Review: Hurtta Extreme Warmer Dog Jacket

Hurtta Extreme Warmer Dog Jacket

In December Piper won an Instagram contest to become an official reviewer for the new Extreme Warmer jacket from Hurtta, a Finnish company that produces functional, high-quality dog clothing and equipment. Piper is one of those dogs that loves being outside no matter how cold, windy, or snowy the weather might be, so this jacket was especially intriguing to me since it would provide significantly better coverage and warmth than the horse blanket-style coats that Piper already owns. Continue reading

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Homemade Moose Munch

237 Piper Claus

Merry Christmas! Matt and I spent four of the last six evenings with our families enjoying big, yummy dinners. Piper spent the week looking out the window for the UPS truck… it’s almost like she knows where presents really come from. Smart pup!!

Today we’re unwinding from the holidays with nothing to do except watch a few episodes of Sons of Anarchy and the Eagles game. Sounds like a good Saturday to me!! While the Eagles battle the Redskins on NBC I’m trying to catch up on some long overdue blog posts, starting with this one for a holiday treat that’s perfect for sharing.

052 Caramel Corn

Every year Matt and I make some sort of home made treat for our families and neighbors.  Past holiday goodies include chocolate-dipped coconut cookies, candied nuts, and mint chocolate bark and this year we wanted to find a recipe for something similarly festive, delicious and easy to make in bulk.

After a little online research we settled on homemade “moose munch,” aka caramel corn covered in dark and white chocolate. Matt and I first made caramel corn a few years ago so we were already familiar with the basic concept: pop the corn, boil the caramel, toss with the popcorn and bake for an hour with regular stirring breaks.  Easy enough!

Moose Munch (Chocolate-Drizzled Caramel Corn)
(Adapted from Brownie Bites)

Ingredients:
18 cups popped popcorn (3 bags of light butter “healthy” microwaved popcorn)
2 cups mixed pecans and peanuts; roughly chop larger nuts if desired
3 cups Brown Sugar, firmly packed
2 1/4 cups Butter (4 1/2 sticks)
1 1/2 cups Light Corn Syrup
1 tablespoon Baking Soda
12 oz. Dark Chocolate Melting Wafers (we used Ghirardelli)
8 oz. White Chocolate Melting Wafers (again, Ghirardelli worked well!)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 250°F. Spread the popped popcorn out on several rimmed baking sheets and/or casserole dishes. The more shallow the layers the better, so try to use the maximum number of trays for your available oven space. Sprinkle the nuts throughout the popcorn.

In a large saucepan, combine the brown sugar, butter, and corn syrup. Melt the butter and bring the mixture to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes, then remove from heat and stir in the baking soda.  (Warning: baking soda causes the mixture to expand, so make sure you’re using a large saucepan!)

Pour the warm caramel over the popcorn, distributing evenly between the multiple pans. Use tongs or a spatula to toss the popcorn well until it is evenly coated in caramel. Bake the popcorn for 60 minutes, pausing every 15 minutes to stir each tray.

When the caramel corn has finished cooking, spread the hot popcorn in a single layer on parchment paper. Allow to cool for at least 30 minutes before proceeding with the chocolate.

044 Caramel Corn

Melt the dark chocolate wafers in a double boiler. Drizzle the melted chocolate over the cooled caramel corn with a spoon or fork. Wait 10-15 minutes for the dark chocolate to set, then repeat this process with the white chocolate wafers. Allow the finished moose munch to cool completely, then break into chunks and transfer to gift boxes, bags, or a cookie tin. Save a little for yourself and share the rest with your friends and family!

079 Caramel Corn

…and here’s one more gratuitous Piper pic to finish off the post. I took several photos of her in front of the tree and now that Christmas is over I’m looking for any chance I can get to share them!! 😄

115 Christmas Piper

Piper’s First Birthday

Piper turned one last Wednesday! Matt and I considered taking her for a celebratory birthday hike, but it was super hot out and we agreed that all three of us would have been sweaty, panting messes within the first five minutes of any activity we attempted. Instead, we decided that Piper would have the most fun playing in our backyard with her GSP-lookalike, Bella!

1758 Piper's goofy ear-do and Bella_

Bella belongs to Matt’s parents. She stayed with us for a few weeks in August and during that time Piper was absolutely thrilled to have a live-in playmate. These dogs have very similar styles of play and spent hours running at top speed around the yard, playing tug of war, and wrestling with one another. Here are some photos of them playing on Piper’s birthday afternoon. (Piper’s in the orange collar.)

After all of that fun I think it’s safe to say that Piper had a fantastic first birthday!!

Pair of Pointers

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Weekend Getaway to Skaneateles, NY

Matt and I have been having a great summer so far, with lots of long weekend vacations including the Hunting Camp, Bethany Beach, and a 4th of July celebration on the Jersey shore. We still have a few trips ahead of us, including the Poconos and Vermont in September and a combined business/pleasure trip to California in October. (We’ll be driving up the Pacific Coast Highway in a convertible… I’m SO excited!!)

339 Bonfire by the lake

Our most recent weekend getaway took us to the gorgeous Finger Lake region of New York. We stayed with my brother and his fiance’s family at their house on Skaneateles Lake. I hadn’t been to the Finger Lakes before this and wow… I never knew what I was missing!! The views were breathtaking, the water was crystal clear, and the whole area had a relaxing, laid back vibe that was perfect for a mini vacation.

273 Piper waiting patiently for me to throw the stick

Piper is now a total water-loving fiend, so naturally she came along with us and spent hours in the lake. The water was so clear that I could stand knee-deep and still read the logo on my shoes. Unreal!! In fact, the water was SO clear that I actually went swimming… a rarity for this “dark-water” fearing girl!

The house that we stayed in was built in the 1890s. It was floor-to-ceiling dark, varnished hardwood and featured a wraparound porch, 9+ bedrooms, a huge kitchen, and, of course, amazing lake views out of nearly every window.

The sides of Skaneateles Lake are very steep so in order to get down to the house and lake front we drove straight down a half-mile long cliff driveway. This made for a fun start to my run on Saturday morning!! A creek bisects the property as it tumbles down from the main road to the lake. My brother, his future father-in-law and I followed the creek’s course up to the road and scaled several waterfalls in the process. The water was perfectly clear and I loved how it slid effortlessly over the shale rock formations on its way down to the lake below.

There were six dogs at Skaneateles including Piper. We tried to get Piper to follow the yellow Labs as they confidently jumped off the dock but she wasn’t so sure she wanted to take the leap. Instead, Piper entertained herself by retrieving EVERY SINGLE STICK we could find on the edge of the lake. After paddling each stick safely to shore Piper would proceed to chew it up until it was unrecognizable. (Unfortunately she also found the S’mores stick stockpile and chewed those to smithereens… oh well, she was on vacation!!)

In addition to fun at the lake and house, we also visited the local winery two (two!) times and had dinner in the cute little town of Skaneateles, New York. Our hosts recommended that we stop by Doug’s Fish Fry for dinner and they were spot on… best fried fish sandwich I’ve ever had!! I was too busy stuffing my face to take a photo, sorry. 😆

We wrapped up each night with a big bonfire by the lake. The weather was pleasantly cool and breezy and the views of the full “blue” moon were ridiculous. We sat by the fire as this moon rose up over the horizon… I sure was happy that I still happened to have my camera on me!

Matt, Piper and I thoroughly enjoyed our weekend at Skaneateles Lake. Thank you to our hosts and hopefully we’ll get to return next summer! I know Piper has certainly spent many happy nights dreaming about sticks and blue water ever since… 😄
131 Piper galloping thru the water

 

That time Piper defended our house from an invading chipmunk (and other July happenings)

01 Piper on a rainy afternoon

Piper has had a fantastic summer so far, with multiple trips to the pool, plenty of playtime with her buddy Hershey, and hours of outdoor ‘hunting’ in our backyard. Here’s a recap of last month in photos. Enjoy!

02 Piper the happy swimmer!

In June when Matt and I were in Bethany Beach Piper finally learned how to swim in a pool! Prior to this she was scared to step off of the top stair, but when we returned from the beach Piper was swimming around like a little fish. A really really happy spotted fish with cute white whiskers!! 😄

03 Piper water entry method

Piper still hasn’t mastered her pool entry but she’s working on it. She sort of slithers off the side and closes her eyes as she hits the water. Hopefully we’ll get her jumping in like a normal dog by the end of the summer!

04 Piper and Hershey tug

Hershey usually chooses not to go in the pool. Instead, she patiently waits for Piper to retrieve the wubba and then immediately tries to steal it the moment Piper emerges from the water. These dogs crack me up.

05 Backyard puppy

When Piper isn’t paddling around Hershey’s pool she’s usually stalking something in our backyard. Over the past month she has become much more interested in chipmunks, groundhogs, toads and birds. Apparently there are nests with baby birds all around our patio because she has been spending every afternoon with her face wedged in the bushes and her tail wagging at top speed.

06 Uh oh, what has Piper gotten into??

Tip of the month: it is NOT a good sign when your puppy greets you at the back door looking like this!! This happened last Wednesday, just as we were about to go out for dinner. Piper was all “What? Why can’t I just come inside and lie on the carpet?!?”

07 Nope, I didn't do that

We surveyed the yard and discovered a huge muddy hole at the front corner of our house. It appears that a chipmunk foolishly attempted to hide from Piper by taking cover in the gutter. (This has happened before.) Piper “defended” our house by attacking the gutter and then proceeded to dig a moat around the gutter to keep future intruders at bay… or at least that’s what she’s claiming!!

08 Washing off the mud

Piper was REALLY muddy. Fortunately she is easy to bathe.  😄

09 Piper staring

In late June Piper won a “summer dog” Instagram photo contest with this photo. Her prize was a set of three split elk antlers from RidgeRunner Antler Chews in Colorado. I wanted to take some photos to thank RidgeRunner so I hung up a white sheet and started playing around with my camera settings before actually giving Piper an antler. Piper didn’t know what was going on so she just gave me her best puppy eyes as she waited to find out what I was so excited about.

10 Antler Piper

Piper figured out what the big deal was as soon as I handed her an antler. She LOVED it!! These antlers are fresh from the Rocky Mountains and have a thick layer of marrow that Piper went nuts over. She chewed and chewed for about 30 minutes while I snapped away.

11 Antler Piper

If RidgeRunner or any antler company needs a puppy model to “taste test” their products, Piper volunteers!!!

This has been an excellent month for insta-contests. Piper won a second contest, this one for “Cute Puppy Eyes,” with the above photo. One of the prizes was a cool digital portrait of Piper’s winning shot, complements of @Puppy_Transit. They did such a great job! The other big prize is a custom dog bed with our choice of fabric from @LillyandAbbie. Piper has never had a new bed (she sleeps on hand-me-downs from Bailey) so I am really looking forward to receiving her custom bed in a few weeks!!

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That’s about it for Piper’s month in review. Hopefully August will be even more fun!! (Although I could do without the mud hole in the front yard.) 😉 I’m pretty sure Piper will be happy as long as she gets to play in the pool!

00 Piper in the pool

What does your dog do for fun in the summer?
What’s your favorite photo of Piper from July?
I like the second antler shot and her awkward pool entry. 😎

The Hunting Camp, 2015 Edition

912 Piper on the ATV

Last weekend Matt, Piper and I took a mini vacation in the central Pennsylvania wilderness. We stayed at Globe Run Rod and Gun Club – fondly referred to in my family as simply “The Hunting Camp” – for our seventh year of outdoor fun. 😄

I’ve blogged about our Hunting Camp adventures in previous years so feel free to check those posts out for more background (2013, 2014). For this year’s recap, I’m going to summarize the Hunting Camp in “Five Things Friday” style.

Five Things we enjoyed at the Hunting Camp in 2015

1. SWIMMING

Matt and I were excited to discover that Piper LOVES water!! She paddled around the lake with my brother’s German Shepherd, Lady, and even swam WAY out into the lake with Hershey to flush a flock of geese. (I don’t think Piper knew what was going on until the geese actually took off!)

I’m not a fan of swimming in “dark water” but it sure was fun to watch Piper take the plunge!

2. BOURBON

I don’t know anything about bourbon so for fun we had a bourbon tasting on Friday night. Our family members each brought various bourbons (we ended up with 11 bottles!) and it was fun to try them all. The verdict? Basil Hayden was my favorite (probably because it had the lowest alcohol content), but ultimately I think I’ll take a glass of wine over a bourbon any day!

3. HIKING

There are miles of wooded trails at the Hunting Camp and the adjacent Rothrock State Forest. Every day we took at least one hike with the dogs and on Saturday morning I ventured out on a solo 6 mile run in the state forest. My brother saw a black bear at camp just before Matt and I arrived on Thursday, so naturally I spent the whole run worrying about what I would do if a bear appeared around the next bend. (Run the other way? Make a lot of noise??) Luckily the largest animal I saw on my run was a squirrel so I was OK.

4. FOOD

Matt and I were in charge of dinner on Friday night and we had fun with it. We made BBQ baby-back ribs, panzanella, potato salad, cornbread, and strawberry-rhubarb crisp. YUM! The other days we feasted on sausages, burgers, hot dogs, shepherd’s pie, and lots of chips and guacamole. Good thing we did so much hiking! 😃

5. RELAXING

One of the best activities at the hunting camp involves no activity at all.  The huge rocking chair-lined wraparound porch is the perfect spot to relax with a book (or Kindle or iPad). The porch is also a great place to watch the dogs (all four of them!) who spent hours in the yard wrestling, playing chase, and chewing on sticks. By Saturday afternoon the dogs were exhausted!!

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After three days of fun we drove home late Saturday night with a very tired, very happy Piper.  We all had a great time and can’t wait until next year!

367 Piper in a clearing copy

 

Friday Five: Piper in May

Apparently posting fun quinquennial lists on Friday is a blogging “thing” so I’m making up my own version of the Friday Five today.  (And yes, I totally googled quinquennial; I learned a new word today!)

Top Five Photos of Piper in May

#1. Working hard to eat that stick! Our front yard was completely in bloom in early May… you can see the white crabapple in the background.  (5/2/15)

Stick eater 5-4-15

#2. Water Dog! We took Piper to the Darlington Trail and Matt walked into Chester Creek with her while I snapped some photos. She thoroughly enjoyed herself! (5/9/15)

Chester Creek 5-9-15

#3. Waiting on a train. After playing in the creek we continued on the Darlington Trail to the abandoned SEPTA line that used to run from Media to West Chester. I love train tracks! (5/9/15)

Piper on the tracks- 5-9-15

#4. Backyard wilderness. Piper was standing about 30 feet from the house in this shot, but I like how it looks like she’s in the middle of the woods. Also, that yellow squeaky ball at her feet is REALLY loud!  (5/28/15)

Tongue 5-29-15

#5. My goofy puppy. It was really hot yesterday afternoon so we retreated into the house for some indoor playtime.  I love her expression in this shot. (5/28/15)

Goof 5-29-15

Which photo is your favorite? Mine is #2.

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