1. Enjoying the autumn season

    There is something about the fall season that brings out the kid in all of us! Who doesn’t have memories of jumping into a huge pile of leaves that your dad spent all afternoon raking? What about the wonderful aromas that would come from the kitchen while mom was baking a delicious pumpkin pie?

    Fall is a beautiful season to celebrate. The weather is getting cooler, the holidays are right around the corner, and everyone seems to be a little happier! (It could also be the fact that the kids are back in school and football season has started up again.)

    So, how do you plan to enjoy this magical fall season? Here are some of our favorite things to do during the autumn months.
    1. Go for a family bike ride. There is nothing better than getting a little exercise and breathing in the fresh fall air.
    2. Bake a homemade pumpkin pie with the kids.
    3. Visit a local farm or orchard and pick your own fruits and vegetables. There are plenty of places to do this activity. Your kids will have a new appreciation for the food they eat. http://www.pickyourown.org/FLwest.htm
    4. Attend a football game at your local high school and cheer your team on.
    5. Take a trip to your local farmer’s market. Then come home a break out your crock pot and make a hearty stew or soup for dinner.
    6. Plan a neighborhood block party – the weather is perfect for being outdoors.
    7. Have a picnic! Even if it is in your backyard, it is always fun to eat outside.
    8. Host a football ‘tailgate’ party! Make your own salsa using fresh tomatoes – yummy!
    9. Bake a batch of cookies or brownies and deliver it to your local fire station. Our fire fighters love homemade goodies
    10. Volunteer to walk the dogs at your local humane society. The dogs LOVE playing in the cooler weather
    The opportunities for fall-fun are endless!

  2. The wait is over. It’s time to make it a Grand Palm Day!!

    GRAND OPENING Celebration – Saturday, September 8th from 10AM-5:30 PM and Sunday, September 9th from Noon-5PM, 12386 Sagewood Drive, Venice, FL

    For months the anticipation has been mounting! There’s been a buzz in the air…something ‘BIG’ is coming to Venice, FL. On September 8th, the wait will finally be over! Neal Communities’ newest community Grand Palm will officially ‘open’ its doors and welcome the public inside to discover the difference!

    Close to everything – Far from Ordinary, Grand Palm will impress you the moment you enter the community. The moment you arrive, you will notice the difference. As you make your way through the spectacular entrance, and are greeted by our welcoming committee of enormous, preserved trees, you may wonder if you have been here before. A sense of belonging and community warmly embrace you. Grand Palm is more than a community; it is a way of life. Isn’t it time you discovered the difference?

    We invite you to discover the Grand Palm difference for yourself at our Official Grand Opening. Join us in as we celebrate this fabulous new Venice community. There will be plenty food, drinks and prize giveaways, including two $500 Target gift certifications.
    Grand Palms features four neighborhoods and a village center with retail shops and offices. Six fully decorated models will be open for your viewing pleasure! The community offers over 20 different floor plans, ranging from 1079 sq. ft. to over 2500 sq. ft. Pricing starts in the mid- $100’s.

    Everything about the Grand Palm community has been carefully planned and selected with the homeowner in mind. The resort style amenities at Grand Palm will make you think you are on vacation 365 days a year!

    Whether you enjoy fishing or biking, kayaking or tennis, you will find it all within the Grand Palm community. With two pools, a private island, a sprawling park, recreation center, and a 39-acre lake, you won’t have to travel far when looking for something fun to do!

    Isn’t it time you discovered the difference? Join us at our Grand Opening Celebration!

  3. Why you should pay off your mortgage BEFORE you retire

    Can you imagine being debt free when you enter retirement? Many people work very hard to pay off their auto loans, credit cards bills and other monthly payments before they retire. Doing so allows you to enjoy those retirement years without the added financial burden or stress.
    However, most people overlook the option of paying of their single largest debt….their mortgage!

    With interest rates being at an all-time low, many people often overlook the benefits of paying off their mortgage and assume that it won’t make that big of a difference in their overall financial plan for retirement. However, if you consider the many advantages that come with being mortgage free, you might just change your tune!

    1. Emotional peace of mind – Owning your home outright reduces stress, and that is what retirement is all about.

    2. Instant equity – Look at your home as an additional savings account. Once you have paid off your mortgage the value of the home is very similar to cash in your savings account.

    3. More mobility – Without a mortgage you have complete control over where you want to live. If you choose to downsize later in life, or purchase a beach getaway, you have more mobility in making these decisions if you don’t have a mortgage to reckon with.

    4. Maintain your cost of living – After you retire, your income will probably drop, but your cost of living won’t. Some expenses, like health care, are likely to climb — perhaps significantly. If you can eliminate the burden of a monthly mortgage payment, you’ll have more flexibility to handle any rising costs.

    Retirement signals the beginning of a new lifestyle. The daily grind of working 40 hours a week is gone, the children have grown up and moved on with their lives, and you are free to truly enjoy your life. Having additional financial obligations can take away from this new lifestyle. Make a list of all the wonderful places you want to go and things you want to do during your retirement! If you eliminate the monthly mortgage payment, these dreams are more likely to become realities.

  4. Summer Tips: Maintaining a Healthy Lawn

    We all know that summertime in Florida can get a bit toasty, even for Sunshine State natives! Although summer is the perfect time for beach trips, pool parties, and enjoying our local state parks…it isn’t exactly the best time for your lawn. The combination of high temperatures and low rainfall has the potential of turning your beautiful green grass into a dry, brown mess.

    Here are a few helpful tips to keep your yard healthy and happy during the summer months:

    1. Adjust your lawn mower blade height to 3 inches or higher. Mowing heights that are too short will result in weakened grass plants and weed encroachment. Short grass is susceptible to disease and drought damage. Ants and other insects prefer to live in grass that has been scalped short.

    2. Mow your lawn weekly during the summer months. All the afternoon rain showers we get here in the Sunshine State cause the grass to grow much quicker than during the winter months.

    3. While we do get plenty of rain during the summer months, this doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t need to water your lawn. It’s a careful balance…as you don’t want to overwater either, usually no more than three times per week.

    4. Keep your yard in good condition. Poor condition increases chance for disease. Pay attention and look for chinch bugs (brown, straw-colored patches) and treat promptly.

    5. If your lawn is in good condition, you won’t need to fertilize again until the fall. If you do, your lawn will grow like Jack’s beanstalk due to the rain!

    6. Summer is a good time to add mulch or replace sod. A fresh layer of mulch does amazing things to the curb appeal of your home! And, with all the rain, your new sod will take quickly to its new surroundings!

    7. Enjoy more ‘outdoor’ living time! Make time for those weekend barbeques, cookouts and pool parties.

  5. It’s That Time Again: Back to School Necessities

    Remember how fast summer seemed to FLY by when you were a child? Before you knew it the carefree days of swimming in the pool, going to movies with friends, and attending summer camp were replaced with shopping for school supplies, setting your alarm clocks and rushing to catch the school bus!
    The transition from summer fun to back to school was not always a fun one.

    If you have children, then you are aware (and maybe even secretly looking forward to the fact!) that school will be starting up again in just a couple of weeks.

    Here are a few simple suggestions to help your child (and YOURSELF) make the transition smooth and stress-free.

    1. Get your child involved in the process to make it more fun! Have them come up with their own ‘to do’ list of what needs to occur between now and the start of school.
    2. Look for ‘back to school’ discounts and sales. For example, during the month of August J C Penney is offering a free haircut for school children. Other stores like Staples, Target and Walmart are also providing deep discounts on back to school items. Don’t forget to take advantage of tax-free weekend in Florida. It’s August 3 – 5, and you are guaranteed to save an additional 6 – 7 percent on your purchases (depending on what county you live in).
    3. If your child typically takes a bag lunch to school, get them involved by creating a weekly ‘menu’ of items they would like to eat. This will save you time at the grocery store and your child will LOVE eating their personalized lunch.
    4. During the week prior to the start of school, start having your child get up a little earlier each day to get him/her used to the early morning school schedule.
    5. Have a ‘back to school’ chat with your children. If attending a new school, they are probably feeling a little anxious about it. Let them know that these feelings are perfectly natural and that you too experienced ‘school blues’ when you were a child.
    6. Plan a fun family outing or event before school starts. Go on a picnic, spend the day at the beach, or take in a movie….celebrate the end of summer!

    On the night before school starts, have your children lay out their outfits for the next day. For teenage girls, deciding what to wear on the first day of school can take a LONG time. Also, have your kids shower the night before to save precious time in the morning.

    Finally, write a simple note and hide it in your child’s lunch box or notebook. Tell them how much you love them and how proud you are of your scholarly student!

  6. Housing Market Passes a Milestone

    According to the Wall Street Journal, the housing market has turned….at last!

    The U.S. finally has moved beyond attention-grabbing predictions from housing “experts” that housing is bottoming. The numbers are now convincing.

    “We finally saw some rising home prices,” S&P’s David Blitzer said a few weeks ago as he reported the first monthly increase in the slow-moving S&P/Case-Shiller house-price data after seven months of declines.

    “Nearly 10% more existing homes were sold in May than in the same month a year earlier, many purchased by investors who plan to rent them for now and sell them later, an important sign of an inflection point. The fraction of homes that are vacant is at its lowest level since 2006.”

    This is great news for our economy! For new homebuilders across the country this means we can now return to focusing on what we do best, building quality homes at fair prices for families who want to own their piece of the American dream.

    It also means many Americans can get back to work. The housing industry drives so many other important entities of employment. Construction workers and contracting crews, realtors and mortgage lenders, landscapers and pool builders are all affected by the housing market.

    At Neal Communities we have long understood that the housing market plays an integral role in the overall strength of our society. We also know that it is more than numbers on a spread sheet that dictate what is going on in the housing market. It’s smiles on children’s faces when they go to bed at night; it is a sense of comfort and security their parents feel knowing they are safe; and it is a sense of pride that comes only from home ownership.

    While the housing market may have been weak these past several years, there was never any doubt in our minds that it wouldn’t make a triumphant recovery. People need and want a place to call their own. We see that every day in the faces of our homeowners.

  7. Design Tip of the Month: Create a Color Board

    Are you tired of looking at the same dull white walls in your house? Are you feeling the need to ‘kick it up’ a little bit? Well, painting is the easiest and least expensive way to give your home an entirely new look! However, before you go crazy and start adding color to every room of the house, we suggest that you first create a color board.

    Creating a color board is a simple way to preview your colors to insure that they won’t clash with your furniture, rugs or other furnishings. It gives you a sneak preview to how your home will look when you are done.

    Here is how it works. Get a piece of poster board and start by grouping paint chips, fabric swatches, and photos of your furniture and accessories for each room to the board. Glue these items to your color board. If you lay out the entire house, you will be able see how the colors will flow from room to room. You can create color boards not only for paint options, but also furniture layout, fabric selections, window treatments, and area rugs. It will give you a snapshot of what the finished product will look like.

    Top interior designers use color boards all the time when working with clients. This allows them to present various options to their clients to determine what their preferences are in color, style and design.
    If you are doing an entire room makeover, you may want to use your entire board for that room. You can also include flooring selections (tile, wood, and carpet samples).

    For decorating inspiration and ideas, visit model homes! At Neal Communities every one of our model homes has been professionally decorated. No detail has been overlooked! From the flooring and fixtures to the furniture and paint colors, our team of professional and experienced designers has worked diligently to create the perfect home!

    Another great place to get ideas is pinterest.com. Pinterest lets you organize and share all the beautiful images you find on the internet. People use Pinboards to plan their weddings, decorate their homes, and organize their favorite recipes.

    And you can browse Pinboards created by other people. Browsing pinboards is a fun way to discover new things and get inspiration from other people who share your interests. Home decorating is one of the most popular uses for this innovative virtual Pinboard.

  8. Celebrating Summer! Tips on How to ‘Stay Cool’

    In the United States and the rest of the northern hemisphere, the first day of the summer season is the day of the year when the Sun is farthest north (on June 20th or 21st). This day is known as the Summer Solstice.
    For children, summertime means two relaxing months of freedom from going to school. It can also mean summer camp, sleeping in ‘til noon, lounging poolside, and enjoying the plethora of outdoor activities that are available.
    Those of us who live in Florida know that the summertime heat can be intense. So how do you ‘stay cool’ while still enjoying all the fun that summertime brings? Here are our top five tips for keeping your cool in the summertime heat.

    1. Avoid being in the sun during peak hours. This typically means 10 am – 2 pm. And, if you are out during the peak hours be sure to use a sunscreen with PLENTY of SPF, and apply it regularly.
    2. Take a break from the heat and go to a movie matinee! Ticket prices are generally less during the day.
    3. Drink plenty of liquids, including water or sports drinks that have electrolytes. This will help to keep you hydrated.
    4. Take a trip to the mall! There is something for everyone to enjoy at the mall!
    5. Make homemade ice cream with the kids! Here is an easy recipe for delicious key lime pie ice cream. Don’t forget to buy the cones!

    Ingredients (Recipe from allrecipes.com)
    • 1 (12 fluid ounce) can evaporated milk
    • 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
    • 2 cups milk
    • 2/3 cup heavy cream
    • 2 egg yolks, beaten
    • 1 cup white sugar
    • 1 cup lime juice
    • 2 teaspoons lemon extract (optional)
    • 1 (3 ounce) package lime flavored gelatin mix
    • 6 whole graham crackers

    1. In a saucepan over low heat, combine the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, milk, and heavy cream. Cook until warm, whisking frequently. Once the mixture is hot to the touch, whisk in the gelatin mix and sugar, stirring constantly until sugar and gelatin are completely dissolved. Whisk in the egg yolks, and remove from the heat. Stir in the lime juice and lemon extract.
    2. Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker, and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. This recipe takes a bit longer to set up than the usual ice cream.
    Once the ice cream is thick, open the canister, and place large pieces of graham cracker evenly on each side. They will break into smaller pieces as the machine churns. Mix for about 5 more minutes. Transfer to a freezer container, seal, and freeze until solid

  9. It’s summertime and the living is easy and breezy in Sarasota! Our top 10 picks for fun times this summer!

    If you’re from the Sarasota area, you know there is ALWAYS something fun and exciting to do. Even when the mercury is rising – the fun just keeps coming. Here are some of our favorite summertime adventures for you and your family to enjoy!

    For the list of the Top 50 ideas and suggestions on how to enjoy your summer in Sarasota, visit the Herald Tribune’s website to view the complete list with slideshow!


    1. Hunt for a shark’s tooth in Venice - Caspersen Beach is the famous spot to find these mysterious treasures. Have fun and bring plenty of sunscreen!

    2. Stargaze at South Florida Museum’s planetarium, and meet Snooty!- Head over to the Parker Aquarium at the South Florida Museum and pat Snooty, our beloved manatee. Then check out the exciting exhibits and catch a show in the planetarium.

    3. Treat yourself to a meal on St. Armands Circle - After a day of shopping and strolling make sure you stop and enjoy a bite to eat on St. Armands Circle….from fudge and ice cream to pasta and seafood, there is always something delicious to eat.

    4. Get SCUBA certified - Explore the undersea world with the help of a regulator and oxygen tank with a simple diving class . Then feel free to explore the treasures under the waves off a local beach.

    5. Learn to bodysurf or skimboard - It looks simple, but just wait until you try it! You might want to enlist your children for some lessons!

    6. Climb the Myakka River State Park Observation Tower - 74 feet above the ground, the wooden observation tower in Myakka River State Park offers a panoramic view of the forest and scrub below, perfect for catching a glimpse of soaring bald eagles.

    7. Go canoeing at Oscar Scherer and look for gators - Oscar Scherer’s South Creek is one of the most placid and relaxing canoe/kayak spots in town, and the on-site canoe rentals make it easy to dip a paddle with little hassle. Just don’t feed the gators.

    8. Bike, run or walk the entire Legacy Trail – The Legacy Trail is 10 miles that runs from the city of Sarasota all the way to Venice along the former CSX railroad corridor, with trailheads at six different Sarasota parks.

    9. Visit the Ringling Museum on a Monday, free of charge - This is one of those secret benefits of being a local: On Mondays, the Ringling Museum of Art offers free admission to Florida residents. Take advantage of this great deal!

    10. Explore Sarasota Jungle Gardens - Sarasota Jungle Gardens is one of the oldest continuously operating attractions in the State of Florida. Open to the public in December of 1940, the “Gardens” has retained its old Florida charm. Check out the birds of prey show and alligator encounter, along with the hundreds of reptiles, birds, monkeys and more.

  10. Color Your World – A Hues Flash

    Want to give your home a brand new look and NOT spend a lot of money doing so? Instead of going out and purchasing new furniture and furnishings, you may want to consider adding a splash of color to your rooms to create a dramatic flare.

    Paint is one of the easiest (and least expensive) ways to redecorate your home. And, the wonderful thing about painting is that you can change it up as often as you like.

    Before you make that trip to the paint store, here are a few tips to get you started:
    1. Think about how you use a room and what mood you want to create. Lively colors, like reds, oranges and yellows, turn up the volume, providing a friendly backdrop for a family space, kid’s room or dining area.
    2. Want a tranquil spot for reading and relaxing? Cool off with blues, greens or purples.
    3. Neutrals- grays, whites and browns- complement most rooms and size up your space.
    4. Pale shades work best in sun-filled rooms; white deep tones thrive in poor light
    5. To cozy up in a cavernous place, go dark.
    6. Feeling cramped? Light hues lend a sense of airiness and expansiveness.
    7. A rich color can make a tiny room look like a jewel box.

    Remember, rules are meant to be broken. Always go for a color that YOU truly like. After all, you will be the one spending time in the room.
    Have you ever wondered what different colors represent? According to Color Wheel Pro, http://www.color-wheel-pro.com/color-meaning.html, this is what our ‘rainbow’ of colors really signifies.

    Red is the color of fire and blood, so it is associated with energy, war, danger, strength, power, determination as well as passion, desire, and love.

    Yellow is the color of sunshine. It’s associated with joy, happiness, intellect, and energy.

    Orange combines the energy of red and the happiness of yellow. It is associated with joy, sunshine, and the tropics. Orange represents enthusiasm, fascination, happiness, creativity, determination, attraction, success, encouragement.

    Green is the color of nature. It symbolizes growth, harmony, freshness, and fertility. Green has strong emotional correspondence with safety. Dark green is also commonly associated with money.

    Blue is the color of the sky and sea. It is often associated with depth and stability. It symbolizes trust, loyalty, wisdom, confidence, intelligence, faith, truth, and heaven.

    Purple combines the stability of blue and the energy of red. Purple is associated with royalty. It symbolizes power, nobility, luxury, and ambition. It conveys wealth and extravagance. Purple is associated with wisdom, dignity, independence, creativity, mystery, and magic.

    White is associated with light, goodness, innocence, purity, and virginity. It is considered to be the color of perfection.

    Black is associated with power, elegance, formality, death, evil, and mystery.