Fried Steak and a Cheap Sweater

There is something about a dinner plate filled with fried steak, mashed potatoes, and soft, warm biscuits all topped with creamy (and completely dairy free, made with soymilk) brown gravy. I am one lucky girl.

FYI: The day I married Kevin was the last day I bought beef at any grocery store. His family processes (is this a politically correct statement?!) at least two steers every year, so our freezer is ALWAYS stocked with 100-percent grass-fed beef raised at Kevin’s parent’s place in East Texas. Any fresher and it would still be on the hoof. Literally.

Last night, before going to bed, I set two packages of tenderized beef out to thaw. Before I left for work/school this morning, I put the meat in the fridge. I thought about that meat ALL DAY!!!

During lunch, I ate my sandwich with one hand and surfed the Web with the other. I came across a new blog, The Pioneer Woman, that you MUST visit. This woman, Ree, is really talented. And pretty. And cooks. She married a cowboy. (Score!). She has four beautiful children. (Awesome!) My favorite thing about Ree: she has a basset hound. His name is Charlie. He’s really cute.

Fried Round Steak – PW’s recipe if you want CFS in less than 20 minutes.

Chicken Fried Steak – PW’s recipe if you have a little more time and want something more traditional.

I’ve made chicken fried steak a hundred times, but tonight’s tasted soooo good! I think it was PW’s blog that got me craving CFS delicious-ness long before it was time for the dinner bell. Lucky for me, the afternoon was smooth sailing. Seriously, I did not get stuck in rush hour traffic (it was 5:05 pm when I left Fort Worth), every light was green in Burleson (miracle!), and Kevin was hungry and biting at the bit for something fried and fattening. He’s one lucky man too. 

I am so disappointed and deeply regretful that I did not take a single picture of my culinary creation. I didn’t think about it until I was scraping gravy off my plate with a biscuit and licking my fingers. I’m really sorry. You gotta believe me when I say it was REALLY good.

I did find time to snap some awful-dreadful-pathetic self-portraits of myself in a skirt (I really have legs, contrary to what some of my students believe). I also wore my new Talbot’s sweater. Now, before you get all huffy-puffy about me wearing Talbot’s, let me assure you that it came from their CLEARANCE rack. The only item I buy full price is Charmin ultra-soft toilet paper. The sweater’s original tag price was $119.00 – ouch. Who would pay that for a thin sweater made of cotton? I also bought a pair of dress capri pants (tag price $129) for a cool $11.46. Score another one for this girl!

OK, enough Frugal Frances (hey, that could be a whole other blog or post!!!). Check out these Best of the Terrible Self-Portraits.

I’m glad I could provide you with a good laugh and CFS recipe. I apologize profusely for not taking pictures of supper, I will try better next time. Happy Monday y’all!!!!


Celebrating our wedded bliss

Nicole & Kevin - March 31, 2007

This week, Thursday to be exact, Kevin and I will celebrate our fourth wedding anniversary. We’ve been together eight years, but it seems much longer. We met in a Yahoo! Chat room, long before online matchmaking became popular. Most were skeptical and said we were crazy, but I credit our strong Christian beliefs, similar core values, and honest communication to the success of our relationship. Kevin and I based our long-distance relationship on honesty, trustworthiness, and hope in the future – our future. We were committed to one another from the beginning; we endured the hardships of being apart while being patient with God’s plan in our lives.

Courtesy of The Journal-Enterprise (May 15, 2002)

When we met in June 2003, I was in Kentucky preparing for collegiate golf at Bellarmine University in Louisville. Kevin was an IT supervisor in Dallas, Texas. In 2004, I earned an athletic scholarship to Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. God was making a way for this relationship. A year later, in 2005, I was accepted at Texas A&M University in Commerce, located 30 minutes from Kevin and his family. It was divine intervention.

Courtesy of Chris Owens Photography - Fort Worth, Texas (March 2007)

Today, Kevin and I are living a blessed life near Fort Worth, Texas. He is still in IT and I’m a middle school social studies teacher. Kevin enjoys team roping and I am active at church and enjoy reading, cooking, and blogging. If the weather’s nice, you’ll find us on the front porch with a pitcher of sweet tea or in the pasture with our golf clubs. Occasionally, we’ll challenge each other in a game of “the closest one to the water trough wins.” I usually win.

Kevin makes me laugh every single day; he is my best friend and partner for life. I am forever grateful that KyGolfGirl met TxTeamRoper and married March 31, 2007. God is so good.

Finger-Lickin’ Goodness (Papaw George’s Slopping BBQ Chicken Recipe)

Until I was six years old, I was the only grandchild on my Mom’s side. Still, I am the only granddaughter on both sides. Needless to say, I’m a tiiiiiny bit spoiled. (If you’re just visiting, I’m glad you know this about me and I hope will come again. Please invite your friends! For the rest of you, just roll your eyes and continue reading. Thanks!)

Me & Papaw George April '92 This photo was taken when he received a "Lifetime of Service" award from the American Trucking Association; he died three months later, in July.

My mother’s father died when I was 8 years old, but I have fond memories of my Papaw George. He had a big belly, wore polyester pants and shiny leather boots, drank Bourbon, owned a truck and tire company, enjoyed house-boating, and loved hosting backyard get-togethers with friends and family. My favorite Papaw George recipe is BBQ chicken. I always called this “sloppy chicken” because it was so messy and you weren’t eating it correctly if you didn’t have sauce all over your face, hands, and clothing. But “eternity chicken” could be appropriate, because when you’re hungry it seems like the chicken takes FOREVER to cook!

Papaw always used a charcoal grill and cut-up whole chickens – one reason it took forever to cook on a charcoal grill. Today, I used leg quarters (leg and thigh attached) and cooked the chicken on the grill as well as the oven.  There really is no official recipe with exact measurements or ingredients, but here’s my best attempt  on a family favorite. Note: I used Smart Balance butter (it’s milk-free) and Sweet Baby Ray’s Hickory and Brown Sugar barbecue sauce – you use whatever you prefer!

  1. Preheat oven to 400° and preheat gas grill to medium-high heat.
  2. Add three tablespoons of butter to a large baking dish. Coat the bottom of the dish with your favorite barbecue sauce, approximately one cup. Place baking dish in the preheating oven. The butter will melt as the oven heats, stir at least once.
  3. Meanwhile, season chicken with salt and pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika (for color) and drizzle with olive oil.
  4. Place chicken, skin side down, on grill. Sear 2-3 minutes on each side. Be careful not to burn the chicken and beware of flare-ups.
  5. Remove chicken from grill and transfer to baking dish; cover with foil. Decrease oven to 350° and bake 60 minutes. When 15 minutes remain, uncover dish. I like to turn the chicken at least twice as it bakes, spooning the sauce over all pieces.

Look at those grill marks, I'm the next Bobby Flay!!!

Don’t know about you, but this chicken looks finger-licking good!!!

Hope everybody’s having a great weekend. I have successfully wasted a beautiful and sunny day by staying inside and completing  a month’s worth of lesson plans, laundry, and tweaking Papaw George’s “slopping” chicken recipe. Oh well.



Friday’s Foto: OCEAN

Beachfront Sunrise ~ Riveria Maya, Mexico (July 2009)

I took this photo when I went to Mexico in July 2009 and let me tell you: I was NOT impressed. As you can see in the photo, the beach area sucked. It was rocky and the sand was terrible. Now, before you ask, sand CAN be terrible and this sand was. It was impossible to enjoy the crashing waves because they “crashed” about a half-mile from shore. In order to get to any safe swimming area, one would have had to walk about 100-feet PAST the cabana pier (in the picture above). No thanks.

We (the amigos and amigas on the trip with me!) spent a day on the island of Cozumel and it was awesome and beautiful and just lovely darling!. I loved, loved, LOVED snorkeling. We spent another day perusing Chichen Itza (which I humorously named Chicken Pizza, it sounds better with a Southern accent anyhow), one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. How often do you get to say you have visited one of those? Not often, so I put my big girl panties on and dealt with the crappy beach and warm-water pools.

Me off the coast of Cozumel

Let me set the record straight about the photo above: I did not kill this starfish. Repeat, I did NOT kill the starfish. Our snorkel guide, Fernando, dove to the bottom of the ocean and brought back to the surface two starfish for us vacationers to gawk at. We kept the starfish IN the ocean until the person with the camera was absolutely finger on the button ready to go then SNAP! the picture was taken. I don’t want any animal rights’ activists accusing me of mistreating marine life. It was a Kodak moment, I took the opportunity, I was kind to the starfish, and I hurriedly returned his pointed body back to the sea about 0.2 nano seconds later. End. Of. Story.

My first lunch in Mexico was at good ol' McDonald's. I was glad to get food and air-conditioning. The fact the burger was milk-free was icing on the cake. Just remember, I did NOT eat the fries. Those were savored by other amigos.

There’s a long story that goes with this picture. Let’s just say I was never so glad to see those Golden Arches as I was this particular day in Cancun, Mexico. God bless McDonald’s for providing milk-free options!!!!! (Warning: if you have a milk allergy or are lactose intolerant, do NOT eat the fries at McDonald’s. A milk (casein) powder is added to the potatoes before the perfectly sized fries are formed into the ridiculously famous McDonald’s french fries. See? You learned something new today, didn’t you? You’re welcome.)

Go jealous of this hot babe!!!!!

There are few words to describe the photo above. I will say, however, that you are free to be as jealous as possible of my awesome and smokin’ hot bikini body. (now, let’s all laugh out loud together: ready……set…..LAUGHING!!!!!!!!)

At the end of the day, you gotta be grateful for what you have instead of focusing on the disappointments and let-downs. When I left the crappy beach area, I went to the swimming pool. Now, the water temperature was too warm for my liking but the views weren’t bad and the cabanas were plush. I recommend the king-size bed loungers that are located around the pools. This one here was mine for the week. I would plop (yes, plop) my happy ass on that cabana bed around 7:00 am and leave burnt, crisp and red-as-a-lobster about 7:00 pm. If I couldn’t savor the ocean, dammit, I was going to soak up the sunshine. I went overboard one day and burnt the girls (ladies, you know what I mean). They were a little sore but they healed nicely with extra TLC and aloe vera.

Moral of the story: when life hands you avocados, make guacamole!

What should I read next?

I made a goal in 2010 to read 100 books in a year. While I fell short of that goal, I never became discouraged. Instead, I kept reading every chance I could. Since January, I’ve read some AWESOME books, including RoomA Million Little Pieces, The Help, and This I Believe. For my next title selection, I’m enlisting the help (and feedback) of my blog readers – whomever they are! Please (pretty please!) cast your vote and tell me what I should read.

This poll will close Thursday, March 31, which happens to be my fourth wedding anniversary.


OK, so let me explain this title. Finally, after years of pondering, Husband and I, we think, have created the perfect nickname for me: ROT-10. (Instead of rotten, it’s rot and the number ten. Get it? Yeah? Not really? Whatever. Moving on.) I admit my spoiled-ness, but Kevin is always sure to extenuate the rotten part. He even suggested a personalized license plate for my car. I’m cool with that. (Hey, don’t nobody steal my idea, ya hear?) So, to prove I deserve this nickname, I will explain what I did today.

I woke up this morning with a delightful lover’s glow (I’ve been gone a week, don’t hate) and appointments at two salons: JKS and Deluxe Nail Spa. It’s been six-months-plus since I had had a haircut or brow wax (thank you, Shandee, for trimming my dreadful-and-curly locks from their frizzy hell and my eyebrows, oh my, bless your heart for saving that mess!). To me, a haircut and brow wax is enough pampering for one’s mental health but Husband (that’s what I call him in the privacy of our home, so why change it on the World Wide Web?) encouraged me to “get extra did” at the say-lon (his words, not mine). So, feeling much obliged, and with his credit card, I did. I made an appointment at Deluxe Nail Spa and told the lady I wanted the works, whatever that means. (I honestly do not remember the last time I had a manicure; I believe it was the day before our wedding: March 31, 2007). I was looking forward to the mega-massage chairs this place offers. You can see the extra-large chairs as you drive by, they are THAT big. Turn that puppy on and let me be. Sweet. Bliss.

I’ll be honest…I’m as lost as an Easter egg when it comes to being inside a nail salon. I don’t know the difference between acrylic or acetone (that’s a lie, but it sounds good). However, I know what a French manicure is and I like them. I’m a traditionalist when it comes to nails, nothing crazy or fancy, just simple. And, for goodness sakes, the length of the nail is very important. I’m pretty sure I would be capable of bruising myself in a padded room, but I could cause serious bodily harm with long, sharp nails.

The very nice lady at the front desk tried to explain to me all the options and differences – she had a thick accent that was hard to understand – but it all sounded Greek to me. When she had that expression on her face that said, “So, what’s your choice, Sucker?” I replied with my Polly-Anna smile, “Whatever you suggest!” She smiled with glee and I happily followed her to one of those ginormous massage chairs. She was happy with a juvenile (a.k.a. sucker!) customer and I was happy with my throne that wiggled and giggled my back, neck, and shoulders. 

I was just getting my fat rolls situated when a lady parked her petite self in front of my feet. WHOA! Let me set the record straight here: I am VERY ticklish. I’m also apprehensive because I have callused feet. I played competitive golf for 14 years…walking 36 holes a day in golf shoes in not pedicure-friendly. I was also the child that refused to wear shoes. I remember my Mom fussing at me in church one Sunday because I had somehow left our house without shoes. And, I digress.

While Little Miss was rubbing my feet with gritty-lotion and using a saw-like motion with a tool that looked like a citrus zester, a young man with a tray of nail tips grabbed my hands. EASY THERE, BUDDY! I asked for an explanation and he replied, “You order solar nails, best option for you!” Oh gawd, what have I gotten myself into?! What are solar nails? There’s no time for details because Nail Guy is already glueing three-inch-long tips to my nails. LORD HAVE MERCY! I asked, “umm, are you gonna trim these?” He laughs and says I sound like a gitty teenage girl. He also asked if this is my first time, I hesitantly reply, “yes.” MAMA! Thus, Little Miss continued to scrub my feet (poor thing, I can’t imagine the torture) and Nail Guy kept with his talon-sculpting. Seriously, do humans really wear nails that long?!

I tried to enjoy the massage and pampering, but to be honest, I was too freaked out by the tedious process of solar nail application. Nail Guy dipped a brush into a clear solution, pink powder, then white powder and all I could think was, “oh my, I look like a bad girl.” Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse he got out this drill looking thing and dusted me with nail powder. Ewww.

I think my toes look good, see?

Nail color is OPI Cajun Shrimp

But I’m not so sure about my finger nails. I think they are too short with too much white tip. What do you think?

Husband says he likes my nails and says I should go once a month for a mani/pedi…I like how this man thinks! I’m definitely interested in his sweet offer. In fact, I did some researchin’ this afternoon and found what I think is the length I want to try next…with smaller white tips:

Photo courtesy of

Have you seen the moon tonight? It’s a SUPER moon – whatever that means. I tried to take a couple of pictures, but it’s really windy out tonight and the gas trucks are at the rig behind our house so the extra light is distracting as well. It’s a natural phenomena that hasn’t happened in 20-plus years and won’t happen again for just as long.

So,  there you have it. My “rot-10” nickname and the super-shining moon. Enjoy the rest of the weekend, I plan to. I have thoroughly enjoyed my spring break but, to be frank, I’m not looking forward to Monday. I’m as bad as the students wishing and hoping for summer to arrive.

Signing off,

Rot-10 🙂

#1 – I believe…

…in life’s simple pleasures.

To me, there is nothing more peaceful than holding a sleeping newborn baby — or opening a new box of Crayola crayons — or that moment of weightlessness at takeoff in an airplane — or a meal shared with friends and family.

What’s your simple pleasure?

ROOM – Living (Chapter 5)

ROOM - by Emma Donoghue

as posted on Real Simple’s No-Obligation Book Club website, found here

Living – Chapter Five – left me anxious, but hopeful that things would work out for Ma and Jack. I immediately questioned Grandma’s ability to take care of Jack, even on a temporary basis, because of her restlessness and, in my opinion, her lack of empathy. She seemed to be a fish out of water. It was like she had no idea what to do, or when to do it – simply, Grandma did not know how to handle the situation she suddenly found herself in. Obviously, losing her daughter to a sick-insane-creep (Old Nick) had robbed her of the opportunity to be a mother. I don’t think Grandma knew how to be a grandmother either. That opportunity was taken away from her when Ma was kidnapped. (Some of these questions were answered when I realized Ma was adopted – pp. 298.)

Kathleen, I agree that Jack became a junior philosopher in this chapter. I also believe he continues to be a moral compass for Grandma, who doesn’t seem to accept the truth – or reality – very well. She lied to the Doctor about playing Checkers with Jack, when he was really watching TV. Jack obviously picked up on the lie and he was confused why Grandma would be dishonest. I got frustrated by Grandma trying to portray a better situation than what she was actually experiencing…why? What was she trying to hide? Her daughter and grandson are celebrities now!

I also questioned Grandma’s ability to care for a young child when she and Jack went to the playground and she failed to protect Jack’s sensitive skin with sunscreen. He ultimately burned, yet Grandma argued with the Doctor’s assumption of her providing only “acceptable” care (pp. 275).

I think Jack is getting accustomed to Outside fairly well, even though it seemed, at times, that he was overwhelmed by the vastness of everything. Specificially, I think Jack hit the nail on the head when he said, “In Room, we knowed what everything was called but in the world there’s so much, persons don’t even know the names.” (pp. 267) His tiny little mind – while great with Ma’s teachings inside Room – is trying so hard to grasp things so big and wondurous in Outside! Jack continues to teach us, especially me, that the world is so vast and so big – there are tiny treasures to discover every single day! (What will I discover today?)

Jack continues with his great teachings when he pronounces his love for Walker at the playground and extends his love with a hug. While Grandma is warning Jack against such action, I think Jack is teaching us that love is greater than all things and should be extended to all, without reservation and prejudice. Imagine the world if this happened on a daily basis. Another great a-ha moment for me, courtesy of Jack, was the checklist of things accomplished since entering Outside and a “bucket list” that he and Ma want to do. I think it is a wonderful reminder to all of us to pause for a moment and remember our blessings, to acknowledge that for which we are grateful.

I agree with Bella, too, because I think Ma and Jack are going to be fine in Outside. I was so nervous when they returned to Room. My stomach was in knots thinking that Weirdo-Creep (aka Old Nick) had escaped from jail and would try to capture them again. Hat’s off to Ma and Jack though, I cannot imagine setting foot inside that small space again. I think I stopped breathing when they were inside and saying goodbye to their former possessions. I can understand Ma’s overwhelming emotion and reaction to the moment, I would have gotten sick too!

Thank you, Kathleen, for sharing this wonderful book with me and leading this discussion. This has been one of the best books I’ve read in a long time! I look forward to future book discussions and I’m so grateful to Real Simple for creating this online, no-obligation book club (genius idea!).

Ms. Donoghue: Great job! Wonderful book! Amazing storyline! What was your inspiration? How did you develop the characters? Why did you decide to use Jack’s perspective? Will there be a sequeal? What happened in the court room when Ma faced Old Nick? Was justice served? How does one receive justice when seven years of your life are taken away?

Question for whomever: I try to be as nice neighbor as possible and stay out of other’s business ( I live out in the country and neighbors are few and far between…..BUT ), I can’t help but wonder if (how?) neighbors around Old Nick’s house could NOT have noticed large shrubs hiding an A/C unit and a tech-savvy “storage” building in the backyard. Isn’t that suspicious? Did anyone notice? Did anyone care? Would you have said something? Would you have been curious to know what Old Nick was doing? Would you have reported suspicious behavior to authorities?


No, I’m not pregnant. 

One thing I love most about coming home to Kentucky is seeing familiar faces from long, long ago. Mom and I were in Sureway (that’s a grocery store in this area) yesterday and as I walked through the automatic sliding doors I heard a voice shout, “Oh my gosh, it’s Nicole Marie!” (Do you think it’s strange someone called me by my first and middle name? Personally, I did not find it shocking.) I turn around, but don’t see anybody. I look right, no one there. I look left, then down, and there’s Mrs. R., the secretary of my no-longer-existing elementary school! She gives me the biggest hug she can muster – she’s 4-foot-five and 100 pounds soaked.

According to Mrs. R, I haven’t changed a bit. (Neither has she!) Well, actually, I have. I’m nearly two feet taller and not only have I grown up, but I’ve grown around too. We do the 20-year-life-story-in-10-minutes and suddenly we’re caught up on each other’s lives in an instant. She still lives in the same house, with the same husband, a few old dogs and a couple new ones, plus a few new cats. I live in Texas, married a wonderful man, and teach middle school social studies in Fort Worth. She says I’m heroic for teaching 7th graders but “angelic” for being at a school with almost 1,400 students. Where I grew up and attended elementary school, there were 120 people in the school building — that included students, teachers, Mr. C the janitor/fixer-upper-man, the cooks in the kitchen, and Mrs. N, the principal. Very. Small. School. After I graduated from the sixth grade in 1996, Robards Elementary School was closed a few days later.

ROOM – Chapters 3 and 4 (Dying and After)

ROOM - by Emma Donoghue

Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever read a chapter as quickly as I did Chapter 3 (Dying) – that was an emotional rollercoaster! It literally took my breath away; I was anticipating every positive and negative outcome possible when Ma and Jack were planning (and ultimately implementing) their “Great Escape.” I wondered: would the plan work? Would Old Nick catch Jack faking his illness/death? Would authorities catch Old Nick? Amid these questions, I also wondered why Old Nick was willing to take Jack out of Room – because he had witnessed the stillborn’s death and seemed to have no remorse. What was different about Jack?

Dying, for me, was the fastest 55-pages-read ever! I was engrossed. I could not – would not! – stop reading until I knew, with certainty, that Jack had made it to Outside, safe and sound. Their plan (“Sick, Truck, Hospital, Police, Save Ma”) was genius, it was truly The Great Escape!

Chapter 4 (After) left me nervous and very anxious. I admittedly wanted Room (its control, structure, and routine) back – I know, I’m crazy, right?! Jack’s planned escape was successful, but I think we finally see Ma’s human-ness, rather than her mother-ness. She’s quick to lose patience; quick to lose her temper; and, quick to succumb to the conveniences (and inconveniences) of reality in Outside.
Personally, I caught reflections of my own self during After and realized I lose my patience when things – mostly people – don’t do as I would like, when I would like them too.) Ridicule aside, aren’t we all guilty of Ma’s physical and mental breakdown? Do we not also lose our temper when the weight of the world is too much in a particular moment? I thought it was poignant when Jack said, “I’ve seen the world and I’m tired now.” Outside was too overwhelming for the little guy, and I can’t say I disagree with him – it can be too much to handle at times!

Interesting to me was Ma’s quick diversion to worldly priorities and possessions once she arrived Outside. Even Jack caught notice very quickly when he said, “{Ma would} rather read the paper than sleep with me.” Of course, I also think Jack jumped on the more-more-more wave when Ma asked him to choose five toys and Jack chose six. When is enough enough? We live in a world, in a society, with great abundance, yet humans are rarely content.

Why did Ma tell Jack the story of the isolated monkeys? Is this a foreshadowing trick? Why did Ma (and the medical staff) allow Jack to leave the center for the dinosaur trip? It seemed way too early to me.

The very end of After leaves me curious…and furious. Ma, it seems, has over-dosed on painkillers. Why would she attempt suicide now that she and Jack are in Outside? She’s been so strong, for so long, and she wants to let it all go now? I don’t understand.

Of course I read the last chapter, but I promise not to spoil it for anyone. There was not enough strength to keep me from turning those pages – I was selfish and had to keep reading!!!

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