Monday, November 25, 2013

Sweet Reads: Pumpkin Roll and Grave Images

Once a month I'll be posting a dessert recipe and an excerpt(s) from a book that's struck me just right, whether it be gorgeous descriptions, funny dialogue, swoon-worthy kisses, sarcastic come-backs, or spine-tingling encounters.

The reason I never act saintly is 'cause I've got too much want in my heart. Mama was cursed with a wanting heart, too. That's why hers is broken now.

This is the start to a wonderful MG book. Grave Images is the first MG book featured on Sweet Reads thus far, which I'm a bit surprised about in retrospect, b/c I love MG books. They normally never fail to bring a tear to my eye, and Grave Images was no exception. Poor Bernie's family is going through such a rough time. And having become a mother myself in the last two years, my heart ached for them, as children truly are the most precious gift.

But GI really hit me hardest with this sentence(the mc is thinking what a cemetery is not like to the boy who followed here there): Not a place that punched you hard in the gut and then apologized with peace, quiet, and the sweet smell of grass. I lost my Mom when I was a teenager(please no apologies- it's okay, but thank you! :) ) and the above sentence describes so perfectly what it's like to visit the cemetery. When it's so hard to approach the grave and see that name, but then, after awhile, it is comforting to sit there and visit w/them in such a beautiful, serene setting.

Now on to some of the fun passages in this book, which I promise it abounds with:

Due to Mimi loving God first and roosters second, our home holds a scattering of crosses, paintings of the Holy Family, and images of red comb-headed chickens.

And here, b/c this paragraph made me chuckle, as well as tying in so perfectly w/Mimi- Bernie's grandmother(I'm taking notes on how you did this, Jenny!): There weren't a whole lot of decorations, either: however, one shelf above the fireplace housed a mishmashed collection of cheer trophies and religious statues. Porcelain members of the Holy Family(enough to make Mimi jealous) surrounded by cheap brass figurines holding pom-poms. It was like they were all cheerleading, "Go Baby Jesus," or something.

Bernie also develops a reluctant friendship in the book with a boy named Michael, who she feels has a big head and sausage fingers- true love in the making, lol! Here's where we first meet him: He was coming up the sidewalk on a pogo stick. A pogo stick! It was thin and silver and Michael was wearing a bright-red helmet. He looked ridiculous, of course- like a giant cherry lollipop springing into the sky.

I super recommend this book to anyone looking for a MG with a lot of heart, humor, a dash of scary, and the reminder to be thankful for those we love, everyday. I promise it won't disappoint! And, though I always read first and foremost to entertain myself(yup, I'm deep like that) and not necessarily to 'learn' anything, I truly feel like this book could help kids who are dealing w/grief. Or, if they haven't yet experienced losing someone close, then to learn a bit about empathy for others. I know when the kidlet gets old enough, this will be one of my 'must-reads' for him.

And now, this month's recipe. It's a bit more work than I usually like, but so worth the end results. Pumpkin and cream cheese are one of those combos that just can't be beat.

Pumpkin Roll

3 eggs
2/3 c. pumpkin
1 c. sugar
pecans or walnuts*
3/4 c. flour
1 tsp. soda
1 tsp. nutmeg
2 tsp. cinnamon

8 oz. cream cheese
1/4 c. butter
3/4 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

1. Blend eggs & pumpkin together.
2. Sift all dry ingredients, & blend together with egg mixture.
3. Grease 10 x 15 cookie sheet(one that has sides).
4. Pour batter onto sheet & bake 20-25 mins @ 350.
5. Roll in a towel.
6. Beat all ingredients of the filling together, and unroll cake and spread over it.
7. Re-roll cake. Wrap in wax paper & store in fridge.

*Nuts are optional, given whether or not you like them, and quantity would just depend on how nutty you like it.

I hope everyone has a blessed, yummy, and very Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Kidlet's Room

So I know I've been promising an office reveal...but it's STILL not ready. *le sigh* I had the bright idea of covering the backs of my bookcases in fabric, and while I love how it's looking, it's taking me FOREVAH! And since I was thinking November was when I'd be showing off my new space, I'll show you my little man's room instead.

This striped wallpaper is the only wallpaper we didn't tear out of the house when we bought it. As soon as I saw it I knew it would look great in our one-day-kid's room. And as soon as I saw the Dr. Seuss's One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish clock on Amazon, I knew I had to buy it. Perhaps it has something to do with my affinity for Swedish Fish...?   

His bookshelves are made from vinyl gutters! I saw them on Pinterest and my father-in-law made them for me. I absolutely love how they turned out. Thanks, David!
I love this Dr. Seuss saying, and hope the kidlet takes it to heart. And in this picture you can see part of the Curious George balloon from his first bday party- that was back in March! The thing won't die!

When I found out we were having a boy, I went the same day to Target and bought the rug, canvas artwork, and green mirrors. I knew I didn't want to do a pastel nursery theme that I'd have to change in a few years, and so I just decided to keep it bright and colorful.  Hopefully it'll last him 'til he's sixteen. Ha, ha... Also, the blue stegosaurus? My mom crocheted that for me when I was a little girl. It meant so much to me to be able to pass it on to my own child.

I glued the buttons onto the lampshade(another Pinterest idea). The cup and plate are from two great literary classics- Guess How Much I Love You & Peter Rabbit. My husband painted the dresser for me, and I love the vibrant pop of color it brings to the room.
Well, I hope you all enjoyed seeing the kidlet's room. And one of these days it'll be the office- promise! =)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Meeting Kate DiCamillo

I went yesterday to the Glendale Branch Indianapolis-Marion Public Library to see Kate DiCamillo was great! I got there at five minutes 'til two, and the place was packed out. I bought Kate's newest book from the booksellers there(more on that later) and managed to squeeze into the back of the room.

The other half was just as full, and the sides and back of the room were standing room only.

Kate started out by saying how nice it was to see so many people and then asked, "Now...what are we going to do?", which caused a wave of laughter. She then jumped straight into letting people ask questions. The kids there were not shy about sticking their hands in the air! =) After a young boy asked about Rob Horton(the mc in The Tiger Rising) Kate explained that she wasn't sure what it was that Rob wanted for awhile- until one day talking on the phone, Kate's mother informed her there was a tiger loose in Florida. And she realized then that Rob Horton needed a tiger- and she hung up on her mother. "Never hang up on your mother," Kate told the kids. I hope they follow her advice, as I've been guilty of doing just that- but boy oh boy, did I only ever do it once!

Kate has such pretty white/blond hair- though it's sort of blending in w/the white board here.
When asked to talk about when she started writing, Kate asked the room if we wanted the long or short version. 'Long' was the unanimous vote to which she replied, "What a strange and wonderful group of people you are." She also told us that when she started out writing she borrowed her mother's JCPenney card and bought three black turtle necks and sat around looking serious...while not getting a whole lot of writing done.

So as time passed she told herself she would sit down an hour a day at the typewriter. Which was exactly what happened...but still no words. Then she made a promise to herself to write two pages a day. And since her first book, Because of Winn Dixie to her most current, Flora & Ulysses, she's written seventeen books, with three more due out soon- though I'm sure that two pages a day has been increased!

Another of her quips that caused a laugh was when a teenager not too far from me asked if Kate would ever write anything focused towards YA. Kate's reply? "Probably not. I've found that as teens you leave me, but then you come back to me in your twenties." So true! =)

The line for the signing was huge. While I waited I amused myself by taking some more pictures. For you football fans out there I give you Andrew Luck. Tah-dah!'re not fooled. Fine. You're right. He's a cut-out.

Here's some pretty lights in the ceiling:

And finally, it was my turn! Since we were both wearing black, we look a bit conjoined, but I swear that's Kate's arm behind me. I'd never be so presumptuous as to just fling an arm around her! See, both hands above table! =)

All in all it took me around forty minutes to get to the table, and it looked like there'd probably be another thirty mintues until everyone else was through. And while I was there I also spotted another author, Mike Mullin, author of the Ashfall Trilogy. I've seen him speak once before(informative and engergetic), and meant to go over and get a picture of him as well, but after meeting Kate I was a bit starstruck and just wandered off looking at our pic together and completely forgot until I was out at the car. *sad face* 
But back to the booksellers that were there, Kids Ink. They're a great Indianapolis independent bookstore that I've been dying to check out. I don't get up to Indy a whole lot, but one of these days I'm going to make a point to visit what looks like a great kid's bookstore. Also, the last I knew, Mike Mullin's mother is the owner. How cool is that? 
All in all it was a fun day, and the one last thing that made it even better? A diet, extra vanilla coke from Steak 'n Shake. Life's good. 

Footnote: I'm reading Flora and Ulysses right now, and it's SO GOOD! I totally recommend it! Also, I've already besmirched my copy with ketchup... =(

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Giveaway Winner

Please email me at to claim your prize.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Anna Staniszewski and A Giveaway!

I'm super excited to have the talented Anna Staniszewski here on the blog! Her third book, My Sort of Fairy Tale Ending releases tomorow. *cues applause* And to commemorate this special day, I've composed a list of fairy tale related questions as well as a giveaway(if you like cute necklaces, hang around 'til the end of the post...).

What's your favorite fairy tale?
The one I keep coming back to is "East of the Sun, West of the Moon" which is an amazing tale in which the heroine has to go on a journey to rescue her prince. (I think that tale was very much in my mind when I started writing the UnFairy Tale series.)

In a throw-down between wicked step-mothers, who would win- Cinderella's or Snow White's?
Ooh, great question! I think it might have to be Snow White's. She's evil and very crafty, which means she's unpredictable and incredibly dangerous.

Which fairy tale would you least like to find yourself deposited in?
Hansel and Gretel would be my worst nightmare. I'm a total candy addict so there's no way I could resist the pull of the delicious candy house. I'd get eaten by a witch for sure!

What's your favorite fairy tale adaption by an author?
There are so many fairy tale retellings that I absolutely love, but I think Ella Enchanted might be my favorite. I love how it stays true to the tale while also giving it a life completely of its own, and how it weaves humor and believable romance.

Magical creatures are quite often found in fairy tales(yay!). What's your favorite and why?
I've always been intrigued by mermaids because they're beautiful and mysterious, but they can also lure humans into the ocean which makes them somewhat frightening.

In your opinion, who's the most handsome Disney prince(this one is SO important! ;)) ?
Ha! To be honest, they all kind of look the same to me, but I guess it would have to be Prince Charming.

Born in Poland and raised in the United States, Anna Staniszewski grew up loving stories in both Polish and English. She was named the 2006-2007 Writer-in-Residence at the Boston Public Library and a winner of the 2009 PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award. Currently, Anna lives outside of Boston with her husband and their black Labrador, Emma.
When she's not writing, Anna spends her time teaching, reading, and challenging unicorns to games of hopscotch. She is the author of My Very UnFairy Tale Life and its sequels, My Epic Fairy Tale Fail and My Sort of Fairy Tale Ending, all published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky. Look for the first book in Anna's next tween series, The Dirty Diary, in January 2014, and visit her at
And as for the giveaway, one lucky commenter will receive this scrabble tile necklace:
When I saw it I thought it went perfectly w/My Sort of Fairy Tale Ending, as the cover features a ferris wheel, too. The giveaway will be live for three days, from 11/4- 11/6, w/the winner announced on 11/7. If you comment, it'd be nice if you also headed over to Goodreads and marked MSofFTE as 'want to read' or signed up to follow Anna's blog/newsletter/Twitter. Course, as always, I'll just be going by the honor system here. =)
And feel free in the comments to let me know who your favorite prince is or if you like to ride ferris wheels or not. I like Flynn Rider from Tangled(though he isn't a prince until after he marries the princess...) and though ferris wheels give me wobbly feelings in the tummy, the views are pretty spectacular when you're on one.
So a great big huge thank you to Anna for answering my questions and on the release of My Sort of Fairy Tale Ending! I hope it's a fantastic day for you! *confetti and trumpets blaring*