May 2013 Blogging Challenge

I know I’ve been super bad and posting lately, although in all fairness…I have technically been writing up posts for i.seeKissimmee.com behind the scenes, but they just haven’t been official posted yet.  They did launch the start of my week of posts this past Friday.  Today, the first official post with a review in it has been posted, so make sure you head over to the website and read up on my post about The Boardwalk.

With that being said, if you’re having trouble posting lately, you may want to take the blogging challenge during the month of May, which I’ve posted below.  Click the link below to join in the challenge!  This blog hop is being hosted by The Blog Designers Network, Creative Girl Media & Delightfully Inspired.

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Cupcake Hearts

How many times have you been out and about on a trip and gotten a taste for something sweet?  Or been on vacation during someones birthday & wanted to surprise them with a birthday treat, rather than embarrass them at a restaurant where all the waiters and waitresses sing you there corny rendition of “Happy Birthday” and give you a dessert for free.  Well, I’ve got the place for you and it’s located right in Kissimmee!  The shop is called Cupcake Hearts.  They are open at 10am everyday, except Sunday, in which they open at 11am.  Then they close at 7pm everyday, except Friday, in which there hours are extended until 9pm & Sundays they close at 4pm.

They are an adorable little shop that makes delicious, FRESH cupcakes daily!  When you walk in you’ll see all the different cupcakes, offered in some amazing flavors, on display on the counter on pretty little covered pedestals.  It makes it very hard to try to decide what to try, because I know I wanted to try them all, but I refrained.  I will definitely be going back to try some of the other flavors that I didn’t get a chance to try!  What’s great is they have there cupcakes in two sizes, regular and mini.  I opted for the mini’s, which were the perfect size if you just want a couple bites of something sweet instead of indulging in a whole cupcake.  I ended up getting a half dozen mini cupcakes to try, each in different flavors.  They were devine!

I even took pictures of each one I tried for you….all except one.  Sadly, it didn’t make it past me & my bestie!  We had a long day of walking around one of the parks and wanted a bite of something sweet, so we split the flavor called “Bananas”, which is a banana cupcake with chocolate chips, vanilla bean cream cheese frosting with a dot of chocolate fudge on top.  It was scrumptious!  It was one of my favorites out of the 6 flavors I tried.

The next flavor I opted to try was “Red Velvet”.  This one was simply a red velvet cupcake with the vanilla bean cream cheese frosting.  I must be the yummy frosting because my 3 favorite flavors all had this icing on top.  The red velvet cake was nice & moist & was so tasty!  I would definitely recommend this one!”

Apple Pie” was the next flavor I tried.  Another favorite!  This was a cinnamon apple cupcake, with once again, vanilla bean cream cheese icing & topped with a squiggle of caramel.  As Rachael Ray would say, “YUMMO”!  I love anything apple flavored, so I knew this one would be a winner.

Next, I decided to try the one called “Coco”, which is a coconut cupcake with coconut icing!  Talk about coconut explosion….Yum!  The cupcake menu on the website also says that this cupcake is topped with toasted coconut flake, which mine wasn’t….bummer!  It was still darn good though!  I think they should make an almond joy cupcake….coconut cupcake, chocolate frosting and top with an almond….now that would be awesome!

Alright….down to the final two flavors.  Don’t get too excited when I tell you this next flavor chocolate lovers….”Nutella”!  It was a vanilla cupcake, with a hazelnut spread icing, topped with hazelnut wafer crumbles.  This one was still tasty, but it didn’t totally win me over.  Not sure if I may have changed the consistency of the icing by putting them in the fridge after I got home for a little while because they were in the hot car for the 45 minute ride home.  I’d be willing to try this one again & try it without putting it in the fridge first.

They final flavor I tried of you all & by far won me over by presentation.  It was the flavor they dubbed, “Smores”.  It’s a chocolate fudge cupcake with a graham cracker bottom & torched marshmallow icing!  It just looked awesome!  I was a little disappointed because it didn’t have much marshmallow taste, but that could have been because I had the mini version.

Well, I hope you enjoyed my review of Cupcake Hearts and I hope you decide to give them a try.  Besides cupcakes, they also specialize in cakes for all occasions, desserts in a jar, and more.  Go check out all of there information on the website at www.cupcakehearts.net where you can also find there full menu of cupcake flavors.

They are located at:
3156 Bill Beck Blvd.
Kissimmee, FL  34744

Phone: 407-344-0404

They are located in the Wal-mart plaza off of Osceola Parkway, next to Denny’s.  I put the address in my GPS & it put me across the street, so if you see Wal-mart, just ignore your GPS and turn in there if your GPS tends to lead you astray from time to time, like mine.

Downtown Disney Fun

If you’re tired from all the park hopping & just want to take a day to relax and do a little Disney themed shopping, then Downtown Disney is screaming for you to come & visit.  The great thing about Downtown Disney is that it is a great place to go for that Disney feeling & it’s free if you’re just browsing!  Parking is free too or there are free shuttles from all of the Disney resorts as well.  It’s also a great place to go if you had seen something in one of the parks and forgot to buy it, more than likely you’ll be able to find it here.

They have tons of shops, the biggest character store on Earth called World of Disney.  You can spend hours in here looking around at all they have to offer.  Also inside the store is the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique where little girls can go and get their princess on!  It’s so adorable to see some of the girls when they are all gussied up in their favorite princess dress, hair up and curled with an overabundance of glitter shimmering in their hair.  It would definitely be something your little darling would remember forever!  I know I’ve seen where some people do this in the morning and then hit up the parks & get some adorable photos with different characters throughout the parks.  I guess that’s the magic of Disney!

Also, throughout Downtown Disney you’ll see several amazing Lego statues.  They have a dragon/serpent type creature made entirely of Legos in the lake, as well as Lego creations of Snow White, Buzz & Woody, etc.  It’s really pretty cool.  I can’t imagine being the one having to create these masterpieces.  Little ones that are Lego maniacs will love seeing all of creations! And then of course they have the Lego store on site as well!

Now my favorite store at Downtown Disney has to be “The Art of Disney” store.  I’m love artwork and have loved all Disney related art since a young age.  So if you are like me, it might be best to go before payday, so you don’t have any money to blow because I could easily spend an entire paycheck here.  Seeing all of the artwork just gives you that good feeling deep down inside like you’re a kid again.  I really love seeing other various artist different renditions of characters and movie themes.  The last time I was their I refrained from buying anything for myself, but I bought by younger brother, who is a volunteer fireman a picture of Mickey Mouse shaking a fireman’s hand.  It was pretty cool & my brother loved it.

My other favorite store would have to be Mickey’s Pantry.  I’m not sure why, because I’m not much of a cook & I don’t do a lot of cooking, but I love all of the Disney themed cook wear.  I think I might just have to redecorate my kitchen the more I think about it.  You’ll find everything from a variety of coffee mugs, plates, cooking utensils, cookbooks, Mickey shaped pasta, spices, wine bottle toppers, etc…

If you get hungry from walking around and doing a lot of shopping, you’ll have no shortage of choices on places to eat at Downtown Disney.  When I went, my friend and I decided to eat at the Rainforest Cafe.  A word of advice….if you don’t care about sitting inside with all of the Rainforest like atmosphere and just want to relax, eat & enjoy the weather…request a table on the outside deck.  I didn’t even realize there was an outside deck option because they didn’t ask us when we put our name on the wait list, but my friend who knew mentioned it and we were the only people out there.  It’s a very nice deck area right over the lake.  It’s a great place to enjoy some good food, an awesome frozen drink and good conversation.  I even talked them into making me a drink they had never made.  It was a mango mojito, which was on the drink list, but I asked them if they good make it frozen, so they said they’d give it a shot and it was AMAZING!

I usually just go to Downtown Disney to walk around and browse, but there is so much more that is offered besides shopping and eating.  On the other side of Downtown Disney, you have the Pleasure Island area for the evening hours, House of Blues, AMC Dine-In Movie Theater.  If you’re wanting to take in a show, Cirque de Soleil is on site as well.  I haven’t had a chance to go yet, but I hear it’s spectacular.

To find out about different events at Downtown Disney, as well as information on all of the shops, eateries, & things to do, check out the website at http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/destinations/downtown-disney.

Vintage Vino…Give it a Visit!

Looking for a great wine bar in downtown Kissimmee?  Vintage Vino is your place!  After dinner & dessert, my friend and I were ready to unwind after a long work week and just kick back and relax with some wine and good conversation.  I absolutely loved everything about this place!  From the shelves of wines, brick walls, comfy chairs, a cozy nook with a high top (which is where we opted to sit) or you can go up to the bar if you prefer to sit there.  They also have outdoor seating available on the sidewalk if you choose.

As soon as we sat down, we were greeted and given a menu of there most popular wines, as were also informed that they have a lot more than listed on the menu, but those were the most popular.  I immediately put down the menu & just asked for some good suggestions.  I told her my favorite wines & my friend did the same.  I like white wines & she likes reds.  She said she had some good ideas of what we’d like and returned shortly with a couple of different bottles.  She poured me a taste, so I could try it first and she nailed what I like on the head and I quickly opted for a full glass.  She did the same for my friend, who didn’t opt for her first taste, but then the second type she got to taste, she loved and opted for a glass.  Our hostess did an excellent job at picking out the perfect wines, and she said she is better with beer & the owner, John, is the wine expert.

So we kicked back and had a good time just sitting and talking and enjoying our wine.  After a while, John, the owner came over and introduced himself and welcomed us to the wine bar.  He let us know a little about the place, hours, events & got us signed up to be on the e-mail list.  He also let us know that they have over 50 types of wines & 50 types of different beers to try by the glass.  They also always have different cheeses on hand, at all times, to try.

That being said, we decided to order a cheese platter.  Our hostess made sure and tried to find out our cheese preferences, so we made it easy and told her what we didn’t like.  She returned shortly with a sample for us to try before creating the platter, which was awesome.  You just don’t find service like that at many places.  We agreed that the cheese was delicious, so she went ahead and put that on our platter.  When she brought it out, it was so pretty…you almost didn’t want to eat it.  We had a softer cheese on one corner, a harder cheese on the other, with a couple different varieties of crackers, some sliced apples, a small bunch of grapes, some dried apricots and a few cocoa flavored almonds.  And what was even better….it paired perfectly with our wines!  So good!

It started to get late, so after sitting there for a couple of hours, we decided it was time to head home.  We will definitely be back to Vintage Vino soon, as we were really impressed with everything they have to offer!  If you’re in the area, please make it a point to stop in and check the place out.  It is very small & quaint, but don’t let that fool you.  What they lack in size they make up in all the different varieties of wines, beers & cheeses that are offered, as well as awesome service!

To find out more about Vintage Vino, you can check them out on the web at www.vintagevino.com

They are located at:

14 E. Dakin Avenue
Kissimmee, FL  34741

Cheers,

Jenn

Gators Galore in Gatorland

After a morning airboat tour and seeing a ton of gators in there own environment, you may ask, “What should I do next while I’m in Florida”?  Why not just make it a full out gator themed day and hit up Gatorland.  I’m not a huge fan of gators, but I still wanted to go and check out the park, to see what it was all about.  After you purchase your tickets, which are really reasonably priced, around $20 or so, depending on if you were able to find them discounted online or had a coupon, which you can often find in Florida tourism guides…the price is right around that range.  You really can’t beat the price for something to do for part of the day.

You walk into the park and of course you expect gators, but I guess I wasn’t expecting so many!  That had them in all sizes ranging from babies to great big gators, like Chester, who was a bit camera shy, so I only got a shot of him from behind, but even so…you can tell he was huge!  They even had albino gators, which I had never seen before, so it was kind neat seeing an all white gator.

Besides gators, the park also has plenty more to offer.  There is a petting zoo, an aviary, snakes, flamingo exhibit & a few shows.  The first show I got to watch was the gator wrestling show, in which the guy gets in this arena type sand pit that is surrounded by a trench of water along the sides.  When I got to the area and took a seat on the bleachers all of the gators were up on the sand sunning themselves & working on there tans.  Then the guy gets in the arena with them all pulls them each one by one by there tail and plops them in the water.  Then they had a little boy pic a gator from around the edge for him to catch and pull into the arena with him.  Not something I would want to do.  It took him a sec to grab the gator as he was fast & tried to get away.  Once the gator was pulled into the sand pit, the trainer proceeded to tell us random facts about gators & then did some crazy stunts like holding the gators snout between his chin and his chest…no hands!  No way would I want to try that….Yikes!  I’ll leave that one to the professionals!

Then after the show people who had paid the extra to get there picture taken with a gator up close and personal could get in line to do so.  Yes, I was one of the crazies that wanted a pic with the gator, although I refused to sit on him.  The trainer kept saying just to sit down & that I couldn’t hurt him, but I still opted to take a knee so I didn’t sit on him.  I wouldn’t want anyone sitting on me…lol.  So I extended the gator the same courtesy. 🙂

After that, I headed towards the shack where you could get some gator food (A.K.A. Hotdogs)  It really cracked me up when I got to the booth, because there were two huge white birds just chilling out like they were waiting in line.  Once I got the hotdogs and was told to guard them with my life because the area birds weren’t shy about taking them from you.  So as you walk down the dock to the observation area where you can throw in your hotdogs, its kind of weird because she wasn’t joking about those birds.  They were lined on both sides of you…some of the bigger ones were following you.  It was like a little bird mafia…haha.  Anyways, once I was at the end I was able to throw in the hotdogs, trying to get them to the gators before the birds could get them.  There was one sneaky bird standing behind me trying to get those hotdogs, I finally shooed him away as he was making me nervous.

Then there was a nice size flamingo exhibit.  They are such pretty birds.  In with the flamingos, there was some other sort of big black bird.  I’m not sure what it was exactly, but they were kind of creepy.  Every single one of them just stood still with there wings completely extended.  It was very odd.

If you’ve got kids, besides the petting zoo, there is a train that will take you around the whole park.  There is also a little water park area for kids to play in, which would be great on a hot Florida day. The other show that they have is the Jumperoo Show, in which two guys compete to see who can get a gator to grab there chicken first.  They split the audience into teams and get each side rooting for their guy.  It’s entertaining and they guys are pretty funny.

All in all, Gatorland is a good place to go to spend a half day and learn some things you might not have know about gators.  On your way out of the park, you exit through there gift shop if there are any gator souvenirs you may want to take back home.  My favorite thing that I saw, were the “Redneck Wine Glasses”, which was basically a small wide mouth mason jar super glued to a candle stick holder….Haha!  Genius!  Why didn’t I think of that!

Volunteering at Give the Kids the World Village

On Friday I had the opportunity to volunteer for Give Kids the World Village.  Luckily, I was all caught up in the office & it was during a slower time during the term, so as soon as I got the okay from the boss, I signed up immediately.

 Give Kids the World Village is located on 70+ acres in Kissimmee, FL.  It is a place for kids who are terminally ill to go for a week with their families & stay in a villa in the village & experience all there is to do on site, such as themed nights, dive-in movies at the pool, rides, mini golf & more.  Not only that, Give Kids the World sends each of those families to all of the area theme parks!  It’s a really AMAZING program & such a magical place.  They have a motto that they never say no, so if a ride isn’t up and running during the day because most families are at the parks, they just have to ask and they will get the ride up and going just for them!  It was truly an honor and a privilege to get a chance to volunteer for the wonderful organization for the afternoon!

As you walk through the village you will not see a single corporate logo or any sponsors logos, as it’s not about sponsors….it’s truly for the kids!  The buildings are bright and cheery, bursting with vibrant colors.  Each villa may look different on the outside, but they are all identical on the inside.  They have a huge pool area with a pirate ship, which the mast is the screen for those “Dive-In” movies I mentioned earlier.  There are buildings that look like huge cupcakes & mushrooms.  I think one of the favorite places in the village for the kiddos is the ice cream shoppe….ice cream is available any time they want it…yep…even for breakfast!

 If you’d like to read more about Give Kids the World Village, you can check them out online at www.gktw.org.  If you think you’d like to apply to volunteer, you can sign up on the website for that as well!  While I was there, we seen an older gentleman out delivering toys from villa to villa & were told he had the most volunteer hours at the village and had logged just over 20,000 hours!  Holy cow!  What a saint!

I’ll leave you with some pictures of our afternoon volunteering.  We didn’t get to work directly with the kids since we were there during the afternoon when most are out at the parks, so we helped a bit with the landscaping and help spread sand to fill in the spaces around the pavers on the walkways.  It was hot & sweaty work, but I think almost everyone would do it again, just because it’s for such a wonderful cause!

Wild Willy’s Airboat Tours

What pops into your head when you think of Florida?  Besides the obvious answers of Disney, the ocean & palm trees.  Gators!  Yes, Florida has an abundance of gators!  I was once told that where ever there is a body of water…assume there is a gator in it.  I have yet to see any gators in any out of the ordinary places since I moved to Orlando a year and half ago.  I will tell you an awesome place to go to see gators though & it is definitely a memorable experience that will leave you wanting more!  If you’ve never been on an airboat tour, you must make sure you put it on your “To Do” list when you come to Kissimmee!  If you book one first thing in the morning, the ride usually lasts a good full hour & then you have the rest of the day to go play at other area attractions!

Upon a lot of research of all of the area airboat tour companies & compared prices, length of ride, type of airboat, I narrowed it down to Wild Willy’s Airboat Tours.  As an added bonus, they are far enough out, you won’t have any ugliness to look at, such as buildings & housing developments.  If you like to plan your vacation to a “T” and make reservations, you can do that right on Wild Willy’s Airboat Tours website.  It probably is a good idea to set up a reservation in advance, just to make sure you make the best out of your time.  But if you like to just see where the day takes you, you can always stop in and see if you can take a tour.  That’s what I did, I just stopped in one morning and it was about a 30 minute wait & then I was off on my airboat adventure!  And if you have to wait a little while on your tour to start, you can sit outside under the pavilion and soak up some good ‘ol vitamin D and beautiful scenery of the lake.  Then you can’t help but get excited when you hear the hum of the airboat coming in because you know you’re turn is coming up soon!

One of the great things at Wild Willy’s is that they have 6 passenger airboats, unlike some places that are big enough for 15 people or so, but when you only have 6 passengers aboard that means you can go a whole lot faster & the faster the better, right?!  These little boats are super loud, so you are provided with a set of ear muffs to block out the sound.  Don’t worry…Captain Mike will tell you when to put them on, so you don’t miss out, as he gives you a little history about the lake, as you head down the canal out into the open lake.  Then hang on to your hats, for a super fast & awesome ride!  The airboats feel like they just float across the water with such ease, you almost get the feeling that you’re flying.  Then when you look out and you have the area birds flying next to you…it’s a pretty cool feeling!

You will also get the chance to see several gators, as your captain will know all the good gator spots & knows what he’s looking for, so he can point out all the little baby gators in the area, bald eagles sitting in trees, turtles swimming beside the boat, big ‘ol water moccasins & other various wildlife.  Each ride is unique and you never know what you might get to see.  I loved the fact I got to see a huge turtle swimming along side of the boat. The boat will pull up, right next to the gators so you can get a chance to take plenty of photos.  Some gators will just sit there like statues, while others are a bit shy and will duck down in the water about as fast as your boat pulls up to them, so you’ve got to be quick to see some of them!  One of the cutest things I saw where all of the baby gators. Some are a bit hard to see because they are so tiny, but if you look close you can see them crawling around on the reeds and branches in the water.  Others are a little bit bigger & are easier to see.  It’s funny to see them scatter when your boat takes off.

Look Close & You'll See Several Baby Gators

Did you know airboats don’t need water to work?  In fact, they don’t even need much water.  Yep…they can go on land just as easy as in the water!  And if everyone aboard the airboat is game, Captain Mike might just take the boat and spin it around a few times for you!  Good times!  All I know is by the end of the trip I didn’t want to get off the boat as I could have spent the entire day out in the gorgeous weather and enjoying the lake, as I’m always happiest when I’m on, in or near the water!

One of my favorite parts of the day was getting to hold the baby gator…they had two & their names were Thunder & Lightning.  I’m not sure which one I got to hold be he sure was cute.  And they are a lot softer than you would think!  So don’t be afraid to hold one for a great photo opportunity!  Captain Mike even had him tell us bye, by tickling his belly a bit which cause him to give us a little wave…it was so cute!

So if you are looking for an awesome airboat tour, I can highly recommend that you go to Wild Willy’s Airboat Tours.  You can visit them on the web at www.wildwillysairboattours.com or you can call for reservations at 407-891-7955.  They are located at 4715 Kissimmee Park Rd., St. Cloud, FL  34772.  You can also e-mail them for more info at info@airboatwilly.com.  If you’re looking for the best airboat tour in the area…look no further!  This is the place you’ll want to make sure and go to!

Weekend Wrap-up

Hey there!  Well, I believe today wraps up my week of posting on the i.seekissimmee.com website.  It was great to be able to write up reviews that I would normally do and get them published on a tourism website.  Plus, to get paid for the gig on top of that…SCORE!  Hopefully, I can get on the calendar and review some more places next spring, since they like you to wait a year before being featured again.  I may go ahead and post everything over here on my blog now that the week is over, as well as stick them in my “Travel Review” section in case you want to find them easily in the future.  For now, you can check out all of my posts here.

Seeing my posts helped make my week.  It was a super busy week at work for me, so that had me down a bit.  Then on Thursday evening I came home and found out that my uncle that lived 5 miles down the road from me had passed away that morning, which was kind of unexpected.  Made me sad & guilty that I hadn’t called recently or been over to visit in a while….C’est la vie!

R.I.P. Uncle Dave – You’ll Be Missed!

So what did I do to end a rather crappy week…..I WENT TO DISNEY WORLD!  I was a bit nervous, since the weather was in the 90’s and it’s getting to that time of year the vacationers start piling in by the masses.  So I got up a lot earlier than normal and headed out the door, so I could be at the besties place by 8:00, so we could make a needed coffee run to Starbucks and then headed for the park.

When we got there & headed towards the line for the monorail, it was a bit insane, but I was told it was a lot worse last week.  I think we only waited like 10 minutes…the line looked worse than it really was.  Once in the park it was smooth sailing!  We went on every ride that we wanted to ride within a few hours and I don’t think we stood in line longer than 15 minutes for any ride…SCORE!  It made a not so great week a whole lot better, plus it’s pretty impossible not to have a great time with the BFF!  I think we left around 2:00 or so & then we decided to go for a late lunch at Olive Garden!  Yum! As for today….didn’t do much of anything.  Ran out to the local art store and wandered around a bit.  Then I went for a quick grocery run to pick up some greek yogurt and veggies.  Somehow a travel coffee thermos ended up in my basket….I think I’m kinda starting to like this coffee stuff!  Not sure if that’s a good thing or not…lol.  Anyways…time for a new week to start already. Blah!  I need to schedule a vacation! Cheers! Jenn