Christmas Past, Christmas Now

You know those moments. Those moments when you just can’t put your finger on it. Those moments when you swear you can see Tinker Dust as you brush it from your eyelashes and shoulders. You know those moments, for lack of a better word, we’ll call magical. I seem to be having these at every turn. Like all over town, so to speak! Like all the way around the parking lot… like wonderment x 100. Call me a cornball, but I prayed for more wonderment in my life here about a month or so ago. Yep. WON-DER-MENT– in my face, in my heart, all up in my grill.

Today has been no different. My dough is rising peacefully in the oven (on proof mode,) my butter cookies are baked, frosted and looking rather coquettish. Let me just say they got the moves like Jagger. Do you think old Mick made cookies with his mum?

I know I did. She took the time to make the floury, powdered sugary, frosted countertops for miles kind of mess that only she was qualified to clean up when the dust finally settled. And, I did it with my girls too. I love those moments. They’re, well, magical.

I have written a Christmas chorus for the 2017 season. It’s been a few years since I’ve written a Christmas song to sing along with the fam.  It goes like this:

Good News and great joy     For unto you is born a Saviour

Who is Christ the Lord     Who is Christ the Lord

I wish you could hear it with my guitar. And in fine Chris Tomlin fashion, it pairs nicely with Away in a Manger. It completes that well known tune, and well, frankly, adds an element of truth to it! Now don’t take offense! “But little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes.” Really? A newborn baby in a manager with cows lowing and strange shepherds coming and going at all hours. No crying? Ok.

Last year I wrote a poem for my sister in law. It is entitled “Rebecca’s Poem”  (it’s quite fitting as her name is Rebecca!)

Rebecca's Poem

My prayer for you this Christmastime is wonderment. May the dust of fairies, well heck even better, may the dust of Heaven reign ( I know, I know, “rain”)  down on your plans. May you be surrounded by the beauty of the season. May you have peace in every circumstance. And may the miracle of Jesus’ birth shine truth in all of our hearts. We could all use the truth now couldn’t we?

Merry Christmas

Saddle up Missy! We’ve got a trail to blaze… and probably a few boxes, wrapping paper…

Love ya.

My Wyoming Home


So let me introduce you to the house that Construction Man designed and built with his (and my) own two hands! It took us a year to build and we are looking forward to our first Christmas Day in our cozy living area.

We have a rather large family and will most likely have about 40+ folks here for dinner. I am excited. I have many nephews, seventeen to be exact,  and three beautiful nieces. Some of those nephews have children of their own… as on and on it goes. 🙂 Of course, not everyone will be in attendance, but it will be a grand party none the less. Too much food, lots of beer and wine,  the occasional game of Connect Four, Tensies, Euchre and  Jablansky! I love Christmas. I love our family.

I love my husband of 34 years on December 17. He is creative, intelligent, steady, hard-working, and loving. How I could have ever been so blessed by this man is way beyond my comprehension.

As far as baking, I have been working steadily on my sourdough starter/bread recipe. Yesterday I hit upon a great Molasses Oat Bread that is simply delicious. When I perfect the recipe I will share. I promise!

My croissant and marshmallow endeavors are extraordinary. I made coffee flavored marshmallows and mason jars of hot cocoa mix to give away to friends and family. All you need add is two shots of espresso and steamy whole milk or breve for the ultimate cuppa cuppa!

How are your Christmas preparations coming along?

Saddle up, Missy! We got a trail to blaze.


Love ya!



Sign Here=Obedience

If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross daily and follow me.     –Jesus  Luke 9:23

Close to 20 years ago it seemed I signed on the dotted line when I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. Nobody coerced me into it; there was no huge pomp and circumstance. There was however a very sweet, small congregation at a Lutheran church that welcomed our young, growing family with wide arms and well meaning Christianese.

Fast Forward:  Many years have passed and our young family has grown and flown.

I don’t know why God chose the places where my faith would develop into what it has become so far. So many events too numerous to tell of have brought me to this point where I can have a safe vantage point or view separate from the confusion of Christianese–a language even more difficult to decipher than Mandarin.

One thing I know for sure and for certain is that though I may still have a faint sour taste on my tongue after having shoved off from the institution of religion, my love for Christ has not diminished one iota. I quit attending church religiously, but continued to read the Bible each day. (I do meet with other Christians regularly as well.)

I sift, I sort, I ponder, I pray. I wonder, I stand firm, I run away, I come back. I fail, I succeed, I hate, I love, I try, I quit. Then I get up and try some more. I have spoken wisdom into people’s lives and I have been a terrible excuse for a human being. I’ve murdered, cheated and lied, given birth, been honest, and have been painfully faced with the truth.

One thing that is certain in all my travels down paths of days squandered and fully lived, GOD DOES NOT CHANGE!

Though the name GOD denotes “high above” which He is, He made a way for me to know Him  and step into a much better place in my spirit. Clarity–it is a thing. Peace–it does exist. Wisdom–you can obtain some. Love–it’s not just another pretty face.

This is my faith apportioned to me by God. This is my dotted line. This is the grace I’ve received to live unashamed, take up my cross to follow the Lord, Jesus Christ. This is where the rubber meets the road:  I put aside my selfish ambitions and get ambitious for those things that are good and right. Kingdom things.

Kindess, charity, generosity, hope. But this dotted line and following through are not easy. You can never count the cost. Jesus already did that on the cross. For you. For me. All I have is today. I can go a little farther. I can try to understand and do only what I can do– facing forward and exercising faith. Not faith in faith, but faith in God. This is my race to run, my row to hoe on His strength, mercy and forgiveness. By the power of His Holy Spirit.

Sign here? Done!

Nothing to lose and Heaven to gain.

Now, saddle up, Missy! We’ve got a trail to blaze.

Hearts Towards Thanksgiving

Next to Easter, I believe I like Thanksgiving best. As a young girl we would go down state in Michigan to visit all the grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins. I have lots and lots of cousins! Those days are not just good memories, they are grand! So many family members now passed away. I miss my grandmother Lily’s mashed potatoes. If my memory serves me well, they were lumpy (good lumpy, not bad or raw potato lumpy,) and just the right texture to sport that salty turkey gravy that filled the spoon dip or miniature mote. When the dam broke, that gravy saturated my whole plate including the raspberry fluff/jello. By then my belly was getting full of nutritious foods, and I was already facing down the homestretch of pumpkin pie. Lil’s pies were a might on the spicy side, speckled dark with cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon. (I think she had one too many Kessler and Squirts while preparing them!) I like them that way still, but my middle girl just complained the other day that my pies were too spicy for her tastes. I may cut back a tad on the flavorings in my pies this year… NOT!

If not for Jesus, I don’t know how I could face another holiday season. I miss my sister, Cheri. I miss my brother, Dave. Each died young and each left huge craters in our family’s hearts. We have survived with the knowledge that we will all be together again in Heaven, but sometimes the wait gets so long and I become anxious to hear their voices, their laughter. There is great comfort in the hope of Heaven.

This year it would seem that not everyone is on board for all that family togetherness that comes with the season. While walking through Walmart today with the youngest girl, she commented that it felt like nobody was into it this year. So I made a proclamation right there in the aisle between the clothes and the cleaning supplies, on our way to the self checkout, “Dinner for both Thanksgiving and Christmas will be at the ranch, and I am cooking!” Her reply? “Okay, mom.”

Sometimes just a little effort is all that’s needed to smooth over undone thoughts or emotions. I will be the one to get fired up and into the swing of the holidays and we will start with Thanksgiving and food, glorious food! I think we will return to the old tradition of writing in the family journal just exactly what it is that we are personally thankful for. It can be as simple as pumpkin pie or as controversial as being happy for the our new President Trump. You see, not everyone in our immediate family is a conservative. (We won’t hold that against them!) Anywho… I digress. It’s such a beautiful thing to go back and read what other family members have written, especially those who are gone on ahead.

And of course, early in the morning Construction Man will load up Chemist Child ( our third girl) her black lab Nell, and Hank the Cowdog and head out for the annual Thanksgiving pheasant hunt. I got me a hankering for a hearty, cast iron skillet roasted pheasant. So easy to do. Such a good thing to do. Such a natural thing to do– seeing as though I was raised on it.


Simply skin and clean your bird, (keeping the tail feathers for bragging rights) and soak it in the sink for awhile to soften the meat and remove any buckshot. Pat it dry and dredge it in flour, salt and pepper. Place the pieces of the bird in the cast iron skillet with a little oil and butter on medium heat to get a good sear. Then turn it down low, add water as it evaporates and let her simmer until fork tender (2- 2 1/2 hours.) Serve it up with some wild grain rice and oven roasted brussel sprouts. And don’t forget to make a pan sauce with those juices in your pan. Make a little slurry with a couple tablespoons of cornstarch and some warm tap water, turn juices up to boil and add slurry. Stir well until thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Welp… better check my bread dough. This sourdough starter is miraculous. Really? Just flour, water and air. Wyoming must have some amazing, wild yeast. I know it’s got some amazing, wild women!

Now, saddle up Missy! We got a trail to blaze. Love ya!


Yours truly on the left, my friends Ashley Smallwood and her mom Karen Johnston.

This was a few years back at a ‘Go Mama Go’ barrel racing event. I did not, nor do I run barrels, but Ashley and Karen do. They are pretty darn good at it too.

Croissants Give Texture to Life or at Least add Layers

Are you kidding me? These lovely, mouthwatering, multi-layered, flaky, buttered delights have changed many worlds in the last few days with their flavor and Frenchiness! This cook book is genius. I must say, I feel so accomplished in my pastry making efforts in these past few weeks. One success right after another… I might just take this show on the road! At least to town to the feed the locals.

Croissant making  is a two day process that is actually quite easy to do by showing great detail to time and energy. My new kitchen scale measures out those grams to the nines. And the amount of butter and eggs is magnificent. Tiny life changing miracles all on their own are these two commodities. The feel of the dough as it is being rolled out gives great satisfaction to the senses. It is soft, spongy, and obedient when measured and worked according to the instructions. Who knew? Baking really is a science of details and chemistry. I love it!

Construction Man made it in last night from Cheyenne. The first thing he did was eat one of these golden bundles of joy. He was overwhelmed with flavor as the croissant melted on his tongue. I love to watch people eat and smile, eat and smile. This is my life’s calling, to be sure.

Today will bring ranch chores as we are in need of hay and firewood. We usually have the firewood delivered by a family friend. He’s a young man with the best manners and a kind heart. But alas, he is moving to Arizona to ride and train cutting horses. I wish him all the best. He left me with a few names of other guys who cut wood and deliver. As far as hay is concerned, I have two large round bales left over from last season which will get us through for awhile if the snow gets too deep. I will feel much better for the horse’s sakes if we stockpile a little more.

So, I’ll get some sourdough bread on the rise with my new starter and I’ll report back in a day or so with the results. Happy Fall!

Saddle up, Missy! We got a trail to blaze.

Until next time… Love ya.

Cream Puffs, Sourdough Starter and Cow Snow

So, pate a choux is my favorite dough to make. It’s easy and quick, and you can be eating a cream filled, chocolate covered puff as fast as you can crack that bull whip! My mom whips up these babies in a pinch, for my dad, quite regularly. Plus, if you have a herd of chickens, you can use up dozens of eggie weggies just as fast as you can get ’em cracked open. My recipe is simple:

Preheat oven to 400*

add to a medium saucepan (heavy bottom): 1 stick butter, 1 c water, pinch of salt, 1 teas sugar, and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and add one cup of flour all at once. Stir with a whisk to ensure there are no lumps. Place the pan back on med. heat to cook the proteins in the flour for about one minute. Let the mixture cool for a few minutes.  Now, the work begins! Add one egg at a time and stir with a wooden spoon until the egg is mixed well with the flour. Then add another egg. Mix well.  Add four to five eggs depending on how “pipe- able” your dough looks. It should be very thick, but you should be able to spoon it into a piping bag and easily squeeze out at least ten to twelve mounds onto your cookie sheet covered with silicone lining. (Pat down tips of puffs so this little tip sticking way up there doesn’t just burn as they are baking.) You can even spoon the dough onto the  baking sheet. Place dough into oven for about 20 minutes and then turn it down to about 350* to allow the puffs to continue cooking without getting too brown. When the puffs have risen and cracked and turned brown, turn off the oven and cock the door open. Let the puffs cool in the oven for a bit so they don’t lose all of their steam and go flat. You can also poke a toothpick or skewer in the top to let out the steam. Fill the puffs with your favorite custard or pudding, drizzle with chocolate sauce and serve with a dollop of whip cream. 🙂

You can also add 1 1/2 cups shredded gruyere cheese after you stir in the eggs (don’t forget a couple shakes of nutmeg)  and bake the same way. This is a great savory version called “gougere.”

It has turned to winter in these last few days.

cow snow

Here are some cows on our land with Table Mountain peeking out in the background.

I was inspired by the cooler temps to get my sourdough starter going. It won’t be ready for another eight days. In my impatience, I am baking bread today. I added some buckwheat flour and I am excited to see how it tastes. I also added some of the starter that is supposed to be discarded as you feed the sourdough one. It smells so good and sour. I hope to keep it alive for the rest of my lifetime… a worthy goal, don’t you think?


I have three daughters. My second girl, Taylor, will be having a birthday very soon. She is coming today for a visit. She lives in the southern part of Wyoming. She likes to ride horses when she comes around. I sure do love my girls and am so happy when they come home to roost for a spell.


Ain’t she a beaut! Well, to be real honest, all my girls are very beautiful, intelligent and full of the joie de vivre!  And, don’t ever try to come between us. You ever seen a grizzly sow get separated from her cubs? It ain’t real pretty for the poor sucker that wandered in-between ’em.  Family is what matters most.

So, get cha some eggs and whip up some cream puffs for dessert. You got this!

Saddle up, Missy! We got a trail to blaze. Love ya!

Autumn Sights and Smells

Well, Construction Man was home for the weekend! We had a great time hunting, eating, shopping, and precious marriage maintenance. What’s this, you may ask? You know. All that conversation, coffee, hand holding and smooching that a couple needs to catch up on regularly. We have lots of history, 34 years worth, that is endearing to know has shaped us into the same heart. I just love that guy. I got one of the good ones… just sayin’. I am humbled and grateful for this blessed relationship.


I spent a great deal of time making my own puff pastry this weekend as well. Now, this requires quite a bit of time and work, but I’m going to tell you, it is so utterly worth the effort.

And the final result: A Napoleon!


The pastry was so flavorful. It had great texture, flaky, buttery, with a hint of salty to complement the raspberry chantilly cream of my own design.

1- 8 oz. block of cream cheese, 1/4 c whole cream, 2 rounded tbls sour cream, 4 tbls Chambord, 1 c confectioner’s sugar. Mix wet ingredients and gradually add powdered sugar. This is a bit thicker ‘cream’, but the flavor and texture is divine. Plus it spreads well atop the delicate, homemade pastry and stands sturdily under the pressure of stacking high those luscious berries.

I also made my dutch oven bread. Hey, it was a windy, chilly weekend and it felt so good to rev up the oven and alert the olfactories of heaven’s scent… baking bread!


So, now it’s Monday. I will continue to work through my new cook book: The Art of French Pastry. I have been making pate a chous for many years for cream puffs and gougeres, but that is what I will be baking up today. Look out piping bag, you’re about to get rode hard and put away wet!~~~ “Saddle up Missy! We got a trail to blaze!”

Around the World in 80 Days!

I wish I could say I thought about this blog while I was away, but alas, I did not! No apologies here though. I had a ball visiting family and friends from North Dakota to Minnesota, Nashville to Keeneland, and Michigan to Wyoming again. Ok. So i wasn’t gone for 80 days, but it sure did feel like it late yesterday afternoon when I rolled up to the ranch with Hank the Cowdog in tow. He really couldn’t believe his eyes when we walked the fields last night before collapsing into bed, yes, both of us collapsed! And, I didn’t travel the world, but with all the adventure packed into this past month, food, family, laughter, tears, scenic vistas dotted with autumn riots of foliage, there is no world as blessed as my world.

I arrived back home to a new cookbook.


This is going to a most enjoyable journey creating through this one! I am gathering up the essentials as I type. I am moved by this man’s sweet stories, and sweet spirit, and sweet creations. Oh how  I am pleased to have reconnected with my mother and father on my trip and garnered more stories of our family history and traditions.

I look forward to sharing such recipes and tender morsels of life and love as these winter weeks and months unfurl. I hope you will join me, please do!

You must know that I started my exercise routine this morning by saddling up one of my favorite, “go-to” mares and loping the most intricate, round circles. She remembers, me too. Addy girl… you smell like my childhood. Love you.

Addy on road 8 with tongue out

Addy’s fashion halter was a gift from one of my sweet, young friend and student many years ago.

Baking, Moving, Traveling, Following

Just in case you were wondering, I have moved just this last week from the ranch in Wyoming to North Dakota with Construction Man. We took all of last year off to build our house which is now complete. We are excited and glad as these big jobs are pressing, tiresome, and meticulous. Now, I’m not complaining, mind you. But when a husband and wife go to building their dream home that he has been designing and redesigning all of their married life, and then he executes the plan with a timeline, emotions can interfere. More like try to commandeer such grandiose undertakings!

We survived, thrived, contrived, and devised an amazing home. This is no ordinary house mind you. Situated on approximately 40 acres of lush, irrigated and sub-irrigated grassland/pasture and surrounded by at least nine mountain ranges, I insisted on huge windows. It’s more than a million dollar view, it’s heaven. Ok.  It’s not heaven, but you can see it from there!

Construction Man and Carter Mountain

But now, we are off to places unknown for Construction Man’s work. He is a very smart man, capable of much wisdom and application within the world of oil and construction– from building homes to highways. My hero, really! He has a tender side, a grand following, and passionate fanfare, as you will see as this blog unfurls. Oh, Look! Here’s one now:


Me and my oldest daughter, Austin Claire. Today is her birthday. She is a beaut! We love her with all of our hearts. Happy Birthday my girl.

She has long been my butter- cookie- making -partner, being the oldest and all. This recipe was handed down through our family from my paternal Grandmother Claire (Charlebois) Johnson.


In a mixing bowl put in 2 sticks of softened  butter, cream with 3/4 cup granulated sugar

Add one egg, pinch of salt, big splash of vanilla, two tablespoons of whole milk, (you can even use cream, evaporated canned milk or half and half) and mix well enough.

In another bowl sift together 2 1/2 cups of flour (keep other half cup for rolling out the dough) and 1 1/2 teas. of baking powder. Add dry to wet in increments, to allow the flour to soak up the wet ingredients. The dough should be sort of dry and soft to the touch in order to roll out and cut. If it is sticky, add a little more flour. (Don’t work the dough too much or add too much flour in the rolling and cutting action, as it will get tough.) This is the place where most recipes call for refrigerating the dough. I do not include this step. Perhaps I’m just a talented enough baker to whip out these delicate delights, but really it all boils down to being hungry and needing a cookie right now! Scrape down sides and pull out half of dough and roll out on floured surface. Cut and place on heavy duty, ungreased cookie sheets. Bake at 400* until edges of cookies are golden brown. About 9-10 minutes. Roll out rest of dough and repeat.  Frost when cooled.


Add 1 stick of softened butter, one egg white, pinch of cream of tartar and a large (2 teas.+) splash of vanilla to mixing bowl and give it a good swirl about. When this is mixed together, slowly add up to 2 1/2- 3 cups of powdered sugar. Frosting should be of good spreading consistency–not too dry. If you find you have added too much powdered sugar, you can add a splash of milk to loosen the frosting up and make it sticky again and vice versa.

Get cracking and saddle up, Missy! We got a trail to blaze.


Dutch Ovens Fire-ever

IMG_1779Construction Man and me riding somewhere in Montana on a wagon train a few years back.

We agreed to head up the food and preparation on this trip. The Dutch oven is one of the finest pans in my culinary arsenal! From scrambled eggs for our breakfast burritos, to warming the tortillas, and even whipping up Shepherd’s Pie; Dutch ovens are the bee’s knees.

I bake a meaty, dense brown bread regularly in two of my smaller cast iron beauties. This is a no knead recipe that has become quite a standard at most family gatherings.

Prepare the dough the night before:

In a large plastic bowl add:

4 1/2 c bread flour

1 1/2 c light rye flour

2 1/2 Tbls yeast

2 Tbls brown cane sugar

1 c  quick oats

2 teas salt

mix dry ingredients together, then begin adding wet ingredients:

2-3 Tbls olive oil

1/2 c molasses

3 c (+scant) warm water

Stir and mix quite well, dough will resemble a shaggy dog texture and be fairly wet. Cover with plastic wrap and leave on counter overnight, about 12 hours.

In the morning,  pop your Dutch oven, one larger 10- 12 quart or two smaller 6-8 quarts, into the oven and turn ‘er up to 425* . While the ovens are preheating, dump your dough onto a floured surface and knead a tad more flour into the dough to be able to handle it and cut it into two equal portions. Or leave in one large  loaf for larger pan. Let dough rest, covered with plastic wrap, on the counter until Dutch ovens are hot. Pull Dutch ovens out, remove lids and spray inside with oil. Be careful, these pans will be screaming hot! Drop dough into pan, it will sizzle if you are doing it right. Score top of dough three times with sharp knife. Replace lids and pop back into the oven. Set timer for 25 minutes. When timer rings, pull Dutch oven lids and bake for 8-10 more minutes. Bread will be golden to dark brown and sound hollow when you knock on the top.

Remove from oven and turn out on rack to cool.

Serve up with plenty of salted butter and a good glass of dark, dry wine! This bread also pairs very nicely with Shepherd’s pie.


artwork by Diane Whitlock