Saturday, February 21, 2009

Publix Porn

Normally my husband and I shop at the Publix located closest to Celebration. It's right down 192, just past the underpass for 417 and behind Logan's Steakhouse. Granted, it's always swarming with hordes of tourists, and every now and then there's a purse snatching or robbery (but that's the norm with tourist-strip businesses). I just clutch my pepper spray firmly and put on my aggressive "I'm from the South Side of Chicago, don't mess with me" demeanor, and thus far I've had no problems.

A few months ago, a brand-new Publix opened in the Hunters Creek area, near the new Loop shopping center at John Young Parkway and Osceola Parkway. I heard through word of mouth that it was supposed to be very nice. A much more local crowd, bigger, cleaner, and with a better selection. Checking it out has been on my list of things to do, but I never got around to it till today.

Hubby and I had lunch at Abuelo's, a yummy Mexican restaurant at the Loop. Since the Publix is right across Osceola Parkway so we decided to do our shopping there. Little did I know that I was stepping into the Porn Publix!

It started when a can caught my eye: Spotted Dick Sponge Pudding. Yes, Spotted Dick. The mental images stirred up by the name were quite disturbing and did not put me in the mood for pudding. You can see the can below:

Okay, weird brand but what the heck. I didn't realize that it was a trend until we reached the coffee aisle and I discovered Major Dickason's Blend. I have no idea what it was blended with, but I have no doubt that it probably goes well with the Spotted Dick pudding. At this point my mind was reeling a bit, as I've never found such graphic brands in our local Publix. Little did I realize what was waiting around the next corner.

"Uh, honey...honey..." I gasped, tugging at my husband's sleeve. There, just down the aisle, was a woman in tight black pants. But the pants had a cutout on each side that ran from her thighs all the way up to and including her generous butt cheeks. Other than sewn-in mesh, they were naked for all the world to see. And it wasn't tight mesh either. It was the kind you'd see someone wearing with a teddy. Perhaps she was searching for Major Dickason, hoping he would show her the location of the Spotted Dick. I have no idea, and I didn't care to explore the concept further. All I knew was that I'd somehow blundered into the Porno Publix, and I was more than ready to escape.

I shared my tale with a friend, who recounted her own experience at our local Purse-Snatching Publix. She'd been selling Girl Scout cookies with her daughter in front of the store and noticed a woman sitting there, pouring out a container of milk. When she was done, she poured out another one, right out onto the ground. Perhaps noticing my friend's astonishment, she explained that when you want something from God, you have to make sacrifices. Apparently, rather than slaughtering a goat, which would be rather messy for the parking lot, she had chosen to give Him milk. She pointed out that she was giving Him lowfat, buttermilk, AND goat milk, since she wasn't sure which type He preferred. Smart woman...not taking any chances.

While my friend was still reeling, a white van pulled up and Milk Lady hopped in, perhaps on her way back to the Funny Farm although it was an unmarked vehicle. Meanwhile, as the Girl Scouts sold their cookies, they also watched the milk curdling in the sun. Apparently God didn't feel moved to spirit the sacrifice up to Heaven.

I can't say I've ever witnessed such goings-on at a supermarket in Chicago (where, of course, everyone shops at Da Jewels). That's not to say they don't happen there, but in my personal experience there were no Spotted Dicks or milk sacrifices. Just another bit of fun living in such, diverse part of the world. From now on, I think we'll stick to the Publix close to home because curdling milk puddles are easier to handle than Major Dickason's Spotted Dick and Bare Butt Woman.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Parade of Stars at Disney Hollywood Studio

Thursday, February 12th, was a gala day at Disney Hollywood Studio as a parade of American Idol celebrities, including all seven winners, joined a motorcade down the "blue carpet" past throngs of adoring fans.

You can read about my adventures at the parade, the show, and the after-party (where I met my favorite Idol of all time, Ruben Studdard, producer Simon Fuller, and many others) by visiting my site at (there are plenty of photos of the show, where Carrie Underwood and David Cook did a duet and all seven winners took the stage together). Meanwhile, you can thumb through the parade photos below. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Join Me Live at Walt Disney World!

Check out my video and pictorial blog of the American Idol premiere event by visiting

You'll see photos and videos that are updated every day (right now there are three videos live and a TON of photos). The media tour is part of my work for, where I am the Orlando Getaways reporter. My main Examiner site is at

Please join me over at the Disney site...I promise it will be a lot of fun! The Idol premiere is Thursday, so by Friday the final video and photos should all be uploaded.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Community Crisis

Normally, a crisis in Florida consists of an impending hurricane, or perhaps a tornado. Lately, the wind chills (yes, wind chills!) might qualify. But here in Celebration we had a different sort of crisis yesterday. Electricity went out to several villages (near as I can figure, East, South, Aquila Reserve, and Artisan Park were all affected) and was off for several hours. In EV, I think it ran from 5 a.m. all the way to past 1 p.m.

Initially, I gained semi consciousness at 5 a.m. and noticed that it was awfully dark. It partially registered in my sleepy mind that the power was off, but I didn't think much of it. I had a meeting scheduled in the morning, so I just drifted back off. When I woke up again, the sun was blazing so I didn't notice the pervasive darkness, but everything was too silent and my clock's face was blank. Uh oh, it was almost time for my meeting, and there I was with no hair dryer and a questionable amount of hot water. Everything in our house is electric, so a power outage means paralysis. Even the phones are all cordless, which means they were all dead. I had my cell, but it was nearly out of battery power. My laptop was charged up, but no power means no wireless router and therefore no internet.

I tried to communicate with my husband via my failing phone. It's a G1 so I can normally use the internet, but for some reason it wasn't working. Hubby checked the community intranet and saw many reports about the outage, as well as the fact that Progress Energy was working on it. At this point, my phone was almost dead, and I knew I needed to work, so I left the house in search of power and wireless. I headed off to Clementine's, a nice little coffee shop at Water Tower Place.

Clementine's has yummy food and drinks, but better yet, they had power and internet access. I set up camp at a comfy table, ordered a drink, and plugged in my phone and computer. There were many other refugees. In a way, it was like a hurricane shelter on a much smaller scale. People had fled their powerless homes to congregate on a handy central point where they could enjoy a latte and indulge in their internet fix.

I met several people I knew already and one person who realized we were posting on the community intranet at the same time, from nearby tables, and introduced himself. It amazed me as to just how wired society has become, to the point of barely being able to function when the tech gadgets are taken away. For me, all three of my businesses are tied into the internet, so my laptop and a connection are crucial. I was much less dependent on cell phones before I got my G1, but now it's like having the internet in my pocket. It's cool and frustrating all at the same time, as the battery lasts less than a day if you actually use the stupid thing.

The huddled masses continued to sip coffee (well, myself, I switched to iced tea) and get their electricity and internet fixes until word came down that power had been restored. It had been over eight hours in total, and I think that half of town must have given a collective sigh of relief when Progress Energy was finally done with their work.

Now I'm back to having power in Duloc Manor, and I think I've got a renewed appreciation for what that means. And I don't feel too bad, because as the impromptu refugee area showed, I'm most definitely not alone in my dependence.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

In Search of a Happy Hut

Truman Burbank, our quaker parrot, is in love with his Happy Hut. If you don't own a quaker, conure, or similar feathered friend, you probably have no idea what that means. Basically, Happy Huts are cloth or fabric tents that hang from the ceiling of a bird's cage. The bird can sleep inside or hide in his "secure zone" if he's scared.

When we first bought Truman at Chief's Bird Cabin in Orlando (yes, that's really the name, and yes, it's really a cabin), they recommended buying a Happy Hut for him. They had a homemade variety made of plain cloth (the name brand models are made from thick, fuzzy material). I selected one, and as you can see below, he took to it almost immediately. It became his bedroom, as well as his sanctuary from the Vaccum Monster and various other household terrors.

Things went on peacefully for a year, and then last week Truman went to our friends' house for a weeklong visit while we took Disney Cruise #66 (to read my day by day trip report, click here to start with Day One on my Orlando Examiner site. They have five birds of their own, and Truman loves their daughter, so I knew that he'd be in good hands. Of course, his Happy Hut went with him.

When we returned, one of our friends delivered him instead of me doing a pick-up because just about everyone in their household was sick. Truman was quite non-plussed at all the turmoil. As soon as we took him out of the carrier, he greeted my husband with clicking sounds and a repetitive litany of "What?" and "Step up!" I got some of his favorite fart noises and a few cockatiel-style whistles (he was with two 'tiels all week).

After our friend left, I realized that Truman's Happy Hut was not among his supplies. Oh no! How would he sleep? Granted, birds can sleep on a perch, but my spoiled little boy was used to to his cushy birdy bedroom. I decided to just run out to the pet store and get him a new one. For a quaker parrot, he's pretty flexible. Some take days or weeks to get used to new things, but he generally takes to new toys and whatnot right away.

As much as I love living in Celebration, one of the hazards of being in a residential bubble in the middle of Tourist Land is a dearth of specialized stores. Sure, we have souvenir shops up the ying yang, and plenty of Wal-Marts and Targets, but dedicated pet stores are few and far between. Thankfully, there is a recently-built retail oasis called The Loop that's about 10 minutes (and a $1.50 toll) away from Celebration. They have a Petco that carries Happy Huts so I figured it would be a simple journey.


The one stinkin' time I needed a Happy Hut, they were totally out. I've seen them every time I've come to buy bird food, but on this day there had apparently been a run on them. It was getting late on a Saturday, so my only other option was to head out to the Petsmart way down in boffo on the other end of John Young Parkway and pray frantically on the way that they'd have a hut in stock.

Hubby and I raced off to the far-flung Petsmart. Even though I prefer them to Petco, I hate going there because it's far, a pain in the butt to get to, and it has one of the world's most poorly designed parking lots. Actually, I have to say that Florida in general has horrible parking lot design. Back in Illinois, there were myriad entrances and exits to choose from, and you could easily get from one part of the lot to the other. In my little slice of the Sunshine State, there's one entrance that's often well hidden, and you'll be lucky if one end of the lot connects to the other in more than one hard-to-find spot.

But we were on a mission, so I braved the special hell of the Petsmart lot and raced in to the bird section. Whew! The good news was that they had plenty of Happy Huts. The bad news was that they only had the name brand, which looks a good deal different from Truman's old digs. Oh well, I figured he'd get in it if he was desperate enough. I bought two identical huts to prevent any similar panicked quests in the future.

While Truman didn't flip out when I hung the new (and somewhat larger) hut in his cage, he was extremely leery of it. He gave it the fuzzy eyeball, then climbed out onto his cage top play gym. I returned him to the cage and showed him that the hut didn't bite me when I lined it with paper towels, but he was still skeptical. Finally hubby offered him a noodle, and the little carb hog grabbed it and ate it on the perch next to the hut. When it didn't attack him, he decided to do some shred work on the paper towels. By bedtime, he had climbed in and made himself at home.

The next day, I felt relieved that he'd slept in his hut, but I wondered if he really liked it as well as his old one. A quick glance inside answered that question! Quakers are nest-building parrots, and in captivity they will play with sticks and other building materials if you provide them. Tru has a bucket full of skewers, straws, popsicle sticks and the like. Just as he used to in his old hut, he had constructed a...well, I don't know what it is, but I do know it means he is happy. Check out his handiwork in the photo below. As you can see, the Happy Hut is living up to its name: