Monday, April 30, 2012

Five.

And, now I have a five year old.  

No longer a baby, toddler or even pre-schooler, she is officially a big kid.  I'm not sure why five feels so big to me.  Maybe it's because it is the start of the school age years.  No more half day, a couple days a week preschool…she'll be a full on Kindergartner now.  Maybe it's because they say the main developmental time in a kid is age 0-5, so we just have to hope we did well.  Whatever it might be, our family has moved on to big kids and I'm sad to say goodbye to all the little stages of 0-5, but look forward with such excitement for what is to come with these girls.  They are moving from needing me less, finding their independence and growing up.  What I get to do is watch this happen, offer advice, guidance and a whole lotta love.


The Princess party was a success.  Even the cake turned out well if I do say so myself....

I struggled a little bit as it wasn't stacking exactly how I wanted it to and I ran out of frosting towards the end so had to be a little conservative with that, but overall it looked great and I didn't have to make a mad dash to get a replacement.  Layla woke up full of smiles and ready for her day to begin!  To keep with our lazy Saturday mornings I let her pick a movie to watch in bed with us while we had coffee and woke up.  She requested princess pancakes for breakfast, which did not turn out great, but the fact that I put chocolate in them made her forget that they just looked like poorly shaped pancakes and now crowns.  Her and Ava just played the morning away while Matt and I got everything set up for the party.  Then the kiddos all began to show up.  This was a fun one, especially for Layla because she had invited a couple girls from her preschool.  Along with them were of course her cousins and our best friends the Frasers and their kiddos.  Because it was very snowy outside (boo to that) the whole party had to be inside and it was very loud with all these children running around crazy, but they had fun.  We did it all…pinata...

Gifts....

Snacks and crafts.

At the end, after some of the guests had left the remaining kids started playing quietly in the living room and we sat around the kitchen table mess with my sister, brother in law and Amy and Chad and just visited.  (And had a beer to celebrate the end of my kids birthdays and the beginning of my sisters 6 kids birthdays….glad I'm done!)  It was really a lovely day.  For Layla's birthday dinner I had gently persuaded her to pick a restaurant to go to so I wouldn't have to cook.  I really do love cooking, but sometimes just know it'll be too much at the end of a busy day like that day.  She was all about it and my little Lebanese baby said she wanted grape leaves.  Luckily, we finally have a good Mediterranean restaurant in our town and that is where we headed.  We feasted on grape leaves, hummus, tabbouleh, rice and beans, falafel and some lamb (just Matt on that one, I don't eat baby animals)  

It was fantastic to say the least.  After a huge meal and a big day these girls crashed out and I kissed my little birthday girl good night.  Here was the parting gift for the kiddos....

Before the festivities of Saturday began we had a full Friday evening.  We headed to Ava's school for the carnival and spent a few hours in the chaos of hundreds of kiddos and families.  The girls did it all…cake walk (no cakes were won by us), face painting, crazy hair, games, pizza, prizes…whew!  It was a good time.  We hadn't gone to one at her school before, but now I'm sure it'll have to be a tradition.  It's pretty cool all the parents that work so hard to put this thing together.  (I did volunteer an hour of my time to help at the prize booth…so generous of me huh?)  We are so lucky to live in a community with such an incredible public school system.  The teachers, administrators and community all work so hard to make it so great, we're fortunate.
  
After the carnival we put tired girls down to bed and got ready for date night.  I was exhausted from making the cake and all the carnival fun, so I was so happy to be able to just sit down with a nice glass of wine and watch Matt cook.  He did not disappoint.  The "hippie" burgers I was talking about in my last post turned out delicious!!  Oh, they were just so, so yummy.  We started with really good beef (we always buy local, grass fed beef), then made two thin patties and sandwiched them together with blue cheese in the middle.  He grilled them and then topped them with onions, tomatoes, spinach and of course the secret ingredient…artichoke hearts.  Then add homemade french fries and wine to wash it all down...I done lost my mind.  Hats off to the chef.

Sunday we opted to skip out on church and stay home for awhile in the morning.  This was nice because we had a birthday party to go to and we thought soccer games in the afternoon.  (These ended up getting cancelled thanks to the snow storm!!)  The party was such fun…they had a bounce house so the girls bounced in there with friends for pretty much 2 hours straight, stopping only for some food, gifts and cake and then right back out.  They had a ball.  We hung out there, lazed around for the afternoon and then had a scrumptious dinner of blackened salmon sandwiches, antipasto salad and blue cheese and onion stuffed peppers.  I was kinda experimenting with that last one.  I had all these peppers I needed to use and lots of blue cheese from our burger dinner.  I caramelized the onion with some fennel seeds I had (this was inspired by the manicotti I made a month or so ago), mixed that with the blue cheese and stuffed the little peppers.  I cooked them at 400-degrees for around 10 minutes.  They were oh so yummy…and it was such a pretty, colorful dinner.  

Perfect to have such a colorful dinner because for the first time all weekend the sun decided to come out and say hello.  Too bad she didn't stick around today…it's cold, grey and feels more like fall then spring.  I wish spring would stop being so stubborn and just stick around, I miss her.  (I think of spring and summer as girls and fall and winter as boys…don't know why)  The girls and Matt took advantage of the break in weather to test out his latest addition to our back yard… a fire pit.  Now it can smell like camping even when we aren't and I love me the smell of camp fire!!  Matt tested it by burning some dead tree branches and the girls did by roasting some marshmallows.  It was a success on all accounts.  I see lots of smores being cooked and late night glasses of wine being drank under the summer sky.  


So, we survived the busy weekend and it delivered all its loveliness.  Should be a nice calm week before another full weekend commences….more birthday parties, dance practices and hopefully soccer games. 
Have a happy week.

Blackened Salmon
Mix the following:
-1 tbls paprika
-1/2 tbls onion powder
-1 tsp garlic powder
-1 tsp each oregano, basil, thyme
-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (more or less to taste)
-1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
-s&p
Drizzle salmon with with olive oil and then sprinkle the above mixture on it.  Heat a skillet over med-high heat (this gets very smoky when cooking, I always cook it on the side burner of our BBQ).  Once the skillet is hot, cook the salmon, just a few minutes on each side.  If it's not done enough, through it on a hot grill or in a hot oven to cook through.  We did it as sandwiches...on ciabatta with some tomatoes, onion and lettuce and some sort of mayo/mustard mix, whatever we have on hand.  This salmon is also awesome on a salad or just on its own!



Friday, April 27, 2012

Creamy Italian Soup and Friday Things...

Right now feels kinda like the calm before the storm of the weekend.  A weekend full of school carnivals, birthday parties and first soccer games.  It's gonna be a lot of good old exhausting fun and I welcome it.  This is what it's all about...the activities, the parties the running from one event to the next.  It is the things I will look back at in my old age as the "good times"  (I plan on being on a beach, cocktail in hand when I have these reminiscing thoughts)  I try to embrace it, even when I am just beat from it all because I know it goes so fast.  My baby girl is going to be 5 this weekend for crying out loud and I have no idea where all that time has gone!!  We've been watching her baby videos now, since we had pulled out Ava's a couple weeks ago and it is so fun watching the girls enjoy these.  They just laugh at how little they are and the things they said and did, while Matt and I just stare wondering when the heck did these babies turn into girls???  Aw, it's been fun.  

So, this week has been full...lots of preparation for Layla's birthday.  Lots of beginning pieces to what I hope to be a beautiful princess cake.  

Layla was all about helping me yesterday make the cakes and frosting, but got over it after the first batch, so then I was on my own.

Today, when I try to actually assemble the thing I'll either be really, really happy that it all turned out, or running to the bakery for a back up cake in tears (or really push to win one during the cake walk at Ava's carnival tonight!)  With myself and baking, you just never know which way it'll go.  She is crazy excited for her birthday, counting down each day until her party.  It should be full of princess fun with little girls, tiara decorating, and everything pink and purple.  (Too bad for the two boys coming to the party, luckily they are good sports!!)  

Earlier this week was a special day for Matt and I.  On April 24, 1997…15 years ago, we first started dating.  It seems like it was just yesterday, yet it's been SO long.  We were such babies when we first started dating.  How many people get together their freshmen year of college and end up together?  Crazy and so lucky.  I am so happy that we got to find each other while we were so young and experience all of the adventures of our twenties together.  Everything was just so much better with my best friend by my side-college, graduating, moving to two different sides of the U.S, vacations and of course, starting our family.  I asked Matt if he had imagined this is what it would his life would look like that night he decided to make a move.  His very romantic response was "Uh, no…I just thought you were hot and maybe we could have some beers together"  I suppose that's about right on for an 18 year old guy.  I was, of course, a smitten kitten and hoped this is what it would all turn into.  Here's to many more babe.


After a week of beautiful spring weather we woke up to snow today...

The yard where just last weekend had little girls running through sprinklers is now covered in a blanket of snow.  I know it will not last, but I am missing seeing the green grass today. This week we were so spoiled with sunshine, the occasional rain shower and warm weather.  I love how happy everyone is when spring comes here.  That's a great thing about living someplace with such a long winter…no one takes the nice spring days for granted.  Everyone is out and exclaiming "what a lovely day"  Gotta love Montana for that.  

This past week there has been some good eating going on at our house, but I was so preoccupied with birthday stuff that I didn't take any photos or do recipes!  Monday we had pasta with vodka sauce (Matt has this new obsession with martini's so we had some good vodka to use and it turned out fantastic!), Wednesday I was having a major sweet and sour craving.  Before I quit eating chicken that was my favorite greasy Chinese takeout item.  I have missed it, so that night I decided to re-create it with shrimp and even made my own sweet and sour sauce.  Mmmmm, it was so good and totally what I was craving.  Like most things, I never realized just how simple it is to make your own sweet and sour sauce and I will never buy a bottle of that again.  (Seriously-just mixed 1/2 cup vinegar, 4-5 tbls ketchup, 1 tsp garlic powder, 2-3 tbls soy sauce and 3/4 cup sugar...then heat it in a sauce pan until it thickens).  We put that sauce on top of fried shrimp, sauteed veggies & a bed of rice.  Craving kicked.  Last night we had my version of creamy Italian bean soup.  It is a very simple flavor, but very good.  The girls chowed it down and it is so full of good veggies.  No photo, but here is the recipe if you want to give it a try...

CREAMY ITALIAN BEAN SOUP
-1/2 onion, chopped
-3-4 celery stalks, chopped
-2 cloves of garlic, minced
-1 can chickpeas (rinsed and drained)
-Some salt, pepper and dried thyme
-2 cups veggie broth
-2 cups water
-1 bunch of spinach (just the leaves)
-brussell sprouts (cut off the bottom and peel to just use the leaves)
-juice of a lemon
-around 1/2-cup Parmesan cheese
1.  Heat some olive oil in a sauce pan, add onions and celery and cook for around 8 minutes.  Add garlic, cook another minute.  Add chickpeas, broth, water, s&p and thyme (all spices, to taste).   Bring to boil, then simmer for 15 minutes. 
2.  Let cool slightly.  With a slotted spoon remove around two cups of the soup and set aside.  Blend all the remaining in a food processor until smooth.  Add the reserved veggies back to the soup.  Bring to boil again and add spinach, brussell sprouts and lemon juice.  Reduce heat slightly and cook for a few more minutes until spinach wilts.  Remove from heat, stir in cheese until melted and serve.  Enjoy!

Tonight we are headed to Ava's school carnival and after that it is at home date night.  I'm super excited about this one because I'm not cooking for it tonight, Matt is.  I told him I would probably be over the kitchen after Layla's cake so he's doing the cooking for this one.  This man knows me well and is doing one of my all time favorites...blue cheese burger and fries (he makes the best homemade fries)  We're going to add artichoke hearts to them...when we went out with friends a few weeks ago they had a burger called the "hippie" burger and it had artichokes and avocado on it.  It looked fantastic, so Matt's going to try to re-create it.  And don't get me started on the name...as a hippie at heart, I love anything with that in the title!  Next post, I'll let you know how it turns out, as well as all the birthday festivity fun.



Happy Friday!!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Pizza Margherita, Mediterranean Tuna & Spring Weekend

This is what happens when temperatures tip over 70-degrees in Montana...
Swimsuits come out of hibernation, sprinklers go on & the slathering of sunscreen begins.  They spoke of nice spring weather this weekend, and it delivered.  

I digress....Friday was like a taste of what the weekend was to come.  We got out Ava's new colored bubbles that she got for her birthday to see what they were all about.  It was good, messy fun.  The bubbles were supposed to be pink, but kinda just looked like ordinary bubbles.  However, all of the drips were bright pink and very messy.  It was worth it though...to hear the giggles of little girls chasing bubbles through the yard.



Date night was fantastic....a little pizza margherita and a nice bottle of Chianti Classico...
When I make this pizza, I use my same pizza dough, but do a different sauce.  This one is not as spicy as my usual pizza sauce and compliments the toppings well.  Here's the sauce for this one:
Pizza Margherita-
-Heat some olive oil in a sauce pan.  Add about a half of a chopped onion and two or three cloves of minced garlic.  Cook for around 10 minutes.  Add a can of fire roasted diced tomatoes, 1/2-cup of wine and around and tsp of each of the following-oregano, basil, marjoram, some s&p & a pinch of red pepper flakes.  Cook all at medium heat for about 10 minutes.  Let cool and then put in a food processor and blend until smooth.  Cool until you are ready to use.
-Spread the sauce on your rolled out dough and top with thin slices of fresh tomatoes, mozzarella and torn basil.  Cook at 400-degrees for around 10 minutes.  Enjoy!



Saturday morning we got up our usual lazy way of cartoons for the girls, coffee and staying in bed.  Matt wanted to take us out to breakfast and I was feeling a little lazy and not really feeling it.  Matt was more insistent, he told me to get my run out of the way and then we'd walk up to breakfast.  The perfectly sunny, yet cool, morning was the final motivation to get running so that's what I did.  I know I have gushed before about how much I love running outside, but I gotta do it again.  There is just nothing like the fresh air to get you going.  And, I pulled my i-pod out of it's winter home of the cupboard and enjoyed listening to my tragically outdated music (seriously, it's got Beyonce when she was still with Destiny's Child on there).  Running is my thing, it is my time and there is no chance for interruption.  When Ava was a baby we got a jogging stroller and I tried one time to take her on a run and never did it more than once.  I decided running for me is a selfish thing that I, didn't want to share.  No cell phone, no conversation, just me, my music and my thoughts.  I do have a vision one day of sharing this passion with the girls.  Sometimes on a run I pass this mother and daughter out for a morning run and I could dig that.  What a great opportunity to be with your child, talking and enjoying the fresh air together.  I would give up the selfish part of my runs for that.  So, after my run I got home and we took a walk up the street to a little cafe/deli for some breakfast.  On our way we saw the most beautiful tree.  It was a flowering tree and just stood out amongst all the trees not yet in bloom.  Oh, it was beautiful.  I decided right then and there that we need a flowering tree for our yard.  We have a lot of lilac bushes, which are by far my favorite, but could use some more color.  I'll have to talk to my gardener about that (matt.)  We enjoyed coffees and breakfast outside and then ventured to a few stores before heading home.  We stayed home just long enough to let Layla lay down for a bit, pack up a picnic, load the girls into the stroller and head to the park to meet up with Amy & Chad and the kiddos.  Our first picnic (actually second, Layla and I had one with some other friends a few weeks back…not quite as warm though!) of the year!  The kids all played, we sat around and visited and soaked up the sunshine.  After a couple hours at the park, we headed home, where Layla took her second nap of the day (I think the sun totally zapped her) and we all freshened up to head out to Matt's parents for the girls birthday dinner with them.  There the girls got totally spoiled (Grandma knows how to shop!!), ate way too much food (Quiche, Lebanese rice, shrimp, scallops, salad…the list goes on…yum!!) and caught up with them since we haven't seen them since we were in Florida.  It was a lovely evening.  Everyone was wiped out and the girls crashed out on the way home.  I didn't do much better, I pretended to stay awake for the movie we rented, but probably only watched about ten minutes of it.  
Sunday was one of those days that you can tell the moment you open your eyes that it is going to be one of those perfect Montana days.  A day that gives us the name the "Big Sky" state.  I could hear the birds, see the sun peaking in through the shades and tell that it was already warm out.  We opened up the house as soon as we finished our lazy-stay-in-bed Sunday routine, had a little breakfast and then Matt and the girls headed to church and I stayed behind for my own kinda church…cooking.  I made some spinach pies for our dinner and some noodles for tomorrow nights dinner.  When they got home we headed outside and that is pretty much where everyone stayed the rest of the day.  Ava and I left for a little bit to do a little birthday shopping for sisters upcoming birthday.  This is the first year I've had them pick out gifts for each other and they both took it very seriously…wanting to find the perfect gift that they knew the other would love.  I love the sisterly bond the two of them have.  My sister gave Ava some "magic" markers for her birthday to leave messages on mirrors.  So, this is what I walk into the bathroom to see...love notes from Miss Ava
It just warms my heart to see their love for each other.  I try to remember it when they are fighting and screaming at one another.  They love hard and fight fierce.
That evening I wanted to make a perfect meal to compliment the summery day we had.  We had the spinach pies, a colorful salad and Mediterranean Tuna.  Oh, it was good.  I bought some really nice tuna steaks, seasoned them lightly with some olive oil, s&p and a little Italian seasoning and then grilled them to about medium rare.  For the topping, I heated some olive oil in a sauce pan, added some sliced onion and cooked on medium for about ten minutes.  Then I added a can of diced tomatoes, some kalamato olives (sliced in half, about 1/2 cup) and some garlic stuffed green olives (also sliced in half, about 1/2 cup).  I stirred in some thyme and some sea salt and cooked on low about ten minutes and then put it on top of the cooked tuna.  Such a fresh, flavorful dinner and so simple to make (except the spinach pies, those are time consuming).  Layla chowed down and even Ava, who says she doesn't like tuna, ate it up with little complaining.  
After dinner, it was time to throw the sun-drenched girls into the tub to clean off the sunscreen, grass, dirt and weekend fun.  We put them to bed all sun-kissed and smelling like summer.  Right now the windows of the house are still open and the breeze is blowing gently in.  Perfect end to a perfectly wonderful weekend.  Now, if it can just hold out for Layla's birthday this Saturday I will be a happy, happy girl. 






Friday, April 20, 2012

Happy Friday!

Yesterday was a big day for Ava.  She so didn't want to start soccer.  She was scared and nervous and told me I was forcing her to do it.  (What a mean mom I am)  I sensed the nervousness when she was throwing me a lot of attitude while we were trying to do homework at Layla's ballet class.  I wanted to lose it on her, this sassy back talk that I worry is a foreshadow of the future teen years.  Instead, I took a few breaths and took her outside  so we could sit alone and tried to find out where it was coming from.  It was, as I suspected, a result of all the anticipation she was having about going to soccer that evening.  We talked about being scared when trying new things and how that is ok...you just have to be brave and try it and know you'll feel really good about yourself afterwards. I wonder sometimes if the things I am telling her are the right things.  I know there is no wrong or right way to  parent and as they get older and I get more confident as a parent I try to go more on instinct then what "they" say is the right way to do things.  When the girls were babies, I was ALL about reading the parenting books.  I tried to follow the "rules"  bottle gone at 1 year old, start letting them cry it out at 6 months, one minute/age for time outs, etc and I think it worked out for us pretty well.  We have good kids.  However, now that they are older, I find I would rather just go on what feels right at the time.  I guess time will tell if this is a good method.  

Needless to say, after the first few minutes you could tell the shy girl who quietly kicked her ball around at the beginning of practice went away and out came the happy girl-jumping, running, giggling & having a good ol time!


You could tell she was proud of herself...and I was oh, so proud of my girl.  She was scared, but brave and handled it so well.  Yes, I was a very proud mama yesterday.  Especially when we got home & she was showing off where she got kicked during a "play" And, informing me that you can in fact touch the ball with your hands when you throw it back inbounds. Pretty cute.

Wednesday afternoon Layla and I decided to put on rain boots, take umbrellas and walk to get Ava.  It seemed that most of the rain storms were gone.  I was regretting this decision as we first started going and realized it was raining harder than I thought and blowing, which makes it a little difficult for carrying umbrellas.  (And, a stuffed robin in Layla's case...she wanted to get her worms)  We pushed through, made it to the school a little wet, but it was all worth it because after we left the school with Ava, the rain had blown over and the sunshine was out in full force.  It was one of those great walks after the rain where everything smells really fresh, there were perfect puddles for jumping in and lots of worms for the girls to examine.  Or to bury as the girls are doing here...they didn't want it to dry out in the sun so they buried it.

Now, it's a very windy Friday, but a warm wind that has promise of bringing really warm weekend weather.  That will mean lots of walks, trips to the park and just hanging out in our backyard.  Tonight's at home date night is going to be Pizza Margheritta.  I made Matt choose this week and it was a perfect choice.  Something about the basil and mozzarella and just the smell of it as it cooks makes it the perfect date night food.  We didn't have one last week since we were out with friends, so I'm looking forward to it tonight. It's always a chance to reconnect after our busy weeks. Tomorrow we are continuing birthday celebrations for the girls with Matt's parents.  We usually do a joint celebration for the girls in between their two birthdays and it's always a lovely time.  It's a good balance...they get a crazy birthday party with my big family and then a smaller one with Matt's where it's just about the girls.  Both lots of fun and I'm all about keeping birthday celebrations going as long as possible!  In the midst of all of this we'll continue to work on preparations for Layla's birthday party for the following weekend.  Lots of pinks and purples and princesses going on.  

My girls already have a head start on the weekend plans, outside playing in the backyard...I must go join in the fun.

Happy Friday.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Some Mommy Guilt & Grape Leaves....

Things have finally calmed down after the chaos of the weekend.  We finished it up by taking treats to Ava's class on Monday.  I made these adorable hot pink peanut butter cookies with a Hershey's kiss in the middle.  I saw them initially on PInterest (LOVE that site!) and they were my inspiration and they turned out super cute.  Layla and I went to her class right after Layla was done with school and the two of them handed out treats and then my quiet girl sat there with a shy smile as the class sang to her.  Her teacher asked her questions about her birthday and Ava's soft little voice told about her day in about 6 words (a day that took WEEKS of planning!)  It's funny how at home, Ava is the furthest thing from shy, but get her in the class room and she is so quiet!  (a lot like her mama was) 

Yesterday began with a good dose of mommy guilt.  Tuesdays I usually try to get all the housecleaning done…it's my cleaning day and Layla knows this.  As soon as we dropped Ava off at school she asked what we could play when we got home.  I told her that I needed to do some cleaning and that she could play with all of Ava's new birthday gifts (total bribe and so not cool of me to pimp out Ava's gifts, but you do what you gotta do)  This was met with a whine of "why don't you ever play with me?"  Just go ahead and break my heart…and it's so not true.  But, in her four (almost five) year old mind her mommy doesn't play with her.  I'm not one of those moms that can just let all the house work go, I wish I was, but I know if I just leave it, I won't be able to fully play with her and enjoy it.  I have to get it done first.  It's the same conversation every Tuesday…I tell her I'll clean as fast as I can (sometimes she likes to help) and then we can play anything she wants.  I've got this cleaning thing down.  I used to spread it all out throughout the week, now I do it in one morning and don't think about it the rest of the week.  I do it all…fast and furious.  We turn on some rock out music and I just go to town, get it all done, so I can sit down and play with my baby and appease my mommy guilt.  This morning her choice of game after I was done was duck, duck, goose.  I wasn't sure how this would work with just two people, but who was I to argue with the poor little girl who'd been ignored all morning??  According to Layla, you just pretend there are other people there and tap their pretend heads.  The other thing I learned about Layla's version of duck, duck, goose is you don't have to say "duck" & "goose"  During her turn she would say chicken, hot dog, mustard, ear….it was pretty entertaining.  After a couple rounds of that and then playing the Fancy Nancy game, I put her down for a nap, mommy guilt gone.  It's a tough one.  I know there are a lot of moms who work full time that feel guilty that they don't spend enough time with their kids, but I always say it is quality over quantity.  I get to spend a lot of time with my girls because I stay home for the most part, however, I try to really be aware that I'm actually spending time with them…not just busying myself with projects at home and just having them around.  It's a tricky balance for me sometimes…getting everything done here and still hanging out with them.  What I've found is just thirty minutes of really quality, on the floor-playing-Barbies time will make up for a day full of errands and chores.  It doesn't always work out, but I really try.

Things I'm happy for right now….(I like to just randomly list happy things...makes me feel good)

-Everything is starting to bud!  All the trees and shrubs in our yard have tiny little bits of greening, popping out.  It makes me happy.  There may be snowstorms still to come, but summer will be here soon too.
-Long phone conversations with my little sister.  I called just with a question and it turns into a hour long conversation full of lots of "Well, I better go" and then another 15 minutes of conversation.  We don't talk on the phone often (we make up for it with late night talks when she visits and we try to cram in months of details in a couple days) and she lives in the boonies with no Internet so it's always nice to catch up.  The funniest part of it this time was I finally said "I gotta go, I've got cleaning to do"  and she responds "Me too, I have to get stuff ready for dinner"  followed by "Listen to us, women have come so far"  I don't know why, but we found this hilarious
-A new coffee maker & grinder!  Our old one finally bit the dust.  I know it's kinda lame, but having something new makes it way more fun to make coffee.  I know it'll get old and I'll get over it, but right now I'm enjoying making the coffee (mmmm, and the smell as it grinds, can't be beat!)  

Just to balance things out....something that bummed me out....My in-laws got back yesterday (that's not the bummer, we're all happy they are home safe!!)...they had a bunch of our stuff from our trip to Florida that they had taken with them, sand buckets, summer dresses, etc. We got it all back from them yesterday and I started putting it away this morning and it so made me miss Florida taking out sea shells (with sand still on them, just to add insult to injury)  and swimsuits.  This sadness was escalated by the dreary, grey rainy morning we were having.  

The original recipe I have for grape leaves I got from my mother-in-law, which is her moms.  Because, we don't eat a ton of meat I occasionally modify it to a vegetarian version and they are so good.  (and Ava will then eat them cuz this little veggie lover won't eat the ones with meat in them)

VEGGIE GRAPE LEAVES:
-3/4 cup of chickpeas
-1 1/2 cups rice
-1/2 cup parsley
-1/2 cup chopped green onions
-1 tbls dry mint
-2-3 tomatoes, chopped
-Salt & Pepper
-1/4 tsp cinnamon
-3/4 cup canola oil
-Juice of 1 lemon (about 1/2 cup)
-1 jar of grape leaves, drained
-1 can of whole tomatoes
*Put chickpeas on a towel, and cover and roll them with a rolling pin (this cracks the skin), put them in a bowl full of water to get the skins to float to the top...these can be scooped out and tossed.  
*Mix the chick peas with all the remaining ingredients except the grape leaves & can of tomatoes and you are ready to fill the grape leaves!
*Place a small spoonful of the mixture in a row across the width of the leaf (stemmed end towards you & shiny part of leaf down) Fold the outside edges of the leaf toward the center and roll tight into the shape of a cigar. Continue until all the mixture is gone.  (Both my girls LOVE to eat the grapes leaves right out of the jar, so if I have any left over, they just chow them down!)
*Place the tomatoes from the can in a sauce pan and put the grapes leaves directly on top of them, all tucked together tight so they stay together.  Add some water so it just covers the grape leaves.  Put a plate on top to keep them down, cover, bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low and simmer for 30-35 minutes.  After about half the cooking time, add a little lemon juice to it
*Remove the grape leaves and serve hot or cold.  We love them with hummus.  As for the tomatoes they cooked in, I save that and Matt just eats it like soup.

Then enjoy!  I love that I have been introduced to this type of food through Matt and his family.  It is something I NEVER had as a child and really enjoy cooking and eating it as an adult.  And...having it be a part of my children's upbringing.

My longing for beach days has not gone away today, but I am ready to take advantage of this small break in the rain and walk with my littlest to go pick up my biggest.  We'll smell the fresh rain smell, check out the budding green poking out from all the grey and look at the glass half full.  Tomorrow Ava starts soccer...lots of nerves going around for this (myself included)  More to come on this, I'm sure.

Happy Day!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Seven.

Today my baby girl turned seven...

It seems so crazy to me that seven years have passed since the day my life changed.  It was the day that I became what I was supposed to be...Ava & Layla's mom and it started at 7:47 pm, April 15th 2005.  Yesterday Ava and I were reading through her baby book and I told her the time of day she was born and told her that she wouldn't officially be 7 until that time today.  After the long day we put the girls to bed early, but at 7:46 Ava called me to her room and she whispered "I'm about to turn 7"  I was so surprised she remembered something I had casually mentioned the day before.  I pulled her onto my lap and hugged her tight as we watched the clock turn to 7:47 and I gave her a big squeeze and kiss & told her how special this moment was 7 years ago.  I told her thank you for making me a Mom.

Okay...enough of the mushy stuff.  The birthday weekend kicked off with the sleepover.  I had a very slow start on Saturday...maybe had a little too much fun on Friday night with Amy & Chad.  (Too many dark beers & french fries for dinner...just doesn't work in your thirties!) My wonderful husband let me stay in bed until I could finally drag myself out around 11 and I made it to the kitchen and didn't leave there for the next several hours.  First I made the caramel chocolate cheesecake, which was probably the hardest cheesecake I've made, but soooo worth it!!  Then it was onto the strawberry cupcakes with chocolate butter cream frosting...also so good.  When it comes to baking, I follow others recipes so if you are interested, just let me know and I'll pass them on.  Cooking I am very confident in and can create my own things...not with baking!!

The baking was all done just as Kim & Greg showed up for the sleepover.  We had a pizza dinner, some running around crazy outside playing and then jammied up and settled on the couch for some popcorn and a movie (a horse one of course!)  before all the littles crashed out in their sleeping bags on the living room floor!

The next morning we woke up to whispers and giggles coming from the living room.  Every year we get a balloon and tie one of the girls birthday gifts to it and leave it outside their door for when they wake up.  This year, since they were all in the living room I just set it right beside Ava's sleeping bag...that's what the giggles and whispers were for.  Not sure how this tradition started, but they totally expect it now.  Birthday girl requested chocolate chip Mickey Mouse pancakes.  I didn't have chocolate chips, but I did have leftover Reeses Pieces, so we used those and it worked just as well.  My nephew, Greg helped make the pancakes and this little sweetie thought we should do something extra special for Ava, like put a candle in her pancake and sing to her.  Well...I thought this was a dandy idea, so we made her a special "7" shaped pancake, put a candle in it and sang away!!  (He is the sweetest kid ever!)
Next on the birthday girl's agenda...going to the Dinosaur Park!  We followed behind the four littles running full force to the park and playing like mad.  Their energy astounds me!  We then had to head home so we could get all set up for the party...
Wanted posters for all the kiddos

Lots of cowgirl grub

Guests all wore their country finest

Panning for Gold!

Bobbing for apples

And, of course...presents!!

And, then the party began.  We chowed down, played games, opened gifts and of course had cake.  It was a lovely party with great family...and the sunshine even peeked out for some of it so we could do the  games outside.  (Of course, by the end of the party it was snowing!!)

After the party ended, the house felt quiet for the first time all weekend.  The girls played with all the new presents and I started on Ava's birthday dinner.  I made homemade Alfredo sauce to top of the noodles Ava and I made the other day, herb wheat baguettes that we also had made, along with some sea salt and olive oil for dipping and an artichoke (by far her favorite vegetable).  It was an absolutely lovely end to a wonderful birthday weekend.  I feel like we need another weekend to recover from all the festivities, but it was worth it.  And, now we have a seven year old...crazy.  She's an amazing little girl and we are so very lucky to have her.  One birthday down....now it's onto Layla's in two weeks.  Move over cowgirl, it's princess time!!
One last photo...it's one of my favorites from the weekend of the littles....
Ava and Kim CRACK me up in this one!!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Friday the 13th

Today is Friday the 13th and instead of being a day of bad luck (is that what it's supposed to be?)  It was a just wonderful day.
Ava had the day off of school but Layla had school, so I swapped my work schedule around so Ava and I could have a morning together.  I did this one time earlier this year and I just loved getting to spend a little one on one time with my first born.  It's funny cuz way back when it was just the two of us everyday, all day…my little buddy.  (we've been watching a lot of old home videos to prove this, just me and a camera and hours of video of Ava…I like to pull them out when we get close to birthdays)  Now, most days it's just me and Layla while Ava's at school so it is really nice to have some time with just Ava.  The last day we had she wanted to cook and when I asked her what she wanted to do this time, cooking was it again!  Which, worked out perfectly because little miss wants homemade pasta and bread for her birthday dinner…so I told her she had to help!  We spent the morning making dough for bread and pasta, rolling out and unrolling the pasta and filling the house with the aroma of fresh bread.  She is an awesome helper and it was so much fun, cooking and chatting and rocking out to the music blaring.  (until I realized the song was singing  "damn- yous a sexy bitch"  oh well, that's what you get when you put in Lady Gaga on Pandora)  


After, she wanted to go spend her Easter money because Layla had done this earlier this week.  (Hmmmm, she wanted to spend her day off cooking and shopping, don't know where she got that from??)  Problem was she only had $2 and I tried to explain that doesn't get you much.  Luckily she found a stuffed bunny on Easter clearance that she had just enough for, so the bunny has come to join the hundreds of other stuffed animals that live in her room!  We decided to sneak in a quick lunch and went to our favorite little pizza place to get a slice.  Last year when Ava had vision therapy every week I would take her to Cosmic Pizza (tiny little place adjoining a gas station, but it's local and fresh and so good!!) for lunch right after the Dr, before she had to go back to school.  She mentioned one time that she missed going there with me, so it was the perfect place to end our morning together before we went to pick up sister. 
We didn't want Layla to miss out on the fun of our day so of course we had to head to the park and take advantage of some of the sunshine that snuck out today.  Us, and everyone else in the neighborhood must have had the same idea!!  It was gonna be a quick trip, but Ava saw a friend from school and Layla, like Matt, makes friends anywhere so they ended up playing forever and it wasn't until the clouds rolled in that we headed home.  
This was a great change of pace from the last couple days.  Ava went to school on Wednesday…all happy with hair curled ready for class pictures.  It was another beautiful day and Layla and I were looking forward to taking the scooters to school to pick Ava up, when I get the dreaded call from the school secretary…"Ava just got sick, can you come pick her up?"  
Poor girl…this is the second time she has thrown up at school this year!!  At least this time she made it to the office.  I am sensitive to this because I have my own horrible memories of getting sick at school.  Well, mine wasn't actually at school, it was on the bus on the way to school.   I was in first grade and it was Valentine's Day and I was so excited to go to school and pass out my cute little Valentine's.  I had on a purple shirt that had hearts all over it in honor of the day.  I'm sitting on the bus and threw up all over my adorable heart shirt and had to stay in it until we got to school.  (the big kids on the bus called me Ralph the rest of the year)  When I got to school I had to go to the office and put on a hideous army green t-shirt that they had in the lost and found and my mom had to come get me.  I have never forgotten, which is why I felt so bad for Ava.  I don't think hers was as traumatic, however, because when I got there and asked how she was she said "I feel great!!"  No horrible puke story for her to share in her adulthood.  I kept her home Thursday more just in case and today she was up and running again!!  So sad when your babies are sick.    Poor baby.
Anywho…now we are all healthy and ready for the weekend!  Tonight we get to go out with Amy & Chad without kiddos, which doesn't happen very often so I'm very excited.  It started that we were going to go out with a couple other friends, maybe head to the brewfest that is happening here in town tonight.  Then we realized, number 1-tickets to the event were crazy expensive for what it was and number 2-maybe we are too old to go hang out with a bunch of drunks at a brewfest when we really just want to have a good beer and hang out and visit.  And, the other people we were going to hang out with didn't work out so it's just us four….just like old times.  (or pre-kiddos)  Should be a good time and the girls get to hang out with their cousins so it's a win-win!  Then tomorrow begins final preps for the cowgirl birthday party on Sunday.  My little foodie daughter wants a carmel chocolate cheesecake for her birthday cake (what 7 year picks that??) so I'll be busy baking that, and some cupcakes (for those who don't like cheesecake, um, Matt) and cookies for her class party on Monday!  Phew, lots of baking.  And, after my baking disaster my confidence is a little shaken in the baking department, so hopefully it'll all go well.  Layla has her first "friend" party and she is so excited.  It's funny, Ava never did that until Kindergarten so this is new.  Layla is definitely the more outgoing one, so she is all about it.  Ava wanted to have a sleepover so her cousins are coming over tomorrow night to kick off the birthday celebrations.  It's gonna be a fun, kid-filled, birthday weekend.  I love it.  Sickness is gone, the sun is out and it's time to go get ready to go out with my hubby and best friends….life is good.  Take that Friday the 13th.  

Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter Festivites, Manicotti & a Baking Disaster!!


A couple months ago I made a promise to Ava, that sometime this winter we would go night sledding.  Well, Friday night I made good on that promise.  We had our friends over for drinks and appetizers.  It was a nice evening…everyone had had a lot going on this previous week and it felt good to hang out with our best friends, vent a little and laugh a lot.  I had been thinking earlier in the evening that it might be a good night to do the sledding because it was going to be a full moon and it had been snowing for about 14 hours straight.  As it got dark I finally mentioned it to Ava.  Well, that set it off…of course we were going to do it!!  We tried to convince the Frasers to join us, but they had a sleepy girl so it was just us.  We bundled up, got in the car and headed over to the Regional Park and headed up the hill.  The girls just ran up, so excited for what was to come.  They weren't even scared that it was dark…the moon was hidden behind clouds, but let off a beautiful pinkish glow in the night.  Once at the top…Matt didn't even gave Ava a choice, he set her off down the hill.  Layla and I were right behind.  This hill is pretty steep and with all the fresh snow we flew down the hill.  There were squeals (mainly mine) and giggles and lots of "Let's go again!"  We convinced Matt that he could in fact ride on the little flying saucer with the girls so it was a continual trade…me going with Layla, then with Ava and so on.  We probably went up and down that hill a dozen times…Matt and I were soaked by the end (Neither of us were really dressed appropriately)  The snow would just fly up right at the girls faces, but they didn't care…they were all smiles.  It was refreshing…the beautiful night sky, the crisp air and the calm of being the only ones out.  There really is something about flying down a hill on a plastic object with snow spraying around you and the stars in the sky.  We came home happy, red cheeked and soaking wet!  It was a good farewell to the snow. (You hear that Winter…we said farewell, now go on and leave and give Spring a chance to visit!!)  
Earlier that day, after Ava was home from school, we continued our tradition of doing some sort of fun Friday activity with a tea party at home.  The snow storm that was happening out our door kept us indoors, cozy and happy.

Saturday was lovely…the sun was out in full force doing its best to melt all the snow.  There was water dripping everywhere and our attempt at a snow bunny for Easter melted away.  We died Easter eggs.  The girls have gotten so much more independent over the years with it…this year doing it all completely themselves.  They turned out beautiful.
That evening we continued the fun with a movie night for the girls (The Muppets...so took me back to the day!!)  and an at-home-date-night for Matt and I.  So, after popcorn and movie, Matt and I set off to make some homemade manicotti with a caramelized onion/fennel filling & marinara sauce.  We have done manicotti before and now that I know how much easier it is to make your own than try to fill the store bought once (and don't even get me started on how much better they taste) I have a whole new perspective on this pasta.  I was totally inspired a couple months ago at this fabulous restaurant in Missoula over this ravioli I had that I tried to replicate it for the filling for our manicotti.  It was all topped off with my marinara sauce and some wheat-herb baguettes and some wonderful CA pinot noir that Matt picked up.  One of the BEST date night meals we've had.  (and let me tell, we have good ones!!)

Manicotti Shells:
-Mix 2 cups flour, 2 cups water, pinch of salt and 6 eggs into a smooth batter.  Cook on a greased griddle, lightly on each side, then they are ready to fill
Manicotti Filling:
-Caramelize Onion & Fennel (heat around a 1/2 tbls butter and 1/2 tbls oil in a saute pan, add sliced onion and cook over medium around 10 min.  After that, lower heat, sprinkle with a little sea salt, sugar and fennel seeds...continue cooking stirring occasionally for around 40 minutes.  Add a splash of balsamic vinegar for the last few minutes.)
-Finely chop the caramelized mixtures, add to a bowl along with a container of ricotta, torn fresh basil, s&p and some shredded mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.  Mix well and use to fill the manicotti shells, roll and place seam side down in a casserole dish.  (pour a little of the marinara sauce on the bottom of the pan first.)  Pour the remainder of the marinara sauce all over the manicotti and sprinkle with some shredded Parmesan & mozzarella cheese.  Cook for around 30-35 minutes in a 350-degree oven
Marinara Sauce:
-Heat some olive oil in a large sauce pan.  Add some sliced onion (around 1/2 of an onion) and a couple cloves of crushed garlic.  Cook around 10 minutes.
-Add chopped carrots & celery (around 3/4 cup each) to the pan and cook for around 10 more minutes
-Add a large can of diced or crushed tomatoes, s&p, torn fresh basil & around 1 tsp of each dried oregano, basil, marjoram & sugar.  (add any other spices you like!)
-Simmer, uncovered for around 1 hour
manicotti) or keep it chunky & it's ready to go.  (my girls eat it a lot better if it's pureed)


After we stuffed ourselves with all that food it was time to play Easter bunny.  We filled eggs & baskets & hid them all throughout the house.  The girls woke up early so excited to see if the bunny had come, and to see if he had eaten the carrots they left for him!  (I was up before them, hiding some of the eggs out in the snow filled back yard!)  After all the work it took them less than an hour to go through their baskets and find all the eggs!

 We spent the afternoon at my parents house to continue the Easter celebration with Grandparents & my sisters family.  What a difference the sunshine made...by the time we were there the snow had melted and the second Easter egg hunt of the day got to be outside in the sunshine!!

We enjoyed good company, good food (I made veggie grape leaves...so yummy!!) and a lovely afternoon.  I was supposed to bring a dessert and had this recipe I wanted to try for macaroons.  They seemed perfect for Easter, light & airy & with some food coloring a nice spring color.  However, they did not turn out as planned....

I have NO idea what I did wrong!!  I re-read the recipe, didn't forget anything, they just fell apart.  The thing was they tasted really good.  So...what are ya gonna do??  Well...I took lemons (or in this case, crumbled cookies) & made lemonade (crumbled them all more, whipped up some brownies and sprinkled them on top)  This was not my finest dessert...but it worked and there was still a pretty Easter dessert.  (Luckily my sister also made a dessert and hers was soooo yummy!!)


The rest of this week will be full of party planning for Ava...I can't wait!!
Hope your Easter was fantastic!!!











Friday, April 6, 2012

Happy Friday-Fish Tacos, Tortellini Soup & More!!

This week has been a nice, normal week, great spring weather to enjoy early on & now snowstorms to finish it off-boo on that.  Not to complain, but I'm totally over it.  (you would think you would get used to Montana springs, but they get to me EVERY year!) 
Tuesday Ava got done with school early…it's so nice to get just those extra couple of hours with her.  It doesn't feel like we go straight from school, to homework to time to get things going for dinner…we still get all that done, but on top of it some leisure time.  We, of course, spent it outside…the girls playing and me beginning a new book that I am SO excited about reading.  I didn't intend on starting it because I'm still finishing a different one and I'm a one book-at-a-time kinda girl, but I couldn't help myself.  I was going to just flip through for a minute but ended up reading the entire prologue and made myself stop before going further.  It's gonna be a tear jerker…and it's a memoir so it's a true story, so even more emotional…I can't wait!  Now if I can get my sisters to read it we can do a book club on it…although that first one we tried to do was not that successful.  Oh, well. 
Wednesday Layla and I had a pleasant morning…our usual grocery store trip, then we made a little craft.  This girl has been waiting patiently do make this little Easter tree she saw in her Highlights magazine (oh, they take me back to sitting in the dentist office as a kid, flipping through them).  We haven't had all the supplies, and finally got the last thing we needed.  With a little guidance she worked her tiny little fingers around the twisty ties and cellophane paper and it turned out adorable. 

Layla has this wonderful independence…she truly wants to try everything on her own.  I try to remind myself to let her and embrace it and step back.  I have a tendency to try to get in there and help her when she is not even asking for it.  (She is good at telling me "no, I'll do it myself")  Maybe it's being the second child that she has the desire to do so much herself, or maybe it's just her…either way I love seeing it. 

That night I  attempted to make fish tacos.  I always eat them at restaurants and love them, so I decided to try to make them myself. They turned out AWESOME!!  The marinade I made to cook the fish in was delicious (taco seasoning, pepper, cilantro, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and peach preserves…all pureed together)  I used cod fillet, marinated it for a couple hours (fish chopped into pieces), then I sauteed them in olive oil.  We put them a wheat tortilla topped them with shredded cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onion, my mango salsa and sour cream...yummy!!  I wanted to make it a little fruity because it seems like when I order them they usually have a pineapple or some other tropical fruit type salsa on it.  No photo of this dinner because we ate them before I even thought of it!!
Little things I'm happy for right now:
-The sunshine we had earlier this week!!!  It was not hot yet by any means and the snow is here now, but the sun was fantastic.  (Layla and I had lunch outside on Wednesday…her suggestion, and the kiddos all got to play crazy outside at my parents this week for family dinner!!)
-The upcoming holiday-I love playing the Easter bunny…even more than Santa.  Maybe because it's less pressure.  Santa has to fill stockings with great goodies AND have the biggest, best gift under the tree.  The Easter bunny just gets to put silly things and candy in plastic eggs (our favorite is putting baby carrots in them…the girls think it's hilarious every year…they say "this is bunny food!") and the baskets get to be filled with fun little gifts.  And, because it's spring it's usually fun stuff for outside like sidewalk chalk and bubbles.  Then…you get to hide the eggs, which I swear becomes a competition between Matt and I for who can find the better hiding spots.  (I also love that I get up before anyone on Easter morning to hide the dyed eggs outside…even if there's snow!)
-Weekend plans-last week was a lazy-turned-busy weekend…this weekend is full of plans!  Dinner with friends, dying Easter eggs, and all the Easter fun and maybe some furniture shopping.  (we've been trying to find stuff for our room…to finally get rid of the last pieces of furniture that have been loaned to us from family, then we can be proper grown-ups)
-Watching Layla really come into her personality.  She has always had this wild sassy personality…but as she is coming into school age and fully leaving preschooler behind, it's changing a little.  She is starting to seem more grown-up, more like her big sister.  Even her face is changing…her huge brown eyes and big smile take up the whole face and some of the toddler chubby cheeks are leaving.  I feel bitter sweet about this.  I look at her and am taken away by how pretty she is, and then feel sad that her cheeks aren't as squeezable.  (but they are just as kissable!)
Last night I made a family favorite....Tortellini Soup with some homemade bread, it's a crowd pleaser at my house~
Here's the recipe:

Tortellini Soup:
-Chopped carrots, celery, onion, zucchini and/or green beans.  (I do about a cup of each and you can vary what type of veggies you use!)
-1 can diced tomatoes
-1 can tomato sauce
-3 1/2 cups veggie broth
-Salt & pepper.
-1 package tortellini (or homemade if you are feeling ambitious!!)
*Put all of the above in a large sauce pan, bring to boil, then lower heat to simmer.  Cover and let simmer until veggies start getting soft (about 10-15 min).  Add the tortellini and cook an additional 10 minutes until tortellini is done. 

This soup is something I can make and nobody will complain at dinner time...especially if you serve it with warm bread.  (I made herb-wheat baguettes...mmmm)

Ready for a lovely weekend of friends,family and of course at-home-date night with my hubby (manicotti with marinara sauce).
Happy Good Friday & Easter!!!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Weekend fun & pizza!!!

So…what was to begin as a very low-key, nothing weekend turned into a very full Saturday.  We got up our usual lazy way on Saturday…good ol Curious George on PBS for the kids and a cup of perfect coffee and a brand new InStyle Magazine for me…aww…the best way to wake up. After pancake breakfast we decided to take advantage of our Museum membership and the rainy morning and head up to the Museum of the Rockies to see the new art exhibit.  The exhibit is all artwork from the Guild Hall Museum in NY…artists such as Jackson Pollack and Andy Warholh…beautiful work.  What I really loved was how much the girls got into it…stepping back to observe what was in the piece (Matt recommended this to them, take that step back to see all you could see)  It was like little art connoisseurs in the making…even if they only noticed the "really pretty colors"  After a morning at the museum we headed over to one of our favorite pizza joints for some giant slices of the best cheese pizza and then a stroll downtown to enjoy the spring like weather that appeared after the rainy-dreary morning. 
Once home, we laid the chicas down for some rest/nap time and I enjoyed the first outside run of the year.  I like running on the treadmill…I like getting to see exactly how fast I'm running, increase it slightly in five minute intervals, and I love watching old reruns of Sex and the City as I run (makes the time fly by).  BUT…there is something so incredibly therapeutic about that first run of the season outside.  Something about the fresh air, your feet heating pavement instead of a machine, the traffic around you and the view of the mountains instead of Carrie and Miranda in front of you.  It was amazing to say the least.  I've been thinking so much lately about living here or living someplace else that I've had a hard time enjoying what was right in front of me.  So…on this run…I went deep in thought…thinking about being happy and leaving any negativity out there on the run…to enjoy everything that was going on right then.  If we stay here in Bozeman, we will be 100% happy.  If we leave and raise little beach babies and try something crazy new…we'll be happy.  We'll always be happy because we have each other and we have our family and life is good.  (to quote a lame T-shirt company that my mom loves).  Needless to say that run was good for me.  I came home feeling refreshed, rejuvenated and exhausted from running against the wicked wind all the way home. 
After I got home from my run, I found Layla sound asleep, Ava sitting outside drawing a picture of our apple tree (she must have been inspired from the art at the museum) and Matt strumming his guitar next to her.  To further enjoy the absolutely wonderful day we headed over to the dinosaur park on bikes and scooters and let the girls run wild with ALL the other kids from town enjoying the one of very few nice March days here.  We're talking, nice enough that I put sunscreen on us.  (First time since Florida…love it!!)  And…we got to eat dinner outside on the patio again.  Granted it was tomato soup and grilled cheese cuz I thought it was gonna be cold, but I'll take soup on the patio any day.  (Soup was NOT made from scratch like most of my cooking….I tried to make tomato soup from scratch once and after a LOT of work it made enough to fill maybe a shot glass full/person…I have this organic tomato soup that I buy that with a touch of fresh basil, sea salt & brown rice is WAY better and SO, SO easy!!)  The night ended with a performance from the girls.  Now…this kind of activity takes me back.  My sisters and I were the queens of "performing" for our parents…we did plays (that we wrote), Kids Inc. shows and anything that we could convince them to watch.  Seeing the girls have this same enthusiasm is so hil-ar-ious!!!  For this particular show, Ava was the conductor and Layla played several different instruments.  This show was complete with costume changes (marked "backstage" with numbers for each section) and Ava "conducting"  (shaking a broken spatula in the air) and Layla playing a toy piano, maracas, tambourine and harmonica.  I LOVED it.  They totally crack me up…especially when half the costumes they wear are old ones that I used to wear for dance recitals (so glad I kept those!)  The grand finale was them pulling us "on-stage" for a dance all together.  Luckily, Matt turned on some Pandora Michael Jackson for this so we didn't have to dance to the pre-recorded music on the toy piano.  It was a priceless moment.
 
After the girls went to bed, we were flipping through Netflix to settle into our Saturday night and came across "Breakfast at Tiffany's"  I was so excited to see such a classic on there that I wanted to add it to watch in the future when Matt is out of town.  He mentioned he had never seen it and I was like "WHAT?!!"  Then, I remembered he's a dude and I should question him if he had actually seen it.  I told him…give it 10 minutes, if you don't want to watch anymore we can watch anything you want.    (more in a laugh at all the funny ways movies were done in the sixties than the enamored by the whole story way that I was)  Never the less, it was the icing on the perfect-Saturday-cake.  I forgot how much I adored Audrey Hepburn in the movie and coveted pretty much EVERYTHING she wears in that movie and went to bed feeling all warm and fuzzy.  When I woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of rain on the window, I just thought "could it get any better?'
Sunday was complete opposite of the warm-enough-for-flip-flops weather…cool with rain/snow, but totally cozy.  We headed to church to celebrate Palm Sunday.  Now, I was not raised in any sort of religious fashion and have only begun feeling comfortable in a church recently.  (after going to the same place for the past 7 years since Ava was born).  I found today, learning about the reasons we celebrate Palm Sunday (after having Matt google it, because even his good Catholic upbringing couldn't bring me an immediate answer), very interesting and moving.  Maybe it was the passion the pastor spoke of it or maybe it was the smell of the palm fronds we all had, but something just made me feel a little emotional about it all.  Something about something so much bigger than all of us.  (great way to explain it huh?)  Anyways….can't really put all that into words…just a really good morning.  After it was time to come home and get ready for company.  With neighbors coming over, and one an owner of our favorite local restaurant, I wanted to make something impressive.  I had to go with pizza…a total people pleaser, comfort food and something I feel that I can cook very confidently (recipes at the end!)  I made four different kinds and, mmmm were they good.  


One neighbor ended up backing out and I was a little unsure about the ones that were coming over.  I don't know them as well and I tend to be a little shy when out of my comfort zone (hmmm, I wonder where Ava gets that from!)  But, I know I have Matt who could make conversation with anyone, so I knew we'd be ok.  Well…what a lovely night we had.  Great company, great food, great wine…so fun to learn more about new people and see just how much you have in common.     And, I love entertaining…cooking for people, setting the table just right, and finding just the right station on Pandora for the group.  Very enjoyable evening, topped off by the fact that we have such awesome little girls, who play so great with other littles, and listen intently to adult conversation (talking about Ava here) and ask questions.  Even if it is "What does it mean to sleep with the whole town?"  when someone mentions a person's indiscretions.  Hard to put that in 6-year old terms, but it was good for a laugh.  Gotta love it.
This week leads up to Easter…a holiday that runs a close 3rd to me.  (Christmas first and Thanksgiving is second, or maybe a tie for third)  I look forward to dying Easter eggs and doing the whole bunny thing, but in the true spirit of the holiday remembering why we celebrate.  There will be candy, good food and lots of family.  In the midst of it all we'll continue to plan Ava's birthday which is just two weeks away, and this little girl is so excited she can hardly stand it.  (I have to say I am too…I get more excited for their birthdays than my own.) 
Wonderful start to April.  I made the decision to "disconnect" this weekend…no Internet, FB, anything.  I'm happy with the choice.  I'm back on today and I enjoy all that this technology has to offer, but once in awhile I think it is good to shut it down.  All those little moments that I may have taken to check my email or something that only takes 5 minutes…I used to check in on my girls or have a conversation with Matt or just sit calmly for a moment with my own thoughts.  It was good…I have the tendency to get caught up in it all…FB, email,  blogs…I liked letting it go for a weekend a have a reality check…maybe not for everyone, but it was good for me. 
Ready for a new month…one step closer to summer.  And, I like the rain….April showers, bring May flowers.
Okay...here are the recipes:
Pizza Sauce:
-1 small can tomato paste
-around a tbls of freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
-couple tbls of honey
-couple cloves of minced garlic
-s&p
-around a 1/2 tsp of oregano, basil, marjoram, onion powder & 1/8 tsp of cayenne pepper & red pepper flakes
-warm water (adjust how much you need to your desired thickness of sauce)
Mix all the above together and let sit for around 1/2 hour so the flavors can blend (you can refrigerate and use later)


Dough:  (This is a thin crust pizza...I do a thick one too, this is just a good classic)
-Mix 1 pkg yeast, 3 tsp sugar, big spoonful of shortening & 1 cup warm water with a mixer for a few minutes.  (I sometimes throw in a few spices like basil or sage for a flavored crust).  Slowly add 2 tsp sea salt  and around 4 cups of flour until it begins to form a dough...knead for a few minutes adding more dough if necessary to make a nice smooth dough.  Rub it with some olive oil, place in a bowl and let it rise for about an hour.  Divide into two balls and let rest 20 minutes...roll each out and place on a pizza stone sprinkled with cornmeal & you're ready to put on the toss and toppings.  


Our family favorite is the "yippie" I mentioned above (named cuz we think of ourselves as part hippie part yuppy...hence-yippie)...I sprinkle the sauce with lots of cheese toss on some artichoke hearts and garlic stuffed green olives and torn fresh basil.  (I sometimes add some shredded parm on top for good measure) and bake in a 400-degree oven until done.  SO, SO good!!