Monday, June 30, 2008

Paddling, Pancakes & Ponce De Leon

So, what do these three things have in common you might ask? Well, as it turns out, the fountain of youth does really exist! And, just like I imagined heaven to be, breakfast is served all day and you can eat a lifetime's worth of gourmet pancakes. It's all at De Leon Springs of course!

Just 35 miles outside of Mount Dora, Ponce De leon discovered the fountain of youth ... or so the legend says. The springs bubble up 19 million gallons of clear cold H20 daily. And in the hot and humid Florida summer a dip in this 72 degree natural pool is a refreshing shock to the system and enough to make anyone think they've been jolted back to life.

Long after Ponce De Leon made it to Florida's waters, settlers had built a sugar mill and plantation around the springs that later became a popular winter resort. Ironically, this winter retreat at one time featured a water skiing elephant, Sunshine Sally. Mount Dora had it's own water skiing elephant during the filming of the movie Honky Tonk Freeway. Might they have been the same elephant? Hmm? But I digress. Let's talk about breakfast some more.

The Old Spanish Sugar Mill has now become a novelty restaurant where the experience is hands-on with frying up your own eggs and pancakes on a griddle in the center of your table. Now why on earth, you ask, would I want to wait in line to cook my own breakfast? Because it's fun. Because the food is just darn good. Because the pancakes are delish and they offer a myriad of toppings including fresh blueberries, sliced bananas, pecans, peanut butter, chocolate chips and of course maple syrup & honey.

To burn off your sugar high and carb-loaded calories, there are an array of activities to keep you occupied all day including canoeing, kayaking, historical boat tours, swimming and scuba diving. If water sports don't float your boat, then you could take a 4 mile hike through a Wild Persimmon trail or spend some time in the Visitor's Center learning about the park's interesting history and watch a eco-educational presentation on Florida's waterways.

Admission to the State Park is $5 per vehicle. Arrive early or bring a book, blanket and a bathing suit to bide your time as the wait for the Sugar Mill Restaurant is about an hour on a slow day. But well worth every minute ... and calorie! A great day trip from Mount Dora.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Fundraiser Made A Splash

With palm trees swaying and steel drum island music playing, not even a little afternoon summer rain could dampen the spirits of everyone at the Lei Breast Cancer to Rest event this weekend. Vivas Las Chicas hosted a fun and festive poolside luau at the Grandview Bed & Breakfast featuring Hawaiian inspired cuisine, music, dancing and a silent auction.

With over 75 people in attendance and tremendous support from local businesses and the community for fantastic auction items, the Chicas raised $6000 toward their cause. Monies raised will go towards the Breast Cancer 3 Day, a 60 mile walk benefiting the Susan G. Komen For The Cure Grant and National Philanthropist Trust Project working towards advancement in breast cancer research, education, treatment and prevention.

A BIG thank you is owed to Mel & Andy at the Grandview Bed & Breakfast for hosting such a fun event for a worthy cause and also for creating a reason for Mount Dora Lodging establishments to be full on a summer weekend!

Take a look at the event photo gallery to see who was there!


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Lei Breast Cancer To Rest

When you hear the phrase Viva Las Chicas and Luau in the same sentence ... you think of a big party, right? Well that is exactly what's happening! A big party for an even bigger cause.

Viva Las Chicas states their mission as being a breast cancer awareness, education, and support group born out of the desire of a few to touch the lives of many. This weekend, in conjunction with the Grandview Bed & Breakfast, they will be hosting a Luau to Lei Breast Cancer To Rest.

All proceeds from this event will go to the 2008 Breast Cancer 3 Day which is a 60 mile walk over 3 days benefiting Women for the Cure and the National Philanthropic Trust for Breast Cancer Research. Viva Las Chicas has participated in these Breast Cancer events since 2002.

Meet some of the "chicas" here at Why We Walk.

It's not too late! Tickets are still available, so come join our Luau this weekend and celebrate life! There will be a buffet, dancing, music, a silent auction and, of course, everyone gets leied! Just visit for more information.



Well, Kashi's stock is going to experience a slight decline as fewer frozen pizzas will be sold in this neighborhood. There's a new pizza place in town. It's not "Pizza More," but Pizza Amore! Better said with your fingertips pressing your thumb and gesturing in the air like a true New York Italian.

5th Avenue Cafe owner, Leigh Love, has transformed the coffee shop portion of her restaurant into a pizza parlor. The 5th Avenue Cafe is still OPEN with no fewer tables and all of your award winning favorites. But now next door, in addition to cappuccinos and lattes, you can order up a fresh slice of pizza and a bucket of beer.

The ingredients at PizzAmore follow the same recipe as it's sister restaurant 5th Avenue Cafe. ... all fresh. Even the dough is hand made by Chef Jesse.
"Great tasting bread is how this whole venture got started," says Leigh Love. "We were not satisfied with the breads we were purchasing, so Jesse started experimenting with baking fresh bread. His playing in the kitchen resulted in a fabulous rosemary focaccia and I asked if he could try making a pizza with it. Voila. PizzAmore was born!"
I had the opportunity to try several of their specialty pizzas during a private tasting this evening and I have to say they're ALL my favorite. I can't pick just one. The Chicken Alfredo pizza is unique and very tasty. The Vesuvio pizza with fresh spinach, feta and garlic and the Margarita pizza with its fresh basil and tomatoes are both a classic choice.

If you would like to make your own pizza creation, there is a long list of toppings to choose from including a few gourmet choices such as goat cheese, artichokes and fresh grilled chicken. There was an EVOO topping I had to ask about. Turns out to be an old favorite of mine. It's text-message speak for Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Soon there will also be wheat and gluten free choices added to the selection. Brian proved that there is something for everybody when he went a little crazy and ordered up a ham, pineapple and anchovy pizza. I wrinkled my nose at his choice ... until I tasted it!

Salads, pastas, desserts and you-can't-eat-just-one garlic knots are also on the menu. I can't wait until the next Movie In The Park where I can just walk over and order a pizza and a bottle of wine to bring back to my blanket.

PizzAmore officially opens this Friday, June 20th. Take-out or dine-in this Friday night. Delivery will also be available to residents & businesses located in Downtown Mount Dora.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A Day In The Life of an Innkeeper

You ever heard of the website They basically sell inspiration and instructions on how to break away from your daily grind and land your dream job offering an assortment of careers including that of a Writer, Artist, Animal Trainer, Travel Consultant, Life Coach, Interior Decorator, Head Chef or Innkeeper. The Innkeeper job could actually encompass all of those listed above. I know from experience. Okay, maybe not so much the animal trainer. I'll just leave that one alone.

I can't tell you how many people have told me they dream of owning a bed & breakfast someday. Trading in their corporate 9 to 5 for a casual lifestyle filled with leisure and hospitality. A schedule focused around good food and good people. Cuisine & conversation. An opportunity to pursue their favorite hobbies ... from gardening to furniture making, cooking to crafts, collecting art or making art, and mostly entertaining and making new friends.

I traded in my power pumps for flip flops 3 years ago when I left my high tower job in Orlando to move to Mount Dora and purchase the Tremain Street Cottages. I've never looked back. We've made some lifelong friends with fellow business owners in this town. And now the Innkeepers of Mount Dora have formed a group and created a new blog to give an "Innside" view of what it is like to be an innkeeper. From loads of laundry, to lazy times sipping wine on the front porch, cool recipes, community events, and spicing up the kitchen, I think you'll find it very interesting. Check it out at Innside Story.


Sunday, June 8, 2008

Your Highest Point

I really THOUGHT Mount Dora was the highest point in Florida. Maybe I assumed so because we are called "mount." Or perhaps because a lot of us here have basements in our homes which is really unusual in flat and sandy Florida.

But I was wrong. Bok Tower Gardens is the highest point on peninsular Florida at 295 feet above sea level. Standing on top of Iron Mountain, where Bok Tower is perched, you can almost imagine this beautiful little garden at one time being an island surrounded by the ocean in some other millennium. The horizon stretches as far as the eye can see in every direction and I bet the sunrise and sunsets are spectacular.

Only an hour drive outside of Mount Dora, Bok Tower Gardens has a rich and interesting history and must be a photographer's dream with all of the saturated colors, textures and light.

I'm one of those people who loves to hear a truly all-American success story. You know the one ... where a person arrives on US soil by boat with 25 cents in their pocket and a head full of hopes, only to become extraordinarily rich achieving their "American Dream" and becoming a humanitarian to boot, making the world a better place because they lived in it. Such is the story of Edward Bok.

Only a child when he arrived in America from the Netherlands, He learned to speak English and mastered the language so well that he became the editor of The Ladies' Home Journal by the time he was 26 years old. Under Bok's watch, The Ladies' Home Journal became the first magazine to sell over 1 million subscriptions. Bok earned the loyalty of readers by using the best paper, the best graphic artists, becoming the first to include full color, and keeping editorial integrity by refusing the easy dollar of "patent medicine" advertising, otherwise known today as snake oil medicinals.

Bok set a standard for himself of always using the best of the best. When he decided to build a carillon tower at his winter home in Florida, he employed the best craftsmen from all trades. The best architects, the most talented medal workers, sculptors, landscape architects and Carillon makers created a national historic landmark for all to enjoy and be inspired by.

Edward Bok later offered The American Peace Award, a $100,000 cash prize to whomever could author the best practicable plan by which the US may cooperate with other nations to achieve peace in the world. (We're still waiting for this prize to be awarded.)

The entrance to the park includes a message from Bok's grandmother that she told him when he was a boy, "Make you the world a bit better or more beautiful because you have lived in it." I think Edward Bok accomplished both within his lifetime.

They call Bok Tower Gardens Florida's "Higher Place." And with such inspirational stories and breathtaking views, I couldn't agree more.


Friday, June 6, 2008

Are you ready for a Central Florida Eco-Adventure?

Seems as if everyone comes to Central Florida to visit Disney World and the other major attractions. Little do folks know that Mother Nature has natural attractions of her own just a few miles away in almost every direction. We are truly fortunate in Mount Dora to have some of the finest natural springs, lakes and waterways in the entire world.

A kayak tour of the Wekiva River, Dora Canal or Alexander Springs, just to name a few, will transport you into another world. Wildlife is abundant and our area is certainly famous for it's bird watching and ranks among the top spots in the country for that activity. For a close up of our waterways check out Lake County's Blueways in the boating section of our website.

If kayaking isn't your thing you can take an Eco-tour of the waterways around Mount Dora via pontoon boat with Lake County Waterways.

The Captain's at Lake County Waterways are experts on the wildlife and history of the area and will entertain you for a two hour tour that will absolutely delight you.

You can also enjoy great savings and value by choosing from Eco-packages sponsored by some of Mount Dora's Innkeepers.

The Adora Inn Bed & Breakfast in Downtown Mount Dora has a fabulous eco-package to fit any budget.

Central Florida Eco-Package
Explore one of Central Florida's most beautiful natural habitats. Choose any room to stay in and then choose two excursions from the following three choices: * A one hour horseback trail ride at Rock Springs Run Stables, * Ride down a natural spring-fed stream on an inner tube at Rock Springs State Preserve where the water temperature is always 72 degrees providing a cool, relaxing respite on a hot Florida day or * Kayak the beautiful Wekiva River for up to two hours. A gourmet picnic lunch will be delivered to the site or you may choose to lunch at the Inn between excursions. Please call for pricing and more information. 352-735-3110.

Or you can check out the popular Holistic Holiday Package offered by the Tremain Street Cottages, Mount Dora's and Lake County's first and only Green Certified Lodging Establishment as awarded by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

You can't go wrong by experiencing the best of mother nature in Central Florida. Hope to see you on the water soon.


Thursday, June 5, 2008

WE LOVE FOOD! Announcing our "new" Beer Tasting Event

Just when you thought they couldn't possibly come up with another reason to socialize, eat and drink, John and Arthur from the Adora Inn have done it again. This time they are teaming up with the fine folks at Maggie's Attic from Alexander Street to offer a Boutique Beer & Food Pairing.

This event is scheduled for Sunday, June 22nd from 6:00pm to 8:00pm. It will feature beer from Lagunitas Brewing Co. in Petalumas, CA. Jerome from Maggie's Attic will be hosting a tasting tour of the brewery with samplings of Lagunitas Pilsner, India Pale Ale, Censored Ale and Lagunitas Lucky 13. These will be paired with Paprika Glazed Baby Back Ribs, Grilled Citrus Marinated Shrimp, Sausage Stuffed Lollipop Chicken and New Orleans Style Bread Pudding.

I personally have only missed one of their now famous monthly wine tasting dinners and that because I was recovering from the removal of four wisdom teeth. I can only imagine how fabulous this event is going to be so you better make reservations soon or risk only being able to read about it!

For reservations call John at 352-735-3110. The price is $45.00 per person plus tax and a 20% gratuity. An absolute bargain to be sure!

Jerome from Maggie's Attic will be offering the beer from the tasting for sale at a discounted price that evening.

Hope to see you at the event.


Monday, June 2, 2008

The Florida Highwaymen are coming to Mount Dora!

Mark you calendars for Saturday, August 23rd 2008. The Mount Dora Innkeepers and are bringing the Florida Highwaymen to Mount Dora for what will be the inaugural art show featuring them and their art in Mount Dora every year.

If you are in the know, then no explanation is required. But for those of you who do not know the Florida Highwaymen are widely credited as the origin of Florida's contemporary art tradition.

In 2004 the original 26 Florida Highwaymen artists were inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame. For the story of the original 26 artists and tons of interesting information please visit
or the information page for the event on the Mount Dora Innkeepers website at

Make plans now to book your weekend in August to come meet the famous Florida Highwaymen artists and be one of the first to view their latest works. Visit to book your first class accommodations for this exciting event.

Stay tuned to our blog for more details. Take a look to the right of the screen where you can subscribe to the blog to receive instant updates.