The Cook Family

A little over a year ago, I got to photograph this sweet newborn. It was so much fun a couple weeks ago to see how he had grown and do some updated pictures of him and his parents!

And if you are interested, I’m guest posting over here today about how to pick out clothes for a photoshoot.  Happy weekend!Cookfamily-101 Cookfamily-109 Cookfamily-111 Cookfamily-116 Cookfamily-117 Cookfamily-118 Cookfamily-126 Cookfamily-145 Untitled-1 Cookfamily-190 copy Cookfamily-193 Cookfamily-202 Cookfamily-205 Cookfamily-213

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One-Day Adventure.

This weekend James and I started working on updating our adventure wall, adding pictures from Italy and Germany to the ones already hanging from other places we have traveled and loved. And before you go getting any grand ideas about our many lofty travels, you should know that this wall includes a photo from Pittsburgh.

While we obviously loved our European adventure this summer, we are also strong believers in the one-day adventure, the no-hotel-needed day-trip, the discovery of things not too far from our own backyard (which in our case, is a trash alley). Even though I am not so spontaneous, I do like when we can plan a trip that involves very little planning, at least not beyond deciding a list of things we want to eat. Because, #priorities. So on Saturday, to continue the birthday shenanigans, we went on a little one-day adventure.

And now, from the blog that brought you “How to throw an Easter Brunch in 15 Easy Steps,” I give you “How to Have a One-Day Adventure in 15 Easy Steps.”

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  1. Select a destination within a 2 hour driving radius. Selections should be based entirely on Instragram stalking and/or Google image searches. Our search landed us in Saint Michael’s MD, home of pretty colorful houses and quaint shops.
  2. Make a plan by consulting Reputable Sources. In my case, that always means the Washingtonian and some quick texts to friends.
  3. Download podcasts for the trip.
  4. Oversleep. Decide not to care. Get on the road at least an hour later than intended, but well rested.
  5. Get a Starbucks beverage. Not that healthy iced coffee with a dash of coconut milk that you’ve been drinking lately to cut out your sugar — a really frothy treat. Go for that salted caramel mocha that tastes impossibly good. If you haven’t had breakfast, get yourself those chicken biscuits from Chick-Fil-A because they are all that is tastiest in this universe.
  6. Rock out to this song at least 3 times. Sing along with TSwift. Revel in the trip.
  7. Make sure that your first stop at your destination is food oriented, but not too heavy, as you don’t want to be out of commission for the day’s explorations. We opted for taco’s at Gina’s on last weekend’s adventure and I am still thinking about that shrimp-sprout-goat-cheese-chipotle-mayo taco.
  8. After feeding, take some time to wander and explore. Staring in people’s windows in encouraged. Photographing their shrubberies and snazzy crab door knockers  is definitely encouraged. Unless you are James, and then the activities above cause you to do a lot of nervous shuffling.
  9. Have one destination/activity that you have really pre-planned and looked forward to, just to give the day some structure and separate it as much as possible from Real Life. Ours was high tea at the Inn at Perry Cabin.
  10. When you arrive at said classy destination, park wayyyyyy in the back, so that your Kia Rondo is hidden in the sea of luxury SUVs and sports cars. Pretend that you are worthy of said classy destination and stroll about, taking in croquet fields and greenhouses like the are your every weekend destination, rather than the truth, which involves sweat pants and Saturday Night Lights marathons.
  11. Be mentally prepared for the unexpected. You might stroll out to the gazebo on the bay after tea, only to have a DELUGE start, dripping you where you stand inside the gazebo within seconds. You might notice that the bay has risen and flooded the whole plain around the gazebo, forcing you to flee through the mud and water to avoid being stranded indefinitely. Ignore the gaze of the swanky Inn guests just arrived for a wedding as you slip through the reception area, dripping water everywhere.
  12. Be prepared to change plans if they suddenly look less fun. Like, if you get drenched and are too soggy to do much of anything, just go get massive banana splits. Never mind that you just ate an hour again- there is always room for a little something. And by a little something, I mean a big old three scoop split.
  13. When the day must end, drive home to a finally clearing sky.
  14. Change out of your soggy pants when you get home and get excited that yes, there is still time left in your day for sweat pants and Panther football.
  15. Know that adventures don’t need far off destinations, ample budgets, or exotic plans. Sometimes it’s the one-day, relatively local, gluttonous, soggy trips that are the sweetest.
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Spontaneous Grace

birthdayIf you follow along over on the grams, you are already sick and tired of the fact that we celebrated my birthday this weekend. Donuts! Adventures to get tacos! Party hats and potlucks with not one, but two trays of mac n’ cheese! Party rockin’ in the house tonight, every night.

28. Maybe it’s the new school year, or maybe it’s that it falls right as I start a new year, but I’m thinking a lot this week about what I want to define 28. I have concrete things that I want to accomplish, things like finishing Parks and Recreation and cranking out my dissertation prospectus and a chapter or two. I want to manage to keep just one plantalive and stay on top of grading alllll semester long. But I also have some abstract things that I want to define 28 a whole lot more than they defined 27.

This might come as a surprise, but I am the world’s least spontaneous person. People are shocked by this, because I am loud, I am crazy, and I like FUN. But I do not like spontaneous things. They stress me out. James can call and suggest that we grab burgers instead of dinner, and I will practically have a meltdown, as I have not only planned our meals a week in advance, but I have also calculated the order in which fresh produce will go bad and we cannot deviate. An impromptu ice cream run? Not if I have already indulged in a treat for the day. An unscheduled trip? Nope, because I have my work for the semester carefully mapped out. I am the world’s most predictable fun creator and that’s the way I like it.

But it’s also a problem, because life sometimes demands spontaneity, and even when it doesn’t, it sure makes life more fun. I want to be the type of person who not only plans ahead, but also drops plans when they need to be dropped. I want to be more spontaneous as long as it is easy, so that I can weave it better into life when it’s hard.

Most of all, I want to be more spontaneous in how I extend grace. As a recipient of unfathomable grace, I want it to flow out of me in a steady rush. Sometimes 27 saw it barely trickling, as I am not near so quick to extend grace as I am to need it from others. I want forgiveness to come faster than condemnation, grace to rise quicker than judgement.

Here’s to 28 being defined by spontaneous grace.

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Back on Track.

ZachandLiz-1 ZachandLiz-2ZachandLiz-79 ZachandLiz-74 ZachandLiz-82ZachandLiz-100 It has been over ninety degrees for the past three days, but I still feel like the days after Labor day mark The Beginning of The End of summer. August Recess ended yesterday, the first week of classes is over, and in theory I might sometime soon stop sweating through all my clothes as I commute. Bachelor in Paradise ushered in the very end of summer’s wild freedom, and in regards to the entire season, we must all repeat Jacyln’s sage comment: “I don’t know if I’m winning, or losing.”  This week, it is back to buckling down on that little ole dissertation, back to getting up at a more respectable hour, back to launching another whole30 – though more like “mostly whole/maybe 30,” as I am already planning a couple cheat weekends.

We packed in a lot to our last true summer weekend, so much so, that I only have those couple pictures at the top to show for it. Friday night we headed to Charlottesville to celebrate my big brother’s engagement. Sampling wedding caterers is my new favorite dinner party format. Saturday was packed with a photoshoot of my current favorite engaged couple (coming soon! As if you were actually worried that I might withhold an onslaught of photos!), lunch with one of our favorite friends who moved to Charlottesville last summer. We squeezed in a quick winery visit, an amazing dinner at Lampo, and an engagement party that evening before driving back late to DC. After church on Sunday, James and I indulged in two of the crowning achievements of western culture: Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Shake Shack’s cheesy fries. The bard would be proud. It was the Free for All series, and when they had everyone for whom this was their first ever Shakespeare performance raise their hands- I might have cried. If you are in DC, do whatever it takes (lottery or line) to get free tickets before it closes Sunday. On Monday, I dragged James through all the good Labor Day sales to find him a new suit, lying him with promises of Chick-Fil-A if he braved the mall. All in all, this weekend was one where we spent just enough time doing fun things to feel happy, and enough time doing productive things to feel ready for the week.

Monday night as we were falling asleep, we talked about our favorite memories of this, our favorite month. I know this sounds ridiculous, but I feel like this month has us really feeling like us, like how we felt before the stress of last fall, before he lived on the other side of the country for 6 months. I don’t think that I realized it last spring, but we still hadn’t found our groove again, even though we were thrilled to be back together. Sometimes even a relatively brief interruption in the comfortable rhythms of marriage can cause ripples for long after the interruption itself is over. Coming home from our European adventure together, having this month to take a little more time in the evenings and weekends to explore this city, doing the DC summer things we missed last year, making plans for our future — all these things were the final elements in restoring to stability all that last year roughed up.

So September, Fall, Dissertation, Semester — bring it. We’re ready.

PS: But maybe let me get in like three more trips to the pool first. Thanks.

Photos from breakfast at a little taco join in Charlottesville and my engagement shoot with Zach and Liz.

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It’s Friday, and these are my feelings.


I decided that it had been all to long since I regaled you with my end of the week feelings. I’m sorry/you’re welcome. But it is Friday, Friday at the end of the first week of school, the last Friday in August Recess, and the Friday of a long weekend. And these are my feelings.

This whole week back has me feeling nostalgic for the impossibly amazing group of students I had in France. Teachers, can I get an amen for how hard it is to love a new group of students right after you have a really good group? And in this case, it is totally unfair, as the students who zone out three times a week in my second semester French class do not get to ride horses beside me on a beach in southern France or demonstrate their useful knowledge in weekly bar trivia night. They might actually have wonderful souls, but I will never really get to know them beyond thrilling essays about their imaginary future travels.

I watched this video more times than I care to admit, and every time it had me feeling all sorts of emotions. THAT DRESS. AND THE WILDLIFE. AND THE VINTAGE PLANE. I loved it so much that I even resisted doing a grad school postcolonial analysis and ruining it.

Today we are heading to Charlottesville to celebrate my big brother’s engagement to a woman who is not only phenomenal in every way — but she is also the genesis of Friday Feelings. I could not feel more excited about them getting married and you can bet that you will have to hear about it for the next many moons.

I am still feeling a little unready for summer to end. Maybe it’s because I just made my first crispy peach cobbler yesterday and I want about a million more, or maybe it’s because salted caramel beverages aren’t back at Starbucks yet, or maybe it’s because, you know, it was over 90 degrees three days in a row this week — but Summer, you’ve been so good. Don’t go just yet.

I held off watching the investigative footage from the Center for Medical Progress for a long time. I’m already staunchly pro-life and didn’t feel like I needed to see it. But if we shut our eyes to truth, we will forget it. One day I finally sat down and watched all of them, crying at the desk because what are we doing. How are we the generation that cries out for ethics for how our food should be treated, but not our unborn children?  I loved this article by Mary Beth, because she is right- we should be pro-life and feminist for the same reasons. And I feel like this article is especially jarring about the “humor” of abortion (spolier: it’s not funny).

And on a far, far, less serious note, I finally used up every last bit of my free space with WordPress and had to buy an upgrade, which comes with its own domain. Someone already has, but I do like the freedom that comes with using my own domain, especially as I have long wanted to do a little sprucing up around here. How would you all feel about a new name for this little corner of random ramblings? And by all means, do feel free to suggest any names you can think of, because mine are all THE WORST.

Happy Friday, to you and all your feelings.

Image via here, and it’s pretty much how I feel that late summer should look. Go home fall- not your turn yet.

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Just a Tuesday morning at the BEACH.

Though I am sad to see summer break go, nothing compares to my total grief that August Recess ends next Tuesday. While every August Recess is wonderful, this one has been especially perfect, as we have recessed… aggressively. We made a list of all the relaxing and fun summer things we wanted to do during this month where James’ hours are a little bit more predictable and we have been blazing through it. We didn’t want to let this month slip by without us paying attention. And in general, we don’t want to let life in DC slip by without us soaking in every last thing that this city has to offer.

We really wanted to make it to some of the museums that we love around this city, and I have been itching to check out the indoor beach exhibit all summer. Massive ball pit? YES PLEASE. Beach without sand of sunscreen? YES PLEASE TIMES FIFTY. When I found out that the National Building Museum hosts a special free pre-opening morning visit for each DC ward, I made sure to mark my calendar, and we enjoyed a quick trip to the beach before work yesterday.

Summer2015-134 Summer2015-132Summer2015-109Only downside of an indoor beach? It can do nothing to help my wicked ballet flat tanlines that have stuck with me since France.Summer2015-112 Summer2015-113 Summer2015-114 Summer2015-115It might not appear that way, but those balls are really, really, hard to swim in. Like, at one point I thought I might drown and James had to haul me out.  The best way to tackle the “waves” was in a float, and I considered stealing one from some of the super on-top-of-it moms there with troops of kids. I was also just a tad scared that you could genuinely lose a small child FOREVER in those pits, not to mention your cell phone, keys, wallet, etc. If the Washingtonian doesn’t have an article about all the things found when they take down the ball pit, I will be severely disappointed. Summer2015-117 Summer2015-118 Summer2015-119THE STRUGGLE IS REAL. But it is also kind of awesome.  Like being perfectly suspended in the world’s best mattress… that might also suffocate you. Summer2015-122 Summer2015-124 Summer2015-127 Summer2015-128Selfie attempt with the big camera, without drowning mid-shot… Summer2015-129….failure.  Summer2015-130 Summer2015-131….Success!

And just in case you were wondering, is this sanitary? How many children peed in there? Aren’t those balls covered in germs? THIS IS NOT CLEAN!Summer2015-110Just know, James was right there with you in all those thoughts. I might have had to use all my persuasive powers to get him to jump in. And he hit that Purell afterwards like his life depended on it. Thank you husband, for balancing out my utter disbelief in the existence of germs.  Summer2015-133What’s that you say? You wish you had a video? DONE.

You wanted one that really emphasized how the balls rise up to engulf you?

I live to please.

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5 Things I love Today

Today marks my first day of 21st grade! I mean, I guess since I am done taking classes and am also teaching, it isn’t quite the same, but I’m still counting it. 21 long years in education. Even though I really love what I do, every summer I feel an acute sadness that vacation is over. Teachers out there- I know you are with me. If I was to make a list of what I don’t love in my life right now, it would be this: I had to put on real clothes today and leave my home.  But! That’s not a very helpful blog post. So instead, here are five things I’m loving today. (And as always, the title should be sung to the beat of this song.)

  1. Food News. I love a good podcast. I got hooked on Juliet and Jacoby from their reality TV podcast, and even James will join me for Food News. I’m running a half marathon in November and sometimes it is only those podcast that keep me dragging my way through those training runs. [Reality TV sidenote: Obviously I am loving Bachelor in Paradise, but I’m trying to limit how many times I blast my Bachelor Nation membership across the internet, as I hope someday to be gainfully employed in an institution of academic learning.]
  2. Kayaking. Last week was orientation all day long Monday through Thursday. So. Many. Meetings. To make it worse, DC decided to whip out glorious late summer weather all week. Breezy sunny days with low humidity and perfect temperatures. And there we were freezing in ugly rooms with overzealous AC. But on Friday, a couple of us from my department took advantage of our spare day to hit the Potomac from Fletcher’s cove. We kayaked (read: floated) for awhile, soaking in a last day of summer bliss before the semester starts up. DC really is perfect: big city on the inside, beautiful nature less than 20 minutes outside.
  3. The Office. Somehow I never saw more than a season or two when it was actually on, but that makes it all the more exciting to burn through episodes with James. Married people- find a show and laugh together. It’s my favorite thing.
  4. Dinners that take zero planning. This week we tried out Blue Apron, using a coupon to get $20 off our first order. I strategically planned ours to cover these early days of the semester where things are a little crazy. It was really exciting not just to try new foods, but to have all of the thinking taken out of cooking. I love cooking, and even enjoy planning, but sometimes it is nice to have home-cooked, but not home-planned food. Plus, individually portioned things in tiny containers makes my American Girl doll-loving soul rejoice.
  5. Gelato. We have a great little gelato shop near us, but I have only been once in all the years we lived here… until this weekend when we went twice. Friday night it was the perfect cap to dinner with a friend, and Sunday we were rewarding ourselves for a hard day of adulting the day before. When James was gone all last fall, he hid gift cards around the house. When I was having an especially rough day, he sent me clues to find one and take myself on a date. (I know, not our first long distance rodeo.) I saved the gelato one, because there’s nothing I love more than ice cream with my love, and we finally used it Sunday.

What are loving this Monday?

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