Merry Christmas!

If there’s one thing that Christmas is good for, it’s catching up on my blog!  I’ve decided to put aside all work for the day, which actually gives me time to catch up on the holiday happenings.

First, and most entertaining, is definitely Maggie’s first Christmas gift.  To see the rating check with the last post, but here’s the video to accompany it:

Nothing says Christmas quite like…


Hands down one of my favorite Christmas treats.  You can find all kinds of different versions depending where you buy it, but I must say the best around is William and Sonoma’s ‘Original Peppermint Bark’.  The downside is it’s pretty expensive and it comes in large quantities (neither is something I can afford).  However, when it comes free as a family Christmas gift, and there’s four of you to share it, it’s INCREDIBLE.  I knew Christmas had officially arrived when I saw this yesterday.


Santa must be real, because per my request here it is!!!  Ironic that the picture below is of poor quality because I had to take it with my iPhone…

It has a ton of different modes so I should be able to get good shots, a flash (seems obvious, but a big step up from my iPhone camera), self-timer, and even has a setting for food 🙂

Also included in the pile of gifts was a SWISS ARMY camera case!  My parents know my history with digital cameras, and I now feel fully protected.  Now just to make sure I put it in there…

You know you’re an adult when you’re this excited about…


Seriously never thought I would be this content (and genuinely excited) with:

  • a 36-piece tupperware set
  • a rooftop carrier (for road trips with more than just two people)
  • a tarp (to protect the rooftop carrier, and serve as a footprint for my tent)
  • bungee cords
  • homemade towels for my kitchen

And more 🙂  I LOVE IT.


Before putting out all the presents we decided to hand out rawhides to keep the dogs occupied, and out of any food/treats that may be found.  This seemed to be a good idea…

Dakota loved his (my mom got him an extra large one).

Murphy got one that was a bit smaller, and spent the entire time staring pathetically at Dakota because he wanted the big one.

Eventually it broke out into the first legit puggle fight as they duked it out for the big pieces.

Maggie got flipped over, went on punishment (she started it) and only after we removed all traces of bones did it end.

Won’t make that mistake again…


While it will only last for about a month every year, that’s the case with every Christmas sweater, so I don’t feel justified taking points off for that.  But this one is fabulously tacky, fits her perfectly, AND keeps the little pup warm (she seems to shiver a lot when she goes outside… I think she just needs to put on a little weight like Murph).

Even though my dad resists dog clothing, I think we’re warming him up.  It might take several months before he lets her wear the pink t-shirt I gave her that proudly says ‘Spoiled Princess’ on the back…

Just in case you’re starting to think Maggie’s too cute, a couple pictures of the cutest dogs ever…


Yet again I’ve come home with a pretty bad cold, and spent most of the Christmas Eve service blowing my nose loudly.  It gets especially bad when your nose is so stuffed it’s difficult to eat, because your mouth is the only source of oxygen.  Luckily last night my dad produced the most incredible solution ever- German nose spray!  Left over from their two year stay in Munich, this stuff completely unblocked my nose in a matter of minutes.  Only lasts about 2 hours before I need to spray again, and creates more runniness, but I’m totally willing to take it for a clear nose that I can breathe through.



There aren’t a ton of people in Harrisburg I still keep in touch with, but the ones I do I LOVE seeing when I come home.  Sarah is one at the top of the list.  A good friend from high school, she went on to do Teach For America after college as well, teaching high school English in Hawaii (charter corps!).  After finishing her two years she continued to work for TFA, as did I, so it’s great to catch up with someone who literally understands pretty much everything you’ve done post-college.  And on top of that, she’s just good people 🙂

-1 because as I’ve mentioned before, it sometimes makes me sad to think of all the good people I know all over the country who I only get to hang out with once a year 😦

That being said, excited to see Jess on Saturday!!!

An interesting addendum to our Wednesday night adventures at the diner…


You all know who they are.  The people you’re ‘friends’ with on facebook, and at some point were friends with in real life.  But if you ever run into them in real life, it’s actually kind of weird.  Weird because 1) you never know whether to say hi, because you’re not actually real friends anymore and 2) if either of you do say hello, you often know a little bit too much about their current lives (thanks to facebook lurking) without actually having spoken to them in years.  What’s there left to talk about when you read their 10 status updates every day, know where they live, what they do, who they’re friends with, and what they think about everything?

It’s still nice to see old friends, and the facebook connection actually makes you feel like you’re more of friends than you might actually be, leading to conversation.  Just curious if anyone else has observed how facebook changes the whole experience of going home once a year…


Pack Reunion

After arriving home yesterday, the ‘pack’ has spent all their time playing, catching up, and sleeping (all that playing is exhausting!)



Maggie has a super nice, cozy bed from L.L. Bean that she received from my Grandma shortly after my parents got her.  What’s funny is that Murph has not once attempted to get in it (even though it looks super nice, and it’s just his size).  Neither has Dakota, which I previously thought nothing of because of how big he was. Clearly he’s getting more comfortable with the family, and my work to break some of his good habits has been effective, as sure enough I looked down in the living room and there he was all cuddled up in the tiny bed.  HILARIOUS.


Didn’t hear a peep from her.  She watched, came over and looked, and occasionally sat right next to him.  But she didnt seem to mind at all, and just kept herself entertained doing other things.  What an impressive little pup 🙂


Later he headed over to the only piece of furniture in the living room that we allow dogs on.  And when I say ‘dogs’, I really mean Murphy.  When he stayed here last summer, my mom covered this chair with a blanket and officially declared it his ‘throne’.  He spent all summer napping and relaxing on the chair, and now whenever we head home Murph heads straight to this chair.  Maggie’s not allowed up, as it’s just for Murph.

That is, until now.  After getting up from Maggie’s bed, Dakota headed straight over there and made himself at home.  He fits perfectly, and couldn’t look more comfortable.  Murph, however, is not quite as thrilled.

-1 for Murph’s jealousy and -1 for the difficulty Kota has getting out of it (he’s getting old…).  But he’s so cute when he sleeps there 🙂


I bought this awesome reindeer outfit for Murph at Target a couple weeks ago (how can you resist when it’s only $2.50???), but unfortunately due to his large rib cage (from the pug side of the family) it didn’t fit quite right.  So I brought it home for little Maggie 🙂

OH MY GOODNESS.  What I want more than anything right now is to figure out the stupid file conversion to get these AVI files into iMovie so I can show you all the video.  After we put it on, Maggie couldn’t figure out how to get the hood of her eyes so she just wandered around aimlessly running into everything.  First the coffee table, then Dakota, then my legs.  One thing after another, it never got old.  Laughed hysterically for like 10 minutes.

-1 because it counts as clothes so my Dad won’t let her wear it for more than 15 minutes at a time 😦

After this picture I can’t help but also rate…


I LOVE IT.  She’d been looking for a good hat to wear in the winter to keep her head warm, and a girl my sister works with ended up sending this one home for her.  She’d never met her, but knit her this nice hat.  That alone makes the rating pretty high.  But in addition, I genuinely love the hat!  It serves the purpose of keeping mom warm, but also has this awesome flower on the side!  I totally dig it.  -1 because while this color goes with everything I think I would like something a bit brighter.

It’s Nice to be Back :)

Well, it’s been awhile.  It began with a little sickness around Thanksgiving, and then after waiting for some pictures from Thanksgiving it quickly became several weeks with no blogging.  But here I am, back at last 🙂  So the first rating must be a quick recap of Thanksgiving (it’s been too long to bore you with a full report).


It’s almost like your body knows when you’re going home and you’ll have some time to rest and be taken care of.  Appropriately, it shut down right before leaving.  The mystery illness from the weekend in the mountains returned, and through the past two weeks I’ve been hit with a bunch of random symptoms, none leading to anything specific.  I attempted to treat it with orange juice, ibuprofen, Nyquil, Dayquil, Zinc, cough drops, and Robitussin.  Nothing cut the cough, and only in the past two days has my sore throat healed.  I think the decision to start working out this week (when the weather gets colder I tend to get lazier with the dogs…) helped.  Nothing like sweating out the sickness 🙂

+1 because it definitely could have been worse, and for that I’m grateful.

+1 because it forced me to relax, and gave me an excuse to lie around for multiple hours sleeping each day.


Now that the parents have a puppy, going home has brought a whole bunch of new excitement.  On top of seeing the family, the pups get reunited with their family.  While my pups always seems a bit out of sorts when around Maggie, you can tell they like the excitement.  Plus, the exercise is definitely good for them.

Murph and Maggie spent the whole time chasing each other around the house and wrestling, taking occasional breaks for Maggie to harass Dakota and attempt to get him to play (to no avail).

-1 because of how loud they can get when they’re playing.  It’s pretty difficult to even hold a conversation when the two little runs are sprinting and growling.

I’m going to attempt to get some videos with the mom’s camera over Christmas…


Friday after Thanksgiving, and some early Black Friday shopping (on my mom and sister’s part, not mine) we headed up to State College to see a Penn State women’s volleyball game.  We’ve been doing this since I was a kid, as my sister and I played since we were little.  Always big fans of the Lady Lions, it’s only gotten better as the team has become consistently the best in the country.  This year they’re working for their third national title in a row (fourth total).

Having gone to a much smaller college with a lot less school spirit, I now love going up even more.  Upon arrival, before dinner, we decided to partake in the spirit by doing a little Nittany Lion style shopping…

THESE LION HATS: 9!  I LOVE them, and they’re super soft and comfy.  Plus, how can you go wrong with little lion ears on the side?  Only downside… they’re $25 each!  Not exactly fitting into my budget…

THE GAME: 8.  It was nice to see a Penn State win, and see what all the hype was about, but they pretty much kicked Michigan State’s butt.  Even when the game was close it never felt close, as you could tell they were clearly pretty confident they were gonna take the match.  And take it they did 🙂  In only 3 games no less.  Sometimes you wish they would take it to 4 or 5 so you could get more out of your money, but at least it meant we got home early 🙂

Saturday morning I headed back to North Carolina to get in the Christmas spirit.  The tree was put up (still with no ornaments…), music was listened to, and this week ‘Elf’ finally came out.  Clearly that will be watched many times this season 🙂

Until next time (which will be soon, I promise!), living for the tens!

The Parents (and Maggie) Visit NC!

FAMILY TOUR OF NC STATE: 6.  It was great to get a chance to show the parents where I spend my Wednesday and Thursday nights, but to be honest, I don’t spend a whole lot more time there than that.  So, you can imagine the quality of the tour.  I could show them the two buildings I have class in, and everything else is a ‘large brick building on the left… I’m pretty sure they have classes in there.  Or maybe it’s a dorm… one of the two most likely though.’  I then drove them downtown to show them Raleigh and the capitol, and the tour sounded pretty similar.  Perhaps I should study up on my cities so I can give visitors better tours…  Either way it’s above a 5 because any tour with me is bound to be enjoyable 🙂


DAKOTA AND MAGGIE’S RELATIONSHIP: 8.  Murph and Dakota’s relationship has been an interesting one to observe, ever since I adopted Dakota last February.  At first they didn’t like each other (Dakota was wary, Murph was just plain mad that someone was invading his space), they eventually grew to get along, and even play on occasion. The end result, however, seems to be keeping their distance and not having a whole lot do with one another.

Maggie (my parents’ new puppy) is a whole nother issue.  She is a constant nudge with both of my dogs, but it’s even more entertaining with Dakota.  He spends most of his time lying around, often with his head laying on the ground, and she just barges right up to him, starts climbing all over his face, or burrowing underneath his head.  Once she gets down there she flips over and starts wiggling around like a bug, often kicking Dakota’s face.  Have I mentioned before that he’s the most patient dog ever?  Well, he is.  He just continues to sit there allowing her to frolick around under his nose, and sometimes even encourages it.  I’ve never seem him so puppylike as when he’s playing with her.  The other morning he even began chasing her around my apartment (while he’s played tug of war with Murph, he’s NEVER chased him) hoping to continue the play.  I’m pretty sure they’re in love.

-1 because there’s still no puppy cuddling.  With the three dogs, is it really too much to ask that I end up with one of those cute puppy cuddling pictures you see on calendars?

-1 because Maggie left this morning and I’m pretty sure Dakota’s moping…



MY HOMEMADE TURKEY CHILI: 9.  I’ve rated this before, but haven’t made it in forever.  I am reminded how delicious this is, and it only takes 30 minutes.  Must. make. more.  Best when eaten with tasted homemade Rosemary bread… but then again, isn’t everything better when eaten with that?  (You’ll notice in both pictures there’s a good beer in the background… another must for making this a 9)


BACKYARD BBQ PIT: 8.  Another repeat rating, and again, a huge success.  Last time my mom came down to visit we stumbled upon this dive of a BBQ place, and figured my dad would have to love it.  While not the cleanest or fanciest place, I actually think that ups the rating.  Aren’t dives known for having the best food?  If it’s not pretty or clean, you’ve gotta make up for it somewhere.  For only $5.50 I got some dark chicken, mac and cheese, hush puppies and cole slaw.  -1 because they were out of corn.  However, when he rang up all our food I’m pretty sure he didn’t charge us for everything so I almost want to give that point back.  -1 for the health factor… you’ll feel guilty for days and this time I almost couldn’t force myself to eat the greasy mac and cheese despite how good I knew it would taste.



SUNDAY AT WEAVER STREET: 10!  You just can’t beat it.  My parents came along for my usual Sunday morning climb, and while Paul, Glen and I climbed like the professional climbers we are inside (that’s right, we’ve just received sponsorship… more to come on that later), my parents walked the Chapel Hill trails outside with the two puggles.  Inside we received a surprise visit from Laura and Snook which hands down made it the best Sunday climb in a while.  Not only did we climb hard but we also had many special visitors (perhaps the two are related?).  Either way it puts us in good shape for the competition this weekend.

Breakfast at Weaver Street again involved great company, live music and some beautiful weather.  The pups were even pretty well behaved 🙂


Paul, Snooky and Glen


Laura (and her adorable hair) and my Dad (loving the candid shot, I'm sure)


After we got back from Weaver Street we decided to get in a game of doubles tennis before cooking for the Framily dinner that night.  Lauren joined and I must admit, humbly of course, that we won the World Championship of Tennis.  That’s right.  I know most of you weren’t aware this large event was happening in our area this weekend, but not only did it happen, we also took home the trophy.  Figuratively of course.

The rating, however, is not for our fabulous tennis, but instead for the incredible dog behavior.  I started taking Murph to the courts when he was little, where he would proceed to whine most of the time because he was tied up and I wasn’t paying him any attention.  Over time he learned, and now I tie one dog to each post and they both promptly lay down silently the entire time we’re playing.  LOVE IT.

-1 because dogs aren’t technically allowed on the Park Ridge courts, so it could lead to us never returning…

-1 because I still haven’t trained either to pick up tennis balls and bring them back to us (and to think one of them is a retriever…)



After tennis I returned to put on some football and good music, and start preparing dinner.  I unfortunately have no pictures to prove any ratings, so instead will have to say that dinner was just ‘fabulous’ (see how much more effective ratings are in describing an experience???).  The veggie lasagna came out well, and despite a euchre loss we all still had a great time 🙂

DAKOTA’S ANGRY MISBEHAVIOR: 1.  While we were eating we put all three dogs out on the porch (without an actual kitchen table, a bunch of food on the coffee table is just a little too much temptation for them).  After the two puggles began howling (thanks to their beagle dads) we put them in the bathroom and storage closet (it’s almost a room, I swear).

Dakota was NOT happy to be left outside.  As soon as he came into the living room he began peeing on the floor, and despite me yelling ‘NO!’ at him he just looked straight up at me and kept going.  Forever. Seriously, for like 45 seconds.  This is after having gone to the bathroom about 3 hours before (keeping in mind that he normally holds it for up to 7-8 hours).  +1 because my mom quickly grabbed an empty wine glass and held it under him to try to keep it off the carpet.  Quick thinking and hilarious (although gross).  The night will live on as the framily dinner where Dakota peed in a wine glass.

Until next visit, just living for the tens!

PA Countryside and Smith Family Tennis

PA COUNTRYSIDE: 9.  I certainly don’t complain about Pennsylvania as much as I did in high school, when I was more than ready to leave, but I still do my fair share of comparing it to North Carolina (my home of choice). That being said, every time I drive home on Route 15 up through Maryland and Gettysburg, I’m reminded how beautiful the countryside is.  A bit different than North Carolina because you can pretty consistently see hills in the distant, and this time of year it’s full of fall.  Hay barrels, corn, farms and colored trees, with the windows down and the right music it’s one of the best drives ever.  If you’ve never checked it out, I’d highly recommend a road trip.  -1 because the mountains of western NC are still my favorite.


FAMILY TENNIS: 7.  While the Smith Family Smackdown was probably the lowpoint of my career (minus earning the highly coveted title of Miss Congeniality), I must say I’ve been on the up ever since.  I don’t play that regularly, which inevitably leads to the constant losing, but some recent coaching appears to have improved my game.  Plus, I got paired up with the family all star today, helping a bit.  Turns out even chemo can’t slow her down, and my mom and I put up a pretty decent fight today.  The dogs were well behaved, and the temperature was just right, so overall I’d say today was a success.  Too bad we also decided that this year’s Smackdown would switch from tennis to bowling…  -2 for my lack of serious skill (although, I did hold my own today), and -1 for losing.


DOG PACK REUNION: 8.  By far the most entertaining part of the trip home so far has been the reunion of ‘the pack’.  Now that the house has three dogs (my two and my parent’s new puppy) I affectionately call it ‘the pack’.  Without a video camera I can’t nearly do it justice, but I can certainly try.  Today’s adventures have included many, MANY laps run around the house (usually Maggie chasing Murphy and Dakota resting for both of them), a near fight between the two puggles, unending patience on Dakota’s part as he lets the others launch themselves off him, and the pup attempting to walk both of the big dogs.  Constant energy = constant entertainment.  Minus two for the near fights and the battles for attention.

It’s also been interesting to observe the way they all seem to handle their food just a little bit differently…  Meet the pups 🙂

MURPH’S TABLE MANNERS: 3.  A constant mess, Murphy doesn’t really ‘eat’, he sort of vacuums up the food.  As soon as you put it down he nearly shakes with excitement while waiting for me to say ‘OK’ and give him permission to dive in.  He then immediately stands up, throws his face into the bowl, with food going everywhere, and is done 2.5 seconds later.  Next stop= the other two dogs’ bowls to make sure they didn’t accidentally leave anything behind.  If Dakota’s still eating, he rudely pushes his face into the bowl (explaining the comment earlier about Dakota’s unending patience as he moves aside and lets Murphy take over) and frantically tries to inhale as much as possible in as little time as possible because he knows I’ll be there any second to kick him out.


MAGGIE’S TABLE MANNERS: 8.  While there’s still some puggle in her (meaning she gets super excited at even a hint of food, treat, crumb, etc) she handles much more ladylike than Murph.  She always eats while sitting, fairly calmly, and if she ever accidentally knocks a piece out of the bowl she has to clean it up before moving on to the rest of the bowl.  Once she’s done she pretty much leaves everyone else alone.  Let’s see if this ladylike behavior sticks around or if she grows out of it…


DAKOTA’S TABLE MANNERS: 7.  Not always consistently the best eater, it often depends if he likes the food.  Luckily I’ve discovered Purina Shredded Blend (chicken) which he LOVES, and never has a problem with.  That being said, he’s easily distracted and a bit too nice.  When Murphy barges in to take over his dinner he willingly steps aside and lets him.  If he doesn’t start stepping up Murphy’s going to be bigger than him.  He often makes a mess, and unlike Murph’s mess he doesn’t clean it up, but just leaves it behind for one of the other dogs.


MAGGIE’S ATTEMPTS TO WALK THE ‘BIG’ DOGS: 8.  While waiting for Cheryl to pack up and take off we leashed up the dogs to get ready for our night time walk.  Well, Maggie, and her excessive energy, decided to cause some trouble.  She began to grab each leash and attempt to pull the dog around the house, essentially saying ‘Fine, if you’re not gonna walk ’em I will.”  Highly entertaining when she succeeded at pulling Dakota a couple feet across the living room.  Murph just stood there and looked at me like ‘Seriously?  You gonna let her get away with this?’.  -1 because she never attempted both at once, and -1 because I broke three digital cameras in the past year (really Dakota broke one and I blame BG/Andy for the other loss) and had no way to catch it on video.


EXHAUSTION AFTER A LONG WALK: 10.  While walks are time consuming, boy is it worth it when the pups pass out immediately after returning.


Off to watch the Emmy’s and spend some QT with the family 🙂

Arrival of, yet another, Puppy Smith


If you had told me three years ago that my family would EVER welcome three dogs into their house, I would have thought you were crazy.  Her whole life my mom has hated dogs.  Not even sort of liked them, but pretty much hated them.  And she was pretty open about it.

I clearly remember the day I went to pick up Murphy as a 5-week old puppy.  We (by ‘we’, I mean my mom, my dad and I- while they thought it was a bad choice they happened to be visiting so I dragged them along) had to drive four hours to pick him up, and much of the conversation on the ride there revolved around what a big mistake I was making (helpful, I know, as I’d already put a deposit down and we were literally driving to pick him up).  My sister even called me while we were driving to tell me she thought I was making a really big mistake, and shouldn’t get a dog.

Fast forward two years later, where my parents offer to host Murphy as I head to LA for the summer.  My mom was already in love at that point (it doesn’t take long with Murph, and she’s had two years after all), but this put her over the edge.  After about a week I feared I would never get Murph back.

So when she realized I’d be headed home soon to pick up Murph, she started looking for her own puppy.  A puggle of course, as all other dogs she still hates, but anything that looks or acts like Murph she’s happy with.  We found an Amish breeder nearby in Ephrata (sorry folks, no pictures of that), and they brought home their very own puggle yesterday.  Her name is Maggie (thanks to yours truly, who in an effort to avoid horrible girly names like Princess, Barbie or Fufu, did her research ahead of time), and she looks JUST like Murph when he was a pup.

PUPPY CUTENESS: 10.  Oh boy.  Can’t explain this but with pictures.  Murphy is still the cutest dog in the world, but for right now Mags is the cutest pup.





MURPH’S LOVE OF THE NEW PUP: 2.  He’s intrigued, and has had fun being chased around the house by her (yes, she’s the one doing the chasing), but overall I think he’s a bit jealous and has pretty much been protesting me because I’m giving too much attention to the cute little one.

MAGGIE’S BRAVERY: 7.  I’m constantly impressed how brave this little one is.  She went straight up to Dakota (in his crate to avoid any serious issues), face to face, and looked him straight in the eye.  This didn’t go over too well at first, and he got worked up and growled at her.  But two minutes later she was right back in his face.  And now doesn’t hesitate to hang around him at all.  She jumps at Murphy (and I think he might be legitimately afraid of her right now), and overall is just a pretty ballsy little pup.  She is a bit skittish around us though, at times, and whenever you reach for her she jumps back.  Hoping she’ll get over that.



The crazy family with all the dogs.

The crazy family with all the dogs.