Happy Sunday!

.Sunday. Take it slow and give your soul a chance to catch up with your body.

Life update coming soon! But, I want to hear from YOU first.

What do you want to see on the blog? Travel posts, recipes, DIY projects, life updates? Post your thoughts in the comments. I want this blog to be as much yours as it is mine.

Thank you for your dedication to reading my blog!

xoxo,

Megan

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A Piedmont Triad Staycation

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Spring and summer are times for vacations; a break from reality and a trip away from home. However, sometimes vacations can be expensive, lengthy, and cause a lot of stress. There is one way to eliminate the possible vacation hassle and explore your own hometown—by taking a staycation.

Staycations have recently become more and more popular. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, this new type of vacation can be defined as “a vacation spent at home or nearby.” Normally, they involve day trips to local attractions. Looking at the Piedmont Triad, my hometown, there are many places to visit on your family’s staycation. Explore the attractions in your own city and start planning your staycation with the ideas below.

Experience Life as a Moravian – Our area is rich in Moravian history, so why not take a step back in time and experience their way of life? Old Salem Museum and Gardens and Historic Bethabara Park are just two places to learn about the Moravian heritage and its impact in Winston-Salem today. Stop by the bakery in Old Salem for some delicious Moravian cookies and sugar cake.

Visit the Yadkin Valley – The Yadkin Valley has lots to offer. It is home to many wineries and vineyards, and kids can enjoy the area’s parks and recreational activities. These activities include horseback riding, biking, camping, and more!

Learn More about History and Science at Local Museums – Who says learning can’t be fun? Spend a day or more at the Greensboro Science Center, the Reynolda House Museum of American Art, Kaleideum North (formerly SciWorks) and Kaleideum Downtown (formerly The Children’s Museum). Oher museums in the Piedmont Triad include SECCA (the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art), the Wake Forest University Museum of Anthropology, the New Winston Museum, and the Winston-Salem Cup Museum. There is something for everyone of all ages, no matter if you are a science lover or history fan.

Hike Pilot Mountain – Located in Pinnacle, Pilot Mountain State Park is the perfect place to spend some time outdoors this summer. The park offers many walking/hiking trails, camp grounds, and views of Sauratown Mountain and the Blue Ridge Mountains. There are two distinct features to the mountain, the Big and Little Pinnacles, with the Big Pinnacle also known as The Knob.

Splish Splash at a Waterpark – One aspect of summer is being in the water, whether it be at the beach, pool, or waterpark. In the Piedmont Triad, there are several places to perfect your swimming skills and have fun sliding down waterslides. The Peter S. Brunstetter Aquatic Center at Tanglewood Park in Clemmons is complete with a lazy river, lap pool, splash pad playground, and two slides. Another staycation water attraction is Wet’n Wild Emerald Pointe in Greensboro. At this waterpark, there is something for everyone, including the Soak Zone, Shipwreck Cove, Happy Harbor, and lots of water slides. Are you a daredevil with heights? If so, make sure you try the Daredevil Drop, which slides you down a 76-foot-steep water chute.

Shop till You Drop – Hanes Mall, Thruway Shopping Center, and local boutiques are just a few places for you to find that new outfit, purse, and more. With over 200 stores, Hanes Mall is one of the largest malls in the region and has signature department stores, such as Belk, JC Penney, Dillard’s, and Sears. As for Thruway Shopping Center, there’s a little bit of everything for shoppers, with the unique range of stores. Lastly, follow the “shop local” motto and visit local boutiques. A few of my favorite in the area are Penny Lane Boutique, Mainstream Boutique, and Southern Ties Boutique.

Take a Tour of Historical Places – Whether the tour is on foot or in a car, learn more about the history of the Piedmont Triad by visiting historical places. Stop at the famous shell-shaped Gas Station on East Sprague Street in Winston-Salem or visit the West End Historic District downtown. While in Clemmons, visit the Village Hall and Stagecoach, the Philip and Johanna Hoehns (Hanes) House, and the Clemmons Milling Company.

Staycations give you a chance to explore and learn more about your hometown. Take time this year to have a few day trips in the area. You’ll be glad you did!

xoxo,

Megan

New Neighbors? No Worries!

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

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

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

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

xoxo,

Megan

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

 

Two Ingredient Pumpkin Cookies

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I love this time of the year, because it means… everything pumpkin! There’s pumpkin pies, pumpkin lattes, and pumpkins cookies. I hope you enjoy this simple, easy two ingredient recipe for these delicious pumpkin cookies.

Ingredients:

  • 1 can pumpkin
  • 1 box spice cake mix

Directions:

Mix the ingredients together. Once the dough is mixed, roll into small balls and place onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 10-13 minutes.

Enjoy!

xoxo,

Megan

 

I’ll Be Home for Christmas (Part I)

Every year around this time, I post the story I’ll Be Home for Christmas. I wrote this story a few years back and love sharing it.  As a lover of history and World War II, there is a personal connection to the story for me–part of my grandfather’s own World War II experience is mixed into the plot.

Enjoy one of my favorite tales this Christmas season- I’ll Be Home for Christmas. 

——-

Story Picture

It was December 1944 and the United States was immersed in World War II. My family, the Dillards, included my father Bill, my mother Samantha, my brother Russell, and me, Lizzy, a freckled-faced, red, curly-haired 13-year old. Russell, a 20-year old, private in the US Army, was stationed in Europe, fighting behind enemy lines. As for the rest of us, we fought the war at home.

Two weeks before Christmas and the town of Smithfield, Illinois, was full of holiday spirit. Along with preparing for December 25th, my town was preparing gift packages to send to soldiers overseas. Many of my friends had siblings in the Army, just like I did.

My mother was the president of Operation Victory, a committee that sent gift packages to soldiers throughout the year. This was just one of the ways my mother helped fight the war. As the sibling of a soldier, I constantly wrote letters to Russell, telling him about home and the latest news. I also sent cards to him and his friends. Quickly, I became a professional at drawing Christmas trees.

This was the second Christmas Russell was going to miss. He entered the US Army shortly after Pearl Harbor. In February 1942, he was sent to Europe and has only been home twice since then.

My father was always reassuring my mother that Russell was safe. “Samantha,” he would say, “Russell is doing his patriotic duty, fighting for his country, and he will come home soon.” As for me, Christmas was the hardest part of the year. Russell and I had always been close, despite our age difference. Throughout the years, we had created our own traditions, in addition to our family’s. Together, these traditions made Christmas just a little bit more special.

One of my favorite traditions that Russell and I shared was two days before Christmas Eve. We would ride through town in his jeep and deliver cookies to all of our neighbors and friends. At each house, we sang “Jingle Bells” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” At the end of the second song, Russell would always hold out the very last note until everyone started laughing.

In all of the letters we wrote to each other, during the holiday season, we always talked about our traditions. In one of his letters from November, he mentioned there was a slight chance he might receive leave and be able to come home for Christmas. Since then, I hung onto this statement, hoping it would eventually come true.

“Lizzy! Lizzy! Are you coming sledding with us or not?” asked my friend Jill. Her voice snapped me back into reality. Looking around, I realized my friends, Jill and Jane, were waiting on me to go sledding. “Sure, I’m ready. Let’s go!” I replied. We spent the rest of the day sledding at Black’s Hill.

By the time I got home, my father was already home from work. As I entered the house, I expected on hearing the usual “Do you realize how late you are on a school night and you haven’t started your homework yet” speech, but instead I received different news.

My mother was sitting in the living room, crying. I noticed her eyes were fixed on an opened letter on the coffee table. “Lizzy, your mother and I need to talk to you,” my father said as he met me at the living room door. Little did I know, the news my parents were about to tell me would change my world. “We just received a letter, saying Russell’s plane was shot down over Italy. We don’t know where exactly he is and the Army has declared him missing in action.” my father told me as tears started running down my face.

After talking with my parents for a while, I went upstairs to my bedroom. Not knowing what to think or do, I looked outside my window and glanced towards the driveway. There I saw Russell’s jeep and I wished, more than anything, for him to be home.

“Where is Russell?” I thought to myself. Quickly, I began to write him a letter, which I planned on mailing to his base. Something inside of me told me he was in a safe place and would be home soon. I hoped this feeling was right, but as scared as I was, I doubted it.

Part II continued tomorrow. 

Homemade Spanakopita

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This past weekend, I went to a Greek bake-sale in my hometown. Yum! I could have bought everything on the menu. One of the items I purchased was Spanakopita, which was devoured in no time. So, I decided to try to make some at home and wanted to share the recipe with you. Here is my homemade Spanakopita recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 pounds spinach, washed and drained
  • 1 bunch scallions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 pound feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 to 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup  unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 pound filo pastry sheets

Directions:

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large sauce pan. Add half of the spinach and saute until spinach wilts, about 2 minutes. Remove spinach and squeeze out excess liquid, then chop roughly. Repeat with remaining spinach, using 1 more tablespoon of oil. Pour off any liquid from the pan, and add remaining oil.
  2. Add scallions and saute until soft, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add spinach, parsley, salt and pepper to the scallions. Cook over low heat for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove from to cool.
  3. Stir the feta and beaten egg to the cooled spinach mixture.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Brush a baking sheet with the melted butter.
  5. Unroll the filo dough on a flat surface and keep it covered with waxed paper and a damp towel so it doesn’t dry out. Using a sharp knife, cut the filo into 3 by 11 inch strips, and recover with the towel. Use a pastry brush to brush a strip of filo with melted butter. Place a small spoonful of spinach filling 1 inch from the end of the pastry. Fold the end over the filling to form a triangle, then continue to fold up the strip in triangles, like folding up a flag. Continue with remaining strips of dough, placing filled triangles on the baking sheet and keeping them covered with a towel until ready to bake.
  6. Brush the triangles lightly with butter, then bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden and crisp. Enjoy!

xoxo,

Megan

Homemade Chicken and Dumplings

After a long, hard Monday, there is nothing better than some comfort food. This recipe is one of my favorites and one you have to try!

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!