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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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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It means “sweetheart”…

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

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

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

our little sweetheart!

Dolce, our little sweetheart!

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

Amore, our wild at heart gilr

Amore, our wild at heart girl

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

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

AMARETTO SAUCE

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

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

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

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

1000 words

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

Amore and Dolce - perfect angels!

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Chi chi wow wow!

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

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

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

wet dog

wet dog Dolce

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

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

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

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

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

Yeeeee Haaaaw!

TATOR TOTS –  Chi chi wow wow style!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

buffy

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City of Paris Dry Goods Company's Christmas tree -  a Christmas tree so big, it reaches the top floor!

City of Paris Dry Goods Company’s Christmas tree – a Christmas tree so big, it reaches the top floor!

When I was little, every November, my mother would take us girls into the city to go shopping.  Christmas Shopping.  Major get out the card, shop til’ ya drop type of shopping.  In one day, in one fell swoop, get it all done kind of shopping.  We lived in a small farming community in California, so a trip to San Francisco meant a grand adventure for my sisters and I.  It meant having a fancy lunch and if we were lucky some See’s chocolate!  It meant a ride on the cable car and some taffy candy down at the wharf.  It meant seeing the Golden Gate Bridge and huge ships in the bay.  But a shopping trip in November meant going to the City of Paris Department Store and seeing their five-story tall Christmas tree, a true wonderland for my eyes.

I remember one year, all of us kids got new Christmas togs.  New, not a hand-me-down-four-times-doesn’t-quite-fit-it’s-too-short Christmas dress, but brand new.  New, not home-made or sewn, but tags still on new.  A Christmas dress from the City of Paris.  I still remember that dress.  It was blue with red xylophone bars across the front and down to the hem line, gold cording over the bars.  It was a Buffy dress.  TV’s Family Affair, Buffy Davis wore one just like it in the show.  Oh how I loved that show and how I loved that dress.  At the time, I was six and a half, pudgy with freckles across my nose, a scraggly pixie hair cut and missing two front teeth.  Not exactly the cutest kid in the class, but when I put on my Buffy dress, I magically transformed into a princess.  A Buffy princess.  I’ve always believed, at some point, young or old, every girl needs a Buffy dress.  Something that makes their inner self shine, something that lets them feel beautiful and special, inside and out.

The other day, while at out and about at one of my favorite little shops in Santa Fe, I found the perfect Holiday outfits for Dolce and Amore.  And, I couldn’t resist.  Had to have them.  Didn’t care that Malcolm might get just a tiny bit cranky over some frivolous doggy purchase. Come hell or high water, I was buying.  I had found the ideal Buffy attire for them.  Something to make them feel beautiful.  Special.  Like a Buffy dog princess.

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Dolce loved her Buffy collar so much she wouldn’t let me take it off her.  Amore carried hers through out the house (I think she liked the jingle jangle from the little bells).  And Malcolm, he grabbed the camera to take pictures of our beautiful princesses.  He thought the collars perfect canine attire for the holidays!

Here’s to the Buffy in all of us!

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

pawing

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tuckered out

being famous is soooo exhausting!

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

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

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

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

It's almost here!

Order your cookbook now – just in time for Christmas 

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

snowflakes and mud

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

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

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

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

Amore and Dolce - perfect angels!

Amore and Dolce – perfect angels! (not)

the race is on

the race is on

muddy paws and all

muddy paws and all

twist and roll!

a twist and a roll in the last of the snow

happy dawg

happy dawg

grins and smiles

grins and smiles

SNOWFLAKE COOKIES – a favorite at Christmas!

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

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

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

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

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

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

shake, rattle and roll

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

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

searching for the perfect spot

searching for the perfect spot

dropping in the snow

dropping in the snow

the rattle and the roll

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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

Rules

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

Until Malcolm stumbles out of bed.

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

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

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

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

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

Amore's snuggle-fest

Amore’s snuggle-fest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Victoria’s Secret

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How do you break the news to your wanna-be-dog-model that she is not quite ready for the runway?  That those angel wings all the VS models wear at the fashion shows are going to other bitches? That jowls are not cheek bones, the dog paw crawl is not a cat walk and cleavage on a dog is so very unbecoming?

How do you enlighten your canine that dog shows are not fashion shows and she plays chase with Ralphie at the community dog park not Ralph Lauren.

How do you explain to your precious pet that sharing the cover of a cookbook is not the same as flying solo on the cover of Elle, Cosmo or Marie Claire  (however on that note, I highly disagree!)?  Try telling your beloved dog that while her body size is perfect for Purina, it’s not a size 2.  Nor is her deep-chested frame svelte enough, tall enough or waif-like enough to be a Ford Model (although it is perfect for counter-surfing and crumb-chasing).

But, boy is she cute!  You should see all the adorable pictures of her in her debut modeling portfolio called If it falls on the floor, it’s mine!  a newly released cookbook found on Amazon.

DSC00205P.S.  Dolce would love to sign your cookbook – with a little mud, a few drops of dog drool and a big paw print!

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

 

s.n.o.u.t. wrestling

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The dogs love it when company arrives.  It’s even better if the visitors are over-night guests… a long weekend visit is nirvana.  They know additional people around the house equals more lovin’ and more lovin’ means more petting and belly rubs.  To Dolce and Amore, house guests equates to another unsuspecting victim foolish enough to keep their “petting hand” lowered at nose height.  Just low enough to fandangle a head rub from the gullible guest, or a scratch to the ear or if they’re lucky, a full body massage.

I tell ya, we have smart dogs…. multiplied by the number of guests, Dolce and Amore can calculate the amount of adoration they should be receiving, and for how long.  A gentle nose nudge to the hand, served as a courtesy reminder, is quickly given when a guest isn’t paying enough attention to their rubbings’, when the petting starts to be a bit absentminded, or when the caressing slows to a stop.  This soft nose nudge is usually good for another seven or so minutes of full attention.  A second tender nudge can easily add another two to three minutes on to their massage session.  The third nudge, given under duress once the petting hand has completely stopped all contact, no longer qualifies as a nose nudge – the girls are now into a full-on, no-holds-barred S.N.O.U.T. wrestling approach.

SNOUT wrestling occurs about 36-48 hours after arrival, just about the time when the novelty of the dogs has worn off.  It usually starts with Amore, eager for more lovin’ and attention, illegally using her muzzle to gain your attention.  It almost always ends with an upset, a drink tossed into the air, only to land back on you, after your arm has been jolted upright by a distraught hooch hooter.  Coined by one our favorite guests, SNOUT wrestling stands for STRONG NOSE ON ULNA and TIBIA and it means business.

At best, SNOUT wrestling might give the dogs a few minutes of rubbing.  Usually it just encourages our guests to move to higher ground – a tall bar stool, out of reach from Dolce’s strong nose,  or better yet, in a standing position with the stool arranged as a barricade from Amore’s attempt to mutt muzzle her way for more consideration, more ear scratching, more rubbing.  But at worst, SNOUT wrestling will bring irritated shouts of “NO!”, “STOP IT!”, and “QUIT!”, hopefully without someone tripping or falling after losing their balance from a brief SNOUT wrestle.  SNOUT wrestling begins with the nose, usually under your arm, sometimes behind your leg, lifting at a high rate of force, thrust, and energy.  The move is always unexpected, even when you’re expecting it.  It is always quick, with no notice, and always gets the pin, shoulders on the mat!

Insistent, intrusive and annoying, SNOUT wrestling is the dogs at their brattiest and way past the point of cute, but, on the flip side, it keeps the company from staying too long!

eureka!

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In my past life, I was a caterer, where I custom-catered small cocktail parties, fancy galas, annual dinners, intimate dinners for two and fundraising events for 750 attendees. Three file cabinets crammed with recipes and 237 cookbooks later, I closed my catering business, married the love of my life and moved to New Mexico. I swore I would never work nights, weekends or holidays again.

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

Tiamo knew not to beg for table scraps, but she was quick to lick up any tasty tidbit that fell to the floor.  We learned Tiamo had a keen ability to counter-surf, quickly and quietly. Cartons of cream would go missing, only to be found empty in another room. Cookies cooling on racks would be one fewer of a dozen. Licked-clean butter plates would be discovered under couch pillows.  Anyone who has ever owned a dog has had a similar experience: turning your back for just a few minutes while cooking, resulting in missing ingredients and a look from your pooch that says, “Who, me?”

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

Yes, cooking and dogs do go together – they are both joyous! And a stray dog hair is a reminder of their unconditional love.

A cookbook recommended by three 100-pound lap dogs, sampled by a wonderful husband and fed to some great neighbors and friends!

Every kitchen needs a dog! A dog quick to lick up the drops and drips that occur in the kitchen. A dog that looks at you with beseeching eyes for a nibble of cheese or a sliver of meat. A dog that awaits with hope and longing, a scrap of food will land on the floor. We all know better than to feed our crafty canines “human food”, but we still do!

Here’s a cookbook that will charm you with adorable pictures of puppies and dogs as they try to beguile their owner into giving them a taste of what’s to come. Recipes that have been served to former Vice-Presidents, pro athletes, family members and best friends – all savory, all tasty! These recipes were created for taste, ease, and an opportunity for the chef to showcase their talent in the kitchen. Recipes guaranteed to receive compliments – the cook will need to make enough for seconds!

Go to  http://www.amazon.com/dp/0615869823 to order your book!

COVER-final-coloredition

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.

the mutt mobile

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Dolce riding shotgun

Mutt mobile.  Canine car.  Pooch Pick-up.  Datsun Dog.  Honda Hound.  Berner Bus.  Names, throughout the years, we’ve christened our more mature automobiles.  Autos that have seen happier days and in the days before dogs,  cleaner ones.

Our mutt mobile was a Chevy Blazer, grey with matching Corinthian leather seats, back seat air conditioning, a great sound system, and it came with every button, lever, and knob, right down to the MAGPIE plates.  It was the BOMB!  It moved us to the high desert of New Mexico, carrying Thugs, our cat, 1,300 miles from California.  It hauled all of our “crap” cross-country through valleys, mountains, streams and rivers.  It cleaned up real nice, handled the road well, got good gas mileage, and was just an’ all-round good ol’ car.

When we brought Tiamo into our family, MAGPIE was our puppy Porsche.  We didn’t notice the wrinkles at first, the first strands of gray hair were few and blended in.   At 10 years old, Ol’ MAGPIE was still stylish.  The scratches from Tiamo leaping on the car door were barely visible.  And, what’s a little dog hair along the floorboard – we’ll have the car wash attendants vacuum it out real good the next time.  The broken vent for the back AC went undetected for several weeks, as did the cracked cup holder and the chewed middle seat belt.  Malcolm and I both ignored the teeth marks that perforated the back seat – it added character we said.  The fuse blew out on the passenger door window from Tiamo hitting, and holding, the up/down button with her paws when she stuck her head out of the window, and the overhead dome light cover had disappeared months earlier, no telling where to.  All fixable and all re-breakable.

Slowly, over time, MAGPIE’s age started to show.  When the little pups arrived, MAGPIE was the Berner Bus, hauling eight squirming, wiggley BMD puppies to the vet for their shots.  As the litter whittled down to Amore and Dolce, along with Tiamo, MAGPIE was known strictly as the dog car.  Each dog had their spot:  Dolce riding shotgun, Tiamo in the middle back where she could have the air conditioning full blast on her face, and Amore on the back driver’s side seat, one paw on the window.  Pealing paint, ripped leather seats, and a cracking dash-board, in dog years MAGPIE had already turned eighty-three and was going on ninety.  After years of hauling Tiamo and the girls around, the interior was trashed, covered in dog hair and reeked of dog smell.  And yet, we still drove the Dog car, Dolce in the front, Tiamo middle back, Amore on the back left. It was our car of choice, allowing us to bring the girls with us.

When the government came out with the CASH for CLUNKERS program, we jumped at the opportunity to scrap it.  Dog car was worth more dead than alive.  We traded in Dog car for a more “economical” vehicle.  Something that was easy on the road.

But still, we needed a Dog car – and sadly, that meant we elevate our Pilot to the next Honda Hound.  We’re at the dog hair on the floorboard stage.

 

memories

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No story tonight.  No cute antidote of the girls.  No humorous tale of Dolce sitting on my lap or Amore stealing the kong.   No recipe at the end of my ramblings relating to the storyline.  No deep meaning words of wisdom, quip, or quote.

Tonight, it’s just about memories of our Tiamo.  Remembering the softness in her eyes, her tender nudge with her muzzle to get our attention, her gentleness when she would tend to her litter.  Tonight it’s about reminiscing how she would con me into giving her nightly belly rubs, every night, for 6 years straight.  It’s about her joy to be with us on road trips and trips to the grocery store.  It’s about her companionship to Malcolm and myself and her unconditional love for her “pack”.   It’s about her protectiveness with Thugs, our cat at the time, following her at a close distance to keep her safe when outside.  It’s about how she would flirt with the big male Berners, and show disdain to the little lap dogs, though she was a lap lover herself.

Malcolm and I often play the “remember when” game.  Remember when Tiamo would counter-surf and steal the cookies.  I would blame Malcolm for sneaking a cookie off the cooling rack, when all the time it was Tiamo.  Remember when Tiamo would start barking at 5:10 p.m. on the dot, wanting out the front door to wait for me to drive in from work.  She knew I was due home soon and wanted to wait for me in the front portal, running immediately to the car door as soon as I turned the engine off.  Remember when Tiamo would bust out of the dog pen and run around to the back porch, pawing  at the door to get back inside – how she hated being separated from us.  We abandoned that pen for two years until the puppies were born.

Other times we play the “remember how” game.  Remember how Tiamo would lay her head on my lap, her paw on my leg when she was tired, and other times she would lean so close to us, we were supporting her full weight.  Remember how Tiamo would give us big bear hugs, her huge paws wrapping around our waist, squeezing us hard.  We knew better than to have her jump on us, and yet, we still let her, even encouraging her.  We just loved her hugs!  Remember how we swore we would never, ever let her on our bed.  And, for two years we didn’t, until I broke down and literally picked her up, placed her on my side of the mattress and cuddled with her.  From then on, Tiamo slept with us.

Our “remember whens” and our “remember hows” usually ends with a saddened, “oh, how I miss her”.  Malcolm and I will share a tender smile full of Tiamo memories.  Once in a while, a tear drop will slip past my armor, Malcolm nodding in understanding, silently acknowledging our bitter-sweet memories.  I miss her hugs. Our cuddles, Our belly rubs.

Oh, how I miss her.

 

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TIAMO

it’s here! (almost)

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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.