Am I a Funny Girl?

Books & Brunch: Book Swap Party Idea

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Whole Books and Brunch Table #BakeInTheFun AD

It seems like kids have been heading back to school for ages, but now that Labor Day has passed, I think we’re in the clear, right? I’ve put together this fun book swap party for you, to give you some ideas of ways you can get together with other parents who might suddenly have a little more freedom in the mornings.

Friend swaps are one of my favorite gatherings; I’ve done clothes, books, frozen foods, cookies, shoes, babysitting… there is no end to what you can swap. It’s budget-friendly and fun, and a great way to bring in new stuff while also clearing out some old. One of my personal favorites is a book swap; I’m always looking for things to read, and getting books that I know my friends loved, and sharing my favorites is the best!

My Books & Brunch party plan will get you set up for everything you need to host your own; I’ve got printables, recipes, crafts, decor ideas… it’s all ready to go. Just add friends and books!

But first things first; a delicious home-baked treat to be a centerpiece of the brunch. Honesty time / blogger talk: I had planned for this recipe to be a beautiful bundt cake, and then it didn’t come out of the pan prettily enough, so I had to scramble. And my Pecan Pie Spiced Chocolate Bread Pudding was born! And again, full disclosure? I think it’s more delicious than the cake by itself.

So this is a two-part process; first you’ll need to make the cake, then you’ll let it cool and sit for a day or so, and make it into the pudding. It breaks up really well over a few days, so you don’t need to commit a ton of time to make this, and the end result is INCREDIBLE.

Bread Pudding Overview #BakeInTheFun AD

5.0 from 1 reviews
Pecan Pie Spiced Chocolate Bread Pudding
  • 1 cup M&M's® Pecan Pie
  • 1 pkg. chopped pecans
  • 1 box Pillsbury™ Moist Supreme® Cake Mix, Chocolate
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup hot water
  • ½ cup Mott's® Apple Sauce Original 48oz
  • 1½ teaspoons Apple Pie Spice (or sub ½ t. cinnamon + ½ t. ground cloves)
  • 2 Tablespoons butter (melted) + more for pan
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pillsbury™ Creamy Supreme® Cream Cheese Icing
  • Snapple® Apple Single 16oz
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Grease pan with cooking spray and flour
  3. Follow instructions on cake box, substituting Mott's® Apple Sauce for oil.
  4. Add in Apple Pie Spice
  5. Mix in approx ¼ cup chopped pecans (vary amount to taste)
  6. Smash 1 cup M&M's® Pecan Pie with flat blade slicer
  7. Mix M&M's® into batter.
  8. Pour batter into prepared pan.
  9. Bake per insrtuctions on box.
Bread Pudding
  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Generously butter 8" baking dish
  3. Break cake up into bite-sized pieces and place into prepared pan. (I used about ¾ of a bundt cake)
  4. Pour 2 Tablespoons melted butter over cake pieces.
  5. In medium bowl, whip together eggs, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, and sugar until well blended.
  6. Pour carefully over cake pieces.
  7. Use a fork to press down on cake pieces to submerge all in custard mix.
  8. Bake for approx. 60 minutes at 350, until top springs back when pressed.
  9. A toothpick inserted in will come out wet but clean.
  10. Serve warm with glaze.
  1. Put generous tablespoon (or two) of Cream Cheese Icing into microwave safe cup
  2. Add splash of Snapple® Apple
  3. Heat in microwave in 20 second increments until melted.
  4. Spoon glaze over bread pudding when serving.

I know I just dropped them in there, but can I take a minute to talk about these M&M’s® Pecan Pie? I’m not a Pumpkin Spice Latte girl, but I do love the flavors of the season, so Pecan Pie is basically the perfect option for me. I picked up my party supplies, including the M&M’s®, at Walmart, and now you can save $1.00 on M&M’s® with this coupon. They’re also giving away a Kitchen Aid mixer, so you can enter to win that here:
MARS Bake In The Fun Sweepstakes Alternate Table #BakeInTheFun AD

When I’m prepping for friends to come over, I like to do little things to help make it special, beyond just making a fresh pot of coffee instead of microwaving yesterday’s (again)

Books and Brunch InviteI’ve got a few things to help you put together your own Books & Brunch get together:

  • First things first, invitations! You can download the printable invite and print them at home, or even just fill in the PDF and then send it via email. I’ve got them ready to go for you!
  • When you’re looking to plan a party, don’t limit yourself to the obvious departments for decor ideas! I often buy a couple yards of fabric to act as the perfect tablecloth. Limitless options, and if you shop smart, it can be far less expensive than a traditional tablecloth.
  • Download my book review printables so that people can leave notes about why they loved the books they brought. I don’t know about you, but I always love when bookstore employees leave reviews of their favorites, so why not ask the same from our friends?
    Book review station #BakeInTheFun ADBooks with reviews #BakeInTheFun AD
  • Buy something that can double as a party favor, or something your guests can take home. For Books and Brunch, I picked up a matched set of coffee mugs that match my theme, and I can send home with friends at the end of the day.
  • Single-serve food can be a great way to cater to guests with allergies; I have personal-sized quiches here, along with a simple arugula salad and some fresh butter croissants. You don’t need to offer tons of options, but it’s nice to have something available for everyone.
  • Look around the house for things that can be converted to party decor! An antique camera might not be the most obvious book-related option, but it’s something I collect, so it injects a little “me” into the party, and it’s an interesting piece to go on the table.
    Table decor #BakeInTheFun AD
  • Customize things you already own! A few inches of a printed burlap ribbon take a couple of plain ol’ pillar candles from drab to fab. The burlap is simply held in place on the back by a bit of masking tape; easy peasy.
    Candle closeup #BakeInTheFun AD
  • Crafty doesn’t have to mean complicated! It took me less than five minutes to put this flower wreath together. I had asked at my local thrift store if they had any damaged books, which they did, so I had several hundred pages of text to use, that would have otherwise been tossed in the dumpster. I used pages from the book in a number of places for the party.
    I randomly cut circles, crumpled and then flattened them, and put a stick pin through them to make a flower for my plain wreath. (It’s held on with a pipe cleaner that’s twisted around the pin and the branches of the wreath)
    Wreath Flower
    I used cut out pages to cover up other things; for the quiche display, I put a piece of aluminum foil on top of the book, and then put the pages on top of that to cover the foil.
    I ran the pages through my printer to apply letters to them, and then cut those out and attached them to a pre-made banner I picked up. (Just tape the pages to a full-size piece of paper, using low-tack masking tape, then peel it up carefullty!)
    Banner in progress #BakeInTheFun AD
  • Edible decor is always a good idea: With a fall party, a basket over flowing with apples, pumpkins and other gourds, or candy… make it look like more than just a dish of food by adding a surprising detail, like the signage heart here:
    Apples and heart #BakeInTheFun AD

Get more fun fall ideas here, so you can #BakeInTheFun
Have you been to a swap party? Any tips to share?

In-store collage #BakeInTheFun AD

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Books and Brunch Party Plan #BakeInTheFun AD




LEGO Minifig Party Craft

Lego Minifig Party Craft

We threw Max a Lego-themed birthday party back in April, and I’ll get around to sharing more details one of these days. For now, though, I wanted to share one of the fun crafty projects we had for the kids. We made plaster of Paris minifigs for them to decorate!

I happened up the minifig mold set on Amazon, and just knew I had to pick it up. I had no plans for what to DO with it, but I simply had to own it. And so I do. After some brainstorming with Jamie, we came up with the idea to use plaster of Paris to make the oversized figures for the kids to decorate.

The set of molds actually came with three different sizes of figures; regular minifig size (not shown) then the middle and big ones shown below.

poured in mold

A naked big minifig with regular LEGO one for scale.

big for size

Because we wanted to have one big one per party guest, we were aiming to make 15, and could only do one at a time. I mixed up the plaster 1/4 cup per batch, which filled the big one and the 4 middle ones, with a little left over. They had to sit and cure for about an hour, and then they could be taken out of the mold and set aside to continue drying.

remove feet first

Protip: Be careful when popping the small and medium guys out of the mold; their feet have a tendency to crumble away if you aren’t careful! I found popping the feet out first made a big difference in my success rate.

broken off feet

For the party, we supplied the naked minifigs, markers, glitter glue and washable paint for the kids to use.

party table setup

I had actually hoped to just use markers; they’re so much neater than paint, and all that. Below, you’ll see the results of the marker tests. The plain white plaster figure, then one on which I colored with markers (just regular Crayola ones) and then the last one we hit with a little spray primer that Jamie had in the garage. While the colors still faded over a couple of weeks, the results are definitely better than the non-primered one.

primer samples

Overall, I think they were a hit at the party, and I’m pretty sure we’ll make them again! I could see doing them up for holidays, to decorate packages, maybe even Christmas tree ornaments!

party kids 1

big painted

Thursday #386


If you follow me anywhere else online, you know why this photo is so exciting. Max has been saving for this LEGO Ewok Village for 2.5 years! He has been working hard around the house, doing jobs for my parents too, saving every penny he’s found. We had a garage sale last weekend, and he finally crossed over the $270 mark, which is what we had set as the saving amount with tax.

Very exciting, and I’m SO proud of him! Also, it’s a pretty freaking cool set!



It has loads of interactive features; this is Luke “using the force” on C3PO in his chair. (Photo taken and posted at Max’s request)

Homebuilt Teardrop Trailer 7: Hatch Construction

Part-7-Homebuilt-Teardrop-Trailer-Build-JournalThis post is part of a series documenting our homebuilt teardrop trailer. Please scroll to the bottom of this post for links to previous articles.

Back to it! Apologies for the delays (of like 10 months, oops!) since the last post… we’re getting back to having them all posted in September and maybe into October.

The hatch being built was a big exciting step for me, because I could finally, REALLY, visualize what the finished product would feel like. I spent a ridiculous amount of time opening and closing just the skeleton frame of it, until Jamie shooed me away to keep working. It was very cool to see how close it was to being done at this point!

The hatch frame is made from poplar and plywood; the curved sides are cut plywood, using a router with a guide bearing and the same template as the sidewall. The crossbeams are solid poplar.

01 teardrop trailer hatch closed

We used a single “hurricane hinge” to attach it at the top; it’s watertight and runs the full width of the hatch. (Sourced from Li’l Bear Tag-Alongs in Eureka, CA) We had found an old piano hinge at a garage sale, but decided the hurricane hinge was a better choice because it’s both watertight and could be cut to the *exact* width we wanted. Also, in case anything were to happen, the hatch remains removeable (not easily, but doable) in case we ever need to make repairs or changes to the hatch.

02 teardrop trailer hatch open

Once the hatch frame was done and the glue was dry, we skinned the inside with 1/8″ plywood and painted it to match the inside ceiling. The hole seen below is part of the latching system that was installed later. (It was later covered with a small panel of wood, so we can access it again if needed for future repairs.)

03 teardrop trailer hatch skinned inside

Test fitting the inside skinned hatch; notice the rods sticking out of the sides; those are part of the locking mechanism before they were trimmed to size.

04 teardrop trailer hatch filling

05 teardrop trailer hatch fitting open

06 teardrop trailer hatch fitting side view

The locking latch; the rods latch in place, in holes in the sidewall frame, it’s called a “t-handle” latch and we found ours at a car parts resale shop… but you can also source it online.

07 teardrop trailer hatch latch

We then skinned and varnished the outside like the sides, using the marine plywood again. We used the same system of straps, glue and pin nails that we used to get the curve of the front as well.

I don’t have any photos of us actually sliding the hatch onto the trailer though, because it’s a 2-person job, so I couldn’t be taking photos! LOL

08 teardrop trailer exterior skin

And the last thing? How to keep our lovely hatch from crashing down upon our heads while camping. We used 150 lb. hydraulic struts; more weight than we really need (the hatch weighs less than 100 lbs, and we have two struts holding it up) but with wind and better-safe-than-sorry, we went for the heavier weight capability.

hydraulic hatch

They leave the hatch easy to open and close, but we wanted to add another, secondary, safety mechanism.  The solution? A piece of copper pipe that fits right over the base of the strut, so even if it’s pulled on, the length of pipe stops the hatch from coming down all the way. It’s simple to move it, you just need to shift it up to the other cylinder to get it out of the way so you can close the hatch. Safety first, people!hydraulic hatch safety

Next post: Child’s Hammock Bed

Previous posts: Planning & Framing | Walls & Interior Skin | Galley Counter & Flooring | Insulation | Interior Ceiling & Fan | Exterior Wood Skin & Sealant
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#HappyMail100: Spreading smiles and art. Just ask!

#HappyMail100 TitleI love the internet, I really do.
I make my full-time living ON the internet, it’s been an important part of my life for more than 20 years.
But there are things about it that I don’t like so much.
When I was in second grade, my BFF, Mandy, moved to Sonoma, about an hour away. Thankfully, we were both blessed with amazing parents, and they helped us keep our friendship alive for years, without email, without Facebook, with two things: phone calls and letters.
We wrote letters back and forth, counting down the days until we would attend summer camp together and take turns spending long weekends at one another’s houses.

#HappyMail100 StampsI loved running out to the mailbox, so see if there was anything for me.

It’s different now, and not just because I’m an adult. I get bills, sure. And junk mail, and stuff addressed to people who lived here before us, even though we’ve been here for almost 4 years. (That Serena really needs to deal with her collection accounts, BTW).

But you know what I miss? Happy mail.

Cards, and not just for birthdays or Christmas. Notes, just to say hello.

Enter the #HappyMail100.

I have 100 postcards, stamped and ready to mail. All they need is an address. YOUR address.

#HappyMail100 Your Name HereThe postcards feature gorgeous pieces of art from all different eras of history; get a piece of #HappyMaill100, and you just might discover a new artist that you love, or just see a familiar piece that you’ve always admired. It’s like an art lottery!

#HappyMail100 cardsI’m not asking for anything in return, I just want to do something to bring a few smiles. I’ll send a postcard to your kid if you want; the form asks it’s for a child or an adult; I’ll use neater handwriting and smaller words for kiddos, invite them to learn about “their” artist. Feeling social? Share your postcard on social media, and be sure to tag it with #HappyMail100, so I can see it!

I’m ready to send; are you ready to receive? Just fill out the form below and I’ll get your postcard in the mail ASAP! This is not sponsored in any way, so your mailing info will never be used for anything other than mailing you this postcard; it’s not a marketing ploy or anything, it’s just for fun.

#HappyMail100 suppliesI’ve got 100 postcards to send. Which one will be yours?





Gish-wha? Team Lagniappe and G.I.S.H.W.H.E.S 2015

When I was at #Dad2Summit last February, my friend Amy mentioned this thing she had done the previous summer, a crazy scavenger hunt called G.I.S.H.W.H.E.S, or the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen. Interest piqued, and my declaration of 2015 as my “Year of DO” I ran off to the GISHWHES website to sign up to be reminded when registration opened later in the spring.

And so I signed up, as a member of Amy’s “Team Lagniappe,” and spent a week creating, laughing my ass off, brainstorming the craziest ideas, and generally having a great time with friends local and virtual, old and new.

I know you remember scavenger hunts when you were a kid, right? I seem to recall them being a moderately popular birthday party theme. Go around to neighbor’s houses, asking them to give you stuff. A penny from 1973, a safety pin, maybe a can of chicken soup. You know.

GISHWHES isn’t like that; the challenges are more… specific. And focused on creation, of both art and joy. The list, which is over 200 items long, isn’t meant to be completed, it’s meant to inspire and motivate and maybe, for one lucky team, win them a trip to Costa Rica.

I wanted to share just a little of the craziness that our team made during the first week of August, which is, and always will be, GISHWHES.

#34: How do you do it? Everyone on your team has such beautiful mustaches? Do you have some sort of hair growth cream you slather on or pills you all take? Let’s see a grid photo of everyone on your team that features your mustaches prominently.
mustaches#55: Dressed in something celebratory, hug someone you love, motionless, in a very crowded location. You must hug them for 20 minutes without moving and time lapse it. Add your favorite score to the video. (Shout out to my friends 5 Cent Coffee for letting me use one of their songs for the video!)

#199: Translate your favorite slogan into legalese. (Credit: Andy of How to Be a Dad)
legalese#133: This is a real Welsh word: “Llanfaurpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.” Find a Welsh person and have them say in Welsh “I am Welsh and I hate that I have to do this,” and then they must say the lengthy word 3 times, without stuttering and without reading it.

#154: Let’s see the Leaning Tower of Gishwhes. (Credit: Amy)


#47: Stop hiding your true talent. The world deserves to see it. Without using special effects or trick editing, make a person disappear.

#42: You’ve just received an invitation to the annual Color Me Pretty Construction Paper Gala. Design and wear an elegant gown consisting of only construction paper. You must be posed with a antique or hotrod car/motorcycle (that will take you to the Gala, of course) or in front of the Gala itself which takes place in the most stunning public building of your city. (We call this one: Car Trouble on the Way to the Ball)
paper gown

 #155: Let’s see a portrait of Taylor Swift or Nicki Minaj made from glue, rice and dried legumes. (Amy went ahead and did BOTH of them!)
nikki and taylor

#35: Design a device that would allow a five ounce swallow to carry a one pound coconut. (Andy from HTBAD again, of course)
#40: They say, “A dog is a man’s best friend,” but they are sexist. Dogs can be women’s best friends too. To prove it, make one entirely out of feminine hygiene products. The dog must be at least 40 centimeters tall. (We realize he’s tiny. But Guinevere did an amazing job, making the cutest tampon dog ever! And now I super hope someone searches “tampon dog” and lands on my blog. Hi, welcome!)

hygeine dog

#50: Your friend loves cake, so being a good friend, you offer to take them out for cake at a nice restaurant. Alas, you discover when you arrive at the restaurant, that your friend has recently undergone medical treatments that prevents them from moving their arms, so you will have to feed them. Unfortunately, light is harmful to your eyes so you must be blindfolded. While blindfolded, stand behind your seated friend in a fancy restaurant and put your arms under their armpits and feed them cake with your hands. Trust us. This is going to work out beautifully. (Nice work from Kendall and Jenny)

#17: The 2015 gishwhes mascot Dinomite asks you to pick a number between 1 and 1000, asks you 10 questions with yes/no answers, and then guesses the number. What were the 10 questions? (Credit: Mr. Doug French)
dino question

So those are just a few of my most favorite of our GISHWHES contributions for 2015… are you going to play next year?

If you’re a Gisher who is stopping by to check out what the competition did, please drop a link to your fave of your own, down in the comments!

Gish on, gishers!


Thursday #385


Making up for what is basically an entire month of not blogging with an exceptionally cute photo of Max. Also, the first official second grade Thursday!

And I’m getting back to it, I promise. We decided to cram all of our summer fun into August, so it’s like be were basically never at home. Lots of stuff coming soon, though!