Thursday, February 23, 2017

Bug's 10th Birthday

Bug's 9th Birthday

Both of my babies are now in double digit ages and it makes this mommy feel so old and so sad.

This is the second time she's asked for a Minecraft cake.  I made a Stampy Cat cake two years ago and this year she wanted her new favorite YouTuber:  DanTDM

She told me she wanted a cake of his character's face so I searched around and found one that was made out of different squares of fondant.  Unfortunately, I've never worked with fondant and didn't feel like starting now so I replicated it using a star tip and colored frosting.

First I started with a plain cake mix that I dyed blue since it's her favorite color.  One thing I've learned is that if you make a boxed cake mix, use milk instead of water and butter instead of oil.  It makes the cakes so much yummier!

I crumb-coated it (not very well but oh well it gets covered up by the design.  I counted out the grid pattern and used toothpicks to scrape them through the frosting so I had a better idea of where the squares needed to go.

I tried to dye the blue and black colors a couple different shades apiece.  I used a dab of frosting for half of it then added a tiny bit more of food coloring to make it darker for the other half.  It doesn't show as well in the photo but it makes it look more Minecraft-ish.

Bug loved it!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

2017 Adventures: Dixon Springs

We didn't go hiking near as much last year as we did in 2015 because we found out Bug had allergies and asthma and it took us a long time to get it under control.  Being an hour away from the nearest hospital and no cell reception was too scary for me so we just stopped hiking.

This year we have Bug on some new medicines that seem to be making her symptoms better and she feels a lot more like herself finally.  So I promised we would try it out and see how she feels.

January was abnormally warm for a couple of weeks and there was one day that was a perfect 70 degrees and sunny so we headed out to try a brand new hiking location in the Shawnee National Forest.

Dixon Springs is a beautiful little park with a swimming pool and some amazing scenery.  There are giant boulders you can climb on and the entire area is surrounded by bubbling creeks.

The best part of Dixon Springs are the waterfalls that are almost hidden in the back of the park.  When we first started our hiking adventures two years ago Goose wanted most to see a big waterfall and oddly enough this was our first one.

There's a bridge spanning across the falls and it took us a while to find where it started but it just meant traipsing through more of the pretty area.

On the top of the bounders there is a tiny road with three old churches side by side on it.  They were all identical in varying stages of disrepair.  This was the oldest one and our favorite.

After taking a break at the playground we went searching for another area to explore and found a hiking path called Ghost Dance Canyon.  This path was incredibly tiny and hard to maneuver and I'm not sure we even completed the entire trail but it got to where we were climbing over slippery moss-covered boulders and we thought it would be best to turn back.

We did get to see a lot more of the rushing creek on it though.

You also pass underneath the highway and the bridge looks so giant as you are underneath it.

Across the street from the park is a store called The Chocolate Factory and they are popular for making shaped chocolates.  There are chocolates that look like deviled eggs, bacon, flowers, and Goose's favorite, mice:

Our first hike of 2017 was so much fun and we are looking forward to a lot more adventures this year!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

2017 Reading Goals

Well I didn't do very well for my 2016 goals even though I read a lot of books.  I always start out with such high hopes on what and how I am going to read and just never follow through because I"m such a mood reader.  I can made TBR piles for days and still pick up something that I just think looks pretty. 

For 2017 my number one most important book goal is to read War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (finally).  I have this beautiful edition and I like that even though it's a large sized book there are a lot of words for each page so it seems like I'm flying through it.  My goal was to read it in two months but it's so dense that I think I am just going to aim to do at least 100 pages a month and if it takes me a year, it takes me a year.

I'm going to be trying for two reading challenges this year to branch out and try new books.  The first is the challenge from Popsugar which gives you a weekly theme and a few extras just for fun.  I already know of a few books that I want to read that fit the theme so I'm excited to get started.

One thing I noticed while looking over my 2016 book list was that I am slowly moving away from YA, something I'm happy about.  I always gravitate to it as a fallback when I have nothing else to read because they're usually short and have the prettiest cover, but I'm proud that I read a lot of 'adult' novels last year.

Friday, February 10, 2017

January 2017 Books

I started War and Peace at the beginning of January and was doing great with it, zooming along past my weekly goal and then BOOM. Reading slump. I didn't pick up another book for over a week and War and Peace has sat on my table this whole time being lonely.

Once I finally started reading again I plowed through a grand total of TEN books which blew my mind since I took so much time off.  I finished four books in less than 24 hours one weekend (I told you, I like to have something to do while I clean).

I didn't really have a stand-out favorite this month but The Nix by Nathan Hill was the book that brought me out of my reading slump so I'm going to give the honors to it.  It's a huge book but I was enjoying it so much that I finished it in just a few days. 

The best part about this month was that I discovered I enjoy audiobooks again after growing sick of them last year.  I finished two during January just by listening to them on my drive to and from work and when I cleaned.  Listening to them on fast speed  also helped.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

My Favorite Books of 2016

I finished strong this year with 114 books and even though it wasn't my highest book count year it is still a good amount considering I started working 8 hour days in September.

Even though I think I read more clunkers than keepers this year there were still a good amount of books I loved and want to reread sometime down the road.

Joe Hill was my breakout star author of the year and I loved both of the books by him that I read.  NOS4A2 and The Fireman blew me away and I recommend them to everyone.  I enjoyed The Fireman slightly more than NOS4A2 but only because I liked that it wasn't as horror-like as I would have expected from Stephen King's son.

Speaking of Stephen King, if you haven't read 11/22/63 then you are doing yourself a disservice.  King is so hit or miss with me.  I either love him or am so over him, but this book was fantastic.  Again, I think maybe because it wasn't a standard King horror novel.  I read 90% of my books through the library and I loved this one so much I went out and bought it.

I made my way through almost all of the Little House on the Prairie books this year and even though a few were boring, overall I think it's such a sweet, wholesome series.  Yeah, Ma is a racist and Pa is a loser, but if you try to overlook the strides we have taken and just read it as a testament of its time then it's a great series for young children to enjoy.  I love Almanzo the most and always enjoyed his scenes in the books.

And if you are looking for another wholesome set of books to read to your kids then please go out and buy all of Beverly Cleary's books.  Bug and I read them like crazy this year and we only have a few left, a fact she is so sad about.  She has loved every single one of them and always begged for "one more chapter" each night.

I can't wait to see what 2017 has in store for me book-wise!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Homemade Salt Dough Ornaments

I take care of a gaggle of kids every afternoon and I'm always looking for cheap fun things to do to keep them busy.  Salt Dough Ornaments were a great idea because it was a multi-day craft and they looked forward to all of the steps.

The first day we made the dough and shaped them using cookie cutters.  We let every child do one and then when we had some leftover dough I let a few do some extras for the kids who weren't there that day.  Make sure to use a straw to poke the hole through BEFORE you bake.  And make it larger than a normal poke.  Spread it around a little because the dough shrinks up a bit when baked.  The hint to these ornaments is bake them LONG and LOW.  A lot of recipes say for about 20 minutes at 300 degrees.  I recommend going around an hour at 250 degrees.  If you go too hot they start to crack a little.

The next time we were together we painted them and we let them do whatever they wanted.  Some just threw the paint on (like Bug), some made elaborate designs (see Goose's cat paw and gingerbread man), and quite a few even threw some glitter on them.

We let them paint for a few days so everyone who comes at different times had a chance.  Then we used Mod Podge to seal them and added some cute ribbon.

I think we've made some of these every year and the girls always love them!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Christmas Decorations

I'm more of a handmade kind of decorator.  I don't like a lot of junk and I just don't see the point in keeping something unless it has nostalgia attached to it.  That's why a lot of our Christmas decorations are things that I remember my mom using when I was younger or stuff the girls have made me over the years.

Every year we put these signs up on our kitchen cabinets.  I love seeing their happy baby art and I'm going to be really sad when they get too worn out to use.  I've already had to stop putting out some stained glass Christmas tree ones and I missed them this year.

Not even our fridge is safe from Christmas decorations.  I have been collecting holiday magnets for years and seeing them all out every year is one of my favorite things!

Our Christmas tree in the girls playroom.

I saw someone on Instagram use a black Christmas tree as a Halloween tree and I loved the idea so I made sure to buy one at the beginning of the holiday shopping season.  So we now have two Christmas trees.  In the beginning I didn't want two trees but by the end of the first night we were all in love with the new tree.  It made our living room so homey and perfect.  It was decorated with all the cast-off ornaments we couldn't fit on our old tree so it's a little bare here.


Sunday, January 22, 2017

My Least Favorite Books of 2016

I read A LOT of books I disliked this year.  I don't know if the older I get the more cantankerous I become but books take a lot to get more than three stars from me nowadays. 

The first book I disliked this year was Watership Down.  I'm sorry, I know that's a lot of people's favorite.  It was a long, hard read for me and one I was happy to unhaul when I finished it.

A series that Bug and I read together this year was the entirety of The Chronicles of Narnia series and we both hated every page of it.  She slightly enjoyed The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but only because she loves the movie so she was able to understand what was happening pretty easy.  It was so preachy and cringe-worthy and I ended up finished the last couple of chapters of the last book by myself because she was just so over it.

The Prince by Machiavelli was one of the shortest books I read this year and also one of the most boring.  I honestly didn't understand any of it.  Not one sentence. 

Bug was really looking forward to The BFG movie and I wanted to read the book before I saw it so I checked it out of our library and man, am I glad I didn't pay for that book.  Bug normally likes Roald Dahl books and even she hated this one.  It almost felt like it talked down to us, like we were too stupid to understand it was a nonsensical book.  Big letdown.

Let's talk about my number one most hated book of 2016.  I'm sure it will come as a surprise to a lot of big book lovers because most people raved about this book this year.  A Little Life by Hanye Yanagihara.  I.  Hated.  This.  Book.  I literally threw it down when I finished and ranted to my husband for about thirty minutes about how revolting it was.  If ever there was a Mary Sue character to have existed it is Jude.  God, I could wax poetically all the ways this book pissed me off for at least an hour.

Just goes to show that just because a book wins awards doesn't mean it's any good.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

My 2016 Book List

2015 Book List
2014 Book List
2013 Book List
2012 Book List
2011 Book List

To see my individual month reviews just click on the month titles.

*denotes a readaloud with my daughter

1:  The Wanderer by Sharon Creech
2:  Watership Down by Richard Adams
3:  Socks by Beverly Cleary*
4:  The Magician's Nephew (Chronicles of Narnia series) by C.S. Lewis*
5:  A Feast for Crows (A Song of Ice and Fire series) by George R.R. Martin
6:  The Reader by Bernard
7:  11/22/63 by Stephen King
8:  Feverborn (Fever series) by Karen Marie Moning
9:  The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

10:  The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
11:  My Friend Flicka by Mary O'Hara
12:  Iqbal by Francesco D'Adamo
13:  The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
14:  Tricky Twenty-Two (Stephanie Plum series) by Janet Evanovich
15:  Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling
16:  The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Chronicles of Narnia series) by C.S. Lewis*
17:  Six of Crows (Six of Crows series) by Leigh Bardugo

18:  Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley and Me, Elizabeth by E.L. Konisburg
19:  Texts from Jane Eyre by Mallory Ortberg
20:  The Horse and His Boy (Chronicles of Narnia series) by C.S. Lewis*
21:  Red Winter by Dan Smith
22:  Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder
23:  Prince Caspian (Chronicles of Narnia series) by C.S. Lewis
24:  Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte 

25:  The Bronte Sisters:  The Brief Lives of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne by Catherine Reef
26:  Enchanted Air:  Two Cultures, Two Wings:  A Memoir by Margarita Engle
27:  Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera
28:  Hatchet by Gary Paulson
29:  Ribsy by Beverly Cleary*
30:  Witches!  The Absolutely True Tale of Disaster in Salem by Rosalyn Schanzer
31:  Twenty Years After (The D'Artagnan Romances) by Alexandre Dumas
32:  Mr. Mercedes (The Bill Hodges Trilogy) by Stephen King

33:  The Raven King (The Raven Cycle series) by Maggie Stiefvater
34:  The Field Guide (The Spiderwick Chronicles series) by Holly Black
35:  The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Chronicles of Narnia series) by C.S. Lewis*
36:  The BFG by Roald Dahl
37:  Broadchurch by Erin Kelly
38:  The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary*

39:  The Seeing Stone (The Spiderwick Chronicles series) by Holly Black*
40:  The Fireman by Joe Hill
41:  Emily's Runaway Imagination by Beverly Cleary*
42:  Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein
43:  Dear Hank Williams by Kimberly Willis Holt
44:  Lucinda's Secret (The Spiderwick Chronicles series) by Holly Black*
45:  El Deafo by Cece Bell
46:  The Invisible Library (The Invisible Library series) by Genevieve Cogman
47:  A Dance With Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire series) by George R.R. Martin
48:  Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash
49:  The Devil's Arithmetic by Jane Yolen
50:  Ironwood Tree (The Spiderwick Chronicles series) by Holly Black*

51:  The Wrath of Mulgarath (The Spiderwick Chronicles series) by Holly Black*
52:  Paper and Fire (The Great Library series) by Rachel Caine
53:  The Journey (The Guardians of Ga'Hoole series) by Kathryn Laskey*
54:  Rome (Marked Men series) by Jay
55:  A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
56:  On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder
57:  Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan
58:  A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
59:  A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
60:  The Silver Chair (Chronicles of Narnia series) by C.S. Lewis*
61:  The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
62:  Jacob Have I loved by Catherine Paterson
63:  The Bad Seed by William March
64:  Pretty Ugly by Kirker Butler
65:  Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman
66:  Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

67:  The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary*
68:  A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab
69:  Star Wars:  Maul:  Lockdown by Joe Schrieber
70:  NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
71:  How the Post Office Created America:  A History by Winifred Gallagher
72:  Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
73:  The Bourbon Kings by J.R. Ward
74:  Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by Anonymous
75:  The Last Battle (Chronicles of Narnia series) by C.S. Lewis*
76:  Ollie's Odyssey by William Joyce
77:  Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
78:  Suicide Squad Movie Novelization by Marv Wolfman

79:  By the Shores of Silver Lake (Little House on the Prairie series) by Laura Ingalls Wilder
80:  The Secret Tree by Natalie Strandiford*
81:  Cousin Phillis by Elizabeth Gaskell
82:  O Pioneers! by Willa Cather
83:  A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
84:  The Masked City (The Invisible Library series) by Genevieve Cogman
85:  Macbeth by William Shakespeare
86:  The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling*
87:  The Wonder by Emma Donaghue
88:  After Dark by Haruki Murakami

89:  Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruku Murakami
90:  Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner
91:  Ellen Tebbits by Beverly Cleary*
92:  This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper
93:  Runaway Ralph by Beverly Cleary*
94:  Six of Crows (Six of Crows series) by Leigh Bardugo
95:  The Vegetarian by Han Kang
96:  The Long Winter (Little House on the Prairie series) by Laura Ingalls Wilder
97:  Henry and Beezus by Beverly Cleary*

98:    Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows series) by Leigh Bardugo
99:    Little Town on the Prairie (Little House on the Prairie series) by Laura Ingalls Wilder
100:  Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell
101:  Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood
102:  Curious Minds (Knight and Moon series) by Janet Evanovich
103:  From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg*
104:  Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
105:  Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
106:  A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms (The Tales of Dunk and Egg) by George R.R. Martin
107:  The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman
108:  The Big Wave by Pearl S. Buck
109: Henry Huggins by Beverly Cleary*

110:  These Happy Golden Years (Little House on the Prairie series) by Laura Ingalls Wilder
111:  Matilda by Roald Dahl*
112:  Turbo Twenty-Three (Stephanie Plum series) by Janet Evanovich
113:  Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
114:  The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
115:  The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson*

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

My December Book Pile

Even though I had a week and a half off for Christmas break this month I wasn't able to get much reading done.  I'm not sure what happened but I just wasn't feeling books for the first few weeks of December.  I still managed to finish six and it pushed me to a grand total of 115 books for 2016!  Nothing to sniff about!

This month I did four books on my own and two readalouds with Bug.  Matilda took us foreverrr to get through and I don't know why because she actually really liked it.  We just had tough like finding reading time together to do it.  After we finished she immediately started the movie and has already watched it twice.  The Great Gilly Hopkins on the other hand took us just a few days to read.  She made me read 50 pages of it in one sitting because she loved it so much.

I really wanted to have all of my in-progress books finished by the new year so I took the last few days of the month to buckle down and finish everything up.  Wuthering Heights and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn were my final books of the year and they weren't anything special which is upsetting.  I was hoping to end on a high note.  On the bright side, that's two big classics I can cross off my list of books I wanted to read.

My favorite book this month I guess is the Little House book by default.  Just because nothing else really blew me away. :/

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Homemade Christmas Ornaments

We love making homemade ornaments for our tree every year.  There are usually several made at school or in their free time but we try to always make one together for our tree and grandparent presents.

Over the years we've made several new ones and several repeats.  Here's some of my favorites:

Of course you have the gingerbread and salt dough ornaments.  They're probably the big classic homemade ornaments that everyone makes at least once.  We do them all the time and love them.

 Another variaton is the cinnamon ornaments.  This one was one I made when I was in grade school and my mom has kept all these years.

My favorites so far is probably these cute buckets of snowballs.  I bought tiny buckets from Hobby Lobby and all we did was glue some cotton balls in and decorate them.  Super easy but so cute.

The first ones we made together were these popsicle stick snowflakes.  I glued them into snowflake shapes and gave the girls piles of buttons and glitter and let them go crazy.

We tried these yarn ones a couple of years ago and even though we had a difficult time trying to figure out how to do them I still think they turned out sweet.

 This year Bug did a melted snowman with hot glue and buttons.  We started a bottlecap snowman but it never was finished in time for Christmas :(