Wednesday, August 29, 2012

School Days and Cherry Pie

Ava started back at school today.  

While I always feel so proud watching her growing independence as she runs off happily with friends she hasn't seen all summer, I also feel sad.  All day I felt like a little piece of me was missing.  I got the opportunity to stay home all summer with my girls.  That meant every single day, less a few here and there, I got to be with them.  I got used to it and so today just felt half empty.  I like having her around to boss around her little sister, help me cook or just randomly come up and ask for a hug with a big ol smile.  (That last one there just melts me every matter what I'm in the middle of)  She's a big second grader now, so the anticipation of a new school year is much less than it has been in the past.  She wasn't excited to go back to school because she said she didn't want summer to end, but she also wasn't nervous about it.  As soon as she started seeing old friends she was all about it.  I thought of her a lot through out the day...wondering what she was doing, if she was having a good day.  I eagerly waited to see her face as kids came streaming out of the classrooms and was happy to see a smile of her face and the confirmation that her teacher was "super nice"  She also was eager to tell me..."My teacher is 28 and isn't even married"  It was pretty funny...I guess when you're seven, that must seem pretty old.  On our walk home we settled back into our routine of talking about our days apart as I asked every question imaginable to try to drag out all the parts of her day so I didn't just get "my day was good"  I felt complete again with both girls by my side.  

Next week there will be another piece of me missing when Layla starts Kindergarten.  Oh my, I am so not ready for that.  The one thing about today was I still had my littlest baby girl with me.  It was much easier hugging Ava goodbye and then turning and grabbing Layla's hand for our walk home.  It's what we do.  We drop off Ava and then spend the ten minute walk home playing "I Spy" or "What Am I?"  What am I gonna do next week when I have to walk home all by my lonesome???  It doesn't seem quite right...we raise these little babies and get them for five short years and then they are off to school.  Spending more time with teachers and friends than with us.  I know, I's the way it's supposed to be and I should feel so happy that we have raised them to be such happy, independent good kids who want to go to school.  However, I tend to be a little selfish when it comes to my girls and so right now I'm sulking a bit about the whole thing.  Since I can't even begin to think about how next week will feel I'll go onto other things for now.  Little Miss Layla is so ready to start.

Layla did get to go to Kinder Orientation this morning.  She was so upset when we had to leave and wanted to know exactly how many days until she actually gets to start.  It looks as if I am the only one feeling apprehensive about this Kindergarten thing.  For that, I am glad.  I would much rather be the one feeling nervous and sad about it and for her to only feel excitement.

As if school wasn't enough of an abrupt end to summer lazieness, the girls also both started soccer this week.  Layla had her first practice yesterday and she was all about it.  It just goes to show the difference between the girls.  Last year Ava said we "forced" her into soccer and really didn't want to even try it.  However, after the very first practice she was hooked and can't wait to start again this season.  We didn't even ask Layla if she wanted to do soccer, she asked us if she could.  Last night she laced up her cleats, grabbed her soccer ball and lead all of us to her practice.

She just got after it...running around, kicking that ball.  Taking her to her first day of soccer doesn't make me feel sad like first days of school.  I think it's because you're allowed to stay and watch it all go on, while teachers frown upon parents lurking in the back of the class room.  (something I've never done by the way...)  Ava spent the practice rolling up and down the hill.  Kids help remind you that it is the simple pleasures in life...

Ava starts her soccer tomorrow...I never really imagined I'd have two little girls in soccer.  I thought more two little girls in leotards or with pom poms.  I guess I'm officially a soccer mom now.  I can dig it...little shin guards and cleats are totally adorable.

One of my favorite things to do last year with Layla while Ava was at school was to cook with her.  During the summer, she is way too busy playing with her sister to be bothered to help, so today I thought I should take advantage of these three short days I get with just Layla.  And, because of the horrible smoke that has settled into our valley we couldn't really play outside anyways.  What's the best thing to do if you're stuck indoors?  Bake!  I've been wanting to bake a cherry pie with all these delicious Flathead cherries that are in season and I just happened to have a big bag full of them.  We put on aprons, cranked on some music and got to baking.

Oh, it was so good.  By far my favorite flavor of any pie.  I know apple pie is all American and there will be plenty of that as fall comes along, but nothing beats cherry.  I think it's because even though it's a pie which feels wintery to me, it tastes an awful lot like summer.

Now it is time to go to bed because in the morning there is a little girl to get up and ready for school.  And, I have a couple more days to soak up some time with Layla.  This weekend we plan to go to the river for a last camping hoorah.  Hopefully all this smoke will clear so we can go splash in the water, eat junk food and officially kiss summer goodbye.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

One Dozen.

Yesterday Matt and I celebrated our 12 year wedding anniversary.  One dozen years that we've been married.  That makes it sound like a LOT.  And, that is not counting the four years we dated before we got married.  We are approaching the point where we have spent more of our lives together than apart. That's a lot of years and I have enjoyed every day of them.  We got married young, right our of college.  The odds were against us having been married so young, but those don't mean anything to us.  We both knew from the very beginning that this was it and we've been enjoying the ride ever since.  There have been ups and downs and lots of adventures and I wouldn't have wanted to experience it with anyone else.  I could go on and on about what an amazing husband, friend and father he is.  Instead I'll just say how lucky I am to be loved by him.  Every year we make a point to really celebrate the day we were married.  Some years it means just dinner out, sometimes it's a weekend away and if it's a big one we'll even take a week away (ten years was a big one and we did it up in wine big one will be fifteen.  Not sure why I think five year increments are big ones).  This year we planned on sticking around town and doing a bit of a "staycation"  Send the girls to Grandma's, take a big hike, go out to a nice dinner and just keep it low key.  We considered cancelling when my sister had to make another trip to the hospital that morning.  However, she told my younger sister to tell me not to freak out and to go out and enjoy our day.  Well...I'm not one to argue with my big sister so I said a little prayer for her and we went about our day.  Knowing that if anything changed with her situation we were close by.  

For our anniversary last year we planned a hike to do Saddle Peak in the Bridgers.  There are five big peaks in the Bridger range and we plan on reaching them all.  Saddle Peak would be our third.  It didn't happen last year because we didn't take the right trail so this year we thought we'd try again...

We underestimated this hike...thinking it would be an easy jaunt up the mountain.  Yea, it was a little more than that.  An hour in we finally could see the peak and I kept thinking...that can't be it, it's got to be closer than that.  Well, it wasn't and as we finally got to the base of the peak I didn't think I'd have it in me to get to the top.  But, we are a good team and with some motivation from Matt we scrambled over some scary rocks as we went straight up to the peak.  (I have a slight fear of heights when we get up this high)  I was ready to give up a couple times and am so thankful Matt didn't let me.  We're a good team...helping the other when one is down and because of that we found ourselves at the peak overlooking Bozeman and the incredible views of the Bridger range that look so different when you are looking down at it than just at it from town.  
After taking in the view we decided to get off the windy mountain top and figure out how we were going to maneuver down all the rocks we had climbed up.  That part is never as easy, but we slowly made our way down and kept commenting on how crazy we were to have climbed up this.  As the mountain got further away and looked more daunting we couldn't believe we made it to the top.  That feeling of accomplishment is probably my favorite part of hiking.  When I can look at the peak that seems so high up and know that I stood on the top of it, it's one of the coolest feelings ever.  

One of my favorite things about Matt and I is that we can be hiking one minute and then go home, spiff up and hit the town the next.  This is just what we did...after refueling with a huge and well deserved lunch, we cleaned up and hopped on the bus to head downtown for the evening.  First stop...the Bozeman Brewing Company for some ice cold beer.

I love the laid back feel of this place.  They have recently redone the inside, so it looks a little different, but the vibe is the same.  Great beer, good music and happy people.  After some sampling we strolled downtown to another of our favorites places...Dave's Sushi.  Here's what I love about this place.  It is nothing fancy.  In all the years we have gone there, the decor has stayed the same, the seating is limited, the waitstaff are so friendly and they all just got done with a day hitting the slopes (which in the winter, probably have)  Even when sushi got trendy, this place didn't.  It's a hole in the wall type place where the food speaks for itself.  The type of place that is worth the long wait that often happens because anyone who has been there becomes a loyal fan that will frequent often.  We got lucky that night because there happened to be a place up at the bar so we took that.  In all our years going there we've never sat up at the bar and it was a cool experience to get to watch them make the sushi and talk to the chefs.  (doesn't hurt that it's a good way to get a couple complimentary pieces just to try)  We hadn't been there all summer and oh, it did not disappoint.  I'm a creature of habit so I had my standby...shrimp noodle bowl and spicy hamachi.  Matt, the more adventurous one had our server bring their favorite and I don't remember what it was but it was good.  I find myself leaving Dave's, just thinking about when we'll be back next time.  The other joy of sushi dinner?  It is light so there is ALWAYS room for dessert.  We headed to Plonk for a glass of wine, flourless chocolate cake and some people watching which that place is always good for.  Even though we had no babies at home to rush home too at this point, we were exhausted from our days activities, so hopped back on the bus and headed home.  It's weird to be at your own house without kiddos and I was sad not to be able to kiss them good night, but I got over that quick when we got to sleep in the next morning.  Our anniversary was over at this point, but we weren't quite done...we decided to take full advantage of kids at grandma's and went back downtown for some breakfast.  (no cooking for me this weekend!)  Nova Cafe it was...a great little place that serves such creative food that just totally works and they strive to use only local ingredients.  Who would think crab cake eggs Benedict would be good?  Or pesto in an omelet?  They just make everything they do work and it was a perfect summer morning sitting outside enjoying their amazing dishes.  It totally hit the spot.

Then it was time to pick up our babies.  Perfect staycation with my hubby.  Here's to a dozen more baby.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Wrapping Up Summer...

Awwww....summer as we know it is coming to an end.  I know it doesn't officially end until September 21st, but in my world the start of school marks the end of summer.  Even the local swimming pool has closed for the year and I am finding August to feel more fall like this year than summers past.  The days have still been warm, but the shorter days and cooler nights all scream fall to me in loud capital letters and I am not ready.  I want more long summer days that stretch into the evening, when I'm going to bed before the sun has fully set. I want days of no schedule where impromptu park trips are the norm. I want nights when I don't worry what time the kids go to bed because they can sleep in the next morning and stay in pj's all day if they want and I am not ready to trade flip flops for boots and shorts for jeans.  No, I most certainly am not.  We have 5 days until Ava has her first day of school and 11 until Layla does.  There is a small part of me when the girls are fighting for the hundredth time of the day that I can't wait for school start, but it passes quickly and I go right back to wanting to hold onto summer for dear life.  But, what are you gonna do?  Time keeps on going even if you want it to slow down.  Seasons change and all you can do is go with it and enjoy the moments you have while you are in them.  So that is what we've been doing this past week...wrapping up our last bits of summer vacation.  

Last weekend Matt had a friend visiting from Michigan so it was just the girls and I for most of it.  We did, however, get my little cutey nephew for the night...

It was my sister's birthday so we got her little boy for the weekend.  Oh, how my girls love on this little guy.  They are so nurturing with him and I see little mama's in training when he's around.  With an extra kiddo we ended up sticking closer to home and it was very laid back.  After a summer of very busy weekends, this slower pace was welcome.  No plans...just kids playing and enjoying our own backyard.  The girls and I did spend the first part Saturday at the river.  We weren't getting Jacob until later in the afternoon and 
Matt and his friend were heading up to the river to float.  I knew we couldn't be there for long, but three hours at the river on a beautiful summer day is worth every second.  And, the quiet drive home with two sleeping girls and me rocking out to my music was the icing on the cake.  

After both Jacob and our company left, the house felt quiet.  That is always nice for a little bit, but then we were ready for some noise.  Best way to make some noise....have a pool party!  Kori and the kiddos came over for what I am sad to say was probably the last pool party of the summer.  The kids took full advantage and splashed for hours.  It amazes me how much time they can spend in a small pool.  The funniest thing was, at the last party their older cousin, Jaelyn taught them how to play "Marco-Polo" so this time that is what they spent all their time doing.  All Kori and I could hear was a lot of giggling, splashing and yelling of "Marco?"   "Polo!!"  I don't remember playing this game as a kid, but these guys totally dig it.

Later in the week we had more visitors from Michigan in town.  Matt's beautiful cousin and family were here in Bozeman for a couple of days.  It was great having them here and we got to show off our town since it was their first visit.  I love getting to show all that our Bozeman has to makes me appreciate it here even more.  The first day we left the little kids with Grandma and took them on a hike to Storm Castle.  It is one of my favorites and one we haven't done for a couple years.  It's not a real long hike, but it gains elevation fast and the views from the top are breathtaking.  You can still see the Gallatin River and cars below, but they all look very small.  Makes you realize how small we all are in this big world.  There is nothing like the feeling of sitting on top of the mountain after a big hike up.  It makes me feel strong, happy and so peaceful.

About half way down any hike we go on my mind quickly turns to food.  I start imagining what I am going to have when we get done.  This gets me down the mountain even faster and we quickly gathered up the kids and grandparents and headed downtown to what I think is the best outdoor seating in Bozeman...The Garage.  Soon we were all sitting in the shade, cold beers in hand, happy kids with coloring books patiently waiting for our food.  Even though we weren't the ones on vacation, you can't help but feel a little like you are when you are with people vacationing.  That and the fact that we were having lunch and beers at 3 pm on a Wednesday afternoon.  After lunch, we took them for a stroll through our downtown...going in and out of stores and picking up some food to cook for dinner.  (Even though I don't think one of us was the slightest bit hungry at this point)  We got some beautiful Red Snapper and it was one of the most delicious things I've eaten.  Not only did it taste good, but it was so pretty.  I wasn't the cook for this so I can't take credit...Matt's cousin's husband prepared it.  It was a mustard/white wine sauce and then topped with grape tomatoes, yellow squash, onions, carrots, garlic, lemon, sage and basil.  I wanted to take a picture like I usually do when we're cooking something so beautiful, however...I didn't want to be the crazy lady taking pictures of food so you'll just have to picture it in your mind.  We had that with roasted potatoes and beets and enjoyed it all in on our back patio with wine while the sun went down.  Perfect end to a really wonderful day.  Unfortunately the next day, Matt had to work and we only had a little time to show them some more.  We packed up some lunch and headed up Hyalite to the Reservoir.  I know Hyalite gets a little busy this time of year with visitors and it is so not like it used to be when you could go and have the whole place to yourself...but it easy to get to and a great representation of our beautiful home.  It didn't disappoint.  We didn't have much time, but we got to swim in the cold water and get in one last visit before his family had to leave town.

Guess what else we did this week?  We made our first zucchini cookies of the summer...
I've said it before...this time of year I put zucchini in EVERYTHING.  You add some dark chocolate and lemon zest and these little babies don't last long.  (Recipe at the end!)

Also this week?  We got Layla her cleats and shin guards for the upcoming soccer season and this girl is ready to rock it.  Layla didn't do soccer last year when Ava did because she was in ballet.  However, this year she told us she wanted to do soccer instead.  The dance mom (not in the cheesy tv show way, in the used to dance and loved it so much way) in me was sad that she didn't want to do ballet anymore.  However, I believe strongly in letting them choose their extra curricular activities so we traded in ballet slippers for cleats.  Both girls will be doing it, so there will be many soccer games these next months.  I look forward to it.

Tomorrow will be the last day of our full week of summer vacation...we will spend it with a final picnic at the park with Amy and the kiddos.  On Monday, Amy has to go back to work and get her classroom ready for the year and I will lose my summer play friend.  I can't complain, it's good having a teacher friend so you can have summers with them. We'll spend the evening at the annual "Story Under the Stars"  where they play a movie at the Story Mansion outside under the clear skies.  We've taken the girls the last couple years and it has become a nice tradition.  We never make it more than half the movie before tired girls need to go home and get tucked in.  That's's more the idea of watching a movie and eating popcorn outside than the actual movie that is the fun part.  

The weekend will be full of celebrating.  Matt and I have our twelve year anniversary.  Twelve years!!  That's crazy.  I feel so lucky to have spent the last dozen years with my best friend...but more gushing on that later.  In the meantime, I leave you with the best zucchini cookie recipe and wishes for a happy weekend.

Chocolate, Lemon, Zucchini Cookies
-1/2 cup butter, softened
-1 cup sugar
-1 egg
-1 cup shredded zucchini
-1 1/2 tsp lemon peel (grated)
-2 cups flour
-1 tsp baking soda
-1 tsp baking powder
-1 tsp cinnamon
-1/2 tsp salt
-1 cup dark chocolate chips (You can use milk or semi-sweet, I just prefer dark)
Cream butter and sugar.  Beat in egg, zucchini and lemon peel.  In a separate bowl combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.  Slowly add to creamed mixture.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Drop spoonfuls onto a lightly greased cookie sheet.  cook in a 375-degree oven for 9-10 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack.  Enjoy!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

My Girls and Fresh Veggies

Since my last post had very little to do with my ladies, I thought I'd make up for it now.  
To start, a conversation I overheard this week:
Ava:  (talking to Layla)  I wish you weren't such a little booger
Layla:  I'm NOT a little booger
Ava:  Yes you are...just go ask mom and she'll tell you that you're a little booger
I frantically tried to come up with a good response to this if Layla did come ask me this question.  Luckily, they got distracted and I never had to tell her that I had to side with Ava on that one.  

Anywho....summer is quickly coming to an end and I have been getting the panicked feeling of trying to squeeze every last ounce of it before school begins.  Even the air has changed the last couple of days, with a crispness to it in the evenings.  Some of this was welcome to me because it helped clear out the horrible smoke that has been invading our mountains.  However, it also fills me with a sad feeling of our carefree summer wrapping up.  I decided the best thing to do would be try and soak up our last couple weeks as best we can.  I think we did a pretty good job of it this week.  A lot of our summer has been filled with friends and family.  Anytime we decide to go to a park or on a hike I make a phone call and we instantly have someone joining us.  This week, I thought I'd be a little selfish and do these things just us.  Me and my girls.  It was pretty great.  And...we still had plenty of time to play with cousins and friends.  
The first day we hit the park was hot and smoky and we didn't last long...

The next day the temperatures shifted.  We were going to go to Lunch on the Lawn because there are only a few left.  Apparently, the cool weather scared everyone else away because it appeared to be cancelled.  Well...we are Montana girls and we were not going to let that slow us down, so we just went to a different park and had our own lunch on the lawn.  Or lunch in a fort....

Notice the change in outfits from one day to the next...from tee's and shorts to sweatshirts and pants.  And, I pulled out a scarf for the first time in a v e r y long time...
The type of clothes may have changed, however the fun that these two can have at any old park did not.

I totally dig these old playgrounds with old school toys.  Metal equipment that gets way too hot and looks worn down.  For some reason it makes me smile more than the new plastic playgrounds where you never know quite what you're supposed to do on the things.  The girls went down this old red slide no less than a dozen times.

It was all fun and games until Ava came down a little too fast, flipped and hit her head on the hard metal slide.  Hmmm...maybe there is something to the plastic playgrounds.

Today, the smoke had cleared from the cool weather and the sun was back out.  The day promised to be back to our usual beautiful summer.  Because we could finally see the mountains, I was itching to get back into them.  After breakfast we decided to pack up and head for the "M" trail.  The girls have been up it before, but it's been awhile and Layla has never hiked it without being carried part of the way.  After hiking like a champ this summer, she was ready to run up to the top.  Again, going with just my girls and no one else was the best decision.   I love getting to go hike with others...the kids run ahead with cousins and have so much fun while I get to visit with whatever mommy friend/sister is with me.  However, I miss out on experiencing it with my girls when we do this.  We all have a great time with each other, but not truly together.  Today, we were together.  One girl in each hand, we chatted the whole way up the mountain and back down and it was the best conversation I've had all week.  They talked about the berries we passed on the way, whether the airplane we saw was a jet or just an airplane (is their a difference?) and what our favorite parts of summer have been.  The only time we dropped hands was when we were passing by others on the trail and when we hit the top.  There were times I wanted to drop a sweaty little hand and wipe mine off, but I resisted and held on tight.  You've got to do that for as long as you can.  

Earlier this week the girls were in full on performing mode.  I think it began when we spent Monday at my sisters house and my actress of a niece had all the littles doing some musical theatre.  They created quite a show for us and I was so impressed with what a 13 year old could get two 7 year olds, one 6 year old and one 5 year old to do.  The fun didn't end soon as we got home Ava and Layla switched it from musical theatre to Olympic gymnastics...complete with us giving critiques and deductions at the end.  How perceptive our little Ava was when watching the Olympics and now copying what she saw...rubbing her hands in "chalk" before her routine and packing up backpacks and wearing warm up clothes over their leotards.  I wish I could bottle their imaginations and creativity.

Shifting gears from my girls to food.  Food has been so fun lately with all the vegetables in full bloom.  Our refrigerator is bursting and I have been getting creative finding ways to incorporate it into our meals. 

Garden salad and Zucchini Pancakes...

Zucchini Pancakes
Shred one or two zucchinis.  Mix with finely diced onions (about 1/4 cup), 2 eggs, around 6 tbls flour, 1 tsp baking powder, salt and pepper, a little Parmesan cheese and some fresh chives.  Heat a greased griddle over medium heat.  Pour a spoonful of the batter on the griddle, cook for a few minutes, flip and cook the other side until both are golden brown.  (just like pancakes)  I like to top them with a little sour cream

Pickled beet salad, fresh tomatoes with olive oil, s&p and Matt's ciabatta bread...

I am not a beet fan but we have a ton of them so I have been trying them all sorts of ways.  I do think they look pretty though.  The tomatoes were the first ones we've gotten this season so I couldn't resist slicing them up and drizzling them with some olive oil to go with our dinner.  There is nothing better to me than a fresh from the garden tomato.  Also with this was some roasted zucchini and of my favorites dishes.

Roasted Zucchini with Ravioli
Slice zucchini and layer on a greased cookie sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and spread some minced garlic, red pepper flakes, s&p and some fresh Parmesan cheese over top.  Roast at 400-degrees for around 15 minutes.  Meanwhile cook some ravioli and drain.  Toss the ravioli with the zucchini mixture and top with some more Parmesan and some fresh torn basil.  So simple and so yummy.

Besides zucchini, one thing we have a ton of this year is cucumbers.  We ended up with some fresh dill from our CSA share so I finally decided to give it a go at making pickles.  I've looked into it in the past, but the whole canning thing has always seemed like a little more work than I'm interested in doing.  After some research I found a way to do it without the whole canning process and let me tell you...they turned out great.

It was so easy.  Cut the ends of the cucumbers and slice in quarters.  In a saucepan mix 1 to 2 cups of vinegar, 1/2 cup sugar, fresh dill, s&p, 1 cup of sliced onions, 1 tsp dry mustard, 1 tsp turmeric and 1 tsp celery salt.  Simmer over medium low heat for around a half hour.  Put the cucumbers in a jar, pour the broth over top and let cool.  Seal and refrigerate for around three days before you start eating them.  

I'll end with two things that made me smile this week that were just for me.  (you have to have some things just for yourself, right?)

1.  Fall Issues of Fashion Magazines.  

One of the things I love about Fall is getting the September issues...they are always the biggest issue of the year and it will take me weeks to slowly read guilty pleasure.

2.  Champagne.

I don't drink champagne often...I'm more of a vino girl.  I love it at weddings, special occasions and when my little sister is over...however, sometimes it's fun to have just because.  We popped a bottle open on Wednesday this week just because. It was lovely.  This isn't my quote, I heard it somewhere, but I find it so true..."champagne is like happiness in every bubble"

Have a happy weekend.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Counting Crows, Burgers and School Supplies.

I'm going to start by disclaiming that this post won't be like my typical posts...gushing about my girls and cooking and playing the summer away (well there may be a little of that towards the end).  This will sound more like a carefree chica acting like a groupie at a rock concert weekend with her hubby.  There will be a lot of "freakin awesome" and "hell ya's" because we got to see my all time favorite band in concert on Saturday and it was Freakin Awesome.

Earlier this summer I had heard on the radio about the Magic City Blues Festival that was going to have Counting Crows performing.  Now, I am not a concert person...I've been to a few and just not really into them.  However, I have always said the one band I would love to see live would be Counting Crows.  I immediately told Matt about it and within a couple weeks we had tickets bought, hotel room booked & babysitter lined up.  I have been looking forward to it for months and they so did not disappoint.  

I think some of the reason I haven't been impressed with concerts in the past was I don't really like being in a huge venue with thousands of people where you can't really see what's going on and it feels a little claustrophobic.  This venue was outside, right in downtown Billings.  There is just something about listening to live music outside.  Since it was a festival it wasn't huge.  There were lots of people and we were all pretty tight, but it didn't feel like too much.  (although I did get stepped on a couple times)  There were a couple bands ahead of them and they were fantastic also, but when Counting Crows came out everyone just went crazy.  Everyone in the crowd were such fans and you could just feel the excitement from all around and you couldn't help but get caught up in it.  The lights, the smoke machine, the music...all just amazing.  We were very close to the front of the stage so we got to see everything so well.  There was a lot of singing, dancing and just feeling so happy to be in that moment right then.  I didn't want it to be over as they just rocked each song with such enthusiasm.  Fantastic show and it totally renewed my love for this band (not that it had ever changed)  When it was over....way past my bedtime...we stumbled back to our hotel room still totally pumped from the show and crashed out.  The next morning we got to sleep in to the blissful hour of 9 am and lounge around child free as we slowly woke up.  And, as if the concert wasn't amazing enough, here was the grand finale.  I went down to the Starbucks at the bottom of the hotel for coffee and who do I see standing in the lobby but the freakin Counting Crows all sitting around with their luggage waiting for their shuttle.  Hell ya.  It took me a minute to realize it...I saw two of  the guys and thought, hmmm they look familiar.  Then I saw the lead singer chillin on the couch and he's a dead giveaway.  At this point they realized I was staring, so I gave a smile and wave (and got the same in return) and then smiling like a cat eating canary I raced up the elevator to tell Matt what had just happened.  Of course, his first response was..."did you talk to them or get an autograph?"  To which I said, "no, I got too nervous and just walked by"  I hadn't even thought of that and then was kicking myself for not doing just that!!  Matt made me feel better by saying that it was probably nicer to just leave them alone, but I still wish I had at least told them how awesome the show was.  Oh, time.  

The concert was by far the main event of the weekend, but as it always is with me, food was a major part as well.  I'm the girl who researches and knows exactly which restaurants we are going to eat at days before we go someplace.  The first thing on the the agenda when we got into town was lunch and so we headed to a place called the Burger Dive.  My parents, sister and brother-in-law have all been raving about the burgers at this place.  (Maybe one of the positive things that has come out of her whole ordeal is on there many trips to Billings they all discovered this joint).  Now, I consider myself somewhat of a hamburger connoisseur.  It has always been one of my favorite foods and is the one reason I can't go completely vegetarian.  (I do still stay "meat selective" and try to only have it if it is free-range, antibiotic free, local beef or as I like to say from "happy cows") the time we got there I was starving and very eager to try it.  We got there in the nick of time because they were getting ready to close in 10 minutes.  (You know a place is good if they only have to be open a handful of hours of the day)  I was not disappointed...

It was so yummy...paired perfectly with a basket of Parmesan and garlic french fries.  After that we had to go take a nap.  (awwww, the life of a childless couple)  The afternoon only got better because after the snooze we indulged in a little pay per view and rented the Hunger Games.  It was of course way over priced, but so worth it to get to watch a movie in the middle of the afternoon, as loud as wanted with no chance of interruption.  And, yes, I have totally loved the Hunger Games books and was SO excited for the movie to come out on dvd and now I don't have to wait any longer.  I'm ready for the next movie to come out and I'm not very patient.

For dinner I went with a suggestion from a friend.  It was funny because I had found this restaurant online when I was checking a few out but couldn't decide.  I always think it's best to ask a local for any advice on where to go and luckily I have a friend who lives in Billings!  She suggested Lilac, which was the exact place I was looking into.  Again, I was not disappointed.  I was drawn to it because of the idea of "farm to table" food, an interesting menu and it was in the perfect location...right in between our hotel and where the music festival was going to be.  It is a beautiful restaurant with an urban feel and fantastic food that looked as great as it tasted.  We were both a little full still from our lunch, so we shared a couple of items and it was perfect.  We had a quiet table right by the window where we could watch all the people heading down to the festival.  There was a nice wine list and Matt tried a couple of the local beers that our server suggested that were very tasty.  Everything was delicious, but my favorite was the tomato, basil and mozzarella risotto.  Such simple ingredients that were so fresh and wonderful.  I make a lot of risotto but have never incorporated a red tomato sauce in it.  This is something I will definitely be trying to recreate at home.  My only disappointment was that I was just way too full to try the blueberry cheesecake.  Next time I will not pass this up.

Needless to say, it was an incredible weekend.  I love my baby girls like nobodies business, but a weekend away with my husband was just perfect.  

Hope your weekend was freakin awesome and that your week is happy.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Going With the Flow...

I have been feeling a little out of sorts.  Our family all has a bit of a summer cold and the stuffy head doesn't help matters.  The fact that my sister was back in the hospital this past weekend doesn't help either.  It came as a surprise Saturday morning when we heard that she was back because of some swelling.  Everyone thought we were coming to the end of her infection and sickness and no one, more than her, were so very disappointed in this change of events.  However, she managed to set the tone to positive and we are all following suit.  If I haven't said it before she is a crazy strong woman and her and her husband just continue to amaze me with how they are handling this whole ordeal when most would just crawl under a rock and cry.  Since the weekend and week have been changed up from normal because of all this I can't seem to find a flow for writing so I'll go by my stand by that always works and make a list of things that have been making me smile these last few days.  Then my scattered thoughts in my head may seem more organized.  (I love me some organization)

1.  Going with the flow and it turning out awesome.  We had big plans for the weekend to do all the Sweet Pea festival festivities.  It was all to begin Saturday morning with both my sisters and all the kiddos doing the Sweet Pea Children's Run, followed by the parade and then on to the festival.  Obviously, Kori was not going to be able to do this.  So, we do what we do and that's rally.  Nicole headed up to the hospital to check on her and we went and got her kiddos so they could still do the run and free up Kori's hubby to be with her.  Not as planned, but we all ran our hearts out anyways...
Everyone ran the whole way and my nephew, who wanted to "run super fast with Matt" did it in 8 minutes...what a rock star.  After, we stayed for the parade which is always my favorite one that this town puts on each year.  The floats are always colorful and fun and much to the children's happiness there is a ton of candy!  Even though they were all stuffed with candy we headed up the street to our favorite pizza place and chowed down.  (thanks to my fantastic mother-in law who was willing to take in a couple more "grand kids" for the day.  My niece, Kim, calls her Grandma's adorable)  The Sweet Pea Festival is a wonderful three day event full of musicians and artists from all over, however, it is also a little expensive especially when you have a few extra.  S.L.A.M is a new festival in town that is only local musicians, artists and food and is totally free to the public.  As much as I was looking forward to Sweet Pea (I've rarely missed this event) I was so happy that there was a similar festival that was free that we could all go to.  I also dig that it is totally local.  It was much smaller and way more laid back and fun was had by all.
What's better then eating outside with live music?

Cooling off in the creek...

Popsicles & ice cream for kids...

And, beer for the adults...(from local breweries, gotta love that!!)

And kids flying off the stage when the show was over...
Moral of this story...plans may change, but that doesn't have to be a bad thing.  Kids got extra cousin time with bonus sleepovers, we got to try something new and my sister and her husband got to just focus on her getting better knowing their kiddos were having a good time.

2.  Sister Mamas...I know that the correct term is "Aunt" for what I am and what my sisters are to the kids, however with us I think it goes a little deeper then that.  This has always been very apparent with Kori and I as we have been raising the four littles together since they were born.  When Ava and Greg were tiny newborns we both had mastered the art of nursing one baby, while holding a bottle for the other as we passed these babies from one house to the other while one of us was at work.  It continued on as we added Kim and Layla and for the past 7 years (not counting school years) these kids were together on a weekly basis.  I never worried or thought twice when I kissed my babies good bye and left them in Kori's care as I went off to work or on a date night with Matt.  I knew that they were with someone who would love them like they were their own.  Now, my other sister is finally back in town and her and her baby just fall right into this sister mama thing...the kids go seamlessly from one of us to the other...not a care that they are not with their own mom.  (But, always happy when you return)  It's an amazing thing to get to raise your babies with two women who you trust, love and who have so much love to give to what is most precious to you in the world.  And, maybe one of the sister mama's is down for the time being...but she'll be back in fighting form in no time and the cycle of passing kiddos around will continue (and some date nights for all!!!)

3.  The Olympics...Kind of a silly thing to make you smile, but I love watching them.  More then watching them I love how into it Ava and Layla are.  They haven't even gotten to watch that much of them because they have been going to bed early lately, but they are gobbling up what they've been watching.  Today Ava set up a little game, brought out her little American flag and a notebook for scoring.  I'm not sure what the game was, but I kept hearing her exclaiming "Okay that's another one for Team USA, oh and I think China may get the silver"  or "Here comes the California team...I don't think they'll beat Montana"  It was hilarious...even more so because of the confusion between countries and states.  This afternoon we went swimming with the cousins and friends and Ava was doing some swim moves that could only have been from her watching the Olympics.  Kicking off the wall backwards and twisting under water like the swimmers do as they turn.  Who needs swim lessons...just let them watch Olympic swimmers.  It has been a fun part of the last couple weeks...I'll miss them when it's over.

4.  Zucchini...We get way overloaded with this green veggie every summer.  We get them from our CSA share and a ton from our own garden.  In a couple weeks Matt will be rolling his eyes and saying "zucchini again?" as I incorporate it into every meal, however, I don't ever get sick of it.  Just this week I fried some up for appetizers for a night at our neighbors, turned some into zucchini parmesean for my sisters family (my version of chicken parmesean since we don't eat that) and then tonight made it into a pistachio pesto.  I haven't even begun shredding it and throwing it in cookies and brownies which I can't wait for.  I think it is one of the most versatile veggies and when our fridge and garden are overflowing with it, it makes me smile.
5.  Matt's new hobby...Last week Matt decided he wanted to try making something.  It started with him wanting to brew his own beer, which he found out took a lot of time & mess, then thought about cheese but realized how gross aging cheese could actually be.  He then thought of baking bread.  Since Sunday he has made four loafs...a couple ciabbatta and a couple Italian rosemary & garlic bread.  Except for heating up the house in already crazy hot weather, I am benefitting greatly from this hobby.  I LOVE to bake and bread is one of my favorite, however, don't do nearly as much of it in the summer months.  (Instead I buy from a local bakery here in town so we still get the fresh bread without the work)  I must say he is doing quite well and nothing is better then fresh homemade bread to accompany some nice zucchini dish at dinner.

6.  Raspberries with vanilla icecream...I realize the last three points have surrounded food, which seems about right.  Every evening I have been having raspberries right off our bush on top of vanilla ice cream.  I'm not sure what it is about this flavor that I love so much.  Maybe it takes me back to my days working at TCBY when I had white chocolate mousse with raspberries every shift.  Whatever it is, I totally love it.  In fact I think I will wrap this up and go get myself some right now.

So, things may not always go as planned...but it's important to just go with it and find the things that make you smile.  

Enjoy this hot, sunny and beatiful August week.

Pistachio Pesto Pasta with Zucchini
For the pesto:  Combine a handful of shelled pistachios, 1/2 cup parmesean cheese, 1/2 cup olive oil, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 seeded jalapeno, juice of a lime, s&p and some fresh basil or parsley in a food processor and pulse until smooth.  Add more olive oil if needed
-Cook pasta noodles and save some of the pasta water for later (I used penne)
-Heat some olive oil and a little butter in a sauce pan...add sliced zucchini and squash and cook around 10 minutes.
-Toss cooked pasta, pesto and some pasta water until well coated.  Gently stir in zucchini.  It is a little spicy...the girls thought a too much so, but Matt and I liked it that way.  I may use a half a jalapeno next time though for them!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Friday Randomness...

This week was full of typical summer days...parks, slip and sliding, play dates, hiking, etc.  Each day very warm and lots of sunshine.  Then this morning the weather shifted and we adjusted accordingly.  The skies were grey and for the first time it felt cool.  Because I know it is only the beginning of August and there are many more hot summer days to come, I was ok with this.  Instead of slathering on sunscreen and jumping into a day full of outside fun, the girls and I kept our pj's on and settled into a day of nothing at home.  It was perfect.
Speaking of perfect...our raspberry bushes have really flourished this year and what is better then fresh raspberries?  Ava has been picking them everyday and comes in with bowlfuls.  I have been using them in lots of recipes this week as well as all of us just eating them by the handful.  Here's my favorite raspberry recipe...chocolate ice cream, milk and rasberries.

Three such simple ingredients.  I could eat this every night.  Pretty sure my girls could as well.

Ice cream on our porch has become such a tradition this summer.  It will be one that is hard to let go off when it starts to cool off.  I guess we'll have to replace it with hot cocoa in front of the fire.  Luckily that is still months away.  
What is the best way to clean off sticky raspberry milkshakes on a hot evening?  Why running through the sprinklers that were so conveniently on of course!

This was the second time this week the girls ran through sprinklers in their clothes.  On Tuesday we had to make a trip over to Belgrade to pick up some things and it was so very hot.  I realized how close we were to the Splash Park over there and joked we should go run through to cool off.  Ava asked "With our clothes on?"  I said why not?  to which she said "oh, can we, can we, CAN we??"  I couldn't resist that so we looked like the crazy people running through the splash park a few times fully dressed, then right back to the car, stripped off wet clothes (girls, not me!)  and had a nice cool drive home.  

Another raspberry recipe I did this week was shrimp lettuce wraps.  I wanted to incorporate it into a dinner, but had a hard time thinking of what to do.  So many ways to raspberries on chicken or pork, however we don't eat that so I had to get a little more creative.  I pureed the raspberries with some olive oil, fresh basil and rosemary for the sauce.  I then sauteed the shrimp with garlic, onions, olive oil and lemon juice.  I mixed the shrimp with some black olives, garbanzo beans and salt and pepper.  We put those on fresh lettuce from the garden and then drizzled the raspberry sauce on top.  They were very tasty.

On the side there was quinoa tossed with sauteed zucchini and squash.  The rest of our summer will be filled with zucchini.  Once Matt starts bringing it in from the garden, it doesn't stop.  I LOVE it...I just wish we could have a garden year round.  I did not buy one vegetable at the grocery store this week and yet our fridge is stuffed full of them.  It is always a sad day when the garden is done, but that is a whole other post.  (The ones that start to get really sad about summer being over and me pretending to be ok with it...saying things like oh, winter is so cozy and the holidays are coming and crap like that)

One of my favorite moments from this week was taking all the littles hiking.  My little sister and I have been talking about getting the kids hiking and we finally got to.  We grabbed Kori's kids, crammed five kids, two adults, lunches a stroller and a dog into the car and headed up to the mountains.  It was a beautiful best described in photos rather than words...

After the hike we found a nice spot at the trail head by a stream for a picnic lunch.  The fun continued from there...

After all the activity of the week, today was a welcome calm.  We had no plans, no obligations.  Nothing that needed to get done other than watch the gymnastics that I had recorded the night before.  Which we did at the end of the day all snuggled in bed cheering them on.  I love how into it the girls are.  We ended up spending the morning going through the girls clothes to see if we had anything to contribute to a garage sale that my sister is putting together as a benefit for Kori.  I thought we may have a couple of things.  Turns out we had a lot.

It's going to be at the beginning of September at all the proceeds from it will go directly to Hope, Love and Funds for Kori.  There will be more to come on this!

This weekend is Bozeman's Sweet Pea Festival.  It is something that I went to as a kid running around with friends, as a young adult dancing to the evening bands and now as a mom with my own family taking in all the kids activities, music and food.  It's something I so enjoy going to every year.  Tomorrow kicks it off with the kid's run, parade and then on to enjoy watching dancing, live music, checking out the art and running into people you haven't seen forever.  Good times will be had.

That's enough random ramblings...Happy Weekend!