Make A Difference This Holiday Season

The cold holiday months can be a difficult time for many people. If you’re looking for a way to give back, this time of year is the perfect time to start. Below we have listed six of the simplest and most impactful ways you can spread your holiday spirit this year. Many of our communities participate in these these opportunities; watch for emails from your community about our giving back events.

Send holiday cards to active-duty military and veterans:
Sending cards to our military heroes is a simple, yet impactful way to give back this holiday season. It may not seem like much, but this small gesture can brighten the day of those who have given so much to fight for our freedom and those who aren’t able to make it home to their families for the holidays. You can send cards through your local American Red Cross that participates in the Holidays for Heroes program. You can also see if A Million Thanks has a card drop-off location near you.

Collect donations for a food bank:

Food banks are always in need of help, but especially during the holidays. During this time, many people are in the giving spirit and it’s a great opportunity to get friends together to collect donations. You can form your own food drive or gather cash and food donations for a drive run by another organization. Food banks look for nutritious nonperishable items like whole grain foods and canned foods with low sodium. If you’d like to look for a food bank in your area, click here.

Volunteer at a Shelter:
As money is short for many during the holiday season, one of the most rewarding ways to give back is to donate your time. Take time to volunteer at a homeless shelter or a women and children’s shelter to help with meal prep or food service. This allows for the opportunity to meet the individuals you serve and makes for a very gratifying experience. To find a shelter to serve at near you, click here.

Assemble a group of friends to sponsor a family:
Get a group of friends involved in the giving this year by sponsoring a family in need. There are many organizations such as The Salvation Army that gather information for families in need of sponsorship during the holiday season. Groups will be provided with a list of the family members and the children’s ages, clothing sizes and wish lists. After choosing a family, let the holiday shopping begin! Your group is free to spend whatever amount meets the budget. This very rewarding way of giving back ensures that families in need have a holiday they won’t soon forget.

Help Children in Need with Toys for Tots:
A great way to get involved this season is to help children in need by donating new, unused toys to the Toys for Tots Foundation. Toys for Tots is a charity that collects unwrapped donated toys to give to less fortunate families who can’t afford gifts during the holidays. “The primary goal of Toys for Tots is to deliver, through a new toy at Christmas, a message of hope to less fortunate youngsters that will assist them in becoming responsible, productive, patriotic citizens.”

Resident Spotlight: Julia

Why did you choose to live at The Biltmore?

My husband and I wanted a spacious townhome with lots of storage and a community. The Biltmore was a natural fit! We’ve been here for several years and have enjoyed getting to know the staff and our neighbors.

How did you get involved with the American Lung Association?

I have been serving the American Lung Association since 2011. I love going to work every day! I have many personal ties to lung disease and lung cancer and wanted to work for an organization where I could impact change in the community and make a difference.

What do you love most about your position?

My favorite thing about the American Lung Association is our mission and the depth and breadth of the work that we do! We touch so many lives every day. The mission of the American Lung Association is to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease. You might not know that the American Lung Association is the country’s oldest voluntary public health organization – and we’ve accomplished some pretty cool things over the last century – including discovering a treatment for children living with TB, eliminating smoking on domestic air flights and strengthening the Clean Air Act. Our work is focused on five strategic imperatives: defeating lung cancer, improving the air we breathe, reducing the burden of lung disease on individuals and their families, eliminating tobacco use and tobacco-related diseases and accelerating fundraising and enhancing organizational effectiveness to support the urgency of our mission. I love that in my role, I get to work to raise awareness and dollars to help make our work happen.

Black Friday Is Coming!

Black Friday is quickly approaching and this year’s deals are expected to be even better than they were last year. All major stores will be competing to have the best deals and online sales are expected to be a higher priority for most retailers. Every year, online sales are increasing as fighting the crowds is becoming less and less appealing. It has also become a trend for retailers to have deals going on for the entire week after Thanksgiving as opposed to just on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Some big-name retailers may even start their deals even earlier than the week before the holiday. So, all that being said, what can you expect for deals this year on some of the big-ticket items? Below are some of the highly anticipated items that are sure to be worth checking out!

The brand-new iPhone 8 models and iPhone X are some of the highest anticipated gifts of the season. The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus have upgraded cameras, HD displays and a new glass exterior. The biggest changes are seen in the iPhone X with a 5.8” entire screen retina display, face ID to unlock your phone and use Apple Pay, improved stabilization on the camera and animojis that give your emojis personality. All three of the new iPhones charge wirelessly for another added convenience.

Deals for the Samsung Galaxy S8 are more than likely going to be as good as they were last year with retailers charging $0 for the phone if you sign a contract. There’s also a good chance that they will throw in some free gift cards and accessories.

The Xbox One X is set to release on November 7th – just in time for Black Friday. The best deals will be on the bundles, which will include games for only a slightly higher price. It’s also worth mentioning that Microsoft gives retailers more room to be aggressive with their discounts, so keep an eye out!

Depending on the game it comes with, and whether or not you will play it, buying the bundle will often times be a better deal than just buying the console itself. In past years, the bundle only costs slightly more than the console alone. Right now, the prices are remaining pretty solid, but are expected to drop later this fall, just in time for when Microsoft releases their new Xbox One X.

As is usually the case for new TVs on Black Friday, you will have to move fast this year if you want to snatch one before they’re gone. If you’re in the market for a new high-end set, but can’t afford the price tag, this is your chance – don’t miss these deals!

Pets of the Month

My name is Coco and I am a Beagle/Chihuahua mix, a Cheagle if you will! I am 3 and a half months old and have only lived at The Biltmore in Omaha for a couple weeks. My two favorite hobbies are snuggling and sleeping. When I’m not doing either of those, I like to play with my squeaky toys and steal socks from my mom and dad! I’ve also been having a lot of fun meeting all my other dog neighbors and chasing birds and butterflies if they get too close!

Hey y’all! My name is Prince Charming, and I live up to my name. I’m a domestic short hair cat living with my Cat Dad since about 2004. We live at Village on the Parkway apartments in Houston. I was rescued from a shelter in Louisiana and my Dad adopted me from that rescue when I was about 3 years old. We’ve recently returned to Houston, which is where we’re from, a little over a year ago and we’re so glad to be back home! My favorite hobbies are playing with my sister, Abby, and snuggling with my Dad.

Think you have the world’s cutest pet and want everyone to know it? There’s nothing wrong with being a show off! Enter your pet in Richdale’s Pet of the Month contest for a chance to win a BarkBox or KitNipBox for your furry friend. Tell us about your furry friend and if he or she is featured, YOU win! Send pictures and a brief description to: TheLeaf@richdale.com!

Friendsgiving

A new trend that has been sweeping the nation is now giving us yet another reason to be excited for the start of the holiday season. Have you ever heard of Friendsgiving?

If not, it’s basically a second Thanksgiving that you celebrate with your closest friends. This popular event is most commonly held sometime at the beginning of November or just after traditional Thanksgiving, allowing for the actual day to be spent with family. No one is quite sure where it started or who exactly coined the term, but more and more people are making this new tradition a part of their yearly celebrations.

If you’re thinking about hosting your own Friendsgiving this year, here are some tips to help make sure everything runs as smooth as mashed potatoes.
The first step is to collect RSVPs and create a sign-up sheet to ensure that all the food bases are covered (but let’s be honest, there’s no such thing as too many potatoes). As for you, the host, it is your job to provide the star of the meal, the turkey (and/ or ham). The rule of thumb for the turkey is to estimate about a pound of turkey per person or a pound and a half if you want leftovers.

Next, while your guests are calling dibs on making their favorite dishes, you should make sure that you have enough place settings for everyone. Yes, paper plates and plastic utensils are easier, but Friendsgiving is a great time for you to impress your friends with your hosting skills. Check out your local thrift shops or stores like At Home for inexpensive plates and utensils.

Remember, when your friends offer their help, take them up on it; more than likely you’ll need an extra table and some chairs. Survey your space and come up with a layout that will work best.You may also want to request that your guest bring one or two decorations to create a festive atmosphere.

Lastly, and most importantly, be creative! The quirkier your Friendsgiving is, the better! Your goal is to create new traditions and experiences that will continue and people will remember for years to come!

Recipe: Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients:
– 1 large butternut squash
– 2 carrots
– 3 stalks of celery
– 1 large onion
– 5 cloves of garlic
– 6 sage leaves
– 1 sprig of rosemary
– 1/4 tsp. cayenne red pepper powder
– salt and pepper to taste
– 2 tbsp. olive oil
– 3 1/2 cups vegetable stock

Instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
2. Peel, pit and chop the butternut squash into 1” squares, add to a large roasting pan
3. Chop the carrots, celery and onions into big chunks and add to the pan
4. Peel the garlic and add cloves whole
5. Add herbs, red pepper powder, salt and pepper – add olive oil and toss to coat
6. Roast for 1 hour (roast for an extra 15 minutes if veggies are not soft)
7. When veggies are roasted, remove stems and add to food processor with
1 cup of vegetable stock – puree
8. Pour mixture into large saucepan and add the remaining vegetable stock – stir well
9. Simmer on low for 10 minutes

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/181692166196424656/

DIY: Mason Jar Lights

What you need:
– Mason Jars
– Paint (i.e. orange, green purple)
– Large Paint Brush
– Battery-Powered Candle Lights
– Design Templates (optional)

Directions:
1. Make sure the inside of your jars are completely clean.
2. Paint the inside of your jars with the colored paint of your choice in thin layers (allow the paint to dry between each layer).
3. If you’re using a template, cut it down to a size that will fit into your jar. Curl it into the jar and you should see the design through the glass. Or feel free to create your own design!
4. With the fine tip paint pen, trace the design.
5. Fill in the design with the wide tip paint pen.
6. When the jars are dry, turn on your lights and place them inside the jars. You’re done!

Bedroom Makeover Contest

Congratulations to Allison at TurtleCreek Apartments in Des Moines for winning our bedroom makeover contest!

“I moved into my new apartment and had a mix match of old college decorations, my mom’s old decorations and items from my old bedroom as a child. I’m slowly trying to upgrade my apartment to fit my style! This is so exciting my room needed this so badly it’s embarrassing! Thank you very much!”

Let’s Get Organized!

Is the clutter around your apartment driving you crazy, but you just don’t know where to start?

Keep in mind that it doesn’t all have to get done in one day. Take 30 minutes each day to tackle a small project and little by little the clutter will disappear.

Start by going through that stack of papers on your desk or kitchen counter. To make the process easier, make four piles – to file, to toss, to shred, to do – and separate the stack into each pile accordingly. Chances are you will end up getting rid of a majority of the stack. Create folders for the documents you want to file and the documents you still need on hand. Keep the folders in a drawer to keep them hidden or pick up a fun folder stand to keep on your desk as an accent piece.

Next, look around your apartment and see how you are storing things. Is there a better way to use the space? For example, that old coffee table, try replacing it with something that doubles as extra storage. Take all those blankets from the couch and store them in your coffee table; and all those miscellaneous objects on the shelves can be stored in baskets to make your space look a lot cleaner. This same technique works wonders for your under-the-bed mess. Get a set of plastic containers that can slide easily under the bed and presto, no more mess!

Oftentimes, bathroom cabinets and under the sink can be a catch all for cleaning supplies and other household items. An easy solution to this problem comes in an unobvious form. You may be surprised to learn that a simple item used to store shoes can also be used to organize all of your cleaning and maybe even laundry supplies. Hang a shoe organizer on the inside of a closet door and simply fill the compartments. Now, all of your tools for a clean apartment are all in one place.

Last, but not least, it’s easy to make extra storage with DIY shelves. Do you have more books than you know what to do with? Install a shelf in the empty space above your door and instantly you have a home for all your books or even decorative storage baskets! You can also use the empty side of your fridge by hanging a small shelf perfect for spices.

Can’t get enough of these organization tips? Go online and search easy organizing tips and you’ll have an endless supply of fun ideas to choose from! Happy organizing!

Recipe: No Bake Strawberry Pie Bites

Ingredients:
1.5 lbs fresh strawberries (diced)
Juice of half a lemon
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
Pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 or 2 boxes mini phyllo shells
Whipped cream

Preparation:
1. In a medium sized saucepan add the diced strawberries, reserving 1 cup.
2. Mash the berries with a potato masher until desired consistency is reached.
3. Add the lemon juice, water, sugar, cornstarch, and salt.
4. Stir the mixture together until the cornstarch is completely incorporated.
5. Turn the stove to medium heat, cooking and stirring the berry mixture until it thickens, about 8 minutes.
6. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the extracts.
7. Cool the mixture completely, then cover and refrigerate until cold.
8. Once the mixture is cold, stir in the remaining cup of diced strawberries.
9. Just before serving, fill each mini phyllo shell with a spoonful of the strawberry mixture and top with whipped cream.

No Bake Strawberry Pie Bites