puppies {still + life}

So with tons of pictures still to edit and lots of thoughts still to process, I tried to figure out a way to pop up a sneak peek into my weekend. The tread that tied everything together? All the aspects of farm life and kitchen life and the people and the animals?

It was the dogs. As soon as I pulled up, there was a bevvy of (intensely muddy) pups surrounding me, and shortly after I pulled up, a couple came in behind us saying, "We're here for the puppies for sale?"

For sale?

There were at least four lab puppies (it was hard to keep count) and three adults, in all colors, and the puppies (all 14 weeks old) were indeed for sale. Every time Cal asked me, I said, "Hmmm... not sure. The owner isn't here any more."

So. There's that.

But the pups were pretty much ubiquitous, and that was wonderful. They went everywhere, alone or in their muddy, slobby, happy pack. Sometimes they'd fight, and I'd get a whiff of a PTSD feeling since our dogs fight, and it's not pretty. But these dogs fight the way dogs are supposed to fight: someone gets their feelings hurt and teeth snap until someone finally submits and then everyone will lie down together panting happily. Peaceable kingdom.

They pretty much lie around all day unless they're playing, and if we ate dinner outside, you'd shift your foot and realize, "Oh, there's a dog under me." So well mannered and quiet, if you hadn't moved, you'd have never known. On occasion, you'd be working away in the dining room, thinking all was well, when suddenly a pup would jump the gate and bolt into the room. They just want to be where the action is. And the food. The owner told us if this happens to simply say, "Pups out!" in a happy, friendly voice and they'll move. With the older dogs it totally worked, but the puppies looked at us like, "But I want to be with youuuuuuuuu."

Hard to convince them.

Our first morning there, I was one of the first up and I went to get something from my car. I think the pups thought I had breakfast because they all surrounded me: tails wagging, tiny puppy teeth nipping. The followed me en masse to the car and swarmed around me as I tried to open the door. And they stayed swarmed around me, all sloppy, muddy smiles as I wondered if I needed to get in the car just to give myself a break.

(We later looked up the hash tag #pupsout, and turns out the meaning is entirely different from what we were expecting. Go see.)

In the end, I almost came home with that little brown guy with the light eyes. But the thought of taking him away from his home and the farm and farm life and a four hour drive with a muddy lab and what my beagle would say. Well. We said good bye.

What joy to have them near me, even for a little while. Pups out!

weekend lookback, august 25

Row 1 : Gathering from Scratch, Sunset, Fairylight Supper;  Row 2:  Breakfast by Vermeer, Farmhouse Window, Farm Life

Row 1: Gathering from Scratch, Sunset, Fairylight Supper; Row 2: Breakfast by Vermeer, Farmhouse Window, Farm Life

So I snuck away this weekend. Let me first say that leaving Neel and Cal home alone during the 12-day Simpsons marathon on FX might have been my best parenting decision EVER. When I got home yesterday afternoon, they hugged me by patting me on the back vaguely, before their eyes glassily veered TV-ward again. So, win-win?

There were no back-to-back-to-back Simpson's episodes for me. There was instead a 300 year-old farmhouse, the oldest stone farmhouse in the Shenandoah Valley. There were the rolling hills of West Virginia. There were lab puppies! (Swoon.) (I told them as I was leaving not to count heads. There might be a puppy coming home with me.) (There wasn't.) There were horses and sheep and pigs and cows and goats and chickens and parrots and peacocks who flew onto the roof each night at twilight. All of that was pretty amazing.

The food was pretty amazing too. I don't want to say too much today because there are so many photos to download, but each meal was so beautifully presented and served on stunningly laid tables. One of the hosts, Rebecca Gallup, from A Daily Something, is a prop stylist, and I could have spent the entire weekend with her just learning how she makes each decision she makes. Beth Kirby of local milk is a recipe developer, stylist and food photographer, and she handled that end in addition to keeping us fed. The food, and just being fed? That part alone for someone who does the feeding in the family, well, that was pretty special.

It's possible that I'm not the best workshop attendee. Too introverted, perhaps. Although I met so many wonderful women and enjoyed every moment with them, it's not the thing I'm best at. And let's face it. I'm not so great at the practical part of learning things either. Not great at taking advantage of having the experts on hand to guide me. I can ask questions and pick brains, but when it comes time to try stuff out and get help, I freeze up a little. It's also possible that I'm just a crappy stylist and always will be and no amount of workshops is gonna change that.

Don't get me wrong, simply being there and soaking up every moment was a really, really good thing. And some of the women there unfolded like flowers, and that was a beautiful thing to see. If I wanted to come home having fallen in love with styling, it's really okay that I didn't. I thought for the longest time that it was that I just didn't know enough, and once I knew more, I'd be okay. It might be that it's just not a good fit for me. Instead, I came home with an appreciation for gathering around the table and tending to my family with food. That sense has been sorely missing since I've been ill this summer. I came home more in love with my little Fuji than ever. I came home having made some really lovely friends among some really talented women.

I have more to tell you, all the lovely details of how well tended to we were all weekend, and all the beauty of the farm we stayed on, but you know what? My kid starts 9th Grade today, and that's the crazytown most important thing. Another school year begins, and I think I hear his alarm. Cinnamon rolls are on the menu, so it's a good thing I'm feeling rejuvenated.