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.


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.


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.


We All Have the Same Feet

I was talking to the kids this week in preparation for Braun starting pre-k in a couple of weeks. We talked about making new friends and being kind.

Then I brought up how there will be all kinds of kids and how important it is to be kind to everyone, even people who are different than us, because God made us all just the way we are.

I kept on illustrating. Explaining that some kids have red hair and some have black hair. We talked about how some of our friends have skin that is brown, while our skin is white. About how not everyone likes dinosaurs and horses and how some kids may have a harder time saying words.

I was really hoping I was handling this conversation well and they were actually learning something. Because if there is one thing I desperately want my kids to be above all else, it’s kind. But let’s be real, with 3 and 4-year olds, who knows if you are actually getting through.

A few minutes later, Braun says, “Well Mama, we all have the same feet.”

It’s that simple, isn’t it. We may be different races and ages. Different religions and political parties. Have different incomes and different beliefs. But we all have the same feet—we’ve got more in common than we have different. And that’s sure reason enough to be kind.

Talking Body Image

For most of my life, I would have told you I hated how I looked.

Maybe it’s on society and unrealistic standards. Maybe it’s on comments that I can still remember being made growing up…sometimes about me but mostly people talking badly about themselves. Maybe it was my perpetually landing in “the friend zone.” Maybe it’s all stories I made up in my head.

Whatever the root, it was ridiculous.

And then, this little girl behind me came along.

I decided that if I didn’t love myself, I sure couldn’t raise her to love herself.

And that was the end of it for me. Hard stop. No negative comments. No fretting over stretch marks or extra pounds or a face too round or legs too short. Because that just doesn’t matter.

So here we are…and I’ve never felt better.

Never Take It for Granted

I wrote this in March as the pandemic was hitting and realized I never published!

Last August, I had a kidney stone that got lodged, ended up infected, and could have been life-threatening had a doctor not stepped in and got me help. Immediately. At that point, I could hardly walk from the house to the car. Three surgical procedures later and one night in the hospital, and about a month of recovery, and that disaster was behind me.

Last week, I ran my fourth half marathon. (My first since having two babies…that’s a whole different blog post!)

When I was tired and my feet hurt and I saw a hill up ahead, I looked at my hand.

I wrote this as a reminder that the ability to run 13.1 miles is a privilege that I never want to take for granted.

I’m grateful for this body of mine. And there are times, usually involving a mirror, where that is easy to forget. But knowing what it felt like when my body flat out could not do what I needed for it to, I have vowed to always be grateful for the ability to put one foot in front of the other and run, whether that’s 13 steps or 13 miles.

This time—in Ft. Worth with two of my favorite friends running with me and the promise of mimosas at the finish line—it was 13 miles checked off the list.

Starting line
Running through the stockyards
What I was waiting for.
Will run for brunch!

41 Years

Today marks 41 years of marriage for my parents. Where she stood up in her $50 dress for Sears and he slipped a sort-of-unsuccessfully-used-by-his-cousin set of rings on her finger.

Forty-one years of my mom getting up early to make his sandwich before he leaves for work. Forty-one years of him rubbing her shoulders and her shoving her cold hands down his shirt.

Forty-one years of him convincing her to do things like water ski before she knew how to swim and her making him do things like go to the doctor when he gets foreign objects lodged in his eye.

Forty-one years of them loving to go on vacation together, where they spend a good of their time apart. She shops and he takes a nap in the car, or she plays the slots while he finds a nice drink in the bar.

Forty-one years of her lecturing him about hooky cows and never being pleased with the animals’ water situation.

Forty-one years of him being the life of the party and her shaking her head. Forty-one years of dancing together and laughing together and doing life really well, together.

Forty-one years of practice so they were ready to be Nan and Grandad, who these kids of mine think hung the moon.

Forty-one down. I know it hasn’t always been easy, but they’ve certainly made it appear so. Here’s on to forty-two.