1. A Season of Giving

    Tis the season for giving to those we love and the ones in need. Do you remember as a little kid unwrapping a new, shiny toy?  Or the overwhelming excitement you felt the night before the first night of Hanukkah or Christmas Eve night? Every child deserves to feel that excitement, to experience the joy of finding a new toy just for him or her. We hope this holiday season, you will be in the spirit to give back to your communities and those children who are less fortunate.

    The Toys for Tots organization is the Marine Corps’ premier community action program that raises money for toys to donate to less fortunate children around the country. While the program runs year round in over 700 communities across the country, most donations take place around the holidays. Members of the community are encouraged to donate new, unwrapped toys into collection boxes located in local businesses around the community.  Designated Toys for Tots coordinators collect the toys, sort the toys by age and gender, and store them.  At Christmas, Coordinators, and volunteers distribute the toys to the less fortunate children of the community.

    Over the past 53 years, the U.S. Marines have distributed over 272,000,000 toys to 133,000,000 needy children throughout the nation.

    Neal Communities has always placed a very strong emphasis on community. Throughout the year, our company dedicates time, money, and resources to give back to communities throughout Southwest Florida. This holiday season will be no exception to giving back to our communities to help those in need and make this a great place to live, work, and raise families. Neal Communities is participating in Toys for Tots. We recently had to get another box because the first one Toys for Tots provided was overflowing with gifts. Not a bad problem to have by any means! Something unique about our commitment to this organization is Neal Communities committed to donating bikes for their donation. At this time, over 100 toys have been donated and at least 17 bikes. It’s exciting to think of the number of smiles these gifts will create for children in our community!

    Stay up-to-date on our Toys for Tots progress by following us on Facebook.

    For more information about the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program you can visit the website at http://www.toysfortots.org/.

    Donate to the cause on the organization’s website by clicking here.

    Happy Holidays from Neal Communities!


  2. Holiday Decoration Ideas

    One of our favorite places to collect holiday ideas is Pinterest. From recipes, to organization tips, to ideas for decorating the home, the ideas are endless.

    And with a focus on “do it yourself” many of the ideas on Pinterest can be implemented at a low cost – something that helps everyone out during the holidays.  Below we’ve put together some decorating ideas that will add some fa-la-la-la-la to your home without spending too much mullah-la-la-la.

    Wine Bottle Vases

    This blogger shared her idea of painting old bottles white and finishing with spray on snow. You can fill the tops with flowers, poinsettias, branches, holly, or other branches to add color to this winter wonderland. 

    Mantel Decorations

    Are your stockings hung by the fire with care? There are so many ideas for decorating your mantel that your biggest decision will be choosing your favorite! Lights, candles, garland! Using leftover decorations or items around your home, you can easily decorate your fireplace at little to no cost.  Start by selecting the colors you want to use to decorate: reds and greens, silver and gold, blue, or multicolored. Fill large, clear vases with ornaments, peppermints, or jingle bells for an accent piece.  You can also buy stocking hangers that come shaped in holiday related pieces like moose, snowmen, or stars to hang stockings in style.  A trend that has been becoming increasingly popular is the use of wooden letters on fireplace mantels. Considering buying pieces to spell words such as “Peace”, “Joy” or “Believe” to add some authentic flair to your mantel.

    Decorative Pillows

    Another small idea that can make a huge difference is swapping your couch pillows with holiday pillows! Many stores sell decorative pillows including Target, Home Goods, or Pier 1 Imports like the ones shown below. Consider throwing a plush, holiday colored throw behind them to make your pillows really pop. Plus, it will be perfect to keep you warm on those colder winter nights. If you are looking for a craft to keep you busy, find some “Pinspiration” from these decorative pillows we found on Pinterest.

    Cake Stand Candles

    If you have a cake stand lying around that isn’t in use, put it to good use with this great idea. Place an arrangement of candles in different lengths in the center and surround them with some color using a red or colored wreath. Simple, elegant, and calorie free.

    Popcorn Garland

    Now that your home is looking festive on the inside, we can’t forget about your outdoor decorations! Your home can go from bah humbug to bah-utiful in no time. Consider purchasing smaller trees to place on each side of your front door. Keep the kids busy with this fun craft making popcorn and cranberry garland! Pop a bag of popcorn and pick up a bag of cranberries while you’re out doing your holiday shopping. Use a needle and thread to string together one piece of popcorn next to a cranberry. Make sure you make it long enough to wrap around your trees.

    Other subtle decorations include hanging a wreath on your front door, wrapping pillars or fences with garland intertwined with lights, placing poinsettias on the porch, or adding a holiday door mat to welcome guests with cheer.

    We hope this ideas help put you in the holiday spirit to decorate your beautiful Neal Communities home!


  3. 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!

     


  4. 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