Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Mahtzoh Toffee Recipe

This has to be the easiest, most popular stuff ever. The story is that a group of friends made plans to gather and it happened to be Passover, and our friend and hostess Barb is Jewish. We all decided to honor that by bringing Jewish dishes to the party.
The party was a huge success and we enjoyed lots of new foods, and learned some Jewish history and traditions in the process. At one point Barb asked me to carve the rotisserie chickens she'd bought. As I cut into the first one, I thought the texture odd, and the first slice revealed that this was no chicken. Apparently our friend had grabbed a chicken....and a HAM!
We tease Barb often about Passover Ham, but it's the best kind of teasing, done with love and friendship.

So the toffee---I'd decided to bring a dessert but was having a lot of trouble finding a recipe. Another friend, George--an unlikely source of recipes-- happened to be talking about having been at the gym on the treadmill, watching a morning show, and the mahtzoh toffee that they were making sounded really good. Bingo! An internet search turned up several recipes, I picked the easiest, and the rest is history.

I've made countless batches now and sent the recipe to dozens of friends. Every time I hear back from another new fan, I think of the fun party, Passover ham, and the reason we share recipes.

1 c. butter (unsalted)
1 c. brown suger (dark or light, I've used both)
1/2 t. vanilla
dash sea salt
1 1/2 c. chocolate chips (see note)
1/2 package HEATH toffee chips
Mahztoh crackers

Preheat oven to 350
On a cookie sheet, lined with parchament paper, lay out a single layer of mahtzoh crackers. Cover the whole surface (you'll need to break a few crackers to fit)

Melt butter, add sugar. Heat to a boil then cook 3 minutes at a boil.
Add vanilla and sea salt, swirling quickly, then pour the mixture over the crackers. Use the back of a spoon to even out the candy.
Put the sheet in the oven and set the timer for 15 minutes

Remove from oven and immediate spread chocolate chips over the pan. NOTE the better the chocolate, the better the toffee. I personally vouch for a mix of 60% cacao and semisweet chips. Chips will melt, smooth them out to cover the surface. Sprinkle the toffee chips over the chocolate. Reserve a small portion without nuts for your nut-allergic friends. Cool until chocolate is set. Break into pieces.

Store in airtight container. Toffee will last a few days. Well, it would last if it didn't disappear right away when you offer it around.



Here are the recipes I've promised to post

PIE CRUST as taught to me by Ruth Mosley, my mother-in-law
2 c. flour
1 t. salt
1/2 c. shortening
1/4 c. butter (unsalted)

5 1/2 T cold water
1/4 c. flour

Mix flour, salt in bowl. Add shortening and butter and mix with pastry cutter until dough makes pea-sized pieces.
Mix cold water and flour. Add that, slowly, to the flour mix until dough sticks together when pressed woth fork.

Poach chicken breasts (a package of three pieces) in microwave until cooked, then shred or dice. I usually have more chicken than needed. I use the rest as dog treats, or in chili. Use your imagination here.

At the same time, melt 3 T butter in sacucepan. Add flour until the butter's all absorbed, about 1/4 c. Add 2 c. milk and cook, stirring, until it thickens.
Add what you like! carrots, celery, peas, corn (I do) potatoes (I don't) until it's all cooked.

Preheat oven to 375
Roll out pie crust. Use about 2/3 and line a souffle-type dish with that. Roll out the rest for the top. Pour in the filling and then add the top crust.
Optional--egg wash on top crust--makes it pretty and a little crustier!
Bake for 15 minutes at 375 then reduce heat to 350 and cook another 30 minutes or so.



Season's Greetings

I was in LaCrosse, Wisconsin yesterday for an agility trial, and it finished about 6 pm. I wasn't looking forward to the 2 1/2 hour drive home in the dark, but the roads had been clear on the way down Friday afternoon (after our blizzard--LaCrosse got about 18" of snow) so I loaded up and headed out.
As it turned out, things weren't nearly as dark as I thought they'd be.
The snow reflected any light--headlights, streetlights, ubiquitous transmission towers, farmstead security lights--you name it and the snow brightened it.

The sky was cloudy, so the lights from all the small towns along the way were also reflected at that level--the nearly-pink color of winter sky.

But the most entertaining lights were those adorning seemingly every house between there and here. I can remember the energy crisis of the 70s when everyone was encouraged to cease this practice. Today, "icicles" frame the rooflines. Inflated snow globes bob and weave. Electric deer guard the garden. Snowmen light the way to the front door. Stars and crosses decorate silos.

So I'm not a big fan of all this. I love a string of lights on a tree as much as the next person, and I saw hundreds of those. I suppose families gather in the yard to blow up the reindeer and toss nets of lights on the bushes, then sit in the window gazing in delight. Then it's back to their video games.

I prefer the illumination of the full moon on fresh snow, and a starry sky. There's a meteor shower this week and those lights cannot be bought. Call me old fashioned!

Saturday, November 21, 2009


So we've passed the mid-November mark, and the above-average days continue. The moon rises and sets on a southern path, and yesterday the trumpeter swans flew overhead on their way somewhere to the east. We are all confused but there are finally flurries in the forecast. I can't complain about the nice weather, can I?

We are now on a little break from agility, with only one trial day planned until the new year. Last weekend was the perfect end to our run--Maggie finished her C-ATCH 3 last Sunday, and Winn and I enjoyed a "zone" run to complete the weekend's fun
Maggie of course made me work very hard for her big ribbon

And the Jumpers run was video-worthy:

(I have no idea how to embed the videos)

I'm blessed with good friends and good dogs, much to be thankful for, eh?

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Thinking Ahead

This weekend I started work on the Agile Canines 2010 calendar. ACTS Students send me photos and I create it, adding all the trial dates for the coming year.
Those dates shifted for 2010 in some of the organizations, so the work was doubled and the result doubly useful. At least that's what I'm telling myself.
It's a really fun project-- inserting photos on dog's birthdays, special days, and all the blank squares on a calendar. I imagine the delight on everyones' faces as they find their dogs.
I'm also taking the time to reflect on what a great year 2009 was, and looking forward to 2010. I plan to be thinner. I plan to have recovered from plantar fasciitis. I plan to work hard and play harder.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Maggie reluctantly agrees to more

There are some things Maggie will do for the sake of the team, and she did enjoy a Touch N Go course (and Q'd!) but the next day on the dogwalk, she sought help from her fans in the stands. "Hey! Deb's here!

Maggie in Tennessee

I had to post this. "Are you nuts? you must be, if you think I am going to run and jump under these conditions."

Books--the price wars

You've heard or read of the new pricing "strategy" by Wal Mart (they started it. So typical) Amazon and Target, where the online shopper can buy bestsellers (they picked 10 titles) at $8.99. Then Sears decided that if you brought a $8.99 book receipt in their stores, you could get credit (Sears doesn't sell books, but labeled their vengeance "KEEP AMERICA READING") .
So my smart friend George has it all figured out:
1) Buy all ten books online
2) Take the receipts to Sears and get a leaf blower
3) Return the books to Barnes & Noble for store credit and buy DVDs
4) Watch movies, blow leaves from his lawn
6) Sell the movies on eBay.

I'd add 7) buy a book from an independent bookseller.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Winn's photo from the Awards ceremony at TDAA PetitPrix

The Nationals--what a month!

I’ve spent the better part of the past month traveling for my hobby, dog agility. It was a most enjoyable trip!
National events are the highlight of my year. I was lucky enough to go from the NADAC Championships to the Corgi Nationals to the TDAA “Petit Prix”. It is so much fun to see friends from all over the country, make new friends, and compete against some great teams.
NADAC this year was in Shelbyville TN. Conditions were not ideal: hot and humid (when it wasn’t raining) and deep, rocky footing. I had more fun socializing and coming back to the guesthouse that a friend and I rented than the competition. Maggie reminded me that she left Tennessee as a puppy for good reason! After the first runs she was happily promoted to the front office. Although it’s a disappointment to have your dog not run well at a national event, it would be so unfair to ask it of a partner who usually gives it her best shot. As I said to my friends, Maggie has nothing to prove to anyone.
Winn cares not about conditions and ran well. I suffered from some handling goofs the first day and it cost us, I’m sure, in the overall standings. I learned that I really have to focus and get into the game from the first run. Even over the 15 runs (yes), over five days (yes!) of this Championships, even though Winn ran clean from the second day on, it wasn’t enough to make the Finals. I could beat myself up, or I could learn from this; I hope I’ll always choose to learn.
So after the NADAC event, we drove from Shelbyville to Fort Mitchell KY for two days of Corgi Nationals agility. Again, friends—some I’d never met in person! arrived to celebrate the Pembroke. My good friend (and co-breeder of Winn’s litter) Cindy Traylor was there with a new friend., Maureen Flaherty, who has Winn’s nephew Jagger. Cindy has Winn’s sister and his uncle “Beau” one of my very favorite dogs. Beau had just won HIT at the herding part of the Corgi Nationals!
We ran four runs over the two days, and Winn ran really well, qualifying in all four runs and placing in three. At the end of the second day, he was awarded the “Poppy” trophy which is a big deal—it’s a Challenge Trophy awarded to the high scoring agility dog at the Nationals—and our four clean runs edged out another dog with four clean runs too, by virtue of time. It was, and is, a huge honor, and we got photos of Winn and Beau with their trophies.
We drove home and rested up for about a week before loading up the van again and heading for Racine WI for the TDAA Nationals. TDAA is “Teacup” agility, for dogs measuring 17” and under at the withers. The equipment is small and the distances between obstacles are much shorter. All in all, to go from NADAC distance to TDAA in three weeks’ time is a big adjustment! But I have always trained with the goal of being successful in all the agility organizations, and Winn made the adjustment. (Huge thanks here to both Annelise Allan, our friend, mentor and trainer, and to Stacy Peardot-Goudy, whose seminars we never ever miss)
The TDAA event was another test of endurance, with five runs to the Semifinals, two Semifinal runs, and a “winner take all” Finals Round. We stayed in the middle of the pack throughout the first five runs, but both Maggie and Winn made the Semis! Maggie likes TDAA a lot, she doesn’t have to run as far and the contact obstacles are smaller and shorter. She wasn’t fast enough to make the Finals, but she worked her butt off. She made me so proud!
Winn ‘s runs over the tournament were all solid with the exception of his weave pole performance. The short, vertically striped poles seemed to faze him (and probably caused me to over handle—which never works!) but his Steeplechase Semifinals run was terrific and helped us get to the Finals, I’m sure (the scoring for the tournament was complicated and I didn’t pay much attention to it).
The Finals run was a strategy game called Who Dares Wins. A 21-obstacle course was set. Each obstacle was worth points. You had an optimum time of 50 seconds with a point penalty for going under or over. You could start anywhere on the course and run more than the 21 obstacles. We were given a lot of time to study the course map, and a good long walk through to figure out strategy.
I walked a possible plan and then added one obstacle. I paced the yardage, thinking about how many obstacles and yards Winn and I can usually run in 50 seconds. I walked it twice and came up with the same yardage, and it felt right. We had to turn in our estimated points before anyone ran. I turned in my estimate and watched the first few dogs run. From what I could see, I knew that we’d have to run fast! A lot of dogs were on the dogwalk when the buzzer went off, costing them points.
Then it was our turn. It’s funny, but I enjoy this sport so much, and love running with my dogs, that I really don’t get nervous, even in a competition like this. I have gotten to the point where my routine involves visualizing the course (correctly!), taking some good deep breaths, and then remembering to smile. So as I stood on the line, I was all set. Winn and I walked out to the middle of the ring, since I’d decided to start on #15 and run from there. I put Winn in a down, led out, and signaled to the timer that we were ready.
What happened next will live in my memory for a long time. I’ve had “in the zone” runs before and in fact lately a lot of runs with Winn have been there—our partnership has evolved this year to a great “sweet spot” and it’s been a lot of fun. But this run went beyond that to an entirely new zone. When the buzzer went off as Winn cleared the final jump, the crowd went wild, signaling what was a perfect run. I had correctly estimated a course that we executed without a misstep, flowing through the obstacles without a pause. Even those weave poles were flawless.
The run held up over the course of the Finals and Winn is now a National Champion. The president of the organization, Bud Houston, paid me terrific compliments in person and on his own blog. I have a video of the run which will help me remember the moment. And the overall experience of this past month has given me a lot to think about, to reflect upon, to make goals for the next year.
As I sit here typing, both Maggie and Winn, the dogs who have taught me everything, snooze on the couch. They could not be more different, these two, and yet we are a team. Maggie has given me the gift of patience. She makes me laugh every single day. Winn has given me the gift of confidence. He makes me look good. I am the luckiest girl on the planet.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Winn herding

This is Susane Hoffman, our wonderful herding coach, with Winn at a June trial. I knew that Winn was ready, but I wasn't, so I asked her to handle him for me until I felt 110% prepared. His first try wasn't successful, but the next day he worked really well, qualified and placed. It's interesting how much confidence this actually gave me.

In the Zone

The summer agility trial season is in full swing and we're all pretty happy about it. Maggie is staying home when the weekend trial is AKC or USDAA and I think she is none too happy about that, as this has happened two weekends in a row and this past weekend was also a road trip without her. It's hard to convey to her how much I miss her when she isn't with us, how much more bored she'd be to be at a trial without any of the fun, and that THIS weekend she gets to play! She'll perk up once I pack gear on Friday I think.

Winn is having a blast, which means I am having a blast. We have started to really gel as a team and have had some "in the zone" time lately. My goal has been to achieve success in the various agility organizations and we're approaching that. They require different skills and we practice a lot of them. There is always more to work on.

We are also working on our herding partnership and we're at the point now where I am beginning to make concrete strides in reading and working stock. This is enormous progress and again, although the zone is more elusive, I can sense that it's possible.

Soon things will slow down a little bit, we won't trial every weekend. This requires tremendous effort when things are going well, but it will help keep everyone in balance.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Bad haircuts

Back when I was in Junior High (painful enough) I went by myself to get a haircut at the local beauty parlor (that dates my tale right there!), armed with a magazine photo of the perfect style. I was pretty excited, anticipating a very stylish, new me.

Of course the result was nothing like what I'd brought. It was hideous.

I left the parlor and was met by the "bad boys" from my grade. Whatever I looked like? didn't matter at all because they were just mean kids. I went straight to the drug store upstairs and bought a scarf; you can imagine the selection. I remember it was pink.
And that's all I remember from that day, and that haircut. I must have survived going to school, and of course my hair grew out. By the time I was in high school, I wore it long and straight. I suppose the mean boys eventually grew up; they may have daughters and granddaughters of their own.

I bring this up because my normally fabulous haircutter had an off day last week, and I was in the chair. She's really good, and I've had dozens of great cuts these past 10 years (how loyal am !?). This time, rather than heading for a scarf, I am comforted by my junior high experience: I know my hair will grow out. And there were no mean kids waiting, no name-calling or hoots of derision. Even Allen didn't mention it until I did.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


Still as statues, a pair of waxwings (Cedar, I think, but I didn't have the angle to be certain) perched at the top of one of our dead elms in the pasture. It was near sunset.
It was too hot to fly, I believe, and they seemed in no hurry to move. Neither did I until the bugs drove me away.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Happy 10th Birthday, Maggie!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

A blessing

I was entering the grocery store Saturday morning. Standing by the front door was a woman, on crutches, probably awaiting a pick-up. The man in front of me cheerfully greeted her: "Been there, done that!" and it was only then I noticed he had a prosthetic leg.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Translation. please

I swear that every morning, when the radio alarm goes off, that the NPR voices I hear are NOT speaking in the English language. I can't identify the language, nor do I think it's the same foreign tongue each day. After about two minutes though, the announcer resumes relaying the news in words I understand. Only then is it OK to be fully awake and get up out of bed.
Go figure.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Driving the River Road

Last Sunday I drove back from La Crosse WI. It was a lovely, warm spring day and the agility trial was done early so we (the corgis and I) decided to take Highway 61 along the Mississippi.
There was all this to see:

At least 20 bald eagles. Some soared, some sat, on branches, on nests, some stood on the melting river ice.

A dozen soaring pelicans! They are so cool, first white, then gray-brown, as they change direction.

Maybe two immature bald eagles or two golden eagles--I wasn't stopping, and they were too far away to tell for sure. They were on Lake Pepin, again on the disappearing ice.

I also saw what turned out to be the FIRST barge on the Mississipi for the year! I wondered when I saw it, and the newspaper confirmed it on Monday.

This drive is filled with memories, as I drive through Lake City (where I learned to drive) and Frontenac (where Sheri Stephens and I bought a pack of cigarettes and smoked them on the walk back to Villa Maria) and Red Wing (home of the boys' reform school) and Miesville (home of the Mudhens) and Farmington (the fairgrounds where I showed my pony in 4-H) and the hills and farms between there and home.

The other night public tv aired a documentary about Highway 61, starting on the North Shore and driving the River Road to La Crescent. I realized then that I have been on the entire Highway 61 through Minnesota. Now I can't wait until August, when this road will take me along the North Shore and on up to Thunder Bay.

(Photo from StarTribune)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The brains in the family

I've been thinking about this ever since reading Jill Taylor's MY STROKE OF INSIGHT.
My brother Tim had a lemon-sized clot removed from his brain after a fall down a flight of stairs at a party in college.
My dad Lloyd died of a brain tumor.
My brother Rob had a stroke at the age of 44.

I don't know what it all means, but there has to be some kind of connection.
I remember the surgeon asking if Tim had been a musician. "No," I told him, "will he be one now?"
I think about "jumping the corpus callosum"
I think about the brains in the family.

Saturday, January 31, 2009


Most of you never met her. When people hear that we have rottweilers they are almost always surprised, and yet, Allen and I have always had rotties, since we moved out to the country and could finally have a dog.
Gretchen was our third rottie. We were looking for a puppy after losing Della (Della Street and Perry Mason were our first) to cancer in 1999. We were still fairly ignorant about dogs generally but were lucky. We drove to a breeder in Wisconsin who was expecting puppies later that summer. As we chatted, a gorgeous four year old bitch met us and was immediately and earnestly committed to winning Allen over. I think it took about ten minutes. After an hour or so, the breeder said she’d let us purchase Gretchen if we’d consider an adult dog. We drove home, thought about, and drove back a week later to pick up Gretchen. We celebrated her 4th birthday on the fourth of July a few weeks later.
She was too heavily-built for agility and I didn’t know much about obedience at the time, which is a shame as she would have loved it, I think. They don’t come much smarter and more eager to please than she did. But she had never been socialized around cats, and was, we found later, a bit reactive (she and Maggie fought) so she didn’t get out much. After losing Mason, Stormy came to us as a re-homed dog from another breeder, and our two-pack continued. I’d certainly do things differently today, but at the time this was just more lessons about dogs.
“Pie” as Allen called her, was diagnosed with spondylosis in 2005 and that further curtailed her activities, but she enjoyed walking the trails on Mushtown for several years. One day she disappeared, then returned with an opossum in her mouth. I asked her to leave it and we finished our walk, then I went back to retrieve it so Allen could bury it. I carried it, by its tail, back to the barn and set the carcass down in the barn. Imagine Allen’s surprise when he opened the door to find it Very Much Alive and glaring at him.
We have coyotes in the woods and both Gretchen and Stormy howled right along with them. The “girls” alerted us to the UPS and FedEx trucks, and counted the agility students arriving here for class.
It was obvious this winter that Gretchen was starting to fail. She started to lose weight, regurgitated her meals, and was losing strength and balance.
Today, we made the decision to let her cross the bridge in search of Della, Mason, Precious (our foxhound), several cats, and that possum. Stormy said goodbye very somberly and I know she will be grieving with us. When I came back into the house, Maggie slowly flipped over for a belly rub as if to say goodbye in her own way, too. She and Winn have stuck close to me all afternoon.
We’ll miss her tons.
Praetor Gretchen V RCR, CGC

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Funny, I couldn't find exactly what I saw but this will remind me.

Frosty morning

I drove to an appointment this morning--lucky me, since the trees were covered in frost and the scenery was breathtaking. On my drive home, the sun had come out but it wasn't yet melting the frost so it was even more beautiful, especially crossing the Minnesota River. I'm sure there will be photos somewhere so I'll try to grab one and post to help me remember......when the wind comes up tonight and the temperature drops below zero again...just in time for the weekend.

Monday, January 19, 2009

old posts that I could not figure out how to merge

Dew point

I was sitting in the van Sunday morning in the parking lot of the local gas/convenience store. Allen was inside and his errand ended up taking about ten minutes.
I started to notice what people were carrying as they returned to their cars, and I was amazed at the consistency of one purchase: Mountain Dew. Bottles. Big bottles. But mostly 12-packs.
The next most-purchased item was the Sunday paper, however purchasers of these two things did not overlap.
What did go with the Dew? Cigarettes.
Also in a regular parade--energy drinks: Red Bull, Monster, others I didn't recognize. Colored water enriched with god-knows-what
Unique purchase---a man emerged with a huge number of lottery tickets (later reported to be 75)
Most amusing purchase: A large box of Cap'n Crunch and a quart of milk.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Celebrating zero

Although I wasn't home this week, the weather here was awful. Below zero Monday morning until today (Friday) at noon, the horses stayed in the barn, the rottie girls stayed in their doghouse, and Allen and the corgis went outside as little as possible.
Today when the thermometer registered no degrees, everyone breathed a sigh of relief--without frozen nose hairs.
Once the thermometer went to 2.7 degrees of course, it started to snow. Just a few flurries which lasted no more than a few minutes, but still.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Happy New Year!

I am now on day #15 of a cold, and although I suspect I will survive, it's been enough to keep me from doing a lot of things I'd planned on getting done over the Christmas break. Finally to the point where I don't fall asleep on the couch, I sort of miss being able to do that.