Friday, January 13, 2012

happy birthdays...

Da na na na na na, you say it's your birthday!
Da na na na na na, it's my birthday too yeah!


It's that time of year in my house.  It's insanity, but we survived.

Jacob is SEVEN...

Saren is THREE...

I am (gulp) THIRTY-SIX...

 and Eddie is now FIVE...

In all the birthday preparation this year I discovered pre-packaged fondant, which allows even a hack like myself, to make some pretty cute cakes.  This was a good thing as my kids were pretty specific about what kind of cake they had in mind.

Jacob wanted a Gryffindor Harry Potter cake.  I stole the idea from this lady.

Saren wanted a "Jack Sparrow" cake.  On a side note, I am hoping her obsession with grungy, disheveled, non-conformist men ends before her dating years.  Anyway, I managed to talk her into pirate cupcakes...and ended up with these.  She was happy.

And Saren is the type you don't want to disappoint...or you get this look.

Eddie, was inspired when he saw a cake my cute cousin Lindsey posted on Facebook.  He was not going to settle for anything but an equally cool,  Angry Birds cake.  I'm not sure if I achieved one as professional as Lindsey's, but this is what I came up with. 

I kept having to make more birds, because Eddie wanted "the bomb one" and "the little blue one".  I had to explain to him I am not a Pixar animator, because he also wanted a score board to show him his points and one bird that could fly over the cake and drop an egg.  Despite not having those elements, Eddie loved it!  He even said, "This is awesome Mom!  You're the best!".  Mom SCORE!  

The other birthday surprise was that we had lots of family show up to party.  We rarely get a lot of company, so that was a lot of fun.  The kids loved seeing their cousins and I loved the company.

By the way, in true Merril fashion, my Dad saw this last picture and said "Look!  It's Lynda, Saren and Tom Selleck!"  Pretty solid.  It's been a fun two weeks.  And now I can relax, kind of.  I already told Dave, no theme cakes for his 40th in May.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

my literary year in review...

I read 47 books in 2011.  Mainly thanks to my thoughtful husband who gave me a kindle for Christmas one year ago.  I love me some kindle.  It is amazing.  I love being able to take EVERYTHING I am reading everywhere.  I love being able to download a new book, when I'm in the mood for a certain kind of read, immediately and having access to a bazillion choices.  It is so fun.  As gratifying as reading is, you can never really quench your book thirst because there is an endless supply of more...and the kindle just makes that beautiful fact about literature all the more apparent.

One thing I have learned by using a kindle for reading is to not judge a book by it's cover...because I actually never see it's cover.  It was a humiliating occasion when I come across a book I read via my kindle and found out the cover looked like this.


THE HORROR!  I am a snob.  I'm sure this isn't news to most of you.  I would NEVER read this book!  But I did, because I liked the books description, it was free to download, fairly well reviewed and it was classified as a "Historical Fiction".  But, mostly, I read it because I never saw this awful cover.  Notice the tiny stone building in the's HISTORY people!

Although I can't say I loved it... (insert shameful pause)... "A Knight's Enchantment" was actually an enjoyable read with characters I liked and a goodish story line that wrapped up nicely.  After a nerdy book like this, my snotty nature makes me seek after something gritty and intellectual and completely disturbing...which is why I read "Midnight Cowboy" by James Leo Herlihy.  It was definitely a palette cleanser.

Anyway, after 47 books (and 5 still in my current reads folder)...these are my favorite from 2011, in no particular order.

Diary of the Displaced by Glynn James.  This book was amazing.  It was fast paced and surprising and just the right amount of confusing at times.  I loved the main character, I loved the ending.  I want to see the movie...someone make one.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford.  This is an actual historical fiction that gives you a glimpse of the lives of Japanese Americans during World War II.  This story was BEAUTIFUL and tragic but satisfying because of the characters resilience and humanity.  I think about this book all the time.  I loved the dialogue - bare with an underlying complexity.  Don't I sound smart now?

In this Hospitable Land by Brock Lynmar, Jr..  Another historical fiction about wealthy Jews who fled into France during World War II.  This book made you think and feel without trying too hard.  Lynmar's writing is never preachy, it never pushes you toward a certain conclusion.  He just tells a story, about people who lived through extraordinary circumstances during an extraordinary time.  Lovely.

A Cruel Harvest by Paul Reid.  A love story that I loved but you cannot read this if you are one of my nieces.

A Game of Thrones: A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin.  I admit I had to take a break from this book about halfway through.  It was a little stressful, and long and has at least 100 characters to keep straight.  Although, for me, the ending brought everything together and compelled me to read the next book in this series.  Besides, I need something to talk about with my nerdy brother and brother-in-law.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett.  The movie was well done and I really enjoyed it but please don't just see the movie.  This is a great read, you will laugh and cry.

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand.  I will never forget this book!  This is a true story about a young soldier who survived World War II against all odds that will amaze and inspire you.  Side note, why do I read so many books about World War II?  The only way I can tolerate reading about the horror and atrocities of war is to be equally amazed by the relentless pursuit of life by people who have had everything taken from them.  This story makes you cheer for the human spirit and makes you feel you have the capacity to endure anything.

There they favorites.  What were yours?