.hello. chili cheese dog casserole (recipe)

Since I’ve been spending the last few weeks babysitting a soon to be 2 year old I’ve been trying to find fun projects and easy toddler friendly meals that will make Ace happy! So I bring to you- Toddler Takeover Tuesday!
Ace is a pretty picky eater. I’ve learned a couple of tricks in our nightly dinner war. Turn off the toons and take away the cup and only serve one food at a time (most important first! Proteins, then veggies, then grains, then fruits, and finally milk for some dairy!) and if it’s at all possible, mix as many of those foods together so you can serve them as one full punch meal! We did spaghetti twice last week so I needed something a little different. I had a lot of work ahead of me and I didn’t want to spend forever in the kitchen. We had a ton of hot dogs in the fridge, but I didn’t want just hot dogs for him so we made Chili Cheese Dog Casserole! It was easy, fast, and had meat, cheese, and some veggies in one swoop, plus it was easily eaten with his hands and we all know how much 2 year olds love to make a mess! So if you have a busy night and need something fast but yummy, try this out!

Chili Cheese Dog Casserole
6 hot dog buns, torn into pieces
8 hot dogs, cut into round slices
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 cans of your favorite chili (I use Hormel with no beans, but feel free to use whatever you prefer, or better yet, make your own!)Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Layer the torn pieces of bun in the bottom of a 13×9 pan, on top of that layer the hot dogs, then the chili, finally the cheese. Cover the whole pan with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 10 to melt the remaining cheese. Serve it up with mustard or any other hotdog toppings of your choice!

Another toddler success!

When I told Ace’s mom about this the first words out of her mouth were “OMG! Does that have tater tots in it?!” Um, why didn’t I think of that?! Guess what will be added next time we make this dish probably in place of the buns! I’ll be sure to update you with the results! What are your favorite toddler recipes and activities? Please share! I’d love to hear! I could use any tips and tricks!

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.hello. creamy crock pot bbq chicken

Here in the South in the summer it gets ridiculously hot. Wet hot. Like I walk outside of my house and my glasses fog up. Yep. Yay us! When it’s that hot I don’t like to use the oven. I can’t stand the house to be as hot as it is outside. In comes the slow cooker! This has been such an amazing life saver these past couple of weeks! I’m still new to the slow cooker world so I hope to have many more great recipes to share with you guys! For now, I’d like to start Slow Cooker Sunday! It’ll force me to find yummy recipes for my family and give me something to look forward to every week with you guys too!
To start this weekly adventure, I have another Southern tradition! Not only is it always hot here, we also love our barbecue! It’s a part of who we are and it’s a craft many strive to perfect! Now, I’m not one to stand in front of a smoker all day so I’m taking the cheaters way out, but even if this was the easy way, it’s still fantastically good! If you notice in this recipe, like my last, there is cream cheese. You see, I have a slight obsession with making things creamy! I assure you, it’s really good, but if you aren’t the cream cheese fanatic I am, feel free to leave it out! It does give a nice creaminess to the dish though so I recommend giving it a try!

Creamy Crock Pot Barbecue Chicken

*6 frozen chicken breast halves
*1 28oz bottle barbecue sauce (I use hickory smoked!)
* 1/2 cup Italian dressing
*1/4 cup brown sugar
*2 TB Worcestershire sauce
*1 8oz package softened cream cheese

Mix together half (14oz) of the bottle of barbecue sauce, italian dressing, brown sugar, and Worcestershire sauce together in a bowl. Mix well then pour over chicken breasts. Put your cooker on high for 4 hours! Remove chicken from the slow cooker and shred it up!  I drained about 3 ladles of liquid from my cooker because I was worried the sauce would be too watery. Replace the chicken and add the rest of the barbecue sauce. I then put the cream cheese in the microwave and heated it up for one minute so it was completely soft then stirred it into my chicken and sauce mixture. This added a nice creaminess to the sauce and balance out some of the vinager-y taste you get from the bottle of sauce. Cook for one more hour then serve on a bun or on top of a yummy baked potato with cheddar and sour cream.

For a great next day meal with your left overs pour your mixture over a pizza crust and cover with mozzarella cheese and chopped bacon for a yummy barbecue chicken pizza!

So this is the meal cold and leftover the next day. It didn’t look too hot and BBQ never looks great off a bun, but trust me when I say, it was YUMMY!

.hello. Natural Living Made Easy

After being diagnosed with PCOS I started reading about how products we were using, cleansers, makeup, ect… could be causing and irritating a lot of the symptoms of the disorder as well as other illnesses as well. I think as a society we’re becoming more and more aware of what we are putting in and on our bodies. I recently found out the deodorants we’re using (antiperspirants with aluminum) have been shown to cause breast cancer in women and swollen lymph nodes. No thanks! 🙂

Here are just a few of the surprising effects!

In a search to bring more natural products into my life, I stumbled on Natural Living Made Easy owned by Amy Carrier. She offers up fantastic products like household cleansers, laundry detergent, body scrubs, bath salts, shampoo bars, and even deet free bug spray! She also offers market totes, cloth baby wipes, face and body scrubbies, heating pads, and reusable snack bags! While on her facebook page I saw her looking for someone to test out her new deodorant. PERFECT TIMING! I was actually looking for a new deodorant after my Dove surprisingly stopped working after using it for years. I offered myself up to try it out and when we met up she brought me a whole basket of goodies! I’ll be using these for a week or two then bringing you a whole blog of reviews! Until then, while you wait, go check out Amy’s shop and pick a few things up for yourself!

Included- Deodorant (and extra sensitive formula), Vanilla Coffee Scrub, Vanilla Coffee Soap, Citrus Salt Scrub, Bath Salts, Lotion Bar, Toothpaste, Antiseptic Cream, Deet Free Bug Spray, Grease Cutter, Bathroom Cleaner, Laundry Detergent, and Dishwasher Detergent

And on Natural Living Made Easy’s Facebook Page they’re giving away a basket of goodies when they make it to 100 fans so rush over there and like the page! Let them know .hello. lj sent you! 🙂

.hello. friday’s letters (7-27-12)

Dear Chicken Spaghetti- Man oh man you were good. I’m already looking forward to the next time I make you, but I know I can’t eat spaghetti every day!  But if I could… it would be you! Dear Dawson’s Creek- I understand you came out in 1998 when I was at the tender age of 11 years old and at that time it would have been wildly inappropriate for me to watch you, but here at 25 you’ve just became my newest guilty pleasure. Dear Holiday Mini Sessions- I’m sorry I haven’t started working on you yet. I’m totally far behind. 2 local photographers have already set dates, posted the event, and fully booked. WOW! Talk about being on top of it. In my defense I don’t like rushing the year along. It has nothing to with me being lazy. 😉 Dear hubby- I’m so proud of you for rocking your paper and speech this week and I know you’re going to knock this test this weekend out of the park! The education program will be lucky to have you! Dear bank- Hire me. That is all. Dear Indie Gift Box- Please post your August boxes ASAP! I’m dying to get one! Dear Friday- I’m kinda ready for you to be over with so we can check out the grill off at the farmers market tomorrow morning! I think we’re going to have a great time! Dear Olympic Opening Ceremonies- I LOVED YOU! Especially the part focused on celebrating Children’s Literature and Socialized Healthcare, what England has said are two of the greatest things that have come out of their nation. We got to see the Queen of Hearts, Voldemort, and a ton of Mary Poppins’! AMAZING! I honestly choked up a little. Children’s Brit Lit has such a close place in my heart.Dear Kate and Queen- I squealed every time I saw you each on screen. You ladies are so fabulous!  Dear U.K- Save a place for me. I’ll be there someday! Dear Maw Maw- I can’t wait to spend tomorrow with you and all of our family celebrating your birth. I can’t think of one single person more worth celebrating. Thank you for being such an amazing inspirational woman for me to grow up watching. Thank you for being my biggest fan and best friend. To say I love you would never say enough. You are my world and I’m the luckiest girl in the world to have you as my grandmother. You are beautiful, strong, wonderful, kind, loving, and I like to think I got my best points from you. We’re two of a kind, you and me. I pray I grow up to be half the mother with half the wisdom and strength you showed. Thank you for always making me feel loved and teaching me how to love in return. ❤ I adore you.

.hello. Tyler Hilton concert

One random Saturday scrolling around on facebook and I stumble across my friend Ashlee’s page. She had a status asking if anyone remembered Chris Keller. OF COURSE I REMEMBER CHRIS KELLER! Hello, Tyler Hilton! Hello, One Tree Hill! That was my show back in high school. We would call each other before the show, so excited and predicting what would happen then call each other as soon it was over to dish on the night’s events. Those were the days. After I expressed my love of Tyler Hilton (he also played Elvis in Walk the Line if you sadly aren’t familiar with One Tree Hill) she messaged me and told me he would be playing a concert in ATL that Monday night! I was sold! We ended up being told general admission tickets were sold out so we had to purchase a table which was the price of 4 tickets. We tried and tried to sell the other 2 to friends but everyone who wanted to go had to work or couldn’t find a babysitter. It ended up working out perfectly!

Me and my dear beautiful Ashley outside of Eddie’s Attic in Decatur GA

We left town around 1:30 and headed to ATL determined to be the first in line with the best seats in the house. We got to Atlanta around 3:30. I was starving and we found this fantastic little shop next door- Sammiches and Stuff. It was really cute. It was in a vintage building and the inside was painted mint green and white. It didn’t fit with the theme of the shop, but man was the food good! We grabbed a couple of sandwiches, excuse me, SAMMICHES, and camped out on the stairs in front of the venue. First in line of course!

I had the Chicken Salad Croissant! It was wonderful! You should try it! Seriously!

While sitting there, munching away, who comes up but Tyler Hilton himself! A quick wave while he was on his phone and he was off to his car. Um… that just happened. Cool! A little while later 2 girls came up after making a last minute decision to see the show. What do you know! They don’t have tickets! Perfect, we have 2 more! So we made new friends and got our tickets taken care of. Soon after Tyler came back to go inside. I got a photo with him and he took a cell picture of Ashley’s tattoo that she got after her last concert. It said “Loaded Gun” signed by him which is one of his songs from his new album. After our little private meet and greet we went up stairs to hang out before the show and watch the sound check on the TV.

Our fantastic table mates, the inside of the venue, and me with Tyler Hilton before the concert!

Finally after what felt like forever they let us in to wait for the show. Since we were first in line and had a reserved table we got to choose our seats before anyone else. Let me just say, if I’d wanted to touch him, I would have been able to very easily! It was awesome! While waiting on the show to start, our table mates decided to order a really yummy looking brownie so Ashley and I checked out the menu and chose and order of the beignets. That was the best choice we’d made other than going to the show in the first place! Oh man! They were delish! If you are ever in the Atlanta area go check out Eddie’s Attic and order all the food you can handle! Everything is so fantastic! The venue is wonderful too! We were in the listening room and the set up was awesome! I can’t wait to go  check them out again. They have open mic nights and of course I’ll be dragging the hubby to check out one of those!

Ashley, Our Acorns that we got stamped proving we were over 21, Tyler at his shirt table, the stage from my seat, me with our reserved table listing, the almost world famous beignets, and the listening room rules

After a little while of a wait the show is on! The opening act, Corey Kent White was precious! He was a tender 17 year old country singer who won my heart with his rendition of The Beatles’ “Let it Be” and a song about veterans he wrote for his grandfather that made me choke up. He’s certainly someone to watch out for! The kid’s got a voice on him!

Corey Kent White- Check him out at http://soundcloud.com/corey-kent-white

And then came Tyler. Let me just say, he lived up to everything I loved as a teenager and everything I look for in an artist as an adult! He was funny and his music was very catchy and organic. He put on such a great show! It was a very intiment venue so we got to really get up close and personal with him. My new favorite song from him is Prince of Nothing Charming, but I’ve listened to the entire CD nonstop since the show! If he ever comes anywhere near you, I couldn’t recommend more to you to go! The tickets are cheap and the show is wonderful!

Tyler Hilton in Concert at Eddie Attic in Decatur GA on 7-16-12

All in all it was a fantastic girls night out! Awesome venue, fabulous music, new friends, and a high school heart throb walking around easily accessible most of the time. We’re already planning our next trip back! I can’t wait for my next concert! I forgot how much I missed them!

We had the BEST time!

.hello. creamy chicken spaghetti (recipe)

Sunday night I cooked something that, while inspired, was all mine! No pinterest, no blogs, just me and it was AWESOME! This could be identical to someone else’s recipe, I haven’t checked but I just started playing and it’s what I came up with. I know you guys will enjoy it like I did! Plus it’s toddler and husband approved!
I’ve been babysitting a 2 year old the past couple of weeks and while it has been a blast, it has also been a struggle when it comes to food time. I mean all out war. We discovered if we take away the cup, turn off any TV, and feed him only one food at a time (the most important first) then he does much much better! Last week I needed something quick and easy for dinner so I just threw together some spaghetti. WHOA! He ate the mess out of it! Now goes the on going adventure of finding new and healthy spaghetti options!

Yep, it really is this good!

This recipe didn’t actually start as spaghetti at all actually. The hubby and I have been spending WAY too much money eating out recently and the food has not only been messing with our bank account, but my stomach in general. I was feeling sluggish and gross. I’ve never dealt well with preservatives and fast food. So the other day while out getting all purpose cleaner, we ended up with $150 worth of groceries and a new determination to cook at home! I brought my Better Homes and Garden cook book with me and turned it to the slower cooker section (which I never do) and found a recipe for ‘Ranch Roast”. Now I really can’t stand roast, but I liked everything else in the dish so I wanted to give it a try, plus we got a 2 and a half pound roast for a little over $3! Can’t beat that! I liked the recipe okay and we had guests over that night and they said they loved it, but like I said, I don’t like roast and that was it’s biggest flaw. I decided to try again with chicken and change up a few things. When it was done cooking I looked at it and though, man, this looks like it would make a great pasta sauce, and then it was born. 🙂

Sorry for the lack of 2 of the ingredients in the photo. I didn’t know this would be blog worthy until after I made it!

LJ’s Creamy Chicken Spaghetti

What you need:
6 thawed chicken tenderloins (I made just enough for me and the hubby and a two year old, but we finished it so feel free to add more!)
1 can cream of celery
1 8oz block of cream cheese softened and cut up into small chunks
1 can mild Rotel tomatoes (We use mild because it’s the only kind I like, but feel free to use whatever suits your fancy!)
1 packet ranch dressing mix powder (I think it’s 16 oz? You can just add as much as you want to flavor it with. I used the whole pack)
Dried spaghetti noodles

In a bowl combined all ingredients except the chicken. Place the chicken in a slow cooker heated on high and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic. Pour your creamy soup mixture over the chicken and cook on high for 3.5 hours stirring occasionally!  You can also cook it on low for 7 hours if you need more time. I actually cooked mine on high for 5 hours since that’s how long I was gone but the chicken was more than done. Just make sure your cream cheese has totally melted and combined with the rest of the sauce. Right before you  take your chicken mixture out of the pot cook your noodles per your package suggestions. Remove your noodles from the water, drain, and serve with a yummy amount of sauce on top! Be prepared to make again and again! 🙂

.hello. catching up

Hi guys! I’m still here! I promise! I let myself really slip this week but I promise I’ll be back on board on Monday! None of these quick ‘get to know me’ surveys, really honest to God interesting posts! I’ve got lots and lots to catch up on (included nearly 400 bloglovin posts! Oh my!) I had a 2 year old 3 days this week, a concert, and some photo sessions so I’ve been a busy little beaver! Tomorrow I have a baby shower and another photo session with 9 month old TWIN GIRLS! Love! Coming up next week I’ll be bragging telling you guys about the amazing time I had at the Tyler Hilton concert (lots of fabulous photos from that!), picking up some all natural cleaners and products to review from Natural Living Made Easy, sharing a Dark Knight Rises photo post from the midnight showing where my baby sister and her friend dressed up, throwing out a recipe or two, and giving you guys a little pick at Olive Photos, my photography business and baby. I’ll make sure it’s a great week to make up for this one! 🙂 I hope you all had such a fantastic week! I’m gonna leave you all with a photo of my little visitor from this past week! I absolutely adore babysitting. Having a child in the house just feels right. More on those plans as well! ❤

.hello. if you really knew me


-you’d know I’m either 15 minutes early or 30 minutes late!
-you’d know I start things with the best of intentions, but I get bored very easily.
-you’d know I love my furbabies more than I love most people in my life. They are my world. My kids have 4 legs. 🙂
-you’d know if I’m not between a 7 and a 3 on the emotional scale, I’m crying (sloths!)
-you’d know I love Disney movies and watch a VHS tape from my childhood at least once a week!
-you’d know I’d do anything to see my friends smile
-you’d know that I have major anxiety and I panic at the drop of a hat
-you’d know that I have the greatest husband in the world. I’m married to my best friend.
you’d know party planning is pretty much my favorite thing ever
-you’d know I love being a photographer and I don’t want to get a ‘big girl’ job any time soon
-you’d know I’m a book worm and can put away a book in a matter of hours if left alone
-you’d know I’m dying for a pixie cut, but I’m worried my face is too fat/round to pull it off
-you’d know I detest the taste of coffee and coffee flavored things, but I love the smell of coffee grounds!
-you’d know that I hate hate hate scary movies and anything with gore and violence.
-you’d know that I want to have the house as cold as possible when I sleep, because even though I get crazy overheated, I have to have a blanket on top of me when I’m laying down.
-you’d know that I love Alice in Wonderland and everything associated with it! I collect copies of the book and my first daughter’s name will be Alice!

If I really knew you, what would I know?

A big thank you to Janelle for the inspiration for this post! You’re adorable! ❤

.hello. ABCs

Another fabulous find from Laura over at playdrmom! I recently linked up to her post on positive parenting and I went back and saw this fantastic little ABC activity!  It’s a lifestyle blog, right? So you should here more about me and my life…style. lol Yep! So here’s a quick fun little ABCs of me post! I hope you follow suit and do the same! I’d love to read yours!

Age- 25, this birthday was a big one for me. I’m not a fan of the whole getting older thing, but we lived it up with a fantastic vacation to Gatlinburg with the hubby and an 80’s themed birthday party!

Bed (size)- Queen, but since I share it with a husband, 2 dogs, and a pig I am DYING for an upgrade! If it would fit we’d be Cali King people!

Chore you Hate- Laundry! I hate laundry with a passion! And mopping! Those are my least favorite two!

Dogs?- Two actually! Sabsastian, our sweet, tenderhearted maltipoo, and Samual, our rambunctious cuddle bug mini schnauzer!

Essential start of the day- I check my email and my FB as soon as I get up in the mornings. It’s really bad, but I do it anyway. I’m not a breakfast eater so I have nothing to share there.

Favorite Color- Currently my favorite colors are all combos. Grey/mustard and teal/white are leading the pack right now!

Gold or Silver?- Silver although I’m opening up to more gold. I really like that old brassy gold and rose gold too!

Height- 5 foot 3 aka Too short to reach anything at all.

Instrument- Ha! I wish! I’m not musical in the least. I spun a flag in high school for band, but I did do choir all throughout school so can my voice be an instrument?

Job- I currently work for myself as a photographer. I own Olive Photos. I shoot babies from birth (literally, coming into the world) all the way to engagements and building of the families! I love getting to know a family and getting to capture their milestones for them!

Kids- 4 furbabies. Sabastian and Samual that you heard about way back there on letter D as well as Simon our precious very demainding grey bunny and Sawyer our hilarious and picky potbelly pig! We’ve been trying to grow our family (human child wise) for 2 years now with no luck, but we start the IUI process in September (hopefully) so maybe 2 legged babies will soon follow! 🙂

Where do you Live?- In Sweet Home Alabama! Where we drink sweet tea and bless at least a few hearts every day!

Favorite Movie- I have so many, but I have to say Steel Magnolias will always and forever hold a spot in my heart.

Nickname- LJ, LB, Kid (the real name is Lauryn Brook Johnson if you are wondering about all the initials!)

Overnight hospital stay- Not since I was a little bit!

Pet Peeve- People who are rude and people who go really slow in WalMart while blocking the isle (I wanna get out of here!!!!)

favorite Quote- All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them. -Walt Disney

Right or left-handed?- Righty Tighty!

Siblings?  I have a baby sister ten years younger than me. She going into her freshman year of high school this fall!

Time it takes to get ready- If I’m going somewhere fancy (which is never) it’s probably about an hour because I’m just really slow at it. If it’s a normal day, like 10 minutes. No kidding.

Underwear- Yes. I wear it.

What makes you late? Facebook. I just get lost on it. If I’m not 15 minutes early I’m 30 minutes late!

Xrays you’ve had- Just ones for teeth and sinuses and lungs and such. 25 and I’ve never broken a bone!

Yummy food that you make- I’m casserole queen and I can bake like no bodies biznas!

favorite Zoo animal- I really like the giraffes! Monkeys are fun too!

Your turn! Show me whatcha got!