October has been good to us. [Maybe a little too good, considering it’s been a challenge finding the time to write about it all.]
We held our annual Harvest Fest. We finally have grass in our backyard. We triumphantly celebrated our church’s cornerstone Oktoberfest beer festival — an event that took 7 months to plan and welcomed 1,800 people, including our amazing Uno-playing friends.
And now, as a reward, we get to decompress with some of our favorite houseguests in the world: Ashley and Andrew.
Ashley is another one of those stellar study abroad friends who, after four months of intensive out-of-country shared experiences, remained close despite time and distance. She and I had perhaps the most adventures together, whether they were our high tea outings in London, silly weekend trips to Stonehenge and Brighton, our zany yet bucket list worthy treks in Spain, or our last-minute Sound of Music laden journeys through Austria. She was there — just like Cailin — for a gamut of innocent firsts, from my first pint of beer and my first West End musical to my first steps in Vienna and my first view of the all-amazing Alhambra.
High tea in London
This fall actually marks our 10-year anniversary as friends and we honestly couldn’t have picked a better way to honor it than an epic reunion in Denver.
But before describing our time together, we feel it’s important to point out that Ashley is perhaps our most consistent houseguest. She’s stayed in every single one of our abodes in Denver [no matter the size or space] and even made some pitstops to see us during our D.C. days. It’s easy to call her one of our favorite visitors, if only for her frequent gifts of fresh bread, rare Californian craft beers, and bottles of wine from her family’s Healdsburg winery. Fortunately, her presence always outshines her gifts, for it also means a plethora of adventures, escapades, and free-time to experience our home in a way we don’t get to all the time.
You see, Ashley went to school in Boulder and tends to know Colorado’s treasures better than we do. She basically introduced us to snow shoeing in Colorado, as well as the awesomeness that is Rio margaritas and Hapa sushi happy hours. Between embarking on our foodie forays in Colorado, welcoming us to her favorite places in the Napa Valley and Healdsburg, and allowing us to host her no matter where we are living, I’d say we have a friendship built to last.
…to California [exactly 5 years ago today].
The key to our friendship — something we settled on during this trip — is that we don’t really have to try with one another. We don’t have to fill time with words and activities or even apologize for a home in shambles. And thankfully, we don’t have to try with her beau Andrew either. This #ATeam duo are a riot and are the kind of people who can talk faith, clowning, beer, Broadway, and business all in a single breath. We are constantly entertained in their presence and find hope in their shared passion for community and laughter. [Our animals also happen to be huge fans.]
So yes, October has been good to us. But Ashley and Andrew were exactly what we needed after a long several weeks of parties, events, and to-do lists. Their presence allowed us to relax in the awesomeness that is Denver…to go on brewery tours, watch a college football game, visit some favorite but neglected haunts, and get out of the house for once in our lives.
It also provided a convenient excuse to bake. You see, I have a tendency to over-bake whenever Ashley comes to town. She’s been greeted with croissants, bread, and brownies throughout the years, so it was no surprise that I had a hankering to bake something seasonal prior to her arrival.
Luckily, we had pumpkin on hand and bread on the mind, so we conjured up a yummy Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread to serve as an easy go-to breakfast and late-night snack during their stay. The recipe is originally from Kansas’ one-and-only Sunflower Sampler, but altered with homemade apple sauce, homemade pumpkin puree, and additional spice to make it that much more moist and flavorful. [The chocolate chips don’t hurt either.]
So thank you, Ashley and Andrew, for giving us an excuse to bake and the joy of your presence. If you haven’t noticed, we like you a lot.
Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread
- 1-3/4 c. flour
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. ginger
- 1/4 tsp. cloves
- 1/4 tsp. allspice or pumpkin pie spice
- 1/2 c. [1 stick] butter, room temperature
- 1 c. sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 c. pumpkin puree [aka pumpkin goop*]
- 1/4 c. applesauce
- 3/4 c. chocolate chips
- 3/4 c. chopped pecans or walnuts [optional]
- Heat oven to 350-degrees and grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan.
- In a medium bowl, combine dry ingredients and spices.
- In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar together. Blend in eggs and beat well after each addition.
- Add dry ingredients to butter and egg mixture, alternating with the the pumpkin and applesauce.
- Stir in chocolate chips and pour into the loaf pan. If you are using nuts [we didn’t], stir in half and sprinkle the other half on top.
- Bake for 65 to 75 minutes until golden brown.
- Let stand at least six hours before slicing and sift powdered sugar, nutmeg, and cinnamon on top for added effect.