Spring has Sprung – sorta!

Ok, I won’t lie. I had this great post that was long and funny and scrapped it. I was going to tell you about how we enjoyed the best April Fool’s joke ever – Mother Nature gave us snow! I was also going to gloat over my new chicken coop project because you know there’s always one and how cute my “fancy” four dollar chicks were doing and remind you about the Wine and the Lips and how we’ve just come out with new products at both sites. Well, I guess I just told ya!

But…

Y’all.

I have MUCH more exciting news to share. They’re both equally amazing!

First, because she’s my baby and cute as a button, our little Cowgirl Princess lost her first tooth! My goodness, it’s so funny hearing her try to say “Christmas”. She worked on that little tooth for about two days and didn’t want any help getting it out. In true Red Lips ‘n Cow Chips fashion, she wanted things to work out in its own time. So she waited and waited until it was time…at 2:14 am. At Oma’s house (German for Grandmother; luckily, Oma’s lives down the dirt road).

The second, equally cool, news is we got our first calf! Finally!!!! I would like to introduce you to calf 1776. Turns out, the number means something – besides America’s year of Independence. The first two numbers represent the year a calf was born. In this case, 2017. The last two identify the matching cow’s number. So mom’s number is 1476, calf is 1776. Cool, huh? FYI, you never give a real name to your cattle. Unfortunately, we forgot to tell my toothless cowgirl and she named the calf Twinkles. Or Sprinkles, no one can remember.

So those are the two most important things that happened recently. I’ve got other fun things happening, like my semi-homesteading fun with plants and the projects I’m working on for the County Fair. Yep, I’m going full country and baking things.

Enjoy a few pics: Gorilla Cows in the Mist (it was really foggy that day and husband thought that was hilarious), our giant snowball keeping YaYa (my mom) from leaving, 1776 with mom 1476, and my toothless Cowgirl Princess.

The hard part

Today, I’m focusing on a more serious topic. The above photo is from KXAN.com, documenting the Panhandle wildfire. That area is only 2-3hrs away from us. In short, it’s scary.

There are some tough things to remember when it comes to ranching: not every calf or cow will make it, there isn’t always enough grass or feed to go around and cattle needs to be sold (for example, the drought of 2012), not every season affords a life of ease.

Sadly, this past week, Mother Nature reminded us of her power to control our fate.

If you haven’t heard (we didn’t even know until late Wednesday) there was a massive fire in the Texas Panhandle and surrounding areas. http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/07/us/wildfires-texas-deaths/

Ranchers literally lost everything: grass, buildings, and – most important – their cattle. When you only get one paycheck a year, the blow comes even harder. I saw some sad and disturbing pictures of cattle who tried to save themselves by sitting in their own stock tanks of water, hair burned away, udders singed meaning calves had no access to milk, others who looked as if they were trying to get away only to turn back and realize their calves were lost in the blaze. They went back in for their little ones and never came out.

Cowboys and cowgirls were out there, not trying to pack their own belongings and head to safety, but trying to gather their cattle and herd them away from danger. Not everyone made it back. Meanwhile, firefighters who also ranch lost their own herds while trying to save the land and cattle of others.

This is a dark, dark time for ranchers. It’s the one thing you never want to see or experience. So much land scorched. So many people taken away too early. So many hard decisions made time and again.

We do love our life out here on the ranch but it’s not just a fun hobby to pass the time. Ask any rancher worth the manure on their boots why she does it and you’ll realize that we consider ourselves stewards of the land. We obsess, we struggle, we grieve, we try to find ways to keep things going because we value what we’ve been given. And when decades of toil, an entire livelihood, is taken away…

The most redeeming part of this sad time is our community. I thought I knew how to be a good neighbor but now I realize that you’ll never see another group come together like ag people.

So many times the heart of a smaller town is bigger than the population. In Clayton, people donated barbed wire to help keep surviving cattle penned in safe areas. Hay and feed from surrounding feed mills, even the truck and flatbed to haul the hay were donated; cases and gallons of water, food, clothes of every size donated, medical supplies for veterinary care. All given without question and with open hearts. Why? Because we can. Because we should. Small town living seems to come with people whose hearts are bigger than the sky above them. I’m proud to see the outpouring of help and be counted amongst them.

If you can help out, here are a few articles I found listing donation sites. If you can’t donate in the form of tangible goods or cash, even a prayer for those still out there containing this fire and ongoing prayers for those who will rebuild (and they will rebuild) is appreciated.

Amarillo: http://amarillo.com/news/local-news/2017-03-08/more-5000-cattle-displaced-fires-die-down

Kansas: https://www.kfb.org/Article/Kansas-wildfire-relief

Oklahoma: http://kfor.com/2017/03/09/northwestern-oklahoma-wildfires-donation-links/

Colorado: http://kdvr.com/2017/03/07/northeast-colorado-wildfire-at-50-percent-containment-with-more-wind-expected/

American Red Cross: https://www.redcross.org/donate/donation

(ARC is also providing assistance to those affected in the Florida wildfire. Naples, FL isn’t too far from Sarasota Opera, where I was privileged to sing a few years ago.)

There aren’t any pretty or funny pictures this time. A quick Google search for Panhandle wildfire will give you enough to see. I’ll be back soon with another update on ranch life. For now, I’ll be praying for our neighbors.

Image

The Cow Chips Guide to Exercise: Winter Edition 2016

Ok, two weeks in and December did not disappoint! Remember in the last post how I basically threatened December to not screw up its weather? Well, today we woke up to howling winds which led way to blowing snow and freezing fog and snow drifts! Yay!

Andrea, you are crazy. Well, yes I am and thank you for noticing. I LOVE cold weather. Well, I love it as long as I don’t have to work in it. Which brings me to the title of this blog post. Ya see, I learned that the Cow Chips Winter Workout is just as ridiculous in the summer as the winter. So let’s get a good taste of what you get to do to burn off some holiday calories!

  1. Do you love the sound of ocean waves? Maybe you just adore the open water. You know what else likes water? Cows. Burn out your shoulders, biceps, and core with a session of Breaking Ice!
cowgirl-and-ice
Woman with pitchfork. And LipSense.
slush
Just broke this…it’s already slushy!

Let me clear: breaking ice is right now my most despised chore. You start with a pick ax around a 20 foot stock tank and “chop chop chop”; you hack out pieces of ice. Then not only do you have to break the ice, you get to rev up your cardio and biceps with a pitchfork and haul out the 3 inch blocks of solid ice and heave them onto the ground. Go fast, though, so you don’t drench your gloves and have icicles for fingers. Also, make sure to use the strength in your core so you don’t pull a muscle in your back! Just breathe deep, heave, haw, and build that amazing strength with every stupid load of ice! SUPER FUN.

You’re not done, don’t be fooled. As soon as you break all that ice and haul it out, no sooner than you turn around does it start to get slushy and ice over! More into intervals than one long ice breaking event? Maybe you’re built for speed rather than endurance: no worries! Ice breaking is a fun sport that must be completed before breakfast, at lunch, and again before dinner. Talk about interval training!

Andrea, this sounds silly. Why don’t you get a heater for that? Well, that’s my husband’s project next year. Install a damn outlet for a heater so we aren’t breaking ice in single digit temperatures.

2. Hey, Andrea, I remember one time when I was a kid that all the water froze up in the house. How do you deal with that? OH! Lemme tell ya what happens. You and your gorgeous manfolk get to hang out in 40 degree temps (that day was balmy compared to the next workout – keep reading) and work on a well pump.

Wait. What?

Ya see, a few days before the pump went kaput, there were some freezing temps at night but the days saw somewhere around mid-30’s. We figured since the well pump was covered, all would be fine. Well, as ranchers tend to obsess over the state of their cattle, we went to check on their water and make sure the stock tank hadn’t frozen over. It wasn’t too bad so I got in some light ice breaking time. But then we realized the pipe that brings water was frozen solid. And nothing was happening when we turned on the pump. Whoops! So, a day of insulating and we hoped it was enough. It wasn’t. The next day, we ripped off all the insulation and got to practice our static Olympic lifting. Hubby lifted the entire pipe (the one that goes in the ground) while I learned how to use grip vices. Only 200lbs of pulling up – gotta use those legs! Then we lifted the thing and cobbled something and put things back together and then put on more insulation and THEN we prayed a lot. It worked! The stress and worry of hoping we hadn’t blown out the pump motor is an exercise in itself. Your heart beats rapidly when something like that happens. Replacing things like that, especially with cattle depending on the water and a wife being cold, gets EXPENSIVE. It’s like needing to pee but you’re stuck in traffic and your house is a mile away but you’re not sure if you’ll make it to your exit but you breath deep and think of ANYTHING besides waterfalls. But you live next to Niagara Falls. Yep. That kind of heart pounding fun is just GREAT for burning a few calories!

pump
Fixing the Well Pump. Please work…
water
Water!!! And ice. Of course.

3. What’s a Cow Chips girl going to do for fun? Well, exercise needs to be fun at some point otherwise you won’t do it. May I present stock tank ice skating? Yes, seriously. This is the stock tank on the other part of land we raise cattle on and it is solid ice at least 6″ thick. Now, I do love cold weather but I ain’t crazy. So I let my husband demonstrate how we ice skate in the desert.

Ice Skating.jpg
Ice Skating, Cow Chips Style

4. Walking is great for you! Walk the Cow Chips way and you’ll never want to go for a stroll in the city. Now, there are some varmints that, as long as you both respect each other’s boundaries, you can live in peace and harmony. It’s very nice! However, there are some varmints that just…it’s not even about me or them. They ruin the land, eating everything they can see and leave behind holes that are literally dangerous to animals and humans. Fall in one and you’re looking at a good sprain or maybe broken ankle. Not cool. So, we ranchers have to sometimes gain control of these things. I love seeing wide, open country, not dust and patches of missing grassland. So, yes, we baited for crowd control. Then we had to check our bait to make sure anything that ate the bait was destroyed properly. How does one do that? With a nice, long walk up and down the side of a hill checking every hole and making sure nothing goes unnoticed! THERE’S ONLY ABOUT 300 HOLES. Add that all up and you’ve just done at least 3-4 miles of walking. Just imagine it, no picture needed.

5. Still not enough burn for you? How about next time you’re here you help us stack some hay? It’s only 65 lbs a bale and we ONLY have 270 of them. C’mon, it’ll be fun! Don’t forget, you need wood to burn in the stove! Build a stack as tall as her (about 4 feet) and you’re sure to need tickets for the gun show! And if you need a full body shakedown, go outside and just stand there. Did you know shivering burns calories, too? If you’re lucky enough to be my daughter you don’t shiver much because your mom (me) dresses you up in every warm thing you’ve got so you basically sweat in the snow. You’re welcome, little one.

queen-of-hay
Move it over…there. Sure.
wood-pile
I hauled ALL of that. You’re welcome.
SONY DSC
Gotta Stay Warm!!!

Every great workout includes a good warm up (reading my blog – thank you!) and cool down (some quality time by the fire re-reading my blog because the brain needs exercise, too). Enjoy all the pictures below from our family to yours. Have a wonderful Christmas! Along with the great “workout” ideas above, we also decorated outside, put up the tree, made a ridiculous Gingerbread Farm House, made some Christmas spice to boil on the stove, and just enjoyed our time together. Oh, and Santa and Mrs. Claus made an early debut with wine. It’s all AMAZING and you can get it here via my amazing friend Becky. Plus, a portion of profits from every bottle goes to a great cause! My current fave is the Cabernet Sauvignon but I can’t wait to break into that Rosé! Seriously, I’m already planning my next order. Oh, and I finally made the most perfect soft pink color just for me with my LipSense collection. Even Red Lips needs a change of lip color. You can order your perfect, all day color (I wear it almost every day – the cows appreciate it and my daughter loves that it doesn’t smudge on her cheeks when I get my kisses!) by clicking on this link here. Not sure which color is right for you? Join my FB page and message me: I am happy to help everyone in the world have gorgeous all day lip color! Y’all have an amazing Christmas and a beautiful New Year!

The Busy Season!

Wow, what a whirlwind of activity here on the ranch! I’m going to name October as our Busy Season for good reason.

First, it’s our daughter’s birthday and she turned the big 0-5. So of course we went to Balloon Fiesta. I wrote about how much fun that is here. Then we had Halloween which was a storm of candy and trick-or-treating and, in small town America, also visiting with people that haven’t seen my husband in years but are still happy to give hugs and warm welcomes. I love this town.

Then, I started a new class in town called BodyBurn. It’s basically a 6-week session of classes that allows me to use all the certifications and what not that I accumulated as a fitness instructor. I love it because by the time we get used to one workout, it’s time to change! And you know I love change.

We also visited my mom a time or two in Albuquerque. She just bought the cutest house EVER and, lucky for her, my husband is the ultimate fix-it guy. New doors, new lights, he even know how to program the garage door opener. I’m not saying, I’m just saying…he’s kind of amazing. I helped, of course, but when you need something done like, say, a door put in and then a doggie door installed in the new door, my man is THE MAN.

Oh, here’s the big news. WE GOT OUR CATTLE!!! Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, the K/F Ranch is really a ranch. We have Manzano Angus cattle, all pregnant, all sweet as can be, all happily eating grass and drinking water and just being happy in the sunshine. They look like smaller versions of a big Angus and are great for our arid Southwest ranches. From what I understand, it’s a little impolite to talk about how many cattle and how many acres you own but I’m happy to say that it’s just enough for us to start making a true living with and it’s big enough that we can responsibly maintain grassland without overgrazing.

***If you have a weak stomach, please pass the rest of this paragraph. We did have to do branding, vaccinations, and “preg-checking” (a cow’s version of an ultrasound – no jelly involved but lots of poop). I did feel a little unnerved with the branding because, hey, it’s a hot iron, but it didn’t last long and I am pretty sure I tried to console each cow as they made their way into the chute. I also made sure to console them again when they got onto their new pasture. Call me crazy but I know I hated being poked and prodded when I was pregnant. And hungry and emotional. I may have told them they’re beautiful and perfect and gave them a bag of cake feed, our equivalent of chocolate. Number 1402 (you never name your cows) is my favorite. She let me touch her and that’s huge!!! All in all, the cows are very friendly and this breed will apparently make great mothers to their calves. I’ll let you know how all that goes in our next busy season, March and April.***

Here’s an update on the rest of the zoo, I mean, ranch animals. Don’t lie, you’ve been wondering how they’re doing.

Penelope and her Pony Power. She’s doing great and loves being out on pasture. Now that she’s got open country to roam all day, she’s lost a little weight. I didn’t realize just how heavy she was until we tried to put a saddle on her. My mother-in-law got the saddle fixed up (yes, we fix things up) so now we can really ride her! Speaking of horses, I rode Kristoff. He’s the gelding horse that I adore because: 1. He gets me. and 2. He’s short – less distance to the ground. Elsa, the mare, has sort of decided that Penelope is her baby. When you see all 3 out on pasture, she really does look like a baby horse. It’s kinda cute, kinda weird because Penelope is 8 and Elsa isn’t much older. Maybe they’re more like BFF horses. Back to riding Kristoff. It’s not that I’m afraid of riding horses, it’s just that I didn’t grow up accustomed to it. However, I’ve got lots of people near and far that are happy to help me so that I can be a proper rancher with a proper horse. Apparently, the pony could technically help us gather cattle but I’ve been asked not to do it even if my soul says I should. So I’ll ride Kristoff. Or the Green Horse (the 4-wheeler; let’s be honest, I need to learn a lot before I start trying to gather cattle on a horse).

The chickens are doing great in their new coop. I need to finish painting it but it’s either too windy or we’re too busy doing other ranching chores that it hasn’t been all done yet! The chicks…oh, the chicks. So we have the cutest little chicks in what I call the nesting pen. It’s basically a giant rubber water tank that they live in until it’s time to move into the big girls coop. We bought all these chicks at the exact same time. One was a little bigger than the others but we figured it was maybe a week or two older than the rest, max. Turns out it’s probably a full month older AND it’s giant. Like ridiculously huge. And heavy! From what I can tell (which isn’t much), it’s a White Leghorn and possibly a rooster. Either that or it’s a meat bird, the kind of bird that’s meant more for the dinner table than egg production. But this is also the nicest chicken. I can pet, hold, move, feed out of my hand, and there’s no problem. The others scatter away and do their little chirp alarm. I’m calling him/her Baby Lou, in honor of the Leghorn that was taken by that dang predator we never caught – her name was Mama Lou. Rest Easy, Mama Lou.

The Guineas are doing, well, too. I’m still not sure if they are both female or one of each but they LOVE to eat yellow jackets. That alone is a good reason to have them around because they’re still out there. Speaking of those stingers, it’s currently 76 degrees Fahrenheit outside right now. This is a problem for me because it’s NOVEMBER. C’mon, Fall. Get it together and get cold already. I keep thinking “Oh boy, it’s time to bust out the Carhartt jacket and snow bib!” Then I go outside and get a sun tan. Ridiculous.

The alpacas are a whole ‘nother story. Without going into gory detail, we were finishing the nail trimming on White Corn (aka Dubya) and he kicked at the wrong time. My husband was the unfortunate recipient of scissors into the side of his cheek. One ER visit and tetanus shot later, we finished that damn nail. A few days after that incident, we decided that it was time for the boys to go out on pasture. We’ve been holding off because we didn’t want to send them out with bad nails and long teeth. After all, long teeth can inhibit their ability to eat and bad nails inhibit their ability to run if necessary. So, we used a metal grinder to cut those bad boys down. They weren’t happy about it but now they’re grazing and pooping outside of our fenced area just fine. I really think they prefer to be out there anyway. It should be fun trying to catch them when it’s shearing time. Poor guys have been carrying about 3 years worth of fiber growth on them. But that’s another story for another day.

Unless you haven’t been paying attention, there was also a Presidential election. Our county is decidedly Republican, our state is Democrat. I’m just happy to live in a world where both can exist. Things might not be perfect and half of my friends are extremely unhappy while the other half is watching to see just what change will happen in the next 4 years. Then there’s a tiny bit on both sides that is just living life to the fullest. Folks, no matter what the outcome did to your psyche, be kind, be honest, and love thy neighbor.

Since we’re on the path of neighborly love, let me tell you about our neighbors in Texline, Texas. It’s a small town with big heart. And great shopping! First, there’s the Top of Texas Country Store and I am in love!!! It’s owned by a lovely lady who is quite possibly one of the nicest women I’ve ever met. This is the kind of store you walk into and walk out with all kinds of goodies to eat, bake with, and go back because you can’t wait to see a smile. Then we headed across the street to Gracie Wonderful’s Café. The food is great, the prices are even better, and the décor is whimsical. You need to stop in and try the Panini. Then it was to the Texline Co-Op (a division of Dalhart Consumers Fuel Association). I won’t lie, I was seriously expecting the kind of co-op with organic fruits and veggies. UM…..no. This is more feed and farm supplies. Whoops! All that being said, again we found friendly folks happy to help.

We also got to partake in Clayton’s first Wine and Cheese night. I hope this becomes a seasonal or annual event because I had a blast!!! All kinds of good wines that I would never buy but want to try, Santa Fe beer varieties, the beautiful assortment of meats and cheeses, even dessert! The night was only better because we got to hang out with our friends and visit the local VFW post. Not too long ago, it was the local watering hold, the Country Tavern (CT for short) and all the local ranchers were invited to put their brand on the wall. We found our brand hiding behind a picture!!! It’s been about 20-some-odd years since it was put up there and I’m still excited to see that brand proudly displayed.

What’s the point in all this friendliness? I think it either has something to do with the Super Super Moon or maybe Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Or maybe people are just nice. Whatever it is, I think it’s fantastic.

Now I love my holidays so I’m going to challenge you, dear reader, on a Thanks-off. Every day until my birthday, December 27, make it a point to say Thank You to at least 3 people. Don’t have 3 people around? Fine, make it 1 person and 2 animals. No one around and all the animals ignore you like my alpacas? Fine. Say Thank You to the air, the sun, your Creator, yourself. Call Customer Service and talk with them and say Thank You when they transfer you. Thank your boots off!!! Need some accountability? Post your Daily Dose of Thanks on the FB page or if you’re on Instagram, tag me at #redlipsncowchips. Or just tell your neighbor what you’re doing and spread the joy.

 

 

 

 

V is for Victory, of course!

Y’all. I got to visit the Victory Ranch. Ok, great, Andrea. You went somewhere and probably already told me about it on Facebook. But wait! Lemme tell ya about this little gem of a place. I bet you can’t guess what’s there. Here’s a hint: not chickens. No friends, the Victory Ranch is not a chicken place. It’s about alpacas! Lots of alpacas. 200 alpacas, a few horses, and big dogs. Did I geek out? Of course.

You know how some people are put in your path at the right time? Well, that’s how I feel about Carol Weisner. She’s the owner of Victory Ranch and, with her two amazing staff members (alpaca wranglers? alpranglers? wranglepacas?) run the 1,000 acre ranch providing tours to the public every Friday through Monday.  Not only that, Carol invited my family to the ranch on their day off. I’m not that popular but I’d like to think it helped. Just kidding, it didn’t.

Let me start from the beginning…

Remember when I got those alpacas and had no idea what to do with them besides what the books said? Well, I realized I needed in-person help and wasn’t afraid to ask for it. I found Victory Ranch online and sent a quick email. Boy, am I glad she answered! After a few quick conversations on the phone, it was settled. We could come down on a Tuesday and check out what alpacas “should” look like. See, my boys are cute and cuddly but they need their nails trimmed, their teeth ground down, and next spring will be in dire need of a shearing.

So Carol invited us with open arms and we took the invite with open minds! Within an hour, I made 3 new friends, my daughter fell in love with Rosie the Great Pyrenees, and I got some amazingly soft socks and gloves. I also learned stuff, too. Like how alpaca fiber (it’s not wool, it’s fiber) doesn’t contain lanolin; that lanolin can be an irritant for people with sensitive skin. No worries with alpaca fiber because they don’t have lanolin! It’s not itchy.  And it’s warm. Sooooooo warm. I saw what raw fiber looks like, what finished products look and feel like, what alpacas look like after a shearing. I saw healthy nails, ground teeth, happy alpacas look like! We got to feed some and halter one. They’re just freaking cool.

And then there’s the shop. O to the M to the G. So many beautiful things to touch and buy! I ended up with some dryer balls. Ya know how everyone is going the green route? Well, out here we still don’t have recycling but I at least don’t have to use dryer sheets or fabric softener. So far, so good. Not good. Fantastic. It’s one less thing I have to spend money on and dryer balls can last for at least a year or more. Plus, no chemicals, no worries you’ll run out. And they reduce energy consumption. Go get some.

I’m gonna plug the hell out of this place because it’s that amazing. When Carol and her husband opened up this farm 25 years ago, it was because they wanted to live out their dreams. While her husband has since passed, she continues to dream big. You can’t help but respect and love her for that. Seriously, if you aren’t near the Mora/Las Vegas, New Mexico area, you need to find an alpaca farm close by and check it out. Alpaca Farm Days are coming up and a lot of places will be open next weekend for the event. It’s a cool little day trip, you’re around cute fluffiness, so why not? Plus, you might make new friends along the way.

Something else to consider: buy something while you’re there. Supporting these small farms and small ranchers (like us!) means you support a local business and a family investment. You know I’m all about helping out my friends. A lot of small places like this only survive when you, the visitor, bust out your wallet. They don’t have big name supporters or sponsors. There isn’t a government subsidy that will bail them out if things get tough (and they are!). They have you. If you can, get something for yourself and a gift for a friend. Sure, it might be a little out of your budget but it might mean they get to dream big another day.

Here’s another plug for ya. Just down the road from Victory Ranch is the Salman Raspberry Farm. It’s recently been sold but things will hopefully stay the same. You can pick your own raspberries or buy some prepackaged in the store. Have a quick lunch at the cafe and enjoy the scenery. It’s really gorgeous and I have to admit, I’ve never been back there but always wondered where that road next to the big red barn on I-25 would take me. Turns out, it took me to a happy place.

Here’s a list of links you should check out:

Victory Ranch Facebook Page – like and follow their page. If you are thinking about adding alpacas to your place, they have some for sale!

Shop the Victory Ranch store online here!!! PS – there’s a gorgeous orange coat in the far back of the shop. My birthday is December 27. Just sayin’….

Salman Raspberry Ranch – I got a wildflower seed mix that I can’t wait to sow!

I got the Fit Bug!

I don’t have bugs, calm down. Well, Corona had fleas and ticks but I think we’ve got that handled. I can’t stand bugs that bite. Plus, gross. A good bath, spraying the house just in case, a flea and tick collar, and ***gag alert*** me sitting there picking the darn things off of her and she’s a happy little thing! Poor Nacho isn’t taking this too well, though. He had to get a bath and collar, too. The worst part for him is not only does he have this cute fluff ball following him EVERYWHERE, now he has to sleep outside in the dog house. Oh the horror!!! But seriously, we aren’t in the city and they have a giant Igloo house to share. Unfortunately, Nacho is a city dog. He doesn’t understand this “sleeping outside” thing. So he rebels by sleeping on one of the chairs. Never mind that the new dog house is cozy and warm and his old blanket and bed are in there. Oh no. Can’t do it if “that other dog” is in there. Mind you, she’s all of 10 pounds but my dog is stubborn. I don’t know where he gets that from.

So back to the title of this blog post: I got the Fit Bug! Ya see, when we moved 4 months ago (dang, it’s already that long?!) I loved my job as a fitness instructor. I was teaching an average of 6 classes a week and enjoyed every single one. Even the one time I had to teach at 5:45am, I walked out with a smile on my face. Not so much walk in with a smile because I don’t smile before coffee, but definitely walked out to a gorgeous New Mexico sunrise and a lot of sweat and I knew I was done for the day. It’s like that t-shirt says: I workout before my brain knows what’s happening.

I quit the waking up early thing long ago but I still love to get in a good workout. Plus, I miss teaching. There’s something so amazing about seeing people transform and change in front of your eyes. One day they walk in and you stop and stare and can’t stop complimenting them on their hard work. You know they did the work, you can’t help but be proud! Instead of whining about how I wasn’t teaching, how I wasn’t motivating anyone, I decided to take a note from my class participants of yore and contacted the local gym owner, John. I wasn’t sure how it was going to go but guess what? I have classes!!!! I’m motivating and coaching and loving every minute of it. If you’re around Clayton, NM sometime, come to our PiYo Live classes on Wednesdays or try out the P90X Live class on Mondays at the Clayton Health Club. That’s right: shameless plug. Come to class!

Now, I have to say that just about everything is right in my world at this point except the cardio. P90X has cardio and, depending on how hard you go or how hot the classroom is, PiYo can make your heart beat like a drum at Carnaval.

Enter my newest beauty, my Sunny indoor bike! I think I might have to start posting my playlists somewhere because this is what makes me smile big. I LOVE indoor cycling! I know what you’re saying: Andrea. Seriously? Why bike indoors when you can bike outside? It’s not like you don’t have miles of road. That’s what my hubby said anyway. But here’s the thing. I got started in all this fitness stuff by dancing. Zumba, specifically. While I don’t teach Zumba anymore, I do love to workout to a rhythm (I’m an opera singer, remember? Musicians like rhythm and tempo).

So using an indoor bike means 2 things. 1. I can get my workout on to music 2. I don’t have to risk a flat/snake encounter/getting lost/falling down and having to limp back home. Don’t get me wrong, I am working towards going outside and maybe even a duathlon because I hate swimming and the local pool is shut down indefinitely, but until I can do it without music, I’m using my bike.

Ah, what the heck…follow me on Spotify and I’ll post some playlists and profiles every now and then on this blog. You’ve been warned.:)

A week (or two or three) in Pictures

If you’re an avid reader – and who isn’t? – of my blog, you might have noticed that in the previous post I mentioned something about camping. Then I didn’t show you pictures! Well, I was so excited about the rain from the past couple of weeks that I kinda forgot. Sorry about that. I did have to bust out the mower again and that’s always fun. I get to jam out and sing my terrible efforts in Spanish and French and whatever whilst trying to dance in my seat and not hit anything. We have 2 1/2 fenced acres, it could happen.

In an effort to keep the rabid fans from beating down the cattle guard, I will make this post mostly pictures from the past few weeks. Camping with our family friends, the Montaños, near Vado lake, driving through small towns like Folsom and getting lost trying to find Folsom Falls (we found the falls – it’s now closed to the public), overlooking Johnson Mesa on the way to Raton, the big lake at Sugarite Canyon plus our camper at the small pond at Cimarron Canyon. We even took a daytrip to Red River and I took a photo of the precise moment I realized I might have a fear of heights. We also added another animal to the zoo AKA the ranch AKA home.  I’ve got a whole Mexican Fiesta of Food happening…Nacho the dog, Taco the cat, and now we finish it off with a Corona. That’s right. Corona the border/heeler puppy. She’s sweet and cute and loves her belly to be rubbed. She tried to herd the chickens this morning, though – we’re working on that.

Anywho, enjoy all the pictures of Northern New Mexico and our adventures! If you ask, I might be able to tell you which is which but don’t hold me to it. I just smile, snap, and ride shotgun.

.

 

 

 

Week One.

Wow, we survived!!! It’s been one week on the ranch and already some new experiences to share.

  1. I am waking up early. Like 6:12am early. That’s not news to most people but I am not a morning person. It’s not that I hate mornings, I just love my bed a little more. Even my BFF got me a coffee mug with Grumpy on one side and the other side reads “I hate mornings”. She gets me. The funny thing is, not only am I waking up early, I wake up with a smile. Literally, I wake up smiling! That’s a big deal for this city girl.
  2. The chickens are thriving. They know me, they know my voice, they get all excited when I let them out of their temporary home. By the way, it’s a cardboard garment box that we cut back and then added wire mesh on top. And the garment box’s hanging bar is a perfect roost. Add water, food, and pine shavings, and these girls are happy! We’ve got the whole shebang in the office so they get to practice “free ranging” for about an hour at a time while I blog and/or clean out their home. At least we think they’re girls….no one’s crowing yet. They’re about 7 weeks old and definitely getting their personalities. A huge thanks to the folks at Horse N Hound Feed and Supply in Las Cruces for their weekly email updates! You can check out their blog here. We didn’t think we would have chicks this early but their weekly updates have been invaluable!
  3. We have too much crap. Seriously, the house is stuffed with all we need and then some. We aren’t done packing. WTF???? I feel like a hoarder. We also have about half a container full of stuff neatly stacked on shelves so we can look through it later, and we are also talking about getting another one to move the tack supplies (aka horse gear) into so nothing is crowded. My husband was genius in not just stuffing it all in – one can actually walk in, unpack what’s necessary, and still have room to move. I would have thrown it all in and prayed it didn’t bust at the seams. At least with his plan, I can easily find things. Smart man. And cute, too!
  4. I love the sun. It finally came out yesterday and I couldn’t be happier! Today has been breezy and beautiful, and we’ve put in some good work. The birds are happy, too, so I get to hear them singing and flying and chasing little bugs. My husband even caught a couple of horny toads. My daughter made him release them – they needed to go home to their families. That one is destined to be a vet. I hope so because then she can help doctor the cattle. Apparently, you doctor cattle.
  5. The days never go as planned. Neither does counting cattle. Yesterday, my husband had about a million people needing input as he’s finishing up the work on my mother-in-law’s house (it’s almost done and it’s gorgeous!!!) when the water stopped flowing. So that was about a 2 hour delay. Then we went to count the cattle. It’s something we do often. First, you should know that all your cattle are there. If there’s a stray or sick one, they need to get help ASAP so that you don’t have a loss. Losses for any agricultural business is bad stuff. So, we check on the cattle, make sure there’s ample food (grass), water, and that the moms are nursing their babies. We came up 2 short…and counted 5 times. The funny thing is two of them were calves and the grass is high. They were so far into little cow dreamland that we had to go looking for them! But everyone was there, all were safe and happy, and they are just doing their cow thing. My daughter loves seeing them walk by the house. You can tell the calves are trying to figure out how to get across the cattle guard. Let’s hope she doesn’t help them. 😉
  6. It’s easier to lose weight when you can’t get to PicQuik or another gas station. So far, it’s been 1 week and I’m down 4 pounds. Granted, that 4 was put on by stress and fast food eating the last few weeks we were in Las Cruces, but wow. *Update: it’s 5:45am and now it’s 6 pounds. It might be the scale, it might be the dehydration, but whatever it is, it counts!
  7. I appreciate those hard workouts even more. When I was teaching fitness classes long ago (like 3 weeks ago), there were some classes that left me so sore that I could barely lift an arm the next day or two. Challenging myself and the class to pick up heavier weights wasn’t just because we needed to show off – it was because apparently I was prepping all of us for the labor entailed in ranch work. It feels good to put all that gym work to use.
  8. It’s all gonna work itself out. That’s my mantra now. I’m feeling exhausted, stressed, overworked, underpaid (aren’t we all?), and it always seems like there’s one more thing that has to be done before we can do the other thing that seems to be more important. But guess what? It’s all gonna work itself out. Besides, I have pretty lip colors – my go-to lately is Caramel Apple with Rose Gloss. How can things go wrong when you still feel pretty stepping in cow poop?
  9. PS – Is there such a thing as a lap bird? Because this also happened….

chick.jpg

The Concert!!!

I’ll admit it: once upon a time I was a starving artist. And by starving I meant that I was working 40 hours a week and then headed to practice and then headed home about 11pm every night for a few weeks. I wasn’t really starving like New York where you work the temp job and then run to an audition and pay your coach and teacher and whatever else and scrape up enough coins to cover your 1/6th of rent. Ok, I wasn’t starving at all. I was actually extremely well off while I was still studying for my Master of Music. A full-time job, tuition remission, benefits. I was spoiled, in fact. No regrets there!

I always have loved singing. Whether it’s a foreign language in a big hall or the car with my daughter (we’re digging Adele lately), I love to sing. At the same time, I’m weird about singing randomly at a party. I’ve always felt it’s not some circus act…I don’t sing on demand. There’s a lot of time, practice, work, blood, sweat, tears poured into singing. So if you just ask me “to sing something” there’s a good chance I’ll say no. It’s not that I’m a snob about it, but I guess I am. Yeah, I’m a snob about it. Ask my BFF’s. They had to pay to sit in theatres to watch me sing. And they’re my BFF’s!!! There’s so much more to me than singing and I get a little ruffled. If you can figure out my taxes really quick, you might get a few notes. And if you do get me singing, don’t expect it to be in English. I’m snarky like that. Unless it’s Adele, in which case my daughter might join me. Or Frozen. Ask for Frozen. I dare you. 🙂

Some people ask why I never pursued the dream of being onstage, of “making” it in some big city with bright lights. Well, I guess my idea of making it is a little different. I love coming home to a warm house, my family, food…it’s really nice! I guess my cut throat, competitive spirit just isn’t there. I want everyone to succeed and flourish. Now if you ask my voice teacher, she still can’t understand why I’m not singing in New York or Houston or wherever. I just have no desire to leave my happy place. I’m making it already! But that doesn’t mean I’ve turned my back on music. At all. As a matter of fact, being out here is rekindling my love of music and art and all the beautiful lessons they can teach.

So that brings me to this concert I just sang. I had the absolute honor of performing with the Albuquerque Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by David Felberg. I LOVE singing with this kind of conductor. He allows the entire group to express their sentiments through music. We work together as a team and the results are phenomenal. I really respect a maestro who can lead us together like that. We also got to sing in some astounding venues! The first was a high school in Rio Rancho. Yes, a high school. With some of the best acoustics I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. The other was an equally beautiful sounding space, the National Hispanic Cultural Center. I’ve had the honor of singing there many times with a local zarzuela (Spanish opera) company and jumped at the chance to sing there again.

We performed Mahler Symphony No. 2, also known as the Resurrection Symphony. One of my favorite pieces of all time, the 4th Movement, is titled Urlicht. It’s German and loosely translates to Primal Light. Beautiful, the percussion actually shines throughout the entire symphony, and the brass…then the violin and alto “duet”.  Then we get into the finale and the chorus joins and the soprano floats gorgeous notes in the stratosphere and…see? I get carried away easily. Just in case you want more info, here’s a translation provided by the Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra and there are multiple recordings. (If I chose just one, I’m sure to get comments “Why that recording? Obviously the 19xx recording of (insert last name of famous singer/conductor/orchestra) is better. I decided not to tempt fate on this one.) I’m pretty sure it’s a perfect example of music and life crossing paths. One week after this concert we are moving. Literally, resurrecting the ranch. Ironic that this piece is the one I perform, huh?

How did it go? Perfect. Except for when I got too caught up in the gorgeous sound that is an orchestra and forgot some words. And then when I got a frog caught in my throat and had to clear it. But, hey, I gave my 1000% effort and worked through it. If there ever is a recording I can share, I will.

 

 

 

 

The Test Bake Post #1

Lemme tell ya a bit more about that Cake in a Crate thing.

I love desserts. Well, I love making desserts. I can make a dessert and leave it for days. But, there are some things that even I can’t pass up. Like a chocolate tart. Or chocolate ganache (pronounced Guh-nosh; also pronounced Hell Yes). Just sayin’, I have my weaknesses. So when a former opera singer friend of mine decided to become an entrepreneuress of baked goods, I had to help her out. I mean, what kind of person wouldn’t want to help someone out with their visions of gluten free, non-processed, yummy delights? I know.

So, I volunteered my time (and my husband’s waistline) to become a test baker for Cake in a Crate. The idea is that you get plant based, organic, natural ingredients. No pre-processed strangeness with chemicals you can’t pronounce or spell. They come pre-packaged, pre-measured, and instructions are included in a box. You can either make them immediately or save them or be really nice and give them as a gift. No guessing, no investments in hard-to-find ingredients; shake and bake on this.

I recently took on the Chocolate Chip Cake. It has chocolate chips baked into the batter. And chocolate ganache for frosting. When we were asked who would volunteer to try out the recipe, my answer was: Yes. Yes. Yes. Remember, I have no interest in actually getting to the work I need to do…like packing.

I can’t give you the recipe but I will tell you this was stupid easy to make. Not only that, it was amazing! I found all the ingredients at our local Natural Grocers and my house smelled like happiness and comfort.

Cake in a Crate just goes to show that, yes, you can have your cake and eat it, too. Order one today and use the discount code on the site to save on your first purchase. A word of caution – order earlier than you think you need to compensate for shipping time. Ya know, just in case you decide to eat it and need time to make another.