inch by inch

Leave a comment

There is an old adage, “Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile”, that most of you have heard a million times.  In other words, be generous to someone and the person will demand even more.

This maxim aptly applies when talking about dogs.  Ya’ give em’ an inch and before you know it they have taken over. Completely. Then demanding more.

Especially on the bed.  It starts off innocently enough, curled up on the bottom corner of the king-sized bed. Before you know it, it ends up with the canine fully stretched out on their back, paws in the air, laying diagonally across the mattress. Taking over the bed.  Right down to their head on the down pillows.DSC01135

As a puppy, Tiamo was not allowed on the bed.  Ever.  It was easy the first three to five months or so of her life.  The bed was too high for her to jump on, she was too little to reach the bed with her paws.  She had her own spot in the bedroom.  We had purchased a large dog pillow and placed it on the floor at the edge of the bed by my side.  That was Tiamo’s pillow, her bed.  With us, but not on us.  As she grew, as her muscles developed, she tried a few times to jump up on the bed.  Repeatedly.  But, Malcolm and I held firm.  Dogs were not allowed on the bed.  Even though she tried, Tiamo knew her place.  And, it wasn’t on the bed.  For two years Tiamo never put so much as a paw on the bed.  Until I caved.

It was one of those weeks when Malcolm was out-of-town visiting friends in Atlanta, I stayed home to hold down the fort.  Missing my honey, I was lonely and wanted comfort, even if it was canine comfort.  I called Tiamo up on the bed.  She wouldn’t budge off her pillow.  She knew better than to climb up on the bed and here I was encouraging her to misbehave. I tried again to get Tiamo to jump up and join me.  No luck. The good news was Tiamo was well-trained and wasn’t going to jump on the bed.  The bad news was, I was determined to have her up on the bed with me.  I literally picked her up and placed her on the bed.  Tiamo immediately jumped down, afraid she would be in trouble.  Again, I  picked her up and set her on the bed.  Again, she jumped off.  By the third attempt, Tiamo realized she was allowed on the bed.  She tucked herself into a small ball, curled up on the corner of the large bed and nervously fell asleep.  Sometime in the middle of the night, she crawled down off the bed onto her pillow.  She was uncomfortable on the bed.  I should have stopped there, but noooooo.

The next night was easier.  I picked up Tiamo and placed her on the bed where she lounged, spread eagle throughout the night, softly snoring by my side.  By the time Malcolm returned from his trip to Georgia, Tiamo was a fixture on the bed.  She had a special spot down on the corner keeping my feet warm.

Throughout the years, her small corner property increased in acreage.  Tiamo started to take up more and more territory on the bed. DSC01136 Her motto became “possession is nine-tenths ownership”.  Tiamo barely allowed us to sleep on her bed with a thin strip of mattress on the very edge of the bed.  Sometimes with blankets and covers, sometimes without.

I noticed dogs do the same thing with our hearts as they do the with bed.  We give them a little space, a tiny corner in bottom of our hearts and pretty soon they are on their backs, spread out all over our emotions.   With their paws extended over our souls, dogs will fill up every spare inch available, laying diagonally across our love, getting a belly rub in the meantime.  They will inch their way, paw by paw into ours hearts, hugging our spirit, licking through our defenses.  It doesn’t take much time.  In just seconds, they can have us willingly wrapped around each one of their paws.  In just minutes dogs can make our hearts sing and dance and smile, bringing contentment to our lives, compassion.  “Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile”.

Thank goodness!

blog signature 2-25-14

betcha can’t…

8 Comments

Betcha can’t eat just one

A few years ago, Lay’s Potato Chips threw down the gauntlet in a new advertising campaign:  “Bet you can’t eat just one!”  It was a clever slogan–and had a clever commercial to match.  But I think the line resonated so much because it’s true.  It’s quite difficult to eat just one potato chip.  You tear open the bag and, before you know it, you’ve somehow eaten the whole bag.  Even when you didn’t think you were all that hungry.

Popcorn, potato chips, peanuts.  It’s pretty hard to stop at eating just one.  They’re hard to resist.  These salty little snacks are downright addicting.  Just try having only one peanut or just one chip.  It’s not gonna happen.  Thinking that you are just going to have one handful of popcorn, turns into two and three and four grabs into the popcorn bowl until there is nothing left but salt and kernels.  Peanuts – try tossing just one peanut in the air to catch in your mouth.  Within minutes you’ve thrown a dozen or so nuts up high, tilting your head back and opening your jaws wide to catch em’ on the down swing.

I give a half-ass attempt in not keeping any chips or peanuts in the house and let me tell ya’, it’s really hard to do.  Along with ice cream, I purposely don’t add snacks to my grocery list.  And yet, somehow, I find my shelves lined with microwave popcorn and Planter’s nuts.  Cheetos, Frito’s and Ruffles fill the cupboards and there is Chocolate Chip ice cream in the freezer.  I blame it on the weekends.  And Malcolm.

Weekends are for errands, exercise and extracurricular activities.  It’s when Malcolm and I run into town to do odd tasks we can’t get to during the week.  It’s when we are able to swim and/or work out at the club and it’s when we have friends over for a get-to-gether.  Inevitably, as we are heading home on the freeway after running around doing errands or from swimming, Malcolm will look over at me sitting in the passenger seat, and with an expectant look on his face.

“Know what I’m thinking?” he’ll ask.

“No, what?”  Of course, by now, I should know what he is up to.

“I’m thinking we should stop at the store and get some ice cream?” Malcolm looks at me with hope in his eyes.  He senses my hesitation.  Before I can voice any veto, he continues, “You can pick out what flavor you want,” adding incentive for me to give the okay to stop at the store.

“All right,” I cave, thinking I’ll swim extra laps the next day.  “But I want Chocolate Moose Swirl and you have to go in to buy it,” I tacked on my conditions for bringing the forbidden ice cream into the house.

Other times, we’ll stop at the grocery store to pick up something for dinner and walk out with a bag of chips.  Midnight snacks include popcorn with Tabasco sauce and butter and during the summers, we’ll sit outside under the portal, cracking open the roasted shells as we sip our beers, eating peanuts.  Yep, it’s hard to keep snacks out of our household.

So the other day when we were driving home from swimming and Malcolm looked over at me with that same expectant look, asking, “know what I’m thinking?” I knew he wanted to stop at the store.  It was almost noon and I didn’t have much on hand for sandwich makings’.  I geared up for the big ask but I already knew I was going to relent since I was craving some Crunchy Cheetos.  I put on my “not-gonna-budge” face.

“No, what?”  I braced myself.  Since it was lunch time, I just knew he wanted the full spread.  Popcorn, potato chips and peanuts.  The three “P’s”.

“I’m thinking we should have another puppy,” Malcolm glanced over at me, watching for my reaction.  Unfortunately, I had just swallowed a big gulp of water.  My mouthful of water sprayed all over the dashboard.

“A puppy?” I croaked, mopping up the spewed water with my shirt sleeve.

DSC00596“Another kid?” I questioned.  Malcolm and I were late bloomers.  We didn’t marry until we were both in our forties and children weren’t truly an option.  Our dogs were our kids.

“Are you serious?” I asked.  (No, I did not shriek, I politely asked).  I had thought once or twice about having another puppy, another Berner, but had been hesitant in bringing up the subject.  I figured it would be a few years yet before we were ready for another dog. Amore and Dolce were still going strong.  When we had Tiamo, along with the girls, raising three dogs was a huge commitment.  Vacations were out of the question.  Weekend trips were a big hassle.  Finding a puppy-sitter we could trust, the expense of it all, took a toll on the joy of being away from our girls. A puppy would only add another layer to our lives.IMG_6953

“Well, yeah,” Malcolm sheepishly replied.  “This time it would be different,” he swore.

“Different how?” I wondered.  We would still be back to three dogs.  Three huge dogs.

“For starters, this puppy wouldn’t be allowed on the bed!” Malc exclaimed.  “It’ll be trained, like we trained Tiamo, not like the girls!”  I chuckled over that statement.  Amore and Dolce mean well, but they do have excitement issues.  Tiamo was so well-mannered, so well-behaved, we just assumed Amore and Dolce would be as well.  Even with training, Amore and Dolce are hellions only a mother can love.

“What brought this on?” I queried.

“I just want another one,” Malcolm said.  I wondered if this is how married couples discuss having another child.

“Don’t you remember all the chewed up shoes, all the torn library books, all the middle-of-the-night-keep-me-company times?”  I poked at his memory.  “You sure you want another child?”  IMG_7010

“Well, yeah,” Malcolm repeated.  “It doesn’t last forever.  They grow out of it.”  Dolce and Amore’s “terrible twos” lasted four years.  In dog years that’s 28 long years.

“When were you thinking of bringing on this addition?”  In other words, how many years apart do you want the kids to be?  Amore and Dolce are working on their sixth birthday and unfortunately, Bernese Mountain Dogs have a short life expectancy.  The average life span for a Berner is seven to ten years.  Tiamo was with us less than seven years.  In Berner terms, the girls were getting up there.

“Well, not for another year or too,”  he answered.  I relaxed a little bit. “But you can’t just stop at one!”  Malcolm added.  My thoughts turned to the Lay’s potato chip “Betcha can’t eat just one!” Nope, you can’t just stop at one.  Even though the word “puppy” was added to the forbidden snack list, and is now part of the four “P’s”,  I know without a doubt, in another year or too, a puppy will be brought into our household.  Snuck into the house when my back is turned.

We exited the freeway at our turnoff, puppy conversation over.

ahhh, we didn't eat that much!

“Wanna stop and get some ice cream?” I heard from the driver’s side.

 

 

blog signature 2-25-14

let’s get Mikey to try it

6 Comments

Dolce will eat anything.  And everything.  Drop a Brussel sprout (uck!) on the floor and she’s on it.  A chunk of apple, a slice of meat, a wedge of cheese.  I understand the cheese, I get the carrots, broccoli and bananas.  I recognize dogs love meat, cooked or raw.  I comprehend the crumbs, the drops and the scraps that are tipped over the edge of the counter to her eager mouth.

DSC00523

trying to get it first!

But there are somethings I just don’t get.  Pineapple being one of them.  Dolce loves pineapple, as long as the rind has been removed.   Don’t get me wrong, I like pineapple.  Fresh or grilled with a little honey, pineapple, is wonderful fruit.  I would have never thought a dog would eat pineapple.

Dolce loves oranges.  She’ll grab an orange slice, chew some, then spit out the pulp.  Then she is back looking for seconds.

Dolce loves lemons.  She’ll chomp into a lemon rind, roll it around her tongue, maul it up some and then donate back the pith.

And she loves strawberries.  The other day I was slicing some strawberries for our dessert and happened to drop a hull on the floor.  Whooooph!  It disappeared down Dolce’s throat.  Just like that.  Gone.  There wasn’t any fruit on the hull, just the green.  She looked up at me pleading for another.  Seriously?  A strawberry hull?  I couldn’t believe it.  Did she even know what she just ate?

Once Amore realized that Dolce had a bite of something, she wanted in on the action.  Since the girls know when they have been slighted, when they have been left out of the receiving line, I was guilted into handing her a strawberry hull.  Amore came running into the kitchen, eyes begging for a taste.  Amore quickly grabbed the green hull, wanting to get it before Dolce had a chance to seize the hull.

Immediately her eyes crossed, her muzzle wrinkled up, her jowls started contractions.  She backed up out of the kitchen, frantic to remove the offending fruit top.  Amore coughed up a big one and she spit it out.  UCK! It was obvious that Amore doesn’t like strawberry hulls.

Whooooph!  Dolce snatched up the dropped strawberry top.

the best ever pie!

the best ever pie!

FRESH STRAWBERRY PIE – perfect for your Easter meal

Make two – one doesn’t last long!

  • 1 1/2 qts. strawberries + some to nibble on
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1/2 c strawberry juice
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 3oz. pkg. of cream cheese
  • 2 tbsp. of brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp. Kahlua or Amaretto
  • 1  9″ pie shell – baked
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp. Kahlua or Armaretto

Hull and wash the strawberries.  Set aside to drain.  Crush enough strawberries to fill one cup.

Combine sugar and cornstarch in a saucepan.  Add crushed berries and strawberry juice.  Cook over medium heat stirring constantly, until comes to a boil.  Continue cooking and stirring another two minutes.  The mixture will thicken and be translucent.  Remove from heat, add butter and cool.

Cream together the cream cheese, brown sugar and liqueur.  Spread on the bottom of the baked pie shell.  Arrange whole berries, tips up, on top of the cream cheese mixture, setting aside a few for garnish.  Pour cooked mixture over berries.  Cover and chill at least two hours.

Whip heavy cream in a chilled bowl with electric mixer until it begins to form peaks.  Gradually add brown sugar.  Add Kahlua and finish whipping until stiff.  Garnish pie with whipped cream and additional strawberries.

blog signature 2-25-14

Winner Winner Shrimp and Grits Dinner + Recipe

Leave a comment

To all the entries, goes the spoils – we now have a great grit n’ shrimp recipe to enjoy!
I hope you all join the beer vs. wine and now cider pairing contest next month. The pressure is on – the last two challenges were so inspiring. I promise it won’t be toooooo spicy!

The Wandering Gourmand

Grits. They’re not just for breakfast anymore. They’re actually a staple on the Southern dinner table as well. Many BBQ restaurants serve sides of cheddar grits. I have eaten grilled salmon served over maple grits at a five star seafood restaurant. But the most famous dinner with grits is shrimp and grits. It’s one of my favorite dishes, and I was very excited when The Wandering Sheppard chose it for this month’s pairing challenge.

Grits - A Staple in Any Respectable Southern Household Grits – A Staple in Any Respectable Southern Household

We had five solid entries. What shocked me most was that only one suggestion was a beer – Stone’s Go To IPA from Bryan at This is Why I’m Drunk. Three pairings were varieties of white wines and one was (and I still can’t believe I allowed this one in the competition as it was clearly outside the rules of beer or wine) a cider…

View original post 356 more words

gritty blog buddies

2 Comments

One of the great things about hosting a blog are the friends you make.  Virtual friends.  Blog buddies you probably will never meet in person but interact with on-line.  You exchange comments and replies.  You “like” their post.  You even reblog from time to time.  There aren’t any long winded phone calls to keep in touch.  Just short blog messages, and smiley faces.  LOL comments and a few LMAO remarks.  We “oooh” over photos of beautiful Ms. Harper Lee, a Golden Retriever from Louisana, from Thek9harperlee blog and “ahhh” over pictures of Colorado from Mike’s Look at Life blog.

When my cookbook was just off the press, I asked a fellow blogger, PAWS IT ON, to sample some of the recipes and write a critique on her findings.   When I started to follow a traveling wine and beer blogger, The Wandering Gourmand, I asked him to “pair” a beer with three of my soups.  I would like to think a friendship of sorts was started. A virtual friendship.  I know if any of the above mentioned ever found themselves in New Mexico, aka Santa Fe, I would love to meet up with them and have a LIVE conversation.

Turn around is only fair.  A month ago (or so), fellow blogger The Wandering Gourmand started a wine vs. beer pairing contest.  Asking the blogging world and his readers to submit a pairing with a selected entree, The Wandering Gourmand garnered several entries for the first round.

yes, my fish n' chips looked just like this!

yes, my fish n’ chips looked just like this!

Fish n’ Chips was our first pairing course.  Malcolm and I dusted off our stored-in-the-garage fryer and proceeded to inhale a double batch of homemade beer battered fish with some spicy french fries.  Delicious!  It brought back memories of London.  And Brighton Beach.  And Bath.  And York.  And all the pubs we visited while in Great Britain.  There is nothing quite like the Brits’ fish n’ chips!

Our next pairing contest was Shrimp n’ Grits.  More like a test – not contest.

I can’t say I’ve ever made Shrimp n’ Grits.  I can’t say I’ve even tasted Shrimp n’ Grits, let alone just a taste of grits.  In fact, grits aren’t even on my top 100 fave foods list.   And, to be honest, grits of any kind, ranked pretty low on my order pad.  So, here I was, about to make Shrimp n’ Grits, and for company to boot.  Oh, boy….

Hubby-dear is from Georgia. Atlanta. Inside the belt. Buckhead, which he considers Atlanta proper. Not those suburbs like Marietta, Decatur or Alpharetta.  We’re talking Atlanta.  A true southern boy. When I mentioned we were having Shrimp n’ Grits for our weekend feast to test out the perfect pairing, he sent me a stern look.

grits IS NOT polenta!

grits IS NOT polenta!

“Now Honey,” he said, “Grits IS NOT polenta!” Clearing indicating a West Coast transplant to New Mexico would not know the difference. He had a point. My first trip to the grocery store brought home corn meal. Oops!  It was a Lucy & Ethel moment.  I thought I grabbed the grits, I swear! I didn’t realize my mistake until I had the corn meal cooking on the stove top and it wasn’t thickening properly.  Yikes!  Company was due in ten minutes.   Like Malcolm said, grits isn’t even close to corn meal.  A first cousin and married, but according to Malcolm, Grits is not Corn Meal! I think Malcolm was most grumpy mainly because he was elected to run back into town to get the real deal.

We already had some fun beer in the frig, and our guests had volunteered to bring an appropriate wine. We were ready to sip and sample.  One of our invitees is a cider drinker, so at the last moment I added Stella Artosis Cidre  in the pairing line up.
Our sampling included a Fox Glove Chardonnay, a Spanish wine, Licia Albarino, and finally, Stella Artosis Cidre (made with handpicked apples).  Along with an assortment of beers, we were set.

WOW! Not only was the Shrimp n’ Grits totally fantastic, we had one of the best times sippin & samplin!  We had a pairing party to end all pairing parties!

The top choice was the Stella Artosis Cidre, with the Albarino a close second. I gotta tell ya, the Cidre was perfect with the Shrimp n’ Grits. Crisp with a hint of carbonation, it was the perfect foil for the slight heat of the sausage. I’m sure it’s the “hand-picked apples” that made the difference!

Shrimp & Andouille Sausage Grits

Shrimp & Andouille Sausage Grits

SPICY SHRIMP WITH ANDOUILLE SAUSAGE ON GRITS

  • 1/2 cup green hot pepper sauce (I use Mrs. Renfro’s Jalapeno Salsa)
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1 cup heavy cream

Combine hot sauce, wine, onions, lemon juice and vinegar in a heavy medium sauce pan. Boil over medium heat until reduced to 1/2 cup.  About 15 minutes.  Stir in cream.  Cover and refrigerate.  Can be made one day ahead.

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 12 oz. smoked Andouille sausage – sliced (Chorizo and hot Italian sausage works as well)
  • 1 cup minced white onion
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and sliced
  • 4-5 crushed garlic cloves
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
  • 30 or so uncooked large shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails off

Heat olive oil in heavy medium skillet over medium heat.  Add sausage bits, onion, jalapeno and garlic.  Saute until onions and garlic are tender.  About 10 minutes.  Add tomatoes and seasoning.  Stir and heat over low heat while grits are cooking.  When grits are close to being ready, turn up the heat and add uncooked shrimp, sauteing until shrimp are opaque in center, about 3-4 minutes.

  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cups corn grits (I cheated and used quick grits)
  • 2 cups grated sharp white cheddar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Bring chicken broth to a boil over medium heat.  Add 1/4 cup butter and S&P.  Gradually whisk in grits.  Cover and let simmer until grits are thickened and very soft, stirring often.  About 1 hours.  If using quick grits, about 5-10 minutes.  When grits are done, add rest of butter and cheese.  Season if needed.  Keep warm.

Bring hot-pepper cream sauce to simmer.

Spoon grits in swallow bowls forming a well in the center.  Spoon shrimp/sausage mixture over grits and drizzle the hot pepper cream sauce over.  Serve.

Shrimp and Grits Pairing Challenge – The Vote

2 Comments

It’s time to vote for your favorite pairing. Shrimp and Grits and ?????? You get to fill in the blank. Will the winner be an Albarino wine, a Riesling, or an IPA? Will the Stella Artosis Cidre make a stand or will the Oregon vintage pull through? Please vote for your fav!

The Wandering Gourmand

The first time we cooked shrimp and grits was disastrous.  Until we moved to the South 7 years ago, I had never eaten grits for breakfast let alone at dinner paired with shrimp.  The Southern staple was foreign to me outside of a humorous scene from My Cousin Vinny.  But after sampling shrimp and grits at a few different restaurants, I was hooked and had to try it at home.  How hard could it be, right?

Shrimp and Grits at the Gourmands - Check back next week for our recipe Shrimp and Grits at the Gourmands – Check back next week for our recipe

Cooking the shrimp and gravy was easy.  The grits, on the other hand, never seemed to finish cooking. Maybe we used too much liquid or not enough heat, but they just wouldn’t cook to the right consistency.  My Cousin Vinny, our only reference for cooking grits, says it takes 20 minutes.  We were going on two hours and several cocktails. …

View original post 636 more words