The Best of the Best of 2013

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Warning: This post will contain more than just books and food. Don’t worry, it will have those things but sprinkled with some other entertainment mediums, memories, and hot guys!

As most people when New Year’s is approaching, I’ve been thinking a lot about the past year. 2013 has been a year of ups and downs for me. Unfortunately, this year will always been known as the year I lost my favorite person in the entire world, my grandmother. But for all the heartache 2013 brought, there are also a lot of great things I have to look back on. I went on an amazing trip to Mexico with my sisters, nephew, and brother-in-law. I also went on a 9-day road trip with a good friend to six states I’d never been to before. It was an exhilarating trip. I recommend everyone go on at least one road trip in their life.

I’ve also seen a lot of great movies, read some terrific books, and ate some delicious food throughout the year. Here are some of my bests of 2013.

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Book Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

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Jacob’s grandfather was always eccentric. He was always telling his grandson tales of the extraordinary children he knew back when he was a young boy. He also suffered from paranoia, expressing fear of the “monsters” out to get him. No one believed the stories he would tell, not even Jacob. But when his grandfather is found dead in the woods and Jacob believes he sees the “monster” who committed the murder, Jacob starts to realize that his grandfathers stories may have been more than just fairy tales.

The family tragedy and discovery that his grandfather may have been right all along, sends Jacob to a remote Island off Wales so he can try to better understand who is grandfather was. While on the Island Jacob discovers a group of children who may be able to help Jacob not only better understand his grandfather but also help him figure out who he really is.

What I Was Thinking Before I Started Reading: OK, I know you aren’t supposed to judge a book by it’s cover but the cover of this book is so cool. And there are a ton of creepy black and white photos throughout the book.
What I Was Thinking in the Middle of Reading: I am pretty sure I’m reading about an alternate universe of the X-Men.
What I Was Thinking When I Was Finished Reading: I kind of liked this book. It was a little all over the place at times, but it was intriguing. I’ll definitely catch up with the second book in the series soon.

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Santa Cupcakes

PhotoGrid_1387409782815Still looking for that last minute gift to get your co-workers, child’s teacher, mailman, etc? Why not go with baked goods?! They’re cheap, relatively easy, and personal. I know that I LOVE getting sweets as a Holiday present, especially a cupcake. You want to give me a cupcake as a present, I promise we will be best friends!

At my job we don’t do traditional gifts but we do all get each other a little something, mostly cookies or candy. Last year I gave cookies so this year I wanted to get something a little different. You can’t really go wrong with a cupcake. And I found this adorable way of packaging them so it was really a no brainer. Everyone in the office was getting an individually wrapped cupcake!

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To save time I made vanilla cupcakes from cake mix. I did make my own buttercream frosting. You can find the recipe on how to make the perfect frosting here. Decorating them was a piece of cake. I’m usually not great with pretty looking food. My food may taste good but I’ll never win any prizes on my presentation. However, these are super simple to decorate and they are adorable!

Once the cupcakes were all decorated, I just needed to wrap them up. I bought a package of 30 plastic tumblers from the Deals store for only $3. They were the perfect size. The cupcakes fit right in. Then you just throw the cup into a plastic treat bag and tie it up with a ribbon. Over all, not including the baking, I want to say the project took about thirty minutes to prepare 20 cupcakes.

I brought the cupcakes into my office today and they were a huge hit. Everyone loved them and they all raved about how they were packaged.

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The Best Book to Movie Adaptations

In my last post I was gushing over how amazing the film The Hunger Games: Catching Fire was. It truly was one of the best book to movie adaptations I have ever seen. Then it got me thinking, “What are some of the other great book to movie adaptations I’ve seen?”

I’m a big fan of seeing a movie based on a book I’ve already read. It’s always fun to check out what was done right and in a lot of cases, what was done horribly wrong. The general consensus seems to be that the “book is always better” and nine out of ten times this is true. Sometimes it isn’t even the fault of the director. It’s just inevitable that he will need to leave things out. It’s quite difficult to fit a 600 page book into a two-hour film.

But some directors manage to take all the best parts of  a novel, everything that truly make it great, and turn it into an exceptional film. Below are the films that I feel managed to be just as good as the original source.

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Everything The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Got Right

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I tend to talk in hyperboles a lot. I’ll get a headache and lay in bed proclaiming that I’m dying. I’ll start watching a new TV show and it will immediately become the best TV show I’ve ever seen. The second the temperature dips below 50 degrees? “This is the coldest I’ve ever been in my life!” But I am not exaggerating when I say that The Hunger Games:Catching Fire was one of the best book to movie adaptations I have ever seen. EVER!

If you read the books and enjoyed them, then I don’t see how there is any way you could dislike the movie. It was exceptional. It’s a perfect example of why directors and movie makers should never mess with the source material. Your job is to bring the book to life! The reason the book is so popular is because people fell in love with the story and the characters. There is no need for you to change it up.

Director Francis Lawrence managed to take all the things that made the book great and turn them into a fantastic film. In some cases, he made them even better. I could go on and on about every single thing Lawrence got right, down to the very detail, but I won’t bore you. However, I will pinpoint on some of the key things that were done right.

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Chocolate Buttermilk Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

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Well I’ve been away for awhile. I’ve definitely missed blogging about fun books and yummy recipes but sadly life got in the way. My beloved Grandmother, who also happened to be my best friend, passed away two months ago. Moving on and dealing with everyday life has been a lot harder than I expected. They always tell you how difficult it will be when you first lose someone. The first week you just go through the motions. The funeral, the wake, the countless number of things that need to be taken care of. The week is dedicated to your loved one and your loss. You’re almost too busy to mourn.

The thing I feel everyone forgets to mention is that it’s going to get a lot worse before it can even begin to get better. It’s when life goes back to “normal” that it really hits you. Going back to work and getting on with everyday life is when I fully comprehended what losing my grandmother really meant. Whenever anything good or bad happened, she wasn’t there for me to share my news. I no longer had someone to eat dinner with every night. She was usually the first person I saw or spoke to in the morning and now she was just gone. It was a lot harder to deal with than I thought.

I’d like to say that now I’m better and have come to terms with the loss, but that would be a lie. I don’t think I’ll ever fully be OK with it. Sometimes I’ll simply forget that she’s actually gone and I’ll need to remind myself. But I am starting to learn how to cope. With the help of friends and family, each day has started to get a little better. I try to focus on all the good times I’ve had and all the important life lessons my grandmother taught me throughout the years.

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Book Review: The Host by Stephanie Meyer

1656001The earth has been invaded by alien creatures that inhabit the bodies of humans in an effort to preserve the earth. Once a human body has been taken over, their entire being begins to fade away. However, when Melanie Stryder is taken over by an alien host, she refuses to go away. Her consciousness is still very much intact and a battle ensues between her and her alien host, Wanderer.

Melanie is determined to find the humans she left behind, her lover Jared and her younger brother Jamie. Riveted by the images of Melanie’s memories, Wanderer begins to fall in love with the men as well. When they eventually find who they’ve been looking for, both women are fighting for the attention of the man they love.

What I Was Thinking Before I Started Reading: I’m interested to see if Meyer can write a higher quality story with better characters.
What I Was Thinking In The Middle of Reading: Omg! How can a book about an alien invasion be so incredibly boring?
What I Was Thinking When I Finished Reading: Ok, I officially give up. I don’t care if Meyer write 500 more books, I will not read another one.

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