One More Thing ...

Beyond the wild time at the saloon and the wacky Sunday at the Beartree, those of you who weren't able to make it to Wyoming missed some absolutely gorgeous landscapes.

(Not trying to rub it in, mind you. Just stating a fact.)

But never fear, because my friend and photographer Adam Morris took some amazing photos while he and his lovely wife were in Wyoming, and he posted them on his blog. Check them out here.

I don't know about you, but I'm ready to head back there right now. Who's with me?

A Wyoming Reception (Part III)

Oh yes. I'm back with one more installment of the Wyoming reception. I thought I was done, but then I decided I had better fill you in on a few more details of Centennial and the surrounding area. I hope you don't mind.

(Even if you do, I'm still writing this post. So there.)

On Sunday morning, after a tasty breakfast at the Mountain View Hotel and lots of goodbyes, the folks that were left split up. One crowd went up the mountain for some snowshoeing. The other crowd, including Bentley the best bulldog ever, moseyed on down the street to the Beartree Tavern.

Only it wasn't open yet, so they moseyed back to the Mountain View, picked up a cooler, and went back to sit on the Beartree deck and enjoy a few beverages until the bar actually opened. (You can spot them moseying behind the Trading Post Saloon sign if you look closely. Bentley is leading the way, but he's white so he's rather hard to spot.)

This is how we do in Wyoming, folks.

The snowshoeing adventure was a brief one, but it was a gorgeous day. Uncle H and Auntie R tried snowshoeing for the first time (apparently, they don't have many opportunities to snowshoe in Georgia—who knew?). My Dad, My Mom, and Auntie L are snowshoeing pros.

It was a beautiful trek. The only bummer was that at the elevation we were at, a lot of the trees have been hit by bark beetles. The beetles kill pines by boring into them to feed and reproduce. The good news is that the infestation may be slowing in this part of the state. The bad news is that it's slowing because the beetles are running out of trees.

But enough depressing talk. Let's get back to the fun.

Once the snowshoeing adventure was over, we headed back down the hill to Centennial. Thankfully, the bar was open, so the crowd had moved inside and forsaken their cooler.

There were a few locals there (who had actually been at the Trading Post Saloon the night before and were quite the characters), but mostly we had the place to ourselves. So we fired up the jukebox and got rowdy the way you get rowdy on a Sunday afternoon in a Wyoming town of 80-some people.

I found the trip to the Beartree to be rather educational too. For instance, did you know you can't have fireworks in the building? Who knew. And bears are dangerous. This is very important.

To protect yourself, the owners recommend learning about the differences between grizzly and black bears. I took notes.

One last thing I must tell you about the Beartree. When you go (you're going to Centennial soon, right?) you must try the green chile pizza. That is all.

Now say goodbye to Centennial, for real this time.


A Wyoming Reception (Part II)

OK. Enough boos and hisses from the peanut gallery. I know I'm in trouble because it appeared I was going to share details of our Wyoming reception yesterday, but then I didn't. I promise you this time I will. For real.

(Disclaimer: I'm also going to break one of my long-standing rules, which I have only broken on a few occasions. I've decided to post photos of people—real, live people—from the reception. Just a few, mind you. But if I don't, there won't be much to see except for a few exterior shots. And I decided you need to see a bit more than that.

So I apologize in advance to everyone who didn't realize they were going to make it on the blog. Except I don't apologize to Conservative Hubby. He threatened to sue me once if I posted a photo of him on the blog, but now that we're married I've decided that it would be awfully silly of him to sue me. So scroll on down for a photo of the handsome fellow enjoying Wyoming.)

As I mentioned in my last post, the reception occurred in the tiny town of Centennial, Wyoming. Conservative Hubby and I stayed at the Mountain View Hotel, along with My Family and extended family and friends. I think we had the whole placed rented, actually.

Most of the rest of the guests were right across the street at the Old Corral.

It was nice and rustic—a real Wyoming treat from what I hear. Those guests who arrived late were told they could find their keys taped to the door, and when the computer system went down the proprietors just wrote room assignments on a big marker board. So anyone who wanted could have moseyed on down the hall to say hello to Conservative Mom and Dad, who were tucked in among quite a few of our rowdy friends and family members.

The site of the reception—the Trading Post Saloon—was a quick walk from either of these fine establishments. It's just what you'd expect from a Wyoming saloon—lots of wood, a big roaring fire in the fireplace, antlers for railings, the whole bit. Needless to say, we didn't feel the need to do much decorating.

The shindig started out with cocktails (with a few of the locals who were at the bar thrown in for good measure—can you pick out the ones who don't belong here? I don't think you'll have a clue).

My Sister and I even got to talk our lovely Grandma C and Auntie J on the phone/computer for a bit. It was exciting to see them and give them a taste of the Wyoming reception even though they couldn't be there in person. (Conservative Hubby said hi too.)

Then it was time for dinner. The parental units sat with us at the head table, right in front of the fire. It was lovely, although it did get a bit toasty. I think my fake fur-lined boots were a bit too warm for the seating arrangements.

Then it was on to the important stuff, like toasts from our terrific fathers. A few wonderful friends toasted us too, and then we did the requisite cake ... er ... cheesecake cutting.

After that, the dancing began. It started with our "first dance."

And then the parents joined in.

And then it was a free for all, and we all drank and laughed and danced the night away to a terrific local band.

I even had to change out of the boots for a while, because it got a bit warm on the dance floor. And My Sister and I took turns wearing our Grandpa Charlie's cowboy hat, which made the evening so much more special.

Perhaps I'm speaking out of turn here, but I have to say, I think a fun time was had by all. At least I know Conservative Hubby and I couldn't have asked for a better evening. It was a blast, and we're so blessed to have so many wonderful friends and family willing and able to make the trip to Wyoming in the middle of winter.

All I can say is thanks, pardners.

(By the way, if you're itching for details of the actual wedding, you'll find a few details and a link to some stellar photos here. And thanks to Uncle H for taking such terrific photos of the big party!)


A Wyoming Reception (Part I)

Whew. After almost a week, I think I'm recovered from Wyoming. It was a terrific time, but man, those westerners (and traveling midwesterners and easterners and Mexican transplants) sure know how to party.

Now, as you know, my parents live in lovely Laramie, Wyoming, home to the University of Wyoming (the only university in the state). This is not where I grew up, but it's where my parents have lived for nearly five years and so it is my Wyoming home away from home now.

On Friday evening, we shared the wonder that is Laramie (you can get a glimpse here) with friends and family who made it into town. This included stops at Bart's Flea Market (and yes, I bought more Pyrex—don't act so shocked) as well as an evening enjoying my parents' favorite wine bar and a trip to the always entertaining Buckhorn, where now that school is in session club music thumps from upstairs while you gaze at a lovely selection of animals mounted on the wall and a gunshot hole in the mirror downstairs.

Saturday, the real adventure began, as we headed to Centennial for the reception. Centennial is located about 27 miles from Laramie. The population sign says there are 100 people, but don't let that fool you. I hear the number is closer to 80, which means on Saturday night we managed to more than double the population.

Centennial is a pretty little spot in the Snowy Range Mountains, right next to the Medicine Bow National Forest. There's a ski area just up the road from Centennial, which is where Conservative Boy spent his time on Friday and Saturday.

Rather than messing with falling down hills all day on Saturday, I opted for cross-country skiing instead, under the masterful guidance of my childhood friend Rae and her hubby Z, outdoorsy types who knew a great route.

As my friend Cara mentioned on her blog, I too failed to remember one key detail: they're climbers. In other words, this wasn't going to be a leisurely ski through the park, and it wasn't as flat as the terrain you see in the picture above.

This was made increasingly apparent when we drove up past the downhill ski area, past where all the snowmobilers start their journeys, to the start of our route. Then we proceeded to ski all the way down, to within a mile of Centennial. Yes, I said down.

The cross-country skiing route was hilly as heck, but I have to admit I actually had better luck traveling downhill than uphill. That part was hard.

Needless to say, despite all of our wipeouts and whining that we were never going to make it down the hill, it was a blast. The scenery up there, where no vehicles or snowmobiles and very few people venture, was absolutely amazing. Tree branches weighed down under thick snow, strange rock formations capped with more snow, and the most beautiful flakes falling out of a lovely blue sky. It was incredibly picturesque, to say the least.

And guess who forgot her camera?

(Fortunately, Cara and her honey did have theirs, so you can see a few pics on her blog.)

After the big snowy adventure, the day was just beginning. But I've decided I rambled on enough for today so, just because I can, I'm breaking this post into two and giving you the rest of the details tomorrow.

In the meantime, I'll be wishing I was up in the Snowies skiing again rather than doing homework. Alas, such is life, until Conservative Hubby decides to buy me a cabin out there (a-hem ... hint hint).


Getting Ready for Wyoming

Dear friends:

I love you, I really do. But I am going to abandon you for a few days. You see, I'm frantically trying to get work and homework done so I can get on to important things like packing and heading to Wyoming.

It's time to celebrate our wedding Wyoming-style, so Conservative Hubby and I are leaving one snowy destination for another for a few days. Keep your fingers crossed the winter weather doesn't hinder anyone's travels.

(Go ahead and ask why we wouldn't celebrate somewhere warm in February. You won't be the first.)

I'll be back soon with updates on all the debauchery, a few snowy Wyoming photos, and plenty more. In the meantime, stay warm and safe.


Loaves of Wheat

We stopped buying bread about 6 weeks ago. It's not that we don't eat bread anymore, it's just that we don't buy it.

Last year I took my first step into the world of bread-making with a wheat recipe I found from Smitten Kitchen. And it was divine, really divine.

But when I decided to make bread again at the beginning of January, I thought I'd try a new one, an even easier one, with fewer ingredients.

It's a recipe from The Vegetarian Epicure, a lovely cookbook My Sister bought me at a secondhand store when she visited last summer. Being the sweet thing she is, she left me notes by her favorite recipes in the book. Since she starred the opening spread of bread recipes, I decided I'd better go ahead and try one.

So I made the whole wheat bread, which I realized en route to the finished product actually makes two loaves. I only own one loaf pan, so I put the other loaf in this lovely Pyrex baking dish. It seemed appropriate, considering it has wheat on it and all.

Wait a second. I haven't told you about this particular dish yet, have I? This baby is the smaller of two I purchased on a pre-Christmas shopping trip. The bigger one is red. They match a set of mixing bowls I already own and are in perfect condition. And—brace yourself for this—the set only cost me $3.99.

This is why I love L-Town.

I swear some little Pyrex fairy flits around to all the secondhand stores and leaves me little treasures when she knows I'll be stopping in. Whoever she is, I have only one thing to say: Thank you.

Anyhow. Back to the bread. It was a piece of cake to make and yielded two lovely loaves and a houseful of delicious scents.

You begin by heating 2 cups milk to the scalding point, then adding 3 tablespoons butter, 1 tablespoon salt, and 3 tablespoons honey. Put it all in a large mixing bowl and let it cool to lukewarm.

Dissolve 2 tablespoons yeast in 1/3 cup lukewarm water and, after a few minutes, add it to the lukewarm mixture in the bowl.

(A note about yeast: Many people are hesitant to make recipes with yeast because they fear its finicky nature sets them up for failure. I have to admit, you do have to be careful with yeast—I got the water too hot a few weeks ago and the bread was a dud. But as long as you get that water temperature right, you're set. So have no fear!)

After a few minutes, add the yeast mixture to the lukewarm mixture in the bowl. Add 1/2 cup wheat germ and about 3 cups whole wheat flour to the bowl and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the batter is smooth. Add more flour and keep stirring until the dough is too stiff to stir with a spoon.

Turn it out on a floured board and knead—adding more flour as necessary, to around 5 1/2 to 6 1/2 cups, to keep it from sticking—until it is very smooth and elastic.

Turn it into a butter bowl, flip it over, and cover the bowl with a towel. Leave it in a warm place to rise until double in bulk—about 1 hour.

Punch it down, cover, and let it rise again.

Knead a few times again and shape the dough into 2 loaves.

Place them in a buttered or oiled baking pan, cover, and leave to rise until almost double—about 45 minutes at most.

Bake for 45 minutes at 375 degrees. The loaves should be golden brown.

While eating our sandwiches at lunch the first week I made the bread, Conservative Hubby (who is always looking out for his figure) asked tentatively, "So, is this bread good for you?"

Yes. I said. Mostly definitely. It doesn't have any sugar and only a little bit of honey. Plus it has whole wheat and wheat germ. And it has no high fructose corn syrup, which most store-bought sandwich breads have. You know how I feel about HFCS.

So you know what he said next?

"Are you going to make it for us all the time then?"

Why yes, C.B. Yes I will. Gladly.

And so I've started making two loaves every week, so we have enough bread for dinner, for sandwiches, and for the occasional snack.

I also discovered it's great when you substitute a cup of oats for one of the cups of flour.

In fact, I highly recommend that version.


Roasted Vegetable Medley

I got Conservative Hubby to eat turnips the other day.

Granted, he didn't realize he was eating turnips until after I gleefully watched him take a few bites. But he ate turnips nonetheless, and for some strange reason this makes me proud. Probably because he's like a 6-year-old when it comes to vegetables.

The reason he ate turnips was because I made a roasted vegetable medley for dinner one night, filled with beautiful winter vegetables including turnips. I thought I'd share it with you because it was incredibly delicious—and healthy.

The recipe comes from the February issue of Yoga Journal. Anything that comes from Yoga Journal is worth trying, by the way, whether it's a yoga pose or a recipe.

In a large bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons olive oil, 4 cloves minced garlic, 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary (which I had in a pot by the window—unlike the basil that croaked a while ago, it's still thriving), 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh marjoram, 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme (also from the pot by the window), 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.

Peel and cut the vegetables listed below into 1/2 to 1 inch chunks, preferably on a most beautiful handmade cutting board that was sent all the way from Alaska. (Or I guess a regular cutting board will do if you haven't received any treasures from way up north recently.)

You'll need 2 yams, 2 squash (I used acorn, though butternut or banana works too), 2 carrots, 1 red onion, and 1 small turnip.

Mix the vegetables with the oil mixture in the bowl and spread them evenly over a lightly oiled baking sheet.

Roast in a 400-degree oven for 45 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender and beginning to brown, stirring every 15 minutes.

Transfer the roasted vegetables to a platter and serve.


Getting Organized

By nature, I'm a pretty organized person. I like things to be clean, to be tidy, to be in order.

But when life gets hectic, organization is often one of the first things to go out the window, along with healthy eating and working out.

Once I finished with classes last semester and had winter break stretching out before me (well, most of it, sans 10 days of travel), I decided to tackle some of the areas of the house that had gotten a bit out of control.

Warning: The images you see may shock you. Please do not think less of me. Instead, I hope you will be impressed with my willingness to share such sordid details with you, dear readers.

I started in the office, where I spend so much of my time, and where most of the disarray was centered.

Magazines and books were scattered everywhere. Mail littered the floor.

Christmas gifts I needed to mail covered the guest bed. In general, it was a disaster area. And don't even get me started on my closet.

You see, Conservative Hubby and I each have a nice-size closet in our bedroom, and then we each have another one in the office/guest room. His bedroom closet is filled with suits, dress shirts, and sweaters; his entire office closet is devoted to golf shirts. Seriously. I don't even want to know how many of them he owns.

My bedroom closet is devoted to clothes too, whereas my office closet corrals a random assortment of items—workout clothes, spare sheets, purses, scarves, wrapping supplies, and boxes, boxes, boxes.

As I believe I've mentioned before, I have a problem with saving items. I'm not a hoarder of the magnitude you see on TV, the sort who can't throw away anything even when junk is spilling out of the windows. But I can't ever seem to justify getting rid of perfectly good boxes, tissue paper, ribbons, and gift bags. That's why my closet looked like it did.

Once I started organizing, I decided to recycle stack after stack of magazines I was holding onto for no discernible reason (as a magazine person, it's my nature). There are still a lot of magazines left, mind you. But it's better.

I also organized all my books as best I could, put away stationery and filed bills, and found a new home for all my school bags and purses.

Then I whipped the closet into shape by weeding out boxes and bringing in some drawers to create a gift-wrapping station.

Ah, so much better.

Over the break I also organized the bathroom closet, the hallway closet, and the laundry room, which was overrun with boxes dating all the way back to when we moved into our house. It was difficult, but I decided to save only really sturdy boxes that are a good size for shipping. The rest I hauled to a recycling place in Bloomington, as L-Town is sorely lacking in recycling facilities beyond the most basic.

Conservative Hubby's Jeep was so full on my recycling mission that I couldn't have taken a passenger along with me. I couldn't see out of the windows. And I had to leave some boxes behind for a second trip. I'm not even kidding.

I've also been working on organizing the cupboards in our kitchen, although that is still a work in progress. I turned a tall cupboard that had been full of junk and miscellaneous dog items into a pantry, have started a pile of items to donate to Mission Mart, and have been moving things around to make space for a few lovely new pots and pans, small kitchen appliances, and (of course) some terrific new pieces of Pyrex.

I think I've made a pretty darn good start. But, as I learned after writing an organization story and copy editing a magazine on the topic recently, when it comes to organization, the work is never done.