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Grilling in Solivita

We have been making this Grilled Pork for quite awhile now and every time we do, we enjoy it. Sometimes we make a Mango Salsa, sometimes a Pear Salsa but it will be delicious with any Salsa you prefer. This week we enjoyed tender, tasty pork with Pear Salsa. This recipe will feed 8.

¼ cup fresh lime juice
3 Tbsp Olive Oil
3 garlic cloves minced
2 Tsp. Ground Cumin
2 Tsp. Dried Oregano
Salt and Pepper
2 Pounds pork tenderloin, cut ¾ “ slices
Combine all ingredients, then add pork. Turn to coat, cover, and refrigerate overnight. The next day before you grill drain and discard the marinade.
Grill pork, uncovered, over medium heat for 4 minutes on each side or until juices run clear.

Serve with the Salsa:

4 medium pears peeled and chopped
1/3 cup chopped red onion
3 Tbsp Fresh Mint Chopped
2 Tbsp Fresh Lime Juice
1 Tbsp grated Lime zest
1 Jalapeno Pepper, seeded and chopped
1 Tsp sugar
½ tsp pepper

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Visit the Stetson Mansion, a True Florida Gem

Ready for a Really Good Day Out and About, this tour is for you. The mansion offers visitors the most authentic historic site in Central Florida as 95% of the original mansion details have been restored and truly are stunning. The floors are works of art, gleaming and beautiful, the original electrical panel that Thomas Edison installed is amazing, beautiful furniture, the painted walls and ceilings are grand, and the personal stories about the Stetsons and the current owners are interesting and shed light on life in a Gilded Age Estate. This is a guided tour, and a tour you will love. Make a reservation as tours are limited; I know you will not be sorry, the mansion treats you to a trip back in time. Arrive early and enjoy a walk around the grounds, the gardens, and the lovely estate that Stetson Hats built.

Stetson was a mover and shaker in his time, he was born in Orange, NJ, one of 12 children, and learned the hat making trade from his Dad. John was ill as a young man and his family sent him to Colorado to “take in the fresh mountain air” and to heal. It was in Colorado that he became impressed with the local style of 10-gallon hats and when he returned East he settled in Philadelphia and opened a hat repair business which quickly blossomed into a manufacturing facility. John had the novel idea of using traveling salesmen to sell his hats, and John’s hats were constructed well and sold for fair prices. As the business grew, John took good care of his employees, their families, and the neighborhood where he had his factory. He had an automatic sprinkler installed, fire extinguishers on every floor and safety devices to keep the workers safe making him not only a great hat maker but a great employer too.

In 1885 Henry Deland, a friend of John Stetson, invited John to Florida where John spent the next 20 winters and became an active community leader. In 1888 John endowed an academy in DeLand, Florida. Later the academy changed its name and is now Stetson University.

You can visit the Stetson at : Please Purchase tickets in advance and enjoy the tour.

Deland is a quaint Southern town with a history that dates to the 1800s. The town has a small downtown area with brick streets, only a few stoplights, and is casual, and welcoming. Visitors will discover Deland to be a great place for well-known local chefs to experiment with Southern flavors and local ingredients. Classic Southern dishes, like fried chicken and collard greens, are paired with glasses of sweet tea with a slice of lemon on the side. Stroll along Main Street and through downtown, and you’ll see everything from Southern fried classics to innovative new dishes.

Casual Dining at BakeChop, Santorini Greek Cuisine or Pizza at Angelina’s all delicious, but there are lots of restaurants to choose from in Deland. Lots of competition, each restaurant Lee and I have tried has been good making it hard to recommend just one. We usually have an early lunch, enjoy the day out, and return home refreshed from our adventure. Lots of the restaurants in Deland are serving outside with tables on the sidewalk, but now that we are vaccinated, we feel we can safely enjoy an occasional meal inside.

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Thinking About Buying a Home, New or Resale?

This decision is totally yours and of course your finances, some folks like homes with a history and some only like shiny new ones. Each choice has an advantage. Newly constructed homes tend to cost more than similar pre-owned homes, difference; initially the maintenance and utilities on a new home is less expensive.

New Homes are constructed with today’s lifestyle in mind, wide open floorplans, kitchens that flow into family rooms, large bedrooms, and baths, with lots of natural light. On the flip side, a newly constructed home typically is not located on a premium lot, unless you are paying a lot premium, plus as projects progress the builders tend to build new homes on smaller lots. In addition, if the builder is building homes in your new neighborhood, you may find yourself living in a construction zone until your area is built out. On the other side, Resale homes tend to have larger lots with existing landscape, mature trees, beautiful gardens, and lovely peaceful privacy that the newly constructed building sites do not. Remember, landscaping is expensive and, although in Florida, plants grow rapidly it will take years to develop a mature landscape.

Of course, the decision is yours. The charm of building and moving into a spanking brand-new home is a joy, and for lots of folks a lifelong dream, but so is moving to a resale home that you can make your very own by adding your own personal design stamp. Re-Sale Homes in Solivita are still young & are built so that the interior walls can be removed easily, as the walls in our homes are not supporting. Whatever decision you make, you will surely make changes to a new home as well as a resale home. Wherever you go, Bella Verde Realty wants you to be happy with your decision and will guarantee that our realtors will devote time and will present every option available to you. Our realtors are skilled and knowledgeable and will gladly help you navigate the world of Real Estate.

One last bit of advice, if you choose to build, great, we love to work with builders. Just remember to hire a real estate agent to represent you in your negotiations with the builder. All builders have their own realtors who sell their homes, therefore if you walk into a builder’s office without your own realtor, remember the realtor you will meet in any sales office works for the builder and not for you. All real estate fees are paid by the builder; therefore, it will not cost you, the buyer, any additional funds to hire a realtor to represent you in your negotiations, but rather hiring your own realtor will save you money, time, and worry. We have seen many folks make this mistake, and unfortunately pay dearly for it in added expenses and disappointment. Protect yourself, by having a realtor represent your purchase, address your needs, monitor your build, and confirm your new home is constructed with your features and requirements in mind.

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Buying and Selling during the Pandemic-era Real Estate Market

This market has been a windfall for sellers, and a headache for buyers as the shortage of for sale homes continues to boost prices across the nation forcing house hunters to go to extremes to win bids.

If you do not need to buy now, my recommendation is to hold off.  If you have sold your home and need to buy now, no worries, just please be prepared to make a firm offer at asking price or above asking.  Be prepared, you may need to give the sellers other creative advantages along with your offer such as waiving contingencies, meaning no inspection or mortgage financing.  Come prepared with your Pre-Approval Letter in hand, as your preapproval will accompany your offer.  In this crazy market, I have even had one buyer offer the seller a free rental for 60 days, just to get the home the buyers desired.  In this competitive housing market, buyers are working harder than ever to set themselves apart.

My recommendation, sell if you desire and buy if you desire.  Do not let the crazy market drive you to a decision you may not be happy with in the long run.  In my experience, there will always be a house on the market that will be a perfect fit for you.   Know that if you have already sold your home and are looking for a new home, it could be fun to rent, sit back, wait for the market to settle down, and start your search all over again.    We are realtors and only work when the market works, but it is our desire to have our clients be happy with their choices and get a good, but fair market value for a property that they are buying or selling.

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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.