Saturday, December 31, 2011

Gingerbread Cowboys

Two posts in one day - After the Cranberry Sour Cream Pound Cake, this is our favorite Christmas baked good. I've been making these forever too. By the time I got around to taking a photo, all the good ones were gone, but these will have to do. I recruited a few elves who were new to the process of decorating. I'm fairly certain y'all have already packed away all things Christmas, but I wanted to sneak these in under the wire before we move into the new year. These are great with a good cup of coffee and the men seem to always  get a kick out of them. I should probably make them for the crew sometime, even if it's not Christmas.

Here's the recipe I use, but you can just use whatever recipe your family likes. I double this:

1 C margarine, softened (I rarely have margarine, so I generally use unsalted butter which may explain why the dough is a little dry. Just sprinkle a few tsp of water over it - were all about making things work around here)
1 C packed brown sugar (you can use dark brown if you like)
1/2 C dark molasses
4 C flour
2 1/2 tsp ginger
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda

*Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in molasses. Combine remaining ingredients. Gradually mix into butter-sugar-molasses. Roll out dough in portions between wax paper and freeze for about 30 minutes. This allows the dough to firm up before cutting out the shapes and it helps to keep the shape while baking. Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes. Cool and frost. I mix up Wilton's Royal Frosting:

3 Tbsp Meringue Powder
4 C powdered sugar
6 Tbsp warm water

Wishing you and yours a New Year filled with blessings!

A White Christmas in the Desert

It began to snow on the evening of the 22nd. Here it is December 31st and we still have some snow. We ended up with 10" in the middle of the pastures and 15" in the yard. DH says measuring in the yard does not give an accurate measurement. :) I am a white Christmas kinda gal and it was great

, but I now realize that my day dream of living in a little log cabin in Montana or Alaska, while still living in Texas because I LOVE Texas, probably wouldn't be very realistic and an entire winter covered in snow does not make for fun ranching.

 This kind of weather is hard on livestock. We've had a rough year as it is with no rain and extreme temperatures that fluctuated from -17° to 117°, we are hoping 2012 will be a bit kinder. With 10" of snow, the cattle can't get to feed and with 200 sections, we can't get to all the cattle. DH hauled hay to what he could.

When it started to thaw a few days ago, he would drive around to feed in the mornings and ride horseback, checking things in the afternoon. Thankfully it did not get crazy cold and we didn't have ice everywhere. I did my part by keeping the feathered critters fed:

And our canines are thankful for a fresh bed of hay:

And broken ice:

We really wanted to take the kids skiing, but there was no way DH could get away.

On Christmas Eve, he and DD went to feed and he called. His transmission line broke so DS and I loaded up transmission fluid and the funnel and plowed his way.

Poor guy threw down a tarp and lay in the snow fixing his line:

The road between towns (72 miles) was closed.

The kids turned the situation into a bit of fun until Dad finished mechanic-ing:

I think these 2 have missed each other:

When DS is sweltering in Afghanistan, I will send him these pictures and hopefully they will make him smile:

Back to work:

Since we didn't get to go skiing, we improvised:

This was on the 23rd. It snowed for 2 days after this:

The phone rang again on Christmas day. Christmas day or not, ranchers are on call and DH got stuck while feeding:

So we plowed through the snow once more and pulled him out.


 The White Christmas was nice, but we're kind of ready for it to disappear now and praying that it'll be a sign of a wet spring and green grass. We'll be mudding around for a while though.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Cranberry Sour Cream Pound Cake and a Thank You

better known at Jesus' Birthday Cake around here!

This is our most treasured recipe. I have been making it since 1995 when I found it in an old issue of Ladies Home Journal. Years ago, my MIL and I had a few subscriptions to different magazines and we would save back issues and share them with each other when we saw each other. The first time I made this, our son was 5 and our daughter was 2 and I thought it sounded like a good cake to make to celebrate Jesus' birthday. I don't rightly recall where the idea came from, but it stands to reason that if we are celebrating His birthday He should have a cake. And as much as we celebrate Santa and all the holiday trappings, I really wanted to have a separate, special tradition for the REAL reason we celebrate Christmas here at the end of the dirt road. I remember how absolutely-crazy-excited the kids were about it that first year...and every year.  Birthday's were super special and this one was the most special of all!

I only make this cake once a year and it is always, always the one thing we most look forward to making.

Cranberry Sour Cream Pound Cake

3 c flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 c butter, softened (no substitutes)
2 c sugar, divided
1 Tbsp grated orange peel
6 large eggs separated
1 c sour cream
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 c fresh or frozen cranberries, coarsely chopped (I just chop mine in half)

Preheat oven to 350. Grease large bundt pan. (I was thinking of replacing mine because it is looking a tad disheveled, but the ones I have seen are smaller and I don't think they would hold this batter. The kids also told me that a new pan was not allowed. It MUST be made in THIS pan). Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in medium-sized bowl. Beat butter in a large bowl until creamy. Gradually beat in 1 3/4 c sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in orange peel. Add egg yolks one at a time. Beat in sour cream and vanilla. At low speed, gradually beat in flour mixture until just combined. Beat egg whites at medium speed in a clean bowl with clean beaters until foamy. Slowly add remaining 1/4 c sugar, and continue beating until soft peaks form. Fold 1/2 of the egg whites into batter, then fold in remaining egg whites. Gently, fold in cranberries. Spoon into prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour 10 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool  on baking rack for 15 minutes.

Our Marine son and college daughter are home for Christmas and we are over the moon excited about it so I won't be spending much time around the computer until after the New Year, but I wanted to take this time to thank each and every one of you for taking the time to read here and visit with me. It truly warms my heart to get to know you via this medium and I greatly appreciate your kind comments as well as the warm conversations and friendships that follow. You make me wish that the miles were not so far between us, but this is the next best thing to chatting over a mug of coffee and warm fresh cookies from the oven. Thank you so much for your wonderful surprise packages that have brought treasured pieces of you into our home. Your kindness and generosity have brought, and continue to bring smiles to my heart.

Wishing you and yours a very Blessed Christmas and May His presence bring you great peace and joy and comfort in the coming New Year!

Much love,
A very thankful and blessed Dirt Road Girl

Sunday, December 18, 2011

And the Reindeer Goes To...

Early this morning I woke up Mr. Random Number Generator and asked him to choose a winner because if I had my way, I would be making 90+  more reindeer and I'm afraid that the Whopper shelves are bare. He chose:

#32! -One of these days I will figure out how to get that little box on my blog!
Congratulations Kerrylynn!

Your little package is all boxed up and ready to head your way as soon as you drop me an email and send me your address!

 I have to thank each and every one of you for chiming in. It was so much fun reading everone's comments and I've now got quite few  fabulous new things added to my baking list!

Blogland was a virtual giveaway mecca this past week! I hope y'all enjoyed the hopping. I have a few things to share from giveways, but I haven't taken photos yet so I'll get back to you on that. I can however, say that I have been doing the Snoopy Dance. It entertains DH.  Y'all are incredibly generous!

One kiddo arrived yesterday and the other one showed up this evening...can you say excited?! Praising God that we are all under the same roof tonight! Now that my baking buddies are home, the baking can commence so if you happen to be in the area and you see a hazy cloud of flour and powdered sugar on the horizen, you are getting close.

I also want to welcome all of my new followers! Y'all just tickled me plumb to pieces! I know how busy everyone's lives are and I am honored that y'all would want to spend a few of those minutes with me. I probably will be quite scarce until after the New Year. We'll have a housefull with people coming and going. Lots of washing of sheets will be taking place and I want to spend every possible minute with the kids while they are here. Our son will only be here for 2 weeks before he heads back to Camp Pendelton.

So I want to wish each of you a very Merry Blessed Christmas:

 May you make time to savor the precious  moments in each and every day and celebrate the gift of Christ's birth amidst the busy-ness. Love and hugs to all of you!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Caution: Reindeer Ahead (Blog Hop Giveaway!)

This giveaway is now closed. Thanks so much!

Blog Hop Party with Give-Aways

Yay! It's time! It's time! I'm so excited!  There are an awful lot of fun bloggers showing up at this party on the 10th and every one of them is giving something away. There will be over 250 blogs to hop to so get your hoppin' boots on! The first day this Blog Hop Giveaway was announced, I jumped in and signed up. Then I began to contemplate. Hmmm...
What should I give away? So I sorted...and stitched...and strung...and pulled...and dug...and glued. I wanted to give away all sorts of things. Then I needed a bigger box. LOL.

So, I settled on this:

I hope you'll like him. I've been making these for 14 years now. At least a dozen grace my buffet for giving every year.

I keep thinking I've given these to everyone I know and then each year, new people pop up. :)
Yikes! That's a lot of reindeer... and a lot of reindeer droppings.

 Yep. This little guy is not house trained, but I hope you'll welcome him anyway. LOL. He will arrive in this little gift bag which is the brainchild of Jeni .

accompanied by this little snowman who is covering up a giant Hershey Bar:

I'm thinking the fact that a candy bar will be hanging around here for an entire week without being devoured is some kind of record. He's the creation of Laurie Furnell and I am smitten with them.

Do I have any takers?
No rules. You don't even have to be a follower although I would love it if you were. Just leave me a comment and tell me what is your favorite Christmas baked good? If you haven't blogged about it, maybe you will and then I could hop over and add a scrumptious new recipe to my cookbook. :)

 My list is long and I would be hard pressed to choose just one, but the Birthday Cake for Jesus and the gingerbread cowboys probably get top billing.

 One year we moved between Christmas and New Years. We never have movers although one time we splurged and rented a Uhaul. Horse trailers are generally our mode of transporation. (Insert Beverly Hillbillies here.)  It was 5 hours one way and we made the trip 4 times that week with 20" of snow on the ground. We moved into a house where the heat didn't work and the water heater left us 3 minutes of hot water, but that's a rabbit trail for another day.

Needless to say, it didn't leave much time for baking and we were sad. My inlaws met us when we drove through town and my dear MIL loaded us up with Christmas candy and cookies. It was 3 pm, we hadn't eaten, and we proceeded to make ourselves sick in the parking lot of Paul's Vet Supply while the men visited and we raided the Cool Whip containers. LOL.

This giveaway will remain open until Saturday, December 17th and I'll announce the winner on the 18th.

Thanks so much for dropping by and y'all come back now, ya' hear?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Kicking off December or "I Can't Share That Yet"

December 1st brought us our first storm of the season and snow is forecasted for tomorrow. That's good news after the scorching, dry year we had. Moisture of any kind will be welcomed with open arms and the cold air will be greeted with a cup of hot cider and a cozy quilt. Hoping the wind that they are forecasting does not materialize though. 60-70 mph means the dirt will be flying. Oops! Too late!

More good news. The 1st round of the National Finals Rodeo is on tonight. 10 days of good horses and great competition. I'm ready. This year's NFR will find me stitching the binding on Christmas presents that you won't get to see until after they are delivered, but I spent part of the morning pulling fabrics for one of them:

I'm stitching up something  extra to send to my seam-ripper-giveaway-winner, but I can't show you that yet either.

I made some 4-patches and got them in the mail for Regina's 4Patches4Hope project:

I'm working on another giveaway too. They are so much fun! Can't share that yet either, but I'll announce it on the 10th and I'm joining in on the fun over here:

I want to share something , but everything's under lock and key this time of year.

My Scrappy Western Many Trips blocks are on the back burner until after the first of the year. Half of them are complete. I'm hoping it'll be my first finish of the new year.

I'm eager to get back to my abandoned Granny Squares quilt too so today I did dust that off and sew up a few blocks just so it wouldn't think I had forgotten it. I can share that!
My ongoing-longterm-hexagon project is...ongoing:

I opened the box the other day to add a few more stitched pieces and was surprised to see how many there were:

I'm planning on making Bonnie Hunter's Hexagon Medallion Quilt in blues and browns and I laid some out a while ago just to get a feel for it:

I hope I still like blue and brown when I finish. Right now it makes me grin.

I hope that y'all are enjoying the "Most Wonderful Time of the Year" and finding peace amidst the hustle and bustle. I know that your lists are long and that time is short, but I hope that you will make time to "Be still and know." It's so easy to get caught up in the busy-ness of this world and then we miss the most amazing everyday moments that God truly wants to bless us with. I'll be repeating that daily as a reminder to myself.

Gotta run. The NFR is calling!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

And the Seam Ripper Goes to...

Oh my goodness! Y'all are so much fun! I loved all of your comments. Thank you so much for sharing them with me! Makes me wish our children were still young because there are so many traditions I want to add! It's hard to choose just one favorite tradition because like, y'all I am sure there are many.

One of the other things we did was let the kids sleep under the Christmas tree the first night we put it up. It's a tradition my friend, Amy, shared with me years ago and we adopted it. It was always so fun to pull out the sleeping bags and string popcorn and cranberries in our pj's.

Another favorite tradition is baking Jesus' Birthday Cake. It's always the same cake and it's the only time we ever bake it. We sang Happy Birthday to Jesus and blew out candles. If we spent Christmas at Grandparents' homes, I took the cake with us.

I also want to welcome my new followers. I'm so excited that y'all actually read my little blog. I guess this is the modern day equivilant of gathering together for coffee and cake. Makes me want to bake something, but then I would be sad because no one actually shows up. So thank y'all for taking the time to stop in and listen to me chatter.

Time to reveal the winner of the seam ripper! I'm so excited. Honestly, I am writing this Tuesday night and waiting for midnight so I can close the giveaway and find out who wins. It's actually after midnight, but I'll give you west-coasters your extra hour. LOL. I'm not a night owl and it'll be a short night, but I told you I was excited. :) But, it's 12:20 and I'm fading fast and sleeping in is not an option.

Yep. Sure enough, I fell asleep so I am dragging my feet this morning and viewing the world through bleary eyes. However, the magic random number generator is bright eyed and bushy tailed and it cheerfully popped out the winning number:


I have got to figure out how to post that little box.

Barbara said:

Hm. My favorite Christmas tradition is seeing all the old ornaments on the tree that have been in the family for years. Each one takes me back to a special memory. Also setting out the ceramic nativity my grandmother made for me. The date on the first piece (baby Jesus) is 1965. I still have all the pieces and none are chipped or broken. I hope this stays in my family long after I'm gone. It's very special to me.

Congratulations Barbara! What a treasure you have in the nativity your Grandmother made for you. I've sent you an e-mail to let you know that the seam ripper will be headed your way!

Thanks to all of you!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Avoiding Black Friday with a Giveaway

This Giveaway is Now Closed. Thanks so much for your comments!

 So, how many of y'all are out fighting the crowds?! Better you than me. Ugh. I may be missing out on all the deals, but I have a hard enough time going to town on a normal day. The day after Thanksgiving? I'm digging a deeper hole and taking my Thanksgiving leftovers with me. No thank you. I'm not a shopper and no amount of 'don't miss this hot buy' can convince me otherwise. (Insert shiver here.) However, I hope that y'all find everything you are looking for and that everyone arrives back home unscathed.

I'm hoping that y'all had a wonderful Thanksgiving that included all the things, and people, that bring you joy. Ours was almost perfect. Our daughter is home and it is such a joy to hear her infectious laughter and see her  sweet smile. The only thing missing is our son who is in Camp Pendleton. We did get to visit with him on the phone and he drove north to a friend's house where they cooked a turkey. So at least he's not eating in the mess hall on base. He'll be home for Christmas though and we're counting the days! This is the first holiday we haven't all be together so it was odd, but we're so proud of our Marine and we are abundantly blessed.

So, in honor of my avoidance of Black Friday, I am having a giveaway. I have been hearing and reading about these new seam rippers from Mighty Bright.
 I have had my one and only seam ripper for 20 years that came with my $75 Kenmore sewing machine. I am so proud of the fact that I haven't lost it. These days it seems I spend much of my time hunting down my glasses, but by golly I know where my seam ripper is.

 I ordered a couple of these seam rippers and one of them is for one of you! At first it felt a bit awkward in my hand because I'm just so used to my old standby and I'm a creature of habit, but it's really very comfortable and I am amazed at how much the magnification helps. Apparently I've been using the 'stab and hope I catch the thread' method. This seam ripper has a very handy LED light that also makes me think I've been ripping with less than adequate light.

The years are beginning to catch up with me.

So, who wants a fun, helpful, new notion to help you get all of those sewing projects completed?
 I hope you'll be doing more sewing than ripping, but we all know that it's inevitable and somewhere down the line, unsewing will be required. I would love to send it to you so just leave me a comment and tell me  your favorite Christmas Tradition.

I know, it's hard to pick just one. One of the things we did when the kids were young was wrap 12 Christmas books and 12 days before Christmas, we would unwrap one each night and cuddle up to read. I kept them in a wooden chest in the living room and being the bookworms that we are, it wasn't long before we had 24 and we were reading 2 each night, always saving the story of Christ's birth for Christmas Eve.

I know y'all are all busy with family and friends so I'm going to keep this open until midnight Tuesday night. Mr. random number generator will choose a winner on Wednesday morning. It should be safe to come out of my burrow by then. Please make sure you leave me an email address if you are a non-reply blogger or I will be unable to contact you. Thanks so much and while y'all are out braving the crowds, I will be spinning Christmas music and dragging out the decorations.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sew Not Ready for Christmas

 I like Christmas as much as the next person, in fact, I love it, but I'm in the 'no Christmas until the day after Thanksgiving' camp. It just makes me shake my head to see Christmas trees and ornaments hanging in store aisles in August. The first week in November I do not want to be inundated with Christmas Carols when I walk into the grocery store. Makes me sound like a grinch, but really, I'm not. The day after Thanksgiving I am decking the halls and belting out Amy Grant's "Christmas Can't be Very Far Away" while I'm slinging omelettes. But don't jingle those sleigh bells in my face until I have put away the leftover turkey.

However, I'm a crafter. I sew and quilt and like to make things as gifts and waiting until after Thanksgiving to start making said gifts just doesn't cut it. I thought I had it handled, but y'all keep posting cute projects and tutorials and making me add things to my list. I've already repeated the 'Next year I'm going to start on Christmas gifts in January'...multiple times. You know y'all have said that too. I'm trying to avoid the stress of getting it all done. I suppose its unavoidable. Some people thrive on it. I am not one of those people. I'm a list maker and it works pretty well for me...until I start adding things to the November.

So I've been furiously making pot holders...and table runners...and gift bags...and gathering supplies for a herd of reindeer. And the only thing I can share with you are these 2 drawstring bags I made for the 2 darling children I made the pillowcases for in my last post because they are not for Christmas:

Aren't they the cutest things?! The little boy likes Curious George and his sister loves dance class. I couldn't resist these monkeys:

The dancer fabric has glitter on it and it just made me smile and think of sweet Katy. It wouldn't make a very good pillowcase, but it makes the perfect gift bag! The first photo is a better representation of the color. Don't know why this one is so wonky:

Jeni posted this wonderful tutorial on her blog, Color Order, and I had to make a couple. Then I REALLY fell in love with them after making them and went a little wild. I cut out 8 more and started sewing them. Thank you for sharing this Jeni! I'm hooking up with the Sew Darn Crafty Party over at Sew Many Ways. So hop on over there this week and see what everyone else is up to, but don't blame me if you end up adding something else to your list! ;)

So for the time being, my Western Many Trips quilt and my wool quilt are sitting on the back burner while I'm sewing up a storm in an attempt to get ready for Christmas...before Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Proof That I Still Sew

 Sewing around here comes in spurts. Some days (or weeks) the closest I come to my sewing machine is when I dust it, but on others, I may actually get through an entire bobbin. Today was a good sewing day. I sewed through 4 bobbins! I don't remember that ever happening. I don't know when I last had to empty my scrap bucket, but today I did:

And this afternoon I took a peek under my bobbin case:

Yikes! It's been a while since I cleaned this out. Please don't report me to the sewing police.

I made 4 Stockings for Soldiers after seeing them here:

and just about have them filled. It was fun gathering stocking stuffers for them. These are quick to make and I'm already looking forward to making more for next year. It's a small way to let our military know how thankful we are for their service and sacrifice. I just need to write cards and a note and they will be ready to mail.

I stitched up 2 pillowcases for a dear family whose little girl is waiting for a heart. One for darling Katy and one for her sweet little brother:

Wedding Dress Blues posted these cute pot holders a few weeks ago and I had to make some. What a great way to use up scraps! This past weekend we went to the World Championship Ranch Rodeo and I stitched the binding on one pair on the drive to Amarillo:

I love this Texas print on the back:

And I used the same black print I'm using on the western quilt. I love it and am thinking I need an entire bolt. More pot holders are waiting to be bound.

The strips are stitched to muslin and there is a layer of warm and natural batting as well as a layer of insulbrite so they are thick and already hard at work in my kitchen.

I have a side story from our trip this weekend. There is a horse sale that takes place during the weekend and there was a memorial fundraiser for the young family of a man who died in a horse accident. Lots of great items were donated and auctioned off as well as a couple of horses. One of the horses was purchased for $5200 and donated back. He sold again for $4200 and was once again donated back. He sold a third time for $3800. Very cool.

I've also been working on my Western Many Scrappy Trips Quilt. I've got 26 of 110 blocks made:

With 20 more 'in progress'. I tossed a few on the bed and snapped a photo:

I'm a scrappy kind of gal so this makes my heart sing and I'm anxious to get this quilt top together.

These long winter evenings are perfect for hand stitching and I'm ready to start hand quilting on my wool quilt that I pieced last year:

 I'm thinking black perle cotton and am searching for a place that carries Presencia #8 unless anyone has any other ideas. I have no experience with wool, but just HAD to make this quilt.
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