Tuesday, February 26, 2013

OUR STORY, PART TWO - THE IN-BETWEEN

A few weeks ago, I shared Part One of our story. (Yeah - love story. That's right!) If you haven't read it yet, hop on over and read it before you read part two.

In part one, Mark and I met at a camp for people with disabilities. I met his whole family, and loved them. But Mark and I didn't really connect until the last night of camp, because of a hilarious girl camper with down syndrome.

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June 15, 2006(ish) - May 15, 2007(ish)

I call part two "The In-Between". (You'll see later why I call it this.)

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This is the time where our friendship actually grew, but through unconventional means.

The internet.

Yup.

After camp, everyone who worked that summer got a group e-mail about something. And somehow through that, Mark got my e-mail address and e-mailed me just to say hey or something. There might have been a specific reason, but I don't really remember why.

We both e-mailed back and forth for the rest of the summer. It was seriously just friendly, though. Maybe a little of e-mail flirting, but just for fun. Both of us were dating other people, and we were ultimately just interested in each other's lives. The guy I was dating at the time started calling him "Jurgen" after the German soccer player/manager, Jurgen Klinsmann, since they have basically the same last name.

Anyway, Mark and I became friends on Facebook and on Myspace (back in 2006, when Myspace was AWESOME). We continuously made funny comments on each other's posts and pictures for a while. We found out that our birthdays were two days apart and jokingly said that during one birthday, we should go skydiving together (I had made a Myspace post about my bucket list, which included going skydiving). We also made faux-plans to do everything else on my bucket list together, never actually intending any of it to happen. 

We called each other on our birthdays to say happy birthday, and later that summer, I went to another camp to work. He wrote me a few e-mails while I was there, the last one asking for prayer because he and his girlfriend of 3ish years had broken up. I said I would, and we kinda lost contact when school started back up.

Meanwhile, I broke up with my then-boyfriend, and a month later started dating someone else. Heh.

In October, I let Mark know that I'd be driving through his town, and asked if he wanted to have lunch. I met him at a McDonald's parking lot right off the highway, walked out, and recieved the best hug ever. (Mark's a good hugger, everyone agrees.) I got into to his car, and we went to a local Mexican restaurant. I remember being self-conscious about what I was wearing.

I don't think there was one silent moment from the moment I got into his car until the moment I got back into mine after lunch. However, it was Mark doing allllll the talking. I remember thinking, "Man, he talks SO much!" I don't think I got a word in. :)

The next month, I hounded him about missing the camp retreat, even though the rest of his family had come. 

Around Christmas, I break up with the guy I was dating, while Mark gets back together with his old girlfriend. At the beginning of the spring semester, Mark fractures his foot, and has to miss a lot of school.

We lose contact a bit after this. You know, busy semester, Mark's foot...all the normal excuses. (But I think the real reason we lost contact was that Mark had started dating the same girl again, and was determined to make it work this time.)

At the end of the semester (May 2007), I get an e-mail from Mark. He explains that because of his foot injury at the beginning of the semester, he missed too many classes (2-3 weeks worth), and got a C in calculus when he needed a B. He couldn't afford taking it over again, and also just couldn't afford the private college he was attending anymore. He said he decided to change his major from math to recreational therapy, and wanted to go to Texas State. He said that I was the only person he knew that was currently at Texas State, so he wanted to ask me about it.

I about freaked out, because recreational therapy was my major, which I told him. I also let him know that recreational therapy was a perfect major for him. I then sold Texas State to him like crazy, my main selling point being the ultimate frisbee team (of which he later joined).

Around this time, I had also started dating someone else. 

Though we were dating other people, I was excited for him to come to Texas State. There's nothing like camp friends! And I knew he would have a good time at Texas State, so I was just happy for him.

Camp was about to start the next month, and I was going to be on the leadership team with one of Mark's sisters, Kim, who is also one of my best friends (we had kept in close contact, more than Mark and I had, throughout the year). Mark tells me he is not planning on coming to camp at all, and so I think I'll just see him the next semester when he starts school at Texas State.

Little did I know, a whirlwind of a summer was about to start. 

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END OF PART TWO! I know that these little things might not seem important to the story, but to us, these in-between moments mean everything. I feel if even one of these things hadn't happened, I would be telling you a different story. Maybe even a story without Mark in it!

The in-between is about ups and downs, hot and cold, and is a roller coaster of confusion sometimes. But these memories are SO worth it. If you are in a weird tandem moment, or in the midst of twilight in a relationship (or any other aspect of your life), have hope. But also, just keep going. The weird, tangled mess of the in-between (if it is trying OR even boring) will be filled with lessons you will be SO GLAD you went through.

Come back for part three!!! 

Monday, February 25, 2013

QUINN AND MOZART - BROTHERS!!

This past week, Quinn and Mozart made great strides with their relationship.

During the first two weeks of Mozart being home, Quinn was pretty indifferent. He didn't really care about Mozart, and just left him alone.

But last week, they voluntarily played with each other for the first time!! I saw them start mouth-jousting, and I was so excited!! I called for Mark to come and watch, and we both looked on with pride at our children. :) Finally, brothers being brothers!!

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I love the paw!

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Ahh, not the face!

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His wrinkled forehead is the best.

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Aww, they love each other. Yay!! :) And look at that eye! Cutie.

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Love this.

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Hug time!

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Blurry photo, but so cute. Smush!

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Boop!

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This one is my favorite!! Haha. What a funny dude. They love playing together now. And I love it!! This is the exact reason we wanted another dog. They are finally brothers!!

Also, Mozart is growing at the speed of light. He's getting huge! And so is my love for him! :)

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Friday, February 22, 2013

HOMEMADE ALMOND MILK

I grew up on milk. Friends would come over on Friday nights, and we'd order pizza and have milk to go with it. My friends would all think our family was weird, and asked for soda, which we didn't have. I thought THEY were weird! Milk with pizza is awesome!!

The point is, I freakin loved milk. But a little over three years ago, I went dairy-free for health reasons. No more milk for Bailey. :(

I've tried every milk substitution possible from the store. Bleh. Have you looked at the ingredients in store-bought nut milk? It's scary. But homemade nut milk is amazing. 

And homemade almond milk is my favorite. 

I've made almond milk quite a few times before. But now that I have a Vitamix blender, I'm making it like crazy! This stuff has me coming back for more and more.

Though I made this with my Vitamix, you can make it with a lower-powered blender as well. You just might not get as much milk from it, and it might not be as thick and almondy.


Almond Milk
1 cup raw almonds
4 cups water
3 dates
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
nut milk bag (or you can use a cheesecloth)

1. Soak almonds in water overnight.
2. Drain and rinse. 
3. Add almonds, water, vanilla, and dates to blender, and blend for several minutes. Taste and adjust with vanilla or dates. 
4. Place your open nut milk bag in a bowl and pour contents of blender into the bag to strain.
5. Squeeze as much of the milk out of the bag as possible, until the almond pulp in the bag is somewhat dry.
6. Place milk in jars and refrigerate. 

Yield: 4 cups

Tips:
-Will yield less milk if not using a high-powered blender like a Vitamix or Blendtec.
-You can find cheesecloth at your local grocery store. Fold it up a few times to get the most pulp out. A nut milk bag will yield milk with virtually NO pulp in it, therefore no grainy gulps of milk.
-Don't throw the almond pulp out! Dehydrate pulp and spin it in food processor a few times to make almond meal. Great for baking!


For a later recipe, you can add cocoa for chocolate milk. Or cinnamon and nutmeg for a spiced milk. Yum!

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

NEW GREAT DANE PUPPY - MEET MOZART

Hi everyone! I'm so excited to tell you about our newest addition to the family!!

His name is Mozart, and he's our new great dane puppy!! YAYAY!! He is a fawn merle great dane with a recessive chocolate gene. Cool, huh? I love him. He has the cutest freckles ever!

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See? TOO MUCH CUTE! He's 8 weeks old here.

We've wanted to get another dog for a while to be a brother to our other great dane, Quinn, so Quinn could have a playmate. But since that's not happening until Mozart gets a little bigger, WE get to enjoy him while he's young! :)

And we're REALLY enjoying him! He's part of the family already!

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Quinn doesn't really know what to think of Mozart yet. He's so accustomed to other people's dogs visiting all the time that he might just think that Mozart is a guest. :) Quinn can tell Mozart's just a puppy, and can't play as hard as he wants to play, so he basically just lets Mozart play around him.

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The above photo KILLS me. It's my fave. And it already reflects his personality so much, with the leaf in his mouth. Mozart is a VERY curious pup. Much different than Quinn as a kid.

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Typical Quinn, with stuff stuck in his mouth. Tee hee!!

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He's so super smart already. He recognized his name after about a day (his name before we got him was Spike...) and he also already rings the bell beside the door (hanging by a string) to go outside to potty or play.

Now, food is another thing. From the get-go, Quinn never went crazy for food. Quinn learned the command "wait" after only two days, by making him wait to eat his food until I said so. But this new guy....whew! He goes crazy. He has NOT learned to wait for food. So that's new for us! But we're trying!

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Looks like Quinn wants some attention. :)

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So why the name "Mozart", you ask? Well, we originally wanted "Amadeus" for our next great dane, but we realized that a 4-syllable name would be too hard for him. So we went with the next best thing, Mozart (since the composer Mozart's middle name was Amadeus)! And we definitely weren't going to go with Wolfgang. (But neither did the composer. Mozart went by Amadeus in real life. Fun fact!)

But we still sing him the song, "Rock Me Amadeus": "Come on and rock me Amadeus...Amadeus Amadeus! Amadeus! Amadeus Amadeus! Amadeus!" Never heard of it? It's a German song from an 80s movie about Mozart. And there's your 80s pop culture factoid of the day!! :) See a video of the song here.

Quinn has had a song from the beginning, too. And if you don't know it, then the "oldies" station in your hometown was already playing 80s music when you were growing up, and therefore you are too young! ;)  Quinn's is "The Mighty Quinn" of course, by Manfred Mann.

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We love our new puppy, Mozart, and hope you do too!!

(p.s. to all my friends north of Texas - yes, those are indeed shorts and tank tops that I am wearing. And the green you see is grass all over my front yard. That's what you get in Austin in February - 70 perfect degrees!! Come visit!!)


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Friday, February 8, 2013

360 BRIDGE OVERLOOK | AUSTIN, TX

A couple of weeks ago, Austin's weather started being AWESOME! The weather is still amazing, and makes me want to be outside allllll the time.

Around the first day that the weather was great, I decided that I wanted to go on a picnic. So I ran to get picnic food, which for us is fruit, raw veggies, and raw products like raw kale chips. I was lucky enough to find watermelon, which is Mark's favorite fruit!

I got home, grabbed Mark and Quinn, and headed out to one of my favorite places in Austin, the 360 Bridge Overlook. If you're ever in Austin, you MUST visit this place.

The Overlook isn't a park. It's just a cliff overlooking Lake Austin. If you're wondering how to get there, keep reading, because the directions will be at the end of the post!

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View to the east, overlooking Lake Austin (and downtown Austin way back there).

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View to the southeast, overlooking the 360 Bridge (Pennybacker Bridge). During rush hour traffic! Yikes!

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We loved our picnic area.

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Quinn enjoyed watching the boats go by.

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I love this view of the Austin skyline.

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Our view to the west.

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Quinn was happy to be out in the wonderful weather. I love his silly faces!

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And of course, it wouldn't be an Austin hot spot without some ATX creativity.

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I love this photo of the water with the different currents because of boats going by. Water is cool. :)

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And for some reason, this photo makes me think I'm in a fairytale.

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Haha. They're funny. I love my boys. We went exploring a bit. Quinn wasn't fond of me wandering off into the woods.  :)

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And of course we stayed until sunset. What kind of photographer would I be if we hadn't?! :)

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It was such a perfect day. Good weather. Good food. Good company. Good view. So relaxing. 

Mark had never been. And the last time I had been was in college (at least 4 years ago!). We were so refreshed afterwards. If you ever get the chance to go, take it! You'll fall in love with Austin (if you aren't in love already!).

DIRECTIONS: To make your way to the 360 Overlook, head south on 360 Loop (Capital of Texas Highway) from 2222. After passing a neighborhood (W Courtyard Dr) and just before the huge bridge, you will see parking on the side of the road alongside a cliff to your right. Park there (even though it says no parking). You'll find a trail that leads up the side of the cliff. It takes no time at all to make it to the top (around 2 minutes). Follow this link to view a pinned location on Google maps.

[All photos were taken in January 2013.]