Family Meals

We don’t all four sit down to eat at the kitchen table every night. That bothers me…because my parents always seemed to make that happen. So I decided that we would really try to prioritize two meals—Saturday breakfast and Sunday dinner—and make them a big deal for the kids.

I really talk up how fancy our meals will be. We can use “real” plates (not our usual paper), the kids draw placemats, they set each place complete with party napkins (leftover from birthday parties gone by!), they get the drink of their choice with no lid (big deal) and everyone helps to get everything cooked and on that table. They absolutely love it.

Example placemat

This weekend, we celebrated fall with some Pillsbury pumpkins cinnamon rolls, bacon and eggs for Saturday breakfast. Then for Sunday Dinner we had the amazing meatball recipe (homemade in that Dutch oven) from our friend Britt and Bell Road Beef and a chocolate pie.

It may not be every meal, but I think that we will make some special memories for our little family with this new tradition.

Laundry Stripping

Okay, you guys had a ton of questions and interest when I posted in my Insta-stories I was trying laundry stripping this weekend. Here are the answers to all the DMs that I got.

What are you talking about?

Laundry stripping is basically soaking your laundry in hot water and a mixture of cleaning solutions to try and remove any built up gunk that the washing machine can’t get. Mostly, it would be things like soap residue, dryer sheet or fabric softener residue, hard water residue, etc.

I’ve seen several people try it, so I decided to give it a whirl. Everything I read said you probably don’t need to do all of your laundry, and recommended sheets, towels, and any particularly dirty clothing. So…I tried sheets, towels, and my workout clothes.

How do you do it?

The formula is easy.

Run hot water in your bath tub and add in 1/4C Borax, 1/4C Washing Soda, and 1/2C powdered laundry detergent. Stir (I used the broom handle).

Then dump in the clothing. You might want to sort and do like colors if you have more time, concern, or interest than me. Some of the colors did bleed into the water a little, but it did not affect any of the other clothes. Do what you wish with that info.

Stir the clothes about every 30 minutes for 4-5 hours.

Dinosaurs and ducks, optional.

At the end, drain the water and out the clothes into the washing machine on normal wash.

Did it work?

Yea, I think so. I mean, the water was gross when I was done. The running clothes were by far the worst, as you would expect. I have a couple shirts that I feel like always smell like sweat and I do think it helped those. I couldn’t tell a huge difference in sheets and towels, but I saw the gross water so it couldn’t have hurt!

Towels
Running clothes
Sheets

What was the worst part?

Having to get all these sopping were clothes from the bath tub to the washing machine. That wasn’t great.

Would you do it again?

Eh, maybe. At least in the workout clothes. Everything I read says you don’t want to do it too often—maybe every 6 months to a year. We’ve got super hard water so I might make this a yearly ritual.

My Horse Is My Hero

This article was published with the Progressive Farmer’s Our Rural Roots column.

Our horse, Lou, is 25 years old. We know that his days and his rides are limited. I can’t think too much about it or my eyes start to leak.

He’s a bay quarter horse that has done it all.  He is one of those horses who can back into a box and come out flying or slowly plod down the country road with multiple kids on his back. 

He’s been roped on at the World Series Team Roping in Las Vegas.   He won my brother his first roping buckle.  He’s worked a lot of cows. He’s been my favorite mount and posed for my engagement photos. Most recently, he has served as horse, hero, and best friend to my kiddos. 

Not long ago, after a particularly stressful day, everyone at our house was on edge.  I know in that scenario, the best thing to do is to get outside.  So we did.  And, I saddled Lou and we set out on a ride.  

In this time filled with so much uncertainty and unknown, so much hatred and division, I’m not sure there is a more calming thing than to spend some time with Lou.  He never changes.  He is strong and steady.  He is relaxed and quiet…so long as you aren’t too slow with the grain. 

By the time we were done with that ride, everyone was different.  The kids were laughing, and I was smiling and, Lou was the reason.  A sunny evening, a leather saddle, and that bay gelding moved us to a better place. 

I wish the rest of the world was lucky enough to have an old horse like Lou to carry life’s burdens. And, to remind us just how easy love can be.

Dallas Family Reunion

About 11 years ago, we gathered for a funeral for my dad’s cousin. While we were there to mourn, everyone also really enjoyed being together. It made the family realize that we had let years go by without intentionally seeing each other on a regular basis. If we did not make a change, we would only see each other clad in black at funerals.

Ever since that day, we have had a yearly family reunion. While not everyone can make it every time, the turnout has been really good over the past decade.

We’ve ridden ski lifts in the mountains, and thrown my cousin Lee in the pool, and had a very competitive corn hole tournament. We’ve eaten a lot of food, danced to George Strait, and learned family history. We’ve celebrated weddings, and welcomed new babies, and listened to Uncle Jody play the piano. We celebrated the 100 year anniversary of our family’s homestead, and said goodbye to the last members of that generation.

This year, we gathered at my parents’ house and sat outside under the shade of the pecan tree. It was nothing fancy, but after so many months of quarantine, it sure felt special.

I think that this tradition has been one of our biggest gifts. I’m so grateful for these memories and for these people.

Ranch Kid Fall Decor

I struggle with decorating for the different seasons. I hate putting a bunch of knick knacks our because it makes me feel cluttered. I’m cheap and don’t want to spent a ton of money on items we only use a short time of the year. I despise having to store decorations in tubs.

So today, when The Nester was offering tips for decorating for the season on the That Sounds Fun Podcast that didn’t involve buying a bunch of plastic crap at Hobby Lobby, I jumped on it!

She suggested buying a simple vase or two that you can use year round. Then you can go outside into nature and see what fun (and free!) items you can fill the vase with to represent the season. Then, when the next season rolls around, you do it all over again.

I bee lined it to the store and spent $8 on two clear vases.

I told my kids my idea and we loaded up to head to the pasture to see what we could find. Being ranch kids, they grabbed a bucket and some scissors and we’re all in.

We had the best time. They found so many different plants and sticks and rocks. We tried to identify as many different grasses and forbs as we could. The weather was perfect. The kids had a blast. Even Angus the dog came along for the fun.

When we got home, the kids organized our contents by color and then got to work.

They did the best job on our two arrangements for fall!

I’m so excited for this to be a family tradition. Not only does it really help make the house feel a little like fall (thanks to the help of the pumpkin candle I bought last week…) but it is going to be a really fun activity for us to do each season!

Recipe Card: Pork Chop & Potato Casserole

Guys. This recipe is legit. I sort of combined recipes from my friend, Austin, and my mom. I’m always hesitant to monkey with things in the kitchen…But this time, it sure did work.

Pork Chop & Potato Casserole

6-8 thin cut pork chops

Flour (about 1C)

Salt and pepper to taste

Olive oil (about 2T)

4 diced Russet potatoes

1 can cream of mushroom

1 can cream of chicken

1 can chicken broth

Celery (finely chopped)

Spices of choice (garlic salt, parsley, rosemary, tarragon, Italian seasoning…whatever you like)

French fried onions

Dredge the pork chops in seasoned flour. Place in hot skillet with olive oil and sear both sides. Remove from skillet and set aside.

Place sliced potatoes in the bottom of 9×13 Pyrex.

Whisk together cream of mushroom, cream of chicken, chicken broth, celery, and seasoning. Port most of the mixture on top of the potatoes.

Place the pork chops on top of the mixture and spoon the remaining mixture in top of each pork chop. Cover with foil.

Bake at 375 for 1 hour.

Remove foil, add French fried onions to the top of the dish and bake for another 15 minutes.

Recipe Card: Aunt Elaine’s Green Chile Stew

My mom and her two sisters are excellent cooks, especially when it comes to Mexican food. It must be the genes from their Grandmother Salazar.

Recently, I asked my Aunt Elaine for her green chile stew recipe. She promptly sent me a text message. To which I had to respond with a phone call explaining the difference between a list of ingredients (what she sent) and a recipe (which would have included amounts and instructions for said ingredients). She seemed genuinely befuddled that I would do something crazy like measure things.

After convincing her that this was important, and with about three follow up calls to get more information…I was able to create an actual recipe and make my first batch.

You guys. I cannot even tell you how delicious this was. We ate it tonight when the high outside was about 40 degrees and it flat hit the spot.

Aunt Elaine’s Green Chile Stew

Serves about 4, but I would recommend doubling it and freezing some for later!

1 pound ground beef

2 large russet potatoes – diced

1/2 onion – finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic – chopped

Green chile – diced (I used about 1/2C, but how much you want probably depends on how hot your chile is and how spice you want this stew to be)

1 can Rotel Diced Tomatoes and Green Chile

1/4 C Spicy hot V8 Juice

About 1 1/2C water (adjust depending on how thick you want the stew)

1T Gebhart’s chile powder

4 shakes Worcestershire

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, brown hamburger meat, potatoes, green chile, and onion. Drain grease. Add seasonings and Worcestershire.

Add Rotel, V8, and water. Stir to combine.

Boil over medium heat for about 30 min or at least until potatoes are tender. The longer the better. Alternatively, you could put in the crock pot on low for 6-8 hours.

Godiva

In high school, I babysat/tutored for the sweetest family every summer.

I learned all about bribing kids with candy to do math, got to hang out at the country club pool, was the only Protestant teaching Catholic Bible School, and began my devotion to St. John Paul II. It was the best job.

The dad would always buy the mom Godiva chocolates for special occasions. It was so fancy and I always thought how cool it was that she had them.

Today, a package arrived in the mail and that mom sent me my very own Godiva!

She continues to be such a gift to me.

What I’d Say to Her

I’ve been watching the college students headed to campus this semester and it has me all nostalgic for all things bright orange and the campus of my beloved alma mater, Oklahoma State.

It also has had me thinking about what I would say to 19 year old Tiffany, with her pick up loaded up and headed to Stillwater for the first time.

Chill out. You’re fine. Quit worrying to death over getting the A and whether you’ll get accepted to a law school. You’ll get into 17, which will pose its own problems! Quit worrying about falling in love. If you had gotten what you think you want, you’d have missed out on about 8 of the best, most transformative years of your life, and the beautiful family God has in store for you down the road.

Your little apartment on Duck Street won’t be fancy, but it will be so full of love and fun and memories, you won’t care.

It will never be hotter than move in day. Take that to the bank.

When Levi comes to visit, hug him real hard. More than once.

Those judging team boys are good eggs.

Spend more time at the Penny. One day you’ll go back and everything will have changed.

You’re about to meet some girls who you will not be able to imagine your life without. It’s fate working through Bible studies and guy friends’ girlfriends…and it’s so good.

Don’t talk smack to your Texas friends when OSU gets up like 4 touchdowns at home. Because, two words: Vince. Young.

The foundation for your faith will be built in Stillwater. And your unconventional little small group will be full of spiritual mentors.

Your metabolism will only go downhill from here. Eat the cheese fries.

On a related note, you’re not fat. Quit being dumb.

Your RA will tell you roommates who come in as friends will never leave that way. She’s very wrong.

Facebook is not a fad. You’re wrong on that one.

It’s okay to try. It’s okay to try and look cute and to wear make up and put yourself out there. It’s fear talking when you don’t want to do those things because you don’t want to look dumb if things don’t work out.

On that note, people treat you like you allow them to. Think on that the next time you’re crying because of something stupid a guy did.

Calf Fry will be a muddy mess and worth every hassle.

One day, you will have unlimited texting on your cell phone. Your rule of “don’t text me unless someone is bleeding or in jail” will seem ridiculous.

IHOP at 2 am is always a good idea.

Chase and Amy. Snuggles the couch. Half a gallon of ice cream. Three spoons. From now on when you’ve had a bad day, you’ll think back and want that combo. Appreciate it being right there.

Because We Prayed

This article was published by Progressive Farmer as part of their Our Rural Roots column.

When the wind was blowing at 60+ miles per hour at 7 am, I knew we were in for a long day.  I immediately thought of the March day a couple of years ago when the fires came to the Texas Panhandle and three cattleman and women lost their lives. I tried to put it out of my mind and go on with my day.

So that afternoon when my husband called to tell me there was a fire headed for our pasture and that we needed to move the cows, it was the last thing I wanted to hear.

fire2

I grabbed the kids and we ran out the front door, straight into a brown sky and the strong smell of smoke.  We loaded a bag of cattle cake (because you better believe our two toddlers have cake trained our cows!) Before we pulled out of the driveway, we stopped to pray that the winds would lay, the fire would stop, and all of the people and animals would be safe. The kids said an “amen” in unison.  I honestly can’t remember if I remembered to say it or not.

After that, the chaos began.  In the end, some 2,400 acres burned. We were fortunate in that the destruction somehow missed our place.  The wind shifted the fire turned about 100 yards from our fence.  Everyone—ranchers, volunteer fireman, and livestock—were protected and no lives were lost.

Several days later, we loaded up to go check cows.  When we arrived and my daughter saw the charred grass on the place next door, she asked, “Mama, did any cows die in the fire?”  Immediately, my son responded, “No, because we prayed.”

It was such a simple reminder of the beauty of childlike faith. It also made me wonder, what else in my life has been blessed such a simple answer…because we prayed.