Monthly Archives: November 2016

How to Create a Message on a Coffee Mug

Anyone who knows me knows this…I LOVE coffee mugs.  LOVE THEM.  I have WAY too many and I’m the only one in my house who actually drinks coffee!!  But each one means something to me and every time one of them breaks, it’s a little painful to throw it away.

I also love making and decorating my own mugs and giving them out as gifts.  Crafted mugs make great hostess gifts and stocking stuffers and they’re really fun and easy to make, no matter what your craft level!

spray-painted-mug

Now there are lots of ways to decorate a white mug…paint, Sharpie markers, but I have found that the easiest way for me is to just use stickers…yup, good ol’ fashioned stickers.  No need to worry about my shaky hand writing script…no need to worry about my inability to write in a straight line…and if something is misspelled, I can just take the sticker off and try again (as long as I catch it before it’s sealed!).

For this project, all you really need are stickers, a mug, spray paint, and adhesive (I used spray adhesive but Mod Podge would also work).  And apparently liquid inspiration doesn’t help, either!

mug1

For this project, I used the stickers to outline the message, then spray painted over it and removed the stickers so the message comes through in white.  Then I sealed it with spray adhesive sealer!

For this mug, I also tapped off the inside of the mug just to keep it white on the inside…as I’m not quite comfortable using glue and paint where my DRANK goes…but to each his own!

This mug should also be hand washed for long-lasting results.

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

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Be a Destination

blair-waldorf

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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10 of My Favorite Soup Recipes

I’m a total winter warrior.  I love fall and winter, I love the snow, and I love the cold!  I’d take big comfy blankets and cozy pajama pants over a bikini at the beach any day!  And the best thing about cold weather…SOUP.

I love soup.  The slow cooker is probably my favorite machine in the kitchen…followed very closely, if not equal to, the stand mixer…and I love that I can just pile in a bunch of odds and ends and have a delicious soup when I get home from work.

From thin brothy recipes to thick creamy soups that seriously warm the soul, these 10 amazing soup recipes are sure to make this coming winter just a little more enjoyable for everyone!

Pinterest Top 10:  My Favorite Soup Recipes

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Creamy Tortellini and Sausage Soup
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Creamy Bacon Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
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Chicken Pot Pie Soup
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Creamy Chicken and Gnocchi Soup
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Turkey Sausage, Kale and Sweet Potato Soup
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Irish Beer Cheese Soup
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Easy Thai Shrimp Soup
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Creamy Leek and Potato Soup
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Easy Wonton Soup
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Southwestern Chicken Tortellini Soup
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Want to see more of my favorite recipes?  Check out my Pinterest board, Favorite Recipes!

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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Bottomless Belly Button Review

bottomless_belly_buttonI know I’ve said this before, but I’ve had a recent obsession with graphic novels.  I love how easily they transport me into another world and tell such heartbreaking, emotional stories in a somewhat comedic way.

When I was browsing the graphic novel section of my local library, I found a book called Bottomless Belly Button, which had the tagline, “A Comic Book – NOT FOR CHILDREN”…then it showed a bunch of children with X’s on their faces:

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A quick flip-through and I was sold.  I checked it out and headed home.

I started reading that night and in about an hour or so, was a good third of the way done.  I just couldn’t stop reading it!  It wasn’t scary or mysterious or engaging in a way that something like The Walking Dead might be, but it was so honest and truthful and sad.  It was relatable in a very personal way…and I wouldn’t be surprised if this book touched some folks in a way no other story could…

Maybe best defined as a comedy-drama, Bottomless Belly Button follows the dysfunctional adventures of the Loony family as they embark on a life-changing decision.

Maggie and David Loony decide to gather their family together to announce that, after 40 years of marriage, they are planning to get divorced.  When their three children arrive at the family beach house with their families all in toe, Maggie and David break the news to very mixed results.  Some handle it better than others, and the reunion at the beach house is meant to celebrate the last time the whole family will be together as one.  When the children ask why, the response is eerily simple, “we’re not in love anymore.”

The oldest child, Dennis, struggles with his parent’s decision, which is highlighted even further with rising struggles in his own marriage.  Believing that his parents are not being truthful about their decision to separate, he spends a good portion of the novel on a quest to discover the truth…searching through old parts of the house, old journals and photos, and secret passageways to try to uncover some information as to why his parents are making this decision.

Claire, Dennis’s younger sister, is a single mother (also recently divorced) with a 16-year-old daughter in the awkward stage of her life.  Claire is apathetic to the divorce, as she understands that marriage is difficult.  Her handling of the news is much different than Dennis’s…and seems to react much like her young daughter would upon hearing the same news.

Finally, the youngest child, Peter, suffers from insane insecurities and establishes an unorthodox romance with a mysterious day care counselor at the beach.

In a six-day period filled with heartbreaking realizations, honest reactions, and sweet and tender moments between family members, these characters blindly stumble around each other, each reacting to life in their own ways and handling the news brought upon them in whatever way they know how.

From a visual standpoint, the illustrations in Bottomless Belly Button are so simple, yet capture life so perfectly.  Small gestures we all recognize, feelings we all know but have never put into words…this book is extremely personal and open and is not only the story of a separation, but the story of several lives and how they all interconnect.

No matter what your marital status, Bottomless Belly Button will hit you…it will hit you hard.  Its brutally honest portrayal of love and happiness and just life in general will surely stick with you long after the book is over.

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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42 Fascinating Facts about Leonardo DiCaprio

Every girl has her very first celebrity crush…the guy she follows in all the Teen Beat magazines…the guy who influences every movie watching decision and who covers the pink walls of her childhood room. The guy she thinks about, dreams about, talks to in her diary…and for me, that man was Leonardo DiCaprio.

DAMN is that man sexy. I mean, let’s just take a moment to look at this face…

Good gracious ignatius!

So yes, at one time, Leo did COVER the walls of my bedroom. I saw Titanic in the theaters at least 7 or 8 times, and I’ve seen his entire body of work at least once. Besides the fact that he’s beautiful, he’s also a fantastic actor…no one can deny that (especially now that he has his OSCAR!!).

Today also happens to be Leo’s 42nd birthday!! So to celebrate this amazing man, here are 42 fun facts you may or may not have known about my future second husband, Leonardo DiCaprio!

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Leo is named after the artist Leonardo de Vinci.  His mother, Irmelin, was standing in front of a da Vinci painting the first time she felt him kick.

Leo is an only child and his parents are divorced.  He was mostly raised by his mother.

His 1994 Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his role in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape landed him the spot of the 7th youngest actor ever to be nominated.  He was 19 at the time.

In 1998, he donated a room full of computers and equipment to the new Los Feliz Library, which was built on the site of his childhood home.

Leo’s acting coach, Thell Reed, also trained Brad Pitt, Val Kilmer, Edward Norton, Russell Crowe and Ben Foster.

Inception is Leonardo DiCaprio’s highest rated movie on IMDb.

He was the original choice to play Patrick Bateman in American Psycho, but had to drop out due to scheduling.  The role eventually went to Christian Bale.

Ironically Leo beat Bale for the roles of Arnie in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and Jack Dawson in Titanic.

He was also asked to be Nazi colonel Landa in Inglorious Bastards, but declined and the role went to Christoph Waltz.

While filming Blood Diamond in South Africa, he adopted a South African girl after meeting her at an orphanage.  He sends her a monthly check and calls her often.

In November 2010, DiCaprio donated $1,000,000 to the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Leo FINALLY won an Oscar for his role in The Revenant…but previous to that, he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and Best Actor for The Aviator, Blood Diamond, and The Wolf of Wall Street.

He has however won two Golden Globe Awards for The Aviator and The Wolf of Wall Street.

The Shining and Taxi Driver are among his favorite movies.

He’s BESTIES with actress Kate Winslet, and even walked her down the aisle for her marriage to Ned Rocknroll.

His first role was a small part in Critters 3.

Robert DeNiro allegedly hand-picked Leo from hundreds of boys for the part in This Boy’s Life.

Leo has never done drugs and actually had to work with a drug expert for his role on The Wolf of Wall Street.

Leo is apparently the highest-grossing actor to have never acted in a sequel.

He turned down the role of Max Dennison in the cult classic, Hocus Pocus, even though they supposedly offered him “more money than [he] ever dreamed of.”  He did Gilbert Grape instead.

Leo’s dated a slew of women in his day.  So what’s Leo’s type?  According to him, “A woman with humility, a sense of humor, and not a lot of drama.”  So, in other words…

In 2009, he and Kate Winslet helped pay nursing home fees for the last living Titanic survivor so she wouldn’t have to sell her mementos.

After they were done filming Revolutionary Road, Leo bought Kate an inscribed ring.  She keeps the inscription a secret.

Leo owns a giant pet tortoise.

He also has his own fair-trade coffee company.

As a strong advocate for the environment, Leo has donated millions of dollars to saving ocean wildlife and tigers in Nepal.

Leo has his own island off the coast of Belize.  He plans to turn the island into an eco-friendly resort.

Leo’s first ever Oscar win for The Revenant generated 440,000 tweets per minute, making it the most tweeted Oscar moment of all time.

As a true environment guru, Leo drives a Prius and flies coach when he travels.

When filming the intense dinner scene in the movie Django Unchained, Leo slammed his fist on the table, breaking a glass and cutting his hand severely.  However, he never broke character and finished the scene.  The bloody hand made it to the final cut of the film.

To prepare for the role of Hugh Glass in The Revenant, Leo subjected himself to the harshest possible conditions, actually did sleep in an animal carcass and actually ate raw bison liver.  CHAMP.  Oh, also…he’s a vegan.

He’s been close buddies with his The Great Gatsby costar, Tobey Maguire, since they were kids.

He’s maybe one of a handful of people who was actually BORN and RAISED in LA.

Leo owns real estate in Manhattan, Malibu, Hollywood Hills, Las Vegas and LA.

Leo and the rest of the cast of The Wolf of Wall Street crushed B vitamins for scenes involving cocaine.  Although their noses were uncomfortable, it gave them more energy to perform.

Like his counterpart Howard Hughes in The Aviator, Leo suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder.

Leo is fluent in German, thanks to his German parents.

Until he saw the results of Leo’s work, the real Frank Abagnale Jr. didn’t think he was “suave” enough to play him in Catch Me if You Can.  Bitch, please…

Leo accidently broke Daniel Day-Lewis’ nose while filming a fight scene for Gangs of New York.  Like a champ, Lewis went on filming despite the injury.

Leo calls his one-on-one scene with Jack Nicholson in The Departed one of the most memorable moments of his life.

When Jack is preparing to draw Rose in the film Titanic, Jack’s line was supposed to be “Lie on the couch.”  But Leo made an honest mistake and said, “Over on the bed…the couch.”  James Cameron liked it so much that he kept it in the film.

Leo’s famous line in Titanic, “I’m king of the world!”, was actually ad-libbed.

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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How to Make a Decoupaged Quote Sign on Canvas

Do you have a favorite mantra or quote that you live by?  Want to hang your words of wisdom on display for all to see?  Well, with this easy Decoupaged Quote Sign, you can make a piece of canvas art that says anything you’d like…and you don’t have to worry about painting on letters…which is a nightmare, I know.

I love making these wordy canvases and I’ve used a variety of papers to create the designs.  While I love the idea of using wrapping paper for this, be careful…wrapping paper is VERY thin and it’s crazy hard to get out all the air bubbles from wrapping paper without ripping it.  I suggest using a thicker craft paper, like scrapbooking paper or even card stock, to get a nice flat surface for this project.  Granted, you can still use wrapping paper (I have a couple times!), but just be extra careful when lying down your paper to make sure your project is bubble free.  For this project, I actually used three layers of tissue paper.

Alright, let’s get started!

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Materials:

  • 16 in. x 20 in. Canvas
  • Mod Podge
  • Foam Brush
  • Patterned Paper (the thicker the better…thinner paper might result in more bubbles and wrinkles)
  • Large Alphabet Stickers
  • Stencil Foam Brush
  • Paint (in whatever color you’d like)
  • Tweezers

Instructions:

  1. Using your dry foam brush or a dry painting brush, lightly brush the canvas to rid it of any dust or dirt, as you don’t want any of that poking through the paper once it’s glued down.
  2. Before starting, I suggest cutting your paper to fit your canvas. You can cut it afterwards, using an EXACTO knife to go around the edges, but I just find it easier to cut it first and glue the edges down as I go.  I leave at least a good 1 in. to 1½ overhang of paper so I can wrap the paper around the sides and behind the canvas.
  3. Once your paper is cut, use the foam brush to add a light coat of Mod Podge to your canvas. Place the paper on the canvas.  Once it’s aligned, turn the canvas over and press on the back of it to help the canvas really adhere to the paper.  Let this glue dry slightly, about 5 minutes.  Continue adding paper if you’re layering like I am here.
  4. Using the foam brush, glue down the edges of the canvas to the back of the canvas.
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  5. Finally, add a top coat of Mod Podge on your canvas, making sure your brush strokes all go the same way and no extra glue pockets are exposed.
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  6. Once your canvas is COMPLETELY dry, you can add your stickers! Since there’s a nice coating of Mod Podge on your paper, the stickers won’t adhere strongly to the surface, so don’t worry about not being able to remove them.  Just place your stickers however you want them on your canvas.
    canvas-with-stickers
  7. For the paint, I suggest using a scrap piece of your paper to make sure the paint actually looks good with the pattern. Some paints will let the pattern bleed through, while others look a lot different on paper than they do in the bottle…so just check before you commit!
  8. Once you’re ready to paint, place a small amount of paint on a palette or piece of aluminum foil and, using a flat stencil foam brush, start adding paint to your canvas. This is EXTREMELY important when it comes to painting like this…you want to move the brush up and down, NOT side to side.  Lightly dab around the letters and use as little paint as you can…no need to load up the brush—a little will go a long way here.  Just continue dabbing on paint until your canvas is covered.  Then let it dry.
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    paint-on-canvas
  9. Once the paint has dried, you can start removing the letters. I use a tweezers to help me with this.
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  10. And there ya go! To seal in the paint, I usually add one more coat of Mod Podge, just to be safe.

And there you have it…your own lovely and festive canvas!

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

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Live By Lucy’s Rules

lucilleball

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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15 Late Night Snacks That Are OK to Eat Before Bed

Let’s be real…sometimes life just gets in the way and we can’t even sit down to have dinner until freaking 8 or 9 o’clock.  Or sometimes dinner leaves us unsatisfied and we just need a little somethin’ somethin’ before we head to bed…

But not all snacks are made alike.  Some do more help than hurt, but some can even help you sleep after you eat them!  In short, you want to avoid anything fatty, spicy, super sugary or caffeinated.  Capsaicin, which makes food spicy, can cause indigestion and discomfort, which will naturally affect your sleep.  Foods with a lot of oil or fat takes a while to digest, which can cause acid reflux if you lie down right after eating anything super fatty or deep-fried.  And obviously sugar and caffeine will do nothing for your sleeping schedule.

So here are a few late-night snack ideas that won’t keep you up but will help tame the hunger beast.

snacks-for-bedtime

String Cheese:  One serving of string cheese contains filling protein and fat, so you feel satisfied after eating it.  One cheese stick is only about 80 calories and contains tryptophan, which also may help make you feel drowsy.

Nonfat Greek Yogurt:  Yogurt also contains tryptophan and protein, so it’s a great snack for before bed time.  Yogurt can also help calm your stomach so you’re less likely to wake up with heartburn or indigestion.

Sliced Apple and Peanut Butter:  Slicing an apple helps convince your brain that you’re eating more than you actually are, and the peanut butter also helps fill you up without feeling too heavy.

Chocolate Pudding Cup:  The creamy pudding is sweet and satisfying and doesn’t contain a ton of fat.

Baby Carrots:  The crunch of these carrots is super satisfying, and at only 4 little calories per carrot, this is great for big late night munchies.

Banana:  Like dairy, bananas are also loaded with tryptophan, as well as satiating fiber.

 

Other Snacks to Try:

  • Cherries
  • Almonds
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Hardboiled Eggs
  • Avocado on Toast
  • Turkey Slices
  • Popcorn
  • Pistachios
  • Dark Chocolate

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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21 Children’s Books Every Adult Should Read Again

Have you ever decided to revisit an old book and thought to yourself, “man, forgot how much I love this!”. Well this list is filled with books that will give you that old nostalgic feeling that will instantly take you back to days of yore…however far back they may be!

From childhood favorites to tweeny tales, this collection of 21 Children’s Books Every Adult Should Read Again is sure to reawaken your love for these classics. Best of all, most of these are super quick reads that you can enjoy between finishing up Game of Thrones or Girl on the Train.

And the list doesn’t stop here! Several children’s books have adult themes that go right over the heads of kids. Going back and re-reading these stories will not only give you a new appreciation for the work, but will give you an excuse to enjoy these books with your own family!

childrens-books

Where the Wild Things Are
Maurice Sendak
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In a Word: A story about a little boy, isolated in his own world, who travels to a magical land filled with loveable monsters and becomes King of the Wild Things.
Common Themes: Isolation, Growth, Friendship, Imagination

Charlotte’s Web
E.B. White
charlottes-web-cover
In a Word: A pig and a spider develop a sweet friendship, and together they learn about everything from love to loss.
Common Themes: Friendship, Acceptance, Mortality, Growth

The Sneeches
Dr. Seuss
the-sneetches
In a Word: A group of bird-like creatures called Sneeches alter their appearances again and again to fit in with “the popular crowd”.
Common Themes: Belonging, Acceptance, Bullying

The Lorax
Dr. Seuss
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In a Word: The Lorax is a creature that speaks for the trees and he battles against “The Big Man” to save the forest from the expansion and advancement of technology.
Common Themes: Bravery, Enviornmental Awareness

Where the Sidewalk Ends
Shel Silverstein
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In a Word: A collection of short humorous poems covering a variety of topics and themes. Also includes tons of Silverstein’s iconic illustrations.
Common Themes: Humor, Aging, Family, Poetry

The Little Prince
Antoine de Saint-Exupery
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In a Word: An explorer crashes on his way home and meets a little prince who opens his eyes to the beauty of life and the world around him. Simosaniously beautiful and heartbreaking.
Common Themes: Isolation, Wisdom, Love, Friendship

The Phantom Tollbooth
Norton Juster
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In a Word: A little boy receives a make-believe tollbooth. When he drives through it in his toy car, he’s transported to the Lands Beyond where he encounters several characters along the way…similar in style to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
Common Themes: Adventure, Learning, Education, Problem Solving

The Polar Express
Chris Van Allsburg
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In a Word: A little boy boards a magical train to the North Pole, where he meets Santa Claus and learns the true meaning of Christmas.
Common Themes: Christmas, Believing, Growth, Imagination

The Giver
Lois Lawry
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In a Word: A young boy spends time with an old man who is responsible for keeping the community’s memories. Along the way, he learns the dangerous truths of the community’s secret past.
Common Themes: Society, Humanity, Memory

The Harry Potter Series
J.K. Rowling
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In a Word: A young wizard learns about friendship, bravery, love and more during his seven years at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Common Themes: Friendship, Bravery, Magic, Education

A Series of Unfortunate Events
Lemony Snicket
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In a Word: Three young children are sent off to live with their distant relative, Count Olaf. When they learn he’s a cruel, scheming man, the children escape and embark on a collection of adventures.
Common Themes: Courage, Cleverness, Youth

Anne of Green Gables
L.M. Montgomery
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In a Word: A young girl is adopted by an older couple and quickly becomes the joy of everyone’s life.
Common Themes: Adoption, Friendship, Beauty, Wonder, Language

Walk Two Moons
Sharon Creech
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In a Word: Two stories are woven together, one funny, one bitterswee, to create a heartwarming and compelling story about a girl and her mother.
Common Themes: Loss and Grief, Growth, Mother and Daughter

The Diary of a Young Girl
Anne Frank
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In a Word: The diary of Anne Frank, a young Jewish girl who hid in an attack with her family to escape the Nazis during World War 2.
Common Themes: Bravery, History, Judiasm, Language, Beauty, Courage

Amelia Bedelia
Peggy Parish
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In a Word: A young nanny always does exactly what she’s told…but somehow things just never turn out right.
Common Themes: Humor, Wit, Word Play

Peter Pan
J.M. Barrie
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In a Word: A story about a young boy who can never grow up. Both sweet and sad and enjoyable for kids of all ages.
Common Themes: Abandonment, Growth, Aging, Friendship, Family

Watership Down
Richard Adams
watership_down_cover
In a Word: A group of rabbits journey from their home to escape the invasion of man.
Common Themes: Man and Nature, Power, Fear, Freedom

Love You Forever
Robert Munsch
loveyouforever
In a Word: A short and sweet story about the love for children and parents.
Common Themes: Family, Love, Loss and Grief, Aging

The Trumpet of the Swan
E.B. White
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In a Word: A young swan is unable to trumpet joyfully like his brothers and sisters. When his father presents him with a real brass trumpet, Louis the swan uses it to try to win the affection of a fellow lady swan.
Common Themes: Family, Persistence

The New Kid on the Block
James Stevenson
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In a Word: A collection of funny and witty poetry that is a joy for kids of all ages.
Common Themes: Poetry, Humor, Wit

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie
Laura Joffe Numeroff
if-you-give-a-mouse-a-cookie
In a Word: A story about how every action equals another action or reaction.
Common Themes: Giving, Action and Reaction

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 Common Food Questions ANSWERED

With so many types of foods available for purchase today, it can be hard to determine what foods to buy when.  How do I know when to use broth instead of stock?  What’s the difference between green onions and scallions?  Can I use light brown sugar and dark brown sugar interchangeably?

I know, adulting is hard.  But I’ve set out to try to clear up at least SOME of these questions that plague us every time we gear up for a shopping trip or embark on trying a new recipe.  In most instances, the changes in these common foods is pretty minimal, but in other cases swapping one for the other may change your end result completely.

So get ready to take back your pantry…here are 15 Common Food Questions ANSWERED.

thedifferencebetween

Baking Powder vs. Baking Soda

Both baking powder and baking soda make a big difference for baked goods, but powder and soda are much different, and are used differently.  Baking soda only has one ingredient:  sodium bicarbonate.  Sodium bicarbonate is a base that reacts when it comes into contact with an acid, like buttermilk or vinegar.  This reaction produces carbon dioxide in the form of bubbles, helping batter or dough to rise.  But when baking soda comes into contact with acid, it reacts immediately, which sucks for baking.  For many recipes, you want an extended reaction so the rising doesn’t take place all at one time.  Baking powder to the rescue!  Baking powder has two different ingredients that create carbon dioxide gas at two different stages of the baking process.  In addition to sodium bicarbonate, baking powder also contains two acids, one of which reacts when mixed with wet ingredients, the other reacting when it gets hot.  Cakes and muffins that use baking powder in the recipe often result in fluffier and lighter sponge because the batter is rising for a longer period of time and there’s an additional rising reaction after your batter is placed in the oven (this especially helps for bigger batches when you have batter sitting on the counter for an hour or so as you bake sheet after sheet).  Since they both contain sodium bicarbonate, substituting one for the other is possible, but it may or may not affect the taste of your recipe, as you will then also have to alter the amount of acid.

Whole Milk vs. Heavy Cream

Both whole milk and heavy cream are made from cow’s milk, but the major difference is the amount of fat.  Heavy cream, or heavy whipping cream, contains about 38% fat, so this is great for achieving stable results, such as making whipped cream or butter.  It will also resist curdling, so it’s great for soups.  As for whole milk, when milk is processed, the cream is taken out of it, then put back in manually, resulting in such labels as skim, 1%, 2%, etc.  For skim milk, there is no additional cream added once it’s been removed.  Milk labeled 1% or 2% has all the cream taken out, then added back in until it’s 1% or 2% of the total volume.  Whole milk is actually only about 3% fat, so really not that much different.  The “whole milk” label has less to do with the fat content and more to do with the fact that it’s pretty much unadulterated in terms of preparation.  In a sense, whole milk is the way it comes from the cow before processing.  So basically whole milk and heavy cream start off coming from the cow, but heavy cream has about 35% more fat added to it to help it stabilize.

Jam vs. Jelly

Let’s be honest…jam, jelly and preserves are pretty much all the same thing.  They’re all made from a combination of fruit, sugar and pectin.  The difference in what they’re called comes in the form the fruit takes.  For jelly, the fruit comes in the form of fruit juice…so jelly is often smooth when spread, making it great for picky eaters and for layering in desserts, like cakes and cookies.  Jam uses fruit pulp or crushed fruit, so you can often see pieces of fruit when you use jam.  It’s less stiff than jelly, so it’s great for using to flavor or mix in with other items, like icing or butter.  In preserves, the fruit comes in the form of chunks in a syrup or jam, so preserves can be pretty sweet.

Broth vs. Stock

While they both can be made with the same ingredients, stock is often thinner and less flavorful than broth.  Stock tends to be made from bony parts of the animal and various veggies, whereas broth is made using more meat and full bone pieces.  Stock has a fuller mouth feel and richer flavor, due to the gelatin released by long-simmering bones.  Broth is best used for the busy home cook.  It is great for chicken soup and for using in place of water for any recipe where you want to add a little chicken or beef flavor.  Stock is better for richer soups and stews, as it has more flavor and is great for recipes where you want to highlight the meat or fish flavor of a dish.

White Rice vs. Brown Rice

There are literally so many types of rice varieties in the world!  For us simpletons, the choice is usually simple:  white or brown.  It’s been ingrained in our heads that brown is better than white, but why?  The answer is fiber.  Brown rice is the whole grain with just the first outer layer (the husk) removed through milling…so it retains its fiber and germ, which contains vital nutrients.  White rice is brown rice that has been milled to remove the bran and much of the germ, reducing the fiber and nutrients.  Since white rice has been stripped of most of its nutritional value, it actually has a much longer shelf life than brown rice.  The essential oils still remaining on the brown rice start to go rancid after about 6 to 8 months, while white rice can easily last up to 10 years.  So, if you love white rice, you’re in luck!  If you prefer brown rice, buy it in small quantities.

Banana vs. Plantain

Not surprisingly, plantains are members of the banana family, but both taste very different.  Bananas are sweet and soft, while plantains are harder and only soften after they’ve been cooked down.  This difference comes in the amount of starch and sugar in both fruits.  While there are several types of bananas out there, the type we all know and love is the Cavendish banana, easy to peel and sweet to eat.  Plantains, on the other hand, contain a much higher percentage of starch and less sugar.  Because of this, they’re quite unpleasant if eaten raw.  To get the most out of a plantain, they have to be cooked.  They caramelize nicely and have a heavy potato-like character to them, making them great for both sweet and savory dishes.

Sweet Potato vs. Yam

While a yam is technically a TYPE of sweet potato, they are quite different.  Chances are not many people have even had a yam!  A true yam is a starchy root that grows in the Caribbean.  It’s rough and scaly and very low in beta carotene.  Depending on the variety, traditional sweet potatoes are usually orange, but can also be white or purple.  The orange variety was introduced to the US several decades ago in order to distinguish it from the white variety.  Producers and shippers chose the English form of the African word “nyami” (to eat) and labeled them “yams”.  So yes, here in America, sweet potatoes are often labeled both “sweet potatoes” and “yams”, which adds to the confusion, however, yams are actually a different TYPE of sweet potato with a different skin, meat and texture.

Granulated Sugar vs. Confectioners’ Sugar

Granulated sugar is the pre-form of confectioners’ sugar.  Confectioners’ sugar, also known as powdered sugar or icing sugar, is actually granulated sugar that has been finely ground and mixed with a small amount of cornstarch to prevent caking.  So can you make your own confectioners’ sugar in a pinch?  Absolutely!  A few rounds in a food processor will help turn granulated sugar into confectioners’ sugar (there are several recipes online for making your own confectioners’ sugar).  Since it’s finely ground, confectioners’ sugar is best used in recipes where sugar has to dissolve smoothly and provide sweetness…namely in frosting and icing.  So the simple answer is that granulated and confectioners’ sugars are the same thing, one is just finer than the other.

Ice Cream vs. Custard

According to the USDA, the standards for ice cream consist of 20% cream and 10% milk.  It can also contain anywhere from 10% to 20% fat, depending on how luxurious you want your ice cream to be!  While some may think it’s healthier, soft serve ice cream is actually the same thing.  Soft serve is made with the same ingredients as regular ice cream but is served in a machine that keeps it, well…soft.  The machine incorporates air and doesn’t allow the ice cream to harden, like a tub of ice cream would in your freezer.  Gelato has a higher ratio of milk to cream than ice cream does, and contains about 5% to 7% less fat than ice cream.  It’s churned very slowly, making it much denser than its counterpart.  Finally, custard contains a magical ingredient that makes it thick and happy and amazing:  egg yolk.  All the other ingredients are the same as regular ice cream, but the yolk helps add thickness to the final result.

Bourbon vs. Scotch

Not surprisingly, the difference between bourbon and scotch is minimal…basically it all comes down to where it was made.  Scotch is whisky made in Scotland.  Bourbon is whisky made in the US.  Scotch is made mostly from malted barley, while bourbon is distilled from corn.

Green Onions vs. Scallions

THEY’RE THE SAME THING.  No difference whatsoever!  Ok, moving on…

Onions vs. Shallots

Shallots have a much sweeter flavor than onions do…and are actually an onion/garlic hybrid.  In fact, shallots share about as many similarities with garlic as they do with onions, so they’re great for almost any and all savory recipes!  Their roots are garlic-flavored and made of cloves and their bulbs, which are the majority of the plant, grow similar to garlic.  You’ll often get 2 or sometimes 3 cloves in one shallot.

Light Brown Sugar vs. Dark Brown Sugar

Both varies of brown sugar are a mixture of granulated sugar and molasses, with dark brown sugar containing more molasses than light brown sugar.  Light brown sugar has a much more delicate flavor than dark brown sugar.  They can be used interchangeably depending on your taste preferences, but I prefer light brown sugar myself.  Dark brown sugar is great for adding rich flavor to stews or stronger molasses flavor to baked goods, like gingerbread.

Olive Oil vs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Let’s start off simple first…olive oil, in all its forms, is oil obtained from the fruit of an olive tree.  Plain and simple.  The rest of the name is added based on how that oil is processed.  Extra-virgin olive oil is unrefined and is the highest quality oil you can buy.  It retains more true olive taste and has a lower level of acid than other varieties.  It also contains more of the natural vitamins and minerals found in olives.  This is olive oil to use with breads, salads and dressings.  If you’re going to splurge, do it on a good quality extra-virgin olive oil.  By contrast, regular olive oil is typically a blend between a couple varieties of olive oil.  It is lower quality than extra-virgin olive oil and contains a higher amount of acid.  It’s great for cooking, as it has a high smoke point and doesn’t have much flavor.  Can one substitute the other?   In short, yes…but keep this in mind:  extra-virgin olive oil SHOULD be used for dishes where you’re meant to taste the olive oil and should not be used to cook, as it burns easily.  Regular olive oil has little to no flavor and is great for cooking.  So yes, you technically CAN substitute, but keep in mind that flavor may change if you use extra-virgin instead of regular.

Tonic Water vs. Seltzer Water

Both carbonated waters are stables on any bar, but they’re not interchangeable.  Tonic water will add both sweet and bitter to whatever you’re creating.  It pairs particularly well with gin and, unlike many other waters, it contains calories.  Seltzer water is just plain water that has been artificially carbonated.  Club soda is also much like Seltzer water, but mineral-like ingredients are added to club soda to enhance the flavor.  These two (club and Seltzer water) can be used interchangeably.

 

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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