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Jessie’s 10th Bruffday Paw-ty

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I’ve always wanted to throw a birthday party for Jessie and somehow never found the energy while she was our only child, but managed to pull it off when another little someone was commanding most of my time and attention.  I felt like she really deserved it this year since she had to start playing second fiddle to the human puppy after so many years of being #1.

I created the invitations on PicMonkey (I’ve been using the free version for about a year now, although it’s only $5 a month if you want to use the premium features), and had them developed as pictures at Walmart in an hour for 16 cents each.  I bought a box of envelopes on sale that fit 4×6 pictures and use them every time I create invitations or cards on PicMonkey, so if you calculate the total cost it’s still less than a quarter each – much less than you’d usually pay for custom invitations and cards! I’ve become very crafty with my frugality since becoming a SAHM. It’s amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it – necessity has bred a lot more creativity in me than I previously thought possible.

I wanted to spend the least amount of money possible while still having a nice party, so we served hot dogs, which I thought very appropriate for a dog party.

I had a lot of fun with the food table and coming up with dog-related names/signs for everything.  I bought the majority of my supplies at Dollar Tree where, you guessed it, everything is $1.  I got this wire basket there, and wrapped $1 napkins from Walmart around the $1 plasticware from Dollar Tree and then made napkin rings out of  strips of brown paper sacks that I also got from Dollar Tree.  I used the paper from the sacks to make my signs, and also as party favor bags, so I got a lot of use out of them and still have quite a few left for future use.

I found these large plastic dog food bowls at Dollar Tree, and they were the perfect size to serve food out of.  Paw-tato Chips, Puppy Chow, and Kibble & Bits.  For the latter, I mixed cheese balls with Cheddar Chex Mix that I purchased.

I got most of my ideas on Pinterest (click here to see my Doggy Stuffs board that has lots of party ideas and more), but the Paw-sta Salad was totally my idea. :)  I used the Tangy Pasta Salad recipe I posted Monday, using paw and bone-shaped pasta that I got from my SIL as a gift a few years ago (I also threw in a can of sliced black olives, just for fun).  I was so happy to finally put it to good use!  It was a hit both for the cuteness factor and taste – I got more compliments on it than anything else.

Tee hee. :)

I really had fun making dog-friendly cupcakes, or PupCakes, if you will.  These are totally my own recipe and turned out so great – Meatloaf PupCakes with Mashed Potato Frosting and bacon “sprinkles.”  Huge hit with the pups!

The humans enjoyed Cookies ‘n Cream Cupcakes after the doggies had their “cake.”  I made the paw prints using mini Oreos and chocolate chips.  If you’ve never made this cake, you need to.  I’m not an Oreo fan and even I love it.  Seriously good cake, peeps.

Jessie enjoyed having friends over, especially her BFF, Doc (pictured above).  But since most of the dogs are older and it was pretty warm, they mostly enjoyed just lazing in the pool and shade.  If you are going to have an outdoor dog party in summer, you really need to have lots of shade, lots of water to drink, and a kiddie pool to help them cool off is a great idea too!

Jessie got so spoiled with gifts – lots of toys and treats!

And we sent all the doggies home with party favor bags filled with toys & homemade dog treats.

It was a great time for both furry and human guests, and I’m really glad we gave Jessie the celebration she deserved.

Happy birthday, sweet girl!

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Christmas Card Outtakes & an announcement

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Happy new year!  I hope everyone enjoyed their holiday break and is geared up to make 2012 a great year!

To get my own year off to a great start, I am going to take a break from blogging this month, though I might stop in from time to time with a recipe or a Thankful Thursday.  I have been going strong on posting 5 or more days a week since last May, and it got to the point where I had to let other things go in my life in order to do so, so I’m going to just take a break to catch up on life and then when I come back, I most likely will be posting less frequently.  I really love my blog and my readers, but I don’t want to have to give it up completely so I’m going to have to ease off a bit in order to keep it going without letting other things slide.

When I told my husband my plan to take a break, he offered to fill in for me and I immediately took him up on his offer.  He has a great sense of humor and I have a feeling you’ll enjoy his craziness.  He won’t be posting daily, but at least weekly, and I can almost guarantee you at least a few belly laughs.  If anyone else would like to guest post for me during January, shoot me an email at vraklis@yahoo.com with your idea and I will consider it.  I would especially love to feature another person’s (blogger or not) “thankful Thursday” write-up!

Before I start my break, I thought I’d leave you with a few outtakes from our Christmas photo shoot.  My sister met us at the baseball diamond practice fields near our home because they have lots of evergreens there, and we wanted to pose in front of one.  I told Danielle to just keep snapping photos until her finger was numb because when you have an ADD dog and a husband that has a knack for closing his eyes right when the shutter snaps, you know that you need at least a million and one shots to find one that might work.  And of course, the first shot of the day was no surprise.

And it didn’t get much better after that.

Jessie: “Yawn. Can we play now?”

Dennis gave us this “natural smile” after many pleas for him to keep his eyes open.

I figure since the universe seems to be balanced, such as the ratio of men to women, for example, somewhere out there is a dog with an unnaturally short tongue to make up for Jessie’s unusually long one.  She likes to let it flop to the side to give the impression that she’s an idiot so people are impressed when she understands a simple command.  It seems a bigger feat for a dog with its tongue flopped over on the side to sit when told than when an alert, bright-eyed dog shakes hands, and she probably gets more treats because of it.  She’s an evil genius.

The odds of us all not being ready when the camera snaps is always greater than us all being ready. I call this my glazed drunk-eyes smile and Dennis is giving us his usual closed-eyes, “I’m too busy talking to actually smile” look. Jessie looks like this, her mouth closed on her tongue, when her attention is suddenly drawn away. Think “squirrel!!” from the movie Up. Makes her look REALLY smart. ;)

This is what she was looking at:

A field of geese!

Of course Dennis had his eyes open when I had another drunk smile and Jessie and I were both looking away from the camera.  It’s just the way things work with us.

Jessie: “I’m not listening. lalalalala.”

I’m pretty sure I qualify for the role of Alphaba (wicked witch of the west) in Wicked for my chin length alone!  You know you’re jealous.

Had to share the outtake of our photographer, It. ;)

There she is! :)  You remember Danielle, right?  She was ready to give up and go home at this point, but I was sure that the million photos she’d taken weren’t sufficient, and convinced her to keep snapping them.  Thanks for your patience, Dani!

Jessie: “Look at mah throat! I could swallow you in one gulp. Bwahahahahaha!”

Dennis’ face.  Priceless.

After a million and two shots (you can thank me for not including them all here!), we finally have a winner!  Eyes are all open and on the camera, smiles all around. YES!

I uploaded the photo to picnik.com and did some tweaking to come up with the photo that I used for our card:

And I’m sorry but I just have to share this photo I snapped of Jessie chewing on a stick during the shoot.  I thought it was just too cute!

Hope you enjoyed the shoot! Enjoy my husband while I’m away (come on now, you know what I mean!) and I’ll see you again soon. :)

You might be a redneck…


Rednecks are the butt of many jokes (gotta love Jeff Foxworthy!), but I think they deserve some credit.  I laugh at the jokes because they can strike pretty close to home for me, and I love laughing at myself, but truly, us rednecks are some crazy geniuses.  We find the easiest and cheapest ways to fix and recreate things, and while the result is often comical, it’s also, well, easy and cheap!  And I’m all about easy and cheap.  At least when it comes to fixing & recreating things. :)  So hey, if that makes me a redneck, then I wear the name with pride!

Our back door is on the landing leading to the basement, and flush to the ground with our yard.  Due to poor landscaping, when it rains the water pools close to our door and comes in right under it, making a waterfall down the stairs.  Although we plan to level the yard and dig a trench some day (it’s always some day), in the mean time we did a redneck fix on it and nailed a board at the base of the doorway, caulked it, and now the rain no longer comes in under the door. Feel free to applaud.

The sunrooof on my car has leaked since the day I bought it.  The car company I bought it from fixed the seal for a discount (yeah, they refused to do it for free, even though I took it in the same week I bought it!), but it started leaking again a few years later.  Paying only half (if they weren’t lying to me) cost me over $200, and I wasn’t about to fork over $400 every time the seal needed fixed again.  So we bought a tube of waterproof clear caulking gel and apply a new coat around the roof every summer.  Works like a charm and it kinda goes well with all the hail dents.

There happen to be a few creative rednecks living in our neighborhood as well, so we’re in good company.  Check out this flower bed we came across on one of our walks.

Notice anything strange?

Apparently this lady got fed up with watering flowers and decided to plant artificial ones, the kind that never die!

And how about this sun shade made out of cardboard?  Why waste $10 when you can finally use some of those big boxes you’ve been collecting for the last decade and make your own, right? Right!

Notice how it’s dark outside?  I’m hoping this person was just on a really loooong grocery shopping trip, because otherwise this photographic evidence throws my “rednecks are geniuses” theory out the window.

OK, now this is a creation that I’m sure many non-rednecks have used.  Greenies makes a wonderful product called Pill Pockets that are dog or cat treats with a hole in the middle so you can pop the pill in, mold it back over the pill, and delight as your dog or cat happily swallows the pill without a big fuss.  Jessie just loves them.

The only downside is that they cost $7-$9 a bag and don’t last long when you have to give your pet more than one dose a day.  Jessie has skin allergies in the summer and has to take 6 pills a day at times to keep her from licking all her fur off.  My solution?

Turkey hot dogs are considerably lower in fat and calories than regular, and Jessie certainly doesn’t need any extra fat on her chunky little frame.  These cost $1.50 at my Aldi store and last two or more weeks.  Cheap and easy–a redneck’s dream!

To make my own pill pockets, I slice the hot dog into pieces wide enough to fit her pills.

Then I make a space for the pills by cutting a slit into each one. (On a totally unrelated note, the brown scar is from my exploding boiling honey incident, if you’re wondering. The old thick scar starting on my lower forefinger and running down to my palm is the result of my first in a long line of burn incidents.  My Dad always called me “the burn victim” growing up, because I burned myself so often.  I also used to be a quasi-pyromaniac, even starting a fire in our attic once.  Probably not the best obsession for a burn victim, right?)

Insert the pill.

And Jessie happily gobbles her pills down.  (It also works well to fold the pills into American cheese, which is soft and pliable and easily molds to the shape of a pill.)  I just store the remaining slices in a Ziploc bag so that I can just pull them out and use them immediately for her next several doses.  Oh, and that blue Rubbermaid storage tub on the floor in the photo above?  That’s her food container.  I wasn’t going to pay $40 for a food storage bin when I could make my own for less than $10, thank you!

And then there are the things that just don’t need fixing.  Like my water bottle.  I left it on the floor of my car on a hot day and melted one side flat.  Then I got it stuck in the revolving door at work and crushed the other side.  Hey, it still holds water and the straw still works.  Why do I need a new one?

Redneck pride!

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