Frog Cupcakes! From Cupcakes, Cookies & Pie, Oh My! by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson

In my cookbook review last week, I promised an update after I'd attempted one of the projects. Here are the results!

I think they turned out pretty darn cute. Not exactly like the photo (which you can see behind them) but with a special quirkiness all their own.

Even with a boxed mix and premade frosting, these are time consuming! Not counting the constant interruptions, I'd guess I probably spent close to 4 hrs making these guys. A lot of that time is spent waiting, though. Freeze, wait. Freeze, wait.  That's also counting the time I took to sort out the colors of M&Ms I needed.


Hump Day Movie: Willow (1988)

Warwick Davis has an impressive résumé, but this is the movie I will always remember him for.  It's also the first movie I saw where Dwarfism wasn't presented as a disability. All to the good.

Not only does Willow  have Val Kilmer in it at the height of his career and attractiveness (he did NOT age well IMHO), it also has the future ex-Mrs. Kilmer, Joanne Whalley (who I think is just stunningly gorgeous).

Willow is one of those movies that didn't hold up well in the special effects department, but it was one of those movies I've never forgotten. It has action, adventure, romance and heart all set in a fantastical world.


Review: Bear Meets Girl by Shelly Laurenston

Format: Trade Paperback (also available as an ebook)
Pub Date: March 27, 2012
Publisher: Kensington Brava
Length: 407 pages (ARC length, finished edition may differ)
List Price: $14.00
FTC: ARC courtesy of the publisher

I got my hot little hands on this ARC a few weeks ago and did a happy dance. I needed a funny book, and Shelly Laurenston never lets me down. And of all of Laurenston's shifter books, I love the bear ones best. They. Are. Hysterical. There's something about the bears that make me happy.

It begins with Jello-o shots. Or the aftermath of a few too many of them, to be precise. Lou Crushek wakes up at a friend's house, naked, with an equally naked woman he doesn't know draped over him. And Cella, the unknown woman, gets way too much enjoyment out of torturing the hungover, confused polar bear shifter.


Hump Day Movie: Innocent Blood (1992)

There's something about the horror-comedy genre that appeals to me. Maybe it's because I have an overdeveloped sense of the ridiculous, but Robert Loggia in Innocent Blood makes me happy. In a 'that's so wrong, but I'm laughing anyway' kind of way.

This has the same sick, twisted humor of other John Landis films, but gets ignored in favor of his more famous ones. The sex + vampire dynamic made many of the critics uncomfortable, which is one reason this was widely panned. Worth seeing if only for Robert Loggia's show stealing performance.

Innocent Blood is available on Netflix or on Amazon.

TBR Challenge Review: Lover Unleashed

Format: Hardcover (available as a mass market paperback, ebook
Pub Date: March 2011
Publisher: NAL
Length: 489 pages
FTC: Borrowed from Mom

I've had Mom's copy of this book sitting in my TBR for nearly a year now. Which, in terms of TBR Guilt, is a pretty long time. I don't think she's read it yet, either. There's a new Black Dagger Brotherhood book coming out this month, and this month's TBR Challenge theme was series catch up. Coincidence? Maybe. But it worked to make me get off my duff and read this book.

Part of my reluctance about reading this book was the hero's name: Manuel Manello. DUMBEST. NAME. EVER.  Sorry, was I shouting? But seriously, in a world where superfluous Hs dominate and everyone's name sounds angry, this name takes the prize as the worst name ever. And that's not even counting that a diminutive of Manuel is Manolo...which makes his name Manolo Manello. *snicker*

These books are silly. There's no getting around that. Ward's writing style is so over-the-top that I find myself guffawing over the word usage, product placement, or WTF dialog. But they are also angsty and addictive. And every so often Ward writes a paragraph or three that really hits me in the gut with its simplicity and power. When you strip away the trappings of the BDB world, Ward can write emotion so well you feel like sobbing ugly, heaving sobs. (Not that I can find any quotes right now, because my kids removed my bookmarks. *growl*)

The saving grace of this book is that it really isn't about Manello or Payne, our supposedly kick-ass but really quite passive heroine. It's V's book, part II. And I'm fine with that. He got screwed in his own book, so I'm fine with him getting another one. There's some interesting relationship stuff with Butch and V, too, and we get a few emo scenes of the Qhuinn, Blay drama.

I'd say this was the worst of the series, but that honor will always belong to Phury's book (Lover Enshrined) thanks to the whining. As long as you ignore that this book was supposed to be about Manello and Payne, it does just fine. The gaping absence of the other Brothers seems a bit weird, especially when they pop in midway through the book all beat up, only to disappear again. Lover Unleashed is just not as good as the first few in the series, and I'm deducting points for the wimpy ass heroine even if that is a Ward tradition.

My Grade: C


Cookbook Review: Cupcakes, Cookies & Pie, Oh, My!

Format: Oversized paperback
Pub Date: 2012
Publisher: HMH (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
List Price: $17.95 (available for around $12 on Amazon)
FTC: received as a gift from my husband ;)

UPDATE: I made the frogs! You can see how they turned out here.

I love baking. Usually from scratch. But for the kids, I admit I'm a box mix kind of gal. They really don't appreciate the difference in from-scratch baking when it comes to cupcakes or cakes. Cookies, yes. Cupcakes? No. But they do appreciate when those baked goods are cute, funny, or cool. And that's where this book comes in.

Most of these decorating ideas work best when you don't use from-scratch items. The canned frosting is microwavable and turns into a glaze! Many of the appendages of various critters are simply store bought items jazzed up with some sugar or colored frosting. This may send shudders of horror through the ranks of the scratch baking crowd, but honestly? Who has the energy to bake then spend all day decorating? Not me. I can do one or the other. Not both. If you can, more power to you! :)


Recipe: Soft Pumpkin Cookies

These are my favorite cookie to feed the kids. Yes, they're full of sugar and fat, but they also have pumpkin. It's sort of a vegetable, right? And anytime I can sneak veggies into something and have the kids not complain, I consider it a WIN!

Originally from a Libby's recipe, I've only changed one thing: I use a rounded teaspoon instead of an exact teaspoon of cinnamon because I like my cookies on the spicy side. If you want less spice, you can always reduce it to the exact teaspoon. Also, my cookies never look like theirs do (as you can tell by the photo), and I use the criss-cross method of icing drizzle. (Basically, gently swinging the icing-coated whisk back and forth over the cookies instead of very precisely drizzling with a spoon.)

Soft Pumpkin Cookies
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 (rounded) teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
1 cup canned pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie mix)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Glaze (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease baking sheets (I just use parchment paper).

Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in medium bowl. Beat sugar and butter in large mixer bowl until well blended. Beat in pumpkin, egg and vanilla extract until smooth. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until edges are firm. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. Drizzle glaze over cookies.
You can leave these unglazed, but they really are better with the icing.

Combine 2 cups sifted powdered sugar, 3 tablespoons milk, 1 tablespoon melted butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract in small bowl until smooth.


Hump Day Movie: Overboard (1987)

During the Oscars, they had those interviews that featured actors talking about their favorite movies.  And Reese Witherspoon's was Overboard. I *loved* that movie when it came out. Even though it has some elements that would NOT be considered even close to okay now.

My favorite parts: Goldie Hawn's ridiculous eyelashes and her catatonic blubbering after spending all day with the boys. I know I feel like that on rainy days when I'm trapped inside with the kids. Buh, buh, buh, buh...

I really miss Kurt Russell movies. He was a huge star in the late 80s and early 90s, but we don't see him very much anymore. He had this smarmy charm that really worked when he had the right co-star. And his long relationship with Goldie Hawn, which began just before filming, makes the chemistry in Overboard smoking hot!


Read Across America: March 2, 2012

Today is Read Across America Day!! It's also the birthday of Dr. Seuss. Our area had a Family Reading Night last night, and most of the students this morning were toting in blankets, pillows and their favorite books to have a read-a-thon in their classrooms.

This is one of my favorite days in the whole year. Grab a book and a few minutes to celebrate reading today!

You can find out more about Read Across America by going here and here.


Review: Taking a Shot by Jaci Burton

Format: Trade paperback, ebook
Pub Date: March 6, 2012
Publisher: Berkley Heat
Length: 336 pages
FTC: review copy courtesy of the author

I've had mixed results with Jaci Burton books. Some I've loved, some just didn't click with me. Thankfully, Taking a Shot clicked just fine.

I'm not a sports person. At all. I know nothing about hockey (or any other sport, really) except a very basic understanding of the rules. So I can't make a comment on the accuracy of the hockey information. But for someone who isn't into sports, this book doesn't overwhelm you or make you feel as if you're left out of the loop because you don't know the ins and outs of hockey.