Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Snow Dog 2.0

Here are a few more pictures. He loves running in the snow and then jumping full force into a drift. The second picture is of him trying to find his tennis ball. He's really getting down there!

Snow Dog

Scout is a Snow Dog. He has been snow-shoeing a few times, but since we didn't get a lot of snow in Seattle, he hasn't had a ton of time to play in it. That was until we moved to the East Coast. We spent Christmas weekend in Ohio at my parents and he could hardly contain himself. They had several inches for him to play in and we could barely keep him inside. We'd play with him for awhile, bring him in the front door and he'd immediately race towards the back door to try and get back outside. He tried to incorporate fetch and snow playing, but this often led to a ball getting lost in deep snow and him trying to dig it out, which actually drove it even deeper. Here are a few pictures, not the greatest quality, but to give you an idea. Justin has taken some pictures with his camera over the last few days now that we are back in Philadelphia and had a bad winter storm, you know, in our low impact snow zone. I'll try and get those up too. Hope you are staying safe and warm this winter season. And Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

New Toy

Scout with one of his new "sports ball tug" toys. Doubles as a pillow. Love that guy!

Make Your Own Sushi Night

When I was in OT school I worked part time at a Japanese Steakhouse. It was a fun place to work, plus delicious food, but one of the best things I picked up during my tenure was how to make sushi. I was never great at it, but had the basics down and knew many of the basic rolls and techniques. I have hosted a few "Asian feast" nights with friends, practicing some rolls and pieces, but it had been awhile. We found out one of Justin's classmates and his wife liked sushi and were up for learning how to make it. I returned to the delightful Reading Terminal Market for some fresh fish and supplies and prepared for a fun night of sushi making and fellowship with friends. Everyone made their own roll with their favorite ingredients and by the end, everyone was pretty stuffed. Fun time!

Thanksgiving Weekend

A few weeks ago my mom and step dad made it down to Philadelphia for Thanksgiving. It was the first time they had been here since we moved. We did a traditional turkey dinner with all the regular dishes. The turkey turned out pretty well, even though it took over 2 hours longer than we had planned for. Here is the set table, with hand made name cards and all. I'll take any chance I can to do papercrafting :)

Saturday we went into the city to tour around. We stopped by The Liberty Bell, walked around the court house where the first Supreme Court met, and spent some time at Reading Terminal Market, a really cool indoor farmer's market that has just about any type of food you could want. They also had a large train display set up for the Christmas season.

Tickets were sold out for the the tour of Independence Hall, but maybe next time. Thanks for coming Mom and Jack, it was a lovely visit.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Low Impact Snow Zone

We are getting ready for an East Coast winter. Snow boots have arrived, I am trying to find an alternate commute in case my train isn't running, and we went to purchase chains for Justin's car. The route he takes to school has a few Emergency Snow Route roads and we want him to get to school safely. I already had chains for my car, purchased when I went to Montana for Christmas several years ago. I understand that many people here get snow tires or studded tires, but we were trying to save some time, hassle, and money so went to look for chains.

We went to our local Pepboys Auto Store, despite our previous negative experience. This was the closest and most convenient parts store. You'd think we'd have learned our lesson from all the other things that have gone wrong since living here, but alas, we just went to the store expecting to get what we wanted.

We looked around for a few minutes and then I went to the help desk asking for chains. The salesman told us they don't carry chains because this is a "low impact snow zone." Are you kidding me? Philadelphia? The same city that by February 10, 2010 broke its snowfall record with a whopping 70.3 inches? The salesman proceeded to tell us we wouldn't need them. He's lived here a long time and has never needed them. What happened to trying to sell product to your customer?

I understand the city has plows, salt, etc. . . to help make the roads safer, but really, no chains? Not to worry though, my in-laws found some on Amazon for us so we will be good to go out and brave the roads. Hope you enjoyed the photo at the top, taken during Philadelphia's Snowmageddon of 2010.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Southwestern Chicken Soup

I have never been all that great in the kitchen. I like the idea of cooking and trying new things, but when it comes down to planning it all out and actually executing it, I haven't been very successful. Or shall I say motivated? Until this past month. I felt like we were kind of in a rut for our evening meal rotation and I wanted a change. I am all for eating more healthy options, but not at the cost of taste. I also find that so many recipes call for too many ingredients and not stuff that we typically stock. I took some time at Barnes & Noble to select a few cookbooks, ones with healthier options, limited ingredients and for busy people. I had already been doing a monthly meal calendar which definitely helped with grocery shopping/budgeting, but this month I added 3-4 new recipes to each week and wanted to share one of my new favorites. It is super easy, makes a lot, and best of all, is really delicious. Give it a try!

Southwestern Chicken Soup
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces
  • 3 quarts water
  • 12 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 2 cups salsa
  • 1 box Spanish rice (I used Rice-a-Roni)

In a large pot mix the chicken, water, bouillon, salsa and Spanish rice. Bring to a boil. Boil 3 to 4 minutes. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Serve hot.

Suggested side- corn bread

A 1 cup serving has 110 calories, 4 g fat, 30 mg cholesterol, 10 g carbs, 13 g protein and 1088 mg sodium.

Enjoy and let me know if you have any tasty, quick recipes to share.

Monday, November 15, 2010


Back in October I had the opportunity to head down to Johnson City, TN for my 10 year college reunion. I'm that old ; ) Justin had some exams he couldn't miss so I made the trek on my own. I had known for awhile that I'd be on the East Coast making the trip a lot more convenient so emailed all my roommates so everyone could make plans to be there. And they were! We went to a beautiful college in east TN, Milligan College, and fall is amazing there.

Here is a picture of the chapel and then down to the left, the library. The weather was gorgeous, pushing 80 on Saturday.

We spent Friday taking a self guided tour of the campus. So much had changed, building-wise, but in way, it was just as we left it. I have so many fond memories of my time there.

Here is a picture of a cross in the courtyard with one of the education buildings behind it.

Milligan's mascot is a buffalo, so here we all are posing with "Buffy." From left to right is: Laura, Rachel, me, Mara and Nancy.

Rachel and I were both Biology majors so here we are in The Science Buliding posing with one of the anatomy models. So many hours spent there!

Saturday was the actual Class of 2000 reception, followed by a Firehouse catered lunch (delicious BBQ), a Homecoming parade and then the Fall Festival with inflatables and kettle corn. Saturday was also Laura's birthday so we went out on the big town of Johnson City for a tasty dinner at Jack's City Grill.

Sunday morning I went to Grandview Christian Church, where we all attended church while in college. It was great to visit with so many friends. The trip was short, I headed back to Philly Sunday afternoon, but the memories were perfect. Thanks for making the trip everyone!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Happy Birthday Love!

Happy Birthday Honey! Hope you had a special day and enjoyed your yummy birthday dinner at Bugaboo (it wasn't the Keg, but not a bad substitute). I love you!

Mall Cop

Justin and I had to go back to the mall this weekend and I was reminded of something else that had caught our attention the previous week. The have mall cops. On Segways. Couldn't help but think of Paul Blart: Mall Cop. At least the mall security at Franklin Mills were wearing helmets, don't need any head injuries.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Let's go to . . . The Mall!!

Neither Justin and I are really mall people. Everytime I even say the word mall, I think of an episode of How I Met Your Mother where one of the characters, Robin, was a Canadian pop star who sang a song called Let's Go To the Mall. You can watch it here. Good times! But there was a movie we wanted to see and it was showing at our local mall, Franklin Mills, so we decided to give it a go. After the movie and lunch (which all was a surprise date planned by Justin), we decided to do a little shopping. We hardly ever go shopping, and had never been to this mall before, except to go to Bed, Bath, and Beyond for something when we first moved to Philadelphia. We had no idea what we were in store for (no pun intended). First of all, it really may have been the biggest mall I have ever been to. It just kept going and going. And it was very eclectic. It had something for every culture group, every economic class, every age. They even had factory outlet stores. And seeing as there was so much store variety, there was the same degree of variety in the people. Here are a few of our favorite things we saw or experienced: 1. Kraft was giving away free samples of a new style of Mac and Cheese, Homestyle. We ended up with 4 packs. But as we were walking around, we noticed a gentleman eating the raw noodles right out of the bag. What? 2. Eyebrow designing- I don't know much about eyebrow design and we didn't really investigate this too much, but it looked like they were using some sort of string and laying it on people's faces. What is that about? 3. Massage parlors- I have seen massage chairs you put a few quarters in at a mall before, but there were actually massage tables in the middle of the mall and creepy men standing there waiting to give massages. 4. Shower caps- we saw two women walking around in shower caps. That is all I can remember for now, but all I know is it was one interesting day. What did you do this weekend?

Sunday, September 26, 2010


Yesterday I had the chance to go to my first polo match. Tinicum Park in Bucks County, Pennsylvania hosts polo matches every Saturday from May to October. My friend Becca and I loaded up the dogs and headed out for a nice drive and Saturday afternoon. The Polo club has several themed activities throughout the season, such as Pooches and Polo or Wine and Polo. Yesterday was just a normal game which we thoroughly enjoyed. I had never been to a match before so did some quick research on wikipedia to get a better understanding of the game and rules. At this particular park, people either watch from a public tent, rent individual tents/canopies or tailgate. We went the tailgate route, packed some snacks and camp chairs and sat back and relaxed in the hot sun. We even went out on the field to help replace the divets during halftime. Check out the pictures.

Here are the hot puppies sharing some water.

What did you do this weekend?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Wet Tail

I didn't share this little story in my last post because I felt it deserved a post of its own. While we were in Maine, Scout developed limber tail syndrome. It is also known as wet tail, cold water tail, limp tail syndrome, broken tail, dead tail or broken wag.

Commonly seen in large active dogs, this condition often appears suddenly after vigorous exercise or activity. The exact cause is unknown but is thought that the muscles that "run" the tail become overworked or injured, resulting in pain and inability/reluctance to move the tail.

Scout was acting a little weird Sunday after his Dog Day of Fun. He had been active for about 9 hours, most of it swimming. He wouldn't sit down but would instead circle around a few times and then lay on his side. He didn't cry or whine, but was a little "off." When I woke up Monday I recalled a story from an old coworker of mine had once told me about her Rhodesian Ridgeback having something called limp tail. I called Justin who remembered something like what I described from his vet tech days. He looked it up and we diagnosed Scout with Wet Tail. He had exercised too much!

It was actually quite pitiful, a dog who couldn't wag his tail. It just hung there, limp and flaccid. The cure is rest and he was back to normal in a couple of days. I didn't get any pictures of him, but here are a few I found on the internet. Too sad.


A few weeks ago I had the chance to go to Maine to spend some time with my in-laws. Justin and I had been looking forward to this trip for awhile since we would have the chance to see some family, and of course get out of Philly for awhile. Unfortunately he had a big Greek test he couldn't miss so I went with Scout. My mother-in-law Lea is from Maine and that is where a lot of her family still resides. Every summer she and Mike head up to stay at their family cabin on Sebago Lake and then a family reunion at Sebasco.

I haven't really spent much time on the East Coast, or New England, so wasn't sure what I would encounter on my drive north. We left Philly around 1:15 on a Friday afternoon. I was quite disappointed to average only 35 mph for the first 4 to 5 hours of my trip. There was so much traffic, and some construction, and many, many, many tolls. It was a little frightening driving across the George Washington Bridge into New York as it was during rush hour on a Friday afternoon and everyone was out for themselves. No courtesy drivers there. What should have been a 7 hour drive ended up being about 9, but we safely arrived at Lea's sister Anne's house that night. Scout was immediately welcomed by Anne's 3 year old golden retriever, Scarlet, and tennis balls, in the house!! A special treat for a dog who usually only gets them outside. Lea had already been there for a couple of days and left to pick up Mike from the airport that night.

Saturday morning was nice and relaxed. I enjoyed some breakfast, fetch with the dogs, and then the 4 of us took the dogs to Twin Brook Recreation Area. This park has all the recreation/sport fields for Cumberland and a lovely off leash dog park that had fields and trails. There was also a creek which was out of sight for us, but the dogs found it without any trouble. Scout cooled himself down this way, but when we arrived back at Anne's, he raided Scarlet's baby pool as well. The dog loves water. Little did he know what was in store for him at Sebago Lake.

Soon after this we packed up and headed to Lea's girlhood home which was right on the Atlantic Coast (can't remember the name of the landing) and then stopped by Town Landing Market to pick up some italian sandwiches for lunch. The views by her home were beautiful and it looked like a really neat place to grow up. Very green and blue! Here is a picture from the beach.

Next we took about a 45 minute drive to Sebago Lake where Lea's family has a quaint lakeside cabin. Scout headed straight for the water and pretty much stayed there for the next 3 days, with a few exceptions. Here we are on Scout's first boat ride. He seemed sort of indifferent about the whole thing.

That evening we headed into town for dinner and I had my first lobster. It wasn't as hard to get the meat out as I thought it would be and it was tasty. I am glad I had the experience but don't know that I'll order one again.

Sunday Lea had arranged a Dog Day at the lake. Several of her siblings, their spouses, kids and dogs came over for an afternoon of swimming and boating. It was nice to get to meet more of her family and I think Scout had a good time playing with the other dogs.

Here is Anne, me and Mike tossing the balls for Scarlet and Scout. I pretty much hung on this little piece of beach most of the weekend so Scout could be out in the water.

The weather was great. Nice and warm, but not too hot. Here I am cooling off with a few of the dogs. The dog count was 6. Scout, 4 goldens (Scarlet, Willow, Cricket, and Rhubarb) and 1 standard poodle (Sadie). It was a bit crazy with all 6 out, but they had a blast. You may have noticed Scout's life jacket. He is actually a great swimmer but I put the jacket on when he was in the boat and when I went swimming with him. It has a handle on it which makes it a lot easier to grab him if I needed to, especially to pull him up on the floating dock since he can't climb ladders.

Here is a shot of about 1/2 of us. From left to right: Henry (Lea's brother), Randy (Lea's mom), Jan (Henry's wife), Mike, Anne, Scarlet, me and Sadie.

Here is Scout at the end of the day, beat.

Here we are on the Big Mable, an awesome tube I took a ride on with Lea's niece Annie. He is such a good snuggler when he is tired!

Monday was a bit cooler and rainy. I spent a little time on this fun hammock reading on the enclosed porch. We made this nice cushiony (is that a word?) bed for Scout but he didn't stay on it for long.

Monday afternoon we went to Henry and Jan's nearby farmhouse for lunch and to hoof around on their property of fields and woods. Here is a picture of me pulling Scout out of their water fixture, where he wasn't supposed to be!

Here is another partial group shot in front of the house. Henry trains his dogs for agility trials and the one closest to him is their newest addition, 6 month old Rhubarb. What a cutie!Tuesday we cleaned and packed the place up and then took another boat ride to see some more of the lake and gas up the boat. Mike and Lea took me by Frye's Leap, a cliff about 5o feet above the water where my daredevil husband jumped from in his younger days. Kind of scary. After lunch I packed up and headed home as they made their way to Sebasco for the family reunion and remainder of the week. I really had a nice time. So glad I was able to get off work for a few days and enjoy a new place and family. Wish Justin could have come with me but we already have next year's trip in the works!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Wagon Wheel

I haven't actually done any research on this, but I would bet there are at least 50 pizza joints within a 2 mile radius of us. And they are always leaving takeout menus in our door to tempt us. One in particular advertises The Wagon Wheel, a 24" in pizza. The first time we got pizza from there I was intrigued by the boxes they use for the wheel, they looked too big to even fit in the backseat flat (it almost was). We finally succumbed to our curiosity and ordered it last night. Don't judge! It was humungous. It wasn't as good as Papa Murphy's, and the kind we got had a few too many toppings on it for my liking, but it was good and there was a ton!! Lots of lunch leftovers. Please note the can of soda in the corner for size comparison. And like the diet Dr. Pepper was going to cancel out the calories or something.

Lums Pond State Park

Yesterday I had the pleasure of going on a little hike and picnic with my friend Becca and our dogs. The hubbies stayed home to study Greek. I have been looking for a place for Scout to swim and one of my coworkers had suggested Lums Pond, a state park in Delaware. It only took a little over an hour to get there and was well worth it for the dogs. We hiked around the lake, about 7.1 miles, although the paths weren't marked super well and we ended up on a different trail for a short bit. The hike had several spots for the dogs to hop in and cool off. There were also several of these white birds which were kind of cool to watch. I don't know what kind of bird it is, but they were pretty big.

Here are the dogs enjoying some off leash time. Scout is the gigantic one in the back and Yogi is the little one in the front. He's 4 months old and this was his first hike. He did pretty well for such a little guy.

Here they are sharing the tennis ball during swim/fetch time. It was also Yogi's first time swimming. They had a pretty good time and we enjoyed some nature. Plus, it wasn't super humid like it has been. Hope you had a nice weekend too!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

So its been awhile

So I am not a very good blogger. There are likely a few reasons for that, but mainly because I don't think we've done too much that is blog worthy. As you read in one of my most recent entries, the transition to PA has not been very easy. So may things we have tried to do have ended up in disaster that it is diffcult to get motivated to try something new. We have had a few adventures, one of which was a day trip to Hershey, PA for our anniversary, but that will be for another time, when I get the pictures. You see our camera battery died half way through the tour of The Hershey Gardens so we bought a disposable, and still have pictures on it. So one day I'll blog about that. But until then, here is the run down of what we've been up to.

One of our first weekends here we packed a picnic lunch and headed out to Pennypack Park, a local Philly park. Part of it lies up against the Delaware River so Scout swam. It was nice to get out and start exploring.

Over Memorial Day weekend we went on a day hike. I can't even remember the name, but probably because it wasn't too good. No mountains, no spectacular views. It was super hot and humid, we thought the dog was going to keel over. The trail ended up crossing over several roads and intertwining with many equestrian trails, not too fun. Here is a picture of a lake, but not a swimming lake.
For July 4th weekend we were invited to my aunt and uncle's in Maryland. My mom and stepdad were there for several days and we went on Sunday for a BBQ. It was nice to see my folks and Justin got to meet all my cousins and their families. I hadn't seen my cousins in over 10 years so had never met their wives/significant others or their children. It was great to meet and see everyone. Here is a photo of the family. Please note the dogs, none of which are looking at the camera.
One of the things Justin and I have always enjoyed doing is volunteering together. We found a great organization called Greater Philadelphia Cares that is an umbrella organization for numerous volunteer opportunities. There is something almost everyday and they have made it really easy to get involved for as little or as much commitment as you can. We have been volunteering for a Wednesday night Youth Enrichment program held at a local church in the inner city. During the summer the program is geared towards teaching the kids healthy habits and activities. They put together a community garden, have learned how to treat animals and pets, how to make a healthy snacks, and are putting together a scrapbook (lucky for me, this is the project I help with the most!!). During the school year the program will be more for tutoring the neighborhood kids that come. We also ventured out to a Friday night game night for the kids.
We have gone to a few other parks in the city, walked some trails and looked for swimming holes for Scout. Justin finally started class this past week and is loving it. He is currently in an accelerated biblical Greek class and is doing very well. He has put a lot of time into studying and can't seem to put the books down. A few weeks ago the school hosted a little pizza social and it was a Godsend. We hadn't really made any friends yet but were able to meet some nice people at the pizza get together and have quickly become friends with 2 of Justin's classmates and their wives. Turns out we weren't the only ones to have so many struggles with the move. We have gotten together with each of the couples a few times and really enjoy their company. And Justin has gotten a steady workout and study partner!!
Those are the highlights for now. I will be sure to blog about our anniversary when I get the pictures, but I leave you this final picture. The muddy dog after wallowing in a mud puddle at his field. Hope everyone is having a great summer!!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

What we like about Philly. . .

Rita's Water Ice. Many of you know this as Italian Ice, but for whatever reason, they call it Water ice here. And it is a cool and tasty treat!

Sunday, June 13, 2010


DISCLAIMER: There will likely be a lot of whining and complaining in this post. If that does not suit your mood, please go here or here. Just warning you.

After 5 weeks here in Philadelphia, we realize how good we had it in Seattle. Actually, I think we knew that after 5 minutes, but anyway. I knew things wouldn't be super easy nor that everything would just fall into place moving to a new city, but its been rough. I look back on my first few months after moving to Seattle and although I remember a few bumps here and there, it was nothing like this. It seems as though everytime Justin and I try to do something, it utterly fails or at leasts hits a hundred road blocks. I can't begin to remember all the things that have caused us trouble, but here are some lowlights.


The driving here is a bit different. Those of you from Seattle know what bad traffic is, but this is a different kind of bad. Fortunately enough for us, I think, we don't need to use the highways all too often. I spent a bit of time on the freeways around Philly when I was out here for my interviews and it was awful. There are so many different ones that intertwine and connect, or charge tolls, or change numbers in the middle of them that it can be super confusing. And they are super crowded all the time. But the roads around our neighborhood are just as confusing. There is one in particular that is a pretty major route for most things we need to get to. It is basically 4 sets of lanes, 2 sets for each direction. Within each set is 3-4 lanes. So if you are traveling north in the far right lane, and need to get to something on the left side of the boulevard, you need to first find a "crossover" to get to the more middle set of lanes, and then find a place to do a U-turn. Sometimes this means going 1-2 miles completely out of your way. Most intersections are "No Turn on Red" which ends up making you have to wait at lights, even when NOBODY is coming for miles and miles. And we have yet to find any light that has a sensor. What that means is we will spend minutes and minutes at a major intersection waiting at a red light (since we can't turn on red!) with nobody coming. One of the worst of these is on the road I take to get to the train station for my commute. At 6:00 in the morning, I'll get a red light on a major road. The light is for people coming off a little side street, but there is never anyone there. What is up with that? Also, speed limits appear to be nonexistent. We get passed going almost 50 mph in a 35 mph zone. And the people passing you are mad that you're going so slowly. What?!?! We have seen a fews cops turn their lights on so they can get through a light, and turn on red. Not fair. Also, we have a handy dandy GPS that has been helpful, but also a hindrance. It will often take you way out of your way to avoid U Turns. But you don't know that is how you are being directed until its too late. None of the roads or routes are very intuitive and it has made for several disappointing outings.


It took us 3 trips to the DMV and 2 trips to the Department of Licensing, to get new driver's licenses and to register our cars, not to mention how ridiculously expensive it all was. Justin and I are both fairly intelligent people (him more than me) and it still took that many trips for one reason or another.

First Trip to DMV- I had about 5 days off from work when we first got here so we could get our bearings and get some of the "new residence" stuff taken care of. We got our directions, our proof of ID and went to the DMV. They didn't take cash or cards. So back home since we didn't have our checkbook with us.

Second Trip to DMV- So the next day we tried again, with checkbook in hand, and also with 2 proofs of residency, or so we thought. This time we were turned away since one of the proofs of residency was a FAX. This apparently is not enough, since it was a facsimile, you know, the exact copy of a contract stating we lived at you know, our address.

After this we decided to coast by until something forced us to get it done. Like a ticket or something. 2 weeks later I get my Washington Tag renewal in the mail. Which I can't renew, since I needed an emissions test. Didn't think the state of WA would give me tags when I sent them a copy of a PA emissions test. So now we needed to get PA license plates and tags, for 2 cars. And you can't do that unless you have a PA license. So back to the DMV.

In preparation, I made several calls to both the DMV and DOL to insure we had everything we needed. Oh yeah, the DOL only takes cash. We don't typically have cash on us since its the 21st century and all. You know, where most places take debit or credit cards. But not old Pennsylvania. Toll roads are also cash only, learned that the hard way while here on my interviews. So we got our cash out, our social security cards, birth certificates, old licenses, PA car insurance cards, passports, checkbook, 6 proofs of residency. You name it and we probably had it with us. Plus a bag of reading materials, snacks and water, we were planning on being there for a long time. Nice way to spend a Saturday morning right?

Third Trip to DMV/First Trip to DOL- Fortunately the 2 are right next to each other (at least that is smart) and about 15 minutes away from where we live. We got there 20 minutes before it opened and there were already about 20 people in line. Once the doors opened, we quickly got our numbers, filled out the form (tried to get that online and do it before we got there, but it wasn't available online). We waited about 15 minutes, got called and processed. Then another 15-20 minutes to wait for them to call our new numbers to get the photos taken. Rather uneventful. Then next door to the DOL where only 1 person was in front of us. The first thing the lady says when we tell her what we are there for is "Are both cars here?" Now my smart husband asked me before we left if we needed to take both cars. I told him no, nobody every told me that when I made my calls and its not like people drive their boats up to the DOL when they need tags, do they? I was wrong. (sorry Honey!!). They need the vehicle present so they can verify the VIN. Or we could have had a "good tracing" of the VIN, for proof. What?!?!?! So we processed the Camry and got a new PA plate, and then rushed home to pick up the Honda. When we returned, there were about 5 people in front of us. So back to waiting, for about 45 minutes. Then we were told we needed to get the cars inspected by the state. This apparently is required yearly and is an emissions inspection as well as a general safety inspection (check the lights, brakes, tires, etc.) Now is it just me, or wouldn't it make sense to require the inspection prior to receiving the tags? What is the incentive to do it if you already have what you need? It really made us think how many people are driving illegally because it is such a hassle and pretty expensive to keep everything legal and up to date.

So our next task was to get the cars inspected. I am used to driving to an emissions center, waiting, getting out of the car, having them do the inspection and then off again. Rather painless and I have never needed to wait for an extended period of time. Guess what, its different in PA. Shocking, I know. They have these auto stores called Pep Boys that can do the inspections so we found one close by and got all the details of what we'd need, costs and hours. We dropped 1 car off after church and were called about an hour later to let us know it was ready. And with the news that since we didn't have the PA plate on yet, they had to do that for us and would cost $10.4o a plate, so $20.80 since there is a front and back WA plate. I explained that I got the plate yesterday and can change it myself, but it had already been done. I repeated that I should not be charged for something that I can do myself and especially since I had not been told. The gentlemen was understanding and removed the charge. Only to then tell me I needed a new bulb for the plate and its cost. Once again I said I can do that myself. To which he said he couldn't pass the car until it was done. So I am out the door to go buy the bulb and do it myself in order to avoid the excessive charge and so the car could pass. By the time I got there, they had already done it, but once again removed the charge, which was nice. So I paid, and left the 2nd car.

An hour or so later comes the call that the 2nd car is ready. But they are recommending the tie rod on the front be repaired. Now mind you this car had the whole front end done about 2 months ago so there really should have been no issues. The mechanic tells me they could have failed the car, but since we had already had the other issues, were going to pass it and recommend that get done. Fine. Then they tell me it will be ready in 10 minutes. So we leave to go get it and as we drive by, we see the rear WA plate is still on it. Justin and I tried and tried to get these off before we dropped it off but the screws were rusted and immovable. We knew that dropping it off so asked them to do it, understanding there would be a charge. So why were the WA plates still on it? We try and pick it up, they remind us about the tie rod, and then I point out the WA plate is still on it and they had been asked to change them for us. They explain that they couldn't get them off. Ok, so what are we supposed to do? It is now illegal to drive this car with the WA plate on, but they can't get them off? The guy then proceeds to explain to us the process it takes to do it, which could include breaking or cutting the screw head off and then drilling the thread out. Which would be charged at about $100/hr for labor and could take 30-60 minutes. Are you kidding me? Car not ready and going to cost another $50-100, and still could take another hour. We had had it sooooooooo long ago with all of this stuff, and now another hassle. So back home to wait for a call to say it was done, again. Then the call, another drive to Pep Boys, another bill, and home.

So for those of you who have lost track, it took 3 trips to the DMV, 2 trips to the DOL, 4 trips to Pep Boys, and a freakin' small fortune to register our cars in the state of Pennsylvania. Ridiculous.

Are you tired yet? As frustrated as we are? There's more.

When I came to Philly for my interviews, I also had to check out potential housing options. This was super stressful as I didn't know the city at all and had very little time. We had researched places that would meet our needs, fit in our budget, and not be too far of a commute for either of us. I had 6 appointments, made 5 of them (due to bad directions, traffic and getting lost in a super sketchy neighborhood) and finally came to 1 that seemed like it would work out. It had to work out, it was the last one on the list and all the other ones were holes in the wall or in unsafe areas. We live in a 2nd floor apartment in NE Philadelphia. It is a pretty good size, but a little run down and in a ghetto and loud community. I don't feel unsafe, but there are tons of people who blare their music in their homes, cars, out the windows, everything. We had kindly asked both neighbors 2-3 times to turn their music down with little results. We took it to the property management team who sent out a memo re: quiet hours and consequences. There was a little improvement, in my opinion, but Justin is the one who is here during the day studying while I am at work. And he still hears it. At night too. We even rearranged our bedroom to get the bed off of a shared wall. I am a pretty sound sleeper so don't hear it anymore, Justin does. We are certainly over community living and as soon as this lease is up, we truly pray we can find a house to rent. We need some peace and quiet already!!

Justin and I are used to doing most of our grocery shopping at Costco. Although we get things in bulk, we have been able to figure out how to eat most of it before it goes bad (we've lost a little bit of produce but that is to be expected) and were really saving money. Turns out the closest Costco is about 30 miles away. And in New Jersey. So we decided to try the Sam's Club that was only about 5-10 miles away. We went in, got a membership and then did our first grocery shopping trip in our new state. And we were disappointed. Everything was different. Different brands, different quantities, different types of food. And it wasn't really any cheaper than getting it at a regular grocery store. Later we learned from our friends Chris and Anna that we could have asked for a tour before purchasing the membership to see if it would fit our needs. Good to know for future endeavors, but didn't help us out this time. Several weeks later it was time to get more groceries so we planned our Saturday morning Costco trip. It took just under 30 minutes and was a successful trip. For the most part. Still a lot of different brands, and no Tillamook cheese (very sad), but much better than Sam's Club. And we only had to pay a toll on the way back into Philadelphia. What's up with that? We decided a trip once a month to Costco for some good food and savings was going to be worth it. Anyone want to buy out our Sam's Club year long membership? Any takers? I mean after I just built it up and all.

Now we have to worry about ticks. I think it was our 3rd day here and Justin found a tick on Scout. We can't even recall any tall grasses or fields he went through, but he had one. It hadn't embedded yet, and Justin was able to get it off fairly easily. The next day we headed out to get some Frontline Flea and Tick treatment. Each dose lasts for 30 days. 2-3 days after we treated him, we found another one. Once again, it came off pretty easily. We quickly became very diligent in monitoring where Scout runs around (we were already, but really tried to keep him out of certain grasses, etc). We got a flea/tick fine toothed comb and began combing him after hikes or trips to certain parks. Things were going pretty well until Justin found a 3rd one after a particularly long, hot and fieldsy hike. I am sure the Frontline is working, but like anything, its not 100% effective. We just pray that he hasn't gotten and won't get bit by any that are too small to see or feel. Any of them could carry Lyme disease and that is not something we want to worry about.

This seems like a weird thing to complain about, since everyone always talks about how much it rains in Seattle, and who would miss that? But its more about the temperatures. It is pretty hot here, consistently in the 80s, and its super humid. The air is always so thick and muggy, and you get sticky and sweaty so fast. Thankfully the apartment has air conditioning.

I feel like I have gone on and on about all this stuff, which I have, but it seems like it is still just the tip of the iceberg. Almost everything we have tried to do and even fun things we have planned, have ended up in disaster. Makes it hard to get motivated to try anything new. And I know struggles are to be expected, and that God won't give us anything we can't handle, but when do we get a break? I continue to know we are here for a reason, and despite all these troubles, God is here with us. We have taken a risk for Him, and He will bless this situation, sometime and somehow.

If you are still with me, here is a question for you. If you have ever relocated to a new place, what was it like for you? How long did it take for you to feel settled? What helped you get through it?

Next on the blog line up: "What we like about Pennsylvania"

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Move

Here's another entry that's a bit overdue. We have been here in Philadelphia for about 5 weeks now and I am just getting to this entry.

Justin and I decided to move to Philadelphia, PA so he could persue his schooling in seminary. It was hard to leave our friends, family and life in Seattle, but we were excited to take on this new adventure together. We left Kirkland on Saturday, May 1st. We filled our rental truck to the brim (holy smokes, why do we have so much stuff!!) with one car on a trailer behind it. The 2nd car was for Scout and the stuff we actually needed for the week. We were fortunate enough to have my father-in-law, Michael, come and help on the trip. It was a huge blessing to have him along and help with the driving, as well as many other things.

Here we are with our friends Matt and Lauren just as we are about to head out.

The next picture is the view we had for much of the time. The truck was the lead since it wouldn't go as fast as the Camry. Michael and I shared the truck driving and Justin was the constant parent with the pup. We were actually quite worried about how Scout would do being in the car for so long. He gets really excited and anxious when he is in the car because it usually means we are going somewhere fun for him (dog park, hike, backpack trip, etc). What this translates to is a whiny, pacing, needy dog. A few of my Harborview co-workers (thanks Louise and Michelle)recommended Rescue Remedy. This is a natural remedy to reduce stress and anxiety in pets and it worked really well. He was a great traveler.

If you have ever driven a northern route across America, you know I-90 will get you most of the way. We were quite familiar with this road by the end of our trip.

Here's the guy being a good car dog, getting ready to pass out for another nap.

We were super fortunate to follow this rainbow for awhile in Montana. I don't think I have ever seen the whole arc of a rainbow before, and certainly not for as long as we followed this one. Thanks for your everlasting promise and beauty God!

We took some time on Monday to do a little site seeing in South Dakota. Here is a photo of us in front on Mount Rushmore. The signs weren't very clear as to where dogs weren't allowed, so Scout came in and may be the only dog who has ever been as close as he was to the monument. On our way out, a ranger stopped us to inform us he wasn't allowed in there. Oops!

They had about 5 or 6 mountain goats around the entrance. Scout never noticed them (not-so-much a Captain Obvious), but they sure had their eyes on him.

Here is another picture of some of the beautiful scenery we took in. This was still South Dakota, on our way to the infamous Wall Drug Store.

Wall Drug Store is quite the attraction. What started off simply as a drugstore offering free ice water has turned into a "Must See" attraction. It extends a whole block and has just about anything you may need or want. They even have a "backyard" with wooden signs to stick your face through for a funny picture to various wagons and jackalopes to climb around on.

Here is the family on a train caboose. Don't we torture that dog so, just for a picture? Poor guy!

After 5 days of driving, we finally arrive in Pennsylvania, the Keystone State.

The trip took right around 6 days, 2800 miles, and lots of stops for gas, food and "run the dog" time. Luckily we had a relatively uneventful drive and were so fortunate not to have any breakdowns, flat tires or other car problems. One day the temperature gauge on the truck went a little haywire and had us worried, but it was just a fluke. I say luckily because we have been anything but lucky since we've gotten here. But that's for another entry. Don't worry, we're fine, but it has not been an easy or stress free transition. We miss you Washington and are counting the years until we come back!!