On the 2nd Day of Christmas

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During this time of the year, almost everywhere you go, you hear holiday music. The voices of Nat King Cole, Perry Como, and Bing Crosby ring through every store, building, and home, singing the lyrics of countless tunes we know by heart. But do you know the history behind the famous songs? For the 2nd day of Christmas, brush up on your holiday song trivia and wow your family and friends at the next holiday get-together/

  • “Jingle Bells” – This famous holiday melody was originally written as a winter song and not meant for the holidays. There are different theories as to how the song originated, but the most well-known version was written by James Pierpont in 1850 in Medford, Massachusetts. The original title was “The One Horse Open Sleigh” and was inspired by the annual sleigh races throughout the town, hence the lyrics. Historians say Pierpont wrote the song for his father’s Sunday school class for Thanksgiving and it became so popular people, they sang it again at Christmas time.
  • “I Have a Little Dreidel” – This tune is one of the most famous Chanukah songs in the English-speaking world. On the four sides of a dreidel, the letters “Nun-Gimel-Heh-Shin” are printed and represent the phrase “Nas-Godol-Hayah-Sham,” meaning “a great miracle happened there.” There are two versions of the song: English and Yiddish. The English version was written by Samuel S. Grossman and Samuel E. Goldfarb. Together, Grossman and Goldfarb composed the melody and lyrics.
  • “Deck the Halls” – This Welsh Christmas song goes back to the 16th century, with a melody coming from the Welsh winter song “Nos Galan,” which is actually about New Year’s Eve. The first English version of the song appeared in 1862 and was composed by Welsh lyricist John Jones and English lyricist Thomas Oliphant. Oliphant changed the original Welsh lyrics, which mainly described winter, love, and cold weather, to a version that alluded to the upcoming of Christmas. The only similarity between the two versions is the traditional “fa la la la la, la la la la.”
  • “O Tannenbaum” – Also known as “O Christmas Tree,” this traditional German carol’s first lyrics date back to 1550, but it became a classic in 1820 with August Zarnack coining the first verse. Four years later, in 1824, the second and third verses were added on by Ernst Gebhard Anschutz. A Tannenbaum is a synonym for a fir tree or Christmas tree. The practice of putting up a Christmas tree was popular in Germany during the time of the song’s writing, but wasn’t popular in England and America until later. “O Tannenbaum” didn’t become a classic in England and America until the mid-19th century, when the tradition of Christmas trees made their way over.
  • “The Christmas Song” – “The Christmas Song” is one of the most well-known holiday songs and originated from a hot July afternoon in 1945. Stated in his autobiography, songwriter Mel Tormé says it only took him and songwriting partner Bob Wells 45 minutes to compose the classic tune. Images such as “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” were modeled after Wells’ childhood memory of the holidays in Boston. Once completed, the two contacted Carlos Gastel, the manager of Nat King Cole and Peggy Lee, and played the song to him. A year later, in 1946, Nat King Cole’s record of the tune came out and the rest is history.
  • “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” – “It’s the most wonderful time of the year, with kids jingle belling and everyone telling you ‘be of good cheer.’” Written specifically for The Andy Williams Christmas Album, this song was created by George Wyle and Eddie Pola in 1963. The following year radio stations picked up the tune and began playing it on a regular rotation. Since then, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” has gotten more airtime with every coming year, making it a holiday classic.

Whether you spend the holidays humming “tis the season to be jolly” or “oh, dreidel, dreidel, dreidel,” there’s sure to be a song stuck in your head. Now, you’ll be able to tell everyone how these popular holiday songs originated.

xoxo,

Megan

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Christmastime Love for the “Peanuts”

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For many people, it is a Christmas tradition. Sitting down with your loved ones and watching the timeless program, A Charlie Brown Christmas, which premiered on December 9th, 1965. Many people watch this story each year in December. But, have you ever asked yourself what makes this classic so memorable and a favorite of so many?

During Christmas, a feeling of nostalgia is in the air, and every smell, sight, film, etc. can trigger a beloved memory for most people. This is exactly what happens with A Charlie Brown Christmas. Within the first few minutes, as viewers watch the characters ice skating, and the song “Christmastime is Here” plays in the background, they are taken back in time. They remember special moments spent with family and Christmas memories from long ago. According to writer Mike Errico, in his article, “The Real Reason You Love A Charlie Brown Christmas,” jazz pianist and film composer Vince Guaraldi’s use of sounds and pictures created an “emotional resonance.” Plus, the characters are voiced by children, not adults, adding a child-like enjoyment to the story. After all, doesn’t everyone feel like a child again during the holidays?

Along with the music and children’s voices, the film is remembered because of its premise. A depressed Charlie Brown is on a “search” for Christmas cheer. He is fed up with the commercialism of the holiday. To help with his journey, friend Lucy asks Charlie Brown to direct the neighborhood Christmas play. However, things don’t go as planned and chaos occurs. All the characters have different opinions, but for Charlie Brown, all the play needs is the enchantment of a Christmas tree. He and friend Linus go shopping and end up with a tiny twig of a tree. Once the two return to the rehearsal, their tree isn’t a big hit and a frustrated Charlie Brown asks if anybody knows what Christmas is all about. In the end, Linus saves the day by reciting the story of Christmas, Luke 2: 8-14. In addition, throughout the film, Snoopy is up to his traditional antics, making the loveable pup even more treasured. The story concludes with the Peanuts gang finding the meaning of Christmas, which doesn’t involve presents, glitter, or decorations.

A Charlie Brown Christmas is full of memorable and meaningful symbols that almost everyone can connect to. There is the tree; the tension of the commercialism of Christmas; coming together to help a friend or loved one; and discovering the message of the holiday. One reason these elements are easy to relate to is because these are the things some people are feeling during the month of December. A Charlie Brown Christmas reminds us of what is important and what is not. It gives the Christmas message to generations throughout the world. In addition, it shows that material objects aren’t the full representation of the holiday and that you can take the tiniest, unpleasant-looking thing and make it beautiful, like Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree.

When the show premiered on CBS, the network expected it to flop and be the end of Peanuts. However, people knew the program would be a success just by its broadcast when it was watched by more than 15.4 million viewers. Since then, ACharlie Brown Christmas has become the second-longest running Christmas program in history. Also, the program has inspired the television Christmas tradition of running half-hour animated specials, such as How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Frosty the Snowman.

Throughout the years, A Charlie Brown Christmas has become a Christmas staple. Peanuts creator Charles Schulz produced a timeless and relatable holiday story that is packed with nostalgia, a sense of melancholy, and meaning.  Just as Linus said, the program describes “what Christmas is all about.

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

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

Hello, Winter!

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Happy Winter! Today is the first day of a new season and is the shortest day and longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. December 21st is known as winter solstice and happens due to the tilt of the sun towards the Earth.

Celebrate the day with your family and friends. This simple craft will have your home smelling good all season long and makes a great Christmas decoration!

Clove Oranges

Materials:

  • An orange
  • Thin colored ribbon
  • Cloves

Directions: 

  1. Wrap the ribbon around the orange, twisting at the base, dividing the orange into quarters.
  2. Feed the ends under the piece of ribbon at the top of the orange.
  3. Tie a overhand knot at one end of the orange to keep the ribbon in place.
  4. Press cloves into the orange. Create any pattern you would like and be creative.
  5. Display your oranges in a bowl and hang onto your Christmas tree with extra ribbon for hanging.

xoxo,

Megan

 

 

Nana’s Homemade Mac and Cheese

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The last week before Christmas can be stressful and busy. There is last-minute shopping, baking treats for loved ones, and finalizing Christmas Eve and Day plans. While this time is enjoyable, you might not be thinking about your daily life practices, such as eating regular meals. Never fear, I have the perfect to-go dish for any pre-Christmas dinner – my Nana’s homemade mac and cheese (my favorite meal ever!)

Nana’s Homemade Mac and Cheese: 

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces elbow macaroni
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Directions:

  1. Cook macaroni for 9 minutes. Drain, cover, and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In medium saucepan, melt butter. Blend in flour, mustard, salt, and pepper.
  3. Cook until mixture is smooth and bubbly; gradually add in milk.
  4. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture boils; simmer 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  5. Gradually mix in cheese. Stir over low heat until cheese is melted.
  6. Add pasta; mix together lightly and pour into 2-quart casserole.
  7. Bake 25 minutes.

Enjoy!

xoxo,

Megan

 

Holiday Mishaps: When Things Don’t Go as Planned

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Often during the holidays, we picture a perfect family gathering or party with friends, where everything goes exactly as planned. We imagine a Norman Rockwell Christmas Eve and Christmas day. However, sometimes life throws a curveball and our ideal Christmas can turn into something resembling a Griswolds’ holiday.

Holiday mishaps happen to everyone and can end up being great memories to look back on. Although they might not be too funny at the time, they can bring lots of laughs for years to come. My family has had their share of funny Christmas stories. From finding our dog on top of the table, eating 16 gumdrops from our gingerbread house when she was a puppy, to numerous Christmas trees falling to the ground, recalling these stories always make the corners of our mouths turn upward. Another favorite tale is while my family was at a school event, my dog somehow got into the teachers’ presents sitting on the floor. She managed to remove all the Hershey’s kisses from the bags, unwrap them (wouldn’t you love to watch her do that?), and then proceed to eat all of the chocolate. Let’s just say there was a surprise waiting for us when we returned home. Lastly, one of my relatives recalls the story about their family’s tradition of eating cheesecake crescent rolls during Christmas. However, one year the dish was accidentally made with garlic crescent rolls. To this day, they still chuckle at the mistake.

Other common holiday mishaps are family photos gone wrong, thinking a Christmas sweater is ugly when it wasn’t meant to be, or gifting the incorrect present to someone.

It is important to remember there are tips for when things don’t go as planned. Read below whenever holiday mishaps and stress get to you.

  • Keep your expectations reasonable and be flexible. If your quintessential Christmas morning of opening presents, drinking hot chocolate, and listening to Bing Crosby sing on the radio turns out to be a morning of kids unwrapping all of their presents at once and bowls of cereal with the dog barking in the background, know that is okay. Don’t beat yourself up and make unrealistic expectations. Holiday moments are more meaningful if you remember to actually enjoy them.
  • Give yourself a break and let your family and friends help out. Cramming all of the cooking in, beating the crowds shopping for last minute presents, and staying up past Santa’s visit wrapping gifts can take a toll on a person. It can also eliminate the holiday joy they feel. Make the holidays a family event and get everyone involved. Let your kids pitch in with the Christmas dinner or send your husband to fight the rush at the grocery store. In addition, having everyone’s help gives you more time to make those special memories. Lastly, create a schedule and to-do list for everything that needs to be accomplished. However, forgive yourself and let go of your guilt if you don’t finish everything you put down for the day, week, or even holiday season. This is where setting your priorities comes into play. Consider what is most important for you, your family, and friends. Is it necessary to go caroling in the neighborhood? Do you need to make a 12-course meal for Christmas Eve? Or will your family still have a great holiday with pick-up food? Don’t sacrifice time with loved ones just to outdo yourself.

The holidays are a time for fun, family, friends, and love. When a mishap happens, just sit back, relax, and remember nothing is ever perfect. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

xoxo,

Megan

Article written for Forsyth Woman Magazine. 

Anxiety, Let Me Introduce You to the Holidays

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Can I be honest and say that December has been an uphill battle for me? Every day, I want to break into tears and my anxiety and depression have been all over the place, like it is every year when the holiday season rolls around.

The holidays are supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year with all the events, decorations, and music. However, the holidays are hard for people with mental illnesses. It is difficult to always pretend to be happy when you really aren’t. With the loss of my dog and this year’s other challenges, I’m drained of the Christmas spirit. Add in the anxiety of being overwhelmed by the season makes me just… sad. I keep thinking about the song “Where Are You Christmas” from The Grinch. Where is Christmas? Have I changed so much to where the magic of the holiday is gone?

To help ease my worries, I have been cooking, reading, exercising, and taking time for myself. Sometimes, those practices don’t always make me happy and feel better. Yet, there are still the moments of laughter and love with my family and friends that make the holidays all worth it.

Remember that for some people Christmas is hard. Spread kindness and love and understand that the holidays are still meaningful to them, but also a little somber. Keep in mind mental illnesses don’t take a holiday break and will be with the person during the special moments. Make them feel loved and supported. Give them space and let them know they don’t have to do everything that’s involved with the season. There is nothing worse than being pushed to take part in an event, when you are hurting inside.

xoxo,

Megan