A day with My Service Dog

I am constantly going in circles, trying to figure out which direction I should take. It honestly feels like I’m spinning a wheel and whatever comes up will be my plan of the day. I’m just waiting for it to show “meet Alien Life Forms in Landers and begin search for intelligent life.” Today’s challenge was to run errands. As tired and sore as I was from yesterdays adventures, I knew that my service dog would need to be coming with us. Desi Doo Doo Dane, our 3 year old rescue, is also my service dog in training. Into the truck and off we went.
Desi was ready to go!

The Farmers Market in Joshua Tree was our first stop. We got plenty of fresh fruits and veggies, ordered a special wrap around leash That I can use when I need both hands free, and even met up with friends and another Service Dog as well. We passed a pack of chihuahuas that were screamin’ and given their mom fits but all the other dogs were well behaved. I love the farmers market. Everyone is friendly and love to meet the dogs. We always gain what we call the Pupparazzi following us and asking for pictures.

After the farmers market we headed out to lunch at Papa’s Smoke House for some pulled pork. Desi was awesome. He laid down beside the table and the server even brought him a bowl of water. He did give an eye to our food and I think he looked a bit peeved that he got water and we had barbecue…but I made up for it in the car with his lamb treats.

From there we headed to Unique Garden Center where Mike and his crew are full of desert landscaping help and pointers and have Mesquite honey which we need to deal with Dixies allergies. It’s also where Desi saw his very first chicken!

Last stop on our trip was Home Depot to pick up misc stuff for a secret project that I am working on. Heading for home, Desi was napping in the back until we pulled in to a convenience store near home.

“Mom…can’t dad go in the store while we stay in the car, puhleezzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzze?”
He was pretty tuckered out and took a long nap when we arrived home.

Sunday Dinner: Slow Cooker Pork

Pork shoulder in the slow cooker:

First layer was onion slices and baby carrots, then add a cup of white wine (apple juice w a splash of apple cider vinegar would work as well). Cut the skin and most of the fat off of a 6 pound pork shoulder. This one fought me until I tried holding the knife like a bow (thank goodness for violin lessons as a child) and then it sliced right off. The pork laid on top of the carrots and onions, fatty side up, and it was heavily sprinkled with salt, pepper and thyme and garlic cloves jammed into slits the fat. Finally, topped with 3 bay leafs and baby gold potatoes (if using larger potatoes, slice in half). Cook on low, 8 hours.

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).

Photo Play

So here I am, bringing more random shots from our lives. Hope you enjoy :)

Making it all Worthwhile

For the last few Tuesday’s I have been accompanying my mentor, Neil, to the local no-kill shelter. He has been evaluating dogs and doing Shelter Specific Training. This training mostly consists of teaching the dogs settle down a bit when folks come to see them. We’ve also been working on Pippi, an enthusiastic dog that is working on her leash manners.

Then there are the three amigos, three pitt mix dogs that are scared to death of strangers. They hide in their dog houses when new folks come around, where they hide until the coast is clear. We have been treating and clicking but for the most part they stay hidden until we are no longer near their cages. This past Tuesday Neil had an appointment elsewhere so I went alone. My plan was mainly to click and treat. As I was tossing treats into the Amigo on the end, Mika, the Amigo in the center, Peanut, started showing more curiosity about the treats left in his cage, not waiting for me to disappear first. Taking this as a good sign I opened the gate but stayed outside the enclosure with the gate tucked behind me. I faced sideways, tossing treats, and chatting in a neutral voice about nothing in particular.

It took awhile, but he came closer and closer until yes, he was taking treats from my hand. He even allowed me a few chin scratches. This was a huge deal for me. These dogs, the ones that need extra help, are the ones I want to eventually work with. So this breakthrough, small as it is, was a nice signal that yes, I am on the right path. It’s all about the dogs, the second chance dogs.

So please meet Peanut. And applaud his bravery. <3 [gallery itemtag="div" icontag="span" captiontag="p" ids="687,689,690,691,692,693,694,695,696,697,698,699,700"]

Behind the Camera

I first developed a passion for photography in high school but realized that it was too expensive to keep up with. I resigned myself to point and shoot cameras. When digital came along I was able to shoot more pictures, although stuck with point and shoot until the SLR cameras finally were in a price range I could afford. After all, this is a hobby for me.

What I really love about photography is that it crosses all compartments of my life. Progress photos in construction are a must, documenting my food adventures is fun and capturing both my animals and the dogs I train is terrific. I like to capture life as it happens, whether a flower blooming, a dog romping or a fabulous dinner. People I meet, adventures we have or just plain every day moments, it is all fair game.

And now I want to share some of these random moments.

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.

Sausage and Corn Chowder

Sausage and Corn Chowder
The weather has been frightful which makes soup so delightful.

Sausage and Corn Chowder

Sausage and Corn Chowder

1 tbsp olive oil
12 ounces mild italian sausage (I like turkey)
Salt and pepper
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, diced
32 ounces chicken stock
5 medium red potatoes, peeled and diced
½ cup corn (frozen or canned)
1 cup cream or half n half

In a 5 quart skillet or stock pan, heat skillet on medium. Drizzle olive oil so it covers the bottom of the pan. Remove the sausage from the casings and crumble into the hot pan. Add the onion and salt and pepper. (I use about ½ tsp of kosher salt, not too much because the chicken stock has salt.) When the sausage is browned add the garlic and bell pepper. (Sometimes I had a diced jalapeno for a tad bit of warmth.)

Once the onion is translucent and the garlic and pepper have cooked a bit add the stock, being sure to scrape up any browned bits off the bottom. Add the potatoes. You may need to add a bit more stock if the potatoes aren’t covered. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender…about 20 minutes or so. At this point use a potato masher to smoosh some of the potatoes and break up the sausage a little more. This will help thicken the broth up. Add the cream, bring back to a simmer and voila…soup is ready.

Temecula Winery Tour

A couple of months ago I was lucky to spot a Groupon for a tour of Temecula wineries. This one stood out in that it was a horse drawn trolley tour, which really sounded like a wonderful way to spend the day. Hubby has talked about doing a winery tour for some time and with his birthday approaching I thought it would be a fabulous way for him to celebrate. Since I am not a wine fan I would be the designated driver. The perk for me, tho, was that I would have some gorgeous scenery to shoot pictures of.

I emailed and received a quick reply confirming our reservation. It also included where we would be picked up, the wineries we would be visiting and how long the tour would take.

We drove down, arriving a little early. As we waited a several other people joined us in our wait. The hostess, Marika, arrived at the scheduled time and gave us a brief run down on the cost if we wished to participate in the wine tastings, how long we would have at each stop and even her favorite stops and wines. We purchased the discounted wine tastings and very soon the trolley arrived and we clip clopped off on our tour.

The horse drawn trolley arrived.

The horse drawn trolley arrived.



Mark, our host and driver

Mark, our host and driver






We look forward to trying the B&B when it opens

We look forward to trying the B&B when it opens


Our dinner, hand tossed pizza.

Our dinner, hand tossed pizza.



rainfall Torrential rainfall on our way home caused some flooding[/caption]

We wrapped up our tour at Lorimar Winery where they served the best hand tossed pizza. It took us back to our dating days and The Tavern, a little pizza place we went to often.

This was a wonderful way to spend our Saturday. We came home with several bottles of wine, glasses from the tastings and a few goodies I picked up in the gift shops. We definitely plan to do it again, hopefully staying at the Bed and Breakfast after it opens.