Wednesday, May 25

Seedling Sage: an update

Before I become too engrossed with work on the paper this morning, I thought I'd share a quick update on my little basement seed-starting project, because as it is these photos are way late - I took them May 11.

These are my cosmos in the foreground, and gazanias in the back.

My zinnias are doing really well.

And many of the cucumber seeds sprouted and are doing great.

These were the snapdragons... were, because I gave up on them. They were just too delicate - even watering them with a spray mister knocked them down. I might attempt them again in the future, but they need a better situation. As it is, a few days ago there were only two or three left standing, so I got rid of them in favor of my easier seedlings.

So the above photo was what the table looked like while the seedlings were still in the seed starting trays, before I transplanted.

And here is a more recent photo of the trays they're in now. Those are the zinnias on the left, and the gazanias in the middle. You can barely see some cucumbers on the right.

I transplanted chives into the roaster pans I recently purchased at Salvation Army, and have spinach seeded around them.

Turns out my chive and spinach seeds stretched a long way... the two pots on the left side of the table also have chives and spinach. I'm curious to see how they'll sprout, as so far I've only sprouted things under the clear plastic dome trays, which helps keep a much more humid environment for the seeds. This project is entirely an experiment this spring!

Upstairs in the seed starting flats I have seeded herbs - rosemary, parsley and basil. I noticed this morning that some basil has sprouted. I'm not sure about how the rosemary will do, as Link has been a very naughty cat lately, and knocked that tray off the table, so who knows how deeply some of those seeds are buried. I guess time will tell. If I even get 10 plants to sprout, that would be sufficient rosemary for the summer.

So that's the latest on the seedlings - I'm looking forward to transplanting some of them in my containers outside in a couple weeks, as well as in my freshly-tilled flowerbeds.

Getting ready for company

The to-do lists, shopping lists and things-to-not-forget lists continue this week, in preparation for our wedding party this Saturday. In the last three days all my spare time has been dedicated to making lists and crossing them off... cleaning, shopping, cooking, packing supplies for the ranch, decorating...

Last night, after mowing and trimming the yard and dusting the front room, was breakfast roll night, and I made my mom's roll recipe, but used PW's orange marmalade filling.

These rolls are for tomorrow morning, to send up to the ranch with Scott tonight for those who are loading up and heading to gather and trail cows tomorrow. The extras I'll keep here at the house, and my mom, dad and I can enjoy them for breakfast.

I have yet to put the orange glaze on them, as I wanted to wait until as late as possible so they're as fresh as possible.

Given the nature of yeast breads, I was up until 11 finishing these up - my usual bedtime is 9 these days. I couldn't resist taking the warm, sticky, soft center out of that one for a sample. I can never resist fresh bread hot out of the oven. I figure I put all the work into making them - I can destroy one, right?

This morning has been a cleaning morning, working on downstairs, as my parents will stay in Scott's and my room tonight. Soon I'll head to the office and finish up the paper, run some more errands midday and work on the last of the cleaning and cooking while waiting for my mom and dad and friends Jim and Kami to arrive from Iowa this evening.

Monday, May 23

In review

In Wyoming, just because it's mid-May doesn't mean the flowers are safe from snowfall.
Things around here have been busy, which means the blog falls low on the priority list...

Since my last post, the Roundup's new assistant editor Saige Albert has started here in the office, we put out last week's paper and Saturday morning Scott and I made it to Pavillion and back by noon - and that included going to the ranch to load an inexperienced-at-loading colt and getting him brand inspected. Saturday afternoon was our nephew's high school graduation reception, and Saturday evening and yesterday were spent getting a start on the to-do list for our upcoming wedding party this Saturday. I'm planning food for 200 Saturday evening, as well as a number of smaller meals from Thursday through Sunday for those who are staying around up at the ranch.

So the rest of this week will be consumed with finishing the paper up by Wednesday and completing the last of my errands and to-dos in the time I have between office hours each day. I'll post here if I can!

Wednesday, May 18

Thermopolis is famous

"If you live there, and you drive this regularly, you are so very blessed."

That's a quote from the most recent blog post on PW's blog in the homeschooling section.

I guess I'm one of those who the guest blogger counts 'very blessed,' because the photos she posted of their drive through the Wind River Canyon and then staying overnight in Thermop are very familiar.

It's interesting to read about places I frequent so often in the words of a tourist, because anymore I take the canyon for granted. The first time I drove through it I was impressed, but anymore my thoughts run along the lines of... 'ok, I'm at Shoshoni, but it'll still take 30 minutes at least to get to Thermop, because of the canyon.'

Given the amount of traffice that PW gets on her site, maybe Thermopolis, and Wyoming in general, will have just a few more visitors this summer. Speaking from experience, familiarity aside, it's worth the visit!

Next up the blogger and her family will be in Cody, so I'm interested to see what she says. To her delight, the drive from Thermopolis to Cody will be even prettier than what she's already seen. :-)

I'm interested to see if they'll even be able to get into Yellowstone, though, much less get around in the park, because they're still getting large amounts of snow this month...

Spring Strawberries

Last night, in return for borrowing the tiller for our flowerbed project the previous evening, I made a new recipe for Strawberry Shortcake Cookies to take across the street to our neighbors Bill and Lorie.

The first step was to dice the strawberries, and then mix them with a little lemon juice and sugar. That mixture along was delicious. :-)

These cubes of butter are what put the short in shortcake.

My pastry blender is frequently used in my kitchen. I always get impatient, though, and don't get the butter mixed into the flour quite as much as I should, and that results in some cookies running at the edges when they hit the oven.

After the butter is cut in, add the cream. I ended up using a full two cups instead of the 1 1/3 cup the recipe called for, because the batter still seemed dry. Fold in the strawberries as the next step.

And drop the cookies on a greased baking sheet. The recipe called for parchment-lined, but I've had bad luck with parchment in the past, so I just grease the pans.

And the final product cooled on the counter before the prettiest ones were packaged to give away. After the first pan came out of the oven, I learned that the cookies spread quite a bit, so to give them plenty of space on the pans. Also, they might not have spread quite as much if they didn't have so many strawberries. But nonetheless, they did taste good!

Tuesday, May 17

More Destruction!!

This is what the house looked like last summer - but there will be big changes this summer!! At least to the flower beds, because this is what happened last night:

Rose bush - gone! Weeds - gone! Random perennials - gone! My neighbor across the street was kind enough to let us borrow their tiller, so we got right down to it and got the job done. So much better than using a shovel and a hoe! It has been at least several years since these flower beds have been worked, so the soil was pretty compacted. I'd also like to get some old composted manure from up at the ranch to mix in with the soil and bring it back to life. We decided to get rid of the rose bush because it didn't winter very well, wasn't budding well, and neither of us really like roses anyway, at least in that application. In its place I'd like to establish some evergreen shrubs, perhaps, or maybe some perennial bunchgrasses in the corners of the bed to surround with bulbs and annuals.

This is the north side of the front porch, where there's a little bed right next to the steps, and another bigger one between the bush and the basement window - that's the window in the baby room. I'd like to establish some type of shade-loving perennial ground cover there, because it can't really be seen from the street or sidewalk, and it just needs something there instead of bare ground - as it is, Link tends to think it's a litter box.

Another project for a weekend this summer will be to replace the lattice in the porch. I'm still trying to decide on the best strategy - vinyl lattice would last a lot longer than the wood, which is rotting and falling apart, but I'm concerned it would look funny to combine vinyl lattice with the natural wood railings and steps. Another idea is to get dark green vinyl lattice to coordinate with the house and contrast with the natural wood, but I'm still not sure I'd like that. At any rate, it needs to be addressed.

You'll also notice in the photo that there's bare ground around the outside of the beds, where I sprayed Roundup last summer to kill weeds. We also seeded that patch and several others in the yard, because we're forecast to have rain the rest of this week.

Now the beds are all ready for my little seedlings that are still growing away in the basement under my grow lights. So far I still have cosmos, gazanias, zinnias and some snapdragons, although I don't know how successful the snapdragons will be. They sure are small and slow-growing. I still have yet to seed my lettuce and spinach gardens, as well as the last of my herbs.

Here's to growing new things in the yard!

Monday, May 16

Baby Update: 24.5 weeks

The big baby news of last week was that I made one of the necessary big purchases - a crib from Heather's Baby Exchange here in town. I had gone in the day before, just to look, and there was a used pair of matching cribs that had belonged to a set of twins. I figured if they were still in this good of shape after handling twins, they had to be good! I always forget the brand name, but they're high-quality, and this one I purchased is now in the garage, waiting a potential colored stain before moving downstairs to the baby room.

I don't really like this photo of me all that well, but it's the first one of myself in quite some time - I handed Scott the camera when we were out checking on mares and foals last Friday evening. At six months, I'm glad that this is all the more I'm showing - I still don't even necessarily feel like I'm pregnant, except for the almost-constant kicking and squirming from the baby.

I had another of my monthly checkups on May 9, and everything is still fine and dandy. So far my sugar levels must be testing fine, because I haven't been told that I need a test for gestational diabetes. I've continued to gain right at a pound a week, and lately, while I've still been gaining for the baby, I've actually been losing some undesirable and unnecessary weight, which is nice. I'm looking forward to getting right back into my regular clothes after delivery, and at this point it looks like that's how it's going.

My next ultrasound is scheduled for May 24, and I'm looking forward to seeing how much the baby has changed since the first one we had in April.

So far I'm still not having any strong cravings, except for maybe consuming more fruit than I did before. I've transitioned from eating a lot of vegetables to eating a lot of fruit, which fits nicely with my yogurt/granola/fruit/flaxseed breakfasts.

I have purchased a few more maternity shirts, and a pair of Cowgirl Tuff jeans... I like my new pair so much that Scott told me I should take them off and wash them at some point. So I did. :-) Still no maternity jeans or pants necessary, and I'm still trying to avoid them.

As far as the baby room goes, I have green paint that matches the green stripe in the rug for one of the walls. I wanted to stain the crib red, but didn't find any reds I like, so it might end up with a pretty dark blue stain instead. Other than that, just waiting for a few more furniture pieces to arrive with my mom from Iowa in a couple weeks! Following our wedding party on Memorial Day weekend I'll be able to get to work on more details, like shelving, curtains, fitted sheet, etc.

Weekend DIY

Yesterday was full of DIY projects around the house, after spending most of the day Saturday running around town. First up was mowing the yard, and next I got started on some projects in the patio, including these frames I collected at garage sales over the last couple weekends. They will be used for enlarged photos of Scott and I when we were younger at our wedding party in a couple weeks, and they're all painted in colors I've got in my house, so after the party they'll find their way most likely into our bedroom.

Scott and the girls went up to the ranch yesterday to drag the road, so feline assistant Link was able to come and go as he pleased without the dogs around.

Freshly painted frames. At this point I was a little doubtful about the glossy red.

But once they were dry and I'd sanded them down a little for an aged/rustic look, I'm really glad I did the red. Just the yellow and green would be a little drab.

Speaking of drab, this is the closet space in the downstairs bedroom - minus the shoe storage and clothes bar that have been in there since I moved in. I decided it was high time to get rid of some of the blah brown color in that room, so I purchased a buttery yellow paint that goes with our bedspread, and got to work.

One coat.

Pretty sure this was after two coats. I've since applied a third coat, which got the job done, and I'm also painting the little recessed cubbyhole in the wall yellow. More pictures to come... the project still isn't quite completed. I ran out of weekend! There is a wire shelving unit to be installed in the closet space, and I'd like to paint the trim white to further brighten the space. Now that I'm started, I'm not so sure I won't end up repainting the entire room, but now that all of our furniture is in there, that would be a pain, and a project for a future weekend.

We have installed a shelving unit containing five six-foot-long shelves in the bedroom, to hold boots, hat boxes, jeans and whatever else, and so far the shelves have been their natural pine color. I finally finished that project yesterday, too.

This is the color they are now. So much better!

I also went to the fabric store and picked up the red and green checked fabric off the sale table. It took me a while to make up my mind what I wanted, but I think the checked fabric will work just fine, after putting it with a few of my other things for decorating under the tent at our wedding party in a couple weeks. So far I'm really pleased with how things are coming together.

Sunday, May 15

Calving season

While Scott, the girls and I were out and about taking advantage of the beautiful weather last Friday evening, we also made a stop to check on ours and Bob's cows, to see how calving is coming along.

While some people calve early in the spring, or even in February, others choose to wait until this time of year, when the grass is green and the weather more predictable. While it can still snow a lot this time of year, the risk of snowstorms is generally past, and thus the risk of loosing baby calves to cold, wet weather.

Most of the cows appear to have calved, and our percentage of the herd appears to have done really well so far this season. While many producers keep a close eye on their herd during calving season, checking on and tagging each new calf, Scott chooses to go with a more low-maintenance approach. Our cows get checked on an average of once a week, and they all calve on their own, both the older cows and the first-calf heifers.

The black heifer trailing in the back here is one of our first-calf females. To help guarantee minimal calving problems, Scott uses bucking bulls to breed them for their first time around, since that type of bull is less likely to produce high birth-weight calves. Because of the bucking bull influence, some of those first calves do come out with some wild colors! While the market prefers Black Angus right now, because of the success of the Certified Angus Beef marketing program, it is a little more fun to have colorful calves each spring, instead of straight black.

I always thought the same way with raising hogs - the market prefers solid white, but when we still had our own sows and were keeping back our own blue-butt gilts, we bred them to red Duroc boars, and had some really pretty colors in our piglets!

Eventually our herd will transition to all black cows and calves, and possibly some Hereford bulls to make black white-faced, known as black baldy, calves, but for now I enjoy the colors. :-)

I liked this guy's blaze face.

Our cross-bred horned cows also aren't as docile as Black Angus cows, and usually this is the distance at which we see them.

So the grass is green, the sun is shining and the calves are healthy. In two weeks these pairs will be moved to their summer pasture up on the Association, where the calves will be branded. Scott and I are using his Lazy V Open A brand on the heifers, while I talked him into putting my C} on the steers. :-)

Wednesday, May 11

Mother's Day lunch

On Sunday I hosted 15 of the Martinez family members for Mother's Day. Although my hip joints were killing me and I didn't get as much done Saturday evening as I had hoped, I still had plenty of time to set the table and prepare my food on Sunday before they began to arrive.

Scott had gone out to the store first thing Sunday, and he brought me back a Mother's Day card and the two pretty bouquets of roses that I used for the table's centerpieces.

We brought my sewing table out of the spare room to add seating for 12 at my main dining table, and my smaller pedestal table seated the remaining three. That's the first time I used the two tables together, and it worked really well.

When we were in Iowa last time my mom gave me some cloth napkins from her collection, and I used them in conjunction with the few white ones I already had. I really need to build my napkin collection, but for Sunday I had enough, and the pale green colors worked just fine for the table scheme.

Do the yellow butter dishes look familiar? They're the ones I had just found at Salvation Army the day before, and they worked perfectly with the colors I was going for. The lace on the tables are curtains that my mom gave me some time ago, and under the lace are bedsheets to serve as the background. Who says you have to use fancy things to get a fancy look!

The green bottles on the kids' table ended up having more roses in them, as my nephew Kyle brought me a small bouquet, which was perfect.

As always happens, I was too busy with the foods' last-minute details to take pictures of the food I made, or of everybody sitting down at the table, which was filled with dishes, both hot and cold. I wanted to serve this meal family-style, as opposed to having a buffet line in the kitchen, and it worked pretty well. If I do it again I'll make sure more of the food is in smaller dishes that would be easier to pass around the table.

Our menu was steaks that Scott grilled, Rosemary Cheesy Mashed Potatoes, Southern Biscuits, grilled portobello mushrooms I'd purchased from our Wyoming mushroom producer the day before, potato salad from my mother-in-law, fresh fruit, Red Velvet Punch, Peruvian Salad that I made, and maybe a few more things that I'm now forgetting.

For dessert I made strawberry shortcake. You'll have to take my word for it that it was very pretty! And it also must have tasted good, as evidenced by the fact that this was all that was left of it when we were done. We also had chocolate cake brought by sister-in-law Stacy.

So, I wish I had taken a picture of my table full of food and family, but all I have is the 'before' photos. I will try to do better next time!

These days I've moved on to party-planning, as our Wyoming wedding reception is a mere two-and-a-half weeks away. I purchased more of the fabric flowers that I used in this post at Hobby Lobby on Monday, and yesterday I purchased the lanterns that I'm going to use as a component in my centerpieces. Today my goal will be to get to Home Depot to purchase the drop clothes that I'll use as tablecloths, then after that I'll need to go to Hancock Fabrics and choose some pretty, hopefully patterned, fabric on which to arrange the centerpieces. I also need to scan in and print the photos of Scott growing up, and find frames in which to display them.