Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Black Bean Sirloin Chili

Pull out that Dutch oven and get ready to cook. Really ~ make this in a Dutch Oven. If you don't have one, why don't you? Go get one.

I can't let the entire month of January go by without sharing a recipe! I didn't realize that it had been a month since I last posted a recipe so today seems like a good day to remedy that. The wind is howling again and we are going to have to batten down the hatches if it picks up any more. So pull up a chair and join me in the kitchen. I promise I won't make you wash the dishes.

Lots of people turn to soup when the cold chill of January descends upon them. We are no different. Nothing says comfort like a big bowl of hot homemade soup. I make Green Chile Chicken Soup, Taco Soup, a mean Potato Soup, regular Chili, Green Chile Stew, Chicken Noodle Soup, German Hungarian Goulash Soup and this one. I'm sharing this one because it just happens to be what we had for dinner yesterday and I couldn't keep everyone out of the kitchen while I was cooking. The mouth watering aroma brought them from near (the bedrooms) and far (the barn). It's a recipe from a restaurant in Phoenix. No, I've never been to Phoenix, but I found this in a magazine in 1994 and I have made it every year since. This is good stuff folks!
It's not a quick, throw together kind of soup like my Taco Soup, but it is worth the effort. It's great for a simple night at home as well as a wonderful "come on over and have a bowl of soup" kind of meal. Don't be frightened by the lengthy list of ingredients. It's not rocket science and you can do this!

3 Tblsp vegetable oil
2 C chopped onion
1 chopped green pepper
2 Tblsp flour
1 Tblsp minced garlic
1 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp ground red pepper
2 1/2 C water
1/3 C tomato paste
2 cans Black Beans, drained and rinsed
1 can Black-eyed Peas, drained and rinsed
1 can Great Northern Beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 lb bonelss sirloin steak, cubed

*Heat 1 Tblsp oil in Dutch oven over high heat. Add the sirloin steak. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and brown well. Remove to a bowl.

*Heat 2 Tblsp vegetable oil in same Dutch oven over medium heat. Add 2 C. chopped onion and the chopped green pepper. Cook, stirring until tender, about 5-10 minutes.

*Stir in 2 Tblsp flour, minced garlic, 1 tsp each salt and paprika, 1/2 tsp cumin and 1/4 tsp each oregano and ground red pepper. Cook, stirring for a minute or two.

*Stir in 2 1/2 C water, 1/3 c tomato paste, the Black Beans, the Great Northern Beans and the Black-eyed Peas. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes.

*Stir steak into chili and simmer for about 20 minutes...or all day. Just add more water as needed. Oh, and in a pinch I have also just used stew meat.
See, that's all there is to it!

*Serve with chopped green onions, fresh cilantro, shredded cheeses, sour cream and tortilla chips or cornbread.

~Makes 8 cups

I usually end up adding more water. This probably freezes well, but I wouldn't know ~ there's never any left over to freeze!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The North Wind Doth Blow...and Blow...and Blow...

Winnie the Pooh would call it a blustery day. It's our 2nd blustery day with another scheduled for tomorrow and it shows no signs of calming down. Sure hope it's not a sign of a windy spring. We generally have quite a bit of it in the spring. Someone needs to clue in the wind that it's arrival is a bit premature this year. Last time I checked, January didn't qualify as spring, but then I am always the last one to hear about any scheduled (or unscheduled) changes.

This is what happend the last time the wind blew although last time it was accompanied by rain and rain is something we NEVER complain about here. We have huge trees in the yard and I did have to shed a tear for the loss of the many big limbs that were scattered about.

And the time before that:

I'll try to dig up the piece I wrote that corresponds with the above photo later today.

I actually have no reason to gripe. I'm sitting here in the warmth of the cozy house, nursing a cup of hot tea while DH is out battling the elements. Unfortunately, I too will be heading out into the cold, cruel world a bit later. DD has her piano lesson and thus it's the day we tend to all of our errands and that means a trip to town. Ick!

Did I ever mention that I don't like town? I'm certain that I have and I'm pretty sure I'll mention it again in future ramblings. Alas, trips into town are the price I have to pay if we want to eat and since I LOVE to eat and my family will rebel when they face bare pantry shelves, I will bear the burden of enduring the traffic and dodging the crowds. I will bring home delectable things to cook and bake, splurge on chocolate (town=stress and chocolate will help to alleviate that, but I'm sure you already knew that!) and hopefully leave the bronchitis germs in town.

Our old faithful truck has a date with the mechanic too. The 4-wheel drive will not engage. Apparently I am the cause of this. I was reminded of the time I took some friends to the backside of the ranch to an old fishing hole and I fell off into a hole, or ran into something, or ran over a spot I wasn't supposed to run over or stuck my tongue out the wrong way.

Hmmm...funny...I don't remember that.

So, since we hope to take a family skiing trip next month, it would probably be a good idea if the 4-wheel drive operated.

If the mechanic asks me what happened I will plead the 5th.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Yes ~ Finally! First Photos With My New Digital SLR

Ok ~ I have heeded your requests. I am finally getting acquainted with my new camera. I ventured out this afternoon, even passing up a Sunday afternoon nap, in an attempt to capture something worth sharing. Y'all aren't any more patient than I am!

I didn't capture anything spectacular, but I did reclaim my spot behind the camera and it felt like catching up with an old friend. It felt so good to get back behind the lens. I did learn that I need a bigger card ~ I'm using my old 256 card and while it held over 400 photos in my old camera, it only holds 72 in this new one. That's not going to cut it. I want to start shooting in RAW mode and those files are huge.

So this is what I captured this afternoon. I've still got so much to learn, but I can't wait to really learn about all the modes and settings this camera has hidden away. These are just straight out of the camera.
Who says that a dog is man's best friend?
I am loving my zoom lens!
I think I want to play around with this one and convert it to sepia:

Yes, I am posting a photo of a fence post and barbed wire. I was working on my assignment for the photography class I'm working through and I was playing with aperture:

A moment between friends:

I really liked the composition and color in this shot:


Now that I have taken the plunge, I can start stalking everyone again!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Apologies and Excuses

Last night we attended Cowboy Church and I was chastised by a dear friend who let me know that I had been remiss in tending to my blogging responsibility.

Guilty as charged.

Thus I come here this morning with remorse, a sincere apology and a plethora of excuses.

Excuse #1: I have heard that time speeds up as you get older and I recently celebrated a birthday. Thus, I blinked and a day...a week...a month...a year (take your pick) disappeared. I will be using this excuse repetitively.

Excuse #2 : We homeschool 2 teenagers. Thus, I have been drowning in SAT and ACT preparations and navigating the waters of Molecular Biology (well, actually molecules and Biology, but I just loved the way Molecular Biology sounded. Do I get brownie points for being honest?)

Excuse #3: We spent an evening with friends who introduced us to a South African safari guide and thus, I almost jumped on the plane with him. I should probably elaborate on this one.

Or maybe not. Maybe I'll just keep you in suspense...

Suffice it to say, I would have taken DH along ~ and my camera. The flight would be long enough that I just might have it all figured out by the time we reached South Africa.

Excuse #4: My new camera ~ I LOVE it! However, I signed up for an online photography course and I am juggling this new language and way of thinking. Point and shoot was so much easier!

Excuse #5: I spent one day with 3 friends ~one of them being the friend who is responsible for this post ;) and I introduced them to the world of scrapbooking. I warned you all that it was addictive!

Excuse #6 We have started on long-overdue and sadly neglected home improvement projects. I love to read before falling asleep and who knew that the Complete Drywall Book was so riveting?!

Excuse #7 I have been vacuuming ~ a lot! Yes that is an excuse. I bought the Dyson Absolute Animal. My only regret is not bringing this animal home sooner. Oh my goodness! Words can not describe this machine. I will not go into detail because it is simply too horrendous to describe and you do not want to know how much dirt this thing is eating. It is worth every penny. Love, love, love it!

Excuse #8 My family didn't take too kindly to the idea that I needed to blog instead of cook.

So there you have it. Am I forgiven?

Friday, January 18, 2008

In Search of a Comforter

I have a habit of holding on to things. I keep things I love forever.

Example: I didn't want a new camera. I loved my camera, but it quit working.

Example: We drive a 9 yr old F-250 deisel with 189,000 miles on it. I don't want a new one. I love this old truck and I hope it continues to haul us up and down the road for many more years to come.

Example: I love the comforter that covers my bed. However, it has seen better days.

Through the years it has been party to hundreds of books read aloud until I am hoarse.

It has kept us warm on those frozen winter nights.

It has welcomed many a small child into it's warmth in the middle of the night when only the spot between Mommy and Daddy will do.

It has been the place we dive under to read the next installment of Summer With the Monkey's by flashlight.

It has been the place we all gather to visit before going to bed. Often DH will come in the bedroom to crawl into bed and find DS and DD and I curled up and deep in conversation.

He grins and starts teasing and tickling toes in hopes of reclaiming his bed. It is 16 years old and ready for retirement. It is worn and threadbare and the batting is showing in many spots. Dh informed me that it is time for it to go. I knew this day was coming and I have looked for a replacement every now and then. No luck. Maybe I am just being picky. This happens a lot. If we need something, I will seach and search and search some more before making a choice. I would rather go without than settle for something that I just kind of like, but once I find exactly what I want, I will have it and love it forever.

So now I must step up my quest and get something else. Something that looks good with our oak bedroom set (this too took forever to find. We searched the entire state of Texas and New Mexico. We've had it for 16 years and I love it as much as the day I bought it.) Something in earth tones with a dark red and maybe green. My birthday is coming up and my parents sent me some money so I think I'll get myself a comforter. I spent much too much time hunting on the internet last night and I printed a few possibilities out for DH to look at this morning. He said he was leaving it all up to me. Sigh. I just wanted a little input.
So I think I have narrowed it down to 3 choices:

Think I'll just print off all three, scrunch them into balls and let the cat choose.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

3rd Installment From My Old Faithful Friend

Still on the fence about the new camera. I don't actually think it's the camera. I think it's ME getting used to a digital SLR. I was very comfortable with my advanced point and shoot. Now I am being tossed into the sea of aperatures and white balance modes and I am doggie paddling my way across the waters. So please be patient with me.

As promised, here is the 3rd installment from my old faithful camera:

Thought this was kind of a neat shot of DH and DS shooting shotgun one afternoon in January. Just liked the way the clay bird is flying off into the air:

We love to fish and one early morning as we arrived at the dirt tank before the sun made it's appearance, I found this little guy perched at the edge of the water:

DS and DD sledding with the 4-wheeler. Don't remember ever laughing as hard as I did on this day. Oh, my goodness! Just too much fun!

These next few are from Spring branding. It's one of the busiest times of the year for us. Everyone puts in long, long hours. It's a lot of work, but there's always a lot of teasing and laughter amongst the crew and we look forward to it all year:

DS who is 6'3 has become the designated flanker:

Might be easier to help Dad up if you weren't laughing so hard dear (yes, her legs are really as long as they look!):

We always have an abundant supply of kittens and although they should be just ordinary barn cats, we somehow become attached to them. No, this one does not live inside. She just seemed to gravitate towards the piano when the kids brought her in for a few minutes:

The view from my kitchen window leaves much to be desired, however, it's where the kittens seem to congregate in the spring and they are always entertaining to watch:

Snapped this photo of DS when he was starting one of the colts:

Someone is feeling a bit frisky this morning:

I love watching DH shoe horses. Doesn't sound very exciting, but he's so amazingly good at what he does and I am fascinated by the way he works:

Another shot of DD in her favorite place~ the back of a horse:

Couldn't keep myself from stalking the horses on this beautiful afternoon. I clammored over fences and waded through mud to reach them:

and once I did...

They crossed to the other side:

What do cowboys do for fun? They participate in Ranch Rodeos...

because roping is in their blood:

and there's always room for a good hand on a team:

Now this cowboy's wife must bid you all good night. Morning will be arriving shortly and I will regret staying up this late.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

I Have a Camera...Maybe....

Nope. I haven't fallen off the face of the earth! I've just been spending every waking moment in the deep, dark crevices of camera-land.

Yes, I have a camera in my hand, but it's not one I had on my short list and I'm still undecided about whether this is "the one".

Let's rewind a bit.

I have read everything I can get my hands on in respect to cameras and I was leaning towards the Nikon D80.

This weekend found us in Ft. Worth. DH and DS were sucked into the Dallas Safari Club Expo and Convention and I had no way of knowing when they would surface.

So, with my SIL, DD and a carload of kids, we hit the town.

Note to self. Do not attempt to shop for cameras with children.

First stop. Best Buy. Nothing there. The sales people weren't very well-versed in what they were selling.

Next stop. Arlington Camera Center. Now I felt like a kid in a candy store! Only one problem ~ too many selections.

These people were specialized in their field though and they were more than kind and helpful.

I have only comtemplated Canon or Nikon up to this point and I ended up walking out with an Olympus E-510.

I'm not quite certain how that happened. I have to say that they listened to my wants and needs:

I often shoot in a dusty environment.
I tend to shoot from the top of a fence, trailer or gate with one arm wrapped around a pole.
I need a zoom lens.
I shoot a lot of cowboys roping, working cattle, horses and kids.
This will be my first digital SLR.
Picture quality is important to me.

They sent me home with the Olympus. I trust their judgement, but I hadn't even considered Olympus. It was much less expensive than the other cameras I had been drooling over so I don't think they were just trying to make a sale. They could have easily sold me a much more expensive system.

I told them I was unsure and they made me an offer: Take it home. Use it. If you don't like it, send it back. We want you to be happy with it. E-mail us the photos you take with it.

Penny and Paul ~ you've got a deal! I'll tell you that they've got my business. Don't know if I'll like it or not, but either way, they have made a sale and I will buy from them.

Things I LOVE about this camera:

*It's got a wonderful Dust Reduction System
*It has a great Image Stabilization System built into the body, thus eliminating the need to
purchase the more expensive lenses with the stabilization system and the lenses are
lighter and more compact.
*Olympus optics are top notch and they are first in the medical field and NASA .
*Love that it has a calendar view that allows you to browse your photos by the date they were
*Good battery life.
*Feels good in my hands.
*Live view

Things I'm undecided about:

*The reviews say that the images are not super sharp although they are when you customize
the controls.
*Some shutter lag when shooting with live view using the LCD.
*Some complaints about the four-thirds system Olympus uses. I'm still researching this. I know
that there are not a ton of options in lenses, but there are certainly more than I could
ever use.
*Takes a long time to recharge batteries.

All the cameras I have researched (that are in my price range) say that everything can be fixed with photo editing software. I have a problem with that. I want great shots out of the camera. I don't want to sit in front of a computer and fix my pictures.

Well, I think I just need to get out and shoot with it before I really make a decision so as soon as the temperature rises above 30 degrees, I'll head out.

I feel guilty for not having any photos to share so I'll round a few up from last year and post tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Favorite Photos ~ Part 2

Here's the next batch of some of my favorite photos captured with my recently departed camera. These are from 2004 and 2005:

Or not!

Hmmm...can't get these to load. Let me try this again.

And again...

Once more...

Nope. Grrr....

Well somebody woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning and it wasn't me! Silly computer!

Hey ~ don't leave! It finally decided to cooperate! Yippee!

This first photo is of DD in her favorite reading spot last spring. I'll have to dig out the scrapbook page I did of this. She would haul the big ladder over to the tree and nestle in with her favorite book (Texas Doc) and a pillow for hours.
Here's a photo of DH relaxing (he does that on occasion ~ rarely, but on occassion). We love to shoot trap and skeet:

This is DD and our little doggie calf, Daisy, in '06. I took a whole series of pictures and made a layout for her scrapbook (DD's scrapbook. Not Daisy's! I'm not that crazy!)

More please!

We have this really cool cat ~ Sylvester. He's been a cool cat since he was a kitten. I would always find him lounging about in the bird feeders:

This was his favorite napping spot:

Sylvester again ~ sorry. I just end up finding him in funny spots. Honestly, he just loved to crawl into this old chicken feeder:

Last one of Sylvester ~ I promise! I've gotta give the kids and DH a break from being hounded by me and my camera once in a while! Last year when we finally threw out the Christmas wreath (it was a fresh wreath) I walked out and found him in it. Couldn't resist snapping this shot:

Took this one in the summer of '06 when we were coming back from visiting my folks. The kids humored me when I wanted to stop at a wildseed farm. See, they ended up having fun and we had some of the best fresh peach ice cream we've ever had ~ yum!

This was taken during the prayer at one of the Ranch Rodeos DH participates in. Can't wait to get my new camera though ~ Ranch Rodeo pictures were hard to shoot with this one:

Here's DD with her new colt, Gunner. His head isn't very pretty here, but I LOVE this shot! He's a gorgeous little thing now.

Here's DH in the tack room mending a set of reins. He does not like to have his picture taken, but he's a good sport about his crazy wife and her camera addiction:

The tack room door:

DS working with one of the colts he started:

This is what we do before church on Sunday morning:

Working with our mule, Bonnie. Apparently she had other ideas for this Sunday morning:

I love this picture! It's as if she's asking, "What's the problem? Who, me?! I didn't do anything!"

I really do miss my mountains, but there are some amazing sunrises and sunsets here! I snapped these the morning after we came back home from a Ranch Rodeo in Texas in Augist of '06. It had been a dry year and we came back home to a torrent of rain ~ a huge blessing! This is the dirt tank behind the house.

A lone tree on this flat desert:

One more from a different direction:

Stopped at the side of the road (yes, I'm one of those people!) one fall evening as we were driving in for a Shooting Sports practice and hoped to capture the colors in this sunset:

Sorry about posting so many. I tend to get carried away when it comes to photos. Thanks for indulging me!

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