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!