the fisherman

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tilting at the windmill

The Galisteo Basin Preserve was once a large cattle ranch.   It is miles of cow trails, rutted dirt roads and nature.  Old cowboy camps and lean tos dot the countryside with broken-down foundation remains and falling-down corrals.  A dry river bed runs through the ranch, it’s eroded banks reaching as high as twenty-to-thirty feet above the sandy river floor in some places.  I know of three windmills with water troughs at their base, their blades creaking against the wind as the pump struggles to pull up water for the trough.  All combined, it is a rustic reminder of its western heritage and the old frontier.

Just a few miles from our home, the GBP is now a hiker’s mecca.  It’s a horse and rider’s trail workout and mountain biker’s nirvana.  It’s where we take the girls for their daily walks.

Our first few experiences at the Preserve were riddled with adventure.  As Amore scouted for lizards, Tiamo trotted along sniffing every low hanging branch there was.  Dolce stayed at our heels.  New trails brought new scents and the girls would scatter about to investigate the foreign territory.  Once or twice we will catch sight of a coyote, several times we have crossed paths with snakes.  We’ve seen evidence of antelope and deer and have heard of sightings of mountain lions.  The easy access to water makes the area ideal for wildlife.  And koi.

The dogs had a habit of drinking the trough water at the tail end of our hikes.  Though we packed water with us to keep the girls hydrated throughout our walks, they like the cold, fresh from the well, water.  We make a point to stop at the troughs before loading up into the car, allowing the girls one last sip.

It was on a cold, drizzly January day, the wind kicking up due to an incoming storm, when we were trying to get a quick walk in before being hit with the impending deluge.  As we finished our hike and neared the water trough, Tiamo ran ahead to get her fill.  At the edge of the trough she stilled, looking intently into the darkened mossy water.  We saw she was tracking something but had no idea what.  Her quick eyes had spotted movement and she was on it. Waiting just a few seconds, she moved her head in a little circle and before we knew it, leaped over the rim into the water trough.  Icy cold water splashed heavily over the sides.   Large water droplets landing on both Malcolm and I.  Cold, freezing ucky water  soaking our sweatshirts.  The wake of her splash landing on our boots.

“What the hell?” Malcolm shouted.  With a death grip, I grabbed on to the collars of Amore and Dolce, the only foot-loose canines left on dry land.  I wasn’t about to let Amore and Dolce follow into the trough along with mama.  Malcolm scrambled to get to Tiamo.  Once in the trough, Tiamo didn’t want to get out.  She had more fish to fry.  Literally.  Namely the koi hiding deep in the bottom moss of the water tank.  Tiamo had gone fishing.

As I held on to the girls, Malcolm struggled to haul Tiamo out of the water.  Jumping in was much easier than climbing out.  The rim was nothing more than a sharp torch-cut metal edge, hurtful for Tiamo to balance her paws on to jump out.  The weight of the water, the slippery moss-covered bottom hindered her escape from the cold water.  She was stuck.  She was completely soaked, now trembling from the frigid water.   The koi forgotten, she wanted out.

There was no two ways about it.  Malcolm was going to have to lift her out.  He was going to have to reach in the finger-numbing icy water to pull Tiamo out.  Cussing like a sailor, Malc stripped off his jacket and sweatshirt, pulled off his gloves and plunged his arms into the water, encircling Tiamo’s belly to heft her out of the water.  100 pounds of basically full on dead weight – this was not going to be an easy feat.  As she was clearing the water Tiamo panicked.  Back legs kicking, front paws scratching Malcolm’s bare torso, Tiamo twisted and turned for freedom.  Malcolm and Tiamo landed on dry land but both were soaking wet.  And freezing.  And stinky from the stagnant waters.  Malcolm was covered in stinky mossy uck.  Tiamo just stunk.

Needless to say, I drove home, Malcolm sat in the back with the dogs.

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Dolce scouting for goldfish

 

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Brats

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“Get your elbows off the table!” my mother scolded.  She was always after us kids to mind our P’s and Q’s, reminding us to say “please”, “thank you”, and “yes, Sir”.  Dinners were lessons in the napkin goes on the left, the glass in the upper right corner, spoon to the right of the knife facing inwards towards the plate.  Reprimands of “don’t chew with your mouth open” and “don’t talk with your mouth full” were dispersed between the meal’s conversation.  My mom was big on manners.  Over and over and over mother would admonish our unbecoming behavior.

The lectures didn’t come to a stop when one by one, we matured into adults.  They just took a different slant.  “Take your feet off the furniture!” she would chastise my sisters and I when we would come to visit.  As the grandbabies started arriving, we were chided for our language, “not in front of the kids” mom would caution as a swear word slipped out of our mouths. I have no doubt we caused her many embarrassing moments with our inappropriate, or lack of, etiquette.  “You just wait until you have kids!” was mother’s final reproach to us.

My past regressions are coming to haunt me, cause now Malcolm and I have kids, or rather dogs (same thing).  And talk about embarrassing!

Tiamo was so good, so well-behaved, Malc and I just assumed her good manners would rub off on the pups.  Tiamo never begged or whined when company was over.  Tiamo never mis-behaved while out in public.  We had worked hard in her training, repeating commands, rewarding her good behavior.   She sat, she came, she heeled.  She stayed, she stayed off the bed and she stayed close to our side when walking.  She was damn near perfect!

When the puppies were born,  we morphed from a family of three to a fledgling football team of eleven.  Overnight.  Spring Training consisted of performing head-counts twice a day to be sure we still had our team intact.  On a sunny day, we exercised the puppies in the pen.  On a cold day, they ran amok in the house.  We held on tightly to the belief that when the puppies were traded to their new home-camp, they would receive the proper training.  That, once we were down to Mama, Amore and Dolce we would get to work on their end-game.

However, once we were down to just Tiamo, Amore and Dolce training halted.  Came to a complete stop, occasionally back pedaling.  The coaches had thrown in the towel.

Don’t get me wrong, we tried.  We tried really hard.  With treats, Amore and Dolce learned how to sit.  With arms of steel, a heavy ballast, and treats in our pockets, they learned to walk by our sides.  With a whistle and a treat in hand, they learned to come…  well, mostly come…. okay, sometimes they come, sometimes they don’t, mostly they don’t.   Everything else we tried was useless.  We tried the STAY command.  The DOWN command.  The OFF command.  The HERE and WALK.  The pat on the thigh, the out-stretched hand, the hand-held up and out.  We tried the clicker.  We tried separating them with individual workout sessions.  We paid for trainers, enrolled in behavior classes.  I tried to mimic my mother’s stern voice.  I tried the full name reprimand including the middle name like my mother when she was upset with us.   Nothing worked.

My famous saying to Malcolm was, “when the girls turn 6 months”,  they’ll be better with their manners.  They just need time, they are still puppies.  That turned into “when Amore and Dolce are a year old”, they’ll be more mature, better able to handle the training.  They needed to grow out of their puppy stage.  That turned into “let’s wait until the puppies are around 18 months”  before we expect to a see difference.  Then, I pushed the time frame out further.  “Maybe when they are 3 years old”, Amore and Dolce will be better mannered, more behaved.

They turn six years old in a month.  They only know “sit”, “down” and “off” and not very well at that.  And Amore still picks her nose.

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so god made a dog

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It starts with a tiny whimper, a small murmur barely audible to our human ears.  The slight quaking of Amore’s front fore legs is, at first, scarcely discernible underneath her thick feathery fur.  Amore’s apprehension and anxiety quickly escalates into deep, heavy panting and full body tremors, along with wide-eyed panic and fright.  All caused by thunder. Thunder and lightning.

Up until a year ago, Amore would sleep right through the loud clashing of thunder.  Up until a year ago, the rumble of thunderstorms, the whip of lightning didn’t bother her.  Up until a year ago, Amore was fine with the summer storms that rolled over our high desert. Today it’s a different story.

Today, Amore’s fear from the loud crack of lightning sends her into terrifying distress.  Today, her terror and fear of a storm can last long after the billowing dark clouds have passed.  It’s heartrending to witness.  Her terror and anguish is agonizing to watch.  We’ve tried everything.  Thunder shirts, calming music, distractions, car drives.  We have read articles and books and talked to experts to learn how to minimize and/or eliminate her fear.  Nothing seems works but to wait it out, giving her time to calm down while the tempest blows by.

July marks the start of our monsoon season and right on cue, our monsoon rains came within days after the calendar flipped to the seventh month.  This Fourth of July weekend brought a series of rains, cool relief from the hot temperatures of summer.  But with the rains came thunder and lightning, and on it’s heels, came Amore’s shaking and rapid breathing,  her anxiety palatable.  By late Sunday afternoon another storm was rolling through, the growl and grumble of thunder far in the background was faint and distant.  Amore’s keen hearing distinguished the thunder.  Fear gathered in her brown eyes as she quickly recognized the rumble.  The tremors already starting as terror locked in on her body.

Malcolm and I instinctively knew this time it was going to be a bad one.  Malcolm hurried to retrieve the thunder shirt as I went towards Amore.  Before I could reach her shaking frame, before I could take two steps forward, Dolce was already there besides Amore, offering her comfort and love.

As obvious dog lovers, Malcolm and I understand the joy and comfort dogs give humans.  We know how rehab dogs can help patients heal, both physically and mentally.  We are aware that canines can sense the onset of seizures and depression and assist their owners.  Dogs give and give and give and give some more to their loved ones.  They are a comfort to our soul, a balm to our weary hearts. They can pack more smiles in the wag of their tail then a kid in a candy store. Loyal, a trusted companion, without judgement, they are man’s best friend.  We understand why god made a dog.

So when Malcolm and I saw Dolce come along side of Amore, leaning against her to give relief, we froze in place to observe.  We watched in awe as Dolce nudged her litter mate, reassuring Amore that all would be okay. We watched Dolce as she licked away at Amore’s mental fear and pain.  We watched Dolce place a gentle paw on a quivering Amore to calm her, soothe her.  Dolce’s paw stayed on Amore shoulder for over ten minutes before the shaking began to still.  We watched Dolce lean against her sister for more than a half-hour, easing Amore’s anguish, absorbing her fear.  We watched Dolce give peace to her sibling.  Watching Dolce give comfort, we understand why god made a dog.

So God made a dog……

Video by webartads   http://www.youtube.com/user/webartads

 

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You choose!

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Help!

I’m sending out an S.O.S. to all of you.

I need your help!  Help me choose the best photo from the final round of photo edits.  How do you choose the absolute best Kodak moment? How do you pick just one photo out of literally hundreds of images when they all have special meaning?  Especially when each impression, each picture is so expressive.   Here’s where you get to help.

After sorting through over 800 plus photos of the girls, I was able to narrow down the first round of cuts to over 60 pictures.  The second round of edits was much harder.  I scrutinized the pics over and over.  I agonized over similar images, clicking back and forth and back and forth before finally making the selection.  I would click for a larger view, toggle back to the other photo, resort the order, review the pictures again, place the images side by side and then chanted, “enny, meanny, minny moe”.  The final click deleted the next 45 or so of puppy pics.

Leaving the last round of selecting the best photo to you.

The past five months between work, travel and life, I started writing another book.  I know, I know, am I crazy or what?  But crazy or not, I’m at the “designing the cover” stage and need your assistance.  Scroll down and view the final round of possible cover pictures.  Imagine each photo on the cover of a dog tale story and place your vote!  Leave a comment, offer your reasons, or suggest something different.  Let me know your thoughts.

To help you, here is a brief description of my soon-to-be published book.

Meet Tiamo, Amore and Dolce; three, 100 pound, beautiful Bernese Mountain Dogs, whose adorable, funny antics will bring chuckles and smiles and sometimes a few tears as you read their tales.  True stories, hilarious escapades, and entertaining dog adventures, all chronicling their heartwarming, and many times, humorous capers…. along with their playful frolics that often land our fearless canines in the dog house. Touching and tender, amusing and comical, these moving narratives and snippets of their lives impart bow-wow wisdom and show the loyalty and love between man’s best friend and their care-tenders.

Photo 1 - Amore and Dolce

Photo 1 – Amore and Dolce

Photo 2 - Amore

Photo 2 – Amore

Photo 3 - Amore

Photo 3 – Amore

Photo 4 - Amore

Photo 4 – Amore

Photo 5 - the three musketeers

Photo 5 – the three musketeers

Photo 6 - Amore and Dolce

Photo 6 – Amore and Dolce

Photo 7 - Amore and Dolce

Photo 7 – Amore and Dolce

Photo 8 - Dolce

Photo 8 – Dolce

Photo 9 - Amore

Photo 9 – Amore

Photo 10 - Amore and Dolce

Photo 10 – Amore and Dolce

Photo 11 - Amore

Photo 11 – Amore

Photo 12 - Amore

Photo 12 – Amore

Photo 13 - Amore

Photo 13 – Amore

Please vote for your favorite photo

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shotgun!

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“Shotgun!” my nephew shouted as he ran in front of his siblings, edging them out of the opportunity to sit in the front of the car.  He was all of ten years old at the time, but could outrun his sisters.  Riding shotgun has probably started and/or caused more fights among children than anything else.

“You had it last time” cried his younger sister.  It’s my turn!”

“I was here first!” he taunted back. “First come, first serve!” he added for good measure as he quickly jumped in the front seat and buckled up.  He wasn’t budging.  And so the childish argument starts, only to continue again on the next trip in the car.

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Dolce and Amore loading up in the SUV

Dolce and Amore have the same disagreement over who gets dibs to sit in the front of the car.  It’s a sure bet, Dolce will be in the car, haunches down in the front passenger seat before Amore has even thought about jumping up into the car.  Safely ensconced deep into the bucket seat, Dolce has squatter’s rights in the front.  Until there is a passenger.  Or another canine that wants the same piece of vehicle territory.  We are talking prime real estate here and it comes with a price.

For the first four years of Dolce and Amore’s life, if I was riding along on the trip, I usually had a dog in my lap.  Most likely it was Dolce.  Tiamo would position herself in the middle of the back seat, peering through the two front seats, enjoying the air conditioning that blew towards her between the valley of the front bucket seats.  In deference to Mama, Amore tucked herself way in the back of the SUV.

Dolce riding shotgun!

Dolce riding shotgun!

The sitting dynamics changed drastically once there were only two dogs along for the ride.  Boy did it change!  Amore decided she had enough of sitting in the back-end of the car and it was time to move up front.  Once she made her decision, she didn’t let anything stop her.  It didn’t matter that I was already sitting in the chair, she didn’t care that Dolce was already in my lap.  In Amore’s mind, it was time for a change.  There was a new sheriff in town and there was going to be a shift in the sitting arrangements.  The names on the place cards were to be rewritten.  Now.

It so happened on the day Amore came to the conclusion it was her turn to ride shotgun, I was coming along as well.  We were only going to the market a few miles up the road for a few items for dinner.  I told Malcolm to let me get in the car first, so I could buckle up before he let the dogs in, I then gave him the nod of “okay” once I was situated in the seat.  He called to the girls and the race was on!  Dolce shot ahead of Amore in her rabid eagerness to be on my lap.  She plopped herself down across my lap, her back-end hanging over the middle console, her head already poking out of the open window.  Only this time, Amore had designs on front.  Before Malcolm had a chance to arrange himself in the front driver’s seat, Amore had jumped in his place.  Though Malcolm patiently ordered Amore to move,  Amore had other plans.  Oh, she moved all right.  She moved right across the console onto the edge of my seat, pushing Dolce down into the floorboard of the car.  It wasn’t a good move.  I now had two huge dogs in the front passenger seat with me somewhere underneath it all.  Fur, paws and tails covered me.  Dolce was spitting mad she had been usurped from her perch.  Amore was gloating she had outmaneuvered Dolce.  The childish argument began, a canine fight ensued.  I was caught in the middle of it.

Several paw scratches later, I ended up with Amore on my lap and Dolce sulking in the back.  She was so upset she had lost her shotgun status, that she wasn’t on my lap, she barked the whole way up to the grocery store, sharing with us her great displeasure.  She balefully eyed me from the back of the car.  I had turned traitor on her, allowing Amore in her seat. Dolce was one mad mutt.

A disgruntled Dolce sitting in the back

A disgruntled Dolce sitting in the back

On the return trip home, I decided I would sit in the back seat to avoid all shotgun squabbles.  Dolce was only slightly mollified.  She liked the idea of being next to be in the back but she still was not happy with the new seating arrangements.  Amore’s gloating had dimmed greatly.  With me now in the back, she wasn’t so sure she liked her sibling sitting so close to me, she was sure that Dolce would get something she wouldn’t.  Her distrust was evident.

Amore peeking from the front sure that something better is happening in the back

Amore peeking from the front sure that something better is happening in the back

The two have grudgingly learned to share riding shotgun.  Sometimes sitting side by side, scrunched together in the front seat.  It’s a tight fit, with neither willing to give up their chair.  Neither budging.  Sometimes, one of them cries “uncle” and retreats to the back bench.  Once in a while both will forfeit the passenger side, deciding to enjoy the ride in the back back.

I now sit in the back with a bag of doggy treats to soothe the ruffled fur of the displaced mutt.

betcha can’t…

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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.

 

 

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let’s get Mikey to try it

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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.

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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.

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Articles of Incorporation

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DOLCE & AMORE BERNESE MOUNTAIN DOG, INC.

ARTICLES OF INCORPORATION

Article one in the Dolce and Amore Bernese Mountain Dog Articles of Incorporation states feeding time is at five. 5:00 o’clock.  Am and pm.  Morning and night.  Sunrise and sunset, it’s the standardized feeding time.  There is no deviation.  There is no fudging on the time.  No sleeping in, no rolling over for another five minutes of extra sleep. There are no “just a minute” or “hang on a sec” comments.  Come 5 o’clock its din-din time.  There is no delay, even when daylight savings time flickers on and off.  When the day’s timer chimes 5:00 o’clock, it is chow time!  NOW!

There are rules and regs to follow at feeding time. Policy set.  Bylaws to uphold.   5:00 a.m. and p.m. feeding time is just the start of a long list of statues.  I make Dolce and Amore sit before I place their bowls into their stands.  Dolce first, then Amore. Well trained, Dolce has this rule down pat.  Her hind end touching the floor and staying put before I’ve even picked up her feed bowl. Wiggling and anxious, she understands policy.   Dolce recognizes by obeying the directives set forth by Malcolm and I, she’ll get fed that much quicker, that much faster. For Dolce, it’s all about the food and she’ll do anything for food.  She is our law-abiding canine, always following the speed limit.

Now, Amore is another story.  She already has quite a few violations on her record, her rap sheet multiple pages long.  She doesn’t believe in law and order and she definitely doesn’t believe in sitting first.  To her, it’s a waste of time.  Give her the food bowl and go away.  She’ll sit if she knows we are watching her, waiting, but it’s truly a half-ass attempt.  Her hind quarters don’t even graze the surface of the bricks.  It’s more on par with the California Hollywood Roll as you go through a stop sign.

Article two demands all dog food is manufactured by the finest processors.  Measured into equal amounts, treated with extra tasty nibbles, each dog bowl must be prepared by a professionally trained canine sous chef.  Translation:  Food prep starts an hour prior to the feeding schedule.  Using filtered water to moisten the kibbles, mixed in leftover broccoli stems to enhance the flavor and topped with a dollop of peanut butter, per the AOI’s, Dolce and Amore are well fed.

Article two is like the USDA:  ensuring all dog food that is consumed is safe, nutritious and sustainable, thus establishing and enforcing regulations about food handing and preparation.  All Article two has done is enable Dolce to become our resident peanut butter slut dog.  Dolce will do anything for some Skippy.  Just say “Yippy-Skippy” and she is on her back, paws in the air, doing her tricks.

Article three of the AOI states no watching.  No spy cams.  No radar.  Amore hates to be under the camera when she eats.  She’ll put her head down, muzzle ready to grab a bite, her eyes roving left and right checking for Big Brother.  Always on the look out for cops.   Heedful of the speed trap.  Regulations demand caregivers to step back five plus paces behind, out of visual range.  Mind the GAP.  Back away.

Article four is all about inspections. After polishing off their food bowls to a shiny and empty bottom, Dolce and Amore reserve the right to examine the other’s food bowl.  Haste makes waste and there is nothing the girls hate more than waste.  Bowl inspections safeguards against uneaten food, protects against surplus broccoli stems and eliminates any extra leftovers.  The first to finish their meal allows for additional time to search out remaining food scraps in the other’s bowl.  As Dolce heads over to Amore’s bowl, Amore is rapidly moving towards Dolce’s bin.  Muzzles are searching for one last bite, one last morsel, one more crumb. Food bowl inspections are a carefully orchestrated ploy to out maneuver the other canine for one more bite.  When it comes to food bowl inspections, the USDA has nothing on the canine,

Article five is the last and sums up the in-between time.  The minutes between the a.m. and the p.m.  The hours between the sun up and the sunset.  The important part.  The TREATS!  Ah yes, both Dolce and Amore have riders in their contract for the good stuff: pig ears, chew sticks, milk bones and dog cookies.  The household policy is to limit their in-take of doggy treats.  Good manners and good behavior will garner a dog cookie.  A trip to the pet store might merit a pig ear.  Article four is based solely on budgetary means and spare change.  And if I’m in a good mood.  And usually only adhered to on weekends and holidays.

As employed staff, it is Malcolm’s and my primary responsibility, concern and purpose to ensure that all dog food is manufactured and consumed by the 5:00 o’clock mark on the day’s timer.  Treats are optional.

 

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poor Malcolm

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Guarding her treasurer

Tiamo’s favorite – a peanut butter filled KONG

Whenever we have company visiting, especially those guests with children, I try to have some type of cookie or snack ready. Something sweet, something special for the little ones.  I  usually have to whack Malcolm’s fingers  with the wooden spoon, as he tries to steal a cookie before company arrives, saving them for the kids.  Malcolm has appointed himself as the resident taster and feels he gets first bite of any sweets.  And if that doesn’t work, he calls his stealth of a cookie the “Malcolm TAX”, owed to him by virtue of him being “Malcolm”.

When our nephew Sam came around, I made sure the cookie bin was always full.  By the weekend’s end, as he was getting ready to leave, the cookies would be depleted to just a few left.  I would send him off with a bag of “left-overs”, the few cookies still uneaten  a part of his care-package.  Malcolm was always tweaked that I gave the cookies away.

When our Dennis the Menace neighborhood kid, came over to play with Tiamo and her eight little puppies, I would keep extra treats hidden in the garage freezer (hidden so well, even Malcolm didn’t know they were there!) ready for him to enjoy.  When the puppies outgrew their yelping pen, we moved the litter into the garage where we built a huge pen.  The pen took up the whole garage, everything pushed to the perimeters to make room.  “Dennis” had permission to come on over to our house and head out to the garage to play with the kids.  After a couple of play sessions, I noticed that every time, “Dennis” left, a box or a chair was always moved over by the refrigerator/freezer.

Naturally, I assumed Malcolm was moving things around in the garage and left the box there.  Malcolm figured I used the chair to sit with Tiamo and her kids.  It took about a two weeks before I realized “Dennis” was using the chair to climb up on to reach the top freezer and grab some cookies for his pocket before he left.   “Dennis” was double dipping!  He would enjoy a treat when he first arrived and he would enjoy several as he was leaving!

When I baked cookies for work, Malcolm would complain I only baked for others, that he never got to enjoy the bounty.  Unfortunately, he was right.  I didn’t bake for just us – I baked for others.  So one weekend, I decided I would bake a batch of his favorites.  Peanut Butter Cookies.  Made with Skippy’s Chunky Peanut Butter.  Not Jif.  The old-fashioned kind of peanut butter cookies with cris-cross fork tyne indents on the top.  I made a double-batch so I could freeze some for later.  The kitchen air was filled with a warm peanut butter scent as I pulled the baking sheets filled with the golden brown cookies fresh out of the oven.  I gently transferred the cookies to the cooling racks.  Malcolm was outside in the back watering, so I grabbed a few still warm cookies, wrapped them up in a paper napkin and brought the tasty cookies out to him.  I’d do kitchen clean up after Malcolm had a chance to eat some cookies.

I wasn’t gone long, maybe four to five minutes at most.  Long enough to walk down to where Malcolm had water running on the Purple Robe Locust trees around back, hand him his treats and head back up to the house to wash up.  Tiamo joined me as I delivered the fresh-out-of-the-oven cookies to Malcolm, running out of the house ahead of me.  As she was in the habit of doing, Tiamo wandered off as I chit-chatted with Malcolm.  As I  turned to walk back up to the house, I told Malcolm I was going to leave Tiamo with him.  She wouldn’t run off and she loved to be with Malcolm outdoors.

I entered the kitchen, gathering the dirty baking utensils to wash.  I bent down to pull out a zip-lock bag from a bottom drawer to freeze the cookies, turned to the corner counter to pack up the cookies and froze.  A cooling rack was laying haphazardly against the brick floor.  My eyes quickly looked up to the counter.  All of the cookies were gone.  ALL of them!  GONE!  The remaining cooling racks were empty.  One rack on the floor, one half-off the counter, the last one pushed back against the back counter wall.  The only evidence of any cookies were a few cookie crumbs left on the counter.

Tiamo hadn’t just wandered off, she had snuck back into the house while I was with Malcolm and ate all the peanut butter cookies.  Every last one! Finished them off!  Obviously, Tiamo loved peanut butter.  She was our counter-surfing thief!  And, it didn’t take her long to pilfer the peanut butter goodies.

Poor Malcolm – out of a double-batch of Peanut Butter Cookies, Malcolm only had two.

PEANUT NUTTER-BUTTER COOKIES

These outrageous cookies need to be kept under lock and key.  Do not leave unattended while cooling!  Have been known to disappear down to the crumbs.

  • 1 cup super chunky peanut butter (with nuts)
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar (packed)
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter – room temperature
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tbsp dark corn syrup
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 12 oz of chopped up peanut / peanut butter candy bars such as Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Payday or Nutrageous

Preheat the oven to 325 F.  Line two large baking sheets with foil.

Beat peanut butter, brown sugar, butter, egg, corn syrup and vanilla in a large bowl until well blended with an electric mixer.  Stir together flour, oats, and baking soda in another bowl and mix into the peanut butter mixture.  Add chopped candy bars.  Mix.

Drop dough by heaping spoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheets.  Slightly flatten cookie dough with the back of a moistened spoon or your fingertips.  Freeze unbaked cookies on sheets for 12-18 minutes

Bake cookies 10 minutes.  Switch top and bottom sheets and bake an additional 10 minutes or until golden brown.  Let cookies cool on sheets until just beginning to firm.  Transfer to finish cooling on a cookie rack.

WARNING:  Keep husbands and dogs away!

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the berner sandwich

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The best sandwich starts with two substantial slices of still-warm from the oven, crusty bread.  I never use that day-old bread crap often buried in your mom’s chest freezer.  Found six months later, the loaf’s slices have already started to show off their curled corners.  With ice particles clinging to the outer crusts, the bread slices are separated and thinned from their once highly advertised, don’t squeeze the bread bag, freshness.  What I’m talking about is a hearty bread with a crust worthy of a sandwich.  Perfect tops and bottoms, perfect bookends to hold all the flavorful goodness of your sandwich makings together.

The best sandwich always has some sort of special sauce.  Generously spread on the inside flanks of the sliced bread, it might be a garlicky aioli, or a spicy brown mustard, or perhaps a savory chutney.  An oniony jam, a cranberry-brandy marmalade, a citrusy-fruity preserve, are all considered for their deliberate culinary palates.  The special sauce is an integral part of the whole sandwich package, a succulent pairing of tang and piquancy.

The best sandwich has complementary enhancements.  Such as Romaine lettuce, a thick slice of “tamatah” from a dark reddish-purple hued Beefeater, or some roasted green chili peppers.  Augmented with a wedge of peppery jack cheese or some smoked Gouda, and you’ve just increased your sandwich stack with both subtle flavors and added height.

The best sandwich has a mountain of tender, thinly sliced meat.  Usually left over from last night’s dinner and stacked in the middle of the sandwich with folded precision.  The sandwich is best when layered with beef steak that has been grilled over aged and seasoned oak logs, finished to a medium-rare redness and has a light dusting of seasonings still sitting on it’s outside edges.  Or perhaps some residual roasted turkey from Thanksgiving dinner.  Or maybe some BBQ’ed boneless pork loin chilled in a mustard sauce.  In any case, the main entrée of the sandwich, the meat, is the key principle in any double-decker and the center piece of any sandwich arrangement.

Some might think the best sandwiches are bestowed with specialty side lineups.  A scoop of homemade potato salad or a small cup of minestrone soup. But for Malcolm and I, we have a totally different idea of the best sandwich.  Our view of the perfect sandwich doesn’t need any of the above …..

You see, for us, we would rather be sandwiched in between our two girls, Dolce and Amore.  Folded in the middle by 100 pounds of fur on each side, we call it our Berner sanwich.   The Berner Sandwich is generously spread with a huge dollop of canine kisses, drool, and enhanced with paw pats and nose nudges.  Add a wedge of dog hair, some slices of doggy love and you have the best dog gone sandwich ever.  The Berner sandwich! DSC00489

Now, that is the best sandwich ever!

TRI-TIP STEAK SANDWICHES WITH HOMEMADE TOMATO PESTO

Be sure to drop some steak ends on the floor for your four-legged beasts.
  • 2 -3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/3 cup drained bottled dried tomatoes packed in oil
  • 1/3 cup packed fresh basil leaves, stems removed, cleaned
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 pound thinly sliced medium-rare Tri-tip steak (about 2 cups)
  • 4 Romaine leaves, cleaned and left whole
  • thin sliced Monterey Jack cheese
  • eight 1/2-inch slices sourdough bread, toasted lightly

In a small saucepan, saute’ garlic in olive oil over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened.  Cool. In a small food processor or blender purée tomatoes, basil, oil mixture, and vinegar until pesto is smooth.  Set aside.

In a bowl toss steak slices with half of pesto and spread remaining pesto on bread. Divide steak among 4 bread slices and top with romaine lettuce leaves, Monterey Jack cheese and top with the  remaining 4 bread slices.

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The black hole

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A sock goes missing.  Pens disappear.  Keys that were just in your hand are gone.  Eyeglasses lost.  The creamer that you placed on the kitchen counter after pouring yourself some coffee, vanished.  Your cell phone misplaced. The next scene shows you scratching your head as you wander around your house looking for the no-where-to-be-found items. Geez, you just had’em, where could they be?

You’re not senile, you’re not losing your mind, it’s not loss of memory, but damn, where could they be?

In my case, it was my cell phone.

At 6:30 a.m.

On a work day.

I checked my car, under the seats, between the console looking for my missing phone.  I re-checked my purse and all its pockets that has been my designated personal filing cabinet – no luck.  I’m not crazy, I just placed my whole connection to my life, my friends, my business associates on the table and now it’s  gone.  AWOL.  At first I was puzzled.  What did I do with my phone?  I just had it.

I retraced my steps, back tracked in my mind the rooms I had just been in.  I checked the coat I were wearing last, under pillows, behind cushions.  No where.  I patted down my back pants pockets, my front pockets, my chest pockets (phone shelf) and came up empty.  I grabbed my husband’s phone and dial my number only to hear nothing, not a peep.  I forgot that I had shut it off.  My photo album, my phone book, my email list – gone, gone, gone.  Now I was getting anxious.  Where was my phone?

The clock was ticking and I needed to be on my way to work.  I needed my phone.  I had a committee meeting and wanted to be a little early to work to set up the conference room.  I still had a little time but wanted to be on my way.   Amore was picking up on my anxious state, following me as I went from room to room hunting down my cell.  Dolce was nowhere to be found.

I have to admit, especially since I am talking a lost phone, I went from puzzled to anxious to frantic in about 60 seconds flat.  Maybe less.  The sounds from my heels tapping against the brick floor started clicking faster and faster in my desperation to locate my cell.  I was in frantic mode.  Amore was stirred up.  Dogs seem to pick up on their human folk’s emotional state and Amore had zeroed in on mine.  She started to run through the house barking her way from one end to the other.  Her barks were a beacon for Dolce, calling her in from the outside.  It’s standard procedure between the two of them, if one dog barks, the other will join in the chorus singing back-up.  The duet woke up Malcolm.  Crap!

“What the hell is going on?” a blurry eyed Malcolm growled.

“Can’t find my cell phone,” I tersely replied.  I was frustrated.

“And I need to get to work!”  I added.

“Try the pen.  Dolce has been frantically coming in and out of the pen for the last 15 minutes, making a racket with the dog door” he mumbled as he rolled back over in bed, pulling the covers up and over his head.

The only common wall between our dog pen and our house is in our master bath.  In our infinite wisdom, we placed the dog door in the bottom half of our linen closet in the bathroom.  It was brilliant move on our side.  The dog door is discrete, tucked inside the closet.  We can close it off any time, putting the lower shelves back in place and we can shut the door to either lock the dogs outside or in, depending on the situation.  It was also a stupid move on our side.  During the monsoon season of the summer months, Amore and Dolce track in mud and muck throughout the bathroom and into our master suite. During the winter months, they track in snow.  And, the worse of it, we hear the girls coming and going as the door flap swishes back and forth and back and forth.  Of course Malcolm heard the loud swish and swoosh as Dolce entered and left through the door as he laid in bed.

I trooped around the back to the dog pen, Amore and Dolce following close at my side.  Yep.  there lay my cell phone, under a dog-tagged bush.  Thankfully unharmed, unscathed.  Dolce was the culprit.  The phone perpetrator.  Our thief.   There was the beginnings of a hole being dug to the left of my phone.  Fresh dirt nosed into a small pile, letting me believe the evidence that Dolce was going to bury her prize, my phone.  That might have been a first, a dog buried cell phone. Her muzzle still had a sprinkle of dirt around the nose.

I wasn’t in the mood to laugh about it.  I snatched up my phone, wiped off the remaining dirt and hi-tailed it to work.  Later, after my committee meeting, after I was home from work, after my sense of humor kicked back in, I could chuckled over Dolce and the black hole.  Later, Malcolm and I would have a hoot over what else might be buried in the dog pen, laughing about what else is missing.

But not now!

Now, when something is missing, the pen is the first place we look.

found!

found!

For more tails of the dogs, purchase If it falls on the floor, it’s mine! cookbook at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0615869823

It means “sweetheart”…

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February.  The month of love.  The month of romance.  The month every woman, of every age wants to feel special and loved and showered with purple hearts.  By a boyfriend, a husband, a lover, a friend, by a partner, by a sweetheart.  A special card, a dozen roses, a fancy dinner, perhaps some gourmet chocolates, even M & M’s.  Diamonds, jewelry, sexy lingerie, a stuffed bear.  All symbols of love and affection.  Hearts and flowers.  The colors red and pink and purple painted on the front cover of a card.  Love, hugs and passion. February 14th.  Valentines Day.  It’s more than just saying I love you.  More than just showing you care.  More than just arriving with a bouquet of daisies or a box of Russel Stover’s Chocolate. . . .

When Tiamo first came into our lives, we had a hard time coming up with a name for her.  we wanted something special, something indicative of her heritage (Switzerland) but also of our love for each other.  Malcolm and I spent our honeymoon in Italy, a country seeped in love and romance.  When we were in Bellagio, our hotel room looked out across Lake Como to the Swiss alps, miles away.  So we combined a little Swiss with a little Italian and came up with Tiamo.  One look at our new puppy, with her four snow-capped paws and her white-tipped tail, so reminisce of our view of the Alps, and we were in love.  Totally smittened.   She was a gift to Malcolm for his 50th birthday, but she didn’t arrive in Santa Fe until a few days before Valentine’s Day.  Tiamo translates to ‘I love you’ in Italian.  Each time we said her name, we were telling her we loved her.  Just as every time her tail wagged, or she nose-nudged us for a quick ear scratch, she was sending us love.  It was our own special Valentine’s Day gift, every day.

When we ended up with two of Tiamo’s puppies, we were back in the same boat.  We had a hard time finding names that “fit” our newest additions to the family.  To keep track of the litter, we identified them by the color of the collar they wore.  We had Butterfly, Pinkie, Cherry, Blackie, Burberry, Greenie, Apple and Little Butterfly.  We certainly weren’t going to continue calling our little girls, Little Butterfly and Pinkie.  New monikers were needed.  In keeping with our Swiss/Italian theme, we ended up naming the girls, Dolce and Amore.  Sweet and Love.

our little sweetheart!

Dolce, our little sweetheart!

Dolce is sweet; a more gentle, kind dog you’ll never find, she is our sweetheart. Evenings will find her curled up on my lap, snuggling against me.  You’ll see her tail thump every so often, her muzzle reach up to lick my chin on occasion.  Dog kisses.  Her eyes softened by our touch, a look of contentment crossing her face.  Dolce is our hugger, our snuggler, our little sweetheart.  She is our own special Valentine’s Day gift, every day.

Amore, our wild at heart gilr

Amore, our wild at heart girl

Amore is love; a wild, crazy, passionate dog full of heart.  She is the flip side of Dolce.  With bright shinning eyes, Amore screams passion, an all-out, from the heart, love.  Amore is our Dennis the Menace.  You can’t help but chuckle over her antics.  You can’t help but love her.  She is so full of life, every day with her is an adventure.  We wake up each morning wondering what kind of mischief will Amore get into today, what wild dog thing will she do.  She radiates with happiness and exudes joy, it literately pours off of her.  She is our own special Valentine’s Day gift, every day.

Tiamo, Dolce, and Amore has given us more love than we could ever have imagined.  Every day.  Not with flowers or chocolates or purple hearts.  Not just on Valentine’s Day.  They give us their hearts.  Completely.  Every day.

AMARETTO SAUCE

A perfect dipping sauce for fruits.  A perfect dessert for love.

  • 8 oz. ricotta cheese
  • 1 – 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 4 eggs yolks
  • 2 tbsp. heavy cream
  • 3 tbsp. amaretto
  • fresh fruit (kiwis, bananas, apples, rapes, pineapple, peaches, cantaloupes, strawberries, blackberries or honeydew melon)

Using the food processor, mix together the ricotta cheese and cream cheese until smooth.  Add in the sugar, egg yolks, heavy cream and amaretto.  Keep beating until smooth.

Pour into a 3-cup serving bowl.  Chill until ready to serve.  While the sauce is chilling, prepare fruit into bite size pieces.  Arrange on a platter and garnish with mint leave.  When ready to serve, add the accompaniment sauce.

1000 words

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Like most high desert living, it’s either feast or famine.  We either have an abundance of snow or a dribble of water.  Our last snow fall was just days after Thanksgiving.  Edging closer towards February, the only patches of white left to be found are in remote arroyos facing north or under dense juniper branches.  Dolce and Amore’s snowy playground has all but disappeared……

Amore and Dolce - perfect angels!

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Chi chi wow wow!

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Rug rats.  Carpet crawlers.  Couch climbers.  Those tiny little two-legged adorable tots known to mankind as kids.  In our case, kids that belong to someone else.  Malcolm and I don’t have children, we have dogs.  At one time we had three large, very demanding Bernese Mountain Dogs.  Now two.  Still just as demanding.  Like kids, they can be expensive.  No, we don’t worry about paying for braces, prom or college.  We worry about vet bills, boarding costs and bath time.

There is nothing a small toddler enjoys more than to run screaming through the house after bath time, a bare bottom streaking by as their parents chase after them with a dry towel trying to catch the slippery little hellion.  As my mother would say, “Chi chi wow wow!” exclamation mark, exclamation mark, producing giggles and laughs from the two-year old flasher aka grandkid.

Our girls pretty much do the same thing.  Run.  Bath time brings out all sorts of bad behavior and antics as Dolce and Amore try to avoid soap and water.

wet dog

wet dog Dolce

When Dolce and Amore were little puppies, we could give them a bath ourselves, usually in the kitchen sink.  Still small enough, we would put their front paws in one side of the double-wide sink, the back paws over the divider and in the other side, using the handy-dandy faucet nozzle to rinse them.  I can tell ya’, they didn’t enjoy their baths.  One of us always needed to keep a hold of them while the other washed, as they squirmed and wiggled their way to freedom.  There was more soap and water on us as we scrubbed them, then in the sink. Just like a little tyke, the minute we set them down from the high counters after their rub down, they would streak through the house.  Usually trying for the pen, where they could roll in the dirt.  After we wised up, blocking the entrance to the outside, Dolce and Amore would retaliate by jumping on the couch, rolling their still wet bodies over the cushions, leaving wet dog hair and fur in their wake.  UCK! plus more clean up.

When the girls grew too big for the sink, they graduated to the double-headed shower, large enough for both Malcolm and I, swimsuit clad, to bathe them.  That lasted two tries.  Amore learned to tolerate the water and the cleansing.  Dolce absolutely hates it.  There is no blocking a determined dog.  When Dolce has had enough and wants out of the shower, she’s gone, dog-gone gone.  The first sniff of freedom and she is shaking the water.  All over the bathroom.  Soap and water drops up to the ceiling and sideways.  Landing on mirrors, counters, and cabinets, there isn’t a dry spot available.  She is rolling on her back, leaving locks of her fur on the floor mats.  The one phase of grooming she does love is the rub down.  With lots of towels.  I mean a lot of towels.  Meaning a lot of washing afterwards.

After two attempts to bathe Dolce and Amore ourselves, we gave up.  Time for the groomers.  Well, that was a mistake.  Not only is it horribly expensive for a large dog, however justified it is, at the time, we had three Berners.  The total grooming bill after tip and tax was around $300 big ones.  Tiamo was used to going to the dog groomers.  Didn’t like it, put on the brakes when we entered the establishment, but she endured the process.  And when we are paying for just one dog, the expense wasn’t as hard to swallow.  Add Dolce and Amore to the invoice and we were eating rice and beans for the month.

The first time we brought all three girls into the groomers, they literally destroyed the joint.  Cages, brushes, and dryers went flying.  They did not like it, not one bit.  Dolce and Amore didn’t like the fur brushing, the blowers, nor the cute little kerchief tied around their necks.  We were not too nicely told that perhaps we might want to make other arrangements for their grooming.  Well hell!   Our big rug-rats were kicked out of pre-school!  PreSchool!  Shheeeee-it!  Now what?

Enter Tara, our puppy-sitting college student friend.  Silly her, raising her hand to volunteer to bathe our dogs, but what college student doesn’t want a bit of beer money?  Tara has been our life-saver.  We named the date, purchased the supplies for washing, grabbed all our towels for rub downs and pointed her to our huge shower.  Done!  Our shrieks of “get back in here” to a dog racing out of the shower, that A) does not listen, B) does not know what it means (what dog hears), and C) is meaningless to a 100 pound wet dog determined to avoid a bath, have turned into cooing “Chi chi wow wows”!  as Dolce and Amore parade past us sweet-smelling, with fluffy clean fur.

Yeeeee Haaaaw!

TATOR TOTS –  Chi chi wow wow style!

Get it?  Tator TOTS!  Ok, poor kid humor!  Truffle oil and minced black truffles make this appetizer anything but kid food.

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour plus additional for coating
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped black truffle
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons white truffle oil*
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • Vegetable oil (for deep-frying)
  • *Truffle oil is available at some supermarkets, specialty foods stores, and Italian markets.

Bring first 3 ingredients to boil in heavy medium saucepan. Add 1 cup flour; stir over medium-high heat until mixture pulls away from edges of pan, about 1 minute. Transfer to medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat dough 3 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well between additions. Measure 1 1/2 cups dough and reserve (discard any remaining dough).

Place potatoes in medium saucepan. Add enough water to cover by 1 inch. Boil until tender, about 12 minutes. Drain. Press potatoes through ricer or food mill into large bowl. Add 1 1/2 cups reserved dough, chopped truffle, truffle oil, salt, and white pepper. Using electric mixer, beat dough on low-speed to blend.

Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Transfer dough to pastry bag fitted with 3/4-inch-diameter plain tip. Pipe dough in logs onto prepared sheet. Freeze until firm but not frozen, about 1 hour. Cut logs into 1 1/4-inch-long pieces. Toss in flour, return to sheet, cover, and freeze completely. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 week ahead. Store in airtight container; keep frozen.

Pour enough oil into large saucepan to measure depth of 2 inches. Heat oil to 350°F. Working in batches, cook frozen potato pieces until cooked through and golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Sprinkle with salt and serve.

For more delicious recipes and tails of the dogs, purchase If it falls on the floor, it’s mine! cookbook at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0615869823

I’m serious here!

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if it falls on the floor, it's mine!

if it falls on the floor, it’s mine!

I often joke about our dogs in the kitchen.  Either their counter-surfing antics in the kitchen or their sneaky stealth of cookies and pumpkin bread off a cooling rack.  I add humor about Tiamo eating and then hiding the cream carton or the butter dish.  I laugh about Dolce doing a “drive-by” in the kitchen, searching for crumbs and tasty treats.  I jest about cooking and nibbles that fall to the floor.  As my cookbook title states, If it falls on the floor, all bets are off and it’s theirs!

My previous blog postings cite humorous and funny stories of Tiamo, Dolce and Amore fighting over food scraps.  I write about our life with three 100 pound Bernese Mountain dogs and attempt to inject humor, entertaining the reader.

But, on a serious note, there are many foods that are detrimental to a dog’s health and life.  I devote a whole page in the front of my cookbook on foods that should never, ever be given to your dog.  Today I want to emphasis the many foods canine need to avoid.   I’m serious here!

Please be careful when you allow your precious pets in the kitchen. With all the tasty treats we receive over the holidays from friends and family, it’s easy to leave something out on the counter, within easy grasp of a greedy muzzle.  Dogs believe in the two second rule.  You have less than two seconds (more like a nano-second) to recover anything that drops to the floor.  Once a dog has fixated on that treat, there is no stopping’em!  The smells, odors and scents of these treats are tantalizing to them.  In spades.  Have pity on our canine friends and remove the temptation.

You have my permission to re-post, and/or copy and paste the chart below.  I’m serious.  Pass it on!

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For delicious recipes and tails of the dogs, purchase If it falls on the floor, it’s mine! cookbook at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0615869823

pawing

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tuckered out

being famous is soooo exhausting!

Book signings, book tours, book readings.  Amore and Dolce would rather chew a book than attend a book fair.  They are tired of being paraded around, having to be on their best behavior, putting their white paw in it-doesn’t-wash-off ink to initial one of my cookbooks.  They are worn out from all the ‘meet n’ greets’ they have attended, from all the paw shaking, all the tail wagging.  They are fed up with pawing.  Put a fork in it, they are done!  Fini.  Through.  Over.

They are especially annoyed with the numerous showers they have suffered through in preparation for their appearances.  The strawberry scented shampoo (the store was out of un-scented), the loud fur dryers, the cute little red kerchief that I tie around their necks.  If they see me in my bathing suit, if they get a whiff of shampoo and see a huge pile of towels, if they get locked in the bathroom once again, I have no doubt they will revolt.  Stage a canine mutiny.  Quit the book-signing show.  Though there is nothing more precious than a fresh-from-their-bath dog, nothing more huggable than a clean one, but I think the girls have had enough.

Secretly, I know they enjoy the attention while pawing at the book signings, the extra love they receive from fellow dog lovers and cookbook lovers requesting a signed book.  They love showing off for us.  They are definitely not bashful when it comes to grabbing the spotlight.  I’ve seen Amore push Dolce aside when she wants center stage.  I’ve noticed the nose nudges from Dolce, reminding those petting her, while waiting in line, not to stop, there is plenty of light left in the day for them to continue rubbing her.

Nevertheless, they know the Holidays are here, and they know a signed cookbook is a much better gift than an unsigned one.  If it falls on the floor, it’s mine! cookbook makes for a perfect holiday present.  Personalized or left unsigned, Amore and Dolce will even dog-tag their favorite recipes for you!  Order yours today!

It's almost here!

Order your cookbook now – just in time for Christmas 

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For delicious recipes and tails of the dogs, purchase If it falls on the floor, it’s mine! cookbook at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0615869823

snowflakes and mud

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A tired dog is a happy owner!  And nothing tires out our girls more than snow.  Play time in the snow is probably Dolce and Amore’s number one favorite doings.  In the life of a dog, there is nothing better than a full belly, a warm bed and a romp in the snow.

A week after our big snow dump, most of the snow has melted but there are still patches to be found, snow angels to be made and fun to be had!  On the lookout for fresh snow, Malcolm and I took the girls on a new trail at the Galisteo Basin Preserve this weekend.  We knew the snow was getting thin, but certainly didn’t anticipate the amount of mud we would encounter.  Snow melt brings slush, and then comes the mud.   And more mud.  And then more mud.  As we swished down the trail, accumulating thick mud on our boots, Dolce and Amore took off like the wind.  They smelled fun!  They got a whiff of excitement and ran ahead like a bunch of banshees, barking for the sheer joy of dawggy play time!

Dolce immediately sniffed out a sizable plot of snow and began her rattle, roll and shake.  Angel time!  Amore followed suit, building her own snow angel.  Then it was a race to the next patch of powder.  They ran through Juniper and Pinon, leaping over small gulleys and rain carved-out arroyos in search of more snow.  They found it – along with a lot of mud, returning with mud capped paws and more.

The mud and the muck is worth it.  The look on their faces, the expression in their eyes – there is nothing more joyful than watching them play and seeing unadulterated happiness shine back at you.

Amore and Dolce - perfect angels!

Amore and Dolce – perfect angels! (not)

the race is on

the race is on

muddy paws and all

muddy paws and all

twist and roll!

a twist and a roll in the last of the snow

happy dawg

happy dawg

grins and smiles

grins and smiles

SNOWFLAKE COOKIES – a favorite at Christmas!

Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes, snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes, silver white winters that melt into springs, these are a few of my favorite things!

  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cup sifted all-purpose flour (do not use self-rising)
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 6 oz. chocolate chips – melted (and a few extra to nibble on)
  • Star shaped cookie cutter
  • powdered sugar

Mix sugar, butter, egg and vanilla well.  Mix together flour, baking powder and salt.  Add to the butter mixture.  Let chill in the refrigerator for an hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Roll out the chilled cookie dough on a floured board and cut into star shapes.  Place on an un-greased baking sheet and bake for 6-8 minutes.  Remove from oven when lightly brown.  Completely cool.

Place some melted chocolate in the middle of a star cookie.  While chocolate is still warm place another star cookie on top with the star points alternating with the bottom cookies.  Add a small dab of chocolate on the top cookie and sprinkle powdered sugar lightly over the finished cookie.

Keep under lock and key – husbands and dogs are  known to swipe one (or two!)

shake, rattle and roll

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Sunday morning we awoke to a good nine inches of snow.  Throughout the night, a blanket of pristine white had covered our southwestern landscape.  The girls loved it – especially Dolce.  Her favorite winter sport is making snow angels.  She has perfected the art of finding the perfect spot to drop and roll, wiggling her paws for more leverage, then leaping up to shake off the snow dust.   Shake, rattle and roll, or I should say, rattle, roll and shake.

The girls played until Malcolm and I couldn’t handle the cold any longer.  Our cheeks rosy from the below freezing temps, our fingers near to frozen from the numerous times we had to take our gloves off, we lasted a mere 60 minutes before heading in to the coveted warmth of a roaring fire and some hot homemade soup.

searching for the perfect spot

searching for the perfect spot

dropping in the snow

dropping in the snow

the rattle and the roll

DSC00241

the shake

the happy snow angel maker

the happy snow angel maker

Salute to the first snow of the season!

WILD RICE WITH SMOKED SAUSAGE

perfect for cold snowy days – serve with a savory herbed scone or biscuit

  • 13 c chicken broth (low sodium)
  • 1¼ c wild rice
  • 6¼ c frozen corn kernels (about 2½ lbs.), thawed
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 lb. cooked Kielbasa or Polish sausage, cut into ½ inch cubes/slices
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced (or minced)
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1½ c half and half cream
  • 1 c fresh parsley, chopped

Bring 5 cups of chicken broth to simmer in heavy medium saucepan. Add wild rice and simmer until all the liquid evaporates and rice is almost tender, about 45 minutes.   In a food processor, take 4 cups of the corn kernels and 1½ cups chicken broth and puree. Continue until smooth. You might need to do this in batches.

Heat oil in heavy, large cast-iron pan. Add sausage and sauté until brown, about 5 minutes. Add onions and carrots and cook another 3 minutes. Add remaining chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Simmer for another 20 minutes.  Add cooked wild rice, corn puree and rest of corn kernels. Continue cooking until rice is tender, about 30 minutes.

Soup can be prepared up to this point two days ahead. Refrigerate.  Reheat soup over medium heat. Once heated, add half and half.   Ladle into soup bowls. Sprinkle chopped parsley over top.

 

For more delicious recipes and tails of the dogs, purchase If it falls on the floor, it’s mine! cookbook at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0615869823

Rules

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Coffee on Sunday mornings are a ritual.  That and the Sunday paper. It’s our lazy day of sleeping in, catching up on a few household chores, in general, not doing much.  That being said, we do have a few rules we follow:  Starting with the first rule of the day:  first one up starts the coffee.  Rule two:  Same one up takes the dogs up the driveway to retrieve the 5 lbs. worth of circulars and ads called the Sunday paper.  Since I’m the one usually turning on the coffee and getting the paper, for the next hour or two, the rules are forgotten……

Until Malcolm stumbles out of bed.

Obeying the Malcolm rule of “coffee before talkie”, I mumble a low murmured “Morn’in” and retreat back to what I was doing.  His reply greeting is equally low in tone, undistinguishable and usually interrupted by Dolce and Amore wanting their morning love. Dolce wiggling in between his legs for a back scratch, Amore jumping up for a hug.  Once satisfied, Malc is allowed to grab a mug of coffee, settle down on the couch with the paper, sports section first, and start his day.

Malcolm calls this the organization rule. Leave him alone so he can get organized.

First the coffee – heavy cream, two heaping spoonfuls of dark brown sugar, a little cinnamon sprinkled on the top and nuked for 30 secs in the microwave.  Couch prep follows.  Pillows are arranged just so, the end table brought close enough for reach but far enough to avoid tail destruction of the coffee, and with an afghan thrown haphazardly over his lap, Malc is ready to scan the headlines above the fold.

Next up – the settling in rule. Let him get settled – then he’ll function.

Once Malcolm is settled, the dogs know they are allowed to snuggle with Malcolm.  First come, first served is the rule and it’s usually Amore.  She waits through all the preparation, through the pillow fluffing and the paper shuffling, through the blanket arrangement and table placement, waiting for her cue to join Malc on the couch.  She knows the rules, after the first sip of coffee she is cleared for lift off.  Amore springs up from her sitting position at the base of the couch, over Malcolm’s prone form, and lands between the back of the couch and Malcolm’s hip.  Twists, turns and paws poking his belly, Amore snuggles in, draped over Malc’s torso, head hanging by his side, eyes closed in bliss.  If Malcolm is lucky, Amore has waited long enough on the couch jump for him to set his mug down and out of the way on the end table, avoiding hot coffee being spilled down his front.  If he is luckier, Amore’s paws have landed on the couch cushion, missing his pride and joy, thus enabling Malcolm to walk and talk the rest of the day.  And if he is even luckier, Amore will stay put for another 50-60 minutes, allowing Malcolm to avoid all rules and commands issued by said wife.

Amore's snuggle-fest

Amore’s snuggle-fest

And now for the truth of all those other rules…..

With Amore’s 100 lb frame pinning Malcolm down, Malc is able to circumvent any and all requests.  “Honey, would you….?”,   “can’t, I have a dog on me!”,    “it’s your turn to….”   “can’t, I have a dog on me!”    “Malc – you need to…..”    “can’t, I have a dog on me!”

He thinks he is sooooo smart!  Well, I was the youngest of four, tricked and picked on by three older siblings and I learned by the best!  Listen up Malc – new rule – never try to out-trick a trickster.  By the third “can’t, I have a dog on me”, I just calmly walked over to the treat jar, being sure to rattle the ceramic lid a good bit.  The ears on both dogs perked up to full attention, their bodies tense and ready for action.  Dogs will do anything for a tasty tibbit.  A quick whistle had Amore and Dolce barreling through the living room, eager for their doggy treat.  Dolce arriving first.  Amore mere seconds later by default.

Another rule – never get between a dog and their treat.

Amore had to untangle herself from her snuggle-fest with Malcolm, front paws landing on his favored jewels, back legs gaining purchase on his belly, subsequently ripping the Op Ed section and his stomach to shreds before tipping over the end table.  It was the tip over that tossed the full of coffee mug off its perch, sprewing nuked hot coffee all over Malcolm, landing and breaking against the brick floor.  Personally, I never liked that mug anyway!

ARRRUUUGHHH!  Those that know Malcolm, know his language was a lot more colorful and descriptive.  That’ll teach him!

Last rule to remember – take note, the wife rules!

our paper boy

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I’m of the belief that dogs, especially those that belong to the Working Dog Group,  need to feel important.  They need to know they have a valuable function within the family dynamics, a job to perform  that is essential to their caretakers.  Dogs such as the Bernese Mountain Dog, were bred to pull small farm carts loaded down with heavy milk cans for the dairies.  Their deep barreled chest made them an ideal breed to work on a farm, driving goat herds to and from their pastures and drafting farm supplies from the villages.  While we don’t have a dairy for the girls to work on, I have tried to find appropriate chores for them to perform to feel useful.

On that note, I looked no further than our own paper box. newspaper-graphic-for-web

Tiamo was barely a year old when she started to fetch the daily newspaper.  At first she would just walk up the long drive with me to get the morning paper.  She would prance her way up the driveway, excitement shining in her eyes, hoping for a glimpse of a cottontail or a low flying bird she could chase.  I’d call her back, reprimanding her for leaving my side.  She’d hang her head, giving me her sorrowful look that was just shy of forgiveness and pretend to be good for the rest of the walk to the paper.   With the misbegotten belief that she was exonerated for misbehaving, Tiamo would try to play the “grab the paper and run” game on the return trip back to the house.  I had a habit of tucking the rolled up newspaper under my arm, leaving my hands free, usually in my coat pockets to keep warm.   Thinking of the paper as the golden prize to be had, Tiamo would jump high to nip at the paper under my arm, hoping to grab it and sprint her way to triumph.  She recognized my hands were otherwise occupied, staying warm beneath the folds of my jacket.  On the days Tiamo was able to lock onto the paper, she would run a victory lap around the house, many times dropping her precious load somewhere in the back forty, where I would have to go search for the paper under wet, dew soaked weeds  and stickers – not so much fun at six in the morning.  I knew I had to teach her respect for the printed word or we would have shredded bits of paper throughout as she tore into her prize.

And so our training began…..

Our paper usually arrived wrapped in a plastic sleeve to protect it from the elements, I figured the plastic would also shield the paper from Tiamo’s drool, if I could just teach her to carry the paper back to the house.  Using a leash to keep her close and her favorite treats to reward her, I trained Tiamo to carry our newspaper from the paper box at the end of  the drive, down to the house and drop it on the floor by the couch.  It took one week.  She had such a gentle mouth, she never tore the plastic protector, keeping the rolled paper pristine.  After a successful month of transporting our paper, I started unleashing her.  Tiamo never once strayed away from my side.  Fun and games was over, she knew she had a job to do.  A few more weeks of free range paper hauling and I taught her to reach into the bright yellow paper box, pulling out the newspaper herself.  I was no longer allowed to remove the paper from the plastic holder – that was Tiamo’s responsibility.  Doing so would result in a barking frenzy and a strong nose nudge under my arm to release the paper.  I was forever banned from getting the paper, nobody was going to do Tiamo’s job.  It didn’t take long before I didn’t even have to walk up the driveway with Tiamo.  I’d let Tiamo out the front gate and stay behind, keeping an eye on her as she ran up the drive, grabbed the newspaper from the box and jog back down to me, the paper gently clutched between her jaws, pride sparkling in her eyes.

Tiamo kept her job, even after her litter was born and Dolce and Amore became part of our household.  That was her task.  I never tried to teach the girls to fetch the paper – I always considered that Tiamo’s duty.  Besides,  I know for a fact, Dolce and Amore would have fought big time over who got to carry the newspaper.  With Tiamo’s passing, I walk the drive alone, grabbing the morning paper out of the now-weathered yellow paper box.  I’m back to tucking the roll up under my arm, my hands warm in my pockets.  Sweet memories of Tiamo attempting to snatch the paper out from my control often come to mind.  I miss our morning ritual – now a-days, the paper just doesn’t read the same.

Reading the newspaper with a strong cup of coffee seems to go hand in hand, and perhaps a slice of freshly baked coffee cake to sweeten the news.

RASPBERRY CREAM COFFEE CAKE
  • 2 1/4 cups All-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp. Amaretto
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup raspberry jam
  • 1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts
Cream Cheese Filling
  • 1 pkg. 8 oz. softened cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp. flour
  • 1 egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease the bottom of a pie pan or springform pan.

Mix all the cream cheese filling ingredients until smooth and set aside.  Mix flour and sugar in large bowl.  But in butter, using a pastry blender until mixture looks like coarse crumbs.  Reserve 1 cup of the crumb mixture and set aside.  Stir the next six ingredients in with the crumb mixture.  Spoon batter over the greased bottom of the pan and up the sides 1-2 inches.  Pour cream cheese filling mixture over the batter.  Carefully spoon the raspberry jam over the filling.  Mix the reserved crumb mixture and the chopped macadamia nuts and sprinkle over the top.

Bake 50 minutes or so, or until filling is set and the crust is a deep golden brown.  Let cool 15 minutes and removed from the pan.  Serve warm or cool.  Keep in the refrigerator to store.

Enjoy your morning!

 

For more delicious recipes and tails of the dogs, purchase If it falls on the floor, it’s mine! cookbook at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0615869823