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A Few Favorites for Friday

It’s been a bustling week over here in the Hunt household, making homemade presents, sending out Christmas cards and gifts to loved ones around the country and preparing for family arriving next week (!)  I thought I’d share a few of my favorite highlights from the past week.

1. Finding our tree in the national forest – As I mentioned in my last post, one of the things we wanted to do as part of our 12 Days of Christmas Spirit was find our tree in the national forest. Last Saturday, we headed out into the Willamette National Forest to finally cut down a tree. We already have a Christmas tree inside but it’s hard to see from the road so we wanted to find one to put outside where people could see it easily. Annie joined us to help hunt down the perfect tree. We had a truly awesome day that I think Andrew and I will both remember for a very long time.

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This is mostly because it was absolutely beautiful and everywhere we wandered, we found something to marvel at. But it’s also because in the course of our wandering, we drove up a gravel road that was abruptly bisected by a waterfall running over it. The road had washed out enough that our little Jetta didn’t want to risk crossing it, so we had to turn around. During this process of turning around … on a very narrow road … on the side of a mountain …. I may or may not have had a mild panic attack and heard things come out of my mouth that were utterly absurd. Andrew of course was totally calm and not at all worried. I was convinced that the road was not wide enough to do a 17-point-turn and ordered Andrew out of the car to assess the situation. I’m not proud of this but I believe the word’s ‘trust me, I’m an engineer’ came out of my mouth. I never willingly own up to my engineering background so you know I was freaking out (and also, word to the wise, if you ever hear anyone say these words, do not in fact trust them).  Needless to say, Andrew was right, he turned the car around easily and we were all fine. We hiked awhile with Annie who now thinks she’s hot stuff since she got to go hiking with mom and dad all by herself.

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We saw such incredible views of the Cascades and it was hard to tear ourselves away from the sweeping vista to search for a tree. !

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But soon enough, our eyes landed on the same tree at the same time so after a little handiwork with the bow-saw, we had our tree:

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I hope this is the start of a new tradition for us; it was such a lovely lovely way to spend the day together.

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2. Seeing Andrew at lunch – The perk of living so close to campus is that Andrew can come home for lunch if he likes. The other day, we took advantage of sunny skies and took some of the dogs on a quick walk. I know that may not sound like much to you but it was just perfect. The air was crisp, the dogs were thrilled and we were happy to just be together for a short while in the sunshine.

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3. Lazy hounds - Our dogs are hounds which makes them experts in sleeping. I am an unabashed hound-lover. When we lived in the South, nothing could get my blood boiling faster than to hear someone dismiss hound dogs as stinky or stupid. Hounds are intelligent, loyal and have an independent streak that though others might think is rebellious, I find endearing because it matches my own personality. Maybe it’s because we don’t have kids yet or maybe it’s because this is our first Christmas without Sherlock (the original Hunt hound) but I’ve caught myself just watching them, smiling at their interactions with each other, at the little doggie theater that plays out before me. My favorite is to catch them sleeping together – so much cuteness, I can’t stand it.

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4. She Reads Truth devotionals – I’ve been following the devotionals posted at She Reads Truth and they have been a real blessing to me. They’re short which makes it easy to choose to start my day with the Word of God.  The readings for this week really spoke to me, highlighting the simple but awesome truth that God is with us and to not be afraid. I feel like God is speaking the words ‘do not be afraid’ to me right now and He is leading me into a season of listening. I’ve been brewing anxiety and uncertainty over what to do next, who to be. A lot of worry that I’m not making use of the gifts He has given me and frustration that I don’t know His plans. And this week, it hit me that I need to just shut up, listen and trust. I think I’ve been too afraid to quiet my mind and open my heart because I don’t know what I’ll find there. It may be that God’s plan does not involve what I’d like it to but I’m ready to listen. I know all of this is probably a bit heavy for a Friday evening but it was weighing on me to write it. Ladies, if you’ve been searching for a good devotional online, give She Reads Truth a try.

 

Hope you have a wonderful weekend, whether you’re traveling to visit family or finishing up last minute shopping!

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12 Days of Christmas …. Spirit

Do you ever feel like the holiday season kind of whips through in a cloud of sugar plum fairy dust and disappears before you even know what happened?

There are only twelve days til Christmas. TWELVE, people!!! How did that even happen?

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I have a bad habit of ‘looking forward’ to things at the expense of enjoying the present. We have family coming to visit at Christmas and I’m so excited about it – to the point that I catch myself wishing the days would hurry up so Christmas (and family) would get here.

Bad Heather.

I don’t want to rush the season along. Christmas truly is the most wonderful time of the year and I want to make sure that I enjoy each day fully. Each day is a gift, that’s why they call it the present, right? :)

To  help with that, Andrew and I sat down and devised twelve things we could do (one a day) to enjoy the Christmas season. The rules were it had to either be free or cost just a few dollars, we had to do it together and it had to encourage our Christmas spirit.

We each wrote out six things separately and wouldn’t you know it, four of those things were exactly the same! Ha! Guess we have been together a long time :) So we came up with a few more together and hung them on tags on the little Christmas tree in our kitchen.

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In case you’d like to do the same and need some inspiration, here’s what we came up with:

12 Days of Christmas Spirit

  1. Go see Pastega Lights. This is a free drive-through Christmas light show at the fairgrounds right down the road from our house.
  2. Watch a Christmas movie (with Christmas popcorn). What is Christmas popcorn, you ask? Well, you take regular popcorn and then throw in a half-ton of generic Christmas M&M’s …. delicious!
  3. Make a Christmas ornament together.
  4. Drink hot cocoa by the fire.
  5. Listen to live Christmas music. There are quite a few free musical events coming up at local churches so it should be relatively easy to go hear some lovely caroling.
  6. Bake gingerbread cookies. (Because how can you not??)
  7. Take a drive to see Christmas lights. There’s always that one neighborhood that puts up a ton of lights. Since we’re new here, we’ll have to do a little exploring but I’m sure there are some great Christmas decorations out there!
  8. Enjoy a holiday coffee at Coffee Culture. This is a local coffee shop that we’ve been wanting to check out for awhile – it’s such a cozy looking spot and I can’t wait to try it out!
  9. Find ‘our’ Christmas tree in the National Forest. Remember how I mentioned we purchased a permit to cut down a Christmas tree in the national forest? We’re all set to go searching for it!
  10. Buy a Christmas record at the thrift store. There are some oldies but goodies in there!
  11.  Have a Christmas music-singing-&-dance session (perhaps to above thrifted record?)
  12. Stroll downtown and enjoy the holiday cheer of all the shops dressed up for Christmas.

12 Days of Christmas Spirit

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12 Days of Christmas Spirit

As you can see, all the things we listed are quite simple (except for finding that dang tree …. that one will be a little difficult) but are guaranteed to put us in the Christmas spirit and hopefully give us some sweet memories.

If you’d like the whole season to slow down just a little bit so you can take it all in, then consider doing your own version of the 12 Days of Christmas Spirit. You certainly don’t have to use what I have listed. Maybe you put up your tree in a hurry and what you’d really like to do is spend a quiet evening looking at all the ornaments you’ve collected over the years, reminiscing about how you got them. Maybe you just want to put on your Christmas pj’s, drink eggnog and write your own letter to Santa. Whatever it is, I hope you make a little time each day to enjoy this wonderful Christmas season! (and let me know what you come up with … I need ideas for next year! :)  )

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White Cheddar & Blueberry Sandwich

I’m fairly certain that my dogs can somehow read this blog.

After my post yesterday, a beagle-who-shall-remain-nameless (coughcoughWALLY) ate a hole in my favorite sweatshirt. The pocket contained finite traces of treat crumbs from our little photo shoot yesterday. I made the fatal mistake of leaving it laying around, and he immediately seized on the opportunity to pay me back for the post (although, Wally, if you’re readying this – you really didn’t come off too bad …. Sawyer on the other hand….). Rest in peace, ye old sweatshirt from college – you served me well and I will miss your cozy fleece interior dearly.

But I digress. I wanted to share with you the incredibly complex and creative recipe I came up with for lunch today. Except it’s not complex (there are only 2 ingredients…. 3 if you count the bread), I’m sure I’m far from being the first person to think of this, and it’s a sandwich, people – hard to call it a recipe. But if Paula Deen can call opening a can of peas a recipe, then I can call this sandwich one. Plus, I figure some of you out there may be like me and find yourselves staring off into the vast caverns of the fridge, searching for something simple but satisfying. Here’s another sandwich combo to add to your mental recipe collection.

I present for your consideration:

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MATERIALS

  •  sharp white cheddar (I used Tillamook….which is phenomenal)
  • blueberry preserves (the kind that doesn’t have a million ingredients)
  • bread

 

METHODS

  1. Place cheese on one slice of bread. I’ll leave it to you to decide how much but really…. can there ever be too much cheese? Smear a generous helping of preserves on your other slice of bread.
  2. Melt cheese. Toast it, heat it in a pan, microwave it – whatever your preferred method, go for it.
  3. Slap your sandwich together and inhale.

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RESULTS & CONCLUSIONS

Want to know something?

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For being so ridiculously simple, it tastes so good.

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Melty cheese gets me every time. I am powerless in its presence – I turn into Homer Simpson, watering at the mouth (oddly enough, that also happens around melty chocolate … and ice cream … and Indian food).

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So, tuck this little combination away in your mind for the next time you’re hungry and too busy (or lazy) to actually cook anything.

Now I just hope my dogs aren’t reading this and sneak into the kitchen to search for crumbs.

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The Canine Saboteurs

This post is for all the dog-owners out there (cats are a whole other can of crazy and we will ignore them for now …. which is really how they prefer it 99% of the time, anyway).

Do you ever feel like your dogs are trying to sabotage you?

I have the sneaking suspicion that at least one of my dogs (if not more) is plotting something at any given time. Even when they’re sleeping.

For the most part, I think my dogs are the greatest/cutest/sweetest/most innocent little four-legged creatures to walk the planet.

And then sometimes, I think they are the most devious little geniuses.

Take today, for example. I wanted to take some Christmas photos of them to put in our Christmas card. My dogs are so used to me snapping away with my camera that it doesn’t phase them one bit, and typically, they do pretty much whatever I ask (maybe not for as long as I ask but hey, they try.) Join me, won’t you, for our fun-filled photo session?

I drape a blanket over our ottoman and position it strategically in front of our tree, ready to crank out these photos quickly.

First up, we have Ella. Bless her heart, she’s the youngest and while she is certainly whip-smart – she hasn’t quite figured out how to play the game just yet. I ask her to lay down, she does. I take her adorable photo, she gets a treat. We’re done. Wham bam, thank you ma’m.

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Next up, we have Wally. Wally is more cunning than Ella (at least for now). I ask him to sit. He sits for approximately 3 milliseconds. He then pops back up, looking for his treat. I ask him to sit again, he sits, and I give him a treat to reinforce the sitting. I snap a photo but I’d really like a different angle. All of 1 second has elapsed and Wally has jumped off the ottoman. I ask Wally to get back up on the ottoman and sit down. He stares at me blankly as if I’m asking him to jump over the moon. I sigh and pull a treat out of my pocket, then ask him to sit. His little beagle butt promptly sits down, I click the shutter, and he gets his treat. Unfortunately, at the precise moment I click the shutter, Ella catches on and decides that treat is meant to be hers. She beagle-bombs the photo.

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Repeat all of this about 13 times until finally, holding Ella back with my free arm, I’m able to get a quick shot off.

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Eager for her turn, we now have Sasha. I tie a little Santa hat on Sasha and ask her to lay down on the ottoman. Sasha is easily our most obedient and generally well-behaved dog. Her method of subtle rebellion is all in her ears. Yes, her ears. You see, Sasha has total control over how she holds her ears. When she holds them normally, they are perfect hound ears and she is a truly beautiful dog. But other times, she decides to look like an extra cast member of Dumb & Dumber and holds them out in the weirdest, most unflattering way. It took me a long time to figure it out but I have now come to the realization that she does this on purpose for photos. She knows that I will wait and wait and wait for the perfect pose, all the time bribing her with treats.

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I naively switch out her santa hat for a scarf, thinking maybe she just doesn’t like the hat.Ha.

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She throws in a few ‘I’m bored so I’m getting up’ maneuvers and manages to score more treats for laying back down.

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And of course, the classic looking anywhere but the camera move.

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She’s a genius.

What she doesn’t count on today is that I will be so frustrated by the two beagles trying to steal treats out of my pocket that I accept that her ears will just have to look weird. I can almost see the shock on her face when I ask her to get off the ottoman.

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Next, we have Annie. Her method of sabotage is different. She obeys immediately and lays down on the ottoman. She gets a treat. I turn around to grab my camera, fending off the greedy noses trying to get to my pocket of treats. Like a flash, Annie jumps off the ottoman and runs into the hallway, peering around the corner suspiciously. She is playing her ‘rescued shelter dog’ card – the one that implies that even though she has lived with us for over a year, enjoying a pampered and comfortable life, she is obviously being lured into some malevolent trap on that ottoman. The card that says, ‘I don’t trust you on this, Mom, so earn my trust …with treats.’

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Well-played, Annie, well-played. I, of course, do exactly that, and we get a photo.

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Finally, we have Sawyer. Sawyer is the most devious of them all. He has been with us the longest and has carefully refined his ability to ruin photos.

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You may think I’m harsh but this dog knows exactly what he is doing. Whether he is yawning, squeezing his eyes shut or, his preferred modus operandi, looking as utterly pathetic as possible, he knows exactly how to take a terrible photo.

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If I ask him to sit up, he lays down. If I ask him to lay down, he sits up. He looks hopelessly awkward. I think to myself, my goodness, has this dog forgotten everything he’s learned in his entire life?? And why does he look like so darn sad? Is he hoping that other people will see his pathetic state and send him care packages of dog biscuits and toys? He looks so handsome in person and I am determined to get a good photo of him. So, I treat him as if he is starting from scratch and he ‘learns’ how to sit and stay all over again, all the while eating up treats he gets for positive reinforcement.

We both know that he already knows all of this and has outsmarted me. Sigh.

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I finally accept defeat, settling for a photo where Sawyer at least doesn’t look like he’s Harry Potter and I’m Uncle Vernon relegating him to his tiny little cupboard under the stairs.

Sasha immediately jumps back onto the ottoman as soon as Sawyer gets off, sitting just as pretty as can be.

Nice try, I tell her, but it’s not going to work this time.

And then, because we both know how this ends, I take the picture.

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I laugh, tails wag, and the dogs discreetly tick off another win.

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Adventures in Oregon: Rooster Rock Trail

The Menagerie Wilderness in the Cascades has been high on the top of our list to check out. The wilderness area has numerous rock pinnacles that are popular with rock-climbers, with the most well-known one being Rooster Rock. While I’m not a rock-climber (I don’t have a death wish!), the trail promised to be a good one, so on Sydney’s final full day with us, we headed back into the Willamette National Forest to tackle Rooster Rock Trail.

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The trail climbs from a base elevation of 1300′ to a peak of 3567′ over 2.1 miles (check it out here if you want more details).

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This trail is not a simple little hike. It is a constant climb up, up, up, up.

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But the payoff is totally worth it. The higher we hiked, the more gorgeous the views.

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I mean, look at that! It’s like a freaking postcard, and that’s just an iphone doing its subpar job so you can imagine how much better it is in person.

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After what felt like a bit of an eternity, we reached Rooster Rock. Sadly there was no way to get a photo of the whole rock – what you see above is just a smaller rock jutting out of its back.

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Suffice it to say, Rooster Rock is massive and you just have to experience it in person. The trail continued along up past the rock to an overlook of the Cascades, and the view literally stopped me in my footsteps.

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It was utterly incredible to look out and see the dips and peaks of the Cascade Range with snow swirling around us off the branches of immense evergreens.

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The wind whipping around was quite a change from the relative peaceful silence of our hike up. I had to take a video just so I could capture how loud it was:

(I know that’s possibly the world’s worst video but I’ve never claimed to be a videographer, my friends.)

 

 

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A tiny half-trail continues on past the overlook, headed back into the wilderness, so we followed it for a little ways to get a glimpse of the other pinnacles. As we climbed over rocks and under branches, suddenly I saw them and again, I was stopped in my tracks by the amazing sight before me. I wish I had brought a zoom lens with me to get a shot of them through the trees but alas I did not. Maybe next time. Although, sometimes it’s nice to have some memories just to yourself… at least for a little while.

We headed back down the trail, invigorated by what we had just seen and also motivated by the last of the pumpkin pie that was waiting for us in the car. Sydney was such a trooper – she felt like she had pulled something in her leg but flat-out refused to let us turn around when we were going up the trail. Luckily, it was nothing serious and the pain receded as we headed back down the trail.

The hike itself took us several hours. Going up is no joke – the climb gets pretty steep at times and it took us a good hour and forty-five minutes going up, although that included a lot of stops to check out the astonishing view and make sure that Sydney’s leg wasn’t going to fall off. Coming back down was much faster but you didn’t want to move too fast lest you slip and land in mud – somehow I avoided the inevitable and managed to stay upright.

All in all, it was a 5-star hike with a million dollar view and a great way to wrap up Sydney’s visit here. Definitely worth checking out if you’re into hiking and don’t mind the climb :)

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Want to follow along on the rest of the ‘Adventures in Oregon’ series?

Check them out here:

Willamette National Forest,

Newport

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