Celebrating Valentine’s Day at School

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February 14th is a day full of love, and there are many ways to celebrate with your loved ones, especially your kids. Multiple activities are available to create excitement around Valentine’s Day at home and at school. However, it can get overwhelming deciding on the perfect Valentine for your child to send to their classmates. To help ease some of the stress of finding the right Valentine to send to school, below are some ideas for you to use.

  • It is common to send a card and candy with your kids to give to their classmates, but sometimes that can get a little confusing, especially with food allergies. If you are going this route, double-check with your child’s teacher and/or other parents to scope out what type of food allergies are in the class. Easier types of candy to include are chocolate or conversation hearts. Don’t be afraid to branch out from doing traditional candy. Popcorn, pretzels, and cheese puffs are great ideas, as well. One of my favorite ideas is attaching a bag of lifesavers to the card with the caption, “Your friendship is a lifesaver.”
  • Candy or food doesn’t have to go with the card. Instead, try adding a colorful pencil, small notebook; a fun toy, such as a Hot Wheels car for boys and a bracelet for girls; or a miniature animal or Legos. Let your child decide on the cute treat to include with their classmates’ Valentines.
  • Most kids love doing arts and crafts. Create a small DIY project for a Valentine. Provide the materials and instructions on the card or a decorative tag. Take it up a notch and let the students make the craft project during their Valentine’s Day party at school. Arrange this activity by talking with the teacher or party coordinator. They will thank you for taking care of this element. Plus, it is an interactive, hands-on way to engage kids in celebrating the day. A quick Internet search or trip onto Pinterest will give you multiple projects for all ages. Remember to scout out projects where you can purchase the items in bulk, such as construction paper and popsicle sticks. Plus, if anything needs to be cut out, go ahead and prepare that for the classmates. When giving Valentines to a class, it is never okay to leave a student out. Think about materials you can get in quantities from 20–35. The “Bumble bee on a Stick Puppet” activity is a perfect example. All you need is:
    • Paper – yellow, black, and red for the antennas.
    • Black marker
    • Glue dots
    • Popsicle stick
  • Then, cut out two circles in yellow paper, about 2and 1½” wide respectively, for the body and head. Attach the smaller circle, the head, to the bigger one with a glue dot. Using the black paper, cut two or three ¼”-wide and 5″-long strips for the bee’s stripes. Attach to the body with glue dots. Cut off any excess black from the body and place it on the back of the head as the antennas. Create a small flower of red out of the red paper to attach to the top of the antennas for a pop of color. Then, add the bee’s stingers with small black triangles to the body. Then, turn the bee into a puppet by gluing the insect to a popsicle stick. Lastly, add some decoration, personality, and a cute face to your bee. Ta-da!
  • Other fun ideas to make into Valentine’s Day gifts include watercolor paints, bubbles, finger paint, Play-Doh, glow sticks, fake tattoos, and coloring pages.

Valentine’s Day is a sweet holiday whose meaning is centered on love. These ideas are awesome in helping to bring the holiday’s meaning to school with your kids. Just remember the goal is to make the Valentine’s Day fun, creative, and exciting for the receivers.

xoxo,

Megan

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On the 6th Day of Christmas…

The holiday season is a time for giving. We give time as well as gifts to family, friends, and others in our lives. But, it is also important to give to those we don’t know and celebrate the real meaning of the season. All ages can contribute their time by giving back to their community. It doesn’t have to be a huge amount of time, even the smallest project can make an impact. Need some ideas for giving back? Read below. 

• Visit a nursing home: This can be done as a family or with a group. Make cards and decorations beforehand and take them with you to give to the residents. Also, bring some holiday cheer by singing a few carols while there. Be sure to call ahead and schedule your visit. 
• Volunteer at a homeless shelter: When I was in elementary school, my Girl Scout troop volunteered at the Salvation Army shelter during December. We helped serve dinner, talked with the residents, and then sang Christmas carols. In addition, we brought bags filled with snacks, toiletries, and gloves and socks to pass out. Looking back this was one of my favorite memories of giving back during the holidays. Take some time and visit your local homeless shelter. Help with a meal or make bags to hand out.Personalize these care kits to the different types of shelters. For example, add more products for women if you are taking them to a woman’s shelter and don’t forget to include something for the kids. Want to make it resemble the holidays more? Fill a stocking with granola bars, water bottles, a toothbrush, and toothpaste, socks and gloves.
• Donate to a food bank: During the holiday season, this act of kindness is one of the most common, but yet is still in great demand, especially after the holidays. Take your kids to the grocery store and let them pick out the nonperishable goods to donate to your local food bank or ministry with a food pantry. Also, pick up some toiletries to include with your donation
• Send Christmas cards to deployed soldiers or to your local veterans hospitalThis simple act goes a long way. Be creative and create homemade Christmas cards for soldiers overseas and fore veterans at the veterans hospital. These cards will help them remember that people are thinking about them and their sacrifices for our country during the holidays. You can also prepare a care package to send with the cards. There are several organizations that help soldiersreceive the packages, such as Support Our Troops and Holiday Mail for Heroes. 
• Cook and bake: Cooking a meal or baking cookies is a great gesture to say thank-you to the various people in our lives. Prepare a casserole to freeze or a crockpot meal for your neighbors in need or take a meal to the employees at the police department, fire station, or EMS workers. Don’t want to do a meal? Bake cookies and sweets to give to neighbors, teachers, librarians, post office works, your mailman, and many more. 
• Deliver hot chocolate to the Salvation Army bell ringers: It can be cold standing outside stores, ringing the bells for a good cause. But you can make things warmer by bringing them hot chocolate. Make a batch and fill a thermos with the chocolate drink. Then, take cups and deliver the snack to the volunteers at various stores. In addition, bake some holiday cookies to take with you. 
• Clean out the toy box and closet: If there is a toy your child hasn’t played with in a while or a coat you haven’t worn in years, donate it to a local shelter or toy and coat drive. Someone will appreciate being able to give their child a gift this season or have something warm to wear when the weather gets cooler. Also, gather items for an angel on the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree or the holiday stocking drives. 

 

Whatever way you choose to give back, know you are making a difference in a person’s life. Yes, the holidays are a busy time, but there is always time to remember the reason for the season. 

xoxo,

Megan

On the 5th Day of Christmas…

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There is nothing better than your house smelling like Christmas during the holidays. An easy way to do that is by making this simple cranberry orange stovetop potpourri. Plus, it makes a great present for teachers, hostess gifts, and more! It takes a little more planning and assembling than other presents, but definitely worth it, and you can also make one for yourself! All you need is:

  • 1–16 oz. Mason jar with lid
  • ½ cup fresh cranberries
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 2 slices of an orange
  • 23 cinnamon sticks
  • Nutmeg
  • Water
  • Burlap
  • Ribbon or twine
  • Gift tag

Then, fill the jar with the ingredients and immerse in water. Decorate the outside with the burlap, ribbon or twine, and add a gift tag with instructions on how to use. The instructions should say something like: “Pour contents into a small sauce pan and simmer over low heat. Add water as needed. Enjoy!

xoxo,

Megan

On the 4th Day of Christmas…

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It is always nice to give a loved one in your life a meaningful, handmade gift at Christmastime. 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 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

Care for the Caregiver

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November is National Family Caregiver month. Each year, caregivers are celebrated for their contributions and efforts in assisting others. This month also raises awareness for the stress caregivers experience while putting others before themselves. According to the Mayo Clinic, about 1 in 3 adults in the United States are caregivers, and a caregiver can be defined as anyone actively helping others. This includes family members providing for older adults. While the job is wonderful, selfless, and rewarding, many caregivers experience emotional and physical stress. They may feel overwhelmed, constantly worried and tired, have frequent headaches, gain or lose weight, deal with depression, and become easily irritated or angry. If you are a caretaker and are showing some of the symptoms below, it might be time to reenergize. Below are some tips to help manage some of the caregiver stress.

  • Focus on how you can assist and what care you are able to provide: No one can be there to help with everything all the time. The important thing to understand is that you are doing the best you can and shouldn’t feel guilty about not being the perfect caregiver.
  • Ask for and accept help: There is no shame in asking for others to assist you. Create a list of things others can do and let them decide on the task. For example, the helper could cook dinner one night, or run an errand. You never know who will lend a helping hand until you reach out.
  • Find support for yourself: Most communities have caregiver resources. Types of aid include support groups, caregiving services (transportation, meal delivery, etc.), and health professionals. Also, stay in touch with your family and friends. Your loved ones can offer emotional support without being judgmental.
  • Practice self-care: Sometimes there is nothing better than a hot bath after a long day. Set aside time each week to focus on yourself and relax. Go for a walk each night, read a book before bed, etc. It is important to create a good sleep routine, eat a healthy diet, and drink plenty of water. Don’t forget to be physically active at least three times during the week.
  • Talk to your doctor: Before starting, make sure you are up to date on vaccines and your yearly physical. Plus, this helps establish a deeper relationship with you and your physician. That way, whenever something occurs, or you need someone to talk to, your doctor is able to offer assistance.

In addition, establish a relationship between you, the care recipient and the care recipient’s physician. Most of the time, the caregiver takes the care recipient to doctors’ appointments. Because of this, the caretaker needs to be on top of medications and treatments. Creating this relationship allows for more communication and understanding of how to better provide for the care recipient. If needed, prepare questions before the appointments to make sure the caregiver understands the care recipient’s healthcare plan. Lastly, don’t be afraid to call nurses or doctors with any questions or concerns.

If you are a caregiver and feeling stressed, try some of these activities. Remember to take time for yourself and relax. After all, you can’t take care of others without taking care of yourself.

xoxo,

Megan

Simple Southern Hush Puppies

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Hush puppies – one of my favorite Southern foods! Now, you can make them yourself using this simple recipe!

Ingredients: 

3/4 cup self rising flour
1 cup self rising corn meal (not mix)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 small onion, finely minced 
1 pinch garlic powder
1 pinch onion powder
1 pinch old bay seasoning
1 Tbsp sugar
3/4 to 1 cup buttermilk
Canola oil for frying
Directions:
1. In large mixing bowl, mix together flour and cornmeal. Add egg, onion and spices. Add buttermilk and stir with fork just until blended. Mixture should be farily stiff. Add a little bit more buttermilk, if necessary.
2. Heat oil in deep fryer to 375 degrees. Drop dough by teaspoons into hot oil and fry until hush puppies rise to the top and are golden brown. Remove from fryer and drain on paper towels.
Enjoy!
xoxo,
Megan

The Perfect Checklist for Any Party

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Planning parties and making checklists—two of my favorite things! No matter how many times I plan an event, there are things I forget. Did the invitations get out at the appropriate time? Did I order the cake and other refreshments ahead of time? To make sure a party can go as smoothly as possible, it is helpful to use a party checklist. Below is a handy list for all types of festivities, which can be personalized to meet your needs.

SIX WEEKS BEFORE

  • Create your budget.
  • Choose a theme.
  • Determine the guest list.
  • Reserve your party venue, caterer, and entertainer, if needed.
  • Write down all the necessary equipment, including chairs and tables, and contact rentals.
  • Finalize the details, such as date, time, location, RSVP date, and menu.

FOUR WEEKS BEFORE 

  • Prepare your invitations and envelopes.
  • For a children’s party, ask for an updated class list from their teacher, if you are inviting their classmates.
  • Decide on games, activities, and menu to match your theme.
  • Think about items for party favors.
  • Make a shopping list of food, paper goods, and decorations.
  • If ordering food or cake, place order.

THREE WEEKS BEFORE

  • Mail invitations.
  • Purchase party supplies, at the store or online.
  • Arrange for extra help for a children’s party.

ONE TO TWO WEEKS BEFORE

  • Create a party schedule.
  • Confirm times for when extra help is arriving.
  • Purchase last-minute party supplies.
  • Design a music playlist.
  • Call those invited who haven’t responded to the invitations.

THREE DAYS BEFORE 

  • Buy food and drinks.
  • Charge necessary cameras and electronic devices.
  • Call party venue, caterer, and entertainer to confirm details.
  • Assemble activities and party favors.
  • Clean inside and outside of your home.
  • Designate areas for food, beverages, and gifts/

ONE TO TWO DAYS BEFORE 

  • Bake cake, prepare make-ahead food or pick up ordered items.
  • Decorate party venue.

PARTY DAY 

  • Finalize last-minute details.
  • Turn on the music, lighting, etc.
  • Inflate the balloons.
  • Chill beverages.
  • Assemble remaining food and set out.
  • Double-check that bathrooms are stocked with extra toilet paper and there are enough silverware, napkins, plates, and cups on the tables.

ONE WEEK AFTER

  • Send thank-you notes.
  • Post pictures to social media and send to attendees.

ALWAYS REMEMBER

  • Specify an area for boots, umbrellas, and coats.
  • Napkins (2 per person).
  • Don’t forget ice, ice bucket, tongs or scoop.
  • Paper towels.
  • Extra toilet paper.
  • Plates of all sizes (appetizer, salad, dinner, and dessert).
  • Glasses of all sizes (water, wine, mixed drink, beer, soda, and coffee).
  • If grilling, check the tank, charcoal, and lighter fluid.
  • For an outside party, remember bug spray and citronella candles.
  • Extra batteries.
  • Wine and bottle opener.
  • Garbage bags.
  • Dishwashing soap.
  • To have fun! Enjoy the food, games, activities, and mingle with your guests!

xoxo,

Megan

Article published in Forsyth Family Magazine 

7 Home Remedies to Use When You Are Sick

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I got a Christmas present I didn’t ask for you this year – a horrible cold. No one wants to wake up Christmas morning unable to breathe and coughing up a storm. However, after using these seven home remedies, I’m on the mend to feeling better.

  1. Salt Water – Gargling salt water can help prevent upper respiratory infections and decrease the severity of cold symptoms. Dissolve 1 teaspoon of salt in a full glass of water. Swish around in month and throat. Then, spit it out.
  2. Warm Baths – Take a warm bath with Epsom salt and baking soda. Cold and flu symptoms and body aches can be reduced with the warm water. Also, try adding a few drops of essential oils for a soothing effects. Some options are: tea tree, juniper, rosemary, lavender, or eucalyptus.
  3. Heat Up Your Sinuses – Hold a hot pack or hot washcloth to your sinuses for a few minutes. Reusable hot packs can be purchased at drugstores. Be careful to not make the pack too hot.
  4. Honey – A spoonful of honey before bed helps decrease nighttime coughs.
  5. Cinnamon – Naturalists loved this spice, because of its healing effects, such as easing a dry or sore throat. Boil one teaspoon of cinnamon in a glass of water and drink. For an extra effect, mix it with pepper powder and honey.
  6. Take Vitamin C – You can get a dose of vitamin-C through a supplement or foods, such as citrus, green peppers, dark lefty greens, and kiwi fruit.
  7. Lemon – The acidic effects of lemons help eliminate bacteria from mucous membranes. Chopped one lemon into half and keep the skin on. Place in a boiling cup of water and let it steep for a few minutes. Inhale the steam.

Use these home remedies whenever you feel under the weather and you’ll feel better soon!

xoxo,

Megan