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Adventures in naptime

Sleep.

My life revolves around sleep. Or rather Ella's sleep. Or rather, when she will and won't sleep. 

First off let me say that she is typically an amazing nighttime sleeper. We trained her pretty early to self sooth and she has been in her own crib in her own room since just after turning 2 months. She tends to sleep for long periods... from 10 to sometimes 12 hours straight through.

Of course, there are nights when she needs a few extra nocturnal feedings (usually on nights when I have stayed up late or need to get up early in the morning, it's like she KNOWS!) but for the most part she goes to sleep around the same time every night and gets up around the same time every morning.

So, night? Nights are a walk in the park. (again, most of the time).

But naps?

Naps are a whole other thing. 

And the thing is... for a while we had a pretty good routine. -not a schedule mind you, but a routine-

She fought her naps a little bit... not all that bad, but still draining. as the day would go on she would get mroe and more anti-nap and more fussy. Morning were fine, afternoons were hard, evenings kinda sucked. But we were dealing.

And then last week, the routine stopped working and she started fighting me on naps. all naps, all screaming, all the time. Morning. Afternoon. Evening. 

Horrible.

Just.... horrible.

Case in point: (from my journal) After fighting for 20 minutes to get Miss E to fall asleep, she finally simmered down. I waited.... she eventually dozed off. I waited  to make sure... but she had the blanket on her face, so I tiptoed into her room and gently, oh so slowly and gently pulled it off... and 2 mins later she woke up screaming... and 30 mins later we still haven't managed to go back to sleep. At this point I give up.

Case in point: Ella has become queen of the 9 minute nap. I don't think this is long enough really for a rest... but she screams for 20 mins then just stops... for nine to eleven minutes... and then she is screaming again like she is being tortured   This is bad enough but I just realized after two days of this that she isn't even napping in those 9 to 1 minutes... I peeked at her a little while ago and she was glaring at the wall... just biding her time, waiting for me to start to relax before she would launch into another screaming jag.

Screams.... simmer down... screaming... a moment of peace: is she asleep or just gearing up again for more, oh yes, here we go: Screams!

Today I tried something different  Instead of waiting for her to start acting sleepy, I told her, "You get to be awake for an hour and a half, then it will be nap time."

We hit the hour and a half mark, I stopped playing with her and picked her up. a diaper check and then a slow song cuddle dance and then into bed she went.

And... no screaming.

None.

Today we are back to our beautiful drift off to sleep she is actually taking a nap routine! 

Granted the naps tend to be around 1/2 an hour, 45 mins at the max... but still! 

And, who knows. This might be a fluke. I might be jinxing it. 

But for now, for now I am pleased... so very very pleased!


Jennifer Government

Jennifer Government by Max Barry










This book takes place in the not too distant future where the government has been privatized and people (even children) take on the last name of their employer/school. Yes, it is satire. Yes it deals with with globalization and marketing craziness... such as Nike hiring a hit man to kill the first person to buy their new shoes as a way of making the shoes desirable... but thankfully it goes beyond the shtick and tells the story of the people living in this semi dystopian world; namely single mom and government agent Jennifer Government and struggling villain turned hero Hack Nike.

I loved it.

Witty, sharp, poignant, and short this book has everything you want in a speculative fiction novel; compelling unforgettable characters, dark humor coupled with sobering realities, and a perfect ending.

One of those books that will stay with you and inspire rereading long after completion, this book is not to be missed.

I highly recommend it!


Perks of Being a Wallflower: Movie

I wrote a review for Perks of Being a Wallflower in which I gushed about it... because really, it is a very well written book.

And then I saw the movie... as one does when one likes the book and has a major crush on the actress in the movie adaptation.


Anyway....

Adaptations are always hard because if you loved the book you are bound to find something you hate about the movie even if that something is that no one looks the way you had imagined.

(I had it easy, my copy of the book was released after the movie was in the works so everyone looked exactly they way I had pictured them.)

A wise woman once said that comparing books to movies is like comparing fresh apples to apple pie. They are both apple in taste, but one has gone through remarkable transformation and is something altogether different. And sometimes, despite you love for apple pie… you crave an apple pure. They are different things and should be treated as such.

Well ok then... you know I lied the book (and if you need a refresher, here's my review.)

What about the movie?

The Movie on its own merits.

- Well done! The pacing is smooth, the drama is gripping, the character development is pristine!

- The acting was superb!

- The use of flashbacks was a bit awkward, but the lead up to the climax was very well shot and executed.

- Marvelous story, we really feel for Charlie and his desire to fit in and stay connected to his friends.


...



The Movie in terms of being an adaptation of the book

- Great use of music.... they kept the spirit of the times with the needed modernization .. ie, they didn't bring it into today's world but let it stay where it needed to be with the right amount of emphasis placed on the indie bands.

... but they made changes (how could they not?). I guess I am disappointed in the changes because they seemed to be unnecessary and to change, in small ways, the overall feel of the story.

- They took out almost all of the family stuff... and while that is understandable  it is disappointing  The scenes with Charlie's father and the MASH episode, the story arc of his bonding with his sister.. these are elements that made the story more than just a coming of age story like so many others.

- A subtle change, but one worth noting: Early in the book Sam tells Charlie to not fall in love with her... and so he tries not to. This results in him not chasing her, not asking her out etc. Towards the end, Sam asks him why he never pursued her and he reminds her of what she told him... and this worked on a few different levels. It showed us how Charlie is so literal, it showed us that he was so determined to maintain that relationship that he never acted on feelings even when the situation had changed and it might have been okay to do so. In the movie, which lacked the early instruction from Sam, his inability to ask her out is painted as more of shortcoming, a social awkwardness, a failing on his part to "get" that she might have been interested in him rather than a intentional choice on his part to respect her wishes.

- Which leads us to another Sam and Charlie change.. in the movie he helps her with her studies which leads to her getting to go to college... and this dramatically changes how they relate to one another. He helps her academically and she helps him socially .. and while it isn't done as a quid pro quo thing, the elements are there  In the book, Sam likes him and includes him into her circle of friends for not other reason than she likes him and wants to include him.

- The sex.  In the book, Charlie and Sam don't have sex. In the movie it is strongly implied that they do.  This is a huge difference as the lack of sex (but the sexual touching) in the book is the catalyst for Charlie's breakdown and the book's climax... where Charlie learns about his past.  Changing that changes the breakdown to be one stemming from guilt or from seeing her drive away... not brought on by the sexual touching... and if it isn't a PTSD moment of panic that leads Charlie to realize his own abuse but rather the loss of a friend and romantic interest that gets him to that dark place, well, that is a loss as well because it siply isn't as powerful.

All in all the movie was well done and had I not read and loved the book as much as I did, I would probably have enjoyed it more.

However... I would advise the reading of the book and the skipping of the movie because in the end, the elements that made the book so well done are important enough to warrant the extra time of reading rather than watching. And, like I said before, the book is an incredibly quick read.

There you have it... read the book... (maybe while listening to the soundtrack from the movie). You won't be sorry.


       

The Peach Keeper

The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen


A Chick-Lit with enough heart and mystery to overcome its almost cavity inducing sweetness and light.

The Peach Keeper is the story of women... old women, young women, women from a forgotten time, women of today... women who hate each other and women who would go to the ends of the Earth to protect each other. In short, this book is about the bonds that women can form when they decide to stop competing with one another and work together.

What worked:
 - The perspective change between the two leading ladies. While the author's voice didn't change, she never left you in doubt of who's part of the adventure you were seeing.

- The build up of the mystery and eventual conclusion.

- The supporting cast of characters, most notably the character of Rachel who really deserved her own book.

What didn't work... at least for me.
- The Rom/Com pairing off of couples. As soon as our cast of characters had all been introduced, two men and two women, the thought of a double date and living happily ever after was not just obvious, it was a forgone conclusion that sapped a bit of the tension from the story.

- The injection of the supernatural. Yeah, it's a pet peeve, but supernatural stuff always takes me a bit out of the story especially when it is introduced rather late in the game. It simply wasn't needed to tell the story.

- The "is he or isn't he" in regards to the sexual orientation of a character. For goodness sake people, just ask.  (But wait, you might be saying... isn't it rude to ask if someone is gay? No. Asking because you are curious is rude. But if you want to sleep with / fall in love with the person, then it is not only not at all rude, it is sort of a necessary step in determining comparability.  And he was part of the little happy foursome mentioned above... so the only person who didn't know he was into the woman was the woman herself, which was just annoying.

*Ok... another pet peeve... she has a laundry list of reasons she thinks he is gay but never EVER considers the possibility that he is bi. So.. yeah.. she saw him kissing another boy back in high school. I'm sorry to burst your bubble but high school sexual explorations does not equal sexual orientation... and even if he was madly in love with the boy in high school that doesn't mean that he couldn't also be madly in love with her... because, again, he might be bi. A mystery easily solved by asking.

Grrrr

Ok.

But besides all that, the book was a quick read and I enjoyed the fact that though the two main women characters where set to be rivals, at least in the beginning  the author managed to make them both fully rounded out and sympathetic.  She didn't cut corners and make the rich perfect girl all evil or the more plain Jane character the heroine. I appreciated that.

So.. worth reading for sure... in fact if you need a book for the beach or the plane, consider this one a perfect fit.  Yes it is chick-lit (with all the pros and cons that entails) but it is full of heart, has a good message, and was well written.




January 2013 Update


Hello readers and supporters!

It has been a few months since this site was updated due to the birth of my daughter.

Already an active reader, she promises to follow in the footsteps of her parents. 

The past three months have been a wonderful break from the world as I get acquainted with her and with the joys and frustrations of motherhood.

However, I am excited to return to writing and reviewing. Look for more updates and entries in the coming year.

Thank you to everyone who sent well wishes; we are very happy.

Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky



I really enjoyed this book!

Perks is a coming of age story that focuses on the tapestry of the coming of age experience rather than the introspective focus that is often found in such tales.

The story isn't just about Charlie and his first year of high school, it is about his friends going through their final year of high school, about his sister going through a personal struggle that will define her for the rest of her life, and about a single moment in time that will never come again.

But mostly, yes, the book is about a wallflower named Charlie.

Charlie is special... today we would probably put him on the autism spectrum (although more in the Asperger's Syndrome end) and there is something else as well.. something dark that lies just below the surface, something that leads Charlie to have panic attacks and to be unable to stop crying.

There are some beautiful moments in this book, moments that resonate past the pages of cliche high school troupes and predictable love triangles. Moments when Charlie's ability to see the truth of  the situation because he is somewhat removed, because he is the wallflower are so expertly written by Chbosky that you want to break down and cry.

In the end, that is the greatest perk... and through Chbosky's use of the narrative structure of letters, we are able to capitalize on that perk as well.

By communicating with the reader through letters simply addressed to "Friend" we are both a part of the story and a spectator as well, unable to interact with the drama that is unfolding. We, the audience, become the quintessential wallflowers ourselves with all the perks that being so entails... perks like being able to see a bigger wider frame of the big picture.

And like Charlie we have the disadvantages of being an outsider... for even though Charlie is reaching out through his letters to "friend" the reader is powerless to stop the oncoming train of drama and disappointment  In the same way, Charlie is powerless to stop the wheels of time from moving... he must face the reality that when one is a freshman and all one's friends are seniors, one is going to have to start all over again.

The book is surprisingly deep for being so short, surprisingly fresh for being a few years old, and surprisingly profound for being considered a "young adult" novel.

I highly recommend it!

... There's just this one thing....

(And really it has nothing to do with the writing, I'm guessing ti was a publishing decision, but there is an epilogue that is not only extremely long for an epilogue  but is also vital to the story. It is more of the last chapter than the epilogue .. without it we would have been left at the climax instead of being allowed the falling action and conclusion.

But otherwise, this was an excellent read!

These Delicious Things I Made

Happy New Year!

.... and all the jazz...

I have to say I had a lot of fun during this past holiday season. I got to do some baking, got to do some shopping, got to do some adorable photo taking of Ella... and of course, got to do some serious family bonding time.

Baby Ella at 13 weeks.

But mainly I cooked and ate an insane amount of yummy holiday foods.

And as many of you have been asking me for the recipes for my home made yummy foods... I thought I would share.

Because I'm all about sharing!

There's the Best Hot Cocoa Ever
Marshmallow Accompaniments
Peppermint Sugar Cookies
Oreo Balls of Awesome
M&M Christmas Cookies
and my Classic Sugar Cookies (with sprinkles inside!)

I also made my famous Rosemary Bread and Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Cookies again this year.

And yeah... I gained a few pounds over the course of the last six weeks. Who wouldn't? But that's ok too because now I can make a whole bunch of yummy healthy things!

I'm actually looking forward to cooking more and better in the coming year (yes, it is one of my resolutions).

The waffle iron and cake pop maker set that I got for Christmas will probably get a work out too... hmmmm... maybe I can find a way to make waffles and cake pops healthy? You think? Because that would be so awesome....

/hopeful face/

Oh.. and I will make more and more and more lasagna in the coming year as I am still perfecting my recipe. Lasagna is healthy right?

/return of the hopeful face/













Best Hot Cocoa EVER

Made in the crock pot, served at a recent holiday party... devoured and applauded by all....

Ingredients
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
2 cups chocolate chips (I used milk chocolate)
a packet of instant hot cocoa mix
6 cups milk (I used 2%)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:
Pour all ingredients into crock pot.
Turn on crock pot
Wait.

Enjoy!

(I ran mine on high for an hour then turned it to low... the pot was empty soon thereafter.)

Oh, and a great addition to this bit of heaven? A Marshmallow Accompaniment! (pictured)

Marshmallow Accompaniments

These things are great.... plop one in your coffee, plop one in your cup of hot cocoa... plop one in your milk... plop one in your mouth! So many options!

Ingredients:
Marshmallows (as many as you want)
1 package (4oz) chocolate bark (any flavor but I recommend plain chocolate)
5 candy canes

The measurements are all really based on how many you want to make.






Grind the candy canes up in your food processor (magic bullet for the win!) so that you have a peppermint powder









Melt the chocolate.

(Break it into pieces, place in microwavable bowl, heat on high for 30 seconds, stir -I use a plastic chop stick to stir- repeat until the chocolate is creamy... You can also use the little kits but buying the chocolate is usually cheaper and works just as well.)




Stick toothpicks into the marshmallows, dip in the chocolate, swipe through the peppermint powder and place on wax paper on a cookie sheet, plate or lasagna pan (9 by 13).



Refrigerate at least an hour - better if overnight-.

Done!




Now plop away!!!

Peppermint Sugar Cookies

These cookies come out with just a lovely peppermint glaze on top... a tid bit of peppermint to go along with your cookie! What's not to love?

Ok... so you can either buy a bag of sugar cookie dough mix at the store or use my sugar cookie recipe .. (just don't add in the sprinkles).

Either way you will have sugar cookie dough.


Grind up candy canes in your food processor (hooray for the Magic Bullet!).

Pinch the dough out to form little one inch balls and roll them through the peppermint powder.
Bake as normal!


Now... wasn't that simple?

And delicious!



Oreo Balls of Awesome!



Oreo Balls of Awesome

There are so many variations that can be done with these, but I am going to discuss the basic approach first.

To make the balls themselves…

Ingredients
1 package regular oreos (resist the urge to buy double stuffed etc)
1 package cream cheese

don't do this.
Crush the oreos and mix with softened cream cheese.

Note: At first I used a rolling pin to crush the oreos… this made a mess and was totally the wrong thing to do. Thankfully, I remembered that I own a Magic NBullet (keep your naughty thoughts to yourself, it is a food processor thing) and thus I was able to carry on properly.

Once the cookies and the cream cheese have become one, pinch out a bit at a time, roll them into little balls and set on wax paper. I laid my wax paper in an aluminum baking sheet (lasagna 9 by 13) which worked perfectly.

Pop in the fridge for around 20 minutes

Stick a toothpick into each ball, put back into the fridge… for at least an hour, preferably over night.

Now it is time for the toppings! Again I am going to discuss the basic approach first.

Melt one package (4oz) of chocolate bark in a microwave bowl.
Break it up into pieces, warm on high for 30 seconds, stir, repeat. It took me three times before the chocolate is all nice and melty.

Pick up the ball by the toothpick, swipe it through the melted chocolate and place on new wa paper.

Back in the fridge for at least an hour!


Ok… now to make it fun….

I crushed candy canes in the Magic Bullet (food processor) into a fine peppermint powder. I used this in one batch by mixing it with the cookies and the cream cheese so that the balls were already a bit peppermint flavored. Another time I swiped the balls through the powder after the chocolate for a crusty peppermint coating. (This was by far the favorite.) You can also use mint oeros, flavored oreos, and of course different flavors of bark… The possibilities are endless!

Whatever you do to make the balls your own, you won’t regret the bit of prep time entailed…. These treats and so darn yummy they are dangerous. (The sticks can be removed prior to serving if you wish…. Makes transport easier too!)


M&M Christmas Cookies


These are pretty much chocolate chip cookies with red and green M&Ms instead of chocolate chips.
But… but I have the best chocolate chip cookie recipe and therefore here goes!

(I have no photos because I totally forgot to take any. Also, these cookies tend to disapear very quickly.)

Ingredients

1 cup butter (softened)
1 cup white sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons hot water
½ teaspoon salt
1 bag holiday red and green M&Ms


Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
2. Cream together the butter, white sugar, and brown sugar until smooth.
3. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla.
4. Dissolve baking soda in hot water.
5. Add to batter along with salt.
6. Stir in flour,
7. Add M&Ms.
8. Roll into small inch balls and place on greased cookie sheets
9. Bake for about 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until edges are nicely browned.


These cookies are always a hit… and this recipe can be doubled very easily… just make sure you are using a bowl big enough for 6 cups of flour plus everything else.

Kay’s Joyful Sugar Cookies!



There is a bit of prep work to these.... but I find that it is worth it.

 Yes, you can buy the bag of sugar cookie mix that just needs water or oil or whatnot.... but I promise you that these taste better.




Ingredients:

1 cup butter softened (not melted)
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
Dash of nutmeg
¼ cup milk
Red and Green Sprinkles!



Directions:

In large bowl beat softened butter with electric mixer on medium until mostly creamy.
Add sugar and blend.
Add vanilla and egg and blend until smooth

In another bowl combine flour, baking powder, and dash of nutmeg (I used 2 shakes)

Pour half flour mixture into butter mixture
Add milk
Stir in the rest of the flour mixture

Mix well, the dough will be thick and sticky.

Here’s where it gets fun.

Scoop out half the dough and place in the bowl you had used for the flour etc.


Pour green sprinkles into dough ball one and red sprinkles into dough ball two… mix each dough ball well (I use a spatula).


Once mixed separate each dough ball into two to three mounds or logs or clumps… whatever you want to call ‘em. Place these in foil lined baking pan (lasagna sized 9 by 13) or casserole dish.

Cover the dish with plastic wrap and pop in the fridge overnight.

The next day….





Roll each mound of dough into a small snake like log and then use a sharp knife to cut into , err slices. You may need to re-roll the dough and pat it down at the ends to make it the right shape.

I make small cookies because I like them tiny and crispy.


Bake on greased sheets for 8 minutes (longer if you have thick slices), cool for 4 minutes then transfer to wire rack.

If you make ‘em small like in the photos, you will end up with around 80 cookies.