Homemade Chicken and Dumplings

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I’m so excited that it finally feels like fall in NC! To celebrate, I’m making one of my favorite comfort foods – chicken and dumplings! 

Ingredients:

  •  3 cups cooked chicken
  • 6-8 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • salt
  • a cup of milk

Directions:

  1. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients with a fork. Stir in the milk, mixing until the dough forms a ball.
  2. Roll the dough out into a thin square with a floured rolling pin. Cut the dumplings into squares about 2″ x 2″. It’s okay if they aren’t the same size. Sprinkle flour over the dough before cooking.
  3. Bring the broth to a boil over high heat. Drop the dumplings in one at a time, stirring while you add them. Cook for about 15-20 minutes.
  4. Add the cooked chicken to the pot and warm for a few minutes.

Enjoy!

xoxo,

Megan

Cherry Pie Bites

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The weekend is one of my favorite times to bake and of course, eat! However, there are sometimes I only want a taste of something sweet. A great recipe for just that is cherry pie bites. They are perfect for a few people or a large crowd. You’ll be sorry if you don’t make them soon. 🙂

Ingredients:

2 cans crescent roll dough
21 oz. can cherry pie filling
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp. milk

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 375. Grease a muffin pan with butter or cooking spray.
  2. Unroll and separate the crescent dough. Place one triangle into each cup.
  3. Fill all the cups with a tablespoon of pie filling.
  4. Fold the 2 shorter ends of the dough together at the top 2. Then, pull the longer end over the shorter ones.
  5. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.
  6. While the bites are cooling, whisk together the powdered sugar and milk.
  7. Drizzle the glaze mixture over the bites.

Enjoy!

xoxo,

Megan

DIY Mason Jar Gift Ideas

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It is always nice to give a loved one in your life a meaningful, handmade gift. But, where do you start? First, take a Mason jar (different sizes or types of jars can also work) and think about what kind of present you want to give. Is it a birthday present? Is it an anniversary present? However, the jar doesn’t have to be used as a gift. It can be a jar full of ideas for your family, spouse, or children. Below are a few ways to use a Mason jar as a gift, or in other ways.

Date Night: In need of some date-night ideas? Fill your jar with strips of paper with ideas for you and your loved one to do. Some paper strips can be for game nights, movie nights, or having a meal together. The purpose of a date-night jar is that all of the ideas are inexpensive, yet meaningful. Create enough ideas to last a year. Another take on the date-night jar is to write reasons why you love your special someone. Give it to them on Valentine’s Day, their birthday, or your anniversary.

Boredom Busters: Keep your kids entertained during the summer and school breaks. Take Popsicle sticks or strips of paper and write fun, creative ideas for your children to do. Whenever they are bored, have them pull out an idea and have a ball. Also, include activities for your whole family to do together. Maybe a family game night, places to visit throughout your town or elsewhere.

Mixes: This type of jar is great for Christmas presents, especially if you need to make something in bulk. Prepare the dry ingredients of your favorite recipe for cookies, brownies, hot chocolate, etc. Attach the recipe’s instructions and be sure to mention liquid ingredients that need to be added.

Movie Lovers: We all have someone in our lives that is a die-hard movie lover. They are always the first ones to see the latest blockbuster hit. The next time you are looking to give them a present, think about a movie lover’s jar. This jar can contain popcorn, candy, and gift cards to the movie theater. You can also package it with a few bottles of soda or a DVD.

Spa Night: A spa in a jar is the perfect gift for a friend, mom, sister or aunt. Give it to them for their birthday, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, or “just because.” All you need to do is include a face mask, hand-and-foot scrub, lip scrub, massage oil, bath salts, hand cream, foot lotion, and an eye mask. Also, add in a pair of socks and pieces of candy.

Survival Kit: Jars are quick and convenient ways to hold and carry needed supplies. Survival kits can be used for college, a new parent, the first day on the job, and more. Think about the items a person needs the most when starting a new occasion or life event. They can also be used for the holidays. For example, a bridesmaid survival kit could include a mini-sewing kit, safety pins, breath mints, lip balm, lint roller, polish remover, stain remover, nail polish, pain reliever, tissues, and bobby pins.

Housewarming Gift: When a new family moves into the neighborhood, they will soon be greeted with welcome baskets, pies, cakes, and other gifts. But, do you know what will be a unique gift? Give them a housewarming jar full of items such as mini-champagne bottles, kitchen utensils, soap, colorful napkins, clothespins, Magic Erasers, and other cleaning supplies. You can also include local restaurants or helpful phone numbers on a strip of paper. Another example is creating a sangria jar with the ingredients to make the popular drink.

Color-Coded: Think of a person’s favorite color, then make a jar of items of that color. For example, if your friend loves purple, think of only purple things to include. This idea can be used for any type of present, whether it’s going off to college, a housewarming present, a birthday gift, and more.

With any type of jar you choose, throw in as many items as you would like. Just remember to get creative and have fun!

xoxo,

Megan

Creative Activities to Commemorate the End of Summer

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For many families, the days of summer and no school are winding down. Soon, days will be filled with school, extracurricular activities, and early sunsets. Cherish the remaining longer days with your loved ones and enjoy time together with these three summer activities.

Ice Cream in a Bag

Ingredients (The amount is per person; multiply the ingredients by how many people you are making the ice cream for): 

  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1/2 cup rock salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Ice
  • Sandwich-size resealable plastic bag
  • Gallon-size resealable plastic bag
  • Toppings

Directions:

  1. In a bowl, stir together the cream, sugar, and vanilla.
  2. Pour the mixture into a sandwich-size bag and close.
  3. Add the ice and rock salt into the gallon-size bag. Then, place the filled sandwich-size bag inside the gallon-size bag and seal.
  4. Shake the bags for about 5 minutes until the ice cream is frozen.
  5. Remove the gallon-size bag with the rock salt and throw away.
  6. Cut a corner off the sandwich-size bag and squeeze out the ice cream into a bowl. Add toppings, if you desire.

Enjoy!

Glow in the Dark Sidewalk Chalk 

Materials (per chalk color): 

  • 1 cup Plaster of Paris
  • 1 tablespoon glow in the dark or fluorescent paint
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • Ice cube trays

Directions (per chalk color): 

  1. Mix together the paint and water in a bowl.
  2. Add 1 cup of the Plater of Paris to the mixture.
  3. Pour the ingredients into the ice cube tray. Pack tightly for the chalk to hold its shape.
  4. Let dry for about 12 hours. Remove the chalk from the trays and have fun!
  5. Repeat steps for every paint color you would like to make.

Balloon Tennis

Materials: 

  • Balloons
  • Fly swatters

Directions: 

  1. Take turns hitting the balloon back and forth between players. Keep score of who can hit the balloon the most before it falls to the ground.

Happy Summer!

xoxo,

Megan

 

 

 

It’s Shark Week! Celebrate with a Shark Attack Wreath.

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“Dun dun…dun dun…dun dun dun dunnnnnnnnnnnnn.”

If the theme song from Jaws popped into your head as you read the lyrics above, then you are correct. How can we not keep this song on constant replay this week? After all, it is Shark Week.

In honor of Discovery Channel’s annual animal marathon and one of my favorite TV weeks, I’m celebrating with a few shark-related posts. For starters, a Shark Attack Wreath that is fun and simple for all ages to create. Enjoy!

Materials:

  • 3 pairs of flip flops (Dollar Store and Old Navy have cheap pairs.)
  • Rope or hemp cord
  • Scissors
  • Hot glue and a glue gun

Directions: 

  1. Place the flip flops in a circle and arrange how you would like it to look.
  2. For each flip flop, cut bit marks out of the top. Keep your finish wreath image in mind as you are cutting.
  3. Hot glue the sandals together, one at a time. Press down to adhere the glue.
  4. To create a hanger, hot glue the rope or hemp cord to the back of the wreath.

You can also get creative and add decorations on your wreath, such as shark stickers, images, life preservers, and other ocean garnishes. Paint pens work great, as well!

Have fun; just stay aware of sharks!

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

9 Ways to Travel While Still Maintaining Your Budget

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It is hard to fathom that the summer is halfway over. With no school and longer days still here, there is no better time to travel. However, taking trips can be expensive. But, never fear, there are still ways to travel and enjoy the summer season without breaking the bank.

Start a Travel Fund: Start collecting your spare change or setting aside money for an upcoming trip. You can also create a savings account just for traveling. Little by little your money will add up, and before you know it, you’ll be in your dream vacation spot.

Go During the Middle of the Week: Did you know hotel rates and other travel expenses are lower during the middle of the week than the weekends? Try going on vacation during the week. You’ll end up saving more money and won’t have to deal with crowds at popular tourist attractions. Another way to save is to travel during the off-season. Research your destination and see when the crowds are the lowest. For some places, winter is the highest tourist time, while summer is the busiest for other destinations.

Visit Nearby Destinations: While staying in one place, explore the surrounding areas. For example, if you are staying in a major city, take the time to venture out to nearby tourist attractions. This will save you time and money without having to plan another trip.

Have a Staycation: There are probably places in your own hometown you have never explored! Take a day or two and get to know your city a little bit more. Visit the little, unknown places, historic sites, and more. You never know what history you’ll learn about your hometown. Also, read your newspaper and look online for free events and festivals to take part in.

Research Your Accommodations: Hotels aren’t the only place to stay while on vacation. Vacation rental websites, such as Airbnb.com and VRBO.com, are great places to search for cheaper accommodations in different cities. Plus, you’ll get to live like a local while exploring a new place. Another benefit is the possibility of having a kitchen, where you can make your meals and save on food. Be sure to read the rentals’ ratings and reviews before booking.

Take Advantage of Free Things: There is no shame in taking advantage of free entertainment, attractions, and transportation while on a trip. Sites like museums and parks can be free to visitors. Also, look into your location’s events, including concerts, art shows, and more to experience. Another way to save money is by using public transportation or, when possible, walking.

Fly Right: Prices for plane tickets vary throughout the time of the year and day of the week. It is recommended you purchase your tickets 50 to 100 days before your trip. Another way to save money is research prices through travel websites, such as Kayak, Expedia, and Airfarewatchdog.com. Try to plan your departures on a Thursday and returns on Monday to save more. When traveling abroad, fly to your destination during the off-season for cheaper airfares.

Use Travel Saving Websites and Apps: When it comes to any trip, the best thing you can do while planning is to research the best deals for accommodations, transportation, and more. An easy way to compare prices is by using travel saving websites and apps. In addition to the websites listed above, the Travel Channel recommends using jetsetter.combudgetplaces.com, and momondo.com.

Save Money on Food: You don’t have to eat out every meal while on vacation. When you first arrive, go to the grocery store and stock up on the essentials and items, such as sandwich supplies and easy-to-go meals. This way you can pack your lunch, dinner, and snacks to take with you while site-seeing. Plan to splurge and eat out for maybe one or two good meals during your trip, and pack the rest.

Vacation expenses can quickly add up when you aren’t looking. However, there are still ways to save money and have the time of your life exploring a new place and making memories.

xoxo,

Megan

 

Why We Should All be Celebrating Mondays

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Have you ever had a case of the Sunday scaries? You know, the time you realize on a Sunday night that Monday is coming? According to research, two-thirds of the population state that Monday is the worst day of the week. And why not? It is the start of a new week, the start of several continuous days of work and errands, and many days until the next weekend. In addition, research shows that people put pressure on themselves to start something new or quit something. Let’s face it, we all have said: “we’ll start Monday.” However, we can change that. We can change the way we think about Mondays and can make them one of our favorite days of the week. In fact, people across social media and online are already celebrating Mondays.

Recently, I read the book The Pepper Effect: Tap into the Magic of Creativity, Collaboration, and Innovation by Sean Gaillard. This novel is meant for educators and included lessons on how to implement the ingenuity and imagination of The Beatles into schools. Throughout the book, Gaillard touched on many topics, including why we should celebrate Mondays. After a quick Google search on the idea, I discovered that many people had already taken part in this concept.

For Gaillard, celebrating Mondays started with a desire to create bigger professional learning networks for teachers, while utilizing social media. To do this, Gaillard developed the hashtag #CelebrateMonday. Its purpose is to start each week with positivity and highlight the activities teachers are doing throughout the community, as well as, teaching children to be responsible citizens online. Essentially, it is all about recognizing the good things happening in the world of education and sharing them with others world-wide. Since then, many people, mainly in the educational community, have been using the hashtag and starting the week off on a good note.

As for those who aren’t teachers, principals, or school administrators, there are still many ways we can celebrate Monday. After all, don’t most people dread the start of a new week and count down the days until Friday? Referring back to my Google search, I noticed one particular site that put a new perspective on the concept. Writer Marc Seigel posted on his blog, A Flipped Approach, the article “Let’s Start Celebrating Mondays.” In this post, Seigel stated that the second day of the week is a fresh start and a clean slate. In addition, he added the image with the caption “T.G.I.M.” – thank goodness, it’s Monday. Usually, you say this for Friday, but have you ever thought about saying it for Monday? It might be time to start. Speaking of starting, T.G.I.M. is quickly rising in popularity, thanks to the lifestyle website, Thrive Global. This site has started the social campaign to change people’s way of thinking.

There are many opportunities for people to alter their attitude towards Monday. Start thinking of the day as a new beginning of a new week. However, don’t forget to celebrate your accomplishments and goals. For example, celebrate Monday by looking at how far you came the previous week or how much you have accomplished on a tough goal. Ease the pressure of the day; it is just another day of the week. Another idea is to celebrate those around you. Give your co-workers a high five in the lunchroom or tell someone you are proud to be their friend or ask them about the best thing that happened the week before.

Monday blues don’t have takeover your week. Instead, kick off the next seven days with a celebration. Over time, more and more people will begin to start celebrating Mondays and before you know it, Mondays will be the best day.

xoxo,

Megan

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

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