Funny Valentines and Sugar Cookies

04.12.2016 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

I have baked these soft sugar heart-shaped cookies with the kiddos for the past three Valentine’s Day. And I’ve never blogged the recipe. So, even though, it’s April, we’re going to travel back in time to February. (2013 | 2014 | 2015)

First up, a sweet Valentine’s Day party at Sam’s preschool. They sang songs, gave heart mobiles as gifts, and indulged in lots of red and pink treats.

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Daddy even got to sneak out of the office for 45 minutes to join us.

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That evening we headed to Dover to celebrate the rest of the holiday with Nini and Poppy. My mother didn’t disappoint with her selection of decadent desserts.

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And we treated her to a nice dinner: scallops over risotto with green beans. Because sometimes it’s fun to feel fancy.

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On Sunday, we played our tenth game of Valentine’s Day Bingo. And then we baked cookies.

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Soft Sugar Cookies with Buttercream Frosting

Ingredients for Cookies

  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 5 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Ingredients for Buttercream Frosting

  • 3/4 cup butter, room temperature
  • 3 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 3-4 Tbsp heavy cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • food coloring and sprinkles

Directions

  1. With an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs, vanilla, almond extract, and sour cream; mix until combined.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Slowly add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Mix until combined.
  3. Split dough into two pieces, and place in saran wrap. Refrigerate dough for 1-2 hours.
  4. Once dough is chilled, roll out dough onto baking mat or parchment paper. Add another 1/4 – 1/2 cup flour if dough is still sticky. Cut with floured cookie cutter.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-9 minutes.
  6. For the buttercream frosting: Combine all ingredients, mix with an electric mixer until smooth. Frost on cooled cookies and decorate.

(adapted from I Heart Naptime)

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This is definitely a tradition that we will continue for many years to come!

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Catch Up (Again)

03.31.2016 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

During this season of life, I don’t have the time (or, honestly, the mental capacity) to share recipes or toddler crafts or parenting tips in this space. But that’s okay. Because this blog still serves a very important role in my life. I don’t want to forget these days — the good ones, the grand ones, the exhausting ones. And so away we go. A highlight reel of the past two months.

Nora rocked her first dentist appointment. They cleaned and flossed her teeth … and discovered that she has an extra tooth! It’s the right lateral incisor, and the dentist explained that this formed in utero. The tooth bud simply split into two during early development. It’s not uncommon, and she suspects just one adult tooth will push out the two baby teeth. Either way, the girl has a beautiful smile.

Sam also impressed the hygienist and dentist with his cooperation. He even marched down the hall all by himself to get his first round of x-rays. Of course, by the time the three of us left the office and walked down the hallway, the kids were racing and fighting over who got to push the button for the elevator.

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I enjoyed a long overdue weekend in Boston with a few of my favorite ladies. The four of us could not be in more different phases of life, and we don’t get to see each other nearly often enough, and yet it always seems as if no time has passed between us. That’s the beauty of having friends who have known you since grade school.

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I continued to hold down the fort while Nick traveled to Calgary for work. Sam’s mid-winter break from preschool presented an extra challenge. But we treated ourselves to dinner at our favorite local deli, and the kids were surprisingly well behaved. And I dug through art supplies and activities to keep them busy during the day. About 45 seconds after I took this photo of Sam the Scientist, I got up to refill Nora’s water cup, and Sam decided to put the purple cap onto the container and shake it up. Know what happens when you add vinegar to baking soda and shake it up? It explodes. I guess the “volcano” just wasn’t big enough for him. So I spent the next 15 minutes scrubbing green vinegar off the walls, the rug, and Nora’s face.

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We hosted Pennsylvania friends during two different weekends. The kids stayed up way past their bedtimes, and so did the adults (playing Cards Against Humanity). We went to the theatre to see Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. Nora was completely enthralled, and Nick was impressed that I knew every single song. Our time together is never long enough. But at least we still live close enough for weekend visits.

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We took the kids to the Great Swamp in Chatham to learn all about maple syrup. Because we figured that we consume enough of it, and it was time to find out where it comes from. The classroom portion was a bit much for Sam and Nora (geared more towards a grade school audience), but Nick and I learned a lot. Like how to identify a maple tree, what are the ideal conditions for tapping, and that it takes roughly 40 gallons of sap to produce one bottle of syrup. Then we went outside to peek inside the buckets, to find out how they boil down the sap to get syrup, and to taste several different grades (the kids favorite part, of course!)

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Though we found ourselves in the middle of a rough patch in early March with lots of tears and timeouts and more yelling than I’d like to admit (thanks to not enough sleep for Nora and a particularly challenging phase for Sam), I tried my best to start each day with a positive attitude. Sunshine helped. We took advantage of the warmer weather with scooter rides, late afternoons at the playground, and ice cream cones.

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I rarely get to visit my family without the kiddos in tow. But we all need quality time with our parents (despite our age), and so Nick granted me a weekend away. We talked without interruption, enjoyed the market on Saturday morning, and watched movies together. It was much needed for all of us as my dad prepares to face a challenging spring. But he’s Super Poppy, and we’re all confident that he’ll beat this, just like he did ten years ago.

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Finally, we enjoyed our first St. Patrick’s Day in Morristown. Also, we felt really old. Especially when I walked outside in my maternity sweater and slippers to throw a dirty toddler diaper into the trash can while the 20-somethings across the street were blaring music and playing beer pong. Nick really wanted to join their game, but he decided he didn’t want to recreate the Frank the Tank scene from Old School. When did that happen, anyway? When did we trade pints of green beer for sippy cups of milk and live music late into the night for early bedtimes and popcorn on the couch? But this is our life. And we love it.

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And since Lucy didn’t make it into any of the photos above … The sometimes annoying and always endearing characteristic of Goldens: they must always be in the middle of the action.

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Snow Day

02.18.2016 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Winter Storm Jonas brought over two feet of snow to North Jersey in late-January. It was snowing when we woke up on Saturday morning and didn’t stop until after we went to bed that night.

The kids couldn’t wait to get outside, despite the frigid temperatures. I allowed them to put on their snow gear and go explore while I watched from the frosty kitchen window. Then we corralled them inside for pancakes and bacon and our first round of hot cocoa.

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The rest of our morning consisted of movies and popcorn and puzzles and board games. And after lunch, I finally gave in to their pleas to go back outside.

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I had to tighten Sam’s snow pants and replace Nora’s gloves about a dozen times, but it was worth it. The snow was too fluffy for snowman building or sledding, so they simply entertained themselves by walking/crawling from the deck to the swing set and back again.

While Nora was napping, I whipped up some chicken corn soup and chocolate chip cookie brownies. Because it’s not a proper snow day without comfort food and sweets.

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When Nora woke up, Nick took them back outside for yet another of snow play. Then they collected a bowl of snow to make ice cream (which ended up being about 1/2 snow and 1/2 sprinkles) while I dried hats and gloves and socks and snow pants for the third time that day.

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We woke up Sunday morning to beautiful blue skies and a winter wonderland. The temperatures were much more conducive to play, so we bundled up and went outside after breakfast. Nick and Sam attempted to dig out our cars and shovel the sidewalk while Nora and I rolled around in the front yard. And Lucy was in absolute heaven sprinting up and down the sidewalk.

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It was the kind of weekend that I remember from my own childhood: snow up to my waist, sled paths in the backyard, snow angels and snowball fights, snowflakes on eyelashes, hot cocoa and blanket forts. It’s so fun to feel like a kid again with your own kids.

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Christmas in VA and PA

01.20.2016 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

The only year that we spent Christmas at home was the year that I was 38 weeks pregnant with Nora. Every other year, for eight years, we have traveled to spend the holiday with both of our families: from Pennsylvania and California to Alabama and Virginia. But it’s always worth all of the prepping and packing and the hours spent in the car or on an airplane.

This year we started at Laura’s and Stephen’s house in York, PA. It was the perfect spot to stop for the night on our way from NJ to VA. They treated us to dinner and a fire in their beautiful new fireplace. And Sam was thrilled to finally have a sleepover in his “room,” a.k.a. the gigantic closet that he claimed as his own on the first day that he visited their house last year.

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We left early the next morning and stopped to visit friends and eat pizza in Alexandria, VA. Bonus that the kids were sufficiently worn out by the time we got back in the car. Which means Starbucks and Serial podcasts for Mommy and Daddy.

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Final stop: Williamsburg, VA! We rolled in just in time for dinner. Though Sam immediately disappeared up to the playroom with his cousins, which is where he remained for almost the entire week.

Christmas week was filled with so many fun activities: gingerbread houses with the cousins, Polar Express and a hot cocoa bar with Oma and Opa, a glow stick party hosted by Aunt Kirsten, and so much delicious food prepared by Megan. The older boys went to the Star Wars premier one afternoon, and we took the kids to the playground on the only sunny day of the week. Nick stayed up late playing video games with Sean, and I got to sleep in several times, thanks to aunties and grandparents. Many days we stayed in sweatpants and ate a ridiculous amount of sweets. And Nick and I escaped one afternoon for a quick, rainy stroll through Colonial Williamsburg.

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On a very humid and rainy Christmas Eve, we headed to Busch Gardens for Christmas Town. We saw several impressive shows, including Scrooge and Gloria. We walked from country to country and marveled at their light displays (Germany’s Festhaus and tannenbaums was a definite favorite). We even got to catch up with NJ friends, although the kiddos did not cooperate for a photo to commemorate the occasion. Then we enjoyed dinner with Santa and Mrs. Claus and their elves. Sam and Nora and their cousins visited with Santa and shared their final Christmas list wishes. And everyone enjoyed the chocolate chip cookies baked by Mrs. Claus.

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We got to bed late on Christmas Eve. But that didn’t stop the kiddos from waking up bright and early to find out whether Santa had visited.

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And he did! We tried to control the chaos of four kids and three dogs and piles upon piles of presents. But the chaos is what makes Christmas so wonderful. Favorite finds under the tree included a baby doll that Nora promptly named Baby Margaret, the Millennium Falcon, several Pete the Cat books, and a set of walkie-talkies that Nick was as excited about as Sam. And Momma got a new camera!

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We concluded our week in Williamsburg with a festive feast and more sweets before heading north to PA to do it all over again.

Sam helped Nini to prepare our traditional Christmas breakfast of egg and sausage casserole and apple nut ring with mimosas. Then it was on to more gifts. Sam was immediately obsessed with his new microscope and science set (he even declared, “I love science!), and Nora spent the remainder of the day feeding and diapering her baby doll. And the adults were pretty excited about our beautiful canvas bags filled with camping supplies. The five (!!) dogs made our celebration even crazier than usual. But we wouldn’t have wished to have it any other way. We were especially grateful that Andrew and Breck drove all the way from Colorado to spend the holidays with us!

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The rest of the week was spent entertaining the kids with their new games and gifts and puzzles like Spirograph, Ants in the Pants, and LEGOs. We went bowling one rainy afternoon, and the boys played several rounds of frisbee golf at a local park. We stayed up late playing cards almost every night. And the dogs were permanently caked in mud from wrestling outside. Mom and I prepared an amazing feast of filet of beef with Gorgonzola sauce, smashed Parmesan potatoes, and green beans — and we all declared it restaurant quality. And Sam expertly wrapped bacon around pheasant, courtesy of Stephen and Andrew and their hunting dogs.

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We rang in the New Year with lasagna and Mexican Dominoes and all managed to stay up past midnight.

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The fact that we got to spend so much time with both families, and that the kids really enjoyed and appreciated the generosity of everyone made this one of my favorite holidays yet.

Letter to Nora: TWO

01.19.2016 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Dear Nora,

You are smart and sassy. Independent and opinionated. Stubborn and sensitive. Silly and oh so sweet. You are a storyteller and an artist. And such a love bug. You are two!

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At your two-year check-up, you weighed 26 pounds and measured 34.5 inches. You allowed the doctor to check your eyes, your ears, your mouth, and your belly without shedding a single tear. You told her about the baby in Mommy’s belly and how Aunt Kirsten painted your pretty purple nails. You jumped and touched your toes on command and exceeded every expectation listed on the “what to expect” worksheet.

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You say more words than I can count and surprise us with new ones every day. You speak in full sentences and tell imaginative stories about needing an umbrella to keep your hair dry when we play in the rain; about having to rescue Minnie from the hot lava; and about the stars and the big moon outside. You have memorized the words to all of your favorite books, including May I Please Have a Cookie, Alfie? and every book in the Gossie and Friends series. You even imitate Mommy voices and deep Daddy voices when you read. You sing songs like Itsy Bitsy Spider, Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed, and The Wheels on the Bus. You can count the groovy buttons on Pete the Cat’s shirt and identify the colors of his shoes. You are basically a little sponge, soaking up everything you see and hear every moment of every day.

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We celebrated your birthday with a family brunch at Nini’s and Poppy’s house. You were so spoiled by grandparents and aunties and uncles and enjoyed being the center of attention. You clapped when we sang “Happy Birthday to Nora” and blew out your candle — with a little help from Sam. You opened your gifts while everyone watched and had a cute reaction to almost every new book or toy or article of clothing. In fact, you insisted that you immediately put on a new pair of pants, a new skirt, a new t-shirt, a new hoodie, and your new Under Armour sneakers. Then you danced for your audience and showed everyone two fingers when we asked “How old is Nora?”

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You run up and down the stairs, walk on tip-toe, spin in circles, climb onto beds, and jump from one piece of furniture to the next. Thanks to Little Gym, everything has become a balance beam or a set of monkey bars, and you do forward rolls every chance you get. You can kick and throw balls, ride Sam’s scooter around the deck, and much prefer the big kid swings and slides to the toddler ones. You love to play hide-and-seek, and I’m embarrassed to admit how many times I have lost you in our little house. Your favorite spots are under your crib, or in my closet behind my hanging clothes.

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You play creatively and independently. You like everything from baby dolls and princesses to matchbox cars and swords. You build LEGO towers and block castles and Magna-Tiles spaceships. You have mastered all of your chunky puzzles, and we have moved onto simple wooden ones. You love to draw and paint and use glue sticks and play with kinetic sand – you will often spend more than 20 minutes completely engrossed in an art project. We have tea parties and bake pretend cookies in your kitchen. We race trucks around the house and run away from pretend zombies. I love that are you are exposed to all types of toys and all types of play, thanks to big brother. In fact, it’s not uncommon to find you wearing a tutu, a superman cape, a firefighter hat, and a pair of light-up heels.

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You wash your hands and brush your teeth. You can remove every article of clothing, including your diaper. And you insist on trying to dress yourself every morning, which adds at least 10 minutes to our already hectic routine. You tell us when you have to go potty – sometimes we get there in time and sometimes we don’t. I suspect (and hope!) that you will be potty trained before baby brother or sister arrives.

Speaking of the new baby, you love to kiss Mommy’s belly and speak to him/her in a whispered voice. You have accompanied me to several doctor’s appointments and are so fascinated by the sound of the itty bitty beating heart. Both you and Sam are convinced that we’re having a girl and that her name should be Baby Margaret (thank you, Daniel Tiger!). I know that you are going to be a fantastic little momma helper. You love to feed your baby dolls and change their diapers and sing them lullabies. I’m getting excited to see you in your big sister role! Although … every time we refer to you as a big girl, you quickly correct us: “No, I’m Daddy’s baby.” Oh, Daddy is in trouble!

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You most definitely exercise your independence and test your boundaries on a daily basis. You say “No, I got it” at least 20 times before lunch – from putting on your boots to climbing into the car to buckling your seat belt. And if I try to help, or if I do it the wrong way, then we have to start all over. Whew. It’s exhausting! Fortunately, the tantrums over the wrong pair of socks or the wrong color toothbrush or the wrong water cup have already decreased.

You are a girl who thrives on routine, especially at bedtime. Bath is always followed by brushing your teeth, spitting into the sink, and taking a sip of water. Then we move into your bedroom to put on lotion and PJs and comb your hair. You say “beep, beep” and insist on sitting on the chair beside me, rather than on my lap, for story time. We read at least three books and always sing “Rock-a-Bye, Nora.” Then we have to stand up, and I cradle you in my arms while we sing it again. Finally, it’s into bed with your pink blanket and three binkies. One more sip of water, one more song, a big hug and a big kiss, and lights off. Daddy has finally figured out the order of events after several attempts that resulted in you screaming for Mommy. You are typically in bed between 7:30 and 8pm and sleep until about 7:15am. And you nap like a champ every afternoon. We have plans to move you into your big girl bed this spring, and I sincerely hope that the transition doesn’t affect your stellar sleep habits.

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You love to eat pretzels with hummus, cucumbers with Ranch, and waffles with syrup. Your favorite snacks are raisins, marshmallows, gummies, popcorn, and applesauce. You can eat an entire apple, all the way down to the seeds, and will often eat two bananas in one sitting. You still don’t care for milk (unless it’s poured over cereal), but you eat lots of cheese, yogurt, and ice cream.

You love Daniel Tiger, Mickey Mouse, and Pete the Cat. You can identify all of our family members and friends and their pets by name. And when asked, “What’s your name?” You say, “Nora Wiley.” You say “Hi” and “Bye” to strangers and will give a hug to anyone who asks for one.

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My heart melts a little bit every time you say “thank you, Mommy” and “I love you, too.” I savor your squeezes and kisses. Gosh, this is such a fun age. And I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings. I love you, sweet girl!

Countdown to Christmas

01.12.2016 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

We kicked off Christmas season with a walk down to the Green to welcome Santa Claus to Morristown. We sang Christmas carols with hundreds of other community members as we waited for the big guy’s sleigh to land on top of the Century 21 department store building. The kids were mesmerized as we watched Santa ride the fire truck ladder from the top of the building to the ground.

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Bobby the Elf arrived on December 1st and brought chocolate chip muffins for breakfast. Every morning after that the kids raced downstairs to look for Bobby and open another door on their advent calendar.

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While Nick jet-setted off to Germany for work obligations, I took the kiddos to Dover to bake cookies! Dad and Laura and I have mastered our family’s sugar cookies, and Sam did a pretty decent job as decorator and taste-tester.

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Back to New Jersey to celebrate St. Nicholas Day. Our own St Nick brought back some authentic goodies for Germany, including Rittersport and Kinder Eggs. The kids also got robes and slippers (Spider Man and Minnie Mouse) and new Christmas books to add to our growing collection (George and Ollie).

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Before Daddy left the country again — for Canada this time — we sprinkled some Christmas joy around our home. We opened the box of our very first artificial tree (because our limited time at home this month just didn’t justify a real tree) only to find that the 7-foot white-lit slim pine that we had purchased had been replaced by a barely 5-foot multi-color tree with frayed branches and a few old ornament hooks. Yes, that’s right. Someone bought a new tree and returned their old one. And they got away with it. Sam was especially bummed and couldn’t understand why we had to pack it up for Mommy to return to Target the next day. Fortunately, they still had a slim pine in stock, and we set it up as soon as I got home.

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Auntie Laura spent a few days with us while Nick was traveling. We watched movies and ate popcorn, worked on Christmas tree crafts, and did a little shopping. While at the mall, Nora caught her first annual glimpse of Mr. Claus. She was perfectly content to wave at him from a safe distance.

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Two weeks before Christmas, on a 60+ degree day, we thought it would be fun to take the train into New York City. Not only was the city packed with holiday shoppers, there were also 20,000+ drunk Santas stumbling around. It was not at all the fun, festive family outing that we had envisioned. At one point, we had to recruit help from a muscular man to hoist the double stroller over a 4-foot barrier because we were stuck for 45 minutes in a mob of people outside of the Disney store. But don’t get me wrong. There were moments like this: seeing the pure joy on Nora’s face when she spotted the tree at Rockefeller; watching the ice skaters at Bryant Park with Sam; dancing with the Salvation Army donation team; devouring slices of pizza on the steps of Madison Square Garden while waiting for our train back to NJ. Those moments made our crazy adventure idea seem a little less crazy.

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On the Monday before we headed south, I dressed up the kids in their holiday attire, and we were off to see Santa. Sam prepared his list, which included Star Wars guys, a robot, and walkie-talkies. And Nora seemed surprisingly excited about the idea of sitting on Santa’s lap, “with buh-buh, too” she added every time that I asked. When we arrived, both kids were successfully distracted from the long line by Charlie Brown and Snoopy and fake snow falling from a larger-than-life-size snow globe. Of course, they threw handfuls of the fake snow at each other, and I frantically tried to brush it from their hair and clothing before our names were called. And then it was our turn. Sam ran right up to the jolly old man, and Nora clutched my leg as tightly as her little arms could manage. But Santa was amazing. He got onto his knee, looked into Nora’s eyes, and addressed her by name. Before I realized it, they were talking about baby dolls and Daniel Tiger. However, she still wouldn’t get any closer than the plastic white stool at his feet. But I’ll take it!

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After Nora’s meeting with Santa, she was even more interested in all things Christmas. And her mind was totally blown when I showed her the special video message that he sent just for her. Every time he said her name (which was about five times during each viewing, and we watched the 3-minute video at least 35 times), her face lit up with the most amazing smile. Gosh, I love witnessing the magic of Christmas through our children’s eyes.

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Finally, we closed out the week with a little Christmas concert and party at Sam’s preschool. The kids performed several songs, including “chopping down the Christmas tree,” which Sam had practiced for Nick via FaceTime the night before. They then binged on cookies and cupcakes and apple juice before hugging each other good-bye until the new year.

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Rewind

12.12.2015 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

October and November are mostly a blur. Probably because I spent the better part of those two months solo parenting a busy preschooler and an increasingly opinionated toddler while simultaneously growing a third little peanut inside my belly. I felt nauseous all day, almost every day, and allowed the kids to watch an embarrassing amount of television and eat frozen pizza for dinner on more than one occasion. But we all survived the first trimester, and Nick’s project in Calgary is almost complete. Plus Christmas is less than two weeks away, so how can we not be full of merriment and good tidings?

But before we pack our bags and head south the celebrate the holidays with family, here’s a look back at how we spent our fall.

We spent a Saturday in October at Ort Farms. While 90 percent of North Jersey was at the infamous Alstede Farms just two miles away, we opted for the quieter and just as festive option. We pet the baby farm animals, pretended to drive the John Deere, got legitimately lost in the corn maze, ate apple cider doughnuts, and picked our pumpkins from the patch.

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We painted pumpkins and carved pumpkins. (I think it’s obvious which method Nora preferred.)

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We visited another pumpkin patch with Sam’s preschool friends and spent an afternoon at Fosterfields Living Historical Farm. We cracked corn, washed rags and hung them to dry, harvested eggs, and fed a baby calf. We also let the kids run wild. Because that’s what they do best.

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We enjoyed the Millersville Homecoming Parade (superhero-themed!) with Dan and Carol, and the kids consumed a ridiculous amount of sugar. Then our favorite alumni gave us a tour of campus where they met 40 years ago.

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We visited the best pumpkin farm in Lancaster County before driving back to New Jersey where fall gourds are at least twice as expensive.

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Sam rocked his first Halloween parade. I still can’t believe he wore his mask during all eight laps around the gymnasium.

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Then Spider Man and Bat Girl celebrated Halloween with Strawberry Shortcake (and her momma — two people we miss most in Pennsylvania!). We trick-or-treated in downtown Morristown, and they each filled their bags with sweets. Then we decided they needed some salt to counteract all that sugar, so we had a popcorn and movie night — in matching PJs, of course.

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And just like that, it was November. While Nick was scraping snow and ice from his rental car in Calgary, we were enjoying 60-degree days here. We thought we would be helpful and clean up the leaves while he was gone, but we really just raked piles and proceeded to jump into them.

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We spent several of those unseasonably warm afternoons at parks and playgrounds around town.

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We traveled to Pennsylvania to meet the newest furriest member of our extended family — Aunt Lucy (her brother is Lager’s father) was especially excited to have a new playmate. Then we drove west for a far-too-short visit with friends that we don’t get to see nearly often enough.

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Thankful for library crafts and preschool projects that melt my momma heart.

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Finally, Thanksgiving in Bethlehem. When it was our turn to share what we are grateful for this year, Nick told our circle of family members that we are expecting baby #3. There were hugs and kisses and congratulations and even a few tears.

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That brings us to December. Decking the halls, baking cookies, wrapping gifts, trying to remember to move Bobby the Elf every night. It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Brooklyn for the Day

12.12.2015 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Considering our proximity to New York City, we don’t visit nearly often enough. I’m sure it would be different if my brother hadn’t moved from Manhattan to Denver just one month before we relocated to North Jersey. Or if we didn’t have two children and all of their necessities to take with us every time we leave the house.

But I decided that we were due for a little family trip — so we planned a Sunday in Brooklyn during a break in Nick’s work travels to Canada and Germany. I chose Brooklyn because I knew we wouldn’t have to tackle the subway with the double stroller and because I knew there were plenty of playgrounds and family-friendly food options.

The drive from Morristown to Manhattan was far too easy. And it barely took any time to cruise through the Holland Tunnel (words we would be eating later that day). We parked in a garage near Cadman Plaza Park, loaded up the kiddos, and headed towards the Brooklyn Bridge.

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We let the kids stretch their legs and run around the Pier 1 Playground while we all enjoyed the panoramic views of Lower Manhattan.

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The playground is geared more towards the toddler crowd — but we promised Sam that bigger things awaited him.

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Because it was lunch time, and because we were within sight of Shake Shack, we decided it was necessary to stop. Sam ate all of his burger and part of Nora’s. Probably because she was too focused on the vanilla milkshake.

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Time to walk off lunch (and work on building up our appetites for dinner), so we strolled along the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. Well, we strolled, and Nora ran.

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Next stop: Slide Mountain at Pier 6. It was super crowded, thanks to the gorgeous sunshine, but Sam and Nora both managed numerous trips down the slides. We didn’t have a chance to check out Swing Valley, but I’m sure it’s equally as awesome

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We took our time getting back to the bridge and stopped at every rock to climb, log to jump, and exhibit to explore.

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Finally, back to the main attraction. We attempted to carry both kids in the double stroller up the ridiculous amount of stairs the reach the bridge. And, fortunately, a nice young man offered to take my load. Otherwise, we might not have made it up in one piece.

We managed to keep the kids strapped down until we reached the Manhattan side, then they were both eager to get out and explore for themselves. This lasted for about 20 minutes until we bribed them with lollipops to get back in, and they both (thankfully!) fell asleep before we got back to Brooklyn.

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Every other person we passed had a selfie stick. Time to invest in one?

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Dinner time! We debated between Grimaldi’s and Juliana’s. Both had lines — even at 4pm. Since we had eaten at Grimaldi’s in Hoboken several years ago, we decided to give Juliana’s a try. And, boy, am I glad we did. It was probably one of the best pizzas I have ever eaten. Nick still flops between New York style and Chicago deep dish. But I much prefer the thin, crispy crust and simple tomato/basil/mozzarella toppings. Bonus that we had a perfect view of the pizza chefs throwing and stretching the dough and building the pizzas. Sam was especially enthralled.

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Time to make our trek back to New Jersey. And what a trek it was. While it took under an hour to get there earlier that day, it took almost 2 1/2 hours to get home! Fortunately, our phones were fully charged and kept the kids entertained during the drive. And, really, it was well worth it for such a fun day in Brooklyn. See you again soon, NYC!

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Number Three

12.10.2015 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

More diapers. More laundry. More noise. Less sleep. And LOTS more love! We are so excited to announce that baby #3 will be joining our family in June!

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This photo took two rounds, 25 minutes total, and the promise of a dozen chocolate chip cookies to achieve. I can’t even imagine what it’s going to be like with THREE!

Here are a few outtakes.

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More details to come!

Gift Guide for 2-Year-Old Girls

11.30.2015 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Nora loves everything that Sam loves, and I fully expect her to play with many of his new toys. But that doesn’t mean she shouldn’t get a few gifts of her own. First up, some things that she already has and plays with often. Then, a few things that she will find on Christmas morning.

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(1) Melissa and Doug Kitchen: This kitchen has been a staple in our living room since Sam was two. Both kids still play with it almost daily, and I love that we can continue to add accessories to it for years to come.

(2) Green Toys Dish Set: Speaking of kitchen accessories, Nora loves this tea set. Sometimes, we even eat real snacks off the plates and sip real water from the cups. So fancy.

(3) Gossie and Friends Board Book Set: Nora loves, loves, loves to read. And this set has been her favorite for a few months. She has memorized every character and sleeps with the books in her bed every night.

(4) Melissa and Doug Puzzles: These are the best puzzles for toddlers, in our opinion — chunky and durable.

(5) Disney Princess Klip Klop Castle: Last year was the year for Disney princess castles and accessories, and Nora still especially loves this one. Sometimes Sam’s superheroes invade the castle, too, which means it gets play from both kids.

(6) LEGO DULPO blocks: Nora has been playing with tiny LEGOs for months, but the DUPLO blocks are preferable for her little hands. She loves to stack the square blocks into tall towers.

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(1) Baby Doll and Cradle: Nora is in a baby doll phase right now. She has several plush dolls already, but this one has eyes that open and close, which I know she will love. She’s also getting the high chair for her birthday.

(2) Crayola Pip-Squeaks Markers: We never seem to have enough supplies for our little artists, and we especially love the pip-squeaks line.

(3) Pete the Cat: This is currently Nora’s favorite library book. We read it multiple times per day, and she can recite the entire story. I think it’s time to get the girl her own copy.

(4) Princess Dress-Up Set: Nora has a few hand-me-down princess dresses, which she loves. Almost as much as Sam’s superhero capes.

(5) Daniel Tiger Trolley: Nora is obsessed with Daniel Tiger, and I think she is going to flip when she has her very own trolley. She’s also getting the full set of characters.

(6) Minnie Mouse Princess Bowtique: Finally, she loves Minnie almost as much as Daniel. And this line gets consistently great reviews.

More Gift Guides:
Gift Guide for 3-Year-Old Boys
Gift Guide for Toddler Boys
Gift Guide for 1-Year-Old Boys (part 1)
Gift Guide for 1-Year-Old Boys (part 2)
Gift Guide for 1-Year-Old Girls
Favorite Toys at Ten Months

(All links are Amazon affiliate links.)