Monday, April 30, 2012

A book by its cover, squirrels and bears

I have two books for you guys today, Just Because You're Mine by Sally Lloyd-Jones and Where's My Teddy? by Jez Alborough.  Both are children's books because I just haven't finished the grown up book this week.  No pictures of my kids reading this week either, they just would not sit still.




These reviews are completely my opinion and are not influenced in anyway by outside sources.  In regards to the children books reviewed, as a parent you are ultimately responsible for what your children read.  Please read what they read so you are informed on what they are learning.  I don't reveal plots, give spoilers or just summarize the books.  I don't enjoy reading books filled with cursing or sex so I tend to stay away from those.  This means I read very very few romance novels.  For the children's books I give the Princess' thumbs review and Boo's review (lets just say her reviews are interpretive and make more sense once you've read the book) in addition to my review rating.  My review scale can be found here or hover over the rating for a description.

Just Because You're Mine by Sally Lloyd-Jones



This book is a really cute story of a little squirrel trying to guess why his father loves him.  I chose this book to read to just to my children and not to their classmates.  I felt that it might not translate as well to a group as it would to the one on one reading to my kids at home.  This is a very sweet book and both of my children saw themselves in the little squirrel.  Both of them paid attention to the story and made comments about the pictures and the activities depicted.  My first grader was easily able to read this on her own.  I'm going to recommend this book for ages 1  to 8.  I think all kids would like the meaning behind this book and would appreciate it even if they won't admit it to mom or dad.  This book is very similar to Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney (another really great book to read to your kids).

The Princess gives this book two thumbs up.  Boo's rating is "I like twirling."

My rating is


Where's My Teddy? by Jez Alborough



This is a very short book that is perfect to read to groups when you don't have a lot of time.  The younger preschool group liked the story more and the first grade group enjoyed the humor.  The story is about a couple of lost teddy bears and who goes looking for them.  I would recommend this book for ages 2-6 although some of the older kids may not enjoy the book at all.  Both groups had a few kids that just weren't interested in the book at all.  With enough time, this book can spark discussions on what the characters might be thinking in the story.  It also has a small bit of rhyming in it.

The Princess' rating is 1 1/2 thumbs up.  Boo's rating is "That is a BIG bear."

My rating is




Check these books out at your local library or follow the links below to find them on Amazon.  I'm going to go ahead and say that if you purchase a book by using one of these links I will make a little money off of it.  Jeff says I have to start paying for this blog somehow since I spend so much time working on it.  There, you've been warned, now go buy some books!  You really don't have to, but I'm not going to stop you.  After all I've warned you and I pasted the links in...






Please check out my Link Parties page to see the blogs where I may have showcased this post.  Thank you to the bloggers who host such wonderful parties.

Friday, April 27, 2012

All things crafty, crocheted owl


Did you ever have one of those times where you met someone and you became fast friends?  I've had one of those experiences in the blog world now. Her name is Jenny and she is a teacher.  She has two blogs that I follow, Owl Things First (her teaching devoted blog) and I'd Rather Be Birding (a blog where she records the gorgeous pictures of birds she takes).  Both are great blogs.

I've noticed Jenny really likes owls.

She inspired me to try making a crochet owl.



So I cheated a little was creative on the eyes, but I thought the buttons made a much larger statement.

Want the pattern?  Sure!  (Just an FYI, I've never written a pattern before so aren't you guys lucky?)

Jenny Owl

sc - single crochet
ch - chain
sl st - slip stitch
st - stitch
hdc - half double crochet

Head
Row 1:  Using a hook appropriate for the yarn you choose, make a loop of yarn around your fingers and pull a loop through with your hook.  Make 6 single crochet in the loop.  Pull the tail to tighten up the ring.  (This is called a magic ring and if you need a photo demonstration just do a search for it in Google, tons out there.)  Join with a slip stitch to the first chain.  (6 sc)
Row 2:  Ch 1, 2 sc in each stitch of previous round , join with sl st in first sc.  (12 sc)
Row 3:  Ch 1,  (1 sc in first st, 2 sc in next st) 6 times, join with sl st in first sc.  (18 sc)
Row 4:  Ch 1, (1 sc in first st, 2 sc in next st, 1 sc in next st) 6 times, join with sl st in first sc.  (24 sc)
Row 5:  Ch 1, 1 hdc in first st, ch 2, sl st in second ch from hook, hdc in same st as first hdc (first ear), sl st in next 5 st, 1 hdc in next st, ch 2, sl st in second ch from hook, hdc in same st as previous hdc (second ear),  sl st in remaining st until your reach the first ear.  Sl st in ch 1 of ear, finish off.

Beak
Chain 4
(do not work in tail)
Hdc in second ch from hook, ch 2 sl st in second chain from hook, hdc in next st, sc in last st.  Finish off.

Sew the beak on to the head using the tails.

Choose two large buttons and two small buttons and sew them on.

I made mine with Caron Simply Soft yarn in Autumn Maize and Tangerine on a size H hook.

If anyone cares to test the pattern and let me know how it works I would appreciate it.  Like my cakes I tend to just pick up the yarn and start crocheting without knowing what it will be when I am done.

And Jenny, let me know if you want this as a key chain, zipper pull or pin and email me your address.  It is only fitting that you get the original.



Thanks for stopping by today!

This was featured at

Serenity you


Please check out my Link Parties page to see the blogs where I may have showcased this post.  Thank you to the bloggers who host such wonderful parties.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Adventures in cake, Star Wars

In a galaxy far far away....

Okay, it was in my kitchen.

A few years ago I decided to surprise my husband with a cake for his birthday.  I was still pretty new to decorating and I was looking at it as a way to practice my skills.  He really likes Star Wars so I thought I would try my hand at a Death Star.






It looks great huh?  I'm kidding, I know that it needs a lot of work to be really nice, but I did make this entire cake from baking to decorating in an hour and a half.  The really important thing is my husband really appreciated the gesture.

Here is how I did it.  I started with the Wilton 3D ball pan and a chocolate cake mix (of course it would be chocolate, it is the dark side).  After baking, I let it cool as long as I could before starting to decorate.  I had to hurry because the hubby was going to be home from the "errand" I sent him on any minute.  I made a batch of butter cream icing and tinted it a very light gray with Wilton black gel color.  I spread it over the entire cake.  I really didn't worry with trying to get it super smooth.

I tinted the remaining icing with a bit more black to give me a darker gray.  I grabbed a #5 Wilton tip and made the circle with the center spokes and the two lines around the middle.  After that I used a picture of the Death Star to roughly draw out the darker shapes using a  #45 tip.  My intention was to smooth out the darker gray areas with my finger (dipped in powder sugar) so they looked like a solid shape, but I heard the garage door go up and I was finished whether I was ready or not.  He was very surprised when he walked in the door.  In some of these following shots you can see where I got to smooth a few of the lines out but they still were not how I wanted them to look.

Here it is with a few different angles.



I will have to try and make this one again.


Any questions please ask!


This cake was featured at

Please check out my Link Parties page to see the blogs where I may have showcased this post.  Thank you to the bloggers who host such wonderful parties.

Monday, April 23, 2012

A book by its cover: dust bunnies, pie and a house

Welcome to my first book review!  I have three books for you today:  In Front of My House by Marianne Dubuc, Rhyming Dust Bunnies by Jan Thomas and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.




These reviews are completely my opinion and are not influenced in anyway by outside sources.  In regards to the children books reviewed, as a parent you are ultimately responsible for what your children read.  Please read what they read so you are informed on what they are learning.  I don't reveal plots, give spoilers or just summarize the books.  I don't enjoy reading books filled with cursing or sex so I tend to stay away from those.  This means I read very very few romance novels.  For the children's books I give the Princess' thumbs review and Boo's review (lets just say her reviews are interpretive and make more sense once you've read the book) in addition to my review rating.  My review scale can be found here or hover over the rating for a description.


In Front of My House by Marianne Dubuc


Please do not pin this photo or use it in any other way.

This is an English translation of the book Devant Ma Mason.  I chose this book with the intention of reading it to a preschool class (ages 4 and 5) and a first grade class (ages 6 and 7).  I try to find a book that will appeal to both age groups.  I almost didn't pick this one up because of its thickness, at around 60 pages it seems long for a children's book and I wasn't sure how long I could keep the attention of either class.  As I thumbed through it, I noticed that each page only had three to four words so I sat down with it.  The way each page is worded the book is able to hold the attention of both age groups I read to.  Both classes remained engaged with the book while I was reading and actually asked me to read it again when I had finished.  My six year old can easily read this to her younger sister (who has requested it be read to her quite often).  The pictures are very colorful and inspired conversation between my two with little side stories they made up to go along with the book.  Listening to them, I believe this book encourages imaginative play.  I recommend this book for ages 3-7.  It needs to be read to younger children but older children should be able to read it alone.  The pictures help with the more difficult words.  It is worth the read.  Our school system has the children take AR tests on books so I know this book is worth 0.5  AR points.

The Princess' rating is 2 thumbs up.  Boo's rating was "where did the stars come from."

The Snickety Things rating is



Rhyming Dust Bunnies by Jan Thomas

Please do not pin this photo or use it in any other way.

Ignore the expression her face, she got tickled when I was taking the picture and this was the best I could get.  And she wants me to point out that her fingernails were painted to look like lady bugs.

What attracted me to this book was the very colorful cover.  It is a very short book with few words, but it made me laugh a few times.  It is a story of four dust bunnies named Ed, Ned, Ted and Bob.  When I read it to the preschool class, they enjoyed the pictures much more than the story.  The humor was a bit more than they could understand.  Only a few of the students understood what rhyming was so it was difficult for them to grasp the concept of the book.  The first graders were able to understand the concept of the book much more easily although they still did not understand all the humor.  The first graders also participated  with the story while it was being read and wanted me to read the book again when I had finished.  While the younger group did not seem to get as much out of the book, the fact that many did not know what rhyming was tells me they would ultimately get the most out of it.  I believe rhyming plays a key role in developing reading skills.  I recommend this book for ages 2-6 and their parents.  The adults will get something from the humor.

The Princess' rating is two thumbs up.  Boo's rating is "the blue dust bunny looks sad." (Well, his "ears" are kind of droopy so she has a point.)

The Snickety Things rating is




The Guernsey  Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows


Sorry, no picture of me reading.  It is really hard to take a picture of yourself reading a book.  Go ahead, try it.

This is a review for the adults.

This book is the main reason I chose "a book by its cover" to be the title of my book review series.  I had passed it many times on the shelf and the title did not attract me at all.  It wasn't until someone recommended it to me and just gave me a teaser of what it was about did I decide to read it.  Once I started I couldn't put it down.  This book got me out of my "book zone" of reading mostly science fiction (you read the about us page and know I was a trained chemist, right?).

It takes place in 1946 after World War II ended but tells the story the Channel Island of Guernsey off the coast of England being occupied during the war.  The book  is written in the form of letters and telegrams between various characters.  This style of writing had me completely swept into the book and I kept forgetting that it was a work of fiction.  The characters were well developed and memorable.  I laughed with some and I cried for others.  The format allows for reading in short time periods.  I often found myself reading a letter or two in the pick up line at my daughters school or while on break at work.

For people who do not like to read books with a lot of cursing or sex, this is a good choice.  Parts may get you a bit out of your comfort zone, but it has very mild language if at all (this means nothing really stood out to me).

The Snickety Things rating is


Check these books out at your local library or follow the links below to find them on Amazon.  I'm going to go ahead and say that if you purchase a book by using one of these links I will make a little money off of it.  Jeff says I have to start paying for this blog somehow since I spend so much time working on it.  There, you've been warned, now go buy some books!  You really don't have to, but I'm not going to stop you.  After all I've warned you and I pasted the links in...

Kindle

Books







          








Please check out my Link Parties page to see the blogs where I may have showcased this post.  Thank you to the bloggers who host such wonderful parties.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Disclosure policy

In keeping with Federal Trade Commission regulations, I am disclosing the following:


With the start of my book review series I have decided to put Amazon affiliate links on my site so you may purchase books if you are interested.  I may also put Amazon affiliate links in other posts on this blog.  I do receive a (small) percentage on purchases you buy through one of the links, including some items that you purchase at the same time that I had not linked.  Of course you are more than welcome to stop by my blog and click on an Amazon link before you start any of your Amazon shopping sprees.  It doesn't cost you any extra and it helps me keep my blog going.  You don't even have to buy the item you originally clicked on.  In fact, just use this Amazon link and buy whatever you want!

There may be other ads on this site that are paid or that I may receive compensation for when you make a purchase or click through.  I really want to keep my site as family friendly as possible so if you happen to click on an ad that leads to a place that is not family friendly, let me know.  I try to screen those out.

Any post that is a review of an item I received for free will be fully disclosed in the post.  Giving me something for free does not mean that I will review it or that I will give it a positive review.  I reserve the right to say whatever I want about your product.  Rest assured that my tendency will be to not post a negative review, I just won't make a post.  I may or may not keep items sent to me for free for review or use, but if I choose not to keep it, I will not sell it only donate.  I'm not opposed to getting a Silhouette Cameo though (hint hint).

This disclosure will also find a permanent home on this blog here.


Don't forget that the book reviews start tomorrow!






Friday, April 20, 2012

Creating Pinterest "Pin it" buttons and images

I will begin putting "Pin It" buttons on my blog posts, and retroactively putting it on older posts.  I have had fun trying to figure out how to do it.  Take a look at the Rainbow cake post to see how it looks.  Or just click the button below to see the way the Rainbow cake pin turned out.  No need to follow through (but I won't get mad if you do!).






Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Cake features

I am really excited that my Tinkerbell cake was featured at Simply Sweet Home

Simply Sweet Home Featured


And, my Jessie cake was featured at Sugar bee Crafts





Adventures in cake, rainbows

This cake was originally made for Boo in January 2012. Portions of this post are taken from my family blog where I posted pictures from the party.  If you want to see the decor from this party check out Rainbows and Sunshine over at One To Crazy.


When I was making my cake I had not realized I wold eventually put it on a blog so they are a bit dark.



When Boo turned five she was absolutely determined that she wanted to have a rainbow birthday party, so I tried my hardest to see her vision. I started looking for cake inspiration and I found it on Marthastewart.com.



With the cake decided, I started planning out how to make it.


I had only looked at the inspiration picture and did not follow any special instructions. I am bad about just going with instinct (if you have read any of my other cake posts you already know this). Sometimes it turns out beautiful, sometimes I look at it and think I should really have followed some directions. Well, the cake kind of falls in to both of those categories. I chose to do my cake with my ten inch pans to ensure I had enough cake for all the kids and the parents. I bought seven cake mixes (well eight if you count that I always get an extra in case I mess up) and went to work. I mixed in the color for each layer and over the next six hours ended up with seven different color cakes. I realized right away that I didn't need a whole mix for each color, but I kept going. knowing that I had intended to level the layers down anyway. The extra would give me a second cake to go to in case something happened to a layer. 



I leveled my layers down to be one inch high. Plenty small enough, right? Let's just say we will get to that later. I started making my icing using my go to buttercream recipe. I use all butter in it, delicious. After I made 18 cups of icing, I started in on the cake. This had to be the easiest cake I have ever iced. I did not have to tint any of the icing since it was meant to be white.  Each layer went on the next easily with a layer of buttercream between. I then did my crumb coat.  I already knew that I wasn't going to be doing the completely smooth cake Martha had, my cake was going to look like a cloud.  I used a Wilton #8 tip to just put different amounts of icing on the cake to make it look fluffy. When I had finished, the cake was almost nine inches tall. That was not my intention. I realized then that my layers could have gone as small as half inch and I made a mental note of this for the future. I took a picture of the cake at this stage.






This is when I went to move the cake to the cake stand I had made. I could barely lift the thing it was so heavy. Again, smaller layers are better. With my husband's help, we moved it to the cake stand I had made.  It promptly broke the stand, which was a 12 inch round piece of styrofoam that I had turned into a tutu and duct taped to the bottom of one of my glass cakestands (I was using the large portion of the stand as the base thinking it would give more stability, silly me). Luckily our hands were still under the cake and we were able to rescue it from damage (whew). After trying to readjust the foam back on to the plate, we gave up and set the foam right on the table with the tutu fanning out around it. In the end, it looked like that was how it was intended all along.





Doesn't it look like I intended it to be like this? During the party I just didn't mention that it was supposed to be higher. Notice the tablecloth? It is supposed to mimic the sky. I bought some white placemats to be clouds and bought cups, plates and utensils in all the rainbow colors.  Want to know how I made this tutu?  Click here for the tutorial.






Here is Boo blowing out her candles.  I chose a glittered blue number five and five white candles.  You can see them on the table in the picture above.




My sister was taking pictures for me and she got a rare shot of me while I was cutting the cake.  I'm usually the one behind the camera.




There was a little gasp in the room as the colors were revealed.  I grabbed my phone and quickly snapped this picture.  I actually had to fight to take a picture of the cake against all the mothers there who whipped out their cameras to snap a picture also.




My sister got the same shot from a different angle with my camera.




Here is a shot after more cake was cut away.




By the end of the party there was very little cake left.  Everyone asked to take a little home to share with spouses.


In hindsight, I should have perhaps done a test run of this cake before making the final one.  It was too big and did not slice easily.  I was very happy with how the colors inside the cake turned out.  They were all very vibrant and came out exactly how I hoped they would.  They also matched the colors of the tutu perfectly.


Thanks for stopping by!  Any questions just ask.





This cake was featured at



Please check out my Link Parties page to see the blogs where I may have showcased this post.  Thank you to the bloggers who host such wonderful parties.
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