Monday, May 25, 2009

Rapunzel's Revenge

We all know the story...

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away there lived a beautiful young maiden who was kept in a tower against her will by an evil sorceress. Each day, the woman came to see her, bringing fresh food. She would stand at the bottom of the tower and call out,
"Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your long hair."

Blah, blah, blah.

This is where the fairy tale ends and the graphic novel begins. In Shannon and Dean Hale's version, Rapunzel is no longer the damsel in distress, but the damsel causing the distress!Say goodbye to the Rapunzel of your childhood, because this one is tougher, smarter, and a million times more adventurous than that puny blonde locked in the tower. And, she isn't about to wait for some arrogant prince to come rescue her!

Twelve year old Rapunzel lives in a huge castle with the powerful Mother Gothel, an unfriendly old woman who has special "grow power." Bored and wondering if there's something else out there, Rapunzel makes her way over the towering wall that surrounds the castle and discovers a whole other world. This world, however, is not pretty. On the other side of the castle wall is a mine, where the workers are ill-treated, underpaid, and think very poorly of Mother Gothel. As Rapunzel explores this new dark wasteland she runs into her REAL mother, whom she was taken from as a baby by Mother Gothel. (Coincidence, I know!) Mother Gothel finds out she has escaped and locks her in a small room at the top of an outrageously tall tree.

When her hair begins to grow longer and longer, Rapunzel formulates a plan to escape. She uses her thick tresses to propel herself out of the tree and onto the forest floor, so beginning a terrific adventure that doesn't let you stop and rest for a minute. Upon setting out to rescue her real mother, Rapunzel meets Jack, a young rabble-rouser who is wanted for stealing horses and carries a strange goose by his side at all times willing it to lay an egg. (Any ideas which fairy tale this Jack person comes from? Think beanstalk.)

Rapunzel and Jack came across a number of interesting people on their way back to the castle, some of which you may recognize from other fairy tales. The ending is full of action and includes quite a bit of violence for a fairy tale! And yes, it does end happily ever after...

Recipe to Read By: Miniature Castle Cakes

Why not enjoy reading your favorite fairy tale (or fractured fairy tale) with one of these scrummy cakes? Boys--you have no reason to be embarrassed when eating this cake. I mean, if girls swoon over princes in tights, you can eat a frilly cake without feeling the slightest bit girly.

(If not, more cake for us!)

1 package (18-1/4 ounces) white cake mix
2-1/2 cups vanilla frosting
2 milk chocolate candy bars (1.55 ounces each)
21 chocolate nonpareil candies
12 pretzel sticks
1/2 cup flaked coconut
1 drop blue food coloring
3 sticks Fruit Stripe gum
6 small ice cream sugar cones
6 round wooden toothpicks

1. Prepare cake mix according to package directions.
2. Pour batter into a greased 11-in. x 7-in. baking pan and six greased muffin cups.
3. Bake at 350° for 20-30 minutes for cake and 15-18 minutes for cupcakes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool cupcakes for 5 minutes and cake for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.
4. Cut the cake into six square pieces; place on serving plates.
5. Frost cake top and sides. Position a cupcake on top of each; frost cupcakes.
6. For drawbridge, divide each candy bar into four three-piece sections. Center one section on one side of each cake; gently press into cake. Divide the two remaining chocolate sections into three pieces; place one piece above each drawbridge for door. Cut three nonpareil candies in half; arrange a half circle above each door. Press pretzels into cake on each side of bridge.
7. In a resealable plastic bag, shake coconut and food coloring until coconut is evenly colored. Sprinkle around bases of castles to represent water in the moat.
8. Cut each stick of gum in half widthwise; cut one end to form a flag. Insert toothpick into gum. 9. Trim sugar cone tips; insert flags into cones.
10. Place a nonpareil candy on two sides of each cupcake for windows.
11. Frost backs of remaining candies; place one on the front of each cone.
12. Position cones on cupcakes.
13. Enjoy with a cold goblet of milk.
14. Share a piece with your mom, or she may lock you in an extremely tall tower and throw away the key.

Recipe courtesy of Taste of Home magazine.
Some other cute Rapunzel cakes:

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Skeleton Creek

Warning: Do NOT read this book if...
-You are by yourself
-You are in a dark place
-It is thundering/lightning/general storminess outside
-You are easily spooked
-You still sleep with your parents
-You cover your eyes during scary movies
-You refuse to go first in haunted houses

You scaredy-cats know who you are and don't say I didn't warn you!

Skeleton Creek isn't just a mystery. It's a creepy mystery that sucks you in until the very last page, where it spits you out panting and trembling. If you weren't afraid of the dark before, you will be after reading this. Trust me.

Ryan and Sarah live in the boring town of Skeleton Creek, Oregon where nothing exciting ever happens. When researching the history of their town's dredge, they stumble across the mystery of Old Joe Bush, a miner who worked on the dredge and was mysteriously killed. The two curious teens make a midnight jaunt to the abandoned dredge in the middle of the woods where two things happen: they bare witness to a bone-chilling "phantom" and Ryan has a terrible accident that leaves him in the hospital for two weeks.

After the accident Ryan is left recuperating in his bedroom and is forbidden to have any contact with Sarah. However, the search for the truth is far from over. Sarah continues to hunt for clues and video tape her findings, sending them to Ryan by email where he secretly checks them without his parents knowing. Readers can watch Sarah's videos by going to and typing in the passwords she gives Ryan (which are located throughout various chapters in the book).

OK, this is really embarrassing but I have to get it off my chest: I watched the first of Sarah's videos by myself one Tuesday night after everyone went to bed. I don't know if it was the dark room, or the quiet house, or the late hour, but I was spooked. VERY, VERY SPOOKED. After that I couldn't bring myself to watch anymore of the videos. I know, I know, I'm a huge wimp. When I work up the courage to finally watch the rest of the videos it will be at 9:00 in the morning, with all of the lights on, and surrounded by people. WIMP!

As Ryan and Sarah begin to piece their clues together they realize that the mystery is larger than they ever imagined and that the entire town seems to know something that they don't.
The story ends with the two of them making their way back to the dredge (dun dun DUN) and leaves you with a cliffhanger that makes you want to throw the book at the computer in total frustration. (Or, if you're like me, you'll be breathing a huge sigh of relief that it's finally over. For now.)

For those brave enough to want more, the sequel, Ghost in the Machine, comes out October 1, 2009 and you can pre-order it HERE. You're on your own for that one, though. I've had enough of sleeping with the lights on...

Recipe to Read By: Bone Cookies
These sweet treats are pretty authentic-looking. You can even add 1-2 drops of yellow food coloring with the extract for an "aged" look.

1-1/2cups sugar
Pinch of salt
5 egg whites at room temperature
Pinch of cream of tartar
1teaspoon almond, vanilla, orange or lemon extract

1. Preheat oven to 220°F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Prepare pastry bag with round #10 tip (about 3/8-inch diameter).
2. Combine sugar and salt in small bowl. Beat egg whites and cream of tartar in small bowl with electric mixer at low speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar mixture, beating constantly. Beat until stiff peaks form and meringue is shiny and smooth. Add extract; beat just until blended.
3. Fill pastry bag with meringue. (Note: Mom probably has a piping bag collecting dust somewhere under the counter behind all of her other never been-used wedding gifts of long ago.)
Pipe log 3 to 4 inches long. Pipe 2 balls on both ends of each log. Smooth any peaks with wet finger. Repeat with remaining meringue.
4. Bake 30 minutes; turn off heat. Leave cookies in oven overnight; do not open oven door.
5. Take the hamster/gerbil/mouse out of your little brother or sister's cage and replace with these cookies. When he/she starts to cry pick up one of the bones and eat it. Watch them howl. (I didn't tell you that!)

Recipe courtesty of
Click on the link to see a cool pic of what the finished cookies look like:

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Every Soul A Star

Have you ever read a book that was so good it made you want to jump inside of it and live among the characters? Every Soul a Star is one of those books. Wendy Mass, the author, has crafted characters that are so real they could actually be living down the street from you or sitting next to you in class. And don't get me started on the setting...Great Galileo's Ghost!
The Moon Shadow Campground is a place that every kid dreams his parents will take him for vacation. Besides being an astronomy haven and the number one spot in the nation to watch the upcoming solar eclipse, the campground offers its guests many unique areas to explore, called the "Unusuals." This includes a labyrinth (which is like a maze, but not exactly), panning for gold, painting the Art House (yes, you paint the actual house), Alien Central, the Sun Garden, and the Star Garden.
Confession Time: I've never been camping in my life (the combination of bugs, no toilets, and bathing in rivers never appealed to me) but I would be tempted to book a ticket to the Moon Shadow Campground tonight-- if it weren't a fictional place, that is.
Every Soul a Star revolves around three characters:
Alpha (or Ally) is lucky enough to live at the Moon Shadow. Her parents have owned the campground since before she could remember and she couldn't imagine living anywhere else. She has been home schooled her entire life and her best friends, Eta, Glenn, and Peggy, are the kind you can only see through a telescope. You can imagine her shock and consternation (meaning alarm or worry) when her parents tell her they are packing up and moving to Chicago.
It just so happens that beautiful, suburbia-loving Bree, born to scientist parents (she swears she was switched at birth) is moving to the Moon Shadow. Her family is going to take over the campground for the next few years while Ally's family returns to civilization. Despite her pleading and begging, Bree must leave behind her clothes, her friends, her makeup, her LIFE.
Jack is the quiet kid who sits in the back of the room drawing, trying to blend in and not be noticed. Slightly overweight and uninterested in school or friends (or anything for that matter), he accepts an offer from his science teacher, Mr. Silver, to accompany him on a trip to the Moon Shadow campground to watch the solar eclipse and perform an important science experiment. Although he couldn't care less about the eclipse, helping Mr. Silver with the experiment will get him out of going to summer school.
These three completely different kids with completely different lives have no idea that their paths will become forever intertwined...
Recipe to Read By: Man-in-the-Moon Cookies
1 cup softened butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
3 cups flour
frosting in white or light yellow (use canned frosting or make your favorite recipe)
Yellow sugar sprinkles
candy corn
mini chocolate chips
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cream butter and sugar together.
3. Beat in egg and vanilla.
4. Add flour one cup at a time, mixing well after each addition. The dough will be stiff.
5. Roll one half of the dough out about 1/4 of an inch thick.
6. Cut out cookies using a moon-shaped cookie cutter. (Or use a round cookie cutter and then cut in half to make a crescent moon.)
7. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 10-12 minutes. (Watch carefully so your moons don't burn. Nobody wants to eat a black moon!)
8. Remove from oven and allow to cool on cookie sheet for five minutes before placing cookies onto wire rack.
9. After cookies are completely cool, frost. (Load up that frosting--Mmmm)
10. Sprinkle with yellow sugar sprinkles.
11. Add a candy corn nose and a mini-chocolate chip eye.
12. Dust off your telescope and take a bite out of the moon while gazing at the sky.