Monday, June 27, 2011


What I love about inspiration, is that it isn't a replica of where the original inspiration came from, but rather a creative twist on what originally sparked the desire to create. As an artist, I hope that people who look at my work are inspired to get creative and design something that they find beautiful and makes them happy. Inspiration comes in many forms. It can be in an amazing sunset. The most intense pink of a rose bush. Or even the wafting aroma of a crockpot recipe. Today it was from a fellow friend, and blogger. She's amazing at creating fun clothes for her girls on a whim and they turn out great. She also gives her creations snazzy names, and I followed suit. So, I pulled out some bandanas, dish towels, and ribbon and set to work! Here's what I came up with!

I call this one the "dazzle me" dress.

This one is the "giddy up" dress. I plan to make 2 more like this one in red, white & blue for the fourth of July this weekend! Another trip to Hobby Lobby!

This is probably my favorite. I made it out of 2 clearance dish towels that I fell in love with. I purchased them over a year ago because I loved the prints, but didn't know what I would do with them. Well, ta-da! The "garden" dress is born.

And my Vanessa models it perfectly!

If you've been inspired by what I created today, comment about it. Tell me what inspired you and what you created as a result. Happy designing!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Planning ahead.

As some of you may or may not know, I've recently begun to do my grocery shopping on a monthly basis. For those of you who've never heard or contemplated this concept, I'll let you catch your breath .......... Ready? Ok. It's honestly not as scary or intimidating as it sounds. It's rather simple, and so I thought I'd share my most recent monthly meal plan. You'll get a feel for how easy it is - and I'll even let you steal some meal ideas if you'd like!

A few notes before I begin... 1) I look at the month and record any days where I know we'll be out of town, eating out - even in a rush. 2) I incorporate left-over days. No sense in wasting food! 3) Other than the days I mentioned in #1, the rest of my meals are loosey-goosey. Meaning, I don't necessarily make the exact meal on the date listed.

I'd like to think you'll all be dazzled by what's to come, but I think you'll feel a little disappointed once you see how rudimentary it really is:
(This was for June/July)

20 Black Bean Quesadillas
21 Chicken and Rice Bake & salad
22 Chicken Casserole
23 Round Steak
24 Pizza Night
25 L/O (left overs)
26 --eat out--
27 Stromboli
28 Super Subs
29 Porcupine Meatballs & mashed potatoes
30 Roast & Potatoes
1 Pizza Night
2 --eat out--
3 --eat out--
4 Ham & augratin potatoes
5 L/O
6 Breakfast - Eggs & bacon
7 Spaghetti & garlic bread
8 --eat out--
9 --eat out--
10 Pancakes
11 Garlic Bread Pizzas
12 Grilled Cheese & Soup
13 L/O
14 Campfire Packets
15 Hamburgers & Fries
16 Hot Beef Sandwiches & Salad
17 L/O

I feel like I need to say that we normally do NOT eat out this much. And "eat out" here does not mean we're eating at a restaurant. It may mean we're eating at someone else's house, too.

Now, from this menu, I make my shopping list. I won't do my ENTIRE shopping list here, but I'll give an example of how I do it. I start with a list that has the categories: BREADS, DAIRY, FROZEN, MEATS, CANNED, BOXED, BAKING, FRESH, OTHER. Then I start with the first menu item... Quesadillas.

BREADS - tortillas

DAIRY - shredded cojack cheese
sour cream

MEATS - boneless chix breasts
family pk cut up chix

CANNED - salsa
black beans x 2
canned corn x 2
cream of mushroom soup x 2

BOXED - rice

FRESH - cilantro
salad mix

I then move to my next menu item (in this case the Chix & Rice bake) and I add to the list. I marked them in white so you can see that I just simply added to the category. If I would need more canned corn, for example, I would just change the quantity.

Once I have my whole shopping list made, I add items from my ongoing fridge list of things we run out of. Then I add in the "OTHER" category things like toiletries & cleaning supplies. I also take into account snacks, groceries I'll need if I know I will be bringing a dish to pass somewhere, and easy lunch items for the kids and I at home.

And last, I look through my coupons for coupons that match the items that I have on my list and I put a "C" with a circle around it by that item, so I can be sure I 1) use the coupon and 2) look at the coupon to make sure I'm getting the right item.

This process takes a while - especially when you do it the first few times, but you'll get the system down and before you know it, you'll have a stocked pantry and won't dread it when your kids or husband ask you "What's for dinner?". Because you'll know! And you'll have everything you need for a plethora of meals right at your fingertips!

(Note: I do shop once a week still, for perishables, restock milk, and anything that goes on a weekly sale that I can't pass up.)

I have saved LOTS of money doing it this way, because I'm not forced to run to the store out of desperation.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Garden Walk

Growing up, a child has many opportunites to learn from their Dad. But I'd have to say that the things I remember and hold onto the most, are things I learned from my Dad since I've been an adult.

I don't have the chance to see my Dad everyday, like I did when I was a child. Obviously I've grown up, gotten married, had my own children and pay my own mortgage now. But there is one way I've found to spend time with my Dad every day. About 2 years ago, I was chatting with my Dad on the phone one evening, when he mentioned that he had just gotten through with a "Garden Walk". I envisioned some fancy nursery tour, or a glamourous - ticket needed - type of event. Come to find out, the "Garden Walk" was simply a time to peruse his gardens at home and survey the changes and miracles happening right in his own back yard.

I believe I started the very next day. As soon as I was up and the kids were settled into their morning activites, I slipped on my flip flops and started walking around the property investigating the changes that were occuring. It's incredible what you see when you look every day. You don't miss a single bloom. You get the opportunity to pluck out unsightly weeds early on. You get to plan for the future.

I also find it exciting to look at my plantings and remember the story of them. The peonies I got from my sister and friend Malissa. The miniature irises from my Mother-in-Law. And, the myriad of plants from my Dad and Vicki. You see, my Dad didn't just share his love of the "Garden Walk"... he has shared actual plants that were dug from his gardens at his home. And as I partake of my own "Garden Walk" each morning, I think of my Dad. And I find myself wondering if he's doing his "Garden Walk" at the same time.

And now some photos of my latest "Garden Walk":

This is one of the plants my Dad gave to me. These buds will open into a wispy display of tiny white flowers.

Little violets. They look like little faces to me.

Probably my second favorite spot to linger. Despite the eyesore of a propane tank, I like how the landscaping turned out here.

The gorgeous leaves of the smoke tree - not yet in bloom.

This is a sign for our property that my Dad made for us.

Jack joined me on my "Garden Walk". And wouldn't you know... the first ripe strawberry! See what we would have missed?!

My spreading raspberry patch. Complete with "Beans" sign (my childhood nickname).

When we cleaned out the overgrown flower beds when we moved in, we found tons of irises.

The start of my plums.

Pink peonies from my sister.

Peppermint stripe petunias from Vanessa for Mother's Day.

Dad & Vicki turned us on to Ninebark shrubs. This one is just gorgeous.

The mulberry tree is getting its berries ready for me to make jam!

The miniature irises from my Mother-in-Law.

This is one of my favorite hostas.

Another flower from my Dad. Cardinal flower.

I salvaged this chair from the curb. Works great to keep my peonies upright.

This is an area we planted for privacy in the driveway.

I just love all the colors in the garden.

This is probably my favorite spot. Especially when the pink crab is flowering.

Our kitties like to sleep in the cool shade of the barrel in the summertime.

This iron gate was purchased at a flea market and I just love it!

How incredible is this color?!

I love peonies, and my husband does not. But I over-rule him here. They aren't in the way and what color!

I love to reuse old items so this salvaged enamelware pot (with built in drainage) works great in stark contrast to the vivid red geraniums.

Jack picked out these flowers because they looked like mowhawks. The white fuzz is due to our prolific cottonwood.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Cutting apron strings.

It's finally happened. My oldest, newly into the double digits, will be leaving for camp later this month. And while my heart leaps at the thought of the fun he'll have meeting new friends, learning new campfire songs, and experiencing new adventures, I have to admit that I also tear up quite frequently thinking of him being off "on his own" for 6 whole days. Without Mom. Time for me to suck it up. Put on a brave face. And start cutting those proverbial apron strings.

In order to facilitate some sort of communication while he's away, I got crafty today and created these ready to mail postcards for both he and his cousin (who's also going to camp at the same time). They were super simple. Here's how to make them:

1) I just purchased some 12x12 scrap booking papers in fun patterns. Make sure if they're printed on both sides that one of the sides is either plain or light enough to write on. Card stock is best, but any paper will do.

2) Cut the papers into 5 1/2 x 4 inch rectangles.

3) I chose to affix a mailing label to the "TO" field and write in his name in the "FROM" field. Less work = more mail for Mom!

4) Draw a divider line and put a stamp in place!

These would be great for graduation gifts too for all those leaving for school in the fall. Note: Make sure stamp prices aren't scheduled to go up or they'll need to add additional postage!!

So simple. And easily customizable for any person with the myriad of papers available today! Happy crafting!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


weeds, and MORE weeds! Just when I thought my garden just might have a shot to be stellar this year, the grass seeds have sprouted yet again. Time to break out the hoe, the weed bucket and the garden gloves. I've noted that the areas that were layered with thick hay are doing quite well. Time to make a run to the Farmer's Wife in Omro to get a few more bales.

Today I made it my goal to weed the beet row. Doesn't sound like too daunting a task until you take into account the grass seedlings were the same size as my beet babies - and quite fragile. I did surrender some to overactive pruning on more than one occasion. Oops. But I managed to carefully move the little sproutlings around to pull each bit of weed out and then hoe and rake between the rows.

About a third of the way through the row, I started to loose the zest I had when I'd begun the row. It was taking much more time than I'd anticipated to pluck individual seedlings out between each beet sprout. But I was determined to be patient, so I plugged along. About half way through I started feeling better. I began to realize that if I wanted a pristine garden that I could be proud of, it would require putting time in like this. Thus, a desire for the finished product kept me filling my bucket with the waste that didn't belong in something I saw as beautiful.

I liken this to my walk with God. Some days it's easier to plod through the day without taking time to spend with Him. Easier to read the novel I just found on the bookshelf that's so engaging. Easier to check Facebook, Email and blog about my day. I have to remind myself that I, like my garden, am a work in progress. Needing daily pruning to remove the gunk so that the good stuff can flourish. It's all about the desire for the finished product, and I cannot wait to see what that looks like someday! I think, though, that I may see the fruits of my labor in my garden long before I see the completion in myself.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A fresh start.

Today marks the first day of the first full week of summer break. Time to relax in the sun and enjoy each moment of freedom from the daily routine, right? Nope. Not in our house. On our lengthy drive back from Minnesota yesterday I dropped a bomb on the little ones, "Starting tomorrow we'll be instituting a chore chart.... All chores must be completed by 10am.... And you'll have to do a minimum of 15 minutes of reading each day, starting with a Bible devotional..." I've heard it said over and over that kids like routine... and I like a tidy house. So, I came up with a way to make us all happy campers. A simple chore chart. Each one has their specific chores to do - from taking out compost, to feeding pets - and they get to mark it off themselves when the task is completed.

Honestly, I thought for sure they'd groan and complain about the new system, but to my surprise they came downstairs this morning to tell me that their beds had already been made (one item on the chore list)! They then set to immediately working down their list of morning chores - and doing a fine job I might add. Jack even made sure they all had their Bibles in hand for their quiet time of devotions and reading. Now, I'm not so naive to think that this blissful aire of attitudes will continue for the next 3 months. I'm fully prepared to be met with obstinance and a full blown case of the grumpies on more than one occasion. But we'll fight that battle when it rears it's ugly head. For now, I will relish in the fact that my house is cleaned up by 9am, and they're all playing 'store' together nicely while listening to "H.E.R.O. - God is my HERO!" on their CD.

One last thing I'd like to point out... we're not paying them. I know there's controversy about getting an allowance for doing chores, and we've decided that chores are a responsibility of being a part of this family. Something you do because you want to responsibily contribute to the needs of the family - without pay. Allowances - when we decide to institue them - will be as a means of teaching responsible money handling.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Why does everything require...


Everywhere I look, I find things I have to wait for. Right now I'm waiting for my favorite flowers to bloom - my asiatic lilies. I'm waiting for the day I find that the chickens have laid their first eggs. I wait for the doctors office to open, the Tylenol to kick in, the sun to come out, the carrots to sprout and the kids to get ready for the day.

But in all that waiting, I find that I don't always take the time to enjoy the flowers that are blooming... the sound of the rooster learning to crow... the sight of the raindrops on the dark purple irises... or the sound of laughter as the kids play in their jammies. See, I'm not so good at the whole patience thing. At all. But God has taught me that even though I struggle with impatience, there are distractions among me to keep my focus on the here and now. Things to enjoy and cherish. Memories in the making. Every day simple things that I could miss out on if I let impatience take over.

So today I will take the time to relish what's happening now. The rest will happen when it's time.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Back to Basics

Ok, so I'll admit that I somewhat flippantly threw out the topic "back to basics" in my welcome post. Truth is, I really had to stop and think what the 'basics' really are! But, after some reflection, I've come up with a few basics that we can all mesh with our daily lives.

Basic of parenting - FIRE THE BABYSITTER. And by babysitter I mean the T.V. Turn off the tube and break into creative play. Whether it's dusting off the lincoln logs, making "soup" with dirt, sticks and rocks, or making a blanket fort on the clothesline - creative play will do wonders for your child's imagination. WARNING: Creative play = large messes. That's okay. Use it as a teachable moment to show responsibility and teamwork.

Basic of gardening - DO IT RIGHT THE FIRST TIME. Don't wait until the weeds are suffocating your precious plants. Get back to the basics and use good soil and compost. Then, prevent weeds naturally using soaked newspapers and/or a thick application of hay. It will lock in moisture and block weeds. Also, invest in a hoe. Once a week, go out and hoe between the rows. It will keep the soil loose and any weeds that make their way into your garden will be easily pulled.

Basics of cooking - MEAL PLANNING. As some of you know, I like to plan my meals out a month in advance. If that seems overwhelming, try it for a week. Not only will you save on groceries - especially if you plan meals based on the sale items - you'll save time too! I will delve into this topic of meal planning in more depth in future blogs. I will even be including FREE weekly meal plans for you to try out. Meal planning can be your life-saver over these busy summer months. With all the groceries you need on hand, you'll be able to plan for and whip up a satisfying meal for your family in no time.

A new beginning....

Welcome to "Cherry Blossoms & Chickens"! My desire is that you will find gardening tips, recipe ideas, parenting help and all around enjoyment as you follow me in my day to day life. This week's topic will be focusing on getting back to basics. Watch for a blog post soon! In the meantime, bookmark Cherry Blossoms & Chickens and tell your friends!