The boys behind the barks

Let’s face it: you might think I’m ok, but you’re really here for pictures of my pups. It’s ok. I get it. They’re precious!

Thor and Barkley are full of fun and personality

Here's Thor

I didn’t realize how lucky I was when I met my now husband. I was getting a twofer — a sweet, but naughty dog and, of course, Thor — for the price of one. Thor is a furry bundle of personality in a small package. He is the perfect mix of silly and sweet.

Thor in swim goggles

Our first apartment together was in the suburbs of DC. What it lacked in downtown feel, it made up for in a huge L-shaped balcony and much cheaper rent!. We built Thor a swimming pool to enjoy during that hot and steamy East Coast summer.

Thor taking a dip

That fall we moved to Oregon and bought this sweetie a house with a backyard to play in. A lot of my husband’s blood, sweat, and my tears over dirty floors later, we’ve mostly managed to removed the sources of mud that made this guy a very dirty puppy.

Thor muddy in our backyard

We finally had a backyard reception a year after we got married at the courthouse and this pup was our ring bearer.

Thor dressed up for a wedding
Handsome Thor dressed up

Soon after that, we bought our first teeny tiny camper. We wanted to be able to travel around Oregon to explore the beautiful state where we live. We didn't have a lot of extra money and finding dog friendly hotels was an expensive and frustrating endeavor, so this vacation home on wheels was our solution. Luckily, this pup loves to travel!

Thor climbing at tree near Champoeg

📍Champoeg State Heritage Area

Thor eating lunch on Highway 26 from Bend

Stopping for lunch on the side of 📍Hwy 26 on our way home from Bend. Look at all of that hair!

Thor picnicking in Eureka, California

📍Near Eureka, California

Thor dog taking a bath in Brookings, Oregon

Bath time in 📍Brookings, Oregon

Thor dog at Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

One of my favorite photos of Thor ever! Taken at 📍Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

Life was really great for Thor until we decided to get a puppy…

Baby Barkley

Life AB

Drooly baby Barkley the cavalier

We picked up Barkley on a drizzly Saturday in December, and were a little nervous about how this little bundle of fur would affect our household. We were instant buds and he drooled on my arm all the way home.

Baby Barkley the Cavalier

Bringing Barkley home immediately ushered in six months of angry Thor.

Thor above a snoozing Barkley

Not happy.

Thor hiding from a snoozing Barkley

Eye spy: Thor hiding between pillows.

Barkley the cavalier with snow on his nose

Up to snow good.

Barkley the Cavalier running in the ssnow

Slowly, but surely, Thor began warming up

Barkley and Thor separated by a fence

One day I put up a fence to give Thor some space from Barkley and quickly discovered that the only thing he hated more than having a puppy chasing him was not having a puppy chasing him!

Slowly becoming buddies

Did we just become best friends?

How can you resist this face?

It’s impossible to resist this face.

Barkley's doggie t-shirt

I bought a few doggie t-shirts to try to cut down on Bark’s shedding… they did not last long

Slooowly they became besties!

Barkley the book lover

My little shadow is always near

Thor the pomapoo where a raincoat

The dogs voted to revoke my Amazon privileges after I purchased these raincoats

Thor babysitting

Puppers babysitting

Doggies supervising quiet time reading

Supervising “quiet time” reading with our niece

My little gardening helpers! Thor looks cute even with the cone of shame on and I love how Barkley lips look like he’s been sneaking from the strawberry patch!

All of my guys

Here are all of my guys! ❤️

Hope you enjoyed the pics! Love, Rebeccah

A lot of links

When I read an especially good article, I always save it down to my notes to look at again later.

How to save a website to your notes to view it later. This is an easy DIY tutorial for saving websites to Notes for iPhone users.

Here are five posts that I read this past week that I thought you might enjoy.

Tell me your take in the comments below!

What poverty taught me about being too generous

What poverty taught me about being “too generous”

by Kristine Levine

A Q&A with the 'Crazy Rich Asians' Costume Designer

A Q&A with the ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ costume designer

by Elizabeth Holmes

Polarization is everywhere. But it’s being challenged in Poland by a handful of magazines across the political spectrum. They’ve begun sharing articles, to show readers a variety of viewpoints.

The magazines publishing one another’s work to fight political polarization

by Tina Rosenberg

Instagram's sneakiness makes SB ads look quaint

Instagram’s sneakiness makes Super Bowl ads look quaint

by Sheila Marikar

Recipe I'm trying this week

Recipe I’m trying this week

Red lentil soup with lemon by Melissa Clark

Escaping gray skies: our New Years trip to Northern California

If you’ve spent much time in the Pacific Northwest during the fall and winter seasons, you know that the skies eventually start closing in on you. Last year we escaped to Hawaii in January, which was lovely but not doable financially every winter. This year because of how the holidays fell, we decided to take a long road trip to NorCal for a few days. Here’s our trip!

 

Prep

With a week long trip planned — our longest yet in this new-to-us camper — we brought Fleetwood Mac to the house to get everything in place after our first few tumultuous adventures. I tracked some serious mileage walking food, blankets, and dog supplies from our front door to the camper. We’re working on getting duplicates of everything so that eventually we have camper towels in a color different from house towels to make them easy to identify, camper only sheets, etc. to make trip preparation less work.

In the weeks before this trip, Mr. B. installed a composting toilet in the camper and this adventure would be our first time using it. To say that I was a little nervous about this new addition would be a huge understatement! I was a little terrified it would make our bathroom feel like those icky pit toilets at state parks.

We also decided to use the dinette table area as a dog palace while traveling. We collapsed the table, covered it in blankets and dog beds, and added a barrier to keep the puppers in place. It wasn’t much to look at this trip because we just used items we had on hand, but I’ll add an update when we have a more permanent and pretty solution in place!

Hitting the road!

We hooked up the CRV behind us and left (not so) bright and early on Saturday with the plan to find a place to boondock the first night. We made good timing, landing in dry and sunny California by mid afternoon.

The roads were clear as we headed off the Interstate to find a camping spot on a well traveled forest service road, but as soon as we started hitting some elevation, the road started icing over. In a car this would be stressful enough, but we’re traveling in a 31’ foot camper and towing a CRV behind us. Eek! This was when I started getting a little concerned.

Luckily, after driving for about five more minutes — during which the road conditions kept deteriorating — we found a pull off where we could disconnect the CRV. This was our first trip towing the CRV, and this was certainly a stressful way to break in hooking and unhooking it!

Thankfully, it takes less than five minutes to do so and it made me grateful that we chose to flat tow instead of using a trailer to haul our Civic. Mr. B. was able to turn around the camper and I followed him down the hill and we headed back to civilization.

After that experience, we changed course and ended up spending that first night at an expensive private campground that lacked fresh water, but we were thankful to have a safe and warm space to stay. The next morning, we experienced an icky disaster when Mr. B. emptied our tanks and sewage spilled out from what was supposed to be a completely empty black tank. Yes, ew. Very ew. After my husband of the year* cleaned up the mess, we rolled out of the campground and hit the road again for day two of traveling.

* No contest, friends, he wins this award annually.

As we rolled into Redding, I took a photo of a roadside sign and sent it to a friend who lives in DC, but is originally from the area.

Our New Years trip to Northern California in our motorhome

A minute later I got an excited call from my friend because she had just passed the same road sign! She was in the area visiting family and they were driving down to San Francisco. As luck would have it, they were just a mile ahead of us on the road! We made plans to meet for lunch at their usual spot when traveling down I-5.

 

It was wonderful to catch up with my friend and her parents, who are just salt of the earth-type of people. And their taste in restaurants is spot on! Granzella’s in Williams, California is the ideal spot to stop while traveling up or down I-5, especially if you are in a camper! The food was great — I highly recommend getting the egg salad with pickles on sourdough bread — and there is a huge parking lot with plenty of room for large trailers and motorhomes.

Review of Granzella's Restaurant in Williams, California

Refreshed from a good lunch and even better company, we made the final leg of our journey and enjoyed a sunny afternoon drive through wine country to Petaluma.

After two days on the road, I was thrilled to pull into our campground and get settled into our spot. I took the dogs for a well deserved walk while Mr. B.. stayed behind to get the camper set up. After a nice stroll, I walked in the camper door and instantly knew something was wrong based on the look on my husband’s face. I just didn’t know how bad it would be.

Our camper has two things that are called slides. They are motorized spaces that slide out to open up the camper and give you more floor space. The kitchen and couch on our driver’s side is a side out, as is the bed on our passenger side. And that slide had stopped working and was stuck out. Mr. B. started investigating by removing the wooden panel that separated the bed space from the motor and inner workings on the slide, only to discover that the motor had literally broken in half. In half!

When disaster strikes in your motorhome while on a trip...

This was about the time that I started wishing that we’d stopped for me to do tastings at a few wineries during our drive instead of just enjoying the scenery. I went into panic mode, imaging us trying to do the 12 hour or so drive back home with a slide out. I also wondered — not for the first time since buying Fleetwood Mac — if we could just set the damn thing on fire.

The nice thing about marriage is that there’s a rule that no two people can lose their minds completely at the same time, and that the one who is losing it the least can usually rally the other party back to sanity or at least convince them not to set the camper on fire. And while my husband should have been the one losing it the most, as you can probably gather he wasn’t, and so his voice of reason was what got us through this crisis… or what very much felt like a crisis to me.

Cooler heads prevailed, and I started researching our options and trying to find the closest RV parts dealer. I quickly discovered that the closest Camping World was more than an hour away without traffic, but currently at two and climbing. Not to mention that a replacement motor looked to be anywhere from $300-$800, and possibly more depending on the model we need.

Thankfully my husband was able to crank the slide in and out manually, although we were left feeling mildly concerned about its ability to stay in nice and tight while we were traveling back home. At this point, I decided for the next few days to try to pretend that none of this was happening, and didn’t once worry that the slide would open up as we were driving home while going around a curve which causes us to plummet down a sharp embankment to our deaths.

I made dinner, we watched a little TV, and then we went to bed… hoping for a vacay reset in the morning.


The next day was New Years Eve, and we decided to load the puppers up in the car and drive to the coast to say goodbye to 2018 and welcome in the new year.

Our New Years trip to Northern California in our motorhome

The drive to the coast is almost entirely farmland and rolling hills. There are black dairy cows everywhere. I even spotted the farm where some of the milk we buy comes from. With all of this sunshine and the coast view, I’m partly buying the idea of happy California cows.

Our first stop along the way was this crazy rock formation.

Our New Years trip to Northern California in our motorhome

You can’t really tell from here, but it’s quite the drop off! I stayed away from the edge.

Our New Years trip to Northern California in our motorhome

After a quick stop, we made our way to the coast.

Our New Years trip to Northern California in our motorhome

And these guys were excited!

We were starving on our way back to the camper and struggled to find a place to stop, as it’s coast then farm, farm, farm, farm, farm. Luckily, we stumbled upon this gem in the middle of nowhere.

Review of Estero Cafe in Valley Ford, California

Estero Cafe in Valley Ford was to die for. Our meal was not cheap, but from what I could gather everything was farm fresh so you were paying for quality ingredients and you could taste it in every bite. I ordered the mushroom sandwich which was delicious but the true star was the side of onion rings — my mouth is watering just typing about them several weeks later!

We then meandered our way back to the camper for a relaxing afternoon and evening.

I am only mildly embarrassed to admit that I fell asleep just shortly after 9 p.m., a.k.a. East Coast New Years, after my annual call to my father to ask if he’s showered this year.

New Years Day was a quiet one for us. We walked around downtown Petaluma for a bit, not fully anticipating that nearly everything would be closed for the holiday. There are a lot of cute little shops and a theater that I would like to check out the next time we go back.

Review of Lagunitas Brewing Company tour in Petaluma, California

The next day we took a tour of the Lagunitas Brewery in Petaluma. It was one of the better brewery tours that I’ve taken, and one of the longest. The first hour or so is beer tasting, and they are more than generous with the pours. It is well worth a stop if you are 21+ and enjoy beer and fanciful storytelling.

The next morning, we packed up and got ready to go. I was full of anxiety as we buckled down the hatches in the camper, and Mr. B. manually cranked in the slide. As we hit the highway, I kept my eye on the rearview window — checking every two to three minutes to see if the slide had fallen out yet. It was a very relaxing ride, let me tell you. When we hit a few bumps the slide moved out a tiny bit, we stopped and Mr. B. adjusted it.

We made one more stop at Granzella’s on our way north and had a fairly uneventful drive for the rest of the way through California, minus a hilariously awful gas station pit stop on the edge of no man’s land.

We drove a few more hours north with me checking the rearview mirror every few minutes to see if the slide was still in until we crossed the Oregon border and made our way to Valley of the Rogue State Park in Gold Hill. Located just off the highway, it’s a good stopping spot for a night while traveling up and down I-5.

After a good night’s rest, we made the final leg home. It was such a relief to see our house after perhaps not the most relaxing trip, when we pulled in front of our house and…

Crunch!

Not exactly the sound you want to hear after a long and eventful trip.

When disaster strikes during your motorhome trip

The body of our camper is a little bit wider than the cab, and it just scraped the railroad ties that we have as borders in front of our house. Thankfully, it was only a superficial wound to the camper and Mr. B. assures me that it’s nothing a little super glue can’t fix.

That Mr. B. He’s the best. And when I asked him about how he felt about camping after everything that went wrong this trip (and the few before it), he thought for a second and said:

Worth it.
— Mr. B.

A few lessons learned from our trip

This trip was quite an adventure and I even left out a few things that went haywire for the sake of brevity and in an attempt not to be a completely Debbie Downer. So I would love to share a few tidbits that we learned from this trip.

Check your expectations.

We bought a used camper which has its positives and its negatives. The positives being that we could afford it and the negatives being that — even though it’s in relatively good shape — it’s going to have things go wrong with it. And that can be frustrating and stressful, especially for me because I don’t know how to fix anything, so it’s probably best that I remind myself when these things happen how much we would have to pay for a new camper.

Don’t drive in the dark

We’ve always had a rule about arriving before sundown, which hasn’t always happened in the past and that’s usually when disaster strikes. Trying to find a boondocking spot at sunset on our first night led to a lot of unnecessary stress, and then we ended up paying much more than we typically would for a camping spot out of desperation.

Keep it half full

When it comes to your life outlook and the gas and propane tanks, always keep them half full. If we had stopped to fill up our tanks earlier, we wouldn’t have needed to make that ill-fated gas stop that ended up taking us nearly an hour. My second piece of gas advice is to try to avoid smaller stations and instead try to stick to truck stops and travel centers when driving a 31’ camper and towing a car behind you.

And if your vacation turns out to be more of a Trip with a capital T, two to three hours worth of Real Housewives and a bucket full of chips and salsa when you get home will fix you every time.

Book Review of Rock Needs River
While this book posits itself as an open adoption story, I would argue it centers more on Vanessa McGrady’s winding journey toward and complicated feelings about becoming a mother. And she seems to be a very good one at that. She’s a fiercely loving and protective mother, which redeems the more complicated, flawed, and frustrating parts of herself that she puts forth in this book.  - Review of Rocks Meets River by Vaness McGrady

This book was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster for me. I started off loving it — couldn’t put down — then toward the middle I grew frustrated and almost deleted it, but I decided to push through and I’m glad that I did.

I enjoyed the writing style, each page filled with a gritty sort of honesty that makes me feel uncomfortable and cringe inside, yet draws me in more. You can feel the author’s pain and longing as she realizes that she wants to become a mother while barreling through several failed romantic relationships. Despite some misgivings, I began rooting for her and hoped that she could get it together and make her dreams of a child come true.

When she is unable to have her own biological child, she, along with her husband, adopts her daughter from a couple experiencing homelessness. Much of the book explores her unraveling relationships with her spouse and her child’s biological parents.

While beautifully written, I often found myself wanting to shake the protagonist due to a lack of self-awareness and her occasional bad behavior. I wish this was a work of fiction instead of a memoir because I think it would have quelled my anxiety over how this book might damage her relationship with her loved ones in real life, and my concern that her daughter’s story isn’t hers to tell.

While this book posits itself as an open adoption story, I would argue it centers more on Vanessa McGrady’s winding journey toward and complicated feelings about becoming a mother. And she seems to be a very good one at that. She’s a fiercely loving and protective mother, which redeems the more complicated, flawed, and frustrating parts of herself that she puts forth in this book.

Read this book for free!

I downloaded Rock Needs River through Amazon’s First Reads. Each month, Prime subscribers get early access to new releases and can typically download one or two books for free. It’s how I found two of my favorite books from last year!

No Kindle? No problem! I actually read this book on my iPhone app.

Three bits of sunshine

Class starts!

For most of last year, I was part of a writing group that met at our local senior center. I love being in a school/classroom setting and my fellow writers were so encouraging and talented, so it really filled my cup. But last fall, I decided to take a break and what a mistake that was! My class starts again today and I can’t wait to see what everyone has been up to and read their incredible short stories and prompts.

Technology!

While the internet can sometimes be the worst (hello, trolls), it can also allow us to connect with loved ones far away in ways we couldn’t otherwise. This week a good friend received some really bad news and I felt so powerless and wanted to do something nice. If the physical distance wasn’t so great, I would have whipped up a good old fashioned Midwestern casserole to drop off. That wasn’t an option, so instead I was able to have some food and other items delivered to their door. I used Prime Now, but Like Neighbors or a similar service are all great ways to help out if you find yourself in the same situation.

New vacuum!

After debating whether to get a new vacuum for way too long and then which one, I finally bought one! I chose to go with a Dyson that was on sale, and I’m glad that I did. It does a very good cleaning the floors and the couch. It was horrifying and fascinating to vacuum a few rugs that were recently cleaned with our old model and see how much yucky stuff came up! Ew. I think this will work wonderfully for every day cleaning jobs (I tend to vacuum about every other day because I have long hair plus two very furry puppies), but we’ll still keep our ‘ol reliable plug in vacuum for big jobs, like when we baking soda the couch and rugs every once in a while.