June 2014 archive

San Francisco – Our Day in Pictures

By Natalie


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Riding on the trolly with Laura. Grandparents may or may not have been left careening downward on that fast moving trolly. Don’t worry, we were sure to leave them with light saber Jesus.


Exactly. What on earth, why was this random picture on the trolly?

we may have been terribly split up from the rest of the family but it’s alright because as Laura so perfectly described it, this experience was like a weird dream. Unexpectedly split up into several different groups, and then there was the three of us, walking around Chinatown with Dad and Natalie.

We did however take the time on our quest to regroup to see fun places like this building.



And then it just kind of hits you all at once. Woah I’m across the country! I’m in San Francisco.



And then you see things that remind you of your pup at home.


But trust me Bingley is having a grand old time. I know, because we’ve been receiving pictures like these.. Playtime with his best bud Jack.

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Out Here on the West Coast

By Natalie

On Thursday we waved goodbye to Virginia, who unfortunately is still married to humidity, and we traveled all the way to California to get away from it all. To take a break from the work week. A rest from the hustle and bustle of life. A time to rejuvenate ourselves, and enjoy experiences together. Leaving our crazy ball of energy labrador in the most trusting hands of a good friend. That was the only hard part.


Saving, and planning for a vacation may not ever be the most fun thing to do, but it’s definitely worth it in the end. We’re the type of people that would rather sacrifice the day to day pleasures, and conveniences, like cable, a huge house in the suburbs, and a car for each of us, to be able to save for experiences. I would highly recommend such a lifestyle.

Because travel does the heart and mind good.

Waking up extra early to go to the airport isn’t always the most fun, but when you find that you and your father in law are twinsies, and you’ve hardly slept from the excitement of packing, it kind of makes it all better.

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I love love love flying. I have to say though, while once flying standby may have tainted that particular experience, it has not quite tainted my love of airports, and all the cultures they bring together. I still get anxious when I fly, like most people. Claustrophobic, oddly hungry, and worst of all for the window seat, a bad case of the nervous pee’s. But! It hasn’t shied me away from traveling yet, because when I travel I feel refreshed, creative, and at my most loving, and observant state. Which as a writer is of the utmost import!

For now I’ll leave you with just a little something.

What’s in Natalie’s Carry on?

  • Yarn, and crochet hooks – To work on a new baby blanket for a particular new niece who’s coming soon!
  • My most recent book club book – The Book Thief
  • Chapstick
  • Phone – For photos mostly.
  • Notepad – For jotting down my observations.

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And surprise! It’s a sleepy Brandon. He is the greatest. He worked so very hard to get us out on this vacation, and planned every little piece of it. I promise you, I couldn’t appreciate him more.

Stay tuned for more on our trip! 
The Poes

Samson, My Samson

By Natalie

Today I miss you.

Most days I miss you.

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The sweet dog smell that I loved to take in for the first time in my life. I miss our cuddles. I miss how you laid behind me while I cooked. I miss how happy you would get when we’d come home. I miss your sweet low groans when you’d get excited about something.

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I loved watching you play. I loved rescuing you. I loved giving you a home. I loved the feeling of attachment I had with you. But it made it so much harder. I can’t explain to you the traumatizing emotions I felt when I had to see you in the shelter after you were taken away. Dozens of dogs barked constantly around you. Volunteers screaming behind closed doors. And there you sat in your own filth because who has the time to take out a dog who’s on death row? I want to forget the nightmare. I want to ignore that they never gave you the toys I left. I want to forget how you whined in confusion while you watched me walk away.

But I never want to forget the last time I held you. In that small little room, just the three of us, and with tears in my eyes I tried my best to apologize to you.

I am so sorry my Samson. Sorry I couldn’t give you a better life. Sorry the opinions of people hold so much value. But thanks sweet boy, for being such a joy to me while I had you. For teaching Brandon and I to grow closer together through it all. For showing us who true friends are. And simply for being the light in my life that you were.

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What’s on the Grill?

By Natalie

I’ve talked about the magic of the grill before. If you don’t have one, I’m telling you, you need one! Our grill has saved us from so many hungry disputes. I don’t know about you, but when I’m hungry, I’m not happy. And the grill puts food in our bellies quickly. Get outside! Let your man grill for you. Who can pass up, a man who’s happy to cook with his ridiculously large grilling utensils, less for you to prepare, and less dishes. What are you waiting for? It’s fabulous.

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Our Favorite Meals on the Grill

Foil Dinners- Here’s my favorite foil dinner recipe.

Steak- Recently we’ve been purchasing tenderloins fresh from Wegmans, and they’ve been more than perfect. B seasons them with Molasses Bacon, and leaves them on the grill until they’re about medium the way we like them. But of course, any meat thermometer will tell you a safe temp. if you’re worried.

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Burgers and hotdogs- We prepare our own burgers with ground beef mixed with Molasses Bacon seasoning, and a hamburger seasoning. Then form them into patties. Serve with onion, tomato, lettuce, and cheese. Toss on grill until cooked to your liking.

Make your own pizza- We use a ready made dough from Wegmans, and add a little bit of spaghetti sauce to the center. Sprinkle a generous amount of Mozzarella cheese, and add whatever toppings you’d like from there. We’ve done Pepperoni, sausage, basil, & tomato. Toss on the grill for about 5 min, until the cheese has melted.

Beef Shish Kabobs- We’ve prepared our own shish kabobs with sliced beef or chicken and veggies. But we’ve also grilled the already prepared ones from Wegmans and they’re delicious.

Cedar Plank Salmon- Seasoned with garlic salt, olive oil, and meat magic seasoning. B has been grilling these on cedar planks which can be found in most grocery stores near the grilling materials.

Our Favorite Veggies on the Grill

Asparagus-I actually didn’t even like asparagus, until I tried it grilled. Prepare with light olive oil and salt.

Corn with Husk- Pull husks down. Rinse corn. Sprinkle with salt. Pull husks back up. Toss onto grill for about 10 minutes.

Peppers & Onions- We’ve grilled these while on shish kabobs.

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Your pup is sure to beg for some smokey goodness.

B’s Favorite Seasonings


DIY: Sewing Jar

By Natalie


Here’s what you’ll need…

  • Mason Jar
  • Fabric
  • Hot Glue Gun
  • Scissors
  • Fluff
  • Things to decorate the outside such as card stock stickers (Optional)

Step One: Cut out a circle of fabric that measures about twice as large as your lid. Extra fabric can be cut if necessary. You don’t want to be left with too little fabric. Step Two: Place a ball of fluff on your fabric, and press the mason jar lid to it. Use a little more than you would think necessary. You want a fluffy top. photo 3

Step Three: Squeeze hot glue onto the rubber part of the lid, and press fabric onto the hot glue. If you feel like you need to add more fluff this is your last chance. When there’s a small opening like the picture shown below you can stuff more fluff in before you seal the circle.

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Step Four: Place lid on top of mason jar and screw the second lid over it. Because of the hot glue and the fabric the lid will not screw on all the way down, but it should still be able to close.

Step Five. Add any decorative things you’d like on the outside. Place push pins in the top, and any sewing materials you’d like on the bottom. Such as bobbins, buttons, pins, measuring tape, etc.

I made these as gifts for Mother’s Day, So I tossed a long piece of lace and buttons in the jars for looks.

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Weekend in Pictures

By Natalie

Do you ever have those weekends where you finally get a chance to sit Sunday night, and you wonder “What on earth did I do all weekend?” Mondays are not my favorite. I can’t imagine they’d be anyone’s favorite. It’s not so much the going back to work part. I enjoy my job. It’s the leaving the family behind part that I really dread. After a weekend full of love, and events with family I find it difficult to muster up the strength to lock Bingley up in his crate for the day, and drop B off for a similarly long day.

This past weekend was beautiful. It was hot, after all it’s June. Welcome summer. We missed you.

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My weekend started off with a long trail walk next to the Bug. Should I mention he is huge? There was a time when I could pick him up in my arms, to walk the poor little stinker out in the dark in the wee hours of the morning. And then he grew. Faster than my eyes and heart could handle.


Oh Friday night. How my young heart feels you should be honored as the king of weekend happiness. But my married heart of 3 years remembers… It’s just another night. And we’ve worked all week. We’re kind of tired. And Friday night, we enjoyed you in our dating years. We still do. But these days we seem to enjoy you more in the comfort of our own home. Is that so bad? Enjoying your Friday night freedom in our pjs, watching Netflix, with maybe a bag of popcorn, and a soda.


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I headed off to Richmond with the fam for a very important event for all of us…

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The 3rd annual 2014 Lupus Summit. We spent the day becoming more educated on my sister’s illness. The summit included several doctor’s who were so gracious to provide their time to help loved ones better understand this autoimmune disease, and all the treatments that are out there.

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As hard as I tried, and tried, The only family member who was not camera shy was Sean.

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And he was just kind of being a goober. We’re all kind of goobers when we get together. My sister Nadir and I are grown women, and for some reason I find that when we get together for things like this we just seem to get all giggly, and act like children. Something that only a sisterly friendship could consist of.

After the doctors had a chance to speak. We were sent off into breakouts. We attended an informal Lupus Caregivers session where we were able to voice the difficulties we were feeling. I had no idea it would be so relieving to hear that there are other people out there who feel just the same way. And their loved one with lupus is going through all the heartache, pressure, doctor’s appointments, and struggles that my sister Nem is going through. I walked out of that room and when I saw her waiting for us I gave her a hug. Because I’ve been frustrated too. I’ve wanted to do more. And after feeling so much relief from voicing a few thoughts I knew that it was time to just give her a hug, and realize that she’s still my same sister.

And then there was Rita’s…

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That Saturday evening it was hot. When you’re in the car in the sweltering heat, and your husband turns to you and says “Rita’s?” You do not protest. First cherry italian ice of the summer. 2014, I see a good future in you.

DIY: Decorative Gift Bags

By Natalie

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I snagged these medium sized brown bags a few weeks ago, and while they’re perfect in their own little brown paper bag way I felt the need to dress them up. If you’re looking for a simpler more personal look for your gift giving this year this is the perfect project for you.

Here’s what you’ll need…

  • Brown Gift Bags
  • Scrapbooking paper, or Cardstock
  • Adhesive
  • Cardstock Stickers (Optional)

All I did was slice up the paper how I wanted it to fit to the bag. Put a little adhesive on the back, being sure to cover the edges well. Add a Cardstock sticker if you’d like (Or really any little do bobs you might find at the craft store. Like fabric flowers, or buttons.)

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The pink one has part of a book page of course. Cause you know… I love book pages.

Crafting doesn’t have to be difficult, expensive, or time consuming! There you go. Myth Busted! You just have to find the simpler things to get you started. 


The Trouble with Reviews

By Natalie

What is our trouble with unhappy endings? I’m not just talking about the stories that end poorly, I’m talking about the stories with unsatisfying endings. They get to us. And there we are pleading desperately for more closure. I recently stopped by the library downtown to pick up a couple of books. Because books lately have been a healthy food to my mind. I just needed to pick up a few quick reads to get me through the weekend. I finished a book called The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp, and it was a book that caused me to think. Which is more than I could ask for in an author. The story was kind of tragic really. But the more I think about it the more I attach myself to the story.

The trouble with book reviews and any review for that matter is that everyone has differing opinions. I become frustrated with the people who rate everything 5 stars because not everything is worthy of 5 stars. But I also grow frustrated when I see people rate stories so poorly. There’s just too great of a spectrum. Too many different genres to compare one from the other. You must compare mysteries on the scale of other mysteries. Classics on the scale of other classics. Just because something was a different genre doesn’t necessarily mean that it is worse. Different stories speak to different people.

Let’s unpack this for a second. Reviews should be based on such things as storyline and character development. Intrigue certainly has grounds to be judged, for what good is a story if it does not capture you? Emotion of all things certainly should not have a large role in a review, because we are all innately biased. We are creatures of opinion, with differing morals, and all walks of life. This is why it frustrates me when people rate a story too low simply because they do not agree with the lifestyle of the characters.

Upon finishing The Spectacular Now I felt so empty. Before giving this book a low review I stopped to think… In a way the author did his job. I felt just as empty as the main character of the story. And isn’t that the point? To relate with in some way, to feel what the characters feel? To emerge yourself in the story and be overcome with emotion over the characters. Ok ok you’re about to have an intervention with me. Natalie… too many books. Never. Like I said, reading has been good for the mind. Swirling my imagination in every which direction. Giving me fuel to write myself. It is one of the only things that keeps me writing.


 And so… I just had to say that not all stories have happy endings. And that’s difficult to accept because we all want happy endings. Hence the reason the movie version of this book just had to take the extra five minutes to provide closure. To give you what you wanted. But is that honest? Is life really full of all happy endings? No. And that’s why I kind of loved this book. The main character Sutter Keely was the most tragic character. In the end he felt he was this certain type of person and he loved this girl, but he wanted what was best for her. And it wasn’t him. As much as you wanted it to be him, you know it wasn’t. But you admire him for doing all he did for her anyway.

This is all just to say that the next time you review something take a second to think about the story. Did you not like it because it was poorly told. Or did you not like it because it didn’t turn out the way you wanted it to?