On the 3rd Day of Christmas…

The holiday season is upon us! During this time of year, people are making plans for their annual traditions, as well as lists for all the cooking and baking to be done and the gifts to be bought. However, the holidays can also be a time for expenses to rack up, especially when it comes to buying presents for everyone. There is a present for your mom, dad, your child’s teacher, everyone in your book club, your mailman – the list goes on and on. However, there are ways to be budget-friendly during the holidays and still make sure everyone on your gift list is remembered.

First things first – know your budget and don’t overspend. Have a set limit for how much you’ll spend on a certain gift and be sure to keep a running log of all your purchases. Always make a detailed list with the person’s name, how much you want to spend, and what gift you would like to buy. If you are giving presents to a group of friends, such as your kid’s teachers or coaches, think about spending the same amount or gifting the same items. For example, buy items in bulk and divide into individual presents. Think of the idea of nail kits in a mason jar for friends. You can purchase a 12 pack of mason jars at Walmart for around $8.00. Then, go to Dollar Tree and buy a bag of cotton balls (100 count), nail polish, and packs of nail files (4 per pack). If you are making 12 gifts, your overall cost is $24.00, meaning each individual present is around $2.00. Obviously, this will change depending on the quantity of gifts needed, but you get the picture.

Another tip to lessen your holiday spending is by creating DIY presents or by gifting services. Parents, grandparents, and other family members love handmade items. Plus, this is a chance for you and your kids to release your creative side. Some examples are homemade jewelry, paintings and drawings, a cookbook filled with family recipes, a scrapbook filled with family photos, pillows, and more. A quick online search can help you find the perfect idea for your loved ones. Baked goods are another perfect way to spread holiday cheer without breaking the bank. This type of gift is good for when you plan on giving to groups or teachers, mailmen, doctors, veterinarians, and hair stylists. Again, buy your ingredients in bulk and divide among everyone. Lastly, think of different services you can provide to someone. This could be a coupon for mowing their lawn in the spring, running their errands for an afternoon, or walking their dog every day for a week. These gifts are ideal for neighbors, elderly people, and others who have busy schedules.

Lastly, it pays to do your research and pre-shop online before hitting the stores. Browse your favorite local stores’ websites and see what deals and coupons are available. In addition, this helps you narrow down your shopping list to a few stores, making your transportation and gas costs less. Also, don’t fear shopping online. Some retailers offer online only deals, free-shipping, and no-hassle return policies. They may also have special shopping days, online or in-store, for you to take advantage of to add more money back into your wallet. While searching online, you may come across a coupon or great deal for an “experience” present. Experience presents are trips, special day events, etc. that you give in place of a tangible gift. For example, I am giving my mom and sister tickets to Christmas at Biltmore for Christmas this year (don’t worry, they already know about the present and the surprise won’t be ruined when they read this article). For this experience present, I purchased the tickets ahead of time and was able to use an online deal. You can do this for many different attractions, entertainment, and trips. These experiences don’t have to happen around Christmas; they can happen months later. However, be sure to search for deals before making your purchase. The daily deal website, Groupon, is a great place to go to, as well as Living Social.

The holidays are a wonderful time to make memories with your family and friends. Don’t let the fear of overspending ruin your spirit. Remember, there are ways to give budget-friendly presents that will warm anyone’s heart.

Xoxo,

Megan

Advertisements

On the 2nd Day of Christmas

ghk-christmas-song-1538580063

During this time of the year, almost everywhere you go, you hear holiday music. The voices of Nat King Cole, Perry Como, and Bing Crosby ring through every store, building, and home, singing the lyrics of countless tunes we know by heart. But do you know the history behind the famous songs? For the 2nd day of Christmas, brush up on your holiday song trivia and wow your family and friends at the next holiday get-together/

  • “Jingle Bells” – This famous holiday melody was originally written as a winter song and not meant for the holidays. There are different theories as to how the song originated, but the most well-known version was written by James Pierpont in 1850 in Medford, Massachusetts. The original title was “The One Horse Open Sleigh” and was inspired by the annual sleigh races throughout the town, hence the lyrics. Historians say Pierpont wrote the song for his father’s Sunday school class for Thanksgiving and it became so popular people, they sang it again at Christmas time.
  • “I Have a Little Dreidel” – This tune is one of the most famous Chanukah songs in the English-speaking world. On the four sides of a dreidel, the letters “Nun-Gimel-Heh-Shin” are printed and represent the phrase “Nas-Godol-Hayah-Sham,” meaning “a great miracle happened there.” There are two versions of the song: English and Yiddish. The English version was written by Samuel S. Grossman and Samuel E. Goldfarb. Together, Grossman and Goldfarb composed the melody and lyrics.
  • “Deck the Halls” – This Welsh Christmas song goes back to the 16th century, with a melody coming from the Welsh winter song “Nos Galan,” which is actually about New Year’s Eve. The first English version of the song appeared in 1862 and was composed by Welsh lyricist John Jones and English lyricist Thomas Oliphant. Oliphant changed the original Welsh lyrics, which mainly described winter, love, and cold weather, to a version that alluded to the upcoming of Christmas. The only similarity between the two versions is the traditional “fa la la la la, la la la la.”
  • “O Tannenbaum” – Also known as “O Christmas Tree,” this traditional German carol’s first lyrics date back to 1550, but it became a classic in 1820 with August Zarnack coining the first verse. Four years later, in 1824, the second and third verses were added on by Ernst Gebhard Anschutz. A Tannenbaum is a synonym for a fir tree or Christmas tree. The practice of putting up a Christmas tree was popular in Germany during the time of the song’s writing, but wasn’t popular in England and America until later. “O Tannenbaum” didn’t become a classic in England and America until the mid-19th century, when the tradition of Christmas trees made their way over.
  • “The Christmas Song” – “The Christmas Song” is one of the most well-known holiday songs and originated from a hot July afternoon in 1945. Stated in his autobiography, songwriter Mel Tormé says it only took him and songwriting partner Bob Wells 45 minutes to compose the classic tune. Images such as “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” were modeled after Wells’ childhood memory of the holidays in Boston. Once completed, the two contacted Carlos Gastel, the manager of Nat King Cole and Peggy Lee, and played the song to him. A year later, in 1946, Nat King Cole’s record of the tune came out and the rest is history.
  • “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” – “It’s the most wonderful time of the year, with kids jingle belling and everyone telling you ‘be of good cheer.’” Written specifically for The Andy Williams Christmas Album, this song was created by George Wyle and Eddie Pola in 1963. The following year radio stations picked up the tune and began playing it on a regular rotation. Since then, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” has gotten more airtime with every coming year, making it a holiday classic.

Whether you spend the holidays humming “tis the season to be jolly” or “oh, dreidel, dreidel, dreidel,” there’s sure to be a song stuck in your head. Now, you’ll be able to tell everyone how these popular holiday songs originated.

xoxo,

Megan

On the 1st Day of Christmas…

christmas_shortbread_bites2..

Greetings all!

Many exciting things are happening and I’m so happy to share them with you. As I sit writing this post, there is 14.5″ of snow outside my window. We are on snow day #3 from school and will have snow day #4 tomorrow. There is just something magical and peaceful about snow at Christmastime, don’t you agree? Since I’m snowed in, I’ve had time to plan and think about where I want to take this blog.

  1. If you haven’t noticed, the blog has been designed! I decided it was time for a change and finally landed on a layout I love. There are still a few more edits to make, but overall, the blog is updated and easier to use.
  2. New additions to the blog include a shop! Yes, I’m linking my Teachers Pay Teachers shop to my site for all the hard-working educators. Also, I’m working on a fun Easy shop that will be debuting soon. These shops are the perfect places to get resources for teachers and gifts for you or a loved one.
  3. For the next 12 days, I’ll be bringing you Christmas fun and joy in my 12 Days of Christmas! On our first day, I give to you —– shortbread bites!

Shortbread Bites: 

Ingredients:

1 1/4 c. All-purpose flour
3 tbsp. Powdered sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. Vanilla extract
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, softened
1 tbsp. Red and green sprinkles
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 325º. In a food processor or blender, pulse flour, sugar, salt, vanilla, and butter until combined. Move mixture to a large bowl and knead until combined. Add sprinkles and knead.
  2. On waxed paper, roll dough into a thick square. Freeze for about 15 minutes.
  3. Cut dough into 1/2″ squares and place onto a greased baking sheet.
  4. Bake until cookies are golden, 18 to 20 minutes.

Enjoy!

Check back tomorrow for day #2.

xoxo,

Megan

Christmastime Love for the “Peanuts”

41kLgsfWeBL

For many people, it is a Christmas tradition. Sitting down with your loved ones and watching the timeless program, A Charlie Brown Christmas, which premiered on December 9th, 1965. Many people watch this story each year in December. But, have you ever asked yourself what makes this classic so memorable and a favorite of so many?

During Christmas, a feeling of nostalgia is in the air, and every smell, sight, film, etc. can trigger a beloved memory for most people. This is exactly what happens with A Charlie Brown Christmas. Within the first few minutes, as viewers watch the characters ice skating, and the song “Christmastime is Here” plays in the background, they are taken back in time. They remember special moments spent with family and Christmas memories from long ago. According to writer Mike Errico, in his article, “The Real Reason You Love A Charlie Brown Christmas,” jazz pianist and film composer Vince Guaraldi’s use of sounds and pictures created an “emotional resonance.” Plus, the characters are voiced by children, not adults, adding a child-like enjoyment to the story. After all, doesn’t everyone feel like a child again during the holidays?

Along with the music and children’s voices, the film is remembered because of its premise. A depressed Charlie Brown is on a “search” for Christmas cheer. He is fed up with the commercialism of the holiday. To help with his journey, friend Lucy asks Charlie Brown to direct the neighborhood Christmas play. However, things don’t go as planned and chaos occurs. All the characters have different opinions, but for Charlie Brown, all the play needs is the enchantment of a Christmas tree. He and friend Linus go shopping and end up with a tiny twig of a tree. Once the two return to the rehearsal, their tree isn’t a big hit and a frustrated Charlie Brown asks if anybody knows what Christmas is all about. In the end, Linus saves the day by reciting the story of Christmas, Luke 2: 8-14. In addition, throughout the film, Snoopy is up to his traditional antics, making the loveable pup even more treasured. The story concludes with the Peanuts gang finding the meaning of Christmas, which doesn’t involve presents, glitter, or decorations.

A Charlie Brown Christmas is full of memorable and meaningful symbols that almost everyone can connect to. There is the tree; the tension of the commercialism of Christmas; coming together to help a friend or loved one; and discovering the message of the holiday. One reason these elements are easy to relate to is because these are the things some people are feeling during the month of December. A Charlie Brown Christmas reminds us of what is important and what is not. It gives the Christmas message to generations throughout the world. In addition, it shows that material objects aren’t the full representation of the holiday and that you can take the tiniest, unpleasant-looking thing and make it beautiful, like Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree.

When the show premiered on CBS, the network expected it to flop and be the end of Peanuts. However, people knew the program would be a success just by its broadcast when it was watched by more than 15.4 million viewers. Since then, ACharlie Brown Christmas has become the second-longest running Christmas program in history. Also, the program has inspired the television Christmas tradition of running half-hour animated specials, such as How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Frosty the Snowman.

Throughout the years, A Charlie Brown Christmas has become a Christmas staple. Peanuts creator Charles Schulz produced a timeless and relatable holiday story that is packed with nostalgia, a sense of melancholy, and meaning.  Just as Linus said, the program describes “what Christmas is all about.

xoxo,

Megan

Healthier Baking 101

FW88-HealthierBaking

Sweets are in abundance during the holidays. From the cookies, cakes, and more, there always seems to be something tasty in my kitchen. However, too many sweet treats can be a problem. Many baking recipes include sugar, butter, and other fatty ingredients that are unhealthy for a person’s body. The good news, though, is that there are still ways for you to have your favorite confections that include healthier ingredients. Put the tips below to use this holiday season. Trust me, your recipes will taste the same, and your loved ones will never know that you swapped oil for applesauce.

Replacing Oil: 

  • As mentioned above, a great way to replace some of the fat is using unsweetened applesauce instead of oil. A common rule of thumb is for every one cup of oil in a recipe, switch out for ¾ a cup of applesauce. Don’t have any on hand? Combine one mushed apple and a splash of lemon juice.
  • Greek yogurt is another favorite of many and works fantastic in place of oil or fat. It keeps the moisture and flavor of the dish. Plus, the yogurt is full of calcium, protein, and probiotics.

Replacing Sugar: 

  • You can’t have a dessert without sugar! Or so they say. Instead of artificial sugar, mash up a banana into your ingredients. Make sure the banana is ripe. This substitution keeps the sweetness of the dessert but has healthier advantages, such as being rich in glucose, easy to digest, and improves your energy, preventing a sugar crash.
  • Alternatives to white table sugar are honey, maple syrup, or dates. These natural forms reduce the amount of added sugar but still should be consumed in reasonable amounts.
  • Lastly, spices work well in adding flavor and taste to treats with excessive amounts of sugar. Cinnamon and nutmeg are common replacements and boost metabolism, an extra benefit.

Replacing Flour: 

  • Almost all baking recipes include flour. Yet flour can affect your health in many ways, both good and bad. One simple way to add more health benefits is using whole wheat flour in lieu of white flours. The latter is made from heavily refined and processed wheat grain that isn’t good for you. As for whole wheat flour, it is processed differently and has more health advantages.
  • Try making your own flour from oats, flax, and nuts. All you need to do is blend up the items in a food processor or blender, and you are good to go. There is no need to change the needed amount the recipes call for; just blend until you have the same amount of fine dust.

Other Tips and Tricks: 

  • Even though it is a baking recipe, all desserts don’t have to actually be baked. Research and find a no-bake treat for your favorite sweet. No-bake desserts can include healthier ingredients and possibly use less fatty ingredients than are needed for a baked dessert.
  • Dark chocolate is known for its advantages, including aiding in weight loss, reducing stress, and controlling a person’s appetite. Moderation is key, but don’t hesitate to switch any type of chocolate with dark chocolate.
  • Avocados are a healthy fat and a unique way to replace butter. This fruit is packed with protein and nutrients. In addition, it gives a smooth texture to the item.

I love to bake, but sometimes the recipes aren’t the healthiest. The solution to that problem is incorporating these tips. Using substitutions in baking is easy and simple. Plus, you won’t feel guilty eating a few more pieces of a sweet treat, because you know it is healthier.

xoxo,

Megan

A Lazy Friday


diff-between-rest-and-relaxation

I’m a workaholic. I work most of the time and have to keep myself from squeezing in a task in my spare moments. Yet, today I’ve decided I’m not going to do anything, except rest, relax, and recharge. And, you know what? So far, it has been great.

My day has been filled with laying on the coach, watching T.V., and eating leftovers. The only “work” I have done has been online shopping. The beauty of being lazy is that it helps a person become a better person, because you are able to refuel and ease some of your stress. It is a type of self-care that everyone needs to do.

While you may be spending hours in store lines today, make sure to take some time being lazy and enjoying the day. Trust me, you’ll feel better and stronger to take on the holiday chaos.

xoxo,

Megan

Care for the Caregiver

FW102-CareForTheCaregiver

November is National Family Caregiver month. Each year, caregivers are celebrated for their contributions and efforts in assisting others. This month also raises awareness for the stress caregivers experience while putting others before themselves. According to the Mayo Clinic, about 1 in 3 adults in the United States are caregivers, and a caregiver can be defined as anyone actively helping others. This includes family members providing for older adults. While the job is wonderful, selfless, and rewarding, many caregivers experience emotional and physical stress. They may feel overwhelmed, constantly worried and tired, have frequent headaches, gain or lose weight, deal with depression, and become easily irritated or angry. If you are a caretaker and are showing some of the symptoms below, it might be time to reenergize. Below are some tips to help manage some of the caregiver stress.

  • Focus on how you can assist and what care you are able to provide: No one can be there to help with everything all the time. The important thing to understand is that you are doing the best you can and shouldn’t feel guilty about not being the perfect caregiver.
  • Ask for and accept help: There is no shame in asking for others to assist you. Create a list of things others can do and let them decide on the task. For example, the helper could cook dinner one night, or run an errand. You never know who will lend a helping hand until you reach out.
  • Find support for yourself: Most communities have caregiver resources. Types of aid include support groups, caregiving services (transportation, meal delivery, etc.), and health professionals. Also, stay in touch with your family and friends. Your loved ones can offer emotional support without being judgmental.
  • Practice self-care: Sometimes there is nothing better than a hot bath after a long day. Set aside time each week to focus on yourself and relax. Go for a walk each night, read a book before bed, etc. It is important to create a good sleep routine, eat a healthy diet, and drink plenty of water. Don’t forget to be physically active at least three times during the week.
  • Talk to your doctor: Before starting, make sure you are up to date on vaccines and your yearly physical. Plus, this helps establish a deeper relationship with you and your physician. That way, whenever something occurs, or you need someone to talk to, your doctor is able to offer assistance.

In addition, establish a relationship between you, the care recipient and the care recipient’s physician. Most of the time, the caregiver takes the care recipient to doctors’ appointments. Because of this, the caretaker needs to be on top of medications and treatments. Creating this relationship allows for more communication and understanding of how to better provide for the care recipient. If needed, prepare questions before the appointments to make sure the caregiver understands the care recipient’s healthcare plan. Lastly, don’t be afraid to call nurses or doctors with any questions or concerns.

If you are a caregiver and feeling stressed, try some of these activities. Remember to take time for yourself and relax. After all, you can’t take care of others without taking care of yourself.

xoxo,

Megan