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PIZZA ANYONE?

Lee and I came from NY and NJ and have had Pizza from Rome to Florida with many slices in between. Fact – each time we are up north we cannot leave without taking a trip to Connecticut to visit Frank Pepe’s Pizza or Sally’s in New Haven. Pepe’s for the Clam Pie and Sally’s for the Tomato Pie. We have had a few good slices in Florida, but now we have found some great slices at Pizza Bruno, a delicious out of the way spot in the Hourglass District of Orlando. Casual, Delicious, bubbling hot wood fired pizza, with a tasty crust, a nice craft beer selection on tap, decent wine, and the perfect spot to spend an easy weekend afternoon. The restaurant is comfortable, industrial with concrete floors, high ceilings and long wooden tables but it is the smell of the wood-fired pizzas cooking in the oven that grabs you first. The pizza is done my favorite way, thin crust, well done, with a bit of char and smoke. Pizza Bruno has some interesting and creative flavors, Lee’s personal favorite is the Peach Pie, a bubbly hot pie with fresh peaches, artisan made cheese, Nueske’s bacon and topped with arugula. My favorite is the Ninety Two with fresh mozz, Italian sausage, roasted red peppers, mushrooms, red onions, olives, oregano, chili flakes and pecorino. But I do not think there is a pizza in the oven here you will not enjoy. Of course, Bruno’s cooks up traditional pizzas too, or you can always create your own. Pizzas are not the only items on the menu, but I cannot imagine a reason you would want to order anything else. In fact, Pizza Bruno makes so many pies, that they have two wood fired ovens burning. Interesting menu, great concept, and a nice experience. On our first visit we were greeted like old friends and that welcome has continued to this day. They do have dining outside, but not in the rain, as the patio roof currently has a leak. Insider Tip – If you go on Monday, the Pizza Margherita is on special.   You can visit Pizza Bruno 7 days a week, dinner only Monday to Friday but open from 11 -10 on weekends. Pizza Bruno is at 3990 Curry Ford Road, Orlando. If you have tickets for a show at the Plaza Live Theatre on Bumby Ave., Pizza Bruno is a good spot to enjoy dinner before the show. Drive time is about an hour and ten minutes and the good news is you do not even have to take I4 to get there. Mangia!

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Current Housing Market

Good News for Seller’s – We are Still in a Seller’s Market and Home prices are holding near record highs, but sales have slowed slightly. Nationwide, Redfin Reports that roughly 60,000 home purchase agreements fell through in June or about 14.9% of homes that went under contract in June. In our brokerage we have been fortunate and only had one contract cancel recently but this could be an indicator of things to come. Redfin reports this number of cancelled contracts is the highest percentage since March and April 2020 when Covid 19 ground the housing market to a halt.

There are a number of reasons that contracts fall through, inspection issues, a life event, and now the main reason, rising mortgage rates are forcing some buyers out of the market. If rates were at 5% when an offer was made but reached 5.8% by the time the deal was set to close, the buyer may no longer be in a position that allows them to qualify for a loan.Since the housing market has cooled in recent weeks, as the Federal Reserve has boosted interest rates to quell inflation, house hunters have a bit more freedom to seek concessions from sellers, but higher rates also make housing less affordable.

Bottom Line, if you find a house you love, make an offer, and joyfully enjoy your new address. Historically home values hold and if you remain in a home for over 5 years, and you love living in it, you cannot go wrong. 

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Weekend or a Week in Vero Beach

Time to Take a Trip to the Beach. In Florida we have great beach choices, we have 825 miles of accessible beaches and an extensive coastline. Lee and I always choose an East Coast Beach in the Summer and a Gulf beach in the Winter. August is a great time to plant your umbrella in the sand on the Atlantic Ocean and Vero Beach is a good place to start. Vero Beach is only about 80 miles from Solivita and a fun destination. This beach community is nestled on the Indian River Lagoon along Florida’s Treasure Coast and is a great Old Florida Escape, casual and fun with beautiful natural surroundings, museums, beaches, gardens, and art. 

A week in Vero will fly by, spend a few days at the beach, and sprinkle in visits to various spots Vero Offers. Visit the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge is home to more than 300 species of birds, including pelicans, egrets, herons, and ibises. Enjoy kayaking, fishing, and hiking at the refuge and even if you are not a bird watcher you will enjoy being surrounded by the diverse bird population that is attracted to the area. Of course, in the summer months not all birds visit the Refuge, but if you love the Refuge, plan to return in the fall and winter months to enjoy the white pelicans when they make their annual pilgrimage to the Refuge. 

The Vero Beach Museum of Art is internationally recognized as one of the top cultural attractions for its superb art collection. This museum has over 50,000 Feet of Floor space and offers something for everyone, a good respite from the sun. Much of the art on display is contemporary, but the museum does have a good selection of older pieces on display as well. 

Visit the Environmental Learning Center in Vero Beach, it is a great place to learn about the local ecosystem while soaking in the fresh air available in abundance throughout its 64 acres. This is a great spot for a family outing or a day trip. Explore the center’s miles of trails winding through lush vegetation and enjoy the views of the Indian River Lagoon and/or take a pontoon boat tour. The Environmental Learning Center is on Live Oak Drive in Vero and is open 7 days a week. 

We always love to go to McKee Botanical Gardens, but August is hot, so my suggestion is to wait until the weather cools down. McKee Gardens is a lush, tropical oasis and a hidden gem in the sunshine state. it is a beautiful place to spend a day exploring. McKee Botanical Gardens are beautiful and showcase a wide variety of plant life, as well as a large array of sculptures and fountains. 

Vero has so many diverse activities including The McLarty Treasure Museum, The Hallstrom Farmstead, the Riverside Theatre, the Farmer’s Market in Oceanside, the Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area, the Heritage Center & Indian River Citrus Museum, not to mention some great restaurants, delicious seafood, and awesome beach hangouts.  

We like Vero for the activities, the beautiful natural surroundings, and the “get away from it all” feeling a few days on the beach offers.

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Watermelon Granita Recipe

When it is hot the last thing any of us want to do is turn on the oven, but Lee and I have the fix for dessert on a Hot Summer Day, Watermelon Granita. This recipe makes a cool, refreshing dessert and no special equipment required. Only a few ingredients, and a tasty way to beat the summer heat. We have even served this granita in a glass with a shot of rum, tequila or vodka. So, it can be a summer sun quencher for adults or a dessert after dinner for all to share.

  

Recipe:

7 cups cubed watermelon

The Zest of One Lime 

3 medium limes, juiced  (zest the lime before juicing)

1/3 cup sugar. Taste the watermelon, if sweet you can reduce the sugar. 

 

Place the lime juice, zest, watermelon, and sugar in a blender. You may need to do this in a few batches. Blend until pureed.

 

Pour the pureed watermelon juice into a 9 x 13” casserole dish and place in the freezer. Cover with plastic wrap. Freeze for 1 hour, remove the granita from the freezer and use a fork to scrape the granita. Return the dish to the freezer for another hour, do this once every hour until the granita is frozen, approx. 4 hours till done. When done Use a fork to scrape the granita into fine fluffy crumbles. Easy, Delicious, Refreshing. Serve and enjoy.

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Fun Facts about Florida.

Did you know that Florida has the longest coastline in the contiguous US. We have 825 miles of accessible beaches, and the coastline is 1,197 statute miles.

Did you know that Florida has more than 700 freshwater springs.

Did you know that Florida has 7,700 lakes, 11,000 miles of rivers, and 2,276 miles of tidal shoreline.

Did you know that Florida’s largest river, the St. Johns River, is one of only a handful of major rivers that flow from south to north.

Did you know that Florida has produced more than 900 world fishing records, more than any other state or country.

Did you know that wherever you are in Florida, you are never more than 60 miles from the nearest body of salt water. I always say Living in Central Florida puts you Center to all Florida has to offer. 

Well Now that You Know more about Florida, come down and visit, and see for yourself how good life can be in Solivita. 

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Beat the Heat by Visiting one of the below Indoor Venues

MOAS – Museum of Arts and Sciences in Daytona Beach

A Wonderful Museum for all.  Do you love paintings, sculpture, ceramics, furniture, and other works of art?  If so you have come to the right museum, the Dow Gallery covers several eras of American History from the Pilgrim Century the 18th Century and the American Victorian Period. 

Do you love history?  If so, you have come to the right museum, tour the Root Family Collection which includes the largest Coca-Cola Memorabilia collection in the world.  Lots to experience and enjoy.

Do you love the sky? Visit the Planetarium and explore the galaxy while comfortably seated under a 40’ diameter dome structure with an amazing sound system and digital projector.   Explore all MOAS in one day or enjoy an exhibit, hit the beach, and return another day to visit again.  This museum has lots to offer with a wide range of permanent collections plus there are always several temporary exhibits on display.  

Would you rather search for treasure?

The McLarty Treasure Museum on A1A in Vero Beach may satisfy your craving.  Of course, you can’t take any treasure home with you, but I think you may enjoy a walk-through Florida History.  The museum occupies part of the former site of the Survivors’ and Salvagers’ Camp and exhibits the history of the 1715 Spanish Treasure Fleet’s failed mission. This famous fleet, a group of 11 ships, set sale from Havana to bring a massive haul of gold and silver coins to Spain when a hurricane struck off the Florida Coast.    A wonderful and informative movie is shown telling of the fleet’s attempt to return to Spain. In fact, treasure hunters still come to the town’s beaches to search for washed up coins from sunken ships. McLarty’s Treasure Museum is a mile north of Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge.

Or Enjoy a Solivita Activity 

You can always Stay within the gates of Solivita and enjoy any of our 14 pools, our hot tubs with the heat turned down in the summer months, a picnic at the park, a game of golf or tennis, a ride on your golf cart, lunch or dinner at the Bistro or Stonegate Grill or an evening at Mosaics.  Sign Up and Enjoy any one of the many activities Solivita Offers.  Attend a concert, a softball game, a tasting demo, a murder mystery dinner, a live performance, or one of the Wine Down Evenings Solivita is sponsoring.  There is always something to do in our own community.  I have been reading the July Reflections and see lots of planned activities for August and September too.  Looks like it is Time to get out and have some fun.   After all, living in Solivita means you don’t have to travel far to have fun and enjoy the laid-back lifestyle and beauty of Central Florida.

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End the Summer at the Pensacola Seafood Festival – September 23 – 25th

The Seafood Fest has lots to offer and is a nice way to spend the afternoon or the evening.  The seafood is local and fresh from the Gulf of Mexico and served by local restaurants.  You can enjoy shrimp, crab, scallops, grouper, alligator, crawfish, and for the folks who don’t love seafood you will find a large assortment of food including hot dogs, burgers, chicken, and nachos.  While enjoying festival goodies you can wander around and check out the local artists selling paintings, photography, ceramics, etc.  Enjoy the live bands, the chefs are doing cooking demonstrations, and as always the Florida Sun is shining.  What more could anyone want from a day.  The beauty of a festival in Pensacola is the beach.  You can stay in Pensacola, Fort Walton, Navarre, or any of the beach towns in the area that you love.  This is a great vacation stop and a nice celebration at the end of the summer.  Cool weather is coming, and I for one can’t wait.

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Too Hot to Cook, Why Not Enjoy Gazpacho with a Twist

  • 5 Cups cubed watermelon
  • 1 Cup Seeded and diced tomato
  • 2 cup peeled, seeded, and diced cucumber
  • ¼ cup chopped red onion
  • ½ jalapeno chili, seeded and minced.  If you like hot leave a few seeds
  • 2 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 Tsp Kosher salt.

Process watermelon, tomato, cucumber, onion, and jalapeno in a blender until smooth. Stir in last two ingredients. Cover and chill for 2 hours and serve chilled in bowls or glasses.  Chilling this soup in the fridge for a few hours gives the flavors a chance to mingle.   We enjoy this soup topped with a dollop of sour cream or crumbled feta, chopped cilantro or avocado.

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Looking for a new restaurant. Why not go Mediterranean and give Mediterranean Fresh Grill in Winter Haven a try.

The cuisine is Lebanese and Mediterranean and is served in a modern, spotless, restaurant that you might just drive past, as it is in a strip mall.  Please don’t let the location stop you from giving this eatery a chance.  Lee and I drove past this location many times and never gave the restaurant a second look, but while we were shopping in Winter Haven we met a group of folks that were raving about this spot.  On our next date night, we found ourselves in Winter Haven and decided to go Mediterranean.  We were both delighted by the service and the quality of the food.   The food is fresh and delicious making this stop a local gem and a place we plan to enjoy again. We recently had family with small children in town and we recommended they visit the Fresh Grill after spending the day in Legoland.  They too came back with amazing reviews.  If you are looking for a new, fresh flavor and a new restaurant add this one to your list.  If you go, let me know what you think, and we may meet you there.

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Downtown Kissimmee

Downtown is a nice spot to spend an afternoon or an evening, and it is within 20 minutes of Solivita.  The Historic Downtown District has come a long way from a Rough and Tumble Cow Town to a modern, outdoor, safe, yet fun downtown destination.  Take a walk in the park, enjoy the beautiful lakefront within walking distance to downtown, stop at one of the family owned shops or salons, shop for antiques, or visit Kissimmee Jewelers for a special gift.  If you are hungry, you have come to the right place as you can enjoy breakfast, a mid-morning snack, lunch, dinner, a good glass of wine, and complete your downtown day with a delicious cup of coffee at Carino’s Cafe.  Downtown Kissimmee has music, fun, and a laid-back vibe.  A short walk-up Broadway leads you to food from around the world, Latin, Turkish, Greek, Italian, Sushi, Caribbean, and Good Old American Flavors can all be enjoyed within a few blocks.  Spend an afternoon or evening in downtown, it is almost as good as taking a vacation, without the need for a plane ticket.   On weekends music wafts through the streets. Embrace the history that downtown Kissimmee offers us within a short ride from our gates.  The folks from Makinson’s Hardware have retired, so shopping in this very cool old space sadly is no longer possible, but currently this old building is being reinvented into a new Restaurant for us all to enjoy.  We are looking forward to the grand opening, hope to see you there.