Loaded baked potato hash brown casserole

hashbrowncasserole

Ingredients

  • 1 (1 lb 14oz) package of frozen hash brown potatoes
  • 1/4 cup melted butter and 1/4 cup butter for sautéing onion
  • 1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
  • 8 oz sour cream
  • 1 diced onion
  • 2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup crumbled bacon with some extra to go on top
  • 1 tablespoon freeze dried chives

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Sauté diced onion in 1/4 cup of butter.
  3. In a large bowl, combine hash browns, 1/4 cup melted butter, cream of chicken soup, sour cream, sautéed onion, cheddar cheese, bacon, salt, and pepper.  I recommend layering and mixing the ingredients as you go so it is well blended.  For an added kick of flavor I like to add sliced jalapenos to this.  This particular casserole was for the whole family (including the little one, so I had to leave out the jalapenos).  Also, I buy pre-cooked bacon crumbles from Costco.  Makes this a quick dish to throw together!  One my best finds!
  4. Place mixture in a large casserole dish.  Top with sprinkle of cheese and bacon.
  5. Bake for 45 minutes.

 

A beach trip with baby

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Recently, my husband played a soccer tournament in Virginia Beach. This meant bringing out little one to the beach with us. Traveling to the beach, with a baby, is SUPER DIFFERENT than when it was just you and your significant other. Prepare yourself and you will have a FABULOUS weekend like we did! And don’t worry, there will be more pictures at the end!

Here are some tips I learned alone the way…

  • Re-evaluate what your expectations are for the trip. If you expect to sun bathe and read book while listening to the ocean, you’re gonna be miserable. Your baby is gonna need you attention ALL DAY LONG. This isn’t a bad thing, it just may not be what you are used to. He may or may not like the sand. He may love water at home but then think the ocean water is too cold. You have to just roll with. He may try to eat sand or seashells. My little one absolutely WOULD NOT put his feet on the sand, even though he can walk. He would crawl in it but if you tried to walk him over to the sand, holding onto his hands, he would pull both feet up and just hang like a monkey from a branch of a tree. He also frequently changed his mind on if he wanted to play in the sand, water, or on mommy’s lap. But it was amazing to sit back and watch him take everything in.
  • Baby powder helps get rid of the wet sand that’s hard to brush off, but don’t let your baby inhale it!
  • Remember your baby will need a nap! You may want to cool off to in the room so it isn’t a bad time to take a break.
  • Lather on your sunscreen! No one like being sun burnt. And it is SO MUCH HARDER to take care of a little one when you’re not 100%. I used California Baby sunscreen since it doesn’t contain chemicals for Landon and applied in 30 minutes before we went out if the sun.  We were lucky and no one got burnt!
  • Figure out shade for your baby! We got a shaded pool that he cool splash around in. At nap time we even tried pouring the water out and laying down towels so he could take a nap there. Unfortunately, he never falls asleep in anything other than a crib, pack n play, or car seat. He squirms around like crazy when its nap time. A umbrella would work to. For our set up, we had a battery powered pump to inflate and deflate our pool. We would use a sand bucket to get water from the ocean for him to splash in and let him pour it into the pool at his own pace. This worked wonderfully and he played all day (for the most part)
  • Come to terms that your nights may end much earlier. We had my sister come with us to help, but felt guilty leaving her by herself in the room (while Landon slept)…so our nights out ended around 8pm. Such a big change!
  • Stay at a hotel or place ON THE BEACH.  You will be packing so much stuff with you, you are gonna want to be close.  Some of our essentials swim diapers, wipes, snacks, bath toys, large sand bucket, sippy cup, sunscreen, our baby pool (to provide fun and shade), towels, neat sheet, bottled water, and our inflater/deflater.
  • When in doubt of how to entertain your baby, DIG A HOLE.  Yeah, it’s that simple.  Bring a bucket of water up.  Instant entertainment for the young ones!
  • Get a beach bag and make your husband carry a backpack.  You are going to need help to carry all your baby essentials.
  • Consider water shoes.  Think about being the parent, you may have gradually stroll across HOT, HOT, HOT sand.
  • If your baby has never been in sand, maybe try a sand box out before you go to the beach.  You’ll know what to expect then.

That’s all the tips, I have!  What do you guys do to make things easier?

Here’s the photos I promised:

The ocean and all the Fields
The ocean and all the Fields
My twin sister looking GOOD :)
My twin sister looking GOOD 🙂
Finding Shade in the Hot Sun
Finding Shade in the Hot Sun

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Playing while daddy was scoring soccer goals.
Playing while daddy was scoring soccer goals.
When at the beach why not get twin tattoos that only last a week....
When at the beach why not get twin tattoos that only last a week….

 

Our family at dinner
Our little family at dinner
Twin Love

 

After a nap
After a nap
Hanging with Dad
Hanging with Dad
My Sand Soccer Champion
My Sand Soccer Champion
Co-ed winners
Co-ed winners

 

 

DIY: Balloon Clouds

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Balloon clouds are another really EASY way to add COLOR to your party decorations.  When you add some streamers to them, you have a party-perfect backdrop!  So easy and fabulous!

Each balloon cloud contains 9 balloons of approximately the same size.  The trick is making them group together in a “cloud.”  To do this, after the balloons are blown up, take a zip tie (that you may use to close a trash bag) and thread it through the end of the balloons where you tied them off.  Zip-tie the ring of balloons together and voila! You now have a balloon cloud with a ring to help with hanging.  When I hung the balloon clouds I used dental floss because it’s so thin (and you barely can see in when hung).

Another perk to this party decoration is it’s really inexpensive to do.  Who doesn’t LOVE that?

Easy Mickey Mouse Party Hats

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Materials:

  • Dollar store party hats
  • Black construction paper or card stock
  • Glue dots
  • Toothpicks
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • A can to use as a stencil

The beauty of this is, it’s the easiest thing, ever, to do and kids LOVE THEM! To make these mickey mouse party hats, all I did was add the ears to dollar store party hats. You gotta love that it costs like nothing to make too! For the ears…

  1. Cut out black circles on card stock or construction paper. I was able to use construction paper because of the toothpick later on. However, card stock is much more sturdy. You will need 2-4 circles for each hat (depending on if you care if the back is exposed) I used the bottom of an almond can as a stencil for my circles.
  2. Attach ears to toothpicks, as seen in picture below, with a glue dot. The glue dot should be almost an inch from the edge of the circle. Place toothpicks into the glue dots, making sure you leave enough toothpick to extended over the dot for support.
  3. If you want to cover up your handy work, use a glue dot to secure another black circle on top of the exposed toothpick. (This makes a back.)
  4. Stick ears into hat, the beauty of this is that the toothpicks aren’t long enough to stick the person wearing the hat, BUT they are long enough to make the ears hold.

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DONE! Fun mickey mouse party hats! Was that easy of what? The kids could even help!

Landon’s First Birthday

This post is a week late!  I blame Game of Thrones (the book not the TV series)!  Here is my cutie pie’s first birthday party in pictures!  I will add some tutorials later for the hats, balloon clouds, and how to get sprinkles to stick perfectly to the side of your cake.  The Mickey Mouse theme was so much fun!  (Ignore cookie monster, he was a gift that didn’t need to be wrapped, so he kinda crashed the mickey mouse party!)

THE DETAILS:

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BIRTHDAY FUN:

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CAKE SMASH!

Landon smashing his cake was adorable!  He didn’t know what to do at first.  It’s funny, I tried to take it away and he TOTALLY freaked!  Everyone was like, “he’ll let you know when he’s done.”  They were right!  I wish I would have gotten in on tape!

 

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Cheerios and a chuckle

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Sometimes you have to laugh at yourself and today I definitely did. This was one of those embarrassing MOMents, that I can’t even blame on the baby! Let me explain…

Tonight, my husband, Landon, and I went to Apple-bee’s for dinner after a frantic search for a healthy cookbook.  I had packed the “going to a restaurant with baby” essentials.  For me this includes: the peel and stick place mat, a bib, a baby food pouch, a spoon, bowl, wipes, puffs, lil crunchies, wagon wheels, and CHEERIOS.  For the most part it was a normal dinner except for this little bit of convo that happened…

  • ME: Wow, this sauce is really rich and buttery.  I don’t think I can eat any more.  But it is good.
  • HUSBAND: Does that mean I can have your shrimp?
  • LANDON: BA, BA, BA, BA (as he eats his Cheerios)
  • ME: I think I’m going to eat some Cheerios as a buffer for my stomach.  It should work like crackers, right? Since I haven’t ate a lot today….
  • HUSBAND: (gives a nod that says, sure babe-whatever you say)
  • ME: (nom, nom, nom, just eating my cheerios)
  • SERVER: How is everything tonight?
  • ME & HUSBAND: Great!
  • SERVER: Mam, are you sure everything is ok?
  • ME: Oh yes, it’s just fine.
  • SERVER: (in a gentle and concerned voice) I’m sorry, Mam.  I don’t believe you.  You are eating Cheerios.
  • ME: (thinking…crap…he has a point…I haven’t finished my dinner, and I stole my son’s cheerios…) Oh, my dinner is fine.  I promise.
  • LANDON: Ooooh (and smiles sweetly, he likes having the last word already)

A few minutes later, the manager came to our table and asked how everything was going.

What a night!

A Bachelorette weekend in Las Vegas

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Recently, I went to Vegas for a close friend of mine’s bachelorette party. It was a great weekend! We finally had time to catch up and party like we pledging a sorority again, lol. The trip started off a little rocky with our flight to Vegas being delayed 4 hours due to weather. However, for the most part, everyone was pretty chipper. It felt like a total party plane. There was a group of guys clearly going for a bachelor party and they drank at every opportunity. Vegas was a lot of FUN but I definitely can tell I am getting older. I actually lost my voice before I even got off the plane! This led everyone in Vegas to think I partied like a rock star every night and that out of the group I was the party animal. So not true!

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Anyways, since we were there for a bachelorette party we of course did pool parties, clubbing, etc. We also attracted a lot of attention wherever we went by having our bachelorette wear a sash wherever we went. This was a good thing because it led to free drinks and VIP treatment. Who doesn’t want a bachelorette to have a good time? NOTE: PLEASE DO NOT WEAR 15 PIECES OF BACHELORETTE MEMORABILIA AT ONCE. Keep it tasteful, you want to say I’m here to have fun…NOT I’m a billboard of male genitalia. Even if you are a big group of girls coming for a bachelorette party, do not expect to get in to places free. We didn’t pay any cover the whole weekend but we had some very resourceful girls planning our trip and they did their homework weeks before Vegas.

The Bellagio Water Show
The Bellagio Water Show

How to get in free?

Talk to promoters BEFORE you get to Vegas! This will ensure you have lots of places you can go and not pay any cover. In Vegas, most places charge women cover. You can find promoters online through twitter, facebook, or even instagram (search #vegas or #whateverclubyouwanttogoto). Promoters can get you on the guest list so you don’t have to wait in the main line and don’t have to pay. The only downside is you usually have to get to clubs early. But many places make up for that too, with an open bar for women during the earlier hours. If you don’t meet promoters ahead of time, you will run into them on the strip or in hotels. The advantage of talking to them before Vegas is you can make sure you are working with a GOOD promoter that is getting you into the HOTTEST clubs.

The girls before TAO
The girls before TAO

How to manage expenses with a large group?

When you are with a big group sometimes its hard to keep track of who-you-owe-what; between hotels, meals where the restaurant doesn’t split the check, cabs, etc. For this problem, we used a new app for iPhones called Splitwise. It is amazing at tracking all the expenses and then helping you settle everything at the end. Seriously, if you have an iPhone and travel in groups GET.IT.NOW!

Other Advice?

  • Buy a case of water and leave it in your hotel room. You will want in when you’re feeling the effects of the night before.
  • Don’t expect to go to bed before 5am. The casinos in Vegas pump oxygen into the casino to help keep people awake and spending money. This is great in the fact that you will not feel tired, really at all. But much later that day you will realize you haven’t slept in so many hours your math is failing you. Not good if you do any gambling.
  • I highly recommend TAO Nightclub at the Venetian. A lot of fun, and just upscale in general. Plus they have women in bathtubs as you walk in and women in these boxes inside the doors that is just HOT.
  • Gamble a little while in Vegas, maybe only a few dollars at the penny slots. The casinos in Vegas are something you can’t find anywhere else.
  • Don’t expect casinos to be smoke-free. I know most states have laws for restaurants and other public places to be smoke free. Therefore, I was surprised to be around people smoking. I just didn’t think about how different places have different laws.
  • CVS on the strip had cheaper liquor than the ABC store. While there stock up snacks. Trust me you’re gonna want them and much cheaper there!
  • If you are staying on the strip, stay at a hotel that has a night club you’re interested in going to. This eliminates cab fare for a night.
  • Expect to walk a lot, I suggest staying in the middle of the strip. It should save your feet some.
  • Go out and enjoy all the different shows! They are free and fun!
  • Food is expensive everywhere, so be prepared to spend money, even at cheaper establishments.

If you have other questions let me know! What are some of your ways to save money on trips?

Cream Cheese Frosting

cramcheese

Ingredients

  • 2 blocks of cream cheese, softened (8 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups powered sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a stand-up mixer or a medium-sized bowl combine butter, vanilla, and cream cheese. Mix together until creamy. Once creamy, gradually mix in the powered sugar. Make sure the cream cheese icing is well blended. Cream cheese frosting is perfect for piping on strawberry cupcakes or adding to a pumpkin roll (Or whatever you like, those are just two of my favorites).

How to make cupcake toppers


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Cupcake toppers are an easy way to dress up any cupcake. Anyone can simply stick a toothpick in a cupcake. However, it is not always easy to find cupcake toppers that fit your design or theme needs. I am throwing a mickey themed birthday party very soon for my little munchkin and don’t have a lot of time, the day of, to decorate cupcakes. My solution: CUPCAKE TOPPERS! They can be made ahead of time and literally take seconds to place into a cupcake. Here is all the info you need to make them yourself….

  1. Grab your supplies. You can see that I re-use all of the same materials over-and-over. Similar supplies was used in this tutorial.cupcaketoppersupplies
  2. Deconstruct cups. The images I wanted happened to be on a cup. These could be printed off the computer on card stock or punched out of an old book. Wherever you find the images you want.cupcaketoppers6cupcaketoppers7
  3. Punch out the images you want. I used a 1 inch scalloped paper puncher I got from Michaels. They have so many different designs it’s insane!cupcaketoppers8
  4. Punch out colorful backs for your cupcake toppers. (This will hide the toothpick and add more color.)cupcaketoppers9

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  5. Place a glue dot on the back of the image. It should be placed in the top center.cupcaketoppers3 cupcaketoppers5
  6. Sandwich the glue dot, with the cutout for the back. Press firmly so it held together well.cupcaketoppers-front cupcaketoppers-back
  7. Slide the tooth pick in the bottom (this part will still be open). And you’re DONE!!!cupcaketoppers1

The easiest of crafts and quick! What are your tips for decorating cupcakes or cakes quickly?

How to make a pennat flag banner

My little man is turning one very soon, so it gave me an excuse to craft. I love doing anything creative, and this was so easy. Flag banners are so cute and fun. They are extremely versatile, as well. You can use them at wedding showers, baby showers, birthday parties, carnival events, etc. I used card stock for the flags, but you can use fabric or scrapbook paper. I also used ribbon to connect each flag, but you can use twine, jute cord, or whatever inspires you.

Supplies

My supplies:

  • Multicolored cardstock
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Glue dots
  • Peel and stick letters
  • Yarn needle
  • Ribbon (not pictured)
  • Hole punch (not pictured)

Directions:

  1. Determine how big you want your flags to be. I decided to go with a 5 inch base because I did not want my letters to look tiny.
  2. To make the actual flag stencil:
    1. Use a ruler to draw a 5 inch base.
    2. In the center of the 5 inch line, draw a line perpendicular to the base (to where the point of the triangle would be).
    3. Use a ruler to connect the two points on each side.
    4. Cut out the triangle.
    5. Viola, you now have your stencil.
  3. Use the stencil to trace triangles on your sheets of card-stock or scrapbook paper.trace
  4. Cut out triangles.
  5. Once you have your flags, place letters on each flag. I used peel and stick letters to save time. If some of the sticky was lacking, I added a glue dot to secure the flag.
  6. Preview how it looks before you get ready to string your flags. When I looked at this, I decided that the P’s in happy, colors, should be switched. Neon green on yellow is hard to read. I also decided to have a flag in the middle of the words to act as a space. I’m debating putting a Mickey cutout on the “space” flag, since he’s having a Mickey themed birthday party. Haven’t decided yet….step-3
  7. Once the flags are to your liking, punch holes in the top, so they can be strung. I decided to do two holes on each flag. I didn’t worry about the spacing between holes being perfect. I wanted the banner to look homemade.  To me, homemade equals made with love.  I also didn’t have a single hole punch, so I used a three hole punch.
  8. Once you have your holes punch, string your flags. I used Happy Birthday ribbon and a yarn needle to help the threading. Keep in mind when stringing to always thread the flags the same way. I threaded from back to front because I wanted the ribbon to show.
  9. After your flags are all on, adjust any spacing, and you are done! So easy and fun!

finishedbanner1

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