Thursday, January 19, 2012

The View from the Command Center

Subtitle:  Why no one outside of the immediate family is allowed in the master bedroom

You know those people whose offices look horribly disorganized but if you ask them to find a document they can locate it in five seconds?  Yeah - I'm not that person.  I'm just horribly disorganized.  All the important stuff is here, and given enough time I can put my hands on it.  But, if I need to find it quickly, it better be a document I can pull up on the computer.

This lack of organizational skill wasn't too much of an issue when I was practicing law.  In that situation, organization is forced upon you and the system is in place when you start.  Even with that system in place, it was a darn good thing that I had an assistant.  She kept my calendar in order, reminded me of meetings and court appearances, placed high priority files on my desk, maintained the files, and generally kept me in line.  I appreciated it then but would give my left arm for an assistant now!

Time has been speeding up recently with regard to the restaurant.  The lease is the priority right now and I spend my entire day sitting in front of the computer, either reviewing lease language, emailing attorneys and the landlord, or talking on the phone.  Brendan laughs whenever he comes home because he says he can always find me in the "command center."  This term is pretty apt - from this vantage point, I can control the phone, the computer, the printer, my cell phone, and piles of paperwork.  In addition, I can hear all the children as they play (or fight) with each other in their bedrooms or the playroom.  I have them come into the room to do their homework and can give directions to put on pajamas or brush teeth without leaving my chair.

This is where I live:

Messy as it is, it has everything I need.  The red blanket in the corner is for my lap when I get chilly, a hairbrush to tidy up the children for school, a huge bottle of ibuprofen for me and a small bottle of liquid tylenol for the children.  My cell phone and the land line, the printer and my godsend - the MAC.  The checkbook and a pack of AA batteries for the wireless keyboard and mouse.  Piles of paper on the floor - each stack a different version of the lease.  A large stack of papers on top of the printer - bills, government documents and to be filed important personal papers.  The TV, currently tuned in to the CIA movie, "The Farm", and the most important item of all - my Diet Coke.

More randomly, there's a crystal sugar bowl that I plan to use for Charlotte's upcoming 7th birthday party - a Fancy Nancy Tea Party.  A chicken feather that was a gift from Evan, a phone book that I borrowed from a neighbor but forgot to return, and a roll of Happy Birthday wrapping paper (because there's always an upcoming child's birthday party).  I'm not sure why there is a clown hat on the floor by the wrapping paper but that seems about right.

It's a mess but it's functional and this is the only glimpse you'll see.  My bedroom door stays closed.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Devil is in the Details

Things continue to crawl forward, albeit at a snail's pace, for the restaurant.  The past few months have been a huge lesson in patience for me.  And, given that we have the permitting process and construction ahead of us, this new year promises to teach us an entirely new level of patience as we deal with living on the timeline of someone else.

Where are we?

We have incorporated our business and opened business bank accounts.  We have engaged a real estate agent, a kitchen designer, an architect, an engineer, and an attorney.  We have interviewed three contractors and believe we have settled on our guy.  We have met with graphic designers and artists, hood system companies and designers of grease collection systems.  We've gotten estimates for kitchen equipment and visited restaurants to talk to owners about their build out experience.  We've had innumerable conferences with our real estate agent regarding lease negotiations.  We continually revise our business plan to reflect our most updated knowledge.

Our kitchen floorplan changed three times and the equipment layout changed five times but we are finally settled on a plan that both meets health department requirements and is an efficient working space (a combination that is more difficult to achieve than you would think).  It's funny, after all of Brendan's complaints about cramped DC kitchens, he'd kill for one now.  North Carolina requires tons of open space between equipment which results in kitchens much larger than are actually necessary.  And don't even get us started on how the health code makes it easier for restaurants to use frozen and canned food rather than freshly prepared dishes.

On the list of awesome things we've done - visiting a local sawmill that reclaims antique heart pine lumber and repurposes it for new applications.  When an old building must come down, they salvage the floors, walls and beams and make gorgeous floors, counters and tables.  Our tables will be custom made by the fantastic guys at and we couldn't be happier.

Our plans are making the trip from our architect to the engineer this week.  Once engineered plans are finalized and stamped, we can begin applying for permits from the Town of Pittsboro.  We will be applying for a plumbing variance, so who knows how long that will take?

This is not our first experience with construction.  We lived in our Alexandria condo during a kitchen renovation which was insane, by the way.  And, in one six month period, we renovated and sold one condo, renovated and rented out another condo, and bought a house and renovated it.  So, we're not complete novices.  But, the number of details involved in this project is ridiculous.

I received the specification sheets for our kitchen equipment today.  There are more than 90 pages.  I also received more than 20 pages of information about grease trap testing for submission to the public utility in support of our variance application.  I couldn't even understand most of it - going on blind faith in our people here.

Tonight, when Brendan arrives home at 11pm, we'll be sitting down to mark our desired outlets on the floorplan - all 3 gazillion of them.  We'll also be marking all the locations for lighting (every single pendant, sconce, bar light, art light, up-light, kitchen light, under counter light, bathroom light, etc.).  Doesn't that sound like fun?

Over the course of the next four weeks, we are hoping to finalize our lease, distribute our revised investor proposal, get our engineered plans finalized, hire a contractor, and pull permits.  If we are extremely lucky we may be able to begin work by February 1.  This is a VERY ambitious timeline.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Standing on the Precipice

Have you ever felt like you're not sure whether you're excited or about to throw up?  

The owner of the historic textile mill has accepted our rent offer!  Our real estate agent had lunch with him today to submit our counter to his counter to our initial offer on rent and he took it.  Follow that?  And then they drank single malt scotch to celebrate the fact that it's not either of them who has to pay the rent on the space! 

So - here it is in its current state:

This place is incredible.  The gorgeously restored wood beam ceilings are well over 20 feet high at the center and the original 10+ foot tall windows line both sides of the space.  The floors are original hardwood and the walls are exposed brick.  It's rough and industrial and sun soaked and comfortable and grand.  

We'll be taking about 2500 square feet of space and building out for a restaurant of about 70 seats.  Construction may take about four months as there are improvements the landlord will be making before our guys can even get in there.  So, we're aiming for a May 1, 2012 opening and our doors will be open before that if it's at all humanly possible!  

 I'd love to be able to post our architect's sketches for the space but I haven't quite figured out how.  Definitely to come - I promise!  For now, I just have to say this - Brendan is going to have WINDOWS in his kitchen.  A bit of explanation for those of you who aren't chefs.

The view from Brendan's kitchen windows
Chefs spend about 15 hours a day, often 6 days a week, in a windowless room that is approximately 120 degrees.  Their breaks are quite frequently spent sitting on a plastic crate in a back alley, not far from the dumpster.  They are creatures of the night, not venturing out of the depths of the steamy kitchen until nearly midnight.  They are pale and the sun makes them squint.  It's a glamorous life.

So, when I tell you that Brendan will have not one, not two, but THREE giant windows lining one entire wall of his kitchen, you may be able to appreciate how excited he is.  And not only will he have windows, but they look out over a large green space and the woods.  And the landlord is even open to allowing us to plant a kitchen garden in that space - so one day the cooks will be able to take a leisurely stroll outside to choose their herbs.  Heaven!

On the west side of the space, there's a gigantic, metal sliding door.  It's the original fire door for the space.  On the right hand side, there's a pulley with a weight that holds the door open.  If there was a fire, and it burned through the rope that held the weight, the door would automatically close.   

On the far side of this sliding door is a huge space that is used as a performing arts venue.  Plays, concerts, art installations and mardi gras parties are some of the recent uses for the space.  We envision pre-event dining in the restaurant and then when the doors for the performance open, we can simply roll back the door and patrons can stroll right into the next part of their evening.  

 As if the possibility of adding our own kitchen garden wasn't good enough, right next door to our space is an organic co-op grocery that carries produce, meat and dairy from local farms.  If we run out of something, we can simply step next door.

This picture to the left is taken from
the front porch of the grocery store.
Our space is in the center - the line of windows.

In the picture to the right, you can see the view of the mill building from the parking lot.  A path leads through a pollinator garden planted and maintained by the local agriculture extension office.  Because it was planted specifically to provide food for local pollinators, there is something blooming at least 9 months of the year!

Finally, on Saturday mornings, the local farmer's market sets up in the lower parking lot - so Brendan will be able to pick up ingredients straight from the farmers!  We're thinking a Saturday brunch will pair perfectly with a morning out to the farmer's market.

The best part of all?  The mill is all of 2 miles from our farm.  Brendan could WALK to work.  The kids and I will be able to drop in and see him any time we wish.  Once in a while, he may even be able to duck out in the mid-afternoon for an hour to watch soccer practice!  Unfathomable!

We're standing on the precipice now - about to begin the biggest job we'll ever undertake (not counting being parents).

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Apparently, Thanksgiving is next week which just seems impossible to me.  This fall has slipped by in a blur of school, extracurricular activities and work.  So many things have been left undone and so much, yet nothing, has happened.  As this is the natural time of year to reflect on things for which we are thankful, I wanted to get back on the blog.  

As you might have guessed from my radio silence on the issue, we did not end up with the restaurant space in Chapel Hill.  After I last wrote, we waited yet another two full weeks before hearing a final decision from the building owner.  He ultimately chose another restaurant concept for the space - Indian.  Which I find a strange choice.  Don't get me wrong, I love Indian food.  Mmmm, samosas.  But, there are 4 other Indian restaurants already located on the SAME STREET.  But, it's his building and his choice and I wish them the best of luck.  

We thought we really wanted this restaurant space.  And, it would have been great.  There has not been, and likely never will be, another space requiring so little work and upfront cost.  But, the low upfront costs were balanced out by high occupancy costs so we would have paid for it one way or another.  We were so disappointed to lose the Chapel Hill space. 

And then a small coffee shop in our tiny town of Pittsboro closed.  We called a local architect to meet us and discuss possibilities for the space.  It turned out that the coffee shop was just too small but it paid off for us in an unexpected way.  Our architect urged us to come visit the building where he keeps his office.  
It's a renovated 1920's textile mill, sitting on a hill just on the north side of town.  There are soaring, exposed wood beam ceilings and hardwood floors.  Huge windows line the original brick walls.  Outside, there is a fantastic pollinator garden, planted and maintained by our local agriculture agent.  The lower parking lot of the building is the site of the weekly farmer's market.  

So, I find myself thankful for losing the Chapel Hill location.  We'd talked about the Mill before but thought the space we wanted was already leased to an art gallery.  The art installation, we've since found out, is temporary and the ideal space is available.  We've been working with our architect on sketches for the space and have arrived at a plan we love.  We're meeting with the building owner tomorrow to discuss more specifics about a potential lease.  I'm trying very hard not to get overly excited about the space since there are still a hundred different reasons this might not work out but it's difficult.  We'll know more after the meeting tomorrow and I promise to update the blog faithfully!  

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Hurry Up and Wait

It's been a LONG time since I've updated the blog.  I haven't decided to stop doing it, it's just that I've been putting off writing because I keep thinking I'm going to have some huge news to report on the restaurant front.  Well, there's still not an announcement to make but I figure the whole point of this blog is to document the experience and the process.

Since we moved to NC, we've been working with a real estate broker, searching for the right restaurant space.  We've seen several locations.

We looked at a location in a brand new mixed use building - a pristine white shell.  They wanted a ridiculous amount of money for rent and we'd have to construct a restaurant from the ground up.  No thank you.

We seriously considered buying out the aging owner of a neighborhood restaurant that is housed in a historic bungalow just a couple of blocks from the Carrboro Farmer's Market.  What we couldn't seriously consider was his asking price.

We loved the tiny restaurant space that was tucked in a picturesque courtyard and which was outfitted beautifully - a little jewel box.  But, the owner all but specifically told us not to buy the space due to an unreasonable landlord and major construction which is planned for the building and which would undoubtedly affect business.

We didn't like the nondescript storefront Indian restaurant with the acoustical tile ceiling at all.  We rejected the strip mall space without even looking at it.

The funky free-standing building with an outdoor patio had potential but it was tucked on a back street that wasn't a very good location.

And then...

Our agent called to tell us that a restaurant right on Franklin Street had abruptly closed.  Were we interested?  Um, yes.  Franklin Street is the main drag in Chapel Hill.  East Franklin Street is mainly bars, fast food chains and souvenir shops as the University Campus abuts the street.  The West Franklin side of the street is populated by more upscale restaurants, funky shops, coffeehouses and music venues.  A bit quieter, more neighborhoody, but still easily accessible by foot from the campus.

We went to see the space the very next day.  The restaurant that had occupied the space was fine dining but had been poorly managed financially and the slow summer months in a college town were the death knell.  This is a sad story, especially since the restaurant had enjoyed critical success.  As is always the case, however - one man's loss is another man's gain.

We REALLY like this space.  It's a bit larger than Brendan's dream space but is better suited to reality.  There's a bar that seats about 15 and two dining rooms.  The largest dining space seats 42 and the smaller, back dining room seats 24-30.  Having the dining area split like this is perfect for private functions.  The kitchen is roomy and well equipped and there's plenty of storage and office space.  The best feature?  It has its own private parking lot.  If you know anything about college towns, you know how precious that parking lot is.


We made a lease offer on the space within 5 days of seeing it, offering less than what the owner was asking in rent.  Unfortunately, we weren't the only people who recognized the potential in the space.  Apparently, there were upwards of 10 offers!  Even in this economy!  The reality is that an essentially turn key space within walking distance of campus and the heart of Chapel Hill  just doesn't come along very often.


The owner of the building took more than a week to respond to the lease offers.  The waiting was excruciating.  We knew that at least some of the offers for the space were from national chains.  This could be good or bad for us.  Good if the owner doesn't want a national franchise in his building.  Bad if he cares mostly about deep pockets instead of our fledgling start up.  Did we low ball our offer and shoot ourselves in the foot?


Finally, the owner responded to about 5 of the potential tenants - and we were one of them!  Yay!  But, we're still only 1 of 5.  Would we accept his counter offer?  We quickly deliberated and decided that we would.


And then, in the middle of it all, the owner's real estate agent leaves for a two week Mediterranean cruise.  The owner isn't comfortable working with anyone else, so everything is on hold for two weeks.  I'm paranoid.  Maybe this is a ruse and they're actually negotiating with someone else and just leaving us dangling on the hook in case their preferred tenant doesn't work out.  Our agent's assurances that this is certainly not so don't comfort me.


This past Tuesday - the agent is back in town and the owner wants to meet with us in person.  Can we meet the next day at 2pm?  Of course we can.  Except we also have dinner scheduled with some friends/investors for that night so we'll be out for half the day.  Scramble to find childcare.  Regular babysitter is booked so call my parents.  Will they please pick up the kids from school and keep them for 7 hours?  The most wonderful people in the world don't hesitate - of course they will.

The owner is pleasant, affable.  We chat for nearly an hour and a half about what we plan to do with his building.  He seems receptive and positive.  We all talk about the space as if we have already rented it.  Is this a sign?  But then they mention that there are 2 other prospective tenants they're still talking to.  So, we're one of three.   I feel like we're on a reality show where people are regularly booted off.


They'll be in touch soon.  By the beginning of next week for sure.


And then this morning, an email asking for our financial statement.  As soon as possible, please.  Sent.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Adventures in Canning

And they're off!
It's official - I don't have babies anymore.  Truth is, I haven't had a baby for a long time but I've been living in denial and everyone has just been too nice to say anything.  But, Evan turned 5 on Tuesday and he started Kindergarten today.  Charlotte started first grade and Catie entered third grade yesterday.  There's just no way to pretend all this isn't happening.  Do you think that's why we got a puppy?  A subconcious desire to fill the empty nest?  Distraction is a good thing.

So, I'm taking on a new distraction - canning.  Our fig trees have produced a bumper crop of figs seemingly overnight (and there are more coming) and I've been taught yet another lesson about farm life.  When the fruit is ready, you better be ready, because it's not going to wait for you to research what to do with 300 figs.  Figs ripen fast and they get over-ripe fast.  And the birds and squirrels and chickens all love figs so I'm in a race with them as well.  To make matters worse, figs don't ripen once you pick them, so you can't pick them early.  AND, they only last, fresh, 2-3 days after picking, so there's really not much time to "fig"ure it out.  I know, sorry.  

Turns out there's quite a lot you can do with fresh figs.  If you've never had a fresh fig - get your hands on some.  I'd never had them outside of Fig Newtons and frankly, that's the same thing as never having had one.  Fresh figs are delicate fruits, gently sweet with a texture unique to itself.  There are tons of seeds, but they're tiny and rather than being gritty they simply impart a slight graininess that is really pleasant.  Figs can be canned whole or sliced, made into a honeyed tea compote, dried, baked into cakes and made into fig butter and preserves.  Lots of fabulous stuff.  I don't have that kind of time so I'm just picking one thing.  I'm going to attempt to make fig preserves.  

I've never canned anything before - ever.  My mother canned vegetables.  I remember her putting up green beans for winter.  I'm sure she did other vegetables as well, but for some reason it's the green beans I remember.  It always frightened me a little - the big pressure cooker, all the sterilized jars and tongs and lids, laid out on clean towels.  It was like a surgical procedure and I stayed out of the way.  She never, as far as I know, made preserves.  I have a vague recollection of tomatoes.  But, the point is, I have no previous personal experience or even first hand observation experience with this task, so this should be interesting.

First - sterilize the jars and lids.  In days of yore, you had to boil them.  Lucky me, I have a dishwasher with a sanitize setting.  I'm doing small jars of fig jam (4 and 8 oz).  I am planning to give out jars of fig jam to everyone I know because I'm THAT confident that this is going to turn out wonderfully.  And if not, at least each person will only have to throw away a small jar of it, right?

Next, I chopped up the figs.  Based on the numbers of figs needed for one batch, it looks like I'll be making about 4 batches of jam.  I'm going to need more jars.  I didn't chop them very small because they'll obviously break down when cooked and it would be great to have a little chunk
of fig here and there in the jam.  According to my research (asking Brendan) there's no need to peel the figs.  But, Brendan's never made preserves either so we'll see if that was good advice.

Figs are low in pectin (which is sort of like gelatin and makes the jam set up) so you have to add it, either by mixing in a high pectin fruit or powdered pectin.  I went with powdered because the last thing I need around here is more fruit!

I was really surprised at how quick and easy it was to make the jam itself.  Why haven't I ever done this before??  For those of you playing our game at home, here's the recipe:

Fig Jam
4-5 cups chopped figs (wash gently with cold water, de-stem and remove bottoms)
1 pkg pectin (I used the regular kind but you can get no-sugar pectin)
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup lemon juice
6 1/2 cups sugar

Mix pectin with 1/4 cup sugar.  Put chopped figs, water, lemon juice, and pectin/sugar mixture into a pot and bring to a boil.  When at a full boil, add the remaining 6 1/4 cups of sugar.  Stir well and bring back to a boil.  Boil hard for 1 minute then remove from heat.  Use a cold metal spoon (keep it in ice water) to get a small sample of jam.  Let it cool for a couple of minutes and see if the consistency is what you wish.  If not, add more pectin (1/5 pkg or so) and bring back to a hard boil for 1 more minute, then test again.  Once desired consistency is reached, let stand for 5 minutes then stir well.  Ladle into hot, sterilized jars and top with rings and lids.  Place full jars into a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  Let cool overnight.

I made the first batch of jam last night - 16, 4oz jars.  15 of them sealed properly, but one did not.  This is not a huge problem.  It just means that jam needs to be eaten now rather than put up in storage.  Brendan and I tried the jam this morning and it was really good.  The color is a transparent reddish pink and the flavor is perfectly figgy.  It will be wonderful on biscuits or scones - yum!

View of pieces of fig in jam
Waiting for their water bath

The verdict?  Making jam is super easy and you should all try it.  I will warn you that it is hot work and I do mean absolutely miserably hot.  The jam is cooking, the jars are hot, and there's a gigantic pot of boiling water on the stove.  I was drenched by the time I was finished last night but steam is good for your skin, right?  Also, when the jam is at a full boil, it can bubble and pop like a volcano and hot lava is a pretty good analogy for what boiling sugar feels like on your skin - so be careful about that.

Based on the first batch, I will have 48 jars of jam by the end of today.  I hope y'all like jam because a lot of you will be getting some soon!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Dogs and Deja Vu

Brendan has been lobbying for a puppy since the day we closed on the farm.  If it were up to him we'd have six dogs and they'd be sleeping in bed with us.  I have steadfastly refused his pleas, arguing that we need to at least install an invisible fence before getting another dog.  I also point out that we have a history of acquiring naughty dogs.

Sadie is our current dog.  She's a seven year old standard collie and is generally well behaved but for a few exceptions.  Sadie chases deer and we are lousy with them so she has lots to chase.  This wouldn't be a problem if she'd give up the chase when reaching the boundary of our property but she will keep up pursuit into the woods or into the neighbors horse fields or worst - across the road.  She's also a highly accomplished barker.  She alerts us to the arrival of guests, the presence of the deer in the field, the "escape" of one of the children from the house, and any and all transgressions of the cat.  It's a high pitched bark that will pierce your very soul.  However, the deer chasing and barking are nothing compared to her real talent - food stealing.  All unsupervised food is fair game but children are her preferred target as they frequently hold food in one hand and look the other way.  Just last weekend, she tried to take a slice of pizza away from a 21 month old visitor.  The baby fought back, holding tightly to her dinner, which resulted in her being dragged from her chair onto the floor in the ensuing tug of war.  The child, despite tears, was fine.  The dog won the contest and was subsequently locked in the kitchen.  

Sadie, though, is an angel compared to our previous dog, The Mighty Quinn.  Quinn was found along with his brother (Coolidge) on the mean streets of Washington, DC.  Brendan and his then roommate, Sam, adopted the puppies - a mix of black lab and great dane.  A noble idea, but since the guys were both chefs who worked 15 hour days, often six days a week, they were never home to properly train the dogs.  It also didn't help that they lived in a run down townhouse on the VERY shady side of Capitol Hill that they didn't care about.  So, the guys let the dogs run amuck in the house.  Quinn's destructive abilities are legendary.  Before he was six months old he ripped up several sofas, ate drywall and chewed countless chair legs and shoes.

Quinn as an old man
Brendan and I moved in together after getting engaged and Quinn moved in with us too - all 135lbs of him.  Changing the destructive aspects of his behaviour proved beyond us.   He ate a mattress, more drywall, and another couch.  He could open the refrigerator and I once came home to find that he had pulled a carton of eggs out and had a feast.  He ate an entire roast chicken, bones and all.  We had to keep our trash can top secured with bungee cords.  He was a bully at the dog park.  He once managed to clear an entire room after Brendan fed him sausage balls.  While I was driving 40 mph, Quinn climbed out of the open rear passenger window and tumbled head over heels onto the road and into oncoming traffic.  Luckily, the cars were able to stop.  I jumped out of the car, expecting him to be seriously injured.  Quinn, however, stood up, shook, walked calmly back to the car, and jumped in.  His masterpiece of destruction came just two weeks before our wedding when Quinn opened the closet door, pulled down my cathedral length train and ripped it to shreds.  I came home to find him lying contentedly among the remnants of tulle and seed pearls.  He's lucky he survived that day.  I spent the next Saturday with my fabulous mother in law to be, making a homemade replacement veil.  One of my fondest memories of Susan is that day when we sat on her living room floor hot gluing pearls to the veil.  And it turned out beautifully.  To make up for all this, Quinn was an awesome dog.  He was devoted and protective and funny in ways that only dogs are. He was so large that he would sit on the couch much like a human.  Bottom on the couch, front legs on the floor.  He slept with us, not curled in a ball, but with his legs fully extended, so that he pushed us to the very edges of the bed.

When our oldest daughter, Catie, was born, Quinn was freaked out.  He didn't like that we were constantly carrying something and would jump up, trying to get the bundle we were cradling.  Her cries were a new sound and he didn't like them.  He would have never intentionally hurt her, but his head was larger than her entire body and so when my parents offered to have Quinn come live with them, we accepted.  Brendan drove Quinn to the NC state line to meet my parents, crying the entire way.
Enjoying the woods

While living with my parents, Quinn ate yet another couch, some more drywall and a garage door.  He destroyed a screen door during a thunderstorm.  He was terrified of thunderstorms.  He could open gate latches so my parents padlocked the gate.  He ate the chain link fence itself in order to escape!  He ran out into the road and was hit by a truck.  That time, he didn't get up - my Dad and brother had to load him onto a trailer that was hitched to the riding lawn mower to move him.  The vet said a smaller dog would have been killed.  Quinn recovered but had arthritis in his shoulder from that point on.

The larger the dog, the shorter their life span and dogs Quinn's size have an average life span of 9 years. Quinn lived to the ripe old age of 11.  When he was too weak to get up and no longer wanted to eat, the vet recommended that he be put to rest.  My father went with him and held him til he passed, crying the entire time.  Quinn was a good dog and we were all devastated to lose him last fall.
A gentle giant with the kids
I know Brendan loves dogs but I also know who ends up taking care of the dogs while he works 80 hours a week.  I don't want a puppy.  I did want a new kitten (SO much easier to take care of).  So, when I saw on a local chatlist that a woman had found two kittens near her house, I emailed her to see about getting one of the kittens.  Unfortunately, she said, she'd just found a home for both kittens the day before but she still had the puppy.  Did I know anyone who wanted a puppy?  Apparently the country road she lives on is a common dumping ground for unwanted animals and when she finds them, she keeps them until she can find them new homes.

I told her I'd ask around to see if I knew anyone who wanted a puppy and could she tell me a bit about it?  She sent me a picture of this for pete's sake.

And so now we have a puppy - Jasper.  He's about 10 weeks old and shows a great proclivity for destruction.  In just 10 days, he has chewed through two dog leashes, put a hole in a dog bed, gnawed on a kitchen chair leg and destroyed several dog toys.  He's chewed on several shoes, torn a hole in one of Evan's shirts and chases the chickens every chance he gets.  He doesn't like thunderstorms and he can find any tiny scrap of "people" food that may fall or be unsupervised.  He's only about 18 pounds right now and we're not sure how large he'll be.  We can see several different breeds of dog in him - lab, border collie, some sort of hound, maybe some terrier?  His final size will depend on what he got from which breed.  He'll certainly not be anywhere close to as large as Quinn but I have a feeling he'll make a name for himself in the naughtiness department.

Earlier today, Brendan said that he knows Jasper is his own individual.  However, he's feeling a bit like Jasper is Quinn, come back to us in miniature form.  A foundling black puppy with a penchant for destruction and a fear of thunderstorms.  Dog deja vu, I guess.  Welcome home, Jasper.