Lap dogs

Apparently I’ve started a new tradition for myself. Last year I did the exact same thing on a Sunday evening — put bacon cheeseburger soup in the crockpot, officially switched my pandora station to Christmas music and decorated my tree. (I should also mention that this was last Sunday evening. I’m apparently a bit behind…)

I also took it as an opportunity to trial-run some Christmas photos with Hurley. He’s not super impressed, but my goodness does he look handsome!

Hurley Xmas

This is probably my third attempt at bacon cheeseburger soup (and heaven forbid I use the same recipe). Hands down, this was definitely my favorite rendition of it. It’s cheating a little since I technical combined two recipes. I started with this recipe as the base and incorporated parts of this one to avoid using half-and-half. It could also be because I used italian sausage instead of ground turkey since it was on sale, and I also used a block of cheese as opposed to shredded cheese. I’ve also decided the sliced carrots are the way to go, and celery was a great addition, too.

Regardless of what made this the winning dish, it was delicious!

Cheeseburger soup

The rest of the week was a blur between work and also trying to learn more about a board of directors. As part of my 30 Before 30 list, I went to a board matching event on Veterans Day. It’s more or less a speed dating approach to meeting nonprofits in the area. I really connected with one director who runs a programs for women experiencing homelessness (double win!), so this past week I not only attended a board meeting but also their big fundraising event. It seems to be a promising match, so stay tuned!

Then more excitement came — I’m a doggie aunt again! Meet Millie Vanillie Bean (to match her older sister Mocha Jo).

Millie

I seriously can’t get over how small and light-weight she is! It’s also strange to have to watch where you’re walking. Hurley’s pretty present (especially in the kitchen), but this 5-month old girl is so small that I’m afraid I’m going to step on her. You can barely feel her resting her head on you or standing on your lap. That will change as she grows (and I know all too well that goes with my little bear) so I’m taking advantage of it while I can. I think it goes without saying that Miss Millie will grow up surrounded by lots of love and cuddles, not to mention some fun-loving labrador mentors. ❤

Hurley hasn’t met her yet, so we’ll see how he reacts to the news. In the meantime, I’ve kept him busy with holiday photos. He was surprisingly better this year than he was last. It only took about 30 minutes tonight, which may as well be a record for us. When he sat on my lap and gave his aunt this look, though, I knew he was done.

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I also confirmed he’s not a fan of his jingle bell collar… At least it’s just a once-a-year event, right? And it pretty much secures his place on the nice list (though I’m probably a bit really biased when it comes to this guy).

Needless to say, we’ve officially kicked off the holiday season in our household!

Thankful Thursday #16

Life has been a whirlwind, let me tell you.

Almost two weeks ago, I got an email out of the blue that my landlord and his wife wanted to move back into the house I’m renting, ideally when my lease ends in mid-March. Considering I’d been planning to renew the lease, I don’t think shock could even begin to describe my reaction (and thank goodness I was with the middle when I got the news…).

Panic set in pretty quickly. Will I be able to find a rental that allows a large dog? Is wanting a house with a fenced-in backyard too much to ask? Can I find it within a month? Is buying a house even an option, financially (and also emotionally) within such a short time frame?

As a Type A control freak, my mind was on overload. I was constantly scouring countless websites and driving myself crazy with pro-con lists and budgets.

But today I’m thankful for a couple of things.

One, I could not be more grateful for the support I received right off the bat. Two of my co-workers offered up their basements for me and Hurley, and a handful of people sent me contact information for realtors and put feelers out with people they knew had rental properties. The number of times people said “we will find you something” made me feel like I wasn’t navigating this on my own (and that they’ve grown fond of me in the 10 months I’ve been there). And I don’t even want to count the number of emails/texts the middle fielded with links and “thoughts on this??” questions.

The second thing I’m grateful for, though, is that tonight I signed a lease for a new rental house. It’s slightly bigger than the house I’m in now with even more character and charm (the middle swooned, so I figured I probably couldn’t go wrong with it). And my new landlord is going to put in a fence for Hurley. That, among other things, means it meets nearly all my criteria. How lucky am I?!

And through it all, I’m even more in love with my dog (if that was even possible…). It definitely created a pretty large barrier having to find a place that would take a 65-pound (but housebroken and well trained) dog. But wherever I go, Hurley Bear goes. That’s a non-negotiable in my book. I love being this furbaby’s mama.

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I’m not looking forward to the actual packing and moving part (especially considering I was just doing this a year ago and love my current place) but I’m incredibly thankful it all worked out — and relatively quickly, too! Besides, home is where your dog is, right?

Dog days of summer

I wasn’t joking earlier this week when I said I have no idea where the time goes. This post is almost a week late already (which in some ways doesn’t matter since I’m going to be that crazy dog lady who shows off her labrador). Really it’s only the photos that are important (says the biased dog mama…).

Last Friday afternoon started with a bath. Well, technically it started with the dog park so he could get in a good swim before I took him to Canine Scrub. To say I love this local business is an understatement. They supply everything (and I mean everything – including an array of brushes, hairdryers, perfumes, ear cleaning supplies and the basics) you might need to give your dog a bath and they clean up after, which in itself is fantastic. Plus they post photos of the freshly cleaned canines on Facebook.

Facebook

I may have smothered him that night, not just because he was so incredibly soft that I couldn’t help myself, but because I knew the next night he wouldn’t be pinned to my side. The middle, her boyfriend and I were headed to Kansas City for Husker night at the Royals game (though I have to admit it was odd to be back in Missouri). Wanting Hurley to make a good first impression on his dogsitter, he got the dog park to himself at 6:45 a.m. on Saturday. This guy never has a shortage of energy.

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Oh, and he also got a puppachino from Starbucks. It was the barista’s idea, not mine (surprisingly). I made him share with his cousin Mocha so he wasn’t the only pooch with a sugar high.

starbucks

The highlight of the weekend, though, was going to the Dog Splash event at one of the local pools on Sunday evening. Before they drain the pool, they let dogs swim to their heart’s content for two hours. I’m pretty sure it’s now Hurley favorite day of the year. This guy literally swam until he could swim no more. And he won hearts over with his tennis ball dedication and persistence. A few dogs didn’t retrieve their ball, at which point owners would come over to me and say, “Hey, will your dog get that one, too?” Hurley happily obliged.

dog splash

You could say he’s been a bit worn out lately with all his activity. It’s a good thing he’s not shy about making himself comfortable. And it means more cuddle time for mama.

sleepy

(I warned you the post wouldn’t have much substance. Just a crazy dog lady with too many photos…)

A good cause

A few months ago I started volunteering for the Alzheimer’s Association. In some ways it was prompted by my desire to reconnect with the organization that started my career path in the public sector. I spent one summer as a volunteer intern with the South Dakota chapter and, through that, realized I was meant to pursue a career in nonprofits and public service.

What drew me to the organization in the first place was my own connection with Alzheimer’s. My grandmother on my dad’s side had Alzheimer’s, and I don’t think I have a single memory with her where she wasn’t impacted by the disease. While most kids my age seemed to have the quintessential grandparent experience (though the disease is more prevalent than I realized at the time), I had a grandmother who didn’t know who I was.

On Thursday night there was a kick-off for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s to get everyone geared up and remind people why they walk. One of the activities at the walk this year is a “Why I Walk” board. Each person is encouraged to write on a purple footprint why (or for whom) they walk. This one caught my eye:

End ALZ

That thought has stuck with me ever since. Wouldn’t that be fantastic? As one of the speakers mentioned on Thursday night, wouldn’t it be great if, instead of a walk to end Alzheimer’s, we could instead have a walk to celebrate survivorship? It’s exactly what inspires me to walk and try to spread awareness about Alzheimer’s.

Given my family history, there’s a good chance that I or one of my sisters could end up with Alzheimer’s. But right now we’re scared to no end that it could impact one of our parents. I think that’s why “I walk so my kids never have to” is so impactful to me. I don’t know how my dad did it. I don’t know how millions of caregivers do it. All I know is that my heart would break into a million pieces if my one of my parents or a close loved one looked at me and couldn’t remember who I was and the lifetime of stories, experiences and love we’ve shared.

It’s one of those things that can keep you up at night, but unlike many chronic health conditions, there’s no real way to prevent it. That’s what’s scary. And that’s why I walk.

I mention all of this for a slightly selfish purpose. As a participant in the walk, I’m trying to raise funds that go back to the agency to provide resources and support to caregivers and advance research. Any donation helps. Or you’re more than welcome to join my team and can even do so virtually! (Dogs are even welcome at the walk, though since I’m helping with the walk I don’t think Hurley will be there to support the cause.)

If you’d like to make a donation or join my team, just visit my fundraising page. I promise you it’s going to a fabulous cause.

And with that, I’ll get off my soapbox.

Thankful Thursday #15

How lucky for me that Hurley’s birthday falls on Thursday, making him a perfect subject for my Thankful Thursday post!

Today my highly energetic labrador turns five. He’s only been mine for about three months now, but already I can barely remember life without him (at least in Lincoln). And even if I can remember certain things — like how much space I used to have in my bed — I’m very aware when he’s missing from the equation. The one night I’ve been away from him, it didn’t feel right to not have him essentially pinned to my legs. No matter what side of the bed I sleep on (I’ve switched back and forth to see where I can get more space…) or how much I toss and turn, he’s right there.

Cuddles

Naturally I couldn’t help but spoil him today. He got extra cuddle time this morning, an ice cream cone when I got home from work, a trip to the dog park to break in his new tennis balls, a big bone (he likes to carry it around the house for about two or three days before actually eating it) and I set up his very own kiddie pool since he loves the water so much (seeing him swim at the dog park never fails to put a smile on my face).

The endearing thing about Hurley is that he would have thought it was the best day ever just getting to go to the dog park, especially on a week night. He’s that easy to please.

photo 1

Seriously — can he can any cuter? He gives the best hugs (I’m talking front paws on your shoulders kind of hug), has the sweetest smile and is easily one of the most happy-go-lucky and affectionate dogs I’ve ever met. And he’s mine!

Now if you’ll allow me a sentimental moment…

My first day with him, I ended up crying. I cried for the sadness his previous owners must have felt in giving him up (I’ve only had him a small fraction of that time and it would be devastating for me). I cried for the fear and uncertainty I felt in being a single dog mom, knowing he’s my sole responsibility. But mostly I cried because after years of wanting my own dog, it finally happened. I got my Hurley.

Image

And I really couldn’t have ended up with a better best friend.

It’s a boy!

Today I crossed a BIG item off my 30 Before 30 / life goals list.

You’re looking at the proud mama of a very adorable yellow labrador. Meet Hurley, an energetic, affectionate almost five-year-old.

Hurley1

When I started housing hunting for my move two months ago, one of my priorities was finding a place that would allow dogs. And not just any dog, but a large dog (my sighs of exasperation grew louder with each rental property that would only allow dogs that were less than 25 pounds). To say I lucked out with my current rental house is an understatement, and once I moved it was only a matter of time until I found a dog to call my own.

About two weeks ago, the woman who found the middle’s dog contacted her. She knew I was in the market for a dog and put a bug in the middle’s ear about a yellow lab who needed a home. I swooned over the photo of Hurley and put in my application the next day.

A couple days later I got an update that it sounded like the family was going to go with an applicant who was going to turn him into a therapy dog. My heart broke a little, but as the middle reminded me, at least he was going to a good home. I continued on with my search, scouring various shelters in the area.

Imagine my surprise when I got a call on Thursday that the owners wanted to meet me! We set up a time to meet yesterday afternoon, and I made sure the middle and my little doggie niece were there to make sure it was a good fit. Two hours later, I called the parents to let them know they now had a grandson pup.

My heart is breaking a little for his previous owners. I can only imagine how hard it was to give their dog to another home. I’m just so thankful they picked me to take extra special care of this sweet labrador who thinks he’s a lap dog.

Hurley

I’ve probably got my work cut out for me, but he will undoubtedly be worth it!

Thankful Thursday #12

welcome

I am so thankful that my move (for the most part) is done! I ended things on a great note in Columbia and am excited to start the next chapter.

In all honesty, it wasn’t nearly as difficult or rough as I anticipated (at least physically, since goodbyes are never easy). The packing tips I found on pinterest helped me pack way more effectively than I would have otherwise, and I got to spend quality time with some of my favorites in Columbia.

And to top it off, I had a surprise visit from the little (another thing I’ve been incredibly thankful for this week)! For some reason the middle and her boy were hell-bent on hitting the road as quickly as possible on Saturday. Little did I know it was because the boy was picking up the little at the KC airport and they’d been planning this for weeks. I’d share the video of the reunion, but I’d spent the morning loading up a rental truck and am in tears for most of the clip…

My first few days have been busy yet relaxing. I’ve gotten lots of quality sister time and since I haven’t started work yet, I’ve been able to dogsit my adorable niece (not only does my place allow dogs, but I’ve got a fenced in backyard, so you know it’s only a matter of time before I’ve got a dog of my own!). I’m sure many more trips to the dog park are in our future, especially now that spring is officially here (though I’m not holding my breath on that one…).

Mocha

This is definitely going to be a good move for me. Now if only I could finish unpacking and get into a routine…

Food love

It’s been awhile since I posted, but you know I couldn’t let a holiday pass without doing at least something a little creative.

I’ve always been a sucker for Valentine’s Day, in part because I’ve never really connected it to being a singles awareness day or anything like that (probably because when I was growing up I woke up to cute cards from my mom on the bathroom or kitchen counter).

When I spotted this on pinterest a few weeks ago, I knew it would be perfect for work. It was a bold move nixing the chocolate, though other co-workers made up for that. Plus I love a good pun and play on words. I opted for a larger tag so that I could write a brief note on the back for each lady, which I thought would overpower the fruit, but I think it turned out cute.

fruit

The food indulgences continued into the evening with a “Drinks, Dips & Dessert” potluck (because who doesn’t love those three things, especially when you’re sharing it with fabulous friends)? It was hard to narrow it down to just one dip, but in the end I opted for a warm caprese dip.

caprese dip

This dip was fantastic! It was great with both french bread and also crackers, though I think near the end we were all just stealing bits of the cheese. Next time I’d add throw in a few kalamata olives, but otherwise I thought it was the right combinations of flavors.

I fully intended to just make the caprese dip, but as I was grocery shopping the night before I decided to throw caution to the wind and started googling.

I’d had my heart set on some type of cheesecake dip for whatever reason. This cherry cheesecake dip was the starting point, though mine ended up being quite different. First, I cut the cool whip in half since other recipe had equal parts cream cheese and whipped cream. Since I wanted it to be a dip, I nixed the graham cracker crust as well. The final change was that I used strawberry pie filling, primarily because it was $2 cheaper but also because that sounded a bit sweeter than cherries.

So really, I mostly came up with my own recipe. It doesn’t look all that fancy or nice, particularly in my tupperware, but it was a-mazing! Just looking at the picture is making me crave it. Even the lady who doesn’t really care for sweets loved it. Success!

cheesecake

We thought about making cute pink or red drinks, but you know what else is red? Wine. Why make it harder than it needs to be?

Thankful Thursday #8

How fortunate that Thursday falls the day after Christmas! At least for this particular post. Even better — it has to do with accomplishing another 30 Before 30 goal, too.

My parents kept a journal for me starting with my mom’s pregnancy and up to my freshman year of college. It spans three journals, actually, capturing the main highlights of my youth. I absolutely love them, but it also makes me nervous just having the one set.

journals

Years ago when they were passed on to me, I decided that I wanted to type up and “publish” it. Naturally, that project was always on the back-burner, which is why I put it on my 30 Before 30 List. I kept it a secret, though, because I wanted to give it to my parents as a gift. And that’s exactly what I had waiting under the tree for them yesterday.

baby journal

Although I wanted the end result of having a printed copy of the journals, I also wanted a chance to really read through the journals as well. I’ve skimmed them a few times over the years, mostly just looking for humorous notes or interesting stories, but I can’t say I really read it.

Now I’m thankful that I did. I texted the middle about half a dozen times as I went through the journal. Apparently I rarely got to babysit the middle and the little because we fought so much and the middle was “a little rough” with me. It’s so funny to reflect back on the days when my sisters and I merely tolerated one another, given we’re all best friends now. Plus I got to read funny little anecdotes like this:

Today, while we were riding in the car, Kathy and I heard a new combination of syllables from the back seat. It sounded just like you said, “Oh, shit.” We both cracked up. Leave it to my daughter for something like that to be her first “words.”

More importantly, though, I’m glad I read it because I couldn’t even begin to tell you how many times I felt overwhelmingly thankful for my parents.

Long story short, they rocked (and still do). It was incredibly apparent that everything they did was for our benefit and betterment. They looked for homes in good school districts, took us on countless family vacations and trips, let us partake in any extra-curricular activity that caught our attention. The list goes on. I’ve always known that a big part of the reason that I am who I am because of them, but this was a good reminder about how much they invested in me.

Case in point? When I was in pre-school I became obsessed with outer space. As we were crafting some rocket in school, the teacher said we could take rockets to the moon, and I was convinced that meant we were going on a class trip using our new rockets. When my mom picked me up, I told her I had to go to the moon but would come right back. She then had to explain to me that it wasn’t how it worked and sadly I wouldn’t be going to the moon (and apparently the teacher felt really bad because I burst into tears and kept saying, “but teacher said!”).

My mom mended my broken heart while my dad “turned the town upside-down” trying to find me a rocket toy (this is pre online shopping, ladies and gentleman) and book. They were so hell-bent on making sure I could pursue that passion and learn all I could. And keep in mind, this is when I was a pre-schooler.

That love, help and support remains even today. I get countless links, emails and words of wisdom, whether I’m going through a life crisis or not. I’m forever grateful for all the things, big and small, that my parents have done for me as well as the middle and little. We’re a little crazy and unconventional, but they embrace it right along with us. And I honestly don’t think any of us would have it any other way.

Home sweet home

On a somewhat impromptu decision (making plans on Wednesday for a Friday trip generally isn’t my MO), this weekend I made the venture back to South Dakota. And it was exactly what I needed.

It was somewhat strange — I think this weekend marked the first time since I moved to Missouri that I’ve been home without a holiday. I kept feeling like we needed to prepare for Thanksgiving or something, but thankfully it’s not that late in the year and I’ve still got that to look forward to next month. For the first time in who knows how long, I got to see leaves still on the trees on beautiful fall days, which made for a scenic 5K training workout with this gorgeous labrador.

Kona

It’s also a rare occasion that I’m home without the middle and/or little. While it made for a rather quiet house, it also meant the parents spoiled me a bit and I didn’t have to compete for the dogs’ attention. I also got lots of R&R, despite having limited bed space. But let’s be honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

doddies

The other perk of the weekend is my mom and I found a great fall/winter drink. While I’d had mulled wine at a holiday party years ago, it never really crossed my mind to actually make it. Clearly I’ve been missing out. We kept our concoction pretty straight-forward — wine from the winery we went to on Saturday afternoon, mulling spices and apple cider. I even got to use my cute new coffee mug (instead of being obsessed with shoes, I’m apparently obsessed with coffee mugs…).

Mulled Wine

We added cinnamon sticks to it last night when we reheated our batch and it made it even better. The middle is becoming a connoisseur with sangria, so I may make mulled wine my speciality. It doesn’t quite have the comforts of home, but a warm fall drink certainly makes for a cozy night. ❤

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