ARIAT Boots Giveaway!!

You've only got til tomorrow, Sunday, 7:00 p.m. EST to enter Misha's giveaway for a pair of Ariat boots! Does that prize rock or what?!
So, get on over to Misha's blog, From My Front Porch in the Mountains, and enter her giveaway... it's very easy. Just become a fan of Ariat on Facebook, a follower of Misha's blog (trust me, you're going to love her blog!) and leave a comment on her giveaway post.

And yes, I know I'm lowering my odds of winning this great contest by telling all my readers, but hey, I'm one to share the good news. :-)

Forecast: Sunny and 58, then Snowy and 20

Sunny and 58 ... our Wednesday weather...

Enlarge this one... the meadowlarks are plentiful out here!

... snowy and 20 degrees is our today {Friday} weather!

This is the same photo as above, except with lots of snow!

Ringo and I both kept blinking our eyes against the flying snow!

Don't let Ringo fool ya, he loves the snow!

Of Cookies, Sunshine, and a Reality Check

Many thanks to Lisa of Laughing Orca Ranch for naming the I Heart You cookie and Deborah (the Lone Star Queen) of Howdy from Cowtown for naming the Cookie of Paradise! Your half dozen cookie rewards will be winging their way to you later today. I've added the cookies to my Lazy G Ranch website and revamped the website too!

My readers simply rock! You guys came out in full force with so many cookie names, it was hard for me to choose. I liked so many of your names ~ thanks so much for being the best friends any blogger could have. I wish I could send y'all some cookies to thank you, but the USPS (translation = expensive!) makes that rather formidable.

And along that "expensive" vein, a little soul-bearing is in order here.

As my readers, you probably already know that when you come to my blog, you'll be treated to fun photos, beautiful Kansas vistas, and upbeat, positive stories of my life here. Trust me, my intent is not to make you vomit every time you come to my bucket of sunshine!

Like everyone, I have my fair share of life's reality checks. A few of my biggest sunshine-robbers?
  1. No job. I've been looking for a job since I moved here in July 2008. I lived off the profit of my Ohio house sale for almost a year, and then the small 401k that I cashed out last year. Two temporary stints at a local hospital have helped me bulk up my checking account so I could keep my car payment current, and family has helped me several times. (Thank you my lovely family and y'all know who you are!) The hospital wants to hire me full-time but they have not had any position become available for me. In the meantime, I often have sleepless nights wondering how I'll make my March payments... or is that just that nasty midlife menopause working its magic on me??! (This is why I peddle my dog biscuits and cookies!!)
  2. My grandmother in Ohio is not doing well. I went back to Ohio the 2nd week of January to visit her... after a brief hospital stay and a few weeks in a nursing home, she went back to her home. A home health care worker is visiting her 3x a week, and a friend who lives a few blocks away checks in on her several times a week. She has macular degeneration, and the doctors felt she had onset Alzheimer's. We seriously doubt she has even a speck of Alzheimer's... her wit and her sassy tongue were back in full force the day we got her situated at her house!
  3. We've had serious septic problems the last week. Hubby dug up the back yard and replaced a section of pipe. The problem seems to be fixed now, but just in case, we haven't backfilled that section of yard just yet! We'll still need to have the septic tank pumped. I mean, may as well, it's all dug up and easy to find now.
That's a few of the rainy spots in my life. And the only reason I decided to put it all out there? Because I know my fellow bloggers have problems too. Many times they air out their issues on their blogs. Often I can identify with them and I feel better, knowing I'm not the only one with issues.

Every day that I wake up, I try to think about the blessings in my life, the positive things. And there are many! Here are just a few:
  1. My son (only child!) and his wife are pregnant! THIS is a big deal. They've had 2 known miscarriages, heartbreaking for us all, but this time she's made it to 20 weeks and the baby is doing great. They've been seeing a high-risk specialist, and it looks like I am finally, finally going to be a gramma! I.AM.SO.EXCITED. This is the biggest blessing in my life, even though they are in Ohio and I am in Kansas.
  2. I'm healthy, albeit a tad overweight, but I'm healthy. Well, at least as far as I know. ;-)
  3. Hubby is healthy, the rest of my family is healthy. What more could one ask for?
  4. I love my dogs. Trixie and Tori are my salve. And Ringo too.
  5. I love our kitties and our horses too. Animals add so much warmth and love to a human's world.
  6. I have a home that provides warmth in the summer and coolness in the summer, with a very comfy bed. We have adequate clothing and vehicles to get us to work (when I'm working). We have enough food to eat and more than enough water. How could one NOT be thankful for these things, when so many people the world over don't even have the most basic need of adequate shelter?
  7. The sun shines most days here in south central Kansas. Sure, we still have gray days, but in winter, you can still count on seeing the sun every few days.
  8. Baking makes me happy. I love making dog biscuits for my pups and my customers' pups, and now I get to make my favorite cookies for all my friends and customers! Cooking for my husband makes me happy too... because he appreciates it!
  9. On a lighter note, a well-mixed chocolate martini can make me very happy.
  10. I love my life here on the Kansas plains! I know I've said it before, but I really do. :-)
Those 10 happy items come to you, my faithful blog readers, courtesy of Linda from Wander to the Wayside and her 101 Sweet Friends award to me last week. So now that I've named 10 things that make me happy, I need to pass this award forward to some of my readers. I'm just going to say that if you have 10 things (or more!) that make you happy in your life, then you need to grab this award and acknowledge all those happy things.

And thank you to all my readers who come here to visit. I enjoy your blogs just as much, even if I don't get there as often as I might like. I appreciate your comments so very much and I will always leave comments for you... as Linda mentioned, it's this back and forth that makes this blogging adventure so much fun!

Our next post will return to our regularly scheduled dose of sunshine... and vomit.

Cookies for Sale

How would you like some of these yummies for your midnight snack?

I made close to 4 dozen of these "cut-out" cookies Wednesday... mailed a few to my sister in California and my mom in Arizona on Thursday, and do you know how many are left as of today?


I kid you not. Hubby and I just couldn't help ourselves, as these are the Barnes' family most favorite cookies. I think when I woke up Wednesday close to midnight I must have inhaled at least 3 with a glass of milk. I know, bad, huh?

I will be offering these "cut-out" cookies for sale on my Lazy G Ranch website next week. I'm still trying to figure out the pricing part, which is really quite difficult. I don't want to price them too high, yet when I research other cookie websites, I realize that homemade cookies are not cheap. Plus it takes some rich, fresh ingredients to make these cookies, not to mention my time to roll and cut and ice and decorate these lil beauties... and the ensuing backache! AND I haven't decided how to package them yet either.

So maybe you can help me with part of my dilemma...

What to name these cookies?

In addition to these cookies, I will be offering some deelish chocolate cookies and coconut/macadamia/white chocolate cookies for sale and of course, I'll be needing names for them too.

If you can help me with a name (for just these cut-outs, or all 3 varieties) then I will send you at least a half dozen "cut-out" cookies for your pain, the next time I make them.

This lil giveaway/contest is open to everyone ~ family, friends, people I haven't met yet. Everyone. ANYONE.

Otherwise, they are just going to be called Cut-Out Cookies.

Or maybe Family Recipe Cut-Out Cookies.

How boring and uninspiring is that?!

Just Another Country Morn and SkyWatch Friday

We've been so foggy for the last 5 or 6 days now. We are tired of the fog and yet grateful in an odd sort of way - it could be snow, or worse yet, ice. So I will smile and take the fog with its gift of a not-so-bad day.

The horses are grateful to see me in the morn... waiting patiently for their grain, some hay and alfalfa. I love my quiet time with them every morning, as they nicker and whinny and stamp their feet, awaiting their turn. After feeding the horses, Ringo and I often walk around the land, listening to the quiet, and watching our two cats run and twirl and play together.

This fog has made my morning simple... once I make hubby's lunch around 4:30 a.m., I usually fall asleep on the couch to the tune of the morning news and then wake up to watch Good Morning America.

GMA sometimes has new ideas worth noting.... did you know there is a new website from AOL called "Seed" wherein you can choose writing or photographic opportunities and make some spare change? SEED assigns, buys and distributes work for all of AOL's properties: more than 80 of the Web's most highly trafficked and respected websites, including the world's leading sites for music, style, TV, tech and more. Check it out; perhaps you'll find your next money-making opportunity there!

This morning I settled in for a cup of hazelnut coffee with my most recent Country Gardens magazine. Ah, to dream of what I want to plant around our vast property! We have many landscape canvases in need of color... tulips, daffodils, sunflowers and lazy susans, hollyhocks and marigolds... the list goes on and on.

I envision flowers planted along our road, under this tree break,
adding bright cheery color to our kitchen window view.

I think flowers planted at the end of our driveway will be
a welcoming smile when we return home.

After morning chores are done, it's time to plan my day. Do dog treats need baked to fulfill another order for the Lazy G Ranch website? Or is today the day I start sampling my cookie recipes in order to decide which ones will be added to the Lazy G Ranch website, for the two-leggers of course...

The sun is peeking between the clouds right now, so perhaps I will want to do something outside... maybe start digging the trench where I think the septic line exits the house, get a head-start before hubby gets home from work tonight? Ah yes, the glories of septic problems.... but we won't discuss that here and ruin this lovely country morn!

Check out SkyWatch Friday for more
beautiful skies all over the world!

My First Published Blog!

I think many of my readers know that Grit magazine published one of my photos in the Jan/Feb issue of their magazine. If you didn't know, you can see the photo and read about my bragging rights here.

What I haven't mentioned is that I was asked to be a guest blogger in their online blogging community! Let me just tell you -- that email came while I was at work one day, and I was SO excited that I could hardly work the rest of the day. I wanted to tell everyone so badly and yet you know when you have great news that is only great news to yourself?? ... I realized if I told any of my co-workers about this opportunity, I would most likely get this totally blank stare. *What the hell are you talking about girl??* So of course I simply emailed my closest family and friends and tried to contain my excitement for the rest of the day.

But I waited to tell you, my dearest blog readers, until Jenn Nemec at Grit had posted my blog in their community. Well, click right here to see my very first post! I'll be sending Jenn at Grit a new post every week.

Let me just tell you -- if you love everything that is country, then you will love Grit magazine, AND their online blogging community. As I mention on my photo blog, Grit magazine is everything country and it also helps people get back to basic living. Here's a few examples of recent articles: make your own maple syrup, great mac'n'cheese recipes, winter gardening and what works in your area, homemade bread the easy way, rodent control/keeping critters in check on the farm, and of course, how to raise water buffalo. Yep, no kidding. Water buffalo are becoming more popular in the grand ole U.S. of A.

As a side note here: I love my new life in Kansas. Since 2008, I've become better at my photography and have had my own store on Zazzle for almost two years now. I started a blog and met all kinds of wonderful new friends -- because of you my friends, I could never, ever stop blogging!! Then I decided to market my all-natural dog biscuits to my four-legged friends with another new blog, The Lazy G Ranch, and this endeavor is doing quite well. For all my two-legger friends out there, I am hoping to add deelish homemade cookies to the Lazy G Ranch offerings very soon!!

So I will end this post with the thought that I am very grateful to my husband for giving me this opportunity at a fresh, new life in a beautiful part of the United States ~ I love him to pieces not just for that opportunity, but because he's the sweetest husband ever. Not to say that Ohio doesn't have its own corners full of beauty (you show them to us all the time, Joe!), but Kansas gives me an entirely new area to explore and photograph.

And of course, I'm a city gal living in the country now
and lovin' every minute of it!

Country Kitchen Peek-a-Boo Part II

Here's another view of the kitchen, looking towards the stove and the back porch. As you can see, the prior owners had installed beautiful {gag} paneling with blue wood trim and a vibrant sunflower border. Can you sense my sarcasm here? In a normal decorating situation I LOVE sunflowers, but not in this instance!

I have an old whitewashed spice cabinet that
we'll be hanging above the stove. The door will
look much nicer when it's painted and the trim is hung.

I've painted the entire back porch and the other side of the back door. The reason I haven't painted this side of the back door is that Tori insists on jumping up on it - if you enlarge the photo, you can see how damaged the wood is right below the window. Obviously if I paint it, she's just going to scrape the new paint right off! The only stopgap measure I can think of would be to put a piece of plexiglass over the new paint, only right below the window.

Any other suggestions, aside from the impossible ~
training Tori not to jump up?

The carpet was downright disgusting... the only good thing??
I could let the dogs in with wet feet and not worry!!

Country Kitchen Peek-a-Boo

We still have lots to do to finish our kitchen renovation, but I wanted to put up a quick post that shows you how far we've come...

circa July 2008

circa NOW

We still need to put up trim for the ceiling, the floor and around doorways. I am really loving the laminate floor that hubby installed 2 weeks ago. We bought it at Lowe's in September 2008 and it lived behind the living room couch until December 2009! It's so nice to see it on the kitchen floor instead of the boxes in the living room. I had almost forgotten about the rug I had brought with me from Ohio. It was rolled up under the guest bed. I'm so glad I remembered - I was looking at rugs at Lowe's a few weeks ago when it hit me - hey, I HAVE a rug already!

We did as much as we could on our own, to keep the costs down. Obviously hubby installed much of the new stuff -- the ceiling fan, the light fixture above the sink, the new faucet, the floor. He put up new drywall everywhere -- he tore down the tile ceiling, paneling on the walls and the old drywall. I painted the kitchen cabinets as we really could not justify the cost of all new cabinets. We bought new hardware through Ebay.

I just hate the process... what a mess!!!

The kitchen chair and benches were found at our local Dillon's grocery store a few weeks ago. The newest Dillon's in Derby, Kansas, has a section called the Marketplace with furniture and home items. They had a huge sale a few weeks ago, and we got the most fantastic prices on our table and chairs, it was unbelievable. AND we got Dillon's gift cards for our furniture purchases. $10 for every $50 we spent. What a deal!! :)

I don't think you can really see them in this picture, even if you enlarge it... but my fan pulls are of a bucking bronc and a cowboy boot. I brought them with me from Ohio. I guess you could say my heart was always in the west. :-)

I'll post more pics over the next week. I'll probably ask for some advice from my readers. The walls still need to be finished with my pics and such - I don't have things hung the way I want them yet. But all in all, we both really love the way it has turned out.

Bedbug Update

I just want to send out a huge "THANK YOU" to all who left comments and advice regarding my bedbug letter to Choice Hotels. It just proves what a great community the blogging world can be. You guys rock!! :-)

I am mailing my revised letter tomorrow and will let y'all know if I hear back from Choice Hotels!

The Bedbug Letter to Choice Hotels

Sooooo, before I print this and mail it to Choice Hotels, do any of you have any edits you think I should make? Perhaps stronger language, not so polite??! I also sent "customer comments regarding my recent stay" via their website this evening.

January 12, 2010

Choice Hotels International
Guest Relations Service Center
P.O. Box 1748
Minot, ND 5801

Re: Unsatisfactory Comfort Inn Stay

To Whom It May Concern:

Unfortunately, I find I must write this letter to document a more than unsatisfactory recent stay at a Comfort Inn in Indiana. I found myself in a situation that would be every hotel guest’s worst nightmare – unwanted and unwelcome guests were waiting in my hotel room on the evening of January 5th, 2010.

Some background: I make two annual trips to Ohio to visit family and friends. Over the past year, I have been staying at the Comfort Inn brand, as I found it satisfactory and usually quite clean. I have stayed at the Plainfield, Indiana, location several times now. My perception was that it was newer and very clean.

Last Tuesday this perception was shattered to smithereens. I woke around midnight, quite warm, and so I arose to turn down the room heat. As I walked into the bathroom, I could see in the large mirror that there were numerous bugs on my pajama top. Needless to say, I rapidly pulled off my pajamas, including my underwear. You can imagine my dismay, chagrin, and utter disgust when I found a bug INSIDE my underwear. I walked back to look at the bed, and lo and behold… bedbugs, all over the pillows and the sheets. Mind you, not just a few, but probably upwards of 15-20. Hindsight is 20/20, and I now wish I would have taken a photo. But I’m sure you can imagine my scattered and fragmented mind at that point in time.

After ensuring there were no more bedbugs on me or in my hair, I dressed and went down to the front desk. The night clerk was on her cell phone and there was a customer walking away from the desk. I waited until that customer was out of earshot, then I calmly told the night clerk my predicament. She offered me another room – upon my inspection, this room was quite unsatisfactory. There was a rag laying on the floor when I walked into the room, another rag laying on the bathroom floor, newspaper spread out all over the bathroom vanity, along with a ceiling fixture laying on the bathroom vanity and obviously in the middle of repair.

I went back to the front desk and told her this room was not satisfactory, upon which she asked to see my room with the bedbugs. I took her upstairs and her only response upon seeing the bedbugs on the bed was “Eww”. At that time I told her I would be checking out and would like a refund.

My pajamas were still lying on the bathroom floor, so I inspected them and was sure to remove every bedbug I could see before I put them into the laundry bag provided in my hotel room. I threw the bag into the back of my car and left it there for the next 3 days; since we were having subzero temperatures, I assumed any remaining bedbugs would be killed by the cold. On the contrary, upon dumping my clothes into the utility sink at my mother’s house 3 days later, there was still one surviving bug. We washed my pajamas in hot water, but to this day they still sit in the back of my car as I am afraid to wear them again.

When I went down to the front desk to check out, the night clerk had me sign a memo to the manager indicating the bedbug situation in my room. She said she was putting the memo on his desk so he would see it first thing in the morning. I thought he might call me to apologize, but he did not contact me.

Page two
Re: Unsatisfactory Comfort Inn Stay

I ended up staying at a Hometown Suites by Hilton for the remainder of the night. It was quite a sleepless night, as I woke up almost every half hour and checked my new bed for any signs of bugs. Upon my return trip to Ohio on January 11/12, I stayed at a Quality Inn in Kansas City and again, found it difficult to sleep. I left a light on in the room, and every time I awoke, I would check the bed sheets to be sure there were no bugs.

Bottom line: It’s going to take some time for me to feel comfortable in ANY hotel room again. I have always checked the bed before I would make myself comfortable but I have never seen anything. Trust me, I did check the bed at the Comfort Inn in Indiana before I retired on January 5th, but I did not see anything before I turned out the lights that would merit any concern on my part.

I was shocked and disappointed in the Comfort Inn brand, and I hope that you will take the necessary steps to ensure this terrible experience does not happen to future hotel guests at any of your hotel brands.

Best regards,

Susan D. Garten

Don't Let the Bedbugs Bite!

Update: No, I didn't get bit. I think I woke up in time to catch them before they had the opportunity to dig into me. The clerk DID come up to my room to see for herself, but all she said was "Eww." As if she had already seen them perhaps? She refunded my credit card before I went out at 12:30 p.m. to search for another hotel. I think I should at least get a free night voucher for a future stay? But then, do I ever want to stay at a Comfort Inn ever again, or any hotel for that matter??!

a cute old saying, huh? Until a real-life experience gives it new meaning...

traveling to Ohio last week, I had a close encounter with bedbugs. I stayed at a Comfort Inn in Plainfield, Indiana - this was my 3rd stay at this particular Comfort Inn, a relatively new and very clean hotel. Plainfield is an up-and-coming area with new hotels and new restaurants, many still in the process of being constructed.

reading several years ago that bedbugs are a growing problem, not only in hotels but also in dorms and hospitals (!), I make it a habit to check the sheets on my bed before I retire for the night. Last week was no exception; of course, I have never seen or found anything, yet it's still part of my evening routine in hotels.

I woke around midnight, extremely warm, so I arose to turn down the heat in the room. As I walked into the bathroom a moment later and saw myself in the large mirror, I was shocked to see little bugs all over my pajama top!!

I DO wish I would have taken the time
to snap a photo of the bedbugs on my pajama top
and the bed... but needless to say, I was too freaked out!

I did
the bug dance, ripping off my pajamas and underwear... and was disgusted to find one INSIDE my underwear... when I went back to look at the bed, the bugs were all over the pillows and the sheets. Not just 2 or 3, no, more like 20 or more.

I calmed down and double-checked my hair and the rest of me for more bedbugs, I dressed and went to the front desk to inform them of this unfortunate situation. I was offered another room, which proved to be less than satisfactory, so I checked out and spent the rest of my night at Hometown Suites by Hilton at 3x the cost of the Comfort Inn. Even then, I kept waking up and checking the sheets of my large and oh-so-comfy bed at the Hilton.

pajamas were bagged up in the laundry bag present in hotel rooms and thrown into the very back of my car. I left the bag there from Tuesday evening through Saturday. In sub-zero temperatures. You would think that would kill any remaining bedbugs? OH NO. Upon dumping my clothes into my mother's utility sink, one bug appeared. Of course, we assumed it to be dead. Until its ugly little legs popped out from its body and started wiggling. I heard mom in the basement stomping the living life out of this bug before she flushed it down the drain.

my return to Kansas, I stayed in a Quality Inn in Kansas City. I woke up almost every half hour, checking the bed for any bugs. It may be quite some time before I sleep soundly in a hotel ever again.

Lesson to learn? To be safe, never, ever, put your luggage or anything else on the bed or floor of a hotel room. I was very lucky in this respect - I had put my luggage on a table. Always, always, take a close look at the bed, especially up near the headboard and the wall. Check out this quick slideshow on bedbugs with tips and hints on how to avoid them or get rid of them if you've had an encounter. Here is another extremely informative article on bedbugs by the University of Kentucky. Vigilance while traveling and prudence when acquiring used furniture items are essential.

Tell me
if you've ever had an experience with bedbugs, and what type of hotel did you stay - middle of the road, or five star?

Tell me if you check your bed for anything when you stay in a hotel... and tell me if you think I'm doing the right thing by writing a letter to corporate at Choice Hotels!

Freedom Blog Post Update

It's a dreadful thing, but the fact is that there is
too much injustice in the world for us to handle.

~ Tony Letts, Mind Motion

I think Tony really nailed it with his comment on my previous post. It's why I always feel overwhelmed when I receive charity solicitations in the mail and in my email, and see them advertised on TV. WHO do we support? There truly is too much injustice in the world - even Bill Gates with all his money cannot help everyone, although he and his wife sure make a gallant effort, don't they?

I received my Soulgems necklace yesterday, and let me tell you, it is truly beautiful. I already wore it to a bonfire last night. I love it!

The winner of Three Cups of Tea is .... Brit Gal Sarah! I used and it came up with #3 (there were 2 comments made by the same person, which will count as one for the purpose of the drawing). Sarah, email your address to me and I will get the book out to you next week. (

As we head into 2010, I want to thank everyone who has followed my blog and commented. I have met some truly wonderful and fantastic people here, and on Twitter and Facebook too. I am most thankful for these new friendships and wish the best for everyone in our upcoming year!