Pioneer Woman Bowtie Lasagna

Last night I tried a recipe that I’ve been wanting to test out for a while… the Pioneer Woman Bowtie Lasagna. I hadn’t heard of the Pioneer Woman before, but apparently she’s a real thing. She claims this is a 16 minute meal – I would argue that it cooks pretty fast, but not that fast. I used the one pot method though – cooked the pasta then as it drained browned the meat. I suppose if I would have done both at the same time it would have been faster, but I chose less dishes over an extra 5 minutes. Also, I used ground turkey instead of ground beef… I’m finding that in sauces I can’t really taste the difference and it’s a little bit healthier. The website I found this on (Katie Cooks Dinner) recommended using Rao’s Homemade Pasta Sauce. It’s a bit pricey ($8.99 a jar), but was amazing. The next best thing to homemade! Apologies for the crummy picture. I was starving so I grabbed my cell phone instead of my camera.

Pioneer Woman Bowtie Pasta
Pioneer Woman Bowtie Lasagna


1 pound bowtie pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound ground chuck
1 jar spaghetti sauce (or 3 cups homemade)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 heaping teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1 cup sour cream


Boil pasta in large pot of salted water until al dente, drain.  In large skillet, brown and crumble ground chuck until fully cooked, drain fat and return to pan.  Pour cooked pasta on top of meat, then drizzle on olive oil.  Pour on jar of sauce, salt, garlic powder and Italian seasonings.  Stir.  Add cheese and sour cream.  Stir over low heat until cheese is melted and all ingredients are combined.  Taste and add salt and pepper, if necessary.  Serve with Parmesan or additional mozzarella, if desired.

Seriously, it’s that easy. Enjoy!

A Day In The Life

On Thursday I took the day off work to head over to the stables to work for the day. My trainer had mentioned when I first started riding that if I ever had a day free, I could come learn the ropes. Thursday happened to be perfect as the farrier (the guy who puts the shoes on) was there. He offered to do Sue first so that I could watch, which I gratefully accepted. I asked if I could bother him with questions while he went (I’m sure he regretted his decision over the course of the next 30 minutes) and I learned a ton. I had no idea what a fine art horse shoeing is… it’s one of the most important parts of the horse and it goes way beyond just nailing a shoe on. He also trims the hoof (think if it like trimming your fingernails), but it has to be done at the right angle, often enough, etc. He then has to fit the shoe to the hoof (that’s where the loud metal-on-metal banging happens) and nails it on (nailing it in the wrong place is called “hot nailing” and results in a swift kick!). It was quite the process and was amazing to watch him work!

Shoe Coming Off
Shoe Coming Off
Hoof Trimming
Hoof Trimming

Isn’t that a beautiful horse butt? Sadly, I have no more pictures after the farrier – I was too busy having fun!

After Sue’s shoes were done, my trainer showed me how to muck out stalls. I know it sounds completely unglamorous, but there’s something to be said for taking care of these amazing animals, especially in the morning when they’re quiet and eating. It took me a lot longer than it would her (who knew there’s a fine art to picking up poop?), but I got the job done.

All of that raking and shoveling was exhausting, but then came the best part of the day – the riding. I took a lesson on Sue, with another rider from the barn riding her horse, Strider. My horse is a lot smaller than Strider and has much shorter legs, ergo a shorter gait. I’m constantly working with him to extend his trot and lope. My trainer had a fun idea… for me and Sue to chase Strider. It was so much fun just racing around the arena like little kids.

After lunch we came back to the ranch and I rode a beautiful little Arabian mare. She was much more sensitive than Sue, which forced me to work a little harder on my horsemanship. She had a beautiful lope – it was great experience! When I was done on here, my trainer put me on the ranch’s stallion, Charlie. Let me tell you, it was terrifying. He was all muscle and every time we came around the side of the arena that housed the mares, he would stop and whinny at them… with his whole body. It was sort of this guttural noise and shaking. Thankfully, my trainer was there to talk me through riding him (can’t show him any doubt or hesitation) and I was able to stay in control. He is a beautiful animal that once he knew I was boss was fantastic to ride – all muscle and power!

We ended the day with some more stall cleaning and the evening feeding. It’s fun to be the horses favorite at that point… everyone is happy to see the feed cart! I came home around 7pm Thursday night wanting nothing more than an ice-cold shower, a big dinner, and some time on the sofa. It was an absolutely amazing day!

Western States Horse Expo

Last weekend Mom, Dad, and I went down to Sacramento for the 16th Annual Western States Horse Expo. I was very excited to visit my first Expo… I’d heard good things. The Expo had several different components: the clinics, the shows, the live horses, and the shopping.

I actually liked the clinics best… the first one we attended was Bob Avila who spoke on the different types of bits. He explained why you would use one instead of another and how to tell when your horse was ready for a more advanced bit. We watched a little bit of the Parelli Natural Horsemanship (how to get your horse to listen and respond to touch) as well as Marvin Pierce talk about how to train your dog to not chase livestock when they shouldn’t.

We had planned on making an entire day out of it and staying late to watch the Ultimate Super Horse Finale competition, but after watching a rather disappointing elimination round, we decided to save our $10 and go get Mongolian BBQ instead. I had expected professional level competition and knew we weren’t getting it when one of the riders had to stop and pull out a map because she forgot the pattern.

I was a little bit disappointed with the event as a whole. Yes, there were tons of vendors there. But most of it was stuff that wasn’t entirely useful. I honestly went with an open mind and open checkbook and left with a cowboy hat and a $20 bag of treats.

I do love my new cowboy hat (thanks Mom & Dad!):

My New Hat
My New Hat

A Tough Week For Shadow

My poor puppy has had a rough few days… we noticed when we got home from our trip that he had a bit of an “upset tummy”. After several nights of midnight wakeups to go outside, we finally decided we needed to go into the vet. Turns out the poor little guy just has some sort of stomach bug. He’s lost five pounds, which on a 65 pound dog is quite a bit! Thankfully, the antibiotics and bland diet seem to be working – yesterday was his first day back on regular puppy chow and I’m happy to report there are no rumbling tummies in our house!

Dirty Dog
Dirty Dog

Bonding With Sue

Today I headed over to the barn after work to spend some time with Sue. We’ve been working really hard in our lessons, so during the week when it’s hot after work I’m trying to spend some time bonding with him. Sometimes that involves taking him out of his stall and just walking him around the ranch. Sometimes, like today, it’s just petting him and singing to him (the horses listen to country music all day). And, of course, treats. Lots of treats.

He’s still very young and very curious, so a lot of the time it’s hard to get good pictures. He loves to sniff and nudge me to see if I’ve got any treats on me. I actually got him to stand still for a bit so I could give him kisses. That nose is indescribable… ridiculously soft!

Velvety Kisses
Velvety Kisses

Here’s an example of his mischievous side… I keep seeing all of these great pictures on Pinterest of people snuggled up with their horses, the horse looking at the camera with soft eyes. I, on the other hand, get the show stealing horse… “Look at ME!”.

Sue, The Star of the Show
Sue, The Star of the Show

But seriously, he makes me laugh, even when he’s being a hooligan. I took a zillion pictures, including ones of him nudging me and trying to dig through my pockets. This picture takes the cake and might be one of my favorites of him:


Very soon I plan on giving him a good bath and taking him out to one of the pastures for a photo shoot. He’s super dusty and dirty right now out of necessity… it’s fly season and every ounce of dirt helps keep them away! I brushed his tail out the other day and it’s glorious… I need to get some good pictures! Happy Friday everyone!

Newport Beach Fish-a-Palooza

The past week was the annual Blankenheim Newport Vacation. We co-own a boat with my brother- and sister-in-law, and have started a tradition of spending a week or so in Newport Beach each summer (my husband and his brother went to college down there and lived on Newport Beach).

I headed into the trip with a heck of a head cold… because that’s how I roll. The very first day, the guys went out fishing, but the girls/kids stayed on shore. I did a bit of napping and then hit the beach. My niece Katie is a serious beach girl… the two of us probably spent more time in the water than we did on land! The hotel we stay at is fantastic – one of the perks is they loan you boogie boards and beach stuff, so you have tons of options. We have become expert boogie boarders… I have the sunburn to prove it!

Then main goal the boys had this trip was to catch a shark. I must say, they were (mostly) well prepared. They found the spots the sharks were at (saw them with my own eyes), they had the right bait (caught my share of mackerel), and they had the right equipment… sort of. They were definitely catching them (mostly thresher sharks, which scare the crap out of me), but ran out of the metal leaders. This is a very important thing because threshers use their gigantic tails to slap at their prey – the fishing line in this case.

On our last full day there, we got up early (well, at the same time we did every other day – 4:30am so that we could get on the water) and headed over to Catalina Island. It was a beautiful boat ride over… we saw all sorts of cool marine life – flying fish, dolphins, seals, sharks (mako sharks, we think), and mola (very cool, prehistoric looking creatures). My favorite part of the journey over was the dolphins. I am not exaggerating when I say there were probably hundreds of dolphins swimming around our boat. We found a pod that was feeding, so there was much breaching of the water. They chased our boat, played in our wake, and lead the way. It was absolutely breath-taking to see. I took pictures, but they don’t come close to capturing how amazing it was to be there.


Once we got to the island, we got serious about fishing. I caught the biggest fish I’d ever caught in my life… a roughly 15 pound yellowtail. I have not done a ton of ocean fishing, and when I have, I haven’t caught anything really big. This one was amazing… I was letting my line out when I suddenly felt the reel start to go faster. I clicked over and the pole practically bent in half. It took 5-10 minutes for me to reel it in, with Mike and Charlie coaching me/moving things around on the boat as I went. It was hilarious to watch the two of them try to buckle the pole holder on me while I kept reeling. I even baited my own hook!

My Yellowtail
My Yellowtail

Yup – I definitely outfished the boys that day. We caught a ton of calico bass (seriously, like 50+). Mike got a really nice one:

Mike & His Bass
Mike & His Bass

I’m sad to see this week’s vacation come to an end… it was so nice to spend time with my hubby and family! Tomorrow it’s back to the grind… gotta work hard to play hard! Stay tuned for posts on the rest of the week – including the Western States Horse Expo!

Splish Splash

Today I headed over to the barn after work to give Sue and his mama, Banshee, a bath. They both needed it and it was a beautiful day. Sue actually had dirt caked down to the skin on part of his mane (what can I say, the boy loves to roll in the dirt!).

Here’s my boy – I swear he’s not starved… I think this was just a weird angle with a wet horse. He absolutely loves having his mane brushed – whenever I do it he gets really calm and his head starts to sag. We’re finally getting it to mostly lay over to the left… although when he shakes he’s still got some that flips back over to the right (for those of you who don’t know, he rubbed a big chunk of it off on the fence). I seriously love this horse! Every time I’m around him I can feel our bond getting stronger and stronger!

Sue Freshly Washed
Sue Freshly Washed

Here’s his mama, Banshee. She’s a champion reining horse:

Sue's Mama, Banshee
Sue’s Mama, Banshee

Dana, my trainer came by and asked if I wanted to ride her bareback… to which I responded with a resounding YES! The one time I’ve “ridden” bareback was on our honeymoon – and they basically plopped us on the horses and we walked them 10 feet into the ocean. Hardly riding. Today was amazing… it was so cool to feel her move. I fell in love with the saddle I bought because it lets me feel the horse – this took this to the next level! We did a few loops around the arena and then practiced some spins – so different than on Sue because Banshee clearly knows what she’s doing! It was a great time!