Monday, September 27, 2010

"My little dog, a heartbeat at my feet." - Edith Wharton

Last December, Jason and I adopted Cooper from Craigslist. He is a beautiful 3 year old English Springer Spaniel, but when we met him, he would not stop barking at us! He was abused by his former owners, and he hated men. It took him a half an hour to stop growling at us long enough to take a milk bone! His original owners had gotten divorced, and the wife couldn't afford to keep Cooper. So she gave them to a nice couple that thought they could keep him, until their landlord added a no-pets policy to their new lease! So they posted an ad for him on Craigslist. When we went to look at Cooper, this family really didn't want to give him up, but they wanted Cooper to have a forever home. I knew as soon as I saw Cooper's picture that Jason would love him. I had wanted a German Shepherd, but Jason wanted a Welsh Springer Spaniel. (It turns out, there are only something like 500 Welsh Springer Spaniels in the United States!) And I never thought a grown-up dog could look so much like a puppy, but Cooper definitely has that baby face. And it was his baby face that won us over. After about an hour, he was rolling over for a belly rub. We took him home that night.

I have no idea how we got so lucky with Cooper. Normally, when rescuing a pet from a shelter, there is a standard interview process and plenty of time to get to know the dog you're adopting. Not so with Cooper. We sat with him for about an hour before we took him home, and most of that time was spent trying to convince him we weren't going to beat him up! But that was almost a year ago. Now, Cooper only very occasionally gives a little grumble when approached by a man. Other than that, he's all smiles. And he was a little overweight when we got him, but feeding him less was a good thing- it cost us less in dog food! And we love taking trips to the Bark Park and running the agility course, which keeps Coop in tip-top shape. He's a permanent part of our family.

I think every old house needs an old dog to keep it safe and homey. Anytime someone comes onto our yard, Cooper is at the window, ready to let us know! More than once, Cooper has alerted the neighbors to someone prowling around their cars. We live in about a half a mile wide strip of suburb nestled quaintly between a very high income community and an old industrial town. It's good, because we have low taxes, great neighbors, and unique, beautiful homes, but it's bad because we tend to get bad people coming through the neighborhood at night looking for stuff to steal. It seems that all the best old houses are in not the best of neighborhoods- but all the more reason to adopt a dog and add the extra measure of security! Cooper is a great guard dog. My neighbors hear him barking at our door every time the mailman comes, and they always come out to check on our house if Cooper is barking and it isn't mail time. I have a friend house-sit when we are out of town, and I feel totally confident that she and Cooper can hold down the fort while we are away. I don't think I'll ever board him, because it is better for him and for our house if he's at home fulfilling his role as guard dog!

And of course, there is nothing more homey than sitting in your living room at night, watching a movie while your dog sleeps on the hearth, little legs kicking as he "chases rabbits". I love my dog. Our many walks throughout the day keep us in touch with the neighbors, the groundsmen at the local park, even the local police. Everyone knows Cooper, and his little cow spots. They stop to pet him as they get into their cars to go to work. They take a break from working on their own old houses just to get Cooper a milk bone. They take a break from pulling weeds in the garden at the park to scratch his ears. He is a good dog, and you might think he's lucky we found him, but we are the lucky ones. He is the best addition we ever made to our old new house. Older than the wood and the stone, the wavy glass in the windows, even older than the cobblestones we keep digging up in our flowerbed- is this ancient symbiotic relationship between dogs and men. This trust that we will keep each other safe and warm and fed. Every day when my husband comes home, Cooper bounces around joyfully as if he's coming home from the war. I'll never know how we got so lucky, but we did, and we are both so eternally grateful to be able to give such an awesome animal a home!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Shellabella Bridal

I was obsessed with finding the perfect wedding dress.

Every wedding gown I saw was so manufactured. I went to all the major stores, all the little boutiques, and even a huge warehouse for an international formal wear website-- and all the gowns were the same: cookie-cutter sizing, cheap fabric, and the same, boring, trend-driven styles. I wanted something different. I wanted a dress that was mine and only mine, that reflected my style and made me feel beautiful. But I'm 5 feet tall- so it's almost impossible to find a gown that doesn't make me look like a 10 year old that's been raiding her mom's closet. I have a long torso, petite legs, small bust. Dresses never fit me like they should, so it's impossible to try on dresses and try to imagine what they'll look like when they're altered. I was getting so frustrated, and fed-up with the whole process. Then I found Shellabella Bridal.

I don't even remember how I found the site. It was like fate. I clicked on the site, and I found the perfect dress- the Isobelle. It was positively lavish, with a beautifully beaded bodice, gorgeous lace trim, and an enormous pick-up skirt. It was as if someone read my mind! Every detail was exactly what I wanted! I had looked at hundreds of gowns, and there were many that caught my eye. I liked the ruched bust on that one, or the pearl bead work on that one. But the Isobelle was the ultimate combination of everything that I had liked about every dress I had ever seen. It was simply stunning. I knew from the first click that it was THE dress.

But I was worried. It was an international purchase from a new company made entirely through e-mail and PayPal! Shellabella is based in Victoria, Australia and I live in Dayton, Ohio, USA. So much could go wrong. But nothing went wrong. Nothing at all!

Michelle Heron is a true business woman. She handled my transaction with the ease and confidence of a huge company, but she also took a real interest in my wedding and my vision of what I wanted my dress to be. Communicating, ordering and paying with Shellabella Bridal was a breeze. I just went to my local seamstress and got measured for my wedding dress, emailed my measurements to Michelle, and the left the rest to Shellabella. I couldn't decide weather I wanted straps, cap sleeves or strapless, so Michelle added all three with hook-and-eye fasteners, so that I could decided what I wanted when I received the dress. I have to admit I was initially very worried, never having seen the dress. But I had tried on a lot of similar dresses, so I knew that the style of dress would look good on me- especially since Shellabella was customizing a dress to exactly my measurements. And Michelle emailed me about every two weeks with an update, to tell me how the dress was coming along. When I ordered the dress, Michelle had estimated I would receive the dress in mid-June. It arrived right on time.

I opened the box and the dress was packaged perfectly. The dress bag was so durable, but nice and light. I unwrapped the hoop skirt, and it sprang right into shape. And then I unwrapped the dress. It was absolutely stunning. It wasn't even wrinkled! And when I tried it on- the fabric was positively luxurious. The detail of the beading was incredible. And when I tried it on it fit like a glove. It needed no alterations whatsoever. It was amazing!

I have to say, buying a wedding gown from Shellabella was the easiest online purchase I have ever made. The customer service that Michelle provides her customers is absolutely unmatched. Her attention to detail and genuine concern for her clients is something so rare to find in an online bridal shop. I loved my wedding for so many reasons- but my Shellabella gown made my day!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Married Life

The wedding was absolutely magical... In every way. I have been grinning like an idiot all week. In a way, it was better than shipping off to honeymoon for a couple of weeks- no stress of travel, no counting down the days until the vacation is over, no obsessing about money and passports and all of that. It was just a weekend in Indianapolis (prettiest little city ever) and a week at home with husband, minus two days of classes and one amazing day at church.

Indianapolis is the most romantic city on earth, I'm convinced. It was so neat walking back to the hotel along the canal. The whole city is so big and clean and safe. It feels new, but there is so much history. I didn't even bring my camera, and I left my cell phone at the hotel the entire time, because I wanted to be sure to enjoy every moment, rather than photo-documenting every interesting thing for friends. And I am so glad I left the camera at home because night time in that city was too beautiful for any camera to ever capture. We ate at the best restaurant where I drank the best wine I've ever had and ate the best food I've ever eaten in my entire life. I had Thai chicken and Jason had the beef brisket. It was so delicious. After dinner, we walked by the huge war memorial in the center of the city- which has a fountain that is as wide as a river on either side of it and huge round waterfalls that were entirely illuminated at night. It was in the middle of a big cobblestone roundabout and there were horses and carriages EVERYWHERE. The sounds of hoof beats on cobblestone is my favorite sound in the world. It was the most romantic spot ever. And Jason and I each threw a shiny penny in it and made a wish. It was amazing.

The next day, we got free breakfast at the hotel bistro because I told the concierge that we just got married. :D It was by far the best french toast I had ever eaten in my entire life, but it was twice as tasty because the whole meal was free. Everything was free that weekend. Really, it was amazing. We spent the whole day, Labor Day, at the zoo. We saw a dolphin show, rode a roller coaster, and ate foot long hot dogs from a little stand called Dogs & Suds. It felt like an old-fashioned honeymoon. We drove home and stopped at Jason's mom's house to pick up all of our presents. We came back to the house to open them and we cracked open a leftover bottle of champagne and delicious leftover chicken satay and grilled veggies and wedding cake and commenced to burying ourselves alive in wrapping paper. It was awesome.

Jason had the week off so he worked on the house and got a TON of stuff done. He picked 8 pumpkins and tore down the garden. He picked me up on Tuesday and Thursday ( I have class from 8:30-5:30 on those days) and he took me out to lunch. Best husband ever. And then on Wednesday we went to the antique mall in Springfield where Jason got my engagement ring and my platinum filigree bracelet. I am now the proud collector of antique tin cookie cutters. I got one shaped like a girls scout trefoil (ironically made as a promotional item for some old brand of coffee) and a star of David and a plain round one. :D We also bought a postcard from 1910 Downtown Springfield at night- down High Street- the same route we rode in the Westcott car from the Westcott House to the hotel. It was an amazing find.

Then Friday I went down to Sinclair and dropped off my old German texts to a friend who needed them. I got them for free (and they're like 300 dollars) so I thought I'd pay it forward and let someone else get some use out of them. I loved German but I just don't have the time to study it like I want to. I studied it for three years because SO MUCH psychological terminology is extracted from German studies. Just this week I found a concept I didn't quite understand in an article I had to read for Selective Visual Perception- and I translated the original German to understand the meaning of the English word "set" as it was used in the study. Turns out it's an adjective. Who knew? ;) Anyway, German is still coming in handy. And I had a great conversation catching up with an old Sinclair friend, too, which was awesome!

Afterward, Jason and I went to Voltzy's hot dog stand and Voltzy pretty much fell in love with Jason when he found out he works for PBS. Turns out Voltzy is a huge Bob Ross fan. I had the best sausage and sauerkraut sandwich ever. We went to Great Miami Outfitters and looked at shoes. I think I'm going to get the cute little lady version of the Keen boots Jason has. Still deciding...

Then Saturday we went to the Cincinnati Museum Center- where we had our first date. It was just as amazing and romantic as it was July 2, 2006! Except we got to see an incredible exhibit called America I Am- a collection of African American art, artifacts, and cool pop culture collectibles like one of Jimmy Hendrix's outfits and Mohammad Ali's famous robe. There was also an original copy of the Declaration of Independence there- and get this- it was THE copy that some guy found behind a painting he bought at a yard sale for $4!!! How amazing is that?


There was a whole exhibit on the daguerreotypes of J. P. Ball. I could have peed my pants. I LOVE daguerreotypes.

And today we went to church, and visited Sara after because her car broke and she had to stay home and try to fix it. Then Jason and I went to lunch with Pastor Mike and Kathleen and their grandbabies Emma and Andrew. Cutest. Kids. Ever! Then Jason and I went shoe shopping and got a soft pretzel at the mall. Didn't find any shoes (I have a $10 coupon from DSW that I just have to use) but it was worth the drive just for the pretzel.

Now it's a night of Netflix instantly to our TV via X-Box. Another thing Jason did this week was finally run the wires to hook the X-Box up to the internet. And now we're both addicted to live streaming nerdy history documentaries. I really hope I have the willpower tomorrow to resist the netflix long enough to get some homework done- because we've got dinner and photos with the beautiful Christi Salchak tomorrow night! :D The best week of my life is quickly turning into the best two weeks of my life! :D