Friday, September 27, 2013

Seven Quick Takes - Home Sweet Home

Last week was Busy. This week, I have been trying to find where I left everything that I needed to do while I was busy last week!! Last week, we arrived home from our 2 week + a few days trip. Then I spent the rest of the week baking and sewing! Our parish's Fall Festival was held this past weekend and each family is asked to contribute. So, I baked my favorite Sugar Cookies - and yes, I had helpers, but I did not have time to take pictures of the work... only the end product!! Pumpkins and Candy Corn for the Fall Festival! I wrapped individually so that they could be sold for $1 each. I loved them. Mailed some out to a friend whose family loves them like we do and the treekids ate the rest... they are all gone and Bump already asked to make some more!! I think we will need to make and FREEZE some cookies so we don't have to bake cut-out cookies every-other week!

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Along with the cookies, I made some super yummy brownies. When we were staying with Jessica's family a few weeks ago she shared a new treat one of her friends had told her about. Basically, you make a pan of brownies, poke a few small holes in the top, pour caramel sauce over the top and sprinkle coarse sea salt on top of that! DELISH!!! But, I am trying to "market" this for a church fundraiser... "Jessica's Friend's Brownie Delight" wasn't quite descriptive of the deliciousness that was to be found inside the pan!! So, I enlisted the creativity of my Facebook friends and merged their ideas and came up with a beautiful descriptive title. The pan of brownies was put in a silent auction and went for over $15! There were sooooooo many things to bid on that I was pleased they went for that!!

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As I was running out of time, I wasn't able to get the little knitted hat completed that I had hoped to, so I made a hooded baby towel. It is probably more practical in use than a knitted baby hat and it sure wouldn't take the same amount of time to complete, so - I rushed to get something handmade to take for the festival as well... I think it turned out quite well considering I didn't have all the same pretty embellishments that I often do use! What do you think... gender neutral, anyway!!

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So, when your mom was baking for others when you were a kid... did she smack your fingers and send you on your way saying, "These are for... not for us!!" I do not know any kids who didn't get that at least a little bit! But, I really try hard to make extras and other things so they don't feel like I only bake all these yummy things for "everyone else"!!! So, I made extra cookies, an extra pan of brownies and while I was at it... I made a batch of Kolaches!! I think that is what put me over the edge and I probably should have left them for this week... or NEXT week, but - that is not my style - work until I am all out of gas is my "way" I suppose!! But, I did make some Kolaches and there were some very appreciative folks around here!

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All that kept my hands very busy! But, my mind was elsewhere. I was still back on vacation ... We went out to Oregon and played and played! We visited many friends, Crater Lake National Park, and places in Canyonville, Roseburg, Rogue River, Grants Pass, Marlin, Klamath Falls, Bend, Russell's Custom Meats in Canyon City (Awesome place to stop for Jerky and or Meat Sticks!), Baker City (a quick stop for a delicious artisan chocolate and a peek at the largest gold nugget ever found in Oregon!), North Powder, and Pendleton. Then it was on to Idaho ... McCall is BEAUTIFUL then on through Boise, Mountain Home, Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho Falls up to West Yellowstone, MT into Wyoming via Yellowstone National Park to visit Old Faithful then down for a quick visit to Teton National Park (where I lost my heart many years ago and I only truly find it again when I am there...). We continued through Wyoming with a stop in Casper before working our way through Northern Nebraska stopping to visit family and Pops took care of some more work in the Ainsworth area. Finally, we worked our way back home and I was exhausted! I am exhausted over again just thinking of ALL that we did on our journey! So, I have been going through pictures and there are some pictures with full posts to write and share about some of these things that we stopped and did! I will continue to work through all of those pictures... there are MANY! (only 1,318!!!)

It is one of my favorite things to see in or around the Tetons... a BEAR!! We have seen bear in the parks only 3 times. Each time, it was near sundown and we were heading out disappointed to not have seen a bear. This time we were treated to an amazing bear sighting!! Now, remember... this is at dusk. By the 3rd and 4th picture below, the sun was pretty well behind the mountain range. Photography without a tripod in these times produces a fairly blurry image as even pushing the shutter release moves the camera enough to cause blur. For picture #3, I did use the flash and I am not really sure if I can say that it "helped" - but it is a clearer picture with those glowing eyes...

In about the middle of this shot, you can see the back of a "something." At this point, we did not really know what we were seeing. It was moving fairly quickly through the brush and we would catch peeks of it here and there. Pops thought it might be a wolf that we were seeing. So, we waited and watched... hoping to get a better view. Then it went into all of those bigger shrubs.
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So, I backed out of all the fuzzier pictures and zoomed in on the camera's image viewing screen. THOSE do NOT look like wolf ears and that hump on the back is NOT a dog-like hump!! We thought we were onto a bear. EXCITEMENT grew in the van as all the seat belts came off as we all tried to get a better (SAFE inside the confines of the van) view!!
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We were patient and the bear cam out the other side of the brush and messed around by a trailer. It wasn't long before it started heading to the road and all the shushes imaginable were issued so that the squeals of delight were not audible!! (Have you ever seen a squealing girl make no noise? It is funny!!)
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This big ol' bear crossed the street and was held up by this fence. He attempted jumping the fence and then went down along the fence a bit before trying again and succeeded in his climb/leap. AWESOME!!
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I have many more pictures of what we saw - but they are SO blurry. Anyone take many pictures at this time of day - AT A DISTANCE and have success!?! What do I need to do to make my shot turn out better??  I do hope to get this opportunity again!!!

Next week promises to be a busy week, too! We will be back at "it" with more of the formal school things that we do take on. Of course, I have to say that I am very thankful for our homeschooling life!! Without it, we would not be able to go and see and do as much as we have. The flexibility is great for our family. I was thinking about this the other day... School works great for some people and their kids.  We support our local schools and take part in their activities and help with their fundraising. However, I think school would mostly just get in our way of learning and experiencing life!! What a dilemma!! School or Real Life Learning by going and doing... we are very fortunate to be able to live where we can direct the education of our children and learn at our own pace doing our own "thing." Either way - we love our life and all the craziness we seem to find ourselves in!!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Western Wednesday :: An Introduction

I have been crazy busy here trying to get settled back into "life" after our 2 week journey out west and back home again. It was great fun and I am wanting to share all kinds of fun pictures! I have been going through pictures and have discovered that no one is going to want to see ALL those pictures all on one day! So, I have been trying to figure out the best way to share and not "bore" the folks who don't want to see rodeo for the next 3 weeks!! ;)

So, I will work on sharing our experience over time, allowing me to continue sharing my current goings on as well! If you enjoy learning about the rodeo and seeing pictures of the western fun, stop by on Wednesdays!!

OK - so, first things first...
  • What rodeo did the Treehouse Family attend? 
    • The Pendleton Round-Up
  • Where is Pendleton? 
    • Pendleton is located in Northeast Oregon in Umatilla County in one of my favorite places in America (I have a few, so far...).
  • What exactly is The Round-Up? 
    • It is a week-long celebration of western heritage complete with concerts, parades, pageantry, rodeo performances, and plenty more to thrill anyone taking the time to visit.
  • Why should I care? 
    • The Pendleton Round-Up has been named #1 Top Cowboy Vacation Destination by Western Horseman Magazine, Best Professional Rodeo by True West Magazine, One of the Rodeos Worth Driving To by Cowboys and Indians Magazine and to top it off, the Round-Up played an important role in the naming of Pendleton as #1 on the list of Top Ten Western Towns in America by True West Magazine!! (source; Pendleton Chamber of Commerce)
  • How is The Pendleton Round-Up any different from any other rodeo celebration? 
    • Let's start by discussing the arena. It is a football field surround by a dirt track. A lot of the events are completed on grass - which can have horses slipping and falling with riders atop, bull doggers can tear up their knees when trying to wrestle their steer to a stop, the bucking area for broncs is... as large as the football field and track, a temporary fence is set up for bull riding, the barrel pattern is so much larger that it typically is finished in 28 seconds as compared to the regular 16 or 17, and the cowboy's timed events have the calves or steers being chased down an alleyway that begins outside or underneath the grandstand and running down a ramp into the arena full speed ahead instead of from a stopped position in a small chute. Let's just say - it is DIFFERENT!!
  • Anything else of significance? 
    • There is a lot of focus on the Native American influence of the area. There is a relay race on horseback for various tribes to compete against each other, there is a display of the traditional dance in the arena during an intermission including a parade of chiefs and princesses around the track. Outside of the arena grounds, an encampment is set up with 300+ traditional tepees where the Native Americans set up for the week to live and be a part of the celebration. 
I think that it might be best - if you have the time (and interest) - to watch this production by Oregon Public Broadcasting, Pendleton Round-Up: The Wild West Way, before we continue next week with Western Wednesday!! It is a well done production highlighting the history of The Round-Up!

Let 'er Buck!!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Seven Quick Takes - "on the road again" edition

Oregon. This is a really "quick take"... how is it you can miss a place and BE there at the same time. I had no idea when we decided to move back to the midwest that I would miss ALL that Oregon has to offer in its landscape. Don't get me wrong... I love the people in the midwest and I love our church in the Lincoln Diocese... BUT - Oregon. yes... Oregon.

I am contemplating the business opportunity in coin operated laundromats. Seriously. I am at the hotel doing ONLY three loads of laundry for our family of six after what we have worn since Sunday... so, nearly a week. We are pretty conservative and re-wear jeans and pajamas...but, I just spent $6 for three loads. I imagine that this is "inexpensive" in terms of laundromats. I am only using a hotel machine at $1/wash and $1/dry. I have had the pleasure of using the public laundromat on other trips and have spent at least $2/wash and at times $3/dry!! Hmmm... I'd sure like to see a balance sheet of an average, excellent and failing laundromat. I think that would be interesting... Along with that - how about the pricing structure and other assorted financial information broken down. All this... for laundry!

The 103rd Pendleton Round-Up has been fun. We have had some pretty warm days here in Pendleton, but don't have to fight the humidity and so it is very bearable. We have done a fair amount of walking around the downtown area, peeking in stores, drooling over the smells of the various food booths, considered a tour or two around town, ate pizza, "fry bread", Hawaiian Shaved Ices... I have lots of pictures of the rodeo and will share them later in their own post... hoping to get home to do that!

We are constantly arranging and re-arranging our plans on these long trips! We thought that we would get to Yellowstone by Saturday to celebrate Bud's 12th birthday!! It is now looking like we won't get there for that. So, perhaps we will make it to Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve for his birthday. It looks like they have a "Star Party" on Friday night... maybe we can get there by then! That would make his evening! If not, we'll have a look at what is available on his birthday. WAIT! What? 12!??!! Holy Smokes! We'll have a teenager next year?!??? My, how time flies!!

We had so much fun with Jessica and her family last week. No one was ready to leave their house... and I get a request DAILY from Bump to return to "his friend, {Snuggle's} house". I love that we have such a great family to be friends with and spend some good time with! Now we are just hoping, praying and waiting (trying to do that one patiently!) for their visit to Nebraska!! ;)

Today is "Friday the 13th" and Bud said, "Aaaahhhhh" and hid under the sheets. Then came out and said - "Nothing to worry about." Blossom, shouted "HOOOOoooooray!!! I'm 8.5 today!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

From Sept 10 - Sept 12 I took 677 pictures. It is going to take me a while to go through them to share our stay in Pendleton!!! I am excited, though... The bull riding event at the Round-Up did NOT disappoint!!! (Sorry... gotta leave you a little teaser!!) I'll get to the pictures ASAP and share soon!!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Cut-Out Sugar Cookies!!

This post is a continuation of last week's post on making cut-out sugar cookies with Bump

After we get the cookie dough all mixed, bagged and refrigerated until hard, I get the counter all ready for the actual cut-out process. I get out a mat to roll and cut on. (I have formica counters and don't particularly want them scratched up!) I get out the rolling pins, the cookie cutters and the basting brushes. And, I NEVER forget to get out my rolling... sticks. For lack of a better term, they are just my rolling sticks!

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The sticks are very lightweight wood and are square. The sides are about 1 cm on each side - making them SQUARE!! I bought these a LONG time ago from Michael's Craft Store and may have cut them down to size. I have found, in recent history, these balsa sticks there and they are about 36" long. So, you could either cut it in half and have 2 long sticks to roll a large amount of dough or you can cut four pieces at 9 inches each and allow two people to roll at the same time. 

This is the most important aspect in making these cookies, in my opinion!! You must have them to get a feel for just how thick the dough must be rolled to in order for the cookies to bake up soft and fluffy!

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Now, the children can be assembled! They will come and be excited to do it all their selves! All you will have to do is step aside, them them work and keep your camera handy!

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Flour is scattered on the counter and there will be two rolling areas since there are two cookie makers today!! :)

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Branch shows Bump how to flour the rolling pin so that the cookie dough doesn't stick to the pin.

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It was funny to watch Bump try to cover his pin in flour... and only get 1/3 of the rolling pin floured up! So, he got a little help from big sister!

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I leave the cookie dough in the refrigerator until the "last minute" to keep it cold as long as possible. Then, I grab the bag of cookie dough and cut it in half. This is a quart sized bag that I put in there for Bump's letters. I also had a gallon sized bag - but I left that in the refrigerator for when Bump had made his pan of cookies. He is usually done and ready to go play after filling one pan and seeing it go into the oven. Then, I can move quickly to finish the rest of the triple batch!

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Rolling out the dough CAN take a bit of force! This is a COLD dough - and the colder the better! Bump actually tried for a while and then passed the job over to me to get it where the cookies could be cut out.

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But, that job he was not going to relinquish to me! No, there is not much dough there for him to work with, but after we cut those out, we re-roll and do it again... and again... I think that is what makes it fun for him and he is ready for some other things to play after filling one pan!

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After cutting out the shapes, we put them on a parchment paper lined baking pan. Then I have some "paint" made up. I have tried several ways of making this, but find that this is the easiest if the end color doesn't matter a whole lot. This is about 2 Tablespoons of water with several drops - maybe a little squirt of liquid food color stirred in. NOW - if you have a counter top that will stain... beware!! I have them sitting in a little aluminum tray to toss when we are finished. I also make sure that the baking sheet is right up next to and over the edge of my rolling/cutting mat. So any drips will be kept off of my counter... in theory. There always seems to be a stray drip somewhere! Time and bleach water usually make them disappear.

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A basting brush dipped in the "paint" makes colorful cookies. Yes, we were going to make Xs and Os, but as you can see... Ns snuck there way in! Remember we live in Nebraska... we always seem to make  "Go Big Red" Ns!! It would have been nice if Bump used some red paint for the Ns instead of blue... we'll work on that another week!!

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He used blue sprinkles - just the small kind often used on Christmas cookies.

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Into the oven they go ... 350 degrees for 11 minutes! Just until the bottoms start to brown. Now, the smaller sized cookies could have come out a few minutes sooner, but they were not ruined by the extra 2 minutes. The larger cookies are around a 3 inch size and the smaller ones are closer to 1 1/2 inch cookies.

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Out of the oven, puffed up and delicious!!! These didn't last long... good thing I had quite a bit more dough to make cookies to take over the weekend!

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Cut-Out Sugar Cookie Dough

Mix the following:
3/4 c. butter
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Combine the following dry ingredients and combine with the wet (or add part of the flour and then the salt and powder followed by the rest of the flour):
2 1/3 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder

Chill until hard. Roll out on floured surface to 1 cm thick. Cut out shapes. Bake at 350 degrees for 11 minutes (for 3 inch cookies) or 9 minutes (for 1 1/2 in cookies) OR until bottoms of cookies are barely browning.

UPDATE: I went on the hunt to purchase some more of these "rolling sticks" to send to my friend, Jessica, and discovered that I was incorrect. The balsa wood sticks are far to soft to use. Please use instead "Basswood" sticks and hobby stores sell them 24" X 3/8" X 3/8" and I cut mine down to 12" lengths. They are sold in the department where you would purchase things for making model airplanes and cars. Hope this helps in YOUR search!!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Working With Pops

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A little "selfie" on the road on the way to "work with dad day"!!
Pops had to work out at the Nebraska State Fair last week at the Birthing Pavilion. Over the past couple weeks, he has had more time working closer to home and has taken kids with him. Bud went on a specimen (a nice veterinary and scientific way to say cow poop) collection day, Branch headed to a conference with him and yesterday Blossom went to the fair.

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A fuel-up stop means Pops is up next for a quick pic!!
No one was very upset or felt left out in the morning. The temperatures were predicted in the upper 90s. We have been to MANY birthing pavilions at fairs across the country - I think quite possibly even this one in the past couple years. So, normally, we go, see the mamas ready to birth their babies... tomorrow. OR, they were born yesterday so, here - watch the video! Maybe it is, here are the newly hatched baby chicks - cute, eh? SO... not much action, even if we hang around for several hours. Pops had Blossom bring a few books and expected that she'd enjoy looking at the animals for an hour and then would draw and read the rest of the morning.

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Walking up to the Birthing Pavilion Building, they found this great sculpture. I'm glad it was too big to consider purchasing and tossing in the back of the van and bringing it home! - Just sayin'...
Wouldn't ya know... it was HER lucky day!! When they arrived in the morning one of the other helpers was a full-of-energy extension specialist for NE Vet Med. Right away Blossom was handed a scrub top for a uniform so that she could be official. (Pops told the gal, "THANKS for starting a war in my home!" The nice gal asked how many more children there were at home at sent home extra scrub tops for the other kids!)

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Starting off on the right "official" foot as Dr. Q Medicine Woman!
Her scrub top is a little on the big side, but with a little growth... AAAHHH!! No, stay small! We'll just call it a scrub mini-dress and wear it with leggings!! :)

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Behind the pens with the newest calf.
When Pops and Blossom arrived, a cow was actively in labor with her little calf. They didn't have to wait very long before the calf was born! Blossom was very excited and was standing close where she could watch and see it all - right next to a 73 year old woman who grew up on a farm and had never before seen a calf born as her dad always had shooed her and her sister into the house for being out there was "man's work"... WHAT?!?!!! Anyway, the woman and Blossom were having a great time watching and talking about how "mom is going to do this soon with OUR baby!" Oh, how I love the references to birthing cows....

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Right after the calf was born, Rachel (the extension specialist) asked Blossom what she thought the calf should be named! Blossom said, "Buckwheat" right away and they put all of the baby calf's important information up on the board with her new name! All within the first 30 minutes... a uniform, calf being born and getting to name the calf! NOT our typical experience at Birthing Pavilions!

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The piglets were a little older, but were fun for her to watch. And really, who couldn't love a piglet all pink and curly tailed!?! She watched them for a while before Rachel came over and made little girl dreams a reality!

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Would you want to hold one of those piglets? Hmmmm., let's see... Are we at the Nebraska State Fair today? Am I wearing a red scrub top? Do I have blonde hair? Am I an 8 year old girl? Uh, YES! She wanted to hold a piglet!!

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What is happening? She is starting to look all grown up!
Apparently, Blossom was the first person to hold one of the piglets and not get tons of squealing out of it. This little piglet just calmly settled into her arms and enjoyed being babied a bit!

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Dairy cow & heifer calf pen in foreground of picture, Beef cow and bull calf pen in background.
Rachel and Blossom went into the Beef Cow pen and sat with the mama and bull calf in the straw talking about the animals for a while. There were lots of questions from the public and since she had an official scrub top on, Blossom was asked lots and lots of questions about animals!

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Some kind of special treatment going on at the Birthing Pavilion, I'd say!

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Pops was excited for her and all the neat experiences she was having. Lots of interesting things to keep her busy and that dreaded "I'm BOOORRRED" phrase never had a chance that day! She did snag the phone again to get a picture of Pops! Even in all that heat, they stayed cool in the building with great air conditioning and wonderful ventilation to let some of the stale smell out!

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Front row seating right up next to the pens!
When Rachel had to answer questions with the public or tend to other duties there was a little stool to sit on and watch the babies and their mamas.

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I have to think that it was a pretty good day for dad and daughter! Of course, I sat and listened to all of Blossom's stories about her fun time. I asked if she was glad Pops had woke her up early to tag along. She said that she had been wondering if there was going to be a day that she was going to get to go with Pops just like Bud and Branch had. So, she was glad that she got to go. BUT, she was really hoping that her trip with Pops would involve a visit to a bowling alley. OH - I see. 'Cause lots of veterinary work gets done at a bowling alley... right?!?!!