Have you ever tossed a caber? If you don’t know what a caber is then check out the Scottish Highland Games this weekend.  The Scottish-American Society of Central Florida  was founded in 1976 to celebrate and carry on Scottish traditions.  And The Games are a great way to enjoy this rich heritage.  There are athletic competitions: braemar stone put, hammer throw, caber toss and more.  If music is more your style, there will be bands like Albannach,  Rathkeltair, Searson and more.  Other interests include highland dance, archery, kid games and whisky tasting.  More information can be found at http://www.flascot.com/2012_games/ but make plans to enjoy the beautiful weather this Saturday and Sunday.

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Wouldn’t it be nice if some of your favorite local merchants go together in one place so you could shop local? Stop by Armstrong Locks (Mills and Highland)  this Sunday from 2-5 pm.  Your favorite Mills 50 businesses will be there with expert knowledge,  treats, coupons, giveaways and more. Enjoy the lively atmosphere with music and food. Your favorite Realtors, ThinkLiveBe Properties of Keller Williams Realty, will be on hand with some goodies and expert advice. ThinkLiveBe Properties will be collecting cat/kitten food, cat litter and sheets/blankets for Faith, Hope & Love Pet Rescue.  Faith, Hope & Love will be onsite with information on pets available for adoption & advice on pet care.
Please come see us from 2-5 pm on Sunday at the Mills 50 Jingle Mingle!

This may surprise you but I DO cook ….sometimes.  One such occasion was Thanksgiving morning when I decided to cook breakfast for myself, my husband and a guest.  I want to tell you about it because it was mostly from Homegrown Coop in College Park and it was better than anything I could find at my grocery store.

Making breakfast wasn’t my plan for the morning but I figured we needed to eat something!  It started by sauteing chopped onion from Global Organic then I scrambled in a grade A extra large egg from Lake Meadows Naturals LLC sprinkled with shredded cheddar cheese from Winter Park Dairy.  At the same time, slices of French bread from Old Hearth Bakery were toasted then slathered with Blueberry & Chambord jam from Sunchowder’s Emporia.  The last tasty morsel was not from Homegrown Coop but was in keeping with the local/organic/natural theme I’m trying to incorporate into my life, Applegate Natural Sunday bacon.  The tastes were so vibrant and fresh!  Perhaps it was the quality ingredients or perhaps it was the feeling of gratitude that day – either way the result was excellent.

Everyone leads busy lives and this example is meant only as a celebration of small accomplishment.  I am trying to be more thoughtful about local/organic /natural/made in the USA and I’m finding if someone points me to an easy way to get closer to my goal then I’m thrilled to try it.  I hope this inspires at least one person to think local and support our Downtown and Orlando economy.

Photo:  Orlando Grown Grapefruit

Why not avoid the Black Friday hype and stimulate the local economy? Small business Saturday is a great way. Small business owners are your neighbors. They employ people in your neighborhood. Your local stores carry or create unique products the people on your list will love. You’ll receive personal attention and no shipping fees.

Check out your local Main Street districts for lists of small businesses in your area.  Mills 50 is right around the corner from Downtown and full of great places to find a truly unique gift this holiday season – try a gift card to one of the many locally owned delicious restaurants, frame some artwork at the local frame shop on Mills, or find some gifts from around the world at one of the international shops.  Try Audubon Park for some yummy holiday cupcakes, custom jewelry at the Bead Lounge, or to find the perfect gift for a garden lover at Palmer’s.  Thornton Park isn’t a “Main Street” district but be sure to stop through there for a custom t-shirt from Mother Falcon, cute accessories from one of the boutiques, or how about a hot sauce gift set from Tijuana Flats for someone who enjoys things spicy!  Or try Ivanhoe village for the antique lover – just stop in any one of the vintage or antique shops on Orange Avenue for a one of a kind gift!

Why not avoid the crowds, the hype, racing around and check out your favorite small business Saturday?

Raised Bed

Raised Bed

Have you ever met a farmer? Stop by the Winter Park Harvest Festival and YMCA Family Fall Festival this coming Sunday, Nov 20, 2011, at the West Meadow of Central Park & Central Park N (150 N New York Ave, Winter Park). The Harvest Festival will be from 9 am – 5 pm and the Kids Festival will be from 10 am – 2 pm. There will be something for everyone as the festival celebrated local food, farmers, chefs, entrepreneurs, and non-profits that bring their bounty to our tables. There will be a 100% local-only farmers market so you can plan your Thanksgiving meal with local treats such as sweet potatoes, cauliflower, eggs, cheese, breads, dessert and so much more. With games, crafts and gardening activities for the kids, the whole family will have a great time.

Don’t forget to check out the Garden Demo Tent
10 am How to Plant a Grow Box with Tia Meer of Home Grown Delights, LLC
11 am Square Foot Gardening with Ed Thralls of the Agricultural Extension Service
12 pm Worm Composting with Bernie Moro of Our Vital Earth
1 pm Practical Productivity in a Florida Garden with Tom Carey of Sundew Gardens
2 pm Organic Plant Nutrition and Pest Control with Nick Francisco of Blodgett Gardens
3 pm Edible Landscaping with Henry Melendy of My Yard Farm

For more information, http://www.winterparkharvestfestival.com

Do you believe in ghosts?  Whether you believe in ghosts or not, it’s still fun to hear the intriguing stories.  Check out The Last Call: Downtown Orlando Haunted Pub Crawl.  According to American Ghost Adventures, they will provide a guided tour of some of downtown Orlando’s most haunted bars and restaurants.  The tours include some happy hour spirits at Versus Sports Bar & Grill, The Attic, The Dessert Lady, Mojo Cajun Bar & Grill and NV.  You don’t have your own EMF detector? Don’t worry, you’ll have the change to use theirs.  Bring a Maglite, if you have one, otherwise be really nice and they might let you borrow one.  Make sure you’re at Versus Sports Bar & Grill on September 10th, 10 minutes before 8 pm – the tour leaves at 8, do don’t be late!  Tickets are only $20 and can purchased online at www.americanghostadventures.com; call 407.422.5659 for more info.

Sure you see the start of the construction on South Street in Downtown Orlando, but do you really know what the Dr. Phillips Center will look like?

I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t.  I largely ignored the coverage even though I agree with the majority of residents that a new arts center is necessary.  I believe for Downtown Orlando to be a diverse, thriving metropolis, culture exposure for all ages is part of the equation.

I recently had an opportunity to listen to what President Kathy Ramsberger had to say during the Downtown Development Board’s What’s Up Downtown monthly meeting.  I was impressed  with the design, vision, and staff.  If you stop by the office at 455 South Orange Avenue and check out the renderings and model, you’ll see what I mean!

It seems more like a campus than just an art center. The model allows citizens to see the tangible rewards of the vision and design.  The model is separated into two pieces to sneak a peek into the core of the Center, looking at the various stages from both a spectator’s and performer’s point of view.  The large public spaces border areas for art education for all ages, mixed in with retail and meeting space, making the Center an asset to the entire community.  I did not realize the collaboration going on to make this Center happen!  Not only are local political leaders partnering with community voices providing input to the vision, design and implementation; but international voices are involved.

The Center is part of an elite group of art centers around the globe that look to each other for ideas and have contributed in the planning of our soon to be art center.  Even the smallest details have been considered to make it a welcoming place for all.  The vision is to mix everyone coming to the Center from every walk of life at the front door – to create equality from the beginning.  Practically speaking, entrances/exits also impact operational plans and budgets after the Center is up and running.  This is just one example of the painstaking thought that has gone into your Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.

I now have a greater appreciation for all that Downtown Orlando and Central Florida will gain from the Dr. Phillips Center for the Arts.  I encourage you to stop by their office at 455 South Orange Avenue and see for yourself what fantastic things are happening.  The staff is passionate, knowledgeable and helpful.

Check out their website and a very informative fly through can be found under their Resources tab, video/audio.

Image credit:  rendering from Dr. Phillips Center website media resources

pour 2I had the opportunity to try Circa 1926 for the first time last week.  Have you checked out this Winter Park gem recently?  A friend and I dubbed last week “coupon week” due to some fun financial goals we’d set for ourselves.  Circa 1926 was offering a deal on Groupon.  I don’t know about you but I do feel a little humbled, if you will, when I am entering a nice eatery with a coupon.  From the greeting at the door to the time we left, Circa 1926’s staff was genuinely inviting and provided excellent service.  They seemed glad the Groupon promotion was working and new faces were coming into the restaurant.

The intimate dining room allowed for intimate dining while a live band played big band tunes.  The bar along the wall was warmly lit and had its own elegance.  The summer menu had wonderful fresh and light selections as well as several dreamy main plates.  A few of the items we sampled were Circa “Mac & Cheese”, Stuffed Pork Tenderloin and Lemon Drop Martinis (smooooth).

If dinner and dancing interest you, the second floor of Circe 1926 can provide everything you need.  The Super Club, as referenced at circa1926.com, houses another full bar, a stage, a spacious dance floor and well placed seating.  My understanding is the music ranges several decades with something for everyone.  I had the opportunity to attend a group party here on a weekend.  The group was able to gather in a large open seating area, service was very attentive and the DJ played for hours.  The dancers ranged in ages as well as skill levels but everyone was having a good time.  If you like good food and like to have a good time, it is time you checked out Circa 1926.

 

Photo credit:   From waferboard on Flickr courtesy of the Creative Commons License

… I’m just  not the stereotypical art gallery type.  If that describes you then you’re in luck.  Last night, although it was a rainy Thursday, I managed to make it over to check out XL Gallery at 431 East Central Blvd.  I was impressed and plan to go back for more.

If you are looking for something to do this weekend, check out the grand opening and first show on Saturday, July 23, 2011 8 pm – 11 pm.  The first show features works from talented Orlando artist Patrick Fatica and work from Mr. Brainwash (featured in Exit Through The Gift Shop, an Academy Awards Nominee for Best Documentary in 2011).

Kathryn recently wrote a post about the new art space.  It may be smaller than what you’d expect but it is very open. The open floor plan and lighting highlighted the art packed walls.  In the center of the room is a small but, well stocked, full bar.  I think this is a great place to meet friends after work or before dinner, add a little culture to your life, and grab a drink.

Price per square foot and the property appraiser’s assessed value do not portray an accurate market value.  I cannot tell you how many times I have to remind people properties are unique and home valuation is subjective and not a science.  Let’s look at these two misconceptions and why each one does not paint an accurate picture for your home’s value.

Average Price per square foot doesn’t take into consideration upgrades, views, better layout, great condition, etc.  Perhaps in a subdivision with home that are all alike, built in the same year, by the same builder, then price per square foot might have weight.  Even within a subdivision of “like” homes of the same age and by the same builder, over time, owners will customize each home and there will be a variety of features to consider.  In a community with older homes, such as Downtown Orlando, before the concept of tract housing, a 2 story home that hasn’t been updated isn’t a true comparable to the 1 story bungalow next door that has been fully renovated.

Downtown Orlando, College Park and Winter Park real estate offer a variety of styles, sizes, upgrades, and features.   You may see a home sell for $150,000 next to a home that is worth $450,000.  That diversity adds to the charm and lifestyle we love so much in Downtown Orlando.  The average price per square foot is simply that – an average.  You would also not look at the average home price of $144,993 in May 2011 and assume that any home in Orlando is that price….because it’s an average of all the homes in Orlando that have sold.

Another misconception is that the “market value” and “assessed value” on the Property Appraisers website are one in the same.  This is completely inaccurate!  Annually the appraiser’s office will evaluate market value of homes based on recent sales.  This is simply an assessment for tax purposes.  It is a valuation of your home; but not the market value a buyer may be willing to pay.  The tax appraiser will not physically see the property and determine if you completely remodeled your kitchen or added all new hardwood flooring.

Where can you find the market value of your home?  Simple, ask your professional Realtor to prepare a customized CMA (comparative market analysis) for you.  They will take into account not only your property’s condition and updates but how that compares to the condition and updates of recently sold properties in your area.
Market Data provided by Orlando Regional Realtor Association
Photo credit: ppdigital from morguefile.com

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