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Lemony Lentil Soup With Spinach or Kale

2 Tbsp. EVOO

2 Onions Chopped

2 Large Carrots, peeled and chopped

2 Stalks Celery, Chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

12 cups broth, plus more If needed

8 Cups (7 oz) chopped kale leaves ribs removed, or a box of fresh Spinach

4 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 Tsp lemon zest

16 Oz. Green Lentils

1 Tsp dried basil

1 Tsp Dried Thyme

Salt and Pepper to taste.

Heat oil in sauce pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook till soft, 5 minutes. Add carrot, celery, and garlic.  Cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until carrot is soft (about 5 minutes) Add broth, the lentils, herbs, and S & P.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, if using Kale, add it now.  Cook for 30 to 35 minutes or until lentils are tender.  Add additional broth as needed.  If you are using spinach, add raw spinach 5 minutes before soup is cooked. Stir in lemon juice and grated peel before serving. 

This is the perfect Florida Winter Soup with Florida Fresh Lemon Juice adding a brightness that is just delicious.  This soup is a favorite in our house. If you can’t find green lentils, any lentil will work.  Enjoy.

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L’incontro Italian Restaurant in Lake Wales

If you are Looking for a Good Italian Restaurant close to Solivita, we have one for you and you don’t have to sit in traffic on I4 to get there.  We have been enjoying the cuisine of L’incontro for years and in reading through my past posts I see that I have not mentioned this lovely little place.  Easy to get to by taking Rt 27 South to 60 West and the restaurant is on your right. 

L’incontro is family owned and operated.  The restaurant includes Italian Chefs that have cooked for famous folks all over the world.   The food is delicious, as good as my Mom’s, but please let’s keep that a secret just between us.  The bread is served hot and accompanied by a delicious dish of Hummus and butter or you can always ask for Olive Oil.  The menu has a nice assortment of fish, meat, pasta and rice dishes, and good options for vegetarians.  We have never been disappointed.  The sauce, or Gravy, is as good as any I have had, hearty and flavorful made with sweet San Marzano tomatoes.  The other day we shared a plate of fried calamari that was just delightful.  A bowl of sauce and fresh lemon accompanied the calamari and half the group used lemon and the other half dipped away in sauce, this dish left no one in the group unhappy.  After our sinfully delicious start everyone made their own dinner choice, salad or soup is served with your entrée and every entrée was hot and tasty. This restaurant is worth the trip and offers a good dining experience, especially when guests are visiting, or you are tired of cooking.  We have family members that are weekly lunch guests of L’incontro and report that they have never left disappointed.  I hope you get a chance to try this restaurant.  If you go, please look around you may see Lee and I dining at a nearby table.  35 State Road 60 W., Lake Wales, FL or visit on the web at If, during this time, you are an outdoor diner only, no worries, ask to sit on the patio in the back.

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Mark Your Calendar

It is Festival Time in Florida, our weather is perfect and we are surrounded by fun events.

Highlands County Fair at the Fairgrounds, 756 Magnolia Ave, Sebring, FL
The Highlands County Fair brings together the best livestock displays, food vendors, carnival rides, contests, and entertainment for one of the most enjoyed annual events in Highlands County. In addition to carnival rides, The Highlands County Fair features tons of exhibits and contests for cooking, photography, horticulture, fine arts, sewing and more! Some examples of the entertainment are the Chainsaw Carving Show, The Master Hypnotist Show and the Miss, Junior Miss, and Little Miss Highlands County Pageants. This is a local fair that makes for a fun afternoon away. While in Sebring, stop at Highlands Hammock State Park and enjoy a walk on the boardwalk under beautiful, towering trees. If after your walk and festival visit you are thirsty or hungry head to Faded Bistro in Sebring. Faded is a great spot in a park like setting with a nice wine and beer list and a good kitchen serving creative, delicious dishes.

Or Stay Very Close to Home and Visit the St. Sophia’s Greek Festival in Winter Haven being held February 11, 12, and 13, 2022. Opa! Enjoy delicious Greek pastries, Greek food, Live Greek Music and Dancing, and a bit of Greek Culture right in our own backyard. The food is homemade by the parishioners from family recipes that have been handed down, enjoy sweet or savory dishes at the or take them to go. If you choose to visit this festival don’t miss the Baklava.

If you want to see a list of Planned Festivals all over the state please visit:

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Harry’s Seafood Bar and Grill, Lakeland

A great way to end your day-trip to Lakeland is a stop at Harry’s Seafood Bar and Grill at 101 North Kentucky Avenue in Lakeland and if you have strolled through the Hollis Gardens, Harry’s is only a short hop away. Harry’s is always a lively, fun stop with a nice wine list, a decent beer selection, inviting cocktails and a good kitchen. The menu has a great selection of inventive dishes and will remind you of dining in New Orleans, infused with a Florida Southern twist. Harrys is open from 11 to 10 and has plenty on the menu for everyone from fish to meat. If you are a vegetarian, ask the waiter for an assortment of sides and make your own meal with red beans, rice, collards, etc.

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Fun in the Sun

Florida has lots of claims to fame; We are the Theme Park Capital of the World, the Florida Sunshine is boundless, and wherever you are in Florida you are never more than 60 miles from a beach, that last fact is according to a paper menu that I picked up on a recent trip to a Florida Diner. The Sunshine State has many beautiful spots to enjoy and to experience.  We recently made a visit to the Florida Southern College Campus in Lakeland, a short trip from Solivita.  In 2012, the Florida Southern College Historic District was designated a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service of the Interior.  The campus is lovely and is the site of the largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright Architecture in the World.  Tickets are sold in advance and tours are led by experienced docents who provide an overview of the history and design of all 13 Wright Designed Structures.  Additionally, you will tour the interiors of the Annie Pfeiffer Chapel, the Danforth Chapel, and the new Usonian Faculty House, allowing you to explore the timeless beauty of Wright’s work. 

If you are a true Frank Lloyd Wright Fan you can also take an in-depth tour.  The in-depth tour includes the above three structures plus will take you inside the E.T. Roux Library, the Ordway Arts Building and the Polk County Science Building.  

Wright first visited the campus in 1938, and over the course of 20 years he designed 18 unique buildings harmoniously blending into the natural landscape surrounding them.  Thirteen of Wright’s proposed structures were funded and built, one of them posthumously, the Usonian House. The Usonian House was completed after a 74 year wait and is now open for tours to the public.  Lee and I had the privilege of touring this 1,700 Sq. Foot dwelling with 2,000 interlocking concrete “textile blocs” with colored glass inserts, and handcrafted reproduction furnishings. 

If you are a Wright Fan or know a Wright Fan stop by the gift shop and see the wide variety of stylish and timeless Wright inspired items for sale, and you can pick up a great souvenir for yourself or for someone you love.  

With this great weather a perfect stop after your tour of the campus is Hollis Gardens.  The Gardens are not large but are well kept and makes for a lovely scenic lakeside walk on a beautiful day.

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U.S. News & World Report on the best Retirement Metro Areas

In a recent issue, the U.S. News and World Reports ranked 150 US Cities for livability in retirement. 11 Florida Cities were in the Top 20 Places to Retire to in the USA. I am happy to say Orlando and Lakeland were among the top. The study was based on how well each city met Americans’ expectations for retirement, with measures including affordability, health care and overall happiness.

The report states “The peninsula nailed down 11 of the top 18 spots even though Florida isn’t as cheap as it used to be.” Having said that, our area is still affordable with a high quality of life and low tax rates since there is no state income tax.

Floridians did not need to read about how good life is in Florida, but it is nice to see it confirmed in print; Florida is a good, healthy and a happy place to live.

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Thank You to Everyone Who Contributed to our GAL Drive. We are happy to celebrate another successful year thanks to the kindness and the generosity of our friends, neighbors, clients. We are proud to say our doorbell at the office was busy ringing with kind folks dropping off gifts for children of all ages. The gifts ranged from gift cards, new clothing in all sizes, stuffed animals, dolls, trucks, books, games, crafts, puzzles, footballs, basketballs, baseballs, and even cosmetics for the teens. We had one neighbor make baby blankets and BVR ordered baby dolls with carriers and lovingly wrapped each baby in a handmade blanket. The GAL Christmas Tree at Bella Verde Realty was brimming with wonderful gifts and together with your help we collected, matched, and delivered 3 carloads of gifts, over $1,000.00 in gift cards, PLUS Bella Verde gifted $3,000.00 for the Children in the Guardian ad Litem Program of Osceola. The GAL Social Workers set aside a room in the Kissimmee Courthouse for Bella Verde Realty that they have affectionately dubbed “Santa’s Workshop”. The gifts collected are sorted by age and placed in the workshop for GAL families and the Social Workers to gift to the Children in the Program. The financial contribution helps to supply needed items that were not collected, and gift cards are perfect gifts for children that are near 18 and will be leaving the program to start life on their own. You see, at 18 these children no longer are in the foster care program and need to make their own living arrangements. Life on your own, at the tender age of 18, quite a sobering thought. The children cycling out of the program get gift cards to be used for haircuts, clothing, pots, pans, and items they will require to begin a new life without the support of the social workers or their foster families. It is warming to know that we all helped these kids to have a brighter holiday and helped some kids start their new lives. Bella Verde is blessed to live and work with so many generous folks. Thank You from the bottom of our hearts to all who contributed, helped, and prayed for a successful collection.

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New Year, New Home

Hard to believe, but happy to say, it is the start of another year at Bella Verde Realty. Each year has brought us joy, meetings with lots of folks moving to Florida, and time with many former clients and their families looking to live at a new address. Solivita remains a retirement paradise and has consistently remained in the TOP 50 Communities in the USA for 55 Plus Folks for many years.   We are active, fit, fun and live in a Beautiful, Peaceful Community. It is no wonder that the Bella Verde Realty Group is busy all the time listing and showing homes, giving community tours, and meeting folks at the new home center. Call us to make an appointment to come in to see us or just let us know what we can help you with. If you are considering listing your home, our realtors will be happy to visit with you and design a free and accurate market analysis for your home. We are still in a Seller’s Market so if you are considering selling your home now is the time.