May 2017 archive

link love

Happy Friday, friends! It is the start of a long weekend and I’m so excited to spend it with friends and family! What are you doing for the holiday weekend?

link love 5.26.2017


With all of the busyness in the past few weeks, we haven’t caught up on our link love in a while. We will remedy that today :)

With a name like “Pass the Cookies,” you know I’m a fan of the classic chocolate chip cookie. Last year, I pulled out all the stops for a March Madness: Chocolate Chip Cookie Edition. I am loving this chocolate chip cookie guide that tells you all you need to know about how your chocolate chip cookies will turn out if you alter the ingredients or ingredient amounts. Since my ultimate chocolate chip cookie post, I have made even a few more variations and would love to do another face-off. Do you have a favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe I should include?

In the past few weeks, I caught the wanderlust bug hard. I have a list of trip itineraries that I constantly add notes to when I see a great post or article that pertains to a location or site on the itinerary. My hope is that when I eventually go on these trips I will have most of the research and planning done, besides booking tickets, rooms, etc. So far I have been doing this to curb my wanderlust, but I’m not sure if it isn’t just making me want to take these trips more and more. I love this new travel planning series that Julia and Thomas have started. Though my itinerary spreadsheets have a few more columns, I loved seeing the similarities between their example itinerary and mine. My tip for anyone planning their own trip: if you are traveling in a group, add a “name” column to your spreadsheet so you can make sure everyone can check off at least one item on their list. This makes it more fair and fun for everyone, and you get to see things you may not have thought to include on your list!

One of my favorite things that happened in the past few weeks was the launch of the new Simplified Planners. Let me start by saying that this is not sponsored at all. I don’t have a Simplified Planner and didn’t purchase one when they released last week, so you might be wondering why I am so excited about it. As you can tell from my ramble above about traveling, I am a planner to my core. I have a planner on my desk at work, I tote one to and from home, I have a giant calendar on my office wall, and I use Google calendar and iCal. I love the crisp, clean design of Emily Ley’s products, and the thought and detail that goes into them to make them as useful as possible. I am planning on getting the “Weekly Gold Pineapple” when the calendar year editions come out in September (can you say, Christmas present?), but until then, I love using these free printable resources!

Moving on to more serious matters, Antarctica is melting. Climate change is real. These interactive articles are really well done and create a great (horrible) visual of what our emissions are doing to Antarctica and the coastlines (hint: the ice is melting, the coasts are flooding).

Do you have a side hustle? This article on millennial women earning money from their side hustles is interesting. If pay was more equal, would women still have side jobs at the same rate or would they continue to pursue them at the same rate because they find enjoyment in them? Hmm.

To end on a light note, watch Emma Watson act as Belle alongside Dan Stevens in a grey marshmallow suit and moon shoes for the live-action Beauty and the Beast movie. Hilarious.

Thank you to all those who serve or have served our country. Have a great Memorial Day weekend!

memorial day food ideas

The long weekend and unofficial start to summer is just around the corner! I pulled together some great Memorial Day food ideas for your brunch, cookout, or sweet tooth.


While many families spend the weekend at the beach, our family has a tradition of staying home and making an elaborate Memorial Day brunch together. It is one of the only days of the year when we all have the day off and can take our time cooking an early meal together, without the pressure of impressing guests, like we would have on other holidays. We like to try new dishes each year, so I’m excited to use some of these recipes in our brunch spread.

Memorial Day Recipe Ideas |


weekend in philadelphia

Wedding season is in full force, both in our lives and in this time of the year. We have attended three weddings in three states in the past six weeks, and have wedding festivities of some sort almost every weekend from now until the next wedding in mid-June. With Will’s medical school schedule being so out of our control, it can sometimes be difficult to plan these trips far enough in advance to buy reasonably priced plane tickets. So far, the weddings have fallen perfectly in line with his weekends off (how that happened, we still aren’t sure, but are oh so thankful), so we have been able to make some epic, quick-turnaround road trips out of these last couple of weekends. We have driven through eight states, crossed time zones, and had an absolutely wonderful time visiting new places, catching up with friends and family and celebrating new marriages. One of the weddings we recently attended was in Philadelphia, a city I had never visited.

Weekend in Philadelphia |

I joked with Will about the daffodils in the window boxes everywhere. They bloomed in North Carolina almost a month earlier, so it was funny to see them just popping up on our weekend in Philadelphia.

Weekend in Philadelphia |

Weekend in Philadelphia |

I don’t have photos from the wedding itself, but the ceremony took place in one of the oldest Presbyterian churches in Philadelphia, established in 1768. As we walked around the history nerd in me loved thinking about how much history took place in the city and all of the notable figures in American history who lived there. We also talked about National Treasure scenes the entire time. That was kind of historical, right? ;)

We spent the night in a small AirBnB in the adorable Queen Village neighborhood. The quiet residential streets surrounding the apartment were lined with cobblestone streets, brick sidewalks and row houses, cute colorful doors, and flower boxes just beginning to bloom. I would definitely recommend staying here if you want to experience the charm of the city while still being close to most of the attractions.

Weekend in Philadelphia |

Weekend in Philadelphia |

Weekend in Philadelphia |

We drove up for the wedding, but were lucky to be able to visit some of our wonderful college friends who now live in Philadelphia on our quick trip. They led us around many notable areas of Philadelphia as we walked from Queen Village to Old City, City Center and Rittenhouse Square. Though we were in Philadelphia for less than 24 hours I feel like we saw so much, thanks to our wonderful tour guides!

Weekend in Philadelphia |

Weekend in Philadelphia |

Weekend in Philadelphia |

Where we stayed:
AirBnB in Queen Village

Where we ate:
Drinks at 2nd Story Brewing Company
Brunch at The Little Lion

What we saw*:
Independence Hall
Liberty Bell
Independence National Historical Park and Independence Mall
Reading Terminal Market – Apparently this is the place to get doughnuts. We’re marking it for our next visit!
Museum of the American Revolution – This was right across from our brunch spot and had just opened two days before we arrived! We didn’t have time to look around, but I would love to see it next time we visit.
City Hall
Cute cobblestone streets – There were many areas with these. We walked down a few adorable alleys that our friends had been to before (see the pictures above).

*We didn’t have time to go into any of these, except Reading Terminal Market, since we were in a time crunch, but we passed them and peeked in on our mini walking tour.

coconut cake with earl grey buttercream

If places could be a love language, cute local coffee shops would be one of mine. I think it is safe to say the same about my tea-loving parents. Last year, their New Years resolution was to go to their local coffee shop every Saturday they were in town, and they did! They know most of the baristas by name and the baristas know their order when they walk in the door. Even if they don’t see my parents, the baristas behind the coffee counter know my parents are in the shop when they hear the order called. It is the same order every week: two Earl Grey tea lattes with two pumps of vanilla, otherwise known as London fog.

Coconut Cake with Earl Grey Buttercream |

Coconut Cake with Earl Grey Buttercream |

Their love for Earl Grey tea is not unfounded. They have always been tea drinkers and, amidst other types of tea, we had Earl Grey on hand at all times when I was growing up. So, when it came time to think of a good Mother’s Day dessert, incorporating their favorite coffee shop order seemed like a the perfect solution. Enter: coconut cake with Earl Grey buttercream.

Coconut Cake with Earl Grey Buttercream |

Coconut Cake with Earl Grey Buttercream |

I am so excited about every part of this cake. The coconut cake is delicious on it’s own and the browned butter takes the flavor to another level of amazing! It is slightly dense, perfectly moist, and filled with coconut. I don’t know which part of this cake I love more, the cake or the frosting. As much as I love the coconut cake base, I could eat the Earl Grey buttercream by the spoonful it is so good. The Earl Grey tea flavor comes through so clearly and is perfect when paired with a little vanilla buttercream and a bite of coconut cake. The flavors complement each other so well, and make for a pretty cake to boot!

Coconut Cake with Earl Grey Buttercream |

Coconut Cake with Earl Grey Buttercream |

Coconut Cake with Earl Grey Buttercream |

I have always thought of coconut cake as a great spring dessert, but it is so versatile that it could work just as well after Mother’s Day too. Dress it up with coconut covering the entire outside, or stick with a more subtle approach. Add jam or lemon curd between the layers and it is a whole new cake! If you are looking for something more simple than a layer cake, bake the coconut cake in a loaf pan and call it brunch. I won’t tell ;) This recipe makes a small 6-inch cake, perfect for small Mother’s Day gatherings, however, if you want a larger cake double everything and bake the layers in 8-inch cake pans.

Coconut Cake with Earl Grey Buttercream

Coconut Cake
2 large eggs
1 ¼ cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup granulated sugar
5 ounces sweetened flaked coconut (about 1 ½ cups)
6 tablespoons butter, browned (see this post for how to brown butter)
Nonstick cooking spray for baking pan

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray two 6-inch cake pans with nonstick baking spray, line the bottoms with parchment paper circles, then spray with nonstick spray again.

In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and vanilla.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, salt, and baking powder. Stir in the sugar and coconut. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and pour in egg mixture. Stir the wet and dry ingredients together until just combined. Add the browned butter, and stir until just smooth. Be careful not to overmix. The batter will be very thick.

Distribute the batter evenly between the pans, and spread it out to smooth the cakes. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 30 to 50 minutes. Cool in pan five minutes, before turning out onto a cooling rack.

Earl Grey Buttercream
1 ¼ cups butter, divided
2 tablespoons Earl Grey tea (loose tea from about 8 teabags)
1 ½ cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place ½ cup butter in a small saucepan with the loose tea. Heat over medium heat until the butter melts, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and let the tea steep for 5 more minutes. Strain the butter through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl. Refrigerate until the tea-steeped butter is the consistency of softened butter (about 20-30 minutes). It is okay to have some small bits of tea in the butter.

After the butter has cooled, place the remaining ¾ cup butter and the tea-steeped butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and blend on medium until fluffy. Gradually add the powdered sugar and mix until combined. Add in vanilla and blend on medium-high until fluffy.

Vanilla Buttercream
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)

Place the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until creamy. Reduce the speed to low, gradually add the powdered sugar, and beat to combine. Beat in the salt and vanilla until fluffy.

After the cakes are completely cool, cut off the domed tops of the cakes with a large serrated knife. Place one cake layer on the cake plate, top with Earl Grey buttercream and another cake layer. Cover with a thin, smooth layer of Earl Grey buttercream and refrigerate fro 10-15 minutes. This is your crumb coat. Cover the entire cake with vanilla buttercream then add Earl Grey buttercream around the bottom of the cake.

If you just want Earl Grey frosting, double the Earl Grey buttercream recipe and omit the vanilla buttercream recipe. Do the opposite if you just want vanilla frosting (though the Earl Grey buttercream is one of my favorite frostings).

You can cover the cake with coconut or create an ombré effect with the Earl Grey buttercream and the vanilla buttercream (shown here).

You can also make this into three layers by distributing the batter evenly between three 6-inch cake pans.

Coconut cake adapted slightly from Smitten Kitchen.

lemon ricotta pancakes

Pancakes just feel like a weekend food, don’t they? I feel like we’re swinging into the weekend early with these delicious lemon ricotta pancakes!

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes |

Ever since I tried the lemon ricotta pancakes at Sarabeth’s in New York last summer, I have been on the hunt to find something similar here. I am not exaggerating when I say that they were the best pancakes I have ever had! I’m so excited to have these homemade lemon ricotta pancakes in my arsenal now :)

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes |

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes |

There is just something fun about pancakes. Growing up, we had pancakes on Friday nights. We would pour pancake batter into our Mickey Mouse pancake mold and excitedly sit at the counter with our stack of warm pancakes. Nowadays, with early weekday schedules, we don’t make pancakes a lot around here. Even on the weekends we often get caught up in getting our projects and cleaning started and don’t make time for a slow pancake breakfast. These lemon ricotta pancakes are game changers. They are easily my favorite homemade pancake recipe, and on top of amazing flavor and texture, they are easy!

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes |

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes |

The combination of the lemon and ricotta makes for a delicious, slightly tangy and subtly sweet pancake. They are thick and fluffy with a tender crumb and would make the perfect addition to your Mother’s Day brunch! Add poppy seeds or blueberries, or top them with maple syrup or lemon curd to make them your own!

Head on over to Glitter, Inc. for the recipe!

may goals

2017 May Goals |

April was packed to the brim and flew by so quickly because of that. We went to two weddings, drove through 5 states, spent Easter in Virginia, survived Will’s night shifts, made 800 cookies (!), and celebrated birthdays. Between lots of work and lots of social obligations, May is looking just as busy, if not busier. I’m trying my best to avoid the overwhelm that could easily absorb me. These May goals are helpful with that. They are an easy way for me to focus on what I truly want to get done this month, and a reminder that I can leave other things to the side for later. Not everything will (or can) get done at once, and I plan on reminding myself of that as the month gets into full swing.

April Goals
-Plant herbs – Bought herbs yesterday, but haven’t decided where to plant them yet
-Do toning exercises twice a week – Mostly, but I didn’t do a good job of keeping track so I’m not crossing it off
-Successfully finish making and beautifully present 5 types of cookies for my cousin’s wedding reception – Done done done done and done!
-Celebrate with friends and family at wedding – One wedding in NC, one wedding in Philadelphia, and lots of wonderful family and friends!
-See the Ansel Adams exhibit at the NC art museum – Yes, so good! Triangle friends, it is there through Sunday!
-Celebrate Easter with family – Spent the weekend in VA with both sides of my family (the photo above is from our time in Williamsburg)
-Make a new spring dessert – Checked this off with at least two new desserts
-Celebrate my quarter-century birthday! – Welcome to 25!

May Goals
-Plant herbs – Carrying this one over with high hopes :)
-Have tea at Honeysuckle Tea House
-Celebrate with friends and family at (and on the way to) weddings
-Balance my work and weekend obligations with exercise – Run at least 3 times a week, do toning exercises at least once a week
-Successfully work all of our end-of-school-year events at work (5 within 15 days)
-Spend Memorial Day weekend relaxing with friends and family (brunch?!)
-Make plan to make headboard for daybed
-Celebrate bachelorette parties, bridal showers, birthdays and Mother’s Day