Monday, March 28, 2016

Hot Potato Topic March #4

Hello Beautiful People!
So what are you currently reading? What is weighing down your night stand? What is keeping you from sleeping or making you rush through your day to get to your favorite spot in your home? From page turning pie burning, wee hour epics to what-was-I-thinking when I selected this title we all have something keeping our interest. Sometimes a Book Club is a great way to find a great read and meet new people. Don't knock it till you try it!
The Chef

You and your friends love to read and have thought of starting a book club. Well, that's a great idea! But, although it's a fantastic idea, it still requires a bit of planning. No worries, though. Just follow the steps outlined below and have a blast exploring new novels and genres!


  1. Image titled Start a Book Club Step 1
    Figure out what your book club will read, for both your first novel and in general. Will you be a general adult book club reading anything? A teen mystery book club? Deciding on a theme (or no theme, in the case of the first example) will help you keep you group motivated and supplied with reading ideas.
  2. Image titled Start a Book Club Step 2
    Find a core group of people with a passion for reading. They could be friends, family, or acquaintances you know through various activities, but they should all love to read. Also, make sure that this core group of members can commit to meetings on a regular basis. You don't want your entire group flaking out on you!
  3. Image titled Start a Book Club Step 3
    Decide where to meet. When you first begin, especially if the members are friends or you plan to serve alcohol, meeting your own home is a great idea. Later, different members could "host" different meetings. If there are members that you are not quite as familiar with, or don't want to meet at your house, ask your local library about using some of their space for a book club.
  4. Image titled Start a Book Club Step 4
    Set meeting time length. An hour is a good start. Eventually, two hours or an hour and a half may work better if you add more members to your group. Don't exceed two hours, because when meetings get too long people get bored. When people get bored, they quit coming to meetings. Your club could end before it even begins if it gets a reputation of being boring.
  5. Image titled Start a Book Club Step 5
    Poll members of your club. Ask what books they have been reading and what times and dates work best for them to meet.
  6. Image titled Start a Book Club Step 6
    Announce your first meeting. Set the date at least two weeks in advance, to allow for people to have time to read the book. Three weeks is even better. Send out e-mails a week before the meeting to give people a written reminder.
  7. 7
    Start thinking of a cabinet. For instance, vote for president, vice president, secretary, and get a few people for a club newsletter. This step is optional for smaller groups, but is very handy for very large groups of over ten or fifteen people.
  8. Image titled Start a Book Club Step 8
    Make a list of about five books and bring it to the meeting. Get ideas for books from the internet or library recommendations. Let everyone discuss and vote upon what book to read for the next meeting. After deciding, let everyone get to know each other and discuss their reading tastes.


  • If nobody comes to the meeting, don't worry. You'll have more people next time


  • There may be some mutiny when voting for a cabinet, you may wish to not have one for this very reason.

Things You'll Need

  • A book
  • People
  • Imagination
  • A place to read

Monday, March 21, 2016

Hot Potato Topic March #3

News and information you can use!
The Chef

Along with buying a house, paying for college can be one of the biggest investments you will make in a lifetime. If you don't have access to college financial aid, then paying for your education will take some careful planning. Fortunately, there are alternatives to financial aid that can considerably reduce the economic burden of college. You can apply for scholarships, earn college credit in high school and save money for college from a job.

Part 1
Applying for Scholarships

  1. Image titled Be a Good Basketball Player Step 5
    Find some scholarships that may be a fit for you. There are many types of scholarships to help you pay for college, and not all are based on academics. For example, you may qualify for a scholarship based on your ethnicity, your gender, or your parents' military background.[1]
    • Other scholarships relate to your hobbies and interests, or your area of study.
    • There is no limit to the number of scholarships you can use toward paying for college.
    • Many scholarships renew each year that you are in school. If your funding renews each year, you don’t have to search for other funding sources to replace a scholarship that has ended.
  2. Image titled Become a Marketing Consultant Step 2
    Work with an expert who can help you locate scholarships that may be a fit for you. Both your high school and all universities have staff that can direct you toward scholarships. Applying for scholarships can be time-consuming, but it’s worth making the effort.[2]
    • If you are in high school, sit down with a guidance counselor to discuss your scholarship options. Many organizations that offer scholarships will reach out to contacts at high schools. These organizations want qualified candidates to apply.
    • Ask an administrator at your college of choice about the scholarships the college offers, as well as qualification and submission requirements. If the college administrator helps you find scholarships, there is a higher chance that you will attend their school.
    • Many scholarships are given by organizations to advance a particular mission. You may be required to write an essay, or demonstrate service to the community as part of your application. If you apply for a scholarship from a non-profit, for example, you may have to document how you’ve volunteered in your community.
  3. Image titled Apply For Small Business Grants For Women Step 3
    Search the web for scholarship opportunities. Keep in mind that some scholarships are not publicized by the organization that provides them. If you perform a search on the web, you may find opportunities that other students miss.[3]
    • Search scholarship websites like FastWeb and Sallie Mae's Scholarship Search for programs where you can apply. Through these sites, you can get the information required to apply for the scholarships, as well as what it takes to be approved.
    • Check your locate community newspaper. Many local charitable organizations grant scholarships to students in the community. You may find information about these opportunities in your local paper.
    • Review your local library’s website. Library bulletin boards often have postings of local scholarship funds operated by private parties and area businesses. The library may also post that information on their website.

Part 2
Deciding On A College

  1. Image titled Finish High School Step 1
    Earn college credit in high school. Your high school counselor can also help you find courses that allow you to earn college credit. Those credits will reduce the amount of course work you need to take in college.[4]
    • In addition to your high school, you may be able to take courses at your community college while you are in high school. Those credits can also transfer to a 4-year university.
    • When considering a university, make sure that they accept the transferred college credits from your high school or community college. If they don’t, consider a different university that does accept the credits.
    • Some four year colleges will accept the credit hours, but not the grade you earned. This can still help you, since the credit transfer will reduce the hours required to graduate.
  2. Image titled Be a Community Organizer Step 22

    Use AP courses and CLEP exams to earn additional college credit. Both of these programs are offered through the College Board. If your high school does not offer certain AP courses, you can take them online.[5]
    • You can take AP (or Advanced Placement) courses in a variety of subjects, including math, science, history and social studies.
    • After taking an AP course, students sit for an exam. If you score well enough on the exam, you can earn college credit.
    • CLEP offers 33 exams in 5 subject areas. If you pass a particular CLEP exam, you can earn 3 or more college credits.[6]
  3. Image titled Get Into Film School Step 16
    Analyze the type of college you want to attend. The tuition between colleges can vary greatly, based on the type of school you choose. You can select a public or private university. Your school may be near your home or out of town.[7]
    • A private university can be twice as expensive as attending a public (or state) university. To keep your costs down, narrow your choices to public colleges.
    • If you decide to attend school near your home, you can live at home and commute to school. This eliminates the need to pay for room and board.
    • You can attend a community college for two years then transfer to a university. The credit hours you pay for at a community college will be cheaper than the rates at a university. You may earn up to half of your university credits at a cheaper community college.
  4. Image titled Pay for Medical School Step 13
    Use a work-study program or the ROTC. Many colleges meet the financial needs of students by offering work-study programs. You may also consider a Reserve Officer’s Training Corps (ROTC) program to pay for college.[8]
    • A work-study program normally involves working a certain number of hours on your college campus. In exchange for your work hours, your tuition costs are reduced.
    • The Reserve Officer’s Training Corps (ROTC) program trains college students for future careers in the military.
    • The ROTC offers scholarships that cover the cost of your college education. In exchange, the student commits to active duty service in their chosen branch of the military.

Part 3
Using Savings And Work Income

  1. Image titled Feed a Family on a Tight Budget Step 6
    Start a savings plan for college at an early age. Parents can plan for college expenses when a child is very young. The savings they accumulate can be used for college expenses.[9]
    • Consider a 529 Plan for your college savings. These plans may allow the investor to invest pre-tax dollars into an investment, like a mutual fund.
    • Because the dollars have not been taxed, more money goes into the investment. Say, for example, that you want to invest $100 a month on a pre-tax basis. The entire $100 gets invested. If you had to pay taxes on the $100 first, you may only invest $80.
    • Set up a family budget. Include an amount of college savings in that budget. When you’re paid each month, move funds into the college savings plan immediately. That self-discipline will help you keep your investing plan on track.
  2. Image titled Earn More Tips as a Waiter or Waitress Step 10
    Get a job. Even students who do get college financial aid often have to find employment to make ends meet while they go through school. You may need to work full time and attend school part time.[10]
    • Alternatively, you may be able to work part time and go to school full time.
    • Look into alternatives to traditional shift-work, like multiple part-time jobs. Part-time jobs give you more flexibility to fit in your courses at school.
    • Check your school's website for alternative sources of income. You may find small tasks that pay you something and don't take much time. For example, nearly all colleges need people to take research studies.
    • Consider taking more classes online, if they are available. Some colleges offer degrees completely online. An online program can provide the flexibility that can allow you to work while you’re in school.
  3. Image titled Consolidate Student Loans Step 13
    Look into tuition reimbursement. Some employers offer to reimburse their full-time workers for the cost of tuition. These costs are covered when an employee attends college while they work at the firm.[11]
    • Employers want their workers to increase their skills. A business may offer to pay for college degrees that increase your value to the firm.
    • If you pursue tuition reimbursement, the company may require you to stay with the firm for a period of time after your courses are completed.
    • If you leave before the time required, you may have to repay the tuition costs to your former employer.

Sources and Citations

  4. More citations and sources at:  

Monday, March 14, 2016

Hot Potato Topic March #2

This article speaks for itself. Enjoy, I'm going shopping!
The Chef 

Thrifting is a fun and responsible way to make the most from your shopping dollar. Not only can thrifting provide unique, rare, and vintage accessories for your wardrobe and home, it is a form of recycling that reduces environmental waste and sweatshop labor. Make the most of your thrifting trips by learning how, where, and when to do your shopping.

Part 1
Shopping at Thrift Stores

  1. Image titled Shop at Thrift Stores Step 1
    Decide what you are looking for. Listing is a handy way of establishing shopping goals. Also consider the following:[1]
    • It is often best to have a "master list" and then create a smaller list of short term goals that need to be addressed first.
    • Be prepared to search. Some thrift stores are well-organized by gender, size, type of item, or other metrics. Others are a free-for-all of bins and warehouse space. Dress appropriately and be prepared to sort, lift, tug, and push your way through second-hand items
  2. Image titled Shop at Thrift Stores Step 2
    Try things on. Without trying clothing on, it's difficult to tell whether it is worth your money.[2][3]
    • Ask for a fitting room with a mirror or a convenient restroom.
    • Dress in form fitting attire in case a fitting room is not available. That way you can try on clothing over your existing clothes.
  3. Image titled Shop at Thrift Stores Step 3
    Assess quality. Thrift store items are purchased "as is"; therefore, it is important to look all purchases over thoroughly before committing to a purchase. Some things to look for are:[4]
    • If looking at clothing, check seams, cuffs and collars for wear and damage. Also look for staining around the neck, armpit, and inseam.
    • For furniture, make sure that it is sturdy and does not require repairs you are unable to provide.
    • For appliances, ask to plug the item in to make sure it works before purchasing.
    • Check the washing instructions. Getting a silk shirt for $3 dollars initially looks like a great deal; however, when you consider that it's "dry clean only," the savings aren't nearly so great.
  4. Image titled Shop at Thrift Stores Step 4
    Have vision. Part of thrift shopping is having a basic idea in mind but being open to opportunities when you find them. Consider the following:[5]
    • Recognize when a clothing item could be repaired or resized with minimal tailoring.
    • Have a style and color scheme in mind for each room you are decorating. This ensures consistency of theme and avoids impulse purchases.
    • Listen to your gut. Sometimes you may come across an item that you weren't looking for but which is unique, classic, and perfect for a place in your home.
  5. Image titled Shop at Thrift Stores Step 5

    Set shopping limits. You never know what you'll find thrift shopping and the temptation to impulse buy is strong. Ways to avoid over-purchasing are:[6][7]
    • Go shopping with a price limit in mind and stick to it. This may be a limit you set per item, or for the overall trip, but the idea is to remain mindful of how much you are spending.
    • Don't buy it unless you love it. If you are on the fence about something, take another spin around the store and think about it. If you come back and aren't committed, it wasn't meant to be.

Part 2
Thrifting Tips and Tricks

  1. Image titled Shop at Thrift Stores Step 6
    Use your smart phone. This works great for vintage or antique items when you are not sure an item is worth the price listed. Go to Google or eBay and see what it would retail for elsewhere.[8]
  2. Image titled Shop at Thrift Stores Step 7
    Shop for sales. Many stores like Goodwill have weekly "Tag sales," where items with a certain color tag go on sale. Other stores have clearance racks or do periodic sales to clear out inventory. Some larger volume stores even do sales by the pound for items like clothes and linens.[9]
    • Don't be afraid to haggle. Did you just miss a sale on a large item purchase? Are you making multiple purchases and want to round off the total? Don't be afraid to ask for reasonable accommodation, especially if you are a regular customer.
    • Don't believe the "SOLD" sign. Sometimes the item is already paid for; however, often people say they will come back for something then find something else they like better at a different store. If you see something you love with a sold sign, talk to an employee and/or manager. It's possible the item has been sitting like that for days and no one remember to remove the sign.
    • Always ask for a discount. Does the item in question have a few flaws that are worth a discount? Is the store running a sale that day? If you are buying sale items, often employees can extend the sale to the rest of the items in your purchase.
  3. Image titled Shop at Thrift Stores Step 8
    Look for "best value" items. Some types show up in thrift shops looking kind worn out or dated. Other items are donated regularly and you'd never know they were used or second-hand. Look particularly for the items below:[10]
    • Belts: Accessories like belts are one of the first items to get decommissioned from a wardrobe when styles change. An advantage to belts is that, with a little creativity, the buckles can be replaced and a strip of plain leather doesn't really go out of style.[11]
    • Shoes: Decent leather shoes command steep prices in most retail stores, so when you can pick up gently used ones at a thrift store for 90% less, it's a significant savings for your budget. Plus with a little oil and polish, they can look brand new.[12]
    • Furniture: Often stores like Rooms-to-Go and Target will donate last season's merchandise to area thrift stores for tax purposes. In addition, vintage furniture can be recovered, repainted, or reupholstered with new fabric to look like a chic DIY dream.[13]
    • Jeans: New branded jeans can run from $50 to upwards of $200 dollars while shopping for next-to-new, second-hand jeans usually means paying $10-25 a pair. Especially after Christmas, it's easy to find them with tags still intact.
  4. Image titled Shop at Thrift Stores Step 9
    Talk to thrift store employees. The people who work in thrift stores are a wealth of information. Things to ask about are:
    • What days do shipments arrive? Employees can tell you what days they get new items in and when things go on sale.
    • Who are they partnered with? They can tell you whether their store has a donation program with a larger retain store where they take possession of clearance items from a prior season.
    • Have you seen [x] item? If you are a regular customer and make donations, thrift stores will often let you know via phone or email when a specific item you are looking for comes it.
  5. Image titled Shop at Thrift Stores Step 10
    Know how to spot a bargain. People often send items to thrift stores not knowing their actual value. Consider the following when thrift shopping:
    • Brand warranties: Some appliances and kitchen tools have lifetime warranties. For example, Le Creuset cookware is ensured against rust along with other cosmetic issues. Proof of purchase is not required to send an item back to the factory and receive a replacement, free of charge.
    • Antiques and hidden treasures. Despite wear and condition, items often go to thrift stores that are invaluable, based on their rarity and place within history. If you suspect you've found such an antique, use a smart phone to look for it online and see the price tag other sellers have placed on it.

Part 3
Finding Thrift Stores

  1. Image titled Shop at Thrift Stores Step 11
    Search online. Many thrift stores have websites that will show up in a basic search. Also consider using to find smaller, independent stores along with larger stores in your area.
  2. Image titled Shop at Thrift Stores Step 12
    Consider location. The types of residents living around a thrift store can be a good indicator of the sort of items and level of quality you can expect from a thrift store. For example:[14][15]
    • Thrift stores in more affluent neighborhoods have better quality furnishings than thrift stores in other parts of town. Also, residents in affluent areas are more likely to redecorate based on style and not necessity, meaning that it can be easier to find matching items of good quality.
    • Thrift stores near college campuses are always stocking name brand clothing.
  3. Image titled Shop at Thrift Stores Step 13
    Thrift on vacation if possible. This works best when vacationing with a car. Especially if you are visiting a large city, larger volume thrift stores tend to offer a wider selection of items, often of better quality. there's also the chance that trends in the area you are visiting are different than where you are from, and you could find unique and eclectic items.[16]
  4. Image titled Shop at Thrift Stores Step 14
    Utilize other discount shopping venues. Thrift stores are not the only source of bargain shopping.
    • Flea markets. Show up early-- 6am is a good estimate. Do a sweep for furniture items first, picking and choosing what you want. Don't be afraid to haggle, but be fair to the seller. Once you've found furniture and larger items, load them and look for smaller items-- furniture, accessories, clothing, etc.[17]
    • Consignment stores. These are a type of second hand store that purchases clothing from sellers as opposed to selling donations. This makes them more expensive than thrift stores, but they are a dependable source of well-made, discounted, name brand clothing that is in fashion at the time of purchase.
    • Neighborhood yard sales. While yard sales occur in every city almost every weekend, in order to maximize shopping and save time, look for neighborhood yard sales. These often take place in a single location, like a church or school, or span several blocks, with people selling from their own yards. These are a great way to find furniture and antiques.
    • Estate sales. The ultimate source for gently used antiques, ranging from furniture and dishes, to jewelry and quilts. These take place literally on the "estate" where a person lived and require a little more foreknowledge and research in order to get the best deals.[18]

Part 4
Creating a Thrifting Schedule

  1. Image titled Shop at Thrift Stores Step 15
    Get on email lists and shop online when possible. Most chain thrift outlets like Goodwill and the Salvation Army will put you on a mailing list for coupon and sale opportunities.
    • These same stores often take pictures of furniture and other "in demand" items and post them online. Reviewing online offerings before shopping can save you trips around town.
  2. Image titled Shop at Thrift Stores Step 16
    Shop seasonally. Anticipate what people will be turning out of their closets at certain times during the year. When planning your thrifting trips, for certain items, consider the following:
    • Shop for summer clothes in the fall when people are thinning out their warm weather clothes in favor of sweaters and coats. The same goes for getting winter clothes in the spring.
    • Look for kitchen items and accessories after college graduations. When students are done with school, they often move back home or to a new city for employment, leaving behind many gently-used kitchen items, lamps, bedding items, etc.
    • Look for furniture during the summer and early fall. More people get married during the summer than any other time of year and often have duplicate furniture items that wind up at thrift stores.
  3. Image titled Shop at Thrift Stores Step 17
    Have a weekly rotation. Looking to get the best deals that thrifting has to offer? Create a weekly rotation for thrifting, centered around when new shipments arrive at each store. Other things to consider are:[19]
    • Shop early. If you want to get first pick, arrive as the store opens.
    • Shop late. On sale days, some stores are looking to clear out all items on sale, and will offer deeper discounts just before closing.


  • Wash then wear. Thrift stores are required to wash clothing before it goes on the rack. However, it is necessary to wash or dry clean all linens, clothing and blankets before use. This ensures health and safety against illness.
  • Avoid personal products. Be careful purchasing undergarments or body products at thrift stores. Also remember that makeup items, even if sealed, have an expiration date. Cream blushes and foundation, depending on age, can go rancid without being opened. Never purchase items that are already open, as makeup can cause and/or spread infections.[20]

Sources and Citations

  4. more citations and sources at 

Monday, March 7, 2016

Hot Potato Topic March #1

So I got a side email asking me where are the recipes if this is a kitchen of ever at the service of my readers, once a month we'll highlight a different recipe, food group or in season food item. Sorry in advance to my vegan and vegetarian friends. We will start with something safe and fun, like avocados. We'll see how this little experiment in the kitchen goes!
The Chef

Avocados are having a well-deserved moment
After all, these green fruits are jam-packed with minerals that help fight infection, support our heart and also protects our cells, according to the Washington Post. They're also good sources of fiber and protein, while being low in cholesterol and sugar. Avocados also have a reputation as being full of those good fats, which help our bodies take in all those other good-for-you nutrients. 
But don't put baby, aka avocado, in corner, aka just a guacamole recipe. They're actually great cooking and baking substitutes. 

Don't believe it? Well, here's some avocado ice cream.

These 12 Photos Prove You Can Use Avocado With Basically Anything
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To eat as dessert after some avocado fries. 

These 12 Photos Prove You Can Use Avocado With Basically Anything
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Or maybe you don't know if you want hummus or guacamole. Why not add avocados right into the hummus recipe for creamy deliciousness?

Instead of heavy and unhealthy cream and butter in your pasta sauce, substitute avocado.

These 12 Photos Prove You Can Use Avocado With Basically Anything
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Maybe instead of potato skins, you top some avocado halves with chili and cheese?

These 12 Photos Prove You Can Use Avocado With Basically Anything
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Or bake avocado into a healthy little muffin!

These 12 Photos Prove You Can Use Avocado With Basically Anything
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Or use the creamy texture to create an indulgent chocolate dessert.

Or spread some avocado love on a hot dog.

Here's an idea: Bake brownies with av in them. (Then maybe add some avocado ice cream on top?)

These 12 Photos Prove You Can Use Avocado With Basically Anything
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But if chocolate isn't your thing, try out this avocado cheesecake.

These 12 Photos Prove You Can Use Avocado With Basically Anything
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Avocado also really enhances already delicious risotto. 

Now, off to the grocery store.