Warm Days in February + Homemade Baked Beans

Looking out my window now at the cold, gray rain, it’s hard to believe that yesterday was uncharacteristically warm and sunny for February.  Andrew and I took advantage of the beautiful day by heading to a park for a walk.

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The lake, which had clearly been frozen solid, was beginning to thaw, and it was beautiful.  I loved watching the ducks waddle from the ice into the water. 🙂  We spent about 45 minutes walking around the trails and the lake, and it was a much-welcomed change of scenery from the gym workouts we’ve been doing lately due to the cold weather!

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Crazy Eyes: we got ’em

 As we were heading back to the car, we ran into one of the girls in the youth group that I work with.  Naturally, Andrew decided to throw a snowball at her and her friend.

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Sorry, Brooke;  it’s never a fair fight with that guy. 😉

Later in the evening, we went to our friends Evan and Kristina’s house to watch the Super Bowl with friends.  I had decided to make baked beans (from scratch) in the Crock Pot to bring as our contribution.  Despite the fact that I’d started cooking them at 8:30 AM, they were still not quite done nine hours later, so we brought the whole Crock Pot to the party to allow them more cooking time.  😀

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Navy beans (soaked over night and rinsed) + bacon + brown sugar + molasses + Dijon mustard + salt + pepper + onion powder + water

The flavor was really good, but they never got quite soft enough.  Any advice from more experienced Crock Pot users?  Is that just the texture of beans that don’t come from a can?  I’d love to give them another shot… once we finish the half-gallon of this batch still left in our fridge. 😉

Have a great Monday!

-What was your favorite Super Bowl snack/dish from last night?
-If you had a warm day yesterday like us, how did you spend it?
-What’s the best thing you did this weekend?

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Breckenridge and Hiking Cheeseman Canyon (Colorado Days 2 & 3)

We’ve been home from Colorado for about 32 hours now, and I am thoroughly jet-lagged and exhausted–the good kind of exhausted. The kind of exhausted you feel when you pack a lot of awesome things into a few days. 🙂  Here’s what the next few days of our trip entailed:

Day 2: Breckenridge
On Friday we drove deep into the mountains to the adorable little skiing town, Breckenridge.  These were some of the views as we drove:

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It didn’t even look real!  So beautiful.  Once we arrived in Breck, we spent hours walking up and down Main Street exploring the shops…and being the big kids that we are. 😀 

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The hat shop was a particularly good time 😀

Day 3: Hiking Cheeseman Canyon

On Friday night, Andrew’s friend and best man Kevin arrived.  Kevin’s sister Julie lives with Jenny, so it worked out well that the five of us could pile into one apartment for a weekend of best friend/family fun. 🙂  Saturday we all went hiking–Andrew later declared it, “Probably my favorite hike ever!”  It was, in fact, a pretty beautiful hike, with the trail following a canyon river. 

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So nice 🙂  One trail ran about 50 feet (?) above the river and had mini trails that led to a lower trail immediately beside the river.  We switched between the two throughout the hike and determined that we covered about six miles total.  While we didn’t gain much elevation overall, the trail was very up-and-down–I could feel it in the calves! 

That night we met up with our friend Ashley for dinner–Ashley is a good friend from Virginia who moved out to Denver about five years ago, and we love that we are able to see her somewhat regularly now!  Unfortunately, I didn’t take any photos. 

I always say (and have written numerous times on this blog) that if I lived within 15 minutes of a mountain I’d hike every day.  After hiking Thursday, walking around Breckenridge Friday (we covered some serious miles), and hiking Saturday, I began to question that declaration.  My legs were achy.  (I don’t know why I made that past tense;  we didn’t slow down Sunday or Monday, and my legs are still achy. :)) 

I will save our last day and a half for another post, but they include Andrew’s birthday and (wait for it…) more hiking. 🙂

Have a great Wednesday!

Hiking in Golden (Colorado Day 1)

Our first day in Colorado was excellent.  After an early morning (4:43 AM) and a long flight (3.5 hours), we finally arrived in Denver; with the two-hour time change, we still had the entire day ahead of us!  Jenny picked us up from the airport, and after dropping our luggage off at her cute apartment, we drove to the town of Golden (home of the Coors brewery, for anyone who’s interested).

We ate lunch at this fantastic sub shop called Snarf’s, then walked to a nearby trail for some hiking.

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Tree pose… on a tree 😀

Unfortunately, we reached a point where the trail was closed–we ignored the initial sign indicating dangerous conditions ahead, but within 100 feet of our disobedience there was an actual gate closing the trail.  Probably for the best. 🙂

One of the great things about this area is that there are plenty other trails to hike!  We walked back through the small town of Golden and began hiking the South Table.

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As you can see, it was gorgeous!  The last photo was our favorite in a series of jump shots–it looks like we are levitating 😀  The large rock in the first photo of this series is South Table where we hiked to and where the rest of the photos were taken.

We finished the day with some delicious pho, then went to bed shortly after.  By Denver time we’d been up since 2:43 AM, traveled across the country, hiked a bunch, gained an extra two hours in our day–so 9:45 PM (11:45 PM Richmond time) felt like just about the latest I could possibly keep my eyes open.

This morning Jenny is taking us to Breckenridge (or simply “Breck” as the locals call it;  we’ve learned that they love abbreves out here ;-)).

Have a great Friday!

Trail Running + Hiking

For a girl who loves the great outdoors, this has been an excellent week.

I recently started trail-running with a friend Andrew and I met through Ultimate Frisbee, and we met this week for a river run.

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It’s tough to have a bad workout when that’s your scenery!

On Tuesday (my day off), my friend Kate and I drove to the mountains for a hike.  We started with the hike I did a few weeks ago–Humpback Rocks–but when we reached the Appalachian Trail, we walked south rather than north and discovered a few new-to-us overlooks.

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Gorgeous, right?  We hiked about six miles total, including some serious uphills!  My glutes were a tad sore the next day.

There’s just something about the mountains–and being outside in general–that is good for my soul. No matter how grueling the workout, when there’s beautiful scenery involved, I always walk back inside feeling rejuvenated.

Have a great Sunday!

Did you get outside at all this week or workout in any beautiful places?

Autumn River Run + Crock-Pot Pho

Yesterday was one of those ridiculously beautiful autumn days, and I decided to skipped my morning run in favor of an afternoon run by the river near my office.

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As you can see from the photos, it ended up being a fantastic decision. 😀  I love the soft trails with the crunch of the fallen leaves underfoot, the sights, the tranquility, and (near) solitude.  I paid no attention to speed or distance, but rather just ran because it felt good.  It was an awesome way to break up the work day.

<Sigh>

On a completely different subject, we made Vietnamese Pho in our Crock-Pot Sunday, and I am really excited about having the leftovers tonight for Stewsday!  The food I desire most when it’s cold and I am lazy/tired/sick/(or not) is noodles and broth.  Not chicken noodle soup, not vegetable noodle soup–noodles + broth.  I love it.  When Andrew suggested making a large batch of noodles and broth, I simply couldn’t say no.  (Yeah, there’s some chicken and vegetables in there too, and I muscled them down for good measure. ;-))

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The recipe was easy and probably didn’t actually require the Crock-Pot.  We put 2 quarts of chicken broth + a pound(ish) of cooked, shredded chicken in the pot on high.  After a few hours, when we were close to being ready to eat, we added a box of brown rice noodles, bean sprouts, a sliced jalepeno, sliced mushrooms, chopped basil, cilantro, and lime juice.  As soon as the noodles are soft, the pho is ready.  It was, pho real, a delicious batch of soup. 😉

Enjoy the lovely fall weather and all the delicious foods that go with it today!

Do you prefer running on trails or on the road?
Have you ever tried and/or made pho?

Hiking: Humpback Rocks + Dobie Mountain

Hiking is good for my soul.  Apparently it’s good for my heart as well, because we hit the mountains Saturday, and I didn’t have a single heart palpitation all day.  Nature for the win!

Andrew and I went with our friends Evan and Kristina;  Evan is one of my coworkers, and we’d been talking about all going hiking together for a while.  It was great to finally make it happen!  Kristina’s sister and her boyfriend drove up from Virginia Tech and met us at Humpback Rocks.

This hike, which is one of our favorites because of the awesome views and close proximity to home, is always steeper than I remember.  There was very little conversation happening for the first 15 minutes or so :-D.  The ascent to the overlook is only one mile though, so before long we were looking at this:

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After we reached this overlook, we decided to continue hiking–the trail meets up with the Appalachian Trail pretty quickly.  Humpback Rocks shares a parking lot with another hike we’ve done recently–Dobie Mountain–and the two are connected by the AT.  Now, we had never done the combined hike and weren’t sure exactly how many miles of AT stretched between the two, but the group decided to give it a try.

This section of the AT (going north) was beautiful–mostly downhill, lots of pretty leaves, and lots of switchbacks.  So many switchbacks… none of which were visible on Google maps (yes, the AT is on there!), so when we’d been hiking for 15 minutes and I said, “We’re just about a mile away from the next overlook,” I was very wrong.  About an hour later, we were…one mile from the overlook.  My bad, guys. 🙂  Eventually we made it, and it was worth the extra miles:

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The whole gang

By the time we made it out of the woods, I think we’d hiked about six miles.  Not too shabby!

Hiking just makes me feel alive, and as I previously mentioned, it seemed to quiet the frequent heart palpitations I’ve been having lately.  Plus, we had great company this weekend, which made the day even greater!

Where have you hiked lately?
What was the highlight of your weekend? 

Paddleboarding, Disc Golf, and Friends

Did this weekend fly by for anyone else?  Andrew and I had an action-packed couple of days–which is just how we prefer our weekends (usually).

On Friday our good friends Gabe and Jeff invited us over for dinner.  We cooked a delicious and healthy meal of grilled chicken kebabs, rice, and stir-fried veggies:

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After dinner we hung out, talked, and played a little Dance, Dance Revolution.  It was my first time playing (I know…I’m way behind), and I was terrible.  Notably bad.  During one game, just as I said, “I am killing it right now!”,  the word, “FAILED” crossed the screen.  Oops. 😉

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Andrew was slightly better than me…

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We just love these guys 😀

On Saturday my church had a huge craft show + used book sale, with all proceeds going to the youth ministry (yay!)  The event was a huge success–there were so many awesome vendors, food trucks, thousands of books, and pumpkins.  So. Many. Pumpkins.

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I am tremendously grateful to the group of moms and other women who coordinated this event for the benefit of our youth!

Early Sunday morning, Andrew cashed in on one of his Christmas presents from me: a guided Stand Up Paddleboard trip down the James River.  We let the summer get away from us, so we decided to take advantage of the out-of-character-for-October hot weather we’ve been having.  Unfortunately, we could not bring a camera, as it most definitely would have been ruined by the water, but the morning was beautiful, and the adventure was SO much fun.

The trip was through Riverside Outfitters, and because we were the only two people on this particular trip, we had a private tour guide. 😀  We started on flat water to get our bearings, then moved through a series of rapids.  Andrew may or may not have fallen in the river a couple of times, but our guide did as well.  Me?  I think my low center of gravity (i.e. my general shortness) helped me keep my balance, so while I dropped to my knees a few times, I never actually went in the water.  If you ever get the chance to do a downriver paddleboard trip, take it…It was such a blast!  And my chest and arms are only slightly sore today from all the paddling :).

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Looking awesome post-river 😉

Sunday afternoon we played disc golf with a group of friends from church at a local park.  In spite of the freak 90-degree October day that was yesterday, we had a lot of fun.  We also had a lot of back sweat.

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We wrapped up the weekend with youth group, turkey tacos, and an episode of Once Upon a Time.  It was a whirlwind weekend, with little time between each event, but we packed in a lot of good stuff. 🙂

Have a great Monday!

Have you ever tried stand up paddleboarding?