Simply Carolina: The Hidden Gems of South Carolina

Travel the road less traveled, go off the beaten path…we all know the quotes that tell us to travel away from the busy places. You know what? Those quotes are true. Sometimes the best travel and memories are made within the “hidden gems.” As I spend a chilly, rainy day in North Carolina, I’m reminiscing about traveling to the unknown places in South Carolina.

Walahalla – A mountain city, full of history.

 

Chattooga River – Hiking, whitewater rafting, and waterfalls? What more could you want?

 

Abingdon Manor in Latta – A bed and breakfast inn, complete with a Greek Revival Style.

 

Cooper’s Country Store in Salters – Shop for smoked hams, shotguns, and everything in between before hitting the road again.

 

Bluffton – This little city is home to charm, cafes, and cute shops.

xoxo,

Megan

Happy National Southern Food Heritage Day!

October 11th is known as National Southern Food Heritage Day, and as many people know, southerners have quite a unique palate. Grits, Cheerwine, sweet tea, and hushpuppies are some of the more well-known southern foods and drinks. Yet, on National Southern Food Heritage Day, people throughout the South celebrate the dishes and treats that originated in our area, including the ones below.

  • King Cake: This special cake is a Mardi Gras tradition and not just in New Orleans. First appearing in 1870 and arriving in New Orleans from France, the king cake is a ring-shaped dessert topped with sugar and icing, in the colors of green, purple, and yellow. It is usually eaten on Fat Tuesday. Hidden inside the cake is a plastic baby doll. The person who finds it is “King for the Day” and is supposed to purchase next year’s cake or host a Fat Tuesday party. In addition, the baby doll symbolizes Jesus being visited by the three wise men on January 6th, which is also known as Holy Day, Epiphany, and the Twelfth Night.
  • Fried Foods(which can include any type of food): The South is known for fried green tomatoes, fried okra, fried fish, and just about fried anything. These battered delicacies come in a variety of different ways and can be made spicy. Other foods I have seen fried are butter, Oreos, and doughnuts. I would recommend trying these at your own discretion.
  • Pimento Cheese: According to Serious Eats website, pimento cheese originated in the 1870s with New York farmers. These New Yorkers started creating cream cheese, and Spain began sending canned red peppers or pimentos to the United States. In 1908, the two items appeared together in a Good Housekeeping recipe. Afterwards, the mixture became a hit, especially in the South. As a matter of fact, farmers in Georgia grew red peppers and sent them throughout the United States, adding to the craze. Over time, pimento cheese, which is also known as the “caviar of the South,” became a staple for many people below the Mason Dixon line. It is a mixture of pimentos, cream cheese, grated cheese, mayonnaise, peppers, and more. Pimento cheese is eaten on sandwiches, crackers, chips, or even on cheeseburgers.
  • Hummingbird Cake: This is another cake that is a tradition for many events. Ingredients include pineapple, banana, spices, pecans, and a cream cheese frosting. As for the hummingbird cake name, its history actually comes from Jamaica. Also known as the Doctor Bird Cake, this dessert is named after Jamaica’s national bird. It came to the United States in 1978 when it was printed in Southern Living with the recipe being written by L.H. Wiggins. Later that year, the cake won the Favorite Cake Award at the Kentucky State Fair. In 1990, Southern Living named the hummingbird cake its favorite recipe and the most requested recipe in the magazine’s history.
  • Boiled Peanuts: Remember the buckets of peanuts at Sagebrush Steakhouse or Texas Roadhouse? One can guess that these peanuts were boiled. Mainly popular in Georgia, boiled peanuts are a classic snack at baseball games, roadside stands, and restaurants. Historians believe this treat started in the Civil War after Union General William T. Sherman’s troops marched through Georgia. After the march, the South was depleted of resources and supplies for their troops. Peanuts became a main source of food, and when boiled over a fire with salt, soldiers discovered that the boiled peanuts would last up to seven days in their packs. Once the war ended, the love for boiled peanuts remained and continues to grow to this day.
  • Cheese Straws: Similar to breadsticks, cheese straws are the perfect southern appetizer and snack. Mainly consisting of flour, cheese, butter, and cayenne pepper, no one quite knows how cheese straws came to be, but some say it was created by a cook who mixed leftover biscuit dough and cheese together. Let’s just say no matter how this snack was invented, southerners are glad it was.
  • Charm Cakes: A Victorian-era tradition quickly grabbed the hearts of southerners and found its way into Southern weddings. Within charm cakes, little charms with significant meanings are attached to ribbon and hidden inside the cake. During a bridal shower, rehearsal dinner, or the actual wedding, each bridesmaid pulls out a charm. For example, the ring means you are the next to marry, seashell stands for eternal beauty, and a moon stands for opportunity.

Food is part of the South’s history and every family’s heritage. These timeless dishes are ones that most people in the South truly love and will continue to share with future generations.

Explore the Seven Wonders of the World at Home

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There is nothing better than seeing awe and wonder in a child’s eyes. Whether it is seeing a new site, experiencing a cool activity, or finding an amazing item, the joy of learning can easily be seen and felt. There are many topics you and your family can enjoy and learn about together, including the classic seven wonders of the world. Before continuing on, let’s take a look at what is included in the list of the seven wonders. Over time the Seven Wonders have changed. The newest list was created in 2007 after more than 100 million people voted to name the “New Seven Wonders of the World,” which are below:

  1. The Great Wall of China in China
  2. Christ the Redeemer Statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  3. Machu Picchu in Peru
  4. Chichen Itza (The Yucatan Peninsula) in Mexico
  5. The Roman Colosseum in Rome
  6. The Taj Mahal in Agra, India
  7. The Petra in Jordan

Many children and adults may not be familiar with some of these landmarks. However, there are fun and creative ways to learn about them. These activities are hands-on and can be done on a rainy afternoon, a summer day, or a weekend of learning at home.

  • Take a virtual field trip on Google Earth to the Seven Wonders. Visit earth.google.com/web and search the various places. Then, zoom in and out and explore the landmark’s history. You can also learn about the “Seven Wonder of the Ancient World” by searching the website of The Museum of UnNatural History (http://unmuseum.mus.pa.us/wonders.htm).
  • Create a passport or scrapbook with pictures and facts about each wonder. In addition, Photoshop pictures of your child in front of the site to help make the experience come alive. Other options include putting together a tourist guide book, brochure, advertisement, or newspaper. Let your child take on different roles and careers to learn about the famous site. There are many avenues you could take with this activity.
  • Make a physical version of the landmark. For example, use paper, markers, and paper towel or toilet paper rolls to build Christ the Redeemer Statue or create the Great Wall of China with Legos. Common materials that could be used are clay, construction paper, salt dough, rocks, and fabrics.
  • Instead of making a physical object, design something digital, such as a video, commercial for the Seven Wonders, etc. Use sites like iMovie, WeVideo, and Prezi and let your children’s imaginations run wild with creativity. Plus, you can even create an at-home green screen and digitally replace the background with the wonder.
  • Study about the culture, cities, and countries where the wonder is located. Research the area’s climate, food, music, arts, historic sites, and more. Then, celebrate that wonder by bringing it and its home country to life. The more vivid and hands-on experience children can have when learning about the Seven Wonders of the World, the better they’ll be able to remember and retain the knowledge they’ve learned.

Word searches, puzzles, and quizzes/challenges are more, interactive ways to connect history to a wonder. Also, children of all ages love coloring pages. Plus, it shows children another visual/picture of the site. For printables, visit https://www.thoughtco.com/new-seven-wonders-of-the-world-printables-1832308.

These ideas are perfect ways for children and students at school to learn about the Seven Wonders of the World. There is so much of the world that we don’t know about. The earlier we start exploring these areas, the more global a child can be.

 

12 Thoughts from a Southerner

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Growing up in North Carolina can be described as summers spent outside, fall days at the county fair, and a winter snowfall once or twice a year. In my opinion, it was a privilege to grow up in the Tarheel state and the South. This area of the United States is special for multiple reasons. It is more than history, food, and traditions. Growing up Southern means you learn to always treasure those around you, even if you don’t know them, to live justly, and value life’s little lessons, such as the ones below.

1: Respect for elders is one of the most important things.

2: Also, respect for your momma and daddy is crucial.

3: Almost every sentence should include a “ma’am” or “sir.”

4: It is better to overdress for any occasion. (Football games, church, you name it-overdress.)

5: Handwritten letters don’t go out of style.

6: Your family will always support you and will always be the most important thing in your life.

7: In the summer, curfews are dictated by lightning bugs.

8: Southern food is the best. You will learn how to cook your grandma’s recipes by the time you are 20.

9: There is no need to be in a rush for everything.

10: Southern hospitality is a way of life that you will master by the time you are also 20.

11: School is canceled with the first flakes of snow.

12: You wouldn’t want to grow up anywhere else but in the South.

xoxo,

Megan

Why I “Work Smarter, Not Harder”

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Every day I try to use the motto “Work smarter, not harder.” Everyone has their own definition of this phrase, but it generally means using your thinking skills to minimize tasks and extra steps, so that you use your time wisely and more effectively to get things done quickly. For example, instead of putting something off that would take five minutes or less to complete, do it immediately and move on to the next task.

The main purpose behind the “work smarter, not harder” motto is that you, as the individual, are able to prioritize your own needs and build upon your strengths and weaknesses. You are able to visualize what you need to focus on, see if there is anything you can cut from your workload or lifestyle, ask for help if needed, and figure out how you work in the quickest and most effective manner possible. Everyone has their own answers and meaning to the motto. Now, the question is: how do you work smarter, not harder? Take a look below to see some of the tips on how you can put this motto to use in your life.

  1. Move and work in blocks. Instead of working hour after hour, divide up your work into equal sections. For each section of your to-do list, change up your location for working, whether it is inside, outside, or at home. The most important thing is to not set exact time limits for when you’ll finish a certain section, but to move when you have a certain section finished. Be sure to take a quick break or a fast walk to refresh yourself after each task.
  2. Check your email first thing. This is mainly where I get the bulk of my to-do list. See what items you need to prioritize and get those done first. Then, move on to the smaller tasks that will take less time to finish.
  3. Communication is key. Collaboration and communication can either make or break a project. Communicating effectively with other team members will help eliminate any mistakes or misunderstandings, or having to rework parts of the project.
  4. Don’t multitask. As much as we love to do so, multitasking can actually cause more trouble (and work) than needed. Stay focused on one task at a time and complete that task before moving on to the next.
  5. Create a routine and stick with it. When it comes to your work, to be more effective and efficient, it is best to try and do most of it at the same time each day. According to research, when we establish routines, our brains become in the habit of completing the task over and over again. Pretty soon, you’ll be able to accomplish a task quickly with less preparation. Essentially, you do the job on autopilot.
  6. Relieve stress. When you are stressed, it can be hard to achieve anything on your to-do list. Let’s refer back to tip #1. The breaks between the sections of time will help you ease your stress and stay calm while working. Also, having a clear mind allows you to think through your task and helps prevent mistakes and misunderstandings.
  7. Use your “GPS.” In her book, It’s About Time! author Mitzi Weinman explains GPS as “goal, purpose, and scope.” According to Weinman, this system can be used to get the whole picture and how you need to accomplish it. For example, you can see a task completed and then envision the various steps needed to completing it. Also, “GPS” can help you set goals for each of those steps until it is done (goal). Always ask yourself “why” we are doing something and how it fits into the larger goal (purpose).

“Work smarter, not harder” is a motto everyone should try at least once in their lives. Give it a shot – you might happily discover you are able to get more done in a shorter amount of time.

xoxo,

Megan

Yummy S’mores Dip – A Must-Try Recipe!

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S’mores Dip is definitely one of my favorite desserts. Bring on the chocolate, marshmallow, and graham crackers goodness!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
  • 15 jumbo marshmallows, halved
  • Graham cracker squares

Directions:

  1. Adjust rack to the center position of the oven and place 8-inch cast iron skillet or regular frying pan on rack. Preheat oven to 450°F with skillet inside. Once preheated, use a potholder to remove the hot skillet from the oven.
  2. Place a pat of butter in the skillet and coat the bottom and sides. Pour chocolate chips in an even layer into the bottom.
  3. Arrange marshmallow halves over the chocolate chips, covering the chocolate completely.
  4. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes or until marshmallows is toasted to your liking.
  5. Remove from heat and rest for 5 minutes. Serve immediately with graham cracker squares.

Enjoy!

xoxo,

Megan

 

The Meanings Behind the Names of North Carolina Famous Cities

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We know their names by heart and everything about them, but we don’t truly know their meanings. Wonder what I’m talking about? The names of famous North Carolina cities. Have you ever thought about why Raleigh is named Raleigh? Or why Wilmington is called just that? Well, sit back and read below for the history behind the names of famous North Carolina cities.

Winston-Salem: 

Let’s start with our hometown – Winston-Salem. Originally, the Camel City was two towns: Winston and Salem. The name Winston comes from local Revolutionary War hero, Joseph Winston. Until 1851, the area was known as “the county town” for being the county seat for the town of Salem in the newly formed Forsyth County. As for Salem, it bears its name from “Shalom” meaning peace. It was chosen by Count Zinzendorf, a patron of the Moravian town.

Raleigh: 

North Carolina’s capital city, Raleigh, is the second largest city in the state. The City of Oaks is named after Sir Walter Raleigh, who established the lost Roanoke Colony in current Dare County. In 1584, Queen Elizabeth gave Raleigh a royal charter to explore and colonize land in the New World. His first attempt at establishing a settlement was known as the Roanoke Colony (the Lost Colony). Three years later, he returned and tried again to reestablish a settlement on Roanoke Island.

Greensboro: 

Formerly spelled Greensborough, Greensboro is the 3rdlargest city in the state. The city gained its current name after the Revolutionary War. Major General Nathanael Greene was an American commander at the Battle of Guilford Court House on March 15, 1781. The battle was a British win, but Greene’s troops inflicted many casualties on British General Cornwallis’ army. Before 1781, the residents of Greensboro were Quakers from Pennsylvania. In 1750, they arrived in Capefair, the area now known as Greensboro. Quickly, more people came to the settlement, making it the most important Quaker community in North Carolina during that time.

Wilmington:

An important port city for various periods in history, Wilmington is currently known for being the Hollywood of the East Coast, its one-mile-long Riverwalk, and the coastal arena it provides people. The city was settled by English colonists and named after Spencer Compton, the 1stEarl of Wilmington. Compton was a British Whig statesman and is considered to be Britain’s second Prime Minister from 1742 to 1743. As for the area, the settlement was built in September 1732 on land owned by John Watson, and was founded by the first royal governor, George Burrington. Before deciding on the name Wilmington, the city was called “New Carthage,” “New Liverpool,” and then “New Town (Newton).” In 1739 – 1740, the town was incorporated under the new name, “Wilmington.”

Boone: 

A quick drive up US-421 North will take you to the beautiful city of Boone, North Carolina. The area is famous for the Blue Ridge Mountains, skiing and snow sports, bluegrass music, and of course, Appalachian State University. One can easily guess Boone got its name from American pioneer and explorer, Daniel Boone. According to historians, Boone spent time camping at locations within the present city limits. His nephews, Jesse and Jonathan, were members of Three Forks Baptist Church, the town’s first church, which still stands today.

Charlotte: 

The biggest city in North Carolina, the Queen City, and home of the Carolina Panthers, everyone knows the city of Charlotte, but few know the name’s meaning. It was first settled by Scotch-Irish and Scotch-Irish Presbyterians and German immigrants before the Revolutionary War. Charlotte is named in honor of German princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. In 1761, she became the Queen Consort of Great Britain and Ireland. Seven years later, the town of Charlotte was incorporated. Along with its nickname, the Queen City, the city was often called The Hornet’s Nest, due to British General Cornwallis’ troops occupying the city during the Revolutionary War. Eventually, residents were driven out and Cornwallis wrote that Charlotte was “a hornet’s nest of rebellion.”

Next time you’re in one of these cities, you can show off your skills by testing your travel companions on their knowledge of the meaning of the city’s name.

xoxo,

Megan

A Foodie’s Favorite Cookbooks

There are many benefits that come with summer: warmer temperatures, longer days, and more time outdoors. For most people, summer also includes having BBQs, cookouts, and eating outdoors. However, it can be tough to create a diverse menu for your summer event when the usual dishes are hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, and more. For July’s “Writers Who Read,” I’m focusing on some of my favorite cookbooks to help you branch out on your menus.

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime by Ree Drummond

Based on the popular Food Network show, The Pioneer Woman, cook Ree Drummond gives readers 125 dinnertime recipes that are simple, quick, and enjoyable for the whole family. According to the cookbook, it answers the “age-old question – what’s for dinner?” Within the recipes, Drummond includes meals that are classic comfort, 16-minute meals, freezer-friendly foods, soups, main dishes, salads, and breakfast meals for dinner. The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime is perfect for any person or family. Some of my favorite meals are Salisbury Steak, Oven Barbecue Chicken, and the Beef Stroganoff. Plus, Drummond offers tasty desserts to conclude any evening meal. Lastly, the cookbook includes photos, beloved stories, and a colorful layout. What more could you want?

Hungry Girl 200 under 200: 200 Recipes under 200 Calories by Lisa Lillien

During the summer, I like to get lighter, smaller meals. There is just something about a heavy meal during the hot, summer months that doesn’t sit right. Lisa Lillien, the founder of hungrygirl.com, helps readers enjoy delicious dishes, while also watching their calories. The cookbook is divided into various chapters, such as Hungry Girl Staples, Morning Minis, Dip It Good, Mini Meal Mania, and Scoopable Salads. Step by step instructions are given for each recipe. Just a few examples of some of the dishes offered: Cheesy-Good Cornbread Muffins, Cheeseburger Lettuce Cups, Chocolate Chip Cookie Crisps Pudding Shake, Holy Moly Guacamole, and Hot Boneless Buffalo Wings. Hungry Girl 200 under 200 is a great cookbook to use if you are hosting a summertime party or taking an appetizer, dish, etc. to a family or friends’ event!

The Lady & Sons Savannah Country Cookbook Collection by Paula Deen

This cookbook is an oldie, but a goodie. Based off recipes from her restaurant, The Lady and Sons, in Savannah, Georgia, cook Paula Deen creates two family-friendly cookbooks with hundreds of easy dishes, The Lady & Sons Savannah Country Cookbook (Deen’s first and best-selling cookbook)and The Lady and Sons, Too! Together, these cookbooks consist of mouth-watering recipes that are quick and easy to make for any occasion. Some of the dishes include Chicken and Waffles, Oven-Fried Catfish, Sweet Blueberry Cornbread, and many desserts. One of my all-time favorite recipes from the collection is the Ooey Gooey Butter Cakes. This dessert is rich and decadent. Plus, it can be made in different flavors, such as vanilla, chocolate, etc. Trust me, this is one recipe you can’t and don’t want to resist!

I’m a foodie and I love to eat. These are just a sampling of cookbooks I love to use, not just during the summer, but throughout the entire year.

xoxo,

Megan

Fourth of July Party Must-Haves

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The Fourth of July is commonly associated with fireworks, barbeques, and parties. Planning events, especially for holidays, is one of my favorite things to do. If you are hosting a patriotic get-together that is going to be all red, white, and blue for July 4th, I’ve got some ideas you don’t want to miss.

Decorations: 

When one thinks of decorations for a Fourth of July party, one probably automatically thinks of anything red, white, and blue. For tables, use a tablecloth that is either red-and-white checkered, blue-and-white checkered or a plain color. Take it a step farther and use bandannas. All you need to do is sew together red, white, and blue bandannas, enough to cover your table or to make a table runner.

As for centerpieces, there are many options you can create. One example is using flowers in jars. Choose white flowers, such as daisies, and place in clear jars, filled with water. Using food color, tint the water in one container with red dye and another with blue. This simple arrangement is just another way to include some patriotic zest to your party decorations.

Lastly, banners, bunting, and streamers are perfect additions for tables, ceilings, fences, and more. Colorful fabric and paper can be used for the designs, and don’t forget about the flag—a must-have at any Fourth of July extravaganza!

Food: 

A party isn’t a party without tasty food! Offer your guests a wide variety of choices, from sweet and salty to healthy. Watermelon, bananas, strawberries, and blueberries are your go-to fruits. One of the cutest ways to serve them is by crafting Fourth of July Fireworks Kabobs. First, take a star-shaped cookie cutter and cut out pieces of watermelon into stars. Then, use a skewer and place the watermelon star on one end and follow up with blueberries. Another fun idea is utilizing fruit slices and making an American flag on a plate or serving tray.

A common staple at Fourth of July parties is hot dogs and hamburgers. Staying with the fireworks theme for food, treat your family and friends to Firecracker Dogs. All you need to do is wrap uncooked crescent dough around a hot dog and cook until done. Then, place onto a skewer with a star-shaped piece of cheese on top.

Desserts and sweets are always a must, and s’ mores are the perfect touch. Want something cool to eat in the hot weather? Take ice cream sandwiches and roll the edges in red, white, and blue sprinkles. The key with food is for all dishes to be simple and easy to eat, whether you’re standing up or sitting down. You don’t need to have a full five-course meal, but you do need to make sure you have all parts of a meal available for guests. Remember always to include something fruity, something veggie, something sweet, something salty, and something hearty, such as meat, and refreshments.

Music: 

There are many patriotic jams to play during the festivities. A few favorites to include in your playlist are:

  • “Born in the USA” by Bruce Springsteen
  • “Party in the USA” by Miley Cyrus
  • “God Bless the USA” by Lee Greenwood
  • “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynard Skynard
  • “It’s America” by Rodney Atkins
  • “Only in America” by Brooks and Dunn

Games:

Classic games, such as cornhole and ladder golf, are always a hit at Fourth of July parties. However, there are ways to bring the holiday spirit into other games, as well. Lead your guests on a patriotic scavenger hunt. Some items to look for: a picnic basket, an American flag, something red, stars, streamers, and sparklers.

Since it is summer, include outdoor games. One suggestion would be to paint a twister board on the grass. Use the spinner from the board game and have fun. Also, host challenges, such as a watermelon or pie-eating contest. Attendees will love getting in on the party action. Plus, great memories will certainly be made!

Party Favors:

Give your guests something to take home and remember the event. Many people like to hand out sparklers, but this can be a little tricky with multiple ages at the party. A creative idea is deconstructed s’ mores in bags with a tag, commemorating the day. In addition, you could fill favor bags with candy that is red, white, and blue. Some options are M&Ms, lollipops, and Hershey’s kisses.

The Fourth of July is a day full of fun. Enjoy the holiday by having a party for your family and friends. Don’t know where to start?  Use the tips above. These ideas will help you remember the real reason for the day.

xoxo,

Megan

Melt In Your Mouth Lemon Brownies

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This summer, my goal is to eat healthier and lose a little bit of weight. However, that is not stopping me from already deciding my cheat meals and desserts. On my list is the recipe below –  Lemon Brownies.

Lemon Brownies: 

Ingredients for the brownie mixture: 

  • 3/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Ingredients for the glaze: 

  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon zest

Directions for brownie mixture: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8 x 8 square pan with tin foil, then grease.
  2. In a mixing bowl, stir together the butter and sugar until combined. Add in the eggs, lemon juice, and lemon zest and stir.
  3. Next, stir in the flour and salt until everything is mixed together.
  4. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 28 to 30 minutes.
  5. Remove from oven and let cool.

Directions for glaze: 

  1. In a mixing bowl, combine the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Stir until smooth.
  2. Pour the glaze over the cooled brownies and let set.
  3. Garnish with lemon zest, if desired.

Enjoy!

 

xoxo,

Megan

P.S. Would you like for me to blog about my health journey this summer? Vote here!