Heartland LIVING Magazine June-July 2023

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Heartland LIVING

June & July 2023

We Accept and Bill Most Major Insurance, Medicaid, Medicare & BlueCross Blue Shield Healthy Kids (863) 763-3937 606 North Parrott Ave  Okeechobee  863-763-3937  www.biglakeeyecare.com Dr. Charles W. Bartels Board Certi ed Optometric Physician Call Now For An Appointment Dr. Janna Lanae Parramore Board Certi ed Optometric Physician  Comprehensive Eye Exams  Contact Lens Fitting  Variety of Colored Contacts  State of the Art Optical Service  Glaucoma Exams & Treatment  Diabetic Eye Exams  Cataract Evaluations  Foreign Body Removal  Test & Treatment for Dry Eye  Glasses Available Same or Next
315 S Parrott Ave, Okeechobee, FL 34974 (863) 763-6434 ° www.GilbertOutdoors.com
“A family member purchased a Hustler mower from Gilbert and it was amazing so I purchased one too. The service I received was excellent! They are always there to help if I have questions. They are all so friendly regardless of what I need.”
- Aurelio Almazan Local Law Enforcement & Gilbert Customer
insightauction.com Serving the Southeastern US and Beyond for over 20 years! In addition to our live auctions on site, we also offer online auctions to customers all over the world through Proxibid. Customers can watch the auction in real time and bid in the comfort of their own home. For more information, call (863) 386-1225 or visit insightauction.com 2023 AUCTION SCHEDULE: June 13 ONLINE ONLY July 15 Aug 15 ONLINE ONLY September 16 October 17 ONLINE ONLY November 11 December 12 ONLINE ONLY Specializing in Agricultural & Construction Equipment OPEN TO THE PUBLIC!

Everglades Pediatric Dentistry features offices located in both Okeechobee and Sebring, FL in order to provide the Heartland, Greater Lake Okeechobee area, and surrounding counties with the most convenient care.

5 June & July 2023 Serving infants, children, teens, and patients with special needs in Okeechobee County, Highlands County, and the surrounding areas! Most insurances are accepted and emergencies are welcomed. OKEECHOBEE 863-357-7338 FAX: 863-357-7342 2029 Hwy 441 North Okeechobee, FL 34972 SEBRING 863-382-0340 FAX: 863-357-7342 5606 US Hwy 27 Sebring, FL 33870
¡ Preventative Care ¡ Restorative Dentistry ¡ In-Office Sedation ¡ Interceptive Orthodonic Treatment ¡ Extractions www.evergladespedodent.com ¡ Emergency Dental Treatment ¡ New Patient Exams ¡ Dental Care for Special Needs & Medically Compromised Patients
Melissa Kindell, DMD Frank Maye, DMD
Art Pediatric Dental care for infants
Voted #1 Pediatric Dentist in the Big Lake area
6 Bonnet Springs Park
7 June & July 2023 24 Summer Lovin'
Springs Park
42 Bonnet
Decades Later
June & July 2023 Volume 12  Issue 3
NOTEWORTHY 10 Letter from the Publisher 16 Behind the Scenes 20 From our Readers COVER Summer Lovin' Cover Models Aspen and Raelyn Gibbs Photography by Lisa Taylor Hall June & July 2023 Heartland LIVING Summer Lovin' June & July 2023 Volume 12  Issue 3 DEPARTMENTS CONTENTS FOOD & HEALTH 74 Dairy Daughters Ladonna Rodriguez 94 Heartland LIVING's Summer Beach Reads By Christy Swift 86 94 86 Tropical Summer Celebration By Cindy Adams 8
863-240-0552 863-247-2325 — Cosmetic & General Dental Services — Laser Treatment and Digital Imaging Orthodontics — Invisalign ® — Full-mouth Rehabilitation — Same-day Crowns, Root Canals, Bridges & More — Zoom! ® Whitening — Sedation It's time to get the Smile you always wanted.

Ah, the Joy of Summer!

The Summer Issue of Heartland LIVING is our contribution to your summer reading. Most of us could use a break, a change, an escape, or a way to refill over this summer. We share writing’s that intend for you to happily lose yourself in during well-deserved time off at the lake, beach, or under the shade of a beautiful tree in your backyard. Remember we are so blessed to live in Florida so let’s get outside and enjoy.

This issue’s cover story Summer Lovin’ takes us back to the ‘good ole days’ of summer. Jodie DeLoach joined us in helping me plan the perfect photo shoot in the beautiful backyard of Phillip and Cindy Jones. Jodie writes how to plan the perfect backyard gathering/party, even on a Dollar Tree budget. Our gorgeous photos for Summer Lovin’ were taken by our talented photographers Caroline Maxcy Fox and Lisa Taylor Hall. Thank you, Lisa, for the gorgeous fun cover.

Rebecca Maglischo shares with you about “A Gem of Central Florida”, Bonnet Springs Park, located in Lakeland, one of our Heartland Communities. Every piece of this land has a story to tell, and Rebecca has captured it with her research and interviews. Make a day to visit with family and/or friends.

For your summer reading, our editor and writer, Christy Swift, has recommended some of her favorite summer reading books. This is another way to relax this summer.

"All in all, it was a never-to-be-forgotten summer — one of those summers which come seldom into any life, but leave a rich heritage of beautiful memories in their going — one of those summers which, in a fortunate combination of delightful weather, delightful friends and delightful doing, come as near to perfection as anything can come in this world.”

Of course, July also brings Independence Day, a time for us to remember the foundation of our nation and how over time, we have grown and prospered into the United States of America. We are honored to share with you a heartfelt story of U.S Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Pharis E. Weekley who went missing in Action during World War II. Eighty years later, with the help of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, he has finally come home to his family in Avon Park. With this story, you might need the tissues.

My last bit of excitement is to welcome Kelsey Schauf to our team as Digital Media Coordinator. Kelsey is going to be a huge asset to our social media and share more about our advertisers with you on our digital platforms.

There’s more to discover inside, especially with all that our advertisers have to offer you. But promise us that you will peruse these pages with your feet up, a cool drink in hand, and a little time to let our writers’ ideas and words bring joy to you this summer.

God Bless,

Cindy Sebring Adams

10 Heartland LIVINGMagazine.com
11 June & July 2023
2019, 2020, 2021, & 2022 Thank you for voting us Best of Highlands Celebrate with Flowers
Best Florist 2018,

Heartland Publications & Marketing, Inc.

June & July 2023

Volume 12  Issue 3

CEO | Publisher

Cindy Sebring Adams

Editor Christy Swift

Digital Media Coordinator

Kelsey Schauf

Feature Writers

Dale Bliss

Jodie DeLoach

Rebecca Maglischo

Ladonna Rodriguez

Christy Swift

Creative Director

Bridgette Waldau

Photography Director

Rafael Pacheco

Cover Photographer

Lisa Taylor Hall

Feature Photographers

Caroline Maxcy Fox

Lisa Taylor Hall

Contributing Photographer

Bonnet Springs Park


Lisa Griffin

Contact: 412 Rest Haven Road, Zolfo Springs, FL 33890 863-781-0344

E-mail Cindy@Heartland-Living.com

June & July 2023 Heartland LIVING Summer Lovin'


Proud Recipient of 18

Charlie Awards

2014 - 2021

In the Following Categories:

Best Overall Design

Best Department Design (2)

Best Feature Design (4)

Cover Photo Illustration

Best Traditional Illustration

Best Self-Promotional Ad

Best Table of Contents

Best Department Design

Best Photography Image (3)

Best Overall Writing

Best Custom Publication (2)

Florida Magazine Association

All articles, descriptions and suggestions in this magazine are merely expression of opinions from contributors and advertisers and do not constitute the opinion of the publisher, editor or staff of Heartland Living Magazine, and under no circumstances constitutes assurances or guarantees concerning the quality of any service or product. Heartland Living Magazine specifically disclaims any liability related to these expressions and opinions. Heartland Living Magazine is not responsible for any unsolicited submissions. The advertiser agrees to hold harmless and indemnify the publishers from all liability.

Become a fan on facebook www.HeartlandLivingMagazine.com by Heartland Publications & Marketing, Inc.
Heartland Living Magazine is published bi-monthly by Heartland Publications & Marketing, Inc. Copyright 2023, all rights reserved. Reproduction of contents in print or electronic transmission in whole or in part in any language or format must be by expressed written permission of the publisher.
(863) 658-0645 | www.PinnacleEyes.com 919 Mall Ring Road, Sebring FL 33870 • Primary Vision Care • Pediatric Vision Care • Vision Therapy • Contacts & Glasses • Disease Diagnosis & Management • Pre- & Post-Operative Surgical Management Dr. Valerie Moulds, Optometrist Whether you are asymptomatic and looking to keep your eye health up to date, or you are experiencing symptoms of vision loss or discomfort, our team of professionals are here for you. NOW OFFERING IN STYLE SOAK UP THE SUN, BUY MORE, SAVE MORE SALE! 40% 50% off! off! Buy one complete pair of glasses & get the SECOND Buy a THIRD and get
Messieh Orthopedic Clinic 863-419-9301 1601 6th Street SE WINTER HAVEN 863-471-9700 3200 Physicians Way SEBRING Dr.
M.D., F.R.C.S. (C) F.A.A.O.S , . Leader in Hip & Knee Replacement Surgery in Central Florida since 1991 Offering a variety of Hip & Knee Replacement procedures including Direct Anterior Approach to the Hip The Anterior Hip Replacement Approach causes less trauma than traditional techniques, making recovery easier for the patient.
Samuel S. Messieh

MMiller’s Central Air is a family-run and operated HVAC business that has been providing high-quality heating, ventilation, and air conditioning services for nearly three decades. Founded by Rick Miller in 1995, the company has grown from a small operation to a thriving business with three locations throughout Florida.

Rick Miller’s hard work and dedication to his craft have been the driving force behind the success of Miller’s Central Air. Rick is a skilled technician who has a passion for HVAC systems, and he has built a team of technicians who share his commitment to providing the best service possible.

When asked about his business, Rick said, “I started Miller’s Central Air because I wanted to help people. I saw a need for reliable, high-quality HVAC services in our community, and I wanted to provide that service. Over the years, we have grown, but our commitment to our customers has never wavered. We believe in treating our customers like family, and that’s why we have so many loyal customers who have been with us for years.”

One of the things that sets Miller’s Central Air apart from other HVAC businesses is their commitment to the community. Rick believes that it’s important to give back to the community that has supported his business for so many years. The company is actively involved in local charities and organizations, and they donate a portion of their profits to support local causes.

“We care about our community, and we want to make sure that everyone is taken care of,” said Rick. “Whether it’s donating to a local charity or providing free services to those in need, we want to do our part to make a difference.”

Miller’s Central Air recently won the Highlands County business of the year award, which is a testament to their commitment to excellence. The award recognizes local businesses that have demonstrated outstanding performance, growth, and community involvement.

“We are thrilled to have won the business of the year award,” said Rick. “It’s an honor to be recognized for our hard work and dedication. We couldn’t have done it without our amazing team of technicians and our loyal customers who trust us with their HVAC needs.”

Miller’s Central Air has a strong reputation in the community thanks to Rick’s hard work and dedication. Winning the Highlands County business of the year award is a testament to the company’s commitment to excellence. But for Rick, it is not just about the business. He cares deeply about the community and strives to make sure everyone is taken care of. Miller’s Central Air is a shining example of how a business can succeed while still making a positive impact on the community.

Miller’s Central Air serves Highlands, Okeechobee, and St. Lucie counties, and surrounding areas. They are available 24 hours-a-day, seven days a week. For more information call 863-699-5455 or visit their website: miller’s central air.com



Creative Director

BRIDGETTE WALDAU has been a graphic and fine artist for over 40 years. She received her A.A. from the Ft. Lauderdale Institute of Art and a Bachelor of Fine Art degree from Stetson University. She moved to Okeechobee in 1994 where she opened her art studio. Bridgette has been creative director for several publications, working with Heartland Publications & Marketing as art director since 2011, winning eleven Florida Magazine Charlie Awards (2015- 2021). She is Arts & Culture Alliance Director (18 years) for Okeechobee Main Street. Bridgette is married to James Waldau, a retired firefighter from the City of Hialeah.

REBECCA MAGLISCHO is a wife and mother of two boys. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education and a Master's Degree in Human Movement with an emphasis on Corrective Modalities. She has completed a two year study in Full Body Systems through the Holistic Nutrition Lab and a certification in Functional Range Condition through the Functional Anatomy Systems.

LADONNA RODRIGUEZ has written newspaper articles about Sebring, its people and its history, and finds joy in sharing with her community. Her passion for writing connects to her love of the arts. She is also a visual artist, using colored pencil as her medium. Her roots are deep in Highlands County; her mother was born in a house in DeSoto City in 1928, and her relatives were among the firefighters who went to rescue those in Moore Haven during the hurricane of 1926, giving her a unique perspective into our culture.


JODIE SKITKA DELOACH graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in Elementary Education. She currently serves as the Board President for the Drug Free Coalition and is employed as the Tobacco Program Manager in DeSoto County, where she resides with her husband and two children. She is a health and fitness mentor, an active West Elementary Booster, and DeSoto County Chamber Board Member. In her free time, Jodie enjoys being outdoors, DIY projects, and party planning.

Editor |


CHRISTY SWIFT has been a freelance writer for over 13 years, working as an award-winning newspaper correspondent, magazine article writer, and web and social media content provider. She is also a soonto-be published author of Young Adult and Adult fiction. You can find her at www.christyswift.com.


CAROLINE MAXCY FOX was born and raised in Central Florida. She decided to be an artist at the age of five. After achieving her BSA from Florida State University, she practiced in the field of design for six years and then received a Master's in Graphic Design from NC State University. She honed her artistic craft and developed a "way of seeing" that fuels her work. Caroline is a full-time photographer and lives with her husband in the heart of Sebring. Together they run the day-to-day life at The Great Commission Bible Institute as the site coordinators and dorm parents. Naturally, adventure abounds.


LISA TAYLOR HALL picked up her camera 7 years ago when motherhood inspired her to see the beauty in each day. She loves how photography captures a moment in time that otherwise might be forgotten. Lisa loves to capture organic moments in their best light. She grew up in Sebring and currently lives in Lake Wales with her husband and their three sons. Lisa specializes in lifestyle photography for families, small events, maternity, and graduates.

Digital Media Coordinator

KELSEY SCHAUF was born and raised in Sebring and currently resides in Mooresville, NC. For the past eight years, she worked as a Public Relations Representative. Kelsey left the industry in 2022 to spend more time with her husband, Jacob, and son, Kolbey. One of her passions is project management and being able to see a project from start to finish. She is currently working at Carolina CAT in Charlotte, N.C. with the Vice President of the Rental Store.

June & July 2023
17 June & July 2023 Whether your dental needs are an exam and cleaning, full-mouth restoration, or anything in between, we promise to provide you with exceptional care as we enhance the natural beauty of your smile. Please call or visit us today for your reservation! We look forward to meeting you. Located next to Lowe’s in Sebring! FEEL GOOD about your SMILE and your dentist. CHEN DENTAL® DR. ANNA OLAES | DR. BILL CHEN | DR. MATT GREEN | DR. KEN CHEN | DR. JERE SERALDE | DR. ALAN WARD Highlands News Sun 2021 Best of Highlands Award for, BEST DENTAL IMPLANTS . CALL 863.657.0395 OR VISIT CHENDENTAL.COM TODAY! special offer WHITENING $399 * A $450 VALUE Now through July 31, 2023 $79 * COMPLETE EXAM & DIGITAL X-RAYS A $165 VALUE special *Non-insured patients only. Must present the coupon on first visit. (D0150, D0210) Exp. 7.31.23 * Must be and established Chen Dental patient, other fees and services may apply. (D9565) Exp. 7.31.22 During the months of June and July, Chen Dental will be providing a FREE Sonicare Toothbrush to the first 10 to receive Zoom® Whitening treatment before July 31st! Call 863.657.0395 today for your reservation. whiter, brighter, faster.

Southern Grace is designated by the state of Florida as a century pioneer family farm and has been a homestead to the Gill family for well over 100+ years. A premier all-inclusive historic wedding venue, where every detail on our estate grounds, includes event planning design+styling for an exquisite wedding celebration. Love is in the details, and it’s the little things and extra touches, flawlessly executed, that are sure to exceed your wedding day dreams!

www.SouthernGraceWedding.com Southern Grace Promises a once-in-a-lifetime Celebration! 17822 Bill Taylor Road  Lithia,
 33547  Hello@southerngracewedding.com VINTAGE  ELEGANT  WEDDINGS



At Sun ’n Lake, 36 holes of championship golf is just the beginning of an active and affordable Florida lifestyle that serves as the foundation of our great community. A variety of rich amenities offer something for everyone — a recreation complex with zero-entry lagoon pool, fitness room, pickleball & tennis courts, community center, lakefront Island View Restaurant & Pub, two excellent schools, hospital and medical facilities, and more!

With desirable building lots, preferred builders, and well-maintained resales, there are housing options for every budget and way of life.

Come see for yourself what Sun ’n Lake is all about!


Sebring, Florida SNLDistrict.org
Easy Living • True Friends • Natural Beauty

Cool cover! -Nancy Catalano Redding

Great article, I actually found myself tearing as it was so inspiring to learn more about this sport, but her story was special and encouraging. - Diana

So much fun to meet her [Kristen Smoyer] and write this article! -Rebecca

Florida Magazine Association

Facebook: May 2, 2023

FMA Cover of the Day

I loved reading this story [75 Years of Mermaids]. My mom and dad used to take us all the time. Their costumes are absolutely beautiful. Love the pictures. By the way, I made the Italian Easter Pie that was in your magazine this month. Turned out great. A lot of work but worth it. -Joy

Loved this story and began planning a trip before I finished the article. I've not been back since I was 8. -Cathy

"Just read the magazine! Every article was great! Pictures are beautiful! And what a special ending to read a sweet article about Marcella and the Sebring family! Love y’all and praying for all of you!" - Kathy Hummel

20 Heartland LIVINGMagazine.com READERS
email us at Cindy@Heartland-Living.com April & May 2023 FRIENDS Heartland LIVING April & May 2023 from our If you haven’t heard of the Weeki Wachee mermaids, you probably haven’t been in Florida very long. And if you have, you might be wondering how this iconic piece of Old Florida has managed to stay afloat in the wake of Disney World, Universal, and other, bigger attractions. Maybe it’s because there’s something inherently magical about a little town known for its mermaids. Maybe some folks just care a whole lot about preserving this unique swatch of local color. This year, to celebrate 75 years of real live mermaids, Florida’s Adventure Coast has partnered with local businesses and organizations to unveil the Mermaid Tale Trail, a driving tour of 27 mermaid statues painted by local artists throughout Hernando County. AND COUNTING! By Christy Swift Photos Courtesy Florida’s Adventure Coast Visitors Bureau 40 „ Honoring Marcella Sebring 94 95 Be a Light this Easter By Hannah Tucker The Sebring Family is built on a foundation of love, strength, humility and above all else kindness. These foundations were passed down by my grandparents, Billy and Anne Sebring, to each member of our family. One tradition that the Sebring family holds tight to is family holidays. Our family spends a lot of time together already with various activities, but we make sure to prioritize spending most if not all holidays together. For anyone who knows the Sebring family, you know there are a number of us at family functions! We have many options for where holidays are held, so we always try to rotate among family members so that not just one family is always playing hostess. We love a true southern home-cooked meal, so we don’t deviate from recipes very much. Everyone has their specialty menu items, and we haven’t grown tired of them yet! Easter is the next holiday on the calendar, and this holiday is one to truly prepare for, physically. The Annual Sebring Family Egg Toss is a competition that has been going on for decades. If you have to get a practice session in before seeing your family members on Easter, you’re doing it right! My uncle, Chris Sebring, is the founder of this holiday tradition and is our judge every year.
If you would like to share your thoughts, please leave a post on our Facebook page or
"Awesome magazine." - Patrice Fry
(407) 637-4756 “Southern Fare with a Modern Flair” Personal Chef Baby & Bridal Showers Weddings | Special Events Business Meeting Holiday Parties Jessica Pleger, Owner info@pinkpineapplecatering.com Catering Company Pink Pineapple

The Villages of Highlands Ridge 36 Holes of Championship Golf is home to 635 families that live in beautiful homes with beautiful views. There are 150 completely ready to build homesites available. All infrastructure is in place. This is a golf cart friendly community. Actually, it is a golf cart preferred community. A fulltime event coordinator keeps everybody as busy as they can be. Not to mention, besides the golf courses, there is bocce ball, pickle ball, basketball, tennis, shuffleboard courts, and two swimming pools, two restaurants, two club houses and two pro shops.



Tennis Courts | Shuffleboard,

with Slips | RV Boat Storage Area

23 June & July 2023
Holes of Championship Golf | Golf Driving Range
Club Houses | Community Center
Lake Bonnet is adjacent to this property. There are two piers on Lake Bonnet, one is for watching beautiful sunsets; the second dock is next to the private boat ramp. The golf course is set in the middle of the wilderness . You get a chance to step back in time and see where the Seminole Indians roamed and lived. There is wildlife galore. Florida Whitetail deer, Osceola turkeys with their big 8-inch beards, owls, hawks, eagles, ospreys and then of course you have your residence squirrels, possums, armadillos, raccoons, bobcats, and you might even get lucky and see a Florida panther. 3 Gens Grill
Restaurant |
Heated Swimming Pools and Hot Tub Lighted
Pickle ball, Horseshoe Pits, & Table Tennis
260-Acre Lake with Boat Launch Ramp
For More Information (863) 784-3313 New homes in Highlands Ridge - Avon Park, Florida by M.E. Gose, Inc. www.highlandsridgenewhomes.com Discover PARADISE Come Play With Us!  36 HOLES OF GOLF  NEW MODEL HOME
Gated Community with two entrances Active 55+ Community
4250 North Course Lane - Avon Park, FL 33825
Photography by Caroline Maxcy Fox & Lisa Taylor Hall

ow many of us would go back to the ‘good ole days’ if we could—the days when distrust wasn’t the go-to emotion and people rarely locked their doors? The days when “it took a village” and the village actually stepped up to do their part? The days when there was less run around for the sake of being busy and more intentional time spent on what truly mattered?

It wasn’t that life used to be easier. In a sense, I believe life was harder, but I think we can all agree, it was a much simpler time. When I think of the difference between then and now, the first thing that comes to mind is togetherness. It has, and forever will, take a village—to raise a child, to run a successful organization, to create a thriving society. Behind every great success is a unity of people, leaning into each other’s strengths, diligently spending time together.

26 „

Nowadays it seems we are all running this chaotic rat race society has convinced us is “just life”. We feel the expectation to do it all, all the time, and rarely get together for the simple act of being together. Time to unwind with humans that fill our hearts and souls. Time to relax, talk about life, what’s worked, what hasn’t. Time to be inspired by others. To learn, to laugh, to love, to refuel… so that when we all get back to everyday life, because we must, we have more kindness and grace to give to ourselves and others.

Friends, it’s 'tis the season for togetherness!

Speaking of seasons, I often find myself saying… “This season! This one is my favorite.” Cool fall nights gathered around a fire, the magic of winter with the ones I am so lucky to love, the new growth and beginnings that come with spring. It all lights me up inside. But then comes summer… and it may or may not be because it’s our current season, but it's most certainly my current favorite.

There is just something so special about these long summer days that turn into cool summer nights. The weather. The vacations. The somewhat lax routines that allow for just a little more time together. I am 100% here for it.

Not to mention, most of my best memories from childhood involve summer. Back in the “good ole days” we spent all day outdoors, roaming the neighborhood, playing in the sprinkler, riding bikes with friends, catching lightning bugs. If you’re anything like me, from the moment you woke up until the moment mama called you in for dinner, you were outside.


know the world today is different and I believe we must be a little more cautious and a lot more strategic, but I also, to the depths of my soul, believe humans are happier together. Together outdoors is a bonus. Especially here. We are so lucky to be planted in Florida.

Sooooo, I vote we get back to it. Let’s get back to our roots. Let’s get back to being together, for the mere point of being together so our souls are reignited! Let’s get our kids outside, roaming, playing, spending less time in front of a screen and more time tapping into each other’s imaginations.

Summer is the perfect season for gathering, but talk about a change in times! Hosting can be so overwhelming nowadays. The theme. The decorations. The expectation to outdo Pinterest Patty down the street who always goes over the top. While we’re here, can that be another thing we vow to change? Comparison. We are all just doing the best we can, and that is enough. Repeat after me… What you do, and/or do not do, has nothing to do with “her.”

31 „

I am quick to open my doors. I absolutely adore having the people we love gathered at our home, but that is because I have found a way to enjoy hosting, and make it look like I am Savvy Sally slinging parties while ballin’ on a budget. Whether you want to get your own babies outdoors this summer or schedule more togetherness by hosting a gathering for family and friends, I’ve got a few tips to help you be the hostess with the mostest… without you wanting to lose it in the process:


I am a firm believer that if we don’t carve out the time for togetherness, it won’t happen. Something will come up. And in a day and time where accommodating everyone else before ourselves is embedded into our brains, I fully give you permission to host on your terms. When, where, what you want. Around your baby’s nap schedule, on a Thursday because that is your favorite day of the week, etc.

Planning the menu seems to be the most overwhelming part of most parties. I personally love having foods that I can prepare ahead of time, so I get to spend time with my guests. If you do not want the responsibility of serving a meal, don’t. Host your party in between mealtimes and throw out some grab-and-go snacks. This will also naturally set parameters on the length of the party as most will start to gradually leave around the next mealtime. Win. Win.


Hear a sister out—one of the biggest lessons I have learned in hosting is letting go of the energy suckers. You know who I am talking about—the people that drain the life right out of you. Those people don’t get to come to your party. They simply don't! And I know what you are thinking, there is absolutely no way you can get away with not inviting cousin Negative Nancy. You can! You absolutely can. When hosting, it is in fact your party—you can have your cake and eat it too… alongside whomever you want to share it with.

I am starting a petition to change the name to The Dollar .25 Store – who’s signing? But on the real, if you haven’t rummaged the aisles of DT lately, you are severely missing out. I am a DIY’er at heart. I love to create things on my own. But if the thought of crafting makes you panic, sister, DT has you covered. I am also cheap, but let me tell ya, their seasonal décor and party section won’t let you down! A pro to shopping at The Dollar Tree is that I do not have to fret if/when things get ruined. Let the guests go hard–and if the toys/décor survive, great, if not, toss ‘em! „

35 June & July 2023


I am a big fan of picnics – makes for a great “kids table” and can be as simple as tossing it out or fancied up with throw pillows and chargers (psst Dollar Tree). Adults dig it too. The riser is just a pallet, cut in half, and painted, and the blanket was snagged on clearance at Walmart. It’s great quality, goes right in the wash after each use, and zips up for tidy storage.

What kid (or adult for that matter) doesn’t love bubbles? They add pizzazz to an already bubbly good time. I grab bubble wands every time I see them on sale. Pro tip: grab a big ole mama jama bottle of refill, because you know little Sally is going to dump her wand out immediately.

I personally am not a fan of sand. It gets into every nook and cranny and seems to show up for days on end… but there is something so special about sitting in the sand (or dirt) with my littles, chatting, building, and if you’ve got little boys, demolishing. Pro tip: grab a mesh laundry bag for storage. Throw them in the bag, sand and all, dunk in the water a time or two, and you’re ready to roll.

This gem was salvaged and with a little love was brought back to life. You know what they say—one’s trash is another’s treasure. It makes for an amazing piece at any party for adults or littles. Fill it up, drink it down!

One more time for those in the back… when it comes to hosting, we aren’t participating in the ridiculous expectation of doing it all.

Go ahead and toss perfection out the door. Pick a day, gather your people, and hit up the DT to save a buck!

Do what you are good at and lean on others’ expertise to do the rest. Ya’ll, summer is here, and the pact has been made!

Thank you to Phillip & Cindy Jones for the use of their beautiful home and property for this photo shoot.


Phillip & Cindy Jones


Caroline Maxcy Fox

Lisa Taylor Hall


DeLo Partee Co.


Tassel & Thread

Hair & Makeup

Abby Youmans


Pink Pineapple Catering Company

Floral Design

Hobby Hill Designs

Event Rental

Lani’s Party & Event Rentals

Adult Models

Jahna Barben

Kinsloe Barben

Calvin Bates

Andy & Cason Bursler

Jessica & Jeff Carlson

Morgan Carlson

Jodie Deloach

Keith & Jenna Gibbs

Amanda John

Chris & Moriah Miller

Young Models

Ava Bates

Jo and Jones Deloach

Trey, Grant and Wells Hall

Adelynn and Lola Kate Hunnicutt

Aspen, Raelyn and Bryson Gibbs

Rowen and Tucker John

Finley Grace Pleger

37 June & July 2023 „
Photo Shoot Credits
And get back to spreading to those around us!
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very piece of land has a story to tell. The dirt itself carries the layers of triumph and tragedy. The rings in the trees whisper of boom and bust, drought and famine, flood and bounty. The wind-shaped canopy cannot hide the tornado of time that has savaged a place. The 180+ acres of land that stands today as Bonnet Springs Park has a story. It is a story of the best times, followed by the worst times. It is a story of people—families that lost as the economic tides turned, families that lamented as a once-thriving area fell to shambles, and families that cared enough to step in and step up. A piece of land that was once disregarded as ugly and worthless now shines as the gem of Central Florida. In a historic tale of philanthropy, community, and redemption, Bonnet Springs Park stands as a symbol of all that is good when humans come together with a vision of hope.

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Photos Courtesy of Bonnet Springs Park

he town of Lakeland, Florida grew around the success of the railroad system in the latter part of the 1800’s. Incorporated in 1885, the town offered a progressive outlook, excellent commerce, job opportunities, and an attractive central location. Lakeland’s rail system transported agriculture and phosphate in every direction. As the century turned, the town grew and prospered. Lakeland rode the wave of the 1920’s land boom and entered a golden age in which it seemed the prosperity could never end. The rail system continued to expand, becoming one of the largest in the state. Lakeland felt the sting of the subsequent “bust” but was resilient, chugging along like the very locomotives that carried the tangible hopes of the residents for as long as possible.

The rail-yard operation came to a halt in 1952. The massive site sat and languished for decades. The land, used and abused, carried environmental scars of unknown proportion. Nature had its way, though. First came the weeds, then the plants, and finally the trees. Unattended for over 60 years, the old rail yard transformed into a jungle. It also became a garbage dump, a gathering place for the homeless, and an eyesore to the community.

Henry David Thoreau said, “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see,” and longtime Lakeland resident, David Bunch, saw something different. He pitched his idea for a park that would reconnect the Northwest quadrant to the rest of the city. He painted the picture of an idea and he shared it with the right people. Carol and Barney Barnett and retired Lakeland Parks and Recreation Director Bill Tinsley were enthusiastic about the project, though the challenges would be immense.

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he team partnered with a Boston-based firm, Sasaki, to create a workable vision and devise strategies for the remediation of environmental hazards. The site was covered with the by-products of the industrial period, mainly arsenic and petroleum contaminants. Additionally, Lake Bonnet and the nearby natural spring were among the most polluted watersheds in Lakeland. More than 200 acres surrounding the site were originally developed in such a way that the urban run-off flowed to and through the area, carrying high levels of chemicals and large amounts of trash directly into the lake. Working closely with regulatory agencies and an environmental consultant, the contaminated ground was pulled and mounded and then covered with over 315,000 cubic yards of clean fill. Additionally, a system was devised to catch the stormwater that had wreaked havoc in the area. The water now runs through a vault that physically removes the trash and empties into a winding wet meadow composed of native and adapted species designed to slow and filter the water. Creative methods of environmental intervention have become highlights of the Bonnet Springs landscape. Beautiful contours and hills now block noise, direct breezes, and create play nooks for families throughout the park. Massive heritage trees, ponds, and creeks pull visitors deeper in to explore all that Bonnet Springs has to offer— a state-of-the-art playground and water play area, a Nature Center, The Depot Park Cafe, a rooftop bar, a natural amphitheater for concerts and events, The Florida Children’s Museum, a children’s resource center, a beautiful event venue, the 5-senses garden, a butterfly area, and more. There is something for everyone, and no one could experience it all in one visit.

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Bonnet Springs is an independent, privately funded 501c3 organization. While Carol and Barney Barnett are the primary benefactors of the park, the citizens of Lakeland have funded the project every step of the way, including the current day-to-day operations. Over 100 million private dollars have gone into the construction and operation of Bonnet Springs. Josh Henderson, the CEO, speaks with passion when he describes the significance of this level of philanthropy.

“Bonnet Springs is a free-to-the-public park that offers a paid level experience,” Josh says. “Regardless of socioeconomic status, an individual or family has a destination location. We want it to be a repeatable experience, something that never gets old. And all of this is possible because the people believed, and they gave generously.”

Bill Tinsley, who has walked every step of the way since day one on the project, is equally amazed. “It’s pretty much unprecedented, historical. Bonnet Springs is one of a kind and the people of Lakeland never shied away from the challenge.”

The story of Bonnet Springs Park is a story of redemption. Perhaps, that’s a little of the draw, especially for families whose ancestors rode the economic waves of citrus and phosphate and railroads. The stories of these families are commemorated in the history center just as the environmental stories visibly mark the giant trees on which the children now climb. The plot of land to the east of Lake Bonnet has been given a second chance. It is an icon of creativity, leadership, and vision. But mostly, Bonnet Springs Park is a demonstration of the good that arises when humans come together to leave a legacy.

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Luxury, Rustic & Lakeside Wedding & Events in the Highlands

Imagine your first kiss under a shaded canopy of oak trees, or in our intimate indoor chapel. Wingmann has 25 acres of stunning scenery that includes a tranquil lakefront and beautiful lodges to host receptions. Our venue is more than just a beautiful space; it’s a place steeped in history, spanning almost a century. It’s a place where faith is strengthened, bonds are formed, and cherished memories are made that will last a lifetime.

Extend your celebration and enjoy our facilities for the entire weekend with recreational activities and overnight accommodations.

Indoor air-conditioned chapel

Reception facilities for up to 200 of your best friends and family

Cabins and hotel style accommodations for up to 120 people

Beautiful and serene location by our spring-fed lake

Bring your favorite caterer or let us help you find exactly what you’re looking for

Centrally located with easy access to major highways and airports

Variety of activities like kayaks, ropes course, and archery are available

The beauty and history of Wingmann offered to your love story.
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It’s been 80 years since U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Pharis E. Weekley went Missing in Action during World War II. Now, through DNA analysis and the efforts of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, he has finally come home to his family in Avon Park.

Christy Swift Photography by Lisa Taylor Hall
Lt. Pharis E. Weekley

In the small town of Bradley Junction on July 22, 1922, Naomi Weekley, wife of Thomas Weekley, gave birth to a baby boy who would grow up to become one of America's bravest soldiers. Pharis E. Weekley was an extraordinary young man who would sacrifice his life for his country at the young age of 21. Weekley's family moved to LaBelle and then to Fort Myers where he attended high school. He was a talented singer with a natural baritone voice, and he often performed at churches and special events in the community. He was even invited to sing at the summer home of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas and Mina Edison during her celebrated garden parties.

The family included brothers Dallas and Tommy, and a sister, Marva. Music was a cornerstone for his whole family, and they would often gather around the piano in the evenings to sing. “He also, along with the family, enjoyed reading and memorizing poetry. Back then when there was no television, that is what we did for entertainment,” his sister Marva Turner recalls with a smile.

Photos (cira 1920s-1940s) courtesy of the Weekley family. Lt. Pharis E. Weekley with his sister Marva

In high school, Pharis wanted to go out for the football team but, so as not to go against his mother’s wishes, he joined the boxing team instead. Until he came home with a split lip, she was not aware that he had joined the boxing team. Weekley earned his Eagle Scout Badge by participating in a survival weekend. After graduating from high school, he attended the University of Florida with plans to become a pharmacist like his Uncle Johnny.

Weekley’s plans for his future changed after speaking with a recruiter from the Army Air Forces. He felt that this was his calling and decided to forego pharmaceutical training and serve his country instead. Weekley's parents received a letter from the headquarters of the Gulf Coast Army Air Forces Training Center on June 5, 1942, informing them that their son was selected to be trained as a navigator. The letter stated, "In order to win this war, it is vital to have the best-qualified young men in navigating our bombardment airplanes. Upon them will depend, in large measure, the success of our entire war effort."

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Lt. Pharis E. Weekley (back row-center) with the team he flew with.

Weekley was stationed at the Triple E military base in Benghazi, Libya, when he was called to serve in Operation Tidal Wave—the largest air raid in World War Two. On Sunday, August 1, 1943, during the dark early morning hours, Weekley was led to his airplane, a B-24 Liberator named the Lady Jayne, along with nine other elite aviators from the 329th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 93rd Bombardment Group (Heavy), 9th Air Force. The mission was to destroy the oil refineries in Ploesti, Romania, which were crucial to the Axis war effort and produced as much as one third of Germany's liquid fuel requirements. Ploesti was one of the most heavily fortified targets in Europe, and it was beyond the range of Allied bombers from England. However, it would be accessible by bombers stationed in the Middle East or North Africa—including Weekley’s squadron.

“They were told at their briefing, ‘Go back to your barracks, pack all your belongings in your B-4 bag along with your letter home’,” Marva’s daughter Cathy Albritton recounts, reading from a book on the subject. “I’m sure they didn’t sleep a wink that night.”

Weekley had just turned 21 a few weeks before he was called on that mission. Albritton read a quote from Weekley’s letter home: “Mother, when you read in the paper about what the liberators are doing in the Middle East, I want you to know that I am right in here.” The letter was dated July 30th, 1943. Pharis also asked how Marva and Dallas were getting along with their music. And he wanted his mother to tell his brother Tommy, who was stationed in Europe, that he had earned an Air Medal.


Operation Tidal Wave was a daring and dangerous one, and leaders “expected many losses.” It was the first and last time the military would execute a low-level air raid, with some planes flying as low as 50 feet off the ground. Second Lieutenant Weekley’s likely experience was recounted by his nephew, Lance, a pilot: “After traveling approximately one thousand two hundred miles in leaking, fume-infested B-24s with no seats for most of the men before they reached the target, they were forced to fly just a few feet above ground at about 160 miles per hour.” They were so close to the ground they had to keep pulling corn stalks out of the engines. Only a few short hours into the raid, the sky filled with smoke and fire as the Germans fought back with devastating force. The Lady Jayne was hit by enemy fire and crashed.

“One hundred seventy seven planes and 1753 men departed on the mission. Fifty-four planes and at least 532 men did not return,” Cathy Albritton reports from a scrapbook her grandmother Naomi kept of Pharis. Of the men on the Lady Jayne, only one survived, and he was taken prisoner, she added.

At her uncle’s Memorial Service, Cathy quoted an excerpt from “The Ploesti Raid Through the Lens,” a book by Roger A. Freeman. “The Operation Tidal Wave low level bombing raid has probably attracted more interest than any other United States Army Air Forces offensive operation during the Second World War,” she read. “It has been proclaimed the most ambitious, the most daring, the most foolhardy, the most disastrous and the most heroic, to name but a few superlatives.” „

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William Cox, U.S. Army Casualty Office senior mortuary affairs specialist, gives an identification briefing to family members of U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Pharis E. Weekley during a family member update (FMU) in Orlando, FL on Feb. 25, 2023.


Cathy didn’t think anything else would be added to her uncle’s scrapbook since Weekley’s remains, along with many others, were not identified following the war. However, in 2017, The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) began exhuming unknown remains believed to be associated with unaccounted-for airmen from Operation Tidal Wave. These remains were sent to the DPAA Laboratory at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, for examination and identification. Because the family opted in to this initiative and provided their DNA, almost 80 years after his heroic sacrifice, on July 12, 2022, Weekley’s remains were positively identified using DNA analysis. Cathy and her mother Marva would be adding to that scrapbook after all.

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U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Pharis E. Weekley was welcomed home on May 12th, 2023 by his surviving family in Avon Park. His remains were flown into Orlando, where he was received with full military honors, including a water salute. He was then accompanied by a contingent of over 200 motorcycle veterans from Lake Wales. His memorial service took place on May 20th, 2023 where he was welcomed home by his sister Marva and nieces and nephews Cathy Albritton, Wesley Turner, and Lance Weekley as well as local ROTC members, church members, and the community. His remains were laid to rest next to his mother’s.

Marva Turner is greeted at the airport where she welcomed her brother home.
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His memorial service at First Baptist Church in Avon Park was also attended by Dr. Megan Ingvoldstad, a forensic anthropologist for the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency and the leader of the Ploesti Project, the DPAA’s effort to identify the service members unaccounted-for from Operation Tidal Wave. Weekley received full military honors at Bougainvillea Cemetery in Avon Park, including a gunfire salute and active Color Guard. Meanwhile, a rosette will be placed next to his name on the Tablets of the Missing at the Florence American Cemetery in Impruneta, Italy, indicating that another brave American airman has gone home at last.

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What are the odds that two young women, raised on dairy farms at opposite ends of the country, would both move to Nashville to pursue their passion of careers in the music industry and then meet? The odds are minuscule, but it happened as if it was written in an adventure novel. Shelby Dressel, 32, and Megan Gertken, 33, are two such artists who frequently found themselves performing in the same bands in downtown Nashville. Once they met and discovered the common thread they shared in music, writing style, and family backgrounds, the two decided to write music together. They were destined to form a band, and in 2016 “The Dairy Daughters” was born.

Shelby Dressel and Megan Gertken

aised on Dressel Dairy in rural Avon Park, Shelby hails from a musical family: both her father, Gary Dressel, and brothers sing, write, and play guitar, so it was only natural that she would learn as well. She occasionally joined her father and siblings, singing with them in their band. Her first official performance was at church when she was a mere seven years old, and it set her on the trajectory that has brought surprising, wonderful experiences and beneficial connections.

Dressel auditioned for American Idol at the insistence of her aunt Michelle Sedlock, and her talent earned her a spot in the final forty-six. The opportunities that the A.I. experience provided were significant, and included performing on the Ellen DeGeneres show, as well as being the opening act for both the band, Boston, and for Sammy Kershaw.

Megan’s life experiences on her family’s dairy farm in Albany, Minnesota influenced her as well. “Growing up on a dairy farm, all of us kids were outside helping with chores at a very young age, and seeing my family work together really shaped how I view the world,” Megan says. She began playing piano at age six and took up the fiddle at age nine. She moved to Nashville at age nineteen, eventually opening for Kris Kristofferson and others. Megan loves to write her own music, sharing her life story in the process.

The Dairy Daughters’ style can best be described as a sisterly harmony with acoustic strings and warm fiddle playing, with feel-good, backporch songs. They call it “easy listening, grass fed, organic country gold” and credit the likes of Lee Ann Womack, George Strait, Patty Loveless and others for the direction of their music. Their writing process is a creative effort, whether a song begins with storylines from life experiences, picking melodies on the guitar, or a bit of both. The duo finds inspiration from life, love and self image for many of their songs.

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favorite song of Megan’s is “Farmer’s Day Off,” as it relates to her youth, working the farm with family and the elusive day off. “Mountains” is a personal favorite of Shelby’s and was inspired by her mother, Kathy Dressel, whose love of the mountains is quoted in the song: “the mountains were so beautiful, like being closer to heaven.” That lyric is made even more special given the fact that Kathy is now in heaven. Shelby notes that the song “Mountains” helps many who have experienced loss as they listen to the words and melody.

In the decade or so that they have lived in Nashville and since forming the Dairy Daughters duo, many opportunities have presented themselves that otherwise may not have been available. Countless talented and famous musicians call Nashville home, and the Dairy Daughters have been fortunate to perform with a great number of them live and in recording studios. The pair has performed in Norway and Denmark and also made regular treks to their respective home states where the Dairy Daughters is always a hot ticket.

As a new mother, Shelby brings daughter Stella along and has since she was four months old. “Stella falls right into our travels, and most of the time she is at the shows singing and clapping and dancing along.” Shelby says. “It’s a really beautiful thing to be raising my child around music, and the fact that she is growing up around some of the best musicians and writers in the country will be really cool to share with her as she grows up. She’ll definitely be musical.”

Continuing their music goals is not without obstacles, but Shelby notes, “It’s about finding a balance of being a full time momma and continuing to play, write music and travel for shows. It can be challenging to find time after playing shows all day long, to schedule time to create.”

Megan related: “We are getting back to it slowly but surely, and finding a new groove!”

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Shelby with her father, Gary and daughter Stella
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Megan, Logan and Shelby

he Dairy Daughters will be releasing a new song in the next few months, entitled “Grandpa’s Flowers,” which Shelby describes as “a beautiful song we wrote with my brother Logan Dressel about Megan’s grandfather, who planted flowers.” A sampling of the lyrics include: “Now he feels the wind in Chicago, hears the music in Tennessee, along the lakes of Minnesota, living that California dream, split 'em up between the family, plant them everywhere we go, a reminder he’s still with us, wherever grandpa’s flowers grow.”

“Being able to play music for a living is such an incredible opportunity, and the people that support us from all over the world are who make that happen. Also, I think being able to play with incredible band members on a daily basis is an equally important opportunity,” says Megan.

To have already accomplished so much at their tender ages, from performing in church to performing in Nashville; from competing on American Idol to touring across continents; from performing with family groups to introducing their children to music, Shelby and Megan are the stuff that successful musicians are made of . . . grit, determination, perseverance, confidence, and of course, talent. The Dairy Daughters may be young women who “throw on a holey pair of jeans and a hat, leave my hair in a mess” as their 2017 single “Tomboy” describes, but when it concerns their music, they “dress to impress.”

The Dairy Daughters is currently performing in Nashville, but look for them to be back in Florida again in the future. The Dairy Daughters may be reached at dairydaughtersmusic@gmail.com. Their music is available on iTunes, Spotify and other music platforms. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

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Being able to play music for a living is such an incredible opportunity, and the people that support us from all over the world are who make that happen.

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Entertaining is as essential to summer as popsicles, trips to the beach, and firefly-filled nights. In a busy world, it’s important to take time to slow down and reconnect, and there’s no better place than your own backyard.

Outdoor gatherings take planning, but the payoff is priceless: happy memories. Splash into summer with recipes perfect for a patio or pool party. When the sun’s out, try some of these easy summer recipes. Don’t worry—everything is simple to make, so you’ll have plenty of time to relax!


You might already have burgers and hot dogs on the menu, but why not add shrimp, too?! It’s easy to do when you grill them on skewers. Take a trip to the tropics with this crispy coconut-crusted shrimp. It even has a sweet chili sauce for more island flavor. This recipes serves 4 people as an entrée, or up to 8 people as an appetizer.


For the shrimp: Peel the shrimp, leaving the tail on. Cut a shallow slit along the back, curved edge of the shrimp. Wipe or rinse away the vein. Place on a paper towel lined plate and pat very dry. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Meanwhile, place the flour on a plate. Whisk together the eggs and milk in a wide shallow bowl. Combine the coconut, panko, salt, pepper, and red chili flakes in another wide, shallow bowl. Working 3 to 4 pieces of shrimp at a time, dredge in the flour to coat completely, dip in the egg mixture, then coat in the coconut mixture. Set aside in a single layer on a sheet tray.


For the Shrimp:

1 1/2 lb. jumbo shrimp (21 - 25)

3/4 c. all-purpose flour

1 egg

1/3 c. milk

1 c. shredded unsweetened coconut

1/2 c. panko breadcrumbs

1 tsp. kosher salt

1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

1/4 tsp. red chili flakes

1/2 c. coconut oil

Vegetable oil, for frying

Lime wedges, for serving, optional

For the Dipping Sauce:

1/4 c. orange or peach marmalade

1/4 c. Thai sweet chili sauce

1 tbsp. lime juice

1 1/2 tsp. soy sauce

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet filled with the coconut oil and vegetable oil to about a 1/4-inch over medium-high until very hot (about 350 degrees). Place half of the shrimp in a single layer and cook until golden brown on one side, 30 to 60 seconds. Flip and cook for 30 to 60 more seconds, until the shrimp curves into a C-shape. Remove from the oil and transfer to a paper towel lined plate. Repeat with the remaining shrimp.

For the sauce: Whisk together marmalade, chili sauce, lime juice, and soy sauce in a small bowl. Serve shrimp warm with the dipping sauce, and lime wedges, if you like.


Want a family-friendly side dish? This colorful medley is kid-pleasing and a great way to encourage healthy eating.


2 large bananas, sliced

2 medium pears, cubed

1/3 cup fresh orange juice

1/3 cup unsweetened pineapple juice

3 cups cubed fresh pineapple

1-1/2 cups sliced fresh strawberries

1 cup seedless red grapes, halved

4 medium kiwifruit, peeled and sliced

2 medium mangoes, peeled and cubed

2 star fruit, sliced


In a large bowl, combine the bananas, pears and juices. Add the pineapple, strawberries, grapes, kiwi and mangoes; stir gently to combine. Arrange star fruit over top.


Imagine lounging by the pool as you take a big bite of tropical Piña Colada cake. It is sure to be a hit summer dessert at any cookout or pool party.


For the Cake:

Nonstick baking spray with flour

3 large eggs

2 c. granulated sugar

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 c. vegetable oil

3 c. all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1 20-ounce can

crushed pineapple in juice

For the Soak:

1 15-ounce can cream of coconut

2 tbsp. dark rum

1 tbsp. lime juice

Does piña colada cake contain alcohol? This recipe does call for 2 tablespoons of dark rum in the soak. Because the alcohol will not bake off, the rum can either be omitted or substituted with 1 teaspoon of rum extract.

For the Topping:

3 c. cold heavy whipping cream, divided

1/3 c. confectioner’s sugar

1 8-ounce can

crushed pineapple in juice

1 3.4-ounce package

coconut cream instant pudding mix

Toasted coconut chips, for garnish

Maraschino cherries, for garnish

Lime zest, for garnish

Tip: Sweetened condensed coconut milk can be substituted for cream of coconut.


For the cake: Prepare a 13x9-inch baking pan with non-stick baking spray. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk the eggs, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl for about 1 minute (you can use a whisk or a hand blender). Add the oil and whisk well to fully combine.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the egg mixture and whisk to combine. Add 1/2 of the crushed pineapple and whisk to combine completely. Add another 1/3 of the flour, then the remaining crushed pineapple, and the remaining flour mixture; whisking well to combine between each addition. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and fold in any unincorporated bits. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan.

Bake until golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes. Loosely place foil over the top of the cake to prevent excess browning. Bake for another 10 to 15 minutes until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven. Using a wooden spoon or a fork, poke holes all over the cake.

For the soak: Whisk together the cream of coconut, rum, and lime juice. Slowly pour the cream of coconut mixture over the top of the warm cake. Allow to cool completely.

For the topping: Using a hand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip 1 ½ cups of cream in a large bowl on medium-high speed until thickened. Add the confectioner’s sugar and whip until firm peaks form. In a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl, drain the crushed pineapple and reserve the liquid.

In another large bowl, whisk the remaining 1 ½ cups of cream, the pudding mix, and the liquid drained from the can of pineapple until smooth. Fold the whipped cream into the pudding mixture in 3 additions until evenly combined. Fold in the drained pineapple.

Gently spread the topping over the cooled cake. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

To serve, sprinkle the cake with the toasted coconut and decorate with maraschino cherries and lime zest, if desired.


Whether you’re looking to cool off during the hot summer months or are simply dreaming of beaches during the dead of winter, this Mai Tai drink will transport you instantly to that summer fantasy.


1 ½ ounces white rum

½ ounce lime juice, fresh squeezed

½ ounce orange curacao or Grand Marnier or triple sec or orange liqueur

½ ounce orgeat syrup


¾ ounce dark rum

Garnishes: maraschino cherry, lime, pineapple, mint


Pour the white rum, fresh lime juice, orange curacao and the orgeat syrup into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously.

Pour rum mixture over ice in a glass. Slowly pour the dark rum so it floats on top. (Pour over a spoon to easily layer the dark rum.)

Add garnishes of maraschino cherry, limes, pineapple, and mint. (optional)

If you are making these for a party, assemble garnishes ahead of time on cocktail picks and store in a plastic container in the fridge until ready to serve.


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The Pavilion on Little Lake Jackson is more than just a scenic venue. It's a versatile indoor-outdoor gathering space, unparalleled in the region, and the ideal location for those looking to host a memorable business or personal event.

With bright and airy indoor space, canopy covered lake side deck, and a courtyard shaded by stately live oaks, our event spaces are available individually or together -- the possibilities are endless. The Pavilion is also conveniently located between the Residence Inn by Marriott and the Tru by Hilton

For more information on the event space or to schedule your event, please contact Kayla at kselander@zmchotels.com. | 863-546-0026

92 Heartland LIVINGMagazine.com
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Hey there, beach bums and bookworms! Summer is here, and it’s time to slather on some sunscreen, grab your favorite pair of shades, and lose yourself in romance, mystery, adventure, and inspiration. We tried to pick a variety of beach-themed reads to suit all tastes. Dig those toes in the sand while you crack that spine (or power up that Kindle). Happy summer reading!


A small-town, feel-good romance, Mermaid Beach is the seventh book in the Harbor Novel series by Sheila Roberts. It earned 4.6 stars on Amazon, and USA Today describes it as, “A story of music, hopes, dreams and family, brimming with Sheila’s trademark humor and heart.”

Bonnie Brinks, her daughter Avril, and mother Loretta play together in the all-woman band, The Mermaids, the pride of Moonlight Harbor. Avril dreams of something bigger, and when she announces she wants to go to Nashville to pursue her music career, Bonnie doesn't support her. Meanwhile, Loretta is looking for love and wants the same for her daughter. When the new owner of The Drunken Sailor turns the band's life upside down, Bonnie's comfortable life seems to be slipping away. Will these three generations of Mermaids find their happy endings on the Washington coast, or will they be left shipwrecked by the change in the winds?



This 2022 bestseller is a feel-good story of an unlikely friendship between a widow and a giant Pacific octopus. A contemporary literary novel sprinkled with magic, Shelby Van Pelt’s debut novel earned 4.6 stars on Amazon.

Tova Sullivan copes with the mysterious disappearance of her son over 30 years ago by working at an aquarium and forming a friendship with a curmudgeonly giant Pacific octopus named Marcellus. Marcellus, who knows more than he lets on, helps Tova uncover the truth about what happened to her son on the night he vanished. This novel is a heartwarming reminder that examining the past can lead to a brighter future.


90 Devotions for Rest and Relaxation

Ready to let the shore inspire you? "Beach Devotions: Refreshing Your Soul with Lessons from the Beach" is a daily devotional that provides a peaceful escape to the beach, where you can find rest in God's love and care. It earned 4.9 stars on Amazon.

Each devotion includes a Scripture, an inspirational message, and a prayer to guide you in releasing your fears and receiving God's peace. This devotional will encourage you to trust in God's goodness and faithfulness during life's chaotic moments.


For fans of the fake-dating-to-real-dating trope, “the beach reads master” Emily Henry delivers this new novel that Amazon describes as “glittering and wise.” It’s a little spicy, so make sure that’s what you like before you pick it up! It currently sits at 4.7 stars on Amazon.

Harriet and Wyn have always been a perfect couple, but for reasons they're not discussing, they broke up five months ago and haven't told their best friends. However, they find themselves sharing a bedroom at their friend group's annual getaway in Maine, where they spend a week together, enjoying wine, cheese, seafood, and the coastal air. The cottage is also up for sale, and Harriet and Wyn don't want to disappoint their friends by revealing the truth about their breakup. Instead, they agree to pretend that everything is fine and play their parts: Harriet will be the driven surgical resident, and Wyn will be the laid-back charmer. But as the week progresses, they struggle to ignore their lingering feelings for each other, and their flawless plan to fake it becomes increasingly difficult.



If you’re looking for a beach read with a little more grit, we give you this true, historical pageturner from David Grann. It’s brand new and a #1 New York Times bestseller with a 4.5 star rating on Amazon.

In January 1742, a group of thirty emaciated men washed up on the Brazilian coast, survivors of His Majesty's Ship the Wager, a British vessel that had wrecked on an island off the coast of Patagonia while chasing a Spanish treasure-filled galleon during an imperial war with Spain. The men had built a flimsy craft and sailed for over a hundred days, facing starvation and storm-wracked seas. They were greeted as heroes, but six months later, another boat landed on the Chilean coast containing three castaways who accused the thirty sailors of mutiny. The Admiralty convened a court martial to determine who was telling the truth, with the stakes being life-and-death for the guilty party. The Wager is a remarkable true story of human behavior at the extremes.

If you have other beach reads to recommend, find us on Facebook and share your thoughts. We’d love to hear from you!


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