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Road Trippin with the Bella Verde Team to the Hardrock in Tampa

We celebrated Mom’s 90th Birthday this month with a weekend at the Hardrock in Tampa.  We are still working so you can tell we had no big wins, but we had lots of fun and made some nice memories together.  We were pleasantly surprised at how lovely the Hardrock is.  It had been quite a few years since we were there, it surely has come a long way.  Our rooms were beautiful, large, modern and had nice amenities.  One of our rooms was our party room with lots of space for hosting in-room cocktails and parties for groups of 8 or so.  We joked, enjoyed some good wine, and ate well.  We had reservations in Council Oak Steak and Seafood our first night and on our second night we enjoyed dinner at Cipresso, the Hardrock’s Italian Restaurant.  Both had great service, delicious food, good vibes, and nice offerings from the bar.   Although both restaurants were delightful, our favorite was the steak house.  The steaks were Prime wet-aged, tender, and flavorful, plus served at the perfect temperature.  Two of our group had seafood and enjoyed every savory bite. We skipped dessert, but shared cappuccino and a port to end our evening.  Our only negative, the lack of entertainment in the lounges.  We had expected to hear live music nightly in the cocktail lounges, but if bands were playing, we did not hear them.  What we did enjoy was the artifacts the hotel assembled from rock musicians. Elvis Presley’s 24K Gold Leaf Kimball Grand Piano from Graceland is showcased, as well as one of his guitars, a Scarf Jimi Hendrix wore in concert in the late 60’s, Keith Richard’s Rhinestone Yellow Jacket, Cher’s Knit Poncho, and Stevie Nicks White Corset Dress were among our favorites.  Amazing how such giant stars with amazing talent wear such small sizes.  It is an easy drive over, about 80 minutes and worth the trip for a day off the ranch.    A sweet ending to Mom’s Birthday was a dinner and a surprise visit from our Aunt Laurie.  Thank you Everyone for your cards, wishes, calls, flowers, gifts, visits, and the love you share with us every day.  Happy Birthday Mom!!!!!!!

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Crooked Bass Grill and Tavern

Local, Fresh and Tasty.  The Crooked Bass may be new to the Bella Verde Team but it is certainly not new to Babson Park, Florida.  The Restaurant was established early in 2016 and is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream for Tim and Tammy Bracewell, residents of Babson Park.  Tim loves to cook, and Tammy loves to entertain.  Combine both these qualities with tons of experience in the hospitality biz, and the Crooked Bass was born.

Far from fancy, in fact had we not had the recommendation of a trusted friend, we would never have stopped our car here.  No reason to dress up, put on a pair of jeans or shorts and a tee shirt, grab your car keys and head to Route 27 South.  Babson Park is about 40 minutes away, an easy drive.  Although we live in Florida, finding fresh fish can sometimes be a challenge, but not at the Crooked Bass.  They run daily specials, and have a nice menu that includes a large selection of burgers, salads, fish, beef, pork and chicken.  Insider tip if you ask for the pizza menu you can order a pizza too.  We were a group of six, and each of us had something different to eat, including the pizza.  Every dish was good, the salads were fresh and crisp, and the blue cheese dressing was homemade.  The fish was perfectly prepared, and the ribeye came to the table at the perfect temperature.  No one in our group had dessert, but we did order coffee and our waitress brewed a fresh pot for us and that made a perfect ending to a good meal.  Crooked Bass has a full bar and lots of beer on tap.  Looking for a new place to dine, a great place for lunch or dinner, this restaurant is Worth the drive and worth the try.

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Local Happenings

Our team is always bragging about the generosity and kindness of the folks in Solivita. Recently we had a neighbor and a friend donate new cases of toys to our GAL Project. Lots of toys, too many toys for one project to handle, but this wonderful problem was solved this month. We are proud to say that our team got on the phone and found multiple Children’s projects to distribute over 50 cases of new toys in Central Florida. The recipients of these toys; GAL in Kissimmee, GAL in Bartow, the Ronald McDonald House in Lake Nona and the Healthy Family Project in Polk and Highlands Counties. All the deliveries were gladly received and will bring joy to the children and families that received them. Our family of realtors repacked the cases, assorted the goodies, put on some driving tunes, grabbed a map, and delivered to each of the recipients above. Happy to say that this week we not only sold some real estate but made some kids happy at the same time. Thank you Solivita for your kindness.

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Life In Solivita

Solivita is a beautiful place to live.  Lee and I have lived in Solivita for over 20 years, and we still feel lucky and joyful to live in the Paradise that is Solivita.  We are “pioneers” as we built our first home when Solivita was in the planning stages.  We invite and welcome you all to come visit and see for yourself how lovely our community is.  In addition to our beautiful blue lakes, ponds, conservation, and natural beauty there is always fun to be had in Solivita.  In Solivita you can enjoy entertainment, swim, fish, play tennis, play pickleball, work out, play golf, garden in the community garden, play softball, picnic in the park, play bocce ball, or horseshoes, and shoot hoops.  We are a golf cart community, safe, guarded and gated, near shopping, houses of worship and restaurants.  Solivita downtown has everything you could want, a hometown pharmacy/convenience store, a pro shop, restaurants, and activities.  Join any of over 200 clubs, meet friends and share in the fun of life in a peaceful community.  

Lots of days we find No Need to Leave the Neighborhood.  Just this month, Lee and I saw two shows in Solivita, enjoyed dinner in Mosaics, attended the St. Patrick’s Day Party, and shared an afternoon lecture in the Gator Room.  After our weekly game of golf, we enjoy drinks and snacks or lunch at  Stonegate Grille.  Last night, I was too tired to cook, solution, we called the Bistro in Solivita and picked up Pizza and a salad to go.  All of these activities are within our gates and only a golf cart ride away from our home.  Fun, Easy and Enjoyable.  We can hop on our golf carts, enjoy the ride, and have a great afternoon or evening without the stress of traffic, the worry of parking, and the expense of gas.  Solivita provides an “Award Winning” way to live an easy, good life in the company of wonderful friends and neighbors.

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Get Your Tickets Now for the March 24th Concert Under the Stars at BOK Tower on the Oval Lawn.

Steep Canyon Rangers are playing.  You may not recognize the name, but I am sure you have heard them play.  They are Asheville North Carolina’s Grammy Award Winning Band who perennial Top the Billboard Chart and frequently collaborate with my favorite comedian Steve Martin.

Bring your blanket, or a chair, order dinner in advance at the Blue Palmetto Café and don’t forget to pack a bottle of wine.  Enjoy the show and a picnic under the stars.

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Disney Food and Wine Fest July – November 19th

Enjoy Globally Inspired foods from around the world. 

Stone Crab Festivals.  Lots of Florida Towns host Annual Stone Crab Festivals and not only are they fun but tasty too. Visit Dunedin for their festival is on October 26


Frenchy’s for their Stone Crab Weekend.  October 28 – 29th.  Clearwater Beach closes Baymont Street for this festival.  Enjoy fresh off the boat claws, live music and fun at the block party from 12 noon to 10 pm on Friday and Saturday.  


Head to Naples and help to Celebrate Stone Crab Season on the waterfront October 28 – 30th. Free water taxis will transport you to all the waterfront locations that participate in the festival in Tin City, Downtown Naples. 

Just in case you missed the Oktoberfest Celebrations, Florida has a sizeable assortment of German Restaurants for you to Celebrate the Bounty of Oktoberfest year-round.  Try Hollerbach’s in Sanford for their official celebration in Downtown Sanford 


Any Saturday or Sunday visit Yalaha Bakery in Howey in the Hills. If you go on a weekend afternoon enjoy music on the patio while dining on an authentic German Lunch from the Deli.  Don’t forget to Pick up a delicious German Pastry to take home and enjoy later in the day.  Self-Serve but worth the wait.

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Live Performance Theatres near Solivita

Although we love to play golf, tennis, pickleball, and go to the pool, we all need a change of pace, and it always nice to have a diversion.  Our local theatres have the solution.  It is Easy and fun to Visit and Enjoy local theatre.  Due to Disney and the amusement parks we have allot of talent waiting in the wings, so head to one of the local theatres and see a show.  

Recently the Winter Haven Theatre has undergone quite a few major renovations.  The theatre now has new entrances, a renovated and expanded lobby, new lighting, and newly renovated restrooms.   This Theatre is comfortable and is an easy drive from Solivita.  The Mainstage Theatre has 332 seats and currently mounts five shows.  If you subscribe to the five shows you are guaranteed a seat and five great evenings or weekend afternoons of entertainment at very reasonable prices.  In addition, the Theatre is featuring Three Professional Touring Productions this year.  It is always nice to have “tickets in the bank”, as it gives you an event to look forward to, the joy of a good show, and if you treat yourself to dinner or lunch, you have a great day. Season tickets and Touring Tickets are on sale now, and individual show tickets for the Mainstage go on sale in September.

Good Live Theatre at Osceola Arts with the new season’s tickets going on sale June  15th.  This season Osceola Play House will mount 8 shows on the Mainstage. With the purchase of one of the season ticket packages, you will experience Central Florida’s acclaimed Broadway style productions at a fraction of the cost.  The season ticket packages for 2022-2023 are available June 15th to October 2nd.  Plus, if you are a season ticket holder you can also add tickets for two Special Engagement Productions at a reduced rate.

Do you enjoy Good Fun and Entertainment and have a hankering for an historic theater setting?  If so, visit the Historic Ritz Theatre in Winter Haven.  The Ritz has been downtown Winter Haven’s Stage since 1925 when it opened as a venue for silent movies and vaudeville. In years gone by the Ritz played “A” Movies with casts including Betty Grable, Errol Flynn and Shirley Temple.   Today the Ritz is back in business with Multi-Level Seating that can accommodate over 450 guests.  Tables and Chairs are set on each level of the theatre for very comfortable seating.  The sound and lighting systems are wonderful, and the live performances and stage shows are fun.    Visit the Ritz at :

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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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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.