Archive for March, 2011

Phillies vs. Braves = “Hi Mom!”

March 27, 2011

A True Story That Could Only Happen to the LanceAround Family

Yesterday, dutiful Son LanceAround called his mom, Grammy LanceAround. She said she was watching TV where the Phillies’ had a spring training game against the Blue Jays. She was feeling a little lonely.

Grammy’s been feeling lonely ever since Grandpa LanceAround passed away a little over four years ago. I try to think of a way to make her feel happier.

I go www.AllegiantAir.com and find a cheap airline ticket so Grammy can fly from Allentown, PA to Orlando, FL the next morning, then watch the Phillies play the Braves at Disney’s Wide World of Sports–the stadium is so close to our home you can almost see it from our front door.

But Grammy LanceAround can’t go. So Mrs. LanceAround decides we will go to the game and find a way to say hi to Grammy.

A Great Sports Venue

Because we were more interested in saying hi to Grammy than watching the Phillies, we get to the stadium over a half hour after the start of the game. Still, it takes over 20 minutes to park as it is bumper to bumper getting into the parking lot. We take the parking shuttle from our car to the front of the stadium and see a booth labeled “Tickets For Media.”  I ask the person manning the booth if he could give us two free media passes. He says no, but he happens to have two tickets because someone did not want them. He gives them to us and refuses to take any money.

(Does this kind of thing only happen to the LanceAround family or is it a common occurence?)

Mrs. LanceAround is feeling a little peeked, so we go into the ESPN Wide World of Sports Grill across from the entrance to the stadium and get a slice of pizza and some coffee for $10. While there, we watch the game on the monitor and call Grammy. It’s the fourth inning. She’s watching the game on her TV at home just outside of Philadelphia and we confirm exactly where the camera is pointing when the batter is up.

Mrs. LanceAround and I finish lunch and walk into the stadium, sneak past the ticket checker at the top of the home plate stairway and walk down to an empty seat just behind the batter. We hold up the signs I had printed before leaving home and call Grammy.

“Can you see us?”

“Yes, but what is the sign Mrs. LanceAround is holding that says, ‘1-H’?

“1-H? Hold…on a minute…” (whispering to Mrs. Lance Around) “…You’re holding your sign upside down!”

Mrs. LanceAround turns her sign around and Grammy proclaims, “Oh, I see it now, it says ‘HI MOM!'”

In the meantime, just a few feet in front of us Ryan Howard hits a two run home run for the Phillies. (Really, does this kind of thing only happen to the LanceAround family?) There’s a Philly fan sitting behind us in the second row, listening to our conversation. She wants to know if Grammy can really see us on TV. So I hand her the phone.

“Hi Grammy, can you really see your Son on TV???…You can!…Wo-Hoo, can you see me too???…YOU CAN!!!…GO PHILLIES…WO-HOO!”

Up Close & Personal

By now, everyone around us is laughing and cheering for Grammy LanceAround.

Our mission accomplished, Mrs. LanceAround and I head out of the stadium as they’re singing “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” during the seventh inning stretch. This really is a wonderful venue in which to enjoy a ball game.

And tonight, maybe, Grammy LanceAround will feel just a little less lonely.

We love you, mom!

LanceAround & Mrs. LanceAround

PS:  Here’s a link to the video of Ryan Howard’s home run.  You can just see Mrs. LanceAround standing on the stairs right behind Ryan:  Mrs. LanceAround & Ryan Howard’s Home Run

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Megacon 2011

March 26, 2011

As Always, Megacon is Packed

Megacon (short for Mega Convention) is one of the country’s largest conventions catering to comic book, sci-fi, anime, fantasy and gaming fans.

This year, Thomas Cook Photography has a booth at Megacon where he takes pictures in front of a green screen and can superimpose them onto a plethora of backgrounds.

#1 Boyfriend Helps at One of the Megacon Booths

He needed some help, so he hired Number One Daughter and Number One Boyfriend to assist at his booth on Friday

These Fans Are Serious

Meanwhile a walk around the con will unearth the most serious of fans…

Custumes of All Varieties Can Be Found Around Each Corner

The most creative of costumes…

Popular Sci-Fi Icons Are Everywhere

Iconic characters from across the ages (and galaxies far, far away…)

Costumes Abound

Everyone ready to show off for the camera…

Doctor Who?

The convention is taking place today and tomorrow at the Orange County Convention Center on International Drive just north of Disney World. Tickets are only $25 at the door.  (10 & under get in for free.)

While it’s too late now–for only $495 you could have purchased a personalized meet & greet with this year’s featured guest, William Shatner.

Naked Pizza Surprisingly Tasty

March 23, 2011

Food That's Tasty, Healthy and Naked? That's Quite a Find!

What’s your favorite health food?  Tofu?  Carrot juice?  Pizza?

Pizza?

The folks at Naked Pizza are on a mission to launch the world’s largest grassroots health movement. In October 2010 John & Shannon opened their first of a hopeful 15 area Naked Pizza franchise stores. This one’s located on Route 434 in Altamonte Springs, just north of Orlando. Their pizza is round, saucy, cheesy and comes in a square box. So what makes it healthy?

It’s naked:  Meaning it’s made from all natural ingredients that taste better and are better for you. It’s not meant to be a diet food.

To begin with, the crust is made with 10 different grains plus prebiotic agave fiber and probiotics (healthful bacteria like those found in yogurt.) According to their literature, this diversity of grains, fiber and probiotics create a sustained release of energy without the crash you can experience from eating “other pizzas that are a big donut slathered with tomato sauce.”

The sauce is all natural, spiced and herbed with no added sugar or citric acid. The cheese is rGBH-free real Wisconsin mozzarella. The meats and veggies are all natural, no additives and free of growth hormones and antibiotics.

Ordering Naked

And naked means honest, immediate and transparent. It’s one reason they use social media so heavily. Their literature proclaims, “For too long fast food companies have talked about secret ingredients that we’ve come to find out are making people less healthy. We think that’s crummy so we use social media to help change it.”

Wow! With all this talk about the health benefits, I was skeptical.  How would it taste?

No need to worry, the pizza was quite tasty; surprisingly so! In some ways, it was just like any other pizza you’ve ever had. In other ways, it really was possible to enjoy the flavorful crust, spiced & herbed sauce and real dairy cheese. With all these special ingredients, I wondered how much more expensive it would be. Again, to my delight, the price was similar to what one would pay at any other pizza chain.

In many ways, the pizza was a reflection of the store. The store had the same appearance as a regular pizza store–front counter with phones, large ovens, square pizza boxes stacked and ready to receive a fresh, hot pizza.  In other ways, it was quite different–bright and minimalistic, large TV screens with information and advertisement, social media screens on the wall where you could sign up to be a fan of the store.

I spoke with John & Shannon, the owners of this franchise. While this is only the 4th Naked Pizza store in the US, there are over 500 stores under contract. This includes John & Shannon’s committment to opening 15 additional stores in the area.

They said they were attracted to this concept because they believe in the healthy, naked approach to the food industry espoused by the founders of Naked Pizza, one of whom they referred to as a nutritional anthropologist. Although it was clear from our conversation that they were nervous about the sales volume in the five months since the store opened, they expressed confidence that they would find their market.

Based on how the pizza tasted and how competitively priced it was, I think they might be right.

Naked Pizza
931 N. S.R. 434
Altamonte Springs, FL 32714
321.972.9890
Open every day 10:30am to Midnight
Open until 1:00am on Friday and Saturday

Little Vietnam in Orlando

March 14, 2011

Downtown Orlando Features a Thriving Vietnamese Population

In the heart of downtown Orlando, around the intersection of Highway 50 (Colonial Drive) and Mills Avenue, is a thriving Vietnamese population. This area is often referred to as Little Saigon, Vietnam Town, Vi Mi, or simply Little Vietnam.

It’s not a tourist attraction, per se, but for the lucky readers of my blog searching for “more than a mouse”™ it provides a delightful afternoon excursion.

Of course, the centerpiece of any ethnic population is the unique tastes of their indigenous cuisine. Tourists will gravitate towards the polished Little Saigon Restaurant with its fancy entrance and posh interior. Others might choose the more relaxed Anh Hong Restaurant while the truly adventurous will endure the Spiritual preaching that permeates the TVs mounted on the walls of the all vegan Loving Hut Restaurant. Vietnamese food features generous portions at a price that won’t empty your wallet.

Phuoc Loc Tho Oriental Supermarket

If you want to take some authentic Vietnamese food home with you, you’ll enjoy shopping at Phuoc Loc Tho, a huge supermarket featuring everything from Vietnamese groceries to special cooking utensils, knick knacks and bulk foods. Take a moment to enjoy the spiritual shrine and aromatic incense at the entrance to the store. Like everyone we encountered in Little Vietnam, the staff at Phuoc Loc Tho is overtly friendly and eager to please.

A stroll around Little Vietnam unearths other treasures such as the Ci Tea Herbal Garden Natural Foods Store, Dong A Imports, Avalon–a wiccan/spiritual shop that’s unforgettable (although it’s British owned so does that mean it’s technically not a part of Little Vietnam?)  Lastly, be sure to visit Lollicup Tea Zone to enjoy the unique, refreshing experience of a bubble tea. (If you’ve never had a “boba”-an iced milk/tea beverage with small tapioca balls that you sip through and enlarged straw–well, trust me on this one, it alone is worth the trip!)

Most of all, it seems that everyone you encounter in this section of town is polite and willing to serve you. It’s a nice testament to the Vietnamese cultural and part of what makes a side trip to Little Vietnam well worth your time.

And if, like us, you have a child who enjoys oriental culture, well, be prepared for squeals of delight.

Number One Daughter Loves All Things Oriental

Orlando’s Best Vietnamese Restaurant?

March 11, 2011

One of the Best Vietnamese Restaurants in Orlando

Is the Anh Hong Restaurant on the corner of Colonial Drive and Mills Avenue in downtown Orlando the best Vietnamese Restaurant?

I don’t really know. There are literally dozens of Vietnamese places to eat in this section of town. I’ve never had Vietnamese before, so I have nothing to compare it with. However, it’s been an Orlando “FOODIE” award winner three times in the past 10 years.

Here’s what the LanceAround family discovered the other weekend when we sat down to our first Vietnamese meal: The service was excellent; polite and fast. The only problem was communication as both the restaurant and its staff are authentic Vietnamese. The food was similar enough to Chinese and Thai to draw comparisons, but different enough to be a separate cuisine. The portions were large and the price was very reasonable. In all, it was tasty and, in some cases, quite unique.

Suoug Sao Hat E Da

Take the Suoug Sao Hat E Da drink that Number One Son ordered. It’s listed as a sweet basil seed and grass jelly drink. To attempt to describe it would be futile, so please look at this picture. The drink begins with the ingredients in this glass, then the server adds the liquid. It is sweet, delicious and we’ve never seen anything like it.

Number One Daughter ordered tofu and veges, Mrs. Lance Around had the rice vermicelli with fried tofu and veges and I had golden pancakes with bean sprouts. We sampled each other’s fare and commented on how similar or different each was to other asian food that we enjoy, such as Thai, Chinese, Indian and Indonesian. Our food was a little more greasy and slightly more bland than those cuisines. We asked for a side of peanut sauce–something we enjoy at Thai restaurants–and that was a nice addition.

For fun, I ordered a bubble tea. If you’ve never had one, they are a real treat. They come in a variety of flavors, like many cold, sweet teas available in any supermarket, but with an added bonus. At the bottom of the tea are small, round “bubbles” made from a tapioca like substance. You drink the tea through a wide straw which allows the bubbles to be sucked into your mouth along with the tea. It tastes great and is fun to drink (and chew!)

Inexpensive, Unique and Delicious

Number One Son and Number One Daughter enjoyed a coconut juice which was an actual chilled coconut with the top sliced off and a straw inserted for sipping. The novelty was more impressive than the flavor of the juice.

Appetizers range from $2.50 to $12.00, sandwiches are between $3 and $8 and full entrees go from $6.50 to $13. Desserts are only $2 to $4 and beverages are $1.50 to $4. The portions will fill you up, the prices won’t drain your wallet, but, most of all, the experience of a cuisine that is not readily available in most parts of the country make this a trip worth taking.

Open 7 days a week from 9am to 9:30pm.

Anh Hong Restaurant
1124 E Colonial Drive
Orlando, FL 32803
407.999.2656

Best Go Kart Rides In Orlando Are At Fun Spot

March 2, 2011

Number One Daughter in the Number 1 Go Kart

For her sweet 16 birthday, Mrs. LanceAround and I took Number One Daughter to Fun Spot to ride the go karts.

She LOVED it.

A friend emailed us that Number One Daughter’s had written the following on her Facebook page: “Today was probably the most fun I’ve had with my parents since I was 12!! Yay for 16! Things are looking up!:)”  Mrs. LanceAround laughed and cried at the same time as she read it.

There are two Fun Spot parks.  One is located right beside Old Town on Hwy. 192 one mile east of Disney World and just across the street from our vacation rental home office.  The other one, where we went, is located in the International Drive area just across from Universal Studios.

Map of the 5 Different Go Kart Tracks

In addition to a ferris wheel and other midway attractions, they have four, huge go kart tracks.  These tracks are several stories high with many twists, turns and hills.

 Go kart rides are $6 a piece.  You can purchase a Track Sampler armband, which gives you 4 go kart rides for $19.95.  If you plan to stay more than an hour, just $34.95 gives you unlimited access to all rides, including the go karts, family and thrill rides, kiddie rides and unlimited play in the arcade room. There are age & height restrictions.

They also have a special where you can go to one Fun Spot on one day, then the other Fun Spot on a later day and do unlimited rides at both for just $54.95.

It’s a fun alternative to the larger (and more expensive) theme parks.  Here’s a video of Number One Daughter enjoying her first ever go kart ride: