Archive of ‘Life’ category

fall fun list

Friday is the first official day of fall and I’m more than ready!

Fall Fun List 2017 | www.passthecookies.comvia Pinterest

I have always loved fall, but in the past few years, the crisp season has solidified its place as my favorite of the four. If you know me, you know that I am a huge sucker for all things pumpkin, but I also love the bright colors of the changing leaves, the memories that come with the spiced scent of mulling spices in apple cider, and the fun traditions that come with the autumn months and the cooler weather. I have posted about my fall bucket lists before (here and here), and other seasonal bucket lists, but sometimes I feel like the term “bucket list,” can put a lot of pressure on this casual list. To me, a bucket list evokes the sense that everything has to be completed or the overall list is a failure. This isn’t the case, and I don’t write these lists with that mindset. I love fall, and I want to do these things because they bring me joy, not because I may feel like I am a failure if I don’t check them off the list. To change the mental mindset around this fall list, I am renaming it a fall fun list, instead of a bucket list. What is on your fall fun list?! I’m always looking for more great ideas! :)

Fall Fun List
– Visit a pumpkin patch and pick pumpkins! (This was so fun last year!)
– Drink hot apple cider
– Make a pumpkin treat
– Dress up to serve candy to the trick-or-treaters in our complex
– Send a fall-themed care package
– Make a new pie for Thanksgiving
– Celebrate 10 years with Will! (Can you believe it?!)
– Decorate our front stoop
– Host (or help host) a fall-themed event – I’m thinking a soup and cornbread party, a girls craft night or tea party
– Go on a walk/hike/trek on trails to enjoy the cool weather and changing leaves

summer bucket list update

Since the Friday marks the official start to fall, I thought I would check in on our summer bucket list progress.

2017 Summer Bucket List Update |

This summer flew by so quickly. My work schedule never calmed down over the summer months, so in some ways it doesn’t really feel like summer was fully here. We traveled almost every weekend, which made the weeks blur together, but we still had some great times enjoying the slower pace that came with a summer (read: empty) college town. I’m not the biggest fan of summer – I get crazy bug bites, I don’t like sweating in the NC heat, and I’m not a fan of the beach – but I will miss the slow evenings, long days, and quiet streets. Saying goodbye to these sweet parts of summer is easier with fall right on its heels. Fall is my favorite season and I’m so excited to welcome the cooler weather, changing colors, and autumn flavors. I’m posting my fall list later this week, so stay tuned! (more…)

blacksburg girls weekend

A few weekends ago, my mom and I drove up to visit my sister in Blacksburg. Despite having three girls in the family for almost 23 years, we had never taken a trip with just the girls before this! What were we thinking?! The excitement leading up to the weekend and the absolutely wonderful time we had together confirmed that we were crazy for not taking the time to plan a girls weekend before, and that we will absolutely be doing girls weekends more regularly. According to my mom, this will be at least an annual tradition, but I think she is hoping for more than once a year ;).

Blacksburg Girls Weekend |

Personalized gift boxes, my talented sister’s cute chalkboard wall designs, homemade chocolate hazelnut babka, and pizza dough proofing in the kitchen greeted us when we arrived. All three of us went into the weekend with big plans to move my sister from one room to another in her shared house, decorate her new space, and take some time to have fun and relax together. The chalkboard depicts our weekend filled with homemade pizza, moving, yoga, coffee shops, street festival exploration, a winery tour, and brunch.

Blacksburg Girls Weekend |

Blacksburg Girls Weekend |

We quickly popped champagne and got started catching up and talking about our grand decorating plans. The whole weekend we joked that other people wouldn’t find moving and rearranging rooms a relaxing vacation, but we were all so excited about it. We’re a strange bunch, but having the same idea of fun is one reason our girls weekend was so great.

Blacksburg Girls Weekend |

We stayed up late moving furniture and chatting both nights, and spent the morning soaking in the glorious mountain weather (aka no humidity and mid-70 temperatures) while we walked around the cute community craft festival with tea lattes in our post-yoga clothes. Does it get any better than that? I really don’t think so.

Blacksburg Girls Weekend |

Blacksburg Girls Weekend |

Blacksburg Girls Weekend |

The winery was only a blip in our weekend, as we arrived for the tasting soon before the venue was closing, but the location was beautiful and a great excuse for us to get fancy.

Blacksburg Girls Weekend |

Blacksburg Girls Weekend |

Blacksburg Girls Weekend |

Blacksburg Girls Weekend |

Blacksburg Girls Weekend |

Blacksburg Girls Weekend |

Blacksburg Girls Weekend |

It was the perfect weekend with some of my favorite people. I’m already excited to start planning the next trip with just the girls :)

favorite summer dishes

Summer nights mean longer light, enticing warm weather, and fun outdoor activities. To maximize the time that we can enjoy these slow evenings, we have had a few favorite summer dishes that have rotated through our menus regularly.

Favorite Summer Meals

Having a few go-to recipes that we like makes it easier to meal plan and grocery shop, and quicker to make dinner, since we are already familiar with the recipe steps. Even when we go out of town for a weekend and don’t have time to meal plan or make a grocery list for the week, having some go-to recipes on hand means that we know which ingredients to pick up and we know they won’t go to waste. This has been one of the best things in a busy season and has really decreased the stress and time spent meal planning throughout the summer. Below are a few of our favorite summer meals and dishes. We’re always looking for more go-to recipes, so if you have any summer favorites, I’d love to hear them! (more…)

july goals

2017 July Goals

Since I work in an academic setting and Will’s medical school schedule mostly changes with the academic calendar, my year is primarily measured by the August to May academic calendar. This means my summer is measured in months between the end of one school year and the start of the next. Working on projects for the start of the new school year, as I am now, is always startling and kind of scary because it reiterates how soon the next school year will be upon us. In some ways it feels like a month and a half have passed since the end of the (college) school year, and in some ways it feels like June only lasted a week. Mostly the latter. With all of it’s events, this summer has been both crazy busy and wonderfully relaxing at the same time, which is just how I love it.

Having a summer bucket list has helped give some purpose to any unexpected free time we have, and has helped me continue to cross things off the list as we go through these summer months. Some people prefer to spend their summer free time relaxing, but having structure helps my Type A personality feel like I can relax and I’m not forgetting about something that is looming on my plate. Sometimes though, I plan out my weekend or overbook my week and end up doing something completely different than my plan, but usually because we want to spend more time walking outside or spending time with family or friends, which are the perfect reasons to bend my schedule. This summer has been one of learning grace and flexibility with my Type A scheduling, my summer bucket list, and my monthly goals. With that in mind, below are my July goals, with a side of grace.

June Goals
-Make and decorate a cake for a baby shower
-Celebrate Will’s brother and almost sister-in-law getting married!!! – Woohoo!
-Help with the wedding, rehearsal dinner, and other celebratory events
-Enjoy a girl’s trip to LA with childhood friends – More on that to come
-Add two go-to dinner recipes to our list
-Use the lettuce and herbs from our garden in meals – We each got at least 4 meals out of it!
-Find a moisturizer or foundation with SPF that I like and start wearing it regularly – I have an SPF face lotion but did a poor job wearing it regularly until the end of June, but now I feel like it is almost part of my routine, so I’m marking it as an achieved goal
-Make new popsicle flavor combinationsRoasted strawberries and cream popsicles! I made another one that wasn’t good enough to share, but still a fun experience!
-Continue with a regular running schedule or do indoor toning exercises when it is thunder storming or too hot (welcome to North Carolina summers!)
-Have tea at Honeysuckle Tea House
-Celebrate our 3rd wedding anniversary (!) – We made plans to!

July Goals
-Celebrate the 4th of July with fun, family, and food
-Find a paint color for the second bedroom
-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 week
A note: I got this one a few months ago and have loved it! Everyone can use it differently. Some people start a new page every day, but for me “regularly” means reading and writing down the verse and what I’m grateful for one day, filling out the “what’s on my heart,” and my word for the day another day, looking at the contextual passages another day, and rereading the verse and remembering what I’m grateful for each day. All of the Write the Word journals are sold out right now, but according to their instagram, all of the journals will be back in stock in August!

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 |

Memorial Day Weekend Brunch 2017 |

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 |

Memorial Day Weekend Brunch 2017 |

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?!


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.


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

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 |

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…)

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