I Don’t Even Know What I Effed Up, But It’s Working Now (So Let’s #backthatazzup!)

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On Fridays, this happens:


 Whitney over at I Wore Yoga Pants invites everyone to put a song in their Friday post and link up with her for #backthatazzup Friday. Since I think this is a fabulous idea, I wanted to join in.

Trouble was, I couldn’t get Grooveshark to embed properly in my posts, so I was stuck using YouTube videos each Friday. Not a huge deal, but I was afraid embedded videos were slowing down the load time for you fine folks. Not ideal. Luckily, Ms. Yoga Pants also created a handy Grooveshark tutorial to help out us technologically-challenged kids.

Several weeks ago, I sat down with the tutorial, created a little Grooveshark account for myself and got busy embedding. Except, it didn’t work. Instead of a song in my published post, I got this:

GroovesharkError1

 

I wasn’t entirely sure why, but clearly something went wrong. I suspected it was because the tutorial was based on Blogger, rather than WordPress, which is the platform I use. So I blamed WordPress and took to Google where I found…nothing very helpful. There was talk of outdated plug-ins and a number of codes to try but in the end I kept getting this:

GroovesharkError1

 

And a little bit of this:

GroovesharkError2

 

Not cool, dude. Not cool.

I spent hours fiddling with HTML codes and even the Flashplayer program on my laptop, thinking maybe that was the problem. I eventually gave up out of frustration, and vowed to figure it out another day. I even made it a goal on my 17 in 17 list.

Over the next few weeks, I spent even more hours searching through Google and WordPress.org’s Support page, testing out every theory that I came across, and I still couldn’t make it work.

I sat down this morning to try AGAIN, but this time I went back to the tutorial first. I followed all the steps thinking that maybe I could find the solution if I could pin-point the problem. I hopped over to Whitney’s post, carefully followed each step, and…it worked. Just like that. It f*cking worked.

What. The. Hell.

I could swear I did the same exact thing several times that first day, and it never worked.

So I’m sitting in front of my computer, all “what the eff, Grooveshark?” and “what the eff, WordPress?”, but let’s be honest, it was probably my own fault. I don’t know what I did, but it’s likely my own fault that it didn’t work.

So, “what the eff, Nikki?”

Anywho, the moral of the story is this: I screwed something up at some point, made my own life harder than it needed to be and now I can #backmyazzup the right way. Oh, and Whitney’s tutorial was totally on point all along. Even for WordPress users.

This is probably my new favorite song, I’ve been singing it all week.

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A Simple, Cheap Way To Clean Tarnished Copper

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When I created my 17 in 17 list, one of the things I wanted to tackle was a cute little copper tea kettle that my grandmother gave me a while back (thanks, Nan!). It sits on display on my stove, but it’s very tarnished. I’ve polished it once before, but I couldn’t remember how I did it, so I set out to learn how to clean it once and for all.

PolishCopperCollageRR

 

My mom suggested I try soaking it in white vinegar and salt “until it’s clean”. That seemed too easy, but it was worth a try. I already had what I needed in the pantry, it wasn’t going to take much effort, and if it didn’t work I was out a whopping $2.

I grabbed the salt and white vinegar and found a pot big enough to fit the kettle.

CopperPolishVinegarSalt

 

I dumped roughly 1/3 cup salt a little more than half of the gallon of vinegar and into the pot with the tea kettle, so that the kettle was completely submerged.

KettleInPot

 

I let it soak for about 4 hours because it was so tarnished. But to see what kind of difference it made, I submerged half of the lid as a little experiment. This was what it looked like after a half hour:

CopperHalfHour

After the soak I scrubbed a few details (where the handle attaches, the spout, the lip around the bottom) with a small soft brush to remove any gunk in the crevices. I rinsed it with the vinegar solution and wiped it down with a clean rag. There are still a lot of imperfections, but the tea kettle is about 40 years old, so it’s going to have lots of quirks and character that will never wipe away.

CopperCleanAfter

So, I crossed off an item on my 17 in 17 checklist, and the whole process was much easier (and cheaper!) than I expected! Added bonus: now that I wrote a blog post about it, I won’t have to worry about forgetting how I did it!

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Spring Cleaning…In the Fall

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My house is dirty.

I mean, we aren’t living in squalor or anything like that. Most days it’s tidy enough and every now and then I do actually clean. Lately though, cleaning has been just the basics; I just haven’t given it a good deep cleaning in a while. We’ve been on the go all summer long, and now that summer is technically over, I’m starting to notice.

It’s just time to do some spring cleaning. (I know it’s fall. You know what I mean.) Organize closets, wipe down cabinets, wash the windows…you know, the crap that gets avoided by saying “I’m in a rush/ it’s good enough for now/ I’ll get it later”. Except, I think it’s starting to get to me that these things haven’t been done in a while.

Case in point: it’s late afternoon and I haven’t posted yet today because I started polishing my tarnished tea kettle and ended up deep-cleaning the entire kitchen. Like, washed the garbage can, scrubbed the toaster oven and cleaned under the stove kind of deep-cleaning. So yeah, apparently it’s bothering me that I’ve let this stuff slide.

cleanhouse

Anyway, I want to know: how often do you give your house a good, thorough cleaning? Do you do the whole “spring cleaning” thing? Or are you good at keeping it deep-cleaned all the time? Or do you just not care what is lurking under the refrigerator?

Do you have method for your scrub-down? Any tips/tricks to share? I think I’m going to keep going the way I started and tackle one room at a time. At least, that’s the plan. Wish me luck!

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17 in 17

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There are 17 full weeks left in 2013, did you know that? Yep, there are. There isn’t anything overly-significant about that, except that I’m making a list of short-term goals, and the end of the year seems like a good finish line.

See, last week I stumbled across this amazing post over at Kayli Wanders. She created a list of goals for herself, but instead of things she wanted to do, her list was all about things she hopes to learn. That’s totally genius, right? So naturally, I had to borrow the idea.

My goal is to learn 17 new things over the next 17 weeks. What would I like to learn? So glad you asked!

17in17

1// How to make Hollandaise sauce. I hear it’s a little tricky, but I want to master it!

2// How to re-purpose a large piece of furniture. I have a children’s desk that I’m hoping to turn into a wet bar. It’s a lofty goal, I know. It’s been sitting in my basement for months now, it’s time I learn to do something with it!

3// How to polish a copper tea kettle. My grandmother gave me a really cool old tea kettle, but it’s very tarnished. I want to learn how to shine it up so it looks prettier in my kitchen.

4// How to take better photographs indoors. I know indoor/artificial lighting isn’t ideal, but since it’s unavoidable sometimes, I want to learn how to improve my technique.

5// How to play fantasy football. My friend talked me into signing up for my first ever fantasy football tournament, but I have no clue what I’m doing – yet!

6// The basics of dog agility. As I’ve mentioned before, I’d like to learn how to do this with Joey, so it’s on the list.

7// How to create a custom blog header with image mapping. There are a few things I’d like to spruce up around here, and my header is one of them. A few weeks ago, Sarah over at Venus Trapped in Mars posted a tutorial on how to do just that. I book marked it, but I’m making it a goal to actually sit down and learn how to do it. Since her wisdom helped me figure out how to quit being a no-reply blogger, I’m confident that her how-to will have me understanding it in no time.

8// How to install crown molding. We recently gave our spare bathroom a makeover, but it still feels like something is missing, so I’d like to learn how to install crown molding in there. Maybe once I learn how to do it, I can install it in other rooms of our house too.

9// How to make a pretty cat-eye. I can never get it right; my eyes always end up looking uneven. I’m not usually so incompetent with eyeliner, but the cat-eye baffles me. So I’m on a mission learn how to do it properly.

10// How to use manual mode on my DSLR. It intimidates me because I have no idea what I’m doing.

11// How to clean out Sally’s feet. Mr. B always has to do this for me because I’m so afraid I’m going to hurt her with the pick. (It looks sharp!) I need to learn how to do this myself, without hurting my poor horse.

12// How to make – and can – homemade salsa verde. I don’t think making the salsa verde will be hard, but I have no clue how to can anything.

13// How to make homemade laundry detergent – that smells pretty. I’ve made homemade laundry detergent before (it saves a ton of money!), but it doesn’t smell as lovely as the store bought stuff. I’d like to learn how to fix that.

14// How to make blackberry pie from scratch. It’s Mr. B’s favorite, so I’d like to learn how to make it for him.

15// How to make homemade doggie treats. If I’m spoiling Mr. B, I may as well spoil the fur babes too.

16// How to embed Grooveshark into blog posts. I spent hours trying to make this happen last week, and nothing I tried worked. I need to learn how to make it work, so that I don’t have to #backthatazzup with YouTube every week.

17// How to make GIFs. They make me smile every time you awesome ladies use them. I want to learn how to do it too!

Do you ever set short term goals for yourself? Are they ever about things to learn, or are they mostly things to do?

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My Dog Needs A Job

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Happy Tuesday! Today I’m hooking up with Adriana and Katie for a Tall Tails link-up in the hopes that I can get some help from the blogging community!

 

Let’s start with a photo for reference, and a few pertinent facts:

PrettyJoe

  • Joey is a Pembroke Welsh corgi.
  • Corgis are working dogs known for their herding instincts.
  • Even though he is a stellar chocolate lab herder and an up-and-coming Chihuahua herder, Joey is not a great cow herder
  • We can’t even work on improving this right now because many of our cows have babies, and mama cows are mean and aggressive.
  • The lab and the Chihuahua are both really sick of being herded.
  • Joey is 8 months old. Which makes him a puppy. Which means he has puppy energy. And the ever-reliable puppy obedience.

Basically, Joey is a little asshole. He’s playful, he’s got a lot of energy, but to him, “playing” means herding. He herds other dogs, but he also tries to herd humans. It’s annoying as hell because it means he is constantly underfoot. I trip over him all. the. time.

Disciplining him for this behavior hasn’t worked. We can’t seem to make him understand (or care?) that this behavior isn’t acceptable. We can control it a little bit; we’ve managed to teach him that he can’t try to herd Daisie when she’s coming through the door, but we haven’t been able to control it completely.

We hoped that through normal socialization with other dogs that he’d learn not to be a little jerk. Other dogs have told him in a few not-so-subtle ways that they weren’t down with being nipped at, barked at, and made to go in a different direction. Daisie tells him – loudly, often, and with the hair on her back standing up – that she doesn’t like this game, and one time Charlie got so annoyed he pinned Joey to the ground. And the little moron still doesn’t get it. So we need to find another solution.

Personally, I buy into Cesar Milan’s theory that dogs need jobs to be happy and healthy. I think that’s why Joey is being such a little jerkbutt; he needs a purpose, and he needs something to direct his energy into. We need to figure out how to channel his energy into something more positive than torturing his friends and sister. It’ll be good for him and everyone around him. 

JoeTongue

But, really, what can a little corgi pup do? Mr. B and I are still open to ideas, but we would like to start him in agility. Only one litttttle problem with that idea: we are totally clueless about agility. Since we live in such a rural area, there aren’t any agility classes anywhere near us. According to Google, the closest such place is an hour away. Joey needs to do this regularly, so that won’t work. Not a huge deal – we have plenty of space to create his own little course, but we have no idea how to teach him!

Last night, I ventured into the internetland and spent two hours with my good friends Google and YouTube trying to find some information on how to start training an agility dog. And you know what I found? A whole bunch of nothing. Ok, ok, it wasn’t nothing, but it wasn’t what I was looking for. I found some great resources, like Bad Dog Agility that will be very helpful once have a good foundation. Unfortunately, I can’t find any information on how to establish that foundation. So here are my questions to all of you: what resources can you recommend for agility newbies? Do any of you have experience with agility? Where do we start? What are the basics? What does he need to learn before we start him on obstacles? What obstacles do we start on?

We aren’t looking to participate in agility competitions or anything like that. We just need an activity to do with him to stimulate his mind and help him burn some of this crazy puppy energy. Help!

"Help us? Please? My parents are clueless!"

“Help us? Please? My parents are clueless!”

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The Shiz I Do For Wine: Pulling Weeds

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Earlier this week, I ventured up the hill to pull weeds at the vineyard. As I mentioned before, I thought the grape vines were a lost cause, so I haven’t been too concerned about them lately. Big mistake. The weeds were jungle-like in nature. It was so bad that I’m not even going to offer up a photo because it’s just embarrassing that I let it get that bad.

Something I should mention: I hate to pull weeds. Hate it. I put it off until I can’t avoid it anymore. I’ll find all sorts of other horrible chores to do, just to avoid it. Oh, poo, can’t get to those weeds today, have to organize the spice cabinet and clean out the basement! Dang!  I’m not even sure why I despise it so much. Sure, being bent over like that isn’t exactly comfortable, but it’s not awful unless the backs of your legs manage to get sunburned. Maybe it’s the risk of running into a big nasty spider or, God forbid, a snake? I don’t know, but I hate it.

Except for when it comes time to weed the vineyard. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t love it – but for some reason, it just sucks less than other weeding. Maybe because I have a cute helper?

DaisieHelperVineyard

 

 

And yes, only one helper, though both of the fur-babes join me. Joey doesn’t count as a helper because I spend far too much time trying to decipher the up-to-no-good look on his face and figure out what the hell he’s up to.

UpToNoGoodVineyard

 

 

Maybe it sucks less because I get to pull weeds with a great view?

VineyardView

 

 

Even Joey enjoys the view.

JoeyEnjoysView

 

 

Nope, still not enough of a reason. 

It must be because the end result is wine.

That’s really the only reason that makes any sense.

I pull weeds for wine….wine that I won’t get to drink for months.

It seems I’ve reached a new low. I’d better pour myself a glass of wine and contemplate this new revelation.

 


Why the Grape Vine is My Kind of Plant

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As I’ve mentioned, I’m no gardener. Not even a little bit. But still, I convinced myself that I could grow grapes and make my own wine. 

Well, I was pretty sure that I’d failed after the frost got them and all the pretty new leaves shriveled up and died early this spring. Then something magical happened: a few of them started to re-grow more leaves. They weren’t dead after all! Yay!! 

Until I neglected to watch the weather forecast and respond appropriately, and a second round of frost killed all the greenness off of them. I really, really don’t do well with plants. I figured that was that; there wasn’t any way to bring them all back to life.

But they came back! Again! All of them!!! I’m shocked. Despite my idiocy and Mother Nature’s jerky-ness, they are all thriving.

Some just came back like nothing had ever happened:

This little guy just looked like a stick after the frost hit. His leaves grew back nicely, I think.

This little guy just looked like a stick after the frost hit. His leaves grew back nicely, I think.

 

Some came back even with the frost-killed leaves still hanging around:

DeadLeavesNewLeaves

 

 

And some found their own creative route to re-joining the living:

NewCaneDeadVine

 

So, yeah, grape vines are my kind of plant. Not only is the end result wine, but the plants themselves are pretty hard to kill. It’s a win-win for boozy morons like me.

 


Spring is Here!

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At the risk of jinxing it, I think spring might actually be here. Nothing is turning green yet, or even budding, but we’ve had four days in a row of sunshine and no snow! Yesterday, it went all the way up to 65 degrees! It was amazing.

So, to celebrate the lovely weather, I went up to visit/weed/prune my grape vines (in a t-shirt! no long johns!) and had a blast just playing in the dirt. I took the pups with me, and Joey even helped a little bit. 

After sitting unattended all winter, I had a lot of work ahead of me:

The vines are still so little you can barely see them in this photo. Not to worry, they're growing.

The vines are still so little you can barely see them in this photo. Not to worry, they’re growing.

I plan to grow grass in the aisles between the rows of vines, but some nasty weeds grow up here, so I had to weed there a little bit (mostly just to get the extra prickly ones). Most of my weeding was in the rows of vines. Last summer, I mulched around them with rock. It helped keep the weeds down, and the weeds that did appear were much easier to pull.

vineyardspringweeds

 

I also had to prune the vines. They were all growing out in several directions, so I have to prune them back to grow straight up and then out the wires. They are tied to stakes for now to help them grow upwards, once they are tall enough, the “shoots” that grow outwards will be tied to the wires to help them continue growing out. If you let the vines grow on the ground, it causes problems for the fruit, such as increasing the chances that you will lose your crop to mold. Any grapes to mold or pests means less wine, so I’m pretty invested in making sure the fruit doesn’t encounter any hazards along the way.

A vine in serious need of some pruning.

A vine in serious need of some pruning.

All of the vines were pruned, and I’m pleased to report that all twenty of them are still alive! Last summer, I thought two of the vines had not survived the replanting, but apparently I was wrong. Clearly, I still have a lot to learn (like how to tell if a plant is dead). 

Unfortunately, I didn’t get all of the weeding done. Mother Nature threatened us with a thunderstorm. The rain didn’t actually come for several more hours, but the dark, ominous sky and nasty winds were enough to drive me indoors for the remainder of the afternoon. I’ll post “after” pictures once I finish pulling the weeds. 


The Vineyard

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I don’t exactly have a green thumb. Actually, that might be an understatement, as a cactus once died on my watch. We have two house plants now, both given to me by my grandmother, who has far more faith in my ability to keep living things alive than I do. And if we are being perfectly honest, their survival can be solely credited to Mr. B. I just can’t seem to remember to water them. Unlike the dogs and Mr. B, the poor plants can’t remind me to provide them with nourishment. It never bothered me though, because I never had much of an interest in gardening.
Until last year, when I got the bright idea to plant grapes in the hope of one day making my own wine. After a little bit of research, I learned that wine grapes do best when left alone. I can so do that! So, last spring Mr. B helped me dig up a little piece of land up on the hill (because slopes are best, according to my research) and I planted 20 little grape vines. I wanted to experiment with different grape because I wasn’t sure which would thrive in our area. I bought and planted four different types, two red (frontenac and baco noir) and two white (frontenac gris and chardonel). And then I spent the entire summer pulling weeds.

First we plowed the land, then I picked up (what felt like) about 400 million pounds or rock, which we later used to build a fire pit next to the vineyard.

First we plowed the land, then I picked up (what felt like) about 400 million pounds of rock, which we later used to build a fire pit next to the vineyard.

 

Mr. B, digging holes for the posts that will hold the wire. The vines are trained to grow outwards along the wire once they are tall enough. This helps keep them off the ground, and spread out so that the leaves can soak up lots of sunshine.

Mr. B, digging holes for the posts that will hold the wire. The vines will be trained to grow outwards along the wire once they are tall enough. This helps keep them off the ground and spread out so that the leaves can soak up lots of sunshine.


The first year isn’t very exciting because this is when the tiny little vines are growing roots and strong trunks. They do not usually produce fruit in the first year, so it was just a matter of waiting. This summer will be their second year, so hopefully they will produce enough grapes to attempt wine-making. I’m so excited! I love wine, and I can’t wait to figure the whole process out. I’ve been reading (and re-reading) this book, and it has been so helpful and informative, from picking and planting grapes to evaluating the wine that you’ve made. So far, I’ve only been able to apply about a third of what I’ve learned, but hopefully, I will be able to put the rest into action this year. This fall I will harvest the grapes and begin the actual wine-making, but for now we will sit around the fire and admire the view with a glass of store-bought wine.

 

IMAG1489


So we have a puppy…

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Every friend/stranger/family member who meets Joey exclaims “Ohhh he’s just so cute!!”, or some similar sentiment.

I respond with, “Yup. Sure is. That’s the only reason he’s still alive.”

Jokingly, of course. (Well, most days.)

He is very, very adorable. Almost intolerably so. And like many good-looking folks, Joey is skating through life on his looks. He is the epitome of “puppy”, from chewing every piece of furniture we own (and the baseboards, too!), to tearing the fluff out of his toys and tormenting poor Daisie Mae. The kick is, no matter how sharp his little puppy teeth are or how long the puppy turd strung across the living room floor is, I can’t stay mad at him for long because he’s just so dang cute! He looks at me with those big, expectant puppy eyes and I melt into a pile of mush and all is forgiven before the disinfectant on the living room floor has even dried. It’s not his fault, really. He’s just a baby.

He's the happiest little creature I've ever met. He even smiles in his sleep! How could you ever stay mad at something so sweet??

He’s the happiest little creature I’ve ever met. He even smiles in his sleep! How could you ever stay mad at something so sweet??

It’s Daisie’s fault. She spoiled me. I had no real idea what puppyhood entailed because she failed to show me.

She was such an easy puppy; I didn’t know how good I had it. She was calm, cuddly, and well-behaved from the beginning. She never chewed anything she wasn’t supposed to, she didn’t run around like a crackhead, and training was a breeze because she was just oh-so-eager to please. Plus, when she wanted to play, she threw the ball herself before scampering off to retrieve it! When we brought Joey home, I expected a certain level of puppy behavior based on my knowledge of puppies, my experience with Daisie, and my research of the breed. Well. Expectations, meet reality.

They say the hardest part of dog training is training the human. Boy, have I learned A LOT. The biggest lesson I learned was that Baby Joey had 2 speeds: full-blast and sound asleep. Full-blast requires constant supervision, as he likes to be busy and does not stop moving/exploring/hunting for entertainment and chew toys, and sound asleep may only last 15-20 minutes, so hurry up and (quietly!) get housework and everything else done at the speed of light. There were no other speeds. Fortunately, after a few weeks, he found other speeds, such as laying quietly, munching on his chew toy. Those first few weeks though, they were rough. Especially because Daisie had not yet warmed up to him and refused to acknowledge his presence, let alone play with him, so I was the only one to occupy him while Mr.B was at work.

 

Most of the time, when he wants to be entertained, Joey just sits and stares at me expectantly. Occasionally though, he will lay very still and just stare at me like this. Little creeper.

Most of the time, when he wants to be entertained, Joey just sits and stares at me expectantly. Occasionally though, he will lay very still and just stare at me like this. Little creeper.

And remember when I said Daisie was, and still is, so eager to please? That’s not really Joey’s top priority. Where Daisie HATES to get yelled at, it doesn’t really bother Joey. It just kind of rolls off his back and he goes on with his day. He’s laid back like that.

So, training has been more of a challenge. It has required me to find different techniques and approaches when teaching Joey new things than I used when training Daisie. One of the things I’ve had a lot of success with is using a clicker. My mom gave us this StarMark Clicker Dog Training System, and with Bil-Jac Little Jacs Liver Treats as a reward, Joey has been very responsive to the lessons. The basic idea was to teach him that a when he hears the clicking noise, he gets a treat. Once he associated “click” with “treat”, he was more eager to come to us or do what was asked of him because he knew he’d be rewarded. It has been wonderful, because while he doesn’t always come in a hurry when we call “Joey, come!”, he ALWAYS comes running when he hears the clicker. It’s nice to be able to let him off his leash, and be confident that we have a way to get him to come back to us every single time.

Potty training, however, wasn’t so easy. While he was quick to understand that relieving himself in the house was not ideal, he didn’t seem to understand that he had to alert us when he needed to go outside. If he had to go, he’d hold it until we took him outside. But if we didn’t take him out before he couldn’t hold it any longer, he just found himself a nice spot on our new hardwood floors. So, for the first few weeks, we were outside in the brisk, February weather every 45 minutes or so, to ensure we didn’t miss any need to potty. And since he obviously didn’t need to pee every 45 minutes, he got lots of chances to go outside and chase leaves, his most favorite game ever. He has a thick, warm coat and didn’t seem to understand what “hurry up Joey, it’s only 6 degrees out here” meant, so being outside so often was unpleasant for Mr. B and me. The day he waddled over to the front door and whined for the first time, I squealed in delight! It was a happy day. He finally understood! Yay!

"Put on your boots! I have to pee! Please?"

“Put on your boots! I have to pee! Please?”

Since Joey is only 3½ months old, we still have a lot of training left to do, especially as the weather gets warmer and we both spend more time outside and at the barn. Keep checking the Joey the Farm Dog page; I promise to post more about our successes, failures and adventures in puppyhood!

 

Seriously, how could I stay mad at this face?

Seriously, how could I stay mad at this face?