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?!

happy third anniversary

Third Anniversary

Three years ago, on a sunny Father’s Day, Will and I got married. We were high school sweethearts getting married right out of college so, needless to say, we have gone through a lot of change since that day. We moved into our first apartment together in Chapel Hill, Will started medical school, I started a new job, I switched jobs, our tiny 500 square foot apartment almost flooded, we moved to a new (larger) apartment outside of the floodplain (praise!), we traveled overseas and domestically, Will moved from the classroom to the clinic and hospital and we experience terrible med school schedules and difficult rotations. We have gone through life changes of our own, but have also witnessed life changes in our families and our friends’ lives. We have experienced the death of relatives, and the marriage of family members and close friends. We have learned more about what we like and don’t like, and what we are passionate about in our lives.

Third Anniversary

Hope and Will Wedding-1

Third Anniversary

Going through all of these changes together, as a team, has been the best part of it all. While changes and difficult situations can strain marriages, I also think there is such potential for those to strengthen marriages as well. There are so many times in the past three years when we have needed to lean on each other, support each other, or celebrate with each other, and our marriage is stronger because of how we have been able to help each other and act as a team in those situations. Marriage requires effort and selflessness, but the wonderful thing is that you are on the receiving and giving ends of that. You get to receive the love and support and you get to give that love and support when your spouse needs it.

Third Anniversary

Third Anniversary

Third Anniversary

We are in the midst of wedding season in our lives, with friends getting married every few weeks. It is wonderful to see far-away family or college friends at all of these weddings, but it is also refreshing be reminded in each ceremony of the commitment we made to each other on that day three years ago, of God’s love for us, which is deeper than our own, and of our love for each other. So, as we celebrate this third anniversary, we remember all of those things and look forward to many more years together. Happy anniversary, Will! :)

Third Anniversary

All photos by the talented Graham Terhune, now part of Anagram Photo!

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?!

cinnamon swirl scone bread

This loaf of cinnamon swirl scone bread is one of my favorite things to come out of our kitchen this year and I’m so excited to share the recipe with you!

Cinnamon Swirl Scone Bread |

Cinnamon Swirl Scone Bread |

Scones of some variety are a staple at any family brunch we have, and have become a staple at brunches I host on my own. They are one of my favorite items to contribute to brunches and showers, and we love giving the dough as a hostess gift when we stay with friends and family. They make a wonderful, delicious, quick treat. Since scones are one of those breakfast items that you don’t have often, they always impress people, even though they aren’t difficult to make.

Cinnamon Swirl Scone Bread |

My love for scones is apparent here on the blog. I have shared a few types of scones throughout the years, including carrot cake scones with cream cheese glaze, gingerbread scones, and lavender Earl Grey scones, but in my opinion, this loaf is even better! It is everything I love about scones in easy-to-cut loaf form. It pairs perfectly with coffee or a lovely pot of tea and if you make it over the weekend you can cut slices to snack on throughout the week.

Cinnamon Swirl Scone Bread |

Cinnamon Swirl Scone Bread |

This cinnamon swirl scone bread has a crunchy exterior, a soft pillow interior and is studded with ribbons of cinnamon streusel. A combination of coffee cake, pull-apart bread and scones, it is the best of so many worlds. It is quick to throw together, and the leftovers (if you are lucky enough to have any) save better than individual scones, which I find to dry out after a day. Next-day slices make a wonderful breakfast, and a great snack for that 3pm slump (you know what I’m talking about). I always feel so fancy when I have fresh breakfast breads on a workday :)

Cinnamon Swirl Scone Bread |

Cinnamon Swirl Scone Bread |

Cinnamon swirl scone bread is absolutely amazing, and will transform your brunches. Whip it up and watch people swoon. I can’t get enough!

Find the recipe for cinnamon swirl scone bread over on Glitter Inc!

link love

link love 6.2.2017via

It’s Friday (and national doughnut day at that)! Sometimes short weeks get me all confused. My days are all off and every day this week has felt like a different day of the week, but not necessarily in order. My brain is very confused, but hey, it’s almost the weekend! We’re avoiding the news and focusing on some link love because covfefe and climate change are both terrifying right now (and in case we need a reminder, let’s take a look back at the “Antarctica is Melting” link from last week).

Moving on, this list of the best romcoms is enticing as the weekend approaches. There are so many on that list that I haven’t seen, but I agree that the one’s I recognize should be on the list. What are your favorites? I’m always up for a good romcom.

My to-do list this weekend includes “buy sunscreen,” among other errands. New York City beach goers may be able to remove that from their list this year. The Parks Department has organized a pilot program of free sunscreen dispensers at city beaches this summer. We already have hand sanitizer dispensers all over, why not sunscreen? Reapply, reapply, reapply.

As we head into the weekend, here is a tip to make yours feel longer: try new things! I read this article earlier this week and then heard something similar on the radio this morning. Maybe that’s a sign that I’m not trying enough new things. Hmmm.

I love some good science of baking explanations, or just helpful answers to baking faqs. Joy has that down pat. Salted butter, gluten free wizardry, cookie troubleshooting, flour on flour on flour, buttermilk…whyyyy? You name it, she answers it. It’s good information for anyone to know.

Enjoy your weekend – I hope it’s beautiful for you!

june goals

June 2017 Goals |

Happy June and almost summer! It is starting to feel more and more like summer every day, with warm weather, open pools, and nightly thunderstorms to boot. Our May was filled to the brim and because of our packed schedule it seemed to go by quickly. While being busy and fully booked can sometimes feel stressful, we got to spend wonderful quality time with so many friends and family members who we don’t see often. It was a great month and having a three-day weekend right at the end was the cherry on top! I’d take another May 2017, if anyone’s asking. I’m going into June with a still busy schedule, but have great hopes for it after the great month we just had. Plus, summer is coming, and while the intense heat of July and August aren’t my favorite, June still has some beautiful long nights that I’m looking forward to filling with time outside. Without further ado: a recap of May goals and some new June goals!

May Goals
– Plant herbs – I moved the basil outside and so far it has been doing well in its pot. I may plant it in a bigger pot this month, but we’ll see how it does.
– Have tea at Honeysuckle Tea House – I’m carrying this one over because we didn’t get to do it but I really want to while the weather is nice.
– Celebrate with friends and family at (and on the way to) weddings – carrying this over from last month because we have more weddings coming up in May! Celebrated with lots of friends and family at and on the way to a wedding last month. We are looking forward to even more family and celebration at a special wedding this month (see June Goals below!)
– Balance my work and weekend obligations with exercise – Run at least 3 times a week, do toning exercises at least once a week. I feel like I am back in a good rhythm with running again, and when the evening thunderstorms throw of my running plans I have been able to do indoor exercises. Hoping to keep this up!
– Successfully work all of our end-of-school-year events at work (5 within 15 days). Halleluiah!
– Spend Memorial Day weekend relaxing with friends and family (brunch?!). Memorial Day Weekend was packed to the brim with friends and family and it was so refreshing and so good! I’ll recap our brunch spread soon!
– Make plan to make headboard for daybed. Made a plan, now figuring out a good time to implement.
– Celebrate bachelorette parties, bridal showers, birthdays and Mother’s Day. May was full of celebrations and parties, with one (or more!) every weekend!

June Goals
-Make and decorate a cake for a baby shower
-Celebrate Will’s brother and almost sister-in-law getting married!!!
-Help with the wedding, rehearsal dinner, and other celebratory events
-Enjoy a girl’s trip to LA with childhood friends
-Add two go-to dinner recipes to our list
-Use the lettuce and herbs from our garden in meals
-Find a moisturizer or foundation with SPF that I like and start wearing it regularly
-Make new popsicle flavor combinations
-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 (!)

link love

Happy Friday, friends! It is the start of a long weekend and I’m so excited to spend it with friends and family! What are you doing for the holiday weekend?

link love 5.26.2017


With all of the busyness in the past few weeks, we haven’t caught up on our link love in a while. We will remedy that today :)

With a name like “Pass the Cookies,” you know I’m a fan of the classic chocolate chip cookie. Last year, I pulled out all the stops for a March Madness: Chocolate Chip Cookie Edition. I am loving this chocolate chip cookie guide that tells you all you need to know about how your chocolate chip cookies will turn out if you alter the ingredients or ingredient amounts. Since my ultimate chocolate chip cookie post, I have made even a few more variations and would love to do another face-off. Do you have a favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe I should include?

In the past few weeks, I caught the wanderlust bug hard. I have a list of trip itineraries that I constantly add notes to when I see a great post or article that pertains to a location or site on the itinerary. My hope is that when I eventually go on these trips I will have most of the research and planning done, besides booking tickets, rooms, etc. So far I have been doing this to curb my wanderlust, but I’m not sure if it isn’t just making me want to take these trips more and more. I love this new travel planning series that Julia and Thomas have started. Though my itinerary spreadsheets have a few more columns, I loved seeing the similarities between their example itinerary and mine. My tip for anyone planning their own trip: if you are traveling in a group, add a “name” column to your spreadsheet so you can make sure everyone can check off at least one item on their list. This makes it more fair and fun for everyone, and you get to see things you may not have thought to include on your list!

One of my favorite things that happened in the past few weeks was the launch of the new Simplified Planners. Let me start by saying that this is not sponsored at all. I don’t have a Simplified Planner and didn’t purchase one when they released last week, so you might be wondering why I am so excited about it. As you can tell from my ramble above about traveling, I am a planner to my core. I have a planner on my desk at work, I tote one to and from home, I have a giant calendar on my office wall, and I use Google calendar and iCal. I love the crisp, clean design of Emily Ley’s products, and the thought and detail that goes into them to make them as useful as possible. I am planning on getting the “Weekly Gold Pineapple” when the calendar year editions come out in September (can you say, Christmas present?), but until then, I love using these free printable resources!

Moving on to more serious matters, Antarctica is melting. Climate change is real. These interactive articles are really well done and create a great (horrible) visual of what our emissions are doing to Antarctica and the coastlines (hint: the ice is melting, the coasts are flooding).

Do you have a side hustle? This article on millennial women earning money from their side hustles is interesting. If pay was more equal, would women still have side jobs at the same rate or would they continue to pursue them at the same rate because they find enjoyment in them? Hmm.

To end on a light note, watch Emma Watson act as Belle alongside Dan Stevens in a grey marshmallow suit and moon shoes for the live-action Beauty and the Beast movie. Hilarious.

Thank you to all those who serve or have served our country. Have a great Memorial Day weekend!

memorial day food ideas

The long weekend and unofficial start to summer is just around the corner! I pulled together some great Memorial Day food ideas for your brunch, cookout, or sweet tooth.


While many families spend the weekend at the beach, our family has a tradition of staying home and making an elaborate Memorial Day brunch together. It is one of the only days of the year when we all have the day off and can take our time cooking an early meal together, without the pressure of impressing guests, like we would have on other holidays. We like to try new dishes each year, so I’m excited to use some of these recipes in our brunch spread.

Memorial Day Recipe Ideas |


weekend in philadelphia

Wedding season is in full force, both in our lives and in this time of the year. We have attended three weddings in three states in the past six weeks, and have wedding festivities of some sort almost every weekend from now until the next wedding in mid-June. With Will’s medical school schedule being so out of our control, it can sometimes be difficult to plan these trips far enough in advance to buy reasonably priced plane tickets. So far, the weddings have fallen perfectly in line with his weekends off (how that happened, we still aren’t sure, but are oh so thankful), so we have been able to make some epic, quick-turnaround road trips out of these last couple of weekends. We have driven through eight states, crossed time zones, and had an absolutely wonderful time visiting new places, catching up with friends and family and celebrating new marriages. One of the weddings we recently attended was in Philadelphia, a city I had never visited.

Weekend in Philadelphia |

I joked with Will about the daffodils in the window boxes everywhere. They bloomed in North Carolina almost a month earlier, so it was funny to see them just popping up on our weekend in Philadelphia.

Weekend in Philadelphia |

Weekend in Philadelphia |

I don’t have photos from the wedding itself, but the ceremony took place in one of the oldest Presbyterian churches in Philadelphia, established in 1768. As we walked around the history nerd in me loved thinking about how much history took place in the city and all of the notable figures in American history who lived there. We also talked about National Treasure scenes the entire time. That was kind of historical, right? ;)

We spent the night in a small AirBnB in the adorable Queen Village neighborhood. The quiet residential streets surrounding the apartment were lined with cobblestone streets, brick sidewalks and row houses, cute colorful doors, and flower boxes just beginning to bloom. I would definitely recommend staying here if you want to experience the charm of the city while still being close to most of the attractions.

Weekend in Philadelphia |

Weekend in Philadelphia |

Weekend in Philadelphia |

We drove up for the wedding, but were lucky to be able to visit some of our wonderful college friends who now live in Philadelphia on our quick trip. They led us around many notable areas of Philadelphia as we walked from Queen Village to Old City, City Center and Rittenhouse Square. Though we were in Philadelphia for less than 24 hours I feel like we saw so much, thanks to our wonderful tour guides!

Weekend in Philadelphia |

Weekend in Philadelphia |

Weekend in Philadelphia |

Where we stayed:
AirBnB in Queen Village

Where we ate:
Drinks at 2nd Story Brewing Company
Brunch at The Little Lion

What we saw*:
Independence Hall
Liberty Bell
Independence National Historical Park and Independence Mall
Reading Terminal Market – Apparently this is the place to get doughnuts. We’re marking it for our next visit!
Museum of the American Revolution – This was right across from our brunch spot and had just opened two days before we arrived! We didn’t have time to look around, but I would love to see it next time we visit.
City Hall
Cute cobblestone streets – There were many areas with these. We walked down a few adorable alleys that our friends had been to before (see the pictures above).

*We didn’t have time to go into any of these, except Reading Terminal Market, since we were in a time crunch, but we passed them and peeked in on our mini walking tour.

coconut cake with earl grey buttercream

If places could be a love language, cute local coffee shops would be one of mine. I think it is safe to say the same about my tea-loving parents. Last year, their New Years resolution was to go to their local coffee shop every Saturday they were in town, and they did! They know most of the baristas by name and the baristas know their order when they walk in the door. Even if they don’t see my parents, the baristas behind the coffee counter know my parents are in the shop when they hear the order called. It is the same order every week: two Earl Grey tea lattes with two pumps of vanilla, otherwise known as London fog.

Coconut Cake with Earl Grey Buttercream |

Coconut Cake with Earl Grey Buttercream |

Their love for Earl Grey tea is not unfounded. They have always been tea drinkers and, amidst other types of tea, we had Earl Grey on hand at all times when I was growing up. So, when it came time to think of a good Mother’s Day dessert, incorporating their favorite coffee shop order seemed like a the perfect solution. Enter: coconut cake with Earl Grey buttercream.

Coconut Cake with Earl Grey Buttercream |

Coconut Cake with Earl Grey Buttercream |

I am so excited about every part of this cake. The coconut cake is delicious on it’s own and the browned butter takes the flavor to another level of amazing! It is slightly dense, perfectly moist, and filled with coconut. I don’t know which part of this cake I love more, the cake or the frosting. As much as I love the coconut cake base, I could eat the Earl Grey buttercream by the spoonful it is so good. The Earl Grey tea flavor comes through so clearly and is perfect when paired with a little vanilla buttercream and a bite of coconut cake. The flavors complement each other so well, and make for a pretty cake to boot!

Coconut Cake with Earl Grey Buttercream |

Coconut Cake with Earl Grey Buttercream |

Coconut Cake with Earl Grey Buttercream |

I have always thought of coconut cake as a great spring dessert, but it is so versatile that it could work just as well after Mother’s Day too. Dress it up with coconut covering the entire outside, or stick with a more subtle approach. Add jam or lemon curd between the layers and it is a whole new cake! If you are looking for something more simple than a layer cake, bake the coconut cake in a loaf pan and call it brunch. I won’t tell ;) This recipe makes a small 6-inch cake, perfect for small Mother’s Day gatherings, however, if you want a larger cake double everything and bake the layers in 8-inch cake pans.

Coconut Cake with Earl Grey Buttercream

Coconut Cake
2 large eggs
1 ¼ cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup granulated sugar
5 ounces sweetened flaked coconut (about 1 ½ cups)
6 tablespoons butter, browned (see this post for how to brown butter)
Nonstick cooking spray for baking pan

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray two 6-inch cake pans with nonstick baking spray, line the bottoms with parchment paper circles, then spray with nonstick spray again.

In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and vanilla.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, salt, and baking powder. Stir in the sugar and coconut. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and pour in egg mixture. Stir the wet and dry ingredients together until just combined. Add the browned butter, and stir until just smooth. Be careful not to overmix. The batter will be very thick.

Distribute the batter evenly between the pans, and spread it out to smooth the cakes. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 30 to 50 minutes. Cool in pan five minutes, before turning out onto a cooling rack.

Earl Grey Buttercream
1 ¼ cups butter, divided
2 tablespoons Earl Grey tea (loose tea from about 8 teabags)
1 ½ cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place ½ cup butter in a small saucepan with the loose tea. Heat over medium heat until the butter melts, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and let the tea steep for 5 more minutes. Strain the butter through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl. Refrigerate until the tea-steeped butter is the consistency of softened butter (about 20-30 minutes). It is okay to have some small bits of tea in the butter.

After the butter has cooled, place the remaining ¾ cup butter and the tea-steeped butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and blend on medium until fluffy. Gradually add the powdered sugar and mix until combined. Add in vanilla and blend on medium-high until fluffy.

Vanilla Buttercream
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)

Place the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until creamy. Reduce the speed to low, gradually add the powdered sugar, and beat to combine. Beat in the salt and vanilla until fluffy.

After the cakes are completely cool, cut off the domed tops of the cakes with a large serrated knife. Place one cake layer on the cake plate, top with Earl Grey buttercream and another cake layer. Cover with a thin, smooth layer of Earl Grey buttercream and refrigerate fro 10-15 minutes. This is your crumb coat. Cover the entire cake with vanilla buttercream then add Earl Grey buttercream around the bottom of the cake.

If you just want Earl Grey frosting, double the Earl Grey buttercream recipe and omit the vanilla buttercream recipe. Do the opposite if you just want vanilla frosting (though the Earl Grey buttercream is one of my favorite frostings).

You can cover the cake with coconut or create an ombré effect with the Earl Grey buttercream and the vanilla buttercream (shown here).

You can also make this into three layers by distributing the batter evenly between three 6-inch cake pans.

Coconut cake adapted slightly from Smitten Kitchen.

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