Mexican hot chocolate & snow days

Snow days always seemed to mean one thing in my family’s home: Mexican hot chocolate.

mexican hot chocolate

After long, cold days of sledding, my mom would make a big batch of Mexican hot chocolate to go along with fresh cookies. Topped with whipped cream and cinnamon, the mugs of cocoa would help my sister and I to warm right back up.

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A new look: Counter Dog

Did you notice the new look?!

Since getting Rachel in June, my life has changed quite a bit–everything seems to revolve around her needing long, long walks and lots of playtime to get her endless energy out. After the fact, I learned that American Labrador retrievers are “livelier,” to put it mildly. I assumed that being a rescue, she was a mix of some sort, but after more and more research, I think she’s just this breed of Lab that tends to have A LOT more energy. If she had her way, tennis balls would fly in the back yard to be chased for hours, towels could be chewed freely, cats would be up for the chase, walks would never end and the food bowl would have an endless supply. But this 55-pound puppy (now 1 year and 3 months) is also just as happy curling up in my lap in the evenings before bedtime.


On the new and improved “Counter Dog: A girl, her Lab and their kitchen,” I’ll tell quite a few stories about Rachel, and continue sharing my favorite recipes. Because really, we all know that  everything is better with a puppy picture, even good food.

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What if Rachel could tweet?

If 9-month-old Rachel had a smartphone and could Tweet and take Instagram pics, what would she say? Tom and I think she’d probably share some pretty interesting 140-character messages with the world wide interwebs.

Frisbee! Bark! Peppy can run with the big dogs!

Water! Bark! Nice and cool.

Food? Yum! Drop some! Bark!

Sleepy. Too much playtime.

Bone!! Yum!! Chew chew chew.

Cuddles. Boyfriend? Eh. Bark. I like Katie best.

Too much fetch. Rrr.

Raising Rachel

This is Rachel. She is quite the mess.


Last week, I adopted Rachel, a seven-month-old black lab, from the Fredericksburg SPCA. I had been checking out the dogs at the local shelters for awhile, and when I played with her earlier in the month, I decided it was finally time for a puppy. And oh goodness. Life has certainly changed. (Thus, fewer posts on the blog!)

Rachel thinks she’s a lap dog, but she’s almost the same size as Dana!

The first few days were rough. Rachel didn’t quite know I was the boss. A spray bottle filled with water has mostly fixed that misunderstanding on her part, but she’s still using her teeth to show her love. At least, I hope it’s love?


Speaking of teeth, she tore apart the hand-me-down dog bed that my dad sent me over the weekend. It only lasted a few days. Now, she’ll have to make do with a towel underneath the crate.

20120618-150426.jpgShe also chewed right through my roommate’s couch. Yum? It certainly tasted better before being covered with a bitter apple chewing deterrent. Anyone know how to get furniture repaired? (I’m so sorry, Emily!!)

“Nighttime” is still a difficult concept for Rachel. As soon as any bit of light comes through the shades in my bedroom in the morning, she’s ready to play. Even before 6 a.m. Moving around the crate makes the metal jingle, and I, being paranoid about accidents, have to climb out of bed, try to make it down the stairs without tripping over the 46-pound pup, and let her out in the backyard. If only she would stay out there by herself, then maybe I could sleep another hour. But no, she wants to sit next to the door and whine if I go back inside. And, I’m not sure how much I trust her. I haven’t slept much lately, needless to say. I’m not quite sure how single parents have jobs and raise kids, and manage to function during the day.


But Rachel has been so much fun. She absolutely adores playing with other dogs at the dog park. Her favorite game is to steal another dog’s toy, provoking the other pup to chase her or to be chased. They’ll grab ends of the toy and fight for it. Or, they’ll just run side-by-side, holding the toy, neither giving up. The other day, she was so worn out that we walked soooo slowly on our mile-long trek home. Quite the change of pace from our 13-15 minute average pace, 3-4 mile walks, twice a day. (I have also been quite hungry with all this walking!)


Rachel also likes parading around with sticks that she picks up on our walks, or biting the water that comes out of sprinklers. My parents and boyfriend have enjoyed watching her play via video, since they haven’t met yet. Once I figure out how to post videos here, you can watch her puppy antics, too!

Day 4: Solvang to San Diego

I didn’t want our Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip extravaganza to end. It meant I had to leave California the next morning, to come back to Virginia. But, we made the most of our last day—not surprisingly, with coastlines and delicious meals.

We started off in Solvang, a Danish village about half an hour from Santa Barbara. The town was founded in 1911 by Danish expats. It’s now mostly a tourist destination with bakeries, restaurants ad merchants offering Europe on the West Coast. And the bakery we went to was authentically Danish, and truly delicious. For breakfast, Tom and I each ordered a pastry at Olsen’s Danish Village Bakery. It was one of the best pastries I’ve had, with light, buttery dough surrounding a rich cream cheese filling.

How do I choose just one?

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Day 3: Big Sur to Santa Barbara

Packing up a dew-covered tent and carrying supplies out of the campground (just two trips back and forth this time) made for a rough start for our third morning of Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip Extravaganza 2012.

But our spirits picked up considerably when we stopped at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park to see the secluded McWay Falls. The lagoon below is filled with bright, blue water, and a waterfall dropping onto the sand. Cliffs prevent anyone from going down to the beach, however. Anyone traveling through Big Sur should stop for the 10-minute walk and gorgeous photo op.

McWay Falls

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