1. Holiday Traditions

    Do you have favorite holiday tradition? Perhaps it is a certain holiday food tradition (homemade gingerbread cookies) or a Christmas Eve tradition (reading ‘The Night Before Christmas’ to your children at bedtime). Whatever it may be, holiday traditions are the ‘glue’ that hold the holiday together!

    The holiday season is a time to build lifelong memories for your family. Traditions help you bond and reconnect with loved ones, friends, and neighbors.

    Family holiday traditions are as precious as the family members who honor them. In our family, we had a favorite aunt who gave us homemade fruitcakes each and every year. It was as if Christmas did not officially arrive until Aunt Margaret’s fruitcake did!

    Remember, your traditions can be as unique as your family!

    Here are a few of our personal favorite holiday traditions that are sure to be family favorites!

    • The Christmas Elf- Choose a family member at random to pass out gifts to everyone on Christmas morning.
    • Get matching pajamas for the kids to wear on Christmas Eve. Talk about a great photo op Christmas morning!
    • Purchase or make a holiday ornament for each child every year. This is a great conversation piece to reminisce about during holiday decorating.
    • Use an advent calendar to count down to Christmas. There are many varieties of advent calendars, from candles that are burned daily to boxes you open daily.
    • See a local production of ‘The Nutcracker,’ ‘A Christmas Carol,’ or another holiday-themed show.
    • Start a gag gift tradition. Give a funny gift to a family member. Each year, pass the gift on to another unsuspecting family member. (Snuggies are always a great idea!)
    • Let each person open one gift on Christmas Eve.
    • Leave a special treat out for Santa (cookies and milk) and be sure to leave some granola bars for Rudolph and the other reindeer!
    • Deliver cookies and treats to your local fire station, police department, and even the staff at your local hospital. After all, they’ll be working through the holiday.
    • Find a giving tree that allows you to sponsor a family in need or purchase toys for children in need. Go shopping for the items together as a family

  2. De-Stress Tips for the Holiday Season!

    The holidays are quickly approaching. It is at this time of year that our ‘to-do’ lists multiply in size! There are holiday cards to send, gifts to purchase, pies to bake, and trees to decorate. It oftentimes feels as though there are no enough hours in the day to accomplish all of our holiday tasks! This can led to an overwhelming feeling of STRESS.

    • Don’t let stress steal your holiday joy! Instead try these simple holiday tips for reducing your stress level and enjoying the season!
    • Create a list of ALL items that need to be accomplished. Once you’ve done that, rank the items in order of priority and assign a completion date for each item. This will give you control over your holiday tasks and allow you to create a systematic schedule for accomplishing them.
    • Learn to delegate tasks. Get the entire family to participate! Your younger children can address Christmas cards; your husband can organize all the holiday decorations; and your older children can assist you in the kitchen. Allowing everyone to be included creates a sense of teamwork.
    • Remind yourself to take time just for you! A bubble bath after a long day of shopping can lower your stress level.
    • Remember that ‘No’ is a complete sentence. Do not feel obligated to attend every event you are invited to. There are only 24 hours in each day, make the best use of your time.
    • Don’t forget to slow down long enough to savor the holiday season. Spending quality time with those you love and cherish is the highlight of the holiday season. You are making memories that will last a life time.

  3. Gobble Gobble! Happy Thanksgiving! Don’t forget the stuffing!

    Everyone has a favorite Thanksgiving recipe. Perhaps it is your grandmother’s famous oyster stuffing, or your mother’s incredible pumpkin pie, whatever it may be it is sure to conjure up fond memories of past Thanksgiving celebrations.
    Those tempting aromas drifting from the kitchen on Thanksgiving morning are enough to tempt any one’s taste buds!
    One of our family favorites at Neal Communities is a recipe that we’ve been serving for many years. Thanksgiving would not be Thanksgiving without cornbread and sausage stuffing!
    Cornbread stuffing, a Southern favorite, is a nice change from more traditional white-bread stuffing. Also, the stuffing is so easy to make that it’s sure to become a favorite side year-round.
    Ingredients

    •  1 pound sweet Italian turkey sausage, (about 4 links), casings removed
    •  2 cups finely chopped onion
    •  1 1/2 cups finely chopped celery
    •  1/4 teaspoon salt
    •  Freshly ground pepper, to taste
    •  2 pounds prepared cornbread, cut into 3/4-inch cubes (about 12 cups)
    •  1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
    •  1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
    •  1 1/2-3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth

    Preparation

    1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.
    2. Cook sausage in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, stirring and breaking up with a wooden spoon, until browned, about 10 minutes. Add onion and celery; cover, reduce heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Add cornbread, parsley and sage.
    3. Bring broth to a simmer in a small saucepan. Pour 1 cup over the stuffing mixture and toss gently (the cornbread will break into smaller pieces). Add as much of the remaining broth as needed, 1/2 cup at a time, until the stuffing feels moist but not wet. Spoon the stuffing into the prepared pan and cover with foil.
    4. Bake the stuffing until thoroughly heated, about 25 minutes. Serve warm.