Archive of ‘Life’ category

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 | 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

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