Minnie’s First (Real) Walk

Today was the fiance’s off day. Usually on his off day, we load up the dogs for an adventure. They get a ride, a picnic, and a walk in a place they’ve never walked before. There were a couple of problems with this today: it’s storming, and our new foster dog, Minnie, still isn’t 100% sure what exactly she’s supposed to be doing on her end of the leash.

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We still wanted to get some exercise for both us and the dogs, so we decided to leash them up and head out for a walk down the street. Since there are a lot of pets and kids in the area, the dogs would be getting all the smells and excitement of a normal walk, but without the chance of getting caught in the middle of a severe storm. I thought this would also be the perfect time to get pictures of Minnie for the adoption website, so potential adopters can see her in her natural habitat. It turns out that Minnie, unlike our last foster dog, is not photogenic. Minnie darted this way and that, making it impossible for my poor iPhone camera to focus in on her. Finally, I asked J to get down and take a photo with Minnie. It worked about as well as you can imagine. Minnie was delighted, giving J sloppy wet face kisses. J was less delighted, as he was suddenly covered in forty pounds of wet dog.

I was finally able to snap a picture of Minnie as she was distracted by someone else’s dogs, who started barking as we walked by.

Image Isn’t she pretty? Minnie is doing a lot better than she was at the shelter. We think she only needs a few more weeks before she’s ready for someone to give her a “furever home!” Hopefully by then she has realized that the leash is not for chewing.

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The Chattanooga Market

Today was the opening day of the Chattanooga Market, one of several farmer’s markets in the area. The Chattanooga Market is the biggest of the local markets, and is open every Sunday from the end of April until roughly a week before Thanksgiving, from 11 am to 4 pm. The Market not only offers fresh local produce, but also local baked goods, homemade soaps, and clothes. Pets are not allowed inside the Market pavilion, but are welcome on the street and patio outside the Market, where you can purchase food from food trucks along with locally made jewelry and art.

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If you want to get the best pick of everything, including parking spaces, you will want to arrive early. This is especially true if you’re attending during one of the Market’s festivals or special events, which include “The Beast Feast”- a barbecue festival, a Street Food Festival, and Chattanooga Oktoberfest. Other special events include a Cinco de Mayo celebration on the Sunday closest to Cinco de Mayo. The highlight of Chattanooga’s Cinco de Mayo at the Market is a chihuahua race, which always draws a large crowd.

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If you’re from the Chattanooga area, you’re almost guaranteed to see someone you know at the Market. After all, it’s a small town, and you know a lot of people. Fortunately, the Market provides many places to socialize with your friends if you see them, including picnic tables near the food vendors. If you see someone you’re not so fond of, don’t worry. The Market is crowded enough to let you pass by unnoticed.

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The Market has something for everyone, from farm-raised meats and eggs to fresh veggies and grilled cheese from food trucks. The Market is a family affair, and you will see strollers and kids on leashes mixed in with the college crowds and the high school hipsters. 

Image If you’re in Chattanooga on a Sunday, or within driving distance, the Market is great to check out. Bring a cooler to store your purchases, because the southern summers get hot and many of your veggies may wilt in transit.

 

Gluten Free and Allergen Free Wellness Event

Today, my mom and I traveled to Nashville, Tennessee for a Gluten and Allergen Free Wellness Event. My mom was there to blog about the event, and I was there to consume as many free samples as possible. With over twenty vendors and sponsors, there was something everyone could enjoy. I loved that most vendors not only offered gluten free options, but many of them were vegan, low-sodium (which is not a perk for me but I’m sure it’s good for someone), and free of all “priority” allergens.

ImageThe best part of the day was Roots Hummus, which is locally made in small batches in Asheville, North Carolina. Marketing themselves as “the microbrew of hummus,” they have inventive flavors and are both gluten free and vegan. My favorite flavor of the day was “Thai Coconut Curry,” which I was skeptical about but wound up loving. The spinach hummus and the black bean hummus are both solid options, as is the original and oil-free original. Roots brings out the spice in their Chipotle flavor, and surprised me with a Lima Bean hummus that even I, an ardent hater of lima beans, enjoyed. Roots can be found in your local Whole Foods or Earthfare if you live in the south, and can be found in some local markets, such as Enzo’s in Chattanooga, TN.

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Other highlights were Bumbalooza’s baking mixes (my mom has seriously not stopped talking about their Cookies and Cream Cake), Enjoy Life’s Plentils chips, and an awesome kale salad snack that turned me into a kale fan despite my previous ambivalence towards the green.

Image There were several presentations throughout the day. I attended a beginner’s guide to gluten free living by Pam from imaceliac.com. Pam was awesome! I got some great tips on what to stock in my pantry, what brands of pasta to use for different things, and where in Atlanta to buy my gluten-free wedding cake. She also recommended some seasonings to spice up bland gluten free food- let’s admit it, gluten free can get pretty boring sometimes- and sympathized with me about my mourning of decent, cheap pizza. I took notes during her presentation and can’t wait to try out some of her recipes. I’m not an excellent cook, unlike my mom, so Pam is someone whose cooking style I can get behind. She has twin two year olds, so she has neither the time nor the money to buy eight flours and two gums to make a single recipe. I’m disabled, so I love simple and delicious gluten-free recipes. Obviously, our cooking styles meshed.

I also picked up this awesome “Gluten Makes Me Sick” tee shirt. I will be wearing this for future celiac events, because seriously, how cool is that?

A Dog and a Hike

After telling my friend about my plan to explore more of our own city, she decided to get in on the action too. After talking to some of her friends who are much more healthy and active than I am, she discovered a hiking spot we had never visited: Stringer’s Ridge. Stringer’s Ridge has been recently redone, and there are bike paths as well as hiking paths. We had some trouble finding the entrance, thanks to outdated directions that led us through a washed out path in an apartment complex. A little more driving, and we were in the right spot, ready to hike. 

There are many trails to choose from, both for biking and hiking, but we chose to take the “Cherokee” path, which is a nice easy incline on mainly asphalt and gravel. The “Cherokee” trail makes a loop, and offers access to a scenic overlook of downtown Chattanooga, which was perfect for a casual day hike. More serious outdoors enthusiasts can choose from various intensities and lengths of paths, including a six-mile trail. 

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 Stringer’s Ridge invites a varied crowd, from college students to families to the outdoors enthusiast, and many people were walking their dogs on the paths. The parking lot was full when we arrived, which is always nice for two girls hiking alone. We reached the Overlook easily, and the view alone made Stringer’s Ridge worth a visit. The fact that it is the largest untouched area of nature in Chattanooga is another great reason to check it out.

Although we didn’t bring our dog this time, thanks to our foster dog being adopted today, my friend and I have decided to bring a dog next time and attempt one of the longer trails. The candidate for our next hike is a new foster dog named Minnie. She seems to have endless energy, unlike us, so we hope that she will motivate us to trek through the woods.

ImageAs you’re heading out the trailhead back to the parking lot at the easiest to find entrance, you will smell food. Amazing food. Mouth-watering food. That’s Nikki’s Drive-In, which is conveniently located right beside the entrance to the park for you to fill your post-hike protein needs. Since my celiac requires me to not partake of the food there, I beg you to have a hamburger in my honor.

Also: if anyone is attending the Nashville Gluten and Allergen Free Wellness Event tomorrow, April 26, I will be attending as a blogger! I would elaborate more, but my brain fog is requiring me to log off before my brain turns to complete mush.

 

 

Foster Dog Finds a Home.

We started fostering almost by accident. My mom had received some free Alpo products, and she and my dad drove to the local animal shelter to make a donation. While she was there, she found out that the shelter was currently experiencing an overload of cats and a shortage of foster families. On the spot, she decided to foster two cats. As she was filling out her foster application, my dad alerted her to a small problem: they had no way to get the cats home. My mom called me to bring down two of our cat carriers. While we were there dropping off carriers, I offhandedly mentioned that we should foster a dog, since we have a lonely dog and a fenced-in backyard.

And so, fifteen minutes later, my fiance and I walked out with an Australian Shepherd mix named Cooper. 

Image When we walked out with Cooper, he was scared of everything. He had panic attacks during car rides, shivered when we tried to pet him, and generally spent most of his time cowering with his tail between his legs.

One month later, Cooper has found a home. He’s doing much better now. He is a dog that has never met a stranger, he can’t wait for car rides, he walks on a leash, and he answers to his name. Today is our last day with Cooper before we take him to meet his new owner. 

Luckily for Cooper, who still has some residual issues from life in the shelter, his new owner is someone I know very well, and they can call for advice about any of his strange behaviors. He will also still get to see us from time to time, which is great, as he’s been given a place of honor in our upcoming wedding.

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Cooper finding his “furever home” is a bittersweet moment for us. Although we will miss him, it’s great to know that we were able to help him find a better life. There’s not too much time for us to be sad- tomorrow we are also getting our new foster dog. We know nothing about the new dog yet, and I’m trying not to have an expectations. 

It’s sure to be an interesting experience both for us and our new foster.

Touring My Own City

I love road trips. My friends and I have explored every back road within six hours of our hometown, usually in the middle of the night, with country music blaring from the speakers and Double Cola sitting in the cupholders. Once, we had a whole pumpkin pie in the backseat and a pound of pecans rolling beneath our feet. 

Unfortunately, we’re all adults now and we can’t head out on a wild adventure every single weekend. How are we supposed to get that summer travel urge out if we can’t hop in the car and drive straight to the river every time we want? This summer, we’ve decided to explore our own city more. We went to most of the sites when we were younger, but they’ve faded out of our memory and changed a lot- usually for the better, a few for the worse. (Seriously, why did Fairyland tear down the awesome playground with the wood and metal slides? I tear up just thinking about all the fun that was lost with the removal of the best playground ever.)

Today, the fiance and I had a few hours before he needed to be at work. We decided to pack a picnic and hit up one of my favorite spots as a kid- Coolidge Park and Northshore.

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Since I was little, they’ve added a new park beside Coolidge, known as “Renaissance Park.” Renaissance Park was our picnic destination, because it’s less crowded than Coolidge, despite being attached to it. Renaissance Park features a wetland, several sculptures, a reproduction Civil War ammunition bunker, and some hills that are encapsulating old industrial waste from Chattanooga’s not-so-distant dirty past. The hills have become popular spots for kids to slide down on flattened cardboard boxes- in the South, that’s as close as we get to sledding. 

As Chattanooga is getting more and more dog friendly, we brought our rescue dog and our foster dog with us to enjoy the spring weather. We met several other dog owners in Renaissance Park, and there were plenty of places offering recycled grocery bags for people to pick up after their dogs. 

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After our picnic, we walked through Coolidge Park. The carousel was going, and children were running around climbing on the animal statues surrounding the fountain. It’s still a little chilly for kids to play in the fountain, but come May, the fountain will be filled with screaming kids and the occasional exasperated parent. 

Northshore, where Coolidge is located, has undergone a revitalization recently, with an emphasis on local food, drink, and other businesses. There are plenty of great boutique shops lining Coolidge Park, and some awesome restaurants. From pizza, to sushi, to hot dogs, Northshore appears to have a bit of everything. You’re sure to find something you want there- the hot dog place, Good Dog, even offers some seriously good gluten-free options. They also have specials throughout the week, and a pretty decent Thirsty Thursday. If we hadn’t brought our own picnic, I would have stopped in for some of their fries and a brunch dog, but alas, not today.

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One of the big draws of Northshore is the Market Street Walking Bridge, one of the famous Four Bridges in Chattanooga. It claims to be the longest walking bridge in North America, and it probably is, if we don’t count a certain bridge I used to walk across in Missouri that was definitely longer. From Market Street Bridge, you can view the Chattanooga skyline, both riverboats, and a nature preserve island. A drama was unfolding on the nature preserve island today, as two girls had gotten trapped on the island after their canoe floated off. EMTs and the Coast Guard arrived blaring sirens, but I promise, the bridge is usually much calmer.

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The only problem you may have with Northshore is the parking. All parking is owned by Republic Parking, and it can get expensive. It’s worth parking directly behind the row of shops at Coolidge, as the cheapest parking is there and the machines are turned off for weekends after 4:30 pm. The parks, especially Coolidge, get crowded during peak “outdoors” hours in the warmer months, and the restaurants do too. 

Northshore is not the Northshore I remember from my childhood. It’s matured and localized over the years. I appreciate the efforts to make it greener and more dog-friendly, offer more local food and products, and appeal to everyone. Some of the shops are a little hipster-heavy, but others are family-friendly, leading to an interesting blend of patronage of the area. 

All in all, Chattanooga seems to be moving past it’s past industrial days. It’s going to be interesting visiting all my favorite childhood sites, and hopefully finding some new hangouts. The dogs are going to enjoy our exploring too, since there are more places they can go than ever before. 

 

Acworth, Georgia

Yesterday, my best friend and I decided to take a belated road trip for her birthday. We had purchased gift cards to our favorite restaurant, Henry’s Louisiana Grill, near Atlanta, Georgia. Although her birthday was three weeks ago, this was the first chance we got to use them. 

Henry’s Louisiana Grill is located in Acworth, Georgia. Acworth was voted All-American Town in 2010, and is known for the Acworth Art Festival. The small town contains many local restaurants, artisans, and historic sites, and is a great day trip- about an hour and a half from my location near the Tennessee border, and about thirty minutes outside Atlanta. There are several festivals to attend throughout the year, and as we saw yesterday, Lake Acworth is a great place for water recreation.

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Everything in downtown Acworth is within walking distance of the public parking, which is free! Since my city switched to Republic Parking, anywhere with free public parking gets automatic consideration for my road trips. Beyond the main street, there is Lake Acworth, historic sites, and a really cool art studio and store that offers painting parties on reservation. 

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One of my favorite things about Acworth is the look of the town. There are cobblestone sidewalks and roads, historic advertising on the sides of buildings, and there is always an interesting crowd. Yesterday, someone was having a wedding rehearsal dinner in one of the local restaurants, and little girls in flower-girl dresses kept popping by our car.

Image If you live within driving distance of Acworth, or are driving through Atlanta for any reason, Acworth is worth a stop. Get lost in the shops, eat at a local restaurant, and enjoy the Southern Hospitality!