Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Post #BlogHer Wonderings

Where's the breakfast buffet?

Is it not okay to openly tweet coworker's commentary?

Where's my celebrity stylist?

Was my job this boring last Wednesday?

How soon can I get back to a BlogHer conference?

FlyDIY Party // Sheraton Tower View // Voices of the Year // Mark Hill Hair

Real world has been brutal these last 72 hours. Having a head-cold hit me mid-conference has not helped in my recovery process; however, thanks to some strong decongestants and a bit of cough syrup, I'm told I'll survive.

White Cloud Cocktail with Melissa and Sarah

As discussed in one of my favorite sessions at BlogHer, I've been taking a look at August's editorial calendar and oh my word, I really like how the month is looking!

In August, Brandon and I celebrate our five year wedding anniversary, my cousin gets married, and Brandon's 30th Birthday will round out the end of the month. Not to mention National S'mores days in a couple weeks! Need I say more?

I absolutely cannot wait to kick off August; be looking for some fun things around the blog!

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Monday, July 29, 2013

Among a Tribe of Bloggers

My nerves mocked me as I attempted to board a plane for Chicago last Thursday. Lugging what seemed like my entire wardrobe through security, I spent 20 minutes with TSA watching as they searched within the depths of my cocktail dresses and media kits.

I weeped inside as they tore through the strategically packed bag wondering what the hell they saw on their screen. After a long battle with my carry-on, I now know my favorite clutch appears as a switch-blade in the airport security scanner. Fabulous.

If anything was going to prepare me for the barrage of new events over the weekend it was that very moment. So, on I went with my switch-blade bag after airport onlookers marveled as I packed my life back into my carry-on.

I was BlogHer bound and not even TSA would change those plans.

A bit weary of what truly laid ahead for my first blog conference I continued to remind my butterfly-filled stomach that all would be well and a year of planning would more than pay off.

The first sight of my roommate and longtime blog friend, Sarah, was all the reassurance those butterflies needed. Able to face our fears together, we entered upon the world's largest social media conference for women.

This year, the BlogHer conference revolved around a general idea of finding your tribe. Immediately, I thought my tribe would be labeled mom blogger; however, the more women I met over the course of three days the more that stereotype I placed upon myself began to dissipate.

Ree Drummond, more commonly known as the Pioneer Woman, reminded us that even the most popular of bloggers are at the very heart of it all just people. We are women. We are storytellers. We are wearing Spanx. And we are filled with more influence than we could ever imagine.

Women squeed at the sight of their favorite bloggers, had ah-ha moments as they sat in on sessions and learned from brands that respect the influence we have as women, as consumers and as bloggers.

My most anxiously-awaited keynote, Sheryl Sandberg, challenged each of us to confront our fears and be unapologetic within our role as women in the 21st century, along with many other things I'll address in coming weeks.

In moments outside of my comfort zone, as I attended an event or meal alone, I found that my tribe was much larger than I'd once imagined.

In my usual blog world, I'm among many mothers. However, in the last several days in addition to mothers I met activists, bakers, creaters, teachers, reviewers. Each woman seeming more fearless than the last. And with each conversation, I felt my tribe expanding.

The entire idea of the power we have as bloggers has never seemed so tangible as when I sat surrounded by bloggers listening to the Voices of the Year presentation. Tears of laughter began as a blogger recounted her nearly blinding attempt to create a budget-friendly wreath. Tears continued to stream down my face as one woman read about her all-too-real fears of being on the firing side of a gun, of living with the knowledge of taking an innocent's life. Another shared her battle to find psychiatric help for her child fighting undeniable depression.

While each blogger I met at the conference hailed from varying niches, one thing remained constant: each began their blogs to tell a story because something told them their story was bigger than themselves.

In committing myself to attending BlogHer 13 way back in Fall of 2012, I knew I'd have to leave my insecurities at the door in order to soak up what this weekend was meant to be, and that's just what I did.

I crossed the paths of thousands of bloggers in the last four days. I learned, I laughed, I felt like a tiny speck on the blogger spectrum and simultaneously empowered.

As women, as storytellers, as bloggers we are a tribe in ourselves creating a movement in society that reaches so much further than our little spaces of the interwebs.

And just as I expected, I have never been more thankful to be a part of this blogging tribe.

Friday, July 26, 2013

I'm at #BlogHer -- Find me!

Five things you should know:

1. I'm equal parts excited and terrified I'll embarrass myself in front of the Pioneer Woman at some point over the weekend. Even if I do embarrass myself? It still means I've met her. Boom.

2. I'm going blind. So, you may know my face usually without glasses, but for sessions I'll be 4-eyes. Or? You might not know my face at all, in which case:


Chances are I may even have this shirt/necklace combo on. So, I've just made it easy for you. Come find me! I want to meet you!

3. I'm rooming with the coolest chick ever, Sarah! Stalk her blog here.

4. I started missing my toddler the moment we tucked him into bed last night.

5. I simultaneously do not miss my toddler and cannot wait to be surrounded by 5,000 other women who share in this love of community!

Cheers to BlogHer 13!
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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Dear Husband, I've gone to BlogHer.

We hugged, we kissed, we probably ran a bit wild trying to get the toddler to daycare and me out the door for Chicago. My flight is wheels up at 8:45 and I cannot lie, I am in all reality terrified to leave my comfort zone of you and Jackson for almost four entire days. We tend to keep to our bubble, and well, we prefer it that way.

I'm anxious, excited and so insanely pumped to spend three four days with this blog community. However, that means leaving you boys behind for a bit of personal growth.

None of this would have been made possible without your support, and today I thought you deserved a little recognition.

I set my sites on BlogHer many months ago and you've been nothing if not my biggest blog fan. This has meant endless hours researching, writing, networking and working away on a bigger picture of what I'm trying to do with this space. In turn, the dishes have been ignored, the dog hair accumulated on the floor, toys remained thrown about and often times you were put second to me working away on something.

Only a few times over these months have you even begun to complain. Usually you're watching Jackson as I sprint to the computer for 8:00 pm linkups. You've learned right along with me the return on getting my posts listed in the top 50 spots of those links and you've even gone so far as to link me up when I couldn't get to a computer.

On top of that? You understand all food must be photographed before eaten. Often you don't get the first plate of food anymore, my camera does. You know that I claim the desktop night after night. You know I have some sort of DIY craft up my sleeve that you'll of course be asked to execute and will do so flawlessly.

You, my dear, are the best blog husband a girl could ask for.

Please do not think for one moment your support of this blog journey has gone unnoticed. I'll spend this weekend walking the halls alongside women who get me and this hobby I've grown to know as a community. I needed this. I need this. And you've helped make it possible.

I cannot wait to return home full of newfound inspiration, motivation and light to carry on in our daily lives.

Until then, I hope Jack is good to you this weekend and that the house is in one piece when I return.

Love,

E

p.s. sorry the kitchen didn't get clean before I left. That's life.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

How to Pack Your Blogger Bag

One of the main necessities for attending a blog conference is arriving equipped with a well-packed blogger bag. If we're being honest, most of the "blogger bags" are really camera bags. I mean, what's a blogger without her DSLR?

So, all this in mind and BlogHer just six days away, let's talk prepping our blogger bags!










Blogger Bag Takeaways:

1. DSLR: bring it. And an extra battery, memory card, ect.

2. Pack iPad, Notebooks & an assortment of your go-to pens.

3. You'll need Business Cards (and media kits). Have them. Lots of them.

4. Power recharge galore. No matter the brand, you'll want to ensure you hit the sessions with some backup power. Also, I'm being told the Folger's Lounge at McCormick Place this year will have many extra charging stations!

5. Water bottle & Mints. Most of these posts reference gum, but in my Grandmother's opinion it's rude to chew gum and carry on a conversation in any setting. She'd be appalled if I was smackin' on some gum while pitching my blog to the fabulous BlogHer Sponsors. So, for the love of my Grandmother, please pack mints not gum.

Now excuse me as I'm off to stuff my new Jo Totes bag with all the blog bag goodies!

***

In need of some tips for preparing for the conference as a whole? Check out my Blogger's Guide to Preparing for a Conference and Sarah's post about boosting your self-confidence to present the best you in Chicago!

Are you headed to BlogHer 13 next week in Chicago?! I'd love to meet some of my blogging community while I'm there; leave a comment so we can make plans to meet up!


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Monday, July 15, 2013

Custom Name String Art Tutorial

I began converting our guest room into a playroom for Jackson a few months ago and realized that all too soon that room will become his "big boy room." In a few short weeks his big boy bedding will arrive for the bunk beds we've had stowed in the attic for a year.  Soon his nursery will be a thing of the past.

So, if I'm going to decorate a room I may as well use items we can carry on in future designs. Keeping in mind the color scheme we've chosen, I've begun to carryout the decorating of Jackson's room. 

First up, his name art. I'd come across this idea on Etsy and thought this was the perfect Saturday project for me and the Husband. Boy, did I underestimate the time this craft would take, but oh man it was so worth it!

string art name tutorial

The project at hand is actually fairly simple. The time requirements a bit more than you think. Or, just don't have a kids with 7 letters in his name. Just saying. 

To start, stain a 1x6 inch piece of wood the desired color. We chose the same color as Jackson's future bunk beds and dresser. 

Pick a font and print your child's name out letter by letter. Scaling it to your piece of wood. Cut them out and tape them in place. 
string art name tutorial

Then start nailing. We spaced our nails an inch apart. 

string art name tutorial

Once the nails are in, remove the paper and start wrapping one letter at a time. 

This process calls for a drink and lots of yarn. 

string art name tutorial

The final product is such a reward to come to life, and a fun addition to any child's room!

*linking up with Home Stories A to Z, Tatertots and Jello, I Heart Naptime

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Friday, July 12, 2013

How to Prepare For a Blog Conference {A Roundup}

In thirteen short days I'll board a plane bound for Chicago. I'll then anxiously wait the 45 minutes for Sarah's plane to land. And then, AND THEN, it'll be official: BlogHer '13 will be underway!

A year and a half ago when I first caught wind of this whole blog conference thing, I was immediately hooked. How could you not want to put yourself dead center of the community who just gets it?! I mean it sounds like pure heaven. 

BlogHer 13 will be my first blog conference. It will also be my first time in Chicago. My first time flying alone. And, if I'm counting, the first nights away from my husband in over three years. Lots of firsts!

Needless to say, I'm planning every single minute of my trip while also attempting to keep things flexible. Ha! Quite the oxymoron of events, y'all. But with so many event options, a plan of action is necessary. I won't be going into this naively, despite being a blog conference amateur.

Thanks to veteran posts floating amidst the inter-webs I'll be going into the conference almost* fully prepared.

How to Prepare For a Blog Conference

All that goes into getting oneself to and through a blog conference is no small task. Hours upon hours of reading recapstakeawayshow-tohow-not-to & what to wear posts has me feeling at ease with my preparations. And so, I'd thought I'd share my roundup of go-to blog conference posts.

In the grand scheme of things, you could read how-to and what-to-do posts until your flight is wheels up to the conference location.

Let me save you the time of reading every last post.

I've rounded up the most informative, inspiring posts I've come across. You'll find the best of 411 on conference attending, business card making, must-have items and how to pump up your self-esteem to see you through the weekend!

How to Prepare For a Blog Conference

How to Prepare For a Blog Conference

How to Prepare For a Blog Conference

How to Prepare For a Blog Conference

How to Prepare For a Blog Conference
via SNAP

How to Prepare For a Blog Conference

There is an abundance of information within the above posts. Over the last few months I've been soaking them all in, but there have been two posts especially that have maintained my motivation and goals behind attending a blog conference.

First up, Mandy's recap from Blissdom 13. Yes, I realize I'm headed to BlogHer and they're very different conferences, but her raw take on making the conference what you want really hit home.

Quoting this sweet blogger:

"...my experiences are what I make of them. If I want to be a better blogger, I need to take a chance and put my true self out there. If I want to be a better friend, wife, mother.... it all requires patience and sometimes I need to take risks. It will be hard, but it's worth it. "

And then there is Heather; she's always had such a way with words and someone I'm very much looking forward to stalking finding at BlogHer. As she reflects on the experience of BlogHer's Voices of the Year, I'm overwhelmed with emotion:

"You will laugh hard, maybe cry (in a good way) and you'll look around and know why you came. You came because we're all the same. We're visionaries and creatives and we love connecting online. We write, we create, we do a whole lot of things and there is support for what you do, in other women."

All of the pins and recaps cannot even begin to mimic what I hope for my weekend at BlogHer 13. To immerse myself in this community for three whole days,  it will be euphoric; I have no doubt. My heart is beyond excited and grateful for this opportunity!

And because I can't stop planning come by next week for tips on packing your blogger bag!

Are you headed to BlogHer 13 this year? I'd love to connect with you; leave a comment!

*linking up with House of Rose, Home Stories A to Z
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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Sprinkle Cake Cookie Recipe

I had so many grand plans for the July 4 holiday. My pin board is in fact overflowing with patriotic ideas. But reality of life set in and as my work calendar has been out of control the last week, any crafty plans for the Fourth went out the window.

I did, however, manage to squeeze in a little baking time with the toddler.  I've never cooked with J before, but my IG feed is filled with mamas braving the kitchen with their toddlers so I figured why not us too?!

These Sprinkle Cake Cookies are perfect for pairing with toddler assistants. If your toddler is anything like mine, they'll mainly munch on sprinkles while you bake (so bring extra sprinkles).

Sprinkle Cake Cookie #Recipe

These cookies turned out to be soft, chewy and just the perfect amount of sweet.

By choosing sprinkles to fit the season, holiday or just your mood, you can serve this treat at any occasion. Don't be surprised to see more Cake Cookie recipes on the blog. After the success of this recipe, I'm wondering what other fabulous things we've been missing out on thanks to box cake!

Sprinkle Cake Cookie #Recipe

Sprinkle Cake Cookies

Ingredients:
1 box Yellow Cake mix
1 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/1 tsp vanilla extract
1 bottle of sprinkles (your color choice)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large bowl mix together the cake mix and baking powder. Stir.
3. Then add in the eggs, vegetable oil and vanilla. Stir well. Once combined, add in the sprinkles.
4. Roll the dough into a one-inch ball and place onto cookie sheet lined with wax paper.
5. Bake for 10-12 minutes and enjoy.

*linking up with Lil Luna, 36th Avenue, Lambert's Lately, Tatertots and Jello, House of Rose, Home Stories A to Z, I Heart Naptime

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Monday, July 8, 2013

Milestones as a Working Mom

I've never known the life of a stay-at-home-mom and if we're being honest I probably never will, for a handful of reasons. Three years ago when we moved back to my hometown and began our parenting journey, I put so many of my plans on hold. Because God? He had bigger plans.

I'd hoped to begin law school the fall we moved back to my hometown, but in the end we moved here with entirely different intentions. I went into our pregnancy knowing though Brandon has a good job, I'd need to be working to maintain our financials.

And in March in the midst of celebrating Jackson's 2nd Birthday, I celebrated one-year with my current law firm.

Yes, in March. This post has been brewing in my mind for almost four months, and I'm finally getting the chance to type it out. I blog so many things in this space, but due to the nature of my job I can't ever share my true day-to-day. I may be a full-time mom, but I'm also a full-time paralegal and it encompasses so much of who I am, what I do and how I guide our family.

If you're following my on IG (and you should be) then you see my many cups of coffee and #workingmom captions. So, I'd like to shed a little light onto what exactly it is I do all day, aside from praying daycare doesn't call with sick baby reports.

I guess I should start with my official title, Advocacy Appellate Paralegal. This fancy little title essentially means I handle the appellate cases for our firm. I work with cases that have seen their way through the lower courts and are being appealed to the state Court of Appeals and state Supreme Court.

In my year (give or take a few months) of working this role, I've come to love and admire our legal system. The rules, regulations and language involved is all so precise. The process, specifically in our appellate courts, is a highlight for me.

The firm has one partner and one associate who handle appellate cases. Together, these guys are my odd couple. J, is a founding partner of our firm. He's been practicing 30+ years and was named Lawyer of the Year a few months ago. To him, that honor is silliness in comparison to the good he gets to do each day through our work. He's essentially a walking rulebook and known in our state as the best in every aspect of the profession. B, is a young associate who is well-versed when it comes to our appellate courts and has an almost OCD way of conducting his days. I'd be surprised if he isn't sitting on the bench of our state Supreme Court one day.

I've learned the profession of law is a when it rains it pours type of job. I will hit a week where our phone doesn't ring, no deadlines are in sight and all of my filing is up to date. These weeks, however, lately are very rare. We have been on full steam ahead since March and show no signs of slowing down.

Boss-man J once told someone that I am the "keeper of the radar." If you don't come through me to get to my attorneys you will get no where; mainly because J receives hundreds of emails a day and you're bound to get lost in the shuffle. He serves on every legal board possible and gives time to charities and foundations alike. J has the most legal-minded brain I've ever encountered which leaves not so much room for all the other stuff. You know, the stuff that keeps us meeting deadlines and getting bills paid. That's why I'm there, and luckily along the way he imparts his legal knowledge onto me.

Boss-man B does not need so much monitoring of his radar. He keeps all things in line, which is a reflection of his undergraduate studies as an engineer. He is, however, a stickler for typos which is precisely why my resume stuck out to him a year ago as he searched for a new paralegal. His respect for the process of law is something I take in each day and his presence in the court room is undeniable. To spice things up a bit, B works out of office about an hour away from our firm. Thankfully, we've developed a good system of moving through our deadlines and passing off files despite our distance.

As for day-to-day, I maintain multiple calendars, monitor our intake of cases, handle our billing and edit edit edit all of our briefs. Our deadlines revolve around a briefing process and conclude (usually) with an oral argument. Each side gets ten minutes to present their argument (based on their briefs) to a panel of justices concluding with a five minute rebuttal. Typically it takes a case 1-2 years to make it fully through our courts.

Each Wednesday I hurry to our office as our courts publish their opinions for our cases on their public site. Between the hours of 8:30 and 9:45 a.m. Wednesdays, you'll find me refreshing my server every 30 seconds just praying it will be a winning day. The wins keep us going and the losses keep us humble.

Together, J and B have taught me the ins and outs of our appellate courts. Along with a little trial and error on my end, I've come into my own as an appellate paralegal.

via

One year and three months into this role as an Advocacy Appellate Paralegal and I couldn't be more grateful for this opportunity. What began as an escape from my last job, has lead me to such a beautiful place in my career. Dreams of law school still dance in my head but I'm in no rush to leave this appellate team as I soak up the process first-hand from the best in our field.

If I'm going to battle my toddler to get dressed every day, spend most waking hours away from my family and worry daycare will call with some horror story, then I'm thankful I walk into an office each day with people whom have become another family and a legal system with which I can't get enough of.

One year and counting with Firm B, and as I told them in my review, I don't plan on leaving any time soon.

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Thursday, July 4, 2013

4th of July

printable via My Fabuless Life
I had high hopes for going to the pool, grilling out and having a nice cold beer. You know, the usual America celebration; however, our forecast is calling for 40% thunderstorms.

As my toddler screams from his room at this moment, I wonder why daycares aren't open and what time Grandma is waking up. Because for real, after sharing Jackson's sweet traits this week, he's reverting to the devil terrible-two-year-old. This factor should also make today's holiday, ahem, interesting.

Is 7:11 a.m. too early to start drinking this 4th of July?

I peek outside to see the clouds already owning every inch of sky and think we may just hole up in our house and make some Patriotic Cookies {recipe headed your way next week}! If I get really brave, we may even venture out to see Monster's University.

Whatever today brings for you and your family I hope it is a wonderful 4th of July. To the military moms and spouses in my community: thank you for serving right along your spouses. To the the moms reading who they themselves serve: wow. thank you.


And to Jimmy, my favorite, we will always will be thankful for your service and multiple tours. We miss you everyday and as yet another patriotic holiday fills my social media feeds, my heart is always brought back to you. We love and miss. All of us.

Happy 4th, everyone. Stay safe!

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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

In the moments with Jackson

A tornado of emotions has been running through our home for several months now. It's as though someone informed Jackson that the two-year milestone meant he was now to intimidate the tasmanian devil by swirling about just as in the cartoons.

As parents, we're emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually exhausted. The terrible-two's is no myth my friends. Oh no, it is a true legend. 

But as emotional as this season may be, there is also the other side to the spectrum. It's the kind, gentle and lovable emotions that affirm each of our questionable parenting instances.

27 months and counting for this guy. 

For now, we're here, in these moments:



Cuddles every night before bed. Loving to honk shoo pretending he's snoozing away as we often did to prompt him to nigh nigh time months ago. 

Grabbing of any adult's hand in search of adventure. Mom, Dad, Sulli, waitress. 

The phrase come on is always said with so much enthusiasm and in the cutest tone ever. 

If in the mood he loves sitting with us and snuggling. These days are ideal toddler & parenting days.

He prefers intertwined fingers when holding hands. My favorite. 

He repeats everything you say. Everything. 

He's enamored by the potty. By us going potty. By the dogs going potty. He loves the potty. Hence potty training is in our near future much to my denial.



His two single favorite people in this world (aside from mom and dad) are Sulli and Lady (my mom and my grandmother). It's such a beautiful time in life watching him create a bond with these women.

Still hates the school drop off. Clings to me everyday, breaking my heart but affirming we're doing something right. Or, he just know how to play his mom already. 

He has more facial expressions than I could've dreamt. Many of them being eye rolls and side shots. He's been paying too much attention to mama apparently. 

His favorite things are: bubbles, driving (trucks, cars, tractor), dinosaurs, painting, Dora the explorer and pat pat (little Einsteins), his dogs, his Scout and blankie.

Loves Abby Cadabby Elmo Bert and Ernie. Cookie Monster OMG. For the love of Cooookie Monster! He does the greatest Cookie Monster impression. Hands down. It's hilarious. Especially when he uses mini pancakes as his cookies. Makes me giggle with him even in the most stressful of moments. 


Country music is his jam. Eric Church specifically, but he's good to rock to anything on Pandora top country radio. 

He's now expressing true concern for others both in real life and on television. Example: if Rocket in Little Einsteins gets lost he stands and exclaims oh no!! 

S'that? (What's that?) Accompanied by pointing may be Brandon and my biggest weak spot right now. So cute when he inquires about all the new things!

You'll now find him showing off by spinning in a super fast circle then proclaims ta-da!

Is a world class tickler. And proclaims tickle tickle tickle in doing so. 

Loving dancing and singing. Theme songs get him going. 


He'll take things apart just to put them back together. Ahem, Dad's flashlights! 

Getting on chairs is a strategic routine of pulling up on his chest then sliding to his knees and pulling up. Every. Single. Time. Adorable. 

The park is equivalent to heaven and the one around the corner from our house is the go to. 

Signs you have a clumsy kid, frequent phrases are: my fall down and my be careful.


He's in the throws of terrible two tantrums. Time out has done nothing repetition has done nothing. At this point we're counting on prayer to see us through this phase. 

As much attitude he encompasses he shines just as much love. Though its been tough to see through the clouds of tantrums it's there. So much love. 

Here's to month 27, may this month bring rainbows and glitter compared to last month's tantrums.

Cheers, Jack Bear! (but remember no mommy juice for toddlers)

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Monday, July 1, 2013

Roasted Ranch Potatoes #Recipe

Grab some red potatoes.


Dice them.


A little EVOO. 


One packet of Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing Mix. 

Toss and bake at 425 for 30-35 minutes. 


It's that easy.


Ingredients

2 lb. red potatoes, washed & quartered

1 packet Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing Mix

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp salt

pepper to taste


Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl add potatoes and lightly cover with EVOO. Then, add in the Ranch mix and salt, and toss well to coat evenly.
  3. Pour potato mixture into ungreased 9x13 baking dish.
  4. Bake in oven approximately 30-35 minutes, or until potatoes are cooked crisply. Serve immediately.


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