December 31, 2009

Traditional New Years Eve

Tonight, while you are all participating in your varied traditional new year's eve celebrations, we will be...somewhere....sleeping.
My family gathers at my brother's house and they do whatever it is they do. They started this tradition after we had moved, so we've not been there for this particular gathering, but it sounds fun.
Lots of people go to parties, or sit up and bring in the new year, but we tend to work through it, since we take time off for Christmas. We always feel pressured to get back to work. If anyone out there thinks being your own employer means less pressure, let me assure you...your wrong! I think we push ourselves a lot more than a "boss" would if we were working for someone else.

Just for kicks I looked back in the log book to see what we were doing/where we were last New Years Eve. It looks like we spent the night in northern Utah, and I got up around 2:00am and drove south on I-15 towards California.

This year, we're continuing in the tradition of being on the road for New Years. Just a little variation. We'll be heading north on I-15 in Nevada. I don't think we'll make the Utah line today. And we'll either be stopping in Baker, CA or closer to Las Vegas. I doubt we'll be sitting up to see in the new year.

We unloaded this morning in Helm, CA and just finished reloading in McFarland, which is just north of Bakersfield, CA. We'll have a leisurely weekend, traveling across the country to Illinois for a Monday delivery. It averages out that we need to drive about 500 miles a day.

Looks like we get to cross the Rockies west of Denver on I-70, something we tend to not do often, but I enjoy the drive and it looks like they're getting a little snow too. Hope it doesn't turn into anything major, as its prone to do in that area.

I'll do my best to get a few pictures of the snowy Rocky Mountains for you. Hope you all enjoy your evening, doing whatever it is you do to bring in the New Year. Stay safe, have fun, and I wish you all many blessings for the year to come!

December 28, 2009

This Christmas

Well the celebration is over and its back to work! We're sitting in downtown Chattanooga at ADM waiting our turn to load wheat screenings. Got to say one last goodbye to Dad because Malcolm left his cell phone charger in Dad's vehicle, so Dad drove down here to deliver it.

We had a truly wonderful Christmas. It was so nice to be back in Tennessee, to be surrounded by immediate and extended family, and to just be a part of things again. Every time I read my sister's blog, or get emails from her or Mom about a trip they went on together, or a family event that I missed...yet again...I get a little depressed and sad. So it was fabulous to be there for it all this year!

We arrived on Wednesday evening. Our load of DDG from Indiana wasn't scheduled to deliver till Thursday morning, but we had a Christmas party to go to at 10:30 that morning. The place we were delivering told us if we made it there by 9:00pm on Wednesday they would unload us, and so we flew to Chattanooga and arrived at 5:00pm eastern time. We were so proud! We were going to unload and still have time to make it to my Dad's restaurant for dinner! But the place we were delivering informed us upon our arrival that they were full. There was no more bin space and so we'd have to come back in the morning and maybe they would have room. Maybe? We weren't going to chance missing the family Christmas gathering on a maybe. So we drove on to my Dad's enjoyed dinner, spent four wonderful days with the family, and delivered the junk this morning. And you know what? We were the first truck to empty out, and the truck behind us was out of luck, because as soon as they got the DDG off our truck, their bins were full again. What a deal!

Anyway, three and a half wonderful days with my parents, and then yesterday afternoon we drove the truck to the other side of Chattanooga, back to where we were delivering, which happens to be a couple miles from where Malcolm's aunt and uncle live. So we spent the evening with them and Malcolm's cousin and his wife. It was a really nice visit. We enjoyed it so much. And Sharon, dinner was truly wonderful! I love lasagna and yours was especially yummy!

Ok, that's enough jabbering for now. I'm put up some pictures for you, and then be on my way for the day.

The girls are exhausted. Paris had a good time, but Ella is still afraid of my Mom's Pomeranian, and Carlie Jean just can't take anything out of the ordinary, not to mention so many people. If she had hair...it would be falling out by the fist fulls right now. They were very much ready to go back to work, but I think they were the only ones.

My niece, Bentlee, and Paris bonded. Bentlee said they were best friends. She spent a good portion of the time carrying Paris around. At first, Paris LOVED it, but later, I noticed that she tended to head in the other direction when she saw Bentlee heading her way.
Christmas Eve we had a family Wii time. It was fun, and entertaining to see all these adults getting so worked up over a video game. (notice Bentlee is still lugging Paris around?)
Dad received some new Wii games for Christmas, including Cabelas Big Game Hunter. The guys really got into it.

stalking his prey

That's my sister-in-law, Sarah, on the right. She was fiddling with a toy Bentlee got for Christmas, while the guys were hunting. I think Dad ended up with the better score.

I liked so many of these last shots, I posted more than I ought to have. Bentlee and Mom love to play with their American Girl dolls. Mom started Bentlee's fetish several years ago by giving her a Bitty Baby for Christmas. Now there are lots of "Bitty Babies" and even a "Bitty Baby room." Its gotten so crowded in there that the night before they had finally disassembled the twin size guest bed and moved it out to make more room for Bitty Baby playing.

Bentlee's favorite game, it seems, is playing teacher and when she wasn't teaching all us grown ups something, then she was in the Bitty Baby room playing teacher with all the goodies Mom has supplied her.

The evenings lesson was on currency, appropriate for Christmas Eve, considering we were all broke at this point.
I think Kitty gave a wrong answer.
Trying to remember what's what from her lesson planning.

She is one sharp 5 year old! (almost 6)

December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!

Long ago, the greatest gift ever to be given arrived in a humble stable.

I wish you all a Very Merry Christmas, filled with reminders of God's love, and many blessings in the year to come.

Merry Christmas!

December 21, 2009

Winner of the Christmas Gift

Good morning. Hope you all had a great weekend and Monday morning is going well for you as well. We're sitting here in Spokane, WA waiting to get unloaded. So far the mornings going OK, except that I did an update on our log book program, and now its not working. I have to wait 12-48 hours for an activation code. Hmm...that could make things interesting. We haven't kept paper logs in almost three years. Hope we remember how to do it!

Anyway, I got Malcolm to draw a name out of the hat this morning for my Christmas gift, and he drew (drum roll)....

Small Farm Girl!

SFG, if you could email me your address at beyondthefencepost@yahoo.com
and I'll get that in the mail to you just as soon as I can. I hope you enjoy the book and bookmark. The story is very touching.

I had planned to catch you all up to date on the last few days, but after the whole log book thing, I'm feeling a little deflated. So....I'm going to put that off till tomorrow or maybe later today. Enjoy the day and the count down to Christmas!

December 16, 2009

A Christmas Gift

I love Christmas, and everything that goes with it. To celebrate my most favorite holiday, I'm going to have a give away. I know I don't have 300 readers like those other blogs that give stuff away, but I'm doing it anyway, and my lack of followers just increases your chances of actually winning!
I read, at the coaxing of my sister, a short and sweet book that has such a powerful message in its story. It is also a Christmas story. And so I'm giving away a copy along with one of the beaded bookmarks I made.

Here's what you need to do. Simply leave a comment on the next post telling me what your favorite Christmas ornament on your tree is, and if you don't have a tree, then which of my pictured ornaments did you like most?

This will be my last post till Monday, so you have till then to comment. And on Monday morning I'll draw a name and post the winner, so check back on Monday to see if your getting the gift. Make sure you leave your name on your comment, as some of them are really vague. Like if your name is Susie on your comment ID, please mention that you are Susie Q, or something like that. And anyone is welcome. You don't have to be on my followers list to be drawn.

Hope you have a great weekend and I'll see you Monday.

Now scroll down to the next post to see my Christmas ornaments.

December 15, 2009

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

For this weeks Christmas post, I decided to share some pictures of a few of my favorite ornaments. Originally, I thought..."my favorite five," but as I began taking photos it was hard to choose. So I ended up with much more than five, and you'll just have to forgive me for taking more of your time than necessary to look at Christmas ornaments.
When I was little, me and my siblings each had an ornament collection. Every year, Mom would buy us the Hallmark ornament that went in our collection. My brother collected the little clothespin soldiers, my sister collected the angels, and I collected the rocking horses. My first rocking horse is the 1983 ornament. I saw it in an antique store a couple years ago priced at over $200. Of course that one had the box too. I threw away most of my boxes, not knowing that was a foolish thing to do. Well, I was 6 years old. Its not like I was thinking of their future value, not that I would sell them. Anyway, of all my rocking horses, this one is one of my favorites.

I don't remember what year my collection stops. At some point I moved on to Snoopy ornaments, and now I'm not really collecting anything special, just ornaments that catch my eye. But over the years, due to my horse obsession, I managed to acquire a number of horse ornaments. Of all of them, I think this one is my favorite, because it combines my love of horses and chickens.When my brother and his girlfriend (now wife) got serious enough for her to join us at Christmas, she started a tradition of giving my sister and I an ornament every year. I have quite a collection from her, and they are all different. These are two of my favorites from those that are from my sister-in-law.
I don't remember where this one came from, but I like it. It has kind of inspired me to start a kitchen tree. I'd like to collect ornaments that have to do with food and cooking and decorate a little tree in my kitchen.

In 1999 (?) I took a year off from college and worked, trying to figure out what I was doing with my life and what kind of career I wanted. I still haven't quite figured that out. However, a lot of good things came out of that year, including traveling too Europe and spending a month with my friend from Bratislava, Slovak Republic and also a week in Glasgow, Scotland with another friend. Barbora, Louise, and I met while working at a Girl Scout camp one summer, and have continued to stay in touch over the years. We all three hope to have a reunion of sorts one of these days either over here, or in Europe somewhere. They have both made second trips to the states, and I got to meet Barbora and her husband on one of those trips, but missed Louise this summer. She and her hubby and kids went to Florida, and even though I had traveled to Tennessee at the same time, we were not able to get together due to time constraints.
Ok, I got WAY off the topic. All that to say while I was in Bratislava for Christmas, I purchased these ornaments from the Christmas market. They are all made with straw, seeds, and other natural material, and are traditional Slovak ornaments.

Granny LOVED Christmas. I don't know what happened to all her Christmas stuff. We were discussing it just last weekend because Mom and I were both wondering where her lighted nativity went to that she always put in the yard. A lot of her things disappeared. I was fortunate enough, though, to discover a box of some of her Christmas ornaments when I was digging around in a storage shed a few years ago. I gave a few to my sister and brother, and kept a few for myself. These always go on my tree, in honor of Granny. They bring a million memories with just a glance.

Malcolm and I were married in July of 2002. I don't remember where we got the gourd, but Malcolm, who is forever creating things, took some wire and his pocket knife and made me this bird house ornament.
The next two are my newest ornaments. I found this one on a shopping trip in Nashville with my mom and sister while I visited in July...
...and this one I found in Roundup, MT when Mom and Dad were here visiting.

And the last one...did you think we'd never get there? I can't remember who gave it to me. Possibly my sister-in-law, but I'm not certain of that. Its only been on my tree a few years, but it goes front and center, to serve as a constant reminder of the first and greatest Christmas gift ever received.

Many people have themed trees, or trees that compliment their decorating style. Each and every tree, regardless of how it is decorated, is always beautiful to me. My tree has always been a hodge podge of ornaments, each representing events and people from in my life, or other things that are significant to me. There are 32 years worth of memories on my tree, and each one is precious.

December 14, 2009

At Home in the South

As many of you know or have learned through reading my blog, I grew up in a little town near Chattanooga, TN, and lived there until about three years ago when we moved to Montana. As much as I love Montana, I do miss my family in Tennessee, and so we take any opportunity we get to go see them.
As luck would have it, when we delivered our load in Columbia, SC there wasn't anything close by to reload. I said "as luck would have it" but I didn't specify if that was good luck or bad. I suppose it could be considered either in this case, because on the bad luck side we had to drive all the way to Memphis to reload. On the good luck side, that Memphis load didn't pickup till Monday morning, and so we spent the entire weekend at home in the South.
We enjoyed the weekend so much. Mostly we just relaxed, caught up on sleep, and spent some much needed quality time with family. Saturday morning, Malcolm drove to the other side of Chattanooga and spent the day with his aunt and uncle and his cousin came over too. They spent the entire day, till late that night, just having fun together.
While he was over there, I stayed at home with Mom. I wanted to visit Malcolm's family too, but just felt a need to chill at Mom's house. So, Sharon and Micheal, I'll see you in a few weeks when we come back for Christmas, and I'm sorry I missed you this time. I'll make sure to bring the girls along too, so you can meet them.
Mom and I watched Food Network, sipped coffee, and went to my Dad's restaurant for lunch...and dinner. (more on this in a bit) I also made my way down to my grandparents, who live next door to my parents, and visited with them for a while. Grandma just got the cutest chicken house, and I have serious chicken house envy. Wish I'd carried my camera with me when I went down there so I'd have had a picture for you (and me).
Sunday was another day of relaxing, and visiting. We just kicked back all morning, and then met my brother and his wife and daughter at my family's traditional Sunday lunch spot. We had a blast visiting, and laughing and Bentlee, my niece who is 5, had us all involved in a guessing game. Afterwards, it was more relaxing at Mom and Dad's by the fire, and then they dropped us off at the truck on their way to Bentlee's Christmas program at church. I really wish we could have stayed for it, but Memphis was a ways to drive, and we were still tired from last week.
It was a good visit, and what makes it even better is knowing we'll be back in two weeks for Christmas.
Every time we go down to visit family, we start wishing we lived down there. Then as soon as we get back to Montana, we are perfectly happy and can't think of leaving. Its very frustrating wanting to be in two places and knowing its not possible.
Back to Dad's restaurant:
My Dad has a barbeque restaurant. Its been in our family since 1946 when my great-aunt and uncle opened it in its present location, and named it Couch's BBQ (that being their last name).

Uncle Will and Aunt Agnes
Couch's BBQ in its original form.

It was a family run business, and often had family employees. My granny worked there from before I was born, till she wasn't able to work anymore.

My granny, Jessie Stiner, hard at work in the kitchen at Couch's BBQ!

Dad spent a lot of time there too...

(one of my favorite pictures...Dad sitting at the counter. By the way, this counter still presides over the place in almost the same location...and I remember those floor tiles which didn't change till Dad remodeled several years ago.)

Dad worked for Will and Agnes through high school, and later bought the place from his aunt and uncle. A number of years ago, the building was remodeled, enlarged a bit, and a new updated kitchen installed.

But its still the small, family run business that its always been, with my Dad now at the helm, and my brother acting as assistant manager. And though new customers have found their way to its doors, there are still a lot of customers that have been coming here for decades. The restaurant is kind of hidden on the old highway that traveled from Cleveland, TN to Chattanooga. Before the interstate changed things, this was the route everyone traveled. Now its just a side road, and unless your lost or coming here specifically, as many do, you probably wouldn't ever find it. (see our truck and trailer in the background. Just enough room for us to squeeze in.)

There's a new extended menu, with more to appeal to the masses, but the traditional stuff is still the most popular. Its what people come for miles to get. There have even been some who have called from California and other locals wanting it shipped to them to satisfy their cravings.

My personal favorite....a BBQ sandwich with cole slaw.

Yummy....I'm getting hungry just looking at it!

I worked here in high school and college. It was a great place to spend my time, to learn responsibility, and I had a great boss too!

I always follow the sandwich up with a piece of pie. Dad makes the pies himself. Its a hard choice between coconut cream, or chocolate cream. This time Mom and I were going to split a piece of chocolate. I made the mistake of going to take a few pictures before the pie came, and when I returned, Mom told me I better order my own piece. She'd almost finished our "shared" piece. No problem...I wanted a whole one anyway.

In my excitement, I forgot to get a picture before I started eating it. Sorry for the missing bites! Up till a few years ago, all Dad's coke products were served in a bottle. They installed the machine for fountain drinks a few years ago, but they still order enough bottled drinks for those who might want one for old times sake.

We returned for dinner that night at which point I enjoyed a BBQ stuffed baked potato, a popular menu item that was laughingly named the "couch potato." I left the camera at home though, so you'll have to use your imagination. And, I'll guiltily admit, I took a piece of coconut cream pie home to enjoy later that evening. I know...two pieces of pie and its not even Christmas. But I only get this stuff a handful of times out of the year now! I have to stock up!

If your in the area I encourage you to look them up. Its well worth it. I know my opinion is biased, so do me and my Dad a favor. Stop somewhere in Cleveland or Ooltewah and ask if its worth going to. Chances are the person will know about Couch's and give you a raving revue. Its a little out of route, but well worth the extra miles and minutes.

Couch's BBQ is at

8307 Old Lee Highway in Ooltewah, TN


And this is totally unrelated, but too cute not to share. Sunday afternoon Dad thought he'd sit by the fire and enjoy a Little Debbie. He was suddenly the most popular person in the house!

Sorry Dad! They do love you for more than just your food! I promise!

December 11, 2009

Can I Sleep Now?

I am past the point of being exhausted. I think I passed it somewhere back in South Dakota, which was quite a while back!

We're in Columbia, SC unloading.

We nearly killed ourselves to get here, so that we wouldn't have to sit in Columbia over the weekend. And right now, all we want to do is go to bed and sleep in Columbia all weekend and half of next week. Was it worth it to get here and unload? I really don't know. We could have puttered along, stopped in Chattanooga spending the weekend with family, and delivered Monday morning. But I guess we feel compelled to make up for all the down time with our truck's injuries and feeling under the weather.

We set a new record for ourselves. Back in the day when we did a lot of cross country trips, we could average 1400 miles in 24 hours if we had to.

We fueled in Billings, MT on Thursday morning at 12:45am, and fueled south of Nashville, TN at 12:45am on Friday morning. That's 1,602 miles in 24 hours. So now you know you can, if you have to, get from Billings to Nashville in a little less than a day, though I wouldn't know why you HAD to do that.

So, anyway, don't know where we're going next, but hope its a leisurely trip with time to sleep...a lot!

Hope you all have a good weekend..a nice slow, restful one!

December 9, 2009

Apple Cinnamon Spice Ornaments

Years ago I remember my Mom making these ornaments for our Christmas tree. When I asked Mom if she still had the recipe, she was shocked that I remembered them. I guess she made them quite a few years ago. I don't know how long ago it was, but they still smell wonderful!
Mom's recipe used orris root, which I could not find. If you can find it, then look up the recipe online because orris root enhances the aroma and I remember Mom's smelling a lot stronger than mine do.
I looked up the recipe on line since I couldn't find orris root, and made this version. They still smell wonderful and will be really pretty on my tree next year, once I get them finished. But I ran out of time, so I'll have to finish them next time we're home.
Here is what you'll need:

4 oz. ground cinnamon (cheap spices can be purchased at dept. store)
1 tbsp. cloves
1 tbsp. nutmeg
2 tbsp. white school glue
3/4 c. applesauce
I'm not sure what the glue is for, unless it acts as a preservative. It was a strange ingredient, but I mixed it in anyway. Mom's did not have glue in them.
You will also need an assortment of Christmas cookie cutters.
I found this box of "copper" cookie cutters on sale last year at Hobby Lobby for $5. They are kind of flimsy, but they serve their purpose well enough and are pretty to look at. There is just something about copper cookie cutters. If they just weren't so expensive!
Combine the ingredients in a bowl, dry first, then stir in the wet. It will form a ball of dough.
If its too sticky, add more cinnamon. If its too dry, then add a little applesauce. Just use your judgement on the consistency. You need it to be a good consistency to roll out.

Next, sprinkle some cinnamon on the surface your using to roll your dough. Mine didn't stick too much, so it didn't take much extra cinnamon.

Roll the dough out to no less than 1/4", and cut out the shapes with the cookie cutters. The recipe says it makes 12 large ornaments. I guess it meant really large, because I ended up with more than 2 dozen.

Use a pencil or small straw to poke a hole in each ornament. Keep in mind that they are going to shrink some as they dry, so you need to hole to be large enough.

The original recipe says to dry them on cooling racks for 3-4 days, turning frequently.

I stuck mine in the food dehydrator, and they were done in a few hours. I don't know if this changes the potency of the aroma, but I was leaving the next day, so I wasn't going to be there to turn them. They still smell wonderful, and it was a lot easier this way.

Once they were dry, I took a nail to clean out the holes of any residue. Then take a piece of fine sand paper to clean up the edges. Use decorative ribbon to make a hanger, and voila....Apple Cinnamon Spice Ornaments.

You can use these plain, as Mom did, but you can also decorate them. Brush some glue on them and sprinkle glitter to make them sparkle. I read on one version that they were painting them. I'm thinking how cute they would be outlined with some kind of puffy white paint as if they had icing piped on them, like cookies.

Anyway, I'm not using them this year, but next year I plan to put up a small tree in my kitchen and decorate it with food ornaments. I'm going to use these, string some popcorn and cranberries, and maybe a few other things as the ideas come to me.

They were really easy to make, add the sweet aroma of cinnamon to your tree, and last for years to come. I love Christmas and I love decorating with home made creations. Check back with me next Wednesday for another Christmas post about my Christmas ornament collection. I'm going to share some of my favorites with you from a lifetime collection.

Until then, I hope you are all having fun sprucing up the house for Christmas and staying warm and dry. We're heading to South Carolina, and looks like we'll be traveling behind that mid-west storm, provided they get the roads in Iowa back open.