summer in denver :: highlights

The weather recently has still been too hot for my liking, but there are sure signs of fall all around. Leaves are changing, and the mornings are full of crisp air.

I did a terrible job blogging about our summer adventures…I probably have one more post to do about our trip to Vermont, but until I can get around to doing that, I wanted to post some miscellaneous pictures from the summer months.

img_3586^^homemade ice cream; delicious.^^

img_3610^^many of our summer days looked like this.^^

img_3472^^bocce and pizza in the park!^^

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img_3686^^summer haircut + pizza afterwards.^^

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img_3728^^denver chalk art festival.^^

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img_3726^^few things are more fun than the fountains at union station.^^

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dsc01515^^willa’s 4th birthday!^^

img_3785^^bbqs at my sister’s house are always fun + yay for a rare family photo!^^

img_3814^^willa asked for a kite for her birthday. windy days aren’t frequent, but we’ve gotten it up in the air a few times!^^

dsc01434^^fun with nana!^^

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img_4398^^we hit the pools pretty hard this summer.^^

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img_4480^^summer nights.^^

img_4292^^friends. thank goodness for friends. and park picnic playdates.^^

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img_4549^^the color run. super fun.^^

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img_4782^^the day we biked to cherry creek to buy a deep fryer.^^

img_4783^^the donuts we made with the fryer.^^

dsc01940^^and just like that, summer was over. back to school!^^

toronto, oconto, and cottage country

Earlier this summer, I was thrilled to have the chance to travel east to rendez-vous with my two dearest Canadian friends. We all went to summer camp together back in the day, and although we’ve stayed close as life has taken us in different directions, it’s been a long time since we’ve all been in the same place at the same time. So, when we saw an opportunity for a visit, we did not pencil it in. We BOOKED IT. There were Google invites and calendar dates and it was HAPPENING.

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I flew to Toronto gloriously solo, and then spent the night with Carolyn and her husband Marcel (who I was so delighted to finally meet!). The next morning, we jumped on VIA Rail to Kingston where Cat picked us up. We hit up the LCBO and Farm Boy before devouring legit cheese curds and dill pickle chips en route to Carolyn’s family cottage on Big Rideau Lake.

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We packed a lot into two days at the cottage (and to rest up in between days, we slept on that beautiful porch!):

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2016-06-24 18.25.02-1^^we canoed. deep talks on lake. and solid paddling. we all have our basic D canoeing certification after all. j-strokes all day.^^

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DSC01535^^we ate good food and drank good libations. i mean, pamplemousse radlers!? oui, s’il vous plait, canada.^^

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DSC01586^^there was lots of swimming. including a long (LONG!) distance swim to one of those islands in the distance. i was a reticent participant, but we made it there and back safely and i only suffered slight neck pain, ear pain, and muscle fatigue as a result. friends, man, they push you to try new things!^^

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DSC01597^^we of course took lots of group photos amidst all the activities.^^

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2016-06-24 20.41.22^^there were lots of hugs, lots of laughs, and lots of conversations. these girls love me for who i am, and encourage me to be exactly that. it is so comforting to be around friends who have known you forever. friends with whom you can pick up exactly where you left off. like you never left off.^^

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2016-06-25 13.52.18^^on our drive back to toronto from the cottage, we went by the camp where we all met. cat and i were campers together at age 12 and at the swim test on the first day i remember thinking she was going to be my new best friend. carolyn came to camp a few years later, and we were counselors together until after high school. it was unreal to visit camp; i hadn’t been there since a reunion in 2005. lisa, the director, welcomed us with open arms (and lunch!) and we got to skip around the dining hall (a camp tradition for visitors and birthday girls) to the cheers of current staff. it was truly special to be back for a visit.^^

2016-06-25 20.39.52^^back in toronto, we grabbed our other dear camp friend jenn, and hit the city scene for a delicious dinner at DaiLo. it was the perfect end to a perfect visit.^^

So much love to ALL my camp girls, and huge thanks for all those back home who helped make my trip happen!

 

memorial day in kansas city

How is it August already? Didn’t summer just begin? What is it about summer that makes us all so busy? The nice weather and conceptualized “break” from the routine of the “school year” seems to be engrained in me, even though it’s been a long time since the academic year dictated my life. Although, Willa is now wedded to the school calendar, so summer has brought a lot of freedom with her schedule. A lot of bonding time for us.

As soon as school finished, we hit the road as a family and headed due East. Some tornado warnings slowed our initial progress, but once the skies cleared we made good time and were delighted to spend a weekend with Dan’s mom and other extended family. There was lots of pool time, good food, and a baseball game. Most importantly, there was family bonding and the road trip was totally tolerable. The kids rocked it.

Photo highlights:

DSC01325^^shortly after we arrived, we went to check out the pool. the kids couldn’t contain their excitement and started to climb in, clothes and all (and helmet!).^^

DSC01333^^memorial day weekend marked willa’s discovery of her love of the pool! she had been really timid up until that time, but she realized how well her floaties would hold her up, and she then spent hours swimming around the deep end. it was the beginning of a summer of swimming willa!^^

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DSC01384^^frozen treats at grandma’s house!^^

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DSC01388^^humidity = green!^^

DSC01355^^cousins!^^

IMG_3635^^yay family and yay KC royals.^^

our willa bean is 4

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It’s late (almost 10pm!) and it’s been a long but wonderful day of celebrating our dear Willa. We planned to keep it low-key this year but somehow it felt anything but that, but in all the right celebratory ways. Willa was thrilled.

We had a birthday party in the park yesterday with cupcakes and donuts and a bubble maker and a Minnie Mouse piñata. And for the first time ever, her scrooge mother didn’t write “no gifts please” on the invitation so she got a boatload of amazing gifts, several of them of the Frozen variety. Princess Elsa 4eva.

And her Nana’s in town.

Her Uncle got her a stuffed skunk with pink sparkly eyes. She loves skunks. Almost as much as Elsa. Sometimes more. Depends on the day.

And today we took a trip to her favorite park and she didn’t even care that the train and petting zoo were closed or that a thunderstorm rolled in after 20 minutes of playing in the stream.

After that we went to see chickens and get fresh eggs at Auntie Al’s work.

Once home, she and her brother ate a whole pint of raspberries in the backyard and then she watched The Cat and the Hat on the couch in minimal clothing.

We made pizza for dinner and she squealed when daddy threw the dough high up in the air. She got more presents.

I made her a “pink lady” cake with strawberries and as soon as she saw the strawberries smashed to the sides she ran over with arms spread wide and gave me a huge hug and told me it was the best cake ever.

Mid-cake eating we realized there was a rainbow in front of the house. Not a mini one, but a real-deal all the way across the sky one. She jumped up and down and said she “just knew” there’d be one on her birthday. Later she said it was the best gift she received for her birthday.

She used her newfound four-year-old strength to drag her mini trampoline upstairs and bounced on it for a good hour to burn off pizza and cake and present-induced excitement.

She got to stay up until 9pm. Wearing a glow bracelet from Nana and Bobo.

She makes us laugh and smile and sigh and scream and I can’t imagine what our life would be like without the joy she brings to it each and every day. Happy birthday, Willa!

a cape cod wedding!

After our fun time in Boston, we made our way out to Cape Cod for MY SISTER’S WEDDING. They’d decided to get married in Truro, Massachusetts. (Side note: why is Massachusetts so hard to spell? Seriously. It is so hard.)

We were delighted to stay in a big house my parents rented in Truro. It was so fun to all be together in an old Cape Cod house. The house was a bit quirky, but delightful and roomy. The kids each had their own room, as did the adults. And it had an outdoor shower! And a beautiful view of the water. What more could one want?

The wedding was on Saturday, but the days prior to that there we lots of festivities. Family dinners, a bachelor party, a bridal shower, the rehearsal dinner, etc. etc. SO MUCH FUN.

I am so happy for my sister, and so grateful for the chance we had to make so many family memories. It was truly a trip to remember.

DSC09328^^en route from boston we stopped in plymouth to eat some bahn mi sandwiches and to take in some american history. it was difficult to get this shot because so many people were waiting to pose in front of the mayflower II!^^

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DSC01240^^as soon as we arrived in truro, we checked out the wedding venue. gorgeous. also, i like overexposed photos!^^

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DSC01299^^the first night in town we had a dinner with the bride and groom’s families. it was also my dad’s birthday. cam was a bit of handful but then he won over the crowd with his coy smiles. that boy!^^

DSC09347^^love.^^

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DSC09403^^cape code beaches. sand dune hiking. family time.^^

DSC09406^^rehearsal. willa was on it.^^

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DSC09421^^rehearsal dinner! willa ate a ton of fried clams. dan ate two lobsters. we all had fun.^^

DSC01420^^woo hoo! wedding day!^^

Alison and Jakob have tons of beautiful pictures from their special day, but those are theirs to share, not mine. It was such a special day. Everything was perfect. They were so happy; and we were so happy for them. I feel so lucky to have been a part of their day, and we are so happy to welcome Jakob into our family. And on top of all that, they live in Denver! Down the street! How did we get so lucky? Life is good.

crested butte craziness

You know what traveling with kids is not like? Traveling without kids.

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Shocking revelation, I know. But really, as simple as that sounds, it’s a fundamental concept that one is forced to come to terms with when embarking on adventures with little ones. And I think it’s something that many of us struggle with in the years after we first have kids. Your “pre-kid” life wasn’t that long ago, and it’s hard to shake the memories of when traveling (or doing anything, really) was, well, quite different.

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A few weeks ago, great friends of ours flew in from Texas and we all trekked out to Crested Butte for the better part of a week. We’d had the trip planned for several months, and our friends were excited to have a Colorado mountain experience.

Crested Butte is sensational. It’s truly an idyllic mountain town. We’d been twice before, but this was our first time going in the summer. The town was as quaint as ever and we were blown away by the breathtaking views. We tried our best to maximize the hiking trails and other outdoor adventures the area has to offer.

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It was challenging though, to be sure. We were tired. Cameron didn’t sleep that well. Willa had the ups and downs that seem to be par for her course at age 3. I got frustrated. At one point I cried and declared we should just drive back to Denver.

I didn’t really mean it. And we didn’t. I’m glad we didn’t. The week was special. It was memorable. We got closer as a family. We reconnected with our friends. We got to know their kids.

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There are numerous quotations about how things are hard but you should do them anyway. How it’s the hard that makes them great. I’m not saying I wouldn’t take a relaxed vacation sans kid drama…I would. (Gosh, I would!) But different is okay. Different has its own charms.

Some highlights:

DSC08698^^Secret Stash Pizzeria. So good.^^

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DSC08676^^Meridian Lake. We hiked the steep route which was a lot of bang for your buck. Great views and refreshing swim.^^

DSC08709^^Henderson Park aka “the mini park.” According to Willa, this was the highlight of the trip. I’ll bet you’ve never seen a smaller park.^^

DSC08758^^Our VRBO on Elk Avenue. It was close to town and also to several hiking trails. It had a bit of an odd bedroom set-up (a really large master suite with a sitting area, a tiny bedroom by the kitchen with a full-sized bed, and two bedrooms upstairs with twin beds) but it worked out just fine! Great outdoor space.^^

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To round out this story, it must be said that friends who can parent together are true friends. The challenges of this trip were eased by the extra eyes, hands, ears, and hugs throughout the days and the camaraderie around the campfire at night. We love you guys!

fathers’ days

It’s been a busy month. A festive month. A really good month.

My mom was here on her birthday. Then came Willa’s birthday! And then, last weekend, thanks to a variety of forces coming together, my family was all in town for Father’s Day. We did it up on Saturday and Sunday with a baseball game, a brewery trip, dinner at our favorite Malaysian restaurant, and lots of laughs.

When you don’t live in the same place as family, the time they take to come visit is so special. It can sometimes be overwhelming to pack a lot in to a short time, but the memories we make are something I truly cherish. As Willa’s getting older and understanding more, I hope she, too, forms her own memories that she can hang on to. I know she will. (It seems unlikely this blog will be around for her to look back on…but who knows where the future internet will go?) She has such a wonderful time with the family and friends who come to visit, but she’s just now starting to to comprehend that they have to leave. It’s hard when good times come to an end. Life lessons, I suppose?

DSC07733^^parents!^^

DSC07745^^future uncle jakob is an amazing child/toddler/baby holder (jackpot!). here he is showing willa the baseball stadium.^^

DSC07764^^ball parks offer overpriced beverages for everyone.^^

DSC07802^^love this shot.^^

DSC07801^^willa’s working on her photography skillz.^^

DSC07821^^waiting on the bus. <3^^

DSC07847^^beer drinking is a good thing to do on father’s day, no?^^

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DSC07881^^me and my men.^^

IMG_0150^^lots of fun street art near renegade.^^

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IMG_0155^^since there wasn’t a food truck at the brewery, we decided to head to one of our all-time favorite eateries: makan malaysian cafe. it’s an awesome place to be any day of the week, but on sundays they have “family dinner” options that give you a sampling of several dishes. i’m always a fan of sharing, but it’s also definitely the way to go for people unfamiliar with malaysian food.^^

IMG_0154^^willa loved the family-style dining as well. she tried more than usual, including a fish ball. this was supposed to be a fist bump to celebrate, but it turned into some kind of fist bumb cheers combo.^^

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IMG_0168^^we rounded out the weekend by waiting in the long line at little man for way too much ice cream. always a good choice. winning! (but seriously, their “single” is about 6 scoops of ice cream. they should revisit their size names.)^^

Huge thanks to everyone involved for such a fun weekend. xo!

a happy birthday brunch for our three year old!

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Willa turned three last week!

So far, I’m not sure what to make of this age. It’s so hot and cold. Up and down. She’s the cutest little girl EVER and then moments later she is so naughty. But I know it’s all part of her development, and I’m doing my best to take deep breaths and be patient and supportive as she’s learning.

She’s working on being a big sister. She loves her little brother and enjoys having him around. She will say, “Hi little buddy!” when he wakes up from a nap, and if he’s fussing, she’ll say, “It’s ok Cameron!” and then tell him something about what’s going on. She has trouble sharing her toys with him. She often grabs things away from him. But she’ll occasionally bring him a toy to play with, and she loves to share her food with him while they’re at the table eating.

My favorite thing about Willa at this stage are our conversations. She loves to ask me questions. Lately we’ve been talking a lot about “workers” and what they build. She started with, “Mama, did workers build our house?” And now she asks if workers have built other things. The other day we were driving somewhere and she asked me to explain how the workers built our car. You can feel her mind working.

She remembers details and events of things we did so long ago. I am always surprised when she reminds me of them weeks or months later. She can carry on a conversation so well. It blows me away. She is getting so tall and so smart. I feel proud of the beautiful and inquisitive little girl she is growing into. She challenges and delights me each day.

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Her birthday was a wonderful day! We were lucky to have family in town to celebrate and we threw a little brunch shindig with friends, donuts, cake, and an inflatable pink picture frame (Is that what we call it? No idea. But it was fun!).

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DSC07659^^”Mango cake!” For weeks before her birthday, Willa was telling everyone that she was going to have a mango cake. We weren’t sure exactly what a mango cake was, but opted for vanilla cake with mango custard in the middle and buttercream frosting. It was delicious. Willa might have ruined her appetite with donuts, but I certainly enjoyed it. Huge thanks to the pastry chef! ;)^^

DSC07662-001^^Cam slept for the first half of the party, but woke up and put on his party pants. He tried some snacks and was super excited to meet his Uncle Mike!^^

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DSC07549-001^^An inflatable pink frame = possibly the best $1.99 I’ve ever spent at Goodwill.^^

choose your own adventure

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You know what’s great about not having a “regular” job? The flexibility. You know what’s super overwhelming? Flexibility.

Pretty much every day I have a long stretch of time without any plans. Hours that can be filled however I want. There are things that need doing: grocery shopping, work, meals, dishes, emails, diaper changes, exercise, laundry… But most of those things don’t need to happen at a specific time. I can work out in the morning or in the afternoon. We can go to the park whenever. Willa can nap at noon or 1:30. The grocery store is open all day.

This whole stay-at-home/work part-time thing has been tough for me to master. It’s a work in progress. Before Cameron, I felt like I sort of had things down. We’d go out and do something in the morning, and then come home for lunch and naptime. Even if we didn’t get out the door first thing, we still had time to do something. But now, Cameron naps mid-morning and so it sometimes feels like I’m being held hostage in the house with my almost-three year old. Good times. Notsomuch.

This summer, I need to figure out a bit more of a schedule. I need to be the driver of our time. It is wonderful to be able to design our days just how we want them, but it’s not without challenges. Sometimes it feels like the day slips away from me. I’m totally okay with staying home and not doing much, but I want it to be an intentional choice.

Here some reminders for myself as I work to achieve a more scheduled life that balances work and play. Maybe you have some pointers too?

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Have a plan. So simple. So obvious. Yet hard to execute. The days we have a plan and somewhere to be at a certain time, we get ourselves there. The days that are open-ended are when we sometimes get a bit cranky. Even when I don’t have an obligation or scheduled meet-up with a friend, it helps immensely if I make my own schedule ahead of time. I’m working on a “bucket list” for the summer to make sure we get to all the things I want to do.

Make use of small blocks of time. Don’t underestimate the short or simple outing. Everyone’s mood gets so much better with a little fresh air and stimulation from the outside world. But, I tend to overestimate how much time it takes to do things, so often I don’t go somewhere because I don’t think there’s enough time. It’s good to remember that a quick outing can be quite restorative, so squeeze something in between naps or whenever you can!

Ditch the schedule. But only sometimes. My kids like to nap in their beds. I’m not sure if it’s their nature or something we’ve fostered, but they don’t sleep very well in strollers, carseats, etc. As a result, I have a love-hate relationship with naptime. I love the break it gives me but I sometimes hate having to be home for it to happen. It’s good to throw naptime to the wind occasionally. This lets you have the whole day to do whatever you want. Sometimes this totally backfires and you’ve got meltdown madness on your hands. But usually everyone adjusts. It’s important for everyone to learn/remember to be flexible.

Do things you enjoy doing. Since becoming a mom, particularly a mom who is primarily at home, I’ve felt a lot of pressure to do certain activities. “Kid-friendly” things. Many of those things are a lot of fun. But some of them aren’t. At least not for me. But what I want to do is constantly changing. There are things that sound fun today that last year I swore I’d never do. I try to remind myself that there are many ways to raise kids, and children can benefit from a wide range of experiences, so it’s okay to just do what you want to do.

Be gentle with yourself. I’m working on this one. I try not to stress too much if I forget something or am a bit late to meet someone. I do the best I can, but things are hard enough without beating myself up. Yes, I try to remember the sunscreen. But if I forget it, we’ll find some shade and everyone will be okay.

Use television strategically and sparingly. I don’t have a real issue with kids watching TV, and I certainly make full use of our Netflix subscribtion. However, I’ve noticed that the more shows Willa watches, the grumpier she is afterwards. With summer coming, I need to remember that playing outside is much better for everyone. I want to try to limit our “screen time” (mine too!). I hope to reserve shows and movies for times we can cozy up on the couch together to enjoy the experience.

Slow down. As much as I enjoy doing things, it can be equally important and beneficial to stay at home or to just walk around the block aimlessly. I can be nice to just let the day unfold as it will. Some of the best memories can be made when you aren’t trying too hard.

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palisade peach salad

Over labor day weekend, we were lucky enough to have friends from Seattle in town for a quick visit. They’d been to a wedding up in Breckenridge, and thankfully had some time in Denver before heading back west. They arrived just moments after we got back from our trip to Minnesota, and while I do love to make a fancy dinner on occasion, pregnant post-road trip me did not have much umph to spare. But my dear friend Meg is always able to revive my energy, and so we got ourselves down the street to the grocery to pick up some dinner supplies.

You’ve heard about Palisade peaches, right?

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They’re a thing. I don’t totally know why or what makes them such a thing, but word on the street is they are Colorado’s late summer claim to fame. What I do know is, they’re quite good. Just our luck, they still had them at the store, so we manhandled a few and picked the ones that felt just the right ripeness. I remembered a salad recipe with peaches I’d pinned awhile back, so I figured that would be a good way to go. Although all I really remembered was that I’d pinned it; I had only a faint recollection of what was in it, so I made my best guess and what do you know? We came up with a darn good salad.

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We got all crazy, too, and enjoyed it after Willa went to bed. With a side of sausages. And lots of solid conversation.

So next time you want something fancy that takes minimal forethought or effort, I highly recommend this guy. And I’m sure it would be delightful even if your peaches aren’t Coloradan.

Grilled Palisade Peach Salad with Ricotta and Arugula
Serves 4, but easily increased for more

1 whole peach per person
1 slice prosciutto per person
1c whole milk ricotta cheese
2T lemon juice
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
fresh arugula

1. Cut peaches in half and remove pits. Brush non-skin sides with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill on a barbeque or grill pan over high heat, cut sides down, just until lightly charred. Let cool and then slice into fourths or sixths or eights, depending on the size of the peaches.

2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix ricotta with lemon juice, 1T olive oil, 1t balsamic, and salt and pepper.

3. To serve, put a handful of arugula on each plate. Arrange peaches on top. Tear apart one slice of prosciutto into pieces and place on the salad. Top with a few spoonfuls of the ricotta mixture. Serve with additional olive oil and balsamic.

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