Into and Out of It

Hey all!  Sorry I’ve been gone a bit. 

The truth is that sometimes I’m a little more into blogging than others.   True for a lot of things, right?!

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Plus, the BOY and I just spent the most wonderful Thanksgiving in New York with my family!

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And we’ve been busy getting back into work and life since we got back.  On top of that, I’ve also been a bit out of it. I returned from NY with a terrible cough and although I feel okay, I had little to no voice and was exhausted from all the coughing.  We’ve gotten back into our life groove and so now it’s time to get back into my blogging groove.  Can you believe, there is only one month of goals left in 2015?  No pressure!

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November Goals

1. Figure out a fall/winter workout schedule.

I’m working on the details.  It is so tough for me to move my cardio indoors, but the BOY and I have been able to get to the gym together Tuesday mornings (we initially tried Thursdays = not so good).  I’ve also been able to get to some AM yoga classes, which has been AWESOME!

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2. Cook, Bake, and Explore New Recipes

I think you probably noticed more recipes this month (especially compared with the last few).  A few favorites include Chocolate Cherry Oatmeal Cookies, Slow Cooker Honey Garlic Chicken, and Cheesey Stuffed Sourdough Loaf.

3. Clean/Organize our house.

We spent Halloween weekend doing a massive clean.  Our kitchen and office benefitted the most.  Although we still have some work to do in the garage, our house looks and feels better already.

4. Reconnect – I feel like I’ve been very wedding-centric recently, so I look forward to spending that time hanging with friends and family.

The best part of life!  It was a fun month getting together with friends and celebrating Thanksgiving with our family!

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December Goals

Keep running (and sign up for a spring race)

Stay healthy

Get bikini ready…honeymoon here we come!

Slow down, stay grounded, and appreciate the last month of 2015

 

What are you goals?

What are you into and out of this month?

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Friendsgiving in April

When I was in college, my roommates and I decided to do a Thanksgiving in March celebration.  Now mind you…only one of us (not me…the fact that I cook still surprises some of my college friends) knew how to cook a thing and the rest of us were easily able to provide some sort of prepackaged food which was enjoyed in our stretchiest pants.  I know that somewhere I have a picture of us all proud and enjoying this dinner but I can’t find it anywhere.  You’ll have to settle with this college Hanukkah celebration photo instead : )

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Fast forward many, many years to the BOY and I hosting our first Thanksgiving.  When all was done and the BOY’s first turkey devoured and raved about, he looked at me and said ‘This is fun…why do we only do this one time every year?’.  Not wanting to wait, we decided to invite our friends over for a Friendsgiving in March celebration that due to busy spring schedules was rescheduled to last night.

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The BOY made turkey and I did a simple cheese plate appetizer.  Everyone arrived with arms full of delicious Thanksgiving classics.

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The weather was gorgeous and so we got to enjoy being outside for the first time in a long time!

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When it came time for dinner, the BOY pulled his beautiful turkey off the grill, and everyone heated up their colorful sides.  We, of course, took a moment to say what we were thankful for before diving RIGHT in.

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We had pie for dessert and the entire evening was really fun and a huge success!  I’d say a new tradition was born…

First Timers

The BOY and I hosted our first Thanksgiving this year!

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It was my idea and the BOY immediately got on board researching turkey recipes and reserving two birds for the big day.  Last weekend as I had about 2 hours to prep for the day, I had a moment of freak out.  But then, I realized…we had distributed the work load to the experts (ie our families) and even if the turkey didn’t turn out, it’d be a great story about the time we tried to host Thanksgiving.  Plus, we’d all be together and that was the most important part of the holiday.  As we got closer, it occurred to me that I probably should have taken Wednesday off.  But I thought further and realized that we really didn’t want to set the standard too high on our meal because then there would be no place to but up and all we really needed to do was pull it off (being newbie first timers and all…ha ha!)

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The brining began at 2 in the morning (don’t  ask!) and the turkeys were prepared and ready for their day.  I started my Thanksgiving with a pre food coma strength training workout with my trainer.  He didn’t go easy on me and I appreciated that!

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Everyone arrived around 11:30am for the Bears game and appetizers.

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The Bears disappointed as expected but nobody was too upset because there was plenty of delicious food and great conversation.  I was in charge of stuffing and not surprisingly, I went to my trusty crockpot with this recipe for Cranberry Pecan Stuffing.  It turned out AMAZING and has actually changed my opinion on stuffing (I used to not be a fan and today I dug right into leftovers).

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The BOY made two turkeys, one on the grill and one in the oven.  He went back and forth basting, and I attempted to figure how to time all of the gorgeous sides our guests made in one oven.

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At 4:30pm, everyone chipped in to change over the living room to a dining room set with my grandma’s china for 11.  The BOY cut and plated his stunning birds and everyone gathered for dinner.

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Cooper came down just as we were being seated (he must have smelled turkey) and the BOY and I said a few words thanking our families for all that they have done for us and cheersing to the exciting year ahead!

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And then everyone dug right in!

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All of the food was AMAZING and the BOY was praised for his excellent turkeys!  After dinner, everyone found comfortable places to sit back and relax and continue their conversations.  Even Cooper met a new friend…

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Despite full tummies, we all found room for dessert.

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Before leaving, everyone collected their leftovers and made their way home.  We did a quick pick up before collapsing on the couch.  The most exhausted out of all of us…Cooper!

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The BOY and I also had a deep night’s sleep waking up refreshed.  I began my day at the yoga studio with a glorious practice dedicated to our families who shared this special holiday with us creating a new holiday tradition.   And of course, we feasted on leftovers for dinner tonight!

Share your Thanksgiving Traditions!

 

Tips For Hosting Your First Thanksgiving

(just a few things I learned along the way)

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1.Have fun

2. Ask for help-everyone is always happy to make or bring something

3. Know your space-and use it wisely

4. Keep it simple-put time into what needs time and don’t sweat the small stuff

5. Stay true to yourself-get creative and make the holiday your own

6. Remember what’s important-being together is the MOST important part of the holiday!  Everything else is just gravy : )

Month of Gratefulness

I read somewhere at my yoga studio that they are doing a ‘Month of Gratefulness’ board.  I didn’t see too much more but it reminded me about the importance of being thankful for all of the good things in my life.  Obviously, there are the big things…I am healthy,surrounded by family, about to marry my best friend, and happy!  But there are also the little things from day to day that I am grateful for.  An email from a friend, that first bite of expensive dark chocolate, a cuddle from Cooper, or a beautiful sunrise.

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I started my month Saturday with our kids yoga class.  It’s a great group of kids and we had tons of fun playing in the leaves, celebrating fall, and stretching tight hamstrings before hibernating during our relaxation.

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Afterwards, I met two of my close high school friends for lunch before uncorking a delicious Napa wine with the BOY for a quiet dinner in.  Sunday began with an intense and exhausting hot yoga class.  Then, I was off to the St. Jude Fashion Show with my Mom and a group of ladies.  If you remember, my mom and I volunteered here last year and decided that we wanted to participate this year.  We recruited 8 other people to share our table and celebrate the efforts of this magnificent hospital.

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One of the most exciting parts (especially since nobody at our table won a raffle) was getting a bright red hair streak for donating to St. Jude.  I’m not gonna lie, it’s super fun and matched my red dress perfectly!

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This morning was a busy one (exercising and cleaning) and then I worked a half day.  I’m taking Thursday off to watch the BOY get sworn into the Illinois State Bar Association (can you say super grateful for this?!), so I caught up on a few patients today.  I should add that I am grateful for generous and kind coworkers as well.  My month is off to a fantastic start (even though one person in this household isn’t handling Daylight Savings time so well).

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This would be Cooper singing for his dinner 90 minutes early last night.  The BOY and I were both trying to study and couldn’t stop laughing at his emotional attempts to elicit an early dinner.  I am so grateful for laughter!  Speaking of dinner…here is the game plan this week!

Meal Planning 11/03/14

Monday: Crockpot Chicken Curry

Tuesday: Grilled Shrimp and Veggies

Wednesday: Parmesan Chicken with Roasted Romaine

Thursday: TBD (we both have the day off!)

 

With so much to be grateful this month, I’m going to try my best to appreciate the little things and celebrate the big things.

What are you grateful for?

Whirlwind Weekend

It all began last Tuesday night…

After work, I drove to my parents, changed into comfy clothes, piled into the backseat of my parents car, drove to the city to pick up my brother, and the four of us headed east for Thanksgiving. 

 

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I slept through the night crammed into the back seat with plenty of pillows and blankets.  We hit some snow and ice in Indiana, but for the most part, made great time.  We arrived in New Jersey Wednesday morning just in time to go pick up my cousin’s adorable kids from school.

 

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First (of many) vacation selfie

 

My cousins live in an awesome town in New Jersey and our first stop (after lunch) was downtown for some tax free pre Thanksgiving shopping and Starbucks.  When we got back home, everyone sat around the dinner table to catch up on life.

 

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After dinner, it was back to the kitchen for Thanksgiving prep.  It was a team effort pulling together homemade stuffing and mashed potatoes before crashing for an early evening.  Thursday morning, we were up WAY before the sun for parade day.

 

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We drove into the city and found a parking spot within walking distance of our location on 68th.  A few of us went off to Starbucks for a warm beverage and a bathroom.  The line was outrageous, but thankfully Magnolia Bakery opened up at 7am with warm coffee and tea and incredible pastries.

 

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We had over an hour before the start of the parade, so a simple game of I Spy kept us all busy!

 

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When the clowns came skating down the street, we knew the parade would be right behind!

 

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Two years ago when we went to the parade, I took tons of pictures, so I tried to get some different snap shots this year.  There were some old favorites and a few new faces along the route, plus a local Chicago marching band.  As you can see, despite the threat of heavy winds, it was a gorgeous day!

 

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After Santa’s arrival (signifying the end of the parade), we followed the masses back to our car.

 

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We drove up to northern Manhattan to pick up some family members who opted out of the parade and then drove out to Rockland county where my cousin and his wife were hosting this year’s Thanksgiving.

 

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It was a beautiful feast and the house rang with chatter and laughter (from the adults as much as the kids) from the moment we arrived until the last person fell asleep!

 

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After dinner, the kids were super excited to celebrate the second night of Hanukkah!  I should tell you that the BOY and I do our own Hanukkah celebration, but it is WAY more fun celebrating with family, especially this enthusiastic crowd.  Friday morning, I woke up to an adorable girl in pink plopping into my bed and asking if I wanted to see what was in her purse.   How sweet is that???

 

I have so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, but 4 days surrounded by amazing family is definitely top on my list!

#ThanksandGiving

Yesterday was my third time volunteering for St. Jude this year and every experience has been so different and fun.  Yesterday, the volunteers were the support behind the St. Jude Dream a Little Dream fashion show and raffle.  The event hosted around 1500 guests and raised money and awareness for the children of St. Jude…perfect timing to kick off the Thanks and Giving Campaign.

 

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View from my first apartment in Memphis 2006

 

I remember when I learned about the campaign about 7 years ago as a St. Jude employee.  Since then, the support for the campaign has grown (who hasn’t seen the logo at your local Target or sporting store?) and today is the 10 year anniversary of its start.  The video’s on this website are priceless and well worth checking out this week!

 

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This time of year, and this week in particular, when many of us have off of work, are traveling, and planning for the holiday season ahead, there is plenty of time to reflect on the joys and gifts in our lives and give back to those in our community in need of financial, emotional, and physical support.  Starting off the week by donating my time and energy to this local event in support of a wonderful cause was the BEST way to kick off my Thanksgiving week.

 

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Last week on the job 2008

 

And remind me how lucky I am to have a strong partner, an adorable kitten, a healthy family, generous friends, a job that I love and challenges me, four walls and a roof, heat in the winter, strength to run 26.2 miles, amazing cousins, an active 101 year old grandfather, trips to Israel, a bookshelf full of books, opportunities for growth, clean water from my faucets, laughter and love!

 

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I will be taking all of this appreciation with me as my family hits the road (yup we’re driving) to New York tomorrow night.  I know Thanksgiving is all about the food, but for me, I’m more excited to spend this quality time with my family and our close friends on the east coast!  But before I go, I want to wish you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Thank You and Keep on Giving!

 

 

What does #ThanksandGiving mean to you?

Sweet Potato Pie {Revisited}

I discovered sweet potato pie during my time living in Memphis, TN.  I even remember where I had my first taste.  I was skeptical at first but the BOY ordered it for dessert, so I picked up my plastic fork and took my first bite.  It was a party in my mouth from first taste.  Sadly, I don’t have any pictures of this amazing moment, but I do have tons of pictures of the BOY enjoying fried chicken in that same spot!

 

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Every visit to Gus’s since then, whether with the BOY, my friends or family, sweet potato pie was ordered.  Often, multiple slices!  Whenever I make my way back to the mid south, there are a few restaurants that I HAVE to visit and sweet potato pie at Gus’s is always top of my list!  I actually had never made a pie when I attempted my first Sweet Potato Pie as a new blogger for New Years Eve 2010-2011.  It turned out incredible!  Can you believe that I haven’t made one since?  It was the first thing that I suggested when I knew we’d be home at my parents for Thanksgiving this year.  Since I had to work Tuesday and Wednesday, I got started a little early with the sweet potatoes.

 

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The recipe suggests running your potatoes through a fine mesh sieve.  After 1/2 of a potato, I had some serious carpel tunnel and a centimeter of sweet potato.  I figured that there had to be a better way of doing this, so I pulled out my immersion wand, which worked out so much better. I highly recommend going that route first.

 

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I had plenty of sweet potato puree that I packaged up and sent home to my parents.  Thursday afternoon, I was ready to make my pie.  I bought a premade frozen crust from Trader Joe’s.  The only problem is that when I tried to thaw it out, it broke apart.

 

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I was able to push everything back together to form it into a crust.

 

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The pie crust baked up just fine.  It didn’t look real fancy, but it tasted really good!  Meanwhile I got to work on the filling by mixing together the sweet potatoes with plenty of spices!

 

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I had some help pulling everything together since the majority of us where in the kitchen working on dinner by this point.

 

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The pie went into the oven just as we sat down for dinner.

 

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40 minutes later, the pie was ready.  It looked beautiful and went straight from the oven to our table.

 

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Along with a pecan pie and baked apple cobbler and of course Cool Whip as a topping!

 

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The sweet potato pie was fantastic!  It is one of my all time favorite pies, and I was so happy to share it with my family!

 

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After dinner, we all retreated to the living room to watch some football and work on a puzzle.  My brother made a fire, which was perfect since the weather had really cooled down.

 

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The puzzle making was intense as we all battled to be Puzzle Master and find that key piece.  We did have to take one dessert break, which became BYOF (bring your own fork) with no plates required…ha ha!

 

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We had our puzzle finished before heading off to bed with full tummies and happy hearts!

And I even had leftover pie for dessert the rest of the weekend!

 

 

Sweet Potato Pie

From The Food Network

 

Ingredients

1 recipe Sweet Pie Crust*

1 egg white, lightly beaten

1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1/2 cup maple syrup

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup heavy cream

4 large eggs

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to a 12-inch circle. Carefully transfer the dough to a 9-inch deep pie pan and ease the pastry into the bottom and sides of the pan. Press the dough into the shell and crimp the edges in a decorative pattern. Using the tines of a fork, lightly dock the base of the shell. Place the shell into the oven and bake until lightly browned, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and brush the bottom with the egg white. Set aside until ready to use.

Rub the sweet potatoes with the vegetable oil and roast in the oven for 45 to 60 minutes, until very tender. Remove and set aside to cool. Peel the potatoes and pass the flesh through a fine mesh sieve using a rubber spatula. (Or use your immersion blender…so much easier and faster!)  You should have about 1 1/2 cups of smooth sweet potato puree.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the sweet potato puree with the sugar, maple syrup, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt. Whisk to combine. In a separate bowl, combine the heavy cream with the eggs and whisk to combine. Add the cream and egg mixture to the sweet potato mixture and stir to blend. Pour the batter into the prepared pie shell and place the pie on a sheet pan.  Bake until the center is set and the tart is golden brown, 35 to 45 minutes. Remove the tart from the oven and allow to cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.

 

 

*I used a premade TJ’s piecrust, but here is the recipe for homemade pie crust from The Food Network