The House, the Dogs, and the Cars

November 2, 2018

If you don’t know what Petfinder is, it is someones brilliant creation of an app that allows dog shelters to put up their adoptable dogs with a bio, their picture, and a bit of info about them. Think of it like an online dating site that you scroll through from your bed on a Saturday morning and totally fall in love with the idea of someone.
 

I discovered Petfinder in Maine and began looking at dogs in Oregon months before we were going to move here. (I see the realization dawning in your eyes) Tony and I would sit in bed on the weekends, with our coffee, and look at dogs and imagine our beautiful and perfect life with a new fur-baby.

Let me just unpack this for you in a neat paragraph – I fell totally in love with this giant, 140lb, slobbery, Neapolitan Mastiff that was rescued from abuse. He lived four hours away from us in Washington and we (I) decided we had to go see him the first week we were in Portland to be sure no one else adopted him.

The House:

Allow me to relay to you what that first week looked like for us. I was still coming off whatever illness I’d contracted on the road, we had an air mattress for a bed, a couch we’d found the first day and absolutely no other furniture. The internet needed to be set up by the end of the week so Tony could begin work again, a desk needed to be bought for him to work on, the rest of the house needed to be furnished, unpacked, and ready to accept a large dog in case he came home with us. Amidst all this, I had two working job interviews set up that week. Why wouldn’t we adopt the worlds largest dog in the middle of all this?

As I write this, I’m internally laughing at myself in a “What WERE you thinking?” sort of way. But my oblivious and determined self-continued to blow her nose every two minutes while unpacking boxes, getting lost on the way to thrift stores, dragging home heavy furniture and scrubbing it down, and then heading off to her working interview at a busy cafe on Labor Day. The cortisol levels were off the charts, my friends.

The Dog:

Saturday, September 8th rolled around and after a four-hour drive, we arrived in Washington at 11:00 am and Fausto was brought out to meet us. A lumbering, slobbery, giant of a dog. He was an extremely intelligent, playful fellow and spent a good part of the meeting chewing a tennis ball until it gave up with a squeak and a bang and deflated. We had to pry it out of his mouth and hide it to keep him from ingesting it. We decided to give it a go and we signed the papers and loaded him into the big Suburban for the long drive back to Portland, leaving the deflated tennis ball behind.

To sum up, the very long week that followed: I loved Fausto, he was a big sweetheart. But his past of former abuse and his size made controlling him difficult and he began to get extremely territorial when people/kids/dogs would walk past our yard. He did well with me, but we think he was abused by a man and he would act out towards Tony. At the end of a week, neither of us felt confident controlling him and while I think with training he will be a great dog he needs a different’ environment than our high-traffic home to learn in and perhaps a female only owner. I loaded up the big goof and drove him back where he’s being loved and cared for until they can find the right fit for him.

The Second Dog:

We both decided we should wait awhile and get settled in before we tried to find another dog. A week rolled by and guess who I found in bed on a Saturday morning looking at dogs in the local shelters? Yes, I would have guessed myself too but actually, it was Tony.

We visited several shelters that day and ended up going to another on Sunday. We went specifically to visit a dog named Atlas we’d seen on their website, but after talking with the staff about what we were looking for they recommended we meet Thor and Ellen instead. Thor was about 50lb’s and went freakishly running after bicycles on our walk and overall was a very energetic, sweet boy that I just didn’t feel a connection with.Then they brought out Ellen, a one-year-old, 40lb, white pit bull mix with only one eye. They brought her into the room to meet us and she went straight to Tony, tail wagging, hopped into his lap and began giving him kisses. Right that second I knew that puppy was coming home with us. She was a timid little thing and had her eye surgically removed recently due to it’s bulging.

We signed the papers, had the landlords called to OK a pitbull on the property, and then she rode on my lap all the way home. We named her Muggsy and she has been an absolute delight. She’s really come out of her shell, and thanks to Tony working with her daily, she will now sit, lay down, high-five, and has responded to Tony’s leash training so well that she’ll follow him around the yard, with no leash, on his left side, turning, stopping and walking with him on command.

The Car:

Backing up a bit to the first few weeks we had Muggsy and my first few weeks of work. I’d taken a job as the kitchen manager of a cafe near downtown. It’s a lovely part of the city, a mix of residential, restaurants, bars, and food carts, and it’s typically buzzing with people, dogs, and bicycles. I was driving the Suburban to work every day while Tony worked from home as has been our custom since a year ago when we sold Wanda the Honda in New Orleans.

After a few weeks of this Tony mentioned that he wanted to get a second car again that would be more fuel efficient for my commute and be a car for him to use while I was gone. I couldn’t possibly fathom doing anything outside the basic necessities right at that point in time but getting more than 12 miles to the gallon sounded great so I said: “Yes, great, let me know what you find.”

I really got on board with getting a smaller car when, one early morning, I fudged a parallel parking job on a tiny street near work, and cracked the taillight and bumper of a parked Jeep. I left a note and fortunately the matter was easily resolved with my insurance covering the mishap. I’ll just be over here waiting for my rates to go up in the meantime.Less than a week later, Tony found a 1987 Honda CRX for $500 in Bend, Oregon which is about 3 ½ hours drive from us. The car ran but the interior was trashed, it was a manual, and needed some serious TLC. I was skeptical of a $500 car running at all, but Tony has worked some magic on cars before. So come Saturday morning we loaded Muggsy into the Suburban and drove three hours to go look at the Honda. Bend had been on our list of places to visit anyways, although we were envisioning the trip to be more of a “Hike a cool trail and then get a beer somewhere” type of day.

We got to Bend around 1:00 pm and the guy selling the car wanted to meet in the Costco parking lot, on a Saturday, at 1:00 pm. That should have been our first clue that this was a bad idea. Cars and people everywhere, the sun beating down, both of us hungry and trying to find a parking spot. John Doe, as we shall call him, had texted Tony the day before asking the likelihood of his buying the car as it was his commuter, and he would need to buy another when this one sold. Tony replied as long as there wasn’t anything glaringly wrong with it he was likely going to take it.

I let Muggsy out and took her to find a patch of grass somewhere while Tony took the car for a test drive. It had a really great engine, and with a little, more work could be resold for a lot more at a later time if need be so he decided to buy it, while I corraled a stressed-out Muggsy away from everyone and eyed the carts full of groceries to see if anyone was sporting a signature Costco chocolate cake I could take off their hands.

Now, The craigslist ad for the car had said “Clean title” so when John Doe brought out the title to sign it over, it was quite surprising when he also brought out two pieces of scratch paper and mumblingly explained how his name wasn’t on the title, but he had a paper trail to show the bill of sale.

We should have turned and walked away right then. When we arrived, John Doe informed us he had used his rent money to buy another car. This should have been of no concern to us but this on top of our tired mental states and having driven three hours to get this car caused Tony to sign another piece of scrap paper, and take the keys to the car.We then went and got a pizza and spent a not very relaxing hour in a nearby park eating it while poor, stressed Muggsy barked and ran at every dog that went by. Post-pizza I took Muggsy in the Suburban and Tony took our fine specimen of a new car and we started the long drive back home. The muffler that had been purchased for the Honda was purposefully loud and Tony was about crazed by the sound by the time we pulled into a rest stop an hour outside of Portland.

We got home feeling a bit surly, grabbed a beer, and then re-examined the title. It was a mess. The last person to own it had sold it to someone in California and there were two different names of the person it was sold to. The car had then been sold twice after that with no change of title, and only scraps of paper with “I _______ sell this car to ________ on the date ____” to stand in its place. You get the idea.

So at this point, we’re just hoping this car isn’t stolen. We ran it’s VIN and nothing came up. After some additional research, we discovered for this situation you need a bonded title which you cannot obtain in Oregon. So back on craigslist this car goes where Tony explains the full situation and someone in Washington, where you can obtain a bonded title, came down to buy it a week later.

We said goodbye happily and both swore that we will never drive four hours to buy anything again, be it cars, dogs, or god knows what else.

The Second Car:

The car hunt continued the following week and we ended up slightly North of Portland looking at a Toyota Corolla on a rainy day. The Toyota wouldn’t start and had been sitting in this gals driveway for six months. So we backed the Suburban onto their muddy lawn and jumped it. The car ran for a few minutes and then died when they turned the lights on. Tony liked the sound of the engine though so we drove to O’Rielly’s and bought a new battery for it, came back and found they had given us the wrong battery.Back to O’Rielly’s we went, procured the right battery, installed it, and the car came to life. It needed a new wheel bearing and hub, the whole car, inside and out, needed a desperate cleaning, the drivers door wouldn’t open from the inside so you had to roll down the window and open it to let yourself out, and the piece where the window buttons are had cracked and fallen into the door cavity and the passengers side window button would roll the window down but not back up.

Well, we bought the car (Shocking, I know), drove it home, and spent twelve hours the next day cleaning it and fighting with the wheel bearing which took another three trips to auto parts stores and ended at 11:00 pm with me holding a flashlight while Tony manually put the hub and bearing in, a procedure which is normally done with a hydraulic press. The car is now fixed

In Conclusion…

I’ve learned a lot these past few months. If I had a chance to do things differently, sure there’s plenty of opportunity for making smarter choices. But I will never be sorry that I took a chance on a 140lb dog, moved across the country, drove three hours to look at a crappy car (Take one from me and check that title before you buy), furnished a house solely with thrift store acquisitions. I will always be an advocate for trading comfort for experiences. I’d rather say “Oh well” than “What if?” 

To Be Continued…

November 2, 2018

If you don’t know what Petfinder is, it is someones brilliant creation of an app that allows dog shelters to put up their adoptable dogs with a bio, their picture, and a bit of info about them. Think of it like an online dating site that you scroll through from your bed on a Saturday morning and totally fall in love with the idea of someone.

I discovered Petfinder in Maine and began looking at dogs in Oregon months before we were going to move here. (I see the realization dawning in your eyes) Tony and I would sit in bed on the weekends, with our coffee, and look at dogs and imagine our beautiful and perfect life with a new fur-baby.

Let me just unpack this for you in a neat paragraph – I fell totally in love with this giant, 140lb, slobbery, Neapolitan Mastiff that was rescued from abuse. He lived four hours away from us in Washington and we (I) decided we had to go see him the first week we were in Portland to be sure no one else adopted him.

The House:

Allow me to relay to you what that first week looked like for us. I was still coming off whatever illness I’d contracted on the road, we had an air mattress for a bed, a couch we’d found the first day and absolutely no other furniture. The internet needed to be set up by the end of the week so Tony could begin work again, a desk needed to be bought for him to work on, the rest of the house needed to be furnished, unpacked, and ready to accept a large dog in case he came home with us. Amidst all this, I had two working job interviews set up that week. Why wouldn’t we adopt the worlds largest dog in the middle of all this?

As I write this, I’m internally laughing at myself in a “What WERE you thinking?” sort of way. But my oblivious and determined self-continued to blow her nose every two minutes while unpacking boxes, getting lost on the way to thrift stores, dragging home heavy furniture and scrubbing it down, and then heading off to her working interview at a busy cafe on Labor Day. The cortisol levels were off the charts, my friends.

The Dog:

Saturday, September 8th rolled around and after a four-hour drive, we arrived in Washington at 11:00 am and Fausto was brought out to meet us. A lumbering, slobbery, giant of a dog. He was an extremely intelligent, playful fellow and spent a good part of the meeting chewing a tennis ball until it gave up with a squeak and a bang and deflated. We had to pry it out of his mouth and hide it to keep him from ingesting it. We decided to give it a go and we signed the papers and loaded him into the big Suburban for the long drive back to Portland, leaving the deflated tennis ball behind.

To sum up, the very long week that followed: I loved Fausto, he was a big sweetheart. But his past of former abuse and his size made controlling him difficult and he began to get extremely territorial when people/kids/dogs would walk past our yard. He did well with me, but we think he was abused by a man and he would act out towards Tony. At the end of a week, neither of us felt confident controlling him and while I think with training he will be a great dog he needs a different’ environment than our high-traffic home to learn in and perhaps a female only owner. I loaded up the big goof and drove him back where he’s being loved and cared for until they can find the right fit for him.

The Second Dog:

We both decided we should wait awhile and get settled in before we tried to find another dog. A week rolled by and guess who I found in bed on a Saturday morning looking at dogs in the local shelters? Yes, I would have guessed myself too but actually, it was Tony.

We visited several shelters that day and ended up going to another on Sunday. We went specifically to visit a dog named Atlas we’d seen on their website, but after talking with the staff about what we were looking for they recommended we meet Thor and Ellen instead. Thor was about 50lb’s and went freakishly running after bicycles on our walk and overall was a very energetic, sweet boy that I just didn’t feel a connection with.

Then they brought out Ellen, a one-year-old, 40lb, white pit bull mix with only one eye. They brought her into the room to meet us and she went straight to Tony, tail wagging, hopped into his lap and began giving him kisses. Right that second I knew that puppy was coming home with us. She was a timid little thing and had her eye surgically removed recently due to it’s bulging.

We signed the papers, had the landlords called to OK a pitbull on the property, and then she rode on my lap all the way home. We named her Muggsy and she has been an absolute delight. She’s really come out of her shell, and thanks to Tony working with her daily, she will now sit, lay down, high-five, and has responded to Tony’s leash training so well that she’ll follow him around the yard, with no leash, on his left side, turning, stopping and walking with him on command.

The Car:

Backing up a bit to the first few weeks we had Muggsy and my first few weeks of work. I’d taken a job as the kitchen manager of a cafe near downtown. It’s a lovely part of the city, a mix of residential, restaurants, bars, and food carts, and it’s typically buzzing with people, dogs, and bicycles. I was driving the Suburban to work every day while Tony worked from home as has been our custom since a year ago when we sold Wanda the Honda in New Orleans.

After a few weeks of this Tony mentioned that he wanted to get a second car again that would be more fuel efficient for my commute and be a car for him to use while I was gone. I couldn’t possibly fathom doing anything outside the basic necessities right at that point in time but getting more than 12 miles to the gallon sounded great so I said: “Yes, great, let me know what you find.”

I really got on board with getting a smaller car when, one early morning, I fudged a parallel parking job on a tiny street near work, and cracked the taillight and bumper of a parked Jeep. I left a note and fortunately the matter was easily resolved with my insurance covering the mishap. I’ll just be over here waiting for my rates to go up in the meantime.

Less than a week later, Tony found a 1987 Honda CRX for $500 in Bend, Oregon which is about 3 ½ hours drive from us. The car ran but the interior was trashed, it was a manual, and needed some serious TLC. I was skeptical of a $500 car running at all, but Tony has worked some magic on cars before. So come Saturday morning we loaded Muggsy into the Suburban and drove three hours to go look at the Honda. Bend had been on our list of places to visit anyways, although we were envisioning the trip to be more of a “Hike a cool trail and then get a beer somewhere” type of day.

We got to Bend around 1:00 pm and the guy selling the car wanted to meet in the Costco parking lot, on a Saturday, at 1:00 pm. That should have been our first clue that this was a bad idea. Cars and people everywhere, the sun beating down, both of us hungry and trying to find a parking spot. John Doe, as we shall call him, had texted Tony the day before asking the likelihood of his buying the car as it was his commuter, and he would need to buy another when this one sold. Tony replied as long as there wasn’t anything glaringly wrong with it he was likely going to take it.

I let Muggsy out and took her to find a patch of grass somewhere while Tony took the car for a test drive. It had a really great engine, and with a little, more work could be resold for a lot more at a later time if need be so he decided to buy it, while I corraled a stressed-out Muggsy away from everyone and eyed the carts full of groceries to see if anyone was sporting a signature Costco chocolate cake I could take off their hands.

Now, The craigslist ad for the car had said “Clean title” so when John Doe brought out the title to sign it over, it was quite surprising when he also brought out two pieces of scratch paper and mumblingly explained how his name wasn’t on the title, but he had a paper trail to show the bill of sale.

We should have turned and walked away right then. When we arrived, John Doe informed us he had used his rent money to buy another car. This should have been of no concern to us but this on top of our tired mental states and having driven three hours to get this car caused Tony to sign another piece of scrap paper, and take the keys to the car.

We then went and got a pizza and spent a not very relaxing hour in a nearby park eating it while poor, stressed Muggsy barked and ran at every dog that went by. Post-pizza I took Muggsy in the Suburban and Tony took our fine specimen of a new car and we started the long drive back home. The muffler that had been purchased for the Honda was purposefully loud and Tony was about crazed by the sound by the time we pulled into a rest stop an hour outside of Portland.

We got home feeling a bit surly, grabbed a beer, and then re-examined the title. It was a mess. The last person to own it had sold it to someone in California and there were two different names of the person it was sold to. The car had then been sold twice after that with no change of title, and only scraps of paper with “I _______ sell this car to ________ on the date ____” to stand in its place. You get the idea.

So at this point, we’re just hoping this car isn’t stolen. We ran it’s VIN and nothing came up. After some additional research, we discovered for this situation you need a bonded title which you cannot obtain in Oregon. So back on craigslist this car goes where Tony explains the full situation and someone in Washington, where you can obtain a bonded title, came down to buy it a week later.

We said goodbye happily and both swore that we will never drive four hours to buy anything again, be it cars, dogs, or god knows what else.

The Second Car:

The car hunt continued the following week and we ended up slightly North of Portland looking at a Toyota Corolla on a rainy day. The Toyota wouldn’t start and had been sitting in this gals driveway for six months. So we backed the Suburban onto their muddy lawn and jumped it. The car ran for a few minutes and then died when they turned the lights on. Tony liked the sound of the engine though so we drove to O’Rielly’s and bought a new battery for it, came back and found they had given us the wrong battery.

Back to O’Rielly’s we went, procured the right battery, installed it, and the car came to life. It needed a new wheel bearing and hub, the whole car, inside and out, needed a desperate cleaning, the drivers door wouldn’t open from the inside so you had to roll down the window and open it to let yourself out, and the piece where the window buttons are had cracked and fallen into the door cavity and the passengers side window button would roll the window down but not back up.

Well, we bought the car (Shocking, I know), drove it home, and spent twelve hours the next day cleaning it and fighting with the wheel bearing which took another three trips to auto parts stores and ended at 11:00 pm with me holding a flashlight while Tony manually put the hub and bearing in, a procedure which is normally done with a hydraulic press. The car is now fixed

In Conclusion…

I’ve learned a lot these past few months. If I had a chance to do things differently, sure there’s plenty of opportunity for making smarter choices. But I will never be sorry that I took a chance on a 140lb dog, moved across the country, drove three hours to look at a crappy car (Take one from me and check that title before you buy), furnished a house solely with thrift store acquisitions. I will always be an advocate for trading comfort for experiences. I’d rather say “Oh well” than “What if?”

To Be Continued…

Portland to Portland

October 19, 2018

Hello friends! I feel like I’m slowly coming back to the land of the living (AKA, the world online) after the last two months of craziness. And once I surface through all the facebook bog of politics, opinions, and pumpkin spice everything, I’m so glad to be back here and catching up with you.

Gosh, what a ride… The last a lot of you knew we were totally in love with Maine. There was ocean air, I had a job I loved, made some amazing friends, we were hiking and picking blueberries, it really was the perfect summer.

We still LOVE Maine and had planned to stay there for a year. But shortly after our last Nutshell update, my boss held a meeting to let us know he was selling the restaurant in August. The atmosphere was not the same and one by one the staff gave their notice and moved on. Following this news was a few unexpected things concerning Tony’s job as well. We both did some research and ended up at the conclusion that Portland, Oregon offered a lot more opportunity job wise for both of us, better skiing for Tony, and a milder climate for the winter.

That decided it and come August we began to pack our bags again amidst a constant state of mild panic as we looked for housing in a city that was 3,000 miles away with a 3% vacancy rate, and I sent out twenty-five resumes and pondered what it might be like to live somewhere for a whole year.Sadie and Tori came to visit mid-August with their partners and we spent a glorious few days taking in all Maine has to offer. We got donuts from The Holy Donut and ate them on the rocks at Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth overlooking the ocean, we went to breweries, we sat on the beach and played in the waves, we ate waaaay too many oysters at Eventide, had frites and housemade sodas at Duckfat, and got breakfast at Rover Bagel almost every day. We rounded out the trip with a drive down to Boston to see the Book of Mormon and the Harvard Arboretum, which required six of us squeeze into the five seats in the suburban, and blare music for the whole trip. It was an experience to remember. And of course there was lobster – The best lobster rolls from Bite into Maine and a live steamer from Scarborough Lobster.

Then the trip was over and they said goodbye and flew back to Seattle and Colorado, and I turned to face the ever-pleasant task of packing up my kitchen for the fourth time in thirteen months. You’d think I’d have it down to a science at this point and just breeze right on through, but in fact, it still takes hours, lots of complaining, and multiple gin and tonics to get the job done. Se la vie.We drove out on August 25th, we detoured to Niagra Falls, looking out over the falls was like waking up as a six-year-old on Christmas morning with that sense of wonder you so rarely get as an adult. Then we drove on, stopping in Kansas City and Colorado on the way up. Some 3,000 miles and a broken AC in the middle of Missouri on a 100-degree day later, we arrived in Portland, Oregon on September 1st crossing our fingers that we hadn’t signed a lease on a total melon of a house.

One of our landlords, Andrew, was there to meet us. A jovial man that gave us a grin and a big wave as we pulled up. We hopped out and he introduced himself in a lovely accent either of British or Australian nature and proceeded to explain how Roberta, his other half, was in Hawaii this week and had admonished him that he was to get to the house early and finish cleaning the grout along the tub, which of course, had not happened and we all came to the mutual conclusion that none of us really cared about the grout which was in fact, already some of the cleanest grout I’ve ever seen in my life.

Andrew was just a lovely man and as he walked us through the beautiful house featuring a living room with a white brick wall and large windows, two bedrooms, a kitchen with a gas stove and a rack for hanging pots above it, and my absolute favorite part; A huge, beautiful, red deck off the kitchen overlooking a spacious, fenced backyard with plenty of leafy trees lending privacy to the area. We had truly lucked out.He left us to unpack, Tony did the bulk of the heavy lifting as I had gotten sick halfway through the trip and was dragging myself around with one or two items at a time, wheezing dramatically. Since we’d been renting furnished places for the past year, all that we owned fit into the suburban and we hadn’t a single piece of furniture to our name.

We (I mean Tony) got the boxes inside and then we went and got some Thai food which I ordered so hot I’m convinced it burned half the cold out of my body. With that to fuel us on we hit up some thrift stores and found a brown, leather couch that was just the right amount of squishy. We brought it home, heaved it up the deck stairs and inside, and Cloroxed the heck out of it before collapsing wearily on it to eat our leftover Thai food with silverware I’d dug out of a box. We inflated the air mattress and went to bed, blissfully thinking that the hard part was behind us.

To Be Continued…

October 19, 2018

Hello friends! I feel like I’m slowly coming back to the land of the living (AKA, the world online) after the last two months of craziness. And once I surface through all the facebook bog of politics, opinions, and pumpkin spice everything, I’m so glad to be back here and catching up with you.

Gosh, what a ride… The last a lot of you knew we were totally in love with Maine. There was ocean air, I had a job I loved, made some amazing friends, we were hiking and picking blueberries, it really was the perfect summer.

We still LOVE Maine and had planned to stay there for a year. But shortly after our last Nutshell update, my boss held a meeting to let us know he was selling the restaurant in August. The atmosphere was not the same and one by one the staff gave their notice and moved on. Following this news was a few unexpected things concerning Tony’s job as well. We both did some research and ended up at the conclusion that Portland, Oregon offered a lot more opportunity job wise for both of us, better skiing for Tony, and a milder climate for the winter.

That decided it and come August we began to pack our bags again amidst a constant state of mild panic as we looked for housing in a city that was 3,000 miles away with a 3% vacancy rate, and I sent out twenty-five resumes and pondered what it might be like to live somewhere for a whole year.

Sadie and Tori came to visit mid-August with their partners and we spent a glorious few days taking in all Maine has to offer. We got donuts from The Holy Donut and ate them on the rocks at Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth overlooking the ocean, we went to breweries, we sat on the beach and played in the waves, we ate waaaay too many oysters at Eventide, had frites and housemade sodas at Duckfat, and got breakfast at Rover Bagel almost every day. We rounded out the trip with a drive down to Boston to see the Book of Mormon and the Harvard Arboretum, which required six of us squeeze into the five seats in the suburban, and blare music for the whole trip. It was an experience to remember. And of course there was lobster – The best lobster rolls from Bite into Maine and a live steamer from Scarborough Lobster.

Then the trip was over and they said goodbye and flew back to Seattle and Colorado, and I turned to face the ever-pleasant task of packing up my kitchen for the fourth time in thirteen months. You’d think I’d have it down to a science at this point and just breeze right on through, but in fact, it still takes hours, lots of complaining, and multiple gin and tonics to get the job done. Se la vie.

We drove out on August 25th, we detoured to Niagra Falls, looking out over the falls was like waking up as a six-year-old on Christmas morning with that sense of wonder you so rarely get as an adult. Then we drove on, stopping in Kansas City and Colorado on the way up. Some 3,000 miles and a broken AC in the middle of Missouri on a 100-degree day later, we arrived in Portland, Oregon on September 1st crossing our fingers that we hadn’t signed a lease on a total melon of a house.

One of our landlords, Andrew, was there to meet us. A jovial man that gave us a grin and a big wave as we pulled up. We hopped out and he introduced himself in a lovely accent either of British or Australian nature and proceeded to explain how Roberta, his other half, was in Hawaii this week and had admonished him that he was to get to the house early and finish cleaning the grout along the tub, which of course, had not happened and we all came to the mutual conclusion that none of us really cared about the grout which was in fact, already some of the cleanest grout I’ve ever seen in my life.

Andrew was just a lovely man and as he walked us through the beautiful house featuring a living room with a white brick wall and large windows, two bedrooms, a kitchen with a gas stove and a rack for hanging pots above it, and my absolute favorite part; A huge, beautiful, red deck off the kitchen overlooking a spacious, fenced backyard with plenty of leafy trees lending privacy to the area. We had truly lucked out.

He left us to unpack, Tony did the bulk of the heavy lifting as I had gotten sick halfway through the trip and was dragging myself around with one or two items at a time, wheezing dramatically. Since we’d been renting furnished places for the past year, all that we owned fit into the suburban and we hadn’t a single piece of furniture to our name.

We (I mean Tony) got the boxes inside and then we went and got some Thai food which I ordered so hot I’m convinced it burned half the cold out of my body. With that to fuel us on we hit up some thrift stores and found a brown, leather couch that was just the right amount of squishy. We brought it home, heaved it up the deck stairs and inside, and Cloroxed the heck out of it before collapsing wearily on it to eat our leftover Thai food with silverware I’d dug out of a box. We inflated the air mattress and went to bed, blissfully thinking that the hard part was behind us.

To Be Continued…

Summer In Maine

July 13, 2018

This Nutshell is coming to you days late thanks to the heat wave that is sweeping most of the U.S and my affinity for watching deadlines as they go “whooshing past.” I’ve been far too busy laying on my couch, sweating, and complaining to Tony to possibly do anything productive.

The other day we went to three different stores looking for a high-velocity fan and I snatched the very last one off a Walmart shelf, that’s box was so beat up and shredded no one had claimed it yet. We don’t have AC, you see…Independence day kicked off the heatwave which I exacerbated by turning on the oven to braise pork for our Pulled Pork Sliders with Pickled Red Cabbage. Eventually, the pork was done and we loaded up the pork, the cabbage, some BBQ sauce, buns and a cooler of beer and walked it a half mile to the Amtrak station. Yes, I was that person that took a giant pan of pulled pork on the public transit. Let freedom ring… We spent the afternoon at my coworker’s BBQ playing yard games and rotating our chairs to get out of the blazing sunlight.

The weekend following the holiday, we set out for a hike. My boss at the Blue Spoon Bistro in Portland had told me about this hike after hearing about our last escapade on the Three Falls Trail in the White Mountains. This hike is up Tumble Down Mountain and has a few different routes to get up it, and there’s a pond at the top where you can swim.I did a little research and we set out around 11 am with our assortment of Stanley thermoses filled with water and coffee and some pistachios and sandwiches for lunch.

There are two trails that lead to the pond. The first is the Brook Trail, only two miles long but you’ll probably still break a sweat by the time you reach the water. The second is The Loop Trail. It’s 3 miles? 2 miles? 2 ¾? We’ll go with that… It’s the most difficult trail on the mountain with its most unique feature being near the summit where you’ll go through a place called “Fat Man’s Misery.” Not kidding, that’s it’s real name. You have to climb up what is basically a waterfall, and then scramble up a crevice of water-slicked rocks with metal rungs put in to help you climb.

How cool, right? We struck out, myself with high energy this go around and quickly crossed a stream, passed a giant, moss-covered rock that would be perfect for bouldering, then it started to go up. As in the trail just stops and there’s a giant wall of tree roots and rocks that call for scrambling using hands and feet.Up, up, up we went! I was in the lead and the trail ended on a ledge facing a wall that needed actual climbing. Tree Roots and rocks are your handholds and a skinny, blue rope had been strung from the tree above to use as additional help. The day was hot and the humidity in the dense forest was fierce. We’d been swatting mosquitoes all day and as I started to climb a giant horsefly began harassing Tony. He’s not a fan of heights to begin with and being on a small ledge, chased by a determined horsefly, while sweating is not a great combo.

We both made it up and found we were facing huge, slabs of slick rock. There were two possible routes up. We spent an hour trying to climb only to find the route stop with no possible further hand or footholds. We scouted back and forth, there had been a group of hikers that entered the trail not 10 minutes before us and I couldn’t believe they’d just got over it. Not to mention undisturbed spider webs on both routes. Something wasn’t right.

We finally gave up, frustrated and hot we headed back the way we came and after 10 minutes of hiking, Tony noticed a trail marker I’d missed. We were on the old trail that isn’t kept up anymore… Ahahah.Another hour of hiking and we hit the waterfall which we climbed and then entered the fat man’s misery… Easy enough to get through if you’ve got a partner and your pack isn’t too big. Definitely not a good idea if you’ve got a dog. We hit the summit and you could see the pond a good way down.

We scrambled down and found gorgeous, clear water that was delightfully cold. We swam and rested for an hour and Tony killed the two horse flies that had been following us since the cliffs. Then we headed back to the car, taking the brook trail to get back as the loop trail we’d come up is not advisable to descend. The brook trail is 2 miles and spits you out a mile from the loop trailhead so you have to hike back up the road.
We made it to the road and almost immediately a swarm of horseflies found us. We ended up stripping off our shirts and spent a miserable mile of walking swatting at the determines little vermin. If there is a hell, I picture Satan as a giant horsefly and all his little minions as smaller one’s chasing you in 100% humidity. Ugh…

But despite the bugs and our extra, unplanned hour of exploring impassable boulders, we had a great time and Tumble Down Mountain is easily one of the most unique mountains I’ve ever hiked.

This past weekend we decided something a little less stimulating was in order. We drove an hour to a blueberry farm in Southern Maine. We were greeted by one of the farmers who pointed us down a row of blueberry bushes.

There were insurmountable blueberries. This was the first weekend of the season and gorgeous, plump blueberries sat alongside tiny, green and purple babies that needed a few more weeks to ripen.We filled our bags, me snagging any and all sizes and Tony very meticulously only taking the biggest and most ripe berries. We hauled our loot back and paid a whopping $8 for 3lbs of blueberries, and then headed back home, stopping at the store on the way to get ingredients for blueberry lemon rolls (Recipe coming soon!).

In closing, I can’t believe how much I love Maine. I love stepping outside and smelling the salt water on the air. It smells like oysters and wet sand, seaweed, and mud. I can’t believe I get to live here, spend a summer here, breathe in the salt water air, sweat in a kitchen sourcing local ingredients, feel the ocean breeze coming in at night while Tony and I rewatch Friends and Game of Thrones, and eat blueberry lemon rolls with fresh, Maine blueberries. Sometimes life drops you in a fairytale for a season. Don’t rush it, don’t waste it… Change will always come, all we can do is enjoy the now.

To Be Continued…

June 13, 2018

This Nutshell is coming to you days late thanks to the heat wave that is sweeping most of the U.S and my affinity for watching deadlines as they go “whooshing past.” I’ve been far too busy laying on my couch, sweating, and complaining to Tony to possibly do anything productive.

The other day we went to three different stores looking for a high-velocity fan and I snatched the very last one off a Walmart shelf, that’s box was so beat up and shredded no one had claimed it yet. We don’t have AC, you see…

Independence day kicked off the heatwave which I exacerbated by turning on the oven to braise pork for our Pulled Pork Sliders with Pickled Red Cabbage. Eventually, the pork was done and we loaded up the pork, the cabbage, some BBQ sauce, buns and a cooler of beer and walked it a half mile to the Amtrak station. Yes, I was that person that took a giant pan of pulled pork on the public transit. Let freedom ring… We spent the afternoon at my coworker’s BBQ playing yard games and rotating our chairs to get out of the blazing sunlight.

The weekend following the holiday, we set out for a hike. My boss at the Blue Spoon Bistro in Portland had told me about this hike after hearing about our last escapade on the Three Falls Trail in the White Mountains. This hike is up Tumble Down Mountain and has a few different routes to get up it, and there’s a pond at the top where you can swim.

I did a little research and we set out around 11 am with our assortment of Stanley thermoses filled with water and coffee and some pistachios and sandwiches for lunch.

There are two trails that lead to the pond. The first is the Brook Trail, only two miles long but you’ll probably still break a sweat by the time you reach the water. The second is The Loop Trail. Its 3 miles? 2 miles? 2 ¾? We’ll go with that… It’s the most difficult trail on the mountain with its most unique feature being near the summit where you’ll go through a place called “Fat Man’s Misery.” Not kidding, that’s it’s real name. You have to climb up what is basically a waterfall, and then scramble up a crevice of water-slicked rocks with metal rungs put in to help you climb.

How cool, right? We struck out, myself with high energy this go around and quickly crossed a stream, passed a giant, moss-covered rock that would be perfect for bouldering, then it started to go up. As in the trail just stops and there’s a giant wall of tree roots and rocks that call for scrambling using hands and feet.

Up, up, up we went! I was in the lead and the trail ended on a ledge facing a wall that needed actual climbing. Tree Roots and rocks are your handholds and a skinny, blue rope had been strung from the tree above to use as additional help. The day was hot and the humidity in the dense forest was fierce. We’d been swatting mosquitoes all day and as I started to climb a giant horsefly began harassing Tony. He’s not a fan of heights to begin with and being on a small ledge, chased by a determined horsefly, while sweating is not a great combo.

We both made it up and found we were facing huge, slabs of slick rock. There were two possible routes up. We spent an hour trying to climb only to find the route stop with no possible further hand or footholds. We scouted back and forth, there had been a group of hikers that entered the trail not 10 minutes before us and I couldn’t believe they’d just got over it. Not to mention undisturbed spider webs on both routes. Something wasn’t right.

We finally gave up, frustrated and hot we headed back the way we came and after 10 minutes of hiking, Tony noticed a trail marker I’d missed. We were on the old trail that isn’t kept up anymore… Ahahah.

Another hour of hiking and we hit the waterfall which we climbed and then entered the fat man’s misery… Easy enough to get through if you’ve got a partner and your pack isn’t too big. Definitely not a good idea if you’ve got a dog. We hit the summit and you could see the pond a good way down.

We scrambled down and found gorgeous, clear water that was delightfully cold. We swam and rested for an hour and Tony killed the two horse flies that had been following us since the cliffs. Then we headed back to the car, taking the brook trail to get back as the loop trail we’d come up is not advisable to descend. The brook trail is 2 miles and spits you out a mile from the loop trailhead so you have to hike back up the road.

We made it to the road and almost immediately a swarm of horseflies found us. We ended up stripping off our shirts and spent a miserable mile of walking swatting at the determines little vermin. If there is a hell, I picture Satan as a giant horsefly and all his little minions as smaller one’s chasing you in 100% humidity. Ugh…

But despite the bugs and our extra, unplanned hour of exploring impassable boulders, we had a great time and Tumble Down Mountain is easily one of the most unique mountains I’ve ever hiked.

This past weekend we decided something a little less stimulating was in order. We drove an hour to a blueberry farm in Southern Maine. We were greeted by one of the farmers who pointed us down a row of blueberry bushes.

There were insurmountable blueberries. This was the first weekend of the season and gorgeous, plump blueberries sat alongside tiny, green and purple babies that needed a few more weeks to ripen.

We filled our bags, me snagging any and all sizes and Tony very meticulously only taking the biggest and most ripe berries. We hauled our loot back and paid a whopping $8 for 3lbs of blueberries, and then headed back home, stopping at the store on the way to get ingredients for blueberry lemon rolls (Recipe coming soon!).

In closing, I can’t believe how much I love Maine. I love stepping outside and smelling the salt water on the air. It smells like oysters and wet sand, seaweed, and mud. I can’t believe I get to live here, spend a summer here, breathe in the salt water air, sweat in a kitchen sourcing local ingredients, feel the ocean breeze coming in at night while Tony and I rewatch Friends and Game of Thrones, and eat blueberry lemon rolls with fresh, Maine blueberries. Sometimes life drops you in a fairytale for a season. Don’t rush it, don’t waste it… Change will always come, all we can do is enjoy the now.

To Be Continued…

How a Tuna Fish Sandwich Saved Our Relationship

June 15, 2018

The more I get to know Maine the more I want to stay. Last Friday I worked the morning shift at the restaurant, which flew by in a frenzy of salt-roasted potatoes, chopping mirepoix for ragu, and the bustling lunch line. After work, I ran across the street to Rosemont Market and Bakery and grabbed some broccoli, russet potatoes, a loaf of ciabatta, and bought a bottle of sparkling rose from the restaurant. I drove home with my loot, changed into a tank top, grabbed a sweater and my book, and Tony and I drove down to the Jetty.

The weather was in the 70’s and we walked past Huot’s Seafood Restaurant where a steady line of people waited to place their order for fried seafood classics. We walked out onto the jetty a good way and then settled in, Tony to fish and myself to read. He caught two mackerel almost right away and over the course of the evening also brought in two striped bass that were too small to keep. We watched the sunset and then drove home, where Tony cleaned and filleted the fish while I chopped and roasted the broccoli and potatoes, and then we sat down to dinner which was delicious!On a less, grand note we took a day off of work last week to go to the DMV. If you read our Nutshell when we lived in Utah about our car plate predicament, you won’t be surprised when I say that we decided we needed Maine plates and IDs. Partially because whenever I go the wrong way and get honked at I know the Utah plates don’t do me any favors. Partly because I’m the primary driver of the car for work and my ID is Colorado and the car is registered in Utah. Most importantly because the cashiers at Hannafords, the local grocery stores here, have to call a manager over anytime someone with an out of state ID wants to buy alcohol. Then the manager has to get out a little book with pictures of all the different state IDs, find yours, compare, then find Tony’s and compare before we can pay for the booze which is exasperating for everyone.

So, the morning of the DMV dawned and we had all of our documents minus the lease agreement which was our proof of residency. Somehow it had disappeared into the black hole of moving day and I doubt we shall ever see it again. So after a thorough search, we drove to Staples where we spent 15 minutes at the print machines trying to download and print off phone bills and pay stubs. Neither of us had consumed enough coffee for the project this was turning into and we’d skipped breakfast to get out the door so I grabbed a couple Snickers bars on our way out.

The DMV process went smoothly, they snapped an ugly photo of me and I was handed back my punched-through Colorado ID and a piece of paper. We then went to get the required inspection done only to find you have to register the car first, (What?) then get it inspected. So we registered the car which was a whopping $230 on top of $60 license fees, each. Yikes! Fortunately, the inspection was only $12.50 but Mr. grumpy came stomping back out to tell us we didn’t pass and handed us a list of expensive things to fix, none of which has hindered the car from taking us across the country twice.

We went home and ate some real food before finding a new mechanic that was close enough to our house we could bike back home. Lou’s Service Center had great reviews and was only two miles away. So the following Monday Tony took the car in to get an estimate. We went to pick it up later that day and Lou told us “I don’t see anything that concerns me here, I’m passing you for the inspection, bring it back when it has a real problem.” What a guy… His place had a ton of good reviews and will soon be receiving another, but can I just say we’ll be back with any and all car needs for the duration of our time in Maine.So instead of dumping another $500+ into the old Suburban we drove to Home Depot and got a smoker/grill combo! It’s currently sitting, half assembled in the laundry room and is our project for tonight. I’m so stoked to be able to grill again and to smoke everything! We then drove home and made seafood spaghetti with clams and mussels (shellfish are like .20 cents each here!) and I popped that bottle of rose I’d brought home from work and we sat on the couch watching a Marvel movie and I thought, “Is this really my life?!” P.S Father’s day is this Sunday so there are a ton of grills/smokers on sale right now if you’re in the market!

Now, Tony and I have Sundays off together and have been doing our best to make that day one for venturing out and doing something new. So Sunday we slept in a little, made some tuna fish sandwiches, filled our Stanley thermos assortment with water and coffee and drove 2 ½ hours to the White Mountains in New Hampshire! There are so many gorgeous hikes there but we opted for the Three Falls Trail. A three-mile hike up and then you retrace your steps, or you can do a 12-mile loop.

With our late start and me being tired from my busy shift at the restaurant the night before, we opted for the out and back. I’d consider Tony and myself somewhat of veteran hikers and so I wasn’t concerned about getting up a three-mile trail.The first waterfall appeared quickly and it truly was a gorgeous hike up. Lush pine trees and mossy roots, and SO many giant rocks. The first mile had all three of the waterfalls, each grander than the last but for some reason, I got it into my head the last waterfall would be near the end.

By the time we’d lolly-gagged around, taking photos and admiring the falls it was 3:00 pm and I was tired. The elevation gain was more than 1,200 ft per mile. We figured we couldn’t be too far from the tree line and the view was supposed to be amazing so we left the falls behind and kept hiking. Up, up, and up we went. Every switchback produced a steeper incline and it was basically another hour of climbing a giant staircase made of boulders. I’d eaten two eggs and a banana for breakfast and my energy was plummeting. I began to feel very sorry for myself and kept stopping to whine and wheeze every 10 minutes or so.We passed a hiker on the way down and asked how far to the tree line and his response of “Oh you’ve got another hour and a half at least” was the last straw. We sat and broke out the sandwiches and beer we’d packed. And oh my lord I felt life coming back into me. Cheers to Tony and the sandwich for avoiding a meltdown on the mountain that day.We kept on after that and I was a much more pleasant hiking partner to have around for the rest of the way. Tony found a small cave part way up, that after determining had no shining eyes or teeth in the back of it, I crawled into to explore. Which was really just an excuse not to climb for another minute. I came out covered in dirt and we continued on our way, Tony leaping and running up the rocks and me plodding along behind.

Eventually, we came to the last part, which another hiker had accurately described as “You’ll know you’re almost there when it gets really shitty.” He was right and the last part was indeed a beast. But finally we cleared the treeline and the view was completely worth it! Sprawling mountains were all around and giant cairns were everywhere.

We sat for awhile enjoying the view and another beer and then passed off our last beer to a hiker. Apparently, this is a leg of the Appalachian trail and according to him, this was the most difficult part so far. Hats off to him and everyone else hiking the whole thing, you all are amazing. We left the summit around 5:00 pm and made great time back down, running whenever the boulders weren’t too big. We both ate it once but emerged at the parking lot with grins and only minor scrapes to show for it.

We drove the 2 ½ hours back home and got to Pizza Hut to pick up our takeout order 10 minutes before they closed. It took me three days to feel fully recovered from that trip but can I just say, what a great way to spend a weekend. The big adventures always make for the best memories, and if I have two takeaways for you today from that trip they would be:

  1. Bring a sandwich.
  2. The summit is always worth it.

To Be Continued…

June 15, 2018

The more I get to know Maine the more I want to stay. Last Friday I worked the morning shift at the restaurant, which flew by in a frenzy of salt-roasted potatoes, chopping mirepoix for ragu, and the bustling lunch line. After work, I ran across the street to Rosemont Market and Bakery and grabbed some broccoli, russet potatoes, a loaf of ciabatta, and bought a bottle of sparkling rose from the restaurant. I drove home with my loot, changed into a tank top, grabbed a sweater and my book, and Tony and I drove down to the Jetty.

The weather was in the 70’s and we walked past Huot’s Seafood Restaurant where a steady line of people waited to place their order for fried seafood classics. We walked out onto the jetty a good way and then settled in, Tony to fish and myself to read. He caught two mackerel almost right away and over the course of the evening also brought in two striped bass that were too small to keep. We watched the sunset and then drove home, where Tony cleaned and filleted the fish while I chopped and roasted the broccoli and potatoes, and then we sat down to dinner which was delicious!

On a less, grand note we took a day off of work last week to go to the DMV. If you read our Nutshell when we lived in Utah about our car plate predicament, you won’t be surprised when I say that we decided we needed Maine plates and IDs. Partially because whenever I go the wrong way and get honked at I know the Utah plates don’t do me any favors. Partly because I’m the primary driver of the car for work and my ID is Colorado and the car is registered in Utah. Most importantly because the cashiers at Hannafords, the local grocery stores here, have to call a manager over anytime someone with an out of state ID wants to buy alcohol. Then the manager has to get out a little book with pictures of all the different state IDs, find yours, compare, then find Tony’s and compare before we can pay for the booze which is exasperating for everyone.

So, the morning of the DMV dawned and we had all of our documents minus the lease agreement which was our proof of residency. Somehow it had disappeared into the black hole of moving day and I doubt we shall ever see it again. So after a thorough search, we drove to Staples where we spent 15 minutes at the print machines trying to download and print off phone bills and pay stubs. Neither of us had consumed enough coffee for the project this was turning into and we’d skipped breakfast to get out the door so I grabbed a couple Snickers bars on our way out.

The DMV process went smoothly, they snapped an ugly photo of me and I was handed back my punched-through Colorado ID and a piece of paper. We then went to get the required inspection done only to find you have to register the car first, (What?) then get it inspected. So we registered the car which was a whopping $230 on top of $60 license fees, each. Yikes! Fortunately, the inspection was only $12.50 but Mr. grumpy came stomping back out to tell us we didn’t pass and handed us a list of expensive things to fix, none of which has hindered the car from taking us across the country twice.

We went home and ate some real food before finding a new mechanic that was close enough to our house we could bike back home. Lou’s Service Center had great reviews and was only two miles away. So the following Monday Tony took the car in to get an estimate. We went to pick it up later that day and Lou told us “I don’t see anything that concerns me here, I’m passing you for the inspection, bring it back when it has a real problem.” What a guy… His place had a ton of good reviews and will soon be receiving another, but can I just say we’ll be back with any and all car needs for the duration of our time in Maine.

So instead of dumping another $500+ into the old Suburban we drove to Home Depot and got a smoker/grill combo! It’s currently sitting, half assembled in the laundry room and is our project for tonight. I’m so stoked to be able to grill again and to smoke everything! We then drove home and made seafood spaghetti with clams and mussels (shellfish are like .20 cents each here!) and I popped that bottle of rose I’d brought home from work and we sat on the couch watching a Marvel movie and I thought, “Is this really my life?!” P.S Father’s day is this Sunday so there are a ton of grills/smokers on sale right now if you’re in the market!

Now, Tony and I have Sundays off together and have been doing our best to make that day one for venturing out and doing something new. So Sunday we slept in a little, made some tuna fish sandwiches, filled our Stanley thermos assortment with water and coffee and drove 2 ½ hours to the White Mountains in New Hampshire! There are so many gorgeous hikes there but we opted for the Three Falls Trail. A three-mile hike up and then you retrace your steps, or you can do a 12-mile loop.

With our late start and me being tired from my busy shift at the restaurant the night before, we opted for the out and back. I’d consider Tony and myself somewhat of veteran hikers and so I wasn’t concerned about getting up a three-mile trail.

The first waterfall appeared quickly and it truly was a gorgeous hike up. Lush pine trees and mossy roots, and SO many giant rocks. The first mile had all three of the waterfalls, each grander than the last but for some reason, I got it into my head the last waterfall would be near the end.

By the time we’d lolly-gagged around, taking photos and admiring the falls it was 3:00 pm and I was tired. The elevation gain was more than 1,200 ft per mile. We figured we couldn’t be too far from the tree line and the view was supposed to be amazing so we left the falls behind and kept hiking. Up, up, and up we went. Every switchback produced a steeper incline and it was basically another hour of climbing a giant staircase made of boulders. I’d eaten two eggs and a banana for breakfast and my energy was plummeting. I began to feel very sorry for myself and kept stopping to whine and wheeze every 10 minutes or so.

We passed a hiker on the way down and asked how far to the tree line and his response of “Oh you’ve got another hour and a half at least” was the last straw. We sat and broke out the sandwiches and beer we’d packed. And oh my lord I felt life coming back into me. Cheers to Tony and the sandwich for avoiding a meltdown on the mountain that day.

We kept on after that and I was a much more pleasant hiking partner to have around for the rest of the way. Tony found a small cave part way up, that after determining had no shining eyes or teeth in the back of it, I crawled into to explore. Which was really just an excuse not to climb for another minute. I came out covered in dirt and we continued on our way, Tony leaping and running up the rocks and me plodding along behind.

Eventually, we came to the last part, which another hiker had accurately described as “You’ll know you’re almost there when it gets really shitty.” He was right and the last part was indeed a beast. But finally we cleared the treeline and the view was completely worth it! Sprawling mountains were all around and giant cairns were everywhere.

We sat for awhile enjoying the view and another beer and then passed off our last beer to a hiker. Apparently, this is a leg of the Appalachian trail and according to him, this was the most difficult part so far. Hats off to him and everyone else hiking the whole thing, you all are amazing. We left the summit around 5:00 pm and made great time back down, running whenever the boulders weren’t too big. We both ate it once but emerged at the parking lot with grins and only minor scrapes to show for it.

We drove the 2 ½ hours back home and got to Pizza Hut to pick up our takeout order 10 minutes before they closed. It took me three days to feel fully recovered from that trip but can I just say, what a great way to spend a weekend. The big adventures always make for the best memories, and if I have two takeaways for you today from that trip they would be:

1) Bring a sandwich.
2) The summit is always worth it.

To Be Continued…

Here For a Year

June 1, 2018

You heard it, some of you suspected it, and it has come to pass… Maine has got ahold of us and we’ve decided to stay for a year. Part of this decision is just because we like it here so darn much, with the ocean, the rocky beaches, the amazing food, and beer, but mostly it’s the people. Maine has an amazing vibe and we decided we want to stay and build some community and recharge our batteries for a little while.

So to catch you up on these last couple weeks…Tony bought a fishing pole and has been strapping his pole and a cooler bag to his backpack which he then gets on his bike and bikes out to the beach while I have the car at work. I have yet to capture a picture of this spectacle but word on the street is a cyclist almost fell off her bike laughing as she went past. After trying some different bait he caught some mackerel, a few of which we cooked and the rest he’s saving to catch some striped bass with! When I’m not working in the evening I’ll go out to the beach with him and bring a book to read, one of my favorite ways to refuel. I’d love if you’d drop any book recommendations in the comments, I’m always looking for a good read!Two weekends ago we also took our Kayak out for a test run on Sebago Lake. There’s nothing about it online but apparently the launch point we went to is part of a two-mile segment of the lake that Portland uses to filter its water from. And although you can launch boats from it there, it is a $2,000 fine for bodily contact with the water. Yikes! We took our chances and paddled around the lake for a while, which was beautiful! But I think next time we’ll be finding a different body of water for our adventures.

The kayak roof rack, we’ve discovered, is rather in the way of our bike racks. So we found an awesome, rear rack for the bikes that not only can hold four bikes total but swings away from the door so you can still access the back hatch. We drove two hours North up the coast of Maine to get the racks from Craigslist and happened upon Red’s Eats, a seafood shack in Bath, ME that is renowned for lines of cars a mile across the bridge. There were only a few people in line so we stopped and got a lobster roll and ate it looking out over the water.While it was a cool experience, the roll was $25 and comprised entirely of Lobster tail meat. I’ve learned the knuckle and claw meat are the most tender and the tail is actually really full of cartilage and tough to chew. I Would highly recommend Bite Into Maine for a lobster truck over Red’s but Red’s is an institution in Maine and they have loads of options aside from the lobster roll that would make it worth a stop if you’re up in that area.

Earlier this week there was some seriously weird bike juju going on. I biked into Biddeford (four miles away) and realized I’d popped my back tire. So I walked the bike all the way back home, found the piece of glass that had done the dirty deed, and drove to the bike shop to pick up a new tire and an extra inner tube.I then drove to work and Tony took his bike out to fish on a beach that was four miles away. He texted me as I was leaving work at 10:00 pm saying he’d just gotten home. He popped an inner tube as he was leaving the house, changed it, got all the way to the beach, caught some fish and then the other tires tube blew, leaving him to walk, you guessed it, four miles back home toting the fish and all his gear. So our bikes are now sitting with their back tires removed thinking about what they’ve done.

Hopefully, our bad bike juju has gone on its merry way, Wish me luck, I think I’ll go make a Gin and Tonic and change a bike tire. I’ll let you know how it goes 😉

To Be Continued…

June 1, 2018

You heard it, some of you suspected it, and it has come to pass… Maine has got ahold of us and we’ve decided to stay for a year. Part of this decision is just because we like it here so darn much, with the ocean, the rocky beaches, the amazing food, and beer, but mostly it’s the people. Maine has an amazing vibe and we decided we want to stay and build some community and recharge our batteries for a little while.

So to catch you up on these last couple weeks…

Tony bought a fishing pole and has been strapping his pole and a cooler bag to his backpack which he then gets on his bike and bikes out to the beach while I have the car at work. I have yet to capture a picture of this spectacle but word on the street is a cyclist almost fell off her bike laughing as she went past. After trying some different bait he caught some mackerel, a few of which we cooked and the rest he’s saving to catch some striped bass with! When I’m not working in the evening I’ll go out to the beach with him and bring a book to read, one of my favorite ways to refuel. I’d love if you’d drop any book recommendations in the comments, I’m always looking for a good read!

Two weekends ago we also took our Kayak out for a test run on Sebago Lake. There’s nothing about it online but apparently the launch point we went to is part of a two-mile segment of the lake that Portland uses to filter its water from. And although you can launch boats from it there, it is a $2,000 fine for bodily contact with the water. Yikes! We took our chances and paddled around the lake for a while, which was beautiful! But I think next time we’ll be finding a different body of water for our adventures.

The kayak roof rack, we’ve discovered, is rather in the way of our bike racks. So we found an awesome, rear rack for the bikes that not only can hold four bikes total but swings away from the door so you can still access the back hatch. We drove two hours North up the coast of Maine to get the racks from Craigslist and happened upon Red’s Eats, a seafood shack in Bath, ME that is renowned for lines of cars a mile across the bridge. There were only a few people in line so we stopped and got a lobster roll and ate it looking out over the water.

While it was a cool experience, the roll was $25 and comprised entirely of Lobster tail meat. I’ve learned the knuckle and claw meat are the most tender and the tail is actually really full of cartilage and tough to chew. I Would highly recommend Bite Into Maine for a lobster truck over Red’s but Red’s is an institution in Maine and they have loads of options aside from the lobster roll that would make it worth a stop if you’re up in that area.

Earlier this week there was some seriously weird bike juju going on. I biked into Biddeford (four miles away) and realized I’d popped my back tire. So I walked the bike all the way back home, found the piece of glass that had done the dirty deed, and drove to the bike shop to pick up a new tire and an extra inner tube.

I then drove to work and Tony took his bike out to fish on a beach that was four miles away. He texted me as I was leaving work at 10:00 pm saying he’d just gotten home. He popped an inner tube as he was leaving the house, changed it, got all the way to the beach, caught some fish and then the other tires tube blew, leaving him to walk, you guessed it, four miles back home toting the fish and all his gear. So our bikes are now sitting with their back tires removed thinking about what they’ve done.

Hopefully, our bad bike juju has gone on its merry way, Wish me luck, I think I’ll go make a Gin and Tonic and change a bike tire. I’ll let you know how it goes 😉

To Be Continued…

A Kayak Named Canoe

May 18, 2018

Maine has such a good vibe… When I sat down to write this Nutshell I had to scroll back through my photos to remember exactly what has happened, where we went, what we ate, and where I left my brain these past few weeks.

Old Orchard Beach, the town where we’re living, is about 30 minutes South of Portland. A little further South is the town of Biddeford (Bid-ee-ferd) that is the new up and coming place to watch. Currently, it sports plenty of vacant storefronts for rent and a very quiet little downtown, but man there are some amazing businesses moving in and revitalizing the scene.Tony and I went to breakfast in Biddeford at Rover Bagel, a cozy, wood-fired bagel and pizza place that is by FAR the most amazing bagel I’ve had in my life. Growing up in the midwest I’d become accustomed to a bagel being a rubbery, tasteless ring of dough that served as no more than a vehicle to get cream cheese to my mouth with. But THIS bagel… It is the god of bagels. I’d like to nominate the wood-fired bagel of Rover bagel for president in the 2020 election. I don’t think there would be much competition.Adding to Biddeford’s charm is the fact that it’s an easy, four-mile bike ride away from us and right at the entrance of town is Banded Brewing, a brewery in an almost warehouse-like space that somehow gives off a charismatic and alluring vibe while being completely down to earth. Tony and I biked in one night and spent the evening chatting with the bartender, drinking IPA and a wicked, delicious, champagne, mixed fermentation ale that is a 10.5%/ and I can’t get enough of it. I must say I don’t miss the Utah beer scene one bit.

And how about Cape Elizabeth? Fort Williams Park is the place you must go to really feel like you’ve experienced Maine. Kept up by the town of Cape Elizabeth the park is a sprawling beauty of grassy hills that run into a rocky beach where the waves come lapping in. The Portland Headlight Lighthouse is here and on a foggy day, the waves crashing against the rocks and the light splitting through the fog makes you catch your breath in awe.On a sunny day, the water is like blue glass, sparkling and gorgeous, and you can explore the ruins of the old Forts while looking out over the Atlantic. The food truck Bite Into Maine can be found here during the summer and if you can wait through the line you’ll find yourself with the best lobster roll around. A butter toasted bun, fresh, cold lobster meat with mayo or warm butter will be handed out through the window to you. You can eat it with the ocean breeze on your cheeks and drink a Moxie (The original coke) and just wonder how on earth your life got to be so good. Watch out for Jeremy, the pesky, giant seagull. He will swoop in and steal a lobster roll from under your nose without a moment’s hesitation.

Now, about that Canoe… Tony and I had been planning to get a canoe since we’d decided we were going to Maine. Tony had been scouring craigslist and one day I come home to find a 16-foot kayak in our house. It barely fit and was so long we couldn’t get it around to the backyard. Turns out, after some research and getting up close and personal to the giant waves and rocky coast, a kayak is a much better option if you like to stay afloat in the frigid water. We’d been talking about getting a canoe for so long we kept referring to the kayak as a canoe and thus it was christened… And now along with our bikes, we’ll be toting a giant kayak named canoe across the country with us. This will afford many more great stories I’m sure.

But since this is a “working vacation” if you will, I’ve found a job at an amazing little Italian Bistro in Portland. It’s called Blue Spoon and stepping through the door I felt like I had found my people. The line cooks cheerfully razz each other, yelling “hot pan Fredo!” to the dishwasher who cheerful clangs the pans and pots together in a sing-song. My first night had me whipping egg yolks and oil into aioli, we blanched fiddleheads and served them on grilled cheese, risotto with sherry came flying off the line and we topped it with an insurmountable pile of fresh parmesan… And I just know, this place is where I’m meant to be

To Be Continued…

May 18, 2018

Maine has such a good vibe… When I sat down to write this Nutshell I had to scroll back through my photos to remember exactly what has happened, where we went, what we ate, and where I left my brain these past few weeks.

Old Orchard Beach, the town where we’re living, is about 30 minutes South of Portland. A little further South is the town of Biddeford (Bid-ee-ferd) that is the new up and coming place to watch. Currently, it sports plenty of vacant storefronts for rent and a very quiet little downtown, but man there are some amazing businesses moving in and revitalizing the scene.

Tony and I went to breakfast in Biddeford at Rover Bagel, a cozy, wood-fired bagel and pizza place that is by FAR the most amazing bagel I’ve had in my life. Growing up in the midwest I’d become accustomed to a bagel being a rubbery, tasteless ring of dough that served as no more than a vehicle to get cream cheese to my mouth with. But THIS bagel… It is the god of bagels. I’d like to nominate the wood-fired bagel of Rover bagel for president in the 2020 election. I don’t think there would be much competition.

Adding to Biddeford’s charm is the fact that it’s an easy, four-mile bike ride away from us and right at the entrance of town is Banded Brewing, a brewery in an almost warehouse-like space that somehow gives off a charismatic and alluring vibe while being completely down to earth. Tony and I biked in one night and spent the evening chatting with the bartender, drinking IPA and a wicked, delicious, champagne, mixed fermentation ale that is a 10.5%/ and I can’t get enough of it. I must say I don’t miss the Utah beer scene one bit.

And how about Cape Elizabeth? Fort Williams Park is the place you must go to really feel like you’ve experienced Maine. Kept up by the town of Cape Elizabeth the park is a sprawling beauty of grassy hills that run into a rocky beach where the waves come lapping in. The Portland Headlight Lighthouse is here and on a foggy day, the waves crashing against the rocks and the light splitting through the fog makes you catch your breath in awe.

On a sunny day, the water is like blue glass, sparkling and gorgeous, and you can explore the ruins of the old Forts while looking out over the Atlantic. The food truck Bite Into Maine can be found here during the summer and if you can wait through the line you’ll find yourself with the best lobster roll around. A butter toasted bun, fresh, cold lobster meat with mayo or warm butter will be handed out through the window to you. You can eat it with the ocean breeze on your cheeks and drink a Moxie (The original coke) and just wonder how on earth your life got to be so good. Watch out for Jeremy, the pesky, giant seagull. He will swoop in and steal a lobster roll from under your nose without a moment’s hesitation.

Now, about that Canoe… Tony and I had been planning to get a canoe since we’d decided we were going to Maine. Tony had been scouring craigslist and one day I come home to find a 16-foot kayak in our house. It barely fit and was so long we couldn’t get it around to the backyard. Turns out, after some research and getting up close and personal to the giant waves and rocky coast, a kayak is a much better option if you like to stay afloat in the frigid water. We’d been talking about getting a canoe for so long we kept referring to the kayak as a canoe and thus it was christened… And now along with our bikes, we’ll be toting a giant kayak named canoe across the country with us. This will afford many more great stories I’m sure.

But since this is a “working vacation” if you will, I’ve found a job at an amazing little Italian Bistro in Portland. It’s called Blue Spoon and stepping through the door I felt like I had found my people. The line cooks cheerfully razz each other, yelling “hot pan Fredo!” to the dishwasher who cheerful clangs the pans and pots together in a sing-song. My first night had me whipping egg yolks and oil into aioli, we blanched fiddleheads and served them on grilled cheese, risotto with sherry came flying off the line and we topped it with an insurmountable pile of fresh parmesan… And I just know, this place is where I’m meant to be.

To Be Continued…

2,624 Miles to Maine

May 11, 2018

We left Colorado after a few fun days with Tori and Max and headed for Wisconsin. The drive was smooth and uneventful, and we arrived in Blue Mounds, WI around 10:00 pm. Tony’s Mom was setting up for a garage sale and his siblings were there having a post-price stickering beer. We spent a couple hours catching up and laughing over old photos they had found before we piled into the spare rooms to sleep.The next morning we hauled all the garage sale things back out front and Tony and I left to go see his friend, Nick an hour and a half away. Nicks family is like Tony’s second family and they treated us to pizza, which we ate while keeping the dogs at bay. Tony and Nick had got Doogie, the black and tan coonhound, and Missy the beagle when they were roommates and the dogs had moved back to WI with Nick a few years ago. Doogie is 12 and has bone cancer but even so, he’s still a ball of energy and he howled for a solid 5 minutes when Tony walked in the door. Missy gave Tony the cold shoulder for not being around but eventually warmed up to her usual, bossy, short self. A few hours later we headed back to Blue Mounds where we spent a quiet evening over beer hanging out with his family.

The next morning had us off to Pennsylvania by 7:00 am. Tony’s mom packed us sandwiches, snacks and water bottles (she’s great!) and we hit the road for another 13 hours. The trip was again, uneventful although we were both over being in the car 4 hours in.

Tony’s coworker Will moved from Colorado to Pennsylvania right about the time we left for New Orleans and he and his wife, Ashley, were so kind as to put us up in their beautiful house. Ashley runs the website Truly Dvinyl and her beautiful creations are tastefully placed around their house.

We got in around 10:00 pm again, having made good time despite dragging our feet on the second leg, and Ashley had homemade spaghetti, salad, and cookies waiting. She is a gem.The next morning they insisted on buying us breakfast at a cute, little diner and then we struck out to hike up one of their favorite trails that runs along a gorgeous waterfall. Easily one of the most beautiful hikes I’ve been on. Afterward, we collected groceries and ate lo mein and then drank gin and tonics while playing Monopoly Deal, a simpler twist on the traditional game that is loads of fun.

The next morning Tony and I packed up again and headed out for the final 6 ½ hour stretch to Maine. We got an email that morning from our landlords, Sue who we’ve been communicating with was feeling sick and was heading out to their campsite and her husband would be there to meet us. We were to give him a call an hour before we arrived.

We called about an hour out and it went straight to voicemail. When we pulled in, we knocked on the door and he answered, apologetically explaining his phone had gone through the wash that morning and he was just finishing up a few things if we could come back in 30 minutes.Tony and I struck out walking for the beach, seeing as it’s less than a half mile from our new dwellings! Maine is beautiful and the tide was low as we dug our toes into the sand. The part of the beach we live by is sandy, not rocky and is absolutely stunning.

We headed back to the house and Mike cheerfully showed us around. The house is beautiful with a spacious kitchen, a washer, and dryer, a beautiful loft area with sun pouring through the windows while gauzy curtains ripple in the ocean breeze. The shower is huge, newly tiled and the tub is also a jacuzzi!

Mike said farewell and we unloaded the faithful suburban. After about an hour in the house I was sneezing, itchy-eyed and stuffy. The leftover cat dander and whatever cleaning products they’d used had me in a bad way and a few hours of getting things organized later, we’ realized most of the restaurants were closing, so we opted to pick up a frozen pizza and some wine from the store instead.We got back, preheated the oven which began to emit a steamy, chemical smell from the vent which we discovered was due to a black mat along the bottom. I pulled it out and we aired out the kitchen and as that was the final straw to the allergy situation, I struck out to the corner store which thankfully was open past 10:00 pm for some antihistamines.

They did the trick and we finally sat down to pizza and a salad at 11:00 pm, completely exhausted but happy. There had been a few moments of hunger and weariness causing some strain, especially when coupled with moving heavy things and tripping over belongings. But in the middle of it all, I just thought to myself, yeah moving all of our things around every 5 months really sucks. But it’s so worth it, who else gets to live in Maine for the summer? I’ve now been here 10 days and already Maine is one of my favorite places we’ve been. I can’t wait to see what the summer has in store!

To Be Continued…

May 11, 2018

We left Colorado after a few fun days with Tori and Max and headed for Wisconsin. The drive was smooth and uneventful, and we arrived in Blue Mounds, WI around 10:00 pm. Tony’s Mom was setting up for a garage sale and his siblings were there having a post-price stickering beer. We spent a couple hours catching up and laughing over old photos they had found before we piled into the spare rooms to sleep.

The next morning we hauled all the garage sale things back out front and Tony and I left to go see his friend, Nick an hour and a half away. Nicks family is like Tony’s second family and they treated us to pizza, which we ate while keeping the dogs at bay. Tony and Nick had got Doogie, the black and tan coonhound, and Missy the beagle when they were roommates and the dogs had moved back to WI with Nick a few years ago. Doogie is 12 and has bone cancer but even so, he’s still a ball of energy and he howled for a solid 5 minutes when Tony walked in the door. Missy gave Tony the cold shoulder for not being around but eventually warmed up to her usual, bossy, short self. A few hours later we headed back to Blue Mounds where we spent a quiet evening over beer hanging out with his family.

The next morning had us off to Pennsylvania by 7:00 am. Tony’s mom packed us sandwiches, snacks and water bottles (she’s great!) and we hit the road for another 13 hours. The trip was again, uneventful although we were both over being in the car 4 hours in.

Tony’s coworker Will moved from Colorado to Pennsylvania right about the time we left for New Orleans and he and his wife, Ashley, were so kind as to put us up in their beautiful house. Ashley runs the website Truly Dvinyl and her beautiful creations are tastefully placed around their house.

We got in around 10:00 pm again, having made good time despite dragging our feet on the second leg, and Ashley had homemade spaghetti, salad, and cookies waiting. She is a gem.

The next morning they insisted on buying us breakfast at a cute, little diner and then we struck out to hike up one of their favorite trails that runs along a gorgeous waterfall. Easily one of the most beautiful hikes I’ve been on. Afterward, we collected groceries and ate lo mein and then drank gin and tonics while playing Monopoly Deal, a simpler twist on the traditional game that is loads of fun.

The next morning Tony and I packed up again and headed out for the final 6 ½ hour stretch to Maine. We got an email that morning from our landlords, Sue who we’ve been communicating with was feeling sick and was heading out to their campsite and her husband would be there to meet us. We were to give him a call an hour before we arrived.

We called about an hour out and it went straight to voicemail. When we pulled in, we knocked on the door and he answered, apologetically explaining his phone had gone through the wash that morning and he was just finishing up a few things if we could come back in 30 minutes.

Tony and I struck out walking for the beach, seeing as it’s less than a half mile from our new dwellings! Maine is beautiful and the tide was low as we dug our toes into the sand. The part of the beach we live by is sandy, not rocky and is absolutely stunning.

We headed back to the house and Mike cheerfully showed us around. The house is beautiful with a spacious kitchen, a washer, and dryer, a beautiful loft area with sun pouring through the windows while gauzy curtains ripple in the ocean breeze. The shower is huge, newly tiled and the tub is also a jacuzzi!

Mike said farewell and we unloaded the faithful suburban. After about an hour in the house, I was sneezing, itchy-eyed and stuffy. The leftover cat dander and whatever cleaning products they’d used had me in a bad way and a few hours of getting things organized later, we’ realized most of the restaurants were closing, so we opted to pick up a frozen pizza and some wine from the store instead.

We got back, preheated the oven which began to emit a steamy, chemical smell from the vent which we discovered was due to a black mat along the bottom. I pulled it out and we aired out the kitchen and as that was the final straw to the allergy situation, I struck out to the corner store which thankfully was open past 10:00 pm for some antihistamines.

They did the trick and we finally sat down to pizza and a salad at 11:00 pm, completely exhausted but happy. There had been a few moments of hunger and weariness causing some strain, especially when coupled with moving heavy things and tripping over belongings. But in the middle of it all, I just thought to myself, yeah moving all of our things around every 5 months really sucks. But it’s so worth it, who else gets to live in Maine for the summer? I’ve now been here 10 days and already Maine is one of my favorite places we’ve been. I can’t wait to see what the summer has in store!

To Be Continued…

Sisters and Surgery

April 27, 2018

Last Friday my little sister had open heart surgery. This is the sort of thing you dread as a sibling. What if it’s not OK? What if it goes wrong? Why them? Are all questions that just float through your head without your permission.

I remember getting the phone call back in New Orleans, where she let me prattle on about cheese for a solid 15 minutes before she broke the news that she was going to have to have a heart valve replaced. Victoria (Tori) is 20 years old and is officially one of the strongest women I know.

In the past six months, she has handled the first surgeon she met with giving her contradicting information, figuring out how to find and vet other surgeons, having a new, non-invasive procedure dangled in front of her and then told she didn’t qualify for it. Running in circles with insurance and all of this while being told she couldn’t do any strenuous exercise. I think I would have simply burst if I were subjected to that kind of strain.She’s such an interesting person, her house is filled with unusual plants making it feel like you’re walking through a garden. Last December when I tried to fix a hole in my pants and sewed them to themselves she authoritatively righted them in less than 10 minutes, she is always up for an intelligent conversation and is one of the most level-headed people you’ll meet.

So last Friday on 4/20 (The running joke was “Blaze it!”) she had her surgery at a hospital in Denver. Tony and I packed up our things and drove out, Sadie flew out from Seattle, and my mother, grandmother and two of the younger siblings all drove up from Kansas City to be there. Tori’s boyfriend Max had been there through all of it and we spent the quiet hours the morning of the surgery sipping coffee and waiting.And she did so well. Tori made leaps in her recovery the next few days and we took turns visiting her and hanging out with the younger girls who couldn’t see her till she was out of the ICU. Sophie, Nodi and I spent a good few hours in the hospital lobby playing hangman and scrunching up our face about a bag of sour skittles and Tony took them outside to play hide and seek. Sadie took the night shift and determinedly slept in the hospital room to stay next to Tori.

Tori was out of the ICU in two days and progressed so quickly and had such a cool demeanor her nurse told her she should be the poster child to show all these scared, old men how it’s done. The family went home Sunday and Monday and Tori was discharged into my care late Monday afternoon.She’s since been home and doing so well I just have to brag on her for a minute, I was driving her to a follow-up appointment on Wednesday and she says “This whole experience has been very balancing.” Which is an incredible perspective to come out with. We were talking today and she was discussing how important resilience is. It’s never the things you worry, stress about and prepare for that end up happening. It’s the things that surprise you. She says “Everyone has their things to deal with, this was just mine.”

As you read this Tony and I are driving to Wisconsin to see his family and then stopping to see friends in Pennsylvania on our way to Maine! Thanks to everyone for your well-wishes for Tori and thanks for tuning in!

To Be Continued…

April 27, 2018

Last Friday my little sister had open heart surgery. This is the sort of thing you dread as a sibling. What if it’s not OK? What if it goes wrong? Why them? Are all questions that just float through your head without your permission.

I remember getting the phone call back in New Orleans, where she let me prattle on about cheese for a solid 15 minutes before she broke the news that she was going to have to have a heart valve replaced. Victoria (Tori) is 20 years old and is officially one of the strongest women I know.

In the past six months, she has handled the first surgeon she met with giving her contradicting information, figuring out how to find and vet other surgeons, having a new, non-invasive procedure dangled in front of her and then told she didn’t qualify for it. Running in circles with insurance and all of this while being told she couldn’t do any strenuous exercise. I think I would have simply burst if I were subjected to that kind of strain.

She’s such an interesting person, her house is filled with unusual plants making it feel like you’re walking through a garden. Last December when I tried to fix a hole in my pants and sewed them to themselves she authoritatively righted them in less than 10 minutes, she is always up for an intelligent conversation and is one of the most level-headed people you’ll meet.

So last Friday on 4/20 (The running joke was “Blaze it!”) she had her surgery at a hospital in Denver. Tony and I packed up our things and drove out, Sadie flew out from Seattle, and my mother, grandmother and two of the younger siblings all drove up from Kansas City to be there. Tori’s boyfriend Max had been there through all of it and we spent the quiet hours the morning of the surgery sipping coffee and waiting.

And she did so well. Tori made leaps in her recovery the next few days and we took turns visiting her and hanging out with the younger girls who couldn’t see her till she was out of the ICU. Sophie, Nodi and I spent a good few hours in the hospital lobby playing hangman and scrunching up our face about a bag of sour skittles and Tony took them outside to play hide and seek. Sadie took the night shift and determinedly slept in the hospital room to stay next to Tori.

Tori was out of the ICU in two days and progressed so quickly and had such a cool demeanor her nurse told her she should be the poster child to show all these scared, old men how it’s done. The family went home Sunday and Monday and Tori was discharged into my care late Monday afternoon.

She’s since been home and doing so well I just have to brag on her for a minute, I was driving her to a follow-up appointment on Wednesday and she says “This whole experience has been very balancing.” Which is an incredible perspective to come out with. We were talking today and she was discussing how important resilience is. It’s never the things you worry, stress about and prepare for that end up happening. It’s the things that surprise you. She says “Everyone has their things to deal with, this was just mine.”

As you read this Tony and I are driving to Wisconsin to see his family and then stopping to see friends in Pennsylvania on our way to Maine! Thanks to everyone for your well-wishes for Tori and thanks for tuning in!

To Be Continued…

The Story of How We Met

April 13, 2018

In March 2016 I was in my final semester of Massage Therapy school in Fort Collins, CO. I wore my hair big, my jeans ripped, and a general attitude of “I’ve got this all figured out.” (Sure, Savannah, sure). I’d been single for three years which was one of the best, and trying, things to ever happen to me. It gave me a chance to develop some standards for myself and for potential partners.

One of my good friends Renee was seeing a guy named Chris who played guitar in a local, Fort Collins band. She invited me to open mike night at Avogadro’s Number where he would be playing on a Friday night. So we went and ended up at a table with a random assortment of Fort Collins, Bluegrass musicians who all knew each other. After Chris’s set, we moved to the pool tables where I spotted a guy leaning up against the edge of a booth talking to Chris. He was wearing a light wash pair of Levi’s, an unbuttoned, long-sleeved plaid shirt over a graphic T, and had a shock of curly, dark brown hair peeking out the back of a grey, beanie cap that came down almost to his eyebrows.He had dark brown eyes, a strong jaw, was clean shaven and had this grin on his face like he was causing trouble. I believe exactly what went through my mind right then was “He’s cute and the clothes need some work.”

He turned out to be neighbors with another member of the band and was doing photography as a hobby. So he’d come to the local shows and shoot pics for the band, usually in exchange for free admission. His name was Tony and I now know he was out with his camera trying to break out of his habitual, homebody habits of cleaning and hanging out with his dogs. (Spoiler alert ladies, he’s taken!).

he played a game of pool with me, Renee, and one of her musician friends named Miles. Our game came to an end and another group of guys wanted to play. Tony and Chris agreed to play them with stakes of “Losers have to crawl under the pool table.” It seems odd but actually, it’s the perfect wager. Under the pool table of a dive bar in a college town is an uncharted territory of cobwebs, spilled beer and who knows what else.

They accepted and Tony and Chris beat them handily. Tony was on a roll, sinking ball after ball and they dutifully crawled under the table after the game, much to everyone’s delight! We all headed back towards the stage, I sat next to Renee and Miles plunked down right next to me. Tony ended up at another table. I had my eye on him and planned to go over when the opportunity presented itself and see what he was all about.

My plans were brought to an abrupt halt when Miles tapped me on the shoulder and handed me his phone with the contacts open, wanting my number. I was not interested in Miles at all but I didn’t know what else to do without making a really awkward rest of the evening. So I put my number in and then sat seething because it seemed like a dick thing to do to give a guy your number and then go flirt with someone else, and I just couldn’t bring myself to crush him like that. The night wrapped up quickly and we left. I figured it wasn’t meant to be and spent the next month promptly deleting every text Miles sent me.A month later, in early April, Renee and I went back to Avogadro’s number to watch the band play. We got there, grabbed a table and were heading to the bar when I saw Tony across the room. He spotted us too and came up right behind us in line.. He was relaxed, easy going and quickly secured us for a game of pool later.

He sat next to us and after a few songs we snuck out to play pool. Renee stayed to watch the band. We made stakes again that the loser would crawl under the table. I’m not very good at pool but managed to keep up with him until we were down to the 8 ball and it was my shot. The alcohol kicked in at just the wrong moment and I clipped the cue ball instead of shooting it. Tony graciously offered me another try and my pole made crisp contact and I suck the 8 ball. I immediately conceded that he didn’t have to crawl under the pool table since he had technically let me win.

Instead, he offered to buy me a drink and I ordered Makers Mark on the rocks, my drink of choice at the time as I was very into “being cool and drinking whiskey.” He then asked me to go dance, which I thought showed great courage, and we danced a fast-paced song, neither of us being very good, before he admitted he had injured his ankle skateboarding that day and showed me a picture of it, it was swollen twice the size of his other one.

At this point, he had scored many points. Confident, easy going, bought me a drink, asked me to dance, and then asked for my number. I happily gave it over and as Avogadro’s was closing we headed down the street to the pool hall, another bar after twenty minutes of corralling drunk friends and Tony disappearing to pee in the bushes behind the bar when they wouldn’t let him back in to use the loo.

We had another beer and Tony insisted on biking me home, saying it was “On his way!” It was, in fact, not on his way. If we were at point A of a triangle, I lived at point B and he lived at point C. Nevertheless, I let him bike me home and then we parted ways with the tentative promise of a date hanging in the air. I couldn’t say for sure but rumor has it that he “whooped” into the night air on his ride home that night. I definitely went to bed with a grin on my face.Wanting to see him again, I had offered to work on his hurt leg with the excuse that I needed the massage training and he had countered with dinner. We compromised with massage, then dinner, and texted every day leading up to our date, which was set for the following Wednesday. I distinctly remember Tony sending me this video of Denver the Guilty Dog and that being the exact moment I decided I liked him.

Fast Forward to Wednesday, April 13th, 2016. Tony shows up for the date, I work on his leg and then we head to Choice City Butcher and Deli. I loved that place but later found out Tony was peeved because they didn’t offer their dinner menu and table service on Wednesday nights. Instead, we waited in line to order sandwiches and sat ourselves.

The conversation dragged. I now know this is because Tony was incredibly nervous, and his former, easy-going social interaction was helped greatly by a few beers. Tony is one of those rare people that is a really fun drunk and even two years later I sometimes still have to ask if he’s had a few to really tell.

The tension broke when I accidentally locked myself out of the restaurant while using the bathroom that was shared by three other business in that building, and he had to come let be back in (he remembers this as being a heroic rescue)… After dinner I asked if he wanted to keep hanging out, he responded with “yeah but I need to let my dogs out.” And so we spent an evening on one of the ugliest, but most comfortable leather couches with a large coonhound in between us. Until finally Tony made him get down and we had our first kiss.My younger sister likes to refer to this time as “She went on one date and I never saw her again.” Essentially, I went over one day and never left. It’s now two years later and we’ve started the blog Cleaver Cooking. We traveled to Costa Rica and then one Sunday on that ugly, old red leather couch, I mentioned that I wanted to travel more in the next few years and Tony turned to me and asked: “You got room for two?” We decided to spend the seasons in different cities to experience the U.S and eventually the world.

We’ve lived in Colorado, New Orleans, Salt Lake City, and as you read this we are packing up to head to Portland Maine for the summer. What I’ve learned along the way is It’s the people that make the place. Here’s to many more years with you, meeting new people and exploring new places.

To Be Continued…

April 13, 2018

In March 2016 I was in my final semester of Massage Therapy school in Fort Collins, CO. I wore my hair big, my jeans ripped, and a general attitude of “I’ve got this all figured out.” (Sure, Savannah, sure). I’d been single for three years which was one of the best, and trying, things to ever happen to me. It gave me a chance to develop some standards for myself and for potential partners.

One of my good friends Renee was seeing a guy named Chris who played guitar in a local, Fort Collins band. She invited me to open mike night at Avogadro’s Number where he would be playing on a Friday night. So we went and ended up at a table with a random assortment of Fort Collins, Bluegrass musicians who all knew each other. After Chris’s set, we moved to the pool tables where I spotted a guy leaning up against the edge of a booth talking to Chris. He was wearing a light wash pair of Levi’s, an unbuttoned, long-sleeved plaid shirt over a graphic T, and had a shock of curly, dark brown hair peeking out the back of a grey, beanie cap that came down almost to his eyebrows.

He had dark brown eyes, a strong jaw, was clean shaven and had this grin on his face like he was causing trouble. I believe exactly what went through my mind right then was “He’s cute and the clothes need some work.”

He turned out to be neighbors with another member of the band and was doing photography as a hobby. So he’d come to the local shows and shoot pics for the band, usually in exchange for free admission. His name was Tony and I now know he was out with his camera trying to break out of his habitual, homebody habits of cleaning and hanging out with his dogs. (Spoiler alert ladies, he’s taken!).

he played a game of pool with me, Renee, and one of her musician friends named Miles. Our game came to an end and another group of guys wanted to play. Tony and Chris agreed to play them with stakes of “Losers have to crawl under the pool table.” It seems odd but actually, it’s the perfect wager. Under the pool table of a dive bar in a college town is an uncharted territory of cobwebs, spilled beer and who knows what else.

They accepted and Tony and Chris beat them handily. Tony was on a roll, sinking ball after ball and they dutifully crawled under the table after the game, much to everyone’s delight! We all headed back towards the stage, I sat next to Renee and Miles plunked down right next to me. Tony ended up at another table. I had my eye on him and planned to go over when the opportunity presented itself and see what he was all about.

My plans were brought to an abrupt halt when Miles tapped me on the shoulder and handed me his phone with the contacts open, wanting my number. I was not interested in Miles at all but I didn’t know what else to do without making a really awkward rest of the evening. So I put my number in and then sat seething because it seemed like a dick thing to do to give a guy your number and then go flirt with someone else, and I just couldn’t bring myself to crush him like that. The night wrapped up quickly and we left. I figured it wasn’t meant to be and spent the next month promptly deleting every text Miles sent me.

A month later, in early April, Renee and I went back to Avogadro’s number to watch the band play. We got there, grabbed a table and were heading to the bar when I saw Tony across the room. He spotted us too and came up right behind us in line.. He was relaxed, easy going and quickly secured us for a game of pool later.

He sat next to us and after a few songs we snuck out to play pool. Renee stayed to watch the band. We made stakes again that the loser would crawl under the table. I’m not very good at pool but managed to keep up with him until we were down to the 8 ball and it was my shot. The alcohol kicked in at just the wrong moment and I clipped the cue ball instead of shooting it. Tony graciously offered me another try and my pole made crisp contact and I suck the 8 ball. I immediately conceded that he didn’t have to crawl under the pool table since he had technically let me win.

Instead, he offered to buy me a drink and I ordered Makers Mark on the rocks, my drink of choice at the time as I was very into “being cool and drinking whiskey.” He then asked me to go dance, which I thought showed great courage, and we danced a fast-paced song, neither of us being very good, before he admitted he had injured his ankle skateboarding that day and showed me a picture of it, it was swollen twice the size of his other one.

At this point, he had scored many points. Confident, easy going, bought me a drink, asked me to dance, and then asked for my number. I happily gave it over and as Avogadro’s was closing we headed down the street to the pool hall, another bar after twenty minutes of corralling drunk friends and Tony disappearing to pee in the bushes behind the bar when they wouldn’t let him back in to use the loo.

We had another beer and Tony insisted on biking me home, saying it was “On his way!” It was, in fact, not on his way. If we were at point A of a triangle, I lived at point B and he lived at point C. Nevertheless, I let him bike me home and then we parted ways with the tentative promise of a date hanging in the air. I couldn’t say for sure but rumor has it that he “whooped” into the night air on his ride home that night. I definitely went to bed with a grin on my face.

Wanting to see him again, I had offered to work on his hurt leg with the excuse that I needed the massage training and he had countered with dinner. We compromised with massage, then dinner, and texted every day leading up to our date, which was set for the following Wednesday. I distinctly remember Tony sending me this video of Denver the Guilty Dog and that being the exact moment I decided I liked him.

Fast Forward to Wednesday, April 13th, 2016. Tony shows up for the date, I work on his leg and then we head to Choice City Butcher and Deli. I loved that place but later found out Tony was peeved because they didn’t offer their dinner menu and table service on Wednesday nights. Instead, we waited in line to order sandwiches and sat ourselves.

The conversation dragged. I now know this is because Tony was incredibly nervous, and his former, easy-going social interaction was helped greatly by a few beers. Tony is one of those rare people that is a really fun drunk and even two years later I sometimes still have to ask if he’s had a few to really tell.

The tension broke when I accidentally locked myself out of the restaurant while using the bathroom that was shared by three other business in that building, and he had to come let be back in (he remembers this as being a heroic rescue)… After dinner I asked if he wanted to keep hanging out, he responded with “yeah but I need to let my dogs out.” And so we spent an evening on one of the ugliest, but most comfortable leather couches with a large coonhound in between us. Until finally Tony made him get down and we had our first kiss.

My younger sister likes to refer to this time as “She went on one date and I never saw her again.” Essentially, I went over one day and never left. It’s now two years later and we’ve started the blog Cleaver Cooking. We traveled to Costa Rica and then one Sunday on that ugly, old red leather couch, I mentioned that I wanted to travel more in the next few years and Tony turned to me and asked: “You got room for two?” We decided to spend the seasons in different cities to experience the U.S and eventually the world.

We’ve lived in Colorado, New Orleans, Salt Lake City, and as you read this we are packing up to head to Portland Maine for the summer. What I’ve learned along the way is It’s the people that make the place. Here’s to many more years with you, meeting new people and exploring new places.

To Be Continued…

Living Outside the Law

Savannah walking through Gilgal park

March 23, 2018

If you’ve followed along with us since our time in New Orleans you’ll remember I sold Wanda the Honda our first month there, as Louisiana Insurance and registration fees combined were outrageous and Tony and I really don’t need two cars right now. Well, I sent my car off happily to live with another family and hadn’t thought about license plates or registration since.

That is until two weeks ago when my boss at Ritual Chocolate asked me if I’d been given a hard time by any officers for having plates that expired last November. I was shocked… Surely they weren’t expired, Tony was always very on top of that sort of thing and I’d been pulled over a few days ago and the officer told me I had a tail light out and that I needed to replace the cracked windshield. Not a word he said about anyone’s registration. But sure enough, I went out and looked and a glaring “11/17” Sticker gave it away. I was officially living outside the law and had been mindlessly speeding up and down the mountain roads (Speeding safely Mom, if you’re reading this) and had no idea the fines I could have faced.

So in the event that you find yourself in Utah with Colorado plates that expired last November when you lived in New Orleans, and neither of you noticed till now here is what to do:

  1. Look up penalties for driving an unregistered car. Realize that $1,000 is a lot of money.
  2. Look up how long you have when moving to a new state to register a vehicle. Discover that you are two days past the allotted amount of time.
  3. Consider selling the car that’s in Tony’s name to Savannah so that it looks like I just bought it.
  4. Realize your insurance took effect in January (because you were responsible about that) and would rat you out.
  5. Look up requirements to get your vehicle registered in Utah. Cross your fingers that you will pass the emissions test.
  6. Look up requirements for getting a Utah drivers license which is a prereq for getting your car registered. Begin studying for the required written test (really Utah?)
  7. Realize your rental agreement is all you can produce as proof of residency and it will also rat you out for being late.
  8. Look up the fine for being late getting a Utah drivers license. Decide $10 dollars isn’t’ too bad.
  9. Wonder why it is that you must show proof of residency to register your vehicle within 60 days of moving but that you cannot establish residency until you’ve lived in Utah for a year.
  10. Realize your passport is expired. Look for Tony’s Birth Certificate. Realize his mother has it in Wisconsin.
  11. Open a bottle of wine and decide that it will all be fine.

Spoiler alert: It was all fine. We passed the emissions, Tony’s Mom shipped him the certificate, he passed the written test, and we are now the proud new owners of some snazzy, Utah plates and Tony is very displeased with his new license picture.In other news Tony and I visited the Gilgal Sculpture Garden last weekend which I stumbled upon by accident trying to find something else. It’s this unique, tiny garden that is hidden away right, smack in the middle of a bunch of houses. The sculpture artist was a devout Mormon and it was fascinating reading about his work. You can read about him and take a visual tour on their website at gilgalgarden.org/. We visited on a snowy morning and were the only ones in the garden for most of our visit. We’ve been trying to do one, new thing a week to force ourselves to get out of our routine. Let us know in the comments if you have any recommendations for Utah or what adventure you’re going on this week, wherever you’re reading from!And last but not least I cannot say enough good things about the Salt Lake Culinary Center, as a place to work, a place to take cooking classes, and just a place where amazing people end up at every day. My friend, and also Chef Instructor, Paul Morello snapped this photo for me while I prepared a simple, Cuban salad in his class, Havana Nights. He reminds me of Paul Childs from the movie Julie and Julia and besides being an excellent chef, he is starting a business importing and distributing specialty foods at chefoodsusa.com so be sure to check out his website in the near future! And If you live in the Salt Lake area take a cooking class! I’ll be teaching through the end of April and I’d love to see you! But you’ll be in great hands with any of the instructors on staff, they are truly amazing people. You can view the class calendar here www.saltlakeculinarycenter.com/classes/ Thanks for tuning in for our adventures this week, I hope you have the best Friday, it is the first Friday of Spring, after all.

To Be Continued…

March 23, 2018

If you’ve followed along with us since our time in New Orleans you’ll remember I sold Wanda the Honda our first month there, as Louisiana Insurance and registration fees combined were outrageous and Tony and I really don’t need two cars right now. Well, I sent my car off happily to live with another family and hadn’t thought about license plates or registration since.

That is until two weeks ago when my boss at Ritual Chocolate asked me if I’d been given a hard time by any officers for having plates that expired last November. I was shocked… Surely they weren’t expired, Tony was always very on top of that sort of thing and I’d been pulled over a few days ago and the officer told me I had a tail light out and that I needed to replace the cracked windshield. Not a word he said about anyone’s registration. But sure enough, I went out and looked and a glaring “11/17” Sticker gave it away. I was officially living outside the law and had been mindlessly speeding up and down the mountain roads (Speeding safely Mom, if you’re reading this) and had no idea the fines I could have faced.

So in the event that you find yourself in Utah with Colorado plates that expired last November when you lived in New Orleans, and neither of you noticed till now here is what to do:

  1. Look up penalties for driving an unregistered car. Realize that $1,000 is a lot of money.
  2. Look up how long you have when moving to a new state to register a vehicle. Discover that you are two days past the allotted amount of time.
  3. Consider selling the car that’s in Tony’s name to Savannah so that it looks like I just bought it.
  4. Realize your insurance took effect in January (because you were responsible about that) and would rat you out.
  5. Look up requirements to get your vehicle registered in Utah. Cross your fingers that you will pass the emissions test.
  6. Look up requirements for getting a Utah drivers license which is a prereq for getting your car registered. Begin studying for the required written test (really Utah?)
  7. Realize your rental agreement is all you can produce as proof of residency and it will also rat you out for being late.
  8. Look up the fine for being late getting a Utah drivers license. Decide $10 dollars isn’t’ too bad.
  9. Wonder why it is that you must show proof of residency to register your vehicle within 60 days of moving but that you cannot establish residency until you’ve lived in Utah for a year.
  10. Realize your passport is expired. Look for Tony’s Birth Certificate. Realize his mother has it in Wisconsin.
  11. Open a bottle of wine and decide that it will all be fine.

Spoiler alert: It was all fine. We passed the emissions, Tony’s Mom shipped him the certificate, he passed the written test, and we are now the proud new owners of some snazzy, Utah plates and Tony is very displeased with his new license picture.

In other news Tony and I visited the Gilgal Sculpture Garden last weekend which I stumbled upon by accident trying to find something else. It’s this unique, tiny garden that is hidden away right, smack in the middle of a bunch of houses. The sculpture artist was a devout Mormon and it was fascinating reading about his work. You can read about him and take a visual tour on their website at gilgalgarden.org/. We visited on a snowy morning and were the only ones in the garden for most of our visit. We’ve been trying to do one, new thing a week to force ourselves to get out of our routine. Let us know in the comments if you have any recommendations for Utah or what adventure you’re going on this week, wherever you’re reading from!

And last but not least I cannot say enough good things about the Salt Lake Culinary Center, as a place to work, a place to take cooking classes, and just a place where amazing people end up at every day. My friend, and also Chef Instructor, Paul Morello snapped this photo for me while I prepared a simple, Cuban salad in his class, Havana Nights. He reminds me of Paul Childs from the movie Julie and Julia and besides being an excellent chef, he is starting a business importing and distributing specialty foods at chefoodsusa.com so be sure to check out his website in the near future! And If you live in the Salt Lake area take a cooking class! I’ll be teaching through the end of April and I’d love to see you! But you’ll be in great hands with any of the instructors on staff, they are truly amazing people. You can view the class calendar here www.saltlakeculinarycenter.com/classes/ Thanks for tuning in for our adventures this week, I hope you have the best Friday, it is the first Friday of Spring, after all.

To Be Continued…