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First Ski Tour on Mount Rainier

I was excited for my first ski tour on Mount Rainier this past Saturday. My friend Jaclyn was celebrating a birthday snowshoeing on the mountain, and I decide to try out my skin set-up. I just put Marker Baron bindings on my Salmon Rocker 2 122s. I got new Scarpa Maelstre RS boots and G3 skins. For snow safety, I picked up a Black Diamond/Pieps set-up and BCA Float 22 backpack. I really didn't need all of that gear, but it was nice to put it all on and figure things out in a low-risk environment.

All that gear made for a slower climb due to the weight of the skis and loaded backpack, but I obviously had a faster descent than snowshoeing! The snow was nice and powdery, which made for some tasty turns.

I loved the work-out, and it was a great way to get on skis for the first time this season.

#HeySwansons: Christmas Tree Shopping at Swanson's Nursery

This post is sponsored by Swanson's Nursery. Swanson's Nursery in Seattle, WA, invited me to help kick off their "Pick the Perfect Tree" program for the Holiday season.

For those of you who want to save time on your Christmas tree shopping, or just want someone to pick the best tree for you, this is your ticket. All you have to do is tweet #HeySwansons (my choice) or post on Swanson's Facebook page requesting the type of tree you want, and the good folks at Swanson's will pick your tree out for you and have it ready for pick up Monday-Thursday. Get all the details on at www.picktheperfecttree.com.

I tweeted #HeySwansons requesting a 6-foot "Burton Blue" Noble Fir. The next day, Amanda, Greta and I went out to Swanson's and sure enough our tree was ready for us to pick up. Robin at Swanson's helped us out and made everything easy, from finding our reserved tree to installing the stand to loading it on top of our car.

On top of the great service, Swanson's has an awesome Holiday vibe. It's a one-stop shop for wreaths, poinsettias, visiting Santa and seeing a camel and reindeer. Sorry, Santa, but the reindeer really stole the show for me.

Thanks for the great tree, Swanson's! We'll be back.

(Most) Photos by Amanda Mottola.

Phil + Julia Wedding at Doe Bay, Orcas Island

Great couple. Great location. Great light. Couldn't ask for a better setting to shoot a wedding in the Pacific Northwest. The best part was, I had the privilege of shooting the wedding with my talented wife. It's always more fun to shoot as a pair.

Doe Bay is truly a world-class location and a great flavor of the San Juan islands. If you haven't been there, you're missing out.

Thanks to Phil and Julia for letting us document their day. Julia was a knock-out bride, and I was impressed by Phil climbing Mt. Constitution by bike the morning of the wedding. Exercise on my wedding day consisted of laps to and from the buffet. OK, photo time!

Thanks, Fabrizio

Fabrizio Fabrizio was our very first family pet and one badass alley cat. He ran this block of Tacoma.

We adopted him not too long after moving into our home and before Amanda and I married. That's how early he entered the history of our family. As we got to know our neighbors, we got to know how Fabrizio entered their homes, ate their cat foot and earned nicknames from them.

Fabrizio fit right in. He was so low maintenance. He hardly used the litter box as he preferred to use the alley as his outhouse. He came in most nights, but not many in the summer. He slept on our bed when he could, if he wasn't competing for space with a dog.

He loved getting petted but wasn't too cuddly. He didn't like being held anymore than a grown man, but he loved having his back scratched like a grown man. He had an attitude and let you know when he wasn't happy with an arched back or a quick, soft bite.

He loved Gianna and would lay by her. After she passed, he got to know Greta. On Greta's first day home, she ran up to Fabrizio, who was much larger than her at the time. She wanted to ram into him like he was another puppy, but before she could get started Fabrizio swatted her on the top of the head. She scampered off crying. Fabrizio didn't take shit, even from a puppy.

We saw him having trouble urinating off and on and used some homeopathic solutions that worked temporarily. We took him into the vet just a month ago during what must have been an on-day because he checked out fine. But he took a fast turn last week while I was in Salt Lake City for work.Β It was the same urinary issue. Amanda was upset on the phone talking about his deteriorating condition.

This is what sucks about being responsible adults. We had to decide that we couldn't invest in a cat we had little control over. A controlled diet is key to controlling urinary issues. Yet he ate at other homes that enjoyed his brief visits.

Frankly, I never wanted control over him or to make him an indoor cat. That wasn't what he wanted either.

When I arrived back in Tacoma, Fabrizio was struggling. The next day, I took off from work early to take him to the vet. Amanda called midday and told me she couldn't find him. I was convinced he did what many great cats do -- runaway to die. It's a strange, noble thing for cats who otherwise don't care much for their caregivers in life.

I came home from work, and he was nowhere to be found. I called the vet to cancel the appointment. We grieved and assumed that we would never see Fabrizio again.

But we did.

The next afternoon, more than 24 hours after I had planned to take him to the vet, he appeared to our next door neighbor. Amanda and I were chatting on the other side of the fence, without visibility to the cat, for hours. We don't know when he emerged, but our neighbor's tone was solemn. I assume that Fabrizio didn't die in the night like he thought he would, and he needed help getting to the end.

I will never forget what I saw when I turned the corner into his yard. Fabrizio was on his side with a half dozen flies orbiting above him. He breathed slowly and had blood in his nose and exiting his posterior. His teeth were grey. It was an awful, startling thing to see your pet half-dead like that.

We rushed him to the same emergency hospital we took Gianna to six months earlier. Gianna made terrible moaning sounds when I held her on the way to the hospital. Fabrizio, with little energy left, meowed at us rhythmically. It wasn't a cry. Alley cats don't do that. He was glad we found him and was saying goodbye.

At the emergency vet, we learned about how his systems had shut down, likely starting with the kidneys. We quickly agreed that he would be cremated and join Gianna where her ashes were spread. We put hands on him as he took the shot. We watched his heart stop.

We left the hospital in tears for our beloved alley cat, Fabrizio.