Life on the X-Bar Ranch...

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

Friday, October 11, 2013


No, not leaving the ranch, :) just moving my blog to another hosting service/platform. Please have patience with me as I try to figure out all the ins and outs of the new service. (and the tech side of things. I'll be up and running as soon as possible! My domain name will stay the same on my new site, but this site will revert to a address.

You can find me over at:
Thank you for sticking with me!

Friday, October 4, 2013

A Wintry Day...and a good E-Book

Today is the First Snow of the season.

Officially - winter has come to Wyoming. Well, I suppose it won't stay long, but this morning was quite blustery. With the swirling snow and driving winds, it could be the middle of January.

So to celebrate the First Snow, I have given the kids a snow day. They could barely wait till it was light enough outside, to rush out and try to build snowmen, forts, and snow angels. After an hour or so, they were back inside - covered in snow and wanting a snack.
So I made some homemade hot chocolate and dug out the marshmallows I had been saving for a treat. They loved it!
Now, my idea of a perfect snow day is not to actually go out in the snow, but to curl up in a comfy chair with a good book! :)

I am totally in love with traditional books. I love the feel of the pages, the smell of paper, and the the memories that  some books bring.

But it is the age of E-Stuff, and yes - I have started buying some e-books. I actually love them. Especially when I can get them for a good price! Who doesn't love a bargain, right?!

You can get Kindle books and read them on any PC or smartphone with the Kindle App. I read mine on my desktop, or on my phone while I wait on my kids' music lesson.

Today there is a great deal on Sally Clarkson's new e-book, "10 Gifts of Wisdom". It is priced at $0.99 cents today only!
I snapped up my copy to read later. I so enjoy Sally Clarkson's gentle way of writing about the importance of home and teaching our children about Jesus.

"Home can be one of the most deeply transformative places in the world, a refuge where hearts are shaped and God is known. " -Sally Clarkson

You can get your copy here:

Here is another book by Mrs. Clarkson that I want to get - someday! :)

I hope your day is warm and sunny and full of good books!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Family Photos ~ 2013

My sister was at our house this summer, so I took advantage of the fact to get a few family photos taken. You moms know just how hard it is to take a good family photo! My requirements have reduced over the years to one where there is no visible dirt on our clothes and we all have more or less natural expressions. (smile) I was pretty happy with these. Especially happy with the bright green grass/leaves that we could use for a background this year!
Note: If you want to view the photos larger - just click on the photo.

I tried to get some of those cool couple shots of my Cowboy and me, but alas - we are not a very photogenic couple. We just get goofy when we try to be sweet on camera. (grin) so this was the best we could do...

My poor baby was so tired she could hardly keep her eyes open, let alone smile.
But that's OK.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Down Home Cinnamon Rolls

I grew up working in my mom's bakery. I got so tired of home-made baked goods, that now I am a real baked-goods snob! I only like homemade things if they are just perfect.
Of course, perfect is different for everyone. For instance, my one friend likes nearly-black toast!!! Can you imagine?! (smile) My toast has to be just light golden brown, slathered in butter and drizzled with raw honey. Or homemade jelly. Mmmm.
OK, so - cinnamon rolls!
One of the baked treats I still love is a fresh, warm cinnamon roll, with caramel icing melting into every crevice. (The cowboys enjoy these for break on a chilly morning. :)
Here is the recipe I use.
(photos are iPhone quality. Sorry.)
Put all the dough ingredients into the bowl of your mixer. (I use a KitchenAid)
Mix for 3-4 minutes, or until well mixed and starting to clean the bowl.
Oil a large bowl and place the dough into it - turning dough once to cover with oil.
Let raise till double.
Oil a clean place on your counter, roll dough out to about a 1/2 inch thick. Spread with softened butter. Sprinkle generously with brown sugar and cinnamon.

Roll up tightly, pulling the dough a little so it is real tight. Pinch the edges shut, and slice into 11/2 inch slices. It doesn't matter if the slices are 'squished' a little - they will bake out mostly round, and after all, they taste just as good uneven! (smile) Let go of the perfectionism, people! I like to use a buttered chef's knife, myself. Just chop those slices off.

Place the rolls on a baking sheet or in several round pans. Let them rise till doubled, approximately.

Bake at 350* for 20 minutes, or until the tops are just turning golden. Don't over bake, or they will be dry. Dry is very bad.
While they are in the oven, make your icing. While the rolls are still quite warm, spread the icing over them, letting the icing melt and drip into every yummy crevice.
Your house will smell amazing and your family will love you.
Make a pan to share with your neighbor.
Or some hungry cowboys.
Here's the branding crew last spring - eating my cinnamon rolls during break.
Down Home Cinnamon Rolls Recipe
1 cup warm milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 T. yeast
Mix in bowl, let set 5 minutes.
2 eggs
1/3 cup melted butter
1 tsp salt
4 cups flour
Mix well, let raise til doubled.
Roll out, spread with 1/3 cup butter,
then sprinkle with:
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 T cinnamon
Roll up, slice into 1.5 inch slices, place in greased pans.
Rise till doubled. Bake at 350* 20 minutes or till golden brown.
Spread with frosting while still warm.

Frosting recipe:
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
Melt over low heat, cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
Add 1/4 cup milk and continue stirring till it comes to a boil.
Remove from heat and add 1 3/4 - 2 cups powdered sugar.

Alternate cream cheese frosting: (this is the one I make for the cowboys usually.)
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup cream cheese
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
Cream all together well.

Easy Maxi Dress Tutorial

Do you like to sew?
It is really easy to make a maxi dress, and so comfy too!
I make a lot of skirts, but I had this idea for a maxi dress that would be easy, comfy, and most of all, it eliminates the problem of skin showing around the midriff when bending or reaching. (does that bug anyone else? )
I had this tank top laying around that I never wore, because it didn't match anything. So I just cut it off where I thought my waist would be. (Turned out later that I had to cut more off, because the weight of the skirt pulled it down a bit and I wanted a higher, more empire-style waist.)
You don't have to be perfect when cutting it of. Just eyeball it and cut! It is very forgiving.
Then you will need to figure your skirt requirements. I did not use a pattern. All I did was measure the length from the bottom of the tank top to my ankle (or wherever you want the skirt to end) and divide that number by 3.
For example: It was 39 inches from the bottom of the tank top to my ankle, which (divided by 3) gave me 13 inch strips. Now you can make the strips as long or skinny as you like. I wanted a pretty flow-ey, wide skirt so that it would be super comfy. But make yours how you like!
(my measurements are:
top tier:50 inches
2nd tier: 66 inches
3rd tier: 84 inches)
(Note: I am a tall woman, you need to measure yourself to get a correct fit.)
To recap: I used 3 panels that were 13" wide by 50, 66, and 84 inches long. As you can see, I had to piece some of them. Its OK. I used a funky, pleated fabric, so you really don't notice.
First, I serged all the edges of the skirt pieces. If you don't have a serger, just zig-zag or turn a narrow seam and straight-stitch.
Next, you sew each of  the strips into a circle. (right sides together)
 Then you sew a loose stitch all along the top of each strip of fabric. This is to gather it with.
Gather the top strip till it fits the bottom of the tank top. Sew it on. Don't worry about finishing the edge of the tank - knit tops don't fray out.

Now you gather the next strip, and sew it on the bottom of strip #1. I just laid it on top and sewed it on - allowing the seams to show. It isn't perfect, but I like the look of the serged seam on the outside.
If you don't have a serger - just sew right sides together like you normally would.

                                                            Front side of the seam.
                                                 Back side of the seam.
 Once you have all the strips sewed together, you're done!
I wear a shirt over mine and it looks like a skirt. But you could use a pretty tank or tee-shirt for the top and it would be great alone.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Country Girl

There is no way around it - I am a country girl.
I have lived my share in the city, and often in small towns, but I always feel most at home in the country.
I enjoy seeing my daughter carry her pet chicken around.
I enjoy cows standing on the road in the rain.
I really find it relaxing to hang clean laundry on the line in the summer.
I enjoy taking walks with my kids in the coolness of early evening, down a dirt road.
                                                               I find cows amusing.
I like to watch my baby watch the chickens.
I am glad my kids can hang over fences and watch Dad work cattle.
My heart goes pitter-patter when this handsome Cowboy rides past me, swinging his rope.
 The road home is always pretty...
 And the flowers in my yard seem to be shouting praises to God.
The rambling old rose bush harks back to a day where life was slower.
 And the wild roses that grow along the creek are so delicate and pretty... blooming unnoticed, mostly, but still being as pretty and sweet-smelling as they can be. Just because that is what The Creator told them to do.
The sinking sun streams over the snowy white clouds, shooting streaks of brilliance into the wild blue yonder. It makes one look up. Sometimes I just need to stop and look UP.
Note: All the photos in this post were taken with my phone. Minimal editing done.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Bed Rest...One Year Later

It doesn't seem like it has been a year since that day last September...

I had been on bedrest for a month for various pregnancy complications. It was a long month.
When I was finally given the OK to be up and around, I was so happy! It lasted all of 2.5 weeks. On this day last year, my membranes ruptured and I was flown to Denver. I was in labor at 31 weeks. Not cool. I was given meds to stop the contractions, drugs to quickly mature my baby's lungs, and I was settled into this bed at the University of Colorado Hospital for 3 weeks.

It seemed like such a long 3 weeks!
But at 34 weeks, our sweet miracle baby was born.
She spent 4 weeks in the NICU, learning to eat.



 She came home on oxygen, thanks to our high altitude.
She has only had a mild fever one day of her life - otherwise has never been sick!
The Drs said she would not survive - that it was a matter of time before I would miscarry.
But God was gracious and loving to me, and He has given us a precious gift in this sweet child.

Whenever I drive past the airport in town, I think of this day last year. How scared I was. How miserable those meds made me feel. How it felt to be bundled onto a skinny strecher by a couple medical flight team members, then staring at their knees all the way to the airpost, squished in a tiny ambulance. I remember feeling the cold rain on my bare feet as I laid on the stretcher, waiting for the flight team to untangle my wires and tubes. "Keep her head under the door" they said. As if somehow that was gonna help. "Oh she's had mag-sulfate, she's hot" said another. (I'll say how hot or cold I am, thank you very much!)
I remember lying in Denver, looking out the window at the night life, wondering what was going to happen to my kids while I was gone.
And I remember the sweet nurses who comforted me and reassured me that I would be ok, my kids would be ok, and my baby would be fine. You cannot underestimate the power of a good nurse to calm and reassure a patient. Remember that, all you sweet nurse friends of mine! :)

But God kept us all in His care through that time. I learned lessons in the Denver hospital that I could never have learnt at home. I am thnkful indeed, that God goes before us and has every detail of our lives in His control.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Making Our Home a Haven

Recently I have found several sweet, old-fashioned websites that encourage women to be homemakers. Housewives. Mothers. The one who makes the home a pleasant place to be.
That's what I desire.
I want to put my energy, time and skill into making our home a beautiful place to be. A place where my husband can relax, our kids can be encouraged, and anyone who comes through our doors will be refreshed and blessed.
So I am learning to step back and re-evaluate my priorities, my plans, and my habits.
I want to find joy and pleasure in being a housewife. In doing my daily tasks with a sweet attitude and making our home a haven.
Today I washed all the dirty clothes in the house and hung them out to dry in the beautiful fall breezes. The sun brightened them and the wind softened them, and the clean country air freshened them. I enjoyed hanging them up and then taking them down when the sun and wind had dried them.
Some friends graciously brought me a special lunch of all my favorite foods, and a movie. So I folded the fresh, sweet-smelling clothes while I watched the movie with them. It was such a pleasant treat!
Later, the sun was sinking in the west, casting golden rays of sunlight through the trees and bushes.
I enjoy the beautiful, crisp, fall days we are having. Despite the fact that it is just a portent of Old Man Winter, I cannot help but revel in the warm sunshine and deliciously cool breezes.
Sometimes life is crazy and everything is a whirlwind and I feel like I can't think straight... those days happen. But I don't want them to happen often. I want most of my life to be a steady, pleasant round of household duties. So my kids can be grounded and I have time and energy to teach them the important things in life.
So that I have time to be there when they need me to read a story, bake a cake, take a walk, or soothe an owie. It is important to me that my kids have memories of mama making supper, reading stories, working cheerfully around the house.
How do you make your home a haven?
I used a cheap clothesline from the store, but someday I would like to have one of these. :)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Choke Cherry Jelly

I enjoy canning. It is a lot of work, especially for some things, but I enjoy it anyways. Looking at those rows of jars...hearing the 'pop!', it makes me happy. And it is beautiful. Always make beautiful things. Life is too short to live ugly.

I moved to a ranch house along the creek bottoms about two years ago, and this place is loaded with choke cherries. They grow in my yard and along the bridge over the creek. I had never tasted or used them before we moved here, but I quickly decided that I will not let any free food go unused...least of all fruit! So. I perused Pinterest, recipe books and Google for a chokecherry jelly recipe. And I found some. Problem was, they all are different, and some don't work right. Finally I found two and kinda combined them to come up with my own that is pretty much perfect. At least in my opinion. :)

The method is pretty easy, actually. At least the way I do it.

First, have your kids pick the cherries. :)

 Some are redder and some are blacker. I don't know why.
 Then you wash them. I stir them around so the leaves and junk can come to the top. Then I scoop the trash out with my spoon.
Drain. You will notice there are some green berries in my bowl, and the tiny stems are all still on. Its OK. They really don't matter. The pioneers used a certain portion of green berries in their jam instead of pectin. I don't recommend that route. I tried it and was sadly disappointed.
Put in a large kettle and fill with water till the cherries are just covered.

 Simmer about 30-45 minutes, or until the juice is dark red. I confess I have never timed this. I'm bad about cooking by feel...

Drain the juice in a large bowl,

 Wow! The kids an I picked about 4 gallons, and got a gallon of juice! I see lots of jelly in my future... If you don't have time to make it into jelly right now - you can store the juice in the fridge a few days.
You should have your jars and lids ready before you start the jelly process...
 Then you pour 3 1/2 cups juice into a large kettle. It will boil up considerably, so make sure the kettle is big enough. Add the lemon juice and pectin. Stir. Bring to a boil.

 When the juice is boiling, add the sugar. Bring to a rolling boil (boiling so hard you can't stir it down) and continue to stir as it boils for 2 minutes. (This is where it will boil up and up and up. I boiled over two kettles of jelly on my stove. Please don't be that stupid. Burnt on jelly is HARD to clean off. )
When the 2 minutes are up, you can skim the foam off if you like. It doesn't have to be skimmed off, but looks prettier/clearer if you do.
 Then you ladle it into jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space.
 when the jars are full, wipe the rims with a clean cloth. (They might not seal if they have jelly splatters.)
 Place a lid on each one...
 ...and a ring. Tighten to fingertip tightness. In other words, just tighten them with your fingertips, don't use all the force in your being! :)
 Place them in a hot water bath. The boiling water should be about an inch over the jars.
 Bring the water in the canner to a boil and let it boil for 5 minutes. If you live above 3,000 ft seal level, you need to check your county extension to see what the recommended processing time is for your area. I live at 6,000 ft, and I need to process them for 10 minutes. Then you remove the jars to cool. If the jelly isn't set, I recommend not disturbing the jars for at least 24 hours. The pectin takes time to work.
 Last but not least, stand back and admire your hard work!
 And go make some room on your shelves for some yummy jelly!
Note:: This picture is of a double recipe. One recipe yields about 5 pints.
Chokecherry Jelly
3.5 cups chokecherry juice
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 pkg dry pectin (1.75 oz)
4 1/2 cups of sugar
Pour juices in kettle.
Add pectin, stir.
Bring to a boil, add sugar.
Boil and stir for 2 minutes.
Remove from heat, skim.
Ladle into jars.
Process in hot water bath for 5 minutes.
Cool undisturbed for 24 hours.
Here's the pectin I use: 

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