company’s a’comin

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Ever have one of those weeks jammed packed with work, travel, outside life, and company coming to visit at the end of it?  Not to mention tending to the busy-every-day-activities of our dogs?

Last week I had one of those hari-kari weeks that included a lot of work, our Association’s Annual Conference causing me to be away from home for four days, Indian Market at the Plaza and company flying in.  The best part of my crazy week was of course the company but I still had to get through the rest of it before I could enjoy their visit.

I had everything planned out – down to the littlest detail.  My Monday and half of Tuesday was prep work for the Conference.  Busy work, copying speaker material, picking up banners from the printers, running errands, finalizing the agendas for meetings.  Crossing off items on a long list of “to-do’s”. Packing and hauling conference ‘stuff’. Long hours.  It is always frantic performing last-minute details.  The other half of Tuesday was travel.  I was going to be out-of-town Tues-Fri.  Not far.  Just Albuquerque.  But still away from normalcy.  Wednesday through Friday was our Annual Conference.  Meetings, speakers, sessions.  Wednesday the house-cleaner would be dealing with our dog-dirty house, doing the standard company coming clean.  Thursday after work, our dog-sitter would show up to tend to Amore and Dolce while Malcolm drove down to join me at our Celebration Gala and to pick up our visiting friends at the airport, flying from in Hotlanta, GA for Indian Market.  Since my conference was over mid-morning on Friday, our Georgia friends enjoyed ABQ for the night before we traveled back up to Santa Fe.  And finally, Saturday and Sunday.  Indian Market.  Fun.  Wine.  Great friends. Phew!  It took a whirlwind to get to the fun part.

I couldn’t do any of this without some key people.  My house-cleaner (my one extravagance)  and our puppy-sitter (our one necessity).  I was reassured the house would be clean and ready for company.  I knew the dogs would be reasonably calm after having one of their favorite people care for them.  After being away for four days and arriving back home with company in tow, I was comforted knowing all was ready for our guests.  It was time to let the weekend start!

So it came as a bit of shock to receive a text from our puppy-sitter on Thursday evening just as the Gala was starting, stating Dolce was barking down in the den area.  Unusual behavior for our normally calm girl.  Before I could text back with questions, she sent back a photo of the cause.  Our little girl had cornered an intruder.

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“Look what I found in the guest bathroom!”  she wrote.  Crap! Shit! Son-of-a-bitch!  Oh yeah, this allows for all the cuss words.  I had company arriving soon and this little toddler was in their bathroom, up against the tub.  It was no wonder Dolce was barking up a storm, calling in the Calvary.  Consequential texts informed me all three girls: Dolce, Amore and Gordita had entered the fray.  Pandemonium had started. Dogs barking, cat wanting in on the action.  Dog drama in an already drama filled week.  I’m not sure how she did it, but with my final text from the sitter, I learned the mouse was outside, the girls quiet and lounging around. Gordita sniffing corners and under furniture looking for her lost toy.

Gordita was at it again.  Our dear fat cat likes to bring in the outside wonders of the rodent world to play with.  Live animated toys to her, she enjoys playing Catch and Release with the damn things. She is a good mouser, but likes them alive.  And likes to show off her live catch.

We are used to mice, we live out in the country where they are abundant.  It’s one of the reasons we have Gordita.  But I certainly don’t want a mouse in the house hours before company is arriving.

I showed Malcolm the text/photo once he arrived at the gala banquet.  “Oh shit!” was his only comment.

“Yeah, you took the words right out of my mouth!” I replied, I think the sitter was able to get it out of the house.”

“We owe her some hazard pay!” I added.  Malcolm nodded his agreement.

“We won’t say anything to Greg and Laura until Monday when they leave,” Malcolm chuckled.  Yeah, right before we drop them off at the airport!” By now both Malcolm and I were starting to laugh over the mouse and our secret.

Welcome to my life!

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what is luv?

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sad dog

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digby o’dell

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The 40’s were famous for radio series programs, especially situation comedies.  One of the more popular shows was “The Life of Riley”, a meat-and-potatoes story of about a Brooklyn family living in California.  Blundering Chester A. Riley, was a wing riveter at the fictional Cunningham Aircraft plant in California and his frequent exclamation of indignation – “What a revoltin’ development this is!” became one of the most famous catchphrases of the 1940s.

The radio series also benefited from the huge popularity of support character, Digby “Digger” O’Dell, the friendly undertaker. Chester A. Riley was a sort of lay about, blue-collar worker who always managed to do everything with the minimum of effort, just getting by.  Riley managed to change any ant-hill of a problem into a Grade-A disaster! For 8 years, Riley’s weekly mishaps included Digger O’Dell.  Riley was constantly getting himself into trouble and Digger was constantly “trying to help him out of a hole” as Digger would have put it.  Digger was known for his oft repetitive lines, including puns based on his profession.  His signature sign-off, “Cheerio! I’d better be shoveling off” was renowned throughout radio land.  And although “The Life of Riley” has long been off the air, buried deep in the annuals of radio sit coms, Digger’s spirit lives on.

Yes, Digger lives on!  He lives on in Dolce, channeled into a canine proclivity to dig and bury.  Unfortunately, Dolce has inherited Digger’s fondness for, well, for digging.  And for burying.

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a found Kong

It started as a puppy.  Small bushes and plants would be discovered on their sides, roots uprooted, deep holes in the ground found next to their curled up leaves.  Dolce’s little snout would be covered with evidence, fresh soil clinging to her nose.  Her dirty paws were proof enough she was the culprit, the excavator.  Digging replacement plant holes would unearth previously buried treasure; bones, shoes, rag toys, socks, even her precious Kong.

We knew we were in trouble when the graveyard started to grow, when the burial plots started to multiply.  What we had thought were gopher holes were in fact Kong entombments.  What we believed to be left over potting soil from our garden work was actually a small bone mausoleum.  We learned Digger O’Dell lived on.

As Dolce grew older, her dirt crypts grew bigger.  Now she hollowed out cavities, body vaults.  During the hot summer months, she would snout shovel a small cave to cool off in, her paws furiously digging a sizable hole she could burrow into to escape the day’s heat.  We would fill the hole, Dolce would dig another one.  We would stuff the crater with rocks, Dolce would find another patch of barren soil to unearth.  We would pack the void with brick and debris, and Digger O’Dolch would start again.  We would sprinkle cayenne pepper in the soil.  She would sniff, sneeze and shovel all in one breath.  Our canine grave-digger kept at it.

The dog pen is riddled with graves, burial plots and land mines.  Pits and caverns.  Holes and voids.  It has turned into an ankle-twisting death trap.  Malcolm grumbles about buying dirt to fill-in the holes when we live in a desert.  Bags and bags of dirt.  Used to fill the divots littering the pen.  Used to pack in the exposed Kong graves and the bone burial plots. Bags of dirt that gets dug up over and over, again and again.

Yep, Digger O’Dell’s humor might still be able to produce a laugh and a chuckle under today’s comic relief,  but it’s Dolce that has the last laugh.

Cheerio! I’d better be shoveling off!

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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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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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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.

inch by inch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank goodness!

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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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Why it’s named what it’s named!

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dog food

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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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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Questers of the Truth

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I was eight when I found myself at the crossroads of Christmas belief.  The perilous intersection where believing in Santa meets the acceptance of reality.  I hung on with child-like confidence that my schoolyard friends were mistaken, my older siblings were wrong, that there truly was a Santa and reindeer and the North Pole.   I didn’t like being laughed at for ‘still’ believing.  Santa had to be real.  I desperately wanted him to be real, but I definitely didn’t want to the last one to learn the truth.

My parents promoted the loud charade of Santa, giving credence to my conviction in Mr. Claus.  Candy filled stockings, milk and cookies for Santa, even hay for the reindeer were utter proof to my young years that Santa Claus was real.  Whispered, “better be good for Santa” rang in my ears, while Holiday carols spewed from the car radio.  Everywhere I turned was evidence that Santa existed.  How dare my classmates tease me that there wasn’t a Santa Claus!

Every member of our family had a red felt stocking, handmade by our mother, with our names sewn on the top.   They hung on the wooden mantle above the fireplace just waiting to be filled by the jolly ol’ man.  Even our dogs had specially stitched stockings that were bursting with rawhide treats by Christmas morn.  I certainly didn’t want Santa to go away, leaving me an empty stocking.  If I didn’t believe, would Santa skip our house?  Would our stockings be packed away, never again to be filled chockfull of candy and toys?

On the eve of Christmas, my mother would assist my sisters and I in placing a tall glass of milk and a plate of homemade cookies on the hearth, our carefully handwritten wish lists arranged by its side.  Snicker doodles, Russian wedding cakes, candy cane cookies piled high on a large red platter, tasty treats for St. Nick.  For weeks, Mother could be found in the kitchen, baking the most wonderful holiday confections; letting each of us kids select our favorite cookie to make.  If I didn’t believe in Santa, would mother quit baking sweets, my eight-year old brain frantically wondered?  Would the warm cinnamon scent waffling through the house fade away?  Would there be no special dessert served after our Christmas Day dinner?  Would we still celebrate Christmas?

A few days before Christmas, Father would bring home a huge bale of hay.  “Fodder for the reindeer”, he’d grunt, as he was hefting the heavy bale from the back of the pickup truck.  Under the bright outdoor Christmas lights, he’d scatter the flakes of hay about the front yard.  Eight large hay mounds tagged for the reindeer pulling Santa’s sleigh and a special one for Rudolf.  Once he directed us to place apples on top of the alfalfa claiming they needed extra energy for their long night delivering presents around the world. If I didn’t believe in Santa Claus, who would feed the reindeer?  Would Christmas go away? Would anyone care?

For forty some-odd years, I’ve sat at the junction of believing and not-quite believing.  Do I continue on the magical journey, keeping my faith in the magic of Santa?  Do I take a sharp right turn, jostling the memories of filled stockings, homemade cookies and hay for the reindeer before packing them tightly away in the trunk?  Last year the decision was taken out of my hands.

My husband and I were asked to play Mr. and Mrs. Claus for a large family Christmas gathering.  We were given a beautiful Santa suit, specially selected presents for the children, and directions on where and when to show up.  My husband practiced his “Ho Ho Ho’s” while I made a list of all the “good” children’s names that would be attending.

The bright red Santa suit was fur trimmed and embellished with tall black boots, a wide thick belt, and a red velvet hat.  White woolen gloves, a snow-white beard and hairpiece, old-fashioned wire-rimmed glasses along with a padded under belly pillow completed the costume.  As my husband was dressing for the part, our two Bernese Mountain Dogs came in to investigate, sniffing at the strange red velvet material and pristine fur adorning the edges.  I grabbed the camera, begging my husband to sit with the dogs for a brief photo op and quickly snapped some pictures before we needed to be on our way.

It was weeks later that I remembered to upload the pictures to the computer.  January was getting ready to turn into February before I had the time to flip through the shots I had taken.  Christmas had long passed, the tree taken down, the holiday decorations put away.  The spirit of Christmas had disappeared into worrying about paying the bills.  I sat at the computer and pulled up the pictures from Christmas.

questers of the truth

questers of the truth

Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson once said, “Questers of the truth, that’s who dogs are; seekers after the invisible scent of another being’s authentic core.”   I looked at the first photo on the screen, seeing our two Berners with Santa.

The opening photo revealed our dogs, Dolce and Amore, nestled beside Santa, glazing up at him with wonder.  They were enchanted with Father Christmas, enthralled with his inner spirit, his big heart, his jolly laugh.  The adoration in their eyes shone with true belief.  Santa’s authentic core was laid bare by the truest of seekers.   And, there was Santa, eyes closed, basking in the joy of unselfish affection, unconditional love.

I knew without a doubt, weeks into the new year when Christmas was a long past remembrance, it didn’t matter whether you are a just turned eight year old or way past the half-century mark, Santa was real and would be forever.

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

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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

clean sheets

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Fall is always a busy time for me.  The just-starting-to-turn-nippy months on the back side of the calendar are penciled in with conferences, meetings and annual conventions.  All requiring travel. This past week I attended the CMLS Conference in Boise, Idaho – land of the potato and the famous blue field.  A State enriched in western history and culture, Idahoans have earned the right to boast about their beautiful state.  From the Snake River that weaves it way throughout Idaho, leaving rich, fertile farm lands in its wake, to the mountainous peaks in the pan-handle, Idaho is an enchanting parcel of land.

Away for a full week, it goes without saying that I missed my husband and our dogs while I was gone.  A lot.  A lot, a lot.

But not on the first day.  Day one was reserved for enjoying the huge king-sized bed all to myself – no dogs pinning me under the covers, no dog hair adhered to the down pillows, no cat stretched out along side of my back hotter than a furnace cranked on high in the middle of summer.  Nope, day one was spent luxuriating between clean 600 count Egyptian cotton sheets with my toes curling and flexing under the crisp freshness that comes with a four-diamond rated hotel.  Its pure bliss just to stretch out without being blocked by a dog.  Pure heaven to have a minimum of four down pillows to pick from.  Yep, on the first day, I didn’t miss one single dog hair.

And I didn’t really miss ‘back home’ too much on day two and three and sort of on day four.  These days were just extensions of the first day – Egyptian sheet heaven.  These were the days I kept busy with meetings, speakers and sessions, starting early and ending the day late.  By day three I realized I hadn’t once used the ‘dog-hair-lint-roller’ brush I always carry with me.  I’d been dog-hair free for three whole fantastic days.  My white sweaters were still white, my business dress pants were drool free.  I didn’t smell like dog.  I didn’t have to wipe my hand on my pants legs before I shook hands with an acquaintance.  And best of all, I had the king to myself.

On days five through seven, the scales started to tip.  My 600 count utopia was losing its charm.  I had stayed some extra days to enjoy Idaho with some old friends who summer in Boise.  I was missing Malcolm, laughing over silly things, commenting over the day’s events, kissing him good morning, his welcoming hug in the evening.  I was missing my girls, their sweet love, their tender nudges, their crazy antics. I was missing the dogs on the bed – on their backs, paws in the air as they sleep, gentle snores washing over them, their weight leaning against my legs.  Good gawd!  I was missing dog hair!

I flew home on day eight, asking Malcolm to bring the dogs when he came to pick me up at the airport.  I embraced the thought of knowing I’d be covered in dog hair in a nano second once I climbed in the car.  I knew I would have two dogs clamoring to hug me, paw me, lick me,  once I had my seat belt buckled.  And I couldn’t wait!  Crisp, fresh clean sheets were just a dim memory.  The love waiting for me in the car far out-weighed and out-counted my 600 thread count Egyptian Cotton sheets.

potato

In honor of my travels to Idaho….

The Best-Ever Mashed Potatoes

  • 5 lbs. Yukon gold potatoes, peeled
  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 cups Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 cup chopped fresh chives (or green onions)
  • 1 1/2 cups cream cheese
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • salt and pepper to taste

Fill a pot with water high enough to cover the potatoes and bring to a boil.  Add potatoes and cook until fork tender but still firm.  Drain the water and return pot to the stove over low heat to dry for 3 minutes.  Remove from the heat.

Add butter, Parmesan cheese, Chives, cream cheese, buttermilk, garlic and salt and pepper to the potatoes.  Using a potato masher, mash the potato mixture until smooth.  Serves 12.

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

thunder

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For years, New Mexico has been in a terrible drought.  With water rationing and water conservation signage throughout our restaurants and hotels, New Mexicans have learned to sip carefully.  This summer we have been lucky.  Deluged with a monsoon season that has been plentiful, the rains have brought buckets of precious water to our parched landscape and left knee-high weeds mingling within a plethora of wildflowers.  We have never seen our high desert countryside so green, so lush with foliage, so full of nature.  With each rain, the elevated fire danger alerts lessen, the fire gauge’s arrow slowly creeping back from red to orange to yellow to green. Earlier this summer, we saw fires in the Jemez Mountains to our west and fires in the Pecos Wilderness to our east.  Our mornings saw smoky haze creeping around Santa Fe, our afternoons showed us billowing smoke clouds topping the Sangre de Cristos.  We held our breath each time  we heard thunder, fearing a lightning strike against nature’s dryness.  When the monsoons arrived in July, our tension eased, knowing the pinon trees and grasses were soaking up the moisture, re-building their arsenal against the ever-present dryness.

Some time around the first part of July, we received our first round of monsoon showers.  The normal thunder and lightning came along for the ride.  Out of the clear blue, Amore decided she did not like thunder.  In fact, she decided she was downright scared of thunder.  So scared, and so unexpected, the first time she freaked, we immediately took her to the vet, knowing something was horribly wrong.  Shivering, shaking, not eating, agitated, up and down, insistent to be on us or right next to us, we were clueless to what was wrong with her.  Thunder had never bothered her in the past.  She slept though it, never giving the loud crackling noise a thought.  Even when the thundering storm was right overhead, like cymbals crashing together, she wouldn’t bother to lift her head, twitch her nose or jerk her paw.  Amore was oblivious to the thunder.  And now, she shivers and shakes with fear, sometimes for hours after the storm has passed.

New Mexico lightning

New Mexico lightning

We purchased a thunder shirt for her, hoping to lessen her anxiety.  The moment we hear the rumbling drums of thunder, we put Amore in her shirt, wrapping the fabric snugly against her.  It helps.  Not completely, but it brings her panic to a more manageable level.  For five years, thunder’s loud roll overhead never affected Amore.  Today, the distant reverberation brings  her to her knees.

Last night’s rain brought another round of thunder.  At one in the morning, Amore awoke in fear as the storm let loose above us.  Lightning, thunder, rain, and hail crashed through the night, pelting the land with more than an inch of moisture in less than fifty minutes.  Amore shook with terror as the loud booms of thunder were clashing over us.  She headed straight to Malcolm to calm her, jumping up on the bed and onto Malcolm’s sleeping form.  Malcolm woke to a trembling dog crushing him, breathing in dog hair, a dog tail flapping in his face.  Paws stepping all over him, Malcolm was Amore’s security blanket.  It was sunrise before Malcolm was able to fall back to sleep, Amore nestled up against his side, gently snoring, safe.

THUNDER & LIGHTNING CAKE

Best to make when a storm is approaching in the distance!

  • 1/2 c butter
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 4 egg yolks (save whites)
  • 3/4 c flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 4 tbsp. cream
  • 1 tsp. Kaluha
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • cream of tartar
  • 1/2 c chopped pecans
  • 1/2 pt. of whipped cream or Cool Whip (I prefer homemade whipped cream)

Preheat over at 350 degrees.  Grease two (2) cake pans and layer parchment paper on bottom of each pan.

Cream butter and 1/2 c brown sugar, slowly adding the egg yolks one at a time.  Add flour, baking powder, salt, cream and Kaluha.  Pour batter into prepared cake pans..  Spread out batter (it will looks like very little, but will rise up as it bakes).  Beat egg whites until stiff and gradually add 1 cup brown sugar and a pinch of cream of tartar.  Beat again until peaks are stiff.  Spread over top of batter, then sprinkle with pecans.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.  Turn out on cake plate with the egg white side down.  Spread top of cake layer with whipped cream.  Place second layer of cake on top of first layer of cake, this time egg white side up!

If layers stick in pans, run a knife around the edge to loosen the meringue.

internbern

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the berner internet

the berner internet

goofy girl

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goofy girl!

our goofy girl!

Amore is a goof ball!  A total clutz.  A true ditz. A ham for the camera.  A jester for the court.

There are times we think for sure she hit her head on the side board of the whelping pen as she was dropped into being.  She has fallen off the couch more times than not, thunking to the floor as she was stretching while on her back, surprise lighting her eyes as she tries to pretend that was her intention to begin with.  She has chased after phantom bunnies and the shadows of high soaring hawks only to run into low-hanging juniper branches.  She would rather have her throat scratched than her belly rubbed and would rather run than walk, even if it is just to move from one favorite spot to another, five short feet over.  If you say “sit”, she hears “shit” and will begin the triple-axel spin to find the perfect spot.  Give Amore the signal to “go to her pillow” and it’s a sure bet it will be your down-pillow that she lies on.

She has no idea how to cuddle, coo or be calm.  Wild-eyed, Amore will stare at you, and stare at you, and stare at you, never blinking, not moving, just stare at you.  Intently. Don’t try to out stare her – you won’t win.

One of Amore’s favorite antics is waking us up on weekends. The first attempt is a strong paw to your most extended limb poking out of the covers.  The next try is a wet, and cold, nose nudge, usually on your neck or face, many times on your mouth.  The final act is a jump on the bed, normally with your sleeping body softening the landing as her front paws hit your stomach.  At this point, Amore will typically sit on you, and the bed covers, trapping you underneath her.  I don’t mean sitting on one of your legs, or leaning up against your side.  I mean a take-your-weight-off-your-paws-park-yourself kind of stay awhile sit.  By now you might be awake, but you ain’t going anywhere til she decides to let up.  It’s best to get up at the first pawing.  You can’t help but chuckle to yourself as you spit out dog hair off your lips while pushing her off you.

Her latest gimmick is scouting for lizards.  She’ll stand at attention, staring for hours waiting for a lizard to crawl up our portal wall.  Upon sighting a scaly blue-tail, she’ll  run and take cover, barking for one of us to come and see her find.  Occasionally, Amore will actually catch a lizard, only to bring it into the house so she can play “search and seizure” with the now let-loose and tail-less reptile.  Not that I want a loose lizard in the house, but at least Gordita (our fat cat) will catch the lizard once Amore starts to fatigue from the game.

Goofy? Yes!  Silly? Absolutely!  Hyper? Undoubtably! But our goofy girl is one of the happiest dogs I ever seen.  And, we are the lucky ones to have her adventures in our lives.