Thursday, March 31, 2011

Check out Winter Garden's Spring Festival

One of the best local spring festivals every year is Spring Fever in the Garden in downtown Winter Garden, Fla. This year, it will be held on April 9 and April 10. Browsing through the beautiful flowers and plants for sale is one of my favorite parts of this festival. At the same time, art is a big draw here: painters and other artists work while attendees watch, and artists of all ages are invited to participate in the “Chalkin it Up” chalk art contest on the sidewalk.
The other neat part about Spring Fever in the Garden is spending time in the quaint downtown area. Since I do not live near Winter Garden, I don’t get there often. But when I do, it is neat to visit the newer facilities such as the Garden Theater and try restaurants such as Chef’s Table at the Edgewater Hotel, Downtown Browns – which features an old-fashioned soda fountain - Winter Garden Pizza & Pasta, and Choctaw Willie’s barbecue.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Buzz, Lightning McQueen Featured at Epcot Flower & Garden Fest

There are some great, different topiaries at this year’s Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, which runs from March 2 through May 15. From the popular Toy Story 3, Buzz, Woody, and Lotso are fashioned into colorful leafy displays. Also new this year is Lightning McQueen and Mater from Cars 2. My relatives swear there are more flowers planted around Space Mountain this year too – what do you think?

Every year, the Flower & Garden Festival is a great way to view creative greenery, while enjoying the park. In addition, HGTV stars like Vern Yip and Genevieve Gorder, along with Epcot gardening experts, hold classes on gardening and landscaping. Meanwhile, some great musical acts are gracing the stages at Epcot including Melissa Manchester – this weekend – along with Starship, Ricky Nelson, Davy Jones, and Herman’s Hermits.
Are you going to the Festival this year?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

D.C. Cherry Blossom Festival Honors Japan

The cherry blossom trees in Washington, D.C., are a beautiful sight. And I love visiting the city: seeing the unique and historic architecture, visiting the White House and Congressional buildings, and trying new foods in Chinatown and at the numerous outstanding eateries throughout the city. It is great that the National Cherry Blossom Festival, which kicks off March 26 and runs through April 10, combines the best of all worlds. The National Festival features music, interactive art demonstrations, children’s art activities, and outdoor performances that celebrate spring and Japanese art.
This Thursday, March 24, a neat event associated with the Festival also aims to support those undergoing hardships in Japan. Starting at 6:30 p.m., people will get together and walk around the Tidal Basin in a “Stand with Japan” ceremony. The cherry blossom trees around the Monument were a gift from Tokyo to Washington, D.C. in 1912. What a great way to extend some positive energy to the people of Japan.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Winter Park Art Festival Features Funnel Cakes, Cotton Candy, and....Oh Yeah, Art

Aaaah, spring has sprung in the Sunshine State, and so have a variety of art and garden festivals. Today marks the start of one of my favorite local events – which draws around 1,200 professional artists from around the world – the Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival. Held in Central Park, alongside Park Ave. in Winter Park, Fla., the annual Festival features some of the best paintings, photography, and sculptures I have seen at art festivals around Orlando.
It is not only the art and culture, though, that draw me to the Sidewalk Art Festival every year. I love the rows and rows of booths serving up a variety of fair food. Among our favorites are the funnel cakes, kettle corn and caramel popcorn, corn dogs, grilled chicken pitas, and fresh-squeezed lemonade. You can also bring a blanket and listen to one of the many jazz artists playing through the end of the festival on Sunday.
Over the next two weeks, we will be covering some of the other top spring festivals around Orlando and the state. Which ones will you be going to?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Top Chef Rematch: Ed Versus Tiffany
"Top Chef" Season 7 contestants Ed Cotton and Tiffany Derry duked it out in a quickfire-style seafood entrĂ©e challenge in Dallas, Texas, recently. The charity event, sponsored by Sysco Sustainable Seafood, was set up to benefit Friends of the Dallas Furniture Bank, which provides furniture for those in need. For all you Top Chef fans, who do you think won the event?

Ed fought hard, but Tiffany won by one point! “She had home field advantage. She had a good group rooting her on and one person raffled from the audience was a guest judge,” Ed said begrudgingly, when we talked recently for Ed's comment made me chuckle, since Tiffany does often remind everyone on the "Top Chef All Stars" that she is from Beaumont, Texas. I don’t know what Tiffany made for the quick-fire, but Ed’s dish sounded delicious: Swordfish encrusted in multiple types of peppercorn, served with saffron and fennel jous.
Do you watch Top Chef? Who do you have picked to win "Top Chef All Stars"?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Top Chef Ed's Life After the Show

It was great fun talking to Ed Cotton, a finalist on Season 7 of "Top Chef", the other day. First, I have watched every season of Top Chef since it began. My boyfriend and I bet on who will win, at the beginning of the season. I often wonder what contestants do after the show - and how their lives and careers change - so I asked Ed about that when I interviewed him for
The pace of his life has changed significantly. While Ed is still executive chef at Plein Sud, the Manhattan French brassiere he was hired on at before the show started, he is being pulled in a lot of different directions. “There are a lot of opportunities, interviews, events, and people wanting to know if I can cook for them,” Ed said. He also talked about the difficulty of balancing a personal life with such a hectic schedule. However, if he had it to do all over again, he would. “It has been a long journey, and all the hard work is paying off. I signed up for it,” Ed said.

Friday, March 4, 2011

New Cruise Ships To Book in April & May

Carnival Magic
Several new cruise ships are coming on board this spring. Perhaps the most accessible to U.S. travelers is Carnival’s Cruise Line’s Carnival Magic, which sales May 1. Able to fit more than 3,600 passengers, it will e Carnival’s largest ship. What is different about this one is a kids’ water park called “Water Works” and hot tubs that extend beyond the stern – I think that is a neat feature.
Meanwhile, AIDA from Germany is launching the 2,184-passenger AIDAsolon on April 9. My friends will love this benefit: AIDAsolon features a micro-brewery that has beer brewed from purified sea water! The ship also features a high-tech 4D theater, complete with moving chairs, air jets, and odors. Is anyone visiting Europe in the near future?
Special thanks to AllThingsCruise for the inside scoop on new cruise ships.