Thursday, January 30, 2014


As of this morning, the Mister was once again on his way home with an estimated arrival time somewhere around 11 o'clock this evening.  His phone was low on battery so he was turning it on every once and a while to check in and tell me where they were.

At 5:49 this evening my mom and I had the following text conversation:

Within the half hour, the Mister and I had the following conversation:

Irony can be cruel.  I can't help feeling like it's my fault a little bit for sending the negative energy their way.  Whether the "mechanical trouble" was the result of my bad attitude or not, I am happy to share that they have loaded onto a different bus and are on their way again.  He should be here around 4 o'clock in the morning.  I would like to speculate about what other occurrences (e.g. - a wild emu escaping on the interstate, Justin Bieber leading police on a high-speed chase through the Southeast, a UFO landing directly on top of their bus, etc.) may keep their arrival from actually happening this time, but my creepy prediction of this last complication has aroused my superstitious side.  So, I'll be keeping my thoughts on the matter to myself from here on out and holding out hope that maybe, someday, I'll see my husband again.

With that said, I thought tonight would be a good time to share a little of our honeymoon week.  It's a little self indulgent - I know.  But I'm missing Chris, there's snow on the ground, and it was 7 degrees this morning when I woke up, so there's really no better time to relive the last time we were at the beach.


After our reception, we headed to the O'Henry Hotel in Greensboro, NC.  It is a beautiful, historic hotel.  There were fluffy white robes.  We ordered over $50 dollars of room service as soon as we arrived because we were having too much fun to eat at the reception.  The french fries were fried in truffle oil... enough said.

After eating our complimentary breakfast on a lovely patio beside a murmuring fountain the next morning (and feeling like royalty), we loaded up the car and drove 2-3 hours to catch our ferry to Ocracoke Island, NC.  To be honest, I selfishly don't like sharing my love for Ocracoke because I don't want other people to know about my all time favorite vacation spot I visited with my family growing up.  I worry that if too many people hear about the quaint fishing island, it will lose its charm.  But I take comfort in the fact that Ocracoke isn't for everyone, as it is devoid of chain businesses (the village of Ocracoke doesn't allow commercial building permits) and a two hour ferry ride is required to reach the island.  I was even worried that my new husband, who had never been to Ocracoke, would find the island boring.  With it being September the week we visited for our honeymoon, Ocracoke was even more quiet than it is during tourist season in the summer.  Luckily, Chris fell in love with Ocracoke too.  While for some people going to the beach means staying busy the whole time, shopping at outlets, and nice dinners out, Chris and I are not that way.  We are the type of folks for whom going to the beach means hitting the sand right after breakfast, staying out till you're too sunburned and hungry to stand it anymore, showering, finding dinner somewhere with good beer and food, walking to get ice cream while the sun is going down, then getting up the next morning to do it all again.

We spent the first two nights on Ocracoke at the Castle Bed and Breakfast.  It was our first experience with a B & B, and we really enjoying getting to know the staff, lingering over delicious breakfasts with people we had just met (of course we found Army and hometown ties with other guests because it is a small world after all), and learning the story behind the house built by an odd but lovable local legend named Sam Jones.  We were made to feel truly at home during our time at the Castle.  Although I did love the elegant, vintage furnishings, I will admit I had to sleep with a lamp on and woke Chris up in the middle of the night more than once because the quirkiness of the house and the old decorations made me feel a little uneasy while I was trying to sleep.  You know that feeling you can't put your finger on, you just feel unsettled?  The view of the island's harbor, Silver Lake Harbor, from our room was stellar though.  Sunsets on Ocracoke are the best I've ever seen.  They are only rivaled by the night sky on Ocracoke in which you can see stars you didn't even know existed.

The first day we were there, Chris decided to buy a cheap fishing pole and some bait.  On one of his first casts, he caught a big ol' fish, and he was hooked (pardon the pun).  The rest of the trip included a whole lot of fishing... but no other fish rivaled that first one he reeled in.

Although we were sad to leave the Castle, we were also happy to get out of the B & B atmosphere to a hotel where we would have a little more space and not have to adhere to as much of a schedule.  The next place we stayed was Edward's of Ocracoke, and we would recommend it to anyone.  It was awesomely retro, clean, and cheap (and they offered a military discount!). The only reason we won't be staying there next time we visit is that we'll want to bring the dogs, and there are no pets allowed at Edward's.  Other than that, it's five stars if you're looking for somewhere comfy and neat to sleep without a bunch bells and whistles.  We also especially liked that it was centrally located, making it a short walking distance from everywhere in the village.

With it not being tourist season, not very many restaurants were open.  We gave almost every place that was open a try for one meal or another.  We settled on what I already knew though - for breakfast, Pony Island restaurant is the place to go.  And for lunch and dinner, you can never go wrong with Howard's Pub.  We frequented both places several times during our four day stay on the island.

A pitcher of Mother Earth Weeping Willow Wit in Howard's Pub pint glasses = Heaven on Earth to me

We discovered one really cool place that I had passed before with my family but had never gone inside.  Zillie's Island Pantry has chilled craft beer, a cigar selection, wonderful snacks like high quality cheese and crackers, and a big front porch where you can enjoy your purchases.  We didn't find it till the last day we were there, so we wish we'd discovered it sooner, but we can't wait to go back!  Zillie's was definitely right up our alley.

After four days on Ocracoke, we boarded an NC State University (my alma mater!) themed ferry to continue our NC Outer Banks journey to Hatteras Island.

Chris loves museums and educational stuff like that, so we wanted to visit the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.  It is known as "America's lighthouse" and was moved 2,900 feet in 1999 to avoid it falling in the ocean due to beach erosion.  On the way, a Google search indicated that the park was closed, so we were just going to do a drive-by.  But once we got there, it turned out the park was open and we got to climb the lighthouse and visit the museum.  Definitely a nice surprise!

No filter!

Here we are at the top!  Chris hates this picture (sorry, honey!), but it's the only photo of the two of us together from the whole honeymoon.

From the lighthouse, we headed to Kitty Hawk.  We had decided to spend our last couple of nights there because Chris had never seen the Wright Brothers Memorial and it is something you can't miss if you're in the Outer Banks.  We stayed at a Days Inn that didn't look too bad on the internet, so we could save some money (most hotels at Kitty Hawk were over $200 a night).  The accommodations were okay but nothing to write home about.  The room was very small and did not give off an especially clean vibe.  It was somewhere to sleep though and we saved a buck or two.

Although we really enjoyed the Wright Brothers Memorial, we were a little disappointed with Kitty Hawk as a whole (Chris kept asking if we could go back to Ocracoke).  Everything felt very commercialized and the sand on the beach was rocky and riddled with cigarette butts.  It didn't help that there was bad weather coming in, making it unsafe and scary to swim.  There were two highlights though:  1) We got to meet up with some good friends one day who live in Virginia near Kitty Hawk.  2) Just down the street from our hotel, there was this really original restaurant and brewery with good food and even better beer.  The Outer Banks Brewing Station uses a wind turbine to power it's brewery and we hung out there both days we were in Kitty Hawk.

From Kitty Hawk, we were able to take a bridge back to mainland North Carolina and head to my parents' house to pick up our dogs.  The six night trip was just long enough; we had a great time, but we were ready to get home.  We were greeted in Burlington by a big welcome home sign in the front yard (including puppy paw prints) and a dining room table full of flowers from the reception.

That was a very brief description (that left out a lot of details) of a week that was truly perfect.  Although we would have of course loved to travel somewhere in Europe or to a luxurious resort for our honeymoon, this laid back Outer Banks trip ended up being ideal and low key, just like we wanted.  The weather was wonderful and we were able to enjoy being together without a bunch of fuss over keeping a schedule, flying, or anything like that.  We can't wait to go back and do it again, except we'll probably stay on Ocracoke the whole time next vacation, as we did the touristy Outer Banks requirements on this trip.

I'll close with the obligatory awkward hand photo my mom asked us to send her while we were gone because she didn't get a good look at our rings during the wedding festivities.

Have a fantastic Friday!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Snowy Day

A good snow is a rare thing where I grew up in Burlington, NC.  A good snow is an even rarer thing in the Sandhills of NC where I live now.  When I was younger, snow was pure goodness.  It meant not going to school and playing outside with my brother, sister, and neighbors until we couldn't feel our extremities, and then coming inside for hot chocolate and time by the fire.  Now that I'm a bona fide adult, snow days aren't quite as simple.  Although I do still admittedly get excited about snow, there is more stress to come with winter weather now.  Grown ups have to worry about finding out whether or not they're going to have to use their vacation hours to take the day off work, whether there's enough food in the kitchen, and how to drive on hazardous roads that we're definitely not used to down in this neck of the woods.  But I do still usually love snow... except for the snow that fell last night.  I hate this snow day.

I hate this snow day because the Mister was supposed to be home Monday, and then he was supposed to be home yesterday, and then he was supposed to be home today, and now he may or may not be home on Friday - thank you Southern snow storm.  He's been gone over 20 days now with no communication other than infrequent texts. I wouldn't be as upset about it if I had always thought he wouldn't be home till Friday - it's just the getting my hopes up about him coming home each day only to find out he won't be that is a little perturbing.  But I'm trying to keep it all in perspective and this is the most I'll whine about it because firstly, I know the Mister is just as, if not more, frustrated than I am.  I'm not the one who has been sleeping in a tent and eating MREs.  While I'm just missing him, he's missing me plus wanting to sleep in his own bed and eat a home-cooked meal.  Secondly, I am lucky enough to have someone who loves me and wants nothing more than to be at home with me eating potato soup and watching Redbox movies, and that's nothing to complain about.  So, I'm trying to remember to find the beauty in this snow day.

The puppy dogs and I went for a walk right after we woke up this morning.  That way, we got to see the snow when it was still untouched and almost perfect.  It was lovely to see all the families around the neighborhood playing in their front yards bright and early.  One little girl, probably around four years old, said hello as I walked by, and I asked her if she was going to build a snow man.  She told me she hadn't yet because her hands were too cold and that she needed "socks for her hands."  Her mom came out the door right at that moment and said, "Not socks for your hands, they're called gloves."  That gave me a good chuckle.

Two side notes about this picture: 1) It's amazing how a dog who is usually white and seemed pretty clean from his last bath can suddenly turn a dirty shade of yellow when walking in the snow.  2) Our dogs wear Haltis for walks.  We used to use a pinch collar on Hank, but we signed a contract saying we would use no type of pain for training when we adopted Luellen.  We now swear by Haltis; walking two hyper dogs without them would be nearly impossible.

One family was driving their snow mobile around the neighborhood all day.  At first I thought it was a little strange, but it just goes to show that people in military towns come from all over.  I guess if you move from Alaska or Colorado to Fort Bragg you might as well bring your snow mobile for the occasional deep snow that occurs every two to three winters here. 

I'm not sure if Luellen had ever seen snow before we adopted her, but I know for a fact Hank has never been in a snow as deep as the 4-5 inches we had today.  He loves cold weather, so he loves the snow. He has bounded and leapt and dug.  He seemed surprised to find his regular backyard under the snow while he was digging around.  I guess he thought it had disappeared forever to be replaced with marshmallow land.  Lulu, on the other hand, is not fond of the snow.  She only goes outside when she has to tinkle and, when she does, she walks like a cat with tape on its feet, then runs inside as soon as she's finished doing her business.

After our walk, I changed from my wet jeans back into my pajamas and they've been on ever since because that's allowed when you're stuck in the house all day.  It's also a well known fact that socks don't have to match on snow days.

I even did my yoga in my jammies!  I tried a new yoga app called Pocket Yoga.  There aren't any yoga studios near where I live, and I like iPhone apps better than yoga DVDs.  Yoga DVDs usually cost $10-$30 and have 3-5 practices on them, whereas apps typically have tons of practices from which to choose and are free or only a few dollars.  Up until now, I've been using a free app called Yoga Studio that I really like.  It has a wide variety of practices, but I've done all of them and I'm not into repetition.  Pocket Yoga cost $2.99, and I was a little let down by it.  It only has three practices, but you can choose the length (30, 60, or 90 minutes) and difficulty level (Beginner, Intermediate, or Expert).  The visual demonstrations for the poses were just still images instead of the visual for the whole practice being more like a video as it is in Yoga Studio. An important part of yoga is the flow, moving from pose to pose, and that's lacking in this app.  The narration is very choppy and not very instructive.  I wouldn't suggest this app to a beginner because it moves quickly and the details for each pose are not described.  Another small pet peeve about it is that the narrator calls "tabletop pose" "your box."  The pose was used a lot in the practice I did today (Beginner "Ocean" - the cardio practice), and the narrator kept saying "return to your box" and "go back into your box."  It just sounded strange.  It was a good workout though and, even though I wasn't completely pleased with my purchase, I will probably continue to use Pocket Yoga since I paid for it and I need the variety.


So that's how I've tried to make the best of this beautiful but disappointing snow day.  The highlight was that Chris got to call today and I heard his VOICE for the first time in almost a month.  Even better, he's going to try to call again tonight when we can talk a little longer.  I'm going to go warm up some soup and settle in for a night of TV watching and cross stitching.  Luellen keeps hitting my arm while I'm trying to type - must be time for her to eat too.  Cross your fingers for me and lots of other folks around here that the sun comes out and the roads between the base where Chris and his pals are stuck in Mississippi and Fort Bragg become safe to travel soon!   I'm sure there are people all over this part of the country who have loved ones displaced due to the weather.  Good luck to everyone stranded and to their families waiting for them at home.  Stay warm!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens...

I love Sunday nights because Sunday nights are Downton Abbey nights.  The only problem is that the Mister isn't here to enjoy one of our favorite shows with me.  Good thing he'll be home in less than two days to catch up on the episodes he missed - and I'll get to watch them all over again with him!

I'm also in a pretty fine mood this evening because it's the one year anniversary of the day the Mister proposed.  I was sitting on the couch I'm sitting on right now (but in the apartment Chris was renting at the time) in an XL t-shirt, leggings, and a baseball hat when he walked over and popped the question.  It was perfectly low key and just between the two of us, and it definitely brings a smile to my face to remember this day a year ago.  What made it even better was that, while Chris and I were out eating a celebratory nice dinner that night, one of my bestest friends called to tell me her boyfriend had just proposed!  It wasn't planned, just a wonderful coincidence.  January 26th will definitely be one of my favorite dates forever.

We awkwardly asked the hostess at the restaurant to take our picture when we went out to dinner so we would have one to document the proposal.  It's hard to believe it was only a year ago.

I thought today would be a great day to share another favorite things post.  The items this time are all from our living room.  It's my favorite room of the house, and it's definitely the place I've focused my decorative energy, so everything in it is my favorite.  That made it pretty hard to choose five most favorites, but I did my best!

My favorite piece of furniture in the room is no surprise... our bar of course!  But it's not just because it's where the alcoholic beverages live.  The bar is another consignment piece from Bella's House of Burlington, NC.  With a (convincing fake) marble top, we don't have to be as careful about spills as we would with a wooden drink preparation surface.  There is a TON of storage inside for all the different kinds of craft beer glasses we received as wedding gifts.  And it really just completes the room.  It was such a beautiful, lucky find that we were able to purchase partially with a gift certificate we were given.

Our wedding cake topper resides on the top shelf of our book shelf in the living room, and I love looking at it every day.  Birds have a special significance to me (they're all over our house), but these two are my favorites.  I love the metaphors birds and nest provide - Chris and I are building our own nest, and this little knick-knack symbolizes that to me.

I have mixed feelings about the bunting that hangs from our mantle.  Yes, it hung at our wedding reception and it is a lovely reminder of our wedding day.  However, I made all 200+ feet of the bunting we used, and by the time wedding came along, I would have been fine if I had never seen any of it ever again.  The colors were perfect though.  The bunting truly tied the look of the reception together.  So I have it hanging here as a reminder of the day we said our vows and of the fact that hard work does pay off.

Chris and I both love maritime themed decorations that don't get too "beach housey" for a land-locked home.  When we saw this painting in Pier 1 we knew immediately it was just the thing we needed to fill our large wall behind the couch.  Pier 1 has several of these types of paintings - I think they're just prints and they add a little texture, which makes it seem like each one is hand painted.  What is extra cool about it is that it has a lot of depth.  The way it looks like it goes on and on in the background gives a nice illusion of a bigger room to our little living space.

During 2012 and the beginning of 2013, Chris and I got really into trying different craft beers and collecting the bottles.  When Chris moved out of his apartment, we didn't want to carry three boxes of beer bottles with us to our new home.  Chris had the great idea of using them as rehearsal dinner centerpieces.  His mom took the idea and ran with it, and they looked awesome!  I kept a few of the bottles for us that were tied to good memories or had really neat labels and they are now on display in the living room.

So there you have it - by far the living room is the room I prefer most in the house, mostly because I've filled it with lots of things that are related to some of our favorite memories.  Although I love this room just the way it is, there are a couple items I want that would put it over the top on the "favorite room scale."

1) I'm obsessed with this faux deer head froom NearandDeer on Etsy.  We have cathedral-ish ceiling, and it would look so, so perfect in the empty area where the walls comes to a point over the bar.  I will have it someday.

White and Bronze Faux Deer Head - Deer Head Antlers Fake Taxidermy Wall Decor D0109

2)  A little stainless steel freezer beside the bar for Chris to chill his beer glasses would be ideal.  I wanted to get him one for Christmas, but they were far more expensive than I expected.  Maybe a post-deployment gift?

Have a great week!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

My sweet, brave, beautiful Luellen: PART 2

I'm going to start back where I left off in LUELLEN: PART 1 if you'd like to catch up.

...So, we had decided Hank needed a pal.  Everyone thought we were insane for wanting another dog, but we were pretty sure we were right about the positive effect it would have on Hank's behavior.  We knew we weren't ready to go through the puppy stages again - heck, Hank was still a puppy - so we decided to adopt an adult dog.  Of course, we needed a pooch who would match Hanky's energy level but who was also grown-up enough to mellow him out a bit.  By this point, we had totally fallen in love with the German Shorthaired Pointer breed, so we began our search within GSP rescue groups.  Although we located a few leads, we didn't have much luck.  The Mister even drove an hour away to a shelter one time, only to learn the female GSP we had our eye on had been adopted 15 minutes before he arrived.  We looked at the possibility of rescuing a Hungarian Viszla next.  I have always wanted a Vizsla, but after looking for rescue groups for the less common and newly popular breed, we discovered there were long waiting lists before even being considered for Viszla adoption.

We decided to Google "breeds similar to German Shorthaired Pointer" to see what we could find.  One of the top search results was the Weimaraner.  I used to not know much about Weims, apart from the facts they are beautiful dogs and used to be in strange pictures like this one on Sesame Street when I was little:

However, when I was a freshman in college, my family got this puppy over MLK weekend:

Matilda is a "silver factored" chocolate lab, which is a fancy way of saying that she is a chocolate lab that has a Weimaraner somewhere in her bloodline.  The Weim in her genetics gives Tilda green eyes and an un-Labrador-like, velcro-dog personality.  Tilda is one of the best dogs I've ever met, and not just because she's mine.  So, we decided to broaden our search for our new dog to include Weimaraners.  It wasn't long before we found a Weimaraner rescue group near the Mister's hometown that had a few dogs available.  But of the three or four dogs listed for adoption on their website, one photo stuck out.

That face!  Those eyes!  And her story... This 2-year-old beauty was purchased as a puppy to be a guard dog.  She lived in a backyard by herself up until the time her owner surrendered her because she wasn't effective as a guard dog (duh, she's a Weimaraner).  Can you imagine, a little puppy sitting outside all by herself in all kinds of weather and with nobody to love her?  Just the thought of my girl as a puppy out there alone makes me want to cry.  Of course, we filled out all the adoption paperwork and submitted it that night.

It took a few weeks for everything to be processed, but we received a call later that month that we had been approved for the adoption.  The next step was to drive down to the foster home where she was living, meet her, and introduce her to Hank, to make sure they would get along.

I was terribly excited, but I was also a little wary.  Although I know it's a little politically incorrect these days, both Chris and I had only ever had full bred dogs bought as puppies, and I knew we could be taking on a dog with issues due to her not-so-pleasant past.  All of that changed when we arrived and the little Weimaraner, a petite 35ish pounds, came running to the gate.  She greeted us with excited jumps (that we were told to nicely discourage) and, even though she seemed a little unsure of Hank at first, the two of them were bounding around her foster dad's backyard in no time.  We had no doubt she was ours and that she was coming home with us.

Our first clues that our new dog may have some anxiety issues came to light on the ride home.  Whenever Hank would touch her, she would snarl and snap.  I doubt she had been on too many car rides in her life, and she was not so sure about the goofy puppy sitting next to her.  She also insisted on barking and growling at every person in every car that got close to us.  We were learning that strangers were going to be a problem.

The first order of business was her name.  You see, her name had always been Lucca (Loo-ka).  We hated it.  It sounded like something you had to say with a New Jersey accent (no offense to anyone with said accent), and I just couldn't stand the idea of feeling like a cast member of Jersey Shore every time I said my new dog's name.  We didn't want to change the sound of her name, so we brainstormed about names that started with "Loo."  For some reason, I have a disdain for cliche dog names like Lucy and Luna (no offense if your dog has one of those names, they're just not for me), so we had to think of something different and something that suited the strong personality of our new pup.  For some reason I thought of the name Suellen (as in Scarlett's sister in Gone with The Wind).  Could it work with an "L" instead of an "S..."  And was that even a name?  A quick internet search led me to the conclusion that Luellen is a real name.  It's an American spelling of the Welsh Llewellyn, the name of a 13th century prince.  We decided it fit our girl perfectly - pretty, magestic, a little strange.

We quickly learned that Luellen is fiercely loyal.  Where I went she went.  I've never had a dog walk around like a shadow before, following me from one room to a next, only resting when I sit down in one place.  She came immediately when called, and she would never even consider running away because that would require being five feet away from her people for more than three minutes.  We also learned Lulu hates all dogs that aren't her personal friends and all humans that are not her humans.  When we walked, rode in the car, even when people walked down our street, Luellen made her dislike for strangers very obvious.  She made a habit of scaring neighbor dogs and small children.  We did not become angry with Lulu though; we knew it wasn't her fault she received zero socialization as a puppy.  

From her adoption in March until September, we were completely at ease with our new pup apart from the few small setbacks.  We found out the hard way she couldn't be left alone without Hank (we crated them in different rooms once and came home to find her $100 metal crate destroyed and Luellen waiting for us at the front door).  Although she was vocally terrifying to strangers, she never showed any signs of aggression toward us or our families.  However, in mid-September, the first night Chris and I were home following our honeymoon, something very disconcerting happened.  Chris went to pet Lulu while we were all laying in bed, and Lulu growled and snapped at his hand.

This behavior continued, but it was only with Chris, not me, so we figured it was just some dominance power struggle.  We stopped allowing Lulu on the bed, but she exhibited the same behavior toward Chris on the couch and other furniture in the house.  It was nearly impossible to keep her off all the furniture, but we found some comfort in that she was only acting out at Chris and that she never actually bit, just tried to be scary and claim all furniture as her own.  However, in October, we watched a puppy for a couple weeks, and having a third dog in the house really upset Luellen.  She seemed very ill at ease and growled at me a couple of times on the couch while the puppy was at our house.

After the puppy left, Luellen seemed very relieved and went back to acting like her normal self.  The furniture incidents have drastically decreased since then with both Chris and me.  We have determined the area she doesn't like touched is her back/hip area when she's sleeping or drowsy, so we've tried to be cognizant of touching those places so she doesn't feel like she needs to growl and become defensive.  The vet inspected her hips and the surrounding area and didn't find any tenderness, but she did say that some dogs are just extra protective of their backsides.  Neither of us have ever actually felt threatened by Lulu, she could hurt us if she wanted to, but she doesn't.  Our only fear is that, when we start a family, we will have to worry about Lulu becoming aggressive with our children.  We will have to have a strict "let sleeping dogs lie" rule at our house.

Although I never thought I would own a dog who growled at small children, made passersby uncomfortable, and snarled when touched the wrong way, I am so glad I do.  For every one problematic tendency Luellen has, she has 10 good traits, and she is a loving dog.  She is full of snuggles and has a completely unique personality.  When we put Luellen in our car and drove her home last spring, we made a promise to her that she would have a place where she would always be warm, dry, well fed, and loved.   Luellen's quirks are not her fault; she was mistreated.  We made the conscious decision to make her ours and that is not a responsibility that I will shirk because she has dominance issues with furniture.

What I have learned from my time with Luellen is not to judge a dog owner by his or her dog's behavior.  Yes, maybe the dog is aggressive toward strangers, has to walk on a different side of the street, can't go to the dog park, or whatever else.  In these situations, I choose to believe that dog's owner is not responsible for the dog's behavior, that he promised that dog a forever home, and he is not going to give up on his pal.  I choose to believe that owner celebrates the small victories with his adopted dog every day, just as I do when Luellen lets a stranger pet her or lays as close as she possibly can to my head as she's falling asleep.

I recently read about an awesome cause called the Yellow Dog Project.   This cause is dedicated to helping people understand that some dogs need space.  And just because these dogs need space, it doesn't mean they are bad dogs.  When you pass a dog wearing a yellow ribbon or leash, give that owner and their dog a little extra room to walk by on the street.  Don't assume that the dog is bad, or that its owner is a horrible person.  Assume someone else treated this good dog badly, and that its owner is giving the dog love and positive reinforcement, and just needs your help to make walks a little easier and less stressful.  Because, after all, each walk is one step toward having a better socialized dog.

It's not hip to have an anxious dog who can act ugly in public, but it's not fair to give up on the best dogs who just need a little help.

Luellen's issues:
  • Strangers are evil.
  • Other dogs cannot be trusted.
  • Cats are the devil.
  • All particles on the floor are food (even though they usually aren't).
  • Owners going to work is totally unacceptable.
  • Hank is not allowed to walk through any doorways.

Some of Luellen's redeeming qualities:
  • A never ending source of comic relief (especially when Hank is involved)
  • Ability to stand like a human for 30+ minutes
  • Ability to curl into a ball 1/8 her actual size when sleeping
  • Ability to spot trespassers roughly half a mile away (This makes them not actual trespassers, just neighbors.)
  • Best pal to our main man Hank, which was our original intent!
  • Unconditional devotion that we really don't deserve

FYI, this is how we ride in the car.


Friday, January 24, 2014

Friday PIE Day

You know what's awesome about pie?  It can be sweet or savory, but it's always comforting.  Pie is the one type of food that can, in some way, be all foods.  So, I've decided Fridays here at Hart & McKee would be pie days.

I thought I'd begin with my ol' faithful - French silk pie.  It is one of those recipes that you can almost always make with what's in your pantry and, besides being a little labor intensive, the recipe itself is very simple. The recipe I use is from a church cookbook the moms of my brother's playschool class made in 1990 (the year I was born!).  It's my brother's favorite and I make it every year for his birthday.  It's a winner.

What you'll need:

1/2 cup margarine, 3/4 cup sugar, 2 squares unsweetened baking chocolate, 2 eggs, chocolate pie crust (I used a Keebler Ready Made crust, but if you feel like making your own pie crust go right ahead - just make sure it's cooled before you add the filling), 1 teaspoon vanilla (not pictured)

Cream together the sugar and margarine until fluffy.  Don't skimp on this step!  If you don't combine the sugar and margarine really well, it can make the pie gritty later from the sugar not being dissolved.

Melt the 2 squares of chocolate.  Combine the melted chocolate with the sugar mixture.  

Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 5 minutes after each.  Now this is where all the magic happens.  Even though 10 minutes of standing and beating gets old, this step is very important.  The chocolate goo you made in the above step will turn into light brown, fluffy, rich French silk yumminess.  "But, Hannah," you say, "don't you have a stand mixer?" Why, yes I do. "Then why don't you use that instead of beating with a hand mixer for ten minutes?"  I'm so glad you asked!  Although I have used the stand mixer with successful results, I have had disappointments using it on this recipe as well.  The hand mixer yields much more consistent results.  So face the boredom and discomfort, the end result is well worth it.

Add vanilla and scoop into pie shell using a rubber spatula.  You can garnish the pie with Cool Whip, chocolate shavings, whatever suits your fancy.  I prefer to leave my pie plain, have a couple garnishes on hand, and let everyone choose whether or not they want to top it with anything, as not everyone likes whipped cream.  The pie is best served cooled - it holds its shapes a little better that way.

I was still full from dinner, so I only had a teeny slice tonight (with a little scoop of ice cream, because I didn't have any Cool Whip in the fridge).

A little tip if you decide to try this one out -  it's okay if you want to set your margarine out a few minutes before you start mixing and let it soften a little, just so it's not rock hard, but don't let your eggs and margarine sit out for a long period of time before you get to work.  If the eggs and margarine get too warm, the mixture won't get light and fluffy, and you'll just be left with a thin chocolate substance that does not make a pretty pie.

Now that I've filled myself up with pie, it's time to get under some covers!  The pups beat me to bed by about three hours, so I'm going to go get cozy.  It's so, so cold here - the heater is running full force and still cannot keep up.  Happy Friday!

Monday, January 20, 2014

WEDDING: PART 2 - ceremony and reception

*All photos are by Big Star Studios of Mebane, NC.

*Our ceremony took place at my home church, First Presbyterian Church of Burlington, NC.  Our Reception was held at the Hayloft in McLeansville, NC.

*Bouquets and reception flowers by Roxie's Florist of Burlington, NC.

*Thank you to my parents for giving us the wedding of our dreams and to my whole family for all of their hard work.

*Thanks to everyone who attended our wedding and to those who were there in spirit.  Also, I promise I'm writing thank you notes.  If you haven't received yours yet, don't give up one me and think I'm the rudest person in all the land.  We are very grateful for a day that included so many people that we love.   I cannot express how thankful we are for the generosity and well wishes.  Our hearts are very full with gratitude and love for each and every one of you.