Friday, May 27, 2011


Arabella just finished her first preschool, Tiger Tots, a class taught by the child development kids at the high school.  She loved it!  My favorite part was that they had the kids recite the pledge every morning and my cute little three year old knows it.  I wish more people in this country would have a love of America and "pledge their allegiance"!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Little Man is Growing Up

My little guy is already 9 1/2 months old, I can't believe how fast he is growing up.  He had his check up two weeks ago and he was 20lbs 5oz, 28.5 in, right about the 50% for height and weight.  He has graduated from his infant carrier (just too darn heavy) and is now in his big boy chair, he doesn't really like it yet, but I hope he will soon.

Today he also reached a milestone that doesn't usually happen for several years in this house, he had his first haircut.  Daddy had been saying that he looked like a hippie.  He did pretty well, although he did get a bit fussy about having to sit so still.  The lady that did it was also a ditz.  She asked me about five times in as many minutes how old he was and if it was his first haircut.  Oh well, it does make him look older now.


It doesn't look like much of a difference in the photos, but in person you can tell.

If you notice he has on a cool shirt, we found some really fun retro shirts and for the first time ever in parenthood, James actually likes looking at kid clothes.  In the past he would humor me when I would show him cute girl clothes, but now that the boy gets awesome stuff, he really likes it.

Here are a few more of him in his cute shirts.

He looks funny, but this is his robot shirt.
This one is Daddy's favorite!

I don't think I ever mentioned when Johnny got his first teeth.  His first one came in about a month ago and the poor guy got a yucky ear infection in the right ear.  Well two weeks later the second tooth comes in and he got an ear infection in the left ear.  The poor guy was miserable.  Let's hope the trend doesn't continue for the rest of his teeth.  Here you can see his little teeth, you might need to click on the photo to make it larger to really see them.
I love that smile!

One more photo, just because I love sleeping baby pictures.
Isn't he adorable!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

April Books

It is now the middle of May and I realized that I hadn't posted April's books, oops.  Anyways, it wasn't a huge month for books.  I did enjoy several that I read, I was however stuck on one book for much of the month.  I was reading The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley, and while I didn't love the story it was okay, I just couldn't get myself to pick it up.  As I was supposed to be reading that for Book Club, I put off reading other things.  

Gathering Blue
Lois Lowry

Lois Lowry
I read The Giver many years ago and really liked it.  It wasn't until a few years ago that I heard there were sequels to the story.  I put them on my Amazon wish list a long time ago, but didn't get around to ordering them until this past December.  When I finally read them, I enjoyed them.  I was expecting them to be more sequels than they were though.  They didn't seem to tie into The Giver, but they did into one another.

As for what they are about, well they are your standard dystopian story.  In the future when the world has destroyed itself the people must once again grow a society.  In this particular society some of the people have special talents and those talents are exploited by others.

The Declaration
Gemma Malley
The Resistance
Gemma Malley
Again these were set in the dystopian future.  What would you give to be able to live forever?  In the future Longevity has been invented and it allows you to do just that.  The only problem with loving forever, eventually you have too many people alive on the planet.  The solution, makes those who take the drug sign a declaration that they will never reproduce.  The story focuses on a girl that is a surplus, a child born to those that were not supposed to have kids.  She lives in a home and is always told what a drain she is on society.  When she eventually gets out she learns what life is really like.

I really liked these stories and hope the author finishes it up soon.  I read them a while ago, but I am pretty sure they were clean reads.

Half Brother
Kenneth Oppel
This was not set in a dystopian world, yes I do occasionally read ones that aren't.  Rather this was set in the '70's and is the story a boy with two scientist parents who are out to prove that chimps can learn language.  They decide to raise a chimp as a member of their family and try to teach him to communicate.  The boy is initially reluctant to accept this idea, but the chimp grows on him and he does come to love him as a brother. 

I thought this was a fun read.  I liked the ideas it presented along the lines of what makes us human.  Does our ability to verbalize make us a person, to love, to think, to share?!?  A relatively clean story with a bit of teenage boy growing-up-isms, I think a few minor swear words as well.

The Sky Inside
Clare B. Dunkle
Again a dystopian novel of a world inside of a dome.  If you leave the dome you will die.  That is what our protagonist has always been taught.  However, his sister, who was a wonderkid (apparently all children come from the Stork, a rail car that brings them in) has been recalled as being too instable, the kids were too smart and were questioning the world.  Well when his sister is taken away, he decides that he must save her, and he will brave the outside to do so.

I liked the innocence of the kid and his willingness to give everything of himself to his sisters safety.  It was particularly funny as he is outside for the first time and receives a sunburn, when it blisters and peels he thinks his skin is falling off and he is dying, just as they always told him he would.  Also a clean story.

Total Pages for April: 1685
Total for 2011: 11113

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Cupcake Wars: Caramel Apple Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting

Last night I was able to join some friends for a girls night and as part of it we had a cupcake contest. I made caramel apple cupcakes with vanilla bean cream cheese frosting, and they were a hit. We had four judges (husbands) who rated the seven different cupcakes and then picked out their favorites. James was able to be one of the judges, but lest anyone call favoritism, he actually picked my cupcakes as second, he liked the key lime ones better. I did manage to win over the other judges though and took home first place.

Here is the winning recipe. [I wasn't able to find vanilla bean paste at the store, but I did find it on Amazon here for a great deal.]

Caramel Apple Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting

2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 apples, cored, peeled, and chopped into small pieces (I used 2 granny smiths and 2 pink ladies)
Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting, recipe follows
Caramel syrup, for garnish


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 regular size cupcake pans with cupcake liners.

In a large bowl using an electric mixer on low speed, combine the sugar, eggs, butter, and vanilla extract until blended. In a separate large bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, mixing on low until blended. The batter will be somewhat dry at this point. Stir in the apples.

Fill the cupcake liners three-quarters full with batter and bake until the cupcakes spring back when touched with your finger, about 15-20 minutes. Let cool in the pans for a few minutes, and then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Either pipe Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting onto the cupcakes using a pastry bag and your favorite tip, or spread each cupcake with the frosting. Drizzle each cupcake with caramel syrup.

Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting:

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 (8-ounce) bar cream cheese, room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
4 cups powdered sugar (about 2 pounds)
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl using an electric mixer on low speed, beat the butter, cream cheese, and vanilla bean paste until smooth and thoroughly blended. Slowly add the powdered sugar and salt. Mix until smooth.

Caramel Sauce:

1 cup of sugar
6 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

First, before you begin, make sure you have everything ready to go - the cream and the butter next to the pan, ready to put in.

Heat sugar on moderately high heat in a heavy-bottomed 2-quart or 3-quart saucepan. As the sugar begins to melt, stir vigorously with a whisk or wooden spoon. As soon as the sugar comes to a boil, stop stirring.

As soon as all of the sugar crystals have melted (the liquid sugar should be dark amber in color), immediately add the butter to the pan. Whisk until the butter has melted.

Once the butter has melted, take the pan off the heat. Count to three, then slowly add the cream to the pan and continue to whisk to incorporate. Note than when you add the butter and the cream, the mixture will foam up considerably.

Whisk until caramel sauce is smooth. Let cool in the pan for a couple minutes, then pour into a glass mason jar and let sit to cool to room temperature.  Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Warm before serving.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Young love

Arabella has a best friend named Rigdon.  He was born a few weeks after her and they live across the street from each other, so they have grown up together.  Bells and Riggs, as they call each other, love to play together.  Recently they started attending preschool together and are loving even more time together.  On Monday the two of them were watching a movie together, I came into the room to find them snuggled up on the couch together.  It was too cute to not capture.

With Rigdon, Bella is pretty bossy.  She will tell him what to do, where to go, and when to hold her hand, that poor boy!

One more story; yesterday we were getting into the car and Rigdon was waiting to get into his.  Arabella went over to him and told him that he was her best friend.  She then gave him a big kiss on his cheek.  When I asked her what she had done, she smiled and said quite simply, "he's my best friend, so I gave him a kiss."

I love that she has such a great friend!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Piano Recital

Here is the video of MacKayla's first piano recital. She has worked really hard this year and has done quite well at it.