Life on the X-Bar Ranch...

I am an ordinary woman, with an amazing family, serving an awesome God.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

No~Bake Cookies

I have always loved these easy cookies. I mean - it's kinda cool to make a cookie without baking, right? They are good to remember when your oven quits working, or you can't have gluten, (oats are gluten-free) or if you can't seem to bake cookies without burning them! (Just kidding on the burning part. I know you can bake cookies without burning them - that's just me that burns cookies, right? ) Anyways. I love easy recipes! Just dump and stir. This recipe is full of chocolatey-gooeyness. Yum.

First, you throw a stick of butter into a pan over medium heat. Let it start to melt...
 Then add 2 cups of sugar. Yes, I know it is a lot of sugar - please add it all! You won't regret it.
 Dump in a 1/2 cup cocoa powder.
 Add 1/2 cup milk.
 Stir it all together.
 I used a whisk to get it a little smoother. It does not have to be perfect - a few lumps are ok. Let it bubble up and boil for a minute. Please use a timer for this step. If you let it cook too long, it will harden into crystallized lumps. (ask me how I know)
After it boils for one minute - remove pan from heat and add your oatmeal...

 Plop in the peanut butter...
 Pour in some vanilla...
 ...and stir it good.
It's ready! Drop by spoonfuls onto a sheet pan lined with waxed paper or plastic wrap. Did you know after cooking for upwards of 20 years, I bought my very first roll of waxed paper this month? I don't know how I lived without it so long. Please go buy some waxed paper. It makes life so much easier.
 They need to cool off and firm up. Try to keep the kids and husband away for an hour or so. (Good luck with that.)
 Dig in!

No-Bake Cookies

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 cup milk
1/2 peanut butter
3 cups oatmeal
1 teaspoon vanilla

Melt butter in pan over medium heat.
Add sugar, milk, and cocoa. Bring to a boil for one minute.
Remove from heat and add oatmeal, peanut butter, and vanilla.
Stir well. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto a lined baking sheet.
Cool 1 hour. Makes 24.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Florida Memories ~ Boating Philippi Creek

   Oh, how I love boating!
My dad has had a small aluminum boat as long as I can remember. Not a fancy bass boat, not a fast speedboat. Just a small, open boat - wooden bench seats, and you steered with the 'tiller', no steering wheel needed. Basically you grasped a handle connected to the motor, and turned it to steer the boat, as well as control the throttle. 
    I loved that boat. Since it was open, you sat pretty close to the water. I loved sitting by the edge, and trailing my fingers in the water as we motored along. I loved feeling the waves slap the thin metal beneath my bare feet... the salty spray would mist my face till it was dripping, and I would taste the salt on my lips.
    Kneeling in the front of the boat - I would delight in the ocean wind rushing over my face. I would turn and look at dad, sitting there with the wind plastering his straight black hair back over his high forehead. He looked even more like his Cherokee heritage, with the sun shining on his face, bronzed dark by the Florida sun.
    We would skim over the water - scooting between tall sailboats and running past fancy yachts, until we reached the island. It was a small island, you could walk from one end to the other in five minutes. we'd get off the boat and wade to shore, stepping carefully around the broken beer bottles. We sometimes found the most magnificent seashells there.
    I remember one time we found a huge shell, but it still had the little creature inside. We took it home, and mom was sweet enough to try and cook that thing out - poor mom. Our kitchen reeked for hours.

     About once a year, we would do a Philippi Creek boat ride. Philippi Creek ran through the Pinecraft park, and while everyone else was content to photograph it, fish in it, etc, my dad put his boat in it.
     We would put the boat in the water at the park, then mom would drive the boat trailer home while dad, my sister and I would get in the boat and putter slowly downstream.
     I say slowly - because it was slooow. At least at first. That creek is quite shallow at some places, and the sand bars change constantly. I would sit in the very front of the boat, and I was the official lookout for sand bars. I would strain my eyes to see the bars before we hit them. Sometimes I would see them in time, and sometimes I wouldn't. Then we'd hear a soft 'thud', and dad would patiently pull out the paddle, and poke it into the sand, pushing until we floated free.
     We floated through tall beds of reeds, growing 8-10 ft tall. We went slow over the beds of seaweed that wanted to tangle the propeller. We went quietly past herons and cranes, standing elegantly on one leg. The manatees were dark lumps in water as we floated past.
    We cut the engine to barely more than an idle when we went past the mansions built on the river's edge, where they put up signs that warned: "No Wake".  We looked with amazement at the huge yachts and perfectly manicured lawns that were part of The Rich People's Places. They were winter homes of millionaires and movie stars. I looked with longing little-girl eyes at the built-in swimming pools and expensive swing sets.
    The sun beat down hot on our heads, and I would run my fingers through the cool water, then run my wet hands over my face. I watched the gulls overhead, and gazed at the fluffy white clouds. It would take several hours till we reached the Bay.
    We would always end the Creek ride with a stop at a small fish shop. We would tie the boat to a piling, and my dad would walk to the fish shop and use their phone to call mom. She would drive the van with the trailer down to the dock.
   While we waited, dad would buy a smoked fish, and we would sit at the picnic table and eat it with our fingers, right out of the foil. The smoky flavor was delicious! Then we would get back in the boat and run it around to the docking area, where mom would be waiting.
    By then it would be dusk, the lights twinkling on all over the city. The air would be getting cool, and my face  would be caked with dried salt residue.
   We would load the boat onto the trailer and pile into our orange VW 'hippie van'. :)  Then we'd drive back home, tired, sun kissed, and salty. But oh, that was the best way to spend an afternoon!
Our boat looked similar to this one at: 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Florida Memories~Selling Citrus.

In honor of winter and snow - I am going to do a series on my memories of Florida winters. I am doing one of the few 'bad' memories first. :)

   The place was Sarasota, Florida.
   The year was 1980-something.

   My dad and brothers worked at the local citrus-packing plant. I remember so well the day my father brought home a huge bin of oranges. The plant he worked at was a high-end citrus gift shop, and they only sold 1st class fruit. Somehow my father got a chance at a bin of the culls, and he took them. To a 6-year-old little girl, that bin looked enormous.

    The next day, my mom brought a bunch of little brown paper sacks out, and filled them with the nicest looking oranges. Then she tucked several bags into the basket on my bicycle, and told me to go 'round to every house on our street, and knock at the door. When someone answered, I was to ask them if they wanted to buy some tree-ripened oranges. I think they were 1-2 dollars per bag.
    I was unsure - but started out. I'd take a bag of oranges and walk up to a door, knock or ring the doorbell, and wait. When someone came to the door, I would politely ask if they wanted to buy some oranges.
    After a few streets, I getting tired of the routine - but I wanted to sell more before going home. I walked up to a particularly nice house, and rang the doorbell. A lady came to the door, and when I asked her if she wanted some oranges, she got a strange, annoyed look on her face. I will never forget what she said:
   "But I have orange trees in my yard! See? Right there! Why would I want to buy any oranges?"
   I was so embarrassed and humiliated. How could I have totally not seen the trees? But I hadn't. Although they were rather small - still, how could I have missed them? I stammered out a weak apology, and left as fast as possible - my cheeks burning with shame.
     I think that was the last house I visited that day. I just couldn't face another stranger. It wasn't the last time I sold oranges - nor the last kind of fruit I 'peddled' from door to door. It was just the first time, and the most memorable. But believe me - I never repeated that mistake ever again. I always looked carefully for orange trees before going to some one's door.
                                  This is the kind of bike we rode in Florida.
                                  Stay tuned for more Florida memories!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day in the Life of a Ranch Wife.

My birthday falls a mere 4 days before Valentine's Day. I always loved that as a kid - because my dear, sweet mom would (almost) always make me a heart-shaped cake for my birthday. I loved it. I think it started the love of valentine's day in my life... I have always loved the pink ~ the flowers ~ the candy ~ the lacey, girly, sweetness that is unique to Valentine's Day.
But little girls grow up.
Fall in love with the man of their dreams.
Marry and bear children.
Learn to clean a house and clean up her soul.
Learn what true love is...

...Then they hear a calf bawl.
At 2 am. Seriously. 
I sat up in bed - trying to figure out why there was a cow right outside my window. 
"And the window must be open, it's so loud! Why would My Cowboy open a window in the middle of the winter?"
I know - my thoughts were less than coherent. But in my defense, it was 2 am. Seriously.
I got up and walked out to the kitchen, trying to figure it out... As the light from the laundry room shone out through the crack in the door, it hit me; there was a calf in my laundry room. I cautiously peek in the door, and sure enough - a new calf lay there, bawling piteously.
Where was My Cowboy??
I tiptoed gingerly around the calf - trying to avoid getting my toes smeared with new-baby-calf-slime. What in the world do you do with a calf that acts like it is dying? And the noises coming from that calf were amazingly loud. In the quietness of the night, it was deafening. 
I ran to the kids rooms and quickly shut their doors, hoping that they wouldn't wake up.
Back to the calf...

I didn't want to bug My Cowboy, in case he was in the middle of pulling a calf. (he probably didn't have his phone on him anyways.) So I did the only thing I could think of - grabbed a rag and rubbed that baby hard. Hoping to coax it to live. I had no idea what was wrong with it - but it sure seemed like it was dying - with its neck stretched out stiff, and its eyes glassy.
Finally, 40 long minutes later, My Cowboy showed up. By now I was getting slightly deaf from the incessant bawling. (Slight exaggeration)
Cliff said that it was already born and laying on the snow till he went out for his first check of the night. Pretty cold night for a wet baby to be laying on the snow! He tried drenching it with colostrum, etc, but to no avail. He took it out in his truck to the barn, and awhile after that it expired. Poor thing. Till all was said and done, he finally came to bed at 4 am.
So, my friends, while you were eating heart-shaped pancakes with cute lil heart-shaped strawberries, I was fixing a big plate of eggs for My Cowboy, and his Wranglers were already smeared from hours of wrestling with baby calves.
Love? Oh yes. Not as pretty, but just as true.
I had been planning to go to town yesterday for some cool Valentine's Day treats for my kids. I wanna be the fun, cool, mom too. But when my littlest one came down with a cough/fever, I decided to stay home. So I made some funny mustaches  for my kids' drinks at lunch. I wished for red punch, but all I had was water. You know what? They didn't even notice what they were drinking. They were enamored with the 'staches! What do mustaches have to do with V~Day?? No idea. It was just something cute I had seen on Pinterest, and was about all my brain could scramble up after a 2-am calf ordeal. (In my defense, I did make red finger jello. It was quite well received. :)
Love? Definitely. Not pink - but love.

In the afternoon I worked on my cinch some more.

The cool frame My Cowboy made for my birthday gift. Is he talented or what?
 Here I am stringing the cinch.

Weaving the diamond.

 The kids were doing whatever it is that kids do. I let them have a holiday from school.
Done with my first cinch!
               Several mistakes, but overall I am pretty pleased for  my first try. I am definitely hooked.
 Do I like to celebrate Valentine's Day? Yes. Do I like to get flowers and chocolate and cards? Yes. But when life happens, and my child is sick, and my husband is working his tail off day and night for us - I don't waste even one moment on regret or disappointment. Life is now. Life is to be enjoyed. I sit up late when the family is sleeping, to wash My Cowboy's smeary, caked-on-filth coat.
                                                   Love? uh-huh.
He wanted to go to town and get me flowers, but had to work. It's all good.
                                                Love? you bet.
 I played a game with the kids. I made dorky little mustache straws, and we ate red jello. I hugged my husband, ignoring the odor of afterbirth, and we shared a smile and several good laughs... we are family, we all love being together, and no matter what day it is, we love living this life together. We said: "Happy Valentine's Day!" to each other, because we love each other. We have many celebratory meals, days, and moments throughout the year where we give each other presents, special meals, and fun memories. When a holiday slips by unnoticed - it's ok. Seriously.
                                      Love? Oh, so much love.
Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 6, 2012

7 Years Ago Today... (or: the birth of a son.)

The day began calmly enough... a few small contractions, not too painful, not too intense. But as the day wore on, the pain and exhaustion became almost unbearable. 18 long hours later, our 3rd child -and second son - was born.

We named him Andrew Wayne

My Cowboy wanted an Andy. I stipulated that only if his full name was Andrew.
But it was shortened to Andy pretty quickly.
He was 9 lbs, 9 oz.
That is a big newborn, just in case you don't know. He didn't fit in newborn sized clothes, because at 24 inches long - his little legs couldn't even stretch out.

He was an exceptionally good baby.

He was a rambunctious little boy, as soon as he could walk. Which was soon. He had me worried for awhile, because at 6 months he couldn't even sit by himself. My friends told me it was because he was so chubby. It must have been - because at 7 months, he began to sit up alone. A week after he learned to sit alone - he started crawling. Bam. At 9 months he was walking. Everywhere.
I distinctly recall 2 times where I thanked God for sparing his life...

1. Someone forgot to latch the baby gate by the stairs, and he rolled his chubby little self all the way down a steep set of stairs that had concrete at the bottom. I rushed over and when I got to the steps, he was laying perfectly still on the next-to-the-bottom step - looking up at me with very wide-open eyes. Perfectly unharmed. Thank you, Jesus!

2. We lived in a small trailer park, right next to a busy highway. One day while playing outside with the kids, he some how managed to escape my wary eye, and it took me 5-10 min of running frantically hither and yon, (with visions of semi-trucks and kidnappers in my head) till I found him, playing calmly under a bush. Oh, thank-you Jesus!!!

Today - he plays with angels and saints, and since its his birthday, I thought it deserved a
Thank you that Andy is safe. play with kids and Jesus, all day.
Safe...never to worry about sickness or pain.
Safe...I never have to worry about kidnappers.
Safe...I never have to wonder if he will love Jesus.
Safe...never to be rejected, misunderstood, or hurt.
Safe...Always safe with Jesus.
I thank God so often that one child is forever safe.

Happy birthday, my son. I miss you. I love you. I can't wait to see you.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Calving Season

It's February. We have snow. Drifts and piles of snow.
I think my car is sleeping.

The Boss plowed the lanes.
 That makes me happy- cause I used to plow snow with my car at the X-Bar.
 That was not...ideal.

 My kids call the snow piles: "The Himalayans." That may be stretching it just a tad.
By the way - where does an 8 year old learn to crawl up on a snow pile, beat his chest and yell incoherently: "aahh-yah-yah-yaah-YAAAHHH!"
It must be the male DNA. That's all I can figure. My daughters and myself were quite content to walk around and exclaim about the pretty snow, the cute calves, etc, etc.

Horse Creek in winter.

Winter and cold and snow notwithstanding - the cowboys must saddle up and go to work. Its calving season!

                                             Ridin' through heifers.

         Teaching Cisco to pull the calf-sled. He has pulled one before - but it's been awhile, and he is not very trusting. My Cowboy made this sled. He uses it to pull new babies into the barn, so they don't freeze. If he's lucky, he will get the mama cow to go into the barn before she gives birth, so the baby can be born in the warmth of the barn. And so he doesn't have to drag the baby in later. But sometimes the cows are too quick, and till he gets out for the next 2 hr. check - the baby is on the ground.

                                          Just another day at the office...

                         A fresh baby. Less than an hour old. Still wet. (ok - slimy.)

 My Cowboy takin' Lucia to see the babies down by the willows. These are several days old. Notice the mamas keeping a wary eye on My Cowboy. I don't like getting too close to a mama cow.

                                             Safe by mama.
I really enjoy calving season... well, I enjoy looking at the babies. I feel sorry for the guys that have to check on the cows every 2 hours, round the clock. I am glad at such times to be a woman.