Monday, August 22, 2011

Our Favorite Easy Lemon Cupcakes

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. (Take out your cream cheese and butter to soften to room temp for your frosting later... lay aside.)

Mix together:
•4 eggs
•1 package (2-layer size) lemon cake mix ( I like the Duncan Hines Supreme )
•1 package (4 serving size) instant lemon pudding mix
•3/4 cup water
•1/3 cup vegetable oil

 Bake at 350. Makes about a dozen and a half reg cupcakes. They take about twenty minutes, depending on your oven. Don't overbake don't want them looking brown around the edges..just bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. That way they will be nice and moist!  

After completely cool, frost with:

8 oz softened cream cheese
1/2  cup softened butter
2 drops of yellow food coloring (optional)
1 teas. of real lemon EXTRACT...NOT JUICE
1lb of powdered sugar... I start with this ant that's usually enough. Then I add a tiny bit of milk or half and half  until the right spreading consistancy ...if its to thin add sugar...too think a lil more milk or cream.

Pipe or spread the frosting on cupcakes ( I usually use way more than shown on this pic, you know what they say go big or go home ha.)  Top with large crystaline sugar, lemon candy or fresh lemon rind.

These cupcakes are really easy, super moist and yummy!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Where's Mike?

           Where was that Mike guy from the TV show dirtiest jobs, when I was a kid? Some of the jobs we had at the Stave farm was material enough for Mike to show up, and give it a try.
Mike Rowe from Dirtiest Jobs

             First of all, how would you like to dump horse urine jugs (old Hilex jugs) into a bigger barrel for your chores? Taking a shot to the eye or lip was pretty bad and it was almost a daily thing! The only people, who probably smelled worse than us, were the kids that milked cows before school, and there were plenty of them too. All so some women could prevent child birth somewhere, or quell hot flashes…crazy thought!
Cultivating in an 806, a far cry from the machinary used today!

               I cultivated fields and never minded that so much, even though it was a very dirty job, because you had to hand pump fuel first. Back and forth, back and forth but it wasnt too bad because I had a cab on the tractor, a good radio, and I just drove around and around being careful of wet spots so as not to get stuck,  and sang to the radio all day. Sonny was fussy about how I finished the corners and rode with me until I knew how to do it right.  I was supposed to go only so fast, with the cultivator sunk in so deep. I will admit now that when I knew I was out of the range of the road or the house, where I couldn’t be seen, I lifted the cultivator a little so the tractor went faster when it wasn’t pulling so hard. Being a kid I didn’t think about the fuel I was burning just to skim the ground and not kill weeds etc. But gosh darn it… a Sat night date took some getting ready, and I wanted to get done!
water jug with the drinking spout like we had

             A job I hated was being dumped off in a field with a water jug and a Twinkie or two or three with little bales as far as you could see. Sonny was our older brother and the “foreman” in charge of Kathy and me.  He’d say,” I’ll be back and check on you later”.  The first thing we’d do is take the little cap off the drinking spout on our dirty old red and white drinking thermos and have a slurp of water. Then to gear up for this monumental task we’d break into our lunch and eat one of the Twinkies.  Jeeze, it’s quiet out here, we’d say to each other…only a few bees, horseflies and “piss ants (as Sonny called them)” buzzing around...maybe an occasional dragon fly. Time to start six packing, I guessss… and we never wanted to disappoint him or Mom!  Dragging six bales together we made six packs consisting of three bales rolled on their sides and lined up beside each other, then two bales the other way on top of those, covering the cracks so rain didn’t run in, topped off with one bale on the top. If we were lucky there were no pink baby mice under the bales, or any mothers around either! Seemed like forever before Sonny came and got us again with our empty lunch bucket and warm water jug!

Wheel travel on the road you had to lift the rake wheels and hook a chain to keep them raised!

              Raking hay wasn’t a bad job, probably my favorite unless it was really hot,  except no cab made it dusty.  Sonny would have mowed the hay days earlier, and when it had dried it was ready to be raked and baled. I would usually rake and he would bale at the same time on the same field, and it was nice having him in the field with me, I liked having him going a few rows away. He liked to follow the rake to be assured the hay in rows didnt get rained on which can make for moldy hay. The big tines on the rake would pull the hay into windrows and then he could come along with the baler and feed it into the baler. The baler would spit out bales one at a time. He usually drug another contraption along called a"bale buncher" that after six would get in the bale buncher, he could pull the rope and release them. That was a neat invention for us sixpackers, as then there were six already there we just had to stack em. Every once in a while when I was raking,  I would accidently leave a windrow on top of a rock I hadn't seen, and he would hit it with the baler! Then I’d hear Sonny cussing over the sound of his radio! The worst part of raking was lifting the reels up to travel. Sometimes I remember crying out there because I couldn’t get them and I was hot and dirty. Usually a good cry boosted my strength somehow, and I got them raised so I could travel home on the road with the rake. They were never happy with us if we unhitched and came home with just the tractor.

A good feeling to have a field all raked and neat!

           I never mowed, baled or hauled bales. Mom hired bale haulers, and I drove the tractor and bale wagon from six pack to six pack that Kathy and I had made. Depending on whether the bale haulers she hired were cute or not, was the deciding factor as to whether this was technically a dirty job or not. Kerry was one she hired, so I was more than willing to drive tractor that year!

This is not our farm house but the upstairs windows were high like this

            Another dirty job I hated on the farm after our Dad passed away, was putting the screens or storm windows on the upstairs windows of the house. Mom was scared of heights so she didn’t want to do it, and neither did we.  We didn’t trust Sonny to give us a smooth ride or lift because he was always trying to scare us.  First, he’d always have to give us a wild fast ride right up to the house while we were in the bucket trying to hold on to a glass window! He’d drive fast right up to the house so it looked like you may crash right into the house! Next he’d raise the bucket lifting us up, as high as that bucket could reach. The hydraulics lifting the bucket were shiny even, because they rarely got extended that high! Of course the windows or screens(this was a twice a year job no less!) never went right on either…they always seemed swollen and didn’t want to fit. After listening to Sonny yell over the tractor at us about how to do it, and worrying he was going to give us a wilder ride if we didn’t get it on, finally we snapped the final snap and the windows were on! Praise the Lord the window was on!   Then Sonny would drop us straight down with the speed of a crashing elevator and stop abruptly about a foot from the ground. Legs shaking we’d crawl out of the bucket happy to be alive. He’d be laughing his evil brother giggle and his I scared you laugh, which he delighted in.  I think Kathy did that dirty job more than I did, because after a time or two I developed a fear of heights too, I’m no dummy!

Tractor and bucket like the one Sonny lifted us to the windows with..

            The job of rounding up a hundred and forty horses from two pastures with just two kids on horseback, and Sonny in an old blue pickup truck had to be a daunting task after Dad died.  Sonny would catch the stallions and lead them home one at a time, with his arm out the window of his old blue Chevy truck. The stallions would be pawing and striking and acting crazy the whole way, especially our appalosa stallion Hot Moccasins. If we had any visitors that day, or later any brother in laws Sonny had, they would get to hold the stallion out the passenger side and he’d laugh his evil laugh all the way home because he loved scaring the heck out of someone! Once the stallions were in Kathy and I would go after the horses. Keep in mind rounding up horses are not like herding cows…they can out run your horse some of them, and try to every chance they get!   Kathy and I would ride one on each side of the herd of mares with their colts, and Sonny would sit in his blue Chevy truck on a hill at some cut off point, and bang on the door and yell out instructions. If they got by us  then he'd call us names out of pure frustration!  At the time that seemed like the end of the world if they got by us.  I’m not talking bad about Sonny but that’s just how it went ( and this blog is only my perspective).  He had a temper and would get mad if they got around us and we were just kids doing adult work.  Mom and Phyllis and later Leslie and Shannon would come out and stand in strategic places. Mom was always ready with opening the gates etc, and she'd run anywhere she could on foot to help out. She was always a nervous wreck those round up days and I can see why now. What a monumental task every fall!

          If one in the herd started to get away from us, the whole bunch would go and we’d have to ride wide open over the hills, dodging gopher holes and praying all the while that your beloved horse doesn’t step in one and break his leg, or fall with you. Clark fell on me one time when we came over a side hill and he lost his footing. He fell on me and was up faster than he fell almost! I didn’t get hurt much, a twisted ankle is all. The amazing part to Kathy and me now when we talk about our young lives, is just how young we were, and how hard we tried to please Sonny and we had a real resolve to help Mom and Sonny carry on after Dad died. Somehow we always got the horses in… the quarter horses first then we’d go back for the appaloosas.  The colts were separated from the mothers next, and that involved some fancy gate work for Mom ha! We were quite the ranch hands at twelve and ten and on over the years, if i say so myself.

           The winter weather was another challenge. Sometimes the roads would blow shut and we would have to haul hay to the barn with a horse on the toboggan walking along side it in waist deep snow. Can we say exhausting? After Sonny moved over into the yard that was better because he was there to keep hay in the barn.
               There were a lot of dirty jobs on a farm, but I’m glad I grew up there. When I was eighteen I was ready to move to town. I left home after I graduated in 1973, but still came home when it was time to bring the horses in in the fall. Still today, I like to visit the solitude of the farm yet but I prefer to live in town where it doesn’t seem so desolate. The perfect combination is a house in town with animal privileges.  That’s the best of both worlds for me.

Sonny and Brendon

               Sonny was killed in a car accident when I was twenty eight.That was a shock and a huge blow to our family. He was a quiet guy, a reader of Louis LaMoure books, not one for public functions. If he’d had a few beers he was so funny, he could have been a comedian! He had the best sense of timing and came up with a funny answer to everything. He was a sensitive guy, a thinker, a worrier, but didn't let that show much. He was so handsome! Our Dad's passing had left him with a huge responsibility when he was only in his early twenties. He had his own little family to take care of, as well as a mother and two little sisters he felt responsible for besides, and he was really. He never really had a choice about what he wanted to do with his life. He just had it all dumped in his lap which had to be over whelming for him! He was under alot of pressure and I really I miss him. Sometimes I almost can’t remember his voice, or that laugh when he was pushing somebody’s buttons unless I dream about him. In dreams he’s exactly how he was. We were blessed to have him, and I wish he would have lived long enough to enjoy his grandkids because he loved kids and kids loved him. He was a dog lover too and always had his black lab Pepper, with him everywhere he went.


              We had some dirty jobs which Mike could have made a show out of, but today when I can fix my own pool pump, and take care of my own house hold issues, many times I think, “thank God I’m a country girl, because I would not have survived if I wasn’t”!  They were dirty jobs but you know what they say about dirty jobs... someone’s got to do it!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Dozen of My Favorite Movies

         What makes some movies stick with you for days, weeks, or make your list of favorite movies?  I saw The Help last night, and while it won’t make my list of my favorite movies it certainly is in my mind yet today, and had a lot to say about racism. I liked it very much.  Although a discussion about best movies can go on forever,  these are my top favorites.
1.  My very favorite movie of all time is Dirty Dancing! I was already a huge fan of Patrick Swayze from the mini-series The North and the South. I had no idea he was a dancer until I saw that movie. I remember seeing the movie and feeling high the whole way home. I wanted to watch it again and again! I was pregnant with Sydney at the time - 1988. I think I dragged everyone I knew to see it in the theater with me, and later watched it every day almost once it came out on VHS tape. In hindsight it was a diversion I used to me to keep from worrying about Sydney’s upcoming birth,  and the possibility of having post-partum depression, like I had after Shelbeys'  birth. I do that when I’m worried about something…create a diversion and a movie has always been a great way to escape for me. If I get mad  I’ve been known to storm out of the house and go to a movie. If one movie doesn’t change my state of mind I’ll go to another and by then I’m ready for sleep for sure.The next day everything is a little clearer, and I am ready to tackle the real world I checked out of a few hours, and a bag of popcorn ago!

2.  My second favorite movie is Planes Trains and Automobiles. I am a huge fan of John Candy; he starred in some great movies, such as The Great Outdoors, and Uncle Buck- but  I watch Planes, Trains and Automobiles almost every Thanksgiving. It is funny yes,  but more than that is a good lesson about prejudging people and  remembering what the holiday season is all about.

            3. Who doesn’t love The Notebook…romance, romance and more romance? Ryan Gosling is my favorite young actor, and he has done many good films. I’m still waiting for him to receive nominations and attention he should get. He was in Lars and the Real Girl, Half Nelson and Blue Valentine just recently. I go to anything he’s in just because he’s in it! Some actors play themselves in every role and Ryan Gosling is a different person in almost all of them.

4.  Parenthood I find so true to life, because it covers all the aspects of parenting that can really wear you down on a daily basis, and yet ends with such poignantcy concerning what life be like if not for all the chaos, and the love children bring.  

5.  I liked both the Father of the Bride I and II. Steve Martin was such a natural for those roles along with Dianne Keating, and I loved the story and I decided at the time I want the house in that movie in my next life!  Oh, and let’s not forget the feel good ending!

6.  Saved has a storyline is one that most of us have witnessed. Sometimes those who profess Christianity the most – seem to need the most saving. I loved this movie!

7.  Dan in Real Life is a movie I watched more than once, saw more than once in theaters, and laughed every single time! I loved that movie and the piano song about the girl with the pig nose just before the double date,  was hilarious!

8.  The Three Amigos was so funny in a silly kind of way back in the day.  I made Sydney watch that one a few months ago, and she liked it too even if she really didn’t want to admit it! Wow, I’m sounding like a big Steve Martin fan here…. I don’t know if I really am or not, but I have liked a lot of his work for sure!

9.  Step Brothers is the only movie I have on my IPod.  Although I’m not a huge fan of Will Ferrell usually this one was funny and one of my favorites as well.

10. The Hangover was one of the funniest movies I’d seen in years! The dentist was  my favorite character. I didn’t find the Hangover II as funny but still liked it!

11. No Strings Attached was my favorite movie I saw last year. Ashton Kucher played quite the romantic!

12. I really liked much of Mel Gibson’s’ work over the years. His last movie was called The Beaver, and it did a good job of translating how being mentally ill affects both the person suffering with the illness and the family immensely.

My list could go on and on, with but these are the movies that come to my mind without a lot of thought or planning. As you can probably tell,  I don’t like scary movies. I don’t call sitting on the edge of my seat and being startled and tense entertainment! I love romantic “chic flicks” or something humorous.

           Part of living my best life this year, is making time for those two hour escapes at the movies, whether that’s at the theater, complete with the 1000 calorie popcorn, or in my living room under the ceiling fan and my electric throw. For those two hours, I lose myself in another life, in another time,  and have some mental rest and relaxation.

     So how about you too pull out a good movie, and plan some rest and relaxation, one of these nights? Everybody needs some down time. 


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Six Summer Favorites!

Check out my six favorite things this summer!

Sanuk yoga mat flip flops
 Try them, I say…I will not wear anything that is not comfortable and these are the best! Our whole family has them.

Keurig Coffee Pot
The little tea pods are about fifty cents apiece but such a treat! As a tea drinker there is no tea bag to mess with, and its ready in about a minute and just the right temp to drink!  They have great customer service as well!

 Case Logic SLRC-206 SLR Camera and 15.4-Inch Laptop Backpack
I hadn’t gotten a new camera case since the big kids were small. This one has room for everything! Lenses, extra cards, flash and even the tripod. If you have a bigger camera and take it traveling you’ll like it!

The Iphone
After having a droid for two years with nothing but trouble I love this phone! The applications are awesome and free!

Croc Flats
I love crocs, and the flats are cute, light and easy to travel with!

Scentsy Pots and Products

Scentsy has so many flameless pots and scents to make your home, car, locker or whatever you have smell great!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Random thoughts

       Have you ever had a thought that reoccurs over and over in your mind over the years?  I’m not OCD or anything so I don’t mean that kind of intrusive constant thoughts. But, for example, my Mother was very attached to the twenty third Psalm in the Bible. She pulled it up anytime she was really troubled, or someone died, or she feared for her own life. She told me while in childbirth when Sonny was born; the doctors kept giving her whiffs of chloroform from some kind of a mask. Shortly after the chloroform was administered she would see bright red and felt like it was flames or something. Frightened, she recited the twenty third Psalm to get through it. I thought I would share my reoccurring thoughts.  
       My main reoccurring thought comes from the Bible.  Mark 8:36 reads, “So what does it profit a man if you gain the whole world and lose your own life”.  If I am tempted be selfish or greedy, this verse always comes up. When I see examples of what greed has done to some people, I say to myself, see there…so what does it profit you if you gain the whole world but it’s morally wrong.  Is it there to keep me on the straight and narrow? It plays in my head all the time. I wonder why that reoccurs to me so often. When I know I’ll let you know ha.
       Another thought I have over and over, is the golden rule, “do unto others as you would have done unto you”.  Basically, it challenges me to behave toward others as I would like to have them behave toward me.  The golden rule is actually written in just about every important ancient book about behavior.  In the Bible, Matthew 7:12 says, “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets”.  The golden rule is also in the Talmud, the Koran, and the Analects of Confucius. It’s a basic human right and one I try to live by and stand up for.
        I always tell my kids “what goes around comes around”, which is a lot like the golden rule I guess, and probably why I like it.  I remember telling a particularly pushy Christian once in a casual conversation, that I believe in Karma, being “what goes around comes around”, and because that has  Buddhist roots, they looked at me like I just said, I am a loyal follower of Satan or something!
         I am affected by more than the Bible as to how I want to live my life; I’m affected by worldly things as well. A good movie can teach me something. Maybe I had never seen a point of view until the movie presents me with one and it sticks with me, changes me.  While reading books, I always keep a yellow highlighter with my book. I highlight what I want to remember, what impacts me. When I’m done reading the book, how much yellow is in the book is the deciding factor in whether I keep it or donate it or pass it on. Song lyrics are other peoples thoughts, and they influence me greatly as well. I’m known for pointing out clever lyrics to whoever will listen to me ha.
        After fifty five years on earth,  I still don’t have concrete answers about exactly what happens to us after death, about am I missing the heaven train if I can’t say I’m born again? Because I can’t, and the whole saved or not saved issue seems almost hoaxy to me.  If that offends anyone I’m sorry, I’m writing this from my own perspective.  If this makes me less Christian to say that, let God judge me.  Is it not enough to be taught to believe in God from the time you were a child, to just grow up believing. I don’t have a testimony because that’s it…I grew up in a Christian family who said our prayers, believed God was in control of the whole world.  I took literally almost everything I learned from the Bible, is it not enough to live your life as fairly, honestly and true to God and yourself that you can? I don’t know all the answers, well heck… I don’t know any answers really, but I do the best I can. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not lost spiritually, I don’t need  a “real Christian” knocking on my door or any of that, because I don’t think anyone could convince me they have the answers either. I’m content with my relationship with God and with everyone in my life. Is it perfect no, but it’s real, and it’s honest. I think it was Socrates that said an unexamined life is not worth living. I don’t know about that, it seems rather blissful for someone who thinks all the time…but at least you have some convictions to call your own.
         So about these reoccurring thoughts…I wonder, does everyone have them, or am I just a good listener?