August 2017 archive

love to texas and our (almost) flood story

Texas Illustration CDRvia

The stories I keep reading and watching from south Texas are heartbreaking. They aren’t the first stories we have seen about devastating hurricane damage, and, unfortunately, they likely won’t be the last, but stories about hurricane flooding and tragedy always tug at my heart. As a North Carolinian, I have lived through many hurricanes. Some hurricanes were worse than others, none as bad as Harvey. It is hard to understand the impact of the incredible amount of rain that has come with the storm until you see photos and look at maps of the affected areas. I hurt for all of those people who have lost their houses, their loved ones, their livelihoods, and who don’t know when they will be able to return or how they will create a new life. It is difficult to know how to help in these situations while we are states away, without a lot of disposable funds. For those in a position to help, the New York Times has provided a good list of ways to help disaster relief and hurricane victims – listing donations of money, shelter, food, diapers, and even blood.

The feeling that many in the Houston area are experiencing is a feeling I know all too well. When Will and I first got married we found a tiny 1-story building apartment in a good location for a good rental price. It had new carpet, new kitchen floors, and new appliances. It was also in a 100-year floodplain. The carpets, floors and appliances were new because two years prior the entire building had flooded and everything had to be replaced. The apartment manager reassured us that the building hadn’t experienced a flood for many years before that, and that, based on the statistics, the chance of another flood in the 100-year floodplain in next 5 years was low. So we decided to stay. We lived there for a year without experiencing any problems with rising water, so we signed a lease for another year.

The day before New Year’s Eve that year, we woke up at Will’s grandparent’s house in Georgia to repeated flash flood alerts on our phones. We monitored the situation, knowing that our apartment could be at risk during flash flood situations. As Will pulled up the local news website, we saw the image of fire trucks evacuating the apartment complex connected to ours, and water levels already at knee-level. The rain was not predicted to stop until the next morning and we were six hours away in Georgia, watching these apartments adjacent to ours on the news, wondering what that meant for us. We frantically called our family members who were still in town, asking them, through tears, if they could please get sandbags and check on the status of our apartment as we abruptly hopped in the car and rushed back. It was the worst and most suspenseful drive home we have ever experienced – I cried and prayed and cried and prayed as the rain battered the windshield. We were so lucky to have loving, wonderful family nearby who were able to move valuables out and barricade the doors with tarps and sandbags as the water outside rose past their knees and spilled into their rainboots. Without them, I’m not sure that the damage would have been so limited.

When we arrived back, hours after the flash flood warnings, the water had begun to recess. There was a water line along the outside bricks and front stoop that stopped not even 1/4-inch below the bottom edge of our front door. That night we went to bed in the guest room at Will’s mom’s house, exhausted, relieved, and emotionally drained. There were no tears left in either of us. We returned the next morning to check on the water levels and assess the results of the storm. While the apartment smelled like mildew and the bathroom linoleum was peeling up around the edges, nothing was beyond repair. We were so lucky that day. Lucky to have family nearby and willing to drop everything and help, lucky that our apartment was built just high enough to avoid total floodwaters, lucky that it wasn’t a hurricane that would have continued through the next day, and lucky that the water began to recess when it did.

While we were extremely blessed that day, so many others have not been as fortunate during Hurricane Harvey, and I feel deeply and empathetically for them. I know the fear, the sadness, and the unknown that rises up with the waters. The overwhelming feeling of absolute helplessness and vulnerability transcends culture, race, socioeconomic status – it is felt by everyone in these situations. 300 miles of the Gulf Coast have been and are being battered by Hurricane Harvey and hundreds of thousands of people are displaced with rainfall surpassing records and continuing to increase each hour. Whether or not you can round up money to send, or offer local services, we can all send thoughts, prayers, and love. To Texas, with love.

Update: Other bloggers and groups have put together great lists of ways to help. Check out these lists from Lynzy and Co, Houston-based Veronika’s Blushing, Houston-based Sugar and Cloth, and the non-profit Charity Navigator.

link love

Happy Sunday! I hope you have had a wonderful weekend soaking up the end of summer festivities. We still have at least another month of warm weather here before fall starts, but it is nice to feel the crazy hot temperatures breaking into bearable temperatures with a nice evening breeze. We spent Saturday night at our local minor league baseball game with sweet friends and there couldn’t have been a better way to enjoy the season.

link love 8.27.2017via

While we gear up for the week ahead, soak up that last bit of relaxation with some link love:

Whether it is reality television, sweet treats, or a certain kind of chip, we all have guilty pleasures. These 25 female celebrities talk about theirs. I always love seeing what other people hate to love, because no one is perfect. Maybe that is one of my guilty pleasures ;)

This annotation of a home tour is hilarious and such a great show of a mother-daughter relationship. Oh, and the Southhampton home isn’t bad either.

Speaking of home tours, on the opposite side of the country and budget, this San Francisco apartment is wonderful. There are so many photos I want to take inspiration from and apply it to our own apartment. The dining nook might be my favorite part. Or maybe the nursery closet? So clever.

We recently talked to friends with a new baby who plan to raise their children to be bilingual. The mom is from France and will only speak French to the children, and the dad is from the US and will speak English to them. It has been show that kids can learn languages better than adults to begin with, and this is such a great way to learn multiple languages. But, what about adults who want to learn how to speak a new language – how can we make it easier? This article poses that exercise could help. The two seem so unrelated, but the study is intriguing.

I couldn’t leave without mentioning it: what do you think about the new Taylor Swift song? So far I haven’t heard anyone who likes it. Let’s hope that’s not telling for the entire album.

Finish the weekend strong, friends!

How to Make Cookie Favors for a Wedding of Any Size

In the past few years I have made desserts for multiple weddings. It all started my senior year of high school when I agreed to make a three-tiered wedding cake for someone I didn’t know. After making that one tiered cake, transporting it 30-minutes away, assembling it on site, and leaving it on it’s own, I vowed never to make a tiered wedding cake again. It was so stressful and there was so much pressure to make sure nothing went wrong.

Josh and Alyssa Wedding Cookie Bar

I have learned a lot in the years since that large stressful cake, and more recently have made packaged cookie favors for my own wedding, a bride and groom’s cutting cake for my cousin’s wedding, and a plethora of cookies for a cookie bar at another cousin’s wedding. Each time there is still pressure to make sure this dessert is perfect for the bride and groom’s special day, but these projects have been much more doable than that dreaded three-tiered cake. Each project comes with it’s own challenges, but I have learned to have confidence in what I can do well, and what I should stay away from (hello, cupcake frosting). While you may not be asked to make a wedding cake on a regular basis, I’m here to tell you that if you can measure ingredients, you CAN make wedding cookie favors for a wedding of any size!

This past spring I made 750 cookies for a wedding reception cookie bar. There were five types of cookies and twelve dozen of each type. I’m reliving the journey here so you can accomplish this cookie milestone too. Wedding cookies for everyone! For reference, I made flourless peanut butter cookies, double chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies (similar to these), snickerdoodles (similar to these, but with fewer spices), and chewy ginger cookies (similar to these).

How to Make Hundreds of Cookies for a Wedding Reception Cookie Bar |

Six months out: Talk to the bride and groom about their cookie preferences, expected attendance, and number of cookie types. Come armed with suggestions of a variety of your favorite cookies. Get excited about all of the delicious cookie possibilities. Practice the cookie types that you haven’t made before or aren’t as comfortable making.

How to Make Hundreds of Cookies for a Wedding Reception Cookie Bar |

Five months out: Put all ingredient amounts for each cookie recipe in one spreadsheet and calculate the total amounts of ingredients you will need to get. Perfect baking times and determine order in which you will make the cookie dough batches. I recommend baking one type at a time so you don’t get confused and mess up a batch of dough. This also cuts down on cleaning time since you don’t have to wash the bowl and beater between two batches of the same type of cookie dough. Create your cookie dough-making schedule based on your availability. Purchase a medium cookie scoop (1 ½ tablespoon) and a small cookie scoop (2 teaspoons). These will be your best friends.

How to Make Hundreds of Cookies for a Wedding Reception Cookie Bar |

How to Make Hundreds of Cookies for a Wedding Reception Cookie Bar |

Four months out: Commence cookie dough making. Avoid stares at Costco as you haul 13 pounds of butter, 7 pounds of sugar, 5 pounds of brown sugar, and the 25-pound bag of flour that you thought no one in their right mind could possibly go through. You will need it all. Clear your freezer to make space for gallon-sized bags filled with dozens of frozen cookie dough balls.
Three months out: Make enough of one type of cookie dough to have 150 (or however many you need based on your headcount) dough balls. Maybe make a bit extra dough for snack.

Talk to the bride and groom about how the cookies are being served and who will be providing the serve ware, displays, and favor bags.

How to Make Hundreds of Cookies for a Wedding Reception Cookie Bar |

Two months out: Make cookie dough for two more types of cookies, ensuring that you have 150 dough balls of each type. Play tetris with bags of cookie dough balls in the freezer.

One month out: Make the last two types of cookie dough and scoop 150 cookie dough balls out of each. At this point, you may need to revive your college mini freezer to fit all of the cookie dough. Determine which cookies will last longest without getting stale after they are baked.

Wedding Cookies-4

One week out: Have a minor panic attack because you have to bake 750 cookies in a short enough time span so that they all stay fresh. Also, you have to bake 750 cookies. I feel that should be reiterated. Have a coffee date with friends who give you a much-needed pep talk and start baking, starting with the cookie dough that will last the longest without getting stale, and working toward the most temperamental. I made my most fickle cookies on the day of the rehearsal dinner so they would be as fresh as possible without having to stress on the actual wedding day. Contemplate buying stock in parchment paper. Thank your oven mitt and baking sheets for serving you well and marvel at the newfound space in your freezer.

Place the cooled cookies in plastic containers or metal tins and clearly label them.

How to Make Hundreds of Cookies for a Wedding Reception Cookie Bar |

Day of: Drop of the cookies at the reception with the reception-site event planner. If it is your responsibility, set out the cookies on the cookie bar. Otherwise, make sure the event coordinator understands the labels and has your phone number. Enjoy the wedding and feel a sense of relief and joy as people chew on cookies on the dance floor and stock up on more to take home. At the end of the night pack up the leftover cookies in the reusable containers you brought them in.

Day after: Bring leftover cookies and lots of plastic bags to post-wedding family breakfast and distribute cookies among all visitors for their trips home.

Top photo is of all the cookie bar at my cousin’s wedding by Anna Holcombe Photography.

roasted peach and oatmeal cookie no-churn ice cream

Roasted peach and oatmeal cookie no-churn ice cream is full of roasted peaches, a splash of bourbon, and chunks of chewy oatmeal cookies, swirled into the easiest ice cream base. The flavor combo is AMAZING – I can’t get over it!

Roasted Peach and Oatmeal Cookie No-Churn Ice Cream |

North Carolina had some beautiful weather last week, but now it seems like we are back to the high-heat, high-humidity days we expected for August. I don’t love summer, so by August I am over the stifling Southern summer heat, the 95% humidity days, and the mosquitos that seem to find me whenever I am outside. I think back to summers as a child when my siblings and I would join the neighborhood kids in games of kickball late into the nights and sit on the steps of the front porch after dinner debating the best way to eat popsicles with our parents, as sticky melting fruit pops inevitably dripped down our arms. Those summer days of no school and fun activities were the best.

Roasted Peach and Oatmeal Cookie No-Churn Ice Cream |

While popsicles were a summer favorite, ice cream always reigned supreme in any season. As my family sat around the kitchen table and savored the cold, frozen goodness together, I would often tell my brother, “look, there’s a cardinal out the window!” while I snuck an extra bite of ice cream from his unmonitored bowl across the table. My parents definitely noticed and I’m not sure why they never said anything, but I got extra ice cream, so I didn’t care. Ice cream was the perfect treat for those hot North Carolina summer days, and still is now that I’m out of school and on my own. Homemade ice cream is even better than the store-bought versions, but sometimes can take so much effort to make. That’s why I love this roasted peach and oatmeal cookie no-churn ice cream so much. You get the deliciousness of homemade ice cream, with much less effort!

Roasted Peach and Oatmeal Cookie No-Churn Ice Cream |

The combination of flavors in this roasted peach and oatmeal cookie no-churn ice cream is amazing! The sweet roasted peaches and chewy oatmeal cookies suspended in a smooth and easy no-churn ice cream base are perfectly delicious. Each bite is a little different, but each spoonful brings a bit of nostalgia for those warm, slow summer nights on the front porch.

Roasted Peach and Oatmeal Cookie No-Churn Ice Cream |

I have had delicious peach ice cream before, but roasted peaches are a game changer! The sugars in the peaches caramelize as you cook them and taste so delicious on their own, but even better against the smooth base of ice cream. The oatmeal cookie crumble adds such great texture to the ice cream and makes it taste a tiny bit like a classic peach crumble a la mode.

Roasted Peach and Oatmeal Cookie No-Churn Ice Cream |

Find the delectable recipe over on Lexi’s blog and whip up this no-churn ice cream for your dessert (or sneaky snack). You won’t regret it :)

ps. Want more no-churn ice cream recipes? Check out no-churn chocolate chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream, and no-churn lemon gingersnap ice cream.

link love

Another August weekend is here and it already feels like the month is flying by! It is a very full month for us, at work for me and with a new semester starting for Will, in addition to all of the weekend weddings and travel we have on the agenda. Most of it is good and exciting, but it can be easy to look at the calendar and get overwhelmed. Instead, I’m focusing on the fun and happy times we will have at each calendar item. Instead of feeling the overwhelm from having so many things packed into one month, it allows me to feel the love and excitement that come with each wedding, road trip, family gathering, friend meet-up, and back-to-school event. Perspective is a wonderful thing.

link love 8.11.2017via

Below is some of link love for you as you head into your weekend. Let’s enjoy it.

Boden’s new arrivals are AMAZING! I got the catalogue in the mail yesterday and earmarked almost every page. The shoes and this tweed skirt are some of my favorites.

I always like hearing about people’s routines. It is like an intimate sneak peek into their lives, but one that has the potential to improve my routines and life as well. This article on how seven female leaders spend their first hour at work is interesting. The most interesting part is that there are clearly many ways to spend this first hour for a productive day ahead, rather than one pattern they all follow. One of the biggest take-aways that all of them seem to do? Don’t respond to email first thing – do other tasks first.

A few weeks ago I posted a link about the National Geographic Photographer of the Year awards. The winners are in and the photos are amazing. I love reading the captions to learn more about the subject or how the photographer got the shot. Some of the stories make the photograph even more special.

Do you have plans to watch the solar eclipse?! I keep hearing about how awesome it will be and how seeing it will be a memory we have for life, but it’s hard to imagine that. This interactive map is really cool. It shows you what the eclipse will look like from your zip code and where in the US the eclipse can be seen.

When people post a photo of their food on instagram, the first thing we often want to know is, where can I get that, or what is in that. Computer scientists have created an app and a machine learning process that can analyze the photo you are looking at and give you the ingredients and recipe to make it. Crazy!

Happy weekending, everyone!

bridesmaid budget guide

I visited my sister this past weekend and one topic of conversation that came up a few times was the cost associated with being a bridesmaid. We both have lots of friends getting married this summer and have each had the joy of being a bridesmaid in at least one wedding this season. It is no news that weddings are a pricey endeavor, but usually these discussions focus on the cost for the bride or the bride and groom. There are so many great resources out there for wedding budgets for brides, but as my sister and I discovered, not nearly as many for bridesmaids or members of the bridal party. Being a bridesmaid is an honor and a treat, but the costs can add up and surprise you if you aren’t prepared.

Bridesmaid Budget Guide |

Based on our experiences, I put together a general bridesmaid’s budget guide. My hope is that this will help future bridesmaids and allow them to be able to focus on the exciting marriage of their dear friend or family member, rather than the shock of each individual wedding-related cost. (more…)

link love

It’s almost the weekend – we’re so close! I hope you have all had a wonderful week and are heading into the weekend full of joy! I’m going on a girls trip with my mom and sister and I’m super excited. We have taken many family trips, but in the 22+ years that we have had together, my mom, sister and I have never gone on a trip with just the three of us. Besides just being together and chatting up a storm, we have plans for yoga, wine tastings, and decorating, so naturally I think it will be wonderful :)

link love 8.4.2017via

Here is a little bit of link love to enjoy as you sail into your weekend and soak up the August sun.

I have talked about this before in another link love, but having a routine, or at least a plan, is key for me. I still want to enjoy adventures that are not in my plan or routine and make sure I have some time for creativity. I love this post about finding wildness within routine.

Something about looking into someone’s pantry or seeing what occupies someone’s desk can feel exciting and sneaky. I sometimes feel nosy, but my curious side really wants to take a peek into these pseudo-secret spaces. This “desk obsessed” series is so wonderful because it invites you to see what is on the desks of successful business women, shop owners, and designers. It satisfies my curiosity without feeling off-limits and inspires me to include beautiful and useful things in my own workspace. I can’t wait to see the other featured ladies and their desks.

It is always interesting to me when local news makes national headlines. These stories feel so small because we hear about them on local radio, make jokes about them with friends, and could easily pinpoint all of the locations on a map, but I’m reminded that a more than week-long power outage of a long portion of the North Carolina Outer Banks is big news. We are lucky to have both great beaches and beautiful mountains so close by in our state, and I’m sad that so many businesses had to go for a beautiful week without power or customers in this peak tourist season that they rely on so heavily. Without power, businesses closed, and because businesses closed, lots of workers went without money for the week. Power was returned yesterday and the islands opened to tourists today, but businesses won’t get that week of lost money back.

Seeing younger generations and their constant interaction with smartphones is interesting to me. My generation is very different from my parent’s generation when it comes to technology and social media usage, but this next generation is increasingly different from what I experienced. “Screen time” is now a big issue, and the constant phone and social media usage by people in this generation is crazy, and is negatively impacting them. Many of them have had smartphones since middle school or early high school and have never experienced social life without one. This article is so interesting and shows that rates of depression and unhappiness have risen and directly correlate with smartphone usage. I’m guilty of having my phone with me at all times, but let’s put down the phones, talk to real live people, and forget about the fomo.

On a much lighter note, I think we all need this lavender brioche french toast for brunch this weekend. Let’s do it.

Happy weekending!

august goals

Rabbit rabbit! Welcome to August! I’m excited that August means we are nearing the end of summer (and heat and bugs!), but also sad that the flexibility of summer is coming to an end. Since my job revolves around the academic year, with back to school, August usually brings a busier work schedule. However, July has been so insanely busy with week-long events almost every week that I’m looking forward to (dare I say) a slightly slower August. That said, I’m traveling almost every weekend of August so “slightly slower” is relative. To make sure I don’t overexert myself this month and burn out by September, I’m only setting a few August goals. Grace is the key for this month.

2017 August goals |

Let’s check in on those July goals first:
-Celebrate the 4th of July with fun, family, and food
-Find a paint color for the second bedroom – Tried so hard on this one; we tested 5 color samples on the walls and didn’t like any of them. Trying again this month 
-Spend a weekend relaxing at the lake with family and friends
-Pick blackberries
-Get/order wedding gifts for our next three weddings
-Celebrate with friends at a wedding (I’m excited about the venues for this one! The other weddings we have been to this year have all been gorgeous, but I haven’t known anything about the locations/venues since most of them have been in different cities and states.The venues for this one are local, and places I have been, but never for a wedding. I’m excited to experience them in a different setting!)
-Make a plan or a timeline for our list of projects
-Run regularly, even in the heat
-Celebrate a childhood friend and soon-to-be mama
-Continue to use my Write the Word journal regularly throughout the weekDid really well at this in the first half of the month, then still used it but the regularity slowed down. Marking it done because it was better than last month.

August goals:
– Pick a paint color for the second bedroom
– Paint the second bedroom
– Celebrate weddings with friends
– Enjoy some relaxing time with Will between rotations and the start of classes
– Spend quality time with my mom and sister on our inaugural girls trip
– Get into a routine with Write the Word journal
– Read a book at least three days a week
– Pick blackberries
-Make a plan or a timeline for our list of projects