How I Met Your Puppy

As Mac and Sadie approached 11.5 and 12 years old, we talked about getting another, young lab to help ease the transition of the loss of one or both of our sweet loves. But, when Mac suddenly and tragically passed in December of 2011, we grieved hard. We never foresaw the devastating state of our hearts as we wept with one another for our dog. Our sweet, always lovable polar bear, Mac-ee-doodle. 

After many tears and heartache (and about the time Sadie started invited herself to sleep on the couch), we knew we needed another dog to help ease the huge hole he left, especially for Sadie (or so we told each other). I emailed Lab Rescue ( ) and went through the process of extensive application, interview, references etc. while also looking and emailing about dogs on at local shelters. We thought we wanted one about 2/3 yrs old, not a puppy, that would be tio much work! We met a few but they weren’t the right fit for Sadie or us. (one young dog/puppy sent Sadie over the edge). Once our Lab Rescue application went through we started picking dogs on their site we wanted to meet. It was a rough 2 months for some reason (now we know) as dogs got adopted before we had a chance to meet them, our adoption coordinator wouldn’t get back to us…etc. etc. Meanwhile, AJ’s over two week Africa missions trip loomed (all members of the family, including other dogs must be present to meet the adoptable dog). I was obsessivly checking the website daily, getting my hopes up and again and again the dogs didn’t work out. Our “last ditch” was to go to the event at the Fairfax Petco a week before AJ was to leave…when a blizzard hit and they canceled.

A week later, I was at the barn with my best friend Christina and a mutual friend mentioned her next door neighbor was fostering some puppies…”puppies?!” “what kind?”…”LABS?!”….”what color?!” “YELLOW?!” I didn’t get my hopes up this time, but when I got home, I looked at them online (adorable) and sent an email application and FB note to the girl fostering them. Meanwhile, AJ is 2 days into his Africa trip with no idea I’m still on the hunt. One morning, almost 2 weeks later, I’m walking Sadie, and I hear God telling me to give it UP. So I pray that when it’s the right time for a dog, the perfect dog for us, AJ, me and Sadiekins could He please hand deliver it in our lap. I won’t look on the website anymore, I want our adoption coordinator to just call and it be the one. Amen.
The very next morning, I get a phone call from the friend of the neighbor saying, do you want to come see the 2 puppies they’re still here and she said your application was good. “Yes. I’ll come after work.” Sheepish smile at God…hmmm….

  So Christina and I went to visit them, Sadie in tow and as soon as I met them I knew I liked the somewhat calmer (for a 3 month old!) cuter (in my eyes:) pup. We petted and played with them a bit and within 10 minutes, Christina had negotiated for me to take the dog THAT day….there was a few quick phone calls and all we had to do was wait for the adoption lady to bring by a contract….so we went in the yard and played, introduced Sadie (she was fine, mostly ignored him, and he was cautious about her and Christina’s big shepherd, Anna). Within 45 min. I had a dog.
Oh my goodness. Oh my goodness. I stopped at Petco, picked up food and a toy, called my neighbor to drop off a crate they had offered a month before and then looked over at the sweetest little face curled up on the passenger seat and said “Thank you God!….Oh my gosh a puppy?! What do I do with a puppy?!”
Five days later I had settled into the waking myself up every 4 hours for teetee breaks, coming home from work 2x a day for walks, establishing house and yard rules and enjoying the snuggles of quite possibly the cutest Huckleberry God had ever created. Enter husband with no idea…

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And thus began our journey into lab puppy rearing.

Entrées Life Recipes

Sunday Night Supper: Nshima, Greens & Beans

When AJ returned from Africa, we decided to start a tradition on Sunday nights of eating what the people of Zambia eat 3 meals a day (if they’re able). It is composed of 3 things: Nshima (pronounced she-ma) and two “relishes”, usually beans and greens. Nshima is a cornmeal mush similar to a firm grits or polenta. Zambians eat with their hands, scooping the nshima and then dipping into the relishes. The only addition I make to the Zambian traditional meal is a “Makoua*” veggie- sweet potato.

*What the children would yell whenever they saw AJ “white man!”



On the 10,000 acre farm at Sons of Thunder Mission where he visited, the local Tonga people learn agricultural practices to combat starvation & malnutrition while building self-sufficiency, confidence, pride, and independence. They learn “Farming God’s Way” including training in irrigation, harvesting, storage, and marketing.  Sons of Thunder  also operates a grade school, a clinic/medical ministry, and an outreach program, including evangelism, church planting, and feeding /meeting the needs of the hungry and starving.


All parts of  their meal is grown on the grounds, the Nshima is made of mealy meal, or corn ground into a fine flour, greens (AJ thinks swiss chard) cooked with tomatoes and onions and beans cooked with salt. They also grow some different kinds of squash to sell to the local hotels, but they do not in fact eat it themselves. AJ promised to bring me back to show them how to cook the Makoua vegetables! Gladly : )

Sunday Night Supper: Nshima, Greens & Beans
Recipe Type: entrée
Author: CowgirlBeans
Traditional Zambian Meal
  • Dried Beans
  • Stone ground Cornmeal (2 1/2 cups water+ 1 cup cornmeal = 4-6 servings)
  • Greens (Swiss Chard, Collard Greens, Kale), cleaned & chiffonade
  • minced Garlic & thinly sliced Onions,
  • 1 can diced tomatoes or 2-4 diced fresh
  • Sweet Potato, scrubbed & cut into bite sized pieces
  • Salt & Pepper, Vegetable oil, Water, vinegar (optional)
  1. Rinse and cook beans (I use a rice cooker and just a bit of salt to season).
  2. Cook sweet potatoes in a baking dish with some water in the bottom (350 degrees,45 min- 1 hour)
  1. Put water on to boil, add cornmeal, stir.
  2. Turn down to a simmer, stir often until thick and smooth (about 20-30 minutes).
  1. Heat a pot of water to boiling, add greens and stir.
  2. Heat a bit of oil in a saute pan over medium heat, add garlic & onions, saute until fragrant. Let collards boil 5-8 minutes, drain, add to saute pan.
  3. Add a can of diced tomatoes, stir. Let simmer 10 minutes, taste & add garlic salt if needed. This is where I add a big drizzle of Ume Plum vinegar (optional).
  4. To eat, form cornmeal Nshima into patties, use to scoop up the beans, greens and potato.




Love suffers long and is kind;
love does not envy;
love does not parade itself,
is not puffed up;
does not behave rudely,
does not seek its own,
is not provoked,
thinks no evil;
does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;
bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things.
Love never fails.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Love is a husband who jumps headfirst into something he has never tried before because he knows how important it is to you. When he makes a commitment to something every week on his only time off. When hay allergies make his face swell up and benadryl and the Virginia heat make him take a mini nap on the tack-room floor…

When he not only supports me in my new job as a Therapeutic riding instructor, but is there,making up large foam dice math games, setting up obstacle courses, bantering with my special needs students, learning how to catch, tack, and lead the horses….

And love is watching a 6’2 brawny man sidewalking, supporting and speaking gently to a tender spirited 4 year old who happens to have ataxia, size 7 pink flowered Mary-Janes and a purple helmet with pink ponies.

I thank the Lord for His tender mercies and the small taste of the extravagance of His love I get to experience in the love of my spouse.

The LORD your God in your midst,
The Mighty One, will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing

Zephaniah 3:17

Entrées Recipes

Chicken Fried Steak: Cooking on the Farm with Grandpabear

As long as I can remember, Grandpa always made us Chicken Fried Steak and fresh from the garden new potatoes when we visited, almost always the first night of our stay. Grandma was an amazing cook and did the rest of the dishes and dinners, so usually her delicious apple, cherry or rhubarb pie would accompany this supper.

Entrées Recipes

Stuffed Peppers, Flank Steak, Stuffed Mini Peppers & Layer Salad: Grilling on Location with Papabear

Mini sweet peppers stuffed with spicy pepperjack cheese, marinated juicy flank steak and buttery sauteed mushrooms served with a crunchy layer salad…a perfect meal after a busy day! It was a great menu for a day of touring on the ATV’s because the steak was marinating, salad was made the day before and actual cooking time was less than 10 minutes.

Recipes Salads

Mommabear’s Make Ahead Layer Salad

Growing up, this was always a classic at our house; crunchy iceberg lettuce, bacon, cheese, peas and a secret dressing that sounds bizarre but has been making surprised believers out of salad eaters for years…

Entrées Recipes

Quick & Easy Sautéd PepperJack Chicken Sandwiches: Cooking on Location with MT Mommabear

After a few days of company and large meals, mom made a simple supper of sweet sauteed peppers and onions on a spicy pepperjack chicken breast.


Sauté peppers and onions (we were out of mushrooms! ; ( with a bit of olive oil and garlic salt…



Sauté thin sliced chicken breasts in a separate pan in olive oil about 2-4 minutes per side.
When almost done, add a slice of pepperjack cheese to melt. Toast your whole wheat burger bun….



Serve with a fresh garden salad.
After supper, sit on the porch with a mammabear cookie, a cup of coffee and watch the sunset across the meadow…


Spaghetti & Garlic Bread: Cooking on Location with MT Mommabear

My dad had been out scoping a hunting and camp site in the Bob Marshall wilderness with his cowboy friend so mom decided to make one of her famous heartydishes for his arrival home.


Bugle Bolognese

My dad recently brought us some of his elk meat and I made a tradional Ragu bolognese sauce; a meat based sauce with a small amount of tomato.


Grilled Chicken, Garlic Cheese Mashed Potatoes & Salad: Cooking on Location with MT Mommabear

A typical Mommabear meal at the ranch; creamy cheesy mashed potatoes, a robust salad and a Papabear whole grilled chicken. I put my spin on the meal with a delicious spicy and sweet homemade BBQ sauce modified from Bobby Flay’s Mesa BBQ sauce. The brown sugar and honey play nicely with the heat from the peppers and also form a nice caramelized crust. The sauce is also fabulous on grilled veggies or anything else you desire to grill.