Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Trip to the Sale Barn

Today we made the hour long trip to the sale barn in hopes of buying a pen of steers to feed out for beef.  We came home empty handed because:
A. We're picky
We don't like rangy looking cattle. Nothing but the fancy stuff will do.

B. Nothing met my standards
As a former Livestock Judge in college, I see cattle differently than the average buyer.  I've got a trained eye for quality. ;)

C.  There wasn't much of selection today.

The good news is that there will be a stocker/ replacement heifer sale in a few weeks.  WOOHOO!

Regardless of what we buy or sell, the sale barn is a great place to spend a Wednesday afternoon with the family. 

A kid can get a real education at the auction.  My boy is looking things over in the pens....scoping out the prospective steers.

He wouldn't be caught dead without his pocket knife. (His little Wrangler butt is just like his dad's.)  He could spend the whole day sittin' on  the fence watching the livestock.) 

My girls loved watching the sheep today.  FYI....before I was married, I had a whole bunch of awesome sheep.  Along with my cattle and my dog, they were part of the dowry I brought into the marriage. But the first thing my husband did after the nuptials is sell every single one of them for a hefty profit.  He looked me in the eye and informed me that he didn't want to be in the sheep business.
Looking at this picture makes me miss my gals.  They were so cute!

Can't you just smell the leather on these saddles?

Future Buyers looking intently at  the cattle in the sale ring.

A self portrait of mother and daughter.

The sale barn is one of my favorite places to visit.  The smell of the livestock and manure, the line of trucks waiting to unload their cattle, the dogs wandering around the trailers, the chant of the auctioneer, and the room full of cattlemen carefully eyeing each and every animal, ready to bid with the nod of the head or the raising of the awakens the senses.  

The livestock inspector is busy checking brands, the vet is preg-checking cattle with a gloved arm covered in manure, the riders are sorting pens and gluing stickers on the sides of every animal, and things can get a little entertaining when the occasional bull gets hooky with the men in the ring.  It all makes for an adventurous and entertaining afternoon.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The House of Mouse

After our day at the beach, we took the kids to the happiest place on earth for two days of wild rides, and overpriced food. It was AWESOME! We rode one of my favorite rides, Pirates of the Caribbean, four times, and now I can’t stop singing, “Yo Ho, Yo Ho, a pirate’s life for me.”

My youngest girl LOVED “It’s a small world”, and because it was a blazing 2000 degrees outside, and only 65 degrees in the ride, I didn’t mind it either.

I felt slightly guilty for talking our two oldest kids into riding the new “California Screamin’ “ coaster at California Adventure because it was like looking fear and death in the eye and living to tell about it, but I don’t think it did any long term damage to them. It’s nothing that a few years of intensive counseling won’t cure. In fact, they actually said that they loved it……but didn’t want to ride it again.

We attempted to ride the Matterhorn 3 times, and each time we got near the front of the ride, an alarm sounded and it had to be shut down. Perhaps that would be a sign for most people that maybe they weren’t meant to ride it, but not us! We were successful on our fourth attempt, and got to visit the abominable snow monster before Christmas this year.

As fate would have it, we decided to duck through the side of the castle instead of going over the draw bridge, and we ran smack dab into Snow White, and Cinderella. That made the girls’ whole day!

Here our littlest is taking Daddy for a ride on the bumper cars. Only 11 more years until she'll be on the road.

One of the reasons I love Disneyland is the smell of the park. The whole place smells like churros. I really, really love churros. A LOT. If Gold Canyon Candle Company came out with a churro smelling candle, I’d buy it and burn it every day. But they don’t. What I did not love is the price. $3.50 for a stick of dough with cinnamon sugar on it is highway robbery. It’s criminal. It’s $17.50 to buy one for the whole family, and I couldn’t bring myself to do it. If you buy one, you have to buy 5 so world war III doesn’t erupt. I’m already regretting that I didn’t buy one, and we just got home. I may have to wait years before I get another opportunity to eat one….unless I visit the county fair. I guess there is hope!

We were so blessed on this vacation! The Lord provided so many wonderful opportunities for us that we wouldn't normally have. Our visit to the House of Mouse was definitely a memorable vacation!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Yep, that's right! We've been spending some time soaking up sunshine, and having a ball on vacation.  Our first stop was the beach.  The afternoon was perfect for a visit to the sea, and our mountain kids were in awe of the "hugeness" of the water. 

Once they figured out how to jump in the waves, we couldn't drag them out.  They loved it!  There's nothing like the salty breeze coming off of the water, and the feel of wet sand between your toes.  It's really therapeutic.

After we were thoroughly covered in sand and salty water, and had collected every pretty seashell and rock, we decided to cruise down the road for a bite to eat.  Swimming and sunshine made us ravenous, so we stopped to have some mahi-mahi tacos and fish burritos.  YUM! There's nothing like a delicious fish taco with a little bit of lime squeezed on it.

We had such a relaxing afternoon on the water! It was a great start to an amazing vacation.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Ramblings of a Busy Week

Last week flew by in a flash.  It was overflowing with activity and craziness.  For five days, my husband was elk hunting with my dad, and so I was holding down the fort while the menfolk were gone.

Here's a picture of him up in the tree stand.  Doesn't he look like a bird sitting on a nest?
Meanwhile, back at home I was schooling the children, cleaning the house, shuttling from football, ballet, and church, and teaching my co-op class about medieval knights.  It was crazy.

The next day my parents, and my brother and his wife came up for a weekend visit.  They brought up our new appliances, and helped install them. 

 We also had my baby girl's little birthday celebration.  We bought her two balloons that day, and I'm pretty sure that if she wouldn't have received any other gifts, she wouldn't have even cared.  She took a nap with the balloons in a death grip.  If I wanted to take them, I would have had to pry them from her fingers.

That evening she got her first pair of roller skates, and her very first guitar.
(She's currently horrible at both playing the guitar, and rollerskating!)

I'm pretty sure I need to put about 15 rolls of Charmin toilet paper in her pants before I let her attempt to roller skate outside!

On Saturday, my mom and my new sis-n-law helped me to set up my table for the banquet, and then all of us girls joined all of the men on the other side of the mountain for our son's football game. Both sides of our family met for lunch at our favorite fine eating establishment, Booga Red's. Then I took them to my favorite store, Western Drug, so they could experience small town shopping at it's finest.  Here's what my brother and his wife found.
Isn't that cute? They found matching fur caps. (My sis-n-law is a real trooper.  She's not afraid to take fashion risks with her new husband.)

This cap matches my brother's facial hair, and every time I see this picture, I can't stop laughing.

My brother came running up to me in the store with this green hat on and I tried to pretend that I didn't know him.  He's trying to ruin my image. 

In addition to all of our Western Drug purchases, I bought a sack of roasted green chilies from Hatch, New Mexico.  After we got home from the banquet at 9:30 that night, we processed and froze 20# of them. It took us until almost midnight to peel them, but it was worth it.  Fresh roasted green chilies smell AMAZING!!!!  Now I'm stocked up for half of the year.

I don't think we could have crammed one more thing into our schedule if we had tried.  Birthdays, banquets, family gatherings, football, and new appliances made for one VERY exciting week!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

An Appliance Fairytale

"Rejoice with those who rejoice...." Romans 12:15

(This post is about a WONDERFUL and unexpected blessing my family received, and I'm sharing it, not to boast, but instead so that you can rejoice with me!)

Once upon a time, there was a mother who loved to cook.  She lived in a little old house with her husband and family, and room by room, piece by piece, they have been fixing up their home with love.  The mother loved to wake up each and every day and make her family delicious meals to eat because she shows people that she loves them by making food for them.  (It's her love language!) She had a very old stove that came original with the old house.  She has used that stove and oven at least three times a day for many years, and although it was not pretty to look at, she felt blessed that it still worked after all those years.

One day, she got an unexpected call on the telephone.  Her wonderful Uncle and his new bride were going to be remodeling their home, and they wanted to know if we would like to have their "old" appliances.  Of course she jumped at the opportunity to have a new stove, but that's not all there is to the story.

This mother has also been using the microwave her sweet husband had in college 12 years ago. After only three minutes of cooking, it overheats and has to cool down for 15 minutes before it can be used again. She has endured this for many years, and only used her microwave to reheat leftovers.  Guess what?  Her Uncle also offered to give her a microwave!

It gets even better.  This mother who loves to cook....HATES to do dishes.  So she uses her old dishwasher every single day, but lately it wasn't getting things very clean.  Her husband took the whole thing apart for a good cleaning, and things were improving....but her dishes just didn't sparkle the way they used to.  Her Uncle also offered to give her a matching dishwasher too!

The mother felt like she won the she won the Publisher's Clearing House she was on The Price Is Right and got a hole in one, or picked the prize behind door # 3.  She was so excited she could hardly wait for her dad to deliver the appliances to her.

Then the "Big Day" came and it took the men several hours to install her new stainless steel beauties.  She could hardly believe her eyes.  It looked like she had a brand new kitchen.  The appliances were so shiny and beautiful that she couldn't believe they had ever been used before.

Here's a picture of them!
Aren't they gorgeous???!!!

Within ten minutes of installation, the mother began to use them.  She immediately baked a pan of lasagna, and a homemade pizza with garden fresh produce.  They both turned out perfect! She giggled as the new oven told her the exact the second....that the oven would be fully pre-heated.  She had never seen such a cool function on an oven before! She still walks out into her kitchen each morning with a big grin, and she has to pinch herself to know that she's not dreaming, she really has new appliances!

Her old appliances are now retired, and waiting to be hauled off to greener pastures.

And the Mother cooked happily ever after.
The End.

Thank you so much Uncle T! You're the best!

A Fall Decorating Idea

Last night I had the pleasure of attending a beautiful banquet to raise money for our local crisis pregnancy center.  My husband and I were "table hosts", which meant that we were responsible for decorating our table for the evening.  Because we're young, and on a budget, I had to work my magic with very limited funds. We were responsible for using our own dishes, and since I'm not a china owning kinda gal, I had to use my everyday table wear. (Ten years ago, when I registered for dishes, I NEVER envisioned myself hosting something that required me to use fine china.)

I found these rustic looking chargers at Walmart, and I instantly knew they had to be mine! Fall's my favorite time of the year, and these chargers will get lots of use on my kitchen table,plus....they were the perfect thing to dress up my plain white dishes.

Next I added a cheap twiggy wreath centerpiece with a hurricane lamp from my wedding, some leaves from the dollar store, sugared pumpkins, and a set of brown cloth napkins.  To add color to the table, I bought 1 1/4 yards of fall looking fabric, ran a seam around the edges with my sewing machine, and voila!  Instant color. 

I decided to go ahead and spend an extra $10.00 to buy a set of 16 smoky brown drinking glasses, and I'm so glad I did!  I think they gave the table a great fall look.
The banquet was such a blessing! The speakers were wonderful, and we ate dinner with some dear friends that my husband works with.  I was so glad that we were able to host a table this year.  There were tables decorated all different ways...some with beautiful china and ornate, golden edged silverware, and some with cowboy boots, bandanna napkins, tin plates and wildflower bouquets.  Each one was as special and unique as the person who hosted it.

I hope this inspires you to go and grab those fall decorations and get them out on display!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Bloomin' in the Back Yard

My Cosmos are full of color this year!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The View from my Front Yard

This is literally what I see from my front yard. 
"It's so beautiful, Nell!" you say.
"It's so pristine and gorgeous."

"It's like a picture out of a nature magazine", you tell me.
You're thinking,"Beautiful yellow flowers carpeting the earth, that show off God's handiwork."

Well here's what I'm thinking, and it ain't pretty!
To say that I'm miserable right now would be the understatement of the century.  The sneezing, and runny nose, and the hacking cough.... the swollen puffy eyes and the red nose.  MAKE IT GO AWAY!

I'm a mess.

Clairitin is ineffective.  The Netti pot, useless.  The sandpaper.  There's no relief in sight.

All I have to say is, Thank the Lord that he saw fit to have me exist in the age of Ibuprofen and Tylenol.  Without them, I would do something irrational and cut my nose off.

I used to want to live in the 1800's  so I could travel across the west on horseback, and lay claim on a section of land where I could live like Laura and Mary on Little House on the Prairie.

But now? Forget it.  They didn't have good medicine back then. I'd die without Ibuprofen and allergy medication on days like today.  I'd go crazy and hitch up my mule to the plow and start tilling under those vicious and miserable weeds like a crazed farmer. I'd catch the first stage coach to San Diego.

I'm going to go blow my nose now, for the 1579th time today.  Farewell.


Friday, September 10, 2010

Cat Owners Anonymous

Hello, my name is Nell and I own a C-A-T....but don't tell anyone.

You see, I grew up in a cat hating family, and pride myself in being a dog person through and through.  How in the world we ended up with a cat at our house is beyond my recollection.  I believe it had something to do with field mice entering our garage, and a couple of big-eyed beggars that "promised" to take care of it.  Whatever the reason, we've been a secret cat owner for 6 years now.

Today I was reminded of my shame.  I went to the store to buy some feline food.  NOTHING embarrasses me more than going down the cat food aisle.  I used to get a small bag and hide it in the cart surrounded by groceries.  But we were always running out of cat food.

Little bags of cat food + hungry cat = more trips down the embarrassing cat food aisle.

So the economical side of me won over and I've been buying the "JUMBO" bag of cat food.  Walking around the store with a "JUMBO" bag on the bottom rack of my cart is more embarrassing than having giant packages of feminine hygiene products in my cart. Ridiculous?? Maybe. But if you're a true cat hater than you know why it's humiliating.

Big bag of cat food = assumption that you own 7 cats = CRAZY CAT LADY.

Few things are more embarrassing than being accused of owning multiple cats.  I know this happens because...well... I usually think it about other people I see in the store.  When I pass by a shopper with a "Jumbo" bag in the cart, I say to myself, "Yikes, crazy cat lady up ahead."  It's judgemental, its a sin, and it's one of my flaws that needs revision. (See post below.)  Because of my preconceived ideas about other people who buy "Jumbo" bags of cat food, the Good Lord humbled me today by allowing me to run into no less than 8 people I know in the store while I had the food in the cart.  I wanted to scream, "I ONLY HAVE ONE CAT, I PROMISE!"  But I just let them go ahead and believe whatever they wanted.  I can't stop the rumors.

When my friends come over and see the cat walk by, they say, "Hey, I didn't know you have a pet kitty."

"She's not a pet...she's a highly trained, highly specialized extractor and exterminator of vicious disease carrying mammals of the rodent variety. She deserves a feline metal of valor for her service to this property."

Generally, pet cats tinkle in the sand box, don't care if you live or die, and get hair on your church clothes.  While our cat may or may not do those things, she's much more than a pet.  She's a hero.  I salute you, Miss Kitty.

Am I saying that you should all go out and get a cat, No. 

Am I saying that I will no longer judge those with a big bag of cat food in the cart....maybe. (If you've got two bags....forget ARE a crazy cat lady, no doubt about it.)

All I know is that next time I need to buy cat food, I'm going at 5:30 a.m. and I'm going to wear a ball cap and dark glasses.  Don't say hi to me either, because I will not acknowledge you with the goods in the cart.  I will make a beeline for the self checkout line and race to the parking lot where I will quickly look around to make sure no one is watching before I gingerly throw the bag in the back of the truck and peel out of the parking lot.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Making Revisions

I recently read the introduction of a book that helps teach young children  how to read.  In it, the author spoke of the rigorous revision process that the book went through before it was put into print.  It was fascinating to me! After each draft was written, the program was utilized in a classroom of children. If the children had problems with any of the exercises presented in the program, the authors drew the conclusion that the program, not the students, was to be blamed. They would then make corrections to the program to make it more effective.

As a homeschooling mother, I can relate to this type of thinking.  If my child isn't understanding a concept after going over it numerous times, then the frustration sets in.  Yet, instead of thinking that my child isn't trying hard enough, or focusing well enough, I have to step back and place the blame on myself.  As a teacher, it's my responsibility to change the way I present the material until my child has a clear understanding of it.

The same holds true in my personal life.  Our society is obsessed with placing the blame on everyone around us, and not fixing the real root of the problem.   We love to point fingers and pass the buck, when in reality we all need to be making constant revisions in our own lives. When we allow the Lord to show us the junk inside ourselves, and we are willing to get rid of it, we make room for new and wonderful things.

I love the editing process. I like to take pictures and then download them into photo shop.  It's like having an artistic canvas to fix flaws with the click of a mouse.  I can erase wrinkles, blast blemishes, and bring each photo up to it's maximum potential.  I do the same thing in my life....only it's not nearly as fun. I compare my life with the Word of God, and take note of flaws that need fixing.  Then, I take that same amazing tool and use it to help me reach my fullest potential...just like a photo in photo shop. Believe me, it's a whole lot easier to blame the past for the way I am, or to find fault with others.  Yet, when I take the time to recognize that it's me that needs to change and replace the bad qualities with ones that are pleasing to God, it transforms me.  It makes me grow.  It makes me stronger.  It's cleansing.

God's got a whole lot of revision to help me do in my life.  In fact, you won't be able to see the final amazing product until I'm in heaven, free from the sin and bondage that weighs me down in this life.  "And I'm sure of this, that he who began a good work in [me], will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." Philippians 1:6

The great benefit of making "revisions" in your life is that you will be so busy working on your own character, that you will no longer focus on finding flaws in other people. 

 Think of it as though you're just getting ready for your "close-up"!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Wood Cutting

This weekend we made our first wood cutting trip of the season.  We burn a whole lot of wood at our house from late fall to late spring.....therefore, we must start preparations early.  We like to make sure that we are well stocked ourselves, and because we enjoy being out in the woods in the fall, we also cut wood for some of our dearest older friends. 
My husband is cutting rounds to be loaded in the truck.

Our kids are finally reaching the age where they are becoming a big help to us in the loading process.  And the beauty of the whole thing is that they really enjoy it!  They are both so stinkin' competitive that they fight over who gets to use the sledge hammer and wedge to try to split the log in the least amount of hits.

Our girl thinks she's a lumberjack.  If you tell her she's not strong enough to do something, she sees it as a challenge to prove you wrong.
Here's our son splitting logs for the fun of it.  He's trying to set a new world record.

My job is to obsessive-compulsively fill every available square millimeter of space in the back of the truck with wood.  I load each piece meticulously and restack as I find pieces better suited for the space.  It's a bit like doing a jig saw puzzle, and trying to make every piece interlock with the next one.  I try to push the envelope by stacking the wood as tall as possible without the wood falling off of the stack while we're driving down the highway.  We repeatedly lost the same two pieces of wood on this trip, and that means one of two things:

A.  I failed.
B. My husband drove off- road for 20 miles over huge potholes, rocks, and tiny little two track lanes.  He went flying down wash board roads and over cattle guards at 30 miles an hour, and occasionally jammed on the brakes to maneuver hair- pin turns.

I'll let you decide who's to blame.  I imagine the whole situation is a bit like the scene from "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas" where the sled, covered with a gigantic bag of toys, goes careening out of control down the hill with the loot swaying dangerously from side to side without dropping anything. If you see a big silver truck with dust billowing behind it, you should probably stay back a good distance for your safety.

Oh....I know what you're thinking.....we should use tie down straps.  Naw.  Tie down straps are for people who aren't experts in the field of stacking fire wood.  It's for those novice wood cutters.  We are all professionals here, people.

Sometimes when the saw is running and I have nothing to do, I take pictures of moss growing on wood.  It looks something hanging in a spa...where massages happen... and then I think of hot rock massages...and pedicures...and I'm taken back to a tranquil place in my mind...until I get saw dust in my eye and I'm ripped back into reality. 
Are you getting the same vibe from this picture?  I thought so.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Saturday Evening Fishing

After a relaxing day of football, we decided to take the family down the road to one of our favorite lakes to do a little fishing.  We're always up for a little adventure, and the evening sun was beckoning us to come out and play.  As you can see, my son takes fishing pretty seriously..... the girls, on the other hand....don't.
My middle child kept getting her line tangled up in her brother's, and she wanted to change lures every 3 casts.  My baby chose to put a chunk of Kentucky Fried chicken on her Barbie pole, and just floated it in the water right next to the boat so she could see it.  One time it got stuck in the trolling motor and she cried.

  After an hour of untangling the rat's nest in the trolling motor, getting hooks unsnagged from the weeds, fixing poles, and navigating the boat so I could get pretty pictures of birds, my poor defeated husband finally gave up on catching any fish, and surrendered to the forces that be.  I wanted to take a self portrait of the two of us, and he decided to do his best "Zoolander" modeling pose.  Dork.  I think he realized that the fish weren't biting so he might as well lighten up and goof off.

The lake was gorgeous that evening!
Here's a picture of a Blue Heron that I took.  We were watching it fish on the shoreline, when my son's wild casting scared it away....luckily I have lightning fast reflexes in my pointer finger, and a hair trigger on the camera.  Isn't it beautiful?!!!

And here was the best part of the evening....sunset on the water.
Here's another view 10 minutes later from a different location on the lake.  God paints the most beautiful sunsets.
Another adventurous family outing came to a close, and we all got quiet as the sun went down on another day.  We enjoyed the stillness of evening as we made our way back to the dock by moonlight.