If you haven’t already, you’ll want to read Part One and Part Two of the Decor Makeover.  I started with a refrigerator top that was a hot mess and really annoyed me.  I ended up with a beautifully decorated space that I love.
After looking over the two options Ashley came up with, I loved pieces from each.
From Option One, I loved the crate (especially with the chicken stencil), the idea of a cute basket for the batteries, and the clock.  From Option Two, I loved the aloe plant in the chicken, the tall pitcher for the flashlight, and the apothecary jar with lemons.  So, I decided to mix and match the two options!
To simplify things, I wanted to make one trip to Target and try to get everything.  For items that were from another retailer, I planned to find something similar at Target.  That way, I could see everything together as I was buying it, wasn’t ordering from several different places and didn’t have to pay any shipping costs.
Lesson one: Don’t try to buy new home décor at Target in November.  Lesson Two: Don’t try to buy home décor with a one year old in tow.  Lesson three:  If it is pouring rain, just stay home altogether.
Besides two Christmases ago when our debit card was in the big Target scam, this was the first time I had ever been really mad at the store.  At first, the frustration was my own–trying to take on this task with a toddler boy in the cart.  I was just mad at myself for attempting that.  But, as we circled and circled and circled the store, continuously coming up empty-handed, I became mad at Target.
The only item I ended up finding was the tall white pitcher, but when I measured it, it wasn’t tall enough to cover the flashlight, so I nixed it from my list.  I found some clocks, but none that were freestanding.  They didn’t even have the wooden crate!  Basically, I thought I was going to end up with a fridge top covered in Christmas trees, red bows, and jingle bells.  Target had cleared out all of its home section for holiday decorations.  By some god of home decorating miracle, the babe finally fell asleep.  I circled and circled and circled the store again, and ended up finding a few things to take home and try out.
Finding storage that was big enough for all of my serving trays was tough.  I ended up with this large white woven basket by Room Essentials for $16.99:  Large Round Woven Plastic Storage Basket - White - Room Essentials™
I still like the wooden crate with the chicken stencil better, so I may change that up eventually.  I thought about stenciling on this basket, but wasn’t sure how it would turn out on the weave.
For the batteries, I found this gray CD/DVD basket (the inside of mine isn’t ombre) by Room Essentials for $5.99:
The bonus was that the flashlight fit inside this storage box so I killed two birds with one stone.
I bought this small one gallon glass jar by Anchor Heritage for $7.99:
Anchor Heritage Glass Jar (1 Gallon)
And filled it with these vase filler lemons by Threshold for $9.99:
 And a box of green moss balls vase filler by Threshold for $9.99:
(I don’t know what’s up with that disgusting picture and fake box, but I swear it’s from the Target website.)
I could NOT find an aloe plant, so I guess I’ll have to wait until the Farmer’s Market this summer.
I got home and still needed something for the change.  I liked the Mason jar idea on Option Two, but didn’t know how it would look sitting on the fridge and I didn’t want to attach it to the wall.  So, I decided to run to Wal-Mart and buy this large two gallon/eight quart glass jar by Anchor Storage Ware:
Anchor Storage Ware - 8 quart Jar, Lid - Glass
The website says it’s $29.39, but I swear it was only like $13 in the store.  I dumped the four quarts of change into it and have tons of room to “spare.”
After I got it all on top of the refrigerator, I could NOT get it arranged in a way that I liked.  I ended up moving the antique chicken and old cake/pie carrier into the decorations above the cabinets.  Then I moved the antique porcelain pitcher from the living room and added it because it seemed too bare with just the two jars and two baskets.  The pitcher was a wedding gift from one of my dearest friends and old college roommate, Danielle.  After a FaceTime session with Ashley, she suggested some fake poppies for the pitcher, but I came across the burlap flower stems at Hobby Lobby (which I can’t find online now) and thought they would go perfectly.  I think they were about $6.99 each, but remember you can use a 40% off coupon!
I ended up spending about $75.00, which was comparable to each of Ashley’s options.  And just to clarify, I didn’t stray from Ashley’s options because I didn’t like them!  I strayed because I live in the boonies and had few options if I didn’t want to order online or wait until after the holidays.  Every item I purchased was inspired by her Option sheets one hundred percent.
I am thrilled with how it all turned out.  It doesn’t bother me now, but instead makes me smile.
Just to remind you of what it looked like before:
I KNOW!  So much better!  So, follow–follow–follow @ashvclark on Instagram and see her great ideas.  You can comment on her diy projects there and she’ll be glad to help you!
Now, what to put her to work on next…
(PS: I was not paid by Target, or Wal-Mart, or Hobby Lobby, or LG to do this blog.  My friend Danielle did pay me, however.)
Remember my horrifying pictures of the top of our fridge in Part One of this installment?  If not, check it out and get caught up.
My sister responded to what I sent her with a real quickness.  I told you she was good at decorating, so I knew she would have awesome ideas.  I had NO idea it would all come packaged in this beautiful little layout.  I feel like I should be paying her to do this now.
Part Two of this series includes two options for redecorating and reorganizing the space:
top of fridge option one-page-001 top of fridge option two-page-001

So, what are your favorites?
Dont forget to follow Ashley on Instagram for other diy decorating ideas: @ashvclark
I took a couple of weeks off from the blog over the holidays.  We closed down the office from December 23 through January 3, so we pretty much let anything resembling a regular routine go out the window when we walked out of the office on the 22nd.  We had twelve full days off together, with no real plans, and it was wonderful.  Although I admit we all three did feel the slightest bit of relief when we stepped back into our predictable routine this morning.
Here are the highlights of our days off:
December 23: After binge watching Making a Murderer on Netflix, my mom, dad, brother, and the three of us loaded up in a handicap accessible van with nine feet of clearance from floor to ceiling (my parents bought it to transport my grandpa in his wheelchair after his stroke) and took a tour of tacky Christmas lights and then went out for pizza.  This is a tradition for us, but we doubled up this year as we had already done one tour with a stop for pizza the previous weekend.
December 24: Our second Christmas celebration.  We had my husband’s dad’s Christmas the weekend before, which ended with my husband and I being crowned champions of the Minute to Win It competitions.  (He can move cotton balls using only Vaseline and his nose like it’s nobody’s business!)  On the 24th we went over to my parents’ house in the afternoon and turned what could be done in about two hours into an eleven hour event.  We opened gifts, ate a delicious dinner, Facetimed my sister, and in true Christmas spirit we analyzed Making a Murderer and watched a couple episodes of Breaking Bad.  Then I almost forgot to put the gifts under the tree when we got home.
December 25: When the munchkin woke up, we put him in bed with us for a little bit, which was my absolute favorite part of Christmas morning.  When we finally got up and went into the living room together, he oohed and aahed at the gifts under the tree and then just sat down right in front of them.  He didn’t touch anything for the longest time; just stared in awe.  We checked off celebration numbers three and four at my husband’s paternal grandparents and my mom’s side of the family.  We lost both board games we played with my family, but had a blast deciding we should write Milton Bradley because the answers to his game were obviously incorrect. We also tried to talk everyone into watching Making a Murderer.
December 26: We celebrated Boxing Day (sounds more fun than the day after Christmas) and Christmas number five with my husband’s mom and her side of the family.  We had a delicious breakfast together and then visited while opening gifts.  The little babe got a flashlight from his great-grandparents, which was a huge hit until he opened a pacifier that Cliff’s mom had wrapped (and we had left at her house on a previous visit.)  My favorite gift was the box of neon Band-Aids that the peanut also got from his great-grandparents.  Every time he would walk by, they would pretend he had bumped a body part and they opened and applied a Band-Aid.  By the time we left, he was covered in neon stripes.  He loved it!  We spent a quarter of our time telling everyone about Making a Murderer.
December 27: My husband and brother went to KC for the Chiefs game and couldn’t understand why I didn’t want to go sit in the cold and rain.  My mom and I went to see Sisters at the theatreIt was really funny and finally gave us something to talk about for awhile besides Making a Murderer.
December 28: I wanted to do a quick team cleaning when I woke up.  Four hours later, my husband had scrubbed every inch of the stainless steel appliances and vacuumed behind and under every piece of furniture.  I really think he should be in charge of cleaning from now on.
December 29: My mom, the kiddo, and I went out for a little bit of after-Christmas shopping (against the baby’s wishes.)  It turned into an all day event with very few bargain wins, but we had fun regardless.  Even better, when I got home my brother and some friends came over and we played Cards Against Humanity.
December 30: We got lots of projects done around the house.  My brother was around all day so we got back to analyzing Making a Murderer.  I got my Etsy shop set up, which felt like I accomplished a huge feat.  Check it out: Night Owl (
December 31:  Our sixteen month old spent the night with my parents for the first time ever.  So, we celebrated NYE like we were in our 20s again.  It was fun.  I was looking forward to a solid night of sleep, but apparently having your child away from home for the first time in their life can really disrupt your Zzzzs.
January 1:  Pure laziness.  We. Did. Nothing. Except watch tv, eat, play, and read.  It was awesome.   We considered re-binging Making a Murderer, but my brain couldn’t handle it.
January 2:  We celebrated our sixth and final Christmas with my Dad’s side of the family.  Played the traditional white elephant bingo and then spent the rest of the night talking about Making a Murderer with my cousin.
January 3:  Ugh.  Sunday night blues times one hundred.  My brother came over for the Chiefs game and we were all a little depressed about going back to work, but agreed getting back to our routines would be nice.  During our “what was your favorite part of vacation” poll, my brother answered…yep…Making a Murderer.
I have not been paid by Netflix or any filmmakers, but you really should watch the Making a Murderer docuseries.  And if you do, I’m available to analyze at any time of the day or night.
We hope you have a great holiday season also and your 2016 is off to a good start. Next week we’ll get back to our decor makeover.
Part One of our first Decor Makeover installment will include information and pictures about the area I’ve selected for improvement.  Since we are working together with 1,000 miles between us, these are the exact same pictures and information I emailed to my sister.
Space: Top of the refrigerator
Reason: It drives me crazy!  We actually use the space for storage, but it looks cluttered and ugly and everyone that visits sees it because the kitchen is always a gathering place and because the fridge is in the direct line of site when entering the house through our mudroom/laundry room.
Likes: I like my serving trays and want to keep storing them up there, if possible.  I also want to keep storing our change, batteries, and flashlight there, if possible.  (How do kids and men need SO MANY batteries??) The porcelain chicken planter is a MUST KEEP because it belonged to my great-grandmother and I just recently bought the antique cake/pie carrier on a antique-ing trip with my mom and sister while sis was in town in August, and would like to keep it.
Dislikes:  The clutter.  One flashlight doesn’t even work–it can go.  I hate the basket the batteries are in.  We can purge down the change so there isn’t so much.
Colors:  Kitchen walls were recently changed from burnt orange to pale yellow.  Trim is white.  Cabinets are white.  Appliances are stainless.  Other kitchen decor still contains burnt orange.  I’m not opposed to yellow, navy, dark red…
BEFORE pictures:  (Have some mercy–I am truly bearing all here–I didn’t change a thing before I snapped these pictures–didn’t clean–didn’t de-clutter–this is full disclosure.)
So, stay tuned to see what Ashley suggests for the space.  Don’t forget to follow her on Instagram: @ashvclark.  She’s always posting super cute diy projects for the home.

Decor Makeover: Introduction

I love our little home.  I love its coziness.  I love its comfort.  I love how it’s decorated.  Until I am at my Mom’s house or my sister’s house.  Then I wonder how I completely missed out on the home decorating gene.  They are SO good at it.  They each have completely different aesthetics, but I love both of them.  My mom can lay out a tablescape like it’s nobody’s business.  And my sister can combine colors like Henri Matisse.
So, after a visit to my sister’s place in Dallas in October, she and I started brainstorming.  We thought it would be fun to start a regular piece for the blog in which she redecorates a space in our home.  And maybe after my mom retires in May, we’ll add her in to jazz up the dining room table or fireplace mantel.  I’m totally the one benefiting here–I get blog material and a redecorated space.
My sister is a graphic designer and she is SO good at it.  My senior year of college, I took a couple of summer classes before starting my internship in the fall.  Ashley had just graduated high school and moved in with me for the summer.  We ended up taking two college courses together–her very first to get her bachelors degree and my very last to get my bachelors degree.  One of the classes was a computer class–this was the year 2002 ya’ll, so there were required classes on how to use Microsoft Office.  I’m serious.  So, one day in class we were given a step by step assignment on creating a Powerpoint slideshow.  It was supposed to be about ourselves and had like 15 requirements: must include twenty slides, must include your name in WordArt, must use a two second transition between the fourth and fifth slides, and so on.  It was a 50 minute class and being the seasoned post-secondary student that I was, I whipped my presentation out, saved that baby, and turned it in with ten minutes to spare.  I was ready to go so I swung by my sister’s computer so we could leave together.  I kid you not, she was still on her first slide.  She had gotten her name up there in WordArt, but she had spent about 25 minutes perfecting the color combinations, proportions, and balancing out the white space.  Although I wasn’t sure how she was going to make it through four years of college classes, I was definitely sure that she had chosen the right major.  In those last ten minutes of class, even the professor told her just to turn it in and he’d consider it done.
She has done graphic design for the same Kansas City based company for the past ten years and has freelanced on the side some.  And she is always so nice to design by request for our family and me.
You can follow her and her house projects and design skills on Instagram: @ashvclark
These mini makeovers will be broken down into multiple posts.  Stay tuned for part one of our first makeover.
My husband has an outlandish fascination with trying to sit at the opposite end of the “I am an attorney” spectrum.  For example, at the office and in court, I always think he is the best dressed, most professional and absolute smartest; but the second we are off the clock, he is wearing hickory stripe bib overalls and proudly driving around a 1986 poop brown Nissan truck.  Along those lines, the 1986 poop brown Nissan truck, which I’ve deemed the “trophy truck” and “show truck” is not the only auto beauty we have sitting around.  Until recently, we also had a 1988 red Ford truck gracing our property.  Of course, neither of these vehicles made the cut to be inside the garage, so they sat out for all passer-bys to see.
We finally found a used Chevy Silverado for sale and upgraded.  (I used to be all about brand new cars, and although I do love being the only owner of my Jeep, these used cars that are purchased in one transaction with no monthly car payment are my new best friend.)  Part of our agreement in buying the Silverado was that the Ford truck had to go.
We thought we’d throw it on Craigslist and try to get a few hundred dollars out of it.  After all, it did run and drive well and if nothing else, someone might want it for parts.  Everyone we talked to thought we could get at least one thousand dollars out of it just because it started and ran.  We decided to list it for only $600 though, hopefully giving the right person a bargain.
I don’t know if you’ve ever listed a junky truck for sale online.  If not, DON’T do it.  Oh.  My.  Gosh.  You would not believe the calls you get.  We used my cell phone number so I was fielding all of the contacts.  After six different people no-showed, being asked to deliver the truck to a buyer two hours away, and getting lowballed by every single person interested, I was ready to give up.
Just then, a text came through.  ”Would you be interested in trading your truck for a boat?”
My gut told me no, but my sun, sand, and water-loving brain told me YES.  So I asked the guy what kind of boat he had.
“A 1954 Bayliner with an inboard motor.”
WHAT?!?  Um, yes, please.  This is what I imagined in my head.
1954 boat
Then, he sent another text.  ”The motor is locked up and it needs a little work.”
My husband brought me down to earth and explained that what I was really trading for was this:
rusty boat
So, I’m out of the buy, sell, trade market for good.
This post is inspired by something that came across my facebook feed the other day.  An app called “How Have You Changed Over The Last Years?”
When I saw it, my mind went to work thinking about the last few years.  How have I changed?  Well, I’ve moved from a few blocks south of downtown Kansas City to a gravel road that doesn’t even register on some GPS devices.  I’ve gotten married.  Had a baby.  Completely remodeled our house starting from the studs.  Built a three car shop/garage.  Added cows, calves, chickens, hunting dogs, and pigeons to our farm.  Gone from counseling in a high school of 1500 students to teaching in a Kansas City alternative school to subbing in an elementary school of less than 300 to managing our own law firm, to staying at home with our babe.  I’ve become more political.  More grateful.  More appreciative.  Happier.
It seems like a lot has changed for me over the last five years.  But the app gave me these results:
2011:      2011 jenn (2) (leaving the KC downtown airport in a helicopter with my mom and sister)
2012:2012 jenn (2) (a road trip to Indiana for a law school friend’s wedding)
2013:2013 jenn (2) (with a TERRIBLE migraine at Elvis’s birthplace in Tupelo, Mississippi on the way to Gulf Shores)
2014:2014 jenn (2) (three months pregnant and celebrating birthdays at my parents’ house)
2015:2015 jenn (2) (at the Dallas, TX arboretum with the fam)

Pretty much the same weight, hair length, hair color…solid color shirts–I’m even wearing a black shirt in three out of the five pictures–hair parted in exactly the same spot…not much has changed in my appearance.
I haven’t yet decided if I’m mad at the app for making me seem so incredibly boring, or if I am going to take a cue from the app and make a change.  We went on a date a few weeks ago and saw Burnt and I was totally digging Sienna Miller’s half-buzzed ‘do…
Then again, in five more years, I’ll likely look exactly the same.
I had a couple of horses when I was a kid and loved to ride. In my adult life, I had been wanting to get into riding again since I moved back to the country.  Not long after we were married, my husband had a solution”we moved one of his childhood horses, Buddy, to the pasture behind our house.  Now that we had a place to keep him, and a place for me to ride him, we were set.  I just needed a saddle, a halter, a lead, a saddle blanket, a bag of sweet feed, a bale of hay, a hoof pick, a brush, fly spray, wormer, a curry comb…oh, and some cute riding boots…and some cute riding clothes to go with those cute riding boots…
So, after this simple hobby became an expensive hobby, we set out for my first ride.  Like I said, Buddy was my husband’s horse when he was a kid, so he’s at least 20 years old, but he’s also tall.  Really tall.  And once I got myself into the saddle, my daydreams of galloping across the fields with my hair blowing in the wind were dashed because I was shaking in those super cute riding boots I purchased.  I was pretty darn scared.  To combat my fear, my husband led Buddy at a walking pace while I rode in the saddle for the first couple of evenings.  Easy peasy.  Probably too quickly, I thought I was ready to graduate to handling Buddy myself.  I mean, if my husband could climb up into the saddle and easily go from a walk to a trot to a gallop, in any direction he wanted, then surely I could get Buddy to walk across a field for me.  But, it didn’t exactly go like that.  Apparently Buddy knew I wasn’t in charge.  He didn’t care if I wanted to go right or left or fast or slow.  And when I tried to stand up to him, that just made him like me even less.  So, after he took off much too quickly for my comfort level numerous times, I was ready to give up.
But then we took off for the State Fair the next week and spent some time watching the equestrian events.  We happened to catch an event called ‘Mounted Cowboy Shooting.’  It’s nothing as weird or gross as it sounds.  It’s a timed event where a horse and rider come out of the gate and have to follow a certain path around barrels while shooting balloons at each barrel.  They’re scored on time, following the pre-set path, and how many balloons they hit.  After ten minutes I was completely amped up and ready to enter myself and Buddy the next year.
My husband and brother still laugh at me going from knocking knees to pistol shootin’ horse racer within seconds.  I’ll never live it down.  And lucky for me, we found out I was pregnant not long after that so my cowgirl shooting days were put on hold.
This is a new recipe for our family. Last winter, we got a cookbook of soups and stews and picked out several to try. A few weeks ago, we had some potatoes to use up, so I decided to throw this together, for a twist on the regular potato soup. We LOVED it. It is so delicious. Paprika is the key spice in this Latin American soup, and it is made rich and creamy by the addition of cheese. I used quite a bit more paprika than it called for (not because I meant to, but because it all fell out of my spice can right into the pot), and I used sharp cheddar, mozarella, swiss, and provolone cheeses to amp up the richness. I also used less water and more chicken stock, and as I do with every recipe, I adjusted the salt and pepper to taste. When serving, I put a couple spoonfuls of the corn and tomato mixture in the bottom of the bowl, added the soup, then topped it off with a couple more spoonfuls of the tomato and corn mixture. Make your own variations and enjoy!
Ecuadorean Potato Soup
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, divided
1 1/2 cups diced onions, divided
1 tablespoon paprika
2 cans chicken broth or 3 1/2 cups chicken stock
4 cups water
4 pounds baking potatoes, peeled and sliced
1 cup milk
2 cups shredded muenster cheese
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
1 package (10 ounces) frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed
1 can (16 ounces) tomatoes, drained and chopped
Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 1 cup of the onions and the paprika and cook until onions are softened, about 5 minutes. Add chicken broth, water, and potatoes, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered until potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes.
Lightly mash potatoes with a hand masher. Stir in milk, cheese, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until cheese is melted.
Meanwhile, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add remaining 1/2 cup onions and cook 1 minute. Add corn and tomatoes and cook until heated through. Stir in remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Spoon soup into bowls and top each with 2 tablespoons corn and tomato mixture.
Makes 12 servings.
I want to curl up into the fetal position and cry after Googling the sharp shooting pain from my left shoulder. It started after an hour long car ride where I did nothing but sit still and face forward. Google informed me that it’s probably an issue that is most common in people over forty (cue the crying in the fetal position) and after activity such as gardening, tennis or baseball (cue continued crying in the fetal position as I haven’t been doing any of those things, and even if I had, I’m right handed.) I also understood Google to instruct me to wait a week before calling the doctor.
I won’t drone on about how difficult it is to manage a one year old little boy that is always go-go-going on a day when both of my arms work, {This week he figured out how to climb onto the seat of the couch, then move to the arm of the couch and stand up in order to climb over the back of the couch. Yeah, he’s only been on this earth for thirteen months. What are we in for after he’s been here for thirteen years?!} but you can probably imagine what it’s like to try to do it with one arm held to your side by an elastic bandage over an ice pack. I’ve been walking around the house for two days looking like I just pitched seven innings of a major league baseball game minus the bubble gum, and sunflower seeds, and chewing tobacco…and the muscles, minus the muscles. I have been wearing my pants tucked into knee-length socks though.
You realize just how much you’ve taken your non-dominant hand for granted when you can’t raise it more than about 25 degrees. And although I’ve somehow compensated for pretty much everything else, the one thing I can’t seem to get by doing one handed is fixing my hair. I love a good ponytail at the end of the day (or all day most days anymore), but I almost passed out from pain as I attempted it this evening. So, I called my husband in to help.
First I asked if he even knew how to put hair into a ponytail. He laughed and looked at me like I had asked him if he knew how to spell his own name. But really, I still think that’s a very valid question! He started by grabbing the rubberband and then gathering my hair while standing face to face with me. I eventually convinced him to stand behind me, facing the back of my head. He again gathered my hair and started to put it into the rubberband. Part of the left side fell out of the ponytail, and he couldn’t really understand why that wasn’t satisfactory. But, he tried again anyway. This time he asked if the bottom half of my hair really needed to be included in the ponytail. He tried a fourth time and the picture below is what we ended up with. Just after this picture, my favorite part occurred. He decided it needed to be tightened and rather than pulling two halves of the ponytail out to the sides like I would do, he rolled the rubberband closer to my head like you would push a rubberband onto a rolled up poster.
So, this is the best of four attempts. But I’m just happy to have him to do it. And it still looks better than the ice pack that he elastic bandaged to my arm.
*As seen/read on the front page of the Moberly Monitor Index, October 12, 2015.

DSC_0229aCowboy BarT is a very special friend of ours. He was there when we started dating. During our courtship, he was even with us at the end of several good dates (okay, so we ended the night at one of his performances.) He was with us on our wedding night (okay, so he was the entertainment for our reception.) He was there for our baby’s first wedding dance that he could really enjoy (okay, so he also performed at my cousin’s wedding.)  But nonetheless, he really has been with us during a lot of important events in our lives.  And so has his musical partner in crime, Red.
Bart Colliver is an extremely talented musician and performer (33 years and counting), and the lead vocal and acoustic guitar player, along with our friend Red who plays electric guitar (and more), in their band: Cowboy BarT and Band of Redman, formerly known as Cowboy Bart’s Imaginary Band.
I believe my husband met Cowboy BarT in the local tavern, but I first met Bart in a little (I mean teeny-tiny) party shack in my husband’s grandparents’ backyard that sits on the banks of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad tracks, and which we named the “Trackside Saloon.” Bart describes it as a “remodeled chicken coop.” It was a snowy winter Christmas night (yes, it was actually Christmas) and a whole gang of us were hanging out at the Trackside Saloon in the late night/early morning hours. Bart was kind enough to join us and break out his guitar for some fabulous entertainment. We had that coop rockin’. And we made Bart’s version of Wagon Wheel a #1 hit way before Darius Rucker did. From the first strum of Cowboy BarT’s guitar, I was in love with his music.
As Bart and I got to know each other over the years, we had some other connections. We grew up (well, Bart never really grew up; he’s still hoping to one day) in the same area (although he was born one county to the west and spent his early years in Tina {that’s Ty-nuh, not Tee-nuh}, Missouri).
[Side note: Tina is where my husband and I went to our first cattle sale together.]
Bart and I both moved to Warrensburg for college. Bart has spent the past 25 years traveling, but usually still parks his RV somewhere around The Burg.
Cowboy BarT not only sings and plays guitar, he also plays Hammond organ, piano, bass, synthesizer, squeezebox, and he even played tenor sax in college. Remember when I said he is extremely talented? I’ve also seen him play the accordion (a favorite of mine.) Bart’s favorite instrument is just whatever fits the song; maybe a different instrument than everyone else he’s pickin’ with.
He figured out his voice before any of the instruments. When he was about five, he harmonized his voice with a boat motor.
Now, not only can Cowboy BarT sing and play all those instruments, he can write, too. He covers some of my personal favorites like John Prine, George Jones and Don Williams, but Bart’s originals are always what you’ll request over and over again. He wrote his first song, Imported Love, for–you guessed it–his first love. He’s flexible when it comes to his favorite songs. He says it changes with the direction of the wind. His favorite lyric however, just surfaced last month in the recording studio. It’s a lyric by his buddy G dub: “My ekg is laughing at me.” Bart recently wrote a song about having a band out in the barn that could only play the theme to the Benny Hill Show. It contains one of my favorite lyrics (and Bart’s pretty fond of it, too): Chicken was nervous but the eggs got laid; we passed the hat and the band got paid.” (And we have passed the hat to pay Bart and Red many times!)
He’s opened for Jimi Buffett, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, “almost George Jones”–Asleep at the Wheel ended up filling in for George–, Bobby Bland, Delbert McClinton, Joe Ely, Doug Sahm Quartet, Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen, Al Stewart, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Bo Diddley, Cate Brothers, The Band, Rainmakers, Bottle Rockets, The Byrds, Bill Wharton (The Sauce Boss), Eddie Rabbitt, John Conlee, Lynn Anderson, N.I.L.8, The Jayhawks, and more. Now do you believe that he’s extremely talented?
Right now, Cowboy BarT is enjoying the joy he brings to the residents he plays for in a nursing home. He also has several regular gigs and he’s always willing to schedule in a wedding or other event. Some of his past favorite places to play were Key West, at a hog roast last month along the Neosho River, and in the walled city of Tournon, France.
Aside from Cowboy BarT’s musical and writing talent, he can also cook. He started out in a restaurant in our hometown at age 14. Now he’s learned to clean as he goes so when he’s done eating, he only has a plate and fork to wash.
Ladies, this guy also grows out then cuts and donates his hair, had a pet named Scairdy Cat and found her a loving home with an elderly lady that was blind, loves to throw horseshoes and see a good baseball game at the stadium, and he’s traveled all across the US and parts of Europe with his music. And he’s single!
His first car was a ’72 Dodge Charger. He found it at a garage sale and his dad helped him fix it up. They even painted it right out in their front yard. He totaled it four months after he turned 16; distracted by his cassette player.
When he was a bluesman with King Alex and the Untouchables, the folks at Harold Penner in KCMO helped him pick out the coolest Italian suits. He never left the store without matching shoes. He’s still got all of them.
He used to feel guilty for being a musician, so he cured that with ten years of pipe organ building. He says it was hard work and it later gave him the patience for songwriting.
If you’re wondering about his name, he was named after Bart in the TV show, Maverick. His parents thought about naming his brother Bret, but Bart wanted to name him Corey so they did! His nickname comes from the Frank Zappa song, Lonesome Cowboy Burt. He dropped the Lonesome (because he has lots of friends!) and stuck with Cowboy BarT.
Cowboy BarT’s advice: Question. Make mistakes. Try not to repeat them. See where the horseshoes land and make new friends along the way. Never stop learning. Enjoy the little things. Skip, because it’s hard to skip without smilin’.
Cowboy BarT is friendly, approachable, and he loves to let a higher power play through his fingertips (R.L. Burnside’s drummer told him he did that!) He likes to live simply. Greed bums him out. He believes that music is the highest form of communication. And he appreciates Red for putting up with him.
Cowboy BarT and Band of Redman were at our house for Labor Day. We used a flatbed trailer for a makeshift stage and they entertained our family and friends, creating a Labor Day party better than anyone else’s. This past weekend they were at the John Hartford Memorial Festival for the Hartford Boogie in Dunmor, Kentucky. Anyone that was lucky enough to hear them play had a good time, no doubt.
Cowboy BarT’s favorite thing about his music is making people smile, and he definitely does that.
To watch and listen to their audition for the Hartford Boogie go here: Cowboy BarT and Band of Redman  If you don’t have time to listen to the whole audition, at least listen to Whatever Floats Yer Boat written by Bart (about two minutes in) and I promise by the end of the song you’ll be on your feet dancing and ready to set it on repeat.  If you have lots of time, watch their other YouTube videos, too!
To contact Cowboy BarT and Band of Redman for your next event (they’re reasonably priced!) or purchase one of their many CDs, find them on Facebook or call (660) 864-5211.
This is one of my husband’s favorite dishes; he requests it a lot.  Actually, everyone requests it a lot.  It is an easy dish to throw together to take to a party or serve when guests are over.   Out of everything I’ve ever made for other people, this  is the recipe that people ask me for the most.  It is the perfect go-to recipe.  When I don’t plan well and we are about to walk out the door to an event that requires a carry-in dish, I throw this together.  When we have surprise guests, I throw this together.  When we’re laying around on a Sunday afternoon watching a movie, I throw this together. 
Over the years of making this, I have made a few modifications.  I don’t use artichokes at all.  I use a whole package of cream cheese and a whole tub of sour cream.  I sometimes add parmesan and/or mozzarella cheese.  Sometimes I also add some garlic powder.  I adjust the salt and pepper to taste.  I think squeezing the moisture out of the spinach is the key to making this delicious–I usually squeeze it through a strainer first, and then in paper towels.  We usually end up just eating the dip with tortilla chips if we don’t have pita chips on hand.  Or, if I have a Sweet Hawaiian bread bowl, we really love to use that. Enjoy!
dip 1a
Spinach-Artichoke Dip
1 – 10oz box frozen cut or chopped spinach, thawed
1 – 12oz jar artichoke hearts, drained and roughly chopped
1/2 cup whipped cream cheese
3/4 cup sour cream
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Squeeze the spinach between paper towels to remove excess moisture.  In a medium bowl,  combine the spinach, artichokes, cream cheese, sour cream, and cheddar cheese.  Season with the salt and pepper.  Scrape the mixture into a small oven-safe baking dish.  Bake until lightly golden and heated through, about 15 minutes.  Serve warm with pita chips or bread and lemon wedges, if desired.
dip 2
Children’s birthday parties are a new thing to me, so when our “baby” was nearing his first birthday, I was kind of at a loss as to what to plan. But, I did know that every good party starts with a theme. Then I was at a loss for a theme. I knew I wanted something unique and specific to the birthday boy. One day it just came to me, his favorite book is Goodnight Moon–we read it every single night and he can already point out some of the items in the pictures when we say them. Then I was at a loss for what to do for a Goodnight Moon party. I searched the internet and Pinterest, but there just wasn’t much out there. So, we ended up coming up with our own party pieces.
First, we picked a color palette. I was never a real fan of Goodnight Moon before we acquired two copies of the board book in the past year. I especially didn’t care for the color in the book, but when I switched my thinking and realized we could use a bright palette of red, green, blue and yellow, it became very fun! The book does offer several staple illustrations–the red balloon, the socks and mittens on the drying rack, the cow jumping over the moon, the little old lady bunny and the young bunny, the mouse, the toyhouse, the telephone, the three little bears sitting in chairs, the fireplace, the windows and curtains, and more. The babe was able to point out the “red balloon” when we read the book very early on, so we knew we wanted to make that a big part of the decor.
I did find a picture of a cake I loved on Pinterest and sent that to our neighbor and expert cake decorator. She fashioned up the most beautiful cakes I have ever seen. We had one smash cake for photos, one smash cake for the party, and one cake to serve the guests. I couldn’t have imagined them turning out any better.
We sat down and came up with all of the decoration ideas and then made our list of supplies. I wanted to start preparing early because my sister was coming in from Dallas for the party and I wanted to be able to spend time with her that weekend rather than pasting cardstock and ribbon together.
I designed an invitation first. I used the bright green, yellow, red, and blue, included the red balloon, and came up with a little rhyme that associated the book with the party.
While I was at it, I designed thank you cards to send out after the party and a bookmark to give out as a party favor.
A couple of weeks before the party, my husband helped me cover our dining room window (which was the backdrop for the guest of honor’s highchair during the cake smash) in crepe paper to replicate the window in the book. My mom cut out stars and we used double-sided tape to attach them. It turned out so cute that we still haven’t taken it down!
Then I made a banner for the highchair. I just picked out scrapbook paper in our theme colors and cut out the letters to spell o-n-e and used rubber cement to hold it all together. It’s attached to jute twine with hot glue. I had planned to use this in the background of his smash cake photos, but completely forgot when the time came. Sad face.
The day of the party, we set up a welcome station which included the socks and mittens (cut out of construction paper) clothespinned to our drying rack, the guest book (one of our copies of Goodnight Moon for guests to sign in), the bookmark favors, and a “message in a bottle.” The message in a bottle started at our baby shower. Our friends and family wrote sweet messages on tags with orange ribbon which coordinated with the shower decorations and our nursery. For the first birthday, I used tags with green ribbon. I plan to continue this each year with ribbons that coordinate to the party theme and continue stacking the messages in the bottle through the years.


The welcome area also included a chalkboard year-in-review. I worked for a long time on this and it ended up being one of my favorite
pieces at the party.
The dining room table was covered with a blue sheet and made up like a bed with a pillow at one end and the young bunny in the blue striped pajamas. We also included some balls of yarn in coordinating theme colors, as the little old lady bunny is knitting in the book. The table centerpiece was a Ball quart jar painted metallic silver with a glittery number one and paper flowers made out of the pages of a Goodnight Moon book (ordered from Etsy). We tied a red helium balloon to each of the dining room chairs.
In the dining room entrance, we hung photos of the baby from one to eleven months.
Since the party was on a Sunday afternoon, we just served snacks and drinks. Above the food and drink table were red and white paper fans that we bought at the craft store. They were so cute that I wanted to leave them up, too, but we didn’t.
Last but not least, I bought a little gray t-shirt at the craft store and some iron on letters for the birthday boy’s attire for the party. He already had the shorts that matched the party theme palette.
The morning of the party we got busy making food and decorating. Eventually I had to jump in the shower. I came out of the shower to a perfectly decorated house, thanks to my mom and sister working like busy little beavers without needing any direction!
Once guests arrived, we read Goodnight Moon, opened gifts (an overload of gifts!) and then had cake and ice cream. The babe was very delicate with his smash cake at the party. He just kind of poked at the icing and stayed neat and clean and even preferred to use a spoon. It was a beautiful day and we all ended up outside swimming, playing at the water table, riding the horse, grilling, and sitting around the fire until dark.