Friday, September 30, 2011

Glacier Vacation

My family hasn't been on vacation together in years, so Labor Day weekend in Glacier Park was bound to be epic!  The trip had been planned for almost a year, so it was exciting when it finally arrived!  Since we were going to be in Montana, my parents joined Conor & I at the Keenan's house for some lunch on the way to Glacier.  We rarely have an opportunity to get the in-laws together, so this was a real treat!  The only dad knocking my mom's entire lunch all over the kitchen floor!  Can't take him anywhere ;-)  With full bellies, thanks to Suzie, we started the drive to Lone Elk Lodge.

My dad found this cabin for us, and it was perfect!  Three bedrooms with their own bathrooms, and one beautiful kitchen.  It was much better than staying at one of the hotels in the park where the accommodations are quite a bit more "rustic".  The Simpson's aren't exactly known for "roughing it!"  The cabin was decorated for Fall, a pumpkin candle burning, and fresh baked huckleberry scones waiting for us.  It was so inviting; I couldn't wait to put on my cozies and pour a glass of wine!

The owners of the lodge told us about a short walk to a pond where we might be able to see beavers at sunset.  However, to see beavers you need to be very quite and sneak up on them...two things Simpsons aren't very good at.  Therefore, we saw no beavers!  But it was a fun walk to some railroad tracks and a great place to see a pretty sunset every night!

The first night we played Mexican Train, a family favorite, and yours-truly won!  This is no surprise, I win a lot!  And, spoiler alert....I won almost every game played over the course of the weekend!  Winning!  Although we stayed up til the wee hours of the night, we still woke up early to get in a long hike before my brothers and their girlfriends arrived.  That morning we bundled up 'cause unfortunately it was quite cold & rainy outside. The rain didn't last long though and the sun poked out to warm us up from time to time.  We chose a hike close to our lodge in East Glacier at Two Medicine Lake.  We were feeling pretty good, so we decided on an 11 1/2 mile hike, oh my!  Along the trail there were tons of huckleberry bushes which slowed us down a little, because you can't just eat one.  They were so delicious, mmm.  The trail traced along the lake, giving us some very pretty views, and then climbed up through the woods and prairies to Upper Two Medicine Lake .  We sidetracked a little bit and hiked in to Twin Falls which was just spectacular.   There weren't many people on the trail that day (probably because of the morning rain) which was great but a little unnerving, because we were in an area with recently spotted bears! Of course, we left the bear spray at the cabin... Oops!  This was our rookie hike, the next day we would be more prepared.  We found a great spot for lunch, which also included beers...only the Simpsons pack beers in for a long hike!

After our hike, we were pretty exhausted and couldn't wait to be back at the cabin.  While driving out of the park we noticed about a dozen cars pulled over, so we stopped to see what was going on.  Good thing we did, because right in the far side of the river were two grizzly bears feasting away on a moose they had taken down.  It was quite a sight to see!  I have never been that close to a grizzly bear, let alone two, and hopefully never will be.  They were ginormous!  Such a cool thing to see at the end of the day.

That evening Jon & Shalan arrived just in time for dinner!  My incredible mom had spent the entire week before our trip planning out all our meals.  She brought so much food with us that we filled the entire fridge!  Again, no roughing it here...we ate amazing food all weekend.  That night we had baby back ribs along with plenty of wine.  This led to another late night full of games.  This time we played Apples to Apples which can get really loud with everyone at the table yelling out their opinions!  Hopefully we didn't wake the neighbors.

The next morning we woke up to the smell of homemade cinnamon rolls baking in the oven.  I'll get out of bed for that!  They were so tasty; I am inspired to make them myself one of these weekends!  They went perfectly with a batch of gin fizzes which energized us for the day's hike.  We drove up to St. Mary's where Ryan & Chelsea met up with us.  We had planned on doing a hike to Iceberg Lake in Many Glacier, but when we got to the trail head we realized it was closed due to Grizzly activity.  We were all a little disappointed but really liked the area so we picked a different hike at the same trail head.  I don't know why the park rangers think the bears know to stay off the open trails, but at least we were prepared with bear spray this time!

Everyone was pretty beat after another long hike and ready for drinks!  We went to the Many Glacier Hotel which sits on a lake and has an absolutely breathtaking view.  The hotel itself is beautiful and very rustic.  It took us awhile to find the bar, but of course we availed.  It was a sunny afternoon so we took our drinks out on the deck, with everyone else at the lodge, and made some new friends while recuperating from the hike.  Nobody wanted to leave, but we had another fabulous dinner waiting for us back at the cabin. 

Since this was the first night the eight of us were together at the cabin, Conor & I brought out our surprise for everyone...  My dad loves Tommy Bahama shirts (or the Costco brand Jamaica Jaxx).  They have became his signature look at the lake or on vacation.  So, Conor & I thought all the boys should have matching shirts for this vacation!  Half the fun came from buying the shirts.  We were at Costco scouring all the shirts looking for the right sizes and deciding what colors looked best.  We just destroyed the Jamaica Jaxx display.  Then at checkout, the clerk is wearing one of the shirts and comments to Conor, "These shirts are awesome huh? Gotta have em in every color!"  At this point Conor is pretty mortified that this guy thinks he needs this shirt in four different colors!  Just as the pink is fading from his cheeks, the lady who checks your receipt before you leave also has to comment on our purchase: "Oh wow, when you like something you have to get it in every color!"  I was almost rolling on the floor laughing at this point!  Good times.

The drinks were flowing when we handed out this great gift, which made the whole experience just a bit more awesome.  The pictures are priceless!

 The next day, a few members of the family woke up really sore and didn't think they could do another long hike (amateurs!).  So instead, we decided to go white water rafting!  It took quite a bit of convincing to get my Mom on board for this activity, but eventually she caved into the pressure.  This was the warmest day of our trip (upper 70s), so it worked out nicely.  We had a boat to ourselves, and our guide was awesome!  It was a fun experience, although a little more leisurely than I was expecting.  However, this made my mom happy and provided us with a good opportunity to take in the scenery and relax!  No big wildlife sightings on this leg of our journeys, but we did see all sorts of fish in the crystal clear water heading down the river.  After our float, we bought some awesome life jacket coozies and hit the West Glacier bar that was right across the street!  This bar sure had some character to it...and some characters in it!  My favorite part: a guy with a mullet wearing a "White Trash" cut off t-shirt! 

That night Conor & I kicked my mom out of the kitchen so she could relax!  We made everyone a "Montana" dinner which included stuffed buffalo burgers, baked potatoes, and asparagus!  Everything was a big hit!  This night Conor & I were sharing a room with Ryan & Chelsea, which is only problematic because of Ryan's snoring problem!!!  I made him wear a breathe-right strip to bed, but it did not work.  His snoring was so loud! I could barely contain myself i was laughing so hard, I'm not sure how I didn't wake him.  Conor & I eventually decided that if we wanted to sleep we were gonna have to take the hide-a-bed!  Not ideal, but at least we got some peace & quite.  I love Ryan to death, but don't think I'll ever be able to sleep in the same room as him.  I don't know how Chelsea does it!  If Conor even thinks about snoring, or makes a sound that is close to snoring, I just hit him til he wakes up.  It may be tough love, but it works! ;-)

 Sadly, Monday came all too soon and it was time to leave Glacier.  I had such a wonderful time that I could have stayed all week!  We got up early so we had time to have one last breakfast with my family before driving to Bigfork to spend a little more time with the Keenans.  Suzie put together a nice lunchtime BBQ for us, so we had a chance to see some of the family before we flew back to Phoenix.  Unfortunately, we probably won't be back til Christmas, which is just way too far away!

I cannot wait until the next time I'm back in Glacier Park, and would recommend a trip here to anyone!  Especially if you've never been!  It is beautiful!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Two Weddings and a Whole Lot of Dancing

I absolutely love weddings and was lucky to have two of my friends get married this summer on back to back weekends!  Add a week at the lake in between, and I was one happy girl!  Conor was busy with work, so I flew to Spokane by myself for a week and half of fun! As usual, I packed as many activities into this visit as possible!

The first weekend my parents and I attended my friend Gretchen's wedding.  It was a perfectly sunny day and at a beautiful venue on Lake CDA!  The bride was stunning!  Unfortunately I didn't bring my camera with me, so I have no pictures of this lovely event.  I enjoyed the view while sipping on a huckleberry vodka lemonade, mmm.  You don't find any of those in AZ!  It was great seeing so many old friends that I don't get to see very often!  Lucky for me, my good friend Dan was at this wedding, and he also happens to be my old prom date, so I had someone to hit the dance floor with!  I had such a wonderful time and did not want to leave at the end of the night!

I was up early the next day for my drive to Montana to spend a few days with my bestie Amanda.  I powered through the drive without my ipod, but some pretty awesome MT radio stations kept me entertained.  Thank you Hank FM!  Amanda, her boyfriend Sean, our friend Chris, and I took their boat out on Whitefish Lake for a day of fun in the sun!  This was my first time on the lake and I was loving it.  It's just big enough and not too busy.  The tiki bar made the day spectacular!

As the sun was setting, we decided it was time to get off the boat and hit the bars!  At the Red Room, we met back up with Chris for some tasty cocktails.   Amanda refers to Chris as a "cougar snack" and Red Room was crawling with them!  Always fun to see.  As soon as he closed up, we all headed to the Northern for a fun little dance party!  There was a DJ playing that night and we all took full advantage of it.  We shut the place down and continued our fun back at Amanda's house.  A very successful first night in Whitefish!

The rest of my trip was very relaxing.  It was so nice being able to catch up with Amanda because I don't see her nearly as much as I would like!  Amanda had tend bar my second night there, so while she was getting ready for work I went to the river with Chris.  A nice little walk turned into some bridge jumping!  Just a normal Monday activity I suppose!  I used to love this sort of thing, but the older I get, it seems that my fear factor isn't quite what it used to be.  I wasn't going to do it, but also gave in to peer pressure.  I survived, but don't anticipate any more bridges in my near future.

That night, I had a blast hanging out with Amanda at work.  Spending an evening bellied up to the bar is an excellent spot for people watching.  I saw everything from first dates, to angry lovers, to a few creepy guys!  Quite an evening.  I loved my time in Whitefish and can't wait to go back!  I used to think that I could never live in Montana, but Whitefish is really growing on me and has a special little spot in my heart right now.  We will see....  On my drive back home, I stopped by Bigfork to see the in-laws.  It was so nice to catch up with them, although it was a brief visit.  I can't wait til Conor & I are back in Northwest and can take visits home much more frequently. 

Next on my busy agenda, was a night at Spirit Lake with some of my extended family from Texas.  They come up to Spokane every summer, and lucky for me, this year it was the same time I was in town.  Both of my brothers came out to the lake for the day as well, so we got lots of family time in!  And later in the week we were all at Tonicx together (which is rare), but unfortunately we were missing Conor.

The next day I was back at the lake after a fun dinner with my friend Kyra.  She stayed with me for a night at the lake cabin which was a real treat!  It's hard to fit in months of catching up over one dinner.  The weather cooperated all week, so we were out on all the water for the entire day!  The weekend finally arrived at it was time for my good friend Erik's wedding!  The party was at Schweitzer which is one of my favorite mountains.  I have been to one other wedding here, and it was absolutely gorgeous so I was really looking forward to this one.  My friend Mikael was in town for the occasion and our friend Elyse joined us as well.  We were running a little late, but made it onto the chairlift just before the bride.  Good thing, because otherwise it would have been a little awkward...

Next Post: Glacier Vacation (and finally lots of pictures!)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

July in the Rockies

I am finally trying to get back on track with our blog! This post is going to take us all the way to back to early July. Conor & I took a nice ten day vacation up to WA, ID, & MT! During our visit, we celebrated America's birthday, a lovely engaged couple, and our 1st anniversary! It was quite a week! Unfortunately, it then came a rather bitter end...but more on that later. So much to talk about, better get right to it.
First stop of our visit was Spirit Lake for a day of party boat cruising. Coming from Arizona, the 80 degrees temps felt amazing to us, but the lake was a tad on the chilly side. We slowly motored around the lake, catching up, and enjoying a few ice cold beverages.
The next morning I taught my Dad how to make a deliciously fluffy Ramos gin fizz. After two batches (and one for the road....only for the passenger of course), Conor & I headed to Montana! His parents had recently furnished an apartment that they own right on the main street through town, Electric Avenue, so Conor & I had the luxury of staying there for the week. Being just down the block from the Garden Bar does have its advantages! We also had a great spot to watch the 4th of July parade. Bigfork gets really excited about Independence Day which works out just perfect for Conor and I!

After the parade, we all got together at the Keenan house for a fun BBQ and some firework watching. Their neighbors put on quite a show every year, so we just sit back and relax in the back yard as the sky lights up all around us. That's exactly how I like it! Bob made a big fire pit that we all gathered around with our wine glasses in hand. A wonderful day! Most of Keenan clan were exhausted after the day's festivities and hit the sheets early, but Conor & I ventured into the Garden Bar that night for a night-cap. Erik Fingers Ray was playing there that night, so we were not going to miss an opportunity to see him. A great Montana one-man-band, he performed at Marissa's wedding the summer before, and I couldn't get enough. We grabbed a drink, and quickly hit the dance floor! A perfect end to the evening!
The next day Conor & I did a little sailing on the hobie cat down off his parents' property. There was just enough wind that day to rip around the lake a bit. We did a lot of this on our honeymoon so it was fun to be sailing together almost exactly one year later!

Later that evening, we celebrated Sara's birthday down on the property. Take-out food from the Bigfork Inn, a few bottles of wine, and one big bonfire! It was a beautiful evening. Some friends and extended family even stopped by, so I had a chance to catch up with my new best friend Jim!
Me & my niece Aria!

Our time in Montana was flying by, but of course I had to see my best friend Amanda! We went to the Red Room with Conor's parents to see Amanda in action behind the bar. This basement bar is awesome. Small and cozy..."practically perfect in every way"! But I needed more of an Amanda fix, so she also came down to Bigfork one day to meet us for lunch and some champagne on the party boat! Where you find Amanda & I, champagne is always soon to follow!
Before we left Montana, we loaded up the truck with some ice-cream from Sweet Peaks on dry ice and headed to Spokane. We picked up the ice cream to serve at a couple's shower that my family was throwing for our good friend Andy Bloom and his fiance Karina. Their ice-cream is delicious and I was excited to share it with everyone in Spokane! Conor & I also made the invites for this shower and I was quite pleased with how they turned out!
The shower went wonderfully, and it was a great party! The ice-cream, Hokey Pokey and Scout Mint, was a big hit ...people were even coming back for seconds. It was great to spend time with the entire Bloom family! Andy has practically been a member of our family for years, so we were all excited to be able to celebrate with him and his lovely fiance for an evening. I can't wait for their wedding in December!
The day after the shower was our 1st anniversary! We had a fun filled day which started with a round of golf at Circling Raven. This course is just down the road from where we were married, and Conor golfed there the day before, so it only seemed fitting that we head back down for a round together. It was a beautiful day, and luckily, I was having one of my better rounds! We even had a surprise visit from a moose during our round....exciting and scary all at the same time (he got really close to us)!
After our round, we cleaned up and then drove to Luna for a wonderfully romantic dinner. Luna is one of my favorite restaurants in Spokane and where we had our rehearsal dinner so that made it extra special! The food was incredible as always and made even better by an awesome bottle of Barrister wine. The restaurant was relatively quiet for a Saturday night, which made for a great anniversary date. Our first year of marriage has sure flown by! It has been an exciting year with many many fun memories.
We stopped by Rain downtown for an after dinner drink. This used to be one of my favorite small bars, but I have been a little disappointed lately as it feels like it changed and attracts quite a different crowd than it used to. However, I still ordered my usual (plum lemonade on the rocks) which was just as delicious as ever. Finally, we headed home for dessert! Yes, we froze the top tier of our wedding cake.... Neither of us are big cake people, but it was so tasty at our wedding that I had been looking forward to eating more of it all year! It was actually just as good the second time around too! Kudos to my mom for doing such a good job with the freezing process. We ended the evening with a bottle of champagne and are looking forward to many more wonderful anniversaries just like this one!
Before we flew back to Phoenix the next evening, we made another trip out to my parent's lake cabin for some more party boating. I try to squeeze in all the lake time I can while I'm home! My parents surprised us with our first Euros for our Italy trip (which is our anniversary gift to each other) left over from their own Italy trip. Very fitting for the "paper" anniversary! Inspired by the gift of paper, I got a little crafty and made this for Conor:

We sadly said our goodbyes to my parents and then made a quick stop at Deaconess hospital to see our friends Jason & Audrey and their brand new baby boy! He was so cute and tiny...especially his little fingers...awww! We left the hospital and drove to my Grandpa's house to drop off his truck and my brother was going to pick us up there and take us to the airport. On the drive to Grandpa's we were chatting about what a wonderful vacation we had and soaking in every minute of our time home and...
Then things went bad. Really bad. I opened the camper door to the bed of my grandpa's truck (not realizing that the locks were sticking out) and noticed that my golf club case was the only thing in the back! I immediately think: "I can't believe Conor forgot to load the car before we left the lake!" But instead I politely ask Conor: "Where is all our stuff?" I can still picture the look on his face as he dropped to his knees and told me our stuff must have been stolen! At the hospital? In the middle of a Sunday afternoon?! Oh yes, we had been robbed. Someone had broken into the truck! I will spare you all the scattered details of the next hour as we tried to figure out what to do. I still get angry even talking (or writing about it). Conor's golf clubs were stolen, as well as both of our packed suitcases; which we just happened to have bought brand new for Italy. To make things worse, I had just hit the Nordstrom's Anniversary Sale a few days before and had so many brand-new clothes, all with the tags still on! Ugh! We felt so violated. Many of our things had deep sentimental value, which still makes it hard to think about what has been lost. If I ever see someone walking around Spokane with my clothes on they will see the wrath of Laura! Especially the white dress I wore to my rehearsal dinner and our anniversary! :'( Needless to say, the flight home and the days that followed were long as we couldn't stop thinking about all the things we had lost and tried to piece ourselves back together. It was even more depressing to walk into our home and have nothing to unpack. Unfortunately, we did not get any help from the Spokane Police as they apparently cut their property theft division and didn't see anything turn up on craigslist or the surprising number of pawn shops around the area. We really felt hopeless for a few weeks with nothing seeming to happen with our case. But, with the support of our great families and some digging deep to realize that we were lucky to have only lost "things", we were able to pull ourselves together and start the long process of building back our losses. It is still tough sometimes to walk into our closet and not find that thing you really wanted to wear, but it gets easier as it becomes more and more of a distant memory.
It was good to get back to our little monsters (Macy and Charlie) after a crazy busy 9 days away, but the heat sure hit us like a ton of bricks immediately upon arrival! And we were quite surprised to see the aftermath of the massive dust storm that rolled through the greater Phoenix area while we were gone... What a mess! We are not going to miss those when we move up to Seattle...
That's all to report for this leg of our journeys, more exciting adventures to come in the next few posts! It seems as though we always have lots to catch up on!