Archive for All About Me

Experience, Experienced

I absolutely love training dogs. When the dog “gets it” and you see that a behavior has clicked, the dog’s attitude shifts to one of pride, as does their human. And suddenly they are energized and ready to work on the next behavior. For me, this is the defining moment of why I do what I do.

The above is why I continue to learn, to make changes in my approach both to the dog and to his human. They should receive the best education I can provide.

Whether its the simple sit or an approach to a problem behavior that needs to be addressed. Yes, I have experience in dog training for a few years now. For some reason that experience is the item that most future clients focus on.

Believe me, experience is important, but only if you are experienced at doing the best job you can while continuing to improve your methods. Otherwise you may be experienced at doing it wrong and, because it feels safe and comfortable, you continue on that tired old path.

This was brought back to me in a Primitive Birth Control These methods vary from using shots of mercury to securing alligator dung and using it as a diaphragm. Folks were very experienced at using these methods and they taught others to use these methods. This is a point where I have point out that experience was not a plus. This is an extreme example but I think it makes the point. Experience is not always best.

Progressive Reinforcement is constantly learning, reaching for the better method that is based in science not theory. Constantly challenging myself to continue to learn and to balance that learning with practical experience.
Terrier's learning Sit and Place

I am so proud of these dogs and their human. They are working hard to learn new behaviors to replace older, unwanted behaviors.

Baked Potato Salad

Hubby’s schedule changed recently. He’s now working three 12-hour days along with his callback schedule. This schedule change has really impacted our lives in several ways. Because he no longer will be working an 40 hour week his pay is reduced. Because he is working longer days he is eating dinner much later. I need to come up with meals that are lighter and that can “hold” from the time I eat around 5 to when he eats around 8.

This week’s menu included turkey sloppy joes with baked potato salad. I made the turkey Sloppy Joes using the same recipe as beef, substituting ground turkey for the ground beef.

The baked potato salad is a recipe I spent several years trying to perfect. My first taste of this salad was from a little grocery store up the street from us when hubby was stationed in Bremerton Washington. After relocating cross country I tried to replicate it, just going by memory (and no internet to search back then).

It wasn’t until I tried a 50/50 split of mayo and sour cream that I had a winner. And if I have roasted garlic I will add that to kick it up another notch.

Baked Potato Salad
Baked Potato Salad

Serves 6

4 med red potatoes — washed
2 oz olive oil
1 tbsp kosher salt

4 pieces bacon — diced and cooked
2 oz butter
2 whole scallions — chopped
4 oz cheddar cheese — shredded
4 oz sour cream
4 ounces mayonnaise
2 tbsp cracked black pepper
1 tbsp salt

For the potatoes:
Wash and dry the potatoes, then rub potatoes with olive oil and season with salt. Bake in a 350 degree oven until done. Remove from oven, let cool and dice in 1-inch chunks. Set aside.

For the dressing:
In a large bowl, mix together bacon, scallions, cheddar cheese, sour cream and mayonnaise. Mix in potato chunks and season cracked black pepper and salt.

Week in Review

Dixie and Desi enjoying the warm weather.

The weather has been warmer than usual, with highs close to 90. Even for the desert this is unusual.

At work we’ve been working for over a year on a project near Joshua Tree National Park. To this point it has been all paperwork shuffling with a lot of misdirections from the government. It looks like we are finally nearing the permit stage and we went up to look around. Found this little hummingbird on the ground, obviously stunned, after hitting a window. Poor guy! The homeowner moved him to a safe location to recover and I managed to get a some pretty cool shots showing off his colors.

Recovering Hummingbird

Recovering Humming bird

Recovered and back into the trees.

On the dog training front we were at the shelter again this week, leash training with basic obedience thrown in for good measure, along with evaluating new intakes. This guy is Skitch. A little skittish to start but he warms up fast. It was good to see that several of the dogs we have been working with have found homes.


But the BIG news for this week is that we started corning the corned beef for St Patrick’s Day. I’ve blogged about this before, and it is a favorite subject. I cannot state emphatically enough that homemade corned beef is a gazillion times better than the chemical laden package you buy at the grocery store. Julia Child rocked the original recipe and, with a few minor tweaks, it has yet to fail me.

Start with assembling the seasonings: 1 1/3 c coarse (Kosher) salt
1 T cracked peppercorns (pound whole corns to crack them)
1 t ground black pepper
1 T cracked allspice
2 t thyme
2 t paprika,
2 crumbled bay leafs

Assembled spices

Blend the seasonings.

Put the meat (brisket, tri tip, rump roast) into a 2 gallon ziploc bag and rub the seasoning into the meat, evenly distributing.

Rub seasoning onto the meat.

Make sure all excess air is pushed out, zipper close the bag and then massage the meat thru the plastic.

Massaging the meat before it goes in the fridge.

Now it goes into the fridge, laying flat, with a heavy weight over it. (We previously used 12 packs of soda but this year we have 2 cast iron skillets with a garden brick on top.) Every day for two weeks the meat needs massaged and turned. You will see a nice red liquid by the first turn.

After at least two weeks (we’ve gone 4) remove it from the bag and soak in cold water, changing it out at least 3 times, for 24-48 hours. This desalting will make the meat perishable so it should be cooked ASAP. We do ours in the slowcooker on low for 8 hours with a can of beer, slices of onion and garlic, red potatoes and then at about half an hour to go sliced cabbage.


As you can tell, I have been lacking in my posts. I am trying to go too many directions at one time and something has to suffer, in this case it is the blog. For that, I am sorry. I really enjoy putting my thoughts or tidbits about my life in writing. Right now, tho, I have to balance what I can and this is where the teeter totter hits the ground on occasion.

I am constantly learning between school and my mentor. It seems like my brain will explode with all the new knowledge. The small breakthroughs with dogs who are are afraid of everything or the wild child dogs that are learning impulse control and starting to have a little family harmony, these let me know I am on the right path.

This is Napoleon, who, unlike his namesake, does not want to take over the world and is working hard on his impulse control.

This is Peanut, who would give a scaredy cat a run for it’s title. Little by little he’s coming out of his shell, tho.

I try to get into the kitchen but I don’t have the time for creativity in there that I would like. The closest I’ve come is this Sausage Minestrone soup.

Sausage Minestrone
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 pound Italian sausage
2 large carrots, chopped
salt and pepper (go easy on the salt…more can be added at the end)
Pinch of crushed red pepper
2 red bell peppers, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup white wine
6 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 cans (15 ounces each) white navy beans, rinsed and drained
2 cans (14-1/2 ounces each) fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
2 bay leaves
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cups ditalini or other small pasta
Shredded or shaved Parmesan cheese


In a 5 quart pan saute onion and carrots over medium heat until the onion is almost translucent; Add the garlic, red bell pepper, sausage, crushed red pepper, salt and pepper. Break up the sausage as it cooks.

Stir in the broth, beans, tomatoes, bay leaves, oregano, tomato paste and wine. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 30 minutes. (Can be cooled and frozen at this point.) Bring to a boil. Stir in ditalini; return to a boil. Reduce heat and cook, uncovered, for 6-8 minutes or until pasta is tender. Serve with cheese. Yield: 13 servings (3-1/4 quarts).

Take Me Home, Country Ham.

Country Ham

Country Ham

Hubby and I hadn’t been married very long when UPS showed up on our doorstep with a large, heavy box from his parents. Inside the box was a very intimidating Country Ham. How can a ham be intimidating , you ask? Easy. All hams that I had ever met previoiusly came in a can with a key to ‘roll’ open the top. Out would plop this gelatinous pink triangle shaped ‘meat’. Diamonds would be scored into the top and then a clove poked into each diamond and then heated in the oven just until warmed thru.

The ham that arrived via UPS was not in a can. It was wrapped in paper and tucked into a cloth bag. A recipe booklet that came with it advised that mold was normal in a dry cured ham and should be scrubbed off. Then it should be cooked in 7 Up to help desalt the flavor. Since my cooking skills were limited at the time to spaghetti sauce from a jar and foods that could be cooked in cream of mushroom soup this entire country ham process was intimidating. Instead, we hung it in the closet where it stayed until the military packed it and us up and moved it across the country.

My favorite widowed aunt and her new husband spotted the ham as it was unpacked by the movers. Uncle Dutch was excited to see that ham. He cradled it like a baby and announced that we were to bring it with us to Thanksgiving dinner at their house. We did as ordered and brought the now year old ham with us to dinner.

Uncle Dutch was like a kid in a candystore. He directed hubby to scrub the mold off and then found the sharpest knife he could and they started shaving small pieces off to nibble on. Apparently this is not a recommended way to eat it, but that didn’t matter. They continued to nibble away as Uncle Dutch would tell us about his childhood in pre-WWII Holland and that ham was just like the ones they’d have there. He would also lean against the cabinet where a light switch (or, as he called it, a Peter switch) causing the lights to flicker on and off. The ham was noticbly smaller by the time it was cooked and brought to the table.

Shortly after that Thanksgiving dinner we were asked to contact hubby’s parents and request that they send another country ham. His parents lovingly and with a bit of amusement complied. They became his ‘ham connection’.

As the years passed they would send a country ham for our Thanksgiving. When we moved to Washington hubby was at sea for Thanksgiving. Undeterred, his folks mailed a ham and we wives sent all the holiday side dishes that would travel to him aboard the ship. Not to be bested by the ham our sailors cooked the ham in the autoclave. Sailors were drifting in and out of the medical department to find out what that wonderful aroma was and hoping to snag a bit for themselves. The medical department ate the best Thanksgiving dinner ever eaten on a ship at sea.

As the years passed they continued to send us country hams about once a year. We tried to locate them outside the south and talked to local grocers but the cost was just prohibitive for them to offer. After his dad passed away and his mother moved I went online to see if I could order one, but the cost of a full country ham was over $100 when shipping was added in. We could not justify the expense.

Last Friday I stopped into the local grocery store to pick up beans to go in a ham and bean soup that was on our menu. It was to be made with a smoked hock and would be a nice comfort dish during the nasty weather we were expecting. A miracle had happened, tho. There, in the meat section, right next to the foil wrapped, honey hams was a country ham. Sixteen pounds of memories. My mood went from crappy to happy in the blink of an eye. Memories slammed into me, one after the other. Now we need to sit down and plan out a dinner worthy of this beauty. Some will be carved off to become ham steaks for breakfasts. Ham and potato gratin. Ham sandwiches. The bone will eventually become gallons of bean soup that we will share with friends.
And I just know Uncle Dutch is smiling down on us.

A New Chapter Starts

I finally took the leap and am now immersed in schoolwork, studying canine behavior. Most folks know that we have Great Danes. They are our wonderful, loving, 4-legged offspring. Our first two arrived from their breeders with good health and we promptly took them to obedience school and socialized where we could living in a non-dog friendly community.

Our good fortune ended when we brought Jinkies home from the breeder. She was different. Something always seemed to hurt, she would limp and then get better. Everything we fed her went straight thru. Our vet finally referred us to an ortho vet, Dr Huber, who saved her leg and her life. She had folding fractures in her front legs and a broken growth plate in her back leg causing both legs to start to twist. He performed a radical surgery on her, having to use fat from her abdomen to replace where the bone section was taken out. Then she went on a special diet to try and make up for the lack of nutrition (probably early weaning) in her first weeks. 2056_47853416691_3551_n

At 12 weeks she was in rehab and recovery. She had to be carried to and from the outside (if you know the breed you know that by 4 months she weighed 60 pounds…not easy to carry). She could not interact with other dogs, even ours, due to the risk of causing a catastrophic injury. Her entire life when not outside on a 4’ leash or at the vet’s was in a 10 x 10 room.

All this isolation created a dog who was extremely fearful and a resource guarder. By the time she received the all clear for us to integrate her into our pack she was a nightmare. She would attack the other dogs over dinner, treats or toys . Anything was fair game. She was terrified of brooms, vacuums, hats, dusters….you name it.

Thru a lot of research, the leadership of a great training mentor and a lot of prayer Jinkies has blossomed into a loving, well socialized dog. She still reacts fearfully in many circumstances but you would never know what she had to come thru in order to get to where she is now. And it led me into obedience training, even getting my AKC CGC Evaluator certification.
Desi Comes Home
The next dane we brought home was from a rescue. He was 6 months old and had been crated 24/7. As loving as he was and as sad as he was, he had a lot of issues that we had to work thru. He had developed a crate mentality that would let him urinate or defecate right where he slept. We were told by the vet this behavior probably would not change. If we were out of his sight he destroyed anything and everything he could until we arrived home. Many times this caused injury to him. That was what made the decision for us to put him on an anti-anxiety medicine while we trained as well. After a 3 month regimen he was able to wean off. He still has some sep anxiety but he can crate himself without losing his mind, he is no longer fearful of older women, he has learned to calm himself down rather than spinning out of control.

After dealing with these two danes that needed so much more than most families would have had the time or resources to deal with, I wanted to get into the behavior end of training. To me this is very important when dealing with rescues and abused dogs that need special help, beyond just the sits and stays.

So busy I am. I’ve started my studies. I will be immersing myself in the world of canine behavior. I’ll be doing an externship with a local shelter and then an internship with a local behavior trainer. I am blessed to have these resources for learning how to help the critters that steal my heart and the humans who take on the commitment of repairing these damaged souls.

Spring has Sprung


I’m sitting here waiting for Billy from the local Air Conditioning company to come by. He’s going to service and start up our swamp cooler so that we’ll be ready as the warm weather is here and getting warmer. We need to be ready!

When we first moved into our house it was one of the coldest and wettest winters ever. We actually had snow in the desert.


We did not realize what the little bush was just off to the side of the driveway. Not until spring rolled around and it bloomed these amazing purple blooms. It was a lilac bush! I hadn’t seen one up close since leaving Iowa 20 years earlier.
And it is blooming nicely this year, even after a very mild winter and just in time for Easter.


Lilacs in bloom

Speaking of Easter, check out what I found at Wold Market last week:

Easter Pasta

Easter Pasta

This will go perfectly with our traditional Bunny Pizza Easter Dinner (details to follow).

Burger Quest

Several weeks ago hubby and I were driving along and listening to the radio. The Palm Springs DJ was asking listeners to call in and advise on the best burgers in the area. Palm Springs is just about an hour “down the hill” (actually, down two mountain grades) from us. We are considered “high desert” as we are in the mountains and being at sea level they are “low desert”.

Whenever we are down there we debate over where to eat. There are tons of options from $ to $$$$, but not living there we don’t usually hear the good or bad. Now we have a list of places from Palm Springs to La Quinta, which covers the entire “low desert” area.

Hubby shoots xrays at the local hospital and was on call last week. This meant lots of overtime. With all that overtime a flex day was in order, so he unexpectedly has today off. That means a trip down the hill is in order to check out one of the places on our list, Frickleburgers. Maybe a movie after.

I need to print out the checklist so we will be ready to order. Updates to follow :)

Me, Myself and Corn Chowder

At least two nights a week hubby works late. That leaves me home alone with the critters. Today, this is probably a good thing. Since I had no desire to clean up after fixing a big meal just for myself, I checked out the fridge for acceptable de javu meals.

Lunch was leftover Antipasto Pasta Salad. I made a big batch for hubby to take to a potluck at work, and thankfully there was a little extra for me.

Antipasto Pasta Salad

This pasta salad is also a “everything but the kitchen sink” toss together. No real recipe, just a ‘little of this, a lot of that’. I start with 1 lb of pasta, such as ziti. Boiled in salted water until almost done. Rinse in cold water immediately to stop the cooking process. Into a big bowl and add marinated mozzarella (reserve oil), Parmesan cheese, Kalamata olives, grape tomatoes, chopped roasted red peppers, a hard salami sliced, sliced provolone cheese, marinated artichoke hearts (chopped to bite size), pepperoncini, in whatever quantity suits your fancy. Take the reserved oil from the marinated mozzarella, add about another 2 or 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 or 3 tablespoons of white balsamic or seasoned rice vinegar, a little bit of salt (not much, you can add more later), fresh ground pepper, fresh oregano and fresh chopped basil. Whisk the dressing and then pour over pasta mix and toss. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours, overnight is better. Taste and then add more seasoning as needed. I toss chopped green onion at this point if I have it, then top with some more fresh Parmesan and chopped fresh basil. Serve.

Later, after a torture session with my Physical Therapist and a couple of hours at the office, I came home and hung out with the animals. Four happy Great Danes were having a blast today kicking up wet, gross sand. After, I heated up a bowl of soup left over from last night’s Sausage Corn Chowder.

Sausage Corn Chowder

12 ounces mild turkey sausage, removed from casing
1/2 tsp. dried oregano, crushed
1 c. coarsely chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
2 cloves chopped garlic
4 c. 1/2 inch cubes baked and peeled red potatoes
1 (17 oz.) can cream style corn
1 15 ounce can whole kernel corn, drained
1 cup chicken stock
1 1/2 cups half n’ half
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a large pan, saute onion until translucent. Add chopped pepper and garlic, saute for another minute or two. Break up sausage and add to onion mixture, cook until brown.
Add remaining ingredients, bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes. Serves 6.

Spy Work

Today was one of those busy days that, in the end, doesn’t have much to show for it. I started off at physical therapy where Julio twisted me into a pretzel. His reasoning? “Must stretch it out!” Then he worked it out of me. Tied my feet with bands and told me to walk. I stood on a board with a rounded base and was told to bounce a ball. This is supposed to help my coordination and core muscles. I was also on a shuttle and told to launch myself. Not sure where I was to launch to, but I finally finished. Whew.

Then I headed 20 miles west so that I could run a few errands in Yucca, including picking up a 40 pound bag of dog food from Pets Plus. When you are feeding 4 Great Danes a 40 pound bag does not go far. On a positive note, I can now pick up that 40 pound bag of food myself. When my son saw me coming out of the store with it, he said a few cuss words (at almost 22 he’s too old for me to wash his mouth out and, in truth, he learned the words from me). Then he tried to grab the bag from me and I tried to hold on. (I’m very proud that I can carry it…it’s been a long time depending on others to carry it.) This poor man walking by us thought I was being mugged for the dog food! A couple of other stops and I dropped him off at his place, then decided to try out the new store in town, Save A Lot.

Save A Lot is a big deal in our little city. It has gone into the old Desert Ranch Market (known as “Desert Rat Market” to the locals). That store had gone down hill, with non-working refrigeration equipment and expired food. When the news a new store was opening up it was met with joy. The nearest grocer from there is several miles up the highway, making it hard for those without reliable transportation to shop. Save A Lot opened last week to huge crowds, so I waited a week to let that die down.

As I pulled into the parking lot my friend Paige called. She was raised in Two Nine, but a military spouse moved her away several years ago. She was curious about what the new store looked like and asked me to be her spy. On went my hat and out came my camera!

Heading down the aisles, I tried to be sneaky :)

You do have to bag your own and it’s three cents for every bag you buy from them, but for their grand opening celebration they are giving a free, reusable bag for every $10 spent. I spent $15 on a few things that were cheaper than the local grocery store. Their fruits and vegetables were reasonable and looked good. Better than our local commissary, that’s for sure.