Sunday, February 27, 2011

My Real Cowboy...

     I want to introduce you to the most important member of our family.  It will be 7 years in June that I've been married to my "real cowboy". His name is Tony and he is one of the strongest, best-hearted men I know.  I met him about 11 years ago when he ran the corral here at the ranch and I was a very young, naive college girl that smiled my best smile when he helped me on my horse. Here at the ranch, we hire based on character instead of skill and that means our "cowboys" aren't exactly coming off the range.  But, Tony was always different. He actually knew what he was doing on a horse. He did have a ranching background, but he still felt more passionate about serving people than he did about serving horses. This is why I told my Granny after coming to the ranch that he was a "real cowboy". 
     He plays many many roles here at the ranch...ranch manager, horse trainer, teacher, counselor, spiritual mentor, daddy, and husband. He LOVES what he gets to be a part of here and it is because of him that we are on this great adventure.  I always describe him as a good man and it doesn't hurt that he looks so dang good in his black cowboy hat.  He loves and serves his Lord with all his heart and he does not shy away from anything.  He's a protector by nature and everything seems ok if he's around. I love you, Tony and you will always be my best friend. Thank you for doing this life with me.
         Tony loves to cook. He cooks for us regularly and he loves to cook for our staff and our guests.  One of the dishes, he's best known for are his stacked enchiladas. So, I thought all of you might enjoy this recipe. Tony would eat mexican food everyday if he was given the option, so I think this recipe best represents my "mexican cowboy".  You also need to know that Tony is not exactly a vegetarian. He cooks animals, he kills animals, and he believes in eating animals. So, this recipe he has actually made with chicken, cow, and deer. They all tasted unbelievable!!!! Straight from Tony's mouth..."it tastes better if it had parents."

Tony's Stacked Enchiladas

4-5 large garlic cloves, crushed
1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tsp salt
tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup balsamic or red wine vinegar
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped roughly
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tbsp cumin
2 1/4 pounds skirt or flank steak, trimmed of fat cut into thirds or 8-inch pieces
Salt and pepper
Corn (preferably mix of blue and white) tortillas or a package of largepre-cooked tostadas
6 cups chili verde (good recipes online or buy at the store) 
yellow bell peppers
red bell peppers
green bell peppers
Mix of white and yellow cheeses of choice

Mix garlic, lime juice, salt, chili powder, red pepper flakes, vinegar, soy sauce, cilantro, dry mustard, and cumin as your marinade and place meat in an air tight container or bag then refrigerate for at least 12 hours

Finally, here is simplest part, the enchiladas:

Preheat oven to 350

Drain the marinade from the beef.  Season liberally with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Grill the steak over medium-high heat and cook for 4 minutes on each side and then transfer to a cutting board and let rest. Depending on the size of your grill pan you may need to cook in batches.  Slice bell peppers and remove seeds and stem.  Place peppers in a lightly oiled skillet and cook to light brown.

If you are using tortillas, use a skillet (preferably cast iron) and put 1 tsp of oil and heat.  Fry tortillas until they become lightly crispy.

Thinly slice the steak against the grain on a diagonal.

Assembly:  stack tortillas with beef and peppers up to three stacks on an oven safe platter; cover in chili verde and cheese then place in oven until sauce bubbles and cheese begins to brown.

Serve with rice, beans, or any sides that you like.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Helen's Dead!

      Those of you familiar with Lost Valley Ranch know about our closest climb...Helen's Rock(pictured above). This is the rock where you make it to the top in a quick 20 minutes and then get to hear a 30 minute story about how Helen's Rock became Helen's Rock. To make a really long story short, it involves a two-timing man, two jealous women, calcified manure, a volcano, and Bob Barker...I know, don't ask. Well, no matter who tells the story and how different each interpretation is, the ending is always the same...Helen dies!!!
       We have two female wranglers right now, Kellie and Chelsea, and they decided to plan a whole evening around this story and finally solve the mystery of who killed Helen. Have any of you ever been to a "Murder Mystery" party? We had the best time!!! On this particular night, we did not have any guests, so we were able to do it in our dining room. We each dressed up as a different character and competed as tables. We gathered clues throughout the dinner (even the menu was part of the mystery) and then made our accusations at the end of the meal. These particular girls are so creative and are so gifted at organizing fun events for our staff and this night proved no different, so thank you, Kellie and Chelsea for serving the staff so well!

My husband, the volcano and my son, the calcified manure.

Another piece of manure...cute manure, huh?

        These nights are the memorable ones. When I was a Lost Valley staff girl, it was the spontaneous bear hunts, jam sessions in the dining room, and random dance parties in the girls' bunk house that I remember. I am just thankful that our staff still have no cell phone coverage, no television, and they still live an hour and a half from civilization. And what's even more amazing they don't seem to mind. I have learned to appreciate the simplicity of our lives, and even though all of you out there in the world of instant communication hate that we don't have cell phones, here in the valley we adjust and learn to do without. Instead, we get to enjoy solving a murder of a make-believe person whose remains are supposedly buried under a rock...memorable, right?

Monday, February 14, 2011

"My Becca Boo"

    You might have clicked on my "Family" button and been slightly disappointed to find nothing there. Well, I want to pay tribute to my dear family one person at a time. My first introduction is my first born child, Rebecca Grace. She has blessed our lives for four years now and I can't even remember life without her. She has the most tender, yet tenacious spirit. She desires to "mother" everyone from the dogs on the ranch to her own Mom. She is one of those children that remembers EVERYTHING! She is super sharp and loves to learn. (I'm sure I will be blogging soon about my homeschooling endeavors.) She loves being around people and because we are in the guest ranching industry, it is helpful that she is such an extrovert. Her dimples can brighten anyone's day and she does that for our guests and staff regularly. Becca is the perfect big sister, and as she learns to love and nurture her little brothers, I know she will be a great pace setter for both of them. Becca is "uniquely created" and is a living testament to the goodness of her Creator. 

      Last Friday, my sweet "Becca Boo" had her 4th birthday and to celebrate I had three of her friends from our Bible Study drive an hour and a half up here to have a tea party. We did have to reschedule three times because of snow, but we finally got to have our very girly tea party with four 4-5 year old little girls. 
     The girls arrived and they played dress up for about an hour, picking out the perfect dress, putting on accessories, getting their makeup done, and then making their own crowns.  They sat down for the tea party where I had placed "princess" books and "princess" bracelets at each place setting. I had fresh flowers with cute suckers sticking out and served peanut butter and jelly/peanut butter and honey sandwiches cut out in flower, butterfly, and heart shapes.  I could not believe how easy this little party was to make special. Our girls sat down and instead of whining about not getting to eat dessert yet, they served each other tea and had real conversations about the treats on the table. They sat there for about 45 minutes and we could not get over the transformation from little rugrats to proper princesses.
Make up for the princesses.

Making crowns for the princesses.

And our tea party!

You also need to understand one of the many perks of guest ranching...our very own pastry chef!!! Lost Valley has had the same pastry chef for the last year and she is so gifted.  Rachelle is a dear friend and has a passion for cakes.  She makes a special cake for each of my kid's birthdays and this one "took the cake".  Becca not only got to dress up as Snow White, she got to eat Snow White. Thank you, Rachelle! It's worth a stay at Lost Valley just to experience her desserts!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Spring Cleaning

     So every February about this time our staff ladies pull out every sponge, broom, mop, and even toothbrush to get our cabins back to our 4 diamond standard.  The ranch closes after Thanksgiving and our opening day this year is Feb 17th. I am not able to participate like I use to (each baby I have makes that a little bit more difficult) but I am confident to say that it is one of the hardest jobs and rewarding jobs all at the same time.  The motto of spring cleaning is "NOTHING in our cabins goes untouched" and so everything from behind the couch to every square inch of the  ceiling, our faithful cabin girls clean it.
        These girls are truly my heroes on the ranch! Our cabin girls are the "invisible busy bees".  One of my favorite parts of staying in a hotel is the fact that I am not responsible for cleaning it. These are the girls that actually make that possible here at the ranch. They make sure that every bed is made perfectly, every toilet is clean, and are always looking for any way to make our guests feel more at home.  I am always reminding our cabin girls that they are learning life skills...they are learning to be servants, learning the meaning of hard work, and are learning to do it without much glory. They are the girls that my little girl is all ready emulating and I love that she does.  I thought you might want to see what goes into getting our cabins up and running and meet our cute staff ladies that make this happen.  Thank you girls for working so hard, but most of all thank you for having such a good time doing it! You are my heroes!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Just a few introductions...

     I'm watching snow fall outside, the kids are asleep, and I'm cooking a big pot of soup for some of my favorite people on the ranch. Today, I thought I would introduce you to my creamy chicken enchilada soup and at the same time, to our management team at Lost Valley Ranch. The soup first...this is the easiest and yummiest soup that I use regularly to feed the armies. I am giving you the recipe that I am cooking right now for 7-8 people with leftovers in mind, but you can modify as you see fit for your family.

2 garlic cloves
2 lbs. of Velveeta
1 can of sweet corn
1 can of black beans
1 can of refried beans
12 corn tortillas
2 rotisserie chickens (or 6-7 cooked chicken breasts)
2 small cans of green chilis
1 can of Rotel
1 32 oz chicken broth

I use rotisserie chickens because I was lazy but use whatever you wish. I cut the corn tortillas in thin strips and then dump all the ingredients in a big pot, including the corn tortillas. I simmered for about 2 hours and then served...easy enough!  Serve with chopped cilantro, chips, pico, and sour cream. It is always a hit and my kids love it!

      Now about the people who devoured this soup. Tony and I arrived back on the ranch as a family almost 4 years ago. We quickly realized that we would be depending on the other married couples that live out here as life support for our own marriage. They are our management team and are the decision makers out here. We try to get together about once a week to touch base and discuss any ranch issues.

        Bob and Karen Foster are the owners and the ranch has been under their family name for 50 years, yes, they are the pros. Bob is the most amazing guest rancher. He is a problem solver and loves meeting the needs of others. I can't tell you how many times he has solved problems for our family and gone above and beyond our expectations and that is how our guests feel, as well. He is our fearless leader and always sets such a good example by serving our guests so well.  He is also incredible with kids and my kids see him as another "Grandpa" in their lives.  Karen is the lovely blonde who puts up with Bob. She has raised two children on the ranch and still has her sanity.  She's incredibly strong, compassionate, and nurturing.  I have never seen someone like Karen who genuinely loves and welcomes EVERYONE.  I am so thankful for her years of experience on the ranch and I love that I can ask her anything about raising my own kids on the ranch.

       Let me introduce you to Molly and Jeremy McClish. Jeremy is the office manager on the ranch and you have never met anyone who actually LOVES spread sheets like he does. I am so appreciative of his budgeting skills and his desire to steward our resources like he does. He truly does keep this place going.  He has an awesome sense of humor and you just never know what's going to come out of his mouth. He's an incredible father, husband, and leader at the ranch.  Oh Molly, she is my life support. She is the only other young mom on the ranch and we do EVERYTHING together. From crying to laughing to screaming out of insanity sometimes, we make a great team. She is the protective one on the ranch and everyone from staff to guests to her own little boy, Hayes, just feels safer with her around. She is incredibly wise and I know I can come to her about anything. I was here for two years without another mom on the ranch and it has truly changed my life to have Molly here at Lost Valley.

    I saved the best for last....Jennifer Hamilton. She just joined our team of management and I know her insight is going to be priceless. She has served faithfully in just about every aspect of the ranch and knows way more than I do about this place. Besides the Fosters, she is the only one that has been here longer than we have and I don't ever want to imagine life in the Valley without her. She is part of the Warnock family and she is a crucial part.  We are all praying for her future husband but secretly I just want to adopt her. J. Ham, you are so gifted and you are so loved.

These are the people we could not do life without. Thank you to each of you for loving our family so well, serving this ranch so well, and for being you!!!