Family · On The Ranch

Is a Detour a Detour When It’s Actually a Plan?

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Whenever I’m shopping for clothes, I have several considerations:

  1. Is it machine washable? I have kids.
  2. Is it comfortable? I have kids.
  3. If for work: will it withstand cows, mud, muck, but also my kids?
  4. If for not work: will it withstand detours on the way to town? I have a cowboy.

Before I dated Bert, I had just dated boys from town. Where they would pick you up at your house, you’d get in the car, drive to your destination, get out of the car, and go inside. You’d spend a hopefully pleasant evening, maybe take a little stroll out to ice cream after dinner, and then you’d be delivered back to your door.

Cowboys are a little different. They will pick you up, but you’re never quite sure in what, and you’ll get in, but you’re never quite sure how easy that’s going to be, and you’ll drive, but you’ll probably have a pit stop or twelve on the way, and you’ll end up at home eventually, but it might be a little later than you planned because things can get western in a hurry, and I don’t mean that in a euphemistic, trying-to-be-polite-for-Grandma way, I mean that in a flat-tire, dirt-road, steer-caught-in-a-roll-of-wire, rodeo’s-in-town kind of way.

Thus, I learned early on to wear things that wouldn’t be ruined if we were driving a nasty ranch truck, or ended up at the pens or in the middle of the pasture (I now own almost no flats for this reason), and that could be worn easily getting in and out of a truck or a tractor without flashing the entire state or getting something hung up. Also to make reservations an hour later than you think they ought to be, or forgo those sorts of establishments altogether.

If I had a nickel for every time I’d heard “Oh, I just want to check on/drive past/go look at the horses/cows/water/fence. It won’t take long. Don’t worry, you won’t have to get out.” I would have enough nickels to buy this amazing Johnny Was beauty I saw at a boutique last week, and a coat to wear over it when I have to get out in the rain to open 47 gates on the way to check cows on the way to dinner.

Case in point: over the weekend, we decided to go into town for dinner. We all got in the pickup, and then it was “Oh, I want to check on the horses on the way.” Uh huh. Of course you do.

 

Family · On The Ranch

Salt and Mineral and Desolation (hey, hipsters, get your album titles here)

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It’s Monday! I’m proud I know what day of the week it is, and what day it is (never forget) because lately I’ve been in a time warp of gray paint, funny sleep schedules, and dusty pickup adventures with these boys of mine. Not having a schedule is doing a number on my brain.

Because I’m a nosy Nelson (but is it really nosy if you live here?), and because the ranch is (literally) 62 square miles, we gathered up the boys yesterday morning and went on a little ranch tour while putting out salt and mineral for the cattle.

(Salt blocks and tubs of mineral supplement the animals’ diet to make sure they’re getting, well, all their salt and minerals. They’re sort of like the bovine equivalent of a Flintstones vitamin to account for various deficiencies in the natural environment.)

We saw the bulls, the heifers, some of the older cows, and a whole lotta cactus. In these pictures, we’re on the side of the ranch that’s not gotten much rain this year, so that’s why it looks a little crispy. Also, we haven’t escaped the haze that’s fallen over the Western United states (Lord, send some rain up to those fires, please sir).

Loading the boys up and driving around is one of our favorite things to do. Often, we’ll bring some bottled “fancy” soda and a bag of chips along and make it a little date. Wacey gets a big kick out of sitting next to Buster in the back seat, and Buster gets a big kick out of Wacey so it’s a win-win-win-win.

Things I learned while driving around yesterday:

  1. There’s a lot of rocks. I knew this before, but golly, they weren’t kidding when they made this place and decided it would be rockier than all seven movies (yes, seven, I Googled it so it must be true) in the Rocky franchise
  2. In this part of the world, a water tank is something in which to store water in, and a drinker is what the cattle actually drink out of, which we (used to) call water tanks. So tank=storage, drinker=what we used to call a tank.
  3. I will never, ever get tired of watching cows chase a pickup because they think there’s cake. I had to do some pretty fancy finagling to get a gate shut before the girls got through because they’d crawl on the back of that flatbed if they could.
  4. Bring more beverages. It’s hot and dusty and it takes, like, three hours to put out eight blocks of salt. Also chapstick.
  5. Buster can sleep through anything in a truck. Like, we could be in a monster truck crawling over boulders and not a single hoot could be given by that fat ole baby.
  6. We live in the middle of nowhere. My parents called it desolate. They were right, but without all the sad/heebie-jeebie connotations of desolate. I prefer “remote,” “real, real ranchy” (although we live within 50 miles of a decent-sized town so we’re not super ranchy), or “secluded.”
  7. I laugh on a very regular basis about how I grew up in town, was in a sorority in college, thought I was going to be a lawyer, and now live in a little house on a ranch in a desert in New Mexico. Like, who would thunk? Also, who woulda thunk that I (mostly) love it? I mean, God, obviously, but who else? No one, y’all. No one.
  8. I love having an excuses to wear my big ole hat. The bigger the hat, the bigger the hair, the bigger the inseam on my high-waisted jeans, those closer to God, as far as I’m concerned.
  9. We have a little canyon on the ranch called the Arroyo del Macho and that’s pretty cool.

In summary: putting out salt and mineral is fun, I like my family, and everything is cooler if it has a name in a foreign language.

Happy Monday! Love, Me. PS try these cookies. Unless you’re participating in a fitness challenge in which one of the categories is to limit sugar. Then wait till next month. Trust me here. Trust fall into my open arms, which are beefy because Buster, and trust me.

 

 

Family · Food

September Meal Plan

I get asked a lot what I do for meals, particularly since we have to be pretty savvy about buying groceries since we live in a rural area, so I thought I’d share what works for us! Especially because this is the first time in TWO MONTHS I’ve actually sat down and meal-planned, since July and August were basically a wash what with all the traveling to interviews and moving and being packed and in between houses and such.

So, at the very end of each month I try to sit down and plan the next month’s meals. I don’t have a formula (“Taco Tuesday” or pizza every Friday) because I find we get sick of meals fairly easily so I try to mix it up a little. We don’t have the luxury of takeout or a quick dinner out if I don’t feel like cooking, so I try to avoid getting in a rut. That being said, I make pretty much the same set of meals each month with one or two new ones thrown in to try, and have a few easy go-tos if we’re home late or I don’t feel like spending a bunch of time in the kitchen.

With each meal, I try to serve a green vegetable–often roasted broccoli/asparagus, or sauteed green beans–alongside if there aren’t already vegetables included in the recipe. You’ll notice that we eat meat every night; I have a husband with a metabolism of a racehorse and a work ethic of, well, a cowboy, and an appetite to match, and going meatless doesn’t work for him at all. We also eat a lot of pasta–see previously cited husband. I firmly believe that everything is fine in moderation, so I try to have more vegetables and meat on my plate than pasta and keep the portions smaller for myself.

You’ll also notice we don’t have tons of beef on this month’s menu–our freezer is almost empty and I’m not sure when we’ll be processing our next cow! I think it’s soon but I’m not sure what schedule our new ranch is on. I’m also trying to conserve our pig a little bit, too, since I’m not sure when we’ll be getting another. A lot of these recipes are the same as the ones in my pre-Buster big batch post, too. We  know what we like, I guess. At least once a month I’ll get a wild hair and throw out the calendar in favor of something new, but that’s not always easy since the grocery store is real far. My wild hairs tend to occur in town in the middle of the grocery store with my Pinterest dinners board open!

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Pasta prima: pasta with whatever vegetables I have on hand plus chicken or sausage, topped with pesto. Sometimes I make homemade but I usually just use Kirkland’s jarred pesto from Costco. This is one of our favorite things and it’s really veggie-heavy and quick so we have it a lot.

Stir-fry: I use this recipe, but use a frozen stir-fry veggie blend and it works beautifully. This is also a go-to when we’re low on produce since we use frozen veggies! We also like this with cooked chow mein stir-fry noodles.

Roast chicken: I used Ina Garten’s recipe for the first time for this one, and it got rave reviews! I’ll definitely make it again.

French dip sandwiches: I use my mom’s recipe in the slow cooker. A roast (this time I used a maybe 4-5 lb chuck), a packet of Lipton’s French Onion Soup mix, a bottle of beer, and a cup of water. I’ve found that roasting on high for an hour and a half or two hours for a thinner/smaller roast or 2-3 hours on high for a bigger/thicker roast works for us. I think I have a slow cooker than runs a little hot, though! I serve on deli rolls with curly fries.

Spaghetti and meatballs: I make a big batch of freezer meatballs, and throw them in some sauce to cook. I’ve found success with lots of recipes, so pick our fave! Our favorites are ones with Italian sausage and ground beef.

Baked Cajun chicken: This is one of our very favorite recipes! I like to make it with halved or quartered baby reds and fingerling potatoes, and it’s also good with wingettes and drummies.

Tacos: ground beef, cheese, sometimes cilantro-lime rice, sauteed peppers and onions, and the fixins. I use either this taco seasoning or a packet of McCormick’s. We sometimes do fajitas on these days instead.

Potstickers: this is one of my favorite easy meals. I used to (and sometimes still do) make a big batch of homemade potstickers and freeze them, but more often than not I get a bag of frozen ones at Costco and serve with sesame noodles.

Pork chops and potatoes: thinly-sliced pork chops fried in a skillet with breakfast potatoes (diced potatoes, peppers, and onions).

Chicken cutlets and basil orzo: pounded-thin chicken cutlets breaded with panko, parm, basil, oregano, salt and pepper, sauteed in olive oil and served with orzo baked in chicken stock and then mixed with basil and parm. Loosely based on this recipe, which is one of my faves (sans olives) but Bert doesn’t really like lemon so I don’t make it much.

Short rib sandwiches

Italian sausage and pasta: sliced sauteed Italian sausage with marinara and sauteed red bell peppers served over penne, rigatoni, or something similar.

Lemon brown sugar chicken

Cajun chicken pasta: I use the PW’s recipe but with, like, a quarter of the cream. I can’t tell the difference! Our vegetables of choice are also peppers and mushrooms and red onions. After trying many different Cajun seasonings, this one is our favorite.

Breaded pork chops with wild rice

Ground Italian sausage (we use bucatini noodles)

Chicken Parm: sort of like this one. I use cutlets, bread them, bake them, and then add the sauce and parm about five minutes before taking out of the oven.

Beef with snow peas: I like, quadruple the amount of snow peas. You can use lots of different cuts for this one, I tend to use up round steaks with this recipe. I slice and marinate overnight and add a splash of apple cider vinegar to the marinate to help the tenderizing process.

Homemade pizza: I still haven’t found a crust I love love yet, I’ll let you know when I do. We like to do sausage and mushroom with caramelized onions and a little smoked gouda on a wheat crust.

Breakfast for dinner: biscuits and gravy, hashbrowns, breakfast potatoes, waffles, sausage patties…it’s whatever we feel like!

Chicken, Broccoli, and Sweet Potato Sheet Pan Dinner. This is new this month, so I’ll let you know!

Whew! That was long. If you’ve stuck to it this far, I’m impressed and thank you. Now, this is just dinner. For lunches, we do things like sandwiches, or Bert will make a frozen pizza or a burrito (I know). Lately, I’ve been really liking a sort of snack-lunch approach with crackers, sharp cheddar, a huge amount of fruit, and maybe some salami, with baby carrots or sliced cucumber for a snack later on. Neither one of us is big on breakfast, so I’ll have a bowl of cereal or peanut butter toast, and Bert has…black coffee.  Wacey has a Nutri-Grain for breakfast with a midmorning granola/peanut buttery/cheese stick snack, and likes to have a peanut butter sandwich or quesadilla and a pile of fruit for lunch. He usually eats some variation of what we’re having for dinner, often with extra fruit and some yogurt.

We are not perfect eaters, but I try to make sure we’re all getting lots of fruits and vegetables and whole grains and good sources of protein. We also don’t eat a ton of sugar, and try to limit snack-y snacks (I see you, Cheez-its).

Happy Wednesday, I’m going to go eat.

Family · Home · Personal

New Mehico

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We’re here! We made it. We rolled in about five o’clock last Wednesday, and the boys did great except for the last 40 miles or so. I don’t blame them, though, it was a long old drive!

Quick summary of our first week in New Mexico:
1. I hate, hate, hate, hate, double-hate, loathe entirely (name the movie) unpacking. Like, SO MUCH. Thankfully, as of today, we’re about 75% there, the remaining 25% being everything that has to wait until I get paint on the walls.
2. Speaking of paint, I went Benjamin Moore Gray Owl for the living areas and the boys’ bathroom, BM’s Revere Pewter for the bedrooms, and BM’s Whale Gray for the master bath and laundry room, plus bright white for all the trim. I am so excited to see the house with a fresh coat of paint, but ugh so not excited about painting it. Still, once I get the gray up and the curtains hung…you watch out, I may not get up from the sofa for a week.
3. It’s gorgeous. Like, so pretty. Mountains, canyons, trees, cactus–it’s so cool! Roll on over to my Insta to see some shots of the new place.
4. All of a sudden, Wacey is talking! Like, actual, intelligible words, and more than one at once. We’re so excited because although he’s not late or anything, it feels like a long time coming and it’s so nice to be able to understand what he needs or is telling us about.
5. Buster’s been sick (stomach bug? Ear infection?) and after almost a week of 10+ dirty diapers every day and multiple daily poopsplosions, I decided to take him to the doctor and we’re going to town (aka 50 miles) to get some antibiotics (okay and yes, Starbucks) tomorrow. They’re not sure what it is, but I’m down with throwing everything we can at it because he’s miserable and not sleeping, we’re miserable and not sleeping, and the jig has really gotta be up. On top of it all, Bert’s been having to get up at 4am to ship calves, and will be gone for two nights starting tonight, so that whole thing about being in the trenches? Heeeeeey. I started Buster on rice cereal and bananas tonight, though, so here’s hoping it was worth it to break the rules and give Bub fruit before veggies. He LOVED it, ps. Tomorrow we’ll start both antibiotics and probiotics, and pray to all the gastrointestinal gods that something starts working. Also, I was a major Bert’s Bees diaper rash cream girl, but I don’t love the new formula, and Desitin Rapid Relief came in STRONG for us this time, so I might be converted.
6. The crew and Bert’s boss and his family and the big boss that I met are great. And, the guys played with Wacey and held Buster and even laughed at a couple of my jokes and it felt so nice to know that even though we’re not with our old crew (I still think of it as our home crew, gotta quit that), there will still be a good crew around. Here, the “crew” only comes in for big works like shipping and branding, but I’m glad to know it’s something to look forward to and that the boys are welcome.
7. Central air is *praise hands* especially when schlepping boxes and trash in and out in the heat (and humidity? What?) of the afternoon.
8. We’ve been watching way too much TV and doing way too little being outside, so it feels good that the house is unpacked enough to where we can get back into our old routine a little bit.
9. The UPS guy probably already hates me, because I’ve been Amazon Priming the s**t out of everything because #newhouse and we’re reeeeaaallll rural, y’all. Not real, real rural, but rural enough that going to town takes an hour and sometimes ain’t nobody got time for that. I also ordered a new devotional since finishing my old one and I am so excited for it to arrive, so yay mail.
10. New Mexico dust takes no prisoners–everything we own is covered in a fine layer and it turns to mud as soon as you get it wet. Hazards of moving with a stock trailer, I guess.
11. I made the difficult decision to save GoT so I could binge-watch it and listen to the accompanying Nerdette podcasts while painting. I can’t wait. If you tell me any spoilers, I’ll Mother of Dragons you faster than you can say Samwell Tarly.
12. September’s coming, and it’s gonna be good. I can feel it. Or maybe I’m willing it extra hard with my heart. August was hard guys. Like much harder than anticipated, and I generally hate on August pretty hard. But one of my mantras for 2017 is “I can do hard things” and I can, but I’m ready for some progress instead of just survival. However, all of this seems so small compared to…
13. Hurricane Harvey–Harvey, you’re a real ass. Man, my heart is broken for these folks, the same way it’s broken for victims of any natural disaster, but gosh watching these things unfold from the relatively new place of being a mother brings a whole new dimension to the sorrow I feel. Mother Nature doesn’t play games, and it’s awful to watch the devastation from afar and feel so strongly for everyone and also feel helpless. If you’re needing a good list of organizations to donate to, this gal made a handy little roundup, and I’ve heard there are also places where you can find lists of needed items and put ole AP (Amazon Prime) to work. Enormous shout out to the cowboys and farmers keeping their animals safe, and so many prayers for everyone affected. Let’s all help out!
14. Kilt me a rattler on my first day here. NBD. I’ll save you a picture but trust me, that sucker was real dead. And yes, I took a picture.
15. New Mexico maintains its roads like a boss. So lovely and refreshing after coming from the King of the Washboards himself, ole Colorado.
16. I really, really love having a washer and dryer. And I really, really love my Sleep Number mattress (55 holllllaaaa). Git you one. And I really, really, really love being altogether.
17. I don’t like ending things on even numbers.

And now? Bed. Because it’s past 9pm.

Celebrate · Family · Home · Personal

Big News

capitanphoto cred because I failed to take a single picture during our interview *facepalm*

Big new’s y’all! Sorry for the radio silence but the last few months have been full of real life and some hard things, and I needed to take a break. But, I’m missing blogging and some big changes are happening around these here parts and I’m excited to document this new chapter the boys and I (and the dogs, and the horses, and maybe an errant barn cat or two) are about to start.

We’re moving! Bert got a job working for a ranch in Capitan, New Mexico, so we’re packin’ up and movin’ out. We jumped some of the major hurdles this week (navigating the health insurance marketplace…#woof) and it’s starting to feel a lot more real and exciting. It wasn’t an easy choice, and I have a lot to visit with y’all about, but it’s new, and it’s fresh, and sometimes we really need that. This is the path that God has put us on, so I have faith that it’s a good one. Stay tuned!

Celebrate · Family · Personal

Mother’s Day

buster snugglephoto credit: Elizabeth Jane Photography

Today, of course, is Mother’s Day. So far, my third Mother’s Day as a mama has been glorious. My morning looked like throwing on some comfortable athleisure-wear (that’s a thing, right?) (You’ve all tried Old Navy’s workout gear, right?) and going to have some coffee alone. I also picked up (chocolate cake with sprinkles) donuts for the boys, ravioli for dinner tonight (#notcookinganythingcomplicated), and literally seven boxes of blackberries because they were on sale and Wacey is obsessed and since one of my duties as a mother is to prevent my offspring from contracting scurvy, I can get reeeeaaaallll hip to that fruit-obsession-on-sale jive.

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I sat, enjoyed my Vente Espresso Frappucino Light and Butter Croissant and with Two Napkins while beginning Wacey’s Prompted Journal (hey mamas–go get you some of these journals for your babies) and subsequently getting teary while writing the birth story and early days of the boy who made me a mama.

I then checked a big to-do off my list (the best feeling) by vacuuming the car (no kids+time to kill+enough crackers in the backseat to feed a small, pro-gluten country=two rounds with the industrial vacuum at the car wash and a burden off my soul and the axles of the car) and getting the top layer of dirt off the car so now we aren’t slovenly country-dwellers, we’re just sort of dirty people who live on a dirt road.

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Then, Bert called and asked if I’d be okay running to the farm store to order some chainsaw things, and I said of course because I was alone and like putzing around sans bebes. While I was there, I of course had to check out the kids’ clearance section and I hit the jackpot with clothes for the boys. Five button-downs (two matching sets) and two onesies for Buster for $50 WHAT. Sorry boys, but you’re going to have to dress alike.

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Lunch, a long walk, an easy but delicious dinner, and an ice-cream-and-movie-night with Bert (strawberry and Passengers and now I want my own Arthur and clean-up bots) and I feel like a new woman. It’s the simple things, folks.

Mother’s Day is kind of a weird holiday. You grow up celebrating it, but then once you have children you become celebrated yourself and it’s lovely and also a little strange, or maybe surreal is a better word. My family never subscribed to the Mother’s Day Brunch tradition (which I’m convinced is only nice if everyone is going to be well-behaved so we won’t be testing that one out any time soon), opting instead to go to the nursery together so my mom could pick out new flowers, so we’re trying to build our own Mother’s Day traditions. So far, I like this year’s the best: a quiet, leisurely solo jaunt to Starbucks filled with lots of reflection and motherhood goal-making, followed by a non-hustling walk and plenty of post-nap horsing around with the babies and a delicious, easy dinner, and very little in the chores and cleaning departments.

Today has been such a gift. Every mom is different, but for me, the gift of leisurely time to myself to recharge my batteries is wonderful. It makes me a better mama and a better human!

Motherhood is hard, guys. Hats off to all of the mothers out there (or maybe hats on if they’re going to have to pick up the aforementioned hats off the floor). Being a mother has definitely increased my appreciation for my own mother, and for the mothers in my village. We literally wouldn’t be here without our mothers, or their mothers, or their mothers (how’s that for existential?) so, you go moms.

On this First Mother’s Day Being a Mother of More Than One Child, I am so grateful. I love being a mom–I’m shocked at how much I love it, actually. I never thought I would have two boy, and I never thought I would have two kids two and under and still want another one. These boys keep me on my toes, keep me honest, and keep me moving forward and trying to be the best I can be. We have our tough moments (I’m looking at you, yesterday’s two hour nonstop whine/cry jag), but most of our moments are glorious and hilarious and probably kind of gross.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms–the moms to babies on earth and in heaven, and those who are hoping to be mamas someday.

Also: preview of tomorrow’s post. Do you see what I see?

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Celebrate · Family · On The Ranch

Weekend and Caking Cows

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This post brought to you by a full night of uninterrupted sleep. Yes. Buster slept from 10:30 pm to 6:00 am and while that’s still a little short for me, I will 100% take it because I didn’t have to wake up in the middle of the night to feed, burp, or change him. I am also 100% certain this was a fluke because he was awake so much yesterday with an upset tummy, and he isn’t even six weeks old yet so I know better than to hope for this to stick, but it’s refreshing and lovely to know that it is, in fact, possible, and that there is a light at the end of the long, dark tunnel that is months of nighttime shenanigans.

He also could have been worn out from the weekend because what a weekend! Saturday we ventured down to the Big City to see Bert’s cousin get married and to visit with his mama’s family. Wacey wore himself out wrestling and dancing with his cousins, and Buster was handed around for hours. I had two mimosas, and we sort of got a family picture. It was a win-win. We stopped and visited with friends on the way home from town, so it was a very long, social day for us!

Yesterday was a slower day–somehow, by the grace of God, both boys slept until 8:30, so we did, too! I spent the day trying to get more baby smiles out of Buster, putzing around the house, doing wash and starting giant piles for ThredUp and Goodwill, and cleaning the upstairs bathrooms that hadn’t been cleaned since before Buster was born…ahem.

Then, once the boys were up from their naps, we all went out together to cake cows–a first as a foursome! Wacey, of course, loves to cake cows (imagine!). He is a little boy that wants pretty badly to be grown–there are so many things he wants to help with and do, but just can’t yet, and it makes him so sad. For now, we’ve found a (likely temporary solution) in encouraging him to watch Daddy very closely when he can’t help so that he can learn what to do when he is big enough, which is why he spends a good amount of time with his face glued to a truck window. It’s pretty safe to say that Bert will have a little shadow as soon as Wace is old enough to be horseback by himself!

We’ve got a busy week ahead of us on the ranch–we’re hoping for two brandings, weather permitting, plus a day of breeding cows. Thrown in there is my six week postpartum appointment, a party, and the requisite I’m-in-town-so-I-have-to-go-to-a-store-I-don’t-normally-go-to Target or Costco run. After a slower winter and the post-baby lazy period, it looks like life is back in full swing!

Happy (hopefully warm) Monday!!!