Sweet Potato Spud Ole!

A couple of years ago I discovered the Spud Ole from McAlister’s Deli. It’s a baked potato filled with chili, cheese, jalapenos, and sour cream. Ridiculously delicious. So good in fact that last year I started making them at home when we had leftover chili. Well this year I have been kind of obsessed with sweet potatoes. And in the past few months I have been busy stuffing my sweet potatoes with all kinds of goodness. Including swapping out russet potatoes for sweet potatoes in my Spud Ole!

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The Sweet Potato Spud Ole! Just a baked sweet potato filled with chili (our favorite recipe here) and then topped with cheddar jack cheese, plain Greek yogurt (or you could use sour cream), and jalapenos. I’m kind of a wimp when it comes to spice so those jalapenos are definitely the tame kind, but I love them!

And because I love progression photos… here’s the masterpiece as it comes together!

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I know I say this about all the recipes I share, but this is really so delicious. I make plenty of things that I don’t share on this blog because they were just okay. Or they were good, but not good enough that I make them over and over again. So if a recipe makes it to this blog, that means it’s one we really love. So trust me, this is scrumptious!🙂

Love Rach

Lately

Life is still flying by at break-neck speed. Mostly because we got back from Europe just in time for photography busy season. I have to say, though, I have done a pretty stellar job  with self care this holiday season compared to last year. I have been much better about not overbooking myself (even if it meant that I had to refer clients to other photographers) and much better about not letting go of the things that I know are good for me. I still start every morning with quiet time, yoga, and then an hour at the gym. Last year I skipped the gym a lot during this time of year and it definitely left me feeling sluggish. So I told myself this year that I’d do a better job. And I have!

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Christopher snapped this shot of me over Thanksgiving week taking photos of my sister & brother-in-law. Their daughter is helping encourage them to smile. I’m pretty sure I need to hire her full time.😉

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We actually put up all of our Christmas decorations in early November, but I waited to share this picture until now out of respect for my friends who prefer not to be inundated with all things Christmas before Thanksgiving.😉 For the record, we love Thanksgiving even though we decorate for Christmas so early. We really just love the whole holiday season – the day after Halloween until January 1st. We love gathering with friends and family, attending parties, listening to festive music, eating delicious food, sharing what we’re thankful for, gift shopping, and exchanging gifts. We do all of those things (including giving gifts) at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years every year. So this whole season is just wonderful and magical to both of us. We just happen to not like Thanksgiving decor near as much as we love Christmas decor. So we celebrate Thanksgiving with our Christmas tree twinkling brightly.🙂

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In general we eat at either our dining room table or the bar in our kitchen. But if we’re home on a Friday night then we are eating homemade pizza while sitting on the couch. It’s one of our favorite traditions. Most pizza nights, Oreo sits on the floor and looks at us with big puppy eyes or occasionally he just lays in his bed and sighs a lot. Anything to let us know that he’s desperately starving. This past Friday, though, he took things to new heights. He jumped up on the couch and literally laid on Christopher. I’m pretty sure he was thinking, “maybe they can’t see me on the floor. Surely he’ll feed me now!” That dog is a mess!

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To celebrate Brodie’s birthday we did our first escape room this past week! We just barely escaped with 2 minutes and 38 seconds left, but we had fun!

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And on Saturday night we attended an International Night of Worship. We found out about it through World Relief which is a refugee resettlement organization that we volunteer with. It was incredible! There were people from all parts of Asia, Africa, and South America. There were even a handful of people from Italy, Canada, and Australia. As well as people born & raised in the States. Songs were sung in different languages, scriptures were read in different languages, and prayers were said in different languages. It was truly incredible to come together with people from all corners of the Earth and worship God together.

Lots more to look forward to in the weeks ahead! I just love this time of year!🙂
Love Rach

Thanksgiving in Gatlinburg

Our family celebrated Thanksgiving in Gatlinburg, TN this year. We left on Sunday just before the fires came raging through and destroyed so much of the beauty you see in this video. My heart breaks for the devastation of such a beautiful place. It makes me especially glad that I documented this trip. Enjoy this glimpse into our time in Gatlinburg featuring snow tubing, walking trails, a murder mystery dinner, games, dancing, and just general family fun.🙂

I have so many favorite parts to this video. From my mom snow tubing to Makenzie’s face when Christopher beats her at pool to my uncle and nephew dancing to my aunt photobombing my sister to Christopher’s selfie-mode snow tubing clip… it’s all just fun. I’m so glad we were able to get away as a family for Thanksgiving. It was a wonderful trip!

Love Rach

A roller coaster of emotions

The past 9 days have been a roller coaster of emotions. We have experienced sadness, fear, great fun, gratefulness, and joy. So many things. So many feelings. Last week I shared with you guys that we had just come out of a pretty rough weekend. Over that weekend while we were helping my mother-in-law with Christopher’s dad (who is in the late stages of dementia), we got a call from my mom letting us know that my dad had a stroke and was in an ambulance on the way to the hospital.

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However, after a few days in the hospital he was discharged with the incredible news that the stroke had caused no loss of function. His guardian angel must have been working overtime that Saturday. I am thankful for many things this Thanksgiving, but seeing my dad be his normal self just days after a stroke was such a blessing.

girls and dad.jpg{two of my sisters and me with our dad this past week}

I’ll share more about all the fun we had at Thanksgiving later this week, but for now I wanted to at least share this before I run out the door.  There are no words to describe how thankful I am that I got to spend another Thanksgiving with my dad.

 Love Rach

Moments of goodness

I keep trying to figure out how to start this blog post and I keep starting over. So forgive me if this isn’t said well or if I’m all over the place. Here’s the truth, it was a rough weekend. For both mine and Christopher’s families. We were with his family helping out with a difficult situation when we got a call from my family with bad news. I know all of this is really vague (which is part of why I keep having trouble figuring out how to word things), but for now this is the best I can share. It was a hard weekend for both our families. And there is more pain and more news and more transition to come. So please say a prayer for both of our families. We would so appreciate it.

The weekend wasn’t all bad, though. There were moments of goodness.

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On Thursday (which wasn’t really the weekend, but close enough that I’m counting it, ha!)  we went to a Casting Crowns concert. We both like this group, but really it was the opener who I was SUPER excited to see. Matt Maher opened for Casting Crowns and he is one of my favorites. He has so many incredible songs that just really touch my heart. Lord I Need You, Christ is Risen, Your Grace is Enough, and Because He Lives are four of my favorites which you’ll find on repeat around our house. I can’t tell you how much we needed to go into this weekend with these anthems speaking truth over us. And as an added bonus, the very first opener was a girl named Hannah Kerr who I had never heard of, but it turns out I love her! I came home and bought her whole album the next day! So definitely a good night.🙂 That picture up there is of all the artists on stage together singing a finale!

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This shot is of Christopher and his dad from yesterday afternoon. For newer readers who may not know – Christopher’s dad has dementia. If you have ever known someone in the later stages of dementia then you know how heartbreaking it can be. I’m thankful for the little moments like this one.

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My mother-in-law is part of a group of ladies who write cards (happy birthday, get well soon, condolences, etc) to people who attend their church. Seeing these four ladies work together was hilarious. Did I mention that one of those ladies is my grandmother? She’s the spunky red-head (she’ll tell you that it’s still red even if you can’t tell these days) on the left in the picture. Christopher and I grew up far away from each other, but my grandparents and his parents live in the same town now and go to the same church and have become good friends. So funny how that works sometimes! Anyway, I got to stick on the return labels and pick little sticker closures for the back of the envelopes. Important work, my friends.😉

I have to note here… I love the example my mother-in-law sets. Being a care taker for someone who has dementia is so taxing (emotionally, physically, mentally, etc). And yet, despite the fact that she has so much going on already, she still thinks of others and actively works to bless others in their community. Love that about her.

This weekend was such a difficult one, but it made it easy to highlight the blessings in our life. We live in a broken world, but there is goodness here as well. And so very much to be thankful for.

Love Rach

Ps. I know I’m all over the place. Thank you for having grace for me today.

Enchilada Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

I’m so glad you guys enjoyed last week’s stuffed sweet potato recipe because I have another one for you today! After trying and loving the buffalo stuffed sweet potato a few months ago I went on a hunt to see what else I could stuff into a sweet potato. Which led me to Against All Grain’s Enchilada Stuffed Sweet Potatoes. Once again, I realize this probably sounds odd, but it really is SO good!

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Enchilada Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

Ingredients:

3 medium sweet potatoes
1 small sweet onion, diced
1 medium poblano pepper, seeds removed and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 lbs extra lean ground beef
1 1/2 cups enchilada sauce (we like Sprouts brand)

Optional additional toppings: sour cream or ranch (we’ve been loving Hidden Valley’s Greek Yogurt Ranch lately for recipes like this), avocado, cilantro, and black olives

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash sweet potatoes and then prick several times all over with a fork. Line a tray with aluminum foil and then spray with a light layer of olive oil spray. Place sweet potatoes on tray and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour (depending on the size of your potatoes). I usually check them at 45 minutes and if they aren’t done yet, pop them back in for an extra 5-15 as needed.

2. Meanwhile, saute onions, peppers, garlic, and salt for 5 minutes. Add beef and continue cooking until beef is cooked through and onions are translucent (about 10 minutes).

3. After removing sweet potatoes from oven open them up and spoon meat filling inside. Top with enchilada sauce and preferred extra toppings. Enjoy!

Can you guys believe a week from today is Thanksgiving? We’ll be spending this weekend with my in-laws and next weekend with my side of the family. I’m excited to celebrate a week of thankfulness surrounded with people we love.🙂

Does this recipe sound super strange to you? I thought more of you would think last week’s recipe was weird so I’m curious to hear what you guys think about this one!

Is anyone else beginning Thanksgiving celebrations early with family this weekend?

Love Rach

Things I’ve learned as a yoga newbie

At the end of summer I started doing yoga regularly. In the past I’ve done it for a week or two here or there, but it never really stuck. Partially because I’m super inflexible which means I’m pretty terrible at it and partially because some of the things the instructors said would strike me as so funny that I had trouble concentrating. Their floaty, airy voices combined with them telling me to connect my sacrum to the universe was just a little too much for me sometimes. But it struck me one day… wouldn’t it be cool if there was such a thing as Christian yoga? A way to stretch and practice yoga while quieting my mind and focusing on scripture. So I Googled it. And found out that it is, in fact, a thing.

mountain-poseMountain pose… on a mountain in Switzerland in September.🙂

Things I’ve learned in the first few months as a yoga newbie:

1. A yoga mat makes a huge difference. I tried to use a rug, towel, and blanket and none of them were great. They would slip or slide or not be very cushy. In the end, I am so glad that I finally bought an actual yoga mat. Thanks to good deals at TJ Maxx (less than $15 each) we have an Aeromat Elite 1/4″ yoga mat (mine) and an Empower 1/4″ yoga mat (Christopher’s). I also got a RatPad for my knees and head for different poses and it is awesome!

2. It’s more of a workout than I first anticipated. I already do cardio and weights at the gym so I definitely didn’t expect any soreness from starting yoga. However, my wrists were super weak and had to be strengthened. And apparently whatever muscles are in your underarms are ones that I never used because oh my gracious did they hurt when I first started! So much soreness! But it passed within a couple of weeks and I’ve had no other issues since then.

3. Sticking with it really does generate results! My heels still don’t touch the ground in downward dog and I still can’t bend at the waist and put my palms flat on the floor, but I’m MUCH closer than I was when I started. My overall flexibility has definitely increased which I love. And I’ve been pleased to see how yoga tones my body as well.

For anyone interested, these are my favorite yoga videos. 

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Videos 1-5 are foundational videos that teach you how to do the poses properly. This was so important for me! It helped me know what I was actually trying to accomplish with each pose (even simple ones like downward dog or child’s pose). If you are a beginner, I really recommend those first five videos! Videos 6-10 are ones that I rotate through in the morning depending on how much time I have. Videos 11-12 are ones that I do if I want to try something different than the regular routine (or if my back is bothering me). And finally videos 13-15 are the ones Christopher and I rotate through at night time when we do yoga before bed. They are all pretty low key videos and help you stretch and relax before bedtime. We have loved these!

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Oreo also loves yoga time! It’s not uncommon for him to share a portion of one of our mats while we’re practicing. He just loves to be close by.😉

So tell me, do you practice yoga? Any favorite (beginner) videos I should try? 

Love Rach