Great Day Trip from Solivita

Had the grandchildren in for a visit and we took them to Gatorland for some family fun. Our grandson was charmed by the alligators and crocodiles and our granddaughter loved the petting zoo and the action the animal shows provided. Gatorland is a throwback to “Old Florida”. The park is clean and fun and provides a great way to make special memories with friends and family. Gatorland is only 25 miles from Solivita on Orange Blossom Trail, or as the local’s call it “The OBT”. Florida residents can purchase an Annual Pass which will entitle up to 6 accompanying guests a discount from the General Admission. A nice, simple way to spend a day with the family without the huge cost of visiting one of the larger theme parks.

If you have older grandchildren (ours are still quite young), you may want to book the Gator Night Shine Adventure to experience the sounds of the swamp at night in Gatorland’s Alligator Breeding Marsh. Gatorland will provide a flashlight and when you point in toward the water you will be amazed as the glowing red eyes of the gators keenly look back at you while they thrash about. We shared the Night Shine Adventure when some of our older cousins visited and it was an “Eye Opener” into swamp life in Central Florida.

Game On

We are loving October and the fresh air blowing through Central Florida. Time to get out on the golf course and play a few rounds in the afternoon since the heat has been turned down. Lee is the golfer in the family and he loves to play on the two Championship Golf Courses in Solivita, but he is also happy to accept the challenge of playing on many of the other golf courses convenient to Solivita. Lee has kept a tally of the courses he has played over the last two years, and so far, his count is over 30. Florida has wonderful golf courses, and a round on a good course does not need to cost a fortune, we can usually find a discounted course by going to: www.teeoff.com and looking at their offers.

Golf on my friends and swing away in Solivita style.

Florida Road Trips

We recently took an overnight trip from Solivita to St. Augustine and had a wonderful evening at the St. Augustine Lighthouse enjoying a sunset moonrise tour. We saw a spectacular sun set behind the city while the moon rose over the Atlantic, for a really nice evening. We had purchased tickets a few months ago and our ticket included a champagne toast supplied by San Sebastian Winery and hors d’oeuvres provided by the Reef Restaurant. This tour is only available one day per month. If you wish to go, please purchase your ticket in advance. For the balance of this year, this tour will be held on the following days; Monday, September 24th, Wednesday, October 24th and Saturday, December 22nd.

Cassadaga, the Psychic Capital of the World :

Who knew that we not only live near the Entertainment Capital of the US, but the Psychic Capital of the World as well? If you’re looking for a different experience, visit Cassadaga! Cassadaga is about 75 miles from Solivita, north of Sanford. The town is a throw back to the days of Mayberry, set in the backwoods between Daytona and Orlando and is a sanctuary for mediums, healers, spiritualists, psychics, new agers, and a religious group. The religious group runs a non-profit organization and operate a camp and the new agers use tarot cards and provide readings in the Cassadaga Hotel. If you go to Cassadaga, make an appointment, and go with an open mind as you never know who may want to send a message to you, or the direction of your reading. Our reader was Misty and she had some interesting thoughts. She seemed to know us quite well for a lady who knew nothing about us. It was puzzling how she zoomed right in. Some of the folks we were with left Cassadaga amazed, and some were amused, but we were all entertained. The town is interesting and is a nice drive from Solivita. While you are waiting for your reading, or for your group to gather after a reading, the restaurant in the Hotel offers a delightful menu, including liquid spirts, and is the perfect spot to discuss your experiences in Cassadaga. You can take a tour, take a class, have a reading, experience a healing, or just enjoy a meal, but whatever you do here you will certainly have an interesting time.

The Cassadaga Hotel is allegedly haunted, and if you are interested you can schedule a Ghost Tour while in town or spend an evening at the hotel. We did not personally experience any spirits while we were there, that is, except for the spirits in our drinks at the hotel. Cassadaga is a fun experience and certainly made for an interesting afternoon. If you would like to see what Cassadaga is all about, visit the following websites: http://www.cassadaga.org/ or http://cassadagahotel.net/.

Fun in the Sun in Central Florida

Aug. 25: Wine Walk & Art Walk, New Smyrna Beach. This is always a fun event. Stroll Flagler Avenue and explore over 100 interesting wines inside local pubs, galleries and restaurants during this monthly progressive wine tasting event. $25 tasting passports on sale day of the event at three locations along Flagler Avenue. If you have enjoyed this event before, bring back your official glass and get a discount for the wine walk event held 1 to 7 p.m. This event is held in conjunction with Art Walk. Local and visiting artists display art work, along with entertainment and demonstrations from 10 am to 5 pm.

Magical Dining Month

It is the start of magical dining month in Orlando. This will be the 13th season for this month-long event!

A three course meal with over 90 restaurants to choose from for $35.00 – what a deal! This is not only a good deal for diners, but a good deal for charities too, as $1.00 from each magical meal served during magical dining month is donated to pre-selected charities. The dates for this event are August 24th through September 30, 2018 and if you visit the Magical Dining Orlando site you will see the list of restaurants and their magical dining menus.

In 2017, two local non-profit organizations shared a total of $208,620.00 raised from this event. A record donation raised during 2017 magical dining month, it sure looks like we have a lot of foodies in the neighborhood. The two charities selected to receive the donations in 2017 were Freedom Ride and Base Camp.

Freedom Ride is a non-profit 501c, volunteer-based organization dedicated to enriching the lives and experiences of children and adults with disabilities in Central Florida through therapeutic horseback riding and related activities. If you would like to donate, or volunteer, you can find more information at www.freedomride.com.

Base Camp is a non-profit 501c organization based in Winter Park. What does Base Camp mean? Base Camp has double meaning; First it is an acronym for believe, achieve, support and educate and second it is symbolic of the encampments found at the base of a mountainside where climbers stop for rest, first aid, nourishment, and encouragement along their journey up the mountain. Base Camp offers a place to stop along the journey, a place to gain strength and support for the climb ahead while fighting a life-threatening illness. Base Camp provides a year-round base of support for children and families who are facing the challenge of living with cancer and other life-threatening hematological illnesses. Base Camp serves not only the children who are patients, but their brothers and sisters too. You can find more information at www.basecamp.org.

Central Florida is more than good food and kind acts. The longer we live in Florida the more certain we are that we are not only living life in a beautiful state, but we are living life surrounded by kind and generous neighbors and friends.

The Morse Museum

Recently we spent an afternoon in Winter Park at the Morse Museum. This museum does not disappoint. The Morse houses a comprehensive collection of Louis Comfort Tiffany’s works, including the artist and designer’s jewelry, pottery, paintings, art glass, leaded-glass lamps, and windows, plus Tiffany’s Chapel is on display. For decades, many of the chapel elements remained in packing crates, and in 1996 the Charles Hosmer Morse Foundation endorsed an expansion project and the packing crates were opened and the Chapel was reassembled in Winter Park. This beautiful display was opened to the public in April 1999 and, since the Chapel was installed in Winter Park, it has inspired all who have had the privilege of visiting this lovely intimate space. You can visit the website for the Morse Museum at www.morsemuseum.org.

Winter Park has some great bistros and lovely spots to enjoy a snack or a meal after a day at the museum. When we were in town we tried Boca in Winter Park – casual, comfortable, and garden fresh. If you happen to be in Winter Park during the week, Boca has a Happy Hour from 3 -6 in the bar area with a nice selection of drinks and appetizers. You can even order a delicious dinner to go from the market. If you visit on a Saturday or Sunday, Boca makes a great brunch and a delicious mimosa.

Winter Park has a wonderful selection of good eateries, from Sushi to Pizza to Turkish, almost any cuisine you choose can be found here, so it is a fun town to explore when you are spending a day away from Solivita. Winter Park is only about 10 miles north of Orlando or about 40 miles from Solivita. Big Bonus – During the week, you can hop on the Sun Rail and let someone else do the driving for you.

Interesting Facts about one of our Neighbors, the Alligator

Alligators are nesting, and we are at the end of alligator mating season. Alligator courtship begins in early April, and mating occurs in May or June. You might have heard some sounds you are unfamiliar with, and it could have been the alligators mating, as they are noisy. Males are the showiest of the species and they interest their mate by head slapping, vibrating their torso, bellowing, and jaw slapping. The females join in by making a sound more like a growl, but without the fanfare of the showy male. In the animal world, alligator courtship is lengthy, often extending 6-8 weeks with copulation occurring underwater quite a few times during courtship. Interesting fact: males and females may have multiple partners during a courting season and a single clutch of eggs may have multiple paternities.

By June, the female seeks the right location to build her nest. The female piles vegetation and compresses the materials she has gathered and diligently builds her nest. It can take a few days, or upwards of a month for the nest mound to be built. Once the female is satisfied with the nest, she climbs on to the mound and spends several hours slowly turning to make a depression on the top. She then deposits 20 to 50 oval eggs. The female returns to the water’s edge numerous times to gather muddy vegetation to pile on the depression. The incubation period is 65 days. As the alligator embryos develop, it is the heat in the nest that will determine the sex of a baby gator. A temperature of 91 degrees or higher produces a male, a temperature of 86 or below produces a female, and in between the two temps there is a 50-50 chance of either a male or female being born. Lee and I always enjoy getting to know our neighbors; and some facts about the local wildlife too.

Central Florida Has Beautiful Lakes, Enjoy the Ride!

June is the perfect time to take a boat ride on the Chain of Lakes. Bring your hat, sunglasses, sunblock, and your spirit of adventure. Living Waters offers fun tours of the Chain of Lakes. We enjoyed a great day and best of all the Chain of Lakes is only a short drive from Solivita. We parked our car at Harborside Restaurant in Winter Haven where we boarded the Living Waters Pontoon Boat for a two-hour tour. The tour was interesting, the captain was entertaining, and the water was crystal blue and shimmering in the sunlight.

We sat back and enjoyed the ride while sharing a cooler packed with refreshments. We relaxed on the comfortable couch seating on board, and our captain put the Bimini top up to provide us with extra shade. After a relaxing afternoon on the lake we were dropped off at the Harborside Restaurant and shared a delicious dinner. A pleasant way to spend the day, wind in our hair, fresh air in our lungs, and a nice afternoon on the water, plus a delicious fish dinner at Harborside.

If you would like to take a ride with Living Waters on the Chain of Lakes you can find them on the web at: www.livingwatercruises.com

Lorraine’s Famous Blueberry Muffin Recipe

April is Blueberry Season in Central Florida.

Whether you get your blueberries from a bush, a roadside stand, or the local Publix, this season’s berries are predicted to be sweet and delicious. Florida’s blueberry industry is estimated at $82 million dollars a year, making Florida one of the larger berry growers in America.

Central Florida has lots of “Pick Your Own Fruit” farms. We recently took a ride north and found a few farms in Clermont, Yalaha, and Tavares. You can always search the web for a farm, by visiting www.pickyourown.org or just enjoy a ride in the country and see what you find. We enjoyed a great day in the hills of Central Florida, visiting a farm, stopping at the Yalaha Bakery for lunch, and returning home with a loaf of delicious bread and lots of berries. Central Florida is quite diverse and offers a range of activities beyond the giant resorts and parks. We brought home quite the bounty of berries, that I washed, dried, and then put some in the freezer for later. In addition to eating some fresh from the blueberry bowl, I tossed a few in a green salad with feta cheese, we had blueberry pancakes, and I cooked up a batch of blueberry muffins, that I’m freezing to server when company comes.

Please enjoy my blueberry muffin recipe:

Blueberry Muffins

3 ½ Cups All Purpose Flour
1 ½ Cups Granulated Sugar
4 ½ TSP Baking Powder
1 TSP Baking Soda
1 TSP Kosher Salt
2 Cups Buttermilk shaken
1 (1/4 lb) stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 ½ TSP Grated Lemon Zest
2 Extra Large Eggs
2 Cups Fresh Blueberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line Muffin Tins with paper liners. This should make about 20 muffins.
Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl. In a separate blow, mix the buttermilk, butter, lemon zest and eggs. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix with a fork just until blended. Fold in the blueberries. Do Not Over Mix. Scoop the batter into the muffin liners, filling them almost full. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes until golden.

Center for Great Apes

Our visit to the Center for Great Apes

We were fortunate to be invited to share an afternoon with some friends at the Center for Great Apes in Wauchula, Florida. What an amazing afternoon at an amazing sanctuary! The Center provides a safe environment in a small community with over 100 acres of peaceful tropical forest. The apes and chimpanzees in residence were all raised in captivity by humans and as a result, lack the basic survival skills their chimpanzee or orangutan mothers would have taught them in the wild. Unfortunately, apes and chimpanzees raised in captivity can never be successfully released back to the wild, and this is where the sanctuary steps in.

The sanctuary provides permanent lifetime care to all residents. In fact, Bubbles, who was the late Michael Jackson’s pet chimpanzee, is one of those residents! In tropical forest surroundings, the chimpanzees and orangutans live and play in large three-story high domed enclosures, the largest being about 70 feet long and 34 feet tall. The enclosures are connected by elevated tunnels giving these great apes the freedom to explore, and in the evening, the residents have “Night Houses” located in high nesting areas. With hammocks and bed shelves, and heating for the winter, they’re strong enough to withstand a hurricane. Additionally, the Center provides for the unique needs of handicapped and older apes as well.

How did the apes come to this sanctuary? Many apes raised in captivity come from the entertainment industry, and once they are done performing, they come to reside in this peaceful environment surrounded by orange groves and away from human development. The Center for Great Apes does not breed, as it would be irresponsible to continue to breed apes for captivity, but focuses on providing the residents with the potential for a safe, healthy, long life.

When living in New Jersey, it was a short trip over the bridge to the Bronx Zoo where the animals were well cared for, but nevertheless I always felt a bit sad for them, as they had lots of street and air traffic noise to contend with. After visiting the Center and enjoying the quiet surroundings, I feel that these apes are lucky to be so well cared for in such a beautiful, tropical spot. The sanctuary has wonderful keepers, all of whom were happy to share the background of each of the residents with us. It was a beautiful day shared with beautiful group of animals and their supportive and knowledgeable caregivers. Please visit the website and meet the apes at: www.centerforgreatapes.org