Rolo Cake

I love chocolate.

Its an addiction really.
Like, I need to have chocolate every day of my life.
Not just "once a month" or when I am feeling "naughty".
Chocolate for me is like air to, well, everybody.
If I don't have it, I go through withdrawal symptoms.
I can't even think of the last time I went a day without chocolate.
I just figured out the title of my someday probably never to be written memoir.

A Day Without Chocolate.

I can see it now.
On clearance.
In the back of the store.
By the books on tape.

One of my favorite all time cookie recipes is the Rolo Cookie.
Here are the details and the recipe.
Basically it is the Tom Selleck of the cookie world.
If you like Tom Selleck, that is.
Maybe that's a little dated.
OK it is the Ryan Gosling of the cookie world for you Ryan Gosling people out there.
I don't get the whole "Ryan Gosling" thing.
Don't see it.
At all. 

Earlier this spring, I had a craving for the elusive Rolo Cookie.
But the Rolo Cookie comes with steps and it isn't that easy to make.
So lazy and hungry me decided that what if I made a whole cake with Rolo candy in it as to surpass the whole rolling balls of dough around each individual Rolo candy?
Would it work??
Could it be that easy???

So I started out with these ingredients:

A boxed cake mix, I used Devil's Food because that is the same mix I used for the Cliffs Notes version of the cookie.
Rolo candy, frosting and sugar.

OK, I don't want to hear it from health food purists.


I made the cake mix according to the package, poured half of it into the pan and topped with the Rolo candies and poured the rest over the top of the Rolo's.
No rhyme or reason.
You can even see the lumps of batter that didn't get blended.
I can never get those out.
Because LAZY.
Sprinkle some sugar on top of the cake.
Because you know, it isn't sweet enough.

Bake the cake according to the package directions.
This is what it looked like when it came out of the oven:

Like what the surface of the Moon must look like.
But it smelled AMAZING.

After it cooled, I spread frosting all over the top.

I can't take a good cake picture.
Unless I am not the one making the cake.
Then I probably could.

It was so good.
Messy good.
Like caramel oozing on your fingers good.
I will tweak this though, maybe use a homemade cake recipe but the idea is good.
And I didn't have to make dough balls.
So there's that. 


Schooling My Girls Is Semi-Easy With Netflix

I say "semi- easy" because I have a 14 year old.
So sitting with her to watch something educational on purpose is met with a blank stare.

Like that.
Ok I get it.
There's still time for my six year old though!
So I choose my battles.

We have been working hard around here to keep school the focus, as much as^^^^ some people^^^^^aren't completely down with that.
See above.
This is what my dining room table has looked like since June 6th:

A mini classroom.
Designed to help my six year old keep school in her cute little brain all summer.
Because we need a little push around here and this seems to be a good tool to do that.
And the 14 year old has occasionally helped by being the "teacher" here and there so she is keeping school in her cute little brain as well.
In between Pretty Little Liar episodes.

Since I am a huge supporter of working to keep the "summer slide" at a minimum around here, I love that Netflix offers television options to help the kids climb out of the abysmal learning pit that can be Summer.

For the bigger kids there are titles like:

Lewis and Clark: The Journey Out West

Walking With Dinosaurs

Secret Yellowstone

The Blue Planet

When We Left Earth: The Nasa Missions

Here is a list of documentaries that your kids might like to watch this summer and each one has an age appropriate next to the title to help you decide which one would be best for your child.
I love documentaries, so does my 14 year old.
We watched Serving Life at the beginning of summer together as well as The Waiting Room.

Your little ones might like these titles:

The Great Mouse Detective

Busytown Mysteries

LeapFrog: Math Adventures to the Moon

Turtle: The Incredible Journey

The Magic School Bus

My youngest has always LOVED the Busytown gang so will check it out and for sure we are watching the Leap Frog Math Adventures because MATH.

How are you keeping the slide from getting too slippery in your home this summer?

I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team. Meaning, for the next year, once a month I will be writing posts about how my family is using our Netflix. They provided me with a Roku and a voucher for my Netflix account.


When She Leaves

Every summer since my oldest daughter has been as tall as my knees, she has gone away with her dad for a week.
In order for her to have a relationship with him, the state of Illinois requires that she see him every other weekend, one evening a week for three hours and every summer for a week of vacation.

In the beginning, she was only able to do a few days for her vacation.
Three or four.
And she cried through all of them.
I dreaded those "vacations".
They certainly weren't for her.
Or me.
I would even say not for her dad either because I am pretty sure it's not a vacation for you to watch your only child sob for a woman you quite honestly can't stand for a solid four days and nights.

It was around the age of five that she started to go away for the entire week.
Maybe six.
She was definitely in elementary school.
She was able to do it but not without tears, phone calls each night before bed choking sobs quietly so as not to disturb her dad or make him feel bad.
Even at that young age, she shouldered guilt.

Trust me, I had my own share of guilt.
It was because of ME, my decision that SHE had to go through this.
Not that being with her dad was a punishment, its just when you are little, a girl and have attachment issues, it seems like a punishment.
I tried to tell her dad not to take it personally.
He took it personally.
And she sensed that, even at ages 5, 6, 7 and so on.....

I have always hated this week of the year.
When she was an only child, it was painful.
I wasn't "a mom" when she wasn't around.
So much of who I am is wrapped around being a mom.
I felt lost, my purpose vague, and for lack of a better word it just plain sucked.

After her sister arrived, it was even harder for her.
She was missing out when she was gone.
We were going on without her.
She would whisper into her baby and later, toddler sister's ear before she left...." Don't grow while I am gone...."

It's a week, I know, only a week.
But when you are small and the world is huge, a week is forever.
Oh who am I kidding, when you are middle age and your life revolves around your children, a week is forever.

Every year come July, I start to prepare.
For "that" week.
I make a menu of her favorite foods to make the night before she leaves and the night she gets home.
Spaghetti and meatballs, garlic bread, shepherds pie.
When she was small, we used to go over the packing list her dad would send and pack her bag together while wiping away each others tears and promising each other the week would fly by.

The days leading up, we hold hands a little more, look into each other's eyes a little more, hug tighter, and say whenever we get a chance, "I am so gonna miss you". 
"No I'm so gonna miss you".
"No, me".
"No, me".
Then laugh.
Until we cry.
Then hug again.

The night before, she and I have a sleepover in our bed.
This tradition started years ago, I can't even remember when.
My husband lovingly gives up his spot in bed so that the two of us can read books about Junie B Jones.
Which then became Judy Blume.
Which then became Us magazine.
Paint nails or eat Ranch Pringles.
Play with each others hair or just sit together in silence while reading separately now.
But touching hands every so often.
Looking in each others eyes and saying, " I am so gonna miss you"

I started telling Anna a few years ago, after her sister was born, that " our family doesn't work without you" because it just doesn't.
Like a missing puzzle piece, it just doesn't fit right without her.
It feels awkward because something big is missing.
It feels that way every other weekend.
We get along because we have to but it's not something we look forward to.

As I write this at two am, in four hours and 25 minutes, she will leave for a cabin in the north woods for a week with her other family.
I occasionally rub her sleeping back, play with her long hair and just hold onto these last moments.
This beautiful, annoying, amazing, frustrating, loving teenager takes my heart with her to Minnesota.
I am so gonna miss her.


Flat Kari in Arizona. Margarita's, Tragic Security Snafu's and Moving Walkways. MOVING WALKWAYS.

 I know a lot of you beautiful people might not follow my Facebook page and WHY IS THAT???
No it's ok.
Not really.
My Listen To Your Mother video went live two days ago, you can see it here
I am so proud of this and wanted to share it with all of you here.
Because you knew me when I had three readers and blogged about my shoes.
I love yous guys. 

Hello friends, its been a while since we have seen Flat Kari.
She is OK, I know you were concerned.
I got more concerned emails about her than I ever have in my life.
You realize she is a piece of cardboard, right?
Just checking.

The next stop is Arizona.

My sister in law Kristy travels a lot for her job and I got to go along and pretend to be all grown up-y and travel-y.
Those words are why my someday editor will HATE me.

Here is Kristy:

Flat Kari was originally supposed to have an exotic adventure to India, but when her visa wasn't processed in time, her trip changed to Scottsdale (yay for not having to take a 19-hour flight!) 

Flat Kari's flights to Phoenix were on time, she was prepared for the long flights ahead. Gum? Check. Boarding pass? Check. People magazine with Kimye wedding photos? Check. But Flat Kari's not so sure about that Kardashian chick.

Wee! I love to fly! And read People! Except when its about the Kardashians. Shiver.

On board and Flat Kari is loving the view. Weeeeee! 

I really do this on flights! Look at the clouds! Wow! WE ARE SO HIGH!! WHY IS NO ONE ELSE LOOKING OUT THE WINDOW?!?!??!

Moving on to OK magazine, Flat Kari is pretty certain Duchess Kate isn't preggers. 

I am more interested in seeing Beyonce's sister hit JayZ. Because HOLY CRAP GIRL.

It's been a long day. Time to dig in on some chips, salsa, and margaritas! Flat Kari decided to shed her Midwestern winter wear in favor of a sundress to handle the 114 degree heat. Chevron, of course. And in a sombrero. Because she's feeling that margarita. 

OMG where did I get that sombrero?!?!?!? AND the sundress!!!!

While in Scottsdale, Flat Kari worked overnights, which meant she could catch some rays by the pool in the afternoon! Margarita please!

Do Arizona people not use the pool??? Oh yes, its prolly early. Because Kristy would get looks putting paper me on a chair. And documenting it.


Flat Kari wanted to check out the local scenery in Scottsdale. She found a saguaro cactus that was just her size. 


After a long workweek, it's Friday, and time to head back to Columbus. She can't wait to have a long, relaxing ... wait, flight delay? Oh, now it's a cancellation. No problem, Flat Kari's a seasoned traveler. She'll just rebook through Houston instead. What, what weather in Houston? Oh, there's another flight? A red eye? Fantastic. She had 7 hours to kill in Phoenix airport. What's a girl to do? 

First, we have to clear security. Don't worry, her shoes were off.

The X Ray machine's toxic rays left me without an eye!!!!!!!! OH NO!!!

Moving walkways? Flat Kari could do that all day.  

Real Kari could too.

Look at those mountains ... and all those planes leaving.

I have a feeling MORE planes come than GO. WHY WOULD YOU EVER LEAVE??

Time to hit Facebook. She's not so sure about the Facebook thread about her adventures. 

Talking about cardboard me is why people move a little farther away when I sit down next to them.

Flat Kari is spent. After indulging in yet another People magazine, time to catch some zzzzs.

I sleep like this all the time. Ask my hubs.

Several hours later, Flat Kari is on board. First class upgrade? Don't mind if I do! 

Holy crap. Real me has never sat in first class.
I'm guessing the person who got bumped by "me" is pretty pee'd off right now. 

I almost feel like I need to sit down after reading that one!
I am really having fun!
And a little hungover. 
Thanks Kristy for taking me on my latest adventure!

Since Kristy's visit to Arizona, I have been to the Atlantic Ocean with my friend Vikki.
And now I am back to Arizona to visit my friend Rita!
I couldn't get enough.


Desk Makeover. Because Ikea.

A few weeks ago, I shared with you my hate/hate relationship with Ikea.
This excludes their Swedish meatballs because I love the crap outta those little buggers.
Not as good as Al's but being this far from Sweden or Northern Wisconsin for that matter, I will take it.
Nothing like eating a "traditional" Swedish meal to the hum of the cart escalator five feet away.
I am pretty sure that is what Sweden sounds like.
That was sarcasm. 

Anyhoo, I was looking to renovate the furniture in Ellie's room one piece at a time.
And I was NOT trekking to Ikea to buy new furniture. 
I tackled the night stand first:

And when I say tackle, I mean TACKLE.
I still have glue on my hands.

The next project I decided to take on was her desk.
Except it wasn't "her" desk to begin with.
It was a hand me down desk from my friend Rebecca's daughter given to Annie three years ago.

It was a nice white desk when we received it.
No marks on it, pristine condition.
Her daughter has always been like that.
Clothes with no stains, desks with no handwriting.
MY children?
It looks like they vandalize anything and everything they touch.
They get that from me, the "eats a grilled cheese sammich and STILL manages to get pizza sauce on my shirt. Even when no pizza sauce was present".

So knowing my then 11 year old would manage to "vandalize" the desk, I decided to paint it a darker color.

AND paint the top with chalkboard paint.
To encourage MORE vandalism.

It turned out pretty good, she loved it.
Well, you can read about it here for yourself.
2011 Kari is pretty much 2014 Kari except for I couldn't keep my paragraphs together.

Oh and I put foil on my knobs.
So there's that.
Wink wink.

This desk moved to Ellie's room last summer because Anna wanted to get a vanity for her room for all the makeup applying.
A whole new form of vandalism, by the way.
So we slid this next door to her sister's room.
And it stayed just as it was for the past 10 months.

The only plan in my head was that I wanted it to be lighter in color.
Because gray?
Really, 2011 Kari?
I feel like I don't even know her.
Maybe it was because I also had a three year old at the time who had just discovered markers.
Maybe it was because I was in a gray period.
Maybe it was because markers.
Who knows.
But I decided that in 2014, I was gonna lighten up and that was going to start with furniture color.

 So here is where you will see my brain in action.
At first?
Paint the entire desk in off white.
Hotel Vanilla by Valspar because that is what I had in the garage.

Including the drawers.
I was all, paint it all off white, ALLL OF ITTTT.
But then I realized I had a plethora (I like big words. And I cannot lie.) of spray paint in a menagerie (did I use that wrong?) of colors!
Lagoon blue!
Leaf green!
Hot pink! (Way to be original Rustoleum)

My head was exploding!!!!

Not surprisingly, most of my good (or bad depending on who you talk to) ideas come to me WHILST spray painting.

It doesn't at all match her room.
Because I didn't have purple spray paint.

I love this! 
Yes, I see that leg of the chair.

Ella loves it, "look how happy it is now??"
It does look happier, doesn't it?
Maybe it inhaled too many of the fumes too.


How To Make A Blog Header. Without Really Trying.

 I think I actually did something to my blog that, shall I say....looks pretty decent?
It was by accident really.
Not really even trying.
OK I probably shouldn't have started a tutorial post with such low confidence.
This is definitely why I am not ever going to be featured on Blogher's home page.

I loved the blog header I had.
My friend Jen created it for me last fall and it was perfect.
But I get antsy every once in a while.
As evidenced by how many times I flip the furniture around in my house.

The above was all the same room.
In one year. 

Recently, I had been kind of noticing blog headers online.
Just stumbled upon them, I wasn't even really looking.
I was on Etsy one day and noticed that they sell blog header packages.
The prices were pretty reasonable, like 30 dollars for a package.
But I am cheap.
And I am broke.
Our house turns 14 this year.
It is on this year that our home decided to crap out.
We have dumped 3000 dollars in repairs to our home since February.
Not on FUN stuff, things like a new water heater, a new dishwasher, a new air conditioner fan and roof repair because POLAR VORTEX and HAIL and LOCUSTS.
So 30 dollars to make my blog pretty wasn't gonna make the cut.
Desperate times call for desperate measures.

The real itch started back in the fall or winter, not sure when exactly it was.
My friend Jeanette did this amazing header on her blog using only Pic Monkey.
I was stoked.

It was beautiful, simple and classic.
I wanted that header.
I put it on the back burner of my brain and revisited it every once in a while.

When all of a sudden out of the blue, a nibble.
A little nibble.
I got a cartoon caricature of myself as a gift for my birthday from my brother and sister in law.

It is the cutest idea and I had never even thought about something like this.
But I guess most people don't go around trying to find a cartoon character of themselves.
I think you need a cartoon character of yourself.
Don't you?

Here I am!

What a good hair day I was having!
And I look a lot like Ellen DeGeneres.
I love that. 
My sister in law sent in the head shot from Listen To Your Mother here:

Photo courtesy of Brandi and Balee Images

First I love that she used this picture because it will always remind me of my first and probably only professional head shot.
I never ever want to forget this experience, I mean, I know I won't but it is cool that I will always have this picture to remind me that I had a time in the spotlight once.
And it was STELLAR.

For first time visitors, this is how my blog works.
I ramble.
If you aren't keen on that kind of blog jive, you won't be happy here.
You might want to move on to a more professional tutorial.

OK are they gone?


I digress.

This is how you can create a header on your Blogger blog (I don't "do" Wordpress because I don't "understand" Wordpress)
Again, why I will never be on the home page of Blogher.

Go to Pic Monkey and open up the link at the top that says Design.

 Aren't my pictures great?
I was going to add little arrows and graphics to make it look all HuffPo pretty but alas, I got tired.
And bored.
And hungry.
So this is all you get.
I was the kid in fifth grade that made the diorama with a graham cracker box, tooth floss and Easter grass and called it the "prehistoric era".
You are welcome to all the kids who went after me. 

Once you click DESIGN, it will give you some options on the side bar.

One of such options is canvas color.
You can pick any color you like but I wanted either white or transparent.
I originally picked white but when I went to add it to the blog, you could see where the header began and where the space where it didn't fill the entire top part of the blog ended.
It really didn't look that bad but for OCD Kari?
It bothered me.
So I went back and checked off the Transparent canvas box.
Now you can't see the line at all.

Next option I picked is size.
I found this tutorial on Pinterest which pointed me in the right direction for Blogger header sizes.
900 x 200.
Read here for more detail and quite honestly, just go there and don't come back here because I am sure she will direct you better than I could ever do.
But DO come back when you are done with the header.
Because I really like you.

So you have re- sized the canvas to fit the top of your blog and chosen the color of the canvas!
NOW you are ready to design your header, which is where the real fun begins.

I first worked on what I wanted my title to look like.
I have lots of fonts I love to use in Pic Monkey.
Channel and Mission Script are two of my favorites.
But I used Ostrich Sans Inline for the current title.

Which isn't the font above.
Because if this were a good tutorial, I would have taken pictures of the ACTUAL FONT I USED.
By the way, when you check the box off that says TRANSPARENT, the background will look like above.
Little squares.
Which when you do this without a tutorial, will freak you out to the point of shaking.
AM I DRUNK?!?!?!?!

The squares are there, apparently, to prove to you that yes indeed it is transparent.
The squares are there to screw around with you.
Cocky little squares.

After you choose your font and get it all set with sizing etc., you might want to add a little something extra.
Like mustaches.
Or bowler hats.
Or cartoon pictures of yourself.
With big balls.

I like balls.
I said it.
Who the frick doesn't???
I thought it would be fun to have balls all over my header.

You choose.
If I am choosing, I say balls.
If my mom were choosing, she would say circles.
This is why my mom is a better person than I.
She would disagree with this sentence.
But she is.

I just clicked on Overlays on the left side where the pretty butterfly is.
The butterfly holds the balls.
Well not literally.

Click on Geometric to go to the balls.
Or "circles".
You can then change the colors from black to any color of the rainbow.

There are so many options from this point, that is why it is so much fun.
Play around with your balls.
Your triangles.
Your stars.
But definitely your balls.

* It was after I published this that I realized I never told you how I plugged in my cartoon self.
It was saved to my computer as a picture file.
All I did was add it onto the canvas as a photo and voila! *

I had so much fun, I made four headers.

#3 and #4 look almost identical.
I kind of went nuts with the balls.
Or you aren't ten years old.
Like me.

Which one do you like best?
I like that I have options.
Because we all know I move furniture and random people around in my house all the time because I get a wild hair and feel the need for change.
So lets say some crappy January day I decide to up and change my header?

So that is it!
I hope I helped you decide that even you can change your blog header.
OR I helped you decide to never follow any kind of tutorial on this blog again.
Yes, probably the second one. 


4th of July Mantel. It's Been Awhile. I Know.

Back when I first started this blog in 2010, I would write a post about my mantel.
For every season.
Seems a little frivolous but all the DIY genre blogs were doin' it.
So I joined in because back then I was a follower.
A proverbial sheep in the blogging world.
It wasn't until I wrote the worst post ever about my mantel here that I was all, WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME? WHY MUST I WASTE WORDS ON MANTEL DECOR. I AM TOTALLY POSITIVE THIS IS NOT HOW JUDY BLUME GOT HER START. 

Now in my defense, it wasn't so much the post that was bad.
It was the actual mantel.
It wasn't blog worthy, that is for sure.
Wasn't worth writing an entire post around to put out into the Universe.
It was moderately OK at best.
I published it May 20th.
Which means I probably wrote it in April.
It takes a great writer time to compose an opus about a mediocre fireplace mantel, so it seems.
There are a great many things I could have written about instead of my stupid mantel.
The weather.
The stock market.
My socks.
It was a filler post.
It was.

So my promise to you here is this: I won't subject you to any of that filler rubbish again.
You deserve better than that.
That is why I am back with another mantel post!
I swear this one is better!
Not at all filler!
I promise!
I have lots of ideas so far this summer.
I have no idea why because summer and Christmas are my blog slump times.
But for some reason this summer, I gots ideas.

I was on Pinterest a few weeks ago SHOCKER and saw the cutest display for the 4th of July.

I love the 4th.
I have for years but especially in the nine years we have lived in our neighborhood.
Because the city fireworks are literally a stones throw away from our driveway.
Stones throw is code for close.
Keep up.
We have had many a BBQ, party and gathering at our home for this holiday that always ends with a fireworks viewing party in our driveway.
We haven't had to fight fireworks traffic for a decade plus because before we lived here, we went to my parents home a mile up the road and watched it from THEIR driveway when they lived here.
We are spoiled.
By the way, fireworks traffic is a thing in the Chicago suburbs.
Not sure if it is everywhere but I know people who will spend the night on peoples couches just to avoid fireworks traffic.

So the 4th is kind of a big deal around here.

I saw this cute display and thought to myself. "self, you have flags and a metal can. You totally need to do this. And you look really nice today!"
It is good to say nice things to your self.

See that owl?
I love that owl.
I got him at Kohl's last year on clearance.
Why I feel the need to tell you that, I have no clue.

He has been on my mantel since Christmas.
But sadly.....

He didn't make the cut.
Hey, its tough business getting into the "MANTEL ISSUE" here at A Grace Full Life.
Don't worry, he is on the entertainment center next to the mantel.
I knew you were concerned.

OK so this is one of my favorite mantels.
Like, ever.
Maybe its because there is hardly anything on the mantel.
Neat freak me is in love with that.

Dusting knick knack paddywhack's is not my idea of summer fun, ya get what I am throwing down?

Those flags were in the ground four hours ago.
I took them out of my front garden bed from Memorial Day.
Yes, I realize Memorial Day was a month ago.
I am patriotic.
Sue me.
And yes, I cleaned the dirt off!
Well, most of it. 

 Yes, its a banner summer here at the blog.
Makin' 4th of July mantels, blogging about it, wiping the dirt off flags.
Yep, I see this as a turn in the right direction.
Updating my resume on LinkedIn right NOW.

If you want to come over for fireworks, I only need a days notice.
And the promise that you are bringing either tacos, brownies, booze or all three.
Bring all three and you can sleep on our couch.
Because I loves you like that. 


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