Montana Musings

Do you know that phenomenon where you can’t stop reading license plates after having been on a road trip?

We just got back from a long weekend to Big Sky, Montana for my friend Meta’s wedding and saw cars from 40 of our 50 states along the drive!  I keep looking for those last 10 states… 🙂  Actually, though, I think finding 40 is pretty good especially in comparison to the list that’s been hanging around in my car since 2005 when I drove from Michigan to Seattle with my dad.  On that trip, we saw 43 states.  Just in case you’re wondering, we found everything except: Connecticut, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and West Virginia.

Besides keeping our eyes peeled for license plates on the trip, these are the other things that I’ll remember the trip by:

1. Coming out of the McDonald’s bathroom at our dinner stop on the first night of journey only to find Kyle standing by the soda machines looking at all of our fries on the floor.  He was stunned when I found him.  There wasn’t any space for your tray to rest while you fill up your drinks at this particular McDonalds, and in Kyle’s process of trying to balance everything, the tray flipped over, dumping everything on the floor.  Fortunately our sandwiches were protected by their boxes and the staff was really understanding and brought us new fries for free. 🙂

2. Arriving at our hotel for the first night and deciding to stretch our legs on a walk to Dairy Queen for some dessert.  Mind you, Kyle has been healing from a bad sprained ankle and I recently aggravated my plantar fasciitis, so we weren’t able to walk briskly or with any great distance so the almost 3 block walk to get there felt just about right.  After enjoying our “cool treats” and feeling satiated from the people watching, it was time to make the trek back.  We we’re about a quarter of a block away from the hotel when Kyle started checking his pockets for our hotel key card.  It was nowhere to be found.  We stopped in our tracks trying to decide what to do.  Retrace all of our steps?  Have one of go back to the hotel and probably pay a fee to get a replacement card while the other retraces our steps back to the restaurant?  Thank goodness for smart phones.  I looked up the DQ phone number, gave them a call and inquired about a lost Super 8 hotel key card.  FOUND!  We saved ourselves the extra walking by finishing the last 1/4 block to get to the car and drove back to get our key.  Phew.

3. After the first leg of our drive and the two fiascos of our journey on night 1, we were pretty anxious to get to bed.  As Kyle opened his toiletry case, he discovered the 2nd thing he forgot: a toothbrush.  Guess who had to borrow mine the whole trip? (The first was a sweatshirt or long-sleeved layer of some sort.)

4. On day two of our travels, we got off to a decent start.  In the continental breakfast, we saw a lady who filled up a cup of coffee and then promptly spilled the whole thing partially on the counter, partially on the floor, and partially on herself.  Given Kyle’s luck from the night before, we figured he’d passed that along to her.  (Poor lady.)  But, no such luck.  The last part of our drive became grueling when  we came across “Incident Ahead” signs shortly before our exit on I-90.  At first we thought the signs were a joke.  There were just some random cars pulled off on the side of the road here and there.  And then….we came around a bend to a screeching halt of bumper to bumper traffic.  At times we were literally parked on the freeway.  We watched as some cars got adventurous and drove across the median to turn around and go westbound instead.  We even did a chinese fire drill at one point so Kyle could be relieved from his position at the wheel.  In curiosity, we searched the local radio stations for some sign of traffic news and eventually heard the second half of a snipit about an accident that had happened about about 12:45 pm.  (It was 4:45ish – I think – when we were parked on the freeway.)  Which, speaking of times, was one of the other reasons our trip became grueling. We forgot about the time difference…  Montana is 1 hour ahead of us, so we lost an hour somewhere and hadn’t been planning on it.  Our goal was to get to the resort where the wedding was taking place in the late afternoon so we check-in, get settled, figure our the lay of the land and then be ready to go to the “Welcome BBQ” at 6pm.  Those plans went down the drain when we ran into traffic, and lost an hour.  And then those plans were completely abandoned when we finally got through the “incident” (which was just the police taking photos and such of the accident scene) because we ran into road construction next.  Basically, as soon as we got off the freeway, we saw signs that we should expect delays.  We ended up having to follow a “pilot car” for several miles at 35 MPH on a section of the road that should have been 65MPH or so.  Oh joy.  In the end, we made it there safe and sound.  (Just several hours after our ETA.)  And there was still plenty of food for us at the BBQ.

5. Having it be sunny and warm enough to be at the the pool at 9:30 in the morning.  Oh, and I certainly won’t forget the suburn that resulted from our 3.5 hour long poolside stint.  I can honestly say I’ve never had a neck sunburn before!

Our view from the pool. (Look carefully and you can see the reflection of the red umbrella and lounge chairs in the class that separated the pool from the mountains.)

6. Riding the chairlift up to the top of the mountain for a look around.  What a view!  (Oh – and not having reapplied sunscreen for this portion of the afternoon sure didn’t help our already formed sunburns. 🙂 )

Beauty between a rock and hard place.

SNOW!

7. Discovering all of the things that the resort floated in their water jars.  (To give you an idea, we saw (or heard about other friends seeing) sliced oranges, basil and bright red hot peppers, and sliced cucumbers with lemons.)  Big Sky Resort sure makes drinking water so alluring.

8. Dancing the night away at the reception.  I was in awe of how the DJ kept so many people on the dance floor.  (To the bride’s credit, she sure did a great job of instructing him!)

9. Have two pieces of cake!  How could I resist?  It was Funfetti Cake with Rainbow Chip frosting.  🙂

10. Spending 12.5 hours in the car on the way home and remembering how sometimes I spend an entire road trip thinking and talking.  This time I mostly just zoned out.  12.5 hours is a long time to zone out.  My brain is usually works in overdrive, so I’m sure it appreciated the break.

All in all, we had a great (and memorable trip) to kickstart the summer.  Here’s to the prospect of summery days arriving in Seattle soon! (It’s currently overcast and 54 degrees with a forecast that we’ll reach 62 degrees later in the day.  Come on summer!  You can do it!  We’re all routing for you!!)

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Michigan

I wanted to write a post about my trip to Michigan, but I’m not really in the mood for writing.  Good thing they say a picture is worth a thousand words, right?

One of the most exciting things about my trip was getting to meet my newest nephew, Reuben.  (Well…he was the newest at the time of my trip, anyway.)

He’s such a good baby and super social and flexible.  In other words, he’s not very good birth control.  😉

Either is this little lady, Leila, who won my heart all over again.

We got to do lots of playing and hanging out together…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We get along famously, if I do say so myself. 🙂

Hanging out with my family is always the best past of being in MI.  I miss these kinds of moments living in Seattle…

One of the main events during my trip was my parents Renewal of Vows in honor of their 40th wedding anniversary this year.  It was a special day!  You never think about being at your own parents wedding, but that’s what it felt like!

We had a beautiful, sweet, and simple ceremony at a park with a Gazebo and came home to a delicious lunch and LOTS of time to just be…

 

It was so good to spend a day with Ben and Eleanor, too, on the day of my parents renewal of vows.  Heather wasn’t able to be there either since she was so close to her due date.  (Little Evan Daniel Wing arrived just 7 days later!)  Ellie and I got in LOTS of quality time on the hammock outside, read some books, and played with toys at Grammie and Grampie’s house. What fun!

I chose the timing of my trip so I could also see friends and be at my college friend, Oven’s, wedding.

It was quite impressive to see how our group has grown!  (There’s even some kids missing in this picture!)

I think this may go down in the books as one of the best summer trips to Michigan.  If only Kyle could have come….

Our new Retaining Wall

Kyle and I just returned from our inaugural camping trip as a couple to celebrate our 3rd wedding anniversary.  I’d love to tell you about that experience – it was memorable for all kinds of reasons.  And I’d love to recount my visit with family and friends in Michigan during which I met my nephew Reuben, celebrated my parents’ 40th Wedding Anniversary with a renewal of their vows, and attended my college friend, Oven’s, wedding, but those tales will all have to wait.  What I really need to catch you up on is our retaining wall project.

We had high hopes of finishing all kinds of projects in our yard this summer.  Three to be exact: building a retaining wall along the side of our fence, putting in a patio so we can have an outdoor dining area, and putting up a shed.  It’s important to dream big, right?  All we finished (well, sort of finished) was the retaining wall.

Kyle’s brother, Tyler, has been in town this summer in between semesters of Dental School.  In fact, he’ll be in Seattle for the next two years, which we’re really excited about so we can hang out with him and his girlfriend Jess who is starting a Dental Hygiene program in Seattle in the fall.   Tyler was looking for work for the summer and is a good, hard worker, so we hired him on to help with our retaining wall.

Here’s what it looked like before we started:


Tyler did all of the prep work for the wall which started with digging out the grass and weeds and making a nice long trench.

That first day, we also got a couple of yards of gravel delivered.

Tyler singlehandedly shoveled most of the gravel from the driveway up to the wheelbarrow (which was up the steps from the driveway), and wheeled it to the backyard.

Look at that positive attitude! 🙂

That’s SUPER HARD WORK!

Kyle was able to come home fairly early each day so he could help, too.  He couldn’t have been that productive at work with all the phone calls and questions we bothered him with throughout the day anyway. 🙂

Most of the project was completed with good ol’ fashioned shovels, and man-powered tools, but Kyle’s dad let us borrow his “Jumping Jack” compactor.  It was a bear to lift up our steps to get it into the backyard, and it was a bear start.  Once Tyler got it up and running, it continued to be fickle and every once in awhile would seem to take off on a shot, making it really difficult to control.  You should have heard Tyler’s yell of surprise everytime it took off like it did here:

On the second day, I joined in and helped with some general stuff in the yard.  We knew we’d have to do a dump run or two, so I took advantage of that and took out a bunch of weeds and huge portions of plants we didn’t want.  Tyler worked on digging out the tougher stumps and random rocks placed throughout our yard and continued working on the wall itself.  We got our delivery of three palates of retaining wall stones that day.  I’m very proud to report that I singlehandedly moved one and a half palates of the stone from the driveway to the backyard.  Here’s my victory photo from when I emptied the first palate:

Once that bottom layer of stone is down, things move pretty quickly.  So, by the end of day two, things were looking pretty good!

Kyle’s parents (and their dog, Shelby) came over for dinner that night to check out the progress.  Everyone pitched in a little bit, and we, of course, rewarded our hard work with delicious carne asada tacos and Bonbon S’Mores.  Ah…the satisfaction of standing on your own work. 🙂

With considerably less hours on the third day, the wall was done.

Now, we just have to figure out what we want to plant in it!! (Hence, the “almost done” feeling.)   At this point, we’ll probably just wait until next year to do the planting, but plan to at least put down some mulch so it’s not covered in weeds by that time.  Let us know if you have any suggestions for what to plant!  There’s really nice full sun up by the garden beds, and about three-quarters of the way to back of the yard, it becomes shadier.

Thanks Tyler, for all your hard work.  We definitely couldn’t have accomplished this without you.

The arrival of summer

First, a few updates:

1)  The garden has been a success.  We’ve eaten all of our lettuce and spinach and I’ve harvested all of our carrots, which we’re slowly making our way through.

(In the garden bed closest to the house, can you see the gap from where all the greens and carrots were??)  We’ve been eating our peas and strawberries and are waiting on the tomatoes, tomatillos, and squash.  We lost our cucumber early on, I’ll definitely have to replant our peppers if we really want to eat them, and I can’t quite decide if I’m going to start some of our herbs again.  (Our basil never took off – probably because I put it outside too early – and the cilantro bolted.)

Overall, it’s been a really good experience for our first garden.  We learned a lot, and have some good ideas for next year.  We’re still in the midst of a great debate about whether we should use starts or seeds next year.  Any advice??

2) I completed the Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon in 1 hour and 59 minutes on June 25th.

!!!

It feels like such a great accomplishment.  I’ve stayed away from running since then since I really did my knee in on the day of the run.  I’m still undecided about whether it’s something I’ve checked off of my bucket list, or if I’m game for another race.  Kyle is really inspired to get back into running so he can do the ½ next year, so that’s tempting to be able to run with him.  Speaking of running with someone – I did end up running with the same guy the entire 13 miles!  I noticed within the first mile that I could always see him from the corner of my eye, so I said, “I like your pace” and we chatted for a bit and then stuck with each other throughout the run.  He was from Germany and works for Brooks (which is one of the companies that sponsored the run).  Apparently, he was one of the few visiting from Germany who actually ran the course.  Most of his co-workers ended up working.  Every time I think about the run, I realize how important he was to helping me stick with it and carry on – especially since my knee started hurting between miles 5 and 6.  You can probably spot him in a few of the photos on this link.  (He’s wearing a black shirt with yellow on it.)  If not, you can definitely see him in this photo taken by Kyle’s mom. It’s a little bit like playing “Where’s Waldo” to find me in this photo. 🙂

I’m glad to have the race behind me and looking forward to staying fit and healthy in ways other than running for the rest of the summer. 🙂

 

Summer officially began for me a few days before the ½ Marathon, but I took a 4-day class the week afterwards, so it didn’t really feel like I was done with school work until June 30th at 4pm.

My biggest accomplishments of the summer thus far are doing tons of yard work and frying myself in the sun at the beach on the first 80+ degree day we had.  (Needless to say, I didn’t return to the beach the next day.  As luck would have it, now our weather has turned and there are no 80 degree days on the radar over the next 2 weeks of forecasts.  In fact, right now, it’s cloudy and misting outside.)

In honor of summer, I’d like to be more diligent about posting on the blog.  I can keep you updated on the progress of our upcoming yard work.  We’re hiring Kyle’s brother, Tyler, to help us with a bunch of stuff next week.  The main project will be putting in a retaining wall along the side of our fence in the backyard.  We’re also hoping to make a patio next to our solarium so we can have an outdoor dining area.  Later in the summer, Kyle is planning to build a shed in our backyard.  My big project will be to continue to weed and prune, which feels like a never ending job, so it’s a good thing I find it rewarding and addictive to work in the yard.

We’re making a trip to Guemes in a couple weekends, I’ll be in MI for a week meeting our newest family member, Reuben, who was born to my sister Katy’s family on May 12, celebrating my parents 40th wedding anniversary and renewal of vows, and having a mini reunion with my college friends as we celebrate our friend, Oven’s, wedding.

Kyle and I will also be taking our first camping trip together for our 3rd Anniversary at Big Arm State Park in Montana.

So, stay tuned.  And – for your sake, we better hope for a few more of these chilly and drizzly days so I actually get to those updates.  Assume I’m at the beach, working in the yard, or cooking something delicious if the blog stays quiet for awhile.

Happy Summer!

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Teaser of our Trip to San Diego

Kyle told me that he was going to post on the blog about our anniversary trip to Coronado, but I’m getting a little impatient.  Are you?  Here’s a teaser with a few photos to help ease the wait-time until we hear more details from Kyle about the trip:

The Glorietta Bay Inn Mansion

The Glorietta Bay Inn Mansion

Hanging out on Coronado Beach

Hanging out on Coronado Beach

Our Anniversary Dinner at the Coronado Boat House

Our Anniversary Dinner at the Coronado Boat House

What's a summer vacation without ice cream sundaes in the middle of the afternoon??

What's a summer vacation without ice cream sundaes in the middle of the afternoon??

Hopefully this helps tide you over until we hear from Kyle.

Also, I plan to post something new soon, too.  Summer is quickly coming to a close for me.  I was up at school working for the past two weeks and the first official day back for staff is this coming Monday (August 31).  So, I’d like to get in a nice reflection for you before I get wrapped up in the craziness of the beginning of the school year.

Hopefully you’ll hear from us both soon!!

Carried Away by Summer

Do you ever feel like you get carried away in the summertime?  Maybe you get carried away by being out in the sun too long and regaining those freckles that were hidden during the winter.  Maybe you get carried away with produce from your garden.  Perhaps you get carried away with your grill and only want food if it is has those nice parallel grill marks on it.  And it could be that you literally get carried away.

That’s what’s happened to me this summer.  Maybe you noticed that already, though, due to my absence on the blog.  I’ve been back for a week now, from my trip to visit family in Michigan.  It was a fantastic 2 weeks away with my family.  I spent several days in Ann Arbor, visiting with Ben, Heather, and this little cutie:

Eleanor

Eleanor

Considering she hadn’t seen me since she was 7 months old, I think we got along swimmingly. 🙂

Amy and Ellie

Amy and Ellie

She also really liked anything that was in my room.  In this case, my socks and flip flops. 🙂

Nom nom nom.

Nom nom nom.

We didn’t have a lot on our agenda in Ann Arbor.  Mostly I was there to see what Ben and Heather’s life is like with Eleanor, and to spend some time with my niece.  And she is quite the cutie.  She’s so close to talking, but for now just makes the cutest noises.  If you look at her mouth, she’s definitely “talking” in this photo.  I think her words were, “Bupedupedupedupe…” 🙂

IMGP0778

The second part of my trip was spent in Holland.  The bulk of my visit was at Katy and JP’s house, so I could spend some time with this little darling:

Leila

Leila

Even though I was pretty enraptured by Leila,

Reading with Leila

and she, with me,

holding hands with Amy Chithi in the car

holding hands with Amy Chithi in the car

I managed to fit in a visit to Captain Sundaes while I was there.

Captain Sundae's

I also took my parents out to eat at Boatwerks as a celebration dinner for their 60th birthdays.

Boatwerks

And I also was able to visit with several college friends.  One of the perks was that Katy did a BeautiControl Spa for us one night.  Ahhhh….

Spahhhh!

Spahhhh!

If you don’t already know this, when Katy and I are together, we spend almost every possible moment planning our meals and snacks, shopping for our required ingredients, making our edible creations, and enjoying what we’ve made.  Here’s a sampling of a few of our meals and treats:

Peanut Butter Cup cookies

Peanut Butter Cup cookies

Chocolate chip cookies

Chocolate chip cookies

Shrimp Pekoras

Shrimp Pekoras

Veggies for the curry

Veggies for the curry

Eggplant, Cauliflower, Potato, and Green Bean Curry with Cilantro Rice

Eggplant, Cauliflower, Potato, and Green Bean Curry with Cilantro Rice

Blueberries

Blueberries

Blueberry Pie

Blueberry Pie

Blueberry Jam Sandwich Cookies

Blueberry Jam Sandwich Cookies

Want to know a fun fact about that picture of the blueberries, and the blueberry treats we made??  Katy and I hand-picked them!!

Blueberry Picking

Blueberry Picking

So….so far, my summer has carried me away to a fantastic time spent with family and friends in Michigan.

When I got back home, I found out our tomato plants got a little carried away with their growing!  But don’t worry, I did a little maintenance on them. 🙂

Before

Before

After

After

Also, the summer heat got a little carried away in Seattle.  We hit an all-time record high in the history of Seattle’s summer weather: 103 degrees.

Next on the docket?  Getting carried away to San Diego next week for vacation and an anniversary trip to San Diego.  Check our our hotel!  Didn’t we find a cool place to stay?!?!

If you have a moment, maybe you could respond with a comment about what you have gotten carried away with this summer.

Simple Sangria Recipe and other summer updates

My sister, Katy, requested the recipe for my “famous sangria”.  Get ready Kate – this is complicated!

Amy’s “Famous” Sangria

1) Fill a glass with ice.

2) Slice up some of your favorite fruits into the glass.  (Some of my favorites: strawberries, pineapple, blueberries, peaches.)

3) Pour Carlo Rossi Sangria Wine over the ice and fruit.

4) Enjoy.  🙂

That’s it!  It’s so simple!  I know there are lots of complicated recipes out there that involve muddling and adding brandy and simple syrups, but I’ve found that this simple sangria recipe is the tastiest because you come by it with such great ease.  As far as the fruit goes, you can get as creative as you want.  I could picture doing a more tropical mix with starfruit, kiwi, mango, and pineapple.  You can use apples or citrus or berries.  It’s totally your call.

If I’m serving Sangria for a party, I like to pour the wine into a pitcher or jug that has a spigot and put some fruit in the Sangria to marinate including some pretty orange (and/or other citrus) slices floating at the top.   Then, I leave a bowl of fruit out beside the pitcher along with an ice bucket so guests can add how ever much  – or little – fruit and ice they desire.

There are also some fantastic white wine sangria recipes out there.  In fact, we served one at our wedding that was pretty simple.  It includes your choice white wine, a lemon-lime soda and pretty fruits.  For the white wine sangria, I’d be more inclined to stick with berries like strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and cherries.

I wish I had a picture of my famous concoction for the blog!  Hopefully we’ll have at least one more backyard barbeque at our house this summer so I can capture it for you.  We certainly have enough Sangria to host another party! (Those jugs are pretty big!)  It’s just the date options that are becoming more and more limited…

I am leaving tonight on a red-eye to MI to spend 2 1/2 weeks with my family.  The first part of my trip will be in Ann Arbor at my brother, Ben, and sister-in-law, Heather’s house.  Let’s be real though – I’m mostly there to hang out with my one year old niece, Eleanor.  I hear she’s pretty adorable these days and really fun to play with.  🙂

Then, partway through the trip, my brother and parents will help transport me to Holland by each driving me halfway.  (By the way, my parents are closing on their house in Glen Lake this week and moving down to Holland while I’m in Ann Arbor.  So, I’ll get to see their temporary digs while I’m in Holland.)  The the majority of my Holland trip I’ll be hanging out with my other 9 month old niece, Leila, at my sister, Katy, and brother-in-law, JP’s house.  It’s going to be a fantastic time of being with family and getting to know the newest members of the family better.   I also hope to see some college friends while I’m there, too.

It’ll be strange to be gone from Kyle for so long, though.  He’s not able to take the time off of work to go with me.  We looked at the price of tickets for him to come for part of the time, but it was almost twice as expensive as my ticket, so…he’ll just have to hold out until Thanksgiving when the Wings gather again.

Kyle took me out on a surprise date last night since we’ll be away for so long.  It was really fun to be in the car trying to guess where we’d end up!  Every turn he took made me keep changing my guess as to where we’d end up.  It turned out to be a place we had never been to before, but had heard it highly praised.  We went to Marcello’s.  It’s always a date when we go out to Italian because it’s not really Kyle’s first pick.  Although, he did go out on a limb last night and claim that his dish was the best pasta he had ever had in his entire life!!  (He had the Ravioli Crema and I had the Penne Sicilia.)  We had wine and got an appetizer.  Per Kyle’s suggestion (after reading reviews) we ordered the Bruschetta.  When it came, it was COVERED in piles of diced tomatoes, soI thought I’d have to eat the whole starter myself.  BUT – Kyle even like the tomatoes there!!!  It was clearly a hit and such a treat for me to go out to Italian.

We also decided that it was so fun to have a surprise date night and I liked to be the one being surprised and Kyle liked the one to choose the surprise so much that we are going to do this once a month.

Next month?  We’ll be in San Diego celebrating our anniversary so it’ll be a new place for both of us.  🙂

This has turned out to be much longer than I anticipated and now I should really get going.  There is packing to be done and last minute honey-do lists to write for Kyle. 🙂  See you soon family!