Monthly Archives: December 2013

An Old-Fashioned Christmas

Christmas is a time of joy, peace, and goodwill.  Or at least, that’s what the songs and carols say. But is it, truly? I mean, how much goodwill do you feel when your toddler has yanked down the carefully placed ornaments for the 6th time in one morning? How much peace is there in holiday shopping?

I am gonna let out a secret to peaceful holidays.

An ornament made and given to us by some ranch friends.

An ornament made and given to us by some ranch friends.

Don’t do it.

Really. Don’t do the frantic shopping, the endless crafting, the perfect decor. Just stop.

But this is our TRADITION!! I can hear you yell. Yes. Maybe it is. But how about a new tradition? You can always make a new one – if you are excited and upbeat about it, your kids are probably more open to the idea than you think. Just lay down the need for the ‘Joneses’ Christmas. Get back to the ‘Little House’ kind. You know – where everyone had secrets in the weeks leading up th Christmas? And there were popcorn strings and cutout angels on the tree? One gift per person on the breakfast plate? Yeah. That’s the kind of Christmas I’m talking about.

Jenni made this fun ornament!

Jenni made this fun ornament!

Not saying you have to be stingy, or boring, or mean. But simplicity is not Scrooge-like. It’s just a lost art. When I see all the tips on how to balance your Christmas budget, I think, “Wow”! Really? Why buy gifts when you can’t afford them? Since when have we gotten so weak-spined that we can’t graciously turn down a Secret Santa party or the 3rd Christmas party? (if it involves gifts) I mean, if you have the money – go for it!! But it makes me a little sad seeing people wreck their whole budget, their sanity, and their lives all month, just to satisfy the whiny kids. (or the trashman – really??) Trust me, I know it’s easier short term to just cave. Whether it’s family, kids, job, church, you name it. But I don’t think that is  the way to do it. I think lessons on life are more needed  by our children to day, than another plastic toy. Maybe not as appreciated right now – but one day…

Lucia was sitting her stuffed animals in the tree one day. Looks like the squirrel and the Santa are having a good talk...

Lucia was sitting her stuffed animals in the tree one day. Looks like the squirrel and the Santa are having a good talk…

Here’s what we are doing this year:

Budgeting money: Homemade gifts. Yep. Still working on what I can make that will be actually a treat for my son. What do you make for a 10-year-old boy? And just one gift each. The one-gift policy is how we started out, so the kids aren’t expecting anything more. That alone is the best thing we’ve done to keep things sane. They look forward to that one gift at Christmas, just like they look forward to their one gift at their Birthdays.

Frank made the Santa. Strange, since we don't do Santa in this house. :)

Frank made the Santa. Strange, since we don’t do Santa in this house. :)


Simplify: I let them decorate the tree (and the house!) just how they like. In fact, they did it 100% alone, I still haven’t touched the tree. If something looks funky, well, it looks good to them, and that’s why we have the tree, right? To have a fun time of decorating? They will grow up and do it more neatly soon enough. I like their childish touches right now!

Besides, we all love a homemade Christmas. We like colorful lights, red, green and gold decor…basically everything traditional and cozy. While I think the blue and white decor is stunning – it seems a little too cold and impersonal for us. My husband likes the lights big and colorful! I have to say – nothing so cozy as early morning when the tree is softly glowing.

Oh, it's random and colorful! But the kids absolutely love it!

Oh, it’s random and colorful! But the kids absolutely love it!


Shopping: Making our own gifts, reusing ornaments, = no need to shop! :) Yay!

OK, well, we still have to eat, and I will be going in this week for our Christmas ham, and some goodies to make a Christmas feast. But you know what? getting food is less intimidating when you aren’t trying to keep your eyes open for gift ideas at the same time. :)

Someone gave us this ornament after our son died. I like it.

Someone gave us this ornament after our son died. I like it.


playing with bokeh!

playing with bokeh!



What about you? are you having an old-fashioned Christmas? Or do you thrive in the hustle and bustle of modern holiday mode? :) (That’s OK, too.)

Note: We don’t always do homemade gifts, and I’m not against more than one gift. It’s just what we’ve had to do this year. These ideas are not meant to attack anyone – just a new way of looking at things! :)

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Essential Oils ~ Seasonal Sufferers’ Relief

If you struggle with seasonal threats – I have a home remedy you really need to try! It is so simple and easy. And it works. At least for us. Non-toxic, natural, organic, and all that fun stuff.

seasonal sufferers trio
Before you get all glassy-eyed, let me just say…  normally, I am not a ‘health nut’. (No offense to all my many health-nut friends, I love you guys!)  I like to eat moderately healthy, I don’t go to the Dr much, I cook from scratch, etc, etc. But I am not all focused and zen-like about my body and what goes or doesn’t go into it. I mean, I believe our bodies are meant to be cared for in a reasonable manner, and then USED. So yeah.
However, I have a daughter who has had allergies and asthma ever since she was 2 years old. Severe asthma, actually. We have ended up in the hospital with her, and many, many nights of little sleep and much wheezing. She was being given n more and more drugs to calm her lungs down. I don’t mind them – per se, but they are a pain to remember, and she hated them. Hated them, I tell you! She would forget to take them, or not take the full amount. So when we would get a check up, the Dr was always saying: “You have to take these faithfully!” (It’s true – we were horrid patients. My apologies to the nice Dr…I just forget to give them!)
So, when I heard about essential oils, I thought: “Hey, why not?!” I was truly skeptical. I always am. But guess what? They worked. They provided the relief she was needing.

She has used this essential oil trio for 8 months now and it still works. We still forget – she sometimes takes it 2-3x a day, and other days she takes it only once. And when she forgets to take it, she still sneezes. But I can tell her to go take her essential oils, and she cheerfully does. She doesn’t mind them at all.

Her daily regimen:

Method 1:  (quick results)  2 drops lavender, 2 drops Peppermint, 2 drops Lemon.  Put the essential oils in a shot glass of water or juice, and swallow. Use caution when taking this way. We have had no ill effects, but some people have experienced burning of the esophagus, so I suggest taking the capsule.

Method 2: (slower effect) One TriEase capsule.

Important note; Many essential oils in the store or online can contain filler oils. Sure, they say “100% pure oil’, but part of that oil is often some other kind of oil. My rule of thumb is that if it says ‘not for internal use’, then I don’t use it for that. doTERRA oils have a ‘Supplement Facts’ label – just like any food product. So just be careful what essential oils you ingest! IMG_2517

I hope you can find relief from itchy eyes, runny nose, and sneezing, as well!

Questions? Contact me. I would love to answer any questions you may have. Or go to my online store to buy some of the best quality oils you can find, in my opinion. If you buy through my link, I get a small commission which helps feed hungry children! (mine!) 😉

Disclaimer: I am not a medical Doctor. This is not medical advice. Try at your own risk.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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Easy, Flaky Pie Crust

Pie Crust


Pie is one of my favorite desserts. But it has to have a good crust. And outstanding crust, actually. You can thank my mom for making me such a pie snob. She made the best pies! I guess everyone likes their mom’s food best. But really, I think my mom had a special touch when it came to pies. By the way – my mother was Amish before she was married, in case you didn’t know. Which probably explains why she was such a good cook. When I was a kid she used to make pies nearly every Saturday. For Sunday lunch, presumably. But the sweet reality was that we often had a slice of pumpkin pie for Sunday breakfast. Shhh! Don’t tell anyone! 😀 It wasn’t just at holidays, either.

I spent Thanksgiving with my sister this year, and we she made some pies for their Thanksgiving church supper, so I took the chance to photograph a recipe with someone else doing the cooking. It is challenging, for instance, to take pictures of yourself rolling out dough. 😉 It was fun watching her. She can whip up pies faster than anyone I know. Except maybe my mom. I mean, she (my sister) made probably 6-7 pies in less than an hour.

Put the shortening, salt, and flour into a large bowl. Mix well.  She used a mixing bowl and her hands, but I use my stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Either way works!IMG_2412IMG_2425

Put an egg and the vinegar into a cup measure. Beat the egg a little with a fork.


Then fill the cup with water. For some reason – that I have yet to figure out – it foams up when you add water to egg. Weird. IMG_2418

Pour the water/egg mix into the flour mix, and gently mix.



The dough will seem too wet for a bit while mixing in the egg/water. In fact, it will seem like the water isn’t going to all get mixed in, but just mix more! If you added the full amount of shortening, it won’t hurt it to mix it. Rest assured – you want it a bit sticky. It makes better pie crust.
IMG_2426When the water is all mixed in, the dough will still be quite sticky, but that’s OK. You will need to use a generous amount of flour while rolling it out, to keep it from sticking. If you don’t use it all immediately, just put it in a plastic bag or tightly sealed dish to keep it from drying out. It keeps in the fridge for up to a week just fine. Just remember to let it come to room temperature before rolling it out.sprinklerollrollIMG_2448Note: I use real, old-fashioned lard for my pie crusts. You can find it in Walmart in 1-lb chunks, which is really handy for this recipe. It makes wonderfully flaky crusts. But you can use vegetable shortening, butter, or any solid shortening, really. Different kinds produce different results, so be aware. 

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Easy, Flaky Pie Crust
Prep time
Total time
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 5 single crusts
  • 5½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups (1 lb) shortening
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tablespoon vinegar
  • water to fill cup (with egg)
  1. Mix flour, salt, and shortening well.
  2. Put egg in measuring cup, beat with fork - add vinegar and fill with water.
  3. Add egg mixture to flour mixture.
  4. Mix till water mixture is completely incorporated.
  5. Dough will be sticky.
  6. Roll out, using generous amounts of flour to keep from sticking to counter.
  7. Store extra in plastic bag or tightly sealed bowl.
  8. Makes 2 double crusted pies, or 5 single crusts.
  9. Can freeze unbaked pie shells.


Sub-Zero Temperatures on the Ranch

Have you had winter yet? Because I think Wyoming just sucked all the winter from the rest of the world and is all curled up in it – a ball of frozen icicles and swirling winds.

Jan. 2012

Jan. 2012

Ok, perhaps a bit dramatic. I know the North Pole is colder. That’s what they say, anyhow. 😉 But really, it has been so cold this past week! One morning it was down to -16° when we woke up. That was actual temperature. The windchill was -30º.  The house doesn’t like the cold either. It pops and creaks and snaps… I lay awake one night, kept awake by the loud popping in the roof above my head, and whispered to my husband: “How are you supposed to sleep with that going on?!”  He didn’t know.

January, 2012

January, 2012

I should’ve went out and taken pictures of the beautiful white snow for you all. But I didn’t. Because I am a wimp. I did go out and try to rig a light for the pets, so they wouldn’t freeze. I did drive to my mailbox to send some letters on their way… but I did not go outside to take pictures. Cause that just isn’t what I do when it’s 1º. My fingers can’t work the buttons of my camera for more than 10 seconds at -16º.

Calving, Jan. 2012

Calving, Jan. 2012

My husband, now, he is tough. Cowboy Tough. He layers up and walks out that door whether it’s 16º or -16º. (he wears 4-5 layers, not the 110 layers that a friend’s little girl thought he must have to wear! 😉 ) He breaks ice, spreads hay on the ground, and puts out feed. Those mama cows get taken care of, baby. You betcha. I don’t feel sorry for him driving around in a  warm truck. What makes me feel bad is when he has to break ice in sub-zero temps and the wind is blowing. Or when the tractor or truck breaks down and he has to mess about and try to get it going. But, like I said; Cowboy Tough. This what cowboying is – this is what they do. In the winter, in the summer, in every kind of miserable weather. And you know what else? HE rarely complains. I’m the one sitting in a toasty-warm house and whining about Florida. (I really, really want to go. 😉 )

Cliff's boss - feedin hay.

Cliff’s boss – feedin hay.

Bale-buster. A handy tool!

Bale-buster. A handy tool!

Cows - eatin hay.

Cows – eatin hay.

What is the winter like so far where you live? Do you enjoy winter and all it has to offer? Or are you like me, and just want to dip your toes in some warm saltwater? :)

Essential Oils For Managing Discomfort.

I want to tell you about my latest discovery with managing muscle discomfort. I am a total skeptic when it comes to ‘natural cures’, and ‘health and wellness’, but this past year I am experiencing some real relief with essential oils.

Natural relief for discomfort.-2


What are essential oils, you ask? Good question.


Essential oils are natural, aromatic compounds found in the seeds, bark, stems, roots, flowers, and other parts of plants.

Have you ever walked through a pine forest and smelled the earthy notes of pine? or crushed some fresh tea leaves between your fingers and sniffed? Maybe you like the fresh, clean scent that lingers on your hands after cutting a lemon. these are all essential oils that you have experienced aromatically. Our sense of smell brings us much pleasure – as God intended it should!

But what can they do?

The benefits of essential oils go deeper than aroma. The unique chemical structure allows them to pass through the skin quickly to be absorbed directly into the bloodstream. Many are naturally antimicrobial and have powerful cleansing properties. I have used pure lemon EO for cleaning some old, dried markers off of a white board, and it works better than those white sponges that claim to be magic. :) I have used Melaleuca oils for years in cleaning, and wound care. I used to wonder how a drop of oil could do much if just rubbed on the skin. Then I thought of all the drugs that are administered via patches on the skin; anti-nausea, birth control, nicotine, etc. So yeah, stuff definitely gets through your skin! :)

I am just touching the tip of the iceberg as far as their reputation. But I tend to not say a lot about stuff I haven’t personally tried and liked. However, I have been having some interest in how to use them, so I am going to start sharing some of the things I am learning with you. As a distributor of essential oils, I have access to special training. And I am taking advantage of it.  I am learning so much, and I feel like I just want to share my knowledge with you!

So, on to the real story…

I gave birth to a precious baby girl last fall, and during her 4 week stay in the NICU, I unfortunately learned some bad posture habits. I was tense, and would sit hunched over to feed her. After we brought her home, I continued hunching forward and to one side, in order to be able to watch her face closely. (she was prone to choking and stopping breathing)

Well, as you can imagine, after a few weeks of that, I developed a severely tense muscle in my shoulder/back area. I finally broke down and went to a chiropractor, (first time in my life! ) but while he was able to diagnose my problem, he really couldn’t do much to help me. So I went home to suffer for the next year. It literally hurts every day. Sometimes I can barely turn my head for severe discomfort.

Cue the oil. I have been using essential oils for my daughter for 7-8 months, but never thought of trying them for myself. Until this week. I know. How much wasted time, right? So I had this sample of Deep Blue Rub© by doTerra, which I rubbed on one day as an experiment. Guess what?! It took the discomfort away, almost immediately and completely. I kept shrugging my shoulder and twisting my neck – trying to see if it really was working or not. Guess what? It worked!

So last night I asked my husband to rub some more into my shoulder, and massage it a bit. He did, and again, total relief. I can’t say nothing else has worked, cause honestly, other than the Chiro, I haven’t tried anything else. But I just love that something natural works so well. That is amazing to me. It feels like it is relaxing the muscle. I have used it 4 times now, and it has worked every time. I am sold. 

It is known to provide relief for joint discomfort, muscle discomfort, and even head/neck tension. Some of the ingredients in the Deep Blue© rub are:

Blue Chamomile
Blue tansy

If you would like to know more about doTerra oils or would like to buy some, please contact me or go to my online store:  Buying through my store gives me a small commission which helps feed the hungry children. 😉 Thank you!

Subscribe if you would like to get updates. I will be continuing with Essential Oil tips every once in a while. You can read about the beginning of our essential oil journey  here and here.

Adding this post to the Homestead Barn Hop over here:

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CK Custom Leather ~ Spur Leathers


I want to show you a bit of my husband’s leather work today. Spur leathers, specifically.

Don’t know what they are? Basically, they are a piece of leather that holds the spur onto the boot. But like most cowboy gear – they are usually made to be fashionable as well as functional.

spurMy husband does amazing leather work. I am always impressed with the attention to detail and the quality of work he produces. Yes – I am prejudiced, 😉  but I have been to many leather shops and shows with him, and I have seen a lot of work. I still think his is outstanding.


Like any good artist – he tends to be his own worst critic – pointing out flaws. I, on the other hand – have no problem bragging him up. No problem, I tell you! :)

Check out the fancy silver buckles on these babies.

IMG_1869 - Copy

The thud of his hammer is often heard during tooling… For those of you new to the business – he cuts the designs into the leather using a very sharp little swivel knife, then he uses a small steel ‘stamp’ and pounds the leather down in places – to give the design a 3D effect. IMG_3627

Another pair of custom spurs. Beautiful.IMG_3638 Oh wait… actually – I think these are his own spur leathers! :) Yes, he wears his own handwork. Rides in his own saddle, too. (cinched down with his wife’s hand-made cinch.) 

Check out the gorgeous Jeremiah Watt spurs! Pretty, pretty! IMG_3657Here’s another pair of custom spurs.
IMG_6783If you want to order spur leathers (or any leather item) just contact me, or shoot Cliff an email at ckcustomleather (at) gmail (dot) com.