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.

what a dog thinks

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didn’t write this, but boy is it on target!

 

By Samantha Drake | Pet360

In general, the most exciting thing that happens to your dog all day is the moment you come home, whether it’s from vacation, work, or just checking the mailbox. Here’s what goes through your dog’s mind during this much-anticipated reunion.

 

  • ZZZZzzzZZZzzzZZZzzzZZZzzzZZZzzz …
  • Ooh! Someone is at the door. Must investigate.
  • Is this a barking situation? Who is it? Friend or foe? Friend or foe? Friend or- Oh, wait, I hear keys …I know who it is!
  • It’s YOU!!! MY WONDERFUL, WONDERFUL FRIEND!!! YOU’RE HOME! I’M SO EXCITED TO SEE YOU!!!
  • Where have you been? What’s in that bag? Is it for me? What did you bring me?
  • I’M JUMPING FOR JOY!!!
  • I know, I know. I’m not supposed to jump. I’m so ashamed. Really, I just got carried away. I won’t do it again … I’m just so HAPPY!
  • Oh yes, please pet and scratch my head more, yesyesyesyes, don’t stop …I’m so happy you’re home!
  • Wait, where are you going? Can I come? Ooh, you’re opening the cabinet … I love that cabinet. MY YUMMY, YUMMY TREATS ARE IN THAT CABINET!
  • Those are for me! Yes please! Wait, what? You want me to sit? Okay, anything for one of my yummy treats. See, I’m sitting! I’m sitting! Look at me! Look how good I’m sitting!
  • YES! I love my yummy treats so much!
  • Can I have another one? Pleasepleaseplease? No, no, that wasn’t jumping, I’m just putting my paws up on you to let you know how badly I want … I’m sorry. I just get sooooo excited. Don’t be mad at me. I hate that so much. But you’re still holding one of my yummy treats … do you think you could possibly … Look! I’m sitting! Pleasepleaseplease? PLEASE!?
  • YES! Thankyouthankyouthankyou! I love you so much!
  • In honor of this wonderful moment, I’m going to go get my favorite, most chewed-upon squeaky toy to show you how much I love you and want to play with you. I want to play and play and play!
  • Here, take my toy. No, it’s my toy. Really, take my toy. No, you can’t have it. Take my toy. Oh, do we have to stop already? Can I interest you in going back over to my yummy treat cabinet? No?
  • Ah, more petting and scratching. I love that. I love you. I’m so happy.
  • Oh sure, you can take your coat off. Absolutely. Go ahead.
  • But hey, could you take me outside now? I just realized I have to PEE. Can we PLEASE go outside NOW?

my favorite color

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dog hair

betcha can’t…

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Betcha can’t eat just one

A few years ago, Lay’s Potato Chips threw down the gauntlet in a new advertising campaign:  “Bet you can’t eat just one!”  It was a clever slogan–and had a clever commercial to match.  But I think the line resonated so much because it’s true.  It’s quite difficult to eat just one potato chip.  You tear open the bag and, before you know it, you’ve somehow eaten the whole bag.  Even when you didn’t think you were all that hungry.

Popcorn, potato chips, peanuts.  It’s pretty hard to stop at eating just one.  They’re hard to resist.  These salty little snacks are downright addicting.  Just try having only one peanut or just one chip.  It’s not gonna happen.  Thinking that you are just going to have one handful of popcorn, turns into two and three and four grabs into the popcorn bowl until there is nothing left but salt and kernels.  Peanuts – try tossing just one peanut in the air to catch in your mouth.  Within minutes you’ve thrown a dozen or so nuts up high, tilting your head back and opening your jaws wide to catch em’ on the down swing.

I give a half-ass attempt in not keeping any chips or peanuts in the house and let me tell ya’, it’s really hard to do.  Along with ice cream, I purposely don’t add snacks to my grocery list.  And yet, somehow, I find my shelves lined with microwave popcorn and Planter’s nuts.  Cheetos, Frito’s and Ruffles fill the cupboards and there is Chocolate Chip ice cream in the freezer.  I blame it on the weekends.  And Malcolm.

Weekends are for errands, exercise and extracurricular activities.  It’s when Malcolm and I run into town to do odd tasks we can’t get to during the week.  It’s when we are able to swim and/or work out at the club and it’s when we have friends over for a get-to-gether.  Inevitably, as we are heading home on the freeway after running around doing errands or from swimming, Malcolm will look over at me sitting in the passenger seat, and with an expectant look on his face.

“Know what I’m thinking?” he’ll ask.

“No, what?”  Of course, by now, I should know what he is up to.

“I’m thinking we should stop at the store and get some ice cream?” Malcolm looks at me with hope in his eyes.  He senses my hesitation.  Before I can voice any veto, he continues, “You can pick out what flavor you want,” adding incentive for me to give the okay to stop at the store.

“All right,” I cave, thinking I’ll swim extra laps the next day.  “But I want Chocolate Moose Swirl and you have to go in to buy it,” I tacked on my conditions for bringing the forbidden ice cream into the house.

Other times, we’ll stop at the grocery store to pick up something for dinner and walk out with a bag of chips.  Midnight snacks include popcorn with Tabasco sauce and butter and during the summers, we’ll sit outside under the portal, cracking open the roasted shells as we sip our beers, eating peanuts.  Yep, it’s hard to keep snacks out of our household.

So the other day when we were driving home from swimming and Malcolm looked over at me with that same expectant look, asking, “know what I’m thinking?” I knew he wanted to stop at the store.  It was almost noon and I didn’t have much on hand for sandwich makings’.  I geared up for the big ask but I already knew I was going to relent since I was craving some Crunchy Cheetos.  I put on my “not-gonna-budge” face.

“No, what?”  I braced myself.  Since it was lunch time, I just knew he wanted the full spread.  Popcorn, potato chips and peanuts.  The three “P’s”.

“I’m thinking we should have another puppy,” Malcolm glanced over at me, watching for my reaction.  Unfortunately, I had just swallowed a big gulp of water.  My mouthful of water sprayed all over the dashboard.

“A puppy?” I croaked, mopping up the spewed water with my shirt sleeve.

DSC00596“Another kid?” I questioned.  Malcolm and I were late bloomers.  We didn’t marry until we were both in our forties and children weren’t truly an option.  Our dogs were our kids.

“Are you serious?” I asked.  (No, I did not shriek, I politely asked).  I had thought once or twice about having another puppy, another Berner, but had been hesitant in bringing up the subject.  I figured it would be a few years yet before we were ready for another dog. Amore and Dolce were still going strong.  When we had Tiamo, along with the girls, raising three dogs was a huge commitment.  Vacations were out of the question.  Weekend trips were a big hassle.  Finding a puppy-sitter we could trust, the expense of it all, took a toll on the joy of being away from our girls. A puppy would only add another layer to our lives.IMG_6953

“Well, yeah,” Malcolm sheepishly replied.  “This time it would be different,” he swore.

“Different how?” I wondered.  We would still be back to three dogs.  Three huge dogs.

“For starters, this puppy wouldn’t be allowed on the bed!” Malc exclaimed.  “It’ll be trained, like we trained Tiamo, not like the girls!”  I chuckled over that statement.  Amore and Dolce mean well, but they do have excitement issues.  Tiamo was so well-mannered, so well-behaved, we just assumed Amore and Dolce would be as well.  Even with training, Amore and Dolce are hellions only a mother can love.

“What brought this on?” I queried.

“I just want another one,” Malcolm said.  I wondered if this is how married couples discuss having another child.

“Don’t you remember all the chewed up shoes, all the torn library books, all the middle-of-the-night-keep-me-company times?”  I poked at his memory.  “You sure you want another child?”  IMG_7010

“Well, yeah,” Malcolm repeated.  “It doesn’t last forever.  They grow out of it.”  Dolce and Amore’s “terrible twos” lasted four years.  In dog years that’s 28 long years.

“When were you thinking of bringing on this addition?”  In other words, how many years apart do you want the kids to be?  Amore and Dolce are working on their sixth birthday and unfortunately, Bernese Mountain Dogs have a short life expectancy.  The average life span for a Berner is seven to ten years.  Tiamo was with us less than seven years.  In Berner terms, the girls were getting up there.

“Well, not for another year or too,”  he answered.  I relaxed a little bit. “But you can’t just stop at one!”  Malcolm added.  My thoughts turned to the Lay’s potato chip “Betcha can’t eat just one!” Nope, you can’t just stop at one.  Even though the word “puppy” was added to the forbidden snack list, and is now part of the four “P’s”,  I know without a doubt, in another year or too, a puppy will be brought into our household.  Snuck into the house when my back is turned.

We exited the freeway at our turnoff, puppy conversation over.

ahhh, we didn't eat that much!

“Wanna stop and get some ice cream?” I heard from the driver’s side.

 

 

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let’s get Mikey to try it

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Dolce will eat anything.  And everything.  Drop a Brussel sprout (uck!) on the floor and she’s on it.  A chunk of apple, a slice of meat, a wedge of cheese.  I understand the cheese, I get the carrots, broccoli and bananas.  I recognize dogs love meat, cooked or raw.  I comprehend the crumbs, the drops and the scraps that are tipped over the edge of the counter to her eager mouth.

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trying to get it first!

But there are somethings I just don’t get.  Pineapple being one of them.  Dolce loves pineapple, as long as the rind has been removed.   Don’t get me wrong, I like pineapple.  Fresh or grilled with a little honey, pineapple, is wonderful fruit.  I would have never thought a dog would eat pineapple.

Dolce loves oranges.  She’ll grab an orange slice, chew some, then spit out the pulp.  Then she is back looking for seconds.

Dolce loves lemons.  She’ll chomp into a lemon rind, roll it around her tongue, maul it up some and then donate back the pith.

And she loves strawberries.  The other day I was slicing some strawberries for our dessert and happened to drop a hull on the floor.  Whooooph!  It disappeared down Dolce’s throat.  Just like that.  Gone.  There wasn’t any fruit on the hull, just the green.  She looked up at me pleading for another.  Seriously?  A strawberry hull?  I couldn’t believe it.  Did she even know what she just ate?

Once Amore realized that Dolce had a bite of something, she wanted in on the action.  Since the girls know when they have been slighted, when they have been left out of the receiving line, I was guilted into handing her a strawberry hull.  Amore came running into the kitchen, eyes begging for a taste.  Amore quickly grabbed the green hull, wanting to get it before Dolce had a chance to seize the hull.

Immediately her eyes crossed, her muzzle wrinkled up, her jowls started contractions.  She backed up out of the kitchen, frantic to remove the offending fruit top.  Amore coughed up a big one and she spit it out.  UCK! It was obvious that Amore doesn’t like strawberry hulls.

Whooooph!  Dolce snatched up the dropped strawberry top.

the best ever pie!

the best ever pie!

FRESH STRAWBERRY PIE – perfect for your Easter meal

Make two – one doesn’t last long!

  • 1 1/2 qts. strawberries + some to nibble on
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1/2 c strawberry juice
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 3oz. pkg. of cream cheese
  • 2 tbsp. of brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp. Kahlua or Amaretto
  • 1  9″ pie shell – baked
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp. Kahlua or Armaretto

Hull and wash the strawberries.  Set aside to drain.  Crush enough strawberries to fill one cup.

Combine sugar and cornstarch in a saucepan.  Add crushed berries and strawberry juice.  Cook over medium heat stirring constantly, until comes to a boil.  Continue cooking and stirring another two minutes.  The mixture will thicken and be translucent.  Remove from heat, add butter and cool.

Cream together the cream cheese, brown sugar and liqueur.  Spread on the bottom of the baked pie shell.  Arrange whole berries, tips up, on top of the cream cheese mixture, setting aside a few for garnish.  Pour cooked mixture over berries.  Cover and chill at least two hours.

Whip heavy cream in a chilled bowl with electric mixer until it begins to form peaks.  Gradually add brown sugar.  Add Kahlua and finish whipping until stiff.  Garnish pie with whipped cream and additional strawberries.

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gritty blog buddies

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One of the great things about hosting a blog are the friends you make.  Virtual friends.  Blog buddies you probably will never meet in person but interact with on-line.  You exchange comments and replies.  You “like” their post.  You even reblog from time to time.  There aren’t any long winded phone calls to keep in touch.  Just short blog messages, and smiley faces.  LOL comments and a few LMAO remarks.  We “oooh” over photos of beautiful Ms. Harper Lee, a Golden Retriever from Louisana, from Thek9harperlee blog and “ahhh” over pictures of Colorado from Mike’s Look at Life blog.

When my cookbook was just off the press, I asked a fellow blogger, PAWS IT ON, to sample some of the recipes and write a critique on her findings.   When I started to follow a traveling wine and beer blogger, The Wandering Gourmand, I asked him to “pair” a beer with three of my soups.  I would like to think a friendship of sorts was started. A virtual friendship.  I know if any of the above mentioned ever found themselves in New Mexico, aka Santa Fe, I would love to meet up with them and have a LIVE conversation.

Turn around is only fair.  A month ago (or so), fellow blogger The Wandering Gourmand started a wine vs. beer pairing contest.  Asking the blogging world and his readers to submit a pairing with a selected entree, The Wandering Gourmand garnered several entries for the first round.

yes, my fish n' chips looked just like this!

yes, my fish n’ chips looked just like this!

Fish n’ Chips was our first pairing course.  Malcolm and I dusted off our stored-in-the-garage fryer and proceeded to inhale a double batch of homemade beer battered fish with some spicy french fries.  Delicious!  It brought back memories of London.  And Brighton Beach.  And Bath.  And York.  And all the pubs we visited while in Great Britain.  There is nothing quite like the Brits’ fish n’ chips!

Our next pairing contest was Shrimp n’ Grits.  More like a test – not contest.

I can’t say I’ve ever made Shrimp n’ Grits.  I can’t say I’ve even tasted Shrimp n’ Grits, let alone just a taste of grits.  In fact, grits aren’t even on my top 100 fave foods list.   And, to be honest, grits of any kind, ranked pretty low on my order pad.  So, here I was, about to make Shrimp n’ Grits, and for company to boot.  Oh, boy….

Hubby-dear is from Georgia. Atlanta. Inside the belt. Buckhead, which he considers Atlanta proper. Not those suburbs like Marietta, Decatur or Alpharetta.  We’re talking Atlanta.  A true southern boy. When I mentioned we were having Shrimp n’ Grits for our weekend feast to test out the perfect pairing, he sent me a stern look.

grits IS NOT polenta!

grits IS NOT polenta!

“Now Honey,” he said, “Grits IS NOT polenta!” Clearing indicating a West Coast transplant to New Mexico would not know the difference. He had a point. My first trip to the grocery store brought home corn meal. Oops!  It was a Lucy & Ethel moment.  I thought I grabbed the grits, I swear! I didn’t realize my mistake until I had the corn meal cooking on the stove top and it wasn’t thickening properly.  Yikes!  Company was due in ten minutes.   Like Malcolm said, grits isn’t even close to corn meal.  A first cousin and married, but according to Malcolm, Grits is not Corn Meal! I think Malcolm was most grumpy mainly because he was elected to run back into town to get the real deal.

We already had some fun beer in the frig, and our guests had volunteered to bring an appropriate wine. We were ready to sip and sample.  One of our invitees is a cider drinker, so at the last moment I added Stella Artosis Cidre  in the pairing line up.
Our sampling included a Fox Glove Chardonnay, a Spanish wine, Licia Albarino, and finally, Stella Artosis Cidre (made with handpicked apples).  Along with an assortment of beers, we were set.

WOW! Not only was the Shrimp n’ Grits totally fantastic, we had one of the best times sippin & samplin!  We had a pairing party to end all pairing parties!

The top choice was the Stella Artosis Cidre, with the Albarino a close second. I gotta tell ya, the Cidre was perfect with the Shrimp n’ Grits. Crisp with a hint of carbonation, it was the perfect foil for the slight heat of the sausage. I’m sure it’s the “hand-picked apples” that made the difference!

Shrimp & Andouille Sausage Grits

Shrimp & Andouille Sausage Grits

SPICY SHRIMP WITH ANDOUILLE SAUSAGE ON GRITS

  • 1/2 cup green hot pepper sauce (I use Mrs. Renfro’s Jalapeno Salsa)
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1 cup heavy cream

Combine hot sauce, wine, onions, lemon juice and vinegar in a heavy medium sauce pan. Boil over medium heat until reduced to 1/2 cup.  About 15 minutes.  Stir in cream.  Cover and refrigerate.  Can be made one day ahead.

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 12 oz. smoked Andouille sausage – sliced (Chorizo and hot Italian sausage works as well)
  • 1 cup minced white onion
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and sliced
  • 4-5 crushed garlic cloves
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
  • 30 or so uncooked large shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails off

Heat olive oil in heavy medium skillet over medium heat.  Add sausage bits, onion, jalapeno and garlic.  Saute until onions and garlic are tender.  About 10 minutes.  Add tomatoes and seasoning.  Stir and heat over low heat while grits are cooking.  When grits are close to being ready, turn up the heat and add uncooked shrimp, sauteing until shrimp are opaque in center, about 3-4 minutes.

  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cups corn grits (I cheated and used quick grits)
  • 2 cups grated sharp white cheddar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Bring chicken broth to a boil over medium heat.  Add 1/4 cup butter and S&P.  Gradually whisk in grits.  Cover and let simmer until grits are thickened and very soft, stirring often.  About 1 hours.  If using quick grits, about 5-10 minutes.  When grits are done, add rest of butter and cheese.  Season if needed.  Keep warm.

Bring hot-pepper cream sauce to simmer.

Spoon grits in swallow bowls forming a well in the center.  Spoon shrimp/sausage mixture over grits and drizzle the hot pepper cream sauce over.  Serve.

The black hole

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

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

In my case, it was my cell phone.

At 6:30 a.m.

On a work day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But not now!

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

found!

found!

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

fat man gifts

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DSC01384

There is a reason why jolly ol’ Nick is rather rotund – all that Christmas candy and cookies he is served on Christmas eve.  Those many platters of Christmas treats, piled high and plentiful.  All those sweet concoctions made especially for Santa.  And there is a reason why all of us add a little extra tonnage on the ol’ thighs somewhere between Thanksgiving and New Years, between office parties and neighborhood gatherings – all those holiday treats our neighbors and friends gift us, all those tasty nibbles that we swear we will only have one. 

Ha!  One, my ass!  You can never have just one – one cookie, one bite, one taste.  One doesn’t take into account the three cookies you snuck in your mouth while no one was looking.  One doesn’t mean the extra bites and samples you had, “to make sure it was okay”.  One doesn’t explain the chocolate smear on your lips as you exit the bathroom.  Nope, just one does not justify the evidence.  The damming evidence of, dare I say it, tummy tonnage.  GASP!  It can be found anywhere, under your chin, around on your rear, behind your arms.  FAT! 

Hell, weight gain is fine….. on someone else.  So, enjoy helping your family and friends get fat with these wonderful and rich chocolate chubby gifts.  Gifts with good taste!  Gifts that keep giving well after they have all disappeared!

 

PUDGY FUDGEY SAUCE

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp. light corn syrup
  • 12 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. of your favorite liquor such as Amaretto, Bailey’s, or Kahlua (yes, add some more calories!)
  • Small decorative jars with lids

In a medium saucepan, bring the cream and corn syrup to a boil over medium heat.  Remove from the stove-top and whisk in the chopped chocolate until melted.  Stir in the liquor.  Pour into jars and cool completely before covering (otherwise the sauce will become granular).  Once cooled, cap with the lid and refrigerate.  Makes approximate 2 cups and will keep up to 1 month in the refrigerator. 

Now just tag, bag and gift!  Add a small serving spoon to your package to encourage sampling right out of the jar!

 

CHOCOLATE BON BONDS

they will bond smack dab onto your belly!

  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 16 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

       Optional:  add 1 tbsp: peppermint oil; coconut oil; Kahlua, Grand Marnier or a flavor of your choice

In the top pan of a double-boiler, bring the heavy cream to a gentle simmer.  Remove from the stove-top  and stir in the chocolate pieces and butter.  In the bottom double-boiler, bring 1/2 ” water to a slow simmer over low heat.  Set the top pan on the bottom double-boiler stirring continuously until completely melted.  Remove from the heat.  Pour the chocolate mixture into a shallow bowl.  Cool completely, cover and refrigerate until the firm, at least two hours. 

Pour the cocoa in a glass pie pan.  Line an airtight container with wax paper.  Using a melon scooper, dip into a glass of warm water then quickly dip into the chilled chocolate mixture to form a 1” ball.  Drop and roll the chocolate Bon Bon in the cocoa powder until covered and place in the prepared container.  Cover tightly and store in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks or the freezer up to 3 months. 

Makes approximately 30 Bon Bons if you don’t eat any.  Ah, screw it, keep these for yourself!

 

CHOCOLATE SHORTBREAD

make two batches and hide one for later!

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp. unsweetened dark cocoa
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 5 tbsp. softened butter – pliable but not easily spreadable
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • cooking spray

Combine flour, cocoa and salt in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk.  Place Sugar, butter and oil in a medium bowl and mix with your CLEAN hands until combined.  Add the flour mixture, again, mixing with your hands until blended.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Place dough on a baking sheet that is coated with cooking spray.  press dough into an 8″ x 5″ rectangle about 3/8″ thick.  Pierce entire surface liberally with a fork. 

Bake for 30 minutes or until just set.  Cut shortbread into 24 pieces (one less and we’ll know you ate one!)  Cool.  Gift box and deliver all those calories with a smile on your face!

 

PrintFor 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!

hogs and blogs

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Part II of the Beer n’ damn it’s hot Chili series.

To kick off the holiday spirit, which in my calendar, starts right around the corner from the  Día de Muertos, (come on, I live in New Mexico), Malcolm and I host a Loop Group Celebration.  We open our doors, invite the whole neighborhood and lock the dogs in their pen.  We catch up on the happenings of those that live close by and those we wave to in passing, but never see (there is a little bit of guilt-trip thinking… if they eat our food, they won’t complain about the dogs). Even house numbers bring a cold appetizer, odd numbers bring a hot hor d’oeuvre.  Malc and I supply the beverages and the main substance, usually a spiral sliced ham from the Honey Baked Ham joint down in Albuquerque.  I serve the ham with homemade cornbread biscuits (Malc is from Georgia) that  is devoured and destroyed by the night’s end, leaving a just a few ham scraps and a huge bone.  Not enough for leftovers, not enough to throw away.  And nothing for Dolce and Amore to snack on.

the perfect hog bone

the perfect hog bone

If it falls on the floor blog is a lot like our Loop Group party – everyone is invited and everyone brings something to the table.  Through “likes” and “comments”, “follows” and “views”,  we catch up on the happenings of those whom we enjoy reading.  The Wandering Gourmand is one blogger I make a point to read. I chuckle over his droll humor, his sarcastic absurdity.  I love how he can dig deep into some suds and produce a thumbs up or down on a beer.   TWG has become one of the ‘hood and If it falls on the floor’s resident beer expert.  While I pick a beer based on the cute label, TWG selects a fermented hop grounded in well-constructed depth and heart.

I had asked TWG to pair some beers with some of my cold weather chili/stews/soups.  Last week I think I sent him into a cardiac fit after he read the amount of jalapeno and chili powder in the recipe.  This week I’m hoping to lower his blood pressure…

 

Excerpt from The Wandering Gourmand  http://thewanderinggourmand.com/about/

Lately, I have become the beer pairing expert.  On a recent bachelor party in Charlestown, SC, I was tasked by almost each of the 12 partiers with picking out a beer to accompany their meal at Craftsman, a gastropub and tap house.  I’m not sure why.  (Maybe it’s the recent beard.  Beards and beer go hand-in-hand.)  Luckily, almost everyone ordered the Crunchy Dane so my job was easy.  It was only fitting then that Megs asked me to create beer pairings for a few recipes from her new cookbook.

I was stoked.  Not only do I enjoy her blog and the adorable (yes, even bearded beer experts can use that word) photos of her dogs, but I heartily support any blogger who can turn this hobby into a business.  I truly believe in the entrepreneurial spirit and love seeing the Internet allow ideas to generate household income be they products sold on blogs like Megs or artists selling their masterpieces on Etsy.

Please don’t be disappointed by the fact that the pairings are from the macro-craft breweries.  As much as I wanted to promote Natty Green’s Southern Pale (best pale known to beerkind), nobody outside of North Carolina could buy it.  Thus, you’ve heard of these beers and that’s the point.  They had to be accessible.

Mexican Ham Soup – More smoke.  I’m thinking something with bourbon– New Holland’s Dragon’s Milk.  The spice levels aren’t atomically high like the Beef Chili and Beer recipe.  A hearty, boozy beer would enhance the flavor of the smoked ham and chipotles.  In fact, the idea is so perfect that I think New Holland should brew a version with smoke chipotles added.  Just saying…   

–  The Wandering Gourmand

Huraches Ham Chili

Huraches Ham Chili

MEXICAN HAM SOUP  

I am my mother’s daughter after all…   I couldn’t bare the thought of tossing the bone, so I came up with Mexican Ham Soup, aka Huraches Ham Chili.  WOW!  Perfect for the cold weather, great for large crowds, the smoky essence adds some hidden depth to the chili and a touch of the outdoors to your dinner.

  • 2 cans pinto beans
  • 8 c chicken broth
  • 2 c chopped onions
  • 1½ c cubed smoked ham steak + a big smoked ham bone
  • 1 tbsp. chili powder
  • 2 tbsp. ground cumin
  • 1 bag frozen corn kernels
  • ½ c diced green chili (Hatch Chili if you have them)
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 5 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 smoked chipotle chili in adobo sauce, minced + 2 tbsp. sauceSour cream for garnish
    Cheddar cheese, grated

Combine beans, broth and the next 8 ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil. Partially cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer 2 hours. Stir in the tomatoes and chipotle chili, simmer another 30 minutes.  Discard bay leaves and bone and ladle soup into bowls. Top with grated cheese and sour cream.

 

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

internbern

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the berner internet

the berner internet

the bowls

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There are two kinds of bowls in our house –  the water bowl and the toilet bowl, both providing an endless supply of hydration for our dogs. Each dog has a preference, each has a favored style of distribution and each has a unique way of sipping their fluids.

DSC01437Dolce fancies running water, preferably from a hose.  She’ll crouch down, tip her head under the nozzle and “bite” the flowing water.  For the longest time, Dolce had the misfortune to have to use a standard dog water bowl, hoses not being the norm for the inside of our house.  I am now thinking she did so under duress….

On hikes, she’ll only drink from the bottle as we’re pouring the water into the canvas trail bowl, never from the nylon lined cavity.  Out in the pen, she’ll ignore the water bowls and the rain puddles and instead lap up the tiny drops of moisture emitting from the drip irrigation line stationed around the Pinon trees.  With me as I’m in the tinkering in the yard, she’ll eagerly wait for me to turn on the hose, anticipating immediate flowing water.  I chuckle over the puzzled look of confusion she gives me, as she waits for the water to run through the 150 ft. of hose, until the water shoots out the nozzle directly in her open jaws, turning her confusion into surprise.  It’s turned into a game with her as she awaits for that first shot of water to hit her, timing her mouth to open at just the right moment.

That is, until Uncle Dan came to visit and bought the girls their own running water BigDog bowl.  Dan is a long-time friend of Malcolm’s and adores the girls.  He always brings the girls a special treat when he comes to visit.  Toys, smoked bones, treats, he spoils’em rotten.  I, of course, love anyone who loves our girls, so Dan can do no wrong!  The minute Dolce heard the running water she ran in to investigate and immediately claimed the bowl as hers.  It took her all of 20 seconds to tip her head down and start biting the water.  She likes to stand to the right side of the bowl, crouch down and beeline into the fountain.  Dolce is in heaven!

Amore prefers the toiletDSC01441, also known as the 1) throne, 2) the shitter or shit box, 3) the great white porcelain god 4) the can, 5) the loo, or my favorite, 6) the library.  It’s just the right height, just the right temperature of coldness, just the right size of for delivery.  She likes the master bath’s porcelain the best, as it is closest to the dog pen and her dog pillow.  She’ll stand at the bowl for a good 4-5 minutes, slurping and lapping the cool water, sometimes, draining the basin.  Amore will drink some, think a’little, drink some more, think a’little more, and then maybe drink some more again.  She’ll take her time, stare off in space for a few seconds, then dip back down to the bowl for a few more sips.   She’ll then leave a 15 ft. trail of huge water drops into the bedroom and through the house.  Thank Gawd for brick floors!

Where as Dolce likes to bite at the water we pour from a bottle or hose, Amore would rather slurp her fluids from a standing still bowl. We’ve yet to see her drink from the BigDog bowl, not even from the wide basin.  We haven’t figured out if it is the noise of the trickling water, the ripple effect in the lower basin or if she just doesn’t like lowering her body to sip some water.  Bottom line – she refuses to drink from the BigDog bowl.

Now Malcolm goes around the house flushing clean toilets, just to refill her bowl and release some “fresh” water. AND, I leave a towel close by to “wipe” the seat for later.  How spoiled is that?

cherry tomatoes

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Damm!  A whole carton of cherry tomatoes on the floor! One of those fangdangle bowl-shaped cartons with the snap-on-lid that holds a whole bunch of cherry tomatoes just came unsnapped, flinging its contents all over the kitchen.  Three red orbs land in the sink, a bunch hit the counter and the majority are rolling all over the brick floor.  Dolce and Amore perk up when they hear me cussing and immediately come running into the kitchen to investigate, muzzles to the ground, checking for spillage.  In Amore’s eagerness, she grabs a little red sphere before Dolce can, and quickly bites into it. Just as quickly, she drops it back on the floor, her jaw working furiously to remove the acidic taste from her mouth.  There’s not enough water in the toilet bowl for her to rinse out the flavor.  Apparently, Amore doesn’t like cherry tomatoes.

Now Dolce on the other hand, comprehends real quick that Amore has the lead in eating the lit’l delicacies.  She only sees Amore getting the drop on the tomatoes before she can.  Dolce immediately turns her focus to a pile of tomatoes nestled in the kitchen corner,  swiftly scoops up five tasty morsels into her mouth and promptly heads to her special pillow in the living room with her coveted stash.  In her rush to grab the most, she doesn’t see Amore heading to the bathroom to guzzle down some water, she only knows she grabbed more than her sibling.  Sensing victory, Dolce chomps down on the juicy lit’l guys,  squirting seeds and sticky tomato juice in all directions.   Faster than you can say the word “ta-mah-tau” the look of triumph that had entered into her eyes turned to horror as she realized she didn’t like what was in her mouth.  Hastily, she spit out the tomatoes.  UCK! Chunks of tomato carnage go flying through the air, landing on chairs, couches and pillows.

It seems Dolce doesn’t like tomatoes either.

Tomato & Mozzarella Salad

Tomato & Mozzarella Salad

TOMATO & MOZZARELLA SALAD

A great summer salad and perfect for company!

Slice the tomatoes and then slice the mozzarella.  On a serving platter, alternate the tomato slices and the mozzarella.  Tuck in the basil leaves between the tomato and mozzarella.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill. In the blender, mix together the remaining ingredients until well blended.  Keep at room temperature.  Drizzle over the tomatoes and mozzarella when ready to serve.

the mutt mobile

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DSC00772

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.

 

puppy breath

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a bouquet of puppy breath

a bouquet of puppy breath

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

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

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

HUSH PUPPIES

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

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

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

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

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

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

missing mom

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

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

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

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

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

 

fetch and catch!

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

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

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

Swedish Meatballs

Be careful not to drop any on the floor!

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

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

pool paw play

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It’s Memorial Weekend! The kickoff to summer!

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

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

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

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HOMEMADE GEORGIA PEACH ICE CREAM

A perfect summer treat!

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

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

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

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