# tulsa trip – swim day

After Memaw’s party, I had fun-filled sleepover with Superman and his sister…

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…before we had a swim day at my Dad’s.

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Rowan is no stranger to his dad being funny…

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…but he finally witnessed one of our Les Mis sing-a-longs. I think the nose squeeze means stop singing.

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While my dad prepared the massive, delicious feast…

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…we had music lessons around the piano.

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And then it was time to eat and swim!  I let Lily, the family fish, play with the GoPro.

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Linc’s a little guppy.

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Sisters from other misters.

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Loved my quick trip all of the family I got to see. Heart is full!

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# tulsa trip – memaw’s birthday

Last month I made a quick 48-hour trip to Tulsa to celebrate my Memaw’s 86th birthday. All she wanted was family and the best BBQ in Tulsa. Wish granted!

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That morning, Bryan and I made hummingbird cupcakes decorated like roses (her favorite flower) while having a major dance-off to entertain Rowan.

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When you haven’t seen the littles in a few months, you get attacked at the door.

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A happy birthday girl…

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…and a happy YaYa with all her grands.

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Before we ate, Bryan and Robbi gave Memaw the best gift she could have asked for and then we dug in. Didn’t take long to clear the decks.

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Here’s the hostest with the mostest.

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Love these ladies…

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…and LOVE going through old photos and hearing stories.

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It was so much fun just all being together. Lots of hugs from my favorite littles…

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…Rowan with his aunts sporting his Amber Alert face…

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…how is this one so grown up??

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Sibling love with a side of Aunt love.

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Happy cousins.

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Team Cupcake.

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A few group shots. We were missing some, but so happy to be together. Oh, the laughter when this group converges.

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Happy birthday to our matriarch, our rock. We love you!

# LiNo’s Libros: Nancy Drew and The Mystery at Lilac Inn

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When Lily and I created our book club, LiNo’s Libros, I immediately started a list of all the books I’d love to read with her. I wanted to share all my favorite characters, like Ramona, Harry Potter and Matilda. Also up on the list was Nancy Drew, who was the star of some of my very favorite reading experiences growing up.

Serendipitously, Memaw gave Lily the first four Nancy Drew books for her birthday last year (Memaw loved Nancy Drew, too!) and I’ve been itching to share the sleuth world with her. So we picked Book 4: The Mystery at Lilac Inn.

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Because I have all my old books (and some from when my mom was a child), the first order of business for any LiNo’s session is to compare covers. Here’s mine in all its vintage glory:

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And here’s Lily posing with her cover and magnifying glass, haha.

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Love, love, love reading with her.

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Of course, it’s also hilarious to read together this way. Typically, I can’t see her that much on the screen or I might have a bare foot dangling in my face the entire time.

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I snapped this one while she was listening to me read, but happened to capture the character’s name I loved hearing her say the most because she’d pronounce it Chief McGiggins. So precious.

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Overall, it was an interesting read. It definitely shows its age, but we still enjoyed it. Here is our final round of questions (Spoiler Alert!):

NoNo’s Questions:

1. In the book, blue lilacs are called Blue Pipes. Let’s make up some nicknames for other flowers.

Tulips
L: Spring Flowers
N: Petal Crowns

Red Roses
L: <exhales> Ruby Flowers
N: Sweet Swirls

Daffodils
L: Daffy or Taffy, or Daffy Taffy
N: Sunshine Bells

2. Nancy has help from her friends Helen and Emily. Who would you depend on for sleuth backup?

L: My friends Ashlyn and Lakshmi. Did you know I have friends from all over the world? And I’m British, Texan, Wyomian. Oh, I’m Scottish and Virginian. I’m just around the United States. Oh, I’m also Oklahoman.

N: I’d choose your mom (because she’s smart), Joe (for protection) and you (because you’re sneaky).

L: Yeah, I could fit into cracks you can’t really fit in and I’m a better actress because I’m a kid. I can walk into a room and make excuses. (HA!)

3. This story was written a long time ago and things have changed. How would the story be different if written today?

L: Instead of a convertible, Nancy would drive a Tesla or a Nissan or a Ford. And instead of rowing a boat, they’d have motorboats.

N: What about cell phones? Those would’ve helped. And what would they call skin diving now?

L: Scuba, or scuba diving.

4. My favorite creative question for any pick: What would you have called the book?

L: The Letter, or The Impersonator, or maybe The Blue Pipes. That’s not giving anything away, but it’s also not hiding it.

N: I’d pick The Two Nancys

5. Nancy was very brave and persisted to uncover the mystery, even when people were repeatedly trying to hurt her. How do you think you would have reacted? Would you have stayed at the inn, or gone home?

L: I would have stayed at the inn for like seven weeks and if it kept going I would have gone home.

N: Seven, huh?

L: I just like seven. Seven days of the week and seven parts of the brain. I just like it.

N: Totally logical. I think I would’ve been too scared if someone tried to bomb my bedroom, so I would’ve gone home pretty quickly.

 

Lily’s Questions:

1. What would you have the cover look like?

L: I would want it set back with lilac trees all over with a convertible holding Nancy.

N: When we started reading, I couldn’t remember what lilacs looked like, so I’d want it covered with blooms as a pretty reminder.

2. Do you think all covers should be the same?

N: That’s a very good question. I love when old classics are re-imagined with a new cover, but I also hate it when books have covers that reflect their movie versions.

L: I think all covers should be the same so people know what to look at. They shouldn’t have to question; they just should all be the same.

3. Do you think Nancy should say “awfully <something>” so much? Like “awfully tired” or “awfully scared” or “awfully excited.” It’s so weird.

N: Interesting observation, Lil! It’s British sounding to me.

L: Yeah! Do you think River Heights is British?

N: I’ll have to look it up.

L: They still say “awfully …..” in England, so that may be it.

4. How would you feel if you were mobbed? (mugged + robbed?)

N: violated, scared, angry

L: I’d feel depressed, nervous, angry, tearful and sarcastic.

N: Why sarcastic?

L: Because she says she’s tired of being blonde. (…?)

5. Do you think you could change a part of the story?

N: I would have made Maud bad, because there was so much valid suspicion around her.

L: I’d have capsized the boat sooner, rather than have that long conversation.

N: How would you have the background of the story then?

L: It’s kinda long, so I’d make it brief. <fakes quick conversation to replace final scene>

N: You’d make a good book editor.

 

Next up: …..my absolute #1 favorite…..Matilda!

Past LiNo’s Libros reads:  The Indian in the Cupboard and The BFG

# easter brunch 2017

I love whipping up a good holiday brunch for just me and Joe (Exhibit A, Exhibit B, Exhibit C, Exhibit D, Exhibit E, Exhibit F…), but having company is even better. Last week my mom and Mike were visiting over Easter and we were able to enjoy a lovely brunch with dishes from all my foodie faves: Ina, Ree and Joy. Instead of breaking out each dish in a separate post, you get the whole experience here. Let’s check out all the details:

I knew I had to upgrade last year’s Maleficent-looking napkin folds, so this year I tried out roses.

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There were nestled in everyone’s bowl, which helped them keep their shape. Here’s a quick tutorial on how to make them.

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I’ve said this before, but when hosting big (or small) gatherings, make things 250% times easier by setting out all of the plates, silverware, serving dishes, glasses, etc the night before. Everything out and ready to go!

My mom and I made four dishes, which was plenty for us. Let’s start with the sweets, my favorites.

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My brunch table will always, ALWAYS have Reese’s Eggs. I don’t know why they taste better as eggs than cups (which are still good!), but these babies make Easter for me.

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This year we displayed them and our baked goods on a sweet floral tiered stand that Bobbie gave me for Christmas. I love it. So perfect for Easter!

On the bottom of the stand are the Barefoot Contessa’s Easy Sticky Buns, which were a hit.

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Very easy to make, and to devour.

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For our fruit option, we made the Pioneer Woman’s Champagne Oranges instead of a traditional fruit salad.

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I was surprised how much I loved them. The syrupy sauce packs quite a punch, and bonus: you can make it the night before!

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For the savory, we made Joy the Baker’s Spinach and Artichoke Strata from her new cookbook Over Easy.

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Egg dishes will never be my favorite, but I did love the flavors and crusty bread around the edges. Also the bonus that you prep it the night before and just throw it in the oven the next morning.

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By far the standout dish for all of us was the Barefoot Contessa’s Maple-Roasted Carrot Salad.

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The FLAVOR of this dish is incredible. I want to make this every week for dinner.

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It was the last thing to the table, so not easy to get a great shot of it, but it’s bursting with caramelized carrots, almonds, cheese and dried cranberries reconstituted in orange juice. Just ridiculous.

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Then we were ready to get to it!

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Thankful for the great company and help in the kitchen. Wishing we could spend all holidays with family!

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The recipes:

Barefoot Contessa’s Easy Sticky Buns

The Pioneer Woman’s Champagne Oranges

Barefoot Contessa’s Maple-Roasted Carrot Salad

And because Over Easy is hot off the press…

Spinach and Artichoke Strata

source: Over Easy

2 Tbs. unsalted butter (plus more for prepping dish)
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 (10 oz.) package frozen spinach, thawed, excess liquid removed, and chopped
1 (15 oz.) can artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped
8 c. sourdough bread cubes
2 c. grated Gruyere cheese
2 c. whole milk
1/2 c. heavy cream
2 Tbs. whole-grain mustard (I omitted)
8 large eggs
pinch of nutmeg
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

Generously butter a 3-quart casserole dish and set aside.

In a medium skillet set over medium heat, combine the butter and oil. Add the onions and cook until translucent. Add the spinach and artichoke, stirring well to heat through.

Place one-third of the bread cubes in the prepared dish. Top with one-third of the spinach-artichoke mixture and one-third of the cheese. Repeat the layering, finishing with cheese.

In a large bowl, whisk together the milk, cream, mustard (if using), eggs, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Pour over the casserole, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, though overnight is best.

Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Let strata sit on counter for at least 20 minutes to remove some of the chill.

Bake until golden brown and cooked through–45-55 mintues. Let cool for at least 15 minutes before serving. Served best slightly warm or at room temperature.

 

# half moon bay

Earlier this month my aunt–whose birthday is TODAY–graciously asked me to be her Plus One on her work’s achievement trip to the Ritz-Carlton at Half Moon Bay, just south of San Francisco. It took this Wyoming Girl all of two seconds to scream ‘YES!’ and have her bags packed. We’ve had a lot of adventures together and we’re birds of the same {middle child} feather when it comes to enjoying vacation. The keys to our success: a lot of good food, a lot of good company, a lot of relaxing, and a lot of laughing.

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In fact, after meeting at the hotel, it took less than five minutes to be in our room with mimosas laughing.

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And unpacking the Hurts Donuts she brought with her.

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Honey, hush! Doughnuts and champagne might just be the best way to describe me.

The first jaw-dropping moment I had on this trip was the view from our room. It was phenomenal.

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That large fire pit was hardly vacant the entire time we were there, so we took the first opportunity we had to warm our feet and listen to the ocean.

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Cheers!

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That night was a meet-and-greet at a Peruvian restaurant (also right on the ocean).

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No longer being in Wyoming, I thought I could get away wearing the sundress and linen jacket I first wore in Hawaii, but, hello…that coastline of California is 200% wind. Give me everyone’s jackets.

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At least we had a front-row seat for the sunset, which was lovely.

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The next day she had a morning meeting and I had the best breakfast of my life. Seems fair, right?

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This is the Ritz’s Farmer’s Market Benedict with wild mushrooms, spinach, cheese (I think they substituted cheddar when I said I didn’t want goat), tomato hollandaise and pesto. Holy smokes. If I were in my own home, I would have licked the entire plate, but you know…manners.

Afterwards I headed out on the coastal trail.

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It was incredible, but the wind was so strong I had a massive ear ache when I returned. I realize this is a ridiculous complaint when seeing these views, but I’m keepin’ it real here.

It was sometime this afternoon, after we had been to town and back, that I was reading under the covers and Pam comes running into the room and says “Do you have pants on??”  Haha! A valid question when traveling with me. She just realized we had Club Lounge access, which was a private room with 24-hour free food and drink. Like anything you want. At any time. Including this fancy wine machine…

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…and all the club soda and gummy bears I could manage. (Spoiler: A lot)

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It was basically heaven. And we spent a good deal of our time there for the rest of the trip. (They changed the food spread every three hours, and had games and more amazing views minus the wind and crowds.) It was like a 24-hour five-star restaurant you had all to yourself. Why would anyone want to leave?

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That night we celebrated all of the participants at a fancy dinner on site. Fancy for me: pearls and contacts.

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Saturday, our last full day, was a spa day (compliments of the trip), so we started on the same coastal trail I trekked yesterday, but this time hitting up the beach at low tide.

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Half Moon Bay is the home of the famous Mavericks surfing contest. Those waves were no joke, even at low tide. But, again, gorgeous. We had the entire beach almost to ourselves.

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After our massages and a million trips to the Club Lounge, we went to dinner with Pam’s longtime friend Jane.

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This is us with our blood orange margaritas, which were to die(t) for. We also had roasted mushroom and pear salads…

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…and Pam had her first, her FIRST, bowl of homemade gnocchi. This was literally MY crowning achievement of her achievement trip.

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I had a “Highway 92” pizza with roasted butternut squash, garlic, caramelized onions, feta, parmesan, arugula and sage. Mouth is watering…

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It was a fabulous way to go out. The next morning’s fog perfectly captured how we felt about leaving — sad, gray, but also so THANKFUL.

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Good food — check!
Good company — check!
Relaxing — check!
Laughing — check!
Club Lounging — triple check!

Pam, I’d celebrate you and WITH you any time. Thanks for letting me join your adventures and recognize your hard work. Happy birthday to one of the most amazing, generous, funny and loving people I’ll ever know. All the hearts!

# Christmas 2016 in Oklahoma

It’s almost April, so I guess that means it’s time to blog about Christmas.

#LIFE

We spent a wonderful few weeks with my family in Oklahoma for the holidays. It was a much-needed escape from life and weather in Wyoming. And because we can get from Point A to Point B in 12 hours, we took a chance by driving (more on that later). Joe accompanied his band to their Bowl Game, got back after midnight on Christmas Eve and then we were in the car by 6am high-tailing it south before a snow storm hit.

*Disclaimer: I only used my phone to document the trip. Time off= Lazy!*

First stop on Christmas Day…Aunt Pam’s cookie extravaganza!

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Memaw showing off the goods.

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This is how you can normally find us — laughing.

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We made double batches of four different cookies. It smelled delicious!

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Joe was half-horrified, half-impressed that these cookies are older than him. #freezermagic (We’re weird.)

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Love these two and my new Honey Hush shirt (thanks, Hotrod and Sugar Bear!).

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Next day was Christmas at my Mom’s, where I caught this cute picture with a few of my favorite boys.

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Bryan, Robbi and Rowan had a Texas holiday. How cute is this little one for his first Christmas?

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Next day was Christmas at my Dad’s with Lily modeling her new bike helmet.

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We only had a few bucket list items for our trip, but my #1 was visiting the Pioneer Woman’s new Mercantile store.

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She’s like Oklahoma royalty, but we had no idea how popular until we got there and found ourselves in a four-plus hour line for L U N C H with people from around the world. Yeah, waiting outside, standing on pavement, in December for over four hours. It was insane, but worth it. (I think. I hope!)

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It was a Girl’s Trip with Joe!

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While waiting in line, we got to review the menus…

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…and I jumped at the chance to play a humiliating game for the masses that won me a bowl.

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Oh, my sister’s face when she saw me wearing a pair of pantyhose on my head. Priceless.

We had plenty of time for selfies with the best of backgrounds…

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…and got to meet a lot of the Pioneer Woman crew, like her husband Ladd…

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…her father-in-law Chuck…

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…and her boys, Bryce and Todd, with Cowboy Josh.

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The food was fabulous and plentiful. We were star-ving by then.

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Joe was thrilled with his blanket of gravy.

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The store was also a ton of fun and full of whimsy.

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Back at the homesteads, Bella, who rarely gets to see all of her favorite family members, was thrilled to be with everyone. She showed her appreciation by claiming her spot on the couch…

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…as well as Lincoln’s little arm chair. Come on! Awwwww!

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We spent over three weeks there (thanks to an ice storm), and here are some of the non-work (for me) highlights:

Movies! We watched a ton at my Dad’s, and I visited the old Circle Cinema to see La La Land and Jackie.

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Sunny days with Lily and Linc, riding bikes and getting creative with spelling. What does your name start with?? O! What does it end with?? S! …okay.

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We also played basketball with our favorite girl…

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…and enjoyed her new Chewbacca mask.

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We hit up Joe’s all-time favorite place to eat, Shiloh’s–home of the desserts for side dishes!

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I went back to work right after New Year’s, so our weekends were spent enjoying slumber parties with the littles. We played Clue…

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…I visited Lily’s Salon…

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…and we celebrated Bella’s 12th (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) birthday!

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We also played old-school Nintendo with them, which basically made me melt into a puddle of nostalgic bliss.

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This might as well be Booh and Bryan.

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Omg, how cute is he?!

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We also had a LiNo’s Libros movie night with homemade snacks to watch The BFG

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…and watched Lily’s team play some mean bball.

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We were also so thankful to spend special time with sweet Molly, who we miss dearly.

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We had a slim window of driving time after the big ice storm hit to get back to Wyoming before another snow storm invaded. But, I’m glad we waited, because check out these huge trees brought down from the ice, with it still clinging to their branches. Ei yei yei.

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That’s a wrap on a wonderful holiday season!

# molly

Earlier this month my family of dog-lovers said goodbye to our canine matriarch, Molly. After almost 15 years of supplying nothing but joy, comfort and love, Molly left behind a lot of grieving hearts, mine included.

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My sister Booh and her husband Tim got her a year after I left home, and a year after I lost my own childhood dog, Samps, so I latched on to Molly’s sweet face like it was a lifeline of love, because it was. Every trip home for me since has included suffocating her with snuggles and kisses. I loved her like she was my own.

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In her very long life she wore many hats. She was their first baby and my first niece…

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…she was Bella’s sister and roomie while Joe and I lived overseas…

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…she was Lily’s first best friend….

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…and she was a lap snuggler supreme.

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Spend five minutes with my family and we’ll give you a nickname, even if you’re a dog. “Molly” morphed into many iterations over the years, but the one that’s held true is “Molly Booh Muggle,” or (because we even give nicknames their own nicknames) “Molly Booh Muggs.” It fit her playful personality perfectly.

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In looking through old photographs, I noticed that Molly was literally in the background of every moment. It’s fitting, because that’s how I’ll remember her – as always being there. Never one to miss out on any action, she was the sweetest shadow to all of our shenanigans and the gentlest “Sissy” to Booh and Tim’s littles.

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I am so thankful Joe and I spent time with Molly a month before her passing, to say our goodbyes, but also to reunite Bella and Molly once more – sisters forever, these two.

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And then it was Molly’s time. She had lived a full and wonderful life, but the quality of it was beginning to wane. And, as heart-wrenching as it is, this is the promise we make to our furry babies. A promise of no suffering and a promise of compassion, when their pain can end and become our own.

Some say that losing a dog is so difficult because it triggers a tremendous shift in our daily routines. While that’s true, it’s the loss of their love that makes it feel so crushingly unbearable to me. And Molly was all love. One-hundred percent unconditional, all-encompassing, unwavering, life-changing love. And we will miss her tremendously.

Please enjoy this tribute video to sweet Molly Booh Muggs.