1. Growing Your Gardens

    Are you familiar with the term “curb appeal”? Basically, it is a phrase used to determine how appealing your home is from street view. Don’t be turned away from landscaping your yard because of the challenges Florida’s tropical climate creates!

    Having a beautiful yard in Florida is possible with a little tender loving care. With just a few pieces of knowledge, a couple gardening tools, and a little time, you can be on your way to a well-manicured lawn full of beautiful flowers, trimmed shrubs, and fruits and vegetables to fill your fridge (and belly!)

    To start, Real Simple put together a checklist to help you through each step of your gardening adventure, from beginning to end.  Once you have determined what you want to plant and where, gather basic gardening tools like a spade, garden fork, soaking hose, hoe, hand weeder, and a basket to begin. Don’t forget those gloves!

    But once you have the needed tools, what’s the next step? Living in the tropical climates of Florida, you are aware that landscaping can be a little trickier. The soil is made up of mostly sand, the heat and humidity are higher, dry season can effect plants, and the sea salt from the ocean may compromise their growth if they don’t have a tolerance for it. Don’t let these things keep you from creating a beautiful yard you will be proud to call your own!

    Find out first where you want to get started. Do you want to incorporate flowers, shrubs, trees, or vines? How much are you willing to spend?  With fall just around the corner, now is the perfect time to start planning for what you will incorporate into your garden!

    For southern Florida gardens, Florida Gardener provides a breakdown of the vegetables, herbs, flowers, and bulbs that are best for you to grow.

    Vegetables: Beans, Broccoli, Carrots, Collards, Corn, Cowpeas, Cucumbers, Celery, Eggplant, Leaf Lettuce, Mustard, Okra, Onions, Peppers, Pumpkin, Squash Tomatoes, Turnips, and Watermelon.

    Herbs:  Basil, Chives, Dill, Mint, Oregano, Sweet Marjoram.

    Flowers:  Asters, Balsam, Begonias, Black-Eyed Susan Vine, Blue Daze, Cat’s Whiskers, Coleus, Cosmos, Cockscombs, Dianthus, Forget-Me-Nots, Gaillardia, Golden Globe Impatiens, Marigolds, Melapodium, Moon Vine, Pentas, Periwinkles, Petunias, Phlox, Porterweed, Portulaca, Purslane, Salvia, Scabiosa, Strawflowers, Sunflowers, Tithonias, Torenia, Verbenas and Zinnias.

    Bulbs:  African Iris, Agapanthus, Amaryllis, Cannas, Crinums, Daylilies, Gladioli, Gloriosa Lilies, Society Garlic and Zephyranthes (Rain Lilies).

    For inspiration on where and how to grow these items, view HGTV’s John Gidding video in which he shares tips on how to improve your home’s curb appeal with a few landscaping ideas.


    With so many delicious things growing in your garden, what will you ever do with them!  Visit Pinterest, The Food Network, Cooking Light, or your favorite recipe website for inspiration on how you can turn your pickings into a wonderful family dinner.

    Happy gardening!

  2. Do It Yourself Projects- Time to Get Crafty

    Do you enjoy making things from scratch, or repurposing old items and making them into something fresh and new? Or perhaps you are always looking for new ways to get your house more organized.

    Consider trying some DIY projects? With a little Pinterest inspiration, you will be surprised to learn that even you can be the next Martha Stewart, impressing your friends (and yourself) with organization ideas, recipes, and even crafts!

    To start, visit our Neal Communities Pinterest Page to get inspired! In this blog, we are going to outline how you can use wooden pallets to create beautiful and rustic home décor. You heard us correctly, wooden pallets.

    Many times, local business and stores have wooden pallets laying around that they will give you for free. Try asking larger department and grocery stores after deliveries take place. Another suggestion is many times people offer wooden pallets for free on Craigslist!

    Project One: Create the perfect patio table. Doesn’t this picture make you want to be sitting in one of those chairs, drinking lemonade with an old friend? One of the things we loved most about this particular table was the wheels on the bottom, allowing you to move it around as necessary. You have the ability to stain the wood whatever color you like! Check out this YouTube Video on how to stain wood.



    The second idea we loved was the idea of using the wooden pallets as a headboard. The wood immediately gives the bed a rustic look and paired with the white bedding, the headboard really stands out.  If this were our bedroom, we would place fresh lilacs on the nightstand for a spice of color – not to mention, we love how they  smell! Would you use this idea for your headboard?



    Even if you don’t consider yourself to be crafty, you might want to become crafty just to create this beautiful outdoor sofa! While the project might take more time than the others, the end result will be worth it! Decorate the finished product with colored pillows of your choice or swap pillows out based on the season.  Where would you place this new piece of furniture? Something about this chair makes us want to place it outside where we can sit in it and catch the sun set.



    What are some of YOUR ideas of things you would create using wooden pallets?  Whether you are a seasoned expert or a beginner in the craft department, with a little time and a lot for patience, you can create beautiful pieces like the one above. If you want to brush up on your skills before trying these at home, check out some local craft classes in Sarasota.  Plus, your local craft stores, such as Michaels, offers classes year round. Join in the fun and get building! Be sure to share photos of items you’ve created for your Neal Communities home on our Facebook page!


  3. Back to School Blues

    Have you been having a good summer? We sure hope so! Are you ready for your kids to go back to school, or love having them at home? We are guessing a little of both.

    How many of you have a child going away to college this year? It’s scary, right? Dropping off a child at their new school can be a heartbreaking moment, but there  are ways that both you and your child can adjust to the change. We aren’t saying it won’t be hard at first, because it will be, but over time you will be able to focus on the good in the situation. Plus, think of how exciting it will be the weekends they come home!

    Here are some tips for you to prepare for this big change.

    Preparation is Key. As a parent, you always want to protect your kid. Making sure they are prepared with all necessary items for college is one way to feel like you’ve prepared them for this big change. Many big stores have checklists to make your life easier. Visit College Packing Lists or Bed Bath and Beyond to get started. The lists break down items needed by category, making your life a whole lot easier.

    Don’t Drag Out Goodbye. It will be hard to say goodbye and not give one more hug, one more piece of advice, or one more kiss on the cheek. But don’t make the process longer, and harder, than it has to be. Think of it like ripping off a bandaid- make it as quick and painless as possible.

    Reassure Your Child. It’s funny how far a simple “ I love you” “We’re so proud of you” or a “ You’re going to be great” can go with your child. Make sure they know they have your love and support, to give them a confidence boost when they need it most.

    Don’t be overbearing. You will most likely be tempted to call, text, or email them every 5 minutes to see how they are doing or if they are ok. Give them the space to enjoy their new adventure and relax knowing you have prepared them to be a responsible adult.

    Enjoy “You” Time. Now is the time to focus on yourself. Are there things you have been wanting to try? New hobbies, new recipes, or visiting a new place? This is the perfect time to focus your attention on those things. Not only will it help fulfill a void you might feel, but it will also give you something new to focus on. Visit the Sarasota Adult and Community Enrichment site to find language, art, sports, home and garden classes and more!

    Do you remember when you first went to college? What are some things you wish you had known, or wish you had done differently? Share those experiences with your child! Recommend some tips that will guide your child’s success. Some of the more popular success tips we found included:

    • Get To Know the Campus. Knowing where everything is will help your child utilize their resources, and show up to class on time.
    • Join Clubs, groups, and activities to meet a lot of people and to stay active.
    • Set Goals and work toward them. Whether that’s completing 3 internships, averaging a 3.5 GPA or joining a new club, have fun and make them happen!
    • Get to Know The Faculty- Not only can teachers be great mentors but they can also play a key role in helping your child find a job after graduation.
    • Develop healthy habits- The Freshman 15 is no joke. Encourage your child to develop healthy eating, sleeping, and exercise habits to remain healthy and present in every class.
    • Keep track of Money- Encourage your child to develop a system to keep track of money in and out. This is a great time for them to develop good money habits.
    • Have fun. Work hard, play hard. College is a great learning experience, professional, personally, academically. Four years goes faster than you think, so make sure you encourage your child to enjoy the time they have in school!

    Above all, focus on the positive in the situation – your child will be attending college and becoming the wonderful adult you always knew they would be!


  4. Designing Diva- What’s Your Homestyle?

    There is nothing more exciting than buying a new home except for decorating your new home. Don’t you just love the feeling you get when you walk into a store and find the perfect item for your living room? Do you get excited when you get to go shopping for items to decorate your home?

    At Neal Communities, we put a lot of value, time, and consideration into the design of your home to make sure it is custom to your lifestyle and personal taste. However, what makes a home your own is the personal touch you give to it.

    What is your home style? Do you know? Does the Florida coastline inspire your design style, from the colors to the signature pieces around your home? Or maybe you prefer a look of elegance and only allow for the very best appliances to be found in your home?  Whatever your style, we here at Neal Communities want to help bring it to life! Take our home style quiz to discover what your taste is!

    If you dream in diamonds and pearls and tend to appreciate extravagant accessories, a lavish design would be perfect for you. Spoil yourself with a large bathtub, extra closet space to store all of those shoes you’ve collected, and hang chandeliers as your light fixtures.

    Do you love to entertain family and friends? Use this as the time to show all the little details in your home that make it so beautiful.  From the wine glasses, to the granite tops, to the beautiful wood floors, your home is sure to impress.  Check out Pinterest to find inspiration for flower bouquets to place around the house. For homes that will fit your luxurious taste, check out our Fairhaven II and Barbados II models. Both offer spacious floorplans, 3 car garages, and plenty of bragging rights.

    If you live in Florida primarily for the white sand, pristine waters, and bountiful beached, why not bring the beach into your home? Nautical decorations, greens and blues, and a little sand on the floor you carried home from the beach complete your home. Looking for the perfect piece to complete your look? Try creating this homey bench we discovered on our Pinterest page!

    Do you need a home decorated in such a way that will impress visitors and also allow for your kids and dog to feel at home? Finding a functional floorplan is the first step, and our Harmony Classic and Starlight Tradition are the perfect places to start. If you need a little help designing kids rooms, you can’t miss our “Kids Room”  board full of great decorating ideas!

    When you decorate, do you like to keep things simple and uncluttered?  Do the Florida surroundings inspire your design – from the color palettes, to the artwork, to the lighting? It’s easy to do when you consider we live where other people vacation. Get inspired by your surroundings!

    Take our quiz and discover your style and find more ideas to decorate your home. And don’t forget to follow us on Pinterest!

  5. August Adventures- Things to Do Around Town

    Summer is coming to an end, but before the kids go back to school, there is still plenty of fun to be had.  Living near the Gulf Coast, what are some things you enjoy doing? Whether your answer is fishing, hiking, listening to live music outdoors, crafts, or even enjoying an adult beverage, there is something for you to enjoy this month. Why not try something new?

    Do you love to fish? Do you think you could out fish others? The Sarasota Slam Fishing Tournament is your chance to put your skills to the test. Visit the link to get an entry form and more info.  The tournament takes place August 6-10.

    Help get your kids excited to go back to school by taking them to the Back to School Splash Bash at Lakewood Ranch YMCA Pool and Pavillion on August 24. This event is free for kids up to 13 and will offer music, slip and slides, a dunk tank, pool games, prizes, water balloon fights and so much more. Don’t forget your suit and a towel! Interested? Visit this link for more information.

    If you don’t have kids, there is still fun to be had on August 24 at the Annual Sarasota Beer Festival. Admission is $35 at the door (or $20-30 in advance) and includes unlimited sampling of over 100 imported and craft beers, and live music. Bottoms up!

    If you are always looking for something to do on a Friday night, have you ever checked out the “Live from Downtown Sarasota, it’s Friday Night?” Every Friday, locals gather to socialize, listen to live music, and check out local entertainers, street performances, and musicians. When you live somewhere as beautiful as the Gulf Coast, what could be better than enjoying some time outdoors meeting new people and appreciating great weather?

    Have you done your back to school shopping? If your children are in need of new notebooks, pencils, backpacks, or glue, don’t forget to get all your supplies early! If you live in Sarasota, find this list of schools for more information on lunch menus, bus routes, school supply lists and more.

    Don’t forget about Florida’s tax free weekend taking place from August 2-4. This applies to books, clothing, and footwear (75$ or less) and school supplies (15$ or less). For more information, visit this link! Don’t miss out on your chance to save money on back to school supplies.

    Summer may be coming to a close, but there is still plenty of things to do.  What activities will you participate in before school starts?