Merry Christmas!

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From my family to yours, a very Merry Christmas!

Thank you for taking this blog journey with me. I look forward to the many wonderful things to come!

xoxo,

Megan

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My Christmas Wish

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Yesterday, I went to go pick-up a medicine for my grandmother. This medicine happened to be at the pharmacy in the local hospital’s cancer center. As I walked through the doors, a sense of empathy overcame me. I remember walking these floors before when I took my grandmother to chemotherapy or attended a doctor’s appointment with my mom. However, this time it was different. No one in my family has cancer, but I understood the battle everyone in that building was facing.

While I waited for the medicine, a couple came in to speak with the pharmacist. The husband had just been diagnosed with cancer and was being informed about his treatment. While I listened to the conversation, I kept thinking “why would God let this happen to someone right before Christmas and how can I help?”

The question “how can I change the world” has laid heavily on my heart this past week. There are so many causes I care about: veterans, mental health, cancer patients and families, children, pets, and homelessness. How can I help them all? My answer: complete a random act of kindness every day and God will do the rest.

I talk about spreading kindness and giving to others a lot; however, it is so important to do in today’s world. My Christmas wish is that by next Christmas, the world will be a better place and that everyone will be on their way to making a difference.

Merry Christmas!

xoxo,

Megan

 

Hello, Winter!

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Happy Winter! Today is the first day of a new season and is the shortest day and longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. December 21st is known as winter solstice and happens due to the tilt of the sun towards the Earth.

Celebrate the day with your family and friends. This simple craft will have your home smelling good all season long and makes a great Christmas decoration!

Clove Oranges

Materials:

  • An orange
  • Thin colored ribbon
  • Cloves

Directions: 

  1. Wrap the ribbon around the orange, twisting at the base, dividing the orange into quarters.
  2. Feed the ends under the piece of ribbon at the top of the orange.
  3. Tie a overhand knot at one end of the orange to keep the ribbon in place.
  4. Press cloves into the orange. Create any pattern you would like and be creative.
  5. Display your oranges in a bowl and hang onto your Christmas tree with extra ribbon for hanging.

xoxo,

Megan

 

 

Nana’s Homemade Mac and Cheese

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The last week before Christmas can be stressful and busy. There is last-minute shopping, baking treats for loved ones, and finalizing Christmas Eve and Day plans. While this time is enjoyable, you might not be thinking about your daily life practices, such as eating regular meals. Never fear, I have the perfect to-go dish for any pre-Christmas dinner – my Nana’s homemade mac and cheese (my favorite meal ever!)

Nana’s Homemade Mac and Cheese: 

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces elbow macaroni
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Directions:

  1. Cook macaroni for 9 minutes. Drain, cover, and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In medium saucepan, melt butter. Blend in flour, mustard, salt, and pepper.
  3. Cook until mixture is smooth and bubbly; gradually add in milk.
  4. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture boils; simmer 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  5. Gradually mix in cheese. Stir over low heat until cheese is melted.
  6. Add pasta; mix together lightly and pour into 2-quart casserole.
  7. Bake 25 minutes.

Enjoy!

xoxo,

Megan

 

Anxiety, Let Me Introduce You to the Holidays

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Can I be honest and say that December has been an uphill battle for me? Every day, I want to break into tears and my anxiety and depression have been all over the place, like it is every year when the holiday season rolls around.

The holidays are supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year with all the events, decorations, and music. However, the holidays are hard for people with mental illnesses. It is difficult to always pretend to be happy when you really aren’t. With the loss of my dog and this year’s other challenges, I’m drained of the Christmas spirit. Add in the anxiety of being overwhelmed by the season makes me just… sad. I keep thinking about the song “Where Are You Christmas” from The Grinch. Where is Christmas? Have I changed so much to where the magic of the holiday is gone?

To help ease my worries, I have been cooking, reading, exercising, and taking time for myself. Sometimes, those practices don’t always make me happy and feel better. Yet, there are still the moments of laughter and love with my family and friends that make the holidays all worth it.

Remember that for some people Christmas is hard. Spread kindness and love and understand that the holidays are still meaningful to them, but also a little somber. Keep in mind mental illnesses don’t take a holiday break and will be with the person during the special moments. Make them feel loved and supported. Give them space and let them know they don’t have to do everything that’s involved with the season. There is nothing worse than being pushed to take part in an event, when you are hurting inside.

xoxo,

Megan

The Beauty of the Holiday Season

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The holidays are a memorable time for many. It’s the season for decorating, singing, and enjoying each other’s company. During this season, people have their own special traditions. From Christmas to Hanukkah to St. Lucia’s Day, let’s take a look at some of the various holiday traditions throughout the world.

Christmas: This Christian holiday celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ and is a religious and cultural holiday. During Christmas, people will exchange gifts, decorate trees, attend special services at church, mail holiday cards, and eat hearty meals with family and friends. Another favorite tradition is Santa Claus. Within the Greek and Russian Orthodox churches, the holiday is held 13 days after the 25th, on the Epiphany, or Three Kings Day, when it is believed that the Three Wise Men finally arrived at Jesus in the manger. Some fun facts about well-known Christmas traditions are: in 1931, construction workers put the first Christmas tree in Rockefeller Plaza; poinsettias were brought from Mexico to America in 1828; and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was created in 1939 in a poem used to bring customers to the Montgomery Ward department store.

Hanukkah: For eight days in November or December, the Jewish holiday Hanukkah or Chanukah occurs. Also known as the Festival of Lights, the holiday commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem during the second century B.C. At this temple, one day’s worth of oil burned for eight days in it. Lighting of the menorah, food, games, and gifts are just a few traditions of Hanukkah. The menorah is a nine-branched candelabra holding nine candles. Each night during the eight days, another candle is added after sundown and the ninth candle, the shamash, is used to light the others. Blessings are recited during the lighting and the menorah is kept on a windowsill. Potato pancakes, latkes, and jam-filled donuts, sufganiyot, are served in Jewish families. As for games and gifts, dreidels are spun and presents that are thoughtful and meaningful are given. According to historians, gift-giving took off in the 1950s when child psychologists and rabbis started using gifts to make post-Holocaust Jewish children happy about their heritage and not sad about missing Christmas.

Kwanzaa: Based on ancient African harvest festivals, the word “Kwanzaa” means “first fruits of the harvest” in Swahili. Held from December 26th to January 1st, the holiday is a time when many African-Americans celebrate their African culture and heritage. Created in 1966 by Maulana Karenga, Kwanzaa traditions include meditations, decorating houses, wearing culturally significant clothing, and ceremonies with drumming and music. In addition, there are seven core principals related to African heritage. Karenga once described this as “a communitarian African philosophy.” The principles are umoja (unity), kujichagulia (self-determination), ujima (collective work and responsibility), ujamaa (cooperative economics), nia (purpose), kuumba (creativity), and imani (faith). Kwanzaa symbols are a mat, a candle holder with seven candles, corn, and unity cups, as well as, the black, red, and green flag, African books and artwork.

St. Lucia’s Day: Known to honor the saint of the third and fourth century, St. Lucia’s Day is celebrated on December 13th. The holiday was started by stories told by monks who brought Christianity to Sweden. In 304, St. Lucia was a young Christian girl who was killed for her faith and martyred. It is said that she secretly brought food to the Christians being persecuted in Rome. St. Lucia would wear candles on her head, leaving her hands free to carry food. Today, holiday traditions are celebrated by girls in white dresses with red sashes around their waists, and a crown of candles on their heads. In addition, national Lucias are chosen to visit hospitals and nursing homes. While there, they sing a song about St. Lucia and hand out ginger snap biscuits, known as pepparkakor. Families will gather and eat lussenkatts for breakfast, which are buns flavored with saffron and raisins. St. Lucia’s Day is celebrated in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Bosnia, and Croatia.

The beauty of all the holidays is that they all hold a special meaning for people across the world. In addition, they all offer everyone a feeling of peace on earth at the end of the year.

xoxo,

Megan

Helping the California Wildfire Victims

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I’m in North Carolina and as I sit writing this post, snow is melting outside. Snow? In the south? On December 10th? Yes, a majority of the south was covered with blankets of the white fluff over the weekend. However, the western part of the nation is fighting something a little hotter than snow.

Southern California is currently battling six fires, spanning over 175,000 and 212,000 residents have evacuated from their homes. In addition, almost 8,500 firefighters have been working around the clock, trying to put out the blazes. Every day, more and more people are leaving their homes; animals and nature are becoming innocent victims.

If you are like me, you can’t imagine leaving your home at Christmas and not knowing when you might be able to come back. The holiday season is a season of giving. Below are some ways for you to help the victims of the California wildfires. I encourage you to donate whatever you can.

Give back to those affected by the California wildfires this holiday season!

xoxo,

Megan

 

Unique Holiday Hostess Gifts

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You have just been invited to your best friend’s Christmas party, a weekend at your aunt’s, or need a gift on hand for the last-minute dinner at a friend’s house. When someone has welcomed you into their home for an event, it is always nice to bring a small gift to thank the host. However, it can sometimes be hard to think about what you should give someone. Do they like a certain type of food? Are they allergic to various smells? Don’t stress, because I’ve done the hard work for you by creating a list of unique hostess gifts below. All you need to do is choose which one you want to use.

  • Sangria in a Jar – All you need to do is take a mason jar and place the items needed for sangria inside. Along with the jar, include a bottle of wine and a selection of fruits to complete the present. Another option is to use a drink dispenser instead of a Mason jar and tie a wooden spoon to the outside.
  • All-One-Color Basket – Use the host’s favorite color and turn it into a basket with only items of that color. For example, if they love yellow, all gifts would be yellow. This gift doesn’t have to be huge and can include their favorite candies, drinks, lotions, etc.
  • Frames with a Picture Inside – This small gesture will be meaningful for you and your friend. Purchase a few pretty frames and then place a favorite photo of the two of you behind the glass. What better time to remember fun times than during the holidays?
  • Cranberry Orange Stovetop Potpourri – This present takes a little more planning and assembling than others, 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!”

If you are looking for hostess gift ideas that can be purchased in a larger quantity and take less time to prepare, try one of these ideas below.

  • Cloth Napkins and Napkin Rings – This present can be used year-round. Choose a style that will match the hostess’ kitchen, dining room, etc. Make sure to purchase at least four napkins and rings to provide the gift-receiver with a set.
  • Funny Dish Towels – Another gift that will keep on giving the whole year. Consider your friend’s personality and what type of towel they might like. Then, every time they see the towel, they’ll think of you.
  • Coasters – Always a necessity, coasters are a great way to fuel the host’s love for their favorite sports team or school. Not sure what they prefer?  You can’t go wrong with a design or colorful set.
  • Cheese Board Set – I love gifts that are usable and have many purposes. A cheese board, complete with a set of cheese knives and even cheese, is a perfect present. The board doesn’t have to be huge and can also be used as a cutting board.
  • Utensil Set – This is a great item, especially for people who are newly married or have moved into a new home. Choose a cute container that matches their style and fill it with common kitchen items. Take it a step further and tie a kitchen dish towel (or a funny dish towel) around the utensil set.

Whenever you’re invited to a holiday shindig this season, always remember to bring a hostess gift. The host will appreciate your taking the time to think of them.

xoxo,

Megan

Article published in Forsyth Family Magazine. 

Going Device Free

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It’s the norm now—most people always have some sort of technological device in their hands, most of the day. Whether it is a cell phone, iPad, laptop, or anything else, technological devices are a part of everyday life. People have grown accustomed to using them, and to an extent, are dependent on them. There are many benefits to technology and using these devices, such as writing this article on my laptop. Yes, I could write it by hand, but using a laptop is less time-consuming (and easier to delete mistakes). Other advantages are improved communication. Many people have a cell phone and can easily call family and friends, or call for help, if necessary. Also, technological devices give us instant access to news and information, an opportunity to network socially (individually or for businesses through social media and websites), and the ability to share ideas, pictures, and more through various apps and websites.

However, even with all the advantages of using cell phones, iPods, and other devices, there are also disadvantages. These drawbacks include a feeling of social isolation and distraction when you’re with loved ones, at work, or watching an event. They can also put a strain on your eyes, especially when looking at the screen’s lighting in the dark. While it is always tempting to use some sort of electronic device, it is good to give them a break now and then. Going device-free can be a challenge. You might have to find new ways to communicate and watch movies, for example. However, you’ll be glad you took this challenge and spent some time away from technology. Don’t know how to get started? Below are some ideas for going device-free.

  • Start small and have a device-free meal with your family and friends. Everyone involved makes a commitment to laying down their electronics and putting them in a space away from the table and kitchen. Place a basket or designate a spot for all the devices to go. Then, start talking to get people fully distracted from their devices. Ask questions, play games, or share ideas to get the conversation going. In addition to meal time, take this idea a step further. Try having device-free holidays, device-free small trips, and more. This simple act can help family members and friends get closer and spend more time together.
  • Another tip to easily break up with your device is by seeing how many times you use it. Apps, such as Checky, keep track of how often you use your device. This app helps prevent people from looking at their phones, because it drains the phone’s battery. According to Dr. David Greenfield, with The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, it can seem counterintuitive to check your phone when you are trying to use it less. However, recording how much time you are spending on your phone and how many times a day you’re checking it lets people become aware of how problematic their cell phone use is. Set limits for yourself and your usage. Try to spend no more than 90 minutes per day or 15 minutes at a time.
  • Also, set limits on social media. Determine a time, day, or a full weekend when you don’t post or check your social media accounts. This can be hard at first, but soon it will become a habit. Dr. Greenfield states, “There’s this idea that if other people don’t know you’re doing something, it has no value. This means we spend more time documenting what we’re doing, instead of living our lives.” Instead of Snapchatting your trip to Disney World and Facebooking your pictures of your Friday night concert with friends, take a few pictures to remember the moment, but don’t spend the whole time with a phone in your face. As Ferris Bueller once said, “life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” If you’re feeling extra daring, delete your social media apps for a full-on break. Reactivate your accounts when you feel as if you are relaxed and reenergized.

Going device-free gives you the opportunity to focus on things that are important in your life. It gives you the chance to reconnect face-to-face with family members and friends, and experience moments in life through your eyes, instead of a screen. Going device-free will become a habit, and you’ll learn to depend less and less on your electronics to get you through the day.

xoxo,

Megan

Originally published in Forsyth Family Magazine. 

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?

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This past weekend, we decorated for Christmas. Our trees went up, wreaths were hung on doors, and music played through the house; all to welcome in the season. I love this time of the year! The colors, the sounds, and the smells are all a part of what makes it…wonderful.

After all, who doesn’t love spending time with their family and friends, shopping for the perfect gift, or baking their favorite holiday dessert? Yet, during all of this merriment, I can’t help, but feel sad. Is the Christmas season really the most wonderful time of the year?

For me, the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is bittersweet. There are many things that make me happy, but there is also a somber feeling in the air. Maybe it is knowing another year is almost over and that I’m year older. As I reflect on the past 12 months, I think about the loved ones I lost and the loved ones I gained; the good times and the bad; and the struggles I overcame. While Christmas decorations do bring a smile to my face, they are also melancholy. The various ornaments, garlands, and more remind me of past trips, special moments, and childhood.

Christmas may be bittersweet, but the season gives me a chance to look back and reminisce. In addition, it is a sign that we survived another year and that we are stronger, braver, and hopefully more caring. To me, Christmas will always be the most wonderful and saddest time of the year.

xoxo,

Megan