Simply the Best - I | Orlando Home & Leisure
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Simply the Best - I

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Dog Powered Robot
Batman and Robin: Now there’s a great superhero duo. Maybe, just maybe, the Earth is ready for another courageous twosome. Perhaps the time has come for…


That’s DPR, for short.

Dog Powered Robot is the brainchild of Evan Miga, a self-employed graphic designer, and his wife, Christie, an abstract artist. Dreamed up as the lead character in an Orlando Fringe Festival skit staged by the couple three years ago, it’s a 6-foot-3-inch cardboard robot, one that has room inside for Evan and a small, recessed platform cut into its chest as a perch for Fisher, their 7-year-old white Pomeranian.


Not exactly a ZAP! POW! combo for the ages. But this is the Fringe we’re talking about. The Migas’ childlike, vaguely nostalgic creature-feature sketch basically consisted of DPR wreaking havoc on a cardboard cityscape while Fisher yapped at the crowd from his perch. But it was a hit. In the three years since, the Migas have “upgraded” DPR with a laser arm gun, ‘action’ headlights, rocket boots and a jet pack, and surrounded him with a supporting ensemble of other robots, all fashioned from scrap cardboard and a mishmash of electronic accessories.

One robot has a glowing brain, zips around in a wheelchair and talks in a metallic, Stephen Hawking-style voice. Another has a candy dispenser attached to her body, along with a vintage iPod that functions as a boom box – and a steel claw that she uses when her mood changes and she decides she wants to wipe out humanity. (“When that happens, we just have to reboot her,” says Christie.)

There’s also a villainous, robot-powered robot  with red glowing eyes. “It’s ‘powered’ by a ‘real’ robot called Robie Junior that was a childhood toy of Evan’s,” says Christie. “Most of Cardboard City – that’s what we call the world that DPR lives in – comes from Evans’ childhood memories.”


The DPR ensemble appears at various events around town and will return to the Fringe this month, with six new robots in the cast.

Today the Fringe. Tomorrow, the universe!

CLICK HERE to see a video of our DPR cover shoot.

Want more DPR? CLICK HERE for a behind the scenes look a the DPR lab.

Take 7
How good is Take 7, Winter Park High School’s girls’ a cappella singers? Crazy good. The 11 teenaged songbirds – yes, despite the ensemble’s name, there are 11 members – recently won the International Championship of High School A Cappella (ICHSA) Southeast Regionals. And Take 7, directed by Matthew Swope, was the only all-girl group in the competition. Shown are (left to right): Katy Frazier, Cassidy Kinson, Olivia Barton, Leah Perreault, Lily Meier, Tracy Nelson, Clara Correa, Kellen Flowers, Marah Oropeza, Elizabeth Farr and Marissa Volpe.

The Three Wise Guys
A rabbi, an imam and a pastor walk into a radio station. Sounds like the opening of a bad joke, but it really happened in Orlando, and the result has been a lively new program on WMFE, the local PBS affiliate. The Three Wise Guys: Friends Talking Faith seeks to bridge the gap and foster understanding between Jews, Muslims and Christians. The show is anything but a saccharine, kumbaya-style group hug. Rabbi Steven Engel, senior rabbi of the Congregation of Reform Judaism; Imam Muhammad Musri, senior imam of the Islamic Society of Central Florida; and the Rev. Bryan Fulwider, formerly senior pastor at the First Congregational Church of Winter Park; banter about everything from women’s rights to genetic engineering; from same-sex marriage to using sacred documents, such as the Bible and the Koran, to justify violence and oppression. You can listen the first Sunday of every month at 6 p.m.

The Plaza Live
Opened in 1963 as Orlando’s first two-screen movie theater, The Plaza Live is now a concert venue. No, it isn’t one of those ornate movie palaces of the Golden Age, but it has a certain Space Age charm. And the intimate setting is ideal for enjoying such eclectic acts as Rick Springfield, John Prine, The BoDeans, Aaron Neville and a dizzying array of tribute bands.


Audubon Park Garden District
First of all, there’s “The Dust.” That’s what the regulars call Stardust Coffee House, a cluttered hipster hangout at the corner of Corinne Drive and Winter Park Road that features funky cocktails, DVD rentals, film screenings, the occasional band and a farmer’s market every Monday night in the parking lot. Underground couture is available next door at Death by Pop, which deals in urban, skater-type streetware. Around the corner there’s the Blue Bird Bake Shop, the neighborhood’s cupcake emporium, and Bikes, Beans & Bordeaux, a café offering organic, vegetarian and low-fat fare. Park Avenue CDs – so named because it was once located on Park Avenue in Winter Park – is one of the area’s only independent record shops and offers an eclectic selection of alternative and roots music as well as periodic in-store concerts. The district is family-friendly as well, hosting an annual Kidfest during which parents bring their youngsters to neighborhood shops and cafés to hear merchants talk about what they do for a living.

The Meat House
Vegans, please skip this entry. OK, fellow carnivores: The Meat House, a New Hampshire-based chain, offers not only traditional butcher-shop fare but more exotic meats such as buffalo, alligator and ostrich. There’s also fresh fish, 200 varieties of wine, hearty breads, desserts and pastries, cheeses, veggies and an olive bar. You can even pick up some nice grab-and-go, semi-prepped meals. Many items are locally sourced, and the staff earns high marks for friendliness and knowledge.

Prato on Park Avenue
This new kid in town is the latest see-and-be-seen hotspot for couples, singles, movers and shakers, thanks to the perfect storm of a Park Avenue location, a progressive Italian-style menu, rustic but refined décor and the celebrity-chef draw of Luma’s Brandon McGlamery. The long bar is a particularly lively gathering place, where well-turned out professionals sip cocktails (or beer or wine) and exchange cell numbers and witticisms.

The Royal Suite at the Ritz-Carlton, Orlando Grande Lakes
Staycations are such a bargain. Why travel when you can simply reserve the royal suite on the 12th floor of the Ritz? You’ll have the run of four bedrooms, eight balconies, one media room and one service kitchen featuring top-of-the line appliances. It’s the largest suite of its kind in the Ritz chain, and it’s yours – along with butler service and other perks – for just $12,000 a night.

Courtesy Disney

Cinderella Castle
Walt Disney World’s iconic castle isn’t just a sentimental favorite. It’s been ranked as the state’s No. 1 recreational building by the Florida Association of the American Institute of Architects. Built in 1971 and inspired by the Castle Neuschwanstein in Bavaria, the Magic Kingdom’s signature structure has also been included in the organization’s Florida Architecture: 100 Years, 100 Places list.


Orlando Vintage Clothing Company
They call her “Orlando Lisa” on movie sets. But when she’s at her Fairbanks Avenue shop, she’s just Lisa Marie Smith, owner of a costume and vintage clothing emporium with a Hollywood flair. Smith, who is assistant costumier for Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire, just wrapped a gig dressing the actors for Men In Black III. Her boutique carries vintage ware from the 1890s to the 1980s and specializes in 1960s-era clothing.


Peter Millar
Surely this is the first men’s boutique ever to be named after a bowling ball: Founder Chris Knott saw the moniker on an antique, ornamental ball on his lawn and liked the sound of it. The strikingly elegant fashions of the Millar line have been around for a decade, but only four shops in the world – in Palm Beach, South Hampton, Switzerland, and now Winter Park – carry the line exclusively.

The Beauty Spot Spa & Boutique
This place is the next best thing to having a fairy godmother. Get your makeup done, pick out a dress for the evening and strap on some new shoes – all in the same store. More than a chic boutique, the Beauty Spot offers a range of spa services including manicures, massages and facials.

Zou Zou Boutique
Owner Wendy Ricchi scouts out hard-to-find and up-and-coming labels well before the competition. The chic décor and intricate design of both stores, in downtown Thornton Park and the Dellagio Town Center, make Zou Zou a favorite shopping destination for both locals and fashion editors looking for the latest in flattering and practical feminine styles.



The Sewing Studio
Let’s say you’re a beauty pageant contestant. No, you’re an all-star wrestler. No, a circus performer, a ballerina, a bride-to-be or a combination thereof. All of the above tend to find what they need at The Sewing Studio, thanks to its capacious array of lycra, spandex, silk, lace, smocking, quilting and who knows how many other fabrics – not to mention one of the biggest selections of buttons in the Southeast. Founded in 1978, the shop has been owned since 2000 by a knowledgeable and extremely helpful couple, Patricia and Mark Sauer.


Owen Allen
The Owen Allen showroom in Winter Park Village has 10 featured collections that offer an eclectic mix of styles, ranging from the whimsical, hand-painted pieces of MacKenzie-Childs to the lush Italian designs of Vietri.

Tugboat & the Bird
This quaint boutique on Park Avenue offers a charming collection of children’s clothes, bedding, toys and accessories for babies and toddlers alike. The store specializes in one-of-a-kind gifts, and includes a baby registry and a baby shower planning service.

Hung’s Custom Tailor Shop
It doesn’t look like much from the outside. Come to think of it, it doesn’t look like much on the inside. What’s impressive about this Vietnamese establishment is the quality of the alterations, the friendly service and the reasonable prices. Hung’s, just down the street from the Colonialtown Post Office on Mills Avenue, has been working its sartorial magic for nearly 30 years. 407-898-9907

Mother Falcon
Would-be artists can bring in their own graphics to Mother Falcon, located in Thornton Park, and create T-shirts that will print out in 45 minutes. Supply your own tee and it’s $15; buy one at the store and it’s $24.99.


First Thursdays at Orlando Museum of Art
Since 2000, the Orlando Museum of Art has staged a lively evening open house on the first Thursday of every month. It’s one part mixer and one part art appreciation class, featuring a cash bar, hors d’oeuvres, a congenial crowd – including plenty of eligible singles – and the classiest décor in town.

Harriett’s Park Avenue Fashion Week
Winter Park’s über-chicness and small-town charm combine in this fashion-forward event, which features trunk shows, seminars, designer meet-and-greets and culminates in a tented Central Park runway show to benefit the American Heart Association. The namesake sponsor is local fashion icon Harriett Lake, 90, whose feathery ensembles usually steal the show.

The living dead stir every October in the Audubon Park Garden District as merchants celebrate Halloween with zombie laser tag, a zombie dance party, zombie movies and, for the truly unhinged, a “zombie walk” competition. Don’t miss this one. Life’s too short. Unless you’re a zombie.

Photographs by Rafael Tongol

Laura Bluhm, Rona Gindin, Sophia Graniela, Marianne Ilunga, Meghan Lindner,  Michael McLeod, Randy Noles, Elizabeth Prats, Chelsea St. John and Harry Wessel contributed to this story.