It’s not an exaggeration to say, “They grow up so fast!” Every day with a baby brings something new—an expression, a gesture, and most certainly a funny sound. Karyn Siegel-Maier’s Happy Baby, Happy You shares ideas and tips on playing, learning and nurturing your young one. From setting up a natural nursery to making your baby to giggle from silly games, this book will help you build memories and raise a confident, relaxed child.
Babies are ready to join the family at the dinner table as soon as they are old enough to sit without support. So even if eating solid foods is still a spectator sport, here are a few tips on how to make the experience safe and enjoyable for them.
It’s practically creepy how quickly Halloween came around this year. Luckily, Megan Nicolay, author of Generation T: Beyond Fashion and Generation T: 108 Ways to Transform a T-Shirt, is on hand with some quick and easy costume solutions.
You’ve got a whole week to put together a Halloween costume, but if your procrastination skills are anything like mine, you’ll still be wanting for that perfect costume accessory come Friday night (or Saturday afternoon, even?). And who has the time or resolve to battle the last-minute chaos and crowds at costume stores? Here are two super-cool, super-quick, no-sew projects from Generation T: Beyond Fashion that you can make with old T-shirts from your closet—so you can whip up a homemade Halloween costume on the fly. Speaking of fly…
How about a superhero cape? Superheroes are always fun (make a mask, too!), but this cape could also transform you into a dashing Dracula, a mister mysterioso magician, or even crowned royalty! Let the cape be your statement or personalize your look with some fabric markers or iron-on letters.
If you’re trying to channel some warmer weather with your costume, how about this fringe dance skirt? Pair it with a bikini top (which you can actually make using project #49 from Generation T: 108 Ways to Transform a T-shirt) or other tropical attire and you’re ready for a luau. Aloha!
For more T-shirt transformation ideas, check out www.generation-t.com!
Benjamin Franklin once said, “The noblest question in the world is what good may I do in it?” And many of us have the impulse to “do good,” but don’t really know where to start, who to contact, and what is needed. Nicole Bouchard Boles’ How to Be an Everyday Philanthropist, shows you how to help others on a daily basis – without having to donate millions or become a full-time volunteer.
She explains how to use your talents, trash, family, computers, and community to contribute to a cause, along with the names and websites of organizations to contact. Maybe you can start by cleaning out your cluttered closets and donating no-longer-needed belongings to one of the groups below:
Be a Fairy Godmother: The Glass Slipper Project (glassslipperproject.org) collects new and gently worn formal wear and accessories for girls who could not otherwise afford prom night finery. Check out similar organizations like Fairy Godmothers, Inc. (fairygodmothersinc.com), Cinderella Project (cinderellaproject.net), and Becca’s Closet (BeccasCloset.org).
Give the Gift of Sight: Breathe new life into your old eyeglasses and pass them onto one of the 1 billion people around the world who need glasses but can’t afford them. OneSight (onesight.org), New Eyes for the Needy (neweyesfortheneedy.org) and Unite for Sight (uniteforsight.org) are a few organizations that help facilitate the donation process.
Send Toys Abroad: Operation Give (operationgive.org) distributes supplies and toys to civilians in combat zones; The Orphans of War Campaign (orphansofwarcampaign.org) collects toys and soccer balls for Iraqi children who have lost their parents; Beanies for Baghdad (beaniesforbaghdad.com) sends used Beanie Babies and other toys to children in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo, and SAFE (Stuffed Animals for Emergencies) (stuffedanimalsforemergencies.org) collects gently used toys to be redistributed to emergency personnel and organizations to help kids cope in difficult situations.
Books For Schools: Reader to Reader (readertoreader.org) is a national organization that brings gently used (and new) books to schools and libraries in need across the United States.
Trade Some Tools: Help people become self-reliant by donating old tools to the U.K.-based Tools for Self Reliance Program (tfsr.org), or Habitat for Humanity (habitat.org) is also always looking for screwdrivers, saws, shovels and rakes.
Don’t Forget the Pets!: Pet food is easily overlooked when donating to food banks, but when people are struggling to provide for themselves, they are often struggling to provide for their pets. To find specific locations for animal food banks, head to SaveOurPetsFoodBank.org.
Freecycle: The Freecycle Network (freecycle.org) is a large community of people across the U.S. and Canada devoted to reusing items and keeping good stuff out of landfills. Everything listed on the site must be free for the taking.
What’s frightfully scary, but delicious at the same time? Ghoulish Goodies by Sharon Bowers! Both kids and grown-ups alike will get a kick out of these fanciful recipes — from Chocolate Spider Clusters to I’Scream Cake to Unblinking Eye Halloween Meatloaf — the snacks, party favors, and meals all add up to an unforgettable holiday. Offering a mix of recipes, some simple enough for kids to create on their own, as well as more complex concoctions, there’s something for everyone. You better believe that Halloween will never be the same.
Swamp Creature Toes: (Makes about 36 toes!)
Even if you skip the green color, you’ll still have funky toes.
1/2 cup whole skinless salted almonds
green liquid coloring
1 (12-ounce) package semisweet chocolate chips (2 cups)
1 (6-ounce) bag 8-inch pretzel rods (about 12)
1. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment or wax paper. Blend the almonds with about 10 drops of coloring in a small stainless steel, ceramic, or glass bowl (plastic might stain). Stir well until all the nuts are coated. Spread the green almonds on a plate to dry.
2. Put the chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl and melt the chocolate in the microwave: Heat on high for 60 seconds, and then stir well. If it’s not quite smooth, heat in two or three 10-second bursts, stirring well after each burst. (Alternatively, you can melt the chocolate, stirring frequently, in a double boiler, over just-simmering water. Avoid overheating, which can cause chocolate to seize up into a stiff mass.)
3. Break each pretzel rod into 3 pieces. Dip a broken piece about three-quarters of the way into the melted chocolate, leaving a broken end visible. (If it’s an end piece of the pretzel, dip the finished end, leaving the broken end showing.)
4. Lay the dipped pretzel on a prepared baking sheet and lay a green almond on the top of the dipped end. If the almond won’t stick, dip the underside in a bit more chocolate. When all the toes are decorated, place the baking sheets in the refrigerator or freezer to firm the chocolate. Serve cool.
-Francois de La Rochefoucauld
Gingersnaps most likely have their origin with the Pennsylvania Dutch, and their name probably comes from the word snappen, which means “easy.” The cookies are rolled in sugar before baking, giving them a lovely, crinkly top.
For more baking tips, check out yesterday’s post, How to bake just like your grandmother did. Or even better.
Makes about 40 cookies.
1 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dark molasses
1 tablespoon warm brewed coffee
6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
1. Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl.
2. Combine the molasses and coffee into a small bowl.
3. Cream together the butter, the 1/4 cup granulated sugar, and the brown sugar, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves in a large bowl. Add the molasses mixture and the flour mixture, beating until well blended. Stir in the crystallized ginger. Gather together the dough in a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for at least 1 hour, until firm.
4. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Lightly grease two baking sheets.
5. Shape the dough into 1-inch balls. Roll the balls in 2 tablespoons of the granulated sugar. Place them on the prepared baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Press down each cookie with the bottom of a glass dipped in the remaining 1 tablespoon granulated sugar until the cookies are nice and thin.
6. Bake, one sheet at a time, for about 10 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven before their edges start to brown; they will be soft in the center but will harden when cool. Watch the cookies carefully and do not allow them to scorch.
7. Transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool.
If you’re looking to jump-start your baking skills, you might as well begin with cookies. For starters, there usually aren’t any super-complicated pieces of equipment, ingredients, or Le Cordon Bleu-type knowledge required. And secondly, most cookie doughs are forgiving, meaning even those of us who are challenged in the kitchen can turn out a tasty cookie. Andrea Chesman and Fran Raboff’s 250 Treasured Country Desserts is a collection of tried-and-true recipes that have been passed down through the generations—and all of which have stood the test of time. As a bonus, this cookbook offers tips and techniques to guide you along and boost your baking know-how.
Here are a few guidelines to follow when making cookies:
Check back tomorrow for a recipe from 250 Treasured Country Desserts.
Via the New York Times, here’s a piece about a woman nearing the end of her quest to read a book a day over the course of a year. You can go to Nina Sankovich’s blog, www.readallday.org, and browse her choices and reviews there. (Mostly fiction, with a decidedly literary bent, though Twilight and a few other pop icons do make the list.)
And for a random dose of defiant bookworm spirit, here’s a storefront sign from Jackson Street Books in Athens, GA.
Credit card companies can seem like these scary, all-powerful, monolithic entities. Maybe you’ve been burned by a late payment and seen your APR skyrocket. Or impulsively purchased an exorbitantly overpriced plane fare to Europe when you were in college…and you’re still paying for it. Whether you have that nagging debt or a spotless credit record, Ramit Sethi’s I Will Teach You To Be Rich, offers the “Six Commandments of Credit Cards” to help you take control—and advantage—of your finances.
1. Pay off your credit card regularly. The single most important thing you can do to improve your credit is to pay your bills on time.
2. Get all fees waived on your card. Call your credit card company using the phone number on the back of your card and ask if you are paying any fees, including annual fees or service charges.
3. Negotiate a lower APR. The average APR is 14 percent, which makes it extremely expensive if you carry a balance on your card. Call your credit card and ask them to lower your APR.
4. Keep your cards for a long time and keep them active. Lenders like to see a long history of credit, which means that the longer you hold an account, the more valuable it is for your credit score. Don’t get suckered in by introductory offers and low APRs. If you’re happy with your card, keep it.
5. Get more credit. (Warning! Do this only if you have no debt.) By getting more credit you can improve your credit utilization rate (how much you owe divided by your available credit), which represents 30 percent of your credit score. This tip is ONLY for people who have no credit card debt and pay their bills in full each month.
6. Use your rewards! Many credit cards offer rewards programs that give you cash back, airline tickets, and other benefits, but most people don’t take advantage of all the free stuff they can get. Call your credit cards and lenders and ask them what advantages you are eligible for.