dear bentley...

i've been wanting to post something about this, since i suppose my blog represents what's going on in my life, but i haven't really been ready until now.  while it's easy to make your life seem happy and fun all of the time on blog spaces and other social media... it turns out life isn't always happy and fun, and at times you are forced to face sadness and loss.  several months ago, i lost a huge piece of my heart when i received the news that my dog, bentley (with whom i shared custody with my parents later in his life), left our world after being sick for several years.  he taught me so much, and was with me through many of my highs and lows in life (and we all know how many of those we go through in our twenties).  he had a tenderness and a soulfulness that i've never encountered with any other animal (or most humans for that matter).  below is a little letter i wrote for him (silly, because i know he can't read it... but it's the best way i can think of to sum up his life and the indelible print he's left on my heart).

dear bentley, 

one day (summer of 2005ish) while living in west palm beach, the urge struck me to go to the local animal shelter and just "look".  i walked swiftly past multiple fence-lined cages, when i saw a grey fuzzy blur to my right (i can still picture it so clearly).  i looked, and there sat the cutest schnauzer i'd ever seen (you!), behind a fence with a sign that read "my name is tommy, i can do tricks!"  i wrote down your ID number, and walked back to the information desk and asked to see you.  we sat in a play area for about twenty minutes, and you sniffed your way around the entire perimeter (true schnauzer form), giving me a sniff here or there, but not paying much attention to me.  we said goodbye, and since i wasn't in the best situation financially, i decided to go before i adopted a dog i knew i couldn't really afford or give my full attention to since i was in school full-time.

the next morning when i awoke, you were the first thing on my mind.  i couldn't shake the thought of this little grey schnauzer.  i got in the car, sped to the pound, and you were still there!!!  a tiny elderly woman was in front of your pen jotting your ID number down with a pencil, as she explained to her white-haired companion that she was going to take you home wither her.  i ran as fast as my legs could take me to the information desk (sorry, old lady), asked if you were still available (you were), and i told them to start filling out the paperwork.  as they were taking down my information, the elderly woman walked up behind me and inquired about you, but they told her you weren't available anymore.  she understandably looked disappointed, but this was a day that changed my life forever.  

there's so many unforgettable things about you:  that little spot between your eyebrows that i loved to kiss so much.  how you used to greet me and bark/jump as if it had been years since you'd seen me, even if it was only really a few hours. how you would ride in my lap in the car, basically all up and down the entire southeastern united states (and especially loved it when i would take off the circulating AC, so you could smell the outside air).  the way you would crawl on top of my chest and lay down, even though i couldn't breathe.  your cute nubby little tail.  how much you hated getting baths, and basically turned into a statue in the shower.  that time you pulled me around in the neighborhood on my rollerblades at night, that was fun.  how you were such a good sport when i would dress you those ridiculous costumes.  how much you loved chasing the waves as they crashed on the beach.  how you would always do the "bang bang" trick for me, even though i could see in your eyes each time how much you hated it.  the way you could identify all of your favorite toys by name ("go get quack quack")!  your beautiful brown eyes and the softness of your fur.  your lashes (super jealous of those).  the first time you saw snow (that's when i knew you wanted to come back to florida, haha).  your love for chasing squirrels out of the backyard.  how you always seemed to know when i was crying or sad, and you would cuddle me extra hard.  how difficult it was to leave you with my parents after i moved to north carolina, but how elated my heart was each time i got to see you again.  i will especially never forget your sweet, gentle kisses.

come to think of it, i never asked the animal shelter what "tricks" you could do referring to the sign they had on your pen, but i didn't need to.  clearly you had mastered the "trick" of stealing the hearts of everyone who had the pleasure to know you.  it was a true gift to have you in my life over the past twelve years.  i don't ever want to forget anything about you, and i hope i always become misty-eyed at the thought of you.  i miss you so much, my friend.

below is a video i made, and some of my favorite all time pictures of the little fella (it was difficult to narrow them down, as you can imagine there are many).  

this was the picture animal control posted on their website of bentley and his brother (they were surrenders... i'm not sure what kind of idiot would give him up, but whoever you are... thank you)!

his first day at home.

he loved car rides!

this makes me laugh every time i look at it.  he was such a good sport!

that smile!

bad to the bone!

dem lashes though!

such a handsome gentleman!

"dogs have a way of finding people who need them, filling an emptiness we don't even know we have"


crockpot buffalo chicken dip

this is the perfect recipe to make for any upcoming july 4th parties (or really any party for that matter)!  this dip is easy, only contains a few ingredients, and it's ADDICTIVE (there's your warning).  a friend introduced the basic recipe to me several years ago (i jazzed it up a bit), and since i started making it... friends, family, and coworkers request this dish for every single get together!  it never fails, the crockpot is scraped clean when it is all said and done., and you will leave people begging for more.  recipe is as follows:


cook the chicken breasts in the buffalo sauce on high until cooked through (about two hours).

remove the chicken from the crockpot and shred (if you have a stand mixer, use that.  shredding chicken by hand is the bane of my existence, and this hack has been life changing).

return the shredded chicken back into the crockpot with the sauce.  mix in the shredded cheese, ranch and 2 tbsp chives (save the rest for garnish).  add the cream cheese and cover.  continue cooking (on high, because you will want to eat this asap) until all ingredients are melted.  stir to combine.  decrease heat to keep warm.  when you're ready to serve, garnish the final product with some of the remaining chives and serve with tortilla chips and celery (you know, to make it healthy).

    my mouth is watering just looking at this.

crockpot buffalo chicken dip
serves ~ 10 people


1 cup frank's red hot buffalo sauce (hot or mild)
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 cup ranch dressing
2 cups sharp white cheddar cheese  
(*i prefer hand-shredded cheese.  also, you can use any type of cheddar here)
4 tbsp chives, chopped
2 8-oz. packages cream cheese

  • cook the chicken breasts in the buffalo sauce in your crockpot on high, until cooked through (about two hours).
  • remove the chicken breasts from the crockpot and shred (us a stand mixer for this if you have one).
  • return the chicken back to the sauce in the crockpot.  mix in the shredded cheese, ranch, and 2 tbsp chives.  add in the cream cheese.  cover and continue to cook on high until all ingredients are melted.  stir to combine.  
  • reduce heat to keep warm.  top with the remaining chives when you're ready to dig in.  serve with tortilla chips and celery. 


key west: part two (exploring + a video)

this post features the rest of our vacation... which basically consists of eating and drinking our way through key west!  haha.  just kidding... there were many sights to be seen, including the waterfront and mallory square, the southermost point, and many of hemmingway's hangouts, but one of my favorite activities was walking around the quieter streets (away from duval) and admiring all of the beautiful pastel-colored homes with adorable white picket fences in the front.  i have a few picked out to purchase for that one day when i become wealthy!  don't worry, you guys can all come for a visit  :)  there were several things on the itinerary we didn't get a chance to check out (all the reason to go back), but we checked almost everything off the list.

one fun fact i learned about myself while in the keys, i have gephyrophobia (a fear of driving over bridges)!  who knew?  has anyone else ever experienced this?  i can tell you firsthand, having a panic attack while driving on a 7-mile long bridge is no fun.

anyhow, below is a video (because i truly enjoy looking back on those, better than pictures), along with a few photos of some of our favorite spots:

mile marker 0!!!

garbo's grill food truck (see the fish tacos, below)

these were the best fish tacos i've ever had! fresh grilled mahi, cilantro, cabbage, sliced jalapenos and mango topped with a creamy caribbean sauce.  my mouth is watering at just the sight of them.

bo's fish wagon... the best conch fritters (see below) ↓

my birthday dinner at the thirsty mermaid

no better way to celebrate, than with a glass of rosé!

bougainvillea plants give me all the feels

these beautifully colored roosters roam all over the island!

the steamed clams at half shell raw bar were super yummy!

i'll take this adorable little bungalow!

i had to keep holding onto my hats, because it was so windy ;)

actually, i'll take this pink one too!!

sunburns are the new black, i hear...

the best bloody mary bar i've encountered yet, at blue macaw! (who knew pickled pineapple could be so delicious)?  they have a very yummy brunch, too!

alright... throw this one into the real estate shopping cart as well.  if you look closely at the fence, there's tiny carved octopus, with conch shells at the top of the picket!  is that not adorable?!?!

had to get the key lime pie at kermit's

it was delicious!  (husband needs a little work with my camera's focal settings)

other favorites, not pictured:

we wound up each evening at cork and stogie (great beer/cigar selections)
we loved our hotel, la concha (reasonably priced off-season and right on duval st.)
delicious mojitos can be found at the southernmost beach cafe and willie t's

until next time key west (and please let it be sooner, rather than later).