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Life in Solivita and Central Florida

Since most of our residents have had their second vaccines, Solivita is starting to buzz with activity once again. Our Ceramics Gallery is open for classes, our Art Gallery is open for watercolor, acrylic and oil classes, and our Dragon Boat Club is on the lake paddling. The Men’s Softball Clinic and the Pickleball Clinic is getting back in the game too and any moment we expect Water Volleyball to resume.

Our clubs are starting to resume In Person Meetings and trips are in the planning to local venues and travel to far-away places. It is nice to pass the horseshoe pits and once again hear the ring of shoes hitting the stake, see groups of folks out having fun again tossing balls around, enjoying walks in the parks, fishing, and gathering at the tennis and pickleball courts. Our pools are heated to the perfect temperature and folks are out and about resuming water exercises, swimming, and enjoying the fun of safely sharing time with old friends and enjoying the chance to make some new ones.

In April Lee and I took a morning off and went Blueberry Picking with friends at our local Blueberry Farm in Haines City. Not only was it fun, but it was a great morning out. The morning dew was still on the berries, the sky was clear, and it turns out Blueberry picking is quite easy. The bushes are about 5 – 6’ tall, making this adventure fun, easy and tasty. Last time I picked Strawberries my back hurt for days. Florida Blueberries are sweet, juicy and are delicious fresh picked, or frozen for use later. So far we have enjoyed Blueberry Cake and Pie, Blueberry Pancakes, Blueberry Salad Dressing, and lots of Blueberry smoothies. I am sharing my Blueberry Corncake recipe with y’all, it is delicious and made a tasty breakfast. All ideas for fresh blueberries appreciated. We were too busy during Strawberry Season to go to the Strawberry Festival or to go Strawberry Picking this year, but we surely made up for lost time with the baskets of Blueberries we picked.

Recipe for Blueberry Cake

1 1/3 Cup yellow cornmeal
1 Cup AP Flour
¾ Cup Sugar
2.5 Tsp. baking powder
¼ Tsp Salt
1 Large Lemon
1 Egg Lightly Beaten
1 5/3 Oz. Carton Plain Low-Fat Greek Yogurt
½ Cup Milk
1/3 Cup Butter, melted
1 ¼ Cup Fresh Blueberries
2 Tsp. Sliced Almonds
1 Tbsp Honey

Preheat oven to 350 Degrees. Grease bottom and sides of 9 x 5” loaf pan. Stir together the first 5 ingredients and make a well in center of flour mixture.

Remove 1 Tbsp zest and squeeze 3 Tbsp juice from lemon. In a separate bowl combine lemon zest, 1 Tbsp of the juice, and the next 4 ingredients (through butter). Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened (batter should be lumpy). Fold in blueberries. Spread batter into prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle with almonds.

Bake 50 to 55 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine remaining 2 Tbsp. Lemon Juice and honey.

Immediately brush loaf with honey mixture. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove and cool completely on a wire rack. Wrap and Store Overnight before slicing for breakfast the next morning.
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June is Waterlily Season at McKee Gardens

Even if you do not make it to see the Magnificent Waterlily Display, McKee has beautiful gardens, and pathways to enjoy anytime, but if you do get to experience the Waterlily Celebration on June 19th, you will be amazed. The ponds and waterways throughout the garden are adorned with over 80 varieties and over 300 potted and 100 free range plants including day and night blooming varieties.

McKee Gardens has an interesting history, and we are fortunate that the land developers Arthur McKee and Waldo Sexton never planted citrus on this tropical paradise as originally planned. The property’s natural beauty was deemed too special in its native state to disturb so McKee and Sexton employed landscape architect William Lyman Phillips, of the esteemed firm of Frederick Law Olmsted, to design the basic infrastructure of streams, ponds, and trails. Phillips, and his team, assembled an outstanding collection of waterlilies and orchids, augmenting native vegetation with ornamental plants and exotic specimens from around the world. In the 1940’s over 100,000 visitors enjoyed the gardens annually.

In the 1970’s, attendance at the gardens waned, tourism changed, and the family-owned establishment was unable to complete with the bigger Florida Tourist Attractions. Sadly, in 1976 McKee Jungle Gardens closed and was sold to condominium developers. All but 18 acres of McKee Jungle Gardens were developed. The precious undeveloped 18 acres were once the center of McKee Jungle Gardens and for 20 years lay dormant until a group of community visionaries got to work. In 1994, with the help of The Trust for Public Land, a fund-raising campaign was launched to buy the land from the developer, who at the time was finalizing plans for a shopping center. With bare hands, basic tools and unimaginable heart, volunteers of every age cleared the trails to reveal once again the jungle’s treasures. This community effort touched so many that even a young girl gave her weekly allowance to help rescue the Gardens. On November 18, 2001, the formal dedication of the saved, restored, and newly named McKee Botanical Garden was celebrated.

Today, McKee Botanical Garden remains true to Arthur McKee and Waldo Sexton’s vision. There are over 10,000 native and tropical plants to behold and one of Florida’s largest and most celebrated collections of water lilies. Several restored architectural treasures such as The Hall of Giants and Spanish Kitchen have been meticulously restored to Sexton’s original vision.

Now, McKee Botanical Gardens is a Florida Landmark listed on the National Register of Historic places and is recognized by the Garden Conservancy as a preservation project of national significance. It is a wild place, as its founders envisioned, a Florida Treasure, and a place of natural beauty.

350 US Highway 1
Vero Beach, FL 32962

Admission to McKee Botanical Garden is $15 adults and $10 children. Purchase your tickets in advance. Visit McKee Botanical Gardens on the Website at

McKee Botanical Garden is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday and on Sunday noon to 5 p.m.

You can visit McKee Gardens in a day or take an overnight out to the area, if you do overnight there is plenty to see and enjoy in Vero Beach. Bring your bathing suit, enjoy a cool dip in the water, or after a lovely afternoon in the gardens, chill out at Archie’s the local beach bar and burger joint.

You can’t beat living in Florida there is always something beautiful and fun to do.
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An Exciting New Community!

As Taylor Morrison moves into the final phase of building in Solivita they have set their sights on developing the Westview Project, formally known as Solivita Grand, a mixed-use, multi-generational community that stretches across 2,717 acres from Cypress Parkway north along the Poinciana Parkway. When complete, this single master-planned community will contain 4,448 single family homes (including townhomes) and 1,653 multifamily units, for a total of 6,101 dwelling units. This plan also includes 210,000 square feet of commercial use and a school.

We are all excited about this new development and are expecting to see new home models soon. This news is good for our property values and for our lifestyle, now your children and grandchildren will be able to live and work near you, live next to you, or reside in your new Westview Home. Multi-Generational Communities have gained in popularity since our Recent COVID Experience. We have had many clients tell us that their inability to hop on a plane and see the kids was difficult for them. The good news is the kids can move down to Central Florida and be close to their folks, good jobs are here, affordable housing is here, and families can once again be reunited.

The new development plans are stunning, there will be a school, a commercial district, and multiple communities, with some age-restricted communities. Plans for the new development are not yet final, but so far, what I have seen looks good and is an answer to what our buyers have been looking for. This new development will be a big boost to our local economy and our community. Bring it on Taylor Morrison, we have clients lining up and ready to move into Phase 1.

As our fellow Solivita Citizens know, Poinciana is booming and the new Westview Project is not the only project currently under construction, as Taylor Morrison has also proposed the development of the Solivita Marketplace, which would be anchored by Poinciana Medical Center. The Marketplace is approved for 1.8 million square feet of commercial development that includes the hospital, office, and retail space. The property will also have a mix of single family and multifamily dwellings, plus an assisted living facility.

The beauty of Life in Solivita; within our gates, our streets are development free, our community is beautiful and peaceful. Solivita gives us the best of both worlds; a peaceful, natural place to live and play plus a thriving community that brings us a good ROI. Paradise has been found in Poinciana.

Take a look around our website and see for yourself what Solivita and our local community has to offer. You will be glad you looked around, Central Florida is a great place to live, a healthy place to raise a family and a wonderful place to spend your retirement years.

Read all about us in Orlando Family Magazine. Lorraine was voted by clients and readers of the Magazine as one of Orlando’s Leading Real Estate Professionals. A big thank you to all our clients, friends, family, and Readers who put their faith in Lorraine Valdes and Bella Verde Realty. Make your dream of home ownership in Central Florida a Realty by Calling Us Today!
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Solivita Activities

Come on down to the Stonegate Golf Club and visit with Manny, one of our wonderful bartenders. Manny is busy mixing up his Signature Cherry Blossom Cocktail this month. If you love to play around at being a bartender, why not take a cocktail class. Solivita is hosting one and like all things Solivita does, it is sure to not only be a learning experience, but lots of fun as well. A while back Lee and I took a Vodka Class. I am still mixing up the recipe we learned for Cucumber Vodka Cocktails. Refreshing, and each time we mix one up, we recall the fun we had with the Solivita Staff and our neighbors and friends (AKA Fellow Students).

Happy Spring. Hope to See You Soon.
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Orchids on our Lanai

We generally have lots of Orchids in bloom, especially at this time of the year, but unfortunately not so this year. Over a year ago, we had a storm blow through our lanai, it blew all our orchids off the garden shelves leaving us with shattered pots, broken orchid stems and uprooted plants. We rebuilt the orchid bench, repotted, fertilized, and nurtured the orchids and hoped for recovery. We have had a few blooms, but unfortunately, we seem to have lots of unhappy orchid plants. Quite a few factors could be at play; the winter seemed cooler than normal, we have had quite a bit of rain; and our orchids did have a huge shock. Lee and I are giving our Orchids one last chance to regain their former beauty. Over the last few weeks, we trimmed the orchids back, repotted them again, and fingers crossed, so far our orchids seem to have a new vitality. We are looking forward to seeing beautiful colorful blooms. We do have some good Orchid News, our Chocolate Orchid is blooming, happy, and providing us with beautiful delicate blooms and a delicious chocolate fragrance.

Now that we are vaccinated, we are starting to go out and about. We are still maintaining social distance and wearing masks; but have lots of plans for “restart" back to life, we once called normal. I personally am looking forward to enjoying lunch in a restaurant outside, visiting the hairdresser, getting a manicure, and taking myself on a shopping spree without feeling anxious or worrying if my actions will result in illness. It has been a long time, and I have a lot of pent-up shopping energy. Hope the local stores are well stocked because here I come and am bringing Mom along too; she can’t wait!!!
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The Annual Migration

As the bird population begin their journey north and west to their Spring and Summer Homes so do the Solivita Florida Snowbirds. We had an isolated winter due to COVID-19, but it was still a good winter. The sunshine kept us going, our lovely weather allowed for lots of quiet walks, cooking, and dining outside in the peace of our community. We enjoyed a swim early in the morning and late in the day when the pools were quiet, we took lots of rides on our bikes and in our golf carts, and now hope has arrived in the form of an amazing vaccine. Freedom is once again possible and with it comes many new opportunities for each of us to get out an explore and enjoy friends and family. Time to start Planning your next adventure in Florida. Our next Florida Adventure is to the Naples Botanical Gardens. This is the perfect time of the year to enjoy the gardens, the living plant collections are continually evolving and this beautiful 170 acre preserve features succulents, water plants, Asian and Brazilian plants and an orchid boardwalk. If you have your children with you, visit the children’s garden, it offers an interactive experience for children with colorful vegetables, blooming flowers, and butterflies. Lots to do and enjoy in the Naples, Florida area. If the gardens are not your thing, then head to the beach, Naples is the home of Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park or to Clam Pass Park, both spots have nice beaches and are naturally beautiful. You will probably even get to see dolphins swimming in the water. Lots of facilities, parking, bathrooms, beach rentals, and picnic spots. The water is clear and calm. If you choose Clam Pass Park, you will enjoy a tram ride through the mangrove forest to get to the beach. It is a pretty drive to a lovely beach, either of these spots are nice places to spend the morning or afternoon surrounded by the natural beauty of Florida.

Naples has some nice places to stay and some great places to enjoy a meal or two. Our day at the beach inspired us to enjoy a “Down the Shore” Dinner on our lanai.

Recipe for our Shore Shrimp Boil Dinner. Easy, tasty and a great option for a hearty meal that will feed a hungry beach crowd.

Take out your big Lobster Pot and combine the following ingredients.
4 Cups Tomato Juice
4 Bay Leaves
2 Lemons Halved and Sliced
1 Orange Halved and Sliced
¾ Cup Old Bay Seasoning
¼ cup salt
2 Pounds of fingerling potatoes, halved lengthwise
Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are almost tender, 5 to 7 minutes.


6 Ears of Corn, shucked and cut into 2” pieces
1 Pound of Smoked Sausage (andouille or kielbasa) thinly sliced
4 Pounds of Medium size, whole head on shrimp.

Cook until the shrimp is bright pink, and tails are curled, 3 to 5 minutes. If you have a perforated steamer basket before you start the cooking process insert it in your pot and cook within the basket. If not, no worries, just use a spider cooking utensil to remove and serve dinner. Put some newspaper on your picnic table, hand out the paper towels, slice some fresh lemons, add some chopped parsley and you will have the perfect beach meal.
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Your Invitation to Buy in Poinciana, Florida

Recently quite a few of my clients have purchased homes in Solivita and the surrounding areas due to work. Are you a builder, a handyman, a medical professional, an experienced IT professional? Are you creative, inventive, or would you like to work in an office or a retail setting? Jobs are coming to Poinciana and the areas surrounding Solivita. Housing is booming, road construction is all around us, and companies are moving in too. Florida is not only Blooming, but it is Booming too!

In the past, most of our Solivita Clients came to BVR as part of their retirement plan, but lately many are buying in Solivita and our surrounding area, planning to work a few more years, and retire when they are ready. This is a great plan, you have an opportunity to get to know the community, make friends, and enjoy time in Florida as you wind down your work life. When Lee and I came to Central Florida, we too came to work and ease into retirement. Thus far, we are still working hard, and know easing into retirement will come sometime later. Marketing homes to buyer’s planning to continue their work life, is a market in Solivita we had not experienced in quite a few years, but with the recent job boom it has been fun seeing new folks move their families to Florida and establish a new life in a new neighborhood.

If you are 55 or over, Solivita is the place to be. Solivita has over 4,200 acres of preserves, lakes, ponds, pools, and parks. We are a gated community and a great place to make friends and enjoy visiting family. If you are under 55 years of age, and have school age children, this area is a great place to start life in Florida. Our area offers many new and resale homes at reasonable prices for families. Why pay huge rents, high mortgages, and property taxes when you can own your own home in Florida, find a good paying job, and enjoy all the benefits our surrounding communities offer.

Come to Florida and see how fabulous life can be. The sun is always shining, the weather is tropical, the plants are in bloom 12 months a year and Florida offers good affordable housing. What are you waiting for? Call a BVR Agent today to see all we have to offer.

Prices on homes are escalating all over the US, so the time to buy is now while the interest rates are low. If you have a family, now is the time to resettle into a good community, and get the children enrolled in school before a new school year starts. If you are working remotely and planning to move out of a city, the time is right to make your move. If you are looking for work, now is a good time to start the job search. Call a Bella Verde Realtor to find the home of your dreams.

Taylor Morrison is building a new Multi-Gen Community steps from the West Gate of Solivita. The perfect place for 55 Plus Residents and their families to build a life together. There will be schools, shopping, pools, activities and Grandma and Grandpa can own their own home up the street from their children. Now you really can have it all! A perfect set up for families looking to live in the warmth and beauty of Central Florida but not be too far from the families they love. Plans have been approved by the county and the State and the builders are moving ground as I write! The first homes in our new neighborhood will be ready for occupancy within one year, making this the right time to start planning your new life. Call a BVR Realtor and be in the know on the new Community in our neighborhood.
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St. Patrick’s Day

Corned Beef, Green Beer, Irish Soda Bread, The Wearing of the Green, Clover; St. Patrick’s Day is the Perfect Way to Greet Spring. May the Luck of the Irish be with us all as we wait for the Pandemic to disappear and our lives to return to normal. Thank you to the caring Solivita Team, every resident over 65 was offered the COVID-19 Vaccine right here in our own community.

Solivita did a wonderful job and deserves a big Thank You. I know I thanked the Solivita Team last month in our newsletter, but I felt they deserved a second shout out for a job well done. Again, this year, St. Patrick’s Day will be a low-key event in our family as we are still distancing for our safety, the safety of our friends, our clients, and our community. Must admit we are feeling the seeds of adventure emerge, and I am starting to think that by year’s end we will be planning a few days away from the Safety of the “Solivita Campus”.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to You All.

“May Your Troubles Be Less and Your Blessings be More and Nothing but Happiness Come Through Your Door”.
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Virtual/Online Classes

If you are not quite ready to take a trip to the goat farm, how about taking a Cooking Class Online from Sur La Table. You can visit Sur La Table on the web at and scroll down to the online cooking classes and take a look at their offerings. Sur La Table has online cooking classes for home chefs. These classes are not the generic video cooking tutorials you have seen, at Sur La Table, instructors host gourmet cooking classes online in real time. You can ask questions while cooking and you can interact with the Chef. The Sur La Table Staff provides you with a prep packet and a shopping list beforehand so you can follow along with live online cooking classes in your own kitchen. At the end of each interactive session, you will have a delicious meal to enjoy. Classes are for beginners and experts and cover all kinds of cuisine. Enjoy some “me time” in the kitchen with Sur La Table, learn a new skill, and have fun time that ends with a good dinner, or involve your partner in this activity and enjoy a fun date afternoon without leaving home. Online classes start at just $29.00 per household.
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Watermelon and Goat Cheese Salad

¼ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
¼ Tsp Salt
Ground Pepper to taste
4 cups Spring Mix Greens
4 cups seedless watermelon cut into 1 inch pieces
4 oz or as much as you prefer of goat cheese
½ cup toasted hazelnuts or toasted walnuts chopped

Whisk together the first 4 ingredients.
In a large bowl, gently toss the spring mix and watermelon together with the vinaigrette and before servicing top with goat cheese and nuts.

For a different taste, this salad would be good if you substitute the greens with baby arugula or spinach. Next time I make this salad I am going to experiment by deleting the nuts and adding cucumbers, tomatoes, and a few olives into the mix.

Before we know it the heat of summer will be upon us, time to dust off my salad recipes and add some new salad ideas to our dinner menus.

Or you could just spread some delicious goat cheese on a cracker and munch away.

If you are not quite ready to take a trip to the goat farm, how about taking a Cooking Class Online from Sur La Table. You can visit Sur La Table on the web at and scroll down to the online cooking classes and take a look at their offerings.