Simply irresistible!

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As puppies, Amore and Dolce were simply irresistible. And they knew it!

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With their little white-tipped tails wagging to and fro, their noses wrinkling as they sniffed new territory, their puppy breath as they pressed puppy kisses on us – as puppies,  they were the sweetest, cutest little things.  They were absolutely adorable, simply irresistible!

They each had their particular quirks.  Dolce would tilt her head as she was learning a new command, you could almost see the wheels turning as she was figuring out the process, her brain working out the equation.  Of the two, Dolce learned her lessons quick and fast.  She also learned she would be rewarded with a treat if she scored high on the test.  After she accomplished her task, she would sit at our feet, tilting her head to the side, patiently waiting for her gold star, her treat.  Again, you could visualize her thought process, her brain trying to figure out where her special nibble was, and when would she be getting it.  If Dolce was in High School, she would be the honors student, the one who never got in trouble, never cussed, smoked or slept around.  Teacher’s pet.

Amore on the other hand, would rise a brown-winged eyebrow, as if to question our sanity in asking her to perform the small learning task.  “You want me to do what”? she silently sassed, looking at us askew.  “Seriously?  Again?  How many times do I have to do this”?  First her ears would flick back and forth, then her two matching red-brown brows would draw together, frowning, not sure she wants to do as asked.  With a puppy pout and long drawn-out sigh, her eyebrows would twitch up and down once more before she followed the command.  If Amore was a teenager, she would be the rebellious 16-year-old, stealing a smoke behind the gym bleachers, swigging Jimmy B. out of a paper bag.  The horror student.

Between the head tilt and the brow lift, we never stood a chance.  One forty-five degree slant of the head and a five degree raise of the brow had us wrapped around every one of their paws.  It’s been that way ever since.  Four years later, Amore and Dolce are still irresistible.

SANTA FE RICE CASSEROLE

Make extra – it’s hard to resist seconds!

Mix green chili and jalapeno with sour cream.  Season cooked rice with salt and pepper.  In a 2 quart casserole, layer the ingredients with the rice, then sour cream mixture and then Monterey jack Cheese.  Repeat the layers ending with rice on the top.

Bake at 350 F degrees for 25 minutes.  cover the top with the Cheddar cheese and sprinkle with paprika.  Bake another 5 to 10 minutes.

the ol’ double-back

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Monday through Friday, while I’m at work, walking the dogs lands on Malcolm’s “to-do” list.  On weekends, we share the adventure.  Occasionally, I’ll find a friend willing to fore-go sleeping in on their day off to join me, giving Malcolm a break, but usually its the two of us.  We like to take the girls out to the Galisteo Basin Preserve for their exercise.  It’s just a few miles down the road, there are several trails to choose from of varying distance and degrees of inclines, and best of all, we can unleash the girls for some free-range running.  Having more time on the weekend, we’ll take the girls for longer, more treacherous treks, hoping to tire them out – we are firm believers in the belief that a tired dog makes for a happy owner.

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scouting for treasure

Home to coyotes, antelope and jack rabbits, the GBP is Santa Fe’s playground.  Along with cactus, deep gorges and arroyos, and dry river beds, the GBP offers epic vistas of the Ortiz and the Sandia mountain ranges.  On occasion, we’ll meet up with other hikers, other dog walkers.  When the skies are blue, mountain bikers pedal past us, taking advantage of the weather, spinning their wide tires through the southwest terrain.  On those same clear, cloudless days, we’ll meet trail riders saddled up, coming down off the mountain, their mounts skittish of the dogs, the girls nervous of the horses.

While Amore and Dolce don’t particularly like horses, they do, especially enjoy the treasures left in their wake.  Horse dung, horse apples, horse shit, fresh or dried from a few days in the baking sun, the scent alone will alter our well-behaved dogs into lying, sneaky little beasts.   Double backing to steal a stinky nugget before we can stop them, our sweet little girls turn into crafty canines at just a whiff of the stuff.  They have perfected the “slow-down-to-a-crawl, get-behind-you, stop-and-wait-for-you-to-get-further-ahead” maneuver to grab and swallow a lump of dung without interruption.  Head hanging low, they immediately have selective hearing and sight.  Our commands to stop are ignored, going unheard.  They turn a blind eye to our presence, dismissing us as an irritating nuisance.   Once swallowed, they go back for seconds, knowing that they only have a few seconds to nab another helping of the equine delicacy, before we are able to put a stop to their trail trickery.

The long-lasting side effects from their horse droppings debauchery affects Malcolm and I, not the girls.  Hours later, back home from our long hike, Amore and Dolce decide to beg for forgiveness, leaning up against us to cuddle on the couch, they lift their heads to give us doggy kisses and licks, their breath reeking of horse manure.  Gentle horse crap burps are released just under our noses, the scent drifting upwards in our direction.  Their steady breathing emits puffs of rank horse odor with each exhale of oxygen.

The ol’ double-back trick on the trail has double-backed on us, hours later!

Galisteo Granola

An ideal snack when hiking or walking the dogs!

Serve with yogurt, ice cream, sprinkled on pancakes or a smoothie or just snack on by the handful!

  • 6 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1 cup pecan halves
  • 1 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup frozen concentrated cranberry juice, thawed
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla
  • 1 tbsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1 cup dried sweetened cranberries
  • 1 cup dried blueberries
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup minced dried apricots

Preheat oven to 325 F degrees.  Spray a heavy rimmed baking sheet with non-stick spray.  Combine oats, almonds, coconut, pecans, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds in a large bowl.

Combine cranberry juice concentrate, brown sugar, butter, honey, maple syrup, vanilla, cinnamon and all spice in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil, stirring until brown sugar dissolves.  Pour hot syrup over oat mixture, stirring to coat evenly.  Spread mixture out on the prepared baking sheet.  Bake until golden brown at edges, about 25 minutes, stirring the mixture periodically.  Add cranberries, using a metal spatula to blend.  Bake until granola is beginning to dry, stirring occasionally, about 10-15 minutes longer.  Cool for 15 minutes.  Add blueberries, raisins and dried apricots.  Stir until completely blended.  Cool completely on baking sheet.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature up to 2 weeks.

kitchen clatter

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ahhh, we didn't eat that much!

ahhh, we didn’t eat that much!

With the of loud swoosh of the refrigerator door opening,  Amore and Dolce are immediately on the alert to kitchen activity.  The clink of condiment jars rattling against each other as the door swings open, informs them of a possible treat or nibble of something good.  The crinkling of plastic is blatant advertising of cheese or maybe carrots.  The un-snapping of a plastic lid translates to yogurt or sour cream.  From the living room, the girls can decipher if the clanking noise is Malcolm reaching in to grab his Ice Tea pitcher or if the crackling sound is some cheddar cheese being placed on the kitchen counter for slicing or grating.

They can verify the difference between the opening of the frig door and the freezer, between the lifting of the treat jar lid and the spare change cover, between the squeak of the cupboard and the drawer.  Their ears can define a broccoli chop vs. an onion cut, a carrot slice vs. celery stick.  The sound of the knife against the chopping block as it cuts through the veggie announces how quickly the girls will start sniffing around the kitchen.  They love broccoli and carrots, can’t have onions, and are so-so with celery.

Amore immediately runs in to investigate.   Nose to the floor, sniffing out the latest crumb, Amore is determined to gobble it up before Dolce has a chance to.  Dolce, on the other hand,  waits on the couch, head tilted, eyebrows cocked, her little mind working to interpret the sound coming from the kitchen.  Dolce is more discerning.  She wants to know the clatter is worth the effort of movement.  An apple wedge, a cheese cube or a carrot stick will haul her off the couch and into the kitchen in three seconds.  Or, if she hears Amore chomping, she can be there in two.  The jangle of the silverware drawer doesn’t even merit a head lift from her soft pillow.

I would have to say cheese is their absolute favorite.  Even Bleu Cheese.

MAC N’ CHEESE N’ CHEESE

  • 3 1/2 cups elbow macaroni
  • 12 bacon slices, chopped
  • 3 cups fresh, coarse breadcrumbs (may use Ritz cracker crumbs as a substitute)
  • 1 cup finely grated Asiago Cheese
  • 1/2 chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • 3 tbsp. flour
  • 6 cups whole milk
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne
  • 1 cup  Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • 3 cups grated Fontina Cheese
  • 1 tsp. dry mustard
  • 1 tbsp. coarse-grain mustard

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Butter a 13x9x2 inch casserole dish.  Cook macaroni pasta in boiling water per package directions, until just tender but still firm to bite.  Drain, rinse and drain again.

Cook chopped bacon in a heavy skillet until crisp.  Transfer bacon and 1/4 cup bacon drippings to large bowl.  Add breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup Asiago cheese, and 1/4 cup parsley with bacon and toss until blended.

Add minced garlic and jalapeno to remaining pan drippings in skillet and saute over medium heat until fragrant.  Add flour and whisk 3 minutes.  Gradually add in whole milk, then add egg yolks, cayenne, dry mustard, salt and pepper.  Cook until mixture thickens, whisking constantly.  Add 2 cups of the Fontina Cheese, Cheddar cheese, remaining Asiago cheese and stir until cheeses melt.  Remove from heat.  Mix in macaroni, coarse-grain mustard, remaining parsley and the last of the Fontina Cheese.  Transfer macaroni mixture to prepared dish.

Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture over macaroni .  Bake just until topping is golden about 15-20 minutes.

(Can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated until ready to bake)

If a little is good, then, a lot is better.  Trust me.  Always add a little more butter and a lot more cheese!

Sibling Rivalry

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Siblings.  At 10 years old,  older and younger brothers and sisters are the bane of our existence.  The natural pecking order decrees, the older sibs pick on us and the younger ones, by nature of being the littlest, bug us.  By the time we’re 25, those same unbearable beasts are our best friends.  The years in between are layered with childish fights over who is Granny‘s favorite, who got the bigger slice of apple pie and cries of “am-so-am-not’s”!  Years that are peppered with spats over who received better grades, scored higher on a test and was most popular at school.  Throughout is the underlying rivalry of ‘besting them’, a thin whisper of competitiveness threaded between siblings to do just as well, if not better.  To out-score, out-smart and out-win the beast from our younger years.

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Sibling shoe spats

Though poles apart in personality, talent and smarts, Amore and Dolce do share one thing in common – sibling rivalry.  They know if they have been slighted, if one receives an extra indulgence over the other, when the other is benefiting from special attention, and whether or not they have been left behind from a trip in the car.  Their competitiveness kicks in as they jockey for position to sit next to me on the couch for their nighttime loving.  Dolce especially, as she backs into the pocket between the couch pillows and my side, scooting closer and closer against me as Amore attempts to come around by the back of the sofa to divide, separate and conquer.  Jealousy takes over if one of the girls is getting all the petting and belly rubs.  Nose nudging the elbow to disrupt the canine massage, they will manuever their furry head to steal some ear-scratching pleasure.

If one has a toy, the other one wants it.  Not to chew on, just to know that they can take it away.  Dibs on the pooch pillow is ignored, losing their favorite spot if they  leave their warm perch to go outside.  All of a sudden they are mathematicians, counting the exact number of treats, to the last kibble given and to whom, and know if an additional delicious nugget was dropped and caught by the other.  On leash, Amore takes the lead, her nose just inches past Dolce’s, but ahead none the least.  Going to the store, Dolce is riding shotgun no matter what, at no matter what cost.  Amore can out run, out race her sis.  Dolce out-smarts and out-wits her litter mate.  On occasion, we’ll hear a low growl, the start of a sibling squabble, resulting in a pout from Amore or a yelp from Dolce.  Just as quick, its forgotten, the toy ignored.

At four years old, Amore and Dolce are best buddies’, side by side.  They share their food but not their treats.  Amore pulls ahead on walks, Dolce grabs the front seat on trips.  Both can do the math.

tail thumping

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tail thumper

tail thumper

Thump. Thump. Thump-thump-thump. Thump-thump-thumpity-thump. Whack! Whack-whack! Whack! C.R.A.S.H.

Knowing the difference between a one thump tail thunk and a whackity-whack wallop can rescue dog owners from future calamity. Here are descriptive clues on what each thump and whack really mean….

The ol’ one thump is clearly an insult, the slightest lift of their head, barely acknowledging something might be happening, perhaps an arch of the brow or a twitch of the ear. The effort to investigate is not worth moving from their dog bed of lethargy. You’ve been ignored. This is good. You can return to your baking.

A two or three or four tail-thump is an improvement – they have expanded enough energy to give you several beats of interest before emitting a loooong drawn out sigh. One eye ajar, wavering between going back to snoring or exploring the new development, this tail-thumper is classified as a true put-a-pond sign of disgruntlement. Your dog really doesn’t want to get up to probe but they also don’t want to miss anything. You’re safe. You’ve got a 90% chance dog dreams are more important than rising to sniff out their curiosity. Keep doing what you were doing.

Now a thumpity-thump-thump-thump is heading into the danger zone. Tail speed is kicking up, creating 30 mph winds. Eyes alert, standing at attention, you’ve piqued their interest and you’ve got 100 pounds of torque just waiting for the secret, silent signal to move. Let the cookies burn in the oven. MOVE. You need to divert disaster before it attacks you. The odds have swiftly moved up to a solid 69% chance of rapid canine involvement (RCI). Pay attention. Do. Not. Turn. Your. Back. On. Tail.

The whackity-whack tail whack will put TSA on red alert. Whacks of this type will inevitably bring a loud, vociferous collision of canine tail and object. Beware. Tail-whacking at this velocity can literally cause annihilation of your home. This whack is a weapon of mass destruction. Decorative couch pillows have known to blow up, millions of little white chicken feathers spreading like wild-fire throughout the house. Coffee cups shattered in one swoop of a frantic tail whack. Papers, mail and file folders flown into the air, scattering like blind mice on the run. Do not call 911. You are on your own here. At this point, you’re totally screwed. If you have any cookies left that aren’t burnt, I’d start eating.

COOKIE CRUNCHIES

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg – well beaten
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 cup oatmeal
  • 1 cup corn flakes
  • 1/2 cup coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecan nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter, sugars, egg and vanilla until smooth. Sift dry ingredients together and add to creamed mixture. Add oatmeal, corn flakes, coconut and nuts. Mix until blended.

Roll into small balls and place 2 inches apart on a greased baking sheet. Bake for 10-15 minutes.

Houdini

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Berners are the type of dog that want to be with you – – – always.  Where you goeth, they goeth.  If you step outside, they want to be outside with you.  If you need to run to the store, they need to go along with you, riding shotgun in the passenger seat.  They will be out the door and in the car before you’ve begun to search for your car keys.  If you need to use the restroom, they want to follow you.  Walk into the kitchen and paws pitter-patter beside you.  Two perpetual furry shadows, dogging your step.  Shutting the door on their noses only produces sniffing and scratching, amplified by two.

On occasion we elect to keep the girls home.   In the summer, the temperatures are too hot for them to be left in the car without air conditioning and other times, our errands run longer than we want to keep them cooped up in the SUV.    They’ve learned when they may join us for a car ride and when they are staying put, depending on the time of day, the clothes and shoes worn, and if they hear a certain jingle of the car keys.

Early mornings they recognize its “me leaving for work” time.  They follow me into the bathroom and hang while I am getting ready for work.  They walk with me to get the morning paper and follow me around as I pour my “must-have” coffee.  By the time I grab my car keys to drive into town for work, they are already sprawled out napping from their busy morning.  I scratch their ears good-bye as they lift their heads, watching me walk out the door, back asleep before I’ve pulled out of the garage.   They have become skilled at learning the difference between a “slide your foot into a heel” shoe and a “bend over to tie the laces of your hiking boot” shoe.  With the heel, they are accepting of their fate.  Knowing they will be staying home with Gordita, our cat, they have already gone back to what they were doing.  The boot means “WALK”, “RIDE”, or “BOTH”.  Any of which creates pandemonium.   A jingle of the car keys will bring a concerto of joyous high-pitched barking that continues through the process of loading them into the vehicle.

To our dismay, we have discovered there are times when Dolce and Amore have attempted to follow us, ignoring our command to stay.   On one such time, I drove home from work to find Dolce and Amore in the front portal, the front door wide open.   I just assumed Malcolm had opened the door for fresh air.  In reality, Malcolm had walked next door to deliver some misplaced mail.  The girls did not like the idea of being left alone at home, listening to the crunch of gravel as Malcolm walked up the driveway.  Dolce had pawed the dead bolt, unlocking it,  and on the down-swing, her paws hit the handicapped handle, swinging the door wide open.  Freedom.  Thankfully, the half-walls of the portal are too high for them to escape.

Dolce has turned her clever door-opening talent to other doors throughout the house. Back doors, garage doors, closet doors, even shower doors, she opens and shuts doors like a cat-burglar pro.  She stands on her hind legs and uses her front paws to turn the lock.  She then uses her weight to push in the door, gaining entry into the next room.  Should the door shut on her, she repeats the process, and with a descending slide, she hooks her paws on the handle lever and pulls open the door to come back through.  We caution our over-night guests to lock their bedroom door or they might have a four-legged visitor during the night.  Her special ability has forced us take stronger measures against future door openings.  We’ve installed additional hardware, slide locks and hooks, key locks and more dead-bolts, all designed to keep our Houdini dog where she belongs.

Scratch marks and all

Scratch mark evidence

Added hardware

Added hardware

I am thankful this proficiency isn’t genetic and Amore isn’t that smart!  But then, maybe she is – Dolce is the one opening the door for her.

Drooling for DIN-DIN

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drooling for dinner

drooling for din din!

Like clockwork, come 5:00 p.m. the pooches are in pursuit of prying Malcolm away from watching the news to feed them their chow.  They arrive first for a gentle rub, a few scratches around the ear, a pat on the belly.  A sweet, loving reminder to be fed.  If they timed it right, it will be a commercial break, a good time to fill their dog bowls.  If that doesn’t work, they try nudging Malcolm’s elbow, hoping to displace some prized Coke-a-cola poured over shaved ice onto his pants, forcing him to arise to clean up the spilled sticky mess.  Once up, it’s usually a given they’ll be served dinner….

Hopefully.

If the spill-the-coke-on-pants trick doesn’t get a surge out of Malcolm, they move into their next plan-of-attack:  sumo wrestling.  Body slams, shoulder pins, ear grabs, all played within close range of the china cabinet.  You can hear the crystal rattle as the dogs roll under the dining room table, often hitting the cabinet leg.  Uncaring that family heirlooms might break, they tackle each other in their quest to win dominance over the other.  At this point, Malcolm is speeding through the house to halt any further damage and put some food in their bellies to calm the battle…

Usually.

As last resort, and Malcolm still needs prompting, Amore does her race through the house routine, landing on all fours, she slides on the hall rug, getting a free ride into the living room.  Weeeeee, look at meeeee!  Crash!  She resembles a surfer dude riding a big wave.  Dolce has now entered into the melee, barking at Amore, she scares Gordita, our fat cat, into using Malcolm’s leg as a spring-board, claws digging into his thigh to gain purchase as she continues to leap over his shoulder towards a safe haven.  Yep, this will get them their kibbles….

Finally!

Malcolm has 5 minutes to hide the destruction before I arrive home from work.  Dinner just might be late….

Naturally.

PORK & PORT

Try this sauce with beef tenderloin as well!

  • 2 boneless pork  tenderloin, approximately 1 lb. each
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 cups port wine
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 6-8 oz. Stilton cheese

Heat oil in a large skillet.  Add pork, browning on all sides.  Transfer pork to a covered roasting pan.

Deglaze skillet with port and reduce by half.  Add chicken stock and bring to a boil.

Pour over pork and bake at 450 degrees until done, approximately 15 minutes.  Remove pork and keep warm.  Reduce liquid by half and slowly stir in cream.  Cook over medium heat until sauce thickens.  Add Stilton cheese and stir until blended.

Spoon sauce over sliced tenderloin.

Cold!

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DSC01151 The last few days have been bitterly cold. The car thermometer showed single digits on the drive into work, add some wind into the mix and the temp with the wind chill factor is in the negatives.  I feel like Ralphie in the Christmas Story  when we bundle up to take the girls for their walk –  can’t move!  My arms stick out and I have to turn my whole body to see to my left or right.  But the girls looove the cold and the snow, so we persevere and brave the cold, we pile on layers and layers of thick socks, silky thermals, woolen scarves and gloves, ear muffs and heavy snow boots to tread through the snow.  We hike through drifts, slip and slide across icy patches, and break new trails trying to find some virgin snow for the girls to play in.  Dolce loves to make snow angels, Amore just loves the cold.

Our reward at the end of the trail?  If we finish our trek before 5:00 p.m. – we whip up some hot chocolate with some added peppermint liquors .  After 5:00 p.m. and we go for the stronger warming up beverage – Santa Fe Sluggers.

PEPPERMINT & HOT CHOCOLATE

  • 2 Cups milk
  • pinch of salt
  • 6 oz. semisweet chocolate (finely chopped)
  • 1 tbsp. creme de methe liqueur
  • 1 tsp. instant coffee granules
  • 1/2 tsp. Mexican vanilla

Heat milk and salt for the hot chocolate in a saucepan over medium heat and steam is starting to rise.  Add the remaining ingredients and whisk until smooth. Continue to heat until just before the mixture comes to a boil.  Ladle into mugs and top with frozen whip cream (see below).

  • 1/2 Cup Heavy Cream
  • 2 tbsp. pulverized peppermints
  • 1 tbsp. powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp. crushed peppermints

Beat cream, pulverized peppermints and sugar for the whipped cream to stiff peaks.  Pipe or spoon onto a baking sheet lined with parchment.  Sprinkle with crushed peppermints and place in freezer until firm.  About 20 minutes.

SANTA FE SLUGGERS

  • 1 Cup Freshly brewed strong coffee (I use dark roast)
  • 1/4 cup bourbon
  • 1/2 oz. Kahlua
  • 2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (not unsweetened)
  • 6 tbsp. heavy cream
  • 1 tsp sugar (or more, depending on taste)

Heat coffee, bourbon, Kahlua, chocolate and 2 tbsp. cream in a 1 1/2 quart saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly, until chocolate has melted.  DO NOT ALLOW to BOIL!Beat remaining 1/4 cup cream with sugar to stiff peaks.  Pour coffee mixture into two large mugs and top with the whipped cream.

 

Santa’s Resolutions

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Holiday Love!

Holiday Love!

I know, I know, its January! Everyone spins some words on the past 365 days and all they accomplished, their travel adventures, job changes and family additions. They write about their plans for the next 365 days with an equal number of bucket list items, check boxes next to their dreams, wishes and hopes. Ever wonder what would be on Santa’s bucket list? What would Santa’s New Year’s resolutions be? What would his travel and vacation plans be for the next year? What would Santa do? What would Santa write about? Umm……?

SANTA’S 2013 TWELVE RESOLUTIONS

  1. It’s January – In one word, January is perfect! January’s resolution is just that – PERFECT. It’s Santa’s Birthday month! A present under the tree unwrapped a cuban and a perfect bottle of Port. A perfect combination for a cold winter’s night, sipped along with a warm, crackling fire, the dogs asleep at my feet, my honey beside me. What could be more perfect! Georgia Tech just stomped USC’s ass in a perfect win at the Sun Bowl! It’s a perfect month to sleep in and take some naps. Yes, January is perfect! Life is perfect!
  2. It’s February – 28 days of love – We all should resolve to spread some of Cupid’s arrows. I hereby resolve to LOVE and be loved. Tiamo arrived in February, loved from the first moment we saw her, stumbling over her front paws as she investigated her new home – from day one, she had us wrapped around every one of her paws. She added much love to our lives, unconditional, unwavering. To be loved is a wonderful feeling.
  3. It’s March – Raise your glass to little men in green and rainbows, pots of gold and lucky charms. We’ll be out West, in California, raising our glass to newly wedded bliss and new beginnings. Toasting to PROMISES.
  4. It’s April – The soft, little green buds bursting out on the barren tree branches to push the cold away, opening to the gentle scent of apple blossoms with the freshness of spring. I met my wife in April and my LIFE has never been the same. Good bye city life! Is not spring about new life? To LIFE!
  5. It’s May – We HONOR our moms, our heritage, our deceased. We honor those who brought us life and those who have passed on. We honor with parades, pinatas, and pinned on flower corsages. We will be honoring our marriage, vows made over ten years ago. We will honor Tiamo, who passed away a year ago. Honor – a special word for those individuals who are in our lives and hearts, and in our memories.
  6. It’s June – ESCAPE! School’s out, vacations starts, summer’s on! Escape with beach reads, Blue Hawaiian’s, sun burns, and summer romances. Dip your toes in the sand, sip a margarita, forget the worries sitting heavily on your shoulders. Enjoy today and tomorrow and all the next days to come. Go ahead, I double-dog dare ya! Yup, it’s time to escape on a cruise, where crystal clear blue waters abound, little pink umbrellas float on my drinks and we can escape life’s troubles and worries.
  7. It’s July – Another celebration, another birthday, another beautiful sunset. Let’s CELEBRATE! Democracy! Monsoon season! Rain! Freedom! 50 + candles on the cake! Company’s coming! Fireworks! Nordstrom’s shoe sale! Yeah, baby! Let’s Celebrate!
  8. It’s August – What was planted in spring is ready for HARVEST. Corn, tomatoes, and squash, lots of squash. Cabbage, radishes and squash, more squash. Peas, onions, squash, squash and leftover squash. Squash omelets, squash casseroles, squash cake. Squash in the salad, squash in the sandwich, squash in the trash – harvest is over.
  9. It’s September – Summer’s end, school is back in session, Labor day weekend is upon us. We labor at work, at home, at life. Tiamo went into labor over Labor Day Weekend, delivering eight little wagging tails. LABOR. The fruits of her labor gave us Dolce and Amore. Labor. Look back at all you have done, accomplished, labored, toiled. Look around you and see the fruits of your labor.
  10. It’s October – Days filled with a nip in the air, nights cooling down to brrrr, it’s cold. Nature’s colors shifting from varying shades of green to bright yellows, burnt oranges, deep reds. October fests and beer fests, ghosts and goblins, Breast Cancer Awareness month. FEEL the changes as the days shorten, the soft leaves falling into brittle brown pieces as they scatter on the ground. Feel life’s tempo slow as it readies for hibernation. Feel each breath taken. Feel the embrace of Fall.
  11. It’s November – THANKS! It’s a given in November. We give thanks for our family, friends, our good fortune. We give thanks for our health, full cupboards and our good luck. We give thanks to our individual gods, our country, our communities. Give thanks to our parent’s children. They deserve it.
  12. It’s December -Ahhh, December, that magical time of the year where snow glistens and children listen. Good cheer is all around us. The little kid in all of us shines bright through smiles and twinkling eyes. A special time when, Malcolm, attired in a red suit, black boots and white beard, and toting a heavy red bag filled with presents and toys, brings wonder and awe to eight little children who still BELIEVE in magic.

What would Santa do? I think Santa would say, “2013 is a perfect year to love and to promise, to honor life’s joys. 2013 is a perfect year to escape our troubles, our problems, our heartaches and celebrate the harvest of our labors. 2013 is a perfect year to feel our thanks and not just say them. 2013 is a perfect year to believe in the magic.”

WINK, WINK!

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DSC01111 Amore is our mischief-maker.  She is  85% imp, 15 % jokester and comedian.  Full-blooded Bernese Mountain Dog, full-thottle prankster, and full-of-it canine with a sneaky smile to match.

From day one, Amore has been  our trouble-maker.  She was the first to crawl out of the whelping pen, creating a mass ascension with her seven siblings, following in her paw steps.   She was the first to bark, yelp and whine, producing a chorus of noise, usually at night, usually late at night and usually with all her litter mates!  She was and still is the first to gobble up her chow, then proceeding over to Dolce’s bowl to impose a  feeding tax on any leftovers.   She was Tiamo’s first pick, the only puppy in the litter Mama loved to play with.  Amore was the first to discover the dog door, quickly learning if she went through the swinging flap, there was a bite of raw hamburger on the other side.  While a great training tool, the first night, she went back and forth through the doggie door for an hour straight looking for her treat.  At 2:00 a.m. we stumbled with barely opened eyes to the frig and found more ground burger to give her.  For the next week, that dog door was her best friend.

Amore loves to tease Malcolm.  When it’s time to load up in the car for a ride, she runs straight to the tailgate, fakes to the left before the jump in, swinging around the vehicle and on to the back field at a full run.  She’ll wait for Malcolm to come around the corner of the house before sprinting around the other side.  The cat and mouse game continues until Malcolm tires of walking around the house and Amore realizes she might be left at home.

I’ll never forget the first and only time I let Amore walk with me up to the road to retrieve the morning paper without a leash.  5:30 in the morning, pitch black skies with the sun still hiding in the far east, Amore takes off after a cotton-tail.  She recognized her freedom – the chase was on.  I tried everything to get her to return to me.  She would get within 10 yards and stay just beyond my reach.  I knew I needed to out trick the trickster.  Somewhere I had read to lay down on the ground and play opossum. In my skirt and high heels, I laid down on the gravel driveway with the Santa Fe New Mexican as my pillow.  I waited.  Amore waited.  One minute seemed like twenty, I heard the crunch of her paws on the gravel, I waited, eyes closed.  I felt a cold nose on my cheek and then several wet sloppy dog licks all over my face,  Amore checking to see if I was ok.   I grabbed her collar, refusing to let go of our 100 pound bunny chaser.  I gazed up at her and I swear I saw her wink at me.  She knew all along my intentions.  My golden moment of euphoria, having “won” the game, having outsmarted and outmaneuvered a canine comedian crumbled like broken chips at the bottom of the Frito bag.

That wink says it all.  With a twinkle in her eye, Amore is our prank-pulling pooch.   Her goofy grin, her playful antics, her doggy humor, her canine pranks, Amore has perfect timing with her delivery.  She knows the exact moment when to nose-nudge your elbow as you raise your glass of wine to take a sip.  She knows the exact moment when you go to sit on the couch and she beats you to your spot, then rolling over onto her back so you can’t pull her off the cushions.  She knows the exact moment when to rub up against you as you are leaving to go to an important meeting in your wool suit and you don’t have time to change out of your now dog-haired attire.  She knows the exact moment you are done fluffing the blankets and pulling up the bed covers as you prep for sleep, so she can jump up on the bed and curl up on your favorite down feathered pillows.

She knows the exact moment when to send you a wink and a smile, a grin and a chortle, reminding you not to take life so seriously.  She knows her doggy grin will get her out of trouble and her adorable canine chortle will let her stay on the bed.  Our winkster, Amore!

Sage advice from Mom…

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My mother always told me… “never order spaghetti when out on a date.”

She claimed it was too hard to eat, too difficult not to slurp, and some of the sauce will always land on your “shelf”.  She might as well of sent me to purgatory!  Perhaps that’s why my dates were few and far between.  I knew I had found my soul mate when Malcolm (my hero!) served me pasta in bed!

I love pasta!

Pasta and butter.

Pasta and butter and cheese.

Pasta and butter and cheese and bacon.

Pasta and butter and cheese and bacon and shrimp.

Add some garlic,  a splash of olive oil, a little white wine, throw in some fresh sourdough bread and I am in heaven.  I don’t even need a plate, I will enjoy my meal straight from the pasta pot.  It’s best when I don’t have to share it with Malcolm.  Forget the soup when I’m sick, I’d rather slurp noodles.  Rain or shine, hot or cold, pasta is my nirvana.

I will say, as I’ve matured, so has my pasta pickiness.  I don’t eat just any pasta.  Nor, do I eat at just any Italian restaurant.  I do have some standards when it comes to pasta.  The noodles need to be cooked just right, the sauce needs to light and teaming with flavor.  The restaurant can’t be a chain, franchise or serve processed pre-packaged portions.

When cooking pasta, proper attention to your pasta pot needs to be given – a built-in strainer is convenient.  Correct utensils are needed.  Pasta bowls  should be purchased, along with over sized spoons.  Timing is everything.  Under done noodles or overcooked pasta doesn’t cut it.  Invest in a pasta timer!  An apron is appropriate attire when standing over the watched pot.  Pavarotti should be softly playing on Pandora in the background.

And most important, ALL DOGS SHOULD BE BANNED FROM THE KITCHEN.  DOG HAIR IS NOT ALLOWED OR TOLERATED ANYWHERE NEAR THE PASTA POT!

 

Macaroni & Cheese

  • 1 pound Macaroni noodles (elbow, shells or ziti)
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1-2 minced jalapeno peppers
  • 2 tbsp. flour
  • 1 cup non-fat milk
  • 6 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 12 tbsp. coarse grain mustard
  • 3 cups extra-sharp Cheddar Cheese, grated
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • sourdough bread crumbs (seasoned to taste), finely chopped

Cook the macaroni according to the directions on the package.  Drain off the water and put noodles back in the pot, set aside.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan, add jalapeno peppers and saute for 1 to 2 minutes.  Add flour and cook for another 3 minutes, stirring continuously.  Whisk in  the milk and continue stirring until the mixture starts to boil.  Add the Cheddar Cheese, Parmesan Cheese and mustard.  Stir until smooth.

Pour cheese sauce over the macaroni, add bacon crumbles and toss.  Place in a casserole dish and garnish with the bread crumbs.  Heat in the oven until hot in the center and bread crumbs are toasted, about 15-20 minutes.

Curfew

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Prior to Tiamo, we had Thugs.  A cat.  A big cat.  A big cat with black tuffs on his ears and beautiful green eyes.  He had gray, white and black swirls on his sides and strips on his tail.  He was a cat that was king of his domain and by gawd,  he knew it.  He was unusual and unique.  Born into a barn cat litter, Thugs was the “bully” of the bunch.  He was a little Thug in the true sense of the word.  As a kitten, he would pounce on his litter mates, playing rough and acting tough.  As an adult cat, he would sit on his perch and give us a look of pure disdain.  Thugs was a great mouser and lizard chaser.  We would find remnants of his hunt on our front door step.  He tolerated being picked up but loved being petted, He mellowed as he aged, he loved to sit on Malcolm’s firm six-pack abs (hee hee) as Malcolm read the New York Times on the couch.  Cold mornings would find him curled up on our down pillows next to us, basking the comfort of the blanket’s warmth, evenings he would follow us from room to room waiting for us to go to bed.

He was 14 years old when we moved to New Mexico, land of bobcats, coyotes, snakes,  and cactus.  Most felines in New Mexico don’t live much longer than a few years, especially if they sneak outdoors when the back-door gets opened.  Thugs had already outlived his life expectancy for New Mexico by many, many years and now he was now on the bottom tier of the food chain.  But he was savvy and smart and stayed safe and he had a curfew.  We incorporated the 10 and 4 rule.  Thugs could only be outside between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.  Luckily, he usually stayed close to the house or napped on the portal.

Thugs wasn’t too happy with us when we brought Tiamo into the family.  He let Tiamo know real quick who was the boss with sharp claws to Tiamo’s curious nose within 5 minutes of being introduced.  Tiamo learned to keep her distance and in the beginning wouldn’t come into the room if Thugs was already there.  Tiamo would sit in the doorway, waiting for Thugs to move far enough away for her to enter.  If Thugs was on the couch, Tiamo would give him a wide berth around, eyeing the distance between cat claws and her nose.  Once Thugs trapped Tiamo in the utility room.  Laying down in the middle of the entryway, Thugs calmly cleaned himself, while Tiamo was nervously trying to figure out how to get around him and out of the room.  Within three months, they were inseparable.  Where Thugs went, Tiamo followed.  At five months, Thugs was strolling underneath Tiamo’s belly and at 9 months we would find them curled up together, Thugs gently purring, Tiamo emitting soft snores as she lay sleeping.  When they both were on the bed, Thugs would knead Tiamo until one of them would tired of the motion and jump off the bed.

At 17, Thugs was still going strong, abet slower, he had some hearing loss, and his vision was less clear.  Tiamo became his protector.  If Thugs was outside, Tiamo was his shadow, following Thugs through the junipers and chamiso, keeping tabs on his whereabouts.  When Thug’s 4 o’clock curfew hit, we would call Tiamo to “go get Thugs”.  Tiamo would round-up Thugs and herd him into the house.  “Find Thugs” was one of Tiamo’s favorite games.  Come close to curfew time and Tiamo would be sitting by the door, tail wagging, eagerly waiting to go “Find Thugs”.

When Thugs was 19 years old, he was too old to be let out.  He slept most of the time but could still jump up on the bed and knead Tiamo.  At 21 years, our little bully was aged and tired.  Eating less, losing weight, Thug’s curfew was up.  He lived to the ripe ol’ age of 21, almost 22 years of age. Twenty-one years!  Amazing!

Thugs was an amazing cat.  Tiamo and Thugs had an amazing friendship.  We should be so fortunate to have a companion to knead.

 

 

 

Snooze button

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The nose knows!

!UGH!  A cold wet nose is thrust upon my early morning dreams.  I look at the clock and try to focus on the blue digital numbers.  4:05 a.m.  There is still forty-five minutes before the alarm sounds off.  I try to ignore the persistent nose nudging under my elbow, desperately wanting and needing my 45 minutes of sleep.  Eyes closed, I feel  another nudge, this time on my hand that is dangling over the edge of the bed.  UGH! Dog slobber.   All over my hand.  I open my eyes just enough to check the time.  Dolce and Amore, with their twin noses within inches of my face, are eyeing me intently.  Two sets of eyes, shining brightly, eagerly waiting for me to get up and start the day.  My eyes raise to the alarm clock.  4:10 a.m. – 40 minutes left. It’s only been five minutes.  I close my eyes and pretend I’m asleep.

Whack!  A sand-crusted paw hits the bed, just missing my nose.  I am assaulted with dog-paw odor.  “Off”! I whisper, not wanting to wake up Malcolm.  Amore doesn’t listen and doesn’t care.  Another paw joins the first,  more sand.  I look up, Amore is peering down on me, happy dog drool dripping onto my cheek and neck.  UGH!  I go to wipe off the wet drops and smear wet sand all over me.  UGH! 4:20 a.m.  A half-hour nap is  my only hope.  Amore licks my face, a more persistent dog you’ll never see.  She.  Wants.  Me.  Up.  NOW!  I roll over, implementing the “if I can’t see you, you can’t see me” rule, feeling the rough sand  throughout the sheets.  UGH!  Amore’s  determination runs deep, she paws the bed covers, pulling my warm blankets inch by coveted inch off the bed into a soft mass on the floor.  4:37 a.m.  I am now freezing, dog-slobbered, sand-covered and wide-awake.  Malcolm is softly snoring, oblivious to my wake-up call.

Just then, Dolce leaps up on the bed, clears a sleeping Malcolm, and lands on me.  Phoof!  The oxygen is squished out of my lungs.  I gasp for breath, simultaneously pushing Dolce off me.  I manage to turn her around, only to have her victorious wagging tail in my face.  UGH!  Visions of sleeping extra minutes vanished along with all the air from my lungs.  4:43 a.m.  Not to be out done, Amore jumps onto the mattress, her paws digging into Malcolm’s legs for balance.  “W.T.F.!”  Malcolm is rudely awaken.

4:45 a.m. Five minutes til “Wake-Up with Wally” blasts out the top ten hits on FM 107.9.  I shut off the alarm with Wally and crawl out of bed, crawl being the optimal word.  The dogs are ecstatic they have early morning company.  Malcolm is grumpy from being woken up.  I am a snooze button away from being sane.

Just remember, there is no snooze button for a dog who wants breakfast!

Welcome home attack!

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My job requires some travel, mostly around the state, but on occasion, I attend conferences that cross state lines.  This past week, I attended our state association’s annual Fall Conference and while the location of the conference was only an hour away from Santa Fe, I still needed to stay at a hotel for a few nights.  My wonderful hubby usually stays home with the dogs on most of my travel trips, saving us a lot of $$$$ in boarding costs and subsequent vet bills from coughs and other ailments the girls pick up at the doggy motel. This trip was a get-away from dog hair and dogs in the bed.  It is pure joy being able to stretch across the King-sized bed with crisp, fresh sheets and sink-your-head onto soft downy pillows.  As much as I love having the bed to myself, I still miss my girls! (and my husband!).  I usually call home frequently thorough out the day checking to see how they are.

It so happened on this trip, we received some rain while I was gone.  Those wet drops from heaven are a rare event in our drought stricken state.  We live among dirt roads that turn into mud roads with the slightest moisture and as a rule, we don’t usually walk the dogs when it’s raining or if the roads are muddy.  Not only because of the mess of the mud, but because of our arid landscape and our many arroyos, flash flooding from the rain’s surface water is common and very dangerous.  The torrential flood waters come from the higher ground, usually starting as a trickle and turning into a roaring river in seconds, crashing through junipers, chamiso and cacti.  We just don’t take the risk of getting caught in a flash flood.  Consequently, Dolce and Amore didn’t get their walk for three days while I was out-of-town.

The first day gone, I called Malcolm, checking to see how the girls were doing.  Malcolm reported that from 4:30 – 7:00 p.m. they waited by the window, looking for my car to pull into the drive way from work.  Up until 10:00 p.m. they went tearing through the house every time they heard a car drive by, thinking it might be me returning home from my conference.  Day two was much the same but with more edge.  It had been 36 hours since their last walk, mom’s not home and the peanut butter Kongs are outside in the rain.  Dolce is bored and Amore has way too much energy bundled inside her 100 lb. frame.  Malcolm is starting to go nuts from dealing with the dogs, wet dog smell is permeating the house from the dogs racing back and forth from the dog pen, tracking in mud and dirt  and Malcolm still has 24 hours to live through.  Amore wants company and to be entertained by day three.  She whacks her tail by the headboard at 3:30 a.m. to wake Malcolm up, barks at every car headed into town starting at 5:30 a.m. and resorted to jumping on and off the bed wanting Malcolm to get up.  There is no rest for the wicked,  Malcolm still has til’ the evening before I’ll be home.

While the rain has abated to a slight sprinkle – the roads are still muddy.  This will be the third day in a row without a walk.  Malcolm hasn’t talked to an adult in 72 hours and wants only to drink his Coca-Cola with pure cane sugar and read the newspaper in peace.  Still in my business attire, I arrive home early evening…

The girls hear my car come down the driveway and immediately start to bark, alerting Malcolm to the possibility of my return.  Malcolm becomes the stereotyped housewife who hands the baby over to dad as he walks into the house from a hard day’s work.  He clicks open the garage door, letting two one hundred pound super-charged and super-hyper canines out to greet me.  I call it the welcome attack!  Dolce has literally jumped in my arms – mud and wet dog hair attaching to my once clean trousers and suit jacket.  Amore has pawed her way between Dolce and myself, inserting her body between, over, and under any arm that could and would pet her.  Nylons are shredded, purse is dumped into a shallow puddle of left over rain water, briefcase now has a muddy paw print on the left side, my eyeglasses are a skewed from being bumped by Dolce and Malcolm has barricaded himself in the den, armed with the newspaper and a glass full of shaved ice and Coca-Cola – door locked with a “do not disturb” card stolen from a hotel on the door knob.  It takes me 10 minutes to make a path inside the house, dogs in tow and another 45 minutes to calm down the heathens. Welcome home!

Malcolm didn’t surface for an appearance for three hours.

 

 

 

Goodbye Summer – goodbye grill

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I’ve decided the girls will eat anything – even tomatoes!

Home-grown tomatoes are always a treat and always accepted graciously…

We had been given some home-grown tomatoes while visiting at a friend’s house.  On the way home, I stopped the car at the top of our driveway to get the mail, leaving Dolce and Amore in the car.  As our mailbox is directly across the dirt road from our driveway, I put the car in park, set the brake and hopped out to quickly to retrieve our mail.  We do this all the time.  It only takes a few seconds.  But a few seconds is all the girls needed to chow down on 4 of the 5 just picked off the vine, tomatoes.  Leaving us one precious juicy red tomato.  It was obviously Malcolm and I were going to have to share.  Not a good scenario when both of us are the youngest of many siblings.

Coming from a household that used the adage, “You cut, I pick” to stop fights over who got the biggest piece of pie, I knew this wasn’t good.  Malcolm is from the south and home-grown tomatoes are as sacred as Sunday after Church fried chicken.  As I prepared dinner, I looked at the surviving tomato, checking out the misshapen size with the deep valleys and divots.  I realized I would be able to fool Malcolm into picking the “short-end of the stick” half of the tomato.  Score:  Megan 1 – Malcolm 0   And, no, I probably won’t be going to heaven!

Grilled Tomatoes

This grilled vegetable goes great with bbq steak!

  • 1/2 cup low-fat sour cream
  • 2 tbsp. low-fat buttermilk
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. anchovy past
  • fresh lemon juice (1/2 lemon)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp. cayenne
  • 1 tbsp. fresh tarragon
  • 1 tbsp. fresh parsley
  • 1 tbsp. fresh chives
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 beefsteak tomatoes, cored and cut in half

Preheat the grill to high.

Blend the first seven ingredients together in a bowl.  Snip the chives with a scissor (or cut with a knife) over a cutting board.  Add the tarragon and parsley with the chives and finely chop.  Stir into the sour cream mixture and let stand at room temperature for 15 – 20 minutes.

Cut tomatoes in half and drizzle open sides with the olive oil, season with salt and pepper.

Place tomatoes on the hot grill, cut side down, until softened and slightly charred, 8-9 minutes.  Carefully remove from the grill and serve warm, topped with a tablespoon of the sour cream mixture.

Happy Birthday! shasta, cherry, butterfly, tough guy, big apple, little apple, pinkie & polka dot

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Today our little liter puppies turn 28 years old, or for those that aren’t good at division – four years old!  I remember when we bred Tiamo….

A very pregnant mama!

We had located a male Berner that was intact and waited until Tiamo was two years old, we had done all the tests and sent them off to OFA for evaluation. The wait was on for Tiamo to enter into her heat cycle.  Right before 4th of July she was ready!  Talk about fireworks, we brought her to her new boyfriend and it was love at first sight.  Five weeks later, I brought Tiamo to the vet for an ultrasound to confirm her pregnancy.  I was told she would have four pups and she should have her little ones around Labor Day. After the vet visit, I stopped at the pet store and bought 4 little collars wrapping them in tissue.  When we got home, Tiamo carried the tissue wrapped collars right up to Malcolm and dropped the package onto his lap.  She then nudged Malcolm in the leg until he unwrapped his gift.  It only took a nano-second for Malcolm to figure out it was official.  Tiamo was pregnant!  Both Malcolm and Tiamo had huge grins on their faces!

Tiamo had an easy pregnancy.  Every night while she was preggers, she would crawl up next to me, snuggle in, roll over and get her belly rubbed.  As August inched closer to September, Malcolm and I built Tiamo a whelping pen,  got towels and blankets ready for the big event,  and waited.  I counted the days off on the calendar so we could narrow down the date she should go into labor and prayed I would be home when she started.   Tiamo was getting bigger and bigger and bigger.  She was so uncomfortable that for the first time she couldn’t get up on the couch.  I resorted to laying down on the hard brick floor with her to rub her belly.  I wanted her to have a normal birthing experience.  I had read horror stories of dogs going into labor at 2 in the morning.  I read about emergency c-sections and puppies not making it.  I think Malcolm and I were more nervous than Tiamo was.

The first Friday of September, out of the clear blue, Tiamo crawled into her whelping pen.  She sniffed all the corners, rearranged the blankets and slept in the pen all night.  She knew the pen was for her!  The next morning, she started doing the nesting routine and at 9:00 a.m. her water broke.  Bless her heart, our sweet mama had waited until mid-morning on the weekend to have her little pups.  Within an hour, the first pup had been born, hale and healthy.  Tiamo instinctively did her job.  Every hour hence, Tiamo’s contractions would push a new little pup into the world.  At 1:00 p.m. she was done.  Four girls!  Licked clean and learning how to nurse.  Tiamo welcomed her little girls into their new world and settled into motherhood.  About three hours later, Tiamo started getting restless,  turning around in circles and being agitated.   Lord have mercy! she was having another puppy, and another and another and another!  Again, like clock work, every hour, another puppy would arrive.  Eight!  She had eight puppies!  Seven girls and one boy!  All this time we thought she was going to keep it at four!  Mother and puppies were all healthy and doing great.  They all were nursing, they all were warm, they were all clean.  The puppies were weighed and documented and were sound asleep.  We were exhausted.

Tiamo was the proudest mother.  She loved showing off her brood.  The neighborhood was so excited we had to set up visiting hours.  Tiamo stayed with her liter all day and night except for when she needed to go outside.   The puppies were rapidly growing and getting more active.  By week two their eyes were starting to open and by week three, Shasta (aka Amore) was trying to climb out of the whelping pen.  Life as we knew it was over!

tail count – 8

We had homes for the first four puppies, however, we were now scrambling to find placement for the others.  By the second week of November, the puppies were leaving for their next adventure.  All but two pups had families eagerly waiting for them. We had always planned on keeping one of Tiamo puppies and now we had two.  Shasta and Pinkie. Amore and Dolce.  We would find a family that wanted a puppy and for some reason or another, at the last-minute they wouldn’t be able to take her.  A week turned into a month, around Christmas time, Malcolm and I looked at each and knew we couldn’t give away our extra little girl.  We decided to keep two puppies! It was a Christmas gift to ourselves.  A type of  “to-me-from-me” present.   Three dogs:  Mama and her two adventurous puppies!  All spoiled!  Wow!  Little did we know the upheaval three dogs would bring!

Would we do it all over again?  may be not.  Would we change one second of the last four years?  Never!  Tiamo and her two little girls have brought so much joy into our lives, so much adventure, so many smiles to our hearts.  Malcolm swears if we ever win the lotto, he is going to get 10 Bernese Mountain Dogs and breed every one of them.  To Tiamo’s last day, she received a daily belly rub.  To this day – Happy Birthday Girls!

! Hot Tamale !

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Dolce sliding down the hill

I’ve noticed the weather is juuusst baarrrrely starting to turn a little bit nippier.  The nights are cooler, mornings crisp, the days not as warm.  The girls are noticing the weather change as well.  Usually, in the hot days of summer, they tend to be a bit sluggish.  This past week has seen cooler days and they are rearing to go, eager for their hikes at the Galisteo Basin Preserve.  Bernese Mountain Dogs are cold weather canines, they have a double coat that keeps them insulated and warm, allowing snow play to be a daily activity.  As summer fades into fall, the girls instinctively know snow is soon to come.  Whoa Nellie!  they are way tooo excited!

Our dogs love the colder weather.  There is nothing like a 20 degree, blistering cold, clear blue sky day with some snow on the ground to get the dogs going.  On those days, they are full of  #*&%(^&*$  and vinegar!  They absolutely LOVE snow!  Especially Dolce and Amore.  They find a small hill, scramble to the top and slide down on their bellies, like a free ride at the fair!  And then they race back up to the top to slide down again.  They will sniff out a clean patch of white stuff and make snow angels, rolling over on their backs and wiggling in the snow.  A favorite is to nip at the powder as they tear down the trail.  When there is fresh snow , they try to be the first to break trail, jumping through the snow like deer springing over tall grass.  Snow wrestling is a daily game played by the girls.  An outdoor sport only to be brought indoors so they can shake the snow off their fur coats and onto the furnishings. There is never a clean floor when there is snow!   By the end of the day, they are tuckered out –  and as I’ve always said, “a tired dog is a happy owner”!

Cold weather brings yearnings for roasted green chili and hot soup .  A favorite of mine is Hot Tamale and Tortilla Soup.  Tamales are great any time of the year but especially good in the early fall during chili harvest.

HOT TAMALE & TORTILLA SOUP

  • 1 lb. cooked, boneless chicken meat (I buy a roasted chicken and pull the meat off)
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) butter
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1/2 cup roasted green chili, diced  (best time to buy green chili is in August/September when vendors heat up their roaster, set up shop in a parking lot and sell roasted peppers hot off the fire)
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 – 1/2 cups crushed unsalted tortilla chips
  • 2 tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 tbsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 2 – 14 1/2 oz. cans low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 – 14 oz. can tomatoes, chopped with juices
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream
  • 1 cup grated Monterey Jack Cheese
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 12 purchased tamales (chicken)
  • 1 15 oz. can pinto beans, rinsed & drained
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels

GARNISH

  • 1 cup tomato, diced
  • 1/2 cup green onions, finely chopped
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • crushed tortilla chips

Heat a large heavy saucepan over medium-high heat.  Melt butter and add the onions, bell pepper,  celery, roasted green chili, and garlic, cooking until softened and translucent.  Add cooked chicken, tortilla chips, spices, broth and tomatoes.  Cover and let simmer for 30-45 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat tamales according to the package instructions.

Add beans and corn kernels into soup mixture, stirring to blend.  Continue to simmer for another 15-20 minutes.  Add cream, Monterey Jack cheese and cheddar cheese and stir until cheese has melted and is well blended.  Season soup with salt and pepper to taste.

Place a tamale (or two) into the bottom of each soup bowl.  Ladle soup over the tamale into the bowl.  Garnish with diced tomato, green onions, shredded cheese and crushed tortilla chips.

Can be prepared 1 day ahead.  Cover tightly and refrigerate.

 

 

 

 

Who’s who….?

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People often ask us how we tell the “girls” apart. Sometimes even we get confused.

Of course, this usually resulted in Dolce being accused of something Amore did or Tiamo getting away with a no-no. When they were puppies, we never knew which one had committed the crime. Today we know they are all in cahoots together.

Tiamo, the mother, had a deep-barreled chest and a more queenly stature. She had a prance in her walk, like a model walking down the catwalk. She will always be our “girl.”

Amore has a bit more spice in her personality. Always on the go, always has to run. She is the one who gulps her food down the fastest and the one who has seen the vet’s office the most.

Dolce is our sweetheart. With a thin white stripe on her forehead and almost no white on her tail, Dolce likes to hang with the old folks but is always first out the door and in the car.

… So, if you don’t know which dog is with you, just love the one you’re with.

Hello world!

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In my past life, I owned a catering business where people often asked me how I learned to cook.

My father, a cattle rancher from the central coast of California, was one of the originators of the “Santa Maria-style BBQ” back in the 1950s. He was fortunate to be able to combine his love of food with his gift for gab; weekends often included invitations to dinner for friends and neighbors. Dad would barbeque his famous beef tri-tips and mother would put us kids to work in the kitchen, making salads, beans and casseroles. It was the start of my cooking lessons.

Years later, I started catering on my own and opened my business, Divine Bovine. I custom-catered small cocktail parties, fancy galas, annual dinners, intimate dinners for two and fundraising events for 750 attendees. I catered lunch for Al Gore, then Vice President of the United States; other congressmen and political hopefuls; Steve Young, quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers; and a very close friend of Julia Child. I gave cooking lessons to children and taught cooking classes for adults, all with standing room only. Rarely did I serve the same entrée twice.

Three file cabinets crammed with recipes and 237 cookbooks later, I closed my catering business, married the love of my life and moved to New Mexico. I swore I would never work nights, weekends or holidays again.

Little did I know how that would change the minute I gave my husband a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy for his 50th birthday. Named Tiamo, the newest member of our family had us wrapped around every one of her paws within five minutes of bringing her home. Every day was an adventure for Tiamo: there were books to chew, magazines to rip up and wooden spoons to carry from room to room. Friends would fight over who held Tiamo’s leash on walks. Neighborhood kids would randomly drop by to pet her. She was the darling of the community and our hearts.

Tiamo knew not to beg for table scraps, but she was quick to lick up any tasty tidbit that fell to the floor. We learned Tiamo had a keen ability to counter-surf, quickly and quietly. Cartons of cream would go missing, only to be found empty in another room. Cookies cooling on racks would be one fewer of a dozen. Licked-clean butter plates would be discovered under couch pillows. Then she was busted — caught in the act with one paw reaching for the goods! At two in the morning, we were awakened by a big crash; Tiamo had crawled up on the kitchen table to lick up crumbs.Anyone who has ever owned a dog has had a similar experience: turning your back for just a few minutes, resulting in missing ingredients while cooking and a look that says, “Who, me?”

My love of cooking for family, friends, and my enjoyment of Tiamo’s humorous antics while sniffing for a fallen crumb has produced a cookbook designed to bring compliments to the chef and smiles from the cook … along with a tasty morsel for your dog.

Yes, cooking and dogs do go together. A stray dog hair never hurt anyone!