100 Book Challenge

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which means if you click the links and order, I will get a small referral fee. Your price will be the same, it just gives me a little $$ for pulling the links together.

Back in September, I was sick of reading the same 3 books approximately 57 times a week. So, I decided to do a 100 book challenge where we set the goal to read 100 books by December 1. We got a cool poster board and some stickers to track our progress. then, we got to reading!

I also thought it would be fun to each pick our two favorite books from our list of 100.

Mama chose A Lady Has the Floor, a great book about Belva Lockwood the first female attorney to argue before the US Supreme Court. My second book was When I Pray for You by Matthew Paul Turner. I love all of his books, but this one is especially sweet. The illustrations are beautiful, his words are sweet, and I love that his books are so inclusive–having children of different races and abilities in every one.

Braun, true to form, chose the three we read about dinosaurs: How Do Dinosaurs Clean Their Room, Dinosaur A to Z, and a third book I can’t seem to find.

Harper went rogue and randomly selected a book I didn’t see coming, Rescue Squad #9. Then she followed up with an old favorite, Tractor Mac Friends on the Farm. We love all of the Tractor Mac books!

If I was going to do an honorable mention, I’d add in Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site, All the Way to America and the Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau (both by Dan Yaccarino–I love anything of his!), Little Blue Truck Leads the Way, and Click Clack Moo: Cows that Type.

Here’s a picture of the full list of books we read in case anyone wants to see!

Rural Redefined Feature

I was so honored to be chosen to be a featured guest on the Rural Redefined Instagram account earlier this week. Rural Redefined is an account all about empowering rural women, so I was really excited to share a little about my story.

I thought it might be fun to share those same posts here.

I’m a New Mexico farm kid turned agricultural lawyer!  I grew up super involved in 4-H and FFA, including judging and showing.  I got my ag business farm and ranch management degree at Oklahoma State (Go Pokes!) and my law degree from the University of New Mexico.  I now live in the Texas Panhandle and serve as the statewide Agriculture Law Specialist for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension.  
We raise cattle, sheep, and kids here in the Panhandle of Texas! We are heavily involved in my family’s show lamb business (Dowell Show Lambs).  I have found this lifestyle to be a perfect complement to my day job as an ag lawyer for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, because let me tell you, I’ve always got some real-life examples to share!  
 I always thought being a farm kid was my favorite thing…until I got to raise farm kids of my own.  Braun and Harper are 13 months apart and our little Texas tornadoes! They love animals and tractors and anything involving water and dirt. The best parenting advice I’ve received is to “say yes more than you say no,” and I really try to live by that!  
My family has been involved in agriculture for generations.  My grandparents bought the farm I grew up on in the 1950s. When my Gran was suddenly widowed at 45 with two boys to raise a job in town, everyone told her to sell the farm.  She didn’t, and now I’m proud that my kids are the 4th generation to ride horses in these pastures.
One of my favorite things about being involved in a family farm and show lamb business is how close it has kept our family.  We talk almost daily about everything from sheep breeding plans to how much we need to feed a certain lamb.  That’s been a real gift!
My husband and I both have agriculture in our blood. Last year, we made our first land purchase and it has been such a dream to watch our cows…
…and kids in this pasture! 
 I credit 4-H and FFA with much of my career success.  I do not think there is a better way to raise successful adults.  I also don’t think there is a better champion for a kid than a good ag teacher.
One more piece of parenting advice…get one of these power wheels trucks.  My kids have put at least 200,000 miles on ours and love it!  Plus, it can be helpful in getting animals fed too. 
I love running and do most of my training on these dirt roads!  
 The lake is one of my very favorite places. Ironically, we irrigate our fields with water from this same lake! 
If you know anyone interested in ag law who wants some advice, send them my way. I am so grateful for the people who helped me learn the ropes and am happy to do the same for others.  
My husband and I went to Canada (Lake Louise) on our honeymoon…but stopped to look at cattle on the way! 
I gave the city life a try one summer in San Francisco where I worked at a major law firm. As much fun as it was and as much as I love San Francisco, I knew it wasn’t for me and headed back to rural America! 
Travel is one of my favorite things and can’t choose my favorite country, but this white water rafting experience in Costa Rica is high on the list of craziest adventures.
Getting to travel the country & speak to rural landowners and producers really is my dream job. If you’re into agricultural law, I author the Texas Agriculture Law Blog and host the Ag Law in the Field Podcast.  
To keep up with Tiffany and her family, follow @alwaysafarmkid and check out her personal blog where she writes about her life at alwaysafarmkid.com  

2020 Christmas Gift Guide

Disclaimer: This post does contain some affiliate links…which means if you will click on my links to Amazon products, I will get a small commission on the purchase. And you know…every little bit helps.

Ok before we start…if you’re shopping online and not using Rakuten (formerly called Ebates), you’re leaving money on the table. I’ve used it for 5 years and made over $1600 back. No strings. No tricks. Legit cash in my pocket. If you sign up with my link now, you will get $40 back when you make you first $40 purchase. See? Free money! Click here to get started. Okay, onward.

Has there ever been a year that we need Christmas more than the year of our Lord, 2020? No. I think not.

Anyone else feel like this picture of our heifer, Cindy, kind of sums up the year?

Here are a few fun ideas I’ve come up with…

Christmas 2019

For the kiddos

All the Colors of Christmas by Matthew Paul Turner. Every year to kick off Advent, I get the kids a Christmas book and new Christmas pjs. This year, I went with Matthew Paul Turner’s new book. We have every book he as written and they are beautiful, so I cannot wait to read this with the kids!

Dinosaur Devotions. This will be under the tree for my 5 year old dino-obsessed boy. A friend of mine highly recommended it and I know that he is going to love it. I feel like getting kids started with a devotional habit at this age will serve them well in the future.

Spirit horse set. My 4 year old girl love Spirit, so we will be super excited to have any sort of Spirit toys under the tree.

Hot wheels triple loop track. My kids have a few hot wheels vehicles, but we’ve never really had a track or anything that allows them to play with them much. My friend Bri recommended this and I’m really excited to let the kiddos play it.

Magnetic building blocks. We’ve had these several years and they are one of those toys that both of my kids play with all the time. If you have littles, you need these! They’re kind of a cheaper version of Magnatiles.

Melissa and Doug Dinosaur A to Z coloring books. Again…I’ve got a dinosaur lover. These are great coloring books because they’re big, 11 x 14, and the kids can color and learn about the different dinosaurs.

Tractor Mac books. We love, love, love Tractor Mac books. They’re probably our favorite series. Here are a few of our favorites: Tractor Mac Saves Christmas, Tractor Mac Arrives at the Farm, Tractor Mac’s New Friend, Tractor Mac Learns to Fly, and Tractor Mac Family Reunion.

Perfectly Unique by Annie F. Downs. This is on my list for my Goddaughter, who is 8. I’m super excited about this because Annie is one of my favorite authors, so I can’t wait to introduce my Goddaughter to her.

Another cool pre-teen girl idea is this NIV Coloring Book Bible. It looks so fun!

Second hand store finds. I love me a good second hand store for kids stuff. I recently found Harper’s Halloween costume for $3. Santa spotted a rainbow sequined backpack for her for $7 and it will be arriving in the sleigh. Don’t overlook this option!

For the ladies

My favorite pajamas. These are a repeat on the list from prior years because they are for sure still my favorite pjs for sure.

Bath and Body Works Aromatherapy lotion. Okay, listen. I know that Bath and Body Works scents can be real overwhelming. But….I love their aromatherapy lotions. I keep the Sleep (lavender + vanilla) by my bed, Hot Springs Spa on my desk at work, and I’ve got my eye on the Sunrise Yoga scent.

Half Baked Harvest Super Simple cookbook. I follow Half Baked Harvest on Instagram and I’m absolutely dying to get this cookbook. It’s at the top of my Christmas list.

Kitchen Aid mixer shredding attachment. Y’all. I need this. Grated cheese is a million times better than cheese in the bag, but who has time to freaking grate cheese by hand for every dang meal? This seems like it would solve this problem and I’m here for it.

It’s a 10 leave in conditioner. This is hands down my favorite beauty product and it would be perfect stocking stuffer! It’s pretty pricy, so you might want to do the travel size, so I linked that!

RBG t-shirt. When Justice Ginsburg died, I ordered myself a t-shirt with my favorite quote on it. I love this design too!

Capri Blue volcano candle. I don’t know the back story here. Is it made from volcanoes? Allegedly smell live a volcano? I don’t really care because what I can tell you is it smells amazing and you need one. If you want to try a smaller (and cheaper) version first, click here.

For the Guys

Kuiu hunting gear. Listen. This is expensive. I got some for my husband’s birthday, but found it on sale! So…you may need to watch for black Friday sales on this one.

Cordless leaf blower. Don’t laugh….this is legit the most used tool in my husband’s shop. He’s a total clean freak, so he uses it to clean the shop out every day. It’s so much easier than a broom, and I don’t know how we’d survive without it. We’re a DeWalt family, so I linked that version, but here’s the link to Old Milwaukee if you’re into that brand.

Comfy pj pants. My husband never really wears pj pants, unless it’s super cold. You know, like the freak October snow/ice storm that left us without power for 3 days. I am going to a pair of these so we’re not caught without pants down (literally) again!

Air frier lid for the Instant Pot. I know this could go on the ladies list, but who do you think I’m cooking for all the dang time?! Him! Anyway, here’s the scoop. I have an Instant Pot and it’s fine. But once I bought the lid that turns the Instant Pot into an air frier? Game changer. I can make hands down the best jalapeno poppers I’ve ever had in there. It’s perfect for reheating anything. The kids chicken strips and nuggets are delish out of the air frier. This one is a winner for sure. Be sure you double check the size of your instant pot. The link here is for the 6qt.

Texana Olive Oil. If the guy likes to cook or grill, this is a good option. This olive oil is amazing and this sampler 6 pack lets you try all the flavors. The mesquite is so good use as a rub on any cut of beef. The herb is my go to on any roasted veggies. The Cajun has some heat and is great on eggs. Trust me on this being a gift you will all enjoy.

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!

Running clothes

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.