Archive for the ‘Local Info’ Category

The Montessori School of Celebration Celebrates 10 Year Anniversary

February 7, 2010

Would You Kiss Sir Gus?

The Montessori School of Celebration celebrated its 10 year anniversary at their annual International Festival in downtown Celebration on Saturday. 

Younger Students Singing

The school was founded by a group of parents from the Celebration community. They selected Karen Simon and Helen DeVere of the Orlando Montessori Teacher Education Institute to own and run the school while the parents assisted in securing a building to house the school.  After outgrowing the original two classroom school-house in the downtown business district, a larger school building was constructed in South Village right next to Heritage Hall and the community pool and ball fields.

Over the past 10 years, many parents have testified to the incredible education their children receive at the Montessori School of Celebration. The school has expanded from its original two classrooms of two and a half to five year olds to its current structure that houses those classrooms plus a kindergarten, lower elementary, upper elementary and an adolescent and high school program.

Through a special arrangement with Valencia Community College, qualified older students will be able to dual enroll at Valencia and receive college credit as they complete their high school education.

It Takes Weeks to Research the Countries and Design the Booths

One of the highlights of the year is the school’s International Festival. Students spend several weeks researching a specific country and creating a booth filled with information, displays, artwork, activities and even foods to sample from the chosen country.  This festival featured the countries of Sweden, Argentina, Canada, Morocco and The Netherlands.   

This year the children squealed with delight as the Moroccan booth featured a live camel. By placing a carrot in your mouth and then feeding it to the camel, you were given a sticker that read “I’ve been kissed by Sir Gus.”  The camel was sponsored by the Bahia Shriners Orlando.   

Taiko Drumming

During the festival, various school and community groups perform on stage. There is Taiko Drumming, gymnastics, singing and more. Between presentations, children get a passport and travel to the different country booths to get it stamped. There are also some bounce houses and food available.   

After the presentations, all the students of the school got together on stage, sang the school’s “gathering song” and then sang Happy Birthday to the school in honor of its 10th anniversary.   

There was not a dry eye among the founders of the school as the children sang.   

Hundreds of People of All Ages Attend the Annual International Festival

If you are in Celebration on Tuesday February 9th or Tuesday February 16th from 9:30am to 11:30am the Montessori School will be having an open house.  The school will be in session and you can observe the students participating in the traditional Montessori educational environment.   

If you’ve never seen a Montessori classroom, I guarantee it will be something you will never forget.   

Montessori School of Celebration
901 Begonia Road
Celebration, FL 34747
407.566.1561
www.MontessoriCelebration.com
info@MontessoriCelebration.com

Snowing in Celebration, FL

December 2, 2009

Snowing in Celebration, FL

Was it snowing in Celebration, FL last night?     

My cousin Doug, his wife Amy and their 17 year old daughter, Brooke, came down from Pennsylvania to visit us this week.  Brooke is a very special person.  She is an angel.  She was born with an unknown condition that makes it difficult for her to communicate.  Doctors can’t figure out exactly what is wrong, so they simply say she is mentally challenged.     

But it is a joy to watch her squeal with delight when she gets excited.     

Last night we went to Celebration, FL, the town that Disney built.  Every year from the end of November to the beginning of January they have a nightly celebration downtown.  Every hour at 6, 7, 8 and 9 o’clock a half dozen specially designed machines blanket Market Street with “snow.”  Of course, you can’t make real snow in the warm temperatures of Florida.  It is really flakes of soap suds.  But for all intents and purposes it gives the illusion that the street is being blanketed with snow.     

The children cheer with excitement as the downtown music system gives a brief, “magical” introduction, the snow machines hum to life and white suds begin to fall as holiday music plays in the background.     

No one was squealing louder or jumping higher than Brooke.     

In addition to the snow, there is horse drawn carriage rides, a train-shaped ride and a place where the road is painted white and you can rent roller blades to “ice skate.”     

Amy, Doug and Brooke With a Strangely Dressed Little Fella

Then there is a small, ginger bread house.  When you walk inside, you find a small, hefty man in a red suit with a white beard.  Brooke had a look of astonishment on her face.  She immediately ran to the man and sat on his knee.     

The downtown has a wonderful little lake you can walk around, a hotel, at least seven different restaurants of various ethnicities and several other shops to enjoy.  We had a delicious Italian meal at Antonio’s Restaurant.  We sat outside with a view of the lake, downtown sidewalk fountain and the kids delighting in the hourly snowfall.     

It is also fun to drive around town and see many homes decked out in the most spectacular display of Christmas decorations I have ever seen.     

There is no charge to enjoy the “snowfall.”  The train, carriage rides and “ice” skating do cost money.  You can pay to have a professional picture taken with Santa, but just to sit on his lap and use your own camera is free.  Occasionally a quartet of Dickens Carolers will serenade you as you stroll through the market area.     

What a quaint and wonderful evening.

Photos From Orlando Japan Festival 2009

November 8, 2009

Today was the annual Orlando Japan Festival.  Here are some snapshots from this wonderful event.

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"Look At The Little Japanese Doggie...Good Doggie...Good Doggie"

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Lots of Fun for Everyone!

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"100 Japanese Drums"

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Montessori Students During the Drumming Show

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# 1 Daughter Displays Her Japanese Ramune Soda Pop

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Pretty Kimono

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Good Luck Kittys For Sale at the Asian Trend Magazine Booth

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Lots of Interesting Gamers...

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Authentic Japanese Cusine...

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...Fresh Sushi...

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...And Lots of It!

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Another Pretty Kimono

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Games For All Ages

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Hard To Find Japanese Books

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Japanese Carnival Masks

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Yet Another Pretty Kimono

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Lots of Pocky, Of Course!

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There's a Booth For Everyone

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Japanese Beer For Sale

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Flute Vendor

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And Yet Another Pretty Kimono...Whoops...Is That Really a Kimono?

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# 1 Daughter Proudly Shows Off Her Pocky and Ramune

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Children's Play Area

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Enjoying the Cusine by the Fountain

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Using Chopsticks on the Lawn

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# 1 Daughter Practices Her Jutsu with Naruto

Need a Taxi Cab Company in Orlando?

July 18, 2009

Taxi!

"Taxi!"

Need a taxi in Orlando?  Call 407.422.2222 to use one of the taxis run by Mears Transportation Group.

Wait a minute–This blog does not accept advertisements or paid endorsements.  So why is LanceAround touting a Taxi company?

I’m glad you asked.

About a month ago I was driving to the Florida Dream Homes office.  There was a Taxi Van on my right.  I was in his blind spot when he made a sudden lane change.  Instinctively, I swerved left avoiding a collision but hitting a huge hole in the side of the road that bent my tire axle.

The noise of my tire hitting the hole was so loud, the cab driver stopped, thinking he struck my car.  He was very nice.  We called the police but were told that since the cars did not touch, there was no accident and he could not write a report–Unless it was to cite me for driving off the road.  He was not helpful!

I took my car to the shop–$540.74.  I was bummed.

I decided to write a letter to the Mears Transportation Group.  Mrs. LanceAround told me not to waste my time.  Even though I was pretty sure no good would come of it, I felt better getting it off my chest.

Imagine our shock when we got a phone call from Mears just a few weeks later letting us know that a check was on the way to cover the full cost of the damages.

I asked the person from Mears why they did this when they were under no obligation to do so.  He explained that Mears is a family owned company, founded by Paul Mears Sr. in 1939.  To them, community is very important, as is integrity.

I was impressed.  I decided that from now on, my business is going to recommend Mears for anyone who needs transportation.  I phoned the company and spoke to Bret who is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing.  Like everyone I had dealt with at Mears, he was very nice.  When I told him I was going to blog about Mears, I asked him what the name of their Taxi Cab division is.  Turns out they have five:  Yellow Cab, Yellow Cab of Winter Park, Checker Cab, City Cab and Safety Cab.

Bret went on to explain that different municipalities, cities and airports have different permitting requirements–Hence the need for different cab companies.  A City Cab, for example, is not permitted to stage at the airport looking for a rider.

Bret also mentioned that in addition to Taxis, Mears has luxury sedans, stretch limos, SUVs, shuttle vans and motor coaches.  These groups do both scheduled and charter service for the entire Greater Orlando Area, including hotels, convention centers, airports, attractions, businesses and so forth.

I asked Bret what distinguishes Mears from other taxi companies.  He said that in addition to the huge variety of products they offer, they have a very thorough driver training program that not only educates the driver in how to interact with the customer it also helps the driver succeed as an independent business person.

The Mears Transportation Group website is simple to navigate and gives wonderful information about the founding and philosophy of the Mears Transportation Group company.

For me, I was so impressed that the company lived up to its philosophy of customer service and integrity that I have become a dedicated Mears customer and will refer all my vacation rental home guests to them as well!  So if you need a cab, call 407.422.2222.  For any other transportation need, call 407.422.4561 and someone in the Mears office will direct you to someone who can help.

Movie Theatres near Disney World

June 2, 2009
Orlando Movies

Downtown Disney Marketplace

Before living in Florida and starting our own vacation rental home company, we used to vacation to the mouse from out of state, just like ordinary tourists, who have inspired the creation of the ubiquitous, yet incredibly rude, bumper sticker:  “Welcome to Florida, now GO HOME!”

During those trips, we would often do something that surprised me.  We would watch a movie at a movie theatre.

It seems ironic that we were in the vacation/theme park/attraction capital of the world, yet we would do something that we could have easily done back home.  It seems like, I don’t know, somehow we were cheating.  But we always enjoyed our movie night by the mouse.  Somehow it felt special.  Perhaps it was the mixture of the old and familiar in new surroundings that made a movie by the mouse seem more special than a movie back home.

Obviously we’re not alone in this, as there are many places near Disney World to enjoy a movie.  If you are visiting the mouse and want to go out for a movie, here are my picks for where to catch a flick.

At the Downtown Disney Marketplace, AMC has a 24 screen theatre.  This might prove the easiest place to go, especially if you are staying on Disney property.  And with 24 screens, it is a safe bet there will be a movie playing that you want to see whenever you arrive.  Major releases show as often as every half hour on five or more screens.  There are also plenty of great restaurants, such as Wolfgang Pucks, House of Blues, Bongo’s Cuban Cafe, and Planet Hollywood, literally right outside one of the theatre entrances and T-Rex Cafe or Rainforest Cafe within walking distance.  However, it also ranks at the top of my list of worst places to see a movie.  I’m not sure why.  Perhaps it’s too big and impersonal, perhaps it’s the overcrowdedness, perhaps it’s because it always cost more to see a movie here, maybe it’s because Disney can sometimes feel like it traps you and you want to try something outside the resort.

By far, the best places to see a movie in Central Florida are the Enzian Theatre in Maitland or the Tampa Theatre in Tampa.  Both theatres show primarily arthouse movies and I will describe them in detail in other posts.  The third best place to see a movie is for free–It’s the nightly Disney flick that shows, along with a Chip and Dale sing-a-long and campfire cookout, at the Fort Wilderness Campground in the Disney Resort.

Another great movie theatre is the Regal Cinema 20 + IMAX at Pointe Orlando near the Orange County Convention Center.  This theatre features not only state of the art theatres and sound, but an enormous IMAX screen that regularly shows first run movies in 180 degrees.  Parking in the parking garage can be a pain and you have to remember to validate your parking pass.  Having the ticket booth on the ground floor while the entrance to the theatre on the second floor is another annoyance.  But these are soon forgotten when you enter the creatively decorated theatre house and snuggle into your seat.

The most convenient place to watch a movie is the Regal Cinema’s Stadium Theatre 16 located at The Loop shopping center on the corner of Osceola Parkway and John Young Parkway.  Other nice and convenient theatre locations are the 20 theatres at Cinemark at the Festival Bay Mall on the north end of International Drive and the Park Theatres in the Winter Park Village north of Orlando.

There are also nice movie theatres in Citywalk at Universal Orlando.  Like Downtown Disney, there are lots of great restaurants outside the door, but parking is a hassle and costs $12 if you go too early in the day.

But the best place to enjoy a movie near Disney World is at one of the two theatres in downtown Celebration.  According to rumor, Disney would only give AMC permission to build their 24 theatre multiplex in Downtown Disney if they agreed to build two, state of the art theatres in 1997 in their new hometown.  No matter how popular the movie, these theatres are almost never sold out.  Right in front of the theatres is a great fountain that shoots jets of water directly from the sidewalk.  Kids love to run through the area, sometimes daring to avoid the jets, other times purposefully dousing themselves.  All of this on the edge of the downtown lake where you can enjoy quaint shopping experiences, sit on a large rocking chair on the dock of the lake, or enjoy a meal at one of the excellent Celebration restaurants such as The Columbia, Celebration Town Tavern, Market Street Cafe, Kilwin’s Chocolate and Ice Cream, Seito Sushi Japanese, Sherlock’s of Celebration, Upper Crust Pizza, or my personal favorite, Cafe D’Antonio’s.

Enjoy your movie and pass the popcorn.

Spiritual Renewal During Vacation

April 12, 2009

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Mrs. LanceAround and I have always thought that one’s Spirituality is the most important element of one’s life.  So while we believe that everyone needs and deserves a vacation from all the mundane routine of daily life–We never advocate that you take a vacation from your Spiritual life!  To help you with that, we are providing you with a list of places you can worship when you are in the Orlando Area.  Just as a vacation is a new experience from the routine, we encourage you to try out a new Spiritual experience during your vacation journey.  We have selected locations that are convenient to the mouse and this list is by no means exhaustive:

Roman Catholic–Mary Queen of the Universe Shrine, 8300 Vineland Road, Orlando, FL  32821.  407.239.6600.  www.MaryQueenOfTheUniverse.org.  This is a beautiful church located right across the highway from Disney World and next to Orlando Premium Outlets.  It is not a parish church and is very accustomed to visitors from out of town.  You can see the bright red/orange tiled roof from Interstate 4.

Byzantine Catholic–St. Nicholas Byzantine Catholic, 5135 Sand Lake Road, Orlando, FL  32819.  407.351.0133.  www.OrlandoByzantine.com.

Presbyterian–Community Presbyterian Church–511 Celebration Avenue, Celebration, FL  34747.  407.566.1633.  www.commpres.com.  Rumor has it that when the town of Celebration was being built, a relative of Walt’s purchased and donated three acres of land to build a Presbyterian Church in the heart of Celebration.  Mrs. LanceAround and I have visited this church many times.  I used to pitch for their softball team.

Jewish–Southwest Orlando Jewish Congregation at Temple Ohalei Rivka, 11200 South Apopka-Vineland Road, Orlando, FL  32836.  407.239.5444.  http://sites.google.com/a/sojc.org/sojc/.

Islamic–Islamic Center of Orlando-Jama Masjid-Lake Buena Vista, 11543 Ruby Lake Road, Orlando, FL  32836.  407.238.2700.  www.icorlando.org.  There is also an Islamic School on this property.  It is located just a stone’s throw down the road from the Jewish Temple.

Buddhist–Wat Florida Dhammaram, 2421 Old Vineland Road, Kissimmee, FL  34746.  407.397.9552.  www.watflorida.org.  One day I was driving through the touristville region of Kissimmee when I decided to take a detour on a back road.  (I’m like that.)  I was shocked to discover a beautiful Buddhist monastery just a few blocks from touristville, USA.  (That was 11 years ago.  Now, unfortunately, the monastery is totally engulfed by touristville housing tracts!)  I couldn’t resist–I got out of the car, took off my shoes, and walked into the Observance Day Hall just in time to listen to a dozen or so Buddhist monks engaging in a deep voiced chant.  Mesmerizing!  Now, whenever Mrs. LanceAround or I feel a need to get our zen adjusted, we’ll stop by the Temple and just sit quietly in the meditation area.  Sometimes we’ll be alone and sometimes there will be some kind of service.  Later, I will write a separate post about this remarkable place.

Church of the Nazarene–3705 N. Apopka-Vineland Road, Orlando, FL  32818.  407.293.2781.  www.metrowestchurch.org.  At the time of this posting, this church is meeting in an elementary school cafeteria, but they have just poured the concrete foundation for a new church building.

Luthern–Salem Lutheran Church, 7900 S. Apopka-Vineland Road, Orlando, FL  32819.  407.876.4000.  http://www.salemlc.net/public/home.html.

Methodist–St. Lukes United Methodist Church, 4851 S. Apopka-Vineland Road, Orlando, FL  32819.  407.876.4991.  www.st.lukes.org.

Greek Orthodox–Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church of Greater Orlando, 1217 Trinity Woods Lane, Maitland, FL  32751.  407.331.4687.  www.htgocorlando.org.  Orlando attracts and inspires some very impressive architecture and this church is no exception.

Latter Day Saints–Orlando Florida Temple, 9000 Windy Ridge Road, Windermere, FL  34786.  407.876.0022.  http://www.lds.org/temples/main/0,11204,1912-1-82-0,00.html.  Talk about beautiful architecture!  This Temple sits on a small hilltop on the road from Windermere to Apopka.  You can see it for miles.  Absolutely beautiful.  Guidelines for attending the Orlando Temple include:  Wear your Sunday best, clothing rental is available, vending food service is available, and remember to bring your recommend.

Episcopal–Church of the Ascension, 4950 South Apopka-Vineland Road, Orlando, FL  32819.  407.876.3480.  www.ascension-orlando.org.

Baptist–First Baptist Church Windermere, 300 Main Street, Windermere, FL  34786.  407.876.2234.  www.fbcwindermere.com.

Pentecostal–Indian Pentecostal Church, 11551 C. R. 535, Orlando, FL  32836.  407.239.1653.  www.ipcorlando.org.

Unitarian–First Unitarian Church of Orlando, 1901 East Robinson Street, Orlando, FL  32803.  407.898.3621.  www.orlandouu.org.  For the amusement of those of you who have ever attended a Unitarian Church, here’s one of my favorite jokes:  Why does a Unitarian Church have such a hard time singing in unison?  Because they are always too busy reading ahead in the hymnal to make sure they agree with the words.  If you have never been to a Unitarian Church or you don’t know any Unitarians, trust me, even my Unitarian friends tell me that was very funny!

Jehovah’s Witness–Rio Grande Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witness, 2077 Honour Road, Orlando, FL  32839.  407.240.9773.  www.watchtower.org.

Seventh Day Adventist–South Orlando Seventh Day Adventist Church, 1112 W. Oak Ridge Road, Orlando, FL  32809.  407.855.8722.  http://southorlando22.adventistchurchconnect.org/.  There are a lot of Seventh Day Adventist Churches in the Orlando area, which makes it very easy to find vegetarian food stores.

If you have a chance to attend one of these places, please drop us a comment and let us know about your experience.  If you know of another place you would like for me to add to this list, just drop me a comment.

The Historic Redland Tropical Trail

November 25, 2008
Redland Tropical Trail Sign

Redland Tropical Trail Sign

I don’t really know what the Redland Tropical Trail is or how it was created.

The trail is located in South Florida, about a four hour drive south of the Orlando area. In my next few posts, I will share my experiences in this area that most visitors to Central Florida don’t have the time to visit. Pity. There is some good stuff there.

Despite the fact that I do my best to research every blog and provide as much factual information as I can in as entertaining a way as possible, I was unable to locate very much information about the trail. I did find that there is some dispute as to whether it is proper to refer to the area between Miami and the Keys in south Florida as the Redland or the Redlands. It also appears that the Redland Tropical Trail was some kind of marketing scheme created by nine businesses around two years ago. Not knowing for sure, I will give you my best guess based on what I observed.

It appears that a small group of agribusiness tourist destinations got together to solve a problem. None of these places seem large enough to pull in vast amounts of tourists by themselves. Perhaps, however, if they band together for promotion and advertising purposes, they could attract some crowds. Mrs. LanceAround, our number one daughter and I accidentally stumbled upon the trail last January. We found it interesting enough to visit again this past month.

According to their website, The Historic Redland Tropical Trail consists of nine businesses and a visitor’s center–The nine businesses are: R. F. Orchids, The Coral Castle, Everglades Alligator Farm, Schnebly Redland’s Winery, The Bonsai Garden, Robert is Here Fruit Stand, Monkey Jungle, Capri Restaurant and Cauley Square. We have only visited three of the nine: The Coral Castle, Robert is Here, and we had lunch at Capri Restaurant. They were all excellent.

The Coral Castle is one of the most fascinating places I have ever experienced and I will feature it in it’s own post. The same with Robert is Here Fruit Stand. I won’t blog about The Capri Restaurant but I can tell you it was an oasis in the southern Florida landscape and we enjoyed an elegant Italian meal there. A definite thumbs up!

Coral Castle

Coral Castle

Each of the three places we visited had an intricately carved wooden signpost (like the one above from the Robert is Here Fruit Stand)–Designed like an old fashioned roadside sign that has labeled arrows pointing to various destinations with the mileage to get there–Clearly designed by the Redland Tropical Trail. The signpost listed the names of the nine mini-attractions. In addition, at each location there was more advertising with the names of all the other members of the trail.

As we traveled from place to place between the trail, the Keys and the Everglades, we encountered a very interesting roadside of South Florida. There were many farms and orchards with rows and rows of fresh growth. There were fruit stands, ice cream shops, depressed areas of boarded up homes and areas of obvious wealth. There was a house that was built to resemble a castle with round turrets and it was up for sale. (No, it was not the Coral Castle, I will blog about that later.) There were canals, obviously man made, with intricate drainage dams. Several businesses featured back swamp alligator air boat tours. There was even a large, presumably Indian, casino. In other words, there were plenty of interesting places to stop and explore.

It would be nice if the Redland Trail website provided more information about their history, members and goals. For now, it is little more than a couple photos of each location with a link to their websites. Some of those individual websites, like the Coral Castle, appear to be in a perpetual “under construction” state for over a year. Even the main trail website was advertising an event from last February as I write this blog nine months later.

So only time will tell if this coalition provides enough of a boost to these businesses to keep up the effort of maintaining the Historic Redland Tropical Trail. But for today, it got my family to visit a few places that we found highly recommendable. So for now all I can say is that it worked for us. I hope you enjoy it as well.