A Memorable Family Reunion

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Every year in June, my family, extended and immediate, gets together for a family reunion. At this reunion, there is a lot of family fellowship, food, and fun. This year (this Saturday!), our reunion is a very special one. It is the 50th-anniversary of our family reunion. Fifty years ago, my family started coming together every summer to reconnect and spend time with one another. Throughout this past year, we have been planning many fun and new ideas to make this reunion very memorable. If your family is having a reunion, take a look at the ideas below for to how to plan a memorable event for all ages.

Start Planning Early: Once you know you’ll be having a reunion and the date, start planning all of the details for the event. Think about whether or not you want a theme, where the reunion will be held, the food, etc. When deciding on the event’s location, think about special places for your family. These places could be a member’s house or even a vacation destination. Try to plan at least a year out and involve other family members to help get things organized. Don’t forget about games, decorations, and favors. Also, if the reunion involves traveling to a destination or another member’s house, think about how you want to handle the travel arrangements and accommodations, as well.

Get the Word Out: You can’t have a family reunion without your family there. Once you know the date of the reunion, go ahead and send out “Save the Dates.” Also, you can include surveys or ideas for members to send back on what they would like in a family reunion. Then, closer to the event, about a month or so in advance, send out official invitations. Be creative and make the invitations special and unique to your family.

Food: There are a few different food options for a family reunion. First, you can have it catered and save some stress for family members. Another option would be to have a potluck, where members make their favorite family recipes. Always include desserts to end the event.

Take-Home Gifts: It is always nice to include a take-home gift for your family members. These gifts don’t have to be big, and could be a bookmark, a T-shirt, or a small favor bag. Want something bigger? Create a family tree or family cookbook. In the cookbook, add favorite family recipes, pictures, and stories. You could also create small scrapbooks for each family member.

Games and Activities: An important part of a family reunion is having games and activities for all ages. Depending on where your event is held, some games could be: relay games and races, scavenger hunts, board games, and family Olympics. Carnival games are also popular. For family Olympics, family members can compete in rounds of corn hole, bocce ball, Jenga, Twister, and more. Award medals to the winners. As for activities, craft projects are favorites among the various generations. Other ideas are: family bingo or trivia or a “Blast from the “Past, in which family members take trips to the old houses where the grandparents grew up, former schools, and other places down memory lane. Let grandparents and/or kids share stories from the past or funny anecdotes about another family member. Lastly, create a family video with pictures and clips from the past years. Collect these items while planning the reunion and show the finished product at the event.

Pictures: How many times are year do you see your extended family members? Use the time together to make memories and take tons of pictures. These photos can be pictures staged in a photo shoot, or candid snapshots. Display with your decorations the family reunion pictures throughout the years to see who has, or hasn’t, changed.

A family reunion is meant to be a memorable time, and planning for the event can be enjoyable. Be sure to get everyone’s input and make it special and unique to your family. However, the most important part of a family reunion is to have a good time with your family members.

xoxo,

Megan

 

Taking the Stress out of Traveling with Kids

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It’s summer time! And with summertime come trips and family vacations. Spending long hours traveling in a car, on a plane, or another mode of transportation can be tiring on both parents and children. But, there are tricks to keeping kids engaged and not asking the typical, “Are we there yet?”

Keep the Activities Coming: Pack a travel bag full of games, puzzles, coloring books, stickers, and more to keep your kids occupied. If you are traveling for several hours, try handing out a new item once per hour. Take the travel bag a step further and create a small bag for each child. This bag can be a pencil pouch or something of a similar size and include items that are interesting to that child. Lastly, play family games along the way. Have printable road bingo or a road trip scavenger hunt. Another classic family game is the license plates game, where everyone competes to see how many different license plates they can find. When traveling by airplane, it can be hard to pack all of these items into your carry-on. Instead, try downloading kid-friendly apps with games and videos on your iPhone or iPad. This way, your children will stay engaged in an activity other than running up and down the aisles of the plane.

Pack a Snack Bag without Sweets: Kids will get hungry going from place to place. Be sure to have their favorite treats to ease their hunger and avoid the hangry mood (hungry plus angry). However, remember one thing: don’t include sweets. There is nothing worse than being in a public tourist attraction with a child having a sugar rush. Include in the bag savory treats like cheese cubes, pretzels, fruit, and veggies. Don’t forget water to drink!

Start a Travel Journal: Put an educational spin on your trip and have your kids start a travel journal. This travel journal can include drawings, lists, and stories about the interesting places you visit, food you eat, and the various activities you do. Also, collect postcards from the different places. With these postcards, you can either write a message on the back and mail them to yourself or include them in the journal. Another way to engage your kids in the travel journal is to give them a camera to take pictures. This child-friendly camera will allow kids to capture their favorite sites and what interests them. Types of cameras can include disposable or Polaroid.

Have a First-Aid Kit and a Clean-up Kit: When you are traveling with kids, anything can happen. Be prepared with a First-Aid kit and a clean-up kit for spills. In the First-Aid kit, include band aids, gauze pads, a digital thermometer, cold pack, sunscreen, bug spray, aloe vera, saline solution, antibacterial wipes, medicine, and anything else you would normally include. For the clean-up kit, put in antibacterial wipes, paper towels, small garbage bags, zip-lock bags, and extra clothing and diapers.

Plan Ahead: Plan your trip and make your reservations well in advance. Along with hotel and flight reservations, buy tickets for attractions ahead of time. In addition, plan out a schedule for your trip, including the various activities for each day. Check out the websites for the places you’ll visit, see the nearby restaurants, and other sites to help your trip go smoothly. However, one of the most important things to remember is to stay flexible! If you have one attraction planned for a day and end up doing something else, don’t worry! Don’t plan too much or too little. The ultimate goal of the trip is to have fun and make memories with your family. Also, have a plan of what you’re going to pack in regard to clothes for your kids. Have a to-do list and schedule of what needs to be done in the final days leading up to your trip.

Bring Your Child’s Must-need Items: Don’t forget to bring your child’s favorite stuffed animal, toy, or blanket—anything they normally carry around and need to have at home. These items will help kids feel safe and comfortable while exploring new surroundings. Plus, it might help prevent some emotional break-downs.

Traveling with kids can sometimes be stressful. However, use the tips above to ease that stress and create lasting family memories.

xoxo,

Megan

 

Must Try Recipe: S’mores Dip

S’mores Dip is a must try recipe this summer. Bring on the chocolate, marshmallow, and graham crackers!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
  • 15 jumbo marshmallows, halved
  • Graham cracker squares

Directions:

  1. Adjust rack to center position of oven and place 8-inch cast iron skillet or regular frying pan on rack. Preheat oven to 450°F with skillet inside. Once preheated, use a pot holder to remove the hot skillet from the oven.
  2. Place pat of butter in the skillet and coat the bottom and sides. Pour chocolate chips in an even layer into the bottom.
  3. Arrange marshmallow halves over the chocolate chips, covering the chocolate completely.
  4. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes or until marshmallows are toasted to your liking.
  5. Remove from heat and rest for 5 minutes. Serve immediately with graham cracker squares.

Enjoy!

 

xoxo,

Megan

 

What’s in the Jar?

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It is always nice to give a loved one in your life a meaningful, handmade gift. But, where do you start? First, take a Mason jar (different sizes or types of jars can also work) and think about what kind of present you want to give. Is it a birthday present? Is it an anniversary present? However, the jar doesn’t have to be used as a gift. It can be a jar full of ideas for your family, spouse, or children. Below are a few ways to use a Mason jar as a gift, or in other ways.

Date Night: In need of some date-night ideas? Fill your jar with strips of paper with ideas for you and your loved one to do. Some paper strips can be for game nights, movie nights, or having a meal together. The purpose of a date-night jar is that all of the ideas are inexpensive, yet meaningful. Create enough ideas to last a year. Another take on the date-night jar is to write reasons why you love your special someone. Give it to them on Valentine’s Day, their birthday, or your anniversary.

Boredom Busters: Keep your kids entertained during the summer and school breaks. Take Popsicle sticks or strips of paper and write fun, creative ideas for your children to do. Whenever they are bored, have them pull out an idea and have a ball. Also, include activities for your whole family to do together. Maybe a family game night, places to visit throughout your town or elsewhere.

Mixes: This type of jar is great for Christmas presents, especially if you need to make something in bulk. Prepare the dry ingredients of your favorite recipe for cookies, brownies, hot chocolate, etc. Attach the recipe’s instructions and be sure to mention liquid ingredients that need to be added.

Movie Lovers: We all have someone in our lives that is a die-hard movie lover. They are always the first ones to see the latest blockbuster hit. The next time you are looking to give them a present, think about a movie lover’s jar. This jar can contain popcorn, candy, and gift cards to the movie theater. You can also package it with a few bottles of soda or a DVD.

Spa Night: A spa in a jar is the perfect gift for a friend, mom, sister or aunt. Give it to them for their birthday, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, or “just because.” All you need to do is include a face mask, hand-and-foot scrub, lip scrub, massage oil, bath salts, hand cream, foot lotion, and an eye mask. Also, add in a pair of socks and pieces of candy.

Survival Kit: Jars are quick and convenient ways to hold and carry needed supplies. Survival kits can be used for college, a new parent, the first day on the job, and more. Think about the items a person needs the most when starting a new occasion or life event. They can also be used for holidays. For example, a bridesmaid survival kit could include a mini-sewing kit, safety pins, breath mints, lip balm, lint roller, polish remover, stain remover, nail polish, pain reliever, tissues, and bobby pins.

Housewarming Gift: When a new family moves into the neighborhood, they will soon be greeted with welcome baskets, pies, cakes, and other gifts. But, do you know what will be a unique gift? Give them a housewarming jar full of items such as mini-champagne bottles, kitchen utensils, soap, colorful napkins, clothespins, Magic Erasers, and other cleaning supplies. You can also include local restaurants or helpful phone numbers on a strip of paper. Another example is creating a sangria jar with the ingredients to make the popular drink.

Color-Coded: Think of a person’s favorite color, then make a jar of items of that color. For example, if your friend loves purple, think of only purple things to include. This idea can be used for any type of present, whether it’s going off to college, a housewarming present, a birthday gift, and more.

With any type of jar you choose, throw in as many items as you would like. Just remember to get creative and have fun!

xoxo,

Megan

Article originally published in the May issue of Forsyth Family 

Dear Mom, Thank You

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there!

If you are like me, you are wondering how on earth will you find the right present for a woman who deserves the world. To honor my mother on this special day, I’m taking a look back at a previous post, written just for her.

For last year’s Mother’s Day, I wrote a “To Inspire and Motivate,” post called “Dear Mom.” Looking back, what I wrote is still very true.

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Dear Mom,

Recently, I have seen a lot of “Dear So and So” letters floating around the Internet. So, I decided to write one to my biggest supporter and hero, my mother. Below are the top five things she has taught me that I wanted to pass along in my “Dear Mom” letter (trust me, there are tons I have learned from her, but I’ll just share a few for now:) ).

Dear Mom,

What can I say? Thank you for being my biggest supporter and always being there for me. Thank you for teaching me that:

1. Everyone deserves love and respect–no matter what. End of story, no more explanation needed.

2. Over celebrate a person’s birthday.  Everyone deserves a special day, where the attention is on them.

3. It’s okay to be organized. Sometimes we need to have things colorized, alphabetized, sorted by size, etc.

4. Family comes before everything else. This is the group of people who will love and support you during the good and bad times. Family doesn’t have to be blood-related, they just have to be there for you and you need to be there for them.

5. It’s okay to break down and fall apart, as long as you get yourself back up. My mom never stops trying. She tackles everything life throws at her with class, charm, and gumption.

xoxo,

Megan

From My Heart

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It’s 10:30 on Thursday evening and I’m sitting here with a sleeping dog on my lap. As I look down and smile at this bundle of fur, I can’t help, but think about my day and ponder. I always say writing helps clear your mind and visually see your thoughts. So, bear with me, but these are the thoughts on my heart that I wanted to share.

  1. Dogs sleeping in your lap are absolutely the sweetest thing ever.
  2. It’s Mental Health Awareness Week and Month. As someone who struggles with mental illness, there needs to be more awareness and education about mental health and knowing it is okay to get help. The Royal Trio (Prince William, Princess Kate, and Prince Harry) have recently started the conversation through their work with Heads Together, but this conversation needs to continue, especially here in the US. And I will do all that I can to help end the stigma.
  3. Today, I decided to sponsor a child to help get them clothes and supplies for the next school year. Funny thing, I didn’t hesitate to say “yes.” Looking back, I’m very glad I made the decision that I did.
  4. I want to be nicer. Life has taken its toll on me and I have let my stress, anxiety, and depression take the fun and “niceness” out of me. I want to do better and help more people. I want to love, laugh, and live. Lastly, I want to spread kindness throughout everything I do. May is a good time as any to start a new habit, right? 🙂
  5. Don’t worry about what’s happened today, just look to tomorrow. Sometimes, I let the things that didn’t go right get to me. Its like they are on repeat in my head. But, I’m trying to learn to let go and not worry about them, because tomorrow is a new day.

xoxo,

Megan

The Benefits of Coloring

 

 

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In an interview, Prince William once said one of Princess Kate’s hobbies was coloring in coloring books. You might be thinking, “Isn’t coloring just for kids?” Actually, no, this popular new hobby has great benefits for adults that many, even including the Duchess of Cambridge, have discovered.

The first successful adult coloring books were published in 2012 and 2013. Since then, art therapists and researchers have explored the many advantages of coloring. It is not considered a form of art therapy because art therapy implies a relationship between a client and therapist, while coloring is often an individual task. However, the benefits are very similar. This new trend is therapeutic with social, emotional, and mental health advantages. Also, it helps a person’s brain meditate by turning off negative thoughts and thinking about a specific task. It puts you in a relaxing mindset, because the result is often predictable, decreasing the amount of risk and failure. These aren’t the only benefits coloring has for adults. Take a look below to see how this latest trend helps improve a person’s mind.

Life for an adult is hard. You are balancing work, family, bills, and more. All of this can be stressful and cause anxiety. One benefit of coloring is it helps lower your stress and anxiety by taking your mind off your challenges and helping you focus on your present task of simply filling in the lines. It puts everything else on hold because the act of coloring is not a stressful act. Little effort is involved with having a colored pencil or crayon in your hand. Negative thoughts are being replaced with positivity. Also, to easing stress, coloring improves your focus and concentration. This hobby allows you to be engaged in creating a beautiful picture. Afterward, you can apply your improved skills to other tasks.

Along with an improved focus and concentration, different areas of your brain are also strengthened. When coloring, you are focusing on the paper, colors, and design, using your sense of sight and fine motor skills. These two areas are located in different hemispheres, which cause your brain to communicate and make connections which strengthen brain activity. Because of this ability, research has found coloring helps delay, and possibly prevent, dementia in older adults.

Coloring gives you a break from technology. When you are unplugged from your devices, you are directing your thoughts on creating an image instead of consuming news, videos, etc. from an electronic device. There is also a social advantage to the hobby. With its increasing popularity, more people are having coloring parties. During these events, people will color images and engage in conversation with their friends. This atmosphere helps people feel as if they are part of a larger project. While everyone is coloring individually, everyone is also working on the same task.

Sometimes it can be hard for adults to express themselves. Coloring provides an outlet to express yourself through art. You are creating a picture that hasn’t been created before, and you are doing so in your own way. No two pictures will ever be the same. The design you choose reflects your personality. Now, it is up to you to choose the colors to further express thoughts and personality. Different colors have different reactions to your mood. Blues, greens, and purples help produce a sense of calmness, while yellow creates a positive feeling.

Lastly, coloring gives you beautiful home décor. If you would like, display the artwork you create for others to see. Frame your pieces and place them on walls or tables.

Interested in joining this latest trend? Pick out a coloring book that is exciting and interesting for you. There are multiple options available, such as coloring books for scenery, fashion, puzzles, and more. The benefits of coloring for adults are endless. Plus, it makes you feel like a kid again. Who doesn’t want to feel that way?

xoxo,

Megan

Article published in Forsyth Magazines