Friday, November 30, 2012

Does This Collar Make Me Look Fat?

You guys, Basil is on somewhat of a diet.

Several months ago when I took him into the vet for a skin irritation, the veteranarian told me he needed to lose a few pounds.

Up until that point, we'd been excited to see how big he'd get each time we took him to the vet, hoping he'd get up in the mid to high 80 pound range. When the vet told me he weighed 84 pounds, I got very excited until he said we actually needed to watch it and that a better range for weims is more in the 75 pound range.

In general, Basil has a large frame for a weimaraner. When we first got him, we got a chance to see his grandfather, who was a giant dog — maybe 90-100 pounds if I'm not over exaggerating. So we expected and hoped that Basil would be somewhat big (not fat, just big). That being said, we tried to keep a better eye on what we were feeding him and how much after that last vet visit.

So after a few months of trying to feed him what we thought was a healthier diet (he already gets tons of exercise), we were excited to hear the results during his latest checkup this past weekend. After he got off the scale, they announced that he's gained 3.5 pounds!

Oh my...87.5 pounds.

It was a different doctor at the vet office that saw him this go round and before weighing him they kept commenting on how big and great he looks. You know, the kind of big that is still healthy and good looking.

In the end, after the exam, this doctor agreed that while his frame is larger for a weim and he looks great and is healthy — that there is actually a tiny bit of room for weight loss. She said she'd love for us to shoot for 83 pounds over the next several months. She basically said that with hunting dogs like Basil, keeping a leaner frame is actually better for them, then she joked that he should have an hourglass looking figure — a deep low chest and a high inline waist.

I'm a total pushover when it comes to food. I just don't like the idea of anyone feeling hungry when there is plenty of food (even dog food) around. In any case, I told the veterinarian this go round that we've been feeding him probably about 2 solid cup fulls of food twice a day, sometimes with a cooked egg or wet dog food mixed in, along with natural treats all throughout the day.

She handed me a plastic cup measuring exactly 1 cup and said "for starters, let's make sure it's really just 2 cups twice a day."

C'mon dad, is this really all I get?

So that's where we're at. We're trying 2 exact cups along with regular treats and just keeping an eye on things. They told us we can come into the office anytime and weigh him on the big scale for free and suggested we come back in about 3 weeks to see how things are going.

All I could think was, it's the holidays! How unfair is it to have to be weighed during the holidays!

Poor Basil.

Have you ever had to put one of your pets on a diet? My sister has two dachshunds (see some shots from their visit with us here) and the older of the two is overweight. They joke that when the dogs stay with my mom on the farm that they are "going to Gran's bootcamp" since they always come back a few pounds lighter than when they were dropped off.

Basil sure did have a great time running around the farm over Thanksgiving — maybe a trip back to Gran's bootcamp is in order? We'll be sure to keep you posted.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Nice Specs! Firmoo Glasses Giveaway

Today we've got a giveaway that will allow you to snag a new pair of glasses for yourself, for a holiday gift for someone else, or even both! We were pretty excited when the team behind Firmoo glasses asked if we'd like to host a giveaway giving out $20 vouchers to 25 of our readers — yes you read that right, there will be 25 winners with a total value of $500 worth in glasses for you guys.
25 readers will receive a $20 voucher to spend on glasses at They've got glasses for as low as $8, so you could get as many as three pairs — they've even got sunglasses you can choose from if you prefer. Buy a pair for yourself and stuff a couple other pairs in the stockings along with whatever Santa left.

What's even better, while you wait to see if you've won this $20 voucher giveaway, get your first pair of glasses free. Yes — all new Firmoo customers get their first pair of glasses for free. Find out how, here!
Each voucher is valid through Christmas (12/25/12), so it's a nice to excuse to use it up and find yourself or someone else a little present!

Giveaway Details
The fine folks behind have generously offered 25 of our lucky readers a $20 voucher to spend on glasses!  Please Note: The $20 code will not count towards the designer section of glasses or shipping charges. To enter, simply leave a comment on this post with the email address where we can contact you with the voucher, letting us know your favorite style of glasses.

Each of the following will earn you an additional entry:
  • Any one or combination of the following: "Like" 17 Apart on Facebook, follow 17 Apart on Twitter, follow 17 Apart on Google+ and sign up for our mailing list by clicking the envelope button in our sidebar — then leave 4 separate comments on this post for each letting us know you've done so.
  • Follow this blog by clicking the RSS button in our sidebar, then leave a comment letting us know you've done so.
  • Share this post by clicking the Facebook Like button at the top of the post and leave a new comment on this post letting us know you've done so.
  • Tweet about the giveaway including the following: "Need a new pair of glasses? @17Apart & @Firmoo are giving away up to $500 in glasses:" along with anything else you'd like to include  — then leave a new comment on this post letting us know you've done so.
The giveaway will end Monday, December 10, 2012 at 11:59 PM ET; the winners will be auto-generated using and contacted via email shortly thereafter (don't forget to leave your contact info). Good Luck!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Hunting Shark's Teeth: One Generation to the Next

Over Thanksgiving, Mom and I decided to take my sister's oldest two children (4 and 2 1/2) down to the rivershore to get a little energy out of them and see if we could try to teach them how to find shark's teeth. For generations, people have been finding shark's teeth along this strip of the James River and it always amazes me how every time I come, there are still more to be found.

My grandmother grew up on this same property overlooking the James and my mother and I both grew up visiting the farmland and rivershore, so this is a tradition we cherish. My mom built a house on the land about 7 years ago and we've enjoyed getting to visit whenever we please.

Since finding shark's teeth is a skill passed down from generation to generation in our family, we thought it would be fun to see if the two of us could actually teach these two little ones how to do it.

You can tell how seasoned of a shark tooth hunter my mom is by her stance above. The moment we step onto the shore, we immediately begin surveying the sand and rocks, looking for those shiny little black teeth to make themselves known. Once you know how to find them, it's hard to really concentrate on anything else until you get at least one during your trip.

The way we teach anyone (little or big) to find the teeth is by circling the ones we find first and getting the person to try to find the tooth within the circle. Knowing one is in there helps train your eye to recognize what it's looking for. 

Just look for the tiny black, slightly shiny, triangle shape and you will find your shark's tooth:

See that tiny black triangle on the right above? That's it!

Here's a bigger example — can you see the tooth in this circle?

Every tooth is shaped a little differently, so it's fun to see what you'll unearth on any given trip down to the rivershore. Now that you've learned how we go about it, maybe you will also enjoy watching my niece and nephew try to look for their first shark's teeth too. 

Let's start with Virginia. We found a shark's tooth and circled it in the sand, then told her to come over and try to find the tiny black triangle inside the circle:

Evidently, we musn't have said inside the circle quite right since she first began looking outside the circle, haha. With a little direction, she centered in and focused:

After a short while, she'd found her prize:

Mom and I began cheering very loudly and over-excitedly. I think she and I were more excited about Virginia finding the tooth than little Virginia was. Later on in life I think she will grow to realize that this is one of our family's rights of passages. Maybe she will teach her children and grandchildren how to do it.

After a few more circles, Benjamin came over to see what all this loud cheering was about:

So the next circle was all his. At 2 1/2 years old, mom and I weren't sure finding the teeth would register with him yet, but to our surprise, he zeroed in and focused much quicker than Virginia initially did:

Finding the teeth in the circle was easy for him — mom and I were just amazed, and quite pleased with ourselves for being the ones that got to show him how.

Finding shark's teeth can get sandy and messy, so we also learned how to quickly rinse off our hands at the edge of the river:

Once they got the hang of it,  hunting shark's teeth became very exciting for all — it seems Basil is in on this game too:

Aside from finding shark's teeth, this portion of the James river just seems like a magical place with so much to see and explore. Being there makes me think of the times I spent on the sand as a child and those generations who've grown up down here before me. I'm so thankful I get to spend moments like these with my family down here.

My mom once found a giant shark's tooth just inside the water when she was 40 years old — it was almost the size of the palm of her hand. Still a child at the time, I actually got angry at her, telling her that I should have been the one to find it (what a brat, right?). She told me that when I'd been hunting on this rivershore for 40 years, that I too would come across a giant tooth of my own. We've joked about that find of hers for years now and I always tell her that my time is coming.

What's even more ironic is when I took Tim down to this rivershore for the 1st time and taught him how to find the teeth, he ended up finding a giant one too! I was so jealous and happy for him at the same time. I ended up telling him the story of what happened when I was younger with my mom and laughed that it really must be true that I'll have to wait until I'm in my 40's to find a really huge one (Tim was in his early 40's at the time). He joked right back and told me it was cause when you're in your 40's, only the big ones pop out at you!

All of this is a little background to tell you how amused I was at one point during this Thanksgiving visit to look down at the sand and see this popping out:

In my own excitement, I walked over to mom and said I must have found this tooth since it was close to my 30th birthday. It's a substantial size and almost perfect in nature compared to the more normal ones we find on this beach, though only about 1/3 of the size of the ones she and Tim have found in their 40's. We all had a good laugh.

On a related note, writing this post actually makes me think of a recurring dream I often have. It goes something like being in a random location (not Beechwood) where I look down on the ground and see a little grouping of shark's teeth. As I reach down to quickly scoop them up, I all of a sudden notice even more, larger ones — one right after the other, like a gold mine. It's all I can do to try to get them all, in disbelief at how large and pristine each one is over the other. It always goes like this — though the location changes. Maybe one of you can analyze this dream for me and tell me what it means, ha.

Do you have recurring dreams? I seem to have several different series of them — the shark tooth dreams are some of my favorite.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thanksgiving on The James

Just to warn you, this is a mega post with over 80+ photos recapping our day at the farm over Thanksgiving — feel free to just scroll along, but we really wanted to include many shots from the day since we made such great memories.

 Mary's mom, Jinx, at Beechwood

After packing up the smoked turkey I'd been working on all night, we hit the road down to Prince George, VA to spend the day with family on Mary's mom's farm. You might remember past trips we've made to this stretch of land overlooking the James River — we even spent Thanksgiving down there 2 years ago when we'd had Basil for little over a week at the time. The land is called "Beechwood Manor" and has been in Mary's family for generations — named for the beech trees that grow all over the property.

The farm land Jinx lives on overlooks the James River from a giant ravine — it's such a beautiful escape. The actual farm fields on the property are leased out and are typically used for soybean crops. The fields had been cleared the same week we came down, so you could see stretches of land for what seemed like forever.

We love bringing Basil to Beechwood with us as it's one of the only times he can really just run around and do whatever he pleases on a whim. Whenever we take him down there, we always make him wear his bright orange harness in case any hunters mistake him for a wild deer running through the woods. Mary was especially worried this go round since it was hunting season and we kept hearing rounds of gun shots from all sides of the property. I like to think he's just in his element since weims are hunters by nature.

But let me tell you, all this dog cared about was his crack ball. We've told you about the crack ball before, right? Something about these plastic chuckit balls that he literally gets crazy obsessive over.

I love it when Basil points. Neither Mary nor I have engaged in teaching him how to hunt — it's just in his blood. So when he actually does it and get's that crazy look in his face, it just gives me tingles:

Basil will chase this ball for days. When I throw it, it's all he can do to control himself to wait. He sits there shaking with anticipation. When he sees me go in for the toss, he gets low to the ground and get's really serious about it. He begins running before I'm finished tossing the ball, so when he catches sight of it in the air, he gets even lower to the ground and kicks it into high gear, almost running like a horse would:

We knew Mary's sister and her family were on the way to Beechwood, so we wanted to try to wear Basil out pretty good before everyone got there. I could watch him run all day:


This dog loves his ball.

While throwing the ball, I walked over to the edge of Jinx's property to find a pretty substantial patch of irises. This was exciting, because I'd actually given her 1 iris bulb back when Mary and I first started dating to plant down there. They came from my old house and have been in my family for generations. It's incredible to see how one bulb will multiply and grow with each year that goes by:

Basil loves to hide and play in this section of pampas grasses on the border of Jinx's home. We cornered him and teased him as he'd dart in and out:

It was fun to watch our dog in an environment where he was truly in his element. He loved climbing to the top of her stairs on the front porch and just looking out onto the fields in hopes of finding something to chase after. Jinx challenged him to hunt the moles and groundhogs that have been causing her trouble. We think he took her seriously:

I'd say we were successful in wearing this big guy out. This looks like the face of a happy dog:

Dog picture of the year, anyone?

Then Mary asked me to take some photos of her with Basil:


And then Jinx couldn't resist his wagging tongue and wanted a photo too:

As we were getting these shots, Mary's sister (Teller) and family drove up the lane. Below you'll see Jinx with their youngest daughter, Sophia, and Teller with their son, Benjamin. It seems like just yesterday we were blogging about Sophia's grand entrance into the world — how the time flies.

Then we all headed inside to get down to business — Thanksgiving dinner! My parents arrived shortly after Teller, Ben and the kids got there and brought Mary's birthday present with them. If you haven't gathered by now, Mary has a special affection for good food (one more reason we make a good match). My parents make a traditional Hungarian dish from potatoes, Hungarian sausage, eggs, sour cream, butter — you get the idea. Mary fell in love with this dish the first time they made it and ever since, they've made it for her on her birthday. One year we even put candles in it like it was a birthday cake and served it to her.

While this is truly Mary's potato dish, everyone in the family looks forward to my parents making it and felt like it was a treat to have at the Thanksgiving dinner.

All of us set up the food we brought in the kitchen and we enjoyed catching up while making over the food.

Teller and Mary's Aunt Vera in the kitchen:

Dad and I got down to business carving up the smoked turkey:

We reserved drippings from the turkey and brought them down in a jar for mom to make the gravy with:

Looks like we did a good job of wearing this guy out. Maybe he just wanted a taste of the turkey:

Ben (Teller's husband) was excited to watch the game. It's too bad he likes the Redskins. At least Sophia's cuteness made up for this sad fact:

The kids played nicely together while we got everything ready for dinner — everyone was thankful for that! Can you believe how big Virginia is getting:

All of us were so excited to eat we didn't get any shots during dinner. After dinner, we headed outside to enjoy a few drinks and conversation on the front porch since the weather was out of this world kind of good. Not sure what mom was describing in this shot, but it must have been something large:

Dad just got a new Nikon and was taking tons of pics too.

Benjamin played with the farm set:

While Virginia played "Queen of the well:"

Then decided to challenge Basil to a race:

Mary and Jinx then took the two older kids down the ravine to the rivershore while Sophia napped to get a little energy out of them. Basil happily trotted along:

Because the ravine is a long journey for a 4 & 2 1/2 year old, they took a tree climbing break along the way. Benjamin enjoyed Gran's help jumping from the tree while Virginia declared she could do it by herself:


Then it was off to the rivershore:

Basil sprung out ahead of the crowd, just to make sure everything was OK on the beach:


Benjamin was upset that Basil was allowed in the water and he wasn't. These two are best buds.

There's lots to explore on the rivershore. Plenty of fallen trees to climb over and shimmy under and interesting relics to look at and find:


Among the many hidden treasures on this stretch of the James River are the ancient shark's teeth along the sandy shore. Mary and Jinx taught the kids how to look for shark's teeth by circling them first:

 Then the tickle monster, I mean Mary, got a photo-op with the kids:


Basil found the stick of his dreams down on the rivershore:

I guess it was just to big to carry back up the ravine with him.

After more exploring, it was time to head back up the hill, but not before the kids came running in for a big hug from Gran:

And as life would have it, the climb back up the hill is always tougher than the way down:

After Mary and the kids got back up from the rivershore, it was time for a little more relaxing before packing up and heading back into Richmond for the night. We were able to get this one great shot of the three of us:

We enjoyed getting a chance to spend time with family and friends mid-week and feel like we had a little getaway from the city for a day. Thanks for taking a little time from your day to take part in our holiday.

Do you have any favorite memories or traditions you carried on this Thanksgiving?