Sam’s Secret!

06.26.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Sam has been very good about keeping our news a secret. But he’s ready to share it with the world!

samsecret

You may have noticed that the blog has been a bit quiet. Well, it’s not only because we’ve been busy with park dates and picnics and splash parks, it’s also because I’ve been sleeping straight through Sam’s afternoon naps and going to bed shortly after he does. Which doesn’t leave much time for blogging — not to mention cooking or cleaning.

Chasing a toddler (and a puppy) while growing a baby is hard work! Of course, I couldn’t be more thrilled or more thankful to be doing it. Details to come!

Summer Is

06.24.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

90 degrees before noon. The sweet scent of baby sunscreen. Sun-kissed cheeks. And generous neighbors who invite us over to swim.

summer11

Running through sprinklers with friends. Then picnicking under the shade of a maple tree.

summer01

Hot dogs and hamburgers and sweet corn on the cob. A tall glass of lemonade. Dinners al fresco.

summer03

A sip of water straight from the garden hose. Rinsing sticky orange popsicle fingers and removing the blades of grass from between our toes.

summer04

Our favorite strawberry cake made with strawberries picked that morning.

summer06

The promise of homegrown tomatoes and peppers. Multiple basil plants. And our first attempt at cucumbers and eggplant.

summer07

Concerts in the park. Folding chairs and blankets spread across the grass. Koozies and a bottle of wine on ice.

summer10

Summer is … pure joy.

Kindermusik: Toddler Edition

06.18.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

We have officially completed our first full year of Kindermusik.

We started with a class for babies up to age 18 months. (How was he so little just one year ago?) We held our babies and encouraged them to clap their hands and hit the drum, and sometimes they crawled off the music mat, but they mostly just sat with us and giggled and babbled while we sang silly songs.

My, how our Wednesday mornings have changed.

kindermusik1

Sam was completely overwhelmed earlier this year during our first class with the 18 months – 3 years age group. Miss Uta no longer gently placed the instruments into his hands — he had to wait in line with the big kids and choose an instrument from the basket. He was slightly intimidated by their size and confidence and chose to stand at the end of the line until his classmates were seated.

kindermusik2

But the instruments were much more fun — wooden blocks, bells, an xylophone, a whistle — and it didn’t take long for Sam to “become a big kid.”

kindermusik3

Which also meant he was no longer content to sit on the music mat with Mommy. He ran around the room with the other kids, tried to open the cabinet doors, crawled under empty chairs, and sometimes did somersaults. But Miss Uta encouraged every form of interaction.

kindermusik4

We bounced on rubber balls and jumped through hula hoops and waved silk scarves. We hopped and skipped and tip-toed to the music. We practiced fast songs and slow songs and made all sorts of animal sounds.

kindermusik5

We held hands and danced in a circle and waved a parachute for the kids to run under.

kindermusik6

Every class included storytime and “gentle rocking,” which meant the mommas got a few brief moments of snuggle time before the kiddos were off and running again. And every class concluded with stamps for all the little toddler hands.

Thanks, Miss Uta, for a great year! Sam has loved every class. We’re taking the rest of the summer off, but we’ll be back for more fun this fall!

Picking (and eating) Strawberries

06.11.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Last week we visited Triple B Farms, which is located just outside of Pittsburgh. If you live in the area, you must check it out! I’m not kidding when I say that it is the coolest place we’ve been to since we moved to western Pennsylvania.

strawberries9

We met up with a few other local moms and kiddos for a morning of strawberry picking.

strawberries1

Which, to our toddlers, meant strawberry eating.

strawberries4

It didn’t take Sam long to figure out that the biggest and reddest strawberries tasted the best. And he seriously must have eaten two dozen while traipsing through the field.

strawberries5

The berries often went straight from the vine and into his mouth. But he also didn’t hesitate to raid the basket that I was trying so hard to fill. I don’t blame him, though, there really is nothing better than sweet strawberries ripened by the early June sun.

strawberries6

He’s just like his momma when it comes to his deep love for summer produce.

strawberries3

It was the perfect way to spend a Tuesday morning.

strawberries2

And there were tractors! With steps for Sam’s little legs to climb and a wheel as big as his body. He was in heaven.

strawberries7

There were also slides and a petting zoo and a cute farm store. Triple B Farms, thanks for your hospitality! We will definitely be back.

strawberries8

Letter to Samuel: 20 Months

06.08.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Dear Sam,

You are our comedian, our explorer, and our little love bug. And I can’t believe you are twenty months old!

20months1

Summertime has brought with it many new adventures: first visits to the science museum and the zoo, first tractor ride, and first trip around the merry-go-round. You are only slightly timid when encountering new things, and as soon as you successfully do that thing, you want to do it over and over and over again (i.e. the tractor and the big slide at the community carnival).

Seemingly mundane tasks like loading the dishwasher, pulling weeds, and vacuuming the couches are lots more fun with your little helping hands. You have even figured out how to operate the Keurig, which means we have to double check that it is always turned off when we’re finished brewing our morning cups of coffee.

20months2

You have loved your Little Tikes car and your giraffe bike this month. And you are so fast on both! You have finally figured out how to more forwards and steer, and you cruise around the house like it’s your own personal racetrack. You also love to have company on your little road trips. You hold Ribbit and Tiger and Baby and sometimes your sippy cup. You’re pretty fast with your lawn mower, too. And you easily go up and down the hills in our yard.

Speaking of up and down, you have officially mastered the stairs. No more crawling up and sliding down, you now prefer to walk while holding the railing and, occasionally, our hands. You can even go up and down the single steps of our sidewalk.

20months3

You’ve become a bit more picky in your food preferences this month, which I know is common. You still like bratwursts and bananas and berries and cheese. But dishes I could always count on like eggs and grilled chicken are now hit or miss. And you’ve developed an awful snacking habit. You whine and beg for marshmallows and Goldfish and popsicles. But perhaps your favorite thing this month is sweet tea. The problem is Momma loves it, too, so I have to hide the pitcher in the back of the refrigerator!

Not only have your eating habits changed, so have your mealtime manners. You flat out refuse to sit anywhere but the big chair. Although you often manage to sneak yourself into either my lap or Daddy’s lap. Then you proceed to stick your hands in our food and help yourself to bites, even when you have the exact same thing on your plate. Hey, as long as you get some food in your belly, we’re not going to complain.

20months4

Your bedtime and naptime routines continue to work perfectly well. So well, in fact, that you have a very hard time falling asleep anywhere but in your bed (or your pack’n’play while traveling). This means long road trips have become almost unbearable. You snooze for about 30 minutes — when your typical afternoon nap lasts more than 2 hours. And then we are forced to load movies into the DVD player (favorites are Monsters, Inc. and Toy Story) to minimize the inevitable whining from the backseat.

20months5

You and Daddy had several opportunities this month for some real boy bonding. You spent a day at Hershey’s Chocolate World and a local pickle festival — chocolate and pickles … two of your most favorite things! And it’s quite common to find the two of you huddled together in your circus tent reading books and giggling. You have always been Mommy’s buddy, but it has been so wonderful to watch your relationship with your Daddy really blossom.

20months6

You continue to get better and better at communicating with us. You are constantly babbling and consistently say about a dozen words like no, up, down, go, out, ball, water (wa wa), more, milk, and bye. Sometimes you try to repeat our words, and even if they sound nothing like ours, we still praise your effort. You “read” to us and talk to your stuffed animals and tell us if Lucy is getting into trouble. You “choo choo” and “vroom” to your trains and trucks and “quack” to the rubber duckies in the bathtub.

20months7

You are our sunshine, Sam. We love you!

20months8

To the Zoo

06.03.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

We took Sam to the zoo on Memorial Day. And I admit that we were more excited than he was. At first.

zoo1

The lions and leopards and giraffes were so far away, and Sam was more interested in trying to climb the railing — much to his mother’s dismay.

zoo6

zoo2

zoo3

zoo4

But then we entered the elephant house, and he was mesmerized. We watched the baby elephant swing a bat with his trunk for at least 10 minutes.

zoo5

Laura and Stephen joined us for the fun day, and we were thankful to have the extra hands to chase our little monkey.

zoo7

Yes, our little monkey liked the real monkeys, but he loved the fishies. The aquarium was a huge hit.

zoo8

zoo9

And I think we all loved the penguins as much as he did.

zoo10

zoo11

Sam was even brave enough to crawl through the water tunnel — with Auntie close behind — to get closer to the stingrays.

zoo12

The polar bears were another favorite. So playful!

zoo13

Needless to say, Sam didn’t spend much time in his stroller.

zoo15

Personally, I would have appreciated a break from trekking through the African Savannah and Asian forest.

zoo14

Surprisingly, our little trooper lasted all day without a nap. And he had zero meltdowns. He was rewarded with a sweet little tiger.

zoo16

Before we left Pittsburgh, we took Laura and Stephen up the incline for our favorite view of the city.

zoo17

We will definitely be back to see the animals again soon!

Catch Up

05.23.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

I have started no less than five posts since we returned from Alabama. And, yet, it has remained awfully silent around here. So let’s play a little catch up, shall we? Because we all know those draft posts aren’t going to get finished anytime soon.

It’s been hot here. In fact, it’s felt more like July than May. I’m not complaining, though. And neither is this guy.

summer1

Hot means corn on the cob. And running through sprinklers in barefeet.

summer2

And it means ice cream and popsicles every evening.

summer3

summer4

We celebrated Mother’s Day, and I was so lucky to not only be with the one who made me a momma …

mothersday1

But also with the one who taught me to be a momma, as well as both of my grandmothers. I truly cherish moments like this.

mothersday2

mothersday3

My boys spoiled me with a day at the Hershey Spa.

spa

And I was in wonderful company. We enjoyed massages and pedicures and, as always, an endless supply of Hershey’s kisses.

spa2

And while we were away, Sammy enjoyed a day with Daddy. Chocolate and pickles — what more could a boy ask for?

daddyday

We’ve been having playdates …

playdate

and celebrating college graduations.

graduation

And, believe it or not, we’ve found time for yard work, too.

garden

Hope your May has been as eventful as ours!

Alabama Visit

05.14.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

After an extra long drive to the airport (thanks to the Pittsburgh Marathon), two flights plus a three-hour layover in between, and another two hours in the car, we finally arrived at Oma’s and Opa’s house in Huntsville, AL. But all of those hours were well worth it. Sam and I had a fantastic four days with family — and friends, too!

alabama1

Sam doesn’t get to see his cousins nearly enough. In fact, the last time we had the three boys together was last June. Sean is now eleven, and he is growing into such a sweet and thoughtful young gentleman. And Jackson, who turned five earlier this year, is a little spitfire. Just like Sam!

We took the younger two to the playground one morning and played hide-and-seek and follow-the-leader. Of course, Sam tried to do everything Jackson did. We had to suggest a few times that Jackson wait until Sam wasn’t watching before he jumped off the tire or went down the sliding board head first.

alabama2

When we got home, the kiddos enjoyed ice pops on the back porch. Of course, every afternoon after that, Sam begged to open the freezer so he could have another. And another. And another. And every time, he instructed us to sit in the same spot as that first time. One day, though, Jackson wanted to sit by himself on the opposite side of the porch. What did Sam do? Dragged his chair across the cement to sit beside his cousin. Jackson asked, “Why does he have to do everything I do?” And I said, “Because you’re the cool big cousin.”

alabama3

Fortunately, Nick’s parents saved all the best toys from their kids’ childhoods — some date back nearly 40 years! So Sam had plenty to do during our visit. Although I think his (and Jackson’s) favorite activity was wrestling with Opa! I’m pretty sure Dan slept for three days after we left.

alabama9

One afternoon, while Sam was sleeping, my mother-in-law took me to “the secret place.” Carol has been talking about this spot since they moved to Alabama, and I was thrilled to finally see it. This picture does not do it justice. Think fairytale garden in the middle of the forest. The landscaping was immaculate and full of so many different colors and textures. Carol says it looks different every time she visits.

alabama4

On our final full day in Huntsville, we met our dear friends Anna and Ryan at the Botanical Gardens. We have not seen them since they left Altoona two years ago and, well, a lot has happened since then! Namely one Sam and one Lila.

alabama5

It was so fun to see Anna and Ryan as parents. And Lila is such a sweetheart! I do believe Sam was mesmerized by her beautiful dark eyes.

alabama11

The Botanical Gardens was the perfect place to take our toddlers. Sam especially loved the splash pools. I wonder if we can put one of these in our backyard?

alabama7

It is so wonderful when family and friends move to the same town!

alabama8

Thank you, Dan and Carol (and BJ and Megan, too!) for a wonderful visit. Since Sam was such a good little travel buddy, we’re already looking forward to planning our next trip! (More to come on traveling alone with a toddler.)

alabama10

A Morning at the Museum

05.13.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Sam and I had the pleasure of joining our friends, Jenn and Dominic, last week for a morning at the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh.

museum12

Sam was mesmerized by the robots …

museum8

… and the trains. He begged to blow the whistle and tried several times to climb under the railing to get closer to the railroad.

museum1

museum7

Sam and his buddy wanted so much to throw the basketball with the big kids. They tend to act more like they’re almost five rather than almost two.

museum9

But they both still have that unbridled enthusiasm that only exists in toddlers.

museum11

museum2

The fish at the Science Center were even cooler than the ones we see at the pet store. And Sam spoke their language well.

museum10

We greatly appreciated the hands-on and interactive approach to all of the exhibits.

museum3

Especially on the fourth floor, a.k.a. the exploration station. The water table was insane, and we let the boys play for at least 30 minutes.

museum4

Sam also loved collecting and launching balls in the ball factory.

museum6

museum5

We even decided to try a planetarium show: One World, One Sky: Big Bird’s Adventure. And, believe it or not, the boys loved it! They watched Big Bird and Elmo navigate the stars and the moon, and sat almost completely still for the entire 20 minutes.

museum13

We had such a fun day and can’t wait to go back again.

museum14

Thank you, Jenn and Dominic!

museum15

Letter to Samuel: 19 Months

05.03.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Hey little buddy! Today you are 19 months and 9 days old. You keep Momma so busy that it’s become difficult to find time to write your monthly letters. But I don’t want to forget a single moment. In fact, I would love to hit the pause button and save this age forever.

19months3

You have so much personality! And your enthusiasm for life is contagious. From washing your hands to checking the mailbox to watering the flowers, everything is an adventure in your world.

19months4

You are constantly babbling and telling stories in your own little language. The “b” sound is still your favorite: ball, banana, bird, binkie, bug (though you say “gub” instead of “bug”). And you have perfected the “m” sound, which means you say “mama” all the time! You also say more and milk. And since I listen to you every day, I have figured out your versions of “Elmo” and “pretzel.” You still say “no” quite a bit, though I am happy that you have also added “yeah” to your vocabulary. I’m anxiously waiting for the day when your communication skills really take off — I know it’s right around the corner!

19months5

I do believe you have the best cheese face ever. And, heck, even your cry face is adorable. Though I am happy to report that the tantrums have significantly decreased since last month. You still throw a fit every time I bring you inside. But I can’t blame you with the gorgeous spring we’ve had thus far. In fact, you often squeeze past me when I’m trying to get Lucy inside, and you run right out the door in your jammies or bare feet. You giggle and squeal and get halfway down the sidewalk before I’m able to catch up.

19months1

We explore a different park or playground nearly every day. And you still amaze me with your coordination and strength. You can officially scale the rock wall and you always attempt to climb the spider’s web. You have no fear and follow the lead of the bigger kids despite being half their size.

Sometimes we pack a picnic lunch to take to the lake, and sometimes we share our crumbs with the ducks. You have perfected your duck call, and you love to throw rocks into the water.

We also have a million things to keep us busy in our own backyard. I do believe that gardening has replaced dusting as your new favorite chore. You have your own little gardening set that includes a rake and a shovel and a bucket. But, of course, you prefer to use our tools. You also love to wear our gloves. Though Lucy is quick to steal them right off your hands. She is constantly snatching the hat off your head, too.

19months10

So far this season, you have helped to pull weeds and plant tulip bulbs and spread mulch. Such a hard worker!

19months11

Other favorite outdoor activities include mowing the lawn (and you insist on going up and down the steepest part of the yard), collecting “worms,” playing with your new sand/water table, blowing bubbles, and decorating the driveway with chalk. Needless to say, by the end of the day, you are covered in dirt. And you’ve already skinned your knees at least a half dozen times. Fortunately, Mommy’s kisses always make your boo boos better.

19months12

When I do manage to wrangle you inside for an afternoon, I’m likely to find you playing in your kitchen — always with the oven mitt on one hand. One day you managed to fill your sink with water from your sippy cup, and I found you washing your produce. It was a proud moment for this momma!

19months7

It’s also exciting to watch you develop an interest in books. You’ve always enjoyed listening to Mommy and Daddy read before bedtime, but you are now content to flip through a book on your own. Current favorites are Little Blue Truck, all Karen Katz lift-the-flap books, and the book I created for you full of family photos.

We’ve also started to devote time every day to flashcards and puzzles. And we work on letters and numbers and animals with the magnets on your chalkboard. You are such a little sponge, and I suspect you will love to learn as much as your parents.

19months9

This month we took down the gates to the living room that had previously penned Lucy into the kitchen, which means you have more room to run and ride your giraffe bike. It also means Lucy snuggles on the couch! Yes, she’s still your buddy. And, yes, the two of you still get into a whole lot of trouble together. But I have learned to except the crazy moments because they are often followed by sweet ones.

19months8

Every morning before Daddy leaves for work he says: “Take care of your Momma today. You’re the man of the house.” And, Sam, you do just that. You’re concerned if I’m not wearing my slippers, or if I have a full cup of water that I haven’t sipped from. You point out any loose threads on my clothing and adjust my glasses if they’re crooked. I really don’t know what I would do without you, kiddo!

I’m so grateful for you each and every day. I love you, Sam.

19months6