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!
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