Five on Friday: Volume 1

08.09.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

In an attempt to post more regularly, I’m linking up today with a fun bunch of ladies. Because there’s nothing easier to write than a brain dump on a Friday afternoon.

(1) There are so many projects in progress in our house that I can’t keep count. Sam’s big boy room, the nursery, and the loft playspace, to name a few. The goal, of course, is to have everything complete before baby #2 arrives — five months from yesterday! I have lots of lists and items saved to our Amazon wishlist and so many ideas taking up space in my head. Probably partially explains why I haven’t been able to sleep lately. Here are a few things I have in mind:


(2) Another important step in my nesting phase? Housecleaning. We have been purging and condensing and organizing and cleaning. And it feels so good. Of course, the daily chores don’t complete themselves while I’m busy working on other things, and so I’m thankful to have a son who loves to dust and vacuum. Speaking of vacuuming? I do it every day, and I still find piles of dog hair in the corners and under the kitchen table and behind Sam’s tool bench. I believe I could create a second Lucy from the hair that I collect each week.


(3) As if the above two bullets don’t keep me busy enough, I’m also planning Sam’s second birthday party. It will be impossible to top last year, and so I’m not even going to try. We’re keeping it much simpler this year and plan to invite a few of Sam’s little buddies, as well as our immediate families. The theme is “tools” because Sam is obsessed, and I’m anxious for it all to come together!


{photo credit Bringing Up Three}

(4) Nick has been enjoying a very wonderful eight-week break from school (which is why we’ve been able to accomplish so much around the house). But, sadly, summer vacation is nearing its end. He promised to bottle up some of the “relaxed, stress-free, fun Nick” for when he’s overwhelmed with homework and tests and group projects.

(5) Finally, a good friend is someone who bakes a second loaf of double chocolate zucchini bread for you because your dog ate the first one. And then she shares it after a particularly long day. (That particularly long day deserves a post all of its own.)


Happy weekend, friends!

One-Pot Tomato Basil Pasta

08.07.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

You may have noticed that I have not posted a recipe in … almost three months. Wait, is that right? Yes. Yes, it is. While the Peanut Butter Cup Brownies were amazing and unforgettable and worthy of the most recent recipe spot, it is unacceptable.

It’s not that we haven’t been cooking. We just haven’t made anything new. We’ve stuck to our favorites: Lasagna, Turkey Burgers, Thai Chicken Pizza. Also, burritos and grilled cheese and omelettes. Recipes I know by heart and meals that are easy to prepare.

I was just too tired during the first trimester to make anything that required more than five minutes of prep work. And now, honestly, we have our hands in about a dozen different home projects (i.e. painting the garage, converting the loft into a playroom, and considering paint colors for the nursery) that we just don’t have time to stand over the stove.

Which is why I’m on the lookout for low maintenance dinner ideas. For now. And for when Nick goes back to school. And for when baby #2 arrives. And, oh boy, have I found a good one.

In my opinion, there is nothing better than a one-pot meal. Chop and drop and simmer, and dinner is ready. Also, we love pasta. And so this dish is perfect.


Simply choose your pasta (we like whole wheat spaghetti). Slice an onion and a few cloves of garlic. Open a can of diced tomatoes. Add a big bunch of basil (preferably from your backyard garden). Top with dried herbs and vegetable broth and a bit of olive oil. And let it do its thing!


Seriously YUM. It’s even better the next day.

What’s your favorite one-pot meal?

One-Pot Tomato Basil Pasta

(Print Recipe)

Serves 6.


  • 1 lb spaghetti or linguine
  • 1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes with liquid
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 4 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
  • 1 big bunch basil, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Parmesan cheese for garnish


  1. Place pasta, tomatoes, onion, garlic, and basil in a large stock pot. Add vegetable broth, red pepper flakes, and oregano. Drizzle with oil.
  2. Cover the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, for about 10 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes or so. Cook until almost all of the liquid has evaporated.
  3. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and stir to evenly distribute the sauce. Top with Parmesan cheese and serve.

(Inspired by Apron Strings)

Letter to Samuel: 22 Months

08.01.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Hey little buddy,

What a fun month we have had! From holiday festivals to birthday parties to summer picnics. From the aquarium to the amusement park. From ice cream dates to popsicles on the front porch. From the beach to the splash park to our own backyard. From sunny days to rainy days to everything in between. You just love life!


Your cheese face is your new favorite face, which makes photo shoots much more fun. As soon as you see my camera (or iPhone), you squint your eyes and flash your toothy grin and say “cheeeese!” I can’t get enough of it. You also don’t mind posing for me sometimes — hands in your pockets, headstands, leg kicks. You’re a riot.

You have become much more vocal this month. Favorite new phrases include: “I want” and “I’ll get it” and “that one.” You also picked up “mine” while on vacation, and you have not stopped using it since. You have become pretty good at saying names. Cutest pronunciations are “Lalalala” for Auntie Laura and “Chuh-duh” for cousin Chandler. I still hear “Mama” at least 50 times a day, but I kind of love it.


You still love to dance and go to gymnastics class and blow bubbles and push your lawn mower around the yard (which you sometimes call “mawn lower”). Stroller walks have become difficult because you would much rather walk on your own. One night, Daddy decided he wanted to push you during his run. But you took his offer to run with Daddy very literally and insisted on sprinting around the cul de sac right beside him.

You are still the best little garden helper I could ask for. You pull “weeds” and water the flowers and fill your wagon with dirt. And you have become quite good at pointing out Lucy’s “poo” for us to clean. But you have also started to test your limits and often wonder to the front yard when I am in the back, and to the back yard when I am in the front. Which always ends in a game of chase. Exhilarating for you, exhausting for Mommy.

But your most favorite activity this month is anything that involves water. Running through fountains and waves, swimming like a big boy with your “turtle wings,” soaking yourself with the hose, even splashing in the bathroom sink.


Sometimes you do things that really surprise us and remind us how incredibly fast you are growing. Like at storytime at Barnes and Noble when you were brave enough to share your Mr. Ribbit during show-and-tell. You were the youngest participant by at least a year, but you did not hesitate to walk past the benches of big kids and parents and right up onto the stage. Mommy may have cried just a little. I was so proud!


You are also now officially big enough (over 32 inches tall) to ride several rides at our favorite local amusement park, Idlewild. Motorcycles and boats and helicopters, oh my! But you absolutely cannot get enough of the train that circles the park. You squeal and clap and yell “choo choo” when you see it approaching the station, and you love the loud whistle that blows just before starting down the track. You insist we ride it at least two full loops.




Your eating habits are mostly the same. Still obsessed with sweets. Still can’t get enough cheese. Still request “milk” every night before bed. While on our beach vacation, you ate an embarrassing amount of chips and cheese curls and freeze pops. But that’s what vacations are all about, right? And let’s not even talk about how much “sheet tea” you consumed.

Sometimes you clean your plate, and other times you barely take a bite. Though I can always count on you to eat all six grilled nuggets from Chick Fil A and an entire chicken quesadilla from Chipotle. You are obviously growing and thriving, and so I try not to stress too much if you have a few days of just grazing. I mean, who am I to deny you of the absolute pleasure of licking the cookie bowl clean?



Bedtime routine has become an hour-long ordeal. From painting in the tub to brushing your teeth with three different toothbrushes to requesting “milk” and “wawa” and sometimes a piece of “cheese” to insisting we read six books, or the same book five times. Whew! Most nights this summer, you have not gone down until 9pm. But I can’t complain. You sleep until about 8:15am and take a 2-3 hour nap every afternoon. I just hope we can streamline the process before baby brother or baby sister arrives!


Sam, you are growing into an opinionated, goofy, slightly mischievous, and always adorable little boy. I am so lucky to spend my days with you. Love you, bud!


Destin Family Vacation

07.30.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

There is nothing more relaxing and rejuvenating than a mid-summer beach vacation. This year we joined the whole Wiley clan (minus one — we missed you, Robyn!) in Destin, FL. And it lived up to all expectations.

Prepare yourself for a lot of photos!

The Beach

Our house was just one block from Crystal Beach, and we spent at least a few hours there almost every day. Boy, do I love the clear blue waters and soft sand beaches of the Gulf Coast!


Sam barely dipped his toes in the Gulf last year, but he was all about it this year.


He especially loved the sand. I believe he thought it was a big basin of baby powder.


Needless to say, it was quite a task to wash the grains of sand from between his toes and from inside his ears. But it was worth it.



I managed to read an entire book from start to finish (Gone Girl — highly recommended!), but I also found plenty of time to frolic through the waves with my favorite kiddo.



Speaking of waves, Sam was obsessed! He fearlessly ran into the water and laughed when he was knocked over by the salty waves. Nick took him into the deeper water to jump through the waves, and he begged for “more, more, more.”



He spent lots of time building sandcastles and digging holes and playing football with his cousins and uncles.


And burying his feet in the wet sand with Aunt Megan.

One morning our little family of three packed a bag with towels and snacks, grabbed a bucket and a shovel, and walked to the beach.


It was quiet and we were able to give Sam our full attention.


He held our hands and walked along the shore, and it was pretty perfect.


There is nothing better than a tired toddler after a full day at the beach.


And when he was ready to go, he let us know by putting on his shoes and wrapping himself in a towel and waving bye-bye to the beach.


The Pool

In my opinion, the best part of our beach house was the beautiful backyard. It was private and big enough to seat all of us for meals. It had a grill and a fire pit and a big heated pool.


We dunked the kids in the pool every day after the beach. (Sam may have even gone skinny dipping.) And they continued to swim late into the evening.


One night we had a glow stick pool party. And the boys loved it, as you can imagine.

Around Destin

Whenever we travel, we make time to explore the area. As much fun as we had at the beach and in the pool, it was nice to get out of the sun and get to know Destin.

The Gulfarium

We spent Tuesday morning at the Gulfarium, per Molly‘s recommendation. We even got to meet her and her sweet kiddos! It’s always so much fun to put a real face and a real voice to a blog you’ve been reading for years. I only hope our paths cross again in the future!


Sam was mesmerized by the dolphin show. And when the trainers rewarded the performers with fish, Sam decided it would be nice to share his goldfish and tried to toss them over the railing and into the water.



Later Sam thoroughly enjoyed his first Icee with his big cousins.




While Destin is fairly commercial and highly populated, there are many quaint beach towns along highway 30A. One morning we drove along the coast towards Seaside. I can’t say enough about this cute town! It’s no surprise that The Truman Show chose this spot as inspiration for the film.


We spent about two hours window shopping and exploring the downtown.


And we tried as best we could to steer Sam away from the numerous toy shops. But some were just irresistible.



One street, in particular, reminded me a lot of Savannah.


Sam liked that street, too.


Before heading back to Destin, we had to sample something from one of the many food trucks that line the main street. We chose gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches from The Melt Down. It was a good choice.



Most evenings were overcast, but we chose a good one to check out the Harborwalk.


The boardwalk is lined with fancy shops and restaurants that overlook the water.


They even had a choo choo train for kids. Which, of course, we had to ride.


Several times each week, the Harborwalk hosts a themed event: a Pardi Gras parade, a fireworks show, a Rock the Docks concert. But it gets very, very crowded, and parking is limited. So, if you want to check it out, arrive early!

McGuire’s Irish Pub

Most nights we ate dinner at the house, but we did gather the whole gang one night for dinner at McGuire’s Irish Pub, which came highly recommended by every person and every book.


What a fun place! Delicious comfort food in a casual environment. A friendly staff and a great sense of humor.


The boxtys were a big hit, and Nick especially liked the raspberry wheat beer. The boys enjoyed counting the dollar bills that lined the restaurant and trying on Irish garb in the gift shop.


Again, this place gets really crowded. But we had no problem getting a (very private) table at 4:45pm. Cheers!

Destin Commons

Just across the street from our neighborhood was a great shopping complex (there was an even better outlet mall a bit further down the road!) with a playscape and splash fountain for the kids. It took Sam about 10 minutes to spot the fountain, but when he did, he bolted straight for it! And then proceeded to run and skip and jump and giggle … and completely soak himself … for the next 20 minutes. It was seriously one of the highlights of the week for me — to see him so absolutely thrilled.


Family Time

The true purpose of this trip — even more than relaxing and swimming and overeating — was to spend time with family. Unfortunately, we are spread over four states and don’t get to see each other nearly enough. In fact, the last time we were all together was at our wedding nearly four years ago!


And so we soaked up every minute together.


We ate. And we drank.


We danced.


And we all especially loved watching the cousins play together.


Sam followed the older boys like a little blonde shadow.


And by day two, he was saying “Sean” and begging to hold his hand everywhere we went.


One night the grandparents watched the kids so the siblings could have a night out. We ate at Dewey Destin’s (the seafood gumbo was amazing!) and convinced the guys to go outlet shopping after.


As I said, our backyard was perfect, and we gathered around the fire pit one night to roast marshmallows and count the stars.


And that glow stick party? Was pretty awesome.


Thank you, Mom and Dad Wiley, for planning such a fantastic vacation!







Holiday Weekend

07.11.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

We were riding a high all week following our fun-filled long holiday weekend. And we leave for Florida in two days, so there’s no need to rejoin reality just yet.


We celebrated July 4th with a trip to a local arts festival.


The setting was pure Americana. White tents and food booths lining the lake.


Red, white, and blue popsicles; berry pie and vanilla ice cream; funnel cake coated in powdered sugar.


And live music over the water.


Sam loved it — the food, the entertainment, the energy.


Though he didn’t quite make it back to the car before passing out in his stroller.


The next day we headed to Idlewild with some friends, and I do believe Sam thought we had entered toddler heaven.


I visited Idlewild with my parents over 25 years ago, and some things were exactly as I remembered. Like Story Book Forest.


In fact, I have this same photo of me and my brother as kiddos. Oh, the memories.


Despite the hot, hot, hot day, the boys did great.


And Sam rode his first amusement park ride. I’m pretty sure he loved it more than Mommy and Daddy — I believe we’re too old for rides that go round and round and round.


But the absolute highlight of the day was the choo choo train. Honestly, I have never seen Sam so excited. When he heard the whistle and spotted the train approaching the station, he squealed and clapped and screamed “yay!”


Look at that smile. Gosh, I love him and his enthusiasm.


Again, we kept the kid out past his naptime. But it was well worth it, especially when he fell asleep on my shoulder.


The fun continued on Saturday with a neighborhood picnic. Sam loves our neighbors as much as they love him.


And there was a bounce house!


We played and ate. And played and ate some more. And we all slept extremely well that night.


Finally, we capped off the weekend with a certain Momma’s 31st birthday! We enjoyed breakfast, followed by outlet shopping.


And later that night, Nick and I went out for dinner and a movie.


I think we may have a new favorite restaurant: The Headkeeper!


Lobster pizza. Oh my.


I love my boys, and I love the weekend we spent together. I suspect 31 is going to be a good year.


Letter to Samuel: 21 Months

07.09.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Dear Samuel,

All of the sudden you seem so big! Maybe because we have started to picture you as a big brother?


And, oh, what an amazing big brother you will be. You are so nurturing and such a love bug. You freely give kisses to anyone who will accept them, and I just love to see you cuddle your Mr. Ribbit. In fact, your fondness for him continues to grow. He often accompanies us to the grocery store, to playdates, to gymnastics class. He has tumbled down the mulched garden bed and taken a swim in the pool and dipped his frog legs into Lucy’s water dish more times than I can count. Honestly, he could really use a bath every night, but we’ve tried to minimize his trips through the washing machine in hopes of keeping him in tact as long as possible. Though I think it may soon be time to buy a replacement — and sneakily make the big switch, of course.


Your new favorite word is “baby,” and you often point to Mommy’s belly when you say it. One night, you lifted Mommy’s shirt and said “baby.” Then you lifted Daddy’s shirt and said “uh-oh.” We thought that was just hysterical.

Your other new favorite phrase is “I want.” We’re trying our best to tag “please” onto the end of it (which comes out as “pee”). You also say “thank you” (day do) when prompted. You say “uh-oh” “oh no” and “whoa” all the time. And I must hear “mama” at least 50 times a day — that is no exaggeration. You also say “dada” consistently, and we are working on “Sammy” and “Lucy.”

I would guess you say about 20 words now. And while you may be slightly behind other kiddos your age when it comes to your vocabulary, you make up for it in many other ways.


You have no fear when it comes to climbing, running, sliding, rolling, swinging, etc. And you have become very brave in the swimming pool. I have finally convinced you that your “turtle wings” (a.k.a. puddle jumper) are cool to wear, which means you can “swim” all by yourself. You also took at least five trips down the sliding board and thought it was just about the coolest thing ever! You even threw a fit because Daddy wouldn’t take you to the very top. You kept saying “up” and “more.” So he obliged. Then your neighbor buddy, Jerry, caught you at the bottom — but not after you went under the water. But you giggled and clapped and said “yay!”

Speaking of water, I took you to a splash park this month, and you were obsessed. You ran through the sprinklers with the big kids and didn’t flinch when the big bucket of water fell on your head.

You are also evolving into quite the social butterfly. You still like to have Mommy nearby, but you approach strangers with smiles and waves and don’t mind being the center of attention. You are so confident and courageous, and I hope you never lose those qualities.


You still love trucks and tractors and trains and airplanes. One night, we went for ice cream and counted at least 20 motorcycles drive by — you were in heaven. When you see a fire truck, you say “woo woo woo.” You love bubbles, play-doh, your lawn mower, and books. We now read at least five of them every night before bed. Current favorites are “The Diggingest Dog” “Go, Dog, Go” and our family picture book.

We finished our first full year of music class this month and started gymnastics class. You absolutely love to run across the spring floor and jump on the trampoline, and you’re able to hang from the bar for a solid 10 seconds. Strong man!


Sam, we just adore the little person you are becoming. You are such a joy to be around, and each day gets better. Love you to the moon and back, kiddo!


{Photos Credit to Mudpies N Butterflies)

The First Trimester, for the Second Time

06.29.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

First, thank you all so much for the response to our announcement last week. We are very excited to share this next adventure with all of you!

Now onto the details.

The News. We knew in January that we were ready for our little family to grow, and we started to make a deliberate effort to do so in February. The next two months passed with no news. We were disappointed, but not discouraged. The day before Sam and I left for our Alabama trip, I took a pregnancy test. But it was negative. And so I had a glass of wine with my in-laws. But as the week progressed, I suspected that test may have been wrong. And so less than 12 hours after returning home, I picked up another test at the local pharmacy. Sure enough — two lines appeared almost instantly! Sam and I danced around the kitchen and pumped our fists in the air, and then we called Daddy. He could hardly get home fast enough to join the celebration.


The Due Date. We reached the 12-week mark last Wednesday, which makes our due date January 8th. However, little bean measured a week later during our first ultrasound (which completely fascinated Sam, by the way). Following in big brother’s first steps already! See, the doctor had set Sam’s due date for September 17th, but he measured small on all three ultrasounds. So, it should have come as no surprise, that he arrived “eight days late” on September 25th. I suspect little sibling may join our family closer to mid-Janaury.


The Same. This pregnancy has progressed almost identical to our first. I’ve experienced very similar symptoms so far — fatigue and headaches topping the list. Which means I have heartburn and leg cramps and lower back pain to look forward to!

But Different. Of course, this time around feels much different. Instead of commuting almost two hours to and from work every day and spending the majority of eight hours sitting at a desk behind a computer screen, I’m chasing our toddler around the playground and following him down the sliding board. I’m playing fetch in the yard with our puppy and pulling weeds from the garden. And I’m trying so very hard to keep a clean house and prepare a balanced meal for my family every night. Needless to say, my plate is full! It’s more difficult this time to remember to take my vitamins and to take a break for a glass of water. Also different this time? My belly by week 8! I’m barely through the first trimester, and I’m almost exclusively wearing maternity clothes.


Moving Forward. We are all very excited for Nick to have an 8-week break from school. He deserves it! And I can’t wait to have his helping hands around the house. Also, we leave for Destin, FL in less than two weeks, and oh boy, are we ready for a change of scenery. I must admit, it’s much more enjoyable to have a small summer belly this time around. Of course, that means I’ll have to invest in some new maternity clothes come winter.


I anticipate the documentation of this pregnancy will be much less frequent than our last, but I plan to take belly shots at least every two weeks. Perhaps I can even convince Nick to do an occasional post from “his perspective” because we all enjoyed those so much last time! And how about Sam’s perspective, too? Because he is currently obsessed with all things baby. This kiddo is going to be one heck of a big brother.


Thanks again for all the love!

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!


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.


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


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


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


Our favorite strawberry cake made with strawberries picked that morning.


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


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


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.


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.


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.”


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.


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.


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


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!