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Walk In The Woods At Highlands Hammock State Park

Friends of ours asked us to take a hike with them in Highlands Hammock State Park last week. Not a choice I would normally make, but we had heard that the park was wonderful, and to be honest, Lee wanted to go. So, in a moment of weakness, I agreed. Highlands Hammock State Park is lovely, natural, the way I imagine Florida must have looked before development: lush, green, wet, and tranquil. We hiked on a Sunday afternoon and we both enjoyed the experience. It was an unusual experience, but Lee was really into it. As we entered the old growth canopy of Highlands Hammock State Park the temperature dropped at least 15 degrees and we enjoyed the peace and quiet of walking under oak trees that are a thousand years old. We plan to return in the fall to hike the catwalk of the cypress swamp as we have heard it is awesome. You can bird watch, take a ranger guided tour of the park, a tram tour, or bicycle the scenic three-mile loop, but whatever you do be prepared to be amazed. The walk took me out of my comfort zone but was worth the experience. I must admit I was a bit afraid as we were warned of snakes, gators, spiders and some nasty bugs, but we emerged refreshed and safe from our walk in the woods and eager to choose another path to enjoy on another day. Highlands Hammock State Park is in Sebring and surrounded by some good restaurants so since we hiked for Lee, I choose a good restaurant in downtown Sebring and together we enjoyed a lovely lunch. It was another perfect day in Central Florida. Come on down and share some perfect Central Florida days with us. You will be glad you did.
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Day Trip Time – Memorial Day Monday

As the days become longer and the temperatures rise; I find myself longing for a day at the beach. A perfect summer day with the wind gently blowing, the surf calm, and the water warm. We are going to take a day off and drive over to Cocoa Beach for the day. An easy drive from Solivita. I am Looking forward to spending the morning on the beach and the afternoon enjoying a fresh fish sandwich. A perfect day in the Florida sun. Blue sky, no dishes, no clean up, no fuss, a day of pure enjoyment. Lee and I are taking off on our own and running away for the day. We are going to bring an empty cooler with us and hope to return with some delicious Florida fresh fish. We wish you all a Memorial Day filled with joy and beauty.
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Bok Tower Sunrise Service

Sunrise Services at Bok Tower Gardens are an annual Central Florida tradition since 1926. Everyone is invited to enjoy the majesty of the sun rise from atop Iron Mountain at Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales. Parking is accessible, a choir will perform, an inspirational Easter message will be delivered by local clergy and the day will be off to a wonderful start. Admission to Bok Tower is complimentary for the sunrise service and after the service you are welcome to enjoy the gardens. See you in the gardens.
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Cher Concert at the Amway Center in Orlando

Growing up in Madison Square Garden territory, I must admit to seeing a lot of concerts, but I had never had the opportunity to see Cher live in concert. Her tour is billed as a farewell concert. Cher is the first to admit this is not her first farewell tour, but Lee and I wanted to catch her live before it really is her last farewell tour. And I have to say wow! Cher looks great and can still strut her stuff with the best of them, even in those crazy high heels and her body-hugging costumes. Her voice is strong, and her stage show was spectacular. Cher was personable and did an opening act with footage of her early career, when she was Sonny and Cher or Cher and Sonny, as I fondly recall from a routine performed on the 1970’s Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour. The opening act was poignant and left me with a real sense of how the loss of Sonny has affected her. Cher spoke briefly of her children when they were young and how they celebrated her 40th birthday. She ended her monologue with an announcement to her fans that she is 72 years young and asked all of us what our “grannies are doing tonight.” I don’t know about your granny, but I know mine stopped strutting her stuff a long time ago. The Amway in Orlando is a nice venue, the acoustics are good, and Church Street rocks when a concert is in town. The only other thing that could have made the night better is a public transportation option. Fingers crossed, as we hope the train continues to gain in popularity and the operating hours are extended affording us the option of traveling to and from Orlando without the I-4 drive.

We celebrated our evening out with a pre-show dinner in downtown Orlando at Kres Chophouse on Church St. A perfect start to the evening as the restaurant is warm and inviting and not your typical noisy steakhouse, but rather subdued with a casual, quiet elegance. Nice white linen on the tables, inviting space and great service. Kres is within walking distance to the Amway and turned out to be a great pick. Our table was comfortable, the wine selection was good, and each glass was served at the right temperature in nice stemware. We were a group of four and together we each shared our entrees. Every dish on our table was plated beautifully and delicious, the soup was spicy and served hot, the salads cool and crisp, the steak was cooked to the perfect temperature, but the pork chop was the undisputed winner at the chop house. It was perfectly tender, slightly pink in the middle, juicy and flavorful. A dish we all agreed we would order again on our next evening at Kres. You can visit Kres on the web at: www.kresrestaurant.com.
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Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

Are you wearing green for St. Patrick’s Day? Bella Verde is always in green. It is our official color. Our name (beautiful green), our logo, our front lawn, and this time of the year, even our beer is green. Bella Verde Realty is always happy to market and sell your home and bring some green to your pocket too. We hope to see you downtown this year at the St. Patrick’s Day parade. It is always a fun event and a good excuse to party with friends and family. Our niece Michele, is usually here for the party, but this year she is planning a big bash in New York (without us) but she promises to visit later in the year. We will miss her, but her late visit will give us a great excuse to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day twice this year, once now and again when she arrives. Lee and I hope you enjoy a slice of soda bread, Irish stew, a wee dram of Irish whisky, a good corned beef sandwich or just a few laughs with friends and family. Whatever you do, we hope the luck of the Irish is with you now and all year through.
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Fun in the Florida Sun at Cocoa Beach

Recently some of our friends and family spent a few days out at Cocoa Beach at the Inn at Cocoa Beach. They returned, refreshed with glowing reports of the wonderful hotel and beach. The weather was perfect, the water was calm, the sand was soft, and the complimentary breakfast and cocktail hour served at the hotel delightful. The Inn at Cocoa Beach is beach front and an alluring area to get away from it all. The rooms are spotless, a bit small, but nicely appointed. Quite the treat to have such a great beach get-away within 70 miles of Solivita. Sarah, a family friend and self-proclaimed restaurant snob, made dinner reservations at Café Margaux in Cocoa. According to Sarah, Café Margaux did not disappoint. The entire group returned with reports of beautifully plated delicious food and good service. Sarah’s restaurant recommendations are usually on the expensive side, but we have never been disappointed in one of her picks. We have added this restaurant to our to-do list for the next time we find ourselves in need of a nice evening out in the Cocoa Beach Area. You can visit the Inn at Cocoa Beach online at TheInnAtCocoaBeach.com.
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Fun in Central Florida

During December we had the pleasure of visiting the beautiful historic Howey Mansion in the Lake County community of Howey in the Hills. This home, built in 1925 by William J. Howey, is set back on a wide lawn and was designed by Katherine Cotheal Budd and has become a Central Florida treasure. It is quite possible that the Howey Mansion is the only remaining example of Katherine’s work. William J. Howey was a land promoter and a citrus grower who used the fledgling citrus industry of central Florida as his economic base. William and Mary completed the plans for this home and by 1927 were residents of this lovely mansion. Unfortunately, the Howey Mansion had been long-abandoned and was in dire need of restoration until Brad and Clay Cowherd, Brothers and Florida Natives, waked in and decided to restore the Mansion to its former glory. Their father and grandfather were longtime participants in real estate development in Orlando and the entire family were frequent visitors to the Yalaha Area. The brothers had long planned to restore the mansion and, have taken great joy in restoring the Howie Mansion to the beautiful home it is today. The restoration of this lovely home is a labor of love that has been shared by the entire family. The family loves the home and says It is a privilege and honor to have been able to bring this lovely landmark back to life. This beautiful home is open for tours, an overnight stay, or as a venue for a private event. In addition, the Howey Mansion hosts a music series and seasonal events. Please visit the website and visit the home; I know you will enjoy it. http://www.thehoweymansion.com
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All Aboard the Train from Poinciana Station

Our friends, neighbors and clients have been raving about the new train station in Poinciana. This train station is right up the road with lots of parking for everyone. A welcome addition to our community, as we can now “get out of Dodge” for the day without the hassle of a long drive. My mom and her friend Marilyn took the train to Sanford. The ladies enjoyed a nice, inexpensive ride to Sanford. Upon arrival they hopped on the free downtown trolley, kindly provided by the City of Sanford, between the Amtrak Auto Train and the Sanford SunRail Station.

The town of Sanford has a thriving art community, shops, brew pubs, restaurants, a beautiful lake and is a nice spot to spend an afternoon. Sanford is the perfect stop for a Delicious Lunch and Mom and Marilyn could not resist stopping for lunch at Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Café. Upon their return from Sanford the reviews were glowing, they shared an outdoor table and a delicious meal of schnitzel, warm German potato salad and wurst.

When we lived up north one of our favorite restaurants was the Mountain Brauhaus in Gardiner, New York, near New Paltz at the base of the Shawangunk Mountains. It was a beautiful drive through farmland and mountains to an authentic German dinner in a quiet, country location. Mom said that lunch at the Willow Tree Cafe brought back many fond memories of shared family dinners in Upstate NY. Lee and I have now put the Café on our radar, and we are looking forward to sharing a delicious German dinner soon. I will keep you posted.

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Dinner and a Show at Disney Springs!

Recently we enjoyed an evening in Ireland, at Disney Springs. No planes, passports, or lines involved. We were in Disney Springs on a Sunday afternoon enjoying the nice weather when we decided to have a bite to eat. Expecting nothing more than a good glass of Guinness, and an order of fish and chips, we walked into the Ragland Road Irish Pub. Before we even had the chance to open our menus the music started. The entire pub sang, laughed, clapped and enjoyed the Irish Fiddle and Celtic Harp, traditional music of Ireland, plus a step dancing performance, complete with costumes. Sometimes the best things in life are the unexpected and unplanned. Disney Springs is about a 30-minute drive from Solivita and a nice way to spend an afternoon or evening.

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Holidays in Florida

Happy Holidays to all of our neighbors, clients, friends, and family. Another year is coming to an end and we are happy to celebrate the holidays in sunny Central Florida. We plan on having a fun Christmas Eve shared with family and friends and a beautiful, quiet Christmas Day. Not traditional, but lovely - I am folding up my apron and letting Santa Claus take us out for dinner on Christmas Day. A holiday without dishes, what more can a working girl ask for? Well, I know we can ask for more, but why? We are lucky to live in the award-winning community of Solivita, surrounded by the beauty of nature, and every day are thankful not to be shoveling snow, chopping ice, or defrosting car doors just to get to work. We so enjoy the Florida lifestyle and suggest, if you are considering a move, you give it a try too! With so much entertainment in Central Florida, life is certainly nicer in the warmth, safety, and beauty of Solivita and Central Florida.

Lee and I hope that each of you enjoy every moment of the holidays. We wish you a happy and healthy New Year and hope the beauty and wonder of the season brings joy, health and peace to you and yours.