Sunday, August 31, 2008

Green Thumbs Up

I don't know about you, but the recent onslaught of tropical storm activity greened up my brown lawn. However, my newly planted drought-tolerant plants seemed to have exploded from hyper hydration. Now my pretty red flowers have turned into slimey goop. Ah well ... they'll come back.

I should have taken a few notes from the City of Mount Dora. City Hall recently underwent a total lawn make-over to set a Green example to new developments by planting Florida-friendly landscaping using native plants that require less water, fertilizer and pesticides.

Way to GO GREEN Mount Dora! (applause, kuddos, green thumbs up!)

Educational signage will be added to educate visitors of the benefits and types of plants. Take notes and add the November Plant & Garden Fair to your calendar and hopefully you'll have a better green thumb than me!

On a side note, a friend of mine gave me an AeroGarden as a gift for my kitchen. Considering that I'm known as "green girl" amongst my friends and I screwed up my own drought tolerant garden, this seemed like a perfect solution for my handicapped green thumb. This neat little appliance allows you to "set it and forget it" with a pre-programmed light and watering system. I'm now the proud mama of a little hydroponic herb garden! I've got fresh organic basil, dill and mint galore! They're doing much better than my twiggy little potted plants. I'll never do dirt again!


The Real Deal Mexican Grill...

Muchos kudos to Captain Barry and Tamara for taking us to El Maguey Mexican Grill last month. Since that first trip we have visited a half dozen times. Not since I lived in Guadalajara, Mexico in the 80's have I had this tasty style of Mexican food. Certainly not the Tex-Mex on the typical gringo menus in most other places.

The chips are not the garden variety from a Tostitos bag and the salsa does not come from a Pace Picante jar. The green salsa is very spicy and not for the feint at heart so use caution!

El Maguey is just past Eudora road on Old 441 heading toward Eustis. Certainly worth a visit next time you have a hankering for some authentic tasing Mexican chow.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A taste of France at the Adora Inn

Sorry if you missed out on the August rendition of the monthly wine tasting and dinner at the Adora Inn. This time we sampled gourmet French cuisine coupled with wine from the Bordeaux region.

I will not torture you with the detailed description of the savory five course meal but a picture is worth a thousand words so I have included a couple here for your consideration. Arthur and John simply have a knack for this and continue to "knock it out of the park" each and every month.

I highly recommend getting a reservation for a future event. There are a dozen locals who have standing reservations each and every month so you have to book early to get one of the remaining seats. It will be well worth it and before long you may find yourself a regular like so many of us who find ourselves at the Adora Inn on at least one Sunday night each month.


A small world at the Florida Highwaymen Art Show

You know that funny feeling you get when you run into someone you know but have not seen in years? In this case it had been over 25 years. As I was making my way around the Highwaymen Show taking pictures I kept getting this sensation every time I ran into the guy hanging around with artist R.L. Lewis. Turns out it was his son Robert. I had gone to High School with Robert back in the early 80's, not to give away my age or anything.

Robert R.L. Lewis, Jr. on the left, me in the middle and his Highwayman father on the right. It was fun catching up with him after all of these years. And oddly enough by the end of the day I had come across a couple of other alums from my High School. Sure did bring back the memories.


Friday, August 22, 2008

Featured Inn: Heron Cay Bed & Breakfast

How am I ever going to keep my trim girlish figure while getting to know all the local Innkeepers and tasting their breakfast specialties! I LOVE it! I guess I'll just have to jog more.

This past weekend we were invited to Sunday Brunch at the Heron Cay Bed & Breakfast, a Victorian gem with Island-style that sits on a hillside overlooking Lake Dora. Immediately upon arriving, you can sense the playful spirit of the Innkeepers with their electric toy train that winds around their vast wrap-around porch, the antique juke box in the parlor and the gopher from Caddy Shack peeping at you from the buffet table.

Originally from Palm Beach County, Innkeepers Randy and Margie brought a little of South Florida with them when they moved up here to Mount Dora and transformed the former Darst Victorian Manor into a relaxing, laid-back island getaway. The large dining room is decorated with a light coral colored decor with sea shells, ship wheels, and a collection of Florida Highwaymen Paintings showing swaying palm trees and Florida's famous colorful sunsets.

We joined Randy and Margie in the kitchen to watch their morning festivities in preparation for breakfast. With a warm cup of coffee in hand, the scent of banana bread baking and light steel drum music strumming in the background, it was a perfect Sunday morning.

We learned that Randy and Margie became Innkeepers years ago, quite by default. They had purchased a large waterfront property in Jupiter that was a bit of a fixer upper. Margie was a real estate agent and Randy an engineer. After renovating the home to better fit it's waterfront location, their children had grown up and moved away to attend college and they found themselves empty nesters with a lot of square footage and a down real estate market, similar to today's. Margie suggested that they rent the rooms and make it into a bed & breakfast. And so with collected breakfast recipes from family and friends, the original Heron Cay was created. They named the property Heron Cay (pronounced "key") after a small island deeded along with their waterfront Jupiter home.

Randy and I are a lot alike in that we both like to talk with our hands ... which makes it challenging to talk and cook at the same time! We would get lost in another story and Margie would instinctively know to pop her head in from another room and get him back on task to making breakfast.

And what a delicious buffet! Whether you prefer sweet or savory, there is a little something for everyone on their breakfast table. A colorful fruit salad, paired with a poached egg recipe I can't wait to try at home. Margie does all the baking, making banana and pumpkin breads and cinnamon rolls.

After breakfast, Randy gave us a tour of their home. He is quite the antique maven and will happily guide you through his collections, explaining the details and history of his Highwaymen Paintings and Red Wing Stoneware collection.

Later we ventured outside to take a look at their garden. As if the home is not impressive enough, much of the fruit served at breakfast is grown right on property! Randy's green thumb cultivates pineapples, Honeybell oranges, Persian limes and key limes. And some of his non-edible, but more fragrant plants include eucalyptus and plumeria.

We also had the opportunity to play with Randy & Margie's beloved Borzois; Kalif, Pixie, Anastasia and Darla ... the REAL keepers of the Inn! These dogs are their pride and joy, and after seeing them frolic and play I can understand why!

If you are a pet lover yourself, the Heron Cay Bed & Breakfast does have a pet friendly room for small friendly pets!

Coming up this weekend is the Inaugural Florida Highwaymen Festival. Randy and Margie have been instrumental in getting this new event up and going with their knowledge of the Highwaymen history and their art collector contacts. I know all the local Innkeepers are grateful to them for helping us create a new Summer festival. Come check it out and meet all your local Innkeepers this weekend as well as 6 of the original Florida Highwaymen. For more information, take a look at the Florida Highwaymen Festival.


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Walk Score

I stumbled upon a new gadget on the web that I think is kind of cool. It really appeals to my eco-friendly style. It's purpose is to measure the "walkability" of a neighborhood. I quickly typed in my address and got a Walk Score of 72 for Mount Dora. Very Walkable!

They define a walkable neighborhood as the following:
"Picture a walkable neighborhood. You lose weight each time you walk to the grocery store. You stumble home from last call without waiting for a cab. You spend less money on your car—or you don't own a car. When you shop, you support your local economy. You talk to your neighbors."
Ditto! That is one of the main reasons why I chose to move here. So that I could walk downtown to the parks and the festivals. So I could walk home after having a few too many glasses of wine. I enjoy the feeling of community I get by walking to do all of my errands, to go to the post office, pick up some coffee, get a pedicure.

What's your neighborhoods walk score? Check it out at


Monday, August 18, 2008

Roy, Ella & Who?

I've had so many personal friends and family come to town for vacation recently that I've been a terrific backyard tourist ... but in the middle of entertaining I haven't found the time to write about it all!

One of those recent visitors was my cousin from North Carolina. We have a little tradition of trying all the touristy bits in a town. When he was attending college in Wilmington, I came up for a weekend and we had a 48 hour marathon of everything Cape Fear had to offer ... the Battleship, the museums, Circa 1922, and one heck of a freaky ghost tour. We were worn out at the end, but had a blast!

This time it was my turn to show he and his wife around our little town. One of the things we did together that I've not done before is visit the History Museum.

Here you can find the story behind the whole cast of characters that made Mount Dora. From Dora Ann ... to J.P. ... the Colonel ... and Royellou. Royellou was actually the original name for the city, after the 3 children of postmaster R. C. Tremain ... Roy, Ella and Louis. The town was later renamed Mount Dora after the lake and Dora Ann Drawdy.

The location of the museum was the original city jail and firehouse with an actual jail cell still intact for your claustrophobic thrills.

I'm thankful that we have a piece of our history preserved here.

The museum is dependent on volunteers and donations. Admission is actually "free," however donations are encouraged and accepted. The operating hours are sometimes not consistent, but next time you're in town peak down the alleyway between the Center For the Arts and 5th Avenue Cafe to see if the ole' "jailbird" is outside waiting outside to welcome you in. The history, stories and artifacts are fascinating, funny and worth the visit!


Saturday, August 9, 2008

Our 100th Post!

I've been dragging my feet in postings last month ... not because there isn't anything to write about. On the contrary. I've got a bunch of stories in the pipeline ready to be released.

Notice the number that we've been on ... 99 posts ... this is our 100th!!! (Cheers, clapping, whistles, yahoos, applause ... thank you, thank you, thank you very much!!!)

I've been wanting to savor it and make it special. A celebration. And my big ambitious idea is taking a lot longer than planned ... a VIDEO BLOG! While we're still working on the V-Blog (and we promise to post more of those as we get the hang of it), here is something to celebrate.

The Top 100 Reasons to Love Mount Dora!

1) The spirit and friendliness people.
2) Walking around Donnelly Park and the fountain.
3) Our City Hall going "Green" with eco-friendly landscaping.
4) Gelato at The Village Coffee Pot.
5) Espresso at One Flight Up while watching people on Donnelly.
6) The Gingerbread style Donnelly House.
7) The History.
8) The ghosts nobody wants to talk about ... until they've had a glass of wine or two.
9) The fabulous pinot noir available nearly on every block downtown and several monthly wine tastings.
10) The Mount Dora Center for the Arts and the inspiration and culture they bring.
11) The fact that it's such a dog-friendly town. Visit the Dogs of Mount Dora.
12) In fact, my dog wants to give a "bark-out" to Piglet's Pantry for their yummy locally baked peanut butter treats
13) And another "bark-out" to Hobscott for their holistic dog food.
14) The wildlife. I've got a family of red-headed woodpeckers in our backyard and a pesky raccoon that likes to freak me out by turning on our motion detector lights in the wee hours of the morning. That prankster!
15) The many gorgeous views of the lake.
16) The calves I'm building walking uphill to my home from downtown.
17) The warm and fuzzy I get during Light Up Mount Dora.
18) Bringing a blanket and picnic to the Movie In The Park once a month.
19) Picking strawberries in the winter.
20) Getting lost in a corn maze in the fall.
21) Loosing my voice from screamin' scared at Parks & Rec's Haunted House.
22) Taking a carriage ride to look at the Christmas lights.
23) Watching the sailboats on the lake.
24) Guilt-free organic meals at 5th Avenue Cafe.
25) Pomegranate Martinis and playing trivia at Goblin Market.
26) Brian says, "Golf league on Thursdays!"
27) The true ability to live a "green" and eco-friendly lifestyle by walking downtown to eat, shop, go to the post office or other errands.
28) My eco-friendly friends at Aveda that tame my crazy curly hair.
29) A more relaxed, slower pace.
30) Quick access to the 429 and proximity to Orlando for when I want to speed things up a bit.
31) The unique craftsman style architecture of the homes.
32) Always running into someone I know with friendly smile and a wave hello.
33) Christmas shopping at the Craft Fair in October.
34) Kayaking the Dora Canal and pretending I'm in the movie African Queen with Humphry Bogart.
35) Antique shopping and hunting for a "treasure."
36) A bottle of Hoegaarden or a pint of Guinness at the Frosty Mug.
37) Cruising around Lake Dora with Captain Tim and spotting gators.
38) Donning a hat and having a Fancy "pinkie's up" high tea at the Garden Gate.
39) Traditional cottage pie and English Fare at the Windsor Rose.
40) Gourmet dinners once a month at the Adora Inn wine tastings.
41) Wine down Wednesday at Maggie's Attic.
42) Quarterly Art Strolls.
43) Finding live music and entertainment almost every weekend.
44) The Mount Dora Music Festival.
45) Pigging out at the Taste of Mount Dora.
46) Our resident fashionista and women's film guru at the Painter's Daughter.
47) Rubbing a blarney stone for luck at the Irish Corner.
48) Finding vibrant blue and purple skyvine everywhere.
49) Watching the sunset on the lake.
50) Enjoying a picnic and fireworks at the Old Fashioned 4th of July.
51) Satisfying my shoe fetish with comfortable shoes at Euro Donnelly Footwear. Call me a hippy ... but I got a pair for each day of the week.
52) Key Lime Lime Pie on a stick ... dipped in chocolate.
53) Throwing a hat on and walking down to breakfast at Chew Chew Express first thing in the morning.
54) Tree lined streets with 100 year old oaks and swaying spanish moss.
55) Creating my own pizza flavor at Pizza Amore ... but watch out for Brian's. He digs anchovies.
56) Skipping the rain and having a spontaneous Pedicures and wine at Synergy.
57) And of course, Ann's hot stone massage at Sole to work out all the and stress I hold in my back.
58) Local raw honey from the Honey Guy at Rennigers Twin Market
59) The many art gallery's to walk through and find inspiration.
60) The way the church bells chime on Sundays and fill the town with a melody.
61) All the best swimming holes, springs, and natural lazy rivers are just a short drive away. So,
I can just pack up my swim suit and a cooler and head out for an lunchtime break.
62) Playing with the monkeys at Amazing Exotics.
63) The trendy finds at A Delightful Occasion.
64) Walking down to the lake and feeding the ducks.
65) Green tea ice cream at Mount Dora sushi.
66) Rocking on the porch at the Lakeside Inn with a cocktail in hand.
67) Taking a country drive down to Yalaha Bakery for some fresh baked bread ... and sweet treats.
68) Stomping grapes with your bare feet during the Harvest Festival at Lakeridge Winery.
69) Jogging along Lakeshore Drive.
70) Grabbing a light sweater, thermos of hot cocoa, and some camp chairs to watch the lighted Christmas Boat Parade.
71) Finding the most perfect gift for our globe trotting traveler friends at The Drawer.
72) Singing along to some of my favorite tunes at The Retro.
73) Dancing in Donnelly Park under the stars.
74) Ordering a Kahlua & cream cupcake ... eating all the frosting first and then savoring the cake with some coffee.
75) Getting lost in a story at the Old Town Bookstore.

Okay, so the last 25 are things that I would love "to-do"
and so they are on my list ...

76) Ride a Segway.
77) Get my hands dirty and make some pottery at Yada Yada.
78) Go for a discovery flight at nearby Apopka airport.
79) Get creative with a painting class at the Center for the Arts.
80) Watching the sunrise from a hot air balloon.
81) Taking a fishing excursion with Captain Barry. But, then of course, there is the whole getting the bait on the hook part that I've got to get over.
82) Learning to cook a gourmet meal with my Innkeeper friends at Inn Good Taste.
83) Explore the Austin Carriage Museum.
84) Hot roddin' at the Museum of Speed.
85) Shakin' it at a belly dancing class at Yoga Central.
86) Jog in the Mount Dora 4 Miler.
87) Create my own holiday cards at the Stamping Station.
88) Dust off my clubs, get some fresh air and play a round of golf.
89) Learn to scuba and C & N Divers.
90) Take horseback riding lessons.
91) Learn to make my own wine at Ridgeback Winery.
92) Visit the Royellou Museum.
93) Attend one of Patrick's Fine Art Thomas Kinkade Highlighting events.
94) Start a new garden in my backyard during the Plant & Garden Fair.
95) Play tennis in Donnelly Park.
96) Take a Lawn Bowling lesson.
97) Taste the new flavors of Gelato the Village Coffee Pot.
98) Sing Karaoke at Retro ... maybe! After a glass of wine. Or two.
99) Learn to sail.
100) Continue to have a fabulous time meeting new neighbors and visitors of Mount Dora!

Tell us what you LOVE about Mount Dora! Post your comment below.