Friday, March 30, 2012


New originals are in progress

here at Shaw Ranch!

I'm just showing some "work in progress" sneak peeks.

I will unveil them and have them for sale in my booth
at Cammack Ranch Supply's Spring Open House,
April 12-13 at Union Center, SD.

Here I'm gathering elements for the background.

This one is inspired by Jason Aldean's song lyrics for Amarillo Sky
{Watch the video here:  Amarillo Sky}

He just takes the tractor another round, another round,

and sends up another prayer.

He says, "Lord, I never complain, I never ask why.  Please don't let my dreams run dry."

I found this poem in an old book from the late 1800's

about a discouraged farmer and his cry to God,

and how He always takes care of us in the end.

Fits my heart for this piece just perfectly.

And these photos below

are works in progress for my very personal, very special "White Owl" piece:

Our address is White Owl, South Dakota.

My heart's desire was to have my own photographs
of a snowy owl
to use in an art piece of a tribute
 to our spot on the map.

My prayers were answered just a couple months ago.
If you haven't already, you can read the full story behind this piece here:

I'm having a blast creating
in my "studio" today!
sneak peek
Visit Studio JRU for other sneak peeks!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Bountiful Baskets Tomatillos

Broiled Tomatillo Happy Face!

First of all, I can't believe
I am blogging about food for the second day in a row!

Second, of all
how many of you love this
I had never heard of it.
But go here to take part:
For $60, I am loaded with fresh, crisp, just-right produce.
{This is my kind of gardening!}
{No weeds, no dirt, no bugs, no worms, no watering.}

So, here I am this morning going with friends to get
fresh produce at 7 a.m. . . . on a Saturday
and blogging about it!

Tomatillo with chile peppers.

When I got home,
I had to call my sister-in-law, Ann,
to ask her what these cute little light green things were
in my Mexican basket.

So, here is what I did.
I Googled "tomatillo recipes"
and found
For those of you "gringos", verde is Spanish for green.
Click here to print the recipe with all the details:

Thanks to Bountiful Baskets,
(French for ummm. . . voila!)
Voila! I have all of the ingredients!

1 lb. of tomatillos
1/2 cup of white onions
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
1 Tablespoon of fresh squeezed lime juice
1/4 tsp. of sugar
2 jalapeno peppers

Remove the husks from the tomatillo, slice in half, broil 5-7 minutes on foil lined baking sheet.
Broil until the skins start to blacken slightly.
{When I did this, much to my delight, one of my tomatillos blackened into a happy face.}
Put all of the ingredients into the food processor and blend.

Because my jalapenos from Bountiful Baskets looked like this: 

I only used one jalapeno, 1 chile pepper, and a little 3 inch yellow sweet pepper
that I had in my fridge.
I used one bundle of the white/green onions,
and all the tomatillos that I had
plus the other ingredients in the recipe.

I blended them in my food processor

and here is the beautiful
Salsa Verde!

Delicious with chips!

I also tried one of the broiled tomatillos right out the pan,
and it was so yummy sweet just out of the oven all by itself.

With the monstrous 16 inch flour tortillas,
I made taco-beef quesadillas.

I browned 1 lb. ground beef. 
Seasoned with some chopped cilantro (1/4 cup) and tace seasoning.
Mixed with water and cooked until water evaporated.

I used 2 pizza pans lined with foil.
Place a flour tortilla on each pan.
Divide beef between the two.
Sprinkle thick with Cheddar-Jack cheese.
Baked at 350 for about 8 minutes.
Brush 2 more tortillas with butter.
Place on top of beef/cheese tortillas.
Sprinkle with taco seasoning and more cheese.
Bake for about 5 more minutes.
We sliced them like pizza for lunch.

The tomatillo salsa was delish on these also.
Sydney and I liked a bit of sour cream too.

Bountiful Baskets
has made me a food blogger!
Well for today, anyway!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Birthday Cake Saga

Erin and I had an afternoon of birthday cake adventures

and she tucked her chin down, grinned, lifted her eyelashes and looked at me and said,

"You're an amazing cake-maker, Mom."

My shoulders relaxed, I breathed in deep, smiled and said,

"Thanks, Erin."

Two years ago, for her third birthday,

Erin had seen a gorgeous princess castle cake on facebook,
and proclaimed she wanted a castle cake.

My high school and college classmate and friend, Scott Wegenke, had posted
pictures of the amazing cakes his wife makes.

Young children have this superhero belief in their mommies ~ that they can do anything.

This mommy can do lots:  public speaking, writing, photography, many types of art . . .

except art that involves sculpting with food.

It is my belief that if I am going to put valuable time and effort into a project,

it ought to last for decades, perhaps even a century . . . or more.

Not be consumed in fifteen minutes never to be thought of again.

When I made that castle cake two years ago, I thought my 3-year-old girl would love pink.

However when I unveiled the cake, she was disappointed.

She frowned and said, "I wanted a brown one."

It wasn't chocolate.

So, this year, I got the chocolate part correct.
Big sister Sydney faithfully watches Buddy on Cake Boss.  This does not help me out.

In addition, Erin can navigate Pinterest without a blink.
This is not helping me out either.

Yesterday morning, we baked the cake and I told her that I got frosting to paint a princess.

Again, another birthday frown, and quietly says,
"I wanted a princess that would stand up.
My birthday cake is not going to turn out like I had planned."

One thing is for certain, I always know what she is thinking.

Together we look at Pinterest to get "ideas".
We find lots of Barbies with cake dresses,
crown cakes,
and elaborate castle cakes.
Erin is ooo-ing and ahhh-ing at professional cakes.
She adds one to her Pinterest folder.

Today I checked out the cake she liked.
I was going to put a link to it.
But when I saw the other birthday party photos,
and saw on the invitation that it was held at the Houston Racket Club,
I got serious party-envy.
Good thing I didn't look yesterday, or I would have had party-anxiety.
The really good thing is that Erin didn't see the rest of the pictures.
Or she would have had serious princess-party-envy.

After watching a video
on how to make a Barbie dress cake and another on making a castle cake,
we are ambitious, inspired, creative, and we head to the kitchen.

I frost the two round layers of cake.
We have a 13x9 cake on a cookie sheet.  I cut it in half.
We are going to make it TALL.

I put the first square of cake on the base.
Erin eagerly grabs the second.
It splits in two.  I say, with confidence
and new-found cake decorating inspiration,
"That's ok!  We'll just make a taller tower."

We stack the cake.
I begin to frost.
It falls apart.
When I touch the frosting to the cake, it all sticks together
and make a huge mess of crumbs and frosting and cake.
I almost get mad, but then I start cracking up laughing. 
I can't believe the birthday cake curse is happening to me again.

I take the top pieces off.
Erin says,
"These can just be our 'munching' cake."
{That we munch on while we work.}

"Munching Cake"

I painted a little princess on the top
and used the rest of the pink frosting to try to cover
the back side of the cake.

Then I turned Erin loose decorating
with frosting tubes, sprinkles,
a box of birthday candles.

As she decorated, she said,
"This is turning out so much better than I thought!"

This mama, smiles and lets out a happy, deep breath.

Just then,
the pink-frosted backside of the cake slid off.


My birthday cake issues run deep.
What mom doesn't want to be the birthday-hero?
And have everything look like a magazine
{and now we have Pinterest}?

I have had this fantasy that I could be this woman
that has "everything together".
But, HA!, I don't. 
And the birthday cake always tells the truth!

When Tom turned one in August of 2000,
I put his cake in the oven.
I'd been cleaning house like a mad-woman,
and went outside to mow the lawn.

After a while, mixed in with the smell of fresh cut grass,
there was a distinct aroma
of smoke and burned cake.
I run in the house, which, of course, is full of smoke.
And started over.

Actually, I can't remember if I made the second cake,
or if Ann came to my rescue.
My memory goes a little fuzzy after the smoke.

For Sydney's 5th birthday, we were mixing her cake.
Instead of "fun-fetti" cake,
I decided to buy my own
cup and a half container of sprinkles.
{Much more economical}

The phone rang.
I answered.
I turned around and Sydney had proudly poured
the entire container of sprinkles into the cake.
My face was shocked, scared, and not-so-positive.
I saw shame flicker in Sydney's eyes.
And I quickly said, "It's ok! It's O.  K.  It will be very colorful."

We baked the cake, which did not rise.
And the color looked a bit . . . well . . . swirled together.
I was afraid to show her.
A 1/2 inch thick brownish, with multicolored spots, strawberry-flavored cake.

She took one look and said,
"Look how pretty it is!"

When will I learn
to let some things go?

These stories are why
my mom always offers to bring
a Dairy Queen ice-cream cake.

And this mama has learned
to accept the offer, yes,
but also,
not to make the cake the same day as the party,
an perhaps most of all . . .
that my idea of what makes an amazing birthday cake
is not the same as my little girls' ideas.

They just love being able to make it together.

Happy Birthday Erin!

Five years of fabulous!

This mama still has lots to learn!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Waves of Nostalgia

This week a package arrived in the mail
from Homer, Alaska,
from my Aunt Janet.

Aren't packages and handwritten
notes that come in the mail
still such a thrill?
I'd much rather have a package or letter
that is handwritten
than any e-correspondence.

I knew this would be special.
Things that come from Aunt Janet
are especially meaningful
because they usually belonged to my Grandma Marj.
This week was no exception.
Three precious little collections were wrapped at the top:
cake/jello molds that I remember sweet treats,
bird figurines that remind me of our connection through birdwatching,
Christmas cookie cutters I remember playing with,
tracing on paper and decorating with crayons,
and then in the bottom of the box . . .

My Grandma's sketches and watercolors
dated 1938,
from her Applied Art class.

Just last week,
some of her drawings had come to mind
and I wondered where they ended up.

This is so meaningful to me
at this time in my life...
the month of my one year anniversary
of being in business as an artist.
Perhaps more meaningful
than it would have been any other time.

I will be looking for the perfect frames

for my future studio/study/office
sneak peek

and maybe
my kitchen too.

There is something sacred
about things created by the
hands of a loved one.
Especially after they are gone.

because of the
the love,
the life,
that was here,
that was shared.

I held her hand,
that sketched and painted, 
when she slipped away from my life.
But sweet memories will always be with me.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Brave Looks Different To All of Us



It looks different for all of us.

This week I was remembering almost 5 years ago
with Sydney at swimming lessons.

When the week was finished, I was SO PROUD of her.

I decided to share something I wrote that week.

Celebrate the victories along the way.
You can't swim the length of the pool if you can't put your face in the water.
The goal may be to swim the length of the pool,
but we must first face the fears,
and then learn the skill of putting our face in the water.
That skill is first,
and mostly involves facing and conquering fear.

Once that fear is faced
with bravery, conquered,
and a new skill is learned,
it deserves celebration!

For the one that has conquered the fear,
and learned a new skill,
it is just as worthy of celebration
as winning a race across the pool.

And the best way to get over the fear,
is to get in.
Get comfortable with the uncomfortable.
It's ok to take it a step at a time.
Get immersed in the water.
Dip a toe, a leg, a body, a face, into the water.
And celebrate!
One brave, courageous step at a time.

 Putting your face in the water
is not unlike the first fear to face
and skill to learn
towards any accomplishment, journey, or goal.

Once the fear is conquered
and the new way is learned,
there is joy and freedom in the swimming,
joy and freedom in the process,
joy and freedom in the living.

Sydney was scared of the water in 2007.
Scared to put her face in.
In 2012, she is a fearless fish!

We each have a journey.
We each have unique fears to conquer.
Bravery looks different for each of us.
And so does our victory.