Snow Day 2011

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Doodles + Chickens = Love

Doodles + Chickens = Love

When the coop first came to being, the dogs did their fair share of circling the new habitat, intently trying to get a taste of baby birds. And we’d been pretty religious about keeping the dogs separate from the chickens at all times, especially since the great squirrel catastrophe of 2010 where I came home to find a dead squirrel on the couch like a prized hunting trophy. It still brings back nightmares.

So this weekend when the dogs some how got outside while we were letting the chickens roam, Heath and I were a bit panicked to say the least.

“NO!” I heard Heath yell from the back yard. The screen door slammed against the house a second after, so I knew that meant the doodles had hurled themselves clumsily into the backyard, likely in pursuit of fresh chicken. Visions of feathers flying through the air like a middle school pillow fight consumed my brain as I ran outside to try and and pull vicious labradoodles from penetrating the flesh of our beloved Ruby and Marion.

You can imagine our surprise when we saw dogs and chickens cohabitating in peace.

All this time we had assumed a meeting between beast and bird would conclude in a squirrel-like tragedy, but here they were, blissfully ignoring one another. There was some sniffing by both parties, but for the most part, the chicks and the children live in peace.


Trippin’ [part 2]

Mint juleps, fried chicken and horse races; that was about the extent of my knowledge on Kentucky before our Thanksgiving adventure.

Turns out, Kentucky is pretty. Really pretty. That was a delightful surprise. Southern Kentucky is teaming with rolling green hills capped by hundred year-old farmhouses and rustic barns that reminded me of a Grant Wood painting. A few hours into our drive the landscape switched from provincial towns in a sea of farmland to the Daniel Boone National Forest. White fences and old churches were traded for Beech Trees and Kudzu vines as we drove further and further east toward Appalachia. About six hour after crossing the Kentucky border, we were approaching Hyden.

Five Fun Facts about Hyden:

∙ Hyden is part of Leslie County and sits along the middle fork of the Kentucky River.
∙ It was originally settled in 1817 and the population has since grown to a whopping 350.
∙ It’s primarily a coal mining town, but also produces a healthy amount of timber.
∙ Hyden is the birthplace of the Tim Couch, the overall first round draft pick in the NFL in 1999. (There is a road named after him, appropriately called Tim Couch Pass, yuck it up.)
∙ In 1978 Richard Nixon made his first post-resignation public appearance in Hyden, a place he knew he would still have support—he did.

It may seem odd that the former Austin dwellers, live music patrons, rock climbing enthusiasts, and Mrs. Pac Man aficionados would end up in a tiny coal mining town east of the Mississippi, but Laura and Casey seemed in their element in their cabin in the woods. Their home is the stuff of children’s dreams: a tree house on the mountain side, complete with moat and filled with knick knacks they’ve either acquired in their travels or been gifted to them by the locals. Old carousel horses, a massive assortment of VHS classics and deer antlers all had their place in the Gregory/Papendieck domain.

tree bridge




Our hosts were gracious and gave us a brief glimpse into their Kentucky lifestyle. Laura, as captain of the kitchen, treated us to meals fit for kings, making everything from macaroni and cheese to breakfast tacos from scratch. Casey would entertain with his the uplifting twang of his mandolin and both acted as tour guides through the mountains where he spent several hours climbing rock playgrounds, trekking along the ridgeline and falling clumsily into massive piles of leaves.

[Laura is a talented crafter. Check out some of her art here.]

Kentucky was a delightful departure from the holiday hustle and fast-paced flow to which we are accustomed. We cooked without a microwave, soaked up the warmth of a wood-burning stove and drank moonshine brewed in a bathtub. Backwoods behavior? Maybe. Refreshing retreat? Probably. Triumphant trip? No question.


Trippin’ [part 1]

While most of our peers traveled north Texas way for the holiday that celebrates all things food, Heath and I took on a separate adventure; namely, traveling to Kentucky to visit blue grass music phenoms Laura Gregory & Casey Papendieck of The Bloodroots Barter. Laura is a high school friend, turned college roommate and Casey is her partner in crime who also presided over our wedding ceremony. They’ve made a nice burrow for themselves in Eastern Kentucky and now seemed as good a time as ever to pay the handsome pair a visit.

The drive to Hyden, Kentucky is a hefty 20 hours. Clearly, this road trip called for a scenic stop or two to a) relieve the puppies who joined us on the Appalachian adventure and b) stave off insanity.

The drive is actually remarkably pleasant. The majority of the trip afforded us with traffic-free roads winding through transforming deciduous trees.

Our first stop: Texarkana. We had a pleasant lunch with Nannie (complete with bread pudding and roast beef sandwiches) and then took a little pit stop down the road for a visit with Heath’s Aunt Lisa and Uncle Roger, where the puppies had a grand time swimming with catfish, meeting their first horses and making a mess.

[Sparky wonders what’s wrong with those swimming dogs. It’s cold. They are crazy.]

From Texarkana it’s roughly a 4-hour drive to Memphis, which is where we set up the proverbial camp for the night. This stretch of road, while pleasant, caused a fair amount of head scratching as it was laden with imposing bible-oriented billboards that preached biblical versus I was unaware of from my rearing in the church. Towering billboards held messages like “save the child, use the rod.” But that’s neither here or there—yet certainly worth mentioning as we were made aware that Northern Arkansas is indeed far from home where child beating is generally frowned upon.

This was my first time to return to Memphis as an adult and Heath’s first trip period (it should be noted the trip afforded Heath his first glimpse at the Mississippi River; Mark Twain would be so proud).

We stayed in a hotel walking distance from the famous Beale Street where we spent most of our evening. Since my tenure at Community Impact Newspaper taught me that people love bullets, I will summate the highlights of the experience in short hand.

  • We explored the city, camera in hand, and came across some preteen acrobats tumbling down Beale street in exchange for dollar donations. Needless to say, we obliged them for their bravery.
  • Dinner at Silky O’Sullivan’s included what the server told us was a traditional Memphis meal of locally brewed beer, dry rub ribs, sausage and sharp cheddar and oysters on a half shell. (This was also a first for both Heath and me. To quote my favorite warthog, they were “slimy yet satisfying.”)
  • From Silky’s we crossed the street to the Rum Boogie Cafe which drew us in with the soulful Joe Cockeresque band whose reverberations could be heard from the street. Autographed guitars of some of the bar/music venue’s more famous patrons were suspended from the ceiling, which was cool at first until I spotted a James Blunt autograph above a doorway. Womp.

Memphis was indeed a success with it’s bitter beers, mellow night life and toe tapping tunes, but the trip was still young. Details of the second half will be revealed in time. Until then, enjoy these titillating images.


Playgrounds are for puppies, too

For too long that poor rabbit in the Trix Cereal commercials has been unjustly discriminated against; he wants some of that Trix so bad, but for some reason those kids continuously deny him those tiny, sugar saturated corn puffs. It seems too, that children believe they have some sort of monopoly on playground equipment. NO MORE! The dogs have tasted the joy of plastic tubes, seas of gravel and twirly slides and there will be no going back.

[Wyatt actually climbed up and slid down this beast, but sadly it was not captured on film]


Garden Fun

Fortunately the three day weekend has offered us cooler temperatures (think a cool 93 degrees instead of the usual 105). So we decided to spend our Sunday gardening and admiring houses we hope to one day live in.

Of course, before we began this epic task, we had to fuel up. Enter Top Notch Burgers.

Top Notch is an old school, drive-thru burger joint on Burnet Road (a street Heath and I find ourselves visiting more and more frequently). The place probably hasn’t been updated since the 70s, but that is part of its charm. The out of towners might know it from its appearance in Dazed and Confused where it provided the drive-thru backdrop for a few scenes in the movie. Going there is like taking a trip back in time, but it’s also extremely delicious. The food is good, the price is right and the service is excellent. Done and done. Filled to the brim with the timeless flavors of a BLT and french fries, we headed out to continue our day.

We drove through the delightful Allandale neighborhood on our way to Lowe’s. It’s full of ranch-style homes, wide streets and huge trees. On our Sunday driveby we saw dozens of cyclists, friendly joggers with their pups and two kids operating a lemonade stand. Home ownership is not quite in our sites yet, but it’s always nice to dream.

Inspired by the well-manicured lawns and perky gardens of Allandale, Heath and I opted to take advantage of the coolish weather and do some yard maintenance of our own. This included trimming back some out-of-control plants, replanting a bed in our backyard, and adding a few new pops of color to our amateur garden. Behold our meager efforts…

Before, caladiums we planted earlier in the summer had seen better days. They fell victim to dogs(not ours) trampling the garden. So we replaced them with something a big sturdier.

While pruning, I came across this little guy who made a home in one of my pots.

The chicks got to eat any grubs we found in the garden (there were lots). Here they are recooping after a pretty intense meal.

The dogs don’t so much help as they watch from cooler areas.