Dear Sara: When I was little, my mom was the carpenter in our family. A lot of our gifts were handmade, because my family didn't have much money. I received a wooden doll cradle for Christmas when I was 5 or 6, which I played with a lot.
It's maybe 2 feet long with high sides and is made out of plywood, so it's quite sturdy. I still have it and can't part with it, but it's currently being stored in the garage, out of use. I would like to bring it down and use it in the house somehow, not just for decoration, but perhaps to provide storage. Maybe I could put a couple of potted plants in it? Any suggestions? -- S.D., Minnesota Dear S.D.: I really like your potted plants idea. You could use it to hold craft supplies, magazines, firewood or towels. You could put it in your laundry room to hold laundry supplies. Maybe use it to hold pet toys or a home emergency kit. It could hold winter gear such as hats, boots, gloves/mittens or umbrellas, or be used as an indoor comfort kit to hold items such as a throw blanket, pillow, book and slippers. It would make another young child happy, so I'd consider gifting it to someone else, too. Dear Sara: My wife has recipes that sound great, but I'm allergic to nuts! Is there something we can use in a cookie recipe that has the consistency of peanut butter, as a nuts-free substitute? -- B.C., email Dear B.C.: I can't say this will work for all cookie recipes, and the texture will change a bit, but you can give soy nut butter a try. It has no tree nuts of any kind in it. I'm not sure if you have any allergies to seeds, but sunflower seed butter might work for your cookie recipes, too. Many people with less severe nut allergies use Nutella, almond or cashew butter as well.