Archive of ‘Life’ category

summer bucket list 2017

Happy summer! It’s officially here with the humidity to prove it!

Summer Bucket List

For the past few weeks I have been gearing up for the new season and adding things to my summer bucket list. While it is not my favorite season (I’m not a fan of the extremely hot and humid days we get here), I do love that summer always seems more relaxed than other parts of the year. Summer comes with its own kind of fun. It brings a relaxed vibe, long days, warm nights, fresh fruit and vegetables. The sunny days entice me to spend more time outside and allow for dinner on the back patio and outdoor weekend projects. I am excited for all of these fun experiences this summer!

-Swim in the pool at our complex (we didn’t swim in it a single time last year!)
-Spend an evening at Honeysuckle Tea House (we went for the first time to cross it off my spring bucket list and we loved it!)
-Go to one place on our Triangle bucket list
-Try a new coffee shop
-Ride bikes together
-Pick blackberries
-Make popsicles
-Go to the lake
-Make and start to implement a plan for our back patio beautification
-Refinish table
-Pick paint color for guest bedroom
-Take a trip before Will starts his MPH year
-Try a new seasonal recipe
-Go to a Durham Bulls game
-Buy local food from the Farmers’ Market

What fun things are on your summer bucket list?!

memorial day brunch

A few years ago, our family started a tradition of making a big brunch together in Memorial Day. As many traditions do, it started out as just an easy day to get together and make brunch because we were all off of work or home from school, not as something we intended to be an annual event. But, the next year we got together for brunch again, this time branching out with our dishes. From then on Memorial Day brunch became an assumed tradition and we love it!

Memorial Day Weekend Brunch 2017 | www.passthecookies.com

Memorial Day Weekend Brunch 2017 | www.passthecookies.com

We have a few go-to brunch recipes for any time of the year, including coffee cake (heavy on the crumb topping), scones (chocolate chip and/or berry), fruit salad, and the typical eggs and bacon. We try to switch up the breads from time to time so we don’t get in a rut. This year, we suggested different breakfast items beforehand and voted to narrow down which ones we ultimately made. After many heated debates about whether cinnamon rolls or sticky buns are better, and if we should put blueberries in the scones if we also put them in the lemon loaf, we decided on our Memorial Day brunch menu.

Memorial Day Weekend Brunch 2017 | www.passthecookies.com

Memorial Day Weekend Brunch 2017 | www.passthecookies.com

I am sharing our menu below, with comments, so you can prepare for your own great brunch. Some of our favorites would be a great to include on Father’s Day!

Lemon Lemon Loaf – We adapted the recipe from Baked cookbook. Every recipe we have tried from this cookbook has been good (the pumpkin chocolate chip loaf is our go-to in the fall!). Note that one recipe makes two loaves, but it is easily halved. We skipped the glaze and added 1½ cups of blueberries to the flour mixture before mixing it with the wet ingredients. I would definitely recommend adding blueberries if you make this – they break up the texture and add a great flavor. The loaf was very dense and extremely moist, but tasty.

Ultimate Cinnamon Buns – This recipe was from Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book. These cinnamon buns took a lot of time to make and the result was only okay. The filling was too sweet for our taste and overpowered the flavor of the buns themselves and the glaze. For the amount of time it took to make them (we started the night before), I expected the result to be amazing. I admit that I’m not a wizard with yeasted dough, but I think I did it right this time. It could have still been a mistake on our end with kneading or mixing, but they weren’t that wonderful. I am still willing to make homemade yeasted cinnamon buns, but I wouldn’t spend my time on this recipe again.

Summer Fruit Salad – This one is self-explanatory. We combined berries and melons and added a few sprigs of mint to the top. It was fresh and delicious, as always.

Mixed Berry Scones – As I mentioned in the cinnamon swirl scone bread post, brunch is not complete in our house without some type of scones. The flavors can vary, and chocolate chip scones are a staple, but in the summertime mixed berry scones are just as delicious. We used our favorite recipe from Foster’s Market and added blueberries and chopped strawberries to the flour mixture. If you haven’t had a good scone, these will change your mind. The Foster’s Market Cookbook is another one of our favorite sources for recipes. Foster’s Market is a local cafe and market and we love trying to make recipes in the book to replicate the delicious items in the shop.

Scrambled Eggs and Bacon – You can’t have brunch without some sort of eggs or breakfast protein (at least not in our house!). This is one of the easiest parts of brunch, but is so tasty!

Brunch is my favorite meal and I’m always looking for great new dishes! What is your favorite brunch item?!

25

Yesterday marked a quarter century of life for me. In some ways I don’t feel like I should be 25 yet, and in other ways I feel like I’m already older than 25.

25

The realization that I am halfway through my 20s is stranger to me than just thinking about it as a transition from 24 to 25. While the former perspective can make me feel like a quarter century is creeping up in age, I am reminded by looking at lots of incredible older people in my life that 25 is still so young. I have been inspired by those who are older than me who pursue another degree, who change career paths, who move somewhere they no nothing about, who turn hobbies into successful jobs, who travel the world, who run marathons, and who push themselves out of their comfort zones. Watching them reminds me that there is so much we can do, and that it doesn’t matter how old you are when you start, the important thing is that you start.

I have learned and done so much in my 20s so far, but there is still so much I want to do and learn before 30! I have a good feeling about 25 and all that it has in store.

So, here’s to 25, branching out, and living a full, meaningful life!

spring bucket list

2017 spring bucket list
via

It is officially spring and we have already had the rain showers and pollen coatings to prove it! Each fall, I like to create a list of things I want to do before the next season starts. I’m not sure why I haven’t done this for every season, because these seasonal bucket lists are some of my favorite ways to set goals. The three-month time period allows for more time and flexibility than my monthly goals, but doesn’t allow me to push things around like I might with my yearly goals. These lists also force me to live in the present and focus on and enjoy the current season. Some of the items on my list are already planned out, and some are left to fill free weekends and evenings whenever the mood (and timing) strikes. So, without further ado, my spring bucket list!

Spring Bucket List
-Go on a picnic
-Plant herbs
-Celebrate my birthday
-See the Ansel Adams exhibit at the NC art museum
-Go on lots of walks
-Celebrate with friends and family at weddings
-Spend time at our local farmers’ market
-Celebrate Easter with family and make an Easter dessert
-Go to at least one new place on our triangle bucket list
-Make lots of cookies for my cousin’s wedding favors
-Have tea at the reopened Honeysuckle Tea House
-Eat a meal outside (at home or at a restaurant/café)
-Have Memorial Day brunch (an accidental annual tradition in my family)
-Celebrate our three year wedding anniversary!

What is on your spring bucket list?!

sprouts farmers market

We’re doing something a little different today. We’re going on a tour of the newest grocery store in town!

Sprouts Farmers Market North Carolina | www.passthecookies.com

On Tuesday I had the opportunity to tour the new Sprouts Farmers Market in Raleigh before it’s grand opening on Wednesday morning. The grocery store is the first Sprouts Farmers Market in North Carolina and it couldn’t have gotten here soon enough! The variety of healthy options at affordable prices was unbelievable. Do you see that produce section below?! There is so much selection! They have a great array of organic options, but also conventional options if you aren’t at a place where you want to eat (or want to pay for) organic food. That being said, the prices of both conventional items and organic and natural items is amazing. The store is a slight trek from where I live, but it is so worth it! (more…)

10 ways to increase happiness

Recently, I have been trying to focus on happiness. The news is filled with negativity, and it can be easy to focus on what went wrong in a busy day rather than what went well. There are so many ways to increase happiness, or just focus on the happy things that are already going on in our lives. I hope some of these ideas help you when you are down and in a rut.

10 ways to increase happiness

Do something for someone else. Generosity and kindness are not only good for those on the receiving end, they are also good for those who are giving. Studies have shown that you feel happier when you help others, volunteer, donate, and act with kindness. There are so many ways to do this in our day to day life – compliment someone, bring a cup of coffee or a treat to a friend or coworker, volunteer at a local organization, bring dinner (or breakfast) to a busy friend or family, the list goes on and on.

Do something you truly enjoy. Treat yourself to a fancy cup of coffee, a manicure, a treat from a local bakery, a bouquet of flowers, time in the kitchen, a new workout, 20 minutes of reading, etc, and put it on the calendar. This can be difficult, but taking care of yourself is just as important as all of those meetings and social events. When you put it on the calendar you have something to spark happiness all day as you look forward to it, and as you enjoy it in the moment.

Listen to an uplifting song or playlist. Music can do wonders to affect your mood. Find a playlist you like and press play when you need a boost.

Get outside. Being in nature and soaking up some vitamin D can lift your spirits and stimulate happiness and positivity. I find that I am so much happier when I get outside during the day, especially after being stuck in the office or the apartment all day. Even something as little as sitting outside while I eat lunch can boost my mood and make me happier for the rest of the day.

Stretch. Every time I go through a good stretching routine I find that I feel better and am more relaxed and happier. Try doing a few stretches when you wake up or before you go to bed to loosen up and bring a little happiness to your day (and to your body).

Write out three things you are grateful for or that went well during the day and focus on those before you go to sleep. These things don’t have to be large. They could be as small as getting a compliment or completing a project, as long as you come up with three good things. This practice helps you focus on the positive and to notice and remember good things in your life. You can read this to learn more.

Start your day by focusing on one good thing. It could be that you are going to wear your favorite necklace, you have a morning yoga class, you have 10 minutes to read a book, you are looking forward to your morning cup of caffeine, etc. When things get frustrating during the day, come back to that one good thing you focused on at the beginning of the day.

Share one good thing every day for a certain number of days. #100happydays is popular, but choose the number of days that will challenge you. Take a picture every of one thing that makes you happy for the number of days you choose. You can keep it private and just save the photos on your phone to create a montage of happy photos at the end of the challenge, or share your photos on social media. If you share them, create your own hashtag to track your challenge and easily look back on what made you happy.

Spend time with someone you love. Sometimes you just need interaction with friends, family, or a significant other to make you feel happier. Set aside some time to enjoy being with loved ones.

Exercise. Boost those endorphins! There are many days when exercising is the last thing I want to do, but I know I often feel better after getting my heart rate up. Taking a brisk walk, doing yoga, going on a run or on a bike ride by yourself or with a friend can boost your mood and your energy.

a january snow day

A month ago temperatures were in the single digits and snow and ice covered the ground. Today it is a balmy and humid 72 degrees. Winter swooped in and showed itself right out.

January Snow Day | www.passthecookies.com

Snow only comes to North Carolina about once a year, twice if we’re lucky, but usually not until late January or February, so it was a shock to see meteorologists talking about snow in the first week of the new year. I honestly didn’t put much weight into the meteorologists’ predictions for snow when they first started talking about it early on in that week. I couldn’t believe that we would get snow so early! As it got closer and closer to the weekend, they started increasing their predictions for how many inches of the fluffy stuff we would get. They started with 4 inches, then upped it to 6, then they started predicting 8 inches of snow for our area and 12 in nearby cities and towns! Grocery stores were completely out of eggs, milk and bread in a matter of hours the day before “the big snow” (we don’t know how to handle snow very well here).

Friday night came and precipitation began to fall. Sleet came first, then snow started late and continued to fall through Saturday afternoon, piling up little by little.

January Snow Day | www.passthecookies.com

January Snow Day | www.passthecookies.com

January Snow Day | www.passthecookies.com

January Snow Day | www.passthecookies.com

I have found that the older I get, the more snow is a source of nuisance rather than source of fun, but having already figured out backup plans for work events the next week, and having the snow come down on Friday night and Saturday made this snow day so exciting! Will and I took advantage of our location and the empty roads and walked to our downtown shops to see what was open, catching falling snowflakes along the way.

Since we live in such a walkable area with a quaint and quirky downtown and lots of neighborhoods nearby, some of the shop owners and other residents had the same idea. On a whim, we popped into a local coffee shop and stayed warm with a cup of coffee, a press pot of tea and a slice of delicious galette de roi from a local bakery (fitting for the first weekend of January :) ). This impromptu coffee shop visit was one of the best parts of the snow day – it was so unexpected, cozy and fun and we felt like true community members! We watched out the large front windows of the shop as the snow fell and winds twirled the snowflakes around people walking boot-clad dogs.

There are a lot of temporary residents in our town (including us), transplanted from all over the country and the world to attend college, graduate or other professional schools here. This made for great people watching on a snowy day, as we could easily pick out people who had previously lived in colder areas (hint: puffer coats that came past their knees, full snowsuits, snow boots and face masks to block the wind; extra points if their dog had a full snowsuit too).

January Snow Day | www.passthecookies.com

January Snow Day | www.passthecookies.com

January Snow Day | www.passthecookies.com

While these 70 degree days are beautiful, I’m not sure I’m ready for them to stay. I wasn’t expecting winter to leave so soon and it doesn’t feel like February without the cold weather. Maybe these pictures will bring us a few more weeks of cold? Just a few.

pumpkin picking

Halloween is less than two weeks away, and while I haven’t even thought about a costume, I have all the pumpkins I could need.

Pumpkin Picking-1

Pumpkin Picking-3

A few weeks ago Will and I crossed one item off our fall bucket list when we went to a pumpkin patch where we were able to pick the pumpkins we wanted right off the vine! We’re not just talking the regular orange spherical pumpkins either; this field had Cinderella pumpkins, fairytale pumpkins, and pumpkins of all colors, shapes, sizes and textures. We weren’t expecting such a broad selection, which made searching for our perfect pumpkins even more exciting.

Pumpkin Picking-4

The pumpkin patch we visited was kind of geared toward children (but then again, aren’t most pumpkin patches?) and had lots of perks for parents with small kids. They had a miniature hay maze, slides, tractor rides, and lots of other cute activities. One great offering was a hayride that would take you out into the parts of the patch that were farther away, and pick you up if your pumpkin was too heavy to carry back to the entrance. We grossly underestimated how far the entrance was when we picked Will’s massive pumpkin and carried both of our pumpkins all the way back to the grassy parking field. I hadn’t felt so old until the next day when my neck and back were sore from carrying such a heavy gourd.

Pumpkin Picking-6

Pumpkin Picking-7

Most pumpkin patches charge you by the weight of your pumpkin. The patch we went to charges a flat rate to get in, but you can pick whatever size pumpkin you want. Will took this as a challenge to find the largest pumpkin in the patch, and that we did. I ended up getting a large green fairytale pumpkin, which was dense and heavy, but Will’s pumpkin was massive! I wish we had measured it on the scale, but it is at least 50 pounds!

Pumpkin Picking-8

Pumpkin Picking-9

Our pumpkin picking excursion was a success and such a fun date, and our home feels fall ready because of it!

Outfit details | Shirt: J.Crew, skirt: J.Crew Factory (similar here, here, here), Vest: J.Crew Factory (similar here, less expensive here), Boots: Hunter

fall bucket list

Fall Bucket List 2016-1

Now that fall is officially here and the weather is feeling more and more like the season, it is time to retire our summer bucket list in favor of a fall bucket list. We checked off everything on our summer bucket list this year, and I have the same hopes for our fall bucket list! I love the fall season so so much and always wish it would hold on a little longer, but at least we have another wonderful time of the year to follow. ;)

October is one of the busiest and most hectic months in my work schedule and I’m already a little stressed about what is to come. I am working or traveling every week from now until the second week of November. While some of it will be fun, I can only think of the things that will get neglected at home during this month during all of the weekends I am not at home (aka every weekend). I know I will make it through, but I don’t want to go through one of my favorite months of the year as a ball of stress without having any fun or accomplishing anything. This bucket list is partially here to serve as accountability for me to make sure I intentionally schedule time for fun and relaxing activities and enjoy the season as much as possible amidst the busy. What is on your bucket list?

fall bucket list

-visit the mountains
-make an apple treat
-make a new savory recipe (maybe a new soup?)
-go pumpkin picking
-go to the state fair
-plant winter veggies (kale, beets, broccoli?)
-make pumpkin bread and other pumpkin treats
-figure out costumes and dress up for Halloween
-drink apple cider
-go on a hike/trail walk
-go on a run/walk on Pumpkin Loop (a local trail)
-find a good fall candle
-paint our bedroom
-decorate our apartment for fall
-start working on a large canvas for our living room
-enjoy coffee dates with friends
-start planning Christmas gifts
-plan an exciting celebration (details to come! :) )
-go to a football game
-make a pumpkin spice latte (or find a good local one – so far Bean Trader’s is winning)
-celebrate our dativersary :)
-VOTE!

happy 2nd anniversary!

Two years ago today we exchanged vows and said, “I do” to a life together forever, for better or worse. I would do it again 1000 times!

2nd wedding anniversary

2nd wedding anniversaryThe past two years have flown by and it definitely doesn’t seem like it has been two years since our wedding day, but at the same time we have created so many memories since that day. One of my favorite parts of our ceremony was something I had never seen before – the blessing of the hands. At some point in our wedding planning process, my mom mentioned that a nice component of a wedding she had recently attended, performed by our pastor, was this portion called the “Blessing of the Hands.” She encouraged us to look at it and potentially include it in our ceremony. Now that I look back at the blessing after two years of marriage, I get teary eyed realizing that we have already witnessed so many of the items on this list.

Blessing of the Hands

via

In times of joy, sorrow, struggle and triumph, we reach out our hands in love. In times of sickness and health, we aid each other in love. In crazy busy times and in relaxing moments, we relish any time we can be together, side by side with our best friend. It takes love, commitment, dedication and work, but it is all worth it. So today, two years after receiving this blessing, I once again reach out my hands to the wonderful husband beside me, and remember what these hands have done and will do today, tomorrow, and forever.

Happy anniversary, Will!

2nd wedding anniversary

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