1. 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!


  2. Summer Nights- Backyard Bliss

    Summer is just around the corner, and you might find yourself spending more time in the outdoors. If you enjoy entertaining family and friends, or just want to spruce up your outdoor area, check out these great tips!

    Lights. Lighting can set the mood and don’t have to cost a fortune. Consider using your holiday lights to wrap around tree trunks. Tiki torches, candles, and cheap lights can all be found at local stores like Target or Walmart. Consider stringing lights from corners to brighten the scenery and add decoration.

    Decorations. Outdoor accessories can really transform an outdoor space into a something magical.  Check out local flea markets and dollar stores for pots, bowls, ornaments, lanterns, chairs, and other outdoor items.  Don’t be afraid to get crafty! If you find an item that has potential, consider painting, decorating, or fixing it. Pinterest has millions of ideas to help you!

    Privacy. You want your outdoor space to feel private and comfortable. Consider growing tall shrubs, hanging plants, or placing a garden gate in area to provide privacy from neighbors.

    Customize. Add something that best suits your personality. Maybe it’s a hammock to take naps in, or a wicker chair perfect for reading a book. A porch swing can be hung to sit with a friend and share stories,  and an herb garden can be grown with love and care. The beauty of owning a home is making it customized to you.

    Create an outdoor space that will be the hangout spot of the summer! What ideas do you have for your backyard?


  3. Simple Decorating Tips to Change Up the Look of YOUR Home

    It’s a new year, why not create a new look for your home? Sounds good, right? But for many folks, this is usually a time of year when they are focusing on paying off holiday bills and don’t have a whole lot of disposable income to re-design their homes.

    Here are some simple (and inexpensive) ways to change up the look and feel of your home without spending a fortune! A simple trip to Home Goods, Kohls, Target or Pier One should do the trick!

    1. Pile on the pillows! Pillows are a simple way to add a splash of bright color into your living or family rooms. Mix and match with different styles, colors and fabrics!
    2. Buy new bedding. To change the look and feel of your bedrooms, start by changing the bedding. A new comforter and pillows will make the entire room look different. Why not go bold and try experimenting with burgundy, red or magenta?
    3. Rearrange your furniture. By simply moving your furniture around you can create an entirely new room.
    4. Move your artwork. This is an easy and fun way to give a new look to your rooms! Also, add mirrors to create an open and roomy atmosphere.
    5. Try an accent color. If you are not ready to paint your entire house, why not start with just one accent wall? This adds dimension and creates a dramatic feel to any room.
    6. Add a few area rugs or accent rugs. Shopping for area rugs and accent rugs is a whole lot less expensive than replacing flooring or carpet. Lay the rugs out on the diagonal for a welcoming effect.
    7. Illuminate with lighting. Swap out lamps or buy new lamp shades to add some illuminating effects to any room.
    8. Time for new towels. Kitchen and bathroom towels come in many different styles and colors! Let your imagination run wild! You can theme your kitchen and your bathrooms just by incorporating new towels into the picture!

  4. 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


  5. 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.

     


  6. 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

  7. 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.

  8. A Stress-free Way to Preparing for the Holidays!

    You have probably noticed that major retailers are already setting up for the holiday season! Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations are making their way into the aisles of many of your favorite shopping stores.  It won’t be long until you begin ‘making your list and checking it twice’ in preparation of the onset of holiday festivities. Christmas is less than 65 days away!

    For many folks, the holidays can cause undue stress and anxiety. There are presents to be purchased, pies to be baked and cards to be mailed. It can be a little overwhelming at times! Here are seven tips to help you prepare for the upcoming holiday season, stress-free.

    1. Start early! Don’t wait until the last minute to get started. If you prepare well in advance, by the time the holiday’s roll around you will have all your major tasks completed and you can sit back and enjoy the beauty of the season!
    2. Create a ‘to do’ list of everything you need to accomplish. Once you have this created, prioritize and break that list down into ‘bite size’ nuggets. This makes all your tasks much more manageable.
    3. Delegate, delegate, delegate. Assign specific tasks and projects to family members. Ask your children to address holiday cards and your husband to schlepp the ornaments and decorations down from the attic. In other words, if there is a task that you don’t have time to do, outsource it!
    4. Remember – gift cards are your friend. This is an easy (and inexpensive) gift to give to your children’s teachers, your hairdresser, and the paper boy and mail man. Remember to pick up some extra gift cards just in case you receive a gift from someone you were not expecting to get.
    5. Bake your favorite holiday goodies and then store them in the freezer for later. When the holidays arrive you can enjoy spending time with your family and friends, not slaving over a hot stove or oven.
    6. Don’t feel obligated to attend every holiday party, gathering, or event that you are invited to. Make sure you have some self-appointed ‘down time’.  If you can’t make it to your neighbor’s ‘cookie exchange’ this year, that is ok.
    7.  Take advantage of on-line shopping. Most of us do not enjoy the traffic, long lines and short tempers that are often synonymous with holiday shopping. Many of your purchases can be made quickly and easily in the comfort of your own home. In addition, you can shop at any time that suits you!

    Finally, remember to slow down and enjoy the next few months. With the proper planning and preparation there is no need to be stressed out or anxious.