Thursday, March 28, 2013

Short and Sweet Happies.

Oh, I am a happy girl today.  For one thing I have the window open as I write this and there is nothing like some fresh air to make one happy.  It is probably a little chilly for the window to actually be open, and when I cool down more from my morning run I'll probably have to shut it.  But, for now I am enjoying the breeze on my face as I write.  
I read this quote last night..."Gratitude turns what you have into enough"  I love it.  This morning I feel full of gratitude.  It may not be 75-degrees out with green grass, but the sun is shining bright in the big blue sky and that is enough.  It's the small things that should be enough to fill you with gratitude.  Here's the little things that are simply enough for me this week....

1.  Signs of Spring-

If you look, they are every where right now.  This week I got to walk to pick up the girls more than I had to drive.  Sure sign of spring.  We saw our first robin...total first sign of spring.  The return of wearing flip flops because the snow has melted.  Sign of spring.  Now, I know in some places, temperatures in the fifties mean it's time to wear boots and jackets, but here it is when you can get away with no socks and just a sweatshirt.  This morning on my run there were signs of spring everywhere.  So many I had to stop a couple times to snap a photo or two...

Good morning Bridger Mountains.  I hear you beginning to call my name.  Be patient...you need to melt a little more snow before I head up to play.  
For the first run of the season, I was shedding layers instead of trying to run faster to stay warm.  The hat and gloves were not needed.  It was glorious.  Now, I am not so foolish to believe there is not a wicked snow storm or two still to come...but I'm going to enjoy the right now.  And, the right now is serving up some beautiful spring happiness.  There are even rumors of temps hitting the 60's for Easter.  Freakin awesome.

2.  My girls-
Rockin some cool new hats from Grandma J.
My girls are always enough.  They always fill me with so much gratitude that I feel it bubbling over.  There are times when they make me crazy.  Days when they fight more often than they get along.  Times when they are yelling over each other like two real housewives on a reunion show.  (Yes, I watch bad reality TV, it's my guilty pleasure)  But, none of that matters...that's just sisters.  This week they have been busy planning an Easter program for us.  "Rehearsals" began on Saturday and they have been practicing every day since.  Working on different scenes and such.  They are being very secretive about it, but I hear the music rocking in Ava's room and dancing around.  I also saw the cast of characters written on her white board.  Not a huge cast..."Bunny-Ava, Kid-Layla"  This morning I opened the door without knocking to tell them it was time for school and got a glimpse of the production...

As you can see from Ava's face, I was not supposed to see them.  I was promptly told to leave.  Looking forward to the show on Sunday.  Little moments like that...they are enough.

3.  Spring Cleaning and Home Projects.
As I mentioned last time I have been in full cleaning out mode.  The weekend was for the girls and a couple days ago I took to my own closet.  Within a hour I had two huge garbage bags full of clothes, shoes and purses to get rid of.  It felt good.  I call it my, "I'm 35 now clothes clean out"  I think it helped that I had the show 'What Not To Wear' on as I did my purge.  Something about hearing Stacy and Clinton talk about others ridiculous wardrobes helps me to get the ridiculousness (is that a word?) out of my own.  Maybe it's because of my years in retail, but I love an organized closet...
I only can show my side...Matt's...not so organized.
I also have been working on a home project that I haven't needed Matt's help for.  Most of my creative ideas he ends up having to finish when I give up on them because they aren't going as I imagined them.  Well, this time I took on one I can handle.  Maybe it's because it is going smoothly and is turning out.  Whatever.  We have this screen divider in our room.  We originally had it to hide the treadmill in our room when we weren't using it.  Well, the treadmill is gone, but now it hides Matt's music corner when he's not rocking out.  Our house isn't that big so it's his version of a man-cave.  It's a man-corner.  Anyways, the cat had been scratching the bottom of the screen and it was starting to look trashed.  After watching a Project Runway episode where they used duct tape to create beautiful dresses I felt a sudden inspiration as to how to cover the cat scratches.  Duct tape.  A medium I can totally work with...
As you can see it is not complete yet.  For some reason I imagined one roll of tape would finish the whole thing.  Three rolls in and I'm almost done.  I love how it is turning out.  Who would have thought duct tape, right?

And, yes...those are mustaches you are seeing.  It was a good use of the silly duct tape my mom gave Matt for Christmas.  And, it will be easy to replace when we are over it.  For now it adds a quirky accent.  That's just how we roll.

4.  The Return of Yoga.
After a few week hiatus the spring session of yoga began.  Breath of fire, deep mediation, strong poses.  Enough said.  Namaste.

5.  A New Photo Book...

I usually do a photo book at the end of each year.  I had finally begun my 2013 book.  I wanted to get winter and our vacation part done before we hit birthday and summer season.  As I was working on it I got a coupon for a free 20-page book.  This was too good of an offer to pass up, so I decided to do our vacation as it's own book this year.  It came in the mail yesterday and we got to re-live our trip yet again.  Love it.

The weekend is approaching and it will be full.  Easter egg dyeing, making yummy desserts for Easter and of course being the bunny, which is always a favorite of mine.  And, I don't think we'll be hiding eggs in snow this year, so there's a bonus.  

Hope this week fills you with gratitude and happiness.  Take what you have and make it enough.  Happy day to ya.  

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Weekend Things.

I have done it.  I have finally perfected my pizza dough.  

I have tried numerous recipes and come up with my own over the last several years.  Ever since I first realized that making your own pizza was one hundred times better than frozen pizza.  I have made thin, crispy crust or a deep dish, chewy crust.  I have made some with just flour, salt and yeast and some where I added honey or sugar to sweeten the dough.  I have used whole wheat flour, white flour and 00 flour.  I have baked them in the oven and thrown them on the grill.  But, it wasn't until tonight that I finally perfected it.  The blend of crunchy on the outside, but chewy on the inside.  The kind you get at a restaurant of a really legit pizza joint.  I had heard about the importance of a very slow rising process for really good pizza dough, but now having tried it for the first time, realize how true this is.  It was worth the three days it took to make the dough.  It was worth getting up one night at 3 am to move it from rising in a warm spot to resting in the fridge.  (I didn't set an alarm or anything, Ava conveniently had a nightmare at just the right time!)  I topped it very simply...tomato pizza sauce (one can of high quality Italian tomatoes, olive oil, sea salt and garlic blended together in the food processor), fresh mozzarella, basil leaves, a drizzle of olive oil and some Parmesan cheese.  So simple, so tasty, so perfect.  Luckily I am totally stuffed from it right now or I'd be raiding the fridge for the leftovers just talking about it (I'll put the dough recipe at the end...you gotta try it.)

That was the icing on the cake of a very lovely weekend and first few days of spring.  It was cold all weekend...much more winter than spring, but before it cooled down we got a little taste of what is to come.  We took full advantage by breaking out the sidewalk chalk-


The snow that evening quickly erased the town these girls worked so hard on.  I helped as well by adding, per request, a Target, a grocery store, a library and the beach. These girls know what's important in a town.  This was the day after the first day of spring and it was one of those days where the sun was out, you could get away with no jacket and everyone was in a good mood.  I especially enjoyed this day because I got an impromptu lunch date with my hubby.  You would think with my flexible schedule and the girls in school we would get to do this more often but it just doesn't seem to work out.  That day was one of the rare times when I called Matt and asked if he wanted to go to lunch and he was just  getting back into town and said, I'll meet you in 20 minutes.  And, so that is what we did.  Twenty minutes later sitting at Dave's Sushi with my favorite guy...

We need to take advantage of this a few more times before school is out for summer and impromptu lunches will have to include two little girls and be a little less date like.  

I had the perfect recipe to continue this lovely spring like day-

Kinda perfect, right?  I had the back door open, fresh veggies cooking, homemade pasta, glass of vino and music on.  Boiling the pasta water over making a mess of the stove and finding a rubber band in my steamed asparagus (must have forgot to remove it!) couldn't ruin the spirit of the evening.
Oh, I CANNOT wait til veggies like this are coming from our garden and not the grocery store!
 Voila...final product...

I roasted the cherry tomatoes and broccoli with olive oil, garlic and sea salt.  I boiled some scallions with asparagus.  I tossed it all together with cooked pasta, fresh parsley, Parmesan and some pasta water.  Very good.

Friday, spring was gone.  We got one day of it.  It was replaced with snow on and off.  We didn't let that get us down.  I had my cutey-pie nephew after work with me to pick up the girls so you couldn't be bummed if you wanted to.  His ever expanding vocabulary and relentless asking of "why?" have him at that delicious age of two going on three  that you can't help but love.  I had him in the backseat on our way to the girls school and we were doing the "why" game and it took me back to having my other nephew (who is now 18 going on 19) in the back of my Geo Storm at two years old playing the same game.  He always got on some tangent about dinosaurs and I remember him going on and on explaining the different kinds.  Oh, good times.  Anyways...got off on a tangent there.  The girls didn't know I was going to have Jacob with me, so the surprise made their day.

Ava explaining the fire hydrant and Jacob asking "Why?" to everything which Ava found hilarious.
I love being an aunt.  I love my family of four and love that I have so many nieces and nephews to add to it.  More to love.  More to love on and spoil without the parental pressure of not screwing them up...that's someone else's job.

Saturday was all about catching up with our besties.  It had been a very long time since we had seen our friends.  Before spring break it seemed like there was sickness or everyone was busy and then we were gone.  Yesterday we finally got to hang out with them.  First by celebrating their daughter's 5th birthday with a bowling party...


We didn't end there.  After the party they came over for dinner and playing and we got to all catch up.  Good friends, good times.  Always.  If we ever do move to a warmer climate we are going to have to kidnap them and stuff them in the Uhaul.  I think they'll forgive us...it's not like we'd be taking them to North Dakota.  We may have to get a really big Uhaul because I'll have to stuff some of my family in their as well.  Like above mentioned nieces and nephews and sisters and grandparents, etc etc.

Today, between pizza making, I got this crazy urge to clean out the girls rooms.  I get this way about twice a year.  Right before Christmas and their birthdays.  I get this huge urge to get rid of toys and clothes before I know they will be getting a bunch more.  I started in small corner of Layla's room not fulling intending to go all the way.  However, before I knew it I was a woman possessed and had Matt asking "What is wrong with you?"  I was over it by the time I was done with Layla's room but then Ava was in on the action so I had to muster some more energy to tackle her room as well.  By the end of it we had several bags of toys and clothes to give away and even more bags of trash I snuck out without them seeing.  You know the saying, one person's trash is another persons treasure?  Or in this case one mom's trash is a child's treasure?  The things these girls find and stash in their rooms astounds me.  I know there will come a time when one of them asks where that beaded necklace with pipe cleaners and a stapled heart on it is?  Or, the back of the magazine from the airplane that one of them drew a picture of a tree on is?  I'll have to come up with some excuse about how it must have "accidentally" got thrown away.  They'll pout for a minute and move on to the next piece of junk treasure.  And, this time I finally, finally put the Winnie the freakin Pooh book in the giveaway pile.  Again, this was done without them knowing and I don't even care if someone is sad when they discover it missing amongst the hundreds of other books they have...I am over that silly old bear.  Sorry, I have never been a fan of Winnie the Pooh and the gang.  The clean out extravaganza ended with re-arranged, spotless rooms that should last for at least the next 12 hours cuz little girls are sound asleep.  

Speaking of sleep, it is is time to end this.  Hope you had a lovely weekend.  Enjoy this last week of March.  I end with a pic from afternoon date with my baby girl...

She thought I should get a picture of just her yogurt creation, but I snuck her in!

And of course the pizza dough...
Pizza Dough Recipe
-5 to 5 1/2 cups "00" Flour (I find mine at an Italian food store, it does make a difference in the dough)
-1/2 tsp yeast
-2 cups water, warm
-2.5 tbls salt
Mix yeast with 1/4 cup of water and let stand 5 minutes.  In a stand mixer with a dough hook mix flour with yeast mixture and the remaining water and mix around 3 minutes.  Add salt and mix on medium for around 5 more minutes, until dough is smooth.  Turn into a ball and place in a large, floured bowl.  Cover with plastic and let stand for 8 hours.  (It should double)  Place in refrigerator for 8-10 hours.  Remove from fridge and rest it for 2 hours.  Punch dough down and separate into four balls.  Place them on two floured baking sheets.  Cover with plastic and let rise for 8 hours.  Place in fridge and let rest for 8 hours or until you are ready to use.  Take them out around 20 minutes before you are ready to use.

-To make pizza-flatten each dough ball out with your hands.  Heat pizza stones in the oven at 500-degrees for around a half hour.  Assemble pizzas on the baking sheets and then carefully move from baking sheet to hot pizza stone.  (This is where a pizza peel would come in handy, but I managed)  Bake for 5-10 minutes.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

First Day of Spring & One Year Anniversary...

Today is the first day of spring.  We welcomed it in proper Montana fashion with dark grey clouds and a cold front on its way.  However, I have my pop of spring right here...

Matt brought these beauties home for me yesterday and they were all closed up.  I think they were waiting to make their debut today.  Here we don't really see spring for a couple of months.  There will be teases...days when you can wear short sleeves and the sun will kiss your cheeks with promises of warm weather to come.  But, like any good tease they will be brief.  Followed by wet snow and cold temperatures that make you feel like you are still firmly in winter.  Yesterday was one such tease as the sun was out and I walked to pick up the girls from school.  On the way home the girls were running up to trees, checking to see if they were budding yet.  We did see buds on trees...but it will still be awhile before they open in all their green leaf glory.  I'm going to try to approach spring differently this year.  I tend, like most who live here, to get really antsy for real spring weather.  Now, don't get me wrong...I am physically aching for warm weather, green grass and flip flop season...but I know that won't bring it here any quicker.  I spent a couple days right after we got back from Florida really bummed out about the weather.  The snowstorm we woke up to on Sunday did not help this.  It had me googling real estate in southwest Florida.  Today is dark, only a few spots of ugly melted snow, sad looking trees and brown grass.  Very easy to stay in that depressed-why-do-we-live here mood.  I choose not to go there.  I choose instead to see the yellow daffodils on my table...hinting at the promise of what is to come.  To soak up these grey days by cooking comfort food...
Homemade pasta anyone??
Stay inside and finish home improvement projects that are still floating in my head...


Ever since we painted a couple kitchen walls "exotic sea"  I've been wanting to add something to the back of my shelves.  I looked at wall paper, contact paper, tiles, fabric...not finding the right thing.  I wanted something with hints of turquoise, green and red with a Mediterranean feel.  Finally I was strolling through World Market and came across these cloth napkins I just loved.  I bought all they had with visions of a quick project of pinning and double stick tape to get them up.  It turned into a weekend project of Matt cutting, hammering, swearing and finally finishing Sunday evening.  I really didn't intend for it to be a project for him and for it to take so long.  He's a trooper...he takes my vision and actually makes it look good, not like a Kindergarten craft project.  I will stick with smaller things like spraying painting wine bottles to use as vases...
Thank you Pinterest for inspiration as usual.
I'm going to enjoy our chilly spring by taking advantage of indoor activities like going to the museum and taking in the new exhibit...
The only spiders I like


Checking out the new planetarium show
We have a great museum here and thanks to Grandma have had a membership the last couple of years.  It's a good spot to spend a cold Sunday afternoon exploring.  Come summer, it goes to the bottom of our list except for the occasional rainy day so we need to sneak a few more trips in.  

This spring I will find the beauty in the grey.  

Onto something else that is exciting.  This is probably just exciting to me, but whatever. Today marks the one year anniversary of me starting this blog.  One year, 94 posts and 7,222 page views later.  I have always written...a diary I hid from my sisters as a kid, a journal through my twenties, baby books in my early thirties and for the last couple of years typing.  It took me awhile to decide to put it in blog form, but last year at this time I took the leap.  I am happy I did.  There have been times this past year I've written to make myself feel better or clear my head, times it was just to chronicle a weekend, times to get the word out about my sister and times when I didn't have anything to say so simply tried to come up with some random topic.  I have gone back and forth in my head about it.  Sometimes thinking it's silly and I should stop, times I really loved it and loved hearing nice things people would say.  When it comes down to it, I really enjoy doing it for me.  I try to always be honest, write true to myself and not edit what I'm saying to please anyone else.  Because I feel I've been able to accomplish this, I'm gonna keep going with it.  I always told myself, if I ever find myself not using my own voice and worrying about what others would think it would be time to stop.  This is supposed to be something to keep memories of my family and my girls...something for them to read one day and remember pieces of their childhood.  Remember the fun things we did and what kind of mom/woman I was.  I think it has evolved into something I feel proud of.  It continues to not only be a space for memories but a place of "therapy" for me...along with running and cooking.  Happy Anniversary little blog.

Spring for us is full of celebration.  Easter and birthdays make it a busy time.  Last night we brought out our little box of Easter goodies...

It's not the five tubs we have full of Christmas decorations, but it's a little something to get us excited about the holiday.  I like Easter.  Who am I kidding, I love all holidays.  I like dyeing eggs, playing the Easter bunny and the simplicity of it.  It's not quite as hyped up as Christmas, hence the one tub versus five.  It's a quiet morning of excited girls searching for eggs and then an afternoon with family.  It's not a bunch of gifts, it's the hunt for eggs with little treasures in them.  It's pretty pastel dresses and chicks and bunnies.  Of course I appreciate the holiday for what it is really about and make sure my kids understand that as well.  After Easter we will be in party planning mode for two little girls who are about to turn 6 and 8.  Crazy!

We're not Irish, but we did a little St. Patty's day celebrating.  It has never meant much to me...maybe going out for green beers.  I certainly never did anything with the kids beyond putting them in green on March 17th.  But then Ava started school.  She came home on St. Patricks day in Kindergarten full of stories how the leprechaun made a mess of their classroom and left them all gold coin treasures and could we "please, please, pretty please" leave a bed and treats for the leprechaun next year so he would visit us?  Thinking she would forget by the next year I said yes, but this little girl does not forget.  St. Patricks Day Eve she was gathering blankets and books and leaving goodies for the freakin leprechaun.  Now she has Layla in on the action and so we just have fun with it.  They both wrote notes for him (her?  does anyone really know?) this year...
Last year I put green food coloring in the toilet...it left an impression on her obviously because this year she requested he "pee" in the toilet.

Layla really loves the guy
 Playing the leprechaun is totally fun...we flipped over furniture, turned photos upside down and scattered chocolate coins on the floor...

That mischievous little guy even put bananas on our lights...




Oh, it's fun to be a parent...the things we get to do.

Happy first day of spring!!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Florida.

Last week we left Big Sky Country for the Sunshine State...

Oh my, it was a wonderful vacation.  Sunshine, ocean, palm trees.  I have spent the past couple days since we've been home in a sad slump, not wanting to be back in the real world.  Wanting to be where everything is green, vibrant and relaxed.  Not grey, brown with a chance of snow.  I gave up my trying to live in the moment and choose to keep the vacation on continual replay in my mind which is just depressing.  When I wasn't thinking about the past week, thoughts of moving to a warmer climate kept creeping in.  Just like when we returned last year, we begin to imagine a life far away from the snowy mountains.  A life of raising beach babies instead of Montana girls.  Both of us know now is not the time to leave...too much stuff going on in our lives here that it would be irresponsible at this point.  It doesn't mean I can't dream of a different life for us down the road.  And in the hopes of bringing myself back to living in the present, I want to soak up all our little Bozeman has.  As I took my first run in over a week this morning, I enjoyed the mountain view and was able to feel the same content feeling I got on my morning walks on the beach.  I love, love the mountains here, but also have a pretty strong love affair with the ocean.  Right now I'm going to take some time to re-live our vacation, capture all the details so I can look back on it later and reminisce.  Then, I will tuck it firmly away in my wonderful family memories file and continue on in our happy present moments. 

With that, we take off...

Or, "blast off" as the girls said on the airplane.  These girls are great little travelers, and after a minor mishap at the first airport, we were on our way.  (They only had seats for three of us and actually suggested one of us would have to wait for the flight, the next freakin day!  Thanks to a total stranger who finally took a bump, we got the fourth seat.  Thank you kind person, we will pay it forward.)  I know many think flying is a pain and I have my moments, but for the most part, I love it.  I know it means we are on our way to some place fun.  We left snow and two plane rides later, we arrived to 75-degrees and palm trees and the feeling of vacation set in.  We grabbed our car and met up with Matt's parents for dinner.  They stay in Naples for the winter and the plan was for us to head up to Manasota Key for a few days just us four and then down to Naples for some time with them.  After a festive dinner we said good bye to them for a few days and made our way to where we were staying.  By the time we got to the resort it was dark, but you knew it was good by the sound of the waves crashing.  The next morning we realized just how amazing the view from our condo was...


That is our shabby chic condo behind Ava.  The beach was literally right outside our door.
We had zero plans for this portion of our trip.  A nice departure from the first part of our vacation last year which was two jam packed days in Disney World.  To this day I still get exhausted thinking about those days at the "Happiest Place".  The only thing on the agenda was beach, pool, eat, repeat.  This is exactly what we did for three whole days.  It was glorious.  The first morning we did venture off the island briefly on a hunt for coffee.  After a trip to the market we stopped to grab some breakfast at an outdoor tiki bar type restaurant.  They had me at the sign...

The place was fantastic...you could eat with your feet in the sand and a view of the bay.  We did as the sign said and ordered a mimosa to go with our brunch...nothing like a mimosa made with fresh squeezed Florida OJ.  The girls loved it also for the giant Jenga game...
Matt is going to be making one of these...way more fun than regular Jenga
That was the only breakfast we ate out.  We never wanted to stray far from the beach and why would you. That afternoon was spent exploring the beach right out our door.  We wandered down to Stump Pass Beach, a state park on Manasota Key.  It was quiet, secluded and simply beautiful.

This old dead tree was littered with sea shells...I found it magical.

These amazing photos are Matt's work.  
Besides the millions of sea shells scattered on the sandy beach, there were also shark teeth.  After Ava figured out what she was looking for she became quite the shark tooth hunter, finding around 50 of them during our time there....


One of the best things about staying on the beach was each morning Matt and I took some time for a quiet stroll on the beach alone.  I loved the solitude of walking on a quiet beach first thing in the morning, coffee in hand, barely awake.  The few people you pass give you a quiet smile and "mornin" and are in the same state of blissful happiness you are.  And, the one kind older gentlemen I saw each morning who gave me complete sand dollars, which are almost impossible to find.  Those mornings were my meditation.  After we each had our turn, it was time to take our little fishes to the pool!  I swear they could spend all day long in the water.  Seeing their confidence in the water grow after just a week is one of the main reasons I would love to live by the water.  To encourage this love of it.  By the end of the week Ava was jumping in the deep end and swimming the whole length of the pool by herself...she didn't even want anyone by her.  Layla was a little slower warming up to it, but was as happy as can be playing in the shallow end sticking her face in the water.  What I wouldn't give for a pool in my backyard.  
Happy fish-


Happy parents watching their fish- 

Pool time was followed by lunch on the beach, re-applying sunscreen and then playing in the ocean.



We had some good dinners while we were there, but my absolute favorite was the evening we got some pizza and wine to eat on the beach while enjoying the sunset.  This was the best.


I love my crazy family

Ava making friends with the locals
All too soon it came to our last night on Manasota Key.  After spending all day swimming and at the beach we decided to venture out for dinner for our last evening.  We went to a wine bar bistro right on the bay.  I got to watch the sun set behind the palm trees behind Ava...it was beautiful.  The sea food was delicious, so fresh.  We watched the boats come in and listened to live music as this funny guy rocked out to the piano.  He came over to visit with us...(mainly because we appeared to be the only one enjoying the live music...I guess retirement type communities aren't big at rocking out)...he was so excited about the fact that we were from Montana.  He had never been, but always wanted to go.  It's always interesting to listen to other people talk about where you live the same way you feel about where they live.  It reminds me how lucky we are to live in this state.  The next song he dedicated to his new friends in Montana.  He was totally quirky and added so much to our last night there...

The next morning we sadly said good bye.  

We didn't stay sad for long, because we were on the way to the second half of our vacation.  It's about a 2 hour drive from where we were down to Naples.  Right before you are there you hit Fort Myers, one of the bigger towns in the area.  We decided to venture in there a bit on a search for coffee.  What we stumbled upon was the cutest downtown in their historic river district.  What was going to be a quick coffee run turned into a hour of wandering around this funky town.  In our limited experience in these gulf beach communities we have found they tend to be very retirement heavy.  Lots of wealth and a bit of a pretentious feel.  Not the yippie Bozeman vibe we know and love.  What we found in our wandering was a much better vibe...I knew it as soon as I saw the guy who was making our coffee had two earrings and colored spiky hair.  Cool town...
We found a pineapple fountain to make wishes in-
Love the street lights and sidewalks
 A walk on the pier-

The coolest tree. Ever.

And, the best sign.  Ever.
Placed ironically in the window of a very hippie type art store
This town may garner a future family vacation for possible relocation.

Then it was just a hop, skip and a jump and we were in beautiful Naples.  This beach town is a playground for the wealthy.  It is a great place to take in amazing food, the most beautiful beaches and lots of greenery.  First stop when we got there was the pool of course.

After a refreshing dip, we cleaned up and it was time for our first dinner in Naples.  However, we didn't stay in Naples...we ventured to the Isles of Capri.  I had heard a lot about this place because of a blog I love.  Last year, we actually tried to go there, but it was a little early in the day and we ventured on to a different place instead.  This year, my in-laws had heard of it and gone and really wanted to take us there.  Great place.  Tucked into a little bay, we ate again with our feet in the sand and a view of the sun setting behind the palm trees off the pier.  Breathtaking.

Cheers!


Tired after a very full day we went to bed and woke up ready to hit the beach.  

The weather had different plans.  We optimistically packed lunches, threw on suits and headed to Barefoot Beach.  Trying to will the dark clouds that were looming away as we made our way there.  It didn't work.  Once we got there it was chilly and windy, but that did not stop us.  We are hard core and the chilly ocean waters were still warmer than a Montana lake ever is.  We put on sweatshirts, snuggled in towels, ate our lunch, chased seagulls and took in the view of the wild waves crashing in.  

After about a hour, we threw in the towel and decided maybe the next day would be a better beach day.  (Not before seeing two tortoises!)  It seemed like a good time to go to the Naples Botanical Gardens.  This was another thing I had on my list of things to do last year, but we never did.  I am so glad we didn't miss out on it this year.  The beauty of these gardens was breathtaking.  Trees, flowers, greenery, butterflies and art work scattered throughout.  It was so peaceful just wandering through.  And, the girls fell in love with the Children's Garden, and how could you not.  There was a splash area, butterflies, mini cottage, scavenger hunt.  It was such fun...better described in photos...
Bonus-they sold wine and Popsicles!!


Not having swimsuits on did not stop these girls!

Best shot Matt captured!

Ava sitting with a butterfly...yellow and black on the leaf

Scavenger hunt, finding crazy things flowers were potted in like toilets and guitars

Lily pads!


It was like walking in an outdoor art gallery...uh-mazing.
That evening was date night for Matt and I.  It is so wonderful to travel with in-laws because you have babysitters!  The girls got to spend the evening with Grandma and Grandpa and we got to go out on the town.  We had dinner reservations at two places because we couldn't decided what we felt like.  One was on the beach for sunset, one was in the swanky downtown just a few blocks off the beach.  Originally we had thought for sure on beach sunset, however, the cloudy and chilly night made us change our mind.  I think we made the right choice.  We had an amazing leisurely dinner at Sea Salt.  Sitting outside, watching the vibrant action going on all around us.  It was one of those lovely dinners that you stretch out as long as you can...drinks at the bar before you are seated, warm bread and olive oil, fresh oyster appetizer and homemade pasta dinner all over a bottle of vino.  We were too stuffed for dessert, although I was on the hunt for the perfect piece of Key Lime pie.  Our waiter told us we should simply go to the local Publix (grocery store) for the best pie, but, we didn't make it there.  We took our very full selves to the beach and walked along the shore....the ocean waves crashing on one side and the lit up mansions on the other.  
The next day we woke up to sunshine so knew we would be able to spend this day at the beach.  We hadn't even unpacked the beach stuff from the car so we just had to put on suits and get out to soak up our very last day.  It was hard not to be a little sad, knowing it was the last day.  However, I made myself stay in the moment and not even think about leaving.  With views like this it was easy to do...


The sand in Naples is like sugar.  Sugar with amazing shells thrown in.  


On our way to our last dinner and to watch a final sunset...

 I heart this photo and what it represents to me...
My girls and I saying farewell to the ocean.
We couldn't let it end there, just not ready yet.  We made a stop at Tin City for some ice cream on the way home.  We made it a point to have ice cream daily and on this day twice.

By then it really was time to get a few hours of sleep before our 3 am wake up call to catch our flight.  When I booked I think I overlooked the fact that we needed to be at the airport a couple hours early and we were 45 minutes away from the airport.  I sometimes forget we live in a town where you can get to the airport in 15 minutes and because it's small don't need to be quite as early.  Oh, well.  It was nice to get home at noon instead of midnight.  Get a chance to get settled back in.  And, as sad as it was to be home there is nothing like curling up in your own bed that first night back.  Oh, sweet comfort. 

So, that my friends, is our vacation in a nutshell.  I know, a lot of photos and a long post and if you made it to the end I applaud you.  This was more just for me.  I wanted to remember each detail and through my writing get to re-live it a bit, just one more time. I want it preserved so down the road my girls can read it and feel like they remember it. Remember these memories that I hold so close to my heart.  I want to be able to read it and then close my eyes and feel this...

Thank you Florida...you were amazing as always.  Hope to see you soon.

A few final photos too good to leave out.
Coronas are meant to be drank on the beach....just sayin



My beautiful beach baby...with a chocolate ice cream mustache

Why hello there.




Have a happy day.  Spring is just around the corner.