Tales From the Shadowhunter Academy

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Another amazing series, from the amazing Cassandra Clare. Does this woman ever stop? I hope not! At the end of The Mortal Instruments series, we knew that Simon was going to become a Shadowhunter.

Thankfully reversing the forgetting spell placed on him by Magnus’ demon father. Little did we know that this would lead to ten amazing short stories about Simon’s training the Shadowhunter Academy.

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There has been one book, released each month, over the last year, teaching us something knew about the world of Shadowhunters. The books in order are:

• Welcome to the Shadowhunter Academy
• The Lost Herondale
• Nothing but Shadows
• The Whitechapel Fiend
• The Evil We Love
• Pale Kings and Princes
• Bitter of Tongue
• The Fiery Trial
• Born to Endless Night
• Angels Twice Descending

They are very quick reads, I read each in less than two hours, but it is still fantastic. Simon is determined to gain back his past, but as time goes on at the Academy, he is worried that he will not be this person he keeps hearing about. The amazing Simon Lewis, Daylighter, friend of the Nephilim, one who helped end both the Mortal War and the battle with the Endarkened. What if he can’t be what everyone expects him to be.

The stories all feature characters from the original series, some for just one book, like Alec Lightwood, or those who are in every story, like Catarina Loss. Some of the stories are those being told to Simon, like in The Lost Herondale, where Catarina tells him how cruel the Clave can be, but with the lesson that something good can come out of a tragedy. Have you ever wondered what kind of historic events the Shadowhunters may have played into? The Whitechapel Fiend explains their role in the story of Jack the Ripper. I really enjoyed that one! Some of the stories teach lessons about how history can help us prevent tragedies in the future, like The Evil We Love, where Alec and Isabelle’s father tells the story of the Circle and how Valentine rose to power. This book forces Simon to choose between what is right and what is easy and it had a great lesson at the end. The Fiery Trial is about the parabatai ceremony, where again we get to learn of characters from previous books. Emma and Julian, from City of Heavenly Fire are going to be parabatai, and they may not be the only ones choosing their fighting partners.

There are so many great stories to be told from this world, and I can only be thankful that Ms. Clare chose to share them with us. Now we only have to wait until March 2016 for the next part of the journey……

For more about Shadowhunters, check out
The Mortal Instruments
The Infernal Devices
• The Magnus Bane Chronicles

Mockingjay Part 2

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Another saga has come to an end. Tony suggested earlier in the week that we go see this, especially since we saw the first one in theaters. For whatever reason, we failed to see the middle two in theaters, but I, of course, own them. I’m glad we saw this in theaters, I’m just thinking we shouldn’t have taken the kids.

The movie picks up immediately after part one, you know, Peeta trying to strangle Katniss and doing a good job of it. As explained at the end of Mockingjay Part 1, Peeta was conditioned, through fear and pain, to hate Katniss.

As usual with book to movie productions, they’ve punched up the action sequences. Some of them to a frightening degree. The Capitol “Mutts”, the ones that, in the book, were similar to the dogs from the Hunger Games, took on the traits of the zombies from I Am Legend. They were fast moving and scary as hell. Chiara had her face hidden for most of that scene.

There were some beautiful moments to make up for that one horrifying scene. When Finnick marries Annie, the ceremony and after party are beautiful and full of fun, including a tender moment between Prim and Katniss.

The whole movie you are seeing the darker side of revolution. Realizing that, while trying to remove an evil man from power, the evil can come out in people. You see a darker side of Coin, realizing that she is willing to sacrifice anything and anyone in her fight to ‘free the districts’. That kind of thinking can be dangerous.

Especially for people who haven’t read the books, even for myself who read the books, it was painful at times watching Peeta struggle to find his way back from the darkness he was living in. The movie does a good job showing that it’s not easy to come back. Flashbacks, progress, then slipping back. It’s can be emotional. Real or not real? You’ll understand if you’ve read the books or after you see the movie.

******SPOILER ALERT******

The expected scenes from the book were included. I was happy with the wedding, as I already said. Finnick’s death at the hands of the zombie – like mutts was even more horrifying than I remember from the book.
Prim’s death is as I remember, abrupt and unbelievable. It happens so quickly, and the movie moves on, so you don’t really have time to focus on it.
The execution scene, where Katniss is going to kill Snow, is very dramatic. The build-up, the crowd following close, waiting to see the death of their oppressor. Then the sudden twist, when Katniss kills Coin.
A heartbreaking scene for me, but a lot of the theater found it kind of funny, was when Katniss told Buttercup, the cat, about Prim being gone. The cat’s face, which was in typical ‘whatever’ mode, made a lot of people laugh. While I had tears rolling down my face.

******END SPOILERS******

For the book lovers, I think the movie followed well. Please don’t be one of those people that wants the book to follow exactly because we all know certain things don’t translate well.

If you’ve seen the other movies, you must see this amazing finale. I enjoyed it and look forward to owning it.

Happy Hunger Games everyone! And may the odds be ever in your favor.

Salt Dough Handprint Snowmen

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This was a hassle. Fun for the kids and super cute, but salt dough is such a pain in the butt! If anyone has a better salt dough recipe than this one, please let me know!

•1 cup flour
•1 cup salt
•1/2 cup water

It’s easy to manipulate, but it takes forever to dry! I’ve tried letting it air dry, baking it in the oven at 200° for a few hours, but it still takes forever! This particular project ended up sitting for almost a week before I was content to paint it.

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Rant over! Mix your ingredients together until you have the consistency of play dough. Roll it flat and get your kids handprints in the dough. Then you cut out around your handprints and use a straw to cut out a hole for you to string it up.

After it has set to complete hardness, you are all set for the next phase. I put several layers of white paint on them, giving an hour between coats, to dry.

Once you are sure it’s dry, it’s best to let it dry overnight, outline the handprints with a sharpie. Afterwards, let your kids go to town, making snowmen out of their fingers.

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Arthur was content to draw the snowmen and be done. He wanted to get back to his toys. Make sure you have enough room to put the kids name and year, unless you want to put it on the back.

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Chiara just colored away. She did make snowmen, but by the end they were obscured by the amount of color. It’s totally her though!

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This is Chiara’s masterpiece. I think the most important thing to remember is to not stifle the kids creativity. Let them be them!

After the coloring is complete, the sharpie ink having had time to dry completely, sprinkle a little white glitter, think snow sparkle, over it and spray it with lacquer. I personally went with spray mod podge. Now I have a beautiful and unique keepsake that remind me how small their hands once were.

Craft on all, craft on!

Splinter Removal

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I know it’s hard to see, but there is a teeny tiny splinter by my nail. Ouch! I hate when I get splinters in awkward spots like this. They’re hard to pull out, and sometimes it’s hard to even get a needle in at the right angle.

I’ve got many picture only pins on my life hack board. One of them was a “how-to” on splinter removal. Thankfully, we don’t get a lot of splinters in this house, so I haven’t had the opportunity to try this one. This particular one claims that if you make a paste of baking soda and water:

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This can also be used as a poor man’s toothpaste, just FYI. For splinter removal however, you smear a little on the splinter and cover with a bandaid for 20-30 minutes:

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Yes, I borrowed one of Arthur’s super cool Cars band-aids. For some reason I couldn’t find my first aid kit, so I had to raid the medicine cabinet for kids band-aids.

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Again, hard to see, but the splinter is gone. I was a little disappointed in this pin because it said the splinter would pop out on its own. It did not. It did however make the splinter come out easier than normal. Very little squeezing and it came right out. Normally splinters in my fingers are a royal pain in the butt to get out.

I’m looking forward to trying this pin on a less awful splinter location, maybe it’ll pop out on its own……

Fire Starters

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Fire!!
I married a former volunteer fireman, so I have a healthy respect for fire and it’s safety requirements. That being said, there is something so fun about watching a cotton ball burn!
I am slowly falling into the world of prepping. I know that word has many different meanings to people. It could be the “lunatic” survivalist living off the grid in the Rockies or it could be the lady down the street who has a month’s worth of food stored in the basement. I think I’ll wind up somewhere in between when all is said and done.
I’ve been piecing together 72 hour bags (I will blog about them when they’re done), and Tony and I’s bags will include fire starter kits (Again, more to come on that).
While looking into the fire kits, I found this very detailed website with instructions on how to make a very practical fire starter. The original blogger made 600 of them, I started smaller as I’m seeing how it all works.
To start, you need:
•ziploc baggie
•cotton balls
•Vaseline  (I did use the Walmart brand because the main active ingredient was the same and it’s much cheaper)

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Put a handful of cotton balls in the bag, add enough Vaseline to coat the cotton balls, then just start mushing it all up.
This was a strangely gratifying process because it feels really weird in the bag and you don’t get all slimy.

After letting them set for a few hours, until Tony got home, we of course had to try them out.

All you have to do is take the cotton ball and tear it open, yes it will be slimy, but in a survival scenario, you’re just trying to stay warm.

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This little experiment also gave us the benefit or trying out my firestarter that I bought in the camping section of Walmart. A match or lighter will work as well.

Now part of you may be wondering why you don’t just use your match or lighter to light your kindling, and I have the answer. After watching this cotton ball burn for over 3 minutes, I realized how easy it would be to lay kindling over it until it lit. A match will not stay lit in strong winds and you don’t want to use all of your lighter fluid trying to start a fire.

These cotton balls, in a protective coat of the Vaseline, will continue burning in high winds. The original blogger also said that they will be waterproof once the Vaseline has set.

All in all, this is a fun little prepping, or even just a camping, supply to have in your arsenal.

Happy pyro playing!