Thursday, June 19, 2014

Rain, Rain, Go Away.

The weather has not cooperated for the first week of summer vacation.  I thought it was only a weekend thing...cool down, rainstorms followed by the return of our warm summer weather.  Nope.  Instead it cooled down more and the rain has been pouring over our valley.  Yesterday I was starting to get bummed out by it.  Cooped up for the third day in a row wishing for sunshine.  This is why we didn't live in Portland long, I need my sunshine!  Finally today the chill left and although the clouds are still lingering, things are looking up.  This is good because I think we exhausted our rainy day activities this week.  Things like taking puddle walks in the rain...

Going to the library with cousins and everyone else in town escaping the weather...

And staying home to make forts and bake a cherry pie...



I had to put a photo of the pie in because I make notoriously ugly pies.  They usually taste good, but my crusts are hit and miss.  I think this one turned out because I had a cheering section of two little girls telling me I could do it.  

Needless to say, when the rain stopped today and the sun peeked out it didn't take us long to drop what we were doing, grab our bikes and basketball and head to the nearest park.  And then later this afternoon take further advantage with a hike.

We were so happy to see the blue sky return . The dark clouds mixing with the fluffy white ones set off by the snow capped mountains and bright blue sky made my heart lift after days of questioning why we live in a town where it's this cold in June.  Montana is such a tease with those couple weeks of 70 and 80-degree weather and then bam, 50-degrees and the heat back on.  I mean, come ON!  We only get a few months as it is, you've got to give us all of June.  

Anyways...back to enjoying the sun when we got it this week.  We did get out with cousins for more than the library.  A quick trek up Peet's Hill to get some energy out.  It was quick because number 1-it was cold.  And, number 2-there was a sign of a mountain lion spotting on the trail.  We stuck together and tried to appear big.  With this crew, it's not too hard...


The girls and I are settling nicely into summer.  Things have slowed down and after the past couple weeks, I am grateful for this shift.  This morning, as Matt was leaving for work he commented he is jealous of us on days like this.  I get it.  I feel so fortunate for the flexibility I get in my job to spend the majority of the summer with the girls.  However, I remember many days feeling so jealous of him getting to leave in the morning to go interact with adults.  To have a reason to take a shower and put on clean clothes.  Those days were tough.  Knowing I had 9 hours until he returned and those hours would be filled with a baby needing to be fed and changed every couple of hours or a very needy toddler.  And the crying.  And the trying desperately to get them down for a nap at the same time to get a moments peace and quiet.  I treasure that I got to be the one to take care of my babies, but there were certainly days I was crazy jealous that Matt got to go out in the real world.  Those were the tough years and now I get rewarded with awesome girls to adventure with...

And speaking of awesomeness-fresh vegetables from the farmers market give fresh inspiration for summer cooking.

This is my absolute favorite time of year to cook.  It is when cooking fresh and local is as easy as shopping in our own backyard.  Breakfast has been consisting of kale smoothies and Matt cuts the kale moments before I whip them up.  I love it.

So, the rain has been a bummer but I know warm weather will return.  Hopefully sooner than later because I have the itch to go camping this weekend.  And with every rainstorm you get a rainbow, right?

And sometimes a double.  

Happy Thursday!

Cherry Pie Recipe
Butter Pie Crust (I like a butter crust over one with shortening so this is the one I use)
-2 sticks of cold butter, cut into cubes
-1 tsp salt
-1 tsp sugar
-2 1/2 cups flour
-10-12 tbls of ice cold water
In a food processor or large bowl combine the salt, sugar and flour.  Add half the butter and pulse a few times (or with a pastry blender to cut it in)  Add the remainder and do the same.  One tablespoon at a time, add water and pulse around 10-seconds after each addition.  Continue adding until you can pinch some of the dough together and it sticks.  It will be crumbly.  Divide in half onto two pieces of plastic or parchment paper and shape into two discs...refridgerate for a hour.

Pie Filling
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
6 cups sour cherries, pitted
1/4 tsp almond or vanilla extract
Mix the dry ingrediants and then gently toss the cherries in to coat.  Let sit for about 15 minutes.  I had to drain some of the liquid.

Rollout the first disc of dough and place in a pie pan.  Fill with the cherry filling.  Roll out the other dough, cut into strips and create a lattice for the top, crimping the sides.  Cover the edges with foil and bake for 25 minutes at 375-degrees.  Remove foil and bake another 25 minutes.  

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Summer Break.

It is the eve of the first full week of summer vacation.  No packing up lunches, snacks and dance things for Monday.  No trying to remember who has what field trip when.  Since the girls last day of school we have made it to the ponds for a swim, a hike to the M and our first camping trip.  I call this summer vacation begun right.  It is Sunday evening and I sit exhausted from staying up too late with friends around a campfire and the lack of a complete rest from sleeping in a tent.  Exhausted but happy.  I love this time of year.  

We celebrated the end of the school year with a walk to the beach with friends.  It was a little chilly but that did not deter my fish...

I sat thinking what a great school year it has been for them.  Both did awesome, made new friends and really thrived.  They are now 2nd and 4th graders which blows my mind.  Growing more independent each day.  

The next day we continued our celebration of summer vacation beginning with a hike to the M.  I love having my hiking buddies back.  

When they were younger it was often hard taking them hiking.  Carrying them in packs, having to make sure we had extra bottles and diapers.  Listening to the complaints of sore legs and tired feet.  We pushed on through age appropriate hikes, trying to impress on them the amazing things about hiking.  These last couple of years I see our persistence paying off.  They eagerly suggest going on a hike now.  There are no complaints and no questions of how much further.  They take in the wildflowers around us and engage in conversation.  I enjoy our chats as we hike up the mountain.  It's something about the fresh air that opens the lines of communication and I hope this hobby of ours continues on and on.  

After beautiful warm weather a cool front rolled in just in time for the weekend.  We did not let this deter us from our first camping trip of the summer.  The first is almost always our annual trip with our best friends for birthday celebrating.  It began 8 years ago when Ava and their son were barely 1 year old.  I love the tradition of it.  Summer gets busy and there are good intentions of many camping trips together.  This doesn't always happen.  This is why the first trip with them is great, because we make it happen.

We packed extra clothes to prepare for a cool night, loaded the car with camping gear and grabbed milkshakes at the half-way point...

We filled the next 24 hours with our favorite camping things.

Friends...

S'mores...


Creating fairy houses for the camping fairies...

And taking advantage of the things you get at campground camping such as basketball courts and swimming pools...


Oh, how my girls love the water...


I know camping isn't for everyone, but I love it so.  Getting away and out into nature.  Cooking over the fire.  Kids playing in the trees and digging holes in the dirt.  Seeing the stars come out brighter because there are no city lights dulling them.  Watching bats fly over our heads and sharing stories over campfire and beer.  Waking up to little girls snuggled in sleeping bags next to us, all cozy in our tent.  And I love morning time in the mountains.  Hearing the birds and the smell of fresh air...cool and damp.  Waiting patiently (or not so patiently) for the coffee to finish brewing the old fashion way in a percolator.  Yes, I do believe I love everything about camping.  Including coming home after and taking a long, hot shower to get rid of the campfire smell and sleeping in your own bed.  We have a limited number of summer weekends and I intent to fill them with plenty of camping.  This was only the beginning.



Thursday, June 5, 2014

Happy Spring Things.

I love the change springtime brings.  Longer days mean after dinner walks to the park have replaced card games in the living room. Dinner is eaten outside which means clean up is easier because the ants will get the crumbs.  Fresh air and baseball in the yard means the girls crash when we put them to bed without protest.  The time to get ready in the morning is cut in half because only a sweatshirt is needed instead of snow pants, jacket, boots, hats and gloves.  It is all good.  

It also means my early morning runs are no longer in the dark so I can venture further from my usual street-lit route and find hidden treasures...

I literally turned a corner on a new trail and stumbled upon this bridge.  It has lights on it as well so we'll have to take a late night stroll this summer and see it in it's evening glory.  

A sure sign that spring is here and summer is quickly approaching is the return of the farmers market to our town.  We only get about four months of them so we didn't want to miss even one and braved the storm to make our way to see what was new this year.  We missed the storm but still got to enjoy the ominous skies.  And ice cream.



Freshly inspired from seeing local produce I'm ready to change up to summer eating.  Put away the crock-pot and comfort food and bring on the bright and colorful foods.  Our garden is only in its baby stage but seeing things popping up gets me dreaming of fresh tomatoes from the vine and an over abundance of zucchini and kale.  I've already gotten started with some colorful meals this week.
  
Quinoa Veggie Salad with Lemon Dressing-
I diced a bunch of bright veggies...peppers, broccoli, zucchini and tomatoes and tossed it with quinoa, feta cheese and torn basil.  The dressing is a traditional Lebanese dressing...fresh squeezed lemon, olive oil, garlic, sea salt and a touch of pepper.  Tastes like summer.  

And homemade pizza with fresh basil, artichoke hearts, garlic stuffed olives and bright peppers...



Our pizzas will continue to get more colorful as the season goes on.  They become Montana Garden Pizzas.  Translation-anything we pick out of the garden gets diced and thrown on.  We've had some interesting combinations by doing this, but always good. I was getting bored with winter cooking.  I'm looking forward to what's to come. Matt must feel the same inspiration with food because the meal he cooked for at home date night this week was fantastic...
It was a spinach couscous salad and spicy corn fritters.  I was responsible for making a dipping sauce for the spicy corn fritters.  I mixed some rice vinegar, honey, a splash of lemon and a small amount of red pepper flakes in a sauce pan and cooked for around 10-15 minutes until it thickened into a syrup consistency.  Yum.  The whole meal was probably one of my favorites that Matt has cooked.  He has been experimenting with Indian and Moroccan recipes...things I've never really cooked or eaten.  I am thoroughly enjoying it.  

Mixed in with all our sunshine has been thunderstorms and rain.  It has been a perfect mix.  Enough sun to get outside and enough rain to keep everything smelling oh so good.  And I love a good thunderstorm.  They are a reminder of how small we are when lighting lights up the sky and thunder rattles the house.  This weekend we took a stroll during a rainstorm.  It was a lazy Sunday morning and we wanted to walk to breakfast.  It was only a drizzle so the girls put on rain boots and sweaters over their pj's and we had one of those awesome family mornings that consisted of puddle jumping, coffee and muffins.  

Also this weekend was Layla's dance recital.  It was adorable.  She was in a tap piece and a jazz and I'm not just saying this because I'm her mama (well, maybe partly because of that) but they were really good.  I haven't had the opportunity to watch them during class so I had no idea how much they've learned throughout the year.  She seemed quite grown up and I foresee more dance in her future.
I volunteered to help with the class backstage.  Please don't confuse this with being an annoying stage mom.  It's more being a control freak mom...I know backstage can get chaotic and they don't let parents back there for the entire performance.  Teachers are preoccupied with all the other dancers so I like to be the one keeping an eye on my kiddo and the others in her class.  And, I cannot tell a lie...after dancing in my own childhood I love the behind the scenes part of a dance recital more than sitting in the audience.

This weekend brings Matt's birthday so celebrating will be going on.  We are also on the final countdown of school being out and are ready to welcome summer vacation with big open arms.  Homework and after school activities have already wrapped up.  I have four more days of packing lunches and then done.  Hallelujah.  

Oh yea, I have another article up on Distinctly Montana...it's a love letter to our beloved state.  You can read it here.  

Happy Day to ya!