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Spring is Time to Pick Fruit in Florida

Ridge Island Groves, 6000 Polk City Road, Haines City 

A short ride and a fun stop to take the grand kids.  Local and family run.  You can pick oranges, peaches, or blueberries when you visit the farm.  Check to see what is in season before you go.  The best time to pick oranges is between December and May, when they are most plentiful, although the season runs from October to June.

Looking to pick blueberries, visit the farm in Mid-April through May.  Looking to pick peaches, visit the farm Mid-April to June.   Don’t want to pick, ask for a farm tour or just visit the farmstand and enjoy fresh-squeezed OJ, jams, jellies, or delicious homemade ice cream.

On your way home, stop by Webb’s Candy Shop, it is Old Florida at its best, with homemade candy, fudge, ice cream and lots of friendly folks who have been making candy for over 85 years.  

Don’t want to pick fruit, Celebrate the Season’s Bounty with the Farmer’s Harvest Dinner hosted by Southern Hills Farms at 16651 Schofield Rd., Clermont, FL 34714 phone:  407-986-5806.

This is an adult-exclusive, memorable night on the farm with live music, a curated dinner and dessert menu made with fresh, locally grown ingredients prepared by chefs.  Enjoy wine pairing suggestions, craft beer and/or the signature cocktail for the evening.  Enjoy fresh air, live music, delicious food, gather around the firepits or play a friendly game.  This event will make for a most memorable evening.  March 24th and April 28th. Country Casual Dining and Dancing on the Farm.   Visit the farm virtually to get the info at :

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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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Orange Nut Bread

This recipe is easy, delicious, and the resulting bread Freezes Well.  After baking and cooling, I slice the loaf up and wrap individual slices in cello and freeze them.  Lee loves this for breakfast or a snack.  I have made this with nuts and for dried fruit, this loaf is good both ways. 

  • 1 ¾ cups All Purpose Flour
  • 2 ½ Tsp. Baking Powder
  • 3/4 Tsp. Salt
  • ½ Cup Frozen Orange Juice Concentrate, thawed
  • ¼ Cup Water
  • 1 ¼ Cups sugar
  • 5 Tbsp. Unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • ½ cup Chopped Toasted Almonds or ½ cup dried fruit
  • 1 ½ Tsp grated orange zest

Preheat Oven to 350 degrees and lightly butter a 8.5 x 4.5 x 2.5 loaf pan, dust with flour.   Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a small bowl. Combine Orange Concentrate and water in another small bowl.  In a large bowl beat sugar and butter with a mixer for one minute. Beat in eggs one at a time. Mix in flour and orange concentrate mixture in 3 additions. Do not overbeat.  Add orange zest and almonds.  Bake bread until tester inserted in center comes out clean. About 55 minutes. Cool bread in pan on rack for about 5 minutes and turn out completely.  Eat and enjoy.   

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Trippin with the Bella Verde Team to Savannah, GA

Savannah is the oldest city in Georgia and is only a 5 hour drive from Solivita, but a world apart. Worth the visit, the Downtown Historic district has cobblestone streets and walks lined with moss covered trees, amazing wrought iron fences, gates, and stunning red brick homes that feature interior woodwork from the 1800’s. The Squares are amazing, the parks are filled with southern charm, and French style public gardens are abundant. Please don’t visit in the heat of the year, as Savannah can be quite steamy, but if you visit in the early spring or fall you will find Savannah amazing.  In the 1950’s downtown Savannah was crumbling, million dollar townhomes were empty, crime was high and the area had become quite sketchy.  Just In time,  Anna Colquitt Hunter and six generous wives of wealthy, influential men gave birth to the The Historic Savannah Foundation (HSF), and with it the restoration and the preservationist movement in Savannah began. HSF saved 145 buildings between 1955 and 1980, an amazing achievement, but despite these efforts, historic Savannah remained under threat. In 1979 Paula Wallace and her family purchased the Savannah Volunteer Guards Armory and SCAD was born. SCAD is the Savannah College of Art and Design, an amazing university where creative, talented folks learn the art of design. SCAD has restored many of the historic buildings and turned them into studios, dorms, classrooms, museums, motels, residences, and transformed Savannah into a destination rich in beauty and history.  

Do you Love Retro, stay at the Thunderbird Inn, if you do, you will find a can of RC Cola and a Moon Pie in your room upon check in.  If you love staying in an old, restored home, try a room at the 17hundred90 Inn.  Old, quirky but a restful getaway. Please know these are3 not 5 Star Accommodations, but rather charming spots to call home for a few days in the historic district.  Park your car and enjoy walks in the city.  If neither of these are you for you, book a room at the JW Marriott, and enjoy an amazing luxury stay.    

All this talk about touring reminds me that Savannah has lots of great local and world class dining, and when we were last in town we enjoyed both.  Try the Grey for a delicious evening. The Grey restaurant is in a 1938 art deco Greyhound Bus Terminal that has been fully restored to its original luster.  Enjoy Dinner or Sunday Brunch, or a drink and some oysters at the bar.  This is a fun restaurant with lots of charm and good taste. Or try the Public Kitchen and Bar in Savannah, it is fun, fresh and serves local produce.  While wandering around the historic area we enjoyed a great lunch, cocktails, the best Caesar Salad ever at Public. We stayed near Frali Gourmet and enjoyed a welcome to the city plate of homemade pasta and a delicious Arugula salad.  Frali is a casual but tasty stop, great for sandwiches, fresh pasta and has a market to purchase specialty items to bring the taste of Savannah home.  Savannah is a great get away and one you should put on your bucket list.

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Is It Time to Buy or Sell?

Well for the first time in many, many months we have a good quantity of homes in Solivita for sale and the inventory of homes for sale in Central Florida is again on the rise. Good News for Home Buyers, mixed news for Home Sellers. More homes on the market equates to more competition which equates to a better value for buyers.  Home Sellers, please do not despair, the value of homes, although not climbing, has not reduced substantially. Total Home Inventory is still quite low and lots of folks are still looking to buy, retire, obtain a second home, etc. so although the market has changed, the bottom has not fallen out.  Good News is Interest Rates seem to be steady, the news on the economy is good, and the hope is the market will again continue to strengthen.

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Return to our Monthly Newsletter

It has been a few months since my office wrote our monthly newsletter and we want to apologize for this delay and explain what happened. Our dear sweet mom, Angela, had a slight stroke on Election Day and has kept us hopping, leaving this letter writer with little extra time to jot down notes. The Very Good News, Angela is on the mend and “feeling like her old self again”.  She has had great care from our local doctors, is getting wonderful PT from therapists in Solivita who visit her home 3 times a week; and has had the help of a wonderful CNA in her home for the last few months. Combined with the love of family and friends and great medical assistance Angela is starting to walk around the neighborhood and going out with family and friends.  So now that mom is surely on the mend, I am finding a bit more time to resume writing the newsletter and filling you all in on what’s happening.

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Restaurant Review: 7593 Chop House, 7593 Gathering Drive at Reunion Resort

Lee recently took me to the Chop House for my Birthday Dinner, and we had a Delicious Date Night Out. Steak, lamb chops, signature cocktails, a good wine list, creamy garlic mashed potatoes, sauteed mushrooms, and grilled asparagus.  The restaurant is a relaxed, comfortable space and while dining we enjoyed a piano playing in the background. The night was fun in this high-end spot that is decorated with a celebrity golf theme. The waitstaff was helpful, friendly, and knowledgeable. In the past, Lee and I both enjoyed celebration meals in Forte, the former restaurant in this location.  After dinner in the Chop House we both feel we have found our “Forte Replacement Restaurant.”  I would not call this restaurant a Tuesday Night Dinner Spot, but on a special occasion, this is an excellent choice for a wonderful evening out.

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Current Housing Market

The current housing market is still strong but is showing signs of cooling off, driven by climbing interest rates.  The number of active listings and the length of time homes are on the market are climbing along with the interest rates, but homes are still selling at fair prices.  Predictions are that the housing market is beginning to reset to a more buyer-friendly direction.  Two factors driving our successful current housing market is that we are in an incredibly strong labor market driving wages up. Higher wages keep folks working later into their careers and the big plus; the current business environment offers folks the ability to negotiate remote working situations.  Lately we have sold homes to multiple clients who move to Solivita and work remotely. Every client has said “It is Nice to work in the sunshine of Florida”, plus all are looking forward to a winter without a snowy commute.  One of my clients said they love the ability to swim in the early morning or late afternoon while working remotely and maintaining a salary. Nice Gig and a Great way to ease into retirement. Lee and I are Looking forward to seeing you at the pool with your laptop.

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Make Your Home Welcoming

Have you ever entered someone’s home and immediately felt relaxed and comfortable? What is it that makes the difference between homes that exude an immediate sense of welcome and hospitality, and those that may not? Is it the home environment, or the host? In my experience, both play an important role. Whether you entertain occasionally, or just want to be prepared for the pop-in visitor, below are a few WELCOME tips from our Bella Verde Realtors. 

Declutter your space.  If you feel comfortable in your home so will your guests.  File your paperwork away, declutter your kitchen counters, stow your gear away in the garage, or make space in your closet. Tackle your most visible spaces first.  This way whenever company walks into your home, you are comfortable and will welcome guests with open arms. Your house does not need to be spotless just orderly. 

Is your sofa, chair or ottoman looking tired? A great trick to clean up your well-worn but loved furniture is by buying a new, textured neutral throw and draping it appropriately.   On the couch a throw will cover a multitude of spills or stains.  If you need to cover a sin or two on your ottoman, artfully drape your throw, and stage a wooden tray over it. You can also add a few coasters and your remote controls to give the tray purpose. Now with one simple throw and bit of flair you have just moved from messy to orderly. 

Warm up your spaces with accent pillows.  Accent pillows bring color and texture into any room giving a dated couch a fresh look or accentuating the season.  New accent pillows are a great way to freshen up a space. 

Fresh Flowers always brighten up a space and if they have a scent even better.  Not one to maintain fresh flowers, no worries, plant a few pots filled with succulents.  Scatter pots of succulents around your home, they bring life and beauty into your space and are easy to maintain.

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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.