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Life in Solivita and Central Florida

Since most of our residents have had their second vaccines, Solivita is starting to buzz with activity once again. Our Ceramics Gallery is open for classes, our Art Gallery is open for watercolor, acrylic and oil classes, and our Dragon Boat Club is on the lake paddling. The Men’s Softball Clinic and the Pickleball Clinic is getting back in the game too and any moment we expect Water Volleyball to resume.

Our clubs are starting to resume In Person Meetings and trips are in the planning to local venues and travel to far-away places. It is nice to pass the horseshoe pits and once again hear the ring of shoes hitting the stake, see groups of folks out having fun again tossing balls around, enjoying walks in the parks, fishing, and gathering at the tennis and pickleball courts. Our pools are heated to the perfect temperature and folks are out and about resuming water exercises, swimming, and enjoying the fun of safely sharing time with old friends and enjoying the chance to make some new ones.

In April Lee and I took a morning off and went Blueberry Picking with friends at our local Blueberry Farm in Haines City. Not only was it fun, but it was a great morning out. The morning dew was still on the berries, the sky was clear, and it turns out Blueberry picking is quite easy. The bushes are about 5 – 6’ tall, making this adventure fun, easy and tasty. Last time I picked Strawberries my back hurt for days. Florida Blueberries are sweet, juicy and are delicious fresh picked, or frozen for use later. So far we have enjoyed Blueberry Cake and Pie, Blueberry Pancakes, Blueberry Salad Dressing, and lots of Blueberry smoothies. I am sharing my Blueberry Corncake recipe with y’all, it is delicious and made a tasty breakfast. All ideas for fresh blueberries appreciated. We were too busy during Strawberry Season to go to the Strawberry Festival or to go Strawberry Picking this year, but we surely made up for lost time with the baskets of Blueberries we picked.

Recipe for Blueberry Cake

1 1/3 Cup yellow cornmeal
1 Cup AP Flour
¾ Cup Sugar
2.5 Tsp. baking powder
¼ Tsp Salt
1 Large Lemon
1 Egg Lightly Beaten
1 5/3 Oz. Carton Plain Low-Fat Greek Yogurt
½ Cup Milk
1/3 Cup Butter, melted
1 ¼ Cup Fresh Blueberries
2 Tsp. Sliced Almonds
1 Tbsp Honey

Preheat oven to 350 Degrees. Grease bottom and sides of 9 x 5” loaf pan. Stir together the first 5 ingredients and make a well in center of flour mixture.

Remove 1 Tbsp zest and squeeze 3 Tbsp juice from lemon. In a separate bowl combine lemon zest, 1 Tbsp of the juice, and the next 4 ingredients (through butter). Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened (batter should be lumpy). Fold in blueberries. Spread batter into prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle with almonds.

Bake 50 to 55 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine remaining 2 Tbsp. Lemon Juice and honey.

Immediately brush loaf with honey mixture. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove and cool completely on a wire rack. Wrap and Store Overnight before slicing for breakfast the next morning.

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June is Waterlily Season at McKee Gardens

Even if you do not make it to see the Magnificent Waterlily Display, McKee has beautiful gardens, and pathways to enjoy anytime, but if you do get to experience the Waterlily Celebration on June 19th, you will be amazed. The ponds and waterways throughout the garden are adorned with over 80 varieties and over 300 potted and 100 free range plants including day and night blooming varieties.

McKee Gardens has an interesting history, and we are fortunate that the land developers Arthur McKee and Waldo Sexton never planted citrus on this tropical paradise as originally planned. The property’s natural beauty was deemed too special in its native state to disturb so McKee and Sexton employed landscape architect William Lyman Phillips, of the esteemed firm of Frederick Law Olmsted, to design the basic infrastructure of streams, ponds, and trails. Phillips, and his team, assembled an outstanding collection of waterlilies and orchids, augmenting native vegetation with ornamental plants and exotic specimens from around the world. In the 1940’s over 100,000 visitors enjoyed the gardens annually.

In the 1970’s, attendance at the gardens waned, tourism changed, and the family-owned establishment was unable to complete with the bigger Florida Tourist Attractions. Sadly, in 1976 McKee Jungle Gardens closed and was sold to condominium developers. All but 18 acres of McKee Jungle Gardens were developed. The precious undeveloped 18 acres were once the center of McKee Jungle Gardens and for 20 years lay dormant until a group of community visionaries got to work. In 1994, with the help of The Trust for Public Land, a fund-raising campaign was launched to buy the land from the developer, who at the time was finalizing plans for a shopping center. With bare hands, basic tools and unimaginable heart, volunteers of every age cleared the trails to reveal once again the jungle’s treasures. This community effort touched so many that even a young girl gave her weekly allowance to help rescue the Gardens. On November 18, 2001, the formal dedication of the saved, restored, and newly named McKee Botanical Garden was celebrated.

Today, McKee Botanical Garden remains true to Arthur McKee and Waldo Sexton’s vision. There are over 10,000 native and tropical plants to behold and one of Florida’s largest and most celebrated collections of water lilies. Several restored architectural treasures such as The Hall of Giants and Spanish Kitchen have been meticulously restored to Sexton’s original vision.

Now, McKee Botanical Gardens is a Florida Landmark listed on the National Register of Historic places and is recognized by the Garden Conservancy as a preservation project of national significance. It is a wild place, as its founders envisioned, a Florida Treasure, and a place of natural beauty.

350 US Highway 1
Vero Beach, FL 32962

Admission to McKee Botanical Garden is $15 adults and $10 children. Purchase your tickets in advance. Visit McKee Botanical Gardens on the Website at

McKee Botanical Garden is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday and on Sunday noon to 5 p.m.

You can visit McKee Gardens in a day or take an overnight out to the area, if you do overnight there is plenty to see and enjoy in Vero Beach. Bring your bathing suit, enjoy a cool dip in the water, or after a lovely afternoon in the gardens, chill out at Archie’s the local beach bar and burger joint.

You can’t beat living in Florida there is always something beautiful and fun to do.

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An Exciting New Community!

As Taylor Morrison moves into the final phase of building in Solivita they have set their sights on developing the Westview Project, formally known as Solivita Grand, a mixed-use, multi-generational community that stretches across 2,717 acres from Cypress Parkway north along the Poinciana Parkway. When complete, this single master-planned community will contain 4,448 single family homes (including townhomes) and 1,653 multifamily units, for a total of 6,101 dwelling units. This plan also includes 210,000 square feet of commercial use and a school.

We are all excited about this new development and are expecting to see new home models soon. This news is good for our property values and for our lifestyle, now your children and grandchildren will be able to live and work near you, live next to you, or reside in your new Westview Home. Multi-Generational Communities have gained in popularity since our Recent COVID Experience. We have had many clients tell us that their inability to hop on a plane and see the kids was difficult for them. The good news is the kids can move down to Central Florida and be close to their folks, good jobs are here, affordable housing is here, and families can once again be reunited.

The new development plans are stunning, there will be a school, a commercial district, and multiple communities, with some age-restricted communities. Plans for the new development are not yet final, but so far, what I have seen looks good and is an answer to what our buyers have been looking for. This new development will be a big boost to our local economy and our community. Bring it on Taylor Morrison, we have clients lining up and ready to move into Phase 1.

As our fellow Solivita Citizens know, Poinciana is booming and the new Westview Project is not the only project currently under construction, as Taylor Morrison has also proposed the development of the Solivita Marketplace, which would be anchored by Poinciana Medical Center. The Marketplace is approved for 1.8 million square feet of commercial development that includes the hospital, office, and retail space. The property will also have a mix of single family and multifamily dwellings, plus an assisted living facility.

The beauty of Life in Solivita; within our gates, our streets are development free, our community is beautiful and peaceful. Solivita gives us the best of both worlds; a peaceful, natural place to live and play plus a thriving community that brings us a good ROI. Paradise has been found in Poinciana.

Take a look around our website and see for yourself what Solivita and our local community has to offer. You will be glad you looked around, Central Florida is a great place to live, a healthy place to raise a family and a wonderful place to spend your retirement years.

Read all about us in Orlando Family Magazine. Lorraine was voted by clients and readers of the Magazine as one of Orlando’s Leading Real Estate Professionals. A big thank you to all our clients, friends, family, and Readers who put their faith in Lorraine Valdes and Bella Verde Realty. Make your dream of home ownership in Central Florida a Realty by Calling Us Today!