Thursday, November 28, 2013


Happy Thanksgiving, world!  Rather than complain about Black Friday sales starting on Thanksgiving, or list all the obvious things I'm thankful for, here are some other, less notable things that I'm grateful for:

--Light-up keyboards

--Flat whisks

--Good books (and hey, sometimes a bad book)

--A1 sauce

--Video baby monitors

--Exercise, of all kinds



--Internet tutorials

Last Thanksgiving I thought I was going to DIE from lack of food during the half hour wait before dinner.  So I'm also grateful that I feel better this year, and of course I'm grateful for my little discomfort causer and that he's not, you know, causing discomfort still.  And speaking of him, I'm also grateful for nice friends who knit him awesome sweaters:

Happy Thanksgiving!  Go forth, my friends, and eat pie.  And be grateful for at least 24 hours before shopping your hearts out.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

On the Day I Died: Stories from the Grave (Book Review)

Author: Candace Fleming
Year: 2012
Genre: Ghost stories/Supernatural/Short stories
Reading Level: Young Adult

Plot Summary: Mike Kowalski was just trying to get home before curfew.  Instead he finds himself in an overgrown, backwoods cemetery surrounded by teen ghosts desperate to tell him their stories.  The teenagers are from different decades and died in vastly different ways, but their stories end in the same place.  

Red Flags: Death (obviously), ghosts (obviously), some spookiness, some violence and mild gore.

My Rating: B+
I liked this book.  I didn't love it, I don't know why.  It has a lot of good points--a wide variety of characters, solid writing, creative stories and a nice amount of spookiness.  I haven't read short stories for a long time, and it's always impressive how a good author can convey so much in relatively few pages.  Candace Fleming is adept at this, and the stories were quick but never rushed or weak.  

I don't know why I didn't get into it more.  My only two real complaints are that the transitions between stories were kind of awkward and the cap on everything was a little heavy handed.  I just don't feel too strongly about it, but I still think it was a good read and I'd readily recommend it to anyone looking for a spooky read that won't make them hide under the bed.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

"When Did You See Her Last?" (Book Review)

Author: Lemony Snicket
Year: 2013
Genre: Mystery
Reading Level: Intermediate

Series: #2 in the All the Wrong Questions series (follows "Who Could That Be at This Hour?")

Plot Summary: Lemony Snicket's mystery-solving adventures in the desolate town of Stain'd-by-the-Sea continue as he searches for a missing girl.  Though his associate doesn't believe she's missing at all, Lemony suspects a plot that goes beyond a straightforward kidnapping.  Why else would her sabotaged car still be parked in town?

Red Flags: None.

My Rating: B+
This was another fun entry in the series.  I quickly realized that I had forgotten almost everything from the first book, but the important bits were neatly summarized as it goes along.  This one seemed to meander a bit more through the mystery, but not really unpleasantly so.  The end was especially exciting and just a little bit spooky.

I like that this has some similarities to Series of Unfortunate Events because I loved that series so much, but I also like that this is very different.  The nature of the story and mystery are different, the characters are different, the tone is different--yet it all fits seamlessly in the same Lemony Snicket universe.  

Overall, it was a fun, engaging read with memorable characters and the usual Lemony Snicket-type antics.  I'm very curious to see what happens as the series moves into the second half.  

Memorable Quotes:

"'Boredom is not black licorice, Snicket,' she said. 'There's no reason to share it with me.'"--p. 117

"I reminded myself of a lesson I'd learned in my training: Do the scary thing first, and get scared later."--p. 129

"'You could make anything boring, Mimi!  You're like a magic wand of boring!'"--p. 179

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Laundry Day?

Today is the CAG's six month birthday!  It is just amazing, for a variety of reasons, and we are celebrating all day long.  By celebrating I mean taking a lot of pictures, starting with his every-other-month-stint-in-the-laundry pictures.  So I took a bunch...and then realized he wasn't due for one of those until next month.  Boo hoo for me, now I have more cute pictures of my cute baby.

Still loves his feet.
The feet!  What???
Again with the cute feet.
This is one of his talking faces, when he makes this gargle-y "hoo" noise.
Look at that face.  I mean look at it!
Boo hoo indeed.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Magician's Elephant (Book Review)

Author: Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Yoko Tanaka
Year: 2009
Genre: Fantasy
Reading Level: Intermediate

Literary Awards: Flicker Tale Children's Book Award Nominee for Juvenile (2011), Goodreads Choice Nominee for Children's Book (2009)

Plot Summary: Orphaned Peter Augustus Duchene was supposed to be buying fish and bread, but he couldn't resist a fortune teller and the promise of an answer to his most burning questions.  Does his sister live?  Yes, comes the answer.  How can he find her?  This answer is much more confusing--follow the elephant.
Red Flags: None.

My Rating: A
I have enjoyed all of Kate DiCamillo's books so it was no surprise that I liked this one.  What DID surprise me was how I cried and cried at the end.  Yes, it's true--I do have a heart after all.  I blame the baby.  That should be endorsement enough, but I will go ahead and say I loved this book.  The vaguely-French setting was lovely and vivid.  The characters were a interesting group, and, as always, the writing was beautiful.  I am always a fan of different threads coming together at the end of a story.  The whole thing was simple and magical and pretty to read.  I love how easily (apparently) she writes about tragic, intangible or otherwise tricky things so simply and gently.  And yet it's not sugar coated or overly precious.  I can see some people thinking this book is a little on the precious side at times, but it wasn't for me.  It was just enough, to paraphrase Goldilocks.

Anyway, I read this in one sitting instead of taking a nap and though I perhaps yawned for the rest of the day, it was worth it. 

Memorable Quotes:

"'Why did I not think of it?  Let us dispatch the elephant immediately to the Home for Wayward Elephants Who Engage in Objectionable Pursuits Against Their Will.  It is right down the street, is it not?'"--p. 32

"'Please,' said Hans Ickman.  He opened his eyes.  'It is important that you say what you mean to say.  Time is too short.  You must speak words that matter.'"--p. 49

"Looking out over the city, Peter decided that it was a terrible and complicated thing to hope, and that it might be easier, instead, to despair."--p. 51

"If she appeared beside him right now, he would show her the star that was sometimes visible through his window.  He would say to her, 'Have you, in truth, ever seen something so heartbreakingly lovely?  What are we to make of a world where stars shine bright in the midst of so much darkness and gloom?'"--p. 147

"'Magic is always impossible,' said the magician. 'It begins with the impossible and ends with the impossible and is impossible in between.  That is why it is magic.'"--p. 154

Monday, November 04, 2013

Halloween H'Activities

I have always enjoyed Halloween, and I wanted Babycakes to have a good first Halloween too.  He won't remember it, but I will!  Being five months old and all, it's hard to get him into the spirit of things.  He's really only interested in things he can grab and/or put in his mouth.  So how does one get a baby involved in Halloween fun?  Here are some ways:

1) Buy a baby friendly pumpkin:
See?  Baby friendly.

2) Dress the baby up like a skeleton:

(I love those side-looking eyes.)

3) Dress the baby up like a skeleton AND a tiger simultaneously:

4) Take the baby to a pumpkin patch for a nice nap: 

5) Take the baby through a corn maze and only cheat a little because that baby is kind of heavy to carry around in circles:

 6) Take the baby to a different pumpkin patch.  He will LOVE it:

7) Take the baby on a hayride:

8) Carve a pumpkin with the baby's assistance:

8) Dress up for real!  We have been waiting and waiting to have a baby so we could be James, Lily and Harry Potter for Halloween.  Would this have happened if we'd had a girl?  Um.............yes.  These were especially appropriate costumes considering the fact that Harry got his scar on Halloween.

(This was what we were going for.)

Happy Halloween, little Harry!  I hope you had fun trying to eat all those pumpkins.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Pumpkin 2: The Pumpkining

I made more pumpkin things, like a crazy cat lady with pumpkin foods instead of cats.  Here are the results:

Pumpkin Spice Waffles
Not pumpkiny enough at ALL!  Also, personally, I didn't think the result warranted the extra work either.

Impossible Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes
These were pumpkiny enough, but I still have a lot left and I made them several days ago so...  There's something about the texture that I don't really like--maybe I'm just missing a crust-like element.  I added chocolate chips to half of them and that was an improvement.

Pumpkin Pie Granola
HOW could this ever have enough pumpkin flavor when it doesn't have actual pumpkin in it?  Mmhmm.  (Still good granola though.)  Word to the wise: when looking to buy dried cherries, make sure you don't buy cherry-flavored cranberries.  Ocean Spray is tricky!

Pumpkin Seeds
A great, basic recipe--all I need with my pumpkin seeds is salt.

Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread
I followed the alteration suggestions in the first "most helpful positive review" and it was great.  Instead of a bread, I made 24 muffins and a bunch of mini muffins as well.  I'm sure there are better pumpkin bread recipes out there, but this one was good and worked for muffins. 

Pumpkin Whoopee!
Honestly, why do I even bother with other pumpkin recipes?  This is the only one I need!

And with that, I think I will go into baking hibernation...until it's time for pumpkin pie that is.