Heartland LIVING Magazine Apr-May 2023

Page 56

& May 2023
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: April 18 ONLINE ONLY May 13 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 April & May 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
Manarola on Italy’s Cinque Terre Tuscany shore, Story on page 70

April & May 2023

Volume 12  Issue 2



Flyboarding Friends

Get to Know Lake Placid Flyboarder

Kristen Smoyer and her "Hydro-Soulmates"


Bringing Back the Romance

Lakeland Arts Recaptures the Lost Art of Hand-Painted Victorian Wedding Dresses


Traditional Girls Trip to Florence & Tuscany, Italy

7 April & May 2023
NOTEWORTHY 10 Letter from the Publisher 16 Behind the Scenes 20 From our Readers COVER Flyboarder Kristen Smoyer Cover Art Design by Bridgette Waldau FRIENDS April & Mary 2023 Volume 12  Issue 2 DEPARTMENTS CONTENTS FOOD & HEALTH 40 75 Years of Mermaids and Counting By Christy Swift 94 Be a Light this Easter Honoring Marcella Sebring By Hannah Tucker 86 90 86 Italian Easter Celebration By Cindy Adams
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.

elcome Spring, I feel spring is the time of year we associate with new growth and fresh starts. It’s a time when many of us find more energy and focus on self-improvement or try something different. For some of us this means spring cleaning, organizing or maybe painting with fresh colors. For others it’s time to let our creative juices flow outside.

We share in this issue different ways to get outside and enjoy the weather or take an adventure. I’m truly inspired by our talented writers and what they have written for you in this issue. We are bringing you something different for everyone, but think you are going to love each story.

I want to welcome our new writer in this issue, Ladonna Rodriguez. I’m so honored to have her join our amazing team. I know you will enjoy her story “Bringing Back the Romance” with artist Emily Plank from Lakeland. So much talent and beauty all together in this story.

If traveling abroad is on your bucket list, then you are going to love reading Caroline Maxcy Fox’s story “Two Lifelong Friends in Firenze” with her lifelong friend Radha Thakkar Bachman. Not only once did they get to share the trip together, but she shares that the third time is the charm. I know Italy is definitely on my travel list and there are so many ways to enjoy family and friends with some adventures, near or far.

If you want to stay closer to home, check out our story on Weeki Wachee, home of the iconic mermaids. Christy Swift, not only shares the 75-year history of Weeki Wachee, but also the Mermaid Tale of Trails, a driving tour of 27 mermaid statues.

How about that cover that our creative designer Bridgette Waldau created from the photos Kristen Smoyer shared with u!. Again, so much talent in this issue with my writers, photographers and I sure couldn’t create Heartland LIVING without Bridgette’s creative designs during our many years together.

Thank you, Kristen, for gracing our cover and sharing your story with us and our readers. Kristen is a unique athlete who is driven with purpose and determination. You will learn a little part of her life and how she became “The Destroyer in the flyboarding world.” What determination and again, talent. I know you will enjoy this story and want to find where she is performing next so you can go watch her in person.

I’m thankful for all our new advertisers and honored they trust us with sharing their businesses with you. We wish them much success and please go by and shop with them and let them know you saw their ad in the magazine. Supporting local is so important.

I’m dedicating this issue to my sister-in-law, Marcella Sebring. She was the most loving sister, friend, and mom. We will cherish the memories forever.

God Bless,

10 Heartland LIVINGMagazine.com

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 full-time 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.

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.


36 Holes of Championship Golf | Golf Driving Range

Two Club Houses | Community Center

North Tavern Restaurant | 3 Gens Grill

Two Heated Swimming Pools and Hot Tub

Lighted Tennis Courts | Shuffleboard, Pickle ball, Horseshoe Pits, & Table Tennis

260-Acre Lake with Boat Launch Ramp

Dock with Slips | RV Boat Storage Area

Gated Community with two entrances Active 55+ Community

11 April & May 2023
New homes in Highlands Ridge - Avon Park, Florida by M.E. Gose, Inc. Go to www.highlandsridgenewhomes.com and watch the new video
For More Information (863) 784-3313


Publications & Marketing, Inc.

April & Mary 2023

Volume 12  Issue 2

CEO | Publisher

Cindy Sebring Adams

Editor Christy Swift

Contributing Editors

Radha Thakkar Bachman

Kelsey Schauf

Feature Writers

Caroline Maxcy Fox

Rebecca Maglischo

Ladonna Rodriguez

Christy Swift

Hannah Tucker

Creative Director

Bridgette Waldau

Photography Director

Rafael Pacheco

Cover Design

Bridgette Waldau

Feature Photographer

Caroline Maxcy Fox

Contributing Photographers

Emily Loeppke

Terrie Nelson

Dustin Pickett

Alexa Sarduy Florida’s Adventure Coast Visitors Bureau

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

E-mail Cindy@Heartland-Living.com



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.
13 April & May 2023 • Primary Vision Care • Pediatric Vision Care • Vision Therapy • Contacts & Glasses • Disease Diagnosis & Management • Pre- & Post-Operative Surgical Management (863) 658-0645 | www.PinnacleEyes.com 919 Mall Ring Road, Sebring FL 33870 Pinnacle Vision Care is proud to offer Primary and Pediatric Vision Care. Whether you are looking to keep your eye health up to date, or you are experiencing symptoms of vision loss, our team of professionals are here for you. 50off! & get



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!

14 Heartland LIVINGMagazine.com Sebring, Florida SNLDistrict.org
Easy Living • True Friends • Natural Beauty
15 April & May 2023 202 3 Join us for our annual event benefiting the AdventHealth Lake Placid and Wauchula Foundations Presented by Brasfield & Gorrie General Contractors Friday, May 12, 2023 Registration and Continental Breakfast | 8 am OK Corral Gun Club 9449 NE 48th St. | Okeechobee, FL 34972 863-402-5525 | Kirsten.Turner@AdventHealth.com Please RSVP by Friday, April 29


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.


HANNAH TUCKER is the Downtown Coordinator for the Community Redevelopment Agency with the City of Sebring. Hannah was born and raised in Sebring and enjoys getting to work for the city that she loves so much. Her biggest passion is the creativity of the work she designs and writes as well as the memories she captures through her videography and photography.

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 soon-to-be published author of Young Adult and Adult fiction. You can find her at www.christyswift.com.

Photography Director

RAFAEL PACHECO I am a Pisces and was born on the island of Puerto Rico. My dog thinks I am crazy for locking the door so many times in 10 seconds and my cats think I am made of catnip. Everything I wear is black, gray or blue. If I put on something colorful I must have been in a hurry. Photography is how I have let my artistic visions come to life since the early 90’s. Patience, kindness, sharing, sacrifice, love and not to judge- I saw my mother practice these and they stayed within me. We are collective energy and all from the same Source. I don’t see the world through my eyes. I see it through my soul.

Writer & Photographer

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.

16 Heartland LIVINGMagazine.com
April & May 2023
"Every GREAT design begins with an even BETTER story."
- Lorinda Mamo, designer
17 April & May 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 . * Must be and established Chen Dental patient, other fees and services may apply. (D9565) Exp. 6.30.23 CALL 863.657.0395 OR VISIT CHENDENTAL.COM TODAY! special offer WHITENING $399 * A $450 VALUE Now through June 30, 2023 During the months of April, May and June, Chen Dental will be providing a FREE Burst Toothbrush to the first 10 to receive Zoom® Whitening treatment before June 30th! whiter, brighter, faster. Call 863.657.0395 today for your reservation. $79 * COMPLETE EXAM & DIGITAL X-RAYS A $165 VALUE special *Non-insured patients only. Must present the coupon on first visit. (D0150, D0210) Exp. 5.31.23
Messieh Orthopedic Clinic 863-419-9301 1601 6th Street SE WINTER HAVEN 863-471-9700 3200 Physicians Way SEBRING Dr. Samuel S. Messieh 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. New Year, NewJoint, New You!

from our

Heartland LIVING

February & March 2023

I'm a retired newspaper and magazine journalist who very recently resettled in Avon Park. While waiting in a business office, I chanced upon a copy of Heartland Living and I was just blown away. As a veteran of the publishing industry, I know enough to recognize you are producing the very best of the so called "city books"... it is simply spectacular! From the heavy stock covers, the fine stock interior pages, the typography, the page and cover designs, the outstanding photography, to the appropriate copy content and excellent writing style, even the ad layouts...all of it are just superb. Kudos and hats off to all the staff. There are big city book offices which fail at what you're doing so well. I'll be looking for future copies. I wish you much future success.

I love my ad and I have actually received a seller home listing from it! Thank you so much! I am so happy to be a part of your gorgeous magazine!

Grab yourself a copy of the current Heartland LIVING Magazine and you’ll find a nice write up on cowboy poetry featuring my good friends Clint Raulerson, Sean Sexton, and me. Sincere thanks to everyone at the magazine for helping us share our ranching heritage!


"Fascinating story about J.C Newman Cigar Co. Great history! We did not know about this place and plan to visit it soon."

If you would like to share your thoughts, please leave a post on our Facebook page or email us at Cindy@Heartland-Living.com

20 Heartland LIVINGMagazine.com
February & March 2023
"What an honor it was to capture this (The Pink Lady)! Thanks for inviting me in to tell a small part of this exciting story with my camera!"
-Caroline Maxcy Fox
-Michael Wade



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.
23 April & May 2023 Book a tour with us by visiting our website or giving us a call. 3404 Wingmann Road | Avon Park, FL 33825 www.WingmannWeddings.org Office Hours: Monday -Friday | 9 am - 3pm Weddings & Events Are Our Passion and Our Expertise weddings@campwingmann.org 863-453-4800 PLANNING & DESIGN Sterling Weddings, Events & Design PHOTOGRAPHY Caroline Maxcy Photography, Photos by Rissa CINEMATOGRAPHY Infinity Reflections FLORA Hobby Hill Design BEAUTY Eden Salon, And Then There Was Z, Logan Armstrong, Hair & Makeup by Abby Youmans, Glammed Up By Jeanette CATERING Pink Pineapple Catering Company BRIDAL GOWNS & MENSWEAR Bittner Bridal, Nicks for Men RENTALS Lani’s Rentals
(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
25 April & May 2023 ❦ Designer Bridal Gowns ❦ Prom & Special Occasion Gowns ❦ On-site Alterations ❦ Wedding & Family Photography 5 N Main Ave Lake Placid, FL 33852 one stop www.BittnerBridal.com Your shop for all your special event needs. 863-320-6000 Taylor Bittner Owner of Bittner Bridal Hours: Thursday - Saturday 10 am - 6 pm Book By Appointment


Get to Know Lake Placid Flyboarder Kristen Smoyer and her “HYDRO-SOULMATES”

Some people enter this world to walk the paths laid out for them. Others come into the world pushing boundaries, dancing edges and daring to destroy the obstacles in front of them. Kristen Smoyer is one of the latter. Affectionately referred to as Kristen The Destroyer in the flyboarding world, Smoyer is a unique athlete driven with purpose and determination. Flyboarding is an extreme water sport in which athletes compete using equipment called flyboards. A flyboard can be best described as a personal watercraft fitted with a water jetpack and a hoverboard.

Athletes shoot up to 60 or more feet in the air, performing acrobatic loops, turns and flips that simultaneously excite and terrify the crowd below.

„ 27

Kristen's life began on the complete opposite edge of the country, in Alaska, where her dad served in the Coast Guard. His ship was tasked with breaking ice and performing rescue missions when boats became frozen into the sea. Kristen sometimes came along to witness the beauty and the danger. It didn't escape her young mind that if you need to make a way, sometimes you simply break through the obstacles in front of you to help a person out.

An athlete that enjoyed a variety of sports, Kristen went on to play collegiate basketball, soccer and softball. She graduated from UMASS in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology/ Psychology/Criminal Justice, a minor in Juvenile Delinquency and a Master’s Degree in Applied Sociology. After college, Kristen moved to upstate New York, finding work with the Lake George Marine Patrol. She rented a cottage on a horse farm and quickly realized that she loved horses. When she began to ride at the rodeo part time, Kristen knew it was time to head south where the warmer temperatures would allow for year-round rodeo participation. In Florida, Kristen took a full time job as a Child Protective Investigator with the Department of Children and Families where she has continued in multiple roles for the last 17 years. „

28 Heartland LIVINGMagazine.com

In 2013, Kristen's four-year-old son, Jaxon, was diagnosed with a medical condition that required intensive intervention and care. The medical bills climbed into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, an amount that seemed insurmountable. But when times get tough, the tough get going. Kristen took every opportunity to make extra money with handywork, a paper route, and any other labor she could find. It was a Craigslist ad that shifted her life along a new trajectory. Hired to build a dock, Kristen was introduced to the idea of flyboarding. The owner taught her to operate his flyboard apparatus so that she could run it for rentals. The gentleman further encouraged her to learn to flyboard, suggesting she could offer lessons. Despite being afraid of heights, and motivated by the needs of her family, that's exactly what Kristen did.

Kristen Smoyer dove in, literally and figuratively. She became immersed in the world of flyboarding. She joined a team with Ben Merrell and Gemma Weston, and the trio began traveling the world to participate in competitions and perform shows. They call themselves "hydrosoul-mates." Every competition and every show meant something; it meant Kristen could afford the care for her son.

As they battled it out in the sky with jetpacks and hoverboards, Jaxon fought his own battle and won.


The teammates began to focus more on shows, but continued to travel to exciting locations including the Daytona International Speedway, Royal Caribbean, Dubai, and the 2019 Superbowl in Miami. In 2021, Kristen received the hard news that her son was once again facing medical complications. This time, though, she turned immediately to the friends that had become family. Jaxon's health was a priority, and he needed his mom close by.

The team decided to stay closer to home keeping the travel and performances to a manageable level. As the financial pressures mounted again, Ben proposed an idea. The two friends opened Lake June Pontoons, a boat rental in Lake Placid, creating a steady stream of supplemental income and keeping Kristen close to home with her son.

Jaxon Smoyer

You can never do anything if you can't figure out how to be uncomfortable," Kristen says. "You have to push yourself to be uncomfortable every day. It's the only way to go a little further, get a little better."

Kristen Smoyer has never met a challenge she wasn't willing to face. Life didn't afford her a choice, really. When you have a son, you have a piece of yourself that means more to you than your own discomfort, than your fatigue, than your preconceived limits.

Gemma Watson, a New Zealand native, is Kristen's fiercest competition. She is also one of the fiercest friends a girl could want. The teammates push each other in hard times and support each other in the best of times, on and off the flyboard. "We have this untouchable bond.

Whether something good or bad is happening, we are always pushing each other to smile a little bit more, fight for something better," Kristen says of her friend. In their last World Cup competition together, Gemma sustained a catastrophic injury with severe nerve and leg injury.

Kristen ran onto the beach and swam out to her before any safety crew could get to her. Kristen missed the podium that day, even though she had placed first. "I was at her bedside in the hospital," she recalls. "And she would do the same for me every day of every year for the rest of our lives."

" 32

When Kristen first heard of Ben Merrell, he was this guy on a Youtube video flying on a new board with the most epic tricks. He made you stare at the screen and think, just for a minute, that super heroes actually exist. Ben and Kristen quickly became a team and best friends. It wasn't his athletic talent, his straight bangs, or his Oakley sunglasses that made Ben one of the most iconic and influential people she had ever met. Ben taught Kristen new tricks, encouraged her to try harder. And every time she fell, he was there to pick her up, even on dry and. Just the mention of his name brings a smile to Kristen's face. "Ben is a loving father, a devoted husband. He never gives up on himself, or others," she says.

Flyboarding took Kristen Smoyer all over the world. But more importantly, it brought her world closer together. Jaxon was recently given the all-clear again. A threefold cord is not easily broken, and the hydrosoul-mates have proven that together they can take on anything.

35 April & May 2023 EighteenEast...arestaurantandbar! American (Traditional) Sandwiches - Steaks - Seafood Full Top Shelf Liquor - Beer& Wine Entertainment “Call for Live Music” We’re Just a BIG Time in a Small Town! 863.453.1818 Open Tuesday - Saturday 4 pm - 8 pm 18 East Main Street Avon Park, FL Best Steaks Around Facebook/ Eighteen East … a restaurant and bar

We have this untouchable bond. Whether something good or bad is happening, we are always pushing each other to smile a little bit more, fight for something better. -Kristen


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
Weddings are Here!

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.

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

39 April & May 2023
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


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.

41 „

So, how did this whole mermaid thing start?

In 1946, Newton Perry, a former U.S. Navy man who trained Navy Frogmen to swim underwater in World War II, had a vision of turning the Weeki Wachee spring into something special. He reached out to a local synchronized swimming team, the St. Pete Aquabelles, and trained them to do acrobatics underwater using a special underwater breathing apparatus he’d invented. On October 13, 1947, the underwater theater at Weeki Wachee Springs opened, and this one-of-a-kind roadside attraction was born. But sleepy US-19 wasn’t known for its mermaids just yet. Sometimes traffic was so slow, the girls would go out to the road to flag travelers down, just like the mythical sirens of old, then jump into the water to perform.

Newton Perry
(Above): Mermaids-in-training with Newt Perry, circa 1948

Diane Wyatt McDonald, one of the original eight mermaids, talks about how she and her friends, just teenagers at the time, choreographed that first underwater routine when they auditioned for Mr. Perry. “We went down almost 40 feet with no masks, no air, just us.” It was a winner. After some tweaks, they were ready to perform weekends for the small, 18-20 person venue. After the show, they’d swim to the beach and be met with bath towels and escorted to a heated dressing room. “We weren’t paid, but we got lunch!” Wyatt McDonald recalls. “To this day, I get goosebumps when we go down that curve into Weeki Wachee. I’m very proud to have been a mermaid.”

43 „
Diane Wyatt McDonald at 75th Anniversary celebration with current Weeki Wachee mermaids (Above): Diane (Right): The iconic Adagio pose featured in almost every show, was created by original mermaids Diane and Mary Dwight. The Adagio mermaid statue (on page 44) is based on this photo. Diane Wyatt McDonald and Mary Dwight Diane
The Adagio mermaid statue at Wiki Wachee entrance is based on pose featured by original mermaids Diane Wyatt McDonald and Mary Dwight.

Over the years, the Weeki Wachee mermaids continued to evolve. “The concept of tails didn’t come around until the sixties,” explains John Athanason, a tourism marketing specialist for Florida’s Adventure Coast. That was right after ABC purchased the spring and built the current, 400-seat amphitheater. “That was Weeki Wachee’s heyday,” Athanason says. “It’s been said that Elvis Presley stopped filming in Florida on one of his movies so he could come see the mermaids perform.” The mermaids were officially famous.

In the late sixties, the spring was sold and “fell into a variety of different people’s hands,” Athanason says. By the ‘80s it was hard to compete with the bigger theme parks, so the Buccaneer Bay water park was opened to appeal to locals. By 2001, the park was falling into disrepair, but Athanasan and others began an initiative to save it. In November 2008, the Weeki Wachee Spring became a state park. Today, when you come to Weeki Wachee, you not only get to enjoy the mermaid show, but you can swim in crystal clear 74.2 degree water, enjoy a white sand beach, float down a slow, natural “lazy river,” and catch a thrill on the slides at Florida’s only natural spring-fed water park. There is also a river boat ride and reptile show. Florida’s best “roadside attraction” is still here and going strong. „

45 April & May 2023

Weeki Wachee is a Seminole word meaning either “winding river” or “little spring.” Every day, more than 117 million gallons of clear, fresh water bubbles up out of subterranean caverns. The basin of the spring is 100 feet wide with limestone sides. The park is home to a host of wildlife, including bald eagles, turtles, blue heron, wild turkey, deer, and freshwater fish. Flowing from the spring, the Weeki Wachee River winds its way 12 miles to the Gulf of Mexico.

Special places like Weeki Wachee State Park can easily be overshadowed by flashier tourist attractions, but there are always those who appreciate a little slice of Old Florida, or as some of us call it—real Florida. The Mermaid Tale Trail is a kind of treasure map showing them the way.

The Mermaid Tale Trail, a Treasure Map to Old Florida

To commemorate 75 years of Weeki Wachee mermaids, the Florida’s Adventure Coast tourist office, with the help of Brooksville Main Street and the Hernando County Fine Arts Council, commissioned 27 mermaid statues to be placed throughout Hernando County. A 28th will be placed at the Florida/Georgia Welcome Center on 1-75.

Each statue is a beautiful, seven-foot mermaid hand-painted by a local artist. The face of each mermaid is that of actual Weeki Wachee mermaid Kristy Lowman. All the statues have been sponsored, and most have already been unveiled at their new homes across the county at beaches, parks, public areas, and businesses.

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“There are so many wonderful places to visit. The trail will hopefully send people in those directions, and apparently that’s what it’s doing, and we’re going to continue it,” Athanason says.

You can find out where each mermaid is located and get a peek at her tail at floridamermaidtrail.com/tale-trailmermaids/, but you’ll have to go see her in person for the full impact. “These statues are 360 degrees,” Athanason reminds us. The website also provides background into the artist who painted her.

“The Spring” mermaid was painted by a real live mermaid

Located at the Weeki Wachee spring itself, “The Spring” mermaid was sponsored by the Friends of Weeki Wachee and painted by artist and Weeki Wachee mermaid herself, Lydia Byrd. Her art includes scenes of Newton Perry, past mermaids, and a popular seahorse prop named “Bubbles.” Elvis Presley gets a shout-out, too. Each scene on the rock is based on real photographs taken at the spring over the past 75 years. “I hope mermaids of the past can look at this statue and reminisce on the best years of their lives. I hope guests coming to see the park for the first time will be in awe of the history this place holds. Overall I hope it will captivate viewers to keep looking at all of the hidden details, and bring a smile to everyone who knows and loved the spring,” Byrd says.

“Marina” focuses on protecting the ocean’s treasures and secrets

Located at the Hernando Beach Motel, “Marina” the mermaid was painted by Renata Villemarie, an artist originally from Russia who now lives in Spring Hill. She is a mobile muralist for the Hernando County Arts Council, a featured artist in the Uptown Gallery, and an art teacher. She focused on the “darker,” more mythical side of mermaids—how they lure sailors to the sea and protect treasures. She named the mermaid after her mother. “I put a goddess on the back of my mermaid,” Villemarie says. “I’m not going to tell you which one it is—you can come and look at it!”


Lydia Byrd and her artwork "The Spring" "Marina"

“Nico and the Velvet Underwater” is not only a piece of art, she’s a musician

Sponsored by NatureCoaster.com and painted by Brooksville artist Jesse Kasabian, “Nico “Nico and the Velvet Underwater” the mermaid has a unique, dynamic, musical theme. Inspired by his favorite band, the Velvet Underground, Kasabian created “Nico and the Velvet Underwater,” a mermaid who jams out with her friends—a dolphin, seahorse, and turtle. “I actually feel like art is getting closer to God,” Kasabian says. Kasabian played “Under the Sea” on his electric guitar during the unveiling ceremony at Anderson Snow Park in Spring Hill.

Athanason says the 75th anniversary project has been so successful that they plan to add more mermaids every year. “Eventually we want to end up with 100 throughout the county,” he says.


For more information about the Mermaid Tale Trail, visit floridamermaidtrail.com/tale-trail. For more information on Weeki Wachee State Park, visit www.floridastateparks.org/WeekiWachee

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To this day, I get goosebumps when we go down that curve into Weeki Wachee.

I’m very proud to have been a mermaid.


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55 April & May 2023


Lakeland Artist Recaptures the Lost Art of Hand-Painted Victorian Wedding Dresses

Emily Plank. Remember her name. Why? Because Emily Plank is something of an artistic enigma. Present-day Emily is busily checking off boxes: photographer, watercolor artist, acrylic painter, and most notably, artist of hand-painted wedding dresses.

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Photography by Alexa Sarduy, Terrie Nelson, Dustin Prickett and Emily Loeppke
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Emily Plank.

Emily has loved all things art for as long as memory serves her. She attributes some of her passion for art to her mother’s creative talent in singing and some to her great-great grandfather, who was a merchant and folk artist in Tennessee beginning in the 1920s. From Buckeye trees, he hand-carved “The Buckeye Family” sculpture, a near lifesize composition of four figurines, which took over three years to complete. Using only a pocket knife, axe, sandpaper and paint, he created the wood art, which featured the four distinct characters standing facing forward.

So, the artistic gene was already firmly rooted in Emily’s core, and she followed that passion when attending college. After initially pursuing a degree in premed studies, she quickly switched to her calling—fine arts. Her studies of the fine arts required that she touch on all forms of art, and so she learned about printmaking, photography, painting and art history, all of which would lead her to the path that she is on now. Emily is a contrarian among artists—that is, she is equally strong in both her artistic senses and her logical, critical thinking, and as she notes, “both sides of my brain are constantly at war.” Her artistic nature is complemented by her sense of structure, form, planning (curiously, she "likes spreadsheets”), and the need to problem solve. „


Some twelve years ago, while in college, her roommate discovered that Emily was a budding, talented photographer and insisted that she photograph her wedding engagement photo, a stepping stone in her career path. After several years of taking family and engagement photographs, she then delved into wedding photography. Emily found herself the photographer du jour among her contemporaries.

While Emily was doing a photo shoot for The Southern Swan, a local boutique owned by designer Olivia Jacoby, it was brought to Olivia’s attention that Emily painted with watercolor. Olivia relayed that she had noticed a trend of hand-painted dresses in a national wedding magazine and that she would like Emily to create something to display in her boutique. Olivia designed a blue and white floral scheme, and Emily didn’t hesitate at the opportunity to create a beautifully handpainted one-of-a-kind design. Building on her experience with Olivia, who was the catapult for the direction of Emily’s career, Emily then designed and created a second dress, and, working from sketches, brought a beautiful floral design to life with brush in hand. Emily wore this dress to a function, and admiring eyes noticed and inquired. „

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61 April & May 2023
62 Heartland LIVINGMagazine.com

When her local florist friend Molly Harvey (Shaw) was getting married, she enlisted Emily to hand-paint her wedding dress, and, trusting in her, invited Emily to let her creative juices flow. When painting flowers on a dress for an imminent wedding, one doesn’t have the opportunity for a “do-over”—you don't get a second chance to do it right. Unfazed, Emily began the process, first with the planning stage (the critical thinking half of her brain), and then the creative in her took charge. After some twenty hours of painting and a mere day before the wedding, Emily had created a stunning, one-of-a-kind dress for her friend’s wedding. She painted it with a combination of acrylic and gesso, important mediums in the process so that her design adhered to the fabric. Delicate clusters of soft, romantic flowers in tones of blue, yellow, and Emily’s favorite color, pink, (specifically, pink peonies) were softly brushed onto the bulk of the blank canvas wedding dress. The hand-painted work of art that was the bride’s gown coordinated beautifully with the decorations for the wedding. To say that the bride was pleased was an understatement. To say that social media noticed was a definite understatement! With over 7 million views of that wearable art, which led to over 40,000 new followers, Emily has become a trendsetting, well-known artist in her Lakeland hometown.

Recently she painted another wedding dress, this one with a request from the bride to include butterflies, birds, and peapods. Later, Emily was notified that there was indeed a “pea” in the “pod,” and the bride decided that following her wedding, and in preparation for the little one’s arrival, she was going to use a portion of the specially painted dress to create a bow, which would be framed and displayed in her little “pea’s” nursery, creating an heirloom with a story certain to be passed down.


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63 April & May 2023 „
Family Years!

Emily noted that hand-painted dresses date back to the Victorian era, when it certainly would have been a luxury and a statement of wealth, and today she is among a growing group of artists reprising that long-lost art form. But Emily’s passion for art is not limited to dresses; she also puts her brush to canvas, ornaments, eggs and even champagne bottles. She also enjoys painting landscapes, human and pet portraits and florals.

Emily is present at many weddings, as she captures the day with what is called “Live Painting,” in which the artist paints on canvas during the wedding and reception, detailing a special moment, perhaps the exchange of vows, or the first dance, creating a truly beautiful and original memento.

Emily noted that film is trending again, rather than digitally produced photos, and she loves to edit her photos to look like film. She sees hues in film that are not easily achieved by digital means, another example of her artistic eye. What a welcome embrace it is to return to the nostalgic times of printed film, of organic flower designs, of painted canvases, and indeed, of hand-painted wedding dresses.

While celebrity is finding its way to Emily, she seems at ease and unaffected by the attention. So, why remember the name “Emily Plank”? This young millennial is certainly someone who is carving out her own path in a brilliantly successful manner. Emily’s mottos include: “I’ll try it, how hard could it be?” and “I’m impressed by what people find impressive.” With humility and grace, and among the myriad forms of art successes in her life, you’ll probably be finding the name Emily Plank on cards, hand-painted artwork, bound journals, and yes, the perfect wedding dress in the not-too-distant future. From a recent social media reel Emily posted, she used the following quote: “The flower does not dream of the bee, it blossoms, and the bee comes.” ...and so the bees come.

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are so excited for the journey ahead as we grow our family amidst Hobby Hill Florist. We are ready to carry on the traditions and values that have surrounded Hobby Hill for decades. It’s our greatest hope that the Hobby Hill customers will accept us as your family’s florist the same way you have Ladonna for so many loving years.
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I’ll try it, how hard could it be? I’m impressed by what people find impressive.
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The Third Time Is Always a Charm

Story and Photography by Caroline Maxcy Fox

e met the summer before third grade. She rode her shiny new red bike to the Max Long Complex where our brothers just happened to play baseball on the same team. Naturally, as a resourceful eight-year-old at the time, I knew I had to befriend her before I asked to take her bike for a spin. After some small talk, she graciously agreed to share. Within seconds, I had pedaled off, the gravel dirt billowing up into a dust behind me. She ran alongside laughing and out of breath, and we've been adventuring through life together ever since. It's been over three decades since that fateful chance meeting and we have been lucky enough to face many of life’s milestones together: grade school to grad school, loves and losses, weddings, babies and the careful construction of careers. Though we haven’t lived in the same town since high school, the value we both place on spontaneity, adventure and friendship has kept us close.

I remember it like yesterday—we were both sophomores in college, me at Florida State and Radha Thakkar Bachman at Vanderbilt. The phone call from Radha where she proposed a novel proposition for us both—a summer abroad program through Florida State. The best part: the program would be in Florence, Italy. My answer was a resounding “yes.” We worked on logistics and planned our amazing summer of independence in Europe.

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Radha and Caroline, 2013
73 April & May 2023

ur Florence "home base" apartment was a hotel that FSU had contracted out in the heart of the city, Albergo Firenze. As our accommodation was a true hotel room, we would wash our clothes in the bathroom sink and hang them out to dry using dental floss. Our days were spent in Art History classes where we met at the Uffizi and Accademia Gallery to discuss the works of Michaelangelo and DaVinci, and in Italian language classes where we would take a field trip to the local gelateria to try out our Italian by ordering gelato or cappuccino. The program itself offered opportunities to visit Sienna, Venice and Rome. We planned our weekends carefully, with independently planned trips to the beach town of Rimini, ancient ruins of Pompeii and the colorful cliffs of the Amalfi Coast. We even hopped the border to visit Interlaken, Switzerland. Though it feels like a lifetime ago, I can still smell the salty air, feel the breeze walking through the vineyards we visited and taste the delicious flavors of our time over 20 years ago.


n 2013, as Radha was making a career transition, she had the opportunity to take some time off. Though she had two small children at home, we knew this time was precious and that an adventure was in order. Another 10 days in Italy was just what we needed, this time visiting Cinque Terre, exploring the colorful villages on the sea and hiking among vineyards and olive trees. With visits to Florence and Fiesole on the itinerary, the trip felt like a farewell to Italy. Two times in a lifetime seemed too good to be true and we both agreed that we were thankful to have had a second bite at the apple. „

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owever, 2021 had different plans for these two lifelong friends. I remember receiving the text that simply read, “Give me a call when you can, I have some summer plans I want to share with you.” Somewhere down deep I just knew there was something exciting on the horizon, hopefully one that put us back in Italy. I quickly texted back, “Are you going to Italy and renting a house for the summer? If so, we’re coming!” While I had no concept of what it would mean to fly solo, internationally, with an 18-month old, I knew this was something we could not pass up. As luck would have it, the trip materialized as planned, and in August 2022 we were again on our way to our favorite place in the world.

Radha, her husband, Michael, and their three children went on a fantastic two-week tour around Italy visiting all of the major cities and sites. At the end of the two weeks, Michael returned home while Radha and the children traveled to Florence to check into their Airbnb and get acquainted with their home for the next three weeks. Radha has been practicing law for 16 years. One of the benefits of her firm is that she has the ability to work from anywhere. Naturally, Radha decided to make her office Florence. Norah and I were invited to come along for the ride.

Days before our flight, Radha called to give me some advice on packing. She also warned me, “Just so you know, we will be walking down the street with our children and passing by young people sitting in sidewalk cafes, chatting, laughing and eating prosciutto and melon, sipping prosecco…. the city is going to feel different with our kids.” “Oh right, yes, it’ll be different, but do I also hear sadness in your voice?” I asked. “It might be a little sad too,” she confessed with a laugh. The warning was welcome as I knew I needed to prepare my heart for a new experience unlike the ones we’d had before.

I booked our flight to Florence as a single ticket with an “infant in lap.” I could write an entire book about traveling with a toddler, but I’ll just say it is an art form, and I am thankful to all the moms that offered such practical advice. Through a series of unexpected events (or good karma), we received a complimentary upgrade on the flight to Florence which was a pure luxury. Luckily (unluckily?), we lost one piece of luggage on the way: Norah’s stroller. I remember thinking, “it definitely could have been worse.” „

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e arrived in Florence, blurry-eyed and in desperate need of a nap before our first dinner near the Piazzale Michelangelo. The draw of this particular Piazzale is that it overlooks all of Florence. It is truly one of the most beautiful sites at sunset. After dinner, we joined the crowds of locals, tourists and children along the overlook to watch the sun dip below the horizon behind the city. The kids danced just outside the crowd to the street performer’s tunes. We walked down to the Arno River and home not without stopping for our first taste of gelato along the way. We agreed on an attainable goal for the remainder of the trip: to have gelato at least once a day. We made good on our goal. From the famous Venchi with its flowing “chocolate wall” and treats to street side shops in the lobby of our apartment, we never missed a chance to slow down and enjoy this cold, delicious Italian specialty.

To beat the heat in Florence, we planned a weekend stay in the Tuscan countryside. The 45-minute drive from Florence to Borgo Divino in Montespertoli took us through sunflower fields, ancient towns and down cypress tree-lined roads. When we arrived, we felt like we had stepped into a dream. We spent our weekend lounging by the pool in the shade of olive trees, sipping cocktails and occasionally taking a dip in the pool to cool off with the kids. Evenings were spent dining al fresco as the sun set over the Tuscan hills. Despite my love of sleep, I got up at dawn and spent the morning in Tuscany (before my toddler woke up) with my film camera in hand capturing a single roll of medium format film—photos that I will undoubtedly cherish for a lifetime.

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e returned to the city re-energized and motivated to see and do it all. Over the next four days, I experienced Florence like never before carrying a 20-pound, pasta-loving toddler in a “ring sling” all along the way (remember the part where I lost my stroller en route?). I mapped out a plan that included the Boboli Gardens, outdoor markets, an antique carousel and room for flexibility. The plan also included a few museums, historic churches and art galleries, but after giving it a college try during which I had to shush my echo-loving daughter in the Medici Chapels, I wisely decided against visiting any more museums with priceless artifacts. We canceled our Uffizi tickets and opted to have a leisurely breakfast on the terrace of our apartment together instead. We skipped seeing Michelangelo’s David in exchange for extra spins on the Piazza della Repubblica Carousel. After we climbed the 463 steps to the top of the Florence Duomo for the spectacular city views (quite the physical feat) we spent an hour in the Citta del Sole toy shop that sits in the shadow of the Dome itself. Norah came away with one Italian baby doll, her bambina. Of course, we couldn’t miss the chance to wander by our old “home,” Albergo Firenze, and bore the kids with our “remember when” stories.

We planned one childless evening visiting an old favorite from our college days: La Giostra, a dreamy twinkle light-lined restaurant where the same eccentric owner from 20 years ago, Dimitri, still strolls the restaurant chatting with diners, each one with their own story about how they discovered the hidden gem. Still to this day, it’s my favorite meal in the city and a magical, memorable evening.

On our last evening in Florence, we decided an encore visit up to Piazzale Michelangelo was in order. After some photos, we grabbed dinner at a little pizza place around the corner from the apartment (pizza on the last night is a trip tradition) and walked back through the charming streets of Florence passing dimly lit restaurants abuzz with young people (probably students) leisurely eating prosciutto and melon and sipping prosecco. We exchanged glances and couldn’t help but smile as we watched our beautiful children, happily strolling, playing and taking in their last few joyful moments of Florence along with us. We were grateful for the experience and relished the gravity of being able to do it together.

We settled in for an early bedtime, resting up for the long day of travel ahead. Little did we know that a delayed flight resulting in a missed layover connection would get us an unplanned extra night in Switzerland. Not on the itinerary, but, rather, a bonus adventure together. Aren’t those always the best ones?

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Radha and Caroline, 2022
We were grateful for the experience and relished the gravity of being able to do it together.
-Caroline Maxcy Fox
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Want to change it up this Easter? Why not bring Italy to your table? We've collected a couple of popular Italian recipes that will be a special treat for your family and guests.

To celebrate Easter, preparing a traditional, classic Italian Easter Pie (Torta Pasqualina) is a must for most Italians. This is truly one big mama of a torta/pie - certainly so massive, time-consuming, and expensive in ingredients, that it is saved only for special celebrations such as Easter . . . this is not your average weekly or even monthly pie/ torta!

A traditional Italian classic dessert is Tiramisù. Tiramisù is one of the most famous Italian desserts in the world, born in Treviso (a lovely town near Venice), it is delicious and easy to make.

Buon appetito! We hope you enjoy these great recipes and have a Happy Easter!


Italian Easter Pie

This pie is a quintessential Italian specialty to celebrate Easter!

Made to feed a crowd, Italian Easter Pie is a massive, hefty pie packed with literally more than 2 pounds of Italian meats in this puppy: salami, hot capicola, Italian sausage, prosciutto and pancetta, and about 3 pounds of assorted Italian cheeses: mozzarella, ricotta, Parmigiano, all baked inside a delectable, buttery, flaky crust!


1 package dried porcini mushrooms soaked in warm water for 30 minutes and drained

2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter

1 pound fresh spinach

1 can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 large garlic cloves, minced

4 tablespoons minced fresh parsley salt and freshly ground pepper

2 pounds ricotta cheese, drained

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

8 eggs

1/4 cup whipping cream

4 tablespoons flour

Layers of Italian Meats and Cheeses

1/2 cup asiago cheese, shredded or sliced

1 large ball of fresh Mozzarella cheese, sliced

1/4 lb. provolone cheese, shredded or sliced

1/2 cup pancetta, cubed or sliced thin

1/4 cup mortadella, cubed or sliced thin

4 oz. hot cappicola, cubed or sliced thin

1/4 lb. prosciutto, cubed or sliced thin

4 oz. soprassetta, cubed or sliced thin

4 oz. Genoa salami, cubed or sliced thin

4 oz. pepperoni, cubed or sliced thin

Pie Dough

Use your favorite high-quality pie dough recipe.


Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Place dried porcini mushrooms in bowl of hot water to plump up for about 30 minutes, drain.

In buttered saucepan, sautè the mushrooms for 5 minutes.

In separate large frying/saucepan, in olive oil, cook the spinach for 2 minutes.

In another saucepan, in olive oil, cook artichokes for 5 minutes.

In another small saucepan, in olive oil, sauté garlic. Add all of these together, except the spinach. Set it aside for the assembly of the torta.

Add in the parsley. Set aside.

In a large bowl, blend ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, eggs, whipping cream, and flour.

Add the mushroom, artichoke, garlic, parsley mixture to the cheese-egg mixture.


Assembly of Torta Spray/grease a 10" springform pan

Roll out pie dough so that it is wide enough to cover both the bottom and sides of the baking pan.

Pour in about 2 inches of the cheese-egg-artichoke filling mixture.

Bake for about 10 minutes.

Remove from oven and alternate layers of remaining cheeses and Italian meats, except the mozzarella.

Layer the cooked spinach on top.

Layer the slices of mozzarella on top of spinach.

Pour remaining cheese-egg-mushroom-artichoke mixture over the meat and cheese layers.

Place a top layer of pie dough on top and baste with an egg wash.

Bake for 70 – 80 minutes, using aluminum foil to prevent dough from burning.

TIPS for Making Italian Easter Pie: Chop up all of your ingredients ahead of time and have everything measured out and ready to go to cut back on time.

As always, only use the very freshest Italian specialty ingredients.

Be creative and add your favorite ingredients or delete some of those in this recipe that you may not prefer. Adding chopped red peppers, for example, adds another layer of red pops of color. It is also common to have hard-boiled eggs inserted in the filling.

Bake one day ahead of serving and refrigerate. Re-heat for about a half-hour before serving so that the Italian Easter Pie is served warm.

Buona Pasqua my Friends!


A Classic Italian Tiramisù recipe like they serve in Italy! Creamy, light and decadent, this dessert takes only 20 minutes to prepare with only 6 ingredients! This authentic Italian tiramisù recipe is one you will find in homes and restaurants served in Italy. I’m sharing the recipe so you can bring Italy to your kitchen.

You will love the irresistibly smooth texture of the mascarpone and egg cream. This dessert is light and creamy, with just the right amount of coffee flavor. The crisp savoiardi biscuits absorb the coffee flavor and give you the best 'pick me up' any time of the day. It is one of my favorite desserts of all time! Tiramisu is the perfect dessert after enjoying your Authentic Torta Pasqualina/Italian Easter Pie.


5 eggs (separate yolks and whites in two bowls)

5 tablespoons of white sugar

1 lb of Mascarpone

3 cups of room temperature Espresso or coffee

30 ladyfingers

unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting


You will need a 9X13 pan, set aside

Make the Espresso or coffee and set aside in a dish that is deep enough to dip the biscuits.

Separate egg whites from yolks and remember that in order to whip the egg whites there should not be any trace of yolk.


Egg Whites: Place the egg whites in a mixer. Whip the egg whites for about 5 minutes, or until they reach soft peaks. Set aside in the fridge until ready to use.

Egg Yolks: Place the egg yolks in the mixer and mix together with the sugar on low speed for about 3 minutes, until creamy and fully combined.

Mascarpone: add mascarpone cheese to the yolk mixture in 2 to 3 additions. Mix on low/medium speed until combined and uniform.

Add 1/3 of the egg whites at a time into the mascarpone cream mixture. Then, gently mix it in with a spatula from the downside to the upside so that your egg whites don't lose their fluffiness. Set the cream in the fridge until ready to use.

Meanwhile, quickly dip the ladyfinger biscuits into the coffee for about 1 second on each side. Do not over soak or your tiramisu will turn out soggy. You want your biscuits to absorb enough liquid to make them moist and give them flavor.

Place each ladyfinger at the bottom of the baking dish and continue the process until the whole base is covered with ladyfingers.

Spread half of the prepared mascarpone cream gently over the ladyfinger base, making sure they're evenly covered.

Repeat the process of soaking the ladyfingers in the coffee. Then, layer them over the cream, until is fully covered.

Finally, spread the remaining mascarpone cream evenly on top of the ladyfingers. Place Tiramisù in the fridge, and allow to set 6 hours, (it's even better if you leave it overnight). Just before serving it, dust the dessert with cocoa powder. Enjoy!

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George,Jack,William & Marcella Sebring

Be a Light this Easter

Honoring Marcella Sebring

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.

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Although baseball genes run in the Sebring family, no fastballs can be thrown here. Once everyone is partnered up, the next step is to make sure everyone is standing exactly on the invisible line. Chris gives the rules as well as the main instructions, “this side take a step back,” and no one is to throw an egg until you hear the command to “Throw!”

Now, why is this such a big production, you may ask? Well, we are all fighting for a chance to win the biggest chocolate bunny Chris can find in the City of Sebring. The chocolate bunny is great, but really we want to have bragging rights for next year!

The Sebring Family Egg Toss is one of the most competitive sporting events you will ever see. Although I mentioned earlier that kindness is a foundation of the Sebring family, I do want to point out the only person that would stick to that during the egg toss was our light, my aunt, Marcella Sebring. While everyone was trying to intimidate the competition, there was our sunshine making sure everyone knew how amazing they were or how solid their catch was. She was the champion almost every year, mostly by luck and just letting the egg roll to her! I’ve never seen a smile brighter or a laugh sweeter than Aunt Marcella’s on Easter.

Our family has been reminiscing about past Easter memories lately. My cousin, George Sebring, said one of his favorite memories of his mom was the year Marcella missed catching the egg with her hands, but don’t worry, her face caught it! Her reaction, of course, was the most contagious laugh you have ever heard and the biggest smile.

Easter is a day to recognize a miracle. A day to acknowledge that no matter what we see, feel or go through in life, we will always see a third day. Our ‘third day’ may be years down the road or 24 hours from now, but a victory is meant to be won by all of us. You hear the common phrases referencing valleys and mountains when talking about faith. Well, the Sebring family has been in quite the valley this year.

When I say Easter is going to be tough this year, that is an understatement. Our family experienced a loss like no other when a true light in our life left this world a little too soon. Aunt Marcella defined “sunshine” and truly made her presence known in every single room in the best possible way. The community came to us in a way I have never seen when our light dimmed in the Sebring family. The amount of hugs, food, texts, phone calls and love we all received helped our family to see through the darkness just a little bit more every day.„

Chris and Marcella Sandy Johnson and grandson George
Marcella with her mother-in-law Anne Sebring Marcella with her mom Sandy

This valley has taught us to love hard, capture every moment you can and to always check in on those around you. We may not all experience what darkness is, but we can work as a community to better understand it for those around us. Valleys are not meant to be walked through alone, and our family definitely hasn’t felt alone.

Our time is never promised and that’s why we have to make sure that the time we have should always be spent spreading kindness to those around us. Marcella was the kindest soul you will ever meet, and she planted so much light in all of us. Now it’s our turn to share that light and carry it for her.

There will be one less hug for every person in our family this Easter, which is something we are not ready for. We believe in a promise given by our eternal father, that he has given us a love far greater than we could ever imagine. That love is a promise given to us to fill a void in our hearts this year. That promise is carrying the hope in us each day but especially this Easter as we continue to trust in every valley or mountain that arrives next in our path.

Hold onto your friends and family a little bit tighter this year, reach out to those that radiate light or seem a little bit dimmer and above all else, check in with your heart and know that there is always someone who wants to be there for you and love you deeply no matter how dark it feels. This Easter, hold tight to the promise that you will see a ‘third day’ and you will see a victory with whatever battle you are facing. This Easter, I pray that you know that you don’t have to face a battle on your own and that you can reach out to someone for a connection.

The Sebring Family would like to wish all of you a joyful Easter filled with bright colors and lots of love, because that is what Marcella would bring to every single day. Light your holidays with a radiance that Marcella would be proud of!



Mother’s Day & Everyday

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