Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Recipe: Bunny Blondies (YUMMY!)

I absolutely love to bake.

Actually, now that I think about it, I don't know if it's so much that I love to bake or rather that I love to eat baked goods. But for all intensive purposes, I do love to spend time in the kitchen trying new recipes.

Yesterday I decided to whip up a batch of Bunny Blondies, a recipe I came across in the September 2012 issue of Family Fun Magazine. A recipe that promised a yummy, (mostly) wholesome snack that is literally packed with carrots. And butterscotch. I love butterscotch!

My daughter (now almost 3) helped me make the special treats. It took us about an hour and destroyed my kitchen, much like most of our from-scratch recipes do. But it was totally worth it.

Bunny Blondies are DELICIOUS. Take a spicy carrot cake and mix in a moist, butterscotch blondie and you've got a whole lot of bunny goodness.

And you know what? These things are so good, so easy to make and so ridiculously tempting that I considered not sharing the recipe at all. I imagined myself holding this one in the arsenal of amazing recipes and bringing them to all sorts of events, blushing at compliments like they were my own master creation. Like nobody else could ever make them as well again. Like I've got Paula Deen, butter queen herself, in my bloodlines.

But that just wouldn't be right. So here it is, the amazing recipe for Bunny Blondies. Enjoy!!

(Oh yea, and I left the walnuts out of ours. There are so many nut restrictions these days that it's usually better to see how the recipes turn out sans nuts first.)
See? They even look delicious.


8 medium carrots (about 1lb)
2.5 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2.5 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1.5 sticks butter (softened) - it doesn't specify but I used unsalted
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup butterscotch chips
1 cup finely chopped walnuts (optional)
1. Place oven rack to center and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9X13 pan with cooking spray.

2. Peel and trip the carrots using a box grater. (You want about 3 cups total.)

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt.

4. Using a mixer, blend butter with both sugars until pale and fluffy, about three minutes. Add the eggs and the vanilla and continue beating on medium speed until well blended. Reduce the mizer's speed to low and add the carrots. Mix in butterscotch chips and walnuts.

5. Gradually add flour mixture (the recipe says to do this with a wooden spoon, but I just slowly added it to the mixer). Pour batter into pan and spread evenly (it will be thick).

6. Bake for 30-35 minutes, rotating the pan halfway.

7. Let cool completely before serving. (Yea right, if you can wait that long!)

Disclaimer: This recipe is originally from Disney's Family Fun Magazine, by cookbook author and writer Kathy Kingsley. While I have no association with the magazine, I am a huge fan and do enjoy sharing a great recipe! 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Book Review: Emily Giffin's Where We Belong

I have a love/hate relationship with nearly every Emily Giffin novel. Partially because her characters really come to life for you within her book (making it easy for you to either really really like them or not...) and partially because she seems to really dwell on the subjects of infidelity and lying, neither which are my cup of tea. That being said though, no matter the content I just can't seem to put her books down! And Where We Belong is no exception. Best book to date by this author who brings to life the real drama of awkward situations.

Marian and Kirby meet face to face for the first time after 18 years, unraveling an adoption story and an entire web of secrets. This novel trends back and forth between the two and their stories, and as only Emily Giffin does so well, everything comes full circle with a few surprising twists along the way.

I really enjoyed this book, and read through it in only a few short days. It was the type of story that made me sad to put away, because you feel like you actually get to know and like the characters. As with most of her books, they bring a wave of nostalgia as I read her scenes depicting Manhattan (my stomping grounds for a couple years post-college).

I'm giving this book a five star rating because of how readable it is. I enjoyed it and I couldn't put it down. That being said, I can see this book not sitting well with two very distinct groups of people: those who are in Marian's shoes and have given a baby up for adoption, and those who are in Kirby's shoes, desperately in search of some sort of belonging because they were adopted. While the story is really nice, I imagine that compared to a lot of the true adoption/birth family stories that it's a lot of fluff. Unfortunately.

I do appreciate that Giffin painted a portrait of pro-life in this novel. I really hope that she has another book that continues with these characters. I'm dying to know what happens with Marian, Conrad, and Kirby! You hear that Emily Giffin? There had better be a sequel!

Check out Emily Giffin on Facebook.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Scary School - A New Series for Young Readers! {A Book Review}

Scary School is a brand new series meant to delight readers ages 8-12 (and honestly, anyone who appreciates a quirky, imaginative read). Narrated by 11 year old Derek the Ghost (who had the misfortune of dying at school when a science experiment went totally haywire), Scary School is more charm and humor than scary, and your tweens will love the storylines and characters.
About the Book:
You think your school's scary?
Get a load of these teachers:
Ms. Fang, an 850-year-old vampire
Dr. Dragonbreath, who just might eat you before recess
Mr. Snakeskin—science class is so much more fun when it's taught by someone who's half zombie
Mrs. T—break the rules and spend your detention with a hungry Tyrannosaurus rex!

Gargoyles, goblins, and Frankenstein's monster on the loose
The world's most frighteningly delicious school lunch

The narrator's an eleven-year-old ghost!
Join Charles "New Kid" Nukid as he makes some very Scary friends—including Petunia, Johnny, and Peter the Wolf—and figures out that Scary School can be just as funny as it is spooky!

Scary School sure is a crazy place! Poor "New Kid" Charles has no idea what's coming to him on the morning he first steps in front of Scary School, only to be greeted by the crazy giant squid living in the moat surrounding the building. Author Derek Kent (also known as Derek the Ghost) creates a fully imaginative world where the most mundane details become twisted and spooky, luring readers in to see just what will happen next at Scary School.

This debut novel introduces us to all that Scary School is, with each chapter focusing on a specific character or scenerio within the Scary School walls. You'll meet characters like Sue, the amazing Octo-Chef, and find out what crazy consequences there are when one student mentions to Ms. Fangs that she only has one fang, and therefore should only be Ms. Fang.

Even as a 20 something who doesn't usually read about paranormal situations, this book kept me thoroughly entertained throughout. I was not expecting Scary School to be such a funny place. It certainly makes my own school experience sound boring!!

I think this book is perfect for boys and girls alike who love to let their imaginations take them to new places. The chapters are the perfect length, and the 3rd grade reading level makes this book easy to navigate whether a child is reading alone or with a parent. What really drew me to Scary School the most was the combination between 11 year old Derek the Ghost's narration and the cool illustrations by Scott M. Fischer, which can be found on nearly every page. Their work together on this novel really brings Scary School to life!

Scary School is currently available from in the following formats:
Kindle eBook
Nook Book

Can't get enough of Scary School? Head on over to the Scary School website, where you can tour the school, play games, and take Ms. Fang's quiz after you've read the book.

...and there is more Scary School to come!!
Scary School #2: Monsters on the March

is set to release on June 26th, 2012. You can pre-order it now on for just $10.87! (Click the title above for more information.)

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of Scary School from Derek the Ghost, however the opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own, and may differ from yours.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Pregnancy Mind Games (Realizing that the baby is actually going to come out at some point)

My recent post on having mixed feelings the first time you find out your pregnant was so well received that I have decided to share another pregnancy freak-out with you that I had - realizing that at some point the baby was actually going to come out and become part of our family.

My first pregnancy was a dream - I didn't have any morning sickness or other annoying symptoms besides fatigue, and generally I was feeling great. I credit a lot of this feeling great to my prenatal yoga classes, which I highly suggest any first time mom take full advantage of, because you're not going to have very much time for it the second time around!

We had just moved from our little apartment in New York City to a quiet townhouse in the suburbs of Richmond, Virginia, and because I was planning on being a stay-at-home-mom I didn't bother looking for a new job at the time. I was still doing some work for my previous employer online, but for the most part I had the last 6 months of my pregnancy to just focus on myself and getting ready for the baby (a blessing that I will never forget or take for granted - I'm well aware that it was a rare opportunity for me).

For the most part, I spent my days picking out non-VOC paint samples and outfitting our daughter's nursery with beautiful white furniture and pink accessories. Her closet was stocked with adorable little dresses and outfits that I knew she'd only get to wear once or twice. Everything I did was already for her. I would read out loud to her so that she could hear my voice. I would blast classical music throughout the house as I ironed in hopes that Mozart and Beethoven would somehow rub off on her in-utero.

To say it bluntly, I was blissfully smitten (and ignorant).

People would ask me if I was ready and I'd delight in saying, "Oh yes, I can't wait to be a mom!" I kept getting compliments on what a great mom I was going to be, with so many years of daycare experience under my belt. My confidence was high and my heart was ready.

It wasn't until I was about 35 weeks pregnant (which I am right now with number 2) that it dawned on me that at some point this little girl was going to have to come out of my body one way or another. That there would be a hospital, and doctors, and most likely a lot of pain. That there would be labor. Yes, I'd been to all the classes and read all the books, but for some reason the moment that I realized what a personal experience this would be, I went a little bit batty.

What if we don't get to the hospital in time?

What if I don't even realize I'm in labor?

What does a contraction feel like? I don't think I've even had Braxton Hicks contractions.

What if I'm just not good at it?

Do epidurals always work? What if something goes terribly wrong and I'm allergic to the epidural and it kills me and the baby?
Am I even brave enough to get an epidural?

How do you "push"? What if I poop instead? (I was relieved to learn later that this is a very common concern.)

What if I have to have a C-Section? I don't know anything about C-Sections! What if they can't "put me back together again?"

What if I forget my hospital bag?

Would they really CUT OFF my wedding ring if my hands were too swollen???

What if I pass out in the middle of it all?

Luckily this exchange in my head only went on for about a day before I slapped myself back to reality and told myself that I was just going to have to deal with the cards that God gave me, and that He would be there with me while I went through all of this.

Me with our precious daughter in 2009, just moments old.
And things didn't turn out so bad. I ended up being induced three days past my due date, so I was at the hospital in plenty of time. In fact, once my water broke my doctor noted that I was already having contractions and that I would have been in later that day anyways (not that I could feel the contractions at the time).

The epidural didn't hurt (except afterwards when they ripped the tape holding it on off my back), it worked really well, and I highly recommend it (though after almost passing out at the sight of the needle, my husband has informed me that he will not be in the room next time I receive one).

The rest came pretty naturally. After about 11 hours of labor, I only had to push for 20 minutes to get out precious little AJ out into the world (including a brief two minute scare in which she was literally stuck and there was fear that her shoulder would break or be dislocated).

Now only 4-5 weeks until I meet my little man! (AJ was a whopping 8 lbs 9 oz, so we find out this Friday during an ultrasound if little man will be joining us a week early via induction). It's funny how nostalgic pregnancy makes me. :)  Now if I could only get these stories down in her baby book!!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Saying Goodbye to Your Elf on the Shelf

                                                                                              Source: via Gigi on Pinterest
I know that I have mentioned it several times this holiday season, but we are having such a great time starting this Elf on the Shelf Tradition with our two year old daughter. There is nothing quite like watching here face light up each morning as she searches and finds our elf, Sam, up to new adventures in our house. The memories we are making are so precious to me!
There are still a few days left to get creative with your Elf on the Shelf (check out my post on hilarious Elf on the Shelf ideas) but this Saturday is already Christmas Eve, meaning that elves all over the world will be making their trip back to the North Pole, only to return after Thanksgiving next year.
Throughout my search for fun ideas, I have come across a lot of stories about sad partings with the Elf on the Shelf. Stories of sobs from little ones who measure the time between Christmases with vast enormity, and stories of children who just don't understand why their elf can't just stay all year round.
In this thinking, I've also seen a few ideas for making goodbyes special with your elf. I thought I'd share with you my own that we'll be putting into place on December 24th!
On the 24th, Sam will be perched in an obvious place with a letter written in his own cute elfish handwriting, that will go something like this:
It's Christmas Eve, and Santa is coming! You've been such a good girl this year and I have had so much fun coming to your house and seeing you every day.
I've got a special surprise for you, too. Santa said that I won't need my magic tonight to get home because he is picking me up himself with his sleigh, and that if you want to, you can give me a goodbye hug. Just one big hug though - I still need a good dose of magic because as soon as Christmas is over I'm going to be back to work making toys in Santa's workshop!
I can't wait to see you next year and how much you've grown!
To keep in touch our kids in touch with Sam throughout the year, my husband and I have also come up with the idea to take Sam along with us throughout the year (ie business trips with my husband, our family beach trip, etc) and to snap a quick picture when the kids aren't looking. We'll then use the pictures to send the kids a postcard from time to time letting them know that Sam is looking forward to coming back after Thanksgiving, and what he's been up to in the meantime.
Does your family have a special way to say goodbye to your elf?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Funny & Creative Elf on the Shelf Ideas

Wow! In the last year the Elf on the Shelf's popularity has sky-rocketed across the US. Santa is sending out elves left and right to keep an eye after all the little boys and girls and make sure they are good this holiday season.

We were so pleased to give away an Elf on the Shelf to a lucky Holly at Nap Time reader earlier this holiday season. I really wish that I had 400+ elves to give away to all those who entered, but if you don't already have an elf, I can assure you that the $30 is a great investment. To learn more about Elf on the Shelf, click here.

My daughter is only two years old, and this is our first year with our Elf, Sam, so his hiding spots and antics are pretty obvious and don't really tell much of a story. My friends with older kids, however, are getting pretty creative, and moms all over are sharing their ideas on Pinterest, which begs the question: Is Elf on the Shelf more fun for children or parents?

I'll leave that up for you to decide. Some of these ideas have given me such a chuckle that I have no choice but to share.

Elf cutting a mattress tag! Oh no!!!

Sneaking items from Mom's purse.

Going on a candy binge!
Source: via Lacey on Pinterest

Loading up on syrup - one of the elves four main food groups.

Candlelit date with Barbie... and I'm pretty sure there is alcohol involved!?

Building a snowman in the freezer!
Source: via Erin on Pinterest

Being held hostage by Lego men!
Source: via Erin on Pinterest

Elf replaces all family photos with pictures of himself!

Have your Elf leave the kids a note asking them to plant his magic seeds (Tic Tacs) into a bowl of sugar for a sweet surprise. When they wake up the next morning the seeds will have grown into cookies! ;)

Elf  gets locked outside!!

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