May 22, 2010

Reasons to Celebrate

We've had a lot of those lately here in Woo-town.

Reason to celebrate this week No. 1: I have the most awesome best friend ever.
Out Past the Pasture sent me flowers this week at work, just because she's awesome.
Well, she's awesome and I'm a crybaby sometimes. I was homesick and whiney one night and she just magically knew I needed a little pick-me-up. This pretty little bouquet was just what my little cubicle needed. It was just what I needed, too -- a reminder of things worth celebrating.
Great friends are worth celebrating.

Reason to celebrate this week No. 2: caliAGchick came back to Ohio, too!
Let me explain something about caliAGchick and I. We live together, we work together, we work out together, we have all the same Ohian friends and we spend literally all our free time in Woo-town together. And you know we have a lot of free time in Woo-town. Moral of the story: we're kind of close.   

But somehow, we haven't seen each other for more than a month. All of the above factors being true, we have gone more than four weeks without having a face-to-face conversation. Needless to say, our reunion was worth celebrating.

Great friends are worth celebrating.

Reason to celebrate this week No. 3: caliAGchick got flowers, too.
She also got this pretty little thing a couple weeks ago:
The flowers were for her birthday. That big sparkly number was for an agreement to spend foreva with her bf. That's worth celebrating. 

Wine bars are worth celebrating.
Birthday desserts and birthday candles are worth celebrating.
Birthday gifts that elecit "Go Pokes!" sqeals are worth celebrating (even when it's a cheer for the wrong Pokes):
 Front row parking on your quarter-century mark is worth celebrating:
Great friends are worth celebrating. Celebrate your friends today. Every day. All the time. They're worth it. And who doesn't love a good excuse to celebrate? :)

May 16, 2010

I'm baaaaack...

Back in Ohio. Back to work. Back with Stones. Back in touch with reality. Back to blogging.

I apologize, friends, but it has seriously taken me a full week to recover from my ten day vacation in Wyoming. I have been an awful, snuffly, sleepy, messy zombie since I arrived back at my Woo-town home at 1 a.m. last Monday. It's been pretty.

I finally unpacked my bags today. I finally did laundry, washing all the little particles of Nebraska dirt off my clothes. I finally disinfected my house of all the little dust bunnies, dirtballs and kitty messes that accumulated after such a long absence. I just couldn't function normally until this house was cleaned from top to bottom. Now it's spotless, and I am ready to blog, baby!

Here's just a few more highlights from home... then I'll stop being so nostalgic and blog about something else, I promise... maybe.  

One week ago, my mama and I celebrated Mother's Day with a nice, long drive to the airport. Luxurious, right? 

Well, it was pretty luxurious compared to the alternative, which my grandpa suggested: "You have to drive her clear back to Denver?! Oh, heck... just put some stamps on her and kick her out on the side of the road. Let the mail man find her!" He's ornery like that... and I love it.

Oh, hey Gramps!  
Mom and I did get to spend Mother's Day morning at the Bushnell United Methodist Church, which might be one of the best places on Earth. Everything about the little white one-room chapel I grew up in makes me feel warm and fuzzy and blessed with love. It was a perfect Mother's Day morning.   
Well, except for the weird shadows playing around in our glasses that make mom and I look like we duked it out the day before. I promise, we didn't. We actually had a very relaxing week with no black eyes included, despite what this picture looks like.

Sister came to visit while I was home, and the three of us girls spent a day in Chey-town shopping, eating, movie-going and getting pretty little pedicures. Guess what?! Finger toes are genetic.
Those are our toes. Yes, they are the same length as our fingers.

Weird, right? Yes, our toes are weird. But not quite as weird as the number of photos Sister and I managed to take of our weird little pedicured finger-toes... or the amount of difficulty I had actually getting our toes in the picture.
 And certainly not as weird as what my foot is doing in this picture.
I don't know what is wrong with me.

Speaking of weird... have you ever seen a swarm of kittens? Yes, I said a swarm. Like, what bees do. That's the best way I can describe what was happening in our barn.
 That is a swarm of kittens. There are a full dozen of the little buggers wedged between a couple hay bales.
A few more good years of cat crops like this, and they'll have to sell the cattle to keep up with the feline farm.
He doesn't look like much now, but by 2015 this foundation Tom will have laid the genetic groundwork for most of Kimball County's line-bred barn cat bloodlines.

Speaking of awesome things that originate in Nebraska...
This is a Legend Supreme from Runza. It is the only fast-food hamburger worth eating. Ever. You can only get it in Nebraska. Runza is the reason Nebraska's catch phrase is "The Good Life."
Those stars just appear whenever I am blissfully enjoying a Legend Supreme. I can't explain it.

Know what else I can't explain? How I can love the town of Laramie, Wyoming so much, even when it does awful things to me like this:
That's snow. Falling all around me. In May.

Ah, but how could I not love it?!
It's beautiful. It's blissful. It's perfect. It's home.

May 6, 2010

Flashback to 1803, not the year. The house number in Laramie, Wyoming -- 1803 Apt. B., to be exact. Yesterday I spent the afternoon with my former college roomie, Lizzard. Then we spent the evening with our other former roomie, BigStar, at Lizzard's engagement party.

This the three of us the Halloween after we moved in to our sweet little home at 1803B:
A lot of awesome things happened at 1803B, a lot of which involved auto timers for self portraits. We're cool like that. We also cooked a lot in our little apartment in teckerville, so it only made sense that we spent a little time in the kitchen on my visit. Lizzard and I made Pioneer Woman's Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers.

Do you know who the Pioneer Woman is? You should. You really should, especially if you like to make magic happen in your kitchen. Cook everything PW tells you to, because it will always end well. This was me and BigStar's conversation the day before:

BigStar: What time are you going to head to the party?
LauraBelle: Early afternoon, after we get done cooking with PW. We're making the jalapeno poppers.
BS: Have you ever really thought about how creepy it is that we talk about PW like we're close intimate friends?
LB: No, I think that's normal. We're friends online.
BS: Ya, except she has no idea who we are. I think that's called stalking... literally.

So be it. Internet stalk PW. We do. It's totally worth it for these poppers.

Start with a big mound of jalapenos.
 Then mix together the cream cheese, green onions and shredded cheddar.
 Fill the jalapenos with the cream cheese, then wrap them lovingly in bacon.
 Doesn't Lizzard make a great hand model?

At this point, we were discussing the oddity of taking step-by-step pictures of us cooking a recipe from a cookbook that has step-by-step photos.

LB: Do you think we could get rich and famous by making a cookbook about PW's cookbook?
Lizzard: Kind of like Julie & Julia, but with PW?
LB: Ya, like that. We could take pictures of us following the pictures. Then we'll write a blog about it and publish our own cookbook, based on PW's cookbook.
Lizzard: Or we could just paste our faces over her face on the cover of her cookbook.
LB: That does sound easier. Think people would buy that?
Lizzard: Oh, definitely. I would.

We're total creeps.

Back to the cooking. After all the little jalapenos are snuggled into little bacon blankets, bust out your favorite barbecue sauce. Stubb's was a signature item at 1803B:
Smother the poppers with the barbecue sauce. We were suppose to use a fancy basting brush, but we chose to just pour it all over and then spread it around with our fingers instead. You can use a brush if you think you are fancier than Lizzard and I.
Then cook them. I recommend going to another room while these are cooking. I have never had the urge to eat raw bacon before, but these smelled so good it took all my restraint to not grab one right of the oven and pop it in my mouth. Luckily, the raw bacon deterred me. If raw bacon doesn't totally gross you out, you'll want to leave the room. Better yet, leave the house. These smell that delicious while they are cooking.

Give it an hour or so, then prepare to wow party guests with these little babies:
 Speaking of party... meet the guest of honor for our little party:
Aren't they smiley and happy? Congratulations on your engagement, Lizzard and Tyler! After all the cooking, we had a wonderful party to celebrate Tyler putting that pretty ring on Lizzard's finger.

Despite a handful of other people in the same room, we chose to use the self-portrait timer to take our picture again. It was a 20-minute ordeal full of giggling and silliness that could have been shortened and simplified by just saying, "Hey, push this camera button for us."
But simplicity just wasn't the style in 1803.

May 5, 2010

Happy Chris LeTuesday!

Until today, I forgot that in Wyoming's capitol city every Tuesday is Chris LeTuesday.

It's a tribute one of the local radio stations has done ever since the great Chris LeDoux died in 2005. They play two LeDoux tunes, back-to-back, around every hour throughout the day. It's magic, and it's just one little thing that makes me love this part of the world. In honor of how down-right giddy it made me to spend a Chris LeTuesday in Chey-town, here's a little tribute I found to Mr. LeDoux with one of my favorite songs:  
Here's another little reason I love WyoBraska. Well, it's more of a big ol' reason... the big ol' open space:
On this Chris LeTuesday, I'm reaching back a few days to share a couple highlights of my first day visiting the Cowboy and Cornhusker states.

Saturday afternoon, my brother and our friend Robin showed up at the farm, ready for fun. When we were in high school, I can't even begin to count the number of hours our crew of friends spent cruising country roads; driving for hours and hours aimlessly looking for fun, wasting time, causing trouble, solving the world's problems or just "shootin' stuff." The boys were mostly interested in the latter.

Some things never change. In fact, most things about home never change, and that's exactly why I love it. The three of us loaded up in Brother's pickup and spent the afternoon rambling across empty fields, pastures and rutted trails in search of "stuff" to shoot. "Stuff" as in any rodent that dared cross our path.

They're pretty tough, walking into the horizon with their big shiny guns... in search of little bunnies and ground squirrels. Real macho stuff like that.
 This is Brother's newest toy. Between the two of them, they own 12 guns. Overkill? Perhaps. Pun intended.
I, as usual, dawdled along behind them, taking pictures of clouds and cows. <3.
For the most part, I was more interested in shooting photographs than guns. But they did let me shoot the .22 for a while, and let me just say: all those hours playing Big Buck Hunter in college bars paid off after all.

Once I got over the thrill of my successful hunts, I went back to shooting pictures.
But the fun was just getting started. While I was busy planning my trip home, my Daddio was planning a little party of his own. Not a party for me; a party that just happened to fall on the weekend I was home. The guys at Nelson Farms worked calves last week, so we celebrated by frying up the Rocky Mountain variety of oysters.

It was an evening filled with approximately half of Kimball County, including our family... friends...
...and dancing. Lots of dancing...
We may or may not have "slapped the bladder" a few times throughout the night, too. If you don't know what that means, don't ask. Or go ahead and ask...but be prepare to be disgusted just a little.

May 1, 2010

Take me back to WyoBraska

Welcome to state line road one, an arbitrary place in the prairie where Wyoming and Nebraska differentiate themselves.
Beautiful, eh?

People in eastern Nebraska sometime forget the panhandle exists. The southeast corner of Wyoming is flatland country, blending in with the panhandle more than the mountains of the rest of the state. Hence the birth of the term WyoBraska. It is my home, and I love it.

Here it is:

View Larger Map
This has created a slight identity crisis in my life. Cops always question why a car with Nebraska license plates is registered to a girl with a Wyoming drivers license, especially now that I live in Ohio. Good thing I'm such a great driver and never get pulled over.

I usually claim Wyoming because UW is my Alma Mater. Buuuutttt.... our home is actually in Nebraska. But I went to high school in Wyoming. But I grew up showing at the Kimball County fair. But I went to Youth Group in Pine Bluffs. But I went to church at the Bushnell UMC. I love Runza; I love Chugwater Chili. I've screamed "Gooooooo biiiiiiiiiiiig reeeeeed....... GO BIG RED!" on the steps of our nation's capitol. I've seriously considered getting Steamboat tattooed on my body. I grew up genuinely thinking Tom Osborne was the most influential man in the world. Cheyenne Frontier Days is the most profoundly wonderful event in the world.

What's a girl to do?!    

Well, share with you fun facts about both states, of course! I arrived back in Mountain Standard Time late last night for my first trip home since moving to Ohio. In honor of this great event, I want you to get to know both my home states. Did you know:
  • The largest coal mine in the USA is the Black Thunder mine located near Wright, Wyo.
  • Kearney, Nebraska is located geographically dead center of the U.S.-between Boston and San Francisco, each way is exactly 1733 miles on either side of Hwy 30.
  • Wyoming is the least populated state in the Union, with a whopping population of 544,270.
  • Arbor Day was started in Nebraska City in 1872 by Sterling Morton to encourage tree planting.
  • The Wyoming state name came from the Delaware Indian word, meaning "mountains and valleys alternating."
  • The 911 system of emergency communications, now used nationwide, was developed and first used in Lincoln, Nebraska.
  • The JC Penney stores were started in Kemmerer, Wyo.
  • Kool-Aid was invented by Edwin Perkins in 1927 in Hastings, Neb. He changed his soft drink syrup, Fruit Smack, into a powder to make it easier to ship.
  • Yellowstone was designated America's first official National Park in 1872; Devils Tower was designated as the first National Monument in 1906; Shoshone National Forest was a first as well in 1891; all in Wyoming.
  • The Sand Hills of Nebraska are the biggest grass-covered sand dunes in the Western Hemisphere. They cover about one-fourth of the state. Only the Sahara and the Arabian deserts have bigger areas of sand.

I found this "Black Table" blog this morning with a listing of Six Things You Don't Know About: (fill in the blank). It had entries for both Wyoming and Nebraska. Pretty good stuff:
Nebraska --
     ***very funny and accurate description of Nebraska. So true in so many funny ways. 
Wyoming --
    ***also pretty funny, although I wouldn't agree with the significance of some of these things. For example, calling Wyoming a "hotbed of feminism" isn't entirely accurate. Yes, we were the first state to allow women to vote, etc., but most will tell you it wasn't under the noble context of advancing women's suffrage. We just didn't have enough people. If Wyoming wanted to be a state, it needed more voters. It wanted to be a state, so it let girls vote. Pretty simple. But, that simplicity is what I love about the Cowboy State. Also, I've never heard of the crazies it talks about in #3, but I'm sure it's true. Wyoming's a big state, folks, and people can blend in and disappear here, especially weirdos. We were famous for hiding outlaws in the wild, wild west, and it's no different now.

How's that for an "afterthought?"

I have a very busy and exciting week ahead, complete with a calf fry tonight, an engagement celebration, banquets, pedicures, family, dear old friends, UW's graduation, fundays and Mother's Day. I am so blessed, lucky, and happy to be home!