Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Wonderfully Weird Missoula.

This past weekend my little family made our way a few hours west to the other best town in Montana.  

Now, I am a Bozeman girl through and through, but I love Missoula in all it's laid back, hippie-vibe coolness.  (Case in point-we met a dude who carried a tiny kitten around in his bandanna and the kitten also wore a tiny bandanna.)  I think there are two type of people in Montana...those who love both cities and those who only love their own and really dislike the other.  I suppose there could be a third type who could really care less about either.  Anyhow, I have come to this conclusion based on many visits and the comments I receive when I tell them we are visiting from Bozeman.  Some respond with "Oh, I love it over there"  or "Lucky you!"  On the other hand I get..."Oh, I'm sorry to hear that."  or "Is it true Bozeman puts their homeless on a bus with a ticket to Missoula?"  

I fall into the type that loves and appreciates both for what they are.  Bozeman with its beautiful mountains and a touch of yuppie.  Missoula with the river roaring right through the center of town and a touch of hippie.    

Okay, enough of Missoula vs. Bozeman...it was the perfect weekend away with the family.  And we soaked it up.  First stop-the Fairy tail Festival, complete with princesses and fairy wings.  We got there in time for the last 45 minutes of it which in my opinion is the perfect amount of time to spend at a thing like this.

I found that if a child is wearing fairy wings, it makes people walking by smile.  I like this.  

We wandered around their downtown, lunched al fresco and then stumbled upon the Missoula Art Museum.  One time when just Matt and I had been in Missoula I wanted to check this out.  It was the one day they were closed.  Lucky us, it was open this time.  These guys have it figured it out.  They've found a way for parents and kids to enjoy an art museum.  The girls were handed a scavenger hunt upon entrance, broken down by exhibit for things to find in the art work.  They had a blast.  One colorful room was particularly entertaining...

Another museum goer advised us to not go in because it wasn't "kid friendly"  We must be hippie enough for this town because our kids loved it.  In all its weirdness.  It's a beautiful three story art museum and I am so happy we came upon it.  

Beyond wandering around, fairy tales and museum going we ate a lot, let our fish swim in the pool and checked out another festival going on...The Celtic Festival.  And, of course had ice cream at the best place ever.  A look at our weekend-

Layla totally photo bombed my shot...she's pretty darn cute tho.  

The line was down the block.  Totally worth it.  

A stroll over the bridge at sunset.  So lovely.  

A band playing at the Celtic Festival was called "The Fighting Jameson's".  As Jamison's we of course had to check them out.  

These Jameson's rocked it.  I would describe it as heavy metal Celtic music...couldn't really understand the words and sounded a bit like screaming.  But, they were so passionate it was still fun to watch.  We had two tired Jamison girls by this point so we called it a night.

The next morning, Layla and I crept out of the hotel early while Matt and Ava slept.  We didn't even get dressed...took a pajama walk in search of coffee.

It wasn't a long walk, just enough to soak up some one on one time with my baby girl.  I really treasure these small moments when I am with one daughter.  They don't happen often.  This makes them all the more special.  We hooked back up with the rest of our team for breakfast...

Notice the fairy wings were back on...just more making folks that walked by smile.  And then a final stroll before heading to the water park where we would spend the next 4 hours straight.  

No photos from the water park...cameras and water don't mix for me.  (My last camera ended up at the bottom of the Missouri River).  Just picture two girls who had grins on their face All. Day. Long.  Picture the first hour spent going in circles through the lazy river...in tubes, out of tubes, with life jackets, without...over and over.  Picture water slides...fun ones.  Poor Layla is still too short but we got Ava to go a couple times.  Pretty sure Matt and I were on them more than the kids.  They're just so fun.  Break for food, re-applying sunscreen and back in the water.  I think Ava spent more time under water than above.  They love it.  Bonus of the day?  I got to meet a gal whose blog I've been reading for awhile now.  I only follow a couple blogs and one of my favorites is Dig this Chick, a woman from Missoula writes.  I love her writing because it is very honest and poetic.  Well...who should show up at the water park and sit right behind us but her.  I casually whispered this to Matt and of course knew I wouldn't get up the nerve to say anything.  I don't know her, even though I know so much about her from her writing.  This is why my husband is awesome...he is my voice when I can't seem to find mine.  As she walked by he introduced himself and I then got to the opportunity to meet her, tell her how much I enjoy her work and get a bit of a girl crush.  Our very big world is actually very, very small.  Pretty cool.

We came home to an overflowing garden and raspberries galore.  

These babies were begging to be put on vanilla ice cream, so I got out the ice cream maker and got to work.  I love them growing crazy in our backyard.  As the girls pick them about half actually make it in the bowl.  They both kept  saying "Oh, mommy they are too hard to resist" as they stuff deep purple berries in their mouths.  

All the fresh veggies make me crazy excited about cooking.  I love taking what we have from the day and creating whatever sounds good.  No planning...just chop, season, saute and serve.  The other night I was making a tortellini, corn, tomato toss...simple.  But once I looked in my fridge I couldn't help but keep adding more and more-
I threw in kale, onion, banana pepper, peas, magic beans (from my sista's garden!) and fresh basil.  It turned out so pretty.  And, so tasty.  (I sauted all the veggies in olive oil with garlic.  Then tossed with cooked tortellini, parmesean cheese and sea salt)

Tomorrow is the last day of July.  July is the only full month without school. It seems as if it went by in a blink.  I suppose that means we were having a really good time because January usually crawls by in all its snowy coldness.  I do love August though.  It's always wonderfully hot, Sweet Pea Festival will be here and Matt and I celebrate our anniversary  in August.  It's going to be a good month.  Have I mentioned before how much I dig summer?

One final shot from my other favorite Montana city...with my only favorite guy.

Happy almost-August.  Enjoy your last day of July.  

Thursday, July 25, 2013


This week while at a picnic I had someone ask "So, what camps are your kids going to this week?"  I paused a moment before replying "No camps.  Just Camp Mama."  The response was an odd look and then a small laugh when she figured out my joke before quickly changing the subject.  It was the second time this week the mention of summer camps came up.  Earlier it had been running into a parent at the grocery store who told us about the great camp his daughters were going to at the local humane society.  When he asked what we were up to this summer I had no amazing camp stories to share.  I told him we'd been doing lots of swimming, going to parks and camping.  Again, I felt this was met with an odd look.  It got me wondering…what has happened to the simple art of "play"?

Growing up my summers were filled with my sisters and I playing.  Exploring the fields behind our house, making rafts to go down the tiny stream-never really succeeding but having a lot of fun trying.  Picnics at parks with cousins were a weekly occurrence.  Making mud pies and playing "house" in my grandpa's old barn.  Letting our imaginations lead the way each day.   No organized activity beyond the occasional swim lesson.  There were a few summers when we went to Girl Scout Camp, which I have fond memories from.  However, the memories I hold closest are those of lazy, laid back summer days.  No parent pressure to get kids involved in multiple activities.  The idea of going to a camp specifically for "drumming" or "rock climbing" was completely unheard of.  Times have certainly changed.  This new generation of kids gets an enormous variety of activities and sports to choose from.  They can be an artist one week and an athlete the next.  I say this with no judgement as to which is the "right" way to raise our children.  I believe parents only have the best intentions at heart.  Those who have their children scheduled from sun up to sun down do this in hopes of offering their babies the world.  Or, maybe it is because they are a two parent working household and it is a matter of child care.  On the other hand those who don't have their kids in camps may not be able to afford the high price tag that comes along with it.  Or, maybe they want to be the one teaching their daughter how to kick a soccer ball in the backyard.  Or the one to see their son dive into the pool for the first time.  The end goal is the same.  To raise happy kids.  I feel confident in what works for me and my family, but can't help but question if my approach to play is outdated and therefore are my kids missing out?

During the school year, it is easy to get caught up with what other parents are doing.  It's all the talk as we sit at the front of the school waiting to gather children at the end of the day.  Moms grabbing kids quick to get to ballet class.  Overhearing someone talking about which teacher they are using for private violin lessons.  We've tried this.  We've done dance, we've done soccer.  They seem to get a moderate amount of enjoyment out of it, but seem happiest when they can come home and get lost in a world of imaginative play at the end of a very long school day.  A day of learning, dealing with peers and homework.  As I sit there and hear the parental chatter I know my girls are happy and I'm glad to not be rushing off to hours of gymnastics...however, I can't help get caught up in the talk.  Summer has always been my saving grace.  No one needs to know I selfishly want to be the one spending lazy days with my kids…taking them on hikes and heading to the neighborhood parks.  I don't have to hear how someone has moved up a level in her piano class, I can just blow up our swimming pool and spend the afternoon watching my girls splash each other amongst their squeals.  Parenting is a tricky thing.  I think in your heart you know you are doing what works for you and for your family, but your head can't help but question it occasionally.  None of us know how it will all play out.  If the child who had so many opportunities will turn out to be a professional athlete or unable to entertain themselves without some sort of outside stimulation.  We won't know if the kids who just played in the backyard will end up enjoying the simple things in life or falling behind the other kids.  What we do know, and I try to remind myself on a daily basis, is to trust yourself.  Not to get caught up in the right or wrong way of parenting.  When it comes to play, it is all the right way.  Whether it is playing at a different summer camp each week, or playing Barbies everyday with your sister, kids just need the freedom to play. 

Cousins...an important addition to any form of play.  

I do believe the simple art of play has changed.  This is why the feelings of not having my girls involved in enough activities creeps in.  I think being outdoors with nothing should be able to set the stage for hours of creative play.  This is why I try to quiet the voices I hear of other parents.  I will love my girls, nurture them and help them grow into the best young women they can be.  I will instill the importance of play and hope it stays with them.  I will do this so as adults they will still find the simple enjoyment in a game of hopscotch on a hot sidewalk or the thrill of flying down a snowy mountain on a sled.  They may not grow up knowing how to play every sport out there, but the value of play may just inspire them to pick up a baseball bat and give it a try.  Even if when they do pick up the bat they yell "touchdown!" when sliding on the base instead of "home run" as I overheard my girls say one night.  That's the joy of real play...there are no rules.  

Happy Thursday.  

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Summer Happies

The halfway mark of summer has passed us by.  There are school supplies popping up at Target.  The days are ever so slightly getting shorter.  While these things are happening we are in full summer enjoying mode.  To celebrate this fact I'm going to do some summertime happies.  There are plenty.  Here is a handful.  In no particular order.  

1.  Ice cream.  
Every day.  Sometimes multiple times in a day.
There is just something about ending a hot summer day with ice cream.  And with all the various activities around town where the ice cream truck is present you can't help but occasionally indulge in it twice.  We finally made our own ice cream for the first time this summer.  Candy bar vanilla.  I put each of our favorite candy bars in it.  It was good.  However, I have found my new favorite ice cream on one of our many trips to the ice cream shop.  Sea salt caramel.  This is perfection.  

2.  A New Family Toy

After borrowing a friends paddle board a couple weekends ago and a couple weeks of thinking on it we decided to buy one.  There has been no buyers remorse on this one.  In the past 24 hours Matt ran the river on it three times, each of the girls had multiple rides on it, we took it on the lake and even got Miss Ava paddling on it...

It is awesome and perfect for our family because it gets our water loving hearts out on the water for hours at a time.  And it's a hell of a work out paddling that thing up the river.  Love it.  

3.  Face Paint.
Even if it only last a short time before getting smeared off their little cheeks, it is always fun to watch my girls sit so still and patient while someone paints on their faces.  The other reason this makes the happy list is because face painting usually occurs when you are at something.  In this instance it was "Lunch on the Lawn".  Something they have once a week during the summer...there are food vendors, live music and of course ice cream!  It's a time to bump into friends, take a picnic and soak up some sunshine.  This was our first time this summer.  It was lovely.

4.  Colorful Cooking.

Our garden is bursting with beauty.  This particular evening I seared some ahi tuna and we topped it with a mixture of mango, red pepper, red onion, fresh ginger and lime juice.  Then drizzled it with a mix of soy, ginger, rice vinegar and lime juice.  All this in a lettuce wrap.  It was like taking a bite out of summer...so fresh and lively.  Matt cut the last of our spinach and strawberries so now we'll be moving on to zucchini and raspberries.  Looking forward to it.  

5.  A Family Night on the Town.
What began as a simple night to go out for pizza turned into one of the best evenings of the summer.  There is this place in town...Frank's, and during the summer they do pizza on the patio with their wood burning pizza oven.  We've talked about going and finally did it.  Oh my.  It was good.  Fresh ingredients, perfectly cooked, all enjoyed while out on their adorable patio with a cold local beer.  Enough said.  Happy.
I told Matt he sometimes looks angry in photos...this is his non-angry-looking-photo-face
After, on our way to ice cream (the recurring theme as you can see), we came upon not one but two awesome bands just doing their thing on Main Street.  It was actually "Music on Main" downtown...an event held every Thursday where they shut down the streets for a band and tons of people come out.  This particular evening I think the music we found just off Main was way better than the Music on Main.  Just sayin'.  First the funkiest band from Seattle.  

These guys rocked out.  You could feel the passion they had for their music and how they just had fun with it.  Second we saw a crowd on a corner and went to check it out.  Found two 12 year olds that were seriously talented.  No joke, I think we will see them at the Grammy's one day...

Finally we took tired girls home.  A night that was simply supposed to be a pizza night turned into a full night of entertainment with my three favorite people.  

6.  My Girls Loving Summer.

These ladies have figured out how to do summer right.  They've even been sleeping in a bit, exhausted from hours in the sunshine.  Swimsuits go on in the morning and playing happens effortlessly throughout the day.  I was worried at the beginning of summer about the girls fighting more because they would be together so much.  This has not been the case.  Everyone is too happy for fighting.  (Not that there isn't the occasional knock down, drag out fight...this isn't a fantasy land).  It is such simple fun.  Water, sprinklers, parks.  Easy.  No pulling on snow pants, boots, hats and gloves.  Flip flops, shades and a quick layer of sunscreen is all that is needed.  I really try to not be negative about winter, especially in front of the girls, but it doesn't matter.  They know summer kicks winters ass any day of the week.  

Have a very happy summer week.  

Monday, July 15, 2013

A Weekend with a Side of Sick

I believe there should be some sort of rule about kids getting sick in the summertime.  The rule would be something like "Kids can't get sick in the summer".  It's so unfair to be stuck on the couch all day feeling crummy when the sunny, 90-degree weather is begging you to come outside and play.  Since apparently there is no such rule I have been nursing a sick babe today.  Poor Layla.  It is always so sad when the sparkle leaves your kids eyes.  They may muster a smile for you, but the eyes give them away.  You know they feel lousy and there's nothing you can do to take it away.  You make a bed on the couch for them, stack up some books to be read and keep a puke bucket close by.  You give extra hugs, you let them watch a ridiculous amount of TV because it seems to distract them from how they feel.  You wait for the sparkle to come back.  Still waiting.  

Before all this we were in the midst of a lovely weekend.  Saturday the girls threw on swim suits to head to their cousins third birthday party.  It was a perfect morning for a party.  I do believe all kids parties should take place in the morning. Kids are always in the best mood this time of day.  They jumped on the trampoline, swam, jumped, swam and jumped some more.  There were donuts, presents and lots of sunshine.  Oh, how I wish my girls had summer birthdays.

Cousins in front of my great-great-grandma's homestead.  
After the party we spent the afternoon doing the same thing, just at a different location.  We went over to a friends house to meet up with another friend who was in town visiting.  Parents caught up and kids jumped on the trampoline there, swam, jumped, swam, jumped.  It is clear to me that a trampoline and swimming pool are all my girls need for entertainment.  It was a good afternoon.  Catching up with someone who has been a friend since I was 15...that's twenty years!  Sometimes saying that makes me feel very old, but in this case it makes me feel very lucky.  Lucky to still be in touch with a person all these years even though we are far away.  Being with friends who I've known through the teen years, college, weddings, having babies and now as mamas.  Adults.  Based on our conversations, very much adults.  Adults with real-life stuff.  We may all only see each other once a year, but a day together to soak it all up is good.  To reminisce.  To feel comfortable enough to open up about all our real stuff because we've been sharing things for many years.  That is good for the soul.  

Sunday came around with mixed ideas of how to spend the day.  As often happens, Matt really wanted to stay closer to home.  I had the desire to get out and do something, but not quite as strong as usual.  I was tired from the busy day before, but get the feeling that summer is slipping by so thought we should.  Because we always tend to do what I want I thought it best to keep my mouth shut and let Matt take the lead for the day.  I'm so glad I did.  With my desire to get out every weekend I sometimes miss out on what is right in our own backyard.  And, by backyard I mean our little Bozeman in all its summer gloriousness.  I forget that we can have a perfectly delightful summer day without camping, hiking or escaping to the mountains.  That is exactly what we did.  After a leisurely morning we headed to a local trail for a stroll.  The girls climbed the giant trees and fed the very hungry ducks.  

We took the long route back to the car and wandered our lovely downtown.  Got a view from above-
Ava's got her pirate face on...arg
 And below-

We sat outside for lunch and watched the tourists walk by also enjoying our downtown.  Ava and I talked about how a lot of people come visit our city in the summertime and how lucky we are to get to live here.  She told me..."I just heard those people over there talking.  They're from Vermont and they are going to Yellowstone"  So, she's an eavesdropper apparently.  I replied "Lots of people like to come for Yellowstone".  Ava- "Yea, it represents us well".  Not sure where this kid comes up with this stuff.

Lunch came with the added perk of nerd glasses to which we found endless photo ops for the next hour...

And, then things began to go downhill as Layla's "tummy hurting" began.  Just one more reason I'm so glad we went with Matt's plan for the day to stick close to home.  

However, this does not mean I'm not already brainstorming where we should go camping this next weekend.  And, I bought Doritos...our official "camping chips".  That means we have to go.  

Hope your week is healthy.  

Friday, July 12, 2013

Summer Cookin'

Everything about cooking in the summer is better.  It's fresher, prettier, more creative and when you cook with the windows open you get to taste summer in the food.  I have been neglecting food in this blog lately!  This does not mean I have not been cooking with all the beautiful ingredients Matt brings in everyday from the garden.  I love summer cooking because it inspires me to try new things.  In the winter I do a lot of veggie chili's, soups, pastas...warm comfort food.  Summer brings it on.  I find instead of buying the same old things at the grocery store I get distracted by all the vibrant colors in the produce aisle and stray from my list and menu for the week and buy what calls my name.  When I get ready to prepare a meal I realize I don't have any of the ingredients I actually need so I toss my plan out the window and the fun really begins.  This is refreshing for my "planning" type personality. For the past few years we've also done a CSA...meaning we get weekly vegetable from a local garden.  I never know what will be in the box.  It's like getting a present every week.  We have tried so many new veggies because of this.  Things I wouldn't normally think to buy.  Therefore, I am dedicating this whole post to food.  Summer food to be more exact.  

I will begin with what we have had the most of.  Not only is it growing like crazy in our garden, but it has been a part of our weekly CSA.  Spinach.  Oh, have we got a lot of spinach.  I have managed to get it into every meal.  Breakfast...sauteed and tossed in a cheese omelet...so good.  I've also been blending it with frozen bananas, blueberries (or strawberries) and Greek yogurt.  I like to think of it as a breakfast salad.  It goes on our veggie sandwiches almost everyday for lunch.  Poor girls...they went from PB sandwiches everyday of the school year to veggie sandwiches during summer.  Although, they don't complain about the veggie ones nearly as much.  For dinners there have been lots of salads.  But, my favorite way to use our over abundance of spinach is in my lazy girls version of spinach pies...

Spinach pies are a Lebanese meal I make for holidays a lot.  They take a bit of work. Making the dough, making the filling and then rolling a few dozen pretty triangles.  This is why I created my lazy version.  I make my dough like I do for regular spinach pies, you can find that here.  I modify the filling a bit.  I throw spinach, Parmesan cheese, garlic, basil, s&p, olive oil and anything else that sounds good in the food processor and chop it up.  Then, roll out the dough spread with the filling and roll it up jelly roll style.  (I divide the dough in half or quarters depending on how big you want them).  Then bake in a 425-degree oven for around 20 minutes and slice.  SO much easier than rolling them all and in the summer I would rather be doing other things.  

Our spinach will soon be done and I'll be adding zucchini to every meal.  Bring it on.

Another summer favorite we seem to have a ton of this year is strawberries!  They have really taken off this year and Matt brings in bowlfuls every night.  I think they will last forever and every day they are gone by the end of the day.  This morning, before the girls had a chance to devour them I decided I wanted to bake with them.  Voila...

Strawberry muffins!  Let's be honest...the only reason we call them muffins instead of cupcakes is so we can justify eating them for breakfast.  They were so good...girls each had two and I'm sure would have had more if mean mommy hadn't said no.  I have never made strawberry muffins and I tend to rely on recipes when baking.  I read a few and modified them so I can proudly call this my own strawberry muffin recipe:
1-cup chopped strawberries
-1/4 cup canola oil
-1/2 cup milk
-1 egg
-1 tsp vanilla
-1/2 cup sugar
-2 tbls brown sugar
-1 3/4 cup flour
-2 tsp baking powder
-1/2 tsp salt
1.  Mix oil, milk, egg and vanilla in a bowl and set aside
2.  In a separate bowl mix flour, sugars, baking powder and salt.  Toss strawberries in to coat.  Add milk mixture.  Pour into 12 prepared muffin tins and bake at 375-degrees for 20 minutes.  Enjoy!

I have been wanting to make some vanilla ice cream to have with the fresh strawberries, but they just aren't lasting.  Maybe I'll get to do that when the hundreds of raspberries we have begin to ripen.

Something new I've cooked with this week...

Garlic scapes.  I've never seen these crazy things until this year and I'm pretty sure I'm in love with them.  Not only are they adorable but they are tasty also.  On the advice of a chef friend (best kind of friend to have) I drizzled them with olive oil, sea salt and pepper and grilled them.  After grilling I turned them into pesto.  I love, love, love pesto.  Could eat it on toast for breakfast type love it.  These babies really added something to my usual pesto.  (Basil, garlic, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, garlic and pine nuts...pureed until smooth...add s&p to taste).  Because I was trying to find another way to use spinach I decided to use the pesto on our pizza and top it with spinach and arugula.  It was a very green pizza-

I cooked the pizza on the grill.  Total summer, Montana garden pizza.  I think you can put just about anything from the garden on a pizza, top it with mozzarella, grill it and it will taste good.  Just my opinion.

We always get a few things in our CSA share that I really don't know what to do with.  A lot of different types of radishes and kohlrabi...not my favorites.  I'm trying to pickle some of the radishes.  I'm also not a fan of pickling, but maybe Matt and the girls will love it.  It does look pretty...
I sliced them, added rice vinegar, salt and sugar.  We'll see how they turn out.  

And check out this beauty...

It's a shrimp and tomato salad.  Another one that tastes like summer.  I marinate my shrimp for a bit in some fresh lemon juice and salt & pepper.  Heat some olive oil on the stove, saute some minced garlic, add shrimp and cook until done.  Meanwhile cook some sort of pasta...I like bow-tie for this one.  In a bowl combine your veggies...sliced cherry tomatoes, corn, fresh basil, fresh parsley, one can rinsed and drained cannellini beans, Parmesan cheese and some more olive oil and fresh lemon juice.  You can add any other fresh herbs or veggies you desire.  Add them all to the shrimp and cook for a few more minutes.  Toss with the pasta and season with s&p.  Add some fresh bread on the side and dinner is served.

We even made homemade popsicles this week with fresh squeezed oranges from our orange tree.  Not really.  We did freshly squeeze the oranges but sadly we do not have an orange tree in our backyard.  One day I may live someplace with an orange tree in my backyard.  For now I will settle for a backyard bursting with spinach, strawberries, peas, raspberries and lots more.  It's all good.

Besides cooking, eating or thinking about cooking and eating we've been tending to the business of summer.  Things like going to the park and playing at our version of a beach.
Why hello there, sunshine.  

Kids splashed in the warm water with friends and played in the nicest sand you can find here in Montana.  Moms soaked up the sun and chatted.  If you stuck your feet in the sand and closed your eyes you could be fooled into thinking you were on a real beach with the sunshine warming your skin.  However, the smell of pond is definitely different than the smell of salt in the air.  Oh, well.  We gotta take what we can get.  

Happy weekend.   

Sunday, July 7, 2013

July has Begun.

I find in the summer I'm not writing quite as regularly.  I believe this is simply because it is summer.  Writing, like running or cooking is a type of therapy for me.  A way to clear my mind, sort my thoughts, and feel ready to take on life.  However, summer in itself does this so the need is not there.  I still write, cook and run for the pure enjoyment of it but summer takes care of the mind clearing/therapy part of my life.  Warm air, blue skies, sun on my skin and spending more hours outside than inside.  That is good for the soul.  Yesterday I put my swimsuit on before breakfast and eight hours later I finally took it off.  Except for meals and the occasional reapplication of sunscreen all day was spent on the water.  That is good stuff.  

We found a new hobby that lends itself to being on the water all day.  It's fair to say both Matt and I are hooked.

It's such fun.  Any activity you can do barefoot in the sun while gliding over the water is something I can totally get into.  The girls dug it also.  Even the dog tried.  Ava wasn't too sure at first.  She begins everything cautiously while Layla jumps in head first.  After gentle encouragement on my end and Matt telling her she had to try we got her on and she ended up loving it.  As soon as we were done she was asking when we could go again.  Good life lesson for her...you never know if you will like something unless you give it a try.  Come to think of it that's a good life lesson for myself as well.  

This week there was some Fourth of July celebrating going on.   We had some festive flare...

Fourth of July is not on the top of my list of favorite holidays.  It moved down the year Ava was a baby.  She was only around three months old on her first 4th and finally starting to sleep through the night.  I was still very much in the beginnings of motherhood where you thought any little noise would most certainly wake up the baby.  Wake up the baby I had just finished nursery for an hour, rubbing her forehead, praying silently in my sleep deprived hazed that she would please, please, please fall asleep.  Then I would quietly creep out of her room thinking if I walked out like a regular person she would of course wake up screaming.  Not realizing that if a baby really is asleep you could be at a rock concert and they wouldn't be fazed.  When the fireworks started going off on the 4th that year it was the first time I realized how ridiculously loud they were.  I wondered why anyone would want to shoot bright lights into the air when all I wanted to do was sleep for three hours in a row before I had to get up with a baby again.  The second reason for my dislike of fireworks began with our dog, Sadi.  Oh, how this dog hates them.  It turns our big seventy pound dog into a shaking, panting, smelly (you can literally smell her fear) mess.  Every year I worry that she will not survive it.  Poor puppy.  Now, the girls are older and I realize nothing wakes them up in the night except for bad dreams.  They are very into fireworks and Fourth of July type things.  Because of this, I find the holiday crawling back up my list of holidays I like.  (Like, not love...not there yet).  But, as long as we have Sadi, I will not truly enjoy it.  To ease her anxiety we usually leave town for the holiday.  Get away where there aren't so many fireworks it sounds like we are in a war zone.  This year we spent three lovely days at the river with my parents.  The weather was perfect, the water was warm and it was blissfully quiet.  

We did river things.  Things like paddle board, swim endlessly in the river and simply relax.  We watched evening storms come in while under the covered deck...  

Summer storms are awesome.  When you are some place safe and you can watch it move in.  Watching something so powerful.  The lighting was amazing.  Later in the evening we were sitting by the campfire and in the distance there were low clouds covering the mountain range.  The lighting was lighting up the clouds from beneath.  You didn't see it coming down from the sky...it was like it was coming up in the clouds.  It went on for hours.  It was the coolest storm I have ever seen.  I thought about grabbing my camera to try to capture it, but it is one of those things I knew couldn't be captured in a photo.  You kinda had to be there.  

Other river things...  

Matt and my dad invented a new sport.  You take a paddle board and a boat.  One end of the rope is hooked to the boat, the other is in the hand of the person on the paddle board.  Person on paddle board gets their balance and the boat takes off up the river, trying to avoid rocks.  Many crashes follow.  Person on paddle board frantically swims to try to get the board before it floats down river.  Spectators, aka little girls on the shore, laugh hysterically.  I don't recommend this sport.  
Look left...crash is about to happen
When the girls were little we could get away with leaving town and pretending the Fourth of July never happened.  They're onto us now and I don't want to deprive them of a holiday that is of important significance to our country.  So, I bought a few "quiet" fireworks for them.  And by quiet, I mean totally lame.  Luckily they are young enough chasing the parachute that came shooting out of the pathetic firework was fun.

Even our sparklers were kinda lame.  The sunset behind it was pretty cool tho...

After putting the girls to bed I found my mom watching the NYC fireworks show on TV.  I felt so bad about our sad little fireworks show I actually got the girls out of bed so they could see some "real" ones in New York.  Maybe next year we should send the dog to Grandma's and take the girls to a fireworks show.  Or maybe not.  It was a pretty perfect weekend.  After five solid hours in the water yesterday, floating and paddle boarding we packed up very tired girls and headed home.

Sun-kissed girls snoring in the back seat and happy refreshed parents in the front.  We had decided to come home Saturday so we could have one day at home before a new week.  It's hard to leave the river when it's 80-degrees and beautiful but we also had planned a date night for the evening since we missed it the day before.  There was no cooking involved in this date night.  It was a night of ordering in, sitting on the back porch and soaking up the quiet back in the neighborhood.

We woke up Sunday not knowing what to do with the day.  Part of me wanted to stay home and be lazy, part wanted to get out and do something.  Sometimes things just fall into place without planning on your part.  That is what happened today.  We ended up going with some friends for a picnic and swimming in a freezing cold Montana creek swimming hole.  I love it when days work themselves out.  It was a beautiful afternoon...

Ava, my sweet animal lover, made some friends...

Summer lovin'.  
And, can I just say how happy this makes me...

As a Montana girl who longs for ocean the sight of a board on my car makes a big cheesy smile come across my face.  Love it.  

Happy day.