Monthly Archives: October 2010

Haunted Ground Book Review

Ireland has some secrets…

Oak beams, logs, oxcarts, and tubs of food are just some of the random things farmer Brendan McGann has found in the bogs of his Ireland farm.  Due to the chemical compounds found in most bogs, preservation is strong and things—both living and dead—can go on unchanged in bogs for centuries.  So when McGann comes across some strands of red hair, he figures they belong to an abandoned doll or toy…but little does he know that those beautiful red strands are actually attached to the head of one young female…which, unfortunately, is missing a body.

Enter archeologist Cormac Maguire and American anatomist Nora Gavin.  Maguire and Gavin partner up to learn all they can about this cailin rua, as they lovingly call her.

However, more mysteries are yet to be discovered in this small Irish town.  As word spreads about the “bog head”, suspicious eyes turn to McGann’s neighbor, Hugh Osborne, who is already under watch for the suspected murder of his wife and child.  Local detective Garret Devaney, who has been working on Osborne’s case for nearly two years, begins looking at the case in a new light as Maguire and Gavin work tirelessly to bring justice to the beheaded bog dweller.  Things really start to get interesting when the work of Maguire, Gavin, and Devaney begins to intersect…and the reader is quick to join the team and help them discover all they can about the secrets that lie in this small Irish town.

Told with great attention to Irish culture, Haunted Ground by Erin Hart literally has something for everyone.  Packed with adventure, mystery, romance, music, archeology, science, and geography, this is not only a “crime thriller”, as it’s titled, but a carefully thought out look into the culture and history of Ireland.  Although I thought the plot was a bit slow at times, the accumulation of events led me to believe that the pace was necessary…not only for story development, but to ensure that the reader is vying for answers just as much as the party trying to unearth them.

Haunted Ground is an exciting read that will leave the reader guessing until the last chapter.  With every answer comes a new question…and with every discovery comes a new ray of hope for acceptance and peace.

NEXT WEEK: “Thou shalt learn the ways of the White Man, forget the ways of the Red Man, and be here and forever more known as a Christian.”  And you thought middle school was bad…

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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7 Clever Uses for Pumpkins

Nothing says Halloween like carving a jack-o-lantern…but what do you do with that pumpkin once trick or treating is completed?


  1. For easy and environmental friendly disposal, toss that bad boy in your compost heap.  It will decompose quickly and give your plants tons of nutrients next year.
  2. Don’t toss those seeds!  Sprinkle them with salt and olive oil and pop in the oven for a few minutes and you’ve got yourself one delicious snack to eat while watching football.
  3. If you don’t want to go through the hassle of carving the pumpkin, let your kids decoupage it or use markers to decorate it.  That way you can still cook with the innards when Halloween is over.
  4. Provided you don’t carve the pumpkin, you can use them as soup bowls.  If it is carved, place a plastic bowl inside and fill that bowl with ice and you’ve got yourself one festive beverage cooler for your Halloween party!
  5. Pumpkin puree freezes well and will keep for up to one year in your freezer.  That’s great news if you’re in charge of Thanksgiving dinner.
  6. You can dry your pumpkin and make pumpkin leather, bowls, instruments, bird houses, etc.  A pumpkin is a gourd, so the same basic principles apply.
  7. If your pumpkin has been outside and you don’t feel comfortable bringing it in the house after Halloween, have your kids smash it (safely, of course!) and scatter the pieces in your local forest preserve.  Even if they don’t act as food, they will decompose there.

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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6 Cute Halloween Costumes for Your Dog

Taking the pooch out with you this Halloween?  Get him in on the festivities with these fun and easy to buy/make doggie costumes!

“‘Woof!’, I mean, ‘ROAR!'”

King of the Block

Make your doggie king of the pack with a lion mane.  You can buy fur like the fur shown here at your local fabric store or you and your kids can make a beautiful and colorful mane using construction paper and tissue paper.  You can use a dog sweater and attach the fur to that, which will make it easier to attach to the dog, or if your dog is willing to work with you, you can use Velcro or ribbons to keep it secure.

Give Little Miss Muffet a Run for Her Money

Ekk! A Spi-gle! 🙂

This costume probably works best with little dogs.  You can use large pipe cleaners (you can find them at any craft store) to make the legs and attach them to a ribbon or a belt that will fit around your dog.

This Ought to Keep You Safe

My Smell is Worse Than My Bite

Pretty sure no one is going to mess with someone who’s walking with a ginormous skunk.  You can create this stripe on your black dog with colored hair spray…but if you don’t want to use a chemical spray, you can use any white powder (flour, baking soda, or baby powder come to mind).

Fluffy’s Got Nothing On Me!

The Perfect companion to a Harry Potter costume!

This costume probably involves a bit more creativity.  The heads can be painted/paper machete, which would work well since they would be lighter for the dog to carry…otherwise you could morbidly cut the heads off two stuffed animals and attach them to a piece of fabric that can wrap around the dog’s belly.  You can also buy this costume online, if you’re so inclined.


–If your dog has long hair, you can glue bugs, snakes, and other nasty things to bobby pins and hair clips and attach them to your dog’s fur.

–Let your dog add to your costume.  Consider the following ideas:


Dorothy Gale

Paris Hilton

Cruella DeVille

The Scooby Gang

Peter Griffin or Stewie

Cesear Millan

El Woods

Charlie Brown

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

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8 Ways to Stay Safe on Halloween

With Halloween on a weekend this year, it’s important to be extra careful if you or your kids are going out trick or treating (no judgment if you’re candy collecting and you’re over 25 ;))

Here are a few tips to make sure that your kids (and you) stay safe and have fun this weekend.

–Now, we all know it’s not “cool” for parents to go trick or treating with their kids, but let’s face it, there are some freaky people out there.  Make sure your kids at least have their cell phone and check in with you every hour, telling you where they are and where they’re going.  If a cell phone is out of the question, have check-in points and make sure Bobby meets you at the corner of This Way and That Way at 4:00 pm.

–If your kids are going in a group, talk to the parents and get an idea of what the pack will be wearing.  Tell your kids that they’ll get extra candy if they stop in at the house of one of the kids in the group 😉

–Speaking of candy, make sure you go through EVERYTHING, and I mean EVERYTHING before your kids start diving in.  If you’re walking along side them, carry a separate bag that they can dumb into after every house or so to eliminate the temptation of snaking along the way.  You can also have them eat a taffy apple or pumpkin pie before hand in an effort to curb the sweet tooth.

–Flashlights and glowsticks are a MUST if trick or treating after dark.  You can also find reflective devices to put on your kids’ shoes to make them easier to see.

–Be smart about costume choice.  Make sure the costume doesn’t drag or get in the way if your kid has to run.  I speak from experience here…make sure shoes are walkable…no matter how much your daughter might want to wear those high heel Barbie shoes…it won’t last long.  Have her decorate a pair of $5.00 tennis shoes with glitter and jewels and she’ll be ready to go.

–Perhaps the best thing you could do is to be honest with your kids.  Tell them the truth about stranger danger and entering houses of people they don’t know.

–If your kids are going to a party, make sure they know not to accept drinks/food from strangers.  It also wouldn’t hurt to phone the parents and make sure they know a party is going on in the house.  It’s nearly a proven fact that if you try to withhold your kids, they’ll just do it anyway…so make sure they understand where you’re coming from…and if you allow them to go out on the condition that they adhere to curfew and check in’s, you shouldn’t run into any problems.

–Along those lines, it might not be a bad idea to drive and pick up your kids from their Halloween festivities.  That way they can still have their freedom and you can still have your sanity.

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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Nutter Butter Ghost Cookies

Nutter Butter Ghost Cookies!

This may be the easiest and cutest Halloween cookie idea ever.  Cover Nutter Butter cookies with melted white chocolate and then use chocolate chips, melted chocolate, or chocolate frosting to add eyes and a mouth.  Let them sit at room temperature until the chocolate has cooled.  If you need them right away, you can also refrigerate them for about 10-15 minutes and they’ll harden up in no time.

Make sure you store these between layers of wax paper, because the white chocolate will cause the cookies to stick together.

Use this same technique and add a few drops of orange food coloring to your white chocolate and cover Oreo cookies or Nilla wafers to look like little pumpkins.  These are perfect treats for school Halloween parties, trick or treaters, or your own entertainment!

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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No Second Chance Book Review

“If you contact the authorities, we disappear.  You will never know what happened to her.  We will be watching.  We will know.  We have a man on the inside.  Your calls are being monitored.  Do not discuss this over the phone.  We know that you, Grandpa, are rich.  We want two million dollars.  We want you, Daddy, to deliver the ransom.  You, Grandpa, will get the money ready.  We are enclosing a cell phone.  It is untraceable.  But if you dial out or use it in any way, we will know.  We ill disappear and you will never see the child again.  Get the money ready.  Give it to Daddy.  Daddy, keep the money and phone near you.  Go home and wait.  We will call and tell you what to do.  Deviate from what we ask, and you will never see your daughter again.  There will be no second chance.”

Kind of makes your skin crawl, doesn’t it?

No Second Chance!

Dr. Marc Seidman is stuck in a hospital bed after being shot twice and left for dead.  His wife is dead.  His daughter is gone.  This ransom note is his only hope of finding his six-month-old daughter and finding out who is responsible for destroying his family…and more importantly, why?

Marc is given one chance to do the right thing and follow the directions he’s been given.  But something goes wrong.  Terribly wrong.  What follows is a whirlwind of shock, surprise, and betrayal as a father does everything in and out of his power to find his little girl.

No Second Chance, by famed author Harlan Coben, is a “white-knuckle thriller” where nothing is what it seems.  This story plays with the most powerful emotion a human can experience:  familial love.  What will a father do to find his missing daughter?  What will he do to find out who killed his wife and tried to kill him?  What will he risk to bring the people responsible to justice?

No Second Chance is almost painful to read at times.  The suspense is so strong and powerful that I literally could not put the book down.  It is a fast-paced mystery that will leave the reader questioning everyone, considering every possibility, and hoping that all will end well.

*And should this ever be made into a movie, I’m telling you that Evangeline Lilly and Matthew Fox would rock the house as the two leads…and I’m not just saying that because I’m a LOST fan 😉  Okay, well maybe I am…

NEXT WEEK:  This ain’t no malarkey, lad…dare’s a head in me bog!

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 Avocados

I love guacamole just as much as the next person…okay, well maybe more than the next person.  But sometimes it’s way too hard to tell if the avocadoes you buy at the store are quac worthy.  What happens when you cut into them and they’re too mushy?  Too ripe?  Not quite ripe enough?  What else can you do with avocadoes?

Other uses for Avocado

  1. If your avocado is fully ripe, don’t toss it.  Mash or puree it, add the yolk of one egg and a half-cup of milk and beat it all together until it’s creamy.  Use this as a facial cleanser.  Store in the fridge between uses.  Avocadoes can also be used to make lotion, moisturizer, and facial masks that will leave your skin fresh and cleansed.
  2. Avocado can be used to replace butter, mayo, or other fats in hundreds of recipes.  I love it on sandwiches, salads, tuna, sushi, toast, and lots more.
  3. Avocado oil is great for high temp cooking (stir fry) and can be used to replace almost any oil in any recipe.  It’s better for you and is loaded with vitamins.
  4. Don’t toss that pit!  Take two or three toothpicks and insert them on opposite sides of the avocado seed.  Use your toothpicks to hold the seed half submerged in water, pointed side up (be sure to change the water once every week).  You can also plant your seed in soil; just make sure that the pointed end is sticking out of the soil about an inch.  Once your plant gets going, keep it in indirect sunlight.  They will not produce fruit, but they make a great indoor plant and can easily be moved outside if it gets too big.

*To keep avocadoes from browning, mix in 1 teaspoon citrus juice (lemon or lime work best) for every 2 avocadoes used.  Also, safe the pit and put it in the bowl with the avocado.  It will help prevent it from browning.

*Also avocado turns sour when cooked and cannot stand freezing…so eat raw and as soon as possible.

*The health benefits of avocado are outstanding.  Not only is it high in vitamins, but it’s said to have cancer-fighting nutrients, help with healing, weight loss, and lowering your cholesterol, just to name a few.

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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Alice in Wonderland-Inspired IKEA Table

So my latest creative venture has involved a beat up table from IKEA and an old copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  It’s not quite finished yet, but I thought I’d share how it’s coming along…because knowing me it will take forever for me to actually be satisfied with it.  🙂

Alice in Wonderland table

This table’s creation happened in many stages.  First I had the checkerboard pattern you see there, made from squares of tissue paper.  I let that sit for about 3 weeks and then I was bored with it.  I found a tattered copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in a free box at my local library and ripped out all the pictures, as well as my favorite quotes from the book.  I mod podged them all around the table and called it good…for about another 2 weeks, anyway.

One weekend while relaxing at home, I decided to bust out some old paints I found hidden in my closet.  I added some color to some of the pictures on the table and eventually decided to paint them all.  And there you have it.  My Alice in Wonderland table.

This is a fun project that can be done on any cheap table.  Mod Podge photos, quotes, paper, etc. and make it your own.  The only bad thing about Mod Podge-ing is that once you start, it’s impossible to stop!

Here’s some other views:

With my “painted roses” from last week! 🙂

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

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Guinness Cupcakes

I saw a picture of Guinness cake a few days ago and was inspired to try something similar.  Here is a recipe for Guinness cupcakes with Irish coffee flavored frosting.  Delish.

Guinness cupcakes!


1 cup Guinness (Extra Stout, DO NOT use draft)

1 stick plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into slices

¾ cup unsweetened cocoa

2 cups sugar

¾ cup sour cream

2 eggs

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 ½ teaspoons baking soda


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line or grease your cupcake tins.
  2. Pour the Guinness into a large wide saucepan.  Turn on medium heat and add the butter.  Heat until butter is melted.  Whisk in cocoa and sugar.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat the sour cream, eggs, and vanilla.
  4. Turn the heat off the Guinness and slowly add about 1 cup of the batter into the sour cream mixture, whisking continuously (to temper the eggs).  Add the sour cream mixture into the Guinness mixture ad finally whisk in the flour and baking soda.
  5. Pour cake batter into tin and bake about 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean.
  6. Let cool completely before frosting.

Makes about 24 cupcakes.


1 stick unsalted butter, cut into slices and at room temperature

3 cups powdered sugar

2 tablespoons Bailey’s Irish Cream (any flavor is fine)**

**I personally do not like Bailey’s, so I used 2 tablespoons Irish coffee flavored ice cream.  I let it melt to a liquid and it worked just fine.  This would also be delicious with cold coffee.

Cream the butter on high speed for about 3 minutes.  Add the Bailey’s (or liquid of your choosing) and mix thoroughly.  Slowly add powdered sugar, one cup at a time, until well blended.  If your frosting is too hard, add more liquid…to runny, add more powdered sugar.

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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Because God Loves Stories Book Review

A Book for those who love stories

There are two things that Jewish people love above all else:  talking and eating.  My aunt, who lives in Israel, always says, “it wouldn’t be Jewish if we weren’t all around a table talking, laughing, and eating.”

Because God Loves Stories:  An Anthology of Jewish Storytelling is the result of 36 Jewish storytellers sitting around a table and telling stories, each of whom spin tales of old to express his or her own visions of Jewish culture.  Stories from the Bible are carefully woven through family accounts of Jewish summer camp, Holocaust stories, and stories about the core of the religion itself.

I often found myself talking back to these storytellers, saying out loud how I agree or disagree with their point of view…how their story reminded me of something my great-grandfather used to say…and how I can relate to the pain and confusion that goes along with not knowing where you belong.  This is a brilliant look into Judaism and the blood that keeps it thriving.  It’s also a great guide for those who are, for whatever reason, separated from their roots, lost in religion, or need some reminder of what anchors them to their ancestors.

For those who are not Jewish or are not familiar with the stories of the Jewish people, do not pass this book up.  Chances are there’s at least one story in this anthology that will touch you, inspire you, or motivate you.  They are each told with such love and care that it would be impossible not to be somewhat spiritually renewed and regenerated after reading them.

One of my favorite stories in Because God Loves Stories was brought up by storyteller Nina Jaffe.  “The Most Precious Thing” is a story with the backbone of a tale from the Talmud spun with themes almost all of us can relate to:  love, marriage, and divorce.

In this tale, a couple experiences great sadness after living many years without having children.  At that time, the law stated that the couple had grounds to divorce if the woman was unable to have a child…and this thought was brought up by the couple many times over the years.  When they finally agreed that a divorce would be the best thing, they sought the advice and help of one Rabbie Simeon Bar Yochai.  They told him about their inability to conceive and how they thought a divorce would be the best thing…that way at least the husband can find a woman with whom he could reproduce.  The rabbi, who was a very wise man, looked at the couple and could tell that a divorce was really not what they needed.  What they needed was each other.  He told them to go back home and cook a splendid Sabbath dinner and celebrate the many years they have shared.  They agreed and left for their home.

On the way home, the husband turned to the wife and told her how much he loved her and how he was so appreciative of her being faithful to him for so many years.  He told her that before she was to leave the following day, she could take the one thing in the house that was most precious to her.  She agreed.

That night the couple feasted to their hearts content.  The husband ate and drank and eventually fell asleep, exhausted and full.  When he awoke, he was in a place he did not recognize.  He saw his wife and asked her where he was.

“Don’t you remember your promise to me?” she replied.  “You told me before we parted that I could take with me the most precious thing I could find…I looked over all we owned, but I could find nothing as precious as you.”

When he heard those words, the husband smiled and took her in his arms.  He brought her back to their home where they continued to do as they have always done…living life happy and content with one another.

Like all Jewish stories, this one has many versions and endings.  In one ending, the couple return to their home and shortly after are blessed with a child.  In another version, the couple return and live the rest of their years together, always knowing that the only thing they need is each other.

“The Most Precious Thing”, like so many other stories in this collection, could reach anyone of any religion.  Because God Loves Stories is solely a collection of the stories we all know…with a few more “oye veh’s” and sprinkled with Yiddish wit.


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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