Tuesday, September 26, 2017

My Crazy, Whacked-Out Week

Mindy here, and since moving to the ranch in May, we’ve had some less-than-normal weeks. But this past week had me jaunting across half of Texas, savoring time with writing friends and seeing some significant changes at the big house. All of which had me craving some major comfort food.
So last Tuesday I made my trek from Southeast to North Texas and the beautiful Gaylord Texan Hotel and Resort for ACFW’s annual conference where I enjoyed four amazingly relaxing days in which people prepared my food and no one expected me to paint anything. Unfortunately, I failed to take pictures, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Before going to the hotel, though, I stopped to visit this little guy.

Max is getting so big. But he still melted his Grammy's heart when he reached for me as I was getting ready to leave.

The 2017 ACFW Conference opened Thursday afternoon with a thought-provoking keynote speech by Randy Alcorn. All I can say is that I will forever look at Heaven in a different light.

Friday morning, it was time to hit the road again for our oldest son’s Aggie Ring Ceremony in College Station, Texas.

Texas A&M is a school steeped in tradition, including their class rings.

Mom (or Dad) puts the ring on the student’s finger, you go to Kyle Field (football stadium) for pictures, and then later you drop said ring into a pitcher of liquid and then chug said liquid until you catch your new ring between your teeth. Since his major in industrial engineering, the boy settled on watered-down lemonade instead of anything carbonated that might make it even more difficult reach the bottom of the pitcher. But Mama didn’t hang around for that part because she had to get back to Dallas.

Most of you know that I always share photos of the amazing meals they serve us at the ACFW Gala. However, this year, the notion of taking any pictures seemed to have slipped my mind. However I did manage to eek out a pic of our AMAZING gala main course.
Best filet mignon EVER. Tender, juicy, seasoned to perfection.

And what is conference without a little craziness among friends?
Georgiana Daniels, it was so much fun to spend time with you.

But all good things must come to an end. So Sunday morning, my luggage and I piled into the car and headed back to the ranch.
You wouldn’t believe how many fun things were waiting for me there. Signs of life.

Things like tile.

Kind of looks like cinder blocks. Until you look closer.
Should look better with some grout.

We now have window casings.

New back doors.
And even interior doors.
All of that deserves some comfort food. Okay, maybe not that stuff, but I sure needed some. And Beckey’s Diner was just the place.
Meet the Monday lunch special – chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, buttered corn and layered salad. Nothing could have been a better cure for post-conference brain.

Now it’s back to the grind where kitchen cabinets are still in limbo and more painting awaits. Along with a renewed vigor for my next story. Whoop!

So what's going on in your neck of the woods this week?


Mindy Obenhaus lives on a ranch in Texas with her husband, the youngest of her five children and two dogs. She's passionate about touching readers with Biblical truths in an entertaining, and sometimes adventurous, manner. When she’s not writing, she enjoys cooking and spending time with her grandchildren. Learn more at www.MindyObenhaus.com 

Monday, September 25, 2017

A Moment of Awe

We live in a beautiful world, don't we?

Jan here, with a vacation report! Last week, hubby and I celebrated our thirty-fifth anniversary by going back in time to live like it was 1982. No computers. No internet. No cell phones (except to turn it on once a day to see if there were any emergencies at home - there weren't). No television. No news.

No distractions.

Nothing except God's world and each other.

We rose above the tops of mountains...

...and peered into the depths of the earth.

We saw jaw-dropping vistas...

...and delicate details.

We saw more wildlife than I could photograph...

...but mostly, we just sat and took it all in.

"These peaks have been called the Cathedral Group...more evident here than
in many of the great cathedrals of men is the gothic note.
It is seen in the profiles of the countless firs and spruces
congregated like worshippers on the lower slopes;
it reappears higher in the converging lines of spire rising beyond spire;
it attains supreme expression in the figures of the peaks themselves that,
towering above all else, with pointed summits direct one's vision
and thoughts yet higher." ~ Fritiof Fryxell

We enjoyed our week in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, and enjoyed the travel from here to there just as much - over the Beartooth Mountains on the way, and through the Big Horns on the way home.

Awesome. Just awesome.

This was our dream trip, a year in the making, and we loved every minute.

Would your dream vacation be to the mountains, the ocean, or somewhere in between?

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Mini pumpkin tarts with Nilla wafer crust = Happy Fall, Y'all!

Hello, everybody! Mary Jane here and  I have a tasty recipe for Fall. I'm a fool for Fall. You know those people who love pumpkin spice everything? Yes? That's me. 

Sometimes I get out the spices and take a whiff of nutmeg or allspice just so I can pretend that cold weather is on the way! Not that I love cold weather, but it's just the season...

Crisp leaves. Frost in the morning. Dark clouds on the horizon. 

Fall is so.... dramatic. 
My writerly heart feels an affinity for the season that's not all sunshine and clear blue sky. 

The spices of fall. Nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. (In this house, we call them "too much cloves" because I can't ever get the measurement right. There's none at all, and then way too much. We just accept that cloves will be "too much" in every dish.)
But before I begin, I have to say this little doggy makes me laugh. He rolls himself up in his favorite blankie when his person leaves him at home. Goodness gracious. Some people have emotional support animals. Our animal has an emotional support person. 
So! Let us begin. Two cups of crushed Nilla wafers, plus 1/4 tsp cinnamon and a dash of "too much cloves".
 Add a few TBS of melted butter and press into a pan.
 Oops, missed a picture but take a can of pure pumpkin puree and add 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/8 tsp cloves, 1/8 tsp nutmeg, and a dash of ginger. Mix well, then add four large eggs to it will bake together. Most recipes have condensed milk, but I have a child who is lactose intolerant so we skip that part. It gives the pie a less custardy feel, which I like, too.
 Bake at 350F for 30 minutes or until done. I let the crusts brown too much but there you go. It's Friday and the 80th birthday of the publication of The Hobbit so we were watching the movie. I remember my dad reading me the series when I was younger than my youngest child, and now I've read the series to them. Bless you, J.R.R. Tolkien, and thank you for the gift of your stories!
 A latte with a dash of bittersweet chocolate is the perfect pairing...
 Happy Fall, everybody!!

 Leaving you with this fun picture I took of a sunflower in my kitchen. (See how the screen made little tiny squares on the leaves?) I hope you find something with pumpkin spice to enjoy, and a few cheerful flowers to brighten your day!

Friday, September 22, 2017

One-Pan Quick Fish Dinner

Missy Tippens

I cooked this week! Twice already! ;) I thought I'd share one quick meal that I threw together the day of a grocery trip where I didn't arrive home until after 6 pm (starving).

Cod fillets (fresh if possible)
Asparagus or other veggies
Olive tapenade (I got mine at the olive bar in the deli section)

Heat some oil in a skillet and toss in the cut asparagus.

Coat the fish in olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper.

Once the asparagus starts to get tender, remove from the pan. Add the fish into the same pan. Add a pat or two of butter just for flavor and to help get nice caramelization.

Sear one side of the fish, and then turn over to sear the other. Then cover the pan to allow the fish to finish cooking. I did maybe a total of 7 or 8 minutes (my fillets were pretty thick).

Right before serving, add the asparagus back in briefly to heat. Then top with the olive tapenade.

Now it's ready to serve! Very tasty!


Thursday, September 21, 2017

Farm Fresh and Small Town Goodness

The beauty of a small town is that you know lots of people... Although our little town has grown, so we don't know everyone!

But being the only Pumpkin Farm on the west side of town has brought so many fun people to our doors! What an absolute pleasure this is.... Hi.

I'm Ruthy and I'm a people person.

Writers who are extroverts/people persons are in short supply. Did you know that? A lot of writers describe themselves as introverts.


I am not introverted... I am somewhat obnoxious at times. I say too much. But I love people!

People are the bread and butter of my stories. Strong personalities, winning smiles, sad looks, stooped shoulders, bent and broken....

oh, I love people and I love a good story.

This past weekend a customer thanked us for a donation to the local food shelf (when we have extra veggies, that's where they go.... then folks who can't afford supermarket prices or have the means to drive 30 minutes to the public market can have farm fresh veggies for dinner.... )

As she described her job, I realized she was a coming heroine. I could totally see the book, the story, her side of it, taking shape. I'm not sure where I'll set it, if it will be part of a series or on its own, but I can see her in my mind's eye...

And that's the bonus of liking people. Sometimes they set up stories for me. Sometimes a bit of music, even one line... sets a story.

The mind is an amazing thing. It's constantly working, and part of that work is sorting through the "drawers" of life as we live it. For some reason, my drawers intersect well and what's happening in the top drawer sometimes is the perfect match for the folded socks of a story in the bottom drawer.

And a story is born.

So right now, with farm work abounding, with nearly 30 DIFFERENT kinds of pumpkins taking over our yard... plus fresh veggies, baked goods, fresh jams.... the writing time is limited to my middle of the night panderings...

But in six weeks, I'm back to normal. In six weeks, the days will be filled with penning the stories I've been thinking about and formulating in my head for the past three months... and while I'm not silly enough to wish my life away, I'm looking forward to that season of quiet for seven months, and more stories on paper.

Having said that, I know that my outside activities feed my brain for those precious writing times... as I see a family, interacting. When grandparents stop by, acting as parents for children's children... Old ladies, grabbing one small acorn squash and two tomatoes...

An old man who used to love my zucchini cake... And who moved to an easy 55+ community in the village (even though he's closing in on 90) but still drives by to grab tomatoes.

When people are the fabric of our life, we weave a whole new reality. I've counseled gay couples on planning a fall wedding and a Muslim family on the joy of writing inspirational and Christian fiction.

God's put amazing opportunities in front of me.


And He knows that as people, as mere humans, we rejoice and we suffer. But how blessed are we to deal with life in a country ripe with opportunity and second chances?

We had ice cream cones for supper tonight. I have no guilt! :)

They were really good.  The kids... and the cones!

I got the kids to the playground, jobs done, customers cared for and chicken in the freezer... and an ice cream cone.It's a good day on the pumpkin farm in the small town. And who can ask for more?

Ruth Logan Herne loves writing beautiful stories that touch the heart... and the soul. You can find her on facebook where she loves to chat with folks... or follow her on Twitter @ruthloganherne... or visit her website ruthloganherne.com. An author of over 40 novels and novellas, Ruth's work is loved by many... and being a people person, she loves them right back!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Eating Simply and Biodynamic Farming

As I slowly eat my way back to a normal diet, I've been eating very simply. The advantage of that is truly appreciating the favors of fresh food simply cooked.

I've become a big fan of Attitude Fraiche. Their salad mixes and  carrots are so fresh and delicious.

So for this meal I simply cooked some carrots, some French green beans and organic chicken. (I'm not usually a fan of chicken, but this was very good.)

Speaking of simple foods...

Reading Ruthy's post last week about farming reminded me of a segment I saw on the Today Show. Maria Shriver was visiting a biodynamic farm in Malibu. I fell in love.

They just published a new cookbook and the opening refers to the deep need society has to reconnect with nature. They refer to "a holistic and harmonious lifestyle" that "is at the heart of One Gun Ranch."

You can watch the Today Show episode here.

The LA Times also did an article on them. One Gun Ranch.

I am so curious about the idea of super soils making the food taste different. I really wish I could taste their produce!

Have you ever noticed a difference in the taste of your food based on the source? I'm spoiled in that I have easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables year round, but the produce they are showing in the video looks even more fresh. I also love that they are giving children a chance to experience the natural life.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Kitchens, Conference and No Cooking

Mindy here, getting ready to make my way back to the Dallas-Ft. Worth area for ACFW’s annual conference, so today's post will be short and sweet.
You know, normally, I can’t wait for ACFW. I anticipate it all year, plan my wardrobe weeks in advance and have everything carefully planned out. This year, though, there’s so much going on with the big house and other stuff that I’m almost finding it hard to break away. I mean, we’ve been in a painting frenzy for the past two weeks and still have plenty more to go.
Now we’re in the process of ordering cabinets, something that has turned out to be much more daunting than I thought it would be.

Oh, and did I mention that I have to breakaway from conference for a day to drive to Texas A&M for our oldest son’s Aggie Ring Ceremony?

Okay, deep breath. In. Out.

Everything will work out just fine. I’ll get to enjoy lots of hugs from those folks I only see once a year and, with any luck, I might even manage to relax. Something my dogs never seem to have a problem with.

Not sure when Maddie took to napping on the hearth, but I guess all that gopher chasing wore her out.
Now it’s your turn. I want to know what you’ve been up to. Are you eagerly anticipating fall? Are you busy, busy, busy or taking things kind of slow?

Mindy Obenhaus lives on a ranch in Texas with her husband, the last of her five children and two dogs. She's passionate about touching readers with Biblical truths in an entertaining, and sometimes adventurous, manner. When she’s not writing, she enjoys cooking and spending time with her grandchildren. Learn more at www.MindyObenhaus.com