Thursday, October 8, 2015

More Minecraft Books for Kids - Diary of a Minecraft Zombie Review

A while back, I posted an entry about Minecraft books for kids and inspiring boys to read (I also posted a fun craft called Make Your Own Minecraft Shrinky Dinks).  Since then, many people have asked me for more recommendations and titles of other Minecraft books on the market.  I have a great one for you today!  It's time to check out the Diary of a Minecraft Zombie series by Herobrine Books. And they're all available through my affiliate links at the end of this post.

First thing to note is that Minecraft doesn't have too many of its own books (as of the publication date of this entry anyway).  Other than a few guide books from Scholastic, you won't find much to entertain young minds (they want you playing, not reading, after all).  Luckily, a handful of independent authors have come forth and created their own fan fiction, based on the popular game (they are in no way affiliated with Mojang or the Minecraft company).  The last entry I wrote focused on the Winter Morgan series and the Mark Cheverton series.  This latest post is dedicated to the Herobrine Books collection.

What is Diary of a Minecraft Zombie About?

If you've ever read the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney, you'll get the general idea of these books. They are written from Zombie's point of view (from his actual diary, in fact).  You'll get a peek into his everyday life, and meet some of his good friends, too, like Skelee, Slimey, and Creepy.  You'll find that this Zombie's life isn't at all what you thought it would be.  He's actually just a regular kid- well, aside from the pungent odor and green skin.  He's even friends with a human- Steve- who lives on a farm (hey, you know him, right?).

What Age Group is Diary of a Minecraft Zombie for?

This series is recommended for ages 7 and up.  The Jersey Momma's Boy is 6 (almost 7, he's quick to point out) and he did just fine reading them on his own (he is a strong reader).  If your little one is not confident enough to read chapter books on his/her own, these make great read alouds, too.  And you know what? You might think your child can't read these on their own, but you'd be surprised.  When our book came in the mail (I was checking the mail on the way to the store), I handed it to The Jersey Momma's Boy in the backseat of the car.  "Look! Our book is here!" I exclaimed.  I drove halfway down the road and realized he was reading the whole time.  By the time we got to the store he said, "I need a bookmark!"  He had already finished the first two chapters!

Is There Anything Scary or Gross in These Books?

If your child is already used to playing Minecraft, then they know about all of the monsters who exist there- zombies, slime cubes, creepers, skeletons, spiders and more.  But they are portrayed as funny and kind of cute in this series, so I highly doubt anyone could be frightened by them.  Just like any kids' book, every now and then they'll mention boogers or butts, but nothing inappropriate and nothing more than to generate a giggle.  And there is one little section in Book 3 where Zombie talks about puberty with his dad, and how his voice is growing deeper.  I kind of glossed over that with The Jersey Momma's Boy.  I didn't want to explain to him what puberty was yet, so I just changed the wording around while I was reading it out loud.

What Sets These Apart from Other Minecraft Series?

Okay, so there are a few positives that I have to highlight here.  One is that this book series is cute and funny.  We were reading these out loud and actually laughing.  A few times I stopped and even said to my son, "You know, these are really funny!"  Even the Jersey Grandpa picked up the book and read a few pages and started laughing.  I was pleasantly surprised, to say the least.  I also liked that they were in diary form.  That means Zombie writes in short sentences and the chapters are quick reads.  Another plus for this series are the pictures!  We were so happy to see little pictures throughout the pages- nothing fancy, just black and white images- but enough for my son to take notice and to break up the monotony of words.

What's Not So Great About This Series?

Some reviewers on Amazon complained that they didn't like the short sentences.  But this is a diary, remember, so it's written like one (and honestly, some of the reviewers on Amazon are kids, so I'm reviewing this from a parent's perspective).  Zombie tells you about his day and all of the things he's going through.  I kind of liked that.  It made the whole thing seem more personal, and it made Zombie really likable as a character.  Another complaint that Amazon reviewers mentioned was the lack of editing.  Sorry to say, they're right about that one for the first two books.  But I can tell you this GREATLY improves as the book series goes on.  I didn't have too many complaints about editing/spelling in the latter part of the series. Remember, Herobrine Books is an independent author (that means they published the book themselves through Amazon), so they might be their own editor, too.

How Many Books are in the Series?

Right now (as of the publication date of this entry), there are nine books in the Diary of a Minecraft Zombie series, with more to come (we've read 1-8 so far!).  Herobrine also wrote some cool comic books based on Minecraft, too, which you can read about here.

Where Can I Find Them?

All of Herobrine Books are available on Amazon.  You can click on my affiliate links below if you want to order them.

Disclaimer:  Herobrine Books approached me and asked me if I wanted to review Diary of a Minecraft Zombie.  I was so excited by this prospect that I went ahead and purchased my own copy. Herobrine then sent me the first three books in the series in exchange for an honest review.  And since I wound up with two copies of Book 1, I decided to raffle one off to a lucky reader.  Did you miss the contest? Then be sure to 'like' me on Facebook so you don't miss the next one!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Fall Fun: Let's Visit The Last Fling Pumpkin Sling

When it comes to Fall fun, you can find it all- pumpkin picking, apple picking, hayrides, corn mazes, apple cider, cider donuts, haunted hayrides- you name it, we've got it, and within local driving distance too, for the most part.  But if you're looking for something a little, say, unique this Fall season, why not give the Last Fling Pumpkin Sling a shot?  (ha!  That was a play on words and I wasn't even trying!)

The Pumpkin Sling is held at the Poconos Raceway in Pennsylvania.  The event was originally held in Warren County, NJ.

The Last Fling Pumpkin Sling is held every Fall at the Poconos Raceway in Pennsylvania. It consists of many different teams (boy scouts, cub scouts, aspiring engineers, students, families, etc.) who have created their own catapult-type machines to see who can "fling" a pumpkin the farthest.  If you don't think that sounds very exciting, think again!

The Last Fling Pumpkin Sling is usually held over two days, so check out their event schedule and decide which day(s) you'd like to attend.  Rates vary based on when you visit, so check out their rates page for more info.  Parking is $5 per car, as of the publication date of this entry.

This event is family friendly!  You'll find children's activities, vendors and food.  Dress warm (if it's chilly) and wear good walking shoes.

A carved pumpkin from the Last Fling Pumpkin Sling - anyone know who made it?

Some of the vendors were pretty unique, too.  There was a soda tasting booth that looked like it was right out of the wild west (this was from the NJ event, so I can't guarantee which vendors you'll see at the Poconos venue, though).

There are a number of events at different times throughout the weekend, so if you're planning on attending, you might want to check their schedule online to plan accordingly.  They have vintage cars, a beer garden, displays, vendors and more.  You can even buy t-shirts with the pumpkin sling logo on it, which I loved:

Now, to the actual slinging. For safety's sake, the machines are quite far away from the spectators, but you can visit them up close when they're not actually slinging.  You can read about each team online, as well as their creations, but you can't join them in their slinging area when they're competing.  They sling at various times throughout the day, so again, be sure to check the schedule of events in advance.

Spectators sit on hay bales or stand behind roped areas to watch the event safely (although they still say to 'watch for flying pumpkins' and to view at your own risk!).  We didn't have any pumpkins flung (flung?  Is that really a word?) near us, but I suppose it can happen.  This is about as much as we could see of the team flingers (how about 'flinger?' Is that even a word?  Well, it is now):

The machines in their slinging area (pic from NJ event)
Each group takes turns flinging, and it's fun to watch how far some of them go. It's amazing to see how fast and how far a pumpkin can fly!

My son enjoyed watching the quads race out to measure the distance of each pumpkin (there's an attraction between little boys and four-wheelers that I'll never understand).  Anyway, it's fun to hear them announce the distance, and there are prizes awarded to the teams in different categories.  

What's also neat is the machines are given funny names by their creators.  Like Stomach Virus and Sir Chunks a Lot.  It's fun to see which one of them wins.  

photo courtesy of N. Surve
photo courtesy of N. Surve
photo courtesy of N. Surve

The Last Fling Pumpkin Sling is a unique, fun event for all (and dare I say educational?  It's a physics AND engineering lesson, after all!).  I love telling people about it, and people always ask about it when they see my son wearing the t-shirt.  So fling on over and check them out!


*This is an outdoor event, so think twice about what you wear.  I'd recommend sneakers with socks or good walking shoes.  

*It was chilly the year we attended, so we dressed in layers.  Did you see the photo of my brother-in-law in shorts up above?  He didn't have any complaints, but hey, to each his own.

*Discounts are available online up till a few days before the event.  Check out their webpage for more details.  

*If you're the over-night type, you can actually camp at this event.  There is a page of info for those interested in camping or RVing.  Check that out here.

*Review the website for schedule of events, directions (including GPS advice) and times of festivities.

*No pets allowed, unfortunately, even though it is an outdoor event.  If you're going to bring a stroller, just make sure that it will work through grassy or rough terrain.

*Some of their proceeds go to various scholarship funds (listed on their website), so it's nice to know that your money goes to good use!

*Check out the Last Fling Pumpkin Sling Facebook page for more information.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Awesome Painted Pumpkin Ideas from Around the Web

Get those paintbrushes ready!  It's pumpkin decorating season!  I searched the web for some of the coolest painted pumpkin ideas I could find, and here's what I came up with.  I tried to give credit where it's due and link back when possible, so please know that not all of these creations are mine (but the Angry Birds below are ours!).  They certainly inspired me, so maybe they'll inspire you, too.  Happy painting!

Minion Pumpkins!!

The minions themselves would be proud of these perfect replicas created by CraftBerryBush.  If you visit her site, you'll see that she even included a fabulous tutorial on how you can make these yourself.

Minion Pumpkins from CraftBerryBush

Cookie Monster Pumpkin

This guy was found on the TruedeKids web page.  Apparently, he was made by their Aunt Jill, but there was no other info about him.  He sure seems easy enough!

Cookie Monster pumpkin from TreudeKids

Mummy Pumpkin

Okay, so maybe this guy's not painted, but what a clever idea!  The folks at BetterHomesandGardens created this fella.  It might even keep the squirrels from eating the pumpkin, don't you think?  Or am I the only one who has that problem?  Dang squirrels!

Mummy pumpkin from
The Jack o' Totem

Layla Palmer from TheLetteredCottage created this adorable pumpkin totem pole for HGTVBlog.  There is a great tutorial for making your own on the HGTV page.

Jack o' Totem from HGTV blog

Candy Corn Pumpkins

Those folks at BetterHomeandGardens sure know their stuff.  Here's another cool painting idea, which seems pretty simple, especially if you use spray paint.  Candy corn pumpkins!

Candy corn pumpkins from

Angry Birds

Last year we painted our own Angry Bird pumpkins using acrylics, but you can find so many different versions of them around the internet.  Their big eyes and round bodies make them easy characters to paint.

Bad piggy pumpkin by The Jersey Momma!
Okay, so the guy in the back isn't an Angry Bird, but I still thought he was cute (can  you tell which ones were painted by The Jersey Momma's Boy?).
Jersey Momma piggy and Angry Birds by the Jersey Momma's Boy.

These beauties by MycksArtStudio are my favorite Angry Birds pumpkins out there (besides our own, of course!).  Not only Angry Birds, but Star Wars Angry Birds (The Jersey Momma Boy's favorite!)

Angry Birds Star Wars pumpkins from MycksArtStudio

Grumpy Cat Pumpkin

How can you not love Grumpy Cat?  Made by the artists over at SwellDesigner, there is a tutorial to help you make your own (aren't the people on the internet nice??)

Grumpy Cat pumpkin from SwellDesigner

Rainbow Glitter Pumpkin

Swell Designer also created this rainbow glitter pumpkin.  Anyone who knows me knows that I hate glitter, seriously, it's like my arch nemesis.  But this one looks pretty cool, and if you feel so inclined to be super sparkly, follow Swell Designer's tutorial here.

Photo from

R2D2 Pumpkin

I wish I knew who the actual artist of this fabulous Star Wars R2D2 pumpkin was.  He's from the TropicalTexana site, and he was part of a pumpkin painting display at a school.  All of the pumpkins on this page are amazingly adorable, and were made by children and families.  They are part of a "Storybook Pumpkin Patch" and are made to look like the characters from favorite books.  I think these are the most talented, creative families ever!  

R2D2 pumpkin, TropicalTexana

Hello Kitty Pumpkin

I love, love, love Hello Kitty.  So to find this painted version of Kitty herself was a real treat.  Ain't she pretty?  And once again, there is a basic tutorial on the DIYInspired site to help you create your own.  I might just have to oblige this year!

Hello Kitty pumpkin from DIYInspired

Now get out there and paint your own!  

Thursday, October 1, 2015

10 Easy Halloween Cupcakes That You Can Make Yourself

This year I am a Homeroom Parent for the Jersey Momma's Boy's class.  Halloween parties are quickly approaching, so I've already started looking for cute treats to serve in the classroom.  Fortunately, the kids in our district can still enjoy a sweet treat if we offer some healthy treats, too.

So I put on my Pinterest hiking gear (Hey! Are you on Pinterest?  Me, too!  Find me and all of my anal-retentively organized boards here) and started climbing through mountains of cool ideas.  I managed to find some of the cutest Halloween cupcakes I have ever seen in my life (and believe me, I've been to a lot of bakeries. A LOT of bakeries).

In all fairness, I know there are some incredible cupcake works of art out there (just check out THIS adorable pair) but my list is really about cupcakes you can easily make yourself.  At home.  In your own lil' kitchen.  And I tried to give credit where credit is due, but if anyone has any issues with me printing their links or photos, please don't hesitate to let me know!  Drum roll, please....

 Ten Easy Halloween Cupcakes 

1.  Frankenstein Cupcakes from YourCupofCake.  Cute little Franks, no?  She gives you such a great tutorial on how to make them, too.  Ya gotta love that.

Photo from

2. Pumpkin Cupcake Cake from KraftRecipes.  It's not as difficult as it looks, and it's such a neat idea to think you can pull it apart!

photo from 

3. Ghost Cupcake Cones from ConfessionsOfACookbookQueen.  I love that these are so easy to pick up and eat.  Is it a cupcake?  Is it a cone?  It's whatever you want it to be!  However, if I'm making these for kids, I just might not use as much frosting, 'cause that would be a BIG mess for the lil' ones, you know.

photo from Confessions of a Cookbook Queen

4. Monster Cupcakes from MyCakeSchool.  Okay, so these are really, really cute, and maybe you're thinking, "I can't do THAT!" but sure you can!  They might not look exactly like these, but if you follow her steps, chances are they'll be pretty darned close.

photo from

5. Easy Pumpkin Cupcakes from MyCakeSchool.  I like you, My Cake School!  You give fabulous tutorials.  And your page isn't flooded with ads so it doesn't take an eon to load.  What more can a momma ask for?

photo from

I made these for the Jersey Momma's Boy's class last year.  They looked like this:

photo from me,

6. Candy Corn Cupcakes from TheCurvyCarrot.  I know there are recipes out there where you can actually dye the batter the color of candy corn (see my tutorial on dying cupcakes here), but this seemed a lot easier to me, and just as cute.

photo from The Curvy Carrot

7. Spider Cupcakes from AllYou.  I liked these spider cupcakes because they were different from all of the others that I saw, which mostly entailed using black licorice for legs.  I liked that you could just stick candies on these for a cuter effect.

photo from AllYou

8. Scarecrow Cupcakes from BetterHomesAndGardens.  I don't know if kids will really eat the cones, but it sure looks cute!

photo from

9. Owl Cupcakes from CatchingFireflies.  I think these were originally from the Hello Cupcake series of books by Karen Tack and they are SO easy to make, just maybe a little time consuming.  Catching Fireflies has a great tutorial on them.

photo from CatchingFireflies

10. Halloween Polka Dot Cupcakes from BetterHomeAndGardens.  Pretty basic, and look even cooler if you make them in varying sizes!

photo from

Of course, if you want to stick to what I call 'old faithful,' you can just buy yourself a box of cake mix, some cute cupcake liners and some festive sprinkles, and you've got yourself a pretty little Halloween cupcake, too.

Wondering how I got my frosting to look so nice?  I used a cupcake decorating gun.  I included some Amazon affiliate links for them below.  So easy to use, and they make your cupcakes look really professional!

The decorating gun I have is called the Fun Gun, but there are other varieties and all of them are just as good.  Check out my affiliate links below:

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Jersey Momma: Let's Try Enjou Chocolat!

Every now and then I like to give a shout-out to local New Jersey businesses, especially when you can find their products outside of New Jersey, too.  I had the opportunity to sample some chocolate from Enjou of Morristown, thanks to the fine people over at  Yes, yes, I might have received my chocolate for free, but I swear to you that I would not recommend something to you that I totally didn't love!!

About is one of my favorite websites.  They offer handmade, artisan chocolates from world-class chocolate vendors.  They help support small businesses throughout the U.S. and Canada.  Check out their website or find them on Twitter and Facebook for  more information.

About Enjou Chocolat

Enjou Chocolat is located in Morristown and carries some of the finest chocolates and treats in New Jersey. You can find them on Twitter and Facebook, too, or visit them in their retail shop.  Enjou sent me a sample of their Orange Ginger Bar  through  I kid you not that it was nothing short of amazing.  First, let me point out how perfectly the bar arrived.  Such care in packing!  Look at that!

Then it was tied with a pretty purple ribbon and a personal note.  It made my day.

If the flavor combination of orange and ginger sounds unusual to you, I want you to open your minds, people!  I tend to be very picky when it comes to my chocolate.  This dark chocolate (72%) was so fresh, and combined with that flavor of the orange and ginger, it was like the perfect flavor explosion.  I urge you to give it a shot.  This is also what I like to call, 'healthy chocolate.'  Some of the finest dark chocolate, combined with immunity boosting orange and energy boosting ginger, well, you can't go wrong with that!

This is such a decadent treat that you can eat it little by little, breaking off piece by piece for little treats here and there.  It makes a great gift for someone who needs a little pick-me-up.

Mine was totally gone within a day or two.  I loved every last bite.  If you like the idea of chocolate for health, you can also try some of Enjou's other delicious bars, such as the cranberry-orange, goji, cacao, coconut cherry, or even edamame and sea salt!  Enjou sells variety packs of these chocolate bars, too.

Remember, you don't have to be from Jersey to enjoy Enjou Chocolat.  I received this glorious sample thanks to, who connects these vendors to you nationwide.  Thanks,!  Thanks, Enjou!  You rock!