From the Hudson to the Potomac

09.29.2015 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Two boats, two weekends in a row! Sam was in little boy heaven.

First, Laura and Stephen joined us for a ferry ride from Liberty State Park to Ellis Island and Liberty Island. I still can’t believe that we live just 30 minutes from this view!



We packed a picnic lunch and hit up the playground after. I don’t think the kids realized how special it was to run around in the shadow of the Freedom Tower.



Our stop on Ellis Island was cut short due to two tired kiddos, only one of which was able to fall asleep in the stroller. Definitely worth a trip back to do some digging into our family histories.



As we made the turn past Ellis Island, Lady Liberty came into view. And I was way more in awe than I expected to be.



We would have loved to climb to the top of the crown. But who knew tickets would be booked through November! Sam didn’t mind, though. We took about a dozen pictures of him smiling and holding his pretend torch.


We ended the afternoon with races through Liberty State Park.



The following weekend we drove south on 95 to join my extended family for a cruise along the Potomac River in celebration of my Great Uncle Roy’s 90th birthday.




Fantastic views of the monuments. Sunshine. Delicious brunch. Quality family time. Birthday cake. And bottomless mimosas. My kind of Sunday.




Farewell to Summer

09.09.2015 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Summer’s last hurrah will be celebrated next week in Virginia Beach. But before we leave for a few final days of sun and salt water, let’s catch up on our (very eventful) summer.

33rd Birthday

Nick surprised me with an early birthday dinner at The Accomac Inn. And it definitely ranked in my top ten favorite meals. The highlight was the catch of the day served atop sweet corn and edamame risotto. Though, let’s be honest, a cheeseburger and French fries feels like a gourmet meal when there are no tiny hands pulling food off my plate.


We spent my actual birthday with some of our favorite people in one of of our favorite places: Happy Valley! I gave the kids a quick tour of the WPSU studios, my freshmen dorm, and Beaver Stadium. We walked from the HUB to College Ave, from Old Main to the Creamery, and stopped for a few photos with the Lion Shrine. I have such fond memories of this place.


We even got to indulge in a Wiley family favorite — The Meadows — before heading back east.


4th of July

We spent the fourth with family and tons of festive food.


Nick wore his red pants, I did an improvisational tap dance to When the Saints Go Marching In. And the kids stayed up way past their bedtimes to watch fireworks from the backyard and march around the living room with glow sticks.


Hands-On House in Lancaster, PA

We invited Auntie Laura to the Hands-on House in Lancaster. And I love that this interactive children’s museum stayed so true to its Lancaster County roots. We harvested corn and sorted eggs; we designed race tracks and built fences around miniature horses; we played post office and grocery store; we painted our faces; and we rescued the princess (Nora) from the dragon (Sam). I highly recommend this museum for toddlers and preschoolers!


Lake Anna, VA

We reunited with some of our best friends at Lake Anna after a three-year hiatus. (Our lake reunions have recently been replaced by weddings and baby showers.) We watched the kids jump into the water and race big wheels down the driveway. We enjoyed an afternoon cruise on the pontoon boat, we were entertained by the boys’ highly competitive 2 on 2 basketball game, and we played Cards Against Humanity after the littlest four finally fell asleep. (Not nearly as wild and crazy as our childless reunions, but definitely just as much fun!)




1st Birthday

And we returned to Greensburg for Miss Madison’s first birthday celebration. We visited with best friends and old neighbors and remembered just how much we love that town and the people in it.


California Quinoa Salad

08.26.2015 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Has is really been almost a year (?!?!) since I last shared a recipe? That doesn’t mean I haven’t been cooking. It just means that it’s hard enough to get dinner on the table with one kid demanding the iPad and another kid hanging on my legs, let alone break out my big camera to snap photos and take notes to share.

But I have had several requests for this quinoa salad recipe since I first made it for Laura’s bridal shower. And so, please don’t criticize the collage of iPhone photos. I promise this recipe is worth making! It’s light and refreshing, yet filling, and would be the perfect thing to take to your farewell-to-summer BBQ.


California Quinoa Salad


  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • zest of 2 limes
  • 1 mango, peeled and diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/3 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves


  • Cook quinoa according to package instructions; set aside.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together balsamic vinegar and lime zest; set aside.
  • In a large bowl, combine quinoa, mango, bell pepper, red onion, coconut flakes, almonds, raisins, and cilantro. Pour the balsamic vinegar mixture on top, and toss to combine.
  • Serve immediately.

(adapted from Damn Delicious)

Family First

08.26.2015 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

There was no place I would have rather spent our “homeless” summer than in my childhood home. One month later, and I know that my parents still miss the chaos that Sam and Nora and Lucy brought into the house.

My dad’s mornings are definitely more quiet without kids requesting scrambled eggs and pancakes and stealing sections from the newspaper. And I really don’t know how he gets any yard work done without his helpers.


My mom grew quite accustomed to little hugs and kisses every morning before work and every evening when she returned home. They got lots more books and wagon rides and ice cream cones, thanks to Nini.


We also took full advantage of being so close to extended family. It was a special treat to watch my grandparents and aunts and uncles do things with the kids that I remember doing as a child: blowing bubbles, counting daffodils, raiding the fun bag, coloring with chalk, eating popsicles. We were able to attend every family picnic and celebration this summer, and Sam especially loved spending time with the “big cousins.”


And I know not a day goes by that Lucy doesn’t miss wrestling and napping with her buddy, Layla. Not to mention evening walks and playtime with Poppy.


It was bittersweet to pack our things and leave Dover. Of course, we were more than ready to join Nick in New Jersey. But this summer is one we will always cherish.

Letter to Nora: August 2015

08.20.2015 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Dear Sweet Girl,

I’m sorry that life has been too busy to allow time to write regular letters to you. But I’m not sorry that we have been filling our days with outdoor adventures, art projects, and road trips. We have visited farms, museums, parks, and playgrounds. Created mini masterpieces with stickers, markers, glue, and glitter. Traveled to Virginia, Maryland, Penn State, and Alabama. And we are just loving all that there is to explore in Morristown. Perhaps we will be Jersey girls, after all?


You are 19 1/2 months. Full of spunk and sass and a little bit of drama. Your giggle is contagious, your pouty face is hilarious, and your hugs are addicting. When you run at me with open arms, I can’t help but scoop you up and squeeze tight. You know how to bat the lashes above those big blue eyes to get exactly what you want — especially if Daddy is on the receiving end! You are mischievous and often steal things from Sam when he’s not looking, then you hold them tight to your chest and turn and run in the opposite direction. With a sly smile on your face.


It’s not uncommon to find you and Sam in his bedroom, dressed as a firefighter and a superhero or a princess and a train conductor, building a fort out of pillows and blankets and your Pottery Barn chairs. Or inside the closet huddled around flashlights, sharing sibling secrets. Or racing dump trucks and Matchbox cars across the hardwood floors between his room and yours. On rare quiet moments, the two of you will climb into the rocking chair with a pile of books and your favorite stuffed animals (a baby doll, a pink turtle, Minnie Mouse, and a bunny). He absolutely adores you, and you absolutely idolize him, even when you’re fighting over the iPad or the train table or the Little Tykes car or who gets to pull the drain in the bathtub.

You try so hard to keep up with Sam. If he’s pushing his lawn mower up the hill and through the mulch in our backyard, then you are following with your ball popper. If he’s riding his tricycle around the deck, then you are trying to keep up on your giraffe bike. If he’s scaling the rock wall, climbing the spider’s web, crawling up the sliding board, or hanging from the monkey bars, then you are right behind him — looking far too much like one of the big kids.


You like to sing and dance, play the harmonica, and beat the drum. You can walk on tip-toe and twirl in circles, and you try so hard to jump. We play ring-around-the-rosie, duck-duck-goose, and row-row-row-your boat on a regular basis. You roll around on the floor and can almost do a somersault and can climb onto basically every surface in our house.

That bravery got you into a bit of trouble while we were living in Dover. One morning, I found you in the bathroom sink. Another day, you pulled a chair over to the kitchen counter and were trying to reach the spice jars. You also climbed up into the tree house when nobody was watching. And, most shockingly, you got your head stuck between the stair railings! You screamed, Sam cried, I panicked. And Poppy came to the rescue with a wooden board to wedge between the railing just enough to slide your head back out. Whew! Never a dull moment.


You surprise us with new words every day. You love “b” words: ball, boat, book. You ask for water (wawa), cheese, cracker (cacker), goldfish (fishies), eggs. And my new favorite: Lucy, which sounds like “loo-shee.” Other words include: up, down, go, hot, ice, more, done, owl, hi, bye, open (ohp), on, hat. And NO. I sometimes miss the days when you only said “yeah.” Because now you say “no” all. the time. “No” to diaper changes. “No” to milk. “No” to it’s time to come inside. “No” to riding in the stroller. (Until we got our new luxury stroller for you and Sam to ride side-by-side!) It can be exhausting. So can your new desire to do everything by yourself. Like climbing into the tub and washing your own hair and like putting on your pants and shoes, even if you put both legs into the same pants hole and your feet into the opposite shoes. Not only do you try to put on your clothes, you try to take them off, too — diaper included. More than once, I have found you naked, pulling the potty seat out of the closet. At least you know what to do? Though you may be more ready to start potty training than I am.


You are fascinated by books, and we read no less than five every afternoon before nap and every night before bed. Current favorites are: Peek-a-Who (you help to read with “who-who, moo, choo-choo, and boo”), Today I’ll be a Princess (we have to look for the teddy bear on every page), Princess Baby (you get upset if I mix up the order of cupcake, giggly goose, miss muffin, and sweet pea), Ollie (though you do not like when Ollie the egg cracks open), and Peedie (every time Peedie falls asleep, you point to your bed and say “shhhh”), Silly Sally (and we have to turn the book around to see Silly Sally upside down). You can also identify almost every picture in your First Words book. I was especially proud when you correctly identified broccoli and carrots!


Speaking of broccoli and carrots, you love both. You also love waffles and sausage or scrambled eggs and bacon for breakfast; pretzels, hummus, raisins, cucumbers, blueberries, or apples with peanut butter for snack; chicken nuggets and French fries, macaroni and cheese with peas, or quesadillas for lunch; and you typically eat whatever we eat for dinner: spaghetti or zoodles with meatballs, tacos with guacamole, turkey burgers, pork chops, or pizza. I still can’t get you to drink milk, so we do a lot of full-fat yogurt and cheese. And ice cream, of course, because it’s been 90+ degrees for most of the summer.

You love to help in the kitchen — measuring flour and oats, cutting bananas with a plastic knife, stirring pancakes, rolling out pie dough, placing cheese and pepperoni onto pizza, stealing bites of cookie dough. It’s challenging to get any cooking done with two mini sous chefs and our new — much smaller! — kitchen. But I wouldn’t want it any other way.


You spent three months as my roommate, while we lived with Nini and Poppy. And then had to spend another three weeks in your pack ‘n’ play after we moved because the hardware for your crib was lost somewhere between Pennsylvania and New Jersey. We finally purchased a new crib and assembled it … and you hated it. It took a good four days for you to adjust to the extra space and the softer mattress. But now you love it! You take a solid two-hour nap every afternoon and sleep for about 12 hours every night. When you’re ready to get up, you yell “mamamamamama.” And, if I don’t respond fast enough, you move on to “dada buh-buh dada buh-buh” (daddy and brother).


We did a lot of FaceTiming with Daddy while we lived apart. And you don’t understand why every phone call isn’t a FaceTime call.You always want to smother the screen with sticky kisses. It’s also great for seeing grandparents, aunts and uncles, and friends from Greensburg — though they often only see the top of your head because you insist on holding the phone or iPad.

It doesn’t take long for you to figure out technology — just like your brother. I downloaded a few iPad apps for you before our trip to Alabama, and Peek-a-Boo barn is your absolute favorite. You also bring the iPad to me and request Daniel the Tiger (dah-lull) or Elmo. Once I unlock the phone, you know how to find Amazon and click play. You only watch about five minutes, but Daniel and Elmo are definitely your favorites.


Mommy finally bought new shoes for you — blue sandals and pink sneakers — because you complained every time I tried to squeeze your feet into the size 5s. Sorry! But you need to stop growing so fast. You also need a completely new fall wardrobe because you have no pants that fit. At least you have finally learned to keep barrettes in your hair — good thing because your bangs (that I regretfully cut a few months ago!) now hang in your eyes. Oh, and your hair is officially long enough for a ponytail. Which makes you look like a teenager

Nora Kathryn, I love to witness the world through your eyes. Your “whoas” and “ohs” make little things seem like amazing things. I hope you are always so curious and eager to explore.


I love you, sweet pea!

How to Road Trip with Young Kids

08.06.2015 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Summer is slowly drawing to close. But you may have one more road trip planned before August turns to September. If so, here are a few tips that worked for us during our recent road trip from Pennsylvania to Alabama with a 4-year-0ld and an 18-month-old.


1. Stock up on new toys and activities from the Dollar Store and Target, and wrap each thing in fun, colorful paper. I filled Nora’s red basket with: stickers, magnets, glow sticks, blank notebooks, crayons, pop-up books, and a Paw Patrol toy. I included many of the same things in Sam’s blue basket, plus flash cards, a magnetic tic-tac-toe game, a dry erase board, and a new Transformers toy.


The plan was to have each kid open one surprise every hour. But, I will admit, that there were a few rough hours that I allowed three or four gifts.


Biggest hit, by far (besides the fully loaded iPad, of course), was the baking sheet and magnets. For both kiddos.


2. I also included Color Wonder markers and coloring books in each kid’s backpack and Water Wow books. These are the best art supplies for road trips!


3. Download new apps and movies to the iPad. We love these headphones and this seat-back iPad case for traveling. Sam’s favorite apps: LEGO Juniors Create and Cruise, Endless ABC, and Alpha Tots. And Nora’s favorite apps: Peekaboo Barn and Elmo Calls.

4. Snacks, snacks, and more snacks. Snacks that the kids love (Goldfish crackers, pretzels, popcorn, applesauce), snacks they have never tried (Rice Krispie treats), and snacks that are for specials occasions only (lollipops and M&Ms). I also filled bags with Fruit Loops and plastic lacing strings to make necklaces. Though they had just as much fun wrapping up my hands.


5. Bring a cooler for water and cold food (apples, carrots, cucumber). And several plastic bags to collect trash.

6. Be prepared to visit many rest stops. And fast food restaurants. And coffee shops. Every time we stopped, we marched and jumped and ran around outside to burn off energy. And we admitted that 14 hours in the car was just too long — for all of us — and so we broke up the return trip with an overnight hotel stay. Best decision ever!


7. Most importantly, be flexible. Don’t worry about Cheerios dumped onto the floor and M&Ms tossed between car seats. Let your kids cover you in stickers and tie your hands together with plastic lacing string. Listen to Shake it Off on repeat if it will grant you 15 minutes of silence. And try not to freak out when the car breaks down 30 minutes from home. Yes, that happened.


Happy road tripping!

Road Trip to Alabama

08.05.2015 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

It’s not really summer unless you strap the kids in the car for a fun-filled good old fashioned road trip, right? Right. Unless your kids are almost 4 years old and 18 months old. And a 10-hour trip turns into 14+ hours with multiple meltdowns, spilled Cheerios and apple juice stains, Shake it Off on repeat, and a momma who thoroughly exhausted every single creative distraction in her book. (More about how I attempted to entertain the kiddos in a future blog post.) Fortunately, I had my father-in-law with me. And it was all worth it to spend the week with Oma and Opa in Huntsville, AL.


Temperatures were in the 90s all week, so we enjoyed plenty of time at the neighborhood pool.


And indoor play with blocks and board games and swords that Nick used to battle his brothers when he was Sam’s age.


We hiked around the lake at Green Mountain. And we were all grateful to have Super Sam to protect us from the baby dragons, sharks, and hot lava.


We took a day trip to Chattanooga, or “Chack-a-nooda,” according to Sam. First stop: the Creative Discovery Museum, and the kids had an absolute blast. They excavated dinosaur fossils from the sand, dressed up as bees and climbed inside a honeycomb, made music, molded clay, and explored the rooftop fun factory. I think we could have spent the entire day at the museum.


We left the museum after lunch and were dripping with sweat within five minutes. We probably shouldn’t have chosen a 90+ degree day to visit the River City. But, fortunately, it is the River City, and there were plenty of ways to cool off.

The Water Steps near the Aquarium were amazing! The kids changed into their swimsuits and walked up and down the steps about three times before wading through the pool at the bottom.


Then we loaded them into the stroller — still in swimsuits — and walked across Walnut Street Bridge in search of more water play on the North Shore. While Nora caught a quick nap, Sam ran through the fountains at Coolidge Park.


Then it was back into dry clothes to ride the 100-year-old restored antique carousel.


A trip to Chattanooga is not complete without a visit to the Chattanooga Choo Choo. The terminal has been converted into a hotel lobby, and you can make a reservation to stay inside one of the Victorian train cars.

I was thoroughly impressed with “Chack-a-nooda” and would love to return one day — on a cooler day, perhaps.

We visited the Botanical Gardens, and I loved it just as much as the first time. (I also loved seeing my friend, Anna, again!) The kids spent most of the afternoon in the cool pond, and I don’t blame them. We did convince them to get out long enough to see some of the dozens of LEGOs sculptures on display.


Final excurstion of the week: Oktoberfest at the Space Center. Yes, we ate bratwursts and schnitzel under the Saturn V rocket ship.


Thanks to Dan and Carol for hosting a wonderful week in Alabama!


Cousin Time

08.05.2015 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

I didn’t realize how lucky I was to grow up within 30 minutes of all of my cousins. Unfortunately, Sam and Nora will not know that luxury. With aunts and uncles in four different states, their cousins will always be a long car ride, if not a plane ride, away.


We were able to stop in Virginia for less than 24 hours to see Sean and Jackson before we continued south to Alabama. We enjoyed pizza at Chuck E Cheese, playground time, and a glow stick party after the littlest cousin went to bed. Sam absolutely idolizes these two, and I love to see his face light up when they’re together.


Lake Tobias

08.05.2015 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

I recruited Laura to help take my little animals to the Wildlife Park. Lake Tobias is home to lions, tigers, alligators, bears, zebras, monkeys, and more. The buffalo, bison, deer, and alpaca roam free on 150 acres, and we got to feed them while on our safari tour. Nora thought the animals were hysterical, but Sam was a bit skeptical.






Trip to Greensburg

07.16.2015 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

I took the kids back to Greensburg for a long weekend. We all loved seeing some of our favorite people — but it also made us miss them that much more! We enjoyed play dates, pool time, an afternoon at Idlewild, and an Octonauts birthday party. I also visited the new owners of our old house. It was bizarre to walk up to the front door and ring the doorbell — but it also made my heart so happy to see such life and love inside.