Friday, February 28, 2014

Peanut Post: You can teach a two year old to stir, but you can't keep her from snitching

So it's true, a two year old is more than capable of helping stir in the kitchen.  She can even go and get her own chair to push up to the counter.

Dishes like this pasta salad are great to let little ones help with - no heat, minimal mess, and lots of stirring.  (also lots of practice with colors and veggie recognition!)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Oatmeal Flaxseed Bars With Apricot Filling

While looking for a way to satisfy my need for sweet as well as my insane hunger pains, I decided to try my hand at oatmeal bars.  I had a can of Solo Apricot dessert filling just calling my name and I've been on a big oatmeal kick lately.  Not like mushy, hot cereal oatmeal, but more like crunchy granola, lots of texture oatmeal.  And flaxseeds.  I definitely love those little guys.  So, on a hungry, I-need-something-sweet afternoon, I made these oatmeal flaxseed bars with apricot filling.  They were perfect as an afternoon treat and a late morning snack the next day.  Here's how Mama makes it:

Oatmeal Flaxseed Bars with Apricot Filling

- 1 c. flour
- 1 1/4 c. rolled oats
- 3/4 c. brown sugar
- 1/2 t. baking soda
- 1/2 t. salt
- 1 T. sesame seeds
- 1 T. flaxseeds
- 1 1/2 sticks butter (slightly softened, at least not super cold)
- 12 oz. can apricot filling or preserves


1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a medium bowl, combine dry ingredients.

2.  Cut the butter into chunks and stir into dry ingredients (I used a pastry blender because my butter wasn't super soft - I would recommend letting the butter sit out at room temperature for a bit first).

3.  Grease an 8" square pan.  Press half the oatmeal mixture into the bottom of the pan. 

4.  Top with apricot preserves, and spread evenly.  Top with remaining oatmeal mix, press together to make sure the mixture sticks together when baking.  Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes.  (My oven was cooking a little cool, so I turned the temp up to 375 degrees and cooked them an extra 5 minutes to brown them up a little more - if you like it extra crispy, I would recommend it!)

5.  Allow bars to cool completely, then cut into squares and enjoy!

Monday, February 24, 2014

About Aboo: Another Milestone - The Dreaded Support Belt

Dear Emelina,

Well kiddo, we've reached another milestone - today I finally gave in to wearing the support belt.  On the plus side, it means you're growing bigger and I'm getting closer to meeting you.  On the other hand, it means I'm getting bigger and more and more uncomfortable.  Especially on these 13 hour work days.  Or maybe the day after the 13 hour work day where your big sister wants to be carried/snuggled/played with by running from hyenas and sitting on the floor to play.  I haven't decided which wears me out more.  Either way, I decided after my vacation last week that it was definitely time to break out the ole support belt.  And after wearing it all day, I have to say, UGH.  Sure, it helps support the belly, and yes my legs might be just a little less sore, but man does it get old!  For one, it takes me awhile to get it adjusted and to do so, it makes a super loud velcro noise.  And I swear just when I get it to a comfortable but still effective position, I have to use the bathroom.   Grrrrr.  Also, I'm pretty sure you're not a fan because you kicked in protest for about 20 minutes after I first put it on.  Or maybe that was because I dropped half of my bagel in the car this morning...

Anyway, in case you were wondering, I use this belt by Gabriella and despite all your mama's complaining today, it's a really good belt (give me a break, it's my first Monday back after a week vacation).  I usually wear it between my undershirt and sweater so it's not even noticable, especially by the time I add a white coat over that.  Silver lining?  NO COMPRESSION SOCKS YET!

Mini-vent session aside, I can't believe we're to this point already!  Just one milestone closer to the big one in June (or late May, I won't blame you for being prompt like Peanut).  Daddy tells me I look huge, or sometimes just that I am huge (quite the smooth talker your Daddy, right?).  Peanut swears I have three baby bumps and looks at me all confused when I try to convince her that just the belly is a baby.  Grandma Cindy and I started going through all of Annalyn's old clothes this week (plus a few new ones just for you!) to get them ready for your arrival (yes, I do plan ahead, please embrace it).  I spent a whole night clearing out two of Annalyn's drawers and one of the closet racks just for you.  On the one hand, I'm insanely excited for teeny tiny baby clothes, shoes, hats, and gowns, but on the other hand, I'm getting a bit overwhelmed thinking of adding bottles and bibs and burp clothes and more diapers to chaos that is our home.  But I suppose that's what makes a house a home - the chaotic beautiful messes that show it's lived in by soon-to-be four people and two dogs.  I can only imagine that you and I will have this same conversation about your home someday and the craziness that only comes with motherhood.  But my hormones can't handle thinking about my daughters being grown-ups or mothers or homeowners or even kids (though I'm starting to realize how quickly it happens as we plan to move Annalyn out of the crib and into a big girl bed - we figure the last thing she needs is more ammo against you.  Best to get her out now before you take over...).  Guess that just gives me all the more reason to savor every little moment of your teeny tiny-ness!  15 more weeks, Boo baby!!  Feel free to ease up on the nausea and the kicks to the bladder at 2:30 am (seriously, like clockwork, every night!).  But keep the wiggles, nudges, and belly rolls coming - even if Peanut did kick you back that time she felt it.  I promise I'll try hard to control her better :)

Love you like crazy little one.


Thursday, February 20, 2014

White Almond Cupcakes with Cherry Filling

As I've mentioned before, Annalyn and I have been watching Cupcake Wars on TV every now and then.  It's a nice break from the usual cartoons she requests and usually leads to some snuggle time.  The downside?  She always wants cupcakes when it's over.  So this year when I asked her what she wanted for her birthday cake, it was no surprise that she said "pink cupcakes."  In an effort to make them a little more fun, I decided to make white almond sour cream cupcakes and bake the cherry filling into them.  I was a little nervous about baking the filling right in the cupcakes, but I'd done it before with muffins, so I figured it was worth a shot!  (And after this debacle, I needed to make up for some lost time!)  They turned out great and were a big hit.  It made enough batter that I could make Annalyn a little individual cake (from one of Great Grandma Eddie's old pans that she plays with) and a small 6" cake that I let her help decorate on her birthday.  We took half of them up to Emily and Aaron's for her first birthday celebration and froze the rest to take to my side the next weekend.  Here's how Mama makes it:

White Almond Cupcakes with Cherry Filling

Ingredients: (makes 24 cupcakes plus one 6" cake)
- 1 boxed cake mix (white)
- 1 c. flour
- 1 c. sugar
- 3/4 t. salt
- 4 egg whites
- 1 1/3 c. water
- 2 T. vegetable oil
- 1 c. sour cream
- 1 t. vanilla extract
- 1 t. almond extract
for the filling:
- 1 (30 oz.) can cherry pie filling
- 1/2 t. almond extract
for the icing:
- 3 sticks butter, softened
- 3/4 t. vanilla extract
- 3/4 t. almond extract
- 6 c. powdered sugar (1 1/2 lb.)
- 3 T. milk
- food coloring, as desired
- sliced almonds, sprinkles, and/or cherries to garnish

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Eat, Drink, Remember: Chocolate Banana Lasagna

Eat.Drink.Remember 2.19

Here's a recipe in honor of my BFF's momma's two favorite things - chocolate and coffee.  Since she passed away in 2008, her family and friends have been celebrating her life and legacy by indulging in chocolate and coffee on her birthday each year.   What a great way to keep her close - the people she loves enjoying the foods she loves.   This year, Annalyn and I went through the kitchen and concocted a fun new recipe to celebrate Remy's grandma - Chocolate Banana Lasagna (with a side of coffee, of course!).  Here's how Mama makes it:

Chocolate Banana Lasagna
Ingredients: (makes two servings)
- cooking spray
- 1 banana, sliced
- 1 T. honey
- 1 T. water
- sprinkle of cinnamon
- 3-4 T. mini chocolate chips
- chocolate syrup, for garnish
- 2 leftover lasagna noodles, cooked

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Peanut Post: 2 years old!!

My Dearest Annalyn,


Somehow I blinked and the calendar tells me you're TWO YEARS OLD TODAY!  Oh, man, this one feels so much older than 1 did.  Maybe because you're a running, talking, singing, "reading," opinionated little lady now.  I don't even know where to begin with an update.  You are changing and learning so quickly all of a sudden that it's hard to keep up.  So maybe I'll just tell you some of my favorite things about you at age 2:

we took these pics up in your room on the bed that will soon be yours
in your beloved purple birthday dress (from Gymboree)

1.  You like to read books to me now.  Apparently you were blessed with Mama's good memory, because you "read" (recite) page by page upwards of 7-8 different books now.  The other day, you recited the entire "You are my cupcake" book without even having the book in front of you.  It's so sweet to hear your rendition of what we've read to you and to watch you point and say "what's that?" expecting an answer because that's what we do with you.  My favorite is when you mess up a page on purpose, then say (for instance) "no silly, that's not the cutie pie!  That's a sweet pea!" 

2.  You can sing the ABC's.  And to be honest, you say it pretty clearly.  Sure WX is sometimes "double X, Y and Z" but you definitely get the gist of it these days.  I sang it to you every night for probably 2 weeks before you finally decided to sing along one night.  I was amazed how much you knew when you finally decided to try - and here I assumed you weren't paying attention.  Daddy says you just hate to be wrong like me, so you wait until you've mastered something to do it. 

3.  You love to sing and dance - like all the time!  Some of your favorite songs to sing are "Soft Kitty" (from The Big Bang Theory), "Old Mcdonald", "Skip to my lou" (especially while holding both Mama/Daddy's hands and skipping around the kitchen island), "Rockabye Baby" (which you sing to your baby dolls), and lots of other made-up songs and tunes you like to sing.  Dancing continues to be a favorite, especially in the kitchen with Daddy.  You like the more upbeat songs, but also like to slow dance when he picks you up.

4.  You love classic Disney cartoons.  We found a volume of old Disney cartoons on Netflix (as in they were old when I used to watch them as a kid!).  You love Lambert the Sheepish Lion and the Three Little Pigs (both of which your favorite parts are the big bad wolf... I kind of worry about you sometimes, kiddo.  Hopefully you're just trying to see the best in people, not rooting for the bad guys... yea, we'll go with that).  We like them because they are so much better than modern kid shows and they're each only about 8 minutes long, so it's an easy request to fulfill.

5.  You're starting to watch Disney movies with us.  Your hands down favorite is The Lion King (you spend a lot of your day running from hyenas or 'ninas' as you call them, looking through the house for ninas, talking about pushing your baby sister in a stroller to run from the ninas, etc.  Again, you have a soft spot for the bad guys...)  Along those lines, you've recently discovered Lilo & Stitch and like it simply because you're convinced that Stitch is a "baby blue nina" - we decided to let you have that one.  Another recent favorite was Brave and we laugh because the part of the movie you talk about all the time is the blue wisps in the woods.  You also like the bear, but the blue wisps definitely make the movie for your silly little self.

6.  You're learning to go on the potty!  Can we say one kid in diapers is enough?!  It's definitely a learning curve, but in general you're doing pretty good at home.  We really only put diapers on you for sleep or if we go out (mostly because we aren't yet dilligent or brave enough to try taking you out in training pants.  You did ask to go on the potty the other day while we were at lunch and sure enough, you did!  Maybe time for some pull-ups or some sort of compromise that won't ruin the carseat).  Some days are awesome and others are frustrating, but then you go on the potty, lean over for a hug and say "I'm so proud of you!" and all is well.


7.  At the ripe old age of 2, you've already mastered sarcasm.  And use it correctly.  It's hilarious and scary all at once. But makes for some pretty funny moments, especially in combination with your overabundance of facial expressions, voice inflections, and funny little sayings.  Funny having a little mirror of how we act/talk - you never realize what you say until you have a little parrot repeating it all the time. 

8.  You are the perfect combination of strong and girly.  You can fall/crash/tumble and not bat an eye, yet you love to wear dresses, paint your toes, put on "makeups", and strut around in your bright pink Nike shoes.  You baby your stuffed animals and dolls, hugging and kissing all over them, then tell us which animals are going to eat the others.  While admiring a monkey painted on the wall at your doctor's office, the nurse asked you if you liked it.  You petted his head, then proceeded to pretend to "eat" the monkey and turned to show us how you were chewing him up (too many documentaries with Daddy?).  Above all, you have this incredible confidence and carry yourself so proudly for such a little thing.  I really hope you never lose that. 

9.  You've become such a snuggle bug!  Lately you've gone from the girl who never sat/slowed down, to asking to cuddle under a blanket.  You will lay on my chest and watch cartoons or our latest mutual obsession - the Food Network (ladies cooking as you call it).  Like Mama, you like to watch The Pioneer Woman because there's always lots of kids and animals on the show.  You also really like Cupcake Wars but always end up wanting to eat/make some.  Which is why Mama made you cupcakes this year for your birthday.  Pink ones.

10.  You have the best favorite foods - Especially olives!  Green, black, kalamata, garlic stuffed, you name it!  Pretty sure between you and me we could finish an entire jar these days.  Daddy gave the subtle hint to slow down when he bought a jar of low sodium green olives.  You also like raw (and cooked) onions, "spicy pizza" (Jess taught you to eat jalapenos on your pepperoni/olive pizza), mustard on everything, and would probably eat ice cream five times a day if we let you.  Cheese is still your most requested food assuming you can't see the olives, and you really like to eat whole apples. On a date night with Daddy, you finished nearly a whole bowl of zuppa toscana at Olive Garden plus some of our pasta.  You ate the kale first, then the broth and sausage.  You still don't like potatoes much, but did eat a good part of Daddy's hashbrowns one day because they looked like shredded cheese.  Definitely have a unique pallet for a two year old!

11.  When asked what you wanted to do for your birthday, you replied, "I wanna go to Target again!"  What do you want to do there?  "I want to go see the red balls" (the giant concrete balls outside a lot of the Target stores around here).  "I want to kick 'em."  Well, that sounds easy enough.  I guess for our Mama-Peanut birthday date, we're going to Target!  Daddy likes the idea of just asking you what you want to do each year, and if feasible, making that happen for you.  Could certainly make for some interesting birthdays down the road!

All in all, it's been a big year for you, Peanut!  You mastered walking/running, talking, climbing, doing "tumbles," colors, following directions (though you choose not to most of the time), and singing songs.  You can carry on conversation like a real little person now - you have thoughts, feelings, opinions, and answers that we just never see coming.  You got to be a flowergirl in Uncle Travi's wedding.  You learned that you're going to be a big sister, but have no idea what it really entails yet.  You know places - home, Mommy's store, Daddy's school, Target, the zoo, and Grandma/Grandpas' houses.  You know all the special people in your life - Mama, Daddy, Mickey, Grandma/Papa, Grandma/Grandpa Eddie, Lindsey, Aunt Emmy/Uncle Aaron, Travi/Mal, Josh/Ravelle/Chloe, Brian/Shannon/Theo/Eli (you especially love seeing/looking at pics of your three cousins), Shawna/Dan/Remy, Jess/Derek, Jeff/Kinzie (those past few you always expect to see in pairs), Uncle Fun (Andrew), Aunt Tammy (my partner at work), and all of their dogs by name.  You bounce when you walk and it's often described as "walking with a purpose."  I just love that phrase to describe you.  Even now, it seems like everything you say/do has such a sense of purpose.  It's like you know exactly what you want and are figuring out how to get it.  You're a little problem solver already and are drawn to the spotlight - you can hold the focus of a whole group of people with your storytelling alone.   Sure this is coming from your mama, but you are truly a beautiful little person, inside and out.  Each year might bring more challenges, but that's what makes us who we are.  Embrace the challenge, baby.  I'm pretty sure my little wolf cub can take it ;) 

To quote one of your latest favorite books,
"I love you through and through. 
Yesterday, today, and tomorrow, too."

Happy birthday, sweetheart.


Friday, February 14, 2014

Making Mama Moment: Realizing I'm not the only one in my kitchen

Let me set the scene of this discovery for you...

I woke up early, did my hair/makeup, got dressed in something other than pajama-like maternity clothes...

Peanut woke up, I got her dressed and braided her hair, we took a few pictures using the timer on the camera...

We went to my OB appointment and listened to tummy baby, then out to lunch...

After a busy morning, it was finally nap time for Peanut and I decided to get a head start on making her bday cupcakes...

I put on an apron, not wanting to get flour  on my belly that officially hangs over the counter, and started mixing up some white almond cupcakes...

Into my mixer bowl went all the dry ingredients, I gave em a quick whisk then in went the wet ingredients, including my last teaspoon of almond extract...

Just like I've done a hundred times before, I attached the bowl and plugged in my mixer...

Only to have myself, counters, floors, and entire kitchen covered in cake batter...

It was in my hair.

It was on my carefully picked outfit (I was already bummed that Michael and I were finally going to a Butler game and none of my BU shirts fit over the belly).

It was covering the floor, sticky as all get out.

It was caked on my counters, mixer, cabinets, fridge, and even my camera strap. 

The mixer was set all the way to 10...

I've never EVER used that setting...

But guess who loves to stand on a chair and "help" me cook lately...

You guessed it - my crazy Peanut. 

I could've taken a picture to show you, but you've all seen it on cartoons. I was shocked, upset, angry (at myself), humbled, and did I mention upset?

Not how I wanted to spend my free time and definitely not how I wanted my baking time to go.  Now I was left with a giant mess, no cupcake ingredients to start over, and limited time before Annalyn woke up and we had to leave for the game.  Michael of course had a dentist appointment so no help there for awhile. 

Grrr... Talk about a frustrating lesson to learn!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

About Aboo: Things I'm Most Excited & Scared For With Baby #2

I'm sure every mama says it, but every pregnancy is truly different.  Whether you're talking about symptoms, growth, emotions, or timelines, I'm willing to bet no two pregnancies are identical.  So when asked if this pregnancy is as fun/scary/exciting/nerve-wracking, I have to say, "yes."  Don't get me wrong, there's a definite difference in a first and second pregnancy, but it's no less amazing.  Every little milestone is still exciting because it means we're one step closer to baby.  It did make for an interesting reflection though: 

What am I most excited and scared for this time around?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Semi-Homemade Runzas

Here's a delicious food that only a select few of my readers will have ever heard of - runzas.  Where my parents grew up in Nebraska, Runza restaurants are about as common as Taco Bell.  Runzas are meat pockets made with beef and cabbage.  May sound a bit strange, but trust me people, these are to die for!  Traditional runzas are pretty much just bread, beef, cabbage, and onion, but you can make lots of different varieties by adding spices, cheeses, and veggies.  I love this recipe because it reminds me of the place my parents still call home (though they haven't lived there in 30 years).  Honestly, with most of my extended family there, it pretty much feels like home to me, too.  If only it weren't so darn far away!  Since I've been craving these like crazy lately, and Michael decided it probably wasn't feasible to drive to Nebraska and back over a cold, snowy weekend, I decided to try my hand at making my own.  This is a pretty simple cheese runza recipe using frozen bread dough, but I also included some of our favorite variations.  They also freeze and reheat perfectly, so it's an awesome make-ahead meal.  Here's how Mama makes it:

Semi-Homemade Runzas

Ingredients: (I actually doubled this, and used 5 loaves of bread - I had plenty of the meat mixture for all 15-16 of them!)
- 2 loaves frozen bread dough
- 1 lb. ground beef
- 1/2 head cabbage, chopped/shredded
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 1/2 t. salt
- 1 1/2 t. pepper
- 1/2 t. garlic salt
- 2 t. sugar
-1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
for a spicy twist on the classic:  use pepperjack cheese and add jalapenos
for the cheeseburger version:  add chopped pickles (or relish), bacon, and ketchup

Monday, February 10, 2014

Peanut Post: Peanut's First Playdough

Hey guys, Peanut here.  You'll never guess what Mama and I did this week - we made playdough!  It was so easy that Mama even let me help make it, so I let her help play with it afterwards.   Mama says she found the recipe on Pinterest, but apparently there are a lot to choose from.  We just went for a simple, easy to make one with no coloring or glitter or anything else crazy to make a mess (Mama and Daddy liked that part).  It was also easy to make and stays soft in the fridge.  Here's how Peanut and Mama made it:

Peanut's Playdough


- 1/2 c. salt
- 1 c. flour
- 1 T. cream of tartar
- 1 T. oil
- 1 c. boiling water

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Buffalo Chicken Wraps

Here's a quick and easy favorite that's always a crowd pleaser.  It seems almost sacrilegious for me to make it with ranch instead of bleu cheese, but for next 4 month or so, I'm stuck with these wonderful pregnancy eating rules, including no unpasteurized cheeses.  In the meantime, here's how Mama makes it:

Buffalo Chicken Wraps

Ingredients: (makes 4 wraps)
- 4-5 breaded or grilled buffalo chicken strips, cooked and chopped
- 1 cup packed spring mix greens
- 1/2 c. shredded carrots
- 4 stalks celery, chopped
- 4 spinach tortilla wraps
- low fat ranch or bleu cheese dressing, maybe even some bleu cheese crumbles if you're feeling really crazy