Sunrises, coyotes, and deep thoughts during morning walks; peach & sour cream pancakes

Morning walks are my escape.

Every day, my phone starts playing The Weepies’ “Gotta Have You” around 6:15 a.m., well before the sun makes its way into the day. Moments later, Rachel’s barks echo through the house and to my upstairs bedroom, forcing my body to get vertical, dressed and downstairs within seconds, because otherwise, I’m afraid that one day, my housemate may start to fuss. I certainly would.

Glass of water chugged, teeth brushed and sneakers tied, dog and I are out the door around 6:30. She’s always ready to start her day, to sniff and pull, to chase cats and eat mulch, and to pick up chicken bones that I have to pry out of her strong jaws. Me, I’m awake, but just as my body needs to get its blood flowing again, my mind needs its own exercise.

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English muffins and strawberry-rhubarb jam

Rachel strikes again.

After this morning’s walk, I set out all the pieces for my breakfast on the counter: the first strawberries of the season, local butter, strawberry-rhubarb jam that I made yesterday on my day off, and a whole wheat English muffin.

Before toasting, buttering and jamming, I went into the bathroom for a second, and thought I heard some suspicious movements on the outside of the door.

Sure enough, the pup had a face that was both naughty and proud, and I couldn’t pry her mouth open to see what she had gotten. First, I thought she took a strawberry. Then, about to pop the English muffin into the toaster, I realized it was gone!

That darn dog stole my breakfast. I thought about withholding hers for awhile… but figured she’d soon enough just take my new English muffin if I turned around for even a half-second. But really, it was the buttery and sweet toppings that I didn’t want to share.

Rachel’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

Last night, all I wanted was a homemade chocolate chip cookie right out of the oven. Maybe two or three, actually, with a glass of milk and some DVR’d episodes of Big Bang Theory.

But unfortunately, Rachel’s thoughts were along the same vein. (Minus the TV catch-up, of course.)


She didn’t even wait for the cookies to be baked though–this Counter Dog preferred the dough. Sorry coworkers, the cookies had been destined for the newsroom’s calorie counter, the file cabinet near the editor pod that too frequently hosts buttery and sugary treats. Friday seemed like an appropriate chocolate chip cookie day. But no, not anymore.

The classic Nestle Toll House recipe  always satisfies the craving for a quick, yummy dessert. I mean, there’s a reason it’s been around for so long and used as a key part of the inventory for so many bake sales. It’s practically perfect. (Though you can always up the brown sugar to 1 cup and reduce the white to 1/2 cup for chewier cookies. Or swap in different chips or mini m&m’s like I did last night. Or sprinkle the top with some salt for that salty-sweet combo that everyone loves. The variations are endless.)

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Tomato bisque & homemade Focaccia

“What are you eating!”

My parents called that out at least a dozen times this weekend when Rachel and I visited. The question was directed at that crazy pup that likes to pick up everything she can–gloves, snow boots, sticks, thumbtacks, paper from the bathroom trashcan, Emma’s stuffed animals. And she doesn’t just pick these things up, like some dogs do. No, she wants to parade around the house before her new stash becomes a chew toy. Destination: ultimate destruction. Better grab that glove out of her mouth real fast!

Crazy pup also likes to be “helpful” in the kitchen, my mom quickly learned when we were cooking Tomato Bisque for lunch Sunday. Her nose wiggles up toward the counters, where my mom was chopping onions and carrots. She stands exactly where you need to be, like as my mom walked between the stovetop and the fridge with a pitcher of hot brewed tea. And if you’re washing dishes, you can bet she’ll want to lie down on the mat in front of the sink. (Unless the dishwasher is open, and then she’ll be trying to thoroughly clean all the plates and bowls.)

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A new look: Counter Dog

Did you notice the new look?!

Since getting Rachel in June, my life has changed quite a bit–everything seems to revolve around her needing long, long walks and lots of playtime to get her endless energy out. After the fact, I learned that American Labrador retrievers are “livelier,” to put it mildly. I assumed that being a rescue, she was a mix of some sort, but after more and more research, I think she’s just this breed of Lab that tends to have A LOT more energy. If she had her way, tennis balls would fly in the back yard to be chased for hours, towels could be chewed freely, cats would be up for the chase, walks would never end and the food bowl would have an endless supply. But this 55-pound puppy (now 1 year and 3 months) is also just as happy curling up in my lap in the evenings before bedtime.


On the new and improved “Counter Dog: A girl, her Lab and their kitchen,” I’ll tell quite a few stories about Rachel, and continue sharing my favorite recipes. Because really, we all know that  everything is better with a puppy picture, even good food.

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