The Best Week Ever

Just a few hours ago, Marty and I returned from what I deem the best week ever. My parents take semi-frequent vacations to various U.S. Virgin Islands and on their most recent booking to St. Croix, they offered to let myself and Marty come with them. They were renting a two bedroom house and they obviously only needed one of those bedrooms so when they posed the question of whether we were interested in occupying the other bedroom, the answer was a very emphatic YES!
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For the past 9-10 days, I have been completely disconnected. I did not bring my laptop, only sporadically turned my phone on and pretty much avoided any talk of work 99% of the time.

Because it was such a perfect week, I wanted to document it so that I could remember it for a very, very long time:

We flew out of Newark early Saturday morning and had a brief layover in Puerto Rico before flying into St. Croix late Saturday afternoon.

Saturday night after we got settled in, we went to a local brewpub for dinner. I just had wine so I can’t speak to the beer, but the food was shockingly good. And the view (we were right on the boardwalk) was spectacular.

Beginning Sunday morning, Marty and I began each day around 6 a.m. For the first few days I was awake at 5 or 5:30 a.m. but there’s something about laying in bed with a fabulous view, strong breeze and warm air that makes it impossible to actually get out of bed at that time. Eventually Marty would brew coffee and we’d have a cup on our own personal deck prior to getting our day started.
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Most mornings we picked a place to run; I say most mornings because before leaving on vacation, I tweaked my back during deadlifts and gave myself permission to take days off to make sure my back didn’t bother me too much. And with nothing but hills and mountains around, my back wasn’t exactly keen on running each morning.

After our (or just Marty’s run), everyone would spend the rest of the morning having breakfast, drinking coffee, reading books and floating in the pool.
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Lunch was around noon and usually eaten at home; cold cut sandwiches just taste better on vacation. 🙂

After lunch we’d decide how to spend our afternoons.

On Sunday, we went to Point Udall for some photos and then spent two or so hours at a beach (Shoy Beach) which was my one and only requirement for the trip – multiple trips to a beach. It has been a very, very long time since I’ve been that relaxed. The water was calm, warm and clear. I could have spent all day in the water – it was perfection. I haven’t been truly happy in years but I was pretty darn close on Sunday. My dad cooked some delicious chicken thighs that night and we spent the rest of the night relaxing.

Point Udall

Point Udall

Shoy Beach.

Shoy Beach.

Monday afternoon was spent walking around Chistiansted, the “biggest” city/town on the island. We stopped in tons of little shops, picked up some trinkets and I found the perfect ring – a gift from some of the early birthday money Marty’s family was kind enough to give me before leaving.

Fort Christiansted

Fort Christiansted

Christiansted

Christiansted

That night I treated my parents (and Marty) to dinner out along the coastline at eat @ cane bay. I normally stick to wine but my mom and I both decided to order one (ok, two) “Sex in the Champagne Room” – vanilla run, cranberry juice, maybe pineapple juice and champagne. Beyond good.

Tuesday we started the day with another run and then spent the afternoon playing tourist. We had lunch in Frederiksted and then toured the Cruzan Rum Factory and the St. Croix Botanical Garden. Both were worth the visit but the rum factory was the definite highlight.

RUM

RUM

Botanical gardens

Botanical gardens

Wednesday we went to Chanay Bay for another beach day; this time we broke out the snorkels and it was awesome. Starfish, fish, sea urchins. Wednesday night dinner was at Off the Wall – casual dining with the sand literally between our toes.

My more than generous parents.

My more than generous parents.

Thursday we visited Cane Bay – my least favorite of the three beaches we visited. The water was rougher and the water not deep enough for my liking. We also got sandblasted and I think I stepped on a sea urchin. But any beach in St. Croix is still fabulous.

Our final full day was Friday. We went back to Christiansted that morning to pick up some final gifts and mementos and then headed back to Shoy Beach for the afternoon. I spent a ton of time snorkeling and relaxing in the water, soaking it all up. It was definitely my favorite of the three beaches and the weather, while hot, was gorgeous. We capped off the night at Cheeseburgers in American Paradise – another perfect atmosphere with great food (and company!).
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Again, I could not have asked for a better week. I was beyond relaxed and exploring an entirely new place was utterly fascinating. From driving on the “wrong” side of the road to asking if we wanted rum in our morning smoothies from the local coffee place, it was more than I could have hoped for. I know this isn’t a trip we’ll be repeating for a very long time so I more than soaked up everything we experienced the past week.

Odds and Ends from the Week:

The poverty on the island is depressing. Nothing I didn’t expect but still sad.

In relation to the above point, the number of homeless/stray dogs and their conditions hit home the most. We saw one dog outside one of the grocery stores we visited with a severe limp and a massive tumor growing near her front right armpit. She was just sitting outside the grocery store watching people come in and out. My heart just about broke. And she was just one of the many strays we saw.

The wild life here is different. Very different. Horses that don’t appear to actually belong to anyone. Goats, chickens, roosters and baby chicks everywhere. Teeny, tiny lizards. Big iguanas. Crabs. Birds unlike those in the States.

Just a random horse hanging out right by the road.

Just a random horse hanging out right by the road.

Island time is real. We went to a parking lot that was supposed to open at 8:30 a.m. It definitely opened no earlier than 8:35.

The prices. Oh. My. God. $7 for a pint of Ben & Jerry’s? $6.99 for a regular-sized box of cereal? I genuinely have no idea how people afford to eat on this island and we weren’t exactly suffering from the impoverished conditions in which many of the locals live.

Obviously a big “thank you” to our dogsitters. Without them there’s obviously no way we make this trip.

And an even bigger thank you to my parents for taking us along. Seriously more than we deserved and I appreciate it.

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What a Roadtrip

We survived!

Ok, from this photo it looks like we barely survived!

Ok, from this photo it looks like we barely survived!

We were gone from Tuesday, Dec. 23 through this afternoon (Dec. 28). We traveled from Central PA to Northern NJ to Southern NJ back to Central PA with a car packed to the brim with gifts, dog supplies suitcases and, of course, two doggies. But we made it. We got to visit both families and while Isaac saw more than his fair share of timeouts (definitely no improvement in that area!), we’re all back in one piece.

As is the case for anyone who has to travel over the holidays, it’s not exactly relaxing. You’re spending two, three, four days in someone else’s home, sleeping in someone else’s bed, eating someone else’s food, etc. It’s 100 percent worth it because it’s simply not the holidays without family, but it is definitely exhausting.

She's pretty much been asleep since we walked in the door.

She’s pretty much been asleep since we walked in the door.

We made the most of our time in New Jersey, that’s for sure. I saw both my mom and dad’s sides of the family, had a wonderful Christmas dinner at my aunt’s house and had plenty of time with Marty’s family. Santa was more than kind to us – and the dogs, too. We really are so fortunate.

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And for me personally, I can’t overstate how much I enjoy being home. I more than just love my parents – I truly enjoy spending time and hanging out with them.

My dad.

My dad.

No matter what else is going on in my life or what else might happen down the road, I’m never more comfortable than I am at my parents’ home so for that reason alone, holiday travel is worth it.

Now we’re back at home and fortunately have a few days of relaxation to recover from the holiday travel!

A Christmas Survey

I think we’re just about ready for Christmas! Shopping is pretty much done and wrapping is almost complete. As usual, Marty and I (and the dogs!) will celebrate Christmas a few days early; this year we’ll celebrate on Monday, Dec. 22 since we’re leaving for New Jersey for the holidays on the afternoon of the 23rd.

I’ll be sure to post a quick recap of the doggies’ Christmas celebration on Monday night but for now, here’s (what I thought was) a fun survey for the holidays!

Favorite Christmas Movie
I’m going to cheat on the very first question because I have two: How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the cartoon version ONLY) and White Christmas (I may or may not have a crush on Bing Crosby). It’s a tradition that my family watches White Christmas together, so guess what we’ll be doing when we arrive in New Jersey this week?! 🙂
white xmas
(source)

Favorite Christmas Song
Since I have an aforementioned crush on Bing Crosby, just about any of his songs but I love his versions of White Christmas and The First Noel.

White or colored lights
Both! But if I could only pick one for all my decorations (inside and out), I’d have to go with colored. Hard to believe these are now considered “vintage” but they’re the lights my family still uses to decorate the tree.
xmas lights

Christmas Eve traditions?
I’m pretty sure a lot of families have this tradition, but we always open a new set of pajamas on Christmas Eve (yes, even at the age of 30).

How did Santa deliver gifts?
We didn’t have a fire place growing up so he used the front door of course! 🙂 His presents were always mixed in with gifts from my parents.

Christmas Day traditions?
My dad’s famous French Toast. He only makes it three times a year (Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter) and it’s to. die. for.
french toast

Favorite Christmas cookie?
I guess they’re not technically a Christmas cookie since you can make them any time, but Tollhouse chocolate chip cookies (with walnuts). Growing up I’d help my mom make at least one batch a year. Probably one of my favorite desserts ever, to this day.

Favorite Christmas candy?
Um, I don’t know that there are really any Christmas-specific candies that I traditionally eat, but Reese’s Christmas Trees are delicious. 🙂
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(source)

Eggnog…yes or no?
Yes. I never really liked it growing up and while I hardly ever drink it now, I’m a fan.

Do you send Christmas cards?
You bet! Who doesn’t like receiving Christmas cards?!

What do you want for Christmas this year?
Books. Lots of books and money for books. Since I’m officially done with grad school (!!), I’ve been reading non-stop. Oh, and a CrossFit jump rope so I can practice double-unders and stop doing this to my hands:

Pretty much as painful as it looks.

Pretty much as painful as it looks.

A New Hobby?

A new hobby would imply that I have an old hobby. Which I don’t. Unless you count fostering dogs. Anyway, for years I’ve been taking photos for work (I work in college athletics so I take lots of headshots and action photos) with a DSLR and I sometimes, ah, “borrow” my work camera to take pictures at Marty’s races, of the dogs, etc.

I also took an online digital photography course through my professional development account so that I could actually figure out what the hell I was doing with the camera (rather than point, click, and pray for one or two usable pictures. Spoiler – I still don’t know what the hell I’m doing). My dad knew I was doing some research into DSLRs for myself and thought a DSLR would make for a good birthday gift.

He was right.

So this week we took a trip into NYC to make a day of lunch and camera shopping and I came home with a brand new Canon EOS Rebel T3i with an 18-55mm lens and a 55-250mm lens.

My parents

My parents

I poured over the manual and have been clicking away since we got back to my parents’ house in NJ.

Quality-wise, not so good. Subject-wises? Phenomenal.

Quality-wise, not so good. Subject-wises? Phenomenal.

A mid-walk picture break.

A mid-walk picture break.

Sidenote: Isn't my mom beautiful?

Sidenote: Isn’t my mom beautiful?

This is a dog blog, though, so of course Lucy will be the unwilling subject of my photo-taking as I try to learn what the hell I’m doing. I got back to PA this afternoon and took advantage of the sunny conditions to grab a few photos of Lucy.

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Like I said, I still don’t really know what I’m doing but it is going to be a lot of fun figuring it out!

A Weekend Away

This weekend I was back in the car, this time driving to my parents’ house in New Jersey, mostly to celebrate Father’s Day Weekend. This time I traveled by myself, leaving Lucy and Buddy with Marty back in Pennsylvania.

I’m told Lucy did this most of the weekend:

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Yup, they didn’t do much but veg and watch World Cup soccer.

Meanwhile, I took advantage of the gorgeous weather and spent lots of time outside with my mom. We’re very lucky in that there is a gorgeous park with miles of trails literally around the corner from my parents’.

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We also indulged in a girly afternoon as I took my mom for pedicures to use up the last of a spa gift certificate I won.

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Sunday morning we opened Father’s Day gifts and then I hit the road (again) to head back to Marty and the doggies.

While I’m only 2 1/2 hours away from my parents, given my lack of free time for 10 months out of the year, 2 1/2 hours is usually two hours too far for me to get home as often as I’d like. Which means that even though my gas budget will go through the roof this summer, it’s totally worth it to travel to New Jersey as often as possible. I’ve been in PA for seven years but it’s not home and I’m forever thankful my parents’ always welcome me back!

PS – Hopefully an update on Buddy’s search for his forever home early this week!

A Weekend with the “Grandparents”

That’s right, Lucy and Buddy are going to enjoy a weekend at the grandparent’s!

"You can just leave us here, we'll be fine."

“You can just leave us here, we’ll be fine.”

Marty competes in triathlons and this weekend is his “big” race of the summer; it’s in Maryland and because it’s his big race (a qualifier for the World Championship Ironman race), we’ll be in Maryland from Friday through the race on Sunday afternoon. We always book a pet-friendly hotel in case we need to travel with our dog(s) but let’s be honest – like with kids, it’s a million times easier to travel sans-pets.

"You saying I'm difficult?"

“You saying I’m difficult?”

If we’re between fosters (or before we started fostering), my parents generally had no issue watching Lucy but it’s a lot to ask of them to babysit two dogs, none of which are their own! So that’s why the other weekend when my dad offered to watch both dogs this coming weekend, I thought he’d done so in a momentary lapse of judgment. But I double-checked with him (and my mother) and they’re on board with dog-sitting both Lucy and Buddy this weekend!

Now, they’ve met Buddy before and my mother in particular adored Buddy so I’m confident things will go well. Marty and I will drive to New Jersey and spend the night on Thursday then leave the dogs with my parents while we make our way to Maryland on Friday morning. Then, after the race on Sunday, we’ll drive back up to New Jersey, spend the night then hit the road for Pennsylvania on Monday morning.

It’s a lot of driving but this allows us to break up the trip a bit, see my family (however briefly) and make our lives a lot easier by not having to travel with Buddy and Lucy. Hopefully it’s a good weekend for everyone!

Oh, and I am not going to get ahead of myself or jinx things, but we’re slowly making progress on Buddy’s adoption process!

We Survived

Lucy, Buddy, myself and my parents all survived our road trip to New Jersey this past weekend! I left Pennsylvania around lunchtime on Friday and arrived at my parents’ house around mid-afternoon.

The doggies got to spend plenty of time with my parents and brother while we were there. My mom adored Buddy and for the most part he was an excellent house guest; no 3 a.m. wake-up calls and plenty of walks.

Buddy's sexy pose.

Buddy’s sexy pose.

On Saturday morning, I left around 11 a.m. for our 3 p.m. women’s lacrosse game at TCNJ. The game should have been about 90 minutes long and I figured I’d be home between 6:30 and 7. Hahaha. Wishful thinking. We had two weather delays totaling 90 minutes and I didn’t get home until 8 p.m. That meant my parents had to watch both dogs for nine hours but I’m happy to say the dogs did great! No issues at all.

Sunday morning I got up, worked out, my mom and I walked the dogs, she opened her Mother’s Day gifts and then I packed up the car to head back home.

While Buddy protested his confinement to the cage again, I could tell both doggies were tired. I don’t think Lucy moved from the minute we got home until dinner time and she was still tired this morning. Buddy was only slightly less energetic than normal 🙂

Lucy for the past 24 hours.

Lucy for the past 24 hours.

All in all, a great trip. My parents got to meet Buddy and while my mom decided she’d adopt Buddy in a heartbeat, my dad…not so much. Even though Buddy took a particular liking to my dad, I think that’s because of the bits of tuna fish and London broil he was snuck 😉

The only reason I couldn’t convince my dad to adopt Buddy is because my parents aren’t really 100% serious at this point in adopting a dog but Buddy was a perfect gentleman this weekend. My dad had him off-leash while he was doing yard work and Buddy showed zero inclination to wander further than he should have. He really just wants to be near people and I’m very anxious to find his forever home.

Watching TV...no, really.

Watching TV…no, really.

While it was quite the production to travel by myself with two dogs it ended up being a wonderful weekend!

I May Regret This

For a bunch of reasons, I had to pack up both dogs to travel to my parents’ house in New Jersey for a combined work/Mother’s Day trip. Our lacrosse team is playing at TCNJ in a NCAA Tournament game and normally when I combine work/personal travel I don’t like to bring the dogs but I didn’t have much of a choice this time as Marty has a meet in Virginia today (Friday) and a wedding in Princeton on Saturday.

So, since the dogs obviously couldn’t be left on their own while Marty and I both traveled, they made the trip to N.J. Whether we all survive to make the trip back to PA remains in question.

"I know you're writing about me."

“I know you’re writing about me.”

I’ve been spoiled; Lucy, Cindy and Snowy were all wonderful travelers. Literally not a peep out of any of them. Buddy, not so much. I had to put him in a crate in my car because otherwise he’d spend the 2 1/2 hour drive trying to make his way onto my lap. Not exactly safe. He wasn’t a fan (at all) of being crated so every 20 minutes or so he voiced his displeasure.

But, we made it.

"Did he really have to come?"

“Did he really have to come?”

So far the biggest challenges will be keeping Buddy off the couch and from waking up the entire house at 3 a.m. when he’s bored and barking.

"I'm so cute, though."

“I’m so cute, though.”

My mom and I took the dogs on a very long walk this afternoon in hopes of tiring them out. The walk seems to have only exhausted an out-of-shape Lucy, though.

"Just try and make me take another walk."

“Just try and make me take another walk.”

As long as we get through tonight with no early wake-up calls from Buddy I think the trip will go fine. My parents will have to watch the doggies while I’m at the lacrosse game for most of the day tomorrow but Buddy has fallen in love with my mom so hopefully all four (Lucy, Buddy and my parents) survive until I’m back from the game.

Wish us luck!

Family Time

On Saturday afternoon, my parents drove in from New Jersey for an overnight visit out here in Selinsgrove.

Sunday breakfast at their hotel.

Sunday breakfast at their hotel.

Marty unfortunately left around noon for a track meet in New York City and was gone by the time my parents arrived. However, that gave Lucy time to prepare for my dad’s visit.

Mentally preparing

Mentally preparing

Yes, she’s still beyond weird about my dad. She does slightly better on her own “turf” and let him pet her a whopping two times, but that’s better than normal. Again, we cannot figure out for the life of us why she’s scared of my dad. It remains a mystery to which only Lucy can solve.

Saturday was a nice day (meaning above 40) so I took Lucy for a nice long walk with my parents. This was the aftermath:

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Very clearly out of shape.

The walk, combined with the apparent stress of my dad’s presence and the loss of an hour of sleep last night meant I woke up to a very sleepy dog this morning.

She did not want to be awake. Or photographed.

She did not want to be awake.

My parents stopped by after breakfast and while Lucy let my dad pet her goodbye, she mostly maintained a very safe distance.

"I still don't trust him."

“I still don’t trust him.”

All in all, a fabulous weekend for me and Lucy. It was finally above freezing, I got plenty of relaxing in and I got to see my parents for probably the last time until our spring semester is over. I don’t like being so far from my family in New Jersey but it does make these weekend visits extra special.