Laura and Stephen Get Married

10.20.2014 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

My little sister married the love of her life in July. Laura was an absolutely stunning bride. And Stephen’s love for her was obvious in every look and every kiss. They were wed at the quaint Lakeview Farms, located less than five miles from my parents’ house. Tilande Entertainment created an awesome video of their big day, and Erin Keough Photography took the lovely photos. Enjoy a few of my favorite moments and memories!

I took my title of Matron of Honor quite seriously. I designed their invitations and programs and the chalkboard signs that decorated nearly every corner of the venue; I  happily gave her my wedding earrings to wear; I intercepted questions and concerns on the big day; and I beamed with pride and tears and true joy as I stood beside her at the altar.

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Our little drummer boy had a minor meltdown when he realized all eyes were on him. But he quickly recovered with help from Daddy and lots of lollipops.

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Dad escorted Laura through a set of barn doors and down the grassy aisle lined with sunflower pomanders while the guitarist performed “A Thousand Years.” Stephen’s cousin officiated the ceremony, which included communion and footwashing. They exchanged vows and rings and sealed their promise with a kiss. It was beautiful and spiritual and perfectly represented their honest and radiant love.

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Following the ceremony, guests were ushered to the cocktail hour where they enjoyed delicious food prepared by a family friend.

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I followed Laura and Stephen around the farm while they posed for amazing photo after amazing photo — holding Laura’s train with one hand and a plate of food for the newlyweds with the other.

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Then it was time to head into the barn to celebrate! Every single detail was just as Laura and Stephen had envisioned — from the table runners made by my mom and the chevron napkins sewn by my aunt to the mason jars with hand lettering by Laura and the various wood projects completed by my dad to the menu cards designed by me and the sangria made by Stephen.

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Laura and Stephen danced their first dance as husband and wife, then she rocked out with Dad to “My Brown-Eyed Girl.”

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And I somehow managed to get through my Matron of Honor speech without getting all choked up.

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Laura and Stephen were excited to hire the DJ from our wedding (and Stephen’s brother’s wedding, too!), and he was just as wild and fun as ever. Wild Bill certainly has a knack for getting folks onto the dance floor!

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Stephen’s sister baked the cake, and the mini desserts were prepared by the same family friend who catered the cocktail hour.

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They had lots of fun with the garter and bouquet toss. And we were all pretty excited that my brother’s girlfriend caught the bouquet!

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The dance floor was crowded until the very end of the night when we all lined up to send off the newlyweds with sparklers (that we didn’t get to use at my wedding five years ago because of the torrential downpour).

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It was truly the perfect day to celebrate the love of two of my favorite people. Congratulations to Laura and Stephen!

Superhero Birthday Party

10.14.2014 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Sam requested a “super party” months before his birthday.

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He asked for super capes for his friends, pizza, popcorn, and blue cupcakes. Easy enough!

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I spent every evening for about a month working on the capes. But they were well worth the time and effort! In fact, they are the coolest thing to come out of my new sewing machine thus far. (I will post a full tutorial soon.)

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And, of course, you can’t have a cape without a mask. These were easy to make from felt and elastic. (Painted letters from his nursery!)

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I pulled a few quotes from my interview with Sam and wrote them on a scrap piece of wood turned chalkboard. Simple decoration for the mantle.

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I designed a pennant banner and used leftover table runners from his first birthday party to spruce up the dining room.

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I baked (the best!) funfetti cupcakes — both big ones and mini ones because kids only eat the frosting anyway. And I bought festive baking cups and picks from Amazon.

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Since Sam requested popcorn — one of his favorite snack foods — I picked up some cute paper boxes to serve it. We also ordered pizzas and served veggies with dip and fruit salad.

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For the big surprise … a bounce house! We decided to buy one rather than rent one because I anticipate using it for many future parties. The birthday boy loved it!

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As always, the sand box was a big hit with the kids.

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And the dirt box. Give kids some shovels and a few dump trucks, and they can entertain themselves for an entire afternoon.

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I really wanted to get photos of the kids in their capes and masks, so I created a little “Gotham City photobooth” using blue fabric and cardboard boxes that I spray painted. And you can download the signs here.

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A few of the kids were a bit camera shy. But not my kid!

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I convinced the grown-ups to get in on the action, too.

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Don’t you love the super shirts that my mom made??

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It’s not a party without cupcakes. The more sprinkles, the better.

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Most of Sam’s gifts were superhero themed. And he couldn’t have been happier.

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Boys and their toys!

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Sam may have been the guest of honor, but I think Nora may have stolen the show with her cute super sister outfit. I found my Wonder Woman shirt and cape at our local Halloween store, and I picked up Nick’s Superman t-shirt at Old Navy.

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I love that some of the kids dressed in their superhero best!

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We had such a wonderful afternoon celebrating our Super Sam with family and friends!

Sam’s First Birthday: Polka Dot Party
Sam’s Second Birthday: Construction Party

Letter to Nora: Nine Months

10.06.2014 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Hey Little Lady,

Nine months, already? Not possible. You really need to stop growing up so fast.

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You are officially mobile, and I believe you have explored every inch of our house. You crawl under the kitchen table, into the corner between your crib and dollhouse, onto the bottom shelf of our toy shelf, and all over Lucy’s bed. You are already so fast! We have had to re-train ourselves to lock the gate at the top of the stairs and keep all of the cabinet doors closed.

You are also pulling up onto everything — the ottoman, the laundry basket, your dresser, Sam’s bat cave. And I can see you getting more comfortable each day with the thought of moving your legs and cruising from one thing to another.

Needless to say, it’s become impossible to contain you. You have outgrown the pack ‘n’ play, and you lose interest very quickly in the jumperoo. You just want to move!

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You are very curious just like your big brother. You try so hard to figure out how things work — the wheels on Sam’s cars, the swing on the zoo, the toy piggy bank full of coins, the bead maze, the stacking rings, the musical tea pot, the sticker on your shirt.

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Your favorite new trick is to sit at the railing above our entryway and throw things onto the first level floor. You are also constantly tossing things over my lap and then climbing over me to retrieve them.

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You love anything that makes noise, which means you are right at home in our new music class. I take you every Tuesday for 45 minutes while Sam is in school. You are the youngest in the class, but you are not at all shy. You bang the drum with the big kids and sway to the songs and didn’t mind at all when the teacher picked you up for some bouncing.

I love that I have this opportunity to spend time with you and focus only on you (as Sam tends to dominate most situations). You surprise me every day with what you are already capable of doing.

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You are such a happy baby girl. People often ask if you are ever not smiling. Well, yes, when Sam takes your toys or when Mommy tells you “no,” you immediately scrunch up your face and cry with real tears. But, otherwise, you have a permanent grin on your face. And I can’t get enough of it.

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You caught a nasty virus this month, which caused your temperature to rise to 103 degrees. It was awful. I spent the first night cradling you in my arms and willing your fever to break. You were hot and miserable, and neither of us slept more than a couple hours. Fortunately, you were back to your smiley, healthy self within a few days. But it took another week to get your sleep back on track. I’m happy to report, though, that you are now consistently sleeping through the night — from about 7:30pm until 7:30am. Hooray!

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You love pizza, pumpkin bread, straw cups, playing in Lucy’s water bowl, and riding in the backpack with Daddy. You dislike socks, diaper changes, and eggs.

I love how you don’t just reach for me, you lunge at me with all your weight. I love the way you hook your arm around mine and hang on while I hold you on my hip. I love your close-mouthed grin and how you crinkle your nose and your eyes. I love how you sit on your knees to play and appear under my feet while I’m washing the dishes. I love to hear your voice sing from your bedroom every morning, and I look forward to that final kiss on your forehead every night.

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Nora, you are my little sweetheart, and life is infinitely better with you in it.

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What Sam Says: Volume 2

10.05.2014 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Sam is imaginative and inquisitive, and sometimes I can’t believe the things that come out of his mouth.

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I encourage him to ask new friends: “What is your name?” But he prefers: “What your name is?” He also says: “Where you are?” and “Where it is?”

I hear “why?” at least a dozen times every day. And he continues to ask until he’s satisfied with the answer. “Because I said so” is not acceptable.

He says: “Thank you so much” and “I welcome.”

For awhile he told everyone he was “half two.” But now it’s just “six.”

He is an awesome big helper. He’s always asking: “I help you, please?” And saying: “We need to work.”

One day I told him I need a vacation. And he replied: “Don’t leave, momma. I’ll miss you.” And I melt every time he calls me his best friend, which has been a lot lately.

During our first attempt at potty training, I told him we ran out of diapers and had no money to buy more. And he said: “But Daddy has a job. He has money.” And I said Daddy didn’t have enough money. Then he said: “You need to get a job, Mommy.”

One evening, we went to the playground after dinner, and while Nick held Nora, I chased Sam around the playground. He said: “Mommy, you’re fast! Wait, I need to stop to get my breath.” And took a big, deep breath. Then started running again.

He is beginning to understand the concept of time and says while driving in the car: “It’s taking a long hour to get home.” He also often refers to “today” “tomorrow” and “next week.”

For weeks, he was obsessed with planning his super birthday party and wanted to talk about it every night before bed. And every day he insisted on looking inside the “super party box” that sat on the dining room table.

A few birthday gifts arrived in the mail, and I asked him not to open them. But he did and then reassured me: “Don’t worry. It’s just diapers and wipes.”

He can be very matter-of-fact (like his father!), and if we try to turn something into a game (like dressing him in the morning), he will say: “You don’t need to do that.”

We were so excited on the morning of his first day of preschool. We may have done a little happy dance. And he told us: “Settle down, guys.”

He is constantly tormenting Lucy, and so I told him one day that she was going to live with another boy. He asked: “What’s that boy’s name?” Then: “What’s his mommy’s name … his daddy’s name … his baby’s name?” And so I was forced to fabricate Joseph and his fake family. Now every time I scold him for teasing Lucy, he asks if she’s going to live with Joseph.

Favorite words: disgusting, delicious, mapkin, cimmanon, piderman, Poppy’s pasghetti, wiggle (little) tiny blanket, and wiggle (little) tiny blocks.

Letter to Samuel: Three Years

09.30.2014 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Dear Super Sam,

You are our sweet, silly, spirited boy. You test our patience, endurance, and sanity on a regular basis. And you make us laugh every single day. You have an endless amount of energy and dirt permanently embedded under your nails. You are constantly running and jumping, racing cars around the house, and scaling the mulched hill in our backyard. You almost always have a hook or bungee cord or plastic fishing rod in your back pocket, and you are rarely not wearing safety glasses or swim goggles or a superhero mask. You have a wild imagination, ask about a million questions every day, and tell the most animated stories I’ve ever heard come from the mouth of a three-year-old.

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You love pancakes, pizza, mac and cheese, tacos, apples, bananas, and broccoli; Legos, tools, dinosaurs, and the bat cave; chasing Lucy, dancing, and working on projects. You love to play “good guys” vs. “bad guys” and call anything that resembles a weapon a “chick-a-chow.” (We obviously discourage this, but you are a boy, and this is what boys do.)

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You often introduce yourself as “Super Sammy” and insist quite passionately that you are “six.” You torment Lucy and steal Nora’s toys, but they both love you unconditionally. You help Daddy to mow the grass and pull weeds, and you help Mommy to clean the windows and bake cookies. You like play-doh and painting and cutting paper with scissors, and you recently drew your first recognizable object: Mike Wazowski from Monsters, Inc.

You have mostly phased out your afternoon nap — which sometimes leads to major meltdowns around dinnertime — but you are exhausted by 8pm and fall asleep easily. Current favorite bedtime books are If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, Super Friends X-Ray Vision, and The Diggingest Dog — and you have most of each one memorized. Favorite bedtime song is “Super Sammy,” which Mommy and Daddy sing differently, but you love equally. Favorite TV shows are Octonauts and Paw Patrol and anything about dinosaurs.

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Every morning (sometimes as early as 6:15), you come into our room carrying the clothes you want to wear that day, and you demand that we change you before we go downstairs. You even have a favorite pair of socks — your “super” socks, of course. You are quite opinionated. And articulate. And persistent.

You are a typical stubborn three-year-old, and you challenge us daily. But you are also kind and considerate and affectionate. Sam, we are so proud of the kid you have become. Every day with you is an adventure. We love you. All the way to the moon and back.

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Homemade Almond Joy Larabars

09.19.2014 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

It’s tough to give up sugar when you love cookies as much as we do. But these homemade Larabars are serious competitors in the cookie arena. And they are incredibly easy to make! Just throw everything into the food processor and mix until the ingredients get all sticky and yummy. Then roll them into balls and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. (Or eat them with a spoon right out of the food processor, which is Sam’s preferred method of consumption.)

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Homemade Almond Joy Larabars

(Print this Recipe)

Ingredients

  • 15 dates, pitted
  • 1/2 cup raw almonds
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut
  • 1/4 cup mini dark chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • pinch of salt

Directions

  1. Combine everything in a food processor and mix until it sticks together and is no longer crumbly.
  2. Roll into balls, or press into an 8×8 pan lined with parchment paper. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before devouring.

Whole30 Results

09.16.2014 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

It wasn’t always easy. But we did it. We eliminated entire food groups from our diet for 30 days. We gave up cream in our coffee and cheese pizza and chocolate chip cookies. But we learned to love coconut milk and cashew butter and eggs every morning for breakfast. We ate more meat and more green veggies than I believed to be possible. We may have spent more money on our weekly groceries, but our refrigerator was always stocked with fresh produce and meat from the local butcher, and we threw away almost nothing. We learned to be more creative and more resourceful in the kitchen.

Whole30 changes the way you think about food, the way you shop for food, and how you eat food. We feel healthier and happier and, yes, we both lost some weight. Six pounds for me, which brings me all the way back to my pre-Nora weight. And nine pounds for Nick, in addition to the 16 pounds he lost during his first round earlier this summer. But more importantly than the weight we lost, we feel empowered and in control of our diet.

I still crave meat and veggies and (surprisingly) eggs. Although, I have to admit, I was really looking forward to adding maple syrup to my banana pancakes on day 31. We’ve also treated ourselves to homemade Larabars with mini chocolate chips and our first pumpkin spice lattes of the season.

We don’t intend to completely eliminate treats as we move forward, but we do plan to be more conscious of our indulgences. We’re anxious to continue to fill our bodies with wholesome and delicious food.

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Lucy is Two

09.13.2014 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Happy birthday to our Lucy Girl! Thank you for fetching our socks, cleaning our dishes, protecting our house, and for being so tolerant of your siblings. Our family is more crazy and more complete because of you!

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Letter to Nora: Eight Months

09.08.2014 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Oh, sweet Nora. Has it really been eight months since you joined our family? You bring such joy to our lives with your bright smile and little giggles. Each day is more fun than the last.

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You are constantly squealing and babbling and blowing raspberries. You sing to your wubbanub, and you love to have screaming matches with Sam — in the car, at the dinner table, before bed. You often say “ma-ma-ma” when you’re crying for my attention. And Sammy and Daddy are trying so hard to teach you their names. We’ve started a bit of baby sign language this month, too — milk, more, and all done. We’re all pretty excited for you to start communicating with us. I suspect you will be a little chatterbox like your brother!

You are so, so close to crawling. You get up on all fours and rock back and forth before you return to sitting position. You may not be completely mobile yet, but you can definitely get around. You squirm across the floor and spin in circles, and you have a surprisingly long reach. You are also now trying to pull up onto everything — our legs and shoulders, your music table, the pack’n’play. We should probably lower your crib mattress before you figure out how to pull up in there, too.

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I often find you sleeping in the very corner of your crib, and so I added the bumper this month to make it a bit more comfortable. You sleep with two wubbanubs and sometimes you whine in the middle of the night if you lose them. If the whines turn into wails, I tiptoe into your room, which always leads to a quick nursing and snuggle session. Occasionally, you wake up twice, and sometimes you sleep through the night without a peep. Either way, you wake up around 8am with a smile on your face.

You are still napping twice a day, though the length of each depends on our schedule. I love that you are so easy-going!

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You continue to love to eat and are up to three solid meals per day plus 4-5 quick feedings with momma (though it’s become pretty impossible to feed you in public). Favorite foods this month include: peaches, blueberries, avocado, waffles, turkey burgers, chicken meatballs, graham crackers, and cheese. The only food you really don’t like is eggs. You’ve become very good at eating purees from pouches, which helps when we’re on the road. And you think it’s fun to drink water from a sippy cup, though most of it ends up running down your chin.

You get angry if we take away your food before you are done, especially if that food is ice cream. If Sam gets an ice cream treat, we get an extra cone for you and add a bit of the sweet stuff to it. It quickly becomes a sticky mess, but you devour it.

You’ve recently learned how to take off your bib, which means we have to put it back on at least four times during each meal. And you think it’s hilarious to hang your hands over the tray of your highchair so Lucy can lick them.

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You are still our long and lean girl, and I finally had to move you into size 9-month jammies. Your hair is getting thicker, and there appears to be a bit of wave to it. I sure hope you end up with curly hair like your daddy! You still have just the two teeth on the bottom, though I suspect the top ones will pop through any day.

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Playtime has become pretty fun. You shake rattles and bang cups together and throw balls and open and close little doors. You love your stacking blocks — and so does Sam. He often builds a really tall tower for you, and encourages you to knock it over. Then he shouts “hooray, Baby Nora!” when you do it. He is your biggest fan, and it is so sweet.

However, Sam does not like it when you play with his toys, which you always do. I asked what he’s going to do when you start to crawl, and he said, “hide all my toys.” We obviously have to practice the concept of sharing.

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You still love to bounce in your jumperoo and are content to sit on the floor and play for extended periods of time. Though I did catch you chewing Lucy’s bone one day. Yuck! Then you threw a major fit when I took it away from you. I think you’ve already figured out “no,” and you do not like it one bit.

You also recently learned a new bathtime trick. You throw a toy over the toddler tub, then peer over the edge until you spot it and pick it back up. Then you flash a big smile in our direction — so proud!

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We took a few road trips and day trips this month, and you are still a fairly good traveler. You sing and squeal and peek around your car seat to watch Sam. And sometimes you sleep.

We’ve enjoyed many park picnics and playdates. You’re lucky to have several baby girlfriends to hang out with while Big Brother plays with his friends! You love to swim in our neighbor’s pool, though you weren’t so sure of the splash park. And you whimpered when I sat you in front of the fish tank at the aquarium. You stayed up way past your bedtime for two weddings and a baseball game, but it was so worth it.

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I’m much more flexible with our routine this time around, and I honestly think you are happier because of it. So many adventures await us, little lady. We love you!

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