Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Boots It Is

Hmm.  I'm not sure what to say about this situation.

I wish I could say I didn't realize my socks were mismatched.  But I did. 

I just. Didn't. Care.

Dressing in the dim light of our closet at 5:45 this morning, I did manage to find a shirt, a sweater, a necklace and earrings to match.  I located jeans without holes and fished out a pair of boots that looked decent without polishing.  

Once upon a time I would have rummaged further for a mate for either sock.  It would have mattered, and I probably would have at least padded down the hall past the kitchen to the laundry room.  I'd have peeked in the dryer to see if the partner to either of these socks was hiding in there.

No longer.  

Since those days, I've been eight months pregnant while working eighteen hour days.  I've nursed and pumped and rocked a baby half the night, then commuted and answered emails and phone calls all day.  I've watched sick horses and worried the darkness to light. 

So this morning I picked two unmatched, clean, striped socks from the top of my dresser where they were waiting, next to the velvet bag holding Georgie's collar and a lock of her hair.

I have realized that if I wear boots, my socks have zero percent chance of being seen.  Sometimes, that's the simplification I need to keep life's balance tipped in my favor.     


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Get Your Horse

Happy Monday!

I hope you had a great Thanksgiving.  We spent the weekend with family, and indulged in a generalized avoidance of productivity.  Now we're back to the normal routine, and I'm busy negotiating the slippery slope to the holidays coupled with the busy season at my full-time job. 

Some of you have asked how we've been so successful introducing Beep to our animals.  Now I, the omniscient curator of the Cabbage Ranch blog, shall bequeath unto you, my beloved reader, my finest insights regarding cultivating within children a love of the animal kingdom.


(And now you can go on to live your life knowing everything I do on that subject.  If there is ever any enlightenment on this blog, I can assure you it's a complete accident.)

As I've said before, we just folded Beep into our lifestyle and she was always along for the ride.  I usually did everything I normally would, as much as I could safely, with her in my arms or riding in a sling.  I showed her how to gently touch the animals, taught her about the textures of their hair and the warmth of their breath.  Early on, Beep learned what horse feed sounded like dropping into a bucket, and she's seen us clean stalls and sweep aisles a thousand times. 

The rest has been up to her.  Every day now, after all those months of input, she surprises me more by showing her understanding of the order of her world.  She knows which animals eat which feed, who gets haltered, what brushes to use, and which horses are safe(r) for her to be around.  She doesn't miss anything. 

I'm sure your kids are the same.  After all, they're small people but they're not stupid little blobs of babyhood; they're actually these incredibly observant knowledge sponges learning about the world around them.

At this rate, Beep's horsemanship will surpass mine by early 2014.
I'm thrilled and humbled by her ability to take on some of these processes without step-by-step coaching from me.  I actually had some unsolicited help in the roundpen lately.  I thought these videos might amuse you guys (or at least the grandparents, aunts and uncles), but I will ask you to withold judgment on my lunging techniques and constant drivel.  I was definitely in soccer mom mode.

We started out trotting Sam.

Horse training isn't always easy.

Finally, Sam is finished and caught!

You guys have a great Monday.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

My Favorite Horse Sheet

Hello, friends.

This horse is no blanket-fitting expert.  One look at his shag reveals his love of cold weather and his longing for snowdrifts and snow angels.

Oh, wait.  That's me.  (Not the shag part, the cold weather/snow angel thing.) 

Well, I'm not a blanket-fitting expert either.  But really, I don't know any expert blanket-fitters.  If I did, I would submit, for his/her approval, this (hairy) (whiskery) (maniac) (complex) (spoiled) horse.

Unlike my first horse, Sam likes wearing his blankets and sheets.  But that doesn't mean he treats them with respect.  On the contrary, he's very, very hard on them and seems on a never-ending quest to test their endurance.  It's these kinds of dichotomies that make him complicated.  They also make him expensive.

How does he destroy sheets?  Let me count the ways.
He gallops at top speed in close proximity to fences.  *Rrrrrrrrrip*
He rolls wildly and catches feet under clasps.  *Ping*
Tussling with friends across the fence, he actually encourages them to tug and pull on his clothes.  *Schuck*

Despite my best efforts to patch Sam's clothes with a sewing machine, and my willingness to let him wander around in rags, his blatant disregard for clothing has led me to purchase a number of sheets.  So maybe I'm an amateur blanket-selector. 

These are the features I believe are most important for a good horse sheet.  They make for a good sheet for my leetle friend, and I'm sure they will for yours, too.

After properly measuring him from chest to tail, I know that he wears an 84.  This is larger than most horses, and an 80 is often a good middle-of-the-road size.  Still, though, it's always best to measure your horse, and it never hurts to ask a salesperson if a sheet runs large or small. 

The sheet below by Riders International has been my perennial favorite, and although I can't find the exact same sheet online right now, it's pretty close to this one.  At about $90, it's reasonably priced and readily available online.  No, I haven't been compensated for this post.  I just like this sheet. 

The fit on Sam, below, is pretty decent.  You can see that it sits up in front of his shoulders, and the opening for his neck is appropriately sized- meaning it's not pulling at his neck or slipping behind the point of his shoulder. 

The sheet settles well over his body with some room to spare, and you can just barely see his (beer) belly poking out below.  Behind, the tail flap gives extra coverage and the edges of the sheet nicely cover his hip. 

I will fault the fit of this sheet for pulling at the point of his shoulders near his chest.  I've learned, however, that because of the way he's built, all sheets fit him that way.  To keep his clothes from rubbing his hair off, I use a shoulder guard.

Why has this sheet earned my unending love?  First of all, it's made of 600+ denier ripstop nylon.  Although we all love Egyptian cotton bedsheets, when it comes to horse sheets, nylon is a far better choice.  Cotton is cold when wet, dries slowly, mildews, rips and frays.  Nylon dries quickly, resists mildew, is lightweight, and comes in wonderful high-tech variations like my beloved ripstop. 

Now, about denier.  Denier refers to how fine and tightly woven a fabric is.  The higher the denier count, the more durable it is.  See those little pricked holes below?  On another sheet those would be full-fledged rips.  Foiled again, Sam. 

Although it's breathable, this sheet is also backed with a weatherproofing layer, which makes it extra water-resistant.  This is less important if your horse has limited turnout or constant care.  And by "constant" I mean "a butler at his beck and call to ensure he never gets caught by a sudden rainstorm." 

It's also machine washable, and does fit well in a traditional washing machine.  I run it through at least twice, then hang it on the fence to dry in the sun.  (Cabbage and I have an old washing machine in our barn dedicated to horse laundry.  On the rare occasion I do opt to throw some wraps or a saddle pad in the machine in the house, I always wipe it out afterwards with a paper towel, then follow with a load of jeans.  To be honest, I'm not sure horse laundry is any dirtier than our jeans, anyway. Urgh.)

Lightweight?  Check.  Perfect for wearing alone or under a blanket.
Ripstop?  Check.  Have mercy, Sam.
Rain resistant?  Check.  I don't worry if he gets rained on.  Boyfriend will stay pretty dry.

Let's zoom in on additional features.  I like a sheet that opens across the chest, because it gives options and adjustability.  This one is great because it first velcros to itself, then has a choice of two clips, and further adjusts with buckles.  If you can't get this to fit, your horse is built weird.  Like mine.

Shoulder gussets (the extra triangular pleat of fabric shown below) are good because they allow freedom of movement.  This is particularly important if your horse likes to gallop around like an idiot.  Ahem.

Below his belly are two straps which are meant to cross underneath and hold it securely in place.  Good stuff.  Some sheets come with just one strap that goes straight across behind the front legs, and that works... But two are better than one.

It's ok to post pictures of my horse's hiney, right?  I'm a little fuzzy on just how perverted some people can be. 

Moving right along...  Underneath that awesome tail flap are two elastic leg straps.  They are hold the sheet close to each leg and keep the back half of the sheet from sliding and shifting around his (we'll call it) waist.  I've always preferred to cross the leg straps, so the left leg strap crosses to the back of the right leg, and vice versa.  The X makes sure they hold the sheet not only to each leg, but also to the other side.  Ta.  Da.

And there you have a quick rundown of features worth paying for in a good horse sheet.  Sam tested and approved.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Some Days, It's Mermaid Pants

I need a webinar.  I'm clearly not qualified to dress others.   

I'm in over my head.  I got this, I think as I confidently stuff limbs into fabric.  I direct wiggles and condense squirms.  I'm a mom, I can dress my baby.  So what if she's an octopus?  

Except... there are definitely days when I'm mindlessly pulling on clothes, tugging and shoving, and revealing that any previous successes dressing Beep have been strictly luck. 

I made my baby a mermaid.  

In my defense, there's no training for toddler-dressing, and I'd like it if someone would look into that. A certification program would be nice.

I'm so excited, I just earned my black belt in Baby Appareling.
Oh really?  I've been thinking about signing up for that class.  How is it?
It's great.  I can really get all the limbs in the right places now, usually even on the first try.
Yes!  And I feel so much more confident now.  It's amazing to know I can put my toddler in shorts, or pants, or even a button-down shirt-
I know, I know!  The course changed my life.  And my instructor was so great.  She's got nineteen kids herself, so she has her International Overachievement Badge.  Her name is Michelle, I'll give you her number.  

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Gnome Halloween Costume: DIY

Turn your baby into a gnome.  It's the right thing to do.

We have children for the purpose of amusing ourselves...right?  

The gnome costume is easy and inexpensive to make, and comfortable for your baby to wear.  Three cheers for gnomes!

Oh- and if you haven't yet chosen a husband, please do yourself a favor.  Select someone who would do this.

You need a man who will wear a cowboy hat as he measures and cuts a gnome hat.  Trust me on this.  Because only that guy could talk you down from The Cliff of Overwhelmed.  And only that guy could help you make sense of a costume that exists... mostly in your head.

Following some instructions found here, your beloved will patiently measure, mark and cut.  This is a better method than yours, which involves wildly hacking and guessing, then growling at bad results.

 If you picked a really good one he'll try on the hat.  And let you take pictures for your blog.

So matchmaking and husband-selecting aside, let's talk about gnome costumes.

Square piece of red felt about 18 inches square
Tape measure
Glue gun
12 inch square of white fake fur
24 inches white elastic
Small treat bag plus felt scraps
Blue longsleeved shirt
Dark leggings
Belt with large buckle (or a piece of wide black elastic and a piece of yellow craft foam)

Assemble your supplies in full view of a jack-o-lantern.

Measure around your child's head, just above the ears where the hat will sit.  Ours measured about 16 inches. 

Then, hold one end of themeasuring  tape in one corner of the felt, and pivot the tape to measure and mark 16 inches (or whatever your measurement is).

Then cut along your arc.  Then run a bead of hot glue along one of the straight sides and glue it to the other straight side.  Turn inside out and place on husband.

Try on self.

So the gnome hat is officially done, but I thought it needed a little more gnome flavah.  I pictured a little gnome-ish crinkle at the top, so I slipped my left hand inside and positioned the tip in a foldy little zigzag.

...And glued at the creases.


Now on to the beard.  Fold your white fur in half, and cut a shaggy/zigzagging arrow shape (see below).  Be sure to move the fur around so you don't trim the long hairs when cutting.  Just eyeball the size and shape- it doesn't need to be exact, because 1. gnomes are imperfect by their very nature (I know this, yes I do) and 2. those long hairs you so carefully avoided trimming will hide any imperfections.

Then, cut sort of a gentle half circle at the top to allow the beard to fit under your gnome's chin.

Next, cut three 1-inch slots perpendicular to the top.  One in the middle of the top, and one on either side.  These slots help the beard lie flat during the next step.

Place elastic along base of slots, fold beard over elastic, and glue in place.  Trim sides to get rid of overlap if necessary.


If you're making your gnome's belt, just measure her waist, and cut a piece of wide black elastic about 2 inches shorter.  Cut a hollow square from your foam craft, then glue the ends of the black elastic to each side of the hollow square. I have no pictures of the belt-making process.  I'm lame.  But you can wing it, trust me.  The belt will end up looking like this. (Rubble family not included)

Finally, if you still have the time and interest, make a small felt bag  into the perfect treat sack.  I found this bag at Target for $1, and covered the snowflakes by gluing on mushrooms... which I fashioned from felt scraps left over from last year's costume.

Finally, enjoy your little gnome!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Dualing Recipes: Pumpkin Smoothies

Are you being stalked by pumpkin shakes?  I am. 

Pumpkin shakes are everywhere- at drive thrus, ice cream shops, on tv, and they keep lurking on the outer periphery of my consciousness...  They look so creamy, and rich, and holidayish.  They're surely loaded with deliciousness, but also evil calories. 

Help me.  I'm conflicted.  And I don't like to run all that much.

But hey- pumpkin is a superfood, so I figured there must be a way to work this into my life.  And when I saw this Pumpkin Smoothie recipe from The Pioneer Woman, it got my wheels turning.  I could give my stalker a makeover.

So a healthy smoothie it would be.  My version.  To take it one step further, I decided a friendly competition would be fun.  So I emailed my blogging sister, Bhan, and set up the challenge.  I called her out, yo.

Whazzup?  Check it.  Pumpkin smoothies is where it's at.  Healthify.  You dig?


I sat back in my chair and congratulated myself on my cleverness.  Never before in the history of the blogging world had anyone done anything so revolutionary, so mind-blowing, so... Sisterized!  [insert evil cackling]

And then I regretted it.  My sister is a good cook.  She's competitive.  And she doesn't have a toddler clinging to her legs while measuring and spooning.  But I steeled my resolve and told myself I can throw down some smoothies.  We like peanut butter banana smoothies around here, and I make them pretty often on the weekends.  My index finger knows where to find the blender button. 

So I worked and I slaved and sent my poor husband to the store to restock me on hard-to-find things like agave syrup and dutch processed cocoa.  He succeeded, which meant that he earned his merit badge for husbandry. 

I mixed and extrapolated, and my toddler taste-tested and said "Mmmmm!"  (She also eats crayons, so I'm not sure how significant that is.)  Here goes nothin.

What I came up with is a basic smoothie recipe with a lot of easy variations. 

The basic recipe is not very sweet, but it's easy to adjust to your taste and whatever you have handy.  Make substitutions with wild abandon; fruit yogurt would be great, and whole milk would give a beautiful richness.  I used agave syrup for its lower glycemic index (which counteracts the M&Ms we eat), but honey or sugar would work too.  Also, I've read that heating canned pumpkin in a pan before using it totally enhances the flavor... but I haven't tried it.  If you do, let me know what you think. 

Enjoy, guys!

And while you're trying these, hop over to Bhan's blog and give hers a whirl, too. 

Pumpkin Stalker Smoothies
Makes about 2 cups
6 ice cubes
1/2 c plain nonfat yogurt
1/2 c skim milk
2 t vanilla
1/2 c canned pumpkin puree (frozen ahead of time is better, but not necessary)
1 T agave syrup
1/2 t cinnamon
dash nutmeg

Puree in a blender until smooth and serve, preferably in something awesome.

To the basic recipe, try adding 1 banana or 1 tablespoon cocoa (and a little extra sweetener).  Behold the jewels.

Or go a little more exotic by adding 1 cup chai tea concentrate or 1/2 cup of coconut milk.

They're all good, but our favorite was the banana.  It's a Choose Your Own Adventure kinda smoothie, so when you come up with your favorite, let me know!   


Friday, November 11, 2011

The Snickering Parent: Halloween is All About Me

So now that we're almost halfway through November, I thought it was finally time to reveal Beep's 2011 Halloween costume. 

Because I'm prompt like that. 

But first, let's review 2010 so you have a basis for comparison.

2010: The Owl

2011: Garden Gnome!

2010's powers included flying noiselessly through the night.

2011's powers included... whatever a gnome can do.  (But at least she had a mushroom-themed candy bag.)

I'd like to take this moment to thank my daughter for allowing me to amuse myself via her costumes both this year and last.  I'd also like to remind her that I hope I can get one more self-serving costume before it's all fairy princesses and cowgirls.

Guys, this costume was super easy to make, and I'll be posting those ideas (I hesitate to call them instructions) soon. 

I'm hoping for a 2012 Gnome Revolution.  Viva la Gnome!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Homeownership 101

Oh, the joys of homeownership.  Take, for instance, when a toilet hijacks your weekend.

I'm sure this has happened many times throughout the history of modern plumbing.  In our case, a toilet tank malfunctioned and flooded the bathroom early one Saturday.  At least it was clean water, thankyoulord.

This allowed me to contemplate the joys of said homeownership when my husband then had to turn off the water in the whole house and there was no laundry done or dishes washed.  Same poor husband then proceeded to spend half a precious Saturday getting parts, fixing the broken part and then fixing the other part that broke when the originally broken part was being replaced.

Good times.

For those of you in an apartment, with a maintenance guy on call, dreaming of owning your own home: enjoy your Saturdays while you can. 

And learn how to be handy.  Or luck out by falling in love with someone who is.

What was the latest mini (or major) home crisis you dealt with?  Share...

Monday, November 7, 2011

Pumpkin Pancakes

This is a tale of pancakes.

It's my spin on the Pioneer Woman's recipe for Perfect Pancakes.  I suppose there's nothing special about these pancakes... except that these are better than all the others. 

They're made from scratch. 

Why make pancakes from scratch?  Why the hell not?  A box mix requires measuring the dry ingredients, then measuring, adding and mixing all the wet stuff.  A scratch recipe requires measuring the dry ingredients, then measuring, adding and mixing all the wet stuff. 

See the similarities?

Scratch pancakes actually do taste better.  And I swear, it takes a grand total of about sixty seconds more, but you can control the ingredients.

Try adding some cornmeal.  Sub wheat flour for white.  Or add pumpkin.

Yessss....  Perfect Pumpkin Pancakes. 

Pumpkin is a superfood- as in super good for you, and super delicious, and super fall-like.  I know you are fully capable of employing google to look up the nutrition benefits of pumpkin.  (if you did google it, you'd find it's low in calories and high in fiber, antioxidants, mineral and vitamins)

Therefore, the pumpkin counteracts the pancake itself.

I'm pretty sure about that.

Perfect Pumpkin Pancakes

3 cups Plus 2 Tablespoons Cake Flour
1/2 teaspoon Salt
3 Tablespoons Baking Powder
2 Tablespoons Sugar
1 1/2 Teaspoons best quality Cinnamon
1 Pinch Nutmeg
2 1/2 cups Milk
2 whole Large Eggs
1/2-2/3 cup Canned Pumpkin Puree (plain, not pie filling)
4 teaspoons Vanilla
2 Tablespoons Butter or Margarine

Extra Butter
Maple Syrup, Peanut Butter, Applesauce, and/or Joy the Baker's Super Simple Roasted Apples.

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl, then mix wet ingredients in another bowl.  Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, and stir gently until just barely combined.  Lumps are ok.  Melt butter or margarine and add it to the batter, stirring gently to combine.

A glorious, gloopy mess.  Have no fear, it's just pancakes.

Preheat a greased skillet or pan over medium-low heat, and ladle about 1/2 cup of batter per pancake.  Cook until golden brown. Top with butter, syrup, peanut butter, applesauce or roasted apples.

I voted for roasted apples and peanut butter.

Beep liked butter, a little syrup, and roasted apples.

One batch of pancakes makes plenty for a hungry family of five, or feeds a smaller group with generous leftovers.  I allow our leftover pumpkin gems to cool completely, then package them in pairs.  Five packages went into the fridge for breakfast that week, and the remainder went in the freezer.  Done and done.