Indiana State Fair

A few weeks ago, we went to the Indiana State Fair our friends in our Bible study group. We meet twice a month, and since we were between studies, we decided to just go hang out and eat a bunch of fair food with our families. Truly, my favorite part of the fair is spending way too much money on all the delicious temptations they have to eat. We weren't in the fairgrounds for more than 10 minutes before Ryan and I were wolfing down a rib-eye steak sandwich and an ear of corn. Soon after, we ordered some jumbo corn dogs to share with Noah. They offered fun slushies where you could add multiple flavors to your jumbo sized cup, so I filled mine with raspberry and grape. We topped everything off with the most delicious elephant ear I had ever eaten. YUM!

There was a little section set up for kids, so Ryan and I took Noah there to check things out. We put an apron on him, and he grabbed a little bucket. We walked around from barn to silo to house, completing various tasks along the way.

Below you can see Noah taking the grain he got from the silo and feeding it to the cow. Guess it's not a grass-fed cow. :)

After that we walked over to this little garden area where Noah had to plant a seed with his little shovel and rake. He loved that part! We walked over to the apple orchard area where Noah picked up the perfect apple to add to his basket.

We made our way over to a little circular track where the kids could drive these miniature tractors. It was so cute! Ryan walked Noah around the path, and I'm not sure that Noah ever quit smiing during this part of the adventure.

Next Noah had to milk the cow, which he thought was pretty cool. Sometimes I can't think about stuff like that - you know, where milk originates because I LOVE milk. If I think about it too much, it completely grosses me out. This is really true with any animal product. So, I didn't bother telling Noah that is where we get his milk. What he doesn't know won't hurt him!

After Noah finished all his tasks - milking cows, collecting fruits/vegetables, gathering wool, etc. - he had to take the fruits of his labor to the market. Here they paid him one dollar for his hard work, and he got to spend it inside the store. They had a bunch of healthy snacks like string cheese, pretzels, yogurt, and milk. It was really cute! Noah, without much surprise, chose pretzels.

We walked around the fairgrounds with our friends and just enjoyed the night. By the end of the evening, my stomach was full of the delcious, greasy, sugary things we ate. I already can't wait until next summer!


Recipe: Chicken & Dumplings

The other night, I finally decided to cook with my first whole organic chicken. I always LOVE meals that are made with whole chickens, but to be honest, I easily get grossed out by the bones and other yucky things that are found in whole chickens. The idea of eating delicious, hot chicken and dumplings was all the motivation I needed to deal with that whole chicken! Here are the steps - sorry I don't have pictures. We ate it too fast!

1.Add 1 chicken bouillon cube to 2 cups of boiling water in your crock pot.
2. Form 3 foil balls and place them in the crock pot (this prevents the chicken from burning).
3. Take a whole chicken (mostly thawed) and rub it with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
4. Stuff it with some celery and onion.
5. Place the chicken on top of the foil balls.
6. Place extra celery and onion around the chicken in the broth.
7. Heat on high for 1 hour.
8. Heat on low for 6-8 more hours until juices run clear. (I used a basting brush to add some of the broth back onto the top of the chicken).
9. After cooked thoroughly, shred/dice all chicken except breasts (I saved those for another meal).
10. Take broth (strained) from the crock pot and enough water to create 3 cups of liquid and put it in a pot.
11. Add can of cream of celery soup
12. Add chicken, and fresh sliced celery and carrots.
13. Cook on medium.
14. Once the soup is thoroughly warm/rolling boil, add 2-4 refrigerated biscuits (rolled into small balls). The biscuits take 5-8 minutes to cook.
15. Serve hot!! :)

This is a recipe I will surely be making ALL fall and winter long!


Quarter Beef

So what exactly does a quarter of beef get you? We were really excited to find out today when Ryan picked up the meat at Archer's. We paid for 147.5 lbs. (hanging weight) of beef, which kept us under our budget of $400. Above you will see a picture of the ground beef (i.e., chuck, round, and beef), stew meat, and hamburger patties. Below you will see another picture of the roasts and steaks. Each item is wrapped in butcher paper, and the type of cut and date of processing is stamped on each one. How nice and organized is that??

Our quarter beef translated to the following cuts:

10 packages of beef patties (40 patties total)
5 lbs. stew meat
29 lbs. of ground beef
4 chuck roasts (2-3 lbs each)
2 arm roasts (2 lbs each)
1 rump roast (2-3 lbs)
2 sirloin tip roasts (2-3 lbs each)
3 packages of sirloin steaks (6 total)
3 packages of T-bone steaks (6 total)
1 package of Porterhouse steaks (2 total)
3 packages of Ribeye steaks (6 total) - my favorite!

I'm pretty sure that will easily last our family an entire year, maybe even 15-18 months! That means we only spent $4.75-$7.00 per week on all natural, hormone free, antibiotic free, pastured beef. That is a steal! I have visions of freezer meals, cookouts with friends and family, and delicious dinners dancing in my head. What to make first...


Mallow Run Winery - How I Love Thee

Ok, I need a show of hands. How many of you have heard of Mallow Run Winery?? Of course the majority of you raised your hands! This winery has become one of the best local businesses in the Greenwood area. Four short years ago, Mallow Run opened their doors and invited the community in for what we quickly realized was going to be a relaxing, fun experience filled with delicious wine and wonderful food. I remember them having some events here and there, but now, their calendar is filled with Bazbeaux Pizza & Wine Nights (with local music), farmer's markets (Sundays 1-4 p.m. through Oct. 3rd), various concerts, and 5k runs. They even have events where you can bring your dogs! Over Labor Day weekend, they will celebrate their 4th anniversary for three days, complete with a hog roast and plenty of live music. Ryan and some of our friends are running in their Wine at the Line 5k in September; however, they're going to run 7 miles from our house to the winery and then do the additional 5k. Overachievers? Maybe! Dedicated? Absolutely! Crazy? Of course! I have gone to a few pizza a wine nights, and one night my friend, Lisa, and I chatted for several hours over a glass of wine, bread, and cheese. Everytime I visit Mallow Run, I leave feeling lighter on my feet and more relaxed. I know what you're thinking - it's the wine. Well, of course that's part of it! In addition, they provide amazing customer service and the perfect atmosphere. How could a person not have a good time!

If you've been following my blog for awhile now, you know that I have been searching for a way to prepare better beef for my family. After seeing Food, Inc., I found myself in a state of awareness that has made it impossible to buy meat from our grocery store. Also, many of you know how much I enjoy making freezer meals for my family. It's simplifies my life and provides us with delicious meals that are ready in a snap. The idea of having all hormone and antibiotic-free meat in bulk, inside my deep freezer, two feet from my kitchen made my heart dance!

The search began in May, and after hours of research, I chose where I would buy my chicken, pork, and beef. However, due to some unfortunate customer service issues, I decided that I could not work with the farm who was originally going to provide our beef. Not only that, but I couldn't recommend their farm to all of you after getting so much positive feedback. I had quickly learned how many of you also wanted to make these changes for your families, too!

My friend, Mark, sent me an email saying, "Did you know that Mallow Run is now selling premium beef?"


What? My beloved Mallow Run was possibly going to be the answer my prayers?? The benefits seemed endless. They would provide LOCAL hormone and anitbiotic-free beef that receive a grass fed diet along with supplmental grain (corn and soybeans that they themselves grow on their farm) and hay. The majority of their cows also have Black Angus genetics, too. Additionally, their price point is only $2.70/lb in hanging weight. The most recent quarters of beef cost anywhere between $360-$410. This is an INCREDIBLE price friends!

In the end, we have proudly chosen to buy our beef from Mallow Run Winery. Bill Richardson is WONDERFUL with customer service. I think my first email from him was returned at 2:00 a.m.! He has been extremely timely in returning emails and phone calls. I love that we are supporting two local businesses in this journey, too: Mallow Run Winery and Archer's Meat & Catering (they process the meat). It truly is a win-win situation!

If anyone is interested in purchasing their beef from Mallow Run Winery, Bill still has 2 quarters available that were processed 3 weeks ago. In addition, he wil also have up to 8 additional quarters available in mid-October. Actually, make that 6 quarters because two families we know already bought 2 of them. :) Just contact Bill (bill@mallowrun.com or 317-422-1556) if you are interested in purchasing their premium beef. I highly recommend stopping by the winery for a fun evening with your friends and familiy. You won't be disappointed! My friend, Leah, already picked up her quarter. It was contained in 4 boxes (approximately 3'x1') and was super easy to pick up. I can't wait to get mine tomorrow!!


My High School Reunion - 10 Years Later

Sometimes when I think about being 28 years old, I cannot believe high school was 10 years ago. Other times, it seems like a completely different life. I was lucky enough to grow up in the same town and live in the same house my entire life. Here is the satellite view of South Whitley, "Indiana's Favorite Hometown." We pride ourselves on having one stoplight, and the two best restaurants in town include Carol's Corner and The Brownstone, neither of which have a website. That's small town life for you! It's not my present, but it holds a huge part of my past! I LOVED my small town growing up. My friends were important to me from a very early age. Jane Goble was my babysitter, along with countless other kids in town. Growing up at her house was truly one of the best parts of my life.

My four years at Whitko High School consisted of playing volleyball, basketball, and track, hanging out with friends, actually enjoying learning (geek alert!), and spending time with my boyfriend. Ah, yes, just like any other American girl, I lived for dates, football/basketball games, and prom with my high school sweetheart. He was a great guy who taught me a lot about love and relationships. A girl couldn't ask for a more stand up guy than my high school boyfriend. Because South Whitley is so remote, few people move in and few people move out, which results in the classic "everybody knows everybody" scenario. I had been friends with many of the kids in my class since first grade. That's just the way it goes when you graduate with only 120 or so people.

When it came time for my high school reunion, I was excited to see my old friends again. Even more so, I was excited for Ryan to meet them. He and I have such an awesome relationship, but we both wish we had a history dating back to high school rather than college. After driving back from Florida on a Saturday and dealing with a freezer fiasco, Ryan, Noah, Kya, and I jumped in the car again and drove to South Whitley. My dad and Danette watched Noah and Kya while Ryan and I drove "uptown" to The Brownstone for our reunion. My sister-in-law, Kristen, and I graduated together, so she and my brother rode along with us. Five years ago, I'm not sure I would've been so relaxed about my brother being at my reunion. I think the past 10 years gave me just the time I needed to grow up a bit and not throw a fit about his attendance. Look, we're all grownsed up and we're all grownsed up!!

Mindy (above) and I began a friendship in 1st grade. When we were young, she was one of the sweetest friends a girl could have. As we grew older, Mindy became the kind of person who was passionate about things she believed in most. She was always a loyal friend, a hard worker, and a person you just knew would use her life to help other people. And you know what, that's exactly what she does! Mindy also married her high school sweetheart, and they have a beautiful little boy together. As the president of our class, Mindy planned the majority of our reunion and did a fabulous job. Thanks again, Mindy!

The two guys above are two of the best friends you could wish for (Mrs. Smiley - try as I may, I still have to leave some prepositions at the end of my sentences). Seeing Shane (middle) and Seth (right) again was so much fun! They are both happily married now to two gorgeous women and seem happier than ever. My junior year, Shane always picked me up for school, and then during my senior year, Seth would pick me up. The irony of those situations is that I lived maybe 4 blocks from the school. But you know how it is - walking to school was not "cool," and neither was driving the family mini-van. In reality, though, these two guys meant more to me than just being my ride to school. They were laid back, hilarious, and loyal friends, and I couldn't be happier for them now.

The reunion itself really consisted of eating a pretty decent meal, looking at old pictures, and catching up with old friends. It was a really relaxed evening without an agenda, which is pretty much the perfect way to spend time with friends. Above you can see two gorgeous girls, Cara (left) and Rebekah (right). I played basketball with Cara for six years, but before that, I had a sincere jealously for her in elementary school. Her last name began with a "B," while mine began with a "T," which meant that Cara always got to be at the front of the line when we were arranged in "line order." Ahh...the stresses of those early years. Rebekah and I played some sports together in junior high, I believe, and we hung out quite a bit back in the middle school days. Although we live a few hours apart now, she has become a very important friend in my life. I always tell her that I wish we lived closer. I think we would have a lot of fun! We have very similar views and beliefs, and we're at the same stage in our lives. I have cherished our conversations and emails over the past few years, Rebekah, so thank you!

In this picture you will see Cara and Rebekah again. The other two women include my sister-in-law, Kristen (left) and Abbie. Kristen is the sweetest person ever, and only someone that sweet could put up with a brother of mine (love you, Dan)!  :)  In all seriousness, I have known Kristen since 6th grade, and our friendship has always come very easily. She was a girl who everyone liked - Kristen was kind to everyone who crossed her path. I am so happy that we're family and not just friends! Abbie and I were friends at an early age, and the one thing I remember most were her birthday parties. They were always a lot of fun, and everytime she came to one of my parties, she always gave me the best Hello Kitty gifts. Isn't it funny the impression you can leave on someone? She may not even remember doing that, but that's what I remember!

Jill (above) - where do I even begin? She was my first girlfriend ever. Before that, I only had little guy friends at the babysitter's and in kindergarten. Jill's birthday was only 4 days after mine, and the same OBGYN delivered both of us. There was a snowstorm when I was born, so we may have even been at the same hospital at the same time. Wild, huh? I told you it was a small town! Jill lived just outside of town on a farm, and we spent countless hours playing in the barns, dodging cows, pretending that we had stores in her parents' office. Writing those words just will never adequately describe the amount of fun we had in those early years. We stayed close through high school and played basketball and track together. After graduating from Whitko, we even ended up going to Hanover together, living just down the hall from one another. There were times in our lives that we stepped away from our friendship, but I think it was an important step for us to grow up and find out who we were away from each other. I still consider her one of my close friends, and I couldn't be happier with the man she chose to marry and the little boy they have together!

All in all, it was a great evening filled with reliving memories and catching up with old friends. I should've taken more pictures of some of my other friends. I loved seeing Natalie, Mariah, Rachel, Janelle, Nathan, JR, Rob, Bryan, Lisa, Tanner, and so many others. It's hard to believe that we'll be 38 at our next reunion, but I can't wait to see who shows up and what has transpired over the previous 10 years. Ryan was a GREAT date that night! He has heard so many stories and has met several of my old friends, so he fit in like he was always there. I'm glad I went and look forward to the next reunion in 2020!


We are Carnivores

Back in May we began ordering our produce through Farm Fresh Delivery in order to eat a better variety of organic fruits and vegetables. We had already switched our eggs and milk to organic, and as the summer passed, I really began researching where we could buy organic/natural meat. After watching Food, Inc., I just can't make myself buy chicken, beef, and pork at the grocery store, even though the prices are SO tempting! Even when I go out to eat, I find myself sometimes feeling goo about the meat I am eating.

If you know me at all, you know I will research and research something until my eyes cross. I was looking for the best deal on chicken, beef, and pork, and after reviewing the information of 13 different farms across Indiana, I found the best options.

As it turns out, natural chicken is the most expensive meat you can buy! I often saw numbers like $6.85/lb when buying chicken breast. My old price point before going all natural with our meat was $1.77. That is quite a jump! However, again, after seeing Food, Inc., I can't eat regular chicken anymore, and I'm not going to feed it to Ryan or Noah either. The best price I found was at Seven Sons, but it is still very pricey. The cheapest option is to buy 20 chickens at once (split them with friends/family if 20 is too many for you), and it will cost you $11 per chicken. If you want them cut up, add an extra dollar per chicken. It ends up being about $3-4/lb. Their website is great for ordering, so check it out!

I learned WAY TOO MUCH about cows. Again, I found myself reconsidering the vegetarian lifestyle. Vegan even crossed my mind! My friend, Dalia, is married to a guy named Kevin, and he is WAY TOO enthralled by sections of the cow, cuts of meat, preparing meat, etc. I drew the line one day when Kevin said, "Oh yeah, that part of the cow is really delicious. That meat is right there by the kidneys."


No more, Kevin. We are done talking about meat - forever - unless of course you want to tell me that you are grilling me a steak. Then, we can talk.

Anyway, moving on...after again looking at numerous farms and doing the math on hanging weights, live weights, etc., I think the best deal you can find for grass fed beef is at The Swiss Connection outside of Terre Haute. They determine the price based on the hanging weight of the cow. Basically, after they take away all the "junk," what's left to hang in a meat locker for two weeks is what is considered the hanging weight. They charge only $2.35/lb. on the hanging weight. The animals average 500-600 lbs. hanging weight, which would equal somewhere between $1,175-$1,410 for the whole cow. After the cow has hung for two weeks, the weight general will decrease, weighing more like 400-500 lbs. total. We found several friends who wanted to buy meat in bulk, so we are each going to end up with a quarter cow. This will cost each family between $300-350 total. I cannot stress how wonderful this price is, and it includes processing, for which many farms charge extra.

Speaking of processing, the cow is definitely the most time consuming as far as choosing your cuts of meat. Basically, each section of the cow yields various cuts of meat - roasts or steaks. If you don't like the roast or steak option for that section of the cow, they grind that into hamburger meat. The cow, while raised on The Swiss Connection farm, is actually processed by Rice's Quality Farm Meats. I have created an excel spreadsheet (of course I have!) that breaks down each section of the cow, and what options you have. If you decide to buy a cow through these two companies and want a copy, just send me your email address. Because you get cuts from the back and the front of the cow, you will need to purchase at least a half cow. You can then keep all the meat for your family or find another family to go in with you so that you can split the meat. You can't just buy a quarter cow from The Swiss Connection. I hope all of that made sense!

Please note: I am no longer endorsing the aforementioned farm as a place to purchase your beef. Although they provide a great price, I unfortunately have realized that their customer service does not meet our standards. I like good deals, but I am not willing to sacrifice service throughout this process. Good news, though! I have found an even better option that is local, organized, and still provides the quality of meat we desire. Please watch for the future post for more information!

The most cost-effective place to buy pork is from Moody Meats (the Ladoga Branch). With hogs you buy either a half hog or a whole hog; there is no quarter hog option. Their price is $2.99/lb., and the average hog is approximately 100 lbs. Therefore, you'll pay $150 for a half hog and $300 for a whole hog. If you call them, ask for Ken. He's wonderfully nice and made choosing my cuts of meat very easy over the phone. To give you an idea what a half hog will yield, here is what we ordered: two shoulder roasts (pulled pork sandwiches), baby back ribs, spare ribs, 10 boneless pork chops, 12 bone in pork chops, 3 hams, 5-8 lbs. of bacon, and 15-20 lbs. ground sausage. Is your mouth watering yet?

If you have any other questions, please let me know! I didn't spend all that time and effort finding the best prices for just my family. I want to save everyone else money, too! Plus, it's a great way to introduce natural, organic meat to your family. :)


Freezer Woes

When we pulled in to our garage after driving home from our trip to Cape San Blas at 3:00 a.m., I opened my car door to a really foul smell. The trash was collected the day before we leftfor Florida, so it didn't make sense why it smelled so bad. However, when you've been driving for 14 hours straight, all you want to do is sleep and identify the source of the smell in the morning.

I knew it was a bad sign when I could smell the stench all throughout our house - even up in our bedroom. I kept waking up throughout the night because I could smell it in my dreams. When Ryan and I woke up for good around 9 a.m., I said, "Ryan, I think there is a dead animal in the garage. I can't imagine what else would make it smell so bad in here." Ryan went out to the garage to investigate, and when he didn't come back, I knew it was bad news. I went out to the garage and saw that our deep freezer was missing.


I opened the front door to go outside, and Ryan told me not to go out there - that it was really bad! I saw flies SWARMING around a black trash bag that was filled with what I determined was months and months of freezer meals, frozen chicken/beef/pork, garlic bread, frozen desserts, homemade spaghetti sauce - need I continue? Apparently, the power went out while we were on vacation, and the freezer never turned back on.


I can't even describe how horrible the smell was. They call it racid for a reason! I felt SO bad for Ryan having to clean up the majority of it by himself while I watched Noah in the house. We had no idea how to dispose of all the food. Waiting until trash day was NOT an option. So, I do what all women do when we don't know how to solve a problem.

I called my dad! :)

I'm not sure how it happens, but dads just know what to do in situations like this. It's like an inherent characteristic that they have, and thank goodness they do! My dad, of course, had the perfect solution. He suggested taht we call a local grocery store and see if we could dispose of the food there because they likely deal with bad food as its shelf life ends. We called Target, and they said they couldn't help us. Surprise! Target is seriously the store I love and hate all at the same time. The products are great, but the employees and their policies could use some major improvement. Ryan called Marsh next, and they were happy to help us!! Thank you Jesus!

Disposing of the bad food was only part of the problem. We still had to disinfect the freezer, and it's hard to stick your head into a freezer when it smells that bad. I was really questionning if it was time to become a vegetarian. I lost count of how many times I washed out the freezer with vinegar, bleach, and various other cleaners. We let it "air out" overnight a few times. Despite all of our efforts, the darn thing still didn't smell normal. I knew it was free from bacteria, and if there was additional bacteria in places I couldn't reach, surely the cold temperature would kill it, right? I just couldn't see getting rid of it and buying a new one. I checked one of my favorite "how to" websites called eHow to find a way to rid our freezer of the leftover vinegar smell. I saw a post about putting coffee grounds into your freezer, so that is exactly what I did. I put several heaping spoonfuls onto a paper plate and put it into the freezer. A little less than two weeks later, the freezer smells almost normal with just a hint of coffee. Finally, I think we've gotten somewhere!

The timing could not be better because we have decided to take our organic/natural food situation to a whole new level. We have purchased hormone-free and antibiotic-free chicken, beef, and pork, and I couldn't be more excited! I already have the chicken. Our quarter cow goes to butcher today and will be ready in two weeks, and I ordered a half hog last Wednesday, which will be ready in about a week and a half. I will post more information about that endeavor at a future date!

Take home lesson of the day - next time we go on vacation, we'll have someone periodically check on the house, or do what we usually do and hire a housesitter. I am not cleaning out another freezer like that, especially with all this delicious, healthy meat we have purchased! :)


I Wanna Be Like You, Dad!

For those of you who know anything about Ryan, he LOVES his son!!! Seriously, in my wildest dreams I never imagined that Ryan would love Noah so much. It's the kind of love that makes you smile and shake your head because it's so incredibly cute. I don't know if you've heard this song (video below) before, but it's one that Ryan often hears while driving around for work. Feel free to listen to it while reading this blog. It really has the sweetest lyrics!

My mom recently bought Noah his own little toy mower, and from the first day he had it, he's played with it nonstop. One day this summer, Ryan needed to mow the yard, and Noah was so excited because he was going to mow, too! He kept saying, "Mow, too, Mommy! Mow, too! Help Daddy mow grass!" Noah mimicked ever move that Ryan made. If Ryan walked across the lawn, Noah pushed his mower in the same direction. When Ryan turned around to come back toward me, Noah did the same. There were grass clippings in the driveway, and Noah would run his mower over them back and forth. He was working hard!

Are these not the sweetest pictures ever? It was one of those moments that you just tuck into your memory with really special care, knowing that you'll want to think of those moments often. Ryan and Noah have such a special relationship, and I am so glad I got to capture one of their sweetest moments together.


Cape San Blas 2010

A few weeks after we returned from our trip to New York City, Ryan's parents took us on vacation to Cape San Blas, FL. We had been there the previous summer with Jill, Aaron, and Jake Irwin and had such a great time (see posts here and here)! We were excited to experience life on The Cape again with Ryan's parents, his sister, and her kids.

We decided to leave around 8 p.m. on a Friday after Ryan got off work in order to drive the bulk of our trip during the night while Noah was sleeping - or so we thought. Thanks to our friends Jackie and Danny, we were able to borrow their DVD player so that Noah could watch Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh, and other random movies I picked up at the library. I took the first leg of driving, and after we set Noah up with a movie, we were on our way!

Finally at about 11 p.m., Noah fell asleep. Traffic moved pretty smoothly, and I was wide awake. I ended up driving for about 8 hours, something I've never done before, and I felt great about it! I think Ryan took over somewhere between Athens and Birmingham, Alabama. It never fails, though. Every time we stop in Alabama, something a bit scary or uncomfortable happens. This time, Ryan was filling up my CR-V when some girl, who was definitely intoxicated/on drugs, stumbled up to him and tried to strike up a conversation. This is something that you just don't feel like doing with a sleeping toddler in the back of your car at 4:00 a.m. He hurried back into the car, and I don't think we stopped again until we were almost into Florida. :)

Noah had woken up around 2:30 a.m. and stayed awake until 5:30 a.m. All in all, I think he slept for about 4 hours total in the car. He did really well considering!

Once we arrived in Cape San Blas, we had some time to kill before checking into the house. We went to the pier, a farmer's market, and then had lunch at one of our favorite pizza places, Joe Mama's Wood Fired Pizza. It was as delicious as I remembered! We walked around Port St. Joe after lunch, shopping at some of the stores and eventually made our way to the grocery store. By this time, I think we were all tired of being in the car, and it was roasty toasty outside. The kids were ready to swim, and the adults were ready for bed!

We checked into our house late that afternoon and unpacked out things. The house was BEAUTIFUL! It was truly the nicest house I have ever stayed in over vacation - or any other time for that matter. We had our own private walkway to the beach, and the pool was a hop, skip, and jump away. Ryan, Noah, and I had the master suite on the bottom floor, while John and Gloria took the "in laws quarters" at the back of the house. Kelli and the kids had the upstairs bedrooms. The set up was perfect! We even had an elevator in the house.

Most every day, we would wake up, eat breakfast, and go to the beach. We would play in the sand and in the ocean for a couple hours before going back inside for lunch. Noah would take a nice nap, and in the meantime, Ryan and I would read, sleep, go to the pool, etc. It was HEAVEN! When Noah woke up from his nap, we would go to the pool or just play inside. We all took turns making dinner each night, which is always fun! The kids even made dinner for us one night with recipes from their special kids cookbook. It was cute!

One day Ryan and I decided to go check out Apalachicola, which is located just east of Cape San Blas. It ended up being a really cute little town with lots of fun shops and unique restaurants. Our favorite place that day was the Apalachicola Chocolate Company. They make their own fudge there, but the best part was the homemade gelato!! It was probably the BEST gelato I have ever had in my life. Noah wanted chocolate, Ryan got strawberry, and I wanted lemon. YUM!!! We had a really nice time together that day!

Ryan's parents not only spoiled us rotten by treating us to this wonderful vacation, but they also took us horseback riding on the beach. Gloria had never ridden a horse before, and she, Ryan, and I had a great time! It was so peaceful listening to the waves and just riding up and down the beach. John, Kelli, and the kids went after we got back. The kids did great!! We didn't let Noah go this year - an hour is just too long for a 2  year old to stay still. The last thing I wanted was to have to dive off the horse in order to soften his fall. Maybe in a couple  years!

We all went out to eat at a delicious restaurant called Provisions. It was their opening night, and I thoroughly enjoyed my Manhattan Mac & Cheese. We ordered Noah the Octo-dog, which was super cute!

By the end of the week, I was sad that vacation was over. The only silver lining is knowing that you get to sleep in your own bed and be home again. We had a great trip with our family! I loved playing board games every night, even if Ryan and I did fight during Ticket to Ride. :) :) :) I loved every second of this vacation (minus getting chased by killer bees and having to use the bee-buster to protect ourselves), and look forward to many more in the future!

New York City - Tuesday

The last day of our trip to NYC went by so quickly. We woke up early and made our way back to NBC Studios to take their tour. After checking in with the guides, Ryan and I grabbed some breakfast in their cafe.

Our view from the cafe

The tour began with a short video about the history of NBC Studios, which was actually pretty interesting! Then we went into some news studio - I can't remember which one. To be honest, I don't watch the news, so I don't keep up on news anchors. Next we went to Jimmy Fallon's studio, and we loved this part of the tour! I loved Jimmy Fallon when he was on SNL and was in mourning when he left the show. I kept hoping that he might turn up on the tour to surprise us, but no such luck! For the last part of the tour, we got to see the Saturday Night Live studio, which was really interesting! It was very small and much different than I expected. One of the pages who took us on the tour said he has seen at least 11 shows this past year - quite the perk! At the very end of the tour, Ryan volunteered to be a weather anchor, which was pretty funny! He had to point to various parts of the green screen while saying everything on the tele-prompter.

Debbie Downer

After the tour ended, we went to the NBC Store, where I purchased a couple final souveniers: a Bayside Tigers sweatshirt (Saved by the Bell) and an NBC Studios Christmas ornament. We walked back to our hotel, packed our bags, and waited for our driver to come pick us up. We had made reservations with Dial 7 rather than using Super Shuttle again. We wanted to make sure that we got to the airport on time, and we were a litlte nervous that in a van we would be picking up several other people before making it to the airport. Dial 7 cost about twice as much, but it was a totally relaxing trip back to the airport, which definitely made it worth it. We grabbed a couple last minute slices of NY style pizza at the airport and talked about all the fun adventures we had on our trip. Ryan and I had such an incredible time together. It was so good for us to get away and have some time for just the two of us!

My dad and Danette had watched Noah and Kya while we were away, and the four of them came to the airport to pick us up. We were so excited to see Noah, and it was great to see Kya again, too! We gave everyone their gifts, which is always fun, and talked about some of the highlights of our trip. I am already looking forward to our next trip to NYC. I just emailed NBC Studios to get SNL tickets - you can only do that in August - so maybe if I randomly get picked, we'll make another trip out there this year!

Happy 30th birthday, Ryan! I hope it was the best birthday you've ever had!
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