July 30, 2012

Book Review: Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

Bitterblue (Graceling Realm, #3)Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The third installment in the Graceling series.  Bitterblue has been ruling her shattered, but healing kingdom since the age of ten.  Now, at 18, she is trying to do more than just maintain a peaceful kingdom, but try to really improve the world around her after her father's diabolical reign.  It is an uphill battle from the beginning, more questions than answers, and the never ending doubt of who to trust.

I really enjoyed this book, especially since many of the characters from the first two books make appearances in this one.  This isn't technically a series in that you need to read the books in order or at least read the others first to enjoy this one, but I would highly recommend you do so if possible.  The world(s) that the author has created are very imaginative and complicated.  The more you know about how they work, the better you will be able to enjoy the twists and turns in this book.  Some parts are not easy to read, mostly flashbacks to Bitterblue's father's reign and the horrible things he did to people.  Luckily, there was enough humor and romance to balance it out and make it through the hard to read parts.

This is really weird to write, but this series to me is a mix of Hunger Games (suspense, violence, writing style), Lord of the Rings (fantasy words, kingdoms, cloaks, monsters, and castles), and X-Men (special  enhanced abilities for some people).  Somehow it all works despite the strange combination.  I will probably reread them in the future.

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July 27, 2012

Fabric and Ribbon Memo Board from Jewelry Organizer

Remember my jewelry organizer I made a couple of years ago?  I won't feel bad if you don't.

  Anyway, I found a different jewelry solution and decided to reuse this framed piece of batting and fabric covered board.

Took some ribbon out of my stash, cut and stapled it to the back of the frame, AND....

....instant memo board!

Helps free up precious fridge space for alphabet magnets and spelling tests.

July 25, 2012

DIY Framed Chalkboard

I know this idea is nothing new to blogland, but I finally got around to making my own and I wanted to take some step by step pictures in case anyone was wondering how to make one too.  Super easy and cheap!

You will need:
  • a frame
  • a smooth piece of wood, glass, metal, cut to size
  • primer (optional)
  • chalkboard paint
  • brushes/rollers

I bought my frame at Hobby Lobby and a piece of thin MDF at Home Depot.  MDF board is a good choice because it's smooth, light for hanging, but sturdy for writing.  The workers at Home Depot will cut it to size for free if you ask nicely.

A nice, snug fit is what you want because you will be pushing on the wood a lot when you eventually draw and write on your chalkboard.  After I was done with the entire project, my husband secured my board even more with a few strategically placed staples using our hand staple gun.

Paint time.  I decided to prime my board first.  Glad I did because the wood seemed to suck up a bit of paint.  I used Rust-oleum Painter's Touch Latex Primer and painted it on with a small, sponge roller.  I used a small brush to get the sides, even though they weren't going to show...I'm weird like that sometimes.

Using some push pins to hold up your board while you paint really helps a lot.

 I think I painted two coats of primer and in between each one, I lightly sanded it down, wiped off the dust with a damp cloth, and then dried it with a paper towel.  It doesn't take long to do each step, and if it's 100 degrees when you paint, like when I did, it will dry really fast.

Rust-oleum Chalkboard Latex Paint.  Sponge Roller.  Three coats.

Watching paint dry....

I will warn you that the chalkboard paint dries REALLY fast and is not completely smooth.  The directions on the can tell you how to dilute the paint if needed.  I probably should have considering how hot it was, but it still turned out fine.  Sand between coats if needed.  Although my finished surface is not completely smooth, you can still write on it without any problem.  We have found that the more we write on it, the smoother the surface seems to get as well.

According to directions, you are supposed to wait 3 days for it to set.  This was by far the hardest step for me.  I hate waiting.

I love the contrast of the dark board against the bright frame.

Three days later, I "cured" the chalkboard by rubbing the side of a piece of chalk all over the surface and then erasing it off.

I wanted to be a little cheeky and write "Bless This Mess" since my house was a complete disaster by the time I finished this project.  I was making stuff instead of cleaning and controlling the mass of toys in the living room.  Sometimes I just have to let it go if I want to actually make anything fun.  I left my phrase for a moment and came back to this.  So appropriate.  I guess the cheekiness has been passed on.

 My oldest really wanted a turn, and this is what he made all on his own.

Awwww...that one is a keeper.  

Once the novelty wears off, my kids might actually let me write something on it too.

July 24, 2012

Book Review: Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Insurgent (Divergent, #2)Insurgent by Veronica Roth

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Tris and Tobias are trying to make sense of everything that just happened, how their friends and fellow faction members were controlled and what they can do to stop it.  The exciting climax from book one in this series picks up right where the last one left off.  Can Tris and Tobias stop the factions from all out war?  Can they stop their friends (and themselves) from mind control simulations?  Can their love survive the trials ahead?  Can they survive, period?

I was dubious of this book, I am always leery of book #2's in a trilogy, as they have a tendency to be a "filler book" to drag the story out a bit more.  Unfortunately, this was a bit of a filler book for me, BUT I have read much worse #2 books before.  The plot moves along for the most part and mystery slowly starts to unravel as the characters learn more information about the simulations and what it means to be Divergent.  There is plenty of action to keep you going, I think that saves the book from being a complete filler #2.  My biggest problem with this book is Tris and Tobias' relationship development.  They spend a good deal of time arguing about the same stuff over and over and Tris, instead of looking brave, ends up coming off as annoying with her constant death-wish, impulsive plans. 

I know I went into this book with doubts and perhaps that skewed my ability to enjoy it fully, you'll have to be the judge for yourself.  I will read the next book and am interested to see where the author takes the final plot twist in the next book.

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July 17, 2012

Travel Kit for Kids

Found some great printables online, laminated them, and included a set of dry erase markers.  Instant birthday gift!

All of these mazes were found at Mr. Printables.  Love their creations, so simple and cute.

The plastic folder I used to keep the sheets and markers together had a little label slot.

Happy Birthday, Braden!

July 13, 2012

Sea Turtle Sourdough

Did you know that if you buy a loaf of bread at Boudin and you have kids with you, they will give you some cute mini loaves in the shape of animals FOR FREE?  This day was sea turtles.  Actually it might be sea turtles every day, not sure.  I guess we'll have to go back and see.  The kids thought they were so fun and the bread itself is phenomenal.  I love sourdough!  

July 12, 2012

Artist's Palette Cake

This cake was made for an arts and crafts loving 10 year old.

 Started off with a confetti cake leveled and iced with chocolate frosting.

Rolled out some white fondant.

Cut out a shape and shaved down the sides bit by bit until it would fit on the top of the cake.  I just eye-balled it.  Smoothed out any jagged knife cuts with my fingers and some powdered sugar.

Mixed up a few colors for the paint.  I did a thin consistency of frosting and used Wilton gels for the colors.

 I placed the fondant palette on the cake first and then added the paint colors.

 I improvised for my border and combined all my leftover colored frosting into one piping bag fitted with a #22 tip.  The consistency was a little thin, but it ended up looking like dripping paint a bit, which I liked.

Simple and cute.

Made a quick triangle pennant using my Silhouette software and the Waterbrush font.  Used a paintbrush for the pennant's pole.

She loved it!

Happy Birthday, Brenna!

July 11, 2012

July 4th Strawberry Flag

We had a wonderful 4th of July.  Our friends invited us over for a swim, I brought a strawberry flag to share.  The blue strawberries are dipped in white chocolate and then rolled in sprinkles.  I also made a batch like last year too.

The boys had a great time swimming and lighting fireworks.  The highlight of the evening is when my brother threw a smoke bomb up in the air, it came down, bounced off of the curb of the sidewalk, and rolled under my leg where I was sitting with my four year old.  It happened so fast that I didn't have time to do anything else except grab my kid and stumble away.  Luckily, the four year old walked away unscathed.  The same cannot be said for my favorite maxi dress.  There are about 4 holes in all.  I think it's going to become a knee length swim coverlet now.

The burn only hurt for a few minutes, but it took a couple of good scrubbings to get the smoke stain off.  The firework attack was not done intentionally, and I harbor no ill will, BUT revenge is sweet when it comes to siblings.  I'll get him back someday, ....somehow.

July 8, 2012

Book Review: Labyrinth by Kate Mosse

Labyrinth (Languedoc Trilogy, #1)Labyrinth by Kate Mosse

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I picked this book up, not knowing anything about it.  It started off really well, I was sucked in immediately.  The last third of the book left me dissatisfied and slightly confused though. Some strong language and a couple of short sex scenes that didn't need to be in there, consider yourself warned.  The writing was excellent until the last third of the book, it's like she ran out of steam and summarized a lot of really interesting stuff for sake of time/book length.  That's what it felt like at least.  The writing in the beginning was phenomenal though, couldn't put it down.  I didn't know this was a trilogy until recently, don't know if I will continue this one despite the great storyline.

The book goes back and forth between medieval times and present day, one girl named Alais, the other Alice.  Their lives are intertwined over time and ancient texts.  How are they connected?  Alice finds some very cryptic findings in a cave, how does it connect back to Alais and her adventures?  And who is going to make sure that Alice is eliminated before she solves the mystery?

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July 7, 2012

Book Review: Destined by Aprilynne Pike

Destined (Wings, #4)Destined by Aprilynne Pike

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I couldn't wait to see how this series was going to end.  I should have been happy with the resolution and I was...until the epilogue.  I should not have read it.  It took away from the end of the story for me and left me with more questions than answers.  Laural finally chooses her path and the guy...FINALLY!  If you enjoyed the others, and like everything resolved, then this is a good book for you.  Just watch out for that epilogue.

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July 6, 2012

Baptism Invitations

My son and my cousin's daughter are a month apart in age and will be baptized this week!  We decided to have them be baptized at the same Stake Center, helping family only having to attend one church meeting instead of two.  My amazing friend, Stefanie, took the pictures and I made invites for each in Photoshop.  It took me a lot longer than it should have, but I learned a lot and am getting better with each project.  It's a trial and error learning curve.

Book Review: Pumpkin Roll by Josi S. Kilpack

Pumpkin Roll (Sadie Hoffmiller, #6) Pumpkin Roll (Sadie Hoffmiller, #6) by Josi S. Kilpack

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a really fun book, made me wish for fall, pumpkins, and sweaters.  If you can, I would highly recommend reading this one in September...you'll be all set for some autumn baking when you're done.  Sadie and her boyfriend are watching his grandkids for a week in Boston, when some mysterious, ghostlike occurrences begin to take place.  Is it the crazy, witch lady across the street...or someone from beyond the grave?  Sadie is on the case and won't rest until all doubts and ghosts are put to rest!  Made the Whoppie Pies recipe in this one, they were good!

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July 5, 2012

Girls Camp Banner

Our church does an annual Girls Camp for all young ladies ages 12-18.  There is always a theme each year and this time was no exception.  Each group had a fairy tale and we were Beauty and the Beast, our color was gold.  Each group had to make a banner for the mess hall with our name on it.  The font is Black Rose, the banner made from a gold sheet.  We added a rose wherever we could too, cause Beauty and the Beast just wouldn't be the same without a rose.

We also made THESE rings for each of the girls, in red of course.  So easy to do!

We did camp shirts as well, sorry I didn't get pictures of all of this...I didn't get to go up to camp this year, just made stuff for it.  The shirts were black with the word "Beauties" in gold, the same font as above....and of course, a red rose next to the word.  T-shirt vinyl is pretty much the best thing ever invented.

July 4, 2012

Book Review: Blackberry Crumble by Josi S. Kilpack

Blackberry Crumble (Sadie Hoffmiller, #5)Blackberry Crumble by Josi S. Kilpack

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sadie is off to Portland for her first paid private investigation.  Bad business deals, greed, and a family falling apart are all at the root of this mystery.  The Northwest in the summer has some great, fresh recipes though and Sadie is always willing to stop and taste the local wares while on the case.  I liked this one a lot because I didn't see the ending coming at all.  This one was a surprise, which was great.

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July 3, 2012

Lego Number Cake

Our friend, David, was turning 6 and wanted a Lego Cake.  We got to work.

Start off with two sheet cakes.  I used jelly roll pans and it worked out great.

While the cakes are baking, make yourself a pattern for cutting.  I measured my cake pan, cut a piece of butcher paper to that size, and then made a grid using a ruler.

I didn't measure things out exactly, I just used the width of my ruler as my guide.  I like to cut corners like that.

Frost one of your cakes.

Flip the other cake on top of the frosted one.  Hopefully you used flour or a lot of cooking spray to keep your cake from sticking.  Not too bad.

Place template on top of cake.

Cut with a serrated knife. Clean up edges a bit if needed.


I did big dollops, just eyeballing where to place them for the little Lego "teeth".  What are they really called?

Flatten dollops with your finger dipped in a little cornstarch.  Excess cornstarch will eventually fade or can be brushed off carefully.

I added the Lego words onto the teeth.  I like to be authentic when possible.

Made a sign.  I didn't put it in the cake until it was at the party.

Lego cake complete.  Took an hour or less after baking and cooling time.  Any single digit would look really good.  I may be using this idea in the future, as we still have some Lego lovers at our house too.

Happy Birthday David!
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