Sweet Potato Pancakes with Cinnamon Cream Syrup by Brooke Courtney

I cannot believe that my little June is two years old. Last Sunday we celebrated her 2nd birthday with friends, family and a potato head themed birthday party. 😂 June adores her potato head, which she affectionally calls "Yatwo". Since her party was potato head themed, I decided to stick with potatoes for the food as well. For our gathering with friends in the morning, I made these sweet potato pancakes! And for dinner with our families we had a loaded baked potato bar, and cupcakes with the eyes, lips, and noses from potato heads as toppers. 

I told you guys I would figure out how to make the sweet potato pancakes I had in Nashville, and with the deadline of June's party set, I figured it out.

If you've actually had sweet potato pancakes from Pancake Pantry before, I will tell you right know that these are not nearly as sweet or sugary. As completely delicious as those were, it was literally like eating cake and icing. I cut way back on the sugar, so I wouldn't feel bad eating an entire stack of them for breakfast.

I also used my Kitchen Aid Artisan Mini Mixer to speed up the process.  (Let's be real though, I use it whenever I can because it's so cute.) It's literally just a lighter and smaller version of the iconic Kitchen Aid stand mixer. I love that it stores easily in my small cupboards, and how it's small enough to sit on my counter and not hit my upper cabinets when I lift up the paddle/top part to add more ingredients. Again, did I mention how cute it is?!

INGREDIENTS: Makes about 16 small pancakes

  • 1 cooked sweet potato (1 cup, mashed, give or take)
  • 1 1/4 c. milk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar
  • splash of vanilla
  • 1 c. flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg (or just a dash)
  • 1/8 tsp. cloves (or just a dash)
  • pecans - optional topping

CINNAMON CREAM SYRUP 

  • 1/2 c. sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 c. maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp. cinnamon

First, cook your sweet potato however you prefer. On the day of June's party, I was already baking other potatoes in the oven, so I did it that way. However, when I tested this recipe earlier in the week, I peeled my potato, diced it into cubes and steamed it until soft. (Poke with a fork to make sure it's soft enough to mash in your mixer.) One time I even peeled, diced and microwaved it. So really, any method works!

Once your sweet potato is soft and fully cooked, dump it into your mixing bowl and mix until smooth. Scrape down the edges of your mixer, and then add the milk, egg, vanilla and brown sugar. Mix on medium high until well combined. It should look like a very runny sweet potato soup at this point.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt. Mix well.

Add flour mixture to wet ingredients and mix until combined. Don't over do it! Just go until its totally incorporated and then stop.

Heat your griddle or pan to a medium heat. If using a non-stick cooking surface, there is no need to spray it with oil. Using your tablespoon from earlier, scoop pancake batter onto griddle. I know it seems like way too small of a scoop, but just try it! It creates the perfect little pancake size - just right for stacking 3-5 on your plate.

While still keeping an eye on your pancakes, combine your sweetened condensed milk, syrup, and cinnamon in a microwave save bowl. Heat it in the microwave briefly before you serve it on your pancakes!

Finally, stack hot pancakes on a plate and drizzle them with the cinnamon cream syrup! Top it all off with chopped pecans. Then dive right in and enjoy. 😍

This post was sponsored by Kitchen Aid. As always, all opinions and recipes are my own.

A Girls Trip To Nashville by Brooke Courtney

I thought about naming this post "How to eat-shop-walk-Uber-and-Lyft your way through Nashville in four nights, five days, with six friends at the end of January for your friend's 30th birthday." Buuuuut, then I realized that's pretty specific and the title would most definitely be cut off. 😂 So, instead, a "girls trip to Nashville" it is!

It all started several months ago when my friend Kim asked a bunch of her friends and me if we'd like to accompany her on a trip to Florida to celebrate her birthday... annnd also go to a horse show. 😂 But, Florida ended up not being the place for us, and when Nashville was suggested as location instead, everyone was in! Kim and I picked out the cutest Airbnb in East Nashville, and after communicating with our amazing hosts, I knew the trip was going to be so much fun.

Before we knew it, Kim, Kristen, Jenn, Korina, Jenna and I were packing our bags for almost a week away from home without kids! I'm pretty sure we were each feeling all the feels the night before we left, considering that our group text was filled with everyone going "just put <insert kid's name> to bed, and I totally didn't cry at all...😭".

Within fifteen minutes of landing at the Nashville airport, we had our luggage and were in a car headed towards Pharmacy to grab lunch before we checked into our Airbnb house. When I was in Nashville two summers ago, I had a Pharmacy burger and loved it! But this time I ordered their chicken sandwich with a side of black bean and corn salad and it was amazing. So were all the fries I ate off of everyone else's plates.

After lunch, we checked in to our house, claimed rooms and beds and roommates, followed by plopping down onto what is probably one of the comfiest couches of all time and space. Seriously though, how cute is this house!

Some of us took naps, some went to get coffee down the street from Bakery by Frothy Monkey, but it was a pretty chill afternoon overall, which was welcomed after our early morning flight. I also tried to eat the largest gumball ever... which didn't work. At one point, I was actually jumping on it with shoes and it wasn't moving.

I texted a friend from college who lives in Nashville and asked where we should go for dinner, and he suggested Bar Taco. And OH MY GOSH! The tacos were so stinkin' good, specifically the fish one and the pork-belly one, and the cauliflower one, and the guacamole and the key lime pie in a jar! Seriously, it was all so good that we actually went back for lunch the next day. And apparently just missed seeing Dierks Bentley by a few minutes! He'd just been there for lunch, sitting in the same booth we'd sat in the night before. Crazy! Even crazier was that Connie Britton was there the first night we were, celebrating her son's birthday with friends. Her son was dressed as The Flash and Jenn wanted so badly to go up to their table and ask for an autograph - from the kid, not Connie. 😂 It would have been awesome. We totally should have done that. #regrets

We topped off our first night in Nashville with Jeni's icecream.

The next morning we ate at The Pancake Pantry, where they brought Kim a mini stack of pancakes with candles for her birthday! And I'm not kidding when I say I am still dreaming about the sweet potato pancakes with cinnamon cream syrup I had. This blog as my witness, I will figure out how to make them and they'll be just as good.

After breakfast we walked over to 12 South and wandered through loads of cute shops, sipping sweet tea and taking our necessary photos by the I Believe in Nashville sign, and the white and blue striped wall. If you're looking to shop while in 12 South, make sure you stop in at Imogene + Willie, Whites Mercantile, Craft South and Draper James. Oh, and at some point during our time in 12 South we popped in at 5 Daughters Bakery, where I got their famous 100 layer doughnut and ate the whole thing before our Lyft driver even showed up. 😂

Apparently I missed the memo that Jenn was taking a picture of the bakery. 😂

Having been on our feet most of the day, we decided to stay at the house for dinner. We ordered pies from 5 Points Pizza which was right around the corner from our house, and Kristen and I went to pick it up while the other girls got the coffee table set up for our dinner. The pizza was delicious, and the garlic knots were HUGE! Jenn had found birthday candles earlier that night in our Airbnb house, so we shoved them down into the garlic knots and sang Happy Birthday to Kim as a surprise! 😂 Hands down one of my favorite parts of our trip is that we were staying in an actual house. It was so enjoyable to be able to do things like birthday celebrations, long naps and movie nights, and not feel like we were in some small (probably gross) hotel.

On our second morning in Nashville, we stood in line to eat at Biscuit Love. And it was worth every minute of the wait. Plus, our very kind waiter felt bad that we couldn't push two tables together, so he gave us a free cake! We almost sang Happy Birthday all over again, but c'mon.. the whole trip wasn't just about Kim. 😉 My fried chicken and biscuit was incredible, and their signature Bonuts (biscuit/donuts: fried biscuit dough, lemon mascarpone + blueberry compote) were legitimately out of this world. Had I known how good they were going to be, I would have just ordered a plate for myself as my meal. I suppose I'll just have to go back.

After breakfast, we walked around a few of the shops, and then stopped to take the #WhatLiftsYou wing photos. While I took photos of everyone in front of the wings, we booked an Uber and got a ride to a Starbucks down by Broadway. We sat at the Starbucks for quite awhile, enjoying our drinks and warming up before heading out to walk around the famous country music bars and shops.

Earlier in the week, we called Pinewood Social to make a reservation for bowling, but they were all booked up. We were so bummed! But, we knew it was more than just bowling, so we walked about a mile through town to go see it anyway, and I'm so glad we did. Turns out the next people didn't have a reservation until 5pm, and we got there just before 4:00 -- leaving us with an hour window to bowl one game on their vintage lanes. (Bonus info: I totally broke 100 while bowling. Pretty sure the epic neon Pinewood Social sign was giving me extra powers.)

While we could have eaten at Pinewood Social, we decided to walk back towards downtown to eat at Acme: Feed & Seed. And yep, you guessed it, it was amaze balls. Kristen and I shared an amazing salad (kale, squash, apples, golden raisins, spiced pecans, bleu cheese, maple vinaigrette), as well as sushi (fresh Philadelphia roll, deep fried Godzilla roll!) We sat at a long family style table right next to the band who was playing that night.

After dinner, we were ready to go back to the Airbnb house and go to bed, until we checked our phones and realized it was only 6:09pm and that would be incredibly lame. 😂 So instead, we went to The Big Bang - a dueling piano bar that takes all requests. We sat there and listened for over three hours, requesting everything from Bob Dylan to Baby Got Back. #classy

Considering that we'd walked almost seven miles throughout the day, we happily fell into our beds after the piano bar. We woke up slowly the next morning, and eventually walked to the Bakery by Frothy Monkey (for the second time) where we got our morning coffee and food. We spent the rest of the morning back at the house, taking long showers, talking about how impressive the piano bar musicians were, and planning our last day in Nashville.

For lunch we walked to Mas Tacos Por Favor - an authentic mexican resturant with an assortment of tacos and other standards. Everything we ordered was delicious and exactly what we were in the mood for. On the way to Mas Tacos we stopped in at Two Son, the coolest shop owned by my friends James + Aubrey.

After lunch, everyone else went to get drinks at Pharmacy (literally across the street) and then walked to another mural for photos before heading home. I, however, walked to our friend's house to visit for a little bit. It was so wonderful seeing Stephen, one of T.J.'s good friends (one of his groomsmen, actually!) and Jessica (who I hadn't seen in like 6 years!), and catching up about life, business, kids and everything in between. Stephen and Jessica own/operate The Peach Truck and no joke, their peaches are the best. THE BEST.

I only snapped one photo while I was at their house, and it was in a text to T.J. 😂 (To which T.J. replied, "Is that a deep v?")

Stephen and Jessica suggested that we should grab drinks and appetizers at Urban Cowboy (a B&B) before dinner, and like every other thing we did on this trip, I'm so glad we did. The place was incredibly cool, and everything was wood-fire cooked and crazy flavorful. 😍 

The only place remaining on our list was Hattie B's hot chicken. But we'd heard the lines could be crazy, so thanks to a tip from one of our drivers, we called ahead, skipped the line, and brought our food home to eat around the table. We spent our dinner talking about our favorite parts of the week, while drinking sweet tea and trying to save room for the cupcakes that somehow had made it back in the car with Kim, Kristen, Jenn and Korina.

We spent our last night in the house playing "Fishbowl" (sometimes called "Celebrity") and laughed so hard that we fell of the couch, cried, and maybe even farted a little bit. WHAT????? Ballerinas can fart too, you know.

Our entire trip was so fun -- start to finish. I am truly honored that Kim asked us all to go, and that we all said yes, took off work, and made it happen. It's a trip I will remember forever. 💖 #kims30thbashinnash

If you're looking to take a trip or vacation to Nashville, I would highly suggest staying in the little house we did, and pleassse feel free to comment with any questions you might have about where to eat or shop!

A Trip to the Greenhouse by Brooke Courtney

Is it just me, or does anyone else feel totally crazy because it's still cold, and wintery, and everyone I know (ourselves included) is sick right now!?! Gah!

June, bless her heart, asks to go to the park every single day, but it's just too cold, or too wet to be able to play outside.. So, this morning, she and I took a little trip to one of the local greenhouses - to breathe in the fresh air, see all of the pretty plants, and get some of her energy out. I think I needed it just as much as she did. I just kept saying to her, "Look! Everything is soooo green! And, not... dead." Then she started saying, "Dead?" and pointing to different things and I figured, ehhh... I better stop saying that. 😂

She stayed in the cart for a little while, but quickly realized there were puddles to splash around in and wanted out immediately! She also kept asking me if I needed to put the "lid" (lens cap) back on my camera. So cute.

June will be two years old next weekend (gasp!!), and all she wants to talk about is colors. Colors of crayons, and birds, and food, and blankets, and animals. Needless to say, she was pumped up about all the different cactus colors. She just stood there pointing at each one, saying "ohhh, pink!", "ohhh, yeyloww", "ohhh, bwue!"

(Note: her sweet little cheeks with a rash from being sick.)

We stomped in puddles for a long time, walked up and down each aisle over and over again, and she pointed out every single lawn ornament animal and made the sounds to go with them. 😂 Ribbit, ribbit!

Eventually we wandered over to where all of the planters and pots are, and she pointed out each color, clapping for herself when she got it right. I dreamt about filling my front and pack porch with 5,000 potted plants. Seems like a realistic goal.

If you're ever looking for something to do with your kids on a rainy day, or when it's just too cold out to function, check out your local greenhouse! I always leave feeling refreshed, with a brown bag full of plants. No complaints here. 

June and I visited Esbenshade's Garden Center and Greenhouse in Lititz, PA. But you can Google "Greenhouses Near Me" and find your own!

My Favorites From 2016 by Brooke Courtney

Holy moly. I cannot believe it's the first of the new year. 🙀 Like most new years, I am so excited about everything that is to come in the next 12 months -- June's 2nd birthday, our new business opening, new traditions, and travel, and pool memberships, and meals on our new back deck, and time with family and a string of endless opportunities to slow down, enjoy the moment, and love those closest to me well.

As I scrolled back through the last year of my blog this afternoon, I was overwhelmed with thankfulness and joy. If you're relatively new here, you probably don't know that I was a wedding photographer with a large blog following for 7+ years. It's only been in the last year that I've stepped away from weddings (🎉) to focus on my job as the Creative Director at walk in love., and spend more time with my family, thus leading me to blog about my personal life. And I am so, so grateful that I did.

Besides the fact that I have a pretty terrible memory, so photographing things actually helps me remember what's happened in my life 😂, it was so awesome to scroll through the pages and see the things that I love show up time and time again -- T.J. + June, my house, food, and creativity. It has been such a fun "1st year of blogging" and I cannot to wait to share all of the things I have on my list for 2017 with you.

Below, I've compiled a post with some of my favorite posts from all of 2016 - just click the underlined text if you'd like to see the original post in full. 😎 In no particular order... here goes:

2016: The year of front porch living.

2016: The year we basically only ate snack trays. #notjoking

2016: The year of our kitchen remodel!!

2016: The year I spent in my new kitchen -- making all the things, and eating a lot of deviled eggs. Like, a lot.

2016: The year we ate sweet potato fries 100 times.

2016: The year we ate these cookies... 100 times. 😳

2016: The year we finally started a garden!

2016: The year June was a kangaroo for Halloween, and melted everyone's hearts.

2016: The year I simplified almost everything -- including my beauty routine.

2016: The year June tried her first cake pop.

2016: The year in which I was no longer embarrased for our bedroom.

2016: The year I took time to actually make things.

2016: The year I made a frame, and thus I printed one photo for our home. 😂

2016: The year we got family photos taken!

2016: The year we did Christmas cards with said photos. #whatareweadults?!

2016: The year June was 10x more stylish than I was.

2016: The year we made our house feel even more like home.

Thank you for following along, reading my posts, trying my recipes and posting your #snacktrayz photos for me to see on Instagram. It's been such a fun year! Cheers to 2017! 

O Christmas Tree! by Brooke Courtney

Quite possibly everything related to Christmas is more fun when you have a toddler, and getting and decorating our tree was no exception. It's not that June wasn't fun last year, she was! But being that she was only 10 months old at the time, she wasn't even crawling for us then. She actually started crawling on Christmas day... which was very exciting. Anyway! This Christmas has just been such a sweet season in our lives. Busy with work, but also filling it up with all the things we love about the holidays.

We started off by getting our tree from a little, local, roadside stand here in our small town of Manheim. It was SO. COLD. the day we went to get it. June was turning blue within minutes, so we picked our tree super duper fast. All of their trees were beautiful though! So it wasn't hard to choose the perfect one quickly.

While T.J. paid for our tree and loaded it into the van, June ran laps around their little wreath shop, giggling up a storm. 

For the last several years, T.J. and I always watch Arthur Christmas while we decorate our tree. But we opted out of that this year because we knew June wouldn't focus with the TV on, or "fee-vee?" as she calls it.

We gave June her ornament(s) for the 2016 year and showed her how to hang them on the tree. She was thrilled that Nemo and Dory were on her tree. It was precious. Also, note that sweet outfit she's wearing. 😂 We purchased new shoes for her about a week ago cause she's growing like crazy, and she's wanted to wear them ever since they arrived in the mail. She also did not want me to tuck her shirt into her skirt.  Bless her.

Annnnnd the ornaments came off immediately. She's been taking them on and off the tree everyday now, to play with them or take them in the car as toys. Thankfully they're just plastic and styrofoam, cause she's sent them down her "slide" a few times already.

For every year that we've been together, T.J. and I have also gotten each other an ornament. This year, T.J. got a gold microphone for me -- to represent 2016 being the first full year I've had with my voice in yearrrrs. (I had voice surgery in late 2015 to remove a large growth and regain my vocal functions! Praise Jesus!)

And naturally, I got T.J. a grilled cheese ornament -- because 2016 was the year we started Grilled Cheese Tuesdays. Yes, it is exactly as awesome as it sounds. A different grilled cheese sandwhich every Tuesday night at our house, with friends.

When T.J. pulled it out of the box, he said "Ohh this is great. I'll add it to my food section on the tree." 

June chewed on her Nemo and Dory ornaments HARD one day while in her carseat. Ha ha! How perfect?! At first I thought, "Eh, I'll just get her new ones." And then I was like "NO! This is perfect. What a funny thing to remember." #twoyearmolarsaretheworst

We love our little Christmas tree this year and can't wait to open all the sparkly gifts underneath it on Sunday! If we last that long.... cause T.J.'s already given my 2 of my gifts. 😂 He just gets too excited! I love it though.

Does your family give ornaments every year? Or do you have another tradition relating to your tree? I'd love to know! Comment to let me know - here OR on Instagram!