Monday, July 27, 2015

Our Little Girl, Binne

We've known for a while now that we wanted a second dog and have been looking at rescues through JRs Pups and Stuff out of Waukesha WI off and on since 2014. The first girl, Meara, that we looked at wasn't meant to be ours and went home to another family. I learned my lesson in getting my hopes up with that one! I was sad for quite a bit and didn't look at dogs for a while. Brett kept up hope and still look off and on.

We've been talking to Baxter about his little sister before she was a blink in our eyes, knowing that she would happen in time. Then we set up the dog crate and he got even more curious and started to know something was coming. Here's what I knew: I wanted a dog. I wanted a girl. I wanted a dog that was lighter than or weighed what Baxter weighed. I was torn on a pup or a slightly older dog. I didn't have a breed in mind, but was drawn to a Border Collie or Border Mix because of our Baxter. I wanted to give her an Irish name.

We adopted Sweetness, now Binne (pronounced beanie, Binn for short) on Monday, June 29, 2015. She is a female terrier mix who is just over the age of two. Binne's name was Sweetness, and she hails from Alabama and is now our Alabama baby. She is a rescue, and we know that she was pregnant and as a result abandoned. She did have puppies, we don't know how many or which litter they were, we do know they were taken from her earlier than usual. Her name was found from looking online at Irish baby name sites; says Binne - (BEE-ne) Old Irish=binn "sweet, melodious." Binne was the name of several fairy women in legend.

Here's how it happened.

I contacted the agency to let them know we were interested in Sweetness and a couple days later we got a call from the foster mom (FM). FM and I ended up chatting the next night and I asked a whole barrage of questions to get a feel of Sweetness's personality and tendencies. Talk about nervous mom syndrome on my part!

We went to meet her at her fosters house three weeks before we actually adopted her, Binne had been with them for just under 4 months and had grown used to them but was still very skittish to new folks. Luckily she warmed up to us fairly quickly and we decided to bring Baxter in at about 30 minutes fpr another hour and a half! Baxter didn't know how to take her at first and ended up coming home with a little battle wound.  It was great to have them to meet before just bringing her home though. After taking a night to sleep on it (though we didn't really need to) we said we'd take her and knew that Baxter would settle in to her.

June 29 was a stormy night and thankfully both of the dogs were more focused on the storm than each other, though Baxter was curious as to who she was. That first night was her night in a new place that she didn't know, but she had her new bed that she laid on all the way home, my t-shirt, and favorite toy from FM's house. Tuesday was her first full day being crated at our house, mainly because she and Baxter were going to be home alone. After a day by themselves they seemed OK so Tuesday night we left the crate open, and all day Wednesday too. She's been with the door open ever since, it is still however her safe zone. (Update: we took the crate down on 7/10 since she wasn't using it.)

We spent most of the following weekend with the pups due to being sick, and I had Monday off and got to witness their first (as seen by my eyes) nose sniff. She's also started coming out of our guest room on her own and loves to dance and wag her tail when we get home from work. She's starting to play with the toys that we got her. She also now has a properly fitting harness and collar, and as a result I think she feels much calmer. Any unfamiliar noises continue to alarm her, ranging from loud birds or chipmunks, to cars going by on the street.

In the two weeks that we've had her she's gotten in tune with Baxter, though they're still getting used to each other, started eating, drinking, and going to the bathroom on a regular schedule (which is a big feat when changing a dogs routine). We can't wait to see how they and we continue to grow as a family unit!

Next up - obedience classes! Don't tell but she's on the couch sleeping next to me as I write this...
Many thanks to Ashley (FM) and Andrew (FD) for taking such great care of her!
  So now we have two munchkins!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Ireland Honeymoon Day Six

We've learned so much here!

A few facts:
All school kids wear uniforms here, and learn to read and write Irish between age 5-15, a patch or emblem denotes which school they attend. The boys and girls go to school together until our middle school age and then they are separated. They graduate at 16.5 or 17.5 depending on if they choose to take an apprenticeship or go on to college.
Ireland has 4 provinces and 32 counties, 6 which are under British rule, which are identified by their team colors and a song (or two)
Dublin is called The Big Smoke and is home to 1.2 million people

A few phrases:
Drink Driving (drunk driving)
Craic (fun, definition) Good Craic
Small Money (5-6 euros)
Kil (prefix, church of)
Bally (prefix, city of)
Band On (Right on) Bang on the money
Puk (puck) male goat
Veg (vegetables)
Trad Session (music, jam session)

We're staying in Westport again tonight and have the afternoon free! Today was supposed to be a "sleep in" day but I was still up at 5:30 am. I was able to go back to sleep for a bit but then the alarm went off again, and we don't have to be on the road until 9:30 today. A quick 7 minute drive will take us to the Westport House; it rained yesterday and as we're arriving the roads are starting to dry and the suns starting to come out. 

The 450 acre property has been with its family, some of which still live here, since the 1500s. Careful in the dungeons, just before we started our tour someone in another group fell and hit their head, the dungeons are all original cobblestones. The tour is brief but very interesting and we plan to read more on the family history when we get home! (Update: buy books they have for sale on site, they ship but it's pricey and the books aren't on Amazon). Their bathrooms consist of a large room with about six chamber pots. They have a children's room with a five foot Humpty Dumpty and a six foot tall barrier (to keep the kids in). Every room had a beautiful bed in it and right inside the door of the main entrance is the Angel of Welcome. After the tour and wandering around the house we decided to wader around the grounds before watching a group of school kids in kayaks come ashore the creek and hop in the "hot tub" by a small waterfall.  

Back on the bus we headed to Achill (ache-kill) Island, stopping at a minimum of four photo ops on the way. We stopped in Keel, County Mayo, at The Beehive restaurant. We both ordered soup and a dessert and after lunch chatted with the owner and his son about how their food is organic and made without preservatives. His brother-in-law moved to Chicago a number of years ago so he knows some about the US. This makes me love this place even more! After lunch we visited The Deserted Village, a town that was chosen by it's people to be abandoned during the potato famine in hopes of surviving the trek to Westport to take a ship to America. This trip took us an hour and a quarter by bus and it would have taken weeks for them to walk, if they survived.


Back in Westport for our free afternoon we headed to Gavin's Cafe to get coffee. We like coffee and our nephew's name is Gavin, they also had cute little outdoor tables. After we walked around to check out more of the town and pick up some knick knacks at the local shops before dinner at J.J. O'Malleys. The local area really focuses on seafood, but I already know that Brett is looking for a steak! None of the food that we've had here in Ireland is bad, except for maybe the black and white puddings (sausage pudding). Tonight for dinner Brett had a 12 oz sirloin with garlic and herb butter with chive mashed potatoes, I had shrimp and crab with a white wine cheese sauce and chive mashed potatoes. We both had Smithwicks and finished the meal with Irish Coffee. Hello yummy.



Petaluma, CA > April 16, 2015

I'm off to Cali via Madison to Chicago and then onward to San Fran. I'm currently on the flight from Chicago to SFO and it feels like the longest flight ever. I had Brett drop me off at the airport in Madison at about 12:45, took about 15 minutes to check in, then through security (w/out my blinged out pants). Wahoo - made it through. I say it that was because the bling pants always throw off the sensors. My flight in Madison was barely half boarded and they announced the remainder of us will have to check our carry-ons. (Note: If you have to check your bag at the gate, make sure you check to see where it's going. Also, make sure if you check bags before going through security that you arrive early enough for your bags to be put on the plane.)

This trip is my first trip that I've taken with a significant layover of 3+ hours. How did I pass the time?

1 - Reading eBooks and eMagazines (I download from the library or purchase books and subscriptions on our Nook)
2 - Walking through the terminal (I like to look at the shops to get ideas for books, resist buying)
3 - Come Prepared (Short layovers pack snacks/fruit) (Longer layovers pack a sandwich/snacks/fruit)
4 - Bring an EMPTY reusable water bottle and wall/USB chargers (most airports now have fountains that will fill the water bottles and charging stations)

Jen was waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs (yay) and then we were off to find my checked bag! After leaving the airport we took the Golden Gate Bridge and it was a clear night, so I could see everything (so cool)! We got back to the house and crashed out for the night.

The kiddos still had school on Friday morning so after coffee and getting them on the way Jen, Eric and I all headed up towards Healdsburg to start out the day right with breakfast at Singletree Cafe, followed by pedicures for Jen and I at The Spa in Hotel Healdsburg. The Spa was ah-mazing and maybe someday we can go back again, I'd love to try to stay there too. After a relaxing break it was off to the wineries! We visited Sterling Vineyards and Duckhorn which were both in Napa. Between the two I enjoyed Sterling more due to their practicality, beautiful roses, a gondola ride, free glass, the fact you actually get to walk around, and their variety of wines. Duckhorn was a beautiful vineyard but there isn't much interaction, you walk in sit at a table and they bring all the wines at once. Sterling was much more up my alley, but driving around and trying unexpected new places is always worth a shot! After the wineries we stopped at a couple roadside farms to look at fresh veggies and buy strawberries before traveling back to Petaluma and walking around the downtown a little to get ice cream from Lala's Creamery. They have lots of tasty treats and I got a waffle cone with green tea and honey ice cream. So. Good.

Saturday morning we slept in a little and then had pancakes with fresh strawberries that I bought on the side of the road. They were so good and the kids loved the little treat. Strawberries weren't yet in season at home so I was kinda like a kid in a candy store with all the fresh fruit and veggies in and around Petaluma. The two boys had a baseball game so we packed up and headed out to watch part of that (a big difference from watching Brett & the guys). It was awesome to get to see the boys play and see the talent that's there at such a young age! We left the game a little early to head up to Santa Rosa to visit my friend Judy's house where she has raised 200 some maples and succulents in her back yard. She's got quite the impressive backyard set up with every maple having a name, age, parents, and all on a drip system. From Judy's we traveled through the redwoods to Guerneville where we had lunch and coffee (yes, always more coffee) at Coffee Bazaar, an open air restaurant with a book store next to it. I was in heaven, and even brought a bag home with me. It was so good and I love visiting places like this one. The view was great, the people nice, and I would go back in a heartbeat. From there it was onward to the coast, we stopped at several places and got taffy at Patrick's in Bodega Bay. I brought home the maple bacon and key lime pie flavors! From there we went hiking to this little trail leading to Pinnacle Gulch (trail leads to beach). It's about a mile down and back and 100% worth the small parking fee (bring cash). It was a perfect end to an amazing trip to the shore. Jen and I parted with Judy here and headed back to have dinner with the family!

Sunday brought my trip with Jen into the City (San Francisco). We bought tickets for a boat tour that would take us around the bay and circle Alcatraz! We got to see sailboats racing with their beautiful sails up, the Golden Gate Bridge, a couple times around Alcatraz, and a spectacular view of the city that hugs the shore so tight it can only go up from there. We were going to try to make the park too but we girls have priorities! I wanted to go to B.R. Cohn Winery in Sonoma County! A quick stop for food before wine samples and we were on our way! Jen's dad works here and he kinda showed us around a little bit while helping me through their wine choices. I love little (well it's not tiny) wineries like this one. There was music on the patio, beautiful scenery, spectacular wine, and friendly service from the staff. Hands down a great place to stop. Here's a link to where they come from!

Monday morning was headed back to Petaluma downtown for breakfast, and a few must stop shops for items to bring home!

Breakfast at Tea Room Cafe was delicious, the patrons friendly and the staff patient with a new-comer.

Shops stopped at were:
Old Shanghai Decor for some chopsticks to bring home as gifts
Knitterly to drool over beautiful yarns
Copperfields Books because they have used books, and new books, and I love books.
Petaluma Seed Bank because they have everything gardening, yes I bought this book there. I try to get or borrow most books electronically now, but one like this is timeless and awesome.

After this I caught the bus from Petaluma to the airport, typically I would go across the Golden Gate Bridge one last time but due to a little festival (today is 4/20) they routed us over the Bay Bridge.

Made it to the airport in time, only to have to check my bag again (totally ok with that), and have the flight delayed due to a door malfunction. That's ok - I'll wait for that. Flight left behind schedule, and arrived about 25 minutes behind schedule in Chicago which left me 10 minutes to make my plane home to Madison. I've never run through an airport before but man I didn't want to get stuck in Chicago, I wanted to get home to my boys. So I ran in slip on shoes with a bag under each arm from terminal C to terminal E and made it to my plane, thinking I wasn't going to make it BUT I DID! We then sat there for another 15 minutes, lol. It took me until I landed in Madison to calm back down again. In the end, I made it home to the boys and my checked bag didn't get home until the next day. I wasn't worried about that.

Note to self: always wear tie on tennis shoes when flying.
Note to others: always bring a big purse to bring your prescriptions, cell phone charger and other important items on the plane with you and pack a smaller portable purse inside for when you arrive at your destinations.