A Foodie’s Favorite Cookbooks

There are many benefits that come with summer: warmer temperatures, longer days, and more time outdoors. For most people, summer also includes having BBQs, cookouts, and eating outdoors. However, it can be tough to create a diverse menu for your summer event when the usual dishes are hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, and more. For July’s “Writers Who Read,” I’m focusing on some of my favorite cookbooks to help you branch out on your menus.

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime by Ree Drummond

Based on the popular Food Network show, The Pioneer Woman, cook Ree Drummond gives readers 125 dinnertime recipes that are simple, quick, and enjoyable for the whole family. According to the cookbook, it answers the “age-old question – what’s for dinner?” Within the recipes, Drummond includes meals that are classic comfort, 16-minute meals, freezer-friendly foods, soups, main dishes, salads, and breakfast meals for dinner. The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime is perfect for any person or family. Some of my favorite meals are Salisbury Steak, Oven Barbecue Chicken, and the Beef Stroganoff. Plus, Drummond offers tasty desserts to conclude any evening meal. Lastly, the cookbook includes photos, beloved stories, and a colorful layout. What more could you want?

Hungry Girl 200 under 200: 200 Recipes under 200 Calories by Lisa Lillien

During the summer, I like to get lighter, smaller meals. There is just something about a heavy meal during the hot, summer months that doesn’t sit right. Lisa Lillien, the founder of hungrygirl.com, helps readers enjoy delicious dishes, while also watching their calories. The cookbook is divided into various chapters, such as Hungry Girl Staples, Morning Minis, Dip It Good, Mini Meal Mania, and Scoopable Salads. Step by step instructions are given for each recipe. Just a few examples of some of the dishes offered: Cheesy-Good Cornbread Muffins, Cheeseburger Lettuce Cups, Chocolate Chip Cookie Crisps Pudding Shake, Holy Moly Guacamole, and Hot Boneless Buffalo Wings. Hungry Girl 200 under 200 is a great cookbook to use if you are hosting a summertime party or taking an appetizer, dish, etc. to a family or friends’ event!

The Lady & Sons Savannah Country Cookbook Collection by Paula Deen

This cookbook is an oldie, but a goodie. Based off recipes from her restaurant, The Lady and Sons, in Savannah, Georgia, cook Paula Deen creates two family-friendly cookbooks with hundreds of easy dishes, The Lady & Sons Savannah Country Cookbook (Deen’s first and best-selling cookbook)and The Lady and Sons, Too! Together, these cookbooks consist of mouth-watering recipes that are quick and easy to make for any occasion. Some of the dishes include Chicken and Waffles, Oven-Fried Catfish, Sweet Blueberry Cornbread, and many desserts. One of my all-time favorite recipes from the collection is the Ooey Gooey Butter Cakes. This dessert is rich and decadent. Plus, it can be made in different flavors, such as vanilla, chocolate, etc. Trust me, this is one recipe you can’t and don’t want to resist!

I’m a foodie and I love to eat. These are just a sampling of cookbooks I love to use, not just during the summer, but throughout the entire year.

xoxo,

Megan

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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

Self-Coaching Yourself to A Better and Happier You

Dictionary.com defines “life coach” as “a person who counsels and encourages clients on matters having to do with careers or personal challenges.” The role of a life coach includes helping others set goals, organizing different areas of a person’s life, making a huge change or decision, overcoming a tough challenge, and more. They are there to provide support and accountability during a time of improvement in a person’s life. Most of the time, people turn to a professional life coach for assistance. Yet, did you know you can be your own life coach, also known as a self-coaching, and assist yourself in these same situations as a life coach would?

According to professional experts, self-coaching occurs when you apply the same techniques as a life coach would to your own life and do it yourself. It is important to understand that determination and dedication are needed to self-coach. As a teacher, I encourage my students to use a growth mindset. This type of thinking means a person’s abilities, goals, and skills can be developed and accomplished through dedication and hard work. It is a mindset that energizes people to never give up and stay positive. When a person self-coaches, having a growth mindset is a must and a basis for it all. Along with the support of using a growth mindset, a life coach can provide timeliness, accountability, and motivation. All of which a person can provide for themselves.

One of the hardest things can be deciding when to start something new or make a change. Think about the situation and what you are changing or working towards. Did you receive a promotion or new job offer? Are you wanting to lose weight? Then, ask yourself: are you anxious, depressed, or restless about a certain part of your life? Are you ready for something new? Will this make you a better person? Honestly answering these questions can signify to you whether you are ready or not to self-coach.

Now that you have decided the time is right, try to focus on only one aspect of your life at a time. Go back to your answers for the questions above and think about the situation to which they applied.  Was it for your career, health, finances, etc.? Sometimes it is not possible to focus on only one area. If this is the case, break your actions for the different areas into small steps and complete one at a time. Martha Beck, a professional life coach, states in the article, “Tips from the Pros: How to Be Your Own Life Coach,” to start with the “area of least satisfaction. If a person has a good life, but there are some things that aren’t great, work on the stuff that’s not great. If you have a terrible life, work on what’s most terrible.” Then, turn your area for improvement into a goal with a timeline.

According to Doctor David Rock, author of Your Brain at Work, goals should be short and able to be stated in three to seven words. As for the timeline, the goals should be approachable, achievable, and realistic. For instance, if your goal is to lose 10 pounds, consider how much time you realistically need to accomplish it. However, don’t be too hard on yourself if you need to make a change here or there. Just don’t stray too far off track. A way to hold yourself accountable with your goals is by using a journal. Write down everything you do each day that pertains to that goal – good and bad. In addition, use your journal to rate your “quality of life” as you are working towards something. Beck recommends using a scale of zero to ten and rate your quality of life daily. Ten is super happy and zero is miserable. In the same article, she says, “The purpose is to look back and see what you were doing on the days you felt bad. It’s a way of looking at: where did my happiness go? Where did I find joy?”

Lastly, be sure to use a growth mindset and change how you think about your goal. Instead of thinking that you have to do something, think about it in terms that you get to do something.

Anyone can be a life coach for their own lives. Through using the techniques of self-coaching, you can be on the way to a better and happier you. Plus, you’ll feel empowered for accomplishing goals you might have been putting on the back burner for a long time.

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

DIY Citronella Candles

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Like me, many people love spending time outside in the summers, especially at night. Yet, one of the most annoying things about a summer night is the mosquitos. To conquer this challenge, it is common to use citronella candles. But, you have to be careful about what exactly is in the candle. After all, they are used to repel insects. Most of the brands are safe and use citronella oil, an essential oil, as the basis. However, you can never be too careful and sometimes it is best to make the candle yourself. Trust me, this DIY citronella candle is quick, easy, and you’ll enjoy it all summer long.

Materials:

  • 1 lime
  • 1 larger lemon
  • Spring of rosemary
  • Citronella essential oil
  • 1 floating candle
  • Water
  • Mason jar

Directions: 

  1. Cut the lemon and lime into slices, widthwise. Add 2 lemon slices to the bottom of the jar. The slices need to be tightly pushed together, otherwise, they will float to the top when water is added. Do the same process with 2 slices of lime.
  2. Next, vertically place a sprig of rosemary on the inside of the jar. It should almost reach the top.
  3. Fill three-fourths of the mason jar with water. If the fruit rises to the top, push it back down.
  4. Add a few drops of the citronella essential oil and a floating candle.

Enjoy!

xoxo,

Megan

 

 

 

 

Tips and Tricks for a Fabulous Summertime Party

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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

Healthier Baking 101

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Sweets are in abundance during the holidays. From the cookies, cakes, and more, there always seems to be something tasty in my kitchen. However, too many sweet treats can be a problem. Many baking recipes include sugar, butter, and other fatty ingredients that are unhealthy for a person’s body. The good news, though, is that there are still ways for you to have your favorite confections that include healthier ingredients. Put the tips below to use this holiday season. Trust me, your recipes will taste the same, and your loved ones will never know that you swapped oil for applesauce.

Replacing Oil: 

  • As mentioned above, a great way to replace some of the fat is using unsweetened applesauce instead of oil. A common rule of thumb is for every one cup of oil in a recipe, switch out for ¾ a cup of applesauce. Don’t have any on hand? Combine one mushed apple and a splash of lemon juice.
  • Greek yogurt is another favorite of many and works fantastic in place of oil or fat. It keeps the moisture and flavor of the dish. Plus, the yogurt is full of calcium, protein, and probiotics.

Replacing Sugar: 

  • You can’t have a dessert without sugar! Or so they say. Instead of artificial sugar, mash up a banana into your ingredients. Make sure the banana is ripe. This substitution keeps the sweetness of the dessert but has healthier advantages, such as being rich in glucose, easy to digest, and improves your energy, preventing a sugar crash.
  • Alternatives to white table sugar are honey, maple syrup, or dates. These natural forms reduce the amount of added sugar but still should be consumed in reasonable amounts.
  • Lastly, spices work well in adding flavor and taste to treats with excessive amounts of sugar. Cinnamon and nutmeg are common replacements and boost metabolism, an extra benefit.

Replacing Flour: 

  • Almost all baking recipes include flour. Yet flour can affect your health in many ways, both good and bad. One simple way to add more health benefits is using whole wheat flour in lieu of white flours. The latter is made from heavily refined and processed wheat grain that isn’t good for you. As for whole wheat flour, it is processed differently and has more health advantages.
  • Try making your own flour from oats, flax, and nuts. All you need to do is blend up the items in a food processor or blender, and you are good to go. There is no need to change the needed amount the recipes call for; just blend until you have the same amount of fine dust.

Other Tips and Tricks: 

  • Even though it is a baking recipe, all desserts don’t have to actually be baked. Research and find a no-bake treat for your favorite sweet. No-bake desserts can include healthier ingredients and possibly use less fatty ingredients than are needed for a baked dessert.
  • Dark chocolate is known for its advantages, including aiding in weight loss, reducing stress, and controlling a person’s appetite. Moderation is key, but don’t hesitate to switch any type of chocolate with dark chocolate.
  • Avocados are a healthy fat and a unique way to replace butter. This fruit is packed with protein and nutrients. In addition, it gives a smooth texture to the item.

I love to bake, but sometimes the recipes aren’t the healthiest. The solution to that problem is incorporating these tips. Using substitutions in baking is easy and simple. Plus, you won’t feel guilty eating a few more pieces of a sweet treat, because you know it is healthier.

xoxo,

Megan

New Neighbors? No Worries!

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There’s a house in your neighborhood that’s for sale. After anticipating who will move in, the big day finally arrives and now you have new neighbors. You’re excited to go over and meet the newest additions to your community, but when is too soon or too late to introduce yourself? Do you bring a welcome gift or not?

For new neighbors, moving to a new neighborhood can be a time full of anxiety. Making an effort to introduce yourself helps them feel more comfortable. There are many polite gestures a person can make to help welcome the new neighbors into the community.

  • Introduce yourself  However, wait a few days before going over. Let them settle and start unpacking before stopping by to introduce yourself. If you happen to bump into them while outside, keep it brief with a simple hello, give your name, and say you’ll stop by again.
  • Bring other neighbors with you  There is no better way to introduce the new neighbors to the whole neighborhood than by bringing others with you. This tip can help relieve any possible awkwardness in creating a new conversation. Also, introducing yourself as a group will limit the number of times neighbors will stop at the new family’s house. This is also a great way to get your new neighbors interested and involved in neighborhood communities or watches.
  • Include baked goods  There is nothing a sweet treat can’t overcome. This traditional gesture is one many people appreciate. However, keep in mind possible allergies people might have and include a list of ingredients. Another option would be purchasing baked goods to deliver.
  • Bring a bottle of wine  Another kind gesture is gifting a bottle of wine. This drink is considered a traditional housewarming gift and can be a great accent to food. Some tips to remember are to choose a bottle of wine you enjoy. This way, if you are invited over, it can be used as a way to get to know each other. If including the wine in a welcome basket, pair it with foods or snacks that go well with that type of wine.
  • Host a party in their honor  Whether it is a cocktail party, block party, or dinner party, host an event for a few families or the entire neighborhood. This provides the new family one place to meet everyone in a comfortable environment. Block parties are great ways to introduce the children to neighborhood kids. Remember to give the new neighbors time to settle in before throwing the event.
  • Create a local list  This is helpful especially if the family has moved from another town. Create a list of local services, restaurants, and businesses, as well as other valuable information. Also, provide contact information for the Neighborhood Watch and a neighborhood directory.
  • Give them a local specialty  Each town has its own local treats. Give your new neighbors samples of local specialties or add them in their welcome basket. Gift certificates are also a nice way to help ease the stress of moving. Presenting them with a local specialty will help them learn about their new home and community.
  • Invite them to neighborhood groups  If your neighborhood has community groups, invite the new neighbors to attend a meeting with you. It will give them a chance to meet other members in the neighborhood and hear their views. Also, consider inviting them to book clubs, garden clubs, or school groups, such as the PTA.
  • Respect their privacy  The most important thing you can do for your new neighbors is respecting their privacy. It can be tough being the strangers in the neighborhood. Sometimes people don’t like meeting new people and might not seem friendly. It could also be because they are adjusting to a new area or they are more private people. Whatever the reason is, don’t take it personally and still smile when you see each other. When it comes to introducing yourself to these types of neighbors, keep it brief and polite, and then leave. If they are busy, suggest possibly meeting another time that works for them.

When a new family moves in your neighborhood, it can be an exciting time. But, it can also be stressful for the new neighbors. Remember to be polite and do your best to help make them feel comfortable in their new surroundings.

xoxo,

Megan

My 5 Purse Must-Haves

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Earlier this week, I looked inside my purse and noticed a few things that shouldn’t be there. Let’s just say my purse was more of a tote bag. Inside, I had a CVS bag full of items, contacts, medicine, a water bottle, granola bars, a PRAXIS review book, and a notebook. Normally, I don’t carry this much stuff and half of the time I don’t carry a purse at all. However, this moment got me thinking about what I had to have with me when I go out. So, here is my list of my 5 purse must-haves.

  1. Chapstick – usually, the chapstick has a tint of color to it and also serves as lipstick. My lips always stay dry, so having chapstick is a must!
  2. Granola bar – when I get hungry, I can get hangry and develop a headache. This quick snack helps keep my hunger under control between meals.
  3. A pen and notebook – you never know when you’ll have an idea that just needs to be written down.
  4. Coupon organizer – I hate shopping without a coupon. To avoid this, I always make sure I have my coupon organizer in my purse.
  5. Mints or gum – This one might be self-explanatory… 🙂

What’s in your purse?

xoxo,

Megan

Thank YOU! Thank YOU!

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Thank you so much to ALL of my readers! Because of you, I have reached one of my goals and have 101 followers! Thank you for giving me the opportunity to write from my heart on topics that are important to me. Thank you for reading my posts!

I look forward to what the future holds for this blog. All my readers hold a special place in my life! Now, onto writing new posts!

xoxo,

Megan