Friday, May 28

coconut and pasta - separately, of course

yesterday i left work, went grocery shopping and got to the house about six. i generally need a little relaxing time, so i made a sandwich and finished watching a movie, so by the time i started making my food contributions for branding this weekend it was approaching 8:30. but nevertheless, i forged on with a coconut cream pie and one of my favorite salads - whole wheat pasta salad with spinach and feta cheese.

meanwhile, i talked to scott and he insulted me by asking if i had already bought the pie crust. i replied - have you ever seen me cook or bake with anything premade or from a mix? i don't know, i just have a thing against it and i like making everything from scratch.

the above recipe is my mom's recipe that she always used for pie crust, and hers always turned out great, so it's the one i continue to use. sometimes mine turns out better than others, and thankfully last night's crust turned out acceptable - such that i'm not embarrassed to take it out in public.

it has a few simple ingredients, started out in a bowl with a pastry blender. i did use part butter shortening for this crust, because roommate a had left it behind and it's been languishing in the cupboard. i was concerned it might affect the crust negatively, but it seemed to turn out just fine.

 after the pastry blender incorporates the shortening and flour, you lightly toss in just enough water with a fork.

then roll it out - i like my pastry mat my mother gave me a while back, and she gave me the rolling pin and sleeve, too. i like to roll it out, fold it in half, then transfer it to the pie plate and crimp the edges.

put it in the oven to bake a little while, and ta-da! a nice flaky crust turned out, and i didn't forget about it and burn it, so i was doing pretty good at this point.

the next step was coconut cream filling for the pie shell.

heat milk, sugar, egg yolks and cornstarch in a saucepan until thick and bubbly, then add it to the coconut, butter and flavoring in the other bowl. along with vanilla i added a little almond flavoring.

then pour the delicious mixture into the prepared pie shell.

and top with meringue made from egg whites and white sugar. i screwed up and dumped the sugar in with egg whites right off the bat, before whipping the whites a little, but it all turned out ok. whipping to stiff peaks with my kitchenaid makes meringue really easy.

and the finished product! it looks very tasty, and i hope it really is tasty, because i won't get to try it before i offer it up to the branding crew.

and of course i had to bake the extra pie crust, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar like my mom always does.

hopefully messy counters are a sign of productivity! most times my laptop serves as my cookbook. and provides my cooking soundtrack. that oven really heats up the kitchen, so i had both windows open and a nice summer night's breeze blowing through.

after the pie i moved on to the pasta salad. toasted walnuts are also something i tend to forget and burn, but i also did ok with these last night.

a few of the ingredients include feta cheese and finely diced red onion, along with the walnuts.

the dressing ingredients are simple, but delicious and healthy.

and the finished product. i left both to chill overnight, which will only make the salad better.

find the pasta salad recipe here at foodnetwork, and the pie recipe here at taste of home.

but for now, the paper is sent to press for this week, i've already got my correspondents paid for the month, next week's paper is planned and started on, and i'm headed out to load up my horses and drive to the ranch to chase cows over the next several days. the weather is gorgeous.

have a good weekend!

Thursday, May 27

the beginning of the garden

last sunday heather and i went to home depot and picked up a few flowers, but i didn't plant them because it snowed. then tuesday i picked up a few more annuals along with dog food and cat litter, but i didn't plant them because scott and i went to friend jamie's for dinner.

so last night i finally had several hours to work on potting my wide variety of flowers, and it was a gorgeous warm evening. as when i'm at the fabric store or shopping for used furniture, i rarely have a rhyme or reason to what ends up in my cart when i'm flower shopping. i worry about sorting it all out when i get home. sometimes i really like the result, and sometimes it doesn't work so well.

i would have some photos to post, but i didn't realize i forgot to get my camera's memory card back from coworker curt until i turned on the camera at home. i will take some this evening, which might be better anyway after the flowers have a had a day in their pots and the sunshine.

but until then, i'm sitting in a meeting here in casper, listening to the director of the wyoming infrastructure authority update the legislative wind energy task force on a proposed collector system plan in the state. collector systems are needed to transport wind energy from the wind turbines to the large transmission projects that are proposed, and the important part of today will be how landowners will be compensated for the use of eminent domain, or how they'll get paid for having these smaller transmission lines cross their land, since they're not getting any benefit from the wind towers on someone else's land that are spurring the development of new powerlines.

it's not all that interesting right now, and that's why i'm writing a blog post.

Wednesday, May 26

a surprise

publisher d ordered one of these statues from drysdales a couple weeks ago, and everyone in the office agreed that we really liked it.

i thought about ordering one then, but couldn't justify the cost at that time. the one in the image here is the one i liked, called 'when beef was wild.' the cowboy has roped the calf, the mother cow's coming after both cowboy and horse, and the cowboy is holding a knife in his hand to cut the rope and let the calf go so they can all get out of there.

i wanted to give it to scott, because he and his brothers and friends are all the time talking about all the ranch and cattle wrecks they've been in over the years - although i have a feeling some of them have turned into tall tales...

so i hadn't ordered it, but since i received that check for my rental deposit, and since publisher d ordered the another one, the one i wanted, and i got to see it in person, i decided to go ahead and order it yesterday.

meanwhile, i told scott that i ordered something for him, but won't tell him what, and received incessant texts on the subject yesterday. :-) it should be here tomorrow, and i'll have him open it, and i hope he likes it as much as i do.

Tuesday, May 25

may 22 paper

as promised, the branding photo of scott and lad landed on the front page of last week's paper, with scott unidentified since he's already been on there once. otherwise, we had a meeting about a possible brand inspection change, a feature on a new biodiesel plant that will use wyoming-grown oilseeds, an announcement on a proposed transmission line for wind energy in the state and a feature on the stock dog trials that are gaining popularity among cattle producers.

an alternator and orin junction

yesterday i didn't have a whole lot of free time to post anything. the day started out sunny, and even a rainbow on the way to work, and i stopped at metro coffee downtown for a latte on my way to the office. soon the tone of the weather changed, however, and before we knew it we were in a downpour and by early afternoon it was snowing here in casper.

i spent the morning making phone calls and gathering notes for this week's paper and left the office shortly after 1 because i was headed to wheatland for an evening meeting at six o'clock - it takes a good hour and a half to get there. i spent my few free hours sweeping and washing my bathroom and kitchen floors and other various clean-up projects in the house, and visited with a soap salesman that i sent away empty-handed, then i made some coffee, grabbed the chocolate turtles scott's brother jay gave me, fueled up the blazer and was headed east down i-25.

as i was driving along it was still raining a bit, and i thought it odd that the windshield wipers seemed to be running in slow motion. no sooner was i puzzling over that a few miles south of douglas - halfway into the drive - when i looked down and my speedometer said i was going 85, even though i'd had it set at about 77. interstate speed limit is 75 in wyoming. then before i knew it the white roundupmobile was sputtering and lurching and i luckily i was near enough to coast up the off-ramp at a place called orin junction, which has a rest area, a gas station down the road and is the road to lusk on the state's eastern border.

so there i was, enjoying a beautiful view of clouds breaking up over laramie peak, but not going anywhere. i called scott first - he was in rocky mountain sports doing something with a pistol. i tell you what - those boys are always trading, buying or doing something with their firearms - and got a hold of him shortly and he was soon on his way to get me. meanwhile, he called his sister, who lives in douglas with their mom, and his sister called a wrecker that she knew - a nice guy named carlos - and his mom got on her way down to the junction to pick me up. i'm thankful for surrogate family here in wyoming :-) i was only about 20 minutes south of douglas, so it wasn't long before shirley and i were headed back, and we met up with scott at the house there in town, had some dinner and visited for a while before heading back to casper.

meanwhile, the 6 o'clock meeting the governor was holding about wind energy development went by the wayside, and i can't say that i was heartbroken...

we got back to town about 9, and scott was taking me back to my house, when both of us realized it would be a good idea to pick up my truck first so i had something to drive to work this morning.

and! on the way back to the house i stopped to deposit the sizable check that aspen court apartments mailed to me to refund my rental deposit! i was very excited to get that, as it was completely unexpected.

so, here we are starting on another day. assist editor h is at home helping out her family today, i will just work more on the paper, and the blazer will be fixed in douglas and we'll go pick it up whenever it's done. i never cared much for that vehicle anyway.... maybe publisher d will trade it off.

at least it's sunny today, and it's supposed to be 64, so hopefully that means no more snow! casper mountain got quite a bit yesterday, and is all white and pretty again.

Sunday, May 23


so this picture is tiny and not good quality and i couldn't get the larger images to save out of the website, so you should follow this link to the company store for a closer look at this quilt. it's my favorite out of their new catalog.

Saturday, May 22

sunny saturday

today is a bright sunny saturday - i opened the windows in my kitchen for the first time today, and it's quite nice, with lots of birds in the trees outside.

organizing the house continues to move little by little. i found a couple new lamp shades at ross - the old ones i had on my floor lamp and another lamp were too yellow to use against the yellow wall. the rug i braided a couple winters ago coordinates perfectly in this space in the front room, which will hold a cozy wood stove before winter comes again.

the dining area is still a blank slate - but better than the slate full of stacks and piles and boxes that it was for a while! i still haven't decided if i'll keep the trunk as bench as seating along that one side, but i've always been attracted to banquettes, and it kind of makes a makeshift one, if i maybe put some flat cushions along the back or something. the chairs at the head and foot of the table are the ones that came with the drop leaf table from salvation army.

the tv area remains cozy, and is where i spend most of my chilling time, and where i'm sitting at the moment. in the evenings the sun shines in those west windows and it's really quite nice. i love the pair of white lamps that were an odds and ends find some time ago when i was still in the apartment that were waiting for their perfect places.

i had closed the closet door in the corner of the tv space for the picture, only to open it back up to put something in there and find lexus in her new bed. she was a little perturbed that i turned the light on, and she doesn't like pictures in the first place.

i'm still enjoying the tulips.

this is my morning project. scott went with me push-reel-lawn-mower shopping last night after work, and he said this one must be the best after he saw the brand name. oh! along withe the push-reel-lawn-mower (i never knew what they were officially called before) i found the greatest big galvanized tin tub on sale in the same aisle at home depot. i was good and only bought one. :-) i'm thinking it's going to be the container for the garden on the big stump out in the street corner of my yard.

my kitchen was so bright and cheerful this morning that it inspired me to bake. roommate a had left a collection of pantry items behind, and this oatmeal muffin mix was one of those items. the lobster mug is a souvenir from the prince edward island trip.

scott bought this fruit and left it at my house several days ago, and it's getting a little soft, so i decided to add some of them to the muffins.

they're a cross between apricots and plums, and actually pretty good. very juicy.

then i decided to add some walnuts, too.

they turned out really good, and fairly nutritious with the fruit and nuts added to them. the box said six servings, but with the extra ingredients mine ended up with nine.

and if you're squeamish, don't look, but the bruise on my leg from last sunday's fiasco continues to amaze me:

Friday, May 21

the kitchen tour

here it is. after nearly a month of living in the house, i've finally got the kitchen-cupboard organization task complete. well, half complete. the upper cupboards are done. i'm pretending the lower cupboards don't exist. it's not that they're a total mess, they're just not ultra-organized yet.

i still haven't changed anything decorating-wise yet - like the wallpaper border, the drawer pulls or the dark cabinets, but that will come soon enough. for now i'm happy that it's clean and the counters are cleared off. i'd really like to paint the cabinets a lighter color, because then in early morning when the sunrise shines in it will be even brighter. right now the dark wood really absorbs that light.

i still haven't used the dishwasher...when i'm just cooking for myself and making a few dishes a day, it doesn't really make sense to me to have them stack up in the dishwasher. i might as well just take five minutes to wash them by hand, then they're clean and ready to go again.

beginning with the pair of doors on the far right, this is where i'll keep my nicer dishes, and the ones that coordinate with the color scheme i'm going to end up with. these cupboard doors will come off for open, convenient storage, with molding added around the edges to make it a little more architectural. i'll also paint the inside walls and shelves to brighten it up.

** this cupboard is still missing a shelf because of mis-measuring on my part. another trip to menards is needed to pick up another pine board for the second try. you know what they say - measure once, cut twice**

moving one cupboard to the left are my mismatched dishes, as well a a few sets of nicer ones that i haven't moved over to the other one yet.

then to the left of the sink i have my coffee/tea station, conveniently above the coffee pot and containing all my to-go mugs, of which i always take one to work with me in the morning, so they get used a lot. my irish cream is also kept next to the coffee pot.

the next cupboard contains the baking supplies, located above my kitchenaid mixer - which i use quite often - and the cannisters containing my flours, whole grains, etc.

on the opposite side of the window is the snack/cooking cupboard. since scott is sometimes at my house while i'm not there, the lower shelf is the one he can get into if he's hungry, with chips, salsa, popcorn, canned soup, chili, etc. then my canned goods - diced tomatoes, black olives, mushrooms, black beans and tuna are a few of my staples - are on the middle shelf, with rices, bread crumbs and other things less-used things on the top shelf.

right next to the stove are all my seasonings and spices. i'd like to get another stair-step organizer for the top shelf, but this is a big improvement on the ice cream pails they've all been in for the last several weeks. for the life of me, i could not find my cumin last week, but it did turn up when i unpacked them. must have been the only one i didn't pick up and check.

usually i put my oils and vinegars in a lower cupboard, but it made sense for them to go here in this kitchen. except they're supposed to be stored at room temperature. anybody think they'll get too warm above the stove top? i have a lot of random cereals i need to eat up so i can have room for fresh ones that i actually want. except the raisin bran - it's there intentionally.

beneath my cooking cupboard are my utensils and microwave, which currently holds my collection of small white creamers and other small glass and ceramic pieces.

i'm not sure yet what all will land in these baskets, but i like them here and they will probably stay.

so that's the kitchen tour. if you ever come to my house, you know your way around the better part of the kitchen. :-)

Thursday, May 20

red tulips

several more tulips fell victim to my pruning shears... waiting for a good chance to visit the greenhouse and pick up annuals to decorate my front porch. i am now officially the last person in my neighborhood to get around to mowing my grass. the sun is shining today, and that should be a project for tonight.

Wednesday, May 19

bathroom theme plans

several years ago i flew into boston, mass. to meet up with my sister, who was living in new hampshire at the time, and my mom and three friends who flew in from iowa. the purpose of our trip was to drive into canada to visit prince edward island and see for ourselves the inspiration for the 'anne of green gables' book series.

although our travels were early in the season, and it was rainy and chilly on the island for most of our time there, it was a memorable trip and definitely worth the effort and expense to get there. my one-way ticket to boston took me from casper to salt lake, to phoenix and then to boston. i guess that's not a popular destination from casper. :-P the ticket was one-way, because my sister was moving from new hampshire to wyoming immediately following the trip, so i drove 3/4 of the way back across the country to get home, in her bronco and hauling her mare, with a few-day stop in iowa on the way. that was quite the haul.

anyway, my photos and maps and other memorabilia from the island are still languishing in my files and collection boxes, and i have plans to redecorate my upstairs bathroom with an island/lighthouse theme using my souvenirs. the bathroom really needs and update, and as it's immediately visible from the rest of the upstairs living space, i'd like to spruce it up. i like small spaces painted in bold colors, so i'm thinking blue. that would coordinate with my mustard yellow walls in the front room, and it will tie in with the ocean colors of my photos.

this is my favorite from the trip, and one i plan to make center stage in the bathroom:

Tuesday, May 18

the stone ranch

last sunday i spent in northern carbon county on the stone ranch, owned by doug moore, branding just over 300 calves. the him, brother b and friend buck and i woke for breakfast that becky cooked us at 5, we left the association just before 6 and arrived at the stone ranch around 7:30. we made it almost there in good time, but i didn't know about the sand two-track that made up the remaining distance to ranch headquarters, and was that sure a mess - complete with two cattle guards a horse trailer can barely fit through.

the ranch sits in the middle of desolation flats, bordered on the north by ferris mountain, on the east by the seminoes and on the south by a rim that i'm not sure what its name is... it's a very peaceful, remote location, and i could live there. an ample pantry is all i need, and that house has got one.

after chilly, snowy, rainy days, that branding day turned out bright and sunny. we began by riding out to help push the cows and calves into the branding corrals, at the end of which i was unceremoniously bucked off friend buck's gelding halfway into mounting him, and i've got a lovely bruise on my calf from where he kicked me on the way down before running off victoriously through the sagebrush.

the rest of the branding was not near so eventful for me, and there were plenty of people around for the ground crew, so i ended up only wrestling one calf with buck, and vaccinating for a bit, but most of the time i spent taking photos. the first one posted above is buck, the mutton marshall and the him, waiting to kick the cows out in the trap as other members of the crew sorted the calves off them.

brother b was a sorter:

then the roping began. it's a gentle process of three or four ropers horseback that go into the bunch of calves to retrieve them by their heels one by one and drag them to the far end, where the ground crew awaits them.

the ground crew consists of two people that 'wrestle' the calf, getting it by the head and hind and removing the rope from its heels. then the calf is branded, vaccinated and cut if it's a bull calf. and this particular ranch also puts a pesticide tag in them to control insects.

this is the him, friend buck and two others unraveling two calves the mutton marshall brought in simultaneously.

the guy on the back braces his legs against the calf's hindquarters and lower rear leg, holding the other hind leg stretched out, making the hind end immobile.

the guy on the front puts his right knee over the calf's neck, holding the upper front leg up. usually it's also folded back and pulled toward the left, to further immobilize the calf, in instances where he's likely to kick and try to escape, like when the hot iron is applied... in this photo. although many hot irons with branding stoves are used, some ranches prefer to use electric irons, which are powered by a generator set in the middle of the pen, and don't ever cool off or require time to heat in a stove. the traditionalists like the him, however, scorn the electric irons. :-)

now, although branding does inflict some pain upon the calves, it doesn't bother them for long, and brands are the best form of identification in a ranch situation, where cattle run in big open pastures and sometimes get mixed with other cattle. tags are not a reliable solution, because they are prone to being torn out and lost. brands ensure that the cattle will be easily identified for life.

this group of calves was all different colors, as opposed to the customary black that most cattle producers have gone to, so i was excited to take photos of them.

a good roper prides himself in not stirring up the bunch of calves, not swinging his rope too much, and being efficient and quiet - which all results in less stress on the calves and a smoother operation overall.

here the him takes the slack out of his rope after catching a calf's heels and before dallying to his horn.

this one is one of my favorites from the day:

you'll have to excuse me for throwing in this photo i like of the him. he was riding brother b's horse lad, because the branding pen was crowded and his one horse fiddler doesn't handle those situations well, and his other horse deetz was still out to winter pasture.

this photo will run on the cover of the paper this week, with a branding progress report.

another of my favorites - the mutton marshall on his horse clabberdash.

the mother cows stand by and watch closely through the whole process:

another favorite:

at the end of the day each of the calves sported a new WJ brand and they were turned back out to pasture with the cows to find their mamas and go back to life as normal. the branding crew headed to the house for chili, other fixings and a few cold beers before heading back over the sand two-track. before leaving i managed to rip the seat on some of my favorite jeans before leaving, on a boone and crockett splinter on the well-weathered picnic table. thankfully we were among the last to leave and nobody was walking behind me. :-)