1. Every Bunny Will Love These Easter Cupcakes!

    Easter Bunny Cupcake Recipe

    Aside from time with family, food is arguably one of the best things about any holiday.  For those celebrating Easter, deviled eggs, hams, vegetables, and even cupcakes will fill the dinner table.

    If you’re looking for a cute dessert to bring to a party or just your family table, we found this adorable cupcake recipe from Taste of Home. If you want to see other cupcake ideas, they had plenty for you to choose from!

    Easter Bunny Cupcakes

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    *Easter Bunny Cupcakes Recipe photo by Taste of Home

    Originally published as Easter Bunny Cupcakes in Taste of Home’s Cupcake of the Week Newsletter , p4/6/09

     

    Ingredients

    • 1 to 2 cans vanilla frosting (16 ounces each)
    • Green paste food coloring
    • Cupcakes and miniature cupcakes of your choice
    • Candy-coated sunflower kernels
    • Assorted chewing gum sticks
    • Jumbo heart sprinkles
    • Canned Chocolate frosting
    • Miniature marshmallows
    • Corn syrup
    • White nonpareils

    Directions

    • Tint desired amount of frosting green. Cut a small hole in the corner of pastry or plastic bag; insert #4 round pastry tip. Fill bag with green frosting; pipe grass onto desired amount of cupcakes. Sprinkle with sunflower kernels.
    • For bunny faces, pipe white frosting over tops of cupcakes using a #4 round pastry tip. Using clean kitchen scissors or a small sharp knife, cut gum into ear shapes of various sizes. Attach smaller centers onto the larger pieces with a small amount of frosting.
    • Pinch base end of each ear, forming a curved shape. Press into tops of cupcakes. Place a heart sprinkle on each cupcake for nose. Using a #2 round pastry tip, pipe eyes, whiskers and a mouth on each face with chocolate frosting.
    • For bunnies, pipe white frosting over remaining cupcakes. Place a miniature cupcake onto a larger cupcake; secure with a toothpick. For a bunny tail, dip a marshmallow in corn syrup; roll in nonpareils. Place on cupcake. Repeat as desired. Yield: Varied.

     

    Wishing you and your family a Happy Easter!

     


  2. Will you be mine?

    Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. While it may not get the same type of exposure or attention as some of the other major holidays, think Christmas and Thanksgiving, it is still a great opportunity to tell ALL the loved ones in your life just how much you adore (and appreciate) them! Why not spread a little love this year and surprise your friends and family with these unique Valentine’s Day gifts?

    Valentine Gift Ideas:

    Mom’s: Make Mom’s day extra special by giving her the gift of free time! A certificate to the spa is always an appreciated gesture. Or, how about buying her tickets to the movie or theatre?  Tell her to round up her gal pals and enjoy the day.

    Dad’s: For the ‘Do It Yourself’ Dad’s out there, any tool or gadget will be a welcome gift! Another great idea for Dad is a certificate to a sporting goods store. There is no doubt he will find something there that will have him smiling from ear to ear!

    Children: Let your daughter know how special she is to you. Splurge on a fresh bouquet of flowers! Let her know she will always be your special Valentine! For your son, an iTunes gift certificate will have him ‘singing your praises’.

    Friends and Business acquaintances: If you love to cook or bake, why not surprise your friends and colleagues with some sweet homemade goodies? If you work in a large office, this will have all your co-workers smiling!

    Don’t forget your pets! Why not get the kids involved and make special Valentine’s Day doggie treats! There are plenty of healthy and creative recipes online!

    Still not sure what to buy your sweeties for Valentine’s Day? Flowers, chocolate and a homemade Valentine’s Day card never go out of style! And don’t forget that special Valentine in your life….your spouse, of course! A nice, romantic dinner is always the perfect way to end the day! Don’t forget to make reservations!

    Happy Valentine’s Day!

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  3. January is a GREAT month to…

    The holidays are behind us, and people are getting back into the reality of life; however, that doesn’t mean the fun has to stop! There are so many exciting this to do in in January! One of the many benefits of living in the sunshine state is the SUNSHINE! The weather is perfect for taking part in some of these exciting outdoor events!

    So, mark your calendars, grab your family and friends and enjoy all that January has to offer! Here is a sampling of just a few of the many events you can partake in!

    January 12 – 13, 2013: Time to get crafty! The 6th Annual Downtown Venice Craft Festival is here! It is one of the most popular festivals in the area!

    January 17 – 27, 2013: Popcorn, cotton candy and carnival rides await you at the Annual Manatee County Fair which will be taking place at the Manatee County Fairgrounds.

    January 19, 2013: Become a star gazer! Sidewalk Astronomy is hosted by the local “Deep Sky Observers” in the south parking lot of Lakewood Ranch Main Street.

    January 23 – 25, 2013: The Wings of Freedom Tour flies into the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport.  Come check out all the old planes on display.

    January 25 – February 15, 2013: Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! The Annual Circus Sarasota comes to town!

    January 26, 2013: Ahoy ye mates! Just a short drive from Sarasota to Tampa, the Annual Gasparilla Fest is happening. Watch the pirates as they take over the city!

    January 26 – 27, 2013: The 10th annual St. Armand’s Circle’s Winter Art Festival.

    To see a FULL calendar of January events, click the link below! See you around the town!

    http://www.escape-to-sarasota.com/january-sarasota-events.html

     


  4. What are YOUR New Year Resolutions?

    ‘A goal without a plan is just a wish’ – Larry Elder

    This time of year many people start putting pen to paper and coming up with their potential New Year’s resolutions. All the usual suspects are typically included in the list:

    • Lose weight
    • Eat healthy
    • Quit smoking
    • Exercise

    January 1st rolls around and we eagerly tackle our resolutions. All goes well for the first couple of weeks and then BOOM! We fall off the proverbial wagon and once again slip back into our normal habits. We feel defeated and ashamed and vow to NOT break our New Year’s resolutions…..next year!

    So, why do so many people fail when it comes to keeping their New Year’s resolutions? Like the old saying goes: People don’t plan to fail, they fail to PLAN.

    When tackling your New Year’s resolutions this year, why not try incorporating an action plan for each item? This will serve as your ‘blueprint’ to obtaining your goal.

    There are many ways to set and achieve your goals. You must first start by setting SMART goals. This will make it easier for you to create your action plan. Here’s an example of how it works.

    GOAL: Lose weight

    Specific: Do you know exactly WHAT you want to accomplish?

    Measurable: Quantify your progress so you stay on track.

    Attainable: Can you reach the goal? Your goals should be challenging but also attainable.

    Relevant: How important is this goal to you?

    Timely: Have a deadline for your goals.

    Revised Goal:  “I want to lose 10 lbs by April 15th 2013. I will achieve this goal by walking for 30 minutes three days a week and I will go to the gym 3 days per week. I will limit the number of sweets and starchy carbohydrates that I eat to just 2 times a week. I will weigh myself every Monday to keep track of my success.”


  5. It’s almost Christmas! Let’s have some fun.

    It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas….everywhere you go! The decorations are up, the lights are twinkling, and the holiday season is truly upon us. If you have children, this also means that school will be closed for a week and your kids will be HOME with you.

    So, what types of activities do you have planned during this special time? Here are some suggestions on how you can enjoy this time with your kids and keep that Christmas feeling all week long!

    • Check out the Christmas lights – it is always fun to drive around admiring all the beautiful Christmas lights and outdoor decorations that can be seen in your own neighborhood. There is something magical about it. Be sure to have your radio station set to hear your favorite Christmas music while you drive.
    • Watch holiday movies – From Miracle on 34th Street to Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, there are hundreds of great holiday movies to watch! Snuggle up on the couch, pop some popcorn, and make a family evening of it!
    • Bake some holiday goodies – Why not spend an afternoon in the kitchen baking all those wonderful holiday cookies, pies and cakes that you loved from your childhood. Get your kids to create a ‘recipe’ book including all their favorite yummy treats.
    • Give back to the community and volunteer – There is nothing more rewarding than ‘helping those less fortunate’ during the holidays. Teach your kids importance of giving back to their community.
    • Make a video Christmas card– Break out your video camera and have your kids act out a favorite Christmas movie scene or sing their favorite Christmas carols. Then, send your Christmas video to family and friends.
    • Go ice skating – Lace up your skates and hit the ice! Even if you aren’t skating on a frozen pond in Vermont, you can still enjoy the wind in your face and the ice under your feet inside a mall or indoor ice rink.
    • Read a book – Visit your local library and have your kids pick out 2 or 3 books they want to read over the Christmas holiday….for added fun, have each child select a book with a Christmas theme.
    • Go to a museum – Take in some culture and visit one of the area’s many fine museums.
    • Take a road trip – One of the many benefits of living in Florida is that we are never more than a few hours’ drive to FUN! Take a drive to Clearwater and meet Winter the dolphin, or hop over to Orlando for a fun day at the Disney Parks
    • Got to the theater – Check out your local schools and community theater groups for a schedule of Christmas plays. The Nutcracker is always a holiday favorite.

    For more ideas on what to do, visit

    http://events.heraldtribune.com/sarasota-fl/events/sarasota+christmas+events


  6. Planning the Perfect Holiday Menu!

    The Christmas tree is decorated, the presents are wrapped, and the stockings are hung by the chimney with care……so you can relax, right? Wait a minute! What about the 12 people that you invited over for that holiday celebration party tomorrow night?? Have you prepared your menu yet? No need to panic if you haven’t. We’ve got some ideas to make your holiday party shine brighter than the bulbs on your tree!

    Holiday parties can be stressful, but they don’t have to be. With a little bit of planning and preparation you can create the perfect holiday party menu without spending a lot of time (and money).

    First thing you need to do is create a theme for your party. Do you want a ‘traditional’ holiday theme? Or are you looking to do something a little more casual? Once you determine your theme, it is easy to plan around it.

    Appetizers

    -       Fresh vegetables and a homemade dip is always a favorite holiday party staple!

    -       Consider having a combination of hot and cold appetizers. Many hot appetizers can be made ahead of time and then re-heated before guests arrive.

    Main Meal

    -       If you are going with a ‘traditional’ theme, a turkey or a ham is always a nice choice. If your party is  formal, serve as a sit down meal or, if informal, have guests make their own sandwiches using an assortment of breads and rolls.

    -       If you want something a little different consider a Mexican or Italian theme and serve fajitas or homemade lasagna!

     Dessert/Beverages

    -       The holidays are synonymous with cookies, pies and other baked goodies. Offer your guests an assortment of these holiday favorites!

    -       A festive holiday punch is a great beverage idea! Here’s the recipe for one we think you will enjoy!

    Pomegranate-Champagne Punch

    Ingredients

    Preparation

    • Bring 1/2 cup water and sugar to boil in small saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Simmer 5 minutes. Cool syrup completely.
    • Combine Champagne, rum, and pomegranate juice in punch bowl. Add enough syrup to sweeten to taste. Mix in lemon slices, pomegranate seeds, and mint leaves. Add ice block to bowl.

  7. Holiday Gifts For Pool Lovers

    Finding the perfect gift isn’t easy. The most thoughtful gifts require some imagination, creativity — or at least a little research. If you have a pool owner on your list, you’re in luck! We’ve done some of that research for you and came up with great ideas for fun and useful pool-related items anyone would love.

     

    Get personal. These days you can customize almost anything. A set of personalized cabana towels, insulated can sleeves or a special pool sign would look awesome in their outdoor oasis. Or DIY and stencil their name on a USCG-approved life ring or a lifeguard chair. Purchase plans and ready-to-assemble kits online for a lifeguard chair that’s sure to be a big hit.

     

    Make it fun. When water is involved, adults are basically kids in larger swim suits, so they’ll appreciate a toy as much as any tot. There are all sorts of games designed for kids, such as wacky diving toys, but consider something the whole family can get in on. How about a friendly game of backgammon or an exciting round of table tennis? Floating versions put a whole new spin on these classics.

     

    Practical-ly perfect. You can’t go wrong with practical gifts such as festive plastic tableware, colorful pool towels or a drying rack. And one can never have too many floats! But opt for something they might not already own, like the Spongex Unsinkable Pool Float or zany Pool Petz for the kids.

     

    Waterproof their gear. Do some sleuthing to see whether they’ve invested in waterproof cases for their smartphone and tablet. If not, look no further! Lifeproof cases provide submersible protection that could save the day — and make them forever thankful they have a thoughtful friend like you.

     

    Fit for giving. Pool workouts become even more effective with aqua fitness equipment such as swim gloves, dumbbells and jogging belts. Who wouldn’t love to move their workout to the pool during hot summer months — or anytime for that matter?

     

    Light up their life. If you’re still stumped, consider a cool lighting gadget, such as the rechargeable Ocean Blue Nova Floating Pool Light or a floating fountain. Get lights and action in one with the Dancing Water Light and Fountain Show. There are a multitude of reasonably priced options online, at Home Depot and your local pool supply store.

     

    If you’re shopping for the pool lover in your life, the only difficult part will be deciding what to get! From inexpensive toys to splurge-worthy items, the perfect gift is just a click away.

     


  8. 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

  9. 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.

  10. 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.