My Original Mesquite Burgers

This is a winner recipe! I developed these burgers last summer when we had plenty of ground beef in our freezer and were grilling all the time. We’ll be getting another cow butchered next month, so we’ll be fully-stocked with beef once again!

While I typically grill burgers, these are more “tender” and fall apart pretty easily. So I cook them on a skillet inside. Our entire family loves them – even Kyndle – who last summer (at age 3) ate 2 whole burgers+buns in one evening!

Original Mesquite Burgers

  • 2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 4 dashes Worchestershire sauce
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoon McCormick Grill-Mates Mesquite Seasoning
  • 1/2 cup quick oats
  • 1/4 cup Sweet Baby Rays barbecue sauce (substitute sugar-free for THM friendly)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Sliced pepper jack cheese, or whatever cheese you like.

Combine all ingredients (minus cheese) carefully without over mixing. Divide mixture into 8 equal patties. (Usually using a 1/2 c. measuring cup works pretty well.)

Use a spatula to flip patties onto a medium-high hot griddle. After a few minutes, flip over and cook until no longer pink. Add cheese and let set on low heat until cheese is melted. Serve on buns with your favorite toppings.

Last summer when we wanted to head to the lake for the evening, I’d make up these burgers real quick and assemble the burgers on buns with just ketchup. I’d wrap them individually in foil and we enjoyed delicious cheeseburgers when we were ready to eat!

A Special Trip with Shekinah

Shekinah and I went on a long-awaited trip — just the two of us!

Shekinah has been such a blessing for our family. She’s so considerate, helpful and really exemplifies a servant’s heart. I wanted to do something special for her to thank her for all she’s contributed to our family. We planned an overnight trip together and made a list of things we’d like to do during our time away. We started planning it a year ago – but when Covid hit, we waited ’til things were more “normal.”

In January, we finally made it happen! We had such a good time together! We started off our time with going to get our nails done. That was a special treat for both us. We spent lots of time shopping and stopped in at several stores!

Our time at the hotel was really fun! We went to the pool a couple times, colored adult coloring pages while watching TV, and stayed up way too late!!

Shekinah picked out Cheetos for a special snack!

We went out for Mexican for dinner and Chick-Fil-A for lunch the next day. We did some more shopping and then I bought her a Starbucks chai latte for the first time! It was a really special time of making memories as Mother/Daughter!

Of course, back at home, the children and Trent had their own share of fun! They set up the deer blind in the family room … that was too small to sleep in; so they tried the tent. That was too big for the room – so they ended up sleeping on the floor in there!

Never a dull moment!

Busy Morning Routine – 2021 Edition

Mornings have been prime-time for me for quite a while. I still try to accomplish most of my To-Do- list before lunch each day. It seems like I continue to expand the “Must-Do” section of my list, but we’re making it work and getting it all done most days!

I am not an early morning person – so my alarm goes off at 7:45am. We manage to get breakfast, chores, cozy time, exercising, my shower, laundry, piano practiced, and school done with 5 students before lunch time each day. This is how it works:

8:00am – Children’s Breakfast (Cereal, oatmeal, toast, or bagels)

During breakfast, they’ve been playing Telephone or 20 Questions while they eat. Since 2021 began, I’ve been taking these 10-15 minutes of their breakfast time to Exercise. It’s not much; but I’m not in shape, so I’m working at it little by little!

After breakfast, everyone works on their chore list. They’re responsible to have their chores finished by 9:30am. During this time, I will throw in a load of laundry, empty the dish-drainer, drink my coffee, do some dinner prep, take a shower, and get some breakfast.

9:30am – Truman Practices Piano & Shekinah does independent school work.

9:45am – Cozy time

Cozy time is one of my favorite times of the day. We began it in Summer of 2020 when I was wanting to be more intentional about Bible reading and praying with our children. We gather in our living room and get cozy under our blankets. I read aloud for 10-15 minutes. (The Shining Sword by Charles Coleman has been a huge hit.) Then we all read our Bibles individually for 10 minutes. (This is how I get my personal Bible reading in.) After that, we’ll share about what we want to pray for and we pray together. Even though it’s been almost 2 years since we miscarried, Kyndle always wants to pray for Finley to come back. So sweet.

10:15am – Kindergarten & Preschool — I work with Eden first on reading; and then Kyndle joins us and they do their workbooks.

Meanwhile, Shekinah practices her piano and Truman & Liberty work on independent school work.

10:45am – Shekinah, Truman, and Liberty trade places with Eden and Kyndle and it’s time for their school.

I bounce between the three of them as they do Math, English, Spelling, Spanish, Geography, and Reading. (Eden & Kyndle color, play Legos, baby dolls, or with their play-kitchen.)

We typically finish around 12:30pm – Lunch time!

Our afternoons consist of playtime, daily job assignments, working with Trent, playing outside or going on walks, having friends over, getting groceries, purging projects, piano lessons, or preparing for company.

Last fall, I bought a dry-erase marker board and put it on the fridge. Each child has an afternoon “list” to accomplish. Examples that may be in their list are: vacuum carpets, shower, take trash out, clean toilets, put away laundry, clean bedroom, etc. This has been a life-saver. All I have to say is “do your list,” and they erase them when they’re done.

When I think of something that needs to be done, I can assign it to someone’s list and don’t have to constantly pester them with requests. Having purpose/lists/work in their life really helps them play happier too!

It’s always interesting to see how my morning routines change over time as the children transition into different stages. This current routine works really well for me.

I really enjoy putting my focus and heart into my home and am fine with not always being on-the-go to different activities.

Celebrating Kyndle’s 4th Birthday

We celebrated Kyndle Glory’s 4th birthday this winter! Kyndle is a spunky, articulate, hilarious little preschooler. She begs to exercise with me, loves playing baby dolls, and enjoys doing presschool, cooking, having a “list” of jobs to do, coloring, coming up with her own hair-styles, and playing outside. She’s such a special little lady and it’s been so fun to enjoy her personality.

Birthday mornings start out with presents and of course she was wearing her party dress that she’d picked out for her special day.

Baking her birthday dessert (pumpkin muffins) was a special treat for her! She loves to help in the kitchen.

Our little girl… how did she grow up so fast?

Off to their Daddy/Daughter birthday breakfast!

Grammy makes dresses for the girls for their birthdays. Kyndle modeled her new birthday dress and has worn it SO much since then!

I got to take Kyndle out for lunch and shopping on her birthday for the first time! She wanted to go to Bath & Body Works and buy a hand sanitizer holder for her mini bottle. She purchased one with her own money.

Kyndle selected the menu for her birthday dinner. She chose BBQ Pepperoni Mac ‘N Cheese and sugar-free Pumpkin Muffins for her birthday dessert. Only one more year before she’s 5 and gets a birthday cake!!

Don’t grow up too fast baby girl!

Last Quarter of 2020 – Highlights

The last few months of 2020 held some fun and special times for our family. Fall weather is always so inviting and the children loved being outdoors. It’s so rewarding for me to see their creativity in the activities that they come up with. The tepee shown below is one of my favorites – cornstalks, yard tools, and all! 🙂

With the guys spending many days hunting, the girls and I got into many projects around the house. This year we did lots of work outside getting ready for winter. Transplanting and pruning, mulching, washing outdoor furniture cushion covers, putting up garden produce, etc.

We began visiting a new church last fall and have been enjoying that so far.

A notable event that we shouldn’t skip is that we finished and rented out our barn apartment!

Shekinah (our oldest) turned 9! She continues to grow in grace, kindness, servant-hood, and beauty. She has a sweet heart for the Lord, enjoys, cooking, writing letters, and loves a good dance party!

Of course we had back-to-back birthdays and Truman turned 8 the next day! Truman’s handy-man skills and mental abilities continually amaze me! He’s a diligent worker, loves to read, unconsciously sings constantly, and just started taking piano lessons.

We took our first road trip in our new-to-us van in October. We drove through the night and it was so awesome that the children could sleep in the van! (Don’t worry – we were at a stop during this photo and that’s why they’re unbuckled!)

Here they are all crashed for the night!

We were traveling for my uncle’s funeral. We had another trip previously planned to visit Trent’s family – so we combined the two trips. Here I have the van packed for family pictures plus 2 formal funeral events for 7 people! I love the hanging rod Trent installed in the van!

Ready for the funeral…

They always love getting out and cleaning up all of the leaves in the yard.

We visited and explored a reservoir that was empty at the time.

Everyone is constantly wanting to help with meal-prep. Sometimes I lose track of who said they wanted to help first! This will come in VERY handy in a few years!

Liberty turned 7 in December She designed her cupcakes and did a great job decorating them!

Liberty continues to blossom – she’s in 2nd grade and does such a great job in school, is a great helper with Kyndle, loves to play with LEGOS, baby dolls, and her play kitchen. She recently took over the chore of taking care of the chickens every morning. She’s such a sweetie.

December was filled with Christmas festivities. We hosted Trent’s family for Christmas on a Saturday prior to Christmas, we hosted my family for Christmas Eve, and had our own special Christmas morning as a family.

We drove around and looked at Christmas lights, had cozy evenings by the fire, listened to Christmas music, went to other Christmas-related gatherings, and really enjoyed ourselves!

We wrapped up the year with another long road trip over New Year’s to visit extended family.

We ended 2020 with a bang as that trip turned out to be one for the history books! After driving there through the night to beat a snowstorm, Trent proceeded to help a cousin with snow removal for the next 17 hours! The next day, a couple brake lines blew on our van while we were driving and Trent faithfully worked for the next 2 days in below-freezing temperatures to fix them. Meanwhile, one of our cows got out at home for the first time! With adding in a couple repairs for relatives and a major sleep deficit for Trent, he was ready for a vacation when we got home! Thankfully we all stayed safe and healthy and were able to have a really good time with our extended family!

We’re excited for what 2021 has for our family!

Hunting Season 2020

If the guys were writing this post, I’m sure they’d have detailed accounts of their adventures in the woods! Since I wasn’t out there with them, I’ll document the pictures with just a few notes!

After a disappointing 2019 hunting season, 2020 was redemption! The guys ended up bringing home 4 deer and made a ton of memories together!

In the last part of the summer, they went up to the woods to make sure everything was prepped. They moved tree stands, trimmed shooting lanes, and just had fun out in the woods!

Truman (8) has his apprentice license; so he hunted youth season which is at the end of September in our area.

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He shot his first deer – a buck – with a cross bow at 28 yards! They were so excited!

Trent took Shekinah (9) out in November and got a nice big doe. Trent also got another small doe during firearm season.

Trent rounded out firearm season by getting a nice big buck!

Trent butchers all of the deer himself and we wet-age the meat to draw out the blood and the gamey flavor.

Sometimes the sugar straps go straight into the skillet for sampling!

After several days of wet-aging, we process and package the meat. The children love helping out with this – and I’ll gladly take their help – as it’s not my favorite thing to do!

It’s so cool to see Truman gaining experience in the woods and getting lots of time in nature.

To wrap up this post, I thought I’d share this quote…

Family Pictures 2020

Happy New Year from Our Family to Yours!

Shekinah is 9 years old and in 4th grade. She loves caring for her baby doll and has quite the routine of feedings and naps for him! She reads up a storm, thrives when given responsibility, and is becoming quite the kitchen assistant!

Truman is 8 and in 3rd grade. His musical bent has grown increasingly apparent in the last year as he loves playing the piano and is constantly singing. He’s a fabulous construction-assistant to Trent, he treasures his reading time in bed, and loves all things outdoors!

Liberty is 7 and in 2nd grade. She’s really stepping into her “big girl” role and is a great help! She enjoys reading to people, playing LEGOS, caring for her baby dolls, and coloring! She’s becoming more expressive as she becomes older and has quite the dance moves!

Eden is 5 and in Kindergarten. She’s really blossomed in confidence over the past year with learning now to ride her bike without training wheels and doing fabulous in her reading lessons. She always wants to help in the kitchen, loves to snuggle, and has amazing long hair!

Kyndle is (almost) 4 and in preschool. She is Miss Personality and is hilarious! She loves doing her school, playing with her baby dolls, going places with Trent, and uses her play kitchen almost daily!

Happy New Year!

Livestock Barn to Loft Apartment Pt. 2

Here we are with behind-the-scenes photos of our loft apartment conversion!

Every apartment needs to have an entrance – so we installed a new door that would open into a mudroom/utility area.

Framing for the steps…

There were previously no windows on the west wall; so Trent installed to large windows on that side of the apartment.

There was a loft area on the east side of the apartment, but it wouldn’t work with our structural design, so here the guys are disassembling it.

Now we have a blank slate…

There were LOTS of trips up and down the steps with building materials. The children were a great help with transporting the lumber!

Here the basic framing is completed. The ceiling is 16′ tall in the center. There were some scary moments as we worked together – with me high up on a ladder – clinging to the rafters to get those installed!

The children loved hanging out on the construction-site!

We hired a spray-foam company to insulate the entire apartment. Since we left the ceiling exposed, it turned out really well. We encapsulated the entire apartment in the spray-foam to seal off any smells from the livestock barn – and it worked! You would never know there are cows living downstairs!

We also hired a drywall crew to install and finish the drywall.

This is the mudroom/utility area on the first floor.

Getting ready for concrete steps to be poured.

Trent installed a mini-split system for the HVAC and it’s worked out great.

It took about 40 gallons of paint and primer to paint the apartment. With the help of our paint sprayer, Trent was able to get it done in 2 days!

We took a whole day and went shopping as a family for the light fixtures. We found the industrial lights at IKEA and bought the rest at Menards.

Truman painted all the trim for the apartment!

Menards order pick-up has been fabulous! With the Covid stuff, it was so nice to be able to place an order for all of the materials and just drive in an pick them up.

The kitchen taking shape!

Custom railing for the loft…

And here it is all completed! Check out part one for a complete tour.

Livestock Barn to Loft Apartment Conversion – Pt. 1

When we bought our old farmhouse 8 years ago, we saw potential in so many places – including the massive loft in the livestock barn! We went up there and dreamed time and again of how we could make it work as living space. Since we lived in a little apartment behind someone’s house when we first got married, we knew how much of a blessing that space could be.

It was a huge blank canvas. We offered to build it out for different friends of ours to live in; but that never materialized. Once we finished our flip house earlier this spring, we capitalized on the stay-at-home mandate and got to work on renovating the barn loft!

It was so nice to have a project here at home to make TONS of progress on during lock down!

Trent worked steadily on the project for a couple months until his phone started ringing and he went to work on customer’s renovations.

He chipped away at the apartment in between jobs and finished it at the beginning of October.

It really has come such a long way! As you can see, this cattle barn was ROUGH and needed a lot of work!

Now that we have all of the “before” pictures documented, I’ll show you the final product!

In a future post, I’ll give more behind-the-scenes details of the project.

All of the hard work resulted in a 2 bedroom, 1 bath apartment + a reading loft. It’s about 1,000 sq. feet of living space total. The doors on the left and right lead to bedrooms. The stairs go down to the entry/mudroom area, and the hall leads to the bathroom.

The living space is open-concept and quite spacious! Huge vaulted black ceilings and black lighting lend to the industrial look we were going for.

Here’s a view of the living area. (The white support is structural for the original construction.)

The cute little kitchen with a big farmhouse sink!

Here’s the dining nook…

The hall leading to the bathroom – we’ve since installed a ladder to reach the loft.

Nice new bathroom with a big shower.

Each bedroom is a mirror of the other. They both have nice-size closets.

And the ladder is installed!

We’re thrilled to have my sister renting the apartment from us! She started moving things in in October and we’ve loved having her as a fun neighbor!

Stay tuned for more of the story!

Super Simple Roasted Rotel-style Tomatoes

This past summer I finally nailed down my simplest method for making homemade Rotel tomatoes! I don’t know how to can; so I have only frozen our produce so far. This recipe is incredibly do-able and so delicious!

I use Rotel tomatoes in many recipes, so this was a great way to use my surplus of tomatoes and peppers from our garden and stock our freezer with an ingredient that I’ll definitely use!

Ever since I tried making roasted salsa, I’ve played around with this recipe to make it much easier!

The tip I accidentally discovered this year was a game-changer! I had roasted my tomatoes in big chunks with the peppers and onions. I had just pulled them out of the oven when Trent called me out to discuss a building project.

When I came inside, the roasted vegetables were mostly cooled and just warm. I noticed that the peels slipped right off the tomatoes! I took a minute and pulled off all of the peels (which was easy since they were in big chunks). No blanching and ice water required to peel my tomatoes! (I have previously just left the peel on as it doesn’t really bother us. But since this was so easy, I can eliminate them!)

Super Simple Roasted Rotel Tomatoes

  • 12 cups cored Roma tomatoes, halved or quartered (keep in large chunks)
  • 2 large green bell peppers, chopped (or 2 cups chopped mini bell, banana peppers, etc.)
  • 2 Poblano peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 5 small jalepeno peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar (I use 1 T. Pyure stevia)
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons salt (I use Himalayan pink)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a large sheet pan, layer tomatoes, peppers, and onions. Bake for 30-40 minutes until vegetables are somewhat tender and tomato peels are starting to separate.

Pull the pan out of the oven and set on the counter to cool for about an hour. Use your fingers to peel off the tomato skins. Use a spatula with holes on it (so liquid drains) to scoop vegetables into food processor. Blend to desired consistency. Stir in vinegar, sugar, salt, and lemon juice.

Here’s what they look like when I pull them out of the oven.

Divide tomato mixture into 1-cup containers. Chill in the refrigerator and then transfer to the freezer. Yield: 6 cups.

Substitute 1 cup homemade Rotel tomatoes for a 10 oz. can.

While I’m at it, I’ll double the recipe and do 2 sheet pans at a time.

Tuck this recipe away for next summer when you have an abundance of garden-fresh produce! Enjoy!