Archive of ‘Life’ category

girls’ mountain weekend

Before November gets away from us, I want to share one of the most fun parts of October, both this year and last year. In my post on my quick trip to NYC I touched on the drastic difference between the mountains and the city, which was especially noticeable after visiting them only nine days apart.

Girls' Mountain Weekend | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Girls' Mountain Weekend | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Girls' Mountain Weekend | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Girls' Mountain Weekend | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

We started the weekend off with brunch at a quaint coffee shop “in town.” I always find it so funny that we “go into town” when we visit. That is such a novel concept for me – the girl who takes public transportation to work. After brunch, we took our time meandering along the winding Blue Ridge Parkway, taking in the beautiful leaves and the fog rolling between the mountains. We hopped off in one of the towns along the parkway and stopped at a corn maze, which has likely already changed over to be a Christmas tree supplier. The whole weekend was what I imagine to be the quintessential fall mountain weekend: slow breakfast, Blue Ridge Parkway drives with changing leaves, and a corn maze to top it off.

Girls' Mountain Weekend | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Girls' Mountain Weekend | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Girls' Mountain Weekend | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Girls' Mountain Weekend | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

It was so special to be able to spend some girl time together before this lovely long-time friend had her baby (welcome, baby Fletcher!). It was such a fun, and much-needed relaxing trip in the midst of an otherwise busy time. In this time of daily texts, fawning over the new life that our friend is nurturing, and giving thanks for all we have, I am more grateful than ever for these lifelong friends of mine. These friends who have been and always will be there for me, who support me and encourage me, and who lift me up and pray for me when I need it most. We have memories together dating back to when we were toddlers, and needless to say, have gone through lots of life changes together, but this sweet season of encouragement through our life changes is one of the best ones.

coffeeneuring

The title of this post may sound a bit strange, but stick with me here – I think you’ll like it. Coffeeneuring is touted as a relaxed cycling endeavor for people who like riding bikes and enjoy drinking coffee or tea. Over the course of six weeks, participants must ride their bikes at least two miles round-trip to seven different places that serve coffee (or coffee shop-type drinks) and take photos for evidence. The term coffeeneuring is made up, but has its roots in the French term randonneuring, which is a long distance cycling sport.

Coffeeneuring 2017 | www.passthecookies.com | Pass the Cookies

Will’s stepdad is an active randonneur, completing at least one 200+ kilometer bike ride a month. Last year, he and Will’s mom participated in the coffeeneuring challenge. Each week they would invite us to join, but we would brush it off and think, there’s no way we can keep up with a cyclist who bikes 200+ kilometers a month, when we rarely bike anywhere. No way. When the coffeeneuring challenge approached this year, we were once again nudged to try it out.

For the past few years, Will has often used his bike to get to and from classes or early morning clinical rotations when he didn’t want to wake me up to drive him, but the buses weren’t running yet, but I hadn’t biked around town at all since my days of living in the Netherlands on my college study abroad trip. Biking in the Netherlands is a totally different experience from biking in the US. In the Netherlands there are dedicated bike stoplights, huge bike lanes and alleys, and overwhelmingly more bikes than cars. While our town is very bike-friendly compared to most cities and towns, I was still wary about our ability to bike to coffee shops around the area.

Coffeeneuring 2017 | www.passthecookies.com | Pass the Cookies

We decided to do a test ride the weekend before the official coffeeneuring challenge started to see if we could do it and how we liked it. We biked about 8.5 miles round-trip, up and down hills, and through campus, stopping at our local farmers’ market and the coffee shop. We loved it. While I was nervous at first, we quickly got the hang of it and, most importantly, didn’t take it too seriously and had fun along the way.

So we took on the full challenge and for the past five-ish weeks, Will and I have biked to one or two coffee shops a week, documenting our cycling-coffee dates each time. What we thought would be a difficult activity has turned into a fun date that we will likely continue past the sanctioned coffeeneuring challenge weeks. Each trip is a fun adventure that forces us to branch out and try something new – whether that is biking up huge hill, riding on a different portion of the greenway, or visiting a coffee shop we haven’t tried before.

These photos were all taken by the easiest thing for us to carry – an iPhone (and not the newest model at that), so pardon the poor quality. Also excuse the helmet heads – safety first! :)

Coffeeneuring 2017 | www.passthecookies.com | Pass the Cookies

Date: October 13, 2017
Coffee shop: Coco + Bean
Drinks ordered: Will – drip coffee, Hope – steamed apple cider
Favorite part of this trip: As our first trip, my favorite part was showing ourselves that we could do this! I loved proving to ourselves that we could bike 8.5 miles, up hills, and to a coffee shop, and it was actually fun!

Coffeeneuring 2017 | www.passthecookies.com | Pass the Cookies

Date: October 19, 2017
Coffee shop: Perennial Coffee
Drinks ordered: Will & Hope – drip coffee
Favorite part of this trip: The best part of this trip was the cute, quaint coffee shop experience on a quiet weekday. Perennial is a brand new coffee shop on Franklin Street and is covered in pretty green plants and Instagrammable tile floors and brick walls. It is a very thin shotgun-style building so most of the seating is upstairs. We went right when they opened before work on a weekday and it was fun to have the whole shop to ourselves.

Coffeeneuring 2017 | www.passthecookies.com | Pass the Cookies

Coffeeneuring 2017 | www.passthecookies.com | Pass the Cookies

Date: October 21, 2017
Coffee shop: Caribou Coffee
Drinks ordered: Will – drip coffee (sensing a theme here?), Hope – pumpkin spice latte
Favorite part of this trip: We were originally planning on stopping at a cafe that was about two miles closer than Caribou, but when we got there we spontaneously decided to keep going. I’m not a spontaneous person, but it was so fun to again be able to show ourselves that we could go farther than we originally thought we could. Caribou is close to where we lived for the first two years we were married so it brought back fun memories too. After proving to ourselves (again) that we could go farther, my second favorite part of this ride was the brand spanking new (like not even fully complete yet) bike path/greenway that we discovered on our way back home. It was AMAZING and gorgeous, even though it unexpectedly ended in the steepest hill in all of Chapel Hill.

Coffeeneuring 2017 | www.passthecookies.com | Pass the Cookies

Date: October 23, 2017
Coffee shop: Friends’ Cafe
Drinks ordered: Will – drip coffee, Hope – almond milk latte
Favorite part of this trip: Friends’ Cafe is one of my all time favorite coffee shops in the area. It isn’t gorgeous or fancy, but the people are nice, the drinks are great quality, and the atmosphere is always wonderful. We turned this coffeeneuring trip into a pre-work/school date. Besides just being in Friends’ Cafe, my favorite part of this one was being able to relax and ease into the day after a wonderful morning bike ride and coffee shop date.

Coffeeneuring 2017 | www.passthecookies.com | Pass the Cookies

Date: October 27, 2017
Coffee shop: Open Eye Cafe
Drinks ordered: Will & Hope (shared both drinks) – hot chocolate and hot apple cider
Favorite part of this trip: This was our first colder ride, so from the get-go I had my mind set on cold weather drinks. Open Eye is another local coffee shop that I always love, so being able to spend a Friday evening together there with our first warm seasonal drinks was the best part of this ride.

Coffeeneuring 2017 | www.passthecookies.com | Pass the Cookies

Coffeeneuring 2017 | www.passthecookies.com | Pass the Cookies

Date: October 31, 2017
Coffee shop: Gray Squirrel Coffee Co.
Drinks ordered: Will & Hope – drip coffee
Favorite part of this trip: Another pre-work/school ride was our Halloween trip to Gray Squirrel. Gray Squirrel just recently opened their own building (they used to share a building with a brewery) and I have been dying to visit. We weren’t able to spend much time here, but I realized (and appreciated) how much a morning coffee shop date can lift my mood for the whole day.

Coffeeneuring 2017 | www.passthecookies.com | Pass the Cookies

Coffeeneuring 2017 | www.passthecookies.com | Pass the Cookies

Date: November 4, 2017
Coffee shop: Starbucks
Drinks ordered: Will – drip coffee (yup, no change here), Hope – “Joy” tea
Favorite part of this trip: I’m going to be totally cliche here and say that, behind being able to spend time with Will, my favorite part of this coffeeneuring jaunt was getting holiday tea in a “red cup” for the first time this season. That experience just makes you feel like everything is more joyful :)

So, what coffee shops should we try next?!*
*By bike or by car :)

what is your favorite pick-me-up?

What is your favorite pick me up? | www.passthecookies.com

Some days you just need a little boost, or a small treat to get you over that 3 p.m. hump. Do you have a favorite pick-me-up? What about a regular coffee shop order? I have always wanted to be the type of person with a go-to order, or at least have a place I visit so frequently that the staff recognizes me. I go to a small coffee shop a few times a week during my lunch break, sometimes to grab a drink or snack, sometimes just to do some blog work, and finally feel like the baristas know who I am when I walk up to the counter. The dilemma here is that they don’t ask for names for your order, and I pay with cash to get their “cash card” benefits, so they still don’t know my name, haha! Despite not knowing my name, it does feel nice to know that they recognize me and know me a little bit, even if it is just my schedule, habits, and random caffeine orders :)

While I often switch around my coffee shop order, I definitely have a few snacks I reach for consistently (apples, almonds, tea, coffee, and dark chocolate), which sometimes serve as my go-to pick-me-ups for other people too. Throughout the year I like to ask my friends and coworkers for their favorite coffee-shop order, snacks, or treats. Then when I need an easy way to say happy birthday or want to grab a pick-me-up on a hard day, I already know what to get. To really be prepared for any occasion, you can expand this and ask for a favorite candy, favorite food, favorite flower, etc. I have a huge Google Doc with a group of my college friends with all of our contact information and favorite things – I’m talking columns A-ZZ filled with addresses, birthdays and favorite snacks, drinks, patterns, colors, office supply the list goes on and on. This makes it so easy to know when birthdays are coming up, and exactly how to love them best at any time of the year! It is easy to send a “thinking of you” card or gift they will love (I love me some snail mail), and, when the time comes, makes secret Santa so much easier, too! So, what’s your go-to pick-me-up? What goodies should I add to my list?

Pumpkin Bread with Chai Crumble | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

First photo via Pinterest, second photo from my pumpkin bread with chai crumble.

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 | www.passthecookies.com

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 | www.passthecookies.com

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 | www.passthecookies.com

Blacksburg Girls Weekend | www.passthecookies.com

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 | www.passthecookies.com

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 | www.passthecookies.com

Blacksburg Girls Weekend | www.passthecookies.com

Blacksburg Girls Weekend | www.passthecookies.com

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 | www.passthecookies.com

Blacksburg Girls Weekend | www.passthecookies.com

Blacksburg Girls Weekend | www.passthecookies.com

Blacksburg Girls Weekend | www.passthecookies.com

Blacksburg Girls Weekend | www.passthecookies.com

Blacksburg Girls Weekend | www.passthecookies.com

Blacksburg Girls Weekend | www.passthecookies.com

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 | 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?!

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