Melt In Your Mouth Lemon Brownies

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This summer, my goal is to eat healthier and lose a little bit of weight. However, that is not stopping me from already deciding my cheat meals and desserts. On my list is the recipe below –  Lemon Brownies.

Lemon Brownies: 

Ingredients for the brownie mixture: 

  • 3/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Ingredients for the glaze: 

  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon zest

Directions for brownie mixture: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8 x 8 square pan with tin foil, then grease.
  2. In a mixing bowl, stir together the butter and sugar until combined. Add in the eggs, lemon juice, and lemon zest and stir.
  3. Next, stir in the flour and salt until everything is mixed together.
  4. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 28 to 30 minutes.
  5. Remove from oven and let cool.

Directions for glaze: 

  1. In a mixing bowl, combine the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Stir until smooth.
  2. Pour the glaze over the cooled brownies and let set.
  3. Garnish with lemon zest, if desired.

Enjoy!

 

xoxo,

Megan

P.S. Would you like for me to blog about my health journey this summer? Vote here! 

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How to Take the Stress Out of Traveling with Kids

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It’s summertime! And with summertime come trips and family vacations. Spending long hours traveling in a car, on a plane, or another mode of transportation can be tiring on both parents and children. But, there are tricks to keeping kids engaged and not asking the typical, “Are we there yet?”

Keep the Activities Coming: Pack a travel bag full of games, puzzles, coloring books, stickers, and more to keep your kids occupied. If you are traveling for several hours, try handing out a new item once per hour. Take the travel bag a step further and create a small bag for each child. This bag can be a pencil pouch or something of a similar size and include items that are interesting to that child. Lastly, play family games along the way. Have printable road bingo or a road trip scavenger hunt. Another classic family game is the license plates game, where everyone competes to see how many different license plates they can find. When traveling by airplane, it can be hard to pack all of these items into your carry-on. Instead, try downloading kid-friendly apps with games and videos on your iPhone or iPad. This way, your children will stay engaged in an activity other than running up and down the aisles of the plane.

Pack a Snack Bag without Sweets: Kids will get hungry going from place to place. Be sure to have their favorite treats to ease their hunger and avoid the hangry mood (hungry plus angry). However, remember one thing: don’t include sweets. There is nothing worse than being in a public tourist attraction with a child having a sugar rush. Include in the bag savory treats like cheese cubes, pretzels, fruit, and veggies. Don’t forget water to drink!

Start a Travel Journal: Put an educational spin on your trip and have your kids start a travel journal. This travel journal can include drawings, lists, and stories about the interesting places you visit, the food you eat, and the various activities you do. Also, collect postcards from different places. With these postcards, you can either write a message on the back and mail them to yourself or include them in the journal. Another way to engage your kids in the travel journal is to give them a camera to take pictures. This child-friendly camera will allow kids to capture their favorite sites and what interests them. Types of cameras can include disposable or Polaroid.

Have a First-Aid Kit and a Clean-up Kit: When you are traveling with kids, anything can happen. Be prepared with a First-Aid kit and a clean-up kit for spills. In the First-Aid kit, include band-aids, gauze pads, a digital thermometer, cold pack, sunscreen, bug spray, aloe vera, saline solution, antibacterial wipes, medicine, and anything else you would normally include. For the clean-up kit, put in antibacterial wipes, paper towels, small garbage bags, zip-lock bags, and extra clothing and diapers.

Plan Ahead: Plan your trip and make your reservations well in advance. Along with hotel and flight reservations, buy tickets for attractions ahead of time. In addition, plan out a schedule for your trip, including the various activities for each day. Check out the websites for the places you’ll visit, see the nearby restaurants, and other sites to help your trip go smoothly. However, one of the most important things to remember is to stay flexible! If you have one attraction planned for a day and end up doing something else, don’t worry! Don’t plan too much or too little. The ultimate goal of the trip is to have fun and make memories with your family. Also, have a plan of what you’re going to pack in regards to clothes for your kids. Have a to-do list and schedule of what needs to be done in the final days leading up to your trip.

Bring Your Child’s Must-need Items: Don’t forget to bring your child’s favorite stuffed animal, toy, or blanket—anything they normally carry around and need to have at home. These items will help kids feel safe and comfortable while exploring new surroundings. Plus, it might help prevent some emotional break-downs.

Traveling with kids can sometimes be stressful. However, use the tips above to ease that stress and create lasting family memories.

xoxo,

Megan

Tips and Tricks for a Fabulous Summertime Party

Party 2

While the kids are out of school, and the days of summer are long, there is no better time to have a summer party with family and friends. Turn your backyard or house into a fun getaway, and party into the wee hours of the morning with these party ideas.

There are several themes for summer parties. Different ideas include beach/under the sea, patriotic, luau, ice cream social, backyard movie night, picnic, camping, fiesta, low country boil and, of course, the classic pool party. When it comes to choosing your theme, think about what type of party you want to have and where your guests will have the most fun. Some questions to consider — would you enjoy a fiesta or a low country boil? If camping isn’t your thing, don’t have a camping themed event. Remember, you are going to be spending time planning and hosting this party, so pick a theme you are excited about and enjoy. Another thing to keep in mind is the type of guests you are inviting. Are they all adults, or are both adults and kids invited?

After choosing the theme of the party, start thinking about the invitation, decorations, food, games/crafts, and party favors. A good place to go for ideas is to look online, including your trustworthy friend, Pinterest. Some of my favorite party ideas are listed below and can be used for multiple summer party themes.

Decorations:

Decorations always set the mood of the party. Go all out, and turn your party area into the beach, under the sea, a backyard BBQ, etc. For some general summer ideas, use sand buckets for snacks and toy shovels for scooping. If your event is outside, keep the sun and bugs under control by filling a bucket with sunscreen and bug spray for guests to use. Get creative and decorate the bucket, and add a cute sign. Another party must is a photo booth. Add props related to your theme and a backdrop. Guests will love taking home a memento from the day. For nighttime parties, place glow sticks in a clear bowl, filled with ice and bottled/canned drinks. This decoration makes a festive and colorful addition to your party tables.

Food:

Along with salty, sweet and fruity snacks, be original with your food options. For drinks, serve the traditional summer beverages — lemonade, sweet tea, soft drinks and water, but add in Sunny D. This bright orange thirst quencher will be loved by kids of all ages and bring in a little bit more of the summer oasis. Want something different than the common party drink? Try this Pina Colada Sangria recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups Moscato
  • 20 oz can of pineapple juice (crushed pineapple may be added, as well)
  • 1 ½ cups coconut rum

Directions:

  • Mix all ingredients together in a pitcher. Refrigerate overnight, and serve chilled.

As always, summer parties call for s’ mores. Turn this classic backyard treat into a party favorite with an s’mores bar. Set up the table with marshmallows, Hershey’s chocolate bars, and graham crackers. Add in more flavors, and include bananas, strawberries, Reese’s peanut butter cups, Ritz crackers, Hershey’s cookies, and cream candy bars and York peppermint patties.

Games and Crafts:

One of my favorite ideas for a party activity is creating a movie theater right in your own backyard. This activity works for all different types of parties because you can show a movie that matches your theme. First, you need a screen. Some options include showing the movie on the side of a house, tool shed or other flat surface or hanging a flat bed sheet between two objects. Next, you need a projector, laptop and sound system. Computer speakers, stereo amplifiers and a boom box are great options to get the sound louder.

If you are looking for guests to get in touch with their creative sides, add a craft or DIY project to the party. One option is decorating flip-flops which can be purchased at the Dollar Store. Also, buy different colors of paint, Sharpies, stickers, buttons and more. Your visitors will enjoy getting to put their own spin on something they can take home.

Don’t forget about party favors. Make goodie bags with items related to your theme. Include snack-items, games or something unique and special to remember the event.

xoxo,

Megan

A “Win” for Me

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As we start the first day of a three day weekend, I can’t help, but think about everything that has happened. I am wrapping up my first year as a teacher and completely understand the “teacher struggles of May.” (T-minus 11 days until summer, by the way.) Teaching has been the most challenging yet wonderful thing I have ever done. Also, it is one of the most fulfilling things I have encountered. Those students…my kids…are why I try to work hard and be the best teacher I can day after day.

No matter how much you enjoy something, bad things still happen. Since March, I have been struggling with my depression and anxiety BIG TIME. On Sunday, March 31st, my sweet Nana went to Heaven. She was more than a grandmother to me. Growing up, my mom, sister, and I lived with my grandparents and Nana was actually a second mother. She was there for every school event, summer day, and tough time. It is just now getting real that Nana is no longer with us.

Grief is an extra “ingredient” that makes dealing with depression and anxiety so hard. There have been days I didn’t want to get up. There have been days I felt as if I wasn’t the best teacher for my kids because I zoomed out too often. There have been days when I have laid and watched hours of Netflix in the dark. However, I have discovered that it is okay to be feeling this way. It is okay to grieve. But, it is also important to remember that things will get better.

This morning, I got my car inspected. Yes, it is a small thing, but I have been trying to do this for a while. It is a win and that is all I need right now. Good things happen. Three day weekends happen. So, right now, I’m going to take my win and enjoy these days, the sunshine, and the unofficial start of summer.

xoxo,

Megan

The Power of the Pause in a Busy Life

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The days are busy and the hours are packed with items to complete on our to-do lists. Let’s all admit it – life can be hectic, no matter what stage of life you are in. It can be easy to get into a routine of working all the time with little to no rest. Yet, this habit can make one tired, stressed, and not the best version of themselves. To renew your energy and add more balance to your life, practicing the power of the pause is key.

According to CEO of The Energy Project, Tony Schwartz, “human beings perform best and are most productive when they alternate between periods of intense focus and intermittent renewal.” In addition, author Cara Bradley writes in her article on mindful.org, that it is a commitment to practice the pause, but “taking the time to just be still and quiet gives your nervous system a chance to regain balance.” Sounds persuasive, right? Pausing in a bustling lifestyle is a form of self-care and one that should be done, often. Practicing the pause can be done for a couple of minutes, hours, or longer. One thing to keep in mind that no matter how long you pause, you need to omit noise and embrace silence.

Noise is all around us. Outer noise in our various environments and inner noise in our heads. Bradley is correct when she states that “we are over-stimulated with noise.” Don’t you hate it when you are trying to get to sleep and the thoughts in your head keep you awake? Well, practicing the silence side of the pause helps. Just like noise, there is outer and inner silence.

Pausing for a Short Period of Time:

First, whenever you are ready or in need of a break or pause, turn off all the outer noises, such as phones, televisions, etc. Also, try to get yourself in a silent environment away from distractions. To find inner silence, begin relaxing with breathing exercises and meditation. One way to do this is through the exercise below:

  1. While sitting down, place your feet on the floor, hands on your thighs, and close your eyes.
  2. Think about your feet and pay attention to where they are on the ground. Notice everything around you.
  3. Find your heartbeat and focus your mind on the rhythm of your pulse. Do the same for your breathing. At this point, you should begin to feel at ease and your body should start to relax.
  4. Continue this for a few minutes or however long you need to pause.

Practice this method by scheduling 1 to 2-minute breaks every hour. Pauses can happen at any time, such as getting in and out of your car, before heading into a meeting, or finishing a hectic errand. Always include a short pause when you wake up in the morning and right before you go to bed at night.

Pausing for a Longer Period of Time:

Inner silence can last longer than only a few minutes. Settle down with your favorite activities, such as an evening bath with candles and music, an afternoon walk, or reading and napping on a rainy Saturday. Get in the mindset with the same techniques as listed above. Trust me, there is no harm in taking a whole day and doing nothing. Find what “pause” works best for you and add it into your schedule.

There are many benefits to the power of the pause. Reduced stress, more balance, and focus increase in awareness of healthy choices, and a better you are just a few of the reasons. Make sure you practice the pause daily and more peace will be added into your life.

xoxo,

Megan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Best of Nicholas Sparks

Author Nicholas Sparks once said, “Over time, quality work will lead to an audience for your work.” This quote is an accurate representation of the fan base Sparks has created throughout the years with his timeless novels. From The Longest Ride toDear John, Nicholas Sparks is one of my all-time favorite authors and the books below are ones that I could read over and over again. Plus, most of his stories have a connection to North Carolina, as the author lives in the Tarheel state himself.

The Longest Ride

Speaking of North Carolina connections, The Longest Ride has the closest setting to Forsyth County. Two stories interconnect in this novel and feature the locations of King, Winston-Salem, and Black Mountain College near Asheville. The first is about widower Ira Levinson, who reminisces about life with his wife, Ruth. The second story is about a college student attending Wake Forest University, Sophia Danko, and young rodeo star Luke Collins. While out with her friends, Danko meets Collins and the two fall in love. On the way home from a date, they notice a car that had drifted off the road and crashed in an embankment. Inside was Ira Levinson. Throughout time, the trio develop a friendship and share stories about life, love, and heartache.

True Believer

Published in 2005, True Believer focuses on the story of New Yorker Jeremy Marsh and small-town librarian Lexie Darnell. Marsh is known for debunking supernatural claims in his magazine column. After hearing about a phenomenon where ghostly lights appear in a cemetery in Boone Creek, North Carolina, he decided to travel down south and investigate for himself. There, he meets Darnell and a future for the couple starts to unfold. In the end, Marsh has to make the difficult decision of going back to New York or following his heart. If you are a fan of True Believer, I would definitely recommend reading the book’s sequel, At First Sight.

Safe Haven

Just like The Longest Ride, Safe Haven was made into a movie in 2013. The movie was good, but in my opinion, the book is better. Newcomer Erin comes to Southport, North Carolina and takes on a new identity, changes her name to Katie, and puts life with her abusive husband behind her. While there, she meets her new neighbor, Jo, and the town’s store owner, Alex, a widower with two children. However, upon discovering his wife has left, her husband, Kevin, becomes furious and learns that Erin is now Katie living in a small North Carolina town. Quickly, he takes off to find her. Meanwhile, Jo encourages Katie to develop a romantic relationship with Alex and create a family with his children. Through twists and turns…I’m stopping here, because the book has a big surprise ending that I don’t want to ruin for anyone. However, I can tell you that Safe Haven is a book you can’t put down and one you’ll quickly fall in love with.

Other popular Nicholas Sparks books include The Notebook, A Walk to Remember, Nights in Rodanthe, The Last Song, and Message in a Bottle. As an avid reader of this author, trust me, once you pick up a Nicholas Sparks book, you’ll want to read all the novels in his collection.

xoxo,

Megan

My Lesson in Patience

Image result for growing plants

We all have those moments – the ones that make you stop in your tracks and think about a lesson you just learned. Recently, I had one of those moments. A few weeks ago, I discovered plants that would start growing in a pot on your windowsill and could then be transplanted into the ground. Never really having luck with plants, I decided to give planting another try. I figured I didn’t have much to lose, as the small plants were less than $5.00 (thank you Target dollar section). My seven plants ranged from daisies to watermelons. Once home, I prepared my plants as instructed, placed them on the windowsill, and hoped for the best.

After a few days of watering and waiting, my patience almost got the best of me. I kept thinking “Why aren’t the plants growing?” Keep in mind, it had been less than a week, but I wanted to see results. Then, it hit me; the moment that made me stop in my tracks and reflect on a life lesson. I was in a hurry because I wanted my plants to grow. I wanted tomatoes, cucumbers, and fresh daisies without the wait. It takes time for the seeds to grow into plants, but that’s not what I wanted. The life lesson I learned through this realization was the importance of being patient, and in time, all things will grow and become what they’re meant to be.

Yes, this lesson is probably one you have heard all your life, myself included. However, sometimes these lessons don’t stick with you until these “realization moments” occur. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, patience can be defined as “the habit or fact of being patient and being able to bear without complaint.” Unfortunately, one of the main things about being patient is waiting, waiting for the right time for something to happen. My plants will grow in their own, right time. I can’t dig my fingers into the soil and pull on the seeds and make them grow. After all, these seeds aren’t Jack’s magic beanstalk seeds. I had to be patient. I had to wait.

Quickly, I began to think about how I could use this new nugget of knowledge in other aspects of my life. What other things have I been rushing through or wanting to immediately happen? How many times have I wanted Monday to turn into Friday? How many times have I just wanted something to be over with? The beauty of patience is that it allows you the chance to take things in and actually notice your surroundings. You can enjoy the present and make more memories. Yes, that can be easier said than done. Sometimes life and stress get in the way, and we live in a world where we want things at our fingertips instantly (hello, online shopping and overnight shipping?). However, patience is a virtue, one that we must strive for each day. It’s a virtue I’m still striving for and learning.

I’m reminded of the value of patience through the story of the Chinese bamboo tree. Within this tale, a Chinese bamboo tree spends four years growing underneath the soil and in its fifth year of life, it sprouts to be over 80 feet tall. Within those four years, some tree farmers could lose their patience, while others continue on, because they know the trees are creating a strong foundation for what’s to come. Without being patient, the farmers might not be able to see the beauty of the Chinese bamboo trees.

Just like my plants, anything worth having takes time and patience to become what it is meant to be. While you have patience waiting for something, you learn more about yourself and lessons that you can take throughout your life. It’s a hard lesson to learn, but there will be many “realization moments” in your life that will help those lessons settle in. Thanks to my plants, I have been able to understand the value of this virtue and how to apply it to my life. Plus, I’m still perfecting that skill, as only four out of seven of my plants have bloomed so far. Here’s to having patience (and hope)!

xoxo,

Megan

Strawberry Cinnamon Rolls

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One of my favorite things about any holiday is the chance to spend time with my family. Almost every holiday morning, we have a special breakfast together, either before or after the morning festivities. This Easter Sunday is going to be a little different with some of my loved ones being far away, however, our breakfast tradition still stands and this time, we are making these fantastic strawberry cinnamon rolls. This recipe is perfect for spring and Easter morning.

Ingredients: 

  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup margarine or butter, softened
  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 .25 ounce package of instant yeast, roughly 2 tsp
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup water

Filling

  • 1 cup strawberry jam
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 cups sliced strawberries

Icing

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1-2 tbsp milk

Directions:

    • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
    • Heat the milk in a small saucepan until warm. Mix in the butter until melted. Let cool to a lukewarm temperature.
    • In a large bowl, combine 2 1/4 cup flour, yeast, sugar, and salt. Mix well.
    • Stir in egg and 1/4 cup of water. Then, stir in the milk mixture until dough forms.
    • Add in another cup of flour. When dough comes together, flip it onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth.
    • Return the dough ball to the bowl, cover with a damp towel, and let rise for 10 minutes.
    • Roll out dough into a 15×10 inch rectangle. Spread the strawberry jam all over the dough. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Then, evenly cover with the chopped strawberries.
    • Roll up the dough and pinch the seam into a seal. Cut into 12 equal size rolls.
    • Place rolls cut side up in a greased 11×13 baking dish. Cover and let rise until doubled (30 mins).
    • Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
  • For the icing, mix the powdered sugar and cinnamon with 1 tbsp of milk. Stir until glaze forms. Drizzle glaze over finished rolls. You can also add a few drops of lemon juice for additional flavor!

Enjoy!

xoxo,

Megan

DIY Projects for All Ages

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Technology is a big part of children’s lives today. While iPhones, tablets, computers, and more can be a creative outlet, there is nothing like doing a DIY arts and crafts project with your little ones. The ideas below can be used for kids of all ages on snow days, during the summer, and at any time year-round. All of the supplies can be found in local craft stores, discount stores, or right in your own home. Don’t worry if a craft doesn’t go as planned or about sticking straight to the directions. Just be creative and have fun.

Homemade Play Dough

Supplies:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup salt
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tsp. vegetable oil
  • 4 tsp. cream of tarter
  • food coloring

Directions:

  1. Mix all the supplies together, except the food coloring, in a large pot. Place on the stove on medium heat. The mixture will be more liquid at first, but then will form into a dough consistency.
  2. Stir continually for two minutes until the mixture completely develops into dough.
  3. Remove from heat and cool. Then, knead the dough for a few minutes.
  4. Divide into as many colors as you want and add food coloring.

 

Tin Can Wind Chime:

Supplies:

  • tin cans in different sizes
  • acrylic paint
  • paintbrushes
  • painter’s tape
  • hammer and nails
  • twine
  • scissors
  • 10” wide embroidery hoop
  • hot-glue gun

Directions:

  1. Remove cans’ labels and rinse out with hot water. Let dry completely.
  2. Paint cans a solid color, applying two coats. Then, paint designs of your choosing on the cans. The painter’s tape can be handy with making stripes and shapes.
  3. With the hammer and a nail, create a small hole through the center of one end of a can. Cut a string from the twine, thread through the hole, and knot on the inside. Vary the lengths of the twine for each can. Continue until all the cans have been nailed and twined.
  4. Wrap twine around the embroidery hoop until completely covered. Then, cut three pieces of twine to make a hanger. Tie each piece around the hoop and then bring together in a single knot at the end of the strings. Make sure the hoop hangs level.
  5. Finally, tie the cans around it, spacing evenly. Also, hang the cans at different heights, but close enough to hit each another when the wind blows. After tying the knot, add a drop of hot glue to keep it secure.

 

Repurposed Jewelry Magnets

Supplies:

  • old brooches
  • large buttons
  • old charms
  • old earrings
  • round magnets
  • hot-glue gun

Directions:

  1. Using a piece of jewelry, hot-glue a magnet to the back. Be sure to cut the round magnets to the size of the item, if needed.
  2. Place onto your refrigerator to hold artwork, reminders, report cards, and more.

 

Pool Noodle Sprinkler

Supplies:

  • foam pool noodle
  • small piece of foam
  • duct tape
  • skewer or ice pick
  • water hose

Directions:

  1. Puncture the pool noodle in multiple spots on all sides of the noodle with the skewer or ice pick. The more holes, the better.
  2. Stuff one end with a small piece of foam, and duct tape to secure.
  3. Slide the water hose into the other end of the noodle, pushing in a few inches. Then, turn water on.

 

Funny Face Flip Book:

Supplies:

  • white cardstock
  • cardboard
  • 3 metal book rings
  • hole punch
  • markers
  • scissors
  • stickers and googly eyes

Directions:

  1. Fold the white cardstock in half and cut down the middle. Then, fold the two halves in half again and cut. You should end up with four pieces. Then, cut the cardboard into the same sizes as the cardstock pieces, for a backing.
  2. Next, cut each piece of the cardstock into thirds. Punch a hole in one end of the pieces. Then, lay three pieces onto your cardboard and punch another hole in the cardboard. There should be three holes, matching up to your cardstock’s holes.
  3. Using the metal book rings, attach the cardstock pieces to your cardboard backing.
  4. Draw facial features onto each of the cardstock pieces. In the top sections, draw eyes, in the middle sections draw noses, and bottom sections draw mouths. Feel free to add eyelashes, eyebrows, teeth, etc. Get creative. Also, don’t forget to use the stickers and googly eyes.
  5. Once done, you can flip through the book, creating different face combinations.

xoxo,

Megan

 

Happy Sunday!

.Sunday. Take it slow and give your soul a chance to catch up with your body.

Life update coming soon! But, I want to hear from YOU first.

What do you want to see on the blog? Travel posts, recipes, DIY projects, life updates? Post your thoughts in the comments. I want this blog to be as much yours as it is mine.

Thank you for your dedication to reading my blog!

xoxo,

Megan