12 Thoughts from a Southerner

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Growing up in North Carolina can be described as summers spent outside, fall days at the county fair, and a winter snowfall once or twice a year. In my opinion, it was a privilege to grow up in the Tarheel state and the South. This area of the United States is special for multiple reasons. It is more than history, food, and traditions. Growing up Southern means you learn to always treasure those around you, even if you don’t know them, to live justly, and value life’s little lessons, such as the ones below.

1: Respect for elders is one of the most important things.

2: Also, respect for your momma and daddy is crucial.

3: Almost every sentence should include a “ma’am” or “sir.”

4: It is better to overdress for any occasion. (Football games, church, you name it-overdress.)

5: Handwritten letters don’t go out of style.

6: Your family will always support you and will always be the most important thing in your life.

7: In the summer, curfews are dictated by lightning bugs.

8: Southern food is the best. You will learn how to cook your grandma’s recipes by the time you are 20.

9: There is no need to be in a rush for everything.

10: Southern hospitality is a way of life that you will master by the time you are also 20.

11: School is canceled with the first flakes of snow.

12: You wouldn’t want to grow up anywhere else but in the South.

xoxo,

Megan

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Ending #SharkWeek with a DIY Activity and a Recipe

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As #SharkWeek wraps up, I’m ending the week with a bang…or bite, a shark bite that is. Below are two ideas, one DIY project, and one recipe, for you and your family to make and enjoy. First, it is a simple and fun Ocean Slime activity. Then, enjoy tasty Shark Marshmallow Pops. 

I hope you have had as much fun as I have celebrating #SharkWeek. Being the over-planner that I am, I’m already thinking about next year’s posts!

Ocean Slime 

Materials: 

  • 1 cup clear glue
  • 1/2 of liquid starch
  • Blue food coloring
  • Small ocean animal decorations or shells

Directions: 

  1. In a bowl, mix the glue and a few drops of blue food coloring together. Add in the liquid starch. Be careful and don’t pour in too much starch at first; otherwise, the mixture will get hard.
  2. Knead the slime until it no longer sticks to your hands. Add more liquid starch, if needed.
  3. Once you have your desired consistency, sprinkle the slime with the shells and animals. Have fun!

 

Shark Marshmallow Pops 

Ingredients: 

  • Giant marshmallows
  • 2 cups blue candy melts
  • 1 cup chocolate candy melts or chocolate chips
  • Small candy eyes
  • Lollipop sticks

Directions: 

  1. Place a lollipop stick into the bottom of each marshmallow. It is up to you on how many marshmallow pops you want to make.
  2. In the microwave, heat the blue candy melts. It should take about 3 – 4 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds until melted.
  3. Cover the entire marshmallow, except for a half oval at the bottom front, in the melted chocolate.

     

  4. Stick 2 candy eyes at the top and place in the freezer until the blue candy has hardened.
  5. While the marshmallows are in the freezer, use the remaining blue melted chocolate and pipe a small fin onto parchment paper. Place in the freezer.
  6. Once hardened, peel the fins off the paper. Dip the bottom into the melted blue chocolate and place on top of the marshmallow.
  7. In the microwave, melt the chocolate candy melts for 2 – 3 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds.
  8. With the melted chocolate, pipe a zig-zag teeth/mouth on the white part of the marshmallow. You can also add extra decorations to your shark with the chocolate.

Enjoy!

xoxo,

Megan

 

 

 

 

 

A Recipe for #SharkWeek: Tasty Shark Poke Cake

Today’s shark-related post is all about food. This Shark Poke Cake recipe is adapted from delish.com and is delicious to eat. Plus, you can turn the recipe into a cupcake version. Just use a cupcake pan instead of a cake pan, as well as, one doughnut and fin per cupcake. Remember to also adjust the needed number of ingredients for a dozen or so cupcakes. For example, you’ll need 12 fruit roll-ups, not one.
Enjoy!
Ingredients:
  • 1 box vanilla cake mix plus ingredients for cake mix
  • 1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips, melted
  • Blue food coloring
  • Black food coloring
  • 1 strawberry fruit roll-up
  • 3 mini powdered sugar doughnuts
  • 2 cups marshmallow Fluff
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • 3 cups whipped topping

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 350º and grease baking pan. Set aside.
  2. Prepare cake mix according to the box directions. Add a few drops of blue food coloring and stir together. (The cake will resemble the ocean.) Bake until done, about 25 minutes. Once cool, poke holes all over the cake.
  3. Combine the marshmallow fluff and water. Microwave for about 10 seconds. Pour the mixture all over the cake, making sure the holes are filled.
  4. In another bowl, add 5 drops of the blue food coloring to the whipped topping. Fold together. Frost the cake with the icing and decorate with shark fins and life preservers.

To make the shark fin decorations, mix the melted white chocolate with a few drops of the black food coloring. Using a piping bag or sandwich bag with a hole, pipe fin shapes (similar to triangles) onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and freeze until hard. Once frozen, add a drop of marshmallow fluff onto the bottom of the fins and place on the cake’s icing.

To make the life preservers, cut the fruit roll up into 3-inch long pieces. Then, each piece again into four pieces. Wrap four strips around a powdered doughnut and secure with the marshmallow fluff.

xoxo,

Megan

Why I “Work Smarter, Not Harder”

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Every day I try to use the motto “Work smarter, not harder.” Everyone has their own definition of this phrase, but it generally means using your thinking skills to minimize tasks and extra steps, so that you use your time wisely and more effectively to get things done quickly. For example, instead of putting something off that would take five minutes or less to complete, do it immediately and move on to the next task.

The main purpose behind the “work smarter, not harder” motto is that you, as the individual, are able to prioritize your own needs and build upon your strengths and weaknesses. You are able to visualize what you need to focus on, see if there is anything you can cut from your workload or lifestyle, ask for help if needed, and figure out how you work in the quickest and most effective manner possible. Everyone has their own answers and meaning to the motto. Now, the question is: how do you work smarter, not harder? Take a look below to see some of the tips on how you can put this motto to use in your life.

  1. Move and work in blocks. Instead of working hour after hour, divide up your work into equal sections. For each section of your to-do list, change up your location for working, whether it is inside, outside, or at home. The most important thing is to not set exact time limits for when you’ll finish a certain section, but to move when you have a certain section finished. Be sure to take a quick break or a fast walk to refresh yourself after each task.
  2. Check your email first thing. This is mainly where I get the bulk of my to-do list. See what items you need to prioritize and get those done first. Then, move on to the smaller tasks that will take less time to finish.
  3. Communication is key. Collaboration and communication can either make or break a project. Communicating effectively with other team members will help eliminate any mistakes or misunderstandings, or having to rework parts of the project.
  4. Don’t multitask. As much as we love to do so, multitasking can actually cause more trouble (and work) than needed. Stay focused on one task at a time and complete that task before moving on to the next.
  5. Create a routine and stick with it. When it comes to your work, to be more effective and efficient, it is best to try and do most of it at the same time each day. According to research, when we establish routines, our brains become in the habit of completing the task over and over again. Pretty soon, you’ll be able to accomplish a task quickly with less preparation. Essentially, you do the job on autopilot.
  6. Relieve stress. When you are stressed, it can be hard to achieve anything on your to-do list. Let’s refer back to tip #1. The breaks between the sections of time will help you ease your stress and stay calm while working. Also, having a clear mind allows you to think through your task and helps prevent mistakes and misunderstandings.
  7. Use your “GPS.” In her book, It’s About Time! author Mitzi Weinman explains GPS as “goal, purpose, and scope.” According to Weinman, this system can be used to get the whole picture and how you need to accomplish it. For example, you can see a task completed and then envision the various steps needed to completing it. Also, “GPS” can help you set goals for each of those steps until it is done (goal). Always ask yourself “why” we are doing something and how it fits into the larger goal (purpose).

“Work smarter, not harder” is a motto everyone should try at least once in their lives. Give it a shot – you might happily discover you are able to get more done in a shorter amount of time.

xoxo,

Megan

Yummy S’mores Dip – A Must-Try Recipe!

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S’mores Dip is definitely one of my favorite desserts. Bring on the chocolate, marshmallow, and graham crackers goodness!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
  • 15 jumbo marshmallows, halved
  • Graham cracker squares

Directions:

  1. Adjust rack to the center position of the oven and place 8-inch cast iron skillet or regular frying pan on rack. Preheat oven to 450°F with skillet inside. Once preheated, use a potholder to remove the hot skillet from the oven.
  2. Place a pat of butter in the skillet and coat the bottom and sides. Pour chocolate chips in an even layer into the bottom.
  3. Arrange marshmallow halves over the chocolate chips, covering the chocolate completely.
  4. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes or until marshmallows is toasted to your liking.
  5. Remove from heat and rest for 5 minutes. Serve immediately with graham cracker squares.

Enjoy!

xoxo,

Megan

 

Crockpot Hawaiian Chicken Sandwiches

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Apparently, I’m on a roll with two posts about food in a row. But, this is another recipe you can’t miss!

The flavors of the chicken and pineapple together are divine. Plus, it is an easy meal and you know how I LOVE easy meals, especially ones I can throw into my crockpot. Hopefully, crockpot Hawaiian chicken sandwiches will make their way to your table soon.

Ingredients:

For the chicken:

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups pineapple juice
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cups ketchup
  • 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3 pounds of chicken breasts

For the coleslaw: 

  • 1 1/3 cups mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 bag of coleslaw salad mix

Don’t forget the sandwich rolls!

Directions:

For the chicken: 

  1. In a large skillet or pan, melt the butter. When melted, add the onions and cook until done.
  2. Then, stir in the flour until a paste is made.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together the pineapple juice, brown sugar, garlic, ketchup, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, onion powder, and ginger.
  4. Combine the mixture with the ingredients in the skillet. Shimmer for five minutes, stirring often. The mixture will start to thicken.
  5. Next, place the chicken into the crockpot. Pour the sauce over the top.
  6. Cover and cook on low for six to eight hours.
  7. When done, remove the chicken and shred. Place back into the crockpot and cook for another 30 minutes.

For the coleslaw:

  1. Stir together mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, sugar, ground mustard, onion powder, salt, and pepper.
  2. Pour the sauce over the coleslaw mixture. Stir together
  3. Serve on top of the chicken on a sandwich roll.

Enjoy!

xoxo,

Megan

 

Make Sunday a Day of Rest with These 5 Relaxing Ways

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Recently, I heard the phrase” Sunday – a day of rest, not stress.” How true is this statement? After working hard all week, everyone should take at least one day of the weekend, Sunday, to relax and rejuvenate. However, I have trouble relaxing…

I always feel as if there is something I need to be doing or should be doing.  As I grieve my grandmother’s death, I have learned that there is no shame in taking a day (or two) off to unplug from everything. And that is exactly why I am renaming Sundays to “My Day of Rest, Not Stress.”

In my usual fashion, I decided to research “how to make Sundays more relaxing.” Yes, that is the exact phrasing I used in my Internet search. I came across numerous ideas and thought I would share my favorites with you. After all, everyone can use more relaxation in their busy lives.

Ways to Make Sunday A Day of Rest, Not Stress: 

  1. Ignore the chaos and unplug. Put aside your email, social media, calendar, etc. All of these communication forms can be overwhelming and heavy to take in at times. Instead, do an activity that “sorts out the clutter and puts the pieces together,” such as a puzzle or following a recipe.
  2. Spend time with your loved ones. Before my sister and brother-in-law moved to Kentucky, they would come over every week for Sunday night dinner. So, why not bring back the Sunday night dinner tradition with your loved ones? Other activities to consider include playing a game, watching a movie, or going for a walk together.
  3. Catch up on a good book. Reading is something I never have enough time to do. Yet, I have discovered that there is nothing better to do on a Sunday.
  4. Have a leisurely meal. Take your time making and eating one or all of your meals.
  5. Get out of the house, even if it is just to go outside. A breath of fresh air can make all the difference.

When you make Sunday a day of rest, you start the new week a better, more relaxed version of yourself.

xoxo,

Megan

DIY Watermelon Volcano for Kids of All Ages

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Just because it is summer, doesn’t mean you can’t add a little learning to your fun experiences! This simple DIY Watermelon Volcano experiment is the perfect activity to engage your kids. Plus, it is hands-on with easy cleanup. What is there not to love?

Materials: 

  • Small watermelon
  • Baking soda
  • White vinegar
  • Dish soap

Directions: 

  1. Cut a small hole at the top of your clean watermelon. The hole should be at least five inches in diameter. Remove the top of the watermelon and place aside.
  2. Scoop out the fruit in your hole using a melon baller or spoon. Make sure you scoop out enough of the fruit to hold the eruption mixture without spilling out; a few inches deep is fine.
  3. Next, pour about half a cup of baking soda into the watermelon. You may need more, depending on your hole depth and size of the watermelon. Add a couple squirts of dish soap. Mix ingredients together.
  4. Lastly, pour the white vinegar straight into the hole and let the eruption begin *Quick tip: Complete the activity outside, if possible. Place a trap, towel, pan, etc. underneath the watermelon to catch the spillage. Another option is to let it explode in the grass.

Enjoy!

xoxo,

Megan

 

 

 

 

 

The Educational Triangle

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Some say it takes a village to raise a child. In many ways, that saying is true. Parents, guardians, family members, friends, teachers, and coaches are a few examples of people who can influence a child in different parts of their life. In addition, these influences have responsibilities to do what they can to help a child succeed. One area where it is essential for these responsibilities to be upheld is in education.

Recently, I came across the idea of an educational triangle. This concept illustrates the relationships between those mainly involved in a child’s education and how they are connected, like a triangle. At one corner is the student, another corner is the parents/guardians, and at the last corner are the teachers and school. All of these people need to work together and fulfill their responsibilities. While the responsibilities of each corner can vary and overlap, it is important for everyone to understand how their role plays a part in the overall goal—helping the student be successful in school. Let’s take a look at the different obligations of the educational triangle.

Responsibilities of the Student –To be honest, the responsibilities of the student are probably the most important in the educational triangle. In President Obama’s “Back to School” speech at Wakefield High School in 2009, he references the opportunities education can provide, but it has to start with the student, carrying out their duties. He states that “you have the responsibility to yourself, to discover what you are good at, and you are the next generation of leaders in America.” Because of this, a student should work hard: work towards getting good grades, completing their work, and asking for help when they need it. For students, no one is going to do your work except for you, and there are no excuses for not trying. One of my favorite quotes from President Obama’s speech is, “That’s why today I’m calling on each of you to set your own goals for your education and do everything you can to meet them.”

Responsibilities of the Parents and Guardians –No matter what age they are, a child is still learning and figuring things out. As for parents and guardians, it is your task to help guide them in the right direction. After all, parents and guardians are a kid’s first teachers. Part of your responsibilities is to be role models. With education, parental engagement and involvement are keys to success. Take an active role in your student’s learning; stay on top of their homework and assignments, but let them complete the work; help them study for tests, and know who your child is friends with. In addition, don’t be afraid to communicate with teachers when needed. Lastly, make education a priority and encourage your child to take ownership of their education. Have conversations about what is working and what needs improvement, as well as adding in fun ways to learn.

Responsibilities of the Teachers and Schools –Teachers and schools have the obligation to provide the best education possible for students. This comes from knowing your content area, giving opportunities for exploration and learning, and engaging students in their own learning. Along with these responsibilities, teachers and staff should keep up to date with professional development, new research, and keep challenging themselves to be better educators. Also, it is important for teachers and schools to give students a safe and welcoming learning environment. Children spend around eight hours a day, 180 days a year, at school. They should feel comfortable and supported in this environment. Lastly, faculty and staff at schools are role models with the responsibilities of demonstrating professionalism and good behavior to students.

There are many moving parts in the educational triangle. Yet, when everyone involved fulfills their responsibilities and works towards a common goal, a child’s life can be changed for the better.

xoxo,

Megan

Fourth of July Party Must-Haves

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The Fourth of July is commonly associated with fireworks, barbeques, and parties. Planning events, especially for holidays, is one of my favorite things to do. If you are hosting a patriotic get-together that is going to be all red, white, and blue for July 4th, I’ve got some ideas you don’t want to miss.

Decorations: 

When one thinks of decorations for a Fourth of July party, one probably automatically thinks of anything red, white, and blue. For tables, use a tablecloth that is either red-and-white checkered, blue-and-white checkered or a plain color. Take it a step farther and use bandannas. All you need to do is sew together red, white, and blue bandannas, enough to cover your table or to make a table runner.

As for centerpieces, there are many options you can create. One example is using flowers in jars. Choose white flowers, such as daisies, and place in clear jars, filled with water. Using food color, tint the water in one container with red dye and another with blue. This simple arrangement is just another way to include some patriotic zest to your party decorations.

Lastly, banners, bunting, and streamers are perfect additions for tables, ceilings, fences, and more. Colorful fabric and paper can be used for the designs, and don’t forget about the flag—a must-have at any Fourth of July extravaganza!

Food: 

A party isn’t a party without tasty food! Offer your guests a wide variety of choices, from sweet and salty to healthy. Watermelon, bananas, strawberries, and blueberries are your go-to fruits. One of the cutest ways to serve them is by crafting Fourth of July Fireworks Kabobs. First, take a star-shaped cookie cutter and cut out pieces of watermelon into stars. Then, use a skewer and place the watermelon star on one end and follow up with blueberries. Another fun idea is utilizing fruit slices and making an American flag on a plate or serving tray.

A common staple at Fourth of July parties is hot dogs and hamburgers. Staying with the fireworks theme for food, treat your family and friends to Firecracker Dogs. All you need to do is wrap uncooked crescent dough around a hot dog and cook until done. Then, place onto a skewer with a star-shaped piece of cheese on top.

Desserts and sweets are always a must, and s’ mores are the perfect touch. Want something cool to eat in the hot weather? Take ice cream sandwiches and roll the edges in red, white, and blue sprinkles. The key with food is for all dishes to be simple and easy to eat, whether you’re standing up or sitting down. You don’t need to have a full five-course meal, but you do need to make sure you have all parts of a meal available for guests. Remember always to include something fruity, something veggie, something sweet, something salty, and something hearty, such as meat, and refreshments.

Music: 

There are many patriotic jams to play during the festivities. A few favorites to include in your playlist are:

  • “Born in the USA” by Bruce Springsteen
  • “Party in the USA” by Miley Cyrus
  • “God Bless the USA” by Lee Greenwood
  • “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynard Skynard
  • “It’s America” by Rodney Atkins
  • “Only in America” by Brooks and Dunn

Games:

Classic games, such as cornhole and ladder golf, are always a hit at Fourth of July parties. However, there are ways to bring the holiday spirit into other games, as well. Lead your guests on a patriotic scavenger hunt. Some items to look for: a picnic basket, an American flag, something red, stars, streamers, and sparklers.

Since it is summer, include outdoor games. One suggestion would be to paint a twister board on the grass. Use the spinner from the board game and have fun. Also, host challenges, such as a watermelon or pie-eating contest. Attendees will love getting in on the party action. Plus, great memories will certainly be made!

Party Favors:

Give your guests something to take home and remember the event. Many people like to hand out sparklers, but this can be a little tricky with multiple ages at the party. A creative idea is deconstructed s’ mores in bags with a tag, commemorating the day. In addition, you could fill favor bags with candy that is red, white, and blue. Some options are M&Ms, lollipops, and Hershey’s kisses.

The Fourth of July is a day full of fun. Enjoy the holiday by having a party for your family and friends. Don’t know where to start?  Use the tips above. These ideas will help you remember the real reason for the day.

xoxo,

Megan