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porcini pup

Thursday, July 23rd, 2015

Recipe: butter-seared porcini-crusted salmon

Wow, it’s good to be home in Nederland. While I know Jeremy prefers to be in Crested Butte (and I love it there, too), there is something extra special about this time of year in the Front Range. The pine pollen has gone away, the high country is melted out and bursting with wildflowers, and the moose happily munch away in the meadows. Neva continues hiking longer distances and steeper climbs. Her little body grows stronger, more nimble, and bigger each day, yet she is still my affectionate little pup who comes running when I call her and curls herself against my legs like I am home base. Just the other day we walked past Kaweah’s favorite rock outcrop. I directed Neva to the top, wondering if I was being silly to hope that she might recognize how special this hunk of weathered granite was to Kaweah and in turn, how special Kaweah was to me. Dogs are not deep thinkers… at least the two shallow-thinking dogs I’ve had aren’t, but Neva did oblige me and it tickled my heart.


queen of the hill

she is finally fetching

moose sighting after our hike the other day

here’s a closeup of that good-looking boy



One of the reasons I’m so jazzed to be home is that the porcini are flushing. Okay, they are flushing in Crested Butte as well. I know this because we found some on our hikes last week. We even trained Neva to sniff them out without eating them and she did a great job. But for me, the part I love most is foraging porcini (and then huckleberries) with my fellow mountain pal, Erin. Erin and I share a special knowledge and love of these local mountains and this is an especially beautiful time of year. But we don’t just visit when mushrooms flush or hucks ripen – we walk or ski this land throughout the year. This is our home. We joke that we understand one another because we’re WAMPs (weird-ass mountain people – a term coined by my other WAMP friend, Andrew).

We’ve been out a few times with Neva and found some nice porcini specimens that she completely ignored. Turns out that once we climb into marmot territory, Neva turns her nose off to mushrooms and on to marmots. It’s just as well, though. There’s quite a thrill when you find your own king bolete (porcini). While gathering several perfect kings and laughing with Erin and Jeremy over Neva’s dismal performance, I demoted Neva from Porcini Pup back to Silly Little Pup and all was well with the world.


such a beauty

neva learns the scent of a porcini

the look she gave me when i asked why i found them before she did



I did not seriously expect Neva to become a porcini-sniffing pup, but she did show some promise at the start. Jeremy and I are merely having fun training her to do all sorts of things because she’s so willing to oblige. So far, we have not fed her ANY human food. That’s intentional, because we don’t want it to detract from her training for the first year. It’s important that she thinks her dog treats and kibble are the yummiest things in the world. I’ve witnessed a woman feed her dog scraps from the dinner table only to wonder aloud to the rest of us why the dog won’t eat its dog food – that made my head hurt. Neva’s kibble and some of her treats are salmon, which made me wonder how she would react when I prepared some fresh Coho salmon the other day. Her nose shot straight into the air when I unwrapped the fillets, but then she resumed happily defuzzing a tennis ball. Good girl.

Salmon is in season and so are porcini, but even if you can’t get your hands on fresh porcini, you can make this delightful recipe because it uses dried porcini powder. You can get porcini powder from specialty spice shops (check out Savory Spice Shop) or dried porcini from Whole Foods or other gourmet stores if you don’t dry your own. The recipe is short on time and big on flavor – isn’t that how summer meals should be?


salmon, salt, pepper, dried porcini, chardonnay, butter

put the dried porcini slices in a spice grinder and blitz

porcini powder



**Jump for more butter**

let the summer of puppy commence

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

Recipe: tuna melt

Oh man. Summer is REAL, people. The furnace blast arrived with a vengeance last week and like the true heat wimps that we are – we retreated to higher elevations and sunrise/sunset activities. Neva is now almost 20 pounds and has been with us for a month. Recalling the first 24 hours with her (and wondering what we had gotten ourselves into), she has come a long way in her training and development – and so have we! Part of her progress is simply growing up and gaining more coordination, strength, and speed. She no longer has to sniff and put every new plant, rock, stick, pine cone, or speck of dirt in her mouth. Neva is learning silly tricks now on top of the important commands. She let’s us know when she needs to go out to potty, she’s really good in her crate, and she is sleeping through the night (HALLELUJAH!). That last one was a serious game changer for the humans.


tossing her toy in the air and (sort of) catching it

moar swimming in icy cold lakes!!

neva gets at least one hike a day

she’s so mellow she sometimes falls asleep like this

running down the stairs with a toy



Neva is becoming a free range puppy, by which I mean, she roams parts of the house while we’re around and we don’t have to chase after her for fear of accidents or drive-by chewings on inappropriate things (like furniture, power cords, the compost bucket). She overcame her fear of the stairs in a matter of days – up was easy, down took a little coaxing. I can trim and file her nails while she sleeps (amazing!). We have her hiking up to 3 miles now and just this morning she did the rockiest, steepest hike yet – all on leash and behaving like a good dog should. Best of all, she likes to lie nearby while we are working and just nap or happily chew her toys. We still have plenty of work to do, but the stage of feeling hopeless was quite short-lived for us. I think Neva is becoming a Good Dog.

thimbleberry blossoms

the rare neva bloom amidst a potpourri of wildflowers

that’s my pack

shooting stars in a sea of summer green



Neva’s hiking progress has been of particular interest to me because I’d like to bring her with us when Erin, Banjo, and I hike and forage huckleberries. All signs point to Neva becoming a strong hiker and I think with some good long hikes together, she’ll learn to be a good companion to Banjo instead of a total pill (she seems to jump on his head less these days – that’s improvement).

As you can imagine, with all of the effort we’re putting into puppy training, I haven’t cooked anything elaborate in a while. In fact, I lost 8 pounds in the first 2 weeks of getting Neva because I was too tired to eat, let alone cook. We’ve been keeping things pretty simple out of necessity – mostly salads and sandwiches with the occasional ghetto pizza bread. One of those sandwiches is a tuna melt, which Jeremy loves and I like to pair with a bowl of tomato soup. I think of the tuna melt as an upgraded version of a tuna fish sandwich. If you really want to get 1970s throwback with it, stuff some jalapeƱo potato chips into the sandwich before eating (mmmm – so good!).


tuna fish, bread, lemon, mayonnaise, butter, pickles, salt, cheese, celery (not pictured: black pepper)

chop the pickles and celery

ready to roll



**Jump for more butter**

the disappearing puppy

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

Recipe: the mediterranean pizza

Where did that little bundle of puppy go?

It would seem that all of those kibbles went into making Neva’s legs and body longer over the last week. She’s gaining weight at a good pace according to the vet. But when we look at her growing body, her head looks as if it is the same size as the day we got her. “When is your little face going to catch up to the rest of you?” I ask Neva each morning. She just tilts her velvety head trying to puzzle out if that string of mumbo jumbo from my mouth means food is coming or we’re going outside to play.

Some people say to enjoy puppyhood because it’s over in a flash. Truth be told, it wasn’t the puppy I wanted, but the dog she’s going to become. That isn’t to say that I dislike puppies – I love my little girl – it’s just that puppies are a lot of work. I suspect this is why so many people abandon dogs when they discover how hard it is to raise a puppy or wind up with a less than ideal companion. Honestly, people are such idiots. Dogs aren’t small kitchen appliances to be tossed on the street for curbside pickup (even small kitchen appliances should be recycled responsibly!), they are living creatures.

Neva’s training is coming along – not as quickly as we would like, but I think our expectations are a bit unrealistic. She’s a puppy after all, and we’ve been keeping her busy with all sorts of new activities. It’s important to introduce Neva to the things she will be doing for the rest of her doggy days: road trips around Colorado, riding bumpy mountain roads, snow, trails, spending time in wild places. We took her to Crested Butte over the weekend, because it’s doggy paradise and her second home.


lots of snow on cottonwood pass

neva on the continental divide

the view from the taylor reservoir



Folks have been asking what books we are using to train Neva. We read Perfect Puppy in 7 Days: How to Start Your Puppy Off Right and How to Behave So Your Dog Behaves, both books by Dr. Sophia Yin. Of course, as soon as Neva arrived, we haven’t had a moment (or maybe it’s the energy) to reference the books. I’m hoping to tackle that now that The Crud has begun to leave my lungs. What we like about Dr. Yin’s approach is how training is based on positive experiences rather than punishment and fear. Some methods have worked really well so far and others not as much, but I believe each dog will react differently to situations. We just use the books as guides and fill in the rest with experience, empathy, and our own observations.

glacier lilies

neva on her first real hike!

relaxing among the dandelions and larkspur blossoms

so happy to see wildflowers again



Not everything has gone smoothly. Neva has had her share of accidents in the house which can be attributed almost entirely to human error – we misread her behavior or we weren’t paying attention. She’s doing much better on the leash, but right now every trail is new to her and full of distractions. Heck, EVERYTHING is new to her, she’s just a puppy. Neva is scared of bikes and cars when they are coming toward her (she sits or hides behind our legs), but then she wants to romp after them when they pass. We have learned how to calm her down when she’s overstimulated during play – something we didn’t understand or learn to recognize in Kaweah when she was a puppy. Overall, I think Neva is doing really well. She likes us and we love her. We are pouring a lot of effort and love into this little lady so she can have a really happy life.

walking through spring aspens

tired puppy in the land of beautiful mountains

sunlit aspens just starting to leaf out

spring green stands under the watchful eye of crested butte mountain

neva’s second playdate with banjo – she’s tuckered out!



And summer has finally arrived around here. Warm, sunny days punctuated with moody afternoon thunderstorms have been the norm this week. Naturally, my semi-lucid thoughts have turned to outdoor grilling and entertaining friends. Everything points to “simple” right now because the Puppy Vortex demands payment in time – lots of time. An easy vegetarian pizza we used to order from our local pizza joint in Nederland is the Nediterranean. I say “used to order” because we make it at home now and it’s way better.

olive oil, black pepper, mozzarella, pizza dough, olives, feta, pesto, roasted peppers, sundried tomatoes, pine nuts, salt, garlic

prepped toppings



**Jump for more butter**