1. Shiver Me Timber!

    Brrrrr….It sure has been cold  this winter and we don’t just mean up north! Just today, The Weather Channel forecasted that winter storm Leon will drop major snow and ice across the east coast. While meteorologists predict the storm will affect the Deep South, Southwest Florida shouldn’t see any snow. BUT that doesn’t mean the -40 degree temperatures won’t impact the temperatures down here too.

    When the weather calls for freezing temperature overnight, you don’t want to be heading out to cover plants that are cold-sensitive. Follow these tips from the University of California to stay prepared.

    First, determine if your plants are the hardy or sensitive type. Typically citrus, avocado, fuchsias and succulents tend to be “tender” to cooler temperatures.  Basically, these plants will either be injured or killed in freezing temperatures.

    If you have these plants, use bed sheets, cloths, or plastic sheets to cover them in the evenings on nights when the forecast calls for temperatures under 33 degrees. These materials can be removed the next day once the temperatures rise again. Placing lams with 100-watts can be used in small trees to produce enough to reduce potential frost damage.  Or, visit your local nursery for an anti-transpirant spray to squirt your tender plants. This protects the leaves for up to three months.

    Don’t know how to cover your plants? No problem! Check out this video for a detailed step-by-step to keeping your plants alive and well.


  2. City on the Gulf

    While most of the world is caught up in snow, waking up early to scrap ice off their cars, layering on the clothes extra thick and shoveling their driveways, we here in sunny Florida are enjoying the sunshine. Don’t you just love living in the sunshine state?

    Neal Communities is a family owned home builder out of Southwest Florida with multiple communities located along the Gulf of Mexico.

    A few of our communities including Grand Palm and Sawgrass are located in one particularly charming neighborhood known as Venice, Florida. The city was named for its abundance of intricately woven canals and offers residents and visitors alike a plethora of white sandy beaches and sparkling gulf water. You will also see  Northern Italian Renaissance influenced architecture as you stroll through downtown.

    Whether you are hopping to shop, relax, soak up some sun, eat, or have some fun, you will find it all in this beautiful city. Because Venice is so close to the Gulf, in fact its nickname is actually City on the gulf, seafood is a popular cuisine for locals.

    Robbi’s Reef is a popular spot with great reviews and an impressive menu. Check out Crows Nest for waterfront dining and the ever-popular Sharky’s on the Pier. You’ll find gorgeous views, breathtaking sunsets, tropical drinks, and live music.

    If you aren’t a seafood fan, no worries, there are plenty of other options! Sushi, Italian, pizza, Chinese, Mexican, American…it will be hard to choose where to go and what to eat in this town. To help you make a selection, try visiting Urbanspoon.com. You can filter selections based on price, cuisine, neighborhood, or even feature to narrow your list and help you make a selection. Keep a running list of all the places you’ve been and see how many new places you visited in the course of a year.

    If you decide to become a Venice foodie, you might also consider becoming an active Venice resident as well.

    The Venetian Waterway Park is located along both sides of the Intercoastal Waterway. It connects with the Legacy Trail and Historic Venice Train Station providing over 23 miles of uninterrupted trails perfect for hiking, biking, or running.

    Centennial Park located in the heart of downtown offers a beautiful gazebo, picnic tables, and an interactive fountain the kids can play in. It’s open from 9:30 am- 9:30 pm and all children need to be accompanied by an adult. At Hecksher Park, you will find six tennis-courts, basketball courts, shuffleboard courts, and tot lots to keep you active.  And these are just a few of the MANY parks located throughout the city.

    Let’s not forget that this city on the gulf has some of the world’s most beautiful beaches! White sand, pristine blue waters, palm trees swaying in the wind, the sun beaming…it’s not hard to close your eyes and picture yourself here.

    If you are looking for a unique spot, Paws Park is the only dog-friendly beach in Broward county. Open 7am-dusk, this beach is the perfect place to take your furry friend for some quality time.

    Relax after a long week of work by casting a line at sunset on the Venice Fishing Pier. An extra perk of the pier is along the 700-foot long structure individuals don’t need their own fishing license.

    Venture to the beautiful downtown area to get in some shopping for the ones you love (or just yourself).  There is also Bird Bay Plaza, The Brick Yard Center, The Venice Isles Plaza and many other options for you to shop til you drop.

    Come find your place in the sun in the charming city of Venice Florida.

  3. 2014- The Year to Get Uncluttered

    If you are still trying to come up with a worthy resolution, we have a great idea for you. Why not make a promise to make 2014 the year you get your house more organized! Sure it isn’t the most exciting resolution around but it beats eating lettuce everyday, right?

    Here at Neal Communities, we put together a list of some super easy (and yet completely genius) ways to start organizing right now.

    Get excited – or as excited as you can about organization!

    1. Is your closet overflowing with clothes that don’t fit, don’t flatter, or just don’t do it for you anymore? We’ve all been there. But why hold on to clothes you aren’t using when there is someone out there who could really use them? Take the time to go through your closet and remove anything you haven’t worn in a while. Consider donating to some of these organizations!

    • DressForSuccess- This Company collects professional attire and distributes them to disadvantaged women who have an interview lined up. Since 1997, over 700,000 women have been helped through this organization. Read more about it here.  http://www.dressforsuccess.org
    • Cinderella Project- Still holding on to an old gown or dress you don’t fit in anymore or something you just don’t see yourself wearing again? Check out this organization that gives donated  dresses to girls who can’t afford a prom dress. Find more information here.  http://www.cinderellaproject.net/about-us-1/sister-sites/
    • In addition, check local churches, crisis centers, or shelters. Many battered women’s shelters, homeless shelters, and churches are constantly looking for donations. Call them to see what they need.
    2.  If you have extra wall space, check out this tip. Build shelves between your clothes racks and place baskets on the shelves. Fill them with whatever fits; purses, flip-flops, high heels, scarves, belts, or ties.
    3.  If you are running out of room in your kitchen, have no fear. We have a few solutions that will help you utilize unused space and declutter your cabinets and drawers (or give you more room to get new stuff, wink wink).
    • We found this on Pinterest, a sliding cabinet device that organizes and stores your pots and pans.
    • Utilize the doors of cabinets by placing small storage racks on the inside of them. Place sponges, cleaners, spices, or other small items in them to give you more space and easily locate items you use frequently. (See photo at top of article)

    4.  You most likely spend a lot of time in your main room. Living room, family room, whatever you choose call it, let’s not have any reason to call it the messy room.  Purchase a small caddy to store remote controls, pens, magazines, glasses, or whatever else you have laying around on the coffee table. 

    *Photo credit: Better Homes and Gardens


    We told you the tips were easy. What are some of the tricks you’ve done to make your home more organized? Leave a comment and share your ideas!

  4. New Year. New You.

    Every year on January 1st we are all given a fresh start. A new beginning. A clean slat to begin a new year. Many of us set New Years resolutions to help us achieve this and one of the most common of these is to lose weight and get more fit.  Forbes magazine approximated that over 40% of Americans set New Years goals while only 8% actually achieve them. Don’t let that be you!

    There are tons of ways to get active in and around your Neal Community to help you stay active and burn off those extra punds this year.

    Let’s start with giving some tips on how to set “SMART” goals.  What is a SMART goal? SMART stands for Specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. So instead of saying “ I want to get in better shape this year,” apply those 5 items. “I want to join the gym, workout 3 times a week, and loose 3 pounds a month every month this year.” This allows you to track and hold yourself accountable.

    So now, how to get more active! First, let’s start with a few small changes that can make a big difference.

    Consider taking the stairs versus the elevator. The website HealthStatus says a person who weighs 160 pounds burns about nine calories during a minute of walking up a set of stairs. That might not seem like much, but let’s say you do this just two times everyday in 2014. That’s an extra 6,570 calories burned.

    Park in a spot a little further away from the store to force yourself to walk a longer distance. Again, small steps that can go a big way burning extra calories without even trying!

    Get moving during commercial breaks! Instead of sitting the entire time while watching your favorite TV show, consider moving around during the commercial breaks. The Chicago Tribune estimates that a one-hour show has approximately 20 minutes of commercial time. Use it to do some lighter exercises such as push-ups, marching in place, sit ups, or even squats. Or why not kill two birds with one stone and do some chores during the breaks? Loading the dishwasher, folding laundry, dusting, or vacuuming will keep you moving about (and keep your house clean!)

    But why stop there? Especially when you have so many opportunities to have fun while getting fit in your Neal Community! As a builder in Southwest Florida, all of our communities are not far from the beautiful white sandy beaches of the Gulf coast.  Walks on the beach, swimming, biking, paddle boarding, kayaking, and surfing are all options for the beach bum in you. Not to mention, we have a feeling you will love the view. Or consider going for a stroll within your community.  Challenge an opponent to a game of tennis. The mayoclinic notes that one-hour of play can result in burning 584 calories in a 160 pound person.

    If you live in one of our communities offering a kayak or canoe launch, start paddling! One hour can burn as many as 256 calories and is a great workout to tone those arms and back!

    When is the last time you challenged your kids to a game of one-on-one on the basketball court?  Considering you can burn a whopping 584 calories in just one hour, you might consider starting again, tonight!

    Our Grand Palm residents have fitness classes lead by instructors designed to challenge every level and burn unwanted calories. Check out the class schedule for when Water Aerobics take place. Also, be sure to join the walking and running group or the bicycle club!

    Hit the pavement on your bike as your explore your community and burn close to 300 calories in an hour.

    If you doubt your dedication to accomplishing your resolution, grab a buddy to keep you on track and accountable. Whatever you do, don’t give up! Think how happy you will be in a year when you reach your goal! You can do this!

    Here’s to a new you in the new year.