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Welcome to Summer in Central Florida

A time for us all to kick back, take things a bit slower, and let the heat of the day be our guide. Solivita is settling in to a quiet time, the snowbirds have flown the nest and we can all settle into warm afternoons relaxing at the pool, fishing in the ponds, and quiet evenings shared with friends and family. The days are easy and the Solivita events less crowded. I love the winter and all the fun and action the snowbirds bring to Solivita and Central Florida, but I find this time of the year a great time to recharge my batteries and enjoy the quiet beauty of our surroundings. The garden is happy, although it does require a lot of water and love, it is bountiful and is a big part of the reason we relocated to Florida.

Solivita has a flourishing Community Garden downtown near the Ballroom. It is the perfect place to grow produce, learn new garden tricks, and make friends. In the past we had lots of luck with our plot and met lots of great folks while tending our garden. In fact, our yield last year was so large that upon leaving the garden each day we followed a delivery route and shared our produce with friends and family. The Solivita Community Garden is the best, the beds are raised, water is accessible, fellow garden members are always quick to help with any questions or concerns and surrounding the garden is a fence, so our local four-legged friends do not eat our produce before we do.
Life in Solivita is a pleasure, there is always something to do and someone to share the fun with. If gardening is not your thing, no worries, Solivita has over 200 clubs to join, pools to enjoy, golf courses to play on, state of the art exercise facilities, walking trails, running tracks, tennis, basketball, fishing, seminars, classes, movies, entertainment, plus, much more. Solivita is a wonderful place to live, play, and work (if you choose), while enjoying all the benefits of life in the sunshine of Central Florida. We invite you to experience our beautiful community, meet the neighbors, ask questions and enjoy a few days of life as a local. It is easy and affordable, just visit our website, and check out Discovery Days. Call me, together we will arrange for your visit and accommodations in Solivita. I will be happy to show you the next step to uncovering how wonderful life in Solivita is. Let the adventure begin!
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Day Trip Time – Memorial Day Monday

As the days become longer and the temperatures rise; I find myself longing for a day at the beach. A perfect summer day with the wind gently blowing, the surf calm, and the water warm. We are going to take a day off and drive over to Cocoa Beach for the day. An easy drive from Solivita. I am Looking forward to spending the morning on the beach and the afternoon enjoying a fresh fish sandwich. A perfect day in the Florida sun. Blue sky, no dishes, no clean up, no fuss, a day of pure enjoyment. Lee and I are taking off on our own and running away for the day. We are going to bring an empty cooler with us and hope to return with some delicious Florida fresh fish. We wish you all a Memorial Day filled with joy and beauty.
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National Wine Day

Memorial Day in Solivita preceded by National Wine Day

Memorial Day Weekend starts with National Wine Day on May 25th. Apparently, Wine Day was declared a National Holiday awhile back, but with my busy work schedule, I am only hearing about it now. Do not misunderstand me, it is not wine that I am just hearing about, but rather the national holiday. The literature states National Wine Day should not be confused with National Drink Wine Day, another holiday not on my calendar but certainly one I will embrace next year. Wine is a good way to kick off the Memorial Day weekend celebration. So, in the spirit of the holiday, Lee and I will buy a bottle of wine and send GOOD HEALTH and GOOD WISHES to all of you from Bella Verde Realty Team, in Solivita, and from our favorite wine bar; Vintage Vino in downtown Kissimmee.
We love to go to downtown Kissimmee. We enjoy the events; the parades, street fairs, music on weekends, nice restaurants, a walk in the park, and a good glass of wine at Vintage Vino. John has been running Vintage Vino, a casual local spot, for 10 years; he is a great host, knowledgeable and fun to share an evening with. The Wine Bar is unique and the perfect place to start a night, end a night or spend a night. The atmosphere is inviting, and the wine selection inspired. Try a glass of wine, a flight of wine, a charcuterie platter, or schedule a wine class with John. Lee and I have gone to school at Vintage Vino, it is fun, tasty and at the end instead of you making the grade, you grade the wine. We purchased a few bottles of wine after our last class and together enjoyed every drop. We are fortunate, Vintage Vino is only a short drive from Solivita and a great place to kick back and relax with friends. You can visit John in downtown Kissimmee or on his website at
A few Fun Wine Facts to share on National Wine Day

  1. If you drink wine for antioxidants, note wine only has 1/10 of the antioxidants of soy sauce, but who wants to drink soy sauce.
  2. The states of FLORIDA, NEW YORK and CALIFORNIA lead the U.S. in wine consumption.
  3. Not all wines improve with age, unlike all of us living life in Solivita.

I am passing along some good advice I received a long time ago. Unfortunately, the source is unknown, but the advice is good: Wine a little and laugh a lot.
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Mother’s Day

According to the Calendar, the month of May has three big Holidays. Mother’s Day on May 12th, National Wine Day on May 25th and Memorial Day on May 27th. Wine Day? Sounds like a great day for wine producers and wine lovers alike, although I am not quite sure any of us need to dedicate a day to celebrate wine.

The Bella Verde Team wishes every mom a happy and healthy Mother’s Day. We are going to enjoy a Mother’s Day brunch this year with my mom and, although my mom makes an awesome cheesecake, I am in charge and am making a delicious no-bake cheesecake for dessert. The cheesecake recipe follows; and I must say I love this cake, it is easy, light, and flavorful, especially when served with fresh Florida fruit. It will be a sweet ending to a delicious Mother’s Day celebration.

Makes 10 Light and Luscious Servings

Mother’s Day Cheesecake

30 vanilla wafers
3/4 c. roasted, salted almonds
4 tbsp. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 c. plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
1 3/4 c. cold heavy cream
1 (0.25-oz.) envelope unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 c. plain Greek yogurt
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. Kosher salt
  1. Pulse wafers and almonds in a food processor until finely ground, 12 to 14 times. Add butter and 2 tablespoons sugar; pulse until well combined. Press mixture into bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Freeze 20 minutes or up to 1 day.
  2. Pour cream in a medium saucepan; sprinkle gelatin over top. Let stand 10 minutes. Cook cream mixture over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until gelatin is dissolved, 4 to 6 minutes. Cool 10 minutes.
  3. In a clean food processor, process yogurt, cream cheese, vanilla, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar until smooth, about 1 minute. Add cream mixture and process until well combined.
  4. Pour filling into crust and smooth with a rubber spatula. Cover pan with plastic wrap and chill until firm, at least 6 hours or up to 2 days.

I top this delicious cheesecake with fresh strawberries, blueberries and a bit of mint from my garden.
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Florida Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream

Keep It Light, Easy and Refreshing with Florida Fresh Strawberries

1 Lb. Fresh Strawberries, cleaned and Frozen
1 Cup 2% Plain Greek Yogurt
¼ Cup Sugar
½ Tsp Vanilla Extract
Fresh Strawberries for Garnish

In a food processor with knife blade attached, pulse 1 cup strawberries until finely chopped. Transfer chopped berries to large metal bowl.
In food processor, puree yogurt, sugar, vanilla, and remaining strawberries until smooth.
Transfer to bowl with strawberries; stir until well combined.
Cover and freeze about 1 hour, test after an hour for firmness. Ice Cream should be firm but not hard. Garnish with Strawberries.

You can substitute plain low-fat yogurt for the Greek yogurt. Plain low-fat yogurt works well too but produces an ice cream that is less creamy but still tasty. I made this with Strawberries but next week I am testing this recipe with a combo of blueberries and mango. This recipe produces an easy and refreshing bite. Be creative and let me know your favorite flavor.

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Want to Supplement your Income?

A Reverse Mortgage is not for everyone, but it may be for you.
A Reverse Mortgage will work for you if you meet the following criteria:
  1. Are you a homeowner over 62 years of age?
  2. Have you paid off your mortgage or paid down a large portion of your mortgage?
  3. Do you currently live in your home?

If you can answer yes to the above three questions, you are eligible to participate in the FHA’s HECM Program. This program is the only reverse mortgage insured by the U.S. Federal Government and is called a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM). The HECM is FHA’s reverse mortgage program that will enable you to withdraw a portion of your home’s equity. The amount available to you is dependent upon the factors below:
  1. The age of the youngest borrower or eligible non-borrowing spouse.
  2. The current interest rate.
  3. The appraised value of your home or the HECM FHA mortgage limit or the sales price.
  4. A financial assessment of your willingness and ability to pay property taxes and homeowners insurance.

In general, the older you are, the more equity you have in your home, and the less you owe on your home, the more money you can get.
To locate a reverse mortgage counselor near you, search the HECM Counselor Roster or call 800-569-4287.
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Tips for North-Bound Snowbirds

As our Florida temperatures begin to rise so do the temperatures up north, making it time for our Snowbirds to begin their journey to their summer homes.
When you are away from your home, there is often no way to know if there is an issue; set yourself up for success by following a few of the ideas below and you can have a worry-free summer and return next winter to a problem free home:
  • Call an expert and have them install a smart thermostat. Once this is done, the temperature of your home can be controlled from your cell phone. With a smart thermostat you will be assured that your HVAC unit is running and your home away from home is being maintained at the proper temperature.
  • Keep your blinds and drapes drawn and keep all your windows locked to keep the cool air in.
  • Change your HVAC filters before leaving and have your HVAC flushed to prevent possible issues while you are away.
  • In Solivita you do not have to worry about safety, but you do want to protect your home from potential problems. Don’t let the mail pile up in your mailbox. Arrange for a mail hold or mail forwarding. Arrange as many bills as possible to be paid online. This way if mail goes astray you will get an email alert and still be able to “take care of business”.\
  • Cancel your newspaper delivery and arrange a start and stop date. If you want to keep up on local news, see if your local newspaper has an electronic edition.
  • Put your telephone, cable and or/internet on vacation hold. Not all companies offer this service, so call your local utilities and ask. You will pay a monthly fee that is significantly less than if you were paying for regular service.
  • Empty your refrigerator. Use this opportunity as a time to clean out the fridge and freezer. If you decide to unplug your refrigerator, clean it out and LEAVE the refrigerator and freezer doors open to prevent mold and odors.
  • Empty your dishwasher and leave the door open to prevent odors.
  • Open the washing machine lid to prevent odors.
  • Read up on your Hot Water system and turn it off the proper way so that you are not heating water all summer long.
  • Unplug all unnecessary lights and appliances.
  • Leave a few lights on timers inside your home or install smart lights that you can control from your cell phone.
  • Set the house alarm if you have one.
  • Winterize your toilets, Put just a cap of bleach in the toilet. Cover the porcelain only with Saran Wrap very tightly. You'll come back to a clean and fresh toilet. Just flush and you're ready to move on to better things in your life.
  • Give your house plants away and take your favorite ones with you.
  • If you have a landline phone remember to turn off the ringer. If you have an answering machine, DO NOT change to an away message. Leave your message on and retrieve your messages remotely.
  • If you have a golf cart, please be sure to perform the shutdown routine required for your golf cart before leaving it unattended for a few months. I unplugged mine, but never read the owner’s manual and after six weeks of non-use our golf cart needed new batteries. A very expensive mistake, and one I will not make again and do not want to see you make either.

Recognize that these steps will prevent mishaps, but unless you have a caretaker to visit your property a few times a month, to run the water for a few minutes, flush the toilets, inspect the lawn for working/broken sprinkler heads, etc., you may still encounter a problem. Have a safe and fun summer and we look forward to your return when the weather up north cools down.
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Bok Tower Sunrise Service

Sunrise Services at Bok Tower Gardens are an annual Central Florida tradition since 1926. Everyone is invited to enjoy the majesty of the sun rise from atop Iron Mountain at Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales. Parking is accessible, a choir will perform, an inspirational Easter message will be delivered by local clergy and the day will be off to a wonderful start. Admission to Bok Tower is complimentary for the sunrise service and after the service you are welcome to enjoy the gardens. See you in the gardens.
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Happy Easter and Happy Passover =

Happy Easter and Happy Passover to all our friends, clients and neighbors. Spring has officially sprung, although in Florida, spring generally arrives in February, it is now officially spring in the USA. Lee and I hope you enjoy every moment and every memory the wonderful spring holidays bring.

This year for the Easter holiday we are serving lobster. Michael, my brother-in-law Gregg’s youngest sibling, is flying in to spend the holiday with us. Mike has been a part of our family for years as my older sister met her husband Gregg about 47 years ago when Mike was 8 years old. So, Mike is not only Gregg’s brother but, in a way, my little brother too. We are all looking forward to a nice visit, especially Mike, as it was a long hard winter up north. Bella Verde Realty keeps me busy and leaves me little time for cooking and entertaining, so I am taking the easy way out, and buying our lobsters already steamed. All I need to do is set the table, briefly heat the lobsters, melt a bit of butter, slice a few lemons and my responsibility is met. My sister and mom will supply the rest of the dinner. Since Lobster is the STAR of the SHOW, none of us are planning to put extra effort making the side dishes. If the past dictates the future, with lobster on the table, the sides just sit around looking pretty.

The one Easter Tradition that remains, is the Easter Pie “Pizzagaina” Mom bakes every Good Friday for us to enjoy on Easter Sunday with a cocktail. The traditional Italian Easter Pie is a bountiful meat and cheese pie based upon an old family recipe from Italy. Lent, the season preceding Easter, is a time of penance; and this pie is chock full of rich ingredients, perfect for the celebration. This pie signals that Lent is over, and Easter has arrived. Mom has been baking this pie for over 50 years for us to savor as we carry on family traditions. Although the pie is baked only once per year the flavor and love, plus lots of work (THANK YOU MOM), that go into making this special treat is appreciated all year long. The baking and sharing of our Pizzagaina helps us recall very sweet, happy memories of Easter Sunday spent with the family.

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Naturally Green Party Spinach Spread

Green beer or *vinho verde (green wine) is a perfect pairing to enjoy with this naturally green and easy to make spread.

1 - 10 oz package of frozen chopped spinach thawed and squeezed dry
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped. Discard stems.
3 tablespoons finely chopped onion
1 small clove of garlic minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
½ cup mayonnaise

Thaw spinach and drain thoroughly, squeeze out extra liquid. Wash parsley, pat dry on paper toweling. In food processor, chop parsley. Add spinach and remaining ingredients; pulse till combined. Serve with crackers or raw vegetables.

*Surprise, vinho verde is not actually green in color, but a wine from Portugal that is light and crisp and one of my favorite spring choices.