Seven. (on the human expereince)

This small series of artworks were created from a single stencil. The stencil was used with different media or using different techniques of manipulating the media.

The result of these works is a reminder humans are universally similar vessels and yet our approach to the world due to our unique experiences make our reactions and intake is radically differing.

Pieces one-six are the individual, and the last piece, seven, is an intermixing of three souls together. A unit or a family.

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three

 

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when your dog…

when your puppy climbs into your lap at 6 weeks old and trembles 45 minutes to Petsmart for food, dog bowls and a collar in your Volkswagen beetle.

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In the summer of 2003, I drove an hour from where I was living to look at Great Dane puppies. It was a long curvy road in my black Volkswagen Beetle but it was sunny and my hopes and spirits were high. A puppy! The sheer thought of it brought me tremendous joy. When I arrived the breeder had a skinny, sad looking AKC with papers Great Dane mom, who was a beautiful blue merle color. She looked overworked with breeding and I felt uncomfortable in the situation. I had never been to a breeder before…The breeder had met a guy with an AKC registered Chocolate Lab. I did not think or know much about AKC breeding, nor did I care. I just loved the Blue Merle color and wanted a puppy.

I wanted a Great Dane so badly because about 6 months earlier, while walking on the lawn of the Smithsonian Museums, I met an 178 lbs Great Dane who had the most beautiful eyes, backed up to me and sat in my lap, knocking me completely over and eliciting laughter. He was hilarious, a giant, big, love. I knew from that point on, I was hooked on Great Danes.

I inspected the puppy breed, who mostly were curly haired black puppies romping with each other with fighting and biting. Bared playful teeth and puppy breath were every where in the late summer browning grass. The property the woman lived on was filled with cages of animals, where she was breeding and breeding and breeding. She told me there were several male puppies and two females. I asked her if any of them looked like their mom and she said yes. She started to look around for the female that was not in the mix of the puppy WWE match going on before us. Through her maze of cages and crates she and I peered until a spotty, grey, floppy eared puppy emerged, nose to the ground interested in what was in front of her instead of the puppy wrestling match.

This dog.

I went over to the puppy and squatted. The beautiful Blue Merle markings were evident and this girl was sweet, kissed my face, and then continued to explore, curious about her environment.

“I will take this one,” I said, standing up to stretch my legs from my squatted, observation position. The woman informed me that I would have to pay $250 in cash. I did not have cash, so she knew exactly where to tell me to get it, about 15 minutes away. Slightly annoyed but growing with excitement, I drove to the ATM. Upon pulling back into the gravel driveway, I stopped my Beetle. The female puppy, who I had chosen, was sniffing through the cages. I saw her and she saw me, her floppy ears perking up. We made eye contact and as I got out of the car, she came running towards me.

This is my Anabelle and to this day she runs like this to me.

The remainder of the day was spent prepping for this puppy to come and live with me. I had nothing in my home fit for a dog, so she and I drove to Petsmart. The puppy trembled and sat in my lap the entire way. She was no bigger than a fully grown cat, weighing in at about 8 lbs. I carried the puppy into the store where I showed her collars, toys and dog bowls, as if she was so interested. I drove her home and was so excited to have my very own Blue Merle puppy.

when you dog jumps into the lake at full speed, you laugh and smile, and realize later she is soaking wet and now has to get into your car.

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Growing up, Anabelle was not the easiest of puppies. Raising a puppy is always a lot harder than you think. I have heard it said that God makes puppies super cute because they are a hot mess. Anabelle was both.

At night, this puppy would howl and cry and bark like coyotes do, with approximately 16 different barking sounds, all of which I had never heard come out of a dog before. There was an attempt to crate train her ending in perpetual disaster. She literally ate, demolished and Houdini-ed her way out of every crate. The final straw was when she climbed out of a crate she demolished, giving herself a wickedly deep, bloody gash. I decided crate training was not for her. She began to peacefully sleep on the floor in the bedroom. I guess crates do not work for all dogs (or owners, as some might say). She was a perpetual puppy, frolicking beside me and learning new tricks to please me. She was easy to train, and I diligently trained her to sit, stay, heel, lay down, shake and to play dead when I said “Bang, bang.” Ana went everywhere with me – every trip, every errand, every where that I could possibly take her, she came. We played in rivers, oceans, lakes and swimming pools. Being half chocolate lab, she loves the water. Once, while hiking, she ran down the side of a quickly moving stream and jumped full on into it. The stream swept her down and over a small waterfall area. Her entire body disappeared in the current. My family and I gasped and held our breath. As quickly as she had gone under, her little head bobbed back up and she sloppily swam her way to the side of the creek and crawled her way out. We laughed until we cried, as she came flying back to us, grateful as we were, to see her.

when your dog can outrun you…on your mountain bike and your 4-wheeler.

anamtbwoahI have been a mountain biker since high school. I rode my little nothing of a bike on trails before I knew what a mountain bike was. We rode up and down every hill we could find in East Tennessee. For a long time, I was the only girl I knew riding my bike with a pack of boys. The adrenaline, the rush of the woods whizzing past, the smell of the forest – nothing beats this sport for all around happiness in my life.

Once Anabelle was old enough she began to go on mountain bike rides with me. She was, and remains horrible on a leash. Pulling, dramatically falling over, dragging her face on the ground until she destroyed the third gentle leader that we bought (at about $25 a piece, I was done with the gentle leader). She chewed through multiple leashes as well while we were sitting somewhere, she would quietly gnaw through the fibers until the leash was in two pieces. If I had not noticed, upon completing her task, she would get up and walk away. However, after time, I began to realize that she would always remain within close distance to me. With this knowledge, Anabelle earned her right to mountain bike, hike and walk most places without a leash.

Ana and I mountain biked on trails from the time she was 3 until the time she was about 10. Seven solid years of mountain biking consisted mostly her and me. Ana would bounce around my bike when I unloaded it from my car and when I would get on my bike, she would take off ahead of me on the trail. She would run ahead of my bike and if she saw a squirrel or heard something in the woods, she would bound after said object, returning with a glimmer in her eye and her tongue hanging out. When we paused for water, I would give her a drink from the stream of my bike water bottle, and then I would take a sip. If ever we encountered a pond, river or lake, she would run uninhibited into the water and I would stop and laugh. The Lab in her always shining through her dominate Great Dane genes.

when your dog remains the reason you get out of bed (oh yeah, i have to at least feed her, and she keeps you going during some dark times in your live)

The 20s and 30s are trulanatouchingmyfooty the grown-up version of the formative years. You graduate from education, get a job, move, maybe buy a home, start paying bills…As you hit your 30s, you start to settle into who you are. You get a sense of contentment and purpose. During the 20s, I battled a lot of demons. Some were self inflicted, some were chemical imbalances in my own body (unbeknownst to me) and some were the poor friend/dating choices that I had made due to the reasons above. Ana patiently stood by my side as I trudged through these darkest of times. The picture above, where her paw wraps around my foot, reminds me of her constant presence, reassurance and love. Last night, even, she took her paw and reached it out to hold my hand, as we did many times, riding together in the car, headed to our next adventure.

when you and your dog meet the man of your dreams and he has a fabulous dog, too, it is a match made in heaven.

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In 2011, I was riding my mountain bike with Anabelle around the trails of my new hometown in Tennessee. As I rounded a corner of the trail that we had become accustomed to, Ana ran to another mountain biker to say hello. I saw him out of my peripheral, smiled, said hello, and kept riding. The following evening, he and I met out for drinks. We did not make the connection that we had met prior on the trails, until he met my Anabelle. One evening, Chad came to pick me up on one of our first dates, Ana was barking, signaling the arrival of stranger danger. When I opened the door, Chad knelt down with open arms and started to say her name in a happy voice. This was a sure win for me and her. Although Ana only weighed in at 72lbs (for a Great Dane mix, this is small), she was larger than a lot of dogs and frightened many people. However, Chad openly loved and hugged on Anabelle that evening. As time progressed in our relationship, we introduced our dogs to each other. Chad’s dog Mogul and Anabelle got along quickly, only having two arguments: one over food (Mogul’s first love) and one over me (Anabelle’s first love). Chad and I began to mountain bike together, with Anabelle.

When Chad and I were married in 2014, Anabelle, Mogul and our foster-failure Dane, Phoebe were a part of our day. I had pictures made with each dog, some of which are my favorites of Anabelle today. Chad has grown to love Anabelle as much as I do. Our “pack” has felt happy and complete for quite some time now.

View More: http://woodphotography.pass.us/tracy-and-chad-wedding
Anabelle on my wedding day. Pretty sure Ana thought this was all about her.

when you celebrate your dog at 13.5 years of age with a party, where you both eat too many treats; a dog who has loved you and been your companion through the ups and downs of your life.

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10 months ago, Anabelle, at age 12.5, was diagnosed with cancer. I had noticed her bathroom habits change drastically, and took her to the vet. Several trips and many ultrasounds later, we ended up at the university hospital with the news that she had bladder cancer.

It was devastating. I was at work when I got the news. Time slowed as I stood behind my desk at lunch time. I remember the sun filtering through the windows in the building and I proceeded to cry between every class.

Anabelle is strong and made it 10 months, without chemotherapy; she was given only 6-8. Sadly, the cancer has now spread into her lungs and around her body. Last week, we made the appointment at the vet. I can no longer bear to watch her suffer trying to use the bathroom or limp around the house. She has done well these last 10 months, but just recently, since the cancer started to spread, she has gone downhill fast.

A month or so ago, one of my closest friends suggested that I throw Ana a party, to celebrate her life. It was a beautiful idea. I started planning immediately. It was a beautiful evening, where family and friends ate pizza and cookie cake, swam in the pool and showered Ana (and myself) with gifts and treats. Ana even got an entire pint of Haagen Dazs, just for herself.

when your dog has been your companion for almost 14 years and you have to say goodbye to her, you do your best to think of the adventures that you had, knowing that death is another kind of adventure.

Anabelle brought me continuous joy for the entire time of her life. She was funny and my sidekick. My entire family has been sending me love and messages, and all of my friends have been the sweetest.

Because a dog does not communicate with words, the companionship breaks forth into the human spirit and the psyche. Bringing with it a profound understanding that there is much more in this life than verbal communication, busyness and material possessions. I will always be impacted with the reminder of the beauty that I shared with this dog. She could never talk to me, and she probably didn’t understand half of what I said, but she knew it and she felt it. The reason a dog becomes your best friend is because of the infectious, unbridled nature of a dog, which causes a human to let go completely-unabashedly free in their own true spirit- beside something as amazing as the spirit of an animal.

I am grateful to God and the Heavens for helping me find my best friend and to be able to remotely capture the companionship I had with her into words. I am grateful that I could have given her an epic adventure, as she has given me.

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Harvest Moon

I listened to this song while writing this post, so I thought I would share with you as well.

This has been one insane week: I washed dishes in the bathtub, something I have never done. I fought off pink eye. I made a anguishing decision to have my faithful companion put to sleep at the end of this month. I have missed two days of work for one or all of these things happening. Also, several crazy, nutty things have been happening that are around my personal sphere. Crazy, I tell you. So crazy that I will NOT be writing about them here. Because they are batshit cray.

On Sunday, I woke up with pink eye after a birthday party bash that rivals most others. I asked the doctor if I could go to work and she politely told me no way. I spent Monday with my very sick dog, who has suffered with bladder cancer and most recently it has spread to her lungs. Monday evening, my cousin was coming over for dinner, and as I stepped into the basement to grab a seltzer from the fridge downstairs, I slid into 1/4″ of water on the floor. Our old galvanized pipes had stopped up, overflowed and running onto the floor, leeching a black sticky goo to go along with it.

On Tuesday, I had a meeting with a collective group of beautiful souls who I am working with to offer community yoga classes starting in October. As we walked back to our car, my friend and I were talking about our crazy weeks. She looked at me and said, “Well, you know it’s a full moon this week, you’re just getting prepared for it.”I went home that evening and geeked out on articles about the Harvest Moon this week, its coinciding prenumbral lunar eclipse, and happily researching the astrological implications of these astronomical events. 🙂 The moon was beautiful and full last night and this morning and tonight, I eagerly await its arrival. The moon has become something I reference frequently now, since my deep journey into yoga last year.

Chad caught this awesome photo in Montana this summer.
Chad caught this awesome photo in Montana this summer.

After reading the articles, it sure explains a helluva lot. (Disclaimer: I know that not all scientists agree that the moon has any effect whatsoever on craziness. However, ask any teacher, doctor or police officer if they do not notice the change in behavior during this time.) Along with the strong emotional setting that this Harvest Moon is said to rise in, there is an ushering of creativity, hypersensitivity and kindness . I do sense this happening in the midst of the chaos of this week. I have plans for a new painting, have felt strength rising and a solidification of the concepts of the past year studying and learning rising in my soul and spirit. Part of the studying last year involved developing various adult coping mechanisms (hysterical crying on the floor, waving my fists and the silent treatment were not effective…I never did those, of course…) new and healthy ways to deal with the shit hitting the fan.

Much to my surprise, I have remained strong throughout all of this by meditating, drinking a lot of tea and getting on my yoga mat-DAILY. (Grateful for this strong toolbox of coping that I am developing). I laughed through most of the pipe situation (as I sit here dealing with Day 2 of the fixing of blocked galvanized pipes), my pink eye has almost healed and I have an appointment to deal with some recent eye allergies. And, sadly, my husband and I have decided my doggie must go play with all the other doggies in heaven at the end of this month.
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This is the hardest part, naturally. I have been with Anabelle since I was 25. She has been with me through divorce, several deaths, cross country trips, a gazillion mountain bike excursions, fears, joys, a wedding with the man of my dreams, travels, tears, trailrunning, swimming, beach trips…Whatever one 20something to 30something woman can traverse in a decade plus some, Anabelle was a part of that. The sadness associated with her sickness and passing has on numerous occasions taking the wind right out of my lungs and left me doubled over. I cannot relay the gamut of emotions in full that pass through me (and her) right now. She told me Tuesday, that it was time to let go, she knew it. I know it. I am grateful for our trips around the planet together.

Before that time, we have a few more things to do…like catch a Harvest Moon and Lunar Eclipse tonight.

(Do you follow the moons? Do you notice any difference when the moon is Full? I would LOVE to hear from you. Namaste, Zephyra <3)

slowing yoga down.

in july, i had been recovering from pneumonia. i was diagnosed two days after returning from our honeymoon in south africa. it slowed…..me……..down. it affected my summertime work, my house to-do-lists and the most impact i have seen has been in my workouts.

yoga.

yoga should not have this problem, right? yoga should be steady and completed with a lot of breath.

i do not do a whole lot slowly in my life.

yet, this summer, my body, my lungs and if i had been listening, my soul, were saying “you must slow down.”

initially, as you might guess, i did not listen, i powered through. i sweated, i ashtanga-d myself to death. i mountain biked. i ran. i cross-trained. then, i would wind up barely able to walk up stairs in my home.

not surprisingly, i relapsed.

at the time, my yoga instructor said, “slow down your practice.”

i blinked at her, silently.

as a vinyasa lover, i am not sure what she meant. i am not sure how she meant. and, sadly, i did not listen to her. as a result, i actually powered through practice, breathed HARDER and wound up on a month’s worth of steroids to open my body back up and make my lungs work properly.

not what ideally, i would have wanted.

now, three months later, and two months of yoga teacher training under my belt, i realize what she meant.i am slowing down my practice in classes with my trainer. i am breathing more appropriately (we are just touching the surface of pranayama). i am also studying in a Iyengar style class (precision is at the heart of this practice).

i am slowing down.

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Processed with VSCO with g3 preset

and, as a result, i am opening up. today, i stayed later and discussed with my teacher how much space i am feeling in my body as i open up to the correct alignment and breath (surprisingly difficult to teach one’s self with a mostly at home practice). i am also meditating daily and practically every area of my life is affected positively by this newfound shift in my life. my eyebrows are currently super raised up in expressiveness of this very newfoundness. (it’s all so exciting!)

what do we learn from slowing down:

-awareness- where you are RIGHT NOW is alive, this is the point

-alignment- injury is less-likely when one slows down and observes the intricacies of a pose

-meditation- i could go on. and on. the lessening of anxiety, the increased awareness (see above)

-breath- oh yeah, remember to breathe! our modern life leaves us very gasping, as it whirls around us

-joy- there is SUCH an added joy from this awareness!

oh yeah, and this awareness, this present-ness—–this is yoga.

fashion.

Fashion is a guilty pleasure of mine.

I do not spend a lot of money on clothes and accessories but I love to create unique creations and bold statements. It is truly another art form, as is design of any kind.

There is something so beautiful and alluring about fashion and the women who wear the fashions. I think of coco Chanel, and her richness and grace oozing from her pores, as she ever reminds us to be ourselves and be beautiful.

Due to the fact that I like to get muddy, work hard, mountain bike and sweat, sometimes I feel that my fashion world is like an inside thing. *shhhhh* I feel almost silly mentioning it. But alas, I toss that thought aside and press forward, as I like to do climbing the hill on my mountain bike.

I recognize the beauty in the art form. I once thought about going to fashion school myself. I applied. It was not the time for it.

So, with no more hesitation, I bring to you some things I currently love, in my closet and affordable.

Target, Sanuk, OASAP

This morning, my cousin and I are meeting downtown and the temperatures are again reaching into the upper 90s. I recently ordered these black lace shorts from an Online Store called OASAP. I have seen a few ladies wearing them around town, and just thought they were adorable. I have not owned a pair of shorts in 10 years, admittedly. These look so much like a skirt, I could not resist purchasing them…and they are quite bohemian, a favorite look of mine.

Last year, I noticed Sanuk came out with a sandal made from recycled yoga mats. WHAT could be more perfect?! I tried some on and was instantly in love. However, with my growing number of sandals, I knew it was not time to purchase them. In comes these. What is it with a lace up style that looks so darn beautiful and romantic? I ordered these from Amazon and of course, as Prime never fails, they arrived in two days!
Photo on 6-24-15 at 8.38 AM #3 I have worn them out a lot. They do not have arch support, so for someone like me, they will not be an all the time kind of shoe, BUT, they go with EVERYTHING! (especially in grey!)
The last item I shall discuss is the shirt I picked up at Target yesterday. It is a beautiful off white shirt with a black pattern down the front and sleeve seams. It isn’t as easy to find this information, but it was around $17. Also, Target is having a buy one dress get one for 50% off sale right now!

If you are reading this post, first off, THANK YOU! Secondly, will you let me know what you think? I would love to know what thoughts you have regarding this post. Thank you and may your day be filled with beauty and grace!

Wintery Earl Grey Tea Cake with Rhubarb Icing

Today, we were finally awarded a snow day off from school and work.
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Usually, by this time of the year, we have had one or two days already, so this one I have welcomed with open arms. My morning was spent painting in the studio and researching ashtanga yoga practices (to embark upon an all-encompassing practice of this unique and challenging yoga lifestyle). Around noon, Chad was home from work and I was ready to bake, as usually happens on days such as this. I have been wanting to make Earl Grey Tea Cake with Rhubarb Icing for quite some time, as my lcal stores did not carry rhubarb, and I did not figure that the cake would taste as good without this ingredient. Lo and behold, last week, I found rhubarb at my nearby store and bought it up!
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The process in the recipe is straightforward, but I doubled everything, as the icing was said to make a lot, and I would rather have more cake! As the ice fell in pellets, locking us into our home for the day I blended sugar in my coffee grinder (to make caster sugar–it works perfectly!) and created this beautiful recipe. I also used half and half instead of milk as I had it on hand from omelets this weekend.
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The result is a beautiful, dense tea cake, that might have to be a part of my winter tea routine. I ended up with three small cakes from doubling the recipe.
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Earl Grey Cake with Rhubarb Cream Cheese Glaze
(Adapted from ‘Earl Grey Tea Cakes’ recipe from Good Taste)
2 Earl Grey tea bags (about 3 tsp leaves)
60ml (1/4 cup) boiling water
80ml (1/3 cup) milk
100g butter, at room temperature
2 eggs
160g (2/3 cup) caster sugar
190g (1 1/4 cups) self-raising flour

For the glaze:
150g (1 cup) rhubarb, diced
Zest of 1 lemon
2 tbsp caster sugar and 1 tbsp water
125g cream cheese, softened
1 cup (150g) icing sugar, sifted

Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F). Grease and line a 20cm round cake tin. Empty the tea leaves from the tea bags into a cup and add the boiling water. Set aside for 3 minutes then add milk to cup.

Place butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on high speed until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to medium and add eggs one at a time, beating until smooth. With the mixer on low, gradually add flour and tea mixture, alternating between wet and dry ingredients. Beat until just combined.

Pour mixture into prepared tin and bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden and a skewer inserted in the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and set aside for 2-3 minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely.

While the cake is baking and cooling, place rhubarb in a small saucepan on low heat with lemon zest, sugar and water. Stirring occasionally, simmer rhubarb until soft and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Puree mixture in a food processor or blender. Place cream cheese in a large mixing bowl and beat until smooth. Add sifted icing sugar and rhubarb puree and beat until smooth. Pour over the top of cooled cake and serve immediately. Can be refrigerated overnight.

Foster-dog-ing.

It has been awhile since I have written.

Our summer was spent hosting a number of people to our home, graciously. It ended with me back to school teaching art, now in a classroom and our decision to foster Great Danes who needed good homes in hopes they would receive forever homes after the foster time.

I was leery at first…as my Anabelle is quite a jealous dog. She is attached to me. She has her eyes on me at all times. I am attached to her. She was my constant companion for more than 10 years. We are bound to each other like Indian Jones was to his dog, thus replacing his name with “Indiana,” the dogs name. (I have oft considered doing this…Anabelle is a beautiful name.)

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I digress.

At an event called “Bark in the Park after Dark,” we met the local Great Dane rescue group named Dames for Danes. At my fiance’s request and our decision, we filled out the application to be foster parents to Great Danes. We were accepted instantly and offered to foster Great Dane puppies the very next day.

Puppies?!

We were hoping for a nice, older Dane. Slower. Had already chewed everything up in the house. We decided not to accept.

A few days later, we were asked to foster a Great Dane named Phoebe. She had been neglected, left alone outside for a long, long time. She had lost most of her hair and had a severe allergic reaction to flea bites, leaving her red. She was also very emaciated. She looked so, so sad and neglected.phoebebefore

We talked it over and agreed to foster her into our home!

On Wednesday last week, Phoebe entered our home. I excitedly welcomed this beautiful 100 lbs. girl into our home without much thought. If I was excited, surely Mogul and Anabelle would be, as well.

I was severely wrong.

As I brought Phoebe in the back door, up our outside stairs, Mogul got pinned against an outside door and immediately attacked Phoebe. Mogul, weighing in at 26 lbs on a large day, lost.

Terribly.

I feel so guilty even as I write this. I should have known better. I should have let them all get introduced outside. It had been at least 3 years since I had introduced Ana or Mogul to another ‘live in’ dog. Mogul spent the rest of the evening getting expensively stitched and stapled up at a local Vet Emergency Clinic. I spent the evening crying and on the phone with the Dane foster care individuals. They talked with me utilizing their empathy, as all of them had experienced similar situations. I wish I had been reminded.

Then a week later, Ana and Phoebe got into a fight. They were playing around the pool, Phoebe played a bit too much, Anabelle went to put her into her place. Ana came out wounded. Ana weighs in at 30 lbs. less than Phoebe.

So. Fostering. It’s not for the feint of heart. I had friends who warned me. I was concerned. For the majority of the time, it has been good…currently Phoebe lays on the the rug by the outside door, Mogul sleeps on one of our 17 dog beds, and Ana is sleeping on her ‘throne’ (an oversided lounge chair in the hallway in our bedroom. All seems peaceful. Yet, I am reminded of Mogul’s staple in his leg, and Ana with wounds.

I think fostering should probably come with a class, or a brochure. It’s difficult to introduce a dog into a pack that is already situated. And, yet, slowly but surely it is working. Phoebe needs a lot of love, food and cleaning (her skin was badly damaged from the flea allergy). Anabelle and Mogul need reminding that they are still our dogs and our pack is still intact (I sat on the floor and read with them tonight on our dog beds.)

However, looking at them now, they are adjusting, four months later. Phoebe looks amazing, has all of her fur back, is hysterical with her largeness. She is a slobbery mess of fun and love, with a great sense of humor…always playful. She has become a part of the pack, in which Anabelle remains queen. 🙂

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Have you ever considered fostering? What about a large breed dog, such as a Great Dane? What are your stories?

a Retreat

Last month, dear cousins of ours got married. For their wedding gift we decided to give them a weekend retreat to our home that included prepared and cooked meals, a night out for just the two of them (they have an 8 year old) and a place to rest and rejuvenate. The details were up to them…they simply had to travel here and then decide what they would like to do. We are lucky enough to offer options as to the type of adventures that could be had and we live in a place where we feel we are on vacation most of the time–if not all of the time. This is just what both of them needed after a recent wedding and family and friends around nonstop. This was an opportunity to provide a true bed and breakfast experience to others.

Our guests arrived late Friday evening on July 3rd and I was already asleep. The following morning, we prepared Sky High Blackberry Muffins, over easy eggs, Bloody Mary’s and coffee. It was a hit.
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After our late breakfast, we all went down to the pool. I led my first yoga session for another person, who was so willing to be my first! We did a bikram yoga routine and then I taught arm balances. Our guest was already very accustomed to yoga and the balances were learned easily and quickly, even with Chad jumping in to do some.

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While we did yoga the boys played and relaxed in the pool and the weather warmed and got even more beautiful as the minutes passed slowly on – as they do in the summertime.

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After our day at the pool, we took our ATV’s and rode down to the cave with everyone – cruising through the blackberry patches. Then, we realized we were late for our 4th of July party, aptly named “Explodathon.” We trekked up to my cousin’s house for an evening of grilling and fireworks that was unmatched in Knoxville. The grand finale included two rows of pvc cut and hand-built firework launchers created by my cousin’s husband and his good buddy. It was a total awe filled evening.

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The next day, our guest wanted to go for a run, so we were headed to my favorite spot to run currently-the Urban Wilderness. First, we filled up on Brioche French Toast (no recipe needed-Chad doesn’t need one for this delicacy) topped with Black Raspberry preserves (created by Chad and myself) and a side of crispy bacon. It was heavenly! We all took off to the sunflower lined trails-the boys hiking the tough quarry traverse while we ran our 4 miles.

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Afterwards, the weather was warming up tremendously, so we all jumped off the rock into the quarry, joining many other like-minded souls.

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For lunch upon our return, we did a tray of veggies, meats and hummus. Laying by the pool for the remainder of the afternoon. We read, played, and did more yoga poses, I got my first pose of Fallen Angel…as part of the IndependenceARMy challenge on my Instagram posts.

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For dinner, Chad and I watched their boy while the two went out to Market Square downtown. We ate nothing prepared by us that evening…but we all had a lovely time.

The next day it was granola parfaits, smoothies and farewells. Chad and I ended our day with mountain biking and another dip in the pool. I made a new recipe using the abundance of blackberries that we have and Chad is relaxing on our sofa.

We are blessed.
We are lucky.
We love sharing our life and home with others.

This is why I have fervently contemplated opening a retreat, a yoga center, or a bed and breakfast. We have a paradise in our backyard. If this weekend is any clue as to how it could go–then we definitely would see success. (Our guest also called our home a ‘camp’ for grownups. Truly a getaway retreat.)
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Blackberries & Summer

I am pretty sure I do not remember a summer in Tennessee without blackberries. Every summer I have grown up, we have picked blackberries and my mom has made blackberry jam, and we have delighted in the beautiful bounty that is inside of a blackberry. The flavor is rich, it pops in your mouth and produces a burst of summertime, pollenated by bees that is unmatched.
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We are lucky enough to own some land in Knoxville and to our delight, have rows and rows and rows of blackberry bushes.

Today, I had several friends come over, armed with long sleeves, long pants, and buckets to pick berries. I knew the task was daunting, and I needed assistance. We all traipsed down the hill and into the fields with our three 4 footed friends. (Anabelle and Mogul were accompanied by Allie, my brothers dog.) The weather was surprisingly cool and overcast, gratefully, as the day before it was 90 degrees at 9 a.m.

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To our delight, the blackberries were plump, juicy, and as my friend Debra showed evidence from tasting on her purple tongue, they were delicious! We picked these beautiful fruit while catching up on our summers. During this time, our wonderful neighbor showed up ready to help us mow down our fields to access the berries even more…he is a wonderful and amazing soul.

With our buckets full, we climbed back up the muddy slope to the house, dove into the welcoming coolness of the awaiting swimming pool (FIRST-we removed what we hoped to be ALL of the massive tons of poison ivy that accompanied the berry picking). We shared what our big plans were for the berries and felt summer slip into our veins as we settled into our lunches and our afternoons.

Life is such a blessing accompanied by good stories of nature, pets and love…and prickly berries.

The recipe I chose to make a bit of my berries from comes from the following link: http://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2013/10/14/sky-high-blackberry-apple-muffins/. I simply wanted a recipe that incorporated blackberries that were fresh. This recipe sounded amazing (and currently is wafting through our kitchen)!
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I usually do not follow recipes to a ‘T’, but today, I did, subbing only steel cut oats (I had them on hand) and using plain vanilla yogurt instead of cinnamon, because I used Saigon Cinnamon yogurt in all of my cinnamon spice ingredients (it is a lot more potent than regular cinnamon).

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Ingredients:

MUFFINS
3 cups white whole wheat flour*
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon (or 2 teaspoons for a lighter flavor)
3 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 very large apple, peeled and diced into small pieces
1/2 cup dark brown sugar (or light brown)
1/2 cup Chobani Apple Cinnamon yogurt (I used plain)
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce (or vegetable oil)
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup unsweetened almond milk (or any milk you prefer)
1 pint (about 1 cup) fresh or frozen blackberries, chopped
OAT STREUSEL
3 Tablespoons dark brown sugar (or light brown)
3 Tablespoons old-fashioned rolled oats (I used steel cut)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (Saigon Cinnamon was used in my recipe)
Directions:

Preheat oven to 425F degrees. Spray 12-count muffin pan with nonstick spray. Set aside.

Make the muffins: Toss the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and chopped apples together in a large bowl until evenly combined. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk the brown sugar, yogurt, applesauce, maple syrup, eggs, vanilla, and milk together vigorously until combined and smooth. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and gently stir with a large spoon or rubber spatula until combined. Do not overmix the batter.

Make the streusel: toss the brown sugar, oats, and cinnamon together in a small bowl. Set aside. Layer 1 Tablespoon of batter into each muffin tin. Top with a couple chopped blackberry pieces, then layer with more muffin batter and a couple more blackberry pieces until you’ve filled the muffin cups all the way to the top. Sprinkle each with streusel.

Bake the muffins at 425F for 5 minutes. Keeping the muffins inside the oven, turn the temperature down to 375F and bake for another 15-16 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin comes out clean. Muffins stay fresh at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Tomorrow, we host our first Bed and Breakfast ‘folks’ and I cannot wait until tomorrow when I can dig into one of these beautiful muffins!

snow day cooking: Carrot Date Raisin Buckwheat Muffins.

At -10 degrees, enjoying a snow day can become tricky for an outdoorsy soul.

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Upon waking this morning, the grand total inch count for snow is 4 at the hill. We went to sleep last night, post mini snowboard session and homemade pizza eating, all the while it was still snowing. I attempted to convince Chad it was way too dangerous for work travel and tried to get him to stay home and play. (It didn’t work, as I had already guilted him into coming out yesterday.)

Today started off with some reading and re-centering. Then after coffee follwed an immediate thought of, I want muffins.

I had buckwheat pancake mix laying around and started researching whether or not this would transfer into a muffin. After reading, I decided that it would and so I found a great recipe for Buckwheat Raisin Carrot Muffins.

Doesn’t that sound amazing?!

It sounded to me like carrot cake minus the gluten and dairy. And regardless of how faddish it sounds, we could ALL use a little less gluten and dairy. Myself included.

As Chad prepared himself with 22 layers and gigantic snow shoes with his business attire to trek into work , I combined the following ingredients. I created some drastic substitutions to an amazing recipe I found at a couple’s website called The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen.

Ingredients:

3 cups buckwheat pancake mix
½ cup brown sugar (or you can use Sucanat or maple sugar)
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger powder
1 1/4 cup olive oil and 1/4 cup water (I never keep veggie oil at home anymore)
¼ cup melted ghee
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup grated carrots
½ to 1 cup raisins and dates, soaked for 10 minutes in ¼ cup water (then drain)

(I adventurously eliminated some of the oil in this recipe as I had no applesauce…{must start to keep that in stock here for baking} and added water. Currently, the muffins are cooking, and they smell amazing. But what I have no idea of, is how they will taste due to the crazy substitutions.

OH MY GOODNESS!!!!! They taste SO darn good! I’m eating one right now, as I type, slathered with a bit of all natural peanut butter. YUM.)

Here are the remainder of the instructions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly oil muffin tins or line with paper muffin cups.

In a large bowl combine the buckwheat flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, sea salt, and spices. Mix well.

Place apple sauce into a separate bowl and add the melted coconut oil, vanilla, carrots, and raisins; whisk together. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and gently mix together being careful not to over mix.

Spoon batter into oiled or paper lined muffin tins. Fill each muffin cup to the top. Bake at 375 degrees F for about 25 minutes. Loosen sides with a knife and gently take out of tins and place onto a wire rack to cool.

Happy Snow Day baking!