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Bella Verde Realty and COVID-19: An Update!

Dear Bella Verde friends and family,

Hello from Central Florida! The good news for us is that we are all safe and hunkered down here in Solivita. The weather is lovely, Solivita looks absolutely beautiful, and all of our trees, grasses and flowers are in full bloom. Our Sandhill Cranes are busy taking care of their recently hatched young and we are enjoying the newborn baby alligators in our community . . . from a safe distance! The current situation cannot steal the joy and beauty of our natural surroundings. Only we as individuals can let that happen. It’s a joy each day to see the strength of folks here in Solivita as they quietly and safely go about their lives.

All of our Solivita neighbors are being diligent, kind and careful, and life is going on. Life may be different for us, but it’s different for the entire global community. We are all worried about staying safe, remaining healthy, and avoiding being infected by this virus. Most of our community may be retired and not stressed about losing their jobs, but many residents have suffered losses in their retirement accounts, which can be just as frightening. Whatever your position may be, there are challenges and obstacles to face.

The best news for us is that as of today, we have NO cases of COVID-19 reported. It’s a good sign so far and hopefully persists as time goes on. Solivita is still busy, but busy being quiet. Lee and I went for a walk yesterday and saw countless friends out walking, jogging, gardening, riding bikes, and cruising in their golf carts. Since the pools, clubs, restaurants and other group activities are all shuttered, we are learning how to enjoy the pleasures of our surroundings on an individual basis. Some of our neighbors are flipping through their recipe boxes, cooking in their kitchens and grilling on their lanais. In fact, during our walk we enjoyed the aroma of chicken roasting from a neighbor’s kitchen as it mingled with the fragrance of the orange trees in bloom. Pleasant and peaceful, we are all starting to enjoy the simple pleasures of an uncluttered life.

Lee and I are concentrating on our health, on the future, and of course, on what’s happening in the news. Daily we pray for every victim and their families, for our medical community, for our fellow citizens, and for a cure; so, we are busy, just a very different type of busy.

As far as real estate goes, WOW we are in a unique state of affairs now. We still have homes on the market for sale, we are still building homes, and we have many more homes in the pipeline that will be listed for sale, once this crisis is behind us.   In the interim, technology has blessed us with the ability to close sales on homes remotely and show homes to prospective buyers remotely. It’s amazing what we can do in the 21st century! All open houses are cancelled, and we are not showing owner-occupied homes for the safety of our residents. The community of Solivita is safe and strong, and the accolades our community has received speak for themselves. Visit us on the web and see how nice life is in Central Florida. Look through our videos, see our photos and read our blogs. We guarantee that once this virus is behind us, life will be good again for us all and real estate will be booming! We are preparing for the market boom! We are SOLIVITA STRONG.

Now’s the point when I want to hear about you. How are you doing? How is your community? Email me or comment and share your news today!

Spring wishes and happy thoughts,

Lorraine  and Lee Valdes
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Revised Train Schedule for the Orlando Magic Weekday Games

During the Orlando Magic Weekday Home Games this season, SunRail is running a special 10:30 PM southbound service train from Church Street Station to Poinciana. This gives us plenty of time to enjoy a nice dinner downtown before boarding the train home. In addition, if you are in Winter Park, you can leave Winter Park on the last train at 8:45 pm for Orlando, exit at the Church Station Station, enjoy a nightcap or dessert, and catch the late train home. The schedule is below for February thru April:

Wednesday 2/12, Friday 2/21, Friday 2/28
Monday 3/2, Thursday 3/12, Wednesday 3/19, Wednesday 3/25, Friday 3/27
Wednesday 4/1, Friday 4/10 and Wednesday 4/15

We may be 55 PLUS, but we still know how to party, so let’s show SunRail we are ready to ride the rails late into the evening!
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Florida Strawberries

This year’s crop is just starting to find their way to our markets, and this year every berry I have tasted is sweet as sugar. When Florida Berries are in season, I add them to almost every recipe I make; from a Fruit Smoothie in the Morning to Strawberries in a Garden Salad for lunch or a cool bowl of Chilled Strawberry Soup in the evening. Enjoy the seasonal bounty in our markets, courtesy of our local growers. Florida is also busy growing some great Blueberries and in March so when our Strawberries are out of season our Blueberries make their appearance in our local markets and in my kitchen.

Florida Strawberries are So Celebrated that Florida hosts a Strawberry Festival. It is an 11 day community event celebrating the strawberry harvest of Eastern Hillsborough County. Every year over 500,000 visitors flock to the festival, enjoy the entertainment, the livestock shows, exhibits and celebrate the Florida Strawberry. My favorite treat at the festival is the Famous Festival Strawberry Shortcake. It is always a fun afternoon. This year the festival will be from February 27 to March 8th and is located in Plant City. You can Visit the Festival on the web at:
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Boat Trip to Key West

Have you been to Key West by Boat? It is fun, easy and a perfect quick getaway. Grab the Key West Express from Fort Myers in the morning, arrive Key West in the early afternoon. A really, nice get away. No car needed in Key West, you can grab a cab, rent a scooter, a bike, walk, or take a pedicab to your hotel. The Key West Express will even arrange a hotel package for you. If one day won’t do it for you, and it doesn’t do it for me, you can arrange to Enjoy one or two evenings in Key West and hop back on the Ferry for a return trip to Ft. Myers. This is a relaxing way to enjoy the sights and fun that Key West offers. We drove down a few years ago and found the car to be a huge burden since the streets in Key West are narrow and busy. Warning - You must pack lightly; but what do you really need to enjoy a night or two in the Florida Keys; a bathing suit, flip flops, sunglasses, some sunscreen and a fun-loving spirit. Enjoy the Adventure; This is what Retirement is All About.
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Make Time for a Walk on the Wild Side along Reedy Creek

I have a friend who “knows all the good places”, and this is one of her Poinciana secret good places. Only open to the public on weekends, the trails provide an up-close look at more than a dozen old growth cypresses and wildlife along Reedy Creek. This is the perfect spot to enjoy a safe, short walk. Parking is available for your car and this secret spot is only a few miles from Solivita. A great way to start a Saturday or a Sunday Morning. Turn into the parking lot on Poinciana Blvd and follow the signs to the Boardwalk, it is wonderful. As you walk above the swamp notice the many stumps of large cypresses cut by hand during the 1930 – 1950’s. Watch alligators and water moccasins glide through the swamp. Enjoy the largemouth bass as they jump for flies. View the birds as they quietly perch in the trees drying their wings and enjoying the peace and quiet of Central Florida. In the spring you will see dozens of great blue herons in the trees. No need for your compass, the trail will loop around and return you to the parking lot. If you want to visit the swamp on the web please go to:
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The Boys Are Back In Town

The Boys from Flourish Have Moved into Town and are shaking up the party scene in Solivita. Brian and Richard have been successful Florists and Event Planners in Florida for over 30 years with locations now in Solivita and in Winter Park. We are happy to welcome and announce that the Boys are Back in Town and are not only old friends but our neighbors too. Brian and Richard planned and decorated Our Office and our Home for the Holidays. The results the Flourish Team achieved were stunning. We enjoyed a candlelit Christmas with festive, elegant decorations. I walked around amazed at our space when it was complete. Every guest commented at the transformation of our home into an elegant party space complete with fresh flowers, greens, candles and beautiful decorations. When the Flourish team was done with our shared vision, we hosted a Holiday Extravaganza Party in honor of the Bella Verde Team of Professionals. A wonderful opportunity for the group to enjoy shared time together away from work and a good time to celebrate the folks that help make Bella Verde Realty a Good Place to work and a Successful, Trusted Real Estate Firm.
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Valentine’s Day and Lamb Chops

Happy Valentine’s Day to our friends, neighbors, family, and to our significant others.

Solivita has lots of Fun, Festive Valentine Day Activities to attend, but this year we are dining in on Valentine’s Day. Lee and I love to cook so we have planned a nice meal in advance and each of us will prepare a course. We do enjoy dining out and we especially love all the events Solivita hosts, but this year we have decided to enjoy a Valentine’s Dinner in the quiet of our own home while Miles Davis plays in the background. The Central Florida Weather in February is usually beautiful, so we plan to enjoy dinner under the stars on our lanai, and for extra fun, we developed our menu to include herbs grown in our garden.

This year we are enjoying Grilled Lamb Chops with Mint served with an Onion and Cucumber Salad dressed with Yogurt and Mint.

Simple. Lee will grill the chops and the onions. I am on Salad, Dressing and table setting. We are both looking forward to sharing the evening together. Dish Duty, well I hope it is shared, but as of now that remains to be seen.

1 cup plain yogurt, drained in a strainer
¼ cup fresh mint, chopped
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp extra virgin Olive Oil
¼ tsp cumin
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
S & P to taste.

Whisk the all ingredients in a bowl, season with salt and pepper and set aside

2 red onions, peeled and sliced crosswise about ½ inch thick and grilled
Olive Oil to brush on onions
S & P
3 TBSP finely chopped fresh oregano
3 Cucumbers, peeled and sliced
½ cup crumbled feta

Brush both sides of the onion slices with olive oil and season to taste. Grill each side 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the grill and chop. Add all ingredients except the feta to the dressing. Sprinkle the feta on top of the salad before serving.

Grilled Lamb Chops with Mint
6 small rib lamb chops
4 TBSP Olive Oil
1/3 cup fresh mint leaves chopped
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
2 garlic cloves smashed
A few mint springs for decoration

Mix all the ingredients except the chops together. Brush the mixture onto the chops. Place the chops on the grill and cook 3 – 4 minutes per side depending on thickness of the chops and your temperature preference.

Dessert is simply a good box of dark chocolates and Florida Fresh Strawberries.

We wish you each a Sweet Valentine’s Day.
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New Year, New Home Style!

You may not be moving into a new home this year, but you can do up a room, or your entire home in a new decorating style! Take a look at your home, room by room. You may want to change your furniture placement in your great room to give you a better flow, or you may want to bring in a pop of color, or you may want to go big with a full renovation in your kitchen or one of your bathrooms. Whatever you want to do, do it with a sense of fun that will help you love your space and provide stress free living for years to come.
Open Plan Living is all the Rage and remains so, but you may want to consider turning one of your spare bedrooms or your office space into a “ZEN DEN”. Move your TV into the Zen Den Space, some comfy but stylish furniture, and some accessories and art. This plan does not split up the house but rather allows you to have a quiet space to enjoy TV or Movies while providing all the other residents and guests in your home the ability to pursue other activities while the TV is on. Plus, when the grand kids are in you will not have to listen to cartoons, or the same movie played on an endless loop.
  Install new Stacking, Sliding and Folding Glass Door that blur the line between inside and outside. These new doors are a wonderful way to expand your square footage without adding a wing onto your home. With the beautiful Weather we enjoy in Central Florida throughout most of the year an expansion of your living space will add great value to your life while adding financial value to your home.
Grey seems to be out of trend and the replacement is dark shades of BLUE, NAVY being the color for 2020 for furniture, walls and kitchen and bath cabinetry. Pair dark blue with white and wow you have a stunning room.

A New Year is a Chance for a New Start. A lot can happen in a year “365 new days will provide 365 new possibilities” The Team at Bella Verde Realty hopes you make the most of every day and we hope you find new possibilities and joy in everything you do. Happy and Healthy 2020!
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New Year, New Adventure

Have you been to Crystal River to Swim with the Manatees? If not, you need to go; It is a wonderful, Natural, Florida Adventure.
If you do not want to swim, you can kayak, take a scenic boat tour, or dive in. However, you choose to visit the Florida Manatees, this is adventure not to be missed. In the winter months you are in for a real up-close experience and one I promise you will never forget. Manatees are slow moving, gentle giants; curious by nature, and playful at heart. In the winter months great numbers of Florida manatees seek out the warm water springs, rivers and other waterways for sanctuary from the cooler Gulf of Mexico Waters making the winter months the perfect time to visit.
Visit Crystal River or Homosassa Springs to see this amazing sight. The drive is about 100 miles and makes for a nice overnight get away. No need to bring any fancy clothes with you for this adventure, Crystal River and Homosassa Springs are quite casual, this is a blue jean and sweatshirt trip.
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After the Holidays Quinoa Salad with Fresh Florida Strawberries

For the Salad:

2 Cups Quinoa, cooked according to the package
24 Fresh Florida Strawberries sliced
2 scallions thinly sliced
¼ cup dried cranberries

Topping for Salad:

3 Tablespoons of toasted slivered almonds
Fresh Lime Zest


4 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Freshly Squeezed Lime to Taste
2 Tablespoons honey
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp chili powder
¼ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp pepper

Toss Salad to combine, mix dressing and pour over salad, top salad with almonds. Delicious, Light and Gluten Free! This salad is delicious when served on a bed of greens or stuffed in Pita Bread. When Bell Peppers are in, this salad is great used as a stuffing. You can also sub in Raspberries, Blueberries, or Blackberries or a combo of berries. Don’t like Almonds, sub in pistachios. Don’t like dried cranberries, sub in diced dried Apricots. Use your imagination and design this salad with your favorite flavors.