Friday, June 29, 2012

Easy 4th of July T-shirt Tutorial

After searching for patriotic shirts for the girls, and coming up empty handed, I decided to make some on the cheap!

I picked up two navy blue tanks at Walmart for $3.47 each.

Then I went to the craft department and picked up a package of iron-on canvas patches for $1.17.

Next, I typed out the letters USA in my Microsoft Word program.
I used the Cooper Black font in size 150, but you could use whatever looks cute, and adjust the size to fit the shirt.

After cutting out the paper letters, I pinned them on the patch, and cut each one out.

I had my daughter try the shirt on and I placed the letters in a spot that looked nice.  Then I had her take it off, and I centered the letters with a ruler.  Afterward, I just ironed them on. No sewing necessary!

That's it. Easy stuff!  I made a 4 layer flower out of some old flag material I had, and secured it with a button.  Then I just pinned it on with a safety pin so it's removable for washing.  Besides, I may just have the girls wear the flowers in their hair.  That's the beauty of the whole thing... it's changeable so we have options.


This shirt was made for around $4.00 and will be perfect for parade watching, popsicle eating, and fireworks viewing!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Pigs and Plants

Yesterday, I brought the camera along when we cleaned pens.  Hank and Beulah are really packing on the piggie pounds! The family has grown so attached to them and their hilarious personalities.  Pigs are so amusing to raise!  

 Beulah is always posing for the camera. Hank is too busy chillaxin' in his daily mud bath to be bothered with photography.

We bring them a little afternoon snack every day. They LOVE Nilla Wafers! (Who doesn't like Nilla's?)

They also come running for their daily rejuvenating bath.  Hank and Beulah get really frisky when they're wet. They run around the pen at full speed, shake the water off like dogs, and roll in the dirt. Then they go straight over to eat their dinner.

After feeding time, the kids had all-star baseball/softball practice.  The sky turned this crazy color, and within 10 minutes of snapping this pic with my iPhone, lightning was striking all around us and everyone was sprinting to their trucks.  That's one way to end a practice early! We actually got a nice rain last night, the second shower we've had this week.

And, miracle of miracles, my garden plants are starting to finally grow! Just last week, I was lamenting about how sad the garden looked, but a few showers from heaven have turned everything around!  In just 5 days, my squash went from having 3-4 teeny, tiny leaves, to this:

One of my garden boxes.

(Still not impressive, but I've never seen anything grow so quickly!) Rain is like a magic growth tonic. Maybe my garden will have a fighting chance after all!

FYI: I washed the truck on Monday morning with clear blue skies and 95 degree temps.  Within 3 hours, my truck was getting rained on. Go figure.  It's not the same as a conventional rain dance, but washing the truck seems to have the same effect. When you've gone as long as we have without rain, you'll take it however you can get it, and be grateful no matter what it does to your shiny truck!

Having a Thankful Thursday!


Monday, June 25, 2012

Grandma's Treats

Every grandmother is remembered by at least one food item frequently found at her house.  When I was a kid, my granny had a bottomless bowl full of plain M&M's on the coffee table at ALL times.  No matter how frequently my brother, cousins, and I raided it, the bowl would always runneth over with chocolaty goodness. She must have gone through a hundred bags of candy when we were around.  We'd  fill our pockets with chocolate for sustenance before heading out to play in the field behind the house and before catching tadpoles in the ditch. Good thing M&M's melt in your mouth, not in your... pockets.  My mom would never have allowed us to eat our weight in chocolate, but Granny always spoiled us rotten!

Yesterday, as we walked through the grocery store, I figured out one small thing that my children will remember finding at their grandma's house. Sweet, gorgeous Ranier Cherries.  When we walked by them in the produce department, my kids begged me to buy some for them.  But at $5.99 a pound, I said, "No Way, Jose'!"  Their response... "That's OK, we'll have some at Grandma's house!"  Yes, my mother-in-law stocks this little luxury fruit every year around the 4th of July. It just wouldn't feel like Independence Day without them sitting in a little bowl at Grandma's house.  Ranier Cherries are like the caviar and fine wine of the fruit world, and each one is to be savored for it's sweet, juicy goodness. My kids know that Ranier's aren't just any old cherries, they must be eaten slowly to get the most flavor out of every plump little fruit. When they're gone, they're gone, and it will be a whole year before we taste their deliciousness again. 

Rainier cherries hang from a tree in the Yakima Valley at Olmstead Orchards. See more photos in the gallery. Photo: Gilbert W. Arias/Seattle Post-Intelligencer / SL
 Photo: Gilbert W. Arias/Seattle Post-Intelligencer / SL

The first time my oldest child ate a Ranier cherry, it was purely by accident.  He was just a little thing, and he grabbed a handful of cherries with his chubby little fist at Grandma's house while I wasn't looking. By the time I figured out that he had a cherry in his mouth, he had swallowed the whole darn thing, pit and all! Being a nervous new mom, I was sure he was going to end up with some sort of blockage from the seed that required a trip to the ER.  I didn't rest easy until the cherry pit ended up in his diaper the next day.  I wised up a lot by the time child number two and three came along.  I watched them like a hawk around the cherry bowl, and pitted everything before it went into their little mouths.

I can most assuredly say that with every one of my kids, when it came to Ranier Cherries, it was love at first bite.

Thank heaven for grandmas who splurge a little so their grand-kids can experience a bowl full of the finer things in life.

Friday, June 22, 2012

A Chore That I Hate Worse Than Folding Socks, And Other Stuff.

Today I thoroughly cleaned out the chicken coop mansion, and I've come to realize that I've finally found a job I hate more than laundry.  Blech. 

Afterward, I weeded the garden for a while. Right now, all of my vegetables are in a holding pattern.  Let's be honest here....they look rather smallish.  They survived the frost of Memorial day, and have endured the hot, dry winds of June without perishing.  They aren't growing much, though.  When the monsoon rains start falling, then we'll be in the vegetable business. Summer rains will make the garden really take off.  Until the moisture gets here, I'm just trying to keep things alive with the hose.  

So all of you bloggers with lush, bountiful gardens overflowing with the fruits of the earth should just keep your green stinkin' pictures to yourself! (Not really. I was just lashing out with envy. I'm sorry.) My green bean plants have two freakin' leaves right now.  My giant pumpkin plants have a whopping four. At this moment, during this dry and barren season, one thing comes to mind, and it's a line from the good ole'  FFA creed:

" for I know the joys and discomforts of agricultural life and hold an inborn fondness for those associations which, even in hours of discouragement, I cannot deny."

That's right, I feel the pain!!! I'm in the hours of discouragement.

In other news:

This evening, my baby and I went over to the pasture to observe cows for signs of being in heat.  

 It was a gorgeous evening to sit in the grass and watch the cows. For the first time in a while,  the clouds started to roll in.  It even smelled like rain.  Our monsoon season is trying to get here, and the first few weeks usually bring clouds, dry lightning, and wind, but very little rain.  Once they get rolling though, we get a good storm nearly every day.

My girl and I found a lovely spot to sit and watch from a distance, but within minutes, curiosity began to take over the ladies.

Before we knew it, we were surrounded. Since we synchronized the cows, the vast majority of them were coming into heat this evening.  They'll be artificially inseminated first thing tomorrow morning.

The kids call this calf "Big Shot".  He's currently getting double milk from both his heifer mom, and a cow who lost her calf this year.  Lucky fella!  He's a huge calf, but so very gentle.  He ALWAYS comes up to say hello.

We left the pasture, and headed west just in time to see the most brilliant pink Arizona sunset. I wish I would have pulled off the road to preserve its beauty in a picture.  Thankfully, I live in a place where EVERY day the sunset is a postcard waiting to be captured.

Gearing up for another busy weekend,


Monday, June 18, 2012

On the Home Front:

Happy Monday, lovely readers! 

Blogging has been scarce around here because last week was insanely busy.  It was so hectic that my husband and I had the "talk"...the one where we re-evaluate our activities and threaten to quit everything so we can just raise cattle in the quiet countryside, sipping iced tea on the porch in our rocking chairs as the sun goes down.

Since we have a good 25-30 years before retirement age, and three active kids, I just don't see that happening anytime soon.  The good news is, we got through the madness unscathed.  Here's the run-down of our week.

On the Cow Front:

Last week, we moved cows and ran them through the chute to start the breeding process.  We artificially inseminate our ladies around here, and it involves a three step process over a week and a half.  

Our nine year old daughter was the photographer that day, and subsequently, we have 23 photos of extreme close-ups to the rear-end region of various cows, and not much else. LOL!

 OK, I think you get the point.
Moving on now....

On the baseball front:

Last week, our boy had a week-long baseball clinic. On top of this, our three children had a combined total of NINE baseball games for a grand total of 60 whopping hours spent on the baseball field!!!

When I look at this picture, it feels like my boy has grown up over night. I remember when he was still in diapers dragging a plastic bat around the house, and breaking things by throwing himself pop-flys in the living room. This year he was drafted up to majors. Although he was the youngest on his team, he earned his starting position on the in-field, playing first, third, and pitcher.  He also made the all-star team.

Our oldest daughter played her last two regular season games last week.  She transferred over from baseball to fast-pitch softball this year.  

Even though it was her first year playing softball, she pitched and played short-stop, also earning a position on the all-star team!  It took us a while to get used to the world of  girl's softball. The constant chanting in the dug-out, girly socks, and funky rules made this season a hoot to watch. Girls are so, so very different from boys!

It was also the last week of Tee-ball. My husband coached our baby's team this year, and everyone was hitting well without even needing the tee. Way to go, coach!

Our baby was such an intense player! Just look at her form!

We ended the season with a pizza party and prizes on Thursday night.

Bottom line: Regular season is now over, and all-star practice begins tonight.

On the church front:

Our girls had Vacation Bible School last week, and my nine year old got top honors, winning a Bible, and ribbons for saying the most verses. 

On the 4-H front:

We taught the girls to make pajama pants in our beginning sewing class on Friday.  They were so easy to make, and very comfortable!

We also had our annual 4-H Barn Dance and Silent Auction on Friday night. It was the most fun I've had in quite a while! There was a live band, and people from ages 2 to 92 were out dancing the night away. Our son had a baseball game so he couldn't make it. Bummer for him!  My husband twirled me around the dance floor all evening, and our girls danced with some handsome young gentlemen. 

Cute  little phone pic!

 There's nothing quite like a good old- fashioned barn dance!

We rounded the Father's Day weekend off with church, lunch and a movie at the theater. It was a great way to end a hectic week!

Dreaming of nap-time,


 P.S.- Thanks for all of the sympathy and allergy medicine tips.  I'll be visiting my health food store this week for some local remedies. I'm hoping that these allergies will go away completely when the wind stops blowing and we get a good rain. There's just so much junk in the air right now. Thankfully, our rainy season is just around the corner. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Pity Party for One

There is a nano-second just before you sneeze when your head contorts involuntarily and looks to the heavens, your mouth opens into an awkward angle, your brow furrows, and your eyes begin to water.  You totally look like a dork. Perhaps you even try to look towards the light to bring forth that sneeze that just won't come.

Do you know what I'm talking about?

Well, I've been in that pre-sneeze mode for 6 full days now.

Six days!!!

Six days of walking around looking like I'm in extreme facial pain.
Six days of itchy, watery, red eyes.
Six days of little microscopic fairies tickling my nose with teeny, tiny little feathers.
Six days of feeling like I've inhaled pepper.
Six days of people asking me if I'm alright because it looks like I've been mourning the loss of a dead pet.

I've had it with this junk!

My allergy medicine is powerless to stop this evil sneezing madness.

It's Chinese torture to feel like you have to sneeze all week.  Absolute Chinese Torture.

(Are the Chinese still known for their superior torture techniques? I'm not up on the latest.)

Anyway, I am in agony.

If it were socially acceptable to twist up two pieces of Kleenex and stick them up my nostrils, I would be the first to sport the new fashion.

If I could put Cocoa Puffs up my nose to stop the madness, I would.

It's sheer misery.

Feeling a bit dramatic today, Nell? Why yes I am.

I'm off to buy stock in Kleenex,


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

White Water Rafting

Last week I got to fly off to Texas for a weekend of shopping with the girls, so it was only fair for my husband to have a weekend of fun with the guys. 

Friday morning, my husband, father-in-law, and six of my husband's buddies all drove to Durango, Colorado for a Manly Weekend adventure that my husband nick-named, "The Widow Maker."

Their mission:  To complete a 25 mile white water rafting marathon trip down the Animas River with tons of class III, IV, and V rapids.

Friday afternoon, the guys arrived North of Durango, where they set up camp.  Then they met with their river guides to get fitted for their gear. The men underwent some sort of training session about "How Not to Die", and then had a swim fitness test in which they had to jump off of the raft, float down the river, and aggressively swim back to raft and get back in. After a crash course in rafting maneuvers, they were ready for the challenge ahead.

Bright and early on Saturday, the guides picked up the men and drove them an hour up the mountain to Silverton.  Here, they suited up and started their big adventure.

They call this the "Men in Tights" picture.
Here's my husband.

Another pic of the crew with their guides.

They had two rafts, and a guy who kayaked along side of the men in case of an emergency. The low temperature in Silverton was 32 degrees, and the water temperature was 45. Brrrrr. They started at 9300 ft. in elevation and rafted down to 6500ft.

Here's a picture of the "No Name" class IV+ rapid.

One of the rafts lost their guide twice, and our guys had to rescue him.  I'm not sure, but I don't think that's supposed to happen. 

Half way down, the guys stopped at an old mining camp. The Silverton Railroad delivered their lunch supplies to them, and they had over an hour to warm up, eat, and explore the old mining camp.

 From their description, I'm pretty sure that the guys were at the beginning stages of hypothermia before lunch.  I think a little hiking around did them wonders.

They said that the back country was just breathtakingly beautiful...or maybe I said that. On second thought, I don't think the word "breathtakingly" is in men's vocabulary.  I think they said it was "awesome" or something like that. OK... moving on.

After they were fueled up and warmed up, they continued on the rest of their journey. The afternoon sun was a welcomed sight, and by now, the men were seasoned rafters.

At the end of the trip, they had the option to take the train back into Durango, or save $65.00 and hike 2 1/2 miles up the canyon. They elected to hike out to the vans, but after hearing their tales of the trail, I think some of them would re-consider.  The guides told them to slather on the Bug Spray. My husband said the mosquitoes were like a plague of Biblical proportions.  The hike was on a difficult trail straight up the rocky mountain.

On some parts, there was a sheer rock wall on one side.  Every time I hear the story, the hike gets longer. 2, 3, 5, 20 miles later, they made it to the van in one piece.

After working up a giant-sized appetite, they ate dinner in town and settled down for the night.  The next day, they ate breakfast, packed up their tent and gear, and made the long journey home.

They're already planning their next "Manly Adventure", so I'd consider it a success.  Who know's what death-defying thing they'll think of next?

I guess boys will be boys. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A trip to the Promised Land

Well, I just returned from the Promised Land, the land flowing with milk and honey. That's right, they drug me back from Texas by my toe-nails.  

My friend Dawn and I caught a red-eye flight to Dallas-Ft.Worth last Thursday, and drove a rental car to go visit our friend Gina and her sweet family. She just had her fourth baby a month ago so we figured we'd torture her by dragging her and the baby across Texas, and crash at her house for 3 days.  It was a wild and crazy trip!

It started off with a 3 1/2 hour drive from our mountain to a little airport at 11pm where we were scheduled to fly Ghetto Airlines. We had a last minute panic because they wanted to charge me $80 to take a suitcase. (Learn a lesson from me and read the fine print, people.) With 2 minutes to spare, my brother drove to the airport and I made a dramatic luggage change which involved exposing my undergarments to the world in the middle of the airport. I had to make a cut-throat decision about which of my 5 pairs of flip-flops were the most important, and I threw everything that wouldn't fit into the carry-on bag back into the suitcase and gave it to my brother to keep for me. Dawn and I then sprinted...yes, sprinted...through the airport, past security, and outside where our Greyhound in the sky awaited us.  We were the last ones to board the plane but we lucked out and got a 3rd row seat.  Water was $3.00, peanuts were$2.75, and soda from a can was  $3.00.  Rip-off, anyone??  We elected to fast for the 2 hour flight, and survived just fine.

We arrived at Gina's front door by 6:30 am and slept for a few hours to avoid delirium. After we woke up, we changed clothes and went shopping.

You see, at home, Dawn and I suffer from something called, "Sick of Walmart but there's no other place to shop for a 3 hour radius" syndrome.  Gina lives in the magical Shopping Wonderland, and we were drawn to the outlet mall like a fish drawn to water. We ate exotic foods that didn't come from Mc Donald's, and we found rock-bottom prices on stuff for the men in our lives.

Then we spent the evening relaxing in Gina's living room while catching up on life.  Her husband brought us all cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory. The perfect end to a perfect day.

Dawn, Me, and Gina with her baby

On Saturday, we woke up bright and early to make the drive over to Canton for the World Famous Canton Trade Days.  Gina told us it was a huge swap meet where you could find anything you could ever dream of, but her description just didn't do it justice.  It was the most amazing shopping experience I have ever had, bar-none.

Let me break it down for you:
- Over 7,000 vendors (Yes, I said seven THOUSAND.)
-Free Admission
-Three days each month
- Over 200,000 people shop there each month in this small town of 5,000 people.
- Here's the link so you can put it on your bucket list: Canton Trade Days

We were overwhelmed when we saw tour buses and cars full of people lined up in fields while we were still a mile away.  We decided to eat lunch in a little corner coffee shop/bakery in the iconic downtown Canton.  I decided to walk on the wild side and had their famous "Nut Job" hamburger which is a bacon cheeseburger with peanut butter on it. It sounds gross, but I can assure you that it was phenomenal!!!

After we were fueled up, we found a parking space and proceeded to navigate our way through a portion of the booths.  We were so overwhelmed by the vastness of the place that we kept having to pick our jaws up off the ground. I don't think we even got through a fraction of the vendors.  I tried to take pictures, but my lens just didn't do it justice. There's no way to capture the scope of this place.

Here are a few of the things I purchased:

One of these rustic Texas signs made from pressed tin. I shipped it home in a box, and I think I'll hang it in my living room to remind me of Texas.

I got a pair of these genuine, artificial cowhide flip-flops bedazzled in fake Swarovski Crystals and conchos for the low, low price of  $16.99. You have to wear sunglasses or you'll be blinded by the bling. It takes a LOT of gumption to pull off something so tacky. When they break or go out of style next year, I won't have any of the guilt associated with their $89.99 counterparts found at the western store.

I also got a pair of these ultra-comfortable and squishy flip-flops for a mere $5.00. Before I get any Texas A&M  hate mail, I'd like to point out to you that I made my selection based on size availability, not school preference. The only flip-flops I refuse to wear are those of Arizona State University.

Because of my already overstuffed carry-on bag, I was forced to leave the vast majority of the treasures in Canton for another trip.  I'm 92.6% certain that I've convinced my husband and kids to drive back there one day with our truck and stock trailer. I figure that next time we go, we can load up the front of the stock trailer with treasures, furniture and tack from the Trade Days, and we could buy a little longhorn calf and put him in the back of the trailer to add some eye-candy to our pasture back home.


A girl can dream, can't she?!

Alright, back to my post.

On Sunday, we went to church with Gina's family, ate a nice lunch, and went to Charming Charlies for cheap fashion accessories. I love that store!

Then it was time to drive back to Dallas and be violated by airport security with friskings and x-ray pictures of our bodies. Can you imagine what it would be like to look at pictures of people's bodies all day long in a secret airport room? It makes me blush just thinking about it.

Our flight was delayed, and every restaurant in the airport was closed. We ate a dinner of over-priced vending machine snacks, and boarded our cheesy plane for the flight home.

After driving 3 1/2 hours, I finally crawled into bed at 4:30 am on Monday.

It was a grand trip, filled with laughter, green fields, Northeast Texas beauty, spectacular shopping, and some of my favorite friends. 

It was definitely a trip to remember!