Monthly Archives: June 2012

Uncle Mike’s Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

If you read my Father’s Day post, you know that I am not by nature a baker.  Oh my,  that rhymed.  I’m hilarious.

Anyway, in that post I told an account of the perfectly acceptable (canned) cinnamon rolls that the kids and I prepared for Desperate Hubby on Father’s Day morning.  And then of my eventual embarrassment when my baking skills (or lack thereof, actually) were eventually outed to our culinary-genius-beloved-next-door-neighbor Grandpa Vernon that same evening.

Desperate Hubby’s very sweet brother, known as Uncle Mike around our house, read of my plight on the blog and swooped in to the rescue.  Uncle Mike spent over twenty years as a professional baker here in the Treasure Valley, and he knows his way around a kitchen. 

My brother-in-law called Desperate Hubby and told him that he would be here at 8:00 sharp on Saturday morning to teach me and the kids how to make homemade cinnamon rolls.  I was thrilled. I got up early yesterday morning and went to work spiffying up the kitchen.

I had to make a quick batch of spinach dip for a barbecue later in the day, and I was just pushing the last of the leftover ends of green onions into the garbage disposal at about 7:30 when the dogs started barking and DH said “Mike’s here!”  Well crap, I wasn’t dressed, didn’t have on any makeup and I hadn’t even brushed my teeth.  Good thing I am the one taking the pictures, that’s all I have to say.

Uncle Mike came in and immediately took charge of the situation.  He was armed with two bags of supplies, and he lined them up neatly on the kitchen counter.


All of the usual suspects were involved.  They included:


Extra Light Olive Oil


White Sugar

Brown Sugar



There were a couple of other ingredients there too.  Very intriguing. 

They were:

3 lbs. of Fresh Made Doughnut Dough (Mike ordered this the night before from Paul’s Market, one of the last scratch-bakeries in our valley) and picked it up this  morning.

Doughnut Dough

and 2 lbs. of Doughnut Glaze, also picked up from Paul’s Market.


Mike got his helpers lined up on the breakfast bar so they could reach under the cabinets and help with preparations.  Our kitchen works perfectly for small helpers to participate.  As long as they don’t get too much bigger.

Avid Watchers

Mike started off by making “Caramel Smear” for the first dish, which was to be Cinnamon Pull-Aparts.  The ingredients of Caramel Smear are as follows:

1 C Brown Sugar

1 C White Sugar

1 Cube Butter

1 C Shortening

1/2 C Honey

A little water

I had to take Uncle Mike’s word for the exact measurements, because he just poured the pourable ingredients in until they looked right, then scooped the shortening out with his (freshly washed) hands and dumped it in the bowl. 

It was just like watching the cooking channel, right here in my little kitchen.

He let the kids get involved right away.  Annabelle poured the honey in until Uncle Mike said it looked right.

Annie Honey

Everyone watched avidly as he blended the ingredients with my mixer.

Everyone Concentrates

Then it was time to smear the Caramel Smear all over the non-stick bundt pan we were using for the pull-aparts.

Batman and Annabelle were in charge of that.  Of course, first they had to clean off the beaters.

LIcking Beaters

Then they smeared.

LIttle Hands Working

In a very surprising turn of events, Batman was completely grossed out by the sticky mixture on his hands, and quit smearing after only a few seconds to go spend ten minutes washing his hands.  As Annabelle said “Mom, how can a boy who likes to play in the mud so much not like to have his hands sticky?” 

I just said I didn’t know.

Batman is definitely multi-dimensional.

Dirty Batman Hands

Once the smear was completely smeared, Uncle Mike began cutting the doughnut dough into two- or three-inch pieces, and rolling them around in a little olive oil.

Uncle Mike Cuts Dough

Since Annabelle still had dirty hands, she started right in rolling the pieces of dough in a big heap of cinnamon and sugar that Uncle Mike had put on a cookie sheet.

Rolling Dough

Then Uncle Mike had her place them randomly in the smeared bundt pan.

Placing Pull Aparts

When Batman re-appeared from the bathroom with clean hands, Uncle Mike asked him if he wanted to help.  Batman answered with a resounding NO!  He didn’t want to get his hands dirty again.

Annabelle did a wonderful job of placing the pull-aparts in the pan.  This is what it looked like when it was all finished.  Yummy huh?

Stacked Pullaparts

In the meantime, Uncle Mike had pressed out the remainder of the doughnut dough into a big square with his fingers.  He didn’t need no stinkin’ rolling pin.  This dough would make the cinnamon rolls.

He drizzled a little olive oil over the top and rubbed it around, then he had Annabelle cover it with more of the cinnamon and sugar mixture.  Batman did climb up to watch this process, but he was very careful to keep his hands back from the action.

Annie Cinn Rolls

When Annabelle was all finished with the sugar mix, Uncle Mike started rolling up the dough for the rolls. Both kids helped with this, but Batman made sure he didn’t touch any more of the sticky parts than were absolutely essential.

Kids Roll Dough

When the dough was all rolled up, Uncle Mike cut it into inch-or-so thick slices.

Mide Cuts Rolls

When he cut the first one he held it up and guess what he said?  “Look, just like from the can!”  I said he was a nice guy.  He’s also a wise-ass.

The kids put the rolls neatly onto a baking sheet.  Sort of.

Batman Places Rolls

Uncle Mike put the rolls and the pull-aparts into my oven on the lowest temperature setting (for mine that was 170 degrees, and he turned it off once reached that temperature) to rise. 

The dough immediately started to plump up.  It smelled heavenly.

Dough Rises

After about 25 minutes, when the dough looked like this, Mike turned the heat up to 185 degrees. 

Then he cleaned up.  Everything.  Washed all the dishes.  Wiped down the counters.  For a wise-ass, he’s not a bad guy.

Mike Cleans Up

After about 15 minutes the cinnamon rolls were done.  They looked and smelled divine.

Following a little cooling time, Annabelle was recruited to glaze the rolls.  Uncle Mike simply put a little glaze in a small cup and let her pour it all around the top of the rolls. 

Annabelle Frosting Cinn

The finished product looked even better than the outside of the package of the canned cinnamon rolls I had made last week.

Finished Cinnamon Rolls

About ten minutes later, he pronounced the pull-aparts to be done as well, and pulled them out.  They looked great.

Baked Pullaparts

He turned the pan over and dumped them out, and the gooey sweet caramel smear ran all over the plate. 

I almost swooned.

Carmel Pullaparts

Batman got to do the honors with the glaze this time.  He was happy he could accomplish this without any collateral damage in the form of stick hands.

Batman Frosting

The finished pull-aparts swam in an ocean of sugary bliss.  The gooey caramel melded with the luscious glaze.  It was heaven on a platter.

Finished Pullaparts

I served the pull-aparts up with a smidgeon of extra sauce over the top.

Spooning Sauce

Just look at this.


Believe it or not, the pull-aparts and the cinnamon rolls tasted even better than they looked. 

When I took a bite I did swoon.  Or maybe it was just the blood sugar rush.  Either way, I was a happy girl.

Thanks Uncle Mike.

You truly are a prince among men and an awesome uncle.  And a wise-ass.

Categories: Easy Recipes | Leave a comment

New Zealand Part III: Dead Bird Station

Our layover days in the little red ranch house were filled with relaxation, mundane chores, and glimmers of excitement.  In my last travel post I told of my invigorating ride on Matia, the young gelding who we saddled and rode for the first time during our rest days at the cabin.

That was my closest brush with death on our trip so far, and it was about time that Brother Rob got his glimpse of mortality.

As I mentioned, this ranch was our layover station.  We were going to have a chance to relax for a couple of days and since there was water available we would have the chance to do some laundry. 

We all looked forward to having clean clothes, though the way we achieved that was, um, somewhat rustic.

Here Diane works on getting her spare riding jeans clean.

Diane Laundry 2

I scrubbed everything I had with a bar of Ivory soap.  I’m not entirely sure I got them any cleaner, but it felt good to make the effort.  I did mention I didn’t have room for makeup, right?

Paula Laundry

When our laundry was all finished, we laid it out across a fence to dry.

Jenny Doing Laundry

The drama of this event began about halfway through the first full day in camp.  Jenny, our camp cook and hostess, said after breakfast that she felt there was a strange taste and smell to the water inside the house.  The water, by the way, that she had been using to cook with and wash our dishes.  I could not really discern anything unusual, but then again I had never been to that house before. 

I had just been happy to be able to wash my face and brush my teeth with water from a tap for a change.

Lawrie climbed up on top of a very rickety old ladder and lifted the top off of the cistern, which collected rain water and supplied the house taps. 

Lawrie Roof

When he lifted off the lid, he made this pronouncement.  The cistern must be cleaned.

I had the feeling that this was not a brand new discovery.  Having my strapping and willing brother Rob at his disposal probably just enabled Lawrie to do something he had needed to do for awhile. 

I sat back with a cup of coffee and my camera to watch the proceedings.

Lawrie procured the old ranch tractor, which took some time to get started and did not look all that trustworthy to my uneducated eye.

After some maneuvering he got the tractor situated so that the bucket reached the top of the stand that the cistern rested on.  My beloved baby brother was in the bucket.

Then Lawrie scrambled up the ladder and joined him.

Crazy Bucket Loading

The tipped and shifted the heavy box to try to empty it enough to slide it onto the tractor.

Getting it on the Bucket

Their situations were precarious at best, downright crazy at worst.

Bucket Loading

Finally they managed to get the corner of the cistern wedged into the bucket and Rob balanced like a monkey on the bucket arms, holding the cistern steady as Lawrie began to lower him to the ground.

Rob Bucket 2

The hydraulics on the tractor weren’t what they probably once were, and the bucket bounced and jostled as it slowly moved toward the ground.  I had this awful vision of my little brother falling to the grass and being squashed like a bug beneath the metal cistern. 

Rob Bucket Three 

He didn’t though.  Fall, I mean.


When they finally got the cistern back on the ground they tipped it over and out poured a bunch of slimy brown stuff.

And a dead black bird.

Rinsing out the Bin

I didn’t take a picture of the bird because I was too busy scrubbing out my mouth with the piece of Ivory soap that I had left over from my laundry.  I was disgusted and horrified, and I could suddenly imagine a foul dead-bird taste in my mouth.  I’m sure it was my imagination. 

Or not.

When the cistern was all scrubbed out with water supplied from the outside pump for the livestock, they repeated the whole process to put it back on the stand again.  Just backwards.

Although they assured me that the water in the house was now clean and truly potable after filling the cistern back up from the livestock pump, I brushed my teeth with the hose outside for the rest of the stay.

And that is how I named the ranch Dead Bird Station.

Categories: Travel | 4 Comments

Short Sports Week Three: Baseball

In week three of Short Sports, the featured activity was baseball.  Batman was very excited to bring his new little plastic mitt.  And wear it on the wrong hand, over his face.

SS Batman Mitt on Face

After some stretching, the kids all paired up and made a line across from their partner to play catch.  The kids didn’t match up evenly, so Batman got to play with the coach, Troy.

My baby boy was in his element.  Ever since he was a tiny lad, he has loved to play ball.  He and Troy threw the ball back and forth.  Batman caught it almost every single time.

It was impressive.

SS Zach Catches

Annabelle and her partner had a little trouble, both in the throwing and catching department.

SS Annie Throws

After tossing the ball back and forth for several minutes, the kids switched to “batting” practice.

Annabelle took the show here.  She stepped up to the cone and hit her three balls one right after the other.

She was so fast I she was practically a blur.  I guess actually she was.

SS Annie Bats

Batman had a little trouble with the batting.  He can hit a ball thrown to him at home with no problem.  In fact, he will spend an hour out in the yard throwing a ball up with one hand and hitting it with the bat in the other hand.  It is amazing to watch.

Here, though, he had to swing a few times before he connected with the ball.

Maybe it’s because he was looking the other way.  I don’t know.

SS Batman Bats

Once the batting practice was over and everyone went potty and got a drink, the kids headed over to the real baseball diamond to play a “game.”

They all lined up to run around the bases first.


Annabelle sprinted the whole way.  She does love to run.

SS Annie Runs Bases

Batman was so enthusiastic that he got back in line, and before the coach noticed he actually ran around the bases again.  That’s a long run for little four year old legs.

SS Batman Bases

They batted again.

SS Annie Bats Helmet

And chased the ball around the in-field like a herd of wild gazelle.  It was pretty good watching.


When we were all finished we went across the street to the playground.  I pushed Batman on the swing for almost half an hour.  He didn’t want to leave. 

I finally got him back in the car with a promise of McDonalds.  I’m not proud of it, but it worked.

Next week in Short Sports is swimming week.  Splish Splash!

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Ye Olde Renaissance Fair

This past weekend the kids and I made a visit to the Renaissance Fair that was held on Eagle Island State Park where we often go to ride our horses.  The park looked quite a bit different that day. 

We had persuaded Aunt Mel to join us, and she was a great addition to our day, as always.

RF Aunt Mel and Annie

We entered Ye Olde Fair through a big castle entrance beside the bridge.  Oh, it just occurred to me… a moat.  Yeah, that’s it.  A moat.  Duh.

RF Entrance

We walked around to get the lay of the land and decide what to do.  The first performance we came to was the belly dancing. I really admired the self-confidence of the dancers and how they could move their bodies. You couldn’t get me up there in those outfits, that’s for sure. 

Unless I was drunk.

RF Belly Dancers

Next we ran into Captain Jack Sparrow.  A lot of the kids were standing beside him to get their picture taken.  My kids were afraid of him so I couldn’t persuade them to get close enough for a photo.

I kinda wanted to ask if I could sit on his lap, but I was too shy.  Plus, he was standing up, so that woulda been a little weird.

RF Pirate

It was almost time for the sword fighting exhibition to take place, so we high-tailed it over to the sword fighting arena.  Aunt Mel took a picture of me and the kids.  Have I ever mentioned that I sometimes have problems with my camera adjusting itself to take different types of photos?

I thought this looked kind of cool anyway.

RF Pink Family

There were all manners of sword fighters competing for the hand of a princess character that we never actually saw.  They were fairly entertaining for awhile.

RF Sword Fight

They came in all different outfits.  Although they probably don’t call them outfits.

RF Sword Cape Guy

They got down in the dirt and pummeled each other.  I thought for a minute it was my kids, but then I saw that they had dark hair.  Whew.

RF Sword Brawl

Not long into the sword fighting our good friends Kari, Kampbell and Kade arrived.  Batman and Annabelle were thrilled.  They loooooove Kampbell and Kade.  They think they are their cousins, which I guess they kind of are, in a virtual sort of way.

Isn’t Kari cute?  People always think we are sisters.  I find that very flattering.

RF Kari

We headed right on over the face painting booth, where the kids spent several minutes deciding on which face design to choose.

RF Kids at Face Painting

Annabelle and Kampbell got matching princess tiaras. They looked adorable.

RF Kampbell an Annabelle

Kade went for a spider on his arm.  Quite real looking.  Kinda creepy. 

RF Kade's Spider Arm

Batman signed up for the half-monster face complete with scales.  He didn’t really enjoy the application process much.

RF Batman Monster Face

When it was finished, though, he seemed very happy with the results.

RF Batman Mirror

Once we finished face painting we headed off for a nutritious snack.  OK, not nutritious.  But tasty.

RF Kids Eat Cotton Candy

When cotton candy was done, we circled back around for a little puppet show at the theatre.  The kids all squeezed onto one bench.  So cute!

RF Kids onBench

Next on the agenda was an activity that Batman had spied from the face painting chair and had been hounding me for ever since. 

The rope bridge walk. 

Batman went first, and he took his time.  He was very cautious about each step he made with his cowboy boots.  Probably not the most appropriate rope-walking footwear.  But he made it.  Then he wanted to do it again.

The guy standing on the other side of the bridge helping Batman was my date, since Desperate Hubby was fishing.  Oh wait, no, he was a Boy Scout that they called to help Batman make it safely across.

What is wrong with me?  First Jack Sparrow and now a Boy Scout!  Sheesh.

RF Batman on Rope

Kade went next.  He jumped up on that rope and cruised across like he had done it his whole life.

RF Kade on Rope

Kampbell was third in the rotation.  She concentrated carefully, and walked quickly across.

RF Kampbell Rope

Last but not least my little Annabelle crossed.  She was confident and walked as fast as she could wearing her cowboy boots, with a big smile on her face the whole way.  She probably enjoyed it the most of all the kids.

RF Annie Rope

Next on the agenda was a vaulting exhibition held next to the jousting arena.

RF Vaulters

Betcha can’t guess which kid didn’t wander away in disinterest after two or three minutes.

Annabelle watched and watched, until it was all done. Then she insisted we follow the riders to ask if they could teach her how to do it.  I am sure she had it in mind that she’d be standing tall on Reno’s back by the end of the day.

RF Annie watch Vaulters

The vaulters very graciously answered all her questions, and told her that yes, they did give lessons at their stable.  Unfortunately, they are a quite a ways away from us, so I don’t think we’ll make it this summer.  I just pray that Annabelle doesn’t try an ad hoc rendition by herself.

After our action packed day, we had time for one more event.  We headed over to the Kid’s Arts and Crafts tent for a nice calming last activity.

RF Annie Kampbell Table

Annabelle and Kampbell made picture frame wands.  At least that’s what I think they were.

RF Annabelle wand

Kade and Batman focused on Pirate Flags.  They spent a long time picking out just the right items to place on their flags.

RF Batman and Kade at Table

Batman went for the monochromatic theme.


When it was all over we were gluey, sweaty, hot and tired.  We were happy to get in our air-conditioned car and head home.

It was a great day of fun and new experiences. 

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Father’s Day, Family and Fishing

Yesterday was Father’s Day, and we started the day off right.  Annabelle wanted to make her dad cinnamon rolls for breakfast (that girl has quite a sweet tooth), so we started off with homemade cinnamon rolls (my version anyway, more on that later), then moved on to bacon and eggs.  After that the kids got down to the task of practicing for the day’s activity.

We were going to Greg’s parents’ for Father’s Day dinner, and we were thrilled to be invited for several reasons.  High on the list of reasons was of course the chance to see the whole Goodrich side of the family, and certainly to experience some of Grandma Becki’s famous food and hospitality.  I was happy that all the older girls in our family would be able to join us and I could force everyone into a few family pictures.  I love my “bonus daughters” so much, and I relish every chance to spend a little time with them.

Annabelle and Batman had something else in mind entirely.  They wanted to fish.  Grandma Becki and Grandpa Elliott live in a lovely community in Eagle, and among other amenities in their beautiful subdivision are a number of stocked fishing ponds, reserved for residents.  And their grandkids, of course.

In anticipation of the big day the kids and I had made a trip to the fishing section of Wal-Mart, where they each got new fishing poles. Batman picked out a Spider Man pole, and Annabelle naturally went for the pink Barbie version.  They spent all afternoon Saturday out in the front yard practicing their casts, until Desperate Hubby’s hands were practically shredded from untangling knots in the lines.

As soon as the last (sort of homemade) cinnamon roll was polished off on Sunday morning, they headed out to the front yard in their pajamas to practice some more.

Fishing Front Yard

They fished and fished, and asked about fifty times when we were leaving.  They wanted to go see Grandma and Grandpa, sissies, and, of course, the fish.

Finally mid-afternoon rolled around, and we headed on out for the twenty minute drive to my in-laws.

The first thing we saw was that Grandpa Elliott had some snappy new shoes he was sporting for us to see. I thought that the toe separation would drive me crazy, but he said they were comfortable.

Toe Shoes

The grandparents’ new dog, Sugar was almost all grown up.  We hadn’t seen her for a few months, and she had gotten much bigger.  And was completely freaked out by the kids.  Poor Sugar spent most of the day running from one room to another trying to avoid being mauled by the little invaders that were my dog-loving children.

I think it is obvious why Grandpa Elliott didn’t want anything to do with a dog when the idea of Sugar was initially brought up.  He obviously doesn’t like them.


The sissies arrived not long after we did, and I settled us all in on the couch for a nice family photo.  Nobody complained too much, and we actually got a fairly decent shot.

Betcha can’t guess who picked out Desperate Hubby’s new Father’s Day T-shirt.

Our Family

I got a few shots of the kids individually too.

This is Batman and his big sister Hana.  Hana just finished her sophomore year at BSU (with a 4.0 GPA, by the way).  She is funny and bright as well as lovely.  She’ll run a multi-million dollar business some day.  Mark my words.

Zach and Hana

Annabelle and Hali sat at the bar and ate chips together.  Hali is Hana’s twin, and she also just finished her sophomore year at BSU.  Also with a 4.0 GPA.  Hali is going to be a teacher, and she will make a great one.  The kids adore her and so do I.

Annie and Hali

The youngest of the “olders” is Sami.  Sami is heading into her senior year in high school, and she is smart and a gifted athlete as well as being breathtakingly beautiful.  I tell her she could be a model. Or a pediatrician.

Sami and Annie

Not long after sissies arrived my sister-in-law Shelley and her family came on scene.  They are super cool and it is always fun to see them.

Shelley wasn’t too thrilled when she saw my camera. She told me she thought it was illegal for me to publish pictures without asking.  Sorry Shelley.


Shelley’s husband John is a brilliant engineer and one of the funniest people I know.  He always makes me laugh.  And he doesn’t even try.

Doesn’t his shirt just say it all?


I made their clan sit for a family photo too.  Their boys are almost all grown up, though the younger one, Grayson (far left), seems hell-bent on self-destruction in the form of one athletic accident after another.  He most recently broke his elbow in a trampoline wreck.  Well, so maybe it’s just “accident,” not “athletic accident.”

Barrutia Family 1

This is Shelley’s oldest boy, Lucas, and Grandma Becki.  Lucas has just been accepted to the prestigious College of Idaho, and is a super good tennis player to boot.  We are all very proud of him.

Becki and Luke

Here we have the matriarch and patriarch of the family, Grandma Becki and Grandpa Elliott, and their little dog Sugar.  Becki and I have more than once been mistaken for sisters.  She is so beautiful that I am flattered every time.

I am lucky to have the most awesome in-laws ever awarded to a small-town Idaho girl.  Or any girl for that matter.  I love you guys.

Becki and Elliott

Papa Bill was married to Becki’s mom for many years.  He is a retired State Magistrate Judge, and still maintains an unmistakable air of authority.  He has always made me feel like a valued member of the family, and he still makes me laugh.  He will turn ninety this year.

Papa Bill

And finally we come to Uncle Mike.  Mike spent over two hours outside patiently baiting hooks, untangling lines, answering question after question about fish and bugs and geese, and releasing the multitudes of fish that my kids caught.  Enough said.

Uncle Mike

And that leads to the fishing.  It was great.  The kids are forever spoiled after fishing at Grandma and Grandpa’s.  They think all you have to do is throw the line in the water, reel in the fish, then have Uncle Mike turn them loose.

Mike and Kids

And isn’t the scenery beautiful?

Beautiful Lake

Did I mention there were fish?

Wow Fish!

The kids caught about twenty perch and blue gill.  The fish were beautiful, even out of the water.

Uncle Mike threw them all back in, but it was fun to see them for even a moment.

Touching Fish

So pretty. Not my photography, silly.  The fish.

Yellow Fish

When we were all fished out we headed back home.  It was late, and we ran right out to feed the horses.  We ran into our dear neighbor Grandpa Vernon outside.  Annabelle told him all about the homemade cinnamon rolls we had served DH for Father’s Day.

Grandpa Vernon is a very accomplished baker, so he was naturally curious about the recipe we had used.  He asked Annabelle question after question about the dough: how did we prepare it?  Did we put butter and sugar on it?  Did we let it rise?

I thought I was going to escape the inquisition, as my little daughter unknowingly answered question after question with just enough lack of detail to obscure the real truth.

Unfortunately, Grandpa Vernon finally asked the question that let the cat out of the bag.  “Did your mom roll up the dough and cut it into slices before she put it in the pan to bake it?” he asked.

“No!”  my little angel answered.  “It just came out of the can that way!”

Oh well. I tried.

Categories: Kids Are Funny Creatures, Life in the Country | Leave a comment

Short Sports Week Two: Water Balloons and Brawls

The second week of Short Sports with the Caldwell Rec Department started off pretty calmly.  Troy led the kids through a series of stretches.  It was pretty cute to watch them try all the different techniques.


The one leg standing stretch proved to be pretty much impossible for most of the kids to maintain.  They all laughed and giggled when they tipped over.


After everyone was all stretched out, they headed over to start a water balloon relay.  The object of the relay was to carry a water balloon on the lid of a paint can down the field and around a cone, then back to your team.  If the balloon fell off, you had to start again where it fell.

Annabelle’s team didn’t even break one balloon.  When it was her turn, she took the lid and loped confidently off.  She was down and around the cone in no time.

First Relay

The other teams struggled with dropping the balloons.  Annabelle’s team was completely finished before some of the other teams even had one player back.

Batman was no exception.  When he finally got the lid and the balloon, he took little tiny baby steps toward the cones.  After about three steps he dropped the balloon.

Batman Relay

This process was repeated seven times.  He finally did get the balloon back to the finish line.  More or less.


The next event was target shooting with marshmallow guns.  Troy lined the kids up and demonstrated the technique.

Troy Shoots

Unfortunately, there were not enough marshmallow guns to go around, so a few kids had to go and toss the football while the others shot.  Batman and Annabelle were in the football group.

It started off with a nice four way game of catch.  Batman can throw a mean spiral for a kid his age.  He didn’t get that from me.

Batman Spiral

Unfortunately, Batman’s level of accuracy did leave something to be desired.  He probably did get that from me.

Spiral Again

His sister tolerated this for a few throws.  Then she took matters into her own hands.


Before long, the little disagreement turned into a game of keep away.

Then an all out brawl.

Everone Gets In

I was on the other side of the field near the marshmallow shooters, taking pictures with my zoom lens.  Which was a good thing, because it was easier to pretend I didn’t know the little heathens with some distance between us.

Finally the coaches took notice of the pummeling taking place next to them, and they switched the kids so that the wrestlers had a chance with the marshmallow guns.

Annabelle Shoots

Annabelle took to the shooting like a fish to water, confidently blowing marshmallow after marshmallow through the chain link fence that was the target, then reloading her gun to go again.

Figuring Out Gun

Batman ate his first two handfuls of marshmallows, then he set about figuring out how to load his gun.

Batman Loads

Once he put his mind to it, he shot just as well as his sister did.  Every other marshmallow.  He ate the rest.

Batman Shoots

After the marshmallow gun target practice, the kids moved on to a water balloon fight.  I mean toss.

They all lined up across from each other and went at it.

Tossing Balloons

Annabelle and her partner actually tossed the balloons back and forth a few times without breaking them.

I think you can tell from the look on Batman’s face what he did.

Diabolical Thoughts

All that water flying around got the kids in the mood for some splashing, so when we got home they spent a couple of hours on the slip n’ slide.

Zach Slips

They ran and ran and slid and slid.

A Slip n Slide

It really wasn’t all that warm outside, so they had to take frequent breaks to warm up in the sun.

Batman Warms Up

Annabelle was shivering but she wouldn’t quit.

Annabelle Warms Up

It sure is going to be a great summer.

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Winston Goes to Jr. High

I’ve written before about our maniac bird-dog puppy Winston.  He is a rapidly growing, hairy, wild, uncontrollably exuberant member of our family.

We got Winston last year, just a day before Thanksgiving.  He was so cute then.

Android 797

He slept calmly on Papa Bill’s (DH’s Grandfather) lap after Thanksgiving Dinner.

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He’s gradually grown up to be a mud-loving, cat-chasing, kid-bowling-over teenager.


Winston is now eight months old, and the ideal age to enter some formal obedience training.  Annabelle and I had taken him through six weeks of Puppy Kindergarten earlier this year, and he really thrived on all the attention.  Our Puppy K class was taught by Andrea Williams of Diamonds in the Ruff Dog Training, and when I saw a notice that Andrea would be holding the next level of class starting this month I signed us up right away.

Winston had spent the few minutes prior to our departure for Puppy K in the irrigation ditch.  I tried to clean him off, but it was to no avail.  Since I didn’t have time to give him a bath, he shed dirt all over the white tiles in the training room.

Winston in Dirt

It was embarrassing, but it did give Batman something to do when he got tired of watching the dogs.  He drew circles on the tiles and played in the dirt.


Annabelle was plenty enthralled with the idea of just hanging out with Miss Andrea again. I think she thought she was helping teach the class.

Andrea Talks

We had two other dogs in class with us the first night.  One was a beautiful blue heeler named Tucker.

Andrea and Tucker

The other dog in the class was a big black hound dog that bayed so loudly Batman clapped his hands over his ears and yelled “Be Quiet!”

Hound Dog

Our first class was pretty much review for Winston, since he had covered all the basics in Puppy K.  He remembered most of what he had learned, but he is a distractible puppy, and his focus was often on things other than me.  In particular he spent a lot of time looking at a yellow tennis ball that was on the floor behind Miss Andrea.

Miss Andrea is a wonderful and experienced teacher, and she really understands the different types of dogs and how to best handle their personalities and training needs.  We enjoyed our first session of class, and are endeavoring to perform all of our homework before our session next week.

We are working on our sit/stay exercise, and Winston is working up to a one minute stay.  We are also practicing having the dogs sit quietly on leash beside our chair for twenty minutes at a time without bothering us.  That is a tough one for Winston, since he thinks he should be sitting in my lap if he has to hold still in one place for that long.

We’ll keep working on it.

Categories: Kids Are Funny Creatures, Life in the Country | Leave a comment

Desperate Hubby Gets the Boot

Yesterday was Desperate Hubby’s second re-check appointment with the surgeon following his foot double-joint fusion surgery in April.  He was excited to go to the appointment, since he is now seven weeks into his twelve week recovery, and he was hopeful he might be given a boot to wear this time rather than another cast. 

I remained skeptical.  After the boot had been mentioned in the last appointment, DH has asked some ill-advised questions about exercise options for the foot should he be given a boot this time.  I didn’t feel that Dr. Hirosi would trust him with a boot.

We got the the appointment bright and early.  DH crutched it into the office, hoping it would be his last trek carrying a heavy cast.

Parking Lot

Once he checked in he entertained himself with some light reading.  I didn’t make any sarcastic comments about his choice of magazine.  Believe me?

All too Soon

We were quickly called back into the cast room by DH’s boy-crush Joe, who went right to work cutting the cast off.

Cuttng Cast

When he peeled back the batting the leg looked remarkably normal, except for lots of scaly, peeling skin from being covered for so long.

Removing Batting

The incision looked nice and clean, and most of the bruising was gone.

All Healed

Once the cast was off, we hopped on over to the x-ray room.  I took the opportunity to shoot a few photos of DH’s legs side by side while we waited.  Guess which leg has been the sole support of 200+ pounds for the last seven weeks?

Difference in Legs

Once the x-rays were completed we went on back to the cast room where Dr. Hirosi joined us.   He expressed complete amazement over DH’s continued lack of pain, and did a careful physical exam of the leg.

I think my camera surprised the good doctor a little, but he was a very good sport about it.

Dr. Hirosi Checks

After the physical exam, Dr. Hirosi showed us the x-rays on his phone.  I just think this is the coolest technology.

XRays on Phone

He showed us that the white filled-in area around the surgical site meant that the bone graft was growing just as he had hoped.  He also said the the fact DH’s heel was turning a lighter shade of white meant that DH had been following instructions and not putting weight on the foot.  The lighter bone mass signified a loss of bone density, which in this case is to be expected. That was interesting.

After he finished going over the x-rays he took a moment to explain the options.

Dr. Explains Options

He said that he would prefer to recast the foot for safety reasons (I take this as a victory in my pre-appointment prediction) but that since DH had expressed some discomfort during the doctor’s earlier palpation of the calf muscle, an ultrasound was needed to rule out a blood clot. 

Because DH could not leave the office with nothing on his foot, and the hospital obviously could not ultrasound through a cast, that left no option other than a boot for DH.  Dr. Hirosi made DH pinky swear he would put absolutely no weight at all on the foot for five more weeks. 

OK, he didn’t really make him pinky swear, but he was pretty adamant about it.

So then Joe fitted a cool hi-tech boot on DH’s foot and leg.  The boot was made primarily out of Velcro.

Final Straps

DH was excited about the boot at first.  He had thought he would be able to take it off to shower and to sleep.  Joe told him he could take it off to shower or to sit in his recliner when he was awake, but he could not sleep with it off.  There was too much chance of turning the foot in his sleep and causing damage to the graft. 

The ultrasound later in the afternoon showed no evidence of a blood clot, so DH got to head home for five more weeks of recovery.

So far DH is not that thrilled with the boot.  Sleeping in it was difficult, because the Velcro kept catching on the covers when he tried to turn over in bed.  The boot is a tighter fit than the cast was, so it’s not very comfortable in that regard either.  The only good thing was that he enjoyed being able to wash his leg and foot in the shower this morning for the first time in almost two months. 

Five more weeks and counting.  It won’t go fast enough for DH.

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Here We Go! Gem State Stock Horse Shows I & II

This past weekend was the kickoff of the Gem State Stock Horse Association show series that we have been practicing and prepping for all spring long.  Usually Gem State puts on one show per month in the summer, starting in May and wrapping up the season with the August show.  The May show this year had been rescheduled to June due to bad weather, so we had two days in a row of horse show fun to look forward to.

Annabelle is going to be showing the wonderful Smart Chic Dot Com (Chic) in the Little Buckaroo class, and we are so grateful for the generosity of Chic’s owner Kris Troxel for allowing her to ride such an awesome horse.


Horse show preparations started several days before the show with riding practice.  Kris brought Chic over to our friend Shane’s arena, and Annabelle practiced the pattern over and over again until we felt she had it down.

We resumed our preparations three days prior to the show with some shopping.  Annabelle had outgrown her only collared western long-sleeved shirt, so we headed to Farm & City Supply to find some shirts for her to compete in.

The first shirt she selected was a beautiful little orange and yellow number, with a sort of snake skin mottled striping of the different colors.  I knew we didn’t have a show pad to match this shirt, so before we purchased it we made a quick call to our friend Shane, who told us she had a pad that would go beautifully with the ensemble.  A purple, pink and black checkered shirt rounded out the selections, and we were ready to move on to our hat choices.

New Shirt

Batman shopped too.  But his focus was a little different than Annabelle’s.

Batman Shops

Farm & City didn’t have any hats that fit Annabelle, so we headed off to D&B for another round of shopping.  Annabelle settled on a nice palm straw hat that looked adorable on her and matched her new orange show shirt perfectly.  Of course, she also needed a black hat to go with her pink and purple shirt, so we decided to try on what we had at home.

My (super nice, super expensive, from-back-in-the-day) black felt hat looked really cute on her, but it was so big I knew we wouldn’t be able to get it to stay on.  An email to Shane prompted an offer of an equally nice but smaller black hat we could borrow, so our clothing plan was complete. 

Annabelle still wore my hat around the house all afternoon, rubbing the brim and saying “Oh mama it is so soft!”


With our shirt and hat selections set, we moved on to the rest of what we needed to get done.  I brought her saddle in the house and Annabelle carefully washed the whole thing with a wet dish cloth.  She also washed her boots and her new belt (which wasn’t really dirty to begin with).  We brushed the horse hair off her black show pad (also borrowed from Shane), and we were ready to go.


The day before the show we met up with Kris at the Idaho Center Horse Park where she had schooled her horses in an open show that morning.  We used the super-nice bathing stalls there to give Chic a good bath and wash and condition his mane and tail.

The kids really got in on the action.  Kris held Batman up high so that he could put conditioner all over Chic’s mane.


Both kids took turns spraying him with the hose and putting shampoo on.

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When we were finished washing we drove to Kris’s house, where we clipped Chic’s whiskers and bridle path, and helped Kris load tack and hay into her big trailer for the show.

With our clothes assembled, tack cleaned and organized, trailer loaded, and Chic bathed and clipped, we were ready.  We’d decided to leave our house at 8:00 on Saturday morning for the drive to Ontario, which we estimated would give us plenty of prep and warm-up time before Annabelle’s class started. 

We were thrilled that my friend Tami had offered to come and help us for the first day of the show.  Tami and I have been friends since second grade; she introduced me to Desperate Hubby, and she has traveled a bunch with me to barrel races and horse shows.  She is a great helper, groom, kid-handler and friend.  Little did I know just what an integral part she would play in our day on Saturday.

Day One:  A Near Miss

We all got ready to head out in plenty of time.  Batman wore his “cowboy outfit” complete with well-used felt hat, and he was pretty excited to be going with us.


Tami brought us Dutch Brothers hot chocolate and coffee, and we took our drinks and loaded up in the car.  We were happy to be going, despite the terrible weather.  It was cold and extremely windy outside, with rain drops falling intermittently as we drove out of the driveway.

We had gotten only a few yards out of the garage when the phone rang.  It was Shane, already at the show, and she had ominous words.  “Are you on the way?” I told her yes, we were just leaving.  Then she said what anyone heading to a horse show does not want to hear. “You’d better hurry.  There aren’t any horses in the class before you, and the show is going fast.” 

The thought of us missing Annabelle’s class made me feel sick.  It is my policy to get to a horse show at least a couple of hours before a class, so I can prepare in leisure and make sure everything is just right.  I couldn’t imagine Annabelle’s disappointment if we missed her first show after all days we had spent preparing.   I did the only thing I could do.  Headed toward Oregon in the blowing wind as fast as I could safely drive. 

We pulled up to the Malheur County Fairgrounds and I looked over to the arena where Annabelle’s class would be held.  There was a kid a little bigger than her inside, wearing a helmet and loping the reining pattern.  Sheer panic set it.  I went right into action, and was so glad Tami was there to help.

I yelled for Tami and Annabelle to go get Chic’s blanket off and get him saddled.  Despite the fact that it had been years since she saddled a horse, Tami grabbed the tack and ran for Kris’ trailer. I jogged over to the in-gate and asked where they were in the schedule.  Annabelle was up in eight horses!  I felt near tears as ran to the office, hurriedly wrote a check and picked up her exhibitor’s number.

Tami had Chic saddled perfectly and Annabelle’s shirt and chaps on by the time I got back.  I fastened her number to the pad with shaking hands and we trotted over to the arena.  There were still a couple of horses before it was her turn, so we ran to the warm-up ring next door and she loped a couple of quick circles, then rushed back over to line up.

She was third out in her class, so we had a moment to do final preparations and talk about the pattern again before she went in. 

Getting the hat on

Despite the rush and lack of warm-up time Annabelle was perfectly calm and relaxed. I relaxed a little too, once I realized we wouldn’t miss the class.  We even had a few seconds to pose for a family photo before she rode.

Outside the Pen

We had hurriedly recruited several people to help us out around the arena to coach and make sure Annabelle remembered her pattern.  Molly was at the west end of the pen, neighbor Kay was north, Kris ran down to the east, and I jogged over to the north side beside the judges.  Tami was manning the video camera next to the in-gate.  I was so grateful for all the help, especially considering the frenzied minutes leading up to her ride.

Annabelle’s class went very well.  She executed her pattern quite proficiently, and you would never know that Chic didn’t get a chance to warm up before the ride.

Annabelle and Smart Chic Dot Com Show #1 June 9, 2012


When it was all said and done I breathed a big sigh of relief. 

Annabelle gave Chic a big thank you kiss.

Kissing Chic

Batman wanted his turn to ride, so I spent the next half hour leading him around the fairgrounds, watching other horses go and chatting with friends.

Zach Rides Chic

We had a peaceful rest of the morning, watching from the stands and enjoying the show.

Tami never got flustered or stopped smiling through the whole day. The kids loved her so much they wanted to spend every single second with her.  Even when they went potty. She just smiled and took them.  She is a gem, that one.


Batman watched the action attentively, never once taking his hat off, even while he ate lunch.

Batmans Stands

Even after all that, the kids weren’t quite done with horse shows.  After we left, with everybody practically blue from the cold, they wanted to go to the Idaho Center Horse Park to watch our friends Karen and Bailey participate in a horse show there.  We drove past our house and on to Nampa, where we got to visit with our friends and watch Bailey perform in one of her classes.  We finally arrived home at around 4:00, with everybody tired and ready for dinner.  Desperate Hubby took me and the kids out to the Outback Steakhouse to celebrate. 

Day Two:  Much More Relaxed

Without any help along for Sunday, I opted to leave Batman home with Desperate Hubby.  Annabelle and I were planning to leave at 6:30 this time to make sure we had plenty of time to prepare before her class started. We got ready quietly, and left the house right on time  Batman was still sleeping peacefully on the end of Annabelle’s bed. 

About ten minutes later I got a text from Desperate Hubby, who said that Batman had woken up in a state of “Severe Emotional Distress.” He was absolutely devastated that we had left him.

I felt bad, but I knew Batman would recover and spend his morning trashing the entire house while Desperate Hubby sat with his cast propped on a pillow watching golf. Which is exactly what happened, by the way.

Our preparations were much much organized and relaxed this time.  Annabelle had plenty of time to lope around the practice pen and work on her pattern before her class started.

Warm up day 2

I thought her new outfit looked super cute.  It was a comparatively beautiful, though still chilly, day, so my little girl got to actually take her coat off and ride in her new show shirt on day two.

Day Two Ready to Go

With the help of of our returning coaches, Annabelle’s pattern went even better than the day before.  I was proud of my little girl out there!

I had to run the video camera as well as help to direct the pattern from the south side of the arena this time, so the video quality is of markedly lower quality than Tami’s work on day one.  But you can still get the general idea.

GSSHA Show #2 Annabelle and Smart Chic Dot Com


After the show was over we stayed for a few hours to watch our friends. We were so thankful for the assistance that everyone gave us. We would never have been able to pull it off without all of our great helpers.

Thanks everyone.

When we got home, Annabelle went right out and caught Grumpy.  I saddled him up for her and she loped him around and around and practiced all the maneuvers she had used earlier that morning.  Then she put him away and rode Reno bareback around the arena.

She does love to work a horse.

So I guess she deserved the two First Place finishes she earned this weekend.

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Oh Deer!

Yesterday afternoon Horsecrazy Annabelle and I headed up to the Eagle Foothills to enjoy a relaxing trail ride before we embark on horse show craziness for the next few days.

I had originally planned to go ride alone.  The kids were at daycare for the day, and I had a rare unscheduled afternoon to myself. At the last minute, though, I threw Grumpy in the trailer and swung by to pick up my little riding buddy.  As Desperate Hubby so wisely suggested, I would have plenty of time to ride alone once Annabelle started school this fall.

Once we got to the foothills, I was sure glad she was with me.  The hills were green and adorned with wildflowers.  For most of the year the foothill ride is dry, dusty and gray, so it was a big treat to see her in her colorful spring dress.  Little did we know that these pretty orange flowers would be only one of the attractions we would enjoy.

Orange Flowers

The hills were greener as we got closer to the top of the hill, and we saw this huge flowering bush  growing in a ravine we rode by.  I’m not sure, but it looked like wild roses from where we were.  The colors didn’t come out really well, but all the bushes in the center of the picture were covered in little pink flowers.

Rose Bushes

As we rode a little further, we heard a song bird singing somewhere off to the side of the trail.  The trill was so beautiful and unique that Annabelle remarked on it, and we stopped our horses to see if we could spot the bird.  My little girl has a great eye, and after a few seconds of survey she pointed out this tiny bird sitting on top of a sagebrush about thirty or so yards away.


The picture is a little blurry because the bird was far away and only about the size of a sparrow.  It was so brightly colored that Annabelle thought it was a pet bird that had escaped from someone.  I’m sure it was a wild bird, but I have never seen one like it before.  It serenaded us for several minutes, but when we tried to ride closer to it it flew away.

Orange Bird

As we rode along we saw several more beautiful wildflowers.

Little Yellow Flower

And this weed, growing up out of a mysteriously placed old tire, that looked just like someone had planted it in a planter.

Tire Planter

As we got to the top of the hill, I saw a little pile of deer poop on the ridge.  I remarked about it to Annabelle as she approached the top of the trail.


When she got up to the top we sat and let our horses catch their breath for a few minutes, and she examined the pile of poop carefully.  “Do you think the deer is around here mom?”  I said that I didn’t think so.  It was probably sleeping in the bushes somewhere. “Well, is that poop fresh?” she demanded.  I told her no, it was not because it was all dried out and whitish from being in the sun.

Annabelle was disappointed.  She is completely fascinated by all sorts of wildlife, and asks innumerable questions on every ride about the badgers, whistle pigs, hawks and whatever else we may see evidence of.

We started down the trail.  I was ahead of my little girl by a few dozen yards, since she was reluctant to leave the evidence of deer life in the area.

Suddenly I heard a shout from behind me.  “MOM!!!!  What is that?!  WHAT IS THAT?  THERE IS SOME SORT OF ANIMAL OVER THERE!”  I turned around and rode back to her, but I couldn’t see what she was pointing at.  I maneuvered Spice around to be right beside her so that I could look down her pointing arm.

Lo and behold…….it was a deer!


I was completely amazed that she had spotted the animal.  I zoomed in with my camera to get these pictures, but this is the size of the deer without magnification.  He is in the upper left corner of the picture, by the bushes.  He definitely caught the horse’s attention.

See, I told you she has a great eye.

Deer Through Ears

We sat the watched the young male for at least fifteen minutes.  He watched us calmly, then slowly stood up.


He turned around and started eating some bushes, stretching his head up like a giraffe to get the branches he wanted.


We finally rode away, and he turned and watched us go. We couldn’t see any other deer in the area, and I thought maybe he was lonely.


Of course, there wasn’t anything for the rest of the ride that could compete with that. 

We did see some more pretty flowers.  Annabelle thought these fields of white flowers that were on the very top of the hill looked like cauliflower.  I agree.



The hillside was covered in them, and it looked really pretty.

Fields of Cauliflower

These tiny purple daisies also grew at the very top of the ridge.

Purple Flowers

Winston enjoyed himself hunting for birds and whistle pigs, completely ignoring the hazy view of the city far below.

Winston Hunts

We saw another pretty bird just before we started to head back down the ridge to our trailer.  This one just sat and let me ride up to within about ten feet of him. 

LittleGray Bird

There were a few more flowers along the way.  These were a little faded,but still beautiful.

Yellow Flowers

I was so glad that I had taken Annabelle with me on the ride.  It would not have been nearly so rewarding to experience all the high desert spring splendor by myself.  And I would have missed the bright bird and the deer completely.

The world truly is more spectacular through a child’s eyes.

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