Monthly Archives: November 2016

10 Dollar Store Christmas Decorations

We’re all trying to save money around the holidays…and just because you’re trying to save a little green doesn’t mean you can’t bring the magic of the season into your home!

I mean, let’s face it…if my bank account were a person, it would have a serious nutrient deficiency.  IT NEEDS MORE GREENS, AM I RIGHT?!  But with these clever and creative dollar store Christmas decorations, you can create a magical Christmas wonderland in your home without spending a cent (or at least spending very few of them!).

So keep the greens in the bank.  This year, make your own magical Christmas decorations with materials you most likely have in your craft storage bin already!

Pinterest Top 10:  Dollar Store Christmas Decorations

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 Fa La La La La Embroidery Hoop Mantel Decor
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Rudolph the Glitter Reindeer
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JOY Sign
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Popsicle Stick Snowflakes
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Christmas Sweater Pillows
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DIY Sparkle Branches
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Merry and Bright Wall Art
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Paper Christmas Lights
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Cookie Cutter Wreath
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Spoon Trees
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Want to see more of my favorite Christmas ideas?  Check out my Pinterest board, The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

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

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Doing the Best We Can

glee

Come back every Tuesday for “The Bees Knees”, where I post the best quotes from my favorite movies, TV shows, songs, and books.

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9 Fabulous French Toast Recipes

It’s National French Toast Day…and it’s time to step up our French toast game.

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A delicious breakfast staple usually made with stale bread, eggs, and a mixture of sweet spices, French toast is a satisfying and filling meal that kids and adults have loved for years.  Topped with everything from a simple dusting of confectioners’ sugar to swirls of Nutella and peanut butter, this breakfast dish has been through the ringer in terms of upgrades and revisions.

But lucky for you, I’ve gathered 9 of the best-tasting French toast recipes that you can make right now!  Topped, stuffed, and served with all kinds of tasty ingredients, these easy and tasty French toast recipes are sure to bring even the laziest of family members to the kitchen table every time!

9 Fabulous French Toast Recipes

French Toast Sausage Roll Ups
TASTESBETTERFROMSCRATCH.COM

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Best Ever Peanut Butter Banana French Toast
MARIAHSPLEASINGPLATES.COM

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French Toast Waffle Sticks
THEBAKERMAMA.COM

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Cinnamon French Toast Muffins
JUSTATASTE.COM

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Blueberry French Toast Casserole
SALLYSBAKINGADDICTION.COM

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Funfetti French Toast Muffins
DELICIOUSLYSPRINKLED.COM

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Raspberry Baked French Toast
SELFPROCLAIMEDFOODIE.COM

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Coconut Crusted French Toast
WILLCOOKFORSMILES.COM

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Bacon Maple French Toast
TASTEOFHOME.COM

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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 Monster Calls Book Review

We all have monsters that haunt us.  They can come to us in our dreams or they can take a physical form, traveling into our bodies and filling us with darkness.  Some live in the dark, damp places in our bedroom, while others sit greedily in our guts, only so eager to awake during times of intimate weakness.

Over time we come to expect our monsters to visit us.  The night before an interview, the moment the phone rings at an unexpected hour, the second we finally drift off to sleep…there they sit – waiting to pounce.  But sometimes we get a monster that is unexpected, one that is there to help us see things clearly, understand a difficult situation, or even accept what we can’t change.  When Conor is visited by one such unexpected monster in the small novel, A Monster Calls, he begins a journey that will change his life forever.

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Conor was getting used to the scary monster that plagued his nightmares.  The darkness, the screaming, the wind…this monster brought with it everything Conor was afraid of and everything he was scared to admit to himself.  It haunted him and tortured him with truths he didn’t want to acknowledge and ultimatums he didn’t want to face.  But this monster only came at night…only visited him in his dreams.  He knew he could wake up and the monster would be gone.

But when Conor is visited by different monster, one that’s ancient and wild, one that comes and goes on free will and one that visits Conor during all hours of the day and night, well that one has one goal in mind.  He’s not there to scare Conor, rather to take something from him…perhaps the most dangerous thing of all…for the monster is seeking the truth.

The truth of what, you ask?  Well, you’re just going to have to read the book and find out!  A small yet significant novella, A Monster Calls is a beautiful and heartbreaking story about love, loss, and acceptance.  With amazing illustrations and elegant prose that will pull at your heartstrings, this book is a powerful and sobering look into the things that scare humankind most of all.

I’m gonna be honest for a second…It’s gonna make you cry…probably a lot.  For some it may be cathartic.  For others, it may make you call family and friends you haven’t talked to in a while, just to tell them you love them.  It might even open your eyes a little and help you better understand something you couldn’t understand before.  It’s a short read, easily finished in a day or so, and one that will haunt you, like a monster, for the rest of your life.

 

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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Happy Thanksgiving!

thanksgiving

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Toy Story Perler Bead Coasters

So for the last few days, we’ve been celebrating the release of one of my favorite movies, Toy Story.  And today I’m so excited to share this project with you!

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Made with Perler Beads (those little beads you used to play with when you were a kid…remember?  They go on the grid and then you burned yourself ironing them?  Yup!  Those beads!), these coasters are made to look like a couple of my favorite Toy Story characters.

This pack of 6 coasters contains one each of Woody, Buzz, Rex, Mr. Potato Head, Jessie, and a three-eyed alien.  Aren’t they just the cutest?  I think Buzz is probably my favorite!

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You can add a felt backing to these so they won’t scratch up the tabletop.  That part is optional, but I think the backing helps give these a completed look.

Want to make your own set?  Well, you’re in luck!  I’ve included a printable chart with the patterns to make all of these coasters, as well as how many beads you’ll need in each color.  If you want to change up the colors, go right ahead!  Just save the Excel sheet to your computer and edit away.

Toy Story Perler Bead Coasters

Materials:

  • Printable Toy Story Coaster Patterns
  • Perler Bead Large Peg Board
  • Perler Beads (amounts of each color are on the Excel sheet)
  • Parchment Paper or Masking Tape
  • Iron

 

Instructions:

  1. Following the printable patterns, arrange your design on your Peg Board.  You’ll do one coaster at a time.  There should be one bead on each peg…just follow the pattern, it’s super easy!  If you’re having trouble getting the beads on the board because you have chubby fingers like me, a tweezers works really well.
  2. Once your design is complete, cover your design with parchment paper.  If you buy a Perler Bead set, it may also come with ironing paper.
  3. Set your iron to the hottest setting and start going over your design with the iron.  Make circular motions, always moving your iron, until the beads have melted and molded together.  For a sturdy piece, keep ironing until all the bead holes close.  This shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes or so.  Just keep moving the iron and eventually all the beads will melt.  Once all the beads are melted, place your piece under  a heavy book to keep it nice and flat (do not remove the parchment paper or peg board…just place the book right on the parchment paper-covered coaster).  Once cool, remove the parchment paper and cover the back with felt, if desired.

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

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To Infinity and Beyond!

toystory

Come back every Tuesday for “The Bees Knees”, where I post the best quotes from my favorite movies, TV shows, songs, and books.

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How to Make a Holiday Baking Cheat Sheet

OK, guys…Halloween is over and Thanksgiving is JUST around the corner.  While everyone else is on the hunt for antacids and stretchy pants, I’m raiding the baking section of my local grocery store to plan for my holiday cookie platters!

Baking Christmas cookies is a tradition I picked up from my dad.  He used to bake cookies for family and friends every year, and since he’s now passed, I’ve taken on the duty of turning my own little kitchen into a butter and sugar paradise.

I always make his favorite cookies:  gingerbread snaps, peppermint canes, butter cookies, almond cookies, and cranberry bread…but every year I try to make a few new cookies to help switch things up.  This year I have a lot of new recipes I want to try, and it can definitely be daunting to figure out exactly how much of everything is needed so you can buy all your supplies in one shopping trip!

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However, I’ve found a way to make this insanely easy and stress-free.  The answer?  EXCEL.  Excel is seriously a life-saver.  If you don’t have Excel, you can also use Google Sheets…it’s free and works exactly the same.  PLUS, you can access your Google Sheets from any device that can connect to the Internet, which is super helpful in a pinch.

For my purposes, I’m using Google Sheets this year, as my home computer doesn’t have Excel.  And I’m gonna take you on a step-by-step tutorial on how to use any spreadsheet program to make your holiday food shopping so much easier!  While I use this for cookies, you can also use this for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or any occasion when you have to bake or cook several recipes at once.

First things first—gather all your recipes.  Open up Google Sheets or Excel and, in the first row, type “Ingredients” in the first column, “Amounts” in the second column, and “Recipe” in the third column.  Then you’re just going to import all your data, putting the ingredient in column 1, how much of that ingredient is needed in column 2, and what recipe that measurement belongs to in column 3…so your chart should look a little something like this:

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Keep going until all your ingredients for all your recipes are listed.  It will also help you in the long run if you list ingredients the same throughout the sheet.  For example, list “flour” and “all-purpose flour” just as flour.  That will make this much easier to sort in the next step!

Also you can freeze row 1 so it remains at the top of the sheet as you scroll down through your data.  To do that, just highlight the first row, then go to View—Freeze—Row 1 and the top row will remain at the top as you scroll down your list.

Once everything is added, create a new tab and copy and paste all the info from the first tab into the second.  Highlight everything but the top row:

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Then do a right-click, select “Sort Range” and sort by Column A, AàZ:

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Now all your like ingredients are grouped together.  As you can see, I have Heavy Cream, Salt, Sugar, and Butter listed several times:

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Now comes the fun part!  Next we’re going to combine all the double-listed ingredients.  So for butter, I’d combine all the measurements (1 cup, 1 cup, ½ cup) and type “2½ cups” in the “Amounts” column, then delete the two rows I don’t need:

So this:

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Becomes this:

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Go ahead and do that with all instances of doubles.

Finally, I like to add one further step of organization and just put like ingredients together so I’m not running all over the grocery store.  For that, I turn the “Recipe” column into an “Area” column and type in the section of the grocery store where I would find said item:

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That way I can walk through the grocery store once, get everything I need, and head out.

This method has been pretty foolproof for me since I started using it about two years ago.  It makes it so much easier when I don’t have to guess how much stuff I need and I know I’m getting just enough ingredients to make everything I want to make.

If you plan on baking a lot like I do, you might have an instance where, after you tally your totals, you end up needing something like “40 cups of flour” or “15 cups of sugar”.  For instances like that, keep in mind that one bag of flour can contain anywhere from 15 to 20 cups of flour, depending on the type of flour, the brand and whether or not it’s sifted.  There’s really no great conversion for how many bags of flour you’ll need, but a 5 lb. bag should give you a good 15 cups at least.  For sugar, the average is about 2¼ cups to 1 pound…so a 4 lb. bag should contain about 9 cups.

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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Creativity Inc. Book Review

In my 30 or so years of existence, I’ve spent a good 15 to 20 years in the work force.  I’ve had good bosses and bad bosses.  I’ve had co-workers I’ve loved and who I consider family…and I’ve had co-workers I probably will never see again.  I’ve worked as a minion, a trainer, a key holder, and a manager.  I’ve had jobs that have changed me as a person and jobs that are completely weird and unique.  But in every job, no matter what it is, I need to be inspired.  I need to feel like I can make a difference and challenge myself to do better.  This is a feeling that has forced me in and out of companies and has helped influence several decisions I’m both proud of and ashamed of…

During a particular difficult time in my professional career, I was given the book, Creativity Inc. by my dad.  It was a pre-run copy that he got from the library where he worked and he allowed me to read it in the hopes it would inspire me to get out of my funk.  What resulted after reading Creativity Inc. was a life-changing moment…a defining moment…in my career.  It completely changed the way I view management, work life, and the humanity (or lack thereof) of corporate America.

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Written by Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios, Creativity Inc. sets out to explore how we can bring fun and creativity back into the workday.  Meant for managers who want to lead their employees to new heights, this manual of sorts aims to train individuals to inspire originality and positivity in the workforce.  By using examples of how he manages at Pixar, as well as how day-to-day operations are led at the studio, Catmull teaches readers how to build a creative culture, no matter what your company aims to do or sell.

It’s no secret that Pixar is a behemoth in the animation industry.  With 30 or so Academy Awards and movies that almost guarantee a box-office hit, Pixar knows what they’re doing.  So what’s the secret?  Why is Pixar so widely admired…and so profitable?  The answer is simple…the employees.

People at Pixar are encouraged to brainstorm.  They are encouraged to take risks.  They are encouraged to fail and encouraged to dream.  THEY LIKE WORKING THERE.  They’re committed to doing their best and pushing themselves because their success is everyone’s success.  There are no scary labels there.  No “rules” about who you can and can’t talk to.  Do yourself a favor and Google “Pixar Offices”…you’ll see that nearly everyone surrounds themselves with things they love, people they love, objects they love.  It’s a company that knows it’s only as good as the people that work there…and the people that work there love and respect that.

That’s not to say the path has been easy.  Pixar wasn’t always the amazing company it is today, and it took a long time, and a lot of training, to get leadership to where it is today…but when a company has leaders that believe in the message and that work WITH the team instead of ABOVE the team, well, then you are on the way to greatness.

At its core, Creativity Inc. begs to answer the following question:  What does it mean to manage well?  Everyone has their own idea of what a GOOD manager is, but what qualities in a leader make a team successful?  How does one learn those qualities and use them in a way that will encourage the team to motivate each other and encourage each other to succeed?  Filled with all kinds of helpful quips and tips, this book attempts to offer some suggestions on how to manage, how to lead, how to inspire, and how to motivate.  If a leader doesn’t lead or isn’t trusted, the results can be detrimental.

After I read Creativity Inc., I quit my job.  I came to realize that I was not happy and was not being encouraged and motivated in the ways I knew I needed to be.  After checking Pixar’s employment page (because I mean, I’d wash floors just to work there!), I embarked on a job search to find something I could stand behind, a company I believed in and a job I could be proud of…and I found it.  And everything changed.  My stress levels plummeted.  My interest in work and success improved.  Hell, my desire to just do my daily job was fueled by the fact that I was HAPPY.  This is the secret, folks.  Whatever it is that makes you happy, that will help fuel your success no matter what it is you do.  Pixar knows it.  Google knows it.  More and more companies are FINALLY coming to realize that when their employees are happy, the company benefits…and if companies big and small make this a priority in how to improve their business, well, I think corporate America can make a huge change for the better…and as individuals, we can make changes that will help us for the better, too…both personally and professionally.

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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15 Fun Facts about the Toy Story Franchise

It’s been a little over 20 years now since the first Toy Story hit theaters…and with a fourth installment underway, Toy Story is just as beloved today as it was nearly two decades ago.

To help celebrate the anniversary of the release of the original Toy Story movie, I’ve gathered 15 fun facts that you might not know about the Toy Story franchise…starting with the fact that the original Toy Story is—by far—my favorite Pixar movie of all time. To infinity and beyond!

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15 Fun Facts You May Not Know About the Toy Story Franchise

The Pizza Planet delivery truck has appeared in every Pixar film, except The Incredibles.

During their most productive week during Toy Story production, the team only completed 3.5 minutes of animation.

Billy Crystal was originally offered the chance to voice Buzz Lightyear, but declined. After seeing the film, he said that decision was the biggest mistake of his career (he later got his chance to be a part of Pixar in the film, Monsters Inc.). Jim Carrey and Bill Murray were also considered, but were out of budget.
monsters inc animation disney hug
For the original Toy Story, Tom Hanks recorded his dialog during breaks of Sleepless in Seattle and A League of Their Own.

A sweet nod to his Home Improvement days, the toolbox on top of the milk crate that Woody is trapped under in the original Toy Story is a Binford, the same type of tool that Allen used in his TV show.

Comedian Don Rickles was the first and only actor considered for the role of Mr. Potato Head. The popular line, “What are you looking at, ya hockey puck?” is one of the actors catchphrases.

The number “95” appears frequently throughout all three Toy Story films. It’s a reference to the year the original Toy Story was released, 1995.

The character of Andy is named for Andries “Andy” Van Dam, a Brown University professor and computer science and animation pioneer who taught many of the makers of this film series.

Toy Story 3
is the first sequel to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar without any of its predecessors being nominated.

Toy Story 3
is also the first animated movie to make over $1 billion at the box office worldwide. It’s the #5 highest grossing movie of all time, behind Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Titanic, and Avatar.
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Animators had to strap boards to their feet to figure out how to animate the toy soldiers.

The first Toy Story was completed on a $30 million budget using a staff of 110 people. In comparison, The Lion King, released just one year prior, required a budget of $45 million and a staff of 800 people.

Toy Story 2
is the best reviewed movie of all time on Rotten Tomatoes. The original Toy Story comes in at #4.

The Barbie and Ken dolls in Toy Story 3 actually existed! Barbie is modeled after “Great Shape” Barbie (1984) and Ken is based on “Animal Lovin” Ken (1988), which I’m pretty sure I had when I was little!

 

Tom Hanks’s brother, Jim, voices Woody on all Woody toys and video games.  Sneaky, sneaky, Tom…
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Sometimes you just need a little fun in your life! Check back every week for a new “Just Bee-cause” post, where I discuss everything from celebrity news to favorite videos and websites!

 

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