Give to January’s Charity of the Month

This year, I’m celebrating giving back to others in our local and national communities. Every month, I’ll be profiling a different nonprofit and the many ways YOU can help. Imagine how much we can change the world in 2018!

January – St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

Unified-St.-Judes-hospital

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital treats children with cancer and other life-threatening diseases. Founder Danny Thomas opened the hospital on February 4th, 1962. Since then, it has been a pioneer in groundbreaking research that has helped raise the rate of survival for children with cancer to 80%. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital provides comfort to children and their families during a stressful time in their lives. To donate, click on the logo above. To find out other ways to help, visit: Ways to Give 

Let’s change the world together!

xoxo,

Megan

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Be a Snowflake

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At various times today, I’ve found myself staring out the window and watching snow fall from the sky. All day snow has fallen here in North Carolina and we are now up to about four plus inches. I can’t help, but think how peaceful, calm, and quiet the world seems right now. Also, there is something about a winter snow that brings out the 6-year-old in all of us and just makes you, well, happy.

From the texture, the coldness, and the beauty of it, snow just amazes me. One thing that is especially wonderful is the uniqueness of snowflakes. We can’t tell with the naked eye, but every single flake that falls from the sky is carefully created with its own design. No two snowflakes are identical.

Sound familiar?

No two humans are identical either. Every one of us were designed in our own special way. There is no one like you and that is a true sign of God’s love. Be proud of who you are, your personality, your style, etc. Everything about you is special and should be celebrated!

One time I saw a video on Facebook that showed snowflakes close up. The variety of the designs were beautiful; just like the variety of human beings in this world. Be a snowflake and be who God meant for you to be.

xoxo,

Megan

Key Lime Cheesecake with Strawberry Sauce

FW108-Recipes

Talk about a yummy recipe that is perfect for all year long!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 3 – 8oz. packages of cream cheese, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 – 8oz. container sour cream
  • 1 1/2 tsp grated lime rind (lime zest)
  • 1/2 cup Key Lime Juice (recommend Kermit’s Key Lime Shoppe juice; order online only)

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Stir together first three ingredients and firmly press on the bottom and 1 inch up the sides of a greased 9-inch springform pan.
  3. Bake crust at 350 degrees for 8 minutes; cool completely. Reduce oven to 325 degrees.
  4. Beat cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy; gradually add 1 1/4 cups of sugar, beating till blended. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in sour cream, rind and juice. Pour batter into cooled crust.
  5. Place in 325 degrees oven and bake for 1 hour and 5 minutes; turn the oven off. Partially open the oven door; let stand in oven for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately run a knife around the edge of pan, releasing the sides.
  6. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack; cover and chill 8 hours. Garnish with strawberry slices, blueberries and lime rind.

Strawberry Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups fresh strawberries
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp lime rind
  • 1 tsp lemon juice (or more to taste)
  1. Process all ingredients in a food processor until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides.
  2. *Sauce should be a bit tangy, but not overwhelmingly so.
  3. Drizzle over the top slices of the cheesecake when serving.

Raspberry Sauce (alternate)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 jar seedless raspberry jam
  • 1/2 cup fresh raspberries, halved
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice

 

  1. Cook all ingredients over medium heat, stirring constantly so the sauce cooks but doesn’t stick. Once the jam turns into a liquid, remove from heat and cool, then refrigerate. Drizzle over slices of cheesecake when served.

Enjoy!

xoxo,

Megan

The Perfect Checklist for Any Party

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Planning parties and making checklists—two of my favorite things! No matter how many times I plan an event, there are things I forget. Did the invitations get out at the appropriate time? Did I order the cake and other refreshments ahead of time? To make sure a party can go as smoothly as possible, it is helpful to use a party checklist. Below is a handy list for all types of festivities, which can be personalized to meet your needs.

SIX WEEKS BEFORE

  • Create your budget.
  • Choose a theme.
  • Determine the guest list.
  • Reserve your party venue, caterer, and entertainer, if needed.
  • Write down all the necessary equipment, including chairs and tables, and contact rentals.
  • Finalize the details, such as date, time, location, RSVP date, and menu.

FOUR WEEKS BEFORE 

  • Prepare your invitations and envelopes.
  • For a children’s party, ask for an updated class list from their teacher, if you are inviting their classmates.
  • Decide on games, activities, and menu to match your theme.
  • Think about items for party favors.
  • Make a shopping list of food, paper goods, and decorations.
  • If ordering food or cake, place order.

THREE WEEKS BEFORE

  • Mail invitations.
  • Purchase party supplies, at the store or online.
  • Arrange for extra help for a children’s party.

ONE TO TWO WEEKS BEFORE

  • Create a party schedule.
  • Confirm times for when extra help is arriving.
  • Purchase last-minute party supplies.
  • Design a music playlist.
  • Call those invited who haven’t responded to the invitations.

THREE DAYS BEFORE 

  • Buy food and drinks.
  • Charge necessary cameras and electronic devices.
  • Call party venue, caterer, and entertainer to confirm details.
  • Assemble activities and party favors.
  • Clean inside and outside of your home.
  • Designate areas for food, beverages, and gifts/

ONE TO TWO DAYS BEFORE 

  • Bake cake, prepare make-ahead food or pick up ordered items.
  • Decorate party venue.

PARTY DAY 

  • Finalize last-minute details.
  • Turn on the music, lighting, etc.
  • Inflate the balloons.
  • Chill beverages.
  • Assemble remaining food and set out.
  • Double-check that bathrooms are stocked with extra toilet paper and there are enough silverware, napkins, plates, and cups on the tables.

ONE WEEK AFTER

  • Send thank-you notes.
  • Post pictures to social media and send to attendees.

ALWAYS REMEMBER

  • Specify an area for boots, umbrellas, and coats.
  • Napkins (2 per person).
  • Don’t forget ice, ice bucket, tongs or scoop.
  • Paper towels.
  • Extra toilet paper.
  • Plates of all sizes (appetizer, salad, dinner, and dessert).
  • Glasses of all sizes (water, wine, mixed drink, beer, soda, and coffee).
  • If grilling, check the tank, charcoal, and lighter fluid.
  • For an outside party, remember bug spray and citronella candles.
  • Extra batteries.
  • Wine and bottle opener.
  • Garbage bags.
  • Dishwashing soap.
  • To have fun! Enjoy the food, games, activities, and mingle with your guests!

xoxo,

Megan

Article published in Forsyth Family Magazine 

How to Start the New Year Off Right with Budgeting

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Often, at the start of another year, people set goals and begin different routines. They break away from the ordinary and change things up. So, why not do this with your budget and finances? Last month, I discussed what you need to do at the end of the year. Now, let’s talk about budgeting for the new year.

Organize Your Budget: 

You might have done an analysis of your budgeting method in December. Now, it’s the time to put your changes and/or brand-new budget into practice. According to CNNmoney.com, one way to divide your income to make sure you cover all budgeting areas is by using the percentages below:

  • 30% – housing and debt (mortgage/rent, credit cards, loans)
  • 26% – living expenses (food, clothing, utilities, medical, transportation, and entertainment)
  • 25% – taxes (federal, state, local, and property)
  • 15% – savings and retirement
  • 4% – insurance

To stay on top of these percentages and how much of your income goes where, use a budget worksheet. Consumer.gov has an easy printable worksheet. If this method doesn’t work, don’t give up! Continue searching until you find a budget worksheet and percentages that fit you.

Savings and Emergency Funds: 

You might have seen on social media various “money saving challenges,” such as setting aside all of your $5 bills for a whole year or each month putting $25 into your emergency fund. Well, these strategies do have value (no pun intended) to them. Adding to savings can be hard at times. However, small changes can add up over time. One of my favorite money saving challenges doesn’t involve setting aside a certain chunk of income every so often. The task is to eliminate something each month:

January: Skip the restaurants and fast food.

February: Cut out soda, bottled water (use a reusable water bottle), and alcohol.

March: Say no to retail therapy; only purchase what is necessary.

April: Spend less money on entertainment.

May: Eat no junk food.

June: Leave the air conditioner off for as long as possible.

July: Cancel paid subscriptions and unused memberships (you don’t really need that gym membership).

August: Look for extra ways to make money.

September: Limit trips and traveling long distances. If you are looking for a summer getaway, now is the cheapest time to book.

October: Quit expensive habits.

November: Keep your heating costs down and only use when needed (after all, we do live in the south, where it says warm even during this time of the year).

December: Create your own Christmas gifts.

With this strategy, you won’t save the same amount each month, but you will decrease your spending. This plan can also be altered to your schedule and needs. If you need a designated lot of money for each time, start small. Put away loose change or a $5 bill once a week. Then, reflect on how well your process is going and make necessary changes. Whenever an emergency occurs or you want to purchase a big ticket item, you’ll be glad you have the extra money to make that happen. It’s like paying yourself!

Stock Up: 

You don’t need to do the extreme couponer’s version of stocking up and creating a stock pile, but it is always helpful to have items on hand. Aim for having a three-month supply of things you and your family use every day. Your “stock pile” could include:

  • Pasta
  • Peanut butter
  • Toilet paper
  • Paper towels
  • Trash bags
  • Shampoo and hair care products
  • Oatmeal
  • Rice
  • Flour, sugar, and other baking essentials
  • Nuts and trail mix
  • Coffee
  • Cleaning supplies

The key to stocking up is to not pay for each item individually. Be on the lookout for coupons that are buy 1, get 1 free and when a coupon is paired with a sale. Buying in bulk from stores, such as Sam’s Club and Costco, are great ways to add to your pile. Also, think about the holidays and seasons. Never spend money on popular purchases until they are out of season. For example, your sweetie can wait until after Valentine’s Day for their candy.

Starting off right with new strategies for your budget will help you all year long. Come December 31st, you’ll be in a better position to accomplish all your financial goals and dreams.

xoxo,

Megan

Post written for Forsyth Woman Magazine 

New Year, New Lunches: Changing Up What’s in Your Lunchbox

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Do you ever feel like you are in a rut? Ever have moments where you can’t think of anything new? Don’t worry—it happens to everyone. One of the most common things people get stuck on is coming up with different meals, especially lunches. Your midday feast might need to be eaten on the go, or you may not be able to refrigerate it. Take a look below for three new lunch ideas for all ages to enjoy and get out of last night’s leftovers routine. Plus, these recipes are great healthy food choices. 

Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta Salad: 

 Ingredients:

  • 12 sun-dried tomatoes, halved
  • 2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
  • 6 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. capers, drained
  • Salt
  • ¾ tsp. black pepper
  • ½ lb. pasta of choice
  • ½ lb. cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ½ lb. fresh mozzarella, cut into small pieces
  • ¾ cup black olives
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan

Directions: 

  1. Mix together half of the sun-dried tomatoes, all of the vinegar, olive oil, garlic, capers, salt, and pepper into a food processor or blender. Process until almost smooth.
  2. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box. Once drained, set it aside in a large bowl. You can either pour the dressing you just made on top of the pasta or put into a container and pour at lunchtime.
  3. Mince the remaining sun-dried tomatoes. Add the tomatoes (both cherry and sun-dried), mozzarella, olives, and parmesan to the pasta and toss.

 

Sushi Sandwich with Turkey and Cheese: 

This recipe can be done with any type of meat or cheese. You can also get creative with your choices of veggies. 

Ingredients: 

  • 1 spinach or plain tortilla
  • 1 tsp. cream cheese
  • ½ cup shredded mozzarella
  • 4 slices turkey deli meat or meat of your choice
  • ¼ cup shredded carrots
  • ¼ cup Ranch dressing, optional

Directions: 

  1. Cut edges of tortilla to make a square shape and cover with cream cheese.
  2. Sprinkle mozzarella evenly over the tortilla. Place the turkey and carrots on top.
  3. Roll the sandwich tightly, making sure nothing falls out. Finish by pressing down the sandwich, letting the cream cheese “seal it” together.
  4. Cut the roll into ½″ pieces and serve with Ranch dressing, if desired.

 

Flatbread Crisps and Hummus

Flatbread Crisps: 

Ingredients: 

  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1 Tbs. olive or vegetable oil
  • ½ cup grated cheese of your choice

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper. Add ¾ cup water and stir until dough forms into a ball. Knead dough in bowl until smooth. Divide in half. Cover one half in plastic wrap and set aside.
  2. With a floured rolling pin, roll the other dough-half into a paper-thin rectangle about 20 by 12 inches. Cut the dough lengthwise in half to create two smaller rectangles. Then, divide these rectangles in half, crosswise.
  3. Place strips on ungreased cook sheets and let set for 10 minutes. With a pastry brush or back of a spoon, brush strips lightly with olive oil and sprinkle on half of the grated cheese.
  4. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes until lightly brown, rotating the pan(s) between the racks halfway through baking. Remove from oven and pan and cool. Repeat process with the remaining dough. The flatbread crisps can be stored in an air-tight container for up to 2 weeks.

Hummus: 

Ingredients: 

  • 2 cups water
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 large lemon
  • 1 can garbanzo beans
  • 2 Tbs. tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. water
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. red pepper
  • ½ tsp. paprika
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro

 Directions: 

  1. In a saucepan, heat 2 cups water and bring to a boil. Add in garlic and cook 3 minutes to blanch and drain.
  2. Grate 1 teaspoon lemon peel and squeeze 3 tablespoons juice into a bowl. In a food processor or blender, combine garbanzo beans, tahini, garlic, lemon peel and juice, oil, water, salt, and red pepper. Puree until smooth. Pour into a bowl and cover.

An ice pack can be added to your lunchbox to keep the above meals cool, if desired. These recipes will soon become favorites that can be incorporated into your weekly diet.

xoxo,

Megan

Article written for Forsyth Family Magazine. 

5 Winter Skincare Tips You Should Know

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“Oh, the weather outside is frightful.” With temperatures freezing and below this week, many people head out doors bundled up from head to toe. While layers of clothes protect you from frigid weather, winter isn’t fun for your skin. This season is full of low humidity and dry air, making dry skin common. The tips below, useful for people of all ages, will help prevent your skin from drying out.
  • Take showers and baths in lukewarm water, not hot. Even wash your hands and face in a warm temperature, to avoid stripping oils from your skin.
  • Moisturize all the time. Especially, after any type of washing. I’m always slathering on lotion after my showers, because this practice helps allow the water’s dampness to further hydrate my skin. Also, apply a lotion or moisturizing balm before bed each night. Pay special attention to dryer areas, such as hands, feet, elbows, and knees where the skin is thin. Lastly, it is important to choose your moisturizers wisely. Dermatologists have found that an oil-based solution rather than water-based is better for your skin and helps retain more moisture.
  • Try using a humidifier in your home to prevent dry air from creeping in. This will also protect your skin.
  • Use an exfoliating mask on your face, hands, and lips to get rid of dead cells. Another option is exfoliating body washes. Always immediately moisturize your skin after using.
  • Drink water and hydrate your skin from the inside out. Balance your intake of hot beverages by adding in some H2O.
Keep these winter skincare tips in mind and win the winter skin battle.
xoxo,
Megan