7 Ways to Make Time for Yourself

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Let’s be honest with ourselves – life is busy. The days are filled with work, family, errands, appointments, and more. Sometimes we become stressed and tired, especially if we spend more time caring for others and neglect caring for ourselves.

Whether it is five minutes a day or an hour a week, make it a goal this new year to add self-care into your schedule. Some of the many self-care ideas are below. However, it is important to always choose an activity that is fun and relaxing for you.

  1. Exercise: Take a walk, join a gym, or participate in a fun class at the Y. Being active is good for your mind, body, and spirit. Research suggests aiming for at least 30 minutes of exercise per day. Don’t consider yourself too busy to exercise. If 30 minutes seems too much at one time, break it into smaller increments. Try 10 minutes at a time and then build up to adding 30 minutes into your daily schedule.
  2. Schedule a digital detox: We are attached to our electronic devices and rely on them most of the time. However, when we are dedicated to a screen, such as our phones or computers, we are detached from those around us and from ourselves. Make it a priority to devote an hour or two per day to place your devices in a different room and not to touch them. Then, try it for an afternoon or whole day during the weekend. Think about it – don’t you feel stressed out by constantly checking your emails, looking at social media profiles of others, comparing your life to theirs? The more time you spend away from your device, the more time you’ll feel relaxed and more confident in your own life.
  3. Develop a new hobby just for yourself: One of the main things in self-care is making sure you are putting yourself first. It isn’t a time to feel guilty that you aren’t taking care of others or indulging in something you normally won’t do. It is a time to better yourself, so you can be a better person for your loved ones. A way to do just that is by developing a new hobby or restarting one that you had given up, one that is just for yourself. Maybe it is reading a book each night, sewing, coloring in a coloring book, or listening to a podcast. A hobby should be something you enjoy and want to do in your “me time.”
  4. Declutter: For me, I can get stressed out when things are all over the place and in a mess. To help with that, decluttering and cleaning up is the key. Every now and then, declutter a certain area in your home. It might be changing your wardrobe every three months and giving away pieces of clothing that you haven’t worn in a long time. Or you could use five minutes of each day to tidy up a corner of a room until it is done. When things are in place, our minds are calm.
  5. Educate yourself and learn something new: If you or a loved one are dealing with an illness, major life change, etc., research the situation and learn about all the different elements of how you are able to help. Sometimes being in the know about something takes away a great deal of stress. Also, learn something to broaden your horizons. Have you always wanted to learn another language or how to do a special skill? Now is the time.
  6. Change things up: Take a different route to work or go to that new restaurant you have always wanted to try. It is pivotal to have a routine, but every now and then, be spontaneous and try something new. An example could be making each Friday night the night to do something different. Do a new activity with your family and friends each week.
  7. Reward yourself after accomplishing a small or difficult task. Overcoming all types of obstacles should be celebrated. Reward these times with a pedicure, going to a fancy store, etc.

Self-care needs to be a priority for everyone and a part of a person’s to-do list. Find something that helps you and don’t feel bad taking the time to focus on you. As mentioned above, self-care makes you a better person.

xoxo,

Megan

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You’re Guide to Discarding Important Documents

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Most people have moments when they come across a paycheck stub, bank statement, etc., and think to themselves, “Do I really need to keep this?” The answers vary based on the type of document. However, many people don’t know exactly when to throw them away (or shred). To help ease the confusion, I’ve got your answers below on discarding important documents 101.

  • Receipts should be kept for three years for any items that you need to itemize for your tax returns. Keep them with your tax documents.
  • Paycheck stubs have a lifespan of one year. Hang onto them until the end of the year to compare them with your W-2 and social security statements. Then, you can get rid of them.
  • Medical bills vary depending on your insurance. Receipts for expenses can be kept for one year unless your insurance company needs proof or verification of visits and claims. Your insurance may request bills for hospital visits, doctor’s appointments, etc., to be shown at certain times. Think about the type of care you received or the type of expense to determine whether or not you should keep them.Avoid discarding these expenses for up to three years. If medical expenses total more than 7.5% of your adjusted gross income, you can deduct them on your taxes. Keep these for three years with your tax records.
  • Bank and credit card statements need to be filed away for up to three years. The reason for holding onto bank statements is in case you are audited by the IRS. However, the three-year rule is a little different for your credit cards. If you have confirmed your charges and had proof of payment, then you can shred them. If you are using your credit card statements for tax deductions, hang on to them. Getting too much paper? Switch to online documents. Just remember to write a note, so you’ll know they are online when you go to retrieve them.
  • Utility bills can be scrapped after one year. The exception is if you are claiming a home office tax deduction. Then, our good three-year rule comes into play.
  • If you have records of loans that have been paid off, don’t get rid of them until it has been seven years. If you are still paying off a loan, store all records and statements together until you have paid it off and it has been seven years.
  • Tax returns also go by the three-year recommendation. The returns can be trashed after three years from the date you filed the original return. Hold onto the returns for seven years if you file a claim.
  • Investment and real estate records need to be handy for at least three years for audit reasons. In addition, you will be able to see how much taxes you owe when you sell the stocks or property.Monthly statements can be tossed when you have received your annual summaries.
  • Any contracts, insurance documents, stock certificates, or property records that are active need to be held in a safe place. Only discard once the contracts are completed, and policies expired.
  • There is never a lifespan on documents, such as marriage licenses, birth and death certificates, wills, adoption papers, and paid mortgages. These documents should always be kept and passed down between the generations.

The rule of thumb is to keep most important documents for at least three years. There are exceptions to the rule. But if you are in doubt about something, it is always good to hang onto it no matter how long. It is better to be safe than sorry.

xoxo,

Megan

You’re Invited! An Insider’s Guide to Birthday Invitations

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There are many times in a person’s life that call for a celebration—one being their birthday. The day when a person is born is very special and important. It is the one day out of a 365-day year where someone should be honored. One way to make this person feel special is by having a birthday party, and the first thing to do when you are hosting a bash is to send out invitations.

There are many ways to design birthday invitations. Depending on the type of soirée, there are a few etiquette rules to follow. To help ease some of the stress, there are stores and online sites that complete the invitations for you. However, birthday invitations are something you can do yourself, as long as you feel comfortable doing so. Don’t worry, because below I have an insider’s guide on what to include when creating your own birthday invitations. No matter what, though, birthday invitations should be unique and special.

  • Use the same theme or color scheme for your invitations as you are using for your celebration. An invitation should be the first thing to clue guests into what to expect. Are they coming to a fiesta or a luau? If you are going with a color scheme, err on the side of bright, vibrant colors. These shades should also be contrasting; that way they are eye-popping to the attendees.
  • Include all the basic information. Every layout needs to include the party’s purpose, such as “Emily’s 30th birthday,” the date, time, location, and RSVP details. Some other things to consider: are any special instructions, attire, whether it is a surprise or not, number of guests to bring, etc. List who is hosting the celebration, if it is not the guest of honor. Special instructions can include whether it is a children’s party, should an adult stay, or something guests need to bring that is specific to the event. For example, if the festivity includes painting, let guests know whether they should bring an apron or smock. Think about if you were the attendee coming to your event, what information would you want to know. If you are planning a child’s birthday, make sure to let the parents of the children coming know what to expect. If swimming is a part of the party, it is important to inform others about that.
  • Make the birthday honoree the star of the invitation. People want to know who they are celebrating and what for. Let the purpose stand out with a bigger font, different color, or an image. Be careful not to overload with images—only use one or two. While you want the information and person to stand out, you don’t want to overstimulate guests to the point where the invitation is confusing.
  • Be playful, if the invitation allows. Get creative with your wording and have fun. The design sets the tone for the event. Catchy phrases or taglines to common characters or pictures are always great to have, if they fit your theme.
  • Send the birthday party invitation out at least three weeks in advance, but no more than five weeks prior. The key is to let guests have enough time to RSVP without letting it sit in their hands for too long. Requesting a deadline to RSVP? Always remember to include that date on the invitation. This deadline should be about a week beforehand. Decide on whether the final number of guests is needed by any vendors, caterers, or if this deadline is set in stone. For more casual events, the RSVP date can be flexible.

Birthdays are meant to be a fun time, and hosting a bash can make it all the more memorable. Whether you are planning it for yourself or a loved one, use these tips above to make sure that your invitation creates the right feeling and sets your party on the right track.

xoxo,

Megan

Becoming…A Better Me in 2019 (Part 1)

Last night, as the clock ticked towards midnight, I found myself crying. It was happy tears that came pouring from my eyes. 2018 was a tough year, but when I started thinking about it, the year was probably one of the best ones yet.

Just to give you an overview of what happened in the now “last” year…

  • In January, my grandmother battled the flu and pneumonia. My family heard twice in the course of two weeks that she might succumb to the sickness.
  • Throughout the year, especially in the fall, she had numerous hospital visits and rehabilitation stays. We almost lost her when they had to do emergency surgery to drain fluid from her heart. In addition, it has been hard to watch someone you love so much, be so much in pain. We have had multiple doctors’ visits and waiting for test results. Lastly, my family has felt the emotions and tough love of being caregivers.
  • There has been financial stress. At times, we worried how we would make it to the end of the month.

All these things out may not seem much to you, but to me, they are what made me stronger. You may also be thinking “why was this year one of the bests?” Well, because of this…

  • I received a graduate certificate in middle grades education and accomplished my goal of becoming a teacher.
  • The opportunity of student teaching and getting a job at two great schools have made that dream and goal all the more of a reality. In these positions, I have been challenged and overcame obstacles that made me a better educator.
  • My sister got engaged and married in a beautiful ceremony.
  • Above all, my grandmother survived all the health scares. She is flourishing and doing marvelous for an 85 year old.

In fact, we all survived. And we are all here; stronger and ready to take on the next 365 days. So, yes, 2018 was a pretty great year.

Xoxo,

Megan

Last Minute Bites for New Year’s Eve

As another year comes to a close, there is no better way to celebrate than with family, friends, and delicious food! Sometimes it can be hard to find quick and easy recipes, but never fear, I’ve done the hard work for you. Enjoy these 3 simple appetizers for your New Year’s Eve festivities!
Mini Lasagna Roll-Ups
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Ingredients:
Filling:
  • 2 cups whole milk ricotta
  • 1 egg
  • The zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves, minced
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
Lasagna Roll-Ups:
  • 10 cooked lasagna noodles
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • Tomato sauce
Directions:
  1. In a large bowl, mix all of the filling ingredients together.
  2. Cut the cooked noodles individually in half widthwise.
  3. Spread the filling on each noodle half, leaving about an inch at one end.
  4. Roll the noodle up, beginning at the end with the filling.
  5. Cut the rolled noodle in half widthwise.
  6. Spread a small amount of sauce in the bottom of a casserole dish and place the noodles on top.
  7. Place a small scoop of sauce on top of each roll and top with mozzarella cheese.
  8. Bake at 350 degrees F for 15-20 minutes or until cheese is melted.
Cranberry Pinot Noir Meatballs
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Ingredients:
  • 1 (1 lb. 10 oz.) bag of Italian Style Meatballs
  • 1 (16 oz.) can whole cranberry sauce
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup Pinot Noir
  • 1 tsp spicy brown mustard
Directions:
  1. Prepare meatballs according to package directions.
  2. In a saucepan, combine cranberry sauce, brown sugar, Pinot Noir, and mustard. Whisk to combine over medium heat. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes or until mixture has thickened.
  3. Remove from heat and pour sauce over meatballs. Serve immediately or place in a crock pot on warm or low setting.
Homemade Soft Pretzel Bites with Cheese Sauce
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Ingredients:
Soft Pretzels:
  • 1 ½ cups warm water
  • 2 Tbsp. light brown sugar
  • 1 package active dry yeast (about 2 ¼ tsps.)
  • 3 ounces unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 ½ tsps. kosher salt
  • 4 ½ cups to 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • Vegetable oil
  • 3 quarts water
  • ½ cup baking soda
  • 1 whole egg, beaten with 1 Tbs. cold water
  • Coarse sea salt
Cheese Sauce:
  • ½ Tbs. unsalted butter
  • ½ Tbs. all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup milk
  • 8 ounces grated cheddar cheese
Directions:
Pretzels:
  1. Combine 1 ½ cups warm water, sugar, yeast, and butter in the bowl in a mixer with dough hook. Let sit for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the salt and flour and mix on low speed until combined. Increase speed to medium and continue kneading until dough is smooth and begins to pull from bowl. If dough appears too wet, add flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.
  3. Remove dough from bowl and knead into a ball.
  4. Oil a bowl with vegetable oil, add the dough, and coat with oil. Cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap and place in a warm spot until the dough doubles in size.
  5. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  6. Bring the 3 quarts water to a boil in a small roasting pan over high heat and carefully add in the baking soda. It will boil over; add slowly and be careful!
  7. Remove the dough from the bowl and divide into 8 equal pieces, about 4 ¼ to 4 ½ ounces each. Roll each piece into a long rope, about 22 inches. Cut the dough into one inch pieces to make the pretzel bites.
  8. Boil the bites in the water solution about 15 bites at a time for about 30 seconds. Remove with a large slotted spoon and place on a greased baking sheet.
  9. Brush the tops with egg wash and season with salt. Place into the oven and bake for 15-18 minutes until golden brown.
  10. Remove from oven and let sit 5 minutes.
Cheese Sauce:
  1. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in the milk and cook until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the cheddar cheese until smooth and all of the cheese is melted.
  2. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Pour of the pretzel bites or serve as a dip on the side.
Enjoy!
xoxo,
Megan

When is the Best Time to Buy…?

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Once again the holidays have come and gone and it’s almost a brand new year. Spending money on new purchases is probably the last thing on your mind. However, never fear, because you can plan your wish list around the months of the year. After all, a great bargain never goes out of style. Each month is known for its special deals on different items. According to experts, these deals are based on sale cycles, but some exceptions include fluctuations in prices and a retailer’s inventory. In addition, some products have seasonal specials, as well as being on sale at different times of the year.

January:

  • Holiday Decorations
  • Calendars and Planners
  • Toys
  • Exercise Equipment
  • Televisions
  • Bicycles
  • Houses
  • Small Appliances
  • Air-conditioning

February: President’s Day is a great time for retailers to have sales.

  • Furniture
  • Electronics
  • Cameras
  • Televisions (especially big-screens)

March:

  • Winter Clothing
  • Luggage
  • Camping Equipment
  • Toys
  • Outdoor Furniture

April:

  • Snow Blowers and Shovels
  • Computers
  • Electronics
  • Car Care Supplies
  • Home Improvement Supplies
  • Vacuums
  • Cookware
  • Auto Parts

May:

  • Easter Decorations
  • Grilling Tools
  • Mattresses
  • Pet Supplies
  • Refrigerators
  • Cookware
  • Vacuums
  • Gym Memberships
  • Party Supplies

June:

  • Gym Memberships
  • Tools
  • Dishes

July:

  • Jeans
  • Winter Coats
  • Furniture
  • Party Supplies
  • Grilling Tools

August:

  • School and Office Supplies
  • College Textbooks
  • Kitchen Accessories
  • Pool Supplies
  • Pillows
  • Linens
  • Socks
  • Underwear
  • Outdoor Toys
  • Outdoor Furniture

September:

  • Computers
  • Swimsuits
  • Pool Toys
  • Summer Clothing and Shoes
  • Large Appliances
  • Cars
  • Trees, Shrubs and Bulbs
  • iPhones
  • Lawn Mowers

October:

  • Air-conditioning
  • Lawn Mowers
  • Patio Furniture
  • Large Appliances
  • Tires
  • Jeans
  • Grills

November: Don’t forget about Black Friday!

  • Flooring and Carpeting
  • Grills
  • Halloween Decorations
  • Cookware
  • Electronics
  • Tools

December:

  • Cars
  • Golf Clubs
  • Gift Cards
  • Computers
  • Cell Phones
  • Flooring and Carpeting
  • Electronics
  • Winter Clothes

Before any shopping trip, it helps to do your research, especially when it comes to making larger purchases, such as digital cameras or cars. Websites, including consumerreports.org and amazon.com are great places to start. On these sites, you can read customer reviews and learn more about the product. There is nothing wrong with shopping around, whether at stores or online. Shopping around allows you to see where you can get the same product for the best price.

Along with doing your research, it’s important to plan things out. Buy a calendar or make a list of when to buy different things. This is helpful particularly for larger shopping trips. A calendar and list are great for keeping coupons in order, too. Coupons are available in the Sunday newspaper, online and through phone apps. Another option is looking at coupons.com for deals. If you are shopping online, search for the store’s name and coupon codes before making a purchase. If you are a frequent shopper at a certain shop, ask about their loyalty rewards program. Most likely they will have one and it will be beneficial to join. Many of these programs give their members special deals and coupons to use. In addition, some programs give a percent back or discount on your purchases.

Try to schedule your shopping trips around holiday and seasonal specials. Holidays, such as Presidents’ Day, Black Friday, and Memorial Day, are known for their big sales and special deals. When it comes to sales, no matter if it is a special time of the year or not, it’s helpful to read the sales advertisements and flyers carefully. The small print could contain information that would limit or prevent a deal. Lastly, the days of the week also play a factor in when products are discounted.

Sunday:

  • Groceries
  • Major Appliances

Monday:

  • Cars
  • Electronics

Tuesday:

  • Movies
  • Airline Tickets

Wednesday:

  • Groceries
  • Jewelry

Thursday:

  • Clothes
  • Handbags

Friday:

  • Gas
  • Accessories

Saturday:

  • Department Store Items
  • Jackets, Coats and Outerwear

Shopping can be fun and hectic, especially when it comes to larger shopping trips or purchasing bigger products. It is important to remember and use some of the tried and true shopping tips. These tips can help take some of the stress out of the adventure. After all, shopping is supposed to be retail therapy, right?

xoxo,

Megan

TBT: Frozen Hot Chocolate


It is throwback Thursday time with a post from 2017!

I LOVE, LOVE a good cup of hot chocolate, but sometimes I don’t want it hot. I want it….well, cold or more like frozen. Try this recipe the next time you want this chocolatey drink. Works great for summertime, too!

Ingredients: 

  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp hot cocoa mix
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 12 ounces evaporated milk
  • 4 1/2 cups ice
  • Whipped cream
  • Chocolate chips
  • Marshmallows

Directions:

  1. Combine sugar, cocoa mix, and butter in the top of a double boiler. Stir until melted.
  2. Stir in semi-sweet chocolate chips. Mix until mixture is smooth.
  3. Slowly add in 1/2 cup of the evaporated milk and stir until smooth. Cool to room temperature.
  4. Combine chocolate mixture with the remaining evaporated milk and ice in a blender. Blend until smooth.
  5. Pour into frosty glasses and top with whipped cream, marshmallows and chocolate chips,  if desired.

Enjoy!

Xoxo,

Megan

On the 6th Day of Christmas…

The holiday season is a time for giving. We give time as well as gifts to family, friends, and others in our lives. But, it is also important to give to those we don’t know and celebrate the real meaning of the season. All ages can contribute their time by giving back to their community. It doesn’t have to be a huge amount of time, even the smallest project can make an impact. Need some ideas for giving back? Read below. 

• Visit a nursing home: This can be done as a family or with a group. Make cards and decorations beforehand and take them with you to give to the residents. Also, bring some holiday cheer by singing a few carols while there. Be sure to call ahead and schedule your visit. 
• Volunteer at a homeless shelter: When I was in elementary school, my Girl Scout troop volunteered at the Salvation Army shelter during December. We helped serve dinner, talked with the residents, and then sang Christmas carols. In addition, we brought bags filled with snacks, toiletries, and gloves and socks to pass out. Looking back this was one of my favorite memories of giving back during the holidays. Take some time and visit your local homeless shelter. Help with a meal or make bags to hand out.Personalize these care kits to the different types of shelters. For example, add more products for women if you are taking them to a woman’s shelter and don’t forget to include something for the kids. Want to make it resemble the holidays more? Fill a stocking with granola bars, water bottles, a toothbrush, and toothpaste, socks and gloves.
• Donate to a food bank: During the holiday season, this act of kindness is one of the most common, but yet is still in great demand, especially after the holidays. Take your kids to the grocery store and let them pick out the nonperishable goods to donate to your local food bank or ministry with a food pantry. Also, pick up some toiletries to include with your donation
• Send Christmas cards to deployed soldiers or to your local veterans hospitalThis simple act goes a long way. Be creative and create homemade Christmas cards for soldiers overseas and fore veterans at the veterans hospital. These cards will help them remember that people are thinking about them and their sacrifices for our country during the holidays. You can also prepare a care package to send with the cards. There are several organizations that help soldiersreceive the packages, such as Support Our Troops and Holiday Mail for Heroes. 
• Cook and bake: Cooking a meal or baking cookies is a great gesture to say thank-you to the various people in our lives. Prepare a casserole to freeze or a crockpot meal for your neighbors in need or take a meal to the employees at the police department, fire station, or EMS workers. Don’t want to do a meal? Bake cookies and sweets to give to neighbors, teachers, librarians, post office works, your mailman, and many more. 
• Deliver hot chocolate to the Salvation Army bell ringers: It can be cold standing outside stores, ringing the bells for a good cause. But you can make things warmer by bringing them hot chocolate. Make a batch and fill a thermos with the chocolate drink. Then, take cups and deliver the snack to the volunteers at various stores. In addition, bake some holiday cookies to take with you. 
• Clean out the toy box and closet: If there is a toy your child hasn’t played with in a while or a coat you haven’t worn in years, donate it to a local shelter or toy and coat drive. Someone will appreciate being able to give their child a gift this season or have something warm to wear when the weather gets cooler. Also, gather items for an angel on the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree or the holiday stocking drives. 

 

Whatever way you choose to give back, know you are making a difference in a person’s life. Yes, the holidays are a busy time, but there is always time to remember the reason for the season. 

xoxo,

Megan

On the 5th Day of Christmas…

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There is nothing better than your house smelling like Christmas during the holidays. An easy way to do that is by making this simple cranberry orange stovetop potpourri. Plus, it makes a great present for teachers, hostess gifts, and more! It takes a little more planning and assembling than other presents, but definitely worth it, and you can also make one for yourself! All you need is:

  • 1–16 oz. Mason jar with lid
  • ½ cup fresh cranberries
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 2 slices of an orange
  • 23 cinnamon sticks
  • Nutmeg
  • Water
  • Burlap
  • Ribbon or twine
  • Gift tag

Then, fill the jar with the ingredients and immerse in water. Decorate the outside with the burlap, ribbon or twine, and add a gift tag with instructions on how to use. The instructions should say something like: “Pour contents into a small sauce pan and simmer over low heat. Add water as needed. Enjoy!

xoxo,

Megan