the Tea Room.   

Their Tea Room is cozy and quaint–the perfect decor for an afternoon tea.  The service was exceptional; the food, scrumptious.  When visiting the Orlando area, it is worth the trip to Sanford to enjoy an afternoon tea with the Hart sisters.   

If you are not coming to Orlando anytime soon, I recommend you find the closest tea shop and take a moment to enjoy some tea and scones.  It provides a perfect respite for you and a friend

Here is a website that provides an excellent resource for locating authentic tea rooms throughout the world:  www.TeaMap.com.  

Hart Sisters Tea Room & Catering
1305 S. Park Avenue
Sanford, FL  32771
407.323.9448
www.HartSisters.com
HartSisters@Yahoo.com