Category Archives: Tails

Roanoke’s third worst snow can’t stop us

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We started our cross-country road trip in the midst of Roanoke’s third worst snowstorm, ever. Twenty to 25 inches of snow fell Wednesday afternoon through late Thursday afternoon, stopping interstate traffic and trapping Virginians in their houses. Meteorologists started saying over the weekend that this wouldn’t be one of those over-hype clipper systems; this was the big ‘un. And it was. After my parents helped pack up my house and fill in the dog’s holes in the backyard over the weekend, I spent my last two days of work running errands to the post office, UPS (quite the sticker shock for some of those 50-pound boxes), UPS again and Goodwill. Plans to wrap up my life in Fredericksburg on Wednesday had to change quickly–I wasn’t messing with this storm, and it wasn’t messing with us.

So I said goodbye to friends and coworkers, played Tetris with my remaining bags and boxes in my car, and drove to southwest Virginia late Tuesday night. The snow began just about 12 hours later, flakes immediately sticking to the frozen ground and accumulating on roads. The world turned gray, and cars skidded on slippery roads. The next morning, we had about 1 foot, but plows had already come through our neighborhood once. My dad and I thought we would be set… and then, it started snowing again.

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Over Thursday afternoon, another 8+ inches fell as a system swirled over and over Roanoke. We watched the radar, and the gray blob kept circling. Cars, patio furniture and tree trunks disappeared, but Rachel found all this snow to be one of the best things ever. She leaped and bounced and smiled as her lean body plowed paths through our yard. If only she understood this would be her last snow for awhile. Using a fair share of s#!&’s and other appropriate words, my dad, aunt and I shoveled out the little Camry from the front yard, hoping plows wouldn’t block it back in, if/when they returned. All we could do was eat soup and wait.

When we woke up Friday, amazingly, our road had been cleared, and the warming sun  was beginning to soften the remaining snow.  Other streets in our neighborhood, and three-quarters of the city, hadn’t been touched even once, so I’m incredibly grateful to Roanoke City for taking care of us. My little sister had loving shared her stupid cold with the two of us, so, on top of it all, the two of us were sneezy and sniffly. (We’ve since been quickly working through a few boxes of Puffs Plus and a bag of drugs.) But, we were determined to begin the trip. A tarp on the snow became our staging area, and we ferried boxes and bags down the driveway to where the car had been parked before the storm.

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Somehow, it all fit. Even the three extra boxes of pint glasses, the half-full bottles of liquor from the Firefly Distillery, the Kitchen Aid mixer and two trash bags of extra clothes that I was trying to avoid paying to ship. The car is cozy, for the side contains our overnight bags, a blanket and pillow, a huge bag of snacks to tide us over the next 3,000 miles, a lunchbox of yogurts and hummus, and a whole bag of refillable water bottles, which we go through daily. Pup has about half the back seat, which is at least more than what she had on our trip home to Roanoke.

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And by about 11 a.m. Friday, we were off. On to Tennessee and Alabama for Day 1.

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I’m moving to San Diego!

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The cake worked. The next Monday was sweeter, brighter.

And now, life’s about to be a whole lot sunnier.

In two weeks–likely on Valentine’s Day–I’m moving West, to San Diego, where a 70-degree heat wave at the end of January coincided with yet another “polar vortex” in the East. Sweaters are staying in Virginia. Kitchen supplies are coming with me. And pup’s along for the ride.

Here’s the plan: My wonderful parents are helping to box up my belongings next weekend. We’ll ship them cross country, and my furniture will find new homes. My last day at the newspaper is Feb. 11, and  I’ll spend a day or so back in my hometown. Then, the bulky Kitchen Aid and dog crate will get stowed in the trunk and I’m sure we’ll cringe at how little space there actually is. My dad’s a pro a figuring out the puzzle on car trips, so, hopefully we’ll have room for a few suitcases, a cooler of treats, some books on CD. The two (three) of us will spend the next five-ish days bonding in the 2000 Camry, with plenty of dog/human stops along the way. If all goes well, we’ll find a few adventures, and maybe even snap a photo at that little spot you may have heard of, the Grand Canyon.

At the end of the road, we’ll be able to pick up lemons and avocados at farmers markets, and shells and sand dollars at the many, many beaches… and more!

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It’s a huge, scary, life-changing, nerve-wracking, major leap of faith. Leap of love. And I couldn’t be more excited. Three thousand miles have stretched between Tom and I for two-and-a-half years, longer than I would have ever guessed if you had asked me back in October 2011, when he and his dad packed up the U-Haul for his own adventure. And finally, within days, we’re going to be together–with the pup–in a sunny California city of 1.4 million.

The move will also be a personal challenge, for, as I have learned, California is really, really far from Virginia, where my family and friends live. Making this decision has been quite an endeavor, with many tears and questions and doubts over the past few months. But, knowing Tom’s there, that we’ll finally be in the same place, and lemon and orange trees abound, that makes it worth it. Timing couldn’t be better, and really, I’m not yet 25, so what better time is there to drop everything and embark on such a huge, invigorating (expensive) change?

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After writing over a check for two arms and a leg, we have a bright little apartment next to Balboa Park that we’ll call home for the next 12 months. I’m excited to decorate, though compromising on colors and furniture will likely be our first challenge to overcome. Plus, I’ll be on quite the budget until I get the whole job thing sorted out. If only Rachel could bring in a paycheck, too.

I’ll share what I can as we drive, and as we start this new part of our lives. Rachel and Tom will certainly have some acclimating to do with each other, while I get over freaking out that I’ve gone from a small Civil War-obsessed town of 27,000 to being surrounded by 50 times as many people, many who surf. Fredericksburg is 10 square miles, San Diego is 372. The differences are just beginning.

So. If you have tips, advice, questions, warnings, restaurant recommendations, frugal decorating tips, relationship suggestions, dog traveling tips or just some love, please share! This is big, and I need you with me! And I really can’t wait for the adventure, and to take you along with me. Let’s go!

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All about apples: pie, sauce, butter, brandy and challah

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Fourteen pounds of apples may be just a few too many.

I didn’t mean to purchase this many, I truly didn’t. A half-bushel looked manageable at the orchard on a horribly rainy Sunday, but once home, the apples multiplied, filling bowls and counters, then forcing their way into every meal.

When I was three and a half, apples became applesauce, end of story. In what’s become a story told every year, when I was itty bitty, my parents had detailed to me our plans for the next day. Dreams of orchards full of trees and bowls full of applesauce apparently danced in my head overnight. As my mom tells it, I popped out of bed at 6 a.m. the next morning, ran to her room and stood right next to her face. “Pick papples, make papplesauce!” I excitedly announced. No time for sleeping–we had important fall activities. Just like picking strawberries and making jam has been a tradition for my whole life, so has finding fresh, local apples and making a simple, all-apple and no-sugar applesauce to stockpile in the freezer. Throughout the year, we’ll pull out the square Ziploc containers to enjoy our preserved fall bounty.  Continue reading

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Avocado toast with eggs for breakfast

Honey nut cheerios used to be my mainstay. For years, a bowl of this cereal–often topped with sliced banana–would fill me up until it came time for lunch. Little else filled the breakfast role. My mother must have purchased countless boxes of cereal, quickly turning to the larger bags of store brand instead. Occasionally, I’d opt for bowls of yogurt or oatmeal, but before too long, back to the sweetened o’s.

Maybe growing up, I needed consistency; change was bad, cheerios were good. Cereal was never a risky endeavor–there’s no way to go wrong. And back then, avocado never would have been anywhere near a breakfast dish. No way.

But. I didn’t know what I was missing out on. Accepting that change can (sometimes) be good, I vary my breakfast almost every day now. A few minutes spent cooking in the morning keeps my diet interesting, and prevents boredom at the kitchen table. Oatmeal sweetened with maple syrup and topped with almonds and chia seeds one day; peach pancakes the next; a fried egg sandwich later in the week; a veggie and feta filled omelet another day; and plain Stonyfield yogurt topped with local granola to round out the week. Blackberry scones, filled with the remaining (frozen) berries from this summer’s picking, will come up for their turn soon enough.

Of course, I have to say I’m very thankful that I have the time in the morning to cook as I please. Between the sunrise barks (aka the dog wakeup call) and a newsroom that starts the day closer to 10, I’ve got plenty of opportunity to whip up a little something simple, and to sit down to enjoy whatever it may be.

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Sunrises, coyotes, and deep thoughts during morning walks; peach & sour cream pancakes

Morning walks are my escape.

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Every day, my phone starts playing The Weepies’ “Gotta Have You” around 6:15 a.m., well before the sun makes its way into the day. Moments later, Rachel’s barks echo through the house and to my upstairs bedroom, forcing my body to get vertical, dressed and downstairs within seconds, because otherwise, I’m afraid that one day, my housemate may start to fuss. I certainly would.

Glass of water chugged, teeth brushed and sneakers tied, dog and I are out the door around 6:30. She’s always ready to start her day, to sniff and pull, to chase cats and eat mulch, and to pick up chicken bones that I have to pry out of her strong jaws. Me, I’m awake, but just as my body needs to get its blood flowing again, my mind needs its own exercise.

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English muffins and strawberry-rhubarb jam

Rachel strikes again.

After this morning’s walk, I set out all the pieces for my breakfast on the counter: the first strawberries of the season, local butter, strawberry-rhubarb jam that I made yesterday on my day off, and a whole wheat English muffin.

Before toasting, buttering and jamming, I went into the bathroom for a second, and thought I heard some suspicious movements on the outside of the door.

Sure enough, the pup had a face that was both naughty and proud, and I couldn’t pry her mouth open to see what she had gotten. First, I thought she took a strawberry. Then, about to pop the English muffin into the toaster, I realized it was gone!

That darn dog stole my breakfast. I thought about withholding hers for awhile… but figured she’d soon enough just take my new English muffin if I turned around for even a half-second. But really, it was the buttery and sweet toppings that I didn’t want to share.

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Rachel’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

Last night, all I wanted was a homemade chocolate chip cookie right out of the oven. Maybe two or three, actually, with a glass of milk and some DVR’d episodes of Big Bang Theory.

But unfortunately, Rachel’s thoughts were along the same vein. (Minus the TV catch-up, of course.)

RACHELGETTHOSEPAWSOFFTHECOUNTERNOWYOUSTUPIDDOG. THOSEAREMYCOOKIES.

She didn’t even wait for the cookies to be baked though–this Counter Dog preferred the dough. Sorry coworkers, the cookies had been destined for the newsroom’s calorie counter, the file cabinet near the editor pod that too frequently hosts buttery and sugary treats. Friday seemed like an appropriate chocolate chip cookie day. But no, not anymore.

The classic Nestle Toll House recipe  always satisfies the craving for a quick, yummy dessert. I mean, there’s a reason it’s been around for so long and used as a key part of the inventory for so many bake sales. It’s practically perfect. (Though you can always up the brown sugar to 1 cup and reduce the white to 1/2 cup for chewier cookies. Or swap in different chips or mini m&m’s like I did last night. Or sprinkle the top with some salt for that salty-sweet combo that everyone loves. The variations are endless.)

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A dog’s tail

Uh oh, something’s wrong here…

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Did Rachel notice? Of course not. She briefly looked at her tail as she got up, shook her body from nose to tip of tail, and continued on her way to dog about the house.

If you need some more pup pictures this morning, look at The 40 Greatest Dog GIFs of All Time. No matter how many times I’ve seen this page, I always chuckle and get a big grin.

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