June 22, 2018

Happy Birthday

Yangkyu celebrated his 39th birthday a couple of days ago and I baked him a cake! I joked on Instagram that it's almost a tradition for me to bake him the worst cake on his birthday. This year, it wasn't so bad - just a tad bit spongy (ha!). But quite an improvement from that lumpy mess of a cake from a few years ago!

What's been going on with you lately? 

We've been a bit of a FIFA World Cup craze around here. I have completely become an enthusiastic fan of Lionel Messi and while he's probably not having matches he's hoped for I still think he's the G.O.A.T.

It's raining here today and Lady and our guest dogs are preferring to nap over play. That sounds like a good plan to me.

Happy Friday! 

June 14, 2018

A little change

Last night I had a moment. It was a pretty bad one. A cranky one. One that made me realize a few things.

So it's been 7 months since my food journey where I tried to go as vegan as possible. Cutting out meat wasn't a big deal and while I did goof a few times and consumed meat based broth, I haven't really chewed and swallowed flesh. And I am proud of this. And I am still very ok with not eating meat.

I went back and forth on dairy often. Mostly while I was out or when I found myself with nothing to eat and thinking of (because I still am in the process of mentally expanding my vegan recipe dictionary so that I'm not always eating the same thing) and preparing was a hassle. And so I'd make some scrambled eggs or eat bagel with cream cheese. This would be once or twice a month.

Last night I made a simple pasta dish and I included bacon I ordered from the Herbivorous Butcher. And I hated it. I ordered the meatless meats not because I wanted to eat meat and was trying to find a substitute but because I wanted to expand what I could eat as a vegan. And I am finding more and more that these meatless meats are a real turn off. They taste the same to me - the same smokey, hickory flavor that tries to imitate meat. And I don't like it. 

Since my new food journey, I wasn't quite ready to give up seafood. A lot of Korean dishes utilize fish oil and well, I just couldn't part with it. 

So last night, the more I consumed this simple pasta dish, I grew cranky. And frustrated. I was hungry and I was eating something that was totally unappealing. When that happens, I get really irritated.

I put down my fork and said to Yangkyu, "Maybe this whole thing is just a mistake. Maybe I should just go and eat a bacon right now." Of course I was just throwing a tantrum. But man I was pretty sour. 

With a clearer mind this morning, I began to reassess everything. 

For some reason, I kept labeling myself as someone who was trying to go pure vegan. Some day. That while I still consume seafood and dairy on a rare occasion, my diet is mostly a vegan one.


I realized going pure vegan wasn't a goal for me. Not even a distant goal. I kept telling myself that it was for the past seven months but I realized that it's not for me. Not right now. Maybe in the future but I don't even want to think about the distant future. It's too far ahead to ponder. 

A little while ago I emailed Yangkyu to let him know that from now on, I am more than happy to forgo the labels and just be content with being a fish eater. And eat dairy. Not on a rare occasion but when I feel like it. And be ok with it. And not have these lingering thoughts in the back of my head telling myself, "I am going to be a pure vegan in the distant future, and these little hiccups are ok."

Everyone has their own set integrity that they follow. And no one really has the right to push a certain standard on you. Not meat eaters, not vegans and anyone in between.

For me, this whole food journey was motivated for ethical reasons - I just could no longer say how much I love animals and then eat some over others.

I recently saw a video clip that showcased how much we take from the ocean and overindulge ourselves - shrimp, sushi, snow crabs. It was very unsettling to watch. And while I definitely felt guilty for contributing to the constant taking from the sea, I don't think I quite possibly feel to the core how bad this is to ultimately stop consuming seafood. Perhaps in the distant future. But again, that's the future.

Phew. A bit of a ramble on a Thursday. Thanks for listening.

June 11, 2018

Dog Mountain - St. Johnsbury, Vermont

Last Thursday, we packed up our hatchback and went on a road trip to Vermont. In many ways, this road trip was a first for us - a first to Vermont, a first with Lady and a first in our new hatchback. 

We had planned on going to Vermont last year around August, shortly after when Lady joined our family but we thought it would be too hot to go then and decided to postpone the trip (and going this time in early June wasn't unbearably hot - there was a nice breeze when we got there late afternoon and evenings get chilly since it's up in the mountains). Unfortunately when we postpone things, sometimes it falls completely off of our radar. But since we already had a trip to New York planned (we go up once a year around Memorial Day weekend to visit his parents resting place), we decided to piggy back off of our visit to New York and drive up to Vermont as well. 

Why Vermont?

Well, there is a place called Dog Mountain in St. Johnsbury and it is a beautiful and wonderful place for dogs and dog lovers. It was founded by artist Stephen Huneck and his wife Gwen when they bought the property back in 1995. There, on 150 acres, you'll find hiking trails, dog ponds, an art gallery and also the Dog Chapel, where people leave photos and letters to their dogs who have crossed the rainbow bridge. The Dog Chapel was actually the primary reason why I wanted to go there. I was so compelled to leave something for my boys - letters, photos and paper cranes. And that's exactly what we did, along with a letter and a crane for all our friends' pups who had passed.

It may sound a bit silly, but the months leading up to this trip was such an emotional roller coaster for me. I went from being giddy and excited to sad and anxious. All the while, I was anticipating the moment of walking into the chapel because it felt as though I would be given an opportunity to have visiting hours with Piri and Bartles. And walking into the chapel and seeing the walls of remembrance filled with photos and letters was everything I imagined it to be and more. I would truly say that Dog Mountain is a must visit for anyone who has ever had dog in their life.

In the car, as we got closer to Dog Mountain, we quickly changed our music to "Hooked on a Feeling" by Blue Swede (Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack - which proved to be our theme song over the course of the trip), and we also made up stories of Piri and Bartles and the rest of the sunflower gang who were riding inside Despereaux on their way to meet us (Despereaux is our old Matrix, which now has been so unbelievably souped up from when we were driving it and is able to navigate and drive on its own and fly and do other awesome things). Doing this felt like we were all still a part of the same story, the same narrative, and I loved that.

And as soon as we got out of the car, Lady welcomed the place, and perhaps said hello to Piri and Bartles and the rest of the sunshine gang, by rolling in dirt. Twice. And got her new cooling jacket all dirty. How wonderfully awesome, no?

After spending some time inside the chapel, the three of us decided to go on the hiking trails. We didn't plan on having Lady go leashless because we had never done that with her and wasn't sure if she'd run away (she also doesn't hear well so it would be hard for us to call her back to us if she got far away). And it just so happened that on Thursday morning after we had loaded our car, I opened our door for Lady to trot over to the car where Yangkyu was waiting to put her inside, only she happened to notice a squirrel across the street and bolted after it. She only stopped when the squirrel went up a tree. That was when I realized that Lady was still super fast and that she would bolt, not trot, after critters (I noticed that she did during walks but never in my imagination did I think that she would run so fast). But seeing how mellow she was we decided to try and let her roam free and she was completely fine. She even waited for me to catch up. Lady smelled endlessly, trotted and was so immensely happy that it made me happy, too. And that's when I thought, "I would love to come here every year."

After exploring parts of the trails, we headed back down to check out the gallery and the gift shop, where we bought a magnet, welcome mat and a dog prayer banner. Dog Mountain is solely supported on donations and proceeds from the gift shop so it's sorely appreciated when people make purchases or make a donation at the chapel (or online).

Before leaving we made one more stop at the chapel because I wanted to say my good-byes.

It was so bittersweet to leave this wonderful place. But I am hoping that we will be back. If not next year then some time later. 

There are a few lodging choices in St. Johnsbury and we ended up choosing the Comfort Inn. In all honesty, we didn't have high expectations but it ended up being a great place to stay the night. They have amazing green space out in the front which was ideal to walk Lady and while they put us on the first floor, which we didn't mind, the room was clean. Sometimes it's a hit and miss for us at these types of lodgings as sometimes the rooms seem more unkempt than ones that are probably not designated for travelers with pets (whereas when we were traveling to Key West, we decided to stay at pricer places, where rooms always felt clean).

After checking in, we ended up having dinner at Riley's Fish Shack, right near Dog Mountain and is dog friendly as well. Their seating area, which is outdoors, allows for people to bring their dogs, and there is also a large patch of grass for dogs and kids to play. Unfortunately some of the gift shop places - The Farmer's Daughter and Maple Grove Farms were closed by the time we ventured back out again and so we decided to head about 20 or so miles to the town of Danville to check out The Forgotten Village at Greenbank Hollow. After riding a bit and then turning on to a dirt road for a little over a mile, we got to the bridge that marks the start of the forgotten village. There we snapped a few photos and trekked a little inside after crossing the bridge, but then decided to turn back because we were nearing sunset and there are no street lights and we didn't want to be caught out there in complete darkness. I have a wild imagination and wild imaginations and dark places don't go well together.

We stayed just one night in St. Johnsbury and headed out early the next day to stop at Brattleboro, Vermont, for a bite to eat before heading down to New Jersey to meet a few friends for dinner. 

While a short road trip, we enjoyed it throughly. And while it seems like a long drive from Virginia to Long Island, Long Island to St. Johnsbury, St. Johnsbury to Brattleboro to Fort Lee back to Centreville - it actually didn't feel all that bad. The only time we hit traffic was coming back home in Maryland and because we had downloaded lots of new songs and podcasts, we were entertained throughout the trip. And as much as we drove and went sightseeing, we did get a good amount of time to rest and sleep.

We're not sure where our next road trip with Lady will take us but we're looking forward to it. There are still a few things we are learning about Lady but we now know that she does incredibly well during long car rides, is ok leashless in areas that doesn't have critters and she still gets a bit iffy with dogs who get in her face but we are now more adept at handling the situation so that she doesn't growl and get grumpy. She is otherwise so friendly with people and loves it when they come to her and pet her. Lady also is calm and does well just chilling next to us while we eat. She doesn't fuss and just lets us enjoy our time. She is an incredibly good girl. I hope she enjoyed her trip as much as we did. And I hope Piri, Bartles and the sunshine gang enjoyed it as well.

June 1, 2018

Happy National Donut Day!

In a world of plain bagels, be a sprinkle donut!

May 22, 2018

Marvel movies mania & other happenings around here


I think it's been almost 2 weeks since my last post. During the first couple of years of blogging, I couldn't wait to tell the many stories brewing my head. Now I sometimes feel like I grasp for words, having a difficult time stringing sentences together.

Lately it's been a lot of recaps and summaries of what's been happening around here.

I hope these don't get too boring, for you and me both.

Our seedlings have been growing well and we've moved the cucumbers, zucchini and watermelon to the garden beds. It's quite nice to see the backyard space come together. We've also done some sodding work on half of the backyard (we did the other half last year).  It's nice to see our backyard filled with grass instead of crabgrass. Sometimes I come up with random lists in my head and when I come to the list of things I most hate, crabgrass is right up there with spiders and mosquitos.

I baked my first vegan "bread." Actually they were dinner rolls. And while the recipe described them as fluffy, I put them in the oven a bit too long and the top hardened a bit too quickly. But the inside is tasty and soft. I will definitely be making them again, hopefully I'll get them just right the next time.

Recipe is here at Minimalist Baker.

The other day, one of our guest dogs, Mochi decided to bring along a toy to his daily squirrel patrol duties. Out of all the toys he could choose from, he chose this one. And of course there is a story to follow.

That toy was gifted to us from a long-time friend on Instagram. She sent it to us when we adopted Bartles. I always considered Mochi Bartles's very good friend. He came after Bartles experienced a string of not so friendly guests (not because they were mean but probably because they were old, blind and having medical issues of their own). They growled at Bartles, stole his bed and snapped at him when Bartles would try to get on top of his bed. But the first thing Mochi did when he came to Piri's Place was go up to Bartles with his tails wagging as if he were saying, "Hi! I'm Mochi! Let's be friends!" And soon I often found the two together, mostly tag teaming for treats.

And so when Mochi decided to bring this toy, I thought the world was trying to tell me something. That Bartles is well and Mochi still considered him a very good friend. Perhaps he even still gets to see Bartles from time to time. 

Yangkyu and I are old school in many ways. For one, we still keep a paper trail of our bills and file them in our cabinet for three years. We were running out of space in our filing cabinet and I decided to part ways with a few things, including these notebooks of when I used to keep track of when Bartles peed, went potty, ate and drank. It helped me to see if maybe his Cushing's was getting worse (if he drank more or went pee more) and it also helped me to see if I could find a patten with when he needed to relieve himself.

I don't know why I held on to them for so long. I imagined to keep them forever. That I would be 60 years old and flip through these pages and remember the days when Bartles was with us. But I decided to let it go. I thought I found peace with Bartles' passing but after parting ways with these pages, it felt like I shed another layer, another invisible layer of the anger and hurt I had experienced after he crossed the rainbow bridge.

But even still, I am holding on to all of Piri and Bartles' old vet records and documents. Those I really don't think I can part with. Ever.

May has been a busy month of guest dogs. They keep me busy and happy. 

I once had a Uber driver who upon hearing what I did for a living said, "you are friendly and nice. It must be the dogs." He couldn't have been more right.

We have a few more guests coming for overnight stays and daycare I the coming days and our break won't be until early June. 

In-between any down time I had, I have been frantically watching all the Marvel movies. I love anime but I was never really into super hero things. I did watch Hulk because I was a fan of Edward Norton for a while and watched Civil War, which I enjoyed but it never really got me to watch the other movies... until Yangkyu insisted that at least he watch the movies he didn't get to see before heading over to see Infinity War (those movies were all Thor: Ragnarok, Spiderman Homecoming and Black Panther). So I said ok. And ended up watched Spiderman with him. 

Oh my goodness, you guys. I was completely hooked. Why didn't anyone tell me they were so fun to watch?

I have now watched all of Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, all the Avenger movies, Doctor Strange, which I wasn't really looking forward to watching but was pleasantly surprised and Black Panther. I started to watch Guardians of the Galaxy but couldn't get into it really, but I do love the soundtrack. I think the only movie I didn't watch aside from the two Guardians of the Galaxy movies is Ant-Man.

The first thing we're doing when I go on break from dog sitting is going to watch Infinity War (although I know the ending because someone spoiled it on Facebook - doh).

I hope things have been well with you.

I thought I saw a mosquito a couple of days ago. I wish spring would hang out a bit longer.

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