Category Archives: country living

5 reasons to NOT shop the Big Box stores exclusively

Through years of mass marketing “we” have been indoctrinated into believing that only Walmart, Target, HomeDepot (insert whatever big box name you like) can fullfill our every need. 

Way out here in the country, we still have a tendency to bypass what is in our own BigBox-say-nobackyards and drive up to a hundred miles to shop at one. Often not even stopping in our neighboring communities along the way.  Even right now, during our nations crisis, folks are still driving the distance to go to the big box.  

Now more than ever, our communities need us to SHOP LOCAL!  I have said before that the day will come when we would be grateful to have our local stores.  I for one am. I have always been happy to support them.

Why? Because I am essentially selfish. My time is worth something to me, so why would I want to waste it going 50 miles one way when I can go 20 (or less)  the nearby town?  I know with a little asking around I can find nearly everything I need right nearby.

Why? Because I know just how quickly life can change on a dime and what IF I can’t just hop in my car go on a day trip to get what I think I need from the big box? What if I can’t drive when I’m older? What if the main road up to the city is closed for weather? What if? What if? What if?  I WANT my groceries, lumber yard, hardware store, bar, gas station and things to do (like museum, theater, parks etc) to be nearby.

Why? Because I know that without ‘stuff’ in my local communities people will move   Kids won’t want to come back and visit the folks, grandbabies won’t want to spend summers at grandma’s house. (I don’t have any intention of not seeing my grandbabies.)  No people to support the local business community turns harvey32into no kids in the school and higher taxes to offset all the empty buildings.

Why? Because I know that 75% of people come to our towns to BUY something, SEE something, DO something.  We can not be 100% dependent on just our locals for incoming dollars to support what we have. We NEED tourists and travelers and the outlying folks to want to stop.  We NEED to give them reasons to stop. 

Why? Because I know that in times of need, all the local businesses will come together for our communities. Will the big box come to your communities aid when something happens?  I think not.

Don’t get me wrong, no one is saying not to shop these big places, I know for some it is the best way to stretch dollars. For some it is the appearance of ‘everything’ at once. There are as many reasons to shop there as not. Truly it is your prerogative to spend your dollars where ever and however you see fit.

These are just some of the reasons that that I feel shopping almost exclusively at the almighty Walmart (again- insert your favorite big box name here) is not the solution.

~Katy~

Katy is a rural and small town /small business speaker, consultant, advocate & writer. She believes many small communities can grow from within using resources already at hand and creative strategies and ways leverage those to attract new families, businesses and customers. Do you want Tait & Kate to come speak to your community or group? Email us at info@taitandkate.com

Cranberry Shortbread Cookies

You  asked for it… you got it!

Mama’s super duper easy melt-in-your-mouth Cranberry Shortbread Cookie recipe.

ONLY 5 INGREDIENTS!!!!!! shortbread2

1C Butter (room temp)       3/4 C Powdered Sugar         1tsp Almond* flavoring (Vanilla is fine too)               2- 1/4 C flour          Some chopped up dried cranberries (blueberries.. whatever) **Some almond slivers are wonderful in these!!**

Oven to 325                                                                         Line cookie sheets w/ parchment.                                 Mix ALL ingredients together in mixer. It will be Crumble-y  (If you need to add a smidge of water or milk).  It will stick together when you make a ball.    Roll out about 1/2 inch thick. (works best between parchment)  Cut out.                                  Bake 8-12 minutes.  Just until edges start to turn golden.   Let cool.

Eat them up, yum!

shortbread

 

~Notes to my kids~                                                     *Yes-soft butter, NOT melted! There is some fancy scientific reason why it cooks differently.    Google it, if you’re wondering why.                       **For basic shortbread leave out cranberries                                                                         ***Parchment paper is NOT the same as waxed or butcher paper.                                            ****You do not need cookie cutters or a rolling pin… you can use a knife or a glass… and bottle of wine/beer or a glass will work as rolling pin in a pinch.    *****Need to decorate them? Dip ’em in melted chocolate (after baking) , brush them with water and sprinkle (before baking!)

~Katy~

Small towns and cool cars (where in the USA is Katy today??)

A week ago I had the opportunity to visit some old friends. We chose to meet half way in Yuma, Colorado.

Yuma has changed in the 25+ years since  was there last!

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The Orphanage in Yuma,Colorado

We walked downtown and popped into The Orphanage – “An automotive themed exhibition space”  The space gets its name from the generally accepted definition of an orphan car – specifically one whose maker is no longer in business.

Along with the classic rides, there is some amazing mid- century architecture (which I also dig) and furniture (yes- we tried to buy some), along with a full kitchen for catered events. The Orphanage hosts events all year round.

 

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Owner Ron Wenger and Shannon Lewellen visit about the buildings history

We visited with co-owner Ronald Wenger about some of the history of the building and the  things they uncovered during construction.  (We think the old sign uncovered on the bricks is pretty nifty.) yuma5

Ron and co-owner Richard Birnie bought the building because they needed more storage for their personal classic cars. Boy! What a problem to have, eh?

 

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This firetruck had been one of Yuma’s first. Later gifted to Eckley, CO, it found its way back. 

 

Do you love Art? Quilts? Car shows?  The Orphanage has something going on nearly every month. We just happened to be here the week before Christmas and before the new events start up for the year.

Collections of antique toys and other automobilia are sure to catch your eye as you wander around the room.  There are colorful gas pumps, toys, holiday displays and even gifts!

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Studebaker, Ford, Rambler, Plymouth, Nash, Harley Davidson, Crosley ~  where do I stop??

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Way up top in the first picture is a baby pink Rambler (aka:Rambo) I wish I had taken a full shot of that one. I used to have a baby blue Rambo wagon! yuma12

   If you’re headed East of Denver, take a ride out Hwy 34. Yuma is about 140+/- miles.  Don’t let the prairie fool you- there is much more than meets the eye in these communities.

~Katy~

Where in USA is Katy today??

For more information check out The Orphanage on FB  300 S Main Street, Yuma Colorado   970-630-3360

 

 

 

 

Missy the Wonderdog

 

Many of you have followed Missy the Wonderdog‘s adventures on FB for over a decade.

Cow dog, business dog, chicken herder extraordinaire, teacher, companion, playmate,

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Surveying her domain

garden guard, doorstop, protector.

(she is also the reason Big Papa’s favorite truck sounds like being in a wind tunnel)

Missy was our rescue pup. She was actually being born as her mama was being rescued from a puppy mill that had gotten out of hand.

Big Papa said NO DOGS IN THE HOUSE.

Period. Ever.

And then she turned those great big brown eyes on him and it became “Only in the mud room.”  Pretty soon she had commandeered a spot by the wood burner and Big Papa would play dolly with her.  When spring came, she was given a deluxe dog house outside complete with mobile fur coats (cats) to keep her warm on cool days.

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Snitching from the calves

Missy was supposed to be a cattle dog.  And she was… She would drink from bottles just like the calves, she would eat hay and grain just like the big Girlz, slept in the roundy-rounds with calves,  she played with  all the cows and followed them everywhere.  She even swam from time to time in the watering trough. Missy could help herd the cows. Right up until a gate or barn door was open. And then she would go sit in the opening, barring them from entrance!

So- technically she was a cattle-dog. Just not the way Big Papa wanted.

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Missy the Wonderdog and Sis ‘herding’ the cows

Eventually Missy learned to ride the 4-wheeler to better chase her Girlz and bring them treats. She loved the wind in her hair!

Missy also became the unofficial spokes-dog for ShopSmallSaturday championing small

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small biz champion

businesses everywhere.

Now- back to the Not-in-the-house thing….. Missy was a smart girl. She knew exactly when Big Papa left the yard. And as soon as his truck cleared the tree row, she would be at the door.  I am a sucker for a cute face, so I would let her in.

And on the days she was in the house I would sweep and mop to hide the evidence. Bless the day my mother-in-law called and told me to get a Swiffer!! So much faster and easier!!  Thankfully I was also starting get grey hairs about this time, so sometimes Big Papa would spy some fur I overlooked and I would say “Ohhhh! Must have been mine!”

Mostly I liked having her IN the house on the nights Big Papa worked away from the farm. She always made me feel safe.

One time, Big Papa came back home shortly after leaving… as he was parking I was literally dragging Missy the Wonderdog out the other door! Almost busted!!

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Big Papa

Missy wasn’t supposed to ride in the car either. There may or may not have been an incident with Lilly the Lab and his favorite pickup years before that made him forever bar me from doggie rides in the car.

Eventually though, Missy won and commandeered a spot in the old farm truck and would help me drive from field to field.

Missy the Wonderdog became part of the family.  A constant companion, always happy to just sit nearby and offer us wags and smiles.

Over the years the kidd-o’s accused me of treating her better than I treated them.  (SHE never talked back or held her hand out and was always happy)

This year Missy slowed down. We’d go for walks and she’d stop and rest. I thought it was

missy18

Never without a dolly

because she was a little on the fluffy side after retiring from full time cow and chicken herding. As it turned out, she had the cancer.

For love of us, Missy the Wonderdog concealed her pain and discomfort for a long time.

The decision to let her cross the rainbow bridge was a heart wrenching one. It was decided that we would let her be until she was no longer able to be a dog but before she couldn’t do her job anymore.  Missy kept her Doggie Dignity. As long as she was still walking out to the coop for a daily chicken head count (we no longer had cattle at this point) all was good.  One day, she looked at me and let me know in her own way that it was time. 

We had made arrangements with our vet to come to the house to help Missy cross the Rainbow Bridge painlessly and in comfort, surrounded by her friends (cats and chickens) and family (Big Papa and I ).  Holding on to her Dolly and snuggled on her favorite blankie with us petting and crooning to her, she slipped away to a better place.

We know without a shadow of doubt that D’art, Mosely, Lilly-puttin, Bambii the Amazing Albino Elk and her favorite Girlz -Barbie and Rusty were waiting to walk her across.

I was working in the garden the next afternoon (-one of her favorite places to hang out in the summer) feeling incredibly sorry myself, when I heard a very faint, muffled barking. I knew in that instance Missy the Wonderdog was letting me know she arrived safely on the other side and is still watching over me from afar.

“And when my time on earth is done, missy11
And at heaven’s gate I’m near,
I don’t want any harps or horns,
Just … happy barks to hear.”

~Katy~

 

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Missy as a pup

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missy26

Gone farmin’

Yam-it! – Moms chicken and sweet potatos

  Sweet potatoes or Yams…? You may think they are the same, but they are not.  Sweetimg_5237 potatoes have a smooth skin, are sweeter and come in a variety of colors- yellow, orange- even purple!  You can read about it here.

I personally never cared for sweet potatoes unless they came swimming in butter and brown sugar… until the first time I made a version of this dish… Wouldn’t touch that holiday tradition of SP’s and marshmallows, or SP pie…

But now- ….. Yum!! (*note*- these recipes are written for my sons who may or may not have basic knowledge or do-dads to work with and *notes are at the bottom)

  While we call this dish Yam-it! it’s really glorified Paprika Roasted Veggies and Chicken.

What you will need:

2 large Chicken Breasts (or 6 thighs) cut in half. (not butterflied),   some salt,  +/- a pound of Brussel sprouts- trimmed and halved or quartered, 2 Sweet potatoes- peeled and cubed, half an large onion peeled and sliced (optional),  some Olive oil,  a smidge of lemon juice.

img_5232 For the seasoning : 2 TBS Paprika- (that’s the red stuff sprinkled on deviled eggs), 1 tsp dried Cilantro, 1 tsp All-spice, and Garlic- to taste/minced..

Sprinkle chicken with salt and set aside.  In a small bowl mix the seasonings together.  In a large bowl toss the veggies with some olive oil (some is subjective to us Italians!) and sprinkle with 1 TBS of the spices mix.  Pour into baking dish. (aka cake pan)  To remaining spice mix add a 2-ish TBS of olive oil and 1 TBS lemon juice, mix to make a paste. Brush it onimg_5231 the chicken- both sides, and lay the pieces on top the veggies.  pour a smidge of water into the pan, cover with foil. BAKE 425 for about 45 min +/-. You’ll know.. veggies will be soft.

Drizzle with melted butter before serving.

*Notes*                                                                                                                                                       *Chicken- You don’t need breasts. You can use thighs or pork chops or slabs of ham.                                                                         *Veggies- if you want more, use more. It’s not an exact science.                                                * Olive Oil.. If you don’t have it, don’t sweat.. Veggie oil will be fine. Just don’t use as much!                                                                                                                                                         * If you want more ‘zing’  add a shake or two of something like Lawry’s or garlic salt to the mix.                                                                                                                                                       * All the spices can be found at the dollar store if you can’t afford the grocery store             *Lemon juice is not mandatory, but sure makes it taste better… You could sub for melted butter or OJ- It will change the taste a little, but still good.  Little squeeze lemons are in the produce dept, bottled lemon juice is in the juice isle (usually top shelf)                    *Onions- again, not mandatory- you can skip them, or use shallots or something.               *Covering with foil is a choice. We do it because it keeps it all moister.

**Every one of these ingredients can be found at moms- except brussels and SP’s unless the garden is in full swing**

Manga! Manga!

~Mama

 

 

 

Scipio Utah never fails to delight

For many years now (ok- more like decades) I have chosen Hwy 50 as my preferred route from Colorado to California.  Mostly for the simple joy of the open road and partly because each time my fingers are crossed for some more wonderful Scipio sights.

IMG_4593

Around the bend

The very first time I came around the curve from the west,  right smack in the middle, crossing the road was an old buckboard wagon dressed up in patriotic finery. Bunting and bedecked horses, kids piled in the back also decked out. As it turns out I was just in time for  4th of July- country style.

Of course I stopped and stayed a bit! I even have the photos somewhere in my stash.. (that was back when everyone had a little 110 camera) And, OH! The welcome I received… Everyone was so nice and inviting.

That was the first time I seriously thought about just staying. Forever.  There had been a

scipio4

Traditions Café (yep! The same one I shoulda bought)

 

run down, closed up café for sale in the middle of town, and I just happened to have skill and youth at the time. Alas- life pulled me in another direction.

That first time sealed the deal for me… Hwy 50 it would be.

After dark on another trip, coming around the bend from the east, nearly every house was lit up in white lights. It was so beautiful! So quaint. So very Norman Rockwell-esque.

On other trips I have seen everything from herds of elk to a full cowboy roundup right outside of town… around the bend 

In the ensuing years, Scipio has not grown much- in fact, back in it’s heyday Scipio was still a community under 600 scipio2ppl. But there is a ‘new’ gas station on the corner where it meets the interstate and the café has been dolled up and re-opened.

There has never been a time when I stopped, that people weren’t willing to chat. I love that.  Just something about the feel of the town draws me in. I IMG_4582delight in the past mixed with the future, the old Vico Motor Oil sign faded on the sides of buildings, the majesty of the elk at watering time…..

I  came through  in early October with my mother-in-law. She has never traveled across

scipio5

Most photographed gas pumps ever!

country on back roads and it was a joy to show her how Rural America looks .Of course we stopped in Scipio and took photos with what I am sure are the most photographed gas pumps in Utah!  Our bad luck though, the café was closed.  But there

is a older home with a couple acres right on the bend for sale…As always, I see the possibilities…

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Mama in front of the cafe

Sometimes I still think I should have…

Scipio never fails to delight- next time you’re headed that-a-way, make it a point to go through.

Scipio is also very easily a Kate’s 8 town.

~Katy~

*Katy is a motivational speaker and rural advocate at Tait and Kate helping small towns and businesses grow and thrive.

 

 

 

Rural thoughts on raising the minimum wage

Many states have raised the minimum wage today. 18 in fact. Several of them to over $10 an hour.  Read about it here

Now don’t get me wrong- I don’t begrudge anybody a chance to make a decent living. I would have loved to be on the receiving end as a worker and as an employer would have been ecstatic to be able to pay my employees more.

3789566982_320590780eBut I do believe that these states did not really try to take their rural communities into account. In particular isolated rural communities.And if they did, it was only to spare a second to think to themselves ‘they don’t have enough people to matter’..

I’ve lived in several incredibly tiny rural communities in a couple of the states listed. We owned a business in one.  A little town of a hundred  people, 135 miles from the city (700K ppl), and 45 miles to the nearest ‘urban’ center (3500ppl) . Our nearest communities had 27 and 300 people respectively.  Those numbers have not fluctuated all that much in the years since we left.

Many rural businesses cannot sustain a fair sized increase in minimum wage. -Not even if it’s over a number of years.

I know many will say “Oh- What’s a buck or two?” – A couple dollars multiplied by 30 -40 hours a week adds up.  On top of that the employer will now pay a higher unemployment tax, FICA and workmans comp.  – all of which can hinder the ability to pay an employee a higher wage.

Those same dollars can also spell the difference between whether that rural community continues have a hardware store, market, café etc…

Here are some scenarios–  Bobs Hardware is a busy little place servicing several tiny communities. Bob needs help.- he hires Joe to come work and pays him the elevated wage. Joe is happy. For a time. -You see, Bob has to either sell more or cut Joes hours to afford the wage.

Bob can’t really sell any more than he already is because he doesn’t have the same traffic an urban or city business attracts. Bob is 145 miles from people. His customers are the farmers, ranchers and families in his area. And they can only buy so much.  So Bob cuts Joes hours.

Or.… Let’s say Bobs Hardware already has several employees. The minimum wage goes up. Bob has to choose. Does he cut everyone’s hours? Or does he let two go and keep Joe? And if he keeps Joe, is Joe going to up and quit because Bob expects him to work harder for the new wage?  Even if he pays a little more than the ‘new wage’- Joe may eventually build up resentment of having to do more work.

Or… Bobs Hardware employs Joe. The wages go up.  Bob can no longer afford to have even one employee. So Bob, who’s already run his rural business for decades l6939468522_bc879c5f3f_bet’s Joe go. Bob can no longer do all the work himself and cuts his business hours which in turn loses some revenue. Eventually Bob just throws in the towel and closes leaving communities without their only hardware store AND an empty/shuttered building on Main Street.  That in turn leads to lower property values for the entire community. And potentially lost revenue for the gas station, since the local farmer filled fuel on his way home from Bobs Hardware and grabbed a coffee at the cafe. In the meantime, Joe was let go and job opportunities in a town of a couple hundred are slim. Joe has moved to the city for work taking what disposable income he had with him, and quite possibly his kids out of school and money out of the donation plate at church that helped fund local causes or 4-h etc. 

Or… Bob raises his prices significantly in an effort to afford his wage increase and in the process actually loses business. – Many rural folk will save ‘it’ for a trip ‘to town’ when ‘it’ is no longer cost effective to buy locally. At the same time, when those folks go to town they will spend the entire day and do ALL their shopping and stop at the café to boot, bypassing their own community all together.

I have witnesses every one of these scenarios over the years.

**99% of small business owners in rural communities WANT to pay their employees better. They genuinely love their towns and the people within and want them to survive and thrive.

**A huge number of those same employers work tremendous amounts of hours themselves “FOR FREE” so they CAN employ someone from the area. (we did)

**Sometimes in lieu of money they find other creative compensation.  We did.  If we hadn’t we wouldn’t have been  able to be open enough hours to even pay ourselves a meager living.

So while I don’t necessarily think the new wages are bad, I do think they will force some hard decisions in rural communities.

In equal numbers, some businesses will find a way and some will not. Some will close. Some will hang on- for a while, maybe longer. Some will thrive.

Next time we’ll talk about some of the creative ways we’ve seen businesses in tiny communities thrive.

~Katy~

Katy is a rural and small town consultant with Tait and Kate Consulting  ~Helping rural communities grow and thrive~

 

 

Moms bestest, easiest buttermilk biscuits

It’s no secret- we like bread. Any kind of breads- Sourdough, pumpernickel, garlic-y cheesy breads, bruschetta …. and that all around staple- biscuits. IMG_1641

They go so easily with every meal…

But alas- I live a fair distance to the market. So in this recipe you will learn how to make ‘fake’ or substitute buttermilk and a great cheaters trick so you don’t have to cut in the butter…

Super simple ingredients too!

2 1/2 C flour       2 T baking Powder    1 Tsp sugar   8 T butter (yes son,  you can sub margerine)  1 C milk   1 T lemon juice (trust me)  1/2 tsp salt(optional)

mix the milk and lemon juice together and put in the freezer  for about 7-10 min… while it’s chilling, melt the butter and let cool.  In the meantime mix the dry ingredients in a bowl and make an indent (well) in the center.

Here comes some magic!– Add the butter to the chilled milk and watch it make little butter balls/slush. Pour into dry and stir until just mixed. Turn out and roll or pat –gently-(I prefer pat) to about 1 inch-ish. and fold and pat..repeat like 6 times.

Cut with a cutter or glass. *tip* Do NOT twist the cutter/cup it makes the edges ‘crimp’ and your biscuits won’t rise well.

Bake at 425 10 min -they’ll be golden on top- take out and brush with some melted butter.

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Mama used a cookie cutter

Gobble up.  Eat with jam, make biscuits and gravy, dunk in gravy, make sandwiches…..

*Tips for the boy-o-s

Need buttermilk in a jiff??? 1 Tablespoon ( a generous soup spoon will do) lemon juice per cup of milk. Let stand 5 min and use.

No rolling pin? No problem- beer/wine bottles, be creative, just keep an equal pressure when rolling.

 

Yes- you can sub Margarine in most of moms recipes, though it alters the taste and these biscuits won’t be quite as fluffy.

Mama

 

 

 

 

Are we Ranchers or Farmers?

That’s a tough one answer!

I think we’re “Franchers”

We have both cattle and crops. Though we have just crossed over to focusing more on cattle and all  it entails.

 

Depending on who you ask, or where you live.. you are one or the other.

If we lived in Montana … the general consensus is that if you have just one hoofed critter, you ARE a rancher.  However… if you have milk cows, you ARE a farmer. As in ‘dairy farm’.

Many farmers will argue that many ranches are part granger , therefore farms.

Trivia: In Australia  they are called sheep and cattle Stations. img_7317

Cattle Ranch. Dairy Farm. Sheep Ranch. Fish Farm. Buffalo Ranch.  Goat Ranch. Boneless Chicken Ranch. Game (wild) Ranch. Art Farm. Nut Farm. Fruit Farm. Fur Farm. Emu Farm. See a pattern here??

Typically- in ranching- they have always been ranchers. Farmers on the other hand are img_6158more typically ‘diversified’. Especially in the mid west.  We are diverse.. cattle, small grains and mobile yard art (chickens).

Farmers are not romanticized the same way ranchers have been. Cattle drives across the wild prairies and so on evoke our imagination. Plain old practical farming doesn’t seem to be as gripping!

When our Nation was young, having cattle and crops, or a dairy cow or chickens was not only a means to making it, it was also extra money at the end of the year. Butter and extra eggs could be sold.  A great book to read on this is Women of the Northern Plains by Barbara Marchello. And by the way- If you ever get a chance to hear her speak… GO! It is an eye opener to what Farm and Ranch women did ‘back then’img_7227

Our farm has always been known as a farm. For nearly 100 years, the hubby’s family have farmed this land we are on. And while there has always livestock, it was always called ‘farm’. So I guess for now, we will remain farmers.

~Katy~

A road trip, Espresso and truth in advertising…

Once upon a time in a far off land…. Okay, not so far off, but it sure seemed like it!

Cope, Colorado is 130 East of Denver and 75 miles from ‘anywhere else’.  We used to live there.  Mind you, this is out there in the sandhills, with a population of a hundred. If you wanted an espresso, or French press or any other ‘fancy’ coffee~ you were pretty well out ofespresso cup luck.

One day a huge 1/2 page ad popped up in our bitty local paper…. advertising for the small town 45 miles North…

NEW COFFEE SHOP OPENING!!!! WE HAVE ESPRESSO!!!!

Holy smokes!!  In the blink of an eye, I was the horn to my friend Shannon. We were both totally twitterpated!  ESPRESSO… here we come. We made plans…

20140614_125827Shann lived 15 miles South of town and were 15 North of town. I bundled my two kiddos into the van (yes.. the “Down by the river” van)  and headed off to pickup Shann and her three kids.  and off we went, backtracking 65 miles up to Yuma only to find out that the “Espresso” they served was that push-button gas station variety.

Talk about heartbreak!  We weighed the options, told the kids to settle in and we headed for

Sterling… another 50+ miles.. to a place we knew without a doubt had “the Real Deal”  Did I mention ‘Da Van had no AIR and it was the middle of summer??

So… 200+ miles and an entire day later, we had our two dollar drinks and the kids had theirs. (back then they were ‘only’ 2.50!)

Lesson learned…. When you live ‘out there’ call and ask first!

~Katy~

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