Monday, July 30, 2012

Keeping it Weird...Missoula & More

Matt and I have spent many a weekend in Missoula...always a good place to get away, eat some good food and just chill.  This weekend we took the girls along for a mini-vacation.  (You can say that for one night away, right?)  Since we spent Spring Break in Florida, we didn't do a summer vacation.  That bummed me out, even though our trip there was amazing.  So...to satisfy that need for a family vaca, we opted for a weekend away that didn't involve camping.  It worked just fine for me.  We got to stay in a hotel, eat out every meal and enjoy all that the funky city of Missoula had to offer and the girls were all about it.  I think the tone of the weekend can best be summed up with a sunglass photo montage of our trip to a vintage shop in town...







It was a very silly, laid back weekend indeed.  We got up early Saturday and hit the road.  As soon as we got to town we parked the car at our hotel and didn't get in it again until the next day when we left.  That's our favorite way to travel...when you are someplace that you can either walk everywhere that you need to go or take public transportation.  Maybe cuz it's the urban and green thing to do or maybe cuz we can then have a few cocktails at dinner and no one has to drive...either or.  We wandered through the farmer's market that was going on, took in all the delicious smells of fresh produce, veggies and food trucks and listened to the various bands playing throughout.  We made our way over to the carousel that we have been wanting to take the girls to.  Found out it is the second fastest carousel in the U.S.  (fastest is somewhere in New York)  We bought some tokens and got in line.  After watching it go around a few times, we decided that maybe we would ride along with them so no one went flying off the thing.  I was a little concerned that I would throw up half way through the ride, but we all made it.

After the whirl wind ride, we stumbled upon a Fairy Tale and Super Hero Festival that was happening right next to the carousel.  Talk about little girl heaven (and big girl...I totally dug it).  There were fairy wings, face painting, ice cream, and people dressed up everywhere.  Kinda like Disney World but without the crazy lines to meet the princesses.  However, Ava informed us that it was NOT the real Rapuznel and Snow White...guess once you've met the "real" ones in DW you cannot be fooled.

By the end of the festival and an incredible lunch (coolest little outside garden patio where we could listen to the music of yet another festival going on in their downtown, chowed on a roasted artichoke sandwich that was amazing and some cold local beer) we were ready to cool off in the hotel pool and relax before dinner.  These little fish that I call my children could just live in a pool.


Usually when Matt and I are in town we have a couple of favorite restaurants we go to.  This trip, I wanted to find something a little more family friendly so of course I thought pizza.  I found a place downtown that cooks everything in a wood burning stove, tries to use only local ingredients and was just fantastic.  Biga Pizza...I highly recommend it.  We had a perfect little table right outside where we could watch the city go by and seriously stuff ourselves on pizza.  Since we couldn't come to a family consensus we had to divide the pizza in half...the girls-artichoke hearts and kalamato olives. Ours-chopped spinach, roasted red pepper & garlic and ricotta cheese.  I have never put ricotta on my pizza's and realize we have been missing out by neglecting this sweet delicious cheese.  I ate so much that I wasn't hungry again until the next evening.  (I pushed through and had ice cream and breakfast at our favorite spots...I'm good like that)  I love the carefree feeling of being someplace else and dining outside with my favorite people in the whole world.


The girls were itching to go to Big Dipper for ice cream because they have heard Matt & I talk about how yummy it is.  So, that is where we headed after dinner...with a little detour to a park we came across on our stroll.



On the way back to the hotel we stopped to check out the Celtic Music Festival.  It was fantastic...there were this chick band and they rocked out hard.  It was very entertaining and we were all up and dancing.  You just couldn't help but get caught up in their enthusiasm and we were all so bummed when they were done.  Not quite ready to call it a night we went down to the river to splash around a bit.  Every time Matt and I visit here we spend a lot of time walking along the river, but this was the first time to actually go down and get in it.  I was quite jealous of all the sunset floaters lazily going down the river.  We made do with just putting our feet in the warm water and watching the sun glisten on it.  The girls took it one step further by just getting right in the water.


The next day we spent at the water park they have there.  I didn't take my camera because I didn't want to have to worry about it.  If I had taken it,  this what you would have seen.  Happy girls who's faces lit up as they took in the pool with all the water features, the lazy river and the water slides.  Squeals of laughter as we hopped on tubes to float the lazy river and waterfalls dumped on you.  A reluctant Ava as Matt took her up to go down one of the water slides.  A very happy Ava as she realized how much fun water slides are.  Matt and I myself acting like kids as we took turns going down each of the the three water slides and rating which one was fastest, scariest and funnest.  Happy Mama as I saw that this place didn't just offer junk food at their cafe, but homemade pizza and a veggie tray that consisted of more than just baby carrots.  Sun kissed and water soaked little girls crashed out for the car ride home.
It was a very nice mini vacation.

Now...to digress a bit from the week before.  We had a fundraiser for my sister and it was fantastic.  We had an awesome turnout...lots of lovely ladies all out to enjoy some food, drinks and to support one amazing woman...my sister Kori.  It was heart warming to see so many people who love her and wanted to come and help in some way and see how she was doing.  We all got the opportunity to catch up with friends and family and as the party came to an end and it was just my mom and my sisters I felt so happy to just sit together and enjoy three women who mean so much to me each in their own unique way.  The party was on all accounts a success...we raised some money for her benefit and had a lovely time.  The kindness of people shined throughout the evening and I managed to get through with minimal tears.  (I had a little trouble during my speech keeping it together...didn't expect to get emotional, but the scary moments of this whole ordeal are all still so fresh)

To further digress the night before we had friends over for an evening of appetizers and drinks.  There were six little kids running around crazy, playing in the sprinklers, spraying each other with water, laughing and six adults enjoying some catching up, and quite a spread of food.  We had an assortment of cheeses, bread, olives, homemade hummus, and what I like to call Montana garden pizza cuz all the toppings (except for the artichokes!) came straight from the garden....
I started with my usual dough and sauce and went crazy from there.  Cauliflower, beets, Swiss chard, basil and spinach.  Some I threw on artichoke hearts and garlic stuffed olives cuz they are family favorites.  All turned out really good...I was surprised.  I like weird pizza, but wasn't sure about this as I made it.    

Now, I come back to the present, ready for another week of summer.  They are slowly slipping away.  August is usually one of the best months in Montana but I can't help thinking that by the end of it, the girls will be in school.  We have a lot of things to still cross of our summer list.  Thankfully, Amy helped us with that today with an impromptu invitation to the splash park.  When she called and said we should join them, we left lunch dishes where they were, threw on suits and were there in ten minutes so the kids could cool off in the water and Amy and I could catch up on our how our weekends were.  It's the kind of non-stop conversation that happens when you haven't seen your best friend in 5 whole days. 

The Sweet Pea Festival is this week...a longtime favorite of mine and I look forward to it.  One more of the reasons to gush about summer in Montana.  

Hope your week is happy..

Monday, July 23, 2012

Swim, Eat, Sleep, Repeat.

Our weekends, especially those that we spend camping, are a happy repetition of activities.  We load up the car & camper, head to the mountains, set up camp, eat, splash in the water, eat some more, make s'mores (still eating), sleep and then repeat it the next day. This a cycle that I am happy to do most weekends of the entire summer.  We set out this weekend to do just that, however, do to the fire restrictions had to modify our plans slightly.  I was really wanting to go up to our favorite camping spot...it's secluded and quiet and I was so excited.  But, with poor Montana burning up you can't have a campfire unless it's in a designated campground and that's not what we were wanting to do.  After the initial disappointment of this realization, I thought you gotta just make lemonade out of lemons and we'd make the best of it.  Matt suggested we still go up to our favorite spot, spend the day, have a picnic and then on the way back stay at my parents river house where we could have a fire and just camp there.  It was a good suggestion.

After the rough ride through the bumpy mountain road we arrived to the perfect camp spot, that as soon as the fire restrictions are lifted we will be returning to for longer then an afternoon.  The girls splashed in the stream, built a beautiful dam complete with wildflowers, took a little hike, had a picnic and just enjoyed the art of nothingness.  One of the reasons I love it so up here is there is no cell service.  You are completely disconnected from the world and it is blissful.


Then it was off to the river so we could actually have a campfire.  If you can't stay in the mountains, the river is a pretty good second place.  Everyone was tired from our day in the sun so after we filled our bellies with fish tacos and peach salsa (I made my mango salsa, but used peaches instead of mangoes....may be even better this way), had some s'mores and crashed out.  

The next day was hot.  Like very first thing in the morning hot.  A day best spent being in water more than out of it.  While I cooked breakfast Matt and the girls headed to where we would spend the majority of the day.


The water felt like bath water and the river low and calm.  We swam, ate breakfast, swam, ate lunch and then went in for a final swim.  Just as we were thinking of getting ready to head home, my parents showed up.  The perfect excuse to stay in the water for longer.  My mom said it best as we each sat in a chair, pushed into the river, beer in hand, the girls swimming back and forth between us..."this is rough."  Yea, we had it good.  Best part of leaving much later then planned?  Picking up pizza on the way home so I didn't have to cook.  (And a quiet ride home as two very tired crashed the minute they got in their seats)

I went back to cooking today now that we're home.  Dinner tonight was all about summer...
Here's the recipes...
Greek Pasta Salad:
-In a large bowl whisk together 2 cloves of minced garlic, juice of one lemon, 1/4 cup olive oil and s&p
-Add chopped tomatoes, kalamata olives, feta cheese and orzo pasta (cooked, drained and rinsed in cold water)  I also added some fresh shelled peas  because we had them from our CSA share and they added some nice color
-Chill until ready to serve to let the flavors blend

Roasted Beets & Potatoes
I am not a beets fan, but we get a ton of them each year from our CSA share.  I finally found a way that I like them and everyone in my family gobbles them up this way (even my picky Ava eater)
-Chop potatoes and beets (remove skin) and make a layer of them on a sheet of oiled tin foil.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with some fresh herbs.  I usually use basil, sage and chives because that is what is growing at my house.  Add some minced garlic and chopped onion.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Add a top layer of foil and tightly seal it.  Cook over a hot grill for 45 min-to 1 hour.  Oh, so good!

Hummus & Artichoke Sandwich
-Slice ciabatta bread and spread a nice layer of hummus on one side
-Layer with artichoke hearts, tomatoes, spinach and cheese (I used a sharp white cheddar) 

It was all very fresh, colorful and a fantastic summer meal.  This week is already in full swing.  We are having a fundraiser for my sister this week and I am in full on party planning mode.  I love throwing a party and this one is even sweeter because the end result will benefit my sis and her family.  More to come on this.

Enjoy your last week of July!!!  (Summer, you can slow down now please!)

Friday, July 20, 2012

End of the Week Happies...


I know "happies" may not be a real word, but it's what I'm going to use to list as things that I've been loving this week.  I can't seem to form a real theme of writing this evening but have the itch to write so here it goes.

1.  Family Hike.  Sunday I was really wanting to get out into my mountains so we loaded up the girls and headed out.  This was a great hike for two reasons...it was beautiful and the girls loved it and we found the trail to get to Saddle Peak.  Last year on our anniversary we tried to get to Saddle Peak from the other side of the Bridgers with no success.  It's been bugging me ever since because rarely do we not make it to the top when we set out for a hike.  Now that we know a better way to get there we are going to "bag" that peak as true mountaineers or just tourists say.  (I've never said it, but heard other people use it...I just say we got to the top yippee!)  
  
2.  Afternoon at the park with friends.  An old friend was in town so Amy and I gathered the kiddos and met up with her and her two little boys for an afternoon of children playing and us catching up.  We get to see her about once a year and we just fall right back into rhythm.  The park we were at has a stream so Amy brought some intertubes and we spent a good chunk of the day sending giggling kiddos down the stream.  At first there were a couple tears as everyone tried to figure it out…but it didn't take long and they were all pros.  Next thing you know, 4 hours had passed and we said our good byes.  I left feeling very fulfilled after a day of girl talk and happy little sun-kissed girls

2.  Ice Cream before Dinner!  Once we were home Ava was playing outside and kept insisting that she heard the ice cream truck.  She ran for her piggy bank, grabbed her little sister and we headed out to the front porch to see if it would come down our street.  After patiently waiting for about 15 minutes I told the girls we'd still listen, but it was time to come inside and get dinner going.  Around 10 minutes later, Ava was running back out front again and this time we saw the teal truck slowly making its way down the street.  What an end to such a perfect summer afternoon…ice cream on the front porch before dinner.  I didn't even care when they just picked at their dinner…you only live once right?

3.  The house all to myself.  I need to preface this with how much I love my husband, however….once in awhile I really enjoy having the house All. To. Myself  (Two sleeping girls don't count).  He was only gone for one night so I didn't  have to miss him for long.  I put tired girls to bed early, filled up a big bowl of ice cream (with coffee and one of the to die for sea salt brownies I made the other night), and watched trash TV all by myself.  Now, I do the exact same thing many nights when Matt is here, but once in awhile it feels nice to have it alone.  I usually stay up late and watch one of the Sex and The City movie's for the umpteenth time
4.  A snuggly baby girl in my bed.  Ever since I let Ava sleep with me one night when Matt was gone it is the first thing she asks.  She comes up to me all shy like asking if she can sleep with me.  It's too adorable to resist and I love listening to my first born breath as she sleeps.  At first the selfish part of me wants to say no so I can have the whole bed to myself, but the sentimental part of me kicks the jealous part's butt pretty quick and I realize that these moments that she wants something like this will not last forever and I would be a fool to let them slip by.  Little miss independent Layla has never had this same request.  I have to take what I can get
5.   A New Book!!  I have recently finished the second of the Hunger Games books  so I immediately put the third one on hold at our local library.  I was ready for a long wait because sometimes it can take months to get a popular book there.  Well, it was my lucky day cuz they called me two days later that it was in so now I am totally engrossed in Mockingjay.  I never got into Harry Potter or the Twilight series, but for some reason got totally hooked on Hunger Games
6.  Friday afternoon pool party with the cousins.  Now that my little sis is back I wanted to take full advantage of a beautiful afternoon.  We put up the big pool and both my sisters and kids came over for some fun in the sun.  These kids played in the pool for 5 straight hours, I kid you not!!  When they finally emerged, they were pruny little things.  They splashed so much that at one point we had to refill the pool...it was crazy.  They only stopped once for a snack then right back in.  Through all of this we got some sister time which always mean laughter and good times.  
7.  Date Night.  We kinda got jipped on date night last week and with Matt being gone earlier this week, I'm looking forward to catching up.  I wasn't feeling overly creative when trying to decide what to cook for it so I went for reliable pasta with spaghetti sauce.  Really, with homemade pasta you could put any sauce on it and it would be good...
So there you have it.  I was thinking of adding 3 more to make it a nice even 10 things on the list, but I got sauce to make and a glass of wine to enjoy.  
Happy Weekend.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Family.


 I come from a very tight knit family.  These last couple months with everything going on with my sister it has gotten even tighter.  When things go wrong, we rally.  We pick up the pieces that need to be.  I am happy that I can be here to help when help is needed and take comfort in knowing the support is there if I need it.  We have all been spending a lot of time together...not just because of my sister being sick, but also because of birthday parties and other summer time things.  There have been times recently where I feel like I've overdosed slightly on all this family time and have wanted to make sure to keep a balance of time with extended family and time with our little family of four.  I feel a little guilty for those thoughts at times, but know they are normal and that we all probably feel it occasionally.  I feel so fortunate to have such a great relationship with my sisters and parents and that we all get along so well.  And, the kids just fall right into that.  Yesterday we took advantage of even more family by getting together with aunts, cousins, second cousins and grandparents.  My one aunt, who owns a dairy farm invited us all out to spend an afternoon at the farm.  Boy, did we have a fun afternoon.  Horseback riding, seeing the baby cows, kittens and watching the dairy cows get milked.  At one point I sat back and looked at the generations…my grandma, my mom, my girls…then add to that aunts, cousins and my cousins kids.  The farm is a place that holds a lot of my childhood memories.  As much time as my kiddos spend with my sister and her family is what we did with these cousins.  Hours running around that farm, sleepovers and just so many fond memories.  It feels full circle bringing the girls back there and watching them experience it.  It's funny, we all live in the same town but don't get to see each other all that often.  As we've all grown and started are own families, it just doesn't happen.  When it finally comes together on a day like yesterday, you take advantage.  It made me think even more of this family concept and how lucky I am to have all this.  It doesn't matter that we don't see each other often, we have that common connection and that alone bonds us all.

Ava has a love of horses that began last year when she got to ride a pony at a birthday party.  Yesterday she graduated from ponies to a horse....

The first loop around she was a little nervous.  All the kiddos were...everyone was a little unsure.  As soon as they all had one time, they were hooked and all smiles the second time.  It was fun to see the difference of our kids and my cousins kids who are growing up on the farm.  They jump on the horse like it's no big deal, no nervousness...it's just what they are used to.  However, it didn't take long for these guys to catch on.

The horse was fantastic and I was so happy for them to get this experience.  After the kids were done, my aunt asked if any adults wanted a ride.  Well, if given the opportunity for a horse ride I say you have to take it, so that's exactly what I did.  I have ridden horses before, when I was a kid and a couple times as an adult, but still felt a slight apprehension at jumping on.  However, it's kinda like riding a bike...once you get back on you remember.  
The horse wasn't the only thing that won over our hearts...

This little ball of love almost made it's way home with us.  I'm pretty sure if Matt was there he would not have been able to resist Ava begging to bring the kitty home.  (I'm thinking that's the only reason I ever ended up with cats, my poor dad couldn't resist a pouty girl face)  We loved on it there and reluctantly left him at the farm.  If our old cat wasn't so crabby, this kitten would have been ours.  

The part of the farm that they weren't impressed with?  The smell.  The girls didn't quite get that you can't have that many animals without some smell to go with it.  Nothing a little nose plugging couldn't help...

It was a really nice afternoon...topped off with Popsicles and lemonade and catching up with family.  I hope to get the opportunity to do it again soon.  Family is a cool thing.

Earlier this week we got the privilege of babysitting my little nephew for two whole nights.  He is at that absolutely adorable age of two and we so enjoyed having him around.  Because they have lived away from here for the past couple of years we don't get to see him nearly as much as we'd like, so we crammed a lot of fun into these few days.  Starting with cooling down in the pool....

He wasn't too sure at first...it's a pretty big pool for a little guy and he kept running and slipping and then not quite sure if he should laugh or cry.  He took cue from the girls and immediately started giggling.  The splashing and giggling continued for the next couple of hours.  

Being the aunt I find it my job to spoil my nieces and nephews so we of course ended the evening with ice cream cones and thunderstorms on the front porch.

When my older sister had her first two children I didn't have my own so I really embraced getting to be an aunt and spoiled them.  When she had her youngest two, it was at the same time I was having my own and the four littles were raised kind of as siblings.  Instead of getting to spoil them, I got to love them like they were my own kids.  That takes away from some of the spoiling, because my sister and I just became second mamas to each others babies.  I am thankful that they have her for that and I am thankful for the relationship it gives me with her kids.  Now with my little sister's son, I feel like I get to go back to my spoiling aunt duties.  
The next day we met up with Amy and her daughter Graci at Lunch on the Lawn.  It was the first one of the year...they have food vendors and live music and kids activities.  It's a fun thing to go do in the middle of the week.  It was hot.  I don't ever like to complain about the heat because we get so little of it, but out there with no shade it got to me a little.  The kids didn't seem to notice...they're good like that.  They just enjoy.



We reluctantly had to let my sister have him back...he is such a good kid, I would have totally kept him.  Now that her family is moving back I look forward to a lot more time together.  

We were going to go camping this weekend...it's been so nice getting away on the weekends.  However, neither of us was feeling overly motivated this morning to actually do it and the weather forecast threatened rain, so we decided to stick around.  Totally worked out...we went to the Farmer's market and scored the coolest vintage dresser for our room...

 We've been looking for new furniture but decided we only wanted to get something that kinda spoke to us, not just something from a furniture store.  We have slowly been accumulating things.  Now we just have one more piece to replace in our room and we will have successfully gotten rid of all the hand me down furniture we have used over the use.  We'll officially be grown ups.  The other perk of staying home is tonight we get to have Amy and Chad and the kiddos over for a bar-b-q. We take advantage of the summer months of getting to see a lot of them and I am looking forward to it.  It kinda brings the family concept full circle.  Not only are we lucky to have such a close family, we also get to have friends who are like family to us.  Amy and I met in the 6th grade and that was it, I'd found my best friend and she has stayed securely in that spot since. We met Matt and Chad in college and the rest is history.  Through all the years, even when we haven't lived in the same city we've always stayed close.  It was amazing when Amy and I found out we were pregnant at the same time with our first babies and we have just meshed them all together.  They say friends are the family you get to pick and we picked us some good ones.
Last night we didn't get to do our usual date night because it is birthday season in my family so we had our second birthday party of the week to attend.  We both really look forward to these evenings, so I didn't want to miss out completely.  I knew we'd be doing dinner at the party so I told Matt we should skip the birthday cake and I'd make a yummy dessert and we could enjoy it with some wine and a little backyard fire.  We've been having a lot of ice cream and fruity desserts and I was having a chocolate craving like nobodies business.  Little sea salt brownie bites took care of that...

They were rich and ooey, gooey delicious...perfect compliment to a glass of red wine.  It's like the two were meant for each other really.  Here's the recipe...
Sea Salt Brownie Bites
-Pre-heat oven to 325-degrees and grease around 36 mini-muffin tins.  
-In a dutch oven or heat proof bowl sitting over simmering water, melt 2 sticks of butter.  Once it's melted stir in 2 cups of sugar, 1 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder and 5 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate (at least 60% cocoa)  Stir until it's all melted and mixed 

Let cool.  Stir in 1/2 tsp salt & 1/2 tsp pure vanilla.  You will then need 3 eggs.  Whisk them in one at a time.  Stir in 3/4 cup cake flour.  Don't over mix.  Fill muffin tins and sprinkle with sea salt.  Cook for around 15-18 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for around 5 minutes.  Put in the freezer for around 10 minutes, then they will pop out of the tin easier but still be warm in the middle.  Try to just a eat one...bet you can't!!

Happy Weekend.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Weekend Fun & Food.

As we approach the middle of summer I feel like we haven't quite found our rhythm yet. We are having lots of fun, don't get me wrong on that...I just find myself a little out of sorts occasionally.  Maybe it's because I don't have the routine of a job schedule right now and no school/homework schedules.  We're totally free to decide each day what we should do and I guess as a person who thrives on a schedule, it's a little difficult for me.  It has been good for me to be forced to give up some control and just let things happen, but occasionally it makes me feel unsettled.  So, I have my moments of this and then we take a weekend away with just our family and everything falls right back into place and I feel content.  This was one such weekend...

One day  towards the end of the school year Ava mentioned that she wished she could see a real buffalo jump like the Native Americans used.  They were learning about it at school and as she put it "I'm very interested in how they did it"  Well...we just happen to live about 30 minutes away from a real buffalo jump, joys of living out West.  I don't think I've ever visited it, but with Ava's enthusiasm I knew it had to be on our summer to-do list.  This past weekend seemed like the perfect time to check it off the list!

It's a short hike to the bottom of the jump, or you can go around to the top.  Of course we wanted to go to the top and these girls are good little hikers so we started to head to the top to see where the buffalo actually jumped off.  Mother Nature had other ideas and  we only made it a few short feet past this sign...

The sign alone didn't scare us....the distinct sound of rattles after a few steps in is what made me decide it was not really worth it.  Rattlesnakes and Grizzly Bears...the only two things that deter me from enjoying time in the great outdoors.  (I think I'll add Mountain Lions to that list also...totally freak me out!)  So, we decided to just take the other trail to the bottom of the jump.  It was a wide trail with a lot more use so we thought it was a safer choice.   Ava was slightly disappointed we didn't make it to the top, but we still seemed to satisfy her desire to learn more about it all. 
Because the Buffalo Jump is close to my parents river house and they were on vacation we decided to take advantage of a weekend there with just us.  We had perfect weather, peace and quiet and just a splendid weekend there. 

There wasn't a moment that went by that I didn't feel happy.  There were a few that made me especially smile.  Starting with Ava hitching rides on Sadi in the water...


Also on the top of my happy list, a late night swim in the rain.  It started raining so we decided to take a little drive down to where the river is dammed and there is a small reservoir.  The lightning had stopped and I joked about swimming.  Next thing I know Matt was diving in.  Not to be out done I had to do the same.  At this point the girls were looking at us like we were slightly crazy so we grabbed them, pulled them in and swam in the rain.  Lots of giggles ensued and what I hope to be a lasting family memory from their childhoods.

And, the last thing that really made my heart swell?  The sisterly moments that I keep catching...

Seeing their relationship blossom from baby and toddler to big sister and little sister has been truly amazing.  They still have their fair share of fights, but this summer has mostly been lots of playing, giggles, secrets and love.  Every morning they wake up and instantly are playing...lost in their world of make believe.  They play for hours and even if I try, I can't quite seem to fit into this world of theirs.  I love hearing them whisper something to one another and then laugh hysterically...and when I ask what's so funny I get big smiles and the word "nothing"  It is for them alone to share and I love that they have that.     When one is sad, the other (usually!) tries to make her smile.  The bonds they are forming will be life long and I look forward to watching it grow.  Having two of my own incredible sisters I know how precious these relationships are.  I know there will continue to be moments when they don't get along.  Fights will change from who gets to hold my hand to someone not sharing a new shirt, but none of that will matter...these moments and memories that are building now will keep them strong enough forever.  

I'm not quite sure how to transition from the weekend into food, so I'll just do it randomly.  Summer always inspires me to want to cook with lots of color and fresh vegetables.  Food and seasons to me go hand in hand.  Fall means apple pie and chili, Winter lots of soups and pastas, Spring marks the beginning of bar-b-q and Summer is all about fresh vegetables and beautiful, colorful food & often seafood.  Our last two date night meals were the perfect summer meals, made even better by being eaten on our porch as the sun was setting.  First...baked mozzarella and open face tuna sandwhiches...
Baked Mozzarella
-Drizzle a baking stone or dish with olive oil.  Layer fresh sliced mozzarella, fresh sliced tomatoes and fresh sliced basil.  Drizzle a little more olive oil on top, sprinkle with pepper and sea salt and some minced garlic.  Cook for around 30 minutes at 400-degrees until bubbly.
-For this one I added some sliced potatoes (first I boiled the sliced potatoes for around 5 minutes, then drain) in the layering.  We had some fresh ones so I thought I'd throw them in.  Very nice addition.

Open Face Tuna Sandwich
-Drizzle olive oil on tuna, season with s&p and some dried herbs (basil & oregeno).  Cook on a hot grill, just a few minutes on each side to rare to medium rare
-Slice some ciabbata, drizzle with a bit of olive oil, lay some sliced white cheddar cheese on top, then some spinach or arugula on top of that.  Broil until cheese is melted.  Tuna goes on top of that once it's cooked
-For the sauce:  Mix 1 cup mayo with some salt and pepper and around 1/2 cup of diced sweet pickles.  Dollop on top of the tuna sandwich

That was last week...this week I went in a totally different direction.  Mediterranean nachos & quinoa stuffed peppers...

Matt LOVED the nachos, he said he gave them 5 stars...I didn't even know I had a rating system.  I would have to agree with him though, they were fantastic.  And the perfect companion to the quinoa stuffed peppers.

Mediterranean Nachos
Layer a skillet with pita chips.  Drop spoonfuls of hummus on top evenly.  Toss sliced tomatoes, kalamata olives and peppercinis on top.  Add some shredded mozzarella cheese.  Bake at 350-degrees for 15 to 20 minutes.
Enjoy...they are SO good!!

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers
-Around 1 cup prepared quinoa (Prepared quinoa-Soak 1 cup quinoa for around 20 minutes, then drain.  Mix it with a combination of fresh squeezed OJ and veggie broth...to make 1 and 1/4 cup total and around a tablespoon of orange zest.  Bring to boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 35 minutes.  Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes.  Spread it out on a cookie sheet to cool completely before adding to veggies)
-2 to 3 red or orange bell peppers...tops sliced off and remove seeds
-Chopped red onion (around 3/4 cup)
-1/2 cup chopped carrots, 1/2 cup chopped snap peas, a couple handfuls of fresh spinach
-1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
-1 tsp cinnamon
-1/4 tsp cumin
-1/2 cup cashews, chopped
Heat some olive oil in a skillet and cook onion for around 5-7 minutes.  Add carrots, peas and cook until soft (around 8 min).  Add basil and spinach.  When the spinach starts to wilt stir in cinnamon, cumin and quinoa until combined.  Add some salt and pepper and the cashews...cook for a couple minutes, remove from heat and let cool slightly
-Stuff the mixture into the peppers, replace the top and place in an oven safe pan that has been slightly greased.  Cover the pan/dish tightly with aluminum foil.  Cook in a 350-degree oven for around 45 minutes.  

Tomorrow we get our next vegetable share from our CSA so I'm sure to be inspired by more colors and flavors for food this upcoming week.  There has also been very exciting news in my family with my little sis moving back to town with her hubby and baby.  In fact...my nephew got to spend the night tonight and he, as well as the girls, are totally crashed out after an afternoon of playing in the pool.  More to come on this for sure, but I am so happy to have them back here again.  Now the littlest little can join the gang.  

Have a happy week!

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Fourth of July...



A day to celebrate America's independence.  For me it is a day to celebrate with friends and family.  It means bar-b-q's, boat rides and fireworks.  Red, white and blue.  For our Fourth this year we did all of it.  At first I felt like I had over extended ourselves…planned a little too much for just one little day in the middle of the week.  I thought about backing out of some of our plans, and then I decided…hey, we can do it all…it's 4th of July.  So we did and it was splendid.  We may have crashed out hard at the end of it all, but it was worth it.  We began this day at the river.  My parents have always had a place at a lake nearby and recently sold it so my dad could fulfill his life long dream of a house at the river.  I wasn't to sure about this at first, having always had a love of going to the lake.  However, this place which isn't even finished, has not disappointed.  



It was a gorgeous day…hot, sunny and not a cloud in the sky.  Perfect day for a boat ride on the river and that's just what we did.  There is just something to me about riding in the front of the boat, the water splashing around you and flying over the water.  Add a sweet little girl full of smiles on my lap and an ice cold beer in my hand and you have one happy lady.  After a boat ride we made it back to the house and to every one's delight my sister and her family were there.  Seeing my sister out of the house and with all of us on a holiday just made my heart happy.  She looked beautiful in her floppy sun hat and a smile on her face looking out at the river.  

After all they have been through, they deserved a day away.    My brother in-law just wrote about his experience with all of this on their blog, it was heartbreaking...you can read it HERE.  It is just such a raw and honest account of what he and they are going through.  It was tough for me to read because it took me back to those scary days, but I got through it and it is beautifully written.

Anyways...got off on a side note there!!  The kiddos and I splashed in the water to cool down and then we somewhat reluctantly got out to get ready to leave to head on to our next festivities.  
It was kind of a bummer to leave my family just as they were getting ready to bar-b-q…but we had plans with Amy & Chad for our own bar-b-q and as soon as we arrived I was so happy to be continuing our celebration with our other family.  These guys have the best back yard for hanging out in…it just feels cool and relaxing and the kids just run off to play and the adults are left to just chill.  We chowed on veggie burgers...(Recipe for this one, at the bottom!)


They had set up a badmitten net so after the kiddos played a bit, we had our own match…boys against girls.  I'm sad to say that even with all the cheering and us playing our little hearts our, we lost to Matt and Chad.  Oh, well…there's always next time.  
By this time of the evening it was time to go rescue our poor puppy who is deathly afraid of fireworks and head out of town.  We often spend the fourth camping to escape the war-zone type noise of all the fireworks in town, however, this year it was in the middle of the week so that wasn't really an option.  Fortunately…Matt's parents had just left for vacation and graciously offered us their house to get away from the noise.  Let me tell you…it's kinda like staying at a five star resort.  A five star resort with a well stocked fridge.  They live a little out of town in a very nice neighborhood with gorgeous mountain views.  We got here and just felt an instant calm.  The girls jammied up, got all ready for bed and then we all sat on the porch and watched fireworks from Bozeman and Belgrade below us….all the beautiful lights with just a slight hint of the booming that accompanies it.  The girls didn't really care that we weren't right there in the midst of it…they oohed and awed and enjoyed the show.  

The grand finale was watching the bright orange moon (due to all the wild fires) slowly make its appearance over the Bridger mountains.  It was breathtaking to say the least.  We tucked tired babies into bed and fell asleep ourselves to the sounds of crickets instead of noisy neighbors and loud fireworks.  

The next morning I got up early to do my morning run.  Talk about feeling good to change things up.  It always feels great the first outside run of the year, but that's been the same for awhile now.  It felt good to change it up again with a run outside but in a different location.  It was so peaceful with absolutely no one (not even a car) around.  I'm used to running in town, watching out for other runners and cars on their morning commute.  This time I was just on the look out for rattlesnakes on the road warming themselves up in the morning sun.  (Thank Goodness I didn't see any!!)  I thought a lot on my run that morning about the story of the Country Mouse and the City Mouse.  I used to love the book as a kid and now as an adult can't quite figure out which one I relate to more.  I love the hustle and bustle of city life.  Not that we live in a big city, but we live right in town where we can walk the kids to school, walk to the grocery store, take the city bus to anywhere in town and have a constant noise of traffic and sirens.  I like that we have neighbors that we visit with in the front yard, friends just a hop skip and jump away and going anywhere doesn't have to be a production.  That being said…I also totally relate to the country mouse because that's exactly how I grew up.  We lived out where our neighbors were too far away to get to know, our backyard playground consisted of an old barn and acres of empty fields (which did amazing things for our imaginations), and the only noise you heard at night was the mooing of my Grandpa's cows.  Spending the last couple nights at my in-laws house has taken me back to that tranquil place of being away from it all.  It gives me a sense of calm and peace and I enjoy the quiet of it all.  I don't know which mouse was right…I'm certain there is a place right in between.  All I know, is I truly enjoyed that thirty minutes of my feet hitting the pavement, the delicious smell of the country air and running in the wide open space.  I think that is why I yearn to get in the mountains so much this time of year…I think it's my way of feeding the country mouse in me…getting out for a hike or camping every weekend possible.  Then…the city mouse returns after a hot shower to clean off the mountain dirt and wants to order a pizza that will be delivered in 15 minutes or less.  I guess I'm pretty lucky to get the best of both worlds.  

So, it was a lovely week indeed, especially with a holiday stuck right in the middle of it.  We had a full day, but I think we did it up right.  Everything that signifies the 4th, we did and we got to spend it with those we love.  Who could ask for more.  Now we are approaching this weekend…and just to use the analogy one last time…the city mouse in me is going to enjoy a wonderful date night with her hubby with delicious food and wine and then I'm taking my little country mice to get the heck out of town for a weekend of camping.  

Happy belated 4th and happy weekend.  

Veggie Burgers
-Mash together 1/2 cup cooked brown rice & 1/2 cup black beans (rinsed and drained)
-In a microwave safe bowl combine 2 tbls water, 1/4 cup corn, 1/4 cup finely diced carrots & 1/4 cup finely diced red pepper.  Cook in microwave for 1 minute, drain and add to rice/bean mixture.  Add 1 egg, some fresh herbs (I like chives and basil) and salt and pepper.  Stir to combine it all.  In a shallow bowl pour some bread crumbs.  With wet hands, make a ball with the veggie mix, roll in the bread crumbs and gently flatten.  Continue with all the mixture.  These are crumbly, so you have to be really gentle and use a lot of bread crumbs.  Refrigerate for at least half hour so they can stick together better.  
-Heat some olive oil in a pan and gently add the veggie burgers.  Cook a few minutes on each side to brown them.  I always add a slice of cheese...it tastes good and helps it stick.  
-Put on a bun and serve just like a hamburger...with all the fixins!!
Enjoy!!