The familiarity of gratitude


I dreamed last night that I woke up  in a different life, one I couldn’t remember creating for myself. In the dream I wondered out loud who these people were and how I got there. I tried to appreciate it, but I felt so disjointed and out of place. I didn’t feel in-love or rested. I didn’t feel like I belonged in the house they said was mine with a man I didn’t really know.

And then, slowly, I remembered a man I used to know. The man who, in this dream, was once my husband. I grabbed my phone of my nightstand and struggled to find his phone number, fumbling and mis-dialing in the frustrating way you do in dreams, like when you’re trying to run but it feels like your feet are anchored in mud.

In this dream, when I finally heard his voic  on the other line, I said “I miss you.” And then he showed up inside my new house in my weird life and we closed the door on a room I’ve never seen before and I wrote on a piece of paper “Will you take me back?”

And he nodded yes.

And then the alarm started buzzing in the room where I was lying next to him, in my real life, in the dark.  I opened my eyes and breathed a sigh of relief. I had gone to bed disjointed and sort of annoyed with him.

I woke up relieved and grateful he was still next to me.

I wrapped my robe around me and shuffled downstairs to wake up the baby as he pulled his clothes on for work, leaving him standing in the closet buttoning his shirt and smoothing down his hair. I opened the door to our baby’s dark room and reached into her crib to rub her back and pull her up to me, gently coaxing her awake as she snuggled into my shoulder. I said “Wake up, wake up baby!” and she pulled her head away from my shoulder, looked into my face and grinned.

She’s heading to daycare this morning, strapped in the backseat of her daddy’s work pickup, dressed in her pink horse shirt, sucking on her bottle and clutching her favorite blankie, leaving me to tick through work projects and head to town for meetings and pass the time by helping to make some money so that we can all be together at the end of the day, eating and laughing and complaining and worrying together the way families do.

But it will take me all day to shake the feeling of that dream.

Night Sky

As we approach a long weekend, on a day set aside to honor those who have worked and sacrificed for us in the name of country, I hope we can find a place to take a breath in the aftermath of an election that has left our country vibrating with emotion.

Because some of our best work as Americans is done at home and in our communities, loving one another.

And on that note, I’ll leave you with a story about a man in my hometown who misplaced his wallet in the grocery store. When he got the call that it was found, he opened it to find that the person who returned it had added a $20 bill.

That’s simple, unselfish kindness there.

So while I really wanted to challenge you all to unplug and step away from our news streams and news feeds this weekend, what I’d really like to hear are more stories like this. 

Please share them with us in the comments or on my Facebook, Twitter or Instagram pages. Let’s spend the weekend in the familiarity of gratitude.

Peace, Love and weekend Pancakes,



Cowboy Cooks: Garlic Beer Can Chicken and Deep Fried Green Beans

One of Cowboy’s specialties is seasoning. He seasons everything. He stands in front of the spice cabinet while rubbing his chin and saying “hmmmmm…” for a good amount of time before he delves into any kind of grilling or baking or frying recipe. He smells the stuff, he breathes in the aroma, he says “hmmmm…” again….

and then he sharpens his knives…

Yup, Cowboy’s cooking is well thought out. And his knives are sharp.

And so we embark on another four hour cooking project.

Because little sister came home a bit upset that she missed the last Cowboy concoction, so she made a formal request that on this trip she be involved in the process.

So Cowboy began a plan to cook something she might like. And vowed she wouldn’t get away without getting her hands dirty.

And I vowed to make her wear a neckerchief.

Don't worry, she loves it when I do this.

Poor little sister had no idea what she was getting into.

And after a good nine hours on a train in the middle of a blizzard with no sleep and a “few” drinks the night before, little sister may have very well relinquished her request if she could, but Cowboy made good on his promise to teach this young woman a thing or two about seasoning…

…and how to really cook in college.

Because the following recipe was developed and tested tried and true while Cowboy was earning what some call an education.

Yup, this little masterpiece would hang out on a low heat grill for up to six hours, seasoned to perfection, while Cowboy and his roommate….er…studied…taking breaks to check the moisture of the meat, to baste, to monitor.

And this process worked really well for them, because as soon as their studying was done, as soon as they knew everything there was to know about philosophy or psychology or introduction to walking, the chicken was there waiting for them…

Or maybe it went more like — as soon as they were nice and toasted, so was the chicken.

I think that sounds more like the truth.

Speaking of toasty, let’s begin with the warm up:

Cowboy’s beverage of choice on a cold day…

…and mine. As you can see, I’ve come prepared.

And little sister?

Yeah, little sister figured she had enough the night before.

Ok, now that we’re all settled in, I present to you…

The chicken:

Step One: Pre-heat

Here is where I would like to tell you to get up in the morning, have some coffee with a splash of Bailey’s,  pre-heat the grill to 225 degrees and be prepared to hang around and hem and haw over the bird for a good six hours in the warm sunshine. And it will be worth it.

But this is what we’re dealing with on this blustery, November day in North Dakota.

And by blustery, I mean, with the wind chill,  20 degrees below zero.

Ain’t no body grillin’ today.

So we improvised.

And preheated the oven, located inside our cozy abode, to 350.

Now for the ingredients:

Chicken Rub:

  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 cup Olive Oil
  • 1 pinch Basil
  • 2 pinches Poultry Seasoning
  • 2 pinches Weatherford Famous Seasoning (Cowboy says: “Not sure what in it, but that shit ‘s good)
  • Sprinkle of Celery Salt
  • Seven grinder twists of Garlic Sea Salt
  • Sprinkle Dillweed  (the seasoning, not your uncle Bob)
  • 1 pinch Lemon Pepper
  • 2 pinches Parsley
  • 1 pinch Ground Bell Pepper
  • Sprinkle Cayenne Pepper
  • 2 pinches Rosemary
  • 1 secret ingredient (shhh, I’ll tell you about it later)


  • 1 tired, travel weary little sister
  • 1 woman with a camera and a growling stomach
  • 1 Cowboy
  • 1 blizzard
  • 2 neckerchiefs
  • 1 tiny house
  • and a couple dogs

Step 2: The Chicken Rub

  • Mince  garlic and  onion and place in small bowl

Woah those little ones are rank…

Keep it together girl, Cowboy’s don’t cry.

  • Add  extra virgin olive to the garlic and onion mix

And if that doesn’t look delicious enough, I have to tell you what happened next…

..trying to hide his secret ingredient, Cowboy snuck behind my back and added two tablespoons of melted butter to the mix as well…still a little reluctant to fully expose his methods in the kitchen.

I yelled “Stop! You must tell the people what you do! You must tell them everything!”

Cowboy replied, “Can’t I have any secrets?”

I hollered, “No! No! There are no secrets from me. There are no secrets from them. There are no secrets you can keep!”

Little sister worried about our marriage falling apart before her eyes and blurted, “Oh, look at the pretty horses out the window.”

So I did…

And so did Cowboy…

Then all was right with the world again, so he gave in and agreed about the secret thing…

…but not before giving me this look.

…sometimes I get this look.


I hate this look.

But I must fight to give the people what they want. I must fight to win. So it’s worth it.

Ok, moving on.

  • Now add the rest of the seasonings to the garlic, yellow onion, olive oil and BUTTER mixture

(Just a note, the above seasoning measurements do not have to be precise. Cowboy doesn’t use measuring spoons and you don’t have to either. Just do what feels right…and smells right)

  • Now mix the concoction with your hands so you’ll be mistaken for a grilled chicken for two to three days—a great way to attract manly men. Little sis can thank me at the wedding

Now it’s time to rub that chicken up.

There she is, just waiting for her rub down.....(sorry, that was inappropriate)

  • Grab the bird and separate the skin from the meat and, using your hand, thoroughly, and surprisingly violently, shove the spice rub in there like so:

  • Rub the outside and inside of the chicken with the mix as well

Little sister has never been more thankful for being spared of a task…

Step 3: Time for the beer:

First, when your little sister asks the following question…

“What does the beer do for the chicken?”

…you must answer…

“It’s for moisture…it gives it a little bit of taste…”

And then you can continue

  • Crack open a can of your favorite beer. It doesn’t have to be camouflage Busch, but apparently that is our flavor of choice

  • The can should only be about ½ or ¾ full. And to get it that way, you know what to do.

Cowboy says: “If you accidentally drink too much, which can happen from time to time, don’t worry ‘bout it. Just open a new beer and repeat.”

  • Take the tab off the beer for the Ronald McDonald house
  • Place beer on the special beer can chicken rack, which is made for this sort of thing.

Cowboy speaks again: “If you don’t own a beer can chicken rack,  you sure as shit can weld one up quick-like….if you’re a real redneck…I mean cowboy….just bend some iron, use barbed wire, you know, that sort of thing.”

  • Place the unsuspecting chicken on the beer can like so:

Poor innocent, so trusting...she never saw it coming...

  • And now another secret…more butter. Add another 2 tbsp of butter between the meat and the skin of the bird

Now to cook the thing….which requires a bit of explanation, because, like I said, if this were a summer day and not the middle of a blizzard, we would put the bird on the grill in the morning and cook it all day on low while we basked in the summer sun with a few beers of our own while we waited happily for about 5 to 6 hours.

It would be a major ordeal.

A holiday.

An event it itself.

But here, because of the cold and the time restraints, we baked the chicken on 350 for about 3 hours.

Here’s a link that explains how long to cook a chicken based on how big your bird is. Chicken Cook Time

I'LL see YOU later.

So Cowboy waits for his beer can chicken.

In the cold of November.

In the house.

And while he waits, he deep fat fries things….

Like these homemade potato chips for the guests while they wait…

Yeah, he just whipped those up.

But we must stay on task…

On to the next part of our meal.

Step 4: The Green Beans (how Cowboy gets his vegetables…deep fried and golden)


Now you must answer another question as sister decides she feels well enough for a small drink:

“How many green beans are there?”

“In the world? A billion”

“No, in this bag.”

“Oh, I don’t know, a few big handfuls.”

Ok then,

  • A few big handfuls of fresh green beans with the ends removed
  • 4 cups pretzels
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 ½ tbsp Weatherford Famous Seasoning
  • 1 tbsp Tony’s Seasoning (Cowboy’s Favorite)
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup cream or milk
  • Frying oil

Now get out that deep fryer you’ve been dying to use (or you can use a frying pan with deep sides as well) and make sure your oil is hot and sizzley, about 350 degrees.

  • Clean and prep the green beans
  • Dump the pretzels on the counter and crush with a rolling pin. (You didn’t think Cowboy would get through this entire dinner without using a rolling pin did ya? )

  • Place pretzels in a medium bowl and add the flour. Mix together.

  • Add the Weatherford Seasoning and the Tony’s Seasoning to the mix

  • In a separate bowl, crack two eggs and add the cream or milk and whisk (or fork…you know the drill)

Now all is prepared and right with the world and you my begin the assembly line:

  • Dip a handful of green beans in the egg and cream mix…

  • then dip in the pretzel mix, coating each bean evenly…

  • and then place the beans on into the fryer

  • Cook each batch of beans for 5-7 minutes, or until the batter is golden brown
  • Remove from the fryer and place on a paper towel

Hey, hands off my beans! Wait for the chicken! Where's the damn chicken?

Phew…Ok. By now hours have passed and I am a good pound and 1/2 of fried potatoes and four glasses of wine in.

At the beginning of the evening I looked like this:

I have since found a new, styling way to wear my neckerchief:

But it has been well worth it, because the chicken! The chicken is done!

Go get her Cowboy!

Cowboy potholders

And now we eat.

Praise Jesus we eat.

And don’t worry, we’ll talk about those mashed potatoes (and the potato chips) later. They’re delicious, but I’m starving.

Hope you’re weekend was filled with days like these (minus the look).

Until we meet again…