Sunday, June 30, 2013

Big, Fat, Summer-Type Things Post...

This past week we crammed a lot of summer in.  It's like the weather warmed and we went crazy.  Behaved like tourists here on vacation taking advantage of all our lovely area has to offer.  Speaking of our lovely city, if you didn't catch my last post or all my Facebook promotion (sorry, I was excited!)  I wrote an essay about Bozeman and a magazine website published it.  We celebrated this on Friday with a little bubbly...


Seeing my name on there as a contributor made me feel giddy inside.  If you haven't had a chance and want to check it out go here.  

We had cousins here for the week.  I figure the more the merrier and we did it up.

Hiking....little rockstars made it to the top of the "M" like it was nothin'.  

Splashing...all helping one another to cross to the other side of Bozeman Creek.  No man left behind.  Love their camaraderie.  

Lots of ice cream at the Farmer's Market....
 And we threw in a dash of rock climbing....

And added in a couple more cousins for a pool party...

These kids are awesome.  They have been raised together since they were all babies and just flow together more sibling like than cousins.  Of course there is the occasional fighting and leaving someone out, but for the most part they have fun, look out for one another and are quite the pack.  Love it.

The weekend came with one of my favorite activities.  Have I mentioned lately how much I love camping?  Yea, there may have been some whining last weekend about not getting to go and I may have got my way this weekend and got to head to the mountains yesterday.  I think at the end of a long week Matt and I sometimes have different versions of a perfect weekend.  He's usually been on the road all week and the idea of getting back in the car is the furthest from his mind.  I, on the other hand, have usually been home most of the week and am itching to get out.  During the winter months I'm cool with laying a little low, but because we have so few summer weekends here I tend to be a tad more persistent about it.  Luckily Matt is good natured and goes with it.  And, in the end I know he loves it to.  How could you not...
If you look close you can see little girls exploring in the woods behind.  
To me camping is getting away from everything.  It's only having what we can fit in the Subaru to get by for the weekend.  It's going where there is no cell service.  This is a big one.  Often even when we are outside hiking or camping or playing at the river it's so easy to snap a photo and post it to Instagram or Facebook.  It's easy to check back later, see what's going on with friends.  It might be a minute here or a few there, a quick text message.  Those minutes add up.  When there is zero service you get to completely disconnect.  This is blissful.  To only use my phone for the purpose of snapping photos.  Although, ironically the "quote" app I have on my phone popped through today.  The quote was 
"Peace is to be found only within and unless one finds it there he will never find it at all.  Peace lies not in the external world, it lies within ones soul"  -Ralph Trine.  
I agree with this, but also believe peace can be found in the external world.  I believe if you aren't at peace within yourself you may not be able to see it.  I found a lot of peace this weekend.  

I found it in sunsets after a rainstorm while sitting by a campfire...

And sunrises in the early morning...

My absolute favorite time when camping is the morning.  Nothing, nothing smells better than the fresh smell of mornings in the mountains.  

I found it in chilly Montana creeks...


I found it while watching little girls make fairy houses for the  "camping fairies" to have.  Layla's included a flower petal remote control.  And a trampoline.  This fairy was hooked up.  

I found it in cooking everything over the fire.  Food just tastes better this way...
I threw everything in foil before we left.  Three separate things...salmon, potatoes and veggies.  Each got drizzled with olive oil, sea salt and various herbs.  Throw on the hot fire, sip a beer and voila...dinner.  

And finally I found a lot of peace when taking a few moments to myself this morning to sit by the stream and just breath in.  And out.  

Like anything there has to be moments without peace, even when camping.  Ours came in the way of massive thunderstorms.  And some rain.  Luckily I had thrown in some card games.  We spent a good couple hours in the tent playing UNO...


It poured for awhile then stopped.  We went outside to try to restart the fire and within 15 minutes it started again and we were back in the tent.  This time around it didn't feel quite as fun and we began to wonder if we would be able to have a fire or if our salmon was going to become a sushi dinner instead.  Luckily this time when the rain stopped we opened the tent to beautiful blue skies.  Not only did we get to cook dinner over the fire, but smore's too...

Even with the rain it was a glorious weekend of camping.  We came home smelling of campfire, tired from all the fresh air and dirty from a weekend exploring the woods and playing in the creek.  Happy.  Refreshed.  Peaceful.  Exhausted.

June is over.  July, we're totally ready for ya.  

Friday, June 28, 2013

Something Exciting....

A few months ago I submitted an essay to a local magazine and today they PUBLISHED it on their website!!!  SO EXCITED!!!!  My essay out there in the world for more than my small blog following to see and read!!!  (I apologize for all the exclamation points, but I'm so EXCITED!!!) 

Distinctly Montana is a beautiful magazine distributed throughout Montana and I'm so proud to be a part of it.  To read my essay go here:  http://www.distinctlymontana.com/ .  Scroll down to the bottom and it's under "Montana Writers" titled "My Bozeman"

YAY, YAY, YAY, YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, June 24, 2013

A Fresh Week.

I really, really wanted to go camping over the weekend.  I knew the weather wasn't supposed to be great, but that didn't curb my desire.  I kept thinking, it's going to be nice.  It's going to be nice.  Saturday morning we woke up to rain showers and I finally gave in and decided sitting in a tent in the cold rain all weekend would not be a fun time.  I reminded myself it is still early in the summer and there are more camping adventures to come.  We settled for a weekend at home.  A cool summer day is best spent soaking at a local hot springs sipping some locally brewed beer.  That is just my opinion of course.

This was nice, but by Sunday I had a strong need to get out into the mountains, fresh air and away from everything.

I've been having a hard time clearing my head these past few days.  There's been some stuff going on.  I think this is what was driving the longing to go camping.  There is something about being up in the mountains that brings me a sense of calm.  Looking up at towering mountains or down at the world from the top makes everything else seem small.  When I made the suggestion to go for a hike on Sunday I was met with mixed reactions from the family.  The girls wanted to but wanted to hike the "M" trail right here in town.  Matt had a couple of suggestions also, but he must have sensed I needed more because he quickly agreed to go wherever I wanted.  I think everyone knew I was going with or without them.  As we headed south of town and towards Hyalite I could feel my breaths getting deeper, the jumping thoughts in my mind settle and by the time we reached the reservoir I had not a care in the world.  

My Sunday afternoon therapy included-
Waterfalls...

Happy little girl and a happy mama...

Picnic at a cold mountain side stream...

And my fashion diva who wears a shorty skirt for an afternoon hike...
I heard more than one person comment on her adorable outfit.  Bright colors contrasting against the green of the trail.  My favorite was a mom telling her son "If that little girl in a skirt can make it up, you certainly can".  

By the time we were home I felt good.  Clear headed.  Ready for a fresh week.  

Our fresh week brings with it good things.  Sister is getting some second (or third, or sixth) opinions in Denver this week.  It is time for some answers for her and I am hoping, praying that is what she gets.  Her being there means we get some extra cousin time.  This makes for happy kids...

After an entire school year of not getting to see each other as often we will be cramming a lot of play in this week.

Besides the extra laughter and noise around the house, I'm really loving eating and cooking with fresh veggies again...

Love the quote.  It is so true.  Summer delights.

Fingers crossed for camping this coming weekend.  

Friday, June 21, 2013

Summer Solstice.

In my opinion the first day of summer should be considered a national holiday.  A day to be celebrated.  Celebrate having endured a loooong winter.  No one should have to work and everyone should spend it outside in the sun.  Fruity cocktails with umbrellas optional, but encouraged.  Because we live in Montana our solstice was a cool day with rain showers on and off.  The sunshine did grace us with her beautiful presence briefly so we took advantage.

Along with this first day of summer came our first week of summer vacation.  It's always an adjustment going from scheduled school days to carefree summer days, but we found our groove.  I think this first week is a good preview of weeks to come...

Picnic at the park with cousins-

This park is always a favorite because of the small stream running through it.  It goes slow enough that even the littlest cousin can wade in without falling down.  They made it their business to to clean out the grass flowing down stream.  I think we came home with more grass on us than was in the stream.

Long walks home and Popsicles on the porch to cool down...
She was so proud pushing her cousin home in the stroller...little mama in training.


After a few warm sunny days we woke up to dark clouds and rain.  It has been a rainy spring, I don't mind, it makes everything such a lovely green and smells amazing.  First "rain day" of vacation is easy to solve with a trip to the library and baking cookies.  If we continue to have these it will not be as easy to appease them.

This is how I found them...laying on the floor in the living room, Ava reading the books we checked out to her sister.  Love this.

The cookies we made are some of my absolute favorites.  Double chocolate peanut butter deliciousness.

I've made these babies a couple times before.  They take more time than some, but so very worth it.  You can find the recipe here.  

While on the subject of food, summer is bringing on fresh creativity.  I am a person who cooks with the seasons.  I'm all about a big pot of veggie chili in the fall, lots of warm soups and casseroles in winter and come summer I am ready for salads, seafood and anything with fresh veggies.  The one exception to my seasonal cooking is pasta and pizza.  These are good anytime of the year, anywhere, all the time.  I have a new favorite potato salad and it is so different than any of my others.  I like a good old traditional potato salad with eggs, pickles, mayo and mustard.  (Maybe this isn't traditional to all, it is to me because it's how my mom makes it!)  I also make one with celery instead of pickles and a mayo-vinegar sauce rather than mustard.  This new one is totally different.  Grilled potato and cucumber salad...

Oh, it is so good and screams summer with the grilled taste from the potatoes.  I'll put the recipe at the bottom.  

I love cooking with fresh ingredients and try to instill healthy eating habits in the girls.  Of course you can't get it right every time.  Case in point, the girls dinner tonight-

Matt's cooking dinner for me and the girls and I were picking up a few things for him at the grocery store.  I told the girls they could pick out what they wanted for dinner and this was the winning choice.  I can't blame them, there is something so comforting about this box of processed cheese and fake noodles.  Why does it taste so good?  I may have had one or five bites before I finally gave in and scooped myself a bowlful.  Darn you Kraft Velveeta Shells.  I slave for hours to get perfect pasta and a creamy sauce and they go and make it so easy and ready in ten minutes.  

I am very much enjoying the extra hours in a day with my girls.  It's nice hearing their voices and giggles as we go about our days.  It's nice to have an extra hand around the house especially now that Miss 6 & 8 year old are much more capable of running a vacuum and broom.  They add an energy and spirit that is contagious.  Of course, we are one week in and everything is blissful.  Give it a month and I may be counting the days until the first day of school, sick of fighting, whining and wishing for a moments peace.  But, for now I am soaking it up.  

Since we are still in blissful summer vacation mode, we decided to start a project.  Last year the girls and I painted one of our fence posts that we had replaced.  This year we are taking our creative talents to the bench in our backyard...

I think it is going to turn out super cool.  It will have our very personal touch to it.  Ava said it best "I don't know why anyone would want a plain old bench when they could have one painted by an artist"  Agreed my smart girl.  

It is time to go and continue to enjoy this longest day of the year.  Happy official summer to ya.  

Grilled Potato Cucumber Salad
1.  Boil four potatoes for around 15 minutes (depending on size)  Let cool.  Slice each one in quarters lengthwise.  Brush with olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper.  Grill over medium heat turning occasionally to grill on all sides.  Remove and let cool.  Slice in smaller pieces
2.  In a large bowl mix 1/2 cup mayo, 1/4 cup white wine vinegar, 1 tbls sugar, 1 tsp celery salt, 1 tbls Dijon mustard, one garlic glove minced, a pinch of red pepper flakes, pepper and some fresh chopped parsley
3.  Add 1/4 cup chopped red onion and a thinly sliced English cucumber to the sauce and stir.  Add potatoes and toss to coat.  
Enjoy




Thursday, June 20, 2013

New Blog Address...

I finally changed my blog address...I had been using the one from my old blog for ages!  Here's the new one if you need to change it anywhere!

www.Rdeliciouslife.blogspot.com

Thanks!!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Happy Monday.

I started summer vacation with a good deed.  Now I'm ten inches lighter, a little blonder and happy knowing this is going to a good organization...

I've donated my hair several times over the years and it always makes the chop easier knowing it is not going to be swept up and thrown away.  It's an easy way to help.  It will be turned into a wig for women battling cancer.  I can't think of a better place for it to go.  I loved my hair long, but it was time for a change.  I finally decided to give in to the battle of the greys and professionally dye them away.  Once you begin dyeing your hair you can no longer donate it.  I figured I should go for it one more time.  I had a bit of regret a couple days after, but it quickly passed.  It's just hair and it was time to change it up a bit.  As a creature of habit I can easily get stuck in a rut.  Hair today, gone tomorrow.

When I had my moment of regret I thought of my sister who had to shave her head last summer.  That quickly put it in perspective.  She's a rock star.  

We began summer vacation appropriately with our first family hike of the season.  There is still snow in some of our mountains, so we stayed close to town.  It was a glorious morning...sun shining bright as we made our way up the mountain.  Stopping, of course to pick wildflowers along the way...

I thought it would be fun to do a scavenger hunt for this hike.  We made up a list on the drive to the trail and it didn't take long for them to begin crossing things off.

We found everything except an acorn and a snake.  Glad we didn't find a snake.  
This particular trail is one of the girls favorites because at the top is a fort...


We've come a long ways since our early hiking days with the girls.  Now they are strong and capable...running up the mountain without complaint.  This was not always the case.   I don't remember hiking when Ava was a baby.  I was either too tired from sleep deprivation during those days to remember or we were too worried of parents to ever do it.  However, I remember going when Layla was a baby.  The first time I had her in a front pack and Matt had Ava in a hiking backpack.  We were about a half mile in an easy trail up the canyon.  Layla was sound asleep, Ava was happy pointing out birds.  Then Layla made the tiniest of peeps and I was so worried she was going to wake up screaming and we would be stuck up a mountain I made us all turn around and get back to the car.  It ended up being a 15 minute hike after an hour car ride to get there.  Not very successful for two people who were used to hiking to the tops of peaks, but I felt like we had accomplished something so big.  Just making the effort to get back up in the mountains was huge.  Doing it with a two year old and newborn strapped to your sweating body was even bigger.  Hiking became a more regular thing again after that.  Many times it wasn't worth the effort.  It wasn't worth everything that need to be packed for it.  It wasn't worth sitting on an uncomfortable rock trying to nurse a baby.  It wasn't worth listening to a whining "MY LEGS HURRRRRRRRRRRT"  "I'M SOOOOO TIIIIIIRED" for an hour out in the mountains.  There were plenty of times Matt and I looked at each wondering why we were doing this and is it ok to threaten to leave them in the mountains?  Or is that bad parenting?  It turned out all the effort was worth it.  Now we get excited squeals when we suggest going for a hike.  There is no complaining, just happy girls out exploring the wilderness.  Stopping to pick wildflowers, observe a caterpillar and look out in awe when we reach the top.  I hope this love of the mountains and outdoors stays with them wherever they may go or end up.  

Yesterday we celebrated Father's Day.  My girls are so very lucky because their dad is pretty amazing.

He loves these girls like no other.  Best part is, he's not afraid to show it.  I didn't grow up in a house where we were overly affectionate.  We didn't say "I love you" all the time.  The love was just there.  You could feel it even if it wasn't said.  Matt grew up differently and brings so much love and affection to our home.  Not a day goes by without at least a dozen "I love yous" getting flown about.  I love the importance he puts on his relationship with the girls.  He lets them be themselves and gets involved with what they enjoy.  Whether it's tossing a ball around the backyard or getting on the floor playing Polly Pockets.  He'll sit on the floor and let them put one hundred hair things in his hair.  Now, that is love.  There is no one else I would want to share this journey of parenthood with. He is a natural.  While I read every parenting book there was and fretted constantly about doing things the "right" way, he just goes with what feels right.  And, judging by what awesome little girls they are, I'd say he is doing something right.  Happy Father's Day.

It's the first official week of summer vacation and I don't know where to start.  I was talking to my friend Amy and in our short conversation we talked about going to a park, the beach, camping and the museum.  We then stopped ourselves realizing we don't have to do everything the first week in.  I blame Montana...we have so few months you can't help but feel you need to cram it all in on every nice day.  Especially when it is finally feeling so warm, you forget that we actually do get a whole summer of it.  Gotta take a breath and enjoy it.  

Deep breath, inhale the delicious smell of lilacs flowing in...enjoy.  

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Schools Out.

Today is the last day of school for the girls.  

And because it seems as if yesterday was this...

I am feeling kinda sad.  If yesterday was the first day of kindergarten and second grade, that means tomorrow must be high school graduation.  I walked with the girls and gave them hugs and told them "Have a great last day of school!"  Then walked home with a heavy heart much like the day I dropped them off with "Have a great first day of school!" I haven't felt this in years past.  Usually it's only excitement of the beginning of summer, I'm not sure why it feels sad this year.  Maybe because I will never go through the oh-so-big feeling of dropping off a kindergartner.  Now, they both 'rule the school'.  They are confident school kids and each year is another year gone.  Fully immersed in school type things...learning, friends, teachers, activity.  Getting further and further away from our everyday influences and more by others.  Growing more independent, which is the goal, means growing more independent from us.  It's a tricky thing...wanting nothing more than for the girls to grow up into confident, independent, strong young ladies, yet knowing by doing that they will need me less.  

I try not to get too caught up in the "it goes SO fast, capture every moment" type things.  If I do that, I tend to get overwhelmed I might be missing something.  If I start thinking about a few years down the road when they are teenagers out with friends and not home with us, I freak out a little.  Instead I try to simply be present.  Enjoy these beautiful moments while they are here without fretting about them slipping by.  Truth is it really does go SO fast.  Worrying about it or trying to capture every minute won't make it slow down.  

Maybe I'm feeling emotional about it because for the first time, the girls are sad about the school year coming to an end.  Last night Ava got a little sad when talking about it.  I asked what was wrong and with tears in her eyes she said "I'm going to miss my teacher, she plays with us everyday".  This morning Layla said a similar thing.  I love the connection both of them have with their teachers, it just makes me a little emotional.  It makes me feel so lucky that the two women they have spend all year with have had such an influence on them and in a positive way.  I'm going to gush on teachers for a minute because I think they are amazing.  I'm not just saying this because my sisters and my best friend are all teachers...it truly is such an important job.  Layla's teacher gave the parents a poem which I love, love LOVE.  I think it can explain better than I can how I feel about teachers and how big a job they have for our kids....


I dreamed I stood in a studio
and watched the sculptors there.
The clay they used was a young child's mind,
and they fashioned it with care.
One was a teacher;
the tools he used were books, and music, and art.
One, a parent with a guiding hand,
and a gentle, loving heart.
Day after day the teacher toiled,
with touch that was deft and sure,
While the parents labored by his side
and polished and smoothed it o'er.
And when at last their task was done,
they were proud of what they had wrought.
For this thing they had molded in the child
could neither be sold nor bought.
And each agreed he would have failed
if he had worked alone,
For behind the parent stood the school
and behind the teacher, the home.
--Author Unknown-

I cannot read this without tearing up.  I've read it over and over and every time it gets me.  It is so true.  We put faith in our teachers each day to watch over, teach and love our babies.  The great ones do this.  We have been lucky to have great ones for our girls.  Layla's teacher was always telling us this year that she credits the first teachers, the parents for the great students.  That makes my heart swell.  To hear someone compliment you on your most important job of parenthood.  And, coming from someone who gets to see your product first hand.  Teaching can be a thankless job, but to all the teachers I am so grateful.  For taking those long hours during the school day to help our babies learn, grow and love.  Yes, I feel very grateful.

I am going to stop with the heavy heart and move forward with what the end of the school year also means.  It means summer.  It means, I get my girls all day, everyday.  It means we get to cross things off our summer bucket list.  The summer bucket list is only in my mind and it has things such as...Get Dairy Queen, eat at the park.  Set up swimming pool and stay in it all day.  Bar-b-q with friends and laugh all night.  Camp.  Eat outside.  Go to a park.  Go to a different park.  Go to a park with cousins.  Go to a park and take a picnic.  Hike.  Go swimming.  Be outside more than inside.  Cook with fresh veggies.  Go to the Farmers Market.  Get more ice cream.  Yep...that pretty much sums it up.  

A few more thoughts from our week...

I love old books and watching my girl read a book from my childhood makes me smile.

Cooking is becoming more colorful as fresh veggies and fruits are popping up...
Rice, bean and Kale burritos...recipe at the bottom

Tomorrow we get our first CSA box for the season.  I am very excited.

The girls ended the school year with a field day.  The weather held out and they played old school games such as croquet, horseshoes, badminton and boccie ball.  I got to help out.  It was very fun indeed.


Tomorrow night is the first ArtWalk of the season.  Downtown Bozeman does this on the 2nd Friday of the summer months.  Art galleries open up for people to stroll through while enjoying hor 'd' ouevres and wine.  Last year we missed every single one.  This year we made sure to line up Grandma to watch the girls so we could go to the first one.  Date night with my husband after we just got a date weekend...lucky us.  

Now, I'm going to bask in two hours of a quiet house, then I'm off to get my girls and summer can officially commence.  I will enjoy the two hours of peace because soon it will be filled with the joyful noise of giggling, happy girls on summer vacation.  And, of course the occasional daily fighting.  

Happy Thursday.  

Bean, Rice and Kale Burrito
-Heat some olive oil in a large pan.  Add around 1/2 chopped onion with salt and pepper and cook around 5 minutes.  Add a teaspoon of chili powder and cook a couple more minutes.  Add one can of pinto beans (rinsed and drained), two gloves of minced garlic and a 1/2 cup veggie broth.  Cook a few minutes.  Fold in some kale and cook until it starts to wilt.
-Cook 1 cup of brown rice (you could also use quinoa, I just had rice).  Add to your bean/kale mixture. 
-On a tortilla add some of the bean/rice mix and top with some shredded cheese.  Fold up, wrap in tin foil and place in a baking dish.  Repeat with remaining tortillas and mixtures.  (wrapping each individually helps soften the tortilla...it also seemed a little wasteful as I did it.  I think next time, I'll put the burritos side by side in a pan and then cover them all with tin foil)  Bake at 400-degrees for around 15 minutes
-Top with guacamole (mashed avocado, garlic salt, cumin, celery salt, chopped tomatoes and fresh lime juice...all to taste) and salsa.  
Enjoy!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

A Weekend Away.

We just wrapped up the most relaxing weekend ever.  I plan of gushing about a couple of things and then calling it a night.  The gushing will focus around the delicious food we ate, my fabulous companion for the weekend and the beautiful scenery surrounding it.  But, before I get to that I have to mention the kindergarten celebration there was for little Miss. Layla...

Friday her class had a performance for parents to celebrate the end of the year.  It was adorable.  And impressive.  They recited numerous poems, sang songs and did it all flawlessly.  Not an easy task when you are dealing with 5 and 6 year old.  I don't know why, but every time I watch things like this I get a little teared up.  Must be mama pride or something like that.  I always am so impressed with the schools around here when I go to things like this.  The classroom was bursting with parents, grandparents and others there to watch this precious group of kinders perform their little hearts out.  It was the middle of the day on a Friday and yet so many made it work with their schedule to be there to support their kids.  I feel fortunate to live in such a family oriented community with schools for our kids to thrive in.  We are lucky.  And, my how these students have changed from the beginning of the year.  From those first days of nervous, but trying to be brave, kids marching into the school with tears in their eyes as they gave us parents one last hug.  Now, they all were full of confidence and smiles, proudly showing off their classroom in their school.  Now, they are first graders.  Wow.  

Okay.  Back to the weekend.  It was Matt's birthday Friday and I decided to steal him away for it.  Of course, we celebrated with the girls first.  

The strawberry cake was a hit. 

The next morning, we dropped the girls off at Grandma and Grandpa's and hit the road.  Here comes the gushing about my guy, the food and the views.  First up...my guy.

I love hanging out with him.  This weekend was even better because it felt like it had been awhile.  We make a point to spend a lot of time together in the midst of our busy lives.  Date nights, family days, things like that.  However there is something about a weekend away.  Real quality time to be together.  To talk, laugh, enjoy.  Yes, I enjoy being with him very much.  

Next on the gushing list...the scenery.

The Paradise Valley in Montana is one of the most beautiful places in my opinion.  It is a short drive from Bozeman and there is something about the mountains over there.  They seem a little more majestic, a little more jagged.  Having hiked in them once, they also seem a little rough.  You don't just get a nice jaunt up...you have to fight your way to the top, but when you get there it's over.  Nothing else will be quite as impressive.  Sitting back on our cabin porch looking at the peaks we had been up to was pretty cool.  Throw in the raging Yellowstone River below and you get close to perfection.  This is right where we spent the majority of our weekend.  Sitting there for afternoon cocktails and then later after dinner to stare at the stars and yet again in the morning with a cup of coffee.  Awwww.  I found this place, the Yellowstone Valley Lodge, after a little research.  It has a few cabins and a restaurant that we had heard great reviews about.  Because it is a little early in the season for fishing on the river we had the place almost to ourselves which added to the peacefulness.  Just us.

When we did venture from our cozy deck we discovered a sandy beach.  Now, I know it is not ocean sand by any means, but when you are hundreds of miles from the nearest ocean, you take what you can get.  You kick of your flip flops and you let your feet sink in.  You close your eyes and listen to the river roaring by and for a moment you may feel like you are hearing waves crashing.

When you open them up you realize you aren't at the ocean, but as you see the towering mountains you realize it is still pretty freakin' awesome.  While there I overheard someone say with a sigh "oh, how I wish I could live here".  It made me smile because we do get to live here.  I know I've thought that exact thought while breathing in the salty air of the ocean on vacation.  It's easy to take for granted the fabulousness that Montana is, so it's nice to be reminded of it occasionally.  This weekend was a good reminder.  I do feel lucky to live in such a beautiful place.  I mean, look at our dinner view for crying out loud...

Which leads me to my final gushing point.  The food.  The food we ate was ah-maz-ING.  We eat a lot of good food, but it has been awhile since I was really impressed.  Absolutely everything we ate was so fantastic.  For starters the chef flies in the seafood from Seattle so the fish we ate last night had probably been swimming the day before.  It's tough to get fresh seafood around here and as a mostly pescatarian (except for the burger I'll be raving about in a moment) I love finding places that serve really great seafood.  They had big eye tuna and we had it not only as a sashimi appetizer, but also as one of our entrees.  It was prepared differently for both....the appetizer with mango and fried won tons and the entree in some sort of amazing sauce, roasted fingerling potatoes, tomatoes and kalamato olives.  It all melted in your mouth.  Matt and I decided to share two entrees...his was the tuna and I choose the hamburger.  Now before you judge ordering a burger at a fine dining establishment you have to hear it out.  It was local raised beef topped with coffee-infused bacon, fresh tomato, guacamole, sharp white cheddar cheese served on a homemade English muffin.  Not your everyday hamburger.  I saw it on the menu when I was checking the place out and could not get it out of my mind.  AND, it was served with asiago, rosemary french fries.  Best thing ever.  I was reluctant to split it in half to share with Matt, but after eating some of both meals I honestly can't say which was better.  I guess we'll have to go again soon to determine the winner.  Maybe it was the company I had or beautiful summer evening and fresh mountain air or all the vino, but it was seriously one of the best nights ever.  

Okay.  Enough gushing.  

It was a very nice time indeed.  
We started things off with a soak at Chico Hot Springs.  Although we did more suntanning than soaking because it was HOT outside.  Love it.