puppy breath

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a bouquet of puppy breath

a bouquet of puppy breath

When told we were expecting our little litter of puppies, a dear and close friend exclaimed, “aah, I so love puppy breath!  It’s so sweet”  I thought she was plum crazy.  No dog had pleasant breath let alone a puppy.  In the following weeks, several more friends made the same comment in varying degrees.  We heard everything from, “puppy breath is so precious!” to “I just love their little breath!”  to “their breath is adorable!”  Seriously?  What planet are these people from?  It’s a dog’s breath for criss-cross sake.   I would politely smile, but under my own breath,  I would mumble “good lawd” to Malcolm, who was trying in vain to keep a straight face.

It wasn’t until the puppies were old enough to be held and played with that I started to get an inkling of what my friends meant.  With their still pink little noses, at three-n-half weeks old,  our little ones were just starting on softened puppy chow.  They were old enough to be cuddled and held up close against our necks, while we absently rubbed their soft ears.  At five to six weeks, we were bringing our herd of yipping mutts outside to their  playpen to enjoy the fresh air and the still warm fall days.  Malcolm dragged a huge wooden rocking chair into the pen so we could sit and watch the eight little blighters sniff and explore their new world.  As they tired one by one, they would all end up at our feet, ready for a little puppy nap.  Inveritably, I would end up with two or three canine belly balls in my lap, falling fast asleep in my arms, their fat round tummies gently swaying with their soft breathing.  On warm sunny days, Malcolm and I would sit in the pen for hours, enjoying the melodious sounds emitting from the puppies.  Loving the feel of their silky fur, their soft little paws pressed against our arms, their muzzle tucked under our chins.  It was during these endearing moments, that I learned the true meaning of “puppy breath”.

Truth be told, there is something sweet about little puppy’s breath!  The scent is precious, with just a hint of baby puppy.  Taking a deep breath, I smell a little puppy’s trust, I inhale the wonder and  joys of a pint-sized creature filled with faith in their caretakers.  I breathe in the love of a new friend and the loyalty of an old one.  I catch a whiff of an adoring puppy, a devoted dog, a committed canine to its custodian.  Puppy breath is a precious bouquet of entrusting love.

HUSH PUPPIES

A quick and tasty appetizer or side dish, these little guys will disappear fast so make extras.

  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. flour
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 3/4 tsp. garlic salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tbsp. beaten egg
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. minced jalapeno
  • 1 cup crumbled goat cheese
  • frying oil

Mix together the first six ingredients.  In a separate bowl, whisk  the buttermilk, egg and jalapeño together.  Stir the dry ingredients and milk mixture together.

Add enough oil to a deep medium saucepan to at least 1 1/2 inches.  Using a deep fry thermometer, heat oil to 320F to 330F over medium heat. Working in batches, drop 4 to 5 balls of batter by the tablespoon into the oil.

Fry until golden brown, turning occasionally, about 4-5 minutes.  With a slotted spoon, lift the hush puppies from the oil and place on a paper towel.

Can be made 2-3 hours ahead, leave at room temperature.  Rewarm in a pre-heated oven of 375F until crisp (12-14 minutes).  Garnish with a little chopped parsley and grated parmesan cheese.

missing mom

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June is one of those transition months for the dogs.  The days are longer, hotter, and walks for the dogs are delayed to the evening hours, when it starts to cool down.  More often than not, Dolce and Amore are left at home, not wanting to leave them in the car during the hot hours of the day as Malcolm runs into town for errands.  Malcolm and I are busier.  Between work, travel, meetings, weddings, graduations and Saturday night dinners – it seems we’re gone more than we’re home.  The girls feel the effect of our busy schedule.  Flanked among boredom, and long hot days, they alternate between being sluggish during the hottest part of the day to being antsy when the tedious hours of lonesomeness labors on.  Their daily schedule has shifted to accommodate June’s higher temperatures and our demanding agendas.

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Amore laying her head on my lap after I was gone for 2 days

We can easily spend forty or so minutes calming them down as we enter the house after being away.  Both Dolce and Amore get clingy, wanting us right by them, touching us with their paws, nose nudging our hands and elbows.  They just want our touch.  A hand resting on them.  A constant scratch under the chin.  Fingers endlessly rubbing their fur-lined ears.

The usual scenario is a furry body on each side of me, so close a sheet of paper couldn’t slide between us, my arms around each one.  If I so much as move a finger away or twitch an eyelid, they’ll nudge me with their powerful paws as a reminder to pay more attention to them.  Their hind ends burrowing in even deeper into the corner pocket between the couch and my hip, their bodies leaning into me, I have 100 lbs. of deadweight dog resting against me on each side.  They each have their spot – Dolce on my left, tucked in close under my arm and shoulder, Amore on my right, plastered to my side, head resting against me.  I’m somewhere in the middle breathing in dog hair and fending off paws and noses.

Tomorrow I leave for a conference and will be gone for a week, leaving Malcolm home tending to the girls.  I can only imagine my homecoming.

 

fetch and catch!

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Our dogs do not fetch the newspaper.  They do not deliver your fuzzy slippers, nor do they catch the ball.  Throw a soft rubber ball for them to run after to retrieve and you’ll get a look that says, “you want me to do what?”  Under their dog breath I hear a mumbled doggy version of:  “Pendejo, you threw it, you go get it!” Toss a stick up ahead as you’re walking,  it will go completely ignored.  Fling a frisbee and it will become part of the landscape.  Labs, Retrievers, Setters, they all love the game of fetch and catch.  Tirelessly.  Endlessly.  Dolce and Amore – NOT!  Not even close!

What they will run after is another pooch pursuing the thrown object.  Throw some balls and immediately the other visiting mutts sprint over to play. Throw a stick, and Amore and Dolce will run after the dog running after the stick. The game is in following the other canines, not racing after the ball.  We’ll take the girls to our dog park, lob some tennis balls their way and they’ll sit at our feet watching us, their heads cocked at an angle, inquiring with a puzzled look, “wha’cha doing?”   As soon as another dog moseys’ over for some fun, the girls perk up, ready to chase the some tail.  Much more fun than chasing a ball!

They will however chase after food.  Chuck an apple twenty yards and Dolce is on it.  Pitch some broccoli out in the field and it’s a race to grab it first.  Drop a bread crumb and it doesn’t even hit the floor, gone and gobbled before you can bend down to pick it up.  The one and only ball they will fetch and catch is a meatball!  Lob, toss, fling, throw or drop a tasty, rolled meatball and it’s caught mid-air in one gulp, down the hatch and in the gullet.  Eyes alert and on the “ball”, they are ready for the next toss.  Ready to catch it!  Ready to race after it!  Ready to eat it!  Any kind of meatball, any kind of meat.  It’s the only fetch and  catch they’ll play!

Swedish Meatballs

Be careful not to drop any on the floor!

  • 1 lb. finely ground beef
  • 1/2 cup fine dry bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup minced onions
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg

Mix together the above ingredients.  Gently roll into small 1″ to 1 1/2″  balls.  Brown in hot oil.  Add about 1/4 cup hot water.  Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.  Serve hot with slightly thickened pan gravy.

pool paw play

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It’s Memorial Weekend! The kickoff to summer!

Picnics and BBQ‘s, flip-flops and short shorts, watermelon and lemonade.  One of the best parts of Memorial weekend is our local community pool opens for the summer.  8:00 a.m. on Saturday the race is on to be the first in the pool.  Moms have a free babysitter for youngsters over 12 and an energy burner for those under.  It’s the summer hangout for teenagers and an outdoor tanning booth for the housewives of Santa Fe.  Tri-athletes in training, adult swimmers exercising.  You see everything – from bare bottom babies splashing around in the kiddies pool to the pursuit of the perfect cannon ball tidal wave.  Sunburned cheeks to darkly tanned leather skin.  Old men in speedos, old ladies in bikinis.

Malcolm and I swim laps in the evenings when the kids have been called home for dinner.  75 feet of clear blue water, heated to just above chilly. It’s the perfect time to unwind from work and cool down from a hot day.  Most of the water brats have left, their forgotten pool toys and towels littered around the chairs and loungers to be found the next day.  Those remaining are the serious swimmers, jumping in the pool for laps, leaving in their wet suits, a towel wrap over their neck.

The dogs know when they see our swim bags and beach towels, they are staying put, guarding the fort back home, except for Dog day.  At the end of the summer and the chlorine has been diluted to a low enough level , its Paw Play at the Pool.  Dogs of all sizes, shapes and breeds converge at the pool for their own brand of fun.  And, it’s a wet time for all.  Excited dogs jumping in the deep end chasing tennis balls, even more incited dogs barking at waves of water splashing at their paws.  Once dry owners snapping pictures of their happy dogs. Total chaos.  Pure mayhem.  Wet dog everywhere. 

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HOMEMADE GEORGIA PEACH ICE CREAM

A perfect summer treat!

  • rock salt
  • ice (per manufacturer’s instructions)

Puree chopped peaches with the sugar and cream in the blender or food processor.

In a gallon ice cream freezer container, mix together the peach mixture, sweetened condensed milk and Kahlua.  Pour in enough whole milk to fill the contain to the fill line.  Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to freeze the ice cream.

“Yeah! babee!” Malcolm exclaims……. p.s.  Malcolm’s from Georgia!

the flirt

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Tiamo was a flirt – a big flirt!  She’d see a handsome male Berner and the Paris Hilton head-tilt and the come-hither look would appear.  Tail a-swishing, her prance became more pronounced and a certain gleam in eye would materialize each and every time a big studly cutie-paw-tootie was in the vicinity.

The first time I noticed her flirting she was around 9 months old.  I’d been walking Tiamo around the loop when another Berner owner drove by, stopping to talk shop as fellow BMD owners like to  do.  He had his boy with him and let him out of the car to introduce the two.  Shubert was a 4-year-old male rehab dog for the elderly, fit with a deep chest, massive paws and weighing a hefty 125 lbs., he was a poster child for Berner perfection.  Tiamo immediately took a shine to him, one look from Shubert and she fell in love.  She puffed out her chest, lifted up her tail and strutted over like a two-bit hooker on lower 4th Street showing off her wares.  Tiamo lay as close to Shubert as possible, rubbing shoulders, tail flicking, paws touching his, her head tilting.  As we wrapped up our conversation, Shubert loaded up into the car, ready to go –  Tiamo hopped in right behind him, scooting over to lean up against him.  She’d found herself a man and wasn’t going to let him go. It took me ten minutes to con/drag her out of the vehicle.

Never faithful for long, Tiamo moved on to greener pastures.  Her next love affair was with Gus, a Bernese from back east.  Gus was the kind of guy that tightened the kink in her tail.  One glance and Tiamo turned into a lit’le slut-puppy.  A cougar worth her salt, Tiamo liked her men young and Gus was younger by 10 months.  His swagger down pat, his moves slick as silk, Gus was a ladies man, a giglio, a smooth operator and had all the ladies panting.  Tiamo had met her match – she was one of many in a long line of lusting females. That dog was handsome plus!  Sparks ignited when the two were together, resulting in 8 puppies 60+ days later.  Yep, Gus fathered her beautiful children.  And, then left her.  A single mother, raising 8 kids alone, you would think Tiamo would learn her lesson.  Eleven months later, Tiamo was up to her old philandering ways…..

A couple of times a year, we bring the girls into the groomers’ for a wash, cut and curl.  We clip their bellies and their forearm feathers to keep the stickers and cockleburs to a minimum and it helps them stay cool in the hot summer months.  Tiamo, particularly, did not like the process, protesting immediately upon entering the door to the groomers’.  Her front paws put on the breaks, denying all forward movement into the establishment. She put her back paws in full reverse, madly scrambling to dodge her fate.  She ignored all commands to stop acting like a brat and to behave, seeking only escape.  She didn’t so much mind the bath as she did the clippers. She hated the clippers.  And she abhorred the colorful little bandana souvenir they tied around her neck at the end of the foray, trying to bite it off on the way home.  It got so bad, that we started bringing her in through the back door to minimize the damage to the store’s displays in the front – until the day she saw Owen.

Owen was a local male Berner, masculine and manly, he easily tipped the scales at 135 lbs.  That boy was one handsome dude and he ooooooozed sex.   Owen was already in the wash rack when I arrived with Tiamo at the back door, hoping upon hope she wouldn’t put up too much of a fuss as we entered.  One sniff and the game was up – Tiamo knew she had been duped into getting bathed and clipped.  A full-on Tiamo tantrum erupted.  She wasn’t going anywhere but back home.  Tiamo changed delaying tactics and dropped to the tiled floor, rolling over on her back, four paws in the air, she was dead weight, couldn’t be picked up, dragged, moved or maneuvered.    And then, out of the corner of her eye,  she saw Owen.  Her ears twitched, her eyes glowed with that familiar glint, drool droplets trickled from her lips, her tail curled into a constricted ringlet, it only took one sultry look for Tiamo to go ga-ga over him.  Miraculously, she spun upright, gave a little bitch shake, pulled her shoulders back, pushed her barreled chest out and pranced right up the ramp to her wash tub.  With a flick of her tail, Tiamo had a new man. Unapologetic, Tiamo gave me the signal to leave, she had this handled.   I quickly turned to leave.  Exiting out the door, I peeked back at the two love-birds.  Tiamo had jumped the tub’s railing and was skinny-dipping with Owen. I kept walking.

Thank gawd she’s been spayed.

Dog petting

mud

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Dog doors are a great invention and ours was one of the better remodel decisions Malcolm and I made…

When Tiamo was still a puppy, we added a large coyote-fenced enclosure that wrapped around the back of our New Mexican styled home.  Aesthetically pleasing for the neighborhood, it fit in with the landscape.  We carefully planned the gate placement, the amount of  shade provided by the Pinon trees growing around the perimeter and size of the pen around Tiamo’s needs.  The one thing we didn’t plan, was installing a dog door for entrance from the pen to the house.  Mistake number one – however a moot point since we only put Tiamo in the pen when we left for town and couldn’t bring her.  Tiamo’s new playground was over 1,800 square feet of soft sand and shade.  Made just for her – and she hated it!  She hated being left alone outside, barking excessively.  She hated being separated from us and most of all she hated knowing Thugs, our cat at the time, was indoors while she was suffering outdoors.  She dug deep holes under the gate and tunneled out to freedom, magically appearing at our back door to come inside.  She scratched, clawed and budged her way out through any opening she could find, bending the gate frame, ripping the wiring.   We added reinforcements, new gate latches, heavier gauged wire, and still Tiamo would find a way out.  One week after we christened our new dog pen addition, we abandoned it.  Tiamo happily trading the pen for all the comforts of pillows and couches found inside our home.

For two years Tiamo’s dog pen sat empty – until the puppies were born.  The pen was the perfect dog park for eight little pups to explore and discover their new life.  We would bring the kids out to the pen during the late hours of the afternoon, when the sun’s heat was less severe. Tiamo had finally accepted the pen, enjoying the fresh air as she tenderly watched over her rambunctious brood.  The little ones romped and tumbled for hours until we brought them back in to their make-shift pen set up in the garage.  Tired and exhausted, the puppies would settle into a fast sleep for the night. 

As each puppy left for their new life with their new caregivers, Malcolm and I came to the conclusion we needed to add a dog door to the pen for our remaining three; Tiamo, Amore and Dolce.  However, our careful planning of the pen placement several years past, failed to appoint a common wall for a dog door.  Mistake number two.  We concluded after a careful study of where to place the large rubber flap, to install the dog door in our bathroom’s linen closet.  I know, it sounds weird, but our thinking was (and still is) if there came a time when we needed to close off the dog door, we could re-install the linen shelves back in and the large, unsightly dog hole would  “disappear” behind bath towels and sheets.  Plus, we could close the closet door to keep the girls in or out depending on what we wanted.

Installation day was on a Friday, right around the first of July.   We wanted to have the door installed and finished before our Monsoon season started so the girls could come in out of the rain.  Training was easy.  A little nugget of ground hamburger was all it took to entice Tiamo through the opening, with Amore and Dolce  quickly following.  It wasn’t long before each dog was barreling through the flap looking for a meatball.    The girls immediately used the outdoors as they should, doing their duty discreetly outside.   No more getting up to let one of dogs out, no more waiting in the freezing cold as Dolce sniffed for the perfect spot, no more chasing after Amore as she sensed freedom.  Life was just made easier.

Five days later, the rains came. Blessed drops of liquid fell on our parched acreage.  Never lasting very long, the afternoon showers can alternate from a gentle pitter-patter to hard torments of destruction.  The dry land will soak up the moisture like a sponge, filling its cracks with water, letting the excess wash over into arroyos and gullies creating flash floods and hazards.  Not only do our summer storms bequeath us with fiery sunsets that paint the sky with vibrant colors, they also leave us with clay dirt that quickly becomes slick, clinging to our shoes, dragging your steps with the extra weight of the mud.  It was on a day such as this, that I came home from work to find mud, lots of mud, strewn from one end of the house to the other!  There were muddy paws prints in every room, every part of the house. On the sofa, on the bed, everywhere.  The girls came running to greet me, each with a wet, muddy underbelly, each filthy and dirty, mire and sledge oozing from their paws.  and each with a huge happy grin on their face.  The new dog door was a gateway to mud and muck.  Mistake number three!

Luckily, we have brick floors.  And, we have a house cleaner.

Dolce washed up after mud wrestling with Amore

Dolce washed up after mud wrestling with Amore

 

MISSISSIPPI MUD PIE

an ooey-gooey delicious mess!

  • 1 cup butter
  • 8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 4 large eggs, slightly beaten
  • 6 oz Oreo cookies
  • 1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts
  • 1 tbsp. dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 6 tbsp. melted butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease a 9 inch springform pan.  

To prepare the crust:  place Oreo cookies, nuts, sugar and cinnamon in a food processor and process until fine crumbs are formed.  Add the melted butter and mix until just moistened.  Do not over process.  Press the cookie mixture over the bottom of the springform pan, pressing the mixture up the sides of the pan about 1 1/2 inches.  Cover and chill until filling is ready.

To prepare the filling:  add butter, chocolate, corn syrup in a medium sauce pan over low heat until melted together.  Let cool.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time and then the finely chopped Macadamia nuts.  Pour filling into the chilled crust and smooth the surface.  Bake for 30 minute or until just set but still soft in the center.  Let cool on a wire rack.

Serve a room temperature with homemade whipped cream.

 

cat fight

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This morning was a normal 5:00 a.m. wake-up.  Amore lumbered by at her usual time of 4:55 a.m. to press wet wake up doggy kisses on my cheek.  Not to be outdone, Dolce barreled in between Amore and the side of the bed to ensure her share of early morning love.  Like clock-work, the girls followed me through my morning ritual of getting ready for work, eagerly anticipating breakfast once I was finished.  About 10 minutes in, Gordita arrived from her night-time-hidey-hole to loudly scratch at the bottom of the bathroom door, determined to be let in to join the party.  The three quietly lazed about, each curled up in their own special spot on the floor, still waking up to their full potential for the day to come.  One by one, they took turns in giving me good morning hugs.  Amore likes to put her front paws on the counter next to me so she can rub her muzzle up against me, receiving a rub in return.  Gordita jumps from the rim of the tub to the sink counter and weaves her quiet way softly over hair brushes and toothpaste to leap onto my shoulder, liking to nuzzle my neck for a few minutes before I set her back down, and Dolce loves to push her way through from behind your legs to get her ears scratched.  About the time I’m ready for some hot coffee, Amore and Dolce have fully woken up and are ready for their own breakfast.

We all headed out to the kitchen, Dolce in the lead as Gordita sprinted between dog paws  and dog tails to reach a safe haven under the kitchen table, ready to watch the breakfast festivities.  I performed the routine procedure of  filling their dishes with their kibbles and bit of water before making the two sit.  Both Amore and Dolce have learned to sit quickly down on their honches, knowing I won’t place the feed bowl down until they have earned it.  Side by side, they immediately dove into their respective dog bowls, slurps and crunches and the rattle of the tin bowl,  the only noises heard.  Once I gave them their chow, I grabbed a flashlight and walked up the drive to retrieve the newspaper.  About the time I get back to the house, the girls are usually just finishing up.  Sometimes one will polish off their meal ahead of the other, sometimes they clean their bowls at the same time, but always, once finished, they wander over to where I’m sitting with the paper for a little love.  Until this morning…..

This morning the little bitches got into a cat fight!  For 4 1/2 years, Amore and Dolce have happily enjoyed their meals together, shoulder to shoulder.  They have their own dog bowls, nestled in a raised double-panned stand – Dolce’s on the right, Amore’s right next door on the left.  For over four years, they  have received the same portions, the same food, at the same time.  Dolce is always the first to sit.  Amore is always first to dig in.  And, this morning the two big babies started a fight over the last nibble!  It’s typical for Amore to finish her meal first and Dolce to lap up her’s in a close second.  Today, Amore unwisely decided to see what was left in Dolce’s bowl and gobbled up what was there before Dolce could.  War broke out in the middle of the kitchen with snarls, growls, raised paws and big fangs barred.  I’ve always been told to never get in the middle of a dog fight – with a long-handled broom, I swatted the behind of the closest dog to me, allowing a distracted mutt to cease-fire.

Talk about a little early morning excitement, their loud and contested dispute brought Malcolm running into the kitchen from a sound slumber to see me taking my last wallop with the broom and Amore slinking off to her corner to lick her pride.  Suffice to say, this evening their feed bowls were separated and the broom was kept handy.

Fat & Sassy French Toast

So good, you’ll fight over the last piece!

  • 8-10 slices day-old bread, crusts removed
  • 16 oz. cream cheese, cut into cubes
  • 3 cups of sliced fruit i.e., bananas, strawberries, raspberries
  • 12 large eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar

Grease a 13 x 9 inch baking pan.  Lay 4-5 slices of bread on bottom of pan, then top with cream cheese cubes and sliced fruit. Top with the rest of the bread slices and set aside.  Beat together eggs, milk and brown sugar and pour over bread.  Cover pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat over to 350 degrees.  Remove plastic wrap from pan and bake for 40 minutes or until top layer of bread of lightly golden brown.

Serve with additional warmed maple syrup if desired.

all in a dog’s day

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is it morning yet? jump on mom to wake her up, nope, she’s not up yet, go out to the pen to see if anything happened overnight ,jump on mom again to wake her up, yea! she’s crawling out of bed, time to eat breakfast, follow mom outside to retrieve the newspaper, time for an early morning nap, ok, mom’s left for work, let’s chew up the newspaper before Malcolm gets to read it, sigh, check to see if there is anything new in the dog bowl, rats! nothing! take another nap, roll over and stretch, emit a bad  dog fart, sigh, head bump Malcolm for a quick rub on the ears, take another nap, wake up barking at some noise, sigh, counter-surf for crumbs – sigh, let’s go bug Malcolm, bark some more at nothing, fanegale a treat out of Malcolm, check out the kitchen floor for a quick nibble – something new might have fallen from the counter, rats! nothing – sigh, tear through the house to the outdoor pen, something might be out there,  track dirt back in the house, beg for a doggie treat, sigh, bark some more to annoy Malcolm, plop down and sigh, when is mom coming home from work? sigh, fart, bark at a car driving by, do another drive-by in the kitchen – rats again! nada – go for a walk with Malcolm – yippee! – get home and take another nap, it’s dinner time, burp, fart, run through the house and slide on the rug – yippee! – mom is home – yippee! – let’s go give her a welcome attack, bark, bark, bark, bark, jump up on mom to give her a dog hug, beg for another dog snack cuz mom doesn’t know Malcolm already gave us one, take a nap, follow mom and Malcolm around the house from room to room, is it bedtime yet? put head back down, watch mom clean up in the kitchen, any crumbs? rats! nothing! now it’s time, jump on bed and curl up to mom, cuddle, roll over for a belly rub, cuddle, nudge amore over so dolce can get closer, get dog hair all over the down pillows, stretch, roll over for one last cuddle, ohhh siiiiggghh –

good night y’all!

Bobcat’s

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Traditionally, when family and friends visit, we treat our out-of-town guests to Bobcat Bite, an old trading post-turned-gun shop-turned-burger joint located halfway between us and Santa Fe.  A family owned business since 1953, Bobcat’s sits off of historic Route 66, so named for the wild bobcats that came down from the surrounding mountains and were fed meat craps and leftovers at the back door. Owned by Bonnie and John, Bobcat’s has only 5 small tables and a long counter for singles and one-sie’s, you pay with cash or check, are given a Tootsie roll pop for dessert, and those waiting for a table get restless if you linger too long.  The name at the top of the chalkboard gets the first available table.  Those names under them impatiently toe-tap, waiting to be moved up.

The menu has changed little, except perhaps they don’t serve homemade fruit pie anymore.  Burgers, steaks, pork chops.  Salad, garlic bread and country fries.  Cole slaw, potato salad and skillet baked beans.  A simple menu, but I can guaran-damn-tee you, it is and will be, the best burger you will ever have.  Bar none.  Ten ounces of ground daily choice sirloin and chuck, cooked to order on an old cast iron griddle, it’s a two-fisted burger, bookend by a specially baked sourdough bun and served with potato chips.  The first bite is a jaw-bender.  The last bite is an assembly of hamburger pieces, broken potato chips and green chili that fell out of the burger into the paper-lined burger basket.

I like the green chili cheese burger, rare-to-medium rare, onions, no chips.  Malcolm orders the green chili cheese, medium, onions, two tomato slices, lettuce, yes on the chips and the potato salad, but only if Bonnie made it.  Dolce and Amore enjoy the leftovers minus the onions and green chili.  We’ve learned to flip the burger as soon as it arrives so the juices gravitate into new territory, spreading the succulent flavors.

Best damn burger! Ever!

Best damn burger! Ever!

When it was just Tiamo, we would bring her with us, sitting outside at a small bistro-styled table on the portale.  Tiamo would lay under the table at our feet, occasionally handed scraps of hamburger when Malcolm wasn’t watching.  Tiamo learned at a young age, if we turned left at the blinking light, it was a Bobcat night, and a sure bet she would get a treat.  She would go from zero to wildly excited before we could even round the corner.  Should we turn to get on the freeway, Tiamo sulked in the back corner of the car all the way into town.  When Dolce and Amore came along, we would leave the three dogs in the car in the parking lot while we enjoyed our meal.  Every so often, we would hear loud barks from the girls, encouraging us to hurry it up.  They knew Bonnie had wrapped up our leftovers and there were meat scraps to be had.

Typically, repeat house guests will request a Bobcat burger upon their return to Santa Fe, telling us they’ve been craving Bobcat’s since they started planning their trip.   On occasion, they will demand to come back for a second round of burger before they leave town – sort of a  “one for the road” talisman.

Dolce and Amore certainly don’t mind, they get the leftovers.

RECIPE (strike that) RULES FOR A BOBCAT BITE BURGER

  • Drive fast, dangerously fast to Bobcat’s to arrive before the other patrons, believe you me, this is serious business
  • Run, don’t walk, to the chalkboard to write your name down before the out-of-town-never-been-to-Bobcat’s-before folks have a chance to get out of the car and figure out the system
  • While waiting for a table, stare through the windows, intimidating those slow pokes eating inside into speeding up their meal.  This isn’t Paris, they don’t get to dawdle over coffee
  • Once seated, read the menu quickly and know what you want – don’t dilly-daddle.  There are people waiting for your table – like us – plus, you don’t want to delay that first bite of your burger
  • Inquire who boiled the potatoes that morning (just kidding John)
  • Order and enjoy the best damn burger ever, ever, ever!  This is no ordinary burger – hold on to your socks, you’re in for a treat!
  • Ask for more napkins, you’re gonna need’em – now ask for another one
  • Discreetly undo the snap on your jeans, pulling your shirt out and over to cover the opening.  Okay, now you have more room to indulge in your burger – oh, yeah, and you can breathe
  • Eat, pay and grab your Tootsie pop as you exit, you can enjoy it in the car on the way home
  • Start planning your next visit to Bobcat’s
  • http://www.bobcatbite.com
Bonnie with one of the buddy gang

Bonnie with one of our repeat offenders

Goldilocks

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Growing up, our father had a big ol’ over-stuffed leather chair and ottoman positioned just so — enabling him to watch our black & white at just the right angle.  That was HIS chair.  All the dirty rubber bands from the evening newspapers, his toothpicks, his torn-out magazine articles, his dog-eared paperbacks, collected on, in or by his chair.  If one of us girls happened to be sitting in HIS chair when he came in the living room to watch TV or read the paper, we had to vamoose out that chair lickety-split, forfeiting all rights to the seat.  Saturdays we would dig through the chair sides under the seat pillow, searching for loose change and coins that had slipped out of his pockets throughout the week as he sunk further into the chair.  On a good week, we could net a hefty profit, easily tripling our paltry allowance.  Most times, it was a bust.  The years brought longer afternoon naps and more cracks to the aging dried out leather,  the worn seat sagged way below the equator, the arm rests wiggled but stayed put with extra nails to the frame, and it was still HIS chair.  Worn down, broken-in, and mighty comfortable, that chair was dad’s and always would be.

Tiamo had a special seat as well.  Our kilim covered ottoman-slash-coffee table on steroids.  As a puppy, the ottoman was the only piece of furniture low enough for her to climb up on.  All of 10 weeks old, Tiamo would put her front paws on the top edge of the large oversized ottoman, her short little hind legs furiously working to gain purchase as she would pull herself up to the top where victory lay.  And there she lay, eyes sparkling from her achievement.  From the day she reached the summit, that ottoman has been hers and hers alone.  That was her spot, her place, her chair. If someone happened to be encroaching on her ottoman, a bark and a paw nudge was usually enough to get them to move along to another spot.  We have experienced her literally pushing us off her spot, leaning with all her body weight until we gave in and let her have her ottoman back.

When the puppies were born, her ottoman became more sacred and Tiamo became more territorial with her special place. Momma had staked her claim to the ottoman years prior and no little whippersnapper was going to poach on it. Amore and Dolce eventually learned to leave the ottoman to Tiamo.  The only trespasser allowed on the ottoman, was Thugs, our cat at the time, whom Tiamo grew up with and had always been protective of.

When Tiamo passed, Malcolm and I wondered who would be the first to take over the ottoman. Dolce or Amore?  Both had tried repeatedly, but to no avail when Tiamo was alive.  My bet was on Dolce, as Amore has always preferred the cold brick floor under her belly.  So far, neither has shown any desire to acquire the ottoman as “theirs”.  Amore has jumped over it, Dolce has used the ottoman as a launching pad to chase after Amore, but the girls have yet to enjoy their afternoon nap, stretched out with the sun warming their belly, on the ottoman. In their minds, it will always be Tiamo’s ottoman.

And, perhaps Gordita’s, one of the few intruders Tiamo allowed on her “spot”.

Gordita

Gordita

Sunday tradition

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Monday through Friday, I am the one to feed the girls their morning meal. Early.  5:00 a.m. early.  Our dogs are conditioned to enjoy their breakfast at the crack of dawn, when it’s still dark and cold out.  Once their bellies’ are full, they settle back down on their huge dog pillows for a little morning shut-eye as I sip my coffee and read the paper before I leave for work.

Come the weekend, my wonderful, sweet hubby gets up early to feed Amore and Dolce, allowing me to sleep a couple more hours before I start the day.  For some perverse reason, on the weekends, the girls start scrambling for their breakfast  around 4:00 a.m.  They’ll come around to the side of the bed, checking to see if one of us is up yet, being sure to whack their tail several times for good measure.  On a good day, they might wait until 4:30 a.m. before starting their wake-up antics.  If need be, Amore will jump up on the bed and sit on one of us in her attempt to get fed.  It’s about this time, I’m kicking Malc in the back, “it’s your turn to feed’em!” I mumble.

Blurry eyed, and three-quarters still asleep, he stumbles out to the dark kitchen, tripping over 200 excited pounds of two hungry dogs in their mad bid for their kibbles.  From the other room, I hear several choice words spewing loudly from his lips as his bare feet and legs are clawed by dog paws in their eagerness to be fed. I hear the clank and clatter from their metal dog bowls being pushed around the hard floor as they devour their food.  Then quiet. Blissful quiet.  Wonderful-fall-back-to-sleep quiet.  While the girls are still chowing down their food, Malc will crawl back into the still warm bed, staking out his territory on the mattress.  He has about 2 minutes to fluff his pillows and get comfortable before the girls search us out, climbing up on the bed to snuggle in for a few more hours.  A half hour later, Gordita joins the family snugglefest, stepping over fur and bodies to curl up on a down pillow.

By the time, I’m ready to rise, I have two dogs stretched out on each side of me and a cat up on my pillow loudly purring in my ear, a black cat tail draped across my face. I can’t move.  I look over at Malcolm and see a slight smile peaking through the covers.  “Psst! You awake?”, I persist in waking him.  One visible eye opens, we share a contented, loving look as we view our menagerie nestled on the bed.  Our family.  It brings a warm hug to our hearts.

Sunday morning is our special day of the week to laze around, read the paper, drink our coffee, share breakfast.  It’s turned into tradition, having our girls curled up around us as we read the comics, the OpEd page, the local news, sipping hot coffee, being careful not to spill any on the covers.  Breakfast turns into brunch, but who cares, it’s our lazy day to enjoy our family.

RASPBERRY PANCAKES

Perfect for those lazy Sunday mornings, these cakes are light and fluffy – the secret is taking the time to beat the egg whites separately.

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup non-fat milk (may use buttermilk)
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tsp. lemon zest, finely grated
  • 2 large egg whites (save extra egg yolk for your canine friends)
  • 3/4 cup sliced bananas
  • 3/4 cup raspberries
  • 1/4 cup raspberry jam (heated in microwave)
  • 1 cup vanilla yogurt

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt, set aside.  In a small bowl, whisk together milk, egg yolk and zest.  Set aside.

Beat egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff peaks forms.  Stir milk mixture little by little into the flour mixture.  Carefully fold in egg whites and then add the sliced bananas.

Spray non-stick cooking spray on a large non-stick skillet or griddle and warm over medium heat.  Ladle batter onto hot griddle using a 1/4 cup measuring cup to pour batter, making a hotcake.  Repeat until griddle is full.  Cook until bottom is set and golden brown, about two minutes.  Flip and cook until firm, another 2 to 3 minutes.  Set aside and cover to keep warm until you’ve cooked all the hotcakes.

Serve hotcakes topped with warm raspberry jam and vanilla yogurt and raspberries.

must love dog….. hair!

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When Malcolm and I married, we knew we wanted to move out of California, only we didn’t know exactly where.  My only condition: it had to be west of the Mississippi.  Malcolm’s only condition:  it had to have home-delivery for the New York Times.  The dart landed on Santa Fe, New Mexico, a southwest tourist mecca.  Tucked in tight against the Sangre de Cristos Mountain Range, Santa Fe is host to a wide range of culture, several museums, great restaurants, outdoor sports and lots of shopping opportunities from expensive art and indian jewelry to cheap T-shirts with silk screened scenes depicting the Southwest.  The lure of Santa Fe not only brings thousands of travelers and visitors annually, it also brings lots of family and friends, guests who arrive for mini get-away vacations.

And while we open the doors of our home, welcoming our friends, we always need to preface their visit with a few words of warning:  YOU MUST LOVE DOGS…… AND DOG HAIR!  Oh yeah, and a very fat cat named Gordita.

What we really mean is, you must love OUR dogs and not be allergic to cats.  House guests are not allowed to be upset if their kicked off shoes ends up outside in the dog pen, if they discover they are missing a sock days after they go home, or if there is black dog hair clinging to their pants leg and to their shirt and to their jacket and to everything else they own.  Throughout their stay, the odds are high they will pull a stray strand of dog hair from their wineglass, or see a puff of canine curls floating down and around.  Malcolm and I chuckle to ourselves when we catch sight of a guest discretely pulling out a hidden hair off their lips.  We advise our friends to shut their bedroom door tight at night or they could very well end up with one to three animals curled up next to them, sharing not only the soft mattress but more dog hair.  We regularly invest in lint rollers,  placed in every room for convenience.  Even I do a roller-run-through on my slacks every morning before leaving for work, checking for dog hair.

from dog - to couch - to the back of the shirt - dog hair!

from dog – to couch – to the back of the shirt – dog hair!

After several years, we have filtered our guest list down to three categories:  Those that LOVE our girls, keeping their bedroom door wide open, hoping for a midnight cuddle and don’t mind the stray dog hair; those that don’t mind our dogs, but are careful with their shoes and keep the lint roller in hand; and those that stay in a hotel.

Hair of the Dog
The old saying “hair of the dog that bit you” is a common theory for curing a hangover.  The Hair of the Dog cocktail is a great alternative that serves the same purpose: a little bit of alcohol, sour citrus and the hot digestive aid to calm the stomach.
Pour the Gin, lemon juice and Tabasco into an ice-filled cocktail shaker and shake generously.  Strain into a chilled glass.  Garnish with a colorful chili pepper.  Be sure to wash your hands well with soap (especially before touching your eyes) if you handle the chili pepper.
Yield: 1 Cocktail

moms and meatloaf

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Growing up, I would cringe when I heard the words, “you take after your father”.  Or better yet, “you look just like your mom“.  At fifteen, I did not want to be compared to either parent.  I only saw dad as hosting a big nose and a larger belly.  And mother, well, suffice to say, I did not want to grow up to be like my mother.  Only now do I understand those words were sweet compliments full of promise of what was to come.  Their moral fiber was imprinted on me in my early years, their love and emotional support has stayed with me even with their passing years ago.  Now, at full maturity and with a clear mirror, I see a bit of both my parents in me, from sharing my father’s gift of gab to sharing my mother’s propensity to uphold her Scandinavian heritage – being a stubborn Swede on occasion.  I’ve borrowed my father’s coloring, with fair-hair and blue eyes, and copied my mom’s easy-going manner.  I find myself mimicking their mannerisms, their habits and their likes and dislikes.  And, buying only French’s mustard and Best Food’s mayo and using only real butter, cuz that’s what mother did.  Like mother, like daughter.

DSC00641

like mama, like daughter

With dogs, all traits and characteristics are individual.  They might share looks, the same blaze on the forehead, the same white-capped paws, but all similarities end there.  Their personalities are all their own.  I once had a dog trainer tell me, “Dogs do not learn from other dogs, they learn from repetitive learning and rewards”.    I used to believe that, now I’m not so sure……

When Tiamo was just a puppy, she would prance a little jig as we walked her.  A special spring in her gait, unique to just her.  I’d never seen another dog with the same perky step.  Until just the other day – I noticed Dolce dancing a little jig, as we walked the loop, so like Tiamo.  Tiamo had a habit of holding her head up, tucking her muzzle in, and looking up at you with a shy, Princess Di glaze.  She was so graceful, like royalty.   Recently, I saw Amore lift her head and tuck in her muzzle, as she peered up at me.  In that instant, she looked so much like Tiamo.  Tiamo had a special spot under the table, where she would lay as we ate dinner, her front paws draped over my toes, just to let me know she was there.  Now Amore lays there, in the exact spot as Tiamo, her right paw touching my left foot,  so like Tiamo.

Is it genetics?  Is it environment? Or is it just being a dog?  Malcolm and I find ourselves saying, “Dolce acts just like Tiamo” or “She is so like her mother”, something every teenager hates to hear.   Amore has always “looked” more like Tiamo – Dolce has always behaved more like Tiamo.  Both have taken on traits only Tiamo possessed.

MEATLOAF AND LOAF

All moms have a special recipe that spells out M-O-M.  My mother’s was meatloaf.  I make it just like hers.

Mama knows best!!

  • 1 sourdough bread loaf (un-sliced) – hollowed out, saving the bread filling
  • 1  –  3 oz. can sliced mushrooms and liquids
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tsp. dry mustard
  • 1 1/2 cup soft bread crumbs from sourdough bread loaf
  • 1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • Tabasco sauce, to taste

In a large mixing bowl, combine liquids, egg, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper and bread crumbs.  Let stand for 5 minutes.  Stir in ground beef, mushrooms, and onions.  Fill the sourdough bread loaf with the meatloaf mixture.  Bake in a preheated 350 F degree oven for one hour.

Mine!

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DSC01381Grrrrrrrrr!

Mine!

Do. Not. Even. Think. About. It.

Whether it’s a shoe, a bone or a peanut-butter filled Kong – the treasure becomes more valuable when you have possession… and, fair game to all others who don’t.

One of Dolce’s favorite past-times is chewing her Kong.  She’ll carry her Kong from room to room, as she follows us around the house, tucking it under her paw for additional security if Amore gets too close for comfort, a low growl of warning rumbling from deep inside her throat.  Should the cone-shaped rubber Kong slip out from her grasp, awkwardly rolling under some piece of furniture, she’ll spend several minutes digging it out.  She’ll wiggle under the couch, as much as a 100 lb. deep-barrel chested Bernese can, her nose buried, paw extended, the Kong just out of her reach.  A huff and a puff later, and she is squirming back out from under the sofa, sending us a beseeching look, silently begging us to assist her in recovering her toy.  Now it’s our turn to wiggle on our stomachs, cheeks against the cold brick floor attempting to flush out the Kong.  Having to incorporate a long wooden handle of a broom to sweep it out from down under, Dolce supervises the save from her perch on the couch, eagerly anticipating the return of favorite chew toy.

It’s usually about this time that Amore becomes interested in ownership of the Kong – barreling her way into the fray to steal the Kong away from Dolce as it orbits out from its hiding place.  Like a typical sibling, she parades in front of Dolce, holding the stolen loot in her clenched jaws, taunting Dolce with the prize.  Retaliating, Dolce barks her frustration at losing her Kong.  Still barking, she frantically paces from one end of the couch to the other,  tracking Amore as she continues to mock Dolce.  Pillows flying off the couch, Dolce gets in position to leap across the ottoman to lunge at Amore gripping the Kong.  – chaos has erupted!

Now, imagine you are still laying on your stomach, the cold brick floor against your skin, broom handle still in hand, Amore stepping on your back as she needles and antagonizes her sister.  You’ve another dog, whose barking has intensified to a loud frenzy, one second from flying across you to begin a well-deserved Kong attack against Amore.  In your effort to crawl out from under the couch, you try to stand at the exact moment Dolce takes the first shot, jumping towards Amore to retrieve her Kong.  You are in the middle a Kong fight, buried under eight paws and two hundred pounds of canine, battling it out for the glory of red rubber.

Dolce and Amore have a running tally of who has stolen, swiped, taken, nabbed, grabbed and all out fought for, the golden prize out from under an unsuspecting nose.  With Amore slightly ahead in steals, Dolce leads in cunning rebounds.  Malcolm and I surrender.

Canine cuddles

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Nothing says “romance” better than a dozen long-stemmed red roses.  Nothing says “love” better than a sparkling diamond.  And nothing says “sex” better than chocolate!

Unless you are a dog!

canine cuddles

canine cuddles

Dolce has always been our little cuddle-bug, our little sweetheart, our little lover.  She’ll sidle up besides you, nudging your hand to get her ears idly scratched, she’ll sit next to me (or rather on me) in the passenger seat for some extra pets and pats.  She’ll roll over in front of you, stopping you in your tracks, for a belly rub, kicking her back feet in happiness that she got you to stop and rub her.

But her favorite is to cuddle on the couch….

She’ll stretch and slowly crawl up on the leather lounge, keeping to the south end of the couch, patiently waiting for you to get settled in and comfortable.  She’ll then snuggle up against your side, burrowing in, pushing aside pillows, newspapers and blankets to make way for her.   Little-by-little, between her wiggling and leaning, pushing and tugging, she’ll end up with her furry frame wedged between the back of the sofa cushions and your own stretched out body.  Less than five minutes later, she’ll be draped across your torso, her soft head tucked up under your chin.  Instinctively, your arms will reach around her, holding her to you  as you automatically start rubbing and massaging her shoulders.  In due course, her gentle brown eyes will lower in ecstasy, savoring the moment.

There are moments when Dolce will lift her big head and gaze at you, softly starring with pure love in her eyes.  Sometimes gentle, sometimes intense, always with loving sentiment shinning through.  She’ll tenderly drop her head back down to rest on your collar, nuzzling closer, so content.

Nothing says “I love you” from a dog better than a couch cuddle.

CHOCOLATE ADULTERESS

Nothing says ‘sex’ like a taste of chocolate!  Serve with a port or Cognac.

CAKE MIXTURE

  • 1 lb. sweet chocolate
  • 6 oz. unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tbsp. dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp. flour

Preheat oven to 400 F degrees.  Line an 8-inch cake pan with parchment paper.

In a saucepan, melt the chocolate and butter over low heat.  Meanwhile, place the un-cracked eggs in a bowl of hot water for 5 minutes.  Crack and combine the eggs and sugar in a bowl and mix with an electric mixer on high-speed for 8 to 10 minutes, or, until tripled in volume.  Sift the flour on top.  Fold into the eggs.  Stir 1/4 of the egg mixture into the chocolate.  Carefully fold the chocolate into the remaining eggs until thoroughly combined.

Pour into the prepared cake pan.  Bake for 2o minutes.  The cake will still be slightly soft int he middle.  cool completely in the pan.  Cover and refrigerate in the pan overnight.  May be frozen for up to two weeks.

RASPBERRY SAUCE

  • 8 oz. raspberries, fresh
  • Superfine sugar to taste
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp. Mexican vanilla
  • Fresh raspberries for garnish
  • Mint sprigs for garnish

Puree the raspberries and strain.  Add just enough sugar to sweeten.  Pour the cream and vanilla  in a bowl and mix with an electric mixer until firm.  Invert the cake onto a serving platter.  Cut into wedges and place on a pool of raspberry sauce, garnish with fresh raspberries and mint leaves.  Top with a dollop of whipped cream.

Simply irresistible!

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

IMG_7091

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!

100 lb. lap dog

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When our litter of Berner puppies were barely two days old and just under two pounds each, we bundled them up in a padded, warm carrier, and along with mamma, brought them in to the vet’s to have their dew claws removed. If removed in the first week of life, dew claws are still soft like a fingernail and can be removed relatively easily with no stitches required.  I sat in the back seat to keep an eye on the pack as Malcolm drove into town to the clinic.  Tiamo kept an eye on me,  not trusting and unsure of the process, she was an anxious mamma, agitated we were moving her pups.  Three hours later we were back home, the lit’ tykes happily nursing, Tiamo calm now that she had her puppies under her care.

Dibs on the front seat

Dibs on the front seat

Eight weeks later we brought them back to the vet’s for their first set of shots – DHPP which includes Distemper, Parvo, Parainfluenza, and Heartworm prevention.  Malcolm had prepped the SUV, back seats laid down and lined with a tarp for “accidents”, he loaded up eight roly-poly, tail-wagging, wiggling puppies, each weighing from the low-to-high twentys’, into the car.  To the puppies, it was their first official car ride, a new adventure in a new setting.  With Malcolm driving, I rode shotgun, half-turned in my seat to keep an eye on the little souls.  Eight little noses immediately started sniffing and exploring the inside of the car.  Tails straight up, their little noses wrinkling as they would catch an unfamiliar new scent, they searched out every nook and cranny in the car.  Dolce was the first explorer to find her way up into the front seat territory.  She started with two white-capped paws on the hard plastic console, wobbling between the padded edge of the back seat and the middle arm rest as she tried to advance.  Stretched out and stuck fast, I caught her just as she was about to do a backwards tumble into the black hole called the floor and placed her on my lap.  Safe and secure, she nestled in between my legs, occasionally standing to peek out the window, only to plop back down on my lap with a contented sigh.  It was the start of Dolce’s fascination with the front seat and sitting on my lap.

Bigger and heavier by many pounds, by week twelve, most of the puppies had left for their new homes, leaving Amore and Dolce, the two puppies we kept.  It was time for another round of shots, their DHPP booster and their Bordetella, Lepto and Lyme vaccines, requiring another trip to the vet’s.  Once again, Malcolm folded the back seats down, laid a tarp over the back-end and loaded up the girls.  As they muscled their way around the car, excited to be on another car ride, I climbed into the passenger seat.  I had barely clicked my seat-belt when a cold wet nose nudged my elbow.  Wiggling under my arm, Dolce had barreled her way onto my lap.  35 pounds of determined canine snuggled up on my lap, her paws hanging over my knees, her tail happily whacking Malcolm as he drove.  Dolce had found her spot – my lap.

As Dolce and Amore continued grow, so did their love of travel.  Using the 65 rule, the equation is simple:  6 months old = 65 lbs. = 65 mph.  =  a 65 minute trip in the car + Dolce sitting at a sixty-five degree angle on my lap.  As soon as they hear the car keys jingle, they are out the door and in the car, with Dolce readily claiming dibs on the front.  All under 6.5 seconds.  I’d have to scoot Dolce over just to sit down, she’d wait for the click of the seat-belt and be right back on my lap two seconds later.  There is no such thing as “sneaking out” to go to the store.  Words such as “CAR”, “STORE” and “TOWN” have to be spelled out or written down.  At 65 pounds, Dolce does not fit on my lap.  Though uncomfortable and cramped, she is bound and determined to park herself between the console and the passenger door with me sitting underneath.  There are times when I purposely sit in the back seat, allowing Dolce full acreage on the front seat.

Full grown at 98 pounds, Dolce still wants to sit with me – scratch that – on me,  in the passenger seat.  Head scrunched down, rear end sitting on the arm rest, paws dangling down to the floor board, drivers passing us look with open mouth awe as they look through into the front window and see the sight.  A 100 pound lap dog as happy as can be.

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.