A Lazy Friday


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I’m a workaholic. I work most of the time and have to keep myself from squeezing in a task in my spare moments. Yet, today I’ve decided I’m not going to do anything, except rest, relax, and recharge. And, you know what? So far, it has been great.

My day has been filled with laying on the coach, watching T.V., and eating leftovers. The only “work” I have done has been online shopping. The beauty of being lazy is that it helps a person become a better person, because you are able to refuel and ease some of your stress. It is a type of self-care that everyone needs to do.

While you may be spending hours in store lines today, make sure to take some time being lazy and enjoying the day. Trust me, you’ll feel better and stronger to take on the holiday chaos.

xoxo,

Megan

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North Carolina BBQ 101

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Some people like Eastern, while other people prefer Lexington. Wondering what I’m talking about? North Carolina barbecue. This tasty food has had a longstanding history in the Tarheel State that dates back to colonial times.

According to historians, barbecue, in general, was first introduced in the Caribbean. During the 1500s, there would be island barbecues with meat, such as lizard and alligator. Shortly after, the Spanish brought hogs to the Caribbean and southeastern United States. This is when pork became the favorite meat for barbecue. As for North Carolina, influences came from the original settlers and African-Americans on plantations. Today, many people associate barbecue with their favorite style and you can’t have barbecue without a sauce.

Main Types of Barbecue:

It is said that Eastern-style barbecue (vinegar-based) was the first style in the state. It wasn’t until Heinz created ketchup and introduced it to the public at the Centennial International Exhibition of 1876, that we began seeing a difference in barbecue styles. During World War I, Lexington-style barbecue was created in Lexington, North Carolina.

Eastern-stylebarbecue is a vinegar and pepper based style with no tomato. All parts of the hog are used. There is a common saying associated with this style, which is that “every part of the hog except the squeal is used.” Originally, lemon juice was used in the base. However, since this juice was hard to find in many southern states when barbecue started gaining popularity, vinegar was substituted. Eastern-style barbecue has more of a spicy-tartness and focuses more on the actual meat than the sauce. As for Eastern-style slaw, it matches the tangy taste of the barbecue and includes vinegar. This style is mostly famous along the east coast of North Carolina.

Lexington-style barbecue (my favorite) is all about the tomato. This style is commonly referred to as Piedmont or Western style. It uses a red sauce, made up of ketchup, vinegar, and pepper and has a smokier taste compared to Eastern. The slaw mimics the tomato sauce, as well, and is called “red slaw” or “barbecue slaw.” Lexington-style barbecue is more well-known in the Piedmont and western parts of the state.

Other Styles: 

Most people are only familiar with North Carolina barbecue as being Eastern or Lexington. However, another, lesser known style involves pork ribs. The Baby Back Ribs, also called top loin ribs, are cut from the center section of the loin and are a favorite among many. Another type of pork ribs is spareribs. This style is a larger and longer rib and more flavorful than Baby Back Ribs. This style of barbecue can be found at many festivals and competitions throughout the year, including the Twin City RibFest.

Lastly, throughout North Carolina, pork meat isn’t the only type of barbecue a person can find. Chicken and beef are also favorites to serve up. In addition, there are influences from Texas, St. Louis, Kansas City, and Jamaica.

Cooking Barbecue  

The most traditional way to cook barbecue is pit style. According to historians, this technique has been used for thousands of years. A pit barbecue is an enclosed, above-ground “pit” that cooks the meat slowly over different types of wood. Some popular varieties of wood are hickory, mesquite, and oak. The smells and smoke of the wood drift up into the meat and flavor it. Also, pit style is known for producing very tender meat. An example of pit style cooking is smoking barbecue or using a smoker. There are many various ways on how to use this style, as well as types of equipment needed. The most common types are cold smoking and hot smoking. Cold smoking is used to flavor the meat and hot smoking can be defined as the meat’s cooking time.

Barbecuing versus Grilling 

Yes, there is a different between barbecuing and grilling. Barbecuing can be defined as a slower process that uses lower heat than grilling, and the food is cooked by the heat of the smoke. In grilling, dry heat is used and is applied to the food being cooked.

Barbecue has been a longstanding staple in North Carolina. Most people, from a young age, find their favorite style and it stays with them for the rest of their lives. Summer has just begun and what better time is there to have a barbecue with your family and friends?

xoxo,

Megan

Originally written for Forsyth Woman Magazine, June 2018. 

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. 

Pizza! Pizza! Pizza!

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Did you know October is National Pizza Month? This yummy food was given its own month back in 1984 by the founder of Pizza Today magazine, Gerry Durnell. Durnell chose October as the month to recognize the famous Italian pie because the first issue of his magazine was to debut in that same month and year. As a pizzeria owner in Santa Claus, Indiana, Durnell noticed there was little public information on the pizza industry and in return, he created a national pizza-oriented magazine and national pizza month. Today, pizzerias throughout the country celebrate the delicious flatbread topped with tomatoes, cheese, meats, and veggies. However, people’s love for pizza goes back to the food’s creation in Naples, Italy in the 1700s.

History of Pizza 

The word “pizza” was first recorded in a Latin manuscript from Central Italy in the 10th century. Modern pizza, the types we know today, were created in Naples during the 1700s and 1800s. According to Carol Helstosky, author of “Pizza: A Global History,” during this time Naples was a waterfront city known for the working poor. Due to their lifestyle and occupations, the Neapolitans (citizens of Naples) needed food that was inexpensive and could be consumed quickly. The idea for pizza came about and was sold by street vendors and informal restaurants. The earliest form of pizza is Jeyoun, which takes the traditional style of pizza and adds ingredients to the dough. As for toppings, they included tomatoes, cheese, oil, anchovies, and garlic.

There are three common types of Neapolitan pizzas. The first is the more traditional Pizza Marinara. This type has tomatoes, garlic, oregano, and olive oil. Then, there is Pizza Margherita, which has tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, and olive oil. Legend has it that this pizza was created around 1889 when King Umberto I and Queen Margherita visited Naples. During their visit, they wanted a variety of pizza from the city’s Pizzeria Brandi. Their favorite type was the pizza mozzarella, a flatbread topped with cheese, tomatoes, and basil. This pie then became known as Pizza Margherita, after the Queen herself. Lastly, there is Pizza Margherita Extra with tomatoes, mozzarella from Campania, basil, and olive oil.

Italian immigrants brought pizza to the United States. Opening in 1905, Lombardi’s in Manhattan was the nation’s first pizzeria. The famous pie was also introduced after World War II when soldiers from the Italian Campaign came home. For example, Ira Nevin served in Naples and came back from war with pizza ideas. His family was in the oven business in New York, and once home, Nevin invented the first gas-fired, ceramic deck pizza oven. Thanks to his invention, pizzerias and pizza spread throughout the country.

Currently, there are several different types of pizzas and pizza restaurants, and chains are familiar sites in every city. Everyone has their own favorite piece of pie, and there is much debate as to which type is the best.

Types of Pizza

As for me, I am a little boring when it comes to my favorite type of pizza. I prefer all cheese, hand-tossed pizza and nothing else. However, there are many different toppings you can add and different crust thicknesses. Different types of pizzas include the Chicago deep-dish, New York style, the Sicilian, Greek pizza, and California pizza. Others include the Hawaiian Barbeque Chicken, veggie, and seafood. All are unique in their own way and have either thick or thin crust. You can really put anything you want on pizza as a topping. Some common ingredients are cheese, beef, pepperoni, anchovies, onions, garlic, pineapple, peppers, spinach, black olives, chicken, and ham. You can garnish your pizza with varieties of sauces, such as pesto, béchamel (a white sauce), barbeque, tomato, and salsa.

When it comes to pizza, the choices are endless. As a matter of fact, thanks to the loving nature of this Italian pie, about thirteen percent of the U.S. population eats pizza every day. Sounds like it might be time to get me a slice!

xoxo,

Megan

Article published in Forsyth Woman Magazine. 

For the Love of Couponing: Exercise

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It’s a New Year, which means time for New Year’s resolutions, including a favorite one – getting in shape. However, you don’t have to spend a fortune on gym memberships, personal trainers, and new gym clothes. There are many budget-friendly ways to add more exercise into your daily schedule in the upcoming year.

  • Create your own home gym in your kitchen, bedroom, living room or elsewhere, and exercise whenever you want. Gather free workouts from YouTube, Pinterest, and blogs. Be sure to mix it up and focus on all areas of your body by including different types of workouts. You can also purchase DVD workouts and equipment, such as weights and yoga mats. The one-time purchase of the items will pay off in the long run, compared to the price of annual gym memberships.
  • Look for free fitness classes in the community and at organizations, such as the YMCA and YWCA. Throughout the year, different types of classes and events will be offered at no fee. A simple Google search will help show what events are available in your city. Also, contact the local organizations and gyms to see if they are offering anything.
  • Get outdoors to exercise. Take a walk in a park or through downtown, go on a hike or a bike ride. It costs little to nothing to be active outside with family and friends while still enjoying nature.
  • Sometimes exercising by yourself can be hard. There is no one to hold you accountable for your goals, so it might be easy to fall back into bad habits like, for example, spending money on unnecessary junk food. Try exercising with a friend or in a team. This will allow you to stay on track, without spending money on a whim.
  • In addition to joining teams, one way to save money is to participate in a community-led sports team. This cost-efficient exercise has weekly practices and games to keep you in shape. Lean towards more intramural teams that don’t cost much in equipment, but still give you a good workout, while being affordable and, most importantly, fun.
  • There is an app for everything on your phone, so why not use a fitness app? However, you need to make sure it is free. Some free fitness apps include Gym Goal, Couch to 5k, Sworkit, and Fitness Buddy.
  • A gym membership can be expensive, but the good news is that it’s a lower price to join in the summer. This is because of the fewer new members registering for membership. Gyms are trying to maintain their high participation numbers and hope lowering their prices will attract people to join. Another time to look for gym promotions is in January, right when people start working on their New Year’s resolutions.
  • Also, when it comes to gym prices, there is room for negotiation. Many gym chains are willing to set your membership fee based on what you will be allowed to access. For example, a lower price will mean you’ll have limited access to certain areas of the gym. To negotiate the best way possible, you need to first do your homework and arm yourself with information and knowledge for your meeting with the gym employee. Also, you should shop at the end of the month and in the middle of a weekday (membership salesmen have a quota to meet), and always ask for a trial period.
  • Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and limiting your alcohol consumption will cut down on your spending and add money to your wallet. Stick with your grocery list for healthy foods and don’t head towards the junk food. Also, you can save money by taking your lunch to work and trying frozen fruits and vegetables instead of fresh. In the long run, you may also save on doctors’ bills by not getting sick.

Article originally published in Forsyth Woman: http://www.forsythwoman.com/budget-buzzz-exercise

xoxo,

Megan

Just 20 Seconds

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One of my favorite quotes is pictured above. For many things in life, all we need is just 20 seconds of insane courage. Whether that be the courage to speak up, correct a wrong, apply for a job, or go on an adventure, 20 seconds can go far.

Try taking time everyday to do something new and something brave. You never know what will come of it.

xoxo,

Megan

Peace on Earth

“Lets hope it won’t be too long before one of the most important sounds peace on earth, is heard throughout the world.” -Bing Crosby

Today we close out another year. If you are like me, you are probably asking “where did 2015 go?”. Every year at this time, I reflect on the past and look forward to the future. I make my list of resolutions, half of which I stick with, half I don’t. Ending 2015 is a little different than others. A lot has happened, both good and bad. I worked on some really great projects, had personal success, and filled my life with joy. But, here is where the bad comes in, I also had moments (or days) of doubt, despair, and not knowing where my life was taking me.

I share this, because I know some of you have been there. We all have good and bad times. However, there is a hope for the new year, a hope for peace in the world and in our own lives. January 1st isn’t the only day for you to plan anew, plan for new adventures, hopes, and chances. Everyday is a new day to take a risk. After all, we do have 365 chances to make a change.

Along with those risks, let’s challenge ourselves to be a little kinder to others, a little nicer, and a little more helpful. This world needs more love and kindness and that starts with each and every one of us. Through love, we can accomplish peace on earth.

Auld lang syne, my friends.

xoxo,

Megan

I’ll Be Home for Christmas (Part II)

The conclusion to I’ll Be Home for Christmas….

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Over the next couple of days, my family lived precariously, waiting impatiently to hear any news about Russell.

One night, as we were decorating the Christmas tree, I couldn’t take it anymore. This was always a tradition my family did together and without Russell, I wanted nothing to do with it. “Why can’t we find anything out about Russell?” Are you sure you contacted everyone you could think of for information?” I exclaimed, out of anger. “Lizzy, your mother and I are doing everything we can. The least you can do is be supportive and keep up hope,” stated my father. “It’s hard to keep up hope. It’s easier to have doubt. I’m going up to my room and the two of you can keep decorating,” I said, disappointed with his response. “Lizzy, please don’t,” my mother began to say, but a knock on the front door interrupted her.

“Who do you think it could be, Bill?” my mother weakly asked. All of our hearts were pounding out of our chests, wondering who stood on the other side of the door. One by one, with my father in the lead, we walked to the door and slowly opened it. “Are you Mr. Dillard?” a man in an Army uniform asked. “Yes, yes I am,” my father replied, nervously. “Here, I have an important letter for you. I hope you and your family have a very Merry Christmas,” he said as he passed the letter to my family. As quickly as he came, the uniformed man went. Not knowing what to do, my family stood there like statues in a museum. “Open it Bill! Don’t just look at it!” shouted my mother.

Very slowly the letter was torn open. As he began reading, my father’s eyes grew ten times bigger. “It’s…it’s from Russell!” Jumping with enthusiasm, my mother grabbed the letter and shouted “Safe! He is safe! Russell is safe!” Hearing the news was the best thing I could ask for. “What else does the letter say, Mom?” I asked. “It says he is safe and an Italian family has taken him and a few other soldiers into their home, after their plane was shot down. They are keeping them in hiding, otherwise they would be taken as prisoners of war. All that matters is that he is safe,” my mother said as she squealed with excitement.

After hearing the happy news, my family gained a little bit more Christmas spirit and together, we finished decorating the tree. From then on, my family kept receiving letters from Russell; however, we couldn’t write back, because it was too risky. Between letters, I kept reading the old ones over and over again until I could recite them from memory. All I wanted for Christmas was for him to be home, but I knew that was impossible.

Within no time, Christmas Eve was here. As always, my family went to the Christmas Eve Candlelight service at our church. Right as we were pulling out of the driveway, it began to snow. “There’s nothing like a white Christmas, don’t you think?” said my mother. There was something different about the evening, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. “Oh well,” I thought, “tonight is Christmas Eve and I’m not going to let anything bother me.”

 

I loved everything about the Christmas Eve Candlelight service. From singing “Morning Star” to lighting the candles, the service officially signaled to me that Christmas had begun. By the time we left church, the snow had picked up and the ground was covered in a blanket of white. “Almost two inches deep and more is going to fall by morning,” my father said as he observed the sky. Sometimes I believed my father could tell the weather better than anyone.

Once we got home, we built a fire, and opened the traditional only one present on Christmas Eve. Still, there was something strange about the night, but I still couldn’t figure it out. Once the Christmas Eve traditions were done, there was one more thing to do. “Does everyone want hot chocolate? Bill, make sure the fire is going strong and Lizzy, make sure the lights are turned down,” my mother said from the kitchen. The Dillard family always watched the snow fall from the living room window and drank hot chocolate by the light of the Christmas tree before going to bed.

We had only watched the snow fall for about 10 minutes when a jeep pulled into our driveway. Oddly, it was Russell’s jeep. Thoughts began to run through my head, but I quickly pushed them aside, thinking there was no way he could have gotten home. From where I was sitting, I couldn’t see the person walking up to the front door. Instead of knocking, the mysterious person began to sing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

Glancing between the window and my parents, I realized the jeep actually was Russell’s and he was the mysterious person. “Run and open the door,” exclaimed my mother as her and my father stood there, smiling with joy. As excited as I could be, I opened the door and saw Russell, standing there in his Army uniform, singing the last note of the song as loud as he could.

“Russell! Russell! You are home!” I said as I jumped into his arms, knocking him down. “What? How?” I exclaimed as a million questions began to surface. “Lizzy! Lizzy! Let me come inside and tell you,” Russell replied to my incomplete thoughts. “It’s good to see you!” both of my parents said as they greeted their son. “Tell me how! Tell me how!” I blurted out, breaking up their reunion.

Before Russell began, my parents showed me a letter they had kept hidden from me. “You knew he was coming home and you didn’t tell me?” “Lizzy,” my parents said, “we wanted this to be a Christmas surprise for you.” In his letter, Russell said he was coming home for Christmas, but in order to leave, he had to pretend he wasn’t an US citizen until he got back to base. Getting back to base wasn’t easy, but Russell was able to make it there safely.

“But how did you get your jeep?” I asked. “While you were at church, a neighbor drove me home from the train station and I got it then. Mom and Dad helped me plan the whole welcome home surprise, once I got back to base. ‘Operation Lizzy’s Christmas Present’ was what we called it. Keeping it a surprise from you wasn’t so easy,” answered Russell.

As I raced towards my brother, I began to list all of the old traditions we still needed to do. “Ok, ok. We’ll do them,” he said, “but where to begin?” I thought about this for a moment, then pulled Russell out the door and to his jeep. “It’s time to go caroling,” I said. With our parents waving from the door, Russell and I started our annual caroling trip through town.

When we pulled up to the front house, Russell looked over at me and said “Told you in my letters I would be home for Christmas.”

The Christmas of 1944 became a Christmas I never forgot.