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Take My Advice: The Clink

Not to jinx myself or to toot my own horn, but my friends tend to think I give pretty good advice. This is confirmed by how often I get texts or calls needing help on anything from what to eat that day to which guy to date.

Let me point out here that I love this. Some may analyze it as narcissism or that I’m projecting what I would want onto other people, but it’s truly not. I love putting myself in another person’s shoes and saying what I honestly believe I would do, or playing Devils Advocate to give options.

One request for advice came from a friend named Vanessa. Months prior, she had a little too much to drink and made the choice to get behind the wheel. Nothing was hurt but her pride, and it resulted in a DUI. Vanessa has been exceedingly responsible about it, including getting a compact breathilizer to keep in her purse in addition to the mandated one in her car, and chooses to walk to most functions if she thinks she’ll drink. Her request was as follows:

“So I’ll have to go to jail 24 hours for my DUI. Just enough time to make some new friends and some toilet wine. Aside from coming out with penciled in eyebrows and a tattooed ‘Celine’ on my neck, I’m a smidge apprehensive of the cavity search. Any advice you can think of?”

Where do I begin? Firstly, please come out with a head full of braids and lip liner only which needs to be made from melted crayons. Secondly, if you draw a fake teardrop tattoo with eyeliner for the next time you see me I’ll buy you an Alabama Slammer.

In all seriousness, that’s a scary thing to go through. Jail alone is a daunting thing to think of. I’ve seen enough Lock Up Raw to know I don’t want anything to do with Shaniqua or learn why she’s in the joint. Vanessa was taking it a lot better than I ever would and it’s sure put the fear in me.

Putting myself in her shoes isn’t easy, I have to admit, but my advice for the cavity search would be to think of something else that could possibly take the place of that event. Example: you have to endure a 20 minute wait in a packed DMV, so put in some headphones with some Bob Marley, sit in the back row with your eyes closed and your purse clutched tight while you imagine yourself on a beach.

That wouldn’t really work in this scenario, unless you’re used to sandy invasions of privacy. So what do you do? Pretend this was your first porn audition? A midlife crisis answer to a Craigs List ad?

I just say recite every state alphabetically in your head until it’s over. Even if you did so really fast, I can’t imagine you’d get past Minnesota before it was over. And, to being in jail in general, learn as many secret gang handshakes as you can. May come in handy some day.

Follow my blog to read more as it comes along, or email me at lalalalenas@gmail.com if you have something you would like advice on.

Making Memories (Days With My Daughter): Grand Mound and Great Wolf Lodge

I love my family.

I would like to think I could lose everything in life and I would still be fine if I had them, but the truth is they would never let that happen.

Unless I become a drugged up thief who makes every attempt to ruin their lives, they would always help me. Even then they would just throw me on Intervention.

We are the middle to lower half of middle class. We all have jobs, even if they don’t pay much – we all have roofs over our heads, some we own and some we don’t – and we all have food on our plates and clothes on our back, even if we could barely afford it.

My parents, though, always manage to save enough to spoil us. Not rotten, but more than deserved. Even if it makes their wallets a little tight for a couple of paychecks to pay it back, the memories made and the looks on our kids faces keep telling them it is worth it.

These spoils can be a trip to “the big city”, the zoo, out to lunch, or bigger things like this last weekend:

The Great Wolf Lodge

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We really are spoiled.

For those of you who have never been to or heard of GWL, it is a hotel/indoor waterpark that provides a variety of activities from magic quests to arcades, dance parties, and much, MUCH more.

It’s a child’s paradise.

We had taken my daughter before (see, again with my parents!), but at the time she was only about 8 months old and the trip was more for my niece. This was Ev’s first cognizant trip to GWL.

And what a trip it was!

There’s plenty I can tell you, but I’ll do a brief over.

After a traffic filled drive, a wonderful Mexican dinner, and fighting for parking, I got to see my tiny daughters reaction to this giant, enchanted wonderland as seen through a 2 year olds eyes.

Firstly, as you walk in, there are large fake trees everywhere. Right in the middle of the lobby is a rather large landscape of anamotronic trees and animals and a staircase with a bridge walkway on the second floor. These block the large wall of windows that shows the waterpark complete with a baby/toddler area, 2 medium slides built into a fort with numerous water gadgets, a wave pool, a swimming pool, 2 larger slides and 2 slides that really should be for adults only, regardless of the 5 year olds that went down right before me.

Seeing all of the whimsy made Ev pick up to a run. Then as we got closer she saw the pool. Her face froze in an overwhelming glaze and she started calling “How ’bout this one?!”

She was so excited.

Within the first night she had the baby pool mastered. She would easily circle from stairs to slide over and over.

The only way to get her out was by promising her more tomorrow and to take her on the magic quest.

Two pink wands and a quest subscription bill later, we hit the halls to “zap” stuff.

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Did I mention over half of the kids are in their pajamas at this point?

Roaming the halls, usually absurdly unattended and ill mannered, in various pj’s. My tiny tot had to do the same!

So here we are roaming the halls waving at different animals, treasure boxes, pictures, and stars – making things open, twinkle, wiggle or shout. She really thought she was Harry Potter.

Such an amazing thing to imagine. You get older, even by a few years, you start to notice that there are other kids around doing the same thing, and it loses magic. Then a little older and you notice other kids making the same objects do the same thing and it loses a little more. Eventually it just becomes a game, but I got the privilege of witnessing my daughter have the FULL magic. The pure wonder of it!

The next morning we hopped right in the pool, and by the end of the day she had graduated to the slides meant for kids significantly older than she is. We had also done more “zapping”:

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Alakazam!

Some minigolf, some dinner, some slides and some exploring. It was a long fantastic day!

Also, since we had been there a few times before, we hit some kind of frequent flyer program. Not only did we have gold bracelets that made everyone treat us seemingly nicer than average, but they left us a bottle of sparkling cider and a paw shaped cookie with a “welcome back” message. It was pretty special!

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Here are a few others from our trip:

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We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

Pin-test #3: Free Music Download Using YouTube

I was randomly browsing a completely unrelated category on Pinterest today, when I stumbled onto this picture:

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……. For realskies?

Here’s the link for a quick look if you’d like. One main reason I’m so intrigued:

I have very eclectic taste in music. I can easily switch from country to rap after I just listened to 4 Non Blondes and The Temptations.

So, being so out there, I run into a song or two someone pulled up on YouTube that, for the life of me, I can’t find to download anywhere.

Embarrassing example: I used to hate Miley Cyrus. Everything from Hannah Montana to her coat tail ride to fame via her father.

Then I stumbled on her Backyard Sessions. Wow… No pop trying to be disguised as country? A decent sound to her voice? A very laid back, “take me or leave me, but this is what I do every Sunday” vibe to her?

I loved it. She’s starting to grow on me. But even more so, my 2 year old daughter LOVES it. She sings over half of the words and does an adorable face squint at the higher notes that forced me to play it over and over.

One problem – the Miley Cyrus version isn’t available to download, or at least when it first came out (I haven’t checked in months). Whenever Ev hears the Dolly Parton version, she gets confused, so YouTubing it every time was a real pain.

So I see this and see a world of possibilities and tried to not get my hopes up. The disclaimer on the website says that it’s a free service with no sign up needed, and the pin claims it to be legal.

Its worth the risk of virus to me, and I gave it a try..

It worked! Though I don’t know the full legality to it, and I just did it today so as for my computer it isn’t acting funny (yet?), but I have my song!

The window of opportunity has opened, and I give this pin a….

*drumroll*….

9 out of 10!

I only dock it down for these reasons, one of them is practically a personal problem:

1) the Pin mentioned it being legal. Yes, YouTube is a free and legal site, and you would think loading only the audio to a downloadable format would be free too, but the website does not publish it as such.

2) it is only downloadable into one format. Me, being the black sheep of the tech world and refusing to go with the “I” devices in the beginning really bit me in the end, especially since I love my husband’s iPad. So anything only available for download into iTunes means I have to go through the extra step of converting into a Windows Media friendly format. One click. Really it’s not even much of a complaint and more of a heads up!

Follow my blog and my Pinterest boards for more of the things I do and other fun stuff!

Mama’s In The Kitchen: Biscuit Bombs!

I am always looking for a way to kick up our weekday dinners on the cheap. Either from low-cost ingredients or from things I would already have in my fridge.

This recipe does both!

Sure, spaghetti and tacos are always on our menu, but I am someone who can’t have the same thing, over and over, without eventually escaping to Jack in The Box.

So, anything that I can make, from sides to main dishes that can bring some life to our plates – I’m in.

This recipe is one I found on Pinterest a while ago. I’ve even made it as a meal in itself, but really it’s the perfect side for a lot of dishes.

Biscuit Bombs!

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This picture is taken directly from the website.

I don’t know where this girl got it from, but bravo. I would come to your house for dinner every night if it meant eating this way.

I had paired these with a stuffed salmon from Costco that my dad had bought for us, and it is also great with just about any pasta dish.

I did a variation of the recipe – here are the ingredients:

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So easy it’s ridiculous.

Not to mention that you can customize it to be practically anything.

First, flatten a biscuit. Then load it with cheese and other deliciousness. In my case, mozzarella and fresh basil. Yum!

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Fold the biscuit over the cheese so it is completely sealed, and put it in the pan with the seal down.

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Repeat with all biscuits.

And really, load em up! Stuff them full. Worst case scenario they burst out the sides with gooey deliciousness. Bummer.

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After all your biscuits are loaded, brush them with oil and season them to taste. Salt, pepper, parmesan as the original recipe showed.. Whatever your hearts desire.I chose a simple sprinkle of garlic salt.

Let me just apologize for the sheer awesomeness of these bad boys really quick.. They’re so amazing, they were gone before I remembered to take a final picture.

My bad.

But they came out just as beautifully golden and soft as the original picture, oozing and bursting at the seams with melted goodness.

I dare you to try them.

Follow my blog and my Pinterest boards to see what I do and other fun stuff!

Pin-test #2: Chicken and Cream Cheese Taquitos

Hello again!

Another Pinterest pin put to the test. Really, why not have me try them for you and weed out the ones that have broken links, are links to links three pages away, or are filled with recipes or instructions that don’t work?

Here is my second pin to put to the test. I needed an easy, delicious weekday dinner that I could make on a day filled with swim lessons, toddler naps, errands and house cleaning. I still wanted to be a little ambitious, so I chose these:

Chicken and Cream Cheese Taquitos

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This is a photo taken directly from the website. The recipe on the web page is actually called “Chubby Chicken and Cream Cheese Taquitos”, but the original pinner probably thought the same thing as me when I read it: chubby = calories.

Here is a link to the pin
Here is the link directly website

My first reaction to the pin: “these look easy enough – and tasty! I can also pass off some nutritional value with the spinach in there…”
My reaction when I read the recipe? Intimidation. I have never fried anything but chicken, onion rings and french fries… I powered through though!

In case you didn’t read the recipe, here’s the breakdown: shredded chicken, cream cheese, sour cream, shredded cheese, salsa, spinach salt and pepper, wrapped in tortillas and fried golden crispy.

The best part? It’s as easy and delicious as that sounds.

Again, I was intimidated, but then I started the process and it was surprisingly easy.

Firstly the recipe mentioned you can use rotisserie chicken. I say go for it! It makes it even easier. Instead, I seasoned 3 small chicken breasts with salt, pepper, and Cajun seasoning and shredded those up. Then I mixed them all together in a bowl:

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Testers note: make sure your cream cheese is fully softened. I thought mine was, thought it blended well, but I still got pockets of cream cheese in my finished product. Not really a bad thing, just not the best – totally my fault though.

Then I put enough into a tortilla that it would stuff it, but still be able to close.

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Sorry for the crummy photography. One hand on a cell phone.

Anyway, as you can see, I stuffed mine to the point that they were more chimichangas than taquitos, but it’s still pretty much the same thing in the end. Just super sized.

Make sure that when you fold the tortilla, you fold it so it closes on all sides.

I heated a pan of oil on medium heat and placed 1-2 taquitos at a time seam side down.

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When the bottom of the tortilla began to brown I used two forks to flip them over. Look at this beauty…

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After they were golden on both sides I let them drain on a paper towel.

I don’t think I can express to you the magnitude of delicious, crispy, wonderful-ness that was made in my kitchen last night.

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The hype from these pictures among my friends on Facebook and Instagram alone was enough to preach something, without them even tasting it!

The only down side is the recipe may as well have made a million since I was only cooking for my husband and myself. Even though I think he ate 3 (good lord) and I ate 2 (I was so full after!) we still had leftovers.

I even brought an extra to work with me for anyone to try. Get this, my lactose intolerant friend liked it so much that she risked it and ate a whole one, she liked it that much. Back up and look at the ingredients. I’m sure she had a bad night. Worth it.

My rating? *drum roll…..*

10 of 10.

The only things I can find wrong were my own fault! Not blending the the cream cheese and not halving the recipe so it didn’t make as much were things that are clearly avoidable.

They were easy, delicious, and caused a stir. Great for big family dinners, made smaller as an appetizer, or cut the recipe down to just liven up your Tuesday!

I can guarantee this is now a staple in our house! Cinnamon Spice and Everything Nice, thank you for your contribution to all of our kitchens!

Follow me on Pinterest to see when I test more pins and for other awesome stuff!

Pin-test #1: Chocolate Chip (Cookie) Cheesecake

I’m running into more and more pins, that are pins of pins of pins on Pinterest. So many are just impulse repins that I will look at later or sometimes never even open. And most of those I don’t bother to change the verbiage and realize much later that it has “I” or “we” or some personal endorsement I didn’t sign up for.

So I’ve decided to scour through my hundreds of pins and test the validity of their claims. I’m going to start trying what I pin, giving a play-by-play, and rating it on a scale of one to ten based on the ease, the accuracy, and the overall worth of the pin. There will be a lot of recipes, but also some domestic and project type things.

For my first test I decided to go easy on myself, so may you all witness:

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake

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This photo is taken directly from the website, here are the links:

To the pin
Directly to the recipe

This is another pin of a pin that eventually made it to me through my best friend. The first impression I get of this is that it is quite possibly the easiest dessert I could make, combining both premade ingredients and actual mixing and baking. Kind of a strange title too, a chocolate chip cheesecake would be a cheesecake with chocolate chips, not a chocolate chip cookie cheesecake… Whatever.

In case you didn’t read the recipe, essentially it is some cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and eggs, whipped together and laid out on premade cookie dough with cookie dough on top. Sounds simple and delicious, right?

Right?

You would think combining two of my favorite things would not only be a breeze to make but also a party in my mouth….

First step, cutting the premade dough into 1/4 inch pieces and pressing them together so there are no seams at the bottom of the pan.

Whenever I make cookies from premade dough, I usually get some crumble. But then I just form the cookie back in the shape I wanted and the bake just fine. This roll of dough, however, did nothing but crumble. Since it was the crust and it would all get pressed together anyway, I just assumed it was a crummy roll of Pilsbury and went along my way.

Then mix all the ingredients that are not cookie dough together in a bowl.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t have an electric mixer (my KitchenAid s in storage), so I almost always have chunky cheesecake batter. It all melts together while cooking and tastes the same anyway, but the batter always looks a little… Weird.

Pour the cheesecake mixture over the cookie dough crust.

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Then the recipe says to cut the second roll of dough in the same 1/4 inch pieces and lay them close together on top of the cheesecake mixture…

Maybe it’s Pilsbury? Maybe I got the two worst rolls at the store? Or maybe they even expected me to cut the dough on a cutting board, mold them perfectly into cookie shapes and then lay them on the cheesecake?

Either way, it didn’t work. Nothing but crumble once again. So even though I didn’t get a uniform look, I just embraced the crumble and made it look on purpose.

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The recipe says to bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes. I never trust a recipe, and in this case I am very happy I didn’t. At least in my oven, it took 10-15 minutes less than required.

I put it in for 30 minutes and checked on it, and it was completely done. I left it in for another 5 minutes to get a more golden crisp to the cookies. At the rate the cake baked, it would have started to burn if I left it in that long.

But here it is clearly being eaten by my family:

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So you know it turned out at least halfway decent. Still, regardless of the consumption, they really weren’t THAT good. I’ve definitely had better. You would think two amazing components of the dessert world combined into one easy recipe would be an amazing creation…

I’ve made and eaten store bought cookie cheesecakes before and all of them were better than this. The cookie part was delicious, but the cheesecake was a little bland and it kind of distracted from the flavor of the cookie even. Still clearly edible, and a fast, cheap and easy dessert for you to bring to a party.

My family still enjoyed it, it was still eaten. It is still a sugary and slightly chocolatey dessert. However, if you’re looking for a dessert to make to impress, for you to enjoy personally, or have time to try something new with a little more effort, it would be worth it for you to explore other options. If you have a work potluck, a baby shower to go to, or 5 Christmases to contribute to and need something fast and easy, this recipe really is just fine.

So my rating of this pin is… *drumroll….*

7 out of 10

It’s still mostly premade with little effort, and it still has some tastiness to it. However, my own troubles with ingredients, the fact that the recipe timing could have completely screwed me, and then the lack of flavor in the cheesecake brought it down a few pegs.

Thank goodness the pin didn’t have some crazy “best dessert ever!!!!!” million exclamation point endorsement on it.

As a side note, it actually ended up tasting better after it had been in the fridge a few days. I have no idea why, but if they would have tasted like this the first time around, I’m sure it would’ve been a higher score!

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Follow me on Pinterest to know when I test more pins and for some other awesome stuff!

Making Memories (Days With My Daughter): Stocker Farms & Our Squash Adventure

Sweet Moses it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything.

Not intentionally, in fact I’ve been accumulating some great things to post, but I’ve realized I can’t set any silly goals for myself.

I have realized that this blog is a un adventure for me and it’s constantly in the back of my head reminding me to record the moments that I am in every day, and that has made me realize how many special moments I have in a day. It also makes me realize how much time (after dishes, laundry and nurturing my family) that I don’t have.

So here’s to paying more attention to the therapeutic part of my days where I can sit and share all the things I’ve done and get to do – and may those days find their way into my schedule more often!

Days With My Daughter: Stocker Farms

My 2 year old is CONSTANTLY asking to go “bye-bye”. I use caps for a reason. It is, in the literal explanation, EVERY DAY. Even when we have people over, when they start to leave she tells me it’s “Evie’s turn” and cries when she can’t leave.

I mildly question the home I’ve created if she can’t stand it for 24 hours.

So, on our day-to-day activities, I try to get her out once a day. It can be for the grocery store, for a trip to a relative’s, or – as in this case – to some place new.

On this day, we went to visit our friend Miss Morgan. A long time friend of mine works for Stocker Farms in Snohomish, WA and runs the produce stand by Summer and the corn maze by Fall. She filled our baskets with peaches, nectarines, and other fruit goodies while Evelyn insisted on potatoes, corn and carrots. I, however, spotted the glorious masterpiece that ruled them all.

A GIANT zucchini. Don’t believe me? Behold:

This sucker was enormous! And, best of all, for the low hometown price of $2. You read that right. $2. How could I not?

So we hauled that bad boy home along with our other fresh fruits and veggies. I sliced it in half to make a zucchini boat that ended up being more than what 5 people and a toddler could handle.

I gutted the inside, drizzled it with olive oil, then baked it at 375 for 30 minutes. In the mean time I made a spaghetti sort of sauce. One pound of sausage, half of an onion (diced), 3 cloves of garlic (minced), and diced a few slices of green and red bell peppers. I browned the sausage, sautéed the veggies, then mixed it all together with 1/2 of a jar of tomato basil spaghetti sauce.

After cooking the zucchini 30 minutes I took it out, filled the inside with the spaghetti mixture, layered it with some mozzarella cheese and cooked it for another 20 minutes:

IT STILL WASN’T DONE.

It tasted great and it was definitely eaten, but after even close to an hour in the oven – that squash was still raw on the outer half-inch! it was incredible!

Needless to say we had zucchini fritters and roasted veggie related dinners for almost a month using the other half.