about We are Akila and Patrick. Our minds (and waistlines) expand as we travel, cook, and eat our way around the world with our two dogs.
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chewy's silver screen soiree

Chewy in his bow tie

Chewy in his bowtie

When we began our world trip, we placed only one condition on our itinerary: we would be home in time for Chewy's 10th birthday on November 4.  And, boy, did we celebrate in style with a grand Silver Screen Soiree for the man of the day.

Chewy birthday invitation

Chewy birthday invitation


I designed two alternate invitations, one to satisfy Patrick's sense of symmetry and the second to satisfy my all-over-the-place creative instincts, so guests received one of two invitations.  The wonderful folks at Moo printed up our postcard invitations with the party details on the back and I sent them to our guests in the snazzy silver envelopes Moo sells.  (And, if you're not using Moo for your printing needs, may I ask why not?  Their service and print quality is stellar.  We love them and use them whenever we have the chance.)

Doggywood Atlanta Dog Spa Doggywood Atlanta Dog Spa
Atlanta Dog Spa Atlanta Dog Spa
Doggywood at Atlanta Dog Spa with the view of midtown Atlanta (and my old office)

We decided on the Silver Screen Soiree theme because we held the party at the wonderful Atlanta Dog Spa in their "Doggywood" room.  I can't say enough good things about Atlanta Dog Spa and owner Sarah Segal.  They went out of their way to make the party a success, including having three staff workers available to help manage the dogs (including their inevitable messes).  We had a huge room, good-sized play yard, and everything was completely fenced in, for the duration of the party, all for only $125.  If you live in the Atlanta area and want to throw a party for your dog, I highly recommend Atlanta Dog Spa.

Bailey in her bowtie Chewy in his bowtie
Party favors Dog treats from Tajmahound
Mona in her red bowtie Chance in his bowtie
Bailey, Chewy, Mona, and Chance in their bowties

Each of the dogs received a miniature popcorn bucket with Pupcorn, a Kong squeaky ball, a tiny toy, a martini or margarita shaped treat (because you can't have a party without drinks, right?) from TajmaHound ,  and a super cute bone-themed bow tie in either red or black from Designer Duds for Dogs .  Designer Duds made Chewy's bowtie and collar and I only wish I had another event at which he could wear it because it is just so adorable.

Abby and Akila

Abby in her collar Abby

Because Abby was the lady of the party, we found her a gorgeous pink-red collar with pearls and sparklies, and a crystal heart pendant from the great folks at Madison's Fifth Avenue Luxury Pet Boutique .

Us walking down the red carpet Chewy's birthday poster
Walking down the red carpet, the birthday photo

After everyone was dressed to the nines, the dogs with their humans walked down the red carpet, posing for pictures.  We intended for Chewy to be last down the red carpet but he decided to cut ahead and walked down the red carpet by himself first and, then, with us at the end.  He knew that it was his party.  Afterwards, all of the dogs and humans "signed" a mat with a photo collage of Chewy, to create a memento for his party.

Movie trailers

A silver screen soiree wouldn't be complete without movie premieres, so we showed two trailers that I built using the new iMovie (they are both less than one minute long).  The first one is an action-packed adventure filled with food, fun, and Chewy, and the second is a heart-warming tale of two best friends.

Chewy's TajmaHound cake

Chewy eyeing his cake Human popcorn-shaped cake
Placard shaped cake

While we were watching the movie trailers, Chewy was eyeing his placard-shaped cake made by Taj-ma-Hound Dog Bakery and the martini/margarita treats, which looked and smelled so good that my human guests wanted to try them.  Not to worry, the humans had a red velvet popcorn-shaped cake from Cakes by Debbie in LaGrange, Georgia.

Chewy opening presents Chewy opening presents
Pinata Chewy and Abby eyeing the pinata
Opening presents and the pinata

Good food needs good exercise so, next, Chewy unwrapped his presents.  And, yes, Chewy unwraps his own presents.  It's pretty awesome to watch.  For the grand finale, Chewy ripped open a pinata, something we do every year for his birthday.

Chewy with the pinata

Chewy and his pinata

Chewy might seem like a sweet, cute, lovable boy, until you see him go for a pinata.  He is absolutely manic about breaking them apart to get to the treats inside.

Sonia in her Miss Congeniality banner Jerry
Chance Lady
Mona Bailey
Abby Chewy
All the dogs

The party was a huge success, as evidenced by the big old grins that the dogs wore throughout the afternoon.  And, for the rest of the weekend, Chewy did this:

Chewy sleeping

Chewy pre-nap

I think he had a good time.  Happy 10th birthday, Chewy!

one year of dog toys

Abby with her elephant toy

What do we have to show for one year's worth of travel ?  Incredible memories, a year's worth of writing and photography , and not much else.  We don't buy anything for ourselves when we are on the road because we know that everything we purchase will end up in our storage facility gathering dust.

Abby with elephant toy Chewy looking for his toy
Abby with elephant toy Chewy playing with his toy
Chewy and Abby with their toys

Our only tangible souvenirs are dog toys so that Chewy and Abby can experience a little bit of what we saw in our travels across the world.  We thought y'all might like to see what we bought, where we found it, and what the dogs thought about our selections.

Kangaroo and koala toy

Australia .  Well, obviously, we had to buy them a koala and a kangaroo .  I mean, come on . . . they're cute, furry, and only found in Australia.  Once upon a time, the kangaroo looked like it was ready for the Outback with a canteen, a little cowboy hat, a roo, and the boomerang and, when I pressed its belly, it played, "Waltzing Matilda."  The dogs were big fans.  They gutted the koala, pulled out the kangaroo's eye, and did gosh-knows-what to the roo.  Poor little roo.

Sheep and kiwi toy

New Zealand. We kind of struggled to find the perfect New Zealand toy.  We knew we wanted to get a sheep after our cuter-than-cute lamb-feeding experience but couldn't find a lamb toy, so settled on this ram toy.  The funny looking bird is a kiwi which is New Zealand's national bird and how New Zealanders refer to themselves.  Unfortunately, the dogs didn't find either toy to be particularly interesting or they could have gotten distracted with the awesomeness of their Australia toys.

Silk elephant toy

Thailand. We knew we wanted to buy an elephant after our amazing experience training elephants at Patara Elephant Farm but finding a stuffed elephant proved to be a difficult task. In the end, we opted for this luxury item: an elephant made completely of silk.  The dogs weren't impressed.  Apparently, silk is not the optimal fabric for dog toys, according to our experts.

Cambodia. A cute hand-made patchwork monkey was the perfect find because we found monkeys roaming through a park in Phnom Penh .  This was the winner amongst all the toys.  Abby ripped the limbs from the body in about three minutes and Chewy mangled the body into an unrecognizable mash.  I looked for some limbs for this picture but couldn't find any.  RIP, Cambodian monkey.

deer and turtle

Japan. We may have gone just a little overboard in Japan.  We had to get the turtle because we kept seeing turtles in the Kyoto gardens And, the deer was from Nara which makes sense because Patrick and I both fed deer.

Japan dog treat

Then, we found this specialty dog purveyor who sold banana pudding dog treats, the exact sort of sweet and squishy desserts that we kept eating in Japan.  Like true Americans, Chewy and Abby thought the treats were gross; much to our surprise, Chewy --- who is known for eating everything from olives to lettuce to whatever makes its way onto the floor --- turned his nose up at these dog treats.  On the other hand, they are huge fans of the sushi and sashimi toys we found on our last day in Fukuoka .  The green velvet nori around the sushi roll just kills me.

Donut and bulgogi treat

South Korea. South Korea proved to be a challenge.  Despite an overabundance of dog stores, we kept finding the same old dog toys that they sell in the United States.  The donut toy was Patrick's inspiration because, after a month in Japan, we were so excited to find Dunkin Donuts spread throughout South Korea.  Unlike the ones in the States, the Dunkin Donuts in South Korea were SO SO good , and often included unique treats, like passion fruit and pineapple donuts.

The bulgogi was my idea.  Bulgogi is a South Korean specialty of beef mixed with spices and vegetables.  Patrick thought carrying a meat product all the way across China and Hong Kong and then smuggling it into the United States was a pretty stupid plan.  I have to admit that, as we crossed over into Newark airport and I watched the drug beagle smelling everyone's luggage in Customs, I crossed my fingers, walked briskly around him, and purposefully lifted the bag higher on my back.  Chewy and Abby were happy we smuggled it in because they both munched down the bulgogi, licked their chops, and then looked at us as if we should have brought them a second container.

Expo toy and panda

China . The blue character on the right is Haibao, the official World Expo 2010 mascot.  It seemed entirely correct that China would appropriate another country's copyrighted work and create this blue Gumby look-alike as its mascot so we had to buy one for the pups.  The panda was a bit of a cop-out, I admit, because we didn't see any pandas while we were in China.  But, pandas are so Chinese that I felt we had to buy one for the pups.  So far, Chewy and Abby have been unimpressed with these Chinese toys, though given that everything seems to be made in China, all of their other toys might be Chinese, as well.

Out of Office Auto Reply : Akila and Patrick are currently camping in the middle of the Namibian desert, hoping to see hyenas and lions (but not in their tent), and will be unable to respond to comments for a few weeks.  Play nicely please.

sweet georgia skies

Amicalola Falls

Amicalola Falls

You know this already but I'll tell you anyway:  America is beautiful.  Often, people from other countries look at us disbelievingly when we tell them that because they associate America with the concrete landscapes of New York, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles.

Amicalola Falls

Amicalola Falls

We tell them that there are pure white beaches in Florida with giant ocean waves that crash against the shore.  I explain that our "small" waterfalls are stronger and more powerful than the biggest waterfalls in Australia and India.  And, springtime in the South is so green that I feel like a workman pulled a paintbrush across the landscape.

Steps to Amicalola Falls Amicalola Falls
Amicalola Falls Trail through Amicalola Falls

Different perspectives of Amicalola Falls

There is something about the small towns, too, that brighten up the spring landscape.  The red brick buildings shine against the blue skies and trees are filled with blossoms.  Farmers bring their produce to the local markets and people from the surrounding areas mingle through the streets, chatting to each other and admiring the artwork that invariably hangs from some stand.

Downtown Ellijay Mountain views
Horses in field with yellow flowers Apples in Ellijay
Ellijay, Georgia in the spring

I had to write about everything.  Words flowed through my fingers because  nature spurred on my thoughts.  Due to a problematic laptop that I had to replace and a bunch of weekend visitors, I didn't make my 30,000 word goal for the month .  But, I have written 26,381 words in the last 6 weeks!   It's a good start and I am going to keep trudging along so I can meet my writing long-term goal .

Chewy and Abby

Abby Chewy and Abby in the river
Chewy and Abby

And, of course, everything is better if you have these two darling little faces roaming through the woods, trails, and forests.  We admired the beauty of the Georgia countryside, worked, got puppy kisses, went for long walks, got more puppy kisses, fed said dogs, then received dog-food-breath puppy kisses, and cooked up delicious food .  It's not a bad life under those sweet Georgia skies.

Flower in park Waterfall

Wherever you are in the United States, we hope you are having a beautiful, joyous Memorial Day weekend.


If you are planning on visiting Ellijay, Georgia, we highly recommend the Wilderness View Cabins , located about 45 minutes from Ellijay and 25 minutes from Chatsworth  Though the drive to the cabins is not for the faint hearted, the views are dazzling and the cabins are cozy and comfortable.

The cabins are 1 mile away from Fort Mountain State Park .  If you park at Cool Springs Overlook and walk across the street, you can walk through the Gahuti Trail with your dogs.  It is an easy approximately 1 mile loop through woods on a flat surface so we did not worry about letting the dogs off leash.  The Lake Trail is an easy loop around the lake but I would not recommend letting dogs off leash because there are many campers in that area.  Lastly, the Gahuti Trail stretches to the front entrance and we parked before the entrance and walked the dogs on a nice grassy stretch.  Parking is free on Wednesdays at the park.