That time Piper defended our house from an invading chipmunk (and other July happenings)

01 Piper on a rainy afternoon

Piper has had a fantastic summer so far, with multiple trips to the pool, plenty of playtime with her buddy Hershey, and hours of outdoor ‘hunting’ in our backyard. Here’s a recap of last month in photos. Enjoy!

02 Piper the happy swimmer!

In June when Matt and I were in Bethany Beach Piper finally learned how to swim in a pool! Prior to this she was scared to step off of the top stair, but when we returned from the beach Piper was swimming around like a little fish. A really really happy spotted fish with cute white whiskers!! 😄

03 Piper water entry method

Piper still hasn’t mastered her pool entry but she’s working on it. She sort of slithers off the side and closes her eyes as she hits the water. Hopefully we’ll get her jumping in like a normal dog by the end of the summer!

04 Piper and Hershey tug

Hershey usually chooses not to go in the pool. Instead, she patiently waits for Piper to retrieve the wubba and then immediately tries to steal it the moment Piper emerges from the water. These dogs crack me up.

05 Backyard puppy

When Piper isn’t paddling around Hershey’s pool she’s usually stalking something in our backyard. Over the past month she has become much more interested in chipmunks, groundhogs, toads and birds. Apparently there are nests with baby birds all around our patio because she has been spending every afternoon with her face wedged in the bushes and her tail wagging at top speed.

06 Uh oh, what has Piper gotten into??

Tip of the month: it is NOT a good sign when your puppy greets you at the back door looking like this!! This happened last Wednesday, just as we were about to go out for dinner. Piper was all “What? Why can’t I just come inside and lie on the carpet?!?”

07 Nope, I didn't do that

We surveyed the yard and discovered a huge muddy hole at the front corner of our house. It appears that a chipmunk foolishly attempted to hide from Piper by taking cover in the gutter. (This has happened before.) Piper “defended” our house by attacking the gutter and then proceeded to dig a moat around the gutter to keep future intruders at bay… or at least that’s what she’s claiming!!

08 Washing off the mud

Piper was REALLY muddy. Fortunately she is easy to bathe.  😄

09 Piper staring

In late June Piper won a “summer dog” Instagram photo contest with this photo. Her prize was a set of three split elk antlers from RidgeRunner Antler Chews in Colorado. I wanted to take some photos to thank RidgeRunner so I hung up a white sheet and started playing around with my camera settings before actually giving Piper an antler. Piper didn’t know what was going on so she just gave me her best puppy eyes as she waited to find out what I was so excited about.

10 Antler Piper

Piper figured out what the big deal was as soon as I handed her an antler. She LOVED it!! These antlers are fresh from the Rocky Mountains and have a thick layer of marrow that Piper went nuts over. She chewed and chewed for about 30 minutes while I snapped away.

11 Antler Piper

If RidgeRunner or any antler company needs a puppy model to “taste test” their products, Piper volunteers!!!

This has been an excellent month for insta-contests. Piper won a second contest, this one for “Cute Puppy Eyes,” with the above photo. One of the prizes was a cool digital portrait of Piper’s winning shot, complements of @Puppy_Transit. They did such a great job! The other big prize is a custom dog bed with our choice of fabric from @LillyandAbbie. Piper has never had a new bed (she sleeps on hand-me-downs from Bailey) so I am really looking forward to receiving her custom bed in a few weeks!!

~~

That’s about it for Piper’s month in review. Hopefully August will be even more fun!! (Although I could do without the mud hole in the front yard.) 😉 I’m pretty sure Piper will be happy as long as she gets to play in the pool!

00 Piper in the pool

What does your dog do for fun in the summer?
What’s your favorite photo of Piper from July?
I like the second antler shot and her awkward pool entry. 😎

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Farewell Summer Flowers, Hello Pumpkin Beer!

Happy October!  I love this time of year.  Cool, crisp mornings, changing leaves, lots of apples and, soon, pumpkin-flavored everything.  Call me crazy, but I like to wait until it really feels like autumn before going on pumpkin overload.  (My one exception is pumpkin beer… Southern Tier Pumking is the best!)

The only thing that I don’t like about fall is that my once-lush summer garden inevitably wilts and dies as the temperatures drop and the days get shorter.  Luckily it appears that my garden hasn’t yet gotten the memo about it being October because everything is still vibrant and perfect as of today.  It’s hard to believe that in a few weeks I’ll be tearing out those zinnias, dahlias, pepper plants and other summer growth as I prep the garden for winter.

I took numerous photos of the flowers in my garden over the summer and thought that October 1st would be the perfect day to share their summer beauty before the garden transitions to fall.  Farewell, summer flowers, and hello, pumpkin beer!!

Is there anything about autumn that you don’t like?
Does the arrival of pumpkin beer make up for it?  🙂
What’s your favorite pumpkin-flavored item at this time of year?

Peach and Blueberry Crumble

Back in June Matt and I were on a fruity dessert kick. We made apple and blackberry crumble for my mom and stepfather, strawberry-rhubarb crisp for the entire crew at the hunting camp, and, my favorite, peach and blueberry crumble for Matt’s parents. I would have shared these delicious desserts on the blog as soon as we made them, but I’m pretty sure our family members would have killed me if I asked them to sit around waiting for their dessert while I arranged the scoops of ice cream “just so” and took photos for 10 minutes.

So, with the best blogging intentions in mind, last night Matt and I made a batch of peach and blueberry crumble for ourselves just so I could take all the photos I wanted (the things we do for the blog!).  🙂 We used fresh peaches that had been ripening on the counter all week (they smelled SO GOOD!!) and this mouth-watering dessert came together in about 30 minutes plus baking time.

Peach and Blueberry Crumble 1

One note about peeling the peaches – in the original recipe Ina Garten suggests immersing the peaches in boiling water and then putting them in cold water to make the skins easier to peel off. We did this the first time we made this recipe (while Matt’s parents looked on) and the boiling water “trick” didn’t seem to have any effect on our peach skins at all (it just made a mess of my kitchen!). So, this time Matt just peeled the peaches normally and the recipe worked out just fine.

1133 Peach Crumble

Peach and Blueberry Crumble (from Ina Garten / The Food Network)

Filling Ingredients:
6 to 8 Ripe Peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced into wedges
2 tablespoons Lemon Zest
2 tablespoons Lemon Juice
1/2 cup Granulated Sugar
1/4 cup All-Purpose Flour
1 cup Blueberries

Topping Ingredients:
1 cup All-Purpose Flour
1/3 cup Granulated Sugar
1/4 cup Light Brown Sugar, lightly packed
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/4 lb. (1 stick) Cold Unsalted Butter, diced

Vanilla Ice Cream

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350°F.   Combine the peaches, lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar and flour in a large bowl and mix gently until the dry ingredients are completely dissolved. Fold in the blueberries. Allow mixture to sit for 5 minutes, then spoon into ramekins. (We used 2 ramekins and spooned the rest into a larger baking dish.)

Combine the topping ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on low speed for 30-90 seconds until the topping is crumbly. If desired, use your fingers to press the mixture to your preferred level of crumbly-ness (I liked the even texture that came straight out of my mixer.) Sprinkle the topping evenly over the filled ramekins.

Place the ramekins on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 50-60 minutes. Allow to cool for at least 15-20 minutes before serving with a big scoop of ice cream on top. Enjoy!

What’s Cookin’?

I haven’t posted a new recipe on the blog for a while but, rest assured, Matt and I are eating well!  We’ve been re-making a lot of our favorite recipes and, quite frankly, I’m finding less motivation to try new recipes since we know we can throw together a garlicky pasta dish, flavorful stir fry, or quick rotisserie chicken burrito in less than a hour with delicious results.  Here are some of the dishes that we’ve been enjoying this Spring…  (mouse over for a link to each recipe)

This Spring has been pretty hectic with traveling, racing, and LOTS of yard work, but I have a feeling that things will slow down soon and we’ll find ourselves paging through our trusty cook books in search of new recipes to try.  We’d like to try smoking something (ribs? brisket?) this Summer and maybe try a grilled Romaine recipe.  I also definitely want to make Paella and I’d like to start making more desserts (cobblers and crumbles, anyone?).  I better start looking at those cookbooks!!

Do you have any go-to Summer recipes that you love making at this time of year?  Tell me about them (and feel free to link to them) in the comments!

Dogs, guns, and hiking… a typical weekend at the Hunting Camp!

Dogs, shotguns and the great outdoors… sounds like a good time, right? Well that’s how we spent our Labor Day Weekend at a “hunting camp” in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania! The “camp” is actually a private fishing and hunting club that my step-father’s grandfather helped to found back in 1913. One hundred years later it is still a rural paradise complete with a large house that sleeps 20+, a beautiful lake and – the best part – hundreds of acres of quiet, uninhabited woods. The camp is surrounded by other similar hunting clubs and a huge state forest, making it one of the only places in the world where we feel comfortable letting Bailey run off leash. Bailey absolutely loves it there, as demonstrated in this photo of her wallowing in a mud puddle after a long run in the woods!

Bailey the mud puppy

Happy as a pig in mud!

Bailey’s not completely off the grid when she’s at the hunting camp, however. We learned a few years ago that it’s nice to know roughly where in the wilderness she has wandered to, so we now strap a GPS collar around her little neck to keep track of where she is and how many miles she’s gone. On our first day there we arrived at lunchtime and Bailey ran 10 miles before dinner. The second day she covered 17 miles and on day three she was a little tired so she only did 14 miles… She’s nuts!

Bailey shows off her GPS collar and its really long antenna.  We tied her up occasionally for mandatory resting time... otherwise she would have never stopped running!

Bailey showing off her GPS collar and its really long antenna. We had to tie her up occasionally for mandatory resting time… otherwise she never would have stopped running!

Bailey had lots of canine friends to play with at the hunting camp this year. My family brought along a whole pack of pooches including Hershey the chocolate lab, Ganon the 9 month old puppy, and Clyde, the adorable newfie-lab mix. All of the dogs had a blast running through the woods, swimming in the lake and cooling off in mud puddles mid-hike.

When we weren’t hiking with the dogs we enjoyed playing in and around the camp’s beautiful lake, riding ATVs through the woods and shooting clay pigeons with shotguns. We also made sure to spend plenty of time relaxing in the rocking chairs on the hunting camp’s big wraparound porch!

After a fun-filled Labor Day weekend at the hunting camp we headed home with a VERY tired Bailey. I can’t wait to go back next summer!

Tired Bailey at the Hunting Camp

Bailey catching some Zzzs after a weekend at the hunting camp.

Vietnamese Banh Mi Steak Sandwiches

It’s hot out!!  We’re in the midst of a heat wave here in southeastern Pennsylvania and as of today the high humidity and 90°+ daytime temps are supposed to last until the weekend.  This unrelenting heat makes us feel like eating fresh, light meals like the Vietnamese Banh Mi steak sandwiches that we made a few nights ago.  The three primary elements of these sandwiches – cool pickled vegetables, grilled steak with an amazing citrus-y marinade, and a spicy Siracha mayo – offer the perfect amount of crunch, flavor, and heat, and the end result is an absolutely delicious steak sandwich with a definite Asian flair.  YUM!

Banh Mi Sandwich Close Up

If you’re planning on making this recipe, leave at least 30 minutes to marinade the steak and allow the matchstick-sliced carrots and daikon radishes to pickle.  We had trouble finding a daikon radish (we should have just gone to the produce market rather than a big grocery store!) so we used standard red radishes.  To slice our carrots into nice, uniform matchsticks we used a kinpira (aka julienne cutter).  The round red radishes were harder to slice with the handheld kinpira so we ended up using the matchstick blade on our mandoline which worked well.

Vietnamese Banh Mi Steak Sandwich

For the Steak…  (Marinade recipe from NYT’s Diner’s Journal)
1/2 cup Fish Sauce
1 tablespoon packed Lime Zest
1/3 cup Lime Juice (from 3 limes)
2 tablespoons Dark Brown Sugar
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 Jalapeño Pepper, minced (seeds and veins removed)
1 1/2 – 2 lbs. Flank Steak (you’ll have some extra steak left over; we ate it another night for dinner)

For the Do Chua Pickled Carrots and Radishes… (Recipe from A Lovin’ Forkful)
1/2 cup Water
1/4 cup Rice Vinegar
1 tablespoon Sugar
1/4 teaspoons Salt
1/8 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
1/2 cup Matchstick-sliced Carrots
1/2 cup Matchstick-sliced Daikon Radish (we couldn’t find daikon on short notice so used regular radishes)

For the Sriracha Mayo… (also from A Lovin’ Forkful)
4 tablespoons Mayonnaise
1 1/2 teaspoons Sriracha
(Just use roughly an 8:1 ratio… adjust to taste!)

Other Ingredients…
1 English Cucumber, thinly sliced
2 Soft Baguettes or Sandwich Rolls, sliced in half lengthwise
Cilantro, to garnish

Banh Mi close up

Directions:
The steak needs to marinade so start this part of recipe ahead of time.  To make the marinade, combine the first six ingredients (fish sauce thru jalapeño) in a bowl.  Place your flank steak in a large resealable bag and pour the marinade over and around the steak.  Seal the bag, turn it to coat the steak evenly, then allow the steak to marinade for at least 30 minutes (up to overnight) before cooking.

The pickled carrots and radishes also need some time to soak in their flavors so make these ahead of time, too.  Combine the pickling ingredients (water thru red pepper flakes) in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.  Place the carrots and radishes in a bowl and pour the liquid over the vegetables.  Stir well to coat the veggies and arrange them so they are submerged in the liquid, then cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or ideally overnight.

When you are ready to make your meal take the steak out of the fridge and allow it to warm up to room temperature.  Pat both sides of the steak dry with paper towels,  then grill the steak over direct high heat, flipping once, until it reaches your desired level of doneness.  (Our cut of steak took about 5 minutes per side for medium/medium-rare.)  Once cooked, cover the steak with foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes.  Just before serving, thinly slice the steak against the grain.

While the steak cooks and rests, prepare your sriracha mayo by combining the mayonnaise and sriracha sauce.  Also, if desired, slightly toast the inside faces of the sliced baguettes on the grill.

To build your Vietnamese Banh Mi Steak Sandwiches, start by spreading a liberal amount of the sriracha mayo on the bottom face of each toasted baguette.  Layer the thinly sliced cucumbers on top of the mayo and then arrange a generous amount of the steak over the cucumbers.  Use tongs to transfer the drained carrots and radishes over the steak (don’t soak your sandwich with extra pickling liquid) and finish off your sandwich with a garnish of cilantro and the top half of the baguette.  Serve with a cold, light beer and enjoy!

Banh Mi Sandwich

July Update: A new streak begins and the garden keeps on growing!

Matt and I are home after spending 10 days in beautiful St. Lucia and a few days in Western Maryland for the DockDogs Regional Championships.  I’ll post honeymoon photos and the dockdogs recap soon, but in the meantime I have some updates!

After 205 consecutive days my mile-a-day streak ended the day before our honeymoon began (June 13th).  I initially thought I would keep on streaking while in St. Lucia but for the first week we were staying in the rainforest on top of a mountain at the end of a precariously washed out dirt road so running a mile a day wasn’t really feasible.  Oh well!  🙂 As of July 1st I have started a new streak.  We’ll see if I can beat 205 days… I’ll reach that goal on January 21, 2014.

In other news, we had record rainfall in June and as a result my vegetable garden has been growing like crazy!  Check out this photo that I took today… a comparison shot from my May 10th gardening post is below.

Garden 7-3-13

Garden (5-10-13)

Quite a difference, right?  When we got home from St. Lucia I was shocked to see how much the parsley, thyme and tomatoes had grown and I was overwhelmed by the enormous zucchini plants!!  (I think my basil was overwhelmed too… it’s now living in the shadow of those large-leafed behemoths!)  Here are some other photos of my garden and back yard flowers from today.

While I was wandering around with my camera this afternoon I was surprised to spot a white-tailed deer in the front yard.  It is quite common for us to see deer in our area (usually in other peoples’ yards or dashing across the road!) but it is very, VERY rare to see a deer in our yard because Bailey has made it her life mission to stalk and chase any and all wildlife that comes within her invisible fence boundary.

I guess the neighborhood deer herd realized that Bailey was not at home for most of June and as a result they are now making themselves comfortable in the front yard.  Luckily Bailey was on her game this afternoon and as soon as this deer made a move Bailey (who must have been stalking it from a different angle as I snapped away with the camera) came blasting over, chased it away, and then proceeded to roll and rub in the deer’s scent for a good 30 seconds.  Good dog, Bailey (even if you do smell now…)

Well, that’s it for tonight’s update.  Happy 4th of July and have a great holiday weekend!!

Related Posts:
• Streaking, Reflections, and Other December Challenges (December 3, 2012)
• Streaking, Day 100 (March 1, 2013)
• Let the 2013 Gardening Season Begin! (May 12, 2013)
• Waiting for Red Tomatoes (July 4, 2012)