Thankful for…

We recently attended a family wedding three states away in Wisconsin. We discussed whether to fly or drive.

Not for long though. You see our bucket lists contain a visit to all fifty states. Driving would help tick off two states … if we took a northern route back home to Colorado.

Family and friends cautioned about the possibility of adverse weather if we traveled by car in Minnesota, North Dakota, and Montana. We listened and then decided to take our chances.

With our two four-legged children loaded in the car, we headed north.

(Note: Their advice would have been so correct if we had made the trip last week during the deep freeze and snow of the early winter storm in those states. We didn’t. We were nestled all snug in our cabin in Colorado watching Casper, Wyoming with temperatures of -35 degrees on the evening news.)

As it worked out, we were so glad we drove.

Little Bighorn National Cemetery

Little Bighorn National Cemetery

Teddy Roosevelt National Park

Teddy Roosevelt National Park


The beauty of the landscape was breathtaking.


The people we met  friendly and interesting.

Lunch in Portage, WI

Lunch in Portage, WI Pub

The wedding inspiring.


Congratulations, Abram & Becca

This Thursday many of us will be gathering to eat turkey and all the trimmings with family and friends.

In 1621, the Plymouth the Pilgrims and Indians celebrated survival and the hopes of future good fortune on the first Thanksgiving.

Our trip of over 3,500 miles reminded me of the awesome things we have to celebrate this Thanksgiving Day.

Majestic mountains

Fields ripe with grain to harvest

Moonlight on lakes

Water rushing in streams and cascading down waterfalls

And, most of all the fellowship of family and friends

Happy Thanksgiving!

It’s Cold on Miller Farm

A blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

You would think that having lived in Texas most of my life I would expect the weather to be unpredictable. However, winter’s arrival caught me off guard.

Sure, the weatherman predicted a wintery blast, but I don’t always believe the weatherman. He said there was a cold front coming in on Tuesday.

When I got up to swim, it was 65 degrees. By lunch it was in the 40s. I realize that doesn’t sound cold to people who live north of here but for us Texans who put up with 95+ degrees all summer, 40 is COLD.

If you don’t believe me, ask the chickens.

When I went to close them up Wednesday night they had their heads tucked under their wings.

headless chickenIt was a disconcerting sight at first until I realized what I was seeing.

Of course, I didn’t have my phone with me the first night, but I remembered to take it Thursday when more artic air arrived.

It took several tries to get the picture and the poor chicken kept turning its head to see what was happening every time the camera clicked.

When I finally set the flash and got this picture, I decided not to press my luck. After all, I’ve had to deal with a grumpy hen in the past.

What I have to remember is, this is Texas. It is likely to be back up to 80 by the weekend.

Lessons I’ve Learned from my canine pals

Our  Old English sheepdog came to us nine years ago at age nine weeks. Our bond was instant. Toby_2Mo_060205He’s been my best friend and trusty companion ever since and is constantly by my side.

Now that he’s grown, picking him up is next to impossible, but that doesn’t stop him from sitting on my lap.toby on lap

When Toby was five, Buster joined our family. We inherited the little Maltese from my daughter and, since the dogs had spent time together at family gatherings, we didn’t have issues when Buster came to live with us permanently.???????????????????????????????Watching the two dogs together has taught me some important lessons about life.

Be Loyal (but not to a fault)

Loyalty can be a huge asset, but my canine boys have taught me blind loyalty is foolish. Walking is our ritual. Three times a day we hike around the area. I always do the early morning sunrise walk, but sometimes, I’m on deadline or absorbed in writing and those noontime and evening walks aren’t going to happen. They might prefer my company, but necessity often dictates they have to go with my husband. Loyalty is definitely an asset, but not to a fault. Sometimes, we have to do what it takes to get the job done.

Trust your instincts.

I see this principle often when I walk the dogs. Both will react if they deem someone or some animal we meet along our way as threatening. I trust their instincts. There might be a bear or coyote lurking that I can’t see. Sure, it’s important to take time to listen to others’ input. But in the end, we should heed our gut instincts.

Know what you want and be super persistent.

Dogs know persistence pays. Buster and Toby recline by my chair at mealtime like bookends. One on my left, one on my right. They don’t beg unless ice cream or pizza crust is involved. Then Toby sits in that perfect sit he never seemed to manage in dog obedience class and Buster, not to be ignored, jumps up on the edge of my chair.

Looking into those Bambi eyes staring up at me, I cave. The scenario reminds me how very, very important dogged persistence can be. We should never give up on our goals.

Poor Toby and Buster don’t always get to lick the ice cream bowl…especially if company’s here. Seeing a dog lick a bowl humans use tends to freak some people out. But hey, that’s what the sani-wash option on the dishwasher is for. Even if we fail, we can learn what to do better next time or what techniques or approaches work, and what doesn’t.

Last, and probably the most significant, thing Buster and Toby have taught me is …

Unplug. Go outside and play.

Writing is a solitary occupation. I tend to spend hour upon hour at my laptop. For Toby and Buster, it’s boring. With technology penetrating every portion of our lives and jobs, it’s easy to be online and working 24-7. We forget the importance of refreshing our mind and body.

Toby will nudge my elbow and Buster will whine – not pretty, but effective – until I give up and push away from the computer, iPad, or iPhone. I never regret spending the time with them.

I return to my laptop renewed and I’m not imagining the effect. Research suggests exercise can actually improve productivity.

What about you do you have a trusted canine companion? What lessons have you learned from your dog?

Sunrise on Miller Farm

A blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

One of my favorite things about visiting my parents in Colorado is the beautiful sunrises. Since I get up and walk the dogs with my mom, I get to enjoy it every morning that we are there. This was the last morning we were there this summer.


Since I get up to swim and let the chickens out, I get to enjoy the sunrise on Miller farm also.  This past week was particularly beautiful.  In fact, I would say it is as pretty as Colorado.  After all it is the same sun.


I was reminded of a journal entry from our time in Mexico City. It is dated 9-10-1997:

“Our bathroom has double doors with obscure glass windows. Catherine had her nose pressed against it the other night and was exclaiming ‘how pretty.’  As I looked at the black and green mosaic tile with bright blue and red paint, I could think of many other words to describe it.  Yet Catherine was right – the light reflecting through the kaleidoscope-type glass was pretty.  O Lord may I never fail to see the beauty in life.”

As we begin the Thanksgiving season, I plan to look for beauty all around me. I know it is there.

A Music Teacher’s Brain

A blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

When I first started teaching almost 30 years ago, there was “new” research said that music playing in classrooms helped students retain information. It had something to do with the tempo (speed) of the piece and the affect on brain waves.

As a beginning music teacher, I was very excited that my chosen subject was so useful. I soon realized, however, that music teachers do not adhere to this research.

A musician’s brain is not “normal” a fact my musically talented children can confirm and have done so for years.

When music is playing anywhere, a music teacher’s brain, or at least my music teacher brain, does not relax and retain information. It goes into overdrive trying to figure out what the music is, who wrote it and in what time period it was composed.

This “music teacher brain” phenomenon has manifested itself in many ways throughout the years. For example, when swimming laps, most people count 1 2 3 4 5 6 etc. I count 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 2 and 2 and 3 and 4 and as if I am counting measures of music.

In any given day, there are multiple times when I find myself saying, “I know a song about that.” This includes songs about scalloped potatoes and coffee.

Last Wednesday I decided to mop the kitchen floor. I put soap in the mop bucket and put it in the sink to fill while I put away the vacuum cleaner. The closet where the vacuum cleaner lives is very disorganized so it took longer than anticipated to complete that task.

I pictured the mop bucket overflowing with water all over the floor. Then my mind went to the Walt Disney version of “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” by Paul Dukas from Fantasia.

For the rest of the day I had the music playing in my head. I couldn’t help wondering how many people associate mopping the floor with classical music.

I imagine only other music teachers.

De-stressing the next 61 days

Halloween is two days away. That can only mean Thanksgiving and Christmas are on the horizon.

Whatever calm and order in our world will soon disappear into preparations and participation for holiday festivities.

All those preparations are taxing. The family gatherings are too often trying. The constant busyness is tiring. Our to-do lists overflow and our schedules leave little room for relaxation.

Don’t get me wrong. The holidays are my favorite time of year.

At the same time I dread them because these sixty-one days been Halloween and New Year’s Day can be so overwhelming.

Problem is, I can’t stay ahead, and become stressed. I don’t think I’m alone. Most of us experience STRESS during the holidays and need to think of ways to De-STRESS.


You’ll find lots of ideas on these sites:

~Woman’s Day offers 12 Ways to De-stress Amidst Holiday Madness

~Huffington Post suggests What Are You Doing for You This Holiday Season? 

~Focus on the Family recommends De-stressing Christmas

~ proposes 3 Easy Ways to De-Stress Over the Holidays 

Chicken Wrangler Sara and I came up with our own idea to de-stress our hectic days during the holidays and restore our calm for the next 61 days.

We’re starting a new blog category called Sunday Sampler. Sounds like we’re adding, but we’re not. Instead of posting three times a week, we’ll be taking turns posting once a week.

We’ll let you know how our plan works.

Ghosts, Goblins, and Halloween Decorating

Decorating for Halloween has become as popular as Christmas decorating.

Connie'sGhosts greet us on early morning walks through our neighbor.

Jack-o-lanterns light our way in the late afternoon.

BeckerWhere we used to live we saw witches crashed into trees and giant spiders in spidery webs crawling in yards. There were spook houses and ghost tours, which could be truly frightening for younger children…and some adults (this one included).witch



In the 1900s, Halloween wasn’t so much about scary, scary things like zombies and gruesome headless monsters, tombstones and skeletons.

Back then, crepe paper pumpkins, plastic candy containers, painted tin noisemakers, and paper lanterns were the items of choice. Not many of these items are around today because people used them and then threw them away.

Last week, I dug out my vintage decorations. A few things from my childhood Halloween days that weren’t thrown out.

My halloween

Does anyone recognize the gauze mask or the paper-mache jack-o-lantern?

The black cats are old bulletin board posters like those that I remember from grade school. The pumpkins are constructed from honeycomb tissue.

To see other vintage Halloween collectibles, check out Kovels’ Pinterest page here.

Wonder what might be a future collectible? Kovels suggests these:

  1. Special holiday bottles and cans like Crush soda’s new Halloween flavors, Gruesome Grape, Spooky Strawberry, and Orange Ogre. Look for other limited edition plastic bottles with scary faces.
  2. Plastic candy containers either reproductions of 1950s and ’60s figures and jack-o-lanterns or contemporary plastic decorations with good design.
  3. Zombies and vampires. Look for plastic, rubber, or resin decorations like the zombie-hand candleholder.
  4. Jewelry. Charm bracelets with pumpkins, bats, and black cats; jointed skeleton earrings decorated with rhinestones and spider rings.
  5. Motion, or voice, activated figures that light up or emit scary sounds and music. Look for pumpkin men, witches, vampires, black cats, body parts like crawly hands.
  6. Paper or plastic masks, costumes, treat bags, and dolls.

Stores are packed with spooky décor options. Soon you’ll find Halloween items at reduced prices.

There are some good buys to had and, if you don’t throw the items away, you might have some vintage collectibles like mine in twenty-five years.