Branding at HiLo Ranch

So in between tearing out carpet and scraping wallpaper glue, we also have a ranch to run.

My husband and I started cattle ranching just over a year ago and it’s been an adventure of a lifetime. We run our 200 head in a very rough part of the country, Imnaha Canyon, and do it all the old fashioned way. Rarely do you hear the buzz of a four wheeler on our canyon walls- it’s all horse back riding and lasso roping, and dog chasing, when it’s time to move our heard. As I trailed behind the new mothers and their adorable offspring of wet-nosed black-hide babies, I can’t believe I am here. It’s always that way. How did I, never-even-own-anything-more-than-a-cat-afraid-of-horses Caitlin come to be sitting on the back of my own brown quarter horse (named “Merl”), yipping and yelling to a whole herd of bovine as we slowing move past the Imnaha tavern and turn the corner to the branding location. I still don’t know. But I love those moments. And I love that God saw fit to show me how one of my favorite things in the world would be moving cattle on horseback.

Branding is an event. It means neighbors, family and friends gather to generously give their time and talents for a day in exchange for a good meal and a day of fun, hard work. It means all those beautiful little calves are vaccinated, protected against worms and pests, and branded and ear tagged as part of the heard. It means home made chili- lime and cilantro and cheese on top,  corn bread and Danny’s biscuits, laughing kids, and playful dogs, and inevitably a few bruises and soar muscles. And so, take a look a our first branding at HiLo Ranch:















IMG_1333 IMG_1336


IMG_1390 IMG_1391



We got rained out on Saturday, so everyone showed extra dedication in showing up for a second day of calf tossing. Thankfully, I had tripled my Aunt Doris’s chili recipe, my brother-in-law’s father’s famous biscuits were gone so I and whipped up a double batch of my favorite cornbread the next day, and had enough to feed the crew again. Everyone ‘s compliments confirmed my opinion: Best chili recipe ever, just don’t go easy on the bacon. Go ahead and double it if you want.







After two days of being camp cook, giving vaccines, making sure children don’t get kicked by an animal or just ride off into the sunset on one (Freyja would!), setting up, cleaning up, washing up, and then being photographer in the minutes in between, I was tired. I haven’t been that tired in a while. But what a beautiful sight, when it was just  Zac, my father in law, and I at the very end of the day, watching that last little cow-calf pair climb the hill to fresh grass. Sun setting,  our work done, animals cared for and happy, we could rest well that night.

Before and After: Boys’ Bedroom


















 Wall color is “Moon Shot” by Valspar,

Bedding from Target

Elephant pillows, Spoon Flower fabric,

Beds bought at a yard sale for $3.50 each (!) and painted Valspar “Cadet Song”

 Original artwork in gold frames by my three year old, Rhys. He’ll be showing at the Met in about 20 years.


Before and After: Hallway and Stairs

We just knew we’d need somewhere to sleep, away from chaos and clutter. So we started with the top floor. Besides that, we really had no choice since it smelled like dog urine up there. (Original Kilz primer to the rescue! I even painted myself with it after a I began to take on the odor of the house.) The upstairs was a sea of green shag carpet, dusty lace curtains, and poky popcorn textured ceilings.  As soon as we signed at the title company I ran inside and started tearing down the filthy curtains, happily choking on dust and becoming more and more convinced of my vision for each room.

Oh, and I forgot to say- that perfect warm, not too dark, with hints of yellow instead of blue GREY has been found. And it’s name is “Haven of Coziness” by Clark and Kensington. Honestly, I’m bonkers about this color, though the photos don’t do it justice.






















Honey, we’re looking at a house on Saturday


We needed more room. Our adorable little yellow bungalow was becoming too crowded during our long Wallowa County winters. I dreamed of smilingly shouting over the din of the pillow-trampoline obstacle course constructed at my feet while I cooked dinner, “Kids! Go do that in the basement!” Yes, I definitely wanted a basement.

I dreamed of more than one toilet so that toddlers and adults alike would no longer dance in a line outside the bathroom, waiting, waiting waiting. . .  and then  give up and run to the next door neighbors’ house. (True fact. Thank you McDonalds for being so accommodating during the many full-house weekends.)

Walking through our neighborhood one fall day, I noticed an orange “For Sale” sign. Yes, like the kind you put in your car. Only it wasn’t in a car, it was in the window of what appeared to be a small mansion.  This house had always intrigued me, but the yard was so overgrown I could never get a very good look at it. It was a Victorian style, built in 1898, previously  run as a bed and breakfast. Though before that, it was a single family residence and then a doctor’s clinic. Beyond that I knew nothing about it. So I called the number on the orange “For Sale” sign and said I was very interested in buying the house. Of course I had no idea if my husband would be even remotely interested, but no matter, I can usually convince him of my ideas. I did.

And so, we are living in a former bed and breakfast, built in the year Theodore Roosevelt was fighting the battle of San Juan Hill (thank you Classical Conversations! ), there are little gold plaques reading “private” or “Cottage Room”, here and there, so that’s pretty weird, and there are times I’m pretty sure it’s haunted. Like when I have to go the basement all by my lonesome to throw laundry in the dryer at 9:30 at night. It is a fixer-upper to say the least and it is roller coaster of “Oh my gosh, this house is amazing and better than anything we could ever think of!” and “Oh my gosh, I want to light this place on fire!” It smelled of animal urine, and because it was redone in the fabulous 1980’s there is floral wallpaper IN EVERY ROOM, and an absolutely astounding amount of forest green.  Forest green deck furniture, forest green hot tub, forest green tile, forest green stripes in the entry way, forest green flowers in the hallway, forest green shag carpet cascading down the stairs. The revamp was done painstakingly, taking down original wood trim, piece by piece, staining it and putting it back. They put in lots of great features like geothermal heat, and good windows. For all that, I am eternally thankful, since the house looks old but feels much newer than 116 years old.

All that to say, I need a place to ramble and reflect. A place to be thankful for progress (large and small) and for life in a place that truly is far far better than I deserve. And if you, by any chance, know how to get rid of cat urine odor, feel free to share. Stay tuned for before and afters. . .


Just had Sinclair Brothers limb up all the trees- you can see the house now! Yay!



A carriage house. . . still trying to come up with the coolest use of this space



Before, During, During, During, During and At Last!

So this post is entirely too long, no one but Zac and I will ooh or ahh at the scroll of a billion photos quite like anyone else because this was our life for the last year. Weekends, evenings, every spare moment it seemed went toward reconstructing our yard. So at the top is the short version, a few before and afters that show a bit of the payoff for our blood sweat and tears (the tears being all on my part).

Oct. 2012 036




summer 2012 045





BEFORE – Photo credit to Scott :)



summer 2012 043




summer 2012 044

So there was my beautiful little bungalow (top photo), a year ago exactly. Minding it’s own business, doing nothing wrong, it would soon undergo a massive destruction and reconstruction phase that would last until just last week. The demolition wasn’t by choice but because I came downstairs with a basket of laundry one day to discover sewage flooding my basement. Yes, the 100 year old sewage pipes made of clay (!) had been attacked by tree roots over the century and were now full of well-fertilized threads of vegetation. But, where to find the pipes? We had a few good ideas of where to look but. . . .

One thing led to another and. . . .  We still didn’t know where the elusive pipes had been laid 100 years ago
summer 2012 047

summer 2012 055

Victory! Third try’s the charm.

yard continue 002


yard continue 003


This is the demon of a tree that was growing up the pipes, we didn’t chop it to bits out of rage,  it was happily thriving right above the crumbling pipe so we had no choice but to rip it up.


yard continue 005

yard continue 008

We now had an entirely shredded yard that had to be put back together. So why not fix all the sidewalks? And tear out the evergreen that made the yard impossible to use because of pine needles and sap? Underground sprinklers would improve the value of the house. And how about some pillars? Some lights outside would be nice for dark winter night. . .


Oct. 2012 033


Oct. 2012 065

After Zac and I shoveled approximately 17,000 wheelbarrows of gravel, it was time to pour new sidewalks. We set up heaters under tarps to let it dry during the freezing nights of late autumn.

end of 2012 033

Along came snow, but no time like the present to start building rock pillars and laying bricks. . .

end of 2012 034


may 2013 021

may 2013 024


Time to climb up the half-dead spruce with spurs and a chainsaw! Danger is his middle name. may 2013 026


may 2013 030



may 2013 031

Jude is only mildly worriedmay 2013 032

My task was not only to photograph, but also to pull with all my might on a rope attached to the limbs that Zac was sawing off. The idea was that I would yank the falling branches away from the house and. . . toward myself. . . thereby saving the house from destruction.



The big day is here at last, sod arrives from Walla Walla on Monday morning, our crew of exuberant family, the Barleys, Jordan, Matthias, Lottie, Hartwell, and Meredith stand by to pounce on the pieces of green carpet. We had the whole thing done in three hours!



553  560

559 557

Little Girl Pixie Hair Cut

Freyja’s hair “twizzeling” has gotten totally out of hand and left her nearly bald on top. I knew it was finally time to take action. (Notice in the pictures below my vain attempts to slick her frayed wisps down, making her look greasy and un-cared for.) Freyja has fine hair and not much of it, but I love the way this new little do works for her.

She on the other hand, took one look in the salon mirror and said, “Oh, cute, a boy hair cut,” completely nonplussed.

“Pixie, Freyja! It’s a pixie hair cut! Like a little fairy,” I reassured.

“Yeah. . . but a pixie that looks like a boy.. . can I have a lollipop now?”

At least she has her priorities straight.

This is "twizling" , done while sucking thumb, she inherited it from her Aunt Taite

This is “twizling” , done while sucking thumb, she inherited it from her Aunt Taite





end of 2012 067

end of 2012 068

Oven baked Chimichangas


My Favorite is to serve this with fresh gaucamole.

When we arrived in our new home in Oregon we were greeted the best way we could be– with 2 weeks of hot meals delivered to our door! What was almost as good as the temporary royal treatment was that I stowed away a few new recipes that quickly became favorites.

This one is from my new pastor’s wife, Bonnie, and I love the technique used here which results in quick preparation, very little mess, and far less grease than traditional recipes. Also these are wonderful to make in a big batch and keep in the freezer.

Recipe: Oven baked Chimichangas

From: Bonnie

Make a filling– whatever you like–  I was inspired by a hamburger and lentil combo seasoned with garlic, onion, salt, cumin, pepper flakes, and whatever else you like. I love the added protein from the lentils, you could also use black beans with chicken and lime, or even make an entirely veggie one with beans, red and green peppers, onion, and tomatoes.

Place filling in large flour tortilla, fold the ends, and roll up. Set in baking dish

Melt butter and brush onto tortillas (I flip them over and do the whole thing, though you could just do the tops).

Bake for 30-40 minutes at 350 degrees (for the last few mintues of baking, remove and top with grated cheddar. Let them get slightly browned) Serve with sour cream, cilantro, chopped tomatoes, lettuce, avocado– or whatever your hear desires.


Boy and Girl Bedroom to Share

My basement was flooding, I had family staying for a visit, and my baby was a couple months old– this equaled the perfect time to paint the kids’ bedroom and re-decorate, according to my older, wiser sister Meghan. Of course it was nutso and I don’t think anyone ate anything for dinner that night besides some tortilla chips BUT we got most of the painting done that night. And now I love it. Blues and greys were definitely the right colors for a smallish upstairs room for 3 kids to share, it’s clean and calming.

Paint Colors are Ace Hardware Storm Cloud on the crib, Oyster on the walls, and Divine Whip on the trim. Elephant fabric for the curtains is from Spoonflower and took about 20 minutes to make. Someday I’ll get around to painting the bunk beds too.

Little Kumquats Give Away!

Little Kumquats was started by a couple of creative moms who found a welcome outlet in making unique clothing for their own little bambinos and, thanks to friends eager for clever, hand made baby gifts, turned it into a business.

Jessica Buck and Amanda Twilegar started stitching their one-of-a-kind tops and onesies May of 2012 to sell at local Farmer’s Markets in the La Grande area where the long-time friends could introduce their baby line to customers in person. The sales and feedback they got were exuberant so they just started sewing faster to keep up with demand! Soon a locally owned shop in Enterprise, Oregon wanted to carry the clothing and business by word of mouth kept them busy. Now, exactly when the two women find time to dream up their creations and whip them into reality is, of course once their toddlers are fast asleep for the night.

“We have found inspiration in books, pictures, children’s illustrations and food.” Jessica says, “Sometimes friends drop helpful hints too. We now both see potential and objects in fabric. So if either of us ever complements you on a top or shirt, it may be because we secretly want to ‘upcycle’ it!”

‘Upcycling’, a popular trend and friend to frugal creators, makes one more enjoyable step to the process. The two women love giving new life to used items by scouring shops for vintage fabrics, buttons and trim and Jessica once discovered at auction, an entire collection of beautiful, old, quilting fabric, lovingly saved over many years. She won the whole lot and put the scraps to use right away.

Little Kumquats is giving away two of their fabulous onesies! (One Jessica’s and one Amanda’s handiwork!)
Enter by doing ANY of the follwing (and of course comment below to tell us you did) :

1. Link this post on Facebook
2. Like this post on Facebook (see the handy button at top left corner of the post)
3. Like Little Kumquats on Facebook here
4. Email this post to a friend

Each option gets you an entry and there will be two winners! Winners can choose either boy or girl’s onesies in whatever size they’d like. Good luck, winner announced Monday October 1!

Girls’ Swimwear Sale

Here’s a great end of summer sale for you to take advantage of from Arrayed and Adorned (which we’ve featured before here).

30% off all Bathing Beauty girls swimwear when you order from Arrayed’s Etsy shop and mention this Pinkpeppers post!

Featured above is the “Popilla” suit available in sizes 2-13 and completely reversible for two suits in one. Visit her website too, to learn about the craftsmanship and creativity behind these suits and to see all the styles available.

Get yours soon, since they’re slipping away as fast as these last August days!

Our winner

and the winner is...

Our winner of the Jesus Storybook Bible is Carrie! Watch for it in the mail!

And thanks to everyone who participated.

Jesus Storybook Bible Give-away!

“Sometimes I go into Sunday schools and ask two questions of the children “How many people here think you have to be good for God to love you?” and “How many people here think God will stop loving you if you stop being good?”
I wrote this book for the children who put up their hands.”
– Sally Lloyd-Jones, author of the Jesus Storybook Bible

I don’t know if you have any of these in your household, but mine has some naughty little kids in it. Sometimes they are just plain awful. Right now for example after a fairly trying day, is nap time. Finally. But instead of listening to slumbering angels and I’m hearing bumping, crying and crashing coming from the room. I’ll be right back. . . .

Where was I? Oh yes, so this house has sinners in it, and after a particularly hard day of corrections and talks and more discipline and more talking, this children’s Bible is a great one to go back to. In it, my kids and I read about how God works long term, not with already perfect people, but ones that He is making perfect with his “Never stopping, Never giving up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever love.”

The stories from the Old and New Testament and told as ONE story- THE story, the story of Christ’s rescue mission to save all His creation from brokenness and sin. The conclusions and comparisons drawn within each story are sometimes downright profound but easy enough for little ones to grasp and often leave me a little bit teary eyed. Because that’s what the gospel does- brings us to our knees in awe of God’s love, in terms that babes can understand.

This is from the story of Abraham and Isaac carrying everything up the mountain to make their sacrifice to God: “Many years later, another Son would climb another hill, carrying wood on his back. Like Isaac, he would put his trust in his Father and do what his Father asked. He wouldn’t struggle, or run away. Who was He? God’s Son, his only Son- the Son He loved.”

This book is a re-telling- a paraphrase, and while I think it’s important for our kids to hear the inspired word of God in the Bible, this storybook is a fabulous for building on. Forgiveness is the theme of this book and all the naughty little kids in my house, including me- the biggest and often worst kid, need it every day. Get this book for your kids, grand kids, friends’ kids, nieces and nephews– and then read it with them.

Oh, and by the way– we’re giving one away! Enter below with a comment and share the link! We’ll announce the winner July 16.

If you’re reading this, Rachel– thank you again for introducing this book to us!!!

Breakfast Nook -Before and After



That top picture was the breakfast nook when we first moved in. It had shelves that were cute, but also clutter collectors and a funky little table that only allowed two people to squeeze in. So last year we ripped out shelves for a little extra room, painted walls and trim and got this:

I liked it better but it was still hard to fit our growing family in here for breakfast. So then Zac suprised me with the perfect solotuion as my Mother’s Day gift. He built a custom window seat to wrap around the windows with seating for 6! Nana made the adorable box pleat curtains (the only credit I can take is for sewing on the buttons)  I added a craigslist round table (painted with chalkboard paint for extra fun) and now we can all linger over coffee and chocolate milk here together.

Beadboard inset and reused trim make it feel original to the house


Mad Hungry

I don’t really get the name of Lucinda Scala Quinn’s TV show, Mad Hungry, but I’m intrigued. This woman cooks the way I like to cook, she uses ingredients that I actually buy , she creates good and beautiful food to be eaten as a family around a dinner table.

I was sick the other day (here’s a test, find out your greatest love by identifying the one thing you will drag your  rear out of bed after a few aspirins and a good nose blow to do. I discovered I still wanted to make a really tasty, lovely meal even though I felt like I’d been hit by a train that day. Stirring the polenta between sips of tea I realized, “Wow, I just really like to cook.” It brightened my day.) and wandered onto Youtube to watch some Mad Hungry videos. (Check this out, a chocolate cake made in one dish!) I was kind of hooked and then got to work creating one of her meals to see how it panned out.  I’d found it in Martha Stewart magazine and  had all the ingredients waiting in the fridge so didn’t want to put it off another night.

Pork chops with roasted peppers and capers served on cheesy polenta with collard greens

It was fabulous. Give it a try. Here’s the recipe, and don’t forget to serve it over the cheesy polenta with collard greens.

Oh and one more thing, I discovered that you can cut nice thick pork chops from a far less expensive pork tenderloin! You probably already knew this, but I didn’t and was pretty thrilled to be enlightened.


Line-dried laundry

It snowed on Saturday. Today it is 70 degrees and life is sunny. My newest favorite thing on is to line dry my laundry on days like this. I put up  a clothesline, bought wooden clothes pins, and got to work on the mountain of dirty clothes today. I love any excuse to be outside so the hike from the basement to side yard with baskets of wet things is worth it. And a tautly hung dress shirt will need almost no ironing when it comes off the line all crisp and fresh.

Also, I had this idea that I was saving us tons and tons of money per month by not using my  dryer. Yeah– Not true. I was sadly disillusioned when I calculated the cost on this fascinating little website and figured I save at most a whopping $12 a month. But I’m not to be thwarted — the sunshine, fresh outdoor smell on towels and sheets, and a good arm workout will keep me stringing my laundry up all summer. Until it snows again next week, that is.



Wir haben einen gewinner !


“We have a winner!” And her name is Ali Tong!

Congratulations! You’ll be  getting your wunderbar kikipop shipped auf Deutchland very soon!

Wooden Pacifier Chain

Hooray a give-away!

(Don’t just “like”  You must leave a comment below to be entered!!)

After hunting for pacifiers in ever nook and cranny of the house/car/stroller/crib I decided baby number three needed a pacifier chain. And not just any plastic piece of junk, I wanted one of those adorable wooden ones made in Germany.

 So I began my online search which led me to Etsy and then to Kikipop Wunderwelt– the land of trendy baby accessories. The adorable, bright colored chains of beads are not mass made and are painted with non-toxic paint so you don’t have to worry about the wood going in your baby’s mouth (because of that, the little painted face on the mushroom wore off with use, but otherwise, this is a durable, baby-friendly gem).  I was so in love with how it looked dangling from Rhys’ sleepers I asked if Kikpop would give one away to one of you to enjoy.  See below to enter the give away!

Boy or girl pacifier clip, choose one!

Same rules as usual- each of these options will get you an entry:

1) Like this post on facebook (handy little button on upper left corner)

2) Share the link another way. . . text, email, pony express. . .

3) If you’re on etsy- mark kikipop wunderwelt as one of your favorite shops here

 Tell us what you did with a  comment below!! Contest over on Sunday, April 29. Winner may choose between the girl or boy pacifier chain, good luck!

Chocolate Chai Cookies

I am feeling a little bit alive again now that Rhys is 9 weeks old. We turned the “survival only” corner a couple weeks ago and I’m doing things normal people do again. Like baking, having people over for dinner, watercoloring with my kids  . . . . flossing my teeth. Anything not necessary for the sustenance of life pretty much goes out the window when we’re in newborn phase. So, here I am with ALL 3 children napping and finally ready to post something.

You might remember me raving about Arrowhead’s Chocolate Chai Truffle, well. . . this little cookie is the child of that truffle, dreamed up and created in my kitchen. And this is what I realized: making a recipe is hard. You can’t just tell people, “keep tasting the dough and adding ginger and sugar until you think it’s right” — highly unhelpful. So I kept notes, made changes, threw a batch or two in the trash, sent plates of them to Zac’s office and two ladies’ get-togethers for reviews– and came up with this. I’m sure it’s by no means perfect yet. Sooooooo, if you make these, I want to know what you thought!! What would you/did you change? Too spicy? (That’s been my biggest wonder, even though I like the little kick of pepper.) Also if anyone tried making it with fresh ginger, I’d be really curious to know how that turns out. . . . .  Now If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go collapse on the sofa with an Advil before the kids wake up.


Chocolate Chai Cookies

2 1/4 C flour

2 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. ginger

2 tsp. cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp. ground cardamom

1 tsp. ground black pepper

2 Tbs. cocoa powder

1 tsp. ground cloves

1/2 tsp. salt

1 C sugar (plus more for rolling)

3/4 C  oil

1/2 C molasses

1 egg

1 C chocolate chips

In a large bowl mix together the first 10 ingredients (flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and spices).  Add oil, molasses and egg and mix until combined. Mix in chocolate chips last. Form into balls a little smaller than golf balls and roll in sugar. Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 6 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges. Yields 30 cookies.

The winner of Principia Soap is. . .



Your Principia soaps will be arriving soon, enjoy!

If you didn’t win the soaps,  you  have until Sunday evening to enter to win our book give-away Five lucky winners will be announced Monday.

Check it out and enter!!


Valentine Soap Give Away!

Every time I walk in the door of my mother in law’s house these days I pause in the entry to take a sniff. Hmmmm, rose today? With a bit of lavender? Actually I have a terrible nose for deciphering scents which is why I’ll never make a sommelier, so I stop trying to guess and maker her tell me, “What kind of soap did you pour today?” Totally wrong- it’s peppermint and there’s a beautiful green batch of basil lemon bars waiting on the counter to be cut.

After lots of research over three years and a class last month in San Diego Becky has been avidly pouring soap this winter every chance she gets. The results are simply gorgeous. I was especially excited about her new spa bar and the two Valentine soaps so I convinced her to give a few away to one of you lucky ducks. Read below to enter, and just wait till you smell them!


Rose Geranium Soap, made with oils of olive, Palm Kernel, Palm and Shea Butter. Crushed roses on the top make me think it looks like a piece of cake you could eat!

All these bathing beauties are for sale – $5 a bar or buy 5 bars and get the 6th free! To order, contact Becky at Please specify if you’d like shipping in time for Valentine’s Day

These creamy white bars are poured into intricate molds and scented with essential peppermint oil and a little dash of fairy sparkle dust. Available in four different storybook pictures- $8 a bar.



Almost too pretty to use, but they feel too good on your skin not to!

I love this polka dot funnel pour bar, the colors are what it's all about. Lightly scented with peppermint essential oil.

This swoon-worthy bar is laced with champagne citrus scents. And it's cute to boot with hand- swirled hearts in red.

Spa bars-A complex fragrance of Lemon Eucalyptus, Peppermint and Tea tree oil with the addition of Oregon Blue Green Algae makes this sedate and soothing. And ridiculously pretty to look at.

Becky is giving away four of her newest soaps! A spa bar, a rose geranium, a heart, and a polka dot, all beautifully packaged to give for Valentine’s day or keep and spoil yourself!

Here’s how to enter: Three ways for three chances in the random drawing–

1) “Like” this post or share it anyway your heart desires (Tell us you did in a comment!)

2) “Like” Principia on facebook here (Again, tell us in your comment!)

3) Give us your best ideas for naming the 3 new heart, rose, and polka dot soaps. (Give us your ideas in a comment, or email them to

Winner to be announced Monday February 8!