Monthly Archives: September 2010

12 Clever Uses for Plastic Grocery Bags

While cleaning out my apartment this past weekend, I discovered that I have an unbelievable amount of plastic grocery bags.  I now use reusable bags, but for years I couldn’t bear throwing away plastic bags…since I knew they would just sit in a landfill for years.  So what else can be done with plastic bags of all shapes and sizes?

Put those plastic bags to use!

  1. Obviously these little baggies are perfect to line your bathroom garbage bin, pick up Fido’s poopies, and toss dirty diapers.  But they can also be used to dispose of other messy things like cat liter, broken glass, spilled sand, etc.
  2. Use them as packing material instead of those awful foam peanuts.  BONUS, if you’re going on vacation, pack some of these plastic bags to separate dirty clothes from the clean ones.
  3. Store wet beach towels, swim suits, or flip flops you wear in the gym shower.
  4. You can put these plastic baggies on wiper blades and mirrors in the wintertime to keep blades from freezing to the window.
  5. Wrap bags around your knees while working on the car, in the garden, or anywhere where you might get dirt and grime on your pants.
  6. Wrap breakables in plastic baggies before putting them into storage or moving.
  7. If you’re in the middle of a painting project and are suddenly called away, put the paint brush in a plastic bag and tie the bag to the handle with a rubber band.  The brush will stay moist for up to one day.
  8. I use this tip all the time.  Bags are amazing for people who spend a lot of time in the kitchen.  If you’re peeling fruits and veggies, shaking and baking, making meat balls, etc., use a plastic bag instead of a cutting board and that’s one less dish for you to wash!
  9. Bring them back to the grocery store and use them as “reusable bags.”
  10. Donate them to food pantries, thrift stores, libraries, and local bakeries/grocery stores.  They are always looking for cheap bags for their customers.
  11. If your favorite flower vase has a crack, line it with a plastic bag before adding flowers.
  12. If you’d much rather just get rid of them, many stores now have receptacles specifically for plastic bag recycling.  I know Wal-Mart does.

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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The Big Lebowski Clay Ornament

My boyfriend’s favorite movie of all time is The Big Lebowski, and who can blame him?  That movie rocks.  So one day a couple weeks ago when I was sick with all that weather change stuff, I messed around with some extra clay I had and created this super cute Lebowski ornament…

What You Need:

Sculpey Studio Clay in the following colors:

Black–3 squares

White–2 squares

Green-Light–1 square

Green-Dark–1 square

Pink or Red–1 square

Blue–1 square

Peach clay–2 squares

OR mix white, orange, and pink

Brown–2 squares

*These clay squares are just estimates.  You may need more/less depending on the size of your ornament.

For the bowling ball, mix two black squares with 1 white square and kneed it until it looks marbled like a bowling ball.  Use a pencil (the eraser side) to create the three finger holes.

For the money pinch off tiny pieces of green and square them off into rectangles.  Take the lighter green and create tiny balls and press them into the center of the money.  Attach the money to the bowling ball by pressing it on there lightly with the rolling ball tool.

For the rug, use half a square of pink or red or whichever color you choose and roll it into a triangle.  Attach details with little pieces of other colors.  For the fringe, attach a piece of clay the same width as the rug to each side.  Press the end of the rug into the other piece of clay to create the “seam”…this can be done with your tools or with a sharpened pencil.  To create the fringe use a needle or knife and create indentations in the clay attached to the rug.  Be careful not to go all the way through the clay or else it will fall apart.  Attach the rug the same way you did the money.

For the bowling pins, use one square of white and cut it in half.  Each half will be a bowling pin.  Warm the clay up in your hands and shape it into the bowling pin.  I made my pins touch at the top to create a place for a ribbon to go and let the ornament hang.

For The Dude’s face…this was the hardest part…only because I’ve never made a face out of clay.  I can’t even draw a face on paper.  You can use peach clay or combine white with orange and pink, which is what I did, to create a skin tone.  I found it easiest to shape the nose first.  I made indentations in the clay ball to create the sides of the nose and then pulled the nose out until it looked real-ish ;).  Then I made a temporary mouth with a pencil so I could figure out how to place the beard.  For the beard, attach brown clay and use the same technique as the rug fringe to create little hairs.  Once you’re actually doing it, it will make more sense than me trying to explain it here.  To form the hair, roll out pieces of brown clay into logs about 1” long.  Flatten them thin and attach one end to the top of the head and twist it once as you bring the other end down.  This creates waves in the hair.  Repeat as necessary.  Attach the head to the front of the bowling ball and tah-dah, man…you’ve got yourself one sweet Lebowski ornament.

Bake according to package directions.

The Dude Abides.

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

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Chocolate Chip Cookies

Okay, guys, I want you to know how special you all are…because I wouldn’t give this recipe to just anyone.  What follows is my famous chocolate chip cookie recipe.  I don’t know what makes these different from any other cookie, but you just can’t go wrong with them.  I used to make them for the fine arts association I worked for way back and still get calls requesting batches…so with the holidays quickly approaching, I figured I’d share the wealth.

In honor of the one student who is responsible for this cookie fame, I have lovingly named the recipe after him.

Derek’s Cookies

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

½ cup butter (one stick)

¾ cup sugar

¾ cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 eggs

1 12-ounce package chocolate chips

In a small bowl combine the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.  In a large bowl beat together the butter, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla extract until creamy.  Beat in the eggs.  Gradually blend in the flour mixture.  Stir in the chocolate.  Drop the mixture by the tablespoon onto ungreased cookie sheets.  Bake in a 375 degree oven for 9-11 minutes, until the edges are golden brown.  Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.  Serve with cold milk.

Makes about 2-3 dozen, depending on the size of your cookies.

*If you’re storing these cookies in Tupperware and they start to get hard, place a slice of bread in the container with the cookies and they will be just as soft as when you first baked them.  Best trick of the trade 😉

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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5 Clever Uses for Apples

Well, despite this freak 90 degree heat wave that’s plaguing Chicago, we are in the midst of apple picking season.  Fall has arrived and the apples are ripe for the pickin’.

Unfortunately not many places allow you to pick apples anymore.  Many orchards now require that you pick through barrels of apples instead of wandering through the grove of trees.  Lame sauce, in my opinion.

But, apples are in season now and every produce mart is stocking up…so here are some reasons why you should do the same thing…

“You know what they say…”

  1. Quite obviously, apples are very good for you.  They pack an insane amount of vitamin C (more than oranges, in most cases) and are easy to pack for lunch on the go.
  2. Be a sneaky Pete with your pet.  Hide medicine inside apple chunks and feed to your horse, cow, bunny, guinea pig, or bird.  I used to do this with my dog all the time…but we used cheese.
  3. It’s fall harvest time and what better way to decorate than with the fruit of the season?  Core the center of an apple and insert a taper candle inside for a festive autumn themed party.
  4. There are few scents that bring back such wonderful and heartwarming memories for me…and this is one of them:  simmer apples, a cinnamon stick and orange peel on the stove with a bit of water to fill the house with the most wonderful smell.
  5. When life hands you mealy apples, make applesauce!  Or stuffed apples, or a sweet and sensational pork marinade, or muffins, or scones, or cakes, etc.  Browse around for some recipes.

There are also tons of kinds of apples…and not every apple is made equally.  Here’s a few things you should know about some common kinds:


The McIntosh is maybe the most popular apple.  It’s very tender and breaks down quickly when cooked, making it the ideal choice for baking.


The Golden Delicious is great for snacking because it doesn’t brown as easily as many of its cousins (to help prevent browning on apples of all varieties, simply spray with lemon juice and toss to coat).


Gala apples are great for sautéing and slow baking.  They are pale yellow inside and are often soft to bite.


This one is my favorite.  It keeps for a bit longer than other kinds of apples and is packed with juicy flavor.  I love these because they are huge in size, but not in calories.  Honeycrisps are a dieter’s dream because you’re convincing your mind of eating a lot but you’re only taking in about 120 calories!

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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Honey Scones

I have been on a honey kick lately.  I add it to everything.  Yesterday I woke up to very cloudy rainy skies and felt that the only thing that would cheer me up was a huge cup of coffee and a maple scone from Starbucks; however, since I’m trying to watch my girlish figure and since I don’t have a Starbucks near me and since I wasn’t willing to spend $4.00 on a scone, I decided to make my own…with honey instead of maple…and let me tell you, thank goodness I didn’t have an emotional breakdown because I would have eaten the entire batch.


2 cups all purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

3 tablespoons honey, plus a little more 🙂

1 cup cream
Preheat oven to 400F.  Combine dry ingredients and cut in butter until crumbly.  If you have a pastry cutter, have fun with that.  If you don’t, you could use two knifes to get the same effect.
Whisk honey and cream, add to the dry ingredients and mix with spoon – this will be thick, almost like dough.  Lightly flour a work surface, roll out the dough into a circle, cut into 8 triangle-shaped pieces and transfer each to a baking sheet lined with parchment.

Bake for approx 20 minutes or until golden brown on top. Cool for 5 minutes in pan then turn out onto wire rack and cool for another 5 minutes.

Serve with leftover honey, orange marmalade, or whatever your little rumbly tumbly desires.  For more flavor, add currants, raisins, or cinnamon to the scone mix before you bake it.

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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The Girl With No Shadow Book Review

Love.  Such a simple word…such an immense definition.  I have said many times that I get frustrated when people throw the word ‘love’ around.  I feel like that word holds so much weight that I have trouble using it when I honestly don’t mean it.  What frustrates me even more is how Hollywood interprets love.  The sugar-coated boy meets girl story is so overused, so common, so expected, that it fails to deliver…for me, anyway.  However, once in a while a movie comes along that completely sweeps me away, heart and soul.  Even if it is the same format of boy meets girl, it’s told in a way that’s so meaningful, so real, so relatable, that I can’t help but fall into the trap.  Sometimes a movie or story comes along that’s so passionate and so full of romance that I find myself mentally and emotionally absorbed.  Off the top of my head two movies come to mind that have done this for me:  Casablanca and Chocolat.

I first fell in love with Chocolat after reading the book by Joanne Harris.  The romance of France seasoned with Vianne Rocher’s elegant and decadent chocolate was the most indulgent experience I’ve ever had reading a novel.  So, when word spread that it was being turned into a movie, I almost died.  When I heard it would star Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp, I was speechless.

The movie blew me away, but my heart still belonged to the words of Joanne Harris.  Little did I know that, hiding amongst her many other novels, lied a sequel to Chocolat.  A tale full of magic, romance, chocolate galore, and love…love of all kinds.  Love like it’s meant to be told.

The sequel to CHOCOLAT

It’s more than four years later when The Girl With No Shadow begins.  Vianne Rocher and her little daughter, Anouk, have moved on from that little town in France and are following the Wind once more to lands unseen and places unvisited.  Hoping to make a fresh start for herself, Vianne changes her name and moves her family (now consisting of her and two daughters) to Paris’s Montmartre district.  Once again, Vianne opens a chocolaterie and does her best to keep her and her family afloat.  When business slows she is forced to rely on her landlord and fiancée, Thierry, to help support her family.

When the North Wind brings in a visitor to the shop, a woman by the name of Zozie de I’Alba, things begin to change dramatically.  Both Vianne and Anouk fall for Zozie’s charm immediately and Vianne asks her to stay as an employee in the chocolate shop.  Her enigmatic personality seems to be just what the chocolaterie is looking for, as more and more customers come to taste Vianne’s creations.  Soon after Zozie and Anouk form a strong friendship and realize they might have more in common that what appears on the surface.

Eventually, Zozie becomes quite taken with Anouk and she yearns for more than just the friendship of this family.  When Zozie’s true objectives become clear, it’s up to Vianne to save her daughter, her family, and herself.

Oh, and what about Roux…that super handsome and rugged pirate?  Let’s just say he makes quite the appearance…and is not too happy to hear that Vianne is now engaged.

The Girl With No Shadow is told through the perspectives of Vianne, Anouk, and Zozie…each woman getting their own short chapter.  The book reads like a diary between the three of them, told from the perspective of these three women over the days between Halloween and Christmas.  This book has something for everyone—drama, romance, mystery, comedy, magic, thrills, and love.  If you are a fan of Chocolat in book or movie form, you will love—and I mean love—this book.

If you’re interested in The Girl With No Shadow but have not read Chocolat, I highly suggest you read Chocolat first…even if you’ve seen the movie, I think reading the book will add to the experience.

The Girl With No Shadow is a perfect book for this time of year.  I often wanted nothing more than to jump inside and live in this magical and fantastic world of Vianne Rocher.

COMING UP NEXT:  The next book on the list is a doozy…so it might take me two weeks to read it.  It’s been sitting on my shelf for about 3 years now and has yet to be read…but I’m on a mission to read every book I own and it starts with this one…a book that’s “…full of orphans, decadence, flouncy skirts, greed, deception, amnesia, incest, murder, and all manner of meditation on sexual identity…Like some inspired collaboration between Charles Dickens and Pedro Almodovar.”  Oh, boy.

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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4 Clever Uses for Listerine

So that new bottle of mouth wash leaving your taste buds burning?  Don’t toss it quite yet.  There are many other things you can do with good ol’ fashioned Listerine…


1.  Listerine is designed to help kill germs in one of the most disgusting places…the human mouth.  Therefore, it’s no surprise that Listerine can be used in other places around your house as a powerful cleaning agent.  Use it to clean your floors and toilet.  Not only will it mutilate any germ taking residence there, but it will leave your bathroom smelling minty fresh!

2.  Nasty nail fungus got you down?  Soak your toesies in Listerine for 20 minutes to rid yourself of fungus.

3.  The odor killing germs in Listerine can also be used on other parts of your body.  Apply some Listerine to a cotton ball and lightly dab onto your armpits.  Not only will you be smelling fresh, but word on the street is that Listerine is also a wonderful aftershave lotion.  It leaves your skin soft and smooth.

4.  Listerine has been used to help cure the symptoms of many skin ailments, including poison ivy, allergic reactions/rashes, shingles, and bug bites.

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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Silicone Book Mark Review

While browsing around the Internet the other day, I came across this amazing book mark.  Not only is it silicone…so it won’t move around or fall out of your book, but it literally points out exactly where you left off reading!

These would be great gifts for friends, family, book club buddies, college bound kids, or just cute stocking stuffers for holiday time.  Right now they only come in 3 colors, which kind of bums me out…but what a cute idea!  Click on the photo shop.

Silicone bookmarks!

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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Chicken Sandwich with Pesto and Bacon

So the other day while I was browsing, I came across the most delicious looking sandwich of my life.  They don’t include recipes on that site, but it looked like it included pesto, chicken breast, mozzarella cheese, and fresh basil leaves.  Heaven.

I decided to experiment this weekend and here was the result:

Pesto chicken with basil, bacon, and cheese

And here’s how you can indulge in the most delicious sandwich EVER!

1 chicken breast

2 teaspoons store bought pesto

3 slices of bacon, cooked

2-3 sun-dried tomatoes

8-10 fresh basil leaves

4 thin slices of fresh mozzarella

2 slices hearty whole grain bread

1.  Place your chicken breast in a ziplock bag.  Add the pesto and let your chicken marinate in the fridge for 15-30 minutes.  When it’s done, cook it however you’d like (I threw mine on the Foreman grill).

2.  Lay out your bread and start stacking your sandwich.  Cheese, basil, bacon, tomatoes, chicken.  Butter the top slice of your bread and put it butter side down into a hot skillet.  While that side is heating, butter the other slice of bread.  Flip the sandwich (like grilled cheese) so both sides are nice and crispy.

3.  Cut in half and indulge.

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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Two for the Road Book Review

Well, summer is over…and therefore summer reading is over.  However, I do love this project of reading a book every week or every two weeks and blogging about it…so I think I’m going to continue this for as long as I can stand it.

Soul food.  Road food.  Comfort food.  American food.  Those words in any sentence will instantly give me a warm cuddly feeling inside.  Since I have been blessed with the ability to gain weight just by looking at food, I rarely indulge in a big bowl of mac n’ cheese…therefore I must live vicariously through other individuals who are no where near as self conscience as I am and who will gladly pound down a burger, fries, chocolate milk shake, fried chicken, coleslaw, and a piece of apple pie ala mode all in one sitting.  And what better way to experience road food cuisine than with the people who know it best:  Jane and Michael Stern.

Road Tasted!

Two for the Road:  Our Love Affair with American Food documents the good food, the bad service, and the ugly to-go meals that wife and husband team, Jane and Michael Stern, experience as they travel America, hoping to visit every roadside restaurant the USA has to offer.  Their adventures are humorous and perilous as they sample some amazing ribs, chicken, and pork chops…as well as soupy pig intestines, pig ears, brain sandwiches, and much…or so much more.

One has to admire their stamina, as they willingly consume 10-12 meals a day, doing their best to sample as much as they can from restaurants nationwide.  Included throughout the book are recipes for classic “American cuisine”, such as jello salads, clam chowder, and broccoli casserole.

Two for the Road is a fun and easy read.  It is a great road trip companion or a motivator to head out and see what kind of amazing food your state is having for dinner tonight.

SUGGESTION:  If you love soul food (ribs, fried chicken, etc.), you’ll enjoy this book.  I was hoping I would like it more than I did…so I would say SKIP IT.  Actually, I found so much more information on the Stern’s Web site:  I recommend checking that out before reading Two for the Road.

NEXT WEEK:  “But still the clever north wind was not satisfied.  It spoke to Vianne of towns yet to be visited, friends in need yet to be discovered, battles yet to be fought…”  And then what?…

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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