# 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!

# miami trip (February 2017)

A few weeks after we got back to Wyoming, I was off again for sun and smiles in Miami! It never gets old.

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I was there for the launch of a year-long project, so my first day on site was spent places around town, including the zoo.

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Otters!

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I feel like all of my Miami trip posts start to look and sound the same, because I’m a creature of habit once I get there. I had dinner and drinks (with popsicles) with two of my favorite girls, Michelle and Julisa…(this drink was called the Adios Felicia and was pretty much the best drink I’ve ever had)

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…and I always have multiple coffee runs with the A Team…

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…and you know I’m going to hit up Big Pink for this…

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…and some beach time to let myself forget about the snow back home.

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I also contribute on a really high, serious level in our department meetings. Clearly.

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Winter trips always provide the best sightings for these guys, too. My friendly faces as I walk to work.

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Just look at how many there were!

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A serious highlight was meeting Sarah Willis–Fourth Horn of the Berlin Philharmonic and hornist extraordinaire!

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She was there to work with Fellows and film an episode of her popular series Sarah’s Music. Don’t miss MTT taking on her horn challenge!

She was beyond fabulous and kind. Loved getting to see her in action.

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I flew home (a 17-hour trip) on Superbowl Sunday — through Houston no less. This is what the Denver airport looks like when the game was in overtime and every person was packed into the bars to watch. Well, everyone except me. Ah, bliss.

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Since I missed our Superbowl Food tradition, Joe made Coca-Cola Pot Roast (Atlanta) and I made him a Boston Cream Poke Cake (New England). I love that he took this picture so I could mention it here. Love him.

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Thanks, Miami, for the Vitamin D! Until next time…when I do it all again.

# colorado trip (july 2016) – family edition

You might think the hummingbirds and moose were the eye-candy in Colorado, but get a look at this bunch. I spent 10 days surrounded by my lovely family embraced by Colorado’s Rocky Mountain glory. The cast of characters included my Dad, Janet and Rachel; Bryan, Robbi and Rowan for the first half; and Krista, Tim, Lily and Linc for the second half. Joe, unfortunately, had to work, so here was my date for the trip.

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She was so. excited. to be in the mountains and around her favorite people. Rowan also got a lot of love those first few days. We’re all smitten with him and the other littles.

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Rowan finally met Bella, my own little, who looks thrilled.

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The first full day we drove Trail Ridge Road through the park. It was stunning.

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My dad in his element.

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We reached the cold summit, where Rowan snuggled close and there was still considerable snow.

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Other adventures included taking everyone to Estes Park, including Bella, who got a lot of AWWWW’s around town.

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I also was on baby duty so Bryan and Robbi could fly fish near our cabin.

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Rowan was not convinced of my wearing his burp cloth on my head to block the sun. Just the start to a long tradition of me embarrassing him.

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And then Krista and her crew arrived and we were all together for two days. Aunt NoNo was very happy to be with these faces.

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We hiked to Adams Falls, which was a hit and totally family friendly. This is a good group.

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I gave Lily my GoPro camera for our hike.

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That girl. She took some dang good photos, including this one, which is one of my favorites of the entire trip.

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She’s got the bug!

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Before they left, we celebrated Robbi’s birthday with homemade ice cream and this ridiculous cake with a cookie dough center that Lily helped me make. Total hit.

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Then we had another few days of special food, like Micky pancakes…

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…to games like Cranium and Dominion (which is SO FUN!)…

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…and making popsicles with leftover yogurt, oreos and sprinkles.

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We finished the trip by seeing The Little Mermaid live; a fitting end to a fabulous and much-needed 10 days. A big shout-out to my Dad and Janet for bringing us all together amidst the busy schedules and miles. It was a perfect trip. Love my fam.

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# colorado trip (july 2016) – wildlife edition

Sometimes you reach the middle of a week and just need a vacation. And when you can’t take one, the next best thing is to relive the one you had over a month ago. My family’s time in Colorado was the perfect antidote to our busy lives and let us spend quality time together–which, when you’re as spread apart as we are, doesn’t happen as often as we would like.

I’ll get to the family action in my new posts, but wanted to share all of the wildlife we encountered at our cabin in Grand Lake. First, the hummingbirds. They were E-V-E-R-Y-W-H-E-R-E. Sometimes 15 or more at a feeder at a time! I spent many a morning sitting on our deck, armed with my camera trying to capture them all.

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This guy is one of my favorites. He looks so angry, ha!

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I had never seen them sit still when not at a feeder.

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Turns out, the ruby-throated ones were the hardest to catch because the other hummers didn’t want them around. Poor guys. Beauty can be so hard. …so can being patient, but I finally found one on his own.

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We saw deer and chipmunks in the park, but our greatest encounter came when I drove to take our trash out one night and saw a group of people by the road with their phones out. I took the bait and stopped only to see three huge bull moose together, which I now know is rare. I called my dad immediately and said “grab the cameras!”

You can only see two here, but they were eating every tree and bush in this poor person’s yard.

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Then we walked around the house to find the other one. We were so. close. Dangerous, people. I didn’t realize how easily we could have been hurt, but we shouldn’t have been this close.

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Pretty magnificent creatures, though. More soon (I promise!) on the less hairy and aggressive members of our party.

To see the rest of my wildlife photos, click here.

# tampa trip (May 2016)

Oh, how bittersweet to write this post! After my work trip to Miami in May, Joe and I drove to Tampa for a few days to visit my lifelong friend Bobbie, Robert and Abby. It was our last time to see them before they moved to E-N-G-L-A-N-D last weekend. *sniff, sniff* We wanted this trip to be about our shared Tampa Bucket List, which turned out to be–as it always does with me and Bobbie–a food bucket list. I’m not complaining! Here are all the pictorial highlights:

Joe and I arrived late on Friday night after Abby had gone to bed, so we woke to her sweet “goodmorning!” whispers and our favorite doughnuts from Datz Dough.

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These are the sprinkles of life, people! I’m glad Abby shares my affinity for these sugar bombs.

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She made Joe his own special breakfast in her play kitchen. He loved it — obvs.

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And she performed a lively ukulele solo for us, which you HAVE to watch by clicking here.

For lunch they introduced us to Bartaco, which was SO GOOD. The cauliflower taco with romesco sauce was mind blowing. Now I want romesco sauce on everything.

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Abby even found the England sticker by our table on her own.

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Afterwards we walked around Hyde Park….holding hands with our honorary niece….

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…sitting by the fountain…

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…and taking photo ops to celebrate their new adventure.

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Abby had one wish for our visit — to make sugar cookies! You don’t {ever} have to ask me twice! I’m well versed in my mom’s tried-and-true recipe, but we made Bobbie’s favorite recipe from Boston’s Flour Bakery. It was spectacular — thick and soft with just the right amount of icing. We added a 1/2 teaspoon (I think?) of almond extract to the icing that really pushed it over the top.

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If I wasn’t there when she was born, I’d think she was mine the way she’s drinking a LaCroix while baking.

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Or when licking the beater. Either way, she’s basically a Mini Marci.

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Flour Noses while we let the dough chill in the fridge!

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Before nap time (for all five of us), Abby requested story time with Uncle Joe. So sweet to watch!

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If Cora wasn’t trying to nap with me, she was trying to sleep in my suitcase. Silly kitty.

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Abby woke up a doctor and needed to check my vitals…

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…allll of my vitals, apparently. Ha! I feel like this is a photo we’ll be laughing over for a long time.

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We spent the evening taking a girl’s trip to the splash park and watching Abby go crazy in the water.

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The next morning we headed to Datz–our absolute favorite place to eat in Tampa–for brunch. Abby’s face is all of us when waiting for food.

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Post-brunch photos with cats and doughnuts!

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When you inadvertently dress exactly alike and don’t realize it until you’re in public.

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That afternoon was finally cookie rolling time. Oh, the excitement…in all of us.

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First order of all sugar cookie business: Flour those noses!!

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Expert decorating by our little artist

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While we waiting for those babies to set, we took Abby for a bike ride to the school track.

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On your marks…

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That night was truly the culinary highlight of the trip. Bobbie and Robert surprised us with reservations to Tampa’s speakeasy, Ciro’s, to celebrate our anniversary. We even got dressed up and everything.

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You had to say a password to get in. So fancy!

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And the food and drinks! Ridiculous. The drink menu was fun and long.

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We shared the wild mushroom fondue…

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…with our starter drinks. I had the “Hemingway Daiquiri,” because….Hemingway. I can’t remember what Joe had, but his is on the right.

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For dinner I had a luscious caprese salad (seen in the background).

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It was an unforgettable experience and the most perfect way to celebrate our anniversary with our dear friends.

With stomachs still digesting, we dropped Abby off at school the next morning and had a *light* breakfast at Oxford Exchange.

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Another place I had never been, but absolutely fell in love with every square inch.

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I had a carrot cake tea latte–my first tea latte–and a toast with lemon ricotta, strawberries, pistachios, honey and basil. Wowza.

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That afternoon we were treated to another ukulele concert, this time a duo. I looove Abby’s makeshift stage and bunny groupie.

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Annnd then I scarred her for life by trying to straighten her hair. She was on board at first, but as soon as she reached up to feel it she was screaming as though I had cut off her arm. I really thought she was going to throw up she was crying so hard. Aunt Marci Fail!

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That night was our last and we spent it with our mutual horn friend, Bob, with one last trip to Datz Dough for their doughnut ice cream cone. Yep, I did it.

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And then the next morning with our pants feeling tighter, we boarded a plane back to Utah. I am so, so, so grateful to have had this last hurrah with the Z’s while they were still living on US soil. Now I’m counting down the days until I can see them on the other side of the pond where we will undoubtedly find new culinary adventures to share. We love this family!

# miami trip (May 2016)

I’m baaaaack. And this time with a cold, hard truth: Moving when you’re in your 30s is very, very, very different than moving in your 20s. Needless to say I’ve been wiped out from our crossing of state lines into Wyoming. Seriously wiped out. But, I have a slew of posts in the queue waiting for their big reveal. So let’s power through and rewind the clocks to May with a trip to Florida!

By now you are probably well acquainted with my Miami hot spots — Big Pink, the beach, the iguanas, New World Center. But here’s a new one: WALLCAST concerts. I was able to be there for the final NWS concert of the season, which was also being broadcast on the side of the building to people in the park.

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When we started doing these in 2011 the audiences were large, but nothing like they are now. I truly love seeing thousands of people from all walks of life gather together with their blankets, wine and snacks for a free evening of classical music.

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If you go to Miami between October and early May, you must check these out.

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Just magical.

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I spent some very quality time with my BFF Julisa this time around, including an amazing home-cooked meal that was sooooo much better than the salad kits I was making in my tiny hotel-ish kitchen. This girl is such an inspiration to me, especially when it comes to cooking and baking. Here she is playing it up for the camera.

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Not pictured, but there in hilarious spirit: boyfriend Casey and NSFW poetry readings.

I got a glorious Round Two with Julisa when we met up with our other besties Michelle and Rebecca for dinner at this fabulous vegan restaurant, Full Bloom. With a pretty killer patio view.

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Too bad we didn’t relive this picture from 2011.

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This dinner was hands down one of the best I’ve ever had in Miami. I had never had tempeh before, but this chimichurri version over quinoa rocked my world!

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New goal: learn how to master bbq tempeh.

Joe flew in the next day and we met at Skyline with friends Michael and Tyler for dinner.

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It’s always Skyline Time. Michael and Tyler had never had it, but became instant fans.

And then my 10 days there were over and we headed to Tampa. Of course I went to Big Pink and of course I have a million pictures from my building’s roof. But, these are the new highlights. Can’t wait to get back there again.

# tulsa trip (January 2016), part 3

The final piece of the Oklahoma puzzle! Picking up right where I left off…

We had a belated birthday celebration for Lily right after Bryan and Robbi’s shower. Our little reader got a slew of awesome new books, including one of my faves (Nancy Drew) from one of my faves (Memaw).

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We went for the Yoda birthday card that made you blow out your own candles, mostly so Tim and I could try all night.

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Then we just relaxed…

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…and took awkward pictures next to our height-challenged grandmother.

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And Lily surprised me with a few photos of her own. Haha, I love this one.

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There was the most spectacular sunset that night. Their front view is A++++!

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Later that night, when it was just the sibs, Lily had us pass a ball around a circle using only the body part she called out.

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I don’t think I’ve laughed so hard in my life.

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The neck one was just a taaaad uncomfortable…or awesome, depending on who was up.

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The next morning was my last with these cuties. Linc…he is so expressive. These were all taken in quick succession.

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It makes my heart sing to see him and Lily get along so well. Knucks!

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Well, usually so well.

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That night was the Super Bowl, which called for a ridiculously awesome spread of snacks at my Dad’s house.

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More on those cookies this weekend. They knocked my socks off.

Then I was on a plane back to Utah with my heart and my stomach so full.  And when I was walking to the baggage claim, I noticed that Sports Illustrated had copied our shower game for their cover, haha.

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That’s a wrap on a very action-packed trip!