We recently met with family and celebrated a birthday at Buca di Beppo in Celebration. I must say we had a really good time. This is a fun restaurant – loud, happy, filled with locals and tourists all out for a fun experience. Not a fancy restaurant, but clean and comfortable, and a great place to celebrate. The food was generous, hot, and delicious. The service was good, and the laughter was plentiful – all the ingredients needed for a great night. Celebration is only 30 minutes from Solivita and an evening in Celebration is always a good night out. Lots of restaurants, a wine bar, a tavern, a pizza store, a lake to stroll by, a few shops to poke around in and a nice pastry shop to complete your evening.
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:
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.
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
Spring has arrived and with it, St. Patrick’s Day.
My Niece, Michele and her Mom will be visiting from New Jersey again this year over the St. Patrick’s Day Weekend and we have a nice visit planned. I am cooking Birthday Dinner for Michele on Friday and we will Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on Saturday. Included in our Weekend Celebration is the Solivita St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Street Party. Solivita put on a great Street Party for Mardi Gras this month; the Parade was fun, the Street was packed, and the weather was beautiful. Seems like the Solivita Parties just get better and better. It is always fun to Party in Solivita, we have No Driving Worries, We Party with our Golf Carts, We are Close to Home, and We Have Fun in our Own Community with Our friends and neighbors. Time to tiptoe through my closet to find something Green to wear.
My Mom and Sister are turning their Lanais into Gardens of Green for St. Patrick’s Day. The Clover has been planted in Pots, the Dining Tables will be covered in green, the good china, and lace napkins will come out of the cupboard and we will sit down to our Annual Corned Beef and Cabbage Dinner. My favorite part is always the next day, when I make a Corned Beef Sandwich on Rye Covered with Spicy Mustard.
In our Family we are all Irish for one Day and We share the following Irish Blessing.
May the Good Lord take a liking to you…..but not too soon!
We then share a cocktail. Some of us drink wine, some of us beer, and one of us water, but there is always a Signature Drink. My brother-in-law is the Bartender at most parties and he has been busy mixing and testing recipes and it looks like the winner is an Apple Ginger Martini. Gregg has provided us with this year’s Signature Drink Recipe here: http://bellaverderealty.com/greggs-recipe-for-a-green-apple-ginger-martini/
Part of our Holiday Weekend with the family will be spending quality time together. Michele is a Graduate of the University of Miami, and has been an Event Planner with the NBA for over 10 years, she is a world traveler and always on the road. A few days of R & R in Solivita will be a welcome break for her. Although most of our family is up North, we do seem to spend more quality time with family now that we live in Florida. When family and friends visit Solivita we have Pajama Parties, we share leisurely meals, and spend afternoons together at the pool, we do a bit of sight seeing, or we play some golf. Entertaining is Easy in Solivita, there is so much to do. Seems that we have Much More Time to be together now that we live 1,000 miles apart. A nice bonus to living in Central Florida; everyone wants to visit.
See you at the Street Party I’ll be wearing Green!
From Our Family to Yours Happy St. Patrick’s Day:
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sunshine be warm upon your face
May the rains fall soft upon your fields
And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand.
4 Oz of Ginger Infused Vodka
4 Oz Fresh Green Apple Lime Juice
2 TBSP Honey Simple Syrup
For the Ginger Infused Vodka take 1 Cup of Vodka and infuse a 2” slice of fresh ginger peeled and grated.
For the Green Apple and Lime Juice slice 2 Large tart green apples, add ½ cup water, and the juice of 4 limes.
Infuse the Vodka for about two hours. The longer you infuse the stronger the ginger flavor will be. Strain the Vodka.
Take the Green Apple Mix and blend on high speed. Strain through a mesh strainer pressing the liquid through the pulp. Reserve the liquid. Dispose of the Pulp, all the flavor will be in the liquid.
Add the ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake vigorously till frosty. Strain and Enjoy.
“A Good Green Cocktail with the Power of Antioxidants plus the Power of Vodka”.
Bella Verde Realty is the Sponsor for the 6th Annual QCAACF Queen’s College of Guyana Golf Tournament.
This Tournament Benefits Queen’s College and is Always a Great Event and a Fun Time. We have fielded a team and are looking forward to sharing a great day with great folks in Solivita. If you would like to sign up for the Tournament you can do so on line at www.qcaacfgolf.com and at the same time you can also pay for the outing. Questions, please contact the tournament director, Walé Omawale, at 407-414-1577
Advice for Finding a Good Listing Agent
- Word of Mouth. Advertising is great, but the best recommendation is that of a friend or family member. Ask Your Friends for the Recommendation of a Realtor they have used and have had a positive experience with.
- Always Use a Local Realtor, A Realtor who knows the area, knows the clients, and has a good relationship with other local real estate agents. A Realtor who has a local office. A realtor with an out of town office not only does not know the area, but most likely does not have any relationships with other realtors in your neighborhood.
- How local is local? In most towns and communities, agents cover a few towns and districts. If a Realtor comes from too far away, that realtor may not be your best choice.
- Experience Counts. There is No Doubt About It. You need an experienced professional who has sold many homes in your neighborhood. Your home will sell faster with an experienced realtor who can guide you through this process. How? Experienced Realtors have the inside scoop on homes, recent sales, and already have a client base to show your home to.
- Honesty Counts. Choose a Realtor with a personality that works for you. And always choose a realtor that has a reputation for being honest. Like most important life decisions, you likely will have a gut reaction to people and situations. Let your gut be your guide. The Right Listing Agent will most likely be busy, but a Good Agent is Busy for a reason. As Lucille Ball famously said “If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it”.
February not only brings beautiful weather but, Valentine’s Day and President’s Day. These are all reasons to Celebrate, but we live in a 55 Plus Community in Beautiful, Sunny, Central Florida, making every day a reason to celebrate. The activities in Solivita, Celebration, Reunion and our surrounding communities fill all our days and our calendars. In addition to planned activities, Florida has great parks, beaches, lakes, and ponds; all providing opportunities for outdoor fun.
February is Strawberry Season and this year the berries are especially sweet and juicy. From Late December through March, Central Florida produces close to 300 million pounds of strawberries, most grown within a 20-mile radius of Plant City. Plant City is a quick 45-minute drive from Solivita. Central Florida is known as the Winter Strawberry Capital of the World; and Florida Strawberries are World Class. You can visit Plant City for Strawberries, Strawberry Shortcake, and Strawberries with Ice Cream, or you can stop by the local fruit and vegetable stand and pick these berries up fresh from the garden.
We are going to visit Universal Studios in Orlando and celebrate Mardi Gras this year; a quick trip from Solivita. Universal puts on a big celebration including big-name concerts, a Mardi Gras Parade with Street Performers, Bands, and Cajun and Creole Cuisine.
For Valentine’s Week we are going to visit the Space Coast for the Seafood and Music Fest. The Space Coast is a quick drive from Solivita. One of the great things about life in Central Florida is that we are no more than 1.5 hours from either coast, and Central Florida is out of the way of coastal storms. The Space Coast Seafood and Music Fest is an annual event; and there will not only be great seafood but some wonderful performers, including Willie Nelson, Don McLean, the Wailers, and the Los Lonely Boys. Please visit the festival website at: www.portcanaveralseafoodandmusicfestival.com
February 16 – 18th also brings Central Florida the Silver Spurs Rodeo in Kissimmee. This year will be the 140th Silver Spurs Rodeo Show attracting cowboys on the pro-circuit and bringing Central Florida a great show featuring bull riding, tie-down roping, barrel racing and team roping. A fun event for you and for visiting grandchildren, as the Rodeo Clowns come out and perform for fun too. Children under Age 10 are free. A nice evening or afternoon out within 20 minutes of Solivita.
On February 17th the Beer, Bourbon, & BBQ Festival is held in Tampa at the Hixon Waterfront Park, 600 N. Ashley Drive. Another Great Event. Live Music, 60 Beers on Tap, 40 Bourbons and Lots of BBQ. So much is going on we cannot make all the events, but this is certainly a great list to choose from.
Sprinkled in between the men in our family have a golf outing in Mount Dora while the ladies are going to the spa, do a bit of shopping and enjoy a nice lunch. Although this month has not been as warm as other years, the cooler temperatures did not slow us down.
2/3 Cup Sugar 1/4 Tsp. Salt
1/2 Cup Butter or shortening 1 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1 Large Egg 2 Tsp. Baking Powder
1 1/2 Tsp. Vanilla Extract 1/2 Cup Milk
2 Pints or More Fresh Strawberries, Sliced and Sweetened with some sugar. I leave the berries to sit overnight so that juices begin to flow. If your berries do not get juicy, add a bit of jam to a pot and melt it over the berries. I do not sweeten and slice all the berries, as I save some unsweetened and unsliced berries for the garnish.
Cream the sugar and butter or shortening. Add egg and vanilla, beat well. Combine dry ingredients and add alternately with milk to the creamed mixture. Spread evenly in a greased 9” Square Baking Pan.
Beat the Heavy Cream, you can sweeten with a bit of sugar and add a touch of vanilla too, your decision. Beat into soft peaks and refrigerate until ready to use. Make this within 1 hour of serving.
Bake at 350 for 20 – 25 minutes. Cool on wire rack. Cut cooled shortcake into nine servings. Split each serving horizontally and fill with whipped cream and strawberries. Replace top of cake and garnish with more berries and another dollop of whipped cream. Serve immediately.
La Fiesta Mexicana
Very Local, Very Good Mexican. Come hungry in your shorts, tee shirts, jeans, and sandals. This restaurant is casual, clean and the service is friendly and quite good, a perfect Casual Dinner you do not have to cook. The Chips and Salsa are fresh, and I personally think the Guacamole served here is the best I have had since Mexico. The beer is ice cold and everything we have ever ordered has been served hot and delicious. The mole is outstanding, the sauces are flavorful, and we have enjoyed every enchilada, burrito, and fajita that has come to our table. Bring a Group or come alone, however do not miss giving this local gem a try.
Florida decorating is light, airy, bright, colorful, and comfortable. I love the comfort of a Recliner, but strongly dislike the look. Recently while shopping, I found myself in a furniture store. While wandering around I experienced an epiphany of sorts. The new recliners are sure not the recliners of my youth, they are sleek, stylish, and quite comfortable. Got me thinking, what a nice addition a recliner would be in our home. Glad to say, our Solivita Floorplan is generous, providing room for a reading/relaxing spot in our master bedroom and the chair on the left would be a perfect fit. I love the look of Urban Modern and Mid-Century Design and this comfortable chair, paired with a small table, and a floor lamp will be a nice touch. A great place to relax with a book, kick my shoes off, do a bit of research, edit some listings, or just enjoy a few peaceful moments in the quiet of our Central Florida Home. Time to look at the fabric selection and do a bit of Shopping…..
Lorraine Valdes, Licensed Realtor® State of Florida
Bella Verde Realty strives to make the buying and selling of real estate in Solivita, Kissimmee, Poinciana, Celebration, Reunion and Mid-Central Florida as cost effective as possible, while maintaining a high level of service.
GIVE US A CALL TODAY!
Want to know more about a specific listing?
149 Bell Tower Crossing East
Kissimmee, FL 34759