The Power of the Pause in a Busy Life

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The days are busy and the hours are packed with items to complete on our to-do lists. Let’s all admit it – life can be hectic, no matter what stage of life you are in. It can be easy to get into a routine of working all the time with little to no rest. Yet, this habit can make one tired, stressed, and not the best version of themselves. To renew your energy and add more balance to your life, practicing the power of the pause is key.

According to CEO of The Energy Project, Tony Schwartz, “human beings perform best and are most productive when they alternate between periods of intense focus and intermittent renewal.” In addition, author Cara Bradley writes in her article on mindful.org, that it is a commitment to practice the pause, but “taking the time to just be still and quiet gives your nervous system a chance to regain balance.” Sounds persuasive, right? Pausing in a bustling lifestyle is a form of self-care and one that should be done, often. Practicing the pause can be done for a couple of minutes, hours, or longer. One thing to keep in mind that no matter how long you pause, you need to omit noise and embrace silence.

Noise is all around us. Outer noise in our various environments and inner noise in our heads. Bradley is correct when she states that “we are over-stimulated with noise.” Don’t you hate it when you are trying to get to sleep and the thoughts in your head keep you awake? Well, practicing the silence side of the pause helps. Just like noise, there is outer and inner silence.

Pausing for a Short Period of Time:

First, whenever you are ready or in need of a break or pause, turn off all the outer noises, such as phones, televisions, etc. Also, try to get yourself in a silent environment away from distractions. To find inner silence, begin relaxing with breathing exercises and meditation. One way to do this is through the exercise below:

  1. While sitting down, place your feet on the floor, hands on your thighs, and close your eyes.
  2. Think about your feet and pay attention to where they are on the ground. Notice everything around you.
  3. Find your heartbeat and focus your mind on the rhythm of your pulse. Do the same for your breathing. At this point, you should begin to feel at ease and your body should start to relax.
  4. Continue this for a few minutes or however long you need to pause.

Practice this method by scheduling 1 to 2-minute breaks every hour. Pauses can happen at any time, such as getting in and out of your car, before heading into a meeting, or finishing a hectic errand. Always include a short pause when you wake up in the morning and right before you go to bed at night.

Pausing for a Longer Period of Time:

Inner silence can last longer than only a few minutes. Settle down with your favorite activities, such as an evening bath with candles and music, an afternoon walk, or reading and napping on a rainy Saturday. Get in the mindset with the same techniques as listed above. Trust me, there is no harm in taking a whole day and doing nothing. Find what “pause” works best for you and add it into your schedule.

There are many benefits to the power of the pause. Reduced stress, more balance, and focus increase in awareness of healthy choices, and a better you are just a few of the reasons. Make sure you practice the pause daily and more peace will be added into your life.

xoxo,

Megan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Best of Nicholas Sparks

Author Nicholas Sparks once said, “Over time, quality work will lead to an audience for your work.” This quote is an accurate representation of the fan base Sparks has created throughout the years with his timeless novels. From The Longest Ride toDear John, Nicholas Sparks is one of my all-time favorite authors and the books below are ones that I could read over and over again. Plus, most of his stories have a connection to North Carolina, as the author lives in the Tarheel state himself.

The Longest Ride

Speaking of North Carolina connections, The Longest Ride has the closest setting to Forsyth County. Two stories interconnect in this novel and feature the locations of King, Winston-Salem, and Black Mountain College near Asheville. The first is about widower Ira Levinson, who reminisces about life with his wife, Ruth. The second story is about a college student attending Wake Forest University, Sophia Danko, and young rodeo star Luke Collins. While out with her friends, Danko meets Collins and the two fall in love. On the way home from a date, they notice a car that had drifted off the road and crashed in an embankment. Inside was Ira Levinson. Throughout time, the trio develop a friendship and share stories about life, love, and heartache.

True Believer

Published in 2005, True Believer focuses on the story of New Yorker Jeremy Marsh and small-town librarian Lexie Darnell. Marsh is known for debunking supernatural claims in his magazine column. After hearing about a phenomenon where ghostly lights appear in a cemetery in Boone Creek, North Carolina, he decided to travel down south and investigate for himself. There, he meets Darnell and a future for the couple starts to unfold. In the end, Marsh has to make the difficult decision of going back to New York or following his heart. If you are a fan of True Believer, I would definitely recommend reading the book’s sequel, At First Sight.

Safe Haven

Just like The Longest Ride, Safe Haven was made into a movie in 2013. The movie was good, but in my opinion, the book is better. Newcomer Erin comes to Southport, North Carolina and takes on a new identity, changes her name to Katie, and puts life with her abusive husband behind her. While there, she meets her new neighbor, Jo, and the town’s store owner, Alex, a widower with two children. However, upon discovering his wife has left, her husband, Kevin, becomes furious and learns that Erin is now Katie living in a small North Carolina town. Quickly, he takes off to find her. Meanwhile, Jo encourages Katie to develop a romantic relationship with Alex and create a family with his children. Through twists and turns…I’m stopping here, because the book has a big surprise ending that I don’t want to ruin for anyone. However, I can tell you that Safe Haven is a book you can’t put down and one you’ll quickly fall in love with.

Other popular Nicholas Sparks books include The Notebook, A Walk to Remember, Nights in Rodanthe, The Last Song, and Message in a Bottle. As an avid reader of this author, trust me, once you pick up a Nicholas Sparks book, you’ll want to read all the novels in his collection.

xoxo,

Megan

Strawberry Cinnamon Rolls

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One of my favorite things about any holiday is the chance to spend time with my family. Almost every holiday morning, we have a special breakfast together, either before or after the morning festivities. This Easter Sunday is going to be a little different with some of my loved ones being far away, however, our breakfast tradition still stands and this time, we are making these fantastic strawberry cinnamon rolls. This recipe is perfect for spring and Easter morning.

Ingredients: 

  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup margarine or butter, softened
  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 .25 ounce package of instant yeast, roughly 2 tsp
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup water

Filling

  • 1 cup strawberry jam
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 cups sliced strawberries

Icing

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1-2 tbsp milk

Directions:

    • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
    • Heat the milk in a small saucepan until warm. Mix in the butter until melted. Let cool to a lukewarm temperature.
    • In a large bowl, combine 2 1/4 cup flour, yeast, sugar, and salt. Mix well.
    • Stir in egg and 1/4 cup of water. Then, stir in the milk mixture until dough forms.
    • Add in another cup of flour. When dough comes together, flip it onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth.
    • Return the dough ball to the bowl, cover with a damp towel, and let rise for 10 minutes.
    • Roll out dough into a 15×10 inch rectangle. Spread the strawberry jam all over the dough. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Then, evenly cover with the chopped strawberries.
    • Roll up the dough and pinch the seam into a seal. Cut into 12 equal size rolls.
    • Place rolls cut side up in a greased 11×13 baking dish. Cover and let rise until doubled (30 mins).
    • Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
  • For the icing, mix the powdered sugar and cinnamon with 1 tbsp of milk. Stir until glaze forms. Drizzle glaze over finished rolls. You can also add a few drops of lemon juice for additional flavor!

Enjoy!

xoxo,

Megan

DIY Projects for All Ages

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Technology is a big part of children’s lives today. While iPhones, tablets, computers, and more can be a creative outlet, there is nothing like doing a DIY arts and crafts project with your little ones. The ideas below can be used for kids of all ages on snow days, during the summer, and at any time year-round. All of the supplies can be found in local craft stores, discount stores, or right in your own home. Don’t worry if a craft doesn’t go as planned or about sticking straight to the directions. Just be creative and have fun.

Homemade Play Dough

Supplies:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup salt
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tsp. vegetable oil
  • 4 tsp. cream of tarter
  • food coloring

Directions:

  1. Mix all the supplies together, except the food coloring, in a large pot. Place on the stove on medium heat. The mixture will be more liquid at first, but then will form into a dough consistency.
  2. Stir continually for two minutes until the mixture completely develops into dough.
  3. Remove from heat and cool. Then, knead the dough for a few minutes.
  4. Divide into as many colors as you want and add food coloring.

 

Tin Can Wind Chime:

Supplies:

  • tin cans in different sizes
  • acrylic paint
  • paintbrushes
  • painter’s tape
  • hammer and nails
  • twine
  • scissors
  • 10” wide embroidery hoop
  • hot-glue gun

Directions:

  1. Remove cans’ labels and rinse out with hot water. Let dry completely.
  2. Paint cans a solid color, applying two coats. Then, paint designs of your choosing on the cans. The painter’s tape can be handy with making stripes and shapes.
  3. With the hammer and a nail, create a small hole through the center of one end of a can. Cut a string from the twine, thread through the hole, and knot on the inside. Vary the lengths of the twine for each can. Continue until all the cans have been nailed and twined.
  4. Wrap twine around the embroidery hoop until completely covered. Then, cut three pieces of twine to make a hanger. Tie each piece around the hoop and then bring together in a single knot at the end of the strings. Make sure the hoop hangs level.
  5. Finally, tie the cans around it, spacing evenly. Also, hang the cans at different heights, but close enough to hit each another when the wind blows. After tying the knot, add a drop of hot glue to keep it secure.

 

Repurposed Jewelry Magnets

Supplies:

  • old brooches
  • large buttons
  • old charms
  • old earrings
  • round magnets
  • hot-glue gun

Directions:

  1. Using a piece of jewelry, hot-glue a magnet to the back. Be sure to cut the round magnets to the size of the item, if needed.
  2. Place onto your refrigerator to hold artwork, reminders, report cards, and more.

 

Pool Noodle Sprinkler

Supplies:

  • foam pool noodle
  • small piece of foam
  • duct tape
  • skewer or ice pick
  • water hose

Directions:

  1. Puncture the pool noodle in multiple spots on all sides of the noodle with the skewer or ice pick. The more holes, the better.
  2. Stuff one end with a small piece of foam, and duct tape to secure.
  3. Slide the water hose into the other end of the noodle, pushing in a few inches. Then, turn water on.

 

Funny Face Flip Book:

Supplies:

  • white cardstock
  • cardboard
  • 3 metal book rings
  • hole punch
  • markers
  • scissors
  • stickers and googly eyes

Directions:

  1. Fold the white cardstock in half and cut down the middle. Then, fold the two halves in half again and cut. You should end up with four pieces. Then, cut the cardboard into the same sizes as the cardstock pieces, for a backing.
  2. Next, cut each piece of the cardstock into thirds. Punch a hole in one end of the pieces. Then, lay three pieces onto your cardboard and punch another hole in the cardboard. There should be three holes, matching up to your cardstock’s holes.
  3. Using the metal book rings, attach the cardstock pieces to your cardboard backing.
  4. Draw facial features onto each of the cardstock pieces. In the top sections, draw eyes, in the middle sections draw noses, and bottom sections draw mouths. Feel free to add eyelashes, eyebrows, teeth, etc. Get creative. Also, don’t forget to use the stickers and googly eyes.
  5. Once done, you can flip through the book, creating different face combinations.

xoxo,

Megan

 

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

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

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

Calling All Teachers

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Are you a teacher? Do you love sales?

I’m hosting a 20% off sale on my Teachers Pay Teachers store! All products are discounted from February 26th – 28th. Now is the time to stock up on classroom management and inspirational tools.

Click on the “store” link at the top, then the Teachers Pay Teachers logo to be redirected to my store: Miss Taylor’s Classroom.

Want to see a specific activity or tool? Let me know and I’ll create it!

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