Spring Mornings on the Ranch

Although, winter is taking it's own sweet time to leave (in fact it snowed again last night).  There are still signs that spring is here, or at least trying to get here.  Much of this evidence occurs in the early morning hours.
First the sunrises are filled with warmer colors than they are in the winter.  (Art 101: warm colors= red, yellow, orange.  cool colors= blue, purple, green.)  And they happen earlier & more quickly, way to go Spring!
See what I mean?  This is a winter sunrise, there is a lot more blue & purple in the skies.
And this is a Spring sunrise, much more yellow & orange.  Do you see it?  Or do I have cabin fever?  I've been on this land my whole life, so I notice the little changes here... or I'm totally losing it... it's a toss-up.
Despite the falling snow, I also know it's Spring because our friends the turkeys are back.  They showed up last night looking for grain, a sure sign that it's Spring... or I'm totally losing it... still a toss-up.
Also, the birds are chirping in the morning.  I love it when the little song birds return to sing me awake in the early hours.  I set out bird feeders & watch them flutter around all day nibbling on seed & chasing each other. Not to mention the Robins have arrived, which means there's no going back to winter... I hope!

Once a Buttercup pops through the earth I will dance for joy.  For then I know warm weather is truly on it's way.  But for now I'm content for the small changes that are assuring of a new season. 

Tea Time

I haven't blogged for a few days.  I've literally been buried in laundry.  I ignored the dirty clothes baskets for ten days & it caught up with me.  Now, twelve loads of laundry (and counting... I think I only have two more left) I have a little time to blog.
I'm not much of a coffee drinker.  I like the stuff, but I don't drink it all day long.  Some of my girlfriends have gotten me into coffee with cream, so I've been having that more often.  However, I would by no means call myself a coffee drinker.  But tea... I really like tea.  In the cold weather I love a steaming hot mug of tea with honey.  In the hot months I could drink ice tea by the gallons.  Unsweetened of course (sorry you Southern folk), just pure tea, nothing added.  A friend of mine once brought me back some of tea by Tea Pigs and all the varieties were very good.  I fell in love with their "Spiced Winter Red Tea".  I don't know if it's the color (I'm very aesthetic) or if it's the flavor, but I love red teas.  This one is by far my favorite of all the red teas I've tasted.
Plus they come in the better for brewing triangle bags.  And these are no paper tea bags, that ruins the flavor.  These are little mesh bags that make for the yummiest tea around. Tea Pigs tea is not sold in the states yet, but you could head over to Slovenia & buy it.  Or you can order it online HERE.  Or better yet, do what I do, & anytime someone you know goes over to the UK have them bring some home for you.

On the Tea pigs website there is a spot to enter in what kind of mode you're in & they will pick the perfect tea for you.  It's fun to try, & you'll be amazed at how many different kinds of tea there is.  When you order though, make sure you get a box of the "Spiced Winter Red Tea", their Chamomile is also wonderful.  Happy brewing!

Just for the Heck of It Winner

Congratulations to:
#1 Carrie 
Jess, I LOVE these...they are ADORABLE...So, my absolute FAVORITE part of Spring is Resurrection Day...I LOVE IT... 

You have won these wonderful ramekins.  Enjoy!  Contact me at j.yphotography@yahoo.com to claim your prize.  

Thank you to all who participated.  I loved reading your comments!

Winner chosen at random using Random.org

Just for the Heck of It

You may have noticed these darling ramekins in my last post about Artichoke Dip.  I think these are so cute and I really like their shape and color.
They are small enough to be cute, but big enough to hold an individual serving.  They're great for personal hors d'oeuvers or desserts.  Also are great for a tray of various dips or snacks.
To add to their attractiveness they are also oven, microwave, and dishwasher safe- love that!  Adorable and practical.

And so, because I think these ramekins are great... because I love giving gifts... because I haven't done a giveaway yet this month... because I need something to take my mind off yet another snowfall last night... because, well, just for the heck of it, I'm giving away four ramekins (2 green and 2 blue).
Sweet little song bird came back for Spring and all he got was Winter.
To enter the giveaway all you need to do is tell me your favorite thing about Spring in the comments section below.

 I will chose a winner at random on Saturday and ship/deliver these to you on Monday.  That means by next week you could be baking, microwaving, or dishwashering (word found in the Jessica Dictionary 2011)  these babies in your own kitchen.  Good luck!

Artichoke Dip

I'm going to share with you one of my favorite appetizers- Artichoke Dip.  This dish is one of the reasons I look forward to holidays and company coming over.  I've meshed together a couple of recipes to come up with the perfect dip, but the majority of it comes from a dish a grew up with called Vancouver Dip.  My Mom got the recipe from a church cookbook my Aunt gave her and she makes it on special occasions.  I've added a few things here & there, but not much.  This appetizer is great for any time of year and can feed quite a few folks.  Plus it's super easy and soooooooo good!  Here's the skinny:
1 Cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 Cup mayonnaise
8 oz cream cheese softened
1 14 oz. can artichoke hearts
1 1/2 teaspoon dill
1 green onion chopped
dash of salt
dash of pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a food process combine Parmesan cheese, mayonnaise, cream cheese, half of the can of artichokes, 1 tsp of the dill, green onion, salt, and pepper.  Mix until combined.  Add in the other half of the artichokes & pulse a few times so that it's mixed in but there are still sizable chunks of artichokes in the dip.  Pour into baking dish, I usually use a 9 inch pie plate, and spread it out evenly.  Sprinkle remaining dill on the top and bake for 20-25 minutes (until top is lightly browned & bubbly).  Serve as a spread with thinly sliced baguette or as a dip with pita chips.

This is an appetizer that is sure to please everyone.  You could also bake it in individual remekins and have personal servings for each guest (as pictured above).  And clean up is easy because it only uses one bowl.  If there are left overs you can just heat it up the next day & it's still yummy.

Growing Project

One activity I love doing with my kiddos is planting.  It's always fun for them to dig in the dirt & watch the miracle of growing seeds.  I love it because gardening is one of my favorite hobbies.  Since Spring has been slow coming here in the Rockies we decided to do an indoor planting project.  I bought a different kind of flower for each child & helped them individually plant their seeds.
We set the plants in a sunny window & use glasses or cut the tops off plastic bottles to create a green house effect.  The sprouts shoot up within a couple days (depending on germination time).  The kids get so excited when they see a little green popping up through the dirt.  It is their responsibility to gently water their seedlings each day & remove the cover for a few hours in the afternoon so mold doesn't begin growing.  This is a creative & fun way to instill responsibility into the little ones.  It also teaches them about plants & growing.  My kiddos love seeing how the different kinds of seeds grow & look.  When the weather gets warm enough we will transplant the flowers into the garden so they can watch them grow into full bloom.

Fun, simple, quick & educational.  I like that.

Brainstorming Session: Part Deux

Thank you all for your wonderful ideas for this Easter dress.  After reading them, digging around in boxes for materials, & considering my "extra" time each day this is what I came up with.  I just did a simple hand stitch to get the satin pink material on, so it will be very easy to remove.
But here is where I need some help.  Do I just leave it like this?
Or do I add just a little embellishment?
Or a tinge more of embellishment?  This is actually a hair clip!  It's hard to see but the middle of the flowers are little rhinestones. 

What do you think?  Which of these three ideas do you prefer?  If you have an idea that you think will work better let me know.  Also, how do I accessorize this dress?  I have a small pink bead bracelet to go along.  But should I do tights or socks?  What color?  What color shoes?  How about in the hair (my daughter has short hair so it has to be fairly simple).  I love getting your suggestions.  I'm having a bit of a creative block with this project so all feedback is more than welcomed.

Pay It Forward

Today I want to give you an opportunity to help out a brave set of parents.  I was given the link to this site via a comment on my blog.  This is a pretty cool idea & for a great cause.  You buy a raffle ticket (or a couple) & get enter to win this sweet camera (trust me, this is a SWEET camera).  In turn money is raised for this family to adopt a sweet little boy named Noah.  But this is no run of the mill adoption (even though all adoption is great, there is nothing more wonderful than giving a child a family & home).  This family is adopting from a foundation called Reese's Rainbow which is an international ministry for down syndrome orphans.  I do not know the Silva family at all (but they do live where my Dad grew up & most of my relatives reside... so go Lake Stevens! And Arlington, and Marysville, and Savanah... I have too many relatives.), but I think what they are doing is incredibly brave & compassionate.  I pray that they get all the funds they need quickly & easily so they can bring this little boy home.  Check it out & if you can buy a raffle ticket please do.  If not, help pass the word around by posting/Facebooking/emailing this link.  Above all, just your support & prayers would mean the world to them.
Tune in tomorrow to see the update on the Easter dress... I'll need some more input.

Don't Let the Door Hit You on the Way Out

About a month ago it snowed about eight inches overnight.  It was the kind of snow that covers the trees perfectly & everything looks smooth & soft.
It was so pretty that I went out with my camera early in the morning to capture the beauty.
I wanted to get some shots before the sun or kiddos ruined the soft white serenity.
It also was getting late enough in the winter that I thought "this will be the last big snowfall we get...
... From here on out we will just get little dustings & the sun will melt most of the pretty white stuff away...
... The ground will have snow on it, but it will be dirty melted snow.  So I better capture this moment now.  A sort of farewell to winter."
Boy was I WAY off!  We have gotten so much snow since then.  The other week we got one foot overnight.  I swear winter will not stop here, it's just going to bleed into next winter.  I'm so ready for Spring!  I'm tired of shoveling, feeding horses, & snow boots.  It's time for bare ground & warm air.  So Winter, I love you & mean this with the best of intentions, but it is time for you to go now.

Sour Cream, Chicken, and Cheese Enciladas

Slowly, but surely I'm becoming better at making Mexican food.  Enchiladas are by far my favorite Mexican dish.  So over the years I have meshed many recipes together and have come up with my favorite enchiladas.  These are mild enough for my kiddos but flavorful enough for my husband (An avid Mexican food lover.  He keeps trying to convince me we should move to Mexico, but I know it would only be for the food!)  You could spice them up more with hot sauce or Cayenne Pepper.  Also, this recipe makes a ton, so it's great for large dinner parties, hungry teenage boys, or pot lucks.  These enchiladas are easy to make, versatile, and yummy.  Here's the DL:
15 Corn Tortillas
Oil for frying
2 1/2 cups cooked shredded chicken*
1 can diced green chilies
1 can red enchilada sauce (20 oz)**
2 cups sour cream
4 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend
1 cup chopped green onions
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
2. Heat about 1/2 inch of oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Flash fry totillas one at a time, for about 5 seconds per side.  You just want them to get soft, but not crispy.  (Once the tortilla starts to bubble flip it over & fry the other side for a few seconds.)  Lay out on paper towels to drain.
3. Mix chicken, green chilies, sour cream, 2 1/2 cups of cheese, green onions,  cumin, & cayenne pepper.
4. Heat enchilada sauce in skillet over medium heat just until warmed through but not hot/boiling.
5. Spread a very thin layer of enchilada sauce on the bottom of a 9x13 baking pan.
5. Take tortilla & dunk it in enchilada sauce, coating both sides.  Set it on a plate & spoon about 3 tablespoons of chicken & cheese mixture onto the middle of the tortilla.  Roll it up & place seam side down in baking pan.  Repeat lining up enchiladas side by side in baking pan.***
6. Cover enchiladas with the remaining cheese.  Bake for 15-20 minutes until bubbly.
7. Sprinkle the top with a few more green onions to make it look pretty.  Serve immediately.  Once plated place a spoonful of sour cream & cilantro for ultimate yumminess!

These enchiladas are a great weeknight dinner & easy to make ahead & cook later.  I generally make a double batch & then freeze half of the enchiladas for another day.  That way all I have to do it pull them out & pop them in the oven (make sure you cook it longer if they are frozen :).

*To make shredded chicken: Sprinkle about 3 large chicken breast with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cumin to your tasting.  Place in baking dish & cover.  Cook in 350 degree over for 30-40 minutes.   I also do this in my dutch oven over medium heat for 30-40 minutes, works great.  Once cooked allow to cool throughly.  Then using your hands (preferred method) or two forks pull chicken apart until it is in little pieces.
**If all the enchiladas don't fit use an additional pan.  I generally need to us a 9x13 & a 8x8 to use up all the ingredients

Brainstorming Sesson

Supplying special holiday outfits for Easter and Christmas can consume all your life savings if you're not careful.  Having four little ones I should know.  Not to mention that my husband is a pastor so Easter and Christmas are not only special for us personally but also professionally.  It's kind of a big deal around here and looking good is part of all of that.  The only way I have been able to provide holiday dresses and suites for my monkeys is to by it the year before at the end of season sales.  For instance, I bought this year's Easter outfits last May at Target.  I got my son's entire outfit (pants, collared shirt, & sweater vest) for $7 and two super cute dresses for $4.50 each.  Not too bad.  Only problem is that I'm one dress short for one of my older twin daughters.  While I was dress shopping for Christmas 2011 I found this dress and jacket combo and couldn't pass it up.  I thought it could work for an Easter dress even though the material is a little heavy (the dress was made for the winter season).  And the jacket is perfect because around these parts Easter time can still be quite chilly.
Plus, just look at that jacket.  I want that jacket.  I love the big buttons!  It's so 1950's (the era I should have been born in) and girlie, and adorable.  When I saw this jacket paired with the dress for only $10 I could not walk away.
Here's where I need help.  I want to make this dress more Springy.  My daughter's favorite color is pink, so I'd like to use that as the accent color somewhere.  But I'm stuck!  I'm not sure how to embellish or accessorize it.  I also want the adjustments to be temporary because this dress will be passed on to my youngest in the future & I don't know what time of year she will wear it.  I need your ideas, please post them in the comments section below.  Come on fashionistas, show me what you're made of!