Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Last week, it was a little cool outside, so we blew bubbles at Elizabeth. She loved them! Here are a few pictures of our silly girl.

She really had a blast. I can only imagine what she would be like if we put her in front of a bubble machine!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Helping Mommy

Yesterday morning, Elizabeth and I went out to spray a trial and rate some others at Travis' grandparents' place. While I sprayed, she played on the back of the truck with some toys that I had brought for her. She was really good the entire time, despite the fact that it was very humid and a little warm. While I rated, I left the truck (and A/C) running and Elizabeth was quite content to be inside the cab playing with everything she could get her hands on.

Here she was admiring all of the cows.

Ahh, cooling off.

Playing with the puppy, Freckles, at the house while I visited with Grandpa. She squeals with delight when the dog plays with her.

Unrelated, when we got home, I hung our jeans out to dry on the line. If you look closely, you can see that it's raining on my jeans!! I then forgot to bring them in later and when I woke up this morning, it was raining again!! I finally did get them inside to finish drying this afternoon.

It was such a good day! Especially because when we got home, Elizabeth took a nice long nap and I got a nice shower before she woke up! Ah, the little things...

Menu Plan Monday

Goodness, being gone for a weekend really gets me behind with menu planning. Not that I'm complaining, because it was great to see my family for the Picnic weekend!

So after a little thought and lots of room for change, here's what's on the menu this week:

  • Enchiladas, Spanish rice
  • Steak on the grill, wild rice, green beans
  • Spaghetti, garlic toast, frozen broccoli
  • Lots of leftovers!
Travis will be traveling most of the week, so Elizabeth & I will have leftovers and chicken nuggets for lunch this week. Happy Eating!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

...or Tuesday! Travis went out of town yesterday and I wasn't sure if he was staying the night, so I didn't worry about planning for yesterday. Here's what's on the menu for the rest of the week.

  • Chicken Spaghetti, green beans
  • Baked Chicken, rice, frozen corn
  • Hamburgers, french fries
That should be plenty for this week since we'll be leaving Friday morning to pick up Kate from the airport. Have a great week!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Tagging Along

This morning, Elizabeth & I tagged along with Travis to spray some Bermuda grass plots for work. Elizabeth liked playing in the tall grass...for awhile. I think it irritated her sensitive skin because I noticed lots of little grass cuts on her legs later. We all had a good time getting out of the house and enjoyed being outside. It was perfect weather today for running around in a pasture!

Travis was letting Elizabeth help him adjust the insulators on the electric fence. (Yes, it was off.)

A look at one of the studies. There are four identical studies put out on four different types of Bermuda grass. Cattle had gotten into these plots, so we re-staked them while we were there.

Daddy & Elizabeth. I know the picture is dark, but it's the best one I had where they were both smiling!

Farm girls!

Earlier this week, Travis bought a new toilet for the front bathroom. The green one was broken and could not be fixed. We unwrapped it last night and today, Elizabeth discovered it!

Her whole little body can fit inside of the bowl!

Hopefully, we can get it mounted tomorrow. It takes 3 days for the seal "goop" to set and make a water tight seal, so the faster we get this mounted, the faster we can take our pink toilet off the wall and refinish it! It will also be tons easier to paint in our bathroom while the toilet is out.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Gorgeous Day

None of these pictures are from today, but today has been a gorgeous day (so far)! There's actually a nice cool breeze outside, it's only 84 degrees, and you don't sweat as soon as you walk out the door! I wish it could stay like this forever...

I washed a few windows Sunday and Monday and Elizabeth just has to help! She climbed up on the chair behind me to get a closer look.

Here she is yesterday helping with a window that she could actually reach.

Ok, where to next, Momma?

Last night, after a bath, she was running around and put an empty plaster of Paris tub on her head. She looked so cute, I had to snap a couple of pictures.

Also last night, Elizabeth grabbed a mason jar out of the cabinet and dropped it. Of course, it shattered into a million pieces and one flew up and cut the back of my leg. Like a true super mom, I grabbed Elizabeth, and a Kleenex, and ran to tell Travis to hurry out of the shower to help. I then put the fear of God into Elizabeth as I told her to stay in her high chair (which she did nicely until we were finished cleaning) all while picking up broken glass, bleeding, and cooking a perfect meal of Chicken Fried Steak. Travis said it was the best I had ever made and that maybe I just needed a distraction while cooking it! Har, har.

My battle wound:

This happens to everyone, right? :)

Chicken Fried Steak

Chicken Fried Steak...mmm, mmm. My Daddy would always make the best CFS and my Mom always made the best gravy to go with it. It has taken me many years of burnt steak and burnt grease to finally get this right. And there are times I still get in a hurry frying and char the steak a little bit. But, last night the stars aligned and I cooked it perfectly (just for this post, I'm sure)!

First, cut an trim the fat off of your steak. I use a round steak. I cut my pieces no larger than a deck of cards. They fry much nicer and are easier to batter.

You'll need oil (I use vegetable, but you can also use olive), flour seasoned with salt (I use Lawry's Seasoning Salt) and pepper to taste, and eggs. I start with two eggs, beaten, and I'll add more later if I run out. (I've run out of eggs before with three pieces of steak left, so I usually just flour and fry them.)

Heat the oil on medium-high heat. I only use a couple of tablespoons to start with and then will add more later if needed. To check to see if your oil is hot, throw a pinch of flour in the skillet; if it sizzles and bubbles, your oil is ready.

Time to batter-up! Coat the steak in flour.

Then egg.

Then flour again. For this step, you can substitute crushed saltine crackers. That's what made Daddy's steak "the best". We would crush a sleeve of saltines into small, small pieces and then after the egg, dip them into the crackers instead of flour. Why didn't I do this? Because I didn't have enough time last night! When you do have time, it is well worth it!

Then into the skillet!

Cook until "Golden Brown and Delicious"! This will take a few minutes on each side. You'll know when to flip when you get a nice color on the batter. You can poke the steak with a fork and then check to see if the juices run clear also. To get a really nice non-burnt steak, I tend to turn my heat down a little (to medium) and fry them. You can use your best judgment since all stoves are different!

Remove the steak and drain on a paper towel.

Onto the gravy. If you accidentally burnt the steak or if your oil looks or smells burnt, I would recommend skipping the gravy until next time. Burnt oil does not make a good gravy no matter how well you think you've gotten all of the charred pieces out. I don't want to discourage you, but from experience, it will just frustrate you more when your gravy doesn't turn out or it tastes burnt.

I assess the amount of oil left in the skillet and then add more if needed. (Turn your burner back up to medium-high.) I like to have 1 to 1-1/2 tablespoons of oil in the skillet. Then add a couple of tablespoons of flour to soak up the oil. Constantly stirring, let the flour cook a little (for less than one don't want it to burn, just enough to get a nice light brown color). You also want to lift all of the good leftover bits off the bottom of the skillet.

I then add chicken broth, about 2 cups. You can add more or less depending on the consistency you like for gravy. To truly check how thick or thin your gravy is, it will need to boil. So bring your gravy up to a boil. Add more liquid if it's too thick or little it reduce some if it's too thin.

This is a good time to taste your gravy, too. If you use chicken broth (even the low sodium kind) you will probably not have to add salt. But, you may like to add a little pepper. I usually do.

My Mom always made really great gravy, but she never used chicken broth. Instead, she would save the water from boiling potatoes and use that for the gravy. (We always had mashed potatoes with chicken fried steak.) I sometimes save potato water to use instead of broth, but we've shattered a couple too many glass measuring cups trying to save the hot liquid. Chicken broth works just as well.

Mmm, delicious! We also had frozen corn from our spring garden and boiled potatoes. I then went back for seconds!

I hope you decide to try your hand at our family favorite!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

I'm really happy with the results of planning out our meals at the beginning of the week. However, I do think that I need to plan at least four meals per week because last week, we ate up two of our meals in one sitting. Yeah, we must have been hungry!

Here's what I'm planning for this week:
  • Taco Salad
  • Chicken Fried Steak (recipe to follow in another post), boiled potatoes, frozen corn
  • Sirloin Steak-grilled, sweet potato spears, green beans
  • Quesadillas
Looking at my list of meals, I still feel like we "just had" a lot of our usual dishes. So, I'm going to make a point to start reading my cookbooks and start incorporating some new recipes into our week.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Installing Blinds & Bathroom Remodel

The blinds for our bedrooms arrived today! So, the bedsheets that were covering the windows came down and the blinds went up. They look great.

As always, Elizabeth is checking Daddy's work, making sure he's doing it right. I took a couple of pictures of the blinds installed, but it's really not that impressive in a picture, so trust me, they look fantastic hung!

Also on the agenda this evening was more master bathroom remodel work. This past Sunday, Mom and Dad came down for a visit and while Mom was distracting Elizabeth with Patty-cake...

Dad was helping Travis remove the shower wall and dig out the old drain.

Since Sunday, the old cast iron drain has been replaced and rotten wood has been removed and replaced. The plumbers should come out again soon to finish up the drain, pour concrete around the drain, and move the water lines to the new shower controls and head. I shot a couple of pictures of Elizabeth helping Travis this evening.

What a look, huh?! The next thing to do is install the new half-wall where the full wall was removed. (Where Elizabeth is sitting.) We've decided to go with a half, or pony, wall and have a sheet of glass installed on top of the wall up to 6.5'. It will make the shower feel a lot more open and larger since it is really a small space. After the wall is installed and the plumbing is finished, sheet rock can be hung and then the tiling can begin! (As long as we don't get any more pesky remodel surprises along the way!)

Monday, September 7, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

On the menu this week:

Oatmeal Meatballs, Wild Rice, Green Beans
Campfire Packs, Frozen Corn
Parmesan Chicken, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Boiled Carrots

Our Oatmeal Meatballs are really called Meatballs with Cream Sauce. The recipe is out of The Taste of Home Cookbook. I love this cookbook and use it very often.

  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 3/4 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley (I don't always have this, so I just add a couple of teaspoons of dry instead.)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1-1/2 pounds lean ground beef (Our ground beef packages are 1 pound, so I just adjust the amounts of the other ingredients a little. For example, instead of a full 1/4 cup of milk, I'll add 1/8 cup first, mix my ingredients and then add a little extra if the mixture seems too dry.)
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Combine first nine ingredients. Crumble beef over mixture and mix well. Shape into 1-1/2 inch balls. Roll in flour, shaking off excess. Place 1 in. apart on greased 15"x10"x1" baking pans.

Bake, uncovered, at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Turn meatballs; bake 12-15 minutes longer or until meat is no longer pink.

The meatballs are really good, but I hardly ever make the cream sauce that goes with them. Most of the time, we'll just eat them with a little ketchup. Besides, with Wild Rice, we really don't need a sauce.

Campfire Packs are really good and easy, too. They are great for when you don't want to spend tons of time in the kitchen. I don't have a recipe with measurements and you can really tailor this meal to the likes of your family. Why the name? Because you can make these when you are camping and throw them on some coals to cook while you're out in the "great outdoors". I can't tell you how long to cook them on a fire, though, because I've never done it. (And I don't really foresee myself trying it out any time soon! Hey, you could throw these on the grill, though, and that would keep you from using the oven if you don't want to heat up your house.) Ok, on to the recipe!
  • Ground Meat
  • Lawry's Seasoning Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste
  • Worcestershire Sauce, to taste
  • Sliced onion
  • Garlic, peeled and minced
  • Potatoes (skins on or off), sliced into half moons 1/4" thick
  • Carrots, peeled and sliced into rounds 1/4" thick
Season meat with salt, pepper, and Worcestershire Sauce. Shape into patties. Lay out a sheet of aluminum foil (make sure it is long enough to pull up and wrap around to make a little pack with the ingredients inside. Place meat patty in center of foil, top with sliced onion, garlic, some potatoes, and some carrots. Top with 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of butter, if desired. Roll up foil around meat and vegetables to make a pack. Place packs on a cookie sheet (just in case one has a hole, you don't want all of the juice to clean up later!) and cook for 45 minutes in a 375 degree oven. The packs cook in their steam, so there's really not a lot of grease.

I think this meal is great for a family who's likes are different because you can add more carrots in one pack, and less in another. Also, if you're not a big fan of onions or garlic, you can always substitute the powdered forms. If you do decide to make each pack to a family member's liking, don't forget to mark the outside of the pack with a permanent marker.

What are y'all having this week?

Friday, September 4, 2009


I had an old piece of artwork that I was going to throw out because I really didn't like it. (I did it myself years ago.) Just when I was about to part with it, I had an idea. So, not wanting to waste a good canvas, I got out my Plaster of Paris and got to work covering the old painting.

After the plaster dried, I sanded down some of the ridges. I didn't want it to be completely smooth, I was going for a little texture.

I then took it out to the garage and spray painted the plaster blue around the edges and a foamy green in the center, fading them into eachother. (I had the frame off!)

I didn't get any pictures of the new painting in progress. I searched online for abstract pictures of flowers. Here's my adaption of what I found:

The frame is slightly damaged and I found it in the clearance aisle at Hobby Lobby. I bought it for $15; originally it was over $40. I'm going to find a paint color that closely matches the frame color and just touch it up. You'll never know! I have a huge blank space at the end of our hallway and this piece will go there once I decide on a color for the walls. (Oh, and then I have to paint...) With a little creativity, you too can take something you want to throw out and find a new way to use it!