Rules for…Well, Me

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Last week on Facebook, I noticed mothers giving their daughters a set of rules. This list included 36 pieces of advice for the daughters to use in life. As I skimmed through the tips, I thought about the importance of these encouragements and how everyone needs to hear them. Below are a few words of advice that now serve as rules for…well, me.

1. Make your bed every day; even if it’s right before you get in it.
2. Don’t wear holey underwear in case you’re in an accident and they cut your clothes off.
3. It’s okay to cry when you’re hurt. It’s also okay to smash things; but, wash your face, clean your mess, and get up off the floor when you’re done. You don’t belong down there.
4. Seek out the people and places that resonate with your soul.
5. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
6. 5-second rule. It’s just dirt. There are worse things in a fast-food cheeseburger.
7. Be less sugar, more spice, and only as nice as you’re able to without compromising yourself.
8. Hold your heroes to a high standard. Be your own hero.
9. If you can’t smile with your eyes, don’t smile. Insincerity is nothing to aspire to.
10. Never lie to yourself.
11. Your body, your rules.
12. If you have an opinion, you better know why.
13. Practice your passions.
14. Ask for what you want. The worse thing they can say is no.
15. Wish on stars and dandelions, then get to work to make them happen.
16. Don’t skimp on good sheets.
17. Fall hard and forever in love with nothing but yourself.
18. Say Please, Thank You, and Pardon Me, whenever the situation warrants it.
19. Reserve I’m sorry for when you truly are.
20. Naps are for grown-ups, too.
21. Question everything except your own intuition.
22. You have enough. You are enough.
23. You are amazing! Don’t let anyone ever make you feel you are not. If someone does….walk away. You deserve better.
24. No matter where you are, you can always go home.
25. Be happy, say your prayers and remember your roots.
26. Say what you mean and mean what you say.

xoxo,

Megan

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The Power of Laughter

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“What do you call an alligator in a vest? An investigator.” Did that pun make you laugh? If so, congratulations – you just strengthened your immune system, lowered your stress level, and got in a little bit of exercise. A simple laugh can cause the above health benefits, as well as many others,  to happen within your body. We have all heard the quote “laughter is the best medicine,” but do you know why?

Laughter has been known to be a positive healing force. It has physical, mental, and social advantages. When looking at your physical health, research shows a good laugh helps boost your T-cells. These cells are specialized immune system cells which, when activated, help your body fight off sickness. In addition, laughing releases endorphins, your body’s natural painkillers. When they are released, chronic pain can be relieved. Another benefit is lower blood pressure and stress hormone levels. Lowering a person’s blood pressure helps reduce their risk of stroke and heart attacks. Stress and anxiety levels can also be decreased, which triggers the T-cells to increase your body’s immune resistance. Lastly, humor can help a person add exercise into her day. When you are laughing, your stomach muscles expand and contract, providing effects similar to doing ab workouts. Along with your abs, laughing gets your heart pumping and can burn as many calories as walking at a slow to moderate pace. Can’t complete a physical activity due to injury, illness, or another health problem? Start laughing to get your body moving.

Humor has many mental health benefits. When a person’s stress and anxiety levels are decreased, a sense of well-being and joy can occur. Laughing is known to help create a positive and optimistic outlook. It helps a person shift her attitude and perspective during a disappointing and difficult time. Psychological research states humor allows people to see things more realistically and stop them from feeling overwhelmed. Another benefit is when you are laughing, you can’t feel any other emotions. You can’t be angry or sad when you have a smile on your face. Instead, your energy is increased, giving you a sense of hope and strength to face life’s challenges. A simple smile or small chuckle can go a long way, no matter how you are feeling.

Lastly, relationships are strengthened, and your social health can improve through laughter. There is a reason why people say laughter is contagious because when one person starts laughing, it is easy to join in. It helps people connect and share a moment of humor and happiness. Humor can be used as a way to communicate and produce positive feelings among people. When a positive bond is created, people will be more spontaneous, express their emotions more, and there are fewer disappointments and disagreements.

All people learn how to laugh as babies. However, as you grow up, it can be harder to find things that humor you. Life’s challenges could make it hard or you might not feel like laughing because of one thing or another. Sometimes you have to make an effort to laugh during the tough times. Easier said than done, right? Try bringing humor into your day by completing small tasks, such as renting a funny movie, reading a funny book, or watching a funny television show. Every Sunday, your newspaper has a section dedicated to making you laugh, so why not check it out? Also, take a walk down memory lane and remember the hilarious moments of when things didn’t go right. Keep up to date on good jokes and stories, or play with a pet or children. Finding laughter in your everyday life can be trying, but take the time to do fun activities with your family and friends. Be silly and goof around. Once you start laughing, you’ll recognize the many benefits. After all, Charlie Chaplin once said, “A day without laughter is a day wasted.”

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

A “Win” for Me

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As we start the first day of a three day weekend, I can’t help, but think about everything that has happened. I am wrapping up my first year as a teacher and completely understand the “teacher struggles of May.” (T-minus 11 days until summer, by the way.) Teaching has been the most challenging yet wonderful thing I have ever done. Also, it is one of the most fulfilling things I have encountered. Those students…my kids…are why I try to work hard and be the best teacher I can day after day.

No matter how much you enjoy something, bad things still happen. Since March, I have been struggling with my depression and anxiety BIG TIME. On Sunday, March 31st, my sweet Nana went to Heaven. She was more than a grandmother to me. Growing up, my mom, sister, and I lived with my grandparents and Nana was actually a second mother. She was there for every school event, summer day, and tough time. It is just now getting real that Nana is no longer with us.

Grief is an extra “ingredient” that makes dealing with depression and anxiety so hard. There have been days I didn’t want to get up. There have been days I felt as if I wasn’t the best teacher for my kids because I zoomed out too often. There have been days when I have laid and watched hours of Netflix in the dark. However, I have discovered that it is okay to be feeling this way. It is okay to grieve. But, it is also important to remember that things will get better.

This morning, I got my car inspected. Yes, it is a small thing, but I have been trying to do this for a while. It is a win and that is all I need right now. Good things happen. Three day weekends happen. So, right now, I’m going to take my win and enjoy these days, the sunshine, and the unofficial start of summer.

xoxo,

Megan

To Travel Is To Explore

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This past weekend, my sister and brother-in-law moved to Kentucky. While I am missing them tremendously, I’m also excited for this new adventure for many reasons. You see, with them living in another state, I get to travel more often and see more places – one of my favorite things to do!

Growing up, I remember watching Travel Channel’s Samantha Brown and her shows, Great Hotels and Passport to Europe. For each episode, I kept thinking “Samantha has the best job in the world and I would love to have it.” As I watched the shows, I quickly realized I had a passion for traveling.

The reason why I travel is simple-to see the world and gain experiences. There is so much learning to be had outside of your comfort zone. My travel philosophy is to travel as much as possible, while learning about the history of an area and the people who live there. It also includes being adventurous and making memories. This philosophy plays into my five step travel list.

For every trip I take, I must:

  1. Take tons of pictures. I always come home with about 1,000+ photos.
  2. Meet and talk with the locals. You’ll get the best information about where to eat, what to do, and learn more about the area from a person who lives there.
  3. Research the location’s history and plan out my must-sees. However, I am careful to not plan too much and allow time for adventures.
  4. Get lost—on purpose. Take a back road, walk down a different street, just get out and explore.
  5. Go back to that same destination. It might not be the next year, or the year after that, but sometime in my life, I will make the time to go back.

If you want to get out of your comfort zone and see the world, you must travel. It doesn’t have to be a three week excursion. It can be a day trip to a nearby city or even a stay-cation in your own town. Just travel!

Trust me-adventure is out there. You just have to make up your mind and go!

xoxo,

Megan

Recipes for Homemade Cleaning Products

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There has been much discussion about whether or not cleaning products are safe and healthy for homes. Most are filled with toxins and chemicals that could cause harm to your family and furry friends. For example, some products warn you to keep them away from animals, due to the odor and/or the ingredients. If the item has this type of warning, it may not be safe to use in your home. However, there are ways to make your own cleaning products with materials you probably already use, such as baking soda and vinegar. Creating your own allows you to feel safer and more in control of what your family and animals are breathing in, while you still have a sparkling clean house. Here are just a few of the recipes for homemade cleaning products. For these recipes, make sure you are stocked up on baking soda, vinegar, and spray bottles (available at Dollar Tree stores).

All-Purpose Cleaner 

Ingredients:

4 Tbs. baking soda

1 quart warm water

½ cup white vinegar

Directions:

Mix all ingredients together. Pour into a spray bottle or dip a sponge into the mixture. This all-purpose cleaner is great for use on kitchen counters, appliances, and more. The baking soda acts as a deodorizer and takes away smells. In addition, you can add a lemon rind, rosemary sprigs, or drops of an essential oil to add a scented smell to the all-purpose cleaner. 

 Glass Cleaner 

Ingredients:

2 cups water

½ cup white or cider vinegar

¼ cup rubbing alcohol (70% concentration works best)

1 to 2 drops of an essential oil of your choice for smell (optional)

Directions:

Combine all ingredients and add into a spray bottle. Don’t spray the cleaner directly onto the glass; spray onto a towel or cloth first. Let’s just say—move over, Windex!  This natural glass cleaner is perfect to take away streaks and make your glass items look like new.

 Heavy-duty Scrub

Ingredients:

Half a lemon

½ cup borax

Dip the lemon into the borax and put directly onto the surface. Then, rinse. It is never fun to keep scrubbing rust stains on porcelain and enamel areas when nothing happens. This heavy-duty scrub will take away those stains in no time at all.

Fabric Softener

Ingredients:

5½ cups water

15-oz. bottle of your favorite hair conditioner

2½ cups white vinegar

20 drops of your favorite essential oil (optional)

Directions:

Mix all ingredients together and store in an empty container. Whenever you are doing laundry, add in about ¼ cup to a normal-sized load right before the rinse cycle.

 

Disinfectant Wipes:

Ingredients:

1 cup water

¼ cup vinegar

8 drops tea tree oil

8 drops eucalyptus essential oil

8 drops lemon essential oil

15-20 squares of cloth

Empty container, such as an old baby wipe container

Directions:

Fold and place the cloths into the container and set aside. Combine all ingredients together in a mixing bowl, making sure to mix well. Pour mixture over the cloths and let soak. Whenever needed, the disinfectant wipes will be ready to use. Make sure to repeat as often as needed to keep the wipes moist.

One final tip to leave you with is to use lemonade Kool-Aid as a toilet bowl cleaner. Just flush, sprinkle in the Kool-Aid and scrub with a toilet bowl brush. Then, let sit overnight and flush in the morning.

These five recipes are just a handful of the multiple examples out there. A quick search on the Internet will reveal different homemade cleaners with different purposes.

xoxo,

Megan

You’re Guide to Discarding Important Documents

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Most people have moments when they come across a paycheck stub, bank statement, etc., and think to themselves, “Do I really need to keep this?” The answers vary based on the type of document. However, many people don’t know exactly when to throw them away (or shred). To help ease the confusion, I’ve got your answers below on discarding important documents 101.

  • Receipts should be kept for three years for any items that you need to itemize for your tax returns. Keep them with your tax documents.
  • Paycheck stubs have a lifespan of one year. Hang onto them until the end of the year to compare them with your W-2 and social security statements. Then, you can get rid of them.
  • Medical bills vary depending on your insurance. Receipts for expenses can be kept for one year unless your insurance company needs proof or verification of visits and claims. Your insurance may request bills for hospital visits, doctor’s appointments, etc., to be shown at certain times. Think about the type of care you received or the type of expense to determine whether or not you should keep them.Avoid discarding these expenses for up to three years. If medical expenses total more than 7.5% of your adjusted gross income, you can deduct them on your taxes. Keep these for three years with your tax records.
  • Bank and credit card statements need to be filed away for up to three years. The reason for holding onto bank statements is in case you are audited by the IRS. However, the three-year rule is a little different for your credit cards. If you have confirmed your charges and had proof of payment, then you can shred them. If you are using your credit card statements for tax deductions, hang on to them. Getting too much paper? Switch to online documents. Just remember to write a note, so you’ll know they are online when you go to retrieve them.
  • Utility bills can be scrapped after one year. The exception is if you are claiming a home office tax deduction. Then, our good three-year rule comes into play.
  • If you have records of loans that have been paid off, don’t get rid of them until it has been seven years. If you are still paying off a loan, store all records and statements together until you have paid it off and it has been seven years.
  • Tax returns also go by the three-year recommendation. The returns can be trashed after three years from the date you filed the original return. Hold onto the returns for seven years if you file a claim.
  • Investment and real estate records need to be handy for at least three years for audit reasons. In addition, you will be able to see how much taxes you owe when you sell the stocks or property.Monthly statements can be tossed when you have received your annual summaries.
  • Any contracts, insurance documents, stock certificates, or property records that are active need to be held in a safe place. Only discard once the contracts are completed, and policies expired.
  • There is never a lifespan on documents, such as marriage licenses, birth and death certificates, wills, adoption papers, and paid mortgages. These documents should always be kept and passed down between the generations.

The rule of thumb is to keep most important documents for at least three years. There are exceptions to the rule. But if you are in doubt about something, it is always good to hang onto it no matter how long. It is better to be safe than sorry.

xoxo,

Megan

You’re Invited! An Insider’s Guide to Birthday Invitations

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There are many times in a person’s life that call for a celebration—one being their birthday. The day when a person is born is very special and important. It is the one day out of a 365-day year where someone should be honored. One way to make this person feel special is by having a birthday party, and the first thing to do when you are hosting a bash is to send out invitations.

There are many ways to design birthday invitations. Depending on the type of soirée, there are a few etiquette rules to follow. To help ease some of the stress, there are stores and online sites that complete the invitations for you. However, birthday invitations are something you can do yourself, as long as you feel comfortable doing so. Don’t worry, because below I have an insider’s guide on what to include when creating your own birthday invitations. No matter what, though, birthday invitations should be unique and special.

  • Use the same theme or color scheme for your invitations as you are using for your celebration. An invitation should be the first thing to clue guests into what to expect. Are they coming to a fiesta or a luau? If you are going with a color scheme, err on the side of bright, vibrant colors. These shades should also be contrasting; that way they are eye-popping to the attendees.
  • Include all the basic information. Every layout needs to include the party’s purpose, such as “Emily’s 30th birthday,” the date, time, location, and RSVP details. Some other things to consider: are any special instructions, attire, whether it is a surprise or not, number of guests to bring, etc. List who is hosting the celebration, if it is not the guest of honor. Special instructions can include whether it is a children’s party, should an adult stay, or something guests need to bring that is specific to the event. For example, if the festivity includes painting, let guests know whether they should bring an apron or smock. Think about if you were the attendee coming to your event, what information would you want to know. If you are planning a child’s birthday, make sure to let the parents of the children coming know what to expect. If swimming is a part of the party, it is important to inform others about that.
  • Make the birthday honoree the star of the invitation. People want to know who they are celebrating and what for. Let the purpose stand out with a bigger font, different color, or an image. Be careful not to overload with images—only use one or two. While you want the information and person to stand out, you don’t want to overstimulate guests to the point where the invitation is confusing.
  • Be playful, if the invitation allows. Get creative with your wording and have fun. The design sets the tone for the event. Catchy phrases or taglines to common characters or pictures are always great to have, if they fit your theme.
  • Send the birthday party invitation out at least three weeks in advance, but no more than five weeks prior. The key is to let guests have enough time to RSVP without letting it sit in their hands for too long. Requesting a deadline to RSVP? Always remember to include that date on the invitation. This deadline should be about a week beforehand. Decide on whether the final number of guests is needed by any vendors, caterers, or if this deadline is set in stone. For more casual events, the RSVP date can be flexible.

Birthdays are meant to be a fun time, and hosting a bash can make it all the more memorable. Whether you are planning it for yourself or a loved one, use these tips above to make sure that your invitation creates the right feeling and sets your party on the right track.

xoxo,

Megan

Becoming…A Better Me in 2019 (Part 1)

Last night, as the clock ticked towards midnight, I found myself crying. It was happy tears that came pouring from my eyes. 2018 was a tough year, but when I started thinking about it, the year was probably one of the best ones yet.

Just to give you an overview of what happened in the now “last” year…

  • In January, my grandmother battled the flu and pneumonia. My family heard twice in the course of two weeks that she might succumb to the sickness.
  • Throughout the year, especially in the fall, she had numerous hospital visits and rehabilitation stays. We almost lost her when they had to do emergency surgery to drain fluid from her heart. In addition, it has been hard to watch someone you love so much, be so much in pain. We have had multiple doctors’ visits and waiting for test results. Lastly, my family has felt the emotions and tough love of being caregivers.
  • There has been financial stress. At times, we worried how we would make it to the end of the month.

All these things out may not seem much to you, but to me, they are what made me stronger. You may also be thinking “why was this year one of the bests?” Well, because of this…

  • I received a graduate certificate in middle grades education and accomplished my goal of becoming a teacher.
  • The opportunity of student teaching and getting a job at two great schools have made that dream and goal all the more of a reality. In these positions, I have been challenged and overcame obstacles that made me a better educator.
  • My sister got engaged and married in a beautiful ceremony.
  • Above all, my grandmother survived all the health scares. She is flourishing and doing marvelous for an 85 year old.

In fact, we all survived. And we are all here; stronger and ready to take on the next 365 days. So, yes, 2018 was a pretty great year.

Xoxo,

Megan

Last Minute Bites for New Year’s Eve

As another year comes to a close, there is no better way to celebrate than with family, friends, and delicious food! Sometimes it can be hard to find quick and easy recipes, but never fear, I’ve done the hard work for you. Enjoy these 3 simple appetizers for your New Year’s Eve festivities!
Mini Lasagna Roll-Ups
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Ingredients:
Filling:
  • 2 cups whole milk ricotta
  • 1 egg
  • The zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves, minced
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
Lasagna Roll-Ups:
  • 10 cooked lasagna noodles
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • Tomato sauce
Directions:
  1. In a large bowl, mix all of the filling ingredients together.
  2. Cut the cooked noodles individually in half widthwise.
  3. Spread the filling on each noodle half, leaving about an inch at one end.
  4. Roll the noodle up, beginning at the end with the filling.
  5. Cut the rolled noodle in half widthwise.
  6. Spread a small amount of sauce in the bottom of a casserole dish and place the noodles on top.
  7. Place a small scoop of sauce on top of each roll and top with mozzarella cheese.
  8. Bake at 350 degrees F for 15-20 minutes or until cheese is melted.
Cranberry Pinot Noir Meatballs
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Ingredients:
  • 1 (1 lb. 10 oz.) bag of Italian Style Meatballs
  • 1 (16 oz.) can whole cranberry sauce
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup Pinot Noir
  • 1 tsp spicy brown mustard
Directions:
  1. Prepare meatballs according to package directions.
  2. In a saucepan, combine cranberry sauce, brown sugar, Pinot Noir, and mustard. Whisk to combine over medium heat. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes or until mixture has thickened.
  3. Remove from heat and pour sauce over meatballs. Serve immediately or place in a crock pot on warm or low setting.
Homemade Soft Pretzel Bites with Cheese Sauce
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Ingredients:
Soft Pretzels:
  • 1 ½ cups warm water
  • 2 Tbsp. light brown sugar
  • 1 package active dry yeast (about 2 ¼ tsps.)
  • 3 ounces unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 ½ tsps. kosher salt
  • 4 ½ cups to 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • Vegetable oil
  • 3 quarts water
  • ½ cup baking soda
  • 1 whole egg, beaten with 1 Tbs. cold water
  • Coarse sea salt
Cheese Sauce:
  • ½ Tbs. unsalted butter
  • ½ Tbs. all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup milk
  • 8 ounces grated cheddar cheese
Directions:
Pretzels:
  1. Combine 1 ½ cups warm water, sugar, yeast, and butter in the bowl in a mixer with dough hook. Let sit for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the salt and flour and mix on low speed until combined. Increase speed to medium and continue kneading until dough is smooth and begins to pull from bowl. If dough appears too wet, add flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.
  3. Remove dough from bowl and knead into a ball.
  4. Oil a bowl with vegetable oil, add the dough, and coat with oil. Cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap and place in a warm spot until the dough doubles in size.
  5. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  6. Bring the 3 quarts water to a boil in a small roasting pan over high heat and carefully add in the baking soda. It will boil over; add slowly and be careful!
  7. Remove the dough from the bowl and divide into 8 equal pieces, about 4 ¼ to 4 ½ ounces each. Roll each piece into a long rope, about 22 inches. Cut the dough into one inch pieces to make the pretzel bites.
  8. Boil the bites in the water solution about 15 bites at a time for about 30 seconds. Remove with a large slotted spoon and place on a greased baking sheet.
  9. Brush the tops with egg wash and season with salt. Place into the oven and bake for 15-18 minutes until golden brown.
  10. Remove from oven and let sit 5 minutes.
Cheese Sauce:
  1. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in the milk and cook until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the cheddar cheese until smooth and all of the cheese is melted.
  2. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Pour of the pretzel bites or serve as a dip on the side.
Enjoy!
xoxo,
Megan