Winter Weekend

Oklahoma weather is crazy. It totally fluctuates. Two days ago, it was sixty-six degrees and I went for a nice morning lake walk. It was breezy, yet very mild, and I actually thought about how fun it will be to get in that lake again! Meanwhile, mist hung over Skiatook Lake to the west and dark clouds loomed in the distance to the south.

By lunchtime, it was pouring rain.

The doorbell rang, and look who was hoping to come in for a visit.

Just kidding, we don’t even have a doorbell. But I did open my garage door so my neighbor’s chickens could take refuge in there.

When John, the kids and I woke up the next day, it was turning into a winter wonderland.

To Isabel and Brady’s pure delight, we played in the snow…

We also had fun off-roading around in it…

I had a blast walking around looking for beautiful shots.

The chickens weren’t so sure about the snow.

In fact, Isabel successfully removed one of the chickens who was hiding in the wheel well of John’s truck without getting flogged or clawed.

Friday morning I had gone to Walmart and filled my cart up with provisions like a blizzard was coming (not just one day of snow), including a storm radio as encouraged by my mom. Thank you, national news stations, for sufficiently worrying my mother in California every time we’re about to embark on some kind of extreme weather in Oklahoma.

Anticipating a wintery weekend nestled in our cottage in the woods, I knew I wanted to make a giant pot of something cozy and hot. Even when we lived in California, our Womack rainy day go-to recipe has always been chili and cornbread, but to my husband’s suggestion, and I always do what my husband suggests (that’s a joke), I made hamburger soup.

I didn’t take photos of the cooking process. I just spontaneously thought to add this recipe to my already spontaneous blog post. But, here is the recipe. It’s hearty, yet healthy. The broth is silky, rich and flavorful, and the soup is chockful of meat and vegetables. It’s a meal in itself, however, John, Isabel, and Brady enjoyed it with a wedge of cornbread. I sprinkled my soup with a bit of grated cheddar cheese.

When I take the time to make soup or chili I like to make a humongous batch (there was barely room in the pot to stir it once I finished adding everything!), and freeze half of it for a busy weekday when I go searching in the freezer for a fast meal. Make sure you let the soup cool before putting it in a plastic container and into the freezer. You can store soups in the freezer for three months and broths for six months. I like to write on the label the date that we need to eat it by.

Here is the recipe. All of these measurements are just suggestions.


1/2 onion, diced

a few cloves of garlic, minced

3 stalks celery, sliced

1 lb. ground turkey

1 lb. extra-lean ground beef

a few tablespoons tomato paste

10 oz. can crushed tomatoes

10 oz. can Rotel tomatoes (or just use another can of crushed tomatoes, but the Rotel has green chilies in it and it adds nice flavor)

a teaspoon or so of Italian seasoning

salt and pepper

2 32 oz. containers beef broth (I like using the low-sodium kind)

6 carrots, sliced

2 large potatoes, diced (I like a large dice so they don’t get too soft and they hold their form)

1 package frozen green beans

1 package frozen corn


1. Sweat the onions and celery in a little bit of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute. Remove the onion mixture from the pan and put to the side for now.

3. Brown the ground turkey and ground beef, breaking into pieces with your spoon. I season this layer with salt and pepper, as well.

4. Add tomato paste, crushed tomatoes and rotel, italian seasoning, beef broth, potatoes, and carrots. Stir.

5. Bring to a boil, and then lower to a simmer until the carrots are the desired tenderness.

6. Add frozen green beans and corn, as well as the onion mixture. They frozen vegetables will need just need a few minutes to heat through.

Cozy up and enjoy! And no, I didn’t eat this outside. It was too cold! That’s totally staged. But, doesn’t it look picturesque?

My winter weekend story isn’t completely over yet. Today, our beautiful winter wonderland gradually melted away.

By this afternoon, there was no more snow on the logs…

Or on the rocks…

The only evidence of snow is the puddles and mud that it left behind.

To Isabel and Brady’s dismay, they’ll have to wait until next time to take a snow day from school!


Autumn Sangria

The leaves in Oklahoma are brilliant hues of mustard, caramel, tangerine, and lime.

It’s time for fires in the fireplace and scarves around our necks.

As the landscape and temperature change, so does my palate. Isn’t it funny how the changing of the season imparts an inherent desire for certain flavors? For me, fall conjures up images of spicy cinnamon and nutmeg,  crisp, cidery apples and beautiful ruby red pomegranate jewels!

Last week I went to my friend Amy’s house for “TV Night”.  This summer a handful of us lovely and rambunctious ladies met once a week to watch Bachelor in Paradise.  Since ABC is torturing us until January to air another season of the Bachelor franchise, we’ve decided to meet anyway because we can’t wait that long for an excuse to indulge in wine, cheese platters, and girl talk. We watched Bridesmaids. I had forgotten how hilarious that movie is! I took a big ‘ol batch of my autumn sangria.

I love a good cocktail that you can make a big batch of that guests can easily pour for themselves. Several Halloweens ago, I decided to take a classic crowd-pleaser and enhance it with the festive flavors of fall, and thus, my autumn sangria was born!!! It began very simply with red wine, apple cider and an apple slice in each glass and has evolved from there. So, take this recipe and keep it simple or embellish it!

Here’s how I made it this time…

A bottle of red wine. I used merlot.

Huh. Well, that doesn’t seem like nearly enough wine. Looks a little lame in this giant jar. We need another bottle.

Look. Even the wine opener is happy about this decision. It’s saying Hooray!

That’s better. I definitely recommend doubling the recipe if you’re making it for a crowd. Now for the apple cider. My absolute favorite is the spiced cider from Trader Joe’s. It’s already loaded with holiday flavor.

This measurement is really according to personal taste. I like my autumn sangria really appley, so I use at least a 1:2 ratio of apple cider to wine. Be cognizant of how sweet you want it.

In a pinch, you could stop there and be very happy.  But if you have the initiative, dice some apples.

A moment of keeping it real. Pouring wine and apple cider with one hand while operating a camera with the other is messy work.

Alright, dice those apples and let’s turn this into sangria!

If you have a few extra minutes for this next step, it’s a fun addition.  I just adore pomegranates. They are my favorite fall/winter fruit.

There are many different techniques for getting those beautiful little jewels out of the flesh- cutting it in half and whacking the peel with a wooden spoon, setting it in a bowl of water and allowing the arils to float to the surface… I, myself, like to put my fine motor skills to work here. I cut the pomegranate in half, score it with a knife in four places…

loosen those sections…

and gently separate the arils from the white membrane.

I find it oddly satisfying, like popping plastic packing bubbles. Add the apples and pomegranate to the sangria.

Beauteous. A note for later when you’re serving the sangria- the apples will stay afloat while the pomegranate arils will sink to the bottom. Do what you have to do for a perfectly balanced glass of fruited sangria!

Add a generous (or conservative) sprinkle of ground cinnamon, nutmeg (a little goes a long way) and ginger.

Stir, chill, and ladle yourself a glass! Not necessarily in that order.  Sometimes I like to add a splash of club soda upon serving for a little effervescence.

Doesn’t that just embody fall? Perfect for Halloween, Thanksgiving or a Tuesday afternoon. I mean evening.

I could leave well enough alone, but I’m honest to a fault. When I was leaving for Amy’s house and went to grab the sangria out of the fridge, I happened to notice the pears that Brady enjoys in his school lunch sitting on the shelf above the sangria.

I spontaneously grabbed two little containers and added them, juice and all, to the sangria. It got me thinking about all the ingredients I could add next time- diced fresh pears would be lovely. Pear or apple brandy, pomegranate juice, cinnamon sticks… This autumn sangria can be as simple or elaborate as desired and different every time you make it!


1 bottle red wine

2 cups apple cider

1 apple, diced

1 cup pomegranate arils

a sprinkle of ground cinnamon

a sprinkle of ground nutmeg

a sprinkle of ground ginger

Other Optional Ingredients

1 pear, diced

1/2 cup pear or apple brandy

1 cup pomegranate juice (if you use pomegranate juice, you may want to decrease the amount of apple cider so the sangria isn’t too sweet)

club soda

cinnamon sticks


Simply mix the ingredients and chill.  Cheers!

Now, enjoy a sexy video about drinking sangria by one of Oklahoma’s own, Blake Shelton. Woo! If that’s what happens when you drink sangria, pour me a glass!

Sangria by Blake Shelton

Friday Night Lights

We’re well into football season and I’m about to make a big confession. It’s not going to be popular. In fact, living in a small midwestern town and saying something so absolutely preposterous and offensive could possibly get me stoned to death. The townspeople will soon be at my doorstep with torches and pitchforks, but I can’t keep this truth locked inside me for another moment!

I. Don’t. Like. Football.

(Pause for reaction.)

I’ve never been interested. It bores me to death. I’d rather…do anything else. I told you it would be a controversial admission.

In high school, I attended the football games merely to socialize in the stands. I chose a college that didn’t have a football team (I heart LMU). I love a good Super Bowl party, but again only for the social aspect and the festive food and drink. I even fell for a hunky All-American linebacker, a Texan no less, and he married me despite my complete lack of interest in the sport that so heavily influenced his life.

Hubba hubba.

John loooooves football. If you ask him, which season he likes best, he will not say fall or summer, he will answer, “football season.” And, at least once a month, he dreams that he’s a high school football player and he’s forgotten his helmet or Coach won’t put him in the game.

In the early days of our relationship, John would watch games all Saturday and Sunday (including the highlights before bedtime)(oy vey, that’s a lot of football), and I would lounge next to him reading book after book after book. When the kids were born… that ended for me.

One of those children turned out to be a sports obsessed son. Thank you, Lord, for blessing John with a sports obsessed son.

There have been fleeting moments when I’ve attempted to pay attention to games and at some point realized that my eyes were glazed over, my mouth was hanging open, and my mind had wandered elsewhere. I admit that I only even halfway understand the game, and half the time, I don’t know where the ball is. If the offense fakes out the defense, they have fooled me, as well.

But, now that we live in a state where people religiously fly their OU or OSU flags, and furthermore, in a small-town where the Friday night main event takes place at the high school football field, I feel I should conform.

This is Valentine praying to the football gods. The game baffles us. Help us to understand!

So…This is me committing to the quest of football fandom. Okay, let’s be real. This is me committing to going to the games with my family and trying to like it a little. And, I will happily put out yummy snacks and watch a little bit of football on tv as to interact with my husband a little during the long football season.

In the name of research and motivation, I have assigned myself some homework…

Look, I hunted down a heart-shaped hallow of a tree to show my devotion.

I have also purchased my Skiatook Bulldogs t-shirt from Walmart to wear to the games.

I’m well on my way!

If you see me in the stands, don’t judge me for being an imposter. Give me a thumbs up for my effort.

Go Bulldogs!!!

Watch this video, “The Boys of Fall” by Kenny Chesney. It actually gets me a little verklempt about football!

The Boys of Fall

Livin’ on Skiatook Time

Since the Womack family has arrived in the Skiatook area of Oklahoma, we have gotten exactly what we were seeking- a slower pace.

This is how we’ve been filling our days.

We’ve been riding the ranger on trails to find isolated views…

…to start Isabel and Brady’s driving lessons…

… and to get to and from the Lake.

Ahhh, the beauty of Skiatook Lake.

We’ve been having fun swimming…

…and tubing.

The scenery in the area certainly encourages solace.

Until a few days ago, we didn’t have wifi, and that was actually kind of nice. It was an excuse to not work on my laptop and an easy way to say, “Oh sorry, kids. You can’t play on your ipads, there’s no internet. You’ll just have to use your imagination like kids did in my day.” As a result, we were doing things a little backwards. We were reading on our patio and going to the library to work on our laptops and play on our ipads. I was kind of embarrassed and felt the need to explain that to the librarian.

Even our drive into town to the library or the grocery store is a relaxing venture.

We start by crossing the dam which is, in my opinion, one of the coolest places to be in Skiatook.

On one side stretches dark blue waters…

…and on the other stretches bushy green treetops for as far as the eye can see.

And then we head down into a beautiful, lush valley.

Look! Bales of hay! One of my favorite scenes. It looks like they’ve been artistically placed to decorate this field. And this type of scene is found all over Skiatook, all over Oklahoma. I love it.

We enjoy rolling down the windows and saying hello to our new bovine friends. Hi, cows! Mooooo!

They stare at us like we’re crazy city folk.

We pass scenic ponds…

… and majestic horses nibbling on grass. On this note, if you see a crazy girl taking pictures of your animals, don’t be alarmed. It’s just me.

More hay. This shot I pulled over and got out of the car for. A man driving by in his pick-up truck gave me a curious look. I imagine hay isn’t as exciting to the locals. Isabel and Brady told me I was embarrassing them and to stop being a tourist. I like being a tourist! It means that I’m appreciating and embracing what makes Skiatook special!

More cows…

…and a beautiful shady grove of trees.


We saw a turtle crossing the road and we decided to help it cross faster so it wouldn’t get hit by a car.

Ironically, I wrote a very similar scene in Tea with Isabel when Nina rescued a turtle from Highway 20. Here we were just about two miles from that very spot. A very strange form of deja vu for me.

And that’s our drive into town! I turn a reasonably short drive into a long one by pulling over so many times to take photos. Isabel and Brady have been extremely patient with me.

I’ve been waking up early before John and the kids wake to go for a nice morning walk or jog. It’s so peaceful to walk down this gravel road and not see another soul.

The lighting is gorgeous, a bright warm tangerine hue, as the sun rises into the periwinkle sky.

Sweet solitude. It’s just me and the birds.


I make my way across Lake Road and head into a neighborhood with big grassy, tree-filled yards.

Most often, the scenery warms me up with the cozy glow of sunrise…

…but occasionally the morning is a misty one.

I always, always, always make sure I can see Skiatook Lake on part of my walk.

It is so addictive.

Are you kidding me? That’s incredible. The water is like glass.

I’ve got a thing for the marina, too.

The sun is still rising!

So many opportunities for artistic photos. Honestly, I don’t get my heart rate very high stopping to take all of these photos! Oh, well. Maybe these walks and jogs are more for my soul than anything else.

Why did the tarantula cross the road?

Well, duh.

The turtle got help. The tarantula is on its own.

At some point, I check the time and realize I better get back down that gravel road before John has to leave for work.

We are loving it here. Stay tuned!

Tulsa Time by Don Williams