My 11 Year Old's Book Review of The Kindling by Braden Bell

The Kindling by Braden Bell

All thirteen-year-old Connor Dell wants to do is pass pre-algebra, play lacrosse, and possibly kiss Melanie Stephens. He didn’t mean to set anyone’s gym shorts on fire or make school lunches explode. But now that the strange powers inside him have been ignited, Connor’s normal teenage life is about to go up in flames!

Homework? Of course. Crushes? Sure. But who knew seventh grade included superpowers?

MJ's Review

I really liked The Kindling. It was one of the best books I read this summer. The author was really good a writing the book. I couldn't put it down. I just wanted to keep reading and reading. My favorite character was Lexa because I could relate to her life. Her brother plays jokes on her and picks on her - which happens to me at home too. My favorite part was . . . well, I really liked the whole book. I can't pick just one scene that was the best. But a really funny part was at the end when Connor asks, "I wonder what happened to all those pizzas?"  If you want to know why that's funny, then you'll just have to read the book!

I definitely recommend this book to other kids my age!

Purchase The Kindling by Braden Bell

You can buy a copy of The Kindling at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your local book store.

You can even stop by Braden's website and order an autographed copy of The Kindling AND it's less expensive then ordering from Amazon. This, my friends, is the awesomeness of author discounts. Be sure to order from Braden soon, because the fabulous pricing on his website only runs through his blog tour.

Kansas City Temple Photography Fun

To kick off our family vacation, we went to the Independence Visitors Center and toured the Pioneer home and printing press. The kids really enjoyed it. Before heading back home, we decided to drive to the Kansas City temple and walk around. We haven't been there since the open house. It was a wonderful experience . . . that led to some photography fun.

I love all the photo editing the updated Picasa program has.

This is my original temple picture . . .

And here's some fun stuff I did with it . . .

Cinematography Muted

Cinematography Boosted

Funky Filtered B&W

Original Boosted
Two-Toned Pink

Two-Toned Turquoise

I'm planning to make some funky blocks for my kids bedrooms with the two-toned pictures. Then I'm going to make some magnets for my middle school kids' lockers. I'll let them choose their fave pictures for those.  I'll post again when they're finished.

Do you enjoy photography? What are some of your favorite editing tools?

Dunkin' Donuts + The Ferguson Family = Sweet Harmony

Dunkin' Donuts is one of my all time fave, fave, fave donut shops. The only place that tops them, IMO, is the Haven Bake Shoppe in Lock Haven, PA. But sadly, they are no longer open. So DD reigns as my #1 donut bakery.

Dunkin' Donuts has a fond place in my heart. A few times a year, my mom would treat our family to a dozen of their delicious confections. It was such yummy bliss! Now that there's a Dunkin' Donuts in my Kansas hometown, I've continued the tradition. A few times a year, we grab two dozen donuts and my whole family is super happy.

Today is one of those days. Why? Because we're on family vacation. One day during vacation, we nab some delicious donuts for snacks. It's a meticulous operation. First, we head out to the website and check out the donut poster. Each of the kids get to choose 4 donuts (2 for today, 2 for tomorrow). Mom or Dad takes careful notes, including what donuts they want as substitutes just in case DD is out of one of their faves. When the donuts arrive, we gather around the table with milk and orange juice, then talk, tell silly jokes, and laugh together - all with a wonderful sugar high.

I know, I know - donuts aren't healthy. But like I said, we only do this a few times a year - usually one day during school breaks (Thanksgiving, Christmas and Spring Break). Sometimes, my son who doesn't like cake asks for a donut tower to celebrate his birthday, but that's it. So, while donuts aren't a good idea to eat every day (or even every week), I feel that special treats a few times a year (no matter how crazy the calorie count is), are just fine to indulge in.

What special treat does your family indulge in?

A Sisterhood of Strength by Diony George

A Sisterhood of Strength 
by Diony George

Experience for yourself the pure love that inspires ordinary women to serve and accept service in a truly extraordinary manner. This inspiring collection of true stories from the lives of women just like you is told with heartwarming sincerity. Perfect for sharing, this remarkable book is sure to uplift, encourage, and cheer any woman, whether it's her turn to serve or be served.

A Sisterhood of Strength comes out in August 2012. Watch for it on Amazon and at your local book stores!

My Review

This past year, I've read some amazing books about how women can build themselves up, simplify their lives, or enjoy motherhood. It's been a great year for books that encourage a love of being a daughter of God.

This new book, A Sisterhood of Strength by Diony George, focuses on the service women share with each other -  how that service answers prayers for the women we serve, how service makes us stronger daughters of God, and forges beautiful friendships. The book is filled with essays from women all around the world, sharing stories of moments when they were served or how providing service blessed them. This is definitely a Puffs Plus read!

Misty's Incredible Fruit Salad

We recently had a BBQ with my friend Misty and her family. My kids requested she bring two things - Doritos & a fruit salad made with Cool Whip. And let me tell you, did she ever come through on both counts!

The fruit salad was not only incredibly delish, but also gorgeous! Misty was kind enough to share the recipe for my blog. Thank you, Misty! And blogger friends, get ready for an amazing fruity sugar rush!

Misty's Incredible Fruit Salad
Serves 18-24

1 8oz package Philadelphia cream cheese
3 tubs Cool Whip
1 package Strawberry Banana instant jello
2 bags of miniature marshmallows
4 Bananas
4 Fuji Apples
1 carton of fresh strawberries
2 cans of mandarin oranges drained well
2 Tbsp sugar
Lemon juice


Take the cream cheese out of fridge to soften. Once softened, put in mixer and mix on high. Add 2 Tbsp sugar and 2 tsp lemon juice and mix. Add 1 container of cool whip and mix well.
Add strawberry banana jello mix and again, mix well. Fold in one package of mini marshmallows. Set aside in refrigerator.

Open mandarin oranges and drain, then let set in drainer.
Put a small amount of lemon juice in the bottom of two separate bowls. Slice the bananas and coat the slices in the lemon juice. This helps keep the bananas from turning brown. Core the apples and then slice into bite-sized chunks and place the chunks in the other bowl of lemon juice and coat well. If you don't want the apple peel you can remove the skin before you core the apples. Chunk the strawberries and set them aside.

In a large glass bowl begin layering. The first layer will e the mixture from the fridge of cool whip, jello mix, cream cheese and marshmallows. Next make a strawberry and banana layer. Next, a layer of cool whip. Then a small layer of marshmallows. Then add a layer of apples and oranges. Continue with the layering until you have used all of your ingredients. On the top use the rest of the cool whip then cover with the rest of your marshmallows. I did this so that when I covered it, the cool whip wouldn't stick and make a mess when uncovered.

Thai Sticky Rice with Mango Dessert

My friend Kelly and I went out for Thai this past weekend. I absolutely love, love, love Pad Thai with chicken and shrimp. Yum! But this was my very first time trying a Thai dessert. My taste buds were in heavenly delight as I enjoyed Cocunut sticky rice with mango slices on the side. Oh my! I discovered this recipe below. I'm going to try it out this week and can't wait to see if it lives up to the scrumptiousness I experienced the other night.  

Thai Sticky Rice with Mango Dessert

1/2 cup jasmine rice or other sweet asian rice
1 (14 ounce) can coconut milk (you can use the light kind if you want, it just makes it a little less rich)
1/2 cup sugar
1 mango, sliced

1.) Rice: Cook rice according to package directions, but substitute coconut milk for half of the water, and add half the sugar.
2.) It should be fairly dry when you finish cooking it, without any liquid visible in the pot.
3.) Sauce: In a medium saucepan, boil the rest of the coconut milk with the second half of the sugar.
4.) Keep this at a full boil until the rice is cooked, or until it reaches a thick, syrupy consistency.
5.) Presentation: Arrange the cooked coconut rice in a bowl or plate with the mango slices in some kind of pretty formation and pour some of the sauce over the whole thing. You can top it with a few sesame seeds.

It's Great to Be Almost Eight!

My youngest son, Rob, is turning 8 on August 1st. I still can't quite believe that his baptism is just a few weeks away. He's so excited!

We went out on the 4th of July so I could take pictures for his baptism invitations. Poor Rob thought it would be torture . . . until we got to the park and I let him climb up a tree. 
Little boy + funky tree = happy photography session.

 I really wanted to get some great close-ups of different parts of Rob. I love this picture of him tying his shoes. It makes me think of a future missionary ready to get to work.  

Rob loves to read the scriptures. I often find him with his scriptures open, reading his favorite stories. Another of his favorite activities is to borrow scriptures from Dad or Mom, then compare which passages we have highlighted, read them, and mark them in his own.

This is my absolute favorite picture. It's so Rob! Funny and mischievous, but sweet at the same time.  I love it!

Rob's baptism invitation that I designed. I blocked out all the addresses, etc. 
I'm looking forward to talking with Rob to plan his baptism services and design the program. It's going to be interesting to see who he invites to talk about baptism and the Holy Ghost. Who he'll ask to say the prayers. But the most difficult choice for him will be which songs to sing. He loves, loves, loves to sing the Primary songs. It's going to be tough for him to narrow it down. 

Although, who knows . . . maybe we'll skip the talks and sing lots of songs!  =)

To Be Continued . . . .

Homemade Wheat Bread & Honey Butter

I'm not the best baker in the kitchen. And honestly, yeast terrifies me. I've definitely had more than my share of deflated, misshapen, Frankenstein worthy loaves of bread. I finally found an excellent recipe that I've successfully made several times now.  I don't know the lady's name who gave it to me, but I met her at my church's emergency preparedness fair. She deserves a huge hug!

The bread recipe uses a bread machine to make the dough - which is essential for bakers like me.  =)  I checked out YouTube and found a great video to learn how to knead and shape the dough before putting them in the pan. If baking bread makes you nervous, don't worry. This is the easiest recipe & directions I've ever found!

Wheat Bread

* Makes 2 loaves

1 1/2 c. warm water
3 Tbsp butter
2 tsp salt
2 c. white flour
2 c. wheat flour
4 tsp dry milk
2 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp yeat

Add warm water to the bread machine pan. Add salt & butter in cut up pieces. Add both flours, milk & sugar. Make a small well in the flour, then add the yeast. Snap pan into your bread machine. Set for the dough setting and press start.

Grease & flour 2 bread pans. Preheat oven to 190 degrees.

After the bread machine is done with the dough, then divide the dough into 2 equal parts. Knead dough into 2 loaves. SEE VIDEO BELOW FOR DIVIDING AND KNEADING THE DOUGH.

Place the dough into the bread pans. Fill a small casserole dish with hot water and place it on the bottom rack of the over. Cover bread pans with a towel and place in the oven. Allow to rise for 25-30 minutes.

After rising, remove water and towels. Turn oven to 325 degrees and bake for 30-35 minutes.

Whipped Honey Butter

 1/2 c. butter at room temperature
1/4 c. honey

Whip the butter with a mixer until fluffy. Then gradually add in honey and mix until well blended. Chill until ready to use.

*If using when butter is cold, I usually microwave it for 10 seconds to soften the honey butter up a bit. It makes it easier to spread on the bread.