Meghan G

About Meghan G

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Aug 312015

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy daughter Sophia is not our sports enthused and talented child.  She’s always excited about the nature and science themed camps offered by the county every year, but we have to give her a little nudge to make sure she gets as much exercise as we’d like.  We’ve heard a lot of praise for the British Soccer Camps run by Challenger every year but whenever I brought them up she’d been very unsure about giving them a try.  So every year we’ve passed them by with a ‘maybe next year’ until JMM Meghan approached us about possibly reviewing the camp for Joy Troupe.    This seemed to be the perfect opportunity to try it out.   Sophia was not so sure

 “You want me to do what?”

“You like soccer.  You watched all the World Cup Games with your father.”

“I know, but it’s really hot outside in July.”

“I’ll pack extra water.”

“Well, Ok.  But only because Mrs Meghan asked.”

I only share this conversation because I want you to know that my child did not enter the week super excited about spending the entire week playing soccer.   The coaches were going to have to win her over.  And I want you to know that Sophia had ‘THE MOST AMAZING WEEK EVER”.   I won’t lie and say she now wants to join a soccer team and play every weekend (I did ask).  But I did pick up a bouncing, happy child who had fun every single day this week.   She raved about the ‘really, cool’ games they played every day.   She came home telling silly jokes that she learned from her coaches.  And we heard all about the pretend world cup the kids played against each other all week long. My daughter is very tiny and when they figured out that her shirt was going to be way too big for her on the first day, they put in an order to make sure they got in a smaller one for her before the week was out.   

Not only were the imported coaches very good about engaging with the children but they did go a couple of extra steps to make sure everyone was safe and happy.  Despite the temperature being over 90 degrees over the entire week they made sure that there was plenty of water and water breaks for all the children and that they took plenty of breaks so they were not over heating.  The camp also featured a daily swimming break where everyone, despite the wide range of swimming abilities–Sophia is just beginning to swim, but still requires a float–had fun.  I was extremely impressed with how well they handled the heat and sun. Not once throughout the week did any of the children look overly burnt or in distress.

 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA20150731_15413420150731_154024

Sophia will definitely be attending the British Soccer Camp in following years.  As will her sport-enthused little brother (who’s resentful he isn’t old enough this year).   And if anyone is in need of something for a week in August you can find them through the Fairfax County Parktakes  by searching for soccer camps or Challenger’s website.

Our week at camp was sponsored by Challenger in exchange for a review.  My opinions are my own and completely honest.


May 302015

flickr frog Holley And Chris MeltonThis post contains information provided by my sponsor. I have no personal experience with the product.

We all have different landscape goals in mind when we choose how to incorporate water into our plans. In my case, I decided that reducing runoff from my property was more important than maintaining a pond or other permanent water feature. But if your plans do include a pond, large or small, it’s important to be able to maintain it in a way that doesn’t harm wildlife. My yard is a certified wildlife habitat, so I consider every addition in terms of whether it will harm the birds and small animals that my yard attracts- and there are a LOT of them. Typical yards house not only small mammals, but lizards and birds as well. Some of our migratory birds are increasingly threatened by pollution and loss of green spaces. I know that if you put in a lovely pond, the last thing you want is for it to pose a danger to nearby birds. After all, not only are songbirds beautiful and fun to listen to, but they eat bugs! Let’s focus on that for a second: Less bugs means fewer spiders, and fewer spiders means less chance you’ll have to burn down everything you own and flee, like that family who found out their house was infested with brown recluse spiders. (Scuse me, I’m just going to go wash off all the creepy crawlies with napalm. ACK.)frog Chris Luczkow flickr

Even so, you are not going to want to fish in or enjoy your pond if it’s covered with a biofilm from decomposing plants. (Not as icky as spiders, but still icky.) NT-MAX makes a pond cleaner that will break down the biofilm so you can have a clearer, prettier pond without harming pets or wildlife.

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house finch nigel flickr

May 062015

why do they want dinner every night

Even the best of us have had a day that got away from us and realized that everyone is hungry and there’s nothing in the fridge but a few paltry leftovers that won’t quite make a full dinner for the family and the last of the milk. Oops. Time for some PB&J, or to pull a rabbit out of the hat. If breakfast for dinner is getting old, you can throw together this (meatless!) Black Beans and Rice in less time than you’d wait for delivery, and entirely from pantry staples.

I realized that I had never actually made it before, and my recipe reflects what I had on hand. If you happen to keep canned or frozen stock (I mostly don’t, as I usually make soup out of it as soon as I make it. I love soup!) go ahead and use some in place of the water. If not, the water is perfect. If you are luckier with cilantro in your herb garden than I am, chop some and stir it in right before you serve. The first words out of my mouth after I started eating this were, “this would be AMAZING with a little fresh cilantro,” but in a “beggars can’t be choosers” situation, you make do. I also can’t wait to try it with some fresh avocado on top. If you’re not vegan, a little cheddar cheese is also a great topping option. I steamed a bag of baby spinach and warmed up all the leftovers, and everyone left the table happy.

You’ll notice I specify that you drain AND RINSE the beans. If you happen to be one of those people who object to the rinsing instructions, then carry on without rinsing. I do know some people feel this robs the beans of flavor, although I can’t personally taste a difference. Just know that most of what makes beans a “musical fruit” rinses down the drain along with the goo from inside the can, and make your own choices.Black Beans and Rice Recipe horizontal Joy Makin' Mamas

Black Beans & Rice
Cuisine: Southwest
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6 servings
  • 1 14 ox can diced tomatoes, with liquid
  • 1 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • ¼ cup dehydrated onion
  • ½ teaspoon ancho chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ½ Tablespoon oregano
  • salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, pressed
  • ¾ cup white rice
  • 1¾ cups water
  1. Combine tomatoes, beans, and spices (except garlic) in a non-reactive bowl and set aside to allow flavors to mingle.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat until shimmering.
  3. Add garlic to hot oil and sautee about one minute or until just browned. Add rice and sautee about two minutes or until rice just begins to lose translucency but has not begun to brown.
  4. Add water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer without lifting the lid until all liquid is absorbed- about 15-20 minutes.
  5. Stir in tomato and bean mixture and warm through.
  6. Garnish with fresh chives, if desired, and serve.
If you prefer spicier food, substitute cayenne pepper for the ancho chili powder. If you want to use fresh onion instead of dried, use about one small onion chopped finely and add it with the garlic. Sautee until translucent and then proceed as written.

black beans and rice recipe pin Joy Makin' Mamas

May 012015


“Paranormal romance” isn’t usually my thing, but this one sounded appealing, so I dove right in.


Walker Callaghan doesn’t know what happened to her. One minute she was living her teenage life in suburban Chicago.Ascenders Updated..and the next minute, she was in a strange place and in a brand new school with absolutely no homework, no rules, and no consequences.

Walker Callaghan, 16, is dead.

She doesn’t go to Heaven or Hell. She lands at The Academy, a middle realm where teenagers have one thing in common: They were that morning announcement at their high schools because they died young.

These high school kids are now caught in a strange “in-between” zone where life hasn’t changed very much. In fact, this special teen limbo looks a lot like life in a quaint Michigan town complete with jocks, popular girls and cliques. “There are even cheerleaders in death,” Walker observes. It’s not a coincidence that the music

teacher is a guy named Kurt who “used to have this band.” The drama teacher, Heath, is crush worthy because back in his life, he starred in some superhero movie as the Joker.

Principal King explains the rules — there are none. Why? You can’t die twice.

There is no homework.

No tests.


You’re just there to learn because the human brain isn’t fully formed until you’re 24. By the way, you can’t get hurt physically, so race your Harley off that hillside. But falling in love is the most dangerous thing you can do …because no one knows how long you’ll stay in this realm or what’s next. Walker falls hard for tat-covered, bad boy Daniel Reid who is about to break the only sacred rule of this place. He’s looking for a portal to return back to the living realm.

Ascenders….An epic adventure of an after-life time.

Ascenders: High School for the Recently Deceased (Ascenders Saga) (Volume 1) was a very enjoyable, quick, light read, and I had a great time with it. As someone who remembers the 90s very well, I felt a few of the hints dropped were glaring and heavy, and I found myself wondering how our hero, Walker, could POSSIBLY have failed to realize that her new town is populated entirely by the dead… but then I remembered that this is aimed at an audience that thinks of the 90s as the “olden days,” as far removed from them as the Vietnam War or the discovery of the Americas, and I realized that the text cues are probably dead on for the genre.

I hesitate to describe a story about life after death as “believable,” since I have absolutely no personal experience against which to compare it- and I sincerely hope that you don’t, either- but the interactions between characters in Ascenders felt natural. The descriptive passages are vivid and set the stage for the action perfectly, and CL Gaber does a particularly good job, I think, with portraying the relationship between Walker and her mother. I won’t tell you exactly what happens that makes me say so (spoilers, sweetie!) but as a mom, I frequently find it glaringly obvious when an author trying to get into the workings of that relationship is not a mom. (Nothing against people who aren’t moms. But the intensity of being a mom is something that it’s hard to write, I think, if you haven’t lived it.)

I would not hesitate to allow a teen- even a young teen- to read this book. It touches on subjects like sex, hormones, smoking, and drugs, but not in a way that I don’t think is appropriate for a YA novel. I don’t think anything in this book (again, without spoiling it for you) would advance a teen’s knowledge beyond their years, or handled in a way that should make a sensitive teen uncomfortable. Unlike many of the things our kids adore that make us want to poke out our eyes (Not to name any names, but say, anything that rhymes with SignRaft), reading this book, either to check its appropriateness for your particular child, or so you’ll be able to discuss it with them after they’ve read it, is no punishment at all. It will be right at home next to your deck chair or in the hammock, or even waiting for the action at spring sports practice.

ASCENDERS (Ascenders 1) by CL Gaber

YA Paranormal Romance/Fantasy

Goodreads | Amazon | iTunes | Kobo | Smashwords

Is this Hell or is this High School?

THE ASCENDERS Takes You To the In-between Where Teens Who Died Young Go On the Epic Adventure of an After-Lifetime.

For more information check out the ASCENDERS website HERE!

 “A unique twist on the paranormal that will keep you up all night reading.”-USA Today best selling author Tiffany KingAscenders---RT-Banner


a Rafflecopter giveaway

About the Author:


C.L. Gaber is the co-author of the bestselling YA novel “Jex Malone.”

She is also an entertainment journalist, syndicated worldwide through the New York Times Syndicate. She interviews A-lister movie, TV and music stars for the Chicago Sun-Times. A movie-loving kid in Chicago, she grew up to earn a degree from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State. Now she lives Nevada with her husband Ron, once her high school boyfriend; her stepdaughter, Sabrina; and their dogs, Colt and Georgie.

Website | Facebook

Apr 232015

If you have still not gotten over the end of Little House on the Prairie or Dr Quinn, Medicine woman, then I have good news for you! “When Calls The Heart” is about to come back for a second season. In addition to the top billed cast, I was pleased to see this wholesome drama kick off its second season with performances by Laura Mennell (Alphas) and Kavan Smith (Eureka). I was disappointed by the cancellation of Alphas, in part because I wanted to see more out of Mennell, and Smith’s Deputy Andy was one of the roles that made Eureka great for me. Our return to Coal Valley finds the town at odds with one another over the coming court proceedings between the widows and the mining company that sent their loved ones into harms way, a little healthy competition between “frenemies” in full swing, and some big surprises waiting in the wings for a few of our characters.

The episode sets up a classic conflict between family expectations and following one’s passions for Elizabeth, who is called home for a family emergency before the trial even begins. There will be many “make or break” moments that determine which direction the season will go in this episode- and a few that only bring us to a fork in the road, setting the scene for redemption vs. temptation, and you’ll just have to tune in next week to find out which. These are the things that suck you into a new show even when you “don’t have time” to get involved in another series, or that cause you to suddenly realize that it’s 1 am on a weekday because you’ve been binge watching season after season on Netflix. (You cannot stream season 1 of When Calls the Heart on Netflix currently, but you can rent or purchase it for your Amazon watch list, here: When Calls The Heart Season 1 Streaming on Amazon {Aff link})

I couldn’t find anything that said exactly when this period drama is set, but judging by the costumes and the cars, I’d put it at 1918 or 1919. I will warn you that if you are the type of stickler for period detail who considers Downton Abbey a dream come true thanks to the impeccable costuming, you should not go into this expecting the same level of historical integrity. The historical context in this series is context, as opposed to a plot element in its own right. If what you are looking for is a drama that offers romance without bedroom scenes, tension without violence, and the hope that those who’ve made mistakes will redeem themselves by the end of season 2, then this is the show for you.

Celebrate the premiere of Season 2 by entering to win Season 1 of When Calls the Heart on DVD!

Check your local listings- the season premiere will air on 4/25 on the Hallmark channel! Until then, visit the show on social media:

when calls the heart season 1 DVD set

About the series:
The series is inspired by Janette Oke’s bestselling book series about the Canadian West. “When Calls the Heart” tells the captivating story of Elizabeth Thatcher (Erin Krakow), a young teacher accustomed to her high society life, who receives her first classroom assignment in Coal Valley, a small coalmining town where life is simple, but often fraught with challenges. Lori Loughlin plays Abigail Stanton, a wife and mother whose husband, the foreman of the mine, along with a dozen other miners, has just been killed in an explosion. The newly widowed women find their faith is tested when they must go to work in the mines to keep a roof over their heads. Elizabeth charms most everyone in Coal Valley, except Constable Jack Thornton (Daniel Lissing) who believes Thatcher’s wealthy father has doomed the lawman’s career by insisting he be assigned in town to protect the shipping magnate’s daughter. Living in a turn of the century coal town, Elizabeth will have to learn the ways of the frontier if she wishes to thrive in the rural west on her own.

Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own. I was given access to an advance viewing of the season opener to facilitate this review. No other compensation was received for the creation of this review or administration of the giveaway.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”