Army Hero Dog Gabe

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This was my first time meeting Gabe. A lazy, fully grown dog, who was very sweet.

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Even with kids poking at him, he just dealt with it by giving kisses, or just thumping his tail.
It wasn’t until much later that I realized we were playing with a hero! The sweet handsome boy in the pictures (the four legged one) was the American Hero Dog of 2012. He hadn’t won the award when we met him, the pictures were taken in 2011, but Gabe was already a hero!
Gabe’s story as we know it began in 2006, when he was rescued from a shelter by a labrador retriever rescue. Apparently they saw something special in him, as he was soon adopted into the United States Army. He was paired with Staff Sergeant Charles (Chuck) Shuck, also in 2006, and they trained together for five months. After passing his training with flying colors the pair were soon on a plane to Iraq.
During their 13 month deployment, Gabe and Chuck completed 210 missions, with 26 weapons and explosives finds, more than any other dog. The most notable find was along the Tigris River, where Gabe found 36 mortar rounds, preventing them from later being fashioned into up to 36 devices to be used by the enemy.
Chuck has had many amazing things to say about this sweet dog, stating that he was a trooper, just doing the job and said that every find they had, even down to a single bullet, meant there was one less weapon for the enemy.
When it came time for Chuck’s reassignment, Gabe was paired with another handler. Gabe had other ideas though, and refused to work with the new handler. Chuck was permitted to adopt Gabe in 2009, traveling to multiple duty stations with him, until he came to his forever home in Ft. Jackson, SC.
After years of service to his country, winning three Army Commendation Medals, an Army Achievement Medal and dozens of coins of excellence, it would be easy to relax into the lap of doggy luxury. Gabe however became a voice for shelter dogs. Encouraging people to find their dogs from those most in need of a home. He also campaigned for, and won, the 2012 American Humane Society’s Hero Dog Award.
Gabe’s time, sadly, came to cross the rainbow bridge in February 2013. Cancer had consumed this American hero and Chuck faced the hardest decision that a pet owner can face.
I think it is very important to remember that this amazing hero dog came from humble beginnings. As the proud owner of two rescue dogs, I can tell you that with love and attention, these dogs can do amazing things. So while we celebrate amazing animals like Gabe, who saved an untold number of lives while serving our counry, and who knows how many four legged lives by promoting shelter adoptions, all pets have the potential for greatness, all they need is our love.

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I borrowed this photo of Gabe from a friend of mine’s Facebook page. Gabe had a loving home which is what all dogs really want.
If you want to read about another four-legged hero, check out Sallie’s story here.

Sugar Skull Barbie

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This was something funny I originally saw on facebook. After The Book of Life came out, I’ve been falling more and more in love with them. They’re bright, colorful and the meaning behind them is beautiful as well.
We have quite a few barbies floating around the house. Most of them are from my own childhood, now housed in Chiara’s room.

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Within the last few days, one barbie ran afoul of the dog. Tony has decided it was Zuko, and he’s probably right.

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I can’t claim to be the painter. I have less than zero skills when it comes to painting.
We’ve still got a little work to do with this one, finding a way to hang the head, Tony’s thinking to hang it from a car’s rearview. We’ve also got another doll head in the works, a doll who just can’t keep her head on straight. He actually took the time to dye her hair black too……
Updates to follow!

Time Stood Still

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This is an idea I’ve had pinned to my decor board forever! I’ve wanted to do this for a long time, but finally found the clocks and frames I wanted for it.
I’m sad to say I can’t reference the original blogger. This is a beautiful idea, but Pinterest won’t connect me because it’s ‘spam’.
To start with, you need clocks you like, frames you like and an open expanse of wall. I found these beautiful and inexpensive clocks at Bed, Bath and Beyond. Only $9.99 a piece! That’s $1 more than Walmart’s cheapest, and it’s so much prettier! I found my frames at Walmart.
I also dug out my Cricut for this project! It’s been packed away for far too long. I had to order adhesive vinyl from Amazon, apparently no one in this area carries it in store any longer. Amazon has better deals anyway!
I had the clocks first, and I couldn’t resist setting them to the correct time right away!

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Tony and I were married at 1pm, Arthur born at 1:43, Chiara at 2:35.
Then I took my Cricut and adhesive vinyl and cut out letters for:

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To top everything off:
In these moments time stood still.

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Anthony & Stephanie
6 10 06
Then I picked a favorite picture from our wedding day.

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Arthur Blaise
4 13 07
I chose a sweet picture of Arthur the day we brought him home.

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Chiara Yue
5 3 10
And of course a sweet picture of Chiara when we brought her home!

I apparently suck at putting words in a straight line, but I love how this turned out!

Do you think something like this would work for you?
Happy decorating!

Framed Family Hands

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I love the way this pin turned out! Such a simple idea and so cute! As the original blogger pointed out, it’s an inexpensive idea as well!
My husband, silly man that he is, questioned why I was doing this pin when I had already done a handprint pin only 4 months ago. I answered him “because it’s our hands!”
I’ve always had a thing for hands. For some it’s the eyes, or the lips, but I’ve always been fascinated by hands. You can tell a lot about a person by their hands. Chiara has picked up on it too, as she keeps holding her hand up to mine, asking, “do you love my small hands?”
I’ll probably do something like this every year until Arthur’s hand gets bigger than mine. It won’t take long, as I have small hands and my children are growing too fast!
This was a very simple craft for me, I have a ton of scrapbooking supplies, including paper and stickers. I did have a few false starts, trying to use the stencils of the kids hands I used for their valentines.

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The picture may be a little difficult to see, but the easiest way I found to do this was to start with the smallest hand. Lay the next biggest hand over that outline, keeping the hand outlines lined up. It makes a better visual if the fingers line up, at least mostly.

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After you have all of your outlines, cut out the biggest hand and trace it onto your chosen paper. Then cut down to the second largest, trace onto chosen paper, cut again, etc..

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When you’re done, you’ll have a hand family like so. There’s no rules about the paper you use, just pick patterns or colors you like together.

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Then choose a background in the size of whatever frame you’re using. I cut mine to 8×10, this left plenty of room at the top for the family name as well! If you have someone in your family with a hand big enough to palm a basketball you may need to go 11×14.

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You may have nicer hand writing than I do, if so you could hand write the name at the top, but I wanted to go a little fancier than my handwriting would allow, enter my sticker collection!
You can barely see it in the first photo, but I wrote the year at the bottom of Chiara’s hand. For posterity’s sake, put the date on!
Happy crafting all!

Delicious Pork Chops

This is a super delicious recipe that I found through Pinterest, of course. Last night it was my turn to make dinner. I had to do something with pork chops, as it was the use or freeze by date. I wasn’t in the mood for one of our usual recipes so I started browsing Pinterest.
This was an amazingly easy to make recipe and it required only three ingredients, that are found in most kitchens! All you need is:

•2 tsp salt
•1 tsp black pepper
•4 tsp brown sugar

I did adjust the recipe a little as I was going because I was running out of the rub and because we were making four chops instead of the two called for in the original recipe. It was also a little too pepper-y, so I did cut back on the pepper!

First step is to preheat your oven to 325°.

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Mix your spices together in a bowl.

Place your four chops on your baking tray, lined with aluminum foil.

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Then you go to town rubbing in your seasoning on both sides of your chops. Rub it in good!

Place them in your oven for 15 minutes, flip over and bake for another 15 minutes.

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When they are done, you will have juicy, tender pork chops! We served them woth peas, mashed potatoes and gravy. It was so yummy that it was devoured in record time!

Happy dining all!

Fifty Shades of Grey

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Right after my showing

Ok, so I’m a big fan of the Fifty Shades Trilogy. I was desperately amused when America jumped on this bandwagon, especially since I’ve been taking crap for years because I enjoy the romance genre. People were constantly telling me it’s smut. Well let me tell you, Nora Roberts/J.D.Robb is tame compared to E.L.James!

If you haven’t read the books, there will be spoilers, but I’ll try to warn you!

The story really starts when Anastasia Steele, a young, innocent college student, goes to interview a young, entrepreneurial billionaire for the college paper. Christian Grey, the billionaire, takes an interest in Miss Steele and decides he wants to introduce her to his world of dark, sexual delights. BDSM for those who didn’t take the hint.
In trying to introduce her to his world, she draws him partially into her “hearts and flowers” world.

I feel they did a great job translating this book to the big screen. From what I’ve read, E.L.James was a very demanding creative consultant, and it shows! Sometimes with book-to-movies the main story stays the same but the details get very skewed! Twilight *ahem* Twilight!

There is just so much awkwardness that comes across from Dakota Johnson, who plays Anastasia Steele. It brings just enough humor to the movie to alleviate the tension. There is a lot of sexual tension throughout the movie, but it is most definitely not the pornography it could’ve been. Again, I loved the books, but when I read they were making the movie, I was curious how they could make this a movie and not a porn. The amount of sex shown in the movie is very small, especially considering how much swx plays into the story!
There is a lot of shots of Anastasia’s breasts and butt, also a few nice shots of Jamie Dornan’s butt, Christian’s butt that is!
I’m not saying this is a movie to invite your grandma over to watch, but it wouldn’t be too awkward to watch with another couple, as long as your good friends anyway!

*SPOILER ALERT*
As the movie wnds like the book, Anastasia leaving Christian, I am so glad I’ve read the books! I knew how it would end, yet I feel as desperate as everyone else for the sequels!
*END SPOILER*

I hope you all enjoy the movie as much as I did. Just keep an open mind and please don’t think this is putting women down. It’s about exploring sexuality, and always remember, when Anastasia does say no, Christian stops instantly.

Send a Hug

This was a really cute pin that I found. It’s been on my Valentine board for a little while, but it seemed easy enough to make this at the same time as our Valentines this year.
I really enjoyed the idea of a hug you can mail, as we have a lot of family that lives out of state.

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You start, at least the way I made them, by outlining and cutting out your children’s hands on paper, you’ll want something about as thick as scrapbooking or construction paper. These are Arthur and Chiara’s hands. Aren’t they adorable?!

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Your next step is to take some yarn, or ribbon and cut a length that goes from hand to hand. I went to about the middle of their hands to allow room to attach it.

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I used tape and one staple per hand to attach my red yarn.

Now you have a hug you can send to a special family member who may be missing their young family members. It’s also a reminder at how fast they grow. When they get older, you’ll have that reminder of how their little arms would have to stretch for a hug!

Happy hugging all!

Decorate With Thirty-one

So today isn’t about anything crafty or delicious that I’ve made, it’s not even about a good book or movie. Today is about decorating the kids room with an adorable gift from their Nana and Papa!
I’m hoping that almost everyone has heard of thirty-one by now. It’s a company that functions like Tupperware, sold in parties and can be used for everything. I have many bags, Tony will tell you too many, but what does he know?
My mom was asking recently if I had any bags I wanted and I told her the only ones I was interested in were the semi-new snap-bags. Then I explained what I wanted to do with them, and she bought them for my kids.

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Here we have six snap-bags, each with a letter from Arthur’s name, hanging from a decorative curtain rod, $6.98 at Walmart. I loved the idea of this! It’s a cute way for the kids to store toys, especially their current favorites. I constantly get the reasoning of, “Mom, this is my favorite and it will get lost in the toy box.” It won’t now! Arthur can put whatever little Lego project he’s working on in a bag at the end of the night, or even one of his medium Transformers will fit! Kids also love anything with their name on it!

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Of course Chiara has a set too. The purple color had two complementing patterns, so my mom alternated each letter to a different pattern. She’s already started putting her ponies and little princess dolls in the bag so they don’t get lost. I tried telling her to clean her room, but that ‘is very hard work!’

Do you think something like this would work for your kids?

The Book of Life

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It’s been a little while since I’ve done a movie review and this is a movie that definitely deserves one! I do have to admit that I wasn’t too thrilled with the previews of this movie. Something about the way the animation showed in the commercials did not impress me.

My kids however were very excited about the bright colors and cheerful music. So I purchased the movie one night before leaving work. I put it on for the kids the next morning and they were loving it! After the first ten minutes of listening from the kitchen, I was drawn into the living room by the music and the voices.

Don’t worry, after finishing the movie with my kids, we watched it later that evening when Tony got home!

The movie is set in San Angel, Mexico, which is the center of the universe. The story opens with a field trip of delinquent kids arriving at a museum. A beautiful young guide offers to take them on a special tour. She introduces the leaders of the dead, La Muerta, who rules the land of the remembered, Xibalba, who rules the land of the forgotten and the Candlemaker, who keeps everything in balance.

She then introduces the three main characters of the main storyline, Manolo, Joachim and Maria. They are three children, growing up in San Angel and somehow become part of a bet between La Muerta and Xibalba. These three frequently get into mischief and Maria’s father decides to send her to a boarding school in Spain to improve her behavior. Joachim begins training to follow his deceased father’s footsteps as a soldier. Manolo is pushed into training as a matador, which is what the men in his family are famous for, when all he wants to do is sing his music.

Years pass, Maria has finally returned to San Angel. Joachim is a hero, visiting his hometown for Maria’s return. Manolo is now ready for his first bull fight. Both men love Maria and she seems to favor Manolo. Xibalba however, doesn’t want to lose the bet, especially since he has already stacked the deck in his favor.

Xibalba’s interference leads to the supposed death of Maria, which leads Manolo to sacrifice his life.

Don’t worry, this is not Romeo and Juliet!

Once Manolo reaches the land of the remembered, he discovers that he was tricked into his decision so that Xibalba could win the bet and gain the rule over the land of the remembered. He is forced to travel to the land of the forgotten, facing danger and judgement, to find La Muerta and beg for her help.

After facing his greatest fear, being himself despite familial pressure, he is able to return to San Angel in time for the battle with banditos who threaten his town.

I won’t give away the ending, but this is a beautiful story and the music is amazing. It brings modern music, with a mariachi feel, to this story and you can’t help but sing along!

Under it all are the lessons:

Never stop playing from the heart.

Never stop fighting for what is right.

Write you’re own story.

I hope you enjoy the movie as much as my family and I did!

“I Love You” Valentines

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I’m actually proud of myself. Other than not knowing how many kids are in my son’s class, and potentially having to make more, the kids’ valentines are done already!
I adapted this idea from here. Originally it was suncatchers, but I saw this pin and thought about making valentines for the kids!

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You start by making a stencil of your child’s hand.

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Once you have your hands cut out, you can have your child sign their name if you would like.

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My next step was to dig out my glue gun and glue the middle and ring fingers down. For those who don’t know, this is “I Love You” in sign language.

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Last step was to attach the heart candy, I used Hershey’s. I used my glue gun, just be sure the candy wrapper completely covers the chocolate.
Happy Valentine’s Day!