Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Paparazzi Winner

Last week I started my 1st ever give away and today is the day to pick the winner.  I posted the contest here on my blog and also here on my facebook page, Polka Dots and Pincushions. 

I only had a few enter this time but I am thankful for everyone that took the time to participate.  Hopefully as time goes by I will have more people interested in my contests.  Three answered on Facebook and I had one blog follower answer on here.  Not a great turn out but it made the chances of winning even better for those that entered. :)

The trivia question was: What carol contains the line "Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing."
And the answer is "O Come All ye Faithful." 

Now for the winner.....drum roll......the winner is......Tiffany Caison!  Tiffany is a follower on facebook and entered the contest last Tuesday.  Tiffany's favorite item from my collection was actually a fleece scarf I made for a little girl.  She has a daughter and I am guessing it will be for her. 

Congrats Tiffany, I will mail you present off in time for you to enjoy it for Christmas.

Thanks again for those that participated and if you are interested in some affordable $5 gifts for Christmas check out my facebook page, Polka Dots and Pincushions, to order today. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Christmas Give Away!

I have not been around the blogging world long but I know that everyone loves give aways and that there are a lot going on right now.  (I know because I have entered several  :) fingers crossed.)

I want to share in the giving mood so I am trying my hand at my first ever give away.  Yay right!!  Ok to enter is super easy and blog readers will even have more chances to win.  Double yay! 

Do you want to know what your prize will be?  This is the good part, you get to pick!  Go to my face book page Polka Dots and Pincushions, here is the link.  And check out my albums listed with Paparazzi Jewelry.  There are headbands, hair clips, necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and rings.  Take a quick look (or long) and pick out your favorite item.  Then share it on your face book page and comment on the answer to the trivia question : What carol contains the line, "Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing"?

Ok your 2nd way to enter is to follow my blog and then answer the same trivia question: What carol contains the line, "Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing"?
Post your answer in a comment and let me know you are a follower.  Also let me know which item you would like to win. 

I am going to leave the contest up all week and will pick the winner next Monday, December 10th. 

I am so excited but so nervous this is my first contest/give away.  :)  Anyway I wish you lots of luck. 

Here are a few of the items that are up for grabs.  Hopefully if this give away goes well, I can do some more before Christmas, maybe one a week. 

Good luck and have a great week!

Hashbrown Casserole

I had a ton of cooking to do for the Holidays and we always have my husband's family reunion the Sunday after Thanksgiving so there was even more cooking to be done.  Neil has a cousin that always looks for something different and has always complimented my new recipes.  While that is wonderful it always adds the pressure on to impress him with something new and something delicious. 

Well this year was busier than normal with and unexpected passing in the family and I got sick as a dog Thanksgiving night.  I did not feel good, did not feel like cooking, and definitely did not feel like trying something new.  So I made some reliable recipes and then stumbled upon and new recipe while I was looking for something easy to do with hash brown potatoes.  The blog, Never Trust a Skinny Cook had a recipe for "crack potatoes." 

They looked good and easy so that made them perfect to try and they did turn out great, but again I modified the recipe.  I saw some comments that they were great and then a few that said they were too salty and had too much ranch.  So I decided to cut back some of the ingredients and they turned out great!
*original recipe can be found here. And again apologizes for only 1 picture.  I was sick and did not think about it till the casserole was almost gone.

Ok here is what you need:
*Bag of shredded hash brown potatoes (I used fresh not frozen but I am sure it would work either way)
*16 oz container of sour cream
*1 pk of ranch dip mix
*1 small container of plain Greek yogurt
*2 packs of real bacon bits (toasted up/ you could use regular bacon and crumble it but I felt bad and was going for easy and fast)
*2 cups of shredded sharp cheese (save a little to the side to top with or add extra)
*Pre heat the oven too 400

Now mix the sour cream, ranch mix, yogurt, cheese, and bacon bits together in a large bowl.  Then stir in the hash browns and mix well.  Now spread into a casserole dish.  I did not have a 13x9 so I used a disposable tin pan that was 11.5 x 9 or something like that, but I think either size would work fine. Sprinkle the left over cheese or extra on top and then cover with tin foil.  Bake at 400 for about 40 minutes and then remove the foil for the last 5 minutes to give it and nice little crust and browning.

Now enjoy!  Well let it cool a bit or you will burn your tongue. :)

It was so good and everyone was pleased with it.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Strawberry Banana Pudding

I know it has been a while but I am finally back and have some great recipes to share in the next few posts.  Today I wanted to share my take on Paula Deen's Not Yo Mommas Banana Pudding. 
You can find the orginal recipe here.  (Also sorry but I was sick and busy so I only took a few pictures, like 2, sorry.)

*Disclaimer*  If I haven't said it before or if this is your first time stopping by I am not a follow the recipe kind of girl.  I will follow the basics of it but always change it up and add to or take away.  I also am not a measurer.  I like to eye ball most of the things I add. With that said,  I will try my best to get you a close measurement but cooking is all about trying new things and blending new things together and well just having fun.  So have fun if you think it will work try it, the worst that can happen is it will be inedible.  :)

A friend at church made the original recipe and I tried it one night.  It was good but super sweet.  I could only eat a little of it but I liked it and well I wanted to make it for an upcoming dinner.  I knew the basic recipe was good but I needed to cut some of the sweetness out. 

I decided some strawberries would add some tang and that if I made my own whipped cream it would not be as sweet.  I also used less sweetened condensed milk and added some Greek yogurt.  I also used less pudding.

Not huge changes but it made a difference and what came about was great!  So here is my recipe.

-2 boxes Pepperidge Farm Chessman cookies
-2 cups of milk
-1 box 3.5oz of instant French vanilla pudding
-4 to 5 ripe bananas
-small bag of frozen sliced strawberries (thawed) (make sure no sugar has been added) *you can also use fresh I just didn't have any at the time
-8oz of cream chz (softened)
-small can of sweetened condensed milk (around 14 oz but you will use a little less)
-12 oz of heavy whipping cream (you can use cool whip if you want for ease I did once when I had no cream and it was still ok I just used less than the 12 oz)
-small container of plain greek yogurt (I used Oikos 5.3oz size and I actually ran out of the plain and used the strawberry this last time and it worked)

Ok line the bottom of a 13x9 pan with one bag of the chessman cookies.  Next top with sliced bananas and then add a layer of sliced strawberries on top. 

Then in a small bowl mix the milk and the pudding on medium for 2 minutes and set aside.  Now mix the cream chz with the condensed milk.  I used most of the can I just did not scrape the sides but most had come out. (sorry again that I can not be more specific) Blend it till it is nice and smooth then add in the yogurt and stir well.  Now whip the heavy cream in another bowl on high until peaks appear.  Mix the bowl of pudding with the cream chz mixture and then fold in the whipped cream. 

Now pour the mixture over the cookies, bananas, and strawberries.  You will have more filling than you need (even the original leaves you with extra) so you can save it to use as a dip for fruit or cookies or make another small dessert, but you would need more cookies, bananas, and strawberries.  Now top it with the other bag of cookies and allow it to chill in the refrigerator. 

Pretty and delicious!
Linking to some of these great parties!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween

Fall is officially here and today is Halloween.  I love the fall.  Love it!!  Love the colors, the weather, the smells, the food, and the holidays.  I just love the way it makes you feel.  But with this fall I have been super super busy.  I have had the kiddos costumes planned for months and since they were not difficult I have put them off.  Well I put them off till this morning, yeah just a tad bit late.  Well I managed to finish my big guys without any problem and will have 10 minute tute for you later this week but I did not get my littlest man's finished.  In all honestly I could have made it in time but it turned out a bit small so I was going to have to cut a slit up the back and add snaps and well it just wasn't worth it.  But I will tell you all about my busy day later, right now I just wanted to share the cuteness of my kiddos. 

My oldest wanted to be a Builder (Bob the Builder) Here is a pic of him in his tool belt but without his hat. 

And my baby is one of the cutest pumpkins out there.  Well in my opinion at least.

Aren't they sweet together?

Here is the whole crew.  My hubby was not much for dressing up this year but I tried to have some Halloween spirit with my shirt.

I hope you all had a wonderful Halloween!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Dreaming of Ham / PreThanksgiving

I am so not ready for the Holidays yet.  Time is flying by way too quickly.  I can not believe this week will be Halloween.  AHHH!!  Five million times ahhh because I have so much/want to do.  With all of that said I am however very very ready for the food that comes with the approaching holidays.  So much so that I have been dreaming about it. 

And the thing I am most dreaming of .... Ham.  Not just any ham not deli ham, *ick* but real ham.  Pink ham!  Well at least that's what I have always called it.  You only get "pink ham" on holidays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter to be exact.  You know the ham I am talking about that has that wonderfully rosy color is super delicious and oh so bad for you.  :)  I think it is technically called a smoked ham but I grew up calling it pink ham and still do.  (I learned the hard way the 1st year I tried to buy one from the store and the butcher thought I was crazy and had no idea what I was talking about.  Funny story but completely off topic. Maybe I will share at another time.)

Anyway back to the ham.  I have been thinking about that ham for days and I told myself I only had a bit longer to wait and well then I decided why wait.  I wanted ham and I could have it.  Totally fine to have ham on a non holiday, except when I start meal planning I tend to get carried away a bit. 

At first I just wanted a nice meal of ham, potatoes, and cabbage.  Well then it grew into that I had some carrots and those would be good too with the potatoes.  Next I noticed some great looking raspberries at the store and decided I would make some lemon raspberry mousse squares for dessert since I already had the Nilla wafers.  (If you would like the recipe it is here.)

Nice meal but not totally satisfied.  While washing dishes I thought how great some devilled eggs would be.  I mean who doesn't want devilled eggs with pink ham. 

Now I had been cooking and washing dishes most of the day, due to making baby food, so I thought that I should spread the wealth a bit.  It would be Sunday after all and I did not want to be in the kitchen all morning before church.  So now my little dinner has turned into a Pre Thanksgiving meal.  :)

I called my parents and they are bringing some tea and some kale.  My brother is bringing the deviled eggs and I am providing the rest.  Only thing missing is some pumpkin but I am trying to be good.  Hope you are having a wonderful weekend. 
What is one of your favorite meals?

*Update*  Sorry no pictures.  We devoured it. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Bob the Builder

I have been meaning to post this for months but kept forgetting and lost the blog so here we go.  For my little guys 3rd birthday he wanted Bob the Builder.  Well Bob was super popular a few years ago but now he is hard to find.  Went over several different ideas for what he wanted - sheet cake that had a road made out of graham crackers in the shape of a 3 with machines digging dirt (crushed oreos) and toy figures of some of the machines and Bob, dump truck cake, and a cake shaped like Bob.  Well I could not find any little figures and Conner wanted Bob not just the machines. 

I am by no means a pro when it comes to decorating cakes but I do enjoy playing around with it.  I finally decided to make a Bob out of round cake pans like I did my owl.  (You can see that post here)  I cooked my cake using two round 9 in pans and then drew out a pattern for my pieces.  If you need a better idea about how to use pans to create a templete and pattern check the owl post I mentioned earlier. 

After the cake cooked I let it cool for a while and long while so that it would not fall to pieces when I cut it.  Also a good idea to add some pudding to the mix to help it be firmer.  While the cake was cooling I made my icing.  I have a huge sweet tooth but I do not love buttercream icing, it is just too sweet to me.  I like to buy the Wilton whipped icing and make it myself.  (You can get it from Walmart or Micheals) It is not near as sweet or as firm as buttercream so while it is deliscious it does not hold its shape as well.  I make all the icing in a large bowl and then take a little out for each color I need.  I use the Wilton icing dye to color my frosting.

Ok now that the cake is good and cool, you will begin cutting out your pieces.  Lay your pattern on your cake and carefully cut out the parts you need.  I left one circle whole and then cut out my ears, nose, and hat pieces.  The hat is 3 different pieces. The bottom is a little less than half of the other cake and then I cut two pieces to make the brim of the hat and the ridge that runs up it. 

After I placed my pieces I frosted it.  Frosting took some time with all the corners and turns and I was not happy with the eyes and mouth but overall there was Bob and my 3 year old was tickled!  I know you can not see his happiness from the pictures he was not excited about the camera but he was happy about the cake. 

Not as nice as a professional cake but much much cheaper.  Instead of $20 for a cake I probably only have $5.  And it was super yummy. 
Linking to some of these great parties

Monday, October 15, 2012

Italian Chicken Noodle Soup

This is a super fast, super cheap, super yummy, super soup and one of my new favorites!  I found this recipe on Pearls, Handcuffs, and Happy hour and just knew I had to try it.  I love soups and with it finally feeling like fall I was ready for some warm comfort.  I modified her recipe some to make it faster and cheaper but if you would like the original you can find it here.

Ok here we go this soup is very quick to put together and it just gets better as you eat it.  It also heats up well, for left overs.

-1 bag of frozen stir fry mix that contains onions and a variety of peppers (thaw in the refrigerator a few hours before or the day before)
-2 tbs of dried oregano
-1 tbs cheyenne pepper
-1 tbs of olive oil
-2 cans (28oz) of diced tomatoes with garlic, oregano, onion (I used Hunts)
-8 cups of chicken stock (about 1 1/2 large boxes I used Swanson reduced sodium)
-Rotisserie chicken with the meat pulled off
-box of small noodles (I used small shells but wanted the Ditalini)
-1 3/4 cup heavy cream
-bag of shredded Italian cheese or shredded Parmesan

*I only used two pots for this dish but to make it a one pot wonder just cook your noodles first and then leave them in the colander until you are ready to add them to the soup.

In a medium pot cook your pasta till not quite done.  My shells called for 8 minutes but I stopped cooking at 6 minutes so they could finish cooking a bit in the soup but they would not get mushy.  No one wants mushy noodles.

Ok in a large pot add 1 tbs oil and 2 tbs dried oregano.  Stir just until it smells good, just a few seconds.  Then add the bag of onions and peppers and cook until soft about 10 to 15 minutes.  Next add the stock and tomatoes and cheyenne.  Bring soup mix to a boil and then add the chicken and reduce to a simmer.  Simmer for just a few minutes then remove from heat and add noodles and stir in the cream. 

Now ladle it into a bowl and top with as much cheese ( I love cheese so don't judge my portion) as you would like and enjoy.  It is rich and creamy and oh so good.  It really seems to get better with each bite. 

Yum doesn't that look great!  I also think it would be yummy even with out the cream added.  So if you are watching your waist add less cream or none at all but I do feel it is worth the splurge. 

I do apologize for the pictures but I had already eaten a bowl full before I remembered to get a picture.  It really is that good.  Enjoy and thanks again to Pearls, Handcuffs, and Happy Hour for the inspiration. 
Oh and the soup shouldn't cost more than about $12 to make and it fed 6 people with left overs so I would say around a dollar per serving.  (Which we probably consumed way more than a serving.)

Linking to some of these great parties

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

I'm in Business

photo from Paparazzi Website
While I was away for 2 months,  I started my own business.  I am now the proud owner of "Polka Dots and Pincushions."  It started as a little crafting business with my cousin and has grown in the past few months to include jewelry and another cousin. 

I had been crafting and sewing for local friends for about 2 years but with two small children and very limited space the time for sewing became limited.  I then stumbled upon Paparazzi Jewelry and now I am  Independent Consultant  #7657.  (Haven't heard of it or interested in finding out more let me know I would be happy to talk with you.)

I have a Face book page where you can view all of my items and I am hoping to have a web page in the future.  I am having a great time selling cute $5 jewelry and accessories.  I love that I don't have to be pushy or bring a financial burden on anyone.  I always dreaded  getting invites to parties for Thirty One, Scentsy, etc  because I can not afford that stuff.  I think they are great companies with super cute items but being a stay at home mom means well, sometimes,  staying at home.  If I want to be able to afford to be home with my kiddos then I can not afford to spend money on $40 bags and $20 candles.  So when I heard about Paparazzi and found out that it was only $5, I had to find out more. 

Now I am booking parties, selling at events, and selling online.  I love it and I don't have to feel bad because 1- I don't have to be pushy, if you like it great if you don't that is ok too and 2-it is affordable so it is not like I am asking them to spend a fortune.  It is win win! 

I will tell you more about my Paparazzi experience in my another post but for now I wanted to share some pics of a few of the items on my page.  If you have any questions please feel free to ask or email me.  And if you are interested in anything please check out my face book page Polka Dots and Pincushions and order from there. 
Independent Consultant 7657
Here are a few pictures of some of the jewelry.  I also have rings, bracelets, and hair accessories.


Here are a few of my hand made items.



Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Lemon Raspberry Mousse Squares

I have a ton of apologizes to go with this post first it is months late and 2nd I kept forgetting to take pictures and by the time I remembered it was gone.  It really is that good that is doesn't last.  Hopefully I can update this post soon, with my pictures because I just got some great berries from the Fresh Market yesterday so one of these may be in my near future.  Anyway here is my very old post. :)
picture is from nilla Wafer website and is the property of kraft food and nabisco

Ok I know it is like several months late but here is the fabulous dessert I promised.  I made this for Father's Day and it was gone.  I mean gone before everyone got some and there were more desserts there than just mine.  It looks super pretty so it is very inviting and it tastes  superb!  I can not take credit for the recipe, it came from the Nilla Waffer box a year or two ago.  Just a heads up I did follow the recipe exactly the 1st two or three times I made this and then I decided to change it a bit to make it easier.  (I will tell my changes as I go, nothing major just a lazy I mean easier way.)

Ok here is the list of ingredients and supplies you will need.

- 3oz box of lemon jello (not the pudding the jello)
-1 cup boiling water
-1 cup of ice
-8oz pack of cream cheese (softened)
-8oz container of cool whip
-1/4 cup sugar
-2 tsp lemon zest (optional- I didn't have any this time so I didn't use it and I could not tell a difference)
-48 Nilla Waffers (I did not count mine out I just used what I needed.  I also think any plain cookie would work for this, shortbread, or the Pepperidge Farm chessman)
-1/3 cup Seedless raspberry preserves
-fresh berries for topping

-small bowl, large bowl, 8x8 pan, electric mixer, spoons, cling wrap (optional)

Ok put your lemon jello in the small bowl and dissolve it in the hot water stirring for 2 minutes.  Then add your cup of ice.  (It can be cubes I just put enough cubes in a 1 cup dry measuring cup to fill it up.)  Stir until the ice dissolves.  Now set that to the side and cream your sugar and cream cheese together using a mixer.  Once it is combined add your lemon jello and mix it.  Then stir in 2 cups of your coolwhip.  This is also the point where you would add your lemon zest but I didn't have any so I worked without it.

{The original recipe which you can find online, has a specific number of cookies for you to put around the sides and on each layer it also has you line the pan with cling wrap so you can invert it.  I did not follow these steps.  It is just as pretty in the pan.  I just turned their sequence of steps around so my dessert would be the way theirs was once it was inverted.}

Ok so now place your cookies in the bottom of your pan.  Then poor half of your lemon mixture on top of your cookies.  Now top with another layer of cookies.  Next  heat your preserves in the microwave for about 15 seconds on high.  If it has not melted it some then do it a little longer.  Spoon your preserves on top of your cookies and kinda mash it out a bit with the spoon so it will spread some.  Now pour the rest of your filling on top.  Then if you would like add a few cookies to the top and decorate with some fresh berries.  Now just cover it and refrigerate for a few hours and then enjoy!!

If you want the original recipe just go to the website for Nilla Waffers here.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Traveling with Little Ones

photo from

Who doesn't love a 6 hour car trip with screaming whining little people.  I don't that is for sure!   This was our first trip with our 8 month old and well he is not a rider.  He can get cranky just being placed in the car seat.   So as we were planning for our vacation I was not looking forward to the traveling part and knew I needed to plan for it. 

We don't have a DVD player in the car and don't really plan on getting one.  I survived trips without a television and I feel like my kids should be able to also.  And seeing how my biggest guy is only 3 he doesn't have hand held games either. 

I knew the traditional packing a few toys thing but I wanted to avoid the constant are we there mommy questions that I knew would come.  So I set out to find as many tips as I could on some of my favorite blogs.   There are hundreds of great ideas out there but I am only going to share 4 with you and give you some links. 

*ABC match up
This was one of Conner's favorite games.  I printed off capital letters A to Z from here and then taped the paper to a cookie sheet.   He had to match his magnetic letters to the ones on the page.  He loved using the magnets and I think it would have been great to have cut/printed out some pictures of animals/people and different back grounds for him to have played with.

*Hidden puzzle book
I have told you before how much my big guy likes trains so anything involving them keeps him pretty happy.  I brought with him a look and find Thomas the train book.  Now he has had this book for a while and can find all the pictures it has you search for pretty easy but you can also play I spy with it and have them find new things. 

*Maze book/dry erase marker
Conner has just begun really liking mazes so for about 2 bucks I got him a dry erase book from Walmart, filled with different mazes and dot to dot activities.  He loved drawing and then erasing his lines.  And I suggest the markers with the little erasers on the tops so you don't have to worry with paper towels.

*Look and find bottles
You can make these with either water or sand.  Fill them with different little items around your house: shells, letters, noodles, tiny toys.  Then fill with dirt or water and seal the lid on with hot glue.  Your little one will have a blast looking at all the different things in the bottle.  You can play I spy with them too.
Here are some great links that I used and some that I didn't but had wonderful ideas. Check them out be inspired!
Road trip list from kids activities
Shape I Spy
ABC printable
Cherrios and Lattes

There are tons of other ideas out there.  Just make sure you plan in advance so you will have time to get the supplies or make them.  I also packed crayons, coloring books, regular books, puzzles, and some small toys and trains.  He made it fine and watching a Veggie Tales movie on my lap top the last hour worked out great too.  (That was the only time we watched something on the drive though)  My littlest man was a  little harder to please but I made sure to bring plenty of toys to switch out and plenty of pacis.  With any trip make sure you stop for breaks and let them stretch their little legs and pray for long naps during the drive.  ;)  We are on our way back now and have about 2 hours left.  Thankfully both are sleeping especially since little man has been super grumpy.