Here's to the good times ▲

Monday, September 23




Well kids, summer is officially over.  We haven't seen temperatures much higher than 90 degrees since last week, and the wind blows in a bit chillier each evening.  I watched this season melt away - it came with blistering heat and cooled with dampening rains.  As the years pass, I tend to focus on the weather - hotter than usual, milder than normal, more rain than average, record setting draught, things like that.  It's important not to over look the other elements that temper the time of year - like nights spent playing video games on the couch, dinner dates, weekend trips, but especially the hard times which help you grow.

To quote the wise and wonderful Faith Hill,
"The secret of life is gettin' up early, the secret of life is stayin' up late, the secret of life is try not to hurry, but don't wait, don't wait. The secret of life is a good cup of coffee, the secret of life is keep your eye on the ball, the secret of life is to find the right woman, the secret of life is nothin' at all."
So now it's Fall.  I will try not to get too caught up in cozy sweaters, boots, and bonfires and will instead attempt to focus on the things that really matter.  Where else do you find joy?



Photo from an old vacation to Italy

Aiken Heart Photography ▲

Friday, September 20






So I've decided I'm going to try being a bit more proactive with my photography.  I spent the last couple of nights re-branding my hobby.  I created this new logo and updated my Facebook page with some photos - most of them were taken years ago, but I'm hoping to take more photos of new clients this fall; I'm excited about the prospect of some family portraits and also offered to take engagement photos for Mike's cousin, April, as a gift to her and her new fiance, Brian.

You'll notice there's a button in my sidebar now, so if you're interested/nosy/feeling supportive, you may visit the Facebook page and like it.

Dinner Party ▲

Thursday, September 19





Sara exhales deeply and her breath falters as her chest falls back down.  To say she was dreading this dinner party would be the understatement of the century.  She stares at the picture in her hand and wonders how her mother ever let him push her so fast in the little red “goey.”  Her heart drops into the deepest part of her torso and her eyes burn as she closes them for the first time in minutes. Warm tears creep down her cheek, pause and then fall. Almost startled, a sleeve hastily reaches up and wipes the damp from her face, drawing a long line of glistening snot down her forearm.

Sara’s eyes open again and as she looks at the four by six Kodak print and a memory stirs that has long since been forgotten with age. Grampa is the eye behind the camera. The slight motion blur and careless composition would never have happened at the hands of her father, a real life photographer. A blonde haired, three-foot-tall tyrant sits behind the plastic steering wheel of the Flintstone reminiscent Little Tikes Cozy Coupe. He runs behind her with one hand on the roof of the toy, pushing her down the driveway.

“Faster!” she shouts between giggles. Dirty bare feet peek out from the bottom of the vehicle and a gap-toothed grin glows in the right side of the frame as Grampa struggles to capture them quickly enough. Her voice shakes with the bumps of tiny rocks scattered on the pavement. The little red car jerks from her frenetic steering, testing the small plastic wheels and her mother's steel nerves. Mommy's reproach echoes from the front porch demanding that he be more careful and reminding them that dinner is almost ready. It will have to wait. The laughter always muffles her calls, and it takes a hundred more mosquito bites to bring them inside where cold meatloaf and flat, watered down soda are waiting – a consequence of their tardiness.

Sara vaguely hears her name called from somewhere inside the house and places the picture on the wooden work desk scarred with water stains and scratches from careless years of use and abuse. She inhales for a long time and lets it all out with one great sigh. It hurts less this time, but her eyes still burn. She doesn’t fit in the “goey” now. One leg is entirely outside and her bare left foot is sticky against the cold garage floor. Her back is hunched over into a painful U shape, and her palm is nearly as big as the steering wheel. Her mother finds her a few minutes later and tells her it's time to go. They climb into the black car.

It is nearly dusk when Sara gets her final look at his casket. What she hopes is her last tear runs down the crease between her nose and the flesh of her cheek before finally melting into her lip. Minutes pass without thought and she finally pivots on her heel and heads back to where her mother is waiting by the car.

The ride home is short and the sunset is beautiful. Sara swats a mosquito that snuck in through the open door nearly a half an hour before. She smiles a little bit and asks, “do you think anyone brought meatloaf?”

---

Blogtember Day 12 - Creative writing day: write a (very short) fictional story that starts with this sentence: "To say I was dreading the dinner party would be the understatement of the century."

Am I Normal? ▲

Wednesday, September 18



I just want to put these thoughts out there in the world.

Midi rings.  To me, these are the finger equivalent of toe socks.  Well really, I guess the finger equivalent of toe socks are gloves.  But don't these drive you nuts?  Aren't they annoying?  Sure, they look adorable on Pinterest when photographed on the hands of a perfectly manicured fashion blogger, but other than that, I think they are so strange.  Maybe that's why I shop at TJ Maxx and all of my clothes are 4 seasons old.  Buy a ring that fits and wear it below the proper knuckle.



What is it about macaroons?  I get that they're adorable and come in a colorful variety, but seriously. What is it about macaroons?  They have become such a hot trend the past several years and I can't open Pinterest without seeing pastel pastries, but I don't get it.  I'm over here like, "just give me a glazed donut and let's call it a day."



Am I the only person who wears clothes without washing them first?  Apparently this is bad. But while we're on the topic of clothing, let me voice my disdain for the high waisted shorts and crop top trend.  I cannot wait for cold weather and for these girls to put their clothes back on. Get this out of my face.






images via 1. 2. 3.

September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month ▲

Tuesday, September 17




Last weekend Mike and I met my mom in Raleigh for a work-related weekend event.  Every year my company sends our North Carolina titleholders to the Gail Parkins Memorial Ovarian Cancer Walk and 5K in Raleigh to show support for Ovarian Cancer research.  The girls sign autographs and take photos and then walk 2 miles with survivors and family members.  It's an early morning but a really great event.  Shannon Miller, (the olympic gymnast and also an Ovarian Cancer survivor) has been there the past few years, which is just an added bonus.


Sweet Summer Cocktail ▲

Monday, September 16




You know those days when you just really want to drink something pretty? I had one of those days last week.  I'm not a big fan of liquor (I tend to stick to what I know: wine), so I decided to try the Bud Light Lime Straw-Ber-Rita cocktails I keep seeing at our corner store in an effort to branch out.  I'm not really sure what they are.  Are they beer?  Are they liquor?  They're alcohol.  That's what matters.

Since summer is winding down there might not be much more appropriate time left to enjoy these bubbly bevies, but if you're looking for a way to indulge your taste buds while the weather is still hot, here's how:


The verdict? Yummy.  Definitely best served over ice just for the fun factor (and also because the cans are smaller than normal and don't fit in coozies).

A Eulogy ▲

Sunday, September 15





Last Sunday the world lost a very important life and I wanted to spend a moment here addressing this loss.  I've had my car for 5 years and made it more than 103,000 miles without running over any living creature.  On September 8, 2013, our Lord in Heaven saw fit to end this streak and took from this Earth one of the finest squirrels to ever live and breathe among the trees.

Arnold* was a fine squirrel, albeit slow to learn the basic rules of the road.  I saw him in the median on Highway 70 outside of Kinston, NC.  He was struggling to decide whether or not to continue his crossing voyage, apparently started in vain.  He had already come so far but the weight of his decision was clearly weighing on him.  I wondered what was waiting on the other side of the street (why did the squirrel cross the road) and pleaded internally for him to wait until the traffic slowed - wait until there is a break in the flow of cars.  Our brainwaves must not have been matching up.

He decided to go for it.  Half-way into the left lane his fright got the better of him and he decided to turn back, but a Ford F-150 was quickly approaching and Arnold seemed to lose all motor control.  Instead of turning around, he continued into the right lane...my lane.  All of this unfolded within a matter of seconds.  I closed my eyes, held my breath, and prayed he would slip between my tires unscathed.

There were simply too many cars around for me to brake or swerve, and in this rare case, human life trumped that of Arnold's.  Despite my better judgement, I looked in my rear view mirror to check on Arnold's plight and was dismayed to find he did not emerge victorious.  The image will be with me forever, and upon realizing I had killed him, I immediately began sobbing.

I sure hope Arnold is resting easy on a pile of acorns in heaven. God knows I cried over him for more than 30 minutes like some crazy, squirrel obsessed nut bucket, but there was nothing I could do to avoid him.

RIP you crazy critter.

* Names have been fabricated to protect the identity of the deceased.

Four Years ▲

Saturday, September 14



Four years is the longest relationship I've ever had, and it's been with my blog.

Sure, we've taken breaks from each other, and yes, it's fallen victim to neglect from time to time.  But I always come back, apologize, and try to make up for my absence with extra love and affection.  There are days when I swear I will never blog again.  And then a few hours later I'm updating my layout and scheduling posts for weeks.

I started my blog 4 years ago in 2009.  I'm not sure I'd ever read a blog before, though I knew the term "blogging" and had some vague idea about an online form of writing/journaling.  I kept a Xanga (whoa remember that?) for a long time and got bored, so I migrated to Blogger.  And then to Wordpress. Then Square Space.  And then back to Blogger.  And here we sit.  That was a fun story, wasn't it?

My first post was about laundry.  Those were the days.

One of these was probably my profile picture on Facebook at the time:


I hadn't quite mastered the art of retouching (still haven't)...

Mike and I would meet almost exactly 6 months after my first post.  He was forced to celebrate with me when I reached 50 followers.  What. A. Milestone.

Here is what my Facebook statuses looked like:







Happy Birthday, old friend.  750 posts (give or take) and it's been a good run so far.

Self Portrait ▲

Friday, September 13




I believe that a kind word has the power to change a life.  I believe in myself most days and on the days that I don’t, I believe in my ability to turn things around, even when I may need a bottle of wine and four or five brownies before I find the motivation.  I believe in using sarcasm on a daily basis and that straight answers are rarely to be given.  I believe in the happiness seeing an old friend brings and in the healing ability of slow, sappy, love songs.

I think I have a lot to look forward to.  Sometimes I think I’m lame and sometimes I think I’m awesome.  Some days I think I’m impossible to love and some days I think I’m too emotional, too moody, and too fat.  Other days I think I’m beautiful.  

I want to be happy forever and I want to do whatever it takes to make that possible.  I don’t always know what that is but I have faith whatever happens, happens for a reason.  I want to make the people around me happy too.  I want to be a role model.  I want to be envied for my personality, not for my possessions.  I want to rely more on myself and less on others.  I want to keep in touch with the people who are important to me.

I love my life most days.  I love eating breakfast at two in the afternoon and the way the world smells after a late summer storm.  I love my husband and my parents and my friends.  I love having one man in my life that I can dedicate my heart to.  I love Bella and the way she loves me back.  I love my cats and the way they pretend not to notice me.  I love getting new perfume and the way clean sheets feel on freshly shaved legs.  I love drinking too much wine on weekdays and eating too much cheese.  Or eating too much anything.  I love being smart and witty.  I love being being able to call myself a college graduate. 

I hope my philosophies pay off one day.  I hope our country gets smarter by the next election.  I hope my children love me.  I hope I make the right decisions for the future but more important, for the now.  I hope my wrong decisions lead me somewhere better than I expected.  I hope my family knows how much I appreciate them.  I hope I never take a passing smile for granted and I hope I get better at saying good-bye.  I hope I never have to say good-bye too soon. 

I don’t believe life is completely random.  I don’t believe in abortion even though I used to think I had to.  I don’t believe in second-guessing gut feelings although I have in the past.  I don’t believe in walking really far when you can drive but I know the extra steps won't kill me.  I don’t believe you can ever have too many clothes but I hate feeling materialistic.  I don’t believe in homophobia.  I don’t believe in forcing your opinions onto others.  I don’t believe you can ever have too much cheese.  Ever.

I feel fat right now because I haven’t been to the gym since last week and I haven't run more than I mile in several months.  I feel like I should apply myself more.  I feel the need to reorganize my bedroom and to take a car-load of things to Goodwill.  I feel empty when I’m uninspired and I feel like I will never be a successful writer.  Sometimes I feel like all of my dreams are pipe dreams and sometimes I feel like I could rule the world.  I feel like I ought to be better at multitasking.  I feel like some of the most beautiful things are also some of the most underrated.

I need to be reminded sometimes.  I need reciprocation.  Sometimes I need space to breathe but sometimes I need to be wrapped up in a hug so tight I think I might suffocate.  I need my camera, my cell phone, and my laptop no matter how pathetic it makes me feel to be so technologically dependent.  I need pedicures and manicures and I always need a massage but I also need to spend my money on other things.  Like cat food.  And light bulbs. 

I fear the uncertainty of the future and I fear that I waste too much time trying to delay the inevitable, whatever it might be.  I fear I’ll never reach my full potential and I fear I’ll be okay with it.  I fear I’m going to lose people along the way to where I’m going.  I don't want to dwell too much on the past or regret too many of my choices.

I don't like people who think they are more important than I am.  I hate people with a gross sense of entitlement.  I dislike people who have opinions simply for the sake of having opinions.  I hate onions unless they are fried in spicy batter.  I hate meatloaf and stuffing, too.  I hate that I don’t like to cook.  I hate that I constantly compare myself to others.  I hate that life is a competition and I’m not competitive.

I hate that I don’t know who exactly I want to be.

DIY Paint & Glitter Candle Holder ▲

Thursday, September 12




I had this square votive sitting around collecting dust and decided to try to give it a facelift.  Up close, it kind of looks like an elementary school project, but when you stick a candle in it and hide it on a shelf, you can't really tell how clumsy I am when it comes to DIY projects.

Originally it was just a plain glass square.  I spray painted it cream.  I may have been a little overzealous in my spray paint attack.  You can see where it's thicker in some places than others.  Also, I don't love this cream color and maybe would pick something brighter if I ever do this again.

I taped a heart shaped piece of card stock on the glass, and once the paint dried, I removed the card stock, brushed on some Mod Podge, and sprinkled it with glitter.

I let the glitter dry and brushed off the excess before spraying the whole thing down with a clear top coat.

Then I brought it in the house and put a candle in it.  After I took pictures, I blew out the candle because I was afraid the combination of spray paint and clear lacquer might cause the whole thing to combust.

A Surprise Party ▲

Wednesday, September 11




Last weekend I drove up to Havelock, NC for a surprise birthday party.  My mom turns 60 today, and this is where things get confusing.  My Godmother's birthday was on Sunday, but my mom was under the impression we were there to throw a party for her upcoming trip to Russia - completely unrelated to either of their births.

So we walked in the door to the party and everyone yelled "SURPRISE!"  My mom stepped aside thinking they were actually throwing a birthday party for my Godmother instead of just a going away party, when in fact the birthday party was for her.  Confusing, right? But it was very well planned and turned out to be a lot of fun.

I lived in Havelock for a couple of years during elementary and middle school and my Godmother still lives there along with a few of my mom's friends, so everyone had a good time catching up.  Plus when you get my mom and Godmother together, it's like watching an improvised Saturday Night Live skit.


Recipe: Easy No Bake Cookies ▲

Tuesday, September 10




I love no bake cookies and these are so easy to make.  We generally always have the ingredients for these cookies, so when I'm craving something chocolate, it's not difficult to whip up a batch.


2 Cups Sugar
1/2 Cup Milk
1/2 Cup Cocoa
Pinch Salt
Stick of Butter
1 Cup Peanut Butter
3 Cups Quick Cooking Oats



In a large pan, combine with milk, sugar, cocoa, salt, and butter and mix every well.  Bring it to a boil, stirring constantly.

Once it's bubbling, quickly stir in the peanut butter and remove from heat.

Add the oats and make sure everything is nice and coated.  Let it sit for about 10 minutes until it more closely resembles thick mud than soup.

Once it's thickened, scoop out spoonfuls of the mixture onto a cookie sheet lined with wax paper.

Refrigerate until no bake cookies are solid.

Visiting Aiken: Hitchcock Woods Round Two ▲

Monday, September 9




Bella and I went for a walk in Hitchcock woods again.  Read about our last trip to the woods here.  It was hotter - muggier.  So we only spent 2 hours exploring rather than an entire afternoon.

I parked at the South Boundary entrance this time and we walked around some new trails.  It rained pretty heavily the day before so I was on the lookout for quicksand.  There were horse tracks and foot prints in the sand so I knew others had already been there that day and I wasn't too worried about sinking to my death in the forest, but still...better safe than sorry.  It's not like I actually know what quicksand looks like anyway...doesn't it just look like sand?  Good thing they have these signs posted.


Once I'd determined it wasn't quicksand, I tried to get Bella to pose by the sign but all she wanted to do was run around like a crazy person.  We stopped so she could swim and cool off when we crossed Crazy Creek.  Despite all the rain, the creek was almost dry and only a couple inches deep.  One of my favorite parts about this walk was the hike up the first part of Low Country Ride - I'm not sure what it's named because it's not written on the map.  It may be called Low Country Ride and it would be appropriately named - the trees are dripping with Spanish Moss, the ground is sandy, and the way the horizon seems to drop off, you'd believe there was an ocean waiting for you on the other side.  I didn't take any photos of it, but I'll leave you with this picture of Bella at the Memorial Gate.


On Being Afraid ▲

Friday, September 6




I really try to make a conscious effort not to feel sorry for myself.  Sometimes it's hard.  Sometimes I just have one of those nights when I'm upset for no good reason and I don't know why - there's no hormonal correlation.  Mike hasn't done anything.  The animals aren't misbehaving.  The house isn't any more of a disaster zone than usual.  I sit at the computer and I check Facebook - the root of all evil. 

Everyone on Facebook posts about their accomplishments.  Their promotions. Their amazing lives.  Their great bodies and brand new Victoria's Secret Bikinis.  Of course.  Nobody shares the bad stuff.  Well sometimes people share the bad stuff and then I find myself annoyed because...well, why are you being so whiny on social media?

The embarrassments.  The regrets.  That stuff stays safely tucked away - hidden from public scrutiny - even though nobody is ashamed to share what they ate for lunch the past 365 days.  Even when I log into blogger - my so-called creative safe-haven, I am overwhelmed.  The home renovations.  The crafts.   The free-lance design work. The adorable children.  The life I will never have.  Who am I and what am I doing? Why is it that everyone else seems to have it figured out, following the right advice, and I wake up every morning wishing I had another 8 hours to sleep?

So when I think about a time I have been really afraid, this is the time that comes to mind.  I am afraid I will never figure it out.  And maybe that's fine.  Maybe nobody ever does.  Maybe the only thing anyone ever figures out how to do is pretend - and life is just one giant game of make believe.  

I am not unhappy.  I just feel stuck.  Stuck in a space that is neither too small nor too large.  Stuck in a mind that is not imaginative enough for my ambitions, not intelligent enough for my own expectations, not talented enough for the world around me, not bright enough to know where to begin on the way to what I want. 

It's tough.  And I'm afraid. 

---

Day FOUR of Blogtember! A story about a time you were very afraid.

DIY: Spray Paint and Glitter Bottles ▲

Thursday, September 5




I spent way too much time on Pinterest last weekend.  So much time, in fact, that I mistakenly started to believe I was capable of re-creating some of the DIY projects I've pinned in the past.  Mike and I had a few empty glass bottles sitting in the kitchen and I wanted to paint them.  I had no specific purpose or use for them in mind, but I decided to give it a try.

I didn't follow a tutorial and that may have been my first mistake.



Step 1: Peel off the label and wash the bottle to make sure there's no sticky residue.

Step 2: Spray with paint.  My issue with spray painting is that you have to do it with quick bursts, light coats, and wait for like 20 years for things to dry before moving on to the next step.  I just don't have time for that.  So I sprayed one coat, counted to 10, waved it around in the air to expedite the drying process, and then applied more paint.  If you make sure you're holding the paint can far enough away from the target, you should avoid gloopy areas and drippage.  "Gloopy" and "drippage" are not words but let's just assume you know what I mean.

Step 3:  Spray with clear top coat or lacquer.  Then apply glitter.  Then spray with top coat again.  And again.

Step 4:  Wait for the top coat to dry (I know...so boring) and then brush off any particles of glitter that are sticking out or looking jagged.  Then spray with one more top coat to make sure the glitter is nice and stuck to the bottle.

To give it a sort of "hombre" effect, I made the paint thicker at the bottom and slowly thinned it out up top.  This was mainly because I was holding it by the neck and didn't want to get paint all over my fingers.  Stylistically, I think it works.  Aesthetically, it may have been better to paint the whole bottle.


Where Would I Go ▲

Wednesday, September 4





If I could take three months off from my life, I would pack up my dog, my cats, and my husband and explore some remote mountain range.  Patagonia?  The Himalayas?  Antarctica?  Alaska? The Rockies?  I don't know.  The wilderness.  Some place with epic boundaries and a far off horizon, where there is no paycheck or bank account or internet or Facebook.  No job.  No hurry.  No push and pull.  Some place that doesn't quite exist but might be real if you work hard enough to find it.  Those would be a nice three months.

---

Day Two of Blogtember! If you could take three months off from your current life and do anything in the world, what would you do?

image via

How to Smoke Pork Loin at Home ▲

Tuesday, September 3




This post was written by my husband, Mike! 

According to a study Anna made up, 80% of women readers enjoy when a blogger's husband contributes to special posts. Anna asked me to step in and write one for all you folks, and considering I spear-headed this little BBQ endeavor, I figured I would oblige her.

I love cooking. In point of fact, I love grilling. I feel grilling is an area in which every man should be well versed, but rather than just mere grilling, this post will go one step deeper into smoking a pork loin.

Last Friday I told Anna I wanted to smoke a pork loin over the weekend.  I decided to go with a pork loin because I know it is something Anna likes. It’s pretty lean for a smoking meat so there are a few steps you can take to ensure great flavor and a juicy finished product.

I like to start off with a brine. The process of any barbecue should ultimately be uniquely your own, but I tend to prefer salty and spicy flavors over sweet, so for my brine I use water, salt, molasses, and a few bay leaves. Keep in mind the brine (along with any other recipe) can be tailored to your own specific taste.  I use pickling salt because it’s very fine and dissolves easily in cold water. Molasses is sweet but not overpowering and it serves as a nice contrast to other flavors. I like bay leaves because they provide an herby and earthy flavor. If you desire something sweeter, you might consider brown sugar or honey.

You should start the brining process between 6 and 12 hours before you plan to start smoking. Mix the brine in a large pot, add the meat, cover, and refrigerate. If you use something as lean as a pork loin, you definitely want to use a brine because it will help keep the meat from drying out.



BRINE
8 Cups Water
1/4 Cup Pickling/Canning Salt
1/2 Cup Mollasses
Bay Leaves
MEAT




Next I use a dry rub. Play around with it a bit until you find what flavor combinations you like. I use whole spices rather than pre-ground because the flavor is much fresher.  I have an electric coffee grinder I bought years ago and I use it just for making dry rubs. I use equal parts for the ingredients, and to be honest they change from mixture to mixture since I have never bothered to actually write it down. I use about 12 ingredients, 1 tablespoon of each.

Once you’re done soaking the meat in the brine, season the loin generously with the rub on all sides, cover the entire surface and then shake off the excess.  Place on a cookie sheet and cover with tin foil.  Let it sit until it comes up to room temperature.



RUB
1 TBSP Whole Fennel Seed
1 TBSP Whole Coriander Seed
1 TBSP Red Pepper Flakes
1 TBSP Whole Pepper Corn
1 TBSP Ground Mustard
1 TBSP Lowery's Season Salt
1 TBSP Cayenne Pepper
1 TBSP Paprika
1 TBSP Dehydrated Minced Onion
1 TBSP Dehydrated Minced Garlic
1 TBSP Whole Rosemary
1 TBSP Rubbed Sage




While the meat is smoking, you'll want to spray it down once an hour with a mixture of 50% oil and 50% Apple Cider Vinegar.  This helps flavor the meat and keep it moist during the smoking process.



SPRITZ
1/2 Cup Oil
1/2 Cup Vinegar




While you’re letting the meat rest, you may go ahead and start prepping your smoker. You want to get the temperature of the smoker to between 210 - 220 degrees Fahrenheit before putting in the meat. If you’re using a charcoal smoker, you have your work cut out for you.

With charcoal, the temperature will either be rising or falling constantly; it will never just stay at a consistent temperature. Your job is to control the rise and fall as best you can to keep the temperature within that desired range. You want it between 210 - 220 because that is the ideal spread in which the connective tissue of the meat will begin to break down, leaving you with a finished product that will fall apart and melt in your mouth. If the temperature strays too high above 220, the meat will cook too fast and you’ll end up with a dry and crunchy pork loin. If the temperature hangs too low, you won’t achieve that connective tissue break down and your meat will end up tough and chewy.

It’s actually quite a bit of work, so grab a comfortable chair, a six pack of your favorite beverage, and a bucket full of soaked hard wood (I use hickory for pork) and start cooking. For pork loin, you want to smoke it for about 30-45 min per pound.


When you start approaching the end of your calculated cook-time, you can go ahead and check the internal temperature of the meat. Push your thermometer into the center of the meat at one of the thickest parts. Try to only check the temperature once if you can manage, and leave the thermometer in once you put it in there. If you pull it out, you will have a geyser of juice flowing from the pork and will lose a lot of your natural tenderness.

If the thermometer doesn’t read 180 degrees, then you'll have to pull it out so you can continue smoking, but try your best to avoid that. If the thermometer reads 180 degrees Fahrenheit then you’re ready to remove the meat from the smoker. At this temperature, the meat should shred apart easily using two forks.

If you see a nice pink ring in the meat, that means the smoke penetrated outer layer - it’s a very good sign! Now just add your choice of barbecue sauce, slap it on a bun, and enjoy!

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