On the 2nd Day of Christmas

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

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

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

xoxo,

Megan

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Christmastime Love for the “Peanuts”

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

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

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

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

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

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

xoxo,

Megan

Healthier Baking 101

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Sweets are in abundance during the holidays. From the cookies, cakes, and more, there always seems to be something tasty in my kitchen. However, too many sweet treats can be a problem. Many baking recipes include sugar, butter, and other fatty ingredients that are unhealthy for a person’s body. The good news, though, is that there are still ways for you to have your favorite confections that include healthier ingredients. Put the tips below to use this holiday season. Trust me, your recipes will taste the same, and your loved ones will never know that you swapped oil for applesauce.

Replacing Oil: 

  • As mentioned above, a great way to replace some of the fat is using unsweetened applesauce instead of oil. A common rule of thumb is for every one cup of oil in a recipe, switch out for ¾ a cup of applesauce. Don’t have any on hand? Combine one mushed apple and a splash of lemon juice.
  • Greek yogurt is another favorite of many and works fantastic in place of oil or fat. It keeps the moisture and flavor of the dish. Plus, the yogurt is full of calcium, protein, and probiotics.

Replacing Sugar: 

  • You can’t have a dessert without sugar! Or so they say. Instead of artificial sugar, mash up a banana into your ingredients. Make sure the banana is ripe. This substitution keeps the sweetness of the dessert but has healthier advantages, such as being rich in glucose, easy to digest, and improves your energy, preventing a sugar crash.
  • Alternatives to white table sugar are honey, maple syrup, or dates. These natural forms reduce the amount of added sugar but still should be consumed in reasonable amounts.
  • Lastly, spices work well in adding flavor and taste to treats with excessive amounts of sugar. Cinnamon and nutmeg are common replacements and boost metabolism, an extra benefit.

Replacing Flour: 

  • Almost all baking recipes include flour. Yet flour can affect your health in many ways, both good and bad. One simple way to add more health benefits is using whole wheat flour in lieu of white flours. The latter is made from heavily refined and processed wheat grain that isn’t good for you. As for whole wheat flour, it is processed differently and has more health advantages.
  • Try making your own flour from oats, flax, and nuts. All you need to do is blend up the items in a food processor or blender, and you are good to go. There is no need to change the needed amount the recipes call for; just blend until you have the same amount of fine dust.

Other Tips and Tricks: 

  • Even though it is a baking recipe, all desserts don’t have to actually be baked. Research and find a no-bake treat for your favorite sweet. No-bake desserts can include healthier ingredients and possibly use less fatty ingredients than are needed for a baked dessert.
  • Dark chocolate is known for its advantages, including aiding in weight loss, reducing stress, and controlling a person’s appetite. Moderation is key, but don’t hesitate to switch any type of chocolate with dark chocolate.
  • Avocados are a healthy fat and a unique way to replace butter. This fruit is packed with protein and nutrients. In addition, it gives a smooth texture to the item.

I love to bake, but sometimes the recipes aren’t the healthiest. The solution to that problem is incorporating these tips. Using substitutions in baking is easy and simple. Plus, you won’t feel guilty eating a few more pieces of a sweet treat, because you know it is healthier.

xoxo,

Megan

A Lazy Friday


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I’m a workaholic. I work most of the time and have to keep myself from squeezing in a task in my spare moments. Yet, today I’ve decided I’m not going to do anything, except rest, relax, and recharge. And, you know what? So far, it has been great.

My day has been filled with laying on the coach, watching T.V., and eating leftovers. The only “work” I have done has been online shopping. The beauty of being lazy is that it helps a person become a better person, because you are able to refuel and ease some of your stress. It is a type of self-care that everyone needs to do.

While you may be spending hours in store lines today, make sure to take some time being lazy and enjoying the day. Trust me, you’ll feel better and stronger to take on the holiday chaos.

xoxo,

Megan

Care for the Caregiver

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November is National Family Caregiver month. Each year, caregivers are celebrated for their contributions and efforts in assisting others. This month also raises awareness for the stress caregivers experience while putting others before themselves. According to the Mayo Clinic, about 1 in 3 adults in the United States are caregivers, and a caregiver can be defined as anyone actively helping others. This includes family members providing for older adults. While the job is wonderful, selfless, and rewarding, many caregivers experience emotional and physical stress. They may feel overwhelmed, constantly worried and tired, have frequent headaches, gain or lose weight, deal with depression, and become easily irritated or angry. If you are a caretaker and are showing some of the symptoms below, it might be time to reenergize. Below are some tips to help manage some of the caregiver stress.

  • Focus on how you can assist and what care you are able to provide: No one can be there to help with everything all the time. The important thing to understand is that you are doing the best you can and shouldn’t feel guilty about not being the perfect caregiver.
  • Ask for and accept help: There is no shame in asking for others to assist you. Create a list of things others can do and let them decide on the task. For example, the helper could cook dinner one night, or run an errand. You never know who will lend a helping hand until you reach out.
  • Find support for yourself: Most communities have caregiver resources. Types of aid include support groups, caregiving services (transportation, meal delivery, etc.), and health professionals. Also, stay in touch with your family and friends. Your loved ones can offer emotional support without being judgmental.
  • Practice self-care: Sometimes there is nothing better than a hot bath after a long day. Set aside time each week to focus on yourself and relax. Go for a walk each night, read a book before bed, etc. It is important to create a good sleep routine, eat a healthy diet, and drink plenty of water. Don’t forget to be physically active at least three times during the week.
  • Talk to your doctor: Before starting, make sure you are up to date on vaccines and your yearly physical. Plus, this helps establish a deeper relationship with you and your physician. That way, whenever something occurs, or you need someone to talk to, your doctor is able to offer assistance.

In addition, establish a relationship between you, the care recipient and the care recipient’s physician. Most of the time, the caregiver takes the care recipient to doctors’ appointments. Because of this, the caretaker needs to be on top of medications and treatments. Creating this relationship allows for more communication and understanding of how to better provide for the care recipient. If needed, prepare questions before the appointments to make sure the caregiver understands the care recipient’s healthcare plan. Lastly, don’t be afraid to call nurses or doctors with any questions or concerns.

If you are a caregiver and feeling stressed, try some of these activities. Remember to take time for yourself and relax. After all, you can’t take care of others without taking care of yourself.

xoxo,

Megan

Why T.V. is Rebooting the Classics

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They say the classics never die and that is exactly true when it comes to television shows. There’s Full House, Charmed, Will & Grace, Murphy Brown, and The Odd Couple. What do all these shows have in common? They are all TV series that have been rebooted. Within recent years, there has been a revival of classic television with the majority of the original cast members. However, there is one question that needs answering: why do we love shows so much that, after they have ended, we are excited to see them rebooted?

Recently, I saw an article titled “Before TV ‘Revivals,’ There Were Just Endless Spin-Offs.” In this piece, writer Becky Little describes that revisiting past series is a “timeless feature of television.” Back in the last few decades, spin-offs became big. This concept allows for the networks to still make money on popular shows, but with a new twist and elements of the existing show. For example, from All in the Family came The Jeffersons, Maude, and Good Times. However, throughout history, there have been good and bad spin-offs. When a previous show is reimagined, fans are able to connect once again with their favorite characters and elements of their beloved shows. Today, a reboot is an updated version of a spin-off.

Just like spin-offs, reboots bring back a sense of nostalgia and comfort to viewers. In today’s world, throwbacks (bringing back the past) is a popular trend, so why not create throwback TV shows? In his article, Why Network TV’s Obsession with Reboots Isn’t a Bad Thing,” Josef Adalian describes three reasons why reboots work on major networks. Think about it: most reboots have come back on their original home network, such as NBC and ABC.

First, Adalian states that the goal of network TV is all about establishing relationships between a show and its audience. After all, a show is considered a success if it has high ratings, right? A reboot allows shows to pick up where it ended. Let’s take Fuller House. This reboot of the original show Full House is set in today’s time but follows the lives of now grown-up daughters D.J., Stephanie, and their friend Kimmy, as well as their children. If you loved watching the Tanners in the 1980s, you will probably enjoy seeing what happened to them and how their lives worked out in the 2010s. It is like you are reconnecting with old friends and catching up. According to Adalian, “Returning to the shows that made us comfortable in an earlier time is either an intended or unintended consequence of all these reboots.” Let’s face it – being comfortable is a favored feeling by most people.

In addition, reboots don’t prevent other shows from being produced. While there are multiple reboots coming back to network TV, there are also multiple new series and original ideas. No matter how many revisited shows there are, pilot shows will never stop being produced, because most people like a little bit of the old and a little bit of the new. I’ll admit it – regardless of how much I like a show, sometimes I want to see something unique and a new storyline. With this point, Adalian is telling viewers that the future for reboots isn’t a network takeover. If you aren’t a fan of watching an updated version of a past show, don’t worry. There will always be a handful of new shows to catch your interest.

Lastly, Adalian’s third and final reason: old TV shows aren’t sacred texts and reinterpreting them isn’t sacrilege. Sometimes it can be hard seeing a treasured show taking an opposite approach when being rebooted. However, keep an open mind, because you never know whether or not you’ll like a revival until you see it. Sometimes it is only the concept that is rebooted, or it might be the characters and a completely different storyline. Whatever it may be, know there will be changes, but always give it a try before you judge.

TV reboots are the latest trend, and the list of shows being revisited keeps growing. At this time next year, who knows how many revivals will be around. As for now, let’s just enjoy the TV blast from the past.

xoxo,

Megan

My Dog, Gidget

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I’ll be honest. I’ve put off writing this post for some time, because today would have been her 18th birthday. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to write it. Instead, I knew penning this story would bring up many emotions that I wasn’t sure I was ready to confront.

Over the years, I have written several posts about my miniature poodle, Gidget. From my references to her in other posts, one could easily tell how much Gidget was a part of my family. Sadly, on Friday, October 13th, 2017, Gidget passed away in my arms at the age of 17. Just writing that sentence makes my heart break and brings tears to my eyes. Losing a pet is tough. The house is quieter with a sudden emptiness in all the rooms, and days no longer consist of vet trips, feedings, and asking, “Where’s Gidget?” However, during these past ten months, I have learned what it means to love and be loved by an older pet. The lessons are ones that people, no matter what their life consists of, can relate to and use.

  • Enjoy the present and don’t worry about the future. Gidget started getting sick late spring of last year. My family began to grieve and dread what life would be like without her. Yet, Gidget was still with us, not in pain, and could have a couple of months to a couple of years left. From this, Gidget taught us to enjoy the present and not worry about the future. Changing my mindset and starting to live in the present with Gidget made all the difference. Reflecting on her younger years and funny memories became easier because we were still making special moments. The future comes far too quickly, and the best thing anyone can do is to live in the present.
  • Be thankful for the times you spent together.My opinion might be a little biased, but Gidget had the world’s biggest personality. She was sweet, friendly, sneaky, a ham, and a major cuddle-bug. She always knew how to put a smile on a person’s face and how to get all the attention. (Ever had a dog who would take a small piece of food and “attack” it in front of everyone just to get all the claps and praise? Yes, that was Gidget.) Looking back at all of these times, I am always brought to laughter. A piece of advice: whenever you are feeling sad and missing a loved one, reflect on the good times you spent together. This is just one of the many ways you will feel closer to them.
  • You’ll never regret spending time caring for a loved one. Everyone has their own way of taking care of loved ones and should do what works for them. In my family, we treated Gidget like an elderly human family member. When she got really sick and even before that, our lives rotated around her and her needs. Life was busy during this time, with vet trips three times a week for fluids and assisting Gidget with her feeding four times a day. However, if we were given the chance, every single member of my family would do that all over again, because, in return, Gidget gave us love. As I mentioned above, she was a huge cuddle-bug. It was our nightly ritual for me to hold her on my chest as we drifted off to sleep. Towards the end, Gidget never wanted to be put down at night, and I don’t look back at the loss of sleep and everything we did for her with regret. This is the same with other family members and friends. Go the extra step for them when they are sick.
  • Love never truly leaves you.Whether it be a human or a pet, loved ones will always stay in your heart, no matter what. There are little reminders of Gidget throughout the house, just like there are reminders of my grandfather, who has passed away. In her later years, Gidget taught me that she will always be a part of this family and will keep loving us, even after she’s gone.

Loving an older pet is something very special. You and your animal grow closer on a different level, and they become more dependent on you. In return, your pet gives you extra love and many memories, just like Gidget gave my family and me.

xoxo,

Megan

Are You Lying to Me? The 411 on How to Catch a Liar

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It happens to most people. Every once in a while, during a conversation, you think, “Is this person lying to me?” You then spend unnecessary time going over their words in your head, thinking about whether or not what they said is true. However, sometimes detecting a liar is something that can be easily done in less than five minutes. All you need to look for are certain actions and movements a person does when they are lying. Body language says it all, and I’ve got your tips and tricks for spotting a liar.

  1. According to Dr. Gregory Jantz, in his article “6 Ways to Detect a Liar in Just Seconds,” more than 80 percent of lies go unnoticed. To prevent this from happening, start by asking neutral questions. Listen to how a person responds to questions about the weather, their hobbies, etc. Be attentive to their body language when they are telling the truth by watching their eye movements, stance, and hand positions. This will help you suspect any unusual actions for when they answer questions that are in the so-called “lie zone.” These questions are ones that aren’t rhetorical and require more in-depth responses.
  2. After the neutral questions are complete, begin observing a person’s facial expressions, responses, and body language as a person replies to personal questions. Surprise questions are another way to bring out lies. Most of the time a person pulls their body inward when lying and shrugs their shoulders. Also, they might become squirmy, jiggle their feet, and hide their hands to prevent fidgety fingers. Lastly, look for any hand gestures towards the face. These gestures, along with the other body movements listed above, are signs of distress and dishonesty. Research shows that President Bill Clinton touched his nose 88 times during his Lewinsky testimony.
  3. Watch for any facial changes and microexpressions, which are brief expressions that are used to conceal emotions. Sometimes a person’s face can exhibit a light shade of pink color as if they were flushed, or they may flare nostrils. Other ways to tell include biting their lips, blinking quickly or not at all, and perspiring. Shifts in body language and facial expressions occur during lying because there is an increase in the person’s brain activity.
  4. In the article, “An FBI Agent’s 8 Ways to Spot a Liar,” former FBI agent Justin Bariso states to listen more than you speak, meaning liars will talk more and in more complex sentences to stop the truth from getting out. He suggests being on alert if a person speaks faster, louder, and has a cracking in their voice. All are indications that the person is stressed. Repetitive coughing and clearing of the throat are clues of tension, as well.
  5. Bariso also notes that one should watch as someone says the word “no.” A person might be lying if they do one of these characteristics when answering “no”: looking in a different direction, hesitating, closing their eyes, stretching the word out, and replying in a singsong manner.
  6. Along with paying attention to the way a person speaks, pay attention to what they say. Some signs of a lie are: refusing to give details to short answers or providing too many details, speaking more formally, over-exaggerating or giving numerous compliments, and making contradictions to early parts of a conversation. Also, look for repeated phrases when talking. Sometimes a person will have prepared their answers for expected questions. When caught off-guard, they are more likely to show inconsistencies and stressful behavior.

Unfortunately, almost every person in the world lies at least once in their lives. However, some lies have more negative impacts than others. If you suspect someone is lying to you, use the tips above to decide fact from fiction.

xoxo,

Megan