Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The next part of the journey and back to baking!

This week marks two months since we have moved from Arizona. On some days it feels like a year and on others it feels like yesterday. We have been through the ringer on this move, but in the end, after two months of struggle, it is definitely worth the trouble.

Our move started on July 30th. We had rented a large moving truck for our household items and Matt was driving that while I drove our truck and horse trailer with both dogs and horses in tow. The trip itself was pretty tough. The rental truck broke down only 3 hours into the trip on the outskirts of Phoenix with the temps registering 107 degrees! Matt was stuck on the side of the road alone while I took the dogs and horses up the grade to the nearest rest stop to wait, water the animals and wait some more. We all sat in the heat for over 4 hours before Matt gave up on the mechanic and Budget rental company and pushed the truck onward to Flagstaff for the night. He kept overheating and having to stop and wait for it to cool down the whole 1600 miles, but we decided after that first horrible day that maybe God was telling us to enjoy the road trip and go slowly and see the beauty around us. After a gorgeous drive through Zion National Park with all our stuff in tow, we steadily made progress. A huge Thank You to my sister, Stephanie for being our 'travel agent' and finding me horse hotels and people hotels along the way. Since our trip got off schedule from our first long hour, short distance day, all my plans for horse hotels and places to spend the nights had to be rearranged. Again, thanks to my sister, we were able to find really nice places to stay and the remainder of the trip was quite pleasant and easy.

We had finally found a home to rent at the zero hour in Arizona and had signed a lease sight unseen based on photographs from the landlord and after Matt's new boss had gone out and seen the house for us and sent us new photos. It looked in bad shape, but we had discussed that with the landlord and come up with options for getting it back to clean and habitable. When we arrived in Oregon we dropped the horses at my friend, Ian's, place and went back to the hotel provided by Matt's new job. The very next morning we headed out to look at the house and see what work needed to be done for us to move in. Well, we were both in for a very shocking find when we got out there. The house was really, really, really in bad shape. Not only was it worn down and trashed by the previous tenant, they had allowed it to become infested with mice and rats and the smell alone was staggering. I think we both looked at each other and thought, "Crap! We signed a lease on this place???"

Very long story (all two months worth) short, the house has been repaired. All new flooring, new insulation in the basement where the mice and rats had torn it out, a completely new bathroom, mostly new plumbing, upgraded electrical, all new doors, and fully primed and painted. We bought all new appliances for the kitchen and added some new counters, tile back splash, sink and faucet and painted the existing cabinetry. It's been a very long and somewhat expensive haul, but we are now about 60% moved in and I am looking forward to being 100% unpacked and settled.

This morning was the first time I had baked since we left Arizona. I made some butter dipped biscuits from scratch for my breakfast and had one warm out of the oven, smeared with jam to accompany my ever present cup of green tea. It's been a long two months, but it's starting to feel like home. These biscuits are super simple, so give them a try and enjoy with jam, or under some homemade gravy!

Butter Dipped Biscuits

2 cups self-rising flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup milk
1/2 cup butter, melted
all-purpose flour

In a bowl combine the self-rising flour, sugar and milk. Mix well. Turn onto a floured surface; sprinkle with all-purpose flour. Pat dough into 1/2" thickness. With a sharp knife or pastry cutter dipped in flour, cut the dough into 3"X2" pieces. Pour melted butter into a 13"X9" baking pan. Dip each piece of dough in the butter and carefully turn to coat the dough. Place all pieces in the pan next to each other snugly. Bake for 10-13 minutes at 450 degrees or until golden brown.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Hittin' the Oregon Trail - Goodbye Arizona!

We are headed back to my old stompin' grounds! So excited to be moving back in a place with seasons, friends and the way of life we love and respect!

Matt interviewed for a great job with Pacificorp as a lineman and was unanimously offered the job the very same day! The job is based in the small town of Arlington, Oregon right on the Columbia River. A unique and interesting area, it's mostly wheat farming and wind farming, but there's much more going for it as far as we are concerned. Plus, the move comes just in time for me to attend the Weaver cow working and ranch roping clinic in Fossil, OR! Wooohoo!

The pros...
1. We have friends in the area and lots of riding opportunities!!
2. Seasons!! Need we say more?
3. Much more interesting and challenging position for Matt
4. He gets to work out of the house! Yippee! (no bosses on a daily basis either!!)
5. He gets a 4-wheeler....Poppy is already commandeering that and has dibs on "shotgun" until the end of time.
6. No more weeks of 110 degree weather!
7. No more tarantulas!

So I am quickly sorting through our belongings between Zumba classes and painting sessions and getting us ready for a big move. Need to find a house still, but I know that will fall into place somehow! I am feeling optimistic! If God gave us this amazing opportunity, then he will be there to help us figure out the transition as well.

Here are my two latest paintings. I did a sunset from a photo I took here in Arizona. This will help us remember all our friends here and remind us of the lovely parts of Arizona. The other one is a 2nd and much larger painting of Poppy! Enjoy and I will continue to update you on our journey!


Friday, July 1, 2011

Exercising and Art

So, for the last few months my focus has been on getting healthy and fit again after my fractured ankle and foot (July 2010). As I come up to the anniversary of the riding accident that caused my broken ankle and subsequent surgery, I am amazed at how I have been able to not only recuperate 100%, but also to get fitter than I have been in a long time. What a difference a year makes! I just spent the morning teaching a Zumba class and came home to practice a couple new songs for my new playlist. It takes a lot of repetition, research and creativity to choreograph a new song. I usually just use the standard Zumba songs and choreo that is sent to me every other month from Zumba, but I like to throw in a song nobody else is using and so I tend to troll around iTunes and find awesome Latin songs that are fun, upbeat and make you want to shake it! My latest endeavor is a Merengue! Super fast and lots of fun moves. Can't wait to incorporate it into my play list.

I have also taken up oil painting as you know. This was to tap into my creative side, but to also give me a brain teaser that wasn't as physical as horseback riding and Zumba. It has proven to be an amazing outlet for my creative side, plus it offers an almost zen like experience every time I sit at the easel to paint. It feels like I am meditating while I work and sometimes I snap out of it 2 or 3 hours later without having felt any time pass at all. I am far from a great painter, but I am really enjoying the process and love each piece I do, even if I don't like it! I am finding that while I used to adore making my drawings look like a photograph, now I am all about COLOR and I could care less how realistic the painting comes out. The less perfect, the more I like it...I think you will see what I mean!

Here are my latest 3 paintings. The apple was an exercise I was assigned. I am not crazy about it, but I did get to explore using a brush a little more, even though I prefer using knives. The 2nd one is of my little mare, Mini. She is a little tubby from her time off and reared up the other day in play. I think I captured the whole goal! The last one is of my beloved Poppy! She's obviously not colored like that, but I think I was able to portray her spirit and love of life! You tell me? Should I quit or keep going?

Thanks for the visit! More to come!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Your own kitchen

While on vacation in Florida it came to my attention the importance of a stocked pantry, the proper tools and familiarity with a kitchen when it comes to cooking and baking.

We stayed at my sister and brother-in-law's house on the bay - absolutely gorgeous with a brand new incredible kitchen. The kitchen had pretty much everything I pine for in a gourmet kitchen. A Wolf gas range and oven, HUGE fridge and freezer, incredible sink and faucet, soapstone countertops, etc... I couldn't wait to cook something in there!

So after only one night I was asked to cook some Beef Stroganoff, which is one of the things I make that my sister just loves. After a fun day out and about we stopped by the grocery store and bought all the ingredients that she didn't have in her house and went home to prepare the meal. Because she has just completed the kitchen and hasn't really "moved in" completely, I found myself really at a loss for the proper tools to prepare my meal. I am good at improvising, but I must admit I think my Stroganoff suffered because I didn't have my stuff and my kitchen!

The next day I decided we needed some fresh bread and had to shop for all those ingredients too. Luckily I know almost all my recipes by heart, so I just mentally go over the list of ingredients and realized my sister's pantry was as bare as her pots, pans and tools! I had to make my bread in "boule" form because she didn't even have bread pans. I realized how spoiled I was with my wonderfully outfitted kitchen. The bread turned out great and I was thankful for sea-level and how much easier it made baking.

On Saturday we had a big neighborhood graduation BBQ to attend that was in honor of my niece and a good friend's son, who was also graduating. They asked me to please, please, please bake something for them, so I decided to make a double batch of Whoopie Pies to bring to the BBQ. After yet another trip to the grocery store for ingredients, a trip to the commercial kitchen store for baking pans, and more improvisation in the kitchen, we had a huge batch of Whoopie Pies cooling on the marble table. They turned out fantastic and once again I was secretly coveting the sea-level experience while still missing my perfectly appointed kitchen at 3500'!
My sister's Jack Russell, Daisy aka, Diamond, aka Dyn-o-mite, stole a couple cookies off the table before I caught her attempting a third pilfering, but otherwise the process wasn't too painful and we had some yummies to take to the party. To say they were a hit would be a gross understatement, but I don't want to brag (okay, yes I do!). We had to hide the pies when we arrived because we were sure they wouldn't last until the BBQ was served! We would catch people hiding them under their shirts, covertly taking bites when they thought nobody was looking. At the end of the BBQ, my family was caught hauling out 7 Whoopie pies alone...tsk, tsk, tsk!

We had a fantastic trip. We saw manatees, alligators, turtles, alligator gar, and many birds at Wakulla Springs outside Tallahassee. We had several small dolphin families surround the boat out in the Gulf. We held hermit crab races on the white sand beaches of the barrier islands and we had a blast on the water. It was wonderful to spend time with family and get to prepare them some goodies. My lesson from this trip is that a gorgeous kitchen might look good, but it has to function as well. I was really happy to come home to my less glamorous kitchen and be able to prepare pretty much anything without a trip to the grocery store and having all the proper tools needed. At least I made a big contribution to filling my sister's pantry for future visits! Do you have any baking powder??


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Painting and Life

Hi all!

Just got back from a 10 day excursion to sunny Florida to visit family and celebrate my niece's high school graduation. She graduated with honors and we are super proud of her! Can't wait to blog about her exciting new life at New College in Sarasota, FL.

Well, I wanted to update everyone on my newest endeavor, oil painting. I finally had my first "lesson" and it was SO MUCH FUN! The 5 hours just flew by and I really enjoyed the whole process so much. My first lesson was basically just about color mixing and the color wheel. I have to mix all my secondary and tertiary colors myself and this was a lesson in how to do that and then to recreate my own personal color wheel. This was my first time putting paint to the canvas and I was suprised to find the texture of the paint was simply gorgeous and reminded me of a super smooth frosting! I think I have had an artist bottled up inside me for a very long time because I felt very much at home in front of the easel!

I have attached a picture of my first oil painting and hope you like it as much as I do! It's now drying and will be framed and go up on the wall as soon as possible. I am off now to start my next apple.

I will keep you updated and hope you like what you see!

Friday, April 8, 2011

branching out!

I have been working hard at learning from recipes, cooking shows, online articles, etc., and I have finally decided to take some cooking lessons from an accomplished chef as well! I am very excited at the prospect of honing my knife skills, learning how to combine flavors, and new techniques for creating even more delicious foods! Once these begin, I will keep you posted on how things are going and post some fantastic recipes I am sure!

Well, apart from my cooking adventures, I have decided to add oil painting to my list of activities! I have decided to add this to my blog and keep my "fans" updated on my progress into the world of art. This isn't the first time I have dipped my toe into the cool rushing waters of art, but I haven't picked up a pencil, charcoal or pastel for about 15 years now and painting will be a whole new medium for me.

Today I met with a well-known local artist about oil painting lessons. Bernie Fierro is a wonderful artist (check out his website at that lately had a gallery showing at the local community college and I fell in love with several of his works. His artwork speaks to me in it's texture, colors and subject. He asked me to come by his studio to show him my previous artwork - what I had leftover at least and to assess if I had the qualities that might make me a successful (relatively speaking of course) oil painter. Long story short, he loved my old drawings and even went as far as to say I was naturally gifted with a leg up on most of his students. I was pleasantly surprised to say the least! I was slightly embarrassed to show him the few remaining pencil and charcoal sketches I had left from the late 90's because I felt they lacked life, motion, emotion and were only good renderings, not true art. So, it was a good boost to hear that they had excellent technical qualities and that I had a good feel for some of the basics like perspective, shadowing, etc.

We discussed why I was drawn to painting, even though I had been reluctant to venture into that medium before. Personally, I feel that painting is a much more challenging and courageous form of art. It's what separates the wheat from the chaff in my mind. You have to be willing to put yourself out there, be brave and not worry about things like it looking exactly like the image you are portraying. It's complexities allow for more life, emotion and feeling to be put on the canvas. Exactly what my art work had been lacking, but what I had been craving. I have always wanted to convey a mood, a personality, a moment in my art and felt I had always fell short. I didn't have the courage to try and work in this challenging medium before, but now I feel like I am ready to stretch myself and go for it!

It's not an inexpensive adventure. Start up supplies are going to run me more than I am really comfortable spending on a "hobby", but after discussing it with Matt, this is a time in my life where I have the opportunity to grow, the time to invest and the desire to stretch myself. He was all for me giving this a try and was even kind enough to offer me half of his shop for a "studio"! I have the most supportive and loving husband a girl could ask for! So, now I am making up my list of supplies that Bernie gave me and comparison shopping so I can get the best deals and the best materials. I can't convey how exciting this is. I am not much of a shopper, but the thought of having paints and brushes, knives and palette, easel and canvas is really intriguing and a little intimidating! adventure continues. The question, "can a cowgirl really be a cowgirl, cook, paint and be a great wife" comes to mind, but I am game for it all! There's nothing in life I don't feel I can't do if I set my mind to it, so I hope you enjoy accompanying me on this journey!