Our Family

Cook Christmas 2018 - Our Wonderfully Sweet Family Christmas Time

Tonight we celebrated our little family Christmas at home, where my parents worked so hard to prepare the most beautiful meal and warm holiday atmosphere for us all. This year felt a little extra special because dad was in the hospital several weeks ago, so we were all additionally grateful to all be together.

Every detail was so beautiful and intentional, from the gorgeous Williamsburg-inspired centerpiece to the lemons that held the cocktail sauce for our shrimp hors d'oeuvre.

Dad read an excerpt from an advent devotional book before our prayer, and we then enjoyed every single bite of the delicious dinner set before us… Swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes, hericot vert (those skinny deliciously crisp green beans) with almonds and crispy bacon, fresh homemade rosemary bread, and lingonberry jam. My goodness was it delectable…

We drew names for a little gift exchange, and mom and dad filled stockings for us, the ones our Nana made for us when we were babies, and we each enjoyed opening our gifts and spending time together..

Karlie had Tyler, he had Dad, Dad had Karlie… Mom had my name, and I had Jesse, who had Mom. :)

We each got ornaments from mom and dad - Tyler got a vacuum because he loves to so much lol, I got an adorable kitchen aid mixer, Karlie got a cute little cactus, and Jess received a nutcracker!

Thanks to Karlie who grabbed my camera to snag a few shots too! :)

Even Bax had his own stocking… And Dad is always joking with Karlie about General George Pickett being one of her great great great grandfathers so he framed his picture for her, lol!

We’re going to sleep feeling so blessed and thankful for one another! Now for another family gathering tomorrow, friends together at our house on Christmas Eve, and of course on Christmas Day too!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!

Our 2018 Family Vacation | Bethany Beach, Delaware

It’s been so long since my family has gone on vacation together! I mean years… Between the business of life, schedules, finances, and plain and simply just not allowing ourselves to take the time to just do it and go, it was time! My parents graciously reserved a condo for us all at Sea Colony and we absolutely loved it there. We went in the third week of September when peak season was over, which, for us, was the perfect time to go. The beaches were quiet, the sun was still shining, the temperatures were perfect, and everything just felt so right. Going in the middle of the summer when there are so many people, parking lots are packed, cars are flying up and down Coastal Highway, and the beaches are swarming with peoples isn’t necessarily our idea of a relaxing vacation. :)

Tyler and I were so excited to take Bax to the beach for the first time! He doesn’t like to swim but we knew he’d love visiting a new place because he’s always up for an adventure. :) He was all stoked and ready to go with his bandanna and bags packed!

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Our trip down was great… we always love crossing over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge especially when the weather is nice!

My parents are so cute, they were outside of the condo building waiting for us to arrive and help us with our things!

Our place was so adorable, fresh, clean, and had the perfect amount of space for us!

That evening after we settled in and enjoyed a spaghetti dinner together, we went out onto the beach! It felt so good to have our toes in the sand and have the entire beach to ourselves. Sea Colony’s beach is private so we were literally the only ones out there and it was awesome.

Seeing Baxter’s face was hilarious! He looooved bolting around the beach and would run into the surf but then quickly get scared of the water and charge back out pretending he wasn’t afraid at all, it was adorable. Little by little he’d get more and more adventurous with the water but he’s only 30 lbs so we didn’t want him going too far in! But luckily he stayed close. It was so much fun. My parents got Tyler a Spider Man kite lol so we flew that and just hung out together… it was so nice!

I woke up and watched the sun come up over the ocean every single morning which was incredibly nurturing for my soul… The sun rises were absolutely beautiful!

Dad had cooked so much for us, something he loves to do. He made his famous french toast, which was amazing as always… We spent our time reading, walking the beach, lounging, and just enjoying being together.

Mid week, Mary and Gordon came down to visit and so we exchanged portraits together on the beach and went out to dinner afterwards! We had such a great time with them!

Aunt Bonnie and Uncle Rich also got a place for the week so we had fun with them too! The tidal pool was up all week long so we enjoyed just sitting our chairs right in it while we soaked up the sun!

We were also able to see our good friends the Reeses, midweek, and all go out to dinner together!

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We spent some time at the end of the week taking family pictures on the beach! Uncle Rich found a blow fish! My parents had celebrated their 36th wedding anniversary during the week so it was special for me to take a few nice pictures of them. :)

We feel so blessed to have such a wonderful family with whom to spend time like this. We felt so refreshed coming back home, and can’t wait to be back hopefully next year! We are so grateful for this time spent together!

Family Gathering | Bridal Shower Style!

We are experiencing an exciting time in our family - my brother is getting married this fall! As a bridesmaid and of course a sister, I was excited to host a shower for my soon-to-be SIL Karlie for our side of the family and close friends. It was such a special afternoon spent together! I wanted the time to feel close, intimate, and sweet. We thought a botanical "Garden Party" theme would be sweet so we went for it, decorating with our potted plants, cacti, and herbs, succulents planted in my Nana's vintage teacups, and added potted herbs and sweet little chamomile and lavender flowers from Blair of Sweet Blossoms Florals! Our sunroom was the perfect space for it because we could all fit comfortably around a big table while visiting, eating, and celebrating...

Tyler and I had been preparing the past couple of weeks in planning but executing over the last couple of days, making sandwiches, desserts, and setting it all up. My mom and Tyler's aunt Tracy contributed much of the food too - mom with a salad and famous lemon bars and Tracy with a humus platter and orzo salad! It was so fun to watch the food table come to life in all of it's vibrant colors and flavors - we all know we love to eat! :) 

Old friends started to arrive... people we've known for 30 years... It was so special to have them all under one roof. Women who have been very influential and impacting in Jesse's life, and in the lives of all of us poured in all at once with open arms to hug, greet, smile, and toast to the welcoming of the soon-to-be newest Cook addition! It was wonderful to have Karlie, her mom Lauren, and grandmother Joyce get to meet our family and friends who are family - all of whom are so important to us, people we cherish so greatly, and for them to meet Karlie and her mama and grandmother too was such a fun way to spend the day! It was such a sweet fun time! 

Everyone contributed a recipe card into a special recipe box we had gotten for Karlie to keep as a special token, and to add to for years to come. After we ate, she opened her gifts and we played a couple of games: a mad-lib all about their wedding day and a "how well do we know Jesse" game. 

I'm so thankful to each lovely lady who took the time to come spend part of their Sunday with us... it meant so much and I loved how we were all together! 

Cheers to Jesse and Karlie!

Note: Huge thanks to Barnes Farm Tables (tables and chairs), Blair Roberts of Sweet Blossoms (potted and vases of herbs and flowers), Marcie Lenick of Celebrating Love by Marcie (easel), and Splintered Luv Soaps, Etsy (soaps)!

Easter 2018 | Family Traditions at Uncle Denny & Aunt Nina's

Easter finds a way to become more and more special to me each and ever year. My dad had just gotten home from surgery last year at this time, so Tyler and I decided to host and keep things small and simple. Remember I made dad's famous ham?? The holiday represented a fresh start to the new year, welcoming spring in all of it's colorful vibrancy and life after the chill and stagnancy of winter. This year, Easter came early! But it still made my heart smile. This winter has been particularly long it seems, so having the sun shine on Easter Sunday and the temps rise just a bit was such a treat, even though we're barely into April and the flowers are just beginning to bloom.

This is our first holiday celebrating without Tyler's Opa. Normally we'd spend part of the day with them, and of course my MIL Karen, and then head to my mom's sister Nina's for the rest of the day. But we thought it would be nice to do something different for Nanny this year, and give some change in the usual holiday routine. Nina and Denny always welcome anyone and everyone into their home, especially at Easter, and invite family members and friends on all sides. So of course they were welcome, and have been in the past, but this year was particularly different for Nanny, and for us too. 

So the morning started off with going to Nanny's Easter church service with her and Karen. It was very nice with a bell choir and all of my favorite rejoicing hymns... We went back to Nanny's afterwards to exchange a couple of cards and chocolates, and hopped into our cars to venture to the Morrison's! 

After everyone arrives, we come together to have prayer in a big circle out front. Everyone contributes a dish and we all sit around the house and eat while visiting while the kids play before the Easter Bunny comes (usually one of the teenagers dresses up) and the egg hunt begins! 

This year, Tyler took a big Panoramic pic of all of us before we also took a group shot in front of the house after Uncle Denny said our prayer!

Uncle Rich always does a waffles and strawberries bar which everyone absolutely loves... They are seriously the best! 

Did you see Nanny with her giant piece of Coconut Cake? She loves sweets... :) After everyone has eaten and the bunny has arrived is always my favorite part of the day. The girls (and a few gents too flow in and out) congregate on the porch with blankets and wine to talk! talk! talk! We call them "porch talks" and they are always so wonderful. 

That was Zack trying to get out of the "porch talk" with the girls that got brought inside since it got chilly, hehe... He eventually caved and stayed and talked with us! :) So did Tyler and dad too. It's always such a wonderful time to be together and bond as a family! We are all so very blessed...

Happy Easter everyone!

Our Family Christmas, Continued... | Christmas 2017

What a wonderful Christmas it was... We spent it with each of our families and got to see pretty much every single member, all of which we love so dearly. 

The Saturday before Christmas was spent with my dad's side, the Cooks, at Uncle Rich (my dad's brother) & Aunt Bonnie's house, where we'd just spent Thanksgiving, for another cozy sweet time together. I had made Nana's (dad, Rich, and their other brother Doug's mom) famous dinner rolls recipe from scratch (for the first time, nervously hoping they were just right!) a couple days beforehand with my mother-in-law, Karen, during our annual Christmas baking day we had. Each of us took turns accidently turning the mixer on too high too fast getting flour everywhere, hehe!

The table was decorated so beautifully as Aunt Bonnie always does, with the name tags handmade with love... Bonnie & Rich's grand-daughters put together the cute little gumdrop tree.

After dinner, we exchanged gifts under the theme of "oldie but a goodie" - meaning we had to buy our person something from the Thrift Store this year! It was fun to see what everyone got, and we all made out VERY well!

The day after, on Christmas Eve, Tyler and I took the day for some much-needed rest and enjoyed a candlelight service at our local church in town. I love going there on Christmas Eve because it's such a beautiful sanctuary with the red carpet, candlesticks, poinsettias, and beautiful old Christmas hymns. 

Each Christmas morning, we spend with Tyler's mom Karen for brunch the three of us then heading to spend the early afternoon with Nanny and Opa, her parents. We usually go to her house but this year, she came to us! It was so nice. Remember that breakfast I told you that dad made for us? We headed that up and enjoyed every single bite - it was delicious and took me right back to my childhood, as I knew it would... We toasted with Mimosas and opened gifts! And Jesse joined us too! The egg bake with a gorgeous wreath made of parsley and peppers, french toast, spiced apples, and sausage... Can't forget the topping of "snow"! 

We also had our stockings ready to open... Baxter finally had one of his own this year. I crocheted the other two for Tyler and I (and one for our beloved Myah of course) back in 2009 or so, and had yet to make Bax one but I found time to stitch him one this year so now he's official!

Karen gifted me that wreath you see Baxie laying next to right up here to the right, and Tyler received a new toaster oven! We got rid of our microwave this year (look it up - they're so bad for our bodies!) and so we're excited to use that! And my wreath will be perfect in time for next October! Bax was excited about his new toys and cookies too... So then it was time to leave for Nanny and Opa's!

We surprised Nanny and Opa with an "all-in-one" record/CD/tape player this year so they could play their old records, and it was absolutely precious to watch them pick out their favorites and sing along to the ones they chose to listen to. We also surprised Opa with a DNA kit from My Heritage and are excited to see what those results are so we can pass that down to our own kiddos one day. We had a small little lunch around the pop-up table in the "dining room" of seven layer salad, quiche, ham, and Nanny's famous Chocolate Cake, all of which Karen made and brought. Tyler and I ate light because we were about to go to another feast at Aunt Nina's! But we exchanged our gifts with them and spent a nice calm and relaxing afternoon with Nanny and Opa. We love them so much. 

Afterwards, it was time to venture over to my mom's sister, my Aunt Nina and Uncle Denny's house for Christmas like we also do every year! It's so warm and cozy there - like a Christmas dream! I didn't take as many photos as I would have liked but that's because I was visiting with everyone which was so nice... :) 

Each year, all of us get a fun little musical instrument and this year it was spoons! We all goof off with them and them move onto our Yankee Swap (where you have a pile of wrapped gifts everyone has brought that you can trade among each other once they've been opened) before Santa comes! ;) Holly's (Nina's daughter) birthday is on Christmas and this year, she turned the big 5-0 so Aunt Nina had the fun idea of buying gifts for Holly instead of the Yankee Swap, but of course not having Holly know until it was time to start the game. I went first, and opened the gift saying, "wait - this says it's for Holly!" so she opened it, and #2 went. They also opened the next gift and said "wait - this is for Holly too!" so she got it and began to open the rest of the gifts after being given the adorable birthday hat to wear while she opened! So that was fun! And on a fun note: apparently her birthday cake took a little tumble this year during preparations... hehe. Still tasted delicious, I'm sure!

Then Santa came, and everyone got a little something special (thank you Uncle Denny and Aunt Nina!!) and we then sat and visited and enjoyed each other's company...

And after a week of working/not working, resting, sort-of working, eating leftover cookies, and wondering what day it really was... we topped of Christmas week off with Tyler's dad's side of the family - The Smiths, at his dad's sister Tracy & her hubby Mark's house in Virginia - you know, where we spend the weekend for the kayaking trip every summer! I hardly photographed but did capture a couple fun little moments... We had our cocktails, smoked trout, steamed shrimp, salad, rice, and gumbo! We did do a Secret Santa and exchanged our gifts with whoever we had one-on-one at different times through the day whenever we felt like it was right, which was kinda fun. We hadn't done it like that before but I loved it. It made the gift-giving feel more special in some sort of way because usually, this side of the family just all opens the gifts at once and it gets insane!

Luke (Tracy & Mark's son) was in town from California, and it was so great to see and catch up with him! We all just took it easy and hung out together for the day which was nice... 

We are so unbelievably blessed to have the family we do - on both sides. And as tired as I am, currently under the weather at best, I wish I had more energy to go into just how grateful we are, but I know they know - and we know they know we know - and we know they feel the same because we are all so blessed to have each other. At any time - but especially at Christmas.

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Merry Christmas once again - and a very Happy New Year everyone! Thanks for sharing in our memories with us!