Bok Tower Gardens

If you are regular readers of our newsletter, you already know that we love to Garden.  If you are new to our Newsletter, welcome, and FYI we Love to Garden.  Recently we were at BOK TOWER GARDENS in Lake Wales for a class and took an inspirational walk through the gardens.  The gardens are extensive and even after a hot summer and a hurricane, they still look quite lovely.  BOK TOWER GARDENS sits atop one of the highest peaks in Central Florida.  In fact, the gardens are perched on the only hill we see for miles.  BOK TOWER is not only famous for their gardens but for their Singing Tower Carillion as well.  The tower plays twice daily and floods the garden with a lovely sound.  A perfect backdrop for a picnic, a walk or quiet contemplation.    The gardens are beautiful and in the middle of summer, on top of the hill, you can even catch a breeze.  

This year, we again will be enjoying the sounds of the season as the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra performs their Holiday Concert.  We pack our lawn chairs, a small table and tablecloth, a good bottle of wine, a few glasses, some bread and cheese, and pick our spot on the lawn to enjoy the sounds of the evening.  It is always fun and is a great start to the Holiday Season.  

BOK TOWER is only about 30 minutes from Solivita and provides Central Florida and Solivita Residents a great opportunity to learn about gardening in Florida, and enjoy the bounty that each season offers.  We have taken cooking classes, gardening classes, we have just signed up for a print making class, and now I see BOK TOWER is offering Meditation Classes too.  Although we did not sign up for Meditation Class this season, it is a consideration for next season.  

Anytime is beautiful at BOK but Sunrise is especially beautiful.  The gardens are lovely, the Carillion Tower is all tuned up and singing, and this is a great time to visit, take a tour, take a class, or just bring a book and enjoy a quiet afternoon in the garden.  

Easy Fall Entertaining in Solivita

The end of Summer is near; although our temperatures have not dropped; a look at the calendar tells me Fall is on the way.  I love the fall colors, the crisp air, the sweet memories of apple picking at Ticer’s Farm, the aroma (and the taste) of cider donuts, and long walks in the fallen leaves. Growing up in New Jersey, the fall and winter air was usually brisk, and in my Mom and Dad’s kitchen there was always a pot of hot, delicious soup bubbling on the stove. We are expecting the cousins to come for a short visit and it is time to get the soup pot out. I would like to share my recipe for what I think is a Perfect Fall Soup. This soup is easy, flavorful, and is always a hit. This soup is especially easy now that you can purchase squash already cleaned and cut in our local Market.  This week, I saw butternut squash in the freezer section of Publix, and I don’t see why you can’t use that as well. Please, let me know how it turns out if you try it.

4 ½ Pounds of Peeled and Cubed Butternut Squash   

2 Medium Onions Chopped

3 Cloves Garlic, Peeled and chopped.  

Optional:  For the spice lovers (add 1 finely chopped jalapeno chili and ¼ tsp cayenne with the garlic).  OR

Optional:  For the Ginger Lover – Add 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger and 1 tsp ground ginger along with the garlic.  OR

Optional:  For the Fall Flavor Lover – Add a combo of ¼ tsp each ground cloves, cardamom, nutmeg, ground ginger, cinnamon, and black pepper.

3 Tbsp. Butter or Vegetable Oil

½ tsp sea salt (plus more to taste)

8 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth

½ cup Cream (Optional)

Heat a large pot over medium heat.  Add the butter or oil and saute the chopped onion.  Sprinkle with the ½ tsp sea salt.  Stir until the Onion is soft (about 3 minutes).  

Add the garlic cook for another minute. If you are adding any of the optional spices add them to this step.

Add the squash and the broth.  Bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer.  Cook until the squash is very tender.  About 35 minutes.  

Blend soup till smooth. I use a Handheld Immersion Blender.   Add ½ cup cream.  Warm soup through. This soup is good without the cream, but in our opinion better with it.  Taste for salt and serve.

I also make this soup with sugar pumpkin or acorn squash.  When I have time, I sometimes roast the squash or pumpkin in the oven with some olive oil for about 30 to 40 minutes at 400 degrees.   This extra step will add depth of flavor to the soup.  I serve this soup with hot crusty bread and a garden salad and it is dinner done.

Great Guest Rooms

When putting together the guest room in our home, we paid attention to detail. We want our guests to be comfortable, feel welcome, and know that we enjoy sharing our time with them. Little touches mean the world to a guest; an extra pillow, a lovely plush blanket, good lighting, a comfortable chair, and extra hangers in the closet.  Following is what we consider a guide for the “Ultimate Guest Get Away”.

Our Number One Rule is – Do not let your guests ask for towels, toiletries, etc. Instead we place a basket of towels in the guest room or the guest bath.  We also include in the basket an assortment of lotions, shampoo, soap, etc., so our guests have all the fresh supplies they need.

In our opinion, guest rooms do not require a television; instead we leave our guests a selection of current magazines, books, and a note pad, for a bit of entertainment.  I am an early riser, but sometimes guests rise before me, and with some reading materials in the guest bedroom, our guests have something interesting to read before they start or end their day.

When Lee and I stayed at the home of a friend, we found the guest room lighting to be less than desirable, especially after we bumped into the bed frame. Our first act upon arriving home, was to add additional bedside lighting to our guest room.

We always leave a bottle of port, glasses, a dish of chocolate, and a few granola bars in the guest bedroom, just in case one of our guests’ experience hunger pangs. In addition, there is always a bowl of fresh fruit on the counter in our kitchen.

Guests are fun to have, and if you are well prepared with a solid plan in place, the visit will be effortless. We usually plan to have easy breakfasts, coffee, yogurt, granola, fruit, oatmeal, etc. When guests are in town, we keep an assortment of hummus, nuts, cheese, salami, crackers, olives, roasted peppers, etc. Easy snacks that can be enjoyed at any time during the day or early evening.

We generally plan one simple, but nice, dinner at home and then dine out during the balance of the visit.

We recently had friends visit, and as a treat for Lee and I, our friends shopped and cooked a delicious meal for us while in our home. We had fun, shared a great meal with friends, and after dessert they did the dishes. A delightful way for friends to say thank you.

Lobster, Lobster, Lobster

When living in NJ, it was a hop, skip and a jump to a great Lobster Dinner. We could cross the GW and dine in City Island, take the Parkway “down the shore”, or head up 95 to New England for a great lobster dinner. In Central Florida, we do see lobster on a menu occasionally, but we don’t often see them swimming in tanks. In our memory, almost every restaurant up north had a lobster tank. We are both fans of lobster, we enjoy them steamed, grilled, served chilled, and I especially love a good lobster roll. You know the kind, served on a soft, split bun with toasted sides, piled high with lots of sweet lobster and hardly any mayo, served with lettuce and fresh lemon. I had not seen a lobster roll on a menu since moving to Florida; but in Celebration we have found a place that brings us back to our roots; Celebration Town Tavern.

The Beer is Cold, Lobsters are swimming in the tank, and the Tavern makes a great Clam Chowder. My brother- in-law, Gregg also raves about their Lobster Bisque. There is something here for everyone to enjoy. Lee and I go for a pot of steamers, chowder and a lobster roll with lots of fresh lemon. We have never been disappointed. This is a great, casual place to have some fun and eat some good seafood. On Game Days, the football games are on and if you are a NE Fan this is the place to be. The Beer on Tap is cold and fresh and the crowd is always out for a good time. Nothing Fancy, just Really Good New England Style Fun and Food. No need for a trip to the “Shore” with Celebration Tavern less than 30 minutes away from Solivita.

Hurricane Irma in Solivita

Update from Central Florida. For days leading up to Irma we listened and watched the forecasts, and we prepared. Solivita, our friends, the Bella Verde Team, and our clients packed up outdoor potted plants, locked down windows, closed blinds and shutters, moved outdoor furniture, grills, umbrellas, tables, and Bella Verde For Sale Signs into indoor storage. We filled our bathtubs with water and filled our gas tanks too. We stocked up on flashlights, batteries, drinking water and “truth be told” some of us purchased a few extra bottles of wine, just in case. By Friday evening we were ready to meet Irma.

Saturday Irma rolled in as predicted with high winds with lots of rain. Our beautiful blue skies turned gray and the rain pelted our homes and our office. The forecast was for Irma to be over Solivita and Central Florida by 2 am. Around midnight the wind seemed to speed up and we decided it was time to try to sleep. It was a long night, but for Solivita it was a good night. The utilities in Solivita are underground, therefore we had no fear of a tree falling and landing on a power line, or having a live power line land in a puddle. Our homes are all block construction. Solivita lakes and conservation areas are pristine and well maintained. We have no fear of flood or un-maintained infrastructure. We were concerned about the storm, but we felt safe in our community and in our homes. By morning, Irma had blown past Solivita. We lifted our blinds and upon inspection we could see the damage was minimal.

Solivita did not experience an electric or water service interruption. The Solivita Promise of a Well- Engineered Infrastructure Is True. Communities around us are experiencing Irma Issues; Solivita is NOT. Solivita did have some Florida Oak Trees tip over, and some of our neighbor’s roofs have lost a few shingles, but other than that we are Solivita Strong. Today, the Staff of Solivita is already out assessing damages, replanting trees, our scheduled garbage pick-up is on schedule for today, and on my way to the office I passed a few crews out raking our lawns and cleaning up storm debris. Our restaurants are open today, and tomorrow all of our facilities, pools, tennis courts, etc., are scheduled to reopen.

Glad we live in Solivita; A beautiful, Maintenance Free, Community. Bella Verde Realty and Solivita is up and running today. Our team is already out inspecting our vacant listings for damage and re-installing For Sale Signs. We are ready to show properties and are grateful for the Wonderful Community we live in.

Farm to Table Dining

We recently enjoyed dinner in The Kitchen at the J. W. Marriott Grande Lakes on Central Florida Parkway, only 20 minutes from Solivita.  We parked our car at the door, left our keys with the valet, and were warmly greeted by the Staff of the J.W.  We met friends and began our evening with inspired cocktails and locally brewed craft beer.  Cold and Delicious.

It may sound like we were eating in a kitchen, but The Kitchen is the name of one of the J.W.’s Restaurants.  Great spot serving food grown on their farm plus food sourced locally from organic growers.  What fun, and only a short drive from Solivita.  We enjoyed a laid back, peaceful, evening.  The Kitchen is furnished with Comfy Chairs, Small Intimate Tables, and Large Farmhouse Tables.  Trendy, but comfortable.  The wait staff is knowledgeable and when asked; were happy to share preparation, garden, apiary, and brewery info with us.  What a Treat, to have this great spot only a few miles from Solivita.  We enjoyed an assortment of meat and cheese (our choices from the chef’s picks).  Our selection was playfully served on a beautiful platter.  Our meat and cheese choices were brilliant, the tray included crisp, lightly pickled vegetables, cheddar chive biscuits, honey and honeycomb, fresh ricotta, rhubarb chutney; and crackers, all grown and produced on the property.    A fun, enjoyable way to share a meal.  Small plates, with a menu including interesting flatbreads, local grass-fed beef, organic chicken, and delicious seafood.   After dinner, it was a quick drive back to Solivita.  A perfect ending to the perfect day.

Easy Entertaining In Solivita

Since living in Solivita we seem to have company all the time.  Friends and Family visiting the parks stop in for an evening, some stay for a few days, some just stop by for lunch or dinner.  Lee and I have found a few recipes that can be assembled quickly and make a delicious company meal.  I would like to share one with you that I made last week when Lee’s family stopped in.

Tortellini with Prosciutto or Pancetta and Peas

This recipe is not only delicious, but most of the time, the ingredients are in my freezer and refrigerator.  To make this into a complete meal I serve this with a salad and a dish of fruit for dessert and dinner is done.  Our neighbor Marilyn calls this one “Easy Peasy”.   

1 Lb Tortellini (cheese, spinach, or even mushroom)

1/4 – 1 /2 cup water, reserved from cooking pasta  

3 tbsp butter

2 garlic cloves minced

½ onion diced and sauted.

¼ lb prosciutto sliced thinly or pancetta cubed

1 1/4 cup cream or half and half

1 pinch nutmeg

At least ¼ cup parmesan cheese grated

1 cup frozen baby peas, thawed by running under cool water and drained.

Salt and pepper to taste.


Cook tortellini according to package

Melt butter in skillet and add prosciutto or pancetta and cook for a few minutes.

Add Garlic to skillet and cook for one more minute.

Add cream and bring to a simmer.

Add nutmeg and simmer until cream is thickened and reduced by about ½

Turn off heat.  Stir in Parmesan, peas and sautéed onions.

Stir in reserved cooking liquid to thin sauce, add tortellini and toss to coat.

Taste for salt and pepper

Bella Verde Realty Supports Military Homebuyers

Bella Verde Realty Supports Military Homebuyers.  No Down Payment, No PMI, and Flexible Credit Requirements.

Call Lorraine Valdes at 407-572-4040 to ask how you can use your Hard Earned VA Loan Benefits.

Fabulous Brunch at the Boheme 45 Minutes from Solivita

Recently we Enjoyed a Special Occasion Brunch at The Boheme in Downtown Orlando.  Years ago, when living in the New York Area, a Fabulous, Luxurious, Sunday Brunch was de regular, but since relocating to the laid-back lifestyle of Solivita, a Sunday Brunch in the City, at least for us, has become an uncommon event.

The Boheme Restaurant in the Grand Bohemian Hotel in Orlando awakened our memory of how lovely a Sunday Bruch can be and we are incorporating this former enjoyable afternoon into our Solivita Lifestyle.  Why wait to enjoy this relaxing pleasure?    The Boheme is beautiful, the décor is hot, but relaxing, and begged us to linger over the sumptuous splurge that the Chef’s prepared for our enjoyment.

Musicians played Contemporary Jazz in the background, waiters liberally poured a dry, delicious champagne, and the chefs prepared and plated a beautiful assortment of food that is was as much a treat for our eyes as for our taste buds.  Together, with our fellow diners, we had a delightful afternoon in Orlando, the city near Solivita.

Having lived only five miles from NYC, we ran in and out of the city at whim.  As they say, “every coin has two sides”; true NYC had many benefits but many challenges too.  Since being in Florida and living On Campus in Solivita, we find ourselves avoiding the I4 commute to the city.  Our Bad, downtown Orlando has much to offer, and if you stay on Orange Avenue you can travel to Orlando and back to Solivita (of course not during commuting hours) and avoid I4 all together.   This Sunday, we tested the theory.  Door to Door –  Orlando to Solivita 55 minutes; without one mile on I4.  Nice way to go.

Lots of fabulous places in Downtown Orlando to visit and starting now we are going to visit downtown and add some Southern City Fun to our lives.

Sailing in Sebring

Looking to buy a new or resale Home in Solivita.  You have come to the right realtor and the right place.  Our agents and our office specializes in Homes in Solivita, but that is not all we do.  We sell homes, condos, and townhomes throughout the Central Florida Area.  Recently Bella Verde Realty sold a beautiful Lakefront Condo in Sebring, Florida.  Our new homeowners are planning to enjoy the unit off season and rent the unit in the winter months.  An investment in a vacation condo while offsetting most expenses with rental income.  A Great Way to build future wealth while having fun!