Monthly Archives: October 2011

Stiff Book Review

Death is a touchy subject.  No matter your opinions or beliefs about death and the realm beyond, this is one subject that everyone has thought about, questioned, and perhaps experienced at one point in their lives.  It’s the inevitable end, the grand finish, the ultimate fate we all share.  Whether it’s lying in a box or an urn, our bodies are destined to have a final resting place…well, for most of us.
For those brave souls who decide to donate their bodies to science, death can be their most exciting adventure yet.  They can experience what it’s like to get a face lift, get in a car crash, or even what happens when you step on a land mine.  The lives of the dead when it comes to human cadavers are often much more exiting than anything they may have done in their time on Earth.  For human cadavers, death is just the beginning.
In Stiff:  The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, author Mary Roach explores what happens to those individuals who decide to donate their bodies to science.
In each chapter of Stiff, we learn about a new use for the human cadaver.  From “beating heart” cadavers to those unfortunate bodies that are used for plastic surgery practice and crash test studies, it’s clear that the human body continues to fascinate and teach postmortem.  Roach even embarks on an adventure to hunt down a Chinese man accused of making human dumplings…and explores new ways of disposing of the human body, while helping the environment.
Stiff is a fascinating read…and is near impossible to put down.  From the very first lines of the book, it’s clear that Roach takes a unique and refreshing approach to death.  With comical stories, digressions, and even captivating footnotes, Stiff opens our eyes to the wonders of the human body…and how the dead are forever changing the way we live.
NEXT WEEK:  How one Jewish woman survived the Holocaust…by doing the unthinkable.

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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Yarn Spider Nest

Need a little inspiration for some Halloween decoration?  Look no further!  With a little glue, some extra yarn, and some party balloons, you can make these spooky-and cute-spider nests.  Hang them from your light fixtures, door frames, or fireplace mantel.  You could even fill them with candy for an extra special party favor!

Spider Nests!

See full instructions on how to make these little nests here.  This is also a really fun and easy craft for classrooms and day care centers!

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

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Homemade Deep Dish Pizza

Any true Chicagoan will tell you…there’s nothing like diving into a deep dish pizza.  It’s jam packed with carby, cheesy, goodness that’s just as good as healing the soul as chicken soup.

As if cleaning my apartment wasn’t enough of a task this weekend, I decided to make my very first deep dish pizza…we’re talking hand made crust, too.  It was actually much easier than I thought it would be…and was the perfect end to an exhausting weekend!

deep dish!

TRADITIONAL CHICAGO DEEP DISH PIZZA

Crust:

1 package active dry yeast

1 cup warm water

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

1 1/2 teaspooons salt

1 egg

4-4 1/2 cups all purpose flour

In the bowl of your standard mixer, dissolve the yeast in the warm water.  Add oil, sugar, salt, and 1 cup of flour.  Mix until combined.  Add egg and 1 cup of flour.  Mix until combined.  Add remaining flour until dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.

Dump dough out on a clean floured surface and knead the dough until smooth, about 8-10 minutes (place the heal of your hand in the middle of the dough ball and push out and away from you.  Turn the dough and repeat).

Place dough in a clean bowl and cover with a light towel.  Allow to sit for at least 1 1/2 hours, or until dough has doubled in size.

Dream about your delicious pizza.

Mmmm….

Sauce:

1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes

1 tiny can of tomato paste (I think it’s a 6 oz can)

Mix together and set aside.  Add oregano to taste if you’d like.

Cheese:

1-2 8 oz. blocks of white mozzarella cheese

Slice cheese into small squares.  Use as much or as little cheese as you’d like.  To keep it traditional, use enough to cover the entire pie…and then some 😉

Toppings:

I used 1 lb. ground Italian sausage…but you can use whatever you’d like.  I precooked the sausage before adding it to the pizza…a step I recommend.

ASSEMBLY:

Spray deep dish pan or 2 9″ round pans with non stick cooking spray.  Once your dough is ready, roll it out to fit either a deep dish pie pan or 2 9″ round pans.  Make sure dough goes up the sides of the pan as well.  Add toppings, followed by cheese, and then the sauce.  Bake in a 425 degree oven until crust is brown, about 30-40 minutes.

Let the pizza rest for 10-15 minutes before serving.

ENJOY!

mmm…

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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Palo Alto Book Review

When I heard that James Franco was writing a book of short stories, I was super excited to read it.  First of all, I think he’s a brilliant actor with a wide range of abilities…so I figured his writing must be similar…weird, yet strangely entertaining.  The last thing I was expecting from this book was a trip back to Creative Writing 101.

Palo Alto:  Stories depicts the confused experiences of teenagers in Palo Alto, California.  The characters are often driven to violent ends because of a lack of self-esteem or self-worth.  Infatuations, drunkenness, boredom, and sexual frustration are themes in his collection, highlighting the major theme that growing up is stressful and painful.  While I wasn’t moved or impressed by many of the stories, I will say that Franco’s attention to character voice was fantastic.  Every story read as if a teenager actually wrote it, complete with the jargon and slang of middle school life.

I was perhaps most frustrated with the lack of resolution in the series of stories.  Time after time these characters perform inhumane acts of violence and greed, but never learn anything from their mistakes.  Holden Caulfield kept wandering in and out of my mind as I made my way through the collection as Franco’s “muse” for Palo Alto.  His frustration with life, love, and acceptance in Catcher in the Rye are mirrored in many of Franco’s characters.

If I had to pick one story in the collection, I’d recommend “Tar Baby”.  I thought it was the most creative and engrossing of all of Franco’s works.  Alone this story shows what a great writer Franco can be…if only he wrote outside of the lines a little bit more.

NEXT WEEK:  Death.  It doesn’t have to be boring.

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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6 Clever Uses for Cinnamon

Cinnamon is one of my favorite fall flavors.  I love the taste, the smell, and the color of it.  But cinnamon can do a whole lot more than add flavor to applesauce, pancakes, and oatmeal…

cinnamon!

1.  Cinnamon is a great go-to spice for nausea, upset stomach, or other digestive problems.  Drop a cinnamon stick in a cup of tea to help sooth your sour tummy.  You could also add a teaspoon of ground cinnamon to hot water and drink it like you would tea.

2.  Place cinnamon and other fall spices in an envelope and seal the envelope with tape.  Poke some holes in it and place it in your drawer, closet, or around your home to add a wonderful fall fragrance to the air.

3.  Anchor several cinnamon sticks in whole cloves or dried cranberries in a glass: this makes a pretty and sweet-smelling decorative element.  We also tie bunches of cinnamon sticks together and place them in our Christmas tree.  It looks beautiful and smells amazing.

4.  Break 4 cinnamon sticks and combine with 1/2 cup of whole cloves and 1/2 cup whole black peppercorns. Fill small squares of fabric with a tablespoon of this mixture, tie shut and hang in your closets to keep moths away from your clothes.

5.  It may not be a scientifically proven fact, but many homeowners have had success warding off ants with cinnamon sticks. Place some by your entry doors and in the corners on the floor in your kitchen and it should work to keep the ants away.

6.  Cooks and bakers alike know the value of fresh cinnamon.  If you want to experiment with cinnamon in your own cooking, know that cinnamon goes well with cardamom, cloves, coriander seed, cumin, ginger, mastic, nutmeg and mace, tamarind and turmeric.

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 Make Shelves Using Books

And you thought books were just for reading!

Here’s a great way to use those old classics that you’ve read once and will probably never read again.  All you need are a few tools from your local hardware store and your favorite hardcover books.

book shelves!

Read the full instructions here.  If you’re certain you will never use the book again, you could hot glue it to the metal pegs for extra stability.  If you don’t want to use any of your own books for this project, check out some local thrift stores and find books with cool covers and spines.

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

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The Wilder Life Book Review

We all have that book…the one from our childhood that’s been read so many times, the spine is beginning to crack.  The pages are worn and yellow.  You can almost recite the story word for word and see the pictures moving like a slideshow through your mind like those View Master toys.  Sometimes we want nothing more than to jump into the pages of that book and curl up in the coziness and comfort of a life created by imagination and hopeful dreams.

Like the famous chalk drawing scene in Mary Poppins, author Wendy McClure took leap into the pages of her childhood book, Little House on the Prairie.  In an attempt to relive her childhood obsession, and perhaps fuel a life long dream of prairie life, McClure attempts to learn all she can about the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder.  From butter churning in her little Chicago apartment to learning the workings of farm living in the far off lands of Kansas and Missouri, The Wilder Life is everything I wanted it to be and more.

It’s not necessary to be a fan of the Little House books to enjoy The Wilder Life, although it certainly does help.  I’ve only read one book in the series, but would have probably enjoyed The Wilder Life just as much if I had no knowledge of the Wilder family.  What captured me was McClure’s passion and commitment to her task:  to jump in head over heels into a world completely unlike the one she knows…to tackle long road trips with the sole purpose of finding a long lost creek, a house, a grave site.

Outside of the Little House references, this is the story about a woman reliving a bit of her childhood…only to discover that her love for Laura, the Wilder family, and her own imaginings of prairie life in the Midwest have grown and deepened.  Perhaps most importantly, McClure’s adventures into prairie life truly show this: “The real things haven’t changed. It is still best to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasures; and have courage when things go wrong.”

NEXT WEEK:  On film he’s an actor of amazing depth and talent.  On paper?  Maybe not so much…

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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