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

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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.

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.

 

7 Reasons Why You Should Write

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Life can be hard. It can be confusing. It can also be comforting. Every now and then, most people find a way to relax and let go of their emotions and thoughts. Some will take walks, others will have a conversation with a friend, while many will write and journal. Writing doesn’t mean you have to sit down and publish a book. This habit takes on various forms, depending on the writer. One day you can be creating a story that’s been in your mind, the next day you are creating a list of your hopes and goals, and lastly, you are writing down characteristics about a passed loved one you miss. Once a pen hits a piece of paper, or a person’s fingers hit the keyboard, a powerful thing occurs. Plus, there are health and lifestyle benefits to writing. If you have been wanting to journal and haven’t known where to start, let me persuade you with a few facts, as well as some tips and tricks.

  1. You will eliminate stress. Don’t we all want to get rid of at least a little bit of stress in our lives? By journaling, you are creating a clear list of everything you are worried about, therefore, allowing those thoughts to come out of your head. In addition, it helps you to see what you are stressing about and whether or not you actually need to be stressing about them. Something in our heads may seem big when, in reality, it is tiny.
  2. You’ll gain a sense of awareness of your reality. Our minds can only take so much before they “explode.” Just like with stress, writing down what you have on your mind, what you are going to complete, achieve, and how you feel, will help you realize who you actually are and what you are feeling. Plus, writing down your thoughts will assist you in making better decisions.
  3. Between gaining a sense of reality and eliminating your stress, writing makes you happier. Researcher Laura King stated in the article “The Psychological Benefits of Writing” that keeping a gratitude journal will increase your happiness and health because you are able to focus more on the good things in life.
  4. Periodically journaling your thoughts, daily life, and memories soon become a historical record for you to keep year after year. Some people fill notebook after notebook with their writings.
  5. A common reason for people to write is to channel and understand traumatic events, as well as hard memories. Journaling about your difficult times can help you realize the feelings and emotions you might have held in. However, studies have found that it is best to wait until about six months after the event for the benefits to sink in; otherwise, you could become more depressed. It is also important to note that this type of writing shouldn’t be forced; let it flow.
  6. Journaling can make you a better learner. Writing does take time and thought. You sometimes have to be in a zone to put words into sentences. Yet this creative outlet lets you express ideas and encourages critical thinking. In return, you are more introspective, explore more interests, and are more willing to dive deeper into ideas.
  7. One final benefit of writing is that it can keep your mind in shape. This habit motivates your brain to stay sharp and can help protect against Alzheimer’s and dementia.

The power of writing, whether it’s every day or a couple of times a month, can have a big benefit on your health. Also, it is a creative way for self-care, putting yourself first, and clearing your mind.

xoxo,

Megan

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

Midweek Motivation

Happy Wednesday! If you are like me, you can sometimes fall into a midweek slump. This slump is composed of tiredness and stress. To overcome it, I recite inspirational quotes throughout the rest of the week. These affirmations give me the strength to press forward and stay strong. So, I thought I would share some of my favorites with you.

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xoxo,

Megan

Cherry Pie Bites

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The weekend is one of my favorite times to bake and of course, eat! However, there are sometimes I only want a taste of something sweet. A great recipe for just that is cherry pie bites. They are perfect for a few people or a large crowd. You’ll be sorry if you don’t make them soon. 🙂

Ingredients:

2 cans crescent roll dough
21 oz. can cherry pie filling
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp. milk

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 375. Grease a muffin pan with butter or cooking spray.
  2. Unroll and separate the crescent dough. Place one triangle into each cup.
  3. Fill all the cups with a tablespoon of pie filling.
  4. Fold the 2 shorter ends of the dough together at the top 2. Then, pull the longer end over the shorter ones.
  5. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.
  6. While the bites are cooling, whisk together the powdered sugar and milk.
  7. Drizzle the glaze mixture over the bites.

Enjoy!

xoxo,

Megan

Always Be Prepared when Severe Weather Hits

You hear the weather reports. You see others rushing to the store and grabbing milk, shovels, and extra water. Severe weather can strike throughout the entire year, with different seasons bringing various types of storms. Sometimes we are given notice well in advance of an approaching weather event; other times, it is only a few days. Anticipating emergency weather is stressful enough, but having to prepare for it, as well, can be overwhelming. Stay one step ahead of the game and keep supplies on hand for severe weather. Don’t know what you need and when? I’ve got all the details.

The Internet has a plethora of information on how to handle weather and emergency events. Some of the most suggested essentials to have ready include:

  • Tub, bag, or storage area for your supplies that should be easily accessible. Place a list of items within the container on top for easy reference;
  • Water—it is suggested to have one gallon of water per person per day;
  • Food—have non-perishable items for at least a week;
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank weather radio and an NOAA weather radio;
  • Flashlights with extra batteries;
  • First Aid kit and emergency reference information, such as a First-Aid book;
  • Extra batteries for all sizes;
  • Whistle to signal for help;
  • Dust masks—these masks help with protecting yourself from contaminated air and damaged housing;
  • Moist towelettes;
  • Garbage bags and ties;
  • Tissues and toilet paper;
  • Wrench or pliers—the tools can be used to turn off utilities if needed;
  • Manual can opener;
  • Local maps—because sometimes a GPS doesn’t work when a disaster occurs;
  • A charged cell phone with chargers and a backup battery;
  • Prescription and non-prescription medications;
  • Glasses and contact lens solution;
  • Infant formula or food;
  • Extra pet food and water;
  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person in your family;
  • Extra clothing for everyone in your house. Make sure the items are appropriate for the climate and weather. Also, don’t forget about rain gear;
  • Fire extinguisher;
  • Personal hygiene items;
  • Paper plates, cups, and plastic utensils;
  • Candles and matches in a waterproof container;
  • Important documents;
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape, in case you need to create a wall;
  • Cash—hidden in a secret place until needed;
  • Winter shovels and gear;
  • Books, cards, and games to help take your mind off things.

When it comes to important documents, this paperwork should be stored in a water- and fireproof container. The documents in that box should be vital records, medical documentation, financial and legal information, emergency contact numbers, and personal items. Examples are listed below:

  • Birth, marriage, and divorce certificates, including anything needed for adoption or child custody papers;
  • Passport;
  • Drivers’ licenses;
  • Social security cards;
  • Pet ownership papers and identification tags;
  • Housing agreements;
  • Vehicle documents;
  • Financial obligations, such as bills, loans, etc.;
  • Account information;
  • Living wills;
  • Sources of income;
  • Insurance policies;
  • List of medications, immunizations, allergies, and prescriptions for all family members and pets;
  • Medical power of attorney information;
  • Contact numbers for medical specialists, employers, churches, social service providers, insurance companies, repair services, and aid agencies, such as the Red Cross;
  • Irreplaceable family mementos, such as photos, keepsakes, artwork, and jewelry.

The items listed above are universal for any type of situation, from a major snowstorm, hurricane, tornado, etc. In addition, it is important to have a plan about what to do, where to go, etc. That way your family will know what to expect—for example, if you are stuck inside your house without power for a few days or flooding occurs. Of course, these are just suggestions and you can narrow down the supplies to what are mostly needed for the normal weather events in your area. For example, if you live on the coast, you probably don’t need the majority of supplies needed for a snowstorm but will need supplies for a hurricane.

For whatever weather event comes your way at any point in the year, it is important to be prepared with a severe weather kit. Make sure everyone in your family knows where it is located and the items inside. You’ll be thankful that you are ready when a storm hits.

xoxo,

Megan

An Insider’s Party Checklist

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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