Tuesday, July 24, 2012

VA Wine Trail - Hanging out at the Creek

It’s been a busy summer for Dan and I, but we were finally able to hide the next VA Wine Trail geocache!

This new cache is hidden at Lost Creek Winery, a beautiful winery nestled on the edges of Leesburg, VA. This vineyard is close to another VA Wine Trail cache, so you can grab two caches and two tastings very easily. :)

The owners and staff are very friendly and excited about us placing this cache, so please remember to plan your expedition according to their business hours (Thursday through Monday, 11am to 5pm).

Dan and I at Lost Creek

You can find the coordinates and hint for this cache on the VA Wine Trail – Hanging out at the Creek’s page.

If you would like to find out more about Lost Creek Winery, you can find a review here.

If you would like to find out more about geocaching, you can find all the details on my previous post.

We hope you have a wonderful time finding this cache! See if you can be the first to find (FTF) and pick up the cool travel bug hidden inside!!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Puppy Parenthood: Lesson 1 - Research!

The puppies Nikki rescued

Two days ago, I found out that my sister Nikki was going to rescue two puppies from a bad home. First, I applauded her for rescuing them, and second, her questions inspired me to begin a series of posts about the most important things regarding puppy parenthood. For Nikki, I am only a text message away, but for anyone without a good dog-owner contact, I hope this information will provide you with easy access to the most important puppy knowledge. Also, feel free to post additional questions to me!

Because I never grew up with dogs of my own (though I usually adopted all the neighbor’s dogs), I had to learn many things from scratch when I purchased Vander. Lucky for me, Vander’s breeder was extremely helpful and eager to share valuable experience, as many Portuguese Water Dog breeders are.

Vander's first snow

The first thing Vander’s breeder taught me about puppy parenthood was to RESEARCH. Many owners do not know what they are getting into when they pick out a dog, which is why so many end up as rescues. People pick out a dog that they think is cute, but they are unprepared for the natural instincts and tendencies that have been bred into their puppy for generations. If you can understand the job your dog was bred to perform, you have won half the battle of raising a puppy!

Here are some easy ways to research dog breeds:
  • Do a Google search on your dog’s breed. There are lots of good websites out there, and I would also recommend searching YouTube for videos.
  • Find books! You can get them from the library for free or order them online if you are looking for a rarer breed.
  • If at all possible, talk to someone who has owned a puppy of the same breed as yours. They are a wealth of information and experience! You can probably even visit the dog and see its behavior for yourself.

When I researched Portuguese Water Dogs, I learned that they were originally bred to live on boats and perform tasks like fetching nets or herding fish. This knowledge helped me understand and anticipate that my puppy might have some of the following characteristics:
  • Intelligence – Puppies can learn fast, but they can also learn how to outsmart you.
  • Mouthy – A term for a dog who likes to have something in its mouth at all times. For example: a toy, a shoe, a person’s hand.
  • Companionship – A dog who wants to be with its owner ALL the time, even in the bathroom!

Three month old Vander with toy

Sometimes, when you adopt a dog, you may not know exactly what mix of dog you are adopting. This does not mean that you cannot research what your puppy’s tendencies are! There are plenty of basic puppy books that cover the most common dog traits. Your dog will probably not display every characteristic mentioned in these books, but you will be a more prepared owner if you have a general knowledge of puppy behavior.

As you start your research, do not be overwhelmed by the amount of knowledge available. More than likely, your research will not stop after you bring home your puppy, which is just fine. Continued learning is good for both you and your puppy. Have fun with it!

Two month old Vander and I

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Winery at Bull Run

With all the wineries I have been to, it is getting more and more challenging to find new, unexplored territory. Luckly, LivingSocial sends me coupons for lots of new, hidden vineyards!

Last week, I happened upon a fantastic coupon for the Winery at Bull Run. The $22 coupon got us two souvenir glasses, snacks, and store spending credit! Dan and I had already been planning to take my cousin Hannah to visit Barrel Oak, and since Winery at Bull Run was on the way, we added it on.

Right off of Route 29, Winery at Bull Run is a pretty stretch of property that is as rich in history as it is in beauty. I thought it was fantastic that the owners were able to salvage stones from the original house (which had burned down years ago) and reuse them in many places around the new facility. In addition to the stones and rough-cut rafters, my favorite feature was the big wide porch surrounding the tasting room. I have always had a special place in my heart for porches, especially when they are scattered with comfy, wooden rocking chairs. :)

The wine selection at Bull Run is a good mix of whites and reds, including a port-style dessert wine. My cousin and her boyfriend decided that the Delaney and the Chardonnay were their favorites, and my cousin got a glass of their delicious sangria to drink with our snack. Dan and I both enjoyed the Viognier and got glasses at the vineyard, as well as a bottle to take home. While we did not pick up any of the reds on this trip, I really liked the Norton, and Dan liked the Meritage. I am sure we will go back for bottles of each soon.

Dan and I enjoying our wine and snack

A few other notes about Winery at Bull Run:
  • Be sure to take a look at the wine bottle glasses for sale in the shop area. Very reasonably priced!
  • While dogs are not allowed right now, they are looking into adding a dog-friendly area.
  • Check their events calendar for live music and special fundraisers

Winery at Bull Run was a fun, friendly visit. We enjoyed the wine and atmosphere, and we had a great time chatting with our server. Be sure to add it to one of your winery tours. We are already looking forward to our next trip.

PS: I did not write about our visit to Barrel Oak, but you can read an earlier review. Our recent visit was as wonderful as always, and Dan and I picked up multiple bottles of their Peanut.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Play Ball!

National Park Stadium

Baseball and softball were my first favorite sports. As a kid, I never got tired of watching The Sandlot, Rookie of the Year, The Natural, and A League of Their Own. I don’t know what it is about this game, but it seems almost magical to me. Over time, I have grown to love other sports, but baseball and softball will always remain at the top.

Unfortunately, I never really got to play on a team growing up (which will be different if I ever have a daughter), but I played whenever I could jump in on a game. My favorite position is left or center field. I love watching the big hitters try for a homer, only to have me snatch it out of the air. :)

This past spring, a co-worker heard about my love for baseball/softball and invited me to join our company softball team. Of course, I said yes and asked if Dan could join as well. From that point on, we got to play weekly Saturday morning games. The company team is a good mix of guys and girls and is a blast to play with. We just finished our last week of games and are talking about putting together a team for the fall season!

In addition to playing softball this year, I have also attended a number of Nationals games in DC. It has been years since I have gotten to see this many live baseball games, and I have seriously missed it!

Dan and I jumping in excitement to see baseball

If you have never been to the National’s stadium, I definitely recommend a visit if you are in the area. It is a fun park with lots to see and delicious food to partake of. The park has even gotten reviews from local newspapers and magazines for its taste and variety in food. My favorite food stops so far have been Hard Times CafĂ© and the Shake Shack.

Ignite Your Natitude!

Of course, the Nationals, lovingly called the Nats by locals, are the best reason to visit the park. DC has needed a good, competitive baseball team, and the Nats have been having a great year. While I am still learning many of the players’ names, I was able to pick out a favorite on my first visit to the stadium – Bryce Harper, #34. It was an easy choice because he plays my favorite positions, he is very talented, and he seems to have a real love for the game.

Harper running home

You will probably hear me mention many other sports that I love and enjoy, but baseball/softball definitely top the list!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Ice Cream Sandwich Casserole – Another Easy Dessert!

With the crazy hot weather on the east coast this weekend, I remembered another one of my favorite, super-easy summer desserts. I do not know if this dessert has an official name, so I have named it the delicious Ice Cream Sandwich Casserole!

I have had great success with this dish. It only takes minutes to prepare, and everyone loves it. What’s really funny is to see your friends’ faces when they learn that it is made from ice cream sandwiches. :) They always think it is more complicated than that. lol

Here’s what you need:
  • 13X9 casserole freezer-friendly casserole dish
  • A box of ice cream sandwiches
  • A container of Cool Whip
  • A bottle of Hersey’s Chocolate Syrup

Here’s how to make it:
  • In the bottom of the casserole dish, pour in a thin layer of chocolate syrup. I like to give it a zigzag effect, but that is up to you.
  • On top of the chocolate syrup, place a layer of unwrapped (that should be obvious, but just in case) ice cream sandwiches. You may have to cut a few sandwiches in half to finish filling the dish.
  • Cover the ice cream sandwiches with a nice layer of thawed Cool Whip.
  • Finally, take the bottle of chocolate syrup and make a cool design on top of the Cool Whip. The design can be as fancy or as simple as you want. You can also add other small toppings, such as M&Ms, graham cracker crumbles, etc…

Let your delicious ice cream sandwich casserole sit in the freezer for 4-8 hours, so it gets nice and cold!

When you’re ready to serve, bring it out with a big serving spoon, because I guarantee you that everyone is going to want a nice big piece!

For more cold dessert ideas, see my earlier post.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Peppers, and Basil, and Tomatoes, Oh My!

This pepper smells amazing.

Dan and I picked a bunch of veggies from the garden yesterday, so I figured I would post an update on how everything is growing.

Our pepper plants are producing by the fistful. Chillies and jalapenos are everywhere, and we also got our first bell pepper!

Chilli Peppers

First Bell Pepper

The basil and rosemary plants smell sooo good! We grabbed some of each to season our dinner tonight.

The four tomato plants have grown into a mini jungle. No joke, they are over SIX feet tall!! The cherry tomatoes are already ripening and being picked, even as the plant puts out more flowers. The beef steak tomatoes are making up for their smaller numbers by producing tomatoes that will weigh at least a pound each!

Look how tall the tomato plants are!

Beef Steak Tomatoes

The rest of the garden is bursting at the seams and starting to bloom. The bean bushes are reaching up toward my knees, and both the cucumber and zucchini plants are blooming. Our chives and garlic are also getting taller by the day.

Hurray for fresh produce!!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

My Epic Visit to the Hallowed Grounds of ThinkGeek HQ

In addition to Star Wars, Star Trek, and binary, one thing that I love about being a geek is the geek culture itself. Gone are the days when we geeks had to hide behind monitors or book bindings. Today, we have a culture of our own, and we can proudly display it on our clothes, our cars, and our pizza cutters!

When I was young and new to the working world, my coworkers taught me many important facts, such as: accurate ICBMs (inter cubical ballistic missiles) are vital for cubical survival, office soccer is allowed if work is mostly done, and ThinkGeek.com is an essential resource for geek culture supplies.

A week ago, I saw a ThinkGeek tweet about a lightsaber training event being held at their HQ building for 50 local fans. It only took a few seconds to enter Dan and I into the drawing, and I got to spend the next few days in nervous agony wondering if we had won this coveted honor. Needless to say, I was ecstatic when I received our email invitation. Finally, I was going to be able to cross another item from my bucket list and visit ThinkGeek HQ. Huzzah!!

Dan and I arrived at the *undisclosed* location right on time. It was really hot and humid outside, with temperatures in the low 100s, but we were undaunted by the weather. Some friendly ThinkGeek staff signed us in and placed us on the Flyboys team, handing us blue swatches of fabric and blue lightsabers (ie: spray-painted dowel rods. No laughing. They were badass).

Dan and I with lightsabers

We walked into the loading bay (employee lounge), read through the evening’s itinerary, and enjoyed a few minutes of A New Hope while waiting for things to begin.

The Itinerary

For us Flyboys, our evening began with a great tour of the facilities. We got to see all the important areas where the magic of ThinkGeek occurs, as well as spotting lots of important items from ThinkGeek legend.

Admiral Ackbar Fish

Sighting of a Flux Capacitor

Timmy Outfits

My own personal quest was to discover the Mutant Jello, of which I have been a transfixed follower for over a year. Seriously, any group of people who can make a cult following for something like a cratered piece of dried jello is awesome in my book.

Me with the Mutant Jello

After our wonderful tour, we moved to lightsaber training. At the training grounds, we met Bette and Paul, who walked us through the process of film-staged combat. How awesome is that?! When I first signed up, I thought lightsaber training would be something like a fencing class, but learning the ins and outs of stage combat was way cooler than just a fencing lesson! Dan and I practiced back and forth, inserting sound effects and dramatic acting. It was brilliant.

See the ThinkGeek image of us on flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/thinkgeekmonkeys/7490240692/

Sweaty and hungry from all of our efforts, we made our way from the training grounds to the Noms station. Aware that hungry padawans are angry padawans, ThinkGeek had prepared for the training by asking a Stix food truck to provide nourishment for the event. We were all quite happy with the delicious food, and we even got to watch some great scenes from Empire Strikes Back while we munched.

See the ThinkGeek image of us on flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/thinkgeekmonkeys/7490242622/

Our evening concluded with an epic battle in the training grounds, which was lit by the blue and green lightsabers of our trainers. As the sky faded to black, members of the ThinkGeek staff also gave out tons of raffle prizes to the lightsaber trainees. Dan was especially excited when his name got called for the inflatable Star Trek Captains chair. :)

Dan sitting in his new chair the next day

The evening of lightsaber training was a smashing success for ThinkGeek, and Dan and I enjoyed it immensely. We are definitely planning to keep our eyes open for future events (which were rumored to be in the works). If you are interested in learning about them yourself, be sure to like or follow ThinkGeek on Facebook and/or Twitter.

May the Force be with You!

Special thanks to ThinkGeek for letting us join them for this auspicious event and for the links to a few pictures that I was unable to get, due to being in a battle or stuffing my face. :)