Life on the X-Bar Ranch...

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

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. :)