Happy Thanksgiving!

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I hope your today is blessed and joyful! I am truly thankful for my dedicated readers who allow me to share my journey with them!

xoxo,

Megan

Homemade Chicken and Dumplings

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I’m so excited that it finally feels like fall in NC! To celebrate, I’m making one of my favorite comfort foods – chicken and dumplings! 

Ingredients:

  •  3 cups cooked chicken
  • 6-8 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • salt
  • a cup of milk

Directions:

  1. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients with a fork. Stir in the milk, mixing until the dough forms a ball.
  2. Roll the dough out into a thin square with a floured rolling pin. Cut the dumplings into squares about 2″ x 2″. It’s okay if they aren’t the same size. Sprinkle flour over the dough before cooking.
  3. Bring the broth to a boil over high heat. Drop the dumplings in one at a time, stirring while you add them. Cook for about 15-20 minutes.
  4. Add the cooked chicken to the pot and warm for a few minutes.

Enjoy!

xoxo,

Megan

Bring the Scents of Fall into Your Home

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Autumn is my favorite season of the year with all of its festivities, decorations, and beautiful colors. Let’s not forget about all of the wonderful scents this time of the year brings. There is nothing better than smelling the scents of pumpkin spice, apple pie, and cinnamon in every home, store, or place in town. Bringing the amazing aromas into your own home is a quick and simple task that can be completed by trying these do-it-yourself fragrance recipes. The collection also includes a yummy treat that appeases more than one of your five senses!

Crockpot Cinnamon Spice Air Freshener: 

Ingredients: 

  • 3 cups hot water
  • 6 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tbsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tbsp. whole cloves

Directions: 

  1. Combine all of the ingredients into a crockpot and stir. Cover with the lid.
  2. Cook on high for 1 hour, then remove lid. Let simmer on high for several hours.

 

Stovetop Potpourri:

Ingredients: 

  • 4-6 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 orange rind
  • 2 tbsp. whole cloves
  • 3-5 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp. nutmeg (optional)

Directions: 

  1. Fill a medium-sized pot three-fourths of the way full with water and add in all of the ingredients.
  2. Bring the water to a boil and let boil on high for 3-4 minutes. Then, lower the heat and simmer. Keep on an eye on the water level and refill when needed.
  3. This mixture lasts for several days. Place in a glass jar or bowl in the refrigerator. When ready to use again, re-fill a pot with water, pour in the ingredients, and simmer.

 This stovetop potpourri recipe can also be made in a crockpot. 

 

Crockpot or Slow Cooker Baked Apples:

Ingredients: 

  • 5 medium-sized gala apples
  • 1 ¼ cups granola
  • 3 tbsp. melted butter
  • 5 tsp. maple syrup
  • Vanilla ice cream or whipped cream for topping (optional)

Directions: 

  1. Cut the top off the apples with a knife. Using a melon baller or measuring spoon (teaspoon size), remove the core and seeds from each apple. Once complete, each apple should have a hole in the top for the remaining ingredients.
  2. Pack ¼ cup of the granola into each apple and place it in the crockpot or slow cooker.
  3. Pour the melted butter evenly over the apples. Then, add a teaspoon of maple syrup over each apple.
  4. Cover and cook on high for 2 ½ to 3 hours. Apples should be tender, but not falling apart when done.
  5. Remove and serve with ice cream or whipped cream if you choose to do so.

 

Cinnamon Scented Pinecones:

Materials: 

  • Pinecones
  • Ground cinnamon
  • Clear craft glue
  • Paintbrush
  • Sealable gallon-sized bag or container

Directions: 

  1. Using the paintbrush, coat the pinecones with a thin layer of glue. If doing all the pinecones at once, work quickly to prevent the glue from drying. It is suggested to complete the pinecones individually.
  2. Sprinkle the entire pinecone evenly with ground cinnamon. Make sure to get all between the crevices.
  3. Place all the pinecones into the sealable bag or container and shake off all the excess cinnamon.
  4. Once the glue has dried, decorate your home with the cinnamon pinecones.

This DIY is great for kids! 

 

Your home will never smell better than it does with these fall fragrances filling the air. Plus, all recipes can easily be used as gifts for housewarming parties, birthdays, and more!

xoxo,

Megan

Happy National Southern Food Heritage Day!

October 11th is known as National Southern Food Heritage Day, and as many people know, southerners have quite a unique palate. Grits, Cheerwine, sweet tea, and hushpuppies are some of the more well-known southern foods and drinks. Yet, on National Southern Food Heritage Day, people throughout the South celebrate the dishes and treats that originated in our area, including the ones below.

  • King Cake: This special cake is a Mardi Gras tradition and not just in New Orleans. First appearing in 1870 and arriving in New Orleans from France, the king cake is a ring-shaped dessert topped with sugar and icing, in the colors of green, purple, and yellow. It is usually eaten on Fat Tuesday. Hidden inside the cake is a plastic baby doll. The person who finds it is “King for the Day” and is supposed to purchase next year’s cake or host a Fat Tuesday party. In addition, the baby doll symbolizes Jesus being visited by the three wise men on January 6th, which is also known as Holy Day, Epiphany, and the Twelfth Night.
  • Fried Foods(which can include any type of food): The South is known for fried green tomatoes, fried okra, fried fish, and just about fried anything. These battered delicacies come in a variety of different ways and can be made spicy. Other foods I have seen fried are butter, Oreos, and doughnuts. I would recommend trying these at your own discretion.
  • Pimento Cheese: According to Serious Eats website, pimento cheese originated in the 1870s with New York farmers. These New Yorkers started creating cream cheese, and Spain began sending canned red peppers or pimentos to the United States. In 1908, the two items appeared together in a Good Housekeeping recipe. Afterwards, the mixture became a hit, especially in the South. As a matter of fact, farmers in Georgia grew red peppers and sent them throughout the United States, adding to the craze. Over time, pimento cheese, which is also known as the “caviar of the South,” became a staple for many people below the Mason Dixon line. It is a mixture of pimentos, cream cheese, grated cheese, mayonnaise, peppers, and more. Pimento cheese is eaten on sandwiches, crackers, chips, or even on cheeseburgers.
  • Hummingbird Cake: This is another cake that is a tradition for many events. Ingredients include pineapple, banana, spices, pecans, and a cream cheese frosting. As for the hummingbird cake name, its history actually comes from Jamaica. Also known as the Doctor Bird Cake, this dessert is named after Jamaica’s national bird. It came to the United States in 1978 when it was printed in Southern Living with the recipe being written by L.H. Wiggins. Later that year, the cake won the Favorite Cake Award at the Kentucky State Fair. In 1990, Southern Living named the hummingbird cake its favorite recipe and the most requested recipe in the magazine’s history.
  • Boiled Peanuts: Remember the buckets of peanuts at Sagebrush Steakhouse or Texas Roadhouse? One can guess that these peanuts were boiled. Mainly popular in Georgia, boiled peanuts are a classic snack at baseball games, roadside stands, and restaurants. Historians believe this treat started in the Civil War after Union General William T. Sherman’s troops marched through Georgia. After the march, the South was depleted of resources and supplies for their troops. Peanuts became a main source of food, and when boiled over a fire with salt, soldiers discovered that the boiled peanuts would last up to seven days in their packs. Once the war ended, the love for boiled peanuts remained and continues to grow to this day.
  • Cheese Straws: Similar to breadsticks, cheese straws are the perfect southern appetizer and snack. Mainly consisting of flour, cheese, butter, and cayenne pepper, no one quite knows how cheese straws came to be, but some say it was created by a cook who mixed leftover biscuit dough and cheese together. Let’s just say no matter how this snack was invented, southerners are glad it was.
  • Charm Cakes: A Victorian-era tradition quickly grabbed the hearts of southerners and found its way into Southern weddings. Within charm cakes, little charms with significant meanings are attached to ribbon and hidden inside the cake. During a bridal shower, rehearsal dinner, or the actual wedding, each bridesmaid pulls out a charm. For example, the ring means you are the next to marry, seashell stands for eternal beauty, and a moon stands for opportunity.

Food is part of the South’s history and every family’s heritage. These timeless dishes are ones that most people in the South truly love and will continue to share with future generations.

Contact Lens Safety: A Refresher of What You Should Know

The history of contact lenses dates back to 1508 and Leonardo da Vinci’s idea of “wearing a water-filled hemisphere over the eye,” first published in his book, Codex of the eye, Manual D. Since then, designs have evolved and the version of contact lens that is mostly similar to today’s lenses actually originated in 1949. In fact, President Lyndon B. Johnson was the first President to appear in public wearing contact lenses in 1964. Today, over 150 million people worldwide wear these thin lenses over their eyes for therapeutic, corrective, and cosmetic use. While contact lenses serve great purposes, they need special care. October is Contact Lens Safety month and the perfect time to refresh ourselves on the safety and importance of taking regular care of your contact lenses. Improper maintenance can lead to increased risks of eye infections. Most of the following tips are from the CDC and FDA.

  • Clean and disinfect your lenses daily. There are many types of contact lens solutions available. Use a solution that works for you and follow the appropriate instructions. Most eye doctors suggest using a solution with hydrogen peroxide, which provides extra disinfecting. However, as a contact lens wearer myself, it is important to read the instructions for hydrogen peroxide solution, as you can’t wear your lenses for several hours while cleaning. For example, you can’t put them in the solution and place them in your eyes an hour later. Also, never reuse solution. Lastly, if you wear hard contact lenses, once you have taken them out, rub the lens carefully with the solution, and rinse well before placing them in the case.
  • When removing and putting in your contacts, always wash your hands with soap and water beforehand. Dry completely. This practice erases the germs from your hands and avoids getting them in your eyes.
  • No matter what solution you are using, replace your storage case at least every three months or as stated by your eye doctor or solution instructions. For me, every time I open a new bottle of solution, I change my case. This is due to the fact that I am using the hydrogen peroxide base.
  • Don’t expose your contacts to water and always remove before swimming or showering.

This past summer, I read an article on the Today Show website about a man who developed a parasitic infection and lost sight in his right eye after showering with contact lenses. This is an extreme example, but still shows what can happen and serves as a warning.

  • Unless told by your doctor, don’t wear your lenses overnight or while sleeping. The darkness of night causes extra stress on the cornea and reduces the amount of oxygen to your eye, drying them out and making them more susceptible to infection.
  • If you start experiencing symptoms of irritation or infection, remove your contacts, and wear your glasses. If needed, call your eye doctor immediately. Symptoms to be on the lookout for include: excess tearing, discomfort, unusual sensitivity to light, itching, burning, blurred vision, pain, swelling, or redness. I often have dry eyelids that cause an urge to rub my eyes. When this happens, I choose glasses instead of contact lenses. Plus, it never hurts to have a pair of glasses available as a quick backup; just be sure they are also up to date with your prescription.
  • Speaking of prescriptions, visit your eye doctor yearly to keep up with your eye health. This way, you won’t be wearing contacts or glasses with old prescriptions.
  • Contact lenses are normally worn by adults. Children can use this type of eyewear but should take extra caution. Parents and guardians should play an important role in encouraging safety and health behaviors to maintain contact lenses.

I love my contact lenses and don them almost every day. However, I know, like most people, this wouldn’t be possible without practicing these tips. One easy way to remember to take care of your contact lenses is the CDC’s slogan: healthy habits = healthy eyes.

xoxo,

Megan

Explore the Seven Wonders of the World at Home

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There is nothing better than seeing awe and wonder in a child’s eyes. Whether it is seeing a new site, experiencing a cool activity, or finding an amazing item, the joy of learning can easily be seen and felt. There are many topics you and your family can enjoy and learn about together, including the classic seven wonders of the world. Before continuing on, let’s take a look at what is included in the list of the seven wonders. Over time the Seven Wonders have changed. The newest list was created in 2007 after more than 100 million people voted to name the “New Seven Wonders of the World,” which are below:

  1. The Great Wall of China in China
  2. Christ the Redeemer Statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  3. Machu Picchu in Peru
  4. Chichen Itza (The Yucatan Peninsula) in Mexico
  5. The Roman Colosseum in Rome
  6. The Taj Mahal in Agra, India
  7. The Petra in Jordan

Many children and adults may not be familiar with some of these landmarks. However, there are fun and creative ways to learn about them. These activities are hands-on and can be done on a rainy afternoon, a summer day, or a weekend of learning at home.

  • Take a virtual field trip on Google Earth to the Seven Wonders. Visit earth.google.com/web and search the various places. Then, zoom in and out and explore the landmark’s history. You can also learn about the “Seven Wonder of the Ancient World” by searching the website of The Museum of UnNatural History (http://unmuseum.mus.pa.us/wonders.htm).
  • Create a passport or scrapbook with pictures and facts about each wonder. In addition, Photoshop pictures of your child in front of the site to help make the experience come alive. Other options include putting together a tourist guide book, brochure, advertisement, or newspaper. Let your child take on different roles and careers to learn about the famous site. There are many avenues you could take with this activity.
  • Make a physical version of the landmark. For example, use paper, markers, and paper towel or toilet paper rolls to build Christ the Redeemer Statue or create the Great Wall of China with Legos. Common materials that could be used are clay, construction paper, salt dough, rocks, and fabrics.
  • Instead of making a physical object, design something digital, such as a video, commercial for the Seven Wonders, etc. Use sites like iMovie, WeVideo, and Prezi and let your children’s imaginations run wild with creativity. Plus, you can even create an at-home green screen and digitally replace the background with the wonder.
  • Study about the culture, cities, and countries where the wonder is located. Research the area’s climate, food, music, arts, historic sites, and more. Then, celebrate that wonder by bringing it and its home country to life. The more vivid and hands-on experience children can have when learning about the Seven Wonders of the World, the better they’ll be able to remember and retain the knowledge they’ve learned.

Word searches, puzzles, and quizzes/challenges are more, interactive ways to connect history to a wonder. Also, children of all ages love coloring pages. Plus, it shows children another visual/picture of the site. For printables, visit https://www.thoughtco.com/new-seven-wonders-of-the-world-printables-1832308.

These ideas are perfect ways for children and students at school to learn about the Seven Wonders of the World. There is so much of the world that we don’t know about. The earlier we start exploring these areas, the more global a child can be.

 

A Delicious Look into Cookbook Book Clubs

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Book clubs have been around for decades and have introduced the love of reading to many people. However, there is a new type of book club that is gaining in popularity – a cookbook book club. Basically, it is a book club where attendees bring food. The premise behind this type of club is attendees choose a recipe from a cookbook, prepare the dish, and bring the dish and the cookbook to the meeting.

Steps to Beginning 

  1. The first step to starting a cookbook book club is deciding on the logistics of the club. Think about who will join, family and friends, where you’ll meet, and when you’ll meet. Will the club meet at the same place at the same time or will it rotate between members’ houses and dates? Also, organize how you’ll pick the cookbooks. For example, is each attendee going to be making recipes from the same cookbook or different ones? Try to get at least 5-10 members, so you’ll have enough attendees to showcase a wide variety of dishes. Be careful your club isn’t too small or too big – remember you are going to be eating, so there will be some cost involved in preparing the meals. Lastly, all members don’t have to be culinary geniuses. This is a time to share dishes, as well as cooking tips and tricks with others.
  2. Next, plan your inaugural meeting. Remember to set your date and location. Then, choose your cookbook, if you decide to use one cookbook for all members. Your next step is to send out invitations, printed or digitally. You could even create a group on social media for members to communicate. If you decide on members choosing their own books, this is a great avenue for attendees to say which cookbook they are using for that meeting.
  3. Associate meetings with themes. For example, host a meeting that is family favorite recipes from tried and true cookbooks or only dessert recipes. You could also assign a meeting to honor a famous chef. Maybe it will be the Barefoot Contessa night and attendees will choose one of her cookbooks and prepare a dish.
  4. One of the benefits of having a social media group of attendees is that it allows for better organization of the group. There is generally more cost involved with this type of book club, compared to your traditional one; create a list on the group or in a google doc for members to list what they are bringing, in regard to recipes, plates, cups, napkins, and silverware. All responsibilities shouldn’t fall on the meeting’s host, unless otherwise decided upon in the club. Also, members can discuss recent recipes and cookbooks within the club when a meeting time isn’t near.
  5. Don’t forget about the drinks. It can be as simple as having bottles of water for everyone. It can also be as extravagant as bringing new drink recipes to share. This element should also be discussed with your club’s online group.
  6. Think about ways to make the meetings interactive and fun. Of course, food makes everything more fun, but also include possible games and conversation starters. Try going around and having members share why they chose a particular cookbook, or recipe, and their process for making the dish. You can take it a step further and focus on a single dish per meeting. For example, each member could host the event and choose the dish. Then, at the meeting, attendees will prepare the dish together and receive copies of the recipe.
  7. Speaking of recipe copies, always have them for members to take home. This is especially important if the recipes come from different books. However, if you chose to use one cookbook per meeting, share the book between members. That way, every member won’t feel as if they have to purchase the various cookbooks for each meeting.

There is nothing better that brings people together than food and a cookbook book club does just that. Ease your members into this new concept by letting them prepare dishes from a cookbook they have at home and then let your creativity run wild. There is no rhyme or reason, rules or laws to what a cookbook book club should entail.

xoxo,

Megan

Simply Southern Hush Puppies

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Hush puppies – one of my favorite Southern foods! Now, you can make them yourself using this simple recipe!

Ingredients: 

3/4 cup self rising flour
1 cup self rising corn meal (not mix)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 small onion, finely minced 
1 pinch garlic powder
1 pinch onion powder
1 pinch old bay seasoning
1 Tbsp sugar
3/4 to 1 cup buttermilk
Canola oil for frying

Directions:

1. In a large mixing bowl, mix together flour and cornmeal. Add egg, onion and spices. Add buttermilk and stir with fork just until blended. Mixture should be farily stiff. Add a little bit more buttermilk, if necessary.
2. Heat oil in deep fryer to 375 degrees. Drop dough by teaspoons into hot oil and fry until hush puppies rise to the top and are golden brown. Remove from fryer and drain on paper towels.
Enjoy!
xoxo,
Megan

The Top 3 Best Historical Novels for Young Adults

I’m a history buff. My interest in history started when I was young and has continued to grow. I love to visit historical sites, read historical books, and watch historical films. Since my love began when I was young, I believe it is important to expose children and young adults to what has happened in the past. One way to do this is by letting them read historical books. For this month, I have gathered some of my beloved historical novels for young adults.

Chasing Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson

This biography by James L. Swanson brings young readers the story of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination and the capture of his assassin, John Wilkes Booth, and Booth’s co-conspirators. Swanson uses archival material, trial manuscripts, primary sources, and interviews of the time period to bring the twelve-day manhunt of John Wilkes Booth to life. In addition, readers are given pictures and facts about those involved, the important locations, such as Fords’ Theatre, as well as, newspaper articles and advertisements from April 1865. Chasing Lincoln’s Killeris geared towards young adults, sixth grade and older. However, it is also a favorite among adults. I read the novel this past summer and learned facts about this important time period in American history that I never knew. However, a great alternative for a true adult version is Swanson’s bestseller, Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer.

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

Number the Stars is a historical fiction novel based on the Holocaust during World War II. Main character ten-year-old Annemarie Johansen lives in Denmark with her family. When the German troops come to town to “relocate” all the Jews, Annemarie’s family takes in her best friend, Ellen Rosen and pretends that she is Annemarie’s late older sister, Lise. Young readers learn about another side of the Holocaust through the Johansen’s actions and involvement in the Danish Resistance. During this time, the Jewish population in Denmark were relocated to the neutral ground of Sweden to avoid being sent to the concentration camps. In fact, Lise was killed by the Nazis for working with the resistance. Number the Stars draws readers into a story of heroism and pride. It is also a tale of friendship and doing good in a time of war. Fact fun: author Lois Lowry created the title to reference Psalm 147:4. As Lowry says, “God has numbered all the stars and has named each of them.”

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

This #1 New York Timesbestseller and young adult read is perfect and relevant for 2019, because it has been 50 years since the Apollo 11 mission and man’s first walk on the moon on July 16, 1969. Author Margot Lee Shetterly describes in vivid details the story of four African American women making their mark in NASA history. These women, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden, worked as mathematicians and “human computers” for NASA, meaning they created and solved equations and calculated numbers and flight paths that would send rockets and astronauts into space. Segregated at work, these women’s mathematical skills impressed their mostly white and male counterparts and allowed many of them to be promoted from human computers to engineers and computer programmers. Their careers spanned from World War II, the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Space Race. Hidden Figures is a must-read for not just history fans, but for everyone.

From the Civil War to World War II and then to the Space Race, these historical novels cover a wide span of history and are a must-read for young adults.

xoxo,

Megan

 

13 Things I Must Do Every Fall

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Fall- my favorite season of them all and the start of the new season is almost here. Every year, there are several things I MUST do before it ends, so here is my fall bucket list:

  • Tailgate at a football game.
  • Go apple picking.
  • Buy more school supplies.
  • Watch Halloween movies.
  • Decorate with tons of pumpkins and DIY fall crafts.
  • Travel through the mountains to see the leaves.
  • Visit the county fair.
  • Carve a pumpkin.
  • Make an apple pie, apple butter, apple pie, and homemade apple sauce. (Can you tell I like apples…alot?)
  • Stuff myself during the holidays.
  • Go on a hayride.
  • Eat s’mores at a bonfire.
  • Wear a hoodie, while snuggling up with a cup of hot chocolate.

It’s (almost) fall, y’all!

xoxo,

Megan