Monthly Archives: February 2014

Dog Training Journey

On February 18, 2013 our little family of 3 started a journey into the world of dog training.

Oliver acting a fool at his first night of dog training

Oliver acting a fool (and being super cute) at his first night of training

We had high hopes of fixing some specific issues and learning how to communicate better with Oliver, and him to communicate better with us. All of our expectations were achieved, and exceeded. We have been going every single week (we only missed if our teacher was out) for a year. We went through private lessons, Beginner class, Intermediate class, and Advanced class.

Intermediate class graduation!

Intermediate class graduation!

Then this past Tuesday (February 18, 2014- exactly a year!) Oliver graduated from Advanced class!  (Although technically we are finished, we will continue going to work on his socializing with other dogs).

Our serious little graduate

Our serious little graduate


He has matured so much through this, as have we. I highly recommend going to training, no matter what age your dog is. Since this has consumed a lot of our life over the past year, I thought I would share some thoughts/tips/advice I feel we’ve learned along the way. (I am NOT a certified trainer/vet/etc., these are just some thoughts and recommendations from our personal experience. Always seek professional counsel if needed.)

  • If at all possible, find a trainer you and your dog really connect with. We were very lucky with this. We all immediately had a connection with our trainer and really love her so much. Especially when we were doing the private sessions, to me training had the same feel as a counseling session. You want to trust your trainer and what they’re telling you and feel comfortable bringing issues up other than just what’s taught in the class. Which leads me to…
  • Find a trainer who works with you and your dog on everything- not just commands. Our trainer played a HUGE part in Oliver’s food allergy journey. She’s helped us with things like small medical concerns and reminding us he needs his nails trimmed. She also has used personal time and her own dog to help us work on Oliver’s socialization issues.
  • Our trainer is great about interacting with the dogs, as well as dog parents. Having someone who communicates well with the humans is a must.
  • There are different methods of training. We used reward based (treats), but clicker training is another effective method. However, be wary of shock collar or isolation training methods. I’ve heard some really sad stories about cases where these have gone bad and permanently harmed the dog. For the most part, we as humans learn through reward based, so it should work for dogs too!
  • But in addition to the one method, there can be other things to try if something isn’t working. We have used a spray bottle and ultrasonic noise for various issues and both worked well, with no harm to Oliver.
  • Go somewhere your dog loves going to! If we say the word “school” Oliver goes CRAZY with excitement. As we pull into the shopping center each week he starts whining and cannot wait to get out of the car and go into school to see his teacher. It’s really cute, but also so important in this process. If he wasn’t excited about it, then what would be the point? Training should be fun and enjoyable for the dog and for you.
  • Commit! Over the year, there are a few people who have stayed the course, but a lot kind of flake in and out. If you’re going to do this, and spend the money, then make the time! Few things should be more important than getting on the same page with your dog, teaching him, and spending some quality time with him. Putting in this effort will help everything in your home life go so much smoother. We are really the only ones who have been every week. The two weeks between Christmas and New Year’s- we were the only ones that attended. A few weeks ago it was cold and getting icy- we went anyway, no one else did. Commit!
  • A plus of training is the awesome quality time you get with your pet. At home there are so many constant distractions, but for that hour each week, you have time to just be with them. It really helps in building your relationship with your pet.
  • Practice is important in this process. But it doesn’t have to become a chore. We usually practice with him for about 10 minutes each evening. He enjoys it and gets so excited. And for us it’s a way to make sure we’re spending some quality time with him. I created a way to practice everything randomly, and it makes it more fun for me.
  • Don’t just practice the commands- find some other ways to integrate fun into learning. We purchased Oliver a game for Christmas that we all enjoy working with. We got ours from Petco, but they also have several at Petsmart (Toys R Us brand).
  • Be consistent. For example, Michael feeds him in the mornings and I generally feed him in the evenings, but we both give the same commands and have the same expectations (Sit. Wait. Take.). When going on a walk/putting his leash one (On your spot. Wait. Go.)

Overall I hope that everyone with a dog makes the time to do some training and experiences the joy, fun, and growth that comes from it. It is really one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. We don’t have a whole lot of money, but are so glad that we chose to make this a priority. And it has been the best investment we could make.


See Related Posts:

Dog Adoption Day Party

Dog Allergies

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IF God is real….

[Since starting this blog I have really struggled with what is the PURPOSE of it. I don’t think I should just be putting words out on the internet without a purpose, a vision behind them. But for almost a year, I’ve done just that. Supposedly all you readers out there enjoy it, and I get good feedback. I do enjoy sharing recipes, dog info, home projects, hubby projects, and so on… But I think occasionally I would like to post something that matters. That has purpose. Otherwise, why blog at all? So, that is what I’m going to do today… even though it’s scary…]

Last weekend over 40,000 women joined together worldwide for the IF: Gathering. The main event was in Austin, TX, but there was a live simulcast option for whoever wanted to take part. I participated with a group of 250 meeting in a movie theater just up the road from Austin.

“What is IF?”, you ask? Well, that’s what most of us were asking ourselves even as we walked into various venues across the country and world, and sat down. All we knew is that it was going to be something big, something great, probably something life-changing. Founder Jennie Allen compared it to the noise of a dog whistle. Her and her team blew the whistle, and women came running, just drawn to this event, coming just because they felt like they needed to. That’s how I felt, and many others I met. There was just something so different about the authenticity of the leadership and the lack of true plans for the weekend. It was inviting.

Before the conference even began I had already done something life-changing: gone alone. I don’t do things alone. Especially not go to conferences and gatherings. But when I couldn’t find anyone to go with, a friend encouraged me to be brave, and I signed up and went. Because I was alone I was able to meet with God more freely and also build relationships with wonderful women I wouldn’t otherwise have met. Going alone was a brave decision, and has made me feel I can be brave in other areas of life.

IF God is real… THEN what?

This question, along with Hebrews 12:1-2, framed the weekend.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

So many things set this “conference” apart from others. Still, a week later, I am still processing all I learned, all God did; this posting doesn’t come close to covering it all. And from what people are saying on Twitter, I’m not the only one. For me, one of the best parts was that there were so many speakers, all from different backgrounds, different politics, different races- but all united under Jesus. All proclaiming Jesus. All pursuing Jesus.

And the same went for the attendees (in person and online)- different backgrounds, states, countries, theology… but all about Jesus.

Friday night Esther Havens, one of the speakers/leaders, summed it up perfectly with this tweet: “Tonight I experienced a piece of what I think heaven will be like”  Yes and Amen.

What can God do when tens of thousands of women gather together, equip themselves, and are unleashed upon the world to

Walk in faith, one step at a time,

Seek freedom,

Stop comparing and competing,

Run their race, eyes fixed on Jesus,

Live mercifully,

Seek justice for the oppressed,

Stop living in the past?

Bianca Olthoff said it best,

“If God is for us, who in hell can be against us?”

As I’ve processed, what keeps coming back over and over are “If… Then statements” IF God is real….

…Then my blog needs to have purpose

…Then I can go places alone in order to better grow in Him

…Then I need to choose risk and unknown over comfort

…Then I need to choose love over judgment

…Then I need to abide with Him daily, hourly, constantly

…Then I can do big things, through faith, and join the “cloud of witnesses” named in Hebrews 11

…Then I need to run my race well, fixing my eyes on Jesus

IF didn’t stop on Saturday evening at the conclusion of the gathering. The videos were posted online through Monday night, and can now be purchased as a download here. You will not regret the money spent on these words, hearing these speakers be real and faith-filled and hopeful for what’s next.

IF: Equip is a weekday Bible study for anyone, anywhere. Women all over the world reading a passage together and discussing it. Beautiful.

This “movement” is about coming together. Community. Loving one another well, in order to love the world well.

“Ask (God) for a heart that wants to serve, and just move” -Jen Hatmaker

What is your IF…Then statement? What do you need to do If God is really real?

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Dating Anniversary and Wine Trail

wine graphic

On January 19 we celebrated five years since we met and started dating. We actually met through eHarmony and had been going through the stages of communication on there for quite some time (because I wasn’t a paying member and we had to keep waiting for free communication weekends…). We were both living in the same city and finally decided to meet in person. We planned for a date at Starbucks- my favorite place in the whole world (and I later found out that Michael was not a Starbucks person…). I was pretty nervous about meeting this man from the internet and had two friends go with me as secret bodyguards. Michael found out about them several months later and that’s been a a funny story ever since. Obviously the date went really well and here we are five years later and three years married!

My beautiful roses for five years!

My beautiful roses for five years!

Each year on the 19th we celebrate through small gifts, doing something fun, and of course going to Starbucks! We are now living again in the same city where we met so we get to back to the exact one. They have remodeled, but we try to sit in the same area and we reminisce about that evening.

Celebrating at the same Starbucks where we first met!

Celebrating at the same Starbucks where we first met!

This year, a wine trail fell on the same weekend as our anniversary so we decided to do that. For a few years we have been getting into wine as a hobby. Neither of us particularly likes wine or knows a whole lot about it, but we enjoy touring the wineries, doing tastings, and learning more about how it’s made. (In fact, a college near us offers a degree in winemaking. I realllyyyy want to do it, but everyone is telling me that my two bachelor’s degrees and master’s degree are enough school for now. Rude.) Our first wine tasting experiences were actually in Grapevine, TX while celebrating six months of marriage. We enjoyed it so much and have just continued to seek out wineries. It’s been a fun hobby to do together.

May 2011- Delaney Vineyards in Grapevine, TX

May 2011- Delaney Vineyards in Grapevine, TX

November 2012- Grape Creek in Fredericksburg, TX

November 2012- Grape Creek in Fredericksburg, TX

Texas is really becoming a huge player in the wine industry and has many fabulous wineries, especially in the hill country area. Several months ago I stumbled across the San Gabriel Wine Trail. Six wineries in central Texas, close to where we live. For $30 you got three tastings and a snack at each winery, coupons, and a special tasting glass. Perfect! It was such a fun two days visiting the wineries, trying new wines, and seeing some great parts of Texas! (Make sure to read about all six because our favorite was the last one!)

Winery #1: Lakeview Winery in Oasis

2014-01-18 (3) wine trail- lakeview

This is such a cute place nestled near The Oasis restaurant right on Lake Travis. Gorgeous view. It has a nice, large bar area along with a little room with tables and chairs to sit and relax and enjoy the wine. The staff were very friendly and made conversation even in the midst of a day filled with over 200 customers. We enjoyed all of our wines here, but the one that stood out was their Longhorn Reserve- a chocolate and orange port. (Well, this was my husband’s fave, it was too strong for me!).

Winery #2: Georgetown Winery in Georgetown

This winery is right on Main Street in downtown Georgetown and had such a great atmosphere. I really want to go back on a day when there isn’t a trail going on- it was very crowded! We both stuck to only the sweet wines here, they had so many fun options. Our favorite was the “Funky Monkey”- a banana and pineapple wine. It mainly tasted like pineapple and was very refreshing. Michael branched out a tried their Jalapeno wine, and didn’t enjoy it much. I’m hoping to go back another day and sit at one of their outdoor tables and enjoy a glass while people watching.

Winery #3: Grape Creek in Georgetown

This tasting room is also located on Main Street in Georgetown, just down the road from Georgetown Winery. Grape Creek’s main location is in Fredericksburg and we toured and tasted there about a year ago and had a wonderful experience. They have some really outstanding wines. But sadly, our experience at the Georgetown location just wasn’t that great. It wasn’t very crowded, we just didn’t feel like they cared about us unless we were going to purchase some bottles or join their wine club. But I highly recommend the Fredericksburg location if you’re in the hill country!

Winery #4: Rising Star Vineyards in Salado

2014-01-18 (19) rising star

Love this place in the heart of downtown Salado. A very cute and spacious tasting area and shop. The couple who (I’m assuming) own it were so very friendly and sweet and allowed us to taste more than our allotted three. It is a smaller winery and thus they have limited production and a short list of wines- but all were delicious. I especially enjoyed the White Merlot and Rustler’s Red (it’s rare I find a red wine that I like!).

Winery #5: Salado Creek in Salado

A great space with lots of room and lots of tables and seating areas. Seems like it would be a fun place to hang out with some friends. The wines were really delicious and I found my favorite of the whole trail- their Sweet Blush. They had some interesting and different wines like lime, lemon, and chocolate. We enjoyed this place.

Winery #6: Dancing Bee in Rogers

2014-01-19 (8) dancing bee

Hands down our FAVORITE  of the trail. Rogers is a VERY small town kind of in the middle of nowhere… but it is well worth making a trip to Dancing Bee. The owners also produce honey (Walker Honey Farm) and so most of the wines are honey-based, making for a different taste and experience than just “normal” wines. They have meads (honey wine), melomels (honey and fruit), and metheglin (honey and herbs/spices). Our favorite was the Sweet Raspberry Melomel. They very recently built and opened a new building and it’s so cozy and welcoming. The wines were great and the staff were very friendly. It’s the only place that we enjoyed a glass of wine after our tasting (and that’s saying a lot because we are cheap!).

Overall it was a great weekend and we had such fun on the trail. We hope to do more of the trails around Texas. There are lots!

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Healthy(ish) Banana Muffins

A few months ago when we were at my parent’s house, my mom had made some banana muffins. They were delicious. We couldn’t stop eating them! She sent me home with the recipe and I made them for the first time a couple weeks ago. Being on Weight Watchers, I had to calculate the points and they were 3.8 pts each. Too many points, especially since I couldn’t eat just one! So I adjusted the recipe a bit this week and made them again, and they are now 2.5 points each. I took out some of the sugar and oil, and made them a little smaller. But still perfectly delicious. This recipe makes 24 muffins.

(Please excuse my bad photo... We were eating them so quickly I almost missed the opportunity to take one!)

(Please excuse my bad photo… We were eating them so quickly I almost missed the opportunity to take one!)

These could also be made healthier by using different oil, different flour, adding proteins… But I’m just not into all that, yet.

Banana Muffins

  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 oil
  • 4 oz. unsweetened applesauce (the amount in one of the little containers)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 mashed bananas
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place baking cups in pan or spray muffin pan.
  2. Beat oil and sugars well.
  3. Add applesauce, eggs, and vanilla.
  4. Add flour and baking soda. Mix well.
  5. Stir in bananas.
  6. Fill muffin tins 1/2 full. Bake about 15 minutes, until brown on top and toothpick comes out clean.



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2013 Book List

As I compiled this list I realized how few books I read in 2013! I got distracted for several months by crossword puzzles and Netflix. But it sure feels nice to be reading regularly again now. Keep in mind that though I mark my favorites, that doesn’t mean the others aren’t awesome too! Maybe I should just start marking the ones I didn’t like. On this list that would really only be The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing.

2013 Book List

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Reading List- January 2014

Has this felt like the longest month ever to anyone else? I’m not sure why. It wasn’t a bad month. Maybe the unusually cold weather we’ve had made it feel long. Or that I didn’t have many sub job opportunities. Or starting Weight Watchers- watching my food every second of the day was tiring. I don’t know, I just kept thinking “oh my gosh, it it STILL January???”  And now it’s over and we move into February. Finally. Time to get the year started!

Despite it feeling like a long month, I didn’t read as much as I could have due to, yep, you guessed it, good ol’ Netflix. I got drawn into several shows including “The Next Great Baker” and “Tanked”. Michael and I have also started watching “24” together. For a long time we’ve been searching for a show to watch together that hubby can stay awake through, so we’re attempting this action-packed one. I watched it all the way through last summer, but I’ve forgotten a lot of the details. We are slowly making our way through season 1. Michael isn’t as good of a binge-watcher as me, probably because he has this thing called a job….

But, I did get some reading in!

Orange is the New Black- Kerman (2010, Non-fiction): I was first introduced to OITNB through the Netflix series that began this past year. I heard everyone saying how great it was, so I watched it. And it was great, but not something I can recommend. I was pretty shocked at what Netflix allowed. But, the story of Piper, a white, upper-class woman imprisoned for a 10-year-old drug charge, intrigued me. And the way the characters were portrayed in the show made me want to know them better, know more. So I decided to read the book, hoping it wasn’t as graphic as the show. And it wasn’t. I LOVED this book. Probably one of my favorites ever. Which is crazy. But it is just so good. It is significantly different from the show (and when I researched that, I learned that Kerman allowed Netflix to take massive liberties in the content of the show as long as it still portrayed the major themes she wanted to convey). The book follows her story of how she got involved in the drug scene, her returning to normal life, her indictment, sentencing and then, what the book is about, her prison stay at a Danbury minimum security camp. (Where Martha Stewart almost went- that’s discussed a lot in the book…). It is interesting, gripping and so emotional! The ladies she did time with are brought to life and you come to know them and love them, and it brings to light a whole other side to prisoners and prison life that most people would never think about or know about. It gives great insight into life in prison, as well as the bureaucracy that the prison system can be and suggests that maybe prison isn’t always the best choice. It is such a good book and I highly recommend it.

Triumph– Jessop (2010, Non-fiction): This is the sequel to Escape, which I read in December. Jessop uses this second book to bring further insight into her life while in the FLDS and then to share her story of starting her new life once she escaped. She shares some stories that were not included in Escape, revealing more abuse, more control, making her new life seem even more miraculous. The book was hard to read at points, and sometimes was a bit slow, but overall helped to complete this amazing journey of this very strong woman.

The Castaways– Hilderbrand (2009, Fiction): This novel is set on the island of Nantucket (as all of Hilderbrand’s novels are) and follows the ups and downs of four couples who are best friends. It is a rich and captivating story of friendship, love, marriage, tragedy, and forgiveness. The structure is different- rather than chapters, it is divided as each person gives their point of view and the story flows through these memories, stories, and thoughts on the events as they occur. Was a wonderful book that I read in just a couple of days because I couldn’t put it down!

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