Friday, December 11, 2015

2015 Christmas Card Letter

Merry Christmas, everyone!

It's that holly jolly time of year when I take a minute (or two or twenty...) to reflect on the year and the coming holiday season.  Last Christmas was our first as a family of four, and aside from being completely overwhelmed and exhausted, it was wonderful.  Emma started crawling on Christmas Eve after posing with a carrot and realizing her sister had a plate of cookies (talk about motivation!).  Annalyn was finally starting to understand some of the magic and joy of the season, and made it so special for all of us.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Banoffee Pudding

Remember this crazy delicious banoffee pie that I made (and then made again about 823,304,329 times...)?  Well, when we had an abundance of ripe bananas, I decided to make banana pudding. You know, the traditional wafer cookie, banana slices, and pudding all layered together in a pretty trifle bowl.  Then I added cinnamon to the cream before I whipped it, because well, who doesn't like a little cinnamon with everything banana (really? Just me?).  That one little change instantly reminded us of my cinnamon whipped cream topped banoffee pie.  So I did what any self-respecting cook would do - I made another batch and tweaked it some more until this recipe was born.  Instead of plain sweetened condensed milk, I used dulce de leche (or in my case, boiled sweetened condensed milk for about 2 hours until it made dulce de leche).  Again, I added some cinnamon to the cream and layered in some mini chocolate chips.  It was heavenly.  Go ahead, try it - here's how Mama makes it:

Banoffee Pudding

- 1 large package instant vanilla pudding (about 2/3 c. mix)
- 1 1/2 c. water
- 1 (14 oz) can dulce de leche* 
- 3 c. heaving whipping cream
- 1 t. cinnamon
- 1 box vanilla wafers
- 5 ripe bananas, sliced
- 1/3 c. mini chocolate chips
*(or sweetened condensed milk, boiled in the can for 2-2.5 hours)

Friday, November 27, 2015

Three Ingredient Homemade Dog Cookies

Well, my friends, the holiday season is here! Time to get started stocking up the freezer and cookie jars with goodies to celebrate this warm, snugly time of year.  This Christmas, don't forget your furry friend!  (Or your friends'/family's furry friends who are visiting!)  Here's a super easy recipe for cutout dog cookies that are easy to whip up, and great for little helpers to practice their cookie making skills (just think - cookies minus the egg, minus caring what it ends up looking like = Perfect for the kiddos!  And because lets be honest, Fido doesn't care if the candy cane is uneven and crooked).  They also make a great addition to hostess gifts (because you're invading their houses,too). You can use any kind of baby food, just be sure to check that its ingredients are safe for dogs to eat (a few good ones are sweet potato, carrot, pea, green beans, apple, banana).  You could even substitute peanut butter.  Here's how Mama makes it:  

Three Ingredient Homemade Dog Cookies

- 2 c. rolled oats
- 1 medium ripe banana
- 4 oz. sweet potato baby food

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Emelina's 18 month update

Happy Half Birthday, little Emma!  In the craziness of preparing for the holidays, I almost missed that fact that your half birthday was coming up.  I've been saying you're "a year and a half" for a couple months now because it just saves time, but you are officially halfway to being a two year old.  Cue the waterworks, dread, and cringing on my end.  Two was not an easy age for your sister, and with your current temper, I'm guessing it won't be easy for you either. 

Your newest favorite word is "NOW."  As in, "milk, NOW" or "mine, NOW" or "Dobby, NOW."  (By the way, Dobby is your pet name for Grandma Cindy.  We have no clue how/why you went from not saying anything, to somewhat attempting "Grandma" to "Dobby," but we've accepted that it's a thing, at least for now.) 

You are talking up a storm lately, saying just about anything that comes to your mind, or out of your sister's mouth (you two are thick as thieves and you've become quite the little sidekick these days). Most of what you say is pretty easy to understand, but some of it would be lost on someone other than our family.  "Thank you" and "Please" are always big crowd pleasers, especially when you drag out the Thaaaank yoooooou's. You call Anna "Sissy" which is super sweet.

Size - mostly 18 month and some of Annalyn's old 24 month clothes.  Size 5.5 shoes.

Teeth- between month 17-18 you decided to fill out almost your entire bottom set of teeth, plus your top molars!  Poor, poor girl.

- starting to learn colors (you know pink, blue, and yellow pretty well and sometimes purple and green, too), though you will also argue that something is "pink" when the rest of us would call it orange.  Maybe you just hate being wrong...
- walking down stairs (scares me to death, but especially outside where we only have a couple stairs, you insist on doing them yourself)
- tons of new words, too many to list. Small sentences, usually 3-4 words max. 
- climb up and go down slides on your own at the park

- books - Duck & Goose, You Are My Cupcake, I Love You Through and Through, You Are My Sunshine
- shows - Minnie Mouse, Wally Kazaam ("Waaaalleee"), Sofia the First ("Fia"), Charlie Brown ("Brown")
- foods- pizza, cake, cheese, pancakes, any fruit, most veggies, goldfish crackers, quesadillas
- activities - bath time, playing outside, watching baby videos on our phones, coloring/painting, trying on mama's shoes and sissy's dresses, spinning in circles (aka dancing), helping us cook, climbing in boxes/baskets/hampers/etc.
- clothes - Fia dress (which is any and all princess dresses), socks, anything with a cat on it, shoes, your apron, hats (which also includes your bike helmet in your book)

- being told no
- fighting with Anna (it really hurts your feelings when she gets mad at you)
- sharing
- crowds, strangers, most people in general
- your first ear infection - got your first antibiotic on your half birthday.  Poor girl!  You are at least really good about taking the medication.
- being away from us/Annalyn, especially if you're being left
- dogs, especially giant ones.  We're working on that...

best part of decorating?  The tree box!

Overall, this is my favorite of your stages yet!  Your unique blend of growly, sweet, sassy, crazy, shy, independent, and cuddly is adorable.  I can't even tell you how much it means to me that you and Annalyn love each other so much.  Sure makes me understand the big sis/little sis roles better!  Oh, and did I mention that you say "I love you" now?  Sometimes even "I love you, too."  Seriously, just try to get any cuter, Emma.  I don't think it's possible.

Love you so MUCH,


Friday, November 20, 2015

Slow Cooker Turkey Breast with Gravy

Here's a super simple way to make turkey and gravy if you only need to serve about 6-8 people or less.  Maybe you live away from family and are having a small Thanksgiving meal. Maybe you have to work on Thanksgiving so you don't have all day to tend to and baste a perfectly roasted bird. Maybe you have only a few people that like turkey and the rest want ham. This is a great way to free up the oven and make turkey and gravy all at once!  I made it this week with a small 3 lb. turkey breast as an easy weeknight meal.  Based on this recipe, here's how Mama makes it:

Slow Cooker Turkey Breast with Gravy

- 3 T butter
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/3 c. Flour
- 3 c. Chicken stock
- 2 sprigs Rosemary 
- 4-5 sage leaves
- 1 t. Thyme (dried or fresh)
- 1 bay leaf
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 3-8 lb turkey breast (bone in or boneless)
- 2 T. Cornstarch

Friday, October 30, 2015

Making Mama's Kitchen with a 3.5 and 1.5 year old

Every couple years, it seems like I'm struck with the realization that my kitchen is once again changing.  Not just the physicality of it, like new appliances, new flooring, or in this case, new house, but also the feeling of it.  When I first revamped my blog from "Ashley's Kitchen" to "Making Mama's Kitchen," Annalyn was only about 5 months old and I was astounded at how our kitchen had been taken over by bottles, drying racks, and baby bathtubs.  I could see that my kitchen would never be "mine" again. (post)

As Annalyn got older, she hit the I-want-to-help-with-everything stage and learned how to push the kitchen chairs up to our island to help me cook.  I embraced the change, and learned valuable lessons like, don't fill the mixer bowl and plug it in without checking first to see if she's pulled the knob all the way to high (see post here).  My mother-in-law made us matching aprons and we even used a sweet baking photoshoot to announce that I was pregnant with Emma.

Monday, October 26, 2015


Our little Emma, you are talking up a storm lately!  Honestly, from the moment you wake up yelling "Mom-meeee, Dad-deeee! Up, up, UUUUPP!" you are a little chatterbox.  Your doctor asked me how many words you were saying at your last appointment and I couldn't even put a number to it.  Um, anything and everything?  You repeat, you demand, you mimic, you even put together little sentences.  It's crazy.  I wrote a post a month or so ago on my current favorite word, "too", but I felt the need to write a follow up now that I have a new one.  Though "too" is still as precious as ever, I must say that "much" has taken its top spot.

You see, your current bedtime routine goes something like this (when you're not trying to get 5 teeth at a time and a little possessed, of course):

1 - brush teeth with Sissy (another contender for favorite word - "Sis-see")
2 - put on pajamas and/or nighttime diaper and sleep sack (Daddy does this one a lot because to this day, you fight me like crazy when I change you.  By the end of the night, my hands usually can't keep up, especially on work days.)
3 - kiss Daddy and Annalyn goodnight
4 - grab blankie and baby, read books with Mama in the rocker.  You are very specific about which book and the order, though it isn't always constant (makes it very difficult!).  Lately, you are obsessed with the Duck & Goose books.
5 - after reading 3-5 books, you get to flip the light switch, then we sit back in the rocker to snuggle and sing "twinkle" and "pur-pur" (which you always demand, oftentimes switching midsong) aka Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and Soft Kitty from Big Bang Theory that is your favorite thanks to Anna singing it to you any time you're upset since birth.
6 - once you've had enough of my singing, you look up, say "tiss" (kiss), plant one on me, then proclaim "ni-night, ni-night" in your all-business tone.  I stand up and squeeze as I tell you goodnight and "I love you sooooo much!"  This usually elicits a giggle and the single cutest word in your ever-growing vocabulary:  "MUCH."

I'm not really sure why "much" is the word you chose to start repeating, but it melts my heart.  At first it was unique to Mama, but now you'll say it to Daddy, too.

Needless to say, we love you so MUCH.



Friday, October 16, 2015

Russian Black Bread Crackers

Here was the train of thought that lead me to this recipe:

"I wonder how hard it is to make homemade crackers... It can't be that hard, right?"<looks up several recipes for crackers>

"This doesn't look so hard, I'm going to try it... I HAVE to try this."

<random thought creeps in> "I bet I could make a cracker out of Grandpa's Russian black bread recipe... Rye, molasses, coffee, chocolate..." (recipe)

"And what to put on top of the cracker? Well, Grandpa always liked cream cheese on the bread, so that would be good... Or butter, you can't go wrong with butter. But not stick butter, the soft whipped kind..."

"Ah-hah! I'll make my own butter! Fresh  soft butter, that will do it justice!" <see how to make butter post here>

And without further random thoughts, here's how Mama makes Russian black bread crackers:

Russian black bread crackers 

Yield:  about 3 dozen crackers
- 1 stick of butter
- 1 c. Rye flour
- 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
- 1/4 t. Salt (if using unsalted butter)
- 1 t. Sugar
- 1 T. Instant coffee
- 1 t. Crushed fennel
- 2 t. Cocoa powder
- 3 T. Molasses

Thursday, October 15, 2015

How to Make Butter

Until I had done it myself, I would have never imagined how easy it is to make your own butter.  All you need is some heavy cream, a little salt, and a mixer and in a matter of minutes, you have fresh homemade butter.  From there, you can obviously add things like honey/cinnamon, garlic/herbs, etc. to make flavored butter spreads.  For today, we stuck to the basic, lightly salted butter.  It was a great learning opportunity for Annalyn - we talked about what goes in the bowl (cream, salt), where cream comes from, what we do to the cream to make it into butter, and what we call the liquid that comes off when the butter forms (buttermilk - pancakes, anyone?).  Emma liked to be picked up to see each step, too, but her favorite part was definitely sampling the end product on saltine crackers (and later our homemade crackers.)  Here's how Mama makes fresh, creamy, 2-ingredient butter:

Homemade Butter

- 2 c. heavy whipping cream
- 1/4 t. salt (optional)

yields:  1 c. butter plus 1 c. buttermilk

Friday, October 9, 2015

Apple Cider Coffee Cake

Here's a fun fall twist on one of my favorite family recipes, my mom's coffee cake.  The way I see it, you can never go wrong with adding apples to any baked good during the fall and winter months. I made this one in honor of the apple trees Michael planted for me as a birthday gift. Starting a home orchard has been a dream of mine for awhile now and I can't wait to use our own apples for fall baking here in a few years! But for now, here's how Mama makes apple cider coffee cake:

Apple Cider Coffee Cake

- 1 c. sugar
- 5 T. shortening
- 1/2 t. salt
- 1 egg
- 1/2 c. apple cider
- 1/4 c. milk
- 1 1/2 c. flour
- 1 1/2 t. baking powder
for the topping:
- 1/4 c. sugar
- 1/4 c. brown sugar
- 1 t. cinnamon
- 1 T. flour
- 2 T. cold butter
- 1 apple, peeled and finely chopped
 (I actually made 1 and 1/2 times this recipe in a 9x13" pan since my whole family was visiting)

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Annalyn the Time Traveler

Today, we dabbled in time travel. Not sure the exact year, but I'm guessing 1969ish, when my mom was 5 and wearing this dress :) 
I wonder if she was as equally cute and curious as her granddaughter. Something tells me yes...

Monday, September 14, 2015


My little Emma is quite the chatterbox these days.  All of a sudden, her language development is taking off.  She parrots everything we say, in addition to saying so many words on her own (I couldn't even count them when her doctor asked).  Words like "shoulder" and "elbow" are pretty cute to hear her attempt, words like "pink" make me sad that she's hit the princess stage so soon, and words like "kiss!" are just precious.  But I have to say, of all her words right now, "too" is my favorite.  ("Wal-ly!" for Wally Kazaam is a close second.)

Annalyn asks for a snack and Emma runs over saying "too!"

Annalyn puts on a dress and Emma pulls one out of her (or Anna's) drawer, "too, too!"

Annalyn sits down to put her shoes on and Emma brings me hers "Too, shoes, too!"

Annalyn pulls a chair over the island to help me cook, and you guessed it, Emma follows "tooooo!"

Annalyn gets a book off her shelf and Emma reaches up "too! Goose, too!" (Duck & Goose is her favorite book series at the moment.)

I've started realizing that I naturally address Annalyn first, then when Emma pipes in, I respond with "you, too, Em?"  That probably explains her latest "too" trend. That and the fact that little Emma is obviously pretty smitten with her big sis.  They are best buds and little rivals at the same time.

It's so different seeing the big/little sis roles from a mom's point of view. As a kid, I always hated when my little sister (5.5 years younger) insisted on copying everything I did/said/wore/etc. Now, of course, I think it's adorable and I can see how much she loves and adores Annalyn.  Sorry, Linz, I didn't understand back then.  Love you, too. ;)

Tired, Hired, & Admired: What I "knew" about myself at 30 when I was 18

As I come up on my 30th birthday, I can't help but reminisce about how much I've always looked forward to being 30. Opposite of most people, I couldn't wait to grow up at age 18.  I was tired of high school life.  Not like most people my age who just wanted to "break free" from their parents- my parents are great.  I was just itching for what came next.  I'm one of those people who always has a plan, always has a list, and always looks ahead.  It's one of my biggest strengths and at the same time, something I have to constantly remind myself to temper. One way that I've found to help appease this urge to always be moving forward is to take a moment to look back.  Look at where I was, where I hoped to be, and how far I've come.  Even if I'm not exactly what or who I always thought I would be by age 30, I am awfully grateful and proud of these 30 years.  Here's what 18 year old Ashley, in all my infinite wisdom, "knew" about me at 30: 

high school graduation
18 years old

Friday, September 11, 2015

Runza Casserole

Remember when I made these runzas because I had a major craving for one and Michael wouldn't drive 11 hours each way to get one?  Yea, well, still not feasible apparently.  If anyone has a private jet they could loan me on a whim a few times a year when I really need a runza, I'd really appreciate it.  I'll even pay you in pie.

Oooooor, we can make a runza casserole, says the logical, practical, realistic mama in me.  This is about as easy of a "runza" as I can come up with.  For about 30 minutes of prep time and 20 minutes of cooking time, you can have a runza-esque dinner!  Just like regular runzas, you can get creative and personalize them.  My suggestions:  cheeseburger runza - add ketchup/mustard, bacon, and pickles; spicy runza - pepperjack cheese and jalapenos; mushroom swiss runza - swiss cheese and mushrooms.  You get the picture!  I decided to start with the classic cheese runza since it's always a hit, and it did not disappoint.  Here's how Mama makes it:

Runza Casserole

Ingredients: (makes 6 servings)

- 2 tubes refrigerated crescent rolls (get the dough sheets if you can find them, they don't have the perforations!)
- 1 lb. ground beef
- 2 c. chopped cabbage
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 1 t. salt
- 1/2 t. black pepper
- 1/2 t. garlic salt
- 2 t. sugar
- 1 c. shredded cheese

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Basil & Spinach Pesto

Do you ever find yourself with an overabundance of basil?  After making many a caprese salad, two big batches of these strawberry tarts, several glasses of blueberry basil lemonade, a couple watermelon orzo salads, and these beautiful lasagna roll-ups, I still had more basil than I knew what to do with this summer.  Especially since my tomatoes haven't done so hot this year.

Hmm, what to do with lots of extra basil....

Uh, make pesto, of course!  And then make some more (it actually freezes well, too!).

Pesto is great as a pasta sauce (leave about 1/2 c. cooking liquid in with the pasta before stirring it in), as a dipping sauce for veggies, to top chicken, or as a quick appetizer with some crackers.  I like to use half basil, half spinach to tone down the basil flavor a little for the kiddos and also add some dark green leafy veggies (always a plus in my book).  Here's how Mama makes it:

Basil & Spinach Pesto

- 1 c. packed basil leaves
- 1 c. packed baby spinach
- 1/3 c. pine nuts
- 1/2 c. parmesan cheese, grated
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1/2 c. olive oil
- 1/2 t. salt (or to taste)
- 1/4 t. freshly ground black pepper
- pinch of paprika, optional

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Convos with Peanut: The National Anthem

We were sitting at the dinner table, waiting for Emma to be done eating and Michael was telling Annalyn about our national anthem.  He started singing it line by line and asking her to repeat it.  Somewhere after "the dawn's early light", Peanut chimed in with a loud, drawn out, very emphatic, "AND THE DRAAAA-GON!!!"

Anyone who's seen How I Met Your Mother would understand why we lost it, despite our best efforts.  (No, my kids don't watch sitcoms, they just pick up catch phrases from us.) Then we explained that the dragon doesn't belong in this song, but I think it was a little lost on our three year old who was cracking herself up.  Even Emma was laughing (she didn't know or care why).  Man, our kids are weird.  Awesome, but weird.  I hope all of your kids are weird, too, so they can be friends.  Otherwise, it will just be my two little weirdos against the world. And the world won't stand a chance...

Friday, August 28, 2015

2 Minute Apple Crisp

Is anyone else loving this fall(ish) weather?  I sure am!  (Even if it's going to be near 90 next week...) I couldn't resist making something reminiscent of fall food, but since we've been trying hard to eat healthy, I didn't want to completely splurge on something like pie.  So I opted for this super easy apple crisp-type snack (for under 200 calories!).  All you need is an apple, a little cinnamon, and a handful of granola (I used pre-made this time, but I think it'd be extra yummy with this homemade granola with dried cherries/cranberries).  Here's how Mama makes it:

2 Minute Apple Crisp

Ingredients: (per 1 serving)
- 1 Apple, sliced
- 2-3 T. Water
- 1/4 t. Cinnamon
- 1/4 c. Granola
Optional - feel like splurging? Top with a scoop of ice cream! Feel like splurging big time? Top the ice cream with caramel syrup. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Peanut Post: Three and a half!

Wake up, little girl, it's yellow day at preschool! 
Flashback to her first half birthday :)

About Annalyn at 3.5 years:
  You are our little sour patch kid - sour and sweet all at once.  You can be the sweetest, most genuine kid ever, then turn around and throw a major fit or push your sister down for no reason.  I'm told this is normal for your age, but it makes Daddy and me crazy. On the way home from Georgia we heard Faith Hill's "Wild One" and laughed about how well it describes you at this age - "when she was three years old on her daddy's knee, he said you can be anything you want to be... She's a wild one, runnin' free."  You, of course, now love the song about the wild little girl.

You love sleepovers on the rare occasion I let you sleep in bed with me, but kick and turn all night long.  Your latest thing is that you want every day to be "special."  Either a special event, special treat, special trip, or a special privilege (like staying up late or sleeping with mom).  I've tried to reason with you that if every day is special, no day is, but I think you're a little too young for that one.
You love, love, LOVE, to role play and we are constantly being told "who we are" at the moment. Usually, you are "mommy when she was a little girl," Emma is either "Uncle Travi" or "baby Lindsey", and we are "Grandma and Papa."  Sometimes we are various Frozen characters : you - Anna, me - Elsa, Dad - Kristoff, Emma - little troll.  Other times, you're Tarzan, and we are your gorilla family.  You get the picture - rarely are we Mama, Daddy, Annalyn, and Emma.

You desperately want friends.  Getting to see Remy, cousins, or the neighbor kids is a huge treat and you relish every second.  After two days of preschool, you tell me that Lily and Charlie are your friends and you also like the Spiderman boy that was wearing boots.  Oh my.
with cousin, Eliza, before the party (bridal shower)

You love dinosaurs and don't understand why they don't live anymore.  When I tried to explain it to you, you got sad and cried.  Then we saw a big t-rex statue along the interstate on our way down south and you proclaimed, "SEE, I TOOOOLD YOU THEY WERE STILL ALIVE!!!"  You also believe in mermaids and magic.  We decided to just stop arguing about those and let you have them for now.  On the other hand, you can tell us what makes an animal a mammal (babies in the mommy's tummy, drink mommy's milk, and fur), the difference between carnivores, omnivores, and herbivores, and the names of most dinosaurs we see in books or on TV (like parasaurolophus?  Really, that's a thing?  Are you sure she's not making it up?)

Reading remains one of your favorite things to do.  You will sit for 30 minutes at a time, flipping through various books, magazines, catalogues, etc.  Several of them, you can recite from memory. Dr. Seuss is your latest obsession.
PBK catalogues are a good alternative to Dr. Seuss, right?

Chasing birds "catching" butterflies (you never actually do), and finding spiders are a few of your favorite outdoor activities lately.  We've found some little frogs and toads, too, and you like to poke at them but won't pick them up.  Instead, you make Emma, who is all too willing to oblige.

weight - 35 lbs.
height - 3 ft. 3.5 in.
sizes - shoe size 8-8.5, clothing size 4T (with some 3T and some 4 mixed in after a big growth spurt this summer)


preschool - Started preschool last week.  You go a couple times a week for a couple hours at a time.  The first day, you did awesome.  Jumped out of the car with your teacher, high-fived me through the window and bounced on in.  When I picked you up, you proudly exclaimed, "I had a good day at preschoooool!"  The second day, not so lucky - when I picked you up, the teacher said you had "a sad day" and missed your mom.  So we had several talks about how preschool is a time to play with your friends, learn new things, and do crafts and afterwards you get to see mama. Third day was somewhere in between. Apparently not as easy of a transition as I expected after your first day...


potty training - mostly done, still pull-ups at bedtime since you don't always wake up dry.  We took them away at naptime this summer and have only had a couple small accidents since.

dressing yourself - including shoes, you can dress yourself now.  Not that you always want to or will, but you definitely can.

why yes, that is shorts over a skirt over a romper

obviously, you have great style/taste

first dentist appointment - you had your first dentist appointment this summer and did great.  You listened to everything they said and asked you to do and had perfect sparkly teeth.  You and Emma do really like to brush your teeth, so I'm not surprised.

first trip to the ocean - as you've seen in previous posts, you made it to the ocean before you were 4.  Lucky duck!  It took me until I was 20 and on my honeymoon to see it.  You really liked running into the water, then running away from the waves as they came crashing in.

You are so incredibly smart, manipulative, sweet, stubborn, hilarious, sensitive, honest, sarcastic, goofy, sincere, ornery, and silly.  I can't think of a better way to describe it, though sometimes I just say you are me, with a double dose of Daddy.  I'll let you decide whom to attribute each of those traits.  Love you, too, Peanut.  I know, I know, it's Annalyn.  Oh, wait, Tarzan?  Oooook.  Love you, little Tarzan ;)


Mommy Gorilla