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

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Celebrating Valentine’s Day at School

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

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

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

xoxo,

Megan

7 Ways to Make Time for Yourself

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Let’s be honest with ourselves – life is busy. The days are filled with work, family, errands, appointments, and more. Sometimes we become stressed and tired, especially if we spend more time caring for others and neglect caring for ourselves.

Whether it is five minutes a day or an hour a week, make it a goal this new year to add self-care into your schedule. Some of the many self-care ideas are below. However, it is important to always choose an activity that is fun and relaxing for you.

  1. Exercise: Take a walk, join a gym, or participate in a fun class at the Y. Being active is good for your mind, body, and spirit. Research suggests aiming for at least 30 minutes of exercise per day. Don’t consider yourself too busy to exercise. If 30 minutes seems too much at one time, break it into smaller increments. Try 10 minutes at a time and then build up to adding 30 minutes into your daily schedule.
  2. Schedule a digital detox: We are attached to our electronic devices and rely on them most of the time. However, when we are dedicated to a screen, such as our phones or computers, we are detached from those around us and from ourselves. Make it a priority to devote an hour or two per day to place your devices in a different room and not to touch them. Then, try it for an afternoon or whole day during the weekend. Think about it – don’t you feel stressed out by constantly checking your emails, looking at social media profiles of others, comparing your life to theirs? The more time you spend away from your device, the more time you’ll feel relaxed and more confident in your own life.
  3. Develop a new hobby just for yourself: One of the main things in self-care is making sure you are putting yourself first. It isn’t a time to feel guilty that you aren’t taking care of others or indulging in something you normally won’t do. It is a time to better yourself, so you can be a better person for your loved ones. A way to do just that is by developing a new hobby or restarting one that you had given up, one that is just for yourself. Maybe it is reading a book each night, sewing, coloring in a coloring book, or listening to a podcast. A hobby should be something you enjoy and want to do in your “me time.”
  4. Declutter: For me, I can get stressed out when things are all over the place and in a mess. To help with that, decluttering and cleaning up is the key. Every now and then, declutter a certain area in your home. It might be changing your wardrobe every three months and giving away pieces of clothing that you haven’t worn in a long time. Or you could use five minutes of each day to tidy up a corner of a room until it is done. When things are in place, our minds are calm.
  5. Educate yourself and learn something new: If you or a loved one are dealing with an illness, major life change, etc., research the situation and learn about all the different elements of how you are able to help. Sometimes being in the know about something takes away a great deal of stress. Also, learn something to broaden your horizons. Have you always wanted to learn another language or how to do a special skill? Now is the time.
  6. Change things up: Take a different route to work or go to that new restaurant you have always wanted to try. It is pivotal to have a routine, but every now and then, be spontaneous and try something new. An example could be making each Friday night the night to do something different. Do a new activity with your family and friends each week.
  7. Reward yourself after accomplishing a small or difficult task. Overcoming all types of obstacles should be celebrated. Reward these times with a pedicure, going to a fancy store, etc.

Self-care needs to be a priority for everyone and a part of a person’s to-do list. Find something that helps you and don’t feel bad taking the time to focus on you. As mentioned above, self-care makes you a better person.

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

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

On the 6th Day of Christmas…

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

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

 

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

xoxo,

Megan

On the 4th Day of Christmas…

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It is always nice to give a loved one in your life a meaningful, handmade gift at Christmastime. But, where do you start? First, take a Mason jar (different sizes or types of jars can also work) and think about what kind of present you want to give. Is it a birthday present? Is it an anniversary present? However, the jar doesn’t have to be used as a gift. It can be a jar full of ideas for your family, spouse, or children. Below are a few ways to use a Mason jar as a gift, or in other ways.

Date Night: In need of some date-night ideas? Fill your jar with strips of paper with ideas for you and your loved one to do. Some paper strips can be for game nights, movie nights, or having a meal together. The purpose of a date-night jar is that all of the ideas are inexpensive, yet meaningful. Create enough ideas to last a year. Another take on the date-night jar is to write reasons why you love your special someone. Give it to them on Valentine’s Day, their birthday, or your anniversary.

Boredom Busters: Keep your kids entertained during the summer and school breaks. Take Popsicle sticks or strips of paper and write fun, creative ideas for your children to do. Whenever they are bored, have them pull out an idea and have a ball. Also, include activities for your whole family to do together. Maybe a family game night, places to visit throughout your town or elsewhere.

Mixes: This type of jar is great for Christmas presents, especially if you need to make something in bulk. Prepare the dry ingredients of your favorite recipe for cookies, brownies, hot chocolate, etc. Attach the recipe’s instructions and be sure to mention liquid ingredients that need to be added.

Movie Lovers: We all have someone in our lives that is a die-hard movie lover. They are always the first ones to see the latest blockbuster hit. The next time you are looking to give them a present, think about a movie lover’s jar. This jar can contain popcorn, candy, and gift cards to the movie theater. You can also package it with a few bottles of soda or a DVD.

Spa Night: A spa in a jar is the perfect gift for a friend, mom, sister or aunt. Give it to them for their birthday, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, or “just because.” All you need to do is include a face mask, hand-and-foot scrub, lip scrub, massage oil, bath salts, hand cream, foot lotion, and an eye mask. Also, add in a pair of socks and pieces of candy.

Survival Kit: Jars are quick and convenient ways to hold and carry needed supplies. Survival kits can be used for college, a new parent, the first day on the job, and more. Think about the items a person needs the most when starting a new occasion or life event. They can also be used for holidays. For example, a bridesmaid survival kit could include a mini-sewing kit, safety pins, breath mints, lip balm, lint roller, polish remover, stain remover, nail polish, pain reliever, tissues, and bobby pins.

Housewarming Gift: When a new family moves into the neighborhood, they will soon be greeted with welcome baskets, pies, cakes, and other gifts. But, do you know what will be a unique gift? Give them a housewarming jar full of items such as mini-champagne bottles, kitchen utensils, soap, colorful napkins, clothespins, Magic Erasers, and other cleaning supplies. You can also include local restaurants or helpful phone numbers on a strip of paper. Another example is creating a sangria jar with the ingredients to make the popular drink.

Color-Coded: Think of a person’s favorite color, then make a jar of items of that color. For example, if your friend loves purple, think of only purple things to include. This idea can be used for any type of present, whether it’s going off to college, a housewarming present, a birthday gift, and more.

With any type of jar you choose, throw in as many items as you would like. Just remember to get creative and have fun!

xoxo,

Megan

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

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