[Mini] Pecan-Crust Sweet Potato Pies

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Whenever I’m asked to choose my favorite holiday, I’ll quickly say “Thanksgiving.” There are so many things that I love about Thanksgiving- the food (of course), the traditions, spending time with loved ones and the excitement of the Christmas season right around the corner. Sadly, I wasn’t been able to spend the holiday with my family last year and won’t be able to again next week but I’m lucky enough to have some great friends to share the day with.

Greg and I are hosting Thanksgiving at our home this year- and we’re pretty excited about it! It will be our first holiday in our new house and it will be nice to experience and share some of our favorite traditions here with our friends. We’re doing it pot-luck style and everyone is bringing a few different dishes. As I was sitting here thinking of what to prepare (besides a gigantic turkey!), I pondered upon a few different dessert ideas. To me, Thanksgiving just isn’t Thanksgiving unless you end the meal with pie (or, preferably, a few different types of pie!). I wanted to make something that’s somewhat traditional – and give it a bit of a facelift. My mind immediately went to two different types of pie: sweet potato and pecan. Then I thought- why don’t I combine the two?

For me, my least favorite part of a pie is the crust: it’s all about the filling. I wanted to create a recipe where the crust was every bit as delicious as the filling- a pie that had delicious, harmonious flavor in every bite. I think I achieved it with this recipe. ;)

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Celebrating Three Years

Three years ago today Greg and I were married at a small vineyard in northern Virginia.

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Actually… we were technically married on a hiking trail in Maryland earlier that morning. (If you want all the details, feel free to check out this post.)

The last three years have brought a lot of major life changes for Greg and I, including me quitting my teaching job and us moving 1700 miles across the country. Through it all, Greg has been my greatest supporter, best friend and partner in crime.

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WIAW 78: V-Day on the Slopes

banana pancakes

Happy Wednesday, my friends!

As I was editing these photos to add to today’s post, I started feeling full all over again! According to my skiing instructor, you burn anywhere from 600 – 800 calories an hour when you ski. I don’t know if I believe that to be 100% true, but you definitely get a great workout and work up an appetite! Spending four days in a row skiing last week made me feel hungry for four days straight and wanting to eat all of the things. (Unfortunately, the calories don’t really even out- which I’ll touch on more soon. :))

Today’s WIAW post features lots of food from last Friday- Valentine’s Day!

Greg and I had taken a Colorado-cation about 90 minutes west at Keystone resort. We rented a condo with a full kitchen, which made it possible to cook delicious breakfasts each morning. I had the same thing for breakfast all three mornings that we were there: Flapjacked Banana Hazelnut pancakes, Fage 2% plain Greek yogurt, bananas and honey. And coffee.

banana pancakes

After eating a delicious breakfast, I got my ski gear on and spent a few hours on the slopes. We took a break in the middle of the day and walked down to the village to grab some lunch. There are a bunch of different restaurants to choose from in Keystone, but I was craving veggies and protein. I ordered a blackened chicken salad, which was surprisingly delicious!

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Snow Culture

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Out of the four seasons, winter has always been my least favorite. Summer is my top choice, fall and spring and tied and winter comes in dead last. I am not a fan of being cold and in my adult life, I have definitely not been a fan of snow. When I was living in Maryland, winter weather would shut the whole city down and snow was nothing but a nuisance. True- it was nice to have the occasional snow day when I was a teacher, but snow wasn’t something that was usually celebrated.

Though I took many trips to Colorado prior to living here, I hadn’t ever experienced a Colorado winter. I was really sad to see summer end and the warm weather start to turn colder- but the temperatures here feel incredibly different than they did on the east coast. Even on our coldest days (like -12˚ two weeks ago!), it hasn’t felt that cold. The super bright sunshine definitely helps! And just yesterday- it was in the mid 60s. One of the crazy things about this state is that it can be warm and sunny down here in the foothills and cold and snowing if you drive an hour out west. This was definitely the case this past weekend!

A few weeks ago, Greg and I decided to plan a weekend trip to Keystone Resort. This was after my second or third skiing lesson, after the point where I actually started to like it. I’ve heard so many great things about Keystone and almost every local I talk to touts it as their favorite- and Greg has it at the top of his list. We drove in last Thursday afternoon and rented a condo for three nights. It was definitely nice to be close to all of the action! I hadn’t ever skied anywhere except for Eldora, which is way smaller than Keystone. I was really excited to explore new terrain and take on some new challenges- and that’s exactly what we got on Thursday. Through the condo that we rented, I got a free pass for night skiing, so Greg and I checked it out.

I definitely gave myself a challenge here- skiing on a trail that I had never been on, in the dark, while it was snowing. It was pretty cool though- and there was definitely a great energy and excitement in the air.

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The trail was illuminated, but it was still really hard to see. According to Greg, night skiing is much brighter on the east coast. I’d say that skiing at night is 10% scary and 90% fun- and definitely worth experiencing!

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The Final Day of 33

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Tomorrow is my 34th birthday- and that just feels so weird to say. Time seems to go by at a mind-blowing pace and I often have to remind myself that I’m not in my twenties anymore. And the fact that I graduated college twelve years ago… I don’t even want to go there.

Really, I’m not one to get scared by getting older. I know that in the grand scheme of things I’m still relatively young and there are many years of great experiences ahead of me. Thirty-four already has some awesome stuff on tap and I’m excited to see what the year brings- but I’m a little sad to see thirty-three go. It was a crazy year and mostly filled with lots of happy memories, so I thought I’d look back on some of the stuff that happened during my 33rd year.

February 2013 started off with a whirlwind- two days before my birthday we had a contract put on our house in Maryland (where we were living!). The weeks after that were spent frantically packing up our house, stressing out about inspections, appraisals and all of the other fun stuff that comes with selling a house.

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I miss that house so much and wish I could’ve picked it up and moved it out west!

The month of March included a lot of Greg and I running around and making sure that we spent quality time with all of our friends and family- which was a lot of fun! Although we had a contract on our house in the middle of February, it took until the end of April for us to actually go to closing (since the buyers’ had a VA loan). The last few weeks before we moved are kind of a blur. I flew out to Colorado to find a rental home for Greg and I and was generously hosted by Kirk and Heather. After finding our house, I returned to Maryland for a few more weeks- the next time I’d be going to Colorado would be by car!

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Ringing in 2014 With a Big Surprise!

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Happy first Friday of 2014!

I’m going to toot my own horn a little bit here, because I’m pretty proud of myself. I managed to keep a big secret from my husband for nearly three months and pull off a pretty fantastic surprise 40th birthday party for him! Greg was born on New Year’s Day, which is a pretty rotten day to have a birthday. Whether you end up partying a little too much or just stay up too late, I think that New Year’s Day is probably the last day of the year that people feel like going out and celebrating. Greg has gotten the shaft many years because of the date of his birth, but I’ve tried very hard over the last six years to make him feel special on that day.

I threw Greg a small surprise party three years ago- but had it on January 2nd (which was a Sunday). It was pretty informal- just a bunch of friends gathered at a local restaurant to eat and watch football- but he thought we were just going out together. He was definitely surprised when he saw all of his friends there. Greg (along with my friend Kelly) planned a surprise party for my 30th birthday (which was almost four years ago! Eek!) and it was pretty impressive. Greg and I had gone out to dinner with my parents and when we got back home, my house was all decked out and all of my friends were there waiting. It was pretty cool- and made me feel really loved!

I’ve known for years that I wanted to do something big for Greg’s 40th (and by the way- he still doesn’t look a day over 25) but didn’t know exactly what. Greg’s best friend John and his wife Tiffani happen to live just two miles from our house, so I approached them about hosting a party on New Year’s Eve. I knew there was no way I could pull off a surprise at my own house. John and Tiffani enthusiastically agreed to host the party and were excited to get on board. We began planning this back in October, so I carried the secret around for a long time!

I didn’t really mention anything about New Year’s Eve plans to Greg until December and just kind of casually asked him if he wanted to do anything. Predictably, his answer was “I don’t really care.” Tiffani and I came up with a story that our friends Rob and Amy were having a party at their house in Boulder and we had John text Greg to “invite” him and me to the party. When Greg asked me if I wanted to go to a party at their house, I almost laughed, but kept it cool. I was like “Um, maybe. Let me see what Paige and Shane are doing” (who already knew about the party and were already planning to attend). I pretended to check with Paige and we made up a story that they would still be in Florida (they came home a few days before New Year’s) and told Greg that we could go to the party. Over the next few weeks, I talked about doing something for his birthday the following weekend so that he wouldn’t think that I wasn’t planning anything for the big 4-0.

I was an anxious mess for the two days leading up to the party! I had to sneak around and lie about where I was going as I shopped for decorations, ordered the cake, the catering and everything else. I talked Greg into going skiing on the actual day of the party so that he would be out of the house! Luckily, he didn’t think anything was up and actually thanked me for urging him to go ski. :)

The night of the party arrived and our plan was to go to John & Tiffani’s house to pick them up and head into Boulder (they live right on the way, so this didn’t seem weird at all). So, Greg was expecting us to just stop there for a minute to pick them up and hit the road. When we got to their house, John answered the door. Everyone had hid in the kitchen and were quiet, so nothing seemed out of the ordinary. John invited us in for a minute while he and Tiffani went to “grab their coats” and as we walked in the kitchen, Greg was greeted by 20 of our friends who shouted “SURPRISE!!”

As you can see, he was definitely surprised!

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(Thanks, Paige for snapping this photo!)

My heart was racing- and I even teared up a little bit! I was so happy that we were able to get him so good! He was so shocked and totally didn’t see it coming. Greg greeted everyone with big hugs and lots of laughing- we were all so happy to have pulled it off! I was so proud of everyone for keeping a secret too! We had seen so many of the people that were there over the last few weeks and everyone was great about keeping it a surprise.

Here’s a few of the friendly faces that were in attendance:

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Welcome, 2014!

Happy New Year!!

And- HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my awesome husband Greg!

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Yup- Greg was born on New Year’s day- FORTY years ago!

I’m writing this post on New Year’s Eve day, and by the time that it get published on New Year’s Day, I should have pulled off a stellar surprise 40th birthday party for Greg. I’ll let you know how that went tomorrow. :)

When I was reflecting back on the monumental things that happened (and life lessons I learned) in 2013, I can’t help but get excited for what’s in store for 2014. I don’t really know exactly what my fate is for next year, but I’m hoping that it will involve buying a home, a possible career change and lots of adventures in the Colorado wilderness.

I know that New Year’s Resolutions get a bad rap, but I’ve always been a big fan! For me, resolutions mean adopting new (good) habits or changing bad ones, rather than “doing” something. For example, I want to hike more 14ers next year, but that’s not a “resolution” of mine. I make several (realistic) resolutions each year and have for as long as I can remember. My most successful resolution was “to floss every night” back in the year 2000. It became a habit and I still floss every single day (at least once!). My main resolution last year was to read more books. I actually did a pretty good job at keeping it and read at least one book a month (which was my goal). I definitely want to continue that and spend more time reading/less time in front of “screens” and maybe even get back into reading fiction.

My other resolution was to create this happy thoughts jar so that I could spend more time focusing on the good in my life:

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Holiday Happenings

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Happy Monday, my friends! Is it just me or have all of the days this past week just been running together? I’ve pretty much lost all concept of time since Christmas Eve and am still trying to find exactly where I put my brain…

Christmas has come and gone and another great holiday is in the books! I’ve had a really wonderful last few days, but I have to say- I’ve been missing my family a lot since Christmas (particularly my mom). This was the first Christmas in my entire 33 years that I spent away from my family and it just doesn’t seem complete without them. I’m definitely hoping that we’re able to celebrate together next year! That all being said… I still managed to have a pretty great time and be with many people that I love.

Christmas Eve was spent with some friends up north- including Paige and Shane and some wonderful friends that we have acquired through them! Our friend Susie has a group of us over to her place for dinner, drinks and a classed-up version of white elephant.

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(picture from Paige)

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WIAW 71: Snow-Hiking, Sushi and Suprises!

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Happy Wednesday! If you’re looking for today’s giveaway- come back in a little while. I promise that another one will be posted today! In the meantime, feel free to check out the first two giveaways from the Season of Giving:

Monday’s Giveaway: Jamberry Nails

Tuesday’s Giveaway: KIND Healthy Snacks

For now, I’ve got a whole truckload of photos to share from last Saturday (which was pretty much a perfect day!). Keeping with the WIAW theme, you’ll also see what I ate throughout the day.

It was SO nice to sleep in and not really have anything on the agenda for the morning. Greg and I made breakfast and chatted about what we wanted to do that day.

flapjacked waffles

I had FlapJacked Apple Cinnamon waffles (with fresh cranberries!) with a little cottage cheese in the middle and some Coconut Secret syrup on top.

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Delicious, Healthy[ish] Holiday Cocktails

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Let’s face it- it’s pretty tough to resist temptation during the holiday season. It seems like the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas pretty much revolves around butter, sugar and chocolate. Like most other people, I tend to give in and indulge a little more than I’d like to admit. I definitely think it’s okay to partake in a few seasonal treats as long as it doesn’t result in me not being able to zip up my jeans by December 26th. Luckily, there’s a few simple ways to save a few calories (and not even notice the difference) when it comes to creating some yummy and festive cocktails.

I’m a big fan of creamy drinks around the holidays- but don’t really want to consume hundreds of extra calories in the form of heavy cream. I’ve found that Silk Pure Almond is a perfect substitute for almost anything that requires a super creamy (dairy) ingredient. Silk Pure Almond Unsweetened Original and Vanilla milks only have 30 calories per serving- and taste anything but light.

My husband is a big fan of bourbon and has slowly turned me onto it as well. He likes it on the rocks or with a little bit of water, but sometimes we get fancy and I make him this drink. It tastes sinful and rich- but thanks to Silk Pure Almond Unsweetened Vanilla, it’s just 150 calories. I’ll drink to that!

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