Monthly Archives: July 2010

3 Amazing Native American Books to Read Now

Storytelling.  It’s the core of so many cultures, the essence of so many people.  It’s meant to entertain us during celebrations, to teach us during times of confusion, to inform us of what’s to come, and to remind us of what once was.

I took a class in Native American storytelling when I was in college.  Here’s a group of people that prides itself on its storytelling abilities, and rightfully so.  Many tribes have members who are “the storytellers.”  These are the keepers of all the stories…the wise ones.

This week I read three books of stories like this…the stories that define a people.  Each one is a collection of stories, both personal and traditional, that helps build the history of these ancient people.

While each one reads fairly quickly, the reader can’t help but slow down and enjoy each story for what it is:  a lesson.  Gather your children, family, friends, and read these stories out loud.  Act them out.  Most, if not all, of these stories are meant to be read out loud.  Unlock them from the page.  Give them life and teach someone, teach yourself, something new.


By Lois Beardslee

The best way I can describe this book is to say that it’s like sitting down to dinner with Lois Beardslee and listening to her tell you stories about her people…in her own way.  Lies to Live By is a collection of ancient Anishnabe (Ojibwe) wisdom told from the perspective of this colorful and lovely author.  Her writing style is so comfortable, so relaxed, that it feels as if she’s sitting there with you, telling you about her day.

As casual as the writing may be, Beardslee does not forget to instill the traditional wisdom of these ancient tales.  The lessons are still the same; she just takes us on a more “updated” path to get there.

Lies to Live By is required reading for anyone who decides to take on a Native American minor at Northern Michigan University.  It’s one of the first books you read in the program and much of the introductory class is spent discussing this book.  If you are a fan of Native literature or enjoy the lessons taught by Native American storytelling, I highly suggest that you add Lies to Live By to your collection.  It’s one of those books that may have the potential to completely change your life.


By Joseph Bruchac

These are the real stories.  These are the stories that give reason to everything from creation to the changing of the seasons.  These are the stories that answer “why do…” and “how come…”.  The stories that teach.

Drawn from various Native cultures of North America, Native American Stories uses stories from the Zuni, Hopi, Cherokee, Inuit, and many other tribes, to teach us about Mother Earth, Father Sun, and how we’re all brothers and sisters with the animals.  These stories weave together to pass on the lesson that we, as humans, are entrusted with a very important mission:  to maintain natural balance and take care of the Earth.

When I was in college, most of this book was read while the class sat in a circle.  We went around the room and each read a story out loud, which made it all the more interesting.  These stories are meant to be orated.  They are living things that have to be given a voice.  Read Native American Stories outside with your family and children.  Get them involved in the storytelling and help teach them how important and crucial it is that they help save the Earth.  The time is now.


Edited by Neil Philip

“To live in a sacred manner is to live with respect for the environment, for the community, and for oneself.  It is a way of looking at life that was shared by all the Indian nations.”

This book is raw power.  As if the poetry and speeches weren’t enough to tear my heart out, they had to add beautiful and heartbreaking images to the mix.  TISSUE!!

In the Sacred Manner I Live is a gorgeous book of Native wisdom, poetry, art, prayers, and speeches.  Through the words of famous chiefs and leaders, we hear their views on war and peace, teachings, betrayal, life and death, and much more.  It’s a haunting look into the way life once was…and what’s to come if things don’t change now.

In their honest simplicity, the words of these various leaders beg the reader to consider changing their ways, helping when they can, and doing their best to improve the situation today so our children may live in a better world.  This is the raw wisdom of the Native people.  If you’re going to read any of these three books, read this one.


Lies to Live By:  If you live in or have traveled in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, read it.  Every story in this collection takes place in the UP…and probably in locations you may know and love.

Native American Stories:  Unless you’re a fan of Native lit, I’d say SHELF IT.  If you’re interested in Native lit, this is a great one to start with.  It will give you a good idea of how many of the stories are laid out.

In the Sacred Manner I Live:  READ IT.  Just do it.  I bet your views on at least one thing will change after you read the book.

NEXT WEEK: Next week is as much a surprise to you as it is to me…because I haven’t had time to pick a book yet!  That shall be my weekend project.

I hope all of you have a great weekend and I’ll see you on Monday!

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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5 Clever Uses for Oatmeal

You love it or you hate it.  This ol’ time breakfast staple can be the most delicious and healthy breakfast of your life, or can turn out like a big gooy mess of fiber.  I’ve only cooked real oats once and I’m pretty sure there are still oats stuck to that pan.  Regardless, I’m trying to get back into it and, in looking for new recipes for oatmeal, I discovered all the wonderful things this little grain can do!


–Oatmeal does wonders for your skin.  Use it to treat acne, itches, poison ivy, sunburn, and dry skin.

–Oatmeal is also safe to use on animals…so if Fido gets ticks or has itchy skin, whip up an oatmeal bath.  Search online for special “pet friendly” recipes.

–Add oatmeal to your evening bath for a relaxing evening and a great way to exfoliate your skin.  Look online for “recipes” and how to create the most wonderful oatmeal soaks (I suggest taking 1 cup oatmeal and grinding it in a blender.  Add some lavender oil and put the mixture in a cheese cloth.  Suspend the bag under the running water as you fill the bathtub.  Use the oatmeal bag as a washcloth to exfoliate your skin.  Lavender is also a relaxing scent.)

–Make a dry shampoo.  Combine 1 cup oatmeal with 1 cup baking soda and blend it up in the blender.  Rub it into your hair, give it a minute to soak up the oils, and shake off.  You can use this on smelly dogs, too!

–Ironically enough, oatmeal can help with constipation.  Try eating uncooked oats before opting for any medication.

Knowledge is power!  Learn fun facts, hints and tips, and creative ways to use every day items with “The Buzz” posts on Thursday.

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How to Decoupage IKEA Shelves

Recently, I have been obsessed with Modge Podge glue.  It’s my new best friend.  I’ve modge-podged almost everything I’ve purchased from IKEA, including these $5.00 wood shelves.

I originally bought these shelves for my “kitchen”, but found out that they were too long to fit in the place I had intended.  They sat under my bed for a while before I decided to pretty them up and use them to store winter scarves and mittens.

I cut squares out of tissue paper and covered them in a checkerboard pattern.  I glued it on with Modge Podge while rocking out to The Rolling Stones and in about 6 hours, I had a new look to my walkway!

Celebrate creativity every Wednesday with a “Creativi-bee” post, where I share easy craft tutorials, project ideas, and craft collections.


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Lime and Honey Glazed Salmon

Happy Monday, everyone!  Hope you all had a wonderful weekend.  I finally saw Despicable Me on Saturday…and I LOVED it!!  It was one of the first movies in quite a long time that actually made me laugh out loud.  Highly recommend you check it out if you haven’t already.

Well, I have one delicious recipe for you.  I’m still learning how to cook salmon and mixing with flavors…and I tried this recipe last week and it has become a new staple.  It’s light and flavorful and a great way to introduce people to this delicious and healthy fish.


4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (divided use)
1 medium red onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin (1/3 palmful)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Juice of 2 limes
3 tablespoons honey (3 gobs)
1 teaspoon chili powder (1/3 palmful)
4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped
1 (10-ounce) box frozen corn kernels, defrosted
1/2 cup chicken stock or broth
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 to 3 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
Preheat a medium skillet over medium heat with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil (twice around the pan). Add the onions, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes.

While the onions are cooking, preheat a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil.

In a shallow dish, combine the juice of 1 lime, honey, chili powder, and salt and pepper to taste. Add the salmon fillets to the lime-honey mixture and toss to coat thoroughly. Add the seasoned salmon to the hot skillet and cook until just cooked through, about 3 to 4 minutes on each side.

To the cooked onions, add the bell pepper and corn kernels and cook for 1 minute. Add the chicken stock and continue to cook for another 2 minutes. Add the black beans and cook until the beans are just heated through.

Remove the skillet from the heat and add the juice of the second lime and the cilantro.

Serve the lime-and-honey-glazed salmon on top of the warm black bean and corn salad.

Every Monday is a “Reci-bee” post, where I share my favorite recipes, recipe collections, and cooking and baking hints and tips. 

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A Walk in the Woods Book Review

I think there’s something so glorious and romantic about camping.  Sure it’s also rugged and dirty and exhausting…but what better way to ‘get away from it all’ than to spend a few days in the woods.

My boyfriend and I are currently under this impression.  He’s been acting in a summer stock show and I’ve been pretty busy with my own work…and the other day we finally decided to just take a weekend and go camping.

I’ve wanted to take him up to the Upper Peninsula for a while now.  I went to college up there and I miss it terribly.  The summers are actually quite cool up north and the leaves even start to change as early as September.  So, we booked a weekend and we’re heading up there in August.

To prepare myself for my first real camping trip (I’ve camped before…but not in the woods!), I decided to read Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods.  Ironically it turned out to be the best and worst decision I could have made.

You wanna walk the A.T.? Read this first…

If I had to generalize and pick my favorite genre of literature, I would have to say it would be travel and food writing.  If it came down to reading a cookbook or Jane Austin, I’d loose all sensibility (ha!) and take the cookbook every time…and the real good cookbooks, like those put out by Julia Child, Paula Dean, and several others, include personal stories and history.  Those are the keepers.  Those are the ones I want to read with a big bowl of soup and a cup of coffee.

ANYWAY, needless to say I was excited to jump into Bryson’s novel…although it’s made me a tad weary about this whole forest-dwelling adventure in store for me…

Following his return to the US after nearly 20 years overseas in Britain, Bill Bryson decided that the best way to get back into the “American swing of things” would be to foolishly walk the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail, which starts down in Georgia and continues north into Maine.  Personally, I would have just sprung for a burger and fries, but that wouldn’t make nearly as a good a story.

Lush with silent forests, sparkling waters, and extraordinary wildlife, the Appalachian Trail offers something for everyone.  And for Bill Bryson and his partner in crime, Stephen Katz, it was the perfect location to test their willpower, strength, courage, and patience.

Bill and Steve run into their fair share of characters along the way, both human and of the animal variety.  America is rolling up here sleeves here and throwing everything she’s got at these two out of shape and silly characters.

Bryson’s subtle and obvious humor create a nice balance of laugh out loud stories and stories that make you think, make you wonder, make you decide to maybe camp in the back yard with a fence and four Doberman pinchers sitting outside your tent.

This book is more than just a laugh out loud hike, however.  As the old saying goes, “it’s about the journey, not the destination” and that strongly holds true for this must-have tale for any outdoor lover.  Bryson also makes a stand for the trail that changed his life, the trail that’s changed so many lives.  He makes a moving plea for the conservation of America’s last great wilderness…the trail that leads all its travelers to better versions of themselves.

SUGGESTION:  READ IT.  Grab a Snickers bar and enjoy the ride.  I will warn you that parts of the book are a bit slow, but the majority of it will have you laughing out loud and wanting more.

NEXT WEEK:  I’m going a bit crazy.  I’m rocking out three short books next week…all about Native American stories and culture.  As I plan for this camping trip up north, I’m diving back into the books that made me fall in love with the Upper Peninsula and with Native American storytelling.

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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9 Clever Uses for Shampoo

So it’s about this time in the summer when I get the desire to chop all my hair off.  I do like having longer hair because it’s easy to just put up in a pony tail…but short hair is just so much easier, cooler, and kinder to my shower drain!  PLUS, I don’t have to use nearly as much shampoo as I do with long hair…

So what else can I do with all the extra shampoo??  Or what if you bought a bottle on clearance only to discover you hate the smell, you have an allergic reaction to it, or you’re simply ready to try something new?  Here’s some new uses for your old shampoo…

Scrub a dub dub!

–Wash your lingerie, wool, or delicate clothes with shampoo.  It will not only clean gently but leave it smelling nice and fresh.

–Use shampoo you don’t like to wash your combs and brushes once a month.

–Mix baby shampoo and warm water together and soak a sweater that’s been shrunken.  Give it 15 minutes to get cozy with the soapy water and then transfer it to a bowl of clean water (do not wring it out).  Once it’s done soaking the second time, roll it in a towel to capture the moisture.  Lay it on a flat surface and start to reshape it.

–Use a mixture of shampoo and water to clean your houseplant leaves.

–Use it as a substitute for bubble bath, shaving cream, and hand soap.

–If you find your bathroom coated in hairspray (guilty!), use shampoo to wipe the residue off counters, mirrors, and walls.

–Use a dab of shampoo to clean spots out of rugs and carpet.

–Mix shampoo and conditioner to lubricate squeaky hinges in a pinch.

–Use oily-hair shampoo to clean collars instead of expensive laundry products.  Oily hair shampoo can also be used to remove car grease from your hands without drying them out.

Knowledge is power!  Learn fun facts, hints and tips, and creative ways to use every day items with “The Buzz” posts on Thursday.

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How to Add Lemon Yellow to Your Kitchen

I adore lemons.  I love how they smell, I love their color, I love their taste, and I love the many delicious desserts I can make with them!

One day I got a bit of an inkling to “redo” my kitchen…meaning hanging up a picture and buying new towels…since I don’t really have a “kitchen”, per se…

Regardless, I wanted to incorporate lemons into my decor.  They are bright and festive and the soft lemon yellow is just the warm hue I was looking for.

A few years ago I bought a set of 3 wall boxes on super sale.  They were an ugly brown color and I figured I’d just buy them and repaint them.  WRONG.  The paint didn’t stick.  So I brought out the big guns…the modge podge glue.

I went through my paper scraps and found 3 colors I loved and decoupaged the wood boxes and hung them above my counter.  Now they hold salt and pepper shakers, the fixings for tea, and my kitchen timer instead of collecting dust in my closet.

Decoupaged wooden boxes

As my boxes dried, I took the three pieces of paper I used to decoupage and headed out to Crate and Barrel for some new towels.  I ended up coming home with new bowls and cookie cutters.

Finally, I was looking for something to “tie the whole room together”…as the Dude would say.  Since lemons were my inspiration, I went to Google and printed off photos of 12 delicious-looking lemon desserts.  I taped them to a piece of yellow tissue paper and framed it.  Tah dah!  Kitchen art.

Kitchen art!

This was an unbelievably easy craft day and both items only took about 1 hour each to make.  The best thing about it is that you can customize it to any kitchen.  And just because you live in a place with four cabinets doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself of a kitchen face lift!

Celebrate creativity every Wednesday with a “Creativi-bee” post, where I share easy craft tutorials, project ideas, and craft collections.

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Fashionable Towel Holder Idea

So my mom and I were browsing a local shop in our “downtown” area and I stumbled upon this adorable idea for napkin storage.  The store manager bought this clothing model at a rummage sale and simply pinned different napkins around the base to make a skirt!  How cute is that?

Napkin dress

This would be adorable to do with old scarves, ribbons, and extra pieces of fabric.  Make sure to use small needles so you don’t hurt the fabric in any way.

Celebrate creativity every Wednesday with a “Creativi-bee” post, where I share easy craft tutorials, project ideas, and craft collections.


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Honey Lemonade

Phew!  It’s been hot and humid here in Chicago.  We’ve had about 11 90 degree days already and they’re relentless!

To help beat the heat, here’s a refreshing drink that’s easy to make and super tasty!


1 ½ cups lemon juice

¾ cup honey

9 cups water

48 small pieces of assorted fruit

Combine lemon juice and honey in large pitcher; stir until honey is dissolved.  Stir in water.  Place 1 to 2 pieces of fruit in each compartment of 2 ice cube trays.  Fill each compartment with honey lemonade and freeze until firm.  Chill remaining lemonade.  To serve, divide frozen fruit cubes between tall glasses and fill with remaining lemonade.  Garnish with sliced lemons and fruit.

Every Monday is a “Reci-bee” post, where I share my favorite recipes, recipe collections, and cooking and baking hints and tips. 

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Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant Book Review

It’s 6:00 pm and 98 degrees outside.  I arrive home after a long day at work and turn my fan on…attempting to move some of the stale summer air.  I browse my fridge and freezer, looking for something to satisfy my hunger.  I find some frozen salmon, veggies, and some pork I’ve been marinating for a couple days now.  I almost feel jealous.

I grab the pork and turn on the stove.  As the pan on the stove warmed up, I poured a glass of iced tea.  The glass started sweating immediately.  I felt its pain.  As I take a sip, several drops of water drip down my chin and onto my chest.  A few fall into the pan and sizzle away.  The heat from the stove starts to dry the drops of water on my chest and I suddenly decide against heating the apartment even more.  I reluctantly put the pork back in the fridge, wishing I could keep it company in there.  I grab a sleeve of saltine crackers and a jar of peanut butter.  Sweet, satisfying, and indulging.

My apartment starts to cool down as I go to my freezer for some ice cream.  I opened it and saw that freezer burn was beginning its invasion around the edges of the container.  It mocks me.  I threaten to throw it away but figure I’ll just eat it and show it who’s boss.

I dive right in with a spoon and decide to spend the rest of the night watching 30 Rock.  I giggle at Liz Lemon’s desire to just go home and eat a block of cheddar cheese by herself.  I take one more bite of ice cream and leave it out for a few minutes before putting it away.  Yeah, who’s got freezer burn now, bitch?

I put away my dishes and pour another glass of iced tea.  These are the moments I look forward to during the day…coming home and being in the peace and quiet of my apartment…not having to worry about soccer practice or marching band rehearsal or a pressing 40-page paper.  I can simply sit on my couch in my PJ’s and dine alone.

Sound familiar?  Are you a solo diner?  Do you enjoy the pleasure and satisfaction that comes with dining alone?  Or maybe you just tell people you enjoy coming home and making salmon with red wine reduction sauce, but really you’re eating peanut butter and banana sandwiches with chips and salsa?  I know we’ve all been there…and I know everyone knows the trouble and frustration that comes with eating alone…which is why I highly recommend adding Alone in the Kitchen With an Eggplant to your summer reading list.

Summer Reading Book #6!

Alone in the Kitchen With an Eggplant is a collection of short essays written by famous authors, chefs, and playwrights.  Contributors include Steve Almond, Jami Attenberg, Mary Cantwell, M.F.K. Fisher, Holly Hughes, Jeremy Jackson, and Nora Ephron.  Each essay discusses the pleasures, the frustration, the creativity, that comes with eating alone and cooking for one.

My mother bought me this book after moving into my first apartment.  I remember reading it and literally laughing out loud, jotting down notes, and copying recipes into my journal.  It’s filled with tips and recipes that are both creative and delicious…and most of them are extremely cheap to make!

After reading it, I purchased copies for some of my friends as housewarming gifts when they moved into their first apartments.  It’s a book that can be read front to back, back to front, or you can select various essays to read if you don’t want to read the whole thing in one sitting.  It’s a great addition to anyone’s recipe shelf and you will find yourself just a tad bit wiser after indulging in other people’s successes and mishaps.

One theme that runs pretty continuously throughout each essay is the infamous “favorite meal for one.”  In nearly every essay, writers talked about what they love to make when they dine alone.  Simply to continue the theme, here’s mine:

Caprese Sammies

Serves 1 very hungry person or 2 kind of hungry people

1 ball of real mozzarella cheese, cut into 4 slices

1 tomato

2 ciabatta rolls

8 leaves of basil

salt and pepper to taste

  1. Turn on your broiler.  Slice ciabatta rolls open and place cut side up on a cookie sheet covered with tin foil.  Add 2 slices of mozzarella cheese to each roll and put in the broiler until cheese is melted.
  2. Slice your tomato into 4 slices.  Season with salt and pepper.
  3. When your bread is done, remove it from the broiler and add 4 leaves of basil to each sandwich and 2 slices of tomatoes.
  4. Indulge.

If it’s 6:00 pm and 98 degrees outside, this sandwich can also be eaten cold…or if you’re watching your figure, skip the cibatta bread and toss chopped basil, cherry tomatoes, and little mozzarella balls with olive oil, salt, and pepper and have a caprese salad.

SUGGESTION:  READ IT!  Almost everyone has eaten alone at one point in their life…or has had the desire to!  This book will give you a taste of what it’s really like and may awaken some repressed memories of college years…

NEXT WEEK:  I’m preparing for my upcoming camping trip by reading one of the best camping stories of the decade.  HINT—I have my nail clippers packed already.

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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