How to Meet a Stranger Without Looking Like a Lunatic

How to meet a stranger without looking a lunatic is not an easy trick, especially in this day and age. You’re more likely than ever to be hit with a restraining order if you don’t go about it correctly. Stalkers seem to abound everywhere, but you certainly don’t want to be classified as one.

Of course, if you’re Meg Ryan and he’s Tom Hanks, it seems like stalking is considered okay. The first time I saw Meg Ryan creeping around across the street as she watched Tom and his son play in “Sleepless in Seattle,” I just thought, “Okay, now that’s just weird. Does anyone else think this is kinda weird?” Turns out, there’s a whole contingency that does. So if you’re thinking of ditching your life and secretly stalking some stranger clear across the country? Don’t.

Instead, take some of these hints for how to meet a stranger without looking like a lunatic. And don’t forget to let us know how your story turns out! We love a juicy love story!

In the Store

Back when we were all wandering the aisles of our VHS rental stores, I often wondered why more people weren’t hitting on each other. I mean, what better way to meet a stranger than when you’re both standing there, reading the same movie box? The situation just begs for one person to invite the other person out on a date. But no, in my movie rental store at least, everyone just ignored everyone else. And that was before we were all busy texting with our noses in our cell phones.

But let’s just say you are willing to put yourself out there in a store. There are a few ways you can meet a stranger without looking like a lunatic.

  1. Ask if they’ve been helped.

This is a good one. They’ll assume you work there and start talking to you about their needs. After they’re all done describing the product they’re looking for, you can explain that you were just asking because you wondered where all the salespeople were. You can both have a good laugh and then, just as you’re walking away, one of you can ask the other to go for a coffee/drink.

  1. Take Their Cart

After you choose something off the shelf, put it in their cart accidentally and then go rolling off with it. When they come chasing after you, obviously laugh about your mistake, but then make some comment about something in their cart, like “Where did you get those canned tomatoes? Can you show me?” If you have good luck, and the person’s interested, this will lead to more conversation. Otherwise, if they just take their cart and go, assume they’re either already in a relationship or they’re just not that into you.

  1. Pretend You Already Know Them

That’s right. Just make up a name and call them by it. “Reginald, is that you? How have you been? It’s me!” They’ll correct you, and tell you you’ve made a mistake, but this is your chance to be charming and introduce yourself after you tell them how they look exactly like your friend (who doesn’t really exist).

On the Street

Okay, so you’re walking on the street and there’s that person again whom you see everyday on your way to work. They must live around here because you keep seeing them. So how can you meet this stranger without looking like a lunatic? Here are three ideas:

  1. Bump Into Them

You don’t have to knock them on the ground, but just nudge them a little as you walk past. Say, “excuse me” and get some good lingering eye contact going. The next day, do it again. At some point this person will get the hint and either let you know they’re not interested, or start talking to you.

  1. Ask for Directions

Yes, this simple little tactic has worked for years, and it still works. Just ask directions to some place-any place-and see where it takes you. They might respond by offering to bring you there in person, or they might not. But at least you tried.

  1. Trip

Admittedly, this works better if you’re a woman. Most people will respond favorably to a damsel in distress. If you can manage a little trip, you might get a lending hand from that person you’re so enamored by. The rest of the story will be up to you.

Yes, some of these techniques for how to meet a stranger without looking like a lunatic are a little dubious as far as honesty goes. But at least you won’t be hiding behind trees like Meg Ryan. And what’s the harm in trying a few unconventional methods?


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TV Show Moms That Make Us Feel Better About Ourselves

Some TV moms just have a way of making us feel better about our own parenting skills. On the surface, the following TV show moms are shining examples of how to show affection to a child. Underneath, there’s a lot to love about a mom that makes us look good.

The Middle

Patricia Heaton does an awesome job of portraying Frankie Heck, mother of three kids on “The Middle.” There’s something about her that almost all moms across the country can relate to. Going to a job she hates, being misunderstood by her family and dealing with challenging kids. Yup, you can smile with understanding as she comes home and flops on the couch with a beer. But dinnertime at the Heck’s? Now that’s another story.

How can a mother who claims to love her children throw down a few bags of take out burgers and fries almost every night and call it a meal? I mean, sure, you’ve been known to pass around the local Chinese takeout menu to get everyone’s orders. Chinese food has vegetables. Fast food joints don’t. Besides, you can’t cook Chinese. Or pizza. Or Indian food. So it’s actually a treat for the kids when you order out. You’re not like Frankie at all. Nope.

Madam Secretary

As Madam Secretary, Téa Leoni tries to show us how awesome she is as a professional working woman, wife and mother. Wow. What an inspiration. Plus, she apparently has a smoking hot love life with her husband, played by Tim Daly (off-screen as well, but that’s gossip for another day). I mean, what woman wouldn’t want to be as good a mother as Elizabeth McCord, Secretary to the President of the United States? How does she do it all?

Well, she doesn’t. Not really. Take a closer look and it’s hard to find a mother less tuned in to what’s going on with her kids. She had no idea that her daughter, “Noodle,” was into fashion, no clue that her youngest son Jason hadn’t made any friends at his new school, and absolutely no notion that her oldest was sleeping with a heroin addict. (And, he is the President’s son, no less!). Honestly, if you were those kids’ mother, you would make it your business to know what they were up to every minute of the day. As Madame Secretary, wouldn’t it be within your rights to have your kids’ every action monitored? You bet it would! You are SUCH a better mother than her! Wait a minute. It’s almost midnight! Where’s your daughter? Her curfew is 10:00!

Modern Family

Gloria has one child to rear, and she does it with style. Sofia Vergara plays the doting mother so well, and her son Manny, played by Rico Rodriguez, is all the better for it. He’s a well-mannered, sophisticated young man who reflects positively on his upbringing. Even though Gloria spent years raising Manny as a single mother after her divorce, their relationship is perfect.

A little too perfect, if you ask her new husband, Jay, portrayed by Ed O’Neill. Jay sees what you see. A little fancy pants boy who is doesn’t want to let go of his mother’s apron strings. On the other end of those strings is an overprotective mother who has trouble letting her baby grow up. You’re not like that, though. You can see the error in preventing anything bad from happening to your kids. You know that Manny will always need approval from his mother, and that his future romantic relationships may suffer because of it. That’s why you always tell your son he can date whomever he chooses. As long as she’s a good girl. With no piercings. And she should be the same religious faith, obviously. That’s just a given.

Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey has given us six glorious years of entertainment, so they are hereby relieved of any scathing remarks about Lady Edith’s reluctance to acknowledge her own child to save her own reputation, or Lady Mary’s curious lack of motherly bragging about her amazingly adorable and handsome son George. Suffice it to say, it’s hard to understand the mother-child relationship of the olden days. The only one that makes sense on the show is the one between The Dowager Countess and Lord Grantham. The way he still comes to his wise old mother for advice; the way she still tells him what to do and how to behave. Now that’s the way it should be!

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Easy Ways to Customize Your Apartment

Apartments can be cozy, but they can also be drab and without personality. There are lots of ways to stamp your personality onto your apartment without risking the return of your damage deposit.

Change out the Kitchen Knobs and Handles

It’s likely that the kitchen cabinet knobs, pulls and handles in your rented abode are standard, bottom of the line stuff. But these things just screw into the drawers and cabinets. You can easily arm yourself with a screwdriver and replace all the hardware with anything of your choosing. Maybe you want to upgrade or go vintage. You can find brand new knobs, pulls and handles at hardware stores, and cool vintage ones in antique stores and online auction sites. When you move, just screw the original hardware back in place.

Install Decorative Outlet Plates

Those putty colored plates over your wall outlets are hideous by anyone’s standard. You probably have some in plain sight on the kitchen backsplash and on the light switch as you enter the kitchen. These plates screw off really easily with a standard screwdriver, and you don’t need to fuss with any electrical wiring.

You can find super cute outlet plates at hardware stores that will fit any outlet configuration you have, including single light switches and double and quadruple outlets. Some home crafters even sell decorative outlet plates on sites like Etsy.

When you leave, take your cute outlet plates with you to install in your new apartment and leave the landlord with the putty ones.

Install Under Cabinet Lighting

Under cabinet lighting is usually only found in high-end kitchens, but you can enjoy it in your apartment dwelling, too.

First, measure the length of your cabinets where you want the under cabinet lighting. Then head on out to your local hardware store and check out the options for LED under cabinet lights. These can get very pricey, but you’ll be able to find some less expensive options, too. Options include hardwired lights that stick with adhesive underneath the cabinets. These will have a little plug on the end that goes into a standard outlet on the backsplash.

Another option is to get a short length of white LED Christmas lights. You can screw a succession of cup hooks underneath the cabinets. (Your landlord won’t mind about a few screw holes on the underside of the kitchen cabinets. Just remember to remove the cup hooks when you move out.) Pull light string taut and plug in.

Apply Window Cling Film

If you apply window cling film properly, you will be able to achieve really cool effects, depending on what look you’re going for. Window cling film can add add privacy to your apartment dwelling, add decorative flair or both. You can find rolls of decorative cling film at hardware stores. Don’t leave without buying a squeegee, which you’ll use to press out the air bubbles in the film. The film removes easily without any damage or residue on the window itself.

Create a stained glass effect with cling film, apply frosted glass cling film on the lower part of a window for privacy purposes, or press it onto kitchen cabinet glass for additional customization in the kitchen.

Replace the Showerhead

You don’t have to get stuck with a rusty old, trickly showerhead. With absolutely no knowledge of plumbing, you can install a brand new showerhead of your choosing. You don’t even have to turn the water off at the main. Pick up a showerhead starting at $10 from a discount department store like Target.

To install, wrap a washcloth around the connection for the old showerhead. The washcloth will prevent you from scratching the finish. Use a wrench or large pliers to unscrew it. (Store the old one under your bathroom sink so you remember to replace it when you move.) Now, just screw on the new one, using the same method.

These personalization ideas are so easy that you don’t have to be a plumber or an electrician or a carpenter to implement them. And, the best thing about these is that you can use them wherever your future home is.


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Why Making Friends as an Adult is So Hard

Making friends as a child can be as easy as lending a classmate your pencil. Who doesn’t remember walking into the classroom on the first day as a shy youngster and slipping into the first empty seat available, only to become instant best friends with the girl in the next row?

When we become adults, it gets a little trickier to initiate a new friendship. Our attempts can be misconstrued in what seems like a hundred different ways. You might try making eye contact with a friendly-looking face on the subway, until she frowns and moves to the next car. You try to start a conversation in the clothing store, and discover the woman doesn’t even speak English and has no clue what you said. Your friendly invitation to go for drinks after the league soccer game is interpreted as a pass or a sign that you’re a closet alcoholic. The women in the snack shack at your kid’s Little League game have their own clique, and they aren’t letting anyone—including you—in. Have adults forgotten how to make new friends? It sure seems that way sometimes.

Why Making Friends as an Adult is Hard

There are many reasons why making friends as an adult is much harder than earlier in life. One common reason is that we all have many more demands on our time than we did as children. Our time resource is limited, so our social life is necessarily limited, too. When you take into account immediate and extended family obligations, a full-time job, religious obligations, home maintenance projects, and possibly the pursuit of higher-level education; there isn’t much time left over for friends.

Of course, everybody needs friends, but when it comes to making new ones, many adults feel that they don’t have room for anyone new in their life.

A second reason why it’s harder to make friends as an adult is fear. It comes down to trust issues. The older we get, the more likelihood that we’ve gotten “burned” at least once, but often a few times. The stories we hear in the news make us feel that strangers can’t be trusted. We may feel that either people are after our money, our children, our spouses, or something else. There’s no telling what nefarious reasons a person may have for supposedly wanting to be our friend, right?

However, there is fault in both of these reasons. The issue of a lack of time is one that is largely in our heads. Most of us have more time than we think we do. Also, many quality friendships don’t require as much time as we might imagine. Spending an hour with a friend a couple times a month playing tennis or having lunch can be hugely rewarding and doesn’t take a big time commitment. Chatting for a half hour on the phone to share life anecdotes is easy, too, and you don’t even have to leave the house to do it. Basically, friendships don’t detract from your life—they add to it.

Don’t let false reasoning or fear get in the way of making new friends. Friends help us grow, enjoy life more, and help to make a better world for everyone, including you and your loved ones.


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What Your Choice of Shoes Says About You

Are your kitten heels worn thin, while your tennis shoes are still lily white? Do you come to a standstill at the sight of a sturdy pair of Tevas? Your shoes say a lot about you. From the way you think, to your lifestyle, and even how you think about yourself. Here’s a guide to what your shoes say about you.

You Own One Pair For Every Occasion

Does your closet look like this: one pair of pumps for work and formal dinners, one pair of sneakers, one pair of sandals/flip flops, and one pair of house slippers?

If so, you’re probably not a shoe person at all. You wear shoes because you have to, not because you want to. Chances are, you wear a pair of shoes until the sole falls off before you buy another one. That’s okay. More shoes for the rest of us!

You Have Multiple Pairs of Sandals

First of all, if you have several pairs of sandals, congratulations! You must live in a warm climate where sandals are an everyday affair. You probably get regular pedicures, and you may even sport a toe ring or two. Sandals have gotten pretty swanky since the days of foam flip flops, so your sandal collection should get you from beach to shopping mall in style.

You Don’t Own High Heels

A lot of us consider high heels a particular kind of feminine torture, so no judgment here. If you don’t own high heels, you are either taller than your husband, incredibly practical and busy, or simply refuse to endure the pain that high heels incur just for the sake of fashion. Either way, kudos to you.

Your Shoes Wear Bling

Do you need to wear sunglasses when you open your shoe closet? Do you have a shoe closet? If sparkle is a requirement for you to purchase shoes, that says a lot about you.

Chances are, you are a woman who enjoys the nightlife. You can be found any night of the week dancing away in the arms of some handsome paramour. Maybe you even lead a jetsetter lifestyle. Nice!

You Prefer Platforms

If platforms are your preferred choice when it comes to footwear, it could be that you are, ahem, height challenged. Maybe? Just a little bit? It’s okay. We all know that tall people have the advantage in a lot of areas. Why should they have all the fun?

You Keep Buying Tevas

Tevas are arguably the best outdoor sandal made for active people. But the thing is, they are also one of the most rugged pieces of footwear available for outdoor enthusiasts. One pair can last a normal person a year or more. So if you keep buying them, we’re going to assume you’re wearing them out. Which is really hard to do. You must spend all your time having sporty adventures, like swinging from zip lines! (We’re a little bit jealous of you now, FYI.)

Next time you want to find out more about a new friend, check out her shoe closet. Shoes provide valuable insight into personality and interests. Just ask Teva lady.


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2 Super Easy Ways to Get a Base Tan

Getting a base tan is essential for certain situations. Maybe you’ve been invited to join your boyfriend’s family on their boat in the Bahamas. Or, you’re going down to Florida to visit Disney World. Maybe it’s just that upcoming 4th of July BBQ. Whatever the occasion, you don’t want to show up with your lily white legs while the rest of the girls show off their golden tans. Here are two easy ways to get a base tan.

Method #1: Fake It

Since the dawn of time, women have been faking beauty features they lacked for one reason or another. During WWII, when silk was hoarded for making paratrooper parachutes, women found their lingerie drawers woefully lacking in silk stocking. Not to be caught out walking around barelegged, clever women of the time simply sued an eyeliner pencil to draw that telltale line that simulated a silk stocking seam up the backs of their legs. The effect was surprisingly realistic.

Which brings us to method number one of achieving a base tan. There are lots of great fake tanners on the market, so there’s no reason to resort to those orangey self-tanning lotions that you might have tried in high school.

Here are two of our favorites:

Art Naturals Sunless Tanning Lotion works for light, fair, medium and sensitive skin. It contains jojoba oil, so it moisturizes while it’s making your skin look tanned. You get an instant tint to your skin without the sun, and you can build it up to look darker with each application. I like that the packaging is BPA and paraben-free, and that the kit comes with an application mitt.

Beauty by Earth Self Tanner is an organic, natural sunless tanning lotion that works within 4-6 hours to give your skin a sun-kissed natural glow. Works on skin tones from light to medium and is okay for use on sensitive skin. I like it because the ingredients are all organic, including coconut oil, argan oil and aloe vera. Its non-streaking formulation works to give you a fake base tan for between four and seven days.

Method #2: Build It

You can build a real base tan if you have enough sunny day with which to work your tanning magic. Seven sunny days should be long enough to implement this build-it method. Remember, the goal is to build a healthy base tan without burning or otherwise damaging your gorgeous skin.

First, arm yourself with a 6-day, descending supply of sunblock. On day one, use the sunscreen with the highest SPF. On day two, use the next lowest SPF, on day three, the next lowest, etc. On the last day, which will be day seven, switch to a Hawaiian Tropic sun oil that contains all natural oils but no sunscreen. By the end of day seven, even the fairest in all the land (you!) will have achieved a base tan you can be proud to show off in shorts and a sleeveless top.

You may notice that I’ve left out the option of tanning beds in this list. The reason is that the CDC has specifically called out tanning beds as potentially more dangerous than outdoor tanning. Because tanning beds operate on a timer, and users normally stay in the tanning bed until the timer goes off, the odds are greater that a burn will develop. Outdoors, you can regulate your skin exposure, but inside a tanning bed, it’s much more difficult to do so, if not impossible. I recommend one of the above methods instead of resorting to a tanning bed. Whichever of those two methods you use, you will be occasion-ready with glowing, tanned skin that everyone will envy!

Eco-Friendly Clothing Brands to Try

The fashion industry is second only to big oil when it comes to environmental waste and pollutants, according to industry insiders. Each step of the garment industry’s procession leaves a large carbon footprint that is decimating the environment. From cotton fields and petroleum plants to textile buildings and all the way to store racks, the clothing industry makes a wake in the waters of the environment that is upsetting the balance of nature. Even the EPA considers numerous textile facilities to be hazardous waste generators.

Polyester, which most garments are at least partially constructed with, is made with petroleum. Polyester and similar man-made fabrics such as rayon are some of the most energy-consumptive products that civilization produces. Cotton, which most people would consider an eco-friendly material since it’s made from a naturally occurring plant, accounts for a quarter of all the world’s pesticide use on its crops.

What does Eco-Friendly Actually Mean?

In this article, eco-friendly means taking the environment into consideration when manufacturing. That might mean using natural or sustainable materials that don’t obliterate natural resources. Eco-friendly can mean having a production facility, assembly line or manufacturing process that doesn’t harm the environment, or blight the land where it exists. Eco-friendly can also mean renewing and replenishing used, limited resources so they don’t run out.

The Power of Your Consumer Dollar

Every dollar you spend has more value than the daily currency rate. When you spend, you are essentially voting for that item that you are purchasing. The supply and demand chain is controlled by you; the consumer. One of the most effortless ways to change the world is by “voting” with your dollar every time you shop. When you purchase more from eco-friendly brands, you give voice to your opinion that the health of the Earth is important to you as a consumer. You give money and power to companies that care about the environment and its people. Make your voice heard by shopping from the following eco-friendly brands, and others like them.

Now, the eco-friendly clothing brands you want to start wearing.


You might not know, but for over 20 years Patagonia has been making fleece apparel largely from recycled plastic soda bottles. They purchase the plastic bottles, melt them down, and make fibers that they weave into fabric. Patagonia was a leader in this concept, and since 1993, they estimate that they’ve prevented about 86 million plastic bottles from our landfills. The resulting apparel is both fashionable and functional. Patagonia fleece jackets are among the warmest and softest fleece apparel in the world, and it is one of the most popular brands not only in New Englander, where it was founded, but around the world.

Eileen Fisher

Eileen Fisher began her apparel company with a goal toward building a brand that would work with the Earth, not against it. Her line of fashion incorporates sustainable and organic materials and natural dyes. From women’s clothing in petite and plus sizes, shoes and accessories, there is everything a woman would need to look her best. Though her modest Eileen Fisher brand and company has evolved into a large empire with factories and partnerships around the globe, the brand still stays true to its roots as much as possible.


This artisan brand is small in comparison to larger, globally recognized brands, but its goals are just as praiseworthy. Amarras brand of belts are made by hand in Colombia by local men and women who needed work. Started by a humanitarian named Alvaro Sanint, Amarras brand not only provides work and steady income to local citizens, the company profits go toward supporting a charity for single mothers and their children. The belts are stamped out of local leather, and the workers use naturally-dyed heavy thread to sew designs along the length of the belts. Not only that, but you won’t find a factory or smoke stack in sight. The entire work area is flooded with natural light in a clean facility with access to fresh air. The child-friendly, relaxed working environment is one we should all envy.


The rise of awareness about the state of the Earth has empowered individuals and companies both large and small to create options for those who champion the environment. These eco-friendly brands are proof that change for the better can be accomplished.

3 Personality Types to Avoid at All Cost

There are all kinds of people in the world, and for the most part, diversity is a good thing. After all, how boring would the world be if everyone were the same? We all have our differences, and we all need to be tolerant of others’ unique personalities. Until and unless, those other personalities infringe on us, or our state of being. I’m talking about those people who—intentionally or not—cause us to feel a certain negative way, or act in ways that are not in accordance with our own value system. These are personality types that have the potential to sabotage our growth and our self-esteem. They should be avoided at all cost.

The Victim

The Victim is the person to whom everything bad always happens. It’s never their fault, though. In their eyes, everyone else is always picking on them, and they are never, ever to blame. The Victim walks around with a self-righteous chip on their shoulder, feeling somehow secure in the knowledge that no one can blame them for feeling glum.

Beware the Victim personality. When something goes wrong in the room—and it will—it won’t be the Victim’s fault. That leaves just one person to blame—you. You’ll be blamed from everything from the bad weather to the Internet outage, mark my words. Somehow, someway, The Victim finds a way not only to blame others, but also to make it look like they were personally attacked.

The Antisocial Loner

The Antisocial Loner is the person who doesn’t seem to need any outside human interaction at all. They will come up with an assortment of excuses for not wanting to socialize: crowds are too dangerous, people are just sheep, there’s no intelligent person left on Earth, they’re too busy doing their own thing, they don’t need the “trappings” of civilization, they enjoy being home, etc. The list goes on and on. There’s no problem with a person choosing to be an antisocial loner, until they force you to be one, too. When you’re with an Antisocial Loner for any length of time, you’ll notice your friends dropping off, one by one. Pretty soon, your own mother will start leaving frantic messages on your cell phone asking why you haven’t called her in six months and should she call the police.

You may not recognize the Antisocial Loner at first. If you just met someone and you’ve decided to hole up in his apartment for a marathon bed session, it will seem perfectly normal that the two of you haven’t set foot outdoors in four days. But eventually you’ll need to show up to work, and get back to a normal routine. When you notice that the Antisocial Loner doesn’t have a normal routine—that’s when it’s time to walk away for good.

The Underhander

The Underhander always has something nice to say—along with an underhanded insult. The Underhander is very exceptionally clever, because they always disguise their insults and zingers with a wrapping of sugary-sweet niceties. They may say, “Oh, you look so beautiful today! I almost didn’t recognize you!” Zing! Or how about this one: “Gosh, your daughter must be a really good eater!” Zing! That’s a great dress you’re wearing! I almost bought one just like it a few years ago.” Zing!

It’s impossible to get ahead with the Underhander tossing underhanded insults at you like this. You’d look like a crazy person if you take offense at someone telling you how beautiful you look, or how much they like your dress, right? And yet, the zingers will haunt you in bed at night while you’re trying to get some sleep.

Like I mentioned, there are lots of different personality types in the world. Most of them are quite lovely and interesting. Life is too short to spend with toxic personality types. Disassociate yourselves from those who drain you or make you feel bad. Surround yourself with people who don’t feel the need to keep you down.

This post was inspired by the book, “Emotional Vampires,” by Albert Bernstein.

4 Things You Forgot to Recycle

You’re freaking awesome. You are a dedicated friend of the Earth, self-appointed conservationist and a total advocate for natural living. You recycle (obviously!), and it was your idea to start the neighborhood swap shop.

But it’s possible that you forgot to recycle some things. Well, not forgot, exactly. More like, didn’t think you could, or didn’t think of it at all. That’s okay, nobody’s perfect. Here’s a list of things you might not have thought to recycle, as well as some ideas for repurposing before you recycle!

Styrofoam Peanuts

These little peanuts are both a nuisance for the Earth and a blessing for people who like to online shop. People give away free bags full of Styrofoam peanuts on Craigslist because no one’s quite sure what to do with them.

To Recycle: Enter the Plastic Loose Fill Council (yes, this is a real thing). Go online and enter your state and zip code, and you’ll get a list of shipping services stores near you that will gladly accept your Styrofoam peanuts and make sure they are reused or recycled appropriately.

To Repurpose: Does your youngster have any home economics projects coming up? Her schoolteacher may appreciate a donation of Styrofoam peanuts for the kids to stuff handmade beanbag chairs, teddy bears or other soft craft projects.

Broken Crayons

If you’re a parent, chances are there’s a shoebox somewhere in your house filled with broken crayons that “certain people” refuse to use. When every gift occasion includes a fresh new box of Crayolas, how can you expect Timothy to use the broken crayons first?

To Recycle: Local charities might be interested in taking your broken crayons off your hands. Look for after-school programs, half-way houses and women’s shelters, each of which is bound to have access to needy children who would love to use those crayons, broken or not. If you are still at a loss, mail them in to Crazy Crayons, an organization that will recycle the crayons for you.

To Repurpose: Melt the crayon wax down and make homemade votive-style candles, like these DIY color block crayon candles.

Buttons From Discarded Clothing

Some clothes end up so worn, stained and tattered that they aren’t even suitable for donating. In that case, you might be able to turn them into rags. But what about the buttons? Don’t just throw those into the trash. Plastic and metal buttons can be recycled or repurposed.

To Recycle: Just cut them off the garment with scissors and toss plastic and metal buttons, snaps, zippers and other clothing hardware right into your regular plastic and metal recycling bin. Recycling companies can use these items just as they do empty plastic and metal bottles and cans.

To Repurpose: Used buttons can be sewn onto kitchen towels for added functionality. Sew a button on a corner of the cloth. Wrap a loop of twine or pretty ribbon around the button. Now you have a way to hang the towel off a drawer knob or kitchen hook without having to install a grommet. More ideas to repurpose buttons can be found here.

Paper Towel and Toilet Paper Tubes

People often forget to recycle paper towel and toilet paper cardboard tubes. But these are ideal for recycling, and it’s worth it to make the trip from the bathroom to the recycling bin to deposit these cardboard rolls.

To Recycle: Place a second wastebasket in the bathroom dedicated to bathroom tissue roll tubes. You can also throw used facial tissues, hair dye boxes and toothpaste boxes in there, to be included with the household’s regular recycling.

To Reuse: Cardboard tubes from paper towels and bathroom tissue are ideal for many uses:

  • Inside cardboard tubes with the ends folded in, safely pack away sharp knives and scissors for moving
  • Store horizontally in a box and keep electrical cords organized and handy.
  • Place over wrapping paper rolls to keep the paper from unrolling.
  • Decorate with your child and make a pretend pirate’s telescope.

Remember, you’re doing a great job already. Now, just think twice before you and your family throws anything away. Is there one more possible use for it? Could another organization make use of it or dispose of it in a more environmentally friendly way? Almost everything can be recycled or repurposed. We all just have to figure out how to do it.

6 Waffle Iron Hacks

Break out the waffle iron! Here are six awesome ways you can get more use out of a kitchen appliance you haven’t paid enough attention to!

1. The Waffle Iron Baconator

What if I told you there’s an easier way to make bacon? What if I said you already have everything you need to make tasty, perfectly cooked bacon without getting grease on your clothes and countertops?

Yes, that’s right. You can make bacon in your waffle iron. Say goodbye to grease splatters and sloppy stovetops. Just slap on a few strips of your preferred bacon variety and press. (Thick cut bacon works heaps better than the see-through stringy stuff, though.) Now you can enjoy your two favorite breakfast treats with one gadget. If you really want to be clever, and you have one of those twin waffle makers, cook the bacon on one side of the iron and and the waffle on the other side, at the same time. Now you’re cookin’!

2. Waffled Panini

You really love paninis. If you only had a panini maker, you would start bringing your lunch to work everyday, and that would save huge bucks, right? You could probably save enough money to actually go on a real vacation next year, and not just dog sit in your brother’s condo for the weekend. Well, start packing, because you are about to find out how to make paninis in your waffle iron!

Turn on your waffle iron to medium high and let it warm up. Butter one side of two slices of bread (wheat, if you’re feeling healthy). Put one piece of bread butter side down on the bottom of the waffle iron. Put your filling of choice on top, then layer on the second slice of bread, butter side up. Close the iron and cook for about three minutes; longer if you like darker bread.

3. Buffalo Chicken Waffles

There’s really no reason why any occasion should not celebrated with a fine feast that includes Buffalo chicken in some form. Don’t let the lack of a deep fryer stop you from enjoying the taste of Buffalo chicken. Not you. Here’s what to do.

Give your waffle iron a healthy spritz of non-stick spray. Heat it up to medium-high. Lay down some strips of chicken tenders that have been marinating in Buffalo wing sauce overnight. Close the iron and cook for at approximately four minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Serve with dipping sauce, such as Ranch dressing. (Note: While chicken tenders are thin enough to cook through on a waffle iron, other poultry cuts might not be thin enough. Wash iron thoroughly before cooking again with it.)

4. Mozzarella Waffle Sticks

If you have kids, you already know how popular mozzarella sticks are. This convenient snack makes them happy and you feel good because it’s protein-packed. The only problem is, those commercial mozzarella sticks may or may not have added ingredients in the breading that don’t spell healthy with a capital H.

Mozzarella waffle sticks are easy to make at home. Buy a block of mozzarella cheese and slice it into sticks. Substitute fontina or provolone if you want. Dip the sticks in milk and roll them sticks in breadcrumbs. Place in a pre-heated and greased waffle iron for just about one minute, or until the breading is golden brown. Great for your kid’s lunch box, or even your own bagged office lunch. Hey, it’s healthier than a vending machine candy bar, right?

5. Mexican Waffles

One of the best things about Mexican cuisine (in my humble opinion), is that cheese usually plays a big role in every dish. Luckily, waffle irons are perfect for melting cheese to that perfect warm and creamy consistency that we all know and love.

To make Mexican waffles (okay, quesadillas with a waffle iron pattern), just butter and pre-heat your iron to medium. Lay down a flour tortilla, and spread some shredded cheese on top of that. Get all fancy with it by adding chopped scallions or maybe even some pre-cooked shredded chicken. Place a second flour tortilla on top of the filling. Close the iron and cook for between 2-3 minutes, or until the cheese is melted. Slice with a pizza cutter and serve with a dollop of sour cream.

6. Waffled Cookies

It’s late. You’re kicking back in the arms of your best friend and lover watching a movie that he let you pick out. The lights are off and you’re feeling all warm and fuzzy inside, wondering how you ever got this lucky. Suddenly, he says he has a craving. No prob, you think. I’ve got plenty of chips on hand. No, he says. It’s cookies he’s craving. Can you mix up a quick batch? (Queue needle scratching on vinyl.) How can you refuse, when your hunk has agreed to watch The English Patient—again? No worries, darling. Just slip into the kitchen and heat up the waffle iron….

Open up that tube of cookie dough you were saving. Slice off bits about ¼ inch wide. Cook in waffle iron for about 3 minutes. (Your waffle iron might cook them faster or longer, so keep checking them.) You’ll be back on the couch with a warm plate of cookies before the opening credits are over, trust me!

Now that you know that the waffle iron isn’t just for making waffles, you’ll want to keep it handy. A good place for it is in the kitchen. Or in the office kitchenette. Or on your nightstand. Or in the dorm. Or at your boyfriend’s house. Actually, it might make sense to pick up an extra waffle iron. You know, in case you ever just want to make waffles with one of them.

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