Friday, February 25

Nora's baby quilt

I have neglected to post photos of the project I was working on in January for Baby Seehusen, who we now know is Baby Nora, born Feb. 6 and interupting her father's Superbowl Sunday.

It had been a while since I'd undertaken a sewing project, but this one actually came together pretty quickly. To me, the most enjoyable parts of any sewing project, save for being happy with the final product, is visiting the fabric store to choose fabrics, colors, textures and patterns. The day I visited Hancock Fabrics my coworkers were beginning to worry about me in my absence. :-)

Since at that time we didn't know if Baby Seehusen was to be a boy or a girl - although I had thought from the beginning she would be a girl - I did my best to choose gender-neutral fabrics and actually was really pleased with how they turned out, not too girl or boy, and just the right amount of fresh spring-time feel, as well as a little 'farm' and 'country' thrown in.

The pattern of this quilt is called Log Cabin, and I was inspired by an article in one of my wintertime Martha Stewart magazines, which featured the pattern in different applications, one of them a pale blue/purple/gray seersucker baby quilt.

I decided on the color and pattern layout through trial and error, shifting things here and there before cutting the next pieces. I tried to vary the directions of the stripes on both the pale and bolder fabrics, thus the joining of fabrics in the long yellow piece, because I wanted the stripes to run lengthwise.

I love the pieces with the blue plaid. They're my favorite part of the quilt. Through cutting this out I decided that I would really like to have a rotary cutter - it would have been much easier to get straight even lines with one of those, rather than using my scissors and cutting mat. As it is, through being very careful, I managed pretty well.

Here it is partially sewn together. I was really paranoid about my seams getting crooked and everything getting off-kilter, so I took plenty of time and was very careful that everything matched up.

And of course my assistant Link put the same care into the piecing together as I did. Ok maybe not. Sorry, Holly, I tried to make sure the quilt was cat-hair-free, but there might be some lingering hangers-on that I didn't notice. Blame it on the feline assistant who insisted on being in the middle of the project.

Ta da! The whole top pattern sewn together, and very please with how it turned out. And loving the colors and the arrangement of patterns.

Yes, that is a seam ripper there next to my scissors. My seam ripper is one of my nearest and dearest sewing tools. I had a somewhat hard time sewing the top to the middle batting to the yellow fabric for the back. In hindsight, I should have cut both the batting and the backing several inches too large, then simply trimmed, instead of fighting with them to make them line up.

The next step was hand-stitching all the seams between color blocks, to make them stand out and add a little bit of a highlight and a homespun feel. It didn't take that long, after all, and was actually the part of putting the quilt together that I enjoyed the most.

Then came a part I had a tough time with - the binding. The edges were fine... it's the corners that confused me. And now if Holly looks at it I'm sure she'll be able to tell I had to do some improvising. It was either that or re-cut and re-sew the entire binding, and I was so close to finishing and didn't have enough fabric, so I made do with what I had.

I also debated about whether or not the blue plaid would look good on the binding, and had my doubts, but I ended up really liking it.

And, apparently, I completely forgot to take photos of the entire finished project. So instead, here is a parting shot of Assistant Feline doing what he does best.

Next project: Baby Ehlers. :-)

Not a chicken person, but...

Having lived on a hog farm for most of my life, where my family also raised the occasional calf to butcher, before moving to cattle country in Wyoming, I've always had ready access to pork and beef. And, since beginning to work for the paper, I regularly see the numbers about the competition between the 'red meat' industries and the poultry/turkey/feathered industry.

Take this blurb, for example, that will run on this week's cover:
"In the recent 'Agricultural Projections to 2020' report, USDA forecasts poultry consumption will surpass red meat consumption for the first time in 2018. The agency says consumption of chicken and turkeys will reach 106.7 pounds in 2018, while consumption of beef, pork, veal, lamb and mutton will total 106.3 pounds."

Now, we did have our share of laying hens and broiler - or butcher - chickens at one point growing up, and we did eat our fair share of them, but lately I find myself avoiding chicken in favor of beef or pork. Mostly because both my upstairs refrigerator freezer and my deep freeze in the basement are chock full of both, because of events like this that tend to happen around here:
Almost a year later, I'm just now using up the last of the ground beef from this old lead steer. I became very creative in ground beef uses! There's more than just chili and hamburgers to be enjoyed from ground beef. (Don't worry, that's our health inspector friend Jamie in the white shirt. She made sure everything was kept clean and kosher.)

So anyway, the point is that I haven't cooked or eaten anything chicken (on purpose) for at least two years, if not longer, but this recipe posted by Pioneer Woman just might inspire me to cook up and consume some chicken:

It's called Creamy Chicken Spaghetti Casserole, and the combination of Parmesan, mushrooms and pasta looks too good to pass up... It reminds me of the Chicken Tetrazzini recipe my mom used to make frequently for catering jobs.

Thursday, February 24

Of snow and horses

Racing chariots in Jackson, Wyoming.
Yes, I realize that, again, it's been almost a week already since I posted. With the way weeks fly by around here, it's going to be August and my due date before I know it.

Since my last post we made it to Jackson and attended two days of cutter racing. I also did interviews for three articles for the paper that all went well. I also remembered that it's a mistake for me to think I can shop in Jackson, which is full of tourist mementos and clothing for rich men's wives, and little in between. I did get a pretty burnt orange, gray and white saddle blanket from Flat Creek Saddle Shop when I finished my interview there. There was a really pretty textured silk scarf that I should have also bought. I might have to have them send it to me.

Melissa and two friends came over from Lander on Saturday to watch the races with us, and it snowed all day long but wasn't too cold and really didn't accumulate much in town. In fact, now I'm convinced it never stops snowing in Jackson, because it didn't the whole time we were there, even when the sun was trying to come out. No wonder people use it as a winter wonderland.

As always happens when we go on these trips, like Pocatello last year, I'm convinced I gained between five and 10 pounds from eating out so much. That biscuit sandwich I had at Bubba's BBQ for breakfast that one morning sure was good! We also had breakfast at The Bunnery, a tasty but pricey bakery north of the Town Square. There many pastries in their glass cabinet looked delicious, and I managed to escape with just a few bites from Scott's cinnamon roll.

We were all glad we decided to drive back Monday, instead of trying to come back over the pass Sunday night in the cold and snow. As it was, the roads were pretty snowpacked on the way home.

So since then, just been making up for the lost day this week and getting everything done for the paper. We've officially hit the time of year where we have too many ads to run in less pages, so this is our first week at 24 pages and I expect that to continue through the next four editions. It's really sucking up my editorial so far! This week's cover features my interviews with the Shriners and photos of the races, so I'm looking forward to seeing what Tracy's done with them in the layout.

Other than that - gotta get started on Baby Ehlers's baby gift this weekend! The time for her to arrive is coming right up. :-)

Friday, February 18

Togwotee: A Snow Lovers' Paradise

This morning Scott and I left town with Foxy and Lucy at about 6:30, heading for the ranch to drop them off and to pick up Bob and Becky before heading up to Jackson.

We hit Lander about 9:30 and were scowled at by Melissa as she walked across the street in front of us and we gave her a friendly honk.

And then we headed up through the reservation, Dubois and over Togwotee Pass - the main road from anywhere in eastern Wyoming to Jackson and its snow and world-class skiing.

Snowmobilers like Togwotee Pass very much, and there are tracks and trucks and trailers and snowmachines everywhere up there. It was a pretty drive on a clear day, so we could see the surrounding mountains.

After coming off the west side of the pass, eventually you can see the Tetons as you still descend, and Becky and i were disappointed they were shrouded in clouds.

It's still very pretty in the area. I apologize for window reflections, as I snapped these as we were driving from Moran Junction down to Jackson.

Lots of snow, almost covering the buck rail fences that line the road.

The southern end of the Tetons began to clear up a little, and the clouds look neat in this picture - I'm sad there's a windshield refelction.

We arrived in Jackson just before 1 p.m., and after a quick check-in to the Antler Inn I headed out to my 1:30 interview with Kate Mead, who lives on her family's ranch just north of town, and who raises and markets natural steers to sell to restaurants and retailers in town. We had a very interesting conversation, and I was out there with her for over an hour, visiting about everything from the local school board to her cattle to raising kids in a busy lifestyle with a working mom. She is also sister-in-law to our new Governor Matt Mead.

It's very pretty in this country!

It was overcast later this afternoon into this evening, and I hope the sun shines tomorrow because I'd really like to get some photos of the cutter races, and somehow they'd just be a little drab in overcast lighting, as opposed to sunshine with the racing horses and the flying snow chips.

Tomorrow I interview at Flat Creek Saddlery at 10 a.m., then following the races tomorrow afternoon I'm meeting up with a few of the Shriners to do interviews about the races themselves. Out of this trip we should get two solid feature articles for our cover, plus an article for our impending Horse Edition.

For now, Scott and I are relaxing in our hotel room, enjoying our crackling fire in the fireplace. Mini vacations are nice. :-)

Thursday, February 17

Git 'im!

This is the neighborhood tom cat. The same one that sprayed my front window a couple weeks ago, and the same one that comes to harass Link and who yowls in the early morning hours of summertime, when the windows are open and we can hear him.

The other morning he had the nerve to sit in Link's spot on the front porch railing and look in the window. Now, if he hadn't already gotten on my bad side, I might have felt sorry for him and thought, 'Oh, he just wants a home, too.'

But he had no such luck.

This is the tom cat in the tree of our front yard after I opened the front door and told the dogs to 'git him.'

They did.

They're really becoming quite good at the whole 'sic 'em' concept. If you tell them to 'sic 'em' while they're in the pickup they go on high alert and start looking for cows.

That morning the three of them went down the front steps, around my truck once, around my car once, and then up the tree went the cat. The girls thought they were pretty big and bad, and they were thrilled to be allowed to chase a cat, because they've been strictly admonished time and again to leave Link alone. Their favorite evening entertainment is sticking their nose in his face when he's relaxing on my lap. It gets quite the grumpy growl and hiss in response.

And I haven't seen the tom cat again since that morning.

Wednesday, February 16

How the Red Dinner looked

Drop-leaf pedestal table in the front room - red salt and pepper shakers from Heather for housewarming.
Well, it wasn't anything perfect or extravagant, or anything like I had first envisioned decorating for the Red Dinner party could be. These days, I just don't have a whole lot of time for a whole lot of detail, so I had to let my grand plans go and be satisfied with a few simple place settings and arrangements, all pulled together from things I had in my house. I thought about going out to buy some new things to use, because decorating with new things is always fun, but then decided to save my money and make do.

That saving money scheme is how I've already managed to put $1,000 away in my 'baby savings account' for furniture, supplies, fun things, etc. It will be fun to have money available to hopefully splurge on a few things for the baby room, but even with money saved specifically for something, I sometime still have a hard time spending it. :-)

Two tables in the front room on Sunday morning - the girls helped set and decorate.
So I went 'shopping' in my house, and these are the few things I came up with to decorate my Red Dinner tables for Valentine's Day. The loveseat is *still* over in the tv area, so I still had plenty of room to set up my drop-leaf pedestal table for four place settings. With that table, I can easily seat a dozen in my front room.

On my big table I used my everyday red tablecloth and dressed it up with one of the lace curtain panels I've had tucked away for quite some time.

The red pitcher in the center of the table is one of my favorite pieces that friend Amy gave me some time ago. Alas, somehow it got a crack down the side - no idea how/when that happened - but it's so pretty I still keep it for decoration. I also used a few other red glass pieces, as well as tin mini loaf pans as candy dishes. And the wooden puzzle pig that friend Emily gave me just for an item of interest. :-)

Oh, and the chairs at the head and foot of the table I painted just in time, because they went great. :-) On the right side of the table is my trunk that I used to seat two, and moved a desk chair around that side for the third place setting.

In the first photo of this post you can see these flowers placed on the wood stove. Scott brought this pretty red chrysanthemum plant home for me the other day, and I love it. He likes to buy me plants rather than cut flowers, because then they last, and I hope that I can keep it alive! The last time he brought plants home for me, he bought me two, and one lived and one died, so I think that's a good strategy.

Salad/snack fixings on the buffet line.
When we got home from snowshoeing everyone was very hungry, so I set out these fresh veggies and some dip on the end of the counter for people to munch on, as well as the chocolate heart sandwich cookies. As you can see from the empty cucumber and dip bowl, my guests were very appreciative. :-) Thanks to Jamie, who helped me put the last minute things together for the meal, and to mother-in-law Shirley, for doing the dishes before we even got home! That's always a nice surprise.

The kitchen buffet line.
This is how I serve meals when I have a lot of people over. Since the table didn't have enough space for all the food - and since there were two tables, anyway - I just put the desserts on the table and the rest of the food was served buffet style. I usually fill the long counter with serving dishes for the sides, and put the main course on the end of the 'U' and it seems to work pretty well.

Our menu was spaghetti with red meat sauce, cottage cheese/ red Jell-o salad, heart-shaped garlic bread, lettuce salad with red veggie toppings and red velvet cake, heart-shaped sandwich cookies and a chocolate cake that Melissa brought over. I also had conversation hearts, of course, and heart-shaped Junior Mints on the tables.

Melissa and Penny getting ready to enjoy the meal.
This is what my main table looked like when I had all the places set... at the last second Melissa and I squished in four place settings down each side because we didn't know if another pair of family members would show up. Turns out they didn't, and good thing, because 10 at that table wouldn't have left much elbow room.

If I ever have more than 12 sitting down to eat at once in the house, I'll take the library table from my sewing room and set it, as well. That would give six more places to sit, at least.

So those are my simple Valentine's decorations - I'd had visions of making a garland to hang on the beam that divides the upstairs of the house, or any of the number of other Valentine's ideas I'd seen on blogs, but we had snowshoeing to do! So I let the details go, kept the food and decorations simple, and was able to enjoy the day and our company.

Note to self, though: don't brown ground beef, put it in red sauce and leave it in the crock pot for several hours. I thought it would save time, which it did, but being in the crock pot and cooking so long gave the beef a different texture. Not bad, just different, and I don't think I'd do it again. In the future I would just brown it, then reheat when we were ready to eat the meal.

Lu enjoying the wood stove in the front room.

And just because this photo was also on my camera, here is Lucy the morning after our party in the front room. It doesn't look like it, but there were hot coals in the stove, and she likes to go over there and lie on the rug. I don't blame her, it's quite cozy by the stove.

Even though they're not coordinated and aren't an interior decorator's dream, I have three rugs there in the front room, going from the front door to the stove. They're good for when we have a multitude of boots and people going in and out, and then we always also have plenty of space to set our firewood when we bring it in from the front porch, especially when it's snowy and needs to drip off.

Oh! Another thing that happened since the Red Dinner is that on Valentine's Day Scott and I went to our first baby doctor appointment. It all went smoothly, and we got to hear the baby's heartbeat for the first time. :-) I think that made it a lot more real to Scott, and at 20 weeks we'll have an ultrasound, so we have to wait nine weeks to see any images. Even then, we're not going to find out whether we're having a boy or a girl, so we'll have to be careful which images we get to see, especially since this doctor's office offers the 3D images.

We're also in the midst of combining checking accounts - which sounded like too much of a pain to do before now - and putting some long-term financial planning in place, so we need to get an overall view of our budget and incoming and outgoing funds and all that good stuff.... I'd put it off until now, but with a baby on the way, it's better done sooner than later. With just the two of us a budget wasn't that big of a deal, because we have plenty coming in to cover our basic expenses and bills, but I know adding a baby and its accompanying costs will likely change that...

For today, I need to get all the editorial for the paper ready and packaged up for Tracy, because I'd like to finish and proof it tomorrow, as I'll be out Friday for our trip to Jackson for the cutter races. I also have several interviews scheduled for Friday afternoon, so it will be a busy weekend. Poor Scott - seems like we can't go on any trips anymore where I don't try to combine them with the paper or interviews somehow. Since the cutter races run Saturday and Sunday, we've also taken Monday off for our drive back to town. It will be a nice mini vacation before we hit March, which is busy for the Roundup with our increase in advertising for bull sales.

Friday, February 11

The 'other' girls

As you know, these two stooges are the ones I commonly refer to as 'the girls' on my blog, at least over this winter when my other equine 'girls' have been turned out to pasture only to be visited every month or so to check in and make sure they know I haven't abandoned them.

In this photo, the canine girls were loaded up in Scott's pickup a couple days ago and we were all headed out to feed and open water for the equine girls and their pasturemates. It cracks me up that Lucy uses the arm rest. I don't know what they're going to do when they're displaced from their backseat by children.

In the foreground here is April, one of my girls. At 18 years old this spring, she and I have had a good run of 16 years together.

It was about this time of year in 1995 - in fact, exactly a week before I turned 11 years old - that I went with my dad and another man to the eastern border of Georgia to take a look at her. That previous Christmas, a couple months before, our parents had told us they would buy each of the three of us kids our own horse, and in the months following we got to help pick them out and bring them home. Turns out, we brought April home that evening from Augusta, Ga. And just look where she ended up - all the way from Georgia to the middle of Wyoming.

Although she has her share of flaws and bad habits - probably some due to both of our young ages when we started out together - she has been a good, faithful horse and continues to keep on working even as she ages, and we've always gotten along well together. She's responded well to whatever new tasks I've asked of her, and her best quality is her jog trot. I've never ridden a smoother horse. She's had one horse colt, probably about eight years ago now, and has survived one nasty wire cut that's left an everlasting scar on her left front leg. She still tends to be accident-prone, mostly because she gets nervous and panics easily, especially on surfaces she thinks are slick. And don't even talk about ice. And the only gelding she likes at the Association is Scott's big black Deets.

After much debate last spring, because of her age, I turned her in with Bob's young stud colt and bred her for a second foal this spring. Looking at her that day when we were feeding, I thought it looked like she'd lost it, but now looking at this photo, maybe she is still bred. I think part of it was that the other bred mares are a few months ahead of her, so compared to them she doesn't look very big.

Jazz, pictured here on the right, is my other girl. While I brought April with me when I first moved to Wyoming, it wasn't until a couple summers later that Jazz moved west. The reason I took her on was that she was extremely bored without any other horse company on my parent's farmstead, and that led to to her tormenting the cows and calves. What's a horse to do? She was at the end of my dad's patience, and I'm glad I brought her out, because I use both of them frequently, and they're each good at different jobs so I can pick the most suitable horse for the day's work.

I've also had Jazz since she was very young. We purchased her and her mother together when Jazz was a yearling, and she was my project when I was around 15 years old... I always forget exactly what year we got them. Needless to say, the older I got, and the more horses I rode, the more I figured out about training and working with young horses, and Jazz benefited from that. She has always been very trainable - that's why I chose her for the job of pulling our four-seater buggy. She's smart, and catches on quickly to new things. She's the first horse I figured out how to teach to pick up leads on command, and she yields really well to leg pressure.

Although small, and not the smoothest horse around by any means, she's a hard worker, and has a big heart and will always respond to requests for effort. So does April, and that's one quality I really like about riding mares. I'd rather have too much horse than not enough.

So, both of my 'equine girls' have been with me for over a decade, and they're not going anywhere anytime soon, much to Scott's dismay, who wishes I would get geldings instead. :-) On that note, although I'm in favor of horse slaughter as a way to control the populations of unwanted, unusable horses in this country, I'm also all for keeping quality horses until they're a ripe old age. My mares owe me nothing, and they will die of natural causes, or when health and/or age conditions dictate that the kinder thing to do would be to end their pain and discomfort after a good, long life. I have always taken the best possible care of them, and I hope that I get to keep them around well into their 20s.

Tuesday, February 8

The best free digital download:

I really am getting ready to go to bed after an evening spent working on some editorial things for the paper... but I made a quick visit to some of my favorite blogs, and found this:

Just Something I Made
This pdf and another are available over at Just Something I Made, and I can see nursery inspiration coming on. I knew I didn't want to decorate the nursery with the normal baby animal themes, I guess they're too cartoonish and unrealistic for me, and now I'm thinking I could maybe somehow use these vintage images as a jumping off point of inspiration for our baby room's decor.... I'm envisioning trying to blow one of these up and transferring to the wall. Too ambitious? Maybe. :-)

InDesign: Learning a new skill

Sometimes it's hard for me to believe, but there are some slow times here in the Roundup office. It's just the nature of the business that sometimes all the deadlines loom at once, and other times we're all caught up, like on Friday afternoons in January.

So one Friday afternoon a couple weeks ago I was in the office by myself and  I started to design this invitation in my InDesign program, and killed two birds with one stone as I also figured out how to type on a path, which is pretty tricky to pull off, and I'm still not a master at getting the text to do what I want.

Click for zoom image
Something else I haven't mastered is screen shots in programs, otherwise I might have attempted to put together a tutorial on type on a path. As it is, I found several helpful tutorials through search engines, and that's how I was able to figure it out.

The inspiration for the invitation was vintage advertisements like this one for Northland SnowShoes. That's where I stole the 'Vigorous health and a million thrills' from. 'The greatest sport of the season' also came from a vintage advertisement.

I find my images and inspiration on Google image search, most times, including the snowshoe, dogsled and pine bough graphics I put in my layout. Finding images is a lot of trial and error for me - there are at least five others in the file that I started using and then discarded because I didn't like them well enough.
This ad for hot cocoa was the inspiration for my text layout, and why I wanted to learn to make curved words.

So even though there's some down time in the office, I was able to put together an invitation for our snowshoeing party on Sunday, and learn a new InDesign skill to use in building the paper and designing ads in the future. There are endless things to figure out and experiment with in the Photoshop and InDesign programs, if only one has the time (and patience) to tackle them. Online tutorials are wonderful things.

Monday, February 7

Cheap entertainment: moving furniture

For our Superbowl party over the weekend we rearranged the upstairs furniture to make more seating in our tv area. That means a crowded tv area, but a spacious front room now. Foxy likes the open floor space where she can play with her rawhide chews.

Actually both of the girls like the space for wrestling. I've put several rugs down by the door for snowy/wet/muddy boot traffic. Before we didn't really have anyplace to go with our shoes.

I kind of like how open the space is... but I also like the loveseat, and for right now the only space it can go is the front room.

This is my eight-dollar desk that I found at Salvation Army. I have yet to make it what I want - I'm planning at least a paint job and new drawer pulls, but at least it's not in the garage anymore.

Here's the big front window minus the sheer burgundy panels that I took down and disposed of yesterday. I can't wait to take the wood scallops down and see what a difference it makes for the summer sunrises in a couple months. Ok three months. Ok maybe five. The tablecloth is one my sister brought back from South America, and I love it with all its colors, which you can't see too well in the photo. You also can't see it too well in the photo, but the chair at the foot of the table is red. I really like them red.

So as nice as the front room looks, here's the tv space with the loveseat. :-) Scott says, 'Can we leave this here for a while?' He asked because the loveseat is the most comfy thing we own, and it really is too bad it doesn't fit with the tv area. The limits of our square footage mean I have to get creative.

Lucy thinks the loveseat is ok in that space.

These are the horseshoe hooks that I mounted on either side of the bathroom door. As you can see, the other two I hung over the weekend already look full.

And this is the coatrack that I hung on the right side of the hallway, and it kind of extends to the over-the-door rack of the spare room. It was plumb full of jackets, vests, caps, insulated pants and whatnot, but I had cleared it off so our company would have a place to hang their coats.

And here are my new shelves above the refrigerator, which I also love. It's a great use of that space for my lesser used dishes, which ends up being mostly goblets. The blue-stemmed goblets that my mom gave me some time ago can finally see the light of day. :-)

The kitchen isn't much changed from the usual, except I did get some new rugs at Ross last weekend. I've found myself using the bowl set that friend Holly gave me for Christmas quite frequently - that's the biggest one of the set on the counter.

Foxy likes the new rug.

My new Martha Stewart magazine came today, and I had to tear myself away to go back to work at the office the rest of the afternoon. It's full of summery and gardening ideas, and that's a welcome thought, considering we're sitting here under a pile of snow that has dumped on us in the span of a few hours this evening. It's spring snowstorm season in Wyoming.