Around the Head French Braid

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Tonight is all about a hairstyle. I don’t have a link or a pin about this one. It was one of those pictures that circulate on Facebook. No link, just a picture. Tonight, after her bathtime, I bribed Chiara with Chicken-in-a-biscuit (crackers) to sit and let me play with her hair.

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Bribery always works on this little girl!

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She wasn’t 100% cooperative so this was a bit blurry! You start by pulling the hair into a ponytail at the crown if the head, leaving the edges of your hair down. Depending on your hair’s thickness, for instance if you have a 4 year old’s baby fine hair, you may need to have most of the hair in the ponytail.

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I started above her left ear and went up over the crown of her head. You take a small chunk of hair and separate it into two pieces and take the third piece from the ponytail.
After some playing around I discovered that it’s best to take more hair from outside the ponytail and smaller pieces from the ponytail. Otherwise you will run out of hair!

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You continue around the outside of your head. When you get to the underside of your head, it gets a little tricky. A clip may help, or you can flip the excess of the ponytail over the top of your head.

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As previously stated, it’s easy to run out of hair from the ponytail. Baby fine hair strikes again!
Once you reach the last of your ponytail hair, the easiest solution I found was to tuck the end of the hair under the braid and use some bobby pins to hold it in place.
All in all, I love the hairstyle, but I’ll wait till Chiara’s hair thickens up a little more. Or if someone with longer and thicker hair wants to volunteer……
Happy braiding!

Meatball Casserole

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This was a yummy little recipe that I found here and it was perfect for the Memorial Day picnic we went to on Saturday!
You start with a loaf of French (or Italian) bread. Slice your slices about 1″ thick and layer the bottom of your casserole dish.

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Any gaps you have, just fill in with chunks of bread. The website said the bread may get soggy, to prevent this toast your bread slightly, but I didn’t have a problem.
Next step is to take 8 oz of softened cream cheese, 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1 tsp Italian seasoning and 1/4 tsp pepper and mix it all together. It looks a little gross, but it comes out ok, I promise. Layer this mixture over your bread and sprinkle a cup of shredded mozzarella on top of that.

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Next step is to mix 28 oz of pasta sauce with 1 lb frozen meatballs and place on top. I used Hunts sauce.

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Next step is to sprinkle another cup of mozzarella over the top.

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Last step is to bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes. I went for 35 due to the meatballs being frozen solid.
This was a big hit at the picnic and I know we’ll definitely be doing doing this again!
Happy cooking!

Lego Expo

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This was awesome! All the details can be found on the Great Lakes Science Center website. So this will be my view on the exhibit. I do want to say that if you go the science center, the Lego Expo is included in the price, unlike when they had the Titanic exhibit, which cost extra.

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The tour starts with a gallery, entirely built by Arthur Gugick. It’s incredible! He built amazing landmarks, from the St. Petersburg palace to the Jefferson Memorial. The detail on his work is incredible.

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This was another amazing work by this artist. My favorite painting in the world, completely redesigned with Legos. I would hang this in my living room if I could sneak it out!

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This artist amazed me further with an amazing world he built from Legos. I have some of the highlights shown here.
I could have this blog and do nothing but show pictures of the awesomeness they created, but instead I’ll tell more about why you should go!

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They have an area that is strictly for building. It got really hectic when we first got there because it was very crowded. As the evening went on, the crowd thinned out and it became easier. You have the opportunity to build anything you can imagine. Once it’s built, you take it to the green screen photo booth. You capture the image of your creation, select your background, if you want to, add a picture of yourself and then you email it to yourself.
The kids and I all did one, and Tony even did one. It was a unique and fun thing to do.

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Another fun activity that was available, was to build a Duplo car and race it, pinewood derby style. Chiara killed at this. To the point that she was doing her ‘I won’ dance and didn’t want to leave the tables.

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Giant displays of historic transportation. Transcontinental railroad, space shuttle, zeppelin and the Wright brothers flight. Arthur was bouncing around trying to see everything before circling around more slowly. They were amazing!

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They also had a race car built out of Duplos. There is a sign saying don’t climb on it, other than the seat, so watch your kids! I was a little bummed that I didn’t fit!

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Last but not least, we hit the gift shop. They have the required Lego kits and books about Legos. The Legos I can get at Walmart, the books I can get from Barnes & Noble, but they did have some nifty odds and ends. We went with headphone wrappers since they’ll come in handy on vacation. I’m pretty sure I’ll be going back before the Expo ends, September 7, 2014, to pick up some stocking stuffers. They have key chain lights that are really cute, but a little pricey considering we’re saving for vacation.
If you’ll be going through Cleveland this summer, I’d definitely say stop in. Especially if you have a master builder of your own!

Frozen Party

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So it occurred to me that I missed a post about baby girl’s birthday. Horrible right?!
What you see above is the invitation I worked up for her to take to school. It took me longer than it should’ve to figure out how to put a picture as the background in Microsoft Word! I had the same problem with Arthur’s invites too! I was really excited about how they turned out though, as was Chiara! She was so sad that I didn’t let her take them to school that day.

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This next step didn’t excite me as much. As with Arthur’s birthday, I purchased a king size sheet for a backdrop. This time I got a white one and had Tony spray paint it with glitter. In retrospect, a teal or light blue sheet with glitter would’ve been better. The glitter refused to show on the white! At the moment I have no future use for this sheet, but I’m sure Pinterest will save me!

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Streamers were easy enough, so I trusted Tony with those. We used a simple blue and white, twined together. He did great with Arthur’s streamers unsupervised and he was once again successful.

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This one was a gift / party wear from her Nana & Papa. I had the thought to put it on the cake as decor, but she was so insistent on wearing it, I didn’t want to make her cry on her birthday! The only way it would’ve been better is if she would’ve agreed to wear her Elsa dress.
I do want to have a short sidebar here stating that the Elsa tiara is the best yet. I’m not even talking about how it looks, even though it is gorgeous. It is by far the sturdiest one, featuring aluminum as a material. Don’t worry! This is not a chincy tiara that will break in a week!
Most of these ideas were self thought up after browsing assorted sites so no original pin to reference. I hope you enjoy any partying you come up with!

Roll of Bags

You know how when you go grocery shopping and you end up having hundreds of bags at home? Well, I work at Walmart so it’s really bad for me. I’m getting better about taking my reusable bags, but it is nice to have bags on hand for odd reasons. Going to the pool and bringing home a wet suit? Put it in a bag! Kids have an accident and you need to store wet pants? Put it in a bag! Doggy doo pickup? Put it in a bag!
The only problem is, you end up with a bag of bags, tie it off and it gets lost in the bowels of your basement or storeroom. This is the solution to that problem!

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This is a way for you to roll up your bags, theoretically place them in a wipes dispenser (the round kind), it’ll dispense one at a time and leave you with another end to pull.
It’s fairly simple to do, it just requires space and patience.

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You start by laying the bag flat and soothing it out. Be sure to check for holes now because you don’t want to waste your time rolling up a torn bag.

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Next step is to fold the bag in half.

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Then you lay your bags out like so. The handles lying over the bag above it.

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Before you start rolling your first bag, take the handle and flip it, like so.

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Then you just roll them up. Don’t focus so much on tightness. There will be a little air caught in the bags, no matter how careful you are and if you roll too tightly it can burst a bag. Just focus on rolling as evenly as possible.
Et voilà!
You have a homemade bag dispensing system, easily portable and easily used. As I didn’t have a round dispenser handy, I just used some hair elastics to hold everything in place. It’s working so far…..
If you want to, check out the original pin here.

My Fatal Flaw

So tonight isn’t about Pinterest. It’s not about an awesome recipe I want to share, or some awesome craft I did with the kids. It’s not even about someplace cool I was able to fill out. Tonight is about a realization I had about myself.

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I have a fantastic life. I have a husband that tells me I’m beautiful, and shows me how much he loves me every day. I have two amazing kids that irritate and amaze me all the time. I couldn’t ask for more.

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Yet more I have! I have wonderful parents, who are loving and willing to help out however they can. They love spending time with and spoiling their grandkids and we manage to see each other a few times a year, despite the distance.

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My blessings continue with the best in – laws a girl could have. They are also supportive and loving people who stay an active part in our lives despite a great distance. Most people complain about in – laws, but in almost eight years of marriage, I’ve had no problems!
Amazing life, right?
Self awareness kicked in slowly over the last few days. I’ve been devouring the Percy Jackson series (blog to follow), and one of the problems these young heros are faced with is the fatal flaw that all heros have. It can be anything from the obvious (such as pride) to the unexpected (devotion, which can be bad if it goes too far beyond rational).
I was playing through plot lines in my head, like I do sometimes, and it hit me, like a bolt of lightning, what my fatal flaw is.

Superiority

I deal with life situations, or hear people venting about things, usually annoyances, and I feel superior. I do my best to be supportive and give valid advice, it’s almost always appreciated, so I can feel good about the advice I give. This leads to a certain amount of superiority. I mean, I’m the one that gives all this amazing advice, that helps people with their lives.
The part I am really not ok with, is the part of me that thinks silently

This would never happen to me

The one side of my brain registers this as something that’s ok because it means I appreciate what I have. The other half is saying, this will lead to the dark side.
I hate feeling this way, and that means I have to make a change.
Starting today, I will be eliminating some things from my life that lead to these feelings of superiority. Certain things have been consistently causing me to embrace my fatal flaw.
I’ll try to avoid backsliding, focusing on things that give me good feelings and general contentment.
After all, good heroes must beware their fatal flaw. It always leads to their downfall.

Chicken Kiev

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I’m going to start this by saying I did alter this recipe a bit, as I do for most recipes, but I will include a link to the full recipe at the bottom.
I started out by chopping up some onion, really you only need 1 Tbsp so don’t chop up more than you need. I added 1 Tbsp of minced garlic and mixed them together.
The next step was mildly entertaining for me. You need to take 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, fully thawed, and bound them flat with your meat tenderizer. Unless you don’t have a meat tenderizer, in which case I used pressure (with my hand) and flattened them out. It was kind of fun and gross at the same time.
Take an egg, beat it and add 1 Tbsp of water to it. Put flour in a bowl, enough to coat your chicken. In a separate bowl, have enough bread crumbs to coat your chicken as well.

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Take your tenderized chicken, add a little salt and pepper, sprinkle 1/4 of your onion and garlic mixture and add a spoonful of butter. The original recipe had specific amounts for butter, but I just scooped some out of the tub. Once all of the above is done, roll the chicken up and dip into the flour, dip into the egg, dip in the bread crumbs, back in the egg and back into the bread crumbs. It seems like a lot, it is, it is also messy!

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Once you go through all of these steps with all of the chicken, place them in your baking dish and refrigerate for 1-24 hours. I left mine in the fridge till the next day. Remember they must be refrigerated for at least an hour! I missed this step when I made it the first time and it threw everything off.
After the refrigeration is over, you will melt some butter in a pan. Place your ‘chicken rolls’ in the pan and fry until they are golden brown on all sides. After you’ve achieved golden brown perfection, place them back in your baking dish. Bake them at 400° for 15-18 minutes.

They are really good. Even Tony said so, and he ended up doing the frying after I did the prep work. It is a lot of work though!

If you make this, it is good, but be prepared to work for it and plan accordingly!

Full recipe found here.

The Infernal Devices

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I was second guessing myself as to whether I wanted to review this trilogy now, or after reviewing The Mortal Instruments…… These books are a prequel to The Mortal Instruments (TMI) series, but I read them after devouring most of TMI. As of starting this blog, I clearly decided to introduce you to The Infernal Devices (TID) first!
This trilogy is set in Victorian England and opens by introducing you to Tessa Gray, our heroine, who is so much more than she appears. She has journeyed from New York City to London to reunite with her brother, her only family as they are orphaned. Things go immediately awry, when she is tricked into captivity by evil ‘women’, who show her that she is not entirely human. Or human at all……
Tessa has an amazing ability. She has the ability to take on the form of any sentient being, and while in that form, understand the thoughts of that being. It’s a power that people will kill to control.
She is rescued by the young Shadowhunter, Will Herondale. For those of you who don’t know, Shadowhunters are warriors who protect the human race from demons and the ‘shadow world’.
I could go on about these books for days, and my husband will tell you I have! I don’t want to give away too much, really just give you enough to encourage you to read them!
We are introduced to a wide range of characters, with different personalities and problems. Everything from terrible illness to being pushed into a life you never wanted, love triangles and marital miscommunication. Our characters range from Jem Carstairs, the young Shadowhunter who was poisoned by a demon at the age of six, to Charlotte Fairchild, a woman in a position of power, struggling to show how capable she really is.
With all of these characters we have some of the most beautiful expressions of love and caring that I have ever read. And I mean ever! I read…… A lot! And these struck a chord deep within me!

Life is a book, and there are a thousand pages I have not yet read. I would read them together with you,

As an avid reader, this line rang true. These are thoughts that run through my head, but living in the world we do, you just can’t walk around saying them. Even married to the love of my life, he would laugh at me a little.

Our hearts, they need a mirror, Tessa. We see our better selves in the eyes of those who love us.

Another beautiful and oh – so – romantic sentiment.

When you walk in the world, I will be the light by your side, the ground steady under your feet, the force that drives the sword in your hand. We are bound, beyond the oath.

This could be a romantic thing, sword talk aside, but this is actually a final moment between friends. Can we say wow! It’s not just the romantic moments that get me. These friends, bound by fate and circumstance,  have a relationship that shows how important non-romantic relationships are for us. They are shaped by each other and do everything they can to help each other.
I know I say this about all the books I review, but you must read these books! Obviously I liked them if I’m talking about them, but they are amazing! They are tagged as young adult books, but they are well written with fantastic characters, so what does age really matter? If the story can pull you in, well, that’s the whole point isn’t it?

The Real Crockpot Italian Chicken

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So, I’ve actually tried this recipe before, but misread the directions. It was a good meal, but I decided to try it the way it was intended. You start by taking 4 chicken breasts, 1 packet zesty Italian dressing mix, 8 oz softened cream cheese and 2 cans cream of chicken soup. I cut my chicken up into cubes before putting it in the crockpot. Think bite size pieces.
Cook on low for 4 hours.
As you approach the end of your 4 hour cook time, cook some pasta. I used rotini out of preference. It’s a personal favorite of my kids. Even though I made this for my parents and cousin while on vacation, you stick with what you know! At the end of the 4 hours, if you think your mixture is a little thick add some milk to reach your desired thickness. You’ll want it to be a little soupy, but not super runny. Serve over pasta!
After that, you just enjoy!
I do like being able to reference the original pin, but apparently it was flagged as spam so I can’t. Still a good choice for a meal!
Too see how this turns out with a ranch dressing packet instead of Italian,  check here.

Buffalo Chicken Ring

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This was an easy and delicious recipe. It’s been awhile since I’ve had one this easy, turn out this well! You start with 2 cups of cooked chicken cut into tiny little pieces. You mix the chicken pieces with 8 oz of softened cream cheese, a packet of ranch dressing mix and 1/2 cup of wing sauce. I used Frank’s Buffalo Wing Sauce. The original recipe does call for onions and celery, but I have a 7 year old that hates onions, so we skipped a step.
Then you stir it all up until it looks like this disgusting mess:

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You need to then take 2 tubes of Pillsbury crescent rolls and lay them out like this:

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You take your chicken mixture and spread it in a ring, like such:

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It may seem like it’s too much, but it’ll work out, trust me.

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After you’ve used all your chicken mixture, fold your crescent dough over the top until it’s all sealed up.
Then you place your buffalo chicken ring in the oven at 375° for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown.
This was delicious!

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It comes apart pretty easy, if a little messy, but we ate the whole thing in one sitting. Enjoy your own dinner and give this a try!